October 16, 2009

ALCS Preview Part II: Pitching

The Yankees and Angels have two of the top staffs in the league. The Yanks will most likely be using a three-man rotation — weather permitting — while the Angels have opted for a four-man rotation.

A rainout tonight or tomorrow would force the Yankees to use their fourth starter (whoever that might be) because of a lack of off-days. In that case, New York fans will be rooting against the rain in hopes to start ace CC Sabathia in games 1, 4 and 7.

Here are the team pitching stats to compare:

  Season     2nd Half
Angels Category Yankees   Angels Category Yankees
4.45 ERA 4.26   4.08 ERA 3.94
1062 SO 1260   603 SO 493
1.41 WHIP 1.35   1.36 WHIP 1.32
.338 OBA .327   .330 OBA .318
The Yankees lead in all four main categories, but the Angels pitching, especially their bullpen, has improved a lot in the second half. Let’s go ahead and break down the first four potential starting pitching matchups.

Tonight: John Lackey vs. CC Sabathia, 7:57 p.m.
Lackey has a very good history against the Yankees in the three postseason appearances (14-1/3 IP, 10 H, 3 ER), while Sabathia has an awful postseason history (31-2/3 IP, 6.54 ERA). Both pitchers have some tough work ahead of them this series, as both lineups are stacked. It will be interesting to see the two big fellas deal with the cold tonight.

Tomorrow night: Joe Saunders vs. A.J. Burnett, 7:57 p.m.
Saunders was moved up in the rotation for this series after not getting a chance to make his start in the ALDS. Saunders tied for the team-lead in wins with 16, but also sported an ERA of 4.60. In his career against the Yankees, he is 2-1 with a 6.28 ERA, while Burnett is 2-2 with a 4.43 ERA against LA. Keep in mind that Burnett hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in his last five starts. He will most certainly be caught by Jose Molina again.

Monday: Andy Pettitte vs. Jered Weaver, 4:13 p.m.
Pettitte posted a quality start against the Twins in the series-clinching game 3, but will face a much tougher test in the ALCS. A team loaded with switch-hitters — like the Yankees — will turn around to bat from the right side against Pettitte. Weaver doesn’t have a great history against the Yankees (4-2, 5.88), while Pettitte is 12-10 with a 4.70 ERA against the Halos. To me, this will be the deciding game because it’s the first in LA and both teams can gain momentum.

Tuesday: TBA vs. Scott Kazmir, 7:57 p.m.
It’s too early to say Sabathia will be starting this game because of the high-chance of rain this weekend. As Mike Scioscia said, there is a chance the Angels face Sabathia seven times this series. Either way, game 4 will be a challenge for the Yankees, as Kazmir has had a lot of success against the Bronx Bombers in his career (6-5, 2.67). As long as the Yankees have the lead going into this game, I will remain confident.

The Yankees have the edge between the two bullpens. Mariano Rivera, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson have been absolute studs. My worry is Joe Girardi using them up too quickly in a game — even for just one out at times.

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