Full Series Breakdown, Analysis for Yankees vs. Orioles ALDS Matchup

Benjamin Klein@BenjaminJKleinContributor IIIOctober 6, 2012

Full Series Breakdown, Analysis for Yankees vs. Orioles ALDS Matchup

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    Two American League East foes—who have already played each other 18 times this season—will battle at least three more times to determine who will advance to play for the American League pennant.

    The top-seeded New York Yankees sat and watched the Baltimore Orioles defeat the Texas Rangers in a one-game Wild Card playoff game, and the Bronx Bombers will play the first two games of the best-of-five series at Camden Yards. The third and potentially fourth and fifth games of the series will be played at Yankee Stadium.

    The season series between the Yankees and Orioles was split nine games apiece, but that tie will be broken in the upcoming week. New York took the first three matchups of the season, but Baltimore battled back as it has done all year long to eventually tie the series, earn a postseason berth and make it into the ALDS.

    The Orioles are as hot as hot gets, and the Yankees will have to be very careful with how they approach them. These are not the Orioles of years past. These Orioles are the real deal. On the contrary, the Yankees are the Yankees and are never an easy out in the postseason.

    Let’s dive into a full analysis of the series, including lineups, starting rotations, bullpens, intangibles and predictions of who will be advancing and who will be going home early.

New York Yankees Starting Lineup and Breakdown

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    ALDS Starting Lineup (Projected)

    1. Derek Jeter, SS (.316, 15 HR, 58 RBI)

    2. Ichiro Suzuki, LF (.322, 5 HR, 27 RBI)

    3. Alex Rodriguez, 3B (272, 18 HR, 57 RBI)

    4. Robinson Cano, 2B (.313, 33 HR, 94 RBI)

    5. Mark Teixeira, 1B (.251, 24 HR, 84 RBI)

    6. Nick Swisher, RF (.272, 24 HR, 93 RBI)

    7. Curtis Granderson, CF (.232, 43 HR, 106 RBI)

    8. Raul Ibanez, DH/OF (.240, 19 HR, 62 RBI)

    9. Russell Martin, C (.211, 21 HR, 53 RBI)

    The New York Yankees have one of the best offenses in all of baseball, leading the MLB in home runs, OPS, slugging percentage, total bases and plenty more. Top to bottom, they have a scary lineup that will be tough on Baltimore’s pitchers.

    The Yankees’ offense is truly led by three players who are spread out throughout the New York batting order: Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson. Jeter led the league in hits this year and is always a postseason hero. Cano has been extremely hot as of late and is a home run threat every time he steps up to the plate.

    Speaking of home run threats, Granderson hit 43 long balls this season and, hitting seventh in the lineup, gives the Yankees plenty of versatility. One thing to note is that Raul Ibanez is the one non-lock in this order as he’ll probably be used against right-handed pitching whereas someone like Andruw Jones will be used against left-handers.

    ALDS Bench (Projected)

    Chris Stewart, C (.241, 1 HR, 13 RBI)

    Eric Chavez, INF/DH (.281, 16 HR, 37 RBI)

    Eduardo Nunez, INF (.292, 1 HR, 11 RBI)

    Brett Gardner, OF (.323, 0 HR, 3 RBI)

    Andruw Jones, OF (.197, 14 HR, 34 RBI)

    Don’t expect to see much of Chris Stewart in this series unless something happens to Russell Martin. Eric Chavez and Eduardo Nunez will be used sporadically, especially if Rodriguez is the DH for a game or two. Gardner and Jones are viable outfield options, Gardner more likely to pinch run and Jones more likely to pinch hit or DH against left-handed pitching.

Baltimore Orioles Starting Lineup and Breakdown

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    ALDS Starting Lineup (Projected)

    1. Nate McLouth, LF (.268, 7 HR, 18 RBI)

    2. J.J. Hardy, SS (.238. 22 HR, 68 RBI)

    3. Chris Davis, 1B (.270, 33 HR, 85 RBI)

    4. Adam Jones, CF (.287, 32 HR, 82 RBI)

    5. Matt Wieters, C (.249, 23 HR, 83 RBI)

    6. Jim Thome, DH (.257, 3 HR, 10 RBI)

    7. Mark Reynolds, 1B (.221, 23 HR, 69 RBI)

    8. Ryan Flaherty, 2B (.216, 6 HR, 19 RBI)

    9. Manny Machado, 3B (.262, 7 HR, 26 RBI)

    The Orioles have had several surprising seasons from some of their bats this season, especially the bat of Chris Davis. Davis hit a team-leading 33 home runs and drove in a team-leading 85 runs. Right behind him is arguably Baltimore’s best hitter, Adam Jones, who drilled 32 homers this past year. He led the team in hitting and has the ability to hit to all fields for extra bases.

    Nate McLouth was old news until the O’s brought him in this year, and he’s been a nice surprise, hitting in various parts of their lineup. He’s been leading off as of late, but has also hit third in their order.

    Cleaning up Baltimore’s starting nine is the rookie Manny Machado, who shined on Friday with a huge hit late in the game to help put the game out of reach. He’s not the strongest hitter in the lineup, but can definitely make a nice impact.

    ALDS Bench (Projected)

    Taylor Teagarden, C (.158, 2 HR, 9 RBI)

    Robert Andino, INF (.211, 7 HR, 28 RBI)

    Endy Chavez, OF (.203,  2 HR, 12 RBI)

    Lew Ford, OF (.183, 3 HR, 4 RBI)

    Omar Quintanilla, OF (.232, 3 HR, 12 RBI)

    Robert Andino is definitely Baltimore’s X-factor coming off of the bench. He hasn’t hit well at all this year but is a solid defender and could come in as a pinch runner. He could also get some starting time at second base over Ryan Flaherty. I wouldn’t expect to see Taylor Teagarden unless Matt Wieters is the DH, or much of Omar Quintanilla. Endy Chavez and Lew Ford will both serve as backup outfielder as well as pinch hitters and runners.

New York Yankees Pitching Rotation and Bullpen

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    ALDS Starting Rotation (Projected)

    1. C.C. Sabathia (15-6, 3.38 ERA)

    2. Andy Pettitte (5-4, 2.87 ERA)

    3. Hiroki Kuroda (16-11, 3.32 ERA)

    C.C. Sabathia will start Game 1 for New York, but it’s a toss-up as to who follows him. Andy Pettitte is one of the best starting pitchers in postseason history and Hiroki Kuroda had an incredible regular season for the Bronx Bombers. Deciding on who pitches when will definitely be a tough decision for manager Joe Girardi.

    In the end, I predict that the Yankees only go with three starters—leaving Phil Hughes in the bullpen—and giving the ball to Pettitte in Game 2 and Kuroda in Game 3. This way, Sabathia would pitch Game 4 and if the Yankees had to play a Game 5, they’d be able to use Pettitte.

    ALDS Bullpen (Projected)

    Rafael Soriano, CL (2.26 ERA, 42 SV)

    David Robertson, RP (2.67 ERA)

    Boone Logan, RP (3.74 ERA)

    Joba Chamberlain, RP (4.35 ERA)

    David Phelps, RP (3.34 ERA)

    Clay Rapada, RP (2.82 ERA)

    Derek Lowe, RP (3.04 ERA)

    Phil Hughes, RP (4.23 ERA)

    The Yankees bullpen will be without the best closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera. Rafael Soriano has done a fantastic job replacing him and will need to continue his success against the surging Orioles’ bats. David Robertson, along with Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain, has an important role towards the end of the game to get the ball to Soriano with the lead. The trio has been able to do this nearly every time this season.

    As for the remainder of the relievers, those aren’t as definite as the aforementioned group. Clay Rapada is a nice weapon out of the pen, as are David Phelps and Derek Lowe. Phil Hughes is there just in case a starter gets into trouble early and they need to eat some innings, or if they need to spot start him for some reason. Cody Eppley is one of the guys on the brink of making the postseason roster for the first round.

Baltimore Orioles Pitching Rotation and Bullpen

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    ALDS Starting Rotation (Projected)

    1. Miguel Gonzalez (9-4, 3.25 ERA)

    2. Wei-Yin Chen (12-11, 4.02 ERA)

    3. Chris Tillman (9-3, 2.93 ERA)

    4. Joe Saunders (3-3, 3.63 ERA)

    Unlike the Yankees, the Orioles should end up going with four starting pitchers instead of three. They don’t have the experience necessary to rely on just three guys going up against one of the league’s best offenses. Wei-Yin Chen just pitched the other day, making Miguel Gonzalez the likely Game 1 starter.

    Chen, however, should be rested enough to pitch in Game 2. Chris Tillman will be the Game 3 starter in my opinion, and Joe Saunders, who just started the one-game Wild Card playoff, should get the ball in Game 4, if necessary. Then, the Orioles could run into a problem if there’s a Game 5. They would probably like to have their “ace” Chen get the start, but he may have to do so on short rest.

    ALDS Bullpen (Projected)

    Jim Johnson, CL (2.49 ERA, 51 SV)

    Pedro Strop, RP (2.44 ERA)

    Luis Ayala, RP (2.64 ERA)

    Darren O'Day, RP (2.28 ERA)

    Brian Matusz, RP (4.87 ERA)

    Jake Arrieta, RP (6.20 ERA)

    The O’s finally found their guy at the end of the game in Jim Johnson, who has been absolutely unreal this year saving 51 games. He’s obviously their key to success coming out of the bullpen, but they need to get him the ball in order for him to close it out. Pedro Strop has been a good reliever late in the game, and so has Darren O’Day.

    Luis Ayala will be a big right-hander facing his former team and needs to find early command of the zone when he comes in to face the dangerous Yankee bats. Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta can both be used in longer stretches if need be, or shorter appearances depending on the situation that manager Buck Showalter sees fit.

New York Yankees Intangibles

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    Raul Ibanez, OF/DH/PH

    Raul Ibanez got pretty hot down the stretch for the Bronx Bombers, including some huge hits against the Boston Red Sox in the final three games of the season. He can be very valuable coming off the bench late in games, especially if the Yankees are home. The short porch in right field is Ibanez’s best friend, and he has no problem taking advantage of it. He has to come up big when hitting at home and facing right-handed pitching.

    Brett Gardner, OF/PR

    The Yankees were near the bottom of the pack in steals this season, but that was mainly due to Brett Gardner’s injury issues. Now that Gardner is healthy enough to play, or at least run, he brings another level to their overall strategy. I wouldn’t expect Gardner to get many at-bats during this series, if any, but when Girardi calls his name to run, you know he’ll be on the move. 

    Andy Pettitte, SP

    Andy Pettitte has four more postseason wins than any pitcher in the history of the game. He’s been very successful over the years to say the least, and this is not the time to fall off mentally. As I’ve mentioned, I’m giving Pettitte the ball in a potential Game 5 which brings along a ton of pressure. The Yankees will rely on him to get them to the ALCS. 

Baltimore Orioles Intangibles

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    Jim Johnson, CL

    As I mentioned, Jim Johnson has had a miraculous year as the Orioles’ closer, but can he keep it up? Johnson has showed no signs of slowing down since taking the job, but facing the Yankees on a daily basis is different than many other opponents. He will truly be tested and by being the most reliable pitcher in the Baltimore bullpen, the pressure is most definitely on him.

    Jim Thome, DH/PH

    Thome is to Baltimore what Ibanez is to the Yankees. He needs to come up big in this series as a power-hitting lefty. He’s the veteran leader of this team and can definitely take advantage of the short porch in left field at Yankee Stadium. Hitting in the middle of the lineup, Thome needs to be able to drive in those in front of him such as Adam Jones and Matt Wieters. Look for him to be a game-changer and a major piece of the puzzle should the O’s win the series.

    Darren O'Day, RP

    The Orioles are a team that doesn’t carry a ton of relievers, putting that much more pressure on those who are in the bullpen. The workload is high for those getting the call as Buck Showalter can rarely play the matchup. He’d much rather align his bullpen instead and give them the benefit of the doubt that they can get the job done. Darren O’Day is one of the guys that is most trusted, and he must utilize that nasty slider when he gets the chance. That one pitch could make or break the Orioles’ season.

Game 1 Prediction

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    Date/Time: Sunday, Oct. 7, 6 p.m. ET (TBS)

    Projected Pitching Matchup: C.C. Sabathia vs. Miguel Gonzalez

    C.C. Sabathia doesn’t have the best numbers against some of Baltimore’s top hitters, but he should be able to get the best of them come Game 1. When Sabathia is in the zone, there’s no stopping him, and lately he’s been right smack in the middle of that zone.

    Sabathia has gone eight innings in each of his last three starts, striking out 28 batters in those innings while allowing only four earned runs. Sabathia should be able to keep Baltimore scoreless early but could allow a run or two late depending on his pitch count and control throughout the night.

    On the other side of the field, Miguel Gonzalez is likely to give up some runs to the top-seeded Yankees. He may be pitching at home, but the Yankees will still have their way with him, getting on the board early and knocking him out of the game before the end of the sixth inning. Look for Raul Ibanez to drive in a couple of runs in this one.

    Prediction: Yankees win 5-1

Game 2 Prediction

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    Date/Time: Monday, Oct. 8, 8 p.m. ET (TBS)

    Projected Pitching Matchup: Andy Pettitte vs. Wei-Yin Chen

    After losing Game 1, the O’s will look to Wei-Yin Chen to tie up the series, their last chance to do so at home without falling too far behind. The Orioles cannot afford to lose the first two games as that’s basically a death sentence when playing New York. I expect Chen to allow some hits, but keep the Yankees in check for the most part.

    Over the course of six-plus innings, I predict that Chen gives up three earned runs with Robinson Cano doing most of the damage with a bomb to right field. Rodriguez will also plate a pair on a double that will score Derek Jeter and Ichiro.

    Although Andy Pettitte almost always pitches well in the postseason, he won’t in Game 2. Matt Wieters, Adam Jones and Jim Thome will all homer off of the lefty, giving Baltimore the advantage. Jim Johnson will complete a four-out save to tie the series and send it to New York.

    Prediction: Orioles win 7-4

Game 3 Prediction

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    Date/Time: Wednesday, Oct. 10, time TBD (TBS)

    Projected Pitching Matchup: Chris Tillman vs. Hiroki Kuroda

    With the series tied, the Yankees will go with one of their best pitchers, Hiroki Kuroda. Kuroda was solid all year long and will continue his dominance with a strong performance against Baltimore in Game 3. He won’t have a ton of offense to work with, but it will be enough in the end.

    I predict that Kuroda keeps his pitch count low the entire game and could pitch deep into the game, probably into the eighth inning. He will keep the Orioles off balance with his good off-speed pitches and benefit from a two-run home run by Alex Rodriguez.

    Chris Tillman will also pitch well but not well enough to win the game. He’ll have his control issues and issue a couple of costly walks in inopportune times. The bullpen will keep the game within reach, but the bats will go cold against Soriano in the ninth inning.

    Prediction: Yankees win 4-2

Game 4 Prediction

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    Date/Time: Thursday, Oct. 11, time TBD (TBS)

    Projected Pitching Matchup: Joe Saunders vs. C.C. Sabathia

    On the brink of elimination, the O’s turn to the guy who pitched relatively well in the one-game playoff, Joe Saunders. Saunders will keep the Yankees quiet through the first six innings, but will exit the game after Buck Showalter decides to let the bullpen handle the rest of the game. That will end up being a major mistake.

    The game will be tied 3-3 going into the seventh inning when the Captain, Derek Jeter, doubles down the right field line, and Ichiro bunts him over. Alex Rodriguez will hit a sacrifice fly off of Darren O’Day, scoring Jeter and giving the Yankees a one-run lead. Then, with Robinson Cano on base after walking, Curtis Granderson will break it up with a two-run shot to right.

    Sabathia will throw seven strong innings, striking out nine while allowing three runs on a home run by Adam Jones. David Robertson will throw a perfect eighth inning, setting Rafael Soriano up for the series-clinching save. He won’t have his best stuff, and the tying run will come up to the plate, but he’ll strike out Matt Wieters swinging to end the game and send the Yankees to the ALCS.

    Prediction: Yankees win 6-3

Conclusion & Final Series Prediction

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    The Orioles may be one of the hottest teams in baseball going into the playoffs, but the Yankees will be able to cool them down. The combination of C.C. Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda will be much too strong to overcome. Rafael Soriano will be dominant as the closer, and the other relievers will provide quality appearances that hold the lead or keep New York in the game.

    Baltimore lacks postseason experience, something that the Yankees couldn’t have more of. Derek Jeter will have a great series at the plate, as will Alex Rodriguez, who will power the Yankees forward. A-Rod will have several extra-base hits throughout the series, and Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson will each homer.

    The Orioles are a team that got hot at the right points during the season and rode some talent and a lot of heart into the playoffs. The Yankees are truly a great team that can win even when they don’t play at their best. In this series, when it counts, the Yankees will be at their best while the Orioles’ magical run finally comes to an end.

    Series Prediction: Yankees over Orioles in 4