After the Yankees and Angels both completed their respective sweeps of the Twins and Red Sox yesterday, it was time to start looking forward to the American League Championship Series. The series will start Friday night at approximately 8 p.m. EDT, and two of the American League's top teams will be pitted against each other.
The common thought is that the Angels own the Yankees, but I don't buy into that idea. While the Angels have prevailed in the past, those were different teams, and previous results have little to no effect on the upcoming series. This year, the Yanks and Angels split a ten game series winning five apiece.
Coming into this series, there is no doubt that the Yankees are favored. There is also no doubt that the Angels are quite a bit better than the Twins, and present a fair matchup. This Angels team is unlike past teams; they can really hit the ball. The Angels finished third in the majors in wOBA, behind only the Yankees and Red Sox.
While pitching is usually a strength for the Angels, that wasn't the case this year. They finished with an ERA of 4.45 with an average starting pitching staff and a below-average relief corps. With the Yankees' top flight starters and shutdown relievers, they certainly hold an edge in the pitching department as well.
I calculated the Yankees log5 odds using Wins Above Replacement, and that gives them a 66.77 percent chance to win the series. That isn't too inspiring, but I calculated that the Yanks only had a 76 percent chance of beating the Twins (with a 27 percent chance of sweep), and that worked out fine.
As Moshe over at The Yankee Universe pointed out, the Yankees can go with three starters in this series if they allow C.C. Sabathia to pitch on short rest:
Gm 1 Fri Oct. 16 Sabathia (on full rest)
Gm 2 Sat Oct. 17 Burnett
Gm 3 Mon Oct. 19 Pettitte
Gm 4 Tue Oct. 20 Sabathia (on 3 days)
Gm 5* Thu Oct. 22 Burnett
Gm 6* Sat Oct. 24 Pettitte
Gm 7* Sun Oct. 25 Sabathia (on full rest)
Personally, I love this idea. The Yankees have said they plan to keep Joba in the bullpen for the rest of the postseason*, and Chad Gaudin shouldn't be starting any playoff games. I like him as a reliever and swingman, but a guy who has allowed lefties to get on base at a .389 clip should not be starting any playoff games for the Yankees.
*(I like that the Yankees have Joba in the bullpen because his innings were getting high and he wasn't cutting it as a starter, but why has Girardi shown so much trust in him? The relief version of Joba I've been watching is no different than the one who has been starting. Yeah, he can get a few outs, but in a decision game, Girardi shouldn't be using anyone but Hughes and Mariano if he needs nine outs from the bullpen.)
Sabathia has proven that he can start on short rest, and he will have a week of rest before his game one start, so I think the Yankees should start C.C. in Game Four no matter what the situation is. If the Yankees choose to use only their top three starters, that is as formidable of a rotation as you'll find. Just imagine if Chien-Ming Wang was himself this season.
If the Yanks choose to set up their rotation this way, they have a clear edge in the series. Hitting comes at a premium in the playoffs, but as long as the Yankees starters perform, this offense will put up enough runs to win. This series will come down to what every playoff series does: starting pitching. The Yankees have the pitchers, they just need to use them the right way.