ALCS Preview...The Quickie Version

Tom SchecterCorrespondent IOctober 16, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS - OCTOBER 11: Mariano Rivera #42 of the New York Yankees throws against the Minnesota Twins in Game Three of the ALDS during the 2009 MLB Playoffs at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on October 11, 2009 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Twenty minutes to go before Game One. I am sorry I left this so long, but I've had a lot to look at, and a long week at my real job .

These two teams are absolutely the best two teams in the American League, both by record and by statistics. The winner of this series is the prohibitive favorite to win the World Series, no matter which National League team is left standing.

The deciding factor will be in the one place where there's any true disparity between the Yankees and the Angels: the bullpens.

The weather will be a factor, certainly. The Angels' speed versus the Yankees' catchers will take up more column inches. The starting pitching and the long, dangerous, and patient lineups for both teams will take their share of the spotlight, and of the highlight reels.

But what will finally decide this contest will be the skill—and clutch performance—of the relief corps. And in the late innings, playing for all the marbles, the Yankees have the decisive edge.

The Angels had the eighth-worst regular-season relief WHIP (baserunners allowed per inning) in the major leagues. The Yankees had the best (check out the rankings here ).

The Angels' closer, Brian Fuentes, blew seven saves in 52 chances. The Yankees had the most come-from-behind victories in the majors—and they have Mariano Rivera (1.73 ERA, 44/46 saves).

If everyone performs to expectations, and all things are equal, the Yankees will take this series with a late-inning stunner or two. (Unless it starts snowing, and we have to suffer through Chad Gaudin. Then I'll probably write a column on Tom Verducci's "Curse of the Rings" theory.)

In any case, the forecast calls for cold weather and rapidly-receding hairlines, with a chance of screaming, swearing, and the occasional ulcer-related abdominal pain.

Buckle up, kiddies, this is going to be one for the ages...