Angels-Yanks: Head to head, Part I

Angels-Dodgers. Angels-Phillies. Yankees-Dodgers. Yankees-Phillies. These are the World Series possibilities thanks to last night’s conclusion of the Phillies-Rockies series, a denouement hastened by Jim Tracy’s Night of the Living Dead decision to let Huston Street pitch to Ryan Howard with the game on the line, a devotion to the idea of the CLOSER so compulsive as to be akin to mental slavery. Howard hit .207/.298/.356 against lefties this year, .226/.310/.444 lifetime. Conversely, he’s a .305/.406/.661 career hitter against right-handers, a number likely to be elevated against Street, who has always had problems with lefties until this year (and there is good reason to believe that he was just lucky). Tracy had Joe Beimel heated up and ready to go, but because Street is his CLOSER he stuck with him and got exactly what should have expected to get. Way to go, Jim.

Before anyone jumps and asks if this means that, should there be a Yankees-Phillies World Series, Mariano Rivera should not be allowed to pitch to Howard, the answer is no, it does not mean that. Rivera’s cutter makes him very hard for left-handers to hit. Lefties are hitting .206/.256/.261 against him for his career, .182/.238/.273. He’s a full-service closer, and the normal rules do not apply.

… Happened in last night’s game. First, Jason Giambi singled to the opposite field. He then scored from first on Yorvit Torrealba’s double. Where was that guy the last five years?

In today’s Joe Girardi conference call, the manager suggested that he could go with a three-man rotation in the championship series. This is feasible because due to the wonders of television scheduling, the American League Championship Series will last 10 days if it goes the distance. Thanks to three off-days, after Game 2, Game 4 and Game 5, CC Sabathia would be able to start Game 1, then Game 4 after three days off, and then Game 7 on normal rest. A.J. Burnett would start Games 2 and 5, the latter on normal rest, and Andy Pettitte would start Game 3 and Game 6, also on normal rest. The question is, how has Mr. Sabathia done on short rest? Sabathia didn’t make any quickened starts this year but has in the past. Last year he made three such starts and did quite well, allowing just two earned runs (six total) in 21.2 innings. Those three starts represent 75 percent of his starts under such conditions. In short, there’s a record of success in short rest, but we’re well short of conclusive evidence. This does seem like a better option than going with Chad Gaudin, who has not pitched well against the Angels in his career (19 games) or pulling Joba Chamberlain back out of the ‘pen and praying.

If you want an “on the other hand,” here it is: in the fourth inning of his next start, Sabathia will pitch his 240th inning of the season. The guy could get fatigued. The guy could already be fatigued. This seemed to be a problem in past postseasons; in 2007 and 2008, Sabathia entered October already past the 240 mark. You never know if making a start on short rest will hasten him toward the wall.


FIRST BASE: KENDRY MORALES (39.8 VORP, 12th among first basemen) vs. MARK TEIXEIRA (54.7 VORP, 5th)
tex250_101309.jpgCuban import Morales finally had his big breakthrough this year, knocking 43 doubles and 34 home runs while hitting .306. Intriguingly, his line-drive rate was actually a tad low, while his batting average on balls in play was high, so he likely had some good luck this year. If his line drive rate is normal next year, we’ll never notice the correction. Morales was much better from the left side of the plate than from the right side, batting .296/.319/.481. He was far more consistent, far more patient, against right-handers, and it’s probably worth it for Girardi to turn him around in the late innings. Mike Scioscia very rarely put Bobby Abreu and Morales back to back in the lineup, as this would have created an exploitable vulnerability to lefty relievers.

Teixeira wasn’t set back by turning around, not this year and not during his career. In fact, he’s a bit more dangerous against left-handed pitching. He’s a career .388/.464/.551 hitter against John Lackey, has hit .261/.346/.652 against Jered Weaver, and is 7-for-11 against Scott Kazmir. The only Gold Glove in the conversation is Teixeira. EDGE: YANKEES.

SECOND BASE: HOWIE KENDRICK (16.5, 20th) vs. ROBINSON CANO (50.3, 3rd)

In their eagerness to whack the ball, Kendrick and Cano are similar players. Both players had a crisis in their 25th year, Kendrick hitting so poorly at the outset of this season (.231/.281/.355 through June 11) that he was sent down. He hit well in the sticks and was brought back about three weeks later. In the 54 games remaining to him, Kendrick hit .351/.387/.532 and was a bit more patient than he had been before, walking 10 times. That doesn’t seem like much, but this is a guy who had taken just 40 walks in 303 career games to that point. He hit .371 against left-handers after coming back, and batted .400 with runners in scoring position.

Cano had his most consistent season in 2009, hitting well except for a two-month, May-June cold snap. Even then, results were never as bleak as they had been the previous year (.271/.302/.439). He was at his best in the second half, hitting .336/.365/.557 after the break. Cano’s season had two major downsides. He continued to be a double-play threat due to his lack of speed, his tendency to hit grounders, and his ability to hit the ball hard even when he wasn’t hitting it anywhere good. The other problem was his spectacularly poor hitting with runners on, runners in scoring position, runners anything. Put a man on in front of him and he melted like ice on a hot stove. Defensively the two are a wash. I see this as EDGE: NONE.

Third base, shortstop, catcher.



    Kendrick and Cano are even? Are we ignoring defense? Cano is excellent on popups, going to his right, and turning double plays. Last time the Yanks were Anaheim, Kendrick only started one of the games anyway. The RISP numbers are bad for Cano, but he still drove in 85 runs and finished 3rd in the league in total bases. He’s a .360+ hitter with bases empty–and he bats with bases empty more than any other situation.

    Of course, these comparisons don’t really make any sense in baseball as the two secondbasemen aren’t really head-to-head opponents. The Angels, head to head, take CF and RF and that’s about it. I’ll give them manager and 5-man rotation, but not 3-man.

  2. sadaharuo

    Ordinarily I would give Cano the edge over Howie Kendrick, even taking Cano’s RISP-phobia into account. But Howie Kendrick hits like Rogers Hornsby against the Yanks for some reason, so he scares the crap out of me.

  3. acepoint01

    You wrote this article about CC purely for the reason so that if for whatever reason he doesn’t pitch well in Game 4 you can say “I told you so.” Nice self-serving article. It would have nothing to do with the fact that the angels have always hit him well, or that after they see him in Game 1 they make some adjustments and take him the other way like the Twins did. Especially since that is what the Angels do. Just a very selfish posting.

  4. desalesman

    I quote: “He continued to be a double-play threat due to his lack of speed…”. This aspect of Cano’s game continues to irk hell out of me, because I would argue that this is a correctable flaw, which Girardi has totally failed to address. It isn’t that the man is slow to first. It’s that the man CHOOSES to be slow to first – because any ball that looks like anything less than a guaranteed hit, and this guy just does a fast (sometimes not so fast) jog to first. Jeter’s example, of running like hell to first, in hopes of taking advantage of and/or causing a mistake, is totally lost on Cano. I have thought more than once that Billy Martin would have taken care of this, by benching Cano for a few days every time he saw him dogging it to first, until the lazy kid got the message.


    “You wrote this article about CC purely for the reason so that if for whatever reason he doesn’t pitch well in Game 4 you can say ‘I told you so.'”

    Acepoint01 will you in turn tell Goldman, “I told you so” in the comments of the article if he does in fact, write about telling us so?

  6. acepoint01

    desalesman – I know to the naked eye it looks like Cano isn’t running hard or playing hard. He is just extremely smooth in all of his movements. And when you are that smooth, you may no be maximizing your effort in your runs, but you are maximizing your speed. There are very few athletes who can move like this, but it makes it look like he’s lazy. The same goes for how he plays the field…he looks so nonchalant, but really its just the pure athleticism of his natural movement.
    Yes Jete runs hard as hell to first every time, but for him to maximize his speed he has to increase his effort. It has a lot to do with body type, agility, and natural athleticism.
    bon410 – I wouldn’t waste my time with this guy

  7. sadaharuo

    So the reason it doesn’t look like Cano is trying hard is that he’s so gifted he makes it all look easy? He’s busting it as hard as everyone else but has a distracted look on his face because it’s such a breeze for him?
    I wish I could believe that.

  8. desalesman

    acepoint, I’m glad that you are that much of a Cano fan as to see things that way. However, I’ve watched replays, at normal speed, of him running to first, at a third-base camera-angle, which allowed the viewer to see almost the entire time of his run. His first two or three steps were reasonably fast; then, as he became more and more sure that he was going to be out, he knocked about 30% off of his running speed. That’s the classic reaction from any baseball player, who has no interest at all in giving maximum effort in hopes of causing and/or cashing in on a mistake. I’ll concede that, for the work he did this past offseason, he isn’t as lazy as he used to be; but I believe that laziness still pops out, in those probable-groundout situations.

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