The ALDS answered many questions regarding this year’s Yankee team, however the ALCS match-up against the Angels offers its own intrigue:
1. What will the Yankees get from Joba Chamberlain?
I know that the numbers would suggest Joba did a better job than Phil Hughes in the ALDS, but if you watched the games, Hughes seemed to have much better stuff. Joba was hitting 96 and looked pretty strong, but his fastball didn’t have much movement and his slider didn’t have that late-break that made him so un-hittable in the past. People like to focus on the starter vs reliever debate, but really Joba’s problems could be much simpler: he’s never pitched this much before. It seems like more than a coincidence that Joba had a stretch after the All-Star Break where he was one of the best starters in baseball but then started to fall off as his innings number went into new territory. Maybe that’s not the issue, but young pitchers are historically volatile; take a look at Justin Verlander’s career numbers if you don’t believe me. This is why all the various talking heads who admonished the Yankees for “babying Joba” were absolutely wrong. You have to protect your assets. If Joba can be effective out of the bullpen – and honestly, even Joba at 90% is the best 7th inning guy in baseball – the Yankees have a huge advantage over the Angels in that area.
2. Will the Yankees regret leaving Eric Hinske off the roster and keeping Damaso Marte on it?
I was a bit surprised by these decisions. Hinske is pretty much the Yankees only homerun threat off the bench, though I will admit there have been more running opportunities for guys like Freddie Guzman than hitting opportunities for guys like Hinske. Still, I worry about the Yankees attempting to “out-smallball” and out-run the Angels. The Yankees’ game is power. That’s what they do well.
As for Marte, I know Girardi likes having two lefties, but Bobby Abreu is the Angels’ only left-handed batter. Bobby scares me a bit and clearly he wants to play (and beat) the Yankees, as he’s said in interviews. But do the Yankees really need two pitchers on the roster just to pitch to him? Plus, Marte looked pretty awful in the ALDS. Everyone should remember the A-Rod lesson of small sample sizes though. Obviously Girardi and Eiland think Marte is throwing well and the numbers will eventually be there.
3. Will the Angels’ speed really be an issue?
Everyone thinks the Angels will run all over the Yankees, and maybe they will, but the Angels success rate on stolen bases during the year was actually pretty poor and much worse than the Yankees’. So I don’t think that advantage is quite that clear-cut.
4. Will Alex Rodriguez continue his hot streak?
Already there have been a few stories about whether or not A-Rod’s performance in the ALDS was a fluke. It is tough being A-Rod sometimes, I guess. Anyways, a solid performance in this series should end the doubters and in his career A-Rod has played well against the Angels.
5. Will the Yankee offense become circular again?
The Yankees in the ALDS had great pitching and a great Alex Rodriguez. Posada and Jeter both played well, also. Teixeira’s hits were timely, if not plentiful. Outside of that though? Not much. Cano, Swisher, Damon, and Matsui all could use to heat up – and very well could.
6. Could Chip Caray and Ron Darling actually make Joe Buck and Tim McCarver seem knowledgeable by comparison?
I’ll still say no. But the fact that this is even a question is pretty scary. Really, would it kill them just to bring in a local announcer from each team?
The bigger question may be will I miss the unintentional comedy of Chip saying “fisted” about 100 times every game. I think the answer is still no, though I have to wonder how long before an executive at TBS suggests: “Hey, Chip, maybe you want to consider mixing up your verb choices a bit? You’re making everyone at home very uncomfortable.”