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October 15, 2010

Playoff Prospectus

Friday ALCS Game Projection

by Eric Seidman

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After what felt like an eternity off, post-season play resumes tonight with the Yankees visiting the Rangers in the first game of the American League Championship Series. The Yankees should be well-rested after easily dispatching of the Twins in a three-game sweep in the Division Series, while the Rangers are “forced” to go with their second best-starter in C.J. Wilson due to finishing their LDS on Tuesday night. As with the Division Series, we will be producing PECOTA projections for this tier of the playoffs in an attempt to more accurately assess what the major players for each team bring to the table in the form of a true talent level.

I’ve written about the process and true talent levels in general, lately, and would prefer to not have to regurgitate those paragraphs in each of these previews, so for reference please visit this article if anything seems confusing. I will say, though, that since the very first preview, we have applied a few changes to the process, primarily to the home field advantage. Also keep in mind that the aggregated team projections for runs scored are derived from linear weights run values, and the projected runs scored and allowed fuel the win probabilities.

Along those lines, obviously the team numbers stem from the individual numbers, and since these articles get published way before game time, there could be a few lineup changes that are not currently reflected. If anyone catches lineup changes, please let us know in the comments or via e-mail. We will update these based on said changes, as in games likely projected to be so close in scoring, something as simple as a Jorge Cantu-for-Mitch Moreland swap could be relatively substantial.


Yankees (CC Sabathia) at Rangers (C.J. Wilson)

Projected Runs Scored: Rangers 4.65, Yankees 4.46

Projected Odds of Winning: Rangers 51.97 percent, Yankees 48.03 percent


Yankees vs. C.J. Wilson






Derek Jeter




Nick Swisher




Mark Teixeira




Alex Rodriguez




Robinson Cano




Marcus Thames




Jorge Posada




Curtis Granderson




Brett Gardner





Rangers vs. CC Sabathia






Elvis Andrus




Michael Young




Josh Hamilton




Vladimir Guerrero




Nelson Cruz




Ian Kinsler




Jeff Francoeur




Jorge Cantu




Bengie Molina





Moreland has started lately at first base, but it does make sense that the righty Cantu would play against the southpaw CC Sabathia. Then again, the former did start against David Price in the final game of the Division Series, so that is an area to watch. Ostensibly, the actual order of the Yankees lineup matters little, especially over three or four plate appearances in a single game, so if Jorge Posada bats ahead of Marcus Thames, it isn’t going to have a material effect.

Overall, the Rangers are expected to win this game 51 percent of the time, which is virtually a coin flip. With lefties on the hill, and in Texas, the teams are very evenly matched. Though 4.65 is higher than 4.46, the difference is minute, relatively speaking, and giving the Yankees a 49 percent shot in no way makes them underdogs by most definitions of the term. What is interesting with this series is that we actually get to see an oft-discussed theory put to the test, even if it was designed by necessity and not driven by planning. The theory to which I am referring is that it could be more beneficial to not start your ace against the ace of the other team. I don’t necessarily buy into it, but it will be interesting to see what the projected win probabilities suggest.

For those unfamiliar, the theory – discussed all too frequently on sports talk radio – suggests that a team is going to have less of a shot of winning against an opposing ace, and so why “waste” your ace in that game? In this series, the Rangers won’t get to use Cliff Lee until the third game, and Wilson still gives them 50 percent odds, so they have to feel pretty good about their chances. As Matt Swartz noted in his pitching preview, the Rangers need to win at least two non-Lee games to win this series, and this first game would be a big one to leave victorious. So what do you say ye faithful readers? Do the Rangers win this game? Does that sports talk radio theory have any merit? Is there an odder collection of 7-9 hitters in baseball than in the Rangers lineup above?

Eric Seidman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Eric's other articles. You can contact Eric by clicking here

Related Content:  Jorge Cantu,  Game Theory

11 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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So if Bengie Molina has a lifetime .295 average against LHP, and a Home average that's 6 points higher than his away average, (.292 & .298, presumably), how does he have a projected .301 average against CC (.247 lifetime against RHB)? Also consider CC is probably closer to his prime than Bengie.

Is this all Park Factor?

Oct 15, 2010 06:41 AM
rating: 0
Josh Engleman

Teixeira's OBP has to be a typo, right? There's no way he can project to have a .266 in any situation.

Oct 15, 2010 07:38 AM
rating: 0

OBP < AVG would be ... rare as well.

Oct 15, 2010 09:27 AM
rating: 0
Jay Taylor

They are predicting a lot of sacrifices.

Oct 15, 2010 09:47 AM
rating: 2
Josh Engleman

I'm also surprised by how high Granderson's OBP is against the lefty. His career split is.274 in 859 PAs. I know there is a lot of regression involved but that is a 60 point swing.

Oct 15, 2010 07:55 AM
rating: 0
Josh Engleman

The Jeter/A-Rod lines are interesting, too. A-Rod was worth 20 more runs at the plate this year, with similar 2009 seasons. Couple that with 30 extra batting runs in 2008 and with Jeter being a year older, and you seem to have a bigger divide than the 20 points of SLG that is shown.

Oct 15, 2010 08:05 AM
rating: 0

Molina won't be starting tonight. Matt Treanor will be run out there as he's become CJ's defacto personal catcher.

Oct 15, 2010 08:40 AM
rating: 0
Bill B

As a general proposition, the "talk radio theory" is too abstract. The devil's in the details. Who matches up against whom, platoon splits, etc.

Oct 15, 2010 08:43 AM
rating: 0

you are still better off reading detailed scouting reports.

Oct 15, 2010 08:58 AM
rating: 0

It would be interesting to see how these probabilities changed if Lee was the starter tonight. Rangers up to 70% or only 55%?

Oct 15, 2010 09:28 AM
rating: 0

With the way the economy is & the country's general mood, I fully expect to see W sitting with Nolan all the way through the WS, which is kinda ironic.

Oct 15, 2010 18:43 PM
rating: 0
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