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October 17, 2012

Playoff Prospectus

ALCS Game Four Preview: Yankees at Tigers

by Matthew Kory

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Do or die. Put up or shut up. [swear word] or get off the… well, you get the idea. After last night’s episode of Verlander Verlanding, New York finds themselves down three games to none in the best-of-seven series. It’s time for the Yankees to make their stand. Anyone have Kevin Millar’s phone number?

Here are your PECOTA odds and the projected starting lineups for Game Four of the American League Championship Series.

Yankees (C.C. Sabathia) at Tigers (Max Scherzer) – 8 p.m. EST
PECOTA odds of winning: Yankees 53.1 percent, Tigers 46.9 percent, Orioles 0.04 percent.*

*How is that possible? Ask Buck Showalter.

Projected Starting Lineups:

Tigers vs. Sabathia (L)

Yankees vs. Scherzer (R)

Austin Jackson, CF (R)

Brett Gardner, LF (L)

Omar Infante, 2B (R)

Ichiro Suzuki, RF (L)

Miguel Cabrera, 3B (R)

Mark Teixeira (1B)

Prince Fielder, 1B (L)

Robinson Cano, 2B (L)

Delmon Young, DH (R)

Raul Ibanez, DH (L)

Jhonny Peralta, SS (R)

Eric Chavez, 3B (L)

Andy Dirks, LF (L)

Curtis Granderson, CF (L)

Avisail Garcia, RF (R)

Russell Martin, C (R)*

Gerald Laird, C (R)

Eduard Nunez, SS (R)

*Depends on the thumb, but guessing he’ll play.

While Verlander took the Yankees apart like a toddler kicking a Jenga puzzle, the Yankees offense hasn’t been much of an impediment to imposing pitchers of late. Derek Jeter’s injury didn’t help matters (Think he’d have hit a rally-killing homer in the ninth inning like Nunez did? No way!), and slumps by Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, and Alex Rodriguez diminished what should be a far more imposing lineup than Detroit’s.

When the entirety of a team’s offense comes from Eduardo Nunez as it did last night for New York, that is a good thing for precisely two parties: 1) the opposing team, and 2) Eduardo Nunez. Still, it’s hard to hold it too strongly against the Yankees. The same force they used to close out the last series against the Orioles in the ALDS crushed them last night, as a probable Hall of Fame starter dominated them.

Tonight the shoe is on the other foot, though, as Sabathia takes the hill for New York. If the Yankees could choose anyone to step onto the mound with the season on the line, you have to think Sabathia would be the guy. He was nails in the ALDS (a 1.53 ERA in 17 2/3 innings), and he’s put up a 3.09 ERA in 12 starts and one relief appearance since signing with the Yankees in 2009. This season, he’s faced Detroit three times, going 3-0 with a 3.32 ERA, 20 strikeouts, and five walks in 21 2/3 innings. The most recent start of those starts came on August 8—a six-inning, five-run (three earned) performance. It may comfort Sabathia, who is a notorious comfort freak, to know that the Tigers have had more trouble with left-handed pitchers (a .724 OPS vs. LHP) this season than they have with righties (.771 vs. RHP). Facing Sabathia probably won’t improve the former mark.

Scherzer’s season was a tale of two pitchers. The first half of the year, he was the inefficient strikeout king with the high ERA. Later in the season, though, he took off. From August 10th on, a bit of cherry picking that conveniently ignores his first August start (5 IP, 4 ERs), Scherzer has a 1.65 ERA in 10 starts. Over that time he’s struck out 71 in 60 innings against 14 walks, and held batters to a .562 OPS. The Yankees’ lineup has a collective .582 OPS throughout this postseason.

Matchup of the Game: CC Sabathia vs. Austin Jackson: 6-for-26 with 12 strikeouts. Jackson can have trouble with the fastball away, but that’s not Sabathia’s game. He likes to attack with the fastball inside, which is a spot Jackson hits well, so at least from that standpoint, it’s power on power. Therefore, it might not surprise you to know that four of Jackson’s hits off Sabathia went for extra bases, including two doubles, a triple, and a homer.

PECOTA says the Yankees are favored, but unless Sabathia throws his second complete game in two starts, the offense will have to wake up for them to win.

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

Related Content:  Playoffs,  ALCS,  Yankees,  Max Scherzer,  Cc Sabathia,  Tigers

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