The Commish Online www.thecommishonline.com
October 16, 2009
The Angels proved there was no mental hang up about facing the Red Sox, disposing of them in easy fashion. In doing so, they showed me that I severely underrated their talents. Maybe it's because the players aren't household names or the fact that I watched fewer Angels games than any other team in the playoffs, but they have proven they belong. Consider it noted.
There wasn't much doubt that the Yankees should have handled the Twins, but the way the Twins played didn't add much to the equation. It was ugly baseball from Minnesota, and New York took advantage at every turn. Expect the ALCS to be more competitive and hopefully better played.
Los Angeles vs. New York
The Angels seem to be an NL team stuck in the American League: they have mix-and-match infielders, they don't need to rely on the home run to score, and they will take advantage of you on the basepaths. That formula, along with some hearty starting pitching, has brought LA to within four wins of the World Series. To make it to the next step, they'll have to beat a much different team.
Everyone knows about New York's big guns like ARod, Jeter, Posada, and others who have been in pinstripes for years. It's the addition of Mark Teixeira this year, though, that puts this Yankees team ahead of the teams in recent years. Teixeira's presence in the lineup allows for less pressure on Rodriguez and less concern about aging veterans such as Damon and Matsui. If Matsui suffers an injury setback or struggles in the cold weather, it may not matter because Teixeira is one more bat capable of carrying the team for a week.
Nothing about New York's starting pitching wows me, but somehow guys like Pettitte (who would be a late-round fantasy draft pick at best) manage to get the job done. His stuff is almost non-existent, but he knows the right pitches to make in the right situations when it matters most. In the playoffs, it makes all the difference in the world when your 3rd or 4th starter has experience and the ability to handle the pressure. With a back end of Jared Weaver and Scott Kazmir, LA definitely has the advantage when it comes to starting pitching, but it's not as great a deficit as some would have you believe.
What really impressed me in the last series was New York's bullpen. Rivera still looked like the bat shattering dynamo of years past, but Hughes, Joba, and Coke provide an invaluable bridge between starters and Rivera. LA can't quite match that, and if the Angels are forced to play "catch up," it's going to be hard for the LA middle relievers to hold down the fort.
With New York's unrelenting lineup a Sabathia anchoring the rotation, my gut says Yankees in 5. BUT, because I overlooked the Angels in the first round, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and predict that Abreu, Vlad, and the rest of the gang will light up the Anaheim sky with at least a couple victories. Four wins over the Bronx Bombers though? I don't think so.
Prediction: New York in 6