By Patrick Giorgio
Finally, playoff baseball is here! We start with an intriguing rematch of the 1997 ALDS in which Cleveland beat the Yanks three games to two.
C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona are 38-15 with 456 combined innings, and easily the best 1-2 punch in all of baseball. Yet, they both have little combined experience vs. the Yankees. Carmona has 6 earned runs in 13 innings, and C.C. hasn’t pitched to a pinstripe since Bernie Williams was still in his prime. Jake Westbrook is a guy who could be relied upon in years past but has been horrible this year.Â Apparently Cleveland has enough confidence to put him in game three.Â Â Game 4 sports Paul Byrd, who has been a very successful number three guy in the rotation all season, but nobody the Yankees should struggle against.
New York plans to rival the Indians with Chein Mein Wang, a contact pitcher who’s been able to increase his strikeout ratio each year since coming up to the majors. Wang is 38-13 over the last two seasons, but isn’t very playoff tested (two starts, one win and one loss with 13.1 innings and a 2.70 ERA). Andy Pettite, the crafty veteran makes his 35th career start in game two against Carmona. However, this is his first Yankee postseason start since Alex Rodriguez was still a Texas Ranger. How will he fare? Well, in his last five regular season starts his ERA was 5.59, but he was 3-1 in the Win-Loss column. Next is the ageless one, Roger Clemens. Clemens needs no introduction. All the Yankees need is six solid innings and then they can hand it over to Bruney/Chamberlain/Mo. Westbrook may even give Rivera a day off if he plays up to his regular season form. Game 4 suggests Mike Mussina starting for the Bombers, but you know Phillip Hughes will probably be in the bullpen from the very start of the game just in case the Moose lets one loose. Or two, or three. Edge goes to Cleveland overall, but the Yankees have done a great up at countering Cleveland in starting match ups.
Travis Hafner had a major down year in the regular season. While still being productive, especially in September during the stretch, his explosive bat that he once possessed has seemed to calm down quite a bit. Hafner is a rich man’s Adam Dunn at the plate without any of Dunn’s defensive ability. If Hafner gets it going, Cleveland’s lineup runs like a well-oiled Mercedes.
Cleveland also sports one of the top young talents in the game in Grady Sizemore. Sizemore is the best Indian to roam centerfield since Larry Doby. A constant 20-20 threat, Sizemore covers plenty of ground in the outfield and drew over the century mark in walks this year. His patience at the plate for a 25 year old is unmatched.Â Cleveland’s cleanup hitter is the dangerous Victor Martinez. Other than Jorge Posada, no catcher was better on offense than Victor, who led all catchers in RBI with 114.
The Yankees offense sports All-Stars everywhere, everyone knows Posada, Damon and Jeter are proven playoff veterans, and the same goes for the majority of the team. The biggest question is whether Alex Rodriguez will step up. Will the Yankees even need him to? The rest of the offense is so explosive A-rod may not have to do all the work for once. When it comes to pitchers facing veteran lineups for the first time, I usually give the nod to the hitters if they have experience. The Yankees are mostly playoff tested, Sabathia hasn’t experienced the post season since 2001. Game one is crucial.
Cleveland has two Rafael’s in their bullpen in Perez (1.78 ERA in 60 innings) and Betancourt (1.47 ERA in 79 innings). Two workhorses who rarely give up runs, they are the phenominal bridge to puzzling closer Joe Borowski. Borowski is a veteran righty and was able to lead the league with 45 Saves despite allowing an ERA over 5 and blowing eight saves. Aaron Fultz has been very effective from the pen this year but a shakey 4.50 ERA in August and September.
New York’s bullpen is real simple. Don’t give the ball to Farnsworth, switch off with Vizcaino and Bruney, put in Joba in the 8th inning and Mariano Rivera in the 9th. Mariano this year was just as breath-taking as always, however his ERA did jump over 3 for the first time ever as a closer. Still, he got the job done when he was asked to and only blew four saves. The edge goes to the Yankees, only because they have the greatest closer of all time and Cleveland has the worst 40-save closer of all time.
I predict the series all comes down to game one. Whoever steps up and wins that game will win the ALDS.