Who did you want to the New York Yankees to play in the first round, the Texas Rangers or the Detroit Tigers? Doesn’t matter because the New York Yankees kick off the 2011 Postseason by hosting the big cats from the Motor City. That means an early serving of Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. That’s like waking up first thing in the morning and someone shoves a Hardee’s thick burger in your face before your eyes are even adjusted. Maybe it’s nothing like that. Whatever. It’s a lot to chew however you want to analogize it, but the situation is simple for the New York Yankees. It’s a multiple choice question with two options – win or go fishing. As my boy @GerardMAnthony loves to say “if you’re scared, go home and snuggle!” For the record, I am scared of those two guys and I will be at home. I don’t know about the snuggling though. The road to the World Series is going to be tough for the New York Yankees, but that is nothing new to anyone.
CC Sabathia (19-8, 3.00) vs. Justin Verlander (24-5, 2.40)
- CC Sabathia vs. Detroit Tigers – 202 IP, 4.54 ERA, .262 BAA
- Justin Verlander vs. New York Yankees – 56.2 IP, 3.97 ERA, .264 BAA
Ivan Nova vs. Doug Fister (11-13, 2.83)
- Ivan Nova vs. Detroit Tigers – 2 IP, 0.00 ERA, .250 BAA
- Doug Fister vs. New York Yankees – 18 IP, 6.00 ERA, .316 BAA
Freddy Garcia (12-8, 3.62) vs. Max Scherzer (15-9, 4.43)
- Freddy Garcia vs. Detroit Tigers – 213.1 IP, 3.88 ERA, .248 BAA
- Max Scherzer vs. New York Yankees – 19 IP, 2.84 ERA, .211 BAA
Just soak these in. I’m going to try to take a “less is more” approach with the analysis here because the postseason is a new animal that can bring out a new side of players. We know what to expect from tonight’s series opener. Whether we get what we expect is a different story. Ivan Nova and Doug Fister will each make their postseason debuts tomorrow. I’m always interested to see how a player responds to the pressure of the playoffs. I was actually a little surprised when I saw Freddy Garcia slated for Game 3. I’m not sure who I expected because it isn’t as if the Yanks have any obviously more attractive options there, but I was surprised nonetheless. There is no better time than now for the Yankees to solve Max Scherzer.
- Miguel Cabrera has dominated CC Sabathia to the tune of a 1.591 OPS and two homers in 16 at-bats. With Victor Martinez protecting Cabrera, it won’t be possible to just issue intentional walks all series so Cabrera will have to be challenged. Best to do that with no ducks on the pond. My 11 year could have told you that though, right?
- I remember watching the Yankees and Tigers go at it in 2006. After that first game, I just new that the Yanks were destined for a World Series appearance (likely against the New York Mets). Three games later the first half of that World Series equation was eliminated. Jaret Wright started that deciding game (shoot me in the face with an AK-47) and Robinson Cano finished it with a ground out to the second baseman. Both teams are significantly different (that’s what five years of roster moves will do) and hopefully the result will be too.
- While I respect what Jose Valverde has done this season, he doesn’t scare me. I’m not wishing to see him in a big spot, but I can see Valverde and his highly excitable personality getting a bit too amped up in a key spot. He already walks too many guys as it is and the last thing you want from your wild closer is uncontrollable adrenaline. Working in his favor though is that he does have some postseason experience so it won’t be a shock to him once he toes the rubber.
- Speaking of bullpens, the Yankees have a good one. How will Joe Girardi utilize it though? As solid as Cory Wade and Luis Ayala were this season, I can’t say I’m anxious to see them toe the rubber too much. The same can be said for Rafael Soriano – minus the whole being solid part. He did find some success in the second half, but I probably won’t watch when he’s on the mound. Does Girardi restrict David Robertson to the 8th inning or will he use him as a fireman and dispatch him at the most dire moment? Mariano Rivera is a boss, but I’m not sure how many more six out saves he has in his arm. The few that he does have will be reserved for elimination and clinching games. Hopefully he finishes three of the latter.
- How about the three team trade that went down in the 2009-2010 off-season between the Yankees, Tigers and Diamondbacks? Curtis Granderson was a monster in 2011 and a huge part of the reason the Yankees are hosting a playoff game tonight. Austin Jackson will be the guy in the batter’s box when tonight’s first pitch is tossed to the backdrop of thousands of flashbulbs. The Arizona Diamondbacks will rely on Ian Kennedy to grasp an early hold on their series. Finally, Edwin Jackson (on his fourth team since that trade) will also figure prominently in the postseason.
Ah, I thought about ending this post without the obligatory prediction, but I didn’t think that would fly too well. I’m saying Yankees in 4. Reason number one is that I can’t pick against the Yanks. This is why predictions are kind of pointless, if not dumb. I can’t take my bias out of this equation. Reason number two is that if the Yanks head into a Game 5, I anticipate a second matchup against Justin Verlander. Nobody wants that. Wrap the series up in four games please.