A Few Thoughts Heading Into ALCS Game Three

When a team like the Yankees finds itself down two games to none in the ALCS, about to face the reigning Cy Young Award winner in his home ballpark, and without your best postseason hitter, it is no shock that the fanbase is down in the dumps.

Fortunately, it is the players, not the fans, who will take the field at Comerica Park this evening.

Here are some interesting morsels to chew on this afternoon:

  • Robinson Cano went 24-for-39 (.615) in his last nine regular season games. In the postseason, he is 2-for-32 (.063). Combine the two and he still has a .366 batting average over that span. Talk about regression toward the mean!

  • Cano, Eric Chavez, Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin, Alex Rodriguez, and Nick Swisher own a collective .118/.185/.188 slash line in the postseason.

  • It is a good bet that Brett Gardner will start in left field tonight (5-for-11 lifetime, including playoffs, against Justin Verlander) and Ichiro will play right.

  • Before assuming that Rodriguez’s struggles are choke-related, take note of his numbers in 28 September/October regular season games: .261/.341/.369. With apologies to the filthy peasant in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, A-Rod is 37. He’s old.

  • Phil Hughes starts tonight. In ten career games against the Tigers, eight of them starts, he has a 4.22 ERA and batters have posted a .700 OPS. Overall, Hughes has a 4.39 ERA and .733 OPS.

  • For Yankee fans who remain unfamiliar with some of the players on Jimmy Leyland’s roster, you may wish to read John Sickels’ “How the Detroit Tigers Were Built.”

  • The Tigers have not allowed a run to the Bronx Bombers in 20 of 21 innings this series.

  • Detroit’s rotation has compiled an amazingly low 0.94 ERA and six quality starts in seven playoff games, but historically the Yankees have had a measure of success against the next two starting pitchers.

  • Verlander might be the best pitcher in the bigs, but in 13 games against the Yankees, he has been human, posting a 3.74 ERA and opposing batters have put up a very respectable .774 OPS. In contrast, his total numbers are 3.40 ERA and .652 OPS.

  • Max Scherzer has a career 3.88 ERA and .733 OPS against him. In four starts aginst the Yanks, he has a 3.42 ERA and .765 OPS.

  • For his career, left-handed batters have posted a .679 OPS against beleaguered closer Jose Valverde. What Leyland was slow to pick up on in the series opener is that Valverde has been very hittable in 2012: .754 OPS. His strikeout rate against lefties, which had been 26.1 percent in 2010 and 21.8 percent last year, plunged to 12.6 percent this season. Moreover, his xFIP is hovering in the red zone: .575. It will be interesting to see how Leyland uses Valverde in the rest of the series.

  • Detroit’s lineup, while having a more productive postseason than New York, is not exactly tearing the cover off of the baseball: 258/.299/.351.

  • On a side note, the lack of hitting has been contagious. As Hardball Talk’s Matthew Pouliot notes:

Overall, AL hitters are batting .218 and slugging .310 this postseason. To put that in perspective, Justin Verlander limited major league hitters to a .217 average and a .306 slugging percentage this season. So, essentially, every AL pitcher this month is Justin Verlander.

  • According to ESPN’s Park Factors page, Comerica Park, widely known as pitcher-friendly, actually finished the year in the middle of the pack on home runs allowed (17th of 30). Moreover, only eight other parks finished ahead of Comerica in scoring.

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