Friday, September 28, 2007

Yanks, present and future

One thing that the Yanks are able to do this weekend is evaluate their young guys because the next three games are otherwise irrelevant. After all, barring a complete choke by the blosux, the Yanks are goin' wild carding. The real question is: when?

This year MLB is allowing the team with the best record in the AL to pick its poison for the ALDS: an 8-day series or a 7-day series. Next year, the NL's top winner gets that choice. Here's how the divisional series are set up:

Both NLDS will be Wednesday-Thursday-Saturday-Sunday-Tuesday of next week and the following week. The ALDS will be Thursday-Friday-Sunday-Monday-Wednesday OR Wednesday-Friday-Sunday-Monday-Wednesday. Unlike previous years, there will be a day off between games four and five (the Yanks and A's famously trekked cross-country from New York to Oakland in 2000 and vice versa in 2001 to play game 5 the day after game 4 of those ALDS). What the 8-day schedule allows, therefore is a real benefit -- the ability to run out a three-man rotation and have the #1 and #2 starters pitch twice, the second time on normal four days' rest. In the NL this year that would be a big advantage for the Padres (two starts each for Peavy and Young) and a disadvantage for teams like the Phils and D'Backs who really don't have a solid 1-2 arrangement. Thus the 7-day schedules that force either a three-man rotation with #1 and #2 pitching on three days' rest or a four-man rotation that limits the top two starters to three starts tends to hurt the Pads and help the teams whose 2-3-4 starters are roughly equal, but not as good as the #1 guy.

In the AL, this is less meaningful in one way -- each team has an unquestionable ability to roll out a solid 1-2 for four games of that 8-day series. The Yanks have Pettitte and Wang; the Blosax have Beckett and Schilling/Wakefield; the Angels have Lackey and Escobar; the Indians have Sabathia and Carmona. But three teams have a sizeable dropoff after the 1-2: the Yanks would pitch the injured Clemens or erratic Mooooooooooose; the Angels have youngster Jered Weaver and erratic Ervin Santana; the Indians have Paul Byrd and Jake Westbrook, but neither has fared well against the Yanks, and Byrd's 15-8 record is detracted from by his 4.59 ERA.

Thus, the choice for Boston or the Indians, who are currently tied at 94-65 (Boston holds the tiebreaker after a 5-2 series win this year) seems clear: the Indians need the 8-day schedule so they can roll out Sabathia (historically bad against the Yanks, but he hasn't faced them in more than two years, so those stats are basically worthless) and Carmona (who's been decent in his two starts against the Yanks) four times in five games; the RedSawx can use the 7-day schedule to use their greater pitching depth and prevent the Angels from using Lackey/Escobar four times. Seems simple, right? If the RedSawx win the best record, expect them to pick the 8-day schedule. I'm not sure why, I just think it will happen. If the Indians get the best record and pick the 7-day schedule relying upon the Yanks' #3 and #4 starter issues, they're fools -- go first with your strength, not the opponent's weakness.

In other news, Phil Hughes pitched well again and this time had a career-long outing -- 7 IP, 1 ER against the D'rays. That's good -- the D'Rays can hit and didn't bench 2/3 of their starters like the Yanks did last night. And Joba pitched well in his first outing on back-to-back days. The Monk would not be shocked to see a late inning 7-8-9 set up with Hughes-Joba-Mo to close a game.

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