Tuesday, October 12, 2010

To Sweep, or not to Sweep, that is the question…

As you all may know, everyone from your average play by play radio announcer (John Sterling shout out!), to your sports center anchor (Stu Scott where you at?), to any major network sports announcer (bite me Joe Buck/partner who’s name I won’t even honor – you suck) – shares a common theme around this time of the season. The Yankees swept (and embarrassed again) the Twinkies in their brand new Target Field for two games and one back in the Bronx to advance to the ALCS. And they’re playing… well either the Rays or the Rangers. The Yankees last won on October 9th. The Rays/Rangers are deciding who will lose to them tonight, the 12th (according to Starvin’ Waiter over on Oct. 4th’s “Fall Ball” article the Rangers will). The first ALCS game will be in the winning team’s stadium this Frday, October 15th.

So let me just debate this with myself using common sense. I am not looking up past stats of how long teams rested and if they won afterwards in the next series. To me, it is like debating which player’s pregame ritual works best. Listen, Pedro Cerano’s praying to Jobu would be the last thing on my list of things to get me psyched for a big game or get me out of a slump, but if it works for the guy I’d tell him by all means to have at it. It is purely subjective to the team involved in the extended/lack of rest.

So let’s begin with said common sense. The New York Yankees have an average age of about 84 years old. Ok, they’re not that old as a whole, but they definitely have the aging player factor to worry about. Mariano Rivera (40) saved two games in Minnesota on back to back days. No matter how long or short this guy takes off, the anchor the Yanks have in the Sandman is still the best relief pitcher in history and perhaps the best pitcher ever in the postseason. You know that he will bring it no matter how much time he gets off. Advantage: neutral

Andy Pettitte (38) pitched a gem his 4th start after coming back from his injuries less than a month ago. Seeing as the problem was in his groin and legs, and he suffered plenty of setbacks in trying to get back in the rotation, you can argue this either way. Does Andy need extra time to heal now, or has he had enough time off and should we be worried the layoff will allow him to get out of his game mode. Andy, being 38 and on the cusp of retirement a few seasons now, would probably tell you he can pitch every day in the postseason. You don’t become the pitcher with the most wins in October, especially in series clinching games, and not want the ball. I do believe however Andy won’t forget how to pitch with a few extra days off and time to work on his stuff. Expect a sharp Andy in the ALCS. Advantage: Yankees.

Hot bats like Granderson (5 for 11), Swisher (4 for 12, 2 doubles), and Cano (4 for 12, 1 triple) can always see a bit of a flame out having to sit for awhile. Opposing pitchers in general probably gain an advantage the longer hitters do not see live pitching. The notoriously patient Yankee lineup wasn’t really banged up going into the postseason, and the layoff may make them antsy when they come out of the gate on the road Friday. This would be especially tough if they had to face a strike throwing machine like Cliff Lee in the first game, but even if Texas makes it Lee is pitching tonight, so there shouldn’t be that much of a lingering effect given their experience. I do see it being more of a negative for guys who didn’t swing well against Minnesota because they only have the fact they didn’t produce to really help that much to reflect on. All in all, this will hurt the lineup a bit. Do not expect to see a flat offense to start, especially against lefties as they struggled all season against the weird wrong arm throwers. Advantage: Opposing team

Lastly, the fact that each the Rays and Rangers are using their aces tonight makes the Yankees’ mouths water. Not only does the team they face have to beat them, but they have to go up against C.C. Sabathia with their number 2 starter. This may prove to be the only advantage the Yankees get out of the difference in rest that is apparent. The rest is all speculation. The fact is that a Cy Young hopeful in C.C. is going against someone’s second rate starter that isn’t named Lee or Price. Actually, they’re both lefties the Yankees get to skip in game 1. Advantage on paper you must admit goes directly to defending champs.

I really don’t care who wins this series tonight as a diehard Yankee fan. I think on any given night, the lineup the Yankees have can beat anyone. I also feel as if on any given night, either of these teams can be evenly matched with them. Texas’ bullpen can be overbearing at times. The way manager Ron Washington goes through them to get his perfect matchups, you wouldn’t have a hard time imagining him still going through an 8-ball between innings. The “calm optimist” in Rays’ manager Joe Maddon makes you feel like the team is never out of a game or series. I just hope I’m right and the veteran aspect of the Yankees with plenty of rest will overpower the pure adrenaline that is coming to clash up against them in a team with only two days of recovery to gear up for the showdown that can put them in the World Series. Play ball.

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