ALDS Breakdown: Baltimore Orioles vs. New York Yankees
This American League Division Series matchup features two teams from the AL East. No one is surprised that the Yankees are in this position, but the Orioles have surprised everyone with one of the greatest turnarounds in recent memory. Here is how I see this series shaking out...
On paper, the Yankees have one of the most intimidating lineups in all of baseball. They do not just intimidate; they definitely perform as well. It was not until recently that the Orioles managed to get their run differential out of the red. If this series turns into a slugfest, it will be a very short series and there will be a ton of happy New Yorkers.
Both of these teams struggle to get solid pitching from the bottom parts of their rotations. Neither team’s starting pitching has very good statistical numbers this season. The Yankees have to depend on tremendous amounts of offensive production, and the Orioles depend on winning close games. The Orioles definitely have a “bend don’t break” style of starting pitching. As such, I am going to look at each team’s top two arms. For the Yankees it is Sabathia and Kuroda and for the Orioles it is Chen and Tillman. In this comparison, the advantage has to go to the Yankees.
The Rays are in the conversation, but the Orioles probably have the best bullpen in all of baseball. They have not lost a game this season when carrying a lead into the seventh inning, and their ability to win one-run games has been astounding and historic. The Yankees bullpen has been good, but they do no measure up with Baltimore.
Buck Showalter will probably win the AL Manager of the Year Award, and no one can really make a great argument as to why he should not. He has helped to build up four franchises (Yankees, Diamondbacks, Rangers, and Orioles), and he is getting to see the Orioles through their magical transformation from the helm. Girardi does have a World Series title to his credit as a manager, but I think the credit for that one was more so due to the all-star lineup he inherited.
The Yankees make it to the postseason almost every year. As such, their entire roster seems to have at least some form of postseason experience. The Orioles do not have that kind of experience within their ranks, and this will be a disadvantage for them.
Biggest Storyline: Can the Orioles slay the dragon?
The Yankees are perennial favorites to win the AL East, and the Orioles have been perennial bottom feeders for almost two decades. The Orioles are in a position to turn that reality on its head and put them in a position to win the AL pennant. The question is, can they pull it off?
Key for the Orioles: Try to build leads that are bigger than 1 run
As I mentioned above, the Orioles have an incredible knack of winning close games. With such a strong bullpen, they can significantly increase their chances of winning if they can manage to build bigger leads. Also, it could help them to save key relievers like Jim Johnson available for more high stress situations.
Key for the Yankees: Get good pitching from the bottom of the rotation
We pretty much know what to expect from Sabathia and Kuroda, but there are a lot of questions after that. If they can get big-time performances from pitchers like Hughes and an aged Pettitte, they could definitely make this series interesting and quick.
Prediction: Orioles in 5
I think that Showalter will continue his trend this season of putting his team in a great position to win close games. The Yankees are a very good team, but their dependence on the long ball could very well be their undoing. Most teams that rely on HRs, as the Yankees have all season, struggle to continue hitting them in the postseason.
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