This is part 3 of 5 of The Yankee U’s preview of the 2010 American League Championship Series. Part 1 examined C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis. Part 2 featured Cliff Lee and Tommy Hunter.
Batting 1st, SS Elvis Andrus
It’s a good thing Elvis Andrus is slick with the glove, because boy is this fellow bad at the plate. This year’s line: .265/.342/.301. Folks, you read that right: his slugging percentage is .301. Andrus has a .643 OPS on the year with 0 HRs and a .298 wOBA. That’s abysmal for a major league regular. On the plus side, his walk rate in 2010 was 9.5%, good for 5th best among shortstops with at least 300 plate appearances, and he possesses good speed. The only way Elvis Andrus can hurt the Yankees is by taking first base on a walk and stealing second. For that reason pitchers should not be afraid to challenge him and pound the zone. The likelihood of him making the pitcher pay with an extra-base hit is, frankly, very low.
Batting 2nd, 3B Michael Young
Behind Andrus is the soon to be 35 year old Michael Young. Young is a lifetime .300/.347/.448 hitter and this year is slightly under that with a line of .284/.330/.444. Young has decent power – he’s hit over 20 home runs in four of his last seven seasons. Young has always hit the fastball well but struggled with breaking pitches. This year is no exception. He’s whiffing on 15.3% of sliders and 13.8% of changeups. Against righties he notably struggles against the cut fastball, whiffing on 17.6% of all cutters he’s seen. It’ll be interesting to see how Hughes works him with his cutter.
Batting 3rd, CF Josh Hamilton
Following Young is public enemy number one, Josh Hamilton. Like Cliff Lee, there aren’t enough superlatives to describe Hamilton’s year. His tripleslash is pumped up: .359/.411/.633. He’s knocked 32 home runs and 40 doubles, and even swiped 8 bases. His OPS+ is 175. He’s the presumptive American League MVP, and he’s lethal when he’s hot. For instance, from June 1 to September 4th (when he went down with his rib injury), he batted .410/.461/.717 over 349 plate appearances. That’s like Barry Bonds in his prime.
There are two notable factors to consider about Josh Hamilton. The first one is the aforementioned injury. Hamilton cracked a few ribs against Minnesota in early September and missed the final month of the season. His first game action back was against the Rays and he batted a lowly .111/.200/.111 in five games. He singled twice, walked twice and struck out six times. He had no extra-base hits. There’s no way of knowing whether his timing is slightly off, or whether his rib injury is hindering him. Joe Pawlikowski addresses the issue in-depth over at Fangraphs, so check it out there.
The other notable factor about Josh Hamilton is his platoon split. Hamilton has murdered righties in 2010, hitting .401/.447/.716 with 24 home runs. The best way Hughes, Burnett and other righties like Robertson and Wood can limit Hamilton’s platoon advantage against them is with the offspeed stuff. Hamilton has a particular weakness to changeups and curveballs from righties, whiffing 22.1% and 15% of the time respectively. If a right-handed pitcher must face Hamilton, off-speed and in the dirt is the way to go. Hopefully, though, Girardi can attack Hamilton with Logan. Against lefties Hamilton is hitting a far less formidable, hitting .271/.331/.458, an OPS of .789 with only 8 home runs.
Batting 4th, DH Vladimir Guerrero
There was a whole lot made of Vladimir Guerrero’s demise in 2009 and his Ponce de Leon resurgence in 2010, but that’s more narrative than fact now that we have the benefit of hindsight. Sure, Vlad had a bad year in 2009, but he was hurt for a lot of it and he was only 34 years old. The days of him slugging in the .580s and .590s are long gone, but his 2010 line of .300/.345/.496 is hardly surprising with the benefit of hindsight. He’s healthier, he’s playing in a hitter-friendly park, and life is good. You know the book on Vlad: he swings at everything and he can golf the ball off the tops of his shoes. Like Hamilton, he’s more vulnerable to the offspeed stuff and he hits opposite-handed pitchers far better than same-handed pitchers. Kerry Wood would be a formidable foe for Guerrero.
Batting 5th, RF Nelson Cruz
After a breakout year in 2009, Cruz continued his hot-hitting ways in 2010 when he mashed his way to a .318/.374/.576 line. His slugging percentage was fifty points higher than his 2009 mark, but he also hit 11 fewer home runs in 2009. Part of the reason for the discrepancy is that Cruz missed 20 more games in 2010 than 2009. So when Cruz was healthy and on the field he crushed the ball, but he only played in 108 of the team’s games this year. Unfortunately for the Yankees he’s healthy now, and in the ALDS he clubbed three home runs on his way to a .400/.400/.950 line. Cruz doesn’t show too much of a platoon split over his career or in 2010, but you have to imagine that he’ll face mostly right-handed relievers. Nellie is to be feared.
Batting 6th, 2B Ian Kinsler
Ian Kinsler is no Robinson Cano, but he’s still a top 10 second baseman. Like Cruz, he has struggled with injuries this year as well. His batting line is a bit odd: .286/.382/.412. It’s odd because Kinsler has historically been more of a low-OBP, high-SLG guy, hitting 31 home runs last year and slugging .517 the year before. His meager HR/FB ratio may have something to do with it. Regardless, Kinsler did have a wOBA of .357 this year and remains a threat on the basepaths. I’ll take Cano over Kinsler any day, but Kinsler’s no slouch.
Batting 7th, LF David Murphy
David Murphy. David Murphy. Where have I heard this name before? Oh yes. That’s right. This former Red Sox outfielder has quietly hit his way to a good year in 2010, hitting .291/.358/.449 in 2010 with 12 home runs and a decent wOBA of .358. His biggest issue is his difficulty with left-handed pitching, though. Murphy mashes righties, hitting a robust .288/.354/.487 against them over the course of his career, but struggles against lefties: .264/.307/.383. It’s for this reason that the Rangers acquired Jeff “Mr. 100” Franceour, media darling and replacement level outfielder extraordinaire. Perhaps Franceour can smile his way into all of Murphy’s at bats.
Batting 8th, C Bengie Molina
I was one of the scoffers when the Rangers acquired Bengie Molina from the Giants in July. It was good for the Giants, of course, because it cleared the way for Buster Posey, but it showed how disastrous the Rangers’ attempt to turn one of their many, many catching prospects into an every day starter had gone. Like his brothers, Molina is not a great-hitting catcher and is the proud owner of a career line of .274/.307/.411. He’s a useful part in the major leagues, but his 2010 .275 wOBA isn’t scaring anyone.
Except the Rays, of course. After hitting a meager .240/.279/.320 for the Rangers in the regular season, Molina torched the Rays in the ALDS, hitting .357/.357/.571 with 1 home run and 4 singles. Three of those hits, including the home run, came in Game 1 where Molina registered a WPA of 0.145. Hopefully he turns back into a pumpkin in the ALCS.
Batting 9th, 1B Mitch Moreland
The first base position has really been a rotating door for the Rangers in the past few years. In 2009 they tried out Chris Davis, but he flailed and couldn’t hang on to the position. Davis was thought to be a place-holder anyway for prospect Justin Smoak, but the Rangers dealt him at the deadline to the Mariners for Cliff Lee. Enter Mitch Moreland. Moreland is a 24 year old who posted a line of .313/.383/.509 in the minor leagues. In his final AAA season as a 24 year old, he hit .289/.371/.484 with 12 home runs in 353 ABs and responded well to his promotion to the bigs, going for .255/.364/.469 with 9 home runs in 145 ABs. Moreland is a lefty and shows a giant platoon split with an OPS of .869 off right-handed pitchers and .604 against left-handed pitchers. Ultimately this is a player with decent long-term potential, but Kevin Goldstein had this to say of him: “I like Moreland, but I don’t think he’s an everyday 1B on a championship team”.