Posts Tagged ‘MVP’

MLB Postseason Preview: Orioles vs. Yankees

Baltimore Orioles (93-69) at New York Yankees (95-67)

OVERVIEW

The two teams that battled for the AL East over 162 games now face each other for five to see who advances to the ALCS. Because that’s fair. The teams split the season series 9-9, with Baltimore outscoring New York by two in those games (the Orioles did end the season with a positive run differential, for those of you keeping track). The Orioles are this year’s Cinderella team, making the postseason for the first time since 1997, which was also the last time they had a winning record. The Yankees, meanwhile, are in their 28th postseason series since that year.

LINEUPS

Baltimore’s offense this year was all about the home run. The Orioles don’t walk much—11th in the league in OBP—or hit for a very high average—10th. They are last in stolen bases and 10th in hits. On top of that, their best contact hitter, Nick Markakis, broke his thumb in a totally innocent and not at all suspicious accident and is still out for a few more weeks. But the Orioles were second in the league in home runs, and there are power threats littered throughout the lineup. From Mark Reynolds to Matt Wieters to J.J. Hardy to Chris Davis to Adam Jones—who had a breakout season this year—nearly everyone is a threat to hit it out. Facing the Yankees, who play in a home run haven and trot out pitchers with a tendency to give up the long ball, that will obviously come up. Continue reading

MLB Postseason Preview: Tigers vs. Athletics

Detroit Tigers (88-74) at Oakland Athletics (94-68)

OVERVIEW

Two division winners that actually trailed their divisions for most of the year face off in this series, though each team took a different path to its comeback. The Tigers were expected to win the AL Central, but underperformed all year and then snuck in when the White Sox lost 11 of their last 15 games. The A’s, on the other hand, surprised people be staying competitive all year, and ultimately finished ahead of both the Angels and the Rangers in what was probably the league’s toughest division.

LINEUPS

Obviously, Detroit has Miguel Cabrera, the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years and one of two serious MVP candidates in the AL this year.* Behind him, the Tigers have now added Prince Fielder, who justified his $214 million contract (as much as such a thing can be justified): Fielder’s numbers were great this season, if slightly less extraordinary than Cabrera’s. After those two, though, there is a considerable drop-off. It is what Jonah Keri likes to call a “Stars and Scrubs” lineup—the team was only sixth in runs scored despite having two of the best three hitters in the league (by OPS+). Jhonny Peralta returned to his subpar form, Delmon Young couldn’t maintain his production for a full year, Alex Avila took a big step back, etc. Austin Jackson had a breakout year and Andy Dirks shouldn’t be overlooked, but stopping this lineup is really about stopping Cabrera/Fielder. Continue reading

In Praise of Jorge Posada

Jorge Posada returned to the Yankee lineup Wednesday night after over two weeks on the DL. If you don’t actively follow the Yankees, though, you may not have even realized he was gone. Posada is not the kind of marquee player whose injury would be national news.

Even though the last few weeks haven’t been the best for the Yankees, it’s not really like the Yankees have missed Posada so much—Francisco Cervelli’s surprising performance (he’s put up a .383 OBP and a stunning 1.442 OPS with 2 outs and runners in scoring position, albeit in an extremely small sample) has made Posada’s absence more palatable. Even before Posada’s injury, there was talk that he should become the team’s full-time DH to make room for Cervelli.

This isn’t really new. Being underappreciated seems to be Posada’s destiny. The most anonymous of the Core Four has flown under the radar throughout his career.

If you live in the New York area, have ever watched the YES Network, or picked up Sports Illustrated a few weeks ago, then you’re already familiar with the term “The Core Four.” This is how we insufferable Yankee fans refer to the quartet of teammates—Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada—that have been with the team since the beginning of the Yankee Dynasty in 1996. All four players made their MLB debut with the Yankees in 1995 and would go on to play major roles in the Yankee championships of the late ’90s, 2000, and then again last season. When critics point out (fairly) that the Yankees can sign free agents and assemble a roster of All-Stars seemingly at will thanks to their bottomless pockets, fans point to the Core Four as the four examples of homegrown talent that the Yankees didn’t have to “buy.” Earlier this season Jeter, Rivera, and Posada became the first trio of teammates in any major professional sport to play together for 16 consecutive seasons—a pretty remarkable fact in the era of free agency, even for the Yankees. Pettitte would have joined them, if not for a three-year stint with the Houston Astros from 2004-2006 that Yankee fans conveniently ignore in their memory. Continue reading