Evaluating the American League Playoff
As we head into the playoffs, letís take a quick look at the contenders to represent the American League in the World Series. Weíll start with each teamís 2004 regular season offensive statistics. (In parentheses is the teamís ranking for the applicable category among the 14 AL teams.)
what do these numbers tell us?
The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are clearly the most threatening
offensively. Obviously, the whole point of offense is to score runs, where they
rank first and second in the American League. They both do it with heavy bashers
and big innings as evidenced by also ranking first and second in both on-base
and slugging percentage. Also worthy of observation is that the Red Sox narrowly
edge the Yankees in all three categories discussed.
The team most likely to play small ball? The Anaheim Angels. Though ranking
first in the league in batting average, when taking into account on-base and
slug they fall off into offensive mediocrity. Their isolated power (slug minus
average) is only .147 which means lots of singles. Compare that to the isolated
powers of Boston and New York which are each .190 due to plenty of extra-base
hits. Though fewer extra-base hits, they will steal more than the power-laden
The second most-likely team to play small ball is the Minnesota Twins. Their
offense is mediocre across the board with above average success only in the
stolen base department. Donít expect their offense to carry them.
itís not to late to add another team statistic, while weíre on the topic of
ďsmall ballĒ letís take a quick look at sacrifice bunts. Weíll find that
they rank consistently with our prediction of which teams are likely to play
small ball more often:
reverse order, from Boston to Anaheim, we know which teams will more heavily
rely on moving station-to-station waiting for the three-run blast.
what about pitching?
None of the teams got here with slouches on the mound. Only two non-playoff
teams were in the mix in team ERA and slugging percentage allowed. When it comes
to keeping runners off base, these four teams were the best in the league.
Should be plenty of good pitching in these seriesí.
The Yankees rank dead last in each category. Granted, they were respectable
numbers so itís not like they were lapped by the competition. But they were
clearly the least effective of the four pitching staffs.
take a closer look at the breakdown between starters and relievers:
Though the Twinsí starters have a lower ERA than Bostonís, the Red Sox
starters ranked best in the AL in each of the percentage categories. The
difference between the startersí ERA of Boston and Minnesota and those of
Anaheim and New York is quite substantial.
The Angels bullpen took a clean sweep over each of the categories. While the Red
Sox and Twins bullpens are nearly identical, until getting to slugging
percentage allowed, Anaheimís bullpen ERA is head and shoulders above the
Can the Yankees bullpen actually be that vulnerable? They consistently rank in
the third quadrant of the American League. Itís been a long time since
anything like this could be said about New Yorkís bullpen. Expect manager Joe
Torre to try to get his starter to go as close to eight innings as possible and
go straight to Mariano Rivera, perhaps even making the call to Rivera in the 8th
as he has done so often in the past.
throw defense into the mix also:
Bostonís station-to-station bashers limit their defensive prowess.
Boston ranks dead last in stolen bases allowed. Why is this important? Who is
their first round opponent? The Red Sox could find themselves susceptible to the
Angelsí style of play.
When itís all said and done, who do these offensive, defensive and pitching
numbers favor? It depends what draws your attention. Itíll just be interesting
to see how it all plays out. Itís possible that the two most well-rounded
teams play each other in the first round. And that series does not
involve the Yankees.