Expanding upon the superlative "Narrative Likability" grade I gave the Rangers prior to the ALDS, let's look at three reasons why the Rangers deserve to beat the Yankees:
3.) As I heard Michael Wilbon say on PTI earlier this week, "You can't give this anything but an A+." He was referring to decision by Josh Hamilton's teammates to forego the champagne in favor of ginger ale following their Game 5 victory over the Rays. The Rangers have chemistry in spades and this was just the most recent evidence of it.
2.) Dom Perignon v. Schweppes is actually a pretty good metaphor for Yankees v. Rangers. New York has, famously, the highest payroll in baseball - over $213 Million in 2010, highest in MLB history - while the Rangers have easily the lowest payroll among playoff teams. In fact, in the American League, only Oakland and Cleveland spent less than Texas this season. The Rangers combined salaries (for the 30+ players who spent time on the MLB roster this season) come in at less than $65 Million. A-Rod, C. C. Sabathia, and Derek Jeter will, by themselves, earn $76 Million in 2010.
1.) Just in case you need one more reason to call A-Rod a dick: how about the fact that he was represented on the "creditors committee" during the Rangers bankruptcy hearings earlier this year. That's right, the man whose record-setting salary helped run John Hicks and his baseball franchise into the ground (and who will make $32 Million from the Yanks in 2010) was still lobbying hard to get $24.9 Million of the $67 Million the Rangers agreed to give him just to get him off their team way back in 2004! You can bet, if Nolan Ryan were starting in this ALCS, he'd be on the lookout for timely opportunities to play some chin music for the smarmiest superstar. We'll just have to wait and see how much of the Rangers president has rubbed off on his team.
Okay, now here's three reasons the Rangers can beat the Yankees:
3.) One theory that's been leveled in the wake of the largely misunderstood Moneyball explosion is that while the Three-Outcomes approach (walk, strikeout, homers) works well over the course of the regular season, a more diverse offensive strategy is necessary in the postseason. In the first round of the ALDS, the Ranger beat a team, the Rays, who were definitely something of a Three-Outcomes team. They led the league in strikeouts and walks, were sixth in homers, and were second-to-last in batting average. The Rangers, meanwhile, topped the AL in batting average and were near the bottom in both strikeouts (11th) and walks (8th), while still getting their fair share of power (5th in HR). I had theorized that the extreme strike-throwing abilities of Cliff Lee, C. J. Wilson, and Colby Lewis might make problems for the Rays, and that was apparently the case, as the Rangers staff managed a nearly 5-to-1 K/BB ratio during the ALDS. The Yankees are not as drastically reliant on patience and power as the Rays, but they were 2nd in walks, 7th in strikeouts, 2nd in homers, and 7th in average. In the first round, 7 of the 17 Yankee RBI were created by the long ball and 3 of their 17 runs were created by walks. If the Rangers cut down on those types of production, they will dramatically improve upon Minnesota's results.
2.) In the post-PED era, speed kills. In the first round, New York matched up against a plodding team who ranked 13th in the AL in steals this season. The Twins could not expose one of New York's most apparent flaws, their inability to hold runners and prevent steals. The Yankee catching tandem led the league in errors and allowed an astounding stolen-base success rate (85.2%). You can bet the Rangers, who swiped six bags against the Rays, and were 5th in the AL in steals during the regular season, will never stop running on Jorge Posada.
1.) Of course, Cliff Lee famously baffled the Yankees last October, winning both of his World Series starts. For him to get two in this ALCS, it will require the series to get to seven games. If it get there, however, the Rangers are in good shape. Including the postseason, since 2008 (when Lee's "coming-out" began) the lefty is 6-1 against New York, with a 2.31 ERA. And, he's not the only tough lefty on the Rangers staff. C. J. Wilson is slated for a pair of starts against Yankee Ace, C. C. Sabathia. Over their last 15 starts, here's how each fared:
Sabathia: 9-4, 3.29 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 7.85 K/9, 668 OOPS, 106.2 IP
Wilson: 8-3, 3.36 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 8.70 K/9, 618 OOPS, 91 IP
Was Sabathia really a better pitcher? If the Texas lefties win, three of their four starts, the Rangers likely head to the World Series. So, much rides on how Wilson pitches tonight.