Not if you looked at the pitching staffs for the two participants of the ALDS.
Not if you were informed enough to ignore the payroll disparity and focus instead on the talent disparity of the two teams, particularly on the pitching staffs.
Not to people who recognized the Yankees for what they were – a flawed team with an old and shallow rotation, an unproven bullpen, and a “historically great” offense reliant on the contributions of one singularly great regular season by the A-Rod.
Goliath crashing to the Earth?
OK, I really like this one – so I’ll go along with it; but only if you count the ridiculously biased media (I believe that TBS’ Chip Caray was actually wearing a Yankees hat in the booth and Jon Miller’s call of the final out on ESPN Radio sounded like the Indians had just won a meaningless game in April, before turning his attention to what this game means for…wait for it…the Yankees!) as part of the giant brought to its knees. The way that they portrayed the series as the Indians “surprising everyone” to beat an inferior opponent in 4 games, with the clincher coming on the road was nothing short of (sadly) exactly what was expected from the national perspective.
But, on this day, who cares if SportsCenter asks “What will Joe Torre do” and “Will A-Rod opt out” and “Is it over for our beloved, bloated, aged heroes” while ignoring, um, the team that won. The Indians outplayed the Yankees in every aspect of the game and systematically dismissed them with the same formula that has worked for them all season long.
The Indians relied on their strength, the starting pitchers, to give the Tribe offense every opportunity to work the counts, pad the Yankee pitchers’ pitch counts, and collectively manufacture runs by not relying on one player, but rather a team effort, to defeat the Bronx Bombers. The bullpen continued the mastery of the vaunted Yankee lineup by having The Scarecrow and Senor Slo-Mo completely obliterate Yankee hitters, allowing Jenny Lewis to establish himself as a force to be reckoned with, and handing JoeBo the ball and telling him to get the 27th out, no questions asked.
Consider the performance of the Indians’ staff against a team that averaged nearly 6 runs a game in the regular season:
4 G, 24 IP, 4.50 ERA, 1.42 WHIP
Take out Jake’s Game 3 and the numbers get even better:
3 G, 19 IP, 2.84 ERA, 1.31 WHIP
Again, as Chip Caray pointed out (a few times, I think), this was against a Yankee team that led the world in every offensive category, as the Tribe starters were able to turn the Yankee lumber into toothpicks.
But it wasn’t just the rotation, the bullpen absolutely shut down the Yankees:
13 IP, 1.38 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 15 K, 4 BB
That is dominance - uncompromising and complete.
To put in perspective what the Indians’ pitchers accomplished, consider the ALDS totals for the Yankees hitters that generally hit 2 through 6 and generally provide the fuel for the Yankee offensive engine:
Jeter - .353 OPS, 1 RBI, 0 R
Abreu - .886 OPS, 2 RBI, 1 R
Rodriguez - .820 OPS, 1 RBI, 2 R
Posada - .435 OPS, 0 RBI, 1 R
Matsui - .619 OPS, 0 RBI, 4 R
Without their main cogs able to produce the way that they did in the regular season, the secondary offensive players (Damon, Cano, etc.) had to pick up the slack and carry the team, something they haven’t done all season. And while they tried (Damon and Cano had 8 RBI in the series, the rest of the Yankees combined for 6 RBI), the absence of production from the middle of the lineup (specifically 1 RBI in 4 games from A-Rod and Posada) was something that the Yankees, with their shallow pitching pool, were unable to overcome.
On the flip side, the tremendously balanced Tribe offense recognized that the most glaring weakness on the Yankee team was the lack of quality depth in their rotation, and even more so, their bullpen. So the Indians patiently worked counts, didn’t try to do too much, and forced the Yankees to go deeper into their playoff roster than they would have liked.
The approach led to the success of the 1 through 9 approach (one they’ve preached all season long) that doesn’t place the burden on one specific player (or players), as the onus of manufacturing runs was shared throughout the lineup:
Sizemore – 1.211 OPS, 1 RBI, 3 R
Cabrera - .575 OPS, 2 RBI, 3 R
Hafner - .866 OPS, 2 RBI, 4 R
Martinez – 1.009 OPS, 4 RBI, 2 R
Garko – 1.136 OPS, 3 RBI, 3 R
Peralta – 1.246 OPS, 2 RBI, 2 R
Lofton - .882 OPS, 4 RBI, 2 R
Gutierrez - .533 OPS, 0 RBI, 2 R
Blake - .294 OPS, 2 RBI, 1 R
Nixon – 2.000 OPS, 2 RBI, 1 R
Shoppach – 2.083 OPS, 0 RBI, 2 R
All told, 11 Indians crossed home plate in the series, but none did so more than 4 times and all but two of those 11 scored twice in the series.
It was the ultimate example of a team beating a collection of individuals, which, if you were able to remove yourself from the babbling brook of nonsense spewed by the national media that the Indians were the decided underdogs, looked not at the team name but at the players filling the roster of said team, and were able to analytically take an overview of how these two teams matched up, should have come as no surprise.
Boston is next and there’s plenty of time to analyze the tale of the tape these two heavyweights as they square off in the ALCS. In this forum, it is time to recognize what just took place in the ALDS – the Yankees didn’t just lose (which is what you’ll read in most places today), the Indians beat them and won, to the surprise of nobody in the Cleveland locker room or those who took the time to see the two teams for what they are.
One’s on the way down.
One’s on the way up.
Cleveland, enjoy the ascent.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007