Position by position breakdown of the Yankees and Indians ALDS

After being heavily favored in their first playoff game of 2017, the Yankees got the job done on Tuesday night in the Bronx by defeating the Twins rather smoothly in an 8-4 fashion. However, they now come into Cleveland as obvious underdogs and are facing a much stronger opponent in the Cleveland Indians. The Indians were the American League’s best team with a 102-60 record and a magical run of 22 consecutive victories. They succeeded in doing so due to their talented roster. The Yankees may have momentum on their side and a young dynamic team, but the Indians are a daunting task for the Wild Card champions. Here is a position breakdown of the two teams:
 
Photo Credit: David Dermer | AP

Note: The offensive slash lines are AVG/OBP/SLG, and the fourth statistic is their Wins Above Replacement.

Catcher
Yan Gomes (.232/.309/.399, 1.3 WAR) and Roberto Perez (.207/.291/.373, 0.8 WAR)
Gary Sanchez (.278/.345/.531, 4.1 WAR)

Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez have split catching duties in Cleveland this year and will likely continue to do the same in the ALDS. Both backstops have solid arms and can hold their own defensively, however neither player is particularly threatening with the bat and are considered weak spots in the Cleveland lineup.

Gary Sanchez had another solid season as he anchored the middle of the Yankee order and continued to show off his cannon behind the plate. Sanchez has had struggles with passed balls, but the potency of his bat makes up for the occasional miscue.  
Photo Credit: Kathy Willens | AP

Sanchez’s bat and cannon of an arm make him the clear frontrunner as the best overall catcher on either squad.
Advantage: Yankees

First base
Carlos Santana (.259/.363/.455, 3.4 WAR)
Greg Bird (.190/.288/.422, 0.0 WAR)
Carlos Santana is a solid offensive player that walks at a high rate and does not strikeout very often. He recorded 63 XBHs and was a reliable bat over the course of the season.

Greg Bird’s stat line does not represent his potential with the bat, as he has been red-hot since he returned back to the Bombers. Bird mashed in the month of September and recorded an RBI single in the Wild Card game on Tuesday night.

Santana gets the edge here due to his prolonged success this season, but there is a strong possibility Bird outplays Santana in this series.
Advantage: Indians

Second base
Jose Ramirez (.318/.374/.583, 6.9 WAR)
Starlin Castro (.300/.338/.454, 2.0 WAR)
Jose Ramirez earned his first All-Star selection this season and is a serious candidate in the AL MVP race. He led the league in doubles with 56 and is a threat on the base paths as he swiped 17 bags. Ramirez rarely strikes out and has played a solid second base since he transitioned there from third over the summer.
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Castro enjoyed a solid season at second, despite a lingering hamstring problem that cost him a good portion of July and August. He hasn’t played his best baseball down the stretch and appears that he never fully recovered from his injury.

While Castro did earn his first ASG appearance with the Yankees, Ramirez is a no-brainer over Castro for this position.
Advantage: Indians

Third base
Giovanny Urshela (.224/.264/.321, -0.6 WAR) and Yandy Diaz (.263/.352/.327, 0.3 WAR)
Todd Frazier (.213/.344/.423, 3.4 WAR)
While Frazier had nowhere near the season Ramirez had, he also is the clear-cut better third baseman out of the three above players. Neither of the Indians’ third baseman had an OPS above .680 and power is nonexistent from both players.

Todd Frazier is a veteran guy that has seen his OBP skyrocket since joining the Yankees with steady power numbers and defense.
Advantage: Yankees

Shortstop
Francisco Lindor (.273/.337/.505, 5.5 WAR)
Didi Gregorius (.287/.318/.478, 3.7 WAR)
Francisco Lindor had a breakout season in the power department as he slugged 33 home runs and 44 doubles, while playing gold glove defense and swiping 15 bases. The 23-year-old will likely finish in the top ten for the second consecutive year in MVP votes.
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Didi had a phenomenal season even after he missed a month of the season. He flashes the leather on a nightly basis and has been the perfect replacement for Derek Jeter at the shortstop position.

Unfortunately, despite Didi being a top five shortstop in the AL, Lindor is in a league of his own at the position. Expect Didi to have a solid series, however.
Advantage: Indians

Left Field
Lonnie Chisenhall (.288/.360/.521, 1.2 WAR) and Austin Jackson (.318/.387/.482, 1.9 WAR)
Brett Gardner (.264/.350/.428, 4.9 WAR)
The Indians run a platoon in left field and both players’ numbers reflect that. Both players have flashed strong power numbers and solid on base percentages, but the lack of stability in their seasons may be exposed in a playoff series.

Brett Gardner may have overall worse numbers than the Indians’ platoon, but Gardner is the better option in a playoff series. Gardner has the clutch gene instilled in him, can steal a base, and plays gold glove defense in left field. His veteran presence and grit cannot be represented by a stat, but it is what puts him over the top.  
Advantage: Yankees

Center Field
Jason Kipnis (.232/.291/.414, 0.4 WAR)
Aaron Hicks (.266/.372/.475, 3.9 WAR) and Jacoby Ellsbury (.264/.348/.402, 1.7 WAR)
Jason Kipnis was plagued with injuries for most of 2017 and saw his performance drastically decline. With Ramirez thriving at second base, Kipnis has started to play center field. The two-time All-Star had his worst season of his career in almost every statistical category.

Aaron Hicks enjoyed a phenomenal spring and Jacoby Ellsbury played some of his best Yankee baseball in September. Neither played particularly well in the Wild Card game, but their athleticism and lefty bats versus a right handed dominated Indians rotation will help them stay in the lineup one way or another.
Advantage: Yankees

Right Field
Jay Bruce (.254/.324/.508, 2.9 WAR)
Aaron Judge (.284/.422/.627, 8.1 WAR)
Jay Bruce is a solid power hitter who slugged 36 bombs and with one swing could change the course of the game, but the Yankees have Aaron Judge.

Judge led the American League in home runs, runs, and walks and is a frontrunner for AL ROY and MVP. He also has a rocket arm and has shown he is not afraid to leave his feet to make a catch.
Photo Credit: Kathy Willens | AP
All rise for the Judge.
Advantage: Yankees

Designated Hitter
Matt Holliday (.231/.316/.432, 0.0 WAR) and Chase Headley (.273/.352/.406, 1.8 WAR)
Edwin Encarnacion (.258/.377/.504, 2.8 WAR)

Matt Holliday was the primary DH for the Yankees until his “mystery sickness” sidelined him for most of the midsummer games. When he returned, he saw his production drop dramatically and saw decreased playing time in the month of September. With the Indians featuring only right handed starting pitchers, expect Girardi to DH Headley or Ellsbury over Holliday. Headley transitioned to first base, after the trade for Todd Frazier, and hit for a steady average and manned the position well. With Greg Bird back in the picture, Bird will see most at-bats against righties at first base leaving Girardi with a tough decision on who to DH.

Regardless of who he chooses, Encarnacion is a superior offensive threat. He started off slow, but finished the year with 38 home runs and 107 RBIs. Encarnacion was fantastic for Toronto last season in the playoffs and will be just as dangerous for the Yankees in this year’s tournament.
Advantage: Indians

Rotation
The Indians rotation consists of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, and Josh Tomlin. The Indians rotation is led by their ace Corey Kluber, who is the favorite to win the CY Young after posting a 2.25 ERA in 203.2 innings with 265 strikeouts. Terry Francona’s game two starter is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball and will give any offense an extremely tough adversary. Pitching in the shadows of Kluber, Carlos Carrasco posted stats that could be ace worthy on most of the teams in Major League Baseball. In 200 innings, he posted a 3.29 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and compiled 226 punch outs. He is projected to pitch game two. Game one starter, Trevor Bauer enjoyed a solid season as he set a career high in strikeouts with 196 and had a 3.1 WAR. If the Indians decide to use a fourth starter, it will likely be RHP Josh Tomlin. Tomlin posted a mediocre 4.98 ERA, but only walked 14 hitters in 141 innings. He is the most hittable of the Cleveland starters, but can be backed by their stellar bullpen.

The Yankees rotation features Luis Severino, Sonny Gray, Masahiro Tanaka, and CC Sabathia. Severino had a CY Young-like year in 2017, but was the victim of an atrocious Wild Card game start where he only recorded one out. However, his 2.98 ERA and 230 strikeouts illustrate how solid his season was and how capable he is of shutting down a lineup. Like Carrasco, Gray is a dynamic number two pitcher to have in any rotation. His 3.72 ERA since joining the Yankees does not accurately reflect him as a pitcher, but his tendency to nibble around the strike zone and run up high pitch counts has got him into trouble in the Bronx. Tanaka almost lost his rotation spot in the beginning of the season as his ERA was hovering between 5.00 and 6.00 for a long period of time. However, his 3.77 ERA and .230 BAA in the second half saved his season and has put him in position to pitch game three in the ALDS. CC Sabathia is currently projected to pitch game two of the division series and has earned that right. His 3.69 ERA is his lowest since 2012, and his ability to pitch phenomenally after a Yankee loss is very ace-like.

The Yankees have a solid rotation and four starters who could potentially dominate on any given night, but the Indians pitchers are too electric and consistent to warrant their rotation being worse than the Yankees. Oh, and they have Corey Kluber.
Advantage: Indians

Bullpen
Both of these two ball clubs arguably have the best two bullpens in the playoffs. The Yankees made that quite evident when, in 8.2 innings of work, their bullpen tied a single-game playoff record of 13 strikeouts in the Wild Card game. Chapman, Robertson, Kahnle, Betances, and Green could close out games for almost any Major League Baseball team, and Adam Warren and Chasen Shreve are solid middle relievers to have in the game in given scenarios.
Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II | AP

The Indians are loaded as well with Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, and Bryan Shaw in the backend. Tyler Olson and Nicky Goody make solid situational pitchers, and Danny Salazar and Mike Clevinger converting to relievers in the postseason give the Indians’ bullpen two more dynamic pitchers who can go multiple innings.

While both bullpens are fantastic, the Yankees have a slight edge due to their strikeout ability and ability to overpower baseball’s best hitters. The Indians bullpen is barely worse off on paper than the Yankees, but is more rested and prepared for game one.
Advantage: Yankees


Article by: Ryan Thoms

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