- The Washington Times - Friday, October 16, 2009

Lineup

Yankees: From top to bottom, this is probably the most dangerous group in baseball. Every starter hit at least 13 homers this season, and seven hit more than 20. There are two .300 hitters here and three players with on-base percentages above .380. The Yankees take pitches, hit more homers than any other team in baseball (they led the majors with 244 this year) and generally just wear out opponents.

Angels: It’s not loaded with as many high-priced stars as the Yankees’ group, but it’s sneaky good. Chone Figgins scored 114 runs, walked 101 times and stole 42 bases. Then there’s a steady stream of veterans like Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, Vladimir Guerrero and Juan Rivera. Not many holes here, and there are some baserunners who could make things tough on the Yankees.

Edge: Yankees

Rotation

Yankees: CC Sabathia may be the best starter on either team in this series and is certainly the most expensive. But beyond him, it gets a little dicey for the Yankees. A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte were both strong in the AL Division Series but have been inconsistent at times this year. And if rain this weekend forces Chad Gaudin into a reshuffled rotation, it would put the Yankees at a distinct disadvantage.

Angels: Though John Lackey isn’t one of the more highly touted pitchers in baseball, he has had an ERA under 4.00 each of the last five seasons and will give the Angels chances to win. Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver are solid, and the acquisition of Scott Kazmir adds a talented, experienced fourth starter to the rotation.

Edge: Angels

Bullpen

Yankees: With Joba Chamberlain back in a group that includes Phil Hughes, Phil Coke and the still-dominant Mariano Rivera, this has become one of baseball’s strongest relief corps. It was a major issue for the Yankees last season, but a handful of young relievers have come through this year. There’s a chance Chamberlain could start Game 4 if the Yankees have to reconfigure the rotation, but he’s better-suited to hold down late leads.

Angels: The group has been shaky at times this year, and Brian Fuentes isn’t as dominant a ninth-inning presence as Francisco Rodriguez was. Especially with the Yankees’ deep lineup, it will be important for the Angels to get a strong performance from their relievers. New York has too good a lineup to beat with a subpar showing from the bullpen.

Edge: Yankees

Bench

Yankees: You’ll see plenty of Brett Gardner as a pinch runner and a defensive replacement, but while there are a handful of serviceable veterans in this group, it isn’t as potent as you might expect, especially now that Eric Hinske has been removed from the roster for the ALCS. If the Yankees need a late-inning upgrade in the field, they have options with catcher Jose Molina and infielder Ramiro Pena. But with a lineup this good, maybe that’s all they’ll need off the bench anyway.

Angels: A number of versatile infielders give Mike Scioscia options, and Gary Matthews is a fourth outfielder who can bring some pop. There are more players on the Angels’ bench who can be counted on for offensive contributions than there are on the Yankees’ bench.

Edge: Angels

Manager

Yankees: Joe Girardi hasn’t managed in the postseason before, and he’ll have a tremendous amount of pressure on him to get the team with baseball’s best record (and highest payroll) to its first World Series since 2003. He has made all the right calls this season but could have to paper over a rotation that isn’t as deep as it should be. His legacy in New York will be determined by series like this one.

Angels: Mike Scioscia has taken the Angels to the ALCS twice before and won a World Series in 2002. He’s one of the steadiest managers in the game, and the Angels’ fiery brand of baseball embodies Scioscia’s style. Count on him to create chaos on the basepaths whenever possible and try to make things difficult for the Yankees’ pitchers, especially when the series shifts to Anaheim.

Edge: Angels

Prediction

Ben Goessling: It might seem strange to pick the Yankees when the Angels get the edge in three of the five categories, but their lineup is too good to be kept down for seven games even though they didn’t score many runs against the Twins in the ALDS. If the Yankees can get leads, their bullpen will make them hold up. Especially in Yankee Stadium, that’s a good enough formula to get them over the top. Yankees in 7

Mark Zuckerman: If I’m Joe Girardi, I’m praying for decent weather Friday night in the Bronx and no postponements. Otherwise, the Yankees have to go with a four-man rotation, and that would be a problem. Assuming the rain subsides, New York is well-positioned with Sabathia, Burnett and Pettitte. The Angels have been riding an emotional wave all year to get to this point, but eventually New York’s talent wins out… barely. Yankees in 7

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