Buster Olney - espn.com - Relevant Numbers in the Yankees/Indians series
.486: The collective on-base percentage of the Yankees' hitters against Cleveland closer Joe Borowski.
Individually, the Yankees don't have large samples of plate appearances against Borowski, but the small samples add up to a lot of success. Derek Jeter is 2-for-2 with a homer and five RBIs, Alex Rodriguez is 2-for-4 with a homer, Jorge Posada is 3-for-4 with a homer, Jason Giambi is 2-for-3 with a homer, Johnny Damon has walked in two of four plate appearances.
The Indians have the best lefty-righty combination of middle relievers with Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez. But the big question in the Indians-Yankees series is going to be how the gritty Borowski will do with a two-run or one-run lead while throwing his less-than-overwhelming stuff against New York's lineup.
.316 BA, .551 SLG: Travis Hafner's numbers in September.
The Indians' lineup looks completely different when Hafner is hitting, and after five months of fits and starts amid the distractions of his contract situation, Pronk finally seemed to settle in down the stretch and get back to where he was in 2006. Hafner had great numbers against the Yankees this year, with eight hits in 12 at-bats, but ignore those -- they were built against the likes of Kei Igawa and Chase Wright, not the pitchers he will face in this series. Interestingly, he has never faced Andy Pettitte in a regular-season game.
2.26 and 2.76: The second half ERAs of Fausto Carmona and C.C. Sabathia, respectively.
The Indians didn't beat the Yankees in six tries this year, and historically New York has played well in Jacobs Field. But on paper, Cleveland opens the postseason with the best No. 1-2 combination of starting pitchers of any team in the playoffs. Sabathia is either going to finish first or second in the AL Cy Young Award voting after a brilliant season, and Carmona was nothing less than the majors' most overpowering starting pitcher after the All-Star break, holding opponents to a .217 batting average and generating 3.69 ground balls for every fly ball. Carmona throws a 95 mph fastball with movement that does not make sense.
The Yankees have very respectable Game 1 and Game 2 starters, as well, in Chien-Ming Wang and Andy Pettitte, who have much more postseason experience than the Indians' top two starters. But Sabathia and Carmona have been exceptional, and they could be the advantage that propels Cleveland into the ALCS.
Full espn.com Yankees/Indians Series Page - of their 10 experts picking the series, seven picked the Indians to win, including Peter Gammons (Tribe in 5), Olney (a former Yankee beat reporter, Tribe in 5), Steve Phillips (Tribe in 5), and Rob Neyer (Tribe in 4).
Speaking of Neyer, he picked a Cubs/Tribe World Series, essentially based on this chart he put together based on who's fans have suffered the most of all teams in baseball:
Cubs 98 Years since last title (1)
Indians 58 (2)
Phillies 26 (10)
Rockies 14 (19)
Yankees 6 (23)
D-backs 5 (24)
Angels 4 (25)
Red Sox 2 (27-T)
He also stated in his insider blog: Let me start with the Tribe. Do they look like the best team in the American League right now? No, they don't. While their record is as good anybody's, their run differential isn't. The Indians were plus-107 this season while the Yankees were plus-191 and the Red Sox plus-200.
I think, too, that the Indians are slightly better than their full-season statistics (at least if you believe in Fausto Carmona). Travis Hafner struggled all summer long but was fantastic in September, and if he was nursing an injury, he seems to have recovered nicely. For the first four months of the season, second base was a huge weakness. But now, with Josh Barfield replaced by Asdrubal Cabrera, that position is a real strength. The Indians do still have one huge weakness: They get very little production from their corner outfielders.
As much as we have ripped Joe Borowski for seemingly always putting runners on base and his mediocre ERA, check out what Jayson Stark from espn.com unearther:
So which closer in that Yankees-Indians series is more likely to come in and zip through a clean, neat, 1-2-3 save -- Mariano Rivera or Joe Borowski? Seems obvious, right? Heh, heh, heh, heh. Heh, Uh, better not answer too fast. We used baseball-reference.com's miraculous Play Index to look at which closers had the most baserunner-free saves of one inning or more this year. Guess who came out ahead?
Borowski 15 Rivera 10
Here is cbssportsline.com's series page - All four of their experts picked the Yankees to win the series. No surprise here. If you look at CBS's Final Power Rankings, the Yankees are #2 behind Boston. The Indians are #3. Lead baseball writer Scott Miller has this take:
Just another October for the Yankees who, after a wretched start, have compiled the best record in baseball over the past three months. This series will be won or lost on Cleveland's pitching. I don't think there's any way around that, because the Indians don't have the juice to score with the Yankees. Nobody does. Pitching is the great equalizer, but there is very little margin for error with this beastly Yankees lineup.
Ken Rosenthal from foxsports.com breaks down the series here. He picks the Yankees in five.
Mark Kriegel penned another piece on how this is a make or break October for A-Rod.
Dayn Perry's piece talks about who must step up for their teams to win. Look at who's #2:
2. Joe Borowski, Indians
Teams that win in the post-season usually have a dominating closer. Borowski, the Tribe's closer, may have led the AL in saves this season, but he's been anything but dominant. He's got an ERA of 5.15, and he's given up nine home runs in 64.2 innings. In his only outing this season against the Yankees — Cleveland's ALDS opponent — Borowski gave up six runs in two-thirds of an inning. If he doesn't step it up, the Indians will run into trouble in the late innings.
I love reading the New York Papers. Its such a different animal. Joel Sherman form the NY Post does excellent work in his series preview here.
Fred Kerber has an interesting outsider's take on The Indians Bullpen.
Newsday's Kat O'Brien writes about the Game One pitching matchup between C.C. Sabathia and Chien-Ming Wang.
NY Daily News writer Filip Bondy put out this Derek Jeter suck piece.
Bill Madden said if you think A-Rod's under pressure, try being Joe Torre.
Now for the Cleveland local perspective:
The Akron Beacon-Journal's Sheldon Ocker says C.C. Sabathia is not the same pitcher the Yankees saw last in 2004.
Kenny Lofton compares to 1995 Tribe to the 2007 version in another Beacon-Journal piece, this one by Patrick McManamon.
Ocker pays au mage to Mark Shapiro's wise team-building strategy.
The Willoughby News-Herald's Jim Ingraham says the Tribe will only go as far as the pitching will take them.
The Indians bats are actually quieter at home, says the PD's Terry Pluto.
Here are four things to think about for this series per the PD's Tribe beat writer Paul Hoynes.
The Top 10 moments in 2007 for our beloved Wahoos.