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Big League Stew

10 numbers for the ALCS: Yankees vs. Tigers

Alex Remington
Big League Stew

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With the 2012 postseason underway, Alex Remington takes  a look at the statistics that might make a difference in each of the four first-round series. Next up is the ALCS, which begins Saturday night in the Bronx and features a rematch of the 2011 ALDS — the AL East champion New York Yankees against the AL Central champion Detroit Tigers.

$114 million The amount of money, from 2013 to 2017, that the Yankees still owe Alex Rodriguez, the man they pinch hit for in Games 3 and 4 and then benched for Game 5.  The 37-year old Rodriguez was famous for his lack of playoff success with the Yankees before he got old and rickety (that's not entirely fairly; including this year, his career Yankee playoff OPS is still  .830). But the team is starting to treat him like a part-time player and one wonders what the Yankees will do with him since all of the Tigers starters are righthanded. Never mind his next five seasons in the Bronx, the soap opera that will take place against Detroit should be fun.

[Related: Alex Rodriguez becomes $29 million pinch hitter]

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22 The number of Athletics that Justin Verlander struck out in the ALDS, most in the division series round by a significant margin. Verlander won't repeat as MVP, but he's still a favorite to win the Cy Young Award. Judging by his postseason performance, it also seems fair to say that Verlander has taken the crown from Roy Halladay as the best pitcher in baseball. When the chips are down there's no question who you want on the mound. It's the big Virginian with the 100-mph fastball.

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.211 The team batting average of the Bronx Bombers in the ALDS. And even that is misleading. Pretty much all of their production came from Ichiro, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, and Raul Ibanez, who produced a collective batting average of .324 and OPS of .871 — and Ibanez only received nine at-bats. The other main regulars — Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, and Russell Martin — had a collective batting average of .130 and OPS of .434. That won't get it done against Verlander and the Tigers.

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3.70 The difference in ERA between the Tigers' shaky relief corps — a 5.00 relief ERA in the ALDS, especially thanks to Jose Valverde's epic meltdown in Game 4 — and their incredibly strong starting staff, which had an ERA of 1.30. That mark was led by Justin Verlander (0.56 ERA) but it was ably backed by Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez, and Max Scherzer. If the Yankees want to make Jim Leyland sweat, they'll just need to work the counts and get into his bullpen.

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1.76 The difference between the number of runs per game the Yankees scored during the regular season — 4.96, second-best in baseball — and the paltry 3.2 runs per game they scored against the Orioles. Every team offense takes a hit in the postseason, when they no longer have the luxury of padding their stats against the doormats of the league. But the Yankees' disparity is particularly noticeable — they have the fewest runs scored among all remaining playoff teams. They even have fewer runs scored than the Reds, who were eliminated.

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1 The current number of times that I have spelled Al Alburquerque's name correctly. His name is spelled with two r's, like the town in Spain and unlike the city in New Mexico. It's very easy to take a wrong turn at the querque in his name. That said, the fireballer has been one of the Tigers' most effective relievers after recovering from offseason elbow surgery, with a 0.68 ERA in 13 1/3 innings to end the regular season and a 0.00 ERA in 1 1/3 innings in the division series. A Detroit News columnist speculated that he might be the Tigers' closer next year with Valverde a free agent in the offseason. He may be given more chances to prove his mettle this month.

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1.76 The Yankees' runs allowed per nine innings, by far the best among playoff teams. (The Tigers are second at 2.27 runs allowed per game.) Of course, it's possible to win with a poor offense when you have the stingiest pitching staff around — just ask the 1906 World Champion White Sox, the "Hitless Wonders," who hit .198 as a team en route to a six-game victory in the third official World Series ever played.

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5.8 Max Scherzer's average innings pitched per start, in 33 games in the regular season and postseason. (There's no such thing as .8 of a pitched inning, but it's what you get at the end when you divide 193 innings by 33 starts.) Scherzer is a very good pitcher — he was second in the major leagues in strikeouts this year — but not a very efficient one. He pitched 5 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run in Game 4 of the ALDS, but Leyland was forced to remove him in the top of the sixth when he appeared to tire. He then brought in five relievers to try to close out the game, which the Tigers lost when Papa Grande Valverde allowed Coco Crisp's walkoff single. The Tiger bullpen had an ERA of 3.79 in the regular season, second-worst among playoff teams, ahead of only the Cardinals. Scherzer pitches very well when he's in  the game, but he usually doesn't stay in as long as you might like.

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.364 Derek Jeter's batting average, best among all ALDS regulars. (The bats were more alive in the NL, where Carlos Beltran has led with a .409 average in the postseason.) As a sportswriter, I'm contractually obligated to acknowledge Jeter's greatness — though we're allowed to choose whether to do it while smiling or gritting our teeth — so I'll just note that Jeter has now played in 32 different playoff series (16 ALDS, 9 ALCS, and 7 WS), and his performance in the 2012 ALDS was his 14th best by OPS. His best was the 2006 ALDS against the Tigers, when he batted .500 with four doubles and a homer, and his worst was the 2001 ALCS against the Mariners, when he batted .118 with two singles in 17 at-bats. Derek Jeter's 38, and he's been going to the playoffs since 1996. The Cap'n still makes it happen.

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.357 The difference between Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder's combined regular-season OPS, .971, and their combined postseason OPS of .614. Even a Triple Crown winner like Cabrera is not immune to a postseason slump. Of course, the Tigers are a good enough team that even containing their two best hitters wasn't enough to beat them, but the Yankees will have to take comfort that their team-wide offensive malaise was hardly unusual. Then again, with the possible exception of Robinson Cano, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are better hitters than anyone on the Yankees. Eventually, usually, talent will win out.

Make sure all your bases are covered this postseason ...
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