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. Last up is the ALDS featuring the AL East champion New York Yankees and the AL wild card champion Baltimore Orioles. The first two games of the series will be held at Camden Yards and the first pitch of Game 1 is scheduled for 6:07 ET on Sunday night.
245 The Yankees' major league-leading homer total, the third time in the last four years that the Yankees have led the majors in that category. As a matter of fact, it's the most home runs that the Bronx Bombers have ever hit as a team — one more than the 244 that they hit in 2009, and five more than the 240 that they hit in 1961. Those are the only three times the franchise ever cleared the 240 home run mark as a team. These Yankees hit homers, and lots of 'em.
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2.65 The difference between Chris Tillman's 2.93 ERA in 2012 and his 5.58 career ERA entering the 2012 season. Like Cincinnati's Homer Bailey, Tillman is a prospect whom the Orioles have been waiting on for a long time. From 2009 to 2011, Tillman shuttled back and forth between the minors and majors, making 36 starts with a 5.58 ERA: he walked too many people, gave up too many homers, and generally struggled to throw strikes and get batters to swing and miss. This year, after spending the first half of the year in Triple-A Norfolk, he came to the majors and looked like he was ready to stay for good. Likewise, Brian Matusz looked ready to stay in the majors after putting up a 1.35 ERA in 13 1/3 bullpen innings, a welcome change from the 5.51 ERA Matusz had posted in 68 major league starts.
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3.83 Andy Pettitte's postseason ERA. Pettitte has started 42 postseason games and won 19 of them, both all-time records. Still, he hasn't exactly been dominant. His postseason ERA is almost identical to his career regular-season ERA, which is 3.86. But he'll start Game 2 of the Orioles series, and he has more postseason experience than just about the whole Orioles roster combined — Jim Thome and Endy Chavez notwithstanding.
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.786 Adam Jones's second-half OPS. Jones was looking like an MVP candidate in the first three months of the year, posting an .897 OPS with 19 homers in 77 games through June. Jones may have worn down over the course of the summer — he played every single game — but he still finished with the best season of his career. Like Tillman, he came over from the Mariners in the disastrous 2008 Erik Bedard trade, which sowed many of the seeds for their present success. (Another pitcher the Orioles received in the Bedard trade was Kam Mickolio, whom the O's later included in the trade that brought them Mark Reynolds.)
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18 The uniform number of Hiroki Kuroda, arguably the Yankees' best pitcher this year, with C.C. Sabathia making the first two DL trips of his Yankee career. Kuroda had been a good pitcher with the Dodgers, but some pundits wondered how his results would translate from the roomy confines of Chavez Revine to the pressure cooker of Yankee Stadium. Wonder no longer. Kuroda was one of the best pitchers in the division, and he'll take the ball in Game 3.
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1 The number of times that Buck Showalter has ever advanced in the playoffs — and yes, that one time was Friday night. In his 14-year managerial career, Showalter has taken three teams to the playoffs: the 1995 Yankees, the 1999 Diamondbacks, and now the 2012 Orioles. For all his reputed tactical wizardry, Showalter has won a grand total of four playoff games, two in 1995, one in 1999, and one in 2012. Showalter would love to add to that total. So would the Orioles, who won successive division series in 1996 and 1997, but haven't reached the World Series since their 1983 championship.
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3.43 The Yankees' bullpen ERA, 14th in baseball and fifth among playoff teams. The Yankees were hurt by Mariano Rivera's injury, but Rafael Soriano filled in capably as closer, and setup man David Robertson has been one of the best relievers in baseball over the past four years. The problem is depth, and perhaps the best illustration of that is the fact that 40-year old Derek Lowe — who had a 5.52 ERA as a starter in Cleveland — pitched 23 1/3 innings in 17 appearances down the stretch as the Yankees were trying to fend off the Orioles. In fairness, Lowe had a 3.04 ERA, but still. (The Yankees often have a far worse bullpen ERA, as a matter of fact: the Yankees' bullpen ERA was 3.12 in 2011, but 3.47 in 2010, 3.91 in 2009, 3.79 in 2008.)
+7 The Orioles' run differential this season, eighth-best in the American league and 16th-best in the majors. The Orioles scored 712 runs this year, and their opponents scored 705. Ordinarily, in order to win more games than you lose, you need to outscore your opponents in the aggregate: the "predicted won-loss record" of the Orioles, based on that run differential, was only 82-80. So the Orioles outperformed expectations by 11 wins. How did they do it? They were 29-9 in one-run games, and 16-2 in extra-inning games. Both measures are the best in the bigs by a fair margin. Maybe it's pixie dust, maybe it's something else, but when it gets close, the Orioles don't lose.
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.838 The Yankees' OPS against power pitchers, best in the bigs. According to baseball-reference.com, "power pitchers" are defined as pitchers who are in the top third of the league in strikeouts plus walks. That could be partly because they're one of the walkingest teams in the majors, having drawn 565 free passes on the season, most among all remaining playoff teams. But their ability to stand down strikeout pitchers will stand them in good stead over the course of the next week, and possibly longer.
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629 The number of home runs that Baltimore's Jim Thome has hit in his major league career, 612 in the regular season and 17 in the postseason. The 42-year old Thome has played 2,611 games in the regular season and postseason, and is older than anyone on the Yankees roster other than the injured Mariano Rivera. He was 1-3 with a walk against the Rangers, batting sixth. He may not hit four home runs in this series, like he did in the 1998 ALCS or the 1999 ALDS, but he still has terrific plate discipline. And hey, it's October. Maybe he'll get number 630. Anything could happen.
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