Big League Stew - MLB

As we head into the LCS round, Big League Stew's Alex Remington will take a look at the statistics that could make a difference in each series. First up is the matchup between the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees, two teams on opposite ends of the World Series appearance spectrum. They'll start fighting for a Fall Classic berth on Friday night. 

36 percent The percentage of innings in the Rangers' ALDS victory over the Tampa Bay Rays that were thrown by ninja assassin Cliff Lee. He made two starts and allowed two earned runs in 16 innings, while the rest of the Ranger staff combined for just 29 innings. But because of his spectacular performance in Game 5, he won't be available until Game 3 of the ALCS, and he likely wouldn't be available to pitch a second time until Game 6 or 7. So he won't be able to shoulder his usual burden of the work, and the Rangers will have to lean heavily on Game 1 starter C.J. Wilson(notes), who could make as many as three starts in the series, but had just a 5.65 ERA in three starts against the Yankees this year.

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+10 The Yankees' run differential over the Minnesota Twins. Over the course of three games, the Yankees outscored their opponent by more than three runs a game, outhit them by four hits a game, played errorless ball, and their bullpen gave up just one run. It was an even more dominating performance than last year's Yankees-Twins sweep, where the Yankees outscored the Twinkies by eight runs. It was the most dominant playoff sweep since the Red Sox swept the Colorado Rockies in the 2007 World Series.

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.212 The Rangers' bizarrely low batting average during two games at home during the ALDS. They were spectacular at Tropicana Field, but had a surprising amount of trouble hitting at home, despite having produced an OPS 84 points higher at home over the course of the season — an .800 team OPS at home compared to just .716 on the road. Josh Hamilton's(notes) split was especially pronounced: This season, he had a 1.188 OPS at home compared to .894 on the road, but then he went 0-for-6 with two walks in the Rangers' two home games against the Rays. It's almost certainly just an aberration, but considering that they have home-field advantage this time around, the Rangers will need to regain their hitting strokes at home if they want to beat the Yankees.

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41 Mariano Rivera's(notes) all-time postseason saves record. (Guess who's in second place, with 17? Brad Lidge!) He's not just the best closer or even the best pitcher in postseason history. In my opinion, he's the greatest postseason player ever, bar none. His 0.72 ERA is the best of all time by a healthy margin, and he did it over 136 2/3 innings, which is eighth all time. Of course, all the pitchers above him are starters, and all of their postseason ERAs are more than triple Rivera's. (Four of the seven starters ahead of him are Yankees: Andy Pettitte(notes), Roger Clemens, Whitey Ford and Mike Mussina(notes). He'll pass Mussina's inning total in the ALCS, and has a chance to pass Ford in the World Series.) In those 136 2/3 innings over the past 16 seasons — appearing in the postseason every year but 2008 — he has allowed a grand total of 13 runs, 11 of them earned. His 91 postseason games played are ninth-most of all time among all players — he's 36 games ahead of the nearest pitcher, and just one game behind Chipper Jones(notes) among everyday players. It has never been completely clear why Rivera is so much better in the playoffs than he is in the regular season, but the facts are simply incontrovertible: He is.

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6-0 But so is Cliff Lee(notes), who has never lost in the postseason and has a 6-0 record, a 1.44 ERA, and a 54-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio, in seven playoff starts. (The sole no-decision of his playoff career came in Game 4 of last year's NLDS, when Ryan Madson(notes) blew a save and vultured the win by allowing three runs, two of them inherited and unearned, to score with two outs.) In six of his seven playoff starts, Lee has allowed one or fewer earned runs. The seventh was Game 5 of last year's World Series, when he gave up five runs (and, perhaps even more shocking, three walks) to the New York Yankees. So if anyone can touch him up, they can. But considering the way he blew past the Tampa Bay Rays, that doesn't seem likely.

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4-4 The Yankees record against the Rangers this year, the only American League team outside their own division against whom they didn't have a winning record. (The Phillies won two out of three from the Yankees in an interleague series.) The Yankees outscored the Rangers by six runs in the eight games they played — which is unsurprising, considering that they outscored the Rangers by 72 runs this year, or an average of about 0.4 a game — as well as outhit them (.757 OPS to .660 OPS) and outpitched them (4.20 ERA to 4.63), but they couldn't win the season series. (Three of the Yankees' wins were one-run victories, so the Rangers were very close to actually taking the season series themselves. In one-run games, the burden on Neftali Feliz(notes) and Mariano Rivera will be especially great.) The teams were relatively evenly matched this season, and figure to be evenly matched in the postseason as well.

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51 Elvis Andrus'(notes) stolen-base attempts this year, regular season and playoffs, with 35 successful thefts. Andrus is the Rangers' leading basestealer, though he lags behind the Yankees' Brett Gardner(notes) (48 steals in 57 tries) both in attempts and in success rate. But he ran the Rays ragged, stealing three bases in four tries, including two in Game 3. Considering that neither Francisco Cervelli(notes) nor Jorge Posada(notes) has a good reputation of throwing out baserunners, and Andrus' aggressive conduct on the basepaths, the odds are good that he'll try running a fair amount.

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.286 Derek Jeter's(notes) OBP from the leadoff spot in the Twins series. During the sweep, the Yankees were amply able to compensate for Jeter's anemic production at the top of the order. But after suffering through the worst year of his career, the Captain has proved similarly feeble thus far in the playoffs, with just four singles and three strikeouts in 14 at-bats. (He's the only Yankee regular who made it through the Twins series with neither a walk nor an extra-base hit.) The chances of Joe Girardi dropping him in the order are almost nil — after all, these are the playoffs, and he is Derek Jeter — but right now he's the weakest link in the Yankee batting order, and because he's leading off, he's getting the most at-bats. The Yankee offense is still so overpowering that they can probably get away with it. But his bat has been hurting the team in 2010.

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2.28 The combined regular-season and postseason ERA of the Texas Rangers' two bewitching Darrens, Darren O'Day(notes) and Darren Oliver(notes). They're the Rangers' twin setup men and most-used relievers after Neftali Feliz, and because they're both named Darren, I think their nicknames should be Dick Sargent and Dick York. Much like the real Dick Sargent and Dick York, their faces may look different, but it's hard to tell them apart from the numbers. During the regular season, O'Day pitched 62 innings with a 2.03 ERA, a 3.75 K/BB, and 22 holds; Oliver pitched 61 2/3 innings with a 2.48 ERA, a 4.33 K/BB, and 14 holds. If the game is on the line, they're the guys you expect to see coming out of the pen. While the Yankees have the closer advantage over every team in the world with Mariano Rivera, the Rangers' two Darrens were much more effective setup men than the Yankees' rotating crew. (In the ALDS, manager Joe Girardi used Kerry Wood(notes), David Robertson(notes) and Boone Logan(notes), and ignored his most-used reliever of the season, Joba Chamberlain(notes).)

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1.227 Curtis Granderson's(notes) OPS in the ALDS, the highest on the Yankees. (I always like to see my Big League Stew colleague do well.) But it was lower than the Rangers' Ian Kinsler(notes) (1.444) and Nelson Cruz(notes) (1.350), each of whom hit three homers in the Rays series. Granderson's performance was a triumph for the center fielder, who struggled to meet expectations in the first half of the season in the Bronx, and then succeeded in the second half and on the one stage that matters in New York. But Kinsler's firepower was even more of a sight for sore eyes; after missing much of the regular season with ankle and groin injuries, he only hit nine homers this year, and already has reached a third of that total in the postseason. When Kinsler's healthy he's in the conversation with Chase Utley(notes) and Robinson Cano(notes) for the title of best second baseman in baseball. The Yankees have the best offense in the world, but the Rangers can generate a whole lot of fireworks, and the Yankees' deficiencies in middle relief and the middle of their rotation may result in some high-scoring games.

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