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October 11, 2004

Replacement Level ALCS Preview
by SG

First and foremost, my thoughts and prayers are with Mariano Rivera and his family after the terrible tragedy that occurred last night. Let's hope his faith and strength can help him and his family get through this.


Two teams enter, one team leaves. After 162 regular season games, and the AL Division series, to the surprise of few, the Yankees and Red Sox are set to duke it out in another ALCS. With last year's classic series still fresh in everyone's mind, and with the additional bad blood from the fallout of the Alex Rodriguez acquisition, as well as Boston's picking up of 2001 Yankee killer Curt Schilling, the scene is set for another knock-down brawl to decide who represents the American League in the World Series. It will be tough to duplicate the drama and tension of last year's series, won on a walk-off HR from a basketball player named Boone, but the intensity of the rivalry and talent of the two teams gives the potential of another great series.

I decided to look at how the two teams stack up using some of Baseball Prospectus's advanced statistics. I am speculating that Jason Giambi will not be on the ALCS roster due to the still uncertain status of El Duque. I also think Steve Karsay has no chance of making the roster. I'd love to see Brad Halsey sneak on instead of Two Time All-Star Esteban Loaiza or the Notorious TRF™, but knowing Joe Torre, that ain't happening.

For hitters, I'll be using the following offensive and defensive stats:

Jason Varitek (EQA: .288, FRAA: 8, VORP: 47.3, MLVr: 0.167)
A tough, hard-nosed player, and the leader of the Red Sox. Beloved in Boston, and despised in New York. Look for him to be "escorting" plunked Yankees to first all series.
Jorge Posada (EQA: .299, FRAA: -2, VORP: 49.7, MLVr: 0.191)
The best catcher in the American League over the last few seasons, he has been a disappointment in the postseason at times, most likely due to his heavy workload during the regular season. A patient hitter with good power, he's done a better job of throwing out runners this season, but still has a propensity for passed balls.
Edge: Slight edge to the Yankees

First Base
Kevin Millar (EQA: .284, FRAA: 1, VORP: 38.8, MLVr: 0.146)
An annoying personality to non-Red Sox fans, but a dangerous fastball hitter and another important clubhouse guy for Boston. Not a very good defensive first baseman, so expect Francona to use Doug Mientkiewicz for late inning defense when they are leading.
John Olerud (EQA: .268, FRAA: -3, VORP: 7.6, MLVr: 0.020) *Yankee stats only
Olerud has lost his power, but remains a decent OBP guy and a solid defensive player.
Edge: Boston

Second Base
Mark Bellhorn (EQA: .274, FRAA: -9, VORP: 39.1, MLVr: 0.059)
Not the most handsome of players, but a patient, disciplined hitter who will work deep counts and draw walks. A slightly below average defensive player.
Miguel Cairo (EQA: .266, FRAA: -8, VORP: 22.4, MLVr: 0.008)
A mediocre player before this season, but had a solid season once he wrested the starting job from Enrique Wilson. A seemingly solid fielder despite a slightly below average arm (although Prospectus's FRAA seems to disagree), and a tough hitter to strike out. Doesn't walk a lot, but will foul pitches off and work counts.
Edge: Boston

Third Base
Bill Mueller (EQA: .270, FRAA: 6, VORP: 23.1, MLVr: 0.070)
Last year's batting champion, he's had an injury-plagued season. A decent defensive third baseman with occasional scattershot throwing tendencies, and a notorious Yankee killer.
Alex Rodriguez (EQA: .301, FRAA: 7, VORP: 63.0, MLVr: 0.205)
The best shortstop on either team, but stuck at third base. After a somewhat disappointing season(by his standards), had a monster series against the Twins in the ALDS. Has really gotten into the Boston/New York rivalry. Not particularly popular in Boston, for some reason.
Edge: Yankees

Orlando Cabrera (EQA: .259, FRAA: -6, VORP: 15.2, MLVr: 0.026) *Boston stats only
Cabrera has a reputation as a good fielder, although the Prospectus fielding numbers for his time in Boston seem to disagree with that. A low OBP guy, but with good power for a SS.
Derek Jeter (EQA: .281, FRAA: 2, VORP: 60.3, MLVr: 0.100)
The greatest postseason player of all time. I am kidding, of course. After a horrible start, Jeter had a very solid season, hitting for good power. In addition, he had his best fielding season in years, rating as slightly above average using the FRAA numbers. He will need to get on base and set up Rodriguez, Sheffield and Matsui if the Yankees hope to win this series. Expect plenty of fawning from Tim McCarver, and plenty of hatred from non-Yankee fans.
Edge: Yankees

Left Field
Manny Ramirez (EQA: .315, FRAA: -0, VORP: 70.0, MLVr: 0.363)
The most dangerous right-handed hitter in the only league that matters. His defensive missteps are overblown, and he does a decent job of playing the Green Monster.
Hideki Matsui (EQA: .306, FRAA: -7, VORP: 58.1, MLVr: 0.253)
Godzilla had the season the Yankees hoped for when they signed him, as opposed to his overly hyped mediocre season last year. A patient, disciplined hitter, with solid power. His defense is erratic, and he's had trouble playing the big wall in Fenway before, so that will bear watching.
Edge: Boston

Center Field
Johnny Damon (EQA: .282, FRAA: 8, VORP: 52.4, MLVr: 0.151)
A very good defensive player, whose only weakness is a below-average arm. A tough out who always seems to find way to get on base. Michael Kay can make fun of his appearance all he wants, but this guy could play for my team anyday.
Bernie Williams (EQA: .271, FRAA: -4, VORP: 31.3, MLVr: 0.050)
Although he had a very disappointing season, he hit for an .883 OPS in September and had an HR against Minnesota in the ALDS. Probably the worst defensive CF in baseball at this point, but Joe Torre seems to have committed to playing him in center every day, with Sierra entrenched at DH, leaving the better defensive player in Lofton sitting on the bench.
Edge: Boston

Right Field
Trot Nixon (EQA: .289, FRAA: -1, VORP: 13.7, MLVr: 0.210)
Despite the love of Jesus, Christopher had a disappointing and injury plagued season. Formerly a good defensive OF, some added weight and his leg injuries have dropped him into the class of below average defensively. Still a dangerous lefty bat who has had success against the Yankees before, and they don't have any left-handers to neutralize him (no, TRF™ doesn't count).
Sheffield (EQA: .307, FRAA: 0, VORP: 63.8, MLVr: 0.296)
A borderline MVP candidate, although he slipped behind Guerrero, Ramirez and Ortiz in September, Sheffield is the Yankees' most dangerous hitter. Although he had a mediocre series against Minnesota, he is capable of carrying the Yankee offense. Not a good defensive OF, but has a strong arm.
Edge: Yankees

David Ortiz (EQA: .315, VORP: 73.1, MLVr: 0.318)
A huge, scary man who had a tremendous season. He is strictly a DH at this point, and will benefit from an all right-handed Yankee rotation.
Ruben Sierra (EQA: .253, VORP: 10.2, MLVr: -0.043)
Despite his big HR against Juan Rincon, Sierra is not a good hitter. Torre seems enamored with him, so expect him to get the bulk of the DH AB. He does have good power, and can hit mistakes a long way, so he can be dangerous.
Edge: Boston, in a landslide


Curt Schilling (SNVA/G: 0.128, RA+: 156)
He's got a bit of an ego, loves to talk, and enjoys Dunkin' Donuts a bit too much, but is one hell of a pitcher. Featuring a 95 MPH fastball and pinpoint control, he is capable of shutting anyone down. He tends to tire late in games and Francona is reticent to pull him, so it'll be up to the Yankees to try and work the count against him, and get him out of there early. He is apparently suffering inflammation of his peroneal tendons in his ankle. It shouldn't affect his pitching too much, but will probably preclude him from pitching on three days rest.
Mike Mussina (SNVA/G: 0.002, RA+: 98)
His season numbers leave a lot to be desired, but Moose has been great since coming off the DL in mid-August. Has historically pitched well against Boston.
Edge: Boston

Pedro Martinez (SNVA/G: 0.064, RA+: 127)
Despite acknowledging the Yankees as his "daddies", Pedro is still a great pitcher, and one who can give any team fits. Fears of his struggles in September seem to have been overblown, as he pitched a solid game against Anaheim in the ALDS. He is suffering from a balky knee, which may hamper his effectiveness. The Yankees' "success" against him is a misnomer. They haven't really hit him all that well, they've just outlasted him and featured solid pitching from their own starters. That will be up to....
Jon Lieber (SNVA/G: 0.007, RA+: 100)
Lieber had a strong second half, but is still a bit iffy as a #2. Slotting him as the #2 starter let's him pitch both his potential games at home, where he was much better this season.
Edge: Boston

Bronson Arroyo (SNVA/G: 0.013, RA+: 104)
Named after one of the great vigilante movie actors of all time, Arroyo has developed into a solid pitcher. Tough on righties with nasty breaking stuff, but he can be inconsistent at times.
Kevin Brown (SNVA/G: 0.041, RA+: 110)
Brown is a wild-card. Although he pitched six innings of one run ball against Minnesota, he had trouble finishing hitters off, and is still working his way back from a month of missed starts. In addition, he is still suffering from lingering back pain which shows no sign of letting up. He is certainly capable of pitching a great game against anyone, but Boston teed off on him in his first start back from his broken hand. Regardless, he deserves credit for coming back from a stupid injury and giving the Yankees what they needed against Minnesota.
Edge: Even, perhaps slight edge to Boston.

Tim Wakefield (SNVA/G: -0.042, RA+: 90)
Wakefield had a down year, but has been better of late. His knuckleball can give any team fits at any time, and as the fourth starter he could also be a weapon out of the bullpen when he doesn't start. He pitched two great games against the Yankees last year in the ALCS, and could certainly come up big again.
Javier Vazquez (SNVA/G: -0.003, RA+: 94) or Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez (SNVA/G: 0.106, RA+: 148)
Obviously, the Yankees would prefer El Duque in this spot, if he's healthy. Even if he feels ok, a lot of time off could adversely affect him. Regardless, he's a big game pitcher and is capable of baffling any team for six or seven innings, even a potent Boston team.
Vazquez has been very poor in the second half of the season, and struggled against Boston in four starts this season, putting up a 5.56 ERA against them. He still has the talent to come up big against them, and he pitched fairly well against Minnesota although his final line wasn't great. If Hernandez can go, Vazquez will pitch out of the bullpen.
Edge: Yankees (more so if Hernandez can start)

Relief Staff
Mike Myers (ARP: 0.1) *Boston stats only
Alan Embree (ARP: 7.4)
Mike Timlin (ARP: -0.7)
Curtis Leskanic (ARP: 2.3) *Boston stats only
Derek Lowe no relief stats
Boston's middle relief is not great, although Embree and Timlin have been solid in the past. Lowe was once on of the best relievers in the game, but at this point is probably restricted to mop up duty. Expect Embree and Timlin to get the bulk of the work in any meaningful situations, with Myers being used in a strict LOOGY manner, probably for Matsui or Olerud.

Tanyon Sturtze (ARP: -4.4)
Paul Quantrill (ARP: -3.8)
TRF™ (ARP: -3.9)
Tom "Flash" Gordon (ARP: 41.9)
Esteban Loaiza (ARP: -11.3) *relief stats only
Vazquez or El Duque no relief stats
Loaiza and TRF™ flat out suck, but I expect them both to be on the roster. Quantrill had a poor second half after Torre worked him ridiculously hard, but some rest in the last few weeks appears to have rejuvenated him somewhat. Sturtze had a big game against Minnesota in Game 2, and was solid in relief in September, but he's Tanyon Sturtze, and he stinks, and to count on him to continue like this could be dangerous. I think he gets one shot in a key situation, if he does the job he'll get another, but if he tanks then expect him to get buried behind Quantrill. Gordon had a decent division series against Minnesota, with one bad game then two shutout innings in the clincher. There was a bizarre incident in the post-game of Game Four against Minnesota, where someone accidentally shot a cork directly into Gordon's left eye. The trainers tended to the injury and he appears to be fine, but a little angry about it. I hope it's not an issue.

Edge: Yankees, because Gordon+Quantrill > Embree + Timlin

Keith Foulke (ARP: 29.7)
Foulke is a tough reliever who throws a baffling changeup, and has the ability to pitch multiple innings. Expect him to be used extensively in this series, even in non-save situations.
Mariano Rivera (ARP: 30.5)
The guy who makes Joe Torre look like a genius. Has worked a lot this year, and has had some spots of Wetteland-style shakiness (including just his third career blown post-season save), but is still the best postseason reliever in history. Boston has had some regular-season success against him, so he may not have the same aura about him that he would against another team. It remains to be seen if his availability will be impacted by the terrible tragedy that has befallen his family.
Edge: Very slight edge to the Yankees

Dave Roberts
Pokey Reese
Doug Mientkiewicz
Doug Mirabelli
Kevin Youkilis
Neither bench will see much action, although Mientkiewicz and Reese should see some action as defensive subs, and Roberts will probably see some action as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement. Mirabelli will probably catch Wakefield's game(s).

Enrique Wilson
Bubba Crosby
John "Bad Flash"

Kenny Lofton
Tony Clark
Worst. Bench. Ever. Wilson will probably start over Cairo in Pedro's starts, due to his career luck against him. Crosby will see some action pinch-running for Olerud or subbing in for Sheffield on defense. Lofton could snag a start or two if Sierra starts the series 0 for 15 or so. Flaherty will do a fine job of charting pitches on the bench. Clark could see some action if Olerud gets pinch-run for.

I decided to compare the two lineups using MLVr and FRAA/Games played to see how they stacked up.

2004 Lineup
Ps Name MLVr Defense Total
CF Johnny Damon .151 .054 .205
2B Mark Bellhorn .059 -.073 -.014
LF Manny Ramirez .363 -.069 .294
DH David Ortiz .318 --- .318
RF Trot Nixon .210 -.026 .184
1B Kevin Millar .146 .015 .161
C Jason Varitek .167 .031 .198
SS Orlando Cabrera .026 -.105 -.079
3B Bill Mueller .070 .063 .133
Total 1.510 -.109 1.401

2004 Lineup
Ps Name MLVr Defense Total
SS Derek Jeter .100 .013 .113
3B Alex Rodriguez .205 .045 .250
RF Gary Sheffield .296 .000 .296
LF Hideki Matsui .253 -.044 .209
CF Bernie Williams .050 -.042 .008
C Jorge Posada .191 -.015 .176
DH Ruben Sierra -.043 --- -.043
1B John Olerud .020 -.065 -.045
2B Miguel Cairo .002 -.071 .069
Total 1.074 -.179 .895

Factoring in offense and defense, the Red Sox are about 1/2 run a game better than the Yankees. Boston also took the season series 11-8. The only clear edge I see for the Yankees is in the bullpen, where the Red Sox don't have a match for Flash Gordon.

One thing to bear in mind, Boston hits much better at home. Therefore, home-field advantage could turn out to be very important. The raw runs scored values for both teams are skewed by Boston playing in a hitters' park, and the Yankees playing in a pitchers' park. The Yankees led the majors in team EQA, and team EQR. However, those are the totals for the entire roster, which are less signficant in a series where the front-line talent will get the vast majority of the playing time.

The offensive numbers, defensive numbers, and pitching matchups seem to make Boston the favorite. has the Red Sox as 3:2 favorites to win. Most Boston fans seems to be overconfident and self-congratulatory already. I guess they don't remember this feeling.

I won't make a prediction, because anything can happen in a short series. If Boston is going to win the World Series, they should have to beat the Yankees to do it. I just hope it's close to as entertaining as last year's series was. I also hope the Yankees win, but if they don't, I'll tip my hat to the better team. May the best team win.