The Baltimore Orioles gave the New York Yankees all they could handle in the ALDS. Each of us here at YGY wrote about the atrocious offensive showing the Yankees displayed against the O’s. Many of us thought that the Yankees first playoff series would be a slugfest, not pitching duels coupled with good bullpen work (for the most part). Yankees had trouble all season with regards to giving up the long ball, so drawing the O’s, who were one of the best home run hitting teams in the league, in the first (second?) round of the playoffs was a little nerve wracking.
So our question this week: What surprised you most about the ALDS?
The biggest surprise to me in the ALDS has to be the low-scoring nature of the games thus far. The AL teams tend to score much more than NL teams, but if you look at the box scores, it is the NL teams that are putting up an offensive display, not necessarily the AL teams. Even more surprising from a Yankees perspective, this is a team that hit a franchise-tying record number of homers, and are able to throw up huge numbers any given night. Even the Orioles, for their negative run differential, have been able to mash homers at a high rate. The one “blowout” didn’t happen in Game 1 until the top of the 9th. The excellent pitching, starting and relief, has really mowed down hitters this series, and I expected more offensive output from both teams, considering the O’s record against the Yankees in the regular season and the Yankees run-scoring ability. Definitely the biggest surprise by far.
The biggest surprise to me in the ALDS was Robinson Cano. Obviously I picked him to be the star of the series in last week’s roundtable, but clearly I was way off. I should have known better (although I was correct in saying that HIROK would throw a gem); his postseason numbers aren’t overwhelming, but I still expected more than a .091 BA with more or less no contribution (at the plate, his defense was still nice) after Game 2. Disgusting.
Oh well, they won the series. Can’t really complain.
Honorable mention: I’d be remiss if I didn’t give Raul a nod here. He put on one of the best postseason performances I’ve ever seen (first player ever to hit two dingers in a playoff game he didn’t start), and you could make the argument that they don’t win without him. What baseball fan anywhere would’ve predicted a month ago that Yankee fans would be pining for Raul Ibanez to start Game 5 of the ALDS? He didn’t do much else in the series, but Game 3 cemented his status in Yankees lore.
The biggest surprise for me in the ALDS was honestly how well the starting pitching did. Before the postseason began, Sabathia was having one good start in every five (maybe that’s an exaggeration, but still). Meanwhile, Pettitte was just coming back from injury, Kuroda was trying to hold everything together and Hughes was the wild card. However, once the ALDS started, they all looked incredible. There wasn’t one bad start by any of these gentlemen and if this can carry extensively into the ALCS, then perhaps the Yankees have a real shot at the World Series. Well, that is if the bats wake up, but that’s a different issue. Regardless, they all stepped up in huge ways and definitely kept the Yanks in the postseason. There’s a lot of credit that they deserve for that accomplishment.
The poor postseason histories of Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher take them off the hook for this answer as they are really not surprising to me. The biggest surprise to me besides Raul Ibanez’s ridiculous Game 3 heroics was Robinson Cano’s performance. I had a feeling that the three days off in between the end of the regular season and the ALDS may slow him down from his .615 tear over the final nine games of the regular season, but he was virtually non-existent. What’s worse is that the slump has bled into the ALCS and now with Derek Jeter done for the playoffs, Cano’s bat is extremely important. Hopefully he finds his stroke and fast.
I had a feeling that the Yankees bats would all of the sudden go quiet. All you hear from pundits, managers, and fans alike is that “good pitching beats good hitting” and it appears that is true thus far in the postseason for the Yankees. Although maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise, but I think the offensive non-factor is the most surprising aspect to me. When your 3-6 guys (with exception to Mark Teixiera) are hitting less than .200, you aren’t going very far in the playoffs. Scream “small sample size” all you want, but when your best hitters aren’t contributing at all, it’s time to call them out. Also, when your $250 million man is pinch hit for twice and benched in the pivotal Game 5, something is seriously wrong. However, maybe it’s as easy as Ben says, “You need to light a fire under them.” I think he’s right.
Ok readers, now it’s your turn! Let us know what you think is the biggest surprise of the ALDS. Spare no pity on our selections and let us have it if you think we’re wrong!