I was wrong in who would emerge from the Rangers-Rays series (Longoria did to my prediction what Garrett Atkins and Matt Wieters did to Baseball Prospectus's 2009 fantasy projections), but I stand behind my statement that those were the two most balanced teams in the AL and that whomever won that matchup would end up in the World Series.
With a Yankees-Rangers series before us, I refuse to change my position. Name me a Yankee and I can name you an equally good Ranger. Mark Teixeira (.367 wOBA)? Try AL MVP front-runner Josh Hamilton (.447 wOBA). Robinson Cano (.389 wOBA)? Try Nelson Cruz (.408 wOBA). Nick Swisher (.377 wOBA)? Try Bid Daddy Vladdy (.360 wOBA). A-Rod (.363 wOBA)? Try Kinsler (.357 wOBA). Garner (.363 wOBA)/Posada (.357 wOBA)/Granderson (.346 wOBA)? I counter with Murphy (.358 wOBA)/Moreland (.357 wOBA)/Young (.335 wOBA).
True, the Yankees 7-8-9 combo inevitably involving Jeter (.320 wOBA) and Berkman (.314 wOBA in New York) is better than the bottom three guys of the Ranger's lineup (nobody between Andrus, Borbon and Molina has a wOBA of even .300). However, it is not exactly like the bottom third of the Yankee's lineup is particularly threatening. I'd call the bottom third of both lineups "a push of generally conceded outs, advantage Yankees."
Noting that the Offenses are relatively congruent, the Rangers have both the pitching and defensive advantage.
Give me Cliff Lee (3.23 xFIP, 2.65 tRA), Colby Lewis (3.93 xFIP. 3.52 tRA) and C.J. Wilson (4.20 xFIP, 3.81 tRA) over CC Sabathia (3.78 xFIP, 3.44 tRA), Andy Pettite (4.05 xFIP, 4.04 tRA) and Phil Hughes (4.33 xFIP, 4.11 tRA). The Rangers could even trust a four-man rotation if they pass the ball to Derek Holland (3.85 tRA, 3.57 MiLB FIP this season), whereas Yankees fans everywhere would (justifiably) cringe at the thought of relying on Burnett (4.66 xFIP, 4.93 tRA) or Vazquez (4.90 xFIP, 5.56 tRA). Sure, the Yankees have post-season deity Old Man Rivers (3.65 xFIP/2.71 tRA with a career-second worst K/9 showing), but the Rangers have the comparably capable Neftali Feliz (3.65 xFIP/2.66 tRA).
Defensively speaking, the Rangers and Yankees have similar team UZR/150 ratings, but the Yankees have almost of their defensive chips in one basket (Garner/Granderson, with a sprinkle of Mark Teixeira on the side), whereas the Rangers' lineup is evenly distributed with plus-defensive starters (Borbon, Hamilton, Cruz, Smoak, Kinsler, Andrus, Moreland and Murphy have above-average defensive ratings).
All in all, the series should be an exciting one that will be close, but I think the Rangers edge out the Bronx Bombers. Still, it is only a 5-7 game series and I've been wrong before...
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