Thoughts on the Recent Three Game Series in Anaheim

Well, the Yankees dropped their first series of the post season, losing two of three from the Angels. I thought this would happen, but I also thought the Halos would take one of the first two games in Yankee Stadium, but their defense and untimely hitting made that impossbile.

The Angels changed their approaches while playing at home. During Games 1 and 2, Vladimir Guerrero was constantly being challenged inside and he never once came though with a big hit.

However, during Game Three he tied the game at three all with a two-out, two-run homer off of Andy Pettitte. When Guerrero first came to the plate that game I said to my friend, “Vlad’s off the plate more than he was in Games 1 and 2. He is compensating for his slow bat.” Just last week, I wrote that Vlad was being pounded inside by the Yankee pitchers. We went to MLB.com and saw video of Vlad in Game 2 and from Game 3.

Vlad was off the plate more in Game 3 and this little adjustment helped the Angels take two of three out there.

Being off the plate allows an inside ball to become a pitch Vlad is better able to hit. And he showed that with the tying home run. The Yankees have to notice this and begin to mix up their locations. Always a game (and series of adjustments). Vlad also came through in crucial Game 5 with a game tying, two-out single off Phil Hughes.

He is not back to the old Vlad, but the Yankees need to realize they must mix their locations more and not leave pitches over the middle of the plate to him.

Or to Jeff Mathis for that matter. The Angels back up catcher is known as more of a good field, no stick catcher who only it .211/.288./.308/.596 with only 13 XBH in 272 plate appearances (PA). His line last season was about the same, only he was below the Mendoza line. And Mathis strikes out way too much for a hitter, as he totaled 90 whiffs last season (in 328 PA) and 72 K’s in 2009.

And here is a quirky stat: Mathis has struck out the same number of times as the amount of total bases he produced in each of the past two seasons. He totaled 90 bases last year and 72 this season and had the exact same number of whiffs.

That is almost impossible for a non-pitcher to attain. A hitter who is that unproductive usually is not in the majors very long.

Defense is why Mathis is in the majors, but offense is why he is playing more in the ALCS, where he is hitting .600 (6 for 10) with four doubles. He is also John Lackey’s personal catcher. As a Yankee fan, I hope Mathis does not get a chance to hit again this series, meaning there is no Game 7 and a possiblity of Lackey going on short rest. 

BOBBY ABREU

Doesn’t it seem like every time there is a called strike on the Angels right fielder, that he has a look of disgust on his face? It never appears that Abreu thinks any time he takes a pitch, it should be called a strike. He is a patient hitter, walks a lot, taught the Angels hitters to be patient, blah, blah, blah but Abreu is not Ted Williams.

There is a great story about a young catcher who asked the home plate umpire where a close pitch was on a certain lefty slugger. The umpire replied the pitch was outside, when the catcher said, “No it wasn’t, it was right on the corner.” The umpire came back with, “the batter up right now son is Mr. Ted Williams and he has such a good batting eye that if Mr. Williams does not swing at a pitch, it is most ceratinly off the plate.”

Abreu has not had a good series, going 3 for 21 (.143 BA) with two doubles and one RBI. He has an uncharacteristic seven strikeouts, one for every three at bats. Instead of taking all these good pitches for strikes, it might be wise to adjust a little and begin swinging earlier at better pitches to hit.

NICK SWISHER

Swisher had the ultimate opportunity to cleanse his putrid ALCS system with a go-ahead hit against Angels closer Brian Fuentes on Thursday night. The two- out, 3-2 pitch from Fuentes was a virtual meatball, down the middle at 89 MPH. A very, very hittable pitch.

And Swisher muffed it. It is impossible to come through all the time in big situations but on a pitch like that from Fuentes, the odds of getting a hit go up immeasurably, and a good major league hitter like Swisher should have rocked that pitch. All the pressure was on Fuentes to throw a strike as he did not want to walk the ever patient (and walk machine) Yankee right fielder.

But it was Swisher would wilted under the pressure. In between every pitch in that at bat, Swisher was seen taking huge deep breaths, trying to calm himself down. Wilting under playoff pressure is nothing new for Swish, as he has been a dud in most of his other post season experiences.

That is why I felt it strange Yankee manbager Joe Girardi did not “rest” Swisher in Game 5 against the right handed Angels starter John Lackey. I thought Girardi should give the start to Brett Gardner, using his speed to give better defense and utilize Gardner’s speed on the bases a few times a game except for once a game.

Gardner offers different weapons than Swisher and it is all dependent on Gardner getting on base, but he couldn’t be any worse than Swisher at getting on base at this point. Also, Lackey has shown often in this series that he can be agitated on the mound, and what better way to agitate a pitcher than to have speed on the bases.

But that being said, Swisher will likely start against lefty Joe Saunders tonight. Any other righty power hitters on the Yankee bench, or even in their system?

Shelley Duncan where are you? Better yet, this role will be played next season by Jesus Montero.

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