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For the American League Division Series, I will be covering the matchup of the Cleveland Indians versus the New York Yankees. This Cleveland's first playoff appearance since 2001. This is New York's first playoff appearance since last year. Let's take a look at this past season for both teams...

Cleveland Indians: Team Profile
Record: 96-66 (1st in AL Central)
Manager: Eric Wedge (415-395, career)
Team Average Age: 28.0
Runs Scored: 811
Runs Allowed: 704
Team Batting (Rank in AL in Parentheses)
Batting Average: .268 (7)
Home Runs: 178 (5)
On-Base Percentage: .343 (5)
Slugging: .428 (5)
Bases on Balls: 590 (4)
Strikeouts: 1202 (3)
Individual Batting Leaders (min 99 games)
Average: Victor Martinez (.301)
On-Base Percentage: Grady Sizemore (.390)
Slugging %: Victor Martinez (.505)
Runs: Grady Sizemore (118)
Hits: Grady Sizemore (174)
Doubles: Victor Martinez (40)
Triples: Grady Sizemore (5)
Home Runs: Victor Martinez (25)
RBIs: Victor Martinez (114)
Bases on Balls: Travis Hafner (102)
Strikeouts: Grady Sizemore (155)
Stolen Bases: Grady Sizemore (33)
Team Pitching (Rank in AL in Parentheses)
ERA: 4.05 (3)
Complete Games: 9 (2)
Shutouts: 9 (3)
Home Runs: 146 (2)
Walks: 410 (1)
Strikeouts: 1047 (1)
Individual Pitching Leaders
Wins: C.C. Sabathia/Fausto Carmona (19)
Losses: Jake Westbrook (9)
ERA (Min 100 innings): Fausto Carmona (3.06)
Complete Games: C.C. Sabathia (4)
Shutouts: Paul Byrd (2)
Innings Pitched: C.C. Sabathia (241.0)
Strikeouts: C.C. Sabathia (209)
Walks: Fausto Carmona (61)
Saves: Joe Borowski (45)
Key Player: Victor Martinez obviously seems to be the offensive juggarnaut of this team and Travis Hafner looms large in the middle of the order, but the catalyst of the Indians offense that is key to stopping them is Grady Sizemore. Sizemore, for the season, has walked 101 times out of the lead off spot and boosted his OBP to .390. His OBP is just out of the top ten while his walks are fifth in the American League, behind the likes of Ortiz, Cust, Pena, and Hafner. If Sizemore can be neutralized through the strikeout (second in the AL with 155), the Cleveland offense will have to depend on Martinez and Hafner even more. Hafner had an off-year with only 24 home runs in 152 games after hitting 42 in just 129 games last year. He will need to step it up in the playoffs for the Indians' offense to be successful.
Key Pitcher: Fausto Carmona. Some would say the back end of the Indians rotation would be more of a concern, but I think more of the pressure sets itself on Fausto. Carmona is only 23 years old and has had an outstanding season (19-8, 3.06) after a disastrous rookie season (1-10, 5.42). But will he be able to last into the postseason? He threw 215.0 innings this year, the most in a year for him at any level. Will he be able to respond to the pressures of October?

New York Yankees: Team Profile
Record: 94-68 (2nd in AL East)
Manager: Joe Torre (1173-767, career with Yankees)
Team Average Age: 30.6
Runs Scored: 968
Runs Allowed: 777
Team Batting (Rank in AL in Parentheses)
Batting Average: .290 (1)
Home Runs: 201 (1)
On-Base Percentage: .366 (1)
Slugging: .463 (1)
Bases on Balls: 637 (3)
Strikeouts: 991 (10)
Individual Batting Leaders (min 99 games)
Average: Jorge Posada (.338)
On-Base Percentage: Jorge Posada (.426)
Slugging %: Alex Rodriguez (.645)
Runs: Alex Rodriguez (143)
Hits: Derek Jeter (206)
Doubles: Jorge Posada (42)
Triples: Melky Cabrera (8)
Home Runs: Alex Rodriguez (54)
RBIs: Alex Rodriguez (156)
Bases on Balls: Alex Rodriguez (95)
Strikeouts: Alex Rodrigues (120)
Stolen Bases: Johnny Damon (27)
Team Pitching (Rank in AL in Parentheses)
ERA: 4.50 (7)
Complete Games: 1 (12)
Shutouts: 5 (13)
Home Runs: 150 (4)
Walks: 578 (12)
Strikeouts: 1009 (12)
Individual Pitching Leaders
Wins: Chien-Ming Wang (19)
Losses: Mike Mussina (10)
ERA (Min 100 innings): Chien-Ming Wang (3.70)
Complete Games: Chien-Ming Wang (1)
Shutouts: --
Innings Pitched: Andy Pettite (215.3)
Strikeouts: Andy Pettite (141)
Walks: Andy Pettite (69)
Saves: Mariano Rivera (30)
Key Player: Alex Rodriguez, hands down. A-Rod's postseason struggles have been well documented. Last year in the ALDS against the Detroit Tigers, he batted .071 and the year before that in the ALDS against the Angels, he batted .133. In his last two posteseason series, A-Rod has only three hits and nine strikeouts. If the Yankees want to have a chance, they need Rodriguez to bring his MVP game into the postseason.
Key Pitcher: Roger Clemens. At 44, he is no longer what he once was, but he can still produce a bit. I think. In the regular season, Clemens went 6-6 with a 4.18 ERA in 17 starts. He gave up 99 hits in 99.0 innings. The Yankees know they will get quality starts out of Pettite and Wang, but after them, with Clemens, Mussina, and Hughes, the picture gets quite fuzzy.

Cleveland Indians-New York Yankees: Head-to-Head
2003: Yankees won season series, 5-2
2004: Yankees won season series, 4-2
2005: Yankees won season series, 4-3
2006: Yankees won season series, 4-3
2007: Yankees won season series, 6-0
Since 2003, the Yankees lead season series 23-10.

Cleveland Indians-New York Yankees, 2007 Matchups at a Glance
April 17, 2007: New York 10, Cleveland 3 (WP: C. Wright, LP: J. Westbrook)
April 18, 2007: New York 9, Cleveland 2 (WP: K. Igawa, LP: J. Sowers)
April 19, 2007: New York 8, Cleveland 6 (WP: S. Henn, LP: J. Borowski)
August 10, 2007: New York 6, Cleveland 1 (WP: P. Hughes, LP: F. Carmona)
August 11, 2007: New York 11, Cleveland 2 (WP: M. Mussina, LP: P. Byrd)
August 12, 2007: New York 5, Cleveland 3 (WP: A. Pettite, LP: J. Westbrook)
Significance: New York outscored Cleveland 49-17 in 2007. The Yankees have outscored the Indians 190-154 since 2003, but the Tribe has 22-0 and 19-1 wins to its credit, which slightly skews the porportionality of runs scored and wins in the series, in my opinion.

The Series
Game 1: Thursday, October 4, 2007, 6:30 PM ET
New York Yankees @ Cleveland Indians
Jacobs Field, Cleveland, Ohio
Chien-Ming Wang vs. C.C. Sabathia
Game 2: Friday, October 5, 2007, 5:00 PM ET
New York Yankees @ Cleveland Indians
Jacobs Field, Cleveland, Ohio
Andy Pettite vs. Fausto Carmona
Game 3: Sunday, October 7, 2007, 6:30 PM ET
Cleveland Indians @ New York Yankees
Yankee Stadium, New York, New York
Jake Westbrook vs. Roger Clemens
Game 4*: Monday, October 8, 2007, 6:00 PM ET
Cleveland Indians @ New York Yankees
Yankee Stadium, New York, New York
Starters TBD
Game 5*: Wednesday, October 10, 2007, 5:00 PM ET
New York Yankees @ Cleveland Indians
Jacobs Field, Cleveland, Ohio
Starters TBD
* - if necessary

Probable Lineups (AVG, HR, RBI)
New York Yankees
Jorge Posada (S), C: .338, 20, 90
Doug Mientkiewicz (L), 1B: .277, 5, 24
Robinson Cano (L), 2B: .306, 19, 97
Alex Rodriguez (R), 3B: .314, 54, 156
Derek Jeter (R), SS: .322, 12, 73
Hideki Matsui (L), LF: .285, 25, 103
Melky Cabrera (S), CF: .273, 8, 73
Bobby Abreu (L), RF: .283, 16, 101
Jason Giambi (L), DH: .236, 14, 49
Cleveland Indians
Victor Martinez (S), C: .301, 25, 114
Ryan Garko (R), 1B: .289, 21, 61
Josh Barfield (R), 2B: .243, 3, 50
Casey Blake (R), 3B: .270, 18, 78
Jhonny Peralta (R), SS: .270, 21, 72
Jason Michaels (R), LF: .270, 7, 39
Grady Sizemore (L), CF: .277, 24, 78
Trot Nixon (L), RF: .251, 3, 31
Travis Hafner (L), DH: .266, 24, 100

Probable Pitching Staffs
New York Yankees
Starters
Chien-Ming Wang (R): 19-7, 3.70
Andy Pettite (L):
Roger Clemens (R):
Mike Mussina (R):
Phillip Hughes (R):
Relievers
Mariano Rivera (R): 3-4, 3.15, 30 saves
Joba Chamberlain (R): 2-0, 0.38, 1 save

Cleveland Indians
Starters
C.C. Sabathia (L): 19-7, 3.21
Fausto Carmona (R): 19-8, 3.06
Paul Byrd (R): 15-8, 4.59
Jake Westbrook (R): 6-9, 4.32
Aaron Laffey (L): 4-2, 4.56
Relievers
Joe Borowski (R): 4-5, 5.07, 45 saves
Rafael Betancourt (R): 5-1, 1.47, 3 saves

Analysis: This is what you have read all the above stuff to get to or what you just skipped to. The Indians surprised a lot of people and finished tied with the Boston Red Sox for the best record in Major League Baseball (96-66). The Yankees hung in the race even when they were down and out and hung on to nab the Wild-Card, six games in front of Detroit and Seattle. The Yankees overcame the seemingly insurmountable Boston Red Sox lead to finish two games out of first place. This matchup features the two hottest teams in the American League. Both are 21-9 over their last thirty games, 14-6 over their last twenty, and 6-4 over their last ten. Cleveland comes in boasting one of the best one-two pitching punches in C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona, while the Yankees come in with Alex Rodriguez, who just completed one of the best seasons in recent memory. The Indians need their hitters to come through and the Yankees need their pitching to come through.

My Take: I jumped on ESPN.com, and seven of their ten so-called "experts" have picked the Indians in this series. I beg to differ. I take the Yankees in four. The one game I see the Indians winning is either of the matchups that Sabathia or Carmona pitch in. However, if both of them lose their matchups, I don't see Jake Westbrook saving the Tribe in Game 3. The Indians pitching is considered great, but once you get bast the top two, it is terribly mediocre. Not to mention the the Yankees averaged 8.2 runs per game in their season series against the Indians. It's great to see the Indians back in the playoffs, due to the fact that some of my earliest postseason memories involve them, but they will not stay this year. Yanks in four.

This blog is also viewable at http://ramblingsfromthesuburbs.blogspot.com/2007/10/cleveland-indians-new-york-yankees-alds.html.  That is MY Blogger account, by the way.

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