2022 ALDS Preview: New York Yankees vs. Cleveland Guardians
The New York Yankees and the Cleveland Guardians will square off in one of two American League Divisional Series (ALDS) matchups, beginning on Tuesday at 7:37 p.m. ET. Let’s preview the series, shall we?
|Game 1||Tuesday, Oct. 11||Guardians @ Yankees||Cal Quantrill vs. Gerrit Cole||7:37 p.m. ET||TBS|
|Game 2||Thursday, Oct. 13||Guardians @ Yankees||Shane Bieber vs. TBD||7:37 p.m. ET||TBS|
|Game 3||Saturday, Oct. 15||Yankees @ Guardians||TBD vs. Triston McKenzie||TBD||TBS|
|Game 4*||Sunday, Oct. 16||Yankees @ Guardians||TBD vs. TBD||TBD||TBS|
|Game 5*||Monday, Oct. 17||Guardians @ Yankees||TBD vs. TBD||TBD||TBS|
The Cleveland Guardians finished the 2022 regular season well above expectation, going 92-70 and winning the AL Central by 11 games. They are the hottest team in MLB right now, having closed the regular season winning 24 of their final 30 games followed by sweeping the always-feisty Tampa Bay Rays in a pair of games in the Wild Card round. They have a top-five player across MLB in Jose Ramirez, an ace at the top of their rotation in Shane Bieber and a lights-out closer in Emmanuel Clase.
Reasons for optimism:
Well, let’s start with Ramirez.
The 30-year-old infielder slashed .280/.355/.514 with 44 doubles, 29 home runs and 126 RBIs — second in the AL to Aaron Judge (more on him later) — on the season. He’s also a sneaky good defensive third baseman. Translation: He’s a very good — if not great — baseball player. Ramirez is the engine to the Guardians; he goes as they go, especially at the dish.
The Guardians also have very good pitching coupled with very good defense — two oftentimes overlooked, yet incredibly important feats that bred postseason success. In the Wild Card alone, Cleveland allowed nine hits (.115 AVG), one run, six walks while striking out 29 across 24 combined frames. In the regular season, the team was top-three in defensive runs saved and ultimate zone rating, top-10 in pitching fWAR, ERA, FIP and No. 11 in K-BB% with superb peripherals.
Cleveland admittedly doesn’t have that deep of a lineup — boasting just four hitters with a 120 wRC+ or better (min. 250 PA) — but it has a treasure trove of run-preventing arms to supplement any lost production at the plate. Bieber and Triston McKenzie, who had a breakout season after a down 2021, have blossomed at the top of the rotation. If the Guardians can get deep into ball games with the lead, they can turn to James Karinchak, Enyel De Los Santos, Sam Hentges, Trevor Stephan, Eli Morgan and, most importantly, Clase.
That’s an incredibly deep staff that’s more than capable of keeping Judge and Co. at bay. They will need to rely on Ramirez, Steven Kwan (arguably the best defensive LF in MLB?), All-Star Andres Gimenez, Amed Rosario and Josh Naylor to drive in runs. They struggled doing that against Tampa and will need to do a better job against New York in order to win this series; scratching across one run in 15 innings is a wildly unsustainable formula.
I hinted at it already: But lineup depth outside of Ramirez.
There are multiple holes at the bottom of the order and if they get in a big hole, it’s going to be an obvious uphill battle to get out of. Depending on the lead, it wouldn’t be insurmountable, but offense outside of its top-4/5 hitters has been incredibly difficult to come by.
Projected Game 1 Lineup:
- Steven Kwan, LF
- Amed Rosario, SS
- Jose Ramirez, 3B
- Josh Naylor, 1B
- Oscar Gonzalez, RF
- Andres Gimenez, 2B
- Will Brennan, DH
- Austin Hedges, C
- Myles Straw, CF
New York Yankees:
The New York Yankees were the best team through the first couple of months and were on record-setting pace … until they weren’t! New York middled for most of the post-All Star break period, going 35-35 and nearly relinquishing their once-15.5 game lead in the AL East. Dissimilar to their crosstown rival, the Yankees held onto the division lead and finished 99-63 — capturing their second AL East title since 2012. While it won’t matter if they don’t win a World Series, it’s a start! Judge had one of the best seasons in baseball over any of our lifetimes; his presence helping elevate New York’s offense to one of the best in MLB coupled with perhaps the best starting rotation this organization’s had since 2009.
Reasons for optimism:
Let’s talk about the offense spearheaded by Judge.
Once again, the Yankees lead MLB in home runs while finishing fourth in OPS and wRC+. Judge was a massive reason for that. He nearly won the triple crown after topping MLB in home runs and RBIs while slashing .311/.425/.686. By the end, pitchers refused to pitch to him because he would drive anything in the zone out of the yard.
The surrounding case was shaky, at times. But when healthy, Anthony Rizzo, DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres — who caught fire in mid-September — were above-average hitters. Though LeMahieu might not make the ALDS roster because of injury. But nevertheless, there’s still high ceiling bats — namely Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton, who had a very down year — around Judge that theoretically lengthen the lineup if they catch fire.
Though the biggest plus is the starting pitching. Heading into the ALDS, New York’s got a very good triumvirate of Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes and Luis Severino in the rotation. Cole wasn’t ace-like for most of the year (still quite good!), but was picked up by Cortes, who was arguably the Yankees’ top pitcher this year. The crafty southpaw led the starters in ERA and FIP, blowing past anyone’s expectations of him heading into the season. Severino, meanwhile, has looked like it’s 2017 after each and every start, pitching to a 1.69 ERA and 1.93 FIP since returning off the injured list.
If New York can get elite production from its starters, they unquestionably stand a chance against any team across MLB. And it will help that it has a top-flight defense around the diamond — like Cleveland — to help get them over the hump.
Throughout the last several years, perhaps the biggest strength was their bullpen.
To me, that’s a worry this year. Not the names, but the inconsistency and lack of defined roles have made each out more tense and adventurous than usual. Aroldis Chapman outright refused to show up to workouts; Ron Marinaccio won’t be available until the ALCS, at earliest, if they even advance; closer Clay Holmes has recently dealt with shoulder problems; there’s no defined roles for Scott Effross, Jonathan Loaisiga, Wandy Peralta, Lou Trivino or Lucas Luetge. It’s going to be trial-by-fire, walking on thin ice when the Yankees need them the most.
I also worry about if the bats can produce around Judge. If they don’t, they’ll be in trouble. Judge can’t carry that substantial burden for much longer.
Projected Game 1 lineup:
- Aaron Judge, RF
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Gleyber Torres, 2B
- Josh Donaldson 3B
- Giancarlo Stanton, DH
- Oswaldo Cabrera, LF
- Harrison Bader, CF
- Jose Trevino, C
- Isiah Kiner-Falefa, SS
The Yankees have been responsible for two of Cleveland’s last three eliminations from the postseason — in 2017 (in the ALDS, too) and in the COVID-shortened 2020 season. The Guardians have a very good manager in Terry Francona, with more than enough postseason experience to know what buttons to push and when to do it. It’s hard to really not like this Cleveland team as the sneaky underdog with Ramirez and their pitching staff … but I don’t think I can here. The Yankees — spearheaded by Judge, Cole and Cortes — have too much firepower and are frothing at the mouth for deeper postseason success. While it’s going to be a competitive series, I see the Yankees’ offense doing just enough against Cleveland’s pitching staff when it matters most in the end. ALDS Prediction: Yankees in 4
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