The definition of David versus Goliath takes places in the AL Wild Card Game. The mighty New York Yankees full of high priced talent vs Money Ball 2.0. Let’s break it down.
Starter- Advantage Yankees
The Yankees had three solid options going into the Wild Card game, Masahiro Tanaka, JA Happ an Luis Severino. Boone choose the young fireballer Luis Severino to match up with a powerful A’s lineup. The choice was clear due to the power pithing ability of Severino, the hardest thrower of the bunch. Against fastballs thrown 97 mph or harder, the A’s xwOBA was a feeble .260, the third-worst mark of any team, ahead of only the Giants (.225) and Rays (.245). Severino has an average fastball velocity of 97-mph. Unlike Tanaka and Happ, Severino has the ability to miss bats within the strike zone. The A’s are a team that’s success was based on not chasing out of the zone. Severino will look to attack their hitters with hard 4-seamers in the zone.
The Athletics decided to take a different approach, relying on their biggest strength which is their bullpen depth. They have chosen to go with an “opener” with veteran Liam Hendricks. Hendriks will be the fourth pitcher to start a postseason game after a winless season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Virgil Trucks started twice for Detroit in the 1945 World Series after returning from World War II. Don’t expect Hendricks to be in the game long. Bob Melvin will look to use all of his bullpen assets to matchup with the power Yankees lineup. With a right handed heavy Yankees lineup this matchup may be ideal for the As bullpen.
Lineup- Advantage Yankees
The Yankees are very right handed heavy with two projected lefties in the lineup, Did Gregorious and switch hitter Aaron Hicks. Despite being right handed heavy they still have one of the top lineups in all of baseball. They broke the record for homeruns in a season so… yea they have a little pop up and down the lineup. The key to the game will be jumping on the A’s early. McCutchen and Hicks will have to be table setters for Giancarlo Stanton and red hot Luke Voit.
The A’s lineup is no joke. Khris Davis had a career year and veteran Jed Lowrie has good career numbers vs Severino. The key to the lineup will be projected lead off man Nick Martini, Martini had an on-base percentage of .397 during the regular season and has performed extremely well in the leadoff spot. If the A’s are going to pull off the upset they will need Martini on base as much as possible disrupting Severino’s flow and forcing projected starting catcher Gary Sanchez to lose focus. The A’s have the power to put up runs but it will be important to give Davis and Matt Olson a chance to drive in runs with more then just a solo shot.
Bullpen- Advantage A’s?….Maybe
The A’s have enough trust in their bullpen to not name a traditional starter. We saw in the NL Wildcard game the impact a good starter can have with great performances from both Kyle Freeland and Jon Lester. But in the end it was the bullpens that may have been most impressive on both sides.
The Yankees have the names at the end, Aroldis Chapman, Zach Britton and Dellin Betances can end the game in the 7th if they have a lead. But it may be the A’s that truly have this season best reliever in Blake Treinen whom I fully expected to be in the game as soon as Bob Melvin can realistically make the move. The A’s can match the big priced arms.
I see this game playing out similarly to last years AL Wild Card game. The A’s may jump out to a lead early but the depth and power of the Yankees lineup will be to much.
Reluctantly I have the Goliath changing the historic fable on this night.
Yankees win 6-4.