Happy ALCS Eve, folks. We’re about 35 hours from 2017 ALCS: Part II and let me tell you: my heart is already racing. This series may actually be the death of me. I’m about as confident in the Yankees as anyone alive–and I truly, 100 percent do expect them to win–but it is not going to be easy. Houston is a damn juggernaut. But where’s the fun if the road to the title is easy? What are we, the Patriots?
I chose four questions in today’s mailbag, and I think they’re good ones. As always, send your questions to us at viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com. We choose our favorites every week. May we be celebrating in this space exactly one week from now!
Ryan Asks: Would you be inclined to use Hicks in similar fashion to Maybin in the ALCS or to replace Urshela (GS to DH, EE to 1B, DJ to 3B)?
I think it’s impossible for us to answer this one without knowing just how healthy Hicks is. At the moment, I’m inclined to say the former. When news first broke that Hicks was healthy and coming back, I’ll admit that I was skeptical–it’s a lot of time off, would he really be ready, etc. I am now ready to admit that was just my nerves taking hold. If he’s healthy, he should be on the roster. As always, stack the roster with the most talent and go from there. That’s my philosophy.
So I think that’s right. You use Hicks as a 4th OF type, at least at first, and then can weigh the second scenario depending on a number of factors. I think we saw in Game 3 of the ALDS just how important infield defense can be, and I’m not sure that I want to compromise that at this point. I don’t know, it’s a tough call.
But using Hicks to replace Tyler Wade on the roster, I think, makes the most sense. As you mentioned, DJLM playing first gives the Yanks some infield flexibility. If you pinch run for, say, Encarnación with Maybin–who is only a tad bit slower than Wade anyway–you can slide DJLM off first and put Voit at 1B. The Yankees still have the flexibility and get a more talented roster. So I’d do that and let the chips fall how they may.
Ryan Asks: Were we foolish for cheering on the Rays to force game 5? They now line up Greinke, JV, Cole, ???, Greinke, JV, Cole. That seems, uh, less than ideal for games 6&7 in Houston.
I get this and it’s a common sentiment I’ve seen, but here’s the short answer: no. Regardless of what happened in the Astros’ ALDS, if a Yankees-Astros ALCS went the full seven games, the Yankees were going to see the three-headed dragon twice. There’s no way around it minus an injury. That’s just the nature of playing a team as talented as Houston.
So, in other words, the Yanks were going to have to slay two heads that dragon at least once to win the series, be it by staying close and scoring against the weaker pen or pummeling them outright. I think this is worth repeating: If the Yankees are going to win the pennant, they are going to have to do it by beating Greinke, Cole, and Verlander. Might as well just accept it now.
As for the lineup, there are obvious benefits to the Astros going the full five with Tampa. For one, the Yankees won’t see Cole until Game 3 and they will do so at home now. Cole is the best pitcher on their team with the best stuff, which is outrageous considering, well, they have Verlander, but it’s also true. He’s the guy you want to see the least, in my opinion. So that means that unless the series goes 7, the Yankees only face Cole once. That alone is a victory. It also means that, if the Yankees take care of business and get the job done in five games, then they faced both Verlander and Cole once apiece.
That wouldn’t have happened had Houston finished Tampa off in a sweep. Cole and Verlander would have led the series off and been there right in the middle of the series again. Beating Houston is not going to be easy this way, but it wouldn’t have been easy the other way, either. They’re really good. I think it’s a bit too cute to worry about this anyway. Just go out there and get the job done and make it irrelevant. The Yankees can do that.
Michael Asks: Which scenario would you choose if the Astros were to win:-Yankees have HFA vs Astros, but Astros only played 3 games in the ALDS or -The current possible situation: where Astros have HFA but they played 5 games to win the ALDS?
This is a tough question but I’m going to go with option two for the reasons above. Home field advantage would have been great–honestly, it would have been–but I don’t think it’s a necessity. Stretch Houston out and have them be the more tired team.
The Astros often look unbeatable at home. It’s true. We just saw them flex their muscles last night, after all. And it’s true that they looked different at the Trop and at Yankee Stadium in 2017. However! That same thing is true of the Yankees, and they got thoroughly embarrassed by the Red Sox at home last year on back-to-back nights. Those same Red Sox went in and utterly demolished Houston in Houston three (!) consecutive nights last year.
The point here is that home-field is a good advantage and I want it. But there seems to be an idea in the fandom that the Yankees either can’t win on the road in Houston (born out, to be fair, by some recent series) or that the Yankees are unbeatable at home. Both of those opinions have serious merit, but these are two supremely talented baseball teams. Probably the two best in baseball. Either one of them is capable of doing damage on the road. So with all of that being said, give me a Yankees sweep, a well-rested Yankees team, and a perfectly lined up Yankees team going up against a Houston team that just had to fight against Tampa for a week. That’s a small advantage, to be sure, but it is one. I’ll take it. Now go get the job done.
Justin Asks: Does Ford’s success as a pinch hitter this season (small sample, I know) give him an edge on Voit for the World Series roster? Plenty of PH opportunities during the 3 away games.
I hate to answer a question about the World Series before the Yankees even get there, but I say no. Fans and TV analysts love to point out pinch-hitting stats and there’s a good reason there, as pinch-hitting, I think, is a specific skill that not everyone has. Ford has shown it so far this year. But it’s an extremely limited sample and I think you all know where I’m going with this by now: bring the most talented team with you.
The most talented team includes Luke Voit. I’m sorry, I know he’s slumping, but it’s true. He is patient, he is powerful, and he has demonstrated over a much longer period of time than Ford that he is a legitimate MLB hitter. I don’t even need to make the statistical case here; everyone knows this is true. In a huge playoff spot, I want Luke Voit at the plate over Mike Ford 100 times out of 100. Trust in the talent and good things tend to happen.