Tuesday, October 16, 2012

2012 ALCS Game 3 Preview: Weak And Powerless

I don’t know if it makes me overly pessimistic after only watching 1 game of this series so far, or realistic because of how bad the Yankee offense looked in Game 2, but I admittedly have little faith in this team tonight. The manner in which they carried themselves on Sunday, more than the negative results they produced, was very disconcerting and signaled a dying team. There was no energy, no emotion, no life from a team playing an incredibly important home playoff game, and that doesn’t bode well for the Yankees in the rest of this series. Now the half-empty, boo-filled Yankee Stadium didn’t help matters at all, so maybe a change of scenery will help guys relax, but relaxed or not, facing Justin Verlander tonight is going to be a tough task. Yes, the Yankees have hit him before, but they’ve done that when they’re healthier and swinging the bats much better than they are right now. With the way they’re not hitting and the way Verlander is pitching, a complete game shutout seems like a very realistic possibility tonight.

In the most literal definition, tonight is not a do-or-die game. If the Yankees lose, they still have a chance to run the table and win this series in 7 games. But realistically, a Yankee loss tonight pretty much seals this deal up and in all likelihood ensures that this series doesn’t make it back to New York. If the struggling hitters have just been waiting to make their adjustments at the plate, tonight would be the night to do it.

Updated Starting Lineups (4:20PM)-

NYY: 1) Gardner- LF, 2) Ichiro- RF, 3) Teix- 1B, 4) Cano- 2B, 5) Ibanez- DH, 6) Martin- C, 7) Chavez- 3B, 8) C-Grand- CF, 9) Nunez- SS

DET: 1) Jackson- CF, 2) Berry- LF, 3) Cabrera- 3B, 4) Fielder- 1B, 5) Young- DH, 6) Dirks- RF, 7) Peralta- SS, 8) Avila- C, 9) Infante- 2B

Pitching Matchup-

Phil Hughes (6.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 K in 1 postseason start) vs. Justin Verlander ( 16 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 22 K in 2 postseason starts)

Fair To Throw Some Blame K-Long's Way?

(Has the hitting doctor lost his touch?)

Kevin Long has done a lot of good things since becoming the Yankees’ hitting coach. He cleaned up Nick Swisher’s swing to help him make more contact, hit for a better average, and maximize the value of his power and pitch recognition skills. He did the same thing to Curtis Granderson’s swing to help him unleash his power potential in his speedy bat and make him a more effective hitter against left-handed pitching. He’s worked with Robinson Cano on pulling inside pitches with power, he did some things with Jorge towards the end of his career, and he’s helped Alex Rodriguez fix his timing and swing mechanics when A-Rod has been off multiple times during his coaching tenure. Sure, not all of his efforts have produced fruitful results (see Derek Jeter’s new swing last season or Teix’s new approach early this season), but overall Long has done a solid job, built a reputation as a coach that players in the clubhouse love working with, and inspired my “Dr. Long” Photoshop character that’s still one of my all-time favorites.

But in light of the offense’s collective disappearance in this postseason, the third straight season that the Yankees have had a playoff slump with the bats, the question is starting to be raised about Long’s future with the club and whether or not he deserves to have the spotlight shined on him for the lack of production from the lineup. It appears as though some of Long’s teachings have turned guys like Granderson and Cano into one-dimensional, dead pull hitters incapable of doing anything even remotely useful with pitches on the outside, and essentially provided opposing pitchers with an easy-to-follow blueprint for how to attack and shut down the Yankee lineup.