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Which ALDS Series Will the Yankees Pick?

Here's the deal: By virtue of clinching the AL's best record, the Yankees get to pick which best-of-five Division Series they prefer: Series "A" or "B." The difference? Series "A" has an extra off-day between Games 1 and 2, which stretches the series out in such a way (the five games are played over eight days, instead of seven) as to allow both teams to use only three starting pitchers on regular rest.

The Yankees have to make their selection within one hour of finding out the identity of their opponent -- which will be either the Tigers or Twins.

Here's what Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said about the decision: "When I look at which series you pick, to me, I look at which series benefits your club. It's not so much about who you're playing."

That sounds to me as if the Yankees will pick Series "A" -- because they seemingly want to avoid throwing Joba Chamberlain in the first round. But is that the best choice?

Let's look at a theoretical Yankees-Tigers series (no slight intended to the scrappy Twins) under each ALDS format, with probable(*) pitching matchups:

Series "A":
Game 1 -- NYY LHP C.C. Sabathia (19-7, 3.21 ERA, 139 ERA+) vs. DET RHP Justin Verlander (17-9, 3.41 ERA, 134 ERA+)
Game 2 -- NYY LHP Andy Pettitte (14-7, 4.11, 109) vs. DET RHP Edwin Jackson (13-8, 3.36, 136)
Game 3 -- NYY RHP A.J. Burnett (12-9, 4.19, 107) vs. DET RHP Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.14, 110)
Game 4 -- Sabathia vs. Verlander
Game 5 -- Pettitte vs. Jackson
(*-The Yankees may choose to flip-flop Pettitte and Burnett in Games 2 and 3.)

Series "B"
Game 1 -- Sabathia vs. Verlander
Game 2 -- Pettitte vs. Jackson
Game 3 -- Burnett vs. Porcello
Game 4 -- NYY RHP Joba Chamberlain (9-6, 4.72, 95) vs. DET LHP Nate Robertson (2-2, 5.56, 82) or RHP Eddie Bonine (0-1, 4.60, 99)
Game 5 -- Sabathia vs. Verlander

I don't know, folks. To me, you only pick Series "A" if you feel the Game 4 matchup goes decidedly against you, and the way I'm reading it -- in forming these matchups we are assuming injured Tigers lefty Jarrod Washburn won't return in time for this series -- Chamberlain, for all his problems, looks to have an edge against either Robertson or Bonine, both of whom have struggled with command this month.

I suspect the Yankees' preference for Series "A" -- if in fact that's how they're leaning -- stems from the decline in performance of Detroit's Jackson, who would likely start twice under the Series "A" format, but only once in Series "B." Jackson was 7-4 with a 2.52 ERA and a 1.060 WHIP at the all-star break, but his ERA has ballooned to 4.53 and his WHIP to 1.500 in the second half.

But if I'm the Yankees, I bet heavily on my superior depth, and I show some trust in my pitchers, even those who have only marginally earned it.

By Dave Sheinin  |  September 29, 2009; 12:05 PM ET
 
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Comments

What's with this whole Series A/B stuff anyway? Why doesn't MLB simply set the schedule?

Posted by: chrisduckworth | September 29, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

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