/Tidbits from Yankees-Indians playoff research, including keys to facing Shane Bieber

Tidbits from Yankees-Indians playoff research, including keys to facing Shane Bieber

Good luck trying to predict a three-game wild card series, especially one between a pair of teams as inconsistent as the Yankees and Cleveland Indians. But as we’ve been prepping and researching today, a process that involves looking at data and talking to scouts, we’ve come up with a few elements to watch.

Why not share some of it with you, instead of keeping it in the ol’ notebook? Right? In no particular order:

Keys to facing Shane Bieber

With regional play this year, most people in the East haven’t seen much of Bieber during his Cy Young season (he’s a lock to win it). So who is this guy? Bieber is a well-rounded pitcher who throws a four-seam fastball, curveball, slider and cutter. His fastball averages 94.1 miles per hour, so he’s not leading the majors in strikeouts because of velocity (that’s up one mile per hour over last season, hardly a jump into another echelon). Rather, Bieber has movement on all his pitches, and a particularly effective curve and slider.

The Yankees hitters who have been most effective against breaking balls this season (per wOBA) are: Aaron Judge, DJ LeMahieu and Clint Frazier. The worst are Brett Gardner, Gleyber Torres, Gary Sanchez and Aaron Hicks. Sanchez is almost certain to be on the bench Tuesday, anyway, as Kyle Higashioka catches Gerrit Cole. Higashioka does not hit breaking balls well at all, but he’s in there for his rapport with Cole.

Keys for Gerrit Cole against Indians

The Indians’ offense was not strong this year, with the exception of MVP candidate Jose Ramirez. Cole should be able to handle them. But if you’re searching for one area of concern, it’s that Cleveland is a good fastball hitting team, and can handle elite velocity like Cole’s. Even hitters like Carlos Santana, Franmil Reyes and Franciso Lindor, all of who had down years, hit fastballs well this season.

A few times this year, we saw Cole lean heavily on offspeed pitches. It will be interesting to see if this is what he does on Tuesday.

Why are the Yankees so bafflingly inconsistent? Here’s one reason

Watching the Yankees this year was confusing. Are they good or not? We asked a scout today for an opinion on why the Yanks look so bad sometimes, and he pointed to their defense up the middle.

Per Statcast, every Yankee regular up the middle – Sanchez, LeMahieu, Torres and Hicks – rates as below average defensively. This can be a really underlying drag on a team. Most evaluators firmly believe that the Yankees shouldn’t play Torres at shortstop next year, but that’s not a conversation for this postseason.

Judge and Stanton could have used rehab assignments

There were no minor league rehab games this year, meaning that Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton both had to regain their timing in the big leagues after brief stints at the alternate site. Both are capable of breaking out at any time, but if they’re quiet this week, the weird rhythms of their returns from IL stints might be the reason.

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