As the headline states, Dan Szymborski of Baseball Think Factory ran 1,000 simulations* of the Yankees-Rangers ALCS and, in 53% of the cases, the Rangers ended up winning the American League Pennant. Take from that what you will.
In 1,000 simulations of the ALCS, the Rangers came out on top 53 percent of the time; that’s the closest of the playoff simulations to date. In nearly two-thirds of the sims, the ALCS will go six or seven games.
Lee is a major factor here — and partially because the series likely goes deep (he’s not starting until Game 3, but could come back for a Game 7). First, consider this, as pointed out by one of ESPN’s main baseball researchers, Mark Simon, here: the Yankees lost their past nine regular-season games against a lefty starter. Of course, they beat Francisco Liriano in the ALDS, but there is no doubt that they are a bit more vulnerable to southpaws. And Texas features Lee and C.J. Wilson, two tough lefties.
In these simulations, the Rangers get to the World Series 77 percent — 77 percent! — of the time when Lee’s ERA is under 3.00 for the series; if it’s over 5.00, that number drops all the way to 31 percent.
A.J. Burnett is another major factor here. He will start in this series (Game 4). The sims don’t like that. CC Sabathia might be a better bet, even on short rest.
A third factor is home-field advantage. It didn’t come into play much during the AL division series (the home team only won a single game) and while home-field advantage is smaller in baseball than in other sports — enough to turn a .500 team into a .540 team — every small advantage is crucial when two teams are evenly matched.
Overall, both offenses did well in the simulations. Most of the Yankees, even Derek Jeter (.275/.346/.434) — coming off one of his worst seasons ever — did well.
I personally have the Yankees going to the World Series by beating Texas in six tense, agonizing games. That being said, the simulations do raise some valid points: Cliff Lee is a great pitcher, AJ Burnett is likely to get torched and Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano are, to varying degrees, neutralized by good left-handed pitching.
I stand by my prediction of Yankees in 6 but this computer simulation definitely reinforces my view that this series will be grueling. Hopefully, however, the final result will give more truth to the old saying “that’s why they play the games.”
Enjoy Game 1 everyone!