Sports Illustrated reporter Matt Gagne spoke to Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones and Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Chris Young to get their scouting reports of the four League Championship Series teams. Jones gave his assessment of the two American League teams, the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees, while Young offered his take on the National League clubs, the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants.
Biggest asset: They hit, they hit, they can hit. They also pitch very well and play good defense, but they can rake. Everybody always talks about their offense, and when you face them you think, 'Let's go put up six or seven and give ourselves the best chance of winning.' When you face them, you have to minimize what Josh Hamilton and Vladimir Guerrero can do, they're the top two concerns. And you can't make too many mistakes against them; don't make too many errors and allow guys to get on base when one of those big boys comes up in a situation where they can hurt you.
Secret weapon: It's Josh Hamilton, but he's hardly a secret. Any time that man comes up to the plate you don't know what can happen -- that's sort of the mystery.
Must avoid: I can't really think of a weakness. For most teams, in all of baseball, their weakness is the middle relief, so you want your starters to go six or seven innings. I guess their weakness is the middle relief, but that goes for just about anybody.
Team's identity: They just flat out rake. I can't stand facing them because they're going to send me running somewhere in the outfield.
The thing most people don't realize: They're for real, and they're a good team. The AL West has become a little different division with the decline of the Angels, but the Rangers are a very good team. They've got good ownership and a good manager running their ballclub.
I love or hate facing them because: I hate facing them at their ballpark because it's so damn hot in Texas; it's too hot.
Biggest asset:CC Sabathia. They need him to pitch well. To me, he's the No. 1 pitcher in the American League and he should get the Cy Young. That's always up for debate, but he goes out there every time and you know what you're going to get out of the big man. He's going to give you everything that he has, and you would take just half of what he has any day.
Secret weapon:Brett Gardner is going to be important in this series. This was the first year that he really got to play a whole season, and he did very well. His speed can create so many different problems for pitchers, just having to hold him on and how they pitch to the guys behind him.
Must avoid: The Yankees have to avoid short starts. They need their starters to go at least six or seven innings, give the ball to Joba Chamberlain or Kerry Wood, and then let Mariano Rivera finish it off. If you had to choose a weakness, this is the only one they've got.
Team's identity: They're mashers, there's a reason they're called the Bronx Bombers. They're going to hit, and with their lineup they have no choice but to hit. They come in and try to hit the ball hard. They come in and just look like bullies ready to beat somebody up. They're actually a very unselfish team even though there are a lot of superstars on that team. They do have their own personal egos, but they play the game the right way.
The thing most people don't realize: Their old ballpark had a lot of history in it, and the new one has some in it, too, since they won the World Series last year. They say it's a replica, but it's not a replica, everything is different in the new ballpark -- it's a modern ballpark and the only reason I don't like it is because there's too many suits in the seats. They made the ticket prices skyrocket, and if you want to sit close to a game it'll cost you about two or three hundred dollars, probably more than that. I don't know of many die-hard fans from the Bronx who can afford that. That's how their ballpark has changed, it doesn't have the mystique to it.
I love or hate facing them because: When I first broke into the big leagues, I was in old Yankee Stadium and I was like, 'Oh my god, we're playing the Yankees.' But five years later, I'm over that. If we're playing the Yankees I'm like, 'Cool, that means if I do something it gets blown up now, so let's go beat the hell out of these dudes.' I just love facing them.
Biggest asset: You never get a break going up against their pitching. With the majority of pitching staffs there's always one dominant guy -- if you can sneak a win by an ace, great, but it's understandable if you lose -- and then you normally have another guy right after him that you know you can get to. The Phillies just don't have that drop off. You know that no game is going to be in your favor, you're always going to be the underdog. Facing them, you try to grind it out a little more. Sometimes you'll press, and you'll start swinging at bad pitches earlier in the game. You try to make contact early on, and in turn you end up swinging at the pitches they want you to go after, and you never really get to wait for your pitch. Against most staffs, you're able to be patient, get the feel for the pitcher and wait for him to make a mistake, but when you're facing the Phillies you just don't see many mistakes. If you find yourself in the fifth or sixth inning without a hit, you're trying harder to get one or hit a home run, and that just helps their pitching even more. It expands the strike zone, and then they'll expose you like they want to.
Secret weapon: It's their experience. I don't think people realize how much of a difference that makes. When you've been there before, you're much calmer and able to play your game. You're treating it like it's just another game, and the other team is playing it like it's a playoff game.
Must avoid: Being too confident. Their downfall could be going into it just expecting to win. Their confidence and experience is a good thing, but it could end up biting them because they have been there before and they are comfortable. You can't get too comfortable.
Team's identity: The Phillies are grinders. When you watch them play, they're willing to do anything to win. They play hard.
The thing most people don't realize: The players kind of manage each other, they hold each other accountable more than any other team in baseball. The players jump on each other if something isn't right. I've seen that a few times with them. When the players are holding each other accountable, it really makes the guys show up, nobody in that clubhouse is slacking because they'll hear it from their teammates. It's one thing to hear it from a coach or a manager when something isn't going right, but when it's your teammate saying something, it makes a big difference. It's not just the big-name guys approaching small-name guys, it's everybody approaching everybody. That's been huge in their clubhouse.
I love or hate facing them because: I love facing the Phillies because they bring it, and especially if you're playing in Philadelphia because the fans are going to put their two cents in. It's an energized atmosphere and it's fun.
Biggest asset: The ballparks in this series couldn't be more different: The Phillies' park is small and they play for the home run, and the Giants' park is huge and their pitchers use that to their advantage. In Philly the game is never over, but in San Francisco it's not like that. The Giants pitchers know how to control hitters in their yard, they pitch to contact and away from trouble. They're better in their own ballpark than any other team coming in, because they know how to play with the elements. When you're talking about the home run hitters and the guys with extra pop, playing in San Francisco during the nighttime, you have to concentrate on line drives or you're going to have a game where you have 15 fly outs, and those are meaningless outs. That could really hurt the Phillies.
Secret weapon:Andres Torres is a guy people don't really know much about. He's not a superstar player, but I think he has those traits: He plays the game hard, he's their leadoff hitter, and he really gets that team going. When he does something, normally the Giants win. He can get on base, steals bases, he has power and he plays great in the outfield. He's such a threat. Pitchers don't want Torres to get on base, because they'd have to be careful with their breaking balls -- you don't want to bounce one in the dirt and let him take an extra base. It's a momentum thing, and if he has a good start it could really make a difference in this series.
Must avoid: Going to Philadelphia and being on that stage, things could just go downhill for the Giants if they're not careful, especially in an atmosphere where you're trying to get to the World Series. If you've never been to the playoffs, it's definitely a different experience. Just watching things on TV, when the Phillies and the Yankees won their Division Series, they just shook hands. They're happy, but they're like, 'O.K., what can we do for the next round?' When the Giants and Rangers clinched, there was excitement and everyone was jumping all over each other. The Giants' potential downfall could be their inexperience.
Team's identity: They're a sleeper. They're a really good team and they match up great against the Phillies; the two lineups are more comparable than people make them out to be. I wouldn't be surprised if they beat the Phillies.
The thing most people don't realize: They're young, but age doesn't matter. It's about handling the experience. I think they are ready for the challenge: they believe they can make it to the World Series and win it. I see a lot of energy in the Giants' clubhouse and on the field.
I love or hate facing them because: I hate facing them because they never stop battling. All throughout the year, even when people thought the Giants didn't have enough to make it all the way to the playoffs, they came with it every single day. Even if we started off with the lead, they came back on us the majority of the time and they keep the pressure on you at all times.