Thursday, February 21, 2008

How Baltimore Can Win The East '08: The Case Against the Yankees

The Yankees are no longer invincible. As far as I can tell, it gets worse in the Bronx before it gets better.

1. Like Last Year, the Pitching Staff Will Be a Problem

OK, Chien-Ming Wang appears to be a legitimate major league starter. But your ace? Outside of win totals (which vary greatly on run support) there is little difference between his 2007 performance and the performance of Baltimore's de facto ace Jeremy Guthrie. OK, that's a bit of a stretch but not a crazy comparison. Go look.

Andy Pettitte will be 36 this season and was a slightly better than average pitcher last season. He'll be average again (at best) and the Yankees will be thankful for it.

Mike Mussina is old and decrepit. He'll be lucky to post an ERA under 5.00 this season but the Yankees are leaning on him heavily and praying for a comeback season. Why?

Part of this is because of the kids projected to hold up the back end of the rotation. And they will be on strict innings limits according to Bob Klapisch of The Record (
Consider the math. The Yankees have three rookie starters, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, all on a strict innings limit this season. Chamberlain will be capped at 140 innings, Hughes at 160, Kennedy at 180-190. Assuming 45 or so of Chamberlain's innings are in the bullpen -- he'll start the season as the eighth-inning guardian -- that leaves a glaring hole in the equation.

That means they're counting on Mussina to pitch close to 200 innings this season, something he hasn't done since 2003. If he can't do it, that means someone like Kei Igawa's going to have to pick up the slack. Ouch.
The back of the rotation will be some combination of the kids listed above who may be great pitchers someday. But Yankee fans will no be forgiving if they struggle early and the Yankee fans and press have ruined the confidence of even veteran pitchers.

Lots of questions even if the rotation is healthy.

2. Jorge Posada Falls to Earth

After A-Rod, Jorge Posada was the best Yankee batter and by a huge margin. Do you think he's going to hit .338 again? He had never even hit .290 before last season! A great season but that season is over. The best you are going to see from him is .275 with 20 homeruns. And for a 36 year old catcher, that's a stretch. Unless your name is Carlton Fisk, offensive prowess for catchers does not last past 35.

3. Derek Jeter is the Worst Fielding Shortstop in Baseball

I love this one. In the short time this little blog has been in existence, I have beaten the drum about the Emporor's New Clothes that is Derek Jeter's defensive prowess. Finally, a study was done at Penn that named the three-time Gold Glove winner (Arrrgh! And Cal only got two? Arrrghh!) the worst defensive shortstop in the majors. Which is true and has been for 8 or 9 years now. Poor Jeter got his feelings hurt:

"Every [shortstop] doesn't stay in the same spot, everyone doesn't have the same pitching. Everyone doesn't have the same hitters running, it's impossible to do that."

Well Derek, the good ones choose the right spots to stand in. And everyone does have the same hitters running, over the course of a season. All the teams face essentially the same lineups over 162 games.
Pitching? I suppose if you had the same guys on staff for the last decade, that would be a valid argument. In 1999, roughly when you started to suck as a shortstop, the staff was Orlando Hernandez, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, David Cone and Hideki Irabu. I know Clemens and Pettitte came back last year but come on. The Yankee staff has always had pretty high turnover.

Yankee Senior Advisor Gene Michael had this to say:

"Each team has a different staff. Derek doesn't really have a sinkerball pitching staff whereas other shortstops, you sit behind certain pitchers, you're going to get a lot of ground balls."

Gene have you met Mr. Wang? Gene meet Mr. Wang. He works for you. He does nothing but induce grounders about 60% of the time. Oh, and here's Mr. Pettitte. He works for you too. He induces grounders at a 50% rate over the last 4 years.

Ditto for Clemens.
Look the stats reflect what the eye reveals. Jeter can't go left. I don't care how hard you hustle. Diving for a ball that dribbles into left center doesn't make you a better fielder. It just means you fail with style.

Anyway, I should just write a long involved post about this some other time. But don't expect a 34 year old Jeter to be any kind of effective fielder in 2008.

4. Who's On First?

Would you want this guy manning first base for your team?

What a goober.

Easily the most annoying Yankee of the 21st century. And I can't talk about him without thinking of Peter Pan. (OK, Peter Pan was Sandy Duncan but my point still stands. Right?)

This is the leading candidate. Giambi can't play the field anymore. He's just a roided out shell of his former self.

Shelley Duncan. He had a nice year for a bench player but don't expect that to translate into success as a starter. There is nothing is his past to suggest he'll repeat the slugging clinic he put on last year.

And he has a girl's name...

5. Melky's the Man?

For all the fawning the New York press does over this guy, you would expect him to be better.

Cabrera .718
Patterson .690

Considering Corey Patterson's 2007 was viewed as a disappointment it's hard to see how Cabrera's marginally better bat was seen as a breakthrough. Equalizing for Patterson's defense and baserunning, I'd say they're pretty much even. You might even give the edge to Patterson. Maybe.

This wouldn't be a huge deal for the Yankees until you look at Johnny Damon's struggles, the offensive hole at first, a declining Posada and a decaying DH in Giambi. This outfield is not going to be very formidable at the plate in 2008.


If things are dicey early in the year, this team could literally implode. Youngsters manning crucial positions in the lineup and the pitching staff, surrounded by fragile old veterans who may not deliver the results their reputations promise.

The Bronx is burning indeed.

Next up: The Boston Red Sox


Dave Mc said...

Great post. I agree that the Yankees are cycling down for now. I'm especially with you on the bit about Melky. I never understood the Yank's fascination with him.

I can see them using the money from Clemens' old contract to make a big move if they are anywhere near contention in July. Maybe they can hire Bonds to DH and give me another reason to despise the Yankees. Maybe we can trade them Aubrey Huff to shore up 1st base. Sigh. Dreams.

DempseysArmy said...

That's the problem with writing off the Yankees. They have always been willing to trade for help at midseason. They don't seem to be as willing to part with their young talent these days...

I was shocked when I took a closer look at Melky. Really, not so good.

Crys said...

I love it! Great post!