Friday, August 18, 2006

Let the Games Begin

Quick recap of the Yanks/O's:

Yankees Bats
.257/.324/.416 (.740 OPS)
10 runs on 5 doubles, 1 triple, and 3 home runs
1/1 in stolen bases

Orioles Bats
.240/.331/.452 (.783 OPS)
18 runs on 5 doubles, 1 triple, and 5 home runs
2/3 in stolen bases

Yankees Starters
15.1 IP
6.46 ERA
1.370 WHIP
8 walks, 12 strikeouts

Orioles Starters
18.1 IP
2.41 ERA
1.179 WHIP
7 walks, 19 strikeouts

Yankees Pen
13.2 IP
2.63 ERA
1.244 WHIP
5 walks, 16 strikeouts

Orioles Pen
7.1 IP
6.14 ERA
1.773 WHIP
2 walks, 4 strikeouts

After two series where our bats were working overtime, the Yankees were completely stymied by the O's starting pitchers. It's difficult to say whether the Yanks were bad, or if the Birds pitching has improved that much, but I'm inclined to say that it's 80% bad Yankee hitting, and 20% improved Orioles arms.

The Yankees starters, Mussina, Lidle, and Wright, went from good to barely adequate to awful over the course of the series. That's to be expected with Lidle and Wright. They're going to throw some stinkers. That's why they are at the back end of the rotation. The pen ended up working some good innings overall, but too many of them. 5 games in 4 days against the Red Sox is going to seriously test our ability to go deep into games, with the bullpen a bit overworked. Nevertheless, this is potentially a make or break set of games in the AL East. If one of the teams wins 4 of 5, or sweeps (highly unlikely) it could spell huge trouble for the other.

The Red Sox snatched up both Eric Hinske and Carlos Pena prior to the big series. Both are solid, if unspectacular, additions that will be very annoying if either of those players affects the outcome of any game in favor of the Beantowners. Hinske is a former ROY for Toronto, but was out of a job with few opportunities available behind the emerging star, Alex Rios. Pena snuck out of his Yankees' minor league deal to get a better shot at the Show. I can't say I blame him, but thanks for nothing you freeloading backstabber. If he factors in anything we have bigger problems than we thought.

I'll skip a lot of hype, in favor of a few comments on the storylines I like.

1. Is this Alex Rodriguez' big moment in 2006?

A-Rod has been more like "Lightning Rod" so far this year. (I like that line, and I hope it's original.) With all the negative publicity over his plentiful errors, and lack of MVP numbers, A-Rod is still having a very good year. He will only be remembered for his failures if he doesn't produce big in this series, however, and he needs to take his chance at redemption here. I, personally, don't believe he has a single thing to prove to anyone, but should he go 9 for 22 with 3 homers and a bunch of big hits, he could flip the script on his image. So far, in 10 games against Boston in 2006, A-Rod is .222/.317/.472 and that's bad.

2. What's the +/- on Bobby Abreu in the Yanks/Sox rivalry?

Both teams were in line for Abreu's services, but the Red Sox opted out. Trot Nixon was hurt a day after the Yankees added the right fielder, and probably would have been far more aggressive had the timing been different. The Bobby Abreu factor is big in this series. Imagine the lovefest that will ensue if and when Abreu wins a game for the Yankees in this rivalry. Boston will be saying, "woulda, coulda, shoulda." On the other hand, what does it mean if he stinks it up? Probably not much, but it will be a big storyline. You can bet on that. (Boston is betting on it, I'm sure.)

3. Whose starting pitching is worse?

The Sox are jumbling a rotation together out of Schilling, an inconsistent Beckett, and a bunch of rookies and has beens. The Yankees are throwing Mussina, a mostly good Wang, a shaky Johnson, and some very iffy Major Leaguers. The advantage seems to be ours, if barely, but they hit last.

4. Manny or Ortiz?

Pick your poison. I'll say it right now. Ortiz scares me because he seems to have those big moments. He's a killer. But, if I'm picking my poison and one guy on their roster to shut down, it's Manny Ramirez. He's the best hitter in the American League. He's the best player on that team. Not even close. Now, I'll go look at the numbers and try to justify that claim. Let's see...

Overall 2006
Manny - .320/.430/.615
Papi - .286/.401/.624

Against the Yankees 2006 (10 games)
Manny - .500/.581/1.000
Papi - .310/.370/.571

Against the Yankees All-Time
Manny - .303/.387/.589
Papi - .309/.383/.572

Well, I guess that settles it. Both are sick. Manny is sicker. If we can hold them to a reasonable output, and do our work on the rest of the team we can do very well. That's a huge if. Buckle up folks. Double header action in effect. Double the hype, double the pressure, double the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. See you tomorrow. Go Yanks.