Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What a Difference a Day Makes

I'm not going to lie and say that my post today is meatier because the Yanks 16-1 victory has any great significance. Actually, it means about as much as the recent series of duds that we've been subjected to since clinching the division. The one key factor here is that the Yankees are tied with Detroit for the best record in baseball, a game up on the Twins, and 4 games up on Oakland. Each of those teams has 6 games remaining before the post season begins, and each team has essentially clinched. The A's need only a combination of 1 win and an Angels loss to close things out on the AL playoffs spots. It appears as though each night will have a little intrigue to keep us interested until the real fun begins. So, with 6 games remaining we will be watching....

1. Who finishes with the best record in the AL and home field until next season.

The Tigers and the Twins are actually fighting for the division title and a chance to play the A's in the first round. The A's have been very good since the All-Star break and their offense has been top quality of late. That having been said, no one wants the Yankees right now. The potential lineup that we now have entering the playoffs is obscene. If Sheffield gets it going at all, and Giambi can play, our lineup will look like this:

Damon (cf)
Jeter (ss)
Abreu (rf)
Rodriguez (3b)
Giambi (dh)
Sheffield (1b)
Matsui (lf)
Posada (c)
Cano (2b)

With some variation on that lineup we will be very hard to beat. If Sheff or Giambi are not able to go, Melky gets to hit and play left with Matsui at the DH. I don't care what kind of pitcher you have on the mound, he's going to get worked over. Think about it. In my lineup the batting champion of the American League may be hitting 2nd or 9th.

2. The American League Batting Crown

I alluded to it just before. Cano is eligible for the crown now. He's 2nd at .342 to Mauer's .349, and Jeter is just behind both of them at .340 on the year. I can't remember the last time there was this kind of batting title race, where two of the 3 players were on the same club, in the same middle infield. There was nothing to predict this from Cano in the minor leagues really. He is a career .320-ish OBP guy and a .275-.280 hitter in the minors, but he really put it all together between Trenton in 2004 and Columbus in 2005. Over 159 games during that period, Cano put up some serious numbers.

159 minor league games between AA and AAA
.292/.353/.477 for a .830 OPS
37 doubles, 13 triples, 17 HRs
84 runs, 98 RBI
48 BB, 80 K

Compare those numbers to his first season in pinstripes and this season to date:

132 games in 2005
.297/.320/.458 for a .778 OPS
34 doubles, 4 triples, 14 home runs
78 runs, 62 RBI
16 BB, 68 K

116 games in 2006
.342/.366/.519 for a .885 OPS
40 doubles, 1 triple, 13 home runs
58 runs, 74 RBI
18 BB, 51 K

Is it possible that this kid is as good as Derek Jeter? The power is similarly mediocre in terms of homers, but the doubles are there and the rest of the stat line looks very close. He will never be the baserunner that Jeter is, but he swings a mean stick and should probably hitting near the top of the order if there was a place for him. He's actually having a better season than the Captain, although Jetes may win the MVP. Astounding how far this kid has come.

3. Matsui and Sheffield

Godzilla is back. Since his return to the field, he is hitting:

.410/.468/.667 for a 1.135 OPS!!!
3 homers and 9 RBI in 13 games

I said it when he went down with his injury in May. This guy has been abused between Japan and his early Major League career with all the consecutive games he played. In Japan it was a badge of national honor. In the US it was Torre's ball and chain with the pride of an entire people riding on the man. The injury probably restored some of the great power and strength that had been sapped by the grueling streak. People always said that "The Streak" was hurting Ripken and the Orioles, but it was something of historic proportion and had the name Gehrig attached to it. Now, Torre can sit Matsui whenever he wants. We may just get the best Godzilla we have ever had from now on....and none too soon.

Sheffield is in a tough position. He is getting his timing back against MLB pitchers, while learning a new position at the advanced age of 75. Since his return he is producing:

.167/.231/.167 for a .398 OPS
no homers and 1 RBI in 4 games

It's a small sample and he'll likely need the remainder of the season to get close to a positive contribution. The question is, "Can we afford to put him in the lineup in the postseason?" If the answer is no, it's hard to justify having him play in the ALCS if he didn't play in the ALDS. The problem now is game situational hitting and timing. If he takes batting practice or hits in a simulated game, it's not the same. He needs to play to get better. Tough decision for Torre. I put him on the roster.

4. Second Place

I am looking forward to the remaining 6 games as much to see if Toronto can hang on to 2nd as I am anything else. They overtook the Red Sox by percentage points today with a 2 hitter against the Beantowners. I think they are a better team at this point, but they are without Roy Halladay for the rest of the year. After he left the game against the Yankees, the Jays announced that they would be shutting him down. He would have only made one start anyway, but that might be the difference in the end. I hope Vernon Wells and Troy Glaus can carry the club to 2nd. It would be nice to see the Sox in 3rd again. It's been a long time.

5. 100 Wins

If the Yanks sweep all 6 games versus the Orioles and Jays at home they win 100 games. Who woulda thunk it?

Tonight is Daisuke Matsuzaka's regular season finale. A Seibu win combined with a Nippon Ham loss clinches the division for the Lions and a first round playoff bye. Stop by Matsuzaka Watch later in the day for an update and a season recap.

See you tomorrow. Go Yanks!

7 comments:

rabid stan said...

I don't know if Jeter is the best comp on the team for Robbie. It's a question of whether he's the hitter from last year or from June, August and September. With a young kid, it's hard to say whether he's just hot (over 271 AB's!) or actually breaking out.

But since I have a hard time believing that there will ever be another Ted Williams hitting near .400 and slugging near .700 in the majors, I'll take Robbie's season line so far. This impressive line of .342/.366/.519 encompasses his strangely pop-less April and May, deflating his unreal 2nd half somewhat.

Now with young players that hit a lot of doubles, one way to tell where they're going is to watch if some of those 2 baggers turn into homeruns next year. Robbie's a good candidate for that to happen. He hasn't just hit a lot of doubles, he's hit forty, a good year's total, in only 116 games. That's on a 162 game pace for 56 doubles. He's also a lefty playing in Yankee Stadium and a 23 year-old who's two years away from the usual increase in power most payers see in their age 25/26 seasons.

The real surprising thing would be if more of those doubles don't carry over the wall next year. A couple more HR's should bump his SLG into the middle .500's even if his AVG tails off.

A guy who hits in the neighborhood of .320, slugs in the middle .500's... Sounds like Bernie to me.

Now, if only he would walk more.

Anonymous said...

Dude, Jeter's got him by 10 points of OPS. So I'm not sure how Cano is having a better season than the captain.

Not to mention the fact that Jeter leads Cano in Win Shares, RCAA, and RC. Of course if Robby had played the whole season...who knows? But that's all speculation.

Robby is a great player waiting to happen, no doubt, and maybe I misread what you wrote, but I don't think he's having a better season than Jeter.

rabid stan said...

.010 in OPS is really insignificant. By that stick, they're pretty much the same, except the Captain gets there with his robust OBP, while Robbie gets there with more power.

EqA is a superb calculator of offensive value, much more nuanced than OPS (which simply assumes that getting on base and power hitting are roughly commensurate). BP's EqA calculations have Cano at .305 while Jeter is at a more MVP-like .321(think of the difference in value traditionally thought to separate a .300 AVG hitter from a .320 AVG hitter). EqA takes into account not only hitting, walking and power, but also speed and makes adjustments for league and era.

It's Jeter's year, no question.

I think that's a better mark than the counting stats like RC, RCAA and Win Shares (nice as those are) for determining who has had the better year because they both have plenty of plate appearances, but Jeter still has significantly more.

Mike Plugh said...

It's Jeter's year, but I think you'd have to agree that Cano is brewing into something special. My point was really that at 23 years old, and having missed a good chunk of time with an injury, we might be in store for a 2007 that trumps the Captain.

It's hard to predict, but whatever happens I'm happy they're both ours!!

rabid stan said...

And Robbie crushes one over the wall in left center off Penn in the bottom of the forth.

Yeah. He's special. I haven't been so excited about a homegrown Yankee hitter since I first started to hear about Bernie.

Anonymous said...

Just to sum up the consensus here, Bill James says that OBP is probably 4 times more important than SLG. Modern day sabermetrics will tell you that an out (or not making one) is far more valuable than an extra base. Do you want a guy who goes 2 for 4 with a walk and 2 singles everyday or someone who goes 1 for 5 with a triple? You want the high OBP guy because his production makes everyone else's production more likely to lead to runs.

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