Thursday, August 28, 2008

Slipping away and the AFC North

They can feel it in the Big Apple. It was obvious last night.

A crowd of 51,000 in the Bronx watched in what can only be called reserved quiet as the Yankees went out of last night's game with a whimper. The bang was provided by the visiting Red Sox.

Through the two games the Sox have scored 18 runs against Yankee pitchers, with Dustin Pedroia and Jason Bay combining to drive in 10 runs. The only two Sox players that failed to score runs in the two games were Alex Cora and Kevin Cash, and Cora at least had an RBI, making Cash the only player who failed to contribute to the Sox' offensive outburst.

And the Yankees' $30-million man and clean-up hitter? The man who's supposed to be an offensive tour-de-force - Alex Rodriguez - is 2 for 9 (.222) in the series with one run scored on one batted in (home run), has left all eight men on that were occupying the base-paths during his at bats, and, overall, is batting .246 with runners in scoring position (he's batting .348 with the bases empty). This might be a radical thought, but maybe he should bat lead-off.

For a contrast, and maybe this illustrates how the seasons have gone for the two teams, Kevin Youkilis, who's currently batting clean-up behind David Ortiz, is batting .281 with the bases empty, but .360 with runners in scoring position. To take the comparison a step further - Youk is batting .429 and has 12 RBI with the bases loaded. A-Rod: .100 with 4 RBI.

With Jon Lester on the mound this afternoon against Mike Mussina, I would say today's game is a toss-up, giving the Sox a 50-50 chance at a sweep.

With 30 games left, in the season, more than 60 percent of them at Fenway for the Sox, the Yankees likely have to get to at least 94 wins, and probably 95 just for a playoff bid. That would be a gaudy and unrealistic 25-5 record for the final 30 games of the season.

It's time for the Yankees to begin looking at some of their minor leaguers, to see who the future of the team really is.

And on to the AFC North...

I don't see any major issues changing the face of this division from last year. Injuries and quarterback problems are issues for almost all of these teams.

4. Ravens - They may have found their quarterback of the future, but the future isn't now in Baltimore yet. They'll be in games and play teams tough, but they're at least a year away from being good. I'm guessing at six wins.

3. Bengals - Carson Palmer is already banged up, Chad Johnson is playing through a shoulder injury, and the team is so short at wide out that they resigned resident thug Chris Henry, whom the team claimed they would never re-sign when they cut him. And he can't play in the first month due to a four game suspension. This is not going to be the high powered offense we're used to. If they win more than seven, it will be something of a miracle, and, given their defensive woes, they could end up with four wins on the season.

2. Browns - They haven't looked good in the pre-season, but there's a lot of potential here. Their biggest issue remains on the defensive side of the ball. If they manage to work that out, this team could make some noise. As it is, they aren't surprising anyone this season, so I wouldn't be surprised at 8-8.

1. Steelers - I think that Pittsburgh takes the division - possibly at 9-6. Their biggest problem could be something of a lingering hangover from getting beat-up by other elite teams such as the Jaguars and Patriots late in the season. Only three of the Steelers wins last season came against teams that won at least ten games, and only one was a playoff contender. This season they face teams nine times that either won ten or made the playoffs last season. They have to play better against good teams, or this division might be sending an 8-8 division champ to the big show, and I guarantee, that team will be one and done.


Dave said...

Wait, the Steelers are so good they only have to play 15 games? :)

I believe the NY Daily News said that the Yankees would have to go 21-9 get 91 wins and have a shot at the wild card, while the Sox can go 14-16. I don't think the Yankees will do that well or the Sox will do that poorly. It's over for the Yankees.

Kevin Smith said...

Well, that was just an oopsie. But, realistically, they have a much harder schedule this year than last, and it might cause them a few issues.

As for 91 - While I agree with you that they are unlikely to play that well, I also don't think 91 wins gets the wild card. I'm guessing that the WC is taken with at least a 93 win record and it's going to the Twins, Rays, Red, or White Sox.

Stick a fork in the Yanks.