Friday, June 12, 2009

Crazy eights and other observations

Eight in a row after an eighth inning comeback.

Are the Red Sox in the Yankees' heads? Maybe. Maybe not. I think it's as much the fact that the Yankees just aren't constructed to hang as anything else. Yes, there are a lot of big names in there, but let's really look at this. And just for symmetry, lets look at eight reasons why the Yankees are looking up at the Red Sox after dropping eight in a row to their arch-rivals to start the season (and nine total going back to last season)...

1. CC Sabathia, the would-be ace to get the team over the hump - 5-4 with a 3.68 ERA. Only 50 percent of his starts qualify as quality starts. Solid, yes. Dominating the way an ace should be? Hardly.

2. The revamped bullpen - The Bronx Bombers are 19th in ERA after the 7th inning so far this season with a team ERA of 4.33, and the team as a whole is also 19th in ERA with men in scoring position and 2 outs at 19.73. Sure, no one has a spectacular ERA in that position (the Dodgers lead the league with a 15.86, and the Red Sox are 5th at 16.96, almost three runs better per nine innings than the Yankees). As good pitching will almost always overcome good hitting, this does not bode well for the Bombers as the season progresses.

3. Counting on Wang and Burnett - The Yankees were counting on Chien-Ming Wang to bounce back from a year in which he struggled due to injury during the first time in his career. Wangs' issues, reportedly, had to do with a foot injury. Even if he's healthy, working back from a foot injury is going to affect a pitcher's mechanics. They have also counted on the idea that AJ Burnett would dominate like he did last season. But outside of contract years, Burnett is an imminently mediocre pitcher. AJ was signed with the expectation of being the number two or three guy in the rotation. He would be the four or five guy in the Boston rotation.

4. The New Yankee Stadium - A raucus home park gives any team an advantage. A home park that can't sell a significant portion of its seats due to overpricing gives visiting teams an advantage, particularly when the team is already starting with an overrated pitching staff and has redesigned the home park to be a launching pad.

5. Better depth overall - Without starting center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, back-ups Mark Kotsay combined to go 3 for 11 (.273) with one run scored against the Yanks. On top of that, both made spectacular defensive plays in the field on what looked like sure extra-base hits. Instead, Yankees found themselves walking back to their dugout, failing to reach base. For all the talk about the Yankees combating injuries, the Sox played the series without their aforementioned outfielder, started their back-up catcher in one game, and continue to play without their starting short-stop. The back-ups thrust into starting roles this series went 9 for 26 (.346), with two home runs, 3 RBI, 7 of Boston's 17 runs scored. This doesn't even deal with the fact that the Sox bullpen can overcome a bad outing by one of its members. The Yanks' pen can't.

6. David Ortiz - Before anybody reads a whole lot into a potential resurgence of the Boston slugger, it should be noted that Ortiz is batting .263 against the Twins and then it drops again to .235 against Baltimore. There are four AL teams against which Ortiz is batting .160 or below. He's been strong batting .364 against Texas and .313 against Cleveland. He has been a Yankee killer, however, batting .321 with 8 RBI against Yankee pitching.

7. The starting rotation - The Yankee starters are a respectable 21-16, with six starters putting that record together. The Sox, with six starters, racked a 28-18 record. Both teams have logged 60 starts with Sox starters qualifying for 46 decisions and averaging just under 8 decisions per starter as well as 4 wins per starter. NY starters are averaging just a shade over 6 decisions per starter and 3.5 wins per starter. In essence, the Yankees are having to go to their bullpen with greater frequency. During the series, at least 8 of the Boston runs crossed the plate with a Yankee reliever on the mound while Sox starters logged 18 innings in three games to the Yankees' 12.1.

8. Timing - for all the to do made regarding the Yankees errorless streak, it seemed that whenever the Yanks needed a big defensive stop, or a clutch hit, the team came up short while Boston made the plays. Whether it was A-Rod's double clutching leading to unearned runs, or the Sox relievers coming up with the big stop when NY relievers couldn't, the Yankees in the first eight games of the series against the Sox have made mistakes or failed to come through at the worst possible times.

And other observations...

Vince Young wants his starting position back. I suggest he fight for it on the field rather than in the press. I suspect that he's not the only "quarterback of the future" that will end up riding the pine this season. My guess, Matt Leinart continues to ride the pine, as does Tavaris Jackson, and that Jamarcus Russell loses his starting job to Jeff Garcia.

And finally, I suspect that Michael Vick will land somewhere, but not anytime soon, and I can hardly venture a guess as to where he will land. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if no one signs him, but I think someone will at some point. Someone will think that he will make for a good option in the Wildcat, or might help their team out in some way or other. However, given a little bit of time removed from the "excitement" that is the Vick experience, I think that most personnel people have realized that he's not going to be the answer at quarterback, and for all the excitement he might bring on the field, that he's not worth the headache and lack of dedication off of it.

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