Friday, September 24, 2004

Yankees vs. Red Sox, part 2: hitting 

One week ago, in both preparation for and celebration of the final six games to be played between the Yankees and Red Sox, I compared the two teams' pitching staffs member by member. The conclusion I reached was that, despite contrary popular opinion, the two teams’ starting rotations are fairly evenly matched, but that Boston’s bullpen is deeper, more diverse, and potentially as dominant up top as the Yankee pen. Today, as the Yankees head to Fenway with a 4 1/2 game lead, I turn my attention to the offense.

First a note on method. This is an analysis of offense, defense does not apply. Rather, team defense is an invisible factor in the pitching analysis. Note that I did not use any DIPS stats in my pitching analysis. These pitchers will continue to be backed up by the same defenses in this series and in the postseason, so there’s no reason to factor them out. Likewise, with the defense factored into the pitching, there’s no need to address it separately.

Having eliminated defense, the traditional method of comparing players by defensive position, a foolish method to begin with, is right out. I’ve always disliked that method as it frequently leads to comparing dissimilar hitters just because they happen to play the same position. Rather, I prefer to compare hitters according to their place in the batting order, but even then I will mix and match to produce more suitable comparisons, as you’ll see shortly.

Lastly, all statistics, as they always are here, are AVG/OBP/SLG (GPA). GPA, or Gross Production Average, is my preferred “total offense” statistic. It is far superior to OPS as it gives proper weight to on-base percentage over slugging (multiplying the former by 1.8) and is then adjusted to a batting average scale (.260 is average, .280 is good, .300 is great). It is also much simpler to recreate on the fly than EQA, yet yields similar results. Its one shortcoming is that it is not adjusted for park or league. League is irrelevant here, but the lack of park adjustment gives the Red Sox a slightly unfair advantage in general though, as well see through selected home/road splits, not in every case. GPA = (1.8 x OBP + SLG)/4. All rate stats are up to and including the games of Tuesday 9/21

On with it . . .

Leading off:

Derek Jeter: .291/.351/.470 (.275)
Johnny Damon: .308/.386/.472 (.292)

Damon seems to have this easy with a 17-point advantage in GPA which stems almost entirely from his 35-point advantage in OBP, but we all know that Jeter’s numbers are weighed down by his awful start to the 2004 season. As we did last week, we want to know which one of these teams is better right now and headed into the playoffs, not over the last 150-odd games. Here’s what these two been up to more recently, specifically post All-Star break:

Jeter: .310/.371/.496 (.291)
Damon: .290/.365/.448 (276)

A near complete reversal, except that Jeter’s advantage comes more from slugging than OBP. Indeed, Jeter’s been particularly hack-tastic this season, even commenting on the ludicrousness of drawing two walks in a game. Then again, 20 of his 43 walks have come in August and September, which suggests that that trend is reversing itself. With the exception of August, Damon has been steadily improving all season, producing a .328/.411/.547 (.322) line in September. But Jeter, with Alex Rodriguez hitting behind him since September 6, has gone all kinds of nuts this month hitting .407/.467/.704 (.384).

On the bases, the two have a nearly identical number of attempts (25 for Damon, 26 for Jeter), but Damon has been caught twice as often as Jeter for a 68 percent success rate against Jeter’s 85 percent. Johnny Damon’s frolicking follicles have distracted many from the fact that he’s having his best season since he was a fresh-faced Kansas City Royal, but right now and heading into the playoffs, Jeter is better.

As a disclaimer for those assuming I’m implying that Jeter’s post-season heroics are a reason why I’ve chosen him here, check out the career postseason lines for these two:

Jeter: .314/.385/.469 (.291), 13 SB (81%) (392 AB)
Damon: .311/.382/.475 (.291), 5 SB (100%) (61 AB)

Jeter’s career rate stats in the post-season and regular season are almost identical, while Damon’s postseason stats suffer from small sample size, but exceed his regular season numbers. So no advantage for Jeter here.

I’m going to skip the two-hole for the moment. As the two line-ups are constructed, we’d be measuring Mark Bellhorn (.279 GPA) against Alex Rodriguez (.304). This is largely unfair, though it does point to the fact that Joe Torre has constructed a superior line-up (Rodriguez leads Bellhorn in OBP by 12 points on the season, a gap which jumps to 79 points if we isolate the second half), even if it did take him all season to figure it out (as Leo Durocher said, "If I was such a genius, why didn't I do it earlier?"). Rather let’s get to the properly paired meat of these orders.

Manny Ramirez: .306/.396/.611 (.331)
Gary Sheffield: .297/.399/.552 (.318)

No stats here for heart, commitment, playing with pain, hustling to first or any of that, just raw production. Much like Damon over Jeter, Manny has a clear advantage on the season (amazingly his is all slugging), but the story changes if we look post-break:

Ramirez: .252/.335/.509 (.278)
Sheffield: .290/.385/.606 (.325)

Sheffield was another Yankee who started slowly. He then went nuts in June, July and August, hitting 20 of his 36 homers in July and August. He’s slowed down considerably in September (though he’s still out-hitting Manny with a .277 GPA to Ramirez’s .273), but just received two cortisone shots in his shoulder, which means there is more reason to expect Sheffield’s numbers to pick up than Manny’s.

As for what the heck happened to Ramirez, I’d be happy to have some Sox fans chime in and explain it, but he’s been steadily slipping ever since the break. He went 0 for 8 with just two walks in 10 plate appearances against the Yankees last weekend. The past two years he’s actually gotten better after the break, so this is not an undiscovered trend. Regardless of why, the edge goes to Sheffield.


David Ortiz: .296/.372/.600 (.317)
Hideki Matsui: .294/.386/.499 (.298)

Worry not, Sox fans, here the trend reverses itself. Matsui’s actually been a tad worse post-break (.290), while Ortiz has been even better (.330). Ortiz’s improvement has come in plate discipline, with his post-break isolated discipline (OBP minus AVG) a full 68 points higher than his pre-break number (.118 to .050). Ortiz has slugged at a .600 clip on both sides of the break, which when combined with the increase in OBP puts him way out of Matsui’s league. This despite the fact that Matsui has made a drastic improvement in his offensive game this season, adding 34 points of OBP and 64 points of slugging by increasing his walks by a third and turning a quarter of last year’s doubles back into homers.

Then again, if we switch partners here and pair Matsui with Ramirez and Ortiz with Sheffield, things tighten up. First look at Matsui and Ramirez since the All-Star break:

Matsui: .294/.381/.476 (.290)
Ramirez: .252/.335/.509 (.278)

Matsui really struggles in the Bronx, well beyond what can be accounted for by park factors (a 64-point drop in GPA from his road numbers), which of course means that Godzilla's been a monster on the road. Indeed, his road numbers can hang with Manny's for the entire season:

Matsui: .326/.440/.527 (.330)
Ramirez: .305/.397/.588 (.326)

Matsui's having a dreadful September, largely due to a lack of power, but based on the above, I'm willing to call this even.

Sheffield and Ortiz are also just about a draw until you dig a little deeper:

Sheffield: .297/.399/.552 (.318)
Ortiz: .296/.372/.600 (.317)


Sheffield: .290/.385/.606 (.325)
Ortiz: .282/.400/.599 (.330)

Both players are better at their home parks, but it’s actually a more extreme split for Sheffield, meaning Ortiz has the better road numbers:

Sheffield: .270/.366/.512 (.293)
Ortiz: .265/.353/.615 (.313)

Of course, Ortiz’s GPA drops to .254 with a lefty on the mound. While the Yankees don’t have any of those, giving Ortiz the advantage in head-to-head competition, we're looking for the better team in general, which gives a bit of an edge back to Sheffield, who has no such hole in his game.

Overall, then, I'd call the three and four spots even.

Moving on, batting order and defensive position line-up correspond neatly at the five spot, allowing us to compare the teams’ powerful switch-hitting catchers directly (something I’m sure Jason Varitek’s agent, the evil Scott Boras, will be doing this offseason, eyeing the $13 million per year average of Jorge Posada’s current contract).

Varitek: .296/.389/.478 (.295)
Posada: .269/..404/.479 (.302)

Damn close until you realize that the bulk of Varitek’s numbers come from a Bondsian August: .449/.513/.826 (.437). You can’t discount that kind of production from a guy who’s a premier offensive performer at his position, but he surrounded that August with a .249 GPA July and a .214 September that includes an 0 for 10 with 8 strikeouts in the Bronx last weekend and a paltry .271 slugging percentage on the month through Tuesday.

Of course, Posada’s had his ups and downs this season as well. Jorge hit just three homers between April 29 and the All-Star break, including span of 43 games from late April through the end of June in which he hit just one, but he has hit 11 homers since the break and has generally been more consistent than Varitek. Posada’s worst month, a .241 June, came in the middle of that homer drought, when his slugging disappeared almost as completely as Varitek’s has this month. But overall Jorge’s June was closer to Varitek’s July, while Jorge has not had a month anywhere near as awful as Varitek is having right now.

Looking to seal the deal, I notice that Jorge clobbers Tek on the road (.308 to .264) and in Fenway’s hitter-friendly confines (.415 to .326). If anyone wants to argue that Varitek’s road stats include the slight pitchers park that is Yankee Stadium, while Posada’s include that .415 GPA at Fenway, note that Jorge out-hits Tek dramatically in both parks. The Yankee Stadium numbers are .294 to .025. That’s not a typo. Varitek has reached base just twice, both times on walks, in 34 plate appearances at Yankee Stadium this season, while striking out 19 times.

So we’ve given a slight edge to Jeter and Posada, a slighty larger edge to Sheffield (based on Manny’s second-half swoon) and huge edge to David Ortiz. Now, what to do about A-Rod? Still saving Mark Bellhorn for a more apt comparison, I notice that recent Sox line-ups have mixed and matched Varitek, Kevin Millar and Trot Nixon in the five-through-seven holes. Looking at the numbers without considering batting order I notice that Millar and Nixon are the best Red Sox regulars we’ve not yet discussed. Thus, let’s compare Rodriguez to both of them for the moment:

Millar: .297/.381/.477 (.291)
Rodriguez: .293/.383/.525 (.304)
Nixon: .297/.358/.475 (.280)

What you don’t see above is that Nixon’s stats have come in just 40 games. Nixon missed all of April, May and August, and half of June with first a herniated disc in his back and then a strained left quadriceps. His first start since returning to the big club on September 8 came on the 12th. Since then he’s started every other game, only once starting on consecutive days. His injury status (he is still less than 100 percent) combined with the fact that he’s been benched against lefties (just 11 of his 137 plate appearances have come against southpaws) makes him difficult to quantify here, though his .323 GPA in 2003, his .320 GPA since the All-Star break, his .362 GPA since his most recent activation, and the fact that the Yankees don’t have any lefty pitchers of significance (other than Brad Halsey, of course) suggest that he belongs in this discussion. That said, as a platoon player coming of injury, Nixon matches up better elsewhere. So for the sake of sanity, let’s isolate Millar against Rodriguez for now.

Rodriguez has an alarmingly slight advantage according to the season lines above, the only real difference being that more than half of Rodriguez’s extra-base hits are home runs, while a mere third of Millar’s are roundtrippers. Taking a look at their stats since the break and in the month of September things get even closer:

Rodriguez: .328/.416/.546 (.324)
Millar: .321/.409/.587 (.331)

Rodriguez: .324/.451/.541 (.338)
Millar: .311/.394/.623 (.333)

Baseball Prospectus has (anonymously) noticed that Millar and Manny Ramirez seem to be starring in some bad 1980s body-switching comedy, and indeed Rodriguez and Sheffield could trade partners without a great deal of change in our results.

Looking at the more recent numbers, Millar has a slight edge due to an explosion of power, but there are two things that we haven’t considered. The first is stolen bases. Rodriguez has swiped 27 at an 87 percent success rate, which makes his base stealing a strong asset. Millar is 1 for 2 on the basepaths, which counts neither for nor against him.

But the added dimension of Rodriguez’s basestealing is inconsequential compared to the shock of Millar’s road numbers:

Rodriguez: .300/.392/.552 (.314)
Millar: .238/.333/.342 (.235)

Wait, where did the Manny-possessed Millar go? In his first year in Fenway, Millar’s home/road splits were pretty even, but this year he’s doing his best impression of a Colorado Rocky (.342 at home, .235 on the road). Unlike Varitek, those numbers are not dragged down by a particularly dismal performance in the Bronx, (.226, about right considering his overall road stats and the Stadium’s pitcher’s park effect on righties). In Millar’s defense, A-Rod has an even .200 GPA at Fenway with no extra base hits. But in Rodriguez’s defense, most of that is from his awful performance there in April. He was 5 for 10 with a walk in July during his second trip to Boston as a Yankee.

Considering the fact that Millar has been clearly playing over his head in the second half and is Royce Clayton on the road, this match-up goes to Rodriguez. Though the Yankees would be wise to mid their manners with Millar this weekend.

Having taken care of one number-two hitter, let’s deal with the other. After Derek Jeter, the man who’s spent the most time in the two-hole for the Yankees also happens to be the man highest in their current order whom we’ve not yet addressed: Bernie Williams. Thus:

Mark Bellhorn: .261/.371/.449 (.279)
Bernie Williams: .257/.354/.420 (.264)

This is actually a very apt comparison as both are, at least this season, .260 hitters with OBPs about 100 points higher and 20-homer power. They’re also both likely to sit out the occasional game because of a flood of similarly talented players at their and related positions (CF/DH for Bernie, 2B/3B for Bellhorn). Bellhorn has Bernie beat across the board, though things tighten up a tad post-break:

Bellhorn: .250/.337/.460 (.267)
Williams: .253/.340/.419 (.258)

I’m listing these figures not to show that Bernie is ever so slightly closer to Bellhorn in GPA, but to show how much Bellhorn’s OBP has fallen off in the second half. Once the league leader in walks, Bellhorn is now fifth, just three ahead of Williams (incidentally, there are five Yankees in the top 9 in walks in the AL), his walk rate having fallen from one every 6.2 plate-appearances in the first half to one every 9.7 in the second. Things just get worse for Bellhorn if we look at September, but that’s largely because Bernie’s heated up some. Bellhorn’s actually been performing right in line with his second half averages:

Bellhorn: .247/.333/.455 (.264)
Williams: .283/.386/.433 (.282)

Even here, Bellhorn maintains a convincing lead in slugging, which actually stems from leads in doubles and triples. Bernie’s the bigger homer threat (though barely). Its Bellhorn’s consistency with those extra-base hits that gives him the nod here in a contest that’s closer than it should have been.

The case of Bernie vs. Bellhorn more or less repeats itself with Bill Mueller and John Olerud. Dig:

Mueller: .285/364/.451 (.277)
Olerud: .263/.361/.376 (.256)

Second half:

Mueller: .286/.369/.459 (.281)
Olerud: .297/.376/.406 (.271)

Olerud’s last game as a Mariner was actually the last game prior to the All-Star break, so those second half numbers are his stats as a Yankee through Tuesday. Again, the difference is slugging. Mueller has eleven more extra base hits in thirty fewer at-bats. But, although Mueller’s OBP hasn’t dipped in the second half the way Bellhorn’s has, he has a far more glaring weakness. Observe:

Home: .349/.424/.589 (.338)
Road: .228/.309/.326 (.221)

Paging Royce Clayton! Mueller’s home road split is actually more severe than Kevin Millar’s. For comparison, John Olerud’s road stats are: .280/.388/.375 (.268). Unlike with Millar, I’m going to give Mueller the upper hand here, partially because despite a .167 average in 12 at-bats (I know, sample size), he has a .275 GPA in the Bronx (a double, a homer and three walks), a solid match for Olerud’s .274 (more OBP, less slugging, of course) at the Stadium. It’s interesting to note that, like Millar, Mueller’s home/road splits in 2003, his first year in Boston, were nothing out of the ordinary. But this year is not last year, and with Mueller and Millar in their line-up, the Red Sox go from this at home:

Millar: .352/.426/.603 (.342)
Mueller: .349/.424/.589 (.338)

To this on the road:

Millar: .238/.333/.342 (.235)
Mueller: .228/.309/.326 (.221)

Which could be huge for a likely wild card team that will be without home-field advantage in the first two rounds of the playoffs. That said, the Yankees should mind their manners around these two this weekend.

Next up, the light-hitting middle infielders who for some reason bat eighth:

Miguel Cairo: .292/.344/.426 (.261)
Orlando Cabrera: .259/.304/.372 (.230)

I’m probably one of the only people who actively pined for Miguel Cairo during the offseason (I thought his arrival would lead to the Yankees disposing of Enrique Wilson, which it didn't, though it still might), but even I didn’t expect him to hit like he has. That said, the second half stats, once again, tell a different story:

Cairo: .277/.333/.399 (.250)
Cabrera: .288/.318/.444 (.254)

Cabrera played just 16 games as an Expo after the break, so the above stats are pretty close to what he’s done as a Red Sock, though his slugging average since the trade is even higher. Indeed, Cabrera has been even better in September, but then Cairo is enjoying his best month . . . well, probably ever:

Cabrera: .299/.338/.463 (.268)
Cairo: .371/.459/.532 (.340)

I’m tempted to actually give Cabrera the edge here based on the fact that his recent success is likely a more accurate reflection his actual ability, but looking at the career stats for the two, they’re much closer than I ever would have guessed:

Cairo: .273/.321/.370 (.237)
Cabrera: .268/.315/.408 (.244)

What’s more, Cairo is only six months older than Cabrera. I’m giving Cabrera the edge here due to a smidge more slugging (those career stats are near matches with their road numbers for 2004, as they should be), but considering the respective reputations of these players, this is alarmingly close.

That's eight positions, two even, three to the Yankees, three to the Sox, all of them close. Whom does that leave? Ah yes, Trot Nixon.

Kenny Lofton fills the ninth spot in the Yankee order, playing intermittently and against righties only, much like Trot Nixon does currently for the Red Sox. In fact, both have had just about one tenth as many at-bats against lefties as righties. Nixon is currently yielding ABs against righties because of the lingering effects of a strained quadriceps. Lofton frequently yields ABs against righties because, frankly, the Yankees can do better. But as it stands now, these two have roughly equal involvement in their team’s fortunes. Taking a look at their stats against righties only, Nixon blows Lofton out of the water, as you might expect:

Nixon: .315/.381/.514 (.300)
Lofton: .279/.346/.412 (.259)

Big advantage to the Red Sox there, but the Yankees actually have a solid way to counter it. They have a man on their bench who has done the following against righties in about 40 more at-bats than Nixon has had on the season against the regular-handed:

.252/.341/.556 (.292)

Ignore the average and look at that slugging percentage over 150-odd at-bats. That’s the result of 13 homers, or one every 11.69 at-bats. When facing righties, this guy goes long more often than just about everyone but Jim Edmonds and Barry Bonds this season. This man should be the Yankees full-time DH against right-handed pitching. His name? Tony Clark.

Of course, Clark’s numbers have fallen off in the second half of the year, and he’s done almost all of his damage on the road (11 of his total 15 homers and 20 of his 28 extra-base hits). Besides which, it’s far too late to expect Joe Torre to suddenly realize the significance of Clark’s split. So instead we get Nixon vs. Lofton as the last man vs. righties. Big advantage Sox.

To fill this hole against lefties the Yankees have most frequently used Ruben Sierra, despite the fact that Big Ru has significantly better numbers against righties (.268 GPA to .232 vs. lefties). Tony Clark, is even less useful against lefties (.203 GPA), despite getting a disproportionate number of at-bats against them (38 percent vs. 33 percent for the everyday Yankees).

Meanwhile, the Red Sox have used a plethora of hitters, largely because they’ve been filling in for Nixon against righties as well due to his two prolonged stays on the DL. But with Nixon healthy, his primary platoon partner is and will be Gabe Kapler. So Kapler and Sierra vs. lefties:

Sierra: .246/.289/.408 (.232)
Kapler: .322/.339/.512 (.281)

No contest. While Sierra has been better overall this season (.252 to .242), Kapler has been better in the second half by about the same margin (.252 to .244). And while both are having poor Septembers, Sierra’s has been worse (.219 to .233). This is another big Sox advantage that gives them a huge advantage and the final position in our order.

Or does it?

There is one X-factor left for these starting line-ups: Jason Giambi. If we can factor in Trot Nixon, who was on the DL for more than a month prior to Sept 8 and has played in just 41 games, then we can factor in Giambi, who was just activated on the 15th, but has seen action in 74 games this season. Giambi has shown signs of life in his last two starts, going 2 for 6 with a homer, 4 RBI, 2 walks and just one strikeout. If Giambi, who had a .317 GPA last year despite having, in his words, “a blown out knee,” can start producing even close to his established level (something like his .310/.385/.638, .333 GPA May—yes that was this year), the Yankees will have found their match for Nixon and Kapler. Of course, that happening is far more speculative than Nixon contributing to the Sox, so, for now, we’ll stick to the Nixon/Kapler-Lofton/Sierra comparison.

The Nixon advantage would seem to break the tie here, but it's important to remember that the Yankees hold the edge at the top of the order (Jeter, Rodriguez, Posada), while the Red Sox advantage comes at the bottom (Bellhorn, Mueller, Cabrera). Nixon/Kapler makes up for that, but then Giambi could wind up making up for them. The way I see it, this is too close to call.

One note for Sox fans, though this doesn't completely apply to our "right now" mantra: The Red Sox may have the better overall offensive numbers on the season:

Yankees: 5.63 runs per game, .276 GPA
Red Sox: 5.77 runs per game, .279 GPA

But the Yankees have an even greater advantage when both teams hit the road:

Yankees: 5.75 runs per game, .278 GPA
Red Sox: 5.23 runs per game, .263 GPA

Given the two offenses in a neutral stadium, I'd take the Yankee line-up every time out.

Onto the benches (I promise this will be faster):

Doug Mirabelli: .279/.365/.514 (.293)

Mirabelli catches Tim Wakefield every fifth day and comes in when Francona pinch-runs for Varitek. He put up similar numbers after he first came to the Red Sox from the Rangers in mid-2001, but seems to be playing over his head.

Kevin Youkilis: .265/.369/.429 (.273)

A rookie third baseman, “The Greek God of Walks” is a useful righty bat off the bench and gets spot starts at third. Both Mirabelli and Youkilis hit better on the road and mash on lefties, though Mirabelli's splits are more extreme.

Dave Roberts: .258/.341/.387 (.250)

Since joining the Sox: .292/.357/.500 (.286). Known as “the fastest man in baseball,” Roberts has 36 steals on the season at a 92 percent success rate (though he's just 3 for 5 with Boston). He has hit 2 of his 11 career home runs with the Red Sox. Drawback: he’s a complete non-entity against lefty pitching (.181 GPA).

Doug Mientkiewicz: .242/.329/.354 (.237)

Since joining the Sox: .222/.289/.321 (.210). Minky, a gold-glove first baseman, starts at first when Derek Lowe is on the mound. His primary offensive strength is his plate disciplinee. He's having his worst season at the plate since his first full season in 1999.

Dave McCarty: .247/.319/.377 (.238)

Another strong-fielding first baseman (at least this year), McCarty can also play the outfield and be used as an emergency pitcher (!). Sucks eggs outside of Fenway (.169 GPA). He and Mientkiewicz are largely redundant. The Sox don't really need him on the mound or in the outfield, thus his road splits should bounce him from the postseason roster.

Pokey Reese: .225/.271/.312 (.200)

Pokey's gives gold-glove defense at second or short and thus starts at second when Derek Lowe is on the mound. Sucks eggs with a bat in his hand.

It would take a whole other post to truly figure out if Terry Francona is helping or hurting himself with his all-hands defense behind Derek Lowe, but its clearly a big blow to the offense to replace Bellhorn and Nixon/Kapler (Millar shifts to right) to make room for Pokey and Minky. Lowe's ERA since the Nomar trade is 4.72, better than his season total of 5.25, but no better than league average. That's about a half a run saved per start. Would it be fair to say that, on a team that scores almost six runs per game, replacing two valuable offensive performers with a pair of offensive duds would cost the team more than a half a run per game? I think that's very fair, and makes Pokey and Minky a net loss because of the way Francona uses them.

That said, Youkilis, Roberts and Mirabelli are fantastic bench players. The Boston bench also gives Francona terrific flexibility as he can play any of three men at third (Youkilis, Mueller, Bellhorn), second (Mueller, Bellhorn, Reese), or first (Millar, Ortiz, Mientkiewicz/McCarty), and has useful back-ups for center field (Roberts), the outfield corners (Nixon/Kapler) and catcher. The only thing this bench really lacks is a lefty power bat, though it does have that when Kapler starts against lefty starters, pushing Nixon to the pine.

The Yankees, meanwhile, have nothing to offer in the infield. Enrique Wilson (.216/.256/.333 - .198) is the only back up for third, short and second. He's a solid defensive middle infielder, but no Pokey Reese, except with the bat. Enrique's best split is against lefties, against whom he has a still poor .245 GPA.

Bubba Crosby: .156/.208/.311 (.171)

Bubba has barely played and has hit even less than Wilson. He has a power stroke and some speed, but he’s no Dave Roberts, except for the fact that he should never bat against a lefty (.091 GPA). Yet, when Lofton and Bernie are both in the starting line-up Crosby becomes the only legitimate defensive outfielder on the bench (Sierra can and does play the outfield, but it's not recommended).

John Flaherty: .241/.279/.448 (.238)

Flaherty starts about once a week, so his stats are almost meaningless because each game is an isolated incident. This season he’s hitting for some power, with a .352 GPA after the break, but he’s not as reliable as Mirabelli.

Tony Clark: .233/.309/.483 (.260)

Clark combines quality defense at first and a left-handed power stroke (again, he’s a switch hitter, but his splits for this year suggest he should be thought of as a lefty), which blows Mientkiewicz/McCarty away.

Jason Giambi: .212/.347/.396 (.255)

Giambi could wind up unseating Lofton/Sierra, but either way what you’re left with on the bench is lefty hitting. With Clark and Sierra both better from the left side, the Yankees could use a righty bat of the bench like the Sox could use a lefty. The difference being that when Kapler starts, Nixon is on the bench, whereas when Lofton starts, Sierra sits on the bench with a better split against righty pitching.

It’s unfortunate that both Sierra and Clark are better batting lefty this season. With two power-hitting switch hitters, you’d like to have one be stronger batting left and one stronger batting right, but Sierra’s splits imitate Clark’s right across the board. Both were a bit better in the first half, though Clark has had some big second-half games, both are stronger from the left side, and both seem to be effected by the Kryptonite bedrock in the Bronx that's been sapping Matsui's strength:

Sierra: home - .227; away - .283
Clark: home - .228; away - .285

The only reason Sierra and Clark aren't redundant the way that Mientkiewicz and McCarty are is that they can both hit and hitting is never redundant.

At any rate, the benches are a lot more even than I had anticipated. The Sox have the better speed and defense and more diversity, but in terms of pure hitting, which is what this post is about, I’d take Giambi and Clark over Youkilis and Mirabelli, though there are no splits that would support that choice. Swap Giambi out for Lofton and Sierra and I’d take Clark and Sierra over Youkilis and Mirabelli (same problem) and Lofton over Roberts at the plate (that actually works according to the stats), though not on the bases (Kenny is 7 for 10 in steals this season). Ultimately, the Sox maintain the edge on the bench, but it’s closer than I thought going into this.


Line-up: advantage Yankees
Bench: advantage Red Sox

Overall superior offense: even.

The line-up is more important than the bench, but the Sox advantage on the bench is stronger than the Yanks in the line-up, so I'm calling this even.

With that in mind, the depth of the Boston bullpen is the only thing that seems to seperate these two teams, and we saw how well that worked last Saturday. Meanwhile, Keith Foulke blew two saves while I was writing this post, which is circumstancial evidence, but does make me want to hedge my bets. If one of these teams is better, it's probably the Red Sox, but it's so close it's not even funny.

posted by Cliff at 11:33 AM

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

What'd I Say? 

I said this: "This is just the sort of on-paper no-brainer that tends to go against instinct in reality in this sport."

Ding ding ding! Loazia vs. Halladay results in a 5-3 Yankee win.

"at this stage, a 6IP/5R start from Loaiza would seem like a miracle"

How about 5 1/3 innings and 2 runs? Torre hooked Loaiza after his 99th pitch (57 percent strikes) turned into a Vernon Wells groundout. With lefties Carlos Delgado and Eric Hinske, Joe chose the 100-pitch mark to count his blessings and go with Heredia to face the lefties. Though, in all honesty, Loaiza was cruising. After an awful second inning that included three walks and a wild pitch and saw him throw 41 pitches, Loaiza set the Jays down in order in the third, fourth and fifth, requiring no more than eleven pitches in any of those three innings. He also struck out the side around a Wells single, one of only two hits he allowed all night, in the first. Loaiza was ahead of Wells 1-2 in the sixth when he grounded out. I actually would have stayed with Loaiza until a man got on, but it all worked out for Joe as Heredia got his two men and Quantrill, Gordon and Rivera finished the job. Thing's weren't picture perfect for QuanGorMo, however, as an infield single and a walk sullied Quantrill's inning, forcing Torre to use Gordon four four outs with the lead a slim two runs. Rivera, meanwhile, was touched for a run on two singles, despite throwing 12 of his just 13 pitches for strikes. Not a major concern, though Mo bears some watching at this point. Loaiza, meanwhile, finally got his first Yankee win and his 100th of his career, making him the third Mexican-born pitcher to win 100 in the majors following Fernando Valezuela and . . . Ismael Valdez? Yipes!

On the other side of the ball, Gary Sheffield returned to the line-up and blasted an upper deck shot to left field in his first at-bat to give the Yankees an early lead. More importantly, Jason Giambi joined the party with a two-run dinger to left center in his first AB of the night. Despite striking out his next time up, Giambi made good contact each of his other at-bats with a hot shot to first that was nabbed by Delgado and a sac fly to left in the eighth. The strikeout came on a nasty low and away breaking pitch from Halladay in the fourth that was Giambi's only swing-and-miss of the night, and concluded an eight-pitch at-bat that included four foul balls. Good stuff all around. Let's just hope Joe keeps him in the line-up, at least for the next few days.

What else did I say? Oh yeah, "Go Orioles!"

Well, despite an absolutely dominating performance by Curt Schilling (8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 14 K, 79 percent of 114 pitches for strikes), the Orioles were able to hang with the Sox behind Rodrigo Lopez (who apparently owns the Sox), Jason Grimsley and B.J. Ryan. The Sox didn't score themselves until the eighth and Keith Foulke came on in the ninth up by a mere run. He then gave up a single to Miguel Tejada and a 2-run homer to Javy Lopez, blowing his first save since July. (Remember when I said "Neither [Foulke nor Rivera] has blown a save since July 26, and that's probably the most telling stat of all" entering last weekend's series? So much for that.)

B.J. Ryan, who had come on with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth, allowing just one run to score on a Millar sac fly before striking out (who else?) Jason Varitek, came back out for the ninth. Ryan walked (who else?) Kevin Youkilis and gave up a double to Bill Mueller that somehow didn't score pinch-runner Dave "Fastest Man In Baseball" Roberts before getting Dave McCarty to foul out to first.

Enter Lee Mazzilli and enter Jorge Julio. Julio struck out Johnny Damon for the second out of the inning, but then fell behind Mark Bellhorn 2-0 before allowing a 2-1 single that plated both runners and gave the Red Sox the win.

Although they mean about the same in the grand scheme of things, I took last night's Orioles loss a lot worse than I did the Yankees loss on Monday, cursing out Lee Mazzilli and calling for his head. Having cooled off I've discovered that Maz made a sound move. Julio had allowed just one hit and one walk in 6 2/3 scoreless innings against Boston on the year and had only blown three previous saves on the season. He also had a 2.61 road ERA on the season entering last night.

So be it, if the Yanks can win the next two games, they'll enter the Fenway series with a chance to clinch the division with a sweep, not that the latter is likely to happen.

posted by Cliff at 1:23 AM

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


Let's be honest, you saw yesterday's loss coming, didn't you? Last time the Red Sox came to town the Yankees swept them, finishing them off with that insane 13-inning grudge match on July 1. The Yanks then went to Shea and got swept by the Mets. By comparison, a 6-3 loss that ended with the bases loaded on a hot shot up the middle by Derek Jeter that was scooped up by September call-up Russ Adams for the final out really wasn't so bad coming off two huge wins over the Sox. I can deal with yesterday's loss, especially when Boston also lost (9-6 to Baltimore).

What does bother me is yet another lukewarm performance from Javy Vazquez. After giving up his umpteenth lead-off homer of the year (coincidentally to Russ Adams), Vazquez went on to give up eight more hits (three of them doubles), walking four and striking out just three in 6 2/3 innings pitched, requiring 115 pitches (63 percent strikes). In Javy's defense, two of those walks were intentional passes given to Carlos Delgado. Still, it wasn't what the Yankees were looking for from him. Javy has a maximum of two starts left in his season, one of them this Saturday in Boston. Unless he's lights out in both of them, he should be in serious danger of losing his spot in the playoff rotation to Kevin Brown.

For his part, Brown could be getting the pins taken out of his hand on Friday. Both Brown and Joe Torre hope he can make one regular season start before the playoffs. Speaking of which, Game 1 of the ALDS is just two weeks away. With the Yankees magic number for clinching a playoff berth at 4, it's time to make sure the rotation is properly set for the postseason. Building off of the probables listed on the sidebar, assuming the Yankees will go with a fifth starter on Sunday (also assuming the ALDS schedule), we get something that looks like this:

9/27: off day
9/28: Lieber
9/29: Hernandez
9/30: Mussina
10/1: Vazquez (Halsey/Loaiza)
10/2: Brown (Halsey/Loaiza)
10/3: Lieber
10/4: off day
10/5: Mussina (ALDS Game 1)
10/6: Hernandez (ALDS Game 2)
10/7: off day
10/8: Lieber (ALDS Game 3)

In that scenario, Mussina and Lieber would be on regular rest in Games 1 and 3 while El Duque would be on six day's rest in Game 2. If Brown were to start Game 4 he'd be on six day's rest, if Vazquez he'd be on seven day's. That's a lot of extra rest for half of the postseason rotation. However, if Hernandez starts on short rest on Sunday in Boston, each of the top three men in the postseason rotation could make their playoff starts on normal rest:

9/27: off day
9/28: Halsey/Loaiza
9/29: Lieber
9/30: Mussina
10/1: Hernandez
10/2: Brown/Vazquez
10/3: Lieber
10/4: off day
10/5: Mussina (ALDS Game 1)
10/6: Hernandez (ALDS Game 2)
10/7: off day
10/8: Lieber (ALDS Game 3)

In either scenario, should Vazquez start Game 4 he'd do so on long rest (six, seven or thirteen day's, to be exact). Long rest only increases the odds that Vazquez will tank in Game 4, so that's quite undesirable and would increase the importance of Brown both being able to start one of the final two regular season and games being reasonable effective in that start. Either way, it's not a pretty picture right now for the fourth spot in the postseason rotation, though on some level I think I'd be more comfortable with Brown, provided he has a half-way decent start on October 2nd or 3rd.

Meanwhile, all those extra days off could give the Yankees the opportunity to try Vazquez out of the bullpen before the season ends. If Brown is able to make that one regular season start, Vazquez's last start of the season could wind up being this Saturday in Boston in either scenario, with one of the current fifth-starter options taking his next turn in the first scenario. Vazquez has made just one appearance out of the bullpen in his major league career, that coming in his rookie year of 1998. He's made 221 career starts.

Getting back to yesterday's game, after pitching a tidy mop-up inning on Sunday Paul Quantrill got rocked again, facing five batters, retiring just one, giving up three singles and a double and allowing two runs. Quantrill has now surrendered a run or more in five of his last six appearances. At this point I'm beginning to think Quantrill should be left off the postseason roster altogether. That would set up a postseason staff that looks something like this (at least in my mind):


Halsey (damnit!)

A ten-man pitching staff such as the above would make room for fifteen position players which would mean there would be room for Bubba Crosby (legs and defense) and either Jason Giambi or Andy Phillips (extra infielder). I put Giambi in the either or category because he didn't play for a third consecutive day yesterday and thus is still without a hit since returning to the team.

Personally, I can't find the logic behind sitting Giambi yesterday, though Torre indicated that he was compensating for the absence of Sheffield by using Sierra at DH. Joe also said that he'd "pick my spots" with Giambi, which suggests Jason won't be starting every day. I don't like that at all. If Giambi has any prayer of getting up to speed before the season ends, he needs to maximize his at-bats. I can see sitting him against the Red Sox, but only against the Red Sox, and even then, only in must-win games against the Sox. If the Yankees beat Pedro again on Friday, I'd start Giambi on both Saturday and Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Yankees put Esteban Loaiza back on the bump tonight against returning Blue Jay ace Roy Halladay (last start July 16). This is just the sort of on-paper no-brainer that tends to go against instinct in reality in this sport, all of which is a sort of reverse-psychology advantage for the Yanks. Indeed, Halladay wasn't terribly effective in his 18 pre-injury starts (4.35 ERA). Can you believe this is a match-up of the first and second place finishers in last year's Cy Young voting? Making it even more pathetic is the fact that, at this stage, a 6IP/5R start from Loaiza would seem like a miracle. Go Orioles!

posted by Cliff at 10:58 AM

Monday, September 20, 2004


Gary Sheffield was going to get two cortisone shots in his shoulder after the Yankees faced the Royals last Wednesday, using the Thursday off-day to recouperate, but decided not to risk missing any of the weekend series against the Red Sox. Instead he got the shots yesterday in the eighth inning when he was pulled for Bubba Crosby. Sheffield might miss a few games of the Toronto series (he didn't respond particularly well to the shots when he last received them in late June, missing an entire three-game series with Baltimore), but should be back in action before this weekend's rematch in Fenway. The purpose of the shots is to reduce the amount of pain Sheffield is forced to play with for the remainder of the season and in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, Joe Torre has decided to go with Esteban Loaiza in the fifth starter's spot tomorrow. It's an awful decision, if you ask me. Brad Halsey actually pitched well in his last outing against the Royals, despite Torre's early hook and the carnage that followed. The Yanks will need to use a fifth starter on Sunday against Curt Schilling and the Sox unless they want to start El Duque on short rest. But Torre's opted not to use Hernandez on short rest tomorrow, which would have set him up for Sunday on regular rest, because he doesn't want to play around with El Duque's surgically repaired shoulder. I can certainly respect that decision, but that makes it all the more likely that it will be a fifth starter and not Hernandez taking the hill on Sunday. Thus the decision to go with the dead weight Loaiza over the promising rookie Halsey in the warm-up start is just flat awful.

Those skeptical of my support for Halsey observe the following:

9/9 vs TB: 3.1 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HR, 68 percent of 59 pitches for strikes
9/12 vs KC: 4 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 2 K, 0 HR, 62 percent of 82 pitches for strikes

Are either of those great lines? No, of course not, but neither are they disasters. Halsey throws strikes, keeps his walks down and tends to limit hitters to singles (of the 13 hits above, just three were for extra bases). What's more, two of the four runs he allowed against KC scored after he left the game. Change that 4 to a 2 and tell me that kid doesn't deserve another start when your other option's last four games look like this (the first two are starts, the second two came in relief):

8/21 vs Ana: 3 IP, 7 H, 4 R (3 ER), 1 BB, 5 K, 2 HR, 65 percent of 65 pitches for strikes
8/ 27 vs Tor: 4 1/3 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 0 K, 58 percent of 79 pitches for strikes
8/31 vs Cle: 3 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 3 K, 2 HR, 55 percent of 75 pitches for strikes
9/10 vs Bal: 3 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 3 K, 64 percent of 44 pitches for strikes

The deciding factor for me is what Halsey did facing off with Pedro Martinez and the Red Sox on July 1: 5 1/3 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 HR, 61 percent of 93 pitches for strikes. I'd much rather give Halsey a chance to replicate that line than watch the Sox pound Loaiza much like the would have Jose Contreras.

Snapping back to reality, I expect that Joe will go with El Duque on Sunday if the Yanks drop the first two games of the series, but if they enter Sunday having won at least one of the first two games, he'll go with a spot starter, with Loaiza's start on Tuesday deciding if he's that starter or if Halsey is.

Having cleared the Sox series, I also expect to see Jason Giambi back in the line-up against the Blue Jays, particularly if Sheffield is not able to play.

And speaking of line-ups, may great praise be heeped upon St. Joe for resisting the temptation to start Enrique Wilson against Prince Pedro yesterday. Miguel Cairo delivered the 2-RBI single that finally drove Pedro from the game, which hopefully reinforced the fact that Wilson isn't possessed of some mystical knowledge of how to hit the Great Martinez.

Javy hits the hill tonight. He will be watched closely.

posted by Cliff at 2:28 PM

I love it when a plan comes together 

"[I] hope to have a lot to say Sunday night. Let's hope the Yanks are up by 4 1/2 and the magic number is down to 10 by then."

Those are the last words from my most recent post. As Hannibal Smith used to say when snacking on elephant livers . . .

After losing a heartbreaker in the ninth inning on Friday night, the Yankees came out and made a statement, taking a pair of laughers from the Sox by a total score of 25-5.

On Saturday, the story early on was the near complete implosion of the Red Sox. It seemed that everything that could go wrong did. All that was missing was a balk and a catcher's interference call. After a 1-2-3 top of the first, Derek Lowe came out and walked Derek Jeter on four pitches. Alex Rodriguez followed with a single to left that held Jeter to second. Lowe then struck out Gary Sheffield on three called strikes before Matsui also singled to left to load the bases. Lowe then walked Bernie Williams on five pitches to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead. Jorge Posada singled on Lowe's very next pitch to drive in Rodriguez and Matsui and put Williams on third, 3-0 Yankees. The next batter, John Olerud, hit a weak dribbler in front of the mound that Derek Lowe fielded. Lowe checked Bernie at third, then looked to first and . . . threw back to third! Williams, who was dancing off the bag trying to draw a throw, was safe and the bases were once again loaded. Ruben Sierra then bounced a ball wide of first where Doug Mientkiewicz gloved it and flipped to Orlando Carbrera at second to start a 3-6-1 double-play. But Olerud slid in hard at second and Cabrera threw the ball just wide enough of first base to evaid the grasp of the 6'6" Lowe (though if Lowe was an experienced first baseman he might have had a shot at it). The error kept the inning alive and allowed two more Yankee runners to score, putting them up 5-0 after one.

In the second, another 1-2-3 inning for the Red Sox was followed by another Jeter walk (in an eight-pitch at-bat) and Rodriguez single. Rodriguez's hit was a knee-high liner back through the box that struck Lowe on the right shin and ricocheted into right field. Jeter reached third on the play and Lowe was forced to leave the game having recorded just three outs on 48 pitches, only 52 percent of which were strikes. (Lowe is expected to make his next start on Thursday.) Lowe's final line was 4 H, 7 R (6 ER), 3 BB, 1 K in just one official inning of work. Amazingly, he didn't give up a single extra base hit.

Trailing 5-0 with runners on the corners and none out in the second inning, the Sox then turned to Terry Adams, who you may remember was the worst man in the Sox pen according to my pitching post from Thursday. Adams came in to face Gary Sheffield whom he started off with two balls. On the first strike Adams threw, Rodriguez stole second. On the very next pitch Sheffield singled Jeter home. Hideki Matsui then followed with a dribbler to first that Mientkiewicz fielded only to discover that neither Adams, who later claimed he was trying not to obstruct a throw home, nor second baseman Pokey Reese had covered first. Rodriguez scored on that play to make the score 7-0. Adams' second pitch to the next batter, Bernie Williams, was wild and allowed Sheffield and Matsui to move up. Bernie then singled home Sheffield making it 8-0 with runners again on the corners and still nobody out. After Posada struck out, John Olerud hit a bounder to the right of second base that ticked off the foot of second base umpire Tim Timmons. The ball was called dead and all hands were safe. Watching the replay, Reese was entering a dive to try to snag the ball, so it could have been anything from an RBI single up the middle to a double play. As it was, it loaded the bases yet again. After Ruben Sierra flied out, Adams got ahead of Miguel Cairo 1-2 only to hit him with his fourth pitch, driving home yet another run. By the time Derek Jeter flied out in his third at bat of the game, the score was 9-0 Yankees after just two innings.

Things basically settled down after that. Lieber walked Mienkiewicz in the third and Bernie tacked on another run with a lead-off homer in the fourth. Down 10-0 in the fifth, Terry Francona pulled Jason Varitek in favor of back-up Doug Mirabelli. He also brought in Ramiro Mendoza. As if inspired by Francona's show of surrender by pulling his starting catcher, Mendoza gave up a Cairo single, a Jeter double and a three-run Rodriguez homer to start the inning.

Hidden behind the Yankees now 13-0 lead was the fact that Jon Lieber had yet to surrender a Red Sox hit. Suddenly the focus shifted from the Yankees' offensive outburst to their starting pitcher. Lieber set the Sox down in order in the sixth, after which Francona sent in four more subs, yanking Johnny Damon, Mark Bellhorn, Cabrera and Manny Ramirez from the game. With Manny gone, the biggest challenge to Lieber's no-hitter was designated hitter David Ortiz. Lieber struggles against lefties and Ortiz owns righties and sure enough, with two out in the seventh, Ortiz lifted a fly ball that landed in the net above the retired numbers to break up the no-no and the shutout. Still, Lieber pitched an absolute gem, taking a 1-hitter in to the ninth (at which point a Posada solo shot had made it 14-1).

In the final frame, a one-out Youkilis single was followed by a short-porch homer by lefty Dave Roberts (just the tenth career dinger for Roberts, at least eight and perhaps all of which have come against right-handed pitching), which chased Lieber, who needed just 98 pitches, an astonishing 70 percent of them for strikes, and struck out seven. Joe Torre wisely brought in Scott Proctor, who leads the bullpen dregs in ERA, for a test run. Proctor failed the audition, allowing a McCarty single and a Mirabelli double to push the final score to 14-4.

Having evened the series in convincing fashion, the Yankees set up a monster of a rubber game with Mike Mussina and Pedro Martinez set to face off on Sunday.

On Tuesday I wrote about Pedro Martinez's performance thus far this year, noting that while he's been far more durable than in recent seasons, his walk and homer rates are up, making him more beatable than he's been since his early days with the Expos. The numbers once again:

'99-'02: 1.68
'03: 2.27
'04: 2.48

'98-'02: 0.59
'03: 0.34
'04: 0.99

Indeed, the Yankees used the long-ball to get to Pedro in the now-legendary game from July 1 and the Devil Rays (the Devil Rays) did the same to Prince P in his previous start.

That game plan worked like a charm yesterday as the Yankees jumped all over Martinez in the first. After Derek Jeter grounded out on Pedro's second pitch, Alex Rodriguez singled on his third and Gary Sheffield crushed the fourth for a towering two-run home run to left. From my viewpoint in the right field bleachers, Sheffield's homer seemed to travel even with the stadium roof before dropping out of the sky into the left field stands (I actually thought it was foul because it was so high, and it was Sheffield who hit it). Four pitches later, Bernie Williams launched a Pedro pitch to the deepest part of the ballpark only to have it run down by Johnny Damon for the final out.

Mussina escaped a minor jam (first and second one out) in the second and Derek Jeter took Pedro's first pitch of the third inning to left for a solo shot, pushing the score to 3-0.

The Sox got one back in the fifth when Orlando Cabrera lead off with a pop up ground rule double that found unoccupied territory behind first and bounded into the stands. A Mueller grounder to first moved Cabrera over and a Damon single drove him in, but that would be all she wrote for the Red Sox.

With a slim 3-1 lead, the fans were anxious for some insurance runs, and the Yankees delivered in the sixth, unleashing on Martinez. Bernie lead off with a four-pitch walk, his second free pass of the day off Martinez, and was followed two pitches later by a Jorge Posada home run (Posada now has three walks and two homers in nine plate appearances against Martinez on the season). Olerud followed with a four-pitch walk of his own. Ruben Sierra then laced a sinking liner to left that Manny Ramirez tried to catch by making a feet-first slide, only to scoop a huge divit out of the outfield turf with his cleats while watching the ball bounce over his head for a double. Miguel Cairo then followed with tweener that fell between Damon, Nixon and Bellhorn for a 2-RBI single, pushing the Yankee lead to 7-0 and driving Pedro from the game to the giddy delight of the Stadium crowd. Some of the fans even suggested that Francona leave Pedro in the game to absorb more of a beating.

Mike Timlin replaced Martinez, giving up a Jeter single and hitting Rodriguez with a pitch before inducing Sheffield into a double play that plated another run, pushing Martinez's final line to: 5 IP, 8 H, 8 R, 3 BB, 4 K, 3 HR and his rate stats to 2.55 BB/9 and 1.1 HR/9.

For his part, Mussina allowed just one run while scattering seven hits, all singles save Cabrera's tweener double, and walking two. All those singles pushed his pitch count to 117 after his seventh and final inning, but Moose threw a remarkable 70 percent of those pitches for strikes while ringing up eight Red Sox.

With a comfortable 8-1 lead, Torre kept up the auditions getting a strong inning each from Paul Quantrill (7 of 13 pitches for strikes, one single) and Steve Karsay (8 of 13 for strikes, one K).

Meanwhile, the Red Sox gave the final two innings to Pedro Astacio, who signed a minor league deal with the club on June 30 and had made just one other major league apperance (Sept. 8) since tearing his rotator cuff and labrum last June as a Met. Astacio gave up a run in the seventh on Williams' third straight walk, a Posada single (on which Jorge was tagged out after making too large a turn around first) and an Olerud RBI single. In the eighth, Derek Jeter lead off with a nine-pitch at-bat that included just one ball, five straight 1-2 fouls and concluded with a single, and Rodriguez followed with the Yankees' third 2-run homer of the game, to put the final score at 11-1.

And so the Yankee lead is 4 1/2 games and their magic number to win the division is 10. Between now and next weekend's series in Boston, the Yankees play four games against the Blue Jays and Devil Rays, against whom they are a combined 24-7 (.774), while the Sox play a four-game set with the Orioles, against whom they are 4-7 (.364). The once uber-hot Red Sox are now 5-5 over their last ten games while the Yankees are 13-5 (.722) since their 22-0 loss to Cleveland and 11-3 (.786) since September 5.

Most importantly, the Yankees have rattled the Red Sox' cage, outscoring them 27-8 on the weekend, blowing out one of their two aces and nearly no-hitting their league-best offense. With than in mind, here's a cameo appearance of my postseason Heroes and Goats awards:

Red Sox Goats
Pedro Martinez 5 IP, 8 R, 3 BB, 4 K, 3 HR in a crucial game. Your horns, my prince.
Derek Lowe 1 IP, 4 H, 7 R (6 ER), 3 BB, 1 K, 52 percent of 48 pitches for strikes. I don't care how bad his luck was, it wasn't that bad.
Terry Adams Turned a 0-5 deficit into a 0-9 deficit in his first inning of work, then gave up a homer to make it 0-10 two innings later. Same comment as Lowe.
Ramiro Mendoza relieving Adams started off single, double, homer to make it 0-13.
Jason Varitek 0 for 10 with 8 strikeouts. Ouch.
Manny Ramirez despite robbing Miguel Cairo of a homer on Friday night, a key run saved, Manny went 0 for 8 on the weekend with two walks and a misplay on Sunday on Sierra's ball that lead to two runs (though they were far less important and would probably have scored anyway). The fact remains he's here to hit and he didn't hit.

Yankee Goats
Mariano Rivera was two outs from nailing down a win that would have made this weekend a Yankee sweep, but had no control and turned a 2-1 victory into a heartbreaking 3-2 loss.
Kenny Lofton took a bad rout before failing to make an effort to catch what looked like a catchable game-winning single with two outs in the ninth inning on Friday night.
Scott Proctor couldn't get two scoreless outs with an 11-run lead.
Jason Giambi not ready for prime time, rode the pine Saturday and Sunday and should have in the ninth inning on Friday.

Red Sox Heroes
Johnny Damon drove in two of the Red Sox' three runs on Friday night, starting things off with an upper-deck solo shot off El Duque and finishing the job with a broken-bat single to put take the lead off Rivera in the ninth. He then drove in the only Red Sox run on Sunday. Throw in a stolen base, a walk and some strong defense.
Orlando Cabrera he went 2 for 10 with a throwing error on Saturday, but he also got the game-tying hit on Friday night off Rivera and scored the only Red Sox run on Sunday after picking up their only extra-base hit of the game.
Dave Roberts Pinch-running for Trot Nixon in the ninth on Friday night he stole second and scored the tying run on Cabrera's single. The next day he came in with the subs and hit just the tenth homer of his career, a 2-run job. 1 for 2 on the weekend.
Doug Mienkiewicz the misplays on Saturday happened despite his best efforts. He also went 1 for 2 with a double and a walk in that, the only game he played this weekend, the walk making him the only baserunner in Lieber's first 6 2/3 innings pitched.
Bronson Arroyo kept the Yankees off balance with nasty breaking stuff, surviving the rain delay Friday night to post this line: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HR.
Embree, Timlin & Foulke Boston's big three allowed just one walk while striking out six in three hitless innings to nail down Friday night's win.

Yankee Heroes
Jon Lieber 6 2/3 no-hit innings, 8 1/3 one-hit innings, 70 percent of 98 pitches for strikes and 7 strikeouts by a contact pitcher.
Mike Mussina 7 innings of 1-run ball, 8 K, 70 percent of his pitches for strikes. In his last four starts: 30 IP, 21 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 33 K, 1 HR, 4 XBH. In his last three starts: 0 HR, 2 XBH.
Tanyon Sturtze Came up big when the rain bounced El Duque: 3 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K, even getting in the act with his glove, starting a key double play to get out of his only jam.
Tom Gordon It's not his fault Mo blew Friday's game. He retired the only four batters he faced with a one-run lead on Friday, those four being the first four hitters in the Boston line-up, Damon, Bellhorn, Ramirez and Ortiz, two of whom he struckout, including the righty-killer Ortiz.
Alex Rodriguez 6 for 12 with a pair of homers, 5 RBI, 5 runs scored, a walk and a stolen base. He also made a nice play in yesterday's game, snagging a ball behind third and diving head-first to the bag to force out Kevin Millar for a key out in the second.
Derek Jeter after a 0 for 4 on Friday went 5 for 8 with two walks, five runs scored and a solo homer off Pedro. He also made a great-over-the-shoulder catch with his back to home plate in shallow left in yesterday's game.
Jorge Posada also took an 0 for 4 on Friday, but came back to go 4 for 8 with a pair of homers, 5 RBI, three runs scored and a walk in the final two games.
Bernie Williams 2 for 6 with a homer, four runs scored, three RBI and four walks for a .600 OBP.

posted by Cliff at 1:14 AM

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