Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Team of Cartoonish Proportions
By Zach

My all-time favorite Simpsons episode is Homer at the Bat, mostly because it combines two of my loves, baseball and the Simpsons. Oh, and Ken Griffey, Jr. is in it. Today, I came to a somewhat-painful realization. The 2006 baseball season may, for all intents and purposes, be over. Thanks to an ever-expanding payroll (and a set of rules which allow for unlimited spending), Brian Cashman has assembled the most fearsome lineup I've ever seen outside of the Springfield Nuclear Plant. If Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield make it back into the lineup by the start of the post-season, the Yankees can run out this lineup every single day (stats through games of 8/22):

CF - Damon: .298/.369/.512/.881
SS - Jeter: .336/.413/.470/.883
RF - Abreu: .301/.441.459/.900
1B - Giambi: .262/.419/.602/1.020
3B - Rodriguez: .287/.389/.506/.895
DH - Sheffield (05): .291/.379/.512/.891
LF - Matsui (05): .305/.367/.496/.863
C - Posada: .270/.368/.463/.831
2B - Cano: .326/.355/.479/.834

Yes, that's right, a lineup where every hitter has an OPS above .831. There are only 32 hitters in the American league with an OPS over .831. It's a team that will not only hit the ball, and hit it hard, but a lineup that will make pitchers work. Even some of the best offensive teams of recent memory (1995 Indians, 1996 Mariners, 1998 Yankees, 2004 Red Sox) had at least one, if not more, hole in their lineup (Tony Pena/Omar Vizquel, Russ Davis, Chad Curtis, Pokey Reese/Doug Mientkeiwicz/Gabe Kapler). This Yankee team, on the other hand, has none.

But wait, you'll say, Matsui and Sheffield are on the DL. True. But Matsui should be back in a few weeks, giving him plenty of time to get in shape for the postseason. Granted, Sheffield is a bit further away. But even if he doesn't make it back, Melky Cabrera is hitting .287/.361/.412/.774. Not staggering, sure. But a .774 OPS is still above average, and while he may not be as good as Sheffield, he's still far from a "hole" in the lineup.

Talking this over with the unrepentant Yankee-hater Ben, he mentioned that he thought the Mets lineup was nearly as good. While the Mets lineup is very strong, you can see it's nowhere near the level of the Yankees:

SS - Reyes: .290/.346/.477/.823
C - Lo Duca: .311/.352/.415/.767
CF - Beltran: .288/.388/.628/1.016
1B - Delgado: .258/.356/.536/.891
3B - Wright: .299/.373/.522/.895
2B – Valentin: .285/.338/.497/.834
RF – Green: .283/.349/.429/.778
LF – Floyd: .245/.330/.416/.746

Sure, Carlos Beltran is having a monster season, and Reyes, Wright, and Delgado are tough outs. Hell, Jose Valentin is having a totally unexpected resurgance. But still, there are three guys in the lineup who have significantly lower OPS numbers than anyone in the Yankees lineup.

But the Yankees have been stacked in previous years and haven't won the World Series, you say. Well, that might be true. But first of all, they came damn close in 2003 and 2004. Second of all, neither team had an offense nearly as good as this one. Ok, fine, you might say. Still, all it takes is good pitching, and you can beat the Yankees, especially in a short series. I'll give you that Johan Santana and a healthy Francisco Liriano is not the first-round matchup the Yankees are hoping for. But first Liriano would have to get back off the DL (well, first the Twins would have to make the playoffs). An Athletics team with Dan Haren, Barry Zito, and a healthy Rich Harden would also perhaps cause problems, except Harden is an even bigger question mark than Liriano and the Yankees have owned Zito. Plus, there's no guarantee that Oakland could generate any offense, even against a fairly non-descript Yankee pitching staff.

Ah, the pitching: it's what wins you games in October (or so the conventional wisdom goes). Well, The Yankees may not have a great staff. They might not even have a good one. But it should be more than enough to get them their 27th title. Mike Mussina is still quite effective, Chien Ming Wang is a good starter no matter what Ben thinks, and Randy Johnson has pitched better in the last month. Plus, Mariano Rivera is still the best reliever in baseball history (especially once the postseason rolls around) and while the rest of the pen is nothing special, it's good enough.

Teams like Boston and Chicago (AL) will be unable to overcome their putrid pitching to make a real run at the World Series, but the lineup the Yankees have assembled is too powerful, too patient, and too deep to come up short. Sure, anything can happen: injuries, slumps, trips to the Springfield Mystery Spot. But much like Mr. Burns' team of ringers, the 2006 Yankees are a team that can not lose.


Blogger Ben Valentine said...

I feel I need to clarify the whole Mets point so people don't say "that's just Ben being a typical homer-istic Mets fan".

My argument was that in a short series, the difference between the Yankees' lineup and Mets one isn't as great because of the small sample size. In other words, while Shawn Green is a .777 OPS guy for 162 games, in a short series he could easily post one over 800 or even 900. He could also post one of 500. We don't know. Thus, it does not constitute enough of a difference, since the Mets do not have any weaknesses in their lineup either.

Over 162 games, the Yankees lineup would trump anyone. In a short series, they'd need more of a difference to be unquestioned. The Yankees are still the favorites, but they can be had.

3:32 PM  

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