Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Thursday, July 22, 2004

BASEBALL NATION: Who Can Beat the Yankees?, pt.1

As a Yankee-hater, it doesn't get much better than what we've seen the last few years: whether it was Luis Gonzalez's blooper dunking in, Josh Beckett's sheer dominance, or David Wells getting battered by the Angels, the Yankee-hater has had plenty to make up for all the Aaron Boone moments out there. Interestingly, those teams has different things going for each of them: the speed and defense of the Marlins, the balanced lineup and lights-out bullpen of the Angels, and Schilling and Johnson's dominance for the D-Backs. Who will it be in '04? Let's look at some of the possibilities:

PROS: They've got most of the same sluggers that brought last year's ALCS to seven games. Guys like Ortiz, Damon, and Ramirez are playing as good as ever. And newcomers like Bellhorn and Reese (till his recent injury) have contributed nicely. And Keith Foulke has been quite an addition to the pen, with Timlin and Williamson still getting the outs.
CONS: The defense has slacked off since last year, and as a result the unearned runs have been piling up. And although the addition of Curt Schilling was supposed to make the Red Sox' rotation the best in the AL, Lowe and Pedro haven't had it this year. And the Red Sox didn't look good against the Yankees back in June, although it'll be interesting to see how they do this weekend.
VERDICT: If they put it all together and everyone's healthy, they've got a solid shot to reverse the curse. But that's a big if.

PROS: Similar to the Marlins in that they've got the speed and defense that can rattle a team like the Yankees. They've got a pretty balanced lineup; a bunch of solid players, but nobody who really scares you. Johan Santana has been solid, while former throwaways Joe Nathan and Juan Rincon have made fans forget about Guardado and Hawkins.
CONS: No real threat in this lineup. Koskie and Mientkiewicz are batting .239 and .244, respectively. Jacque Jones leads the team with 15 HR's, but is hitting only .251. And after Santana, the rotation is filled with Yankee punching bags like Brad Radke, Kyle Lohse, and Carlos Silva.
VERDICT: To beat these Yankees, you've gotta have the power to outhit and outhomer them, and take advantage of their weak starting pitching. Or, you've gotta dominate them to the point where they can't score a run. I don't see the Twins doing either. 

PROS: Lots of power in this lineup, especially when Thomas and Ordonez are healthy. And they've got Carlos Lee, Paul Konerko, and now Carl Everett to boot. Juan Uribe's numbers have tailed off, but he's been pretty solid. As per the pitching, they've got Freddy Garcia, Esteban Loaiza, and Mark Buehrle as the big three. They're not quite Hudson, Mulder, and Zito, but they're definitely above average.
CONS: The Sox have always had shoddy defense, and this year's been no exception. Jose Valentin has 13 errors. And the bullpen has been solid, but Takatsu and Marte are unproven when it comes to the high-pressure postseason atmosphere. Also, doesn't seem like much of a running game with this team.
VERDICT: They've got the lineup to match up with the Yankees, and the pitching has a decent chance of shutting down the Bombers' lineup. I want to see this matchup.

PROS: Most analysts say these guys have the best infield in baseball. And Texiera, Soriano, Young, and Blalock have lived up to their billing and then some. The Rangers' .279 average is ujp there with the best in the game. Francisco Cordero has been rock-solid as a closer, and Kenny Rogers has had quite a resurgence.
CONS: After Rogers, the rotation is quite suspect. Ryan Drese? R. A. Dickey? Not good. And the bullpen after Cordero-- not pretty. There's ex-Yankee throwaway Carlos Almanzar, Ron Mahay, and "how the hell are you still in the majors" candidates John Wasdin and Doug Brocail. And after seeing him last year, can Soriano hit in the postseason (or at least make contact)? And, for that matter, can Kenny Rogers pitch in the postseason (ask both Yankee and Met fans about that one!)?
VERDICT: In terms of offense, these guys match up quite nicely with the Yanks. Maybe one or two easy outs in the lineup, that's it. The Yankees will feast on their pitchers, however. But if the Yanks' rotation isn't in top shape, then Texas can eke out a 10-9 win or something.

We'll get the A's, Angels, and the NL clubs (although the Yanks better be out of it before the Series)  in part 2.


Blogger Gary Student said...

Re the Twins having no shor due to lack of power - the '02 Angels didn't have a lot of power, either. They had Glaus, who had an off year that year, but the other guys, Anderson, Eckstein, Kennedy, Spiezio, Erstad, Molina, etc. were contact hitters who ran aggresively. If the Twins can emulate that, they'll have a chance.

9:03 PM  
Blogger MoChassid said...

You are dreaming.

10:45 AM  

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