Know Thy Enemy: The New York Yankees (2004 Playoff Version)

I have covered the New York Yankees before, right before the start of the season. Let’s revisit my predictions and see whether or not I was right or wrong.
DH Ruben Sierra

Sierra is nothing to be concerned about. He is not going to be a big factor this year. I don?t feel like Sierra will do well as a pinch-hitter, only playing sparingly.

Cleary I was wrong as Sierra has presented himself as a force this year. He has 307 AB this year, and hit to the tune of .244/.296/.456 meaning he has thump. Oh, and the Twins agree. Try not to make a mistake to this guy. He platoons in the DH role with Lofton. Incidentally, Lofton will be drawing the DH slot for Game 1, hitting out of the ninth spot.
C Jorge Posada and John Flaherty

[They] both comprise a strong force at a needed position, catcher. While Posada is not a good defender or game-runner at all, he has a good batting eye and can hit the ball out of the park. Flaherty is a top-notch backup catcher.

Posada again posted an OBP of .400 while hitting .272 with a .481 SLG. If we can throw strikes, we can get him out. It’s that simple. As for Flaherty, I’ll be surprised if he gets an at-bat this series.
1B John Olerud and Tony Clark

Revitalized Tony Clark seems to enjoy New York and could take Sierra?s at-bats away from him.

Clark posted statistics similar to last year but with a predictable drop-off (though not much). He’s a bench player now as John Olerud was signed as a free agent after a dismal year with Seattle. Predictably, he turned it up a notch after leaving Seattle. He hit .280/.367/.396 after going .245/.354/.360 with the Mariners. Not a whole lot different except for the average. But really, keep an eye on this guy. I have a weird feeling about Olerud, he’ll factor in this series somehow. Like a Yankee third baseman did last year. Watch him.
2B Enrique Wilson and Miguel Cairo

[They] both make up the worst position that the Yankees field. If the Expos dissapoint, don’t be surprised to see Jose Vidro take a little trip to New York. Until then, ex-Cardinals super-sub Miguel Cairo will try to do what Craig Paquette couldn’t do – survive as a starter outside of St. Louis. Wilson is the Pedro killer, even though many expect that will end this year. If Wilson can play as well has he did in 2000, the Yankees will be all set. But there’s no way the Yankees will accept what they have in the position now. A trade WILL happen.

Wilson didn’t hit, so Cairo slowly took over the duties and handled the starting job very well, .292/.346/.417. He is a cheap alternative to the prices out there, and with Stienbrenner soon to be fuming and wanting Carl Pavano, Matt Morris, and Carlos Beltran, look for Cairo to resign as a starter. He is a good tablesetter, but will hit low in the order. The bottom of the Yankees order is comprised of a few leadoff men. It’s as if the Yankees took their one and two hitters and put them ninth and eighth. We can’t afford to tire against the bottom half however, because if they get on, their thumpers immediately greet the pitcher.
3B Alex Rodriguez

If you check out A-Rod’s home/road splits last year, you will notice a trend with players playing in the Ballpark of Arlington and away. They’re better at the Ballpark. A-Rod should have less homers, and his average will suffer. However, his RBIs should stay about the same, as the Rangers were a good hitting team. It’s conceivable that he could drive in more runs, but my guess is he will have more runs scored than ever before.

I was dead on except for the runs scored part. Last year, he hit .296/.396/.600 with 47 HR, 118 RBI, 124 runs. This year he hit .286/.375/.512 with 36 HR, 106 RBI and 112 runs. It was a very good year for anyone else, but a lousy year for A-Rod. He’s however, turned it up in the post-season, going .421/.476/.737. I fully expect him to have a huge series.
SS Derek Jeter

Jeter bounced back last year, finishing 3rd in the batting race behind Bill Mueller and Manny Ramirez. Can Jeter stay above .300? With Giambi, A-Rod, and Sheffield hitting behind him, he should see a lot of pitches to hit and should have no trouble challenging for the batting title. However, his continued horrible defense will handcuff the Yankees. A fustrated Steinbrenner could possibly order A-Rod to short, alienating Jeter and quite possibly running him out of town. However, with the money Jeter makes, which is clearly too much for him, he will not be able to leave. Jeter will be quieted and moved to either third or second. This could be the divisive issue of not the team, nor the year, but of the century.

Darn. No divisive issue of the century. After struggling for two months, Jeter hit like last year and ended up at .292/.352/.471. A very good hitter to bat leadoff. And that’s all I care to write about Captain Intangibles.
LF Hideki Matsui

Matsui, not much to say about him. It’s a trend with Japanese players now to have less power when coming to America. I found out why the other day, in an article about Kazuo Matsui’s woes. Japanese hitters are tought to stride forward, which creates a lack of power. While Matsui should be more used to the movement on the pitches, his power numbers likely won’t increase. He should have no trouble driving in over 100 runs again, however. His average is likely to rise. Matsui will be very important in the outfield, what with the old guys manning center and right. It’s possible Matsui could become the center fielder by the end of the season.

.298/.390/.522, 31 HR, 108 RBI. A much better year than last year, and with his new found thump, is a danger. Like most other people in this lineup … watch this guy. But no, really. This year against Boston, he hit .361/.427/.583.
CF Bernie Williams and Kenny Lofton

[They] are two old guys whose best days are behind them. Bernie Williams is nothing but a singles hitter now with bad legs. Lofton had a revitalizing year last year, but is still not worth two years at over $4 million. Leading off, Lofton should have no trouble scoring over 100 runs. Williams should DH most of the year, low in the order, creating fustration on his part, but will be kept happy by the run-scoring capablities of this team. He could go down with injury again this year.

Williams still has yet to show any downturn as he posted statistics just like last year’s – .262/.360/.435. He is now 993 hits away from 3,000. Lofton played off the bench mostly to his chagrin, and nevertheless still hit at .275/.346/.395. Center field, first base, and second base are the weaknesses of this team. We have to exploit this as much as possible, although Williams has been clutch in the postseason.
RF Gary Sheffield and Bubba Crosby

[They] man right field. Sheffield is expected to stay healthy all season and get many at-bats, even though his ligament trouble in his hand could flare up again and require surgery. It remains to see whether his career season last year was a result of a new attitude, or just a contract year. We will find out what the answer is this year, from the self-absorbed man. Crosby is the low man on the totem pole.

Crosby is a non-factor, and Sheffield has become a fan favorite with his statistics and his willingness to play through pain. From what I’ve heard of it, it is very commendable indeed what Sheffield has done this season. He has put up MVP-type numbers (or so you would think), at .290/.393/.534, worse than last year, or even the year before … ah, Yankee hype. Nevertheless, he anchors the lineup and as we have witnessed, can just pop one out at a moment’s notice.
SP Mike Mussina, Kevin Brown, Javier Vazquez, andJon Lieber

[This is] one of the most injury prone rotations. This will be Mussina’s first year as the ace of the Yankees. How will he handle it? He left Baltimore and went to the Yankees knowing he wouldn’t have to be the ace, there were pitchers better than him. Now he’s the ace. What will he do? Who knows? Brown is always an injury risk. But when he’s not, he is on, and could make a run at a Cy Young season if all goes right. Vazquez – will he be Pedro of the Yankees or will he struggle making the transition? Vazquez has logged a ton of innings over his last several years. Going from a non-existent pressure cooker to a pressure cooker, with an expectation to win, and all those innings on his arm? Watch him, he could flame out. Or he could be great. … Lieber just keeps having injuries thrown at him. He might make 5-10 starts.

Mike Mussina went 12-9 with a 4.59 ERA … and is the ace. Kevin Brown: 10-6 with a 4.09 ERA in 22 starts. Vazquez was 14-10 with a 4.91 ERA, and Lieber had a 4.33 ERA, going 14-8. I’m quivering in my boots.
RP Mariano Rivera, Paul Quantrill, Tom Gordon, Tanyon Sturtze, Felix Heredia, and Esteban Loaiza

[This] is a bullpen much improved from last year. Rivera is … unfortuately, I must say this … one of, if not the, best closers of all time. I still say Dennis Eckersley was great in his time. Anyways, we all know what Rivera can bring to the plate. Here’s hoping Manny continues his run of success against him. Too bad Shea Hillenbrand is gone. Gordon is a strikeout pitcher and will try to amp himself up against the Red Sox. He feels the Red Sox did not ‘respect’ him. What is it with egotistical superstars and respect? He should put up similar numbers like last year. Quantrill will suffer from the move back to the AL after pitching against pitchers and being part of the Dodger’s dominating pitching. That being said, he is still an upgrade over last year. … Heredia [is] the lefty, and [is] nothing to be excited about.

Rivera was the best closer again this year, but it remains to be seen if he will be available for Game 1 because of the travesty at home. Gordon pitched 89.2 IP with a 2.21 ERA. He will shut you down. Rivera and Gordon are devastating, and Quantrill is a rock solid middle-relief pitcher, throwing 95 innings with a 4.72 ERA. After that, though, it’s really soft. If we can succeed in knocking the starters out before the sixth inning, we stand a great chance at taking this series without breaking a sweat.
This Yankee lineup has only two things going for them. One – the top two-thirds of the offense. (Read: not including Olerud, Cairo, and Lofton.) They also have the closer and set-up man sewed up tight. If we can shut down their offense well enough and knock their starters out early in the game, they’ll be easy pickings. We are unquestionably five outs better. Now we just have to find out if they’re five outs worse.

Game 1          BOS @ NYY       Tue.    Oct. 12         8:00 p.m.       FOX
Game 2          BOS @ NYY       Wed.    Oct. 13         8:00 p.m.       FOX
Game 3          NYY @ BOS       Fri.    Oct. 15         8:00 p.m.       FOX
Game 4          NYY @ BOS       Sat.    Oct. 16         7:30 p.m.       FOX
Game 5          NYY @ BOS       Sun.    Oct. 17         8:00 p.m.       FOX
Game 6          BOS @ NYY       Tue.    Oct. 19         8:00 p.m.       FOX
Game 7          BOS @ NYY       Wed.    Oct. 20         8:00 p.m.       FOX

Be there or be square.