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August 25, 2006

August 24th @ The Mariners

Look at the bright side, the bullpen got the night off.

The Yankees played this game like a team that was hung-over and suffering from jet-lag.

New York's 3-4-5 hitters went 0-11 with 6 strikeouts in this contest.

Now, the first reaction to this outcome would be to say "They've been playing everyday for a while now. And, they're just coming off the tough Boston series. And, the move to the West Coast always hits on the second or third day. It's only natural for them to be playing like lead weights now."

But, on the other hand, let's not forget that, in the three series before the Red Sox series, the Yankees were playing poorly (against normal expectations). If you look at their last five series, it goes like this for New York:

@ the White Sox - lost 2 of 3
vs. the Angels - split 4 games
vs. the Orioles - lost 2 of 3
@ the Red Sox - swept 5 games
@ the Mariners - lost 2 of 3

As you can see, the only series that the Yankees have won, out of their last five, was the set up at Fenway.

It does make me (and others?) wonder, just a wee bit, now, if the result of the series in Boston was the Yankees being a great team, or, just the Red Sox being a poor team.

Now, it does seem silly to wonder this - even just a wee bit of a wonder - because the Yankees are playing .600-baseball this year, and, only one team has more wins than them in the A.L. right now.

The Yankees are 26 games over .500 at this moment. Is there something inside that number that we should be concerned about?

New York, this season to date, has a 26-10 (.722) record against three teams, combined - the Red Sox, Devil Rays and Rangers. This means that the Yankees are 50-40 (.556) against everyone else.

It should be noted that the Red Sox, Devil Rays and Rangers are 10th-11th-and-12th in the A.L. right now in team ERA. (Only the Orioles and Royals are worse than these three teams.)

Does this mean that the Yankees can only man-handle teams with very weak pitching, and, against other teams, New York is more like a barely-90-win team (in terms of pace) than a team that would win close to 100 games?

I'm starting to think that the answer here is "yes."

This is not to say that the Yankees will not make the post-season - because they will, without question.

But, this does make me strongly consider the notion that, once the Yankees are in the post-season and start facing teams with better than average pitching, each series is going to be a challenge for them - and, I expect them to have to struggle and push the series to the max (in terms of the number of games) in order to win (and advance). Also, they're going to need some breaks in the post-season to succeed.

Yes, I'm talking "Jeffrey Maier HR" and "Tim Welke Block" type breaks here. A "Mark Wohler's Slider" would be helpful as well.

These things can happen - they did in 1996 - but, without them, when the Yankees hit the playoffs this year, it's going to be just like 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 all over again (when they reach the teams with pitchers who can stop them).

Posted by Steve Lombardi at August 25, 2006 08:08 AM

Comments

Exactly my thoughts - the Boston series did wonders in terms of masking or at least clouding the deficiencies of this team. After the adrenaline has worn down, those cracks are showing again.

Now, does that mean that the Yanks don't win first place in the East? Not at all - the Red Sox have just as many flaws (more, really) and from now until the end of the season, I really can't see that team making up that many games. That being said, this is no longer going to be a victory parade through September - the Yankees still need to put the Red Sox away and then when they get to the playoffs, they will need some breaks - especially if they play Detroit/Minnesota.

Posted by: James Varghese [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 25, 2006 09:24 AM

This is a lot of picking and choosing. I'm sure you could do this with almost every playoff contender. If you took three mediocre to okay teams that the Tigers have destroyed I'm sure it would show that their winning % with those three teams removed are gonna be a lot different. Probably pretty close to the Yankees .556.

Posted by: JJay [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 25, 2006 10:26 AM

But doesn't good pitching always beat good hitting. I don't think the Yankees are unique in that they struggle against good pitching. The problem is that our pitching has not been as good as it was in the year's when we won championships (for the most part). If we are to win the series this year, our pitching is going to have to come through in the playoffs. If Mussina can get back to his early season form and Wang and Unit can keep going as they have recently, we will do well. Otherwise it is likely to be another disappointing postseason.

Posted by: esgriff [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 25, 2006 10:31 AM

While I don't dispute the argument that outside of the sweep at Fenway, the Yankees haven't played well since sweeping the Blue Jays at the start of August, I don't think losing 2 of 3 to the Orioles and Mariners means that we can't hit good pitching. Neither team has particularly good pitching, even if Adam Loewen, Erik Bedard, Jarrod Washburn, etc. handcuffed us.

I think the larger problem is that our own pitching hasn't been very good this month. Wang had two bad starts in a row, Mussina hasn't been as good this month as he had been from April-July, RJ is a total mixed bag, Wright has gotten bombed twice in three (or is it four?) starts, and Lidle pitched like crap while under the weather in the series opener vs. Anaheim a couple of weeks ago.

If the Yanks scuffle in the playoffs, I don't think the offense is what we should be worrying about. I'm far more concerned about our rotation.

And all that being said, the Yanks are 10-8 in this hellacious streak of 21 games in 20 days. If they go 2-1 in Anaheim (altogether possible), they will have come out of this marathon at 12-9, which would also include a 9-4 record on the road. There's something positive in that, no?

Posted by: MJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 25, 2006 10:33 AM

~~~If they go 2-1 in Anaheim (altogether possible)~~~

The Angels? On the road? At the end of a road-trip? With Wright and a rookie starting two of the games?

2 of 3 under those conditions?

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 25, 2006 10:58 AM

My God, Yankee fans are such worriers. We go from the summit of sweeping the Red Sox and reestablishing our elite status to losing two of three to the Mariners and questioning our ability.

Nitpicking wins and losses is somewhat pointless, unless you never beat the good teams (like the Tigers). The Yankees beat up on the Tigers and Red Sox. They swept the White Sox and then played three hard-fought games in their homer-paradise ballpark. The Yankees have played well or beaten the good teams. To start panicking because we lost two of three to the Mariners is just silly. We should have won the first game, started by a rookie, but an exhausted Villone couldn't hold the lead, and then an even more exhausted Villone was stretched beyond what any human would have stretched him and gave up the game winner. And last night was just Washburn having the best stuff he's ever had -- his best stuff and a strikezone ten feet on each side of the plate.

In between those two losses we beat Felix Hernandez, who's the best pitcher of the three starters.

Randy Johnson pitched a pretty decent game. The mistake he made was to throw Richie Sexson a slider. Sexson has a long swing and can't get around on a good fastball. If Unit takes back that one bad pitch, we probably win that game.

Posted by: baileywalk [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 25, 2006 11:41 AM

One other thing, though it's not about this game.

It's embarrassing that the Angels own us even this year, since games like last night show how awful they are this year.

Beckett is coming off a game where he walked NINE batters and had no control, and he only needed 71 pitches to throw six innings. He would have stayed in the game, too, if he didn't get hurt. After someone comes off a game where he couldn't get the ball over the plate, don't you think maybe you should take a few pitches and not hack at everything?

Posted by: baileywalk [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 25, 2006 11:56 AM

The Angels? On the road? At the end of a road-trip? With Wright and a rookie starting two of the games?

2 of 3 under those conditions?
________________________________________________

Yes, under those conditions. I think our offense can hit any pitcher in baseball, and certainly Lackey (who has not been good in August). So if we beat Lackey tonight, say maybe 7-5, then we can split against the Santana/Saunders combo.

Look, we swept 5 games in Boston. I don't care who we're playing and who is pitching for us. The Yankees can win 2 out of 3 against anyone in baseball.

And, as my pal Bailey points out, our two losses against Seattle didn't exactly discourage me. We lost a lead in the first game and simply fell to a pitcher that had his best stuff of the entire season last night. In between, we absolutely bombed a young power arm that we'd only faced one other time, 11 months ago.

Posted by: MJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 25, 2006 12:22 PM

It's not like the Yankees weren't in 1st place while in this terrible stretch. They couldn't have been too bad a team before or after this stretch.

Excluding any team that gets white hot pitching during a playoff series, what team do you think will outplay the Yankees? I would think maybe the White Sox (if they make the playoffs) but their pitching doesn't seem too keen right now.

Are there any teams without warts? Any teams that will make the playoffs but play very well against good pitching teams?

Is there any reason why you picked the 10th - 12th pitching teams to look at a record rather than including the 13th and 14th teams?

Posted by: RICH [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 25, 2006 12:58 PM

~~~The Yankees can win 2 out of 3 against anyone in baseball.~~~

As long as it's not the Chisox, O's or M's in the last couple of weeks, right? [wink]

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 25, 2006 12:58 PM

MJ's right. The inconsistency that's troubling the team lies in the performance of the rotation, coupled with a short bullpen over a stretch of 21 games in 20 days. Hopefully, Wang, Unit, and Lidle can give us a few "quality starts" while Moose rests his groin. The addition of Dotel can perhaps save Villone from having to pitch until the cows come home every friggin' game. But, as always, good pitching wins. We will only go as far as 4 good starters and a deep bullpen can take us.

Posted by: JohnnyC [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 25, 2006 06:23 PM