Thursday, March 23, 2006

Yankee stuff

Tony Massarotti, in this morning's Herald, addressed what many do not yet seem to have realized - the Yankees have got real serious starting pitching problems.
But the pitching? Even before spring training began, the Yankees had questions. Randy Johnson is 42 and Mike Mussina might as well be. Carl Pavano is hurt. Now, Jaret Wright is, too. Chien-Ming Wang and Shawn Chacon were two of the saviors of the Yankees staff last season, along with 34-year-old nomad Aaron Small.

So far this spring, Pavano (back) and Small (hamstring) have been lost to injury. Wright (back) is now out, too. Opening Day is currently 10 days away and the Yankees do not have a fifth starter, though Torre is hopeful that Wright will not be out long.

I'm not sure that an early return for Jaret Wright is actually something to be hopeful for, but this take is, I think, pretty accurate. Johnson and Mussina can both be expected to be very good. After that, they're very, very iffy. Pavano and Wright are both expensive, injury-prone, and authors of a single good season sprinkled among a sea of bad-to-mediocre ones. Aaron Small was unbelievable last season, unbelievable in a Faustus-sells-his-soul-for-a-good-short-run fashion. Chacon and Small are the perfect illustrations of "journeyman catches lightning in a bottle" and no one thought Wang was a serious prospect a year ago. Scott Erickson is a former famous person who, according to Peter Gammons "took no-hit stuff to the mound more often than anyone else," but was never great, and his last season that was at least mediocre was seven years ago. They may be able to piece a competent staff together, but they're likely going to need to score a LOT of runs to be competitive.

They will, of course, score a lot of runs. Massarotti addressed this, too, in a way that seems like he was serious but isn't particularly realistic.
Oh, the Yankees have quite a lineup this season, the kind that could score 1,000 runs with no trouble at all. The Yankees will start a candidate for the Most Valuable Player award at nearly every position on the diamond. America has not seen a cast like this since “The Godfather.”

Since the 1950 Red Sox scored 1027 runs, there has been one (1) major league team that scored more than a 1000 runs, the 1999 Cleveland Indians with 1009. The idea that any lineup in baseball could score 1000 runs "with no trouble" is just silly. The 2005 New York Yankees were 114 runs shy of that mark, scoring 886. They have replaced some Tino Martinez at-bats with Jason Giambi at-bats, and Tony Womack's at-bats with some Robinson Cano at-bats. They've also replaced some of Womack's and a lot of Bernie Williams' with Johnny Damon's. But no one in the lineup, other than Cano, is under the age of 30. Other than CF, there is no position where they can realistically expect a significant upgrade over what they got last year. (Actually, looking at their roster, it seems likely that Bernie Williams will still be in the lineup every day, playing DH with Giambi at first. The alternative, unless I'm missing someone, is Giambi at DH with Andy Phillips at first. Neither one of those is a great situation.)

In any event, I'll be shocked if they score 950, never mind 1000. Right around 900, give or take 20, is what it looks like to me, without a significant projection effort. 1000 runs would be more than a 12% improvement over what they did last year. I don't see it...


Technorati tags: NYYankees, Pitching, BostonHerald, Massarotti

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