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The Yankees and The Red Sox

Posted By Cliff Corcoran On September 30, 2005 @ 12:55 pm In Bronx Banter | Comments Disabled

updated 7:10 pm EST

Here we go, folks. This is not a test, this is the real deal. Three games at Fenway Park to determine the outcome of the American Leage East race for 2005. The Yankees lead the Red Sox by one game and can win the division with just two more wins. One Yankee victory would clinch a tie, meaning that, at worst, the Yankees would get to play one final all-or-nothing home game to decide the division. In essence, the Yankees simply need to split the next four (potential) games against the Red Sox to win the division. The Red Sox, meanwhile, need to win two of three just to have a chance to play for the division crown at Yankee Stadium on Monday, and would have to sweep to clinch in their home park.

Meanwhile, the series between the AL Central Champion White Sox and the Cleveland Indians, who are currently tied with the Red Sox one game behind the Yankees, will determine if the losers of the New York-Boston series win the Wild Card or start emptying their lockers. Hank Waddles over at Only Baseball Matters has posted a handy chart [1] outlining the 23 possible outcomes, which, at their most stomach-churning include a pair of one-game playoffs, one on Monday for the AL East crown and one on Tuesday between the Indians and Monday’s loser for the Wild Card. Eighteen of those 23 possible outcomes have the Yankees in the playoffs (as opposed to 14 each for the Red Sox and Indians), which would give the Yankees the edge if everything else were equal. Of course, as Waddle concludes, the problem is, “we’re not flipping coins.”

Of course, with the Yankees and Red Sox, it often seems as though we are. The two teams are 34-34 in head-to-head match-ups over the past three seasons, and each has won a seven game ALCS at the expense of the other to push their overall records to 38-38. Thus far this season, the Yankees have a 9-7 advantage over the Sox in head-to-head match-ups, including a 5-2 record against the Sox since the All-Star break and a 4-3 record at Fenway Park (this despite the Red Sox having won a full two thirds of their home games on the season while the Yankees have played mere .526 ball on the road). The Yankees are also the hotter team, having gone 14-3 since Randy Johnson beat Tim Wakefield 1-0 in the final game of the two teams’ last match-up. The Sox, meanwhile, are 10-8 over that span (both teams are 5-2 over their last seven, but the Yanks are 2-1 while the Sox are 1-2 in their last three).

Ultimately, what matters is the quality of the teams on the field this weekend, not over the past six months. So let’s take a closer look at the two rosters and tonight’s starting pitchers.

New York Yankees

2005 Record: 94-65 (.591)
2005 Pythagorean Record: 90-69 (.563)

Manager: Joe Torre
General Manager: Brian Cashman

Ballpark (2004 park factors): Yankee Stadium (96/97)

Current Roster

1B – Jason Giambi
2B – Robinson Cano
SS – Derek Jeter
3B – Alex Rodriguez
C – Jorge Posada
RF – Gary Sheffield
CF – Bubba Crosby
LF – Hideki Matsui
DH – Bernie Williams

Bench:

S – Ruben Sierra (OF)
L – Tino Martinez (1B)
R – John Flaherty (C)
L – Matt Lawton (OF)
S – Mark Belhorn (IF)
L – Tony Womack (OF)
R – Andy Phillips (IF)
R – Felix Escalona (IF)
R – Mike Vento (OF)
R – Wil Nieves (C)

Rotation:

R – Chien-Ming Wang
L – Randy Johnson
R – Mike Mussina
R – Shawn Chacon
R – Aaron Small

Bullpen:

R – Mariano Rivera
R – Tom Gordon
R – Tanyon Sturtze
R – Scott Proctor
L – Alan Embree
R – Felix Rodriguez
L – Al Leiter
R – Jaret Wright
L – Wayne Franklin
R – Jorge DePaula

DL:

R – Carl Pavano (60-day)
R – Kevin Brown (60-day)
R – Rey Sanchez (IF) (60-day)

Typical Line-up

R – Derek Jeter (SS)
R – Alex Rodriguez (3B)
L – Jason Giambi (1B)
R – Gary Sheffield (RF)
L – Hideki Matsui (LF)
S – Jorge Posada (C)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
S – Bernie Williams (DH)
L – Bubba Crosby (CF)

Joe Torre reluctantly installed Bubba Crosby in the line-up following Gary Sheffield’s thigh injury two weeks ago when Matt Lawton and Ruben Sierra proved their inability to play the outfield, only to have Bubba earn his keep by playing outstanding defense, cracking a game-winning home run, and tallying a .321/.333/.415 line for the month. But with Sheffield able to return to the field this past week, Torre has once again benched Bubba in favor of DHing Ruben Sierra, keeping Bernie Williams in center field where Bubba could to a tremendous amount of good for the Yankees’ pitchers. Sierra has since gone 4 for 13 with a walk, which isn’t terrible except that his only extra base hit since coming off the DL when rosters expanded at the beginning of the month was a home run back on September 8.

John Flaherty, hitting .169/.212/.258 on the season, continues to catch Randy Johnson, and will indeed start behind the plate tomorrow (when Torre would be well advised to DH Posada, who is concluding a disappointing season at the plate with a rhobust .309/.404/.519 September). Tino Martinez will be used as a late-inning defensive replacement for Giambi when the Yankees have a lead. Tony Womack might be used as a pinch-runner, the Dave Roberts role that many believe inspired his acquisition to begin with. Otherwise, the Yankee bench is unlikely to play much of a part in this series as, with the exception of Bernie, the Yankee offense has been clicking very well of late, Rodriguez, Giambi and Cano especially.

The Yankee bullpen, however, is another matter entirely. Mariano Rivera and Tom Gordon give the Yankees a dominating one-two punch to nail down the final innings of a win, but if Torre needs to remove a starter any earlier than the seventh inning, the Fenway fans would be advised to duck and cover. Perhaps the biggest key to this entire series is whether or not the Yankee starters can hand the ball directly to Rivera and Gordon. The good news for Yankee fans is that Rivera is very well rested, since throwing 36 pitches protecting a four-run lead last Sunday, Rivera has pitched just once in four games, needing just nine pitches to secure a 2-1 victory over the Orioles on Wednesday. Gordon has actually appeared in each of the last two games, but needed just three pitches last night and, prior to throwing thirteen on Wednesday, had both Monday and Tuesday.

* * *

Boston Red Sox

2005 Record: 93-66 (.585)
2005 Pythagorean Record: 89-70 (.558)

Manager: Terry Francona
General Manager: Theo Epstein

Ballpark (2004 park factors): Fenway Park (106/105)

Current Roster

1B – Kevin Millar
2B – Tony Graffanino
SS – Edgar Renteria
3B – Bill Mueller
C – Jason Varitek
RF – Trot Nixon
CF – Johnny Damon
LF – Manny Ramirez
DH – David Ortiz

Bench:

L – John Olerud (1B)
L – Alex Cora (IF)
R – Doug Mirabelli (C)
R – Kevin Youkilis (IF)
S – Alejandro Machado (IF)
R – Kelly Shoppach (C)

L – Roberto Petagine (1B)**
R – Gabe Kapler (OF)*
L – Adam Stern (OF)*

Rotation:

L – David Wells
R – Tim Wakefield
R – Curt Schilling
R – Matt Clement

Bullpen:

R – Mike Timlin
R – Jon Papelbon
L – Mike Myers
R – Chad Bradford
R – Bronson Arroyo
R – Jeremi Gonzalez
R – Manny Delcarmen
L – Lenny DiNardo
L – Mike Stanton
R – Chad Harville
L – Matt Perisho

R – Keith Foulke*

DL:

R – Wade Miller (60-day)
R – Matt Mantei (60-day)

Typical Line-up

L – Johnny Damon (CF)
R – Edgar Renteria (SS)
L – David Ortiz (DH)
R – Manny Ramirez (LF)
S – Jason Varitek (C)
R – Kevin Millar (1B)
S – Bill Mueller (3B)
L – Trot Nixon (RF)
R – Tonny Graffanino (2B)

*unavailable due to injury
**unavailable due to personal issues

In one of the latest trades in baseball history, the Red Sox acquired former Yankee lefty Mike Stanton [2] from the MLB-owned Washington Nationals yesterday for a pair of A-ball pitchers. They’ve also moved starter Bronson Arroyo into their pen for the weekend, swelling their relief corps to eleven men, despite having shut down injured closer Keith Foulke for the season. Unlike the Yankees, the Red Sox don’t have any dominant pitchers in their pen (though rookie Jon Papelbon has been coming on strong of late, establishing himself as Mike Timlin’s primary set-up man), but they have fewer outright disasters. Timlin is a shaky but effective closer. Rookie Manny Declarmen and sophomore Lenny DiNardo could get some big outs if Francona is willing to use them. Bookended submariners Mike Myers and Chad Bradford are extremely effective against the like-handed as per their extreme splits, but are almost entirely ineffective against those who bat from the opposite side, the same of which is surprisingly true of Stanton, who has historically had a reverse split but doesn’t this year. Highly touted 2005 draft pick Craig Hansen has electric stuff, but struggles with his command and is unlikely to see any high-pressure situations.

Of the six men on the Boston bench, Shoppach and Machado are September call-ups unlikely to play a part beyond the odd pinch-running gig for Machado. Kevin Youkilis has been rehabbing from a fractured finger and expects to be available this weekend, but hasn’t come to the plate in two weeks. Mirabelli catches Wakefield, though he has a solid bat and is thus far less of a downgrade than Flaherty, even if this hasn’t been his best year at the plate. Olerud and Cora could wind up getting a start at first or second respectively depending on match-ups or the performances of Millar and Graffanino. The latter missed some time earlier in the week with a strained left groin, but started the last three games against the Blue Jays. Ortiz and Ramirez have been carrying the offense down the stretch, though Millar has helped out more than expected and Renteria and Damon have heated up over the last week, giving the Sox a dangerous top four in the order. Trot Nixon, meanwhile, has been so cold that he’s been dropped three spots in the order to eighth.

Tonight, Chien-Ming Wang makes his first ever start against the Red Sox, though it is not the first time he has faced Boston. Wang’s one major league relief appearance came against the Sox back on May 29 at the Stadium, when he was called up on to stop the bleeding from a disastrous start by Mike Mussina. Wang allowed two runs on six hits and a walk in five and two thirds innings in that game, the two runs bookending an impressive stretch of four scoreless innings against the major league’s best offense with the latter run scoring on a David Ortiz single allowed by Mike Stanton after Wang was removed from the game. Chien-Ming has made four starts since coming off the disabled list, dominating the Orioles and Blue Jays in his last two to post the following combined line:

15 IP, 13 H, 5 R, 1 HR, 2 BB, 7 K

The bulk of that damage (three of the five runs) came in a shaky fifth inning against the Blue Jays on Sunday after which he settled down to pitch two more scoreless frames.

Wang’s opponent is ex-Yankee David Wells, who combines with the newly-acquired Stanton to give the Red Sox a pair of former two-term Yankee left-handers. Wells has faced his old club four times this year, bookending two dominant mid-season wins (15 1/3 IP, 11 H, 3 R, 2 HR, 0 BB, 7 K) with a pair of losses (11 IP, 19 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 2 HR, 2 BB, 6 K), the first on opening day, the last coming on September 9 at the Stadium.

Note the similarity between Wells’ line in his two dominant outings against the Yankees and Wang’s line in his last two dominant starts:

Wells: 15 1/3 IP, 11 H, 3 R, 2 HR, 0 BB, 7 K
Wang: 15 IP, 13 H, 5 R, 1 HR, 2 BB, 7 K

Wells, now in his 18th major league season, is a goateed 42-year-old Californian lefty who weighs two and a half bills and relies on a wicked curve ball. Wang is a comparably slender 25-year-old Taiwanese rookie righty who doesn’t appear able to grow facial hair of any kind and dominates with sneaky fast mid-90s heat and heavy sinkers. But despite their many differences, both are groundball pitchers who throw strikes and pitch to contact.

In fact, the similarity in their results is as striking as the differences in their appearances. Consider their respective contact and groundball percentages this season:

Wells Wang
Contact 83.9% 84.9%
Missed Bats 16.1% 15.1%
Ground Ball Outs 50.8% 65.7%
Fly Ball Outs 32.3% 22.5%
K 16.9% 11.8%
BB/9 0.97 2.13

Wells misses more bats by virtue of his higher strike-out rate, but opposing hitters put the ball in play at essentially the same rate against both pitchers as Wells is historically stingy with his bases on balls. Wang, meanwhile, is among the most extreme ground ball pitchers in the majors. Nearly two thirds of Chien-Ming’s outs come via the groundball. When he’s on, that rate is even higher, as evidenced by his outing against the Orioles at the Stadium last week when 19 of his 24 outs (nearly 80 percent) came on the ground, nine of them weak bouncers back to the mound.

Overall this season, Wang has had greater success than Wells, posting an ERA nearly a run lower and a WHIP almost ten points lower, thanks to that extreme groundball rate which turns would-be hits into infield groundouts. The one accusation levied at Wang this year, who if he hadn’t hit the DL would have deserved to be in the Rookie of the Year conversation, is that he’s had his success against the weaker offenses in the league. I’m not convinced. Wang has allowed more than three runs in just four starts this year, one against the Cardinals in which his defense abandoned him (risk number one of being a groundball pitcher), and three against the Devil Rays, whose offense is built around the sort of speed that gets a lot of infield singles, two of those coming on the slick turf of Tropicana Field (risk number two of being a groundball pitcher, fast infield surfaces). Tonight, that theory will be put to its ultimate test.


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URL to article: http://www.bronxbanterblog.com/2005/09/30/the-yankees-and-the-red-sox/

URLs in this post:

[1] handy chart: http://www.onlybaseballmatters.com/archives/2005/09/30-in_an_effort_to_calm.php

[2] Mike Stanton: http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2175951

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