Left: Murderer's row. Right: Killers alley? Death street? You name them.
The Yanks have made it to the post-season steadily for years now, but their last few bids for World Series rings have not gone as well was one might hope. Since their 2000 win over the Mets, the Yanks have made it back to the Series twice (in 2001, when Luis Gonzales got a bloop hit off Mariano to bury the Yanks, and then in 2003 when Josh Beckett and the Marlins shut down Soriano and the rest of the crew). In 2002 and 2005 they lost the Division series to the Angels, and we all remember what happened in 2004.
This year, though, all signs are pointing to a Yankees championship. Sportsbook.com has the Yankees’ World Series odds placed at 6-5 and ESPN gurus Peter Gammons, Jayson Stark, Keith Law, Alan Schwarz and Bob Klapisch all favor the Yanks. The Yankees Chick herself has been studying the Yanks and all of their potential opponents all season and has, like the betting gods and ESPN flunkies, concluded that this really is the Yankees’ year. Here’s why:
10) They don’t have to play the Twins in the first round. If the Yanks had been facing the Twins in the ALDS they would surely have had to go up against Santana twice, making 2 of the 5 games very difficult to win. Aside from Santana, the Twins’ starting rotation is decidedly weak, so should the Twins and Yanks both advance to the 7-game ALCS, the Yankees would still face Santana twice (right, soulfully pondering his excellence) but would have 5 games against Bosner, Radke, et al.
9) They’re incredibly well-rested. The Yankees secured their playoff spot almost 2 weeks ago, and Torre has been very smart with his lineup ever since. Mariano only pitched 4 innings in September and everyone from Jeter to Giambi got a chance to take a break. The team is going into the playoffs better rested than they have in years, and, more importantly, better rested than the A’s, Twins, and Tigers.
8) Matsui and Sheffield both made it back. The fact that they were able to return from their wrist surgeries in time for the post-season is great, but it is the way they both bounced back without missing nary a beat that is truly impressive. Matsui hit .396 with 3 homers and 10 walks since returning from the DL; Sheffield had 2 homers and 6 RBIs in his 9 games in September.
7) They’ve got more stars on the bench. The Yanks’ starting lineup is intimidating, but don’t forget that they’ve got some great players on the bench for pinch-hitting and late-inning replacement. Melky and Bernie, both of whom hit .280 in the regular season, hit very well off the bench and are versatile, since they are switch-hitters, and Andy Phillips is available for defensive assistance.
6) A-Rod is hitting. I’m sure there are plenty of pessimists waiting for A-Rod to drop the ball (figuratively and literally, no doubt) in the playoffs, but my hopes are high. He hit .356 with 6 homers and 22 RBIs and a .473 OBP in September and hasn’t shown his old “help-me-Jim-Fannin” anxiety in over a month!
5) They’re hungry for it. They’ve made it to the post-season consistently, but it’s been 6 years since their last Series win and the Yankees are out to prove they still have it. A-Rod, Moose, and Giambi (left...Giambi has taken to wearing a gold-painted ring he got in a cracker jack box while he waits for a real World Series ring) are particularly eager to win a ring, since despite coming close several times none of them have managed to win yet!
4) The Red Sox are long gone. This is the first year since 2003 that the BoSox haven’t made it to October, and knocking them out of the running back in August gave the Yanks a huge boost of confidence.
3) Derek Jeter is having one of the best years of his career. Not that Jeter has ever had an “off” year, but the 2006 season was very, very kind to him. He came thisclose to taking the batting title and knocked in 97 runs, just 5 shy of his personal best. His post-season numbers are brilliant (.358 BA, .420 OBP, .545 SLG in 42 post-season games), and I doubt we’ll see anything less than his best this year.
2) Mariano is Mariano. Mo had yet another great season, posting a 1.80 ERA in 75 innings pitched. He suffered from some muscle strain in his right arm in September, but Torre was able to rest him and he is reportedly feeling loose and ready for the playoffs.
1) Their lineup is a pitcher’s nightmare. There is simply no breathing room for an opposing pitcher! Let’s have a look (stats are from the 2006 regular season).
1. Johnny Damon, CF (.285 BA, .359 OBP, .482 SLG)
2. Derek Jeter, SS (.343 BA, .417 OBP, .483 SLG)
3. Bobby Abreu, RF (.330 BA, .419 OBP, .507 SLG)
4. Gary Sheffield, 1B (.298 BA, .355 OBP, .450 SLG)
5. Jason Giambi, DH (.253 BA, .413 OBP, .558 SLG)
6. Alex Rodriguez, 3B (.290 BA, .392 OBP, .523 SLG)
7. Hideki Matsui, LF (.302 BA, .393 OBP, .494 SLG)
8. Jorge Posada, C (.277 BA, .374 OBP, .492 SLG)
9. Robinson Cano, 2B (.342 BA, .365 OBP, .525 SLG)
Pitchers are going to have trouble with this. Pitching around people will not help, and the bases will be clogged with baserunners due to those insane OBPs. The bottom third of the lineup is just as powerful as the first and second. If/when the Yanks make it to the World Series, the pitcher will have to hit in the NL ballpark, but the rest of the lineup is so strong that will likely prove to be a non-issue.
The Yankees’ run for the championship officially begins in just about 6 hours, so you have just enough time to get those pinstripes painted on your face and head over to your Tiger-fan friend’s house to taunt him before game time!
Labels: happy time, jeter jeter pumpkin eater, post-season