Underdogs, Just The Way I Like It – Yankees 2008 Preview

UNDERDOGS, JUST THE WAY I LIKE IT

YANKEES 2008 SEASON PREVIEW

 

 

 

Finally, the memories of those gnats that sabotaged the
Yankee season last October 5th, are out of my mind. Those bugs, along with an
excruciating ride home from Yankee Stadium after the Yanks were eliminated in
Game 4, seemed to stay with me all the way until spring training began in
February.

 Believe me, there is nothing worse than a 3- hour plus
ride home after your team has been eliminated from a playoff series. The only
thing I want to say about that night (actually early morning) is a “thank you”
to the convenience store /gas station right off exit 90 in Mystic, Connecticut,
 which was still open at 3:00 am. Without those two energy drinks I bought
there, I never would have made it back for work for 8:00am. Yes, I do LOVE this
game!

 So now that I have recovered from the disappointment of
the 2007 Yankee post-season, I now can focus on 2008, and analyze this Yankee
team–a team that will set out to capture their 27th World
Championship–and a team that will play its final season at historic Yankee
Stadium.

 

FIRST THINGS FIRST

 For the first time since 1998, the New York Yankees are
not the consensus odds-on-favorite to win the world championship.  For the first
time since 1996, the Yankees have a new manager leading the team. For the first
time in 13 years, the Yankee starting rotation has three big question marks in
it.  And finally, for the first time since 1998, the Yankees are not defending
Eastern Division Champions. In short, for the first time in a very long time,
the New York Yankees can be considered underdogs as they head into the new
season.

 

STARTING PITCHING – AFTER THE FIRST TWO, ALL WE HAVE IS
A CLUE

 The top two pitchers in the Yankee starting rotation can
arguably match up with anyone’s 1-2 in baseball. If they stay healthy, Chien-Ming
Wang (19-7 3.70 ERA) and Andy Pettitte (15-9  4.05 ERA) will duplicate or better
last year’s performances.  Both of these two starters are proven winners, and
can handle being counted on to be a stopper.

After the top two in the rotation, it becomes a **** shoot
for the Yankees.  Twenty-two year-old, Phil Hughes ( 5-3, 4.46 ERA) is the
Yankees number three starter.  At times last season, Hughes pitched like an ace.
The Yankees number one prospect showed glimpses of “Clemens-like” stuff in many
of his appearances. Phil has a lively fastball that he’s not afraid to spot
inside on a hitter. He has a great curve, and shows no fear on the mound.

That said, Phil is only 22, and no one knows how he will
shoulder the load of being the make or break man for a team that everyone
expects to make the playoffs.  Every time Phil takes the hill for the Yankees,
many Yankee fans will view him as the guy Brian Cashman would not give up for
Johan Santana.

 Mike Mussina (11-10, 5.15 ERA) and 22-year-old, Ian
Kennedy (1-0, 1.89  in 19 innings pitched) round out the Yankees rotation. Both
of these guys scare me because they are very similar in style. Since the “Moose”
lost the zip on his fastball, he has been getting pounded. The problem with Mike
is, there is very little differential between his 86-88 mph “fastball” and his
changeup. From the little I’ve seen of Kennedy, he might have the same problem
as Mussina. Ian can hit the low 90’s with his fastball, but like Mike, he has to
have pin point command to be effective.

 

THE BULLPEN —  IF YANKEES LEAD AFTER 7 INNINGS, GAME IS
OVER

 In Mariano Rivera (30 saves, 3.15 ERA) and Joba
Chamberlain (0.38 ERA  34 K’s in 24 innings) the Yankees have the eighth and
ninth innings covered. In other words, if the Yankees carry a lead going into
the last two innings, they will be a good bet to win the game. Not since 1996
(Rivera to Wettleland) have the Yankees had this type of 1-2 punch in their pen.

Kyle Farnsworth, LaTroy Hawkins, Brian Bruney, Ross
Ohlendorf, and lone lefty, Billy Traber, will try to find a way to get the ball
to Chamberlain with the Yankees leading.  I was surprised that Scott Patterson
(1-hit, 0-runs, 7-K’s, in 7 innings this spring) didn’t make the team. Remember
his name, because if any of the above middlemen fail, Scott will get the call.

 

ONCE AGAIN, A POTENT OFFENSE – 1,000 RUNS A POSSIBILITY

 You can bet the Yankees will be in contention all season
long thanks to having one of the most potent offenses in baseball. While scoring
a ******** 968 runs last year, one can only wonder how many more runs the team
would have scored if Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi didn’t have off years.

 Coupled with the disappointing years from Damon and Giambi,
the Yankee offense also suffered from very slow starts from Bobby Abreu and
Robinson Cano. While 968 runs scored is a stellar number, the 2008 Yankees
should score over 1,000 runs if the above mentioned players improve on their
first half numbers from last season.

 For the most part, manager Joe Girardi will go with the
following lineup.

 

PLAYER                 
OBP.               
RUNS            HR          
RBI

DAMON  LF          
.351                 
93                  
12              
63

JETER  SS              
.388                
102                 
12              
73

ABREU  RF           
.369                 
123                 
16             
101

RODRIGUEZ 3B    .422                 
143                 
54             
156

GIAMBI 1B          
.356                   
31                  
14               
39

POSADA  C         
.426                   
91                  
20               
90

CANO  2B           
.353                   
93                  
19               
97

MATSUI   DH      
.367                 
100                  
25             
103

CABRERA  CF     .327                   
66                   
8                 
73         

 

A few notes on this lineup.

  Jason Giambi  played in  only  83 games
last season. In order for the Yankees to give A-Rod some protection in this
lineup, Jason is going to have to have a rebound season. The “GiamBino” had a
great spring, and the Yankees hope it carries through the season.

 Last preseason, I picked Robinson Cano to be the Yankees
MVP. Well, a historic season by Alex Rodriguez and a slow start by Cano, shot
that prediction down. That said, I still believe “Robbie” is the best pure
hitter in this Yankee lineup. I expect his power numbers to rise this year, and
this time, he just might turn in that MVP season.                 

 As noted earlier, Damon must return to form as being the
catalyst in this lineup. Johnny admitted this spring that he was out of shape
last year, and thus could never get over his nagging injuries. “Damon like”
numbers at the top of this lineup will surely help the Yankees push over the
1,000 runs scored mark.

 

A BENCH THAT CAN ACTUALLY CONTRIBUTE

 Unlike early last season, the Yankees now have a very good
bench.  Jose Molina (C), Wilson Betemit (3B, SS, 2B), Shelley Duncan (OF, DH, IB),
and Morgan Ensberg (1B,3B) will give manager Girardi  some lineup flexibility,
and a chance to rest some of his every day players.

 

 

THE MANAGER — NOT THE SAME OLD JOE

 Joe Girardi has the tough job of following a legend as he
takes over for Joe Torre.   Girardi will differ from Torre in that he will
probably play the “numbers” game more that Torre did. Expect to see the new
Yankee manager play match-ups with certain players when situations call for it.
Girardi will try to manufacture runs more than Torre did.

 I expect to see Girardi push for wins early on in the
season. Torre’s style was to manage for the long haul. I don’t see Girardi doing
this.  We are going to see intense playing and managing for the whole year.
Let’s just hope the young manager doesn’t burn the team out.

Like every team in baseball, at some point during the year,
the Yankees will go into a slump, and that’s when Girardi will be tested and
compared to the successful Torre. The former Yankee manager not only managed on
the field, but off the field too.  Everyone is convinced Girardi can manage game
situations. We just have to wait and see how he will manage the club after the
game is over. In New York, with this team, that may be more important than
managing the game itself.

 

HELP FROM THE MINORS – PROSPECTS GALORE

 During every season, a team will have to dip into their
minor league system to fill  holes on the big club or to make a trade. Here
are some names you will be hearing about as the year goes on.

 Besides Scott Patterson, the Yankees pitching staff could
be helped by Jeff Karstens, Darrell Rasner, Alan Horne, Jonathan Albaladejo, and
later on in the year, flame-thrower, Humberto Sanchez. Kei Igawa will start the
year in Triple A, but frankly, I can’t see this guy helping the Yankees at all.
Young outfielders Austin Jackson and Jose Tabata will be on everyone’s list when
the Yankees try to make a deal in July.

 

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER – BOSTON AND NEW YORK MIRROR 
EACH OTHER

 The Yankees will fight for the division crown with Boston
and Toronto. The Blue Jays have already suffered some big injuries so I will put
them behind both the Red Sox and Yankees.

 Like the Yankees, Boston has three very big question marks
in their starting rotation. Boston can match the Yankee bullpen strength in the
eighth and ninth inning. Also, like their rivals to the south, the Red Sox also
have a lineup than can score lots of runs.

So it will all come down to which team will end up having a
better 3,4, and 5th starter. At this point, I see neither team having
an advantage. Maybe by the trading deadline in July, we will know, but until
then, I will give the division nod to the Red Sox because they are defending
champions.

 Here is my projected order of finish:

BOSTON

NEW YORK

TORONTO

TAMPA

BALTIMORE

 

This is going to be a very exciting and historic Yankee
season. To all Yankee fans out there, please enjoy being the underdog. I hope
many of you learned a lesson from last year, and now will not panic if the team
gets off to a slow start. It’s a very long season, and I can assure you changes
will be made as the year goes on.

 

Enjoy the season, everyone and I will see you at Yankee
Stadium!

The tradition continues at www.yankeetradition.com

 

 

 

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