Monday, September 04, 2006

Yanks vs. Mets: A Subway Series Preview

by Doug Silversten

It is hard to believe, but it was just a few short weeks ago that there was a real question of whether or not the New York Yankees streak of eleven consecutive years of making the playoffs was going to come to an end. Well, there answer is now clear. As painful as this realization is for the entire Yankee-hating world, the answer is…“Yes.” The Yankees will be playing October baseball.

And so will the Mets.

That’s all we know for certain. As I have argued in previous columns, the playoffs are a crapshoot. Nothing is guaranteed. Yes, the Mets are by far the best team in the NL. And that means….pretty much nothing when game 1 of their NLDS begins. I would not be shocked if the Mets go three and out. I would not be shocked if the NL Wild Card team, who barely has an above .500 record, goes on a hot streak, knocking out the Mets and the AL Champion. That’s how it works in baseball. It is part of the reason why baseball is the best sport.

However, having said that, it’s always fun to speculate, and a rematch of the 2000 Subway Series is a real possibility. Thus, I thought it would be fun to do a little position-by-position comparison of the two teams. And, before we get to it, one big disclaimer: this also means….pretty much nothing when the first pitch is thrown. The Red Sox, even with all their injuries, would certainly win a position versus position analysis vs. the Royals, Mariners and Devil Rays, yet they were recently swept by the last-place Royals and the last-place Mariners and lost two of three to the last-place Devil Rays. It happens. That’s baseball. So, everything you are about to read is absolutely meaningless if they ever met on the field. But it’s still a fun idea for a column…

First Base
Carlos Delgado has had a resurgence in recent weeks, and is still one of the most dangerous hitters in the Mets lineup. However, I’d still give the advantage to the Yankees. Since his early season struggles last year, Giambi has been on fire and hasn’t really slowed down. While Delgado has some solid numbers – 35 HRs, 98 RBIs – his OBP of .369 is actually his lowest since 1997. On the other hand, Giambi is an on-base machine (.410) and has a higher SLG (.576 to Delgado’s .565) to boot. Advantage: Yankees

Second Base
I know Jose Valentin has been a pleasant surprise for the Mets, but he is still Jose Valentin. And while I think Robinson Cano is overrated, he has been on fire since coming off the DL. And he’s certainly better than Jose Valentin. Advantage: Yankees

Shortstop
Regular readers of Baseball For Thought know that I am not the biggest Reyes fan. However, I have to say, he’s won me over. My biggest concern was always his inability to take pitches and draw walks. Well, with a healthy .351 OBP, he is now one of the best leadoff hitters in all of baseball. I admit, I never thought his OBP would get this high. Having said that though, he’s no Captain Intangibles. Derek Jeter is having an MVP-type season. He is in the top 10 in the AL in AVG, OBP, R, H and SBs. A .421 OBP from your shortstop is a powerful weapon. The Yankee lineup really is amazing. Advantage: Yankees

Third Base
Do the Mets have an advantage in at least one infield position? If it’s anywhere, it’s at third base. David Wright has been pretty disappointing since the All-Star break, but his overall numbers are still solid across the board. I think he may soon be the best player in New York, although he is not quite there yet. But is he at the point that he is superior to A-Rod? Well, it’s close. For all A-Rod’s struggles, and he certainly has struggled this year, his numbers are comparable to Wright’s. I’m not going to get into the whole “clutch” thing, as that is another column in itself, so let’s stick to the numbers. So, who has the advantage here? Let’s take a quick comparison of the two most important numbers:

D-Wright: .379 OBP, .533 SLG
A-Rod: .379 OBP, .505 SLG

Hmmm. Close. All the counting stats are similar: HRs, RBIs, Rs, etc. OK, I’m taking the easy way out. Advantage: Push

Catcher
Another close one. Posada is still one of the best catchers in all of baseball, but the gap is not that big and Lo Duca has put up solid numbers in his first season in New York. His defense has been stellar as well. What do the numbers say?

Posada: .371 OBP, .455 SLG
Lo Duca: .355 OBP, .425 SLG

Not much difference there. If you put stock in “playoff experience,” you certainly take Posada. Of course, I think that is meaningless. But you know, I’d still rather have Posada. I just think he is better. Advantage: Yankees

Outfield
Who would you rather have: Beltran, Green and Chavez or Damon, Cabrera and Abreu? Tough call. Beltran is the best of all six players, but if I ranked them top to bottom, 2 and 3 would be Abreu and Damon. Green is fading fast, but I’d rather have him than Cabrera, so I’d put him 4th. And Cabera is superior to Chavez. However, if Matsui and/or Sheffield come back, the advantage certainly swings to the Yankees. Who knows with injuries though? But I am about to be very optimistic with some Met injuries in the Starting Pitching section, so I am going to be just as so here. Advantage: Yankees

Starting Pitching
This one depends on the status of the Mets injured starters. With Pedro out and Glavine unimpressive in his first start back from an injury, I’d have to give the advantage to the Yankees. Wang has been impressive all-year, Mussina is still and above-average starter and Randy Johnson is, well….Wang and Mussina are two solid starters. For both ballclubs, the starting staff is the biggest question mark. Both teams have solid offenses, but who can they rely on come October on the mound. If, and this is a big if, Pedro and Glavine are fine, I’d have to give the advantage to the Mets. Maybe this is false confidence, but I don’t get too worried about Pedro. I just have a feeling he is going to dominate come the playoffs. Glavine has plenty of time to get back in the groove. Trachsel’s season has been incredibly fluky, as discussed in Rob’s column on Friday, but he is still fine for a Game 3 start vs Randy. El Duque, Lidle, and all the other 4/5 starts on both teams are a dime a dozen. So, who has the advantage? Right now. Yankees. But in this hypothetical World Series which may never come, I am allowed to also say hypothetically that Pedro and Glavine are in top form for its start. Advantage: Hypothetically, the Mets

Bullpen
If either team takes a 1 run lead into the 9th inning, I’d certainly feel safer with Rivera on the mound than Wagner. However, that’s only one piece of the bullpen and the Mets middle relief – Mota, Heilman, Hernandez, Bradford, Oliver etc. – has been superior all year than the Yankees mix of Farnsworth, Proctor, Sturtze, Villone, Myers etc. And while I absolutely feel Rivera is the best closer in the history of baseball (and still is the best), Wagner is not exactly chopped liver. The advantage the Yanks have in the 9th is not enough to make up for the gap in the middle innings in case a start can’t go 8. Advantage: Mets

There you have it folks. In a meaningless comparison, the Yankees certainly prevail. No surprise here. Despite the absence of Sheffield and Matsui, the Yankee lineup really is absolutely unreal. Despite losing arguably two of their best offensive weapons, the Yankees still lead all of baseball in runs scored. And while the Mets have the arms advantage, it is very close, and one can easily argue in the other direction for the starters and bullpen, especially given the uncertainty around Pedro and Glavine. In fact, the Yankees could have the advantage in every category above. Overall, one thing is clear: the Yankees are a superior team. And since the playoffs are indeed a crapshoot, that won’t change no matter what happens come October.

Doug Silversten's column, "The Big Picture", appears alternate Mondays

3 Comments:

Blogger gomets2006 said...

Just a thought but pitching, not offensive lineups, generally wins in the post season. Frankly, I think both teams are mirror images of each other with strong offenses and bullpens coupled with mediocre starting pitching.

Also, I'd take David Wright over A-Rod any day of the week because he is clutch. The Yankees got a taste of how clutch he is during the interleague series. And he is just 23. Imagine how good he is going to be in a couple of more years.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006  
Blogger Joseph P. said...

And he is just 23. Imagine how good he is going to be in a couple of more years.

A-Rod's best seasons came at ages 20 and 22, so it stands to reason that Wright may be as good now as he ever will be.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006  
Blogger gomets2006 said...

"A-Rod's best seasons came at ages 20 and 22, so it stands to reason that Wright may be as good now as he ever will be."

That's interesting logic considering A-Rod was the league MVP last year. Also wishful thinking on your part.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006  

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