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2006 New York Yankees Baseball Preview

New York Yankees Predictions – AL EAST

OVERVIEW:

Last season the Bronx Bombers won yet another division title but never made it to the World Series. In fact, they didn’t even make it to the ALCS. With 26 championships, the Yanks are poised to make it 27; however, they’ve been poised for number 27 for the last five seasons. Will this be the year that George Steinbrenner makes his big payroll, which is somewhere around the gross national product of Liechtenstein, payoff? Most analysts believe this is the year; but that’s what they’ve been saying for the last five years.


PITCHING:

On paper, the Yanks have a formidable staff, which includes Mariano Rivera; who, after nine years, can still throw that four-seam cutter at 91-94 mph. Last season he had 41 saves and a 1.38 ERA. A classic closer like this future Hall of Famer is worth his weight in World Series rings.

The starters include some scary guys—Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, and Carl Pavano. These Yank pitchers are frightening for two reasons. First, when they are healthy and on, they can shut you down as well as any staff in MLB. But these three players have all either had health issues or diminishing power. What’s of even more concern is that the club’s organization did little to bolster the starting pitching. Chien-Ming Wang may be ready to take it to the next level and Shawn Chacon is better than he’s ever been, but last year he was 8-10 with a 3.44 ERA.

The bullpen looks a bit suspicious too, with streaky righthander Tanyon Sturtze and wilt-under-pressure reliever Kyle Farnsworth, who replaces the overused Tom Gordon. Two lefthanders, Mike Meyers and Ron Villone are solid specialists.

HITTING:

Who wouldn’t want to go into battle with the Bronx Bombers’ 2006 lineup? Johnny Damon leads off, followed by Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. Then the resurrected home run hitter, Jason Giambi; the powerful line drive man, Gary Sheffield; and the always-dangerous Hideki Matsui. Veteran Posada, who still has pop, and two promising young guys--Robinson Cano, and Andy Phillips-- round out the bottom of this order that seems to be bottomless. These 9 hitters could drive in 1,000 runs and knock out 250 homers this season.

Last year, when he won MVP, Rodriguez hit .321 with 48 HRs and Jeter hit .309 with 19 HRs. Giambi knocked 32 round-trippers, Matsui hit at a .305 clip, and new boy in town Damon had a .316 batting average. Sheffield quietly walloped 34 out of the park and finished with a .291 BA.

Opposing pitchers may want to duck and cover!

DEFENSE:

With Sheffield in right, Damon in center, and Matsui in left, this is a very sound outfield, even though Damon and Matsui lack arm strength. The original Boston Idiot, Damon, will literally run into walls for the team and Matsui knows how to set up and compensate for his less-than-average throwing arm. Looking around the infield, shortstop and third base are totally covered, while first base with Phillips and second with Cano may both prove to be an adventure. Posada, who has been tailing off a bit each year, drops quite a few pitches and watches others go by. He’s not as reliable as one would like him to be.

MANAGER AND FRONT OFFICE:

Joe Torre is Joe Torre. Everyone—top to bottom, respects him. Torre has an interesting array of egos on his coaching staff this season—Joe Kerrigan, Larry Bowa, and Rod Guidry, to name a few. They could prove tougher to deal with than Steinbrenner. When GM Brian Cashman is running the front office, things go smoothly. Stay out of the way, George!

INTANGIBLES AND/OR OTHER STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES:

This was an old ball club last year and now they’re a whole year older. It’s a 162 game season and even guys in their prime are tired and beat up by the time the playoffs roll around. The lineup has four players 35 or older, two starters are at least 37, and Rivera is 36. Maybe George Steinbrenner can buy the team the fountain of youth? However, last year 30% of the top 20 players who received MVP votes were from the Yankees. That’s nothing to sneeze at; if they can stay healthy they will be deadly.

CONCLUSION:

Hitting should be no problem, but pitching is a concern. The Yankees could very well take it all this year. But big names, big payrolls, and big numbers don’t always win championships. New York is lucky to have a sage manager like Torre; but in past years the team has had to rely on middle relief way too much, resulting in a diminished staff at the end of the season. Putting big numbers up on the scoreboard may help preserve the relief staff; however if starting pitching breaks down, no amount of runs will do the job.

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