Looking for some perspective? The Yankees' current dynasty is older than
the Arizona Diamondbacks franchise.
Lineups (AVG/OBP/SLG/Equivalent Average)
SS Tony Womack (.266/.307/.345/.234)
2B Craig Counsell (.275/.359/.362/.254)
LF Luis Gonzalez (.325/.429/.688/.354)
RF Reggie Sanders (.263/.337/.549/.286)
1B Mark Grace (.298/.386/.466/.293)
3B Matt Williams (.275/.314/.466/.262)
DH Erubiel Durazo (.269/.372/.537/.302)
CF Steve Finley (.275/.337/.430/.262)
C Damian Miller (.271/.337/.424/.260)
New York Yankees
LF Chuck Knoblauch (.250/.339/.351/.263)
SS Derek Jeter (.311/.377/.480/.308)
RF David Justice (.241/.333/.430/.271)
CF Bernie Williams (307/.395/.522/.321)
1B Tino Martinez (.280/.329/.501/.286)
C Jorge Posada (.277/.363/.475/.293)
DH Paul O'Neill (.267/.330/.459/.283)
3B Scott Brosius (.287/.343/.446/.281)
2B Alfonso Soriano (268/.304/.432/.265)
These are the lineups for the games at Yankee Stadium. In Arizona, look
for Erubiel Durazo to return to his cell and chains, while Joe Torre
chooses between Paul O'Neill and David Justice to play right
field. My money is on O'Neill, with Bernie Williams, Tino
Martinez, and Jorge Posada all moving up one spot in the
The D'backs appear to have committed to Craig Counsell every day at
second base, and to Steve Finley in center field, so don't look for
Jay Bell or Danny Bautista against Andy Pettitte.
Against Randy Johnson, Shane Spencer should play right field
for the Yankees, and it wouldn't be the worst idea to have Randy
Velarde play first base.
These two lineups are fairly similar, which is what you might expect for
two teams separated by just two points of EqA during the regular season
(D'backs: .267, Yankees: .265). Each features an inadequate leadoff hitter
fronting a pretty good two through four. Luis Gonzalez had the best
year of anyone on either team, but he hasn't been the same hitter since
about Labor Day, and at this point you'd have to consider him and Bernie
Williams pretty good comps for each other, with Gonzo having the edge.
After the core, the Yankees have the advantage. That's especially true when
playing in the desert, where they suffer the loss of Justice much more
easily than the D'backs do Durazo. The Yankees also benefit from the Snakes'
lack of a Jeff Nelson-esque righty eater who can tear through the
bottom and top of their lineup in the sixth and seventh innings.
Given the caliber of the starting pitching and the overwhelming popularity
of little-ball tactics, the difference in this series could well be which
lineup yanks a few balls out of the yard. Combined, the two teams have
slugged .355 with just 15 home runs in 20 postseason games, so you can
expect more 3-2 and 2-1 games. A well-timed jack or two could be all it
takes to walk away with the championship.
1B Greg Colbrunn (.289/.373/.495/.292)
IF Jay Bell (.248/.349/.400/.261)
OF David Dellucci (.276/.349/.479/.278)
OF Danny Bautista (.302/.346/.437/.266)
OF Midre Cummings (.300/.286/.350/.223)
C Rod Barajas (.160/.191/.274/.163)
New York Yankees
2B Randy Velarde (.278/.356/.424/.278)
OF Shane Spencer (.258/.315/.428/.265)
UT Clay Bellinger (.160/.207/.383/.206)
UT Luis Sojo (.165/.214/.190/.165)
UT Enrique Wilson (.242/.283/.343/.223)
C Todd Greene (.208/.240/.281/.194)
PH Nick Johnson (.194/.308/.313/..234)
The Diamondbacks' bench strength has been well-covered, and with the Yankees
starting three right-handers in Yankee Stadium, the Snakes will get to
maximize their top weapon, Erubiel Durazo, as the DH.
Even without Durazo, the D'backs bench is full of great pinch-hitting
options from both sides of the plate, as well as guys who can bunt (Jay
Bell) and pinch-run (Danny Bautista). The Diamondbacks' bench
can handle just about anything the Yankee bullpen throws at them, making them
the best-equipped team to face the Yankees in the Bombers' six-year run.
Nick Johnson is included on the Yankee bench, even though Johnson
has yet to appear on a postseason roster. With at least two games, and as many
as four, being played without the DH, Torre may decide he needs someone
other than David Justice to pinch-hit for the pitcher. With the Yankees
having right-handed hitters in the #7, #8, #1, and #2 lineup slots, having
an extra left-handed bat available to hit for the #9 slot would be optimal,
and Johnson fits that bill. One of the extra infielders could be dropped
to make room.
Other than Shane Spencer, the Yankee bench doesn't play much. Todd
Greene, Enrique Wilson, Luis Sojo, and Clay
Bellinger have combined for five appearances and four at-bats this
postseason, with all but a Bellinger pinch-running appearance coming in
Saturday's blowout loss to the Mariners.
Rotations (Support-Neutral Value Added, ERA, IP)
Curt Schilling (5.0, 2.98, 256 2/3)
Randy Johnson (6.0, 2.49, 249 2/3)
Brian Anderson (-2.2, 5.20, 133 1/3)
Miguel Batista (0.8, 3.36, 139 1/3)
New York Yankees
Mike Mussina (3.9, 3.15, 228 2/3)
Andy Pettitte (0.4, 3.99, 200 2/3)
Roger Clemens (2.0, 3.51, 220 1/3)
Orlando Hernandez (0.1, 4.85, 94 2/3)
Bob Brenly is leaving his options open for the fourth game, having not
announced a starter yet. I believe he'd be best served by using Curt
Schilling and Randy Johnson as much as possible, but there's an argument
for keeping both pitchers on their normal schedules, given that neither
pitched on short rest in 2001.
My bigger disagreement is with the decision to start Brian Anderson
in Game Three. Miguel Batista has been very good in his two
postseason starts, and in fact, was an excellent pitcher for the D'backs
all season long. Brian Anderson was a forgotten man before his relief outing
against the Braves last Saturday, and jumps from there to the third-game
If this was 1952, or 1982, I might understand the decision, but Death
Valley just isn't there anymore. There's not much to be gained by starting the
left-hander Anderson over the right-hander Batista, not when all the
available evidence suggests that Batista is the better pitcher at this
There's not as much to say about the Yankees' rotation, except that
they've finally decided to open a series with their #1 starter. Orlando
Hernandez and Roger Clemens appear to be healthy again, although
neither is at 100%, all the more reason for Brenly to match Schilling up
with Hernandez in Game Four, to press his advantage.
Bullpens (Adjusted Runs Prevented, ERA, IP)
Byung-Hyun Kim (23.3, 2.94, 98.0)
Greg Swindell (3.8, 4.53, 53 2/3)
Bobby Witt (0.2, 4.78, 43 1/3)
Mike Morgan (0.0, 4.26, 38)
Albie Lopez (-0.4 SNVA, 4.81, 205 2/3)
Mike Koplove (-3.8, 3.60, 10)
New York Yankees
Mariano Rivera (20.5, 2.34, 80 2/3)
Ramiro Mendoza (20.0, 3.75, 100 2/3)
Mike Stanton (14.4, 2.58, 80 1/3)
Sterling Hitchcock (-0.8 SNVA, 5.63, 70 1/3)
Jay Witasick (-9.3, 3.30, 79)
Mark Wohlers (-1.3, 4.26, 67 2/3)
The D'backs haven't used a tenth pitcher yet in the postseason, so whether
the last spot goes to Mike Koplove or Russ Springer or the
winner of an auction held Friday night really doesn't matter too much.
With Albie Lopez booted from the rotation, there's no need to have him
around, but the Snakes don't have many good candidates for his spot. Brian
Anderson is scheduled to start, so it might make sense to scare up another
left-hander to supplement Greg Swindell. Troy Brohawn is the
obvious choice, but lefties crushed him to the tune of a 1076 OPS this
With Miguel Batista not scheduled to start until Wednesday, he'll be
available out of the bullpen in the first two games. On the off chance
Brenly needs to relieve Schilling or Johnson, Batista gives him an
effective right-handed set-up man to use in front of Byung-Hyun Kim.
Mike Morgan and Bobby Witt were pretty good in 1988.
The Yankee bullpen trio is as much a part of fall in America as turning
leaves, as familiar to October television viewers as the cast of
"ER." The set-up tandem of Mike Stanton and Ramiro
Mendoza will face their toughest test, though, as the Diamondbacks
have a lineup that alternates lefties and righties pretty well, and a bench
that can bring at least two good hitters from each side of the plate.
That said, Mendoza looks absolutely nasty right now; he's pitching as well
as any Yankee other than Mike Mussina. The Yankees have a massive advantage
in the bullpen, more than making up for the Diamondbacks' edge in the
You can make a pretty good argument that at least three of the six playoff
teams no longer with us are gone because they played poor defense. The
Athletics, Braves, and Mariners can all point to key plays that they
didn't make as integral parts of their downfalls.
On the other hand, you have to work to think of defensive mistakes either of
the two World Series teams have made. There was Miguel Batista's mental
error on the bunt late in Game Two of the Division Series, but that didn't
make much difference in the game. Derek Jeter has let his usual
handful of singles get through the middle, but he's also made the kind of
plays that mark him as a great baseball player. Mike Stanton has the
Yankees' biggest defensive blunder, a terrible throw on a bunt that set up
the Mariners' blowout win over the weekend.
Both of these teams are veteran-heavy, with players whose great defensive
reputations were established back when Bud Selig was just an
"interim" commissioner who didn't want the job full time. They
don't make a lot of obvious mental or physical mistakes, which can make up
for declining range. Because the Diamondbacks' rotation strikes out so
many hitters, defense is a bit less important for them than it is for the
I said it before the ALCS, and I'll say it again: Joe Torre's refusal to
use a defensive replacement for Chuck Knoblauch is going to cost the
Yankees dearly at some point. Knoblauch stumbles around left field like
Kevin Reimer in a dizzy-bat race, and has no business on the field
when the Yankees are protecting a late lead. Torre got lucky once--anybody
remember Game 5 of the 1996 series, with a crippled Paul O'Neill chasing
Luis Polonia's fly ball?--but continuing to push his luck is a
recipe for disaster.
Bob Brenly has had an interesting first season as manager, bouncing from
controversy to controversy while charming the media with his
"old-school" values. He's been blessed with a veteran team and
two awesome starting pitchers, minimizing the need for his input and freeing
him to shout for Fox's Middle-Aged Man Mike. When he does get actively
involved--as in Game Five of the Division Series--hilarity ensues.
Joe Torre has won 11 straight postseason series, and 14 of 15. so I think
he's established himself as a capable postseason manager. His roster
construction leaves something to be desired, but he more than makes up for
it by the way he uses his bullpen. Torre plays to win the game he's playing,
without much regard for the next one, which is exactly how you need to
manage the postseason.
The big decision to watch is whether Torre goes back to the Shane
Spencer/Randy Velarde options against Randy Johnson, sitting Paul O'Neill
and Tino Martinez. Johnson isn't like Jamie Moyer, and Torre needs
to react to that, and to the problems his lefties have with left-handed
Both of these guys have become way too enamored of one-run strategies; the
first guy to step back from that and let his offense have a three-run
inning is going to be far ahead of the game.
The Yankees have now won six straight postseason series against teams with
superior regular-season records, stretching back to the 1999 World Series
against the Braves. This is, in fact, the first time since the 1999 ALCS
that the Yankees are facing a team who did worse than them from April
The Yankees are the best postseason team of all time. They've won four
championships in five years in the most difficult sport in which to win
short series, at a time in that sport when you have to win three short
series to be crowned champion. Maybe other teams have been better, and maybe
some teams have won more titles, but no team has performed in the playoffs
the way the 1996-2001 Yankees have.
On the other hand, the Diamondbacks, despite a record three games worse than
the Yankees, might be the best short-series team the Yankees have faced in
their run. They will start the two best pitchers in baseball at least four
times, maybe five, they have two good relievers in Kim and Swindell, and
they have a great bench with which to counter the Yankee bullpen.
This postseason had been a blur of low-scoring, tight games, and there's
not much reason to expect that to change. These two teams have comparable
lineups and comparable rotations, with an edge to the Yankees in the former
and the D'backs in the latter. The Diamondbacks have a much better bench,
but that's countered by the Yankees' much better bullpen. The two teams
play adequate defense.
The Yankees have a big edge in the dugout, though, and given what Joe Torre
has done over the years--even just this year--it's hard to disregard that
as a major advantage. I can't get Bob Brenly's odd bullpen management--from
how he warms up his relievers to his panicky decision to bring back Miguel
Batista in relief two days after Batista threw 80 pitches in Game Two
of the NLCS--out of my head. The Yankees should be able to beat the aces at
least once, and in the games they don't start, Brenly is going to be out
of his depth.
Yankees in seven.