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April 19, 2000

The Daily Prospectus

Start Spreading the News...

by Joe Sheehan

With last night's dismantling of the Rangers, the Yankees have won seven straight games. Five of those wins have been over the Texas Rangers, who really have to be considering the merits of the National League, or the Mexican League, or the League of Nations--hell, any league that doesn't include the Yankees--at this point. The Yankees are 10-3, which is the best record in baseball in the young season.

It's no secret that I think the Yankees are due for a fall, that I think the team is old and thin. I picked the Blue Jays to win the AL East this year, although that was before their pitching staff was replaced by the cast of NBC's "Just Shoot Me." (Yes, that was David Spade serving up all those runs to the Angels last night. Laura San Giacomo is tonight's starter.)

What the Yankees have in abundance, however, is starting pitching. It hangs from the rafters and piles up in the corners of the locker room. They have more starting pitching than the entire American League West. This winning streak is a product of that strength. Their starters have posted five quality starts in the streak, and have a combined ERA of 3.28 in the seven games.

What's truly amazing is the depth the Yankees have in the rotation, especially in contrast to their lack of same on offense. The nominal #4 and #5 starters of a month ago, Andy Pettitte and Ed Yarnall, pitched zero innings in the streak. Ramiro Mendoza and Jason Grimsley came out of the bullpen to give the Yankees good starts. Grimsley isn't anything special, but Mendoza is at least a #3 starter on 28 other teams. On the Yankees, he's insurance.

Their rotation means they'll be in almost every game they play, and minimizes the number of innings the back of the bullpen pitches. As we've noted in the past, good teams win by getting into the soft underbelly of their opponent's bullpen. As long as the Yankees get good starting pitching, Allen Watson and Darrell Einertson will remain tucked away for low-leverage situations. Like simulated games and Father/Son Day.

Even with a deep, effective rotation, I remain skeptical that this team can hold off both the sitcom stars and the Red Sox. If the Blue Jays can pick up a starter or two--and "ER" has some arms available--they have the offense to be very dangerous. The Yankees are extremely vulnerable to injuries to their position players, and the age of their lineup makes it unlikely that Scott Brosius will be the last one they have to address.

But for now, I have to tip my hat to a team that has one remarkable strength and is riding it for all it's worth.

Joe Sheehan can be reached at jsheehan@baseballprospectus.com.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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