The top and the bottom of the powerhouse division can build from within, leaving the AL East's middle class in an precarious spot.
This is the fifth of six-part preview of the impending off-season. I had been holding off on the two divisions involving World Series combatants until the games had concluded, but with the Series' hasty conclusion on Sunday--and Scott Boras' equally quick declaration that it's A-Rod Huntin' Season--now is the time to cover the AL East, where all five teams will have some very interesting decisions to make.
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Jay takes a look at the legacy of the recently departed Yankee pitching coach.
Stottlemyre nearly didn't make it this far. In the season's first month, as the Yankees struggled along with a sub-.500 record, the unimpressive performance of the pitching staff renewed calls for his dismissal that had been heard at the end of last season. At the base of the complaint was an undeniable decline in the quality of the pitching staff's performance, one that appeared to have something to do with Stottlemyre's directive for the team's pitchers to rely less on their ability to strike hitters out in favor of putting the ball in play and subjecting it to the whims of a subpar Yankee defense.
ERA (rk) K/9 (rk) PIP (rk) DE (rk)
1996 4.65 (5) 7.12 (2) .677 (11) .683 (11)
1997 3.84 (1) 7.15 (3) .688 (10) .685 (8)
1998 3.82 (1) 6.67 (5) .697 (9) .713 (1)
1999 4.13 (2) 6.95 (3) .680 (12) .699 (3)
2000 4.76 (6) 6.57 (3) .690 (10) .693 (4)
2001 4.02 (3) 7.85 (1) .672 (12) .684 (10)
2002 3.87 (4) 7.04 (2) .706 (6) .690 (9)
2003 4.02 (3) 6.89 (2) .714 (6) .682 (13)
2004 4.69 (6) 6.60 (6) .707 (2) .688 (7)
2005 4.52 (9) 6.20 (6) .714 (7) .689 (10)
ERA and K/9 should be familiar enough. DE is Defensive Efficiency, the percentage of balls in play a team converts into outs. The numbers in parentheses are the relative ranks within the AL. Note that for all of the team's success, the defense has rarely even finished in the upper half of the league in doing so, placing the staff's ability to miss bats at a premium. PIP is the percentage of balls opposing hitters put into play, by the formulas:
Following up on yesterday's article, here is the definitive list of every transaction made at last weekend's Mock Winter Meetings in Chicago. The list of moves includes a blockbuster trade for Mark Teixeira, cheap contracts for Trot Nixon and Juan Gonzalez, and a surprise new home for Vladimir Guerrero.
It's official: Josh Beckett will start Game Six for the Marlins on three days' rest, with Carl Pavanoscheduled to do the same if the Fish can't put the Yankees away tonight. I strongly disagree with this decision. It's a move you make when you're down 3-2, not up 3-2. It's a decision you make when the difference between your best pitcher and the rest of the staff so large that going with anyone else in Game Six almost guarantees a Game Seven. Neither of those apply here. The Marlins need to win just one game to be champions, and they don't get style points for winning in six. The Marlins have at least one pitcher available, in Mark Redman, who was arguably their #3 starter during the season. They certainly have Dontrelle Willis available for at least a few innings, and Willis was lights-out for a good part of 2003 and has been tough on Yankee lefties in this series. Frankly, outside of Game Five starter Brad Penny and Beckett (assuming you hold him back), the Marlins have nine pitchers who can give them at least a couple of innings, and some of those are the better pitchers on the staff. It's Pavano's throw day, so even he can give the team a couple of innings. Deciding that you'd rather start someone--two pitchers, actually--on short rest rather than use those guys is an inexplicable vote of no confidence.
I strongly disagree with this decision. It's a move you make when you're down 3-2, not up 3-2. It's a decision you make when the difference between your best pitcher and the rest of the staff so large that going with anyone else in Game Six almost guarantees a Game Seven.
Dear Aaron Boone: It was a home run, not diplomatic immunity. Love, Joe Boone, whose Game Seven home run won the ALCS and sent the Yankees to the World Series, has been swinging at pitches he has no hope of hitting ever since then. I looked it up, expecting to see that Boone has taken about four pitches in the World Series. It turns out that he'd actually let 25 baseballs go by in the first three games, just shy of half of the 51 pitches he'd seen. He's pushed counts to 3-2 in a number of at-bats, so it's hard to make the argument that he's not being patient enough. That said, he was horrific last night. The Yankees' three biggest chances to win the game landed in his lap, and he approached his at-bats as if it were fifth-grade gym class or a co-ed softball league with some goofy rules like "swing or you're out." Against Carl Pavano in the second inning, with the bases loaded, one out and the Yankees down 3-0, Boone swung at the only two pitches he saw and flied to center field on the second one. Sacrifice flies down three runs with the pitcher coming up arenít team baseball, they're a lifeline for the opposition. Boone got another chance in the ninth, after Ruben Sierra's triple tied the game. Boone again went up hacking, fouling off the first and third pitches he saw to fall behind 1-2, then grounding out weakly to shortstop after two more foul balls. Finally, in the 11th inning, Boone again batted with the bases loaded and one out. And just as he had against Pavano and Ugueth Urbina, he made Braden Looper's job easy by hacking at fastballs up and in, pitches he doesn't have the bat speed to hit. Boone swung at six of the seven pitches he saw, looked completely overmatched, and struck out. Three at-bats, two pitches taken out of 15 seen, three times falling behind in the count, three outs. Boone needed to have a solid approach last night, and his mental effort was completely lacking, leading to wild swings that gave the pitchers all the leverage they needed to get out of jail.