Monday, March 19, 2007

Preview of Yankees/Red Sox 2007 games Part 2: Outfield/DH

Since I'm at work for a few hours (computer lab in the morning, kinda easy work) and Easter break/Opening Day are both coming up very soon, I'll speed up my predictions up to Tuesday, so I can write an Opening Day post and the like...

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Part 2 will have four parts: Left field, center field, right field, and DH

Left field: Hideki Matsui vs. Manny Ramirez

Yankees: I'm sure your reaction about Matsui's wrist break was like mine: your face was contorted in a kind of pain your neighborhood buddy couldn't inflict. Seeing Matsui's wrist break (a few days after I attended my first Boston game) was a worst case scenario, once Sheffield messed up his wrist. With the rookie play of Melky Cabrera, the trade for underrated Bobby Abreu, and the sheer power of the line-up, the Yankees survived 2006.

Bouncing back this year shouldn't be that big of an issue. With his wrist break having on his left wrist, he doesn't lose that much snap in his swing as much as Sheffield could have in his left wrist injury. As a left-handed hitter, the main wrist that provides the snap in your swing is your right (and for a right-handed hitter, is the left wrist). ZiPS projects that he hits .293/.367/.474, which is pretty Matsui-like, along with the 100 RBIs and 19 HRs (projecting his power will fall a bit by age and the injury).

Matsui's main strength is his bat, and when you hold Matsui and Melky in the same light, Melky has the upside on defense when it comes to covering ground and arm strength. Will that bite the Yankees in the butt? Only the season can tell us the answer.

Red Sox: Gosh, what is there to say about Manny Ramirez? If the only option the Yankees have against Manny is to walk him almost every time he got up in the Boston Massacre, I think that says it all. I mean, career-wise, the man averages a 1.011 OPS. 470 HRs. Do I need to explain his Hall of Fame credentials?

The only thing you can say against Manny is his apparent laziness in left field. And of course, let's not forget the "Manny-being-Manny" crap that has him as my least-liked player in the game today. However, I can't argue against that he almost makes me wet my pants every time I see him against the Yankees. Manny's just that good.

Advantage: Boston -- Clearly. Got Manny? Clearly, the Yankees don't.

Center Field: Johnny Damon vs. Coco Crisp

Yankees: At this point, in the strict professionalism and business-like atmosphere of the clubhouse, Damon is the straw that stirs the Yankees' drink. Besides the fact that he betrayed the Red Sox, I personally love Damon for his personality and the fact that he can team up with Jason Giambi and Brian Bruney to loosen up some of the players. The way that he has fun every time he's out there on the field shows that he loves the game. To Damon, baseball's a game, not his next paycheck, which I suspect many Yankee players have forgotten over the years. Damon's greatest asset to the Yankees is the chemistry factor. Personally, if I had a chance to hang out with one player on the Yankees, though Mariano's my favorite player, I'd have to go with Damon because there is no doubt that, like the Yankee team, he'll make me feel comfortable and welcomed.

But let's not forget: Damon's a pretty good center-fielder in his own right. He was able to reach his career high in home runs (20), while taking advantage of the short porch in right field. Even with a nagging injury in his right foot, he was still able to leg out 25 stolen bases (most since 2003), while scoring 115 runs and hitting 80 RBIs. Though he may act like Judas, look like Jesus, and throw like Mary, he can still cover all the ground that departed Bernie Williams couldn't cover in his last few years on the Yankees. Also, he cut down his errors from 6 in 2005 to 3 in 2006. Johnny Damon made us Yankee fans love him. However, I loved him ever since the signing, and though other Yankee fans either wanted someone else (a Juan Pierre, maybe?) or keep quadruple-A player Bubba Crosby as our CF, I take great pride in predicting that Damon would be a great asset for the Yankees. I project that Damon will continue to prove me right this year.

Red Sox: For all the talk Red Sox fans made about Coco Crisp and how he will be better than Damon, he didn't prove Red Sox fans right last year. In 40 less games last season (he only played 105 games), he cut his HR total from 16 to 8 and his RBI total from 69 to 36. His splits also decreased: 36 points in AVG/28 points in OBP/80 points in SLG. Though he's still young and hasn't hit the typical prime age yet (28), the Red Sox expect some rapid improvement from him. There is a possibility that, with all the tools working for him and if all the planets align at just the right angle, Crisp can get 20+ HRs, 90+ RBIs, and 30+ stolen bases.

One thing we can't deny: Crisp can play the field. Committing only one error last year, his defense was on full display when he robbed David Wright of a sure double. Though there is no doubt Crisp's defense is... well... crisp and will continue to improve, it doesn't seem that his glove and speed can't make up for his lack of hitting. Adding the clubhouse/chemistry factor I put in there for Damon, if the trade rumors were any sign, Boston may be admitting a mistake.

Advantage: Yankees -- For now. Damon still has speed, he can hit, and plus, he loosens up the clubhouse. An asset in every sense of the word.

Right Field: Bobby Abreu vs. J.D. Drew

Yankees: In my rounds around the standard MySpace Yankee/Baseball groups, and in reading Dante's post, there is one conclusion I can draw from what I have read: Bobby Abreu is the most under-rated player on the Yankees. Reading that Abreu is equal to Drew and that we should drop Abreu to 7th in our line-up absolutely drove me crazy.

What has Abreu done? Let's see: He has hit for over 100+ RBIs five out of the last six years, he has drew more than 100 walks for eight straight years, he gets on base more than 41% of the time (career-wise), he has gotten more than 10 assists playing right field five times, and he has stolen more than 21 bases for eight straight years. This guy is consistent. He hits consistently. He gets on base consistently. He has great speed consistently. He has a great arm and awareness in right field consistently. Abreu's skills are perfect for the Yankees, period.

What has he done that Drew hasn't? He won a Silver Slugger (2004), while Drew has none. He won a Gold Glove (2005), while Drew has none. Lastly, he is a two-time All-Star (2004/2005), while Drew has never appeared in an All-Star game. To even think that Drew is equal to Abreu is a ridiculous notion. But let me try to "equalize" them.

Red Sox: So Drew finally got to 100 RBIs for the first time in his career last year. Much has been made about his injury streak, but I won't get into that. The thing is that I believe he won't get injured seriously, and to try and think that he would get seriously injured would be bad karma. He drew over 100 walks once, in 2004 as a Brave. His consistency can be called out here. He either strikes out more than 100 times a year (2002/2004/2006) or he strikes out less than 50 times (2003/2005). Either he can be a 20+ HR man (2001/2004) or not (all the other years).

Defensive-wise, if you want to assess errors, Drew has the very slight edge in having less errors (overall), but Abreu has less errors from last (5 for Drew, 3 for Abreu). Drew is also two years young, so we can assess that into the equation. However, when it comes to Bobby Abreu, there is more consistency and more value in a player of Bobby Abreu's skills. Plus, when Drew gets speed like Abreu, let me know. =)

Advantage: Yankees -- Abreu > Drew, period.

Designated Hitter: David Ortiz vs. Jason Giambi

Yankees: What's so easy about assessing the DHs is that you only need to assess the hitting. After dealing with wrist injuries all throughout last year and also playing atrocious defense at 1st base, Jason Giambi has been designated to being... the designated hitter. It has been well documented that Giambi hits significantly worse when he's a DH, hitting at a .224/.373/.531 split in his 70 games there last year.

Giambi's main assets to the line-up is his ability to get on-base (getting on base more than 41% of the time last year, drawing 110 walks) and his power (37 HRs/113 RBIs last year). However, Giambi must rebound from his injuries last year as well as getting over not playing 1st base every day. I have no idea why Giambi hits significantly worse when he's a DH, but I do hope he works that stuff out because the Yankees need him.

Red Sox: It would be easy for me to say "it's David 'Freakin' Ortiz! Why do I have to assess his hitting?" But of course, that wouldn't be fair. What is fair to say is that David Ortiz is a ridiculous hitter. 54 HRs (Red Sox record). 137 RBIs. Mr. Clutch. Same on-base percentage as Giambi (41%+). Top 5 MVP-candidate the last 4 years. No signs of slowing down.

David Ortiz is one of those hitters that makes a rivalry great. He loves the game. He kills the ball. He hits you where it hurts: in the "clutch". Though I don't believe in the myth of clutchness, I do have to say: David Ortiz is a fantastic hitter.

Advantage: Boston -- Just like with A-Rod, it's David Ortiz. How can I pick against him?

That's all for Part 2!

If you're keeping track at home, it's Yankees 6, Red Sox 2.

Happy reading!

B(rent)

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