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Archive for May 17th, 2010

The rivalry sets up tents in the Bronx for the first time this season, but injuries have taken center stage for the Yankees. Before the game, the Yankees confirmed that Nick Johnson would in deed have surgery on his injured left wrist, a decision that will cost the team their DH for at least the next two months. In addition, the Yankees will once again be without Nick Swisher, whose sore right biceps prevent him from swinging left handed, and Jorge Posada, who is battling a bruise on his right foot that resulted from a foul ball in yesterday’s game.

As a result of the barrage of bumps and bruises, the Yankees will once again feature an anemic bottom of the lineup.  Normally, the Yankees patient and power laden lineup would be bad news for the deliberate Daisuke Matsuzaka. Tonight, however, Dice-K could benefit from the abundance of free swinging right handed hitters.

The reason Yankees has been able to overcome their many injuries is because of excellent starting pitching, exemplified tonight by Phil Hughes, who enters the game with a 5-0 record and the lowest ERA in the American League. With runs likely to be hard to come by for the Yankees, and a defense not exactly tailored toward run prevention, Hughes will need to be in top form if the Yankees are to continue their early season success against Boston.

With the injuries mounting and the Tampa Bay Rays playing well, these next two games against Boston will be vital. Not only do the Yankees need to immediately wash away the sour taste from Sunday’s shocking defeat, but they also need to keep creating space between themselves and the Red Sox. The Yankees will have their two best pitchers on the mound in the short two game series, so failing to capitalize could send the Yankees reeling into the next matchup against the first place Rays.

vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Derek Jeter SS 18 0.429 0.556 0.857 2 3
Brett Gardner CF 2 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Mark Teixeira 1B 7 0.400 0.571 0.800 0 0
Alex Rodriguez DH 22 0.063 0.318 0.063 0 0
Robinson Cano 2B 20 0.211 0.250 0.421 1 1
Francisco Cervelli C 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Marcus Thames RF 3 0.333 0.333 1.333 1 1
Randy Winn LF 3 0.000 0.333 0.000 0 0
Ramiro Pena 3B 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 75 0.230 0.307 0.475 4 5
vs. Phil Hughes PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Marco Scutaro SS 13 0.250 0.308 0.250 0 0
Dustin Pedroia 2B 12 0.000 0.083 0.000 0 0
JD Drew RF 10 0.667 0.800 1.167 0 0
Kevin Youkilis 1B 11 0.300 0.273 0.600 1 4
Victor Martinez C 5 0.600 0.600 0.800 0 0
David Ortiz DH 7 0.750 0.714 1.250 0 3
Adrian Beltre 3B 7 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Jeremy Hermida LF 3 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Darnell McDonald CF 3 0.333 0.333 0.333 0 0
Total 71 0.279 0.352 0.426 1 7
Yankees vs. Red Sox
Season: 2010 Season: 2009 Season: 2008 All-Time
NYY: 4-2 TIED: 9-9 TIED: 9-9 NYY: 1121-935

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Over at ESPNNew York, Mark Simon has run some numbers and come up with the most valuable players in the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry over the last fifteen years. According to his findings, Manny Ramirez has been by far the most clutch player in the series (no need to rely on stats for that one). Using WPA as the measurement stick, Manny’s productivity was more than double the Yankees’ top performer, Alex Rodriquez. On the pitching side, Mariano Rivera and Pedro Martinez were the biggest difference makers for their respective teams, with only Andy Pettitte coming close to the total WPA recorded by those two.

In his analysis, Simon also identifies other interesting tidbits, such as the most clutch play (Bill Mueller’s walk off HR against Rivera on July 24, 2004) as well as the least valuable player in the series (Derek Lowe). However, I do take some exception with is decision to use 1995 as the starting point for the study. Simon used 1995 because it was the first year of the new wild card playoff system, but as any Yankee or Red Sox fan can tell you, it took some time after that for the rivalry to really heat up again. Although both teams made the playoffs in 1995, the Yankees and Red Sox did not really register significantly on each other’s radars until Roger Clemens joined the Yankees in 1999, the same year both teams met in the ALCS for the first time in history. Even then, however, the temperature of the rivalry was still lukewarm at best. The Red Sox were just another stepping stone in the Yankees run of three straight World Series, so there really wasn’t much carry over from the post season confrontation. In fact, the Red Sox failed to make the playoffs in the next three seasons, and really never challenged the Yankees for the division over that span (a late season losing streak by the Yankees in 2000 allowed Boston to close a large gap in the standings, but the Yankees had all but wrapped up the division by mid-September).

It really wasn’t until the 2002 sale of the Red Sox to an ownership group led by John Henry that the seeds of the revitalized rivalry were planted. By the off season of 2002, the contempt was finally back in full bloom. It was during that period that three building block events in the rivalry occurred. The first was the hiring of Theo Epstein, who as general manager gave Boston a competent executive capable of building a team for the long term. The second event was the recruitment of Jose Contreras (whose WPA of -1.572 is ironically the rivalry’s lowest since 2003). It might seem funny now, but at the time the competition between the clubs for Contreras was so heated that Epstein reportedly trashed his hotel room when he learned the Yankees had won the bidding. Finally, that signing gave birth to Larry Lucchino’s “Evil Empire” quote, which seemed to officially sound the bell on the latest round in the teams’ historic rivalry. (more…)

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The Yankees have announced that Nick Johnson will have surgery on his injured wrist. Even if successful, Johnson will not be able to pick up a bat for 4-6 weeks, which likely means he wont return until August, at the earliest. Considering Johnson’s injury history, however, it isn’t too far fetched to assume he might not return all season.

Brian Cashman has done a very good job as Yankees GM in his tenure, but the decision to replace Johnny Damon with Nick Johnson will go down as one of his worst.  Relying on a injury prone player with a relatively older team was incredibly short sighted. Now, with a severely depleted lineup, the Yankees may  be forced into a position wherein they will have to spend both money and prospects to bolster the lineup. Instead of biting the bullet on Damon’s salary demand, the Yankees were penny wise and pound foolish, and may now be forced to pay a much steeper price.

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