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2006 Team Preview: New York Yankees, Pitchers

These are adapted from postseason comments I wrote about Yankee pitchers, so there's more of a retrospective look than a predictive one. But there's an outlook for everyone re: 2006.

  1. Randy Johnson - Johnson caught an unprecendented case of what many deem gopheritis in 2005, surrendering 32 in 225.7 innings after giving up just 18 in '04 (at the homer-friendly BOB). The declining strikeout rate was unexpected but not really impossibly so (Johnson WAS 41), but no one could have expected those homers. There's still a chance for a bounceback season from Johnson; we heard all about many different injuries that could have been hampering him and maybe that'll make a difference. The better guess, though, is that the Yankees will be highly disappointed with their $32 million investment.
  2. Mike Mussina - Bad luck and defense pushed Mussina's ERA a bit higher than it should have been; his last two BABIPs have been well over .300. Give or take a few walks, Mussina's '05 looks a heck of a lot like his '04, even down to the limited innings/start (6.1 and 6.0, respectively). Mussina's on the tail end of his career, and the Yanks have been paying for the long-term contracts that they doled out at the turn of the century for the last couple of years... Bernie being the other big example. Mussina could be right around average in 2006, and the Yanks should be pretty happy with that.
  3. Shawn Chacon - Chacon had a magical run for the Yankees, giving them 12 starts and 79 innings (with a couple of relief appearances thrown in). His .240 BABIP was the fuel for this run, and, while BABIP strongly regresses to the mean, there are hints that Chacon is one of the few pitchers who is able to limit it, and staff writer and editor Marc Normandin swears by that fact. It's quite simple, actually: without Shawn Chacon, the Indians are in the playoffs and the Yankees are golfing in early October. It's not often that one deadline acquistion is the difference, but Chacon was, this year, for the Yanks. Well done, Mr. Cashman. For 2006, I wouldn't expect anything great, but he could certainly be better than league average. I was very wrong about this one, I think.
  4. Chien-Ming Wang: All hail the first savior of the Yankee season. Armed with groundball-inducing stuff and a relatively pedestrian minor league track record, Wang came up and induced ground balls to the tune of a 2.96 G/F ratio. Part of the reason why he was such a breath of fresh air was that he replaced Jaret Wright, who had been beaten around in his first month of action (9.15 ERA in his first four starts). With the strikeout rate lower than the ERA, though, you have to watch out. Wang had a 4.02 ERA and a repeat of that in '06, with the strikeout rate that low, is unlikely.
  5. Carl Pavano - Proved why you don't give a huge deal to a pitcher who has had one good full season in a big pitcher's park in the NL. He succumbed to shoulder tendinitis in July and lost half the season. More disturbingly, a local paper reported that he's sick of New York and will demand a trade after he hires a new agent. So the Yanks get 17 starts at less than 6 innings per, and with a below average ERA, and now it could very well be over.
  6. Jaret Wright - There should not be a single Yankee executive with the gall to say something like, "We had no idea he'd get hurt!" It's tantamount to Soviet Russia completing ignoring a million warning signs about a German invasion in 1941. "We have no idea that Germany was invading!" If the first rule the Yanks taught us this year was not to sign pitchers to huge deals with only one good season in an NL pitcher's park, the second thing is not to sign Mazzone miracles with injury histories. Enough said. Wright in '06 is as questionable as they come, but don't get your hopes up.
This is a shaky rotation at best. I like Boston better, even with their injury risks, and I like Toronto better, in this division. Baltimore's damn close, too.

The bullpen?

Mariano Rivera returns for another year in his Hall of Fame-caliber career. My Cy Young vote went to Mo Rivera, who has posted ERAs under 2 for three straight seasons, and ERAs under 3 for... well, since 1996. Ten straight. He's the best in the business, still, it seems, but his health is in question at this point in his career. I'd take him on my team, though... The Yankees did their typical thing and picked up an outcast from Atlanta: Kyle Farnsworth. We've seen Chris Hammond and Jaret Wright before. Farnsworth is the most talented of that bunch, though, and he finally put it together last year. Detroit's pickup of him was astute, and swinging him to Atlanta was smart, too. He was one of the top relievers in the league last year, and while he's volatile, he's a safe bet for a bunch of Ks, which is certainly something... When did Tanyon Sturtze become a bullpen legend? He's 34 years old and has never had a season with his ERA below 4. New York loves a comeback story, a "came out of nowhere" feel-good fairy tale. Sturtze filled that quota in '04, strangely, but it's done. He should be in the back of a pen, somewhere... I loved the Octavio Dotel signing, but they should have given him more than one year. He's going to miss a substantial part of this season, and if he plays well, his salary will shoot up. Still, a calculated risk for a team that can afford it. When healthy, Dotel is one of the game's most dominant pitchers, undoubtedly, with a little bit of a problem with the long ball. I really think that he's unfairly stigmatized as a "choke-artist," but it's very easy to do that to the unfortunate closer... The gambler in me wants to make a bet that Aaron Small never repeats his 2005, but the poor college student in me advises against it. Small's success came from limiting the longball at an unbelievably low rate, but I don't think that's repeatable, not with a 1.11 G/F, certainly... Yeah, baby! (I officially hate myself for doing that.) Mike Myers, the game's most identifiable LOOGY, comes over from Boston for this season. He induces a lot of groundballs and lefties can't touch him, but righties simply eat him alive... they're posting a .331/.450/.509 line over the last 3 years, and it's a safe bet that he's not facing the best of that bunch. Keep him away from righties, or else... I had to look twice at the statline of Ron Villone, the pride of Englewood, NJ. I didn't realize he was adequate last year. The 7.61 ERA in Florida is a mirage; he wasn't quite that bad. Still, he's "out of control," so-to-speak. Less of a LOOGY than Mike Myers, he has little actual value, especially on the same team as Myers. Why he's making $2 million in 2006 is a question to ask someone else... Scott Proctor got the call from AAA in mid-June, but I can't, for the life of me, rationalize Proctor ahead of Colter Bean. Proctor gave up EIGHT homers in 42 innings. In AAA! I wonder why he didn't succeed in the majors.

Not a great pitching staff by any means, but they do have 2 locks for the Hall and a third who is a possibility (Moose). Still, that and $2 will get you a one-way ride from Penn Station to 161st St (if you transfer at Columbus Circle). If Randy rebounds, they'll be OK, but another team ERA+ of 98 wouldn't be out of the question for this bunch. Maybe even lower.