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June 15, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Good news, bad news.

Good news: The Yankees have been 4-0 since getting no-hit by the Astros last Wednesday, and have looked impressive in all four games against two very good teams.

Bad news: The Yankees have been 4-0 since I last posted to Baseball Primer. Being the extremely superstitious person that I am, I simply can't bring myself to post there anymore. Well, maybe that's not bad news for everyone else, but it sucks for me. It was sad enough spending every night on the computer talking about baseball, now I'm just going to be spending every night on the computer watching other people talk about baseball.

As APNY pointed out in the Chatter today:
Next 16 games: 7 vs TB, 6 vs NYM, 3 vs Bal

When will we see Larry again?
I think they'll lose at least one of those four games against Tampa. But hopefully you'll never see me again. ;-)

Today was pretty close to a perfect game for the Yanks. The defense wasn't bad, but the plays by Jeter and Matsui were more aesthetically pleasing than they were skillful. Mussina was efficient and effective, holding down the Cards except for one rough inning. The Yankees offense did something they used to do with regularity, wearing down the starter, Woody Williams, until they were able to push four across in the bottom of the 6th. For the first time in weeks, the Yankees look like the team that nobody wanted to come to town, and for probably the first time all year, they looked like that at home.

But let's not go overboard here. The '98 Yankees considered a four game winning streak a slump. If they win 3 of 4 against Tampa Bay, we can start talking about how they're really out of this funk.

Soriano went 0-4 today, and his OPS (.871) dropped below last year's (.879) for the first time. He's been in an awful, awful slump, and it really looks to me like he's returning to his hacktastic ways. Consider: After May 7, his BB Rate was .090, about three times his rate last season. His strikeout to walk ratio was 1.67. His OPS was 1.012. He was on a pace to hit .336 with 49 HRs, with 74 BBs and 123 Ks. Yes, about a third of his walks were intentional, but he was still walking at a greatly improved rate, and striking out much less. Simply put, he had stopped swinging at pitches he couldn't hit, with predictable results. He was awesome.

In the 35 games since? His walk rate is .036, just barely above last season's, his K/BB ratio is 6.33, just barely below last season's, and his OPS has been .734. Just watching his at bats shows the problem, he's swinging at pitches he can't hit, and consequently getting more pitches that he can't hit. The more desperate he gets, the more he hacks. It's more or less what happened to Shea Hillenbrand last season, once he went into a prolonged slump, he went away from what was working for him early, and back to what he thought had worked before. And it's a damned shame.

Does Soriano deserve to be on the All-Star team? Of course. An .871 OPS from a second baseman is still fantastic. But he doesn't deserve to start.

Speaking of the All-Star team, here's my ballot:

1st Base C. DELGADO
2nd Base B. BOONE (and leaving FoSo in the dust)
Shortstop N. GARCIAPARRA (Probably just for this week, though)
3rd Base T. GLAUS
Catcher J. POSADA
Outfield M. BRADLEY
Outfield M. RAMIREZ
Outfield M. MORA

1st Base T. HELTON
2nd Base M. GILES
Shortstop E. RENTERIA
3rd Base S. ROLEN
Catcher J. LOPEZ
Outfield B. BONDS
Outfield A. PUJOLS

It would be interesting to see one of those guys in center. Of course, Barry won't be there, as he will be (and should be) with his father. But it would be fun to watch for three innings.