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July 6, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

The Lineups
Two-Part "BIG POST ERROR" Edition!
Part Two

#6 Hitter:
Red Sox:
Kevin Millar (.303/.369/.531)
Yankees: Jorge Posada (.254/.396/.504)

Much has been made about Posada’s “slump”, which dropped his BA from .303 on May 1st to the .254 it’s at now, but Jorge’s OBP has actually gone up about ten points in that time. His power had dropped considerably in that time, though, and it’s obvious that he needs more time off. It would be nice if the Yankees had a backup catcher who could hit enough to give Posada a day off once in a while, but you know, gotta have a good fielding catcher coming off the pine. Unless he starts getting some rest, Posada is going to keep fading late in the season.

Millar has performed at about the level expected, and he’s likely to keep performing at that level the rest of the way. It was another excellent pickup for Theo Epstein, and it frustrates the hell out of me that while the Red Sox were bringing in Mueller, Millar, Ortiz and Giambi, the Yankees gave Todd Zeile a million dollars to suck.

Add the fact that Posada is likely to fade, and I need to pour on some extra myopia to call this one a draw.

#7 Hitter:
Red Sox:
Trot Nixon (.318/.408/.567)
Yankees: Robin Ventura (.248/.336/.405)

It’s been said that great lineups are made in the bottom of the order. Sure, it was said by me, and it was just in that sentence, but it’s still true. Well, at least of this Red Sox team it is, because in these last three spots in the lineup, the Red Sox go from being a very good lineup to being a historically good lineup.

Trot Nixon can’t hit lefties, but he’s wicked pissah against righties. It doesn’t bode well for the Yankees that the only lefties in the rotation are Wells (who hasn’t pitched well versus the Sox), and Pettitte, and they don’t have a legitimate LOOGY in the pen, since Torre has something against Randy Choate.

As for Robin Ventura, unless he’s playing hurt, it’s probably the end of the road. Maybe the Yankees should inquire about Lowell, whose power is certain to drop, but at least would give them a better hitter there this year and a reasonable answer for the next few years. Chicago will probably overpay for him in the end (or the Marlins will foolishly hang onto him), so it’s not likely to happen. As it is, huge edge for Red Sox.

#8 Hitter:
Red Sox:
Bill Mueller (.327/.401/.549)
Yankees: Raul Mondesi (.263/.336/.478)

It’s been said that great lineups are…oh wait, I already did that one. Well, the Red Sox have gotten far better production out of Bill Mueller than they expected, which allowed them to ship Hillenbrand off to Arizona for that top-notch relief pitcher they so desperately needed. Mueller is likely to come back to earth--he already has started doing that with a .746 OPS in June--but even when he’s the old Mueller, he’s still better than Mondesi

Mondesi, much like Soriano, was on fire in April, and much like Soriano, he has come hurtling back to earth since then, and even more precipitously. His May OPS was .732, his June OPS was .657. The Yankees are hoping that Reggie Jackson can get him to approach his April 1.117 OPS again, but it’s more likely that what we’ll see the rest of the way is a replacement-level outfielder. He’s not killing the Yanks, but he sure is hell isn’t helping, and it’s not a bad idea to try Garcia and Sierra out there from time-to-time. Advantage Red Sox, but not a huge one, because Mueller is coming back to earth.

#9 Hitter:
Red Sox:
Jason Varitek (.300/.364/.588)
Yankees: Nick Johnson (.308/.455/.517)

Repent, for the Second Coming of OBP Jesus is nearly upon us! Nick Johnson, when he returns and gets his stroke back, is one of the very best hitters on the Yankees. Maybe Joe will recognize this and start to put him higher in the order, but I fully expect him to get slotted right back here, and probably lose ABs against lefties to Zeile and Sierra.

So far this season, Jason Varitek has been the best #9 hitter in baseball. He has hit for more power than Nick did, but I fully expect Johnson’s power to develop, though it might not happen this season. Still, OBP and SLG shouldn’t really be evenly weighted, so Johnson’s 91 point OBP edge trumps Varitek’s 71 point SLG edge by a lot. Johnson also struggles against lefties, but against the Red Sox, that’s not really a big issue.

A more objective analyst might use the fact that Johnson’s coming off an injury to decide that it’s about even here, but go read what Bernal had to say about me. Edge to Yankees.

So, by my tally, the Yankees have one huge advantage, the Red Sox have two, the Yankees have two normal advantages, the Red Sox one, and three draws. So, the Red Sox look to have a slightly better lineup than the Yankees when the Bombers are healthy. The Yankees pitching edge more than counters this, IMO (pay no attention to those last two games behind the curtain!), and if they can get better production out of right field and third base, and Jeter heats up, the Yankees’ lineup can be just as productive as the Red Sox.