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April 8, 2004

Yankees 3, Devil Rays 2
by Larry Mahnken

Nothing short of an injury yesterday would have given reason to worry, but the Yankees twice came close to making everyone panic. For five innings, their vaunted lineup was no hit by the great Paul Abbott, before they finally broke through for two runs in the sixth. And then they came within a single of losing the game with Mariano Rivera on the mound, before an excellent play by A-Rod saved the Yankees.

The Yanks come home with a 2-2 record, some small concerns about Mike Mussina, a few more about their long relief, but not much else to be down on. Kevin Brown has been nearly perfect in his first two starts, and has yet to show even the slightest symptoms of Jeteritis. Indeed, his BABIP is only .262 so far, good for anyone, impressive for a ground ball pitcher, and especially so for one pitching for the Yankees. That probably won't keep up, but his DIPS stats have been almost as good.

I spent most of the day yesterday adapting my DIPS worksheet to track DIPS over the course of the season (entering the names is the most time-consuming part, the rest of the data entry is fairly simple), and completed the stats for the AL through yesterdays' games. After his first two starts, Brown's DIPS is 1.90, and he's been 6 runs better than replacement. Again, he'll certainly regress, but he's been better than he was last year so far, which is far more than I think anyone hoped for.

(Yes, I will release the DIPS stats once I've gotten caught up, I still have to finish the NL).

Joe Torre batted Posada eighth again yesterday, putting both Hideki Matsui and Bernie Williams in front of him. I can see Williams being there if he's healthy, but he's not yet, and if he's batting seventh, it should be behind Posada and in front of Matsui. I was watching the game with a friend, and I asked why Joe batted Posada eighth again, and he asked why he's batting Wilson at all. We agreed that the Yankees would be best served over the course of the season to just leave the batting slot empty, taking the automatic out in exchange for eliminating the possibilities of double plays.

And Wilson was an undeserving hero of sorts yesterday. With Bernie Williams on third in the ninth, Wilson was kept in to hit, and flew out, bringing home what proved to be the winning run. After the game, the announcers were saying how it worked out for the Yankees, leaving Wilson in instead of pinch-hitting. Because, of course, only the mighty Enrique Wilson is capable of hitting a fly ball.

Suzyn Waldman said she was questioning the decision to leave Wilson in to hit, but after the fly ball, said, "That's why Joe's down there and I'm up here". No Suzyn, Joe's down there because he's a good leader. I have no idea why you're up there. Probably because there's no God.

Come on people, it was a questionable decision that worked out. Results don't justify decisions. If you pinch-hit Neifi Perez for Barry Bonds, and Perez hits a home run, was it a good idea to pinch-hit Perez for Bonds? Of course not.

I'm pretty satisfied with where they are going into the Home Opener, though the way they got here was a bit frustrating at times. They're 2-2, but we've already seen glimpses of the nightmare for everyone else that this team is going to be at times. And they're already ahead of the '98 Yankees' pace.