Scouting the Yankees
A look at the team’s strengths and weaknesses in various phases of the game going into the American League Championship Series.
Probable rotation: Today – Left-hander Denny Neagle. Wednesday – Right-hander Orlando Hernandez. Friday – Left-hander Andy Pettitte. Saturday – Right-hander Roger Clemens. Sunday (if necessary) – Neagle. Tuesday, Oct. 17 (if necessary) – Hernandez. Wednesday, Oct. 18 (if necessary) – Pettitte.
Strengths: Hernandez and Pettitte were the best of a struggling group of Yankee starters in their series against Oakland. Hernandez, especially, could nullify the Mariners’ right-handed swingers with his mid-90s fastball.
Weaknesses: Neagle, who didn’t pitch in the Oakland series, was hit hard in his final two regular-season starts. Sinkerball pitchers don’t always perform well after such a long layoff. Clemens, as well, looked far from sharp against the A’s.
Key relievers: Left-handers Randy Choate and Mike Stanton, right-handers David Cone, Dwight Gooden, Jeff Nelson and Mariano Rivera.
Strengths: Stanton, Nelson and Rivera have long been the backbone of the Yankee bullpen, and they looked unbeatable against the A’s.
Weaknesses: Choate has struggled, and Cone and Gooden are displaced starters who manager Joe Torre tried to avoid using in the Division Series.
Lineup: Catchers – Jorge Posada. First base – Tino Martinez. Second – Luis Sojo. Third – Scott Brosius. Shortstop – Derek Jeter. Left field – David Justice. Center – Bernie Williams. Right – Paul O’Neill.
Strengths: Like the Mariners, this is a veteran lineup that isn’t intimidated by the postseason. It also has that Yankee mystique, which always seems to rise at this time of year. That, and Jeter’s amazing range, glove and arm at shortstop.
Weaknesses: Sojo has average (at best) range at second and opponents consistently tested O’Neill’s poor and often-inaccurate throwing arm in right. Even in their struggle to beat Oakland, the Yankees haven’t played consistent baseball in more than a month. They went through a September swoon in which they didn’t win two games in a row the final three weeks, and they were pressing in the field because of it.
Batting order: Chuck Knoblauch (DH), Jeter, O’Neill, Williams, Justice, Martinez, Posada, Sojo, Brosius.
Strengths: Knoblaugh is a pesky leadoff guy who will make contact, Jeter will push the ball to all fields, and Williams and O’Neill are home-run threats. Martinez pounded the A’s last week, hitting .421.
Weaknesses: Jeter and O’Neill, despite their pop, struggled against the A’s, and Brosius brought up the tail end of the batting order by hitting .176. You’ve got to think the M’s scouts were watching.