Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
October 20, 2000
BASEBALL: SUBWAY SERIES PREVIEW
Sadly, I am still up to my eyeballs with the day job (three weeks into a trial) so I won't be doing a comprehensive preview of the Ultimate Battle Between Good and Evil (also known as Mets vs. Yankees). I'll give my thoughts about the Series after I come back up for air, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to slip in a few notes before it all starts:
The projected pitching matchups look like this:
Only El Duque presents rest issues; everyone else is rested for Game 1. Clearly, Torre is not throwing Clemens at Yankee Stadium twice by accident, even though the House That Ruth Built favors lefties. While Neagle had no advantage there this year, Pettite was 9-2, 3.93 ERA at home, 10-7, 4.72 on the road, and 26-13, 3.69 ERA at home, 22-16, 4.07 ERA on the road the prior three years. Clemens, meanwhile, had an ERA 40 points higher at home -- not a big difference but enough to suggest that the Stadium gives him no advantage.
Put another way, Clemens' fear of stepping in the batters box has real consequences, because it forces Torre to re-work the rotation so that the one guy who gets a real advantage from the home park has to make one of his two starts at Shea, and if there is a deciding Game Seven the Yanks will go, not with their ace, but with a righthander who, for all his big-game prowess, posted a 4-8 record and a 5.57 ERA at Yankee Stadium this season. Fear strikes out the Yanks?
The Reed-Hernandez pitching matchup isn't too good for the Mets, and I would have like to see Hampton -- who is a useful hitter and struggles away from Shea -- slated for Games Three and Seven. But Valentine obviously wants to focus on winning at least one of the first two, and with these matchups that seems likely.
On the offensive side, the two teams are fairly evenly matched offensively; the Yanks were 6th in the AL in scoring, the Mets 7th in the NL. If you pair off Piazza/Alfonzo with Bernie/Jeter, the Mets have just enough advantage to mostly even out the matchup of Justice against Agbayani or Zeile. More to the point, the Mets have no spots as weak as Brosius or the hobbled O'Neill. I give the offensive edge to the Yankees, but only narrowly.
The Mets do have one huge advantage: middle relief. All the way back to 1969 (see Nolan Ryan, NLCS Game 3), and most memorably in 1986, the Mets have historically thrived by violating the cardinal rule of baseball: power and frontline starting pitching wins in the postseason. The Mets have been at their best, as they were against the Giants, when they can even out those battles and turn the series into a contest of extra-inning games and middle relievers. The Yanks are pitifully weak beyond Rivera and the big three starters. That's why those starters are the key to the series; if they get knocked out before finishing seven innings at any point, the Mets get an edge.
Pettite and Hernandez have been overachieving in the postseason for too long; nobody keeps that up forever. There was a reason El Duque had a losing record and a 4.51 ERA this year, and that will manifest itself eventually, though the Mets' lack of lefty bats may hamper their ability to take advantage.
Who will win? I'll go with Mets in six. What, you thought I'd pick the Yankees? I'd rather be wrong.