Yanks' lineup potent, but they need more to win it all
Posted: Tuesday September 26, 2006 11:50AM; Updated: Tuesday September 26, 2006 1:00PM
Slotting Gary Sheffield in at first base helps give the Yankees a lineup for the ages.
Early next week Yankees manager Joe Torre will wake up to the vexing decision of whom he bats seventh, eighth and ninth in his postseason lineup. He may very well settle on what would look like the middle of the order for most teams: Robinson Cano, Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada.
That would be a batting-title contender and two guys who between them averaged 97 RBIs the previous three seasons. Poor guy. Sympathy from other managers he will not get.
Torre can sip his green tea knowing he won't have to make another personnel decision until it's time to remove his starting pitcher. The Yankees are a modern wonder: They have no need for platoons and no need even for a pinch hitter. Assuming Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield are healthy -- and every indication is they will be for Game 1 of the AL Division Series -- Torre has a lineup on automatic pilot. It's a lineup of nine players who would bat no matter what the situation or pitcher. Bernie Williams, the cleanup hitter on the championship Yankees teams from the 1990s, will play the role of mascot.
New York will start seven players who each have at least one 100-RBI season in their careers -- the exceptions being the leadoff hitter, Johnny Damon, who once drove in 94, and Cano, the batting-title contender. Sounds like the greatest offense ever, right? The favorites to run the postseason table?
Not so fast. This offense isn't that good -- major injuries to Matsui, Sheffield and Cano stifled what might have been a march toward 1,000 runs -- nor is it a lock to carry the Yankees to a world championship.
New York entered play Tuesday with 890 runs. There have been seven teams since 1900 that scored 1,000 runs; five of them did not win the World Series (1930 Cardinals, '30 and '31 Yankees, '50 Red Sox and '99 Indians). Two of them did win it, though they did so ages ago (1932 and '36 Yankees).
Obviously, runs were a lot easier to come by in 1930 than, say, 1968. So what about measuring teams against their peers, by looking at a percentage above the league average of runs scored? Excluding the pre-humidor Rockies teams, you get this:
Pct. above league avg.
1. 1931 Yankees
2. 1976 Reds
Won World Series
3. 1950 Red Sox
4. 1953 Dodgers
Lost World Series
5. 1927 Yankees
Won World Series
The 2006 Yankees? They were 15 percent better than the league average as of Tuesday. Very good, but not historic.
OK, but remember, the Yankees' postseason lineup is more potent than its regular-season lineup because of the returns of Matsui and Sheffield. Have we seen a postseason offense as deep as this one? For comparables, let's consider the 10 teams that either scored 1,000 runs or scored 28 percent more than the league average. But let's throw out the three teams that didn't make the postseason. Now throw out the teams that split playing time at one position or more (such as the 1927 Yankees, who did so at catcher). And you're left with the four deepest, baddest postseason lineups that had no need for role players: