Mets vs. Yankees: The 2011 Subway Series Part 1 Preview

Shale BriskinContributor IIIMay 20, 2011

Mets vs. Yankees: The 2011 Subway Series Part 1 Preview

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    Beginning today, the Mets and Yankees will square off in Part 1 of the 2011 Subway Series. The Yankees will be hosting the series this weekend, while the Mets will host Part 2 in early July. 

    According to, R.A. Dickey will be pitching the first game for the Mets on Friday, with Chris Capuano pitching Saturday and Mike Pelfrey pitching Sunday. The Yankees' scheduled rotation has not been released yet. However, based on the rotation so far, it would be logical to predict that Freddy Garcia will pitch on Friday, with AJ Burnett starting on Saturday and the rookie Ivan Nova on Sunday.

    So far, the Mets and Yankees' seasons have not been too different. While the Mets are 21-22 (as of Friday, May 20), the Yankees have fared slightly better at 23-19. 

    Each team has had different expectations going into this season. The Yankees, who had a rare disappointing offseason after failing to sign Cliff Lee, have always maintained their one and only team goal, which is World Series Championship or bust. 

    The Mets, on the other hand, have had other issues regarding the financial status of their owners, and an injury bug that has simply kept stinging the team. As a result, this year is more or less a rebuilding year. Their expectations and goals are not as high as the Yankees. Nonetheless, if the Mets can finish with around 82-85 wins and contend for at least part of the season, 2011 will not be a complete failure like 2009 and 2010 were. 

    The Subway Series is always a fun time for both teams, the media, and especially the fans of each team, who enjoy the fight for bragging rights over who the best team from New York really is. Here is an in-depth preview of what to look for during the Subway Series this weekend.

Can the Bronx Bombers Live Up to Their Name?

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    The logical answer to this would be "yes."

    Mark Teixeira, the Yankees' first baseman who is in the third year of his eight year, $180 million deal, has defied his odds and avoided the slow early season start that plagued him the past two seasons. So far, he is batting .257 with 9 home runs and 22 RBI. He is still one of the best defensive first basemen in the game and is a feared hitter from both sides of the plate.

    The Yankees' best hitter from 2010, Robinson Cano has gotten off to another hot start. He leads the Yankee regulars with a .287 average, along with 9 home runs and 27 RBI. He has also continued to crush left-handed pitching and has hit .292 against lefties, which is very impressive for a young left-handed hitter. 

    Not to be forgotten from the Yankees' "Big 3," Alex Rodriguez has had a good start to his season, particularly because he is now past his prime. A-Rod is batting .266 with 8 home runs and 24 RBI so far. His hip has not been bothering him too much, and he is certainly destined to have another solid season as he continues to climb up the all-time home run rankings. With 10 more home runs, he will pass Ken Griffey, Jr. for fifth place all-time. 

    But the biggest surprise for the Yankees has been center fielder Curtis Granderson. After struggling last year, the "Grandy-man" has had a very impressive start to his season. Although he is batting a decent .266, he already has 14 home runs and 31 RBI. The short porch in the new Yankee Stadium may be a contributing factor, but Granderson is really starting to live up to name. It's fair to say that Yankees GM Brian Cashman no longer regrets trading for him. 

    Look for a combination of these four to carry the Yankees' offense during the Subway Series and beyond. Another reason for this is because both Derek Jeter and particularly Nick Swisher have struggled so far. Jeter is batting just .255 as his career has already begun to decline, while Swisher has struggled mightily and is only batting .215. Jorge Posada has had a rather tough time transitioning into a full-time DH and his .179 average and inability to get a hit against lefties has certainly been a disappointment in what could be his last professional season. 

    One other pleasant surprise has been the new catcher Russell Martin. Martin is batting .261 and already has 7 home runs and 22 RBI after struggling offensively the past few seasons with the Dodgers. This has been good for the Yankees because they have the flexibility to let the young Jesus Montero develop more experience in the minors.

Can the Back End of the Yankees' Rotation Hold Up?

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    Going into the season, the Yankees' most glaring weakness was the back end of their rotation. This would include veterans Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, as well as the rookie Ivan Nova. AJ Burnett was also a big question mark going into the season due to his disappointing 2010 campaign. 

    However, Phil Hughes has recently landed on the disabled list, so the Yankees must count on the back end even more. With CC Sabathia being the dependable ace he is, Burnett has stepped up so far, with a 4-3 record and a respectable 3.99 ERA in nine starts. Last year, he was plagued by control issues, which led to him being infamously known for giving up one home run after another. However, with the help of new pitching coach Larry Rothschild, Burnett looks like he has found his 2009 dominant self again. Only time will tell whether he will remain consistent this year.

    Although his record is 2-3, Garcia has been a pleasant surprise for the Yankees. A former Mariners and White Sox ace, Garcia will now be expected to hold down the back end of the rotation. His ERA is only 3.22, which is certainly better than what was expected of him. Colon has been another welcoming surprise for the Yankees. After going through many injuries and a continued overweight problem, he is 2-2 with a 3.16 ERA. Many most likely thought Colon was washed up, but he has proved his critics wrong so far. 

    Rounding out the rotation is Nova, a young rookie with a lot of potential. He is 4-3 with a 4.33 ERA. His strikeout/walk ratio is not the best, but with time, Nova is only going to get better with time, so this weekend could be a good time to show his full potential to everyone in New York.

    If the Yankee rotation can pitch well, they can hand the ball to one of the stronger bullpens in baseball. Despite having lefties Damaso Marte and Pedro Feliciano hurt, others like Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson have stepped up in middle relief. Chamberlain and Robertson will most likely share set-up duties for the time being because set-up man Rafael Soriano is currently on the disabled list.

    And of course, the ninth inning is synonymous with Mariano Rivera, one of the greatest closers of all time. At 41, Rivera has not missed a beat and already has 13 saves and a 1.80 ERA, as well as the same cutter that has helped him get the success he has had.

Can the Mets Offense Produce Without the Big Guys?

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    The injury bug has plagued the Mets for the past few years, but this time it has hurt the team in a different way.

    Last year, the team was marred by injuries to Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay. However, all three are now healthy and playing every day. On the other hand, the Mets' three best hitters from 2010 are currently on the disabled list. This includes David Wright, Ike Davis and Angel Pagan. As a result, Beltran and Bay's responsibilities have certainly increased and they will be counted on to carry the team until Wright, Davis and Pagan are healthy. 

    In a comeback season, which also happens to be his contract season, Beltran so far has reverted back to his old 2006-2008 self. He leads the Mets with eight home runs and is second in RBI with 24. He has finally started to show power from both sides of the plate, as was evident while the Mets were in Colorado when he homered three times (two from the left side and one from the right). Last year, Beltran's power was mostly evident from the right side, so it's definitely good to see that he can still show power from the left side. Look for him to take advantage of the short porch and wind current in right field of the new Yankee Stadium this weekend. 

    Unlike Beltran, Bay still has yet to show the power that helped him hit 36 home runs in 2009. He has just two home runs and seven RBI since being activated from the disabled list in mid-April. He has had success in the new Yankee Stadium, so maybe this is just the scenery he needs to go on a power streak. 

    But so far, it has been Jose Reyes that has stolen the show. Like Beltran, Reyes is playing during a contract season and will be a potential free agent this off-season. Many people questioned his health as to whether he can still be the dominant catalyst that he was from 2005-2008. He has lived up to his billing so far in 2011. He is batting .317 and already has 16 stolen bases and six triples, which are two statistics he had been among the league leaders in for years. His .373 on-base percentage is another good sign that the vintage Reyes could be back. 

    Before they got hurt, Wright and Davis were both having strong seasons. Wright has six home runs and 18 RBI, while Davis has seven home runs (and some of monstrous distances) along with a team-leading 25 RBI. However, their losses are significant, which means that Reyes, Beltran and Bay all must stay healthy and carry the team during the Subway Series and beyond. If others such as Daniel Murphy and Josh Thole could make offensive contributions, that could help as well. 

    One pleasant surprise has been the play of center fielder Jason Pridie who has filled in for the injured Pagan. He has never been known for his hitting, but Pridie has already contributed three unexpected home runs, as well as 10 RBI. His defense has also been strong. 

    All in all, if Reyes, Beltran and Bay can carry the Mets offense in the absence of Wright, Davis and Pagan, the Mets could certainly outslug the Yankees.

Can the Mets Pitching Be Consistent at Its Full Potential?

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    Last year, the Mets' starting rotation was probably the only consistent force for the team. However, it has certainly had its ups and downs so far in 2011. With ace Johan Santana is expected to miss the first half of the season, everyone else knew they would have to contribute significantly if the Mets were to contend.

    Mike Pelfrey was tabbed as the Opening Day starter by new manager Terry Collins during Spring Training. Pelfrey did not pitch well during Opening Day, but he seems to have recently found some success, which can hopefully continue for a while. After a 15-win season in 2010, a lot is expected out of Pelfrey in particular. If he can limit the mistakes and control his emotions on a consistent basis, the sky is the limit for his potential. His 3-3 record and 5.11 ERA may look a bit alarming, but Pelfrey struggled during most of April. However, with a stronger May so far, look for those numbers to drop. If Pelfrey can have a strong start against the Yankees, that would be a huge sign for him to return to the success he had last year. The new Yankee Stadium is a notorious hitter's park, so if Pelfrey can limit the home runs, that would be a good start for him. He is scheduled to pitch the final game of the series on Sunday May 22.

    One Mets starter that potentially has even more potential than Pelfrey is the young lefty Jon Niese. Niese had a strong rookie season in 2010, even though he faltered during the final month of the season. His record this year is 3-4 with a 4.33 ERA. If Niese can become a little more consistent, he can become one of the best pitchers in the league. Unlike Pelfrey, Niese is more of a power pitcher and has the velocity to fool hitters. However, when he misses his spots, particularly to right-handed hitters, it can hurt him. Niese though will not be pitching again until next week against the Cubs.

    The biggest story of Mets pitching last season was the emergence of knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Dickey finished in the top 10 for ERA among National League pitchers. Despite winning his first start, Dickey has not been consistent at all this year. He is 1-5 with a 5.08 ERA. The record could be evident towards a lack of run support, but Dickey has had control issues and just had not pitched the way he did last year. He will be pitching the first game. If he can limit the home runs and show better control, it could be a sign of better starts to come.

    During the past offseason, the Mets made two significant signings in Chris Young and Chris Capuano. Young pitched very well in all four of his starts until it was discovered that he had torn the anterior capsule in his shoulder, which ended his season. Capuano though has become more consistent of late with a 3-4 record and a 4.78 ERA. He will be pitching the second game of the series. If he can handle Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano, that would definitely be a great sign that he may have found some consistency. 

    Rounding out the Mets rotation is the young Dillon Gee, who has been very impressive in his first full season. He is 3-0 with a 3.44 ERA. Gee though will miss the Subway Series as his next start will be next week in Chicago.

    One of the biggest question marks for the Mets going into the season was the stability of the bullpen. However, it has become of the most consistent areas for the Mets. Taylor Buccholz has been consistent in the middle relief with a 1.66 ERA, while Rule 5 pick Pedro Beato, who has recently been activated from the disabled list, has not allowed an earned run in 11 appearances.

    Perhaps the most impressive Mets pitcher so far is veteran set-up man Jason Isringhausen. After not playing in the major leagues during 2010, Isringhausen has become a dependable set-up man with a 1.93 ERA in 16 appearances. The anchor of the bullpen though is closer Francisco Rodriguez, who has returned to his old dominant self. He has converted 14 saves out of 15 opportunities. His ERA is even more impressive at 0.79. Hopefully, this can continue through the rest of the season, especially because of the way his 2010 season ended. 

    If the Mets' pitching can be consistent this weekend, there is no reason as to why the Mets cannot beat the Yankees.

How Will Terry Collins Adapt to the Subway Series?

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    Yankees manager Joe Girardi has had a lot of experience within the Subway Series. He was originally part of the Subway Series from 1997-1999 as the Yankees' catcher. He has also managed the Yankees since 2008; thus, he has had six years of the Subway Series already under his belt.

    New Mets manager Terry Collins, on the other hand, does not have any experience. The only other teams he has managed were the Astros and Angels in the 1990s. Collins has a lively personality and it will be interesting to see how he will handle the Subway Series.

    To be honest, Collins' lack of Subway Series experience should not hurt him much. However, it would be fair to say that Girardi most likely is more familiar with the Mets than Collins is with the Yankees. Because of this, Girardi certainly has a managerial edge over Collins. But if Collins can also make smart personnel decisions, the Mets will definitely have a better chance of winning.

Series Predictions

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    Game 1: Friday, May 20

    Starting Pitchers: R.A. Dickey (Mets); Freddy Garcia (Yankees)


    Both pitchers are veterans who are looking to make a positive impact on their teams. Both have struggled at various points in recent years, but with Garcia pitching at home, he looks like the favorite. Furthermore, Dickey has struggled with his control and has been giving up more home runs, which certainly makes him vulnerable at the new Yankee Stadium. This game will be close, but the Yankees should have the edge.

    Score: Yankees win 5-4

    Game 2: Saturday, May 21

    Starting Pitchers: Chris Capuano (Mets); AJ Burnett (Yankees)


    Capuano and Burnett both have a lot of potential and both have also had long histories of injuries. Both are healthy though this year and are more consistent than most people may have expected. Capuano really seems like he is coming into his own with the Mets. As long as he pitches carefully to the Yankees' right-handed sluggers, plus Cano, who has shown he can hit lefties, the Mets could certainly win this game. The biggest factor will be determined by whether Capuano's control is better than Burnett's or vice-versa. In other words, the team whose starter has better control will win this game. Look for Reyes and Beltran to potentially have a field day if Burnett's control is off.

    Score: Mets win 7-5

    Game 3: Sunday, May 22

    Starting Pitchers: Mike Pelfrey (Mets); Ivan Nova (Yankees)


    This game looks like a must-win for the Mets, with their ace pitching against a Yankees rookie. Pelfrey has been pitching well lately, so there is a very good chance he can continue this good stretch of his. Teixeira, Cano and the red-hot Granderson are the three hitters he must be very careful in regards to how he pitches. However, if Pelfrey surrenders a few too many walks and/or gives up a home run or two, then he could easily get in trouble. Nova has not been the most consistent pitcher himself, so it will be interesting to see how he fares against an injury-plagued Mets lineup. 

    Score: Mets win 6-2


    Let the games begin!