Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Yankees Dejected in Second Loss

Injuries are the story of the day. Posada is getting second opinions, Bruney is getting second opinions, Rodriguez is on the 15 day DL and in a new startling development, Phil Hughes is injured.

No one really seems to have a good explanation but today Phil Hughes was placed on the 15 day DL with a strained oblique muscle. This means someone will have to get called up to fill in for Hughes' next start (my money is on Rasner). I'm not buying into this being any sort of actual injury, rather an attempt to bend the rules a bit by Girardi. Hughes can have a few days off to get his head screwed on straight, then can come back for a "rehab" start down in the minors.

Hopefully this will work out for the better, giving Phil a day or two off and giving Rasner a chance to strut his stuff.

The Yanks lost 6-2 tonight, and there weren't too many bright spots for the Bombers. Hitting was abysmal and the offense couldn't put enough runs on the board to bail out Andy Pettitte, who was roughed up a bit for 5 runs. Andy still has that magic pick off move, and got an easy out at first. That move is a thing of beauty.

LaTroy Hawkins gave up 1walk and no hits in a scoreless inning. Edwar Ramirez looked sharp, giving up 1 hit and 1 HBP in his inning. In between those two was Kyle Farnsworth who was typical Farnsworth - he threw hard and gave up a home run.

I don't want to dwell on the poor starting pitching and the anemic offense, and so I'll wrap things up.

In other roster news, Chad Moeller cleared waivers and was brought back up with Stewart being sent down. Wilson Betimit is better and is playing a few games in SWB before heading back to NY.

Yanks Fall With Poor Starting Pitching

Phil Hughes didn't have his stuff yet again, and only lasted 3.2 innings while giving up 8 hits, 6 runs, 3 BB, 2 SO, 2 HR, 82-50  PC-ST. Hughes didn't look in control of the mound at all and could have been pulled even sooner. Newly acquired catcher Chris Stewart didn't make things any easier, frequently getting signals crossed between himself and all 4 of the Yankee  pitchers used.

The good news pitching wise is that the bullpen was sharp once again. Joe Girardi called in Ohlendorf to be the de-facto long closer and Ross pitched 3.1 innings giving up only 1 hit while striking out 5. Edwar Ramirez and LaTroy Hawkins each came in to pitch one hit scoreless innings.

The Yankees offense was pretty anemic again with Matsui being the only hitter with multiple hits. Robinson Cano had a 2-run homer but couldn't deliver later in the game in a pressure situation. The Yankees blew a bases loaded 2 out situation without scoring any runs early on, and didn't show many signs of life.

Team LOB = 18. You're not going to win games leaving 18 men on base. I've been harping on this particular stat a bit lately and tonight was a prime example. Even with horrible starting pitching, the bullpen kept the club in the game but the offense fell flat, stranding runners without scoring.

Alex Rodriguez was placed on the 15-day DL with a strained quadriceps. With both Rodriguez and Posada out, the offense is taking a big hit. Posada is getting multiple opinions on his shoulder and the early word is that it will require extended rest but no surgery. Wilson Betemit is going to start a rehab stint in AAA. Brian Bruney is getting several opinions and is looking for an option other than surgery. Regardless of the outcome, he likely won't be back for a long time.

Once again we get to the same old story of starting pitchers not able to get out of the first few innings. This cannot and will not go on too much longer. I think the first thing for the Yankees to do will be to bring up Darrel Rasner to fill in either as long reliever or as a starter. Joba may end moving to the rotation sooner rather than later. If they move Joba up now, he might not be available to start in August and September due to his innings limit but if they don't they might be too far back in the fall to have any chance of making the post-season.

I'm sure the Yankees will jump on any halfway decent starter that becomes available for a reasonable price. The question is how many prospects will they have to give up. Rich Harden could be attractive if he can stay healthy. The Rays might be looking to move Kazmir although it's doubtful they'd let him go to another AL East team.

Stay tuned - more to come as the season continues!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

2009 Free Agents

Just for kicks I thought I'd take a look at who will become a free agent at the end of the season. I'm listing all the important Yankees, and a few non-Yankees of interest.

First Base:

Jason Giambi*

Third Base:

Morgan Ensberg


Bobby Abreu

Starting Pitchers:

Mike Mussina

Andy Pettitte

Relief Pitchers:

Kyle Farnsworth

LaTroy Hawkins


At first base, Mark Texiera will become available, and at 28 still has quite a few good years left in him. Several of the Yankees are getting a bit old at their position and might want to consider sliding over to first (Jeter, Posada). I don't see any way Giambi gets re-signed and wouldn't be surprised to see him get traded or cut if he continues to struggle. Also in the wings is Shelley Duncan, the utility OF/1B who has shown promise in the minor leagues but hasn't hit well in the majors this year.

Morgan Ensberg is more of a utility guy for the Yankees right now, and could get a better offer from someone else who wants to make him a starter. He is nice to have around, and currently adds more value to the team than Giambi. There are always youngsters like Eric Duncan and veterans like Cody Ransom ready to step in.

Bobby Abreu is an afterthought at this point. The Yanks already have too many outfielders and unless they trade someone, there's no need to keep Abreu around. Damon, Cabrera and Matsui can handle the job and guys like Duncan and Brett Gardner can fill in and you still have Tabata in the wings.

Mussina will likely be gone, Pettitte might sign on for another year if he holds up but the Yankees are going to need someone to fill in at least one spot. Assuming everything works out and Joba, Ian and Phil all come around as productive starters, Wang will still be an ace and then you've got one spot to fill. If Pettitte comes back you've got 5 but that's a lot of if's. Especially the way the staff is struggling right now, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Yanks pick someone up this year and then only re-signing Pettite if someone else doesn't work out.

I can't see the Yankees keeping Farnsworth around, despite Girardi's fascination with the hittable reliever. Hawkins is definitely gone. By next season Bruney should be healthy again and you've got Albaladejo,  Ohlendorf, Betances, Melancon and Patterson ready to take over.

There's a chance another minor league guy could be ready to try starting in the bigs. Darrel Rasner has been pitching well in the minors, but I see him as more of a long reliever. Jeff Marquez and Daniel McCutchen will get their shots eventually.

The Yankees have a lot of prospects that could play a role on next year's team. It would be hard to justify signing an overpriced veteran on the decline to a big contract when you've invested so much into bringing the young talent along. Then again, we're talking about the Yankees here, who am I kidding.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Bullpen Delivers

Mike Mussina pitched decently for 4 innings, was struggling in the fifth, but managed to get out with only giving up 2 runs. For Mussina, that's as good as it gets these days although ideally you'd like to see him be able to tough out another inning or two. Mussina and the Yankees intentionally walked the hot-hitting Victor Martinez with 2 men on base and it payed off. The Manny Ramirez incident still hangs heavy over Moose and the Yanks.

The bullpen was fantastic, pitching 4 scoreless innings. Albaladejo gave up a walk and a hit while Farnsworth, Chamberlain and Rivera retired the side in order during their respective innings on the mound.

It was interesting that Girardi only let each pitcher throw 1 inning out of the bullpen. In the past he hasn't been afraid to use Joba or Farnsworth for 2 innings. I'm not sure it would have been better to give one of them the day off and let someone pitch 2 innings in relief.  Perhaps Joba or Mo could have come in earlier if the others started struggling.

Mussina picked up the win and Rivera got hit 8th save of the season.

There were a few hits, but the Yankees got the hits when they needed them. Aaron Laffey pitched a no-hitter through 5 innings then came undone in the 6th. The Yankees strung together a few hits and walks to load the bases. A-Rod was then hit by a pitch and one run was forced in. Giambi and Matsui grounded out but drove in runs and Morgan Ensberg batted another run in with a weak single.

Johnny Damon came in to pinch hit for A-Rod (who was the DH tonight) in his next at bat. Girardi said afterward that it was a precautionary move but that A-Rod may sit out tomorrow's game.

I like seeing the Yankees hitting with runners in scoring position and not leaving too many runners on base. Tonight was one of those occasions where the Yankees took advantage of their opportunities.

Chris Stewart was called up from Scranton to back up Molina behind the plate if needed. It remains to be seen whether or not the Yanks will recall Moeller from waivers.

The Yankees have finished their grueling road trip and now have 18 or their next 25 games at home. They are 1 game over .500, 1 game out of first place and given everything that has happened, you have to be a little relieved. Phil Hughes will get the start tomorrow against Detroit's Kenny Rogers. Hughes' 7.85 ERA will be well matched against Rogers' 7.66.

Posada Being Selfish

“I’m not playing first base. I’m a catcher. We’ve got seven first basemen."  That quote from Jorge Posada was taken from today's New York Times article on the injured Yankee catcher.

So much for all that leadership and character. This comment sounds like something you'd hear from a certain Cincinnati Bengals receiver.

If your team needs you to play another position, you do it. Especially when they went out on a limb to sign you to a big contract in the twilight of your career. Posada's comment really sent me through the roof and killed any respect I had for his character.

Platooning at first base and DH may give Posada a way to continue playing while his shoulder recovers and if so he should accept his fate if that's what the Yankees decide.

I would not, under any circumstances, expect him to play first or DH if it were going to do more damage to his shoulder or if it would prevent his injury from healing quickly. If Jorge doesn't have surgery and playing first is an option, he darn well better go where they tell him.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Yankees Win 1-0

Chien-Ming Wang was on top of his game today pitching 7.0 innings of 4 hit, scoreless ball. CC Sabathia was almost as good for Cleveland but gave up a solo dinger to Melky Cabrera for the only run of the game. Wang racked up 9 strikeouts and only walked 2.

Joba and Mo were perfect in relief, retiring all 6 batters in order in the eight and ninth innings. Chamberlain was throwing 98 mph heat and looks healthy.

Shelley Duncan hasn't produced at the plate and went 0 for 4 today.

Jorge Posada was scratched at the last minute although the Yankees refused to comment on the reason. The New York Times is reporting that he has a shoulder tear and might need surgery. We'll see if we get any definitive information after the game from the media-shifty Girardi. If Jorge can't catch the Yanks will have to bring back Moeller if he clears wavers, or else find another catcher. Chris Stewart might come up from AAA if they need a replacement before Moeller is available again. If no surgery is needed but Posada has to lay off throwing, there's a chance he could still DH or possibly play 1st base (although Jorge won't like that idea).

If another catcher has to be brought in (or up) I don't expect Shelley Duncan to stick around. Alberto Gonzalez is tremendously useful with his defensive skills and Ensberg can play first and third. Outfielders the Yanks have aplenty.

We'll have to wait and see what happens as there is no immediate report yet.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

So Much for Ohlendorf as a Closer

Ross Ohlendorf gave up the winning run in a 4-3 loss to Cleveland. Billy Traber has been sent down and I see Ross' stock slipping in Girardi's eyes. Ian Kennedy looked awful early on and got hit hard for 3 runs in the second inning. After that he settled down and played well, but had thrown 105 pitches by the end of the fifth. Kyle Farnsworth and LaTroy Hawkins pitched fairly well, combining for 3 scoreless innings, but Hawkins needed some help from his defense to get it done.

The Yankees weren't hitting today as a team. Damon and Jeter were cranking out the hits but the Yanks couldn't string together enough offense to put more than 3 runs on the board.

This was a tough game to watch, given everything else that has happened lately. Girardi continues to make lots of ineffectual moves with both his hitters and bullpen pitchers.

Kennedy's lines weren't bad but watching him pitch that second inning was painful. Once again, a Yankee starter couldn't make it past the fifth inning. The Bombers need their starters to go at least 6, preferably 7 or 8 innings.

Giambi continues to cost his team runs by playing first, and struggled at the plate. Robinson Cano and his .152 batting average were brought in to hit for Morgan Ensberg, who has been hitting much better than Cano.

Farnsworth has been decent in his last few outings. That's about the only bright spot I'm seeing right now, which is a sad reflection on the state of this team.

Tensions are going to start running even higher before long if this continues.

Traber Sent Down, Duncan Called Up

The Yankees sent Billy Traber back down, not a surprising move given his recent poor outings. Shelley Duncan has been called up and is in the lineup for Saturday's game.

The Yankees no longer have a lefty in the bullpen.

They still don't have a long reliever.

Another Tough Loss

Andy Pettitte didn't have his best stuff and unlike his last start, couldn't tough out a win. The Yankees lost 6-4 to the Cleveland Indians, mostly due to a poor fifth inning by Pettitte. Andy gave up 2 home runs in that inning and just threw some bad pitches. The rest of his performance was decent, but all it takes is a few lapses and the opposing batters will make you pay.

Billy Traber struggled in his one inning appearance. I liked what I saw from him early in the year but his last 3 appearances have been worrisome. This time he gave up 2 walks, 1 hit and earned 1 run in his single inning of work. I'm not ready to give up on him yet, but I'm keeping him on a shorter leash at this point.

Albaladejo pitched 2 scoreless innings and was the only pitching bright spot. I really like this guy and think he deserves a full time spot in the bullpen.

Jason Giambi's bat came alive as he hit 2 home runs and was a few feet away from a third. In his last 7 games, Giambi is hitting .375 with a .500 OBP and a 1.000 SLG. While it's good to see him hitting again, I wouldn't complain if he were traded an a better defensive player were brought in.

There were three stolen bases against the Yankees, one against Pettitte and two against Traber. Traber has a slow delivery and no pickup move and Posada had no chance to throw out the runners. Expect to see much more base stealing against Posada and the Yanks in the next few games as Posada is slipping to Piazza-like levels of play defensively (but not quite matching him offensively).

Ian Kennedy gets the start tonight. Lets all keep our fingers crossed that he starts pitching at the level he is capable of and can last 6 or 7 innings or more.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Why You Don't Retire Paul O'Neill's Number

LaTroy Hawkins created quite a stir with fans at Yankee stadium when he wore number 21, causing many misguided fans to boo him for wearing Roberto Clemente's number, which was also worn by Paul O'Neill.

Paul was a great Yankee for 9 years. He played well, provided leadership and helped bring 4 World Series titles to the Bronx. I enjoyed watching him play and was always a fan.

Paul O'Neill doesn't deserve to get his number retired.

The Yankees have gone crazy retiring numbers, to the point that retiring numbers doesn't mean much anymore. While Paul was a great player, he wasn't one of the all-time greats.

O'Neill only played 9 years in New York. after 8 season in Cincinnati. It's tough to retire the number of a guy who played almost half his career somewhere else. Bernie Williams was a lifetime Yankee, playing all 16 years in pinstripes, as did Don Mattingly.

Both Williams and Mattingly won multiple Gold Gloves, O'Neill, none. Donnie Baseball actually won an MVP award. O'Neill was on a few all-star teams, but no MVP. Both O'Neill and Mattingly won an AL batting title. Paul put up some better career numbers, but on paper doesn't look as good as Bernie Williams, who finished with a higher career AVG, OBP and SLG and more home runs.

Williams was a quiet guy, who led with exemplary play. Mattingly in addition to being one of the most beloved players in recent Yankee history, was a clubhouse leader. O'Neill fell somewhere between the two.

I'm not trying to diminish Paul O'Neill's accomplishments or put him down. He was a fine player and was a heart of the Yankees team for many years and several championships. He's just not on par with the likes of Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig, and had stiff competition from his peers in the form of guys like Bernie Williams.

I just don't see number 21 getting retired in the Bronx.

Roster Updates

Brian Bruney has a Lisfranc injury to his foot and likely will require season ending surgery. He has been put on the 15 day DL for now.

Chad Moeller is getting designated for assignment. If he clears wavers, he said he'd like to stay with the organization. It wouldn't surprise me to see a team pick him up, however.

Jonathan Albaladejo and Chris Britton are being called up from Scranton. Rumor has it that Shelley Duncan is also on his way but someone would have to be sent down or put on the DL to accommodate him.

The Yankees really need to get Darrel Rasner up here to fill in as the long reliever. With two unrealiable young arms and Mike Mussina pitching erratically, the Yankees have been eating up the bullpen. A decent long reliever would do wonders for everyone else's effectiveness, getting them a little much needed rest.

What is Clutch?

Inspired by yet another article on the concept of clutch players in baseball, I thought I'd make a few comments about what clutch actually means.

To most sabermetric guys, a clutch player is one who improves his level of play in important situations.

To me, a clutch player is one who performs well in important situations.

There's a subtle difference there. For the sabermetric definition, a clutch player must perform worse in regular situations than in important situations, otherwise there would be no improvement in the clutch.

With my definition, a player who plays consistently well no matter what the situation can still be considered clutch. A player who plays consistently well cannot be considered clutch using the first definition.

My problem with the new sabermetric definition is that a lousy player can be less lousy but still bad and be considered clutch, as long as he performs his best in the appropriate situations. This has little value to any fan watching at home or any manager in an important game. You don't go to your worst player and put him in because he's not quite as bad as usual in these situations. Instead, you look to the guy who is going to perform the best.

If an all star like Alex Rodriguez hits for a few points less of AVG or OPS in clutch situations than he does normally, do you want him at the plate when it counts? Do you put in Wilson Betemit who hits better than his usual in pressure situations? If A-Rod's bad is still better than Betemit's good, you play A-Rod.

Unfortunately, the idea of a clutch hitter actually performing slightly worse in clutch situations than normal is entirely unsatisfying to many in the sabermetric community and so they chose to alter their definition to make their analyses look more interesting.

Countless hours have been spent trying to come up with statistical evidence to prove that clutch hitting doesn't exist. The sabermetric community can't stand the notions that certain players are "clutch" and the constant use of that term by fans and other baseball personnel. There has been a deluge of "David Ortiz is clutch" talk in the popular media that gets under the skin of many people. I agree that common perception in this matter is likely incorrect, that guys we often think of as "clutch" probably aren't the best performing players in pressure situations.

For me personally, if you asked me to recall guys I thought were clutch based on performances I watched, I would think back to a few memorable Jim Leyritz hits back in the late 90s and my all time favorite clutch moment - Aaron Boone's solo walk off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning in the 2005 ALCS game 7 between the Yankees and the Red Sox.

Our gut instincts and recollections of clutch players are greatly biased due to a small sample size and while fun to recall, have little practical value.

Unfortunately, many sabermetric fans have the notion that a clutch player is one who can perform better than he normally does in a clutch situation. This notion has little to no value either.

The bottom line is that a true clutch player is the one who will perform better than other players in important situations, regardless of how well or poor he plays normally, and this almost always comes down to the player who generally plays best all season long. It's not very exciting from a fan's point of view and it's not very interesting to extreme statisticians, but it's the only perspective that has some actual value in my opinion.

Joba Loses

Joba Chamberlain is not invincible in the bullpen as some have come to believe, and proved it in the Yankees 7-6 loss to the Chicago White Sox. The young star gave up the winning run in the ninth inning and was credited for the loss.  Maybe now some people will stop perseverating about how dominant he is as a late reliever and how he needs to stay in the bullpen.

That's not going to happen, but I can dare to dream right?

For the record, I'm a huge Joba fan and think he'll be an all star pitcher for many years with the Yankees. Giving up 1 run on 2 hits in 1.1 innings of work. Stuff happens and even the best pitchers get hit once in a while, so lets just hope this doesn't get into Joba's head too much. "I give up hits and that's the way it's going to be. I let my team down," said Chamberlain after the game.

The story of the night was the Yankee pitchers and the tragedy that surrounded each of them.

Phil Huges looked much better in his first 2 innings, giving up only 1 hit and no runs. In the first inning he threw quite a few pitches and worked into a few deep counts but in the second inning he ripped through the opposing batters. In the middle of the third inning the rain came again and after the significant delay, Joe Girardi and Dave Eiland decided to pull Hughes in favor of Ross Ohlendorf, who apparently they think is a long reliever.

Ross Ohlendorf has a lot of talent and could turn into a very  successful reliever in the major leagues, but the longer he pitches, the less effective he is. Ross' velocity and stuff as a starter was always a step down from his stuff as a reliever, where he'd come in and throw harder with more movement. This season he's had some nice 3 inning outings, but last night he came undone after one. The first inning Ohlendorf pitched beautifully, but the second he came out flat and got tagged. In the end Ross gave up 5 runs on 5 hits in 2 innings.

I didn't like Joe Girardi's decision not to have a long reliever on the team out of Spring training and it continues to hurt the team. Darrel Rasner is pitching extremely well in the minors and deserves a chance to come up. He's the guy you want to bring in to relieve Hughesey, Ike, or Moose if they need to come out early. A long reliever will eat up a bunch of innings, hopefully keeping the game close until you can bring in your closer. As much as I like Ohlendorf, he's definitely not long reliever material.

LaTroy Hawkins was decent, giving up 1 run in 2 innings of work. Kyle Farnsworth pitched a scoreless inning until slipping off the mound and hurting his right elbow. Kyle said he hoped to be back in action on Friday.

Brian Bruney didn't pitch this game but apparently sprained his foot or ankle on Wednesday night while attempting (unsuccessfully) to cover first base. Bruney will likely go on the DL so that another pitcher can be brought up. The Yankees have been using their bullpen heavily and need some fresh arms.

Jason Giambi had a decent hitting night going 2 for 4, but remains a defensive liability. He botched a simple 5 foot toss to Hughes who was running to cover first. Thankfully the athletic pitcher was able to reach down low and scoop the ball in time, but there is no excuse for that kind of sloppy play, especially when you have guys like Ensberg and Duncan available.

The Yankees will be making some moves today, putting people on the DL and calling up relievers from the minors. Now might be the time Chad Moeller gets sent back down since Molina and Posada both appear to be healthy. If so, once again, congratulations Chad on doing an outstanding job of filling in!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Silver Lining for Ortiz Jersey Curse?

The David Ortiz jersey dug out of the new Yankee Stadium fetched $175,000 in a charity auction for the Jimmy Fund. It's nice to see something good come out of the whole overblown mess. Unfortunately it likely cost the Yankees a lot more than that to dig up the jersey in the first place, but kudos to them for turning the situation around in order to benefit a good cause.

Since the Jersey was dug up, Big Papi has started hitting again and appears to be coming out of his slump.

Farnsworth Clutch?

David Appelman over at the Baseball Analysts seems to think so and has the math to prove it. Appelman took a look at various pitcher perfomances in high leverage index situations versus other situations. Leverage index is a way of measuring the importance of a particular situation based on inning, outs, score and runners. David then looked at pitchers' FIP or Fielding Independent Pitching, a statistic that just looks at things a pitcher controls (HR, BB, HBP, K) and eliminates those which involve his team's defense.

The gist of the article is that the author looked at FIP in high leverage situations compared to all other situations, and tallied up which pitchers did significantly better in high leverage or clutch situations. Appelman collected data over the last six seasons and found that Kyle Farnsworth was the 8th best clutch reliever.

It's a fun look at some wacky stats, and in the end is completely useless. Appelman himself noted that the data don't hold up from year to year, which tells me the basic principles of this measurement aren't valid. I don't care for FIP personally, and find it to be a wonky, selective statistic that overlooks what is really important here (things like base hits, doubles, sacrifice flies etc.).

David said he chose FIP because ERA didn't really work. This sounds very fishy. In what way did it not work? You didn't see the names you wanted popping up on the lists? This sounds like a case of the original methods not producing the results desired and so the author tried using different methods until he got the answers he wanted. In other words, selectively choosing data that will produce desired conclusion.

Addendum: David was kind enough to address my comments on the original website and also stopped by here to chime in. He basically explained that with his methodolgy, ERA wouldn't work because high leverage situations (particularly those with runners on base) generally produce more runs than low leverage situations (with no runners or fewer runners) and henceforth ERA would be elevated in those instances. This would skew results somewhat and produce bigger differences. The next question that comes to my mind then is are these differences significant (skewing the results for certain players) or would they be roughly the same for the players involved?

Eric Gagne is also one of the top relievers and I don't think anyone has accused him of being clutch last year.

By comparing high LI situations to all other situations, you don't factor in overall quality. The absolute worst pitcher in baseball could pitch significantly better in high LI situations, but still be worse than most other pitchers in those situations but would rank highly on David's chart.

Let me give a simple example of what I mean. Let's theoretically assign pitchers' abilities a score of 1-10, with 10 being the best.

-You're all star closer could perform at a level of 8 most of the time and a level of 10 in clutch situations, giving a difference of 2. With the methods used in the article, this value of 2 would be used to rank the pitcher.

-Joe average reliever pitches at a level of 5 most of the time and also delivers a 5 in clutch situations, giving a score of 0. This would rank below your all star (who has a 2).

-Now look at your horrendous reliever who normally pitches at a level of 1 but pitches at 4 in clutch situations, producing a difference of 3. Of all the pitchers, this guy would rank the highest with Appleman's methods, despite the fact that even at his best, he's still worse than anyone else.

Sabermetrics is an odd thing. There are a lot of fantastic insights into the game of baseball that have been uncovered by smart stat guys. Unfortunately, a lot of people just crank out stats, graphs and lists of numbers without thinking things through or putting much thought to the practicality of what they're saying.

This article is a fun read, as we can all look at the list, see guys like Farnsworth and Gagne on there, laugh, and say ha ha, I told you that guy was clutch, knowing full well there is little validity to the statement.

While I love sabermetrics, silly articles like this really give it a bad name if taken too seriously.

Addendum: David clarifies that the article was written from a perspective of "disproving clutch" and it has some utility in that respect. He and I differ greatly on our definition of "clutch", which is a big source of my frustration with some of this article's basic premises.

Mussina Showing Trade Value?

The Yanks won 6-4 last night, beating the Chicago White Sox with the help of a good outing by Mike Mussina. Moose toughed out 7 innings, throwing 101 pitches, 66 for strikes. He gave up 4 hits, 2 runs, walked 1 and struck out 3. Mussina got worked deep into counts a few times, but came out and challenged some hitters early, getting ahead on the count and putting himself in the driver's seat. I'm wondering if this very nice performance will give Mussina some trade value, enticing some poor unsuspecting team to pick up the washed up veteran?

The bullpen had some troubles, apparently stunned at not having to come in early with Mussina on the mound. LaTroy Hawkins got the first batter out then couldn't find the plate with his fastball and walked the second batter. Hawkins then gave up a single to Orlando Cabrera and was pulled as Girardi brought in Billy Traber to face the left handed Jim Thome, who lit up Traber with a ground ball single to right. OK, not really, Traber did a fine job and the play was botched by the defensively inept Giambi. The official scorers should credit that earned run to Giambi rather than Yankee pitcers. Having seen enough and with the right handed Konerko coming to the plate, Girardi called for Mo. Rivera allowed one run to score on a sacrifice fly and quickly got the third out by getting Dye to pop one up. Mariano made quick work of three batters in the ninth to finish the game.

Mariano Rivera is on a tear this year. He had me worried at the start of the season last year, but this season, he is an absolute machine.

Guys like Hawkins can't be relied on to reliably get people out in pressure situations. If Girardi left him in, he may have ended up retiring the side without letting a run score, but you'd like to have one or two relievers who can be counted on to get a particular batter out. Hawkins and Traber didn't deliver this time.

Jorge Posada went 4 for 5 and there were no stolen base attempts. As a team the Yankees hit well, but I don't like the 11 LOB. Johnny Damon continues to deliver in the clutch, knocking in 2 runs.

A good win for the Yanks, an encouraging outing from Mussina and some offensive production. If only we could get this every game...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Abreu Grand Slam Propels Yanks to Win

Chien-Ming Wang was getting hit frequently Tuesday night in Chicago, but Bobby Abreu came through with a 2 out grand slam home run.

Wang gave up 10 hits in 6 innings and allowed 3 runs. Many of Wang's pitches that were put into play went deep and were caught on the warning track. In a different ballpark the results could have been much uglier for the Yankees. Chien-Ming's win was the 50th of his career, reached in only 85 games. Dwight Gooden and Ron Guidry reached the 50 mark after 82 games.

The Bullpen was less than stellar today. Billy Traber was only allowed to face one batter, which he walked. Brian Bruney came on and proceeded to load the bases while only getting one out. Finally the Yanks called in Joba Chamberlain to get out of the bases loaded, one out jam. Struck out one batter, walked in a run, and then got the final out on a pop fly fielded by Posada.

To keep things interesting, New York manager Joe Girardi gave every fan watching a scare by brining in Kyle Farnsworth to close out the game. With the Yankees up 5 in the the bottom of the ninth, Farney walked one, gave up a hit, and allowed a run to score before getting the third out of the inning and ending the game.

Bobby Abreu had the biggest clutch hit of the night and put the Yankees on top in the seventh inning. Johnny Damon went 3 for 5 with a home run of his own. Jason Giambi was removed from the game with a swollen thumb after a horrible defensive play at first that should have been scored an error. While Giambi did hit a solo home run, his offensive production is still poor and he remains a huge defensive liability.

Surprisingly there were no stolen bases with Posada behind the plate, and no runners were caught stealing. Yankee pitchers did a good job of keeping runners close to first, but the one or two times runners went early, balls were put into play. I'm surprised that there weren't more attempts to steal, given the vulnerable arm that Jorge has.

The team LOB tonight was 6, a respectable number. If the Yankee bats can get on base and drive runners home like they did tonight, they'll be able to overcome their problems with pitching. Up until now it's mostly been starting pitching, but tonight the bullpen looked particularly vulnerable.

Congratulations to Alex Rodriguez and his wife on the birth of their second daughter.

Competition Notes: The Boston Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels 7-6, and are showing no signs of letting up. This is troubling to Yankee fans because the Sox ace Josh Beckett was scratched from the game. Instead, David Pauley was called up from the minors for the start. Pauley was shelled, giving up 7 hits and 5 runs in 4.1 innings of work. The Boston bullpen held strong, and even Mike Timlin got a batter out as they waited for the offense to come alive in later innings and secure the win. Even with their best starter out, this team finds a way to win. The Yanks will have to wait another day to try and close the gap.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Today in History: Yankees Don Pinstripes

April 22, 1915

The New York Yankees wear pinstripes on their uniform for the first time.

Just a little baseball trivia to hold you over until gametime.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Hank Tells it Like it is

Hank Steinbrenner is back to being Hank Steinbrenner, giving baseball fans some noteable quotes and a little indication of what he'd like to see.

Most notably, and unsurprisingly, Hank wants Joba in the starting rotation. This is good news to many Yankee fans, who have been clamoring for him to start for a while now. This will also disappoint some misguided fans who still cling to the idea that Joba is more valuable to the team only pitching one inning in relief every two or three days.

"I want him as a starter and so does everyone else, including him, and that is what we are working toward and we need him there now. There is no question about it, you don’t have a guy with a 100-mile-per-hour fastball and keep him as a setup guy. You just don’t do that. You have to be an idiot to do that.”

Hank (hopefully) realizes that it's probably not best to throw Chamberlain and his injury history into the rotation too early, and that Joba needs to be brought along gradually until he is ready to pitch a full season as a starter.

“The mistake was already made last year switching him to the bullpen out of panic or whatever. I had no say in it last year and I wouldn’t have allowed it. That was done last year, so now we have to catch up. It has to be done on a schedule so we don’t rush him.”

“I think once Hughes and Kennedy get plenty of starts and get Joba back, and with Wang and Pettitte, we will be fine.”

It's good to see that a Steinbrenner, coming from a family not known for its patience, realizes it will take time for the two young pitchers to come along. The young boss is still disappointed that he doesn't have Johan Santana in his starting rotation, but he recognizes that Hughes and Kennedy will be productive starters in time.

Notice that he doesn't mention Mussina in that last quote. When addressing Moose, Hank said he "just needs to learn how to pitch like Jamie Moyer," and doesn't come across as being pleased with his veteran arm.

The good news is that Hank isn't ready to give up on Kennedy and Hughes, and he's not going to rush Joba into the starting lineup too soon. There is frustration building, however, and don't expect Hank and the rest of the Steinbrenner family to wait too long before doing something drastic about the current season.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Strong Outing For Pettitte

Andy Pettitte pitched a strong 7 scoreless innings today, providing the bullpen some much needed relief. Yankee fans need to hope and pray that Pettitte can stay healthy all year and not miss any starts.

Joba faced two batters but was unable to get an out and Bruney relieved him and let an inherited runner score, giving Chamberlain an earned run.

Johnny Damon went 2 for 4 and hit a 2 run home run. Chad Moeller continues to impress, also going 2 for 4. One of his hits bounced off of the centerfield wall and was half an inch from being a home run. He's done more than anyone expected and will be kept around for a while longer just in case Posada has a setback when he returns to catching.

Jason Giambi continues to struggle at the plate and is now hitting .109 for the season.

A Rod had a strained right quad and left the game. Expect him to be out for the better part of a week.

There were two rain delays, each of 37 minutes, but the wait didn't affect Mariano Rivera who came in and closed out the 9th inning.

This game should boost spirits a bit. Andy Pettitte was the star of the game and is still a cornerstone of this team.

It's hard to believe this Chad Moeller is the same journeyman with the abysmal bat in prior years. He's excelled in his latest big league stint. Good job Chad!

Final score: Yankees 7, Orioles 1.

Jays Cut Big Hurt

Frank Thomas has been released by the Toronto Blue Jays. Thomas has been in a slump all season long and recently has been complaining about a lack of playing time. The disgruntled DH further added that the limited plate appearances he's had this year aren't enough to judge his productivity by, but manager John Gibbons had seen enough.

Who's next to fall? Big Papi?

The DH is a tricky spot, if you don't hit, you don't have value to your team. A top-notch defensive player or utility infielder can have value despite poor hitting but a slumping DH is nothing but dead weight.

There are options out there for teams. Barry Bonds is available, Mike Piazza is also ready to step in. The Yankees have too many players who are best suited as a DH and might entertain offers. I wouldn't be surprised to see another team try to pick up Thomas for a one year deal or try to get him cheaply.

There seems to be a trend to move away from aging veteran power hitters and focus on young talent for many teams. If a younger guy (who may have other utility as well) is ready to step in and DH when called upon, guys like Frank Thomas are on a short leash.

Tough Road Ahead For Girardi

I don't envy Joe Girardi. He's in a tough spot - one of the most closely scrutinized manager positions in all of baseball. He's been given a team with a huge payroll and huge expectations to win. Unfortunately, he's also been given the task of helping the rebuilding process, bringing young talent along while simultaneously competing for a division title and hopefully a World Series win.

The problems inherited by Girardi are numerous. First of all, he needs to develop Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes. Many thought Hughes was ready to be a star out of the gate this year, matching his 2007 performances. Ian Kennedy was predicted to fill the back end of the rotation nicely, and become a league average innings muncher who would give up some runs, but get you to the 7th inning stretch. Bringing one young pitcher along is do-able. Bringing two along is tough. Bringing two along with a guy like Mussina who is lucky to reach the 6th inning becomes almost impossible.

Girardi's veteran pitchers may be a bit too "veteran". Andy Pettitte has proven to be a workhorse who can get batters out and get through a lot of innings even when he doesn't have his best stuff. He still has a great pick off move and many other intangibles that make him a great pitcher. He needs run support, however, and can't win games all by himself. More importantly is that Pettitte is getting a little older and will occasionally miss starts with back problems and other minor ailments. With Andy, it's good to have a backup plan - a long reliever who can make spot starts if Pettitte needs to sit one out. Girardi doesn't share this point of view with me, refusing to bring up a long reliever like Rasner (or Karstens or *shudder* Igawa).

The other veteran, Mussina, is acting like his starting days are done. He gives up a lot of runs without giving you many innings. He continues to be stubborn rather than smart when it comes to pitch selection and location, and it's becoming increasingly costly for the team. Maybe Mussina could move into the long reliever spot but his days as a starter are numbered.

The handling of the bullpen has been suspect in my opinion. Joe never brought a long reliever along after spring training. The possible rain game in  Kansas city seemed to shake up Bruney and Kennedy a bit when in retrospect it might have been better to let them stay in their usual patterns. He's brought in some relievers to soon and brought out some guys who were pitching well. Joe still shows some old-fashioned tendencies to use certain guys in certain innings, when he should focus more on using the best guys in the best situations. If you're at a critical junction in the 6th inning and your starter needs to come up, bring in Joba when it counts rather than letting Farnsworth give up the crucial runs and letting Joba close out a meaningless game or simply sit out.

For Girardi, this trifecta of Mussina, Hughes, and Kennedy is proving to be the toughest challenge, and one that is going to require the help of the front office to sort out. Joe's recent interviews with the press are becoming more and more strained as he begins losing his patience with the pitching staff.

The problems given to Joe to solve aren't purely pitching related. Girardi has a plethora of guys who would be better suited in the DH spot than playing a position. Abreu, Matsui, Giambi and Posada (with his sore shoulder) don't quite provide the defense you'd like. Then you have guys like Damon, Duncan and Ensberg who add to the conundrum of what to do with all of these players.

Joe is saddled with guys like Wilson Betemit, whose utility as a utility infielder is pretty minimal and whose bat isn't much better. There's talent in the wings with players like Alberto Gonzalez, but the Yankees don't like to waste mediocre veterans (look at Farnsworth for another classic example).

The Yankees front office has delivered Joe quite a mishmash to sort out. If the Yankees are going to be successful, Girardi will need help getting rid of the dead weight and excess and filling a need or two. It's early in the season, but before long someone will have to realize the current plan isn't working and someone will need to step in and lend a hand.

In the end though, the success of Joe Girardi's first year as Yankee skipper will come down to how he manages his starting pitching and how they perform. Currently it's the team's biggest liability and proving to be the toughest challenge early on. It will be interesting to see how things pan out. Back in his Florida days, Joe earned a reputation for using and abusing his young arms, many of whom were never the same after he left. He'll need a different attitude here, where the guys he is dealing with are expected to be the pillars of the team for years to come.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Time to Panic?

The buzz on the Yankee blog scene lately has been consisting mostly of people telling their readers not to panic, that the season is still young, these pitchers will settle down and the offense will come to life.

I'm panicking.

Ian Kennedy couldn't get out of the 3rd inning. It's especially worrisome given Phil Hughes and Mike Mussina's performances of late.

This team can't carry three pitchers who won't make it more than 3 innings per start. Mussina, Hughes, and Kennedy can't be in the same starting rotation with the way they are currently playing. I don't doubt that Hughes and Kennedy could both turn into reliable, quality starting pitchers, but bringing them both along at the same time is not a roadmap for success this year.

Mike Mussina looks like he's just about done. When he comes out to pitch if he doesn't have his stuff he's going to get lit up. If he does have his stuff, he's only good for about 4-5 innings. Maybe the Yankees could use him as a long reliever, but his starter days are numbered.

It remains to be seen what will happen with Joba. He was back in the lineup tonight and closed out the 9th inning in style. I'm glad that Joba's dad is doing better and relieved (no pun intended) to see Chamberlain back in the bullpen. Ross Ohlendorf gave up a couple of runs but is performing reasonably well in his defacto role of long reliever. Billy Traber is working out well and will be valuable as more than just a situational guy who gets called in to face left handed batters.

I like the move of Posada to 1st base. While his shoulder is sore that's a great use for him, putting the struggling Giambi on the bench and allowing others a chance at the DH spot.

It's hard not to sound like a broken record, but the Bombers need to right the ship when it comes to starting pitching, and the offense needs to wake up. I think they've got the talent with the bats, but am keeping a close eye on the transaction reports, expecting to see a move to acquire pitching soon.

The Yankees left 8 men on base tonight, had 6 hits but were unable to score a run. I keep thinking in the back of my head that it's only a matter of time before they start gelling a bit more, getting hits at the right time and stringing together their offense so as to start driving in more runs.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Wanted: Starting Pitching

At this point I think it's safe to say the Yankees are going to be looking for some help with the starting rotation. The Yanks had to option Jonathan Albaladejo back down to AAA in order to bring up Edwar Ramirez because he hadn't pitched in 3 days. Yeah, starting pitching is putting that much of a burden on the bullpen.

Some have said the Yankees need a number 3 pitcher to be a contender. I think they need a number 2 and then some. Chien-Ming Wang is their ace. Andy Pettitte can still hang in there, but I hesitate to think of him as a number 2 guy on a championship contender. Pettitte is more like a number 3 or 4 guy in my book, but I'm probably overreacting. You can hang onto one young pitcher like Kennedy or Hughes, but two is proving to be too much. Kennedy looked better the other night, but Hughes wasn't sharp again for the 3 consecutive start.

LaTroy Hawkins had a big setback tonight, looking more like the LaTroy we saw in his first two appearances. The Yankees are going to have to bring in a long reliever who can pitch 4 innings or more when the starters struggle, and they're going to have to bring in another starter. Mussina cannot be counted on. Hughes has lost his confidence and Ian Kennedy is still going to have frequent bad outings.

Bringing Joba into the starting rotation is an option, but with the hypothesized 150 inning limit the Yankees are thinking with him, I think they'd rather wait a while before moving him up into the starting spot.

The Tampa Bay Rays have an excess of starting pitching right now and are rumored to be shopping some of their young arms around, but I can't see an inter-division trade happening. Don't be surprised to see someone like Rasner or Igawa brought up before long and the club to trade for a starter.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ugly Loss as Yanks and Sox Split Series

Don't let the final score of 7-5 fool you, this one was ugly. Mussina gave up 5 runs in 3 innings before Albaladejo came in to pitch 3. The Yankees definitely need a long reliever on this staff, and possibly more than one. Their bullpen has been working very hard and a lot of guys are having to come in to pitch 2 or 3 innings. A successful team needs starters that can go a minimum of 6 innings and preferably 7. Wang and possibly Pettitte seem to be the only pitchers capable of such an outing.

Josh Beckett was ablt to pitch 8 full innings for Boston, giving up only 3 runs. Papelbon gave up 2 in the 9th inning, but managed to get the last batters out before the Yankees could narrow the lead to less than 2.

The Yankees had 8 hits and only left 4 on base. The offense didn't have enough punch to bail out a struggling starter yet again. Unfortunately with the starting rotation they have, the NY bats are going to need to bail out pitchers frequently.

Manny Ramirez continues to eat Yankee pitchers and particularly seems to have figured Mussina out.

Not many positives to take away from tonight's game if you're a Yankee fan. Kyle Farnsworth got all three batters out in order when he came in, which scares me. Don't let him fool you into thinking he can get 3 outs when you need him in a tight game.

A lot of people are making comments that the Yankee bullpen is really hurting without Joba. While he might be a great addition to the pen, their biggest problem is getting guys to come in early and pitch multiple innings, a role you'll never see Joe Girardi use Joba for. He can be a great asset in the 7th and 8th innings in a close game, but what the Yankees need even more in the bullpen right now is a long reliever.

Yanks Win 15-9

There would be no thoughts of a no-hitter for Chien Ming Wang on this night. Instead the Yankees ace gave up 8 runs on 9 hits in 4.0 innings. Boston starter Clay Buchholz didn't fare much better, lasting 3.2 innings and giving up 7 runs on 8 hits.

Boston's bullpen took a beating with Juan Tavarez and Mike Timlin giving up several runs each, although David Aardsma looked good in 2 scoreless innings.

There were some big innings which produced some back and forth excitement, but in the end the Yankees put more runs on the board.

Every Yankee hitter in the lineup got a hit, led by Chad "I can play in the show" Moeller. The backup catcher went 3 for 4 and drew a walk. The most impressive play by Chad was running the bases where he showed some savvy in sliding a bit wide on the outfield side of second base, still getting forced out but disrupting the double play and allowing a run to score. Nice work Chad!

Alex Rodriguez hit another home run, number 522, putting him ahead of Ted Williams and Willie McCovey in sole possession of number 15 on the all time list.

Ohledorf had a little trouble, giving up 1 run in one inning and was responsible for a few of Wang's runs from inherited baserunners. Latroy Hawkins looked sharp on his return home. There were no boos or chants of Paul O'Neil and Hawkins responded to his warmer reception by pitching 2 scoreless innings and getting the win. Billy Traber came in to face a batter and then Brian Bruney got the final 5 outs of the game and picked up the save.

Chad Moeller has exceeded expectations so far filling in at catcher. Latroy Hawkins looks like he may be over his early season gaffes and the offense is starting to produce. The Yankees only had 6 men left on base as a team this time, an important improvement.

The Yanks are now tied for first with the Red Sox. Beckett will face Mussina in tonight's game. Albaladejo, Farnsworth and Rivera should be fresh in the bullpen.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Hawkins to Give Up No. 21

The New York Times is reporting that Latroy Hawkins will give up wearing number 21 and will switch to wearing number 22.

Hawkins has been booed for choosing to wear 21, a number some Yankee fans think should be revered for former Yankee Paul O'Neill.

The sad thing is, Hawkins wore 21 as a tribute to Roberto Clemente. It's too bad some booing fans at Yankee stadium were too short sighted to see this.

Paul O'Neil was a great player and leader for the Yankees, but he was not the type of guy whose number you retire.

I'm not a big fan of teams retiring numbers. My alma mater, Syracuse University, had a proud tradition associated with the number 44, worn by Jim Brown, Ernie Davis and Floyd little among others. Watching young players put on the 44 jersey and try to live up to the expectations that came with it added an element of excitement to the season. By retiring the number, SU sent a message that new kids can't be expected to match past heroes. I was lucky to watch Rob Konrad wear the fabled 44 from 1995-98 as he added to the number's legacy. Sadly, that legacy has now ended.

Yankee fans should embrace a player carrying on the legacy of  one of the game's greats. Why not let Roberto's number be worn by a Yankee?  Let's have a little more perspective in the future folks.

Quality Start For Pettitte

Andy Pettitte used 100 pitches to face 32 batters over 7.0 innings in a winning effort as the Yankees beat the Rays 5-3. Andy gave up 9 hits and 3 runs and got the run support he needed. This is exactly the kind of outing you like to see from Pettitte. Even without his best stuff, he managed to keep it together and get through the innings he needed. If you can consistently get through 7 innings with your starter, your in a lot better shape to win a game than if you have to bring relievers in early.

The Rays' Edwin Jackson came back down to reality today, giving up 5 runs in 5 innings. His early numbers this season have been a bit deceptive and things are slowly starting to level out.

Yankee batters hit well in the clutch with some big 2 out RBIs from Jeter and Abreu. Derek Jeter went 3 for 4 and drew a walk. More importanly, he was able to hustle home from second base on a deep line drive to center, a good sign that he is recovering from his injury. Matsui was sharp at the plate with 2 RBIs on 2 hits including a solo home run to center.

Giambi and Cano struggled at the plate but Robby had some nice plays at 2nd base. Earlier in the year he seemed a little off his fielding game but tonight he made a few tough plays and saved a hit or two.

10 men were left on base tonight, a stat that continues to be a bit too high for my liking.

Kyle Farnsworth is doing his best to prove me wrong about his talent (or lack thereof). I was getting nervous when he came in with only a 2 run lead, but he got all 3 batters out in short order, needing 10 pitches. Farnsworth is perfectly capable of pitching an inning in relief and holding a lead. Good outings like this are deceptive however, because despite his strong arm, Kyle's stuff is extremely hitable and he frequently gets abused by opposing hitters.

Chad Moeller was  0 for 2, but drew a walk. No one attempted a steal off of his arm. All in all the cagey veteran is holding his own.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Big Papi Curse Lifted?

Earlier this week the Yankees dug up the mysterious shirt that was buried in the cement at the new Yankee stadium. It turned out to be a David Ortiz t-shirt. Big Papi, who has been slumping horribly, was given yesterday off and returned to the lineup tonight. This was his first game since the article of clothing bearing his name was dug out of Yankee stadium.

Ortiz went 2 for 5, getting his first hit in a long time and getting a critical hit in the 9th (and then was replaced with a pinch runner who then scored the go-ahead run on a Manny Ramirez homer).

Could the Papi shirt buried under Yankee stadium in an effort to hex the Yankees have actually cursed the big man instead? I don't know but since it was dug up Ortiz's slump has disappeared.

(Note: No, I don't actually believe this, but the hysteria the story seems to have generated is humorous.)

Yanks Win a Wild One

The Yankees beat the Rays 8-7 in a high scoring game. There were a lot of positives for Yankee fans to take away from this one. Ian Kennedy threw 94 pitches in 6 innings of work, giving up 8 hits and 3 runs. Kennedy came back out to pitch the seventh inning but was hit by a line drive in the hip and came out of the game.

It was reassuring watching Kennedy pitch well. He challenged hitters right from the beginning and threw plenty of strikes. He struck out 4 and walked 2. This is the Ian Kennedy the Bombers hope to see more of this season.

Andy Sonnanstine gave up 7 runs in 3.1 innings for the Rays.

The bullpen showed that it was human today as Billy Traber had some trouble and both he and Brian Bruney gave up two runs. Interestingly enough, Bruney gets credit for a blown save and the win. Rivera got the final four batters out.

The Yankees had some nice offensive performances tonight. A-Rod went 4 for 5 and hit his 521st career home run, tying Ted Williams and Willie McCovey for 15th on the all-time list. A very impressive game for Alex as he edges ever closer to the all time home run record.

Morgan Ensberg filled in for Giambi and went 2 for 5, scoring his first home run. Robinson Cano was called on to pinch hit for Gonalez and came through in the clutch with a home run.

Chad Moeller made his 2008 big league catching debut and went 1 for 4. Most importantly he threw out BJ Upton trying to steal 3rd.

Bruney and Traber had a little trouble, but it's hard to fault them too much given the earlier success they've had. Yankee fans have to be pleased that the offense came alive and that Kennedy delivered a quality start.

Happy Birthday to Kyle Farnsworth who turned 32 today.

A Flurry of Moves

Molina has an injured hamstring, but hasn't been placed on the DL.

Posada still isn't ready to start, although he did some throwing today.

Chad Moeller has been brought up and is starting tonight behind the plate.

Jeter is back in the lineup and Gonzalez is filling in at second base while Cano has the night off. Ensberg is filling in for Giambi at first.

Wilson Betemit has come down with Pinkeye and is on the 15 day DL, making room for Moeller.

Joba is spending time with his ailing father and has been placed on the Bereavement list for a minimum of three days. Our thoughts are with the Chamberlain family.

Jonathan Albaladejo has been  brought back up to fill in for Joba in the bullpen.

Rumors abound on the internet about the Yankees looking for a veteran catcher to bring in.

ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Crew Needs Help

ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball was covering the decisive third game of the series in what some call the greatest rivalry in professional sports, the Yankees and the Red Sox.

During a late inning pitching change, ESPN announcer Joe Morgan got on a soapbox about steroids as the change was being made. He was trying to make a point that we should recognize and salute the players who through the performance-enhancing drug years did not use steroids. It's a sad commentary when we need to reward people for not cheating. Regardless, Joe kept belaboring the point and would not give up the microphone, oblivious to the fact that the game had started back up. We missed the call on several pitches, a hit and a pinch runner. This was another example of horrible Joe Morgan announcing. I respect his opinion, but he should know when to shut up and let Miller call the plays. His co-host has a little more box-savvy, knowing not to start a story late in an inning and quickly cutting away from his anecdotes to cover the action. Take a lessen from your co-host Joe.

If you watched any Yankee games during spring training you probably hear the announcers speaking with Joe Girardi at length. Joe had a stint covering games after his year with the Marlins and knows a little bit about announcing. Whenever he was talking with Michael Kay or the other Yankee announcers, he would quickly stop talking anytime something happened on the field, allowing the announcers to report the action. If a manager can figure this out, why not Joe Morgan?

Jon Miller isn't horrible, but he's having trouble seeing the ball a bit. Lately, in two-strike situations, he emphatically starts saying "Struck him out!" on many pitches up the middle even when they end up being fouled or foul tipped. It's pretty obvious to the viewers at home what the result of the play is, but Miller is clearly jumping the gun. He needs to settle down, pause a full second, and then make the call. Repeatedly apologizing or cutting off an emphatic statement doesn't come across well.

Joe Buck, Joe Morgan, the Nascar debacle - it's been a rough weekend for nationally televised baseball coverage.

Hughes Struggles Mightily, Yanks Lose

Phil Hughes struggled early, throwing a lot of pitches and in the end was unable to get out of the third inning. It was a very disappointing outing for Hughes who was hoping to rebound from his last early exit. Hughes' numbers were bad and they paint an ugly picture of how he looked on the mound.

Hughes: 2.0 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 0 HR, 65-35 Pit-Str

Hughes and Kennedy have not shown they can pitch in the majors this year. They looked good in spring training and were sharp in their 2007 major league outings, but this year they haven't been anywhere near good enough in their regular season starts. The Yankees need these two guys to settle down and give some quality outings or else there is no way this team makes the post season.

Daisuke Matsuzaka was wild in his start, but gave up fewer runs than the Yankee starter, which was good enough for a win. Dice-K threw 116 pitches in 5 innings of work. He came close to giving up more in the fourth but got out of a jam and came back and pitched a decent fifth inning.

Dice-K: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 6 BB, 2 K, 0 HR, 116-62

David Aardsma pitched two shutout innings in relief of Matsuzaka.

Aardsma 2.0, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 0 HR, 36-19

The good news for Yankee pitching is that Ross Ohlendorf looked good pitching three innings of relief. If he continues to deliver similar performances he could be the long reliever the Yanks desperately need.

Ohlendorf: 3.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 1 K,  0 HR,   49-27

Even though Boston was winning, many of the fans didn't seem to be enjoying the game. Fox panned the audience several times only to see grumpy, frowning fans curled up to ward off the cold. Apparently 46 degrees is not enjoyable baseball weather.

Latroy Hawkins came in in the 6th and pitched 2 nice innings. This is the fourth good outing for Hawkins. I came down hard on him after his first few appearances but he really has pitched well since then. Could I have been wrong? Possibly. His last three appearances have been on the road. It makes me wonder if Hawkins can't handle the Yankee faithful and their booing regarding his #21 jersey. No matter how well he pitches on the road, if he can't get it done at home he won't last long in New York.

Hawkins: 2.0, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0 HR, 17-12

The Yankees had their best chance when Boston brought in Timlin in the top of the eighth inning. Timlin has had absolutely no stuff in two appearances since coming back from the DL. Giambi hit a solo home run and then Molina and Cabrera hit singles before Timlin was pulled.

Timlin 0.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 HR, 11-8

Javier Lopez came on in relief and looked good, much improved over earlier outings, getting the BoSox out of the jam. While the Yankees were hitting fairly well and managed to put a total of 5 runs on the board, they fell short when they had too in situations like this. With Lopez coming on and the go-ahead run at the plate, the Bombers could do nothing. At the end of the game, the Yankees had left 9 on base.

Lopez: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 0 HR, 16-11

Manny Delcarmen came in to get the final two outs of the game and did his job, retiring both batters.

Delcarmen: 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0 HR, 14-9

Boston's bullpen looked sharp with the exception of Timlin, who remains a huge liability at this point. After having designated Snyder and Corey, they're looking better overall as the rest seemed to have found their groove.

Kyle Farnsworth pitched the eighth inning for the Yankees and only gave up one run which, for Farnsworth, is pretty good.

Farnsworth: 1.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 0 HR, 12-9

Joe Girardi was making a lot of moves late in the game as the Yankees were trying to rally in the eighth inning. Unfortunately most of the subtleties were missed because ESPN's Joe Morgan was going off on a soapbox tangent and refused to let anyone actually cover the game. Joe was switching things up, trying to get his best bats to the plate in the critical situations but unfortunately it didn't work out.

Disaster struck as Jose Molina inured his hamstring and Jorge Posada came in to catch the eighth inning. Everyone knew Jorge doesn't have the best arm and his shoulder has been sore and the Red Sox took full advantage, stealing two bases.

In the end, the Yankees ended up losing the game and most of the burden for the loss gets shouldered by Phil Hughes, who couldn't get out of the third inning. Hughes is still a young, raw pitcher and will require time and patience before he settles down into a reliable starter. Until that happens it's going to be a rough season. The Yankee bats were swinging better but couldn't get the critical hits to drive home runs late in the game when they needed them. On a positive note, Ohlendorf is really looking promising for a long reliever and Hawkins has been pitching much better.

Lets just hope that Kennedy and Hughes settle down, Mussina can go more than 5 innings, and Pettite stays healthy. Thank goodness we've got Wang.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fox Coverage Drops the Ball

I'm not a fan of Fox's baseball coverage and last night was no exception.

First of all, I will give them credit for stumbling through the two hour rain delay. There were some moments of decent sports discussion and overall it could have been worse.

The biggest fiasco was the Heidi-esque handling of the coverage. With the rain delay causing the game to go significantly over the allotted time, Fox decided to switch the game to FX and put Nascar on the main Fox channel where it was scheduled to appear.

The announcers informed those watching the game that there would be a change about twenty minutes before it happened, but said nothing immediately before the switch. In the top of the ninth, in a critical situation, Fox suddenly cut away from the game without warning, leaving fans to frantically try to locate the game on FX. The game lasted about 10 total minutes longer. It certainly wouldn't have killed them to finish out the coverage where they'd started it. The cut away was poorly handled and reflects poorly on Fox.

One thing that constantly annoys me watching baseball on Fox is Joe Buck. He doesn't seem to know the game. When a pitch is delivered, he only tells you the location and result - whether it was high or low, in or out and a strike or a ball. He rarely if ever points out what type of a pitch it was, only if someone else mentions it first. A professional baseball play by play caller should have a reasonable ability to recognize pitches and call them out to the fans. ESPN does it, the guys on YES do it, but apparently it's too much for Joe Buck .

Shirt Dug Up - Big Papi Cursed?

Apparently there may have been some truth to the rumor of the shirt being buried in the cement at Yankee stadium. Current reports are saying that the two men who brought the story to light were able to identify exactly where the shirt was buried. After several hours of work with a jackhammer, crews were able to uncover the shirt which turned out to be a David Ortiz jersey.

So I'm wondering if having his jersey buried in Yankee stadium was the reason for Big Papi's slump. Ortiz is not playing in tonight's game and so we'll have to wait a while to find out.

(And no, I don't take whole ordeal seriously at all.)

Should Joe Have Pitched to Manny?

The Yankees lost to the Red Sox last night in a close game. The pivotal inning was the bottom of the 6th. With two outs and runners on 2nd and 3rd, Manny Ramirez is up to face Mike Mussina. Joe Girardi comes to the mound to have a discussion with his starter and decides to leave him in to face Manny and hopefully get the last out of the inning. Manny ends up hitting a double and scoring both runners.

The New York Post ran one of their typical pieces with the headline "Joe Blew It", announcing his breaking one of the ten commandments of baseball by pitching to Ramirez. A few other sources have been critical of Joe's decision in that situation and so I decided to take a little closer look.

One argument is that Joe should have brought in a reliever rather than let Mussina, who was starting to struggle, continue to pitch. That's a tough call. You like your starters to come in and pitch at least six innings, and Moose had gotten out of some jams before. Brian Bruney had been pitching well in relief all year and guys like Ohlendorf, Traber, Hawkins, Farnsworth were all available for early inning stints with Chamberlain and Rivera on tap for the late innings. When Bruney did come in he gave up another big hit for a run, which ended up credited to Mussina. The decision whether or not to pull Moose in favor of Bruney was a tough one, and at the time I was surprised to see Mussina stay in, giving the well rested bullpen that was available.

The real issue I'd like to take a look at is whether or not Mussina should have walked Manny to face the next batter instead. On deck was Kevin Youkilis, who has been hitting the ball well again this year and is no slouch at the plate. Mussina surmised that he had just as good of a chance to get Ramirez out as Youkilis and Girardi let him pitch.

To get to the bottom of this, let's look at some numbers. These stats are averages for AVG/OBP/SLG taken over the most recent complete seasons, 2005-2007.

Manny Ramirez .302/.404/.569

Kevin Youkilis .283/.386/.438

Manny definitely has an edge, especially in slugging. If we subtract each player's numbers we can see exactly how much worse Youkilis is:

Difference: -.019/-.018/-.131

James Click has a nice chapter in the book Baseball Between the Numbers and in it he details the math behind intentional walks. In situations when there are two on with two outs, Click concludes that the second batter has to be 60 points worse in average, 95 points worse in on-base percentage and 175 points worse in slugging. (I'm not going to go into detail on how Click reached these conclusions, check out the book or his work at Baseball Prospectus.) Despite Manny's impressive numbers, Youkilis is too good of a hitter to meet these criteria, and it looks like Girardi made the right call.

We can compare some splits, to see if the situation could have affected matters any. With runners in scoring position, each player's stats looked like this (again from 2005-2007):

Manny Ramirez .320/.443/.614

Kevin Youkilis .322/.420/.515

Difference: +.002/-.023/-.099

With runners in scoring position, the gap narrows in 2 out of 3 categories, with Youkilis even having a better AVG than Manny.

OK, how about specifically with runners on second and third, over the last 3 seasons.

Manny Ramirez .227/.486/.318

Kevin Youkilis .235/.367/.471

Kevin has the overall advantage here. This last set of numbers isn't as useful because it only includes 22 at bats for manny and 17 for Kevin. The more specific we get in regards to the situation, the less valuable are data becomes.

Lastly, let's take a look at the numbers vs. RHP

Manny Ramirez .304/.392/.563

Kevin Youkilis .284/.380/.450

Difference: -.020/-.012/-.113

Slightly less than the 3-year totals but not by much.

While Manny Ramirez is the superior hitter overall and with runners in scoring position and against right handed pitchers, the difference still isn't enough to justify an intentional walk with Youkilis backing him up. Joe Girardi made the right call in pitching to Manny.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Rain Delay in Boston -Resumed

Top of the 8th inning, Yankees trail 3-4, runners on 1st and 2nd, 2 out. With the Yankees threatening to score and the Sox about to bring in Papelbon early the umpire decides to cover the field when a little rain falls. There had been thunder and lightning in the distance but by the time the tarp was finished getting unrolled, before they had a chance to unfold it, the rain was letting up. Hopefully for the Yanks they won't have this one stolen away from them by mother nature and an anxious officiated crew. Oh, did I mention Alex Rodriguez was at the plate?

Beckett started strong and was in command of the early part of the game. Terry Francona let him start the 7th but he began to have some difficulty, giving up a run before Manny Delcarmen came in to relieve him with 2 outs. Delcarmen got out of the inning with a strike out. Okajima came in to pitch the 8th inning and left with 2 on and 2 outs, setting up Papelbon.

Beckett's numbers were 6.2 innings, 5 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, 5 strike outs, and 88 pitches for 55 strikes.

For the Yankees, Mussina kept the game close and exciting. He put a few runners on and got out with some double plays. While not looking as sharp as Beckett, Moose kept the Yankees in striking range throwing 5.2 innings, giving up 4 runs on 8 hits, 1 K and no walks. He threw 71 pitches for 51 strikes.

Brian Bruney came in in the bottom of the 6th and have up an RBI hit and also gave up a run in the 7th. There's been no sign of Chamberlain warming up yet.

David Ortiz continues to struggle at the plate. Using the word struggle seems like an understatement. Ortiz can't do anything. He was up twice in clutch situations and grounded into a double play and later struck out. Manny Ramirez was the offensive star for Boston, hitting a solo home run and an RBI double.

The Yankees have only left 2 on base tonight but for the most part haven't done much offensively. Giambi has gone 0 for 3. Cano has 2 hits. Alberto Gonzalez is 1 for 3 with a run scored and is showing some speed on the bases.

If the game is resumed, the first at bat will be crucial as A-Rod tries to drive in some runs with 2 outs and runners in scoring position. Papelbon is set up to grab a save if he pitches well. If the Yankees do get some runs Chamberlain and Rivera will both be available to pitch in the 8th and 9th if needed. If the Yanks fail to score, I wouldn't be surprised to see someone else in to pitch, saving those two for Sunday.

Yanks fans, keep hoping the rain clears and that A-Rod can come through in the clutch!

Update: After a little over 2 hours, the game resumed. Papelbon delivered and A-Rod came up short in the biggest at bat of the game, striking out in the clutch. Latroy Hawkins shut down the Red Sox in the bottom of the 8th and then Papelbon came back out to pitch the ninth. The kid was sharp, striking out the first two batters and then getting a ground out to end the game.

Mussina and Beckett each had decent starts and the score was close, but Beckett was able to go an extra inning and was a little sharper. Both bullpens had some minor troubles but Boston was able to get Papelbon to the mound with a lead and he gave them 4 quick outs in a big game.

The Yankees still have Chamberlain and Rivera available for tomorrow. If Hughes can keep it close and Dice-K doesn't prove to be too much for the Bomber bats, the Yanks have a good chance to win another game and take the series.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Moves the Yankees Need to Make

Get a quality utility infielder.

With Jeter getting injured lots of ideas have been thrown around about how to fill in at his position. Some have suggested that A-Rod could move over and play in his old spot. Wilson Betemit has no place on the team. His defense is below average and his hitting is poor. Robinson Cano has fielded poorly this year and hasn't had a terrific bat. The Yankees need a solid defensive replacement off the bench to fill in for Jeter or Cano. A guy with speed who could be used as a pinch runner would be an added benefit.

Currently the Yankees have brought up Alberto Gonzalez who is hitting .375, but no one expects these numbers to hold up. Gonzalez is decent in the field, which is a plus and he can play second. If Gonzalez can keep hitting halfway decently he could fill in but he's probably not quite there yet.

Keep Gonzalez on the Roster or try to sign someone with a bit more experience.

Betemit should be let go.

Get a decent backup catcher in the system

Right now aged veteran Chad Moeller is the backup catcher behind Molina. If Posada continues to have trouble throwing he'll need to be moved to the DH spot or possibly first base. With Francisco Cervelli's broken arm, the Yanks are depleted in the catching position.

Straighten out the DH/1B/OF situation

The Yankees have Damon, Matsui, Giambi, and Posada who are all looking more like DHs than full time position players. Duncan is more of a novelty than anything else. Morgan Ensberg makes a nice addition to fill in at first when needed but perhaps Posada should consider a move if his arm continues to struggle. Matsui and Damon bring different tools to the plate, but the team really doesn't need both. Giambi has become the starting first baseman, but he's getting older and more prone to injury in addition to having an abysmal offensive start. Ensberg isn't the guy you want starting full time and the Yanks don't have too many other options to play 1st other than bringing Shelley Duncan back.

The bottom line is that there are too many players for too few positions here. Perhaps the Yankees could trade one to fill another need or arrange a two for one trade. The problem is that it can be difficult for the Yanks to get anyone to take over one of their veteran's contracts.

Get a long reliever

The Yankees have quite a few question marks with their starting pitchers. You never know when one of the young arms gets pulled out of a game early or when an injury to a starter needs a quality spot starter to fill in.

Right now the Yanks don't have any long relievers on the team. Karstens was injured at the end of spring training and Rasner and Igawa were sent down to the minors. I'm not thrilled with Rasner but Karstens and Igawa aren't up to the challenge.

It wouldn't hurt to give Rasner a chance. The Yankees can easily clear room on the roster by getting rid of Farnsworth and Hawkins. Albaladejo should be brought back up as soon as possibly also.

So there you have 4 areas that the Yankees need to address. They've got a few guys who are 100% expendable like Farnsworth, Hawkins and Betemit. They also have a dearth of sub-par outfielders who could be traded. Not all of these areas need to be addressed through outside help and one or two could be filled from within if Gonzalez performs well or Rasner gets brought up.

Wang Dominant in Game 1

Chien-Ming Wang was in complete control the whole game, shutting down the Boston hitters allowing only 2 hits over 9 innings. Wang struck out 3 batters and didn't issue a single walk. He threw an economical 93 pitches, 61 of which were strikes.

One of those hits he did allow was a home run that just barely squeaked over the right field wall into the Boston bullpen and should have been caught by Bobby Abreu, who mistimed his jump. The other hit was a bunt in the 9th inning by Coco Crisp that Wang didn't quite field in time.

Clay Buchholz looked strong in his starting role, ultimately allowing 1 run on 4 hits over 6 innings. Clay walked 3 and struck out 3. His performance wasn't quite as economical as Wang. At the end of 6 Buchholz had thrown 98 pitches (58 strikes).

Boston's problems arose when Timlin came in in the 7th inning. Making his first major league appearance after being on the DL, Timlin gave up a home run, stand up double and a sacrifice bunt to the only three batters he faced.

David Cone, working the broadcast booth for YES, quipped one of his baseball maxims "When in doubt, hit it to the pitcher." This adequately summed up Timlin's handling of the sacrifice bunt. There was plenty of time to turn and throw out the runner advancing to 3rd, but Timlin instead threw to 1st for the easy out. When Okajima came a sacrifice fly easily scored the runner on third, a very preventable run.

Okajima finished off the 7th and Lopez got two outs in the 8th. David Aardsma finished off the last 1.1 innings of the game and gave up an additional run on 2 hits.

Bobby Abreu tried to make up for dropping the home run ball by hustling out a ground ball single and driving in a run. Too many players jog down the first base line and it's nice to see a good hustle pay off.

Jason Giambi hit a 3-2 pitch deep for his first home run of the season.  Molina, Matsui and Giambi all hit doubles and seven different Yankees got hits in the game. There were 9 runners left on base and the Yanks need to work on driving in more runners.

This game was all about Chien -Ming Wang. He pitched superbly, going the distance and giving the bullpen a night off. The Yanks will now have all of their relievers fresh for tomorrows game. While Buchholz pitched well, he went deep in too many counts and had to come out after 6 innings. Boston made a crucial mistake in going to the rusty Timlin too soon in a close game. Lopez and Aardsma were respectable but the damage was done.

Josh Beckett is starting for Boston in the next game, and the Sox need him to go at least 6 or 7 innings. If Beckett gets tired early, like he did in his first start Boston will have to rely on a tired bullpen. Who knows which Mussina will show up to pitch but having a rested bullpen gives the Bombers the advantage in game 2.

Baseball Trivia - Fewest Pitches in a CG

Watching Chien Ming Wang pitch a very economical game against the Red Sox made me wonder who actually held the record for the fewest number of pitches thrown in a complete game (of at least 9 innings).

The answer?

58 pitches by Charles "Red" Barrett on August 10th, 1944 in a 2-0 win for Barrett's Boston Braves over the Cincinatti Reds. Red Barret gave up 2 hits, no walks and no strikeouts.

Yankees - Red Sox Preview

For the first time in the 2008 regular season, the Yankees and the Red Sox are set to play. The game will take place at 7:05 ET at Fenway park where it is currently overcast. Both teams are 5-5 and have had their ups and downs early on.

Here's the Yankees lineup for tonight:

Melky Cabrera, CF
Robinson Cano, 2B
Bobby Abreu, RF
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Hideki Matsui, LF
Jorge Posada, DH
Jason Giambi, 1B
Jose Molina, C
Alberto Gonzalez, SS

Joe Girardi is mixing things up once again. Melky Cabrera is moving up to the leadoff position. Abreu is back in right and Matsui is back in left. Jeter will likely be out for the whole series and Alberto Gonzalez will continue to fill in. I like Posada in the DH slot. Giambi is back in at first and Ensberg is back on the bench.

The Red Sox lineup looks like this:

Coco Crisp, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Manny Ramirez, LF
Kevin Youkilis, 3B
J.D. Drew, RF
Jason Varitek, C
Sean Casey, 1B
Julio Lugo, SS

Third baseman Mike Lowell is on the 15 day DL. Sean Casey moves in at first and Youkilis shifts to third.

Chien Ming Wang gets the start vs. Clay Buchholz. Buchholz threw a no-hitter last year but had some problems in his first start this year. Wang has showed he is the Yankees ace in his first two starts. The Yankees have the advantage in starting pitching tonight and if Wang can get 7 innings the Bronx Bombers will be in good shape.

Chamberlain and Rivera worked last night's game and so that leaves Bruney, Traber, Ohlendorf, Hawkins and Farnsworth. Hawkins and Farnsworth are huge liabilities. It will be interesting to see what happens and who Girardi goes to if the game is close.

The Red Sox used Delcarmen, Okajima, Tavarez and Papelbon last night, leaving Aardsma and Corey with fresh arms.

The pitching advantage right now goes to NY with Wang at the top of his game and the Yankees having more options in the bullpen  (unless Hawkins or Farnsworth comes in). Boston has been hitting well but the Yankees started coming to life offensively last night. I give the Yanks the nod for game 1.

Tomorrow's game should have Mussina pitching against Beckett. Mussina looked better in his last outing than Beckett, but Josh is Boston's ace. If he's got his stuff back Beckett should get the win, but Moose can still throw some dominating games. The final game of the series features Phil "the Franchise" Hughes against Daisuke "Dice-K" Matsuzaka. Dice-K has been pitching better than Hughes but both of these guys are unpredictable. This one will come down to bullpen pitching and I give the Yanks the edge here.

It should be a great series!

Sox Fan Jinxes Yankee Stadium Construction

The New York Post ran an article earlier today telling a dubious tale. Apparently a diehard Red Sox fan was working on the Yankee stadium construction crew and took it upon himself to add some bad mojo to the new structure. A Red Sox t-shirt was poured in the concrete slab that will be under the future visitor's clubhouse. The Post withheld any names of people involved in the incident claiming their informants did not have permission to speak with the media.

I don't know if there is any truth to the story. The only other mentions I have seen on the web have been referrals to the NY Post story, without additional confirmation. My gut tells me that this is a complete hoax, a tall tale dreamed up to create more animosity between these two teams and to add more mystery to the rivalry.

There are quite a few reasons not to believe the story. First of all is the idea that the workers who came forward were "not authorized to speak with the media". Really? I'm not in the construction business but did they really sign non-disclosure agreements? More likely they don't exist. Secondly is the supposed placement of the shirt, namely underneath the visiting teams clubhouse. Wouldn't it be better to curse the Yankees by putting something under the home team's facilities? Lastly is the timing of the story, the day of the first Yankees-Red Sox game in the 2008 regular season. More than likely the story was just fabricated to drum up some excitement for the upcoming games.

Regardless of whether we are dealing with fact or fiction, the Yankees organization will pay no attention to the rumor. Die hard Sox and Yankee fans will recall the tale from time to time whenever the Yanks get a bad break against the Sox in their new park, and the sappy sports media will try to milk the story for all it's worth. Heck, I'm even blogging about it.

Yankees Return to Form With Win

There were quite a few things to encourage the Yankee faithful watching last nights game. Most importantly, the Yankees won the ballgame 6-1, avoiding a sweep by the Royals and moving back to .500.

The offense started to emerge from its slumber and the bombers were finally able to put some runs on the board. Melky Cabrera continues to deliver excitement, going 2 for 5 with a home run and an RBI single. Alex Rodriguez was 1 for 4, but was able to knock in two runs and hit a solo home run shot late in the game. A-Rods homer was followed by a solo dinger by Posada, hitting in the DH spot due to a sore shoulder. Morgan Ensberg had a nice night going 2 for 4.

Andy Pettite was the story of the evening in my book. Andy looked strong in 6.2 innings of work, giving up 5 hits and allowing only 1 run, walking 2 and striking out 1. This was the Pettitte pitching Yankee fans were hoping to see this year.

Pettitte still has a great pick off move. Andy was able to pick off Alex Gordon and held runners close to the bases. KC was unable to steal a base all night. Andy has always had one of the best moves to first in baseball, and it really helps at times, especially against speedy small ball teams like the Royals.

In the bottom of the 6th Pettitte had a line drive drilled inches to the right of his head. Andy ducked out of the way and managed to get his glove up for the out. It was a pure instinct play and most importantly Andy avoided injury. Catching the ball while hitting the ground was downright amazing. Molina and Rodriguez both came over to check on Pettitte after the play and Andy didn't look particularly happy at the time. Despite the close call he managed to strike out the next batter and get the following hitter to ground out for a 1-2-3 inning. Making great plays, getting shaken and coming back to dominate the next two hitters shows again why Andy is one of the best in the game.

Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera were their usual awesome selves in the final innings of the game, making a fantastic combination the Yankees haven't had since the Rivera-Wetteland days.

Hopefully the Yankees will continue this level of play both hitting and pitching. They've got their work cut out for them in the upcoming series with Boston.

AL East notes:

Edwin Jackson looked sharp again in Tampa's 7-0 win over Seattle.

Baltimore dropped 2 to Texas and may finally be starting their migration to the back of the pack.

Toronto lost to Oakland in 12 innings.

Boston outslugged Detroit 12-6 in a game that lasted 3:44. Both starting pitchers

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Goose Wants Joba In Bullpen

The NY Post ran a story today in which Goose Gossage talked about where Joba fits into the team and how moving him around will be a bad thing.

Goose's main points were that moving a guy around from the bullpen to the starting rotation can cause problems and get a player off his game. He also lamented the lack of a clear plan for Joba from the Yankees. Finally, Rich said his preference would be for Chamberlain to stay in the bullpen, where he would be better off.

I'll buy that moving a guy around a lot could  be a bad thing. Pitchers are a fickle bunch and like to know when they are pitching, or at the very least when they could be pitching. They like to know about how many innings they should be expecting. I don't doubt that moving back and forth between starting and relief can put extra pressure on a guy.

Where I diverge from Goose's opinion is on the latter points. The Yankees have a plan for Joba. Perhaps Gossage didn't get the memo. Girardi doesn't think Chamberlain is ready for a full season in the starting rotation, and he's targeting approximately 150 innings of play this year. Joba has had some injury issues in the past and hasn't pitched a full starter's schedule lately. To get him into the starters role, he's going to have to go slowly. The Yankees have 5 starters penciled in right now. Other than Wang, there are two youngsters and two aging veterans. Odds are pretty good that someone will get injured or someone just won't have the stuff to stay in the rotation. Enter Joba. After hanging out in the bullpen for a while, later in the season Chamberlain will be able to step into the starting rotation and finish out the season, staying under his 150 inning cap.

Gossage's claim that Joba is more valuable in the bullpen is nonsense. Getting 6-7 quality innings out of Joba per start is much more valuable than 1-2 relief innings. If he spends time in the starting rotation and it turns out that he doesn't have what it takes, that in the end he doesn't have a sufficient number of effective pitches to throw or he begins to have injury problems with the starting workload, then it's time to relinquish him to the bullpen. If you can pitch effectively as a starter, you do.

It may be that Joba ends up being a more effective reliever than starter, but until he gets a real chance in the rotation, we'll never know.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Yanks Shut Out In Kansas City

Zack Greinke pitched 8 scoreless innings, giving up 6 hits, striking out 2 and walking 2.

Worried about the game getting rained out, Joe Girardi decided at the last minute to start Brian Bruney, saving Ian Kennedy to come in later or be fresh to start tomorrow. The rain was steady most of the game. Bruney pitched an impressive scoreless 2 innings with 4 Ks, 1 walk and 1 hit. Girardi's strategy was looking fairly smart when Billy Traber came in to pitch a scoreless 3rd inning (1H, 1 SO, 1 BB). Unfortunately Girardi had Kyle Farnsworth factored into his master plan. Farnsworth got through the 4th but then gave up 2 runs in the 5th inning, including a leadoff home run.

Ian Kennedy came in the game in the bottom of the 6th and had trouble right off the bat, giving up 2 runs before getting out of the inning. After the 6th, Kennedy settled down a bit and was scoreless in the 7th and the 8th. In 3 innings of work Kennedy gave up 2 runs on 2 hits with 2 walks and 3 strike outs.

Kennedy looked miserable in his very first outing. Tonight in the 6th it looked like we were going to see more of the same. Kennedy's last two innings were better and he appeared to have settled down a bit. Despite an impressive spring, Ike is struggling in the regular season. Yankee fans just have to hope that he'll straighten himself out before too long. I hate to make decisions on just two outings, but I'm a little worried.

Newsflash: Kyle Farnsworth gives up runs in relief appearances. He's only useful in garbage innings with big leads or huge deficits that you don't expect to overcome. The majority of the bullpen is rock solid. Traber, Bruney, Chamberlain and Rivera are doing amazing out of the gate.

Collectively the Yankees had 8 hits, but the offense was pretty feeble. There were no strike outs for A-rod tonight, who ended up getting two hits. The bomber bats couldn't string together enough consecutive hits to put any runs on board.

Melky Cabrera cost the Yanks a run with some poor baserunning. A ground was hit by Alberto Gonzalez toward the second baseman Grudzielanek. Melky should have stopped in his tracks, forcing Grudz to throw either chase and tag, throw to 2nd for the force or throw to 1st. Instead Melky decided to trot right into the tag, giving Grudzielanek plenty of time to also throw to 1st to complete the double play. Damon's hit afterward could have driven in a runner on 2nd or could have advanced a runner on 1st to 3rd.

It's going to be a long season if the Yankees bats don't start heating up. The inconsistent starting pitching needs lots of runs to back it up and so far the Pinstripers aren't giving enough run support.

Jose Molina went 1 for 4 and made a nice thow to third to catch Gathright attempting to steal. That was the first time the speedy Gathright has been caught all year. Molina also threw out Alex Gordon trying to steal second.

Alberto Gonzalez went 1 for 3 in his first major league appearance of 2008, hitting a nice stand up double.

Bruney Gets Bad Weather Start

Ian Kennedy was scheduled to start tonight's game, but come time to throw out the opening pitch, Brian Bruney is announced as the starter.

Apparently there was rain in the forecast and Joe Girardi did not want to start Ian Kennedy only to have the game get rained out early. Instead, he is starting Bruney who will pitch the opening innings. If the rain passes, Ian will be available to pitch. If the game is postponed, Ian will be ready for the next start. Using Bruney for a few innings doesn't have a big effect on the rotation at all.

Currently in the bottom of the 2nd inning it is raining fairly heavily. There has been no indication that the game will be called or delayed. Many of the fans have left their seats to seek shelter inside.

This is a very unique strategy that we're seeing out of Girardi. There's a certain logic to it. We'll see what the end result is.