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Monthly Archives: May 2011

Yankees End Home Stand With Series Win

Before the Yankees head to the west coast to face every good pitcher the Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels of Midgard have on their roster, it was nice that the Yankees took care of business against the New York Mets and the Toronto Blue Jays.

Game 1: Intentional walk blues
I hate, hate HATE the intentional walk. I understand that it can be an effective strategy, but in my eyes, it’s almost the last act of the desperate. I don’t know what Bartolo Colon‘s ground ball rate is, but he’s a strike out pitcher, right? I don’t feel that his two seamer is the sort of pitch that sinks and generates a lot of ground balls the way other guys can, so I wasn’t a huge fan of the strategy, and low and behold, it lead to a big inning. I guess I’m bound to be right about something every once in a while when I yell at the TV. If you’re going to have Colon issue an intentional walk to set up a double play, you might as well just pull him, because he probably got into the tough spot in the first place because his stuff wasn’t there anymore (and it wasn’t), so why leave an ineffective pitcher in there? I just don’t understand the strategy deployed there.

Game 2: Let there be pie!
Things weren’t going well; the Yankees were down late in the game, but suddenly, the 2009 Yankees showed up and came from behind to win the game! (I’m still pumped about this – wearing my Curtis Granderson t-shirt today.) This gave me a sense of confidence in the 2011 Yankees that I don’t think I’d felt before.

Game 3: Poor Jo-Jo
Day games suck. I understand that teams need a getaway day game, especially when the Yankees have to fly to the west coast, but seriously, who’s around to watch a ball game during the afternoon in the middle of the week? How can this be profitable for the Yankees as a business? But whatever.
You ever drop by Fan Graphs? I love that graph they have on the scoreboard page, showing how the percentage changes as things happen during the game, as both team’s 50/50 chance to win the game modifies with particular events. The graph starts with both teams having a 50% chance to win, but when Jo-Jo Reyes is the game’s starter, shouldn’t the Yankees get at least a 10% bump toward a win? Reyes hasn’t recorded a win since 2008, when he was with the Braves – and he went 3-11 with a 5.81 ERA in 113 innings. This year, his 4.70 ERA over 51.2 IP isn’t terrible, but it’s certainly not good, but when a guy has a cloud like that floating over his head… I don’t know how he overcomes it. Bottom line, the Yankees crushed him, as they should. It’s good to see Andruw Jones showing some power with 2 homers in a game – maybe Joe Girardi needs to consider platooning him with Nick Swisher in right field – Swisher is still hitting around the .200 mark, and I don’t feel like his swing is getting any better. I do think his discipline has been a little better in May than it was in April, but that’s a small consolation.

Coming up:
As aforementioned, the Yankees are going out west to facing good pitching, so the staff needs to respond in kind and toss up zeroes. With A.J. Burnett on the mound tomorrow night, we’ll have to wait and see if the good doctor is there or if the raging Mister Hyde takes the mound and throws the ball into the backstop – or maybe it’ll be one of those starts where both guys show up. Who knows…

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Mets at Yankees: Feast or Famine Continues

I hate to keep arguing this point, and it’s a bit simplistic, but it’s starring me in the face, in black and white. The Yankees need to do something about their RISP numbers.

FAMINE:
Mets at Yankees, Friday May 20th:

Final score: Mets 2, Yankees 1
Yankees Team RISP: 1-for-10
Yankees Team LOB: 7

Wow. Just wow. 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position, huh? That’s just beautiful. It’s like watching a beautiful baby deer getting hit by a garbage truck. It boggles the mind: “Run! There’s a garbage truck hurtling toward you! Run!” (I yell something similar any time Brett Gardner is on 1st, just standing there, watching the grass grow.)

FEAST:
Mets at Yankees, Saturday May 21th:
Final score: Mets 3, Yankees 7
Yankees Team RISP: 0-for-1

This is one of those “The Yankees hit too many home runs” games that folks at the Daily News and the Post love to complain about so much. Still, the Yankees never really had anyone in scoring position during this game, so it’s a weird one, and although I call it a feast because they scored 7 runs, it could also be qualified as a famine game because the Yankees failed to get runners into scoring position, but whatever; I know most teams aren’t going to score 7 runs on 7 hits, but the Yankees have a lot of power.

FEAST:
Mets at Yankees, Sunday May 22th:
Final score: Mets 3, Yankees 9
Yankees Team LOB: 8.
Yankees With RISP: 5 for 10.

Finally, the game that deflates “The Yankees hit too many home runs” argument a bit – the Yankees score 9 runs and only one via the long ball. However, until that 8 run inning in the bottom of the 7th, things were looking pretty grim. Is this a famine game, at least in some ways?

SO, what did we learn?
I don’t believe in “The Yankees hit too many home runs” argument at all; the Yankees simply have a lot of guys in their line up that hit for power and, for the most part, Yankee Stadium is a hitter’s park. I think the Yankees issue is just a lack of consistency and fundamentals. The Yankees have a ton of guys who hit the ball hard, but their ability to bunt is obviously not a team strength and I’m not all that impressed with the team’s ability to hit sacrifice flies this season, either. Also, the Yankees don’t have a single guy on the team who is hitting .300 this year. I know batting average isn’t the best measure of a player, but it does at least speak to consistency, and that’s what I think is truly lacking here. Sure, Brett Gardner is having an amazing May and the other guys (Derek Jeter) are starting to come around, but fundamentals and consistency is key to getting those RISP numbers up. We can only hope they’ll get it right at some point… or hit a zillion home runs every night.

Feast Or Famine Again?

 

In recent past seasons, I’ve expressed concern that the Yankees have continually put together offenses that either produce a zillion runs or none to almost no runs at all; or, as it is often called, a feast or famine offense. When I scroll through the results of the 2011 season, I do feel that this team can easily lapse into that tendency.

Last night, the Yankees scored 13 runs on 14 hits, which is great – except that the night before, they were held down to one run over 14 innings until picking up 3 more in the 15th. Now I understand that different line ups, and even particular players on specific days are going to produce different results on separate games, but the Yankees weren’t exactly facing Pedro Martinez in his prime on Wednesday night, and they left a ton of guys on base. So what gives?

It’s still a bit too early to draw conclusions about the 2011 Yankees. For example, I don’t think Derek Jeter is going to meander around the .255 mark all season – I think he’s probably a .275-.285 guy this year. It’s also impossible to predict Brett Gardner; he simply doesn’t have enough MLB time to know if what he did last year and what he’s done in the month of May is who he really is or not. I have no idea what’s going on with Nick Swisher (although he’s starting to show signs of life, too), and Jorge Posada doesn’t have a single hit off a left handed pitcher yet this season – and he’s NEVER had bad splits before in his entire career.

So while it’s too soon to call the 2011 Yankee offense a feast or famine club, it’s definitely something to keep an eye on.

That Took A While!

gimli

"The sun is rising..."

It’s rare that a game takes 15 innings to complete, and even more rare that a win feels like a loss, yet I can’t help feel that way after the Yankees left a zillion runners on base, including the bases loaded and A-Rod on third…  and whoever else they stranded.  The Yankees have made me make obscure references to the Lord of the Rings two days in a row!

So, it’s with great joy that I find the Yankees winning handily with a 7 run lead after the 3rd inning.  Hopefully, I can just talk baseball tomorrow and keep from losing my mind – it is only May, after all.

David Robertson is starting to look like Scott Proctor

I had such high hopes for Scott Proctor – maybe Joe Torre did, too; he certainly must have had a lot of confidence in him. Way back in 2006, Torre would run Proctor out there almost every other day. I kid you not; check this out:

G: 83
IP: 102.1
H: 89
BB: 33
SO: 89
ERA: 3.52

Pitching over 100 innings out of the bullpen is totally insane, but that’s how Joe Torre managed his bullpen. Hell, he made Mike Myers the long man for a while – his lefty specialist! I still believe that Torre’s bullpen management (or rather mismanagement) was a direct contributor to his departure from the Yankees.

In 2007, the Yankees traded Procter to the Dodgers, and he must have sighed with relief on some level. Sure, the Dodgers weren’t the greatest team in the world, but at least he was free from Torre’s abuse… until Torre took over as manager of the Dodgers. That had to have been one of the worst days of Procter’s life. Procter finally broke down and was left off the Dodgers’ 2008 playoff roster. (I speculate that the famed Joba Rules were put in place as a reaction to the Scott Proctor experience.)

So far this season, David Robertson has pitched in 19 games for 16.2 innings. Last year, he threw 61.1 innings in 64 games, and my feeling is that’s probably about the ceiling for a relief pitcher’s work load – or at least it should be if you care about not blowing the guy’s arm out.

While I’m not the biggest fan of Joe Girardi’s bullpen management, he does NOT ride his guys into the ground, which is good news for Fireman D-Rob. Still, I think D-Rob is an extraordinary talent of rare mental makeup, and he should be carefully applied to games so he’s healthy when we need him. So far, so good.

The Yankees finally put Rafael Soriano on the disabled list. What the hell took so long?

The Streak Is Over

So many inspirational phrases come to be mind; before the game, it was something to the tune of, "The line must be drawn here! This far, no farther! And I will make them pay for what they’ve done!"

Make who pay, you ask? Uhm, Joe Girardi for calling all of those bunts; the Yankees offense for not knowing how to bunt; A.J. Burnett for coughing up a lead; Freddy Garcia for coughing up a lead; Joba Chamberlain for giving up that homer; the Yankees offense for their continual RISP failures; Jorge Posada for throwing a hissy fit when Girardi moved him down to 9th in the batting order… you know, those things.

During the bottom of the 9th, with a runner on second and one run in, Mariano Rivera came running out to the mound, shouting to his teammates: "Infielders, outfielders – my brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come, when the ability of our team to win a game fails, when we forsake our friends and refuse to play [cough] Jorge [cough] But it is not this day! This day we play! For all that you hold dear, for your pride and vanity, we stand together, Yankees of New York!"

But after the game, it went more like this:

"Win at last, win at last; thank god all mighty, the Yankees have won at last!"

"Ask not what the Yankees can do for you, but what you can do for the Yankees!"

"It depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is…" OK, maybe it’s not like that one at all.

It’s kind of like that part at the end of The Two Towers: "Victory! We have victory!" Yeah, it felt that way, except instead of facing an insurmountable army (300 style), it was just a matter of the Yankees getting out of their own way. All teams slump, but its tough when a team slumps for so long – but the first big hurtle has been jumped – a win has been secured. It’s time to march into Baltimore and kick ASS!

Air Mail Courtesy of Eduardo Nunez

Eduardo Nunez

"Heads up!"

It’s easy to poke fun at another throwing error by Eduardo Nunez because his over powered arm and accuracy issues are probably fixable and a lot easier to understand given that he spends so much time on the bench and is still a young man.  Also, it’s not the reason they lost the game to the Rays.  The coughing up of a lead by A.J. Burnett is far more troubling and much more difficult to understand, particularly because he seemed to be pitching so well until he got blown up.  If you take a look at A.J.’s totals, inning by inning… it’s…  uhm…  uhm…  Shiz.  “I can’t find it!  The hell with it!”

major league movie

"Don't worry, nobody's listening anyway."

Yeah, the Yankees are playing like the Indians in the first act of Major League.  This sucks.  Tonight, we’ll see how bad Ivan Nova gets his ass kicked as the Yankees continue on perfecting their impression of Dante’s Inferno.

When it rains, it pours

The Yankees dodged the weekend raindrops and got all the games in. Too bad. Is there anything worse than a game on FOX, a game on ESPN, and losing both games to the Red Sox? May has been pretty ugly thus far. Let’s take a quick look:

4 game series with the Tigers
W 5-3
L 2-4
L 0-4
L 3-6

3 game series with the Rangers
W 4-1
L 5-7
W 12-5

3 game series with the Royals
W 3-1
L 3-4
L 5-11

3 game series with the Red Sox
L 4-5
L 0-6
L 5-7

One series win out of four. Lost a series to the Royals at home – I know they’re off to a good start, but come on – Melky Carerera and Wilson “can’t find a better backup infielder” are starting for them at the left corners. Swept by the Red Sox at home. I know it’s only mid May and the Yankees are still over .500, but these last two weeks have been brutal. The inability to hit with runners in scoring position is the most damning trend we’ve seen over this time, but the poor fielding is probably not a trend we’ll see all year. On the other hand, it’s pretty sad that no one on this team can bunt well and that Brett Gardner is not good at base running or stealing, which, given his age, seems unlikely to change. I do think the offense and the fielding will come around – this is just a slump, one that was bound to happen. I don’t buy into the argument that this team relies on the home run too much – rather, this team just hits a lot of home runs. It’s not like the 2003 Yankees that just waits for the home run, but I can see how it looks that way. Speaking of home runs, I’m starting to feel like Joba Chamberlain is giving up too many of those round trippers…

The Jorge Posada Deal
It is what it is – obviously, it would be a blow to the pride of any player who used to hit in the middle of the lineup to be suddenly delegated to the last spot. So he took himself out of the lineup because A) his back hurt; B) he was pissed he was hitting ninth; C) both. I don’t care what the deal is – the simple fact is if you can’t get your batting average to be higher than your weight after six weeks, you should count your lucky millions that you’re not riding the bench, never mind batting ninth. If you heard or read somewhere that the Yankees weren’t interested in having Jorge back on the team next year… well, obviously. They don’t trust him to play catcher anymore and having a permanent DH that has a $30 million dollar, surgically repaired A-Rod on it probably doesn’t need an every day DH – not to mention finding rest/DH days for Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter and so on.

Can we DL Rafael Soriano now?
Soriano is out again, riding the pine and the pain for a few more days. I know he makes a lot of money and his tests came back negative, but he’s just eating up a 25 man roster spot at this point, and after sitting for so long, he’s going to be cold anyway. Let’s just put him on the 15 day DL and let him make some rehab appearances at Scranton and come back ready to go.

Coming Up Next: Two games in Tampa, two games in Baltimore, then home for the Mets. Who knows what these games will bring? One thing is for sure, the Yankees need a win, desperately.

Can I Get An RBI?

A Quick Rant On LOB:
The Yankees left 15 runners on base last night – which doesn’t include the runners lost by the GIDPs from Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson. Granderson got some redemption in the 10th with his RBI single to keep the game alive, but jeez – not a good offensive performance by any stretch of the imagination.

A Quick Rant On Bunting and Coaching:
The Yankees have a problem that sounds like the setup for a work of fiction: a manager who loves to bunt has a roster full of players who can’t bunt worth a shiz! As far as I know, the Yankees don’t have anyone (well, maybe Martin can bunt) who is proficient in bunting, yet Joe Girardi loves to call for it. And why have Brett Gardner or Derek Jeter bunt? They’re both hot right now! And neither of them are what I would call good bunters… not to mention they were both facing a pitcher who was wild. I just don’t understand why Girardi calls for players to bunt who can’t do it (is he trying to embarrass them into practicing it more?) in situations where bunting doesn’t make a ton of sense. Sure, maybe that was a ‘by the book’ scenario where a bunt was called for, but use your eyes: the pitcher can’t Joakim Soria couldn’t find the plate and his velocity was way down – that means either take your walk or wait for the inevitable fastball down the middle!

New York Connection:
So the Kansas City Royals have Melky Cabrera in left field, Wilson Betemit at 3rd – both former Yankees – and Vin Mazzaro is from Rutherford, NJ. Who else they got over there that either played for the Yankees at some point or is from the greater New York City area?

Tonight:

Ivan Nova in the rubber match! It’d be a shame to lose a series at home to the Royals, regardless of how good their start has been this year. Also, Rafael Soriano’s arm is OK, so good news there! It sounds like we’ll see him this weekend against the Red Sox, if not tonight.

King of the Small Sample Sizes – Derek Jeter's Triple Slash

It has been well documented that Derek Jeter did not get off to a fast start this season; his uninspiring April triple slash of .256/.313/.278 seemed to strike a nerve with the sports media, blogs and Yankee fans alike. As for me, I prefer to reserve judgment on what kind of year a player is going to have until June 1, but I couldn’t help but react to at least a few of the gloom and doom reports regarding Jeter’s bat.

QUICK ASIDE: Why is the focus solely on Jeter’s bat, by the way? "Passed a diving Jeter!" is practically Michael Kay’s catch phrase and the thought that "Jeter goes to his left worse than Rush Limbaugh," has been uttered enough times to rob the joke of it’s punch, yet the conversation is welded to his offensive production. I don’t understand why that is the case.

Today is May 11th, and after last night’s game, Jeter’s May triple slash looks like this: .371/.405/.571. So now what? Crisis averted? Here is his 2011 overall triple slash: .283/.336/.354. Not bad, right? Particularly for a short stop? Is the feeding frenzy over? Will I keep asking questions like the cliff hanger of an old Batman episode?

Here are some non-interrogative sentences. Jeter has 127 at bats so far this year. This is NOT enough ABs to make a sound judgment from. Also, take a minute to look at Derek Jeter’s career numbers; if you really thought that last year was who Jeter was going to be going forward, I’d need to know what you’re basing that on. Sure, I expect regression from a player as they get older, but the kind of fall off people are/were talking about is/was just absurd. In the late 1990s and for most of 2000s, pitchers would always try to bust Jeter in on his hands with a fastball so he couldn’t hit the ball the other way – it felt like the only pitch Jeter ever saw was a fastball inside. But Jeter would just pull his hands in toward his body and hit it over the second baseman’s head anyway. Last year, it seemed that Jeter saw more breaking and off speed pitches away then he’d ever seen before – the league finally adjusted. Consequently, it seemed that Jeter was grounding the ball to short stop a lot, which was strange for a guy who was famous for going the other way. This year, you’ll note that many Yankees blogs have been writing about the increased number of curve balls the Yankees have been seeing this year as a team – which is the perfect pitch for a guy like Jeter to ground to the right side, by the way. I explain May by saying that Jeter is a veteran hitter: he adjusted back. So while I still think it’s too early to say whether Jeter will hit .256, .283 or .371, I think it’s safe to bet he won’t hit .256, but will put up a higher number than that. But let’s wait a few more weeks before we go nuts one way or another.

It’s been a few days between posts as real life intruded on my duty to the blog here, as it is bound to do from time to time. The Yankees obviously had a nice road series win in Texas, which featured that crazy game and Jeter’s 2 home runs – a big part of that early May slugging percentage! Now the Yankees are back home and took care of business in game one against the Royals. It was nice to see Melky Caberara again (even with the ridiculous beard), and it was even nicer to see Alex Rodriguez slow the game down a bit and just hit a 2 RBI single to give the Yankees a lead. Sure, it was against a Royals starter who shouldn’t of been in the game at that point, but whatever. Also, we’re all crossing our fingers that Rafael Soriano’s MRI comes back clean on that elbow, but it might be time to put this guy on the 15 day disabled list and get him healthy before the season gets too far under way.

Tonight, A.J. Burnett will face off against former Oakland A Vin Mazzaro, who I believe got SHELLED BEYOND BELIEF the last time he faced the Yankees. He’s a local guy, so let’s not boo him, OK? This is his first MLB start of the year, so who knows what he’ll bring to the table…. but expect this guy to get smacked around. As for Burnett, as long as he can keep Russell Martin from having to dive all over the place to keep the ball from heading to the backstop, he should give us a quality start. If not… cover your eyes and think of your loved ones.

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