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Can I Get A Quality Start

I believe it was Al Leiter who said he was not impressed with the notion of a quality start. At some point, some wahoo made the term ‘quality start’ popular, which was meant to say that if a starting pitcher was able to stay in the game long enough to complete six (6) innings and allow only three (3) earned runs, then this was a starting pitching performance of quality. Mr. Leiter was quick to point out at the advent of his broadcasting career that if a pitcher produced a quality start, he’d have a 4.50 ERA, which is not so good – not to mention the fact that getting three innings out of your bullpen in the modern era of baseball is no simple accomplishment and is going to tax the arms down there as well. I tend to agree, and I do want to quickly mention that Mr. Leiter has quickly become one of my favorite broadcasters of all time.

However, as much as I reject the notion of a quality start as the standard to strive toward, the Yankees sure could use one right about now.

If you flip through your memory (which is hopefully more reliable than mine) and the Yankees 2011 calendar (without delving into the box scores), it looks like the Yankees have produced maybe one (that’s 1) quality start against the Red Sox this year in eight (8) tries. That, my friends, is a damn shame – or perhaps it would be better to say it’s shameful.

We all know the Yankees are short on pitching this year – that’s why it was easy to consider jumping into the Harlem River when the Yankees were not able to sign Cliff Lee. Since the Yankees were able to get Bartolo Colon and he’s pitched so beautifully, it seems as though we can count on both BC and staff ace CC Sabathia to deliver better than quality starts and get out backs in any pie eating contests. After that…

Whoooooooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

The drop off in predictability is like going over that first big hill on a roller coaster. If Freddy Garcia doesn’t locate, he’s going to get hit hard by anybody, never mind a team with great hitting like the Red Sox, so nobody was really counting on him anyway – but, that being said, the Yankees would be wise to keep him from facing the Red Sox again this year if possible. AJ Burnett, who I didn’t want the Yankees to sign because of my concerns with his inability to stay healthy, has been healthy through his entire contract but as widely unpredictable as just about any other pitcher I can think of this side of Jose Contreras. Phil Hughes also sorta falls into that category, but is seemingly always hurt and Ivan Nova just doesn’t have enough experience to be thoroughly relied upon for anything. The trade market for starters is thin at best, so I don’t think there is any real help coming that will be a serious upgrade.

Looks like we’re stuck with these guys, but is that any different than 2009? Two good starters and AJ Burnett. It could be worse. (See Yankees 2008 season!)

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Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy: Selecting Pitchers

I think I mentioned in my first Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy post that I (for the most part) got my ass handed to me again and again throughout the 2010 season, and for good reason:  I drafted my team as if I were playing a video game instead of managing a Fantasy Baseball Team.

One of the bigger mistakes I made was when it came to choosing pitchers.  For the most part, I selected starters to fill out my league’s 8 roster spots for pitchers:  2 starters, 2 relievers, and 4 more pitchers of either variety.  See, I just assumed that innings pitched would bring in points, and it did – but in my Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball League, not many.  What really brought in the points were wins and saves, so having a bunch of starters on my roster didn’t help much.  This year, I have three starters – two because they’re required and one more as a back up – my other five pitchers ARE ALL CLOSERS.  I think this is the soundest strategy because there are so many variables going into a starting pitcher getting a win where as a closer generally comes into the game with the lead and just has to get 3 outs.  A starters has to worry about his fielders, run support, and the bullpen not blowing his lead – assuming he pitches well in the first place!  Sure, a closer has to hope his fielders back him up, but that’s about it.

Last season, I think CC Sabathia was my first pick – he got me points all year long, but ultimately, I think I could have drafted him later.  If you take a look at my draft results from this year, I got Cliff Lee in the 5th round with the 41st pick.

I think it’s that simple – draft only as many starters as your league makes you, and grab maybe one backup.  But the best piece of advice I can give about Fantasy Baseball is to LEARN THE RULES OF YOUR LEAGUE!

Bomber Banter 2011 Fantasy Baseball Team Roster

As mentioned in my previous Fantasy Baseball post, I’m targeting short stop and catcher this year, and since I have the first pick, that makes that goal a little easier.

I picked the following players for my Yahoo Sports Fantasy Baseball League – the number displayed with a period after it is the order I picked them in and the number in parentheses is the order the player was chosen in the entire draft.  Troy Tulowitzki and Víctor Martínez were my two top picks and I got to pick them one and two, so overall, I’m pretty happy with who I got.  I knew which positions I wanted to target, but I didn’t get a draft guide until a few hours beforehand, so by my third pick, I was already in chaos.

  1. troy_tulowitzki

    First pick of the draft: production out of the short stop!

    (1) Troy Tulowitzki (Col – SS)

  2. (20) Víctor Martinez (Det – C,1B)
  3. (21) Dustin Pedroia (Bos – 2B)
  4. (40) Justin Morneau (Min – 1B)
  5. (41) Cliff Lee (Phi – SP)
  6. (60) Heath Bell (SD – RP)
  7. (61) Tommy Hanson (Atl – SP)
  8. (80) Hunter Pence (Hou – OF)
  9. (81) Jonathan Broxton (LAD – RP)
  10. (100) Jim Thome (Min – Util)
  11. (101) Ty Wigginton (Col – 1B,2B,3B)
  12. (120) Chris Young (Ari – OF)
  13. (121) Alex Rios (CWS – OF)
  14. (140) Ryan Franklin (StL – RP)
  15. (141) Matt Lindstrom (Col – RP)
  16. (160) Andrew Bailey (Oak – RP)
  17. (161) Jered Weaver (LAA – SP)
  18. (180) Luke Scott (Bal – 1B,OF)
  19. (181) Carlos Pena (ChC – 1B)
  20. (200) Adam Lind (Tor – 1B,OF)
  21. (201) Edwin Encarnacion (Tor – 3B)
  22. (220) Mike Aviles (KC – 2B,SS)

Now that you’ve read through my roster of players, there’s one screaming omission:   I don’t have a single New York Yankee on the damn team!  This wasn’t intentional; I specifically wanted CC Sabathia, Robinson Cano, Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera, but Cano went early and by my fourth pick, all of the really good Yankees were gone and by my sixth pick, nearly the entire starting lineup was gone.

It’s great and it sucks that I don’t have any Yankees on the team; last year, I had CC, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher, Jorge Posada… a veritable cornucopia of Yankees, and it kinda interfered with my enjoyment of the game.  I like to represent and have Yankees on the BomberBanter.com Fantasy Baseball Team, but whatever.  I think that by the end of season, this non-Yankee roster will have made the season more fun.

I haven’t decided on who’s going to start in the outfield yet as I have a lot of choices, but the infield is sealed up tight.  Maybe with more preparation,  I could have done a much better job… but there it is.

Is CC Sabathia Opting Out After The 2011 Season?

Our own Yankees ace CC Sabathia came to us in the fabled 08-09 off season and immediately helped propel the Yankees to a World Series Championship. Sure, he had been handsomely rewarded with a big contract, but his worth to the team is immeasurable as a true ace in every sense of the term: innings eater, high strike out totals, low ERA. CC Sabathia is a great pitcher.

Sabathia spent most of 2010 answering questions about the opt out clause in his contract, which can be exercised after this coming season. His answer had been a resounding no, he had no intention of opting out of his current contract with the Yankees. Then he was asked again and again. And again. Finally in 2011 Spring Training, he was asked again, and he said something that sounded like he’s keeping his options open.

You can look at this in a few different ways. I’ve heard some people say something to the effect that CC Sabathia lost a bunch of weight this off season because he intends to opt out and his latest statement confirms that. I thought he said he lost the weight (and he did lose some weight, but its not like he went on the biggest loser or anything… did he drop from 300 to 270 or something? That’s a step in the right direction, but he’s not exactly Mariano Rivera) because he had a minor knee surgery in the off season and he wanted to take some pressure of the joints by losing some weight. That makes sense to me.

I don’t really know what to think about all this, and I think it’s only getting so much play on talk radio because there is nothing else to talk about right now. Maybe Sabathia modified his answer to something about keeping his options open because he’s already said that he’s not opting out so many times and that didn’t stop the question, so now he’s trying another answer – maybe he’s having fun with this. I have no idea. Maybe CC is sympathetic to the baseball press and wanted to give them a story… I think this theory is as plausible as any other I’ve heard.

Let’s say Sabathia asks the Yankees for an extension on his contract to as far into his thirties (forties) as the deal there were going to give Cliff Lee. Should the Yankees do it? Yes, they probably should. If they were willing to give Lee that kind of money (who has a history of back problems and doesn’t have CC’s lifetime track record), why not Sabathia? On the other hand, the Yankees could easily say they want to allocate that money elsewhere and let CC opt out and leave the team. After all, the Yankees have made a serious commitment to their farm system, and one could argue they have nine serious rotation candidates at levels AA and higher, and the probably only need two or three to make it to the big leagues as starters, so maybe they feel that Sabathia, at an exuberant price and length of contract is prohibitive, and he suddenly becomes a luxury, not a necessity. Maybe the A-Rod opt out left a bad taste in the Yankees collective mouth… it’s impossible to know.

As for me, I love Sabathia and hope he doesn’t opt out and saves everybody the headache. But fortunately, we don’t have to deal with this until next fall.

Mike Lupica Writes Crazy Brian Cashman Article

I know it’s a slow news month for baseball, but this is absurd.

Mike Lupica must be a crazy person.  How else could you allow your name to be tied to this crazy article and it’s associated nonsensical imagery.  What was he thinking?  The idea that Brian Cashman is trying to get fired a la George Costanza is the outright craziest notion I’ve ever heard put forth by a sports writer – and that’s saying something.

new york daily news brian cashman george Costanza

This is real. I didn't photoshop this in any way.

His lists of qualifiers is just as dumb as the idea itself:

  • Cashman confirmed that he wasn’t behind the Rafael Soriano signing (which had already leaked, anyway – but he doesn’t suggest that Cashman was the source of the leak.  Besides, Cashman had already said that he didn’t think signing an expensive relief pitcher was worth a draft pick, so when the Yankees signed him, it was pretty obvious it wasn’t Cashman’s decision.)
  • Cashman dressed up like an elf and repelled down the face of a building for charity.  I don’t know what to say about that one.  Everybody in the Yankees organization is involved in some kind of charity in one way or another.
  • Cashman took a hard line with the Derek Jeter contract negotiation and later said he expected Jeter to play in the outfield before the deal was over.  Pretty much everybody on earth (with a level head) agreed with Cashman’s handling of the Jeter deal, and they still gave Jeter too much money and too many years, anyway.
  • Cashman said the Red Sox are a better team than the Yankees are right now… Yeah, that’s true.  Any fool can see that the Yankees need rotation help while the Red Sox rotation looks pretty stellar.  The Yankees need more starting pitching and everybody knows it – it’s the weakest area of the team and in my mind, starting pitching might be the most important, so when that part of your team is weak, it’s a serious problem.
  • Cashman wasn’t able to convert Cliff Lee… I don’t know what to say about that one, either…  If you look at the deals closely that Lee was considering, the Phillies offered him an INSANE deal he’d be a fool not to take, and Lee is no fool.

And then there’s the poll question they have on the article:

Do you think Yankees GM Brian Cashman is trying to talk his way out of a job?
-Yes, his new-found honesty is alienating players and bosses alike
– No, he’s just trying to deflect attention from a lousy offseason
– Don’t know, but I’m loving every minute of this Costanza drama

As for the first option, Cashman has always been honest when possible and has never had a problem putting folks on notice.  As for the idea that he’s doing a Costanza impression because the Yankees didn’t sign Cliff Lee or something is just crazy talk.  And the last option includes the word Costanaza drama?  Wow.

Here’s another clip from the article:

Sometimes you think this has turned into an old “Seinfeld” episode, a classic known as “The Millenium,” from May of 1997. George Costanza, working for the Yankees at the time, has been offered a better job – head of scouting – by the Mets. But the Mets can’t offer him the job while he’s still working for the Yankees.

George Costanza’s solution? Get George Steinbrenner to fire him.

Mike Lupica should be fired for writing this article.  It’s filler nonsense, and if it wasn’t his idea, he should resign in protest and whoever made him write the article should get fired.  I’ve never had to write the word crazy so many times in my life!  I know the Daily News isn’t exactly the New York Times, but good gravy, man!  If I could speak to Lupica directly, I would have to say, “You just referenced a character from Seinfeild that used to reference you.  That in itself is a totally crazy thing to do.  You need to go on vacation, ASAP, because you have lost it, sir.  Go find it, and don’t come back till you do.”

Losing Cliff Lee to the Phillies turns the Yankees 2011 into a Season in Vain

Joe Girardi Brian Cashman discuss Cliff Lee

"Brian, what are you doing here, talking to me? You should be in Texas, begging Andy Pettitte not to retire..."

In all honesty, it doesn’t matter now whether or not Andy Pettitte retires or not.  Now that Cliff Lee has become the number two starter in Philadelphia with the Phillies, joining Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, does it really matter what anybody else does this winter?  Can you imagine facing this foursome in the World Series?  It boggles the mind!  The Phillies are now the immediate favorite (by a lot) to win the 2011 World Series behind their formidable pitching staff that makes the 2010 San Francisco Giants staff look pale by comparison.  OK, I admit that I’m panicking a little, but we’re two starters short and December is almost over!

The Yankees Hot Stove has been cooled significantly, and exactly where they go from here is anybody’s guess.  Well, we can guess that the Yankees are going to make a trade; they just signed catcher Russell Martin, so maybe they are planning to package a catching prospect (Jesus Montero, Austin Romain) and some pitching prospects together for a starting pitcher… but who knows?

I assume we’ll get the official word on Pettitte any day now.  You would assume the Yankees will make their move shortly after that.  We can only hope…

Giants clobber another inferior opponent
Another day, another dollar.  Good teams have to beat the bad teams, and that’s what the Giants have been doing the last two weeks.  The bad news is Steve Smith is hurt again, and he’s done for the season.  We’ll have to hope someone will step up in his place, but as we looked toward the playoffs, I don’t really know what to expect… if the team can get hot at the right time and Eli can stop throwing picks, anything is possible.

Yankee Fans: Do You Still Want Cliff Lee?

cliff leeNow that the playoffs are over and the New York San Francisco Giants are World Champions, it’s time to take a hard look at the free agent market.  As a Yankees fan, I think the biggest need is starting pitching:  the Bombers have to keep up with the AL East arms race.

Since before the trade deadline, the Yankees front office and Yankees fans alike have wanted to bring Cliff Lee into the fold.  The trade never happened, and despite a lackluster second half, Lee beat the Yankees in the ALCS.

Now that the World Series is over and Lee put up a 6.94 ERA, I was asked if I still wanted the Yankees to sign him.

Yes.  A thousand times, YES!

Take a look at Lee’s 2010 Post Season Gamelogs.  Game 1 of the World Series was a bad start by Lee; there’s no question about it.  But he threw a great game in the deciding event; 1 bad pitch cost him a 3 run homer in the 7th inning.  In his other three starts against the Rays and the Yankees, he threw 24 innings of superb ball, allowing only 2 ER.  Now that’s pitching.  I still think Ron Washington road Lee a bit too long, especially in game 5 of the ALDS, but given how bad the Rangers bullpen is (and it is bad; I will argue with anyone on this!), I don’t blame him.

But yes, the Yankees desperately  need to sign Lee.  Not only is he a great pitcher, but the Yankees need him for several reasons:

  1. keep up with the Rays and Red Sox (not to mention the Jay’s pitching staff)
  2. fill the hole vacated by Javier Vazquez
  3. Andy Pettitte might retire, and even if he doesn’t, he’s an older guy and is susceptible to injury
  4. AJ Burnett is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get
  5. Phil Hughes had a good 2010 campaign, but he’s still not a front of the rotation pitcher.  Not yet, anyway.

The Yankees need to send a dump truck to Cliff Lee’s house and dump money all over his lawn.  Hopefully, he spends the afternoon building a fort with it rather than sending it back to the Bronx.

Yankees head for the golf course

Today, I received the ‘Vote Yankees for the 2010 This Year in Baseball Awards’ email from MLB.com. Are they kidding? Sorry if I’m not in the mood to vote for anything for the Yankees right now.

Not after Friday night. I’m still a bit confused why Joe Girardi elected to flip flop Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte in the starting rotation. Sure, Hughes had better road numbers than home numbers in 2010, but I’d think you’d want the better pitcher – this case, Pettitte – to pitch before Hughes. At least that’s how I’d do it.

The Yankees tied the game at 1 in the top of the fourth and Texas immediately answered: Hughes pitched OK through the first four inngs, but when the tough got going (and by tough, I mean the Rangers), Hughes got shipped to the clubhouse for David Robertson, who promptly stunk up the place as bad as Hughes had or worse. After putting up a 4 spot, the game was over, and so was the Yankees season. Everybody knew it. You could smell it, feel it in the air - the air had gone out of the balloon. The Rangers didn’t pop champagne in the top of the sixth, but they may as well have. The Yankees only had 3 damn hits and scored their only run on a wild pitch. Like the rest of the series, the Yankees sucked in game 6. They lost to Cloby Lewis twice, for cryin’ out loud!

But don’t fret: this isn’t the end of BomberBanter.com until next spring, it’s just the last post of the 2010 Season. I still have a ton to do around here:

Not to mention blog the off season – after the World Series ends, the hunt for Cliff Lee begins!

Yankees and Girardi stink up the place

new york yankeesImagine your team’s moral as a balloon:  before the game starts, your team is pumped.  As a manager, you do the best job you can to keep the balloon full of air as the slings and arrows of the opposition and circumstance do their worst to pop your shiz.

I’ve already been critical of Joe Girardi’s decision to flip flop Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte in the rotation – I understand Hughes has better road numbers than home numbers, game 3 is usually considered the swing game of a post season series and the Cliff Lee vs Andy Pettitte match up gives the Yankees the best opportunity to win game 3, but I don’t think this was the best strategy towards winning the series.  I thought the Yankees should have managed and played games 1 and 2 like elimination games and thrown Phil Hughes in game 3 and take their chances, but it didn’t go down like that.  They stole game 1 and were lucky to do so, and when they came home knotted with the Rangers at a game a piece, I started to worry, and more than at any other time in his tenure, I started to question Joe Girardi’s managing style.

Down two games to one, I fully expected CC Sabathia to start game four on short rest, but it didn’t happen.  If they lost the game under this scenario, they would have had to of asked Phil Hughes pitch the elimination game on short rest, and I guess they didn’t want to do that, so AJ Burnett started game four last night.

new york yankeesIn the bottom of the fourth inning, A-Rod was hit by a pitch to lead off, then Robinson Cano hit a single.  With 1st and 2nd and no outs, I fully expected a bunt… which never came.  Nick Swisher ended up striking out.  I know Swisher is a great hitter and the Yankees were playing for the big inning, but they’ve been so bad at executing in this series that I thought Girardi would bunt for sure.  He didn’t.

The Yankees put more base runners on again in the bottom of the 5th and they failed to score again, but even more demoralizing was the injury to Mark Teixeira.  For current team moral after the bottom of the 5th, please see the balloon image at right.  Joe Girardi was going to need to take his balloon management to a new level to keep things from falling apart.

aj burnett

new york yankeesI think it’s fair to say that AJ Burnett exceeded my expectations for 5.2 innings.  When he came into the sixth inning, I thought he was clearly tired after just one batter.  Joba Chamberlain had been warming up for a long while, so after the intentional walk, I thought Joba was coming in for sure, but no such luck – and BOOM, home run by Bengie Molina – a guy you don’t necessarily expect to hit a home run, but a guy who was challenged by a tired pitcher who hadn’t pitched in three weeks who just walked a guy (intentional or not, I feel it’s a rhythm killer for pitchers) and hasn’t been great at locating the ball this year.  Why did he face Molina in the first place?  Awful managing.  It was pure divine providence that Burnett got any outs in the sixth in the first place – Girardi was already gambling with house money, he let it ride and he lost big.  After that home run by Molina, the game was over.  All the air was out of the balloon.

Tonight, the Yankees send CC Sabathia to the hill as they face elimination.  I honestly have no idea what to expect from tonight’s game – the Yankees could step up and hit with runners on base and Sabathia could turn in his first quality post season start and they could win the game.  Or they might get crushed.  Coming back from a 3-1 game deficit is a tall order, and with the way the Yankees have been playing in this series, I don’t think they can do it.

I hope they prove me wrong.

Rangers take series lead

Nothing went the Yankees way last night.

Brett Gardner beat Cliff Lee to 1st base and missed the bag during his head first slide by maybe an inch. Derek Jeter’s first inning home run bid fell just short. Cliff Lee was dominant all night long. When Gardner lead off with a single, the Yankees couldn’t get him around. The Yankees bullpen, which was dominant in games 1 and 2, was beat last night – every ground ball found a hole.

There’s not much else to say about game 3 – Cliff Lee had what, 12 Ks last night? That’s dominant. The Yankees just couldn’t hit him, and they worked his pitch count pretty well, too, and he still wouldn’t relent. Besides the first inning, Andy Pettitte pitched well, but it was all for nothing. It’s hard to complain much about the bullpen when the offense gets shut out.

All things considered, the Yankees should be happy they’re down by only one game, considering how the Texas Rangers have outplayed them in all three games. As far as I can tell, the Yankees are still going with AJ Burnett in Game 4, which I think is a mistake of disastrous proportions.

Joe Girardi is open to second guessing for flip-flopping Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes in the rotation – I think he liked the Pettitte vs Lee match up (I did too), but given that Lee pitched exactly how he was expected, and so did Pettitte, it seems like they would have been better off with Pettitte in game 2 and Phil Hughes in game 3. Pettitte isn’t the sort of pitcher who implodes in big games and neither is Lee, so you figure maybe starting Pettitte in game 2 gave you a better chance to win a game you had any chance of winning in the first place.

Also, Game 5 starts Wednesday at 4 PM. Way to go, MLB – I don’t have anything to do on Wednesday, anyway… oh wait, I have to work, like everybody else.

Well, I guess they’re really going to send AJ Burnett to the mound tonight. I still think they’re nuts, or the Yankees think they’re that much better than the Rangers. When they play like it, I’ll believe it.

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