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ALCS 2012: Can I get a replay?

I know I’ve been giving Robinson Cano a hard time since the playoffs began, but the umpires seem to really hate him this post season.

cano-safe-at-first

Cano safe at first

out-at-second-2012-alcs

How in the hell did Jeff Nelson miss this call?

Whew – those are some terrible calls, and Cano was involved in both them.  Coincidence?  Perhaps.  More to the point, I love that MLB moved aggressively to add the second wild card team but just can’t seem to adapt instant replay, which is even funnier because they moved fast on something they should have moved slowly on and they can’t seem to move fast enough on something with the word ‘instant’ in it’s name.  It boggles the mind.  They have the tools, they have the technology… but they’ll be fucked if they’re going to use it.

1st Place, Bret Gardner & Other MLB Disappointments

Injuries are part of the game; they’re inevitable – like Agent Smith from The Matrix. Still, amongst 2012 MLB disappointments, the injury to Bret Gardner’s elbow ranks at a 8.5 on my ‘this sucks’-o-meter.

If memory serves, Gardner was only able to start 8 games before a sliding catch injured his elbow, and now, many weeks later, he’s suffered a second set back in his rehab program. After visiting Dr. James Andrews yesterday, he’s going for a second opinion via Dr. Tim Kremcheck today. This is not good news, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some sort of major, even season ending elbow surgery was in Gardner’s future. It sucks, but there it is. So now what?

River Ave Blues ran an interesting article about replacing Gardner in the short term, and I am concerned with that, but what really concerns me is keeping Raul Ibanez out of the outfield as much as possible. The dude is still a stud hitter (although last night’s homer was his first in a few weeks), he’s not a great outfielder by any stretch of the imagination and at his age, I’m concerned about him wearing down or getting hurt out there. His bat is too valuable to risk, so I don’t really care what the Yankees do to limit his time in the field, just that they do something and they do it soon. If the Yankees lose Ibanez, it’s going to rank almost as high as losing Gardner on my ‘this sucks’-o-meter. As for me, I’d like to see the Yankees call up Chris Dickerson and find out exactly what this guy can do once and for all.

As you probably know, the Yankees are in a flat tie with Tampa Bay for first place in the division (10 games over .500), which, in it’s way, is kind of shocking. If you watched last night’s game, you got to enjoy more flubbing around by the Yankee offense with the bases loaded. In all, they stranded eleven men on base and went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and grounded into two double plays – not a lot for the 2012 team, but still too many for my liking. But, when you have that many men on base and can’t plate any of them, the odds of grounding into a double play probably go up a lot simply because there are more opportunities for a twin killing. And this brings me to my point: the Yankees offense has yet to start firing on all cylinders in 2012. Not even close. And they’re still 10 games over .500 because the starting rotation has rounded into the form and despite injuries to two of it’s best pitchers, the bullpen hasn’t missed a beat. It’s fun to cheer for all of the great offensive players on this team and watch in awe as Curtis Granderson continues to hit homer after homer, but this team is winning because of it’s pitching – and C.C. Sabathia hasn’t had one of those great runs yet, either.

MLB Disappointments
It doesn’t really matter to me, but I can’t believe the Phillies, Red Sox and Tigers are all still under .500 at this point in the season. I mean shiz, this is crazy. Today is June 12, and their records are:

Red Sox: 29-32
Tigers: 28-32
Phillies: 29-33

Now if one of these squads is your team, don’t panic yet. Feel free to sweat, but don’t freak out. There is still plenty of time for any of these teams to put together a 10 game winning streak and get right back in it… but sheesh. After you pass the 60 game mark, the whole "It’s getting late early" thing is in full effect, if not over due. Every time I see Red Sox highlights, it seems like Josh Beckett is on the mound and they’re losing. He’s 4-7 with a 4.14 ERA, which isn’t terrible, but he did give up 4 runs to the Marlins last night (over 7 innings), and for a team that’s struggling the way the Red Sox are, that’s not good enough.

Join the Yankees tonight for another on in Hot-lanta where hopefully, C.C. Sabathia can keep the rotation’s great pitching on track. The lack of DH should help, and it’s fun to watch a big man with a bat.

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With Verlander Pitching On Sunday, Yankees Need a Win Tonight

The Detroit Tigers will send Rick Porcello to the mound tonight to face the Yankees in a game that will most likely decide who wins this three game series.  Porcello is a sinker ball pitcher who can’t get that pitch to work this season and has an ERA over 5.  In his last start, he gave up three runs in six innings to the Minnesota Twins, the only American League team that has not yet recorded their 20th win, so the Yankee hitters need to go to work tonight and it done.

ALDS Post Mortem: RISP Fail

Here’s some numbers for ya from last night’s ALDS game 5 between the Yankees and the Tigers:

Yankees Offense:
LOB: 20
Team LOB: 11
RBI: Cano (9), Teixeira (1)
2-out RBI: Cano; Teixeira
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Posada; Cano; Gardner 2; Swisher 2
Team RISP: 2-for-9

Pretty abysmal, right? I wonder why they couldn’t get the big hit last night – they certainly ran into some good pitching, that’s part of it, but maybe not the whole story. I really thought someone was going to come up with a single the second time the bases were loaded, but we all know now that Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher bot struck out – not to be confused with Russell Martin and Brett Gardner grounding out the first time the bases were juiced. Maybe I can find the answer if I drift through the local papers…

OK, this was a mistake. When I am going to learn to stop reading NYPost.com?

The richest team in baseball history, the most talented in the game, and you could almost hear the players’ knees knocking over the din of the crowd. Does that come from the manager? Girardi was forced to his bullpen early when Ivan Nova’s forearm started to bark, but it was his choice to use Phil Hughes for only four outs, his choice to use CC Sabathia, his choice to use seven pitchers.

Those relievers, save for Sabathia, were perfect. And you could argue Girardi was merely matching the urgency of the situation.

But you could also argue that anxiety and stress flow from the top down.

Here are the batting averages for the ALDS for the following players:

Alex Rodriguez:.111
Mark Teixeira:
.167
Nick Swisher: .211
Derek Jeter: .250

Obviously, batting average isn’t the best measure of offensive production (especially across such a small sample size), but since Mike Vaccaro went with batting average elsewhere in his article, I might as well, too. Obviously, the dominance of Justin Verlander and some of the other Tigers starters has a lot to say about this, but really, Mr. Vaccaro? You think these guys didn’t get the big hit last night because Joe Girardi was too anxious and his players fed off that same anxiety? Talk about having no respect for the guy throwing the ball… I’m not trying to let the Yankees’ bats off the hook, but that’s a pretty far leap from these guys just not getting it done to some psycho-semantic stress response that induced knee knocking tension. “Does that come from the manager?” Really? I have no idea where Mr. Vaccaro got that from. I guess that in the search for answers, some grasp at straws… or just make shit up.

I checked some other papers, but to no avail: Mike Lupica just complained that the Yankees are the most expensive team in baseball and have only won one ring over the last 10 years. This seems like a silly argument because most teams don’t even make the playoffs every year, which the Yankees have save one – never mind win the World Series. If 1-10 over the last decade isn’t enough for Mr. Lupica, how many World Series victories would be? Two? Three? Four? Five? Does he expect them to win the whole damn thing every single year because they have the highest payroll? Surely he knows that’s not how it works… Anyway, the NY Times just offered reporting as that’s what they’re best at.

What else can I say? It was a close game, the Yankees lost, and it was probably closer than it should have been considering the Yankees fashioned 7 innings out of their bullpen. Once Ivan Nova left the game, visions of the 2003 World Series and David Wells‘ balky back began to drift across my mind – not to mention the fact that teams hardly ever win games when their starter doesn’t give them at least 5 innings. I’m forced to go back to my musings from Spring Training – at that point, I thought the Yankees didn’t have the pitching to win a World Series, but when it came down to this game 5, they just couldn’t muster the offense.

In the end, I don’t feel to bad about this loss – the Yankees just couldn’t get the big hit and for whatever reason, I’m OK with that. At least they didn’t get shelled – that would have really bothered me.

In Praise of Curtis Granderson

Where would the Yankees be last night without the impeccable defense of Curtis Granderson? Or his bat? Hell, where would they have been all year?

You’ll note that this morning, a lot of folks are vindicating A.J. Burnett for his performance last night, and I’m not here to say he doesn’t deserve some acolades for how he pitched, but let’s be real – if Curtis Granderson doesn’t make that catch in the 1st inning, we’re looking at a very different game going forward form there. If that ball is dropped or worse, gets passed Granderson and rolls to the wall, we’re looking at a bases clearing double or triple AT BEST. Granderson’s catch saved an in the park grand slam at worst – can you imagine? Then he saved Rafael Soriano’s proverbial bacon with that full extension grab that sent him sliding across the outfield for several feet! Hitting the ground completely emptied the air out of Granderson’s lungs, but he still held onto the ball and somehow managed to raise his glove.

I was so happy when the Yankees acquired Granderson over the 2009-10 off season and although things didn’t go well from the get go, it’s fair to say that his 2011 performance has exceeded even my high expectations. Before yesterday’s game, I was encouraging people to pray for Burnett – maybe we should be praying to Granderson.

Have Faith in Burnett & Yankees

I think we’re all feeling the pressure here in Yankeeland – the season potentially comes down to this elimination game. And A.J. Burnett is starting. Why is it that people only ask themselves deep questions or turn to prayer in times like these?

But cheer up – it’s not so bad. It’s really pitching that has killed the Yankees in their two losses to the Tigers – giving up 5 runs is too many, while scoring 3 or 4 ought to be enough to win – the Yankees shouldn’t have to score 9 runs to win a playoff game. There are two good things about tonight’s elimination game: it’s all hands on deck, so all relievers are available and Burnett’s numbers earlier in games aren’t that bad.

Consider: in the first three innings of games, hitters are hitting Burnett around .200 and in the first five innings of games, hitters are hitting him around .215. According to River Ave Blues, the Burnett gets hit to the tune of a .900 OPS the third time hitters see him and a 918 OPS in the sixth inning. There’s no reason for hitters to see Burnett a third time or for him to appear in the 6th inning.

Now those numbers through the first three and fist five inning aren’t astounding, but they’re not terrible (like Burnett’s ERA) and tonight, the Yankees don’t need six or even five innings from A.J. – four should be plenty. If A.J. Burnett can give the Yankees 4 innings of 0, 1 or 2 run ball, they ought to be able to hand the game over to some combination of Phil Hughes, Corey Wade and (God help us) Boone Logan to get through sixth – and from there, the three headed monster takes over.

Keep in mind, this plan doesn’t take extra innings into account, so that’s a concern – but if the Yankee bats can do their part and scratch out 3 or 4 runs (they did against Justin Verlander’s triple digit fast balls with nothing from the middle of the line up), then this series should be headed back to the Bronx.

Nevertheless – feel free to stop off and pray at your local house of worship on the way home tonight!

Yankees @ Tigers in Swing Game

PREDICTION: Whoever wins tonight’s game will win the series.

After rain on Friday, additional rain on Saturday and ending yesterday’s game with (Surprise!) more rain, it’s pretty exciting to check the weather in Detroit and see no rain in tonight’s forecast. But at this point, I’ll believe it when I see it.

After Ivan Nova and Robinson Cano finished things off in game one, we experienced the sadness of game two. While the strike zone seemed fairly large for lefties, the righties seem to enjoy a slightly closer to normal strike zone – something that did not benefit the Yankees line up laden with switch and left handed hitter as they faced a right handed pitcher. Finally, the Yankees got some business done late in the game, but it was too late.

Now the Yankees head to Detroit for game 3, the series tied at 1 game a piece. This one is for all the marbles – C.C. Sabathia vs Justin Verlander is about as epic as it gets, and whoever has the most success holding down the opposing offense is probably going to be the MVP of the series – assuming they do it in their own typical, dominant fashion and the game isn’t a slug fest. Given that A.J. Burnett is going to start game four, it’s hard to imagine the Yankees winning that game, so they really have to win tonight. Besides, even if A.J. wasn’t pitching tomorrow, the Yankees would be facing elimination on the road, which is never a good thing.

So this is it for the Yankees as the season comes down to one game tonight – win now and force a game five or lose tonight and face elimination tomorrow, on the road, with A.J. Burnett on the mound – a game that will have an all but certain conclusion.

PREDICTION: Yankees win ALDS against Tigers in 4 or 5 games

I know this isn’t the most definitive prediction ever, but this is the best I can do with the information I have.

Justin Verlander (vs. Sabathia), Doug Fister (vs. Ivan Nova) and Max Scherzer (vs. Sweaty Feddy Garcia) will start the first three games against the Yankees. However, the Tigers’ 25 man roster also includes Rick Porcello and Brad Penny, who are the team’s other two starters. Whether Tigers manager Jim Leyland plans on using one of these guys in a potential game 4 or bringing Verlander back on short rest (which is the way Joe Girardi plans on using C.C. Sabathia), I don’t know – so that leaves my predicting powers a conditionally restricted.

CONDITIONAL PREDICTIONS:
If Verlander pitches games 1 and not game 4, I say Yankees in four.
If Verlander pitches games 1 and game 4, I say Yankees in five.

Yankees 25 Man 2011 Playoff Roster Speculation

Now that regular season baseball is over, it’s time to cut the Yankees roster back to size. Here is who I expect to make the cut:

  1. A.J. Burnett
  2. Phil Hughes
  3. Boone Logan
  4. Hector Noesi or Luis Ayala
  5. Mariano Rivera
  6. David Robertson
  7. Rafael Soriano
  8. Cory Wade
  9. Ivan Nova
  10. Freddy Garcia
  11. CC Sabathia
  12. Russell Martin
  13. Austin Romine
  14. Robinson Cano
  15. Eric Chavez
  16. Derek Jeter
  17. Eduardo Nunez
  18. Alex Rodriguez
  19. Mark Teixeira
  20. Chris Dickerson
  21. Brett Gardner
  22. Curtis Granderson
  23. Andruw Jones
  24. Nick Swisher
  25. Jorge Posada

No Jesus
Given that the Detroit Tigers don’t have a left handed starter and I’m assuming that Francisco Cervelli is still hurt, I imagine it will be Austin Romine who is the back up catcher in the ALDS. He’s the superior catcher and Andruw Jones will be the left handed bat off the bench.

Bartolo Colon

Since the Yankees have decided to go with three starters in the first round (and probably will for the duration of the post season, should they advance), I don’t see any spot for Colon on the team. His velocity is down, and understandably so after an increased workload this season. I hope we can get him back for next year.

Hector Noesi or Luis Ayala
Well, one of these guys is going to be on the roster, but which? I tend to lean toward Ayala, who is older and more experienced rather than the young Noesi, who might have better stuff. It’s a tough call and you can’t go wrong either way because if either of these guys are in the game, it’s probably over anyway.

Bullpen
I see the Yankees carrying 8 relievers and 11 pitchers total. With Hughes and Burnett moving tot he pen… well, it’s pretty serious down there. Obviously, we’ll see the usual 3 headed monster combination of Soriano, Robertson and Rivera in the 7th, 8th and 9th, but I suppose Logan will be available to face Detroit’s Alex Avila, who is really their only lefty bat to speak of. So like you wold expect in any playoff game, starters will be on a short leash as Girardi can go to Phil Hughes for an inning (or maybe more, but I wouldn’t) of that sweet 95 MPH stuff he brandishes when he’s not starting. Shoot, even A.J. Burnett is good the first time through the order, so I don’t have any problem with him coming in for an inning and firing off the good stuff. Ideally, we get 6 strong innings out of our starters and don’t have to worry about this, but the combination of the three headed monster backed up by Hughes really ought to be enough to hold down a lead.

Let’s go Yankees!!!

Season Over

Are you ready for some baseball? That doesn’t start until after 830? What a delight for us on the east coast!

Yep, it all starts here: the chase for a 28th World Series Championship begins in the Bronx tonight as the Yankees meet the Tigers in game 1 of the ALDS, featuring a match up of titans in the persons of Justin Verlander and C.C. Sabathia.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, C.C. Sabathia’s numbers from August until the close of the season concern me a bit, particularly when looking at his hits to innings pitched and his WHIP. Hopefully, the extra rest he’s received in the last week will bring him out of the box firing, but my understanding is that Sabathia is not particularly successful on extra rest, but we’ll have to hope for the best. So besides worrying about C.C. getting his butt kicked, we have to worry about Justin Verlander, too.

Verlander has faced the Yankees twice this year:

March 31: 6 IP, 3 hits, 3 runs, 3 ER, 1 homer, 4 BB, 8 Ks
May 2: 6 IP, 8 hits, 3 runs, 3 ER, 4 BB, 8 Ks

In the early goings of the season, Verlander wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire… as opposed to June and July, when he was. Maybe he likes the warm weather… He’s not going to get much of that tonight when it rains ALL GAME LONG!

June: 6 wins in 6 starts, 0.92 ERA, 2 complete games, 49 IP, 29 hits, 5 runs, 5 ER, 3 homers, 3 hit batters, 6 walks, 0 IBB, 54 Ks
July: 4 wins and 2 loses in 6 starts, 1.99 ERA, 45.1 IP, 33 hits, 14 runs, 10 ER, 2 HR, 0 hit batters, 7 BB, 0 IBB, 48 Ks

Verlander was just good in August with a 3.12 ERA in August and better in September with a 2.55 ERA, but not dominating the planet earth like he had in June and July. Still, he wasn’t exactly facing the Yankees and the Red Sox in those months, and thanks to some inter-league in June, he got to throw 7 IP of 1 run ball against the Mets.

Weather permitting, we’ll find out whether it’s the opponent, just getting stronger in the middle of the year or the weather itself that makes Verlander so dominant.

His amazing arsenal of pitches probably helps.

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