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“Say it ain’t Mo!” The Yankees Next Closer

As the hours blend into days, Mariano Rivera’s injury truly sinks in, and it’s time to stop being sad and move on.  Mo insists he will return to the team and can never be replaced anyway, but someone will have to step up in his role for now.  Who will it be?

I think this is an enormous opportunity for the Yankees to break with convention and stop using designated roles for their two best relievers.  Instead, when it gets to the 8th and 9th inning, Joe Girardi should look at who’s coming up in the 8th inning and line up the best pitcher to face the best hitters.  For example, if the 2, 3 and 4 hitters are due in the 8th inning, I think I’d like to see the best pitcher available face (David Robertson or Rafael Soriano) those hitters rather than saving that pitcher for the bottom of the order in the 9th.

If Phil Hughes continues to struggle and the Yankees have a serious need in their bullpen, he could slot in there nicely.  We know he’s had great success out there and I’ve never been a huge fan of his work as a starter, so it seems like a good match.  Not only that, but Hughes is well suited to be an old school, multy innings reliever in the style of Goose Gossage or Sam Malone.  Or even a young Mariano Rivera, who would dominate the 7th and 8th innings.

Who knows what will happen… and suddenly, the Yankees biggest strength (the bullpen) now has a serious question mark.  The Joba Chamberlain injuries loom even larger!

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Say It Ain't So, Joe Girardi

Why, Joe? Why?

I just don’t understand why Joe Girardi sent Ivan Nova back out there for the 7th inning. It just didn’t make any sense. He’d had struggles often during the night, but had managed to come up big when he needed to – it had been a tough 6 innings. He held the Baltimore Orioles to 7 hits and 3 walks, but most impressively, the Os were 2-11 with RISP. That’s a lot of base runners, a lot of stressful innings, but in the end, the Os only came up with 2 runs in the first 6 innings. And Nova was at 99 pitches.

So what does Girardi do? Ne sends Nova back out there and he gives up 3 more runs.

You just can’t lose a series to the Baltimore Orioles at home. No matter how well they’re playing. It just can’t be allowed. I don’t know what’s up with the Yankees pathetic bats and Girardi can’t go out there and hit the ball for them, but he has to control what he can control, and sending Nova back out there was a mistake I can’t even being to understand. There’s just no rational. He used Corey Wade anyway, and if the Yankees somehow got 3 runs in the bottom of the 7th, Girardi would have went to his formula guys. If Wade gives up 3 runs, then he goes to Freddy Garcia for the last innings – like he did anyway. I don’t get it. Didn’t he take Hiroki Kuroda out of the game after 7 innings with an 89 pitch count just to go to his formula? I only bring this up because clearly Girardi doesn’t care about his guys getting stretched out to 115 – he just wants to win the game… right? Then why leave Nova in, who put runners on base all night? I don’t get it. There are a million defenses Girardi could use if he took Nova out after 6 and the bullpen let the game get out of hand:

"Nova was gassed."
"Nova had guys on base all night."
"Nova was at 99 pitches."
"It was a stressful 6 innings for Nova and I didn’t want to tempt fate with 9 outs left for our bats to try to get some runs."
"I wanted to get Nova out of there so he could feel good about this start. Six innings and two runs is nothing to be ashamed of."

I hate to join the bandwagon, but Joe Girardi’s pitching management and match up binder are starting to bug me.

Girardi needs a faster trigger finger

Two nights in a row, Joe Girardi stuck with his starting pitcher for too long, and two nights in a row, the Yankees lost. As this afternoon’s contest is the last game of a three game set, the Yankees have now lost the series. This isn’t the end of the world, and the Yankees are bound to lose the occasional series (cough! Red Sox! cough!), but now, the Yankees have lost a series to the Oakland Athletics. The 59-70 Oakland Athletics – that’s just shameful.

This series has been marked by a disproportionate amount of RISP failures, but that’s going to happen. Hitters are going to go through good and bad stretches, and take you take your lumps while you’re not administrating them to the opposition. But the manager needs to do the little things he can do to push the team toward a win when he can, because for an AL manager, those opportunities are few and far between. Sure, having Derek Jeter bunt in the 9th on Tuesday was ridiculous (as he’s one of the hottest hitters in baseball since returning from the DL two months ago), but we all know Girardi is addicted to bunting and that is probably not going to change.

The management of the starting pitching, however, must improve to guarantee the success of the Yankees going forward. If Girardi is going to keep leaving starting pitchers in games late (Bartolo Colon on Tuesday, CC Sabathia on Wednesday) when they’re either clearly tired or in a bad situation, the Yankees’ bullpen, bench and position players are going to continue to feel the pressure from it. Colon was clearly tired in the 6th inning and should not have come out for the 7th. Sabathia, while he did right the ship after a shaky start, had no business facing a batter who hammers lefties such as Scott Sizemore (.341 avg, .437 obp, .511 slg, .948 ops against lefties and already had… two or three hits against Sabathia at that point) in the 8th inning while protecting a 1 run lead. Ace or not, it just doesn’t make sense.

The Yankees RISP problems of late are a slump, not the standard – we could say Girardi’s poor decision making is the product of the same limited sample size. You could also argue with 5 games in four days looming, he’s trying to protect the bullpen.. but those games are against the Baltimore Orioles, who have an even worse record than the Athletics at 50-77, so you would think you don’t need your elite bullpen guys in too many of those games. Anyway, for the sake of my sanity and hairline, let’s hope Girardi gets faster on the trigger when it’s clearly time to pull the starter.

Let's not make the same mistakes to Hideki Matsui

The last time Hideki Matsui faced the Yankees, he supplied nearly all of the Oakland Athletics’ offense. He went 7 for 13 with two doubles and a home run in three games – wow. Since the All-Star break, Matsui has been a monster – his triple slash is 372/.424/.543 in 33 games! That’s crazy.

We also need to remind Joe Girardi not to bring in a lefty to face Matsui – sure, Boone Logan may need some reps, but against Godzilla is not the time to get them in. Matsui has always hit lefties well and as far as I can recall, he dominated Logan last time they faced each other.

So lets give Matsui a porno-sized welcome as he returns to The Bronx, but we don’t need to serve up any felafel balls to him.

A.J. Burnett to Luis Ayala: I could have done that!

Although A.J. Burnett was friggin horrible (again) against the Minnesota Twins on Saturday, Luis Ayala didn’t exactly come in and put out the fire, stop the bleeding – whatever analogy you want to use.

Burnett left the game after 1.2 IP and 4 ER, leaving the bases loaded and saying some parting words over his shoulder that have already been discussed ad nauseam, so I will spare you further analysis on that. The runners on base were Burnett’s responsibility, and Luis Ayala allowed them to score – all of them. With two outs. I think you could argue that Ayala might not be the best man for that particular situation (when a strike out is needed – not that there aren’t a lot of ways to get one out in a bases loaded situation…), but this pretty much killed any chances the Yankees had to get back into the game – granted, as much as (or more so than when) your starting pitcher getting knocked out in the 2nd inning.

Still, any time a starting pitcher gets removed with runners on base and a reliever comes in and blows it up, the starting pitcher has to be thinking, "I could have done that!" and in the case of Burnett, he probably would have. I don’t know what Burnett’s pitch count was up to, and obviously, his command was bad (umpiring aside)… but who knows. Obviously, you don’t want to use David Robertson in that situation (although you might in a playoff game – not that Burnett is going to start a playoff game this year), so it’s hard to second guess Joe Girardi, especially when the root of the problem is that Burnett sucks. Still, the Yankees have over $30 million reasons to do everything they can to help him figure out his fastball command, and leaving him in the game to try for one more out would have most likely resulted in either a better or the same result. Well, we know what they say about hind site.

Maybe Burnett won’t stink next year… or the year after.

Yankees stand pat, win home stand

After a 7-3 home stand that ended with the Yankees standing pat at the trade deadline, the Bombers head out on the road to play four games in Chicago with the White Sox and then 3 games in Boston with the Red Sox. When reached for comment, Don Henley remarked, “Hmph… .”

I’d hoped that the Yankees would have managed one sweet during the home stand that features competition including the Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners and the American League bottom rung in wins Baltimore Orioles and go 8-2, but you can’t have everything. After winning the first game of the road trip against the White Sox, the Yankees were able to gain a game on the Red Sox and are now only one game behind in the division – although at this point, it seems like a foregone conclusion that both teams will make the playoffs.

I can’t remember the last time the Yankees did nothing at the trade deadline, but I guess it just wasn’t in the stars. As Ubaldo Jimenez seemed to be the most likely candidate to be acquired, the YES Network reported during last night’s game that the Colorado Rockies weren’t willing to let the deal be finalized after Jimenez passed a physical. That’s a little suspicious, no? Oh well – it sounds like the Yankees were willing to give up the farm for him, and after reviewing his declining numbers coupled with the no physical clause, I’m OK with passing on this opportunity.

So that’s where the Yankees stand – we’re going to war with the team we have. And hopefully, there are more reinforcements coming from the disabled list in the persons of Alex Rodriguez and Damaso Marte; the latter has been gone so long that I don’t think I could pick him out of a line up.

So can the Yankees win the World Series with the pitching rotation they have? I’m not sure about that. If Bartolo Colon is healthy and throwing well in October, that certainly increases their chances. I’d say that Ivan Nova is on the verge of taking Phil Hughes‘ rotation spot, and if he’s throwing well come late September, Joe Girardi is going to have some tough decisions about who starts, who relieves and who gets left off the roster. Let the competition begin!

Somebody wake up Joe Girardi!

AJ Burnett is not necessarily the best pitcher to ever grace a mound with his presence. Sure, you’ll hear tales of his filthy stuff, and it’s true, to an extent: Burnett has some good pitches in his arsenal, including a hard fastball and a snapping curve ball. In yesterday’s fourth of July game, he struggled but overcame in the 1st inning but overall, pitched 6 solid innings. Sure, at the end of the 6th, he looked a little tired, but I couldn’t begrudge Joe Girardi for sending him out there for the 7th, especially after how much the bullpen worked in the Mets series. But at some point, you have to go to your bullpen.

AJ Burnett is not the sort of guy who saves your bullpen; he’s just not. Sure, he’ll go 8 innings every once and a while, but it’s just not who he is. So after that Shelly Duncan at bat, during which Burnett was clearly tired and didn’t have anything left and couldn’t snap off a curve ball to save his life, Girardi left him in there. He didn’t go to his bullpen, he didn’t send Larry Rothschild or even Russell Martin out there to give him a breather.

After the Duncan single, I thought it was obvious that it was time for a call to the bullpen to get somebody up before the ball got back to the infield, followed by a lengthy mound visit. Then, the next batter should have been given the unintentional intentional walk. By then, your bullpen guy ought to be ready to go, and you make the change. It’s that simple.

Instead, BOOM – home run, and the Yankees go on to loose a game they should have found a way to win. Nice job, Girardi!

YANKEESNEWS VIA TEXT:
Today’s text reads: “HBO & MLB Productions to produce a 1 hour special chronicling Jeter’s 3K chase.”
My guess is that working titles include, “Boring as Hell: Jeter’s 3000 Chase” or “Jeter Documentary: The Best Editing You’ll Ever See,” because this must be one boring film. How much drama could the end possibly have in store? Jeter did not have a good offensive year last year (.270 average, 179 hits), nor has he this year (.256 average, 68 hits), and he’s been hurt for the last several weeks with 6 hits to go. Maybe I’ll get more excited about this as we get to the end, but right now, I’m not interested in Jeter’s personal achievements – but I’m happy to have his glove back, because Edwardo Nunez can not field.

YANKEES VIA EMAIL:
subject – MLB best Six Yankees are headed to the All-Star Game

In case you didn’t already hear, the Yankees heading to the All Star game are

Can we PLEASE climb out of Jeter’s ass? A-Rod has been to the All Star Game a few times, why can’t we count how many times he’s been? And really, Jeter is one of the six best Yankees on the team? Really? Derek Jeter is having a better year and/or is more valuable to the team that Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia or Brett Gardner? Or how about David Robinson, for that matter? I feel like I spend a lot of time writing negative things about Jeter in this space, but I don’t hate the guy – I just don’t think he’s the golden god everyone else makes him out to be – at least he’s not anymore.

Whatever, I don’t care about the all star game and I wish no Yankees were going, because if anyone gets so much as a cramp from appearing in the farce, I’m going to be PISSED!

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…

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!

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.

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