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Yankees May 2011 Wrap Up

 

May was a bit of a roller coaster ride for the Yankees.

The month of May, 2011 began promisingly enough as the Yankees finished off a series win against the Toronto Blue Jays, which finished up the home-stand on a positive note. Then the Yankees went to Detroit and the wheels came off – or maybe I should say the arms came off as they dropped 3 of 4 while we watched Eduardo Nunez through the ball all over the place. But, when the Yankees got to Texas, the bats came out, and we got Derek Jeter‘s mythical 2 home run game, which seems to have quieted the “Derek Jeter is finished,” media machine – at least for now… for some reason, hitting .264 in May is much better than hitting .256 in April – although I must admit, hit at-bats do look a lot better of late.

Then the Yankees came back home and experienced The Home Stand of Tears, dropping 2 of 3 to the Kansas City Royals (current record 24-30) and getting swept by the Boston Red Sox. Wow. Swept by the Boston Red Sox at home. That was a tough one. Yet, despite the rough patch, the Yankees are in first today by one game over the Monsters from Fenway.

Then the Yankees split two games at Tampa Bay (and they really should have won that first game), swept two games from the Baltimore Orioles (two game series are a waste of my time!) and then took two of three from the lowly Mets at home (current record 25-29). The Blue Jays came to Yankees Stadium and this featured another Yankees series win, including a come from behind extra innings win (pie style) that I feel this team desperately needed.

The Yankees flew out to Seattle to face the Mariners and gave up leads to lose the first two games and salvaged the final one before flying to Oakland to take on Hideki Matsui and the A’s, taking the first two games, including a gem by Bartolo Colon, and here we are, at June 1st, waiting for Game 3 to start later today.

So what did we learn this month?

The Yankees can’t bunt. Seriously, enough with the bunting. Nobody on this team is any good at it. The Yankees need to either start working on this in BP or just stop doing it. Last night’s failed suicide squeeze that resulted in Nick Swisher being tagged out in a run down was embarrassing – almost as sad as the fact that Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter can’t bunt; considering they have no power, they both need to add this trait to their game ASAP, or at least stop doing it, but this in between crap needs to stop.

Curtis Granderson is a golden god. Obviously. I was soooooo happy when they traded for him, and although last year was a tough start, my girlfriend very kindly ran out and bought me a Grandy-Man t-shirt in May of 2010, which makes us both look like geniuses now. Unlike Russell Martin, I don’t expect Granderson to slow down.

In praise of Bartolo Colon. Where would we be without this guy and his fastballs? His low pitch counts keep him in games late, giving a bullpen that is teetering on over use a bit of a breather. The Yankees need to protect this guy and give him an extra day’s rest any time they get a chance.

Losing streaks are inevitable. If you saw a lot of the New York papers (cough Post, cough Daily News) insisting that the Yankees blew their chance to bury the Red Sox, I tend to disagree. The Red Sox (not to mention the Rays) struggled early, and the Yankees hadn’t struggled yet. It was bound to happen. It could happen again. It’s a long season and there are many ups and downs.

Derek Jeter isn’t Derek Jeter anymore, but he’s hardly terrible. I don’t have any plans to build a statue to the guy on my front lawn, but I refuse to kill him in print the way so many have done. But then, this is another good example of what happens when you let Randy Levine meddle in negotiations.

Phil Hughes… ugh. Can this guy get through two consecutive seasons without spending major time on the DL? I know he’s still young, but he’s not that young anymore. Is it time to stash Hughes in the bullpen for good? I’m not sure, but given the Yankees appeared shortage of starting pitching, it’s a tough call. If you don’t believe in Freddy Garcia, I can’t blame you, but is Hughes really a better option? I guess we’ll have to wait and see what he has when he comes off the DL.

GOING FORWARD:
Take a look at the Yankees June schedule; it’s a tough one. Red Sox, Angels, Rangers, Rockies, Indians… if they’re still in first on July 1st, it’ll be a miracle.

Freddy Garcia And Bats Combine to take Games 2 and 3 From Rangers

Another home stand over, another series victory.

After Friday night’s rough outing from Ivan Nova, the Yankees got 6 shut out innings from Freddy Garcia – maybe the last place you’d look in the Yankees rotation for a pick-me-up performance. I suspect that Garcia is the the kind of pitcher who performs better on extra rest, but I don’t have the data to back it up; just notating that he exceeded expectations against a good hitting team after not having started a game in a few weeks. (Garcia did get that one relief inning in Boston, so this is only his second appearance of the young season.)

CC Sabathia just didn’t have it last night, most notably with his awful fastball control. The ESPN announcers can credit the text bats all they wish, but if CC is going to throw his fastball right down the middle like that, it’s akin to putting the ball on a t-ball stand for big league hitters, never mind a good hitting team like Texas. Sabathia is, however, an elite pitcher, so he has his secondary pitches to keep him in the game through 6.1 innings, most notably his change up to right handers and several good sliders. Last night, it was the Bronx Bombers doing it Bomber Banter style with homer after homer: Robinson Cano, Russell Martin and Curtis Granderson all contributed with the long ball. Martin and Eric Chavez also contributed via the 2 out RBI, so these guys were all getting it done box score style. Meanwhile, Derek Jeter, the anti-box score hero, contributed with a hit of his own, but I don’t feel like he’s in the zone yet, but I do think he’s close now. Chavez has continued to prove himself to be a valuable piece as he’s hit well in limited duty and has played a solid third in A-Rod’s absence – hopefully, A-Rod’s stiffness is a thing of the past by Tuesday. For next year, the Yankees are probably better off going with a right handed bat who can also play left field for Garnder as a DH so A-Rod can spend more time there. The guy is a beast at the plate, but I just don’t trust him to stay healthy if he has to play 150 games in the field.

We got to see the big three again last night – Joba Chamberlain was not great in relief and surrendered a run, but Rafael Soriano was downright nasty as he took down all three batters he faced with authority. Mariano Rivera came in and was Mo – that’s all there is to that.

I do want to take a second and mention that the new ESPN Sunday night baseball crew is twice as bearable as the old one. I guess they got a new director in there, too, because everyone is a lot more focused on what’s happening on the field rather that showing us the announcers in the booth, talking about nonsense or pimping topics/interviewing other things/people that have something to do with something that’s going to be on ESPN on another day. I think this puts ESPN slightly behind of FOX Sports in my ‘Totally Unbearable To Watch Sports On Your Network’ race – meaning FOX is currently the most unbearable.  On the other hand, ESPN’s constant badgering of the Yankees leading MLB in home runs was annoying – I don’t care what anybody says, LEADING THE LEAGUE IN HOME RUNS IS NOT A BAD THING!

The Yankees are off today and will be back tomorrow at Toronto to face the Blue Jays. The Jays will be pesky again this year, but I don’t see them as a playoff team this year.

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Rangers Take Game 1 As Nova Falters

If you had something else to do last night like I did and couldn’t watch the game, you made the right choice.  We need to look no farther than the box score to tell the tale of how the Rangers beat the Yankees in Friday night’s contest.

Let’s take a look at Ivan Nova‘s line:  4.1 IP, 5 ER, 4 hits, 5 BB, 3 Ks.  There’s your problem.

For all its nuances, formulas and eccentricities, baseball is a simple game that functions on one undeniable truth:  if your starting pitcher has a bad outing, you’re probably not going to win the game.  Look at what the Yankees had to do overcome Phil Hughes‘ bad outing on Thursday – how likely was that?  Pretty unlikely, but they did it – that’s what makes wins like that one so special.  Last night, they came up against Matt Harrison, and let me tell you something about him:  he’s no Baltimore Oriole.  He induced the Yankees to ground into a zillion double plays – it’s the only way to survive a 7 hit, 3 walk performance.

Life isn’t all bad:  Nick Swisher and Derek Jeter both managed two hits in one game, so maybe they’re going to come out of their collective early funk.   Mark Teixeira didn’t get the memo, but hopefully, he finds it behind his dresser or something on May 1.

mark-teixeira-yankees-prince-william

And is it just me, or is Mark Teixeira actually Prince William's biological father?

Weather permitting, we’ll finally get to see Freddy Garcia as a starter against lefty Derek Holland today at 1ish.

Yankees Take Rained Shortened Series Against Orioles

I read a Yankees blog that jokingly heralded this series as a battle for first place – it was true, but in April, it’s not to be taken seriously. Nevertheless, the Yankees find themselves at the top of the AL East while the Red Sox are 2-9, so for now, life is good. Sure, the Baltimore orioles look like a better team with an improved roster, but they still have problems and their pitching is still suspect – and that’s coming from a Yankee fan. I think the Os will be pesky this year, but nothing more.

There’s lots to smile about so far this season:

  • AJ Burnett looks like he’s finding his way through his 2010 troubles (which I still maintain weren’t that bad – drop a comment if you disagree and we’ll battle it out!) with some decent starts
  • CC Sabathia looks good even when he’s not happy with the way he’s throwing
  • The offense is showing plenty of signs of life, particularly when it comes to power. Jorge Posada has only 7 hits on the early season, but 5 of them are home runs… figure that out!
  • Joba Chamberlain has regained his vintage form, and suddenly, the bullpen is a force to be reckoned with. If a starter can go 6 innings and limit the opposition to to 3 or 4 runs, the Yankees have a decent chance of winning that game.
  • Batolo Colon has pitched great as the Yankees long reliever – without him, last night’s come from behind win would have not happened.

There’s lots to frown about, too.

  • Pedro Feliciano is done for the year and Damaso Marte might be available by September. Maybe. Perhaps once Manny Banuelos has pitched a significant number of innings as a starter in the minors, he can join the major league pen to finish off his 2011 innings limit. Otherwise, Boone Logan will be the go to guy all year long when it comes to lefties out of the pen – not that its a bad thing, Logan can certainly throw, but he makes me nervous sometimes. He’s certainly better than Phil Coke.
  • Phil Hughes is making Burnett’s 2010 season look like Aaron Small‘s 2005 season. If Hughes is truly healthy, I assume he’ll come around at some point; again, I’d take 6 innings of 4 run ball from him and call it a day, but right now, he can’t get out of the fifth inning.
  • It’s pretty wild that we still haven’t seen Freddy Garcia on the mound this season (except that one relief appearance) – If I were a betting man, I’d go all in on Garcia getting shelled his first time out.
  • Brett Gardner has yet to find his swing yet and I’m not liking his at bats at all. I was surprised Girardi didn’t go to the bench and bring in Andruw Jones in the 9th inning
  • I wish I could say I was shocked when Derek Jeter hit a ground ball to short stop last night in the 9th inning, but that’s his new favorite spot to ground out to dating back to last year. Before 2010, I think the negative broadcaster quote everyone loved to say was ‘Passed a diving Jeter!’ in reference to his limited range at short stop, but this year it’s definetly, “Jeter hits a ground ball to short.” You know, like last year.

The Yankees have the Texas Rangers coming in this weekend, minus Josh Hamilton. The Rangers have a ton of young starters this year, and if they aren’t left handed, I’m hoping the Yankees tee off on them… if they are left handed starting pitchers, be prepared for our beloved bombers to take a beating at the plate.

Expanded MLB Playoffs And Eliminating The DH

I read an AP article this morning that blew my mind in both the good and bad way:

The first topic centered around Bud Selig’s willingness to expand the MLB playoff schedule.  I am in favor of this, but it has to be done correctly, and the only way I see this working is if they shorten the regular season.  How much, exactly, I don’t know… maybe reduce 162 games to 150 games, as I’ve suggested before.  Again, I think 12 teams in the postseason (like the NFL) rather than 8 teams would be great, leaving 18 teams behind.  I think the first round will have to be a best of 5 and the last three rounds can be the preferred best of 7; I don’t want the playoffs to last two months like the NBA and the NHL. This could be great; it just has to be done carefully… if we end up having game 7 of the World Series in Minnesota on November 15, it could be a disaster.

(I don’t want to repeat a bunch of comments you may have already read – check out my post from last September Proposing a new MLB schedule and playoff structure if you missed it)

Also speaking before the game, Rangers president Nolan Ryan said he was in favor of eliminating the designated hitter in order to standardize rules between the leagues.

Whoa there.  Where the hell did that come from?  I know Nolan Ryan is a crazy Texan that has owned the Rangers for less time than Cliff Lee has pitched for them, but wow – that is straight up crazy shiz.  The designated hitter doesn’t need to be eliminated from the American League, it needs to be added to the National League!  I understand Ryan is a former pitcher (and a brilliant one at that) and in his mind, having an automatic out in the lineup is just fine, but I don’t agree.  At all.  Why would you want to watch the pitcher hit?  Pitchers almost always stink at hitting.  The worst thing you’ll ever hear a baseball announcer say is, “Two on, two out and the pitcher steps to the plate.”  It’s almost immediately followed by one of the following:

1.  “Strike three looking.”
2.  “Strike three swinging.”
3.  “A soft grounder to [insert anyone on the infield here], throws to first and [name of pitcher pitching here] works out of trouble.”

Watching the pitcher hit is a painful experience – it’s what they invented the DH for in the first place – to avoid misery.  Sure, people love offense, and that’s great, but the DH also exists because it’s ridiculous to expect starting pitchers to hit at the MLB level when they only get a few at bats a week, and its even more ridiculous to expect relief pitchers to hit when they get only a few at bats a month, if any.  Sure, it’s fun (or hilarious) when they succeed, but it’s not worth the misery.  Ryan must be nuts; somebody make that guy take his meds.

So wow, busy morning.  I’ve already forgotten that the Giants dropped a 7 spot on the Rangers late last night during game 2, winning 9-0.  If you check my Twitter, you’ll note that I’ve adjusted my picks to the Giants winning this series in 6 games… which isn’t looking like a solid pick right now – more like the Giants in 5.

Stay tuned for 2010-2011 Off Season action!

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 win first eliminatin game

Today was kill or be killed – and the Yankees responded.

CC Sabathia didn’t have his best stuff, giving up 11 hits but no walks and 7 Ks in 6 IP.  Kerry Wood did a great job with 2 scoreless innings and 3 Ks and no walks.  Even though the Yankees were holding a 7-2 lead, Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless ninth – again, it’s an elimination game, and the rest of the bullpen has really faltered of late.

Finally, finally, finally the Yankees have responded with runners in scoring position, even if they were 2-11 and left 7 on base.  The Yankees collected 6 walks, which enabled them to score 7 runs on 9 hits, while Texas suffered 2 runs on 13 hits.  Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano hit back to back jacks and Curtis Granderson gave that extra run in the 8th with a solo homer of his own, so that’s getting it down with the power.

Friday’s elimination game 2 is a rematch of Phil Hughes and Colby Lewis.  Hughes can’t possibly pitch as bad as he did last time – right?

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.

Yankees comeback against Rangers seals the deal

brett gardner alcs

the beginning of the end

If you read my ALCS picks, you’ll see I had the Yankees winning in 6 games, but I’m probably wrong, and Michael Kay is probably right – Yankees in 5 games.  But after last night’s late inning collapse by the Rangers, it’s almost difficult to expect them to win any games at all. 

I mean, what else do the Rangers need to go right for them to win a ball game?  CC Sabathia was terrible (again), CJ Wilson pitched a great game and they had a 4 run lead to start the eight inning.  Then it all came undone, starting with an infield single by Brett Gardner, during which he slide into first base.  I still have no idea why guys do this – again, to invoke Michael Kay, if sliding was faster, then Olympic sprinters would slide over the finish line, right?  I guess it did make him more difficult for C.J. Wilson to tag, and it turned out to be the start to a great rally for the Yankees.

Following Wilson was a parade of relief pitchers who just couldn’t get anybody out.  This isn’t all that shocking to me – although the Rangers have a zillion relievers that throw 95 MPH, none of them seem to be that great.  Darren Oliver, Darren O’Day, Clay Rapada and Derek Holland all combined to stink up the joint – not that they got clobbered, but the Rangers needed these guys to come in and restore order against the Yankees best hitters, and the blew it in spectacular fashion, with walks and singles for anybody who wanted one. Holland was able to stay on after he gave up a run and he did keep Robinson Cano from scoring, but that’s all the praise one can heep on him.

And speaking of Robinson Cano, I think he gets our ‘keep hope alive’ award for the lazer beam home run off Wilson in the 7th, which was the first home run Wilson has allowed to a left handed batter since June of 2008!  That’s some streak, and a fantastic way to end it.  Derek Jeter doubled Gardner in, then Swisher walked, Alex Rodriguez singled in a pair, then it was Cano time again for another RBI and Marcus Thames singled in the winning run.

But without Joba Chamberlain and especially Dustin Moseley giving the Yankees a chance after Sabathia’s bad start, this never would have happened.  The bone head award of the day goes to Ian Kinsler for getting picked off by Kerry Wood after he walked him on 4 pitches.  He didn’t even move as Wood fired the ball to Mark Teixeira, he didn’t even try to dive back to first, he just conceded to a run down.  Was Wood’s move that good?  It sure was fast, but Kinsler can’t allow himself to be put in that situation.  Suddenly, Wood had things going his way after a tough start.  The Rangers might have thought they had a chance against Mariano Rivera since they got to him in August, but honestly, that was Mo being crappy, not the Rangers being great.  Mo got it done, and there it is – an improbable Yankees win.  But that’s what great teams do – beat inferior teams.

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