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.
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.
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.
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…
I watched as many innings of the Toronto Blue Jays three game set with the Yankees at the Stadium, but my schedule just wasn’t baseball friendly this weekend. In any case, here’s what I saw:
- Brett Gardner has caught fire! I think he must have hit .500 last week.
- For a patch work starting pitching rotation, things are going pretty well.
- The homers keep on coming!
- My fantasy baseball team won! I’m now 2-2 on the year, and I’ve made the team better… try to do a comprehensive post about this soon.
- If Freddy Garcia is going to give up homers to the likes of Jose Bautista… I can live with that. Not good, but not Fug-Ugly.
- Derek Jeter hit another zillion ground balls this weak, but he’s at least hitting over his weight. Bad, but not Fug-Ugly.
- Pitching to Jose Bautista any time runners are on base. JUST WALK HIM!
- That Francisco Cervelli‘s sacrifice but with no outs in the 3rd inning after Brett Gardner walked on four straight pitches. Who’s idea was that? Why would you sac bunt with your fastest guy on 1st with no outs in the first? WHY?!?
Kevin Millwood opted out of his minor league contract. From the reports I read on this guy’s stuff down in the minors, we aren’t missing anything – and this dude must think his waste smells like ice cream. As far as I can tell, he has no other offers, but that could change… If Sergio Mitre gets hurt, maybe the Nationals will grab Millwood…
When two teams get together and play a four game set, I would bet on a split every time – yet the Yankees should have took three out of four against the inferior Chicago White Sox. Let’s take a look at the series using my The Good, The Bad and the Fug-Ugly style. I heard that Mark Teixeira was sitting for game four just as a precaution to rest his sore shoulder, but I don’t know why The Captain sat for that game, too. Maybe just a scheduled night off for Derek Jeter? Or Joe Girardi is hoping a rest will jump start his bat? No idea. However, I think it is only a coincidence that the Yankees scored a million runs on the night Jeter wasn’t in the line up.
The Starting Pitching – sure, you can argue that the Chicago White Sox aren’t the best offense in the league, but they’re far from the MLB leading worst run scoring San Diego Padres, who have only managed to score 70 runs on the young season. In case you’re wondering, the Yankees have 126 and the White Sox have 103 – the Cleveland Indians lead MLB with 129 and the St Louis Cardinals lead MLB with 136.
So yeah, the Yankees starting pitching blew my mind during this season, performing well above my expectations. We got two stellar eight inning performances from AJ Burnett and Bartolo Colon, and CC Sabathia had a fine night while any time Ivan Nova doesn’t get his ass handed to him, I call that a victory. If you’ve already started building a statue to Colon on your front lawn so you can leave offerings at it before each of his starts, I don’t blame you. Finish that shiz! =)
The Offense – For an offense of the Yankees caliber, a shutout is pretty hard to accept despite who is pitching on the opposing side. And yes, I know they got their hits in last night, but it sure did take long enough. But, Nick Swisher finally got the home run column filled, so maybe he’ll start hitting… wait, did he hit it right handed or left handed? Please tell me he hit it left handed, because he’s been so bad against left-handed pitchers so far this year…
The Bridge to Mo – They only had one chance to get the ball to Mariano Rivera, and they blew it. I’m not worried about Rafael Soriano going forward, but it’s time to pick it up. Blowing leads against the White Sox at home is not acceptable!
The Yankees have Toronto coming in this weekend – hopefully, the Yanks pitching can keep the Blue Jays homers to a minimum. Also: Francisco Cervelli returns to the roster tonight!
The Yankees two game swing in Toronto wasn’t their finest hour. Here’s a few quick notes on what I saw from the Bronx Bombers while they were North of the Border.
*AJ Burnett’s control seems to range from OK to piss-poor. However, his curve ball seems to have plenty of snap this season, so that’s something.
*Russell Martin is EVERYWHERE! Somebody hit a home run? It was Russell Martin. RBI single? Russell Martin! saving an awful pitch from Burnett that was outside of the batter’s circle? Martin again! Somebody selling Yankee souvenirs at an away game? Who’s doing that, way up in the nosebleed seats? It’s RUSSELL EFFING MARTIN! He’s everywhere, making every play. You have to love how that guy is playing right now.
*Phil Hughes, eat your heart out. Bartolo Colon’s first start of the year was a great one, throwing up Ks and going 6.2 IP – LOVE IT! Between Colon and Freddy Garcia, Brian Cashman is looking pretty smart right now.
*Yeah, Mariano Rivera is human. Just because I worship him like a God doesn’t make him one. It’s amazing how close the Yankees were to a two game sweep against the Blue Jays.
* Home Runs should be called Bautistas. Seriously. That guy is an animal.
*The Yankees bullpen is awesome, but at some point, the starters need to step up and… you know, not be the worst starters in the league, averaging under 6 IP per start. Colon and Garcia did a nice job the first time, but who knows what we’ll get going forward. Sabathia always warms up with the weather, and Burnett is as unpredictable as it gets. As for Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova… well, I think Nova will probably be heading to Scranton when Hughes comes off the DL.
*Homers, homers, homers! The Yankees keep knocking it out of the park, and you know what they say: Chicks dig the long ball. As for the press, they insist that the Yankees won’t be able to score runs if they don’t pick up their averages, but hitting a ton of home runs is not a bad thing. That being said, Brett Gardner needs to lay down a text book bunt every time or regain that Yankee leading on base percentage.
Up next, Sabathia leads the Yankees into Baltimore to smack the Orioles around. The most important thing to come out of Friday’s game will be 7 strong innings from the big lefty, and if they get that, they’re on the right track to do damage all weekend.
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.
I didn’t watch a ton of baseball over the Labor Day holiday weekend. Was it really necessary to have a day game on a Friday? Or the previous Thursday, for that matter? Most of us did have to work on Friday! In any case, I was still able to catch a few at bats, but never got any real feel for what was going on in the game. I saw a bit on Saturday before heading to the airport to pick up family – Javier Vazquez giving up a multi home run inning is what I saw, actually! Yet somehow, the Yankees managed to win a game that seemed destined for the loss column, but exactly how, I don’t know: it’s hard to drive and listen to the game. The Jays salvaged Sunday’s game and the suddenly upstart Orioles took game 1 yesterday. Is it really all Buck Showalter? The Os have been a different team since he took over; a winning team. For the most part, he’s got a group of young kids, maybe he’s taking a page from the Bull Durham book and he’s scaring them; they truly were lallygagging to the ball, lallygagging to first base, so on. Maybe next year, we’ll find out if the change is for real.
Expect better coverage for the rest of the week!
The weekday day game is the bane of my existence. Praise MLB for Game Day.
I wish I could have seen CC Sabathia throw an 8 IP 1 hitter against the As, but alas, such is the fate of the working. I bet the defense was working: Sabathia only had 5 Ks and 3 BB. Jonathon Albaladejo is back up from the minors and hit the first batter he faced, but regained control to throw a clean inning. After using Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, Kerry Wood and Mariano Rivera on Wednesday, it was nice to give them all the day off yesterday. I suppose that means David Robertson is well rested.
The Yankees left 8 runners on base and were 1-10 with runners in scoring position, but he Yanks can hit the long ball. Jorge Posada had a solo shot in the 2nd, and my favorite, Curtis Granderson, had a double jack day, with a solo and a 2 run homer in consecutive innings. That’s good stuff! Austin Kearns provided the other RBI.
Tampa Bay was idle yesterday, so the Yankees move to 1.5 games ahead as the villains from the north, the home run happy Toronto Blue Jays come in for a weekend series. I am so sick of the Jays. Lets see if the Yankees can give them a taste of their own medicine this time.
Vin Mazzaro started for the Oakland Athletics last night, a much heralded homecoming by the folks at YES for the Rutherford native, and in front of over 100 of his closest friends and family, this is the line Mazzaro put up: 3.2 IP, 7 hits, 9 R, 7 ER, 3 HR, 3 BB, 3 Ks. Yeoch.
You can’t talk about the Yankees offense last night without mentioning Jorge Posada’s ill advised triple. Posada hit a ball to deep left that went off the wall and got away from the left fielder, and after he rounded 1st, Posada was going to third all the way, never even considering pausing at second. The throw was offline, coming in on the foul side of 3rd base, which the As infielder was able to snow cone in his glove but the ball popped out as soon as he applied the tag to Posada, and somehow, he had his first triple of the year… and since 2008, I believe. Swisher, Granderson and Teixeira all contributed monster no doubt bombers, and Teixeira’s landed in the second deck. Derek Jeter is now 0-7 with a walk against the As this series and his season average is down to .266..
Phil Hughes was also ineffective, but managed to struggle through against the As mediocre offense for a line of 5 IP, 4 hits, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 walks (yeesh!) and 1 K, but good enough for this 16th win of the year. I imagine a team like the Blue Jays would have destroyed Hughes last night. And speaking of our friends from the north…
The Toronto Blue Jays finally put their slugging to the benefit of the Yankees as they put a serious pounding on the Tampa Bay Rays, 13-5. Nice to finally not be on the receiving end of the Blue Jays awesome power, huh? Good Stuff! This puts the Yankees in sole possession of 1st place in the AL East for the first time in over a week.