Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hey, Zero Out Of Seven Ain't Bad...

Okay, I'm sorry. I lied. It's pretty bad.

In and of themselves, the 2 2/3 innings of 4ER ball Chien Ming Wang threw last night weren't as bad at the 2 2/3 wherein A.J. Burnett gave up 5 runs the night before. Unfortunately for the Yankees though, baseball games don't occur in a vacuum and the latest in a series of slow motion trainwrecks for the formerly dominant sinkerballer could have far-reaching implications.

All signs pointed to the Yankees turning it around last night at Fenway. They were due. Going winless in their last six appearances against the Sox was fluky and it was about time they got on the board. After a marginal outing against Texas, Wang seemed poised to right the ship. Neither of those things happened.

CMW stumbled right out of the gate. He walked J.D. Drew and Youk back to back in the first inning setting up an RBI single by Jason Bay. What was probably worse than the fact that he allowed a run was that he faced seven batters and used up 29 pitches. For a pitcher that still wasn't fully stretched out, it was an ominous beginning.

Jorge Posada tied it with a solo shot in the top of the 2nd, but the Sox opened up their half of the inning by going single, double, double and driving in two more runs. Wang retired the next three batters in a row, but a 9 pitch battle with the Fackin' Youkstah helped drive his pitch count to 58 after only two innings. Wang gave up a homer to Mike Lowell to lead off the 3rd which most likely sealed his fate. He was pulled in favor of Phil Hughes despite having just struck out Nick Green for the second out of the third inning.

69 pitches, 39 strikes, 5 earned runs, six hits and three walks marked CMW's second best start of the year. It's truly hard to believe that this guy was once a dominant pitcher in the Major Leagues. It pains me to say this, but Kei Igawa almost certainly would have done better than Wang has so far given the same opportunities.

Last night might be the last chance Wang gets in the starting rotation for a while, but that question alone is worthy of another entire post. His probable replacement, Phil Hughes, wasn't perfect either, but was a lot better than Wang allowing two runs in 3 2/3 IP. Those two came in the fourth on a two run shot by Youk and put the Sox up 6-2.

The Yankees did manage to claw their way back in the game and make it interesting. Back to back homers by Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira against Ramon Ramirez in the 7th brought the Bombers within one, but Okajima and Papelbon stifled the rally in the 8th and 9th. Teix continued his hot hitting, picking up nearly half the Yankees' hits, and was the only Pinstriper with a plate appearance to not leave a man on base. The Yanks left 20 men on in total (2 for 15 w/RISP). They are .141 in those situations for the season series.

The Yanks are averaging 4.0 runs per game against Boston this year, which wouldn't be bad if the Sox weren't scoring 7.3.

It could be worse. The Yankees could be floundering with a marginal record despite having played like the Rays are. They are still only one game back on the Sox after dropping all seven head to head meetings this year. It's a pretty incredible feat in its own right. A win tomorrow brings it back to square one.

The lesson for tonight is that due don't do shit. The same goes for tomorrow night. Just as a streak of coin flips ending up as tails doesn't alter the probability of the next flip, the victories piling up on the Red Sox' side of the ledger don't change the fact that tomorrow night's game is still about a 50/50 proposition.

Okay, make that 60/40 Yanks.

Seriously... tomorrow will be the night. It has to be, right?


  1. Maybe tonight there shouldn't be a game post so that can't be a jinx...

  2. At the risk of showing bias against Girardi:

    Why was Robertson warming up in the first and second innings after pitching on Tuesday night? Was Hughes not first in line to relieve Wang?

    Why was Melky bunting in the 8th? You're chasing a run and you have but six precious outs remaining. Why give one of them away? If you're going to bunt, at least have Gardner swipe second before attempting it. The bunt actually lowered the Yankees win expectancy by 4% and according to the Baseball Prospectus 2009 run expectancy table, lowered their run expectancy for the inning from about 0.91 to about 0.71.

    The Yankees lead the league in runs scored, but are tied for 3rd with 19 sacrifice bunts. That's not good baseball IMO. The bunt certainly has its place in the game, but the Yanks are sacrificing as often as sub .500 teams like the Royals, Twins, and Indians it concerns me.

  3. I don't remember Girardi doing this much "managing" last season. He was gambling and playing a hunch that Jeter could get a clutch hit with Gardner on second. That was stupid. If I'm gambling there, I send Gardner and let Melky swing. Melky has good bat control and has been as "clutch" as anyone on the team this season. The other thing I don't get is pulling Swisher, again, for the pinch runner. Swisher is not that slow. In much of Fenway, you can't take extra bases anyway on hits. It was a stupid, low percentage move if you ask me.

    Wang needs to go to the bullpen. You can say what you want about a "botched" rehab. I'm not buying it. He's a 20-something year old guy. He sat out most of last year recovering from an odd, rare injury. He had the entire offseason and spring training to get ready. The dust up about not working his legs is flimsy, at best, as an excuse. As a young man, he has had ample time during spring training and during this season to build up his leg strength; hell he's throwing 94, so how weak can he be?

    He isn't a good starting pitcher anymore. Maybe he can be a good relief pitcher. Maybe next season he can become a decent starter again (although I have my doubts...the writing was on the wall in terms of his very poor k/9 rates when he was effective in '06/'07).

    Wang shouldn't start again unless 1) there is an injury to one of the other 5, 2) double header, 3) he's needed to stretch out Joba and Hughes later this season, as they near their innings limits, or 4) if Joba or Hughes implode and cease to be effective.

    It's not going to hurt the guy to have him pitch relief, mop up, spot start, etc., this season. He hasn't earned the right to do anything more. He's over 25, so he can throw as many innings as he wants next season without flouting the stupid Verducci rule.

    Enough already.

  4. If Wang is taken out of the rotation, he might as well be released because he has absolutely no value as a reliever. He can't spot start in case of an injury or double header. We have learned that over the past couple of weeks. The sinker just doesn't work that way. It is fine to give up now, but don't make it worse and occupy a wasted roster spot in the bullpen.

    Bunting Melky was awful.

    I am glad Girardi saved Hughes for this game. I think the bullpen management has been great recently.

  5. "If Wang is taken out of the rotation, he might as well be released because he has absolutely no value as a reliever. He can't spot start in case of an injury or double header. We have learned that over the past couple of weeks. The sinker just doesn't work that way. It is fine to give up now, but don't make it worse and occupy a wasted roster spot in the bullpen."

    Why does he have "no value" as a reliever? Every pitcher has a value. His two relief appearances last month suggest he would be fine pitching in relief. He has to have more value than Jose Veras right now.

    And how do you support the fact that he can't spot start? A spot starter isn't expected to be a stopper, it's someone who can throw long enough to gobble up some innings. David Cone said on the broadcast a couple of nights ago that a pitcher who has been a starter all of his life doesn't lose his ability to throw lots of pitches overnight. Wang could be used just as Aceves is right now.

    I'm not saying he'd be good. He may be awful. But you still need people to show up, as it were, and it would be stupid to release him now. Some effort should be made to keep him and see if, after enough time and coaching, he can regain his form. Maybe only so long as needed to trade him.

  6. "He isn't a good starting pitcher anymore"

    If that is the case, and his starts so far this year are an indication of what his starts would be in the future, than he is the last guy I would ever want spot starting, because one would have to assume his spot starts would be worse since his arm would not be as strong to do so. If he can't gobble up innings now, he certainly won't do so in a spot starting role.

    I in no way think the Yankees should release him, but I think that would be better than stashing him in the bullpen. In my opinion, they need to continue to let him go out there in a starting role. The Yankees need 19 win Wang back and that is the best way to get him back...probably the only way. I don't subscribe to the theory that he just isn't a good starting pitcher anymore.

  7. I think it is commendable that the Yankees didn't give up and fought all the way to the end. They showed a lot of heart and grit to hang in there with the vastly superior Red Sox. Their $200+ million payroll aside, the Yankees are clearly the scrappy underdog in this series. I mean honestly, how are glorified Bush leaguers like A.J. Burnett and Chien Min Wang supposed to stand up to the offensive juggernauts of Nick Green and George Kottaras? Buck up New York, one day you too may be relevant again for reasons other than building an obscenely expensive ball park that you couldn't fill with drunks on nickel beer night or keep little leaguers from going yard every third at bat. Tonight the odds look like they are in your favor, assuming C.C. doesn't slip on one of the dozens of empty pizza boxes that surround that monument to gluttony he calls an apartment.

  8. Good point. And if CC does do the job tonight, the Red Sox should be embarrassed that they are tied in the standings with a pathetic team like the Yankees.