Monday, August 31, 2009

Pettitte Nearly Perfect; Yanks Roll On


For six and two thirds innings tonight, it appeared that the Yankees might just have a magical moment in what's becoming a very memorable season. Andy Pettitte was mowing down the O's with ease, breezing through the order and needing just 77 pitches to set down the first twenty batters in a row.

With two outs in the seventh, Adam Jones bounced a 1-0 delivery to third. Jerry Hairston Jr., giving Alex Rodriguez a night off, had made a nifty play to get the second out of the sixth and keep the perfecto alive. This time, on a far more routine play, Hairston booted the ball, ending the perfect game. The next batter, Nick Markakis, shot a single down the left field line, ending the no hit bid.
Lest anyone be quick to heap criticism or blame upon Jerry Hairston Jr, please remember two things. First, shit happens. Second, Melvin Mora led off the eighth with a home run, ending the shutout as well.

The home run from Mora was the only run yielded by Pettite, or any Yankee pitcher, the entire night. Pettitte continued his post All-Star Break dominance, running his record to 4-1 with a 2.56 ERA and 7 quality starts in 9 outings. For all the talk of the Yankee offense, consider this: tonight marked the fifth consecutive game that Yankees pitchers have allowed three walks or fewer, the fourth consecutive with two or fewer, and the third in the last four with one or fewer. Yankee starters have allowed just two free passes in the last four games and five in the last complete turn through the rotation. Tonight's game was the second time in the last three that Yankee pitchers have allowed four men or fewer to reach base via hit or walk.

As for the Yankee offense, Nick Swisher led off the third with a solo shot to give the Yanks a one run lead, then made it 2-0 in the fifth when he followed Robinson Cano's leadoff double with one of his own. From there, Joe Girardi fell in love with the bunt again, having Hairston attempt a bunt on an 0-1 pitch, and after he was hit by a pitch, having Melky Cabrera lay down a failed attempt that saw Swisher forced out at third.

The Yanks added three more in the eighth as Derek Jeter led off with a double, Johnny Damon drove him in the single, Mark Teixeira singled, and then with two outs, Cano doubled Damon and Teix in.

Perhaps the only blemish on the night (bunt fetishes aside) was another spotty performance from Brian Bruney. Charged with protecting a four run lead, Bruney went 3-0 on the leadoff batter, walked him on the sixth pitch of the plate appearance, and then after getting an out, gave up a single. It was enough to prompt Girardi to summon Mariano Rivera - perhaps a bit unnecessary, but Mo hasn't had much opportunity to work of late, and if that's the worst thing that happened on the night one can't really complain too much.

(Photos)

Game 131: Eight Miles High

As the Yankees begin a quick 7 game road trip to Toronto via Baltimore, they hold an 11.5 game cushion for a playoff spot, a 6 game lead in the division, a 4.5 game edge in the race for homefield advantage and trump the best team in the National League by 3.5 games as well. They took off during their last series against Baltimore and haven't touched the ground since.

The last time the Yanks began a series against the Orioles, they were trailing the Red Sox by one game shortly after the All Star break. The Yanks took three close games against the O's while the Sox lost three tight ones to the Rangers and the balance of power the the top of the AL East hasn't shifted since.

Andy Pettitte will be the first of the Yanks' top three starters to get the call for this series in Baltimore. Andy rebounded from his poor start in the blowout against Boston with a solid effort against the Rangers last Wednesday. Over seven innings he allowed two runs and seven hits while striking out seven, more than enough to collect his 11th win of the season.

In his last six starts, dating back to July 30th and including the clunker in Boston, Pettitte has a 2.60 ERA and has struck out more than one batter per inning. It's even better when compared to last August when Pettitte went 1-3 with a 5.84 ERA due mostly to a nagging injury to his shoulder. Having a healthy Andy Pettitte has been crucial to the Yankees ability to pull away from the pack in the second half this year.

Taking the ball for the Orioles tonight will be Jeremy Guthrie, the guy the Orioles thought was going to be their ace at the beginning of the season. Despite the support of his #1 fan, this has not been the case. He's struck out just 87 batters in 154 IP while walking 54. Even after two 7 inning, 1 ER efforts against the White Sox and Twins in his last two starts, Guthrie's ERA sits at 5.26 and his WHIP at 1.40 for the season. He has a chance to pick up three straight wins tonight though, something he hasn't done for over a year.

A-Rod gets the night off all together tonight as Jerry Hairston, Jr. gets the start at third and Hideki Matsui will DH.

The Yanks are 9-3 against both the Jays and the O's on the season and unlike the bird-named teams they'll take on during this road trip, they are certainly soaring at the moment.


Eight miles high and when you touch down,
You’ll find that it’s stranger than known,
Signs in the street that say where you’re going,
Are somewhere just being their own.

Nowhere is there warmth to be found,
Among those afraid of losing their ground,
Rain gray town known for it’s sound,
In places small faces unbound.

Vicarious Vacation

If you're up for one, head on over and check out our pal Jason's account of a once in-a-lifetime kind of afternoon he had with his family during a trip to San Diego:
Here's the setup: A few days prior to leaving for San Diego, I emailed my friend, Matt. Matt, an agent, has been a long time FOTB. In my email to Matt, I asked him if there was any way that I could get my boys to meet Kyle Blanks, a client of his, since we were going to be at the game. In a way that is typical Matt, he responded a few hours later with a "Call me asap" email. I gave him a call and he let me know that he not only arranged for us to meet Blanks, but that Kyle suggested that we meet him for lunch before the game. I was giddy, to say the least, as I knew this would be a tremendous experience for my boys...meeting a pro ballplayer and having lunch with him right before he played!
It gets better from there. There was more interaction with players (the Shyster jokes that there may have been some ulterior motives on their parts) and it makes you realize that while baseball in New York is certainly great in it's own right, the game is more accessible and easier to enjoy in person essentially everywhere else in the country.

Sure the Padres have to try a little harder to appease their fans since they are drifting lifelessly at 20 games below .500. It helps that they don't have to charge exorbitant prices on tickets or concessions to cover their $43M payroll (oh wait, minus Jake Peavy's $8M), too. But we're talking about San Diego here. I don't too many people are losing sleep over the Pad's record. When October comes in SoCal, it's still going to be 78 and sunny.

The New Yankee Stadium Of Golf

Since Matt brought the topic up before, here is an interesting (albeit pretty one-sided) article I saw about the course they played the Barclays' Championship at, Liberty National:
If you haven't heard about Liberty National, it's the world's most expensive grassy view lot -- a former oil tank farm that had all the visual appeal of a collapsing tenement building, even the rats avoided it. But it was located just across the water from the southern tip of Manhattan, roughly 1,000 yards from the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

So a rich guy bought it and built a private golf course that has generated more conversation, commentary and criticism than a penal U.S. Open track. As one player sarcastically pointed out, it's probably no accident Lady Liberty faces the other direction.
What follows is a bunch of tour pros trashing the place, similar to what we heard from some players about the New Yankee Stadium. Similarly, Liberty National cost far more than other courses to construct ($250M) and demands a $500,000 membership initiation fee before annual dues are factored in, which I'm going to blindly guess are north of $50,000. However, it's only a short private shuttle-boat ride from downtown Manhattan which offers a level convenience which is unmatched in NYC area golf.

The owner, Paul Fireman freely admits that the course as a poor investment, and the designer Tom Kite readily acknowledges that due to the way the course was constructed, nothing is natural about it. For 30 years, they played the tournament at historic Westchester Country Club and no such kvetching was heard. Sound familiar?

Sure, most of the bitching from the players was unwarranted. And all of it was unnecessary, if you ask Vijay Singh:
"One who doesn't worry about what the golf course is, and just plays one shot at a time," Singh said. "You go out there and start criticizing the golf course, then you might as well not show up."
The great thing about golf, like baseball, is that everyone plays under the same conditions. So when it all shakes out, regardless of the difficulty or quirkiness of the place you are competing, the playing field is level.

He's A Better Golfer Than He Was A Closer

Golf is definitely Jay's territory around here, as I generally have no interest in the sport unless it involves a windmill and/or a clown combined with drunken gambling.

However, I couldn't help but notice the results of the final round of The Barclays over in Jersey City yesterday, where Heath(cliff) Slocum(b) out lasted Tiger and the other guys to win the tournament.

Looking to sell high, the PGA Tour promptly traded him to the Nationwide Tour in exchange for Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek.

The Obligatory Joba Post

Yeah, Joba Rulez!!1!

Apparently the editors at the Daily News aren't capable of calculating that two runs in three innings equates to a 6.00 ERA. That's not good.

Actually, lost in all the discussion about his innings limit is the fact that since throwing 8 shutout frames against the Rays on July 29th, Joba hasn't been good at all. He's allowed four or more runs in every game (with the exception of yesterday of course) and hasn't made it into the 7th inning once. He's watched his ERA rise from 3.58 to 4.38 over that time and even though the Yanks scored an average of 8 runs a game behind him, he only walked away with one victory.

Joba is now at a level of innings pitched that he's never reached before, so perhaps he's running into a natural limit of sorts, without regard the one that the Yanks are placing on him.

Although I was critical of the fact that the Yanks keep changing their plans for Joba, the latest version does seem to make the most sense of the options available. What I didn't know before noting that 35 pitches seemed a little low in last night's recap was that the Yanks plan to start Chamberlain off slowly, and sort of re-stretch him out so that he's ready to go as deep as necessary when the postseason rolls around.

It makes more intuitive sense than having him start on extended rest and still allows him to contribute to the team and be tested against Major Leaguers, as opposed to shutting him down or sending him to the minors. They got away with the tightest restriction in the only start Joba will make before the rosters expand so it's much less risky to the bullpen from here on out.

At this point, Joba is slotted for the 4th game of a postseason series only by default. Everyone is getting worked up about the way the Yankees are handling him (without providing a reasonable alternative), but they should probably be more concerned about the fact that he hasn't been a good pitcher of late. Let's focus not on how many innings he pitches, but how well he pitches in those innings.

A Good Weekend, But Not Good Enough For Some

Rise and shine, Fackers. I know it's Monday, but the good weekend that was in Yankeeland should help soften the blow. They managed to get in all three games without so much as a delay despite a tropical depression lurking just off the coast in the Atlantic which prevented some complications later in the season. Although the Yanks struggled in their first meeting with the White Sox in Chicago, they swept this three game set and might have dealt the final blow to the Pale Hose' playoff hopes for this year.

After surrendering the lead in a dramatic 7th inning on Friday, the Bombers got a walk off, homer from Robinson Cano, with runners in scoring position, no less. Saturday played host to an offensive explosion and a stellar pitching contribution from the most unlikely of places. You can't tell just by looking at the final score, but Sunday's game was more similar to Friday's than Saturday's in that it was hotly contested. The Yanks held on tight until the bottom of the seventh inning and only after that did their offense finally take over.

In their past 9 games (dating back to the beginning of the Red Sox series), the Yanks have scored an average of 8 runs per game, which has allowed them to go 6-3 during that stretch against three teams that were all in Wild Card contention when it began despite allowing almost 6 against.

Steve at Was Watching, however, is not impressed. Yesterday, he noted that the Yankees are "only" 33-30 when playing a team with a record at or above .500 and even goes as far as to label the post "possible bad news". The point of the article was apparently to insinuate that the Yankees are doomed in the playoffs:
...but, I'm thinking ahead to the post-season, for the Yankees. And, there will be no Blue Jays, A's, Orioles, Twins or Mets for the Yankees to play in October. Most likely, New York will have to deal with Detroit or Texas in the ALDS and then face someone like the Angels, Red Sox or Rays in the ALCS (should the Yankees advance past the ALDS for the first time since 2004). And, that’s a horse of another color, no?
Well yes, the postseason is different than the regular season. But the rest of that argument? Yikes. Where to begin?

How about the fact that the Twins, who Steve lumped in with the "losing" teams, as a result of winning ONE GAME, are now at .500, swinging the Yankees record from 33-30 to 40-30 against these teams, which is now the best in the AL. So his post went from spurious to irrelevant in roughly 5 hours.

Just because it's listed in a column on Baseball-Reference doesn't make it a useful stat. Aside from the perfect example provided by the Twins above (which could have been prevented by removing their 0-7 record against the Yanks), there are plenty of good reasons not to take much stock in team's play against other squads with "winning records".

For one, the teams are divided based on their cumulative record for the season, which for various reasons doesn't always accurately reflect their strength at various points within it. For instance, the Yankees took 5 of the 6 games they played against the Mets this year, but going into that 6th game, the Mets were 37-36. Now, after putting $85M on the DL, they are a shell of their former selves and 13 games below .500 so it looks like the Yankees were beating up on a cupcake.

A while back, (actually while debunking a piece on WSJ.com that claimed having a losing record against teams over .500 was actually a good thing) we determined that the average winning percentage against teams over .500 is around .430. This means that an average team would be 27-36 against teams with winning records through 63 games. Using that as a benchmark, even the 33-30 Steve was working with is quite a healthy showing.

As we have more recently discussed, the fine folks as Baseball Prospectus have studied what makes a team likely to succeed in October and at no point was the team's record against opponents with winning records even factored into the equation.

For better or for worse, over the next month, more and more emphasis is going to be placed on the Yankees odds in the postseason. There will be countless theories proposed about why the Yanks are poised to return to World Series glory or be bounced in the first round. The truth is that there are a myriad of variables that will ultimately determine how they fare, and the most important one is luck.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Yanks Continue To Kick Ass, Take Names


The Yanks trailed twice in this game in the first and third innings, and true to their hallmark during their post All-Star break tear, answered as soon as possible, tying the game in the bottom of the first and taking the lead for good in the third.

As Joe Girardi predicted when he first unveiled the new and improved Joba Plan, Chamberlain did not factor into the decision. The three innings Joba threw weren't especially impressive and weren't much better than his previous start. He only struck out one batter and allowed two runs, but threw 23 of his 35 pitches for strikes (66%). Whether he was pulled just on the basis of the pitch count or the fact the he wasn't effective could be debated, but if 35 was the number they had in mind coming into the game, he could have easily blown through that allotment in the second inning.

Alfredo Aceves played the role of Joba's babysitter today, pitching three scoreless innings and allowing only two hits while throwing only 32 pitches. When added together Joba Aceves combined for a quality start and turned the game over to the rest of the bullpen with the lead after the sixth inning.

In the top of the 7th, Girardi called on Damaso Marte to face Jim Thome, and then stalled momentarily before calling on David Robertson. D-Rob struck out Jermaine Dye but allowed back to back singles to Mark Kotsay and Alexei Ramirez. With the Yankees leading by only one run at the time, Girardi went to the bullpen for the second time in the inning, this time summoning Phil Hughes. As Joe G. might say, "Hughesy" got Jason Nix to fly out, ending the inning.

The offense awoke in the bottom half of the inning, but their explosion could have easily been stifled had the second batter of the inning, Robinson Cano been rightly called out at first as the second part of a double play. Instead, the ump missed a bang-bang play and the Yanks ended up capitalizing to the tune of 5 runs, capped by a three run shot by Mark Teixeira.

Johnny Damon was removed from the game in the 9th inning, but apparently it wasn't a big deal. Phle Coke gave up yet another HR but with a 6 run leadthat wasn't too much of an issue, either. With the sweep of the White Sox, the Yanks only kept pace with the Red Sox, who took all three from Toronto.

Game 130: Don't Keep Me Wonderin'

This afternoon the Yankees will go for the sweep while the reeling White Sox try to salvage a game of the series and keep their shrinking post-season hopes alive.

The Pale Hose send Freddy Garcia to the mound. In nine career starts against the Yankees, Garcia is 4-3 with 4.19 ERA and a WHIP of just 1.08. The Yankees have not faced him since 2006. Thanks to injuries, Garcia has made just five starts over the last two seasons, and just sixteen since the White Sox sent him to the Phillies after the 2006 season. He has a 5.70 ERA (81 ERA+) and 1.48 WHIP in that time. The White Sox are two games under .500, facing a sweep today, five games back and now in third place in the Central. The season is slipping away from them rapidly. They desperately need Garcia return to his early 2000s form today; Jake Peavy left his rehab start early last night - there is no help on the way.

Joba Chamberlain returns to the hill for the Yankees today, this time on regular rest. As Jay pointed out yesterday, the plan has changed again and we are now on the Joba Rules v2.2. Or v2.3 - I'm not even sure anymore. If the Yankees do truncate his start today, they'll have a well-rested bullpen at their disposal thanks to outstanding combined effort from Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin yesterday.

In his first three starts after the All-Star break, Chamberlain went 3-0 with a 0.83 ERA, a 0.74 WHIP and a .422 OPS against. In four starts since then, he's 1-2 with an 8.55 ERA, a 2.10 WHIP, and a .921 OPS against. Which Joba will show up today?

In many ways Joba has been frustrating to watch this season. Undeniably talented, he's gone through stretches like this most recent one where he seemingly refused to work with any semblance of rhythm and insisted upon nibbling rather than challenging hitters. Compounding that frustration has been Chamberlain's use of all manner of excuses and cliches following his starts: he thought he had good stuff, they hit good pitches, it was tough pitching on extra rest, etc.

I realize 23 year old pitchers are going to struggle. I realize the Yankees probably aren't doing him any favors by tweaking and re-tweaking their plan for how to use him. But I can do without the Nuke LaLoosh routine.

While we'll likely have to endure something similar next year with Phil Hughes thanks to his lack of usage this year, I'm hoping that this latest iteration to Joba's plan will be the last. No more wondering about when he's going to pitch or how deep he's going to go in his starts. Armed with that knowledge, I'm hopeful that Joba can put it together down the stretch and keep us from wondering whether Good Joba or Bad Joba is going to show up on any given day.

Jorge Posada returns to the line up today. Eric Hinske gives Nick Swisher a day off in right.

I'll catch the early innings on the tube and then it's off to the Widespread Panic and Allman Brothers Band show. While this concert isn't quite the Christmas in the summertime that it once was for me, it's still one I've been looking forward to all summer. As such, here's some vintage Allman Brothers Band from the old Fillmore East, 9/23/1970. Enjoy the game.



I think about the bad times
Lord I think about yours and mine
You were lost in the silver spoon
Thought I pulled you out in time
And I hope that you got reasons
For the way that you've been lying
Please don't keep me wonderin' no longer

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mitre Finally Delivers


Who would have thought that after two dominant performances by A.J. Burnett and C.C. Sabathia which resulted in a loss and a no-decision that it would be Sergio Mitre who finally followed through and picked up a win? Ten runs in support surely didn't hurt, but the start he turned it was better that what either of the high-priced offseason acquisitions turned in the past two games, at least in terms of runs allowed: 0.

Mitre effortlessly plowed through 4 1/3 perfect innings before allowing his only hit of the game, a double down the line ot Jim Thome. He then induced back to back ground outs to Jermaine Dye and Alex Rios to keep the White Sox off the board. The only other baserunner Mitre gave up was via a walk to Brent Lillibridge to start the 7th inning. The very next batter, A.J. Pierzynski, hit a line drive off of Mitre's right forearm, which Mitre corralled and threw to first for the out, but ended his dream start after only 6 1/3 innings. X-Rays were negative.

The Serg had only thrown 73 pitches, and looked to be ticketed for at least the 8th inning and possibly a complete game. He only struck out two batters but benefited from some excellent defensive plays like the diving stop and throw to first by A-Rod to keep his perfect game alive in the 5th and a ridiculous ranging snag and toss by Robinson Cano behind second base in the 6th. Chad Gaudin came on in relief, finishing the game with 2 2/3 scoreless innings, 4 strikeouts and only one walk.

Oh yeah, the offense was pretty good in this one, too. The Yanks pounded Jose Contreras, tagging him with 7 runs without the use of a homer before chasing him from the game in the 4rd inning. D.J. Carrasco allowed one of his inherited runners to score so in all, 8 runs scored on the big Cuban's watch, 6 earned.

Continuing with the even-numbered inning scoring barrage, the Yanks tacked on individual runs in the 6th and 8th innings, the first on a single by Cano scoring Mark Teixeria and the second on A-Rod's 23rd homer of the year. Derek Jeter continued his impossibly hot streak by going 3-4 while everyone in the starting line up scored a run.

Today probably marks the last time I try to play amateur meteorologist for a while. Not only were there no delays, but it hardly rained at all during the game despite overcast skies. I wasn't alone in my assumptions, though, as the stands were sparsely populated, at least for a Saturday afternoon game.

The win tonight brings the Yankees to a season-high 33 games over .500 and one win away from completing the sweep of the White Sox in the Bronx. The Red Sox get underway shortly over at Fenway, and they'll have to win to stay 6.0 games behind the Yanks. Your move, Boston.

Game 129: Riders On The Storm

Sergio Mitre has the unenviable task today of wandering around the clubhouse and biding his time while Tropical Depression Danny shifts shapes amorphously out in the Atlantic and tosses rain down on Yankee Stadium. Sergio might be used to the suspense by now though, since he's only appeared in two of the last 15 games for the Yanks. He makes Phil Hughes seem taxed by comparison.

Mitre had his best start of the year (still not all that good) in Seattle on the 15th, but since then has only popped up once, in two innings of relief during the Red Sox game the Yanks won by 9 runs. After working a perfect 8th inning, Mitre allowed 4 runs in the 9th including two homers before recording the final out. Who knows which Mitre we are going to get today, but the recent inactivity doesn't bode very well for his success.

Former Yankee Jose Contreras will take the mound for the White Sox today. El Titan de Bronze got off to a rocky start this year, getting sent down to AAA after an 0-5 start with an 8.19 ERA. He reemerged triumphantly, however after being called up for the first game of a double-header a month later. He pitched 8 innings of scoreless ball and then duplicated the feat in his next start out. Since then, his ERA has hovered around 5, mixing some good performances with some terrible ones. Since he varies his arm angle his control is erratic, sometimes allowing too many walks, and other times compiling lots of strikeouts while walking hardly anyone. This is the essence of Contreras, brilliant at times, but consistently inconsistent.

Jose Molina will be doing the catching again today as Jerry Hairston Jr. spells Melky in centerfield. Other than that, it will be the usual suspects, including Hurricane A-Rod at 3rd.

Last night's game went late, but not for the reason I envisioned in the preview. Today however, with Danny slowly meandering his way up the East Coast, it's clear there are going to be some delays involved with riding out this storm.


Riders on the storm,
Into this house were born,
Into this world were thrown,
Like a dog without a bone,
An actor out on loan,
Riders on the storm.

Since there will likely be some time to kill before game time, here's a Snoop Dogg remix of the song that I didn't know existed until I searched for the original on YouTube today. Truth be told, I think it's pretty damn good.

When Is A Plan Not A Plan?

In the car yesterday, I was listening to the radio pregame and heard Joe Girardi tell John Sterling on "The Manager's Show" (since confirmed by others) that Joba Chamberlain will now be starting on his regular 5 days of rest, but as Girardi said "may not always factor into the decision". This obviously means that instead of allowing him fewer starts, they are going to limit his innings per appearance.

Joba only has one start left before September call-ups are made, so hopefully Joe Girardi will utilize the resulting extra arms available to him to cushion the blow on the more valuable members of the bullpen. I have my doubts though, because Girardi, like Joe Torre before him, has real trouble putting any reliever that he doesn't trust into a game that isn't a totally one-sided. Much will depend on the standings, of course.

I wasn't sure why, but listening to Girardi deliver that piece of news, I felt a little miffed. Just like they did with A-Rod and his supposed "one day off per week" plan the Yankees immediately deviated from their stated intentions, which sort of defeats the purpose of, you know, having "a plan". That is their right, but at what point to do we stop listening to what the Yankees claim they are going to do?

Cashman and Girardi use of "plans" as a tool to convey their message to the media with a degree of certainty that stifles the speculation that can sometimes get out of hand in New York. It certainly is an effective tactic, because when they say something, it gets reported in multiple places as fact, only to be redacted and updated at the shortest possible interval in which it could be changed.

So next time we hear the Yankees claim that they have "a plan" for something, let's realize what that is has more to do with PR than it does with baseball.

A Walk (Off) In The Rain

For much of last night's game, it appeared to be frustratingly similar to Thursday afternoon's loss. The Yankees, behind an excellent pitching performance, put runner after runner on base, but could not put a big inning together. Fortunately for them, Friday night's result was better than that of the day before.

As they often do against them, the Yankees hit Mark Buehrle hard. Derek Jeter led off the game by launching a home run just to the left of Monument Park. Johnny Damon followed with a line drive single to right. Mark Teixeira than lifted a moon shot to deep left field, but got under it a bit too much and the wind, blowing in from left most of the night, held it in the ball park. Alex Rodriguez followed with a hard hit fly out to deep left, then Hideki Matsui ripped a single to right. With two on and two out, Nick Swisher grounded out to end the inning.

The Yankees added their second run in the third on another leadoff home run, this time from Johnny Damon. Teixeira followed with a double, then A-Rod walked. But once again, the Yankees would strand the runners on base.

In the fifth, the Yankees would threaten, but come up empty again, leaving the bases loaded. Through five innings, the Yankees had left eight runners on base - five of them in scoring position. They were 0 for 6 with RISP, with Robinson Cano twice ending innings with two runners in scoring position. Thankfully, he would have more opportunity on the night.

Despite the offensive struggles, CC Sabathia was pitching so well that two runs appeared to be enough. He struck out two in a perfect first. He gave up a leadoff "double" in the second when Melky Cabrera lost a fly ball, then proceeded to strike out the side. After a two out single in the third, he set down six in a row. Through six, CC had allowed no runs, five hits, no walks, and had tied his season-high with 10 Ks.

In the seventh, the Big Guy finally hit a bump in the road, giving up a double, a walk, and another double to start the frame, cutting his lead to 2-1. After recording an out, Ramon Castro ripped one down the third baseline, ticketed for the leftfield corner and another double. But Alex Rodriguez had a diving stop and gunned down Carlos Quentin at the plate for the second out of the inning. An infield single loaded the bases, then likely Rookie of the Year Gordon Beckham tied the game with a base hit to right field. Castro attempted to score the go-ahead run from second, but Nick Swisher threw him out at the plate.

From there the game turned into a battle of the bullpens. Matt Thornton worked a perfect seventh and eight for the ChiSox. The Yanks called on long-lost Phil Hughes for the eighth and he struck out the side. Despite throwing just fourteen pitches in the eighth and just 3.1 innings over the last two weeks, Hughes was was lifted for Mariano Rivera with the score tied in the ninth. Mo worked a perfect frame like Hughes before him, and Brian Bruney followed with a perfect tenth.

In the bottom of the tenth, the White Sox turned to Randy Williams. The lefty entered the night having fanned 12 and walked 5 in 9.1 innings of work. He needed just four pitches to strike out leadoff man Mark Teixeira, and made him look bad in doing so. A-Rod then launched the first pitch he saw to deep center field, clearly thinking it was gone off the bat. But once again the wind held it up, and quickly there were two down.

Perhaps unnerved by the scare, Williams uncorked eight consecutive balls to Hideki Matsui and Nick Swisher. Robinson Cano then came to the plate, 0 for 4 on the night, 0 for 2 with RISP, and having left five runners on base in ending the third and fifth innings. With one swing though, Cano made up for it, blasting a 2-2 pitch into the Yankee bullpen to give the Yankees yet another walk off win.

(Photos)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Game 128: Late

The Yankees have lost two series since the All-Star break, the one that concluded last night against the Rangers and before that, one against the White Sox that spanned the end of July and the beginning of August. It was too late to salvage a halve in the series out in Chicago, but the Yanks avoided a sweep as CC Sabathia worked around one bad inning and the offense touched up Buehrle for 7 runs in 4 1/3.

The same lefty-lefty match up will be replicated in the Bronx. The big fella wasn't perfect his last time out against the Red Sox on Sunday Night baseball, but the 4 runs he allowed over 6 2/3 were good enough to get him the win. He's won his last five starts and is looking to go a perfect 6 for 6 in August with a victory tonight.

In his career, Buehrle hasn't had much luck against Sabathia or the Yankees. In 9 starts against the Bombers, the lefty is just 1-6 with a 6.84 ERA and CC has owned him, going 6-0 in 10 career head to head starts. These numbers make for decent storylines, but don't mean a whole lot. The Yankees have been in a continuous state of flux since Buehrle first faced them back in 2001 as El Duque started against him and the only two players who appeared in the game and are still on the team are Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada. Clearly the offenses involved have played a major factor in that 6-0 head-to-head record against Sabathia and those have changed quite a bit as well.

More relevantly, Buehrle hasn't been great as of late, either. Since his perfect game, he's gone 0-4 in six starts with a 6.16 ERA, even though one of those consisted of 8 innings of shutout ball against the Mariners. During that span, he's struck out just 12 in 38 innings and walked 7 while giving up 54 hits.

The weather in the NYC area this evening may not be conducive for a baseballing contest and as Ross from New Stadium Insider notes, there aren't many chances for make up dates with only a little more than month left in the season. Expect the Yanks to do all they can to get the games this weekend in, which could lead to a late one tonight.


I'll be late for that, I can't wait for that,
I think I was made for that,
So I'm comin' in when I feel like,
To turn this mo'fucka up only if it feels right.

What About Next Year?

Mike from River Ave. Blues took a look at the under-utilization of Phil Hughes in the past month or so. Mike issue is with the fact that he hasn't been called on as of late, but I would like to add that the decision not to pitch him echoes into next season as well.

Hughes has pitched 70 1/3 innings for far this year and has been nothing short of excellent since being transitioned from a starter to a reliever. He's thrown about 35 innings in each role so far, but had an ERA of 5.45 as a starter as opposed to 1.26 out of the bullpen. He has great strikeout rates in both, but whiffs almost 3 1/2 more batters per nine when he's used in relief.

It would seem that the transition to high leverage reliever was just what the doctor ordered, but the downside is that Hughes doesn't figure to collect much more than 100 innings this year (if that), including the postseason. So when next year rolls around, he's going to be in almost the exact same spot innings-wise that Joba Chamberlain was in this year. Roughly 100 IP with a cap of 150-160 as a member of the starting rotation.

This reality makes the fact that Girardi has only used Hughes for 8 innings this month all the more puzzling. It's one of the reasons we were hesitant to jump on board the "Hughes to the bullpen" train to begin with. Were he in Scranton or in the rotation, this probably would be a non-issue.

The Yankees will probably tell you they have a plan for Hughes, but I don't think using him for 8 or 10 innings over an entire month despite a clean bill of health was part of that grand scheme. Granted, the Yankees have been involved in a lot of lopsided games both for and against them, so there weren't a lot of obvious occasions for Hughes to be called upon.

However, as manager Joe Girardi should be cognizant of the amount of innings the Phranchise has(n't) thrown and what that is going to mean if he and Brian Cashman truly want to make him a starting pitcher next season. If this means putting him in for an inning or two when the game is out of hand, then so be it. The kid should be on the hill one way or another.

Pete Abe's Stealing Our Schtick

Just kidding. Pete appears to be every bit the music enthusiast we are, but I have to admit, he came up with one today that I had never heard of.

The whole Brill Building / Tin Pan Alley type stuff is sort of a forgotten part of American music history, but it was really the primary source of popular music between the first wave of rock and roll in the early to mid 1950s and the British Invasion led by the Beatles and the Stones in 1964.

In their farewell concert, The Last Waltz, The Band tried to pay tribute to all periods of their career, and by extension all facets of post-1950 popular music, by inviting guests to represent these different stages and genres. So even though he sticks out like a sore thumb in a game of "one of these things is not the like the others", that's why Neil Diamond is included amongst the likes of Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Ronnie Hawkins, Dr. John, and Muddy Waters.

Sorry for yet another music-centric post. I'm out of ideas at the moment and counting the minutes until the weekend gets here.

A Few Lines On Coke

I have to admit, it wasn't until all the Twitter feeds came pouring into yesterday's live chat that I realized just how bad Phil Coke has been of late: 17 ER over his last 15.1 IP. His ERA has ballooned from 2.97 to 5.05 in that stretch.

Some may want to blame this on his over-use, as his 59 appearances are the most on the team by a good margin (Rivera is next with 52), and his 51.2 IP in relief is third behind Alfredo Aceves (61) and Rivera (53). And maybe that has something to do with it, but not very much.

Most of what's happened to Coke over these last 20 outings is just good old statistical correction. As I've stated before, particularly when evaluating relievers, I prefer to look at Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) rather than ERA. As you may recall, FIP is dependent upon the three things pitchers can control: strikeouts, walks, and home runs, and is then is adjusted to an ERA-like scale.

Unfortunately, I can't find game-by-game logs of Coke's FIP, nor do I have the free time to calculate it at the moment. However, at every point this season that I looked at his numbers, his ERA was outperforming his FIP - by a lot. These past twenty outings have served to correct that gap, so much so that after yesterday, Coke's ERA (5.05) is now worse than his FIP (4.86).

So what's the good news/bad news here? The good news is that the numbers seem to indicate that Coke has at worst leveled off, at best is due for a small improvement. The bad news is that where those numbers stand right are not all that good. The good news is the Coke's strikeout (7.14 per 9) and walk (3.14 per 9) rates are slightly better than the league averages. The bad news is his home run rate (1.57 per 9) is a half home run worse than the league average, and that's what is killing both his FIP and his ERA.

Another number to look at is Coke's batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Evidence has shown that a pitcher has little control over balls in play (which is why FIP is a valuable statistic) and that most pitchers end up having a BABIP close to the league average. Currently, Coke is at .234, far better than the league average of .304. This could suggest that we haven't seen the bottom for Coke yet; if his BABIP regresses to the mean over the final five weeks he could be in for a few more rough outings.

However, given Coke's K and HR rates, I would expect his BABIP to be a bit low. His K rate is higher than the league average, meaning there are fewer balls in play against him. Furthermore, 6.1% of batted balls off Coke are home runs, as opposed to 4.0% for the league. As such, hitters are making contact less against him compared to the league, but when they do, the ball is traveling over the fence far more often. While the latter certainly isn't a good thing, I do think that indicates that Coke's BABIP likely won't get close to the league average by season's end. Besides, any BABIP regression to the mean may be a good thing for Coke, as it could indicate that his gigantic HR rate is dropping off a bit.

So what does it all mean? Phil Coke isn't as good as he appeared to be through most of the summer and isn't as bad as he appears to be right now. He gives up way too many home runs, and Yankee Stadium may have something to do with that (18.2 AB/HR at home, 25 on the road). If he can get his home runs down, his K and BB rates suggest he is a relatively effective pitcher.

Relievers are highly volatile due to the relatively small number of innings the pitch. One or two bad outings, like yesterday or Coke's 0.1 IP 6 ER disaster in Chicago on 8/1, can have a major impact on a reliever's statistics. Despite being a former starter with a decent arsenal of pitches, and despite his numbers being good against right handed batters for most of the season, Joe Girardi has insisted upon using Coke as a match-up lefty for most of the year, with 30 of his 59 appearances lasting less than an inning.

Coke has been pretty high up in the bullpen pecking order for most of the season. He'll need to show some improvement over these last five weeks to justify keeping that status in October. If he can keep the ball in the ballpark more often, he has a good chance at making those improvements.

A Cup Of Coffee And A Link Dump

Top of the morning to you, Fackers. I'm going to be tied up for the early part of the day, so I thought I'd brew up some links to keep you busy while I'm gone.

According to Buster Onley, the Yankees put a waiver claim on Brad Penny earlier this month and have interest in signing him now that he's asked for and recieved his release from the Red Sox. Hey, he's better than Sergio Mitre, right...?

Brendan as IIATM,S looks at Josh Willingham as a potential offseason trade target for the Yanks. He's having a a great year, but isn't the kind of player the Nationals are likely very attached to considering he's 31 and about to hit arbitration.

Great post from Mike at RAB looking at Joba's pitch selection, namely his reliance on the slider. When he first came up, hitters simply couldn't identify it, especially when contrasted with his 98MPH fastball. Now with his velocity sitting considerably lower and full scouting reports on his tendencies, the pitch is loosing its effectiveness.

With Derek Jeter climbing in the Yankee record books in seemingly every category, Jonah Keri takes a look at where he ranks among the greatest Pinstripers of all time.

Mr. Cashman makes life a little more difficult for the Red Sox. Matthew Pouliot looks at how it might harm the career of the player involved.

Did you know THIS is what Kate Smith looked like? If you were part of our live chat yesterday you did.

Another voice of reason from WEEI. However, I think Jim Rice could carry Derek Jeter's jock... very intimidatingly.

Last night, Nick Green did his best Nick Swisher impression.

So now it appears that the list of positive tests in 2003 never should have been seized the the government in the first place, which means that the names on it never would have been leaked. Our pal Craig reminds us that calling for all of the names on the list to come out is a fool's errand, and thinks that the names may continue to leak.

Lar from wezen-ball takes a deep (as in cavernously deep) look at walk-off wins over at The Baseball Analysts.

John Dewan takes a second shot at the ability of first basemen to scoop throws.

Another tough break for the Mets...

A list of the 12 best Mets quotes of all time. Amazingly, "He has lobby myself" didn't make the cut.

It's football, but take a look at the scrap heap.

More football... Another beat writer bites the dust. Damn you Gannett! /shakes fist at the sky.

A poisonous pitcher plant that eats rats? Bad. Ass. Now when are they going to start growing some in the NYC Subways?

More science... Are we descended from aquatic apes? Carl Everett certainly doesn't think so.

That's it for now. Matt will have some thoughts on Phil Coke shortly and we have some bigger stuff coming this afternoon, hopefully. Catch you later on.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ample Opportunities Wasted

I'm glad today's game was a weekday matinee. As such, I was at work and couldn't watch with my usual attention to detail. Because as frustrated as I am with today's outcome, it'd be much worse had I been hanging on every pitch.

Where to begin? Let me throw some numbers out there, particularly a few that our friend Jason from the Heartland was pointing out during our live game chat. Texas offense today: 15 Ks, 3 BB. Yankee offense today: 10 K, 8 BB. Advantage Yankees.

How about these? Texas starter Dustin Nippert: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 7 BB, 3 K, 98 pitches, 52 strikes (53%), 27.73 pitches per IP. Yankees starter A.J. Burnett: Perfect through 3.2 IP, 6 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 12 K, 105 pitches, 63 strikes (60%), 17.5 pitches per IP. Advantage Burnett.

So where did this one go wrong? Texas HRs: 3. Yankees HRs: 0. Texas w/RISP: 3 for 4. Yankees w/RISP: 2 for 12. Texas LOB: 2. Yankees LOB: 12. Runners left in scoring position, Texas: 1, Yankees: 6. Big advantage Texas. That's your ball game right there.

The Yankees had more opportunity than they rightly needed. They worked Dustin Nippert over, letting him throw no fewer than 17 pitches in any inning, forcing him over 25 in two of the four innings in which he appeared, and put six runners in scoring position against him. But only two scored. And when Jason Grilli releived him, the Rangers' bullpen shut the Yankees down over the last five and a third, tossing shutout ball and allowing just two hits and a walk.

A.J. Burnett had a very good start. As mentioned, he was perfect through 3.2 IP, and would have been perfect through four had he been given the benefit of a borderline call on a 2-2 fastball to Josh Hamilton that MLB Gameday appears to indicate as a strike. Instead, Hamilton drew a two out walk, and the wheels came off from there. Another walk, to Nelson Cruz, followed, and then Ian Kinsler hit his first of two home runs on the day to give Texas a lead they would never relinquesh.

Burnett fanned a season high 12. He allowed only two hits and three walks. But he was victimized by the long ball. The Kinsler long ball accounted for all three runs given up by Burnett and it was enough to do him in.

Unlike their Texas counterparts, the Yankee bullpen didn't offer much relief. Thanks to all the stirkeouts, Burnett's pitch count grew rapidly, and as a result he was through after six. Phil Coke came on for the seventh and continued his recent trend of poor outings. The first three batters he faced yielded a ground rule double, a bunt single on a ball Coke himself misplayed, and another three run homer.

After getting two outs, Coke gave way to David Robertson, who has been quite reliable of late. D-Rob closed out the seventh and got two quick outs in the eighth before giving up Kinsler's second longball of the day. The only remote silver lining was a perfect ninth from a struggling Alfredo Aceves. All told, the Yankee pen allowed four base runners in three innings of work, and as a result of the homeruns, all four scored.

Another disturbing part of today's game was the Yankees' continuing penchant for giving up two out runs. Of the seven runs plated by Texas today, four came with two outs. Perhaps in an effort to actually let Phil Hughes pitch every so often, the Yankees can start using him to get the third out of each inning and stash him elsewhere in the field the rest of the time.

Once again, it's tough to complain. On the whole, the Yankees are still in good shape. They're not going to win every game. But I have a hard time stomaching a loss where they beat themselves rather than getting beat by the opponent. Still, it's only the second series the Yankees have lost since the All-Star break. They get chance to avenge the first starting tomorrow when the White Sox come to town. We'll see you then.

(Photos)

Game 127: Rangers At Yankees Live Chat

Game 127: Life Without You

After A.J. Burnett got touched up in Boston on June 9th, he tore off a run of eleven quality starts in twelve outings, a run that a hit a big road bump last Saturday, once again in a start at Fenway Park. This afternoon Burnett gets his first start since then, and I'm hoping that he'll kick up another string of outings like the one that followed his last Boston Massacre.

If Burnett's two previous starts against Texas this year are any indication, he has a good chance a starting another run today. Burnett made consecutive starts against the Rangers in late May and early June, going 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA over 13 innings of work in which he allowed 11 hits, 5 walks, and struck out 15. The June start was the one in which he earned a six game suspension, later reduced to five games, for retaliating on behalf of Mark Teixeira by doing a little head hunting against Nelson Cruz.

Six foot seven righty Dustin Nippert gets the nod for the Rangers. Nippert has never faced the Yankees and was on the DL until July this year, missing the first two series between these teams. Entering the season with a 6.42 ERA (70 ERA+) through 141.2 IP over parts of four Major League seasons, Nippert seems to have figured it out a bit better in 2009. In eleven appearances, seven starts, Nippert has a 3.95 ERA (114 ERA+) that's more than a run and a half better than any of his previous seasons. His peripherals suggest he's closer to league average than his ERA indicates, but this season could mark a turning point in his career. He'll battle a fellow West Virginian whenever Nick Swisher steps into the box today. Cue the dueling banjos.

With today being a day game after a night game, Joe Girardi hinted during yesterday's pre-game that Jorge Posada would have today off. Given that today is Burnett's first start since last Saturday's disaster, that news only served as further fuel to the media-driven fire that Posada can't call a good game and doesn't work well with the pitchers. Why this has been a recurring storyline over the course of the season, I cannot figure.

While Posada certainly won't go down in history as one of the game's greatest defensive catchers or most astute game callers, the guy isn't a liability behind the plate. Oh, that and he's carved out a borderline Hall of Fame career with his bat, and that's more than compensated for any defensive short comings, real or imagined. Just last year the Yankees caught a glimpse of life without Posada, and it wasn't a pretty experience. Has everyone forgotten about that already? The aggravation of a nagging finger inury last night will keep Posada out of the line up today. The Yankees, and their fans, had better hope that it doesn't sideline Posada for any extended periods down the stretch. They're not nearly as good without him.

Don't forget to come back at game time for our Fack Youk Live Game Chat.

With any luck, today will mark the last in string of death remembrance postings I've made this month. When the Yankees and Rangers had their first series this season, we chose Texas guitar slinger Stevie Ray Vaughan for one of the games. Today, on the nineteenth anniversary of his death, we'll go back to one of the most gifted musicians ever to put a guitar strap over his shoulder. SRV had put his personal demons to rest and had been playing with renewed purpose when he boarded a helicopter shortly after midnight on August 27, 1990. Taking off in a fog, the chopper failed to climb to a sufficient altitude during takeoff, and crashed into a nearby hillside. No one on board survived. Vaughan had written "Life Without You" as a tribute to a deceased friend, but after his own untimely death, it became like a self-penned elegy.



Oh now baby, tell me how have you been
We all have missed you, and the way you grin
The day is necessary, every now and then
For souls to move on, giving life back again, and again
Fly on, fly on. Fly on my friend
Go on, live again. Love again.

Live Chat Reminder

Hey fans! Love the Yankees and are looking for a good way to follow along with the game during the work day? Well come on over to Fack Youk at 1:00 and take part in our live chat! We'll be pulling in the Twitter feeds from some the local beat reporters and adding our own snarky commentary and the occasional screen grab as well.

Stop by and destroy your productivity at work!

OMG OMG OMG OMG... Is Derek Jeter... ENGAGED...?!?!

Here's something to counterbalance the overt nerdiness in the last post...

Are Jeter an Minka Kelly going to get married after this season?!?!?!?111?!?1
Derek and Minka are secretly engaged," an insider told Page Six. The Yankee captain and the actress are telling close pals to "save the date" for nuptials in the fall. "The wedding is being planned and will take place after baseball season is over," said our source. A rep for Kelly said, "There is no fall wedding planned to Derek Jeter."
Well, that kind of sounds like a "no", but it's an awfully specific denial, don't you think? The kind where they could easily point to it afterwards and say, we didn't lie, it was a "ceremony". Or if it takes place in the Southern Hemisphere they could deny that it was during the fall. Page Six also breathlessly points out that Kelly denied that they were even dating when they were spotted together last year. Apparently she hasn't been spotted with a ring?

I've talked to several people sources this morning who thought Jeter might never get married and just continue to pluck women out of the top .000001% of society, like Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Gabrielle Union, Mariah Carey (before she went insane), and the other assorted women you've never heard of but are probably incomprehensibly hot, for the rest of his life. But the guy is 35 and is dating perhaps the most beautiful woman possible. Maybe he's thinking about starting a family and doesn't want to wait too long. He is building a gigantic new house, you know...

Sidenote: During the course of "researching" this post, I came across this slide show on the Post's website. Take a look. One would assume that since Minka Kelly plays a high school cheerleader on TV and Kate Hudson has been in romantic comedies for what seems like 10 years that they'd be fairly far apart in age. One would be wrong. Kelly is 29 and only a year younger than Hudson. Who knew?

Disclaimer: Fack Youk apologizes for the trashy, tabloid nature of this post, but we haven't used the "attractive females" tag since the beginning of May we were risking the loss of our status as a sports blog. And we'll probably get some pageviews from Google searches. We hope you understand.

When Is A Slump A Slump?

Good morning, Fackers. Yes, I just made a Geology picture "joke". Doc Nardacci would be so proud... Now get ready for some logarithms! WAKE UP!

Over at the Freakonomics blog at the NYT, they used some statistics to propose a more solid definition for what actually consititues a slump (or any streak with an absence of a certain event) using A-Rod as an example (h/t BBTF):
It occurred to me that it would be pretty easy to derive a statistical standard for determining when an athlete was having a “statistically significant slump.” For example, Alex Rodriguez recently went through a homerless drought of 72 at-bats. Over his career, A-Rod has averaged one homer for every 14.2 at bats — suggesting there is about a 93 percent chance that he will not homer on any individual at bat. It would be crazy to say that he was in a home-run slump after failing to homer after just a few at bats. But the question is how many homer-less at bats is enough to be a statistically significant drought?

The answer is 42. There is less than a 5 percent chance that Rodriguez would go homerless 42 times in a row — so we can reject the hypothesis (at a 5 percent level of statistical significance) that he is going homer-less merely as a matter of chance.
They are essentially drawing the line at a 95% confindence interval (2 standard deviations), but you can set your own parameters by altering the simple formula:
Total consecutive number of bad events > log(.05)/log(probability of single bad event)
It's a little more difficult because you have to play around with it to find the right number, but you can also figure out what the likelihood of A-Rod going on a 72 at bat homerless streak (beginning in his next at bat) would be. It's about one half of one percent.

Using this method, we can determining the (im)probability that Derek Jeter would go 113 plate appearances without working a walk like he did from July 28th to August 25th. In 9656 career PAs, Jeter has walked 863 times, giving him a walk rate about approximately 8.9%. This makes the odds of him going that long without a base on balls 0.0025% or 1 in 4,000.

Fun stuff, huh? No? Well at least it gives you a way, numerically, to prove that Tim McCarver is an idiot. You're welcome.

Nine More Runs, One More Win


One of the major reasons that the Yankees are a blistering 27-10 since the All-Star Break is that when they've been knocked down, they haven't stayed on the mat for very long. They lost multiple games in a row only twice during that stretch and it seems as though they've been much more likely to answer a score by an opponent with one of their own in the next half of the inning. After losing a tough game on Tuesday night, they Yanks roared back, starting in the second inning with a three run homer by Jorge Posada.

Posada also helped guide Andy Pettitte through the potent Rangers line up with relative ease after escaping a first inning jam via a Pudge Rodriguez double play. Former Red Sox farmhand David Murphy drove in the only two Rangers runs on the night, one on a double in the fifth inning and the other on a two out, solo shot off of Pettitte in the 7th. That homer was the first in six starts for Pettitte, a factor which has certainly contributed to his impressive recent performances.

After the homer by Murphy, Andy settled down and got Elvis Andrus swinging for his 7th K of the night and the offense backed him up with a 5 run rally in the bottom half of the inning, complete with a bunt base hit by Melky Cabrera and an RBI double by Nick Swisher. Apparently it was the batting order that was the problem on Tuesday.

The one unfortunate development in this game for the Yanks was that Posada had to be taken out in the 8th inning after being hit with a foul ball on his left ring finger. X-Rays were negative and he's day to day. Since tomorrow's game is a matinee (live chat, y'all!) he was scheduled for a rest anyway.

After the game, Pettitte had some compliments for his nicked up teammate, saying "Jorgie called a great game". Whether it was intended to quiet the questioning of Posada's game-calling abilities that cropped up after Saturday's drubbing in Boston or not, it was a true statement. Or at least that's how it sounded after Pettitte allowed 8 baserunners in 7 innings, struck out 7 and allowed two runs. The only two hits for extra bases went to Murphy. It was plenty good enough for the win as the offense put up 9 runs once again, but this time in a winning effort.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Game 126: I Shall Return

After a brief an unexpected absence yesterday, I've made my return to Fack Youk. Sorry for the lack of content yesterday. Knowing Jay wasn't going to be around, I had a few things I had intended to post over the course of the day, but life had other plans for me. I hope you Fackers found other ways to kill time over the course of your work day.

Andy Pettitte returns to the mound tonight after a disappointing start in Boston last Friday. While he did record the win, Pettitte pitched poorly despite being handed a 12-1 lead. I'm all for challenging hitters a bit more when playing with lead that large, but there's a fine line between challenging hitters and getting sloppy with a big lead. I'm not suggesting Pettitte intentionally brought the Sox back into the game, but any start that necessitates two innings of "relief" from Sergio Mitre cannot be considered a success. That said, it was the first remotely poor start Pettitte has had since the All-Star Break. Perhaps he was due for a clunker, and there's no better night to have one of those than when your offense puts up twenty runs.

Even with the poor start last Friday, Pettitte is 2-1 with a 2.82 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and .233/.282/.310 batting line since the All-Star Break. Last Friday might have been a cheap win for him, but he's had four tough luck no decisions in that span. Pettitte has faced the Rangers once previously this season, taking the loss against Bizarro Kramer on June 3rd, giving up four runs and thirteen baserunners in five innings of work.

Texas counters with rookie southpaw Derek Holland. Holland got touched up by the Yanks on May 27th, to the tune of ten hits and five earned runs in five innings of work. He made a relief appearance at the Stadium on June 2nd, and they got him for two more runs in an inning and a third. He's surrendered three Yankee home runs in 6.1 IP. He's been excellent in four of his last five starts, going 4-1 with a 1.82 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and .189/.238/.303 batting line. I'm hoping that the recent Holland disappears tonight and the one who faced the Yankees earlier this year returns.

Johnny Damon gets the night off, with Jerry Hairston Jr. getting the start in left field. Nick Swisher slides up the two spot in the order. Maybe he'll have the opportunity to show his bunting prowess again tonight.

Gov't Mule bassist and founding member Allen Woody died nine years ago today. We've featured the band twice already this month, including just last Saturday when Jay chose "On the Banks of the Deep End" for the preview. That song was Warren Haynes' tribute to his fallen bandmate. In the years since Woody's death, Gov't Mule reached great heights, now ranking amongst the upper echelon of the "jamband" scene. In a sick way, Woody's passing is partially responsible for that. The void left by his death led to the high profile Deep End projects, which saw the band play with a host of music's top bassists. In the aftermath of Woody's death, Warren Haynes made a return to the Allman Brothers Band - where he and Woody had first played together more than a decade earlier - and also played a three year stint with Phil Lesh. These things greatly raised the exposure level of Haynes, and by extension, Gov't Mule. Mule was an outstanding band in Woody's days, but we'll never how the band's future would have played out had he not met an untimely end.

Here's a classic Gov't Mule performance from the Allen Woody era. Dose was certainly the best Mule album from Woody's time with the band, and is arguably still the best that Mule has put out. The album's closer is the beautiful "I Shall Return". I hope Pettite returns to form and the Yankees return to the win column tonight.



But I shall return, though I'm losing myself.
I shall return.

Factual Inaccuracy Of The Day

At the risk of BaDH, here's one loose end from last night's infamous bunt that I didn't tie up earlier. From the Post (emphasis mine):
"We're trying to get the tying run to third base," Girardi said. "Nick's been a good bunter for us all year and unfortunately he popped it up tonight."
Really, Joe? Has he? Because he's hardly been a bunter at all during the rest of his career.

Including last night's botched attempt, Swisher has been asked to sacrifice bunt 4 times 471 plate appearances this year. In the other 2512 PAs in his career, he has completed 4 successfully. For some odd reason Joe Girardi has asked Swish to bunt at over 5 times the frequency of his previous managers. Perhaps his Ken Macha, Bob Geren and Ozzie Guillen were a little more realistic about his ability to get one down.

The only players who have been asked to bunt as much or more than Swisher this season are Francisco Cervelli, Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner, all of who have an OPS of roughly 100 points lower or more than Swish.

Using his averages from this year (which are very close to his career norms), there was a roughly 20-25% chance he could have won or tied the game with a hit and a 37% chance he could have at least moved the runner to third without using an out. Sure, there was a strong chance he left the Yanks in the same situation they found themselves in after he popped it up to Michael Young, but at least there was some upside to letting him swing. He might have advanced the runners anyway. If Jose Molina or Frankie Cervelli or Brett Gardner was up, it would have been a close decision. But not with a guy with 21 HRs and a .368 OBP is at the plate.

Joe Girardi just wanted to exert his influence and try to alter the outcome of the game like he so often does without a very good reason. Unfortunately for the team and it's fans, it backfired once again.

You Knew It Was Coming...

Right on cue this morning, the the legendary typing 'stache at the New York Daily News is rushing to draw lines through one poor performance by Joba Chamberlain which extend in all directions into infinity:
Nine runs should be enough to win any major league game. But Chamberlain was Ollie Perez-like last night, which is to say he was awful. On those eight days' rest, he reverted to early-season form and lost command of his pitches. There was little consistency to his failure, nothing but sheer randomness to his location. At times, he was too fine and walked three batters. Other times he threw the ball over the plate and wished for the best.

>8

Like most pitchers, he would do better with a more consistent routine. The Yankees may have to make that admission sooner than later, if Chamberlain is going to rediscover his mojo in time for the playoffs. That might mean stretching or ignoring a few Joba Rules.
There are so many things so fantastically wrongheaded about these two paragraphs, it's almost impressive in it's scope.

First and perhaps most egregiously, Filip Bondy appears to be unaware that since two teams play in a baseball game, if one of them gives up 9 runs, then by definition 9 of their own runs won't be enough to win the game. He has also evidently forgotten the other 16 times this season that the Yanks have allowed 9 or more runs.

"Oliver Perez-like"? How about "Joba Chamberlain-like", because this is exactly the type of start that he's been plagued by all year (short and inefficient) and it has nothing to do with the number of off days in between his starts.

Filip, he didn't pitch well. I'll give you that. But how would it have been any better if there was "consistency to his failure"? He walked guys AND gave up hits? This should never happen!

And I don't want to hear about the 8 days of rest. The last time Joba pitched with that much time off was after the All-Star break and he put together an excellent start against the Tigers. How does Bondy know that Joba would "do better with a more consistent routine"? He has had 6 starts lasting fewer than 5 innings this season (not including the one against Baltimore when he was removed for an injury) and all but one of them have come on the regular 4 days of rest.

Due to one bad start, the Yankees should ditch their plan to conserve Joba's innings? Are you flipping serious, Filip? I know you get paid to overreact to all things NY sports via the written word, but can you look at the big picture for just a moment?

Here are some things relevant to this situation that the Yankees should be concerned about, listed in descending importance.
  1. Joba Chamberlain's short and long term health as it relates to him being a productive starting pitcher
  2. His performance this postseason
  3. His performance during the rest of the regular season
The Yankees are going to make the postseason with or without a solid contribution from Joba Chamberlain the rest of the way. It would be great if he were to ace every one of his starts from here on out, but it's really not that important. They need him to be ready to pitch in the postseason and most importantly they need him to be healthy over the long haul.

No one knows for sure what course of action will be best for #2 on that list, but nearly all rational thought devoted to keeping young pitchers healthy has concluded that taking a conservative approach to the number of innings pitched has the best chance of addressing #1. If you're going to be frustrated with someone, choose Joba. He's got to pitch better, regardless of how many days he's given off.