Thursday, May 14, 2009

Game 34: Acadian Driftwood

It's not everyday you see a match-up of 6' 7" left-handed pitchers.

This will be the sixth start of the season for 31 year old Brain Tallet. In his three previous seasons as a Blue Jay, Tallet only only made one other start and you'd have to go all the way back to his time with Cleveland in 2003 to find another. He's been solid as a reliever for the Jays, especially last year, when he threw 56.1 innings to a 2.88 ERA, but the injuries to their staff this season forced him into the rotation on April 18th. For the time being, it looks like he's there to stay:
"They (management) do have to make a decision and it's tough to take him out of the rotation now," Jays manager Cito Gaston said of Tallet. "I'd like to have another lefty in the bullpen, but if he continues to pitch the way he has, there's no reason to take him out of the rotation."
His ERA sits at 4.95, but that is severely inflated by one hellacious outing against Kansas City during which he gave up 10 ER in 4 innings. Since then, he's lasted 7 innings in each of his two starts and allowed only 10 baserunners combined.

Of course, jumping the bump for the Yanks tonight will be CC Sabathia. When last seen, Sabathia was letting out a primal scream in Baltimore after throwing a complete game shutout to stop the Yankees' five game skid. They are 2-2 and since then. His second complete game of the year (the first in a losing effort) brought his ERA under 4.00 but CC's won-lost record is still 2-3. After issuing 14 walks in his first four starts, he has given up only 2 in his past three. It seems as though the Hefty Lefty (we can use that for him now that Jared Lorenzen is gone from the Giants, yes?) is starting to hit his stride. 

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As the Yanks head out of Canada and back to New York tonight, I thought it would be appropriate to bust out Acadian Driftwood by The Band. As is the case with some of their other songs, this one is based on historical events, even though the lyrics take some liberties at times. 

Acadia was a French Colony in Canada founded in 1604 which consisted of the modern-day Maritime Provinces, Eastern Quebec, and parts of New England. The colony changed hands numerous times, going from France to The Netherlands to England, back to France. In 1755, at the beginning of the Seven Years War, if Acadians did not swear allegiance to the English crown, they were forcefully deported throughout the American colonies. 

Robbie Robertson (a Toronto native) was the one who wrote the lyrics and did so from a first person historical narrative, similar to The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (except, unlike "Virgil Kane", the narrator is never named). The It's a pretty long song, but this article provides a thorough breakdown of the background behind it and an assessment of the historical validity of it line by line. 

video
Everlasting summer filled with ill-content,
This government had us walkin' in chains,
This isn't my turf,
This ain't my season,
Can't think of one good reason to remain.

[...]

Acadian driftwood,
Gypsy tail wind,
They call my home the land of snow,
Canadian cold front movin' in,
What a way to ride,
Ah, what a way to go.

OPS w/RISP

Over at Circling the Bases, Matthew Pouliot's stat of the day yesterday was team's OPS with runners in scoring position. Overall, the Yankees ranked 18th, but in realtion to the total OPS, they had the third largest lag in the league with .53, behind only the Diamondbacks and the Nationals (those numbers have obviously changed as of today).

I think as fans, we have all at a certain point been frustrated with the Yankees' recent inabilty to get "clutch" hits and drive runners home, so I decided to try and get some historical perspective on this. 

Using Baseball-Reference, I took it all the way back to 1989 and charted the team's OPS, OPS w/runners in scoring position and winning percentage.

Here are a few things that jumped out:
  • Between 1989 and 2007, there were only three years in which the team's OPS w/RISP was lower than the team's overall OPS. However, that was the case last year and is so far this season as well. Is this more than a small sample size fluke? Is it a trend developing? 

  • Total OPS has a fairly strong correlation to winning percentage, with the expection of this year. 

  • Take a look at the increase in total OPS from 89-94. Sure, the team was getting better winning percentage-wise, but can you think of another thing that was starting to happen throughout baseball at that time?  

  • Interestingly, the 2009 Yanks have almost the exact same OPS as the 1998 team (.817 to .818), however in '98 that number with runners in scoring position was .860 compared with .793 this year.

  • That .860 figure is not the highest on the list. That would be the .862 belonging to the 2002 Yankees, who scored almost 100 fewer runs that the '99 team due to a lower total OPS. 
Any other observations? 

Stick To The Script

Just like the one before, last night's game went according to the script. It seemed like a forgone conclusion that the Yankees would be dominated by Roy Halladay on Tuesday but some of us had doubts as to whether they would get to Scott Richmond. The 29 year old rookie fit the profile of a certain type of starter who have given the Yankees troubles in recent years. Facing minor league journeymen with limited scouting reports had already lead to a few losses this season.

As I sarcastically suggested last night, the bottom of the line-up actually did help the Yanks by triggering the rally in the 2nd inning that knocked Richmond out of the game. Brett Gardner hit his first home run in 222 Major League plate appearances and was followed by Ramiro Pena's first big league hit better than a double (a three-bagger). I think the look of of disbelief of Jeter's face in the shot above says it all (how much do you want to bet he was behind this?). Pena then scored on a triple by Johnny Damon and as the Yanks left the Jays in the dust. 

Andy Pettitte needed 106 pitches to trudge through his six innings, only 64 of which went for strikes. He allowed five hits, four walks and survived two fielding errors but held the Jays to only two runs, one earned. Aceves and Albalajedo combined for three innings of scoreless ball, with Albie inducing a game-ending double play ball in the bottom of the 9th with the base loaded.  

It wasn't the most captivating contest. You'd take the result twelve times out of ten, but after the Yanks established their lead, there were essentially no moments when it felt like the game was on the line. However, as always, there were a couple of funny/interesting occurrences worth highlighting via screenshot. 

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If you were watching the YES broadcast, I'm sure you noticed the guys in full umpire's gear mimicking the signals all along the way. You what's even sadder if you are a Yankees fan? They only paid $210 for their "Action Seats", (and they got to watch a first place team).

YES offered a poll via text message which asked if fans felt the Blue Jays were a playoff team:

What do you think YES Network viewers thought...

Pretty rich coming from Yankees fans, considering the team's current circumstances, but what did YES expect when they asked a dumb question like that? 

And I saw one of my favorite things in baseball... A hitter ducking out of the way for a breaking ball, which turns out to be a strike.
 
Albaladejo came extremely close to doing it again in the bottom of the ninth, but barely missed the called strike.