Saturday, June 6, 2009

Yankees Games To Be Shown Online, In-Market

Not via, though. From Neil Best, via the Sports Business Journal:
The New York Yankees will become the first MLB team to have its games streamed live online within its home market, thanks to a landmark carriage deal YES Network signed with Cablevision earlier this spring.

The streamed games will begin later this season and will be available via subscription to Cablevision’s TV and broadband customers who subscribe to a tier that carries the YES Network, according to several baseball and cable industry sources.


The pact also marks the first major effort within baseball for in-market streaming — an issue that has troubled the industry for years. Several clubs that hold equity interest in regional sports networks, such as the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles, have pressed for in-market streaming to complement MLB.TV’s out-of-market online video package.
Even if you don't have Cablevision, this is interesting news. Although three-way negotiations are rarely simple, I've never understood why teams, networks and the MLB couldn't agree on a revenue split for streaming the games over the internet. It's a legitimate untapped resource. Especially during day games, there are lots of people trapped at work who would love to be able to watch the game but have no access to a TV. Provided the commercials are still present during the broadcast, more eyes means more money, right?

Kudos to the Yankees and Cablevision for finally ironing this out. It seems inevitable that this will move beyond just Cablevision and just NYC to larger cable companies and throughout the MLB.

And It Was All Downhill From There...

Due to the magic of FanGraph's WPA charts, we can see exactly where it started going South for the Yanks. They had a 75% chance of winning the game entering the 5th inning, but unfortunately it would never get any higher than that.

Early in the game for the Yanks, the offense was entirely ignited by A-Rod. After going homerless over his last 43 at-bats, he smashed the first pitch of the second inning from David Price into the home bullpen.

During the broadcast, David Cone said he talked to Joe Maddon about moving Price, who had great success coming out of the bullpen at the end of last season, back there at any point. Maddon responded that there was never any thought, as he was simply too valuable in the rotation. Although he wasn't efficient today, it was still obvious why the Rays were of that opinion. I wonder how many fans in Tampa are clamoring for him to go back to the 'pen.

The Yanks did their best to escalate Price's pitch count and chase him from the game. With the score still 1-0 in the 4th inning, A-Rod worked a one out, 7 pitch walk . With Posada at the plate, A-Rod got a great jump and took off for second. Dioner Navarro's throw sailed into CF (his second throwing error to that point), and allowed Alex to take third easily. With the infield in, Cano hit a sharp grounder to third, which A-Rod again got a good jump on and Willie Aybar was forced to take the out at first. 2-0 Yanks.

The Rays got to Sabathia in the top of the 5th. Ben Zobrist led off with a homer to left. Joe Dillon followed with what should have a been a single, but ended up standing on third after Johnny Damon threw ball away over Cano's head for no apparent reason since Dillion wasn't going for second. Dillion scored on a sac fly by Navarro and the Rays were right back in the contest.

The third run of the day for the Yanks came on yet another throwing error by Navarro (there were a total of six errors in the game). Melky Cabrera doubled to start off the fifth, and was advanced to third by a Francisco Cervelli sac bunt. Navarro attempted a snap throw to third from his knees, but it bounced past Aybar, and Melky scored easily. Sliding back to the bag, though, the back of Carbera's neck met Aybar's shin. On the way to the plate, he held his hand to the area behind his right ear, but remained in the game.

In a matter of three batters in the sixth inning, the game turned dramatically. After a walk by B.J. Upton and a single by Carl Crawford, Willy Aybar deposited one into the left-centerfield seats to put the Rays up 5-3. It was a bit of a shocker, as CC had been in control for much of the outing.

Price took the mound to start the sixth, but was removed with two outs after having already thrown 105 pitches. Despite only 53 going for strikes, he was in line for the win. The Rays held the Yanks down for the next two innings, but that would change in the bottom of the eighth.

Mark Teixeira left off the inning against Grant Balfour and uncorked a blast as close to we have seen to reaching the upper deck in right field which put the Yanks within one. A-Rod was up next, worked a full count but popped out. Then Posada, Cano, and Swisher all reached base on a walk, a single and a walk. This set the stage, once again, for Melky Cabrera, the resident clutchologist. He grounded into was what very nearly an inning ending double play, but edged the throw at first. Replays showed it was basically a dead heat, so Melky was lucky to get the call and the Yankees to tie the game.

All the while CC Sabathia lay in wait. He was bailed out of a B.J. Upton walk by a caught stealing in the 7th and needed only 8 pitches to work through the eighth, leaving him at 101 for the day. Entering the ninth inning, I felt that Girardi should have left Sabathia in (I sent a message to our Joe on GChat, for the record). Instead, he went with "the book" which dictates a manager bring in his closer in a tie game in the ninth inning at home.

Despite allowing 5 runs, Sabathia had pitched reasonably well. He had only allowed 5 hits and smoothly maneuvered through the 7th and 8th. He could have been left in a batter by batter basis with Mo ready to be deployed from the bullpen.

Alas, Girardi did not, and Mo gave up a triple that died at the outfield fence to Ben Zobrist who scored on a single by Joe Dillon in the next at bat. That unlikely duo combined to score four of Tampa's runs after a two out single to B.J. Upton. It was Mo's worst outing of the year (3ER, 2/3IP), nudging out another game against the Rays on May 7th, during which he allowed back to back home runs to Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton, the only other time this year he did not complete at least one inning. Two inherited runners scored on Phil Coke's watch and by the time three outs were recorded, four men had come to the plate. For what it's worth, 6 of the 9 runs Mariano has allowed this year have come in non-save situations.

The Yanks would not go quietly in the bottom of the ninth. Jeter led off with a single which Johnny Damon followed with a double over the head of B.J. Upton in center. Big Teix mashed a double in the right field gap off of Dan Wheeler, which scored two and brought up A-Rod as the tying run with no one out. Alex grounded out without advancing the runner and passed the buck to Posada. Jorge saw 8 pitches (2 strikes that were visibly below his knees) from Wheeler before lacing a liner right at B.J. Upton who was positioned in deep center. Joe Maddon used his sixth pitcher of the game, former Yankee Randy Choate, to get the last out against Cano. Robby alos worked a full count and lined out to Upton, who momentarily look like he misplayed it.

The ninth inning lasted a cool 47 minutes, but the game wrapped up at 4:44, which should leave Matt enough time to hit up that OTB on the way back home from the Bronx.

Game 55 Redux: Day At The Dog Horse Races

Let's try this again. After getting washed out yesterday, the Yanks and Rays will kick off their series today when the weather will be much nicer. From a strictly selfish standpoint, I was somewhat happy that last night's game was called early. I had tickets for last night, and will be there today as well, so the last thing I wanted to do was drive in the rain and NYC traffic during Friday rush hour, pay $19 to park, then get rained out or have a game last until 1 AM, then drive home and do it again in the morning. I'm not at all complaining about going to games, but that would have been less than ideal. I've sat through a ton of rain delays the last few years it seems. The early cancellation saved me some driving.

Switching gears for a second, today is also the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of horse racing's Triple Crown. The Sport of Kings was once amongst the most popular sports, if not the most popular sport, in America. I'm by no means a horse racing fan or expert, but I love watching the Triple Crown races, the most exciting two minutes in sports. I'm not really even a gambler; I'm just intrigued. I like watching a one ton animal move that fast. I like watching the drunken spectators go nuts. I like laughing at how funny the jockeys talk before they return home to their gorgeous wives. I like the possibility that something horrific may happen. 2007 was Barbaro; 2008 was Eight Belles; we're running out of time for this year.

The Yankees recently had several loose connections to the world of horse racing. Joe Torre, Don Zimmer, and Jim Kaat all dig the ponies. Hank Steinbrenner has been very involved in the family's thoroughbred business. Torre, Zim, and Kaat are all gone from the Bronx now, and Hank thankfully appears to be under some sort of gag order, so today I'll be your Yankee horse racing expert. Pick Mine that Bird. It's a no brainer. As of this writing he's going off at 2 to 1, but it doesn't matter if it's not a high profitability bet. I don't see anyway he loses this race. He put on a show at the Derby, and if the Preakness were two lengths longer he would have overtaken Rachel Alexandra, who isn't even running today.

Given the relatively weak field and Mine that Bird's knack for coming off the pace, I just see no way he loses. At a mile and a half, The Belmont is the most grueling leg of the Triple Crown. Many a good horse has fallen victim on its home stretch. After leading most of the race, Real Quiet lost the Triple Crown to Victory Gallop by a nose at the wire in 1998. In 1973 Secretariat won by an astounding 31 lengths in a record 2:24, one of the dominating performance in racing history if not all of sports. You couldn't even see another horse when he crossed the finish line. I don't think Mine that Bird will equal that, but I don't expect the rest of the field to even be close to him.

The aforementioned 1998 race is the closest I've come to seeing that elusive Triple Crown. We won't see it this year either as Mine that Bird and Rachel Alexandra split the first two legs. But, in an unorthodox, if not unprecedented, fashion, jockey Calvin Borel (a jockey since the tender age of 8) won both races. With Rachel Alexandra out today, Borel is back on Mine that Bird and has the chance to win the Triple Crown as a jockey. I hope he does it, and you should too if only to listen to his ridiculously amusing Cajun accent during his post-victory interview. I'll likely be driving home at post time, but I'm thinking of stopping at the OTB on the NY-CT border to watch the race. As I found out on Derby Day, horse racing does not translate well to radio.

Back to baseball. The Yanks and Rays send two thoroughbreds to the mound today in CC Sabathia and David Price. It seems as if the Yankees have had many of these lefty-lefty match-ups already this year. Price is the consensus top pitching prospect in baseball. Since making his Big League debut against the Yankees last September 14th he's been lights out, posting a 2.35 ERA and 29 K over his first 23 innings. The Rays really should have him pitching the eighth inning.

CC has been cruising of late, so this should be a good pitchers duel. CC hasn't pitched in a week due to Wang rejoining the rotation and yesterday's rainout, which is a bit concerning, but the big fella should be alright.

Meanwhile last year's Cinderella team is turning into a pumpkin, playing .500 ball and in fourth place. Dioner Navarro, B.J. Upton, and Andy Sonnanstine are all struggling. The double play combo of Aki Iwamura and Jason Bartlett is on the DL, with Iwamura out for the year. Pat Burrell, Scott Kazmir and Troy Percival are also on the DL and all have been brutal while healthy. And unfortunately Eliot Johnson is in AAA Durham, so there will be no revenge for Frankie Cervelli this weekend.

Once again, I'll be at the game, but for those of you watching on TV, don't be looking for Kim Jones on the pre-game. She'll be on Long Island, getting ready to break from Gate 11 sometime around 6:27.

In honor of today's day at the races here's some vintage Lowell George era Little Feat and "Day at the Dog Races". I highly recommend you listen to some Feat and I strongly suggest you don't listen to anything from after Lowell died. Since this one's an instrumental, there will be no lyrics today. Enjoy.

First Third Projections - Pitching

[With the completion of Game 54 on Thursday, the regular season is exactly one third over. The sample sizes are getting larger by the day, and it's now getting to the point where it's not exactly too early to be making any assessments.

We can't draw any firm conclusions, but now seems as good a point as any to take a look at some projections. We've done two things here: first we've taken statistics from the first third of the season and done a simple extrapolation for a full season. Below that, we've taken ZIPS (Updated) projections from the awesome FanGraphs. This is easily the better predictor of the two, as it takes into account what each player has already done this year as well as historical performance to project what the end of season numbers will look like.

Matt examined the offense earlier. Below are the five starters and three relievers who warrant comparisons to their projections. We excluded Brain Bruney, Edwar Ramirez and Damaso Marte since their returns are yet to be determined. We didn't look at Chien Ming Wang because his extrapolated numbers project him to give up 90 runs in 12 starts.]

(Click on any chart for a larger view)

A 3.46 ERA isn't gaudy by any means, but after stumbling out of the gate CC Sabathia has certainly settled down. He's won four out of his last five starts and threw 8 innings of three run ball in the one he didn't. CC's K's are down and walks are up from his career norms, but both of those stats are trending in the right direction. ZIPS has a more favorable projection than the extrapolations and my gut feeling even is a little more bullish than the ZIPS.

Two complaints with Joba's numbers: He's walking 4.6/9IP and only lasting about 5 2/3 IP per start. These two things are both influenced and counterbalanced by Joba registering nearly one strikeout per inning. He gets deep in the count looking for the put-away pitch, driving up his pitch count and giving out some free passes, but can neutralize threats by tallying K's. This explains how he can simultaneously sport a 1.44WHIP and a 3.71ERA. His start on June 1st showed huge steps forward in both of these departments (8IP, 2BB).

Like Joba, Andy Pettitte's WHIP is predictive of a much higher ERA. Unlike his young rotation mate, it's not as easy to explain. Pettitte is giving up comfortably more than a hit per inning and walking nearly 4 per 9. His strikeout rate isn't high and he's only induced 4 double play balls. The answer lies in the fact that of Pettitte's 77 hits, 55 have been singles. He's always had an uncanny knack for allowing baserunners and not giving up many extra base hits goes a long way towards limiting the damage.

It's the 11 long balls allowed, the grand slam to Jason Varitek in particular, that have inflated A.J. Burnett's ERA. The walk rate is fairly high but he's still striking out twice as many as he is giving a free pass to. The ZIPS projection has AJ's ERA coming back down, but assumes that he will make three fewer starts than he is on pace to and toss about twenty fewer innings. That would be the equivalent of roughly one stint on the DL, which wouldn't be too shocking, given his injury history.

Hughes has already thrown more big league innings than he did all of last year, with a lower ERA, so does this classify as a step forward? He's won three games (0 last year) and has strong K/9. The thing that is killing Phil, just like Burnett, is his HR rate. Allowing a HR roughly once per five innings is too high for a Major League starter. He'll be back in the rotation at some point, but it will be interesting to see how he looks out of the 'pen.

Mo gave up three runs in April, three runs in May and is now sitting awfully close to his career ERA of 2.29. He's walked one batter in 22 innings while striking out 28. He's picked up 12 saves thus far, on pace for 36. His career average? 38. The man machine is a model of consistency in a role where such steadiness, especially over the long term, is incredibly tough to find. Cherish Mo.

For some reason, the ZIPS for Phil Coke predict him making 10 starts, which is rather curious considering he's no better than the Yankees 9th or 10th option within the organization. This is lone example of where our predictions might be more relevant than the ZIPS. A 1.14 WHIP should be good for a better ERA than 4.50, but forgive me if this sounds redundant... he gives up too many homers (5 in 22IP). Once that rate declines, so will his ERA. The bad news is that 4 of those knocks came in May, not exactly an indicator that the ratio is headed in the right direction.

Okay, last but not least... Oop, no, he's actually least as well. Jose Veras. Here's the good news - He's giving up fewer than one hit per inning! Here's the bad news - Everything else. In 22 IP, he's allowed 14BB, 16ER, 3HBP and 4HR. If he didn't throw 96mph he would have been DFA'd a long time ago. ZIPS thinks his ERA will come back down, which it had better, provided he has any interest in remaining a member of the Yankees.


And finally, no extrapolation needed for this one, a look at the starting staff and the bullpen as whole units.
Both Matt and I were initially surprised that the bullpen had an ERA that was close to as good as the starting rotation's. But it makes sense when you consider Chien Ming Wang has given up 30 runs in 18 2/3 innings and Mo is always back there keeping the bullpen's number down. Relievers are both walking and striking out more per nine innings but starters are allowing more hits, partially due to a .37 difference in BABIP.

The most surprising discrepancy between the two (highlighted on the far right on the chart) was that relievers have given up nearly as many HR as starters (35 to 39) in only 54% of the IP (171 to 316). That's a pretty huge disparity, and a ratio for relievers (1.84/9IP) that should come back down to earth eventually.

First Third Projections - Hitting

[With the completion of Game 54 on Thursday, the regular season is exactly one third over. The sample sizes are getting larger by the day, and it's now getting to the point where it's not exactly too early to be making any assessments.

We can't draw any firm conclusions, but now seems as good a point as any to take a look at some projections. We've done two things here: first we've taken statistics from the first third of the season and done a simple extrapolation for a full season. Below that, we've taken ZIPS (Updated) projections from the awesome FanGraphs. This is easily the better predictor of the two, as it takes into account what each player has already done this year as well as historical performance to project what the end of season numbers will look like.

Here are the 10 most prominent Yankee hitters. For the extrapolation part, adjustments were made to both Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez to account for the time both lost to injury. Jay will be back later with pitchers.]

(Click on any chart for a larger view)

Following off-season shoulder surgery, Jorge Posada was perhaps the biggest concern entering the season. His shoulder has been just fine; it was his hamstring that put him on the shelf for a month. When healthy he's been better than can be expected, especially for a 37 year old catcher. ZIPS projects him to fall off from his current torrid pace, but the .921 OPS would be the 4th best of his career.

Teixeira had an awful, awful April followed by an unbelievable May. As such, he's leveled out, and both his extrapolation and ZIPS leave him just about where you'd expect him to be for a full season. ZIPS predicts the power numbers will drop off a bit.

Cano has rebounded nicely from a very poor 2008. Though he's dropped off a bit from his hot start, he still looks likely to finish in a good spot. His refusal to take a walk still dogs him though, as his OBP is slightly below league average despite being a .300 hitter. It is also well below his 2006-2007 numbers. If Cano doesn't improve his walk rate he will continue to be entirely reliant upon his hitting for his offensive value. As such, it'd be nicer to see him in the .320 - .330 range.

Those are good numbers for a 162 game season, nevermind from someone who missed the first month plus. ZIPS sees the AVG getting back up to a more A-Rod like level, and there's no reason to believe that it won't.

It's been a bit of a renaissance for the Captain this year as his line looks good. As it does for others, ZIPS sees his power dropping off from its current pace, but 16 HRs would still be his highest total since 2005. It's interesting to note that despite getting on base at a good clip as the leadoff hitter for a potent offense, Jeter is not a lock for 100 runs.

Hideki Matsui is the streakiest player I've ever seen. Already this season he's been through about two cycles of looking like crap followed by catching fire. ZIPS projects more of the latter the rest of the way and I hope it's right. This is almost certainly Matsui's last hurrah in pinstripes and he deserves to go out on a high note.

Johnny Damon is in a contract year in he's playing like it. He's on pace for 33 HRs, though ZIPS projects a more realistic 23, one short of his career high set in 2006. The .851 OPS predicted by ZIPS would be the 4th highest of Damon's career and his best since 2004. If he can finish out that way I'd gladly give him one year or one plus an option.

Swish hit like Babe Ruth in April and like Ruth Bader Ginsburg in May. He's getting hot again of late. Both the extrapolation and ZIPS predict just about what you'd expect from Swish: slightly below average AVG, great OBP, and good power. I'll gladly take that.

I may not be 100% sold on Melky still, but after his disastrous 2008 I can't be anything but thrilled with his 2009 thus far. Whether it's for real remains to be seen, but he's rebounded nicely and has shown a flair for the dramatic with all his late inning heroics. ZIPS sees him coming back to earth a bit by season's end, but his projected AVG, SLG, and OPS would all be career highs. I'm a little surprised to see his projected OBP that low, but Melky has been taking fewer walks as this season has progressed. Like his buddy Cano, Melky would benefit greatly from more plate discipline. I'd love to see his OBP hold at its current .360 clip, the same mark he posted in 2006.

After a disastrous start that saw him lose the CF job to Melky, Gardner has come on strong of late. He has absolutely zero power, so in order for him to offer any real offensive value he's going to have to get on base at better than the league average rate that ZIPS projects, thereby allowing him to take full advantage of his speed. The problem is that the good OBP skills Gardner displayed in the minors haven't quite translated to MLB. When you're a rookie with no pop pitchers will challenge you, making it much harder to draw a free pass. That said, given his current role on the team, Gardner looks to be doing his job adequately.