Thursday, June 18, 2009

Michael Kay Is One Sick Puppy

[Updated with video. H/t Crazy Yankee Chick]

I'm surprised I haven't seen this one pop up elsewhere on the interwebs today. Lost in the humiliation of losing to the Nationals last night was a pretty damn funny moment courtesy of Michael Kay.

With one on and two out in the top of the seventh, Phil Hughes faced Ryan Zimmerman. After falling behind 2-0, Hughes threw two straight fastballs to run the count to 3-1. In a fastball count, Hughes came back with a slider that Zimmerman either didn't expect or didn't like, as it he took it for strike two.

With the count full Zimmerman was looking fastball again. Hughes fooled him with a nasty, nasty curveball that completely froze Zimmerman, who promptly dropped his bat and helmet and started walking out towards third base. It was thing of beauty, reminiscient of this.

Michael Kay was so impressed that he forgot he was on the air and not at one his twisted sex parties. He commented: "Zimmerman was looking for heat all the way, but Phil Hughes dropped a deuce on him".

You are one sick bastard Michael Kay. That's not the family friendly image the YES Network is trying to project. Then again, neither is the nightly late inning Listerine pop-up ad that sounds like someone hitting a bong.

[Ed Note: Matt refuses to use Twitter, and I'm no Tweetmachine like our boy The_Real_Schiff, but I did catch this update from YESMichaelKay last night.

If you are on Twitter during Yankees games, I would highly recommend following "Michael", as the feed can be quite hilarious.

And yes, that Listerine ad sounds like a person hitting a bong, particularly because they don't say anything when it comes on. (Awkward silence...) (Bubbling...) David Cone, if you're out there, please just once intentionally miss the cough button coming out of that and start giggling uncontrollably. Thanks.

Juuuuuust Kidding!

A well oiled machine, that Yankee PR department!

The good news: More Mike Francesa!!!!

Probability of a Live Chat declining by the moment.

This sucks.

4:00 First Pitch (Live Chat Reminder)

That's what the tell me on Twitter, anyway.

Come by around that time for some good old fashioned newfangled live chattery.

Whither Wang?

Or perhaps given his performance this year, wither Wang?

As we wait out the rain, I'd like to take a look back on CMW's start last night and ponder what happens next. Well, we know what will happen next; he'll start against the Braves on Tuesday (where he'll have to bat and run - uh oh). But what after that?

Without question, last night's start was far and away the best Wang has made this year. Amongst his six starts, he set season highs last night in innings pitched (5) and Game Score (45), tied a season low in hits allowed (6), and set a season low in runs allowed (3). But even if it was his best, was it good?

Let's start with the good parts. For the first time this year, CMW made a start and gave his team a chance to win. 3 ER in 5 IP is not a Quality Start, nor should it be considered one, but he kept his team in the game while he was on the hill. He made it through 23 batters and 91 pitches, both season highs, and threw a respectable 59% of his pitches for strikes.

He induced ground balls like the old CMW, recording 10 of his 16 outs (one extra due to the wild pitch 3rd strike to Corey Patterson) on ground balls, including a doubleplay. Of the six hits he gave up, two were seeing-eye grounders just beyond the reach of Robinson Cano, and a third was a slow roller to A-Rod that resulted in a blown call at first. The triple allowed to Nick Johnson was well struck and just out of the reach of Melky Cabrera. One could make the argument that Melky's dive was ill-advised, and that had he laid up on the play he might have held Johnson to a double and potentially prevented Christian Guzman from scoring all the way from first.

Wang also struck out 4, just one short of his season high. Despite all his numerous failings this year, Wang has shown improvement in one area: strikeouts. His 4 Ks in 5 IP last night was right in line with his 2009 rate of 7.2 K/9, and is well ahead of his career average of 4.0 K/9 entering 2009. In general, sinkerballers pitch to contact and don't register many Ks, the main reason statheads are concerned about their ability to sustain success. If Wang's sinker continues to betray him, he'll need to miss bats to mitigate the damage.

As Jay mentioned in the recap, Wang was victimized by a bad call and a couple bad breaks. But such is life. Pitchers have to face things like that seemingly every start; Wang shouldn't be graded on a curve just because of his struggles this year. So what was bad about Wang's start last night?

First, he needed far too many pitches. He's likely still building arm strength given the way he's been used this year, so throwing pitches isn't necessarily a bad thing. It was good to see him cross the 90 pitch threshhold for the first time all year. But needing 91 pitches to get through 5 innings is not good, and is not what you want to see on a start by start basis. Wang is a guy that pitches to contact, so he shouldn't be going that deep into counts to begin with. The dropped ball on the would-be CS, the third strike wild pitch, and the blown call at first all cost Wang outs and resulted in extra pitches. But as I said above, these things happen. Even in the innings that he didn't have those issues he only once came in at the magic number of 15 pitches.

Secondly, he had problems with both his release point and his location. This is the big one, as it's been the root of his problems all year. In the first inning particularly, Wang left several sinkers up in the zone, including many that drifted horizontally over the heart of the plate rather than diving on a vertical plane. Posada also mimed an over-the-top motion to Wang several times, reminding him to watch his release point. Wang improved on this as the game progressed, but didn't eliminate the issue. The HR Adam Dunn launched halfway to Yonkers in the fourth came on a sinker left up in the zone.

All in all it was a step forward in as much as it earned Wang another start and he didn't get his teeth kicked in. But I'm not convinced that he's "back", only that he showed some improvement last night and for the most part didn't get battered on his mistakes. His 2009 high Game Score of 45 would have ranked in the bottom third of his starts in 2007 or 2008.

After watching Phil Hughes blow through the sixth and seventh on just 24 pitches with 2 Ks against just 1 H, I find it hard to believe that he doesn't offer a better chance at winning every fifth day. Wang may or may not get right pitching as a starter, but he almost certainly won't fix his problems if he's buried as the mop-up man in the pen. The question I'm having a hard time answering is how long should he be given to correct his problems? Step forward or not, the line he turned in last night isn't going to cut it every time out.

Game 66: Crying, Waiting, Hoping

Crying, crying,
Tears keep a-falling,
All night long.
Waiting, waiting,
It seems so useless,
I know its wrong,
To keep on...

...crying, crying,
Waiting, waiting,
Hoping, hoping...
While the weather looks pretty dismal at the moment, the end does appear to be in sight. All indications are that the Yanks are going to try to get this one in. If/When the game goes off, provided that it's still during work hours, we will host a live chat to keep you entertained and kill your productivity at your job.


A rain delay has to be particularly difficult on a starting pitcher. They spend their professional lives knowing exactly when their next outing is going to take place, down to a matter of minutes. They prepare and work out and sleep and eat in accordance to when they will be taking the mound. They can focus and prepare for when they take the ball and all eyes turn to them. It's a gradual and predictable build up. But not today. Joba Chamberlain and Craig Stammen have to amble about the clubhouse, trying to stay loose, or alert, or ready, knowing that the call could come at any time.

This happened to Joba once already this season and the results weren't especially encouraging. On May 26th in Texas, the game was delayed almost two and a half hours by rain. If you'll recall, this was the outing that Joba was pulled after 4 innings, 4 walks, 4 hits, 84 pitches and 3 runs. His last start against the Mets wasn't a whole lot better (4IP, 2ER, 100 pitches). Since his 8 strong innings in Cleveland he's gone progressively fewer innings (8, 6, 4), while his pitch count has remained about the same (106, 100, 100). The free swinging Nats should help him buck that trend.

Starting for the Nats will be Craig Stammen (not "Stamen", easy there, flower children). As was the case with the other two pitchers Manny Acta has trotted out this year, the Yankees have not faced Stammen yet. He's a 25 year old rookie who has pitched a grand total of 27 1/3 innings in the major leagues and has yet to throw 100 pitches in an outing or see his ERA below 5. Let's test that theory again. He's lasted at least until the fifth inning in each of his starts, but (shockingly!) has yet to come away with one of the Nationals' 17 victories.

If they do get around to playing this thing, Jeter, Posada and Melky will all be out of the line up.


Come back for the live chat when game time rolls around.

"Henry & Me"

A couple Yankees are contributing to an animated film called "Henry & Me". The title character turns out to be (SPOLIER ALERT!) Lou Gehrig and will be portrayed by Richard Gere.

Since it's a children's book, everyone has predictably altrustic motives. Here is the author of the book the movie is based upon:
"We can give the innocence of the game back to the children," Negron said. "Goodbye steroids, hello grassroots."
Which sounds great, right?

But A-Rod is in the movie. You'd think that if you were really trying to say "goodbye steroids" or whatever, you might not want to include an admitted steroid user in the fucking cast. But then they probably wouldn't get Newsday to write a story about the movie with A-Rod's part as the lede, would they?
It was George Steinbrenner who gave Negron a job as a Yankees batboy in the 1970s, after The Boss caught Negron spray-painting the team logo on the old Yankee Stadium.

"This is a tribute to George Steinbrenner, and his passion for all of the young kids in the country," Negron said.
It's a shame he's not alive to see it.


Maybe I'm alone on this one, but I don't think losing to a guy with an ERA of 3.51 with your worst pitcher on the mound is really that bad, regardless of what team the other guy plays for. I made fun of some of the beat writers this morning for proclaiming anything less than a sweep was unacceptable and unfortunately, tonight's game proves my point exactly. An opposing pitcher with an ERA in the threes and is entitled to have a good night once in a while, regardless of how shitty the team he plays for is.

Without question, last night was frustrating on several levels. For one, the offense was lackluster against lefty John Lannan. Only six men reached base. The Yanks had no hits with runners in scoring position, but that was mostly because they only had three chances. The only two runs were scored off John Lannan came via solo home runs by Robinson Cano in the 5th inning and Johnny Damon leading off the ninth. Even after Damon's jack, Lannan had thrown only 103 pitches. He got Nick Swisher to fly out on one pitch, but was pulled after giving up a single to Mark Teixeira.

Representing the tying run, Teix was ran for by Brett Gardner. With one out and trailing 3-2, the speedster was much more likely to score from first and tie the game. It turns out that wasn't the only benefit of making the swap. The Nationals guessed correctly with a pitchout in an 0-1 count after three consecutive pick off attempts, but Gardner swiped second anyway. He then stole third on the very next pitch as Josh Bard failed to handle a ball in the dirt.

With the tying run 90 feet away, A-Rod worked a walk and passed the buck to the hot hand from last night, Robinson Cano. Ironically, the presence of a runner on first for the Yanks would be their undoing. It's always A-Rod's fault, isn't it? Cano and Mike MacDougal battled for nine pitches, six of them fouls. When Robby finally put on in play, it rolled right to Cristian Guzman who turned an easy game-ending double play.

The reason the Yankees had to play catch up the whole night wasn't Chien Ming Wang. Through four innings, the lone run the Nats scored came from a towering solo blast by Adam Dunn. Wang only lasted 5IP, but it could have easily been more if it wasn't for the raw deal he got in the fifth inning.

Willie Harris reached base on a single to lead off the frame and get the wheels in motion. He got a marginal jump when he took off for second base, and Posada made a great throw, but Ramiro Pena couldn't quite hold on to it. Replays showed that Pena's glove beat Harris to the bag, but it didn't have the ball to go along with it.

One batter later, Cristian Guzman pulled a grounder to A-Rod at third. Alex made a brilliant play and fired across the diamond. Guzman was called safe at first, but slow-mo proved that he was indisputably out. Nick Johnson stepped into the box next and lofted a ball in between Melky Cabrera and Johnny Damon in left-center field. Melky made a diving attempt but the ball fell and rolled past him, allowing both runners to score and Johnson to end up on third base. Wang prevented further damage, but 3 runs would prove to be just enough for the Nationals to secure the victory.

When I wrote "Even if Wang turns in by far his best performance of the year, the Yanks could very easily lose" this morning, it was one of those rare times that you'd rather not be right. Tonight sucked, but it's not the end of the world. If they lose tomorrow, then get back to me.