Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Game 84: On The Run

Almost exactly one month ago, A.J. Burnett tossed a 2 2/3 inning, 5 hit, 5 walk, 5 run clunker against the Red Sox and Josh Beckett. At that point, Burnett had a 4.89 ERA, a 4-3 record and some assurance for his detractors:
"When I do get on that run, it's going to be impressive," he said. "I promise you that."
In his four starts since then, Burnett has notched three wins, with his only loss coming when he threw 6 1/3 innings of one run ball against the Marlins in a game the Yankees lost 2-1. On that run he predicted, A.J. has thrown 27 1/3 innings and given up just three runs, good for a 0.99 ERA, lowering his season mark to 3.83 in the process. He's allowed only 16 hits and walked 12 while striking out 33 and has easily been the Yankees best starter over that time.

A last minute scratch by the Twins swaps Glen Perkins (out with a fever) for rookie Anthony Swarzak, who was originally supposed to be starting tomorrow night. The big 23 year old righty has made five starts in the Majors this year, with his first and last being the most impressive. Against the Brewers on May 23rd, he threw 7 shutout innings en route to the victory, and he equaled that feat against the Cubs on June 13th. He was sent down to Triple A Rochester shortly thereafter, where he has sported a 2.34 ERA over his 10 starts in 2009.

Swarzak's number are much better away from the HHH than at home and he will have to attempt to correct that while facing what is close to the most potent line-up the Yankees have to offer. Jorge Posada will be behind the plate, A-Rod at third, Hideki Matsui in the DH slot and Damon, Gardner and Swisher manning the outfield, from left to right.

After thumping the Twins last night, the Yanks are 5-0 against them this year have have won 17 of their last 23 meetings, dating back to 2006. A win tonight would be the Yankees' 1100th against the Twins franchise, although that record dates all the way back to April 29th, 1901, when the Yankees were still the Baltimore Orioles and the Twins were the Washington Senators.

More relevantly, if Burnett can continue his dominant charge, the Bombers could notch their 50th win of the season tonight. The Yanks aren't in Kansas, but don't forget that the Central Time start pushes the game back til 8.

[synthesizer noises]

"(Leaning) More Towards Listening"

At around 8:00 yesterday morning, Ken Rosenthal started chumming the water, and it's been a non-stop feeding frenzy ever since.
Let the Roy Halladay sweepstakes begin.
Oh, I bet this is going to be juicy!
"We have to see what's out there," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi says. "I'm not saying we're going to shop him. But if something makes sense, we at least have to listen. We're (leaning) more toward listening than we've ever been."
Or not... And with that one lukewarm, non-committal quote from the Jays' GM, the baseball blogosphere was off to the races.

MLB Trade Rumors was the first to pick it up, and from there it has spread like wildfire with scribes from all over the country tripping over themselves to interview Ricciardi and talk to other sources to get the next tasty tidbit.

Are we the only ones not buying Rosenthal's original line of reasoning here?
Ricciardi says the Jays will not trade Halladay if they do not receive the right offer, knowing that the team's best chance of competing next season is with the pitcher at the top of the rotation.

Hmmm. You make an excellent point Ken. "C'mon". I hadn't thought of that. The two perfectly reasonable statements from Ricciardi above now make no sense at all. And you did it with just with one simple, informal contraction.
Once this process starts, it's almost impossible to stop.
Except in the case of say, Jake Peavy, who you reference in your article when talking about what the White Sox would be willing to trade.
Rest assured, the Jays are assembling prospect lists and preparing to assign their scouts to investigate rival farm systems. Halladay is a goner. It's just a matter of when and where.
Well, no shit, Ken. That "when and where" could be two weeks from now, this December, next season, next offseason or when he finally retires from the game of baseball. Thank you for that bold prediction.


J.P. Ricciardi played it exactly right yesterday.
He put the word out that he would be willing to discuss a deal for Roy Halladay and then picked up his cell phone a few times over the course of the day to reiterate that to ESPN, Sports Illustrated and Fox
No fool is Ricciardi. Within a few hours, it was the biggest story in baseball. Halladay became the hot topic on sports-talk radio stations in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Chicago along with a few hundred blogs, including this one. Everybody was trying to figure out who their teams can send to Toronto for the respected right-hander.
It’s called building a market.
Did he play it exactly right, though? Cause it kinda seems like Ken Rosenthal just blew a harmless quote out of proportion, thereby creating a pointless media shitstorm over something that may or may not happen. Since when do you have to build a market through the media? I'm pretty sure the market for a pitcher who eats AL East line-ups and shits complete games was already there.

Does it really do Ricciardi any good to have every member of the baseball press foaming at the mouth awaiting the next tenuous detail of the trade? Is it a good thing that Rosenthal is making it seem like the Jays have no choice but to trade him?

Ask Kevin Towers how that worked out for him.

A Rivederci Frankie

At long last, Jose Molina will be activated from the DL either today or tomorrow, and Francisco Cervelli will be sent down. It's the right move to make, but I, like many other Yankee fans will be sad to see the Cisco Kid depart.

Cervelli came up on May 5th, after Jorge Posada was DL'd with a hamstring problem. Three days later, Molina went down, leaving the Yanks with a catching tandem of the young Cervelli and Kevin Cash. Cervelli quickly established himself as a fan favorite, not only for his infectious enthusiasm, but also for an impressive burst out of the gate, hitting .375 through his first 28 PAs and playing outstanding defense, both calling a good game and flashing a strong arm. I always found his post-game interviews fairly humorous too.

While his offense came back to earth a bit, he still provided the ocassional shot in the arm. None were bigger than his first Big League home run, coming in Atlanta on June 24th. His homer that night snapped a fourteen inning scoreless streak for the Yankees and sparked an offensive hot streak that's still going. Last night, he likely capped his two month stay, hitting the ball well each time up in going 2 for 4 with a double, sac fly, a run scored, and two RBI.

Of course, "a rivederci" is Italian for "until we see each other again", and we certainly will see Frankie again. Cervelli will be recalled when rosters expand in September, if not sooner. With Jose Molina's contract expiring at season's end, it's a safe bet that Frankie will be Posada's caddie in 2010. In the meantime, Cervelli, like Ramiro Pena, will get some needed seasoning at Scranton. Despite outperforming his offensive expectations at the Big League level, Cervelli has had just 152 minor league PA above A-ball. Getting regular at bats against AAA pitching will only help his development and leave him in a better position for 2010 and beyond.

Needing more minor league at bats may not be the only thing Cervelli has in common with Pena. Pena was sent down to learn to play CF as well, to increase his versatility as a supersub. With the way the Yankees current roster is constructed, carrying three catchers isn't feasible. But if Cervelli could play other positions, it would make more sense. He was signed as a shortstop, and is still young and mobile enough to be able to play other positions. Bronx Banter's Bruce Markusen suggested this over the weekend, and I think it's a good idea. With the current depth at catcher in the Yankee system, increasing his versatility will only increase Cervelli's value down the line.

Yankees Broadcasts Creeping Dangerously Close To Respectability

Last night's game was fairly long (3:17), and after the Yanks jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning, the game was never in doubt. But that doesn't even begin to explain this:

No "Thuh Yankees Win... Thuuuuuuh. Yannnnnnnkkkkeeessss. Wiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnn"?!?!??

What's next? Are they going to forget to play New York, New York after they win at home?

Sterling's apparent jet lag/heavy medication, coupled with the fact that Michael Kay is on vacation until after the All-Star Break has made both the radio and TV broadcasts damn near tolerable. Now if they could just jettison Suzyn Waldman...

Alf Lands In The Rotation

Good morning Fackers. The mystery of just who would take Chien-Ming Wang's turn in the rotation on Thursday was answered before last night's game, as it was announced that Alfredo Aceves will start the Yankees' final regular season game at the Metrodome. Since Jonathan Albaladejo was recalled when Wang was DL'd, the Yanks will not be shorthanded in the pen over the next several days.

Our man Alf is the logical choice after the Yankees made it clear that Phil Hughes wasn't stretched out enough to start and announced that Sergio Mitre would make his scheduled start for Scranton last night. Aceves threw four innings of relief on Sunday, mostly out of necessity and certainly because of excellent performance, but perhaps also in part to get him stretched out a bit. He'll have a 65 pitch limit and should be good for about five innings Thursday.

The Yankees would be wise to follow Aceves with a multiple inning outing from Phil Hughes, building his arm strength, then take advantage of the upcoming three day All-Star break and subsequent off day and immediately option Hughes down after Thursday's game. Once optioned down, Hughes cannot return for ten days unless he's replacing an injured player. Optioning him down before the All-Star break will minimize the amount of Big League games he'll need to miss, and allow him at least two minor league starts to get stretched back to starting. Joe at RAB suggested a similar move as soon as Wang was injured.

Thanks to the All-Star break the Yankees won't need a fifth starter again until Tuesday July 21st. As good as Aceves has been, Hughes is the better pitcher, still figures to be a rotation stalwart for years to come, and right now gives the Yanks the better shot at winning every five days. Allowing him to shadow Aceves with a multiple inning stint Thursday then sending him out should give him enough time to be ready to start on the 21st and will allow Aceves to go back to his valuable and versatile role in the pen.

As for Wang, this latest setback should be the final nail in the coffin for his 2009 season. Hopefully he can get through this with rest and rehab and use a full rehab assignment to get himself right. Anything the Yanks get out of him this year has to be considered gravy at this point. Hopefully he'll start with a clean slate in 2010.

Lastly, not adding Mitre to the roster now still leaves the Yankees with a 40 man roster spot with which to toy. Technically the 40 man is full, but Xavier Nady, who undergoes Tommy John surgery today, can be transferred to the 60 day DL at any point, thereby opening a spot. I expect the Yanks to keep that ace up their sleeve as the July 31st deadline approaches. As for Mitre, he was impressive last night, allowing 7 baserunners and 1 earned run in 6.2 innings while striking out seven. For the year now, he has a 2.72 ERA in eight minor league starts covering 46.1 IP. He's allowed 44 hits and just 7 BB, while striking out 38. He's certainly worth keeping in mind as the season wears on.

Twin Killing

In tonight's game preview, we detailed the Yanks four game sweep of the Twins in May. Despite the four game sweep, the Yanks run differential for the series was only +5 and they required three walk-off wins. Tonight, they continued beating the Twinkies, and this time did so far more handily.

The Yanks scored early and often, scoring in three of the first four innings to take a 5-1 lead, and tacking on five more in the sixth to put the game far out of reach. Derek Jeter led off the game with a single and was later plated on a Hideki Matsui single. In the second, Robinson Cano led off with a double, moved to third on a Brett Gardner infield single, and scored on a Frankie Cervelli sac fly. They then added another run as Gardner scored on a Mark Teixeria base hit.

CC Sabathia gave a run back in the bottom of the inning on a Michael Cuddyer solo shot. But the Yankees chased Scott Baker in the fourth, adding two more runs. Carlos Gomez robbed Alex Rodriguez of a grand slam hauling in a drive that was ticketed to land over the fence. A-Rod had to settle for a sac fly, and a bases loaded walk from Nick Swisher forced in the Yankees' fifth run.

In the sixth, the Yanks ended the game for all intents and purposes, and all the damage was done with two outs. Robinson Cano finally broke his twenty-plus RISP oh fer, dropping a broken bat single into centerfield to score Teix and A-Rod. Brett Gardner followed with a two run triple scoring Swisher and Cano, then Cervelli ripped a double off the leftfield fence, to plate Gardner and close out the scoring.

The entire Yankee offense was great. Every starter had at least one hit, Cano and Cervelli had two each, Gardner three, and Teix four. Five of the starters drew walks, including two each from Matsui and Swisher. With the big lead, Damon, Jeter, and A-Rod all got the late innings off, saving them from the turf.

The Cuddyer homer was the only blip on the radar screen for Sabathia, as he rebounded from last Thursday's poor start. He needed 100 pitches, 68 of them strikes, to get through 7 innings. He allowed just three hits and a walk, and struck out three. He didn't allow more than a single baserunner in any inning. The big lead made it safe for Brett Tomko to close out the last two innings, but not before allowing the second Twins run in the eighth.