Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Game 121: Estimated Prophet

It was apparent from the time that the Yankees acquired Chad Gaudin that his time to take a spot in the starting rotation would come eventually. Although the details of the plan to limit Joba Chamberlain's innings this season hadn't been fully divulged, it was assumed that he would either have to be skipped or shut down and both of those scenarios would result in the need for someone to start in his place. With Sergio Mitre still holding his spot in the rotation and no one else having been picked up off of waivers, the Yankees turn to the former Mr. Weird Beard, who spent two and a half seasons as a member of the A's from 2006 to 2008.

Gaudin made 19 starts for the Padres this year before being traded, registering a 5.23 ERA and 1.539 WHIP. He gave up almost exactly a hit per inning while striking batters out at the same rate, but he walked 4.7 per 9 IP, which is unfortunately right near his bloated career average of 4.3. Worse still, he put together these numbers while pitching for the Padres and making 8 of his starts in spacious Petco Park in the NL West. Oddly though, Gaudin's numbers were actually worse in the 8 starts at home than the 11 on the road. His BABIP was .406 at Petco and .281 away from it, which begins to explain away some of the difference there.

Gaudin has made two appearances for the Yanks, once holding the Blue Jays scoreless in the 10th and 11th inning and getting the win and the other this past Sunday, giving up two runs in a game that was already lost against the Mariners. At least he picked the right spot to surrender the runs. He only threw 74 pitches combined in those two outings but Joe Girardi indicated that he would be available to throw up to 85 tonight.

Opposing Chad the Bad will be Brett Anderson. Anderson is a rookie lefthander, but fear not, the Yanks have already faced him twice this year and scored 9 runs in 12 innings. Anderson's last start was a slugfest with the White Sox wherein both he and Jose Contreras gave up 7 runs. Before that though, he put up a 2.22 ERA over his previous 8 starts and went 4-1.

This isn't the end of the road trip of the Yankees, but they do head back to the East Coast tonight and have a day off tomorrow before beginning a series at Fenway. The West Coast swing has been relatively successful as they've gone 4-2 and picked up a half game in the standings. Thanks in part to an excellent performance by CC Sabathia last night after the Red Sox had already recorded a win, the Yanks don't have to worry too much about what happens when Chad Gaudin is leading the way tonight.

[Music starts around the 1:30 mark]
My time coming, any day, don't worry about me, no.
It's gonna be just like they say, them voices tell me so.
Seems so long I felt this way, and time's sure passin' slow.
Still I know I lead the way, they tell me where I go.

Don't worry about me, no no no, don't worry about me, no.
And I'm in no hurry, no no no, I know where to go.

California, a prophet on the burning shore.
California, I'll be knocking on the golden door.

Is Damon Cooperstown Bound?

We discussed whether the Yanks should bring Johnny Damon back yesterday, and he comes up again today because friend of the blog Josh at Jorge Says No! looked at the same article by Tyler Kepner but was inspired to write a post about a different portion of it; his potential of getting into the Hall of Fame.

Past the part we excerpted, Kepner notes that Damon has been a very well rounded player and has a chance at 3,000 hits:
Only three players have matched Damon’s career totals for hits (2,389), runs (1,459), stolen bases (370), doubles (443), homers (205), runs batted in (981) and batting average (.289). They are the Hall of Famer Paul Molitor and Roberto Alomar and Barry Bonds, who are not yet eligible for Cooperstown.

Damon has only one season with 200 hits — for Kansas City in 2000 — but he has an outside chance at 3,000 for his career. He is 10th in hits among active players, but only two players ahead of him are younger: his teammates Jeter (2,688) and Rodriguez (2,483).
Sure, it sounds pretty impressive that only three players are ahead of Damon in those seven categories, but it's a lot harder to get in the Hall for being good at a bunch of things than it is for being great at a couple. He's got a career OPS+ of 105 as a centerfielder, which tells us that he wasn't especially good at hitting for power or getting on base, and those are pretty important skills to have. Even guys like Bernie Williams and Jim Edmonds have him crushed in that category though they don't have the counting stats to go along. He wasn't any great shakes defensively, either.

Johnny needs 611 hits to get to 3,000 so it's pretty safe to assume he would need to play four more seasons to get there. Will he get that chance? I'm not so sure.

Josh conducts a Keltner List, a set of 15 qualitative questions, on Damon which is the best thing aside from a statistical analysis in terms of evaluating a player's Hall of Fame candidacy. Check out Josh's responses to the questions. I found myself agreeing with most every one.

The biggest variable here is that we don't know how writers are going to treat this era. If just 25% of writers don't vote for anyone who played in the so-called steroid era, well, no one is going to get in. Even if 10% or 15% make that decision, it's going to make it much harder to gain entry. If it was 15 years ago, this would be a much simpler question to ponder.

Chances are, Damon is going to be up for consideration shortly after Ken Griffey, Jr. and Andruw Jones (388 HR, 115 OPS+) and alongside Ichiro and Carlos Beltran and I think all four of those guys have either vastly higher peaks or much better overall careers. Perhaps if he compiles 3,000 hits writers will have a hard time turning him down, but I think Damon will ultimately end up in the Hall of Very Good.

Joe Girardi's Morning In Crazy Land

If I hadn't already seen this reported by several media outlets, I would have to think it was a joke.

Joe Girardi spent Tuesday morning at a scrimmage between the Raiders and 49ers, as a guest of his friend, 49ers Head Coach Mike Singletary. Straight-laced, buzz cut, golly-gee Joe Girardi and bat shit crazy, drop-my-pants-at-halftime, "physical" with an "F", throw-my-players-off-the-sideline-mid-game Mike Singletary. Cue the music.

I can't possibly imagine how these two struck up a friendship. My best guess is that it originated from their overlapping time in Chicago: Singletary with da Bears through 1992 and Girardi with the Cubbies from '89-'92.

If that wasn't enough, Girardi also got to meet John Madden and Al Davis, who of course makes Singletary look bland on the relative insanity scale. Davis, Brooklyn raised, reportedly told Girardi to say "hi" to George Steinbrenner. I figured Al and George would be communicating telepathically by this point.

As for Madden, my only hope is Girardi got out of dodge before news broke of the return of a certain waffling, washed-up quarterback. I don't even want to think about what Madden would have done to celebrate that news, but it couldn't have been pretty.

No word as to whether there was any coach-on-coach violence at the scrimmage.

Girardi didn't appear to be suffering any ill effects last night. But if he starts acting irrationally, pulls a Steve Lyons, or happens to sock Mick Kelleher in the mush, we'll know why.

Bias? What Bias?

It is with trepidation that I even wade into the cesspool that is the steroids debate, but Jack Cust opened his mouth, and the Yankees are currently playing Oakland, and I don't really have anything else I want to write about right now, so here goes....

For some unknown reason, Cust gave an interview with the AP yesterday, in which he touched upon his name being in the Mitchell Report and railed against the entire investigation, claiming it was biased due to George Mitchell's presence on the Red Sox Board of Directors:
With all the other stuff going on, with a lot of the guys coming out recently — big-name guys — to me it's kind of funny they spent all that money on the Mitchell Report and a bunch of hearsay and the guy who made all the money off it happened to work for the Red Sox. Were there any Red Sox on the report? To me, that's kind of a joke. How does that happen? It's coming out now with guys on that team. The guy worked for the Red Sox — they spent all kinds of millions of dollars — and then no one there had their name brought up.
That's not entirely accurate. Off the top of my head, two players were named in the report for events that took place during their tenure with the Sox: Paxton Crawford and Manny Alexander. Not exactly world beaters there, but it's a start.

I'm not sure where to begin this. First, the report was an absolute mess from the word "go", and will likely stand as the biggest in a series of blunders that has marked Bud Selig's now seventeen year tenure as Commissioner. While an investigation into steroid use in the sport was likely warranted, Bud jumped on that train about fifteen years too late, closing the barn door long after the entire stable of horses had run out. Choosing a principal investigator with a potential conflict of interest was a poor decision*. Sending him out to lead a multi-year, multi-million dollar investigation without any sort of subpoena power or any ability to grant immunity was a poorer one.
*As was naming an owner to serve as "acting" commissioner for six years, then letting him keep the job for an additional eleven and counting...

Without any ability to force people to talk to him, Mitchell was grasping at straws from the start. Exactly two active Major Leaguers spoke with him: Frank Thomas, of his own volition, and Jason Giambi who had the option of either cooperating or being suspended after he committed the cardinal sin of stating that baseball as a whole was wrong in the way they handled performance enhancing drugs.

Without player cooperation, nearly the entire Mitchell Report was based on the testimony of stool pigeons Kurt Radomski and Brian McNamee, who were forced to cooperate as part of federal plea deals. Radomski was a longtime clubbie with the Mets, McNamee a former strength and conditioning coach with the Yankees. Around which city and which teams do you think the majority of the report would focus?

While I do find it curious that there is a general lack of players from Mitchell's organization appearing in the report, I'd imagine that's more a result of the investigation being toothless than it is a function of any bias. If anything, the recent revelations of positive tests from both Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz (illegally leaked by employees of our federal government by the way, who in turn possess that information via a direct violation of labor law) should illustrate that no team, no clubhouse, not the Red Sox, not the Yankees, not anyone, was immune from this garbage.

As for Cust, I can understand his frustration with carrying the scarlett letter of being named in the Mitchell Report. His inclusion was tenuous at best, hearsay at worst. On a daily basis, Cust is likely surrounded by both teammates and opponents who did things as bad, if not worse, and haven't been outed.

That said, Cust was given every opportunity to respond to Mitchell, and like all card carrying MLBPA memebers, he refused to do so. From a legal perspective, I can understand that position. But if Cust, or any other of the accused, punts on his opportunity to clear his name, he loses much of his right to complain about it. And that see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil mentality is exactly how the MLB and MLBPA found themselves in this mess in the first place.

"He Did What He Had To Do"

Last night on the YES broadcast, after CC Sabathia threw behind Kurt Suzuki in the bottom of the first inning and both benches were warned, John Flaherty repeatedly praised the action by saying "pitchers need to protect their hitters" claiming it that it "clearly sent a message that you aren't going to abuse our starting third baseman" in addition to the quote in the title.

But did Sabathia really "have to do" anything?

Giving another team an automatic baserunner wouldn't seem to be good strategy ever, but last night's move was doubly unsuccessful since the pitch missed Suzuki and he deposited the very next one in the left field seats for a solo home run.

Looking back at the pitch that Vin Mazzaro hit A-Rod with, which prompted CC's warning shot, it didn't have the looks of an intentional beaning. Pitch f/x on Gameday on identified the pitch as a 4 seam fastball, but it had the same speed and trajectory of the first pitch of the at bat which they identified as a two-seamer. Matt used a two-seamer as evidence of Rick Porcello not intending to hit Youk last week and and the same would stand to reason here. The ball broke pretty severely inside, like it got away from Mazzaro, not as if he was trying to hit A-Rod. Why would he have wanted to, anyway?

So why did the Yankees feel the need to respond? Yes, it was the same spot A-Rod got plunked last week against the Blue Jays, and if he was out for a significant amount of time, it would hurt the Yankees tremendously. But the pitch already happened. Did it stop the A's from hitting him again? I very seriously doubt that.

Just yesterday Bill James and Joe Posnanski took a look at hit batsmen over at (h/t BBTF). Pos noted a historical rise in the frequency of batters being hit, with the number of games which included a HBP climbing 10% from the 80's to the 90's and another 9% into the 00's, now at 36%. James hypothesizes that the advent of the metal bat in amateur baseball allowed taught young hitters to crowd the plate resulting in the recent rise.

Posnanski surmises that historically, the code of throwing at batters was much clearer and now determining intent is far more difficult:
And, all of this just makes it trickier than ever for everyone. Umpires and players and managers suddenly have to guess: "What was that pitcher THINKING?" [...] Suddenly you have to be Dr. Phil. And it's become silly.
All this guesswork leads to blind leading the blind, and hitters getting plunked in retaliation for something that wasn't intentional in the first place.

When Joe Torre was the manager, fans complained that pitchers like Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte would never throw at opposing batters. In general, didn't seem to be Torre's style. He was by nature, a calming presence and by and large had pitchers on his team who didn't seem to be very interested in pegging anyone. I'm guessing he's had a negative HBP differential over his managerial career, but he's not included on this list. Contrast that with Joe Girardi, who in much younger and uptight with two guys in A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia who Torre didn't have, who don't fear sending a message to the opposition from time to time.

Last night, as home plate umpire Jerry Lane was warning the benches, the cameras quickly panned to A-Rod, who had an almost childish-looking grin on his face. He was apparently quite pleased, or at least amused that his pitcher had his back. Maybe it's just another example of A-Rod having no self awareness (who wouldn't want to sit at a poker table with the guy?), or perhaps there is something about standing up for a teammate that really brings a ballclub together.

This One's Worth About 50 Words, Anyway

I couldn't shoehorn this into last night's recap, but here is a picture of Melky Cabrera after Jay Marshall hit him with a 71MPH changeup in the top of the sixth inning. Melky tried to turn and scamper out of the way but at the same time, Kurt Suzuki came behind him and tried to field the pitch. Awkward and mildly homoerotic poses ensued.

CC Conquers The Coliseum

Throughout the first few innings of last night's game, it looked like CC Sabathia was headed for another tough outing in the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum and the Yankees towards their third straight loss.

A-Rod got hit in the same place on his elbow he took one off last Wednesday in the top of the first but thankfully remained in the game. Two batters later, Jorge Posada struck out swinging with the bases loaded.

Seemingly in retaliation, CC Sabathia threw one behind Kurt Suzuki at waist level with two outs in the bottom half of the inning and both benches were warned. On the very next pitch Suzuki served up some retribution of his own by rocking a homer deep into the left field seats. Even after tonight, Suzuki is slugging just .393 this year, so it's safe to say he was emboldened by the near-beaning.

Derek Jeter brought Melky Cabrera to the plate in the top of the second on an error by Adam Kennedy at third base for the Yanks' own two out run. It was the first of four errors the A's committed in the game. Kennedy also struck out four times, so perhaps it just wasn't his night. Jeter had three hits for the third night in a row, so once again it was his.

Sabathia gave up another two out solo shot in the bottom of the second inning to Tommy Everidge, a 26 year old career minor leaguer (who Ken Singleton referred to as an "organizational player" during the broadcast) with highly mediocre numbers down on the farm and only 20 MLB games under his belt. Sabathia intentionally walked him in the 6th inning as well, accounting for 4 of the 28 balls he threw on the night and his only free pass, but that's a whole 'nother topic.

The Bombers scored again in the third on a ground rule double by Jorge Posada that drove in A-Rod after he had singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch by Vin Mazzaro.

The Yanks loaded the bases in the fourth inning with one out for Mark Teixeira, but like A-Rod the night before, he swung at the first pitch and grounded into an inning ending double play. After A-Rod walked and Matsui flew out to center in the 5th, Posada ended that frame with a DP of his own.

The score remained 2-2 at the beginning of the sixth inning at which point Mazzaro was replaced after throwing 103 pitches. From the bench, Mazzaro watched lefty side-arming junkballer Jay Marshall throw the game away with a double, wild pitch, HBP, single and a double before eing pulled in favor of Santiago Casilla with the score now 4-2. After an intentional walk to Mark Teixeira which loaded the bases, Casilla walked A-Rod on 4 pitches to force a run home and gave up a two run single to Hideki Matsui to bring the score to 7-2.

Sabathia settled in and continued his efficient effort, lasting 8 innings and needing just 94 pitches to do so. He struck out three batters in addition to Adam Everett's 4 K's and allowed 5 hits on top of the aforementioned IBB to Everidge. With a 5 run lead, David Robertson was called on for the 9th inning and promptly threw 8 straight balls. He then bore down and retired the next three batters, the first two on swinging strikes.

It took forty minutes longer than the previous night's game to complete, but was still under 3 hours. More importantly, though, the Yanks won and are not facing the prospect of a sweep when Chad Gaudin takes the hill tomorrow night. They remain 7 games up on the Red Sox after they took a topsy turvy affair against the Blue Jays to stay atop the Wild Card standings.