Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Game 126: I Shall Return

After a brief an unexpected absence yesterday, I've made my return to Fack Youk. Sorry for the lack of content yesterday. Knowing Jay wasn't going to be around, I had a few things I had intended to post over the course of the day, but life had other plans for me. I hope you Fackers found other ways to kill time over the course of your work day.

Andy Pettitte returns to the mound tonight after a disappointing start in Boston last Friday. While he did record the win, Pettitte pitched poorly despite being handed a 12-1 lead. I'm all for challenging hitters a bit more when playing with lead that large, but there's a fine line between challenging hitters and getting sloppy with a big lead. I'm not suggesting Pettitte intentionally brought the Sox back into the game, but any start that necessitates two innings of "relief" from Sergio Mitre cannot be considered a success. That said, it was the first remotely poor start Pettitte has had since the All-Star Break. Perhaps he was due for a clunker, and there's no better night to have one of those than when your offense puts up twenty runs.

Even with the poor start last Friday, Pettitte is 2-1 with a 2.82 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and .233/.282/.310 batting line since the All-Star Break. Last Friday might have been a cheap win for him, but he's had four tough luck no decisions in that span. Pettitte has faced the Rangers once previously this season, taking the loss against Bizarro Kramer on June 3rd, giving up four runs and thirteen baserunners in five innings of work.

Texas counters with rookie southpaw Derek Holland. Holland got touched up by the Yanks on May 27th, to the tune of ten hits and five earned runs in five innings of work. He made a relief appearance at the Stadium on June 2nd, and they got him for two more runs in an inning and a third. He's surrendered three Yankee home runs in 6.1 IP. He's been excellent in four of his last five starts, going 4-1 with a 1.82 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and .189/.238/.303 batting line. I'm hoping that the recent Holland disappears tonight and the one who faced the Yankees earlier this year returns.

Johnny Damon gets the night off, with Jerry Hairston Jr. getting the start in left field. Nick Swisher slides up the two spot in the order. Maybe he'll have the opportunity to show his bunting prowess again tonight.

Gov't Mule bassist and founding member Allen Woody died nine years ago today. We've featured the band twice already this month, including just last Saturday when Jay chose "On the Banks of the Deep End" for the preview. That song was Warren Haynes' tribute to his fallen bandmate. In the years since Woody's death, Gov't Mule reached great heights, now ranking amongst the upper echelon of the "jamband" scene. In a sick way, Woody's passing is partially responsible for that. The void left by his death led to the high profile Deep End projects, which saw the band play with a host of music's top bassists. In the aftermath of Woody's death, Warren Haynes made a return to the Allman Brothers Band - where he and Woody had first played together more than a decade earlier - and also played a three year stint with Phil Lesh. These things greatly raised the exposure level of Haynes, and by extension, Gov't Mule. Mule was an outstanding band in Woody's days, but we'll never how the band's future would have played out had he not met an untimely end.

Here's a classic Gov't Mule performance from the Allen Woody era. Dose was certainly the best Mule album from Woody's time with the band, and is arguably still the best that Mule has put out. The album's closer is the beautiful "I Shall Return". I hope Pettite returns to form and the Yankees return to the win column tonight.

But I shall return, though I'm losing myself.
I shall return.

Factual Inaccuracy Of The Day

At the risk of BaDH, here's one loose end from last night's infamous bunt that I didn't tie up earlier. From the Post (emphasis mine):
"We're trying to get the tying run to third base," Girardi said. "Nick's been a good bunter for us all year and unfortunately he popped it up tonight."
Really, Joe? Has he? Because he's hardly been a bunter at all during the rest of his career.

Including last night's botched attempt, Swisher has been asked to sacrifice bunt 4 times 471 plate appearances this year. In the other 2512 PAs in his career, he has completed 4 successfully. For some odd reason Joe Girardi has asked Swish to bunt at over 5 times the frequency of his previous managers. Perhaps his Ken Macha, Bob Geren and Ozzie Guillen were a little more realistic about his ability to get one down.

The only players who have been asked to bunt as much or more than Swisher this season are Francisco Cervelli, Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner, all of who have an OPS of roughly 100 points lower or more than Swish.

Using his averages from this year (which are very close to his career norms), there was a roughly 20-25% chance he could have won or tied the game with a hit and a 37% chance he could have at least moved the runner to third without using an out. Sure, there was a strong chance he left the Yanks in the same situation they found themselves in after he popped it up to Michael Young, but at least there was some upside to letting him swing. He might have advanced the runners anyway. If Jose Molina or Frankie Cervelli or Brett Gardner was up, it would have been a close decision. But not with a guy with 21 HRs and a .368 OBP is at the plate.

Joe Girardi just wanted to exert his influence and try to alter the outcome of the game like he so often does without a very good reason. Unfortunately for the team and it's fans, it backfired once again.

You Knew It Was Coming...

Right on cue this morning, the the legendary typing 'stache at the New York Daily News is rushing to draw lines through one poor performance by Joba Chamberlain which extend in all directions into infinity:
Nine runs should be enough to win any major league game. But Chamberlain was Ollie Perez-like last night, which is to say he was awful. On those eight days' rest, he reverted to early-season form and lost command of his pitches. There was little consistency to his failure, nothing but sheer randomness to his location. At times, he was too fine and walked three batters. Other times he threw the ball over the plate and wished for the best.


Like most pitchers, he would do better with a more consistent routine. The Yankees may have to make that admission sooner than later, if Chamberlain is going to rediscover his mojo in time for the playoffs. That might mean stretching or ignoring a few Joba Rules.
There are so many things so fantastically wrongheaded about these two paragraphs, it's almost impressive in it's scope.

First and perhaps most egregiously, Filip Bondy appears to be unaware that since two teams play in a baseball game, if one of them gives up 9 runs, then by definition 9 of their own runs won't be enough to win the game. He has also evidently forgotten the other 16 times this season that the Yanks have allowed 9 or more runs.

"Oliver Perez-like"? How about "Joba Chamberlain-like", because this is exactly the type of start that he's been plagued by all year (short and inefficient) and it has nothing to do with the number of off days in between his starts.

Filip, he didn't pitch well. I'll give you that. But how would it have been any better if there was "consistency to his failure"? He walked guys AND gave up hits? This should never happen!

And I don't want to hear about the 8 days of rest. The last time Joba pitched with that much time off was after the All-Star break and he put together an excellent start against the Tigers. How does Bondy know that Joba would "do better with a more consistent routine"? He has had 6 starts lasting fewer than 5 innings this season (not including the one against Baltimore when he was removed for an injury) and all but one of them have come on the regular 4 days of rest.

Due to one bad start, the Yankees should ditch their plan to conserve Joba's innings? Are you flipping serious, Filip? I know you get paid to overreact to all things NY sports via the written word, but can you look at the big picture for just a moment?

Here are some things relevant to this situation that the Yankees should be concerned about, listed in descending importance.
  1. Joba Chamberlain's short and long term health as it relates to him being a productive starting pitcher
  2. His performance this postseason
  3. His performance during the rest of the regular season
The Yankees are going to make the postseason with or without a solid contribution from Joba Chamberlain the rest of the way. It would be great if he were to ace every one of his starts from here on out, but it's really not that important. They need him to be ready to pitch in the postseason and most importantly they need him to be healthy over the long haul.

No one knows for sure what course of action will be best for #2 on that list, but nearly all rational thought devoted to keeping young pitchers healthy has concluded that taking a conservative approach to the number of innings pitched has the best chance of addressing #1. If you're going to be frustrated with someone, choose Joba. He's got to pitch better, regardless of how many days he's given off.

A Letter To Joe Girardi

Dear Mr. Girardi,
Last night was very nearly incredibly awesome. A 5 run comeback in the 9th inning would have been a monumental achievement and the best comeback victory in a season with 40 of them already. It would have returned the favor to the Rangers, who got quite lucky to string together a 5 run rally without making an out themselves in the 4th inning (which it might surprise you to learn, didn't include a bunt attempt). But last night was not awesome. It was incredibly frustrating.

You see, Joe, last night my roommates and I decided to take the plunge and buy a new TV. Big Willie Style's 32" had been holding down the mantle in the interim and it was time to get serious about our new place.

After a long day, we drove to Boscov's at around 8:30 and then to Sears, intent on acquiring one before the stores closed at 9:30. We very nearly bought this 42" LG for $700, but they didn't have it in stock. After a serious amount of deliberating, we decided to go with this 46" Samsung which was priced at $1200 on the shelf but after the 10% discount I got for opening a Sears card (which I'm literally never going to use after this purchase) it was $1166 after taxes. No interest or payments for 6 months to boot. Not bad. Am I right, Joe? Or perhaps you might have gone with the 24 months of free financing, since that's what "the book" on buying TVs says.

After we got the TV loaded in the van, it was about 9:50 and we turned on the game just in time to John and Suzyn called Michael Young's two run homer in the 7th inning. Great. On the way home we listened to the radio duo swoon over Neftali Feliz and compare him to Joba as he touched 100 on the radar gun (101 according to pitch f/x). We arrived back at the apartment and set up the new toy just in time for the top of the ninth.

We cracked a few Dogfish Head Immort Ales to celebrate and watched as Damaso Marte work a pretty solid inning in amazing 1080i resolution. Predictably, we marveled at the new awesomeness of our new TV, which fit on top of our mantle like the stand had been custom made for it.

Then the 9th inning came, Joe. Remember it? After the Yankees sent six straight runners to the plate without making an out, you decided to give one away by asking a guy who is terrible a bunting to do something, which even if he was successful at, would have hurt the team's chances at winning. The run expectation actually declines when you go from men on first and second with no outs to runners on second and with one down. Take a look.

Furthermore, Frank Francisco had already walked A-Rod and thrown fewer than half of his pitches for strikes. You took away Nick Swisher's excellent ability to work a walk by having him bunt in that spot. Did you see Francisco's first pitch? It was at fucking eye level. How do not make that guy throw strikes?

You asked a guy to bunt who can't bunt to set the table for a guy who is worse than 50% at getting the runner in from third with less than 2 outs. It's a stupid move in principle and it was even dumber under these circumstances.

And when it failed completely, you stormed around in the dugout like a fucking 4 year old because your fucking boneheaded decision didn't work out.

In all fairness, I stormed around my apartment at the same time, but I was acting like at least an 8 year old.

So thanks, Joe. It could have been one of the best TV Christenings in the history of mankind. But as soon as you started meddling and overmanaging, the whole thing went to shit.

Yes, right THERE. In the highest possible leverage situation.

I'm not blaming Melky Cabrera for lining into a double play, Joe. The entire situation would have been different if you let Nick Swisher take a full swing at the ball instead of conceding a precious out to a guy who could hardly throw a strike.

This is your fault.
Fuck you,

Fack Youk

The Big Tease

Looking at the big picture, losing to the Rangers wasn't the worst thing for the Yanks. It kept them 1.5 games in back of the Red Sox in the Wild Card standings (1 in the loss column), while the Yanks maintained a 6 game lead in the division. If you had to pick a team to drop a game to, it would have to be the one most likely to knock the Sawx out of a postseason berth.

That said, this was an especially tough defeat to swallow. Joba Chamberlain was staked to a 4 run lead in the first inning, but gave it back and then some during the course of a couple two out, no one on rallies by the Rangers in the second and fourth innings. Once again, Joba proved incapable of being efficient with his pitch count, even with a big lead, and had to be relieved of his duties after a 5 run fourth inning which ran his total up to 96 pitches. It was a prototypical "Bad Joba" outing which is sure to raise questions about the amount of rest he was pitching on and the Yanks' plan for him going forward. Brace yourselves.

Even more heartbreaking was the fact that, despite trailing by 5 runs entering the 9th inning, the Yankees had the tying run on second base with no one out and failed to score due EXCLUSIVELY in part to a FUCKING TERRIBLE DECISION highly questionable move by Joe Girardi. I hated the move when Nick Swisher showed bunt on the first pitch but took it for a ball and wholly despised it with every fiber of my being when he popped it out to Michael Young at third base on his second attempt. I just can't fuc... Nevermind. We'll revisit this subject tomorrow.

Perhaps we should be happy that the Yanks even made this one interesting with the surge in the 9th. Or perhaps, as the Smokey Robinson and the Miracles once said, "a taste of honey is worse than none at all".