Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Game 146: The Man's Too Strong

Tonight the Yankees begin their last series of the season against the Blue Jays, a quick two game set in the Bronx. The Yanks lead the season tilt 11-5, winning every series against Toronto save for a 4 game split the last time they met.

Sergio Mitre and his 7.02 ERA will jump the bump for the Bombers this evening. After his brilliant one-hit outing against the White Sox was cut short by a line drive to his forearm, Mitre was rocked for his worst start of the year his last time out by the same team he'll be facing tonight.

The Serge was tagged for 9 runs in 4 1/3 IP and two more unearned came to the plate during that time. He struck out 5 and didn't give up any home runs, but the Yanks made three errors behind him and every ball the Jays hit seemed to find a hole. At the risk of jinxing the man, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this start can't possibly be as bad as his last one.

Going against the Yankees tonight will be the man that has given the most trouble as a starting pitcher since he has entered the league.

Starting with at the end of the non-waiver trade deadline, Roy Halladay didn't appear to be himself. During his six starts in August, opponents hit .316/.333/.526 against him including 8 home runs, his most in a single month since April of 2003. He gave up 22 earned runs in 42 innings and allowed another 5 unearned to that total. To the casual observer, it might have seemed like he had been thrown off of his game or had mentally given in after not being traded.

However, Doc's K/BB ratio was still a fantastic 7.20, and he had gotten quite unlucky in terms of BABIP (.354) and HR/FB% (14.4%). It should have come as much of a surprise then, that he has started off September with two vintage Halladay starts, a complete game shutout against the Yankees on the 4th and a complete game loss against the Twins on the 9th.

He's thrown 9 innings in three of his four starts against the Yanks this year but has just two wins to show for his efforts. In 34 career starts against them, he has more complete games (7) than he does losses (6). He haunts the Yankees like no other active pitcher and they're going to need to put forth a solid offensive effort to overcome the strength of Halladay.

And I can still hear his laughter,
And I can still hear his song,
The man's too big,
The man's too strong.

Yanks Go Bowling

Slow day around here. How about some news, notes, and a few links?
  • The Yankees are going bowling. No, this isn't another team building exercise like the day of shooting pool in spring training. Continuing with the football obsession at the new Yankee Stadium, the New York Times is reporting that the "Yankee Bowl" is close to becoming a reality for the 2010 college football season. The game would be a lower tier bowl to take place between Christmas and New Year's and would pit the third or fourth Big East team against the seventh team from the Big 12. While this could offer area universities like Syracuse, Rutgers, or UConn a local bowl game, there isn't much else positive about this. Yankee Stadium is poorly designed for football. Bowl games are designed to be travel getaways. Cold weather bowl games suck. New York is not very pleasant weather wise in late December. Travel and lodging accomodations in the city are hard enough to come by during the holidays as it is. Bad idea.
  • The Yankees' starter for tomorrow night's game is currently listed as "TBA". This a bit curious, as it would be Andy Pettitte's normal turn. The Yanks could go with Chad Gaudin, whose "normal" turn would be tonight. If Pettitte doesn't go tomorrow, Thursday's off day will push him back to Friday, a full week since his last start. Not a huge deal, as extra rest for a pitcher his age could be quite helpful this time of year and getting the pitchers on target for the right post-season slots should be something to be mindful of right now.
  • In case you missed it in yesterday's preview, Ian Kennedy will start Game 2 of the International League Championship Series for Scranton tomorrow. He's likely to go three or four innings.
  • Last night's fifth inning collision between Melky Cabrera and Chone Figgins marks the second time this season that Figgins has become physically entangled with a Yankee. Unfortunately for Melky, it also marked the second time this year he took a shot to the grapes. At the risk of dedicating too much thought to it, Melky seemed to be in a bit too much pain for someone wearing the proper equipment. On the heels of Adrian Beltre nearly becoming half the man he used to be last month, I would hope that Melky would be a little smarter than that.
  • A couple of our friends also weighed in on the Freddy Guzman debate. Jason at IIATMS has an outlook far more optimistic than mine, while Joe Pawlikowski at RAB has a piece that falls somewhere in between.
Back with the preview in a bit.

Yanks To Begin, Finish Next Season Against Red Sox

Most openers are set for April 5, Major League Baseball said Tuesday, but it seems likely ESPN will shift the Yankees and Red Sox for the Sunday night game April 4. In the past 50 years, the Yankees also opened and closed against Boston in 1960, 1970, 1992 and 2005, according to STATS LLC. The only times they both started and finished in Boston were 1938 and 1950.
Both series will take place at Fenway Park.

Interleague match ups have been announced as well and the Yankees will be playing the Diamondbacks in mid-June in a rematch of the 2001 World Series along with the Dodgers for the first time since Joe Torre has been manager (provided they don't meet in the World Series this season).

Kellerman Will "Hopefully Be Back On-Air Soon"

For the first time since unceremoniously leaving his radio show on 1050 ESPN in New York, Max Kellerman commented publicly about the departure. He did so in an interview promoting the upcoming Floyd Mayweather vs. Juan Manuel Marquez fight on HBO PPV this coming Saturday former adversary Bob Raissman, whose mustache Kellerman frequently pondered the Freudian implications of.

After discussing his ascent from his cable access show "Max on Boxing" to his current role as primary analyst for the Mayweather vs. Marquez fight, Kellerman expressed regret for how he departed his radio show, saying:
Would I do certain things different? Absolutely. I don't know anybody who has made the optimal choice at every moment in their life. Some things, given the information I had at the time, well, I made what I thought was a good choice. Now, I would be more diplomatic, not so plain-spoken behind the scenes.
Loyal members of the Max Kellerman army wish it had gone down differently as well. After Kellerman left, his slots were filled by the Brandon Tierney Show and The Herd with Colin Cowherd, neither of whom provided the unique perspective on the Yankees and Giants that Max did since his show debuted in August of 2006.

He also made some opaque comments about his eventual return to the radio:
"I love the radio. I loved what I did," Kellerman said. "Now that some time has passed, yes, I was interested in (joining) Mike Francesa and WFAN. What he's done with his show, and his career, is very impressive and I was absolutely interested in that. And I think there was interest there too," Kellerman said. "There are several (radio) things we are looking at. Hopefully I will be back on the air soon."
Interesting that Kellerman talks about his interest in partnering with Francesa, something we speculated about a while back, in the past tense. Interesting also that the interview was published almost exactly six months after he left the show, when his contract was supposedly up. Given that ESPN no longer controls his rights, a return to the air is likely near.

As I said back in February, I think WFAN should slot Kellerman from 10-1, where his old show was on 1050. A pairing with Francesa would be annoying to loyal listeners of each host and they would get better ratings by spreading two big draws out over two time slots. But what do I know? I'd only been listening to Kellerman since the day his show came on the air and represent the most desirable demographic of radio listeners - males 18-34.

Either way, I'm anxiously awaiting Kellerman's return to the airwaves. Sports talk radio has been unlistenable without him. We'll keep you posted on any developments in this area.

Recycling A Thirty-Six Year Old Bad Idea

Except this one somehow worked out...

Something referred to as "Brett Tomko" allegedly threw a complete game, 5 hit shutout last night. Against the Rangers. In Texas, knocking the Rangers 4.5 behind the Red Sox in the Wild Card. Multiple sources have confirmed this outlandish tale, however I remain skeptical and will be reviewing the game via MLB.tv shortly for anything suspicious.

Since picked up by the A's, The Artist has gone 4-1 with a 2.95 ERA in 6 starts with only one poor outing, striking out 22 while walking 6. I guess he had a right to be all bitchy about not being "given a fair shot".

It was his 100th career win, which might be somewhat impressive if he didn't have 102 losses.

Just to review, Tomko gave up 12 earned runs in 20.2 innings (5.23 ERA) with the Yankees, mostly in relief, which is theoretically easier than starting and had a tiny BABIP of .230. But since moving to Oakland and pitching solely in the rotation, 36 year old Brett Tomko, owner of a 92 career ERA+ has also given up 12 runs, but in 36.2 IP for an ERA two and a quarter runs lower. He's won 4 games for a team that has gone 13-13 over that time. Damn you Billy Beane!

If I was John Sterling, I'd say "I'll tell you what, that's why you just can't predict baseball!!11!" but instead I'll just pose the rhetorical question, "What the fuck?".

Recycling A Thirty-Five Year Old Bad Idea

Good morning Fackers. This is Herb Washington. More specifically, this is Herb Washington's 1975 Topps baseball card, to which our black and white policy here does absolutely no justice (check the color photo here). You may notice that Washington's position on the card is listed as "pinch runner". He is the only man in the 59 year history of Topps baseball cards to have such a position listed on his card.

Washington was a track and field star at Michigan State University in the late sixties and early seventies. He hadn't played baseball since high school, but that didn't deter colorful Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley from signing him to be his "designated runner" in 1974. The A's used six different players as a pinch running specialists during the mid-70s, but Washington was the most famous amongst the six, and was the only one of them to never register a plate appearance nor appear in the field defensively.

In 1974 and 1975, Washington appeared in 105 games for the A's, scored thirty three runs, stole thirty one bases and was caught stealing seventeen times (64.6% SB). He appeared in five post-season games in 1974 without scoring a single run or stealing a base, getting caught stealing in both his ALCS appearances and getting picked off first as the tying run in the ninth inning of Game Two of the World Series.

So why do I bring up one of Charlie Finley's several unorthodox innovations some thirty-five years later? Well, because as I mentioned in yesterday's game preview, the Yankees added Freddy Guzman to the 40 man roster and recalled him from Scranton. Ostensibly, Guzman is an outfielder, but according to Joe Girardi's pre-game comments yesterday, he is now in the mix for the post-season roster as a pinch running specialist.

I'm trying to remain level-headed about this for the moment. With less than three weeks left in the season and relatively comfortable leads in both AL East and homefield races, there isn't any major harm in giving some lesser known quantities a look - even if that quantity is 28 years old and not really a prospect. And while in principal I don't like DFA'ing young unproven commodities (not to mention the PTBNL the Yankees still owe the Orioles from the initial deal) for guys that haven't appeared in the Big Leagues in two years and have washed out of five different organizations since then, losing Anthony Claggett shouldn't be that big of a deal - I just hope he gets an opportunity elsewhere to get his career ERA under 30.00.

However, unless Freddy Guzman proves to be baseball's version of The Flash, can cut the bag perfectly, read every pitcher flawlessly, and get incredible jumps off the pitcher and off the bat each time, I have no interest in him being on the post-season roster.

Giving a guy a look when you have a 40 man roster and essentially are playing with house money is one thing. Carrying a guy as one of twenty-five when each game pushes you closer to the ultimate goal or going home is quite another. Each of one of those post-season roster spots is precious, and they should be filled in such a manner as to optimize a team's chances of winning. Despite Freddy Guzman's considerable speed, he is not a good baseball player and his shortcomings in the other aspects of the game are not made up for by his ability to run from base to base really fast.

I understand that the Yankees have an excellent line up from top to bottom, and that the center field spot will likely be the only one to ever need a pinch hitter. I realize that resident speedster Brett Gardner may occupy that CF spot from time to time and that pinch hitting for him would remove his considerable speed from the game. I realize that Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui are likely to require a pinch runner from time to time. As Brett Gardner reminded us last night, I realize all too well that despite its inherent risks, there are certain points in the game where a stolen base can be exceedingly valuable. I realize that if the Yankees finish with the best record in the league and choose the "A" schedule for the ALDS that they'll only need three starting pitchers and can likely afford to carry an extra position player. But none of that means Freddy Guzman should make the post-season roster.

Freddy Guzman has appeared in 37 MLB games since 2004. He has stolen five bases and has been caught three times. In 95 plate appearances he has hit .213/.263/.281. He has an astounding 25.1 UZR/150 as a center fielder, but given that he's played the equivalent of 18 games there, sample size is a huge issue.

In 2,174 AAA plate appearances since 2003, Guzman has hit an unimpressive .266/.337/.356 and has stolen an impressive 250 bases in 296 attempts (84.5%). In four (four!) AAA stops this year he's swiped 45 in 54 attempts (83.3%) and has hit .223/.272/.294 in 381 PA. Without adjusting for park, that triple slash line has a Major League equivalent of about .194/.236/.251 with 38 SB in 48 attempts. For comparison's sake, Braves pitcher and former Yankee Javier Vazquez is hitting .194/.231/.242 this year and he's only about the fifteenth best hitting pitcher in the NL. In other words, save for on the bases, Freddy Guzman has no discernible value, and given the importance of offense and defense relative to base running, his excellence in this one facet of the game does not justify his presence on the roster.

I imagine the Yankees will carry 11 pitchers in the post-season, potentially even 10 in the ALDS . That would leave them with a five or six man bench. Gardbrera, Jose Molina, Eric Hinske, and Jerry Hairston Jr are mortal locks for four of those spots. Candidates for the remaining spot(s) include Ramiro Pena, Shelley Duncan, potentially even Francisco Cervelli, Juan Miranda, or any number of players at Scranton not currently on the 40 man (Austin Jackson, Kevin Russo) who are superior to Freddy Guzman.

While the remaining options certainly don't offer the speed Guzman does, several of them are not slow and offer value that Guzman does not. Pena is a sure handed fielder, provides another middle infield option for substitutions in blowouts, can play the outfield in a pinch, and is no slouch on the bases. Duncan could be a weapon off the bench against a left handed relief specialist and can the play OF corners or first. Miranda could be a dangerous bat against right handed pitching.

Guzman would be a waste of a roster spot. The Yankees will have sufficient pinch runners in the back-up center fielder, Hairston, and (hopefully) Pena. All of them offer value beyond speed on the bases. If the Yankees insist upon carrying someone strictly as a pinch runner, maybe they should consider Edwar Ramirez - at the very least he could eat up a few innings too if a game were to get out of hand.