Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Game 159: Next Time You See Me

It's hard to believe that tonight will be the last regular season home game for the Yankees. It seems like just yesterday when the Stadium was the New Stadium; an overpriced, empty, band box that didn't have the atmosphere or memories or the history of the place across the street and never would.

Some of those things are still true, but the Yanks have certainly come up with more than a typical season's worth of wins (57), late inning magic (15 walk offs) and special moments (Jeter passing Gehrig) there so far.

As linked earlier today, the homers have settled down. The Peter Max gallery is gone. The urinals in the upper deck still don't have dividers, but the prices of the most expensive Legends Seats have been cut in half and holders of the other seats in that area have been compensated with extra games. Those two things have eliminated most of the conspicuously empty seats behind the plate, which mattered far more to 99.99% of Yankees fans than the fact that the tickets were overpriced to begin with.

All of those things seemed like a big deal at the time, but now the New Stadium doesn't feel so new. I think that's what most of the hand-wringing surrounding the opening of the place back in April was really about. It was a house without the familiarity of a home. The place wasn't yet ours. It was never going to be anyone else's, but the team and the fans hadn't yet formed any common bonds by way of the Stadium.

Now we have them. We have Melky's walk-offs, Luis Castillo's drop, A-Rod's solo shot in the 15th inning of a 0-0 game against the fackin' Sawx, the back to back 8th inning homers against Daniel Bard two nights later, the fight against the Blue Jays, and the blown save by Farsnworth last night. We even have the 22-4 game against the Indians, and the one where Mariano some how gave up back to back home runs. The last two a pretty painful, but all those things make the Stadium incrementally more ours.

What Joba Chamberlain does tonight on his small leg of the Yankees' victory lap will be forgotten soon enough. The Bombers have won 71% of their home games so far this year which can be considered a success by any measure. But all the good juju accrued over the 81 regular season contests at the New Stadium will be put on the table October 7th, 9th and possibly 14th. If all goes well then, it will be doubled down. And with any luck, the stakes will be raised again.

So enjoy the relatively inconsequential nature of tonight's game. Because they next time the Yanks take in the vistas of their palace in the Bronx, things most certainly won't be the same.

Next time you see me things, won't be the same,
Next time you see me things, won't be the same,
If it hurts you my darling, you only got yourself to blame.

Well, it's true, true saying, all that shines is not gold.
Well, it's true, true saying, all that shines is not gold.
Like the good book says, you gotta reap just what you sow.

Getting The Links Out

It's been a surprisingly lively day in terms of baseball talk on these here internets. Let's take a look around at what's going on.

Here is the best visual you will see explaining how the Red Sox got into the playoffs.

Big Legue Stew gives the Yankees their postseason entrance exam which is proctored by Rob Iracane of Walkoff Walk. It's worth the read just to see which of th ESPN talking heads picked them to finish third in the AL East.

You might have heard Michael Kay state matter-of-factly that the Twins were upset with the rain out on Monday night because it forced a double header. Conventional baseball wisdom says that it's harder to sweep a double header than it is to take two games from a team, but is that really true. MGL from The Book doesn't think so but the primates at BBTF think he should probably have looked at the numbers first. Somewhere in that thread (68 comments and counting) you'll find the truth.

Is Derek Jeter a thief or a liar? The Shyster wants answers. The best part of that post is the dunces on the comment thread who tell Craig to "get a real job" because they take offense to him daring to question the Captain's integrity. [Sidenote: By the URL, you can tell that the original title of that post was vintage Calcaterra ("Great Moments In Gift Giving"), but odds are an editor changed it to the more inflammatory current one. They got their desired reaction all right.]

Teddy Atlas breaks down a fight that broke out in the concourses at Yankee Stadium. It may be the cutest fight ever.

Shocker: According to Hal Steinbrenner, Joe Girardi doesn't have to win a title to return as manager.

The numbers are almost in, and it turns out that Yankee Stadium isn't quite the bandbox it was originally portrayed as. After averaging 3.78 HRs/game in April and May, the Stadium has given up 2.56 per game since then and only 2.46 since the All-Star Break.

Shelley Duncan's suspension for his role in the Posada-Carlson brawl was rescinded by the MLB. Matt thought Shelley might get off when he initially appealed it and it turns out he was right. Apparently you can kick all the ass you want, just as long as the camera's can't clearly see you and you don't start the fight.

The Indians fired Eric Wedge and his staff. Well, not really because they still have to coach the last six games of the season. This would be the rare occasion when "lame duck" actually applies.

PETCOA's run of amazingly accurate preseason predictions has come to a screeching halt. Well, maybe if Nate Silver wasn't so damn busy becoming rich and famous by predicting the results of the Presidential Election, he might have had more time to spend on his baseball simulations. Talk about misplaced priorities!

Well be back to make fun of the Royals in the preview shortly.

One Reason Not To Hate Brett Favre

When the Twins' ninth inning comeback fell short in the nitecap of yesterday's doubleheader againt Detroit, the Tigers ran their AL Central Lead back to two games. Their magic number is now four. Both the Twins and Tigers have 5 games left, two of them head-to-head. If the Tigers sweep the two they clinch; if the Twins do, they're dead even with three games to go.

Of course, all of this matters to the Yankees as they won't know who their ALDS opponent is until the AL Central is settled. While much of the talk around the Yankees these days is of the "who would you rather face?" variety, my preference isn't so much who they face but rather how long it takes to determine that. If given my druthers, this race would go down to the season's final day, not just for intrigue purposes, but also to force both clubs to continue to play their regulars and trot out their top starters.

Because of the doubleheader yesterday, both clubs have a dilemma for Saturday: bring back one of yesterday's starters on short rest, or send an inferior, but rested, pitcher to the mound with the season hanging in the balance. For the Tigers, the fact that 20 year old Rick Porcello was one of yesterday's pitchers makes the decision all the more complicated. Porcello has already thrown 165 innings this year - 40 more than his previous high - and bringing him in on short rest would increase his risk of future injury. Instead, the Tigers likely would elect to throw ace Justin Verlander on short rest Saturday, even though he's thrown 120+ pitches in each of his last three starts, including a season high 129 last night. For the Twins, "ace" Nick Blackburn would likely come back on short rest Saturday, and it looks like he'd draw Zack Greinke.

If the Yankees pick ALDS schedule "A" as expected, Game 1 would be next Wednesday, meaning that if the Saturday starter of the AL Central champ pitches that game, it would also be on short rest.

Here's where things can get really interesting. Should the Tigers and Twins finish the regular season tied, an additional play in game would be held to determine the division champion. The Twins lead the season series against the Tigers 10-6, so regardless of the outcome of the next two games, the Twins would host any potential play in game.

However, root-of-all-evil Brett Favre and his Minnesota Vikings are scheduled to play his former team, the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football next week. The Vikings' Metrodome lease gives them priority over all non-World Series games and the NFL has already announced the game will not be moved. There's no way ESPN, who is actively trying to set a Favre-based Guiness World Record to promote the game, would pass up on the ratings bonanza. As such, the AL Central championship game wouldn't be held until Tuesday, meaning that whoever pitches that game will have one fewer day of rest heading into the ALDS. So in a way, thank you Brett you waffling, self-centered attention whore.

All else being equal, I think I'd prefer to face the Twins in the ALDS. They appear to have a much weaker squad, particularly in the starting rotation, are missing a key offensive weapon in Justin Morneau, are 0-7 against the Yankees this year, and have been ALDS fodder for the Yanks in '03 and '04. However, I'd much rather have the Central go undecided until next Tuesday and play the Tigers than have the Twins come back and clinch it Saturday. These will certainly be an interesting few days.

Kyle Baked Us A Pie!

Pie for breakfast? Go ahead, Fackers, you know you want to.

Delicious, isn't it? Don't sound so surprised. Don't you remember Kyle's peanut butter cookies? His fiancee (now wife) called him "Betty Crocker" in that Daily News article fluff piece/transparent attempt by his publicist to make people hate him less that was published just before last season, but he really out did himself last night, didn't he?

At 10:11 PM last night, PeteAbe chimed in with this update to his game thread:
Farnsworth in to pitch. Krazy Kyle for my last game. How appropriate. Back in a bit with reaction from the 4-3 victory. Where is Soria?
(Pete answered his own question after the game, noting that Soria converted a 46 pitch save on Sunday against the Twins and wasn't available.)

Moments later, Matt sent me a text that read:
Farnsworhtless?!?! Get the pie ready.
With all due respect to John Sterling, sometimes you can predict baseball.

They've only been tracking blown saves since 2002, but over that span Kyle Farnsworth has converted 24 saves and blown 26. During that same time frame Mariano Rivera has saved 311 and blown 28. Granted, you can blow a save even when you don't have a chance to convert one, which is how Scott Proctor has a lone career save but 14 blown ones.

Still Farnsworth has a mind-numbingly bad save conversion rate considering his ERA is only about a half of a run higher in save situations and his peripherals don't vary significantly based on game situation or leverage. WPA says he's about as clutch as you would expect a late inning reliever with a career ERA just under league average to be.

He famously blew a save against the White Sox by serving up a three run homer to Jim Thome on Opening Day in his first appearance as a Royal. After two scoreless innings, he was tagged with the loss in back to back games and his ERA sat at 18.90. Then he went 17 games and 17 2/3 IP without giving up a run to bring his ERA down to 3.00 but over that span was inserted to the game with a lead only 4 times, and in those games the average margin was six runs. Then, in his very next outing Trey Hillman brought him into a tie game in the bottom of the tenth and he lost the game before recording an out.

Before last night, The Farns had given up only one run in his last ten games. But lo and behold as soon as he was placed in to save situation, shit hit the fan. it wasn't really his fault though. He gave up real one base hit; the other two never even left the infield. But thanks to a throwing error by his catcher and some otherwise terrible luck, Krazy Kyle was the goat once again.

I hated him as much as the next guy when he was on the Yankees, but when they traded him for Pudge Rodriguez and he openly cried in the locker room, I have to admit, my first reaction wasn't to mock him, it was to feel sorry for the guy. It's not like he wanted to blow all of those games, and you would probably cry too if you boss came into your office and informed you that you had to pack up your things and more to fucking Detroit.

A while back, Joe Posnanski put together a few Kyle Farnsworth facts, which are similar to Chuck Norris facts, except exactly opposite:
  • Every dog has his day … except Kyle Farnsworth.
  • When Kyle Farnsworth gets 21, it’s not blackjack.
  • A rolling stone gathers no moss … it’s all on Kyle Farnsworth.
  • A broken clock is right twice a day … which is more than Kyle Farnsworth.
  • When Kyle Farnsworth lands on Free Parking in Monopoly, he has to pay.
  • Two wrongs don’t make a right. They make a Kyle Farnsworth inning.
  • There’s no crying in baseball, except when Kyle Farnsworth comes in.
Yours in the comments.

Burnett Pitches Well, Delivers Baked Goods

For a good portion of tonight's game, it appeared that Phil Coke was going to be the goat. Luckily for him, someone who is all too familiar with playing that role for the Yankees bailed him out.

A.J. Burnett and Anthony Lerew locked horns in a somewhat unlikely pitcher's duel for the first six innings of the game. Burnett improved on his last outing, lasting 6 1/3 innings, allowing six baserunners and striking out 8. His power curve was on point, getting six of those K's via the hook, and five of those swinging.

Lerew's weapon of choice was the change up. He only struck out three, but kept the Yanks off balance all night, dispersing 5 hits and 2 walks over six innings and tossing 56 of his 92 pitches for strikes.

Mark Teixeira was waiting for one of those change ups from Lerew in the sixth inning. Although the pitch was nearly chest high, Teix took an uppercut swing at it and launched a line drive with heavy overspin off the concrete part of the wall in right center that nearly bounced into the bleachers. The solo shot tied the game at one, but the Yanks would surrender the lead in the next half inning.

Burnett came out for top of the seventh having thrown 96 pitches, but an 11 pitch at bat against Mark Teahen quickly escalated his count. After he got the next batter, John Buck, to fly out to center, Joe Girardi went to the mound for his starter, knowing it was unnecessary to extend him with nothing on the line.

In came Phil Coke, who immediately started off on the wrong foot. He got Alex Gordon to tap back to the mound, but took his time getting to the ball and allowed Gordon to reach on a single. Up next, Josh Anderson bounced one back towards Coke, who, in an attempt to facilitate a double play, proceeded to throw the ball into centerfield, allowing Teahen to score and both of the other runners to advance safely, thereby coughing up the lead.

It didn't end there, though. Still with only one out, Coke got Mitch Maier to ground back to him, but instead of throwing the ball home, where he surely would have caught Gordon, Coke fired to first, taking the easy out but allowing the run to score. The three lapses in concentration cost the Yanks the lead and on a cold night with many of the seats in the Stadium left unoccupied, it didn't feel as if the Yanks were going to rally.

Lerew came back out for the bottom of the seventh and quickly allowed a lead off homer to Nick Swisher, putting the Yanks and the crowd right back in the game. The Yanks put two more runners on base in the inning but couldn't plate either of them.

David Roberston returned to the mound for the first time since being sidelined with pain in his throwing elbow in the the eighth. He got Billy Butler swinging and Brayan Pena to ground out, but saw his pitch count climb to 19 after walking Alberto Callaspo. Not wanting to over-exert the righty in his first appearance back, Girardi called on Brain Bruney who gave up a single but escaped the inning without further damage.

Bruney worked through the 9th inning without giving up a run, preserving a one run deficit for the Yanks heading into the home half. Either oblivious to Kyle Farnsworth's history with the Yankees or anxious to tempt fate, Trey Hillman called on the former Yankee to protect the Royals one run lead.

After striking out Brett Gardner, Farnsworth gave up a dribbling single to Frankie Cervelli. Eric Hinske was called on to pinch hit and ripped a single into right field, placing the tying run on third base with one out. The offensive hero of the previous night's game, Robinson Cano laced a sac fly to deep center to even the score.

Johnny Damon was next up and Hinske, who hadn't stolen a base all year, took off for second. He appeared to beat the throw, but better yet, it sailed into centerfield and Hinske made an even ballsier move in taking off for third. The ball arrived in time but Alex Gordon failed to make a clean catch and tag him out.

Farnsworth intentionally walked Damon to bring up International League stud Juan Miranda. In an improbable conclusion to an unlikely rally, Miranda banged a liner off of Krazy Kyle's leg which deflected into foul territory far enough for Miranda to get to first base and the winning run to score.
Yanks win 4-3. Win number 103 and walkoff number 15 in the books. The games aren't meaningless when you win like this.