Friday, May 28, 2010

Games 47-50: Let The Good Times Roll

[First, a quick housekeeping note. As Matt mentioned, he's going to be heading down to South Carolina for a wedding this weekend and in addition, I have a golf tournament that's going to last at least two days. As a result, the content is going to be sparse at best around here. We know from previous experience that web traffic plummets during holiday weekends, especially during the summer, and in the interest of making the most out of the next few days, we aren't going to be posting much or possibly anything at all. Unless something (awesome/incredible/tragic) happens or Matt gets really bored down in South Cackalacka, we'll probably just recap the happenings of the weekend with a wrap-up on Tuesday.

Since you will likely be BBQing or spending time on the lake or playing horseshoes or doing whatever it is that you folks do when it's nice out and you don't have to work, I doubt you'll really care, but we just wanted to leave something like this on top of the site in our absence. Anyway, on to the regular preview....]

There are no shortage of reasons why the Yankees went 7-11 over the last 18 games. We covered them so much here that I'm not even going to link to our previous posts. In short, injuries, the inability to drive in runners, poor starting pitching and sub-par work out of the bullpen (among other minor issues), all cost the Yanks a game or two each in aggregate over the last three weeks. But the perhaps the biggest reason for their Spring swoon was their opponents.

Of those dozen and a half games, six of them were against the Twins, four against the Tigers, three each against the Red Sox and the Mets, and two against the Rays. As of right now, every one of those teams has a winning record and the only one who isn't within two games of their division lead is Boston, who are two back of the Yanks.

Conversely, the Bombers have a relatively soft set of opponents on the horizon. The next 16 games (seven of which are at home) are comprised of four against the Indians starting tonight, a home and away with the Orioles, three against the Blue Jays, and another three against the Astros. Toronto has the same record as the Red Sox but the other three clubs occupy the basements of their respective divisions.

Conventional wisdom says that you can tell what a team is made of against the better teams that they face, but in this case, I think we'll have a better idea of what kind of Yankee team this is based on how much ass they kick over this stretch. 10-6 or better and I think we can deem the stretch successful; 9-7 or worse and I think the Yanks have some soul searching to do.

Fortunately, the Yanks will take a small step back towards full strength tonight when Curtis Granderson returns after damn near a month on the DL. It's hard to say that the Yanks missed a guy who was hitting .225/.311/.375 when he went down, but anything that keeps Randy Winn out of the line up can only be a good thing.

There will be a return of a different kind this evening as well. When the Yankees parted ways with Shelley Duncan back in January, I said:
The Indians visit the Bronx for a four game set starting May 28th. Hope to see you there, Shelley.
Well, don't you know, Shelley was called up last week and will likely see some playing time this weekend. It will be good to see Duncan getting some Major League playing time and if he gets himself a couple of hits, I won't hesitate to crack a smile.

Although summer doesn't officially begin on the calendar until June 21st, Memorial Day Weekend is the jump off point in my book. This is when the good stuff starts really happening. Hopefully this is when it starts to come together for the Yankees as well.

Since we aren't going to be around, here are four versions of this song, one for each game of the series.

Friday:
Phil Hughes (5-1, 2.72) vs. Fausto Carmona (4-2, 3.45)
7:05 p.m on YES

UPDATE from Matt 4:05 PM FRI: Randy Winn has been designated for assignment to make room for the reutrning Curtis Granderson. I can't say I disagree with this move, but I am surprised that the Yankees made it at this time. They must really like what they've seen from Kevin Russo and must be confident enough in his ability to be the fourth outfielder.

Granderson returns to the lineup in the two spot. A-Rod gets the night off, so Robinson Cano hits clean up for the first time in his career. Francisco Cervelli gets his first off day since May 16th, further weakening the back of the lineup.
Jeter SS
Granderson CF
Teixeira 1B
Cano 2B
Swisher RF
Miranda DH
Gardner LF
Pena 3B
Moeller C



Saturday:
CC Sabathia (4-3, 3.86) vs. David Huff (2-6, 5.25)

1:05 PM on YES

[UPDATE from Matt 12:10 PM SAT: Alex Rodriguez and Francisco Cervelli return to the lineup after getting last night off. With a lefty on the mound Marcus Thames gets his first start since spraining his ankle last Wednesday. The lefty also lands Curtis Granderson on the bench just one day after his return. Kevin Russo plays left, Brett Gardner slides over to center, and Nick Swisher moves up to the two spot.
Derek Jeter SS
Nick Swisher RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Marcus Thames DH
Francisco Cervelli C
Kevin Russo LF
Brett Gardner CF


Sunday:
A.J. Burnett (5-2, 3.55) vs. Justin Masterson (0-5, 6.13)
1:05 PM on YES



Monday:
Andy Pettitte (6-1, 2.62) vs. Mitch Talbot (6-3, 3.73)

1:05 p.m on YES


Enjoy the weekend, Fackers. We'll be waiting for you on the other side.

Friday Grab Bag

At Big League Stew, Old Hoss Radbourn reviewed a book about himself. Unfortunately, it more closely resembles an actual book review than the fantastic musings of the legendary Twitter account, but it's still worth a read. That's old Charlie with the mustache on the right there, doing his best Kevin Youkilis impression.

Larry from Wezen-Ball's Tater Trot Tracker has been featured in such illustrious places as The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Fack Youk's linkarounds, but he has now he has really hit the big time. Tony Reali of Around The Horn brought it up on yesterday's show and Larry has the clip on his site to prove it. He was interviewed on an CBC radio broadcast for the posts he did on Charlie Brown's team's record and I'd bet you dollars to donuts that he's going to be on TV himself before the season is over.

I like Tim Marchman and understand that this is partially tongue-in-cheek, but come on, dude:
Is the pace at which the Yankees and Red Sox play baseball pathetic and embarrassing? Yes. Derek Jeter takes half a minute after every pitch to readjust his life giving glands, secure his gloves, check the seats for good looking women, read the defense, try to steal signs and so on, and he's probably not one of the five worst offenders on the two teams.
Jeter is scanning the seats for anyone who might be up to no good so he can foil their diabolical plots, just like any superhero worth his weight in salt would.

Speaking of Jeter, he talked to the WSJ about his approach to hitting, particularly when things aren't going well, and said he really doesn't think about what he's doing at the plate:
By his own admission, Mr. Jeter is not a true student of hitting. You will not find him in hitting coach Kevin Long's office too often, nor does he delve deeply into self-analysis. "I really don't dissect things like most people," he said.
It's kind of shocking to think that someone can just go up there without processing what they are doing but it made me think back to something that David Foster Wallace once said:

video

One more Jeter note: he doesn't use the internet? At all? I mean, I wouldn't expect him to go on read a bunch of stuff and waste his whole day on it like I do, but what about researching vacations or finding other ways to spend his copious amounts of money? For directions? To find a restaurant? EVERYONE USES THE INTERNET!

Tom Tango thinks Bryce Harper should blindfold himself and throw the steering wheel out the window. Not literally of course.

In his space in the NYT Bats Blog, Baseball-Reference's Sean Forman explains that having the last at bat isn't the home team's biggest advantage. Instead, it's the amount of extra base hits they amass. Just spitballin' here, but I'm guessing it's probably due to the visiting outfielder's unfamiliarity with the dimensions of the field and to a much lesser extent that hitters are better at finding the gaps at the place they play most often, whether it be consciously or subconsciously.

Does the fact that the Mets swept the Phillies make you feel any better about the Yanks losing two out of three to them? Me neither.

Disappointed by the Phillies anemic offensive output in the first game and a half of the series, Meech from the Fightins went on a hunger strike in the fifth inning of Wednesday night's game which will supposedly last until the Phils score a run. He's going to have to wait until at least 7:00 tonight for a reprieve. Chris Volstad is starting for the Marlins, so fortunately for Meech's health and enjoyment of his Memorial Day weekend, it shouldn't be too long after that.

Although the Yanks won't be visiting it against until October at the earliest, it's still worth reading David Brown's review of Target Field. The wood mural of Rod Carew on the left might be the greatest backdrop of a bar that I've ever seen.

While perusing Twitter yesterday, Rob Neyer spotted an interesting couple of tweets from Rangers' pitcher C.J. Nitkowski. It turns out that C.J. saw Ted Lilly doing something illegal on the mound. Casey Blake noticed from first base and was angry but the broadcast crew didn't pick up on it at first.

Since then, Lilly was questioned about it and acknowledged the possibility that he might have been ahead of the rubber but said that he "wasn't thinking about it" (which means he probably was).

Not baseball related, but this converstion between Ben Stiller and Mickey Rooney pretty much sums up Twitter insomuch as I understand it. (via Aaron Gleeman's always excellent Link-o-Rama)

Since I love podcasts, here is the link to the latest and greatest from the excellent one produced by Pitchers & Poets. Here's an older episode in which Carson Cistulli of FanGraphs is the guest, if you need more listening material to get you through the day.

We talked about John Smoltz's failed quest to qualify for the U.S. Open a while back but it looks like Tony Romo actually got through his Local Qualifier with some late-round heroics that put him right on the cut line with four other golfers. Romo flubbed a chip on the first hole of the playoff (sound familiar?) but managed to save par and sneak in to the Sectional Qualifier with another par on the second sudden death hole.

This is just about the most over the top themed wedding that I've ever seen. Even if you and your spouse really loved baseball and had unlimited time and money, could you see yourselves going to that length?

Minor League News And Notes

Good morning Fackers. Friday at last. T-minus eight hours until that sweet, glorious three day holiday weekend. I'll be wasting mine driving thirty one hours roundtrip to Charleston, SC and back for a wedding which I have no interest in attending. People who get married on holiday weekends should be forced to honeymoon in Guantanamo Bay.

To make matters worse, there will be no dinner served, so I'm sure it'll be cash bar as well (facepalm). The icing on the cake: the Charleston Riverdogs are out of town, so there'll be no checking in the Yankees low A affiliate for me. On the bright side, a wedding south of the Mason-Dixon line is all the excuse I need to wear a seersucker suit.

On to the minor league notes:
Curtis Granderson completed his minor league rehab assignment in the first game of Scranton's doubleheader yesterday. He played center field for all seven innings and went 0 for 2 with a walk yesterday, finishing his stint at 4 for 16 with 2 walks and no extra base hits over five games. He left for New York after the game and will be activated for tonight's series opener against Cleveland.

Recently signed Tim Redding has been named Scranton's starter for tomorrow's game, bumping Jason Hirsh from the rotation. Redding was signed more than two weeks ago, I'm surprised it took this long for the organization to assign him to an affiliate. As for Hirsh, he was a bit stunned by the move, but as Axisa noted in last night's DoTF, this move could be a positive sign for Hirsh. With Alfredo Aceves' immediate future a question mark, the organization could be grooming Hirsh for a long/middle relief role.

David Winfree has been absent from the Scranton line up since last Thursday. Yesterday word finally leaked that Winfree has been out with a sore left wrist but Scranton's intern Conor Foley tells RAB's Mike Axisa that Winfree should be back soon. Winfree was hitting a solid .283/.314/.455 while seeing time in the outfield corners and at first before hitting the shelf.

While Winfree's been out, fellow outfielder/first baseman Chad Huffman has been heating up, going .333/.405/.394 over his last ten games, running his line for the season to .285/.355/.445.

Speaking of wrist injuries, Trenton outfielder Dan Brewer rolled his wrist while making a diving catch last night. Hmm. Suspended game and an injury? Just like the big club does it. After the initial concern, Brewer stayed in the game. He's quietly putting together a nice season, with a decent walk rate and 16 steals in 17 attempts.

The bigger story in Trenton last night was Hector Noesi's second AA start. This one went much better than his first, as he allowed one single, one walk, and five strikeouts through three scoreless innings.

We're a day late on this one, but Trenton third baseman Brandon Laird hit for the cycle Wednesday, culminating the feat with a walkoff homer. Laird is posting an impressive .305/.356/.531 thus far, and new Pending Pinstripes contributor Josh points out that when adjusted for park, Laird's line is even more impressive. Josh also recognizes that Laird is pretty well blocked by Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, and John Nalbone expands on that, noting Laird is Rule 5 eligible after this season, which will force the Yankees to make some decisions about his future in the organization.

Also out of Trenton, catcher Neall French has retired. French was Trenton's third string catcher and had spent the entire year on the DL. With the catching depth in the Yankee system he likely saw the writing on the wall.

While one minor leaguer was leaving, another was returning. The organization brought back Rudy Guillen, who hasn't appeared in organized ball since 2007. The Yankees signed Guillen out of the Dominican Republic in 2000. After spending his career as outfielder, he made three appearances as a pitcher prior to washing out of the organization in 2007. It appears he'll be an outfielder again this time, and while Baseball America sees some potential left in him, it's going to be mighty hard to kick start a career at 26 after three years out of the game.

Andrew Brackman tossed six shutout innings last night, giving up six hits and two walks while striking out seven. Over his last four starts, Brackman has surrendered just six runs, five earned, over 22.1 IP (2.01 ERA). He's allowed just 19 hits and only four walks in that time, while striking out 19. It's a small sample and nothing to get too excited over. But with the struggles Brackman has had, and with Jeremy Bleich facing surgery, and with Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos yet to pitch this year, it's great to see one of the Yankees' high ceiling pitching prospects performing well.

Game 46 Recap

Not much good to say about this one.

Offensively, the Yanks managed nine hits off of Nick Baker Blackburn but didn't walk once, allowing him to cruise through seven innings of two run ball in just 92 pitches. They mustered only one baserunner after he left the game - a single by A-Rod in the top of the eighth. It was the first time all year they went a full game without working a walk and they only did it six times last year, going 2-4 in those contests. And in those two wins, they hit a combined eight home runs. So there are ways to win without walking, but it involves delivering a few knockout blows, not a pair of doubles like they did tonight.

Granted, Nick Blackburn is notoriously stingy with the base on balls, but not earning one free pass all game is not a recipe for success for the Bombers.

Despite the continued futility of the Yanks' bats - just six runs in this series and six straight games without scoring more that four runs - this one is on Javy Vazquez. The Twins slapped Javy around for five runs on eight hits, an incredible six of them going for extra bases. Luckily he was able to strand runners (five in his 5 2/3 innings) or else this would have been a much shorter outing.

I didn't have very high expectations for Javy considering he was coming off that finger injury and the Twins have an extremely left-handed-heavy lineup, but this was particularly bad. Javy managed to keep the ball inside of Target Field for the most part, with the exception of massive home run by Jason Kubel in the fifth, but he induced just two strikeouts and five groundballs compared to ten flyballs and seven line drives.

Vazquez just didn't fool anyone tonight. Out of the 112 pitches he threw, only four were swinging strikes. Similar to the Yankees not working walks, there might be a fine line where a pitcher can consistently induce weak contact without missing bats, but typically, if guys can get a piece that often, they are going to be squaring up with regularity.

Chad Gaudin made his Yankee re-debut tonight and allowed a three run shot to Jason Kubel (although Chan Ho Park put two of the runners on for him). Including the one against Vazquez earlier in the game and the one off Mariano Rivera the weekend before last, Kubel has hit three homers off of the Yanks in his last three games against them.

In more amusing news, during the most pointless segment of this and every Yankee broadcast, some drunk dude who was standing behind Kim Jones with the broom from a dustpan hung around his neck decided to take a bite out of her cold, prop pork chop. So there was that.

This game really sucked, mostly because of Vazquez's regression to his early year performance, but the Yanks still took two out of three from a very good team on the road. Next up, they get the Indians for a 4 game, wraparound, holiday weekend set in the Bronx starting with a game a 7:05 tomorrow night.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Game 46: Sister Luck

The Yanks and Twins close out their three game series tonight. Javier Vazquez will take the mound for the Yankees, making just his third start in the last twenty six days. After a rough beginning to his second go round in pinstripes, Vazquez has been markedly improved over his last two starts, allowing just ten baserunners and two runs while striking out thirteen over thirteen innings. In between, he made a relief appearance and picked up an easy win by fanning the only batter he faced.

Vazquez banged up his right index finger in his last start, bloodying the digit in a sacrifice bunt attempt at Citi Field. It was enough to force his early exit from that game, but he showed no ill effects during his bullpen session earlier this week. He's been deemed good to go tonight.

Nick Blackburn gets the start for the Twins. He was the starting pitcher in the series finale in New York the weekend before last, going seven innings and surrendering three runs on nine hits and a walk. It was enough for Blackburn to earn the win after the Yankee bullpen coughed up the game in the eighth inning. He followed that with 7.1 IP of three run ball against the Brewers last Friday, getting another win to run his 2010 record to 5-1.

Barring their fourth playoff meeting in the last eight seasons, this will be the final game between the Yankees and Twins this year. Since taking the helm in 2002, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has been very successful, posting a .547 winning percentage and capturing five AL Central flags. But the Yankees have been his personal kryptonite.

Gardenhire is just 15-45 against the Yankees over the past eight plus seasons, not including his 2-9 mark against them in post-season play. His Twins lost their first 13 games against the Yankees, going winless in 2002 and 2003, and dropped 17 of 19 from 2002 through 2004. Through yesterday, they're just 7-22 against the Yanks since the start of the 2007 season.

Those are some pretty staggering numbers, but they don't begin to tell the tail of how things have been between these teams since the start of last season. In that time, including last year's ALDS, the Yankees are 14-1 against the Twins. The one loss came only after Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera combined for a two out eighth inning meltdown nearly two weeks ago, a game in which the Yankees had a 87% chance of winning with just four outs to go.

But of the 14 wins the Yankees have had, seven have been by a lone run. Two more have been by just two runs. Four of them are of the walkoff variety, three of them in extra innings. Over those 15 games, the Yankees have scored 78 runs and allowed 44, which equates to a pythagorean record 11-4, or three games worse than they've done in actuality against the Twins over the past year plus.

Yet even that doesn't tell the whole story. Aside from winning close games and outplaying the run differential, the Yanks have gotten an inordinate number of breaks: Phil Cuzzi's blown call on Joe Mauer's would-be double in Game Two of the ALDS. A-Rod's clutch game tying home run in the ninth inning of that same game - when the Yankees started the inning with 10% win expectancy. David Robertson's Houdini act to escape a bases loaded, no one out jam in the eleventh inning of that game. Game changing base running gaffes by Carlos Gomez and Nick Punto changing the tenor of Games Two and Three. J.J. Hardy's potential game tying blast dying on the warning track yesterday afternoon. Andy Pettitte wriggling out of jams in the seventh and eighth inning yesterday.

It's a wealth of good luck and more than anyone has a right to expect over fifteen games. For one more night at least, the Yanks hope that Sister Luck doesn't start screaming out the Twins name.

Sister Luck is screaming out
Somebody else's name
[Song Notes: "Sister Luck" appeared on the Black Crowes debut album Shake Your Money Maker. It's been twenty years since that's been released and apparently the Crowes have decided this is a good time as any to take a little break. They'll be touring hard through the end of the year and then going on an indefinite hiatus. Part of that saddens me as this is a band that I've really enjoyed through the years. I'm going to try to catch a few shows before the year is out, starting next Friday on the Cape.

On the other hand, I suppose it's a good thing that they're calling it quits on relatively good terms, especially considering their often acrimonious history. Plus, their hiatus will allow Luther Dickinson to focus fully on the North Mississippi Allstars again, which can only be a good thing. And with any luck, just as they did after their 2001 hiatus, the Crowes will decide to come back after a few years, and do it with Marc Ford and Eddie Harsch back in the band.]

-Lineups-

Yankees:
After a one game absence, Brett Gardner returns to the two spot, with Nick Swisher going back to sixth in the order. Juan Miranda gets the nod at DH after crushing a long, loud out in a pinch hitting appearance last night. Francisco Cervelli starts his tenth straight game behind the dish and Kevin Russo gets his fourth straight start in left field and fifth in the last six games.
Derek Jeter SS
Brett Gardner CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Juan Miranda DH
Francisco Cervelli C
Kevin Russo LF

Twins:
Span CF
Hudson 2B
Mauer C
Morneau 1B
Thome DH
Cuddyer RF
Kubel LF
Hardy SS
Casilla 3B

Will Cowboy Joe Be Put Out To Pasture?

The old cliche says that you never notice the umps until they screw something up. And for the most part, I think that's right. The men in blue take a lot of flack when they get something wrong, and it seems to me that the level of anger directed at them has been growing recently. But generally speaking, I think they do a good job. If we need a super slow-mo instant replay from three different angles before we can tell, I think we can cut them a little slack on the close ones.

What isn't quite so easy to stomach is when an umpire chooses to make himself less inconspicuous. Certain umps like to get a little too emphatic with their punch outs. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Tim McClelland is notoriously slow and nonchalant when behind the plate. Tuesday night saw Balking Bob Davidson nearly lose his mind in tossing Carl Crawford and Joe Maddon after an indefensibly bad strike call.

And of course, Cowboy Joe West has been having a quite a 2010 for himself. While West is usually the one with the poor strike zone while Davidson calls the balks, the two apparently chose to reverse roles this week. By now you've certainly heard of West's two balk calls on Mark Buehrle yesterday, leading to West tossing Ozzie Guillen and then Buehrle. As Rob Iracane at Walkoff Walk rightly points out, the two balk calls may have been borderline, but West within his rights to call them. And while I can understand Buehrle's frustration after getting hung up twice on something many other pitchers get away with, he didn't help his case by drawing a line in the dirt after the first and dropping his glove in frustration after the second. You can debate whether or not his ejection was deserved, but it certainly shouldn't be surprising.

What's most disturbing though is that circumstantial evidence is mounting that West's repeated appearances in the news may not be accidental. On the heels of yesterday's debacle in Cleveland, word leaked that West will be working this weekend's series between Boston and Kansas City. It will be West's first series with Boston since his early season comments about their pace of play. Normally umpiring crews are not publicized by MLB in advance of a series, and this one is no different. How then did this information become public? Through Joe West's publicist of course.

This is the real problem here. Regardless of how poorly regarded West is as an umpire, regardless of his confrontational history as an umpire, I'm willing to cut him some slack as an arbiter of the game. I can understand why West, with a side career as country singer, might retain a publicist to support that endeavor. But there's absolutely no way that any umpire or any official within Major League Baseball should be publicizing his upcoming series. His job as an umpire is to be invisible, not to intentionally draw attention to himself.

Buehlre may face a fine for his actions yesterday. Ozzie Guillen will certainly be fined and possibly even suspended for his actions and for his hilarious, and likely truthful, postgame rant. And that's fine. I don't begrudge those two the actions they took but they took those actions knowing full there are consequences for them. Now they'll be held accountable, but accountability is a two way street.

I understand that MLB cannot publicly admonish, fine, or suspend Joe West. But at this point, with his comments on the pace of play, with his look-at-me actions during yesterday's game, and with his inexcusable press release, Major League Baseball has to do something about Joe West.

West is in his 32nd year as a Major League umpire. He'll be 59 by year's end and isn't exactly the fittest fella on the field. This past off-season, MLB had no qualms with quietly showing the door to longtime umps Randy Marsh, Ed Montague, Rick Reed, and Charlie Relaford, as well as even longer-tenured supervisors Marty Springstead, Rich Garcia, and Jim McKean. After his antics through the first two months of 2010, MLB would be very wise to do the same with Joe West after this season.

Radio Play

At different points in my life, I've listened to varying amounts of baseball on the radio. During the summer of 2004, I settled into a workout regiment that put me on an exercise bike right about 7:00 in the evening. It was happenstance at first, but I eventually started to enjoy listening to Charley Steiner and John Sterling so much that I would aim my time on the bike for that slot whenever the Yankees were playing.

I had an old RCA boombox situated across the room that, since it was in the basement, necessitated one of those axillary bowtie antenna in addition to the retractable one attached to the unit. The reception would fluctuate for no apparent reason and, not wanting to get off the bike and walk over to fix it, I'd strain my ears in an effort to decode what was going on. Sometimes there would be a loud sound that I would swear was crowd noise only to find out it was just more snow on the radio. On some nights, I couldn't focus and would lose track of what was going on in the game - how many guys were on base, what the score was, what inning, who as pitching for the other team - but the constant flow of voices and crowd noise was just enough white noise to let my mind wander without being too aware of itself.

Listening to a Yankees game is a different experience today. Most of the time when there's a game on and I'm in the car, I'll turn it on, but since I do so much writing about the Yanks now, I try to be in front of the TV (and my computer) when they are playing. And also because the broadcast team is just not as good. Essentially, I'll only listen to the game on the radio out of necessity now.

When Steiner was in the booth, he was obviously doing play-by-play and Sterling was the color guy. Steiner did a largely straightforward rendition of the game calling and only gave Sterling so much lattitude to do the goofy shit that so characterizes his broadcasts with Suzyn Waldman. Now you've got Sterling controlling the broadcast with his play-by-play and Waldman who -although I'm sure she is a very nice person and knowledgeable about to team - is tough to listen to and adds hardly any of the insight that I think most people are looking for from a baseball broadcast.

And to make matters worse, yesterday, MLBAM heavy-handedly cracked down on It Is High, It Is Far, It Is caught..., the only thing that made what happened in the booth even remotely amusing or tolerable.

Aside from the tragic decimation of the portfolio of winwarbles and mash ups that El Duque put together at IIH, IIF, IIC..., there was another thing that made me reflect on my radio listening days.

Ted from Pitchers and Poets (and Everyday Ichiro) wrote a fantastic, evocative piece about driving back from a camping trip and listening to the Mariners on the radio:
I didn’t literally tune out, like out of life. I kept an eye on the road and all, and at the very least I wasn’t texting and driving. But instead of zeroing in on the details of the Mariners game, on every pitch, I let my mind wander in between the phrasings, and the pure sounds of a man telling a story of a game happening somewhere distant. The radio game was the backdrop, the hazy middle distance seen from the path that my thoughts wandered, rarely settling anywhere but walking, step after step, in the directionless direction of a figurative destination, the highway emerging a few car lengths ahead and crumbling away behind me. Driving the pace of my ranging thoughts: the game itself, pitch after pitch ringing in the subconscious like a heartbeat.

The radio, humming along like time and the storyteller before the fire, sets a beat to life rather than recreating the world the way that TV does. So maybe I was wrong. I didn’t need to know anything about the Mariners that the radio couldn’t provide, because the voice in the radio doesn’t offer information as much as it does forward motion. A sense of progress, through time, through life, down the highway, on the way home.
You should read the whole thing. It'll make you miss the days when you could just listen to the radio broadcast without being annoyed to tears by the announcers, doesn't it?

Girardi Bends The Rules, Probably Didn't Have To

Good morning, Fackers. One of the details I didn't cover in last night's recap (which I will attribute to the combination of the extreme heat and my lack of an air conditioner) was that the Yankees tried to pull a bit of a fast one to begin the bottom of the ninth inning.

Since Nick Swisher's go-ahead home run came with two outs in the top half of the inning and Mark Teixeira made an out three pitches later trying to leg out a double, Mariano Rivera had barely any time to warm up before he came in to protect the one run lead.

With the lefty Justin Morneau up and Andy Pettitte having thrown only 94 pitches, it seemed plausible that Girardi would let Andy stay in for at least one more batter. However, he let Pettitte take the mound and throw his warm up pitches only to remove him without facing a batter when the inning was about to resume, thereby securing an extra eight or so pitches for Rivera.

When it happened last night, Matt voiced his objections on The Twitters, saying:
This is a pet peeve of mine. If a pitcher takes the mound at the start of an inning, he should have to face 1 batter unless there's a PH.
It turns out that Ron Gardenhire is of the same opinon (via BBTF):
Asked if he ever thought Pettitte actually would throw a pitch in the ninth, Gardenhire said, "No, he wasn't going to throw a pitch. That was kind of tired, to tell you the truth. You don't know normally get that long between innings to do all that, but we know what's going on there."

"That's a situation Major League Baseball needs to take care of when stuff like that happens. You don't have a guy ready in the bullpen, if your starter goes out there, he should have to face a hitter. That's just the way it should be. If you don't get a guy up, that's the way it should be, unless the other team makes a change."
"But that's not what lost the game for us. That's stuff that just gets old right there."
This is somewhat similar to the issue that Joe Girardi protested the game against the Red Sox about. The difference is that Girardi was taking advantage of a loophole in the rules whereas the Sox didn't have any ulterior motives but made a slight procedural error.

I think this transaction speaks to a larger issue, though. The one of Girardi feeling like he absolutely needed Rivera for all three outs despite the fact that he pitched earlier in the day. Would it have been the worst thing in the world if Pettitte, who had pitched pretty damn well and was still very effective in the inning before, faced one left handed batter and gave Mo the appropriate amount of time to get ready?

I often struggle to understand Girardi's moves as a manager but I've found one tendency that he is incredibly consistent in displaying. If the game is tight, he will exert every ounce of control over it that he can. Like in the seventh inning of the game Javy Vazquez started against the Mets when Joe went through three pitchers before they got two outs despite the fact that there were still two more innings left to pitch. Just yesterday, he didn't want to announce who would be pitching when the first game resumed because then the Twins could have... um... I don't know, done something with that information, maybe?

Honestly, part of the reason that this kind of stuff frustrates me is that I hate commercial breaks and Girardi makes so damn many mid-inning pitching changes it's like he has a clause in his contract that gives him a percentage of the ad revenue. Those are usually the times when the game is on the line and we all have to sit through two minutes and thirty seconds of shitty advertising because the other team's backup catcher is left handed.

Clearly his bullpen management has been one of Girardi's strengths in his time with the Yankees but that's partially because he has Rivera as a rock at the end of it. What's going to happen when someone less trustworthy is responsible for nailing down saves? Will he still sit on his hands and watch things unfold?

During that game against the Mets I likened Girardi with a slim lead to a kid holding a pet rabbit. He holds it like a vise grip because he doesn't want to let it get away. But sometimes he ends up strangling it in the process. You want your manager to do what he can to win every single game, but was it necessary to rush Rivera and make sure that he was in there for all three outs given that he had pitched earlier in the day? If there's any chance that he's nursing an injury or could have hurt himself as a result, the answer is obviously "no".

Game 45 Recap

This wasn't Andy Pettitte's best start of the season in terms of innings pitched and runs allowed, but it was probably his most impressive overall. Joe Mauer singled in a run in the first inning and Michael Cuddyer and Delmon Young stacked up a single and a double for another in the seventh inning but Pettitte needed just 83 pitchers (a whopping 65 of them for strikes) to make it through those seven frames.

When Drew Butera led off the eight inning with a double just out of the reach of Brett Gardner, the game was still tied at two. Denard Span - who terrorized the Yanks in these two games, reaching base six times - then laid down a soft bunt towards third. The Yankees had the wheel play on, which put Alex Rodriguez in position to field the ball get Span at first, but A-Rod couldn't handle it and the Twins had runners on the corners with no one out. It seemed a forgone conclusion that the Twinkies would plate at least one run and take the lead heading into the top of the ninth.

Pettitte tried to keep Span close at first base with a pair of pick off attempts. With two double plays on the night already, Andy knew that a Twin-killing was his best chance at escaping the inning. He almost got an unexpected one on the second pitch of the at bat when Orlando Hudson looped a curveball right back over his head but Pettitte snared it with a full extension and whipped his head to third and then to first to see if the runners had strayed. They hadn't, but he was one step closer to getting out of the jam.

Although it was just one out and a well placed grounder or a deep enough fly ball would have given Minnesota the lead, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. A light considerably dimmed, however, by Joe Mauer standing directly in front of it.

The Yanks played in at the corners but left their middle infielders at double play depth and on the first pitch of the at bat, Pettitte threw a cutter low and away, hoping that Mauer would cue it off the end of the bat, but he didn't offer. Pettite then checked Span at first base with a pick off attempt and threw a cutter over the outside corner for a strike.

Cervelli set up almost comically inside on the next pitch, but Pettitte missed low to bring the count to 2-1. Another pickoff attempt. Pettitte proceeded to come back inside with another fastball that made Mauer to check his swing, but the pitch missed by the slimmest of margins and 3rd base umpire Chris Guccione said that Joe didn't go. That brought the count to a dangerous 3-1.

Pettitte and Cervelli then went back to the same pitch that they started Mauer with, except this time he did swing at it and grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.

Andy might have missed some of his spots in that at bat by a bit, but he was either inside and off the plate or low and away out of the zone - two spots that even Mauer can't get good wood on. It was one of my favorite at bats of the year given that I was more or less resigned to Mauer or Morneau finding a way to drive in that run, but Pettitte, primarily by virtue of his ability to spot the ball, was able to get exactly what the Yanks needed in that spot.

Pettitte's Houdini-esque escape from that jam was rewarded in the 9th inning as Nick Swisher hit a two out, line drive blast off of Twins' closer Jon Rauch that left the yard in a hurry and gave the Yanks a 3-2 lead.

Although he had closed out the earlier game, Mariano Rivera came back to nail this one down as well. He induced three grounders from Morneau, Cuddyer and Young and the Yanks pulled off their second one run victory of the day.

There were other parts of this game that were worth of further exploration, namely Brett Gardner's RBI triple and Kevin Russo's run-scoring double and/or catch up against the wall, but those likely would have gone to waste if Pettitte wasn't able to wriggle out of that 8th inning jam.

It was a great win for the Yanks (both of them, actually) and they'll look to go for the sweep tomorrow night at 8.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Game 44.5 Recap

[The suspension did some funky stuff with FanGraphs and they don't have the WPA data from the resumption of the game, hence the hacky photoshopping. Here's the first part of the recap.]

A.J. Burnett got his wish. Derek Jeter was the second batter when play resumed and after Kevin Russo struck out swinging, he smashed a home run into the Twins bullpen in left field. That was the only run of the 2:39 minute contest that lasted more like 23 hours. The win didn't come easy, however, as the Yanks' bullpen had to struggle to keep that one run lead.

David Robertson (not Sergio Mitre or one of the left handers as was widely speculated) was the pitcher that began the game for the Yanks. The first batter he faced was Joe Mauer and the Minnesota catcher hit a line drive off of Robertson's back that deflected to A-Rod in the air for the out.

D-Rob was apparently okay as he stayed in the game and ran the count full to Justin Morneau before walking him. Michael Cuddyer followed with a pop up to Robinson Cano for the second out of the inning but Jason Kubel slashed a double down the right field line that looked like it was going to score Morneau from first, however but he was held up by the third base coach. With the go-ahead runner on first, Delmon Young hit a hard grounder into the hole but Jeter performed a spectacular rendition his patented jump throw and got the out at first, saving the run and preserving the lead.

Robertson retired the first two batters in the seventh but was pulled after giving up a single to Denard Span. Joba Chamberlain was called on to get out of the jam and he got Orlando Hudson to ground out and end the inning.

Joba pitched around a hit and a walk in the eighth inning and passed the ball to Mariano Rivera in the 9th. Mo provided a real scare when J.J. Hardy led off the inning and blasted a ball into deep left center that looked like a certain home run, but Kevin Russo settled under on the warning track. He then walked Jim Thome but induced a game-ending double play from Denard Span. It was far from conventional, but the Yanks got the win and so did A.J. Burnett.

Game 45: Two

At 7:10 EDT or 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game, whichever comes later, the Yanks and Twins will start the game originally scheduled for today. Much like last night's game today's game the first game of this series, the pitching match up will be a rematch from the series in the Bronx the weekend before last.

Southpaws Andy Pettitte and Francisco Liriano faced off in the middle game of that three game series, with Pettitte coming out on the long end of a 7-1 final. It was the final Yankee victory before this recent cold spell started. Entering play today, the Yanks have gone just 2-6 since that game.

Both of tonight's pitchers have made a start since their last meeting. Pettitte had a rough outing and took the loss in the series finale against Tampa Bay. That same night Liriano started in Fenway and got knocked around by the Red Sox.

Most recent outings notwithstanding, both pitchers have begun 2010 in impressive fashion. Pettitte enters this game at 5-1 with a 2.68 ERA, though his FIP (4.00) and xFIP (4.33) suggest he hasn't been quite as outstanding as his ERA indicates. Meanwhile Liriano comes in at 4-3 with a 3.25 ERA, backed by an impressive 2.65 FIP and 3.65 xFIP. He's helped by an incredibly low 4.3% HR/FB rate. That's bound to increase over time, but if Target Field continues to play large and the Yankee bats continue to play dead, it's not likely to go up tonight.

But it takes two when it used to take one
It takes two when it used to take only one
[Song Notes: So really, it takes one and four ninths when it used to take only one, but that just doesn't have the same ring to it. This one won't exactly fire you up for the game, but it's the best song I could think up that plays on today's unexpected one and a half header. Plus it's Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, who were one of the best bands going until Adams decided to marry Mandy Moore, break up the band, move from NYC to California and start an ill-advised metal project. Still, when he's on, there are few better. 2005's Cold Roses remains my favorite album of the aughts (one of three Adams released that year, plus a stint with Phil Lesh and Friends). "Two" is from the 2007 follow up Easy Tiger, which is also excellent. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we get something like this from Adams again someday.]

-Lineups-
Because of the fractured nature of today's proceedings, we don't know the lineups quite yet. Francisco Cervelli has caught every inning since the last Twins series wrapped. Will he make it nine starts in a row tonight? What roster moves will be made to accommodate the Chad Gaudin signing? [Update: Boone Logan has been optioned to Scranton to make room for Gaudin and as Matt guessed earlier, Shane Lindsay has been DFA'd.]

Stay tuned, Jay will update this post with the lineups as they become available.

Yankees: Jay here with the lineups. Swisher (who has been quite hot as of late) slides into the #2 slot as Brett Gardner (who is going through a bit of a slump but did pick up a hit yesterday's portion of the game) will bat last. As expected, Teixeira is back at first base after getting a break from the field in the series opener. Marcus Thames gets the start at DH against the lefty Liriano and bats 6th.
Jeter SS
Swisher RF
Teixeira 1B
Rodriguez 3B
Cano 2B
Thames DH
Cervelli C
Russo LF
Gardner CF
Twins:
Denard Span CF
Orlando Hudson 2B
Joe Mauer DH
Justin Morneau 1B
Michael Cuddyer RF
Delmon Young LF
J.J. Hardy SS
Brandan Harris 3B
Drew Butera C

Game 44.5: Finish What Ya Started

At 5:05 EDT, the Yanks and Twins will resume last night's suspended game. The rain delay came at the conclusion of the fifth inning, with the game in a scoreless tie.

In the top of the sixth, the Yankees will send number nine hitter Kevin Russo to the plate, then the lineup will turn over for Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner. No word yet on who the Twins will send to the mound, but if the Yanks can push a run across in the sixth they'll put A.J. Burnett in position to get a win.

For the Twins, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Michael Cuddyer will bat in the bottom half of the inning, with Jason Kubel due as the fourth hitter. With three of those four batters being left handed, Joe Girardi may choose to match up and turn to Damaso Marte or Boone Logan. If not, it'll likely be designated longman Sergio Mitre. As we mentioned earlier, with Chad Gaudin being added to the roster for the second game, Giradi may choose to use his bullpen aggressively over the remainder of the suspended game. [UPDATE 4:00 PM: It's neither Marte nor Logan nor Mitre. It's David Robertson. Shows what I know]

Both clubs have their full benches and bullpens at their disposal for the rest of the game. Though last night's game began on MY9, both of today's contests will be on YES.

Tonight's regularly scheduled game will begin at 7:10 EDT or 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game, whichever comes later. We'll have the preview for that one posted a bit later.

Come on baby finish what you started
I'm incomplete
That ain't no way to treat the broken hearted
I need some sympathy

[Song Notes: As much as I don't want to embed a Van Hagar video here, it fits this game perfectly.]

Here's last night's box score and play-by-play to refresh your memory.

Gaudin Returns

According to Mark Feinsand of The Daily News, Chad Gaudin, recently released by the A's, will be rejoining the Yankees today and will be active for tonight's game.

The Yankees 40 man roster is currently full, so space will have to be made for Gaudin. It's unlikely that Alfredo Aceves will be transferred to the 60 day DL just yet, unless his tests in New York today revealed something more serious. Recently acquired Shane Lindsay could be removed, or outfielder Randy Winn could be DFA'd in advance of Curtis Granderson's Friday return.

Gaudin's presence gives Joe Girardi a few more options in the suspended game today. Knowing that he'll have a fresh new arm available for game two, Girardi may manage his bullpen a bit more aggressively over the final four frames of the first game.

Like fellow relievers David Robertson and Chan Ho Park, Gaudin's ugly numbers thus far (8.83 ERA, 5.94 FIP) are misleading. His xFIP is a far more palatable 3.92. He's posted an outstanding 10.38 K/9 through 17.1 IP, a career best, and his walk rate is at a career low 2.60 per nine. He's been burned by an unsustainably high BABIP (.432) and HR/FB (22.7%), as well as a low strand rate (60.7%).

While it's unrealistic to expect his K and BB rates to stay at career bests, they won't regress nearly as much as his BABIP and HR/FB will. Gaudin is due for a nice rebound, and just as he was last year, figures to be a versatile and valuable depth acquisition.

We'll have an update on the final roster moves in today's preview.

Who Goes When Granderson Returns?

As we mentioned yesterday and again this morning, Curtis Granderson is currently rehabbing with Scranton and is slated to rejoin the Yankees in time for Friday's series opener against Cleveland.

Granderson's return of course means that someone has to go from the Big League roster. As much we'd like that someone to be Boone Logan, Joe Girardi has made it pretty clear that he likes having Logan as a second lefty in the bullpen and it's highly unlikely the Yankees will abandon the seven man bullpen ever again.

Thus, barring an injury between now and then, a position player will have to be removed from the roster. As the back-up catcher, Chad Moeller is safe. That leaves five candidates: Ramiro Pena, Kevin Russo, Juan Miranda, Marcus Thames, and Randy Winn.

Thames is safe. Despite his defensive deficiencies, he's of value to the team as presently constructed, particularly with Nick Johnson out of action for the foreseeable future. Thames has hit a scorching hot .357/.472/.536 thus far, mashes lefties, and figures to be part of DH platoon with Juan Miranda. Miranda too figures to be safe, not only as part of a DH platoon, but in serving as Mark Teixeira's back up, thereby allowing Nick Swisher to stay in right field on a daily basis.

Ramiro Pena also figures to stick around His .211/.244/.237 batting line is anemic and he might benefit from two weeks of steady playing time at Scranton. But as of now Pena is the utility infielder. Kevin Russo could supplant him in that role, but given Russo's inexperience at shortstop, I think the club wants to keep Pena around. Derek Jeter may not take much time off, but when he does the team wants a reliable glove in his place.

Kevin Russo is the most likely to be demoted. His spot is the least secure on the roster, and though he's started three of the last four games in left field, he still has just 16 career appearances in the outfield. That said, his stock appears to be rising, his bat is one the few that's been awake over the past several days, and if the Yankees believe he is capable as an outfielder, his versatility as a super utility player would be extremely valuable on the bench.

All of which means that Randy Winn's job may be in jeopardy. Winn was an unpopular signing from the start. He was a decent player for much of his career, but his numbers took a nose dive last year (.262/.318/.353) and are even worse (.213/.300/.295) through the early part of this season. Though a switch hitter, last year he posted the worst batting line of a right handed hitter against left handed pitching in 55 years, and he's yet to reach base in 11 plate appearances against left handed pitching this year. He still rates well as a defensive corner outfielder, but is no longer capable of playing a passable center field, and made a costly misplay in left field against the Mets Saturday. He's also become a favorite whipping boy/scapegoat amongst the fanbase.

Winn has had only 71 plate appearances this year, so it might be a bit premature to consider him done. But he had a poor 2009 and at thirty six years old it's unlikely he'll bounce back all that much. The crux of the matter comes down to whether or not the organization views Russo as a capable outfielder. If they do, then he becomes a viable fourth outfielder, and a more attractive option than Winn. If they don't, he goes back to Scranton to continue his apprenticeship in the outfield and Winn lives another day.

Either way, Winn hasn't performed well. In addition to Russo, the stocks of Scranton outfielders Chad Huffman, David Winfree, and Colin Curtis all appear to be on the upswing. Most likely, the Yankees will want to option Russo, giving him a little more experience in the outfield and to give Winn a few more weeks to turn things around before cutting him loose. But with the trademarket figuring to loosen up soon, and with several cheaper and likely equally effective options waiting in Scranton, Randy Winn's days with the Yankees are likely numbered.

Wednesday Linkage

Did the Twins beat reporter actually devote a story on MLB.com to the squirrel that ran on the field last night? Yes she did. Watch the clip embedded on that page and hear one of the Twins' announcers rip a squirrel he supposedly saw at Yankee Stadium 15 years ago. Not kidding.

When last night's game resumes at 5:00 today, it will be on YES.


Over at Big League Stew, Curtis Granderson fielded some questions from fans about his conditioning during the offseason, life in New York, what he thought of the Yankees as a player for another team and his opinions on some of the more advanced stats being used today.

Granderson's rehab stint rolled on last night in Scranton as he went 0-3 with a strikeout. So far he's 4-14 (all singles) with one walk. He's going to take tomorrow off, play one last AAA game on Thursday and then join up with the Big League team on Friday back in New York.

Javy Vazquez's finger felt fine during his bullpen session yesterday and as of now, he's scheduled to make his start on Thursday.

Alfredo Aceves' rehab is not going as smoothly. He suffered a setback while throwing off flat ground yesterday and will be flying back to New York to be evaluated by team doctors.

A.J. Burnett is into acupuncture? According to Marc Carig, Burnett thinks it's helped him stay healthy and part of the process of him signing with the Yankees involved Brian Cashman hiring an acupuncture specialist to work for the team.

Hideki Irabu's downward spiral continues. Two years ago he drank 20 beers and assaulted a bartender when his credit card got rejected this time he got a DUI after he nearly hit a parked car.

The WSJ talked to Yanks' VP of Operations, Mark Newman about the state of the farm system.

The Red Sox have taken the first two games of their series against Tampa, the one last night by shutout, allowing just one hit (but 6 walks). The good news is that it brings Tampa back down to earth a bit, but the bad news is that the Sawx are creeping up on the Yanks, now just a game and a half back.

Larry from Wezen-Ball has had his eye on David Ortiz's glacial home run trots all year long and one of Papi's leisurely strolls around the bases finally broke the unprecedented 30 second barrier. By comparison, Adam Rosales, owner of the fastest trot of the season had already gotten back to home plate in the time that it took Ortiz to get to second. Rays players were questioned about the amazing anti-feat but no word on whether or not Papi knows how historically slow he is.

The New York Times cited a study about pairs of brothers that played in the Majors and found that 90% of the time, the younger one tried to steal more bases.

Loyal commenter Matt on Earth conducted a mock interview with Michael Kay.

At Baseball Analysts Jeremy Greenhouse examined the differences between a 90mph fastball and a 95mph one. According to Jeremy's findings, David Robertson actually has one of the very best 90mph heaters in the game, even if it hasn't helped him pitch respectably this year.

The Fightins comes through with some prime Youkenfreude.

Remember how U2 made Major League Baseball juggle their schedule because apparently it takes 10 fucking days to set up their stage? Oh, well Bono's having back surgery so it was all for naught. This makes me like U2 even less (if that's possible).

The Super Bowl is officially coming to New York in 2014. It took the full four ballots for the Meadowlands to secure the vote over Miami and Tampa Bay, which pretty much never happens. Joe Posnanski calls it a "Real Super Bowl" while Matt Ufford from Kissing Suzy Kolber gives the pussies who are complaining about the weather a stern talkin' to. I hope it snows two feet.

Halfway To Somewhere

When asked about playing at the Twins' new stadium, Joe Girardi sounded hopeful about the weather:
...I do prefer outdoor baseball. Maybe we’re catching it at the right time. It’s supposed to be 80 degrees in Minnesota this week. They claim it’s only one degree colder than Chicago on average. And it seems the weather’s been really good up there this year.
Instead of the "right time" (i.e. a balmy evening like the one we had on the East Coast), the Yanks were part of the first rain delay in almost 30 years in Minnesota, dating back to September 26th, 1981, back at the old Metropolitan Stadium. Last night, it started raining with a purpose sometime around the second inning and only got worse from there.

Picking up where they left off against the Mets, the Yankees offense was painful to watch in the five innings of play that were completed before the game was suspended. Mark Teixeira erased a single by Brett Garnder by grounding into a double play in the first inning and Robinson Cano did the same thing to a base hit by A-Rod in the second.

When the lineup came around again in the fourth, Derek Jeter led off with a single and Brett Gardner worked a walk, setting the table for the middle of the order. However, Teixeira popped it up, A-Rod struck out swinging and Cano flied out to center without so much as moving the lead runner to third. Had the Yanks been able to sneak one across there and hold the lead, the game might have already been final.

A.J. Burnett had the Twins feeling the same way as he stranded two baserunners in each of the first two innings. He found his groove from there, however, retiring nine straight until Denard Span dropped a bunt single on him with two outs in the fifth. Span stole second but Orlando Hudson struck out swinging to end the inning and the game, for the time being.

Burnett whiffed five and allowed three hits and a walk during his five scoreless frames. With the game still knotted up at zero, he has a chance to get the win if the Yanks can score some runs in the sixth inning and hold the lead. One step at a time though, as any win will do just fine.

Play will resume today at 5:05 Eastern and they'll finish the game before the teams play their regularly scheduled tilt. One and a half header! Girardi didn't announce who would be pitching when the game begins again but it will likely be Boone Logan or Damaso Marte since lefties Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are due up in the bottom of the sixth and Joe Girardi will feel the need to start burning through relievers as soon as possible since there will be at least 13 innings to plat tomorrow. Mark it down.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Game 44: Between The Lines

The Yankees' current struggles can be traced back to their series with the Tigers that started two Mondays ago, but the heartbreaking loss they suffered at the hands of the Twins last Saturday began a shorter but much more ugly stretch. The Yanks were poised to sweep the Twinkies for the fourth straight time (including last year's ALDS) but Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera couldn't nail down the final 6 outs without surrendering a two run lead.

Including that game, the Yanks, thanks to a combination of more bullpen implosions, poor starting pitching and the inability to get runners in from third with less than two outs or hit with them in scoring position in general, have dropped six of eight. While the team evaded the slow start that plagued them in recent years, the last two weeks have erased much of the cushion they built up in their first 30 or so games.

And because the team has been losing, players whose struggles had been camouflaged by the team's winning ways are now being spotlighted. Rivera's hiccups, A-Rod's lack of home runs, Derek Jeter's supposedly declining defense, CC Sabathia's rough patch, Brett Garnder's recent skid, and of course, Mark Teixeira's continued struggles have all been splayed out across the interwebz in recent days.

One of those stories could have been (and probably was) written about A.J. Burnett. After sporting an earned run average of 1.99 through his first seven stats, Burnett has given up 18 runs over his last three outings (17 2/3 IP) and seen his ERA nearly double. Over that time he's given up 25 hits, walked 11 and struck out 12, and thrown 55% of his pitches for strikes. During his strong start, he was allowing just over a hit per inning, striking out twice as many as he walked and throwing 60% strikes.

If there's one positive that can be taken from Burnett's last three outings it's that the best one of the them (6.2 IP, 3R) came against Minnesota. As it will be tonight, Burnett's opponent in that game was Scott Baker.

The 28 year old right hander has thrown a couple of gems this year and because he can get batters to whiff, hardly walks them and doesn't give up too many home runs, his FIP is a solid 3.72. However, his ERA of 4.88 indicates that he just hasn't been able to put together quality outings on a consistent basis.

Last Friday, the Yanks touched up Baker for five runs in six innings en route to a 8-4 victory - their second in a row over the Twins. At that time it appeared that the Yanks had put the tough series against Detroit behind them, only to spiral out of control in the ensuing eight games. When they get back between the lines this evening after a much needed day off, they'll have a chance to right the ship with another Burnett vs. Baker matchup.

Road trips, turn to head trips,
Became a hunger for sedatives and essentric etiquette,
Optimism needs to feed off self-esteem,
But it seems as if he doesn't see it or hasn't felt a thing.
[Song Notes: Atmosphere is a Minnesota-based hip hop group that I use for these previews quite a bit, so it's only appropriate that I bust one of their songs out when the Yanks are in the Twin cities.]

-Lineups-

Yankees:
Matt here with the lineup. Tex gets another half day off, unfortunately it's not the half that's brutally struggling right now. Francisco Cervelli makes his eighth consecutive start behind the plate. And, even with a right hander on the mound, Kevin Russo gets the start in left field.
Derek Jeter SS
Brett Gardner CF
Mark Teixeira DH
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Juan Miranda 1B
Francisco Cervelli C
Kevin Russo LF


Twins:
Denard Span CF
Orlando Hudson 2B
Joe Mauer C
Justin Morneau 1B
Michael Cuddyer RF
Jason Kubel DH
Delmon Young LF
J.J. Hardy SS
Brendan Harris 3B

Minor League Injury Notes

Good morning Fackers. Did you enjoy your off day? Feeling rested? I hope so. We've all been stressing a bit too much about the way things have gone over the past week or so, so yesterday's off day came at a good time.

The minor league affiliates did not have yesterday off however, and there are some notes coming out of the system. It appears the injury bug that was ravaging its way through the Yankees clubhouse a couple weeks back has now made its way down the organizational ladder.

As we mentioned last week, Trenton placed starting pitcher Jeremy Bleich on the disabled list with shoulder stiffness. He was sent to the team's complex in Florida for evaluation and yesterday the worst case scenario was realized. Bleich has a torn labrum, will require surgery, and is looking at ten to twelve months before he can return.

If there's any silver lining to this, it's that perhaps the labrum problem accounts for some of the control issues Bleich has had over the past year. Aside from his stellar performance against New Britain earlier this month, he has been wild, posting at 26:28 K:BB. The downside is that Bleich, who many considered a bit of reach with the 44th overall pick two years ago to begin with, has already dealt with elbow issues in college and is now facing the far more uncertain prospect of a shoulder operation.

Also in Trenton, second baseman David Adams, off to a torrid .309/392/.507 start this year, injured his ankle breaking up a double play Friday. He too is on the DL and is expected to miss two to three weeks. Adams is tied with teammate Austin Romine for the Eastern League lead in doubles and is in the top ten in batting, on base, slugging, OPS, runs, RBI, hits, triples, and total bases.

In positive news, Curtis Granderson is three games into a rehab stint at Scranton. He's DH'd twice and made an appearance in center field, going for 4 for 11 with a walk. He could rejoin the team as early as Thursday, which would be very helpful in firming up the bottom of the lineup. [UPDATE 10:15 AM: Granderson will be activated for Friday's series opener against Cleveland.]

Monday, May 24, 2010

Off Day Linktacular

Mark Teixiera put his beautiful 7,000 square foot house in Vaquero, Texas on the market for the second time, for the princely sum of $4.55M, down from $5.75M. I doubt too many of you have an extra five mil laying around and feel like picking up and moving to Texas but that link is good for some serious house porn. The game room on the right with a pool table, card table, big TV and a bar looks like an ideal place to kick it with several of your closest homies.
According to Bryan Hoch, someone apparently sent Nick Swisher a plush tan bathrobe with #33 and his initials embroidered on it and he was rocking it in the locker room. You know you've got a good job when people send you stuff for free and you can wear a robe around the office.

Hoch also got a great story about the late Jose Lima from Yanks' bench coach Tony Pena. Lima was certianly a character and Joe Posnanski captured the enigmatic hurler's quest for the spotlight beautifully. Walkoff Walk directs us to this video of him ad libbing to Sweet Home Alabama and Craig points us towards a eulogy from his former teammate C.J. Nitkowski.

Has Derek Jeter lost his fade? During last night's game, they showed this shot of him in the dugout and as you can see, it appears as though he has opted for a cut of a more uniform length all around instead of having it longer on top. Is this a recent development?

Although it certainly hasn't hindered his love life, he's caught a fair amount of flack for having an outdated coiff in the past from various haters. Ladies (or metro dudes), care to offer an opinion on the new look?

Katie Sharp of ESPN's TMI (sub. required) blog thinks that the Yankees should move Derek Jeter out of the leadoff spot and notes that he has zero walks in 78 plate appearances when he's leading off an inning. We already discussed why the move not going to happen, but that's a troubling stat.


Hey look, someone crossed the mound forty years ago without the pitcher throwing a temper tantrum.

The WSJ profiled Kevin Russo and talked about what it feels like for him to finally make his Major League debut on the team his father (who passed away in 2007) rooted for.

Austin Jackson's eye was swollen almost completely shut after getting hit by a pitch on Saturday. The ball hit his helmet but in turn forced the helmet down on to his eye. He wasn't seriously hurt but missed yesterday's game and might be out of the lineup for another couple of days.

Carson Cistulli digs up some purple prose used to describe an extra innings, walkoff grand slam by Babe Ruth.

Joe Girardi did an interview with the Harvard Business Review and talked a lot about his approach to managing.

Baseball-Reference now features photographs of almost every player who made their debut before 1960. It's a pretty cool addition that really brings the site to life.

It appears as though the Roy Oswalt sweepstakes is heating up. David Golebiewski at THT asks how much he's really worth and Aaron Gleeman wonders whether the Twins should make an effort to acquire him but ultimately rules that it's not work the prospects plus salary.

And finally, a bit of whimsy from the Sports Pickle.
Like the Yanks, we are going to take it easy today. If anything comes up, we'll try to get to it, but chances are we won't have anything until tomorrow.