Saturday, May 8, 2010

Game 29: Been Caught Stealing

In the very first game of the 2008 season, Jorge Posada injured his shoulder when he slipped on a slick home plate while making a throw. It kept him out of the lineup for a few days, but he eventually returned and attempted to play through it. He landed on the DL from late April through early June, returned, then eventually underwent season ending surgery in mid-July.

While Posada was still trying to grind it out, the Yankees played an early season series at Fenway. In the series finale, the same game in which Phil Hughes turned in the poor start we referenced in yesterday's preview, Posada got the start as the DH. But as the Yankees found themselves trailing in the eighth inning and with an opportunity for a rally at hand, Joe Girardi pinch ran for Jose Molina. When the bottom half of the frame came around, Posada was forced behind the plate for the first time in five days. He was under strict orders not to throw.

It's doubtful that the Red Sox knew that, but it's obvious that they knew that Posada - never blessed with great run-stopping abilities in the first place - was nursing a shoulder issue. Coco Crisp led off with a single, and despite two throws to first, promptly stole second on the first pitch. Later in the inning Dustin Pedroia singled. He too successfully took off for second on the very first pitch. The Sox ran in every opportunity they had in Posada's one inning behind the plate. It was painful to watch.

Last year the Sox continued to run on the Yankees going 16 for 21 in stolen base attempts, including a curtain call inducing swipe of home by Jacoby Ellsbury on April 26th.

The Red Sox have had their own problems controlling the running game in recent years. They've allowed the most steals in the AL this year with 42, 55% more than the second place team, and are next to last in CS%. In 2009 they allowed the most stolen bases in the league, and were dead last again in CS%. The second to last place team was closer to fourth place, percentage wise, than they were to the Red Sox.

Just like the Sox weren't shy about exploiting Posada's weakness to years ago, the Yankees have taken advantage of their opportunities to run on the Sox of late. In the season's opening series they went four for five in stolen base attempts, including a steal of home by Brett Gardner. Last year, they were successful in 19 of 21 attempts against Boston, including a merciless seven for seven against Jason Varitek in a late September game.

The tide of The Series That Shall Not Be Named turned on a stolen base, and in the years since the two clubs have taken virtually every opportunity to run on each other. Why should they, when virtually no one is caught stealing?

Taking the mound today for the Sox is a guy who has been caught stealing, but not on the base paths. Clay Buchholz was notoriously arrested in 2004 for swiping and selling 29 laptops from his town's middle school. After bouncing up and down for parts of three seasons, Buchholz finally established himself in the Sox rotation during the second half of last year. He's pitched well through his first five starts, sporting a 2.97 ERA but his high WHIP (1.42) as well as his FIP (3.11) and xFIP (4.03) suggest he's gotten a bit lucky. His strand rate and BABIP are not out of the ordinary, but his HR/FB of just 3.3% is not something that will hold up over time. Buchholz has made three previous starts against the Yanks, two in 2008 and one last year, and they've touched him up the tune of 18 hits, 2 homers, 9 walks, and 10 runs in 15.2 innings.

CC Sabathia takes the hill for the Yankees. He has no known history of thievery, but he was a pretty angry guy yesterday. First, he lashed out at his fellow "209" resident Dallas Braden, calling him a clown and saying his argument was tired. Then, as Josh Beckett buzzed batter after batter in the sixth, CC got on the top step of the dugout to make his displeasure known. Sabathia has been excellent through his first six starts, with his only poor outing of the season coming when he allowed five runs through five and a third on Opening Night in Fenway. He's been masterful since then, with a 1.93 ERA over his last 37.1 IP. If there's any blemish on the Big Fella's record so far it's that both his walk and strikeout rates are as poor as they've been since 2003. In his first season as a Yankee, Sabathia posted a 2.22 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, and 31:6 K;BB ratio in 28.1 IP against Boston.

The weather was pretty nasty in Boston earlier today. The tarp came off the field, then was placed back on, but word is the game will start on time as it appears things will be nice enough come game time. What started as miserable morning here in CT has turned into a beautiful afternoon, so perhaps Beantown will have similar luck.

Today's game is on FOX with our friends Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. Perhaps we'll get lucky and someone will steal their microphones. Lastly, in the event this game runs late, Joe West wanted me to tell you all that coverage will switch to FX at 7:30 due to FOX's NASCAR commitment. This happened during that April series two years ago and FOX made the switch without any advanced notice. I was none too pleased about that.

I've been caught stealing once when I was five
I enjoy stealing, it's just as simple as that
Well, it's just a simple fact
When I want something I don't want to pay for it

I walk right through the door
Walk right through the door
Hey all right, if I get by, it's mine.
Mine all mine!

Where to begin? As speculated this morning, Nick Johnson has been placed on the DL and Kevin Russo has been recalled. Jorge Posada is not in the lineup for the fourth straight day, and the sixth time in the last nine games. Word is he would have played today if not for the potential for a slick field. He's supposed to return tomorrow, but we've been hearing that for a few days now.

Robinson Cano was not in the initial line up, but after taking BP and the team decided he can give it a go. The order is looking pretty weak, so getting Cano back in there is an added bonus. Given his knee he'll DH in place of Marcus Thames, and Ramiro Pena will stay at second base. In Nick Johnson's absence it's Brett Gardner, not Nick Swisher, moving up to the two spot. Part of that is because the order needs Swish's pop in the middle with Posada and Granderson out. Most of it is because of all the stolen base stuff we talked about above. With the lineup a bit weaker than usual today, I expect the Yankees to try to use their legs to make up for some of the missing offense.

Johnson's MRI revealed an inflamed tendon in his wrist. He received a cortisone shot and will be out "several weeks". Commence gnashing of teeth and start the "Bring Up Montero" campaign.
Derek Jeter SS
Brett Gardner CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano DH
Nick Swisher RF
Randy Winn LF
Francisco Cervelli C
Ramiro Pena 2B

Red Sox:
This isn't exactly the "A" lineup for the Sox either. With a lefty on the mound, the Artist Formerly Known as Big Papi hits the bench in favor of Mike Lowell. Ditto for Jeremy Hermida, who gives way to Bill Hall in left field.
Marco Scutaro SS
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Victor Martinez C
Fack Youkilis 1B
Mike Lowell DH
J.D. Drew RF
Adrian Beltre 3B
Bill Hall LF
Darnell McDonald CF

1 comment:

  1. Wonder how many people are languishing behind bars for stealing 70K worth of merchandise? Plenty. I guess the Sheriff was "Little Bill Daggett",'they ain't loafers nor tramps nor bad men. They're hard workin' boys that was foolish. Why if they was given over to wickedness in a regular way...'