Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Game 19 Recap

1. Phil Hughes gave up back-to-back singles to Luke Scott and Ty Wigginton to lead off the second inning and after retiring Rhyne Hughes, walked Nolan Reimold to load the bases. Caesar Izturis, the number 9 hitter, was up next and Hughes walked him on four pitches, only one of which was particularly close. That forced in a run and put the Orioles up 1-0, but Phil avoided further damage when he got Adam Jones to ground into an inning ending 5-4-3 double play.

2. The Yankees led off the top of the third with consecutive singles of their own, this time by Nick Swisher and Randy Winn. Derek Jeter advanced the runners with a ground out to first. Brett Gardner slapped a 2-1 slider to Miguel Tejada at third, but it ate Miggy up and allowed Swisher to score, tying the game at 1.

3. Jorge Posada gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead in the 4th as he led off the inning with a homer. He jumped all over an 87mph cutter from Millwood and pulled it over the scoreboard in right field.

4. The Yankees made two outs on the basepaths in the 6th inning. After singling, Cano got was gunned down by Matt Wieters trying to steal second despite getting a good jump. After working a walk, Jorge Posada strayed too far from second base when a ball hit by Nick Swisher was knocked down by Miguel Tejada and trickled into the outfield. The only out the Yanks made at the plate in the inning was a strikeout by Curtis Granderson.

5. The bottom of the 6th was even worse for the Yanks. After Phil Hughes recorded the first two outs, Girardi went to the bullpen and called on Boone Logan to face lefty Luke Scott. Logan promptly walked him and on came David Robertson for the right handed Ty Wigginton.

Robertson plunked Wigginton on an 0-2 count on a fastball that rode too far inside. He then allowed a RBI single to Rhyne Hughes that tied the game at 2. Reimold and Izturus followed with RBI base knocks of their own and before Robertson struck out Adam Jones, the Orioles were up 4-2.

6. The Orioles struck again with two outs in the 8th. Ty Wigginton reached on an error by Derek Jeter to lead of the inning and was pinch ran for by Julio Lugo. Alfredo Aceves, in his second inning of work retired the next two batters, bringing up Izturis. Lugo took off for second during the AB and Jorge Posada sailed his throw into center field, allowing Lugo to advance to 3rd. Izturis blooped a single to right and drove in his third run of the game to make it Orioles 5 - Yankees 2.

7. The Yankees came oh-so-close to stealing this one in the top of the 9th facing Alfredo Simon who had been called up from AAA earlier in the day. Swisher poked a single through the right side (his third hit of the night) and then Nick Johnson (pinch hitting for Winn) worked a walk. With one out, Derek Jeter struck out swinging on a 91mph slider, leaving the game in Brett Gardner's hands.

After quickly falling behind 0-2, Gardner grounded a ball to short that slipped past Izturis and was scored an error, bringing the Yanks within 2. Mark Teixeira then lined the first pitch he saw from Simon into right for an RBI single, closing the gap to one run. A-Rod came to the plate with runners on the corners and lined a ball directly up the middle, right under the feet of Simon but it was fielded by Izturis and flipped to Lugo to force out Teixeira and end the game.

IFs, ANDs & BUTs
  • Hughes was missing his spots by quite a bit tonight and those balls that were clearly not worth swinging at out of his hand that led to some long at bats. The Orioles had 10 plate appearances of 6 pitches or more, which were the main reasons Hughes needed 109 pitches to get through 5 2/3 innings.

  • While he recorded only 2 strikeouts, Hughes remained relatively unhittable, as 4 of his 6 baserunners reached via a walk. This wasn't one of his finer performances, but if you're going to have an off night, one run over 5 2/3 ain't bad.

  • Cano is now 2 for 4 in stolen bases this season, dropping his career mark to 19 for 44. He should probably stop trying.

  • Randy Winn had a chance to throw out Luke Scott at the plate and get the Yankees out of the 6th inning with the lead but he slipped and yanked the throw so badly that it landed on the outfield grass and barely rolled to first base. It would have been absolutely hilarious if it wasn't as such a crucial moment in the game.

  • There will be plenty of second guessing of Girardi playing the matchup game in the 6th inning. Hughes had 109 pitches and I honestly thought that he might have been done after just 5. Instead Girardi allowed him to come back out, but played the matchup game for Luke Scott - who had a .270 OBP coming into tonight. Instead of Boone Logan, I would have liked to see Aceves in that spot, or someone else who wouldn't have been removed after one batter regardless of the outcome of the AB, you know, just in case it doesn't go right.

  • Would someone like to remind Joe Girardi that David Robertson has fucking reverse platoon splits? Including tonight, he has 7 appearances this year every time the Yanks have been leading or the score has been tied, he's been used primarily to face right handers and pulled after less than an inning. He's not a ROOGY.

  • The freebie run that the O's plated in the 8th, in part due to Jeter's error and in part to Posada's errant throw, made the comeback in the 9th that much more difficult.

  • Apparently Nick Johnson isn't the only person man enough to use Miley Cirus for his at bat music. Ty Wigginton also chose to come out to "Party In The USA". Hopefully he did it for his daughter as well.

  • Curtis Granderson was 0-4 on the night with three strikeouts and is now 1 for his last 20.
That would have been a brutal loss even if it weren't for the near comeback in the 9th inning. The boys are back at it tomorrow night, same time, same place.

Game 19: Way Down In The Hole

Before play began today, the Orioles had 4 fewer wins than any other team in baseball and that was after pulling out a 10th inning victory in Fenway Park on Sunday. The great Pythagoras believes that they should be 6-13 instead of 3-16 based on their run differential, but that would still leave them with the fewest victories of any team in the MLB.

The O's have had to play the Rays twice and the Red Sox once, but in between those tough match ups, they got swept by the Blue Jays and Mariners, and lost 3 of 4 to the A's. They've managed to shoehorn losing streaks of 5 and 9 into their first 19 games of the year and, not coincidentally, have seen their home attendance reach record lows.

A visit from the Yankees following a 10 game road trip is a sure remedy for thin crowds, but not for the poor play that has plagued the Orioles so far. As Joe Pawlikowski pointed out at FanGraphs yesterday, the 2010 O's hitters have been decimated by a few injuries and a slew of slow starts. Brian Roberts and Felix Pie are both on the DL while Nolan Reimold started the season there and has struggled since returning to the team.

Adam Jones, Garrett Atkins, Luke Scott, Caesar Izturis and Julio Lugo have all played in 13 or more games and have an OPS+ below 80. Nick Markakis, Matt Weiters, Miguel Tejada and surprisingly Ty Wigginton have been the only positive producers and as a team, they are hitting just .244/.304/.383. That line drops to an excruciating .183/.270/.294 with runners in scoring position, which has no doubt contributed to their struggles.

The dismal run support has made life extremely difficult on their starting pitchers. Despite having an ERA of 3.38 and averaging 6 2/3 IP in 4 starts, Kevin Millwood has a record of 0-3. Millwood has allowed as many home runs as he has walks (4) so the Yankees can expect to see a lot of balls in the strike zone.

Interestingly, today has played host to more no-hitters than any other day, one of those being the one that Millwood pitched for the Phillies back in 2003 against the Giants.

Phil Hughes gets the ball for the Yanks tonight and looks to build upon his impressive outing in Oakland last Wednesday during which he carried a no-no into the 8th inning. In 12 1/3 frames so far this year, Hughes has struck out 16 and allowed only 11 baserunners - 4 hits and 7 walks. He's been nothing short of excellent in his two starts since emerging from extended Spring Training and hopefully he can continue rolling against a team that he has struggled against in his time as a starter (5 starts, 7.94 ERA).

The point of the article that Joe wrote over at FanGraphs was to illustrate that the Orioles aren't as bad of as team as their record at this point indicates. That might be true, but they are going to have to start winning some games pretty soon to prove it. Perhaps the O's are due to turn it around but with the Yankees coming into town, this is going to be a tough time to do it. As Yanks' fans, it's tempting to look at Baltimore's record and assume that this should be an easy series, but from the O's perspective it probably seems like they are due for a win. Hopefully the Yanks can do their part to keep the Birds down.

He's got the fire and the fury,
At his command,
Well you don't have to worry,
If you hold on to Jesus hand,
We'll all be safe from Satan,
When the thunder rolls,
Just gotta help me keep the devil,
Way down in the hole.
[Song notes: As many of you probably know, "Way Down In The Hole" is the theme song for The Wire (which is set in Baltimore). Steve Earle has a small but excellent part in the series playing a recovering addict named Walon.]


Nick Johnson gets another night off to rest his aching back and Nick Swisher takes his place in the DH spot, although he'll be hitting 8th. Randy Winn, who is 0-10 this season but 11 for 18 off of Millwood in his career, gets the start in right field and bats 9th. Brett Gardner, back in left field, occupies the second slot behind Jeter.
Jeter SS
Gardner LF
Teixeira 1B
Rodriguez 3B
Cano 2B
Posada C
Granderson CF
Swisher DH
Winn RF
Adam Jones CF
Nick Markakis RF
Matt Wieters C
Miguel Tejeda 3B
Luke Scott DH
Ty Wigginton 2B
Rhyne Hughes 1B
Nolan Reimold LF
Cesar Izturis SS

Tuesday Afternoon Link-A-Roo

It's slow going on the Fack Youk factory floor today, as I prepare to be banished to Atlanta for the remainder of the week.

Here are a few links to hold you over until preview time:
Quick - if someone told you that a former Yankee pitcher would issue the first walkoff walk of 2010, who would your guess be? Yeah, mine too.

Over at RAB, Mike Axisa takes a further look at what I touched upon this morning: the under-utilization of David Robertson.

Staying in the bullpen, Mike also examines a minor tweak made by Boone Logan this year that may allow him to be more successful than he's been in the past.

Over at Fangraphs, RAB's Joe Pawlikowski extends upon what Steve Goldman and Rob Neyer have already commented upon: the unsustainability of Austin Jackson's early season success. If you thought AJax's BABIP was off the charts at Scranton last year, take a look at his 2010 numbers so far.

Neyer's ESPN colleague and former Major Leaguer Doug Glanville is transitioning nicely to his role in the media. Glanville reflects back upon his time with the Texas Rangers, and remembers when Mark Teixeira was an emerging third baseman.

So, Jason Bay isn't terrible defensively after all?

Via Bronx Banter, here's a nice look at Bob Sheppard.

In both the New York Post and his Hardball blog, Joel Sherman takes a look at the continued acrimony between Joe Torre and the Yankees' organization. I really, really hope they all bury the hatchet at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Via BBTF, comes a very worthwhile read from Faith and Fear in Flushing. If I am ever so unfortunate as to meet an untimely end, someone is going to have a lot of old baseball cards to sort through.

Late last week, the NCAA officially approved The New Era Pinstripe Bowl, issuing it a four year license rather than the customary three years.

Unfortunately, the existence of the Pinstripe Bowl comes at the expense of another potential bowl game, one dedicated to a cause far more worthy than wringing more money out of Yankee Stadium and printing more cash for the NCAA.

Meanwhile, as we mentioned last year, the existence of the Pinstripe Bowl all but assures that the inevitable New York-based NHL Winter Classic will not take place at Yankee Stadium.

Back with the preview in a bit.

[UPDATE 4:00 PM: Friend of the blog Matt on Earth weighs in with his thoughts on Curt Schilling's comments on Javy Vazquez.]

Balancing The Bullpen

Good morning Fackers. Lost in all the wailing and rendering rending of garments over Javier Vazquez' first four starts is that the Yankees have been getting damn good starting pitching from the rest of their rotation this year. Entering play yesterday the Yankees tied for the League lead with two complete games and tied for for fifth in quality start percentage (56% overall, 71% non-Vazquez division). Perhaps most noteworthy though, the club is third in the AL in innings per start, averaging 6.3 IP per outing, just a tenth of an inning off the league lead.

The flip side of that is that there are far less innings to go around for the bullpen, particularly when you consider that the Yankees have lost five road games this year in which they didn't have to pitch the ninth inning and have had one game shortened to six innings due to rain. The bullpen has logged just 42.1 IP through the first eighteen games, easily the lowest total in the League.

In the age of the 12 man pitching staff, that just isn't enough innings to go around, especially when the team has had four relief appearances of two innings or more thus far. It's a nice problem to have no doubt, and one that will likely rectify itself as the season wears on. While I easily get annoyed at Joe Girardi's love of late game match ups and his proclivity for making one move too many, he has utilized his bullpens rather well in his two plus years as Yankee manager. In the early going in 2010 however, Girardi has not been spreading the load too evenly.

Mariano Rivera, Joba Chamberlain, and Damaso Marte have borne the bulk of the appearances thus far. Marte is the LOOGY, and for much of the season was the only lefty out there. Chamberlain is The Official Eighth Inning Guy and has shown flashes of his former brilliance (while looking more ordinary in his other appearances). Rivera is without question the best reliever in the pen. So it's no surprise that these three top the list, even if each of their appearances haven't been absolutely necessary.

But the Yankee bullpen is deep, and the remaining relievers have struggled to find enough work. Consider:
  • David Robertson, who was needlessly and disastrously pulled after two thirds of an inning in Game Three of the ALCS last year, has seen similar usage patterns this year. He's made six appearances this season. Four of them have been less than one inning; three of them have been six pitches or fewer. I'd love to see him and his obscene K-rate utilized more often.

  • Alfredo Aceves' appearance in Sunday's game was his first in in eight days. Prior to that, he had thrown just one third of an inning since April 14th. With any luck, Aceves' lack of use is a result of lack of opportunity and not at all related to the back and shoulder problems that have bothered him intermittently since last July.

  • Sergio Mitre is clearly the last man in the pen. There's no point in using him just for the sake of using him, but as a sinkerballer, Mitre needs regular work to keep sharp. His appearance Sunday was just his second of the season and his first in sixteen days. Just for comparison's sake, between Mitre's two appearances the following happened:

    • The starting rotation went through two and four fifths turns.

    • CC Sabathia made three starts, one of them a near no-hitter and the other two complete games.

    • Phil Hughes made his second simulated start at the minor league complex, rested for four days, made his first start of 2010, rested four more days, nearly threw a no-hitter in his second start of the season, and was a game away from making his third start of the season.

    • Chan Ho Park appeared in a game four days after Mitre's first appearance. Three days later he was placed on the 15 day DL and is eligible to be activated as soon as Thursday.

    • Joba Chamberlain made seven appearances; Mariano Rivera made six; Damaso Marte made five and added his sixth shortly after Mitre's second appearance of the season.

    • Boone Logan made two appearances for Scranton and two more for the Yankees.
These things have a way of working themselves out. I certainly hope that the Yankees starters continue to work deep into games. I understand that the twelve man staff is a given these days and I don't advocate dropping any of the current pitchers from the staff. But if the Yankees are going to carry a seven man pen, the guys further down the pecking order need to see the mound a little more often to both justify their presence and ensure they're ready when needed.