Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Game 26 Recap

1. Garrett Atkins led off the top of third with a single, and Rhyne Hughes followed with a walk. Number nine hitter Cesar Izturis laid down a sacrifice, but Burnett's throw tailed into the baseline, making catching it a dangerous proposition for Robinson Cano. The ball caromed down the right field line, allowing Atkins score and giving the O's two runners in scoring position with no one out. Burnett responded by striking out Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Matt Wieters to escape the jam without further damage. 1-0 Orioles.

2. The Yankees wasted little time in answering in the bottom half of the frame. Francisco Cervelli lined the first pitch of the inning to center field. Adam Jones gambled on a dive, and when it failed to pay off, Cervelli stood on third base with his first Major League triple. A groundout from Ramiro Pena brought Frankie home, tying the score at 1-1.

3. After falling in an 0-2 hole leading off the fifth, Brett Gardner battled back to work a walk. Cervelli followed, also falling behind 0-2, then dropping a bloop single in shallow right field, moving Gardner to second. Just as the O's had their number nine hitter lay on down on this situation in the third, Ramiro Pena did the same for the Yankees here. And just as A.J. Burnett's throw wound up in right field, so too did that of Brian Matusz. Gardner scored, Cervelli and Pena moved to third and second respectively. After Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher made outs without getting the run home, Mark Teixeira worked a walk. After nearly decapitating Cervelli with a pair of foul balls, A-Rod finally brought the run home with a bases loaded walk. Robinson Cano subsequently flied out of the first pitch of his at bat, ending the threat. 3-1 Yankees.

4. Brett Gardner led off the bottom of the eighth with his sixth infield single of the season, swiped second for his twelfth steal of the year, and moved to third on Cervelli's sacrifice bunt. A sacrifice fly from Ramiro Pena plated the game's final run. 4-1 Yankees.

  • In the early going, it appeared A.J. Burnett rediscovered his knack for fanning batters, striking out three through two innings, followed by striking out the side to escape a jam in the third. He would whiff only two more over his final four and a third, but his eight Ks are a season high and his curveball looked better than it has all year.

  • I wish Jorge Posada a full and speedy recovery, but hot damn is it fun to watch Francisco Cervelli play. He went three for three tonight with a triple and a bunt single, a successful sacrifice, and two runs scored. On the defensive side, he called his usual strong game, kept the O's honest on the bases, and made a circus catch at the rail to nab a Garrett Atkins pop up and end the top of the fourth.

  • Once again, the Yankees were driven by the bottom of the order. The bottom third of Gardner, Cervelli, and Pena combined to go 4 for 8 with a walk, a triple, a sac fly, two sac bunts, and a stolen base. They scored all four runs and contributed two RBI. Meanwhile the one through four hitters went 1 for 14 with three walks and an RBI.

  • Greg Golson made his Yankees debut as a defensive replacement to start the eighth, replacing Marcus Thames. Golson took over in center, pushing Brett Gardner to left. Both are regarded as excellent center fielders. Gardner likely moved to left given his familiarity there; Golson has made just four career minor league appearances in left. Still, Gardner made sure he was still the boss out there, hauling in the game's final out as the two converged on the fly ball.

  • After a one out eighth inning walk to Nick Markakis brought the tying run to the plate, Damaso Marte relieved Burnett and struck out Matt Wieters. Marte gave way to Alfredo Aceves who gave up a long flyball to the right center field warning track, but Golson hauled it in to retire the side.

  • Wieters went 0 for 4 with 3 Ks. Francisco Cervelli went 3 for 3 with a triple and two runs scored, made the defensive play of the game, dodged two laser beams off the mighty bat of A-Rod, beat the 4, B, and D trains in the great subway race between innings, and flummoxed everyone in the Stadium by hiding the ball under his monstrous batting helmet during the cap game. Just saying. Maybe Frankie needs his own website.

  • Joba Chamberlain recorded the save for the second straight night. It was nice to see him touch 96 on the gun and fan two. But for me, it was more encouraging to see him drop his curveball in a couple times. Perhaps it's nothing, but so long as I'm holding out hope that the guy still will be a starter at some point in the future, it's encouraging to see him use his third pitch from time to time.

  • Mo threw a 15 pitch bullpen before the game and reportedly could have pitched if necessary. I'm sure the club wanted to give him an extra night off

Goodnight Fackers. And goodbye Ernie Harwell; you will be missed. Rest in peace.

Game 26: It Hurts Me Too

After the Yankees beat the Orioles 4-1 last night on the back of 8 strong innings from CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett looks to pick up his second win against the Birds in as many starts as well. Like last Thursday, he'll again be facing Brian Matusz.

The young left hander didn't pitch poorly last time against the Yanks but three runs over six innings wasn't nearly good enough against Burnett. Matusz didn't walk anyone but he allowed nine hits and only struck out two. Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Marcus Thames accounted for six of those hits and all three of the runs scored.

On the other side of the ball, Burnett allowed just four baserunners over 8 shutout innings. After the game, he attributed the success he's enjoyed so far this season to being able to pitch to both sides of the plate with movement and trying to "just let them hit the ball". That new approach has paid serious dividends thus far as he's 3-0 in his first 5 starts with a 2.43 ERA. His FIP at 3.37 is higher due to a higher LOB% and a dearth of strikeouts but is still quite good. His xFIP of 4.33 suggests that his faith in his defense has been based on batted balls ending up in the right places, but still is about league average.

A.J. might not be so lucky tonight as he has a depleted defensive outfield with Marcus Thames getting the start in left as Brett Gardner fills in the the injured Curtis Granderson in center.

Burnett won't be pitching to his newfound battery mate Jorge Posada again tonight either. Last time it was because of the fastball that Jeremy Guthrie hit Posada with the night before and this time it's because of the calf straight that might have been caused in part by the lingering effects on that knee from the previous incident.

If the game is tight towards the end, the Yankees might not have their closer available either. The "flank" strain that Mariano Rivera first felt on Saturday has been getting better every day according to he and Joe Girardi but they aren't sure if Mo is ready to come back just yet.

After enjoying an April wherein the only real injury on the team was to Chan Ho Park's hamstring, the Yanks are now battling through a spate of bumps are bruises. It's to be expected for a team that has as many older players as the Yankees do and most of the maladies aren't very serious, but it almost seems as if they are contagious as this point.

The original:

Elmore James' version:

The Dead's:


and Gov't Mule's:

When things go wrong,
Wrong with you,
It hurts me too.
[Song Notes: This tune has been covered far and wide since Tampa Red recorded the first version of it in 1940. Elmore James changed the lyrics somewhat when he put his stamp on it in 1957 and those bear much more resemblance to the other versions posted here than Red's much wordier one. The original also sounds almost like a honky tonk song where are James added the nasty, bluesy slide guitar that countless others including Clapton and Warren Haynes have aimed to duplicate. I personally like the slower pace of the Dead's version but enjoy the tune when almost anyone plays it.]


Yankees: In addition to Granderson and Posada, Nick Johnson has the night off as well. Nick Swisher takes his place in the two hole as Derek Jeter slides into the DH slot and Ramiro Pena plays short and bats ninth. That's a pretty sorry looking bottom four but the last time one of us complained about a punchless line up, the Yanks scored 12 runs. As we mentioned earlier, Greg Golson is up. Mark Melancon drew the short straw and is on his way back to Scranton.
Derek Jeter DH
Nick Swisher RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Marcus Thames LF
Brett Gardner CF
Francisco Cervelli C
Ramiro Pena SS
Adam Jones CF
Nick Markakis RF
Matt Wieters C
Miguel Tejada 3B
Ty Wigginton 2B
Luke Scott LF
Garrett Atkins DH
Rhyne Hughes 1B
Cesar Izturis SS

Tuesday Afternoon Linkstavaganza

Happy 139th Birthday, Major League Baseball. You don't look at day over 125.
Via the WSJ, it seems that Derek Jeter has a pretty small strike zone in relation to his height when compared to a few other Yankees and Mets. The zones are based on just one year of data and without looking at a wide cross section of the league we can't tell where they fit in, exactly, but it's interesting anecdotally.

Today, Mark Teixeira donated $100,000 to Harlem RBI. Much of the money will be used to provide tuition assistance, SAT prep and counseling for kids who want to go to college. He said:
I started talking to them during spring training and I was blown away. One thing I'm passionate about is education and this is allowing kids to get an opportunity to go to college and use every tool at their disposal.
Carlos Beltran has also donated $255,000 to the program since 2005.

Guess what, Jason Gay... I'm not going to start rooting for Boston because "a Yankee championship means more when Boston is competitive". The Rays aren't going anywhere so the sooner the Sox are dead and buried, the better. And while you claim to have come up with "Schillingfreude", but we've been celebrating Papenfreude and Soxenfreude for a long time around these parts. You've been placed on notice, sir.

However, I will acknowledge that Dave Roberts is suffering from lymphoma and wish him a full and speedy recovery. In his honor, Joe Posnanski put together the 10 most famous steals of all time.

John Sterling's home run call for Randy Winn is a loser.

If you scroll down to #5 here, you'll see that the Yankees were not the first team to use Kate Smith for inspiration. But at least she was still alive when the Fliers did it.

Speaking of Philly, while the baseball blogosphere was briefly titillated and entertained by the dude who got tased at Citizen's Bank Park last night, Tim Marchman puts the use of that kind of force into proper perspective. Craig Calcaterra agrees.

Larry from Wezen-ball's Tater Trot Tracker was featured in USA Today, just a mere step along his path to world domination.

In case you've had your head in the sand for the past 24 hours, the Yankees are skipping Javier Vazquez's turn in the rotation in Boston. It seems like a good move to give the guy some time to collect himself and save him from the hostile environment of fackin' Fenway Paaahhk. If that doesn't cure what ails him, I don't know what will.

Tom Verducci pines for "the crack of the bat". That was almost an awesome pun but I don't know of any bats made of evergreen wood.

Think the NBA Playoffs are less random than the MLB's? Tango says think again.

Also over at The Book Blog, Tango tries to clear up some misconceptions about Win Probability Added and Win Expectancy. David Pinto points out a flaw in the kind of WPA charts we use in that they all start at with 50/50 odds despite the fact that one team usually has a better chance of winning. Sure, but that opens up a Pandora's Box of other variables that could be taken into account on a batter-by-batter basis.

Rob Neyer answers some questions from his mailbag and while debunking the idea that a certain rule that was was said created for Jackie Robinson, talks about how much intuitive sense the regulations of the game make. If only the original statistics were as logical.

Here's a nice piece about the 12 year old girl who threw back-to-back no-hitters in Little League and was taught how to throw a knuckleball by Joe Neikro. We linked to the story about the no-no's when they happened but this is a more complete profile of Chelsea Baker.

Blue Jays fan Navin Vaswami - he of the "baseball road trip of a lifetime" - stops in Philly and admits that Roy Halladay is probably in a better place now.

Theo Epstein had some strong words for the play of the Red Sox thus far, calling it"unintelligent, undisciplined, uninspired" and threatening changes if it doesn't turn around. That's pretty much like the principal coming into the class room and telling the kids that the all have detention if they don't shape up. It probably won't happen, but it might get them to sit up straight.

Oh you thought you know how much of a slimeball Redskins owner Daniel Snyder was based on how he runs the Redskins? Look at what he did to Six Flags.

"First Basemens"? Yeah that's Nada Word.
Back with the preview at the usual time (5:00).

More Roster Speculation

AAA Scranton has a game in Norfolk this afternoon, and after a look at the lineups, you can pretty much disregard everything I said this morning. Chad Moeller is behind the plate in that game, so there's virtually no chance he'll be in the Bronx tonight.

Jesus Montero is not in the lineup today, but I wouldn't read too much into it. This likely a routine day off; he's hasn't had one in a week. (Insert joke about Jesus resting on the seventh day). Besides, there's virtually no chance that the organization wants to start Montero's arbitration and free agency at this point, particularly when he's struggled a bit through his first month at AAA.

Also of note is that usual center fielder Greg Golson is not in today's lineup. Perhaps he may be recalled after all. I don't know the specifics of Posada's situation right now, but I'd think having a third catcher around is more important than having a fifth outfielder around over the next few days.

[UPDATE 12:40 PM: Golson is already in NY and expected to be activated tonight]

Lastly, with Golson out of the lineup and Colin Curtis on the DL, Kevin Russo gets his first career start in center field. A second baseman by trade, Russo and fellow infielders Reegie Corona and Eduardo Nunez have rotated through the three infield spots this year. Russo made seven outfield appearances in 2008, but this is his first action in center. His presence there today could be nothing at all, or it could be part of turning him into a super utility player. He carries a .290/.371/.419 line on the young season, including a scorching .368/.400/.605 over his last ten games. If he continues swinging the bat well and is capable of playing all over the diamond, Russo could offer a compelling option to give the big club's bench a little more flexibility.

Smoltz Trying To Win The Golfing Lottery

The former Brave, Red Sock and Cardinal is one of 9,052 golfers attempting to qualify for the U.S. Open.

Anyone with a handicap index of 1.4 or below can enter the tournament, which begins with 111 local qualifiers spread out across the U.S. with satellite locations in the U.K. and Japan as well.

If he is one of a handful of people who qualify from each site, he'll advance a 36 hole sectional qualifier and from there, the going really gets tough. He'd have to compete not only with the other top flight amateurs that made the previous cut, but non-exempted PGA tour professionals, club pros, college players and other excellent sticks all anxious to make it to the big stage.

Tiger Woods has called Smoltz the "best non-PGA Tour golfer" he's ever seen and has predicted that he could make a Senior PGA Tour when he turns 50. Right now, Smoltz sports a +2 handicap (as in two under par) with several rounds of 65 already this year. He once beat Annika Sorenstam in a fun match and has shot a scorching 63 (nine under par) at the Floridian Golf & Yatch Club in Palm City, Florida.

Smotlz also has a some features on this property any golfer would die for:
Smoltz’s backyard, however, looks like a mini country club replete with a couple of synthetic greens, nine teeing grounds and a 10,000-square-foot practice green. Smoltz is involved with Southwest Greens International, which builds synthetic-turf greens, tees and athletic fields, so his yard “basically [became] a showcase for the company.”

“It was designed for me to go to the next level,” said Smoltz, “and I have not utilized it the way I would like yet.”
Even with all the skill and advantages Smoltz has, it's still going to take a good deal of luck for him to make it. The final field of the U.S. Open is composed of 156 players, but the majority of those spots are occupied by exemptions granted to anyone who has won the tournament in the past ten years, any other major in the past three years, last year's top 30 from the PGA tour money list, the top 15 from the previous year's European Tour money list, the top 50 in the World Golf rankings among others. And most of the ones not taken by exemptions are won by tour pros in qualifying.

Last year, there were 15 amateurs in the field at the Open and it would be safe to assume that there will be a similar number this time around. So that's roughly 8,900 non-professionals (9,052 minus the Tour and club pros trying out) competing for 15 spots and the right to get their ass kicked by the best in the world at Pebble Beach in June. Even if you grant that Smoltz is in the top 15% of the field, that still gives him only a scant 1% chance of qualifying. And all it takes is one bad round along the way to knock you out of contention.

As the former dominant starter and closer said:
The one thing [in pitching] is you can get away with a lot of mistakes. In golf, you have to play your foul balls.

Posada Day-To-Day, Roster Moves Coming

Good morning Fackers. Last night, Jorge Posada's MRI revealed a minor calf strain. (Note: That is not Posada's actual MRI. We don't condone HIPAA violations here) He is day-to-day; just like you and me. Given this latest bump to go with last week's bruise, the Yankees will likely want another catcher around until Jorge is back to one hundred percent.

As such, I would expect the team will continue to go with just four outfielders for the time being. Rather than recalling Greg Golson or Chad Huffman, as had been rumored, the Yankees will likely add a third catcher when they send out their current eighth reliever.

Posada and Francisco Cervelli are the only catchers currently on the 40 man roster, so a series of moves will be required. Here's what to expect:
  • Mark Melancon will likely be optioned down. Boone Logan, and to a far lesser extent David Robertson, are also candidates.

  • Initially, Christian Garcia will be recalled. Garcia underwent his second Tommy John surgery last month and is out for the entirety of 2010. He'll immediately be placed on the 60 day disabled list, which will remove him from the currently full 40 man roster.

  • Chad Moeller, who spent part of 2008 with the Yankees and is currently Jesus Montero's back up in Scranton, will have his contract purchased, adding him to the 40 man. He'll then be recalled to fill the roster spot vacated by Melancon/Garcia.
One other thing to consider regarding Posada's leg ailments: when he suffered the initial knee bruise last Wednesday, Baseball Prospectus' injury expert, Will Carroll, passed along the following, cautioning that Posada's injury could be a nagging one, and potentially cause subsequent problems:
Ben Wolf, a smart guy you'll be hearing from in the near future in this space, points out something about Posada getting hit by a pitch Wednesday that hadn't occurred to me: "Was reading your latest column and saw that Posada was hit in the fibular head (I had just read knee in the general news). Even if there isn't a fracture, there's a risk of the injury being more of a long-term problem if he ends up with any restriction in the superior tibiofibular joint, especially considering the demands of a catcher squatting on the knee (including that joint specifically I think), not to mention any mechanistic problems he could have running."
Last night's calf problem could just be coincidental, but it bears watching as the next several weeks unfold. The Yankees had to suffer through the majority of a season without Posada the last time Moeller was around. It's not an experience they, or any of us, want to repeat.