Friday, May 7, 2010

Game 28 Recap

1. The first three innings of this contest were dominated by the pitchers. Josh Beckett recorded six strikeouts and the only hit he gave up was a seeing eye single just past Dustin Pedroia. Phil Hughes mowed through the Sawx as well, recording only three strikeouts and the only baserunner he allowed as a walk to Jason Varitek.

2. Josh Beckett ran into a little trouble in the fourth, though. He allowed a one out walk to Mark Teixeira and A-Rod followed with a sharp single to right. Robinson Cano struck out by fouling back a 96mph fastball into the glove of Jason Varitek. Nick Swisher took an ugly swing over a cut fastball inside, looked terrible in the process, and then took a 4-seamer away and fell behind 0-2. Beckett wasted a fastball at eye level and then buried a curveball in the dirt to even the count. Swisher must have been looking for the hook again because when Beckett went back to it, Swish smashed it where the cameras are placed over the centerfield wall and put the Yanks up 3-0.

3. J.D. Drew got the first hit off of Phil Hughes and it came via a one out single in the fourth. The Fackin' Youkstah followed with a liner that rolled into the left field corner but was held to a single by a nice defensive play by Randy Winn. Drew was on third with one out out for David Ortiz and Big Sloppy lofted a deep fly to right center that he admired as if it might have been a home run but it fell into Swisher's glove shy of the warning track, putting the Sox on the board. Yanks 3, Sox 1.

4. Josh Beckett officially came unraveled in the sixth inning. A-Rod led off the inning with a double that rolled up to the Green Monster and then Beckett hit Cano in the knee with a pitch. The runners moved up on a passed ball while Nick Swisher was at the plate but Swisher ultimately struck out. With first base open, the Sawx elected to intentionally walk Brett Gardner to face Francisco Cervelli, who was already two for two on the night. After working the count full, Frankie called time just before Beckett delivered the pitch. Beckett was clearly annoyed by the move and lost payoff pitch up an in, walking in a run.

Swinging at the first pitch he saw, Randy Winn popped a single to left, drove in a run and brought Derek Jeter to the plate with the bases still loaded. Beckett plunked Jeter in the ribs, forcing in another run. At this point, Beckett already had 105 pitches and clearly had lost his control but Terry Francona opted to leave him in. Marcus Thames then grounded a ball between short and third that Marco Scutaro fielded and flipped to Adrian Beltre. Beltre had strayed off the bag when the ball was hit and Winn barely beat him to the base, extending the inning. Beckett ran two pitches inside to Mark Teixeira - one dangerously close to his knees - before Teix singled and chased Beckett from the game in the process.

A-Rod (who had led of the inning, if you'll recall) hit a sac fly off of Hideki Okijima to put the Yankees up 8-1. Ramiro Pena struck out to end the inning but the damage had obviously already been done.

5. The Red Sox got one back in the bottom half of the inning off of Phil Hughes. J.D. Drew doubled leading off, moved over to third on a ground out and was singled home by David Ortiz.

6. Randy Winn singled to lead off the eighth, took second and third on wild pitches (from Tim Wakefield to Victor Martinez) and scored on a sac fly by Marcus Thames.

7. David Robertson came into pitch the 8th and after striking out Pedroia, walked Jonathan Van Every and Youk. Ortiz struck out looking then Adrian Beltre knocked an RBI since to make it 10-3. Boone Logan pitched the ninth and allowed a single to Victor Martinez

IFs, ANDs & BUTs
  • Phil Hughes pitched seven strong innings, striking out eight and allowing 7 hits and walking one. His fastball was sitting in the mid-90s all night, mixed in a cutter that was was between 88 and 91. The two heaters accounted for about 90% of his 101 pitches, with the remaining 10% were curveballs.

  • Beckett really looked like he was in command early in the game but the pitch from Swisher really tipped the balance. Beckett had Swish off balance and 0-2 but couldn't put him away and the Yankees never looked back.

  • You've gotta wonder about the intentional walk to Brett Garnder. At that point there was one out and men on 2nd and 3rd and although Garnder has been solid at the plate this season, he's not exactly a guy Josh Beckett should be afraid to pitch to.

  • Nick Johnson was pinch hit for by Marcus Thames in the fifth because he had to be removed from the game to a sore wrist. Apparently this is something that's been going on for a while, he's going for an MRI and looks to be DL bound. Yes, this kind of sucks, but let's wait to see how serious this is going to be before we start jumping to conclusions like this and this.

  • Josh Beckett hit Robinson Cano square in the knee on a 0-2 pitch during the top of the 6th inning. Cano attempted to stay in the game but had to be punch ran for by Ramiro Pena. Cano almost certainly isn't going to play tomorrow, so it's likely the the AAA call up is going to be an infielder. Good chance it will be Kevin Russo.

  • Frankie Cervelli picked up two hits, scored a run and drove in one via the bases loaded walk from Beckett.

  • Boone Logan pitched the ninth and allowed only a single to Victor Martinez.

  • According to Marc Carig, CC Sabathia was not pleased with Beckett's, um, lack of command. Beckett probably wasn't doing anything intentionally - or at least shouldn't have been since the bases were loaded when most of shit went down - but he kept throwing inside anyway. Something to keep in mind considering that Sabathia is starting tomorrow.
The game is at 3:10 and on FOX.

Game 28: Station Blues

Twenty one months ago, the Yankees arrived in Boston for a three game weekend series, much like the one they will play this weekend. In the Friday night game, Boston sent Josh Beckett to the mound, just as they will tonight. He was opposed then by a young right hander from the Yankees, just as he will be tonight. Despite tossing seven innings of one run ball that night, Beckett was outdueled. Joba Chamberlain did him one better, going seven shutout innings of three hit, one walk ball, fanning nine Sox on the night. It was, and remains, the best start of Chamberlain's career.

Tonight Phil Hughes gets his crack at Beckett and the Sox. Hughes and Joba have been linked throughout their young careers. Both are former first round picks, Hughes in 2004, Chamberlain in the supplemental round two years later. Both made their much-heralded Major League debuts in 2007, Hughes as a starter in late April, Chamberlain as a set up man in mid-August. Both were counted upon to be key contributors in what proved to be a disappointing 2008 season, Hughes exiting with a stress fracture in his rib in late April, Chamberlain hitting the DL with a sore shoulder in early August. Both battled for the fifth starter spot in Spring Training this year, with Hughes emerging the victor.

They've also been a study in contrast thus far. Hughes is seen as poised and collected, Chamberlain as demonstrative and impulsive. Hughes took some time to find his footing as a Big Leaguer; Chamberlain burst on the scene with a storybook rookie campaign, earning instant celebrity. Hughes took some lumps as a starter before emerging as a dominant reliever last year and finding his way back to the rotation this season. Chamberlain debuted as a dominant reliever, experienced early success as a starter before scuffling through much of last year, and is back in his former set up job this season.

I'm not sure what bearing all of that has on tonight's game, other than that I'm hopeful Hughes can turn in a Fenway performance tonight that equals that of Chamberlain's there nearly two years ago. Given Hughes' success through his first four starts this year, there's no reason he can't turn in such performance tonight. At the very least, it should go better than Hughes' only other career start at the Fens, a two inning outing two years ago in which he allowed nine baserunners and seven runs, six earned. For his career, Hughes sports a 7.62 ERA and 1.92 WHIP in 13 IP against the Sawx, but he has struck out 15 batters over those frames.

The Yankees last saw Beckett on Opening Night, touching him up for eight hits, three walks, and five runs while forcing him to throw 94 pitches through just four and two thirds. He exited in line for the loss until Chan Ho Park let him off the hook. He pitched better in his second and third starts, but then got knocked around to the tune of 23 baserunners and 15 runs over 10 innings in his next two starts. He pitched well against Baltimore last Sunday, and enters tonight with a 6.31 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, and just one decision through his first six starts. His K/9 is the lowest it's been in his career, and his BB/9 is at its highest since his subpar first season in Boston. FIP and xFIP say Beckett should be better off than his traditional stats say, but even those numbers aren't too pretty for a guy who's supposed to be fronting the rotation of a contending team. Most of the Yankee regulars have had success against Beckett; they'll look to keep that going tonight.

The Yankees hearkened back to the days of flannel uniforms for their trip to Boston, heading down to the station in New Rochelle yesterday and hopping a three car private train up to Boston's South Station. Despite the spat of minor injuries of late, things have gone quite well for the Yankees since they last were in the Hub. They've won eight of nine series, have the second best record in baseball, and generally life is good. It would be tempting to say they're sitting on top of the world, but Tampa's still a game and a half in front, and as past seasons have taught us, where things are in May aren't always indicative of where things will be in October.

After a disastrous three game sweep at the hands of the Orioles left the Sox with the blues, Boston has taken four in a row and are back on the right side of .500. A series win this weekend would do a lot for their psyche and for that of their fanbase. Regardless of what happens over these next three games, both teams are going to have to work all the summer if they want to work this fall.

I went down to the station
Looked out in the yard
Get me some freight train
Work done got hard
But now she’s gone, but I don’t worry
Sittin’ on top of the world

I worked all the summer
Worked all the fall
Had to take Christmas
In my overalls
But now she’s gone, and I don’t worry
Sittin’ on top of the world
[Song notes: Another blues song, another song with a lengthy and storied history. "Sitting on Top of the World" was first recorded in 1930 by the Mississippi Sheiks, taking elements from earlier songs by Al Jolson, Tommy Johnson, and Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell, whose "You Got to Reap What You Sow" featured old friend Tampa Red.

Sitting on Top of the World quickly became a cross-genre standard, covered by Charlie Patton, Big Bill Broonzy, Ray Charles, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, the legendary Howlin' Wolf, Bill Monroe, Carl Perkins, Memphis Slim, Doc Watson, Chet Atkins, John Lee Hooker, and numerous others. Once rock and roll exploded and artists started looking back at roots music, bands like the Grateful Dead and Cream performed the tune as well, and it continues to be performed by contemporary blues and roots artists like Robert Cray, Taj Mahal, Jack White and a host of others.

Growing up in the north Mississippi hill country, Luther and Cody Dickinson learned the tune from one their mentors, Othar Turner. When the brothers Dickinson joined with Chris Chew to form the North Mississippi Allstars, they included a version on their debut album of traditional hill country blues songs, Shake Hands with Shorty. Their version however, was dubbed "Station Blues", as that's how they learned it from Turner.

The performance above comes from NMA's 2004 appearance at Bonnaroo, dubbed the Hill Country Revue, and featuring Jim Dickinson, hill country legend R.L. Burnside, his son Duwayne - then a member of NMA, the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band, and R.L. Boyce - who emcees this particular performance. It's a lengthy clip, from the NMA documentary Do It Like We Used to Do. Turner had passed away at 95 a year earlier, and the band pays tribute to him by playing his "Shimmy She Wobble", made famous in Scorsese's Gangs of New York, as a segue into the song.]


Jorge Posada is out for third consecutive game. Chad Moeller was not recalled, as previously speculated. However, pitcher Romulo Sanchez is up, with Greg Golson, on the roster for all of two games, being sent down. I'm not quite sure I understand this series of moves. I suppose with you can never have too deep of a bullpen for a series in Fenway Park, and with Sergio Mitre likely earmarked for a Tuesday spot start, the pen is a bit short.
Derek Jeter SS
Nick Johnson DH
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Brett Gardner CF
Francisco Cervelli C
Randy Winn LF

Red Sox:
Courtesy of old friend Pete Abe
Marco Scutaro SS
Dustin Pedroia 2B
J.D. Drew RF
Kevin Youkilis 1B
David Ortiz DH
Adrian Beltre 3B
Jeremy Hermida LF
Jason Varitek C
Darnell McDonald CF

New York Already One Up On Boston This Weekend

We're still about four hours away from the first pitch of game one of this weekend's series, but New York has already notched is first victory over Boston on the weekend. This morning, the annual media game was held at Fenway, with the New York writers laying a 20-3 beatdown on Boston.

Congrats go out to LoHud's Chad Jennings, the offensive star of the morning with a two run inside-the-park homer. The New York Times' Tyler Kepner hurled the first five innings, then Bryan Hoch of Advanced Media played the role of Mo with a scoreless final frame. Friend of the blog Marc Carig had the hardest hit ball of the day, but flashed only warning track power. I've yet to see any reports on how old friend Peter Abraham did after pulling his reverse-Johnny Damon last year.

Kepner was the Times beat writer through last season, but was promoted to national columnist after shortstop Jack Curry took a buyout and joined the YES Network. No word on whether Boston will protest Kepner's eligibility.


More links? Why not?
According to this tweet and this grainy photo, David Ortiz was grilling for students at my alma mater earlier today. I'm dubious about the picture, but if anyone should know when something is totally cooked, it's gotta be Big Papi, amIright?

After touching on the same topic twice already today, let's go for three. RAB passes along that AAA Scranton has activated catcher P.J. Pilittere, possibly indicating that Chad Moeller could be on his way up. Or since Posada is out taking earlier BP, maybe he's fine.

If you never want to think of Joe Torre in the same light ever again, read this story passed along by Deadspin's Drew Magary.

And with a tip of that to Moshe Mandel from TYU, Mystique and Aura has a post on 2008 first round pick Gerrit Cole, the one that got away.
Back with the preview in a bit.

Fun With Shutdowns and Meltdowns

Based on a conversation which originated at Beyond the Boxscore and continued over at The Book blog, FanGraphs created two new stats for relief pitchers based on WPA. Fortunately there are no intimidating acronyms. The positive one is "Shutdowns (SD)" and the negative one is "Meltdowns (MD)". I think everyone can understand that.

The Yankees are tied for the fewest meltdowns in the MLB with 8 but they've also had the second fewest appearances by relievers this year primarily due to the length their starting pitchers have provided for them. Yankee starters are averaging 6 1/3 IP per start and on nights when Javy Vazquez isn't pitching that number jumps over 6 2/3.

Looking at it another way, the Yankees' ratio of meltdowns to shutdowns is better than 1:2, which is good for 7th best in the league. Without getting my hands too dirty, that seems like a pretty good way to rank the performance of team's bullpens so far this season. When sorted by meltdowns/shutdowns, the teams fall out into three distinct tiers.

Tier 1: These teams all have a better than 2:1 shutdown to meltdown ratio. Most of them have an ERA better than league average with the exception of the Tigers (13th), Nationals (18th) and Pirates (dead last).

(The columns next to ERA and MD/SD are the
team's league-wide ranks in those categories)

What's apparently right away is that there is a decent general correlation to ERA but some extreme outliers (likely due to the fact that it's still early in the season).

The Tigers have a bullpen ERA that is slightly higher than league average but still have the best MD/SD in the MLB. Detroit has converted 80% of their saves (tied for 4th best in the league) which is a good indication that they have been getting the job done when it matters but giving up a lot of runs in low leverage situations. The Nationals are in the same boat with a bad ERA (19th), high SV% (11/13) and a solid MD/SD (5th). The Pirates are an interesting case, as their ERA is clearly inflated by having eight losses by seven runs or more, including two games they lost to the Brewers by a combined 33 runs. Those big losses have essentially no effect on WPA after a certain point but are given equal weight in ERA.

Tier 2: All of these teams have between a 1:2 and 3:4 MD/SD ratio.

The Reds have the fourth most relief appearances in the league so it makes sense that they have the most shutdowns with 33 and are in the top 5 for meltdowns with 18. They might have a good ratio but their ERA is indicative of the fact that their 'pen is over-taxed. Paging Aroldis Chapman. The Red Sox are in a similar situation with fewer shutdowns but a lower ERA. The Mariners are the only team in this cluster with an ERA in the top 1/3 of the league.

Tier 3: The final tier consists of teams who have more than 3 meltdowns for every four shutdowns. Four of them - the Cubs, Dodgers, Giants and Royals - have more MDs than SDs.

Incredibly, the Giants, who are leading the league in bullpen ERA, have only 10 shutdowns (last in the MLB) and are second to last in terms of their MD/SD ratio.

Clearly, over the course of the season, teams like the Giants and Tigers are going to see their ERA and MD/SD ranks converge on each other. The Giants will get some good performances from their relievers when it matters and the Tigers will see their guys give up some runs when it counts too.

Neither ERA nor MDs and SDs are perfect ways of measuring reliever's contributions but each brings their own unique perspective. And when combined with or contrasted against each other they have a way of teasing out information that we might not have known before. It should be interesting to keep on eye on these stats as the season goes forward and FanGraphs includes them on the player pages.

Friday Grab Bag

Look what some fackin' jokah sent to Derek Jeter. Bubble wrap. Because other Yankees have been getting injured. Ha, ha. Now if you'll excuse me, I have something to mail to David Ortiz.
The Yankees are likely skipping Andy Pettitte next time through the rotation just to make sure he has enough time to heal up, but it appears a DL stint won't be necessary. As Joe from RAB says, now Vazquez's recovery just got a little more important.

Mike at RAB has a look at David Robertson that differs a bit from Matt's this morning. It isn't just bad luck; he's missing his spots pretty badly too.

You know how it seems like Brett Gardner hardly swings at anything? We'll that's because he hardly does. The other side of the coin: he hits pretty much everything in the zone that he does offer at.

Someone is saying Robinson Cano isn't clutch. FETCH THE TAR AND FEATHERS!

Eno Sarris from Bloomberg Sports looks at just how lucky Phil Hughes has been this year.

The 2010 Yankee-Red Sox beat writer series kicks off today.

Rob Neyer takes a stab at defining all the eras in both Yankee and Red Sox history. Jason at IIATMS calls Neyer out for passing Donnie Baseball over. I can understand where Jason is coming from; every Yankee fan will remember those years as the Mattingly era. But I think Rob was trying to do Mattingly a favor by not slapping his name on the failures of those years. Bonus points to Jason for pointing out that Dave Winfield's decade as a Yankee is woefully under-appreciated by Yankee fans.

Also from Neyer, readers at ESPNNewYork and ESPNBoston voted on the all-time teams for both franchises. Rob Neyer Baseball then ran one thousand simulations of a best of seven series between the two squads, and chose one as being representative of the final results with the appropriate drama. You can start with Game One here, and follow on from there.

I can't wait to see Dustin Pedroia's laser show tonight. It would be even better if he wore one of these.

Here's a long lost profile of David Foster Wallace that ran in details magazine back in 1996 but hand't made it to the internet until now.

I wonder how that former flame-throwing, reptile-smuggling prospect did in his much-anticipated return to the mound last night.

Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley tries to diffuse some of the city-on-city hatred that characterizes rooting for sports teams. It's worth noting that he's from Philly and has a reason to.

Does Steinbrenner really mean "stone burner"? That's what Pinto says.

AWW WTF, LT? In light of the most recent charges levied against Lawrence Taylor, former Giants reporter Ernie Palladino revisits the infamous incident that resulted in LT telling him, "you're the only guy I know who's crazier than me".
And now for some rather random videos:

This has been making the rounds but it's too unintentionally hilarious not to post here. From Rich Lederer at Baseball Analysts, this is what you get when the people that made Dazed & Confused set their sights on Wiffleball.

Via the esteemed Tommy Bennett, times are apparently pretty tough in Cleveland right now:

Via Neatorama, here is the best video of a former boxer enjoying a spot of tea you will see all day. And also, Tyson doesn't like Canolis? What. The. Fuck?

Via Bad Left Hook, today is the 5th anniversary of Corrales vs. Castillo and the most electrifying round of boxing ever captured on camera. RIP Chico.

If It Wasn't For Bad Luck, D-Rob Wouldn't Have No Luck At All

Good morning Fackers. Entering play yesterday, the Yankees pitching was second in the AL at 3.56 R/G and third in ERA at 3.45. All that despite the well-documented problems with Javy Vazquez as well as some spotty relief work, particularly from David Robertson. In fact, as my friend and frequent commenter Gripp pointed out to me, Vazquez and DRob have combined to allow 38.9% of the Yankees earned runs while pitching just 12.5% of the innings.

There are any number of theories about Vazquez' troubles. Aside from speculation about his head and his guts, he's having noticeable mechanical issues. The numbers also suggest Vazquez has been a bit unlucky. Both his FIP (7.94) and xFIP (5.56) are ugly, but not nearly as ugly as his 9.78 ERA.

But Javy's bad luck has nothing on David Robertson. The New York Times' Bats Blog touched on it last week, and it's only gotten worse since then. Robertson has been knocked around in each of his last three appearances, allowing eight baserunners, two home runs, and six runs over just 1.2 IP. Opponents are hitting .545/.615/1.182 against him over that stretch. But it's not as bad as recent events would suggest.

On the season, Robertson sports a comical 14.21 ERA and 2.37 WHIP. His FIP is a still ugly 8.13, but his xFIP is a respectable 3.91. His peripherals are good. He's striking out 11.37 per 9, just a tick off from the 12.04 mark he posted through his first two seasons. He's walking 2.84 per 9, a major improvement on the 4.62 rate he had entering the year. His LD% is a career low 13.0%. So why have things gone so bad for DRob?

First, his HR/FB rate is currently at an unbelievable 33.3%, as three of the nine flyballs he's allowed have gone over the fence. When he's kept the ball in the yard he hasn't had much better luck, as his BABIP sits at a lofty .504. His strand rate is an absurdly low 50.9%. A third of his flyballs are leaving the park. Half of his balls in play are turning into hits. Half of the runners he allows to reach base come around to score. That's a recipe for disaster, and a disaster it has been. It's also a recipe for a big time regression to the mean, and with any luck that'll be coming very soon.

Compounding the problems for Robertson has been his sparing and sporadic use. Of his nine appearances this year, seven have lasted less than an inning, including his last four in a row. Three of them have been six pitches or fewer. Four of his appearances have come on three days rest. One came on a full week's rest. He hasn't been pitching often, and when he has, he hasn't stuck around for long. He's thrown just 2.1 innings in the last three weeks. Part of that is a function of his own ineffectiveness thus far, but much of it is due to the strong performance of the Yankee starters coupled with Joe Girardi's hair trigger tendencies with his middle relievers.

The good news is that Robertson's poor numbers have accumulated over just 6.1 IP. It's an extremely small sample size. His HR/FB rate, BABIP, and strand rate are beyond unsustainable. As they correct themselves and as Robertson accumulates more IP, the results will straighten themselves out. Further, his K rate remains amongst the best in baseball and he's made improvements in his walk rate and LD%. Of course these metrics are also subject to small sample size caveats, but whereas the bad numbers are so bad that they can't possibly last over time, the good numbers aren't so good as to be unbelievable.

Depending upon what the Yankees choose to do with the Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte injuries, the team could find themselves in need of a roster spot in the coming days. Robertson is one of the few players who both has options and isn't too indispensable to consider sending down. That, combined with Robertson's poor performance thus far, could land Robertson on a bus to Scranton. While he would certainly benefit from regular use and perhaps from the confidence that would come with getting back on track, I don't think there's anything wrong with David Robertson that can't be worked out on the Major League level. I wish Joe Girardi would stop using him as a sporadic ROOGY; his results are overdue for a nice turnaround.