Saturday, May 15, 2010

Game 36 WPA Chart

Game 36: The Return

After Damaso Marte coughed up the lead with two outs in the top of the seventh last night, the Yankees got a massive boost from A-Rod's grand slam in the bottom half of the inning. The Bombers have their work cut out for them if they are going to carry any of that momentum over into today, as they'll be facing a resurgent Francisco Liriano.

If it seems like a long time ago that Liriano was tearing up the league and was tagged as the heir apparent to Johan Santana, well, that's because it was. Coming into August of 2006, Liriano had compiled a 12-3 record with a 2.16 ERA over 121 innings, striking out a robust 144. However, he was scratched from his start on August 1st with pain in his forearm and thus begun a downward spiral that culminated with Tommy John Surgery that November.

The Dominican left hander split the 2008 season between the Twins and their AAA affiliate in Rochester, logging 76 solid Major League innings and 118 very good ones in Triple-A. In 2009, he was added to the Twinkies' Big League roster out of Spring Training but the results were less than optimal. By the end of May his ERA was close to seven. Although he put together some better starts during the summer months, Liraino found himself primarily relegated to relief duty by the time September rolled around. He made the roster for the ALDS but pitched only two innings out of the bullpen.

This year, however, Liriano is showing flashes of the potential that everyone saw in him back in 2006. He threw three straight short shutouts against the Red Sox, Indians and Tigers, but has followed that with two more pedestrian efforts his last two times out. Still, he's carrying a 2.36 ERA and an even better 2.24 FIP through six starts and has yet to allow a home run. He's held lefties to an OPS (not a typo) of .333 and opponents on either side of the plate are slugging just .292 against him.

The Yankees got to Liriano for six runs in a start in Minnesota last July and two more in two innings during the ALDS, but it's apparent that they will be facing an entirely different pitcher this time around. He's throwing with more velocity and more movement and his results so far speak for themselves.

Andy Pettitte was actually off to a better start than Liriano is this season before he took a 10 day hiatus to allow some inflammation in his elbow to die down. Pettitte reportedly wasn't happy that his turn in the rotation was skipped, but the Yankees weren't about to take any chances with a 37 year old pitcher who has meant as much to the team as Pettitte has so far this year. If Andy really takes the skipping personally, will have a chance to show the world that he was fine all along.

Today's game feature returns of different types. Liriano has seemingly returned to his earlier form while Pettitte is back from a much shorter time in exile. As such we are treated to a matchup of two of the best left handers in the American League so far this year and the gloves are coming off. I'll take the guy rocking the NY colors.

I run through obstacles, take off my shackles,
Proper backing with the bangers and the rhyme singers,
I run with dem and others, rock NY in colors.
[Song notes: Vintage DJ Premier track behind this Brand Nubian joint. Props to Lord Jamar for rocking the Yankee hat, even though the verse we are quoting belongs to Sadat X.]


Yankees: Swisher is in the two hole while Francisco Cervelli gets behind the dish, allowing Jorge Posada to DH.
Jeter SS
Swisher RF
Teixeira 1B
Rodriguez 3B
Cano 2B
Posada DH
Thames LF
Cervelli C
Brett Gardner CF
Denard Span CF
Orlando Hudson 2B
Joe Mauer DH
Justin Morneau 1B
Michael Cuddyer RF
Delmon Young LF
Brendan Harris
Nick Punto 3B
Drew Butera C