Thursday, April 30, 2009

Game 21: #9

Start spreading the news...

Game 22: #8

Not what I was hoping to capture with that shot. Hang in there Teix.

Game 22: #7

Greetings from Section 122...

Hip, hip...

Game 22: #6


It's never going away. Thanks Lon Trost!

Game 22: #5

I just told everyone in line for Popcorn Indiana that the company is
owned by Isaiah Thomas.

There is no longer a line.

Game 22: #4

First off: Der-ek Jet-er
Secondly: Welcome back, Bobby

Game 22: #3

There is a full grown man in front of me with a teddy bear in his
pocket. If I was Matt Vasgergan (sp?), I would say he looks like
Plaxico Burress.

Game 22: #2

Despite the fact that there are maaaaaybe 15,000 people here, Abreu
got a warm reception.

Game 22: #1

AJ Burnett has a pretty hardcore intro song. Not unlike what you would
expect from a guy with pierced nipples.

Game 22: Battle Of The Bullpens

The two worst bullpens in the league, that is. 
25. Indians - 5.80 (ERA)
26. Orioles - 6.14
27. Twins - 6.14
28. Rangers - 6.41
29. Yankees - 6.65
30. Angels - 6.82
I'm making the trip up to the Stadium and will most likely provide some posts via iPhone as the contest progresses. 

This Just In: A-Rod Still A Dick

I know this may come as a shock to many of you, but according to multiple anonymous sources, Alex Rodriguez may not be a morally upright individual.

I'm guessing a fair number of you first heard of this establishment via this post back in February, so from the site's perspective we can't really complain all the dumb shit he's done. On the other hand, most of us are Yankees fans and we'd be lying if we said this makes rooting for the team any easier.

The timing of this story in The Post is actually pretty good for the Yanks and A-Rod. I'd bet that Selena Roberts was hoping that the details wouldn't drop until he was closer to rejoining the team, which is still about 10 days from happening. He will still have to answer questions, which he has proven he is astonishingly terrible at, but there won't be the same media orgy if he was in the locker room the day the story was published. Additionally, there is only one semi-shocking detail, which was already floating during when Roberts broke the 2003 test results story; he was supposedly already juicing in high school:

Rodriguez put on 25 pounds of muscle between his sophomore and junior years, and word was that his connection was a dog kennel owner.

A former high school teammate told Roberts the future No.1 MLB draft pick was on steroids and his coach knew it. Another student said the son of coach Rich Hofman admitted he saw Rodriguez use steroids.

Even if this is true, he'll never have to admit it, because there won't be any smoking gun in the form of a failed test. That said, if he was juicing all the way back then, A-Fraud was a truer moniker than any of this teammates could have originally intended. 

The article provides some quotes for the book which allege that he used steroids while with the Yankees. Would this surprise anyone? His contrived apology conveniently quarantined his admissions to his Texas years, to place them in the past. He didn't even apologize to New York fans, to make the line even clearer. Whether he did them in New York or not, he wasn't going to admit it, because he didn't have to.  That's the kind of advice you have an entire team of PR people and lawyers handling your crises.

What I found curious in this story were the seemingly ancillary details that were included. His alleged steriod connection in high school owned a dog kennel. Okay...? At the very end, the article adds:

He was even hated at Hooters, where he tipped the minimum 15%, the book says.

Have you ever been to Hooters? The service is fucking terrible. Yes, he's rich, but does that oblige him to leave above average tips under any circumstances? (And I believe the minimum would be 0%. Life doesn't occur inside a Zagat guide, douchebags.) Want a real tip from A-Rod, Hooters waitresses? Get naked

So why include these superfluous details? Craig from Shysterball and Circling the Bases says that Selena Roberts might be trying to frame A-Rod as a "generally bad person":

 It's one thing to say that A-Rod lied about certain things and broke certain rules. It's another thing to say that he did so because he's an inherently evil or damaged person. I have no problem with the former. Based on her track record, I am extremely skeptical of anything written by Roberts that posits the latter.

I guess that's the kind of angle one has to take in order to build a storyline and sell books. I've always respected Roberts' right as a journalist to write whatever sort of book she wants, but couldn't put my finger on what exactly seemed wrong about this one. As he so often does, Craig got right to the heart of the matter, and I think he pinpointed it for me. Want to dig dirt on A-Rod? Knock yourself out. But to try to paint him as a defective villian for the sake of making money doesn't seem quite right. 

In closing, I'd just like to echo some of Joel Sherman's advice to A-Rod:

Here is my last piece of advice for Rodriguez: Hit home runs. A lot of them. Most baseball fans, especially Yankee fans, care about that most of all.
If he struggles, he will be booed vociferously. If he prodouces, no one will give a shit. Let's play ball. 

The Hook

We sort of left off on a sour note last night, but you had to be encouraged by the way the Yankees played. 

The star of the show was of course the Jobanatior, who needed only 88 pitches to get through seven innings. The only bump in the road was the third, in which he allowed only one run, despite issuing three walks and a hit. He shut down the threat by striking out one of the last guys in the league you'd want to see in that situation, Miguel Cabrera, on a diving 74MPH curveball down and away: 

 Doesn't get much better than that. And that's his third pitch. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How To Overmanage Your Bullpen, by Joe Girardi

"Hmmm, let's see here. There are two outs and it's the bottom of the 9th inning. The tying run is still in the dugout. Why don't I go get my closer? RIGHT NOW!"

"Yeah, perhaps that wasn't such a good idea."

Rivera hadn't pitched in five days, he probably needed some work. The Yanks had been up for 7 runs for four straight innings, it's not like the situation snuck up on Girardi. Why not let him start the 9th?

Or, I suppose, you could bring in someone else and go into panic mode when you are still up by 5 runs. The absolute worst case scenario was that Albaladejo gives up a three run homer and the Yanks are up by two, with two out and no one on base. That shouldn't even count as a save situation. It's one out. And again, that's the worst case scenario. Why pull the alarm and rush Rivera into the game? The guy is an extremely valuable commodity and he's 39 years old. Don't jerk him around unless it's absolutely necessary. 

This isn't because Granderson hit the home run. It was a stupid decision regardless of the result. The bullpen meddling annoys me, Joe, it probably lowers the confidence of the pitcher you are taking out of the game, and most importantly, IT KEEPS BACKFIRING ON YOU. 


Nice Try, Tigers Fans

Pulling the fire alarm is not approprite reaction to your team getting lit up. It's only a figure of speech. 

Game 21: Detroit Medley

The rubber match of the Motown Showdown goes down tonight as the Yankees look to climb back over .500. Like Phil Hughes did last night, Joba Chamberlain will get a chance to remind everyone why he should be in the rotation. I think Joba should be a starter until injuries or ineffectiveness prove otherwise. Having too many good starting pitchers is a good problem to have. And that's all I have to say, about that

Toeing the rubber for the Tigers tonight is a lanky 20 year old righthander named Rick Porcello. For those unfamiliar, Porcello was a high school phenom who entered the 2007 draft and was projected to go in the top five picks, with some forecasts placing him as high as number two. His senior year at Seton Hall Prep in New Jersey included a perfect game, a 14.7K/9IP ratio and he was named the Gatorade National Baseball Player Of The Year. 

Porcello chose Scott Boras, and as a result, concerns of signability allowed the Tigers to draft him with the 27th overall pick, just three slots ahead of where the Yankees drafted Andrew Brackman. His total contract was worth over $11M, making him the highest paid high school prospect ever. After spending only one year in High A-Ball, Porcello is already in the Big Show. While he had a solid 2.66ERA in the minors, his strikeout ratio dipped to just 5.2/9IP. Clearly, the Tigers felt pressured by the massive contract they extended to him, along their lack of depth in the starting rotation, to give Porcello some Big League burn. 

So far this year, he has made three starts. Sandwiched between two outings where he gave up 4 and 5 earned runs respectively, Porcello threw seven innings of one run ball against the Mariners last Sunday. By far the youngest starting pitcher in baseball at the moment, just over two decades old, Porcello makes a 23 year old Joba Chamberlain look like a seasoned veteran. 

I must extend a special thank you to local Springsteen Aficionado, Schiff Happens for tonight's song selection. In honor of Jersey boy Rick Porcello, from The Boss, here is a version of Detroit Medley from the '78 Tour, which I have been assured was epic. 

Cause For Concern?

Tim Dierkes of MLBTR came out with a list of free agents who are off to a poor start this year. Don't worry, the Yankees only have $435.5M worth of commitments to guys on the list:
  • Mark Teixeira, Yankees: .206/.363/.381 in 80 plate appearances.  This contract runs through 2016, so it's barely begun.
  • C.C. Sabathia, Yankees: 4.73 ERA in 32.3 innings.  So far we haven't seen the expected walk and strikeout rates.  This one runs through 2015.
  • A.J. Burnett, Yankees: 5.47 ERA in 24.6 innings.  Home runs and walks have been the problem so far.  He's signed through 2013.
  • Damaso Marte, Yankees: 15.19 ERA in 5.3 innings.  Signed through 2011.
I'd agree that they all belong on this list, but allow me to offer up some homeristic justifications/excuses for their poor starts.
  • We were all told that Teixeira is a slow starter because he's a switch hitter and needs time to get both of his swings in order. His defense has been great. I'll start taking calls in a couple weeks. 

  • Sabathia's ERA is only slightly higher than his career average in April (4.73 to 4.54). While not being terribly effective he has averaged over 6 1/3 IP per start. His K/BB ratio is somewhat alarming, but that has traditionally improved for him as the season progressed as well. 

  • Burnett's ERA before Saturday's game against the Sox? 3.20. Early in the season, 8ER in one start is going to skew an ERA pretty wildy. 
  • Damaso Marte... Um, he like, used to be good and stuff. 5 1/3 innings is a very small sample size, and he has looked good at times. The Yankees have options in their bullpen, and even if Damaso Marte turns out to be a horrible signing, it's not the worst thing in the world. It's $4M a year. 
Are any of these guys really worrying you at this point? Feel free to vent in the comments. Except for you, Anon

A Simple "Yes" Would Have Done

From Wallace Matthews of Newsday
When I asked Yankees vice president Randy Levine if this meant the team had misjudged the market, he [said] "For a very small number of seats, in this economy [...] I guess it was a mistake.''
Reason #446,785 why I hate you, Randy Levine. You are that guy. The one who will never admit when he's wrong. 

It's not even entriely your fault. The economy went south between the time you set the prices and the when the time came to sell the tickets. Not too many people saw that coming. 

"A very small number of seats?" Okay, maybe in relation to the capacity of the Stadium, but they represent a huge chunk of the revenue. For one $2650 Legends ticket (there are 122 total), you could buy 189 bleacher seats or 120 in the Grandstand. There are 1200 seats priced over $325 and the prices of about 600 of them have been effectively cut in half. Those seats were what the entire "Robin Hood" pricing model of the New Stadium was built around. That's not a "very small" loss in revenue. 

A fun little aside... Here's a nice fabrication that I turned up in the ESPN article linked above, dated March 21st, 2008:
The New York Yankees will charge $500 to $2,500 for seats near home plate in the first five-to-eight rows of their new ballpark. They already have commitments from ticket-buyers for all 122 of the front-row seats.
Oh, did they? Then we must have varying definitions of the word "commitment", because those are the seats that they are now halving prices on and giving away to those who already purchased at full price.

Randy, you fucked up. We all see the empty seats. It's not up for debate. Are you 7 years old? Stop acting like you didn't break the window, we saw you and Lon Trost throwing the ball as hard as you possibly could on the front lawn. Would it kill you to just admit that things didn't go according to plan? 

Back On Track

Last night's game was my favorite of the season so far. It was better than the 14 inning affair with Oakland or the tight one they pulled out against Tampa Bay. The final score would imply that the game was a blowout, but for six full innings that certainly was not the case. It was a tense pitcher's duel which allowed us to enjoy Phil Hughes' craftsmanship while simultaneously fretting that the Yankees might never score another run.

In fact, the 10 run seventh inning could have very easily been stifled in its infancy. With one out and men on second and third, Jorge Posada (pinch hitting for Ramiro Pena) sliced a flare into shallow left field. After initially hesitating, Josh Anderson approached, but narrowly missed a basket catch. 

The scorer awarded Jorge a sacrifice fly and Melky Cabrera scored from second base on the error. David Cone disagreed with the decision, based on where the ball was and the fact that Nick Swisher, not known for his blazing speed, was the runner on 3rd base. Replays indicated that Swish was coming home regardless if the ball was caught or not.
Had the ball been caught and the play made at the plate, the Yanks would have squandered the opportunity and the score would have still been 0-0. 

Alas, they did not, and the floodgates opened as they went on to put up 8 more runs in the frame, capped by a Jose Molina grand slam. Mark Melancon, Edwar Ramirez and Jose Veras then combined for 3 innings of scoreless ball and Swisher added a dinger in the top of the 9th. It's not every day that you see a game end 11-0 using only ones and zeros in the box score.


It's been a while since reactions to a Yanks game were fun to read, so if you would like to take a cruise around the Yankeenets, here you go:

Matthew Pouliot at Circling the Bases thinks part of the explanation for Hughes' great outing was Detroit's marginal line-up vs. right handers. 

Joe at RAB takes a closer look at Hughes' performance, and relives the 7th inning, play by play. 

Tyler Kepner makes a bold prediction

Joel Sherman says there was a lot to like in what we saw last night, and wonders what continued success from Hughes will force the Yankees to do. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ten Spot

It's not the most efficient way to allocate 10 runs, but that feels pretty damn good, doesn't it?

I Could Watch This 100 Times

Honestly, is there anything better than seeing an opposing batter jump out of the way on a big inside curve, only to have the pitch called a strike? Jose Veras gets one of those every once in a while because of his spastic motion, but Hughes just did it on stuff alone. 


Really? No one has come up with another product that would work for this purpose? Something that would avoid the effeminate stigma of nail polish and function better than an office supply?

You could just call it "Catcher's Paint" or some shit.

Game 20: Contents Under Pressure

I'm guessing this isn't how Phil Hughes was hoping his first start this year was going to set up. Filling in for a historically bad Chien Ming Wang, the former top prospect is taking the mound, looking to stop a four game losing streak that has got some pretty grounded observers to give some fairly bleak prognoses

Mr. Hughes has pitched 19 1/3 innings for Scranton this year over the course of three starts. He's allowed 4 ER (1.86 ERA), struck out 19 and only walked 3. Overall, in his three stints in AAA, he's struck out more than a batter per inning, only given up 2 HRs, but has an ERA of 4.06 (primarily due to some poor rehab starts last year). 

In 2007, Hughes started 13 games, put together 5 "quality starts" and tallied a 4.46 ERA, which was exactly league average (100 ERA+). Last year was obviously a gigantic dissapointment, in which his only two quality starts were over five months apart, both against Toronto. One was his first start of the season, on April 3rd, and the other was after both teams were officially eliminated from playoff contention on September 24th. Hughes threw 8.0 innings of two run ball in the Rogers Centre, but left with the game tied and still couldn't chalk one up in the win column for the year. 

He's doesn't turn 23 until June, but a lot of fans are running short on patience with the young gun. Phil could really use a competent performance to remind everyone how highly they once thought of him. The Yanks could certainly use a win to stem the tide of the losing streak and salvage the possibilty of taking this series from the Tigers. 

It feels like a pretty big game for both Hughes and the Yankess; as important as a game in April can feel. You can tell, because the media is already foaming at the mouth, ready to overract to it. If Hughes can prove he can be a viable replacement for Chien Ming Wang, it takes a lot of pressure off the Yanks. If he gets rocked, the tailspin continues, with no relief in sight. 

Hey Phil, no pressure... 

I'm in the zone like the Bulls at home,
with mad stains on my shirt from the beer and foam,
Cause the crew with all the brew buries squads like treasures,
With the Hennessey and Coke tryin to deal with life's pressures.

Contents under pressure (contents under pressure),
I hope for the best and expect the worst,
get stress off my chest everytime I bust a verse.

"Empty Seats No Longer?" Yeah, Right...

According to Ronald Blum of the AP, the Yankees have slashed prices on some of their most expensive seats. (h/t Simon On Sports)
The team on Tuesday slashed the price of 48 first-row Legends Suite season seats on the outer half of the dugouts and photo cages from $2,500 to $1,250, and 68 others in the final three sections down each foul line from $1,000 to $650.
They have also decided to compensate those who have already purchased the full priced seats:
Those who bought $2,500 first-row season tickets in the 11 sections surrounding the plate that weren't reduced will receive an equal number of free first-row tickets for the rest of the season. Those who bought $1,250 first-row seats in the first two sections past each photo cage will receive free seats for 24 games.
Empty seats no longer?
Rovell reports that the number of affected seats is around 600, so the short answer to his question? Of course not. The price points are still ridiculous and there are way more than six hundred seats left unsold. It's not just the most expensive seats that are the problem. The $325-$525 seats make up a giant portion of those that sat unoccupied during the last homestand.

The price reduction may get a few more people in there, but that doesn't address the issue that Jason from IIATM,S brought up.
It's a nice gesture by the Yankees, but it's not going to eliminate the issue of empty seats. On the bright side, it once again proves that Randy Levine is either a moron or a liar (possibly both?). Never thought I'd say this, but it looks like Bud Selig was right

Did You Know?

Before tonight, had you considered the possibility that if you bring the tying run to the plate and that batter grounds into a double play, even if a run scores, during the next at-bat, the tying run would no longer be at the plate? When was the last time you saw a pitcher throw an 8 inning complete game?

Thanks to Jorge Posada and CC Sabathia, now you know both of those things.

Not to point to point the finger(s) at those two, of course. The home run Sabathia gave up to Magglio Ordonez literally bounced off the top of the wall. Maggs sliced it off his back foot down the right field line, and left the park by the slimmest of margins. The rest of the offense wasn't too helpful either. Robby Cano and Ramiro Pena were the only ones who could muster than one hit (two apiece) as Verlander racked up nine strikeouts.

It was a swift and brutal affair, a tragic tilt that ended far too soon. After three excruciating Red losses to the Sox in a row, you might have thought the Yanks were due for a bounceback. You would have been wrong. They were were efficiently disposed of in a tidy 2:19.

While the Red Sox series averaged just over four hours per game, this one went quietly into the night. A letdown game after a clash with their arch rivals, perhaps? I'd like to think a team struggling to stay above .500 wouldn't need any extra motivation to win a game coming off being swept by a division foe.

Who knows how much effort actually correlates to success in baseball? I'd venture to guess the connection is not very strong. It's not like football, where strength has a much greater impact upon success. You can hit the gym and the results will translate much more directly to your success on the field.

At a certain point in baseball, no matter what you do (aside from taking steriods), you are pretty much as good as you are going to get. The greatest player of all-time reached base in less than half of the times he came to the plate. Both pitching and hitting have a fickleness and mystique about them. You don't want to give a sinkerballer too much rest and you wouldn't want to disturb a batter's choreographed routine.

I think it has a lot to do with the extremely random nature of baseball. Baseball completely rewrites the concept of confidence intervals. I've never seen a trend player's numbers that made me 95% confident in anything. You are trying to hit a round ball with a rounded bat. Every fraction of an inch affects the outcome. No matter how great of a slugger or hurler you are, you can never hope to control your results that precisely. And that is the reason they need to play 162 games. You just have to stack the odds in your favor, throw it against the wall, and see what sticks.

When things go wrong, who is there to be mad at? The Baseball Gods? The laws of probability? Fate? That's part of the appeal for me as a fan. You don't have to ride the rollercoaster of every up and down. The season lasts forever. It's not like football, where games are ten times more significant in the standings and occur a week apart. If the Yankees were the Giants, the season would have been over already.

It's early in the schedule, and no matter what some anonymous commenters would like you to believe, there is still a lot of baseball to be played and a lot could change over that time. Maybe when September rolls around we'll look back at this time and realize that all the rough patches were actually bad omens. Or perhaps, we'll look back at this stretch and wonder why we were so impatient so as to assume that we could tell the future by the results of 19 games.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Attention Comerica Park Grounds Crew...

...How about you close that fucking gate?

As awesome as it would be for one of our players to get injured because you morons don't understand how to work a latch, could you please make sure there are no functioning trap doors on the field of play?

For future reference:

Game 19: Papa Hobo

Sweep up,
I been sweeping up the tips I've made,
I'm living on Gatorade,
Planning my getaway,
Detroit, Detroit. 
Thanks, Paul Simon! In five lines, you managed to take us from Boston to Detroit. I guess there was another song in my library that talks about sweeping. I have absolutely no idea what that song means, or who the fuck "Papa Hobo" is supposed to be, but that pretty much nailed it.

Anyway, tonight in the spacious confines of Comerica Park, CC Sabathia looks to stop the Yanks' 3 game slide before it starts getting really ugly. He opposes Justin Verlander who has given up 21 runs in his four starts on the year. After winning the AL Rookie of the Year in 2005 and finishing 5th in Cy Young Voting in '06, Verlander posted a 4.84 ERA last year and lost 17 games. 


I was at Yankee Stadium in for Game 2 of the 2006 ALDS, the game in that series that Verlander started. It took place on a Thursday afternoon, but was supposed to have been played the night before. I got there pretty early that Wednesday, because it was the first Yankees playoff game I'd ever been to. Verlander had been throwing right alongside my seat down the third baseline, and I was close enough to hear him ask whoever he was tossing the ball with "Why the fuck no Yankees were on the field". Although it wasn't raining, the Yanks waited until gametime to announce that the game was delayed, even though it was pretty obvious the decision had already been made. Apparently they didn't give the Tigers a heads up either.  

I was alone, which kind of sucked, but I grabbed a few beers and a shitty poncho and hung out in my seat, just taking in the strange atmosphere. When nine o'clock rolled around, even though it had stopped raining, they called the game. Everyone was puzzled, but more so pissed that they had wasted their whole night. (It started torrentially downpouring about 45 minutes later)

I came back on Thursday, but the Stadium was at maybe 75% capacity. The emptiness and fact that it was a day game sort of robbed the playoff atmosphere. I still have a vivid memory of the 8th inning when Curtis Granderson robbed Gary Sheffield on a scorched line drive and then Joel Zumaya struck out Giambi and A-Rod through the shadows, touching 103mph on the Yankee Stadium radar gun. The Yanks lost 3-4 that day, dropped the next two in Comerica and I didn't get the chance to use my Game 5 tickets.  


Of course, Zumaya and Verlander (who was also breaking 100 on the gun that day) are nowhere near the dominant flamethrowers they were that year. It makes you wonder if, in the era that baseball is in now where steroid use is presumably declining, anyone can last throwing that kind of heat. I would tend to think not. Your move, Strasburg.

Swept Away

As far as sweeps go, that one was pretty bad. It occurred against the Red Sox, involved a blown save by Mariano Rivera, a fackin' Kevin Youkilis walk-off homer onto Landsdowne St., a grand slam by Jason Varitek, games called by Tim McCarver and Joe Morgan, and the coup de grace, a fucking steal of home by Jacoby Ellsfairy

It's only one run. It didn't decide the game. I'm guessing it probably won't happen again. But that perfectly placed the poo cherry right on top of the shit sundae that was this series. If you look closely at the replays (or watch the end of the slideshow below), you'll see that he tripped about 10 feet from home plate, which actually helped him barely sneak under the tag. The expression on Andy Pettitte's face pretty much says it all: 

It looks like he just watched someone kick his dog. Although, to complete the analogy, Pettitte would have been holding the leash when it happened. 

The only thing that eases the pain is the fact that this weekend was absolutely beautiful this weekend here on the Eastern seaboard, and still is. Would you trade three Yankee wins for three straight days of 50 degrees and rain? I'll get back to you in September. 

It's still April, and the Yanks are 9-9. They are heading to a pitcher's park and will have their ace on the hill tonight. I just hope this is the last sweep at the hands of the Sox this year, because this is (not surprisingly) the only song in my iTunes library that has anything to do with sweeping. 

[Disclaimer: It's only a little over a minute long, but please be sure to remove all sharp objects from your reach, because this show is about three times more depressing than I intended it to be.]

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Paging Sigmund Freud

Take A Bow

Dear Jacoby Ellsbury,
Thank you for giving us a reason to hate your fucking guts. In the meantime, suck a bag of dicks.
Fack Youk

Game 18: Spotlight

Was yesterday's 16-11 shitshow the worst game ever? It was far too nice out to spend four hours and twenty one minutes in front of the TV yesterday, so I only saw about 15 of the lead changes. Let's take a lazy Sunday stroll around the blogoverse and see what we missed, shall we?
  • PeteAbe tells us that it was only the second game in franchise history that the Yankees lost by 5 or more runs after leading by 6 or more

  • Kim Jones got her wish for 9 innings, but somehow I don't think that was quite what she had in mind
All is not lost, friends. A win tonight and the Yanks can salvage some dignity, stop the Sox 9 game win streak, and stay above .500 on the season. Andy Pettitte takes the hill against Justin Masterson, who is off to a good start filling in for Matsuzaka.

The rivalry shifts to primetime tonight, or as some might call it, the Spotlight.

(Not a huge DMB fan, but that's a pretty cool version of that song, which he hasn't played live since 1993)

Regardless of your rooting affiliations, I'm sure you are you are thrilled by the inevitability of being entertained by the vocal stylings of Jon Miller, the flawless logic of Steve Phillips and of course the sage insights of Joe Morgan. If you hear anything egregious, feel free to preserve it in eternity by dropping it in the comments section.

Just remember this it's not only an East Coast thing.

Happy Trails, Brayan Pena

Yesterday, the Royals DFA'd Brayan Pena. Does that name sound familiar? I alluded to the situation in a recent post, but just in case you didn't click through...

Going for the sweep in Kansas City on April 12th the Yankees held their first close, late lead of the season. It was 4-3 entering the bottom of the eighth inning, and Joe Girardi called on Damaso Marte, who quickly retired lefties Mark Teahen and David DeJesus on two fly balls. When the Yankees signed Marte to a $12M/3 year extension this offseason, I'm guessing they thought of him as more than just a lefty specialist. But instead of leaving Marte in to face righty Billy Butler, Girardi went to the 'pen for Jose Veras, who had pitched 3 out of the last four games, and proceeded to walk Butler on 5 pitches.

Sitting in the on-deck circle was the legendary Brayan Pena, with 75 Major League games spread out over 5 years under his belt, 2 career HRs and a .254 OBP. So Girardi brought in lefty Phil Coke, who promptly allowed a double, single, and a double, resulting in the three runs that won the game for Kansas City. Oh yeah, and Pena's a fucking switch hitter.

Remember now?

Baseball is a cruel game. One day Joe Girardi is bringing in a pitcher specifically to face you, and two weeks later you get sent to the minors.

It's amazing how a bullpen can go from being quite effective last year to extremely sporadic this season without any significant changes to the cast of characters. I think at least some of the blame belongs to Joe Girardi and Dave Eiland who have been getting awfully cute with their match-up decisions. I don't want to nitpick every managerial move, but in general, I'm not in favor of bringing in the third pitcher of the inning to face a switch hitter with a .582 career OPS.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

It's All About The Timing

Johnny Damon just drove in two runs at the same exact moment the
Giants took Hakeem Nicks. The Boat Basin is rocking.

Game 17: I Wont Back Down

Another beautiful day, another great pitching match-up. Let's hope it turns out better than last night.

Well I know what's right, I got just one life,
In a world that keeps on pushin' me around,

But I'll stand my ground, and I won't back down.

Hey baby,
there ain't no easy way out,
Hey I will stand my ground,

And I won't back down,

No, I won't back down.

That Baseballing Contest Was Most Unpleasant To Witness!

Can anyone explain this to me? Why, why, why, why would Joe Girardi, when Jonathan Albaledejo was 0-1 on Jacoby Ellsbury, bring in Mariano Rivera for one out in the bottom of the eighth inning? Alby had already got three easy outs (one in the 7th) before accidentally nipping Nick Green on the thigh with a 0-2 two-seam fastball that moved in just a little too much. Joe let him stay on the mound, throw over to first, and even get ahead on Ellsbury. Then, to every one's surprise, he walked out to the mound, talked to Jon for a second and tapped his right arm.

I like Girardi as a manager. I was fully on board with his hiring. But all this meddling with the bullpen is not only frustrating to watch, it's costing the Yankees games.

In a 4-2 game, Ellsbury represented the tying run. This year he has TWO doubles, ZERO triples or home runs and is slugging .304. What was Joe worried about? The count was already 0-1. Why not let Albaledejo try and get through this at bat? Because even if he did get a hit, chances are it would have been a single, which would not have scored Nick Green from first.

I'm not against using Rivera for more than three outs. That's one of the many abilities he has that separates him from other closers of this era. But there is no justification for bringing him in the 8th last night to face a shitty hitter. It was at someone else's expense as well. You can see the look on Albaledejo face. He looks dejected... embarrassed, even. He was throwing well and got pulled in the middle of a fucking at-bat for no good reason in Fenway park. Can you blame him?

I can't help but wonder if Alby got that out, and Mariano was reserved for the 9th inning that perhaps this wouldn't have happened:

Maybe this comes across as second guessing, but it was mind boggling at the time and it's not the first occasion this year when his bullpen management has squandered a late lead.

After Bay hit that home run, there was sense of inevitability to the outcome. Although the home team's advantage in extra innings is only 52/48, it feels much greater. The visiting team, in effect, has to play their hand first while the home team has the chance to respond. All it takes for the road team is one mistake, kind of like the one Damaso Marte made to Kevin Fackin' Youkilis.

/punches self in face repeatedly

Friday, April 24, 2009

Does This Usually Happen?

When Dustin Pedroia doubled in the bottom of the third inning, I noticed something odd.

Look towards the ump's chest plate below. (Click to enlarge)

See that little poof of dust/chalk/smoke?

It has dissipated slightly in the one below:

And it's gone in this screen shot:

Maybe it's just because little Dusty hits the ball so squarely, but I can't remember ever seeing that before. Perhaps Joba was hitting the rosin bag especially hard? I don't know.

Just thought it was worth pointing out.

Number 1,775

It has been just shy of 108 years since the Yankees and Red Sox first met. It was the first year of the American League, and neither team was know by it's current name yet. The Yanks were still in Baltimore and went by the Orioles while the Sox were based in Boston but had no official nickname. That same day marked Christy Mathewson's first of 373 Major League wins.

Led by player-manager John McGraw at Oriole Park in Baltimore, the Yankees won the very first match-up in the storied rivalry 10-6. They took the second and final game of the series 12-6, but ended up splitting the season tilt 9-9.

When Byron "Ban" Johnson reorganized the Western League in 1893, he was only a newspaper reporter, but had the blessing of former St. Louis Brown Stockings star Charles Comiskey and was elected president of the league. He remained at the helm for 35 years. In 1899, the National League dropped four cities (Baltimore, Louisville, Cleveland and Washington) from their circuit, creating an opening for the Western League to establish teams in those locales.

According to Bill James, one of the things that made the American League preferable to the National League for fans was the elimination of the dirty elements of the game that had characterized baseball before the turn of the century. In his Historical Baseball Abstract, James says "[Ban] Johnson realized that the bad manners and frequent fistfights the National League permitted were restraining the public's enthusiasm for the game". It turned out he was right and the American League overtook the National League in terms of popularity, thereby forcing the NL to clean up their act.

After relocating to New York two years later, the Yankees were known first as the "Highlanders" (because they played their games at Hilltop Park in Washington Heights), and then the "Americans" so as to distinguish them from the National League team in New York at the time. The Sox were first known as the Americans as well, so as not to be confused with the Boston Braves. Not very far removed from the Civil War, the name Yankees was synonymous with "Americans" in the North at the time, and the moniker stuck.

It's hard to imagine what it must have been like for the players on the starting rosters of what would become the Yankees and Red Sox on April 26th, 1901. They were miscellaneous parts of no name teams, in a fledgling league, at a hand-me-down park.

Little did they know that over a century and 1774 regular season contests later, the games would be played in billion-dollar palaces, broadcast in HDTV all over the world and people would be complaining that the heated rivalry between these two teams was being covered too much by the national media.

Tonight, the season starts in earnest for many Yankees and Sox supporters. Until now, us Yankees fans have watched baseball being played in an desolate Camden Yards, a full Tropicana Field, a remodeled Kaufman Stadium and the Structure That Mariano Rivera Erected, and none of them seemed quite right.

There will be a certain familiarity to seeing Fenway packed full of hostile exuberance on an absolutely perfect summery night. The pitching match-up pits the two young guns on either team tagged as future aces, Joba Chamberlain and Jon Lester. Does a game in April get any better than this? I'd argue that it does not.

Let's go Yanks.

Just Don't Kill Him, Joba

Over his Yankees career, Joba Chamberlain has launched a baseball in the vicinity of Kevin Youkilis's massive domepiece four times.

On Friday night, Joba is the scheduled starter against the Sawx. Shrek body double David Ortiz has already warned him to not try it again. Big Pawpi doesn’t specify what will happen if Joba ignores him...

According to Pawpi: ""This is a guy, as good as he is, the next step for him will be to earn respect from everybody in the league. He's not a bad guy, but when things like that happen, people get the wrong idea."


We here at Fack Youk do not mind head hunting Youk for the sake of his discomfort. But, please, for the longevity sake of this blog (I guess also for the sake of his family), Joba do not kill the man or end his career ala Tony Conigliaro.

Also, since when should pitchers care about being "respected." As Machiavelli says in The Prince, a pitcher needs to be feared, not respected. Being respected does not lead to team wins, high strikeout totals, a low ERA, WHIP or any other individual/team stats.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Good Melky, Bad Melky

While the likely takeaways from yesterday's game were Melky Cabrera's 2 homers, a solo shot in the second, and especially the walk-off in the bottom of the 14th inning...

...Don't forget about this:

In the 7th inning, with the bases loaded and no one out, Melky came to the plate and struck out on four pitches, the last of which was literally at his eyes. Look at what Suzuki had to just to catch that ball. Russ Springer missed his spot by three feet and still got the biggest K of the game. That at-bat would loom large, as the score remained 7-7 until the 14th.

To my eyes, there-in lies the problem with Melky. He goes up to the plate swinging for the fences, and refuses to believe that he's just not a home run hitter. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut on occasion, so there are going to be days like yesterday when he gets lucky and jacks one or two. But by and large this approach is killing his value as an everyday player.

Let's go to the numbers, shall we?

These are the three seasons in which Melky appeared in enough games to analyze the results. There are differences in PA's, but even when you factor those in, the trends are still clear. The darker shaded numbers are the most optimal ones.

From ages 21 (in 2006) to 23, his average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and consequently OPS have all been in decline. He age 21 season was what got most Yankee fans excited about him. Homegrown talent with a strong arm and pretty decent production at the plate for a CF.

While his home runs were consistent throughout all three seasons, Melky's doubles declined drastically. Why would that be? When he takes his home run cut, Cabrera ends up hitting a lot of pop ups. It's the downside of his "all or nothing" approach to hitting.

The last column represents in-field fly balls, and as you can see that percentage jumped significantly (at the 90% confidence level) from '07 to '08. As a result of hitting more pop-ups, his Batting Average On Balls In Play has been on the decline as well, because a much higher percentage of pop flies are converted into outs than any other type of batted ball.

It's been a while since Max Kellerman tried to sell everyone on the notion that Melky was the second coming of Bernie Williams based on their minor league track records and early MLB performance. I don't know too many people who think he can be an everyday player, let alone a batting champion or top 10 MVP candidate anymore. Rob, the sponsor of Melky's Baseball-Reference page said it best:
Oh, what you, Leche, could have been. With only 280 ABs in AAA they wasted all your options before your 24th birthday. Bernie got 468 ABs in AAA and almost two full seasons in AA. Hopefully you find a chance to develop as a hitter.
I suppose for the time being that Melky is a pretty decent fourth outfielder. He has marginal defensive value in CF, but is solid in left and right with a strong arm. That makes him a good choice for a late-inning defensive replacement, and as he showed us yesterday, he's got the potential to make an impact offensively as well. I just don't want anyone to get carried away and say they want to see him starting.