Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Game 159: Next Time You See Me

It's hard to believe that tonight will be the last regular season home game for the Yankees. It seems like just yesterday when the Stadium was the New Stadium; an overpriced, empty, band box that didn't have the atmosphere or memories or the history of the place across the street and never would.

Some of those things are still true, but the Yanks have certainly come up with more than a typical season's worth of wins (57), late inning magic (15 walk offs) and special moments (Jeter passing Gehrig) there so far.

As linked earlier today, the homers have settled down. The Peter Max gallery is gone. The urinals in the upper deck still don't have dividers, but the prices of the most expensive Legends Seats have been cut in half and holders of the other seats in that area have been compensated with extra games. Those two things have eliminated most of the conspicuously empty seats behind the plate, which mattered far more to 99.99% of Yankees fans than the fact that the tickets were overpriced to begin with.

All of those things seemed like a big deal at the time, but now the New Stadium doesn't feel so new. I think that's what most of the hand-wringing surrounding the opening of the place back in April was really about. It was a house without the familiarity of a home. The place wasn't yet ours. It was never going to be anyone else's, but the team and the fans hadn't yet formed any common bonds by way of the Stadium.

Now we have them. We have Melky's walk-offs, Luis Castillo's drop, A-Rod's solo shot in the 15th inning of a 0-0 game against the fackin' Sawx, the back to back 8th inning homers against Daniel Bard two nights later, the fight against the Blue Jays, and the blown save by Farsnworth last night. We even have the 22-4 game against the Indians, and the one where Mariano some how gave up back to back home runs. The last two a pretty painful, but all those things make the Stadium incrementally more ours.

What Joba Chamberlain does tonight on his small leg of the Yankees' victory lap will be forgotten soon enough. The Bombers have won 71% of their home games so far this year which can be considered a success by any measure. But all the good juju accrued over the 81 regular season contests at the New Stadium will be put on the table October 7th, 9th and possibly 14th. If all goes well then, it will be doubled down. And with any luck, the stakes will be raised again.

So enjoy the relatively inconsequential nature of tonight's game. Because they next time the Yanks take in the vistas of their palace in the Bronx, things most certainly won't be the same.

Next time you see me things, won't be the same,
Next time you see me things, won't be the same,
If it hurts you my darling, you only got yourself to blame.

Well, it's true, true saying, all that shines is not gold.
Well, it's true, true saying, all that shines is not gold.
Like the good book says, you gotta reap just what you sow.

Getting The Links Out

It's been a surprisingly lively day in terms of baseball talk on these here internets. Let's take a look around at what's going on.

Here is the best visual you will see explaining how the Red Sox got into the playoffs.

Big Legue Stew gives the Yankees their postseason entrance exam which is proctored by Rob Iracane of Walkoff Walk. It's worth the read just to see which of th ESPN talking heads picked them to finish third in the AL East.

You might have heard Michael Kay state matter-of-factly that the Twins were upset with the rain out on Monday night because it forced a double header. Conventional baseball wisdom says that it's harder to sweep a double header than it is to take two games from a team, but is that really true. MGL from The Book doesn't think so but the primates at BBTF think he should probably have looked at the numbers first. Somewhere in that thread (68 comments and counting) you'll find the truth.

Is Derek Jeter a thief or a liar? The Shyster wants answers. The best part of that post is the dunces on the comment thread who tell Craig to "get a real job" because they take offense to him daring to question the Captain's integrity. [Sidenote: By the URL, you can tell that the original title of that post was vintage Calcaterra ("Great Moments In Gift Giving"), but odds are an editor changed it to the more inflammatory current one. They got their desired reaction all right.]

Teddy Atlas breaks down a fight that broke out in the concourses at Yankee Stadium. It may be the cutest fight ever.

Shocker: According to Hal Steinbrenner, Joe Girardi doesn't have to win a title to return as manager.

The numbers are almost in, and it turns out that Yankee Stadium isn't quite the bandbox it was originally portrayed as. After averaging 3.78 HRs/game in April and May, the Stadium has given up 2.56 per game since then and only 2.46 since the All-Star Break.

Shelley Duncan's suspension for his role in the Posada-Carlson brawl was rescinded by the MLB. Matt thought Shelley might get off when he initially appealed it and it turns out he was right. Apparently you can kick all the ass you want, just as long as the camera's can't clearly see you and you don't start the fight.

The Indians fired Eric Wedge and his staff. Well, not really because they still have to coach the last six games of the season. This would be the rare occasion when "lame duck" actually applies.

PETCOA's run of amazingly accurate preseason predictions has come to a screeching halt. Well, maybe if Nate Silver wasn't so damn busy becoming rich and famous by predicting the results of the Presidential Election, he might have had more time to spend on his baseball simulations. Talk about misplaced priorities!

Well be back to make fun of the Royals in the preview shortly.

One Reason Not To Hate Brett Favre

When the Twins' ninth inning comeback fell short in the nitecap of yesterday's doubleheader againt Detroit, the Tigers ran their AL Central Lead back to two games. Their magic number is now four. Both the Twins and Tigers have 5 games left, two of them head-to-head. If the Tigers sweep the two they clinch; if the Twins do, they're dead even with three games to go.

Of course, all of this matters to the Yankees as they won't know who their ALDS opponent is until the AL Central is settled. While much of the talk around the Yankees these days is of the "who would you rather face?" variety, my preference isn't so much who they face but rather how long it takes to determine that. If given my druthers, this race would go down to the season's final day, not just for intrigue purposes, but also to force both clubs to continue to play their regulars and trot out their top starters.

Because of the doubleheader yesterday, both clubs have a dilemma for Saturday: bring back one of yesterday's starters on short rest, or send an inferior, but rested, pitcher to the mound with the season hanging in the balance. For the Tigers, the fact that 20 year old Rick Porcello was one of yesterday's pitchers makes the decision all the more complicated. Porcello has already thrown 165 innings this year - 40 more than his previous high - and bringing him in on short rest would increase his risk of future injury. Instead, the Tigers likely would elect to throw ace Justin Verlander on short rest Saturday, even though he's thrown 120+ pitches in each of his last three starts, including a season high 129 last night. For the Twins, "ace" Nick Blackburn would likely come back on short rest Saturday, and it looks like he'd draw Zack Greinke.

If the Yankees pick ALDS schedule "A" as expected, Game 1 would be next Wednesday, meaning that if the Saturday starter of the AL Central champ pitches that game, it would also be on short rest.

Here's where things can get really interesting. Should the Tigers and Twins finish the regular season tied, an additional play in game would be held to determine the division champion. The Twins lead the season series against the Tigers 10-6, so regardless of the outcome of the next two games, the Twins would host any potential play in game.

However, root-of-all-evil Brett Favre and his Minnesota Vikings are scheduled to play his former team, the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football next week. The Vikings' Metrodome lease gives them priority over all non-World Series games and the NFL has already announced the game will not be moved. There's no way ESPN, who is actively trying to set a Favre-based Guiness World Record to promote the game, would pass up on the ratings bonanza. As such, the AL Central championship game wouldn't be held until Tuesday, meaning that whoever pitches that game will have one fewer day of rest heading into the ALDS. So in a way, thank you Brett you waffling, self-centered attention whore.

All else being equal, I think I'd prefer to face the Twins in the ALDS. They appear to have a much weaker squad, particularly in the starting rotation, are missing a key offensive weapon in Justin Morneau, are 0-7 against the Yankees this year, and have been ALDS fodder for the Yanks in '03 and '04. However, I'd much rather have the Central go undecided until next Tuesday and play the Tigers than have the Twins come back and clinch it Saturday. These will certainly be an interesting few days.

Kyle Baked Us A Pie!

Pie for breakfast? Go ahead, Fackers, you know you want to.

Delicious, isn't it? Don't sound so surprised. Don't you remember Kyle's peanut butter cookies? His fiancee (now wife) called him "Betty Crocker" in that Daily News article fluff piece/transparent attempt by his publicist to make people hate him less that was published just before last season, but he really out did himself last night, didn't he?

At 10:11 PM last night, PeteAbe chimed in with this update to his game thread:
Farnsworth in to pitch. Krazy Kyle for my last game. How appropriate. Back in a bit with reaction from the 4-3 victory. Where is Soria?
(Pete answered his own question after the game, noting that Soria converted a 46 pitch save on Sunday against the Twins and wasn't available.)

Moments later, Matt sent me a text that read:
Farnsworhtless?!?! Get the pie ready.
With all due respect to John Sterling, sometimes you can predict baseball.

They've only been tracking blown saves since 2002, but over that span Kyle Farnsworth has converted 24 saves and blown 26. During that same time frame Mariano Rivera has saved 311 and blown 28. Granted, you can blow a save even when you don't have a chance to convert one, which is how Scott Proctor has a lone career save but 14 blown ones.

Still Farnsworth has a mind-numbingly bad save conversion rate considering his ERA is only about a half of a run higher in save situations and his peripherals don't vary significantly based on game situation or leverage. WPA says he's about as clutch as you would expect a late inning reliever with a career ERA just under league average to be.

He famously blew a save against the White Sox by serving up a three run homer to Jim Thome on Opening Day in his first appearance as a Royal. After two scoreless innings, he was tagged with the loss in back to back games and his ERA sat at 18.90. Then he went 17 games and 17 2/3 IP without giving up a run to bring his ERA down to 3.00 but over that span was inserted to the game with a lead only 4 times, and in those games the average margin was six runs. Then, in his very next outing Trey Hillman brought him into a tie game in the bottom of the tenth and he lost the game before recording an out.

Before last night, The Farns had given up only one run in his last ten games. But lo and behold as soon as he was placed in to save situation, shit hit the fan. it wasn't really his fault though. He gave up real one base hit; the other two never even left the infield. But thanks to a throwing error by his catcher and some otherwise terrible luck, Krazy Kyle was the goat once again.

I hated him as much as the next guy when he was on the Yankees, but when they traded him for Pudge Rodriguez and he openly cried in the locker room, I have to admit, my first reaction wasn't to mock him, it was to feel sorry for the guy. It's not like he wanted to blow all of those games, and you would probably cry too if you boss came into your office and informed you that you had to pack up your things and more to fucking Detroit.

A while back, Joe Posnanski put together a few Kyle Farnsworth facts, which are similar to Chuck Norris facts, except exactly opposite:
  • Every dog has his day … except Kyle Farnsworth.
  • When Kyle Farnsworth gets 21, it’s not blackjack.
  • A rolling stone gathers no moss … it’s all on Kyle Farnsworth.
  • A broken clock is right twice a day … which is more than Kyle Farnsworth.
  • When Kyle Farnsworth lands on Free Parking in Monopoly, he has to pay.
  • Two wrongs don’t make a right. They make a Kyle Farnsworth inning.
  • There’s no crying in baseball, except when Kyle Farnsworth comes in.
Yours in the comments.

Burnett Pitches Well, Delivers Baked Goods

For a good portion of tonight's game, it appeared that Phil Coke was going to be the goat. Luckily for him, someone who is all too familiar with playing that role for the Yankees bailed him out.

A.J. Burnett and Anthony Lerew locked horns in a somewhat unlikely pitcher's duel for the first six innings of the game. Burnett improved on his last outing, lasting 6 1/3 innings, allowing six baserunners and striking out 8. His power curve was on point, getting six of those K's via the hook, and five of those swinging.

Lerew's weapon of choice was the change up. He only struck out three, but kept the Yanks off balance all night, dispersing 5 hits and 2 walks over six innings and tossing 56 of his 92 pitches for strikes.

Mark Teixeira was waiting for one of those change ups from Lerew in the sixth inning. Although the pitch was nearly chest high, Teix took an uppercut swing at it and launched a line drive with heavy overspin off the concrete part of the wall in right center that nearly bounced into the bleachers. The solo shot tied the game at one, but the Yanks would surrender the lead in the next half inning.

Burnett came out for top of the seventh having thrown 96 pitches, but an 11 pitch at bat against Mark Teahen quickly escalated his count. After he got the next batter, John Buck, to fly out to center, Joe Girardi went to the mound for his starter, knowing it was unnecessary to extend him with nothing on the line.

In came Phil Coke, who immediately started off on the wrong foot. He got Alex Gordon to tap back to the mound, but took his time getting to the ball and allowed Gordon to reach on a single. Up next, Josh Anderson bounced one back towards Coke, who, in an attempt to facilitate a double play, proceeded to throw the ball into centerfield, allowing Teahen to score and both of the other runners to advance safely, thereby coughing up the lead.

It didn't end there, though. Still with only one out, Coke got Mitch Maier to ground back to him, but instead of throwing the ball home, where he surely would have caught Gordon, Coke fired to first, taking the easy out but allowing the run to score. The three lapses in concentration cost the Yanks the lead and on a cold night with many of the seats in the Stadium left unoccupied, it didn't feel as if the Yanks were going to rally.

Lerew came back out for the bottom of the seventh and quickly allowed a lead off homer to Nick Swisher, putting the Yanks and the crowd right back in the game. The Yanks put two more runners on base in the inning but couldn't plate either of them.

David Roberston returned to the mound for the first time since being sidelined with pain in his throwing elbow in the the eighth. He got Billy Butler swinging and Brayan Pena to ground out, but saw his pitch count climb to 19 after walking Alberto Callaspo. Not wanting to over-exert the righty in his first appearance back, Girardi called on Brain Bruney who gave up a single but escaped the inning without further damage.

Bruney worked through the 9th inning without giving up a run, preserving a one run deficit for the Yanks heading into the home half. Either oblivious to Kyle Farnsworth's history with the Yankees or anxious to tempt fate, Trey Hillman called on the former Yankee to protect the Royals one run lead.

After striking out Brett Gardner, Farnsworth gave up a dribbling single to Frankie Cervelli. Eric Hinske was called on to pinch hit and ripped a single into right field, placing the tying run on third base with one out. The offensive hero of the previous night's game, Robinson Cano laced a sac fly to deep center to even the score.

Johnny Damon was next up and Hinske, who hadn't stolen a base all year, took off for second. He appeared to beat the throw, but better yet, it sailed into centerfield and Hinske made an even ballsier move in taking off for third. The ball arrived in time but Alex Gordon failed to make a clean catch and tag him out.

Farnsworth intentionally walked Damon to bring up International League stud Juan Miranda. In an improbable conclusion to an unlikely rally, Miranda banged a liner off of Krazy Kyle's leg which deflected into foul territory far enough for Miranda to get to first base and the winning run to score.
Yanks win 4-3. Win number 103 and walkoff number 15 in the books. The games aren't meaningless when you win like this.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Game 158: Promised Land

Despite their best efforts last night, the Yankees actually beat the Royals and will attempt to continue their climb past 100 wins this evening. The highest they can get is 106, but it would only take three more wins to reach 104, their highest total since 1998. The last time they won as many as 104 games (save for '98) was way back in 1963, when the league had just recently expanded. It's an attainable goal, but obviously won't take precedent over aligning their rotation and getting everyone well rested for the playoffs along the way.

A.J. Burnett takes the hill for the Yankees tonight, fresh off two pretty solid outings. He didn't make it through the sixth inning his last time out against he Angels, but that was largely because he racked up 11 of the 17 outs he recorded via strikeout. He threw 65 of his 101 pitches for strikes but did allow ten baserunners over that span. This will be his second to last outing before the postseason rolls around, so he's still got a little time to work out the kinks. Tonight against the punchless Royals should be a good opportunity to do so.

For the Royals, Anthony Lerew gets the call. The 26 year old righty was up for a quick cup of joe in both 2006 and 2007 with the Braves but had Tommy John Surgery an was released after some rehab starts in 2008. The Royals picked him up off the scrap heap in the beginning of this year and signed him to a minor league deal. He posted pretty marginal numbers in AA this year but was recalled to make a start against the Red Sox last week. He gave up 4 runs (only 2 earned) in 4.2 IP but also surrendered 10 baserunners, threw 108 pitches and struck out just 2.

Unlike Luke Hochevar yesterday, Lerew will be facing pretty close to a full strength Yankees line up. Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada and Melky Cabrera were given the night off, but A-Rod, Jeter, Teixeira, Matsui, Swisher, and Damon are all back in action.

Also, as Matt mentioned early today, tonight is also Peter Abraham's last night on the Yankees beat before he heads off to the fackin' Boston Globe. Be sure to head over to his game thread and wish him well.

We already did a tribute to Pete when the news first came down, but wanted choose a song to commemorate his ascent to what is one of the premier sports pages in the country. While the glory days of Ray Fitzgerald, Will McDonough, Peter Gammons, Bob Ryan and the like are gone, the Globe still represents the top of the world of sports journalism. Congrats Pete and best of luck.

There's a dark cloud rising from the desert floor,
I packed my bags and I'm heading straight into the storm.

Dodging Zack Greinke

When I saw that Kansas City's ace and lone star player had pitched a nice game against the Red Sox last week (contrary to the observations of Jim Rice), I figured that the Yanks would be running into him as well when the Royals came to town this week.

Up until that point, one of the very few remaining arguments against Zack Greinke's right to the AL Cy Young was the fact that he hadn't faced the Yankees or Red Sox this season. Needless to say, this is a pretty weak point both because pitcher's can't control their own schedule and if you wanted to complain about a lack of competition, you might want to start by noting that he pitches in the AL Central.

The reason that the Yankees didn't see him the first time around this year goes back to the fact that Gil Meche was tagged as the opening day starter for the Royals. This was due in part because he had that designation ever since being signed to a 5 year, $55M deal before the beginning of the 2007 season, but we can be sure it won't be the case next year, barring some unforeseen circumstances. Greinke was the Royals best pitcher last year too, but not by all that much, and as such was ticketed to start the second game of the season. As a result, when the Yankees came to town for the 4th through 6th games of the season, they missed the Zack Attack who pitched in the 2nd and 7th.

[Sidenote: The Yankees actually drafted Zack's younger brother Luke in the 12th round out of Auburn University last June. The lesser Greinke started 9 games for the Staten Island Yanks to a 4.01 ERA in 33 1/3 IP but was released out of Spring Training this year, before he could be assigned to a higher level of the minor leagues.]

As fate would have it, however, Zack Greinke shut down the Twins over 7 innings on Sunday night, temporarily derailing their charge for the AL Central title, and will once again miss the Yankees. This would be a welcome reprieve during the regular season, one that the Yankees never seem to get from the likes of Roy Halladay. However, with nothing left to be determined but how many games over 100 the Yankees can win and who gets the last few spots on the postseason roster, it would have been nice to see Greinke make a start which could potentially tip which way the Cy Young voting goes.

As Joe Posnanski has seemingly taken it upon himself to prove, Greinke is having a historically great season. He currently leads the league with an absurd 2.06 ERA (213 ERA+) and 1.066 WHIP, and has struck out 237 and walked just 49 in 223 1/3 IP. He's gone fewer than six innings only four times all year, and in two of those outings, he didn't allow any runs. His six complete games are second only to Roy Halladay's 8 and both of them have 3 shutouts to their name. Basically, the only reason he hasn't won 20 games yet is because the Royals are historically inept offensively.

As Jason pointed out this morning, Greinke's ERA in his losses is just about equal to CC Sabathia's overall mark. Were he having the same type of season for the Yankees, he'd likely be headed for 25+ wins. If he doesn't get the Cy Young it will rank alongside choosing Bartolo Colon over Johan Santana - and to a lesser extent, Mariano Rivera - in 2005 in terms of recent egregious snubs.

It's too bad we won't be able to see him first hand against the Yankees.

Yanks Get Another September Call Up

Except this time, it's not a player. As we originally speculated the day after Peter Abraham announced he was leaving The Journal News, Chad Jennings, the Scranton Yankees beat writer of The Times-Tribune, has been hired as Pete Abe's replacement.

First and foremost, congratulations to Chad; this is a well-deserved promotion from AAA to the Big Leagues. Secondly, though I'm no newspaper expert, this is probably the best move The Journal News possibly could have made. As we discussed in the aftermath of Pete Abe's announcement, The Journal News is a relatively small player in the newspaper industry, particularly amongs the papers that cover the Yankees. Their blog on the other hand, is far and away both the best and most widely read amongst those of the Yankee beat-writers. In hiring Jennings they've brought on an impressive journalist who has maintained a great blog on the Scranton Yankees for the past couple seasons.

I admit that I didn't read Jennings' Scranton work nearly as often as I should have, but I'm very pleased with this decision. As a fan, LHYB is the best place to go for Yankee information as it happens. It has also been an invaluable resource for Jay and me to get information regarding injuries, line-ups, roster moves, etc. so that we can do our thing here. Hiring Jennings should keep the LHYB going seamlessly.

This of course leaves a hole for Scranton coverage, which Jennings has done so well for the past two seasons. Perhaps Mike Ashmore, beat writer for AA Trenton, will get promoted a level as well. As Yankee fans, we've been lucky to have outstanding coverage of the organization's top two minor league affiliates over the past few years. I hope that trend continues in 2010.

Today, I believe, is Abraham's last day covering the Yanks. Sam Borden and Josh Thompson will finish out the regular season until Jennings comes aboard October 7th. Once again, best wishes to Pete at the Boston Globe, and congratulations to Chad Jennings.

Bruney & Marte

About two weeks ago, I took issue with Joe Girardi for giving Brian Bruney too many chances to make the postseason roster despite repeated poor performances and was not allowed to fail. Today I would like to log the opposite complaint about Damaso Marte. Despite rising to the occasion nearly every time he's been used, he hasn't been given the chance to succeed.

It's interesting that Girardi favors Bruney over Marte because they've had opposite trajectories to their seasons. Bruney started off well but up until getting 5 outs against the Red Sox on Sunday, he had been pretty bad since coming off the DL. Marte on the other hand, was poor at the beginning of the year but has been perfect - with the exception of one game - since rejoining the team. You'd think the guy with the better track record recently would get the benefit of the doubt, but that doesn't appear to be the case.

Marte has pitched in 11 games since coming off the DL and made it through 10 of them without allowing a run. The one bad outing he had was against the Orioles on September 11th, costing Andy Pettitte the chance at a win on the night when Jeter broke Gehrig's hit record. Even on that night, when he gave up 4 runs, he didn't give up an extra base hit but was instead allowed three singles and a walk and Jonathan Albaladejo let one of his inherited runners score. Needless to say, he wasn't pitching under the most favorable conditions that night either.

Aside from that outing, he's allowed only two hits and one walk over 6 1/3 innings. In his career, Marte has held righties to .728 OPS, which is pretty respectable when you consider that Phil Coke has help RHB to a .695 OPS and he is asked by Girardi to face righties at a higher frequency.

I understand it was a meaningless game, but last night, Girardi pulled Chad Gaudin with no one on base so he could bring in Marte to face Alex Gordon. Although his numbers are pretty terrible this year, Gordon is a talented left handed hitter, so I understand that Girardi was trying to give Marte some reps against lefties in preparation for the postseason.

As soon as he came back up to the Big League club, Girardi publicly announced that Marte would be used as a lefty match-up specialist. I don't understand what good it does to pigeonhole a reliever with a good track record who has never been just a LOOGY.

My contention is that this is the time to see if Marte can get be trusted to get right handed batters out. In fact, Marte has 1187 against RHB compared to only 850 against LHB, indicating that he hasn't been insulated from right handed bats at other points in his career. Coke has only 121 plate appearances against RHB compared to 159 against lefties.

Marte is not Mike Myers. He's not an inverted Chad Bradford. He's not the pitching Freddy Guzman. Yet I know that's exactly how Girardi is going to use him in the postseason.

For whatever reason, I like Damaso Marte. I liked him when the Yankees acquired him and a big part of the reason was that he was a solid lefty reliever who could get guys on either side of the plate out. I'm guessing that's what the Yankees organization saw when they signed him to a three year deal for $12M during the offseason.

I don't think the unidentified injury that kept him stashed away in exile for the better part of the regular season has destroyed his ability to get RHB out. I hope that over the next 5 games, he gets a chance to pitch a few full innings, because there's a pretty good chance that we are going to need him to do that at some point during the postseason because of a shortened outing by a starer or an extra innings contest. Brain Bruney figures to get that chance. So should Marte.

Burnett Returns, Carter Departs

Good morning Fackers. At the risk of spoiling our preview for later, A.J. Burnett will start for the Yankees tonight. Burnett left the club after Sunday's clincher to fly back to Arkansas, where his father had triple bypass surgery yesterday. Reports from around the club prior to last night's game indicated that the procedure went well and that Burnett will rejoin the team in time for tonight's start.

While Burnett will be pitching the night after his father had open heart surgery, on May 14, 1996 Dwight Gooden took the ball the night before his father was to have open heart surgery. Doc tossed a no-hitter that night. The Yankees would settle for less than that from Burnett tonight, as a third straight respectable start would further alleviate concerns generated by Burnett's struggles through August and early September. Regardless of his performance tonight though, Burnett and his family have already cleared their biggest hurdle this week, and it had nothing to do with anything that happened on baseball diamond.


In entirely unrelated and far less important news, the Red Sox DFA'd minor league first baseman Chris Carter yesterday. You may recall that the Yankees placed a waiver claim on Carter last month, as the Red Sox apparently tried to sneak him through as the player to be named later in the Billy Wagner deal. It was a bit of a dick move on the Yankees part, as they clearly had no interest in Carter, but it was also strategical as it forced the Sox to pull him back and continue to use a 40 man roster spot on him.

In the Yankees defense, the Sox were trying to skirt the system by sneaking a player on their 40 man roster through waivers as a PTBNL. While that's no consolation to Carter, who likely would have been in the Big League's for the last month had he made it through waivers, it was a risk that both the Red Sox and Mets took by agreeing to a creative deal.

The Sox have ten days to trade, waive, or release Carter. Because the season has not ended and it's after July 31st, Carter still has to clear waivers in order to be traded. And since the Sox pulled him off waivers once already, they no longer have that option to pull him back should he be waived this time around. There's a chance he could be released outright and sign with the Mets, though I'm not sure MLB would view that as being completely on the level. While this has absolutely no bearing on the Yankees or really even the Sox any longer, I am interested to see how it plays out and how the Wagner deal ends up being completed.

Yanks Trot Out Hangover Lineup, Still Beat Royals

Despite the hour and 56 minute rain delay and the fact that the Yankees played only three members of their starting lineup (Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada, and Melky Cabrera/Brett Gardner), the Bombers not only managed to keep the game interesting for the first six and a half innings, but also to blow it open in the bottom of the seventh.

Chad Gaudin bolstered his case for the postseason roster, again delivering an effective start. This time, he began by allowing only three baserunners over four scoreless innings, at one point retiring consecutive eight batters.

The Yankees led off the bottom of the fourth with three straight hits, a double by Robinson Cano, a single by Jorge Posada and an RBI base knock by Eric Hinske to put the Yanks up 1-0. The Royals struck back immediately when Mark Teahen led off the top of the 5th with a solo shot and tied it up.

Ramiro Pena countered with a solo home run of his own in the bottom half of the inning after Frankie Cervelli singled and was erased on a caught stealing (which was really a botched hit and run). Upon returning to the dugout, Pena received the silent treatment (giddily orchestrated by A-Rod) on a night when he might have actually believed that no one noticed it was the first homer of his career. Cliff from Bronx Banter has the details.

Gaudin gave up the lead once more on a sac fly to Mike Jacobs in the sixth but again, the Yanks snatched it back, this time on a single by Shelly Duncan. Duncan was pinch ran for by Freddy Guzman, who promptly stole second base on the very next pitch although the Royals were clearly expecting it, which is a necessary skill for a guy who is looking to make the postseason 25-man pretty much exclusively as a pinch runner.

Despite retiring the first two men in the 7th inning in order and having thrown only 92 pitches, Joe Girardi once again replaced Gaudin by calling on Damaso Marte to get one out - lefty Alex Gordon.

Trey Hillman took the exact opposite tact in the bottom half of the inning, leaving his starter, Luke Hochevar in, despite having allowed a run in the frame and then loading the bases with no one out. Robinson Cano stepped to the plate against the righty and took full advantage by smashing his second career grand slam and putting the game well out of the reach of the crew from KC.

Alfredo Aceves closed out the night with two perfect innings and the Yanks took a game that they wouldn't have minded giving away. They might not have been the top talent, but guys they sent out there didn't just roll over. Credit Chad Gaudin with a pretty solid performance, Robinson Cano for delivering with the bases loaded but most of all, the Royals for, well, still being the Royals.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Game 157: Ship Of Fools

When the A's moved from Kansas City after the 1967 season, following 13 seasons of losing records and second division finishes, the city was left without a Major League franchise for the first time since 1954. Just as they had done with Washington, D.C. during the 1961 expansion, the American League moved quickly to place a new team there, with the expansion Royals starting play in 1969 under the guidance of former Yankee Joe Gordon.

Before the Marlins won the World Series in their fifth year of existence, before the Diamondbacks did in their fourth season, before the Blue Jays became the first expansion team to win back-to-back championships, before the Rockies made the post-season in just their third year, the Kansas City Royals were the gold standard of MLB expansion franchises. They had a winning record by their third season. In their eighth, they won the first of three consecutive division titles (losing to the Yankees in the ALCS each time). In their twelfth season, the won their first pennant, ousting the Yankees - who had baseball's best regular season record - in the ALCS. After another division title in 1984, they won the World Series in 1985, their seventeenth season, albeit with the aid of a controversial (and incorrect) call from umpire Don Denkinger in Game 6 that many say cost the Cardinals the Series.

Since then, it's been all down hill for the franchise. In the 25 seasons since that championship, the Royals have had a winning record just seven times, and only once since the 1994 strike ended. Their run of consecutive seasons of futility is not as bad as the Pirates, and their record this year is not as bad as the Nats, O's, or Bucs, but perhaps no MLB franchise offers the trifecta of futility, incompetency, and hopelessness better than the Royals.

Part of this perception may be due to the fact that three prominent and excellent baseball writers: Joe Posnanski, Rob Neyer, and Rany Jazayerli, are all fans of the team to some extent, and all have written at length as to the gross stupidity with which the organization has been run under the stewardship of General Manager Dayton Moore. We've had some fun at Moore's expense this season, and rightfully so, yet at the end of August he was undeservedly, inexplicabl,y and indefensibly rewarded with a four year contract extension running through 2014. That was the straw that broke Jazayerli's back.

The tragic irony of it all is that in addition to the three writers above, there are at least two players within the Royals' organization who are infinitely better qualified to be running the club than Moore. While Moore virtually bragged about his ignorance regarding defensive metrics in the wake of surrendering a top ranked prospect for Yuniesky Betancourt (the least valuable player in all of baseball with at least 300 plate appearances, followed closely by teammates Jose Guillen and Mike Jacobs), Royals pitcher Brian Bannister and intriguing prospect Chris "Disco" Hayes, are two of the most sabremetrically attuned players in all of baseball. Yet Moore, despite a littany of mistakes and virtually no success stories, gets a four year contract extension.

One of those mistakes takes to the hill for the Royals tonight. Moore's predecessor, Allard Baird was fired on 5/31/2006. Moore had been brought into the organization the previous day, but was not given the GM responsibilities until June 8th. In between, the 2006 amateur draft was held, a draft in which the Royals had the top pick, but no one at the helm of their sinking ship. The organization selected pitcher Luke Hochevar, a Scott Boras client who refused to sign with the Dodgers after they took him in the first round the previous year. In selecting Hochevar the Royals passed on the likes of Evan Longoria, Clayton Kershaw, and Tim Lincecum.

While the draft certainly isn't an exact science, no one would suggest that entering it without a discernible plan is a good idea, particular when having the choice of any player in the nation. The Royals were forced to cave to the demands of Boras and Hochevar, signing him to a Major League deal that guaranteed him a 40 man roster spot and $5.3M. He made his Big League debut the following September, and has since pitched to a 5.58 ERA through 275 innings.

Chad Gaudin goes for the Yanks tonight in what is an important start for him. Depending upon how many pitchers the Yankees carry, Gaudin is on the cusp of making the post-season roster. With Joba Chamberlain and Brian Bruney both pitching well in their last apperances, Gaudin needs to perform tonight. Another avenue for Gaudin to make the post-season roster is if David Robertson cannot sufficiently rebound from the elbow issue that has sidelined him for nearly all of September. Reports over the weekend had D-Rob available again starting tonight, but Peter Abraham reports that the Yanks will hold him out until tomorrow.

A day after clinching the Yanks trot out mostly reserves tonight. Johnny Damon, Brett Gardner, and Melky Cabrera man the outfield. Jorge Posada will DH after missing the last two games with a stiff neck. Robinson Cano, who leads the AL and is tied for second in MLB in games played, is the only other regular in the line-up. Eric Hinske, Juan Miranda, Francisco Cervelli, and Ramiro Pena round out the order. Interestingly, Jerry Hairston Jr. is not in the line up and has yet to play since leaving last Wendesday's game with a wrist injury.

The Yankees last saw the Royals in the second series of the season, before heading off to Tampa. Now, they meet again in the second-to-last series of the season, before heading off to Tampa to for the weekend. Since they last met, life has been very good for the Yankees. For the Royals, outside of Zack Greinke and Billy Butler, life has been much of the same futility that's marked the franchise for a number of years now. But it's hard to set a winning course when sailing a ship of fools.

Saw your first ship sink and drown from rocking of the boat,
And all that could not sink of swim were just left there to float,
I won't leave you drifting down but whoa it makes me wild,
With thirty years upon my head to have you call me child.

Ship of fools on a cruel sea,
Ship of fools sail away from me,
It was later than I thought when I first believed you,
But now I cannot share your laughter, ship of fools.

The bottles stand as empty now, as they were filled before,
Time there was and plenty, but from that cup no more,
Though I could not caution all, I still might warn a few,
Don't lend your hand to raise no flag atop no ship of fools.

Elsewhere In The Blogiverse...

Today was a slow day on the floor of the Fack Youk Idea Factory, but as always, we can point you to some others who were more productive.

If you've got some time, Rob Neyer takes a look at the playoff picture on his podcast. He's not too worried about the Yankees' flaws and talks about the two remaining races.

New Stadium Insider has the scoop that the Yankees will be introducing $75 "Cafe Seating" in the areas behind some of the 100 levels where the best standing room areas were. Great news since this means more availability of postseason tickets.

Might the Yanks rest all of their regulars tonight? Pete Abe tosses out the possibility. Joel Sherman offers a slightly different possibility. I think I would be fun to see just for the off chance that they beat the Royals entirely with their B-squad.

Interested in some baseball that matters? The Twins head down to Detroit for a four game set, trailing the Tigers by two games in the AL Central. Rick Porcello and Nick Blackbrun face off tonight. Circling the Bases breaks down the series game by game. River Ave. Blues and LoHud both take a look at the combatants and determine that we Yanks fans should be pulling for the Twins. I'm on board with that because rooting for team who has to come from behind is more fun anyway.

Sherman thinks that A-Rod might be primed for a big postseason. I would tend to agree but not because of the way he has removed himself from the spotlight like Sherman contends. A-Rod is a great hitter and is simply due for at least a decent postseason series.

Your daily helping of Soxenfreude, courtesy of

Jeff Pearlman talks to former Yankee catcher Sal Fasano about trying to hang on one more year in the Big Leagues to afford health insurance for his son, who has hypoplastic heart syndrome.

Big League Stew ranks the 5 most disappointing teams of 2009. Somehow the Mets behind the Rays, who play in the AL East with a tiny payroll and figure to finish over .500 but the Mets with their massive payroll and their public follies are currently 67-89. Think someone was a little too high on Tampa Bay coming into the season?

We'll be back in a bit with tonight's preview.

Partial Postseason Prognostication

With only a week remaining in the MLB regular season and only two races still undecided - the AL Central and NL Wild Card - we're seeing more and more articles seeking historical trends that predict postseason success. Last week, we linked to Lisa Swan's article about strong Septembers and Flip Flop Fly Ball's chart displaying the correlation (or lack thereof) between the having the best record during the regular season and winning the World Series.

Well late last week and over the weekend a few more of these pieces popped up and here are three of them (all via BBTF):

Similar to the chart at FFFB, Tom Verducci sorted the last 9 World Series winners by their regular season record and found an almost perfectly even distribution of League Championship pennants and World Series Victories. One championship came from each of the top 7 seeds and two came from teams seeded 8 or higher, such as the 2006 Cardinals who had the 13th best record in the league that year but still won the WS.

It's a pretty rough measure for a couple of reasons. The first, which Verducci points out himself, is that the teams don't play balanced schedules so teams get as much credit for the record in the NL Central as they do in the AL East, and so forth. Secondly, in 2006 for instance, four of the best 5 records came out of the American League. As a result there was an artificially higher chance of a low seed winning a pennant and a World Series (which happened with the Cardinals) since three of them were on one side of the bracket.


Next up, Dave Cameron wrote a piece for Wall Street Journal's website which showed that over the last 7 years, the teams that won the World Series have had a relatively small amount of meaningless games leading up to the postseason.

Dave quantifies "meaningless" games as ones that were played after their team has locked up a postseason berth either by winning their division or securing the Wild Card, but doesn't count ones that factor in the race for homefield advantage or are played against potential postseason opponents. Those certainly are played with a higher level of effort and urgency that the ones the Yankees are about to play against the Royals, one would assume. As Rob Neyer points out, 7 years is also a pretty small sample size.


Lastly, we have a piece by Lincoln Mitchell in The Faster Times which would seem to fly directly in the face of the half-baked theory proposed by Jeff Pearlman that we took issue with last week. Mitchell attempts to identify the team with the best two starters each year and concludes that since 1995, that club has won the World Series only twice.

There are problems with this methodology as well. ERA+ is not a bad measure but it certainly is not conclusive in determining the team with the best two starters when the postseason rolled around. Furthermore, if we wanted to do more of a complete assessment, we would rank each team's top two pitchers, or better yet give them a score on a scale of, say, 1-10 which would more accurately display the difference between each duo. In some years the top two hurlers for the best team might get a "9" and the next best team only receives a 6, but a straight ranking wouldn't convey that. Once the scores were determined then we could look at the results and see how they correlated with postseason success. Then we might have a better picture of how having two dominant starters predicts playoff series victories.


Do you notice a theme developing here? These methodologies are all pretty incomplete. A huge part of the problem is that baseball is littered with variables, there is no control group and you can't just create situations and run them over and over. Of course it's much easier to point out the deficiencies of these findings than take the time to complete the analysis.

All of these writers are admittedly taking a "quick and dirty" type of approach to their analysis and that's completely understandable. At one point, I started a post that was similar to Lisa Swan's about finishing the regular season on a high note (but I wanted to look over the last 10, 15 and 20 games as opposed to the final month) but as soon as I figured out how many tedious calculations I was going to have to do and how much time it would take me to do even a couple years worth of analysis, I scrapped it.

Another factor that makes it difficult to go more in-depth is that, ideally, you want to have a point when you are done with your research. These pieces were written for online outlets where time is always of the essence. You don't want to spend a bunch of time and at the end of the post have to say, "Through all of this research I determined that there is no noticeable correlation in the data."

And this brings me back to a piece that we looked at back at the end of August by Jay Jaffe of Baseball Prospectus. Jaffe brought up the research conducted by Nate Silver and Dayn Perry that lead to the creation of BP's Secret Sauce and applied it to this year's playoff picture. The difference here is that the Silver and Perry went into their research testing all sorts of variables and determined that strong defense, a pitching staff with a high K/9 and strong closer all had high correlation to postseason success. The Secret Sauce is the closest thing we have to a scientific study of what teams are "built for the playoffs" and it's still fairly incomplete.

In all likelihood the Yankees will take the long ALDS, so we still have over nine days before the first postseason pitch is thrown. We're to see more attempts at unlocking the postseason code and they'll probably be pretty interesting. But I highly doubt any of them are going to take the time to shift our thinking with a truly in-depth study of what October baseball really comes down to. Let's just try to enjoy the fact that the Yanks can coast home, throw out their B and C line ups and take things as they come.

Remembering Old Reliable

Good morning Fackers. And of course, this particular morning is an especially good one, as yesterday the Yanks clinched the AL East and did so against the arch-rival Red Sox. Sixty years ago the Yankees also clinched against the Red Sox, but under circumstances that were far more dire.

On Saturday October 1, 1949, the Red Sox came into the Bronx for a season-ending two game series. They held a one game lead in the race for the AL flag, meaning the Yankees needed to sweep to take the pennant.

Saturday, the Yanks fell behind 4-0 in the third inning, then clawed back into it, pushing the go ahead run across in the bottom of the eighth to stay alive and make Sunday's contest the American League Championship Game.

The Yankees jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first, and the score remained that way until they tacked on four more in the bottom of the eighth. Those runs would be needed, as the Sox plated three in the ninth. With Birdie Tebbets at the plate as the tying run, Yankee ace Vic Raschi got him to foul out to end the game and give the Yankees the pennant.

The final out was caught by veteran Tommy Henrich, "Old Reliable" as Mel Allen had dubbed him due to his knack for big hits in big spots. Henrich was mentioned by Peter Abraham last weekend, as the death of former Yankee Lonny Frey left the 96 year-old Henrich as the oldest living Yankee.

Before Catfish Hunter, before Reggie Jackson, Henrich was the Yankees' first big free agent acquisition. Born in Ohio, Henrich signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1934. After being buried in the Cleveland system for three years without being advanced appropriately, Commissioner Kennesaw Landis declared Henrich's contract void, freeing him to sign with whichever club he chose. He signed with the Yankees in April 1937, and after a brief stint with the Newark Bears, he moved up to the big club.

Two weeks ago the New York Times ran an article mentioning how the Yankees - like many slow to integrate clubs -passed on an opportunity to sign Willie Mays after that 1949 season. After the article ran, River Ave Blues, Bronx Banter, The Yankees Universe and others salivated at the possibility of a Mantle-Mays-Maris outfield in the 1960s. While that assuredly would have been the greatest outfield in Yankee history, the greatest that did exist consisted of Henrich, Joe DiMaggio, and last Monday morning's topic, Charlie Keller.

DiMaggio debuted in 1936, a year before Henrich, and was an instant star. Henrich spent his rookie year as a bench player - albeit a productive one - before becoming the regular right fielder in 1938. Despite posting an OPS+ of 119, it wasn't enough to establish Henrich as a permanent starter. The arrival of Keller in 1939 pushed Henrich back to the bench, as the Yankee outfield consisted of DiMaggio, Keller, and George Selkirk, all of whom posted an OPS+ of at least 143.

Selkirk had another fine season in 1940, and still received the majority of the time, but Henrich posted better numbers in his part time duty and missed a large portion of the year due to knee surgery. In 1941, he finally became the regular right fielder, joining DiMaggio and Keller. The trio combined for 94 home runs, with the right handed DiMaggio's 30 trailing the two lefties. Henrich's 31 longballs was third in the league, while his OPS+ of 136 was good for tenth in the league, but last in his own outfield.

That fall, Henrich was at the plate for one of the more notorious moments in World Series history. He was at bat in the ninth inning of Game 4 with Dodgers about to even the Series at two games apiece. Henrich struck out for what would have been the game's final out, but Dodgers catcher Mickey Owens allowed the ball to get by him. Henrich ran to first, the Yankees rallied, with Keller driving in Henrich and DiMaggio to give the Yankees the lead. Rather than being tied at two games apiece, the Yankees took a commanding 3-1 lead en route to their fifth championship in six seasons.

The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor two months and one day after that Series ended, bringing the U.S. into World War II and altering the landscape of Major League Baseball for the next four seasons. The trio managed to stay in tact a year longer, winning the club's sixth pennant in seven seasons, but falling to the Cardinals in the World Series. DiMaggio and Henrich missed the entirety of 1943-45 while Keller missed the 1944 season and most of 1945, all due to military service.

1946 saw the end of the War in both theaters, with most Major Leaguers returning to their chosen profession. The trio reunited for one final season before Keller's back relegated him to part time duty.

Henrich remained with the club through 1950, winning three more World Series rings to run his career total to seven. He led the AL in triples in 1947 and 48, and in runs in '48 while posting a career best OPS+ of 151. He hit the first walkoff HR in World Series during Game 1 of the 1949 Series. He made the All-Star team five times, including each of his last four seasons. After taking four seasons to establish himself as a starter early in his career, Henrich turned in what were perhaps his best seasons after WWII, in what should have been the decline phase of his career.

As we said about Keller last week and as we said of their teammate Joe Gordon earlier this summer, Henrich is something of a forgotten Yankee superstar. Given the rich history of the franchise, it's easy for such players to get lost in the shuffle behind Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Berra, and Mantle, particularly when it's been nearly 60 years since these men last played for the Yanks. But that shouldn't diminish the contributions that these less legendary greats made during their time in pinstripes.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Yanks Hit Century Mark, Sweep Sox, Clinch AL East & Homefield

As Jay laid out in the preview, with a single victory this afternoon, the Yankees had an opportunity to accomplish a great number of things: reaching the 100 victory mark for the first tie since 2004, sweeping the Sox and evening the season series, clinching the AL East for the first time since 2006, and clinching homefield advantage for the duration of their stay in the post-season. Mother Nature delayed things by about an hour, but neither the rain nor the commentary of Joe Morgan and Steve Phillips were enough to put a damper on today.

Andy Pettitte made his second post shoulder fatigue start. Despite allowing ten baserunners in six innings and staking the Sox to an early 2-0 lead, Pettitte's start was an encouraging one. Once again he showed no signs of trouble stemming from the issues that hampered him earlier in the month, and in classic Pettitte fashion, he found a way to work himself out of the trouble he worked into. The Sox extracted some retribution for Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka by getting Pettite with a Mike Lowell comebacker in the first, but Pettitte survived unscathed.

His offense got him out of the early hole he dug. Melky Cabrera cut the deficit in half with a solo shot to right field in the third inning, and Hideki Matsui delivered a big two out two RBI base hit in the sixth to give the Yankees the lead. Mark Teixeira capped the scoring with a towering solo shot in the eighth, leaving him one short of Carlos Pena for the AL lead.

How good were things for the Yanks this afternoon? With Phil Hughes and David Robertson unavailable, Brian Bruney relieved Andy Pettitte and retired all five batters he faced while throwing two thirds of his pitches for strikes. Phil Coke finished the eighth by striking out David Ortiz. Mariano Rivera came on for the third day in a row, and just as he did Saturday, he brough the tying run to the plate. He worked out of the jam though, and closed out the game to clinch the division, just like old times.

A post-game clubhouse champagne celebration ensued; with any luck it will be the first of four this fall. While the youngsters and new-comers like Teixeira, Nick Swisher, A.J. Burnett, and CC Sabathia enjoyed the moment, the guys that had been there a bit longer were somewhat more subdued. Regardless of seniority, to a man, all recognized that this was just the first step. The team now has the season's final week to get prepared for step two.

Game 156: Symbol In My Driveway

The Yankees have the opportunity to record a symbolic victory in a number of different ways this afternoon. First and foremost, they can close out the division with a win over the Red Sox. In so doing, they can also secure homefield advantage throughout the playoffs since the Sox are the only team that still has a mathematical chance to catch them in the standings. The Bombers also have a chance to notch their 100th win of the season, complete a three game sweep and even out the season series which seemed like a pipe dream at best after losing the first eight against Boston.

Andy Pettitte will take the ball for the second time since skipping a start due to shoulder fatigue. Against the Angels, he wasn't dominant but was efficient, meeting the minimum requirements for a quality start (6IP, 3ER) and needing only 91 pitches to get through those six frames. While Andy's last start did alleviate some of the worry surrounding his status for the postseason, another solid outing would certainly further that cause.

As he did last year, Paul Byrd joined the Red Sox in August. However in 2008, he was exchanged in a waiver wire deal with the Indians but this season Byrd hadn't pitched for another team at all before signing with the Sox. At 38 years old, the soft tosser probably didn't have enough gas to make it through an entire season but the Sox brass felt he could help for the stretch run after they cut ties with both Brad Penny and John Smoltz.

In his first start, Byrd was solid, throwing six shutout innings but in his 4 outings since has given up 34 hit and 17ER in 19IP while striking out 8 and walking 8. He last faced the Royals on Tuesday and gave up 5 runs in the first inning but recovered to throw 5 2/3 scoreless after that.

According to PeteAbe, the tarp is off the field and they should be primed for a start close to 1:00. [Update: 1:16] Not so much... the game is being delayed as there are a couple of patches of rain currently over New Jersey but the coast appears to be clear after that. [Update: 1:40] According to various tweets start time is tentatively scheduled for 2:05.

Since Yom Kippur begins at sundown tonight, the three major New York sports teams in action have been bunched into action at 1:00 so as to cater to the large Jewish population in the New York area and avoid conflict with the most solemn of the Hebrew holidays. The Yanks and Sox were originally scheduled to play on Sunday Night but were moved to the early afternoon. The Giants visit Tampa Bay and the Jets play the Titans, which should probably lead to some furious channel changing throughout the overlapping fan bases.

I know I said that I didn't really want the Yankees to sweep in the preview on Friday night, but now that the blood is in the water, superstition and the Law of Averages be damned. No one wants to see the Yanks celebrate against the Royals tomorrow. Let's drive the nail into the coffin, reach the century mark, complete the sweep, even the season series and knock all this symbolism out in one fell swoop.

I've got a symbol in my driveway,
I've got a hundred million dollar friends,
I've got you a brand new weapon,
Let's see how destructive we can be.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

CC, Cano Steal The Show

The Yankee offense put sixteen runners on base over the course of this afternoon. Yankee pitching allowed just two hits, two walks, and two hitbatsmen. Yet, today's game still managed to be a typical three plus hour Yankee-Red Sox nail biter.

The reason for that was that the Yankees left eleven runners on base and went 1 for 15 with runners in scoring position. That one hit didn't come until the bottom of the eighth, and it provided some needed insurance for what proved to be a tense ninth inning.

CC Sabathia was masterful on the hill: perfect through three and two thirds, a no hitter through four, and just four baserunners allowed while fanning eight through seven shutout innings on just 96 pitches. Yet he wasn't in position for the win until his final frame.

When Robinson Cano came to the plate leading off the sixth inning, it seemed as if his season long troubles with runners in scoring position had rubbed off on his teammates. Through five innings, the Yankees had put 10 runners on base and had left nine of them there, the tenth being erased on a batter's obstruction call against Alex Rodriguez. Of the nine men left on base, seven were left in scoring position. The inning before, the Yankees loaded the bases with no one out, then went down in order without striking out but without plating a run.

With the score still knotted at zero, Cano gave the Yanks the lead they had failed to grab so many times, as he put a 1-1 pitch over the left field wall for his 24th home run of the season.

After Phil Hughes worked a perfect eighth in relief of CC, with some help from a brilliant defensive play by Mark Teixeira, the Yankees added two insurance runs in the eighth using some daring base running from Brett Gardner, a lucky break on a run down, and a broken bat bloop two run single from Johnny Damon.

Mariano Rivera closed it out in the ninth, but not before Victor Martinez ran his hitting streak to 25 games and Kevin Youkilis became the fourth hit batsmen of the game, forcing Mo to face Mike Lowell as the potential tying run. Lowell fanned, giving the Yankees the series win and dropping the magic number to one.

We'll be back tomorrow afternoon as the Yankees go for the sweep, attempt to keep the Red Sox from clinching a post-season berth at Yankee Stadium, and attempt to clinch the AL East for themselves.

Game 155: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

With the magic number for the Yankees to clinch the AL East and the one for the Red Sox to secure a playoff spot both sitting at 3, last night the Yanks took an important step towards preventing the Sox from sullying the visitor's clubhouse with celebratory champagne. With the Rangers' win last night, the Yankees can ensure that the Sox don't pop the bubbly at the New Stadium with two more victories and in the process, wrap up the division for themselves. The Yanks seem to be taking that apporach seriously, as they trot out the "A" line up again, including catching Jorge Posada in a (late) day game after a night game. [UPDATE 2:53 P.M.: According to LoHud, Posada has been scratched with a stiff neck. It's been bothering him since the Jesse Carlson incident nearly two weeks ago]

Unlike last night, the starter climbing the mound for the Red Sox is the one with something to prove. Daisuke Matsuzaka has managed to generate a lot of buzz during the two starts he's made since emerging from his exile in Fort Myers but objective observers still have some questions as to whether he's really "back and better than ever".

His first start was quite excellent but his last one against the Orioles was a lot closer to the old Dice-K: decent results but inefficient with his pitches. He threw 110 of them over 5 1/3 innings, allowing 8 hits and three runs. He walked away with the win, but the myth of the new and improved Matsuzaka took a bit of a hit down in Baltimore.

For whatever reason, Matsuzaka is being discussed as a "weapon" in the postseason, but CC Sabathia is considered more of a liability. CC is 8-0 in his last 10 starts dating back to the beginning of August and the Yankees have won every single one of those games. Over that time he has an ERA of 2.24 and struck out 77 while giving up just 55 hits and walking only 17. You'd think that that people might be making a bigger deal out of this. After all, he just signed a monster contract this offseason and plays for the best team in baseball.

However, just like Zack Greinke's terrible team makes it harder for his great season to be recognized, the fact the the Yankees have already pulled away from the pack means that Sabathia's great stretch gets largely swept under the rug because it doesn't appear to factor into the playoff race either. The problem with this logic is that if CC was pitching poorly, his team would be a whole lot closer to the pack.

Part of the equation is that Sabathia is as pure of a late-season pitcher as there is in the game. His career ERA in September and October regular season games is 2.67 and his next closest month is August at 3.14. His ERA in all other months is 4.01. Maybe writers feel like they've heard the story before. But more likely, it seems that they want to talk about his lack of success in the 5 starts he's made in the postseason. It seems he's a choker until proven clutch; guilty until proven innocent.

Look in my eyes dog, right in my pupils
If I'm your rival, why would I have to do you?
Press try to throw dirt on my name, disturbin' my game,
Seemed happy when they heard he was arraigned.

Yanks Flip The Script On The Sox

After a week of people declaring that the Yankees weren't built for success in the postseason, it was the Red Sox last night who took some hits - both literally and figuratively - to what John Kruk thought was the only team "ready for the playoffs". Now Boston's rotation is under the microscope.

It was a tough night for Jon Lester who was getting hurt by the Yankees even before Melky Cabrera ripped that line drive that hit him just above his knee in the bottom of the third. It was a scary moment for all baseball fans when Lester hit the deck. He was on his back for quite a while, appeared to be in serious pain and had to be helped off the field. However, X-Rays were negative and Terry Francona thinks Lester will make his next start.

Last night was the young lefty's worst outing since May 9th against the Rays, as he allowed 11 baserunners in just 2 1/3 IP, four of whom scored on his own watch and the last who probably would have came to the plate regardless of who was pitching. His post game comments sounded like something Joba Chamberlain might have said: "I felt like I had good stuff tonight, but it was one of those nights where [the Yankees] made it seem like I didn't."

Marc Carig of the Newark Star-Ledger declared early on last night that it was backwards night at the Stadium and instead of his usual routine Chamberlain has decided to pitch well but then rip himself to the media after the game. That latter part didn't come true, but Joba's final line of (6IP, 5H, 3ER, 1BB, 5K) probably undersells his performance last night just a bit. He'd retired every batter he faced until allowing a solo shot to Victor Martinez with two outs in the fourth inning. As Michael Kay endlessly reminded us, the long bottom of the third due in part to Lester's injury delay probably didn't help much.

The other two runs Chamberlain allowed come via an opposite field 2 run homer by David Ortiz with two outs in the 6th, so he very nearly escaped with only one earned run. Even still, Joba needed only 86 pitches to do his work and there was plenty to be encouraged about.

Chamberlain got into trouble in the fifth inning with men on 2nd and third with no one out but squeezed out of the jam without allowing a run by getting Jason Varitek to pop out to third, striking out Alex Gonzalez swinging and inducing a grounder to Jacoby Ellsbury.

Speaking of the Red Sox' Captain, the Yankees ran absolutely wild against him tonight, stealing a season high 7 bases. It started when Derek Jeter singled and immediately took of for 2nd in the bottom of the first, setting the tone for the rest of the game. The inability to prevent runners from stealing could turn out to be a tragic flaw for the Sox when they match up with the Angels in the ALDS. The Yanks did their part to expose that tonight with Robinson Cano even getting in one the action, picking up just his 5th SB of the year.

A-Rod was the biggest thief of the night, swiping three bags but that only begins to describe his contributions. Alex didn't make an out all night, going 3-3 with a HR (off of Lester), a double, two walks and 4 RBIs.

It was an excellent night for the Yankees and a terrible one for the Red Sox. It was a testament to how quickly things can change. Which of these two teams looks primed for the playoffs now, pundits? Let's not get too excited though because things will probably change a little more today when CC and Dice-K take the mound at 4:00.