Thursday, May 28, 2009

What To Do Tonight...

The Yankees aren't on, and we are all lost... I know. Here are some options:
  • Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee - ABC, 8-10PM - Bathe in the social awkwardness, bask in Erin Andrewsocity. If that's too boring, watch Cheap Seats make fun of a bunch of them from the mid 90's.

  • Game 5 of the Cavs vs. Magic series - TBS, 8:30 - 11-ish - Do or die for Lebron, should make for some interesting television.

  • Jeff Beck: Live At Ronnie Scotts - Palladia HD, 7-9 - Oh, it's almost over? Get lost in his clips on YouTube. There's an hour and a half special on the legendary 1967 Monterey Pop Festival on immedately following as well. The movie Woodstock is on from 8-12 on VH1 Classic if that doesn't suit your fancy. 

  • REAL Sports - HBO 9-10 - Interview with a rep from the NFLPA, a piece on some afeminte bull riding brothers form Spain. You might want to turn off before the horse slaughtering part at the end, though.
  • Dodgers vs. Cubs - MLBHD, 8 - 11-ish - Two great franchises squaring off at Wrigley and... aw, fuck. Bob Costas calling the game? Nevermind. 

  • An hour long re-run of The Office - NBC, 10 - 11 - Hey, it's better than a first run of 90% of the other bullshit that's on TV.

  • Hit some golf balls at Randall's Island - That's where I'm headed, anyway. See you tomorrow, bright and early. 

Walter Sobchak Approves

"3,000 years of beautiful tradition from Moses to Sandy Koufax, 
you're damn right I'm living in the fucking past!"

Perhaps we should have changed Sandy Koufax to Ron Bloomberg for this one.

This press release from the Yankees yesterday. (h/t Pete Abe)

The New York Yankees have announced the addition of strictly kosher food offerings and Shabbat accommodations at their November 2009 and January 2010 Fantasy Camps.

Glatt kosher food will be provided by Weberman Foods with OK supervision, and a Friday “Dream Game” will be played so Shomer Shabbat Jews can participate.

Campers who keep kosher will be able to fully participate in all regular camp activities and have three strictly kosher meals served daily. The camp will offer traditional Shabbat services Friday night and Saturday, as well as special Shabbat speakers and programming.

For six days and seven nights, Yankees Fantasy Campers live the life of a big league player, dressing in full Yankees uniform and using the same Spring Training clubhouse and fields as the New York Yankees. All campers get their very own locker and a staff of clubhouse attendants and professional trainers to create the authentic Yankees experience.

Former Yankees Chris Chambliss, Bucky Dent, Tommy John, Mickey Rivers, and Ron Blomberg, among others, are scheduled to attend.

Founded in 1997 and located in Tampa, Fla., the New York Yankees Fantasy Camp has hosted over 1,500 campers and 50 former New York Yankees players. For more information on the New York Yankees Fantasy Camp, and the addition of strictly kosher and Shabbat accommodations, please call (800) 368-2267.

"Saturday, Donny, is Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest. That means I don't work, I don't drive a car, I don't fucking ride in a car, I don't pick up the phone, I don't turn on the oven, and I SURE AS SHIT DON'T FUCKING ROLL PLAY AT A FANTASY CAMP! Shomer Shabbat!"

We'll see you in Tampa, Walter.

The Supposed "Rookie Starter Difficulties"

Every time the Yankees face an unheralded starting pitcher who they have never seen before, a sentiment echoes throughout Yankeedom. There's a collective "here we go again", as it has become a popular notion that they Yankees can't handle these types of pitchers. Last night, during the top of the sixth inning of the YES broadcast, Ken Singleton dropped a stat that is undoubtedly going to surprise you if you subscribe to that idea:
  • In the past two years (since 5/27/07) the Yankees have faced 31 rookie pitchers for the first time. In that span, those pitchers have a combined record 3-18 in those games (after the Yanks beat Derek Holland last night).  
Wins and losses are never going to tell the whole story, but 3-18 paints a pretty clear picture. Singleton was about to say who the three pitchers were, but Brett Gardner dropped a drag bunt, which Derek Holland proceeded to throw away, just before he was pulled from the game and tagged with the loss. Ken didn't continue the thought after the commerical break, so I went back and looked them up. 
Matt Harrison - August 5th, 2008 - Harrison didn't completely shut down the Yanks, but did hold them to two runs in 6 1/3 innings pitched while Andy Pettitte let up 5 runs in 5IP.

Koji Uehara - April 8th, 2009 - The 35 year old Japanese transplant is not your typical rookie, and he had the luxury of facing Chien Ming Wang in one of his first three starts of the season. 

Matt Palmer - May 2nd, 2009 - Palmer, a 30 year old journeyman, slayed CC Sabathia with 6 1/3 innings of one run ball for his second of five straight wins. Despite an ERA of 4.76 with the Angels this season, Palmer still has a 5-0 record. 
So, why the perception that the Yankees are doomed when they face a rookie they have never seen before, especially a lefty?

For one, the stat that YES came up with is heavily caveated. It only looked at the past two calendar years, so it didn't include John Danks' victory on May 16, 2007. It consisted of only guys who the Yankees hadn't faced before, so it didn't acknowledge games like Scott Feldman's win on June 30th, 2008 because they faced him in relief on May 16th, 2006. 

Also, and I think most importantly, it only accounted for actual rookies, not just "guys who we think should suck". Baseball is unique because guys can linger for years on the periphery of the game, ducking in and out of the minors and changing organizations only to emerge at 29 or 30 years old in a starting role for a team in need. So when the Yanks lose a game to a guy like Dustin Mosely, Ryan Feierabend, Paul Maholm, or Jorge de la Rosa, it might not factor into that stat, but it registers in our consciousness. 

The underlying reason that we percieve the Yankees to have problems with rookie starters is our expectations. We see that the opposing pitcher is some no name journeyman and assume the Yankees should pummel him. When they do, we think nothing of it. But when they don't it tends to stick in our craw. When something goes according to plan, it's easy to forget about. You can eat sushi 100 times from the same place and hardly be able to tell each one apart, but if you ever get sick from it, you will remember the exact order for years to come.

Although the Yanks have losses to Uehara and Palmer this year, they have also disposed of Horacio Ramirez, Anthony Reyes, Anthony Ortega, Brett Anderson, Scott Richmond, Brain Tallet, Dana Eveland, Rick Porcello, Brad Bergesen, and the aforementioned Derek Holland. How many of those games did you remember?

Texas Two Step

In a game that featured both what's right and what's wrong with the Yankees at this stage in the season, the Yankees defeated the Rangers 9-2 to take the rubber game of the series and hold a share of first place for the first time since April 16, 2008.

In the first inning, the Yankees jumped out to a lead they would never relinquish, as Mark Teixeira launched a two run homer to left, his 15th of the season, good for second in the AL. Teix would add a hot shot single in the third and just miss a second long ball in the fifth when he tomahawked one to the centerfield warning track. Over his last 15 games Teixeira is hitting .426/.486/.918 with 8 HR and 22 RBI.

Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano would also get in on the homer act, with Matsui homering to right in both the sixth and seventh innings and Cano crushing one to right in the ninth. The other Yankee runs would come on an RBI double by Derek Jeter in the second and a Kevin Cash two run single in the sixth.

Cash, getting his second start in the series, went 2 for 4, raising his average to a robust .231, and leaving him at 5 for 9 in the series. He also threw out 1 of 2 would-be base stealers on the night. After entering the series 1 for 17 on the year, and entering the game having caught just 1 of 9 on the bases, Cash is probably sad to leave Texas. With Posada set to come off the DL as soon as Friday, Cash may want to consider staying there.

All told, Jeter, Teixeira, Matsui, Cano, Gardner, and Cash all had multi-hit games. Every starter save for Johnny Damon recorded a hit. Damon gave the team a scare in the field, crashing into the left field wall at a time when the team can scarcely afford to lose another outfielder. Angel Berroa made another ninth inning pinch running appearance and got doubled up at the plate for the final Yankee out when he tried to score on a Jeter flyout.

From the mound, A.J. Burnett earned his first win since April 14th, and did so in an unusual manner. He went 6 scoreless innings, allowing only 3 hits, issuing 4 walks, and striking out 7. But, he threw under 60% of his pitches for strikes and needed 117 pitches to get through 6 innings, a whopping 19.5 pitches per IP.

With Burnett done after six, the Yankees needed three innings from the bullpen. Despite a comfortable eight run lead, Joe Girardi would not let Brett Tomko pitch for the first time since Sunday. Nor would he immediatley turn to Chien-Ming Wang, who hadn't pitched since Friday and desperately needs innings.

Instead, Jose Veras got the ball for the twenty-first time this season, and turned in yet another representative performance: double, groundout, homer, walk, showers. David Robertson came on to clean up the mess Veras left and illustrated why he should have been on the roster ahead of Veras a long time ago, using six strikes on eight pitches in retiring both batters he saw.

Wang pitched the final two innings, and looked far better than he did against Philly on Friday. He needed just 26 pitches in working two perfect innings, throwing 69% of his pitches for strikes. He recorded two outs via strikeouts, two on the ground, and two in the air. The GB/FB ratio isn't quite what you'd like to see from Wang, but looking at it over a two inning outing isn't very telling.

What is telling is that his sinker looked good. It was staying down in the zone and his velocity was good. Wang looked like a far more confident pitcher last night. He's not where he once was, nor is he where he needs to be in order to be trustworthy again. But let's hope tonight was step one on the path to recovery.