Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Game 101: Youthful Expression

Like almost every trade, the one that sent Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett for Delmon Young and Brendan Harris seemed like a fair deal at the time. The clubs exchanged average-hitting middle infielders in the late 20's and each gave up a decent minor league prospect, but the centerpieces to the deal were Garza and Young.

At the beginning of the 2007 season, Garza was the top prospect in the Twins organization. He started the year at AAA in Rochester and was vocal about his frustrations with the way he was being used. The organization called up guys like Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey before Garza, primarily due to a disagreement in pitch selection. The Rochester coaching staff was trying to get Garza to mix more offspeed pitches into his repertoire, but he insisted on throwing almost exclusively on fastballs.

"He's getting a little frustrated so we're going to bring him up here and give him a chance to pitch for us," Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire said. That's not exactly the tone you want the relationship between an organization and a top prospect to sound like.

Delmon Young probably wasn't the most popular character in the Rays franchise either, considering he was the player in the infamous minor league bat throwing incident in 2006, when he was with the AAA Durham Bulls. The idea of the trade was to get a fresh start for both guys and it seemed like a good one.

Since then, Garza has turned into a solid, top of the rotation presence for the Rays while Young has regressed to platooning with Carlos Gomez and batting .264/.291/.346 on the season. Garza pitched 184 2/3 innings for the Rays last year at a 3.70 ERA and is on pace for over 200 innings at the same ERA this year. He was the MVP of the ALCS last year, picking up two wins including game 7.

At the ripe old age of 25, Garza is the elder statesman of the pitching match-up this evening. He's had two pretty strong outings against the Yanks this year (12IP, 3ER) but has been stuck with a no-decision both times. He's coming of a studly outing in Toronto where he pitched a complete game and struck out 9.

Joba goes tonight for the Yanks. He's given up only 5 hits in his last two starts but has walked 6 in 13 2/3 IP. He's gave up a run each time and picked up two wins, bringing his season mark to 6-2. He was tantalizingly close to efficient in these two outings, throwing 107 pitches in the first and 100 in the second.

These two hard-tossin', young guns square off tonight in the rubber game of the series. The first one was lopsided and the second was sloppy. Perhaps tonight's performance will be a little more tightly executed?

Body's healthy, mind is wealthy,
Thoughts, they flow, that will prepare me,
To be a Native, get creative,
Original and designative.

The Dominos Are Beginning To Fall

I'm about to go all MLBTR on your asses:
  • In a move that figures to squash the potential of two of the starting pitchers the Yankees had been rumored to acquire, the Mariners traded for Ian Snell and Jack Wilson. Wilson stands to replace the recently dealt Yuniesky Betancount and Snell figures to start in AAA but round out the back end of the rotation soon. The Pirates are getting back Jeff Clement, Ronny Cedeno, Aaron Pribanic, Brett Lorin and Nathan Adcock. Rob Neyer and Dave Cameron think the Pirates are the winners here.

    Sitting 7.5 games back in the AL West and 6.5 back in the Wild Card behind 6 other teams, the Mariners were considered to be sellers and looking to unload Jarrod Washburn's contract. Now it would seem they are actually looking to contend this year. Good luck with that... their odds of making the post season are currently 5%, and they have already outperformed their Pythagorean record by 7 games.

  • It appears the Phillies have made their big move, swapping four prospects including Jason Knapp and Carlos Carrasco with the Indians for Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco. This takes the possibility of a Victor Martinez & Cliff Lee deal away from the Red Sox. Joel Sherman explains why the Phils didn't end up with Roy Halladay.

  • The Red Sox made another minor maneuver, swapping the recently DFA'd Mark Kotsay for recently demoted Brian Anderson of the White Sox.

  • Joel Sherman reports that the Yankees believe the Red Sox have have offered Clay Bucholz as a part of a package to acquire Roy Halladay, but the Yanks haven't done anything in response, to deter the trade from happening. In terms of the lower end starters available on the market, Sherman says:

    "As of early this afternoon, the Yankees also had engaged in no extensive talks with the Mariners for Jarrod Washburn. The Mariners had yet to request any players from the Yankees.

    Either due to high financial costs or because their scouting reports are not overly favorable, the Yanks also are not pursuing Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo, or Arizona's Doug Davis and Jon Garland
It's starting to look like it might be a quiet trade deadline for the Yanks. Although a move for a reliever would make a lot of sense, they haven't been linked to talks with any team in particular. Meanwhile, the Sox have made three small moves and seem poised to make a big splash before the deadline.

What makes the trade deadline interesting is that anything could happen. The Sox could have their talks stalled or Brian Cashman could come out of the woodwork with a sneaky deal like the one last year for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte that no one saw coming. Time will tell, but I'm hoping for a least one more good arm to compensate for the one we just lost.


The Yanks have merely a .500 record (11-11) in games which CC Sabathia starts. How is that possible, you might ask, when their record is 14-6 when A.J. Burnett is on the hill and he has thrown 20 fewer innings and his ERA is only a 1/3 of a run lower?

Despite what PeteAbe might want you to think, a 3.83 ERA is simply not "pedestrian". It's well above league average (115 ERA+) and coupled with the fact that he's second in the AL in innings pitched and single-handedly accounts for all of the Yankees complete games, it's pretty impressive.

The reason that the team has a better record in Burnett's appearances is that he is 3rd in the Major Leagues in run support among pitchers with more than 100 IP. Sabathia, on the other hand is 35th, which is pretty bad considering the Yankees are first in runs scored. Joba actually checks in at 2nd on that list while Andy Pettitte is at 21st, and the team's record when they start are 13-6 and 13-7, respectively.

Sabathia hasn't been perfect, but he's also had some tough luck. He lost on Opening Day at the New Stadium after throwing 5 2/3 IP of one run ball to Cleveland, pitched a complete game loss in Detroit, and held the Phillies to 3 runs over 8 innings and took the "L". Last night, he was sabotaged by terrible defense and the offense only put up two runs to boot.

He's only had four plate appearances this year, so I don't think you can really fault him for the team's offensive output when he pitches. The guy has been a horse and if he continues to pitch the way he has so far this year, they're going to win way more than half of the games he starts over the long haul.

Wang Gets The Knife

Good morning Fackers. After a clunker of a game last night, we don't have much in the way of good news for you this morning. In case you hadn't heard, as you read this, or perhaps even prior to your reading this, Chien-Ming Wang is in Birmingham, Alabama undergoing surgery on his right shoulder at the hands of Dr. James Andrews, allegedly to repair a torn labrum.

This is the latest and hopefully the last in a series of professional misfortunes to beset Wang over the past 14 months: his lis franc injury, his improper offseason rehab regimen, his historically bad three starts to start the season, his dubious trip to the DL, his botched rehab assignment and panicked return to the Bigs, his relegation to mop-up man, his lackluster return to the rotation, and then his Fourth of July shoulder injury and subsequent trip to the DL, rehab set back, and now the operation that will cost him the remainder of this year and a good chunk, if not all, of next year. What concerns me is that even if this is the last bad break for CMW, it may also be the straw to break the camel's back.

Much of this is irresponsible speculation at this stage, but look at it this way: Wang will be 30 years old come next Opening Day. He had rotator cuff surgery as a minor leaguer, and then missed time during his rookie season with another rotator cuff injury. He's a sinkerball pitcher who has a very good track record in his career, but possesses neither the peripheral statistics nor the pitching repetoire that is predictive of future success. He missed more than half of last season following a foot injury, pitched very very poorly this year, and now is having his second shoulder surgery before the age of 30. Shoulder injuries are the scarlet letters of Major League pitchers. Few survive one; Wang has now had two, in addition to another shoulder injury that was rehabbed without the knife. Chien-Ming Wang's career, or at least his career as an effective pitcher, may well be over.

Jay pondered something similar nearly two months back, but I thought such speculation was premature at that point. Wang was the rare sinkerballer who had beaten the odds and been wildly successful, and after a very rough start to the season, I thought he was primed to get himself back on track. Now rather than the scenes in Casino that Jay recalled, I can't shake the thought of Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption:

Andy: I wound up here. Bad luck I guess.

Red: Bad luck? Jesus.

Andy: It floats around. Has to land on somebody. Say a storm comes through. Some folks sit in their living rooms and enjoy the rain. The house next door gets torn out of the ground and smashed flat. It was my turn, that's all. I was in the path of the tornado. I just had no idea the storm would go on as long as it has.

CMW has been in a shit storm of bad luck of late. I only hope it gets better for him, but I don't like his chances. The fact that his current situation reminds me of a conversation between one guy who's an avowed life-long Mets fan and another who's allegedly dating his step-granddaughter can't possibly be a good sign.

Of course, Wang is being operated upon by the most famous orthopedic surgeon in the world, someone who has salvaged the career of many an injured athlete . Yet, he's also the man that allegedly ruined the career of former Yankee (as well as middle finger enthusiast and sometime Pearl Jam punching bag) Jack McDowell. The fact that Wang's surgery comes the day after the McDowell story broke just about sums up the horseshit luck the poor guy has had of late.

In the short term, the Yankees need for another pitcher - particularly with Alf now having a sore shoulder - just went way up. Unfortunately, so did the price they'll have to pay for one - particularly with the non-waiver trade deadline just over fifty hours away. As much as I didn't like the now debunked rumored Bronson Arroyo deal on Monday, the one solace I took in it was that it would have been a preemptive move before the bad news on Wang could break. As noted linguist Omar Minaya might say, that train has now sailed.

Andy Dufresne said hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. Hope is one thing, but right now optimism is quite another. Chien-Ming Wang is crawling through a river of shit. I don't like his chances of coming out clean on the other side.

Murphy's Game

Here are a few things some moron wrote on the internet in the past 24 hours:
  • "Teixeria's glove probably helps, but Jeter has never made many throwing errors. He is on pace for 5 this year and has averaged 6.5 per season since 2001. His arm isn't the issue."

  • About Scott Kazmir: "I would be surprised if he went more than 6 innings though, because he's only done it three times this year and the Yanks tend to work the count."

  • About CC Sabathia: "Historically a second half pitcher, now is the time of year that the big fella tends to find his stride. He's thrown 14 innings since the All-Star Break, allowed 3 runs and accumulated two wins. He was just getting warmed up before.
If only Derek Jeter hadn't made a throwing error, Scott Kazmir didn't make it into the 8th inning and CC Sabathia didn't get bounced in the 5th after giving up 5 runs, I would have been right about all of those!

You can't get all the breaks in baseball and I guess if you could control it, you'd have an 11 game stretch were more everything goes right and then load all your bad luck into one game when every single event subject to chance blows up in your face.

The Yanks didn't help their cause either by making two errors that went in the scorebook, and a few more they slipped under the table.

In addition to Jeter's throwing error, A-Rod launched one into the stands in the 3rd inning which allowed Carl Crawford score and left Evan Longoria standing on second with no one out. Incredibly, Joe Maddon had his clean up hitter, Ben Zobrist bunt Longoria over to third only to be stranded there by a Pat Burrell strikeout and a Carlos Pena grounder. Seeing this amazingly weak managerial move by Joe Maddon backfire on him was pretty much the only bright spot of this game for me.

Hideki Matsui had a baserunning gaffe in the fourth after the he drove in a run with a double. He took a wide turn thinking he could advance to second base, but Dioner Navarro read the play perfectly and picked him off.

Nick Swisher attempted a catch barreling into foul territory in the 5th but dropped it, and since his foot was in fair territory when he touched the ball, it was ruled a fair ball. Zobrist advanced to third on the play and it wasn't scored an error. An inning later he let a ball roll past him down the rightfield line allowing Jason Bartlett to score. No "E" on that one, either.

The Rays' defense was the polar opposite. Carl Crawford seemingly covered almost every inch of left field, B.J. Upton nabbed a deep liner and Jason Barlett looked slick at shortstop. The Yanks hit into double plays in both the 8th and 9th innings. It just wasn't their day.

As noted above, it wasn't really my day either. This is one of those games where you take your lumps and move on. You hope you used up all your bad juju at once and get back at it in the morning.