Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Good And The Bad (But Mostly The Bad)

Since that game was unbearable and it's Saturday night, we are going with an abbreviated recap.

The Good:
  • Jeter, A-Rod and Mark Teixeira combined to go 7-13 with 3 RBIs.

  • Jerry Hairston, Jr. had a solid debut, driving in a run on one hit (although it should have been two when he dropped a single into leftfield in the 6th and Jorge Posada was forced out at 3rd).

  • David Robertson and Mark Melancon each threw scoreless 2/3's of an inning.

  • Seriously, that's it.

Okay, and The Bad:
  • Cody Ransom started at first base. Did Eric Hinske have something better to do?

  • A.J Burnett's great streak is now officially over. It was basically over when he allowed six runs in the 2nd inning. To start, he got Paul Konerko to fly out but then the Sox went: single, single, single, walk (to the #9 hitter), single, double, single before Burnett got the final two outs of the inning. His line for the day: 4 2/3 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 2BB, 4K.

  • Phil Coke's ERA went from 3.77 to 4.58 in 1/3 of an inning. 4 hits, three walks and six runs will do that to you. To be fair, two of those walks were called for by Joe Girardi, but they still count.

  • The team went 2-13 w/RISP, leaving 8 runners on base. The White Sox were 8-19.
If I had to choose just one play to boil this game down into, it would be the at-bat between Phil Coke and A.J. Pierzynski in the 8th. Coke got him to swing over a slider on the first pitch, and then Peierizynykksssiki fouled off two more tough ones. On his second 0-2 pitch, Piersznik the catcher on the White Sox swung at a pitch that was a good foot off the plate and well below his knees, but fully extended his arms and just got enough of the bat on the ball to send it into left field and drive in a run. Tim McCarver called this a "great piece of hitting" which of course is complete bullshit because he swing at a terrible pitch and got unimaginably lucky.

Anyhow, this series has evolved into quite the disaster, hasn't it? One loss by walk-off followed by two blowouts. And tommorrow the Sox send Mark Buehrle to the mound who is about as hot as an pitcher could be against CC Sabathia who is 1-8 against teams over .500.

Game 104: Game Face

If the Yanks are going to salvage a split of this four game set against the White Sox, they'll need to win these next two. Luckily for them they'll have their two best pitchers taking to the hill this weekend, starting with A.J. Burnett this afternoon.

As we've pointed out the last several times through the rotation, A.J. has been on fire of late, 6-1 with a 1.68 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP over his last eight starts, with opponents batting just .193/.295/.271. In five career starts against the White Sox, Burnett is just 2-2, but with a 2.78 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP. The Yanks will need him to stay hot today to stop this mini slide.

He'll be opposed by John Danks. Danks had rough start to the year, with a 5.10 ERA through 11 starts. Over his last eight though, he's pitched to a 2.53 ERA and 1.07 WHIP while holding opponents to a .199/.276/.311 batting line. Danks has faced the Yanks twice in his career, going 1-1 with a 6.10 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP.

In roster news, Jerry Hairston Jr. is in the house, with Big Ugly Duncan getting optioned back to Scranton. Some will be upset with Cody Ransom's continued presence on the roster, but Ransom has to stick around at least until Brett Gardner returns. Hairston's main function right now is as the back-up CFer, meaning Ransom is still necessary as a utility infielder, particularly with A-Rod still requiring weekly rest. Shelley's righty bat would have been nice to have with southpaws going the next two days, but the Yanks will have little reason to pinch hit anyway, so it shouldn't be a huge loss. Hairston is in the lineup today in left, with Ransom at first and Teix DHing. Johnny Damon and Godzilla get the day off against the southpaw.

The Yanks have lost three of four. While they were firing on all cylinders in Wendesday's win over Tampa, they've looked awfully sloppy in the three losses. That's gonna happen now and again, but it's time to snap out of it. They're facing good pitching the rest of the weekend and need to be on top of their game. Time to put on the game face.

I'll suffer through the first couple innings on Fox this afternoon, then it's off to the beautiful Ives Concert Park in Danbury, CT for the dirty hippy jamband show, as Gov't Mule comes to town. As such, here's "Game Face" from 12/30/06 at the Beacon - another show I attended. It's broken in two parts (part two here), but it's well worth it for the sweet jam that includes "Birdland", "Norwegian Wood", and "Mountain Jam" teases, as well as the start of "Smokestack Lightning" with the Dickinson brothers from the North Mississippi Allstars.

/end music tangent

Enjoy the game.

To be at one with your weakness
Is your greatest strength
Guess you should be proud of your game face

Guess it always was your hallelujah
Guess it was your saving grace

All You Need Is Just A Little Patience

Last night provided the perfect storm for the more paranoid portions of the fanbase, particularly those who are quick to criticize Brian Cashman. As the non-waiver trade deadline passed at four o'clock, the Yankees had not added another starter or bullpen arm while our friends in Bahstahn added Victor Martinez, and inexplicably, Casey Kotchman.

Shortly after eight o'clock, Sergio Mitre - the man who would be replaced by a new starter - took to the bump for his third start as a Yankee. He had already been given a 3-0 lead, but it wouldn't be enough. Mitre's third start was worse than his second, which was worse than his first, which wasn't all that good to begin with.

Compounding matters, the Yankees played a sloppy game around him, resembling the Bad News Bears in the bottom of the seventh, and the bullpen wasn't all that great either. Of chief concern was Alfredo Aceves, who in his first appearance since missing five games with a sore shoulder, did not look good at all - allowing five baserunners and four runs in an inning and two thirds. What's more, the ChiSox were tatooing the ball. Without consulting pitch fx, Alf didn't appear to have much bite on his pitches, and of the five outs he recorded, four were on deep flyballs to the warning track, including Johnny Damon's circus catch.

It's just a couple bad outings, but I'm concerned about Alf. His last two outings, bookending his sore shoulder down time, have covered two innings to the tune of 6 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, and 0 K. That's raised his ERA by a full run. His ERA has increased by a run and a half since spot start just before the All-Star break. Maybe it's just the law of averages catching up with him. Maybe it's just a bad stretch. Maybe it is an injury. Maybe it's from his near Proctorization at the hands of Girardi earlier this season. Regardless, an ineffective Alf is a big problem for the Yanks as he's both a very reliable bullpen arm as well as a potential rotation option.

Jay already linked to some of the tabloid stories this morning and I can only imagine the gnashing of teeth going on in the comments section at LoHud. I slept in on this wonderful Saturday, so Mike at RAB has already beaten me to the punch on this, but the moral of the story is let's just calm down for a second here.

Yes, the Yankees could use another pitcher. Sergio Mitre, dubious to begin with, is looking more and more like he's not going to cut it. But consider the alternatives. Would you have surrendered Austin Jackson to bring flyball machine Jarrod Washburn to the bandbox in the Bronx for two months? Would you have surrendered Joba or Hughes and a boatload more to bring in Roy Halladay? Would you have mortgaged the farm for Cliff Lee? Could you have managed not to pull your hair out if the rumored Bronson Arroyo deal went down Monday? How much would you have been willing to surrender for Brian Bannister?

But just because the July 31st deadline has passed doesn't mean that all is lost. We're talking about a back end starter here. Cashman still has another month to add an arm (or two), and I'd be willing to be that he will. The economic climate has changed the landscape for Major League Baseball as well, and Cashman has indicated that he thinks there will be more waiver movement than usual this year. Cash is a pretty smart guy, and that's about as close he'll ever get to tipping his hand. In Cash speak, I'd take those comments as a near guarantee that there's a move coming before August 31st. If not, maybe Zach McAllister or Ivan Nova gets a shot.

In the meantime, yesterday wasn't a total wash for the Yanks. In the morning, we identified what we thought were the three needs the Yanks had going into the deadline. While the biggest one remains unfulfilled for the moment, with one minor and painless move, Cash took care of the other two. Jerry Hairston Jr. is a supersub. He's not going to light the world on fire with his bat, but he can capably six positions. He'll serve as the back-up CFer until Brett Gardner returns and then will likely replace Cody Ransom. That should satisfy those that obsess over the weakness at the utlity infielder position. All Hairston cost was Chase Weems, a catcher at low-A Charleston who was no better than fifth on the organizational depth chart. Not a bad deal.

In short, don't call for Cashman's head until September 1st rolls around. Back shortly with the preview.

Battle Of The Bullpens Ends In KO

Going into last night, we knew it wasn't going to be a pitcher's duel. A game with last second spot starter facing a guy making his third Major League start just one year off of Tommy John Surgery (who wasn't all that great to begin with) had "slugfest" written all over it. D.J. Carrasco and Sergio Mitre didn't waste any time delaying the inevitable.

The Yanks went up 3-0 in the first but Mitre had coughed up the lead before he recorded his fifth out of the game. He allowed another run in the third and was summarily yanked, having thrown 75 pitches in three innings and giving up 5 runs on 7 hits. Carrasco was only a little bit better, blowing a lead of his own in the fourth and finishing with a line of 4.0IP, 9H, 5R.

With the starters out of the picture, it became a battle of the bullpens, one which the ChiSox won by 7th inning KO. David Robertson pitched fairly well, going two innings and giving up one run, and then handed the ball to Alfredo Aceves to start the sixth.

Alf worked a scoreless frame but gave up a walk and a single to start the 7th. Johnny Damon temporarily stemmed the tide by making a spectacular catch on a liner by Carlos Quentin, which carried him into the wall, head/shoulder first. On TV, it looked like Damon had lost the ball, but in fact it was the interlocking NY logo his hat which had been forcefully ejected from his head.

Undeterred, Damon leaped to his feet and made a strong throw back to the infield, holding the runners. Quentin couldn't believe it, but he still had an excellent night, with a double, a deep homer off of Mitre, 2RBIs and a walk.

Aceves got Mark Kotsay to fly out for the second out of the inning, but the thread by which he has hanging snapped shortly thereafter. He gave up a walk and two singles all in a row, four runs came to the plate and he was lifted from the game before he got another out.

It's hard to tell what to make of Alf at the moment. On one hand, you have the news of his sore shoulder, an increasing FB%, and his back to back awful performances. On the other, he was just one out away from getting out of both of the outings without giving up a run.

The Yanks, meanwhile, were held scoreless by the Sox pen over the final five innings. The fact that they were 2 for 10 with runners in scoring position probably didn't help.

It's was a poor time to lose a game in this fashion. Now everyone can say the Yankees should have picked up a starter at the deadline. But Mitre's poor showing doesn't mean the Yanks should have made a deal any more than a solid performance would have meant they were right to stand pat. It's one game. More on his later.

On the bright side, it's Saturday!