Tuesday, August 11, 2009


[I had to take a bunch of screen grabs and turn them into a movie file, so I apologize for the choppy quality.]

Quick thoughts in no particular order:
  • For a guy that has been hit by 52 pitches in his career and hangs over the plate like he's drunk at a urinal, Youk sure takes getting hit pretty personally.

  • You have to appreciate any baseball fight where the two combatants actually make contact with each other.

  • I appreciate this one even more for obvious reasons.

  • Youk really threw his helmet at Porcello? I mean, it's better than keeping your catcher's mask on like a certain pussy on the Red Sox I'm thinking of, but that's pretty weak.

  • Porcello has his arms up and backs away like he wants nothing to do with the fight, but ends up tossing Youk anyway. Well done, sir. Nominee for the Fack Youk Hall of Fame? We shall see...
Enjoy your suspensions, gentlemen!

Game 113: No Mistakes

The Yankees and Joba Chamberlain find themselves in similar positions tonight. While the Yanks lost their first game last night after winning seven straight, Joba put up his first bad performance since the All-Star Break in his last start Thursday against the Red Sox. Joba was lucky enough to walk away from his poor showing with a win, but he reverted to his old form in a bad way.

Even though the Yanks spotted him 8 runs in the bottom of the 4th inning against John Smoltz and Billy Traber, Joba allowed his 5th, 6th and 7th walks of the outing in the top of the 5th. He ended up throwing 27 pitches in the frame to bring his total for the start up to 108, which tied his season high, and sent him the showers immediately thereafter.

It was the last thing any supporter of the Yankees wanted to see. More than anything, the team needs Joba to be more efficient with his pitches and go deeper into games. He had all the incentive in the world to throw strikes and challenge hitters with that kind of a lead, but he simply couldn't. In addition to those 7 walks, he allowed six hits and was lucky that his two home runs came early in the 3rd and 4th innings, before more runners had a chance to get on base.

As far as the offense goes, Nick Swisher gets the day off with Eric Hinske filling in for him in RF. Damon is back in left, Jorge back behind the dish and the usual suspects from there on out.

Opposing the Jobanator for the Blue Jays will be Scott Richmond. The 29 year old right hander was rolling along with an ERA under 4 when he hit the disabled list at the end of June with a "sore right arm". He's only made one start since then, more than a week and a half ago, wherein he took the loss to Oakland and threw 86 pitches in three innings. He allowed 6 runs (4 earned) and got tagged with the loss, but more importantly the 31 pitches he threw in his first inning of work couldn't have helped the injury he was trying to come back from. The stressful outing probably explains the extended rest he was given between the two starts.

Joba's last start against the Blue Jays was no great shakes either. It was his shortest and arguably his worst of the season. It took place at Yankee Stadium on July 5th and he gave up 8 runs, although only 3 were earned. After 86 pitches and 3 2/3 innings Joba was in the clubhouse, but the Yanks rallied to win the game 10-8. Following the game, Joba had some dismissive comments about his weak effort.

That seems like a long time ago, doesn't it? Since then we haven't heard anything like that from the young gun and it's not because he's been perfect. Like my favorite Canadian rapper, he's getting better at realizing his missteps and has got to try to correct them if he wants to go forward. Tonight would be a good place to start.

This year, no mistakes,
Got here, no fate,
Paid dues, won't wait,
Made some mistakes and I'll probably make more,
Just how it happens when you're try to go forward.

I'll Show You Overpaid...

I'm going to single Joel Sherman out here, but he is just stating a general sentiment that I've heard in several other places the most unequivocally (emphasis mine):
But, at this moment, Peavy has a foot injury and Rios is one of the most overpaid players in the majors. The risk is huge -- and fascinating.
"At this moment"? Alex Rios is making $5.9M in salary in 2009, which pro-rated for 112 games equates to $4.3M, and has already been worth $4.9 to the Blue Jays. He's actually slightly overpaid. And in general, saying a player who makes $6M is "one of the most overpaid players in the majors" is like ripping someone for driving a Jeep for getting bad gas mileage. Is it great? No, but let's look at the supercharged H1 Hummer parked directly next door.

Even if you are talking about Rios' value going forward, you could do a lot worse than paying a guy capable of playing a strong center field with a career OPS of .786 who steals about 20 bases per year an average of $11.75M over the next 5 seasons. For instance you could be giving $18M to Vernon Wells who can't play center and is putting up a .717 OPS to Rios' .744 this year, under the exact same circumstances.

It's not Rios' fault that the Blue Jays left him in right field because Wells and his reprehensible contract were blocking him in center, where he could have created the most value. Wells, by the way has been worth negative $3.6M to the Blue Jays this year according to FanGraphs, while making $18M.

Using this methodology, I've compiled a short, non-comprehensive list of MLB position players who, like Wells and unlike Rios actually are overpaid:

[values are extrapolated to a full season to match annual salaries,
all #'s via Cot's MLB Contracts and FanGraphs are in millions]

The guys with negative value get screwed by the extrapolation, because it multiplies their negative value, but you get the idea. Vernon Wells is the most overpaid position player in the MLB and it's only close because Jose Guillen (who actually apologized for sucking so badly) is even worse. Apparently the stank of his contract is rubbing off on the man to his left on defense.

This isn't to say that the Blue Jays handled Rios' contract well, even if he is currently appropriately valued. As Keith Law points out, they made a mistake with Alex Rios, whether it was overpaying for him initally or giving him away for free yesterday.

Hitting The Power Switch

I came across this post at The Yankee Universe this morning about the rarest feats in baseball and started perusing the list or accomplishments.

One of these feats was hitting a home run from both sides of the plate in the same game, which has happened 246 times in the history of the game. Not as rare as a no-hitter or a cycle, but certainly uncommon. I seemed to remember Melky Cabrera doing it fairly recently and it turns out it was back on April 22nd, and I had actually written a post about his performance in that game in which he ended a 14 inning showdown with a walk-off HR (from the left side).

Another thing I did not realize was how laden with Yankees the American League side of that list is. There have been four occurrences of a switch hitter hitting a home run as both a righty and a lefty this year and all four were by Yankees (Melky, Swisher and Teixeira twice). In fact, all of the last six and 10 of the past 12 were accomplished by current members of the Yankees' normal starting line up. The top three on the active career list (aside from Tony Clark who is technically "active" but not currently on a team) all play for the Yanks: Posada (8), Swisher (8), and Teixeira (7). Had they signed Carlos Beltran (6) when they had the chance, they would have the next in line as well.

Admittedly, this stat can be a little flukey but the Yanks have 72 HRs by switch hitters this year, tops in the MLB. That is far more than the Angels with 41 and twice as many as the next team, the Rays with 36.

The presence of switch hitters with power on the Yankee roster undoubtedly makes it difficult on opposing managers. On any given day the Yanks can plug in 4 guys who can go deep from either side of the plate, making a pitching change aimed at them much less effective and pinch hitting for them virtually unnecessary.

We have been spoiled in this respect since we rarely have to sit through National League-style move/counter-moves in the late innings of games. Perhaps part of the reason I loathe to see Joe Girardi make two out pitching changes based solely on the side of the plate the batter digs in on is that opposing managers have the option to do it to the Yankees far less frequently.

In any event, the Yanks seem to have the market cornered on switch hitters with power via the additions of Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira this past offseason. And it's one of the many reasons they are on pace to score about 900 runs this year, up from only 789 in 2008.

Youk Knows We Exist... I Think

[Read from the bottom up]
So last night, I was in the process of writing the recap and saw the bottom update pop up on my TweetDeck. One of the cool things about Twitter is that you are only one degree of separation away from people you would never otherwise talk to directly.

After seeing Youk's tweet, I figured I had to respond with something. How else could an asshole like myself interact with the guy I named this blog after hating? I would have nothing to say to anyone else on the Red Sox, but I've been curious to know what he would think of the name of the site and the fact it does exist.

Interestingly, he did respond, but it's tough to tell if he actually took any time to process what he wrote and who he said it to. The guy responds to everyone. Surely he would have known the Yankees lost almost immediately after finishing the game at Fenway, so the question mark after "you lost" doesn't make a whole lot of sense if he knew we were Yankees fans. But he's a baseball player, not a writer. That was the extent of the conversation because he bowed out shortly thereafter, so I'm not sure what to make of it.

Have we been acknowledged?

Jays Jettison Rios

Since the Jays are in town and this move effects both the White Sox' playoff chances this year and the direction of the Blue Jays going forward, I figured I would take some time to examine the decision to acquire Yankee Killer Alex Rios off the waiver wire by the White Sox.

Coupled with the Jake Peavy trade, ChiSox GM Kenny Williams has taken on roughly $115M in future salary over the past two weeks. The Sox are one game over .500, so they don't figure to factor into the Wild Card mix, but are still just 3 games in back of the Tigers in the AL Central. Peavy is still on the disabled list and won't make his first minor league start until later this week at the earliest so he probably won't make more than 4 or 5 starts for the Big League club before the end of the regular season.

Rios', on the other hand, will make an immediate impact if used optimally. In his career with the Jays, Rios has primarily held down RF while Vernon Wells played CF. Jermaine Dye and Carlos Quentin are holding down the starting corner outfield jobs for the Sox, which would be a problem were it not for the fact that Rios is a more than capable CF as well. He's much better than Wells, actually. In 106 games in CF, Rios has a UZR/150 of 12.8 whereas Wells' is -6.8. The Sox started Ken Griffey, Jr. in CF for 32 games last year, so they obviously aren't too concerned with shifting someone from a corner spot to center.

Considering the meager production the Sox are getting out of their current center fielders (.224/.281/.313), Rios' line of .264/.338/.383 is a significant upgrade, even before you consider the boost he'll be getting from playing at US Cellular Field. He's also a base stealing threat with 32 last year and 19 already this season.

Despite being in his physical prime at 28 years old, Rios is having a down year, which is the major reason the Blue Jays decided to let the White Sox walk away with him for nothing more than the required $20,000 transfer fee. The two teams engaged in negotiations before the trade deadline, meaning the Sox would have actually had to give up something at that point, but they waited it out, were the only team to make a waiver claim and got him for essentially nothing.

From the Blue Jays' perspective, they shed a major chunk of salary (not the one they really wanted to, though), but also parted with Rios at his lowest value thus far in his career. Even still, he will come close to equaling his contract value this year and has far exceeded even the $12.5M he is due in 2014 in both 2007 and 2008 according to FanGraphs. And those numbers calculate his value mostly as a RF, not a CF.

Does this move foreshadow a Roy Halladay trade this offseason? Dumping a productive player with a long term deal like Rios for salary reasons and getting nothing in return doesn't exactly signal the desire to compete now. This is a step beyond the Scott Rolen move. By dealing Halladay, they could save themselves a significant amount of money and net some good prospects in return, if they are indeed moving towards rebuilding. I'd be willing to be that the Jays would have tried harder to find a place for Halladay if they knew they could dump Rios after the deadline.

It's possible that Rios' offensive production will continue to decline and the Jays are thrilled with their decision in a few years, but I think it's more likely that they watch him become a solid contributor for the White Sox and regret the fact that it made financial sense at the time to get rid of him. If Rios were to hit the free agent market this offseason, he almost surely wouldn't get the kind of contract he is signed to, but the way that the baseball economy moves from here through 2014 could make the deal look very shrewd or very foolish on either side.

This Just In: You Can't Win Them All

Well, it happened. The Yanks lost, but it wasn't because they came out flat, or played sloppily or couldn't score runs. The one person to blame for tonight's loss, and I know that there are a lot of people who were involved, was Sergio Mitre, and he played no part in the Red Sox series.

The starting rotation's weakest link actually started out remarkably well, striking out six of the first 7 batters he faced. In his previous four starts Mitre had only struck out 9. Derek Jeter gave him a small cushion to work with by leading off the bottom of the first with a home run, but Mitre gave it back in the 3rd on a homer by Aaron Hill that bounced off the top of the wall in front of the opposing bullpen. Jeter scored again in the home half of the 3rd on a sac fly by Swisher to give the Yankees the lead, but Mitre once again faltered.

The turning point of the game came in the top of the 4th. After Lyle Overbay walked and Vernon Wells singled, Jose Bautista came to the plate with men on first and second. He hit a sharp bouncer back to Mitre, who made a beautiful snare and looked to be in position to turn a double play. Instead, he hesitated for a moment, took a few steps up the mound and fired a throw towards Robinson Cano standing at second. The throw started tailing towards first base and with the runner bearing down and perhaps with the double play in mind, Cano briefly took his eye off the ball. It glanced off his glove and rolled past, allowing Overbay to score and Wells to move to third.

Instead of having at least one and possibly two outs, the Yanks now had no one out, one run in with runners on the corners. The error was initially charged to Robinson Cano but then transferred to Mitre. The Jays brought Wells and Bautista around to score before the inning was over and took the lead 4-1.

As was the signature of the series with the Red Sox, the Yankees responded to the Jays immediately, as they had done in the 3rd. Robinson Cano led off the inning with a blast to right center which was followed by Jerry Hairston's first round tripper as a Yankee. Marc Rzcepczynski lasted on 3 1/3 innings and gave up four runs, but was never on the hook for the loss due to Mitre's shortcomings.

Lyle Overbay hit a two out solo shot in the fifth inning that would prove to be the difference in the game. With the count full, Mitre left a sinker in the fat part of the plate and Overbay pummeled it, just short of the right field bleachers.

The Yanks led off the 6th and 7th with hits, but just couldn't seem to level the score. To begin the 8th inning, Jorge Posada engaged with a 12 pitch battle with Jesse Carlson, which ended on Posada swinging through a slider the third time in a row Carlson had thrown it. Hideki Matsui singled in the 9th but that was the end of the Yanks' offense for the night.

While the Jays cycled through four relievers to close out the game without allowing another run, the Yanks needed only one. Blog favorite Alfredo Aceves notched only one strikeout in the four innings but he allowed just two hits and didn't walk anyone. According to ESPN radio after the game, Joe Girardi said that Mitre will make his next start, which may or may not prevent the speculation that Aceves was being stretched out to start.

A loss is always bad, especially when the Red Sox win, but tonight wasn't especially brutal. The Yanks had some chances but didn't capitalize against the Jays' pen. With the Yanks' relievers having been so lights out recently, it was only a matter of time before the tables were turned on them.