Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ample Opportunities Wasted

I'm glad today's game was a weekday matinee. As such, I was at work and couldn't watch with my usual attention to detail. Because as frustrated as I am with today's outcome, it'd be much worse had I been hanging on every pitch.

Where to begin? Let me throw some numbers out there, particularly a few that our friend Jason from the Heartland was pointing out during our live game chat. Texas offense today: 15 Ks, 3 BB. Yankee offense today: 10 K, 8 BB. Advantage Yankees.

How about these? Texas starter Dustin Nippert: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 7 BB, 3 K, 98 pitches, 52 strikes (53%), 27.73 pitches per IP. Yankees starter A.J. Burnett: Perfect through 3.2 IP, 6 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 12 K, 105 pitches, 63 strikes (60%), 17.5 pitches per IP. Advantage Burnett.

So where did this one go wrong? Texas HRs: 3. Yankees HRs: 0. Texas w/RISP: 3 for 4. Yankees w/RISP: 2 for 12. Texas LOB: 2. Yankees LOB: 12. Runners left in scoring position, Texas: 1, Yankees: 6. Big advantage Texas. That's your ball game right there.

The Yankees had more opportunity than they rightly needed. They worked Dustin Nippert over, letting him throw no fewer than 17 pitches in any inning, forcing him over 25 in two of the four innings in which he appeared, and put six runners in scoring position against him. But only two scored. And when Jason Grilli releived him, the Rangers' bullpen shut the Yankees down over the last five and a third, tossing shutout ball and allowing just two hits and a walk.

A.J. Burnett had a very good start. As mentioned, he was perfect through 3.2 IP, and would have been perfect through four had he been given the benefit of a borderline call on a 2-2 fastball to Josh Hamilton that MLB Gameday appears to indicate as a strike. Instead, Hamilton drew a two out walk, and the wheels came off from there. Another walk, to Nelson Cruz, followed, and then Ian Kinsler hit his first of two home runs on the day to give Texas a lead they would never relinquesh.

Burnett fanned a season high 12. He allowed only two hits and three walks. But he was victimized by the long ball. The Kinsler long ball accounted for all three runs given up by Burnett and it was enough to do him in.

Unlike their Texas counterparts, the Yankee bullpen didn't offer much relief. Thanks to all the stirkeouts, Burnett's pitch count grew rapidly, and as a result he was through after six. Phil Coke came on for the seventh and continued his recent trend of poor outings. The first three batters he faced yielded a ground rule double, a bunt single on a ball Coke himself misplayed, and another three run homer.

After getting two outs, Coke gave way to David Robertson, who has been quite reliable of late. D-Rob closed out the seventh and got two quick outs in the eighth before giving up Kinsler's second longball of the day. The only remote silver lining was a perfect ninth from a struggling Alfredo Aceves. All told, the Yankee pen allowed four base runners in three innings of work, and as a result of the homeruns, all four scored.

Another disturbing part of today's game was the Yankees' continuing penchant for giving up two out runs. Of the seven runs plated by Texas today, four came with two outs. Perhaps in an effort to actually let Phil Hughes pitch every so often, the Yankees can start using him to get the third out of each inning and stash him elsewhere in the field the rest of the time.

Once again, it's tough to complain. On the whole, the Yankees are still in good shape. They're not going to win every game. But I have a hard time stomaching a loss where they beat themselves rather than getting beat by the opponent. Still, it's only the second series the Yankees have lost since the All-Star break. They get chance to avenge the first starting tomorrow when the White Sox come to town. We'll see you then.


Game 127: Rangers At Yankees Live Chat

Game 127: Life Without You

After A.J. Burnett got touched up in Boston on June 9th, he tore off a run of eleven quality starts in twelve outings, a run that a hit a big road bump last Saturday, once again in a start at Fenway Park. This afternoon Burnett gets his first start since then, and I'm hoping that he'll kick up another string of outings like the one that followed his last Boston Massacre.

If Burnett's two previous starts against Texas this year are any indication, he has a good chance a starting another run today. Burnett made consecutive starts against the Rangers in late May and early June, going 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA over 13 innings of work in which he allowed 11 hits, 5 walks, and struck out 15. The June start was the one in which he earned a six game suspension, later reduced to five games, for retaliating on behalf of Mark Teixeira by doing a little head hunting against Nelson Cruz.

Six foot seven righty Dustin Nippert gets the nod for the Rangers. Nippert has never faced the Yankees and was on the DL until July this year, missing the first two series between these teams. Entering the season with a 6.42 ERA (70 ERA+) through 141.2 IP over parts of four Major League seasons, Nippert seems to have figured it out a bit better in 2009. In eleven appearances, seven starts, Nippert has a 3.95 ERA (114 ERA+) that's more than a run and a half better than any of his previous seasons. His peripherals suggest he's closer to league average than his ERA indicates, but this season could mark a turning point in his career. He'll battle a fellow West Virginian whenever Nick Swisher steps into the box today. Cue the dueling banjos.

With today being a day game after a night game, Joe Girardi hinted during yesterday's pre-game that Jorge Posada would have today off. Given that today is Burnett's first start since last Saturday's disaster, that news only served as further fuel to the media-driven fire that Posada can't call a good game and doesn't work well with the pitchers. Why this has been a recurring storyline over the course of the season, I cannot figure.

While Posada certainly won't go down in history as one of the game's greatest defensive catchers or most astute game callers, the guy isn't a liability behind the plate. Oh, that and he's carved out a borderline Hall of Fame career with his bat, and that's more than compensated for any defensive short comings, real or imagined. Just last year the Yankees caught a glimpse of life without Posada, and it wasn't a pretty experience. Has everyone forgotten about that already? The aggravation of a nagging finger inury last night will keep Posada out of the line up today. The Yankees, and their fans, had better hope that it doesn't sideline Posada for any extended periods down the stretch. They're not nearly as good without him.

Don't forget to come back at game time for our Fack Youk Live Game Chat.

With any luck, today will mark the last in string of death remembrance postings I've made this month. When the Yankees and Rangers had their first series this season, we chose Texas guitar slinger Stevie Ray Vaughan for one of the games. Today, on the nineteenth anniversary of his death, we'll go back to one of the most gifted musicians ever to put a guitar strap over his shoulder. SRV had put his personal demons to rest and had been playing with renewed purpose when he boarded a helicopter shortly after midnight on August 27, 1990. Taking off in a fog, the chopper failed to climb to a sufficient altitude during takeoff, and crashed into a nearby hillside. No one on board survived. Vaughan had written "Life Without You" as a tribute to a deceased friend, but after his own untimely death, it became like a self-penned elegy.

Oh now baby, tell me how have you been
We all have missed you, and the way you grin
The day is necessary, every now and then
For souls to move on, giving life back again, and again
Fly on, fly on. Fly on my friend
Go on, live again. Love again.

Live Chat Reminder

Hey fans! Love the Yankees and are looking for a good way to follow along with the game during the work day? Well come on over to Fack Youk at 1:00 and take part in our live chat! We'll be pulling in the Twitter feeds from some the local beat reporters and adding our own snarky commentary and the occasional screen grab as well.

Stop by and destroy your productivity at work!

OMG OMG OMG OMG... Is Derek Jeter... ENGAGED...?!?!

Here's something to counterbalance the overt nerdiness in the last post...

Are Jeter an Minka Kelly going to get married after this season?!?!?!?111?!?1
Derek and Minka are secretly engaged," an insider told Page Six. The Yankee captain and the actress are telling close pals to "save the date" for nuptials in the fall. "The wedding is being planned and will take place after baseball season is over," said our source. A rep for Kelly said, "There is no fall wedding planned to Derek Jeter."
Well, that kind of sounds like a "no", but it's an awfully specific denial, don't you think? The kind where they could easily point to it afterwards and say, we didn't lie, it was a "ceremony". Or if it takes place in the Southern Hemisphere they could deny that it was during the fall. Page Six also breathlessly points out that Kelly denied that they were even dating when they were spotted together last year. Apparently she hasn't been spotted with a ring?

I've talked to several people sources this morning who thought Jeter might never get married and just continue to pluck women out of the top .000001% of society, like Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Gabrielle Union, Mariah Carey (before she went insane), and the other assorted women you've never heard of but are probably incomprehensibly hot, for the rest of his life. But the guy is 35 and is dating perhaps the most beautiful woman possible. Maybe he's thinking about starting a family and doesn't want to wait too long. He is building a gigantic new house, you know...

Sidenote: During the course of "researching" this post, I came across this slide show on the Post's website. Take a look. One would assume that since Minka Kelly plays a high school cheerleader on TV and Kate Hudson has been in romantic comedies for what seems like 10 years that they'd be fairly far apart in age. One would be wrong. Kelly is 29 and only a year younger than Hudson. Who knew?

Disclaimer: Fack Youk apologizes for the trashy, tabloid nature of this post, but we haven't used the "attractive females" tag since the beginning of May we were risking the loss of our status as a sports blog. And we'll probably get some pageviews from Google searches. We hope you understand.

When Is A Slump A Slump?

Good morning, Fackers. Yes, I just made a Geology picture "joke". Doc Nardacci would be so proud... Now get ready for some logarithms! WAKE UP!

Over at the Freakonomics blog at the NYT, they used some statistics to propose a more solid definition for what actually consititues a slump (or any streak with an absence of a certain event) using A-Rod as an example (h/t BBTF):
It occurred to me that it would be pretty easy to derive a statistical standard for determining when an athlete was having a “statistically significant slump.” For example, Alex Rodriguez recently went through a homerless drought of 72 at-bats. Over his career, A-Rod has averaged one homer for every 14.2 at bats — suggesting there is about a 93 percent chance that he will not homer on any individual at bat. It would be crazy to say that he was in a home-run slump after failing to homer after just a few at bats. But the question is how many homer-less at bats is enough to be a statistically significant drought?

The answer is 42. There is less than a 5 percent chance that Rodriguez would go homerless 42 times in a row — so we can reject the hypothesis (at a 5 percent level of statistical significance) that he is going homer-less merely as a matter of chance.
They are essentially drawing the line at a 95% confindence interval (2 standard deviations), but you can set your own parameters by altering the simple formula:
Total consecutive number of bad events > log(.05)/log(probability of single bad event)
It's a little more difficult because you have to play around with it to find the right number, but you can also figure out what the likelihood of A-Rod going on a 72 at bat homerless streak (beginning in his next at bat) would be. It's about one half of one percent.

Using this method, we can determining the (im)probability that Derek Jeter would go 113 plate appearances without working a walk like he did from July 28th to August 25th. In 9656 career PAs, Jeter has walked 863 times, giving him a walk rate about approximately 8.9%. This makes the odds of him going that long without a base on balls 0.0025% or 1 in 4,000.

Fun stuff, huh? No? Well at least it gives you a way, numerically, to prove that Tim McCarver is an idiot. You're welcome.

Nine More Runs, One More Win

One of the major reasons that the Yankees are a blistering 27-10 since the All-Star Break is that when they've been knocked down, they haven't stayed on the mat for very long. They lost multiple games in a row only twice during that stretch and it seems as though they've been much more likely to answer a score by an opponent with one of their own in the next half of the inning. After losing a tough game on Tuesday night, they Yanks roared back, starting in the second inning with a three run homer by Jorge Posada.

Posada also helped guide Andy Pettitte through the potent Rangers line up with relative ease after escaping a first inning jam via a Pudge Rodriguez double play. Former Red Sox farmhand David Murphy drove in the only two Rangers runs on the night, one on a double in the fifth inning and the other on a two out, solo shot off of Pettitte in the 7th. That homer was the first in six starts for Pettitte, a factor which has certainly contributed to his impressive recent performances.

After the homer by Murphy, Andy settled down and got Elvis Andrus swinging for his 7th K of the night and the offense backed him up with a 5 run rally in the bottom half of the inning, complete with a bunt base hit by Melky Cabrera and an RBI double by Nick Swisher. Apparently it was the batting order that was the problem on Tuesday.

The one unfortunate development in this game for the Yanks was that Posada had to be taken out in the 8th inning after being hit with a foul ball on his left ring finger. X-Rays were negative and he's day to day. Since tomorrow's game is a matinee (live chat, y'all!) he was scheduled for a rest anyway.

After the game, Pettitte had some compliments for his nicked up teammate, saying "Jorgie called a great game". Whether it was intended to quiet the questioning of Posada's game-calling abilities that cropped up after Saturday's drubbing in Boston or not, it was a true statement. Or at least that's how it sounded after Pettitte allowed 8 baserunners in 7 innings, struck out 7 and allowed two runs. The only two hits for extra bases went to Murphy. It was plenty good enough for the win as the offense put up 9 runs once again, but this time in a winning effort.