Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Game 152: Born On The Bayou

Ervin Santana takes the mound for the Angels tonight. This has been a bit of a lost season for Santana. He didn't make his 2009 debut until May 14th due to injury, and went back on the DL from June 11th until July 3rd. For the year, he's 7-8 with a 5.43 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. In seven career starts against the Yanks, Santana is 5-2 but with a whopping 5.09 ERA.

We haven't paid a ton of attention to Chad Gaudin since he was acquired from San Diego on August 6th. Gaudin almost immediately became lost in the shuffling of the Yankee pitching staff. He became the swingman, spot starting when necessary and serving as long relief for Sergio Mitre and Joba Chamberlain. In his first three weeks as a Yankee he pitched just 9.1 innings. He's now made eight apperances with the Yankees and has appeared on six, five, and seven days rest; he'll go on five again tonight.

Yet Chad Gaudin is both actively and passively becoming a bigger part of the Yankees' post-season picture. Once considered a bubble candidate for the post-season roster, Gaudin is now a virtual lock for October. That isn't only because of his performance, which has been solid if unspectacular, but because his versatility makes him valuable. This past week, he became the official fifth starter, with Mitre being banished to relief work exclusively. Come October, should Andy Pettitte's shoulder falter or should A.J. Burnett have another bout of ineffectiveness, Chad Gaudin (if not Alfredo Aceves) may be the first name called from the pen. If Joba Chamberlain continues to struggle, Gaudin may become the more palatable choice for a Game Four start. If David Robertson's elbow troubles leave him ineffective or unable to pitch in the post-season, Gaudin and his 8.6 K/9 may be deployed in some critical middle relief situations.

Tonight will be Gaudin's fifth start for the Yankees. He's yet to pick up a decision as a starter, largely due to his inability to go deep into games - which can be attributed to both ineffectiveness and inactivity. Yet the Yankees have managed to win all four of his starts, and are 6-2 in his eight appearances with the club. He had his best outing as a Yankee two starts ago against the Rays, and came up one out short of a second consecutive quality start when he faced the Blue Jays last Wednesday.

He's shown progress, reducing his walks in recent appearances, which have been his Achilles heel this year. He has had better results with the Yankees despite leaving the friendly confines of Petco Park and the National League, but the cause for concern is that Gaudin's peripherals were much better with the Padres. With the Yankees, his walk rate has increased slightly, his K rate has decreased somewhat, and his HR/9 has more than tripled. If that catches up with him at some point he'll lose a lot of his current luster.

All of that is to say that we still don't really know Chad Gaudin. But there is a decent chance we'll get to know him better before 2009 is over. Gaudin was the piece that Brian Cashman chose to acquire when he passed on bigger name pitchers at the deadline. In many ways it was astute move; Gaudin has the potential to fill needs in both the bullpen and at the back of the rotation. Now it's time for the Bayou-born and bred Gaudin, who unfortunately does not talk like this, to make that move pay dividends.

Here's The Dude's favorite band....

Wish I was back on the bayou
Rolling with some Cajun queen
Wishing I were a fast freight train
Just a chugging on down to New Orleans

"The Yankees Are Doomed"

Like we were anticipating, there has been an bloom of ignorant Yankees articles and blog posts of late foreshadowing their postseason demise, and since I don't have anything better to write about, here we go again.

This one comes from a writer who thinks he is blogging because he posts the first thought that comes to his mind on a website. I guess no one ever told Jeff Pearlman that even though it's a "blog" you probably should still be concerned with "reality" and attempt to do some "research" instead of spouting off pitching clichés that Walter Johnson would probably think were outdated and citing irrelevant facts that tenuously fit your argument.
(Headline:) The Yankees are doomed

OK, maybe doomed is too strong.
Then you probably should have changed the headline, huh? You didn't write this on a typewriter, did you?
But, once again, I don’t think Brian Cashman has built a team made for the playoffs. Mainly, the problem is pitching. Starting pitching.
You're right. What the fuck was Brian Cashman thinking when he acquired the two best starting pitchers on the market this offseason and brought back a solid veteran lefty in Andy Pettitte? What a collection of terrible moves that was!
As the Atlanta Braves showed us throughout the 1990s, having a load of B+ starting pitchers is fantastic for 90-plus regular season wins … but doesn’t really work so well in the post-season. Generally speaking, the teams in the best shape have two ass-kicking starters with rubber arms and angry demeanors (think Johnson-Schilling, ‘01).
That's one team. Do you have any other examples? I have one, the 2002 Diamondbacks. Same two guys... how did that work out for them? Oh yeah, they got swept in the NLDS.

In '98, the Yanks best two starters were Cone and Pettitte, not exactly "angry". In '99 & '00, The Yanks were exactly the Braves teams Jeff is talking about, with a bunch of B+ starters and no real standout "ass-kickers". In fact, in 2000, only Clemens had an ERA under 4.00 and their 4th starter was Denny Neagle in October.

How about 2002? The Angels started Jarrod Washburn, Kevin Appier, Ramon Ortiz and John Lackey. Any ass-kickers in there? And 2003? The Marlins had Josh Beckett and Brad Penny, only one of those guys is perceived as "angry" and neither is "rubber-armed".

Schilling and Pedro in '04? Okay, sure. That's two in the last 10 years.

In 2005, the Astros were the ones with Clemens and Oswalt, but they get smashed by the White Sox. Chris Carpenter and Jeff Weaver were the best pitchers for the Cardinals in the '06 WS. Beckett was around again in '07 but by all accounts, Jon Lester pretty mild mannered. Brett Myers beats his wife, but Cole Hamels posed with his lady in these ads with kids that he doesn't even have. He's no ass-kicker.

Or he could have just said, "Generally speaking, the more good pitchers a team has, the better shape they are in".

Okay, so I just spent way too long parsing one offhanded remark, but there's more dumbassery, I promise.
CC Sabathia: Great starter. Elite starter. Worth the big bucks thus far—but in five postseason games with Cleveland and Milwaukee, the man has a 7.92 ERA over five starts. Please, read that again—
Five starts?
...seven point nine two.
Oh. The part that can be dismissed as an extremely small sample size.
Can he be masterful? Of course. Will he be? Seems sort of unlikely.
That's some strong language, Jeff. They're DOOMED!
A.J. Burnett: I’d argue (as would many) that, come playoff time, Burnett has the chance to be New York’s stud. He still throws extremely hard, still possesses lightning stuff—plus, he’s already won a World Series with the 2003 Marlins.
Yes, he "won" a World Series with the Marlins in 2003, the year in which he made a grand total of four starts before getting Tommy John surgery and missing the rest of the year, including the postseason. Extremely relevant... the guy knows how to win!
Joba Chamberlain: [...] I mean, seriously, what they’ve done to this kid is, in a baseball sense, criminal. If I’m a Yankees fan, and it’s Game 7, do I want Jona[sic] or Phil Hughes starting?

Me, I take Hughes.
You'd take Hughes, the guy who has been in the bullpen since June and before that had a 5.45 ERA as a starter? So you'd somehow stretch him out in the major leagues over the last 11 games from a one or two inning pitcher and have him make a start in the postseason? If you were a Yankee fan, or knew anything about the team, you'd be choosing Chad Gaudin over Joba because he's the only other viable option.

Run For Cover, This Is Not 11 Years Ago!!1!!!1!

You may recall the name Allen Barra from FJM Day over at Deadspin last week. He was the one saying that Derek Jeter should win the MVP because Paul Newman won an Oscar for The Color Of Money, for his "inspiration and professionalism", and because Jeter had been snubbed in the past.

Well yesterday, Mr. Barra busted out some similarly stupid logic for the Village Voice in regards to the Yankees' playoff chances:
Be afraid, Yankee fans -- be very afraid.

A couple of weeks ago everything seemed all sewn up -- the Yankees had vanquished the Red Sox, and all everyone wanted to know was if this year's editions was as good as the 1998 team. A couple of more games like yesterday's, and they're going to be wondering if this team is as good as the 2008 Yankees.
/shakes in shoes

I should be afraid because this year's team isn't one of the greatest teams ever? This actually makes perfect sense because if you were stupid and shortsighted enough to equate the '09 Yankees to the '98 version "a couple of weeks ago", then you are probably dumb enough to compare them to last year's team after they've lost 6 of 10 games.
A year ago [Joba] looked like the greatest young phenom in baseball; now he's a weight dragging down the rest of the pitching staff.
That's right folks, Joba is pitching so poorly that he hurt Andy Pettitte's shoulder. He's the reason A.J. Burnett has only won 1 of his last 10 starts and I'll be damned if he didn't make Mo blow that save in Seattle. Just wait 'til he starts getting into CC Sabathia's head. Then we'll really be fucked.
Sunday's outing against the punchless Seattle mariners -- dead last in the American League in both batting average and runs scored -- was an out and out disgrace that would have earned any other pitcher a demotion to Double-A.
Could the last declaration be any more factually incorrect? He's made 29 starts for the Yankees this year. Please give me even one example of the last time a pitcher was demoted, not to AAA but to AA, because of one outing late in the season, let alone "any other pitcher". Allen Barra makes George Steinbrenner in his heyday look calm and measured by comparison.
Is there a team in baseball with a worse record of developing young pitchers than the Yankees?
I'm not sure, but instead of trying to figure it out, you should probably just pose it as a rhetorical question, imply that it's true and move on.
Was there any more illogical way to bring Joba along than to put him in games where he was expected to only go three or four innings? If whoever is calling the shots in the front office had conferred with Joe Girardi and pitching coach Dave "No Man Is An" Eiland and at least agreed to put Job aback[sic] in the bullpen to be worked in front of Phil Hughes, they might at least have something to show for all the absurd coddling and pampering of Joba.
Is there a more illogical way to handle a pitcher than limiting him to pitching three or four innings a game? They should have only allowed him to pitch one or two innings a game! How absurd that they would want to protect a young pitchers arm by not transitioning him back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation, which ended with him being injured last year! IDIOTS! (And minus 10 for the non-sequitur Bermanism.)
What's the big difference between the 1998 and 2009 Yankees? Try this: In 1998, the Yanks weren't going into the last nine[sic] games of the season wondering if they were the best team in the league.
First of all, this was written yesterday, so the Yankees were actually heading into their last 12 games of the season. Mr. Barra apparently does not have access to the internet where he could look up the Yanks' schedule.

And the "big difference" is that after 150 games in 1998, the Yankees were FIFTY-EIGHT GAMES OVER .500. They were arguably the best baseball team ever. No shit this year's team isn't as good as they were, even though they still have the best record in baseball. Which would typically mean that they are, you know, the best team.

It's funny that Barra mentions the 1998 squad because although they were historically awesome and finished 114-48, they seemingly ran out of gas towards the end of the season. After 126 games the Yankees were 94-32. From that point forward, though, the Yankees had just the 12th best record in baseball at 20-16, which was significantly buoyed by finishing the regular season on a 7 game winning streak. Then, lo and behold, they went 11-2 in the playoffs en route to a World Series Victory.

So be afraid! The Yankees have the best record in baseball but are not comparable to the best team ever!

[Update 11:50: Although Barra was suggesting that Jeter is the AL MVP for the Wall Street Journal in the piece that got FJM'd, he wrote for the Village Voice that Cap'n Jetes is no better than the 5th most valuable Yankee this year. Allen Barra: Logician.]

Tell Me Something Good

Good morning, Fackers. Let me give you two scenarios and tell me which one you would prefer:
#1: Andy Pettitte pitches poorly, lasting just 4 innings and gets tagged for six runs. The Yankees bats pick him up though, scoring eight of their own and walking away with the victory.

#2: Pettitte stumbles out of the gate, but at one point retires 11 consecutive batters, giving up three runs over six innings. The offense finally has a bad night against Joe Saunders and the Yanks come up short.
Okay, by now you probably already know what happened in the game and this exercise is pretty transparent. But the point is that Andy Pettitte finding his form without any soreness was more important than winning last night, although both would have been nice.

Pettitte actually had two outs and the bases empty after Chone Figgins got caught stealing in the first inning but he gave up a single to Bobby Abreu and then back to back doubles to Vlad Guererro and Torii Hunter to approximately the same spot in the gap in right-center. That string of hits drive in two runs and put the Yanks in the hole 2-0.

During the string of 11 straight batters the retired, Pettitte also made a nice reflex-type play on a liner back up the middle by Eric Aybar. Andy poked his glove out, stopping the ball and then dove to his knees and fired to first to get the speedy Aybar (who leads the league in bunt singles), just in time.

Pettitte's only other run came in the 5th inning when he walked Rob Quinlan on a 3-2 breaking ball that was just a little bit high. Quinlan ended up on third after a single by Jeff Mathis and a sac fly by Figgins and scored on a single by Aybar.

Pettitte was pulled after throwing 91 pitches and had this to say about his performance after the game, "Everything was good after the first inning. My cutters were hard, I felt like. I was getting balls back down in the zone, my two-seamer. Everything was running like I wanted it to."

In relief of Andy, Brain Bruney continued his quest to not make the postseason roster by serving up a solo homer to Kendry Morales in the 7th along with a single to Chone Figgins. Jon Albaladejo gave up another run in the 8th as well.

Joe Saunders had given up 18 runs in 20 1/3 innings against the Yankees coming into last night's game. He's a far better pitcher than that, and you might say that he was due for a better performance against the Bombers. The Yanks grounded into two double plays and only had three at bats with runners in scoring position, and came up empty on all of them.

The Yankees two runs came in the form of solo homers, one by A-Rod in the 7th inning as he continued to mash at the Big A. The next was the first pinch hit home run of Hideki Matsui's career in the 8th inning. It was yet another blast off a left hander by Matsui this year but it wasn't enough to bring the Yanks back in the game, even if the bullpen had done their job. Nick Swisher narrowly missed a HR in the bottom of the 9th, and Robby Cano came to the plate representing the tying tun, but the Yanks fell short, 5-2.

Aside from Pettitte looking steady in his return, there weren't too many positives to take away from this game for the Yanks. However, the Red Sox also lost, dropping the magic number to 8, and making the possibility of a late season charge by the Sox a little less probable. The Rangers won, though, so the playoff clinching non-celebration will have to wait.

The didn't do anything to deter the Angels from challenging for homefield advantage, so that will have to wait until tonight.