Monday, October 26, 2009

Nightcap Links

Do you know anyone in this world who wears an actual nightcap? Grandparents maybe? What does it say about our culture that the drinking form of a nightcap is probably thousands of times more popular than the ridiculous thing you wear on your head to bed? Just thinking out loud here...

Unsurprisingly, the Yankees cleaned the Giants clock in the New York market last night, ratings-wise. Somewhat surprisingly, they also edged the NBC night game nation-wide. Oh, and enjoy that article from Neil Best because unless you live on Long Island it might be one of the last you get to read.

Rob Iracane at Walkoff Walk details the upcoming battle over New Jersey.

We used this song for a preview before Jeter started using it for his at bat music, and now it's going to be performed live before Game 1 of the World Series. (via BBTF)

Joe Girardi has made some highly questionable moves this postseason, but to label him the "#1 October Disaster" like Jon Heyman did is indefensible. (via Craig)

Ross from New Stadium Insider wonders how many Philly fans will be at the games at Yankee Stadium and based on secondary market ticket prices, there might be a lot.

FanGraphs looks at Andy Pettitte's season using Pitch f/x data. Over there as well, Dave Cameron suggests that Girardi go with a three man rotation in the World Series.

If Rob Neyer talks about the Yankees on a podcast, I will link to it.

Matthew Pouliot at Circling the Bases thinks the Angels should be embarrassed with their performance in the ALCS. David Brown at Big League Stew thinks they should still be proud of the season they had.

Some historical precedence on the rivalry between Philly and New York. (via BLS)

That's all for now. We'll be back at it tomorrow with some historical perspective and other good stuff. In the meantime, feel free to root for neither of the teams playing in Monday Night Football.

It's Always Fackin' Sunny

Ready for some fun with unsubstantiated internet rumors?

Over at Baseball Think Factory, they have a short clip from the most recent episode of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia in which one of the characters tries to persuade another to run on the field during a Phillies World Series game and hand Chase Utley a letter.

Rather amusing, sure, but check out this little tidbit I saw in the comments section:
Fun fact: Kevin Youkilis made a cameo in this week's episode (the one this clip comes from). Can you spot where?
I had already watched the episode and saw no sign of the Youkstah so I was kind of puzzled by this. A little further down, the same commenter responds to one of the guesses:
I'm not sure if you're serious or not, but when I watched it I thought one of the corpses in the dungeon looked like him.
I'm absolutely serious, and you are correct: the last corpse pictured is that of Kevin Youkilis. Apparently he's a big fan of the show.

Pretty neat.
I guess it makes sense that I wouldn't have noticed it, if it was just a quick shot and he was supposed to be a corpse. Luckily, I still have the episode saved on my DVR, and I went back and found what they were talking about to verify that it was really him.

Let's compare to a similar angle. I'm gonna say no.

It resembles Youk in the most obvious ways - goatee and a bald head. But upon closer inspection, it really doesn't look like him at all. The teeth look sort of fake, which would explain the apparent overbite. But the facial hair looks like it's glued on. See how it's unnaturally darker on the left side? Say what you want about Youk but the man does not sport spotty or lopsided facial hair. The eyes don't look right. If you look closely at this one, the ears aren't the same shape either.

As one of the internet's foremost experts in Youkology, I'm about 99% confident that this person is not Kevin Youkilis. It was only on the screen for a couple of seconds, so at full speed it wouldn't be so obvious that it wasn't him. But we can agree that it's pretty obvious here, yes? I'm not sure why the commenter at BBTF seemed so certain about it. I'd be interested to hear why he was so matter-of-fact given that when you search for the connection, it comes up empty, save for that thread.

Anyway, are there any Always Sunny fans out there? I didn't start watching it until the 3rd season but I've got the first two downloaded waiting for me to catch up on at some point. Danny DeVito is fantastic but I think all the characters are hilarious in their own right.

To bring it back to the baseball and more specifically the Yankees, my buddy Cliff (who lives in Philly) was at Game 2 of the ALCS. After Melky Cabrera's at bat in the 13th inning happened, and he was stuck in Manhattan after missing the last train back to Philly, I texted him "MELKSTEAK!!!!"


I know there are a handful of Mets fans who read the blog, so I really don't mean to pour salt in the wounds. But how incredible is it that, in a season in which the Metropolitans spent 150 million dollars and lost 92 games due mostly to injuries to essentially every good player on their team, that the World Series title with either be awarded to their most hated rivals or their also-hated crosstown rivals who already own the city?

How many times have you heard someone say "Just when you thought things couldn't get an worse" in reference to the Mets this year? And invariably, impossibly, they've gotten worse. Madoff, the logo, Beltran, Reyes, J.J. Putz, the Castillo drop, him spraining his ankle walking down the dugout steps, Bernazrd, Minaya & Rubin, trading for Jeff Francoeur, the home run apple malfunctioning, Santana's surgery, structural damage to Citi Field, David Wright's concussion and subsequent oversized helmet, and now this. At one point, I even compared them to the Knicks.

I'm rubbing it in, aren't I? Sorry, I'll stop. If you don't want to watch the World Series this year, we'll understand.

Value Evaluation: CC or A-Rod

I doubt many people are going to remember who the ALCS MVP was a couple years from now. Postseason series MVPs are even more haphazardly given out than their regular season counterparts the BBWAA gets to vote on. As we had pretty much determined by Game 4, it was going to either A-Rod or CC Sabathia.

Last night as LoHud, Josh Thompson said "In no surprise to anyone, CC Sabathia was named MVP of the ALCS after winning both starts."

Um, I'll admit it. I'm a little surprised. A-Rod had a fantastic series and given how much the media loves stories of redemption, I had thought he would be the slight favorite to win. He put up huge numbers, and had clutch home runs, which I would think the media would value as much ro more than a guy who made two excellent starts.

Like everyone else, I don't really care who won the award, but I thought it would be interesting to look at who was more valuable in the series.

Here go the basic stats. A-Rod hit .429/.567/.952. That's a 1.519 OPS. He walked 8 times and struck out thrice. Three homers, six RBIs and six runs scored, meaning he was at the center of 9 of the Yanks' 33 runs in the series.

Sabathia started and won twice, going 8 innings and allowing one run each time. He had as many strikeouts (12) as walks (3) and hits (9) combined. An ERA of 1.12, a WHIP of 0.750.

Both guys put up numbers in the series that if you extrapolated to a full season would comfortably be the best of all time as a batter and pitcher respectively, I'm willing to say. I'm not sure of a place to get Wins or Runs Above Replacement data for a postseason series, so the best measure of comparing a pitcher to a position player would probably be WPA.

CC takes that one pretty handily which demonstrates the importance of an overpowering starting pitcher. With the Yankees' offense, he virtually assured them of two wins, the only two comfortable victories of the series.

A-Rod, on the other hand, had a hit in every game and was on base twice or more in all except Game 2, when of course he blasted a game-tying home run in the bottom of the 11th when the Yanks were down to their last breath. In Game 5, where he was at .005 in WPA, he still had a hit and two walks.

You can't go wrong with either of these guys obviously, and even A-Rod magnanimously said that CC deserved it. These are nice issues to be able to sort through, aren't they? Everybody wins!

A Fine Fall Day

("Not going to school on Wednesday, going to the World Series")

Good morning, Fackers. It's a fine one to be a supporter of the New York Baseballing Yankees, wouldn't you say? According to the folks over a LoHud, the Yanks didn't hold much back last night. It's alright, they've got almost three full days to shake it off.

Fittingly, a sloppily contested game replete with dubious managerial moves topped off a series that might be remembered for both of those things. The only thing missing was an egregiously wrong call by an umpire. The "fundamentally sound" Angels had Vlad Guerrero picked off of first base on what should have been a routine play in the 3rd and made two errors on plays when the Yankees were handing them outs in the 8th inning.

As for the managing, the questionable decision making began in the 4th inning. Following singles by Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano, the Yanks asked Melky Cabrera to sacrifice them over to second and third. I know what Girardi was thinking. Pass the baton to Jeter and hope he singles home a few runs. But Saunders was on the ropes and looked nothing short of terrible. Timely hitting was the only thing between the Yankees and a sizable lead at that point. I can see that move in the later innings or against a dominant pitcher, maybe, but to do it in the 4th inning against a guy in Saunders who had been pitching terribly to that point doesn't make sense.

If you look at this run expectancy matrix, you'll see that a successful bunt in this spot would have even decreased the Yankees chances to score exactly one run, increased their odds of plating two or three but decreased their odds of having a bigger inning. The way Saunders was pitching, I wouldn't discount the possibility of the latter.

So despite Girardi's best efforts to avoid delivering the knockout blow, the Yankees still loaded the bases for Johnny Damon who drove two home, and re-loaded them via a single from Teixeira for A-Rod. Mike Sciosica left (southpaw) Joe Saunders in to face A-Rod with the bases loaded in the 4th inning. At the time, Saunders had faced 21 batters and allowed 11 to reach base (with one of the 10 retired coming on a sac bunt). That's who you want facing the other team's best hitter with the bases loaded in an elimination game? Saunders of course walked A-Rod on an incredibly close pitch, forcing in a run.

I disagreed with the way Joe Girardi's chose to pull his starter as well. After getting Howie Kendrick to line out, Pettitte gave up a single to Juan Rivera on a pitch that was high but over the middle of the plate. At that point, Pettitte had thrown only 99 pitches and induced 9 ground balls. He was one pitch away from getting out of the inning but Girardi went to his bullpen for David Robertson. Oh wait, no he didn't. Phil Hughes. Err, no. He went to Joba Chamberlain for some reason known only to him. Ostensibly because he believes that it's still 2007.

Girardi had apparently already made up his mind that he was going to use Mariano Rivera for 6 outs, so why did he pick Joba over Hughes? Or Robertson? We were told this week that there was nothing wrong with Hughes and that it was a simple mechanical issue. Robertson was solid during the regular season and perfect in the postseason. Joba has been neither of those things. He's given up 5 hits in 2 2/3 postseason IP and was not effective when last seen as a starter. What makes Girardi think that he's the guy you want in when the game is on the line?

Of course, Girardi also tried desperately to give away outs in the 9th inning when the Yankees were leading by 1, not once but twice, however the Angels simply wouldn't let him.

But hey, all's well that ends well, right?

I personally had a pretty sweet day as well. I played in a golf tourament at a Donald Ross track called The Sagamore in Lake George, my team won by 4 shots, I took home longest drive and won the 50/50 raffle (and didn't donate it, sorry Bolton Booster Club!). I got home a little bit after first pitch and Big Willie Style had taken the liberty of setting his TV up on a table beneath the 46" so we could watch the Yankees and Giants at the same time. It came at the expense of the internet and therefore active Twittering, but it was a necessary trade off.

Only the top TV had the audio on, so we flipped to the Giants game on when there was action and the Yankees were at commercial (Black taco! Apparently blue corn tortillas are black now. Who knew?). At one point, within about 20 seconds of each other, Hakeem Nicks lucked into a touchdown catch on a crazy deflection for the Giants and Johnny Damon rapped an 2 RBI single for the Yanks. It was worth the trouble just for that.

The Giants were mounting a possible game-tying drive that got derailed when Ahmad Bradshaw fumbled struggling for some extra yards. You can't win 'em all, and that was pretty much the only loss I took yesterday.

Bring On The Phillies

The last time the Yankees made it to the World Series, I was a sophomore in college in Boston, celebrating primarily because the Yanks had just vanquished the Red Sox in what remains the greatest ALCS in my lifetime. It wasn't about earning the right to tango with the senior circuit. Ensnared in the life or death struggle of a Game 7 against our most hated rivals, it wasn't as much about winning as it was about not losing.

Tonight, in a Game 6 against the Angels - although there was a recent history and plenty at stake - there was not the immediate danger of losing. In poker they call that a "sweat". When you're all-in but ahead in the hand, you still have to watch the cards flip over, one by one. If the dealer isn't trying to insert any unnecessary drama it should take ten or fifteen seconds. But that fraction of a minute can feel like an eternity.

That's how the final innings last night felt. Moments creeping along, stress building, exhaling after each pitch. When Mariano Rivera got Gary Matthews Jr. to go down swinging, the Yankees had the Angels drawing dead on the turn.

Andy Pettitte came up big given the circumstances, allowing six hits, one walk and one run over 6 1/3 innings while striking out 6. In the second inning, he got lucky when Vlad Guerrero strayed too far off the bag on a shallow blooper to right field and was doubled off of first, just another of the many baserunning mistakes the Yanks' opponents have gifted them with this October. The one run the Angels scratched across was in the 3rd inning on a two out Bobby Abreu single; it put the Angels up at the time but it would be their last lead of the season.

As they had throughout the series, the Yankees continued to strand runners throughout the first three innings. They wasted back to back singles by A-Rod and Mark Teixeira in the first, left the bases loaded in the second and stranded A-Rod after he walked in the third.

In the fourth inning, not entirely by coincidence, the Yanks offense and Nick Swisher came alive at the same time. After Robinson Cano walked to lead off the fourth, Swish followed him with a single to the left side. For some odd reason, Melky Cabrera was asked to bunt them over, bringing up Derek Jeter. After throwing him a curveball in the dirt, Joe Saunders pounded Jeter with fastball after fastball, four of them which Jeter fouled back and three of them which were called balls and the Captain took his place at first base.

With the bases loaded, Johnny Damon was due up. Finally, the Yanks broke through on his single to centerfield which allowed both Swisher and Cano to score. Teixeira singled to re-load the bases, bringing up A-Rod. He worked a 3-1 and took a pitch that appeared a first blush to be a strike, but was just barely outside, forcing in a run. Saunders' night was over (3.1IP, 7H, 5BB, 3ER) and he was replaced by Darren Oliver who promptly got Jorge Posada to ground into an inning-ending double play. Still, the damage was done and the Yankees led 3-1.

Pettitte ran into some trouble in the 6th with a two out single by Torii Hunter followed by a double to Vlad Guerrero. With the tying run on second base Pettitte dug deep, getting Kendry Morales to ground out and end the threat after 5 straight fastballs.

When Andy gave up a single to Juan Rivera in the 7th, he was lifted (after 6 1/3 IP for this 4th straight postseason start) in favor of Joba Chamberlain. This is the type of move that would have been endlessly second guessed had it not worked out, but the Jobanator retired the two batters he faced.

In bottom half of the inning, A-rod led off with a single but was erased when Jorge Posada grounded into another twin killing. Jorgie had a terrible night, going 0-5 and leaving 10 runners on base - 8 if you could the ones that were erased by the DPs.

Joe Girardi, perhaps revealing that he didn't have as much faith in Phil Hughes as he had stated throughout the long layoff between games, asked Mariano Rivera for a 6 out save. It got off to an inauspicious start as Chone Figgins led off with a base hit. Bobby Abreu very nearly changed the complexion of the game with a sharp shot headed for right field, but Mark Teixeira made a spectacular diving play to his right and scampered back to the bag for the first out. (Suck it UZR!). Vlad Guerrero singled later in the frame, driving in Figgins and closing the gap to 3-2 and the Angels worked Rivera for 22 pitches in the inning.

However, they squandered their hard work and gave the Yankees a gift in the home half. Both Nick Swisher and Melky Cabrera reached base on errors after dropping down bunts. The latter was particularly costly as Scott Kazmir lofted a lollipop over the leaping try of Howie Kendrick, allowing Robinson Cano (who walked to lead off the frame) to score. Teix added a sac fly to give Rivera a little extra cushion when he came back out for the 9th. He didn't need it as he sat them down 1-2-3 and send the Yankees to the World Series. Pettitte with the win (breaking the postseason record) and Rivera with the save. Beautiful.

Oh, the World Series, our old friend. It's been far too long.

In the end, the questionable maneuvering by Girardi, the two brutal losses out in Anaheim and the rainout on Saturday night will all be just a footnotes. The Yanks can put all that behind them now as the head to the 40th Fall Classic. How sweet it is.