Friday, April 30, 2010

Game 22 Recap

1. The first two batters Andy Pettitte faced were Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham and both reached on soft bloops to shallow right field. Andy got Alex Rios to fly out but Paul Konerko took advantage of the Sox's good fortune and lifted a slider on the outside half of the plate just over the right field wall. The ball was nearly caught by Nick Swisher, but for some reason, a fan attempted to catch it with his jacket and blocked Swish's glove. It wasn't technically fan interference because the guy wasn't leaning over the wall but it very might have been a catch if he wasn't there.

2. The Yankees didn't waste any time in rebounding. After a Jeter single and a walk by Mark Teixeira, A-Rod broke out of a 0-19 slump with an RBI double to left. Up next, Robinson Cano poked a single through the left side and drove in Teixeira. The Yanks had runners on the corners with one out but Nick Swisher grounded into a double play to end the threat, and left the Yanks down 3-2.

3. Pettitte gave up a double to Donny Lucy to start the second inning and followed that up with a walk to the anemic-hitting Juan Pierre. Lucy advanced to 3rd on a fielder's choice and scored on a sac fly to make it 4-2 White Sox.

4. Brett Gardner singled to lead off the bottom of the 5th, stole second but had it rendered moot by a long blast by Derek Jeter to left field. Freddy Garcia tried to sneak a curveball past Jeter but Derek turned on it for a rare pulled home run and tied the game at 4.

5. In the 7th, after Francisco got hit with an 0-2 pitch by the left handed Matt Thornton, Joe Girardi elected to stick with Brett Garnder instead of calling on Marcus Thames to pinch hit. The decision paid off as Gardner battled through an 8 pitch at bat, finally poking a single up the middle. Jeter came to the plate next and after slicing a ball just foul down the right field line, took a 2-2 pitch just inside the line just past the diving try of Jason Nix, a back up infielder filling in the the scratched Andruw Jones. Cervelli and Gardner both scored and Jeter slid safely into third with a go-ahead triple, making the score 6-4 Yankees.

6. Damaso Marte, Joba Chamberlain (more on these two below) and some fellow who goes by the name of Mariano Rivera nailed down the final 6 outs withouts giving up a baserunner and that was that. Yanks win 6-4 and close out the month of April 15-7.

IFs, ANDs & BUTs
  • Andy Pettitte gave up as many runs in the first two innings of this game as he did in his other four starts this season.

  • Pettitte only had 98 pitches when Alfredo Aceves took over during the top of the 7th. Andy had gone 114 pitches in Anaheim and the first couple of innings were pretty stressful for him so I thought it was probably a good decision.

  • Considering that all of the damage came so early in the game and much of it was fairly cheap, this was a pretty successful start for Pettitte. It's going to bump his ERA up significantly but he did a good job playing hand he was dealt after the rocky start.

  • Jeter didn't hit a home run to left field until his 13th of last season but since then, five of his last nine have gone left of center.

  • In addition to ending up a double short of the cycle, the Captain also drove in four runs for the first time since September 10, 2006 against the Orioles.

  • Damaso Marte came in to get Mark Teahen in the 8th, retired him and with the devastating Jayson Nix (career OPS+ 68) on deck, was pulled in favor of Joba Chamberlain. The White Sox had two legitimate pinch hitting options, Mark Kotsay and A.J. Pierzynski, both left handed and both significantly better hitters than Nix. Girardi essentially forced Oxzie Gullein to have Kostay pinch hit for Nix, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Pierzynski was probably going to hit for Donnie Lucy anyway and Marte could have still been in to face him. Joba got both of those Sox to ground out softly, so it ended well, but I don't see how pulling Marte after one batter makes any sense. Either let Joba start the inning or let Marte go until he gives up a baserunner.
We're back at it tomorrow at 1:00PM as Javy Vazquez has to face his detractors both in the stands and in a hooded sweatshirt in the opposing dugout.

Game 22: Old Man River

After an up and down 9 game road trip, the Yankees find themselves back in the Bronx tonight to begin a six game homestand, starting with a three game set against the White Sox tonight.

The Pale Hose send reclamation project Freddy Garcia to the mound this evening. After having surgery on his labrum and rotator cuff back in June of 2007, Garcia pitched only 71 Major League innings over the next two years in stints with the Tigers and White Sox. In between those two, was signed to a minor league deal by the Mets but was released after just two starts. The White Sox swooped in after that with another minor league deal and he pitched 56 slightly better than average innings for them last year.

Six of those frames came against the Yankees at the Stadium at the end of August. Garcia pitched reasonably well and only gave up three runs but got tagged with the loss anyway.

Sox GM Kenny Williams shrewdly included a $1M option on Garcia's minor league deal so that the Sox control him at a reasonable price this year as well. Garcia has made two solid starts (both 7IP, 2R) and one pretty terrible one (3IP, 7R) and he will certainly have his work cut out for him tonight against a lefty-heavy line up in the Bronx.

The ageless Andy Pettitte ascends the mound for the Yanks. In four starts so far, Pettitte has pitched 28 innings and allowed just four runs, picking up three victories along the way. Andy has given up about 10 baserunners per nine innings and is still sporting equally unsustainable home run and strand rates (no homers and 87% runners left on base), but that's what I said last time he pitched and he's continued to defy the odds. Why not one more time? Let's hope he can keep rolling along against a fairly punchless White sox squad.

Rolling along, rolling along, rolling along,
Hm, old man river, that old man river,
He don't say nothing, but he must know something,
For old man river, he just keeps rolling along.
[Song notes: This is an old standard so there are plenty of options to choose from, but I went with soul legend Sam Cooke who grew up in ChiTown. I've been listening to a lot of Sam lately and you can expect to see him make several more appearances in these previews this season.]


Yankees: Jorge Posada is still out with a contusion on his knee from the pitch that Jeremy Guthrie hit him with, but aside from him, everyone else is in action.
Jeter SS
Johnson DH
Teixeira 1B
Rodriguez 3B
Cano 2B
Swisher RF
Granderson CF
Cervelli C
Gardner LF
Alexei Ramirez SS
Gordan Beckham 2B
Andruw Jones Jayson Nix RF
Paul Konerko 1B
Alex Rios CF
Carlos Quentin DH
Mark Teahen 3B
Donny Lucy C
Juan Pierre CF

Friday Morning Link Party

We are five for five: a linkaround everyday this week. Some may feel that's excessive, but Michael Phelps is totally down with it, brah! Wait, what were we talking about?
During her recap of last night's game, Emma Span at Bronx Banter got all anagrammy on your asses. Examples - A.J. Burnett : A Burnt Jet; Curtis Granderson : Transcends Rigour; Michael Kay : Lama Hickey.

There was plenty of talk about Robinson Cano's bat after his performance last night but Maric Carig collected some quotes about his defensive abilities.

Ian O'Connor talked to the infamous Ed Whitson - the first time the former Yankee granted an interview to a New York reporter about his time with the team since he left them in 1986. Whitson's name has been invoked frequently in attempts to frame the struggles of Javy Vazquez and he offers some advice on handling the vitriol to Javy at the end of the article.

Soxenfredue! FanGraphs Audio breaks down the panic in Red Sox Nation.

FJM founder, former writer for The Office and co-creator of Parks & Recreation Michael Schur just signed a multi-year deal with NBC.

Brain Hoch asks what the matter with A-Rod is and Joe Girardi answers.

Phil Musnick is bitching about how visible John Sterling was in the photos of the Yankees trip to the White House. I have to agree with him on this one and mentioned to a few people that I thought the players and coaches should have been together in the middle behind the President with everyone else out of the picture on the sides. I'm sure that was what they were hoping for, but these are probably the kind of logistical kerfuffles that happen when you are the lowly World Champions getting squeezed into the President's schedule.

Will Leitch and Joe DeLessio began their tour of New York area minor league baseball stadiums with a trip out to Long Island to see the Ducks.

Lahhhs Anduhson is in fackin' Pawtucket! It's only a matter of time until his name with be comically mispronounced by the Fenway Faithful.

R.J. Anderson juxtaposes the takes of Jonah Keri and Greg Doyel on the Ryan Howard signing and explains what Jonah's has in spades that Doyel's has almost none of at all.

I can't decide which I want more, this shirt, these shoes or this cake.

What the fuck should you make for dinner? Find out.
And finally, again via Mr. Gleeman, this may be my favorite mashup ever.

Has A.J. Burnett Changed His Approach?

It's common to hear baseball players talk about altering some element of their personal strategy but not have the numbers back up their story. The tasks that both pitchers and batters have to perform occur on a razor's edge with tons of variables and are complicated by the fact that there is someone else on the other side of the equation who wants the exact opposite thing they do. So a player can say they are taking a different tack, try very hard to do it, but struggle to get quantifiable results.

So far this season, A.J. Burnett has fallen on the opposite end of the spectrum. He's hasn't done much talking about adjusting his approach, but he's been pitching great and gotten it done a way that runs counter to the type of pitcher he's been in the past.

Traditionally a guy with a propensity to both strikeout and walk a lot of batters, A.J. has seen both of those rates drop to roughly 2/3 of their career norms. At the same time, he's given up more hits, throwing slightly more strikes and is getting more outs on the ground.

About 3/4 of the pitches Burnett has thrown in 2010 have been fastballs, a proportion that he hasn't approached since his days with the Marlins - and back then he was a different kind of pitcher. Burnett has admitted that in those days he was overly concerned with trying to light up the radar gun, but one of the reasons that Brian Cashman was impressed by him during their free agent courtship was that he claimed that Roy Halladay has instilled in him that pitching was about much more than velocity. So far this season, Burnett has been pitching like a poor man's version of his old mentor - with a two-seamer instead of a cutter and a curve instead of a slider -which is still pretty damn good.

Why the increase in fastballs this season? According to Burnett, it's partially because he's still not comfortable using his curveball.

On paper, it doesn't make sense that Burnett would benefit from throwing more heaters. Last year, his fastball was one of the worst in the Majors and his hook one of the best. So far (working with small sample sizes obviously) both pitches have been pretty close to average.

If you believe the PitchFX data from FanGraphs, Burnett has thrown more two-seamers than in years past. Like, a lot more. Since 2007, only about two percent of his pitches were classified at two-seamers, but this year that proportion is nearly 1/4. It's worth noting that Joe from RAB thinks that this could be a result in a change in the PitchFX system, but based on Burnett's results and comments, I'm inclined to believe there is something there, even if the change isn't as drastic as the the numbers seem to indicate.

In last night's postgame interview, A.J. said that his two-seamer "was running all over the place". He also talked about letting batters hit the ball more than once:
I don't have to strike everybody out. I can let them put the ball in play - here it is, hit it - and more times than not, they'll make plays behind me.

...I’m learning more and more how to throw the ball to both sides of the plate with movement, and trusting my defense. We've got Hall of Famers everywhere behind me playing, so just let them hit the ball.
To distill this into a neat little cliché, he seems to be talking about pitching to contact. And the fact that he's walked fewer batters, struck out fewer and allowed more hits than in the past backs that up.

Perhaps putting the ball over the plate and trusting his defense wasn't something Burnett had planned on, but a place he's found himself in somewhat accidentally because his hook wasn't there for him yet. He's been forced to mix in his two-seamer and found that it could be an effective out pitch - except it's useful for inducing ground balls instead of tallying up strikeouts.

I don't mean to imply that Burnett has reinvented himself as a pitched on a whim at age 33. Of course, everything we are talking about in this post comes with a small sample size caveat and could be nothing more than a fuzzy memory when July rolls around. But he seems to be pitching differently and getting positive results and when he finally finds his curveball, he could be even more dangerous. One way or another, he's not going to finish the season with a 2.43 ERA. But it's hard not to be encouraged by what we've seen so far.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Game 21 WPA Chart

I wasn't able to watch much of the game, but I did find the time to look at the play by play and put together this kickass WPA chart.

Some thoughts:
  • How about that Robinson Cano fellow? Two homers, a double, three runs scored and a slick defensive play. He's now hitting .407/a billion/infinity. M-V-P, M-V-P, M-V-P... What? Too soon?

  • My prediction for A.J. Burnett's line was, um, considerably off. He put together another fantastic start (8 shutout innings) and once again stayed away from the three true outcomes (4K, 1BB, 0HR). He only allowed three hits to boot. As many baserunners as strikeouts? Dominance.

  • Marcus Thames continues to rake, tallying up a 3-4 performance and bumping his average up to .588. You're making it very difficult for me to bitch about your shitty defense, Mr. Thames.

  • Frankie Cervelli notched a base hit and has now reached safely in every game he's batted in this year.

  • Although it wasn't a save situation, Mo pitched the 9th. He walked Matt Weiters and struck out Miguel Tejada en route to a scoreless frame.

  • After picking up two hits last night, Curtis Granderson got back on the suck wagon with an 0-5. He's now 2 for his last 27.

  • That's a salvaged 5-4 road trip for the Yanks, making it 6 out of 7 series victories on the season.
That's all I got. Feel free to chip in any details I may have glossed over in the comments.

Game 21: Baltimore Todolo

As it stands, the Yankees are 4-4 on their current road trip. They went 3-3 during the West Coast swing, split the first two in the Charm City and will determine if the journey was a winning or losing one based on what happens tonight.

Brain Matusz takes the mound for the Orioles. Selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft, the 23 year old left hander made his major league debut last year. He faced the Yankees once last September, dominating them in Yankee Stadium to the tune of seven one run innings.

This season, he's pitched in four games and has lasted about six innings and given up three runs in each (give or take a frame or a run) giving him an ERA of 4.38. He's struck out more than one batter per inning and allowed just one home run, so his FIP is a run and a half lower than his ERA.

Matusz isn't overpowering. He throws around 60% fastballs, distributed about equally between his four-seamer and two-seamer, both of which come in around 90mph. His two-seamer rides inside to left handers and away from righties while his four seamer is straighter with a bit of sink. About one out of every 5 pitches is a changeup (in the 83mph area) while one of every 10 is a curveball (about 78mph).

A.J. Burnett gets the call for the Yankees today. Burnett has only allowed one home run so far this year, made possible by a rock bottom HR/FB ratio of 3.8%, compared to his career rate of 10.1%. The other two true outcomes have also come less frequently for A.J. in 2010 as he's walked just 2.8 batters per 9 innings and struck out only 5.7. The only thing he seems to be doing more of than usual is giving up hits (9.9/9IP compared to 7.9).

I'm not one for predictions, but it seems like Burnett is due for a regression-to-the-mean type start. If we went something like 6 innings, gave up two home runs, 4 hits, walked 4 and struck out 8, that would probably do the trick. Hopefully the offense will be there to pick him up.

[Song Notes: The original composition was done by prominent ragtime musician and Baltimore native Eubie Blake all the way back in 1909. The style of piano playing featured in the piece eventually came to be known as "stride", and Eubie was one of the innovators of the technique. Blake was born and raised in Baltimore, but he moved to New York once his career began to take off and lived there until he passed away in Brooklyn at the age of 96. Blake enrolled in NYU when he was in his mid-60's and graduated in 2 1/2 years, frequently appeared on Johnny Carson's and Merv Griffin's shows, was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Regan and had his music and life story adapted into a Broadway show bearing his name.]


Yankees: No Nick Johnson tonight as Marcus Thames fills in at DH and bats 6th against the lefty Matusz. Nick Swisher bats second in Johnson's place while the struggling Curtis Granderson gets the 7th spot, Francisco Cervelli the 8th and Brett Gardner bats second leadoff (9th).
Jeter SS
Swisher RF
Teixeira 1B
Rodriguez 3B
Cano 2B
Thames DH
Granderson CF
Cervelli C
Gardner LF
Orioles: After going 2 for 4 last night, Garrett Atkins finds himself back riding the pine this evening as the lefty-hitting Rhyne Hughes gets a crack at A.J. Burnett.
Adam Jones CF
Nick Markakis RF
Matt Weiters C
Miguel Tejada 3B
Luke Scott DH
Ty Wigginton 2B
Rhyne Hughes 1B
Nolan Reimold LF
Ceasar Izturis SS

Yet Another Linkaround

A fresh batch of links everyday is what you get when one blog author goes away on business and the other one has essentially no original material to offer. Better than nothing though, right?
Alex Remington of Big League Stew wonders if David Ortiz is nearing his end, the cartoon by Tuck from The Hardball Times implies that Papi already has.

If you only read one of these links, check out Jason Fry's post about finding a connection with someone he never knew through baseball.

Ben Shpigel of the NYT notes that a big part of the reason David Robertson has an ERA of 10.80 is that he's sporting a ridiculously high BABIP of .600 right now. Shpigel also recalls some of the unfortunate luck D-Rob has had in the past.

Larry from The Yankeeist mediated on the subject of Yankee blogging and hit on a lot of things I've thought about (and a few I hadn't).

The Yankees are looking for nominees of people and organizations to honor during HOPE Week. What's that? Oh well, that's awfully nice of you, but I don't think they would accept a vulgarly-titled sports blog for the honors.

Jorge Posada's knee was pretty swollen after the game and he probably isn't starting tonight. Joe Girardi stopped short of blaming Jeremy Guthrie and didn't imply that any of the plunkings were intentional but made it clear that he was frustrated by the incident.

Via Iracane, the Yankees single-A affiliate - the Charleston River Dogs - are now offering a pickle dog. Instead of a bun, the frank is served on a pickle. Yes, please.

Check out this graphic from Wezen-Ball which charts the careers of some of the longest tenured baseball broadcasters.

Parkes over at Drunk Jays Fans and Will Leitch both explained why the alleged beat writer Twitter crackdown is completely counterproductive.

It's probably safe to say that Rob Neyer is not in favor of expanding the rosters for the All-Star Game. Jason gives a point by point breakdown of his feelings on the issues.

Ross from NYY Stadium Insider has a small but helpful tip for the next time you are looking to buy tickets for a Yanks game. He figured out how to find out how many seats are in your row so you can determine how close you are to the aisle.

Russell Adams at the WSJ came up with a formula to rank the greatest Yankees of all time. Guess who comes in first.

Over at his blog, prolific commenter Matt on Earth asks a few questions about Ken Singleton and a few more about Kate Smith. Lisa from Subway Squawkers provides some answers in the comments.

Carson Cistulli gives a thoughtful response to a simple question.

Orioles prospect Chris Tillman threw a no-hitter in AAA last night and will probably be working his way back into their rotation soon.

Tango looks at the value split between pitchers and non-pitchers and finds that hurlers account for just over 40% in most years.

Matt Klaussen notes that while fans are likely to give GMs a hard time over a bad deal, they are far less inclined to rake a player's agent over the coals if they are the one who takes the short end of the stick. It's interesting, because a good fan roots for the organization and understands that the team is much larger than any one player can be. It usually doesn't make sense to root for management over labor, but it does when you are a fan of a team.

Dave Cameron talks about Mariners Manager Don Wakimatsu, the courage he has in his convictions and the way he attempts to transfer confidence to his players. You know, the kind of stuff that mangers do on a daily basis but fans never give them credit for.
Be back a little later with the preview.

Have The Yanks Over Or Underachieved So Far?

Good morning, Fackers. Through the first 1/8 of the season, the Yankees have won at a 65% clip, which, if continued throughout the entire season would net them 105 wins. Not too shabby, right?

Well, Darren Everson from the Wall Street Journal sees a bunch of guys who are well off their career numbers and determines that the Yanks haven't been that impressive:
The Yankees are hiding a dirty little secret: This team, despite its 13-7 record, actually hasn't played all that well.

We don't just mean over the past week, which saw them lose four of five before their 8-3 victory over the woeful Baltimore Orioles Wednesday night. We mean period.

...In total, there are probably 13 players on the 25-man roster who would be happy with their numbers if they maintained them all season. Yet not only are the Yankees playing .650 baseball, there's a feeling around the sport that this team is virtually certain to reach the postseason. Never mind that the Tampa Bay Rays, another team in the Yankees' division, have raced off to a 16-5 start.

This all means one of two things: Either the Yankees are going to be really scary once they get their individual acts together, or they're actually fortunate to be in the position they're in right now.
There are certainly guys on the Yankees who are struggling, but as a team they are balanced out by players who are performing better than expected. The Yanks' run differential aligns evenly with their actual record, so I disagree with Everson's implication that they "haven't played that well".

He names Mark Teixiera, Nick Johnson and Javier Vazquez are the prime Yankee underachievers and I think we can all agree that those guys are sure to improve as the season wears on. But the Yanks are also getting outstanding contributions from a lot of players that aren't likely to be maintain them once sample sizes start catching up to them.

Robinson Cano is hitting a scalding .390/.430/.701. He has 6 homers and 15 RBIs, paces that would add up to 48/120 for an entire season. Those aren't completely out of the question, but even the most ardent Cano supporters would settle for much less. Jorge Posada is at .316/.400/.649, a line that will be atrophied as the season wears on and he logs more innings behind the plate. Nick Swisher has a 140 OPS+ whereas the highest mark of his career is 129. Frankie Cervelli (185 OPS+) and Marcus Thames (240) have both contributed valiantly in their limited roles and will return to earth as they are given more and more chances.

On the pitching side of things, even with Vazquez's terrible start, the rotation has a 3.50 ERA. Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes have been outstanding, with ERAs of 1.29 and 2.00, respectively. CC Sabathia is off to a great start. If A.J. Burnett could keep his mark around 3.20, it would be the lowest of his career. The bullpen has had some bad moments but overall, they've combined for a 4.30 ERA.

The only DL stint served by a Yankee player has been the one by Chan Ho Park and he's probably the 20th most important player on the team. It'd be nice if everyone was healthy all year long, but we know that's not going to happen.

I think the last paragraph of the quote from Everson's piece is a false dichotomy. Over any 20 game stretch of a season, individual players are going to be producing above, at or below what their numbers for the year turn out to be. However, when you combine everyone's production together, it typically evens out. When Teixeira, Johnson and Vazquez get their acts together, Posada, Cano and Pettitte will be returning to earth. The Yanks have played well so far, even if a few key players haven't.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Game 20 Recap

[WPA data via FanGraphs]

1. On the second pitch he saw from Jeremy Guthrie, Derek Jeter sliced a double down the right field line. Nick Johnson followed with a single to left that took a funny bounce and got past Luis Montanez, allowing Jeter to score. Mark Teixiera moved Johnson over to third with a ground out to first and Alex Rodriguez drove him in with a deep sac fly to left center. 2-0 Yanks.

2. Guthrie continued with his Yankee hitting ways, nailing Jorge Posada in the back of the knee to lead off the second inning. Jorgie was noticeably hobbled but stayed in the game. Curtis Granderson followed with a deep single and Jorge's knee probably kept him on second instead of advancing to third.

No harm no foul though, as Nick Swisher ripped a deep drive to left center that took a sharp bounce off the wall and back past Adam Jones, scoring Posada and Granderson and allowing Swish to end up at third with a two RBI triple, putting the Yanks up 4-0. That would be the last we would see from Posada as he was removed from the game after scoring.

Swish then scored on a sac fly to right by Jeter to extend the lead to 5-0.

3. Robinson Cano extended his hitting streak to seven games with a solo homer to right center in the third inning, putting the Yanks up 6-0.

4. The Orioles bats started to heat up in the third inning as Nick Markakis knocked a one out single and Ty Wigginton followed with a double, leaving runners on second and third for Miguel Tejada. Baltimore plated a run on a slow dribbler to second and cut the deficit to 6-1.

5. After going down relatively quietly on just one hit in the 4th inning, the Yanks put another run on the board in the 5th. Nick Johnson... wait for it... worked a walk, and with two outs, Cano and Cervelli knocked back to back singles to make it 7-1 Yanks.

6. The Yanks were back at it in the 6th as three consecutive singles by Swisher, Gardner and Jeter made the score 8-1.

7. Miguel Tejada scored on a sac fly by Nolan Reimold in the bottom of the 6th to make it 8-2.

8. After inducing his second double play of the night in the bottom of the seventh, Sabathia gave up an opposite field home run to Nick Markakis. 8-3 and that would prove to be the final score.

IFs, ANDs & BUTs
  • Sabathia wasn't at his best tonight, but he didn't really need to be. In 7 2/3 innings, he allowed 13 men to reach base but only two via walks. He only struck out five but the two double plays bailed him out of jams that could have made the game closer than it was.

  • Girardi elected to leave Sabathia in for the 8th inning with the Yanks up 5 runs. CC began the inning by allowing a walk to Miguel Tejada, then got two outs before he gave up a base knock to Nolan Reimold. At that point he was at 111 pitches and even though the left handed Luke Scott was on deck, Girardi called on Joba Chamberlain. Joba got Scott to ground out to second.

  • A-Rod made a beautiful play on a well-placed bunt by Adam Jones in the first inning. A-Rod, charged, barehanded it and fired to first just in time.

  • Curtis Granderson's single in the second ended a 17 at bat hitless streak.

  • After scoring the run in the second inning, Posada was replaced by Francisco Cervelli, reuniting the vaunted CC-Cervelli Combination. Posada apparently has a right knee contusion and is day to day.

  • Cervelli went 2 for 4 at the plate after replacing Jorge.

  • Cano's home run was his 6th of the year and he added another single. He had more good at bats as two of the balls that didn't drop in for hits were squarely hit, deep line drives.

  • Nick Swisher had an excellent night at the plate as well. In addition to his 2 RBI triple he popped a couple singles and scored two runs.

  • The home run that Sabathia gave up to Nick Markakis was the first one he's allowed in Camden Yards in 48 innings pitched there and it came to a hitter that was 0 for his last 12 against him.

  • Sergio Mitre got some work in the 9th inning and sat the O's down in order.
The series and the road trip both wrap up tomorrow at 7:05.

Game 20: Hard Travelin'

When CC Sabathia took the mound in Oakland last Thursday, the Yankees were riding a six game winning streak and probably expecting to stretch it to seven. Their ace was on the hill in a pitcher's park against the punchless A's and if they could pull out a victory, they'd be heading into Anaheim with an outstanding 12-3 record. Instead, the A's jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning and never looked back. Including that tidy two hour and six minute affair, the Yanks have dropped four out of their last five games and now sit at a much less impressive 12-7.

Now, instead of looking to extend a winning streak, the Yanks need Sabathia to step up with a strong performance and stop the bleeding. In previous Aprils, it might not have been confidence-inspiring to know that CC was taking the mound tonight, but this year he has begun to buck his reputation as a slow starter.

After a shaky 5 1/3 inning inning performance on Opening Night in Fenway, Sabathia has allowed only 5 runs (4 earned), and 18 baserunners (8 hits, 8 walks) in his past three starts, spanning 21 2/3 IP. He was nothing short of dominant against the Rays, taking a no-hitter into the 8th inning and was as good or better in his rain-shortened six inning outing against the Rangers at Yankee Stadium. Even when he took the loss against Oakland, three of the four runs came on one pitch to Kurt Suzuki and he was efficient enough to complete 8 innings despite walking six batters. Total all of his outings up and you get a 2-1 record, a 3.00 ERA, a WHIP under 1.000 and about 8 K's per 9 innings pitched.

Sabathia's opponent tonight will be Jeremy Guthire. Like Kevin Millwood heading into last night, Guthrie has pitched well (3.46 ERA) but has only two losses to show for his efforts. Guthrie managed to throw 200 innings for the first time in his career last year, but he also tallied an ERA over 5.00 and led the AL in losses with 17. This year though, he's lasted longer than 6 innings in each of his four starts and given up fewer than 3 runs in each of them.

Guthrie is a fastball-slider-changeup pitcher, with his heater coming in at around 92-93-94 and both of his offspeed pitches about 84-85. A couple of those fastballs were responsible for a minor dustup during Spring Training between the two clubs. On March 29th, Guthrie hit Mark Teixeira in the elbow, foricing hit to leave the game, and a few innings later, plunked Francisco Cervelli. Joe Girardi was seen yelling from the dugout, informing the O's hurler that we was less than pleased with his lack of command.

Although what happened down in Sarasota is just one of many incidents between the Yankees and Orioles in the recent past, it's unlikely to inspire any bad blood tonight. Neither of Cervelli or Teixeira were seriously hurt that day and the regular season has a way of making what happened in March seem insignificant. Like they were last night, the Orioles are still desperate for wins and the Yankees are anxious salvage the final two games of this road trip, which is looking a whole lot more difficult than when it began.

I've been havin' some hard travelin', I thought you knowed,
I've been havin' some hard travelin', way down the road,
I've been havin' some hard travelin', hard ramblin', hard gamblin',
I've been havin' some hard travelin', lord.

Nick Johnson is back in action as the Yanks run their A lineup.
Jeter SS
Johnson DH
Teixeira 1B
Rodriguez 3B
Cano 2B
Posada C
Granderson CF
Swisher RF
Gardner LF
Garrett Atkins replaces Rhyne Hughes at first base tonight. Atkins is awful to a terrible state and manager Dave Trembly has put him on notice that if he doesn't produce, Hughes will take his spot.
Adam Jones, CF
Nick Markakis, RF
Ty Wigginton, 2B
Miguel Tejada, 3B
Matt Wieters, C
Garrett Atkins, 1B
Nolan Reimold, DH
Luis Montanez, LF
Caesar Izturis, SS

Wednesday Morning Odds & Ends

Good morning, Fackers. It's going to be another slow one around here today so here are a couple things of interest for your perusal:

Something I forgot to include in last night's recap: when sitting in the dugout during the 5th inning, Javier Vazquez nearly got hit with foul ball by Nick Markakis. It ended up narrowly missing him, but he still caught got on the ricochet and said that it's going to leave a mark.

Here's hopeful forecast for Javy from Paul Bourdett at FanHouse:
Even his FIP -- which assumes he'll continue to give up more than two homers per nine innings -- is almost three runs lower than his current ERA. That's still not very good, but it does go to show that in addition to being off the mark, Vazquez has been exceptionally unlucky. His strand rate sits around 57 percent (about 15 percent lower than the league average) and his BABIP is an inflated .342 (career .309). Javy's always given up his fair share of homers, but his HR/FB percentage (18.5 percent) is more than seven points higher than his career mark (11.2 percent). In short, he couldn't be this bad over his next four turns if he tried.
An interesting tidbit from George King in the Post:
Once in each of the three games against the Angels, hitters in the lower part of the order bunted with runners on first and second and no outs. Brett Gardner popped up, Nick Swisher was successful and Curtis Granderson was, too, but he was hitting eighth and that left it up to No. 9 hitter Francisco Cervelli, who walked.

"There is a time and place for it," said Girardi, who explained the bunt sign wasn't on in any of the three cases. "We discussed it."
It was kind of surprising to me that these were the player's decisions. We've been conditioned to think that players want to swing when they are at the plate so I had assumed that, for whatever reason Girardi had the sign on. It's good news that he didn't, because that means there shoud be fewer stupid bunt attempts in the future.

Tim Brown at Yahoo had an interesting conversation with Jorge Posada about the different pitchers he's caught over the years and singled out guys who did things particularly well. Two of the more interesting answers:
Best curveball

Hideki Irabu had a very good curveball. Just a straight up and down, swing-and-miss curveball. John Wetteland had a very good curveball. He threw it for a strike, too, in any count, any situation. But, he really didn’t use it much. He didn’t want to throw it. He wanted to throw fastball-slider. I would say Irabu. El Duque had a very good curveball.

Scariest guy when he went to the mound

David Cone. I was just intimidated. I would not even go to the mound. I was, like, scared, you know? He was the nicest guy in the world, but when he pitched, oof, don’t get near him. He was scary. He gave up a home run to Ken Griffey Jr.(notes) in Seattle once. I wanted him to come in and he didn’t want to. He gave up a home run on a split. Probably hung in there and Griffey hit a home run. So, I go out there and he says, ‘How the hell would you pitch him?’ I said, ‘I think we gotta come in.’ Next time, Griffey comes up, we go in and he hits a double.’ I go back out and Cone says, ‘How the hell you gonna pitch him now?’
Nick Johnson changed his number from 26 to 36, the one he wore during his initial go-round with the Yanks and most recently donned by the legendary Edwar Ramirez.

At the Wall Street Journal, Darren Everson wrote about Johnson's unwaivering patience even in the face of his dragging batting average.

More interesting visuals from Kevin Dame at the Harball Times.

Navin Vaswani made his way up to Fenway and back down to the National's Capitol as #TBRTOAL rolls on.

Joel Sherman has identified the reason that the Yankees late inning relief has been lackluster: they traded Tyler Clippard, who Sherman claims "might be the best set-up man in the Majors".

Here is Jonah Keri's extended take on the Ryan Howard signing that tries to balance the perspective of the fan and the organization with those of people less involved with the team.

All the credit for this one goes to my buddy Cliff. Read the first three paragraphs of this article wherein Phil Sheridan explains that Ryan Howard hustling out one ground ball on Opening Day explains everything you need to know about who he is. Now check out what happens starting at the 15 second mark of this video.

Yesterday, Gleeman heard that the MLB was cracking down on their beat writers for using Twitter for non-baseball topics. The league has since denied the claim but Aaron thinks that the actions and tweets of the writers speak for themselves.

The Mets have won 8 of their 9 games since Ike Davis was called up and are now in first place. Let your Mets fan friends gloat but be sure to file it away for when they inevitably fall apart down the stretch.
There will be a preview for the game later but in the interest of full disclosure, Matt is traveling today and I'm not sure I'll be able to get to anything else before then. Let's face it, the Yanks have lost 4 out of 5 and there aren't too many exciting things to talk about anyway.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Game 19 Recap

1. Phil Hughes gave up back-to-back singles to Luke Scott and Ty Wigginton to lead off the second inning and after retiring Rhyne Hughes, walked Nolan Reimold to load the bases. Caesar Izturis, the number 9 hitter, was up next and Hughes walked him on four pitches, only one of which was particularly close. That forced in a run and put the Orioles up 1-0, but Phil avoided further damage when he got Adam Jones to ground into an inning ending 5-4-3 double play.

2. The Yankees led off the top of the third with consecutive singles of their own, this time by Nick Swisher and Randy Winn. Derek Jeter advanced the runners with a ground out to first. Brett Gardner slapped a 2-1 slider to Miguel Tejada at third, but it ate Miggy up and allowed Swisher to score, tying the game at 1.

3. Jorge Posada gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead in the 4th as he led off the inning with a homer. He jumped all over an 87mph cutter from Millwood and pulled it over the scoreboard in right field.

4. The Yankees made two outs on the basepaths in the 6th inning. After singling, Cano got was gunned down by Matt Wieters trying to steal second despite getting a good jump. After working a walk, Jorge Posada strayed too far from second base when a ball hit by Nick Swisher was knocked down by Miguel Tejada and trickled into the outfield. The only out the Yanks made at the plate in the inning was a strikeout by Curtis Granderson.

5. The bottom of the 6th was even worse for the Yanks. After Phil Hughes recorded the first two outs, Girardi went to the bullpen and called on Boone Logan to face lefty Luke Scott. Logan promptly walked him and on came David Robertson for the right handed Ty Wigginton.

Robertson plunked Wigginton on an 0-2 count on a fastball that rode too far inside. He then allowed a RBI single to Rhyne Hughes that tied the game at 2. Reimold and Izturus followed with RBI base knocks of their own and before Robertson struck out Adam Jones, the Orioles were up 4-2.

6. The Orioles struck again with two outs in the 8th. Ty Wigginton reached on an error by Derek Jeter to lead of the inning and was pinch ran for by Julio Lugo. Alfredo Aceves, in his second inning of work retired the next two batters, bringing up Izturis. Lugo took off for second during the AB and Jorge Posada sailed his throw into center field, allowing Lugo to advance to 3rd. Izturis blooped a single to right and drove in his third run of the game to make it Orioles 5 - Yankees 2.

7. The Yankees came oh-so-close to stealing this one in the top of the 9th facing Alfredo Simon who had been called up from AAA earlier in the day. Swisher poked a single through the right side (his third hit of the night) and then Nick Johnson (pinch hitting for Winn) worked a walk. With one out, Derek Jeter struck out swinging on a 91mph slider, leaving the game in Brett Gardner's hands.

After quickly falling behind 0-2, Gardner grounded a ball to short that slipped past Izturis and was scored an error, bringing the Yanks within 2. Mark Teixeira then lined the first pitch he saw from Simon into right for an RBI single, closing the gap to one run. A-Rod came to the plate with runners on the corners and lined a ball directly up the middle, right under the feet of Simon but it was fielded by Izturis and flipped to Lugo to force out Teixeira and end the game.

IFs, ANDs & BUTs
  • Hughes was missing his spots by quite a bit tonight and those balls that were clearly not worth swinging at out of his hand that led to some long at bats. The Orioles had 10 plate appearances of 6 pitches or more, which were the main reasons Hughes needed 109 pitches to get through 5 2/3 innings.

  • While he recorded only 2 strikeouts, Hughes remained relatively unhittable, as 4 of his 6 baserunners reached via a walk. This wasn't one of his finer performances, but if you're going to have an off night, one run over 5 2/3 ain't bad.

  • Cano is now 2 for 4 in stolen bases this season, dropping his career mark to 19 for 44. He should probably stop trying.

  • Randy Winn had a chance to throw out Luke Scott at the plate and get the Yankees out of the 6th inning with the lead but he slipped and yanked the throw so badly that it landed on the outfield grass and barely rolled to first base. It would have been absolutely hilarious if it wasn't as such a crucial moment in the game.

  • There will be plenty of second guessing of Girardi playing the matchup game in the 6th inning. Hughes had 109 pitches and I honestly thought that he might have been done after just 5. Instead Girardi allowed him to come back out, but played the matchup game for Luke Scott - who had a .270 OBP coming into tonight. Instead of Boone Logan, I would have liked to see Aceves in that spot, or someone else who wouldn't have been removed after one batter regardless of the outcome of the AB, you know, just in case it doesn't go right.

  • Would someone like to remind Joe Girardi that David Robertson has fucking reverse platoon splits? Including tonight, he has 7 appearances this year every time the Yanks have been leading or the score has been tied, he's been used primarily to face right handers and pulled after less than an inning. He's not a ROOGY.

  • The freebie run that the O's plated in the 8th, in part due to Jeter's error and in part to Posada's errant throw, made the comeback in the 9th that much more difficult.

  • Apparently Nick Johnson isn't the only person man enough to use Miley Cirus for his at bat music. Ty Wigginton also chose to come out to "Party In The USA". Hopefully he did it for his daughter as well.

  • Curtis Granderson was 0-4 on the night with three strikeouts and is now 1 for his last 20.
That would have been a brutal loss even if it weren't for the near comeback in the 9th inning. The boys are back at it tomorrow night, same time, same place.

Game 19: Way Down In The Hole

Before play began today, the Orioles had 4 fewer wins than any other team in baseball and that was after pulling out a 10th inning victory in Fenway Park on Sunday. The great Pythagoras believes that they should be 6-13 instead of 3-16 based on their run differential, but that would still leave them with the fewest victories of any team in the MLB.

The O's have had to play the Rays twice and the Red Sox once, but in between those tough match ups, they got swept by the Blue Jays and Mariners, and lost 3 of 4 to the A's. They've managed to shoehorn losing streaks of 5 and 9 into their first 19 games of the year and, not coincidentally, have seen their home attendance reach record lows.

A visit from the Yankees following a 10 game road trip is a sure remedy for thin crowds, but not for the poor play that has plagued the Orioles so far. As Joe Pawlikowski pointed out at FanGraphs yesterday, the 2010 O's hitters have been decimated by a few injuries and a slew of slow starts. Brian Roberts and Felix Pie are both on the DL while Nolan Reimold started the season there and has struggled since returning to the team.

Adam Jones, Garrett Atkins, Luke Scott, Caesar Izturis and Julio Lugo have all played in 13 or more games and have an OPS+ below 80. Nick Markakis, Matt Weiters, Miguel Tejada and surprisingly Ty Wigginton have been the only positive producers and as a team, they are hitting just .244/.304/.383. That line drops to an excruciating .183/.270/.294 with runners in scoring position, which has no doubt contributed to their struggles.

The dismal run support has made life extremely difficult on their starting pitchers. Despite having an ERA of 3.38 and averaging 6 2/3 IP in 4 starts, Kevin Millwood has a record of 0-3. Millwood has allowed as many home runs as he has walks (4) so the Yankees can expect to see a lot of balls in the strike zone.

Interestingly, today has played host to more no-hitters than any other day, one of those being the one that Millwood pitched for the Phillies back in 2003 against the Giants.

Phil Hughes gets the ball for the Yanks tonight and looks to build upon his impressive outing in Oakland last Wednesday during which he carried a no-no into the 8th inning. In 12 1/3 frames so far this year, Hughes has struck out 16 and allowed only 11 baserunners - 4 hits and 7 walks. He's been nothing short of excellent in his two starts since emerging from extended Spring Training and hopefully he can continue rolling against a team that he has struggled against in his time as a starter (5 starts, 7.94 ERA).

The point of the article that Joe wrote over at FanGraphs was to illustrate that the Orioles aren't as bad of as team as their record at this point indicates. That might be true, but they are going to have to start winning some games pretty soon to prove it. Perhaps the O's are due to turn it around but with the Yankees coming into town, this is going to be a tough time to do it. As Yanks' fans, it's tempting to look at Baltimore's record and assume that this should be an easy series, but from the O's perspective it probably seems like they are due for a win. Hopefully the Yanks can do their part to keep the Birds down.

He's got the fire and the fury,
At his command,
Well you don't have to worry,
If you hold on to Jesus hand,
We'll all be safe from Satan,
When the thunder rolls,
Just gotta help me keep the devil,
Way down in the hole.
[Song notes: As many of you probably know, "Way Down In The Hole" is the theme song for The Wire (which is set in Baltimore). Steve Earle has a small but excellent part in the series playing a recovering addict named Walon.]


Nick Johnson gets another night off to rest his aching back and Nick Swisher takes his place in the DH spot, although he'll be hitting 8th. Randy Winn, who is 0-10 this season but 11 for 18 off of Millwood in his career, gets the start in right field and bats 9th. Brett Gardner, back in left field, occupies the second slot behind Jeter.
Jeter SS
Gardner LF
Teixeira 1B
Rodriguez 3B
Cano 2B
Posada C
Granderson CF
Swisher DH
Winn RF
Adam Jones CF
Nick Markakis RF
Matt Wieters C
Miguel Tejeda 3B
Luke Scott DH
Ty Wigginton 2B
Rhyne Hughes 1B
Nolan Reimold LF
Cesar Izturis SS

Tuesday Afternoon Link-A-Roo

It's slow going on the Fack Youk factory floor today, as I prepare to be banished to Atlanta for the remainder of the week.

Here are a few links to hold you over until preview time:
Quick - if someone told you that a former Yankee pitcher would issue the first walkoff walk of 2010, who would your guess be? Yeah, mine too.

Over at RAB, Mike Axisa takes a further look at what I touched upon this morning: the under-utilization of David Robertson.

Staying in the bullpen, Mike also examines a minor tweak made by Boone Logan this year that may allow him to be more successful than he's been in the past.

Over at Fangraphs, RAB's Joe Pawlikowski extends upon what Steve Goldman and Rob Neyer have already commented upon: the unsustainability of Austin Jackson's early season success. If you thought AJax's BABIP was off the charts at Scranton last year, take a look at his 2010 numbers so far.

Neyer's ESPN colleague and former Major Leaguer Doug Glanville is transitioning nicely to his role in the media. Glanville reflects back upon his time with the Texas Rangers, and remembers when Mark Teixeira was an emerging third baseman.

So, Jason Bay isn't terrible defensively after all?

Via Bronx Banter, here's a nice look at Bob Sheppard.

In both the New York Post and his Hardball blog, Joel Sherman takes a look at the continued acrimony between Joe Torre and the Yankees' organization. I really, really hope they all bury the hatchet at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Via BBTF, comes a very worthwhile read from Faith and Fear in Flushing. If I am ever so unfortunate as to meet an untimely end, someone is going to have a lot of old baseball cards to sort through.

Late last week, the NCAA officially approved The New Era Pinstripe Bowl, issuing it a four year license rather than the customary three years.

Unfortunately, the existence of the Pinstripe Bowl comes at the expense of another potential bowl game, one dedicated to a cause far more worthy than wringing more money out of Yankee Stadium and printing more cash for the NCAA.

Meanwhile, as we mentioned last year, the existence of the Pinstripe Bowl all but assures that the inevitable New York-based NHL Winter Classic will not take place at Yankee Stadium.

Back with the preview in a bit.

[UPDATE 4:00 PM: Friend of the blog Matt on Earth weighs in with his thoughts on Curt Schilling's comments on Javy Vazquez.]

Balancing The Bullpen

Good morning Fackers. Lost in all the wailing and rendering rending of garments over Javier Vazquez' first four starts is that the Yankees have been getting damn good starting pitching from the rest of their rotation this year. Entering play yesterday the Yankees tied for the League lead with two complete games and tied for for fifth in quality start percentage (56% overall, 71% non-Vazquez division). Perhaps most noteworthy though, the club is third in the AL in innings per start, averaging 6.3 IP per outing, just a tenth of an inning off the league lead.

The flip side of that is that there are far less innings to go around for the bullpen, particularly when you consider that the Yankees have lost five road games this year in which they didn't have to pitch the ninth inning and have had one game shortened to six innings due to rain. The bullpen has logged just 42.1 IP through the first eighteen games, easily the lowest total in the League.

In the age of the 12 man pitching staff, that just isn't enough innings to go around, especially when the team has had four relief appearances of two innings or more thus far. It's a nice problem to have no doubt, and one that will likely rectify itself as the season wears on. While I easily get annoyed at Joe Girardi's love of late game match ups and his proclivity for making one move too many, he has utilized his bullpens rather well in his two plus years as Yankee manager. In the early going in 2010 however, Girardi has not been spreading the load too evenly.

Mariano Rivera, Joba Chamberlain, and Damaso Marte have borne the bulk of the appearances thus far. Marte is the LOOGY, and for much of the season was the only lefty out there. Chamberlain is The Official Eighth Inning Guy and has shown flashes of his former brilliance (while looking more ordinary in his other appearances). Rivera is without question the best reliever in the pen. So it's no surprise that these three top the list, even if each of their appearances haven't been absolutely necessary.

But the Yankee bullpen is deep, and the remaining relievers have struggled to find enough work. Consider:
  • David Robertson, who was needlessly and disastrously pulled after two thirds of an inning in Game Three of the ALCS last year, has seen similar usage patterns this year. He's made six appearances this season. Four of them have been less than one inning; three of them have been six pitches or fewer. I'd love to see him and his obscene K-rate utilized more often.

  • Alfredo Aceves' appearance in Sunday's game was his first in in eight days. Prior to that, he had thrown just one third of an inning since April 14th. With any luck, Aceves' lack of use is a result of lack of opportunity and not at all related to the back and shoulder problems that have bothered him intermittently since last July.

  • Sergio Mitre is clearly the last man in the pen. There's no point in using him just for the sake of using him, but as a sinkerballer, Mitre needs regular work to keep sharp. His appearance Sunday was just his second of the season and his first in sixteen days. Just for comparison's sake, between Mitre's two appearances the following happened:

    • The starting rotation went through two and four fifths turns.

    • CC Sabathia made three starts, one of them a near no-hitter and the other two complete games.

    • Phil Hughes made his second simulated start at the minor league complex, rested for four days, made his first start of 2010, rested four more days, nearly threw a no-hitter in his second start of the season, and was a game away from making his third start of the season.

    • Chan Ho Park appeared in a game four days after Mitre's first appearance. Three days later he was placed on the 15 day DL and is eligible to be activated as soon as Thursday.

    • Joba Chamberlain made seven appearances; Mariano Rivera made six; Damaso Marte made five and added his sixth shortly after Mitre's second appearance of the season.

    • Boone Logan made two appearances for Scranton and two more for the Yankees.
These things have a way of working themselves out. I certainly hope that the Yankees starters continue to work deep into games. I understand that the twelve man staff is a given these days and I don't advocate dropping any of the current pitchers from the staff. But if the Yankees are going to carry a seven man pen, the guys further down the pecking order need to see the mound a little more often to both justify their presence and ensure they're ready when needed.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Monday Afternoon Linkdown

Yesterday was International Penguin Day. Here are some fun facts on the fat, feathered fackers that you might not have been aware of.

On to our regularly scheduled linkification:
Happy 93rd birthday to the oldest living former Yankee, Virgil Trucks.

The numbers say that Andy Pettitte is off to the best start of his career.

Ryan Howard just got PAID to the tune of 5 years, $125M. The deal also contains a $23M option for 2017 with a $10M(!!) buyout. It's questionable whether Howard will be worth what he's making this year, let alone five or six years from now. But don't worry, Jon Heyman thinks it's a good deal. That sound you are hearing? Albert Puljos' stock entering the mesosphere.

Javier Vazquez ≠ Chien-Ming Wang. And making that comparison shows that you have an astonishingly short memory or a stunning lack of perspective. After three games in 2009, Chien-Ming Wang had given up 23 runs in 6 innings and had an ERA of 34.50. Opponents were hitting .622/.667/.1026 off of him. By contrast, through four starts, Vazquez has given up 20 runs in 20 innings and an opponents line of .309/.398/.580. Granted, that's pretty terrible, but it's not in the same multiverse of suckitude as Wang was last year.

EJ from TYU took a look at Yanks prospect Graham Stoneburner and attempted to establish some standard criteria by which we can evaluate minor league pitchers.

Christian Garcia underwent Tommy John Surgery and will be attempting to recover from it for the second time. As Matt said when the news of Garcia's injury first broke, the could be the final blow to his career, but if all goes well he should be back on the mound next May.

The Hardball Times started up a new Twitter feed for the sole purpose of linking to interesting baseball writing all over the web. I'm guessing it will be pretty similar to kind of stuff you can find in these link dumps.

Joe Posnanski wrote a characteristically thorough and interesting take on why it's easy for people to hate A-Rod.

Richard Sandomir writes explores the history of the theme songs of the Mets and the Yankees, Meet the Mets and Empire State of Mind. Oh, I'm sorry, is that not the Yankees official song?

This has been linked far and wide, but for posterity's sake, here is Flip Flop Fly Ball's graphical interpretation on A-Rod's spat with Dallas Braden.

A few current and former players have weighed the War of Rodriguez & Braden. Tim Hudson and Chipper Jones called it "silly" and "childish" while David Wells went in the opposite direction, calling A-Rod full of shit. Bronson Arroyo (of all people) said he "wouldn't think twice" about A-Rod running over the mound and Morgan Ensberg called Braden's tantrum a "full blown loss of mind". (h/t to Lisa for some of the links)

Speaking of Mr. Ensberg, he and Tom Tango had an interesting conversation about players' arbitration clocks and some of the differences between the way the NHL and MLB handle contract buyouts and service time (among other topics).

The Wall Street Journal used some of Larry's data and ganked his idea without linking back to him, but they did make the sweet graphic above, averaging the Yankees' home run trot times.

They're a bit outdated by now, but Kevin Dame at THT created some visuals illustrating the performance of the rotations of the AL East teams.

Consternation from Red Sox Nation. Is there a more enjoyable combination?

Harvey Araton wrote a piece for the NYT about the "elegance" of Marino Rivera that has no business being in the sports section because it focuses mostly on his role as a male model for Canali.

If you spent a good amount of the weekend listening to Gang Starr, you might want to check out the piece that Guru's brother - who happens to be a drama professor at Stanford - wrote about him for the Boston Globe. D.J. Premier also made a mix in memory of the man.

In addition to penning his L.A. Times obit and a piece that aired on NPR embedded below (click through if you are reading via RSS), Oliver Wang from Soul Sides put together an appreciation of Guru's work on his blog. Even if you aren't a fan, checking out any of these pieces should give you a healthy respect for the man's work.

That's it for us today. Catch you folks in the morning.

The Ethics Of Adderall

Last night on 60 Minutes, they had a segment about the amphetamine Adderall. It's a drug that is typically prescribed for people with ADHD or other attention disorders but is commonly used by college students to study and do schoolwork along with other people looking to keep themselves focused on any number of tasks. The reason I mention it here is that the debate about it is incredibly similar to the one about performance enhancing drugs in sports.

One of the members of a panel of students from the University of Kentucky assembled by the show said:
Everybody's trying to get an edge. And I mean, and if you can take a pill that will help you study all night to get that grade you need, I mean, a lotta people don't see why they wouldn't do it.
As was the case when PEDs were first being used by athletes, there is some gray area in regards to their legality (it's much closer to black and white now). Adderall is a legal, but people often obtain the pills from others who have prescriptions, which is not. Alan DeSantis, a communications professor at UK explains:
About four percent of our college campus has, actually, legal prescriptions. But what we have found is that while they may get 30 doses, they very rarely would ever take a dose everyday. Which means, at the end of the month, there is always anywhere from 10 to 20 surplus pills left over. And these are the surplus pills that are doled out.

Baseball might have its own problem with drugs like Ritalin and Adderall. As a result of the Mitchell Report, we know that in 2008, there was a 7.6% increase in the number of players with prescriptions for attention-boosting drugs, which Newsweek attributed to baseball's ban on other amphetamines like greenies. Some of those are likely legitimate cases, but given the sharp increase, it's probable that a significant number of players are taking the drug who do not have diagnoses that would hold up under close scrutiny.

In addition to the possibility of addiction, Adderall carries health risks consistent with other amphetamines, especially when taken in large doses. Like steroids or HGH, those who are unwilling to take those gambles don't reap the benefits drug can provide.

Another one of the students on the panel offered an objection to the use of Adderall similar to what we've heard time and time again from opponents of PED usage in sports:
I feel that it is an unfair advantage. If the person next to me that has the exact same schedule takes an Adderall they can stay up the entire night knowing the material and come in and make a grade better than me.

I mean, it is somewhat tempting but at the same time I'm just so proud that I've come this far and I know when I look at my grades that it is purely by my own ability.
Students aren't in direct competition with each other to the extent that athletes are, but those breaking the law by taking other people's pills (or those bending them by faking symptoms to get their own prescriptions) are certainly gaining an unfair advantage.

As medical technology evolves, we are seeing more and more drugs that can make our minds function more efficiently and our bodies stronger. Like anything else, these carry their own risks and the people willing to mortgage their future health are going to be able to gain and edge and cut corners now. Is that inherently fair? Probably not, but there aren't immediate rewards for taking the high road and it's extremely difficult to prevent people from taking the easy way out.

Setting aside the legalities for a second, is there anything morally wrong with taking a drug that makes your brain more potent? Wouldn't you want the option of taking something that makes you ostensibly smarter? According the the show, Adderall is popular among truck drivers because it helps them stay more alert at the wheel, which could potentially save lives. If people can use it without forming an addiction or even a habit, what's the problem with it?

The ethics of this issue are awfully fuzzy, and they promise to become more complicated as drugs become more effective. I'm somewhat of a Libertarian when it comes to drugs, so I think people should be able to make their own choices in regards to the substances they choose to use. But I'm sure your mileage will vary.