Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Game 65: Slow Train Coming

I'm not sure what's more mindboggling, the fact that Jamie Moyer is still pitching in the Major Leagues at age 47 or that, ever since they've been tracking with PitchFX, his fastball has been clocked at speeds roughly between A.J. Burnett's curveball and slider.

In a lot of ways, Moyer is the inverse of what Burnett used to be. When he was with the Marlins, Burnett used to throw hard for the sake of throwing hard and lighting up the radar gun, strike a lot of guys out but also walk a ton of them too. He was a young, tall, menacing presence on the mound for a team in Southern Florida. Meanwhile, Moyer was already well over a decade into his MLB career, an average-sized and easy-going type, pitching in the opposite corner of the country, left handed, throwing in the low 80's and just trying to hit his spots.

Still, their level of performance was pretty similar. From 1999-2005, Burnett had an ERA+ of 111. Moyer? 110. They both struck out about twice as many as they walked, but Burnett was giving out four free passes per nine innings while Moyer was allowing just 2.2. Their WHIPs during that span were a very similar 1.284 and 1.258.

Before last Friday, Moyer and Burnett each had six wins and ERAs under 4.00 on the season. However, Moyer got absolutely hammered in Fenway, allowing nine runs in 1+ IP and raising his ERA a full run in the process.

Burnett hasn't exactly had a smooth go of it as of late, either. He's given up 13 runs in his past three starts against Cleveland, Toronto and Baltimore and hasn't turned in a so-called quality outing in over a month (the five shutout innings he threw in the rain-delayed affair against the Twins not withstading). After sporting an ERA under 2.00 through his first six starts, Burnett has tallied a 5.61 mark over his next seven, raising his overall tally to a much-higher-but-still-respectable 3.86. The lefty-heavy Phillies lineup - as anemic as it has been lately - isn't likely to provide much of a relief for A.J.

The same could be said for the Yankee hitters in relation to Moyer. The Bombers tagged Roy Halladay for three homers and six runs last night but are going to be seeing a wildly different look from the crafty lefty on the hill this evening. Look out boys, the slow (and slower) train is coming.

They say loose your inhibitions, follow your own ambitions
They talk about a life of brotherly love,
show me someone who knows how to live it,
There's slow, slow train coming up around the bend.
[Song Notes: Matt here with the song notes. "Slow Train Coming" is a Bob Dylan song, and was the title track to his controversial 1979 album of the same name. The album was Dylan's first release since announcing his conversion as a Born Again Christian, and most of the songs on the album have some element of spirituality to them. The above performance comes from the North Mississippi Allstars at the 2007 Newport Folk Festival.

As Jay detailed last year, it was at Newport where Dylan became embroiled in the first major controversy of his career, as he played his notorious first electric set at the 1965 Festival. The 2007 Festival was also distinctively un-folk, as the NMA set was sandwiched after the John Butler Trio, and before Gov't Mule and the Allman Brothers Band. Perhaps as a nod to the non-traditional line up that year, but certainly as a nod to Dylan, NMA wove a mini-Dylan set into their performance that day, playing Dylan's "Masters of War", "Oxford Town", and "Slow Train Coming"

I was at that show, and if I recall correctly, I was standing just to the right of the guy filming it (and no, I am not of the shirtless hippy dancers in the video). This was the second of seven NMA shows I saw in a ten day period that summer, and it was a very cool trip. Newport was great - right on the water, excellent views, a great line up. That was also the day Alex Rodriguez hit his 500th career HR.]


Yankees: A-Rod comin', yo. After five games out of the lineup, A-Rod's groin or thigh or whatever injury has apparently healed up enough for him to return. He'll be eased back into action with an appearance at DH as Jorge Posada tries catching after being removed a bit early from Sunday's game. Kevin Russo is playing third base and hitting eighth but this is the closest the Yanks line up has been to Opening Day form in quite some time.
Derek Jeter SS
Nick Swisher RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Robinson Cano 2B
Jorge Posada C
Curtis Granderson CF
Kevin Russo 3B
Brett Gardner LF
Victorino CF
Polanco 3B
Utley 2B
Howard 1B
Werth RF
Ibanez LF
Dobbs, DH
Schneider C
Valdez SS

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