Sunday, April 18, 2010

Game 12 Recap

[WPA data via FanGraphs]

1. The Yankees took an early lead in the bottom of the first without the benefit of a hit. True to form, Rich Harden limited balls in play by hitting Brett Gardner (who then stole second), striking out Nick Johnson, hitting Mark Teixeira, and walking Alex Rodriguez. Robinson Cano followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 1-0 Yankees.

2. The Rangers bounced back in the third to take a 2-1 lead. Matt Treanor led off with a single, was bunted to second, and scored on a double from Elvis Andrus. Michael Young then drove Andrus in with a base hit. Mark Teixeira prevented further damage by making a nice leaping catch on hotshot off the bat of Josh Hamilton.

3. The Yankees responded quickly in the bottom half of the inning. Following his defensive gem, Teixeira led off with his first home run of the year to even the score. A single by Jorge Posada was sandwiched between walks by A-Rod and Curtis Granderson. With two outs, Ramiro Pena came to the plate and El Nino lined a base hit to right, making it 4-2 Yankees.

4. Posada capped the scoring in the seventh, lining a shot into the right field seats for the Yankees' second inning-opening solo shot on the afternoon, making it 5-2 Yankees.

IFs, ANDs, & BUTs
  • Our preview proved somewhat prophetic in outlining how the starters would fair today. Rich Harden had something resembling his first start of the year, needing 94 pitches to go just three and two thirds. He faced 23 batters, hitting two, walking six, fanning five, and allowing a home run. As such, just nine balls were put in play against him.

  • As for Pettitte, he struggled a bit through the early innings, then went into lock down mode. He didn't allow a hit after the third inning and retired twelve in a row from the fourth into the eighth. He needed 65 pitches to get through his first four innings of work and just 42 to get through his final four frames. Perhaps the Rangers were in a hurry to get to Boston.

  • Nick Swisher intentionally overthrew the cutoff man in the third, despite having virtually no chance of gunning down Elvis Andrus at the plate. The mental gaffe allowed Michael Young to take second, and if not for the nice stab by Teixeira, Josh Hamilton's liner would have plated Young. I'm not as bearish on Swisher's defense as many others are, but such mental errors are not excusable. Swisher made some similar decisions last season and unfortunately this isn't his first such offense in the young 2010 season.

  • In addition to his grab in the third, Teixeira made a nice diving stop to end the fourth inning.

  • While Teix's defense was top notch, Texas' defense continued to be suspect, as was the official scoring. David Murphy allowed a can of corn off the bat of Jorge Posada to fall in for a base hit in the bottom of the third, and second baseman Joaquin Arias let a slow roller off the bat of Brett Gardner trickle under his glove to start the eighth.

  • In addition to his stolen base in the first, Gardner swiped another in the sixth and was picked off/caught stealing in the eighth. It was just the seventh time in his career he's been caught in 53 attempts, good for a very impressive 86.8% success rate.

  • Alex Rodriguez stole a base of his own, pilfering third in the fourth inning. Matt Treanor's Dustin Nippert's throw had him dead to rights, but an inventive slide from A-Rod delivered him to the bag safely.

  • Mo was downright nasty in the ninth, catching both Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis looking to end the game.

  • Former Yankee reliever Tanyon Sturtze was in the house, with some choice Legends Seats behind the Yankee dugout. He was given an inordinate amount of face time on YES, as John Flaherty spoke about Sturtze being one of his favorite teammates. All Sturtze's camera time allowed me to see that he waved and ate exclusively with his left arm; his right is apparently still unusable thanks to Joe Torre.

See you in the morning Fackers.

Game 12: Dust My Broom

In the first two games of this series, the Rangers have been betrayed by their defense. They've been charged with one error in both games, leading to two unearned runs, but if not for some home cooking from official scorer Bill Shannon, the error total would be closer to five or six. If not for Texas' lackluster leather on Friday night, the Yankees may not have escaped with a rain shortened victory.

Texas may have a cure for what ails them this afternoon, as Rich Harden takes to the hill. Since making his Major League debut with the A's in 2003, Harden has been a strikeout machine. He's never posted a K/9 below 7.9 and has been at 9.5 or above for the last four seasons, including 10.9 and 11.0 in the last two years. Harden's also fairly adept at giving out free passes, posting walk rates greater than league average in all but one of his seven seasons, and allowing 35% of his career baserunners against via the walk. Those factors combined mean that Harden generally puts less pressure on his defense than the average pitcher.

An extreme example of this occurred in Harden's first start this year, against Toronto on April 7th. Harden went only 3.2 IP, but struck out 8, walked 5, plunked a batter, and surrendered a gopher ball as the only hit he allowed. He faced 19 batters and only four of them put the ball in play. And even at that, his defense still made an error behind him, with Michael Young booting a ball at third. Crash Davis would say Harden was a little less fascist his next time out, only stirking out three over six innings, and allowing 18 balls in play, with another error made behind him.

For the Yankees, Andy Pettitte will make his third start of the season. Over the past several years we've seen Pettitte morph into the stereotypical crafty lefty, seemingly working his way into and out of trouble every other inning, but rarely getting touched up. Never has that been more true than in his first two starts this year. Through twelve innings of work, Pettitte has surrendered eleven hits, issued six base on balls, and hit a batter. But he's yet to allow a home run, and has managed to strand a ridiculous 94.4% of those 18 runners. With 17 runners left on base and just a single earned run on his ledger, Pettitte boasts a sparkling 0.75 ERA despite a 4.46 xFIP.

In contrast to Aprils past, the Yankees have been moving right along in the early goings of the 2010 season. They've won their first four series for the first time since 1926, and today, they go for their first sweep of the young season. It's been a happy home stand, with four wins already in the bank. Time to dust off the brooms and then leave home for a West Coast road trip. To help us on our way, here's the King of the Slide Guitar:

I'm getting up soon in the morning, I believe I'll dust my broom
I'm getting up soon in the morning, I believe I'll dust my broom
I quit the best gal I'm loving
Now my friends can get my room

I believe, I believe my time ain't long
I believe, I believe my time ain't long
I ain't gonna leave my baby
And break up my happy home

Derek Jeter is nursing a head cold, so he gets the day off. Brett Gardner moves up to the lead off spot and Ramiro Pena gets his first start of the year, taking Jeter's spot at short and Gardner's customary spot at the bottom of the order. The rest of the lineup remains as usual.
Gardner LF
Johnson DH
Teixeira 1B
Rodriguez 3B
Cano 2B
Posada C
Granderson CF
Swisher RF
Pena SS
Some changes for Texas today. Lefties Julio Borbon and Chris Davis hit the bench for the first time this series. Taylor Teagarden, still hitless on the year, and Joaquin Arias are also not starting. Josh Hamilton slides over to center; Elvis Andrus, like Brett Gardner, moves from the nine hole to the leadoff spot. David Murphy, Ryan Garko, Matt Treanor, and Andres Blanco all see their first action for the weekend.
Elvis Andrus SS
Michael Young 3B
Josh Hamilton CF
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Nelson Cruz RF
Ryan Garko 1B
David Murphy LF
Matt Treanor C
Andres Blanco 2B