Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Game 14: Next Time You See Me

The best part of this road trip? Michael Kay is at home and we are treated to the dulcet tones of smooth Kenny Singleton. Look out! So tonight, it won't be "Phil Yoooooous" pitching, it will just be Phil Hughes.

The SoCal kid looks to build upon his previous partially successful outing against the Angels. Last Wednesday, Hughes held the Halos to two runs in 5+ innings. He had flashes of dominance (3 H, 6 K) but struggled with his command and efficiency (5 BB, 108 pitches).

Hughes has never faced Oakland as a starter and only pitched one inning in the Coliseum as a reliever. No one on the A's has faced Hughes more than three times in their career and those who have don't have much of an advantage considering that Hughes has evolved significantly as a pitcher since then.

The Yankees aren't too familiar with Ben Sheets either. The only time he started against the Bombers was all the way back in 2005 and the only guys in the line up that day who are still on the team are Jeter, Posada, A-Rod and Cano.

After missing all of 2009 and having the flexor tendon in his pitching elbow repaired, Sheets landed on his feet in Oakland, fetching a handsome $10M, one year contract which could make him a prime target come the trade deadline (although his contract specifies that the club won't offer him arbitration and therefore can't receive any draft pick compensation).

Big Ben is off to a solid start results-wise, having allowed only 5 ER in 17 innings (2.65 ERA). However, his peripherals tell a different story (4.60 FIP). Over the course of his career, Sheets has walked just two batters per nine innings, but in his first three starts of 2010, he's averaging over 5 per 9 and has amassed more free passes (10) than strikeouts (8). These issues are to be expected from a guy who had elbow surgery and took 18 months off in between starts, though. Sheets has had success despite lacking command thus far, so logic dictates that if he can cut down on the walks he might be even more dangerous.

Conventional wisdom says the pitcher has the advantage when there is no history between he and the batter, but I tend to think stuff like that is a little overstated. It might help to know a pitcher's tendencies, but it can also be harmful when the pitcher knows that you know his tendencies, so on and so forth. Players can study up on and watch as much video of each other as they want to and by the second or third time through the lineup, any advantage of unfamiliarity one way or the other has been neutralized. If Sheets or Hughes make another start against the foes they are facing tonight later in the season, then there might be an edge for one side or the other.

Next time you see me,
Things won't be the same,
If it hurts you my darling,
You've only got yourself to blame.
[Song notes: The double video seems appropriate because it's a West Coast night game and I went with this version because we used the Dead's at the end of last year. The title to YouTube video says that it's the Rolling Stones and Muddy Waters when in fact it's Buddy Guy on stage. The clip comes from this DVD, was recorded back in 1981 and was one of the last five concert appearances of Waters' incredible career.]


Randy Winn, ladies and gentlemen. Even though Nick Swisher broke an 0-16 slump last night with a 2 RBI single, Winn gets the call against Sheets. Swish had played in every game so far this year and Winn has had some experience against Sheets (although not any success).
Jeter SS
Johnson DH
Teixeira 1B
Rodriguez 3B
Cano 2B
Posada C
Granderson CF
Winn RF
Gardner LF
Cliff Pennington SS
Daric Barton 1B
Ryan Sweeney RF
Kurt Suzuki C
Eric Chavez DH
Kevin Kouzmanoff 3B
Gabe Gross CF
Adam Rosales 2B
Travis Buck LF

Maddux, Glavine, And Smoltz Would Have Tanked In NY Too

Oh, Joel Sherman, what are we going to do with you? In his 3UP blog post this morning, Sherman says that the Yankees "cannot be overly encouraged" by Vazquez' start last night. And to an extent, Sherman's right. It wasn't a great start, but it was a helluva lot better than his first two. And he's still just three starts into the season.

But going off on another pro-Javy screed isn't what I intend to do today. Instead, let's take a look at Sherman's parting shot:
However, keep in mind that Vazquez is the fifth high-profile pitcher to move directly from the Braves to the Yankees since the turn of the century. The first four were all free agents and all pretty much disasters as Yankees: Steve Karsay, Chris Hammond, Kyle Farnsworth and Jaret Wright. Denny Neagle and Mark Wohlers were one-team removed from the Braves, when they also came with some fanfare in trades to the Yankees, and then tanked in New York.

So maybe there is a trend here that the Yankees need to beware of ex-Brave pitchers.
Wow. Just wow. So that's why Boone Logan pitched himself into that bases loaded jam in the seventh. It's the curse of the Braves!

I don't know where to begin with this one. How about Sherman's generously broad definition of "high-profile"? Chris Hammond, really? He's high-profile? The guy was out of baseball for two full years, and out of the Majors for four, before parlaying a single comeback season in Atlanta into a deal with the Yankees. And by the way, though I was no fan of his, he posted a 2.86 ERA over his one season in pisntripes. Some disaster.

How about Steve Karsay? Karsay was very effective in 2002, his first year with the Yankees. In fact, he was so effective that Joe Torre rode him like a rented mule and essentially ended his career, missing all of 2003 and tossing only 37.2 IP over the remainder of his career.

And since when were set-up men and back-of-the-rotation starters high-profile? Who could possibly have framed these middle-of-the-road type players, who alredy had checkered histories upon arriving in the Bronx, as high-profile acquisitions? I know; the New York tabloid media, of which Sherman is a part, could.

For Sherman to even refer to this foursome as Braves pitchers is tenuous as well. Karsay spent half of one season in Atlanta, throwing 44.2 innings. Hammond was there for a year, tossing 76 frames. Farnsworth was in Atlanta for just a half season, throwing all of 27.1 innings. Jaret Wright is the most-tenured member of the group, spending a whopping 13 months in Hot Lanta and pitching 195.1 innings.

All four had brief stays in Atlanta, just as Vazquez and Logan did. Maybe that's the problem. Maybe the Yankees shouldn't acquire pitchers who spend less than two full seasons in Atlanta. Or maybe the Yankees just played a late game last night, Sherman was tired, and decided to throw some garbage at the wall to see what sticks. Or maybe Sherman was being facetious, and I'm just too dumb to figure it out.

Just to be on the safe side though, if Frank Wren calls Brian Cashman offering Tommy Hansen, Cash should just hang up. It's probably a trap.

Foggy Morning Links

Mornin' Fackers. Are you a little hazy from having burnt the "midnight oil" like Thor last night? Hopefully this small batch of heady links will rouse you from your herbally-induced malaise.
Curtis Granderson wrote about adapting to New York City living - off the field - over at Big League Stew. That's him at Target on the right. Any man who has ever shopped for bedding at a big box retailer has sported the same look on their face.

The Wezen-Ball Tater Trot Tracker has gone mainstream. It got linked by the excellent non-sports blog The Awl, has its own website and is now selling t-shirts whereby you can espouse your personal home run trot philosophy. I'm more of a "swing hard, run hard" kind of a guy.

Mike Fast at the Hardball Times looked at the difference in velocity between pitchers throwing from the windup and the stretch and found that there almost isn't one. Tango thinks that although the velocity might be comparable, pitching from the stretch could be an more inherently stressful motion. Over the winter, we wondered if Javy Vazquez might lose a little something from the stretch since he pitches poorly with runners on base. When I get some time, I will try to look at the data and see if I can find anything of interest.

Jonah Keri made his second appearance on the BS Report with Bill Simmons. I haven't listened to it yet, but it's going to be hard to top the first one wherein he singlehandedly converted Simmons to sabermetrics (only a slight exaggeration).

More podcasting: a new version of FanGraphs audio is up.

"Pardon my language, but f**k the Yankees."

Unlike every member of the Boston media, Patrick Sullivan took a look at the state of the Red Sox from a rational perspective. It's not all doom and gloom, but it ain't exactly cupcakes and ponies, either. Whether or not their first 14 games are indicative of how good they are or not, they've dug themselves a significant hole.

Further proof that Johnny Damon is a 6 year old boy in a 36 year old man's body: he's growing a mohawk.

Craig Calcaterra, who was at the forefront of the "NL Pitcher tests positive for PEDs" fracus yesterday notes that 10 of the last 16 PED suspensions have been handed down to pitchers and wonders while it's still the sluggers who are the primary targets of public shame.

You probably saw this yesterday somewhere else, but it's still worth noting that CC Sabathia stopped by his hometown and attended a Little League game at a field he helped renovate.

The first batch of UZR ratings are in. Proceed with small sample size freak outs... ZOMG Johnny Damon is now the greatest left fielder EVAR!
It might be a little slow around here today, but check back this later afternoon. If nothing else, we'll have the game preview for you this evening.

Game 13 Recap

1. Gio Gonzalez looked like he was about to get out of the first inning unscathed, but the Yankees mounted a two out rally. Mark Teixeira roped a double down the left field line, then Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano followed with two consecutive walks. Up next, Jorge Posada grounded a ball to first that hit Daric Barton in the chest. The ball fell to the ground in plenty of time for Barton to scoop it up and run to first but he couldn't convert the play as Mark Teixeira came around to score and the inning was extended. So obviously, the play was scored a... base hit for Posada.

While Posada's single was somewhat cheap, Nick Swisher followed it with a clean, two-run base knock, scoring A-Rod and Cano and putting the Yanks ahead 3-0.

2. After retiring Jeter to begin the 5th, Gonzalez issued two more walks to Johnson and Teixeira. That was the end of his night as Bob Geren called on Craig Breslow to face A-Rod. Breslow laid an 88 mph, 2-1 fastball down the middle and A-Rod absolutely hammered it to left-center to make it 6-0 Yanks.

3. Javier Vazquez allowed a home run to Travis Buck to lead off the 5th inning and another two run shot to Kurt Suzuki in the 6th. He was replaced by Boone Logan with the Yanks leading 6-3.

4. Old friend Edwar Ramirez pitched the top of the 7th, loaded the bases with three walks but managed to escape the inning after allowing only one run. 7-3 Bombers.

5. Logan got into some trouble for the Yanks in the bottom half of the inning, loading the bases on an infield single, a clean base hit and a borderline walk. Joba Chamberlain came in and struck out Kevin Kouzmanoff to end the inning.

Joba came back to pitch the 8th inning and sat the A's down in order with two K's and a weak grounder to first. Damaso Marte started the 9th but Joe Girardi called on Mariano Rivera after a 5 pitch walk to Jake Fox. Mo got a strike out and a double play, ballgame over, Yanks win 7-3.

IFs, ANDs & BUTs
  • Vazquez worked in and out of trouble in the 2nd. He allowed a single to Kurt Suzuki and a double to Eric Chavez to start the inning. Javy got his first out when Mark Ellis chopped a ball down the third baseline and Suzuki, going on contact, was gunned down at home, putting runners on the corners with one out. Travis Buck obliged Vazquez with a double play, but an unconventional one. Buck lined it back to Vazquez, who tossed it to first to catch Mark Ellis to far off the base.

  • Aside from the two long balls, Javy pitched pretty well. He threw more than 2/3 of his pitches for strikes and broke off some nasty sliders and curves, the likes of which we haven't seen in his previous outings this season. Both home runs came on fastballs, so he likely still needs some work in that department. Regardless, he's on the board with a pretty good start and a victory.

  • Umpire Ed Rapuano had to leave the game after being hit with a foul tip. It appeared that he was okay at first but left the game under his own power a batter after it happened and was taken to a local hospital for a CT scan.

  • The song choice last night was somewhat prophetic as the Yankees drew 10 walks, 5 of them against Gonzalez (4 of which came around to score).

  • A-Rod and Robinson Cano(!!!) both drew three bases on balls.

  • No Yankee had more than one hit.

  • Joba touched 96 on the radar gun a couple times and his fastball sat in the mid-90's. This was one of his very good nights as he notched 3 K's in 1 1/3 perfect innings.

  • A refreshing change from the series against Texas: no one made an error!

  • The Yanks are now on a 5 game winning streak.
Tonight's game is another late one as Phil Hughes takes on Ben Sheets at 10:05 PM.