Friday, April 23, 2010

Game 16: Black Magic Woman

For the most part, the 2009 Yankees vanquished their past demons with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. After an embarassing pre-All-Star Game three game sweep at the Big A left them 2-4 against the Halos for the year, the Yankees took three of the final four meetings between the clubs, finishing the season series at .500 despite a run differential of negative ten.

Of course, everything that matters with the Yankees is measured through the lens of post-season success, and in that regard, the 2009 Yankees fared even better against their west coast nemesis. A six game victory over the Angels in the ALCS didn't erase what happened in 2002 or 2005, but at the very least the psyche of the fan base should be soothed knowing the Yankees have had the most recent laugh, and that the Angels do not in fact hold some sort of mystical power over the Yanks. And if that wasn't enough to convince the perpetually pessimistic, taking two out of three in convincing fashion in the Bronx last week should.

One Angel with whom the Yankees haven't had trouble is taking the mound tonight. Ervin Santana surrendered eight hits, five walks, five runs, and two longballs in just five and two thirds during the Home Opener last week. The Yankees roughed him up similarly in his lone 2009 start against them, using two walks and nine hits, three of them homers, to rough him up for five runs (four ER) in six innings of work. While Santana did pitch well in four ALCS relief appearances last year, earning one of the Angels two wins, he also got saddled with the loss when Maicer Izturis threw away Game Two. For his regular season career, Santana is 5-3 in nine starts against the Yankees, but with an unsightly 5.50 ERA and 1.57 WHIP.

Opposing Santana will be A.J. Burnett. Much like his 2009 at large, Burnett's appearances against the Angels last year were a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde act. His April no decision at the Stadium saw him give up four runs over seven innings. In September in southern California, he struck out eleven and allowed only two runs, but allowed ten baserunners in just 5.2 IP. In the post-season, Burnett tossed 6.1 innings of two run ball in Game Two, but did not factor in the decision. His Molina Magic wore off in Game Five, as the Angels roasted for six runs in six innings. Burnett missed the Angels in last week's series, so this will mark his first 2010 appearances against the Halos. For his career, Burnett is 2-2 with a 4.43 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in six starts against the Angels.

Both pitchers are coming off strong outings. Following his poor Yankee Stadium outing last week, Santana tossed a four hit, no walk, one run complete game against the Blue Jays, striking out six. Meanwhile, Burnett has been good in all three starts this year, entering tonight at 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA through 19 innings of work, most recently tossing seven shutout innings against Texas Saturday. As River Ave. Blues pointed out earlier today, Burnett has also done a good job of limiting his walks thus far this year, but his strikeouts are also down.

Despite the Yankees exploits against the Angels since last year's All-Star Break, we're still likely to hear about the team's past struggles against the Angels, and particularly about their difficulties at the Big A. Someone may even point out the Yankees did lose two of the three ALCS games contested there last October. As far as I'm concerned though, the Yankees have the upper hand right now. The spell Santana and the Angels held over the Yankees has been broken.

I got a Black Magic Woman
I got a Black Magic Woman
Yes, I got a Black Magic Woman
She's got me so blind I can't see
But she's a Black Magic Woman and
she's trying to make a devil out of me

Don't turn your back on me baby
Don't turn your back on me baby
Yes, don't turn your back on me baby
Don't mess around with your tricks
Don't turn your back on me baby
'cause you might just wake up my magic sticks


Everything is back to normal after yesterday's creativity.
Jeter SS
Johnson DH
Teixeira 1B
Rodriguez 3B
Cano 2B
Posada C
Granderson CF
Swisher RF
Gardner LF

Jeff Mathis has been DL'd with a broken wrist since we've last seen the Halos. As such, Bobby Wilson gets the nod behind the plate tonight. Mike Scioscia must really not like Mike Napoli. Maicer Izturis plays third tonight as perpetual prospect Brandon Wood continues to struggle at the Big League level.
Erick Aybar SS
Bobby Abreu RF
Torii Hunter CF
Hideki Matsui DH
Kendry Morales 1B
Juan Rivera LF
Maicer Izturis 3B
Howie Kendrick 2B
Bobby Wilson C

Friday Afternoon Link Party

How convenient, I only sleep with supermodels...
The Steinbrenners aren't the only ones with Yankee affiliations involved with thoroughbred horse racing. Joe Torre owns a horse called Homeboykris (I'm guessing he didn't name it) that has a good chance of running in the Kentucky Derby.

Over at the NYT bats blog, Sean Forman took a look at marathon games that used lots of pitchers (the Mets/Cardinals epic had 19, the second most since 1952).

Tonight, NYY Stadium Insider and Bronx Goblin are putting together a outing at Finnerty's on 2nd Ave between 13th ad 14th for the Yankees game. They've got some excellent specials so if you are in the city tonight and don't have plans, check it out.

Although the series with the A's is over, it's still worth checking out this piece by Jack Curry about Billy Beane and the expectations in Oakland.

Via BBTF, a 12 year old girl from Plant City, Florida threw back to back perfect games in Little League (yes, against the boys). Chelsea Baker primarily relies on her fastball now, but also learned a knuckleball from fellow Plant City resident Joe Niekro before he passed away in 2006. The knuckler could be her ticket to making it to the higher levels of the game, a la Eri Yoshida.

In honor of Earth Day yesterday, Steve Slowinski from DRays Bay collected a few ways that you can enjoy baseball more sustainably. My personal suggestion: don't start drinking hard liquor until the third inning.

Remember when the umpires weren't granting hitters time in the Yanks vs. Red Sox series earlier this year? Well they did it to the Rays too and Joe Maddon isn't happy.

Max Marchi ran down platoon splits by pitch type over at the Hardball Times.

The musically-named AAA affiliate of the Brewers - the Nashville Sound - is having Roy Orbison Night tonight. "The first 1.000 fans through the turnstiles will receive free Roy sunglasses and a case of unrequited heartache". (h/t Iracane on GReader)

Late Monday night, Meech from The Fightins put out a call for help, asking if anyone had DVR'd the Phillies game on ESPN. The reason? There was some accidental nudity on the broadcast (obviously NSFW because of the bewbs).

Speaking of the Phils, Roy Halladay is off to an almost identical start to the one that Cliff Lee had for them last year, Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley takes a closer look at Doc.

Dave Allen at FanGraphs looks at how Ben Sheets shifts on the rubber and throws his pitches to right handed and left handed batters from distinctly different spots. There was a Yankee reliever who used this approach in the past couple years but I can't recall who it is now.

Over at the Hardball Times, Pat Andriola did a good job of rounding up some opinions on Bryce Harper's supposed character issues. Dave Cameron, Tom Tango, Rob Neyer and Keith Law all weigh in on Kevin Goldstein's initial take.

This is non-baseball, but the Giants selected pass rushing defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul with the 15th pick of the NFL Draft last night and are apparently not going to be trading Osi Umenyiora. Is Jerry Reese saying this to salvage some trade value for Osi? Is this like the Yankees stocking their farm system with catching prospects or Matt Millen habitually picked wide receivers for the Lions. Obviously somewhere in between, but the Giants now have 5 good defensive ends. It doesn't take a geometer to figure out that's probably a bit excessive.
Hang in there. Only a couple hours left.

Everyone Has An Opinion About A-Rod & Dallas Braden

Good morning, Fackers. You'd think that a game with a triple play would be the enduring topic of conversation stemming from the game yesterday afternoon, but alas it is not.

By now you've probably seen or read about what happened between Alex Rodriguez and Dallas Braden just before Robinson Cano grounded into an inning ending double play in the top of the 6th inning yesterday, but if not, here is Chad Jennings' breakdown (with audio) and the most complete video explanation I could find:

Let's see what people are saying about it:

I thought it was pretty funny, actually.
The guy was tasting himself too long to apologize.
It was very common (to observe the rule) in the '40s, '50s and '60s. Bob Gibson was very well versed in protecting what he called his office. He told people to say the ... out of my office. Had that been Gibson on the mound, A-Rod would have picked himself off the grass to get back to first. He would have decked him. No question about it.

#2: Alex Rodriguez is one of two types of player: A guy who’s profoundly ignorant of much of the Code, or a guy who actively disdains it.
I've never heard of such a rule. To be honest, people are always coming up with unwritten rules that you're not supposed to do something that they don't happen to like, but usually, it's some old manager who is upset about a kid bunting to break up a no-hitter or something. THAT'S annoying, but when it's a fairly anonymous player springing an unwritten rule on a 34-year-old Hall of Famer who has been on the All-Star team since Dallas Braden was in the 6th grade. . .well, what can you say?
I've never heard of the unwritten rule about not walking on the mound, but I want to think less of A-Rod for it all the same if that makes any sense. Mostly I just want someone to recut the video of Braden jawing at Rodriguez with the audio from the "get off my f------ obstacle" scene from "Full Metal Jacket" because that would be cool.
No, the Yankees won't be intimidated by Dallas Braden or anyone else. They're too good, too experienced, too confident. But Braden wasn't yelling at the Yankees. Not really. He was yelling at himself, and at his teammates. Players have won MVP Awards for such things.
Kevin Kaduk:
On one hand, it's nice for A's fans to see that one of their young guns won't cede any ground or be intimidated by one of the best players on the defending world champs. I'm also always up for any time a baseball player breaks cliche-mode and goes off the script.

But on the other, there's something to be said for knowing your spot in the game and earning enough capital to call out a perennial All-Star over something so petty.
Keith Hernandez:
“I don’t know if there is an unwritten rule, but I would never do that.”
SoSHially Unacceptable (commenter at BBTF):
Not having heard of this rule either, I called my buddy who pitched a couple years in the minors. I asked him what he would have done in this situation, and he basically said he would have reacted the same way as Braden. And, he added, he wouldn't have thought any player in the majors would even consider running across the mound, knowing how pitchers would react.

And for what it's worth, he's a big Yankee fan.
Dan Reiner from Bronx Baseball Daily:
Now, being a pitcher myself, I’d understand if Braden got slightly upset. But for him to scream at Alex and proceed to throw a Carlos Zambrano-like tantrum in the dugout is a little much in my opinion.
Dude's played in a grand total of 65 MLB games, and all of a sudden, he's the enforcer of all the unwritten rules of baseball? Please.
Add it to the list of lowlights for A-Rod. He will never get it. The two teams don't face each other again until July, but pitchers seem to remember these things.
In regards to the last one, Braden is 6' 1", 190 and throws 85 MPH. It would likely not be in his best interest to retaliate.

I think this boils down to two points. A-Rod probably shouldn't have run over the mound. It probably takes less effort just to jog around it. There is a disembodied voice in the clip above (Barry Larkin?) that suggests there's some sort of gamesmanship involved on A-Rod's behalf, but I tend to doubt that. I think it was just a thoughtless mistake. If he was trying to intimidate him, I doubt he would have just played dumb afterwards. The dismissive hand waive in the clip above says it all.

The other half is that Braden threw a complete temper tantrum over this, kicking stuff on the way back to the dugout after already having said his piece at A-Rod. We get it buddy, you feel disrespected. But it was CC Sabathia's mound for the other halves of the innings too. It's a purely symbolic thing and it's your problem if you let yourself get all worked up about it.

If that was A-Rod's goal, he certainly succeeded, but the end result was Cano's double play ball, so it backfired in the grand scheme of things. Let's just hope this is a dead issue. I don't want there to be an injuries or suspensions that result from this the next time the teams meet in July.