Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Is Joel Sherman Having a Bad Day?

As part of the Post's MLB season preview today, Joel Sherman had to write mini-columns about 6 things fans can expect from the Mets and the Yankees this year. I almost shit when I read Sherman's expectations for the Yankees. I'm not going to copy the whole article but you can find it here if you're looking for a downer to your day.

Holy Christ! Talk about doom and gloom. If you read through all 6 parts, basically what Joel is saying is that Joba, A.J., Andy, Granderson, Gardner, and Nick Johnson are going to play like shit.

Well thanks for that, Joel. Is anything good going to happen this season? If all that stuff came true I think the Yanks would be hard pressed to win 85-90 games let alone the division and World Series. Why don't you predict a plague of locusts and 40 days and nights of rain while you're at it?

Now I know Sherman has to write pieces like that as part of the previews and it's all meant to be in fun, but throw us a bone here, dude. You bury the point about A-Rod and Teix having MVP-caliber seasons and then don't even mention anybody else. What about CC? What about Jeter? What about Mo? What about the rest of the bullpen? Don't be afraid to make a few good predictions here and there. Have a little faith, Joel. Have a little faith!

I did like that bit about Jesus stepping in and mashing from Day 1 at catcher and at DH. You can feed me those goodies 25/8 and I'm eating all that shit up.

The power of Montero compels you!!

P.S.- If the Yankees traded Joba, Ace, and Austin Romine for John Danks I would send a pipe bomb to Brian Cashman's house.

Yankees 2010 Season Preview: The Rotation

After the disaster that was 2008, the Yankees went out in the '08-'09 offseason and spent nearly a quarter billion dollars to improve their starting pitching. The results of that spending spree (CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Andy Pettitte) were the key cogs in last season's rotation and the only cogs throughout the postseason, leading the Yankees to their first World Series title since 2000.

With the organization's new dedication to keeping their already astronomical payroll in line, there weren't any big blockbuster deals this offseason, but the Yankees still managed to strengthen their rotation for 2010 with a trade and a promotion from within. Those new faces combined with last year's Big 3 should form one of the strongest rotations in baseball.

CC Sabathia returns as the ace and anchor of the rotation after a great first year in pinstripes. His performance as the regular season progressed and even more in the postseason signified the completion of his transformation from hard-throwing kid to polished Major League pitcher. Gone are the days of CC just rocking and firing; now he has mastered his off-speed pitches, thinks more on the mound, and paces himself throughout each start, knowing there is always another battle to fight. That newfound approach to the game was especially important in keeping Sabathia fresh through last season as there were concerns about his size and conditioning becoming an issue.

Having already justified his $161-million contract with an ALCS MVP and a World Series ring in his first year, Sabathia should be even better in 2010. His cutter and changeup were vital pitches for him in the postseason and should serve him well this year as CC spent the better part of Spring Training working on getting the feel for those back. When his slider is on it's virtually unhittable, especially when it's diving to the back foot of right-handed hitters, and when needed, CC can still ratchet up the heat on his fastball. He's the most complete, dominant pitcher on the staff with a temperament perfectly suited to pitching under the bright lights of Yankee Stadium, and is looking at another season with 200+ innings, 15-20 wins, an ERA in the low-to-mid 3.00's, and more consideration for AL Cy Young.

A.J. Burnett had a season of ups and downs last year and will be looking for more consistency in 2010. While some of his overall peripheral numbers were good in '09, Burnett too often switched between throwing 7 or 8 shutout innings and then going out next time and getting yanked after giving up 6 or 7 runs in 3 innings. Burnett's issues were all based around command or lack thereof and those command problems were reflected in his high walk and wild pitch totals. Much like CC, A.J. has dynamite stuff and when he's on his fastball-curveball combo is as devastating as any in the game. Burnett's problem, as it's always been, is being on and staying on.

Burnett found a security blanket with Jose Molina after clashing with Jorge earlier in the year, but this year he won't have that benefit and has already made great efforts to work with Jorge and iron out their differences from last year. Early reviews from both of them and from observers are that they are on the same page and working together much better than last year. That fact, along with A.J. spending a lot of time working on improving his changeup during Spring Training should help him fix some of last year's problems. Burnett is a horse, so the innings and strikeouts are always going to be there. If he can cut down on the walks and wild pitches and use his changeup to keep batters off-balance and not sit on the heater or the curve, he can improve greatly on last year's numbers and potentially give the Yankees the best 1-2 punch in the league.

Just like Derek Jeter yesterday, there isn't much you have to say about Andy Pettitte. If A.J. Burnett is the Forrest Gump "box o' chocolates" in the Yankee rotation, then Andy is the pack of Bazooka bubble gum; you know exactly what you're going to get with him.

With his velocity long diminished, Andy has transitioned seamlessly to being primarily a finesse pitcher, kind of Tom Glavine-y if you will (and I think you will). His cutter is now his best pitch and Andy uses it to induce ground balls and swings and misses from righties. His curveball can still be a killer too when he's got good command of it, and Andy mixes in enough 4-seam fastballs, changeups, and some sinkers to keep batters on their toes every time they step in the box. Because he has the ability to throw any pitch at any time in the count, you've either got to guess right or have him miss his target completely to get good wood on the ball.

Andy is the elder statesmen of the rotation, but last season he got stronger as the season wore on, continuing all the way through the playoffs where he pitched on short rest. He is a big injury risk this year at his age and it would be a shock if he put up the same kind of numbers he did last year, but with improved depth behind him in the rotation and a stacked bullpen, the Yankees don’t need and probably aren't expecting him to. Anything close to what he did in '09 is gravy for the Yankees, as long as they have him as healthy as possible for the postseason.

The new guy to the party this year, Javier Vazquez, is someone who's been here before. After a night-and-day 2004, Javy was shipped out of town and now comes back after traveling to Arizona, Chicago, and Atlanta a more mature and polished pitcher than he was before he left.

Just like Burnett, Vazquez has always had the stuff to be successful. And just like Burnett, Javy's success comes down to being consistent and mentally focused. Now that he has spent some time working on his craft, Javy has changed his approach on the mound to include more off-speed pitches and that new approach brought him his greatest season of his career last year with the Braves. He likely won’t put up those numbers this year being back in the AL East, but it is certainly not out of this world to expect him to pitch in the mid-to-high 3.00's in ERA and log 200+ innings. Any team in baseball would kill to get that kind of production from their 4th starter and the Yankees would be ecstatic about that as well after what Chien-Ming Wang did last year. Nobody is expecting Vazquez to compete for the Cy Young, but an above-average year and 12-15 wins aren't out of the question.

Last but not least, the winner of the rotation sweepstakes, Phil Hughes. Phil has been one of the crown jewels of the Yankee system since what seems like about 1987, but between injuries, rotation depth, and competition, has never been able to firmly entrench himself on the staff. Last year Hughes found a home and great success (cue the Borat thumbs up) in the bullpen after being shifted there to make room for the returning CMW. While the fewer innings pitched as a result of being a reliever last year will force the Yankees to limit Hughes' innings this season, I feel like the experience and confidence he gained out of the 'pen should help him as he makes the transition back to the rotation.

Hughes, like many other Yankee pitchers, spent the better part of Spring Training working on his changeup, which will give him 4 pitches to work with as a starter. His cutter and curveball were both greatly improved last year, and if he can continue to master the changeup and develop consistent command of his fastball, Hughes can be a more than serviceable 5th starter.

He's still one of the youngest players in the AL (he's only 23; that's younger than me for Christ's sake!) so there's no rush to perform at an All-Star level, and we will undoubtedly see Sergio Mitre a/o Alfredo Aceves for a few starts to keep his innings down, but barring another injury setback I see Hughes finally settling into a starter's role this year and moving towards becoming the top-of-the-rotation stud that the Yankees have envisioned him as for the last 4-5 years.

Projected Rotation:

1) CC Sabathia
2) A.J. Burnett
3) Andy Pettitte
4) Javy Vazquez
5) Phil Hughes

Overall this rotation is much better than what the Yanks opened 2009 with. They have 3 guys capable of throwing 200+ innings and 2 other guys who can easily get 150-170 innings of above-league average output. The only lingering concern could be the after-effects of last postseason's workload on the top 3, but steps have already been taken this spring to limit workloads, especially Pettitte's, in an effort to ease that concern. One thing is for sure, this year the rotation has fewer question marks than last year, and with how last year turned out that's a good sign for 2010.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Yankees 2010 Season Preview: The Lineup

After making it back to the promised land and winning the World Series last year, the Yankees enter 2010 minus a few familiar faces and plus a few new (and old) ones. The 2 biggest departures were from the starting lineup in the form of Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. But through a trade and a cash-friendly free agent signing, the Yanks were able to re-tool the lineup for this season and should sport a group potentially just as potent, if not more so, than last year's model. Here's how it breaks down:

Catcher: One position that had no turnover was behind the plate, where the Yankees will open another season with their unquestioned clubhouse leader, Jorge Posada, manning the dish. At an age where most catchers are taking positions in the broadcast booth or simply being taken out behind the old barn and shot, Jorge continues to put up solid offensive numbers, a true testament to just how tough and talented a player he is.

Jorge's decline is expected to take a more steep, dramatic turn this season and the Yankees have planned accordingly to try to limit his games behind the plate. Even with the decline and fewer at-bats, Posada should put up above-average numbers from the catcher position and the Yankees will work to keep his bat in the lineup as much as possible. His defense is a weakness, but it was never a strength to begin with, so as long as he continues to gel with A.J. Burnett and call a good game for the pitching staff, the Yanks will take the good with the bad and look forward to getting another productive season from Jorge in what could be his last as a full-time catcher.

Designated Hitter: The Yanks go from a slow, oft-injured, patient hitter with streaky power in 2009 to a slower, more often-injured, more patient hitter with even streakier power in 2010. Nick Johnson isn't new to the bright lights of the Bronx, and since leaving New York in 2003 he has proven himself to be one of the most patient hitters in the game. With Johnson, the Yankees know exactly what they're getting, the only question is how much of it will they get if Johnson spends a lot of the season on the DL.

Johnson's all-world eye at the plate makes him an ideal candidate to bat 2nd, which is exactly where the Yankees plan to use him. Kevin Long has already worked on tweaking his swing to build more leg drive into it, which should help increase Johnson's power and allow him to take advantage of the short porch in right field. He has next to no speed on the basepaths, but with the 2 mashers hitting behind him, there should be enough balls sailing into the gaps and over the fence to lessen the worry about Nick The Not Quick clogging the bases. If he stays healthy, and that is a BIG if, Johnson can easily replicate the production the Yankees got from Godzilla last season.

Infield: After putting up pretty spiffy numbers across the board last season, the Yankee infield is poised to have an even bigger year in 2010. Between Teix now being more comfortable and adjusted to New York, A-Rod's hip being back to full health, Cano being another year older and hopefully more mature, and Jeter just being Derek Jeter, the Yankee infield has the potential to put up historic numbers this season and make a case for "Best Infield of All-Time" status.

Teix had an MVP-caliber year in '09 and if he can avoid repeating the horrid April he had last year, his numbers could be even better this season; I'm talking .300/40/135-territory here. Throw in the fact that he's the best defensive first baseman in the game and that's really all you need to say about him.

Despite the steroid scandal and the hip surgery, The A-Horse still managed to hit 30 homers and drive in 100 runs last year playing on one leg. He followed that up with a monster postseason that erased all the talk of him being a choke artist and now he comes into 2010 with his hip back to 100% and his mind just as clear and carefree as it was last year. A-Rod has been mashing the ball of late this spring and all indications are he is heading back to more A-Rodian territory in the stats department, which could make the MVP debates this season even more intriguing.

The wild card in this 3-4-5 lineup trio is Cano. After years of putting up really good but not great numbers, 2010 is the year Cano is being looked at to finally put it all together and have the type of season everyone believes he is capable of. He is being given a big opportunity/responsibility as the 5th hitter in the order, and should get plenty of chances to shed his growing "can't hit in the clutch" label by hitting behind A-Rod. Cano has also been scalding the ball this spring, a good sign for someone who has been a notoriously slow starter his entire career. If Cano stays focused and a little more patient at the plate all season long, he could easily drive in 100-110 runs and compete for a Gold Glove. The toolbox is full, the foundation is set, now it's time for Cano to start putting the tools to work.

Last but not least is El Capitan, Derek Jeter. There isn't much to debate or guess about when it comes to Jeter. At this stage in his career, you know what you're going to get from him. With age starting to factor into his performance a bit, I don't expect Jeter to replicate last season's numbers offensively or defensively, but he should still produce at an above-average level and set the table for the heart of the order. Another .300+-average, 200+-hit, 100+-run season is not out of the question as he plays for his new contract.

Outfield: It's not quite a complete changeover from '09, but with the Granderson-Gardner duo replacing Damon-Melky, there will certainly be a new look to the Yankee outfield, a look that should result in better defense thanks to improved speed and arm strength in left and center.

Brett Gardner will start the season in left, but could see some time in center as the season progresses. He is still a bit of an unknown commodity and the Yanks signing Randy Winn and Marcus Thames is a sign of their questioning whether or not Gardner can be a productive full-time player. Defensively he is a whizz in outfield and will help a staff chock full of flyball pitchers. Offensively he doesn't have a lot of pop, but makes up for that with his blinding speed. When he is on base, Gardner can create havoc for the opposing team, and he has been working on his bunting this spring to maximize the value of that speed. Being fully recovered from last year's wrist injury should also help improve his hitting. Personally, I think Gardner is underrated and will end up being very productive this year from the 9-spot, but only time will tell.

Curtis Granderson takes over in center field and even at his worst he is an upgrade over Melky Cabrera. The 2 biggest questions about C-Grand were his route taking in the outfield and his ability to hit lefty pitching. So far this spring he has looked better than advertised in both of those departments, and working all year with Kevin Long should lead to continued improvement at the plate. Granderson cracked 30 homers last year and could hit even more in the right field jet stream at the new Stadium. I expect him to have a solid season and endear himself to the Yankee fans the same way Damon did during his time in Pinstripes.

The one holdover from last year is Nick Swisher in right. Last year, Swishalicious' production made him a steal with what the Yankees gave up to get him, and he has already worked with Kevin Long in the offseason to improve his swing and up his average this year. I don't expect another 29 homers and 82 RBIs from Swish in 2010, but he should still put up very good numbers from the 8-spot and play above-average right field. His patience at the plate should help Gardner in the 9-spot and create problems for opponents as walks will allow the lineup to turn back over to Jeter and Johnson at the top.

Projected Lineup:

1) Derek Jeter- SS
2) Nick Johnson- DH
3) Mark Teixeira- 1B
4) Alex Rodriguez- 3B
5) Robinson Cano- 2B
6) Jorge Posada- C
7) Curtis Granderson- CF
8) Nick Swisher- RF
9) Brett Gardner- LF

I just jizzed a little in my pants looking at that. My guess is most AL pitchers pooped in their's.

Monday, March 29, 2010

As The Joba Turns...

Does anybody know what to do with Joba? According to Mark Hale's article in today's Post, apparently not.

- On Saturday, Yankee senior director of pro personnel Billy Eppler... said on WFAN that he doubted Chamberlain... would even be in the rotation derby next season.

- Also, pitching coach Dave Eiland told the Star-Ledger of Newark yesterday that, in his mind, Chamberlain would not pitch in the rotation at all this season and that going forward "he's in the bullpen and he's there to stay, period."

- Cashman, though, insisted the Yankees had not come to any decision yet about Chamberlain's 2011 role.
"We haven't had any team meeting and said, 'All right, he's a reliever for the rest of his life,' " Cashman said. "No, we didn't do that. That's never been discussed."

- "Listen, if I'm asked the question, I'm not getting into '011. I'm dealing with '010," he said. "So is it possible he can be in the rotation? Yeah, I'd say it's all possible."

- Eppler did say on the radio that, "If we were in a different setting, a different situation, you might see Joba Chamberlain in a rotation."

- ... if one of the current Yankees relievers were needed to make a start at the beginning of the year, manager Joe Girardi said it's more likely to be Alfredo Aceves or Sergio Mitre than Chamberlain.

- "It sounds like the Joba starter-relief thing will be forever," he [Cashman] said. "How about we just add the little word to the shirt and have a new shirt -- Joba Rules Forever. Leave it like that."

So basically Joba is a starter pitching out of the bullpen this season and he isn't going to be in the rotation next year. He's going to be in the bullpen permanently, but a decision hasn't been made on his future and he might be in the rotation next year. The team isn't discussing plans for 2011 because they are focused on 2010 but it is possible Joba will be in the rotation in 2011 even though he won't be considered for a starting role this season and there is going to be a constant starter-reliever debate for his entire career, except the team isn't discussing the future yet. Everybody got that? Good.

At this point, the best thing to do with Joba might be to have him cryogenically frozen and stuck in some sub-zero temperature vault next to Ted Williams' head in Arizona until the Yankees can come to a conclusion as to what exactly he is and what exactly they plan on using him for moving forward. They've already fucked him up bad enough in the last 3 years and there's no sense in risking setting him back any further until everybody can come to a decision on what role he is going to be used in and then stick with that decision.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

What's Coming Up This Week At AB4AR

Just in case nobody noticed yet, I'll out myself and admit that yeah, I haven't written any season preview stuff yet.  But you know what?  Why bother when Spring Training isn't over yet?  The official 25-man roster isn't official yet and people could still get hurt before then, so I'll let the other, more legitimate blogs with complete staffs handle the projections for everybody and I'll handle my business this week when I know exactly what the team is going to look like on Opening Night.

So there, I knew what I was doing all along.  With that, here's how the season preview posts will break down this week:

Tuesday: The Lineup

Wednesday: The Rotation

Thursday: The Bullpen

Friday: The Bench

And it all culminates with what will surely be an award-winning live blog during the Opening Night game against the Sawx.  So keep one eye glued to the tube that night and the other glued to your computer screen for the live updates as the game happens.  Don't be afraid to join in and comment as the game goes on.  Will all that focus on electronics be bad for your eyes?  Probably.  Will it put you at risk to get some kind of cancer from all radiation from the screens?  Maybe.  But it will be worth it for the level of entertainment you'll get.

So there's the schedule for this week.  Adjust your schedules accordingly.

Yankee Blogosphere Linkapalooza For The Week That Was (March 22-28)

Here's another quick run through of the best of the best of this week's offerings from Yankee Blogland.  Only one more week until the season officially starts and I still have to do all my season previews.  Oh well, let's get into it.

- Chad Jennings at LoHud sits down for 5 questions with the Almighty Jesus.  I love the kid's attitude: simple, straightforward, determined to work hard and do what he has to do to become a solid Major League catcher.  Woulda been awesome if he threw out a "Nobody fucks with the Jesus!" line though.

- Matt Imbrogno at TYU compares David Robertson to other past one-year bullpen wonders and projects Robertson's 2010 season.  I love Robertson and think he's poised for a big year, possibly big enough to grant himself a chance to become the full-time setup man, but goddamn did it scare me to see his name next to the likes of Brian Bruney and Jose Veras.

- Joe Pawlikowski at River Ave. Blues reviews Cash's greatest steals in the trade market and some of his biggest oopsies.  Shows just how tough the life of a GM is.  The line between striking gold and getting the equivalent to a flaming bag of dog shit is so thin.

- Dan Reiner at Bronx Baseball Daily delivers a quick profile of Freddy Sez, the old dude who constantly bangs the pot at all Yankee Stadium games.  Someday, I want that job.

-Jay at Fack Youk carves up MassLive writer Ron Chimelis FJM-style for Chimelis' ludicrous piece about how Spring Training is better than the regular season.  Anybody that actually believes that should have their right to watch, discuss, and write about baseball revoked.  Kudos to Jay for calling that out.

- Lenny Neslin from LenNY's Yankees gives us a sneak peek at Jeter's new Air Jordan cleats.  I don't even play baseball and I wish I had a pair of those.  I would wear the shit out of those cleats around the office.

- Mike Axisa at River Ave. Blues projects and analyzes the Yankees defense for 2010.  It should be interesting to see how much A-Rod, Jeter, and Jorge decline.  Overall, I expect the defense to be better than it was last year, just as the projections show.  The Yankees won't blow you away with Web Gems, but they shouldn't botch games because of their D either.

- Matt from TYU makes another appearance with an appropriately titled rant about the results of the Joba-Hughes situation.  I agree with his points about the Yankees mismanaging both of these guys over the years, but the fact is Hughes pitched better than Joba in Spring Training so he earned the spot over him.

- Cliff Corcoran at Bronx Banter delivers a dose of reality to all us common men and women who are Yankee fans in talking about his ordeal getting tickets to a game.  As much as I love the Yankees, it is a little disheartening to read stories like this and think about how difficult it is going to be to get tickets to a game on the rare times I am back home on the East Coast.

- And lastly, to end on a bit of a sad note, here's video of the last tier of the old Yankee Stadium grandstands coming down this week.  I'll never forget some of my experiences in the old Stadium, so in a way it's cool to have all those memories come flooding back into my head as I watch this, even if it is a sad sight to see.  Bittersweet indeed.

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, Yankee fans.  Check back later tonight for the AB4AR season preview schedule for next week leading up the Opening Night.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

What Now For Joba?

Now that the 5th starter question has been answered, the next obvious question is what becomes of Joba.  The first thought would be to put him in the bullpen where he could conceivably return to his role as Mo's setup man, the role in which he has had the most success.  But there has also been talk of possibly sending to Joba to Triple-A to stay stretched out in case he is needed in the rotation.  Brian Cashman had an interesting take on Joba yesterday.

"Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Thursday he still considers Joba Chamberlain a starting pitcher even though the righthander will begin the season in the bullpen after being beaten out by Phil Hughes for the role of fifth starter.

"He's a starter in the bullpen," Cashman said in a telephone interview. "He can do both." (courtesy of News Day)

Huh?  No offense, Cash, but what the fuck are you talking about???  You can say whatever you want to say to try to help ease the bruises on Joba's ego.  I wouldn't expect anything less based on how the Yankees have handled him from Day 1.  But the cold, hard fact is Joba is not in the rotation and he's not a starting pitcher.  There is no such thing as a starter in the bullpen.  If you're in the bullpen, you're a reliever, period.

Since the time he rocketed up through the Yankees' system, there have been reasons/excuses for why Joba hasn't fourished as a starting pitcher.  After 2007 and in 2008 it was because he was getting re-used to pitching multiple innings and working on refining his off-speed stuff.  In 2009 it was that he wasn't attacking the strike zone and couldn't work his way through a lineup multiple times.  And in Spring Training 2010 it was that he still wasn't throwing enough strikes and now he can't replicate his delivery as he gets later into games.  Maybe I'm looking at it too simplistically, but none of those things seem to add up to making a quality starting pitcher, let alone a good or great one.

A lot of the issues Joba has had as a starter can be masked or eliminated as a reliever, and his track record coming out of the bullpen shows that.  As a reliever, Joba can rely primarily on his fastball and slider, and have more zip to both of them, so he doesn't need to worry about having a strong arsenal of 3 or 4 pitches.  As a reliever, he doesn't have to work his way through a lineup multiple times and doesn't have to think about what pitches to throw and when.  He can rock and fire and focus on his 2 strongest pitches, eliminating the possibility of throwing too many pitches for balls.  And as a reliever, Joba doesn't have to worry about replicating his delivery because he's only going to be out there for an inning or 2 at the most.  He can come out, work off of his adrenaline, and attack hitters with his best stuff without having to stop and focus on what he may have to do against a guy later on in the game.

Some people say that a pitcher's mentality has nothing to do with being a starter or a reliever, but I don't agree with that.  All you have to do is watch a game that Joba starts versus a game that Joba relieves in to see the difference.  The look on his face is different, his body language is different, the pace that he works at on the mound is different.  Everything about how Joba carries himself on the mound as a reliever projects  confidence whereas the way he carries himself as a starter suggests someone not quite comfortable and sure of himself in that role.

Long story short, Joba should be in the bullpen this year and for the rest of his career to come.  The experiment to make him a starter should be over.  The same logic that applies to Hughes belonging in the rotation to start the year also applies to Joba.  If he's going to be working out of the bullpen, where his skill set can be best utilized, Joba is undoubtedly one of the 12 best pitchers on the team.  And there is no point in sending him down to Triple-A to work on starting if it involves bringing up another pitcher in his place who is not better than him.

Nobody knows how long Mo is going to continue to pitch for, but the tandem of Joba and Mo in the 8th and 9th innings has the potential to be the most devestating in baseball, and the Yankees and Joba would be well served to keep them together in those roles and focus on grooming Joba to be Mo's successor rather than be the next ace of the rotation.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Buffalo: Come For Meetings With The FBI. Stay For The Wings.

So A-Rod is meeting with the Feds today in Buffalo, which, as everybody knows, is beautiful this time of year, to discuss all the steroids that Dr. Galea didn't give him and that he didn't take.

I still can't figure out why people are even wasting time speculating about what he did or didn't do or what kind of treatment he did or didn't receive from this Galea guy. There have been plenty of other athletes connected to this guy who haven't had steroids brought up, so why even bother bringing it up with The Horse? Past history, schmast history.

Unless the FBI wants to know about what kind of steroids this guy is taking...

...then there's no reason A-Rod should even be in Buffalo today (except for the wings).

Gus Johnson Is A Maniac

This has absolutely nothing to do with the Yankees, but I don't care.  Gus Johnson is the fucking man.  Seriously, I wish I had the money to hire him away from CBS just so he could follow me around and call the play-by-play of my daily life.

"Vietrogoski... looking to submit the next blog post....  CLICKS THE MOUSE!!!!!!!!!!


Thursday, March 25, 2010

How To Handle Hughes

Since this morning's announcement, plenty of other sites have touched on the possible Hughes Rules to come this year.  Given his workload over the past few years and how they handled Joba last season, it's guaranteed that Hughes is going to be on some sort of innings limitation.  Here's 3 ways that Joel Sherman thinks they should do it:

1. Barring a rainout, the Yankees do not need a fifth starter until April 17, the 11th game of the year. So the Yankees can option Hughes to the minors until then, where it will be less controversial if they limit Hughes to a couple of prescribed, four-inning starts. At the same time, while their veteran starters also are still building up arm strength and stamina, the Yankees could add an eighth reliever, probably a second lefty in Boone Logan.

2. Again barring a rainout, the Yankees have every Monday in April off. That means they need a fifth starter just twice. So they can option Hughes to the minors for a month and use either Alfredo Aceves or Sergio Mitre to start those two games.

3. This is the one the Yankees seem to be leaning toward most: Limit Hughes to four-inning starts early, and take advantage that Aceves and Mitre are both stretched out, so one of them could back up those starts. Heck, even Chamberlain is stretched out and can give the Yankees some extra innings early, and Chan Ho Park has starting in his background and can give multiple innings early, as well. (courtesy of the NY Post)

I can kind of see where Sherman is going with this, and I agree with the foundation of his logic that because the Yankees have a favorable schedule to help work with Hughes' innings limit they should use it.  But the concept of sending Hughes to the Minors to throw limited innings after he just won the competition for the 5th starter role on the Major League team is completely insane.  If they are planning on sending him, or Joba for that matter, to the Minors then what the fuck was the point in holding this Spring Training competition?

Innings limit or no innings limit, the goal this season is still to win the World Series and in going with that goal, part of the strategy is to have your 12 best pitchers on your Major League roster.  Phil Hughes has shown himself to be well in that group of the 12 best pitchers in camp, so to immediately send him to Triple-A to pitch essentially weakens the Yankee roster along with de-valuing the work Hughes did through Spring Training.  Sherman mentions possible controversy over Hughes being limited pitching the Majors.  If you ask me, I would say it's more controversial to have a guy who was deemed by his team to be a Major League-level starter pitching in the Minors.  But that's just me.

Sure his changeup got rave reviews in Spring Training, but Hughes is still perfecting it and still learning how to effectively utilize all his pitches at the Major League level.  People need to remember that this kid has less than a season's worth of career starts in the Majors and needs to get as much experience as possible so he can continue to become a more valuable member of the staff this year and moving into the future.  To send Hughes to Triple-A just for the sake of controvery over innings is like putting an AP high school student into a 7th-grade English class; sure he's going to do well and get awesome grades, but he isn't going to learn anything.  You'd be better served sending the kid to take a college course so he can be challenged and learn from his mistakes.  The Majors are the challenging college course that Hughes needs.

As far as what Hughes' limit should be, I would set it at 160-170 innings, a reasonable extension of last year's innings total.  Some are saying because he has thrown 146 innings before he should have his limit this season based on that.  Those 146 innings were thrown in 2006 and since then Hughes has dealt with a handful of various injuries and being transitioned from the rotation to the bullpen.  And he's still just 23 years old, an age where most young pitchers are still being stretched out as far as innings goes, so the smart move is to be conservative and keep his innings extension in line with last season.  I would even take it a step further and focus more on pitch limits than innings limits.  A guy can throw 50 pitches and put more stress on his arm than a guy who throws 100, depending on what kind of pitches he's throwing and how much torque and OOMPH! he's putting into his delivery.  But again that's just me.

With the depth and talent they have in their bullpen, the Yankees can afford to let Hughes start out slow and get his 4-5-inning outings out of the way early so that he can be stretched out and pitching to his max level by the time the postseason rolls around.  Aceves and Mitre can both work as long men to handle Hughes' early outings, and with the group of Marte, Joba, Park, Robertson, and Mo, the Yankees can shorten the game even more to mask the effects of Hughes' short outings and do so without overworking anybody.  Not to mention that the Yanks still have Mark Melancon, Boone Logan, Royce Ring, and Jonathan Albaladejo in the Minors to come up and fill a spot if needed.  They are more than well equipped to handle The Hughes Rules.

And just because the Yankees don't "need" a 5th starter because of the schedule doesn't mean they shouldn't use one.  Sherman states in his 1st scenario that the other Yankee starters will still be building up their strength at the beginning of the year.  Don't you think they will welcome getting an extra day of rest as they're still trying to work the kinks out and get fully ready?  I know Andy Pettitte's creaky old left arm certainly would.  Pitching the regular 5-man rotation is just as beneficial to the entire staff as having an extra reliever is, but substituting that reliever for Hughes is worse for Hughes and the staff as a whole.

So the only logical thing to do, in the interest of winning and monitoring Hughes, is to let Hughes pitch as the 5th starter in the spot that he was given by Joe.  Limit him early on, maybe the first month, month and a half, work the bullpen schedule around him, and then extend him as the season progresses so that he's a regular member of the rotation by the time the season is winding down and he's reaching his 160-170 innings.  In other words, do Scenario 3 that Sherman proposes.  If he gets hurt, then this all goes out the window.  But for starters, the Yankees have to let Hughes be a starter.  In the Majors.

We Have A Winner

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2010 New York Yankees 5th starter in the rotation, Phil Hughes.

(Another big shout out to Swanny Duckson for a job well done)

I don't want to speak for Phil, but I'm sure he thanks all the people that helped make this possible, especially his parents for believing in him and telling him he could do whatever he wanted as long as he put his mind to it and never gave up.

Now that that’s over with, let's see what the kid can do. I feel confident that this is the year Hughes puts it all together, even if the Yanks have to get creative to manage his innings properly (we'll cover that later tonight).  And if he struggles or gets hurt again, we already know the Yanks have plenty of viable options to plug in for him.

Really? Javy Vazquez Did That??

That had to be what these guys were thinking in this picture from yesterday's game.  Here's Vazquez's line: 6IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K on 77 pitches, 55 for strikes.  He kept hitters off balance all night with this off-speed stuff, which is light years better than what he threw in 2004.

Production like this from the "4th" starter makes me feel much better about the fact that A.J. Burnett can't get out of his own way as the 2nd starter.  Maybe this is a different guy than what we saw in the 2nd half of '04 after all.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Doc Gooden Arrested Again??? SHOCKER!!

According to police in Franklin Lakes, N.J and as first reported on Deadspin, Gooden has been charged with driving under the influence of unnamed drugs, leaving the scene of an accident and child endangerment after a two-car crash on Tuesday morning.

For good measure, he's also being charged with "failure to notify change of address regarding driver's license."

"I can't come back here," Gooden told the NY Post from jail. "I'd rather get shot than come back here. ... If I don't get the message this time, I never will."- May 2006 (courtesy of Big League Stew)

Well I guess somebody better load their handgun and go find Doc, because that motherfucker is going back to jail.  And you know what?  I don't feel a bit bad for the guy.
I'm sure this isn't going to be a popular post and most people might not agree with me, but fuck Doc Gooden.  Why is him getting arrested even newsworthy anymore?  The guy has been given more free lives than Catwoman and yet every time he gets picked up for possession or DUI he sings the same sad song about learning his lesson and needing to get his life together and we all get sucked into the "look at what a tortured soul Doc Gooden is; he's really a great guy with some problems" vortex of bullshit from people who can't look past his first few dynamite years with the Mets or his no-hitter with the Yankees in '96.
Don't get me wrong, I loved Doc when he was on the Yanks.  Even being just 11 at the time, I was old enough to understand that this guy had fallen flat on his face and it was good to see him get himself back together and reclaim a bit of his old magic on the mound.  One of my fondest Yankee memories is watching him pitch his no-hitter and seeing the sheer joy on his face as he basked in the atmosphere of the occassion after the 27th out had been recorded.  But those days are long gone, and with his rap sheet since then it's clear that those days were an aberration and the Doc Gooden who was picked up yesterday with a pocket full of pills at the scene of a car crash is the real Doc Gooden: a low-life, addict schmuck with no sense of responsibility as a man, no self-esteem, and no self-control.
So fuck him.  I'm done with Doc Gooden.  I don't care that he got arrested again.  I don't care that he's probably going back to jail.  And I really don't care if he ever gets his shit together because it's just plain not going to happen.  As the great Blake from Glengarry Glen Ross said, "A loser is a loser."  And Doc Gooden is a loser.  Period.  If I want to read about losers on my sports pages and blogs, I'll check how the Red Sox are doing.  I don't need Doc Gooden taking up space any more.

Yankee 5th Starter Situation Reaches Def Con 2

A nation sits breathlessly waiting as the Yankee heads, bigwigs, and decision makers prepare to gather at some secret, underground location over the next few days to decide who the 5th starter will be, and with that decision decide what path our country takes as we move forward into the new decade.

Fuck the new Health Care plan, THIS is the most important story in America right now. How the next few days were not declared national holidays is beyond me. The future of the very fabric of our country is at stake here. Airport security has been tightened, the threat level has been increased to orange, and buttholes have been tightened in anticipation. And all we are left to do is wait and ponder...

P.S.- Are the Yanks planning on doing some kind of Pope-like announcement of the decision? Blue smoke if it's Hughes? White smoke if it's Joba? What's the deal with this? Something this monumental needs more than just a press release and a Tweet confirmation from Tom Verducci.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Joba-Phil Round 3 (Or Is It 4?) Review

After yesterday I think it's safe to say that the trainer is throwing in the towel on the Joba-Hughes "Fight For the 5th Spot."  As Mike Goldberg would say, "IT IS ALLLLLL OVER!!"

Hughes pitched 4.1 innings yesterday against the Phillies, and despite giving up 3 homers (2 of them possibly wind-aided) and 4 earned runs total on 5 hits, was given heaps of praise from manager Joe Girardi on his performance with Girardi saying "I thought it was the best he had thrown." Hughes again worked his developing changeup well, Girardi calling it "...the best his changeup's been," all spring, and struck out 6 batters in his 4+ innings of work while allowing no walks, a key sign that he was attacking hitters and making good pitches, a concept that has continually eluded Joba in a starting role.

Joba worked an intra-squad game yesterday and was solid (5 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K) without being spectacular. He threw 75 pitches, 48 for strikes, and induced plenty of ground balls, also something indicative of a pitcher attacking the strike zone and making good pitches. But at the end of his day, there were no rave reviews coming from anybody, certainly not from Joe, who called Joba's outing "pretty good," and the general feeling around the blogosphere and mainstream media today is that Hughes did more yesterday to secure his spot in the rotation than Joba did to overtake him in the race.

The Yankees have an off-day Thursday so the plan is for plenty of serious discussion on Wednesday about who the 5th starter should/will be. Alfredo Aceves still can't be counted out of the mix with the job he has done this spring, but with his last outing being his worst to date and Hughes' outing yesterday being thought of so highly by the manager, one has to assume Phil is going to get the nod and Ace and Joba will be shipped out to the 'pen by the end of the week.

All in all, another decisive 10-9 round for Hughes and a likely unanimous decision on the judges' scorecards in favor of Phil Hughes as the winner of the fight for the 5th spot in the rotation.

Monday, March 22, 2010

So Long, Jamie Hoffmann. We Hardly Knew Ye

So The Hoff was let go today and now heads back to the Dodgers per the Rule 5 stipulations.  I guess a 3-23 performance will do that to you.  I mean, when Marcus Thames hits 3-28 and still gets picked over you, you know you didn't exactly put your best foot forward in Spring Training.  Christ, the guy didn't even do enough in Spring Training to get a fucking picture of himself in a Yankee uniform in Google Images; I had to use this one from the Dodgers.

I'd say this was a wasted trade on the part of the Yankees since they basically ended up with nothing.  But when ending up with nothing still means not having Brian Bruney in your bullpen or even on your roster, I'll take the good with the bad and call the deal even.

Apparently there's rumors going around that the Yanks are planning to swing a trade to bring Hoffmann back into the fold and then be able to stash him in Triple-A where he can be called upon if needed.  Call me crazy, but I don't see the benefit in giving up one of 2 pitchers who have shown themselves to be valuable at the Major League level this season (Mitre or Gaudin) for a player who wasn't even good enough to make the squad against the likes of Thames and Randy Winn.  With the number of decent performances the Yanks got from some of their young outfielders in Spring Training, they could probably find someone who could provide the same value as Hoffmann if somebody gets injured or Thames a/o Winn completely suck.

I know the Yankees have pitching depth to burn, but that still doesn't mean you just give it away for 42 cents on the dollar.  What's the rush?  Dumping Bruney is one thing, but if you're going to give up guys like Mitre or Gaudin, guys who have shown ability to contribute positively at the Major Leage level, you better damn well get something equally valuable in return.  I don't want to bag on Hoffmann, but he's just not equal value.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mauer Re-Ups with Twins, Helps Continue To Set The Table For Jesus Montero To Be Yankees' Next Catcher

Congrats to Joe Mauer on his 8-year, $184 million deal that was finalized today, complete with a full no-trade clause, that all but guarantees he will play his entire career in Minnesota.  Along with showing that the Twins are willing to and capable of keeping a key player in-house to help compete with the Red Sox and Yankees of the world, this deal also guarantees that the Twins will have at least one player on their roster for the future who won't completely shit the bed in their Divisional Series matchups against the Yankees.

The effect this deal has on the Yankees is that it scratches the biggest name off their 2010 offseason shopping list and pretty much ends all speculation about what the plan will be for The Almighty Jesus moving forward.  Despite being cut from the Major League Spring Training camp today along with Austin Romine, Joe praised Montero's work and improvement behind the plate.  Logic would dictate that this will be Jorge's last season behind the plate, at least as a full-time, 100+-game catcher, and if Montero continues to hit like a beast in Triple-A this year and continues to improve his skills behind the dish, he should be the Opening Day catcher in 2011.

On the bad news side of Minnesota sports page today, it was announced that Joe Nathan will have season-ending Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow, leaving the pickings a bit slim on the closer shelf of the Twins' bullpen cupboard full of decent, but unspectacular options.  No word yet on whether Nathan blamed Phil Cuzzi for the injury.

Yankee Blogosphere Linkapalooza For The Week That Was (March 15-21)

Another week, another great batch of Yankee-related bloggy goodness.  As usual, the boys at The Yankee U carried the torch.  Let's get into it.

- Will Leitch kinda sorta previews the 2010 Yankees on Deadspin.  Actually, he just muses his way to nowhere in discussing how ridiculous the concept of a "true Yankee" is.  I can't say I disagree with that theory, but it's a fucking season preview, dude.  You gotta do more than just name drop all the new guys the Yankees signed and old guys they didn't bring back.

- Moshe Mandel at TYU posts a well-written guest article by a frequent TYU commenter pointing out the flaws in Leitch's opinion of Yankee fans.  Sure Yankee fans bitch and moan a lot, we all know that.  But for Leitch to imply that the fans have something to do with players being signed or traded is asinine, so kudos to Ridderling for straightening that out.

- Robbie Cano was a big topic of discussion this week as he was officially announced by Joe as the man who would hit 5th in the lineup this year behind The Horse.  Joe P at River Ave. Blues gives his assessment of Cano in the 5-spot, and Steve S. at TYU comments on Cano's patience or lack thereof, and how that will be the key to him being successful batting behind A-Rod this year.

- EJ Fagan at TYU profiles Austin Romine, AKA the "other catcher" in the Yanks' Minor League system.  With the potential Romine has to be an above-average catcher, it makes the Jesus Montero situation all the more interesting.  Personally I'd like to see the Yankees hold onto both of them but you never know with Cash.

- Joe P. really tickles my fancy with this season preview for CC and A.J. that predicts each could be better in 2010 than they were in 2009.  I find it hard to believe that CC could outdo what he did last year, but there certainly is room for Burnett to improve and if he does, watch out.

- Another solid TYU guest post looks ahead to the 2010 off-season and breaks down possible Yankee free agent/team salary scenarios.  I think the Yankees should focus solely on Cliff Lee with Pettite and Vazquez question marks for 2011 and leave Carl Crawford alone, but Brett Gardner's performance in an everyday role will almost certainly determine just how hard they pursue Crawford.

- Brian Burkhart at Bronx Basebally Daily checks the box next to Joba's name for his choice for 5th starter.  I guess everybody has their own personal favorite, but I would caution Brian to not get too excited about one good Joba start since that was the prevailing thought going through the blogosphere after Hughes' solid performance earlier in the week.  Let's see some consistency from Joba before we give him the spot.

- A couple of gems from the crew at Fack Youk.  Jay breaks down the battle for the 5th rotation spot and argues that Joba going to Triple-A might not be a bad thing.  Matt discusses the Ron Washington situation in Texas and makes solid points about whether or not Washington should still have a job and why stories like this continue to get leaked to the press months and months after the fact.  Some people need to start subscribing to the Carmelo Anthony school of thought and "stop snitchin'."

- The guys at No Maas have renewed their sponsorship for Josh Beckett's Baseball-Reference page and need ideas for a new sponsorship message.  Get creative and give them some good shit to work with.

- Lord Duggan at Pinstripe Alley takes a break from Spring Training to look back at how the Yankees went 103-59 last season.  Normally I don't like to live in the past, but when the past is a 103-59 season in which the Yankees hoisted the Championship trophy, I'll make an exception.

- Vince Mercandetti at Sox and Pinstripes previews the only 3 teams in the AL East that matter and comes to the conclusion that the Yanks will win 98-101 games this year and the division.  Naturally.

And just for shits and gigs, here's another look at my bracket from earlier this week:

You may now commence the laughing at my expense.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, Yankee fans.  If you get bored with the tournament, check out the UFC on Versus tonight.  Jon Jones and Junior Dos Santos are trucksticks.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Catching Up With The Other 4 Guys In The Starting Rotation

With all the hoopla surrounding the Joba-Phil-Ace 3-way dance for the last spot in the rotation, it seems as though the other 4 members of that rotation have fallen a bit on the wayside.  In all fairness to these guys, that shouldn't have happened, since it's most likely these 4 that will have a bigger impact on the Yankees' success this season than whoever ends up in the 5th spot.  So in case you've forgotten who the other starters are and how their Spring Trainings have gone, here's a quick update.

- CC Sabathia, after a slow start in his first couple of ST outing, has hit his stride and is now working on refining his off-speed control as he stares down the barrel of his Opening Day start against Josh Beckett and the Red Sox.  So far he has shown no signs of fatigue from his heavy workload last season and the Yankees have taken no precautions with him in terms of limiting his innings or pitches as he gears up for the start of the season.  Sabathia has also inspired a revolution of sorts amongst his teammates on the staff as there has been an outbreak of guys experimenting with changeups this spring.  After a dominant, 8-K performance yesterday against the Tigers, all signs point to CC hitting the ground running on April 4.

- A.J. Burnett came into ST with questions about how he would perform this year after last year's up-and-down campaign.  The questions were especially loud regarding how he would adjust to losing Jose Molina and if he could make it work with Jorge Posada.  Any notions of there being tension between A.J. and Jorge were quickly squashed by all those around them and by all accounts they have worked through their differences and are on the same page with the approach they want to take when A.J. is on the mound this year.  A.J. is the first of the group of guys who has spent the better part of Spring Training working on adding a changeup, mainly at the expense of his other pitches.  His numbers in his outings so far don't tell the story, as Jorge and Dave Eiland have had positive things to say about what he's done on the mound.

- Andy Pettitte, the grizzled veteran of the group, seems to have finally adjusted to life without HGH (as far as you know), and is being handled age-appropriately by the team after he was part of the 3-man rotation to end 2009.  Pettitte's workload has been reduced to just enough to let him get himself ready for the season.  He made his official Spring Training debut on Tuesday and it was exactly what you would expect from a veteran like Pettite: 4 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K against the Phillies' regulars.  At this stage in his career, there isn't anything Andy has to work on and outside of injuries there isn't anything fans have to worry about with him; Andy knows what he's doing.

- After folks like myself expressed much trepidation at the trade that brought him back to the Bronx, Javy Vazquez has been good enough to put me at ease and make me a believer in the thought that he is a changed man and different pitcher than he was in 2004.  Vazquez hasn't been lights out this spring, giving up some homers, but that's to be expected when he is spending the majority of his time sharpening his off-speed pitches that he has learned to utilize better.  The true test won't be until the regular season starts, and the truest test won't be until he has to pitch a game in prime time against the Sox or Angels or make a critical postseason start, but for now Vazquez looks ready to settle into his role as the 4th starter and contribute to what has a chance to be the best 1-4 rotation in baseball.

So there you have it.  I'm sure reading some of those names and realizing that these guys have actually been pitching comes as a shock to some, but I swear it's the truth.  These are the guys that are expected to anchor the rotation this year, and if they all pitch up to their capability it might not matter who the 5th starter is.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

It's Officially An All-Out, End-Of-The-World Battle For The Ages For The 5th Starter's Spot

You've got Alfredo Aceves throwing up a 0.90 ERA and leading as they head into the home stretch.

You've got Sergio Mitre striking guys out left and right and making a solid case for himself.

You've got Phil Hughes mastering a changeup and rocking the world of the Houston Astros JV team.

And now you've got Joba tossing 4 effective innings with 5 Ks to redeem himself for his last awful outing.

I don't know if any battle this epic was predicted in the Bible or the Mayan calendar.  All I know is there's just too much action and suspense for this competition to not be in 3-D on the big screen.  I keep waiting for a bearded Liam Neeson to pop up on my computer screen while I'm scrolling through LoHud and yell "RELEASE THE KRAKEN!!!!!"

By this time next week, we should know who the 5th starter is going to be.  I just pray that when the dust settles we're all still alive to hear the news.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Has anybody seen this leprechaun around?  I think it was last seen around Mobile, Alabama.

Oh wait!  There he is.  I found him.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!  Get it?  It's a joke about how small Dustin Pedroia is.

But seriously, Happy St. Patrick's Day everybody.  Except you, Pedroia.  You can fuck off.

Ohhhhhhhh. So NOW Joba Has To Start Pitching Well...

Gee, I wonder if Joba's start today is important?

“Got to pick it up, we have told him you got to pitch now. We gave you those couple of starts to get under your belt. Now you have to show us, you got to pitch.”- Girardi

“You want to see him execute pitches and do the things you have to do to be successful. Be ahead in the count. You don’t want to be walking people. You want to attack hitters and you want to make quality pitches.”- Girardi

“When you compete for the fifth starter’s spot with the Yankees it’s put up or shut up. I expect him to pitch good [today]. He pitched better than the numbers showed in the second game. But it’s time to put it all together....”- Eiland

“We talked about March 25, 26 as the target date so the guys who are going to be in the bullpen [will] be in the bullpen and get them used to getting ready a little quicker, maybe even back to back.”- Girardi (all quotes courtesy of the NY Post)

I'd love to sit here and say "it's about time" to Girardi and Eiland and applaud them for finally putting a little pressure on Joba to perform. But the fact is they are the 2 most responsible for coddling him over the last 2 years and giving just as many excuses as he does for all his sub-par performances.

It's bad enough to have Joba tell us time after time that he "felt good out there" and "was making good pitches." But when the manager and pitching coach are shoving each other out of the way to be the first to say those same things to the media to cover for him when he gives up consecutive walks with the bases loaded before getting lifted in the 4th inning of a big game, their tough talk about how NOW he needs to step up rings a little hollow. Shit, Eiland even mixes in a little bullshit compliment about how he "pitched better than the numbers showed" the last time he was out, totally taking all the sting out of the "put up or shut up" ultimatum he delivers not a sentence earlier. No, Dave. He pitched well in the first 2 innings and his numbers looked great. He pitched like absolute dogshit in the 3rd inning and his numbers sucked. Period.

Just a little word of the wise to Joe and Davie Boy: everybody who watches the Yankees has been saying Joba needs to throw strikes and attack hitters since he first joined the rotation. That's why there is such a huge contingent of fans and writers and bloggers that believe he's better suited for the 'pen. Sure his velocity is up when he's a reliever, but so is his approach. He DOES attack; he DOES make quality pitches. It's when he starts the game and has to go through a lineup multiple times that he starts overthinking and tiptoe-ing around hitters. So welcome to the party on that one, fellas.

Now I want Joba to succeed, I really do. But I fear that Girardi and Eiland finally deciding to man up and take Joba to task after all this time will do more harm than good. Joba has known he has to throw strikes all along, just like they have; it's nothing new. You can't make excuses for a guy for a year when he doesn't throw strikes and then suddenly when the pressure is really on to perform throw him to wolves and tell him he HAS to pitch well. If that's how you're going to handle it, then just walk into the clubhouse today before he goes out and tell him he's going to be in the bullpen and let him work on getting his velocity up and mind right for the lockdown 8th inning role he has thrived in.

P.S.- I'm sure Phil Hughes jumped back ahead of Ace with his 4 shutout innings yesterday. But that was against the bottom of the barrel of one of the worst teams in the NL, so let's everybody calm down before we start punching Hughes' name out of our Cy Young ballot.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The 2010 Yankees As NCAA Tournament Teams

In the interest of getting in the March Madness spirit, here's how the Yankees compare to teams in the tourney.

Mark Teixeira= Syracuse: Teix and 'Cuse both do everything well offensively, and can put up some overwhelming offensive totals.  But it's the Orange's vicious 2-3 zone that sets them apart from other teams just like it's Teix's Hoover-like play at first that sets him apart from the other top first baggers in baseball.

Robinson Cano= Texas: Cano has all the tools: hitting for average, hitting for power, great arm, good range, decent speed, but still hasn't quite put it all together and has had the tendency to fade in big moments.  Texas also has all the tools: Pittman inside, Damion James at the 4-spot, decent ball-handling, good shooting and athleticism on the wings.  They got up to Number 1 in the country and then completely fell apart, melting under the spotlight that comes with being at the top of the heap.

Derek Jeter= Kansas: The best at what they do, and both possess the ability to do whatever they have to do to win.  Jeter can turn a double play, smack a 3-run homer, or lay down a perfect sac bunt if that's what it takes.  Kansas can run you off the floor with Sherron Collins in transition, drive and dish with guys like Xavier Henry against zones, or pound it inside to Cole Aldrich and the Morris twins.  Just no weaknesses.

Alex Rodriguez= Kentucky: Less of a comparison of the playing styles and more a comparison of the scandal always following them both.  Whether it's banging old celebrities, meeting with the Feds, or commissioning centaur paintings of himself, A-Rod always manages to find the spotlight in a bad way.  John Calipari's recruiting history is littered with discretions (see: Marcus Camby or Derrick Rose), so it wouldn't be a surprise to find out in a year or 2 that somebody else took DeMarcus Cousins' SAT test or that John Wall was cruising around campus in an Escalade bought by a booster.

Jorge Posada= Cornell: Jorge is the unquestioned clubhouse veteran leader of the Yankees and is all business on the field, no flash.  Doesn't wear batting gloves, doesn't use any new-age catching equipment, no home run trots.  Just goes out, gets the job done, and wins games.  Cornell is the same way; senior-led, mature and controlled on offense, and can shoot the lights out.  They aren't going to pound their chests or get on SportsCenter's Top 10, but they will beat you.

Nick Swisher= Michigan St.: Swish's swing ain't pretty, his batting average ain't pretty, and some of the routes he takes in the outfield ain't pretty.  But at the end of the day he's got 29 homers, 82 RBIs, and an above-average rating in right field.  Michigan St. games are never going to be shown on ESPN Classic, most of them are of the 62-56-variety.  But come tournament time, these kids know how to get it done, mostly because of Tom Izzo.

Curtis Granderson= Duke: Both Granderson and Duke are talented overall but with one fatal flaw.  With Granderson it's been his inability to hit left-handed pitching throughout his career.  For Duke it's big, athletic teams that can run them up and down the floor and expose their slow, whiteness.  The difference is, I expect C-Grand to improve on his flaw this year;  I can't say the same for the Dukies.

Brett Gardner= Siena: 2 undervalued commodities that don't get their due because they aren't big names.  Gardner isn't going to wow you with his stat line but his speed helps create wins both on the basepaths and in the outfield.  Siena is never on Big Monday or Super Tuesday, but they play the game the right way and are fundamentally strong in all aspects of the game, something that will help them sneak up on people in the tourney.

CC Sabathia= Kansas St.: A couple of Swiss Army knives.  CC can still ratchet up the heat and blow hitters away, but he's learned to harness his off-speed stuff and is now just as happy to make you flail at the changeup or beat the inside slider into the ground for a double play ball.  Kansas St. can use their guard combo of Pullen and Clemente to pick you apart on the perimeter or they can pound the ball inside to Curtis Kelly and company.  Just a lot of ways to beat you and a lot of things to pay attention to if you're going to be successful against these guys.

Andy Pettitte= West Virginia: At this stage in his career, Andy is the West Virginia of pitchers: scrappy, tough, smart.  He battles in every at-bat and gets the most out of the stuff he still has left, just like West Virginia, who can't shoot, aren't deep, and yet they still find ways to win through hard-nosed defense and flat-out toughness.

Mariano Rivera= the UConn Women's team: Simply the best.

Jonathan Albaladejo= the  UConn Men's team: Simply the worst.

And just in case you haven't filled out your bracket yet in your office pools, here's the winning one:

Don't worry about whether you can read that or not.  Trust me, it's all fucking right.  Copy that down and thank me later.

Monday, March 15, 2010

When You're Wrong, You're Wrong...

However, when I am wrong, I tend to be WAYYYYYYYYYYYY fucking wrong.  Case in point, last year, December 13th, my comments on the Yankees potentially signing Ben Sheets:

"Why the hell not? The guy is a walking DL-stint, but he also was one of the most dominant pitchers in his league for a stretch of years when he was healthy and the combination of his injury-prone status and long time away from the mound means he's going to come cheap.

Cash has already been talking to his agent and Sheets is expected to be ready for Spring Training. NL pitchers traditionally don't translate well to moving up to the Big League, but with Sheets' lack of history with AL teams it's more than likely that there isn't a very thick book on him in anybody's clubhouse.

The back end of the rotation is still a question mark and Sheets does pose a big question mark himself. But he is a proven commodity and if his stuff is half of what it was at his peak, then he's just as viable an option for the back end of the rotation than Joba, Gaudin, or anybody. Depending on how the Damon/Matsui situations play out, I don't think it would be too big of a risk to throw a $3-5mil, 1-year deal at Sheets (AKA "The Boston Red Sox-John Smoltz Special), and see what happens."

Fast forward to today, when Sheets put up the following line: 0 IP, 8 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 1 BB, 0 K.  That's right folks, Ben Sheets put up the elusive and horrifically special infinite ERA today as he didn't retire one batter before being lifted.  If you're keeping score at home, that's now 18 runs allowed by Sheets in 4 1/3 innings of work.  Not exactly the type of numbers the sabermetric-obsessed Billy Beane was looking for, especially when Sheets came to him at a not-so-cheap $10 million for this season.  And not exactly the numbers I foresaw when I thought signing Sheets was a good idea.

Clearly I was way off in my assessment of Sheets and even further off in thinking it would have been a good idea for the Yanks to bring him in as competition for the 5th spot in the rotation.  I would rather have Joba go out there and give up 6 runs in 2+ innings every single time he's on the mound than watch Sheets give up a 10-spot before even getting a guy out.  That kind of shit would have me heaving my remote through the screen of my TV, and I've got a nice damn TV.  So in this case, I'm glad I experienced a temporary lapse in my usual dead-on Yankee-related aim and with all the other times I've been right on the money, I think it's OK if we let this one slide.  When you're as good as I am, sometimes you have to be able to step back and poke some fun at yourself.

P.S.- It's obvious that Sheets' stuff isn't half of what is used to be, but at least I got the "Sheets does pose a big question mark" part right.  Sort of.

Did Adeinis Hechavarria Make A Mistake Going To Toronto?

The saddest news yesterday was the story that prized Cuban SS prospect Adeinis Hechavarria decided to go to Toronto over the Yanks because of concerns about PT due to Jeter's looming contract extension.  Clearly this means that the Yankees should cut ties with Jeter now since he is a black cloud hanging over the future of the organization, but does it also mean that Adeinis Hechavarria is a moron?

I mean, think about it.  However long Jeter signs for, logic would dictate he isn't going to spend all that time at shortstop.  Shit, it's still a miracle the guy is playing the position as well as he is at this age.  I was as happy as anybody to see him rebound defensively last season and finally earn a Gold Glove, but I certainly don't expect him to repeat or improve upon this numbers this year and in the next few.  The Yankees know this and Jeter knows this, so it's sure to be discussed this offseason when his contract negotiations start and a plan will begin to be put in place for Jeter to transition to another spot in the field as his ability to play shortstop well finally dwindles.

And as good as this kid may be, I find it hard to believe Hechavarria is going to come in and play out of this world right off the bat at shortstop.  As good as Cuban baseball is, it still isn't the Major Leagues; the kid is going to have to get used to the Major League game and to Major League pitching.  Shortstop isn't exactly a position where you just slide in seemlessly and light the world on fire, and not for nothing, but I don't hear anybody comparing Hechavarria to Hanley Ramirez or even Jeter himself.  Those 2 are arguably the top 2 shortstops in the game and even they had to pay their dues and spend time working their way up through the Minors before they were ready to be full-time Major League shortstops. So you have to expect there will be a learning curve associated with Hechavarria becoming a quality Major League shortstop, even if it is an accelerated one.

Now he could have signed with the Yankees for $8.5 million, by far the most they've ever shelled out for what equates to a rookie player, spent some time in the Minors learning the ins and outs of the game, taken over at age 24 when Jeter gracefully moved to the outfield, and become the NEW JETER!!!  He would have been the most talked about player on the most widely recognized, successful team in the history of American sports in the biggest media market in the world.  After his rookie year he would have made up the extra $1.5 million that the Blue Jays offered him in endorsements!  And then some!!  It's a story so good that Disney would be jumping all over it after he hit his first game-winning home run.

Now I fucking suck at baseball, but if you told me that was my future in 3 years I would walk into my office tomorrow, squat on my boss' desk, and drop a hot one right in his coffee cup.  But little Hech was too worried about playing right away and so he took more money and the earlier guaranteed starting spot.  I applaud the kid's confidence, I really do.  But to give up a shot at playing for the greatest team in the history of baseball at a position that has been manned by one of the 3 greatest members of that team in its history just doesn't make sense to me.

Maybe he likes the Toronto night life, I don't know.  Maybe he's seen the problems that past Cuban defector Jose Contreras had in the Big Apple and doesn't think he can handle the pressure.  But whatever the case may be, I hope Hechavarria does well in the Majors and then comes to his senses by the time his first Blue Jay contract is up.  Because by then the Yankees will definitely need a shortstop.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Yankee Blogosphere Linkapalooza For The Week That Was (March 8-14)

First, the round-up from the crew at The Yankee U:

- Moshe Mandel compares the careers of Nomahhhhh and Jeter to determine who was the better player.  In their primes, Nomar was definitely the better all-around player and his value over replacement shows that.  But the fact that Nomar did spend the last 5 years of his career injured and had to retire while Jeter is still at the top of his game and staring down 3,000 hits ends that argument right there.  Over the long haul, Jeter IS the better player.

- Chris H. breaks down the relationship between Mo's decreased velocity and increased contact rates in 2009.  The numbers are worth noting, as they were significant.  But you have to remember Mo was coming off of shoulder surgery before 2009 so it's expected at his age he would experience a decrease in velocity as a result.  I personally could care less if Mo never strikes a guy out ever again; as long as he's sawing guys off and getting the 1-2-3 in the 9th, that's all that matters.

- Moshe Mandel joins the discussion at TYU about who the 5th starter should be and makes a 5-pointed argument for why it should be Joba.  I can't say I agree with any of the 5 points Mandel makes, but I'm sure some of those thoughts are being discussed internally amongst the Yankee brass and will most likely play a big factor in making Joba the 5th starter (since his on-field performance to date certainly hasn't earned him anything).

- Joe Pawlikowski at River Ave. Blues projects Curtis Granderson's 2010 season.  I, like Joe, expect C-Grand to improve upon his 2009 and his career splits to date.  If he does, it's important to note Joe's point that the Yankees have him for a few more years to come in the prime of his career, something they would not have with Matsui or Damon.

- Joba could probably learn something about pitching by reading this Joe P. post from RAB about Tim Lincecum adjusting his approach after losing some velocity.  So far Joba still hasn't figured out how to harness his secondary pitches when he can't throw 96-97 all the time.  If he wants to stay in the discussion for the 5th spot, he better damn well start harnessing.

- Roberto at Respect Jeter's Gangster is already bored with Spring Training.  Can't say I blame the guy, but there's only 21 games until the season starts so hang in there, bud.

- Jason Kozlowski at Bronx Baseball Daily profiles Spring Training bright spot Zach McAllister.  Something tells me this kid is going to be the early favorite for the 5th spot in the rotation in 2011, especially if Pettitte and Vazquez retire.

- My main man Lenny Neslin reviews the Yankees 2009 World Series DVD, something I am still kicking myself for not buying for 45 bucks after Christmas.  IT'S GOT SPANISH COMMENTARY!!!!

- Scott Ham at The Bronx View pokes a little fun at the Joba-Hughes debate and then proceeds to write a well thought out piece that ends with Joba in the rotation and Hughes in the 'pen.

- iYankees explains how Dave Robertson is pretty much the 2nd lefty out of the bullpen.  I'm a huge Robertson fan and love anything that sings his praises.  Boone Logan, however, might want to skip this article.

- Dan LaTorraca at Was Watching previews the 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.  Always good to know what the future holds, especially when it comes to the Almighty Jesus.

- And even though I hate to end on a sour note, it appears Cuban SS prospect Adeinis Hechavarria has decided to sign with Toronto instead of the Bombers because he is concerned Jeter's new contract will block him from playing sooner.  Rob from BBD has his two cents on the situation here.  It's tough to lose a guy who could have been the perfect replacement for Jeter whenever he did have to move away from the hole, but since he hasn't completely broken down yet, why fix what isn't broken?

Enjoy the rest of your evening, Yankee fans.  Check out the Reggie Miller-NY Knicks doc on ESPN and then fill out your NCAA brackets.  Mine already has the Yankees winning it all.  Beat that.

Snap Judgements From The First 2 Weeks Of Spring Training

- Joba, flu or no flu, still doesn't seem like he approaches the game as a starter the same way he does as a reliever.  The velocity being down is understandable, you want to keep something in the tank.  But the aggression, the intensity, and the attitude just isn't there.  I know starters are always more valuable than relievers, but if this is how Joba is going to pitch this year then he definitely has more value in the 'pen.

- After recovering from his brain fart in the batting cage, Nick Johnson has looked solid at the plate and should be the favorite to bat 2nd behind Jeter.  He isn't fast, but you can't ignore the high OBP and the number of extra chances it gives Teix and The Horse to drive in runs.

- That being said, C-Grand's performance so far should earn him a spot somewhere between 5-7 in the lineup.  And with the way he's played in the outfield so far (see: great catch in deep center for Phil Hughes on Thursday), expect Granderson to at least start the season as the everyday centerfielder.

- Regardless of who ends up winning the competition for the 5th spot in the rotation, the bullpen is going to be STACKED this year, and Park and Mo haven't even pitched to live batters yet.

- You always have to take Spring Training results, good or bad, with a grain of salt, but Robinson Cano has looked great so far.  He's as locked in at the plate as he has ever been, and that should bode well for him as he is usually a very slow starter.

- Why does everybody think they're CC this spring?  Burnett, Vazquez, Hughes, and more are all working on adding a changeup to their repertoire. 

- Is Randy Winn even in camp?  I haven't heard his name mentioned once so that definitely bodes well for Brett Gardner, who's continued solid defense and improved bunting has been on display all spring so far.

- It almost seems like Winn, Thames, and Hoffman are trying to see who can play bad enough to NOT make the team.  Seriously, guys.  You're playing for a spot on the team that's going to win the World Series!!!  Wake up!!

- I think it's safe to say the days of the Chase Wrights and Matt DeSalvos pitching meaningful innings in the big leagues are over.  With Mark Melancon, Zach McAllister, Ivan Nova, Grant Duff, Royce Ring, Dustin Moseley all pitching relatively well this spring, the Yankees shouldn't have to scramble and pray if they experience a freak rash of injuries to their pitching staff.

- I still say we're going to see Jesus on the Major League roster at some point this year.  When you add up Johnson's injury proneness (probably not a real word), Cervelli turning into a walking concussion, and the anticipated lack of pop off the bench, it's the perfect situation for Jesus to step in and provide a spark.

- Not hearing about how Jeter, A-Rod, Jorge, and Teix are doing is a good thing.  These guys are the ultimate professionals; I could care less if they don't get a hit between them all spring.

- Can we clone Aceves?  That guy is just a beast.

- He might not hit much, but Ramiro Pena's defensive wizardry has already ended the competition for utility infielder off the bench.

- Regardless of how well he continues to pitch, there won't be a spot for Mitre on the Opening Day roster.  Those 12 pitchers are going to be: CC, A.J., Andy, Javy, Hughes, Mo, Joba, Marte, Ace, Robertson, Park, and Gaudin.