To the site!!! I almost completely forgot but instead I'm just one day late in wishing myself and the blog a happy first birthday.
We started off a little over a year ago with this beauty of an opening post in which I completely botched Rick Porcello's name (seriously, Matt Porcello?? Who the fuck is that?) and it's been all uphill from there. Over the last year I'd like to think we've brought something to the table in the Yankee blogosphere world, whether it be high-quality, pretty hilarious Photoshops thanks to the incomparable Swanny Duckson, spot-on predictions and occasional solid analysis, rants on any topic that may or may not have been fueled by too much alcohol, or just finding a reason to reference Alec Baldwin's "Always Be Closing" speech from "Glenngary Glen Ross."
I hope I've been able to entertain and educate some of you dear readers out there, and if I haven't, well then you can fuck off and I guess I can live with that. We sure as shit aren't closing up shop anytime soon around here, especially not with another postseason and title 28 right around the corner, so if you haven't done it already, get used to us.
In all seriousness, thanks out there to everybody who has read and commented and linked us so far. It's stuff like that that makes this pseudo-job worth doing and I look forward to continuing to churn out our brand of low-brow, profanity-laced, Hughes-loving, Joba-hating, Red Sox-bashing Yankee goodness as we at AB4AR head toward our Terrible 2's.
Phil Hughes sucked last Thursday night, A.J. sucked on Friday night, CC was "meh" on Saturday, Ivan Nova rocked it on Sunday, Moseley wasn't very good last night, Andy is progressing well after his latest bullpen session, and in the middle of all of that Javy had 2 solid if not spectacular outings out of the bullpen after losing his spot in the rotation.
The regular season is winding down and the Yankee rotation that was its greatest strength for the first half of the season has no become the biggest question mark as the Bombers stare down the barrel of the postseason. With all that has happened in the last week, there are all kinds of questions and theories and possibilities being thrown around as to who is going to be in the rotation for the rest of the year, who is out, who is taking this guy's place, how many starts he's getting, etc. And all those theories and possibilities change by the day after each game.
Right now, here is what we know:
1) CC is a beast, even if he was un-CC in his last start. He still held the lead when the team got it, he still gave them length, and he's as sure a thing as you can have on the mound for the rest of the regular season and going into the postseason. He's exactly what every team wants from their ace.
2) A.J. Burnett has completely lost it. He can't locate his pitches and his mental state is probably somewhere between Private Pyle in "Full Metal Jacket" and Nicolas Cage's character in "Leaving Las Vegas." He is the weakest link in the rotation right now, but will still get the start on Wednesday.
3) Phil Hughes had arguably his worst outing of the season last time out, but has still pitched relatively well before that. But he is inching closer to his innings limit for the season, and the Yankees seem fully committed to not pushing him over that, at least for the regular season.
4) Javy Vazquez is starting to look better after being banished to the 'pen and making an adjustment with Dave Eiland on his leg kick in his delivery. He's back to touching 90 on the gun with his fastball and is locating it much better than he had been all month.
5) Dustin Moseley is what he is. Nothing about his stuff makes you do a double take, so when he can locate he can be effective and when he can't he has outings like last night. He was really only plugged in as a replacement for Pettitte, and if Javy and A.J. were pitching better he more than likely wouldn't be in the rotation now with the emergence of Ivan Nova.
6) Ivan Nova will get at least one more start, this weekend against the Blue Jays, and he has definitely earned it. He has pitched with poise and great stuff on the mound and has given Joe no choice but to keep him in the rotation while the others continue to struggle.
And here is what we don't know:
1) Whether or not A.J.'s spot in the rotation will still be his after Wednesday. Joe was visibly frustrated after Friday night and his "evaluation" comments certainly put the writing on the wall for A.J.
2) Who will be taking A.J.'s spot in the rotation if he bombs on Wednesday. It would most likely be Javy, but you never know.
3) How the rest of Andy's rehab will go and when he'll actually return to the rotation. Right now, the early prediction is in 2 weeks, but a lot could happen between now and then, especially for a 38-year-old guy who's not on HGH anymore (as far as we know).
4) Joe's plan for Nova beyond this weekend. With the continued struggles of A.J., Javy, and Moseley, and the recent bad outing by Hughes, logic would dictate that Nova stays in the rotation as long as he continues to pitch well, but so far nothing has been committed to him beyond his next start.
5) Who is getting booted from the rotation if and when Andy comes back. The smart money would be on Moseley, but if A.J. continues to suck Joe is going to have a tough choice to make, even tougher if Nova continues to dazzle.
The plans for Andy and what will come as a result are too far down the road to accurately predict right now, but I think some of this picture will start to clear up over the next 2 days with Phil and A.J.'s next starts. If Phil gets back on the right track, I would say his spot is safe for the rest of the year (even if they have to shorten him up and get creative with the 'pen to manage his innings) and he probably guarantees himself a spot in the postseason rotation. If A.J. gets it together, he will stay in the rotation for the time being but still be on a short leash. If he fucks up again, he could be kicked out in favor of Javy. If either one of them struggles, it could signal another start for Nova regardless of what he does this weekend.
In any case, there is a lot riding on the next 2 starts and a lot riding on the next 2 weeks for the Yankee rotation. They are still getting by and sitting pretty in the playoff picture even with all these struggles, but some of these questions need to be answered in the next 2 weeks so theories and possibilities can become plans and strategies heading into the postseason.
An .818/.833/1.636 line in 12 combined plate appearances with 3 2B, 2 HR, 7 R, and 7 RBI from your 3-4-5 hitters? Ummm, yes please.
That's not even being the heart of the order. That's more like being the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys of the order. You expect it from Teix, even if he was coming back from a minor injury. But if Cano and Swish continue to produce like this in run-producing roles, maybe Joe will have to consider hitting The Horse 6th when he comes back to the lineup (I know, I know. Blasphemy!!)
Marcus Thames picking up a homer in his 5th straight start doesn't hurt either.
1) Brett Gardner LF
2) Derek Jeter SS
3) Mark Teixeira 1B
4) Robinson Cano 2B
5) Nick Swisher RF
6) Jorge Posada C
7) Marcus Thames DH
8) Curtis Granderson CF
9) Ramiro Pena 3B
Guess the thumb injury wasn't that bad as Teix is back in tonight. That's good news. But where the F is Eduardo Nunez?? I haven't seen anything indicating he's hurt and I know a young buck like him doesn't need a day off. Get his bat out there, Joe! Don't turn the 9-spot into an automatic out just because you can.
Here's this week's updated Top 25 Roster Poll. Lots of changes after last week. Bold indicates all players who moved up or down in the rankings from last week.
1) Mariano Rivera
2) Robinson Cano
3) CC Sabathia 4) Nick Swisher (being a competent 1B improves value w/ Teix's injury)
5) Mark Teixeira (b/c of the boo-boo)
6) Phil Hughes
7) Brett Gardner 8) Jorge Posada (starting to swing the bat better lately)
9) Curtis Granderson 10) Derek Jeter (continuing to swing the bat like crap)
11) Kerry Wood
12) Dave Robertson
13) Francisco Cervelli
14) Boone Logan 15) Austin Kearns
16) Marcus Thames (dude is killing it right now)
17) Alex Rodriguez 18) Joba Chamberlain
19) Eduardo Nunez (looks better at the plate in each at-bat)
20) Sergio Mitre
21) Ivan Nova
22) Dustin Moseley (still hanging around) 23) Ramiro Pena (Nunez's improvement isn't helping his case)
24) A.J. Burnett (status looks worse every time out)
25) Javy Vazquez (stays on b/c of A.J.'s meltdown)
Also Receiving Votes:
26) Andy Pettitte (injury status improving) 27) Lance Berkman (rehabbing in Trenton this week)
28) Alfredo Aceves (struggled in last 2 rehab outings)
29) Chad Gaudin (most likely won't be on team when everybody is healthy)
30) Damaso Marte (due to injury status)
That's essentially what Ivan Nova said to the world and the Chicago White Sox yesterday with his performance. In only his second career Major League start, Nova carried himself like a seasoned veteran on the mound, pitching with poise and confidence beyond his years, using all 4 of his pitches effectively, and attacking the White Sox hitters. He may be only 23 years old, but he sure doesn't pitch like a rookie.
Somebody should probably also remind Joe of that fact, as he decided to take Nova out early again, this time after only 88 pitches. Joe said after the game that it looked like Nova was starting to get up in the zone so he made the call to remove him with the lead intact. But he had just allowed one baserunner and there were 2 outs, why not give the kid a chance to get out of the inning?
Last time I checked, the Yanks were still deadlocked with Tampa for the division lead and their rotation, while not in complete shambles, wasn't the dominating force it was earlier in the year. As a manager, your decisions should be based on what gives the team the best chance to win, not on how concerned you are about a young pitcher's ability to get out of a relatively low-leverage situation. Yesterday Nova gave the Yankees the best chance to win and he should have been allowed to get out of the inning. He wasn't struggling, wasn't losing command or velocity, and didn't have a high pitch count, so let the kid fucking pitch! Thankfully the Boone Logan-Kerry Wood combo didn't completely screw the pooch after loading the bases.
Joe did say after the game that Nova will stay in the rotation for his next start, and given the continued struggles of A.J. and Javy, he could very well earn a postseason roster spot. Now is the time to find out what he can really do in a pressure situation. So far Nova hasn't pitched like a rookie, so he shouldn't be treated like one. It ain't no rookie shit indeed.
Last night was the perfect of example of what A.J. Burnett lacks and why CC Sabathia is so important to the Yankee rotation.
On Friday night, A.J. didn't have his A-game (as usual) and he just kept throwing the same shitty pitches that got hammered while he felt sorry for himself. There was no regrouping, no fixing what wasn't working, nothing.
Last night, CC steps out on the mound without his A-game as well. After being handed a 6-1 lead, he made some bad pitches and after 4 innings it was 6-5. However, after his team got him 4 runs in the top of the 5th, CC came back out in the bottom of the inning, beared down, and proceeded to throw 3 innings of shutout ball, allowing just 2 baserunners and striking out 5 to preserve the lead into the 7th. And it was a damn good thing too because the bullpen sucked last night.
If that was A.J. out there with a 5-run lead after giving up 2-run homers in back-to-back innings, God only knows what he would have done in the bottom of the 5th. But CC recognized that his team had picked him up, he toughened up, he focused, he changed his approach, made better pitches, and made the lead stand up. That's what a veteran pitcher does, that's what a good pitcher does, and that's what an ace does.
"I don't know what that means," Burnett said when Girardi's 'evaluation' comment was presented to him.
It means you fucking sucked last night and you sucked the start before that during a time where the rotation already has plenty of question marks and you should be counted on to provide some stability. Not to mention the fact that you've sucked for the majority of the season without showing any ability to correct the problems you continue to have.
"I look forward to my next start. [Not making the start] would surprise me, but he makes the decisions."
Surprising. Of course. Because what manager wouldn't want to throw a guy out there who has pitched to a 12.19 ERA and 2.52 WHIP in his last 2 starts? Especially when that guy is his supposed #2 pitcher, who happens to be making $16.5 million this season, and is an 11-year MLB veteran that should know how to handle himself out on the mound but always shits the bed at the first sign of trouble like a scared Little Leaguer. You're right, A.J. That would be surprising.
"I am not getting swings [on pitches] I was getting before. I am getting too much of the plate."
You're not getting swings on those pitches you were before, A.J., because those pitches are miles out of the strikezone and usually heading to the backstop, as indicated by your 3 wild pitches and 3 walks in just 3.1 innings last night. The ones you're getting too much of the plate on are the ones that are being swung at. And they're being deposited all over the ballpark.
Consider yourself lucky that Joe left you an option to possibly make your next start. If it was up to me, your sorry ass wouldn't even be allowed in the clubhouse.
A.J., I don't have words to describe how disgusting your performance was tonight. You make me absolutely sick and I hope you fall down in the shower in your hotel room tomorrow morning and are out for the rest of the season. If I could, I would sever every tendon, muscle, and ligament in both of your arms so that you had to have Tommy John, Timmy Jim, Tony Jack, and every other surgery known to man to keep you out of the rotation and off the mound for the remainder of your fucking contract.
I know the rest of your supporting cast behind you didn't show up tonight, and that never helps, but the team has picked you up in your shitty starts enough times and you've been in the big leagues long enough that you should have a little hair on your peaches at this point and be able to bear down and pitch well to help the rest of the club out when it's clear they don't have their A-game. At this point, you and Javy can both go play in fucking rush hour traffic for all I care. Fuck off and die.
P.S.- Joe, it's time to cut the shit with the cliches and press conferences about fucking Chicago and what you're doing next year and time to close the locker room doors and air these motherfuckers out. It's been like watching "Night of The Living Dead" with all the sloppy, lackadaisical bullshit out there lately. Step up and do your fucking job and get these motherfuckers re-focused.
Here's a quick selection for you to peruse on this Friday:
- Mike at RAB reminds us that the current issues plaguing the Yankee rotation are nothing new to the team. I myself had never even stopped to consider the similarities between this time last year and this time this year, and when you see that the Yanks do have almost an identical record to what they had this time in 2009 with a better run differential, it does make you feel a little better. So thanks for that, Mike.
- Multiple takes on the MLB revenue sharing leaks from earlier this week: Larry from IATMS' is here, Rob Neyer's is here, and Jayson Stark's is here. There are plenty of opinions out there, and while I don't think that teams should HAVE to spend every cent they receive through the program, they should at least make an effort if they're going to bitch and moan about how much money the Yankees have. No matter what you think, this news this week shows just how flawed the current system is.
- SJK at No Maas goes big time Debbie Downer on The Horse's and The Captain's 2010 seasons. It hurts to look at those numbers and while I don't think either of the 2 are finished by any stretch of the imagine, the numbers don't lie. It is officially time for us all to accept that 2 of the greatest players of their generation are starting their declines. Hopefully they still have something left in those bats for the postseason.
- While Jeet and A-Diaz may be scuffling this year, the ageless Mo continues to churn along, and Mark Simon of ESPN NY discusses Mo's lessened workload this year and how that extra rest may translate to more postseason success. I'll take an extra helping of that, please!
- Chad Jennings at LoHud has the details on the biggest event of the day for all Yankee fans, Andy's bullpen session. I've got my lucky rabbit's foot in one hand and my lucky bean from the Jersey shore in the other, praying to Joe Pesci that the groin holds up.
- And if it doesn't, Steve S. at TYU thinks that signals the arrival of Hiroki Kuroda. I can't say I would be thrilled with this move, given that the Yanks are still in first and getting decent innings from Dustin Moseley. But if Pettitte is shelved for the year, I think I'd rather go into battle in the playoffs with Kuroda as my 4th starter over Moseley or Vazquez.
I told everybody to check back last night for the unveiling of the first AP Top 25 Yankee Playoff Roster Poll and then didn't post it. Sorry, had a beer too many at trivia and the bed was calling when I got home. But to make up for it, I did the research, counted up all the votes, and now, a day late, here is the first poll:
(Remember, the poll always works under the assumption that the playoffs start today)
1) Mariano Rivera
2) Robinson Cano
3) CC Sabathia
4) Mark Teixeira
5) Nick Swisher
6) Phil Hughes
7) Brett Gardner
8) Derek Jeter
9) Curtis Granderson
10) Jorge Posada
11) Dave Robertson
12) Kerry Wood
13) Francisco Cervelli
14) Boone Logan
15) A.J. Burnett
16) Austin Kearns
17) Alex Rodriguez
18) Marcus Thames
19) Joba Chamberlain
20) Ramiro Pena
21) Sergio Mitre
22) Dustin Moseley (only here b/c Pettitte is hurt)
23) Eduardo Nunez (only here b/c Berkman is hurt)
24) Chad Gaudin (only here b/c Aceves is hurt)
25) Javy Vazquez (only here b/c Marte is hurt)
Also Receiving Votes:
26) Andy Pettitte (due to injury status)
27) Alfredo Aceves (due to rehab status)
28) Lance Berkman (due to injury status)
29) Damaso Marte (due to injury status)
I don't want to try to jinx anything here, but at this point in the season I think we can all agree that the Yankees will make the playoffs one way or another. So now the question becomes, what is their initial postseason 25-man roster going to look like? Taking injuries out of the equation, we can safely assume the roster will look like this:
Bullpen: Mo, D-Rob, Wood, Joba, Marte, Boone Logan (the only guy who doesn't get a nickname or even his name shortened because "Boone Logan" just sounds badass), Aceves, Vazquez
Unfortunately, we don't have the luxury of taking injuries out of the equation, and if the playoffs were to start today, you wouldn't be seeing A-Rod, Berkman, Andy, Marte, or Aceves on the roster for the ALDS. Their spots would most likely be filled up by Eduardo Nunez, Dustin Moseley, Ivan Nova, Sergio Mitre, and Chad Gaudin for 12 positional players and 13 pitchers instead of the other way around.
We more than likely won't be seeing Nunez or Gaudin on the postseason roster as A-Rod will be back, but the other 4 guys are not such sure bets to make it back. Andy has already had setbacks to his return and is still out until at least mid-September, Berkman's injured ankle could linger and limit his ability to play, Aceves has battled his back issues all year and got rocked in his last rehab outing last night, and nobody seems to know anything about Damaso Marte's status so he might have actually died. This combined uncertainty about guys who would be playoff roster staples combined with the continued piss-poor performance from A.J. and Javy poses some very interesting scenarios and choices for the Yankees.
As it is right now, I would not even consider putting Vazquez on the roster, instead putting Sergio Mitre in the 'pen as the long man. And I've already stated that I would rather see Phil Hughes start Game 2 of any and every series and push A.J. back to the 4th starter role if Andy is good to go. But what if Andy can't go? Who becomes the 4th starter? If Ivan Nova dazzles down the stretch, does he deserve a spot? If Nunez starts to adjust to Major League pitching in the last month and starts hitting better, does he get the utility spot over Pena? And who is the next position player in line to fill in if another guy goes down? These are the important possibilities the Yanks are going to have to consider as the season winds down.
** Check back tonight for my initial 2010 AP Top 25 Yankee Playoff Roster Poll. **
Just in case we needed a reminder, here's how bad A.J. Burnett and Javy Vazquez have been this year. Their combined stats for the season are as follows:
18-20, 278 IP, 285 H, 113 BB, 152 ER, 213 K, 4.92 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 1.88K/BB ratio
Just putrid. And when you factor in their combined $28 million in salary this year, the Yankees are paying them $1,555,555.556 per win this year.
For the sake of comparison, here are Dustin Moseley and Ivan Nova's combined stats:
5-2, 54 IP, 54 H, 19 BB, 25 ER, 27 K, 4.17 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 1.42 K/BB ratio
Now I know that's a very small sample size, but still. Come the fuck on! If you would have asked most Yankee fans if they thought A.J. Burnett and Javy Vazquez were going to put up combined numbers so bad that the Yankees would be skipping their starts and separating them in the rotation with 23-year-old Triple-A pitchers while they counted on Dustin Moseley to provide some balance and winning to the rotation, they would have emphatically said "no."
The point is, A.J. and Javy were being counted on this season to provide length and stability to a rotation that featured an older pitcher who did end up on the DL and a younger one on an innings limit and they haven't done that. It's actually kind of sad that the Yankees have had to count on Moseley and Nova this year, but thank The Almighty Jesus Montero for Moseley and Nova being there. Their combined contracts value is $800,000 so the Yanks are paying them chump change for their wins and innings while they give away millions to Dink and Doink for a sub-.500 record and 3- and 4-inning clunkers.
At this point, Javy has all but pitched himself off the playoff roster, and A.J. may not be far behind. At the very least, he would be the 4th guy in my rotation behind CC, Hughes, and Andy (assuming Andy is healthy). And if he can't get it together over the last month of the season, I wouldn't hesitate to put Moseley or Nova on the playoff roster and throw them out there for a Game 4 start if I were Joe.
For all the bang for their buck that the Yanks have gotten from CC, Teix, and Swish, they simply aren't getting anything from A.J. and Javy.
It's only for one start, but it's better than nothing. At least the Yankees are making decisions that give the team the best chance to win rather than throwing more unearned loyalty to a veteran who's pitching like dogshit. That being said, I'm sure Javy will be back in the rotation after he gets skipped on Sunday, but you never know. If Nova goes out and pitches well again this weekend, he could make the decision very difficult. At the very least, the Yankees will step on the field this Sunday with a chance to win, something they wouldn't have with Javy out there.
He'll work out of bases-loaded jams with ease. He'll throw consecutive changeups and get you to swing and miss at both of them. He'll come up and in on you after you grandstand a home run a little too long and then talk shit to you. And he might even kill his son by whacking him across the head with his staff.
And if you don't get that last reference, click this link here and learn something. We're not just about goofy Photoshops and bullshit here at AB4AR. We're also about education.
It's never good to lose when you're in the middle of a tight pennant race, but considering everything that went with last night's game, I'm not too upset.
For starters, there was no Jeter, no A-Rod, and no Kearns in the lineup, so the 7-8-9 hitters were Eduardo Nunez, Ramiro Pena, and Frankie Cervelli. Not exactly Murderer's Row there.
Secondly, with a lineup like that and Brandon Morrow pitching like he was last night, the Yankees weren't going to score a lot of runs.
Thirdly, D-Rob was bound to have a hiccup sooner or later. It was just bad luck that it happened in a low-scoring tie game. These things happen. No reason to start freaking out about him or the bullpen again.
And lastly, Ivan Nova was very impressive last night. After loading the bases to start the game, he worked out of that first-inning jam without allowing a run, and then worked 5.1 innings of 2-run ball against a very dangerous lineup. He made one bad mistake to Jose Bautista, something that plenty of other pitchers have done this year, and he paid for it. But his stuff looked good, his composure was there, and if it weren't for Joe inexplicably removing him after only 73 pitches his line could have ended up looking even better.
Even more important than that, though, was the up-and-in job on Bautista in his next at-bat after the home run. I fucking loved that. Bautista got a little animated with his bat flip, Nova didn't appreciate it, and he let Bautista know about it. And the pitch really wasn't all that close to Bautista; it brought back memories of the Clemens-Manny high and tight pitch from the playoffs years back. Bautista overreacted just like Manny did and Nova didn't back down. Throwing the pitch in the first place and then standing up to the guy are ballsy moves for a young pitcher making his first career start and I absolutely loved it. That move alone should guarantee Nova a spot in the rotation for the rest of the year and in 2011. Kid is a fucking gamer, no doubt about it.
So yeah, the Yanks lost, but I feel good about things moving forward. The lineup should look better tonight, the bullpen is still pitching well. It's all good.
** Update- 11:54AM: Fifthly, the umps were fucking awful last night. Not much you can do when you aren't getting calls.**
While it isn't taking Javy's spot in the rotation 2 weeks ago like it should have been, Ivan Nova will make his Yankee debut tonight against Toronto.
Nova has been the best and most consistent pitcher on the SWB roster in Triple-A this year. In 23 starts, he is 12-3 with a 2.86 ERA, 1.26WHIP, and 115 Ks to 48 BB for a respectable 2.40 K/BB ratio. Perhaps the best thing about Nova is that he provides length out there on the mound. In his last 10 starts, he has not gone fewer than 6 innings and in 7 of those 10 he went at least 6.2. For the season he has pitched 145 innings in his 23 appearances, which comes out to just below 6.1 innings per start, so you know there aren't many (if any) 3- or 4-inning Javy or A.J. bombjob outings in there.
Nova works with 3 pitches: fastball, changeup, curve. He works primarily with the fastball, usually between 92-94MPH, and is good at keeping it down in the zone. The changeup is his secondary pitch and the curve is above average, but inconsistent. When Nova has one or both working and can work both sides of the strike zone with his heater, he is tough to handle.
With all that in mind, and knowing that the Yanks are facing a slugging team tonight, what can/should we expect from Nova? In a perfect world I would say I'd like to see his line look something like this:
6-7 IP, 4-5 H, 1-2 BB, 2-3 ER, 5-6 K
But in reality, I think I would be happy with this:
5-6 IP, 6-8 H, 2-3 BB, 3-4 ER, 3-4 K
Anything in between those 2 would be more than acceptable, especially given the power the Jays have in their lineup. If Nova can keep the ball down tonight as he usually tries to do, I think he will do fine. If he gets the ball up, he'll be in trouble. There's a lot of opportunity for Nova tonight, both in establishing a role for the remainder of this season and maybe, just maybe garnering consideration for the postseason roster, and in starting to establish himself as a contender for a rotation spot for 2011. It should be interesting to watch tonight and I am bummed out that I have to miss it being back out here, YES-less, in Wisconsin.
Obviously, the biggest news to come out of Joe's postgame presser today was the announcement that A-Rod will be put on the 15-day DL after his latest setback in his return from his strained calf. Now he can't trick the training staff into thinking he's fully recovered and will have plenty of time to rest all his calves and hooves and get his coat brushed and tail braided.
The good news in this situation is that the Yanks are 11-0 this season without The Horse in the lineup, and Eduardo Nunez will now get a legit shot to show what he can do and not just be a mid-summer cup of coffee type of call up. Between he and Ramiro Pena, the Yanks should be able to piece it together at the hot corner for the next couple of weeks while A-Rod gets back to 100% in time for the stretch run.
The other good news is that the free roster spot means Ivan Nova finally gets the call up he's deserved for weeks. It's not the ideal situation, since A-Rod is on the DL instead of Javy Vazquez, but Nova will get his shot on Monday, and if he impresses he could take over Vazquez's spot in the rotation.
Normally it's a catastrophe when your RBI leader goes down, but in this case I'm not that worried. This works out for A-Rod because it forces him to get completely healthy and not rush back into the lineup before he's ready, and it gives the Yankees a chance to stabilize their rotation for this year and audition for a spot in the rotation in 2011. Is this the best calf strain in the history of baseball? It just damn well might be.
Nice job out there today, Javy. Way to battle and make pitches when you had to. And way to give the team some length and confidence moving forward with Andy's recent setback.
Javy has gone fewer innings in each of his last 5 starts now. Put him on the fucking DL and call up Ivan Nova. If you can't even count on a guy to get you more than 3 or 4 innings then he shouldn't be in the rotation. And if there really is nothing wrong with Javy to justify him going on the DL, then send Paulie Walnuts and Christopher over to his place and fucking kneecap him because this is just downright painful to watch.
What would you set the over/under at for Yankee hits off King Felix tonight? 3? 4? Seeing as how he completely dominated the lineup last time and the lineup for the Yankees tonight will probably be not as potent as last time with The Horse and Berkman on the bench, I'd say 4 would be kind.
That being said, I'm rolling with the punches and taking the over on my self-made line. Call me crazy, but I see some hits and some walks and even a couple runs in the cards for the Bombers tonight. This is probably why I don't gamble...
Phil Hughes started the season hotter than any other pitcher in the game and continued that good pitching through May. However, he struggled through June and July and since then people seem to have just passed him over as a young guy with an innings limit who still has a lot to learn. Under the radar of all this "Phil Hughes still has a lot to work on" talk is the fact that Hughes has been very good in his last 5 starts dating back to his 3-2 loss to Tampa on July 30. Hughes continued his recent solid streak yesterday, going 6 innings of 4-hit, 2-run, 0-walk, 6-K ball to pick up his 15th win of the season.
Given that 40% of the Yankee rotation has been an all-or-nothing crapshoot this year thanks to the A.J.-Javy combo, and the guy who had arguably been their best pitcher all season could be out until the end of September, I think there needs to be a little more appreciation given to Hughes for the job he has done this year. Let's not forget that Hughes wasn't expected to do much more this season than provide innings as a 5th starter and gain experience to eventually replace either Vazquez a/o Pettitte in the rotation in 2011. Instead, Hughes has been one of the 10-15 best pitchers in the AL and probably the 2nd best pitcher in the Yankee rotation given his overall consistency and health. Here's proof:
- Hughes is 15-5 in his 23 starts this year, the Yankees have won 17 of his 23 starts overall. On top of that, Hughes has lost 3-2 to Tampa, 2-1 to Boston, and got a no decision in a game against Baltimore in April when he allowed only 1 run over 5.2 innings. If the Yanks pick up a handful of runs in those outings, Hughes is sitting 18-3 right now with the Yanks going 20-3 over all his starts.
- Hughes has given the Yankees max value for the money they are paying him this year. 13 quality starts out of 23 and 15 wins for a 2010 salary of $447,000, which comes out to $29,800 per win, certainly a better ratio than what the Steinbrenners are paying A.J. and Javy per win and certainly better than what the Red Sox are paying Josh Beckett and John Lackey for their performances this year.
- Hughes' WHIP of 1.21 is 18th in the AL and lower than the WHIPs of other pitchers like Justin Verlander, Francisco Liriano, Ricky Romero, AL Cy Young favorite David Price, and teammate CC Sabathia.
- After giving up 11 walks in his first 3 starts, Hughes has allowed just 27 walks over his last 20 starts, comprising 122.2 innings and coming out to just 1.98 BB/9. Combine that total with his 116 strikeouts and his K/BB ratio for the season is 3.05/1, better than that of guys like Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Trevor Cahill, and Matt Garza.
- According to Baseball-Reference.com, Hughes has a positive WAR of 1.9, a positive WPA of 1.8, and has OPS against and BABIP numbers below league average (.694 to .749 league average for OPS, .283 to .300 for BABIP).
Let's not forget that this is coming from a guy who is still one of the youngest players in the AL at 24 and came into Spring Training in an open competition to become the 5th starter. After winning the competition, I would bet the Yankees would have been ecstatic to get league average production from Hughes. Instead he has stepped up in the face of the Yankees' rotation problems, his innings limit, his own injury history, and his lack of experience as a full-time Major League-level starter to basically be the Yankees' #3 and now #2 starter.
So let's all take a minute to stop worrying about Hughes' inning limit and how it could affect the team down the stretch, stop worrying about his high home run total allowed this year, stop worrying about what he still has to work on to improve his approach the 2nd and 3rd time through a lineup, and just tip our caps to Phil and appreciate what he has done for this team this year.
Good job, Phil. Damn good job. I don't know where we'd be without you this season.
You want back-to-back home runs? You got it. You want hit batters? You got it. You want retaliatory hit batters? You got it. You want questionable starting pitching? You got it. You want lockdown bullpen work? You got it. You want timely hitting from the whole lineup? You got it. You want another nice play by C-Grand in center field you got it.
Last night was like a Ponderosa buffet for a Yankee fan. It wasn't all good and it wasn't all enjoyable, but there was certainly something for everybody. Dustin Moseley was blah again after getting off to a decent start, but since he wasn't terrible it's likely he'll stay in the rotation as Andy continues to experience issues with his groin. Between Andy's balky groin, Javy's dead arm, and Phil's innings limitation (sitting at 134.3 out of 175 before today's start), there might have to be some creativity down the stretch to get the most out of the rotation.
Another question to ponder before this afternoon's finale: what nickname should we give to the righty trio of D-Rob, Wood, and Joba? Those 3 have been devestating since Wood's arrival and Robertson's swap with Joba for the 8th-inning role. So what do we call these guys? Or do we even call them anything yet? These are the things you should be thinking about, people.
It's good to know you've got Carsten Charles on your side when your offense is sputtering and your rotation is crumbling. CC did what the Yanks brought him here to do again last night and that's now 16 wins on the season as he continues to march towards 20. He got a ton of Ks and a ton of swings and misses last night, something he hadn't been doing lately, and that's always good news. In the battle of the aces last night, he was the only one out there.
By the way, does anybody know if Justin Verlander has found the strike zone yet?
Everybody who reads this site (assuming there is anybody that actually reads it in the first place) knows I'm a sucker for prospects and Minor League evaluations. I love looking at stats and updates on all the players and planning out in my head how they can all help contribute to the future success of the Yanks. Now that the rookie draft pick signing period has ended, Mike A. at RAB has updated his Top 30 Yankee Prospects List and it proved to be the perfect reading material to kill time and come up with ideas while I recover from my insane sunburn here at the beach house instead of having my brain melted by the endless drivel on ESPN and ESPN 2.
The quick highlights of the list, in case you don't have time to read it:
- The Yankee catching prospects, The Jesus, Austin Romine, J.R. Murphy, and Gary Sanchez, are all either currently raking or have been raking at some point this season. With each guy spread across every level of the Minors, there is no shortage of potential replacements for Jorge.
- The Yankee pitching prospect pool has filled up this year thanks to continued improvement by guys like Nova and Hector Noesi, excellent performances in the early stages of pro ball by guys like Manny Banuelos, Graham Stoneburner, and Jose Ramirez, and big-time bouncenbacks from injury by Andrew Brackman and Dellin Betances.
- Postionally, the Yankees are a little light, especially in the outfield, where only Slade Heathcott has done anything noteworthy to date. There are some solid infield prospects like David Adams and Brandon Laird, but with the current situation in the Yankee infield, these guys aren't going to putting on the pinstripes anytime soon.
So after I got done drooling over everybody in the article like a lush couger mom at her son's college grad party, I got to thinking about what this rebirth of the Yankee farm system means for the future and how the Yankees plan to maximize this talent. Here are 5 questions that I asked:
1) How will the Yankees use this growing stable of pitching talent to help the team?
In the past, it was a solid bet that none of these guys would end up ever seeing the Yankee 25-man roster, but with the Yanks' commitment to rebuilding their farm system over the last 5 years and their propensity this year and last for adding undervalued guys for lower or no prospects at the trade deadline, the chances are much brighter. I'm sure one or two will get moved in a trade, but since Cash has shown he's willing to hold onto his high-ceiling prospects (Hughes, Joba, Cano, Jesus), it's a good bet that we'll be seeing almost all of these guys on the mound for the Yankees in one way or another.
2) How many out of that stable will actually end up wearing the pinstripes?
Again, it's impossible to know for sure, but I would say Ivan Nova is a sure bet since they've already used him this year. Brackman and Betances have to be considered locks since big guys with stuff like theirs' don't come along often and they project as higher-end of the rotation pitchers. I would say Noesi, Stoneburner, and Banuelos also have a good shot because of their young age and upside, and then its guys like Ramirez, David Phelps, Adam Warren, and Brett Marshall who are more likely to become trade pieces.
3) How do the Yankees use all the catching prospects to help the team?
At this point, it's looking more and more likely that The Jesus will be on the 25-man next season. That move should start the rotation that pushes Romine up to Triple-A, Murphy up to Double-A, and Sanchez up to some level of A-ball next year. The problem is there are only so many catchers you can have and these guys aren't going to stay in the Minors forever, so if Montero turns out to be able to catch full-time in the Majors I would bet 2 out of the other 3 get traded for starting pitching or bullpen help during future trade deadlines.
4) Is there any potential for a few infield guys to replace Jeter a/o A-Rod?
Not likely, given the money those 2 make and their standing with the team, but I think there is potential for an Adams or a Laird to become a Luis Sojo/Mariano Duncan-type utility bench guy since both of their bats are far superior to Ramiro Pena's. And with Jeter covering less and less ground, there is room for opportunity. Who knows? Maybe Adams shows enough at Triple-A for the Yankees to give him a shot at 2nd? Robbie Cano has showed great range at 2nd this year, could he transition to SS?...
5) What impact will the draft class of 2010 have?
The 2010 draft was a high-risk, hopefully high-reward draft for the Yanks. Cito Culver ditched on his commitment to Maryland almost immediately and is already making a good showing in rookie ball. Rob Segedin has a big bat, and Mason Williams has all the tools to become a great player. Most of these guys were projects, though, so it's going to be at least a few years before anything can definitively be said about them. But the "high potential" tags that many of them have give the Yankees more flexibility when it comes to keeping and developing or using as trade bait, which is exactly what the Yankees like to have.
- Well it's official now. If you want a guaranteed way to beat the Yankees just throw a pitcher out there that they've never faced before. You would have thought Brian Bullington and Max Scherzer were neck and neck for the Cy Young Award the way they dominated the Bombers over the last 2 days.
- The sad thing is that the Yanks get shut down by marginal or mediocre young pitchers like this all the time. The even sadder thing is that the "never faced before" excuse seems to fly for them and the YES announcers. I don't give a fuck if they've faced a guy a million times or none. It's not that hard to have people in your organization study film of their OTHER starts, take notes on their tendencies, and build a profile for the team to work off of when they come up against a new opponent.
Guys like Bullington, with his winless career and "major bust" status shouldn't need to have been seen before for the Yankees to beat him into the ground. But if that's what these guys need to succeed, then somebody in the scouting department needs to get on checking the schedule and preparing for pitchers the Yankees don't have a history against.
- Where has all the clutch hitting gone? I commented a week ago on how the Yankees hitting with RISP could have cost them 2 games against Boston, and that inability to get the big hit has continued to plague them. Everyone in the Detroit bullpen gave them chances last night, putting runners on like it was going out of style, and the Yanks could do nothing with the opportunities gift wrapped and handed to them.
- Frankie Cervelli, the darling of April and May, isn't making a good case for himself to get any kind of major playing time next year with The Jesus on the horizon. He has completely stopped hitting, including with RISP, which was his calling card earlier in the year, and his defense has been incredibly lackluster over the last couple weeks. The 'loaf after a bad throw and then make a shitty throw to 2nd' combo on Sunday almost brought my lunch back up when I watched it.
- Javy Vazquez needs to be put on the DL, period. Guy has no velocity and no movement, which is a bad combination for a starting pitcher in the Majors. Clearly there is something more going on than just him not having his command, and the Yanks can't afford to send him out for just 4 or 5 shit innings and tax the bullpen every 5th day when they're in the middle of a playoff race. I know it's probably not what they want to do, but Vazquez needs 15 days to rest and get his shit together and Ivan Nova deserves a chance to show what he can do at the Major League level. Who knows? Maybe other teams facing Nova will suffer the same fate the Yankee hitters do against every young pitcher in baseball.
- How ironic is it that the rest of the Yankees completely disappear when the bullpen gets it all together and starts to become the asset it was expected to be at the beginning of the year? I'd say at least a solid 6.5-7 out of 10 on the irony scale.
- Now if you want to jump up to the 8-9 range on the irony scale, let's talk about Curtis Granderson and his newfound swing waking up and starting to produce at the same time the rest of the lineup turned into a bunch of first- or second-pitch swinging hackers.
- And while we're on Granderson's swing, how awesome is Kevin Long? Guys have problems and he fixes them pronto. Teix can't do anything at the plate and he opens his stance up. He takes the movement out of Swish's stance and swing and suddenly Swish is hitting .300. He does the same with C-Grand and now Grandy can actually get hits again! He's less hitting coach and more mystical wizard as far as I'm concerned.
- I don't want to sound like too much of a Debbie Downer (even though I already do), and I definitely don't want to look past the great year he has had, but what's up with Robbie Cano? His tripleslash has been slowly going down over the last couple weeks and he's not scoring any runs nor driving any in. At this rate the dude is going to end up "just" hitting .300 on the year with less than 100 RBIs, which didn't look like it was even possible a few months ago.
- I don't want to hear about how he's gotten a bunch of hits over the last week or anything like that. Derek Jeter needs to swallow his fucking pride and have a little session with Kevin Long, because I'm sick and tired of watching him ground everything to the left side of the infield, especially with runners on base. His first GIDP last night was bad enough with 2 on, but to ground out to short to end the game last night when Jose Valverde was doing everything he possibly could to help the Yankees win short of ripping off his Tigers jersey to show a Yankee one underneath, was just disgraceful. Jeter's continued weak pulls to the left, his lower than low OBP, and his nonexistent range in the field right now aren't exactly giving him a lot of ammo for his offseason contract negotiations.
- Speaking of limited range, I know Jeter and A-Rod don't have a lot of errors this season, which may make some people think they are in line for Gold Gloves. But the plain fact of the matter is they just don't get to any balls hit to the left side. Any ball hit with a little speed into the hole between them is surely getting through, and that's a bad thing.
- Great play by Gardner trying to take out Carlos Guillen in the 9th to break up the double play. You don't see a lot of guys slide that late and hard and sacrifice their bodies anymore. He's also looking better and more patient at the plate again, so that's a good sign. If he can keep the hitting up it might be time for Joe to consider juggling to lineup to move Gardner to the leadoff spot.
- I know what I said after his 3 homers on Saturday, but with this latest tweaky little injury, I'm starting to have my doubts about whether or not A-Rod will reach 763. The dude just plain can't stay healthy anymore. He's always pulling this and straining that. I know it's tough for centaurs to stretch that many legs, but would it kill him to get out and do a few more calisthenics?
- I don't know what the deal is with this team right now, but it looks to me like they need a little kick in the ass. And by kick in the ass I mean Joe getting off his own ass, getting that "blah" look off his face in the dugout, and managing the fucking team.
The Yanks have been on top of the division for months now and it looks like they've gotten a little complacent and a little too comfortable. During a time when the Rays were stumbling and bumbling and the Red Sox were down on the mat, the Yanks should have stepped on their throats and closed out the division. Instead, they've been playing lazy, sloppy, uninspired baseball and now they find themselves tied for the lead with Tampa again as Boston is starting to get off the deck.
Maybe they need this little jolt of competition to get themselves re-focused, but it would have been nice to see them keep their collective feet on the gas and make a statement that they are the team to beat. If they can't self motivate each other in the clubhouse then the job falls on Joe. He's already said they need to hit and play better to the media during his press conferences, now it's time for him to air his team out and make sure they get the message.
Injuries or no injuries, struggles or no struggles, this team is still the best team in baseball. Now it's time for them to start playing like it again.
Brian Bullington? Brian Fucking Bullington?? That's who's absolutely shitting on the Yankee lineup right now??? Am I even awake right now?
The guy has never, NEVER won a game at the Major League level. He's one of the biggest busts in MLB history and he's completely dominating a lineup chock full of guaranteed future and potential HOFers.
It's shit like this that has the Yanks only 2 games up in the division right now instead of 6 or 7. Time to wake up and start playing again, boys...
In case you couldn't tell, that was a Count from "Sesame Street" reference right there. Pretty intense stuff here at AB4AR when I'm at the shore.
But in any case, did somebody say A-Rod had no more power? That he was washed up? That he had no chance to challenge the all-time record? Dude looked pretty fucking solid to me last night. KC couldn't get anything by him, and we aren't just talking meatballs down the middle here. The pitches were lower in the zone, a location that The Horse hasn't been able to generate a lot of power from this season, and he absolutely mashed all 3 bombs he hit.
Homers can come in bunches for power hitters like him. Something tells me he's going to start making a run at 30 for the year and keep his streak of consecutive 30-HR, 100-RBI seasons intact and continue to cement his legacy as the greatest half-human, half-horse hybrid creature athlete of all time.
Is Jorge Posada ever going to throw out another baserunner again?
Seriously, before the first rain delay it was like a "Kid's Run the Bases" day at the ballpark for the Royals last night. That Blanco dude stole 2nd and 3rd consecutively without a throw EITHER TIME.
I love Jorge, I always have. But it's time to face facts: he is fucking done as a catcher. His body just can't hold up to the wear and tear anymore and it's starting to affect his performance behind the plate and at the plate. He moves like someone with osteoperosis, his swing looks slow and lifeless, and he's got more bumps and bruises right now than Frankie Rodriguez's father-in-law.
If Jorge wants his career to last beyond next season he needs to swallow his pride and get familiar with two words: "Designated Hitter." If he can't handle that, then it might be time to hang 'em up because watching him play right now is just painful.
P.S.- Let the official countdown for The Jesus begin...
Throw on your Ed Hardy t-shirts and start fist pumping, bitches, because it's Jersey Shore week here at AB4AR!!
What does that mean, you ask? Well for starters, it doesn't mean that I'm going to have Pauly D and Ronnie doing guest posts on the Yankees bullpen or inviting Snooki and J-Woww to comment on the possible Yankees playoff roster.
No, nothing quite that bad. My family is making our yearly trip down to Long Beach Island, New Jersey, and with the benefit of modern technology (and a buddy in the IT department at work) my computer will be coming with me for the trip along with a portable internet source. I've got a week in the tri-state area, which means a week of access to the YES Network on a week where the Yankees play every day so being able to stay on top of the events as they happen was a must. My dedication to providing you, dear readers, with subpar, low-brow, profanity-laced analysis of the Bombers will continue even while I'm on vacation.
The only thing that could throw a monkey wrench into this is the availability of Sprint service down at the shore. I have faith that there will be enough, but if not, then you won't be getting anything here for a week. I know that's going to be hard to deal with, but you'll survive. Just say a prayer for me and my air card and if things don't work out, make some Ron Ron Juice, stay away from the grenades, and I'll catch you back here on the 23rd.
Not too much to complain about after another win in a tough weather setting last night. The offense did enough to get the job done, and CC was better than his high hit total suggests against the bloop-happy Royals.
The only problem I have with last night's game was CC even coming out for the 9th inning. Yeah, it's nice to get a complete game and yeah, his pitch count wasn't that high, but it was about 14,000 degrees out there last night. Why even put him in that situation to add extra stress and work on his body when you don't have to?
Joe said “We don’t want to wear this big guy down" when asked after the game why he took CC out with just one out remaining. Well if that's the case, then tell him he's done after 8 and let him rehydrate while D-Rob finishes the thing off. 110 pitches is nothing for a horse like CC, but 110 pitches in 106 heat index weather is different than 110 pitches on a regular day. He gave up 2 hits in the 9th, so it was clear he was tiring a bit. Let him leave the game with just 1 run allowed, bring in D-Rob with a clean slate, and don't even give the tying run a chance to come to the plate like it did last night.
I'm sure CC was fine and wanted to go back out and finish it up, but when outfielders on both teams are getting taken out of the game left and right because of the heat, Joe should have been smart, told CC he was done, and not let the game get as close as it did. CC didn't deserve to have 2 runs tacked onto his total last night, and if Joe goes to his 'pen to start the 9th last night instead of bringing D-Rob in with runners on, he probably doesn't. There's bigger fish to fry here then a complete game against the Royals, Joe, and you've already got injury problems in your rotation. Sit the big guy, let him rest and drink some more Gatorade, and think about October.
How's that for a pitching line, eh? Just an epic day for non-Yankee closers.
Seriously, between Frankie Rodriguez going Mike Tyson's Punch Out on senior citizens and Pahpelbawn melting down again, I feel like a kid on Christmas morning knowing I have Mariano Rivera on my side. While these other clowns are watching their ERAs and WHIPs continue to rise as they sink back towards mediocrity, Mo just keeps chugging along towards the all-time saves record and the Hall of Fame (Tuesday aside of course).
P.S.- Cue all the Boston fans bitching and moaning and pleading for Daniel Bard to become the new closer. Seriously, I'm begging Terry Francona to make Bard the closer. I don't give a fuck what he did over the weekend, the Yankees fucking OWN that dude. Maybe more than they own Papelbon.
Derek Jeter has one of the most successful and widely recognized children's charities. Nick Swisher honors his dead grandmother before each pitch of an at-bat. Mark Teixeira stayed at home and missed 2 games to be with his wife and newborn son. Francisco Rodriguez beats the shit out of his girlfriend's father in front of the entire team and some of their family members in the locker room.
Which of these things is not like the other?
I mean, I'd be upset too if I had been reduced to a marginal closer at best with a now sub-90MPH fastball and a tendency to walk everybody that steps in the batter's box. But taking those frustrations out on an old dude? Family no less? Now that's just low.
Do I even need to bring up the apples-to-oranges comparison for the Yankees and Mets anymore? Or has that just become too similar to even use as a comparison? Shouldn't it be something more like apples-to-steaming piles of elephant shit? Or do I just let the disgrace that is the New York Mets organization speak for itself?
It's a bit cliche to say, but last night was truly a tale of 2 games. 2 games that showed that while the Rangers are definitely for real, the Yankees are still a better team.
The first 5 innings were all about the Rangers. Cliff Lee was dealing and making the Yankees look awful at the plate, their hitters were pounding Javy and making him pay for his lack of velocity and missed locations, they were running the bases hard, making plays in the field, and looking like an all-around better baseball team. The Yankees looked old, stagnant, and completely outclassed.
But the last 4 innings were a different story. Despite his early dominance, the Yankees did make Lee work for his solid outing through 6 and in the 7th he hit the wall big time. The Yanks started taking and fouling off more pitches from Lee, making him work harder with his diminishing stuff, and finally breaking through on some misplaced pitches. That same patience and feistiness at the plate continued as the game was passed into the hands of the Texas bullpen and the Yanks continued to chip away as Francisco and Feliz spit the bit while the Yankee 'pen went into lockdown mode. It was vintage Yankee baseball: being patient, fighting off pitches, and getting clutch hits when they needed to, taking advantage of other teams mistakes (Granderson & Gardner moving up on the 9th-inning wild pitch), and bullpen guys stepping up to get outs in big spots to hold the opponent down.
The series and especially last night answered 2 of the 3 questions I presented earlier in the week. As far as handling the lefties, the Yanks didn't do that too well. They scratched some runs off of Wilson and touched up Lee after he started to tire in the 7th, but when you're tying a franchise record last night with 17 strikeouts, that's not exactly a good thing. I'm not even going to get into the lineup management. Between injuries, sickness, and Teix staying with his wife and kid, I think Joe did the best with what he had. Maybe the everyday Yankee lineup fares a little better at the plate. Maybe it doesn't.
But the most important answer was the one on how the Rangers would hold up in a high-leverage situation. The Rangers stood tall in the face of pressure on Tuesday night and completely collapsed under it last night, proving that they are still a wildcard when it comes to handling big-time playoff situations. The Yankees have plenty of guys that have been there before and know how to handle these situations, and that's why they won last night. That's also why they have the upper hand on the Rangers should the two meet down the road in the playoffs, and that's why the Yankees still have to be the favorites to win it all.
"... it's Mo and you know he won't have any lingering effects from this outing the next time he steps out there. Dude probably won't give up a run for a month after last night."- Me, 8/11/10
Told ya so. So he gave up a leadoff triple to Elvis Andrus on a crummy pitch? How's sitting down one of the best hitters of the last 10 years, the leading AL MVP candidate, and a first-ballot HOF'er who happens to be 4th in the AL in RBIs in order to preserve an improbably comeback win sound?
"Sleep with one eye oooopen. Grippin' your pillow tiiiiiight... "
There has been plenty of discussion around the Yankee blogosphere about the offensive struggles of Jeter, A-Rod, Granderson, and such this year, and with good reason. None of those guys are having the type of season we're used to seeing or expected from them this year. But one of the guys who has been struggling the worst of all lately has been Brett Gardner, and that could have something to do with the continuing lack of spark in the offense.
On June 30, Gardner was hitting a cool .321/.403/.418 for the season and just had just come off a month where he put up an insane 1.006 OPS. Gardner was hitting the piss out of the ball, mixing in a few extra-base jobs here and there, and getting on base at a freakishly good rate because of his patience and walk totals. In the month of July Gardner hit .221/.375/.338 and his seasonal tripleslash dropped to .296/.396/.398. The on-base % was still there thanks to 18 walks in the month, but Gardner had stopped putting up the 2-3, 3-4, 4-4 nights at the plate that had in June and his numbers suffered a bit. Nothing drastic, but certainly not at the All-Star level he had been performing at.
Fast forward to today. After last night, Gardner's line in August is .077/.077/.115. He is just 2-26 in the month and 2-30 going back to the last 2 games of July. Most startling, though, is the big goose egg in the BB column of his stat sheet. Gardner has not drawn a walk all month, and that combined with his cold streak swinging the bat has left him with just 1 SB for August. Gardner's tripleslash for the season currently sits at .279/.375/.376, a far cry from where he was a little over a month ago even if it still is above league average.
Now it would have been crazy to expect Gardner to keep up his high BABIP all season long, and you could certainly expect that some bad luck has something to do with his recent slump. But he also seems to have lost some of his trademark patience during the last few weeks. The zero walks are one telltale sign of that, as are the 11 Ks he currently has. Gardner hasn't struck out more than 19 times in a month all season long, but he is already almost halfway to 30 for August after just 9 games. In July, Gardner was able to counteract his cooling bat and still be offensively viable by drawing walks and getting on base, where his speed becomes a huge asset. In August, the numbers suggest Gardner is swinging at more pitches, taking fewer, and making out after out instead of letting his patience work for him.
Now far be it for me to suggest that Gardner's supposed approach of hacking his way out of a slump is a bad idea. I sucked at baseball when I used to play, and that's why I quit and played lacrosse through middle school and high school. But in my opinion, Gardner has gotten away from what made him successful in the first half of the season and the fact is he just isn't as gifted a natural hitter where he can just swing his way out of a slump. With guys banged up and slumping, the Yankees need Gardner to be a spark plug at the bottom of the order. If he isn't doing that with the bat, then fine, but he still needs to be focused on getting on base any way he can rather than forcing swings because that's where his biggest strength comes out.
The Yanks haven't gotten much from the bottom of the order since the trade deadline, so the more chances to get Gardner on and turn the lineup back over to Jeter, Swish, and Teix, the better. Take a few walks, drop down a few bunts, and don't focus so much on trying to get hits to break out of this slump, Brett. Everybody goes through slumps and Gardner is no different, he just seems to be dealing with his in the wrong way. Get back to being patient and working counts and good things will come.
It's not often that Mo gets beat, as we've all come to learn over the last 15 years. And when he does, it's not often because teams are smacking the ball off of him. Last night was no exception, as a couple of cheap, well-placed hits set the Rangers up with 2 on and no outs in the 10th and then Daniel Murphy put some good wood on a 3-2 fastball to end things.
Now Mo definitely wasn't on top of his game last night. The count was 3-0 on Murphy and after battling back he threw a 3-2 pitch that got way too much of the plate. But he wasn't at his worst either, and when you get beat with your best on the mound, that at least takes some of the sting out of the loss. That and the fact that it's Mo and you know he won't have any lingering effects from this outing the next time he steps out there. Dude probably won't give up a run for a month after last night.
P.S.- Could somebody have gotten a clutch hit last night? For fuck's sake. I know the Swish and Cervy hits were big, and A-Rod's homer was huge in the 8th, but it seemed like the Yankees were set up with runners on all night and they just couldn't get anything done. A hit here and a hit there and this game never even makes it to the 10th. I don't know whether to tip my cap to the Ranger bullpen or spit my gum at the Yankee hitters (cough, cough: Berkman, Gardner, Jeter).
Of course, when you're starting lineup is missing half its regular members, things like that will tend to happen. Teix should be back today, and hopefully Cano takes enough Flintstones vitamins to get over his cold and get back in his spot in the middle of the order.
Yes, the Rangers are clearly the class of the AL West this season, but that's like being the blind person with the best eyesight. It's one thing to beat up on the Mariners and A's and Zombie Angels in half- to three quarters-full ballparks knowing you're light years ahead of them in the loss column, it's quite another to face the Yankees in a packed house in what could be a preview of the ALCS.
The Rangers roster isn't exactly chock full of guys who have been around for a long time, and certainly not full of guys who have playoff experience. The only vets who know about what it's like to play in big high-pressure games are Vlad Guerrero, Darren Oliver, and Cliff Lee, the last legitimate Yankee killer left. And Lee's track record only goes back to last season, so again, not a lot of pressure-situation experience here to fall back on.
The Rangers have the benefit of playing this series at home, but it's still worth asking how the Elvis Andruses, Ian Kinslers, and Nelson Cruzes of the world will hold up against the Yankee starters and how the Texas bullpen will fare facing the Yankee lineup in a close game.
2) How the Yankees handle the 2 Ranger lefties, C.J. Wilson and Cliff Lee.
The Yankees have a winning record against lefties this season, but recently they have been handcuffed in their last 2 lefty outings by Ricky Romero and Jon Lester. And of course the previously mentioned Cliff Lee has done his fair share of kicking the Yankees in the apple bag, so will their struggling offense be able to get on track against what has been their kryptonite of late?
Turning Teix and Jorge around is certainly to the Rangers' benefit, and guys like Berkman and C-Grand have done next to nothing against lefties this year, so there's some lineup juggling that should be done to try to get the lineup going. Which brings us to our last point...
3) What Joe does with the lineup against the 2 lefties
I don't know about you, but I'm done watching Curtis Granderson flail around helplessly like a baby bird at the plate, especially against lefties. At this point, he's more of an offensive liability than a defensive asset when there's a southpaw on the mound, so I would bench his ass for Austin Kearns and stick Brett Gardner in center for these 2 games. If the Yanks have the lead late Joe can stick him in as a defensive replacement and slide Gardner over to left, but there is no reason to have Granderson hitting against lefties with what he's shown this season.
The same could be said for Berkman, despite the fact that he started swinging the bat better at the end of the Boston series. He just doesn't have the numbers to justify being in there against Wilson and Lee, and Marcus Thames has done nothing but mash lefties all year. Thames should get the nod here.
But then comes the issue of Cervelli already being announced as the starting catcher for both games of the series and the bigger issue of Teix being out of the lineup tonight unless his old lady can pop that kid out with the quickness. Frankie catching almost automatically pencils Jorge into the DH spot and Teix being MIA means The BFP is probably in at first. All this adds up to bye-bye, Marcus and means tonight's lineup will look something like this:
Not exactly the A-Team out there but what can you do? If Teix can go, you slot him in at 3 and bump everybody else down 1 to their normal spots until you cross out Berkman at 6. Joe could take a risk and stick Thames in LF to get his bat in over Kearns', but I would hope by now he has learned the lesson of never putting Thames in the field.
I personally would like to see Jorge at first tonight if Teix can't make it and Thames at DH. Now you've got your full compliment of righties in the lineup and Granderson and Berkman on the bench where they belong. I'm sure that won't happen because of all the concerns about Jorge's health, but fuck that. I would want to send a message this series that these cute little upstart Rangers haven't won shit yet and still aren't on the Yankees level. And if that means Jorge takes a liner off his bad knee and the Yanks have to call up The Jesus after to fill in and rake, so fucking be it!
But that's just me...
** Bonus 4th Thing to Watch For: How A.J.'s back holds up tonight.
I know I wouldn't be all that upset if he tweaked it again and had to make a DL trip. Is that wrong to say? Probably. But with Ivan Nova wasting away in Triple-A, I'd rather see him come out and get shelled and chalk it up as a learning experience than watch A.J. get shelled and have to chalk it up to him being a candyass. **
(Photo of Jeter passing The Babe on Sunday courtesy of The AP)
Well the last of the booze had left my system after the weekend, and as it turns out I actually got to catch half of the series thanks to FOX not having anything Chicago or St. Louis-related to cover on Saturday to bump the Yanks and ESPN having to have Boston-New York on Sunday night baseball. All in all, I'd say it wasn't a great weekend for the Yanks, but it certainly wasn't a terrible one either. Let's review:
- On Friday, the offense was held in check by Clay Buchholz for the most part and Frankie Cervelli did himself a huge disservice in trying to get more playing time this year and next with the new additions by committing an inexcusable error on a dropped pop up that led to 3 unearned runs. Javy didn't pitch great, not well enough to win against Buchholz, but he certainly didn't deserve to lose either. Just a stagnant game and a case of nobody being able to pick anybody else up for their mistakes.
- On Saturday, CC outdueled the still-overrated John Lackey to even the series with 8 strong innings to bridge the gap to Mo. After struggling through the first couple innings and allowing 2 runs, it was great to watch CC morph back into the dominant ace we've known him to be. He was noticeably better in each inning after the 3rd, re-establishing his command of his stuff and keeping Boston's hitters completely off balance. With the uncertainty surrounding the rest of the staff right now, it was a huge relief to see Carsten right the ship.
- A.J. Burnett's back spasms turned out to be the best thing that could happen to the Yanks on Sunday night as it allowed Dustin Moseley, someone the Red Sox most likely have no book on, to step in and completely dominate. Moseley threw strike 1 to seemingly every batter he faced and mixed his fastball and off-speed stuff brilliantly to both sides of the plate to keep Boston's hitters completely off balance for 6 + innings. Another typical Yankee beatdown of the Pitcher Formerly Known as Josh Beckett and that was that.
- Yesterday was another solid start for Phil Hughes, albeit a wasted one as the Yanks were shut down by Jon Lester. The Yankees had their opportunities in the late innings, but could not capitalize on anything as Boston's bullpen did something right for a change and actually held a lead. Surprising, I know, but still disappointing with a series win on the line. All in all not a bad weekend, though, as the Yankees find themselves back atop the AL East thanks to Tampa's awful week.
Some more thoughts on the weekend:
- Great work by Boone Logan this weekend. 3 appearance totaling 2 innings of scoreless, hitless ball and a complete shutdown of Big Sloppi. Logan has looked like a different pitcher since being called back up and should give the Yankees some lefty insurance if Marte is unable to go in the postseason.
- The box scores show a split, but this very easily could and should have been a Yankee sweep. They put plenty of men on base and couldn't do much with that, save for a few at-bats on Saturday and Sunday. Overall they were just 8-41 with RISP in the series, and 1-17 in the 2 losses. Definitely a weekend of lost opportunities at the plate.
- Jorge Posada is old, I mean REALLY fucking old. His swing looked slow and powerless in the 2 games I saw, his play behind the plate is still spotty at best, and he had yet another groundball to first that the firstbaseman dove for, fielded, recovered, and threw to first in the time it takes me to get ready for work in the morning to get Jorge by a step and a half. I've loved Jorge for a long time, but if he keeps this up down the stretch, the Yanks might have to think seriously about calling The Jesus up next year to catch.
- The Big Fat Puma picked a good night to start hitting on Sunday night. He plunked A-Rod in BP the day before and the boo birds were starting to come out at The Stadium before his 3-4 night. Those back-to-back doubles down the line showed that there's still some life in Berkman's bat, even if there's next to none in his legs.
- Speaking of the BP incident, what the fuck was The Horse doing that close to the batting cage if he wasn't paying attention? If you want to talk bullshit with guys in the dugouts or down the baselines, or find some good grass to graze on before the game, don't do it right in the infield during live batting practice. Go in the fucking outfield or the clubhouse! Come on, A-Rod. This ain't no rookie shit.
- Well he ain't doing much for the ole batting average lately, but Teix is certainly making his hits count. He had 5 hits against the Sox, 3 for home runs, and in his last 10 games has exactly 10 hits, 6 of them home runs and 1 a double for 13 RBIs. Hey, I'm not going to complain about him still hitting below .260 when he's 1st in the AL in runs, 3rd in homers, 4th in RBIs, and 3rd in walks.
- Saturday was a perfect demonstration of how CC has evolved as a pitcher. His stuff was sharp, but not dominating, and he simply pitched to contact, getting the Red Sox hitters to swing at what he wanted them to swing at, and trusted his defense behind him. A fantastic performance and the best recipe to get the Yanks a win that Joe obviously wanted.
- You can't help but be impressed by Dustin Moseley. The guy doesn't look like much, doesn't have anything special to his delivery, and doesn't throw anything in particular that makes you do a double take. But the dude throws strikes, isn't afraid to come inside, and seems to have a good feel for the game. After Sunday, I think we can all breathe a little easier knowing Moseley is around if someone else in the rotation gets hurt.
- Because of how well Moseley handled himself on Sunday, it made it all the more strange to me when Joe took him out in the 7th inning. His pitch count was low (87), he was showing no signs of fatigue, he was facing a righty in Mike Lowell (and an older than shit one at that), and had a double play set up with a runner on first. As well as he had pitched to that point, Moseley deserved a chance to finish out the inning, especially with a 6-run lead and especially if Joe's next choice was Joba. As expected, Joba was a disaster and couldn't get Moseley off the hook and Boone had to come save the day.
- Then, to top that off, Joe yanks D-Rob in the 9th after a walk to bring in Mo even though there were 2 outs and the Yanks were up 5. Mo never should have been up in that situation in the first place. Stop overmanaging, Joe!! Let your pitchers pitch!
- Is it just me or have the Yankees been extremely unlucky with infield singles against them? It happened twice in the just discussed 7th inning on Sunday, and it seems like they have at least 1 or 2 against them every game. Are teams actually trying to put the ball in these soft spots of the infield or is it really just a case of shit luck? In either case, it sucks for the pitchers when they make a good pitch, get a shit swing for shit contact, and the dude still ends up on first.
- I for one was fully expecting the Yanks to light up Daniel Bard when he was brought in yesterday in the 7th with the bases loaded. And the at-bats by Jeter and Swish were absolutely pathetic. I know Bard's got good stuff, but come the fuck on!! Add in C-Grand's hack job against Lester before that and that was just a disgraceful series of events for the Yankee hitters. Bases loaded, nobody out, and they can't even get the ball in play to get the runners moving? Pitiful. That was the ballgame right there.
- It's stories like this one about the Rays putting Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis on the DL with shoulder injuries that really make me appreciate how the Yankees have handled Phil Hughes. Sure, they fucked up Joba, but he sucks anyway. Hughes was always the crown jewel of their pitching prospects and they've treated him carefully as such. If he continues to pitch well this year without any problems, it should be all systems go next year and each year after. And I'd rather have that to look forward to than MRIs and Tommy John surgery like Niemann and Davis have.