Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"The Day After Cervelli" Yanks-Sawx Live Blog

(No, Joe isn't doing the Carlton Dance there.  And no, the ump doesn't look amused.)

There is all kinds of sizzle to tonight's Game 2 of the latest 3-round Yanks-Sawx regular season brawl, about as much as you can have for a regular season game in a sport that plays 162 regular season games.  There's the potential fallout from last night's beanball wars, potential gas to add to that fire in the form of noted Yankee HBP specialist and all-around dickhead Josh Beckett being the starter for the Fraud Sawx, Phil Hughes countering Beckett for the Yanks and needing to balance handling retaliation if Beckett decides to get silly and rebounding from his horrendous last start to keep himself in rotation contention, and last night's fire starter Frankie Cervelli catching and batting 9th for the Yankees again because of Russell Martin's bumps and bruises.  And to top it all of, the division lead is on the line again.

Yeah, I'd putting money down on the benches emptying again tonight if I were you.  And for the first time since Opening Day, I'll be here to live blog the shit out of the evening's events.  Aaaaand since it isn't a day game and I don't have anywhere to be or anything to do after, I have the added bonus of being able to invite my good friend Mr. 12-Pack of Beer to the party.  That means you, dear readers, get the added bonus of increased profanity, tasteless jokes, and additional potshots at ESPN sprinkled in with my usual game analysis as the game goes on and the beer count dwindles.  This night has good times written all over it.

Here's the lineup for the Yankees tonight, via LoHud.  The Horse will join Martin on the bench again tonight because of his thumb injury.  It's almost getting to the point where the thumb issue is becoming post-worthy.

1) Brett Gardner- LF
2) Derek Jeter- SS
3) Curtis Granderson- CF
4) Mark Teixeira- 1B
5) Robinson Cano- 2B
6) Nick Swisher- RF
7) Eric Chavez- DH
8) Eduardo Nunez- 3B
9) Francisco Cervelli- C

I'm not posting the Fraud Sawx lineup because they're a bunch of assholes and I hate them.  Check back some time before 7 PM EST/6 PM Central when we kick this baby off.

Boone Logan Is Good Again

I don't how it happened or when, but I checked Boone Logan's line this morning and was a bit shocked.  I know he's been better over the last couple months, but I honestly had no idea he's been THAT good.  Logan stumbled through the first couple months of the season, that's no secret.  At the end of May he had an ERA and a FIP in the 4s, and his R/L splits were very disconcerting.  At his best, Logan is a shutdown type of LOOGY but his performance through the season's first 2 months, through a combination of misuse by Joe and ineffective pitching by Boone, did not translate into that role.  Logan wasn't getting lefties out, and with Damaso Marte and Pedro Feliciano shelved for the season, the Yankees started a mad scramble to find another lefty bullpen arm.

Over the last 3 months, however, Logan has been a much different pitcher.  After his talk with The Horse about having a plan on the mound, Logan's approach and results have been more in line with what we saw from him in the 2nd half of 2010 and what we were hoping to see in 2011.  Since May 28, Logan has thrown 21 innings and allowed just 4 ER on 22 combined H and BB while striking out 30.  His K/9 numbers have skyrocketed from the low 5s in May to 12.79 in June, 13.00 in July, and 14.21 in August, totaling out to a 10.13 K/9 for the season (2nd best amongst Yankee relievers behind D-Rob).  His walks are also down significantly, all adding up to a season line that is now even better than what he produced in 2010.

- 2010: 40.0 IP, 2.93 ERA, 3.73 FIP, 8.55 K/9, 4.50 BB/9, 12.2 SwStr%
- 2011: 34.2 IP, 2.60 ERA, 3.01 FIP, 10.13 K/9, 2.86 BB/9, 12.8 SwStr%

More importantly, his numbers against lefties have evened out and are back in line with what fans, his teammates, and his coaches expect to see.  in 21.1 total innings vs. lefties this year, Logan has 28 Ks, and a tripleslash of 2.53/3.34/2.90.  Last night was a bit of a freak reverse platoon split for Logan as he gave up a hit to the lone lefty he faced and then struck out 2 righties to end the 7th inning, but that has been the exception rather than the rule this summer.

His home/road splits are still a bit of a concern, but there's no doubt that Boone Logan has rebounded from his poor start to turn his season into a fantastic one.  His stuff is on point, he's being aggressive with hitters, and living up to his role as the lone lefty specialist in the bullpen.  If he can keep this trend up for the rest of the season, he will ease concerns about carrying another lefty on the postseason roster and make the already dangerous Yankee bullpen even deeper.

** REMINDER- Live blog coming tonight at 7PM Eastern, 6 Central. **

John Lackey Is A Big Ol' Bag O' Douche

(I'd say this is courtesy of, but it's more of a tragedy that they subject people to looking at this guy.)

Look at this clown.  Nice backwards Nike hat, dick.  You look like a drunk BC fan on the set of College Gameday, assuming ESPN would ever be dumb enough to send Corso and Herbie to that horseshit school.  And cool magnetic balance wristband thing.  That's obviously helped your game this season (5.94 ERA, 4.78 FIP, 1.55 WHIP, < 6IP/start avg., 1.0 WAR in 136+ IP).  Makes A.J. Burnett look league average by comparison.

Not to mention he looks and sounds like Baby Huey with a touch of Bell's palsy.  Just a complete mess of humanity all around.

P.S.- The pitch that he put in between Cervelli's numbers in the 7th last night was the best command he showed all night.  Sad.

A Win You Have To Love

I'm not even going to bother talking about how many hits CC gave up or how many baserunners the Sawx had last night or any of that.  The important thing is that the Yankees won the game.  And there were so many other good things that happened last night to love if you're a Yankee fan.

- I love the fact that everybody seemed to be a little extra hyped for last night's game.  With the small margin they have trailing the division lead and the wide margin they have leading the Wild Card, these games really don't mean that much in the grand scheme of things.  But there was a sense that the Yankees WANTED to win last night's game.

- I love that Joe was out of the dugout to argue the C-Grand HBP in the 1st inning last night.  And I love that he was still pissed about it during the postgame interview.  You don't usually see managers get that agitated that early in the game.

 (Girardi AAANGRY!!!  Courtesy of The AP)

- I love that CC was smart enough, and a good enough teammate, to use the umpire's bad call on C-Grand to his advantage and take his pound of flesh from Ellsbury in the bottom of the 1st.  Because it was ruled a strike there was no HBP and no warning, but CC knew Curtis got hit just like Curtis did and he made damn sure revenge was exacted.

- Speaking of the big fella, I love the fact that CC had to work hard to get his win last night.  You can talk about the 10 hits and say he got lucky, but the dude made pitches when he had to.  In 6 innings he struck out 10 and had 20 swinging strikes.  He varied his approach against righties and lefties and kept the Bahhston hitters off balance in pressure situations.  Dude brought it.

- I love that CC owned Adrian Gonzalez's world last night, getting him to strike out 3 times in 4 hitless at-bats against him.

- I love that Francisco Cervelli crushed a home run off of Lackey.  I love that he clapped in Saltalamacchia's face when he touched home plate.  I love that he was pissed when he got hit the next time up.  And I love that he didn't just lay down and take it.  He talked shit to Lackey and basically told Saltalamacchia to get fucked when he tried to intervene.  I'm on record as not being a Cervelli fan, but last night he won a few points from me.

(Cervelli's probably calling him a bitch for leaving his mask on.  Courtesy of The AP)

- I love that soft-spoken Larry Rothschild got tossed after the benches emptied in the 7th.  And I love his response when asked if he said some inappropriate words to the ump- "More than one."

- I love that Boone Logan is back to being the guy he was in the 2nd half of 2010.  Back-to-back Ks with the bases loaded in the 7th.  We wouldn't have gotten that from him a few months ago (more on Logan later today).

- I love that Mo decided to throw a little sweet chin music Saltalamacchia's way in the 9th.  Don't fuck with the G.O.A.T.

Most importantly, I love that the events that took place last night add a little extra sizzle to tonight's game.  With Beckett on the mound, you can put it in the books that a Yankee is going to get plunked early, and we'll see if Phil mans up and protects his boys.  It should be an interesting game tonight, and the potential drama could make my live blog that much better. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Let's Talk Roster Expansions

Specifically who will and won't be called up when rosters expand in a couple of days.  There are plenty of potential candidates, some deserving and some not, and some wildcards who the Yankees could choose to bring up if they were so inclined.  For the sake of time and space, I'll break this down as simply as possible.

4 Who Will Get The Call

- Jesus Montero- Pretty much a no-brainer.  The dude has been crushing the ball lately, raising his season line up to .290/.350/.471 with 38 XBH.  He probably should have been called up at least a month ago, and there's really nothing left for him to learn at Triple-A, so a September call up and cameo appearance as a C/DH should be a good starting point to determine how he fits into the 2012 plans.

- Chris Dickerson- He's been useful in his limited time on the Yankee roster already thanks to his speed and athleticism.  At the very least, he gives the Yankees a competent defensive option/late-game replacement to use down the stretch to rest their everyday OFers if Joe decides he wants to do that.

- Hector Noesi- Has more than proven his worth as a Major League-caliber pitcher this year out of the bullpen, even if he probably should have been sent down to stretch back out and work as a starter.  But the contributions he's already made as a long reliever make him a viable candidate for the postseason roster, so it only makes sense that he would be brought back to continue to audition for that role.

- Greg Golson- See above explanation for Dickerson.  Golson filled that role admirably in 2010 and would give Joe even more bench depth to play with in situations where he can get his everyday guys a little extra rest. 

4 Who Should Get The Call

The Garbage Man Does It Again

I guess the cut on the finger is completely healed because Freddy was out there spinning his magical junk again and navigating his way through the Oriole lineup with the same mind-bending wizardry he displayed in his first 2 starts against Baltimore this season.  If you're keeping score at home, that's now 3 total runs allowed against Baltimore in 18 innings of work for The Garbage Man this year.  Too bad they aren't going to be around for the playoffs.

You could almost make the argument now that Freddy has been the Yankees second best pitcher this season.  He's been consistent, effective, and a great value.  With the contract they signed him to, the Yankees are paying Garcia $136,363.64 per win this year, with more games still to go.  By comparison, A.J. Burnett is "earning" $1,833,333.33 per win this year.

And kudos to Joe for being smart and not pushing Freddy.  6 innings and 88 pitches is more than enough for a first game back.

That's a +1 for Freddy in the rotation race.  Ball's in Phil's court now.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Casting Call For The Rotation

Starting tonight, auditions will be underway for spots in the soon to be 5-man rotation for the rest of the season.  CC is a shoo in, Bartolo and Nova punched their tickets yesterday, so now we're down to 3 men for 2 spots.

In all honesty, Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes probably have to do very little to get the nods over A.J.  As long as they manage to get an out or 2 and not allow infinity runs, that should probably lock it up.  And with the way the Yankees have set things up for this week (Freddy tonight, CC tomorrow, Phil Wednesday, and A.J. Thursday), it's almost as if they are stacking the deck in Freddy and Phil's favor.  Freddy gets to face the lesser lineup in his first game back from the DL, Phil stays on his regular rest to prove that his last outing was a bump in the road and not a sign of regression back to his early-season issues, and A.J. effectively gets thrown to the wolves in facing the best offense in the AL so he can continue his bombshow and put the final nail in his rotation coffin.

That being said, this scenario isn't exactly a slam dunk.  Freddy wasn't that great in his Triple-A rehab assignment, and Phil was pretty awful in that last outing against the weaksauce A's lineup.  And bad as they are, there are some good professional hitters in the Baltimore lineup that could punish Freddy if he's off, and the Fraud Sawx lineup won't hesitate to do the same to Phil if he's missing his stuff, command, or both on Wednesday.  Realistically, Freddy and Phil should be doing battle for the 4th postseason rotation spot over the course of the next month.  But with all the chances that Joe has given A.J., and the fact that he and Cash continue to defend A.J. in front of the media, there does exist that minuscule, microscopic chance that a couple of stinker outings from Garcia and Hughes this week could leave the door open for A.J. to get another chance.  And for that reason, it's critically important that Garcia and Hughes go out and at least be mediocre.

On a personal fan note, I'm very interested/scared to see how Hughes fairs on Wednesday.  Best lineup he's faced, coming off a bad start, nationally televised game.  How he pitches could be a big determining factor for how the Yanks plan to use him in the playoffs.  Add all that together and I think I smell another AB4AR live blog on Wednesday night.

Rotation Fates Sealed Yesterday

(ROY?  Maybe.  Postseason starter?  Definitely.  Courtesy of The AP)

Bartolo Colon and Ivan Nova are locked in.

After both of their performances yesterday, we can safely say that both of those guys will be part of the 5-man rotation moving forward.  But more than that, I think after what they showed yesterday, both Colon and Nova have locked up spots in the playoff rotation and further solidified the possibility of A.J. Burnett being on the outside looking in.

Colon, whose recent struggles have been well documented, had a great bounce-back start yesterday afternoon, throwing 7.2 innings of 2-run ball.  He was back to using and locating his 2-seamer well, and he worked much more efficiently than he has in the past couple months, throwing just 70+ pitches through the first 6 innings of work.  Colon started to wear down a bit in the 7th, when he allowed his first run, and his final line got hurt a bit by Joe trying to stretch him to get through the 8th, but it was a performance reminiscent of his early-season starts.  Colon was sharp, had good stuff, good command, and showed that he can still be effective.  In the postseason, he probably comes out after 7 innings of 1-run ball, and in the postseason the Yankees will be happy to get that kind of output from a starting pitcher.  But to see Colon get back to what has made him successful all season and show that he still has something in the tank was very important.

After Colon's solid outing, Ivan Nova continued his recent historical run in the nightcap, and the manner in which he did it was made his start that much more impressive.  Nova was not on his game early, allowing 1 run in each of the first 3 innings, missing his spots, and not looking sharp at all.  From then on, however, he was money.  He found the command of his fastball and used it to get ahead of hitters and found his slider to use as an out pitch to put guys away.  Through the first 3 innings, Nova allowed 5 hits and all 3 of his runs while striking out 2.  In the 4+ innings after that, Nova gave up just 2 hits and 2 walks (1 of each in the 8th when he was gassed), 0 runs, and struck out 5.  It was, in effect, a reverse A.J. Burnett-style start; early on Nova didn't have command of anything and got punished for it, but he was able to bear down, find his command, and work effectively through the next 4 innings to hold the opponent where they were and give his team a chance to win.

And what makes it even better is the fact that Nova recognized there was a problem early on and he fixed it.  He exhibited the wherewithal usually reserved for veteran pitchers and turned what could have been a disastrous outing into a quality one and a win for him and his team.  And he continued to show both the physical and mental development as a pitcher that has made him such a quality starter over the last few months.

Stuff, command, pitching intelligence, and mental toughness are all important to being a successful Major League starting pitcher, and yesterday Bartolo Colon and Ivan Nova showcased all 4 of those qualities in different ways in turning in 2 quality starting pitching performances.  With all the uncertainty surrounding the Yankee rotation for the rest of the year, yesterday they helped to provide some stability and should secure their spots for the rest of the regular season and beyond.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Fireman Strikes Again

I'm going to skip all the serious talk and analysis for tomorrow and instead just play out my man crush on D-Rob in a public literary forum again.

Seriously, are you kidding me???  The dude comes in with 2 on, puts another runner on to load the bases, then proceeds to strike out the side in the 8th like it ain't no thang.  He's a fucking monster.  He can't be stopped.  The guy loves pressure.  He thrives on it.  In all honesty, Rafael Soriano should probably just opt out if he ever wants to pitch real man innings ever again because D-Rob is THAT good.

In 45 times he's faced a batter when the bases have been loaded in his career, D-Rob has 23 Ks.  That's beyond dirty.  That's just otherworld filth.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Little Rainout Reading

Big surprise, the doubleheader scheduled for today is washed out.  Adios to one off day in September, I guess.

This being the situation, the story of the day will continue to be A.J. Burnett's shittiness as a starting pitcher.  Today on TYA, Steve S. does the best job I've seen yet of summing up just what the REAL issue is with A.J., with a little help from ESPN and RLYW stats.  Well done, Steve.

Since you don't have any games to worry about watching now, do yourself a favor and check the whole post out here.  And then forward it to Joe and Cash.

U-G-L-Y. A.J. Ain't Got No Alibi

(Failboat.  Courtesy of The AP)

Well that went about as horribly as I thought it would.

6 consecutive XBH allowed in a 6-run 2nd inning, 9 ER on 9 H (8 XBH) over 5 innings pitched overall, and a curveball that was only located either right over the heart of the plate or against the backstop.  Yep, that's pretty much par for the course for an A.J. Burnett outing in August.

On the positive side, I do feel a little good about having my lack of faith rewarded.  That's always a plus, so thanks, A.J.

Friday, August 26, 2011

What's The Bigger Disaster: Irene Or A.J. Burnett?

I wish this was a joke.  But I honestly am terrified about what could happen when A.J. takes the hill tonight in Baltimore.  Does anybody out there have any faith that A.J. will come out and produce even a MEDIOCRE outing?  I know I don't.

I am prepared for literally any bad possibility to happen tonight in this game.  I won't be shocked if A.J. is terrible right off the bat and doesn't make it out of the first inning.  I won't be shocked if he sucks early on and pulls one of the Roger Clemens fake injuries to get himself taken out after 2 or 3 innings.  I won't be shocked if he doesn't even make the start because he comes down with some phony sickness or injury.  I won't be shocked if he walks or hits every batter he faces tonight and doesn't record a single out.  I won't be shocked if he has his normal 4-6-inning shitty performance, culminating in the usual meltdown at the end, and then just runs off the mound and into the locker room crying as Joe comes out to get the ball from him, then showers, changes, packs his stuff up, and disappears into the Baltimore night, never to be heard from again.

The only thing that would shock me is if A.J. actually pitches a good game tonight.  And I'm not even talking about a legit good game; I'm talking A.J.-type good.  Like 5.1 innings of 3-run ball.  But I don't have one ounce of faith that A.J. will produce even that tonight.  So there you go, A.J.  You're working with low expectations tonight.  Go out and make me proud.

(I should really have this updated now to have the full Two-Face look.  There is no more Good A.J. or Bad A.J.)

** P.S.- To any readers out there on the East Coast who will experience the hurricane this weekend, stay safe. **

The Final Sign That Derek Jeter Is Back

(Later, toots!  Courtesy of Neil Miller, NY Post)

There was the 5-5 with the HR to reach 3,000 hits after coming off the DL.  There was the rest of July where his swing looked like it had some life and speed back to it and his pitch selection was much better than it had been.  There's been the month of August where he's hit .422/.475/.511 in 90 ABs with 6 XBH, 18 R, 12 RBI, including a ridiculous 28-57 (.492 BA) stretch since August 10th that has his season line back up to .299/.359/.388 and reminded everybody just how good he is.

But the final piece of the Derek Jeter Rebirth puzzle was put into place this morning, thanks to this little nugget of info via The Post:

"The Yankees legend and notorious ladies man reportedly has separated from his gorgeous actress girlfriend Minka Kelly after three years.  Kelly’s rep confirmed the split to People Magazine early today.

"They care about each other and it was amicable," a source told the magazine.  "They’re still friends."

BOOM!  It's official.  Derek Jeter, HOF shortstop and #1 cocksman of all time, is back on the open market.  And the timing makes perfect sense.  The wheels of Jeter's decline started turning about 3 years ago, the same time he started dating Kelly.  His all-around awesomeness was starting to dwindle a bit, most likely lessening his confidence in his ability to jump from lady to lady like he used to in his prime.  After last season's debacle, Jeter probably figured (even though he'd never admit it publicly) that as his days as a premiere baseball player were at their end, and that his chances at continuing to be the all-time greatest tail puller would end as well, hence the continuing to stay with Minka and start to make wedding plans.

But then this recent resurgence re-lit the spark inside of The Captain, and he realized he's not only got a little life left in his bat, but that he's also still got some life left in his bat (wink, wink).  And because of that, he knew he couldn't be tied down by Minka.  He had to be free.  His swag is on a hundred-thousand-trillion right now and he's looking to plow.  He's gotta strike while the iron is hot, so he dumped the dead weight (probably a good call considering how horrible the new "Charlie's Angels" show looks) and put himself back out there on the open market.  It's like we're back in 2002 again.  The Captain is raking at the plate and about to rake in the celebrity poon at home.  All is right with the world.

So look out, young Hollwood.  Derek Jeter is back on the prowl.  By this time next week, I guaran-damn-tee we hear rumors of Jeter being linked to Zoe Saldana, Victoria Justice, and Kate Upton.  Or possibly all 3.

Who Actually Wants To Be In The Rotation?

With A.J. committing rotation hara-kiri in August for the 2nd season in a row, the rotation picture moving forward should have been clearing up significantly.  But with the recent goings on of the rest of the guys in the current 6-man situation, things are just as blurry as ever.

Bartolo Colon, the man who was the clear cut #2 starter behind CC earlier in the summer, and who was arguably the Yankees' best starter for a brief period earlier in the year, has been on a steady downward trend since July, and it's gotten to the point where it's blatantly obvious now and everybody is talking about it.  As I said earlier in the week, I can't really get on Bart for getting worn down given his injury history over the last 3-4 years and his drastically increased workload this season.  But his decline might be the biggest cause for concern for the Yankees moving forward, given how well he was pitching earlier and the fact that he was considered a "sure thing" behind CC during that time.

Freddy Garcia has been out with his hand injury for a few weeks now, and he didn't exactly light the world on fire in his first rehab start in Triple-A earlier this week.  He should be plenty rested after his DL stint, and he doesn't bring a lot of lightning to the table on his fastball to begin with, so a breakdown similar to that of Colon shouldn't be a concern.  But Freddy's ability to be successful with his scrap heap of offspeed stuff against better hitting teams is a major question.  The Yankees won't be facing the Mariner or Twin offenses in the postseason, and he needs to be sharp with what he does have to handle the likes of the Rangers and the Fraud Sawx.

And last night, Phil Hughes, he of the 4 consecutive games of 2 < ER allowed, took a big leap back.  He allowed 6 ER and 7 hits in just 2.2 innings of work.  He walked none and struck out 5, but his stuff didn't look that great and his command was even worse.  After all the good work he had done before last night, Hughes was looking more and more like his 2010 self and more and more likely to get a spot in the rotation for the rest of the season.  But last night's disaster will only bring back all the questions about how confident the Yankees can be in him moving forward and whether or not he'd be better off in the 'pen (for the record, I don't want to see Hughes back in the bullpen ever).

The individual struggles are bad enough, but the worst thing about all of this is that it creates more opportunities for A.J. to continue to be a part of the rotation.  He obviously doesn't deserve the spot, but all the rest of the rotation options failing to set themselves apart from him combined with the blind loyalty and faith that Joe still seems to show in him makes A.J.'s chances of sticking around look better with each rough outing had by somebody else .

It's almost September and the Yankees are still CC and ... ?  Somebody, or somebodies, needs to step up over the next couple weeks and establish themselves to make Joe's decision a little easier.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Little History In Your Eye

Ho-hum.  No big deal.  Nothing to see here today.

Nothing like a little Major League Baseball history.  First team EVER to hit 3 grand slams in a game, first time in Yankee history they've ever hit 2 in a game at The Stadium, and an MLB season-high 22 runs scored.  History across the board.

Kinda makes me feel like a schmuck for not being more productive today at work.  Oh well.  I'll get over it.  Go Yankees!!

P.S.- 20 bucks says this game still gets buried on SportsCenter behind MNF, the LLWS, an NBA lockout update, and a live "look in" at the Fraud Sawx game.

Damn, Sour Puss

(At least he had a reason to look this bummed last night.  Courtesy of The AP)

Come on, man!  I was just starting to not hate your guts and then you had to go out and shit the bed in extras last night?  Not cool, Raffy.  Not cool at all.

I suppose I can't lay all the blame on you.  It's not your fault Joe decided not to use you at all for a week.  But still.  Damn, dude.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bartolo Might Be Running Out Of Gas

(Can a brotha get a stem cell injection?  Courtesy of The AP)

I strongly stress the "might" in that title, because if the playoffs started tomorrow I think it goes without saying that Colon would be included in whatever 4 pitchers Joe decides to go with.  Right now he's better than A.J. and healthier than Freddy Garcia, and his body of work over the course of this year provides a convincing case that he would give the Yankees a better chance to win against their likely opponents in the AL playoffs.

But it is also a fair statement to say that Colon has not been the same pitcher in July and August that he was from April to June.  Since his July 2nd return from his DL stint, a game in which he tossed 6 shutout innings against the Mets, Bart has seen his ERA climb almost a full run from 2.88 to 3.72.  His monthly ERA and FIP numbers have been higher in July than earlier in the year, and their highest of the season in August (5.73 ERA/5.97 FIP in 22 August IP).  This has been in conjunction with a dramatic increase in baserunners allowed (WHIP in the 1.5s in July-August vs. low 1.00s from April-June) and a sharp decrease in K/9 (season-low 5.73 in August).

All this points back to the workload question that everyone knew would hang over Bartolo for the whole season.  His 131 IP are more than he had thrown in the last 3 seasons combined, and those additional innings seem to be starting to take their toll on Bart.  Earlier in the season he thrived on his 2-seam fastball, using its zip and pinpoint location to rock guys to sleep.  He was very effective with the pitch and was able to work quickly through lineups and go deeper into games.  Now that pitch appears to be losing some of its luster, it's getting hit more and Bartolo isn't able to navigate through lineups as smoothly.  As a result, he's throwing more pitches, isn't able to work efficiently into the later innings of games, and he admitted last night that he went away from the 2-seamer to the 4-seamer because of how much the 2-seamer had gotten smacked around recently.

Last night was the perfect example of the difference between early-season Bart and present day Bart.  He was good but not great through 6 innings, giving up 3 runs to the weak Oakland offense, the same offense he threw 7 innings of 2-run ball against in July and the same offense he threw 9 innings of shutout ball against in May.  When he came out for the 7th, he was tired and didn't have the same life on his pitches and he ended up allowing 2 more runs before Joe yanked him.

A couple months ago, the 7th inning against the Oakland A's would have been easy street for Bartolo and we would have killed Joe for taking him out.  Last night, that same 7th inning was probably too much to ask for from Bart and it would be easy to kill Joe for leaving him in.  It's understandable that Bartolo would be slowing down with the workload he's had this year, and I'm not going to criticize the guy for it, but it is something that needs to be recognized and addressed by the Yankees and managed properly by Joe moving forward.

From The "Piling On" Files

("Why hast thou forsaken me, landing area?!"  Courtesy of Getty Images)

Welcome to the party, Joel Sherman!  In his column today, Sherman becomes the latest to dump all over A.J.'s world.  Some of the highlights include:

- "Burnett’s 4.96 ERA this season ranks 10th worst in Yankees history for a pitcher with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. His 5.26 last year is third worst. If he doesn’t improve in 2011, he is going to be the only pitcher in team history with two of the 10 worst marks."

- "It makes sense his 4.72 ERA in 92 Yankee starts is by far the worst mark in team history for anyone allowed to make even 80 starts. The next worst is the 4.33 of Scott Kamieniecki."

- "The Yankees have won a major league-best 275 games since Burnett’s 2009 arrival. They had lost a major league-low 175 games — five fewer than Philadelphia, 16 fewer than the Red Sox.  Yet Burnett is 32-34. He has lost as the Yankees have won more than any other team in the sport."

- "The bar is this low now on Burnett: The Yankees are hoping to get something, anything out of him; hoping he does not kill them."

- "At a time when the Yankees have won more than anyone, Burnett has figured out how to be a loser."

Jesus tap dancing Christ that is bad.  And I can't say I disagree with Sherman's last point.  It's sad that A.J. has become a punchline, a living exhibit of pitching mediocrity in a Yankee uniform, but it's the truth.  And whether the reasons are mechanical, mental, emotional, or meta-physical, the results are all that matters now and they clearly aren't good enough.  If his start against the Orioles this weekend is his final one of the season, so be it.  He's certainly earned that fate with his performance.

I guess all we can hope for at this point is for A.J. to not completely shatter under all this piling on and kill himself.

Joe Girardi Just Loves To Give Up Outs

(Hmmm, I could sure go for a sac bunt here.)

Of all the frustrating deficiencies that Joe has as a manager, the one that has now skyrocketed to the top of my list is his unexplainable obsession with the sacrifice bunt and his insistence on acting on that obsession at the most inopportune moments of a game.

Let's set the scene for anybody who doesn't know what happened last night.  Bottom of the 9th, 2-run deficit after a Jorge Posada homer to start the inning.  Russell Martin doubles, Brett Gardner reaches on an error, and suddenly the Yankees have the winning run coming to the plate with nobody out and great speed on the basepaths.  The winning run was in the form of The Captain (not me), Derek Jeter, who was already sitting on a 3-3 night at the plate and a walk and, in case anybody has forgotten, has been tearing the fucking cover off the ball since coming off the DL.

Now the pitcher on the mound, A's closer Andrew Bailey, had already shown that he didn't have his A-game last night and was having serious trouble locating.  After allowing a run and putting a couple guys on base, it seems reasonable to expect that he would be trying his damnedest to throw strikes to Jeter to not risk walking the bases loaded for one of the leading AL MVP candidates.  And with the way Jeter has been swinging the bat lately, I would trust him to put a good swing on a strike and possibly keep the rally going.  Unfortunately, Joe didn't share that trust and instead immediately put the sac bunt on, which Jeter executed, advancing the runners, wasting an out, and in the end the Yankee rally fell just short as Swish's deep fly ball settled into the glove of Coco Crisp.

After the game, Joe explained his decision by saying it was based on "factors," those being C-Grand and Teix looming on deck and wanting to stay out of the double play.  This is truly stupid.  For one, Teix was 0-4 on the night, looked like complete dogshit at the plate again, and had a dogshit at-bat when he came up after Curtis' walk, taking one pitch before popping up to 3rd.  I'm not saying anybody could have foreseen that, but I am saying that, no matter what the number on the back of the jersey is, it isn't a sound baseball decision to sacrifice an out by taking the bat out of a guy who's gone 3-3 in a game to ensure that a guy who's 0-4 gets a swing.

Secondly, the double play factor shouldn't even play into the decision-making process in this situation.  Yes, I know Jeter has the tendency to ground into them, but he's been on fire lately and Bailey wasn't locating.  The odds of Jeter hitting into a DP given those factors has to be significantly less than they would in a normal situation.  Baseball scoring says that you can't assume a double play in instances where a fielder bobbles a ball or makes some kind of small error that prevents a double play from being turned.  That same logic should apply to at-bats.  You can't assume the double play before a guy even has the chance for his at-bat to play out, and that's essentially what Joe did.  He allowed the factor of the potential double play to affect his decision and decided to give up one out at the expense of possibly committing 2.

Steve Goldman of Pinstriped Bible said it best last night when he said:

"... Girardi acted defensively, so fearful of staying out of the double play that he actually helped the A’s by giving them one-third of what they needed to record a win. You can’t win playing for one run when you need two, and Girardi ought to know that."

And that's really the best way to put it.  He traded 1 guaranteed out for 2 possible, non-guaranteed outs without even scoring a run.  And in a game where your team is down 2, that's just not a winning strategy.  Sooner or later, Joe needs to figure this shit out because situations like these are going to come up in the postseason.  And for the sake of my own mental health and the well being of my TV controller, he better handle them the right way.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Damn.  It's tough to win when you only show up to play 2 of the 9 innings.  Baseball's funny that way.

Can I cue up the "A-Rod Distraction" excuse?

Talking About C-Grand's MVP Chances

(Looks like an MVP to me.  Courtesy of The AP)

Curtis Granderson is having a monster year.  A career year.  An MVP-caliber year.  And since he's putting up MVP-caliber numbers, it only makes sense to bring up his MVP candidacy and try to figure out where he can, should, and will fall in the balloting.

At first glance, C-Grand's traditional offensive numbers appear to be enough to declare him the leading MVP contender.  He is 1st in the AL in R scored by a wide margin (114, 23 more than 2nd place Jose Bautista), 2nd in HR (35), 1st in RBI (98, 3 ahead of Teix in 2nd), and 1st in 3B (10).  Of his 130 hits on the season, exactly half of them have gone for extra bases (20 2B, 10 3B, 35 HR), which results in a very sexy .594 SLG (2nd in AL).  Combine that with his 24 SB (tied for 8th in the AL) and it's not too hard to see why Curtis has been such a run-scoring/run-producing machine.  He gets on base a lot, gets into scoring position a lot, and runs the bases very well.  Looking at the more sabermetric stats also helps build a strong case for Curtis as a leading contender.  His OPS (.969) is 3rd in the league, his ISO (.313) is 2nd, his wOBA (.414) is 2nd, and his wRC+ (163) is 2nd.  He's arguably the most complete offensive player in the AL this year, and basically a one-man offense with his skill set.

The one knock on Granderson's ledger is his unfriendly defensive rating.  UZR has him at -9.2 for the season, a big drop from his 6.4 rating from last season.  This is strange because most people who watch Granderson play, while admitting that he's no Griffey or Mays in their prime, would probably agree that he plays a relatively good center field.  He certainly passes the eye test in my book, even if he does botch the occasional deep fly.  An article by Dan Barbarisi in today's WSJ included this assessment when discussing the Yankee outfield:

"He [Brett Gardner] is effectively a second center fielder, ranging wide over the left side of the field in ways no other left fielder is doing. He frequently takes balls away from center fielder Curtis Granderson, when traditionally, it’s vice-versa..."

We all know how great a defensive outfielder Gardner is, with both the eye test and the UZR numbers supporting him, so perhaps Curtis and his defensive stats this year are being hurt a bit by Gardner's exceptional performance.  And that black mark defensively could very well be what holds Granderson back from being the leading MVP candidate, as his WAR value is currently 6.1, 5th in the AL and behind guys with much better UZR ratings like Ben Zobrist, Jacoby Ellsbury, and the always-scrappy Dustin Pedroia.  To put the WAR gap caused by his negative UZR value into perspective, Stephen Rhoads at RAB had this to say about C-Grand's defensive rating:

"... if we subbed in a value of 0 for Granderson’s UZR, still a conservative number in my estimation, his fWAR would go from 6.1 to 6.9. If we gave him last year’s value of 6.4 runs, his fWAR would go to 7.6, ahead of Pedroia, Ellsbury and Gonzalez and just a tenth of a point behind Jose Bautista. In other words, it’s possible that the case for Granderson winning the MVP should look even stronger than it currently does."

Basically, Curtis' offensive superiority to his main MVP competition is being masked by this negative defensive rating, and putting him where he usually sits in terms of UZR would help boost his overall body of work above that competition and help make his gaudy offensive numbers stand out as they rightfully should.

The other thing working against Curtis, and something that thankfully there is no stat for, is the logo on his uniform.  It's a bummer to say, but it is a fair statement to make that playing for the Yankees doesn't do him any favors.  The MSM perception that the Yankees, with all their big names and high payroll, are a juggernaut and not one single player on the team stands out above the whole, misguided as it may be, does exist and has caused MVP votes to be swayed in the past.  Ask Derek Jeter how that works after he got snubbed in '06 and '09.  Some oters will look and see names like Teixeira, Rodriguez, Cano, Sabathia, Jeter, Swisher, and Rivera and assume that Granderson's numbers have benefited from being a part of that system.

The reality of that situation is that Curtis has been the one constant in the Yankee lineup from Day 1, continuing to produce while the rest of his teammates struggled through tremendous slumps at various points or hit the DL with injuries.  Granderson is probably the only Yankee hitter who can honestly say he hasn't experienced a significant drought in production at any point in the season, but that argument could fall on deaf ears when voters see the Yankees tremendous run totals and Teix's name right behind Granderson's in the HR and RBI categories.

On the other side of that point is the fact that a lot of C-Grand's major competition for MVP will fight that same perception battle.  The Fraud Sawx are just a big a fish in the pond now as the Yankees, and their trio of Adrian Gonzalez, Pedroia, and Ellsbury could all suffer the fate of being on the same team, being perceived as dependent on each other for their numbers, and splitting votes amongst themselves.  That just leaves Jose Bautista, and honestly, I don't see how you can give the award to the guy when his numbers didn't help his team be any more successful than they've been in the last handful of years.

Looking at the whole picture, it's easy to make a case for Curtis Granderson as the most deserving MVP candidate.  He's been the best and most consistent player on the best team in the AL (record-wise) and has helped carry his team through some significant injuries and poor production from key parts of the lineup.  His overall offensive body of work is one of, if not the best in all of baseball, let alone the American League.  But some strange UZR quirks hurt his overall WAR value and the battle against anti-Yankee voter feelings could hurt him in the end.  It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season plays out, but right now it would be downright insulting to not consider C-Grand a legit leading MVP candidate.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cash Drops The Hammer

I don't even care if he meant this to be demeaning or not, but in talking to ESPNNY today, Cash had this to say about A.J.:

"A.J. Burnett is having his typical terrible August. For whatever reason, he can't pitch in August, I don't know why. It is what it is. August is obviously not an effective month for him."

/waves arms


Cash just dominated whatever was left of A.J.'s manhood right there.  I don't even care if he meant that as serious or sarcasitc because it's so sad and so awesome and so hilarious and so disappointing and so true all at the same time.  And that's just the type of objective pipe-hitting comment I'd expect from Cash, not the cookie cutter garbage he said about A.J. the previous week.  After this, I really have no hope for A.J. for the rest of the way in any situation, but who cares?  Re-sign Cash to a deal right now, and just demote A.J. to High-A Tampa.  Sorry, A.J., but your candyass got...

P.S.- My new excuse for every mistake I ever make for the rest of my life is the "not an effective (blank) for me"excuse.  Straight money.

RAB's Post-Draft Top 30 Prospects List Is Out

Being a prospect nuthugger, it's always a personal joy when Mike A. at River Ave. Blues unveils his Top 30 Prospects rankings.  And the fact that he does 2 versions, pre- and post-draft, just makes the joy that much more joyous.  I'll save the space needed to post the complete list and just direct traffic to the complete list with Mike's comments here.  Instead, I'll use up some space to offer my quick take on the list, bullet point-style.

- Can't argue with the top 5 of Jesus, ManBan, Betances, Romine, and Sanchez.  That's clearly the head table of the Yankee prospect banquet right now, and anybody who thinks otherwise is an idiot.

- A little surprised to see Mason Williams so high on the list (#6) and Heathcott out of the Top 10.  Yes, Williams is having a monster year in SI, and I'm well aware of his potential, but I'd to see him keep it up at the next level before fully jumping on the bandwagon.  I understand and respect Mike bumping Slade down because of the latest shoulder injury, but Heathcott was having a big year before getting hurt.  Production-wise, he's trending in the right direction, and he's still damn young.

- Too high on Bryan Mitchell and too low on DJ.  Yes, Bryan has tremendous upside, but he's shown his rawness this year at the lowest levels.  I need to see him start to harness his stuff before I fall in love with him.  And I still can't understand the lack of love for D.J. Mitchell.  He's having a great year at Triple-A, has 3 above-average pitches, and is almost universally acknowledged as MLB ready.  If memory serves correct, Ivan Nova didn't start pitching in the Majors with 3 solid pitches, and look how he's progressed.

- Greg Bird and Jordan Cote wouldn't even make my list.  I need to see guys play and progress before I can declare them prospects.

- Mike's right on point dropping Brackman so far down (#24).  The guy has completely imploded to the point that he almost needs to be demoted and start over, and he only has 1 more MiL option year to figure his shit out.  A huge disappointment.

- Jose Ramirez and Melky Mesa?  No thanks.  There's only so long I can continue to read and hear about guys stuff and tools without seeing that translate to results before I decide they aren't worth my attention.  And it's not like these 2 are hitting the ceiling at the highest levels.  Give me production and progression over tools any day of the week.

So those are just my quick takes on the list, but check it out for yourself and make your own decisions.  The good thing to take from this is that the Yankee farm system is still very stocked with talent from top to bottom, both at the plate and on the mound.  There's still a lot of shaking out that needs to happen to determine who the true diamonds in the rough are and who the turds in the punchbowl are, but that's the fun of prospects.

And if I didn't do a good enough job dropping hints about it, I'll just come out and say it.  Yes, there will be the first annual AB4AR Top 30 Prospects List in 2011.  I've been following the Minors more this year, reading up on guys as much as I can, and formulating my own list based on my own super-secret judging criteria.  Unfortunately for you, dear readers, my list won't be coming out until after the season.  There's just too much going on with the Bombers to take time away from them, so be on the lookout for the AB4AR Top 30 as part of my "Offseason Space Filler" series later in 2011.

A Quiet Return Out Of The Gate

(Majestic.  Courtesy of The AP)

As excited as I was for it, and I'm sure you all felt the same way, it wasn't a big fireworks days for The Horse yesterday in his first game back like in '09 against the Orioles.  And that's fine.  I've said all along that it really doesn't matter what he does for the rest of the season, as long as he stays healthy and is there to produce in the postseason.  But that being said, it was apparent that there were some nerves in play as he ran his first race since hitting the DL.  In 5 at-bats he only saw 16 pitches, including 2 consecutive first-pitch swinging outs in the 3rd and 5th innings, and he damn near bucked his jockey right off on that swing in the 5th inning when the bases were loaded.

But on the positive side, the swing itself looked pretty good.  A-Rod's movement through the zone was sound, he looked good running out of the box, he just didn't have his timing down.  That's to be expected.  The fact that he was out there, he was swinging at good pitches, and he felt good after the game are all most important.  The timing will come.

In fact, I thought the best sign that he's fully healthy was the running, barehanded play he made on Ben Revere's bunt attempt to lead off the 6th.  That's the type of play that only a few guys, A-Rod included, in baseball can make, and it involves running full speed and planting that one leg to make a strong throw on the run.  After spending the early part of last week saying that he had still yet to really let go and go all out running the bases, it was great to see The Horse make that play because you can really only make it if you're going all out.

So no big offensive fireworks yesterday, but they'll come.  The important thing is that The Horse is back in the lineup, feeling good, and bursting out of the gate with no physical issues.  Now it's only a matter of time before he starts looking like a major contender for the Breeder's Cup again.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Today's Lineup: A Familiar Face Makes His Gallant Return

The Horse is back, ladies and gentlemen!  And in his familiar cleanup spot in the lineup.

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

Also, via LoHud, Aaron Laffey was optioned to SWB to make room for A-Rod, so it looks like Hector Noesi will continue to waste away in the bullpen getting used once every week instead of sent back down to stretch back out as a starter.  But today, who cares?  The fucking Horse is back, baby!!  Hit the music!

A.J. Burnett And The Case Of The Mysterious F*cking B@llsh!t

(The king of fucking bullshit.  Courtesy of The AP)

By now, A.J. Burnett being an ineffective starting pitcher is no longer newsworthy.  After 2+ subpar years in pinstripes, and 3 straight horrific Augusts, I've accepted that he is what he is and I would venture to say that most other intelligent Yankee fans feel the same way.  In fact, I think recognizing that A.J. sucks is something that both the intelligent and unintelligent Yankee fans have in common, which is sad because it really doesn't take that much intelligence or baseball knowledge to recognize how awful A.J. is and has been, no matter how much you smoke the objective pipe.

So since his on-mound performance no longer warrants discussion, we can now move on to the latest topic, that being A.J.'s reaction to being removed from last night's game by Joe after just 1.2  innings.  Anybody who watched the game on YES could clearly see A.J. turn over his shoulder and say "this is fucking bullshit" after Joe took the ball from him, and another camera angle showed Joe responding, although his words were more difficult to make out.  After leaving the field, A.J. headed straight into the walkway from the dugout to the clubhouse, and a few moments later Joe ventured down there, seemingly to confront A.J., before both returned a few minutes later.  A.J. continued to break baseball code by not sticking around to see the final out of his disasterpiece, instead choosing to get up and leave the dugout again after Luis Ayala gave up a 2-run single to finish A.J.'s ER tally of 7 for the night.

The A.J.-Joe interaction was instantly the talk of the broadcast, and rightfully so.  This was the 3rd time recently that A.J. had reacted negatively to being taken out of a game by Joe, with each instance escalating in its disrespect for his manager and the code of the game.  Naturally, Joe, A.J., Russell Martin, and everybody else were in full-on damage control mode after the game, saying that there were no problems between A.J. and Joe, that A.J. was upset about the ball 4 call to Mauer, that Martin told him it was a strike, that Joe was just going into the walkway to check the replay on the pitch, and that nobody would ever have anything ill to say towards each other because they all have so much respect for each other and they need each other this season to be successful.

After I got done throwing up from reading all of that, I thought a little more about the incident last night and what was really said between Joe and A.J. and whether or not A.J.'s "fucking bullshit" was directed at Joe, and I came to the conclusion that it really doesn't matter.  None of it does.  And when I say that, I mean that the reasons and explanations don't matter, not the incident itself.  The incident itself and the fact that A.J. chose to say what he said in that situation, with all the TV cameras watching him, after the performance he had just put on out on the mound, regardless of who he was directing his words to, is what matters.  Because THAT is what's fucking bullshit.

It's fucking bullshit that, assuming all the postgame explanations are true, A.J. would call the ball 4 pitch to Mauer fucking bullshit.  It was the last pitch he threw to the last batter he faced in a game where he managed to get 5 outs against arguably the worst lineup in the American League.  He couldn't locate his fastball to save himself anywhere except right over the heart of the plate, he couldn't put his curveball anywhere except so far in the dirt that Russell Martin couldn't handle it, and he had just walked the yard in that inning.  Why would he expect to get a borderline call from the homeplate umpire given what he had already done?  That is what's fucking bullshit.  The fact that A.J. can bypass his entire shitty start in his own mind and be so upset about one pitch.  One pitch that didn't make or break him in the context of the game.  That's the bullshit part.  Not Joe taking him out, not the ump not making the call.  It's fucking bullshit that A.J. can't be honest with himself and recognize that he's pitching like fucking bullshit.

And it's fucking bullshit that A.J. continues to go out and disappoint.  It's fucking bullshit that Joe and Cash and everybody else continues to try and defend him and then he goes out and pitches worse the next time.  It's fucking bullshit that A.J. doesn't have the command, the confidence, the stones, the wherewithal, or even the luck to go out and pitch up to his stuff and his contract.  It's fucking bullshit that Cash doesn't expect us fans or the media to consider that contract when we evaluate A.J.  It's fucking bullshit that with all the success the team has had this season, and all the good stories there are to talk about (leading the division, Bartolo and Freddy, CC, D-Rob, Curtis, Jeter's resurgence, A-Rod's return, etc.) that we're still sitting here focused on A.J. Burnett and his horrible pitching.  It's fucking bullshit that there's a 6-man rotation in place and will continue to be through next week so Joe has an excuse to keep A.J. in the rotation.

Basically, it's fucking bullshit that I even had to write about any of this.  A.J. is the worst starting pitcher on the team, and it's fucking bullshit that he isn't being treated as such.  The guy has done nothing to earn the confidence and support that his manager has shown him, and nothing to earn another start in this rotation unless somebody gets hurt.  Give me Ivan Nova, give me Freddy Garcia, give me Phil Hughes.  And if that doesn't work, then give me David Phelps, give me D.J. Mitchell, or give me Manny Banuelos.  At least then we know we'll get an honest effort and there will be a legitimate excuse for them not pitching well, and not this constant stream of fucking bullshit we get from A.J. Burnett.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Carsten Gets Back On The Winning Track (Sort Of)

The 7 innings and 9 Ks looked good.  But the 10 hits allowed were a bit of a concern, especially in the 7th, when the roll CC was on last night came to a screeching halt.  He looked a little better through his start last night, but it's clear that his fastball command and slider location still aren't where they were when he was rolling earlier in the summer.

Earth to Joe!  End this 6-man rotation madness so your ace can get his game back.  It's time for the parachute pants to get a little swag going again.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Horse Coming Back A Little Slow

The plan was for A-Rod to return to the Yankee lineup late this week, possibly tonight, but with the way things are going right now for him in his rehab, now that return could be delayed a bit.

While his timing and swing at the plate has looked pretty good, The Horse admitted that the knee has been in the back of his mind and he hasn't put full torque into his swing.  The same thing applies to his running the bases, where he's been slowly ratcheting up the intensity, but has yet to go full out in running the bases because of the knee.  The biggest point of concern has been in the field, though, where A-Rod has really looked rough, dropping 2 pop ups the other night and having a hard hit ground ball go right between the wickets for a 2-run error last night.

(Oops.  Courtesy of The AP)

None of this should come as a major concern for the Yankees or Yankee fans, though.  The reaction by A-Rod to his knee is normal and the same thing we heard from Bartolo Colon when he came back from the DL.  And the problems in the field are easily attributable to rust and will fix themselves over time.  The Yankees are in a very good position, first in the division and 8 full games up on their nearest WC competition, to let A-Rod take as much time as he needs to get right and it's to their benefit to do so.  They haven't missed a beat without him in the lineup and continue to play winning baseball, last night aside, as we speak.  There is no glaring need for A-Rod to get back in the lineup right now and hopefully Joe is smart enough to recognize that.

It may be later than they planned, but the Yankees don't need A-Rod in August.  They don't need him in September.  They need him in October and they need him at 100% then, so as long as it takes to get him back to 100% and feeling comfortable in all aspects of the game, so be it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A.J. Finally Got A Win

And yet I still can't be happy about it.  Last night was really no different than any of A.J.'s previous bad starts.  He was solid early in the game, then seemed to lose some of his stuff and command the second time through the lineup, then pretty much completely fell apart the third time through the lineup (complete with the obligatory bad inning) and once again couldn't dig himself out of his own mess.

All in all, A.J. gave up 10 hits, walked a batter (to force in a run), and didn't make it out of the 6th inning.  He wasn't good, again, and yet Joe continues to take a page out of the Brian Cashman "Cover My Ass For A Bad Decision I Made" handbook and play the "I think he's thrown the ball better than some of the outcomes he's had" card.

The fact of the matter is that he hasn't.  The type of numbers he's putting up would be expected and acceptable for Freddy Garcia or Ivan Nova this year.  But not from the guy who was expected to be the #2 starter.  Sooner or later somebody in the Yankee organization just needs to come out and say it; A.J. Burnett has been a disappointment.  Plain and simple.  They fell in love with a guy who pitched well against them in a no-pressure situation in Toronto and they didn't get that same guy when they signed him.

If A.J. pitches one inning in the postseason, that's about 2 innings too many.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

AB4AR Summer Vacation Part II

It's time for the annual family vacation to the Jersey Shore, so just to let everybody know, updates and posts to the site will be coming sporadically or maybe not at all over the next week.  When I have time and I have something to write about, I'll sit down and post.  But don't expect anything super lengthy unless I get a lot of rain.  I'll be spending the majority of my time chilling at the beach, owning people in mini golf, and drinking beer.

But there are a few things I will get off my chest now before moving on:

- This 6-man rotation bullshit has to stop.  It's screwing up CC's rhythm and there's no sense in sacrificing your best pitcher's routine and command to appease the other older/not as effective guys.

- The odd man out, pending Hughes' outing tonight, should be A.J. Burnett.  Cash can say whatever he wants, but the numbers don't lie.  A.J. is one of the worst starters in the AL, and isn't getting it done right now.  I don't care what they do with him, but he shouldn't be in the rotation right now.

- As much as I loved how Joe managed the team in '09, that's how much I hate what he's done since then.  The constant bunting, the continued mismanagement of his bullpen, specifically Boone Logan, and the frustrating way that he always seems to either leave a starter out for a batter too long or take him out a batter too soon.  About the only good thing he's done this year is sit Jorge, and even that took too long.

So there you go.  Keep checking the site and maybe I'll have some comments on the games this week, since I now have access to YES being back on the east coast.  Enjoy your week, everybody.  I know I will.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Horse Is At The Gate

Did you hear that, folks?  The call to the post has been made and The Horse is ready to run again!

Tonight A-Rod will participate in his first "real" baseball activity since going on the DL, starting at DH for High-A Tampa.  The plan is to DH him tonight and then use him in the field for 5-6 innings the next day to hopefully have him ready to re-join the Yankees some time next week.  Obviously what's most important is that he comes through these first few rehab games feeling good and showing no negative side effects of the knee surgery.  Given his injury history the last couple seasons, there's no need to rush him back into things and risk getting him nicked up again before the postseason.

But fuck that logical stuff, A-ROD IS BACK ON THE FIELD, BABY!!!!  This team has been mashing everyone's dick in the dirt with Eduardo Nunez manning third base.  Imagine how dirty they're going to be with A-Rod back at the hot corner and Chavez nailing down the DH spot.

1) Jeter
2) C-Grand
3) Teix
4) Horse
5) Cano
6) Swish
7) Chavez
8) Martin
9) Gardner

Have fun pitching to that lineup, bitches.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Holy Crap!

That was a close one, huh?  I literally sat up in my chair and yelled "FUCK!" at the office when I saw the 3-run homer go on the ESPN Gamecast.  I thought this thing was done like dinner and I fully expected to see it wrapped up after D-Rob took care of the 8th, but as we all know, "you just can't predict baseball, Suzyn!"

A win's a win, though.  Cut 2 more off the postseason magic number.

P.S.- Pretty sure I pooped a little in my pants too.

In Praise Of Ivan Nova

(More like Nova The Awesome)

Last night Ivan Nova didn't have his best stuff.  Certainly not the kind of stuff he had when he dominated the White Sox in his previous start.  But in place of that, he had composure, which he used to navigate his way through 6 innings of 3-run ball, results that don't speak to how well he actually was pitching before losing the strike zone in the 7th.  Nova only got 2 swings and misses on his 59 strikes last night and had no strikeouts at all, but he located the ball just well enough to not let himself get hit hard and induced 14 groundball outs.

It was the kind of outing that could have turned ugly for Nova, and the kind of outing in which we would expect other Yankee pitchers (cough, cough, A.J.) to completely fold.  But Nova showed he's got some hair on the peaches, he's learning how to pitch smarter at this level, and that he's more than capable of being a major contributor to this rotation.  And for a guy who has been the first name chosen to get booted from the rotation a couple times this year, that's reassuring to see.

Nova now has 11 wins on the season, most amongst AL rookies.  He's made 19 starts, thrown 112.1 innings, and his 3.85/4.27/4.11 tripleslash is ahead of all his season projections, as are his K/9 (5.37) and BB/9 (3.28) rates.  There's nothing about Nova's numbers that jumps out initially, but when you look at the big picture and realize that he's outperforming all expectations while passing the eye test of improvement with flying colors, you have to give the guy props.  Ever since he stumbled out of the gate in April, Nova has consistently seen his ERA and FIP go down while his K/9 rises.  He's learning on the job, applying the techniques that are being taught to him, and getting very good results.  And now he might very well be positioning himself for a spot in the postseason rotation, something that probably seemed out of the question on Opening Day.

This season-long improvement has me excited about Nova's future and the potential for him to be a #3-type starter instead of just back-of-the-rotation fodder.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mo Blew Two Saves. STOP THE PRESSES!!!

Predictably, the "Mo is Done"-o-meter's needle is redlining right now after last night's second consecutive blown save.  I get that Mo is older, I get that it's sad to watch him give up game-winning hits to the likes of Marco Scutaro (I don't count the bunt and bullshit sac fly as meaningful) and Bobby Abreu, and I get that broaching this topic helps sell papers and makes for good radio.  But seriously, it has to fucking stop.

Every time this has happened since about '03 or '04 it's the same sorry conversation regurgitated up by every local Yankee writer and every half-brained Yankee fan: "He's lost his touch," "he's starting to show his age," "I don't know shit about baseball." And every time, Mo bounces right back and becomes the shutdown, inhuman G.O.A.T. that he's always been.  Kevin Kernan of The Post took the Mo hand wringing to new levels today, though, in this piece designed solely to play with the fragile minds of dumb Yankee fans everywhere:

"If Mo goes south, the Yankees have no chance.

Joe Girardi’s club can live with A.J. Burnett being the Mediocre Man just trying to have fun. They can survive for a time without Alex Rodriguez and they can weather Jorge Posada’s struggles that cost him his DH job.

But if Mariano Rivera falters, the Yankees might as well call it a season. They go as Mo goes."

Good God, man.  Get the noose off from around your neck and climb down off that chair.  Kev-O seems to be forgetting about all the games the Yankees win because of their tremendous offensive output.  And all the games they win thanks to stellar starting pitching from CC, Bartolo, and the recent gem that Nova hurled against the White Sox last week.  How many of those decisions does Mo factor into?  Those are the same reasons they survive things like A.J. being terrible, A-Rod being hurt, and Jorge being washed up, and that logic applies to Mo as well.  He has these bumps in the road every year, so it shouldn't come as a surprise or something that's story-worthy anymore.

And even if Mo is starting to lose a little something, so what?  That still puts him at the top of the heap of all closers in baseball, just with a bit of a smaller gap between him and 2nd place.  If he's starting to become mortal, I'll still take my chances with a mortal Mariano Rivera over any other closer in baseball.  Last time I checked, they all blow saves too, and they don't seem to be closing the gap on Mo any on their own.

We all know the "Death, Taxes, and Mo" slogan, but here's the deal.  Every now and then somebody cheats death (just ask Nikki Sixx.)  Every now and then, if you're an idiot like me, you fill out your taxes wrong and end up getting a little more or less back in your return than you thought.  And every now and then, Mariano is going to blow a save or 2.  It's no cause for alarm.  Until you see him consistently sitting 88-89MPH and not being able to hit the corner at all, there's nothing to worry about.

This Picture Perfectly Captures A.J. Burnett As A Pitcher

 (Nice hair, asshat.  Courtesy of Getty Images)
Just a dazed, disheveled, confused, sloppy, hot mess of humanity out there, capable of melting down on the mound at any given time with no rhyme or reason why nor any clue how to avoid it from happening.  I don't know if his brain is the blind leading the blind of his mechanics or vice versa, and I don't think anybody does.  But I don't think there is a more perfect visual representation of A.J. Burnett's Yankee career to this point than that photo above.  This should win a Pulitzer or some kind of major photography award.

P.S.- Coincidentally, that's the exact same expression I have on MY face every time A.J. leaves a game (minus the gay hair).

This Pretty Much Sums Up Last Night's Debacle

(Perfect representation of C-Grand's brain fart courtesy of Mike A. & RAB)

Mike from RAB hit the nail so perfectly on the head in his recap of last night's loss to Anaheim that it's not even worth me trying to come up with some of my own:

"Physical mistakes are one thing, but mental mistakes like that bug the crap out of me. It’s just awful. I can’t … I can’t even get my head around the stupidity. I mean, even Eduardo Nunez‘s steal after the leadoff walk was sketchy. Who knows if the Yankees would have won the game had Curtis stayed at first (probably not), but at least give your best homerun hitter a chance to do his thing, don’t take the bat right out of hands. Sheesh. Inexcusable, completely inexcusable.


I mean, not for nothing, but Joe Girardi had a shorter leash on Burnett in Chicago with what, a six or seven run lead? But no, let’s try to squeeze a few more hitters out of him with a fully rested bullpen after the intentional walk in a tie game. /facepalm"

Yep, that pretty much tells the story.  Curtis got beat by one of the oldest tricks in the book and Joe botched the call of when to go to the bullpen again.  Mo shitting the bed isn't even a story and shouldn't be.  This happens twice pretty much every year and this is the 2nd time.  But the mental mistakes on the parts of the players and manager are a big deal and incredibly frustrating.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Jorge's Last Hurrah

(Might have to get used to this position.  Courtesy of The Daily News)

I honestly didn't see this coming.  I know I've been tough on the guy a few times before, but I honestly did not see Jorge Posada falling off the cliff the way he has this season.  I actually expected his offense to improve a bit on the last couple years now that he wasn't going to have to deal with the constant injuries that a catcher accumulates over a season, but based on his output this year and Joe's decision over the weekend to bench him in favor of Eric Chavez at DH, I think we can officially say that Jorge is done.

Just looking at Jorge's numbers this year starts to bring the sandwich I just ate back up my throat.  For the season, he currently stands at a .230/.309/.372 tripleslash in 317 PA, good for a .299 wOBA and an 84 wRC+.  Between his terrible hitting, sloppy defense during the few times he has been on the field, and the fact that he runs the bases like a drunk, blind toddler with polio, Jorge has been worth -0.7 WAR this season, by the far the worst of any Yankee hitter with more than 100 PA.  He had a rough April and May, then seemed to get it together after the taking himself out of the lineup incident to post a .382/.419/.588 line in June.  But since then, he has come crashing back to earth in an even bigger way than he did in the early months.  July saw him put up a .534 OPS and .240 wOBA, and so far in August he's just 3-18 with 1 XBH, 1 RBI, and 4 Ks.  If his name wasn't Jorge Posada and he was putting up numbers like that, he wouldn't have made it past the middle of July before getting the invitation to ride the pine, so it's not like the Yankees didn't give him enough of a chance to pull out of a slump.  It was a perfectly justifiable move to demote him and go with the platoon of Chavez and Jones at DH.

And the saddest part is, it's not like Jorge's approach has changed to a point where it's affecting his ability to play at a high level.  His BB rate, while lower than his career average, is still a decent 10.1%, and his K rate of 19.9% is actually DOWN from the last 2 seasons.  But his BABIP of .264 and ISO of .142 are both career lows and he's hitting fewer line drives than ever and more ground balls than he has since '04.  He's still seeing pitches and taking the same swings, there's just no power left in the swings and no life left in the bat.  And since the Yankees have already taken the glove out of his hand this season, that really leaves nothing for him to bring to the table.

So now what will become of Jorge?  He won't be getting much burn, if any, barring injury to Chavez or Jones, and there is the continued prospect of Jesus Montero getting the call up to the Majors in the near future.  And as Mike at RAB pointed out yesterday, the Yankees are in a bit of bind in terms of roster flexibility thanks to their current 6-man rotation and 13 pitchers total being carried on the roster, so the situation that would work to the team's advantage would be to cut Jorge.  But with the way the Yankees treated his earlier tantrum this year, the amount of time they gave him to prove he was worth keeping in the everyday lineup, and the fact that they've completely caved on handling Derek Jeter's aging gracefully, I don't see that happening.  He may not get another at-bat this year, he may not make the postseason roster, but I just don't see the Yankees kicking one of their legends of the recent dynasty to the curb mid-season.

A scenario that could work could be the following.  There's no need to keep 13 pitchers on hand right now, especially when one of them is Hector Noesi, a guy who could be a legitimate option for the back end of the 2012 rotation.  Send Noesi down to the Minors to finish the season getting stretched back out as a starter this weekend and call up Montero.  Then when The Horse returns some time next week, the Yanks could send Cervelli back down to Triple-A, install Montero as the official backup catcher, and still maintain that 25th roster spot for Jorge.

It's not the ideal situation for Jorge, who's obviously a proud player and none too happy about his demotion, nor for the Yankees, who I'm sure would rather have 25 men on the 25-man roster who can actually play and play well.  But all things considered it's probably the best way to get through this month until rosters expand.  It's certainly not the way Jorge envisioned his career ending, and it's not what I saw happening, but it looks like we could be watching the end of an era over the next 2 months.

Kruk & Valentine "Astounded" By Yankees' Success This Year

(Not an intelligent man)

It comes as no surprise that John Kruk and Bobby Valentine are absolute morons, but the doozy they dropped on BBTN last night was all-world in its stupidity.

In a short segment discussing Jorge Posada being left out of the lineup on Sunday night and what it means for him and the team moving forward, they ended the piece rattling off a bunch of Yankee storylines from the season, including the "no #2 starter" one and the fact that Soriano is back pitching the 7th inning instead of the 8th, and concluding that it was "absolutely astounding" that the Yankees were only a game back of Bahhhhhhston this season.

Let's do a quick recap of what the Yankee roster includes, shall we?  This should help temper their amazement.

- A guy who has been one of the top 3-5 best starters in baseball this year in CC Sabathia.

- A Gold Glove-winning, multiple All Star at first base who has 32 HR and 86 RBI this year in Mark Teixeira.

- The best second baseman in baseball, who even in a down year, is still on pace to score and drive in 100 runs and be worth 5 WAR in Robinson Cano.

- The best all-around outfield in baseball in C-Grand (a legit MVP candidate), Brett Gardner (a legit Gold Glove candidate), and Swish (crushing it since June).

- 2 of the 3 best relief pitchers in baseball this year in D-Rob and Mo.

- A shortstop who has hit over .300 and OPS'd over .800 since returning to the lineup in July in Derek Jeter.

- A third baseman who, before he got hurt, was still the best at his position in terms of WAR in A-Rod.

When you take all those facts in, FACTS, it really shouldn't be astounding to anybody that the Yankees are only a game back.  If they could pull their heads out of their asses against the Sawx, they'd be leading the division right now!  Even though there's no clear cut #2, they have a staff of guys who have contributed like solid #3-#4 starters all year and are each capable of going out and pitching like an ace on any given night.  And the bullpen was just fine without Sour Puss Soriano, so getting him back is a luxury, regardless of where he pitches.  Injuries or no injuries, Jorge or no Jorge, the Yankees are one of the best teams in baseball, they have been since Opening Day, and it's really no surprise why with the talent level and production they've gotten from their team.

What's really astounding is how Kruk and Valentine bring home a paycheck for this type of analysis.  Just another case of lazy, unfounded, anti-Yankee commentary from the Worldwide Leader in Fraud Sawx Fans.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A.J. Burnett Is Starting To Really Piss Me Off

I didn't get a chance to comment on this because of my travel day last Thursday, but what the fuck was up with that stinker he dropped on the mound in Chicago on Wednesday night?  Dude was staked to a 12-run lead in less than 3 innings and he ended up not being able to finish enough of the game to qualify for the win.  That's not just bad, that's pathetic!  You could have put the ball on a tee and the White Sox probably could have gotten enough outs to qualify the tee for the victory.

Lost in the shuffle of the Yankees' recent success has been A.J.'s slow slide back to last season's levels of ineffectiveness.  He hasn't won a start since June, he's giving up home runs like it's going out of style, his ERA has gone from 3.93 in April to 4.06 in May to 4.15 in June to 4.83 in July and now 14.54 after his gong show of a start last week in August, totaling up to 4.54 (which ranks 86th out of the 106 ML pitchers who qualify).  His FIP has consistently sat anywhere from the low-to-high 4s range, with a craptastic 5.25 in July, and his current FIP (4.67) has him 94th out of 106.  And to top it all off, his BABIP against is a low .268, which means given some better luck for the hitters facing him all of these numbers could look even worse.

And the craziest part about all of this is, some of A.J.'s other stats suggest that he should be even better than he is this season.  His K/9 (7.76) is up almost a full strikeout higher than last season, and his BB/9 (3.97) is only slightly higher than his 2010 number.  His strand rate is better than 2010, his GB rate is better, his swinging strike % is up, he's given the Yankees 5+ innings each time out up until his last start, and yet his 4.67 FIP is only slightly lower than the 4.83 he put up last season.

It's to the point now where I have absolutely no confidence in A.J. to do anything but go out and pitch like shit each time he takes the hill in some fashion.  He throws 8 innings against Baltimore but gives up all XBH and loses.  He gets staked to a monster lead against the White Sox offense and proceeds to give up 13 hits.  Some days he walks the yard and can't command any of his pitches, some days he doesn't walk a batter and somehow still finds a way to lose!  No matter what happens, there's always a big pothole out there somewhere, waiting for him when he starts, and A.J. always manages to find the pothole, crash right into it, and completely wreck his shit.

If the playoffs were starting tomorrow, I would not have him in the rotation.  I would go CC, Bart, Freddy, and Ivan Nova.  I would do everything in my power to not have A.J. take the mound for any reason other than a garbage time appearance in a game the Yanks were losing.  It makes no sense to me, because for the first couple months he really looked better, but it's obvious that A.J. is what he is at this point, and what he is is a sucky starting pitcher.

P.S.- He's definitely back on the Shit List.