Thursday, June 30, 2011

Beast Mode

It's one thing to throw 7.2 shutout innings against a good offensive team.  It's another thing to throw 7.2 shutout innings against a good offensive team while striking out 13 batters.  And it's a completely different thing to throw 7.2 shutout innings against a good offensive team while striking out 13 batters and having all 13 Ks being swinging.  CC Sabathia is a monster.  THE POWER OF THE PARACHUTE PANTS COMPELS YOU!!!!

Now somebody hit the fucking music!!!

Yankees Trying To Give The Brewers A Chance Today

This afternoon's lineup, via LoHud:

1) Brett Gardner- CF
2) Nick Swisher- RF
3) Mark Teixeira- 1B
4) Robinson Cano- 2B
5) Jorge Posada- DH
6) Andruw Jones- LF
7) Eduardo Nunez- SS
8) Francisco Cervelli- C
9) Ramiro Pena- 3B

No Horse, no C-Grand, and no Martin should be enough to level the playing field today, right?  I mean, it's the least the Yankees can do to try to make things fair since they have Carsten on the hill today.  Anybody who still calls them the "Evil Empire" should wake up and smell the B-Team lineup.

P.S.- Francisco Cervelli still sucks.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What's Really Going On With Russell Martin?

(Looks like a decent swing to me.  Courtesy of The AP)

As I watched last night's tremendous display of baseball by the Yankees and laughable ineptitude of the Brewers, I took notice of Russell Martin's line when he stepped in for his first at-bat and was instantly reminded of a post topic I wanted to cover last week and didn't get around to.  That topic being just what the hell is up with Martin?  He started the year hitting like a machine and making Cash look like a genius for signing him.  Since then, he's been bothered by some injuries and his production has dropped off significantly.  Observe:

- Mar/Apr- .293/.376/.587, 85 PA, 10 XBH, .424 wOBA, 170 wRC+
- May- .200/.333/.347, 90 PA, 5 XBH, .322 wOBA, 100 wRC+
- June- .176/.271/.176, 59 PA, 0 XBH, .219 wOBA, 29 wRC+

I'm well aware that his torrid April wasn't sustainable, but I also didn't expect him to fall off a cliff as bad as he has since then.  from 170 wRC+ to 29 isn't just slumping.  That's falling right off the face of the earth.  So what is there in the numbers that can explain this dramatic decline in production?  For starters, we know he's not pressing at the plate and swinging too much, because the one thing Martin has done is consistently walk.  His BB rate doubled from April to June (8.2% to 16.7%), and he's still at a very nice 10.2% rate this month.  He also doesn't seem to be making much weaker contact than he did earlier in the year as his LD% has gone from 19.0% in Mar/Apr to 18.2% this month.

Martin could very well be suffering from the same BABIP luck that Teix is right now, and there is some support for that.  His value was at its highest, .281, in the first month of the year, and is currently sitting at a measly .205 in June.  The percentages also show that Martin is hitting more groundballs and fewer flyballs this month than he has all year, so it seems reasonable to expect that, even if they are decently struck balls, if they're on the ground there's a good chance they're going to produce more outs than hits.  And you definitely aren't going to be racking up any extra bases hits with the ball on ground more, no matter how fast you are.

My thought is that Martin is still probably feeling the effects of his earlier injuries, and while they aren't enough to keep him out of the lineup nor produce any significant holes in his swing, they might be just enough to have him keep them in the back of his mind when he's at the plate and adjust his approach slightly so as not to re-aggravate the injury.  That combined with the resulting increased GB rate should logically add up to a lower BABIP and lower all around offensive numbers as a result.  And just as it would have been insane to expect him to put up a .963 OPS all season, it would also be stupid to think that Martin will stay in this prolonged slump for the rest of the year.  Sooner or later things have to balance out and we'll probably see him back around the .250/.350/.410 line.

Teix Making The Most Of The Hits He Does Get

(And exhale.  Good.  Courtesy of The AP)

Here's your food for thought on a Wednesday morning.  Check out where Mark Teixeira ranks amongst the 160 qualifying players in MLB in some offensive categories:

HR- 24 (Tied for 1st)

RBI- 62 (Tied for 4th)

ISO- .296 (5th)

SLG- .542 (12th)

wOBA- .388 (19th)

wRC+- 145 (18th)

BABIP- .214 (158th)

And right there is your smoking gun, ladies and gentlemen.  Mark Teixeira is being cursed by some horrific BABIP bad luck.  Not only is he 3rd to last out of all MLB qualifiers, he's a full 16 BABIP points behind the guy ahead of him, Alex Rios.  With a value like that, he should be putting up Jorge-type numbers (no offense, Jorge), not ranking in the top 2-12.5% in the most important offensive categories.  People are going to look at the .246 BA and the sub-.900 OPS and assume Teix is having some kind of Rob Deer-like garbage year where he's either a homer or an automatic out, but that simply isn't the case.

The Yankees as a team hit .282 on balls in play.  Imagine what Teix's numbers would look like if he was just hitting that!  We wouldn't be talking about him possibly getting squeezed out of the All Star Game for Adrian Gonzalez, Paul Konerko, and Miguel Cabrera.  We'd be talking about Teix being the runaway favorite for AL MVP and possibly knocking in 150 runs this year.

Now I'll be fair and admit that maybe Teix is guilty of becoming a little pull happy with the short porch at The Stadium, and so he could be contributing to his own bad luck.  After all, both his BABIP and BA numbers dropped off last year from where he was in '09 while his power stayed the same.  But Teix is too good a hitter to be wallowing away in the Chone Figgins and Kurt Suzuki levels of BABIP mediocrity.  Sooner or later, some of these balls have to start finding gaps and green space instead of gloves.  And when they do, watch out.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Rotation Upgrade Options- External (NL Edition)

We touched on some potential AL targets as the deadline creeps ever closer.  Today I'll touch on some of the NL names who've been mentioned in connection with the Yankees. 

Wandy Rodriguez- The Astros lefty has been a rumored target for the Yanks going back to last year and during this past offseason before he re-upped with Houston.  Despite his earlier elbow issues, Rodriguez is once again having a solid year for the offensively-challenged Astros.  His 3.21/3.94/3.48 ERA/FIP/xFIP line is good and his 2.46 BB/9 are down from last year.  He isn't going to light up the radar gun with his fastball, but his offspeed stuff is killer and he's a lefty, something that could come in handy down the stretch against the Sawx.  The downside is that he's already 32, and with 2 more years on his deal he doesn't exactly fit into future plans that may revolve around getting younger.

Ryan Dempster- He's an NL lifer, he turned 34 this year, he doesn't generate as many swings and misses as he used to, and he's giving up a shit ton of HRs.  But for some reason, Dempster's name has come up this year, probably if for no other reason than the Cubs suck and they'll probably be sellers at the deadline.  Dempster has been snakebitten by bad BABIP luck, and his FIP (4.15) is a full run lower than his 5.31 ERA, but I just don't see the value of bringing over an older pitcher with diminishing stuff to the AL East.  The $14 mil player option for 2012 would also be a turn off for me but there is something to be said for his proven track record, even if the Yankees have already stated they aren't interested.

Carlos Zambrano- Another guy who the Yanks have expressed 0 interest in and with good reason.  On top of being vastly overrated and overpaid at this point in his career, Carlos Zambrano is a legitimate nutcase.  And with the contract he has right now, he's not worth bringing over for all the potential baggage that comes with him, even if his 1.7 WAR would be the 2nd highest amongst Yankee starters.  The big drop in K/9 this year (6.00) is another concern for me and probably the Yankees as well.  The Cubs would be happy to rid themselves of this dude, but Cash would be wise to hang up the phone as soon as he hears the "Zam-" part of his name.

Hiroki Kuroda- Of all the potential options, AL or NL, Kuroda might be the best option, both in terms of production and what it might take to get him.  Kuroda has been amongst the most consistent and undervalued starters in the NL for years now and he's continuing that trend in 2011, soldiering along with a 3.10/3.82/3.55 line and a solid K/BB ratio.  He, like Wandy, won't blow you away with his stuff, but it's better than average and he throws strikes.  Because of the ongoing Dodger money saga and the fact that he's a FA after this year, Kuroda could come cheaper than many of the other options (Phelps and another mid-level pitching prospect perhaps).  For some stretch run help, that might be a worthwhile investment for the Yanks. 

Shout out and link to Larry Koestler's post on Rodriguez and Kuroda on TYA yesterday.  Check that out for more in depth analysis of those 2.

A Huh-YUGE Series Starts Today

The 3-gamer starting today at The Stadium might very well be the most important series of the season for the Yankees.  And there's a very simple reason for that.  The Yankees are playing the Milwaukee Brewers and that gives me plenty of opportunities to talk shit and act like a jackass around the office to pretty much everybody I work with (minus a few Cubs fans).

For those who don't know, I live and work in the greater Milwaukee area.  I live about 10 minutes from Miller Park.  But for some reason, people around here seem to think that those 2 facts automatically mean I have to give up my love for the Yankees and become a Brewers fan.  The fact that I'm originally from CT, and the NY side of CT at that, and that almost my entire family is Yankee fans means nothing to them.  I can't tell you the number of times guys around the office try to start conversations with me about how the Brewers are doing or how that game went last night.  My stock response?  "Fuck the Brewers."  I couldn't give a shit less about the Brewers if they won every game or lost every game.  So to have the opportunity to walk around and talk crap to everybody here is an opportunity I'm dying to have.

The only problem is, the Brewers are actually playing some decent baseball this year.  Their rotation has been solid thanks to the additions of Zack Greinke and Shawn Marcum, 2 pitchers with whom the Yankees are familiar, and despite the glaring holes in their lineup the combination of Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun is more than enough to carry a team on days where they both have big games.  The Brewers' big weakness, though, is their middle relief.  That group of clowns shouldn't be pitching in a Double-A All Star Game let alone the Majors, so if the Yankees can continue to be patient and work the starters, they should have plenty of chances to tee off late in games.

So this is my plea to you, Yanks.  Go out and kick some ass.  At least take 2 out of the 3 games of this series, preferably the first and third games.  I have about 8 different Yankee shirts in my closet and a couple of different hats, and I'm itching to turn the office into a goddamn Yankee fashion show over the next 3 days.  Friday will be especially sweet if CC can shut the Brewers down and I can rock the CC shirt into work to really twist the knife.  Yes, there are some people here who still haven't gotten over CC signing with the Yanks in free agency.  For some reason they think he's an idiot for taking the Yankees money over the Brewers' $100 mil offer.  I know, it's pathetic.

So make me proud, boys.  Give me a justifiable reason to be a dick at work.  And for the 2nd time in 2 days, hit the music!!!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Rotation Upgrade Options- External (AL Edition)

A few weeks ago I touched on some of the possible internal candidates for a rotation upgrade in the event that Ivan Nova pitched his way out a job.  Since then he has pitched very well (yesterday not included), but with Cash's decree that the Yankees are looking for pitching help and Nova's consistent inconsistency, he still remains a candidate to be replaced.  With Colon and Hughes coming back within the next month, though, the possibility of a trade has diminished a bit, but it's still worth examining the names out there who the Yankees could be interested in.

John Danks- The White Sox lefty was a name we've heard a lot before going on the DL this weekend with an oblique injury.  His 3-8 record doesn't do him justice, as he's put up a 4.21/4.14/3.97 tripleslash in 94 IP over 15 starts this year.  His K rate is low (6.22), but he also only walks 2.68 guys per 9.  He also has a team friendly contract this year and is arbitration eligible in 2012.  He'll probably require more in terms of prospects than other guys because he's young and good, but the Yanks would get another year of team control if they felt the Killer Bs weren't ready next year.  At best, he could become the 3rd best starter on the team, maybe 2nd depending on what happens with Colon.  At worst, he's still better than Nova.  He should be at or near the top of the list when he comes off the DL as the summer progresses.

Edwin Jackson- He strikes out more guys than Danks (7.78 K/9 this season), but also walks more and always has.  But overall this has been a strong season for Jackson, who has been bitten by some bad BABIP luck (4.13 ERA to a 3.08 FIP).  He has good stuff and is still young at 27, but would basically be a rental as he is set to become a FA after this season.  Before the season he probably could have been pried for lesser guys, but with the way he's been pitching, he could cost the Yankees one of the crop of solid Triple-A arms and another guy.  If the Sox fall out of competition in the AL Central before the deadline, that would help bring the asking price down.

Francisco Liriano- The Yankees have been linked to him for a while now, ever since rumors started going around this past offseason that Minnesota was shopping.  Judging by what they've gotten from him this year, they should have moved him when they had the chance.  He's got a 4.98/4.22/4.23 line this year and is walking almost 5 batters per 9.  When you consider that one of his starts was a no-hitter and another almost was, those numbers could look even worse if he pitched to the averages.  His stuff just doesn't seem right this year, and he's always been a question mark in terms of durability and effort.  I just don't see how the Yankees would want to add him, but he is a lefty and they could probably get him for cheaper now that he's pitched so poorly in the first half.

Dan Haren- He was a big trade target rumor at last year's deadline and ended up going to the Angels, seemingly for peanuts.  And he's pitched very well for Anaheim this year, but with them sitting 3rd in AL West and trending downward thanks to their punchless offense, they could be looking to deal at the deadline.  He's lost a little bit of the bite on his stuff since his early days, but Haren can still get it done with the cutter to the tune of a 3.05/2.74/3.05 line and an almost 5.5/1 K/BB ratio.  Haren would slot in right behind CC as the #2 starter, but he won't come cheap.  Last year the rumor was Joba, ManBan, and a couple of other guy for Haren, so with Joba out now you have to imagine the deal starts with ManBan and maybe includes Montero or Sanchez to even get talks started.  A steep price to pay, but for somebody who still has a few years of team control left, it could be worth it.

Spitting Hot Fire

Some food for thought on a Monday off day morning:

- The Horse in June- .333/.427/.613 in 75 ABs w/ 20 RBI.

- Robbie Cano in June- .307/.365/.466 in 88 ABs w/ 16 R.

- Gardner in June- .347/.420/.500 in 72 ABs w/ 8 XBH.

- Jorge in June- .389/.424/.537 in 54 ABs w/ 8 RBI.

- Swish in June- .316/.433/.632 in 76 ABs w/ 18 RBI and 17 BB.

Combine that with Teix and C-Grand having productive months and the offense is really starting to come together.  The patience and clutch hitting is starting to catch up with the HR rate, and the Yankee lineup is not one people are excited about facing.  CC is still throwing gems, D-Rob is flourishing in the setup role, and Mo is striking out the side like it's 1996.  Yes indeed, it's good times all around.  Somebody please hit the music!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Very Special Guest At Old Timers' Day Today

The Bombers look to close out another series win today on Old Timers' Day, a Yankee Stadium tradition that is always cool for the fans.  The list of guys coming back to participate is a long and decorated one, and you can find the entire list right here, but there is one first timer in particular who is going to be the center of attention today as he makes his return to the park and the team that made his career.

That's right, ladies and gentlemen, Clay Bellinger returns to The Stadium today.  Back to the place where he made his name as a .193/.257/.363 career hitter with 12 HR during the late 90s and early 2000s on his way to 2 World Series championships.  To say he was a key cog to the World Series-winning teams of '99 and 2000 would be a vast understatement, as it was Bellinger's 69 wRC+ and 0.2 WAR in 200+ plate appearances that drove the team to victory in the Subway Series in 2000.  To have Clay step foot on the grass of the new Stadium is a perfect way to tie a bow on his great career and it should be a great experience for all the young fans who don't remember his heydays.

Oh yeah, Joe Torre and Bernie Williams are coming back to participate for the first time today too.  But who cares about that, right?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Phil Hughes Solid In 2nd Rehab Start

Solid really is the best way to describe Hughes' outing for Double-A Trenton last night.  His pitch limit was 75 and he got to 72 through 3.1 IP, giving up 1 ER on 3 H and 2 BB, and striking out 3.  He was consistently sitting 92-93 with the fastball and still being clocked at 91 when he was removed in the 4th.  He didn't light the world on fire, but he also didn't look terrible.  Definitely on the right path.

Cash was at the game to watch Hughes and was quoted as saying Hughes will make "a few more" starts before returning to the Yankees.  Factor in off days and regular rest and we're probably looking at about 3 weeks before we see Hughes back .

Friday, June 24, 2011

1 Cent Each For The 2 Stories Of The Day = My 2 Cents

Jeter Injury-

"I can't tell you right now when he will be ready," Cashman said. "He is getting treatment every day and feeling better, but he can't run and can't swing the bat." Cash via The Post)

This is bad news for Jeter and the race to 3,000, but probably good for him long term and good for the Yankees.  Guys who have had these injuries all say it can stay with you for the rest of the year, so if Jeter is getting better slowly, the Yanks might as well keep him out as long as it takes to get the calf back to 100%.  And it's not like the team is struh-gull-ing without his ridiculous groundball rate at the top of the order, so there should be no rush to get him back into the lineup.

Francisco Rodriguez To The Yanks?-

"If I am going to be traded, obviously I want the opportunity to close out games, but if it's going to be good teams like the Yankees or the Rays, and it's going to be for two months, I can go out there and help them out."  (Rodriguez, via The Daily News)

No, no, no.  A thousand times no.  I don't care what his numbers are, I don't care what his K rate is, and I don't care about the Yankee bullpen injuries.  I do not want this guy on the team at all.  He isn't better than D-Rob and shouldn't supplant him as the setup man, so there's really no need to sacrifice a prospect, even a lower level one if that's all it takes, to add a piece that isn't needed.  With the number of arms they have available and the fact that Hughes and Colon will be coming back to the rotation within a month or less, the Yankees have the internal flexibility to keep the bullpen stocked.  By now they should have learned their lesson about going after high-priced relievers.  It's just not worth it.

And Francisco Rodriguez is just a dick.  Keep him with the garbage in Flushing where he belongs.

What The Hell Is Wrong With Andrew Brackman?

(Does that stretch help him throw more strikes?)

Earlier in the week this post was going to be about how Andrew Brackman's struggles as a starter in Triple-A led to him being demoted to the bullpen and now possibly in line for an '07 Joba-like late season call up.  But then he went and dumped his drawers again last night, giving up 4 hits and 3 ER in less than an inning and continuing what has been an ugly stretch of pitching for him this year.

The 2011 numbers are pretty hideous to look at: 58 IP, 60 H, 45 BB, 6.98 ERA, 5.87 WHIP, and just 3 starts of 6.0 IP or more out of 11.  But it is the trends over his entire MiL career that are even more startling.  Since breaking in 2009 in Low-A Charleston, Brackman's K/9 rate has decreased every year from 8.69 to 7.14 this season.  That number still isn't bad, but a general decrease in strikeouts at each level doesn't predict future success in the big leagues.  The walk rate, which was a problem in '09 then fixed last year, is back up to an insane 6.98 BB/9 this year, and surely the major contributing factor to his horrible performance this year as his BABIP is actually at a career low this season at .306.  Brackman is just putting too many guys on base via the free pass and then paying for it when he does give up hits.

The prevailing thought would be that putting him in the bullpen could help fix the command issues.  Brackman could focus on using just 1 or 2 pitches and have them play up in shorter work.  But so far, that hasn't been the case and Brackman has all but pitched himself out of any kind of consideration for a late season call up in 2011.  Let's not forget that this kid was amongst the group being talked about and looked at for the 5th starter's spot coming out of ST and now he's a bullpen afterthought.  He still has value and could turn things around, but something needs to change with his approach to the game and somebody needs to change it now.  If you can't throw strikes, you aren't going to make it very far.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Best Thing To Read On An Off Day

With no game to preview, the Yankosphere is busy catching up on other topics of interest surrounding the team, everything from the latest ASG voting tallies, MiL players, Phil Hughes' return, etc.  But the best thing I've read today is Mike Axisa's post at RAB about the Jesus Montero situation and why the Yankees need to stop fooling around and call the kid up.  Check some of the great points that Mike makes:

"The kid [Montero] has 756 plate appearances at Triple-A to his credit and he’s a .290/.348/.480 hitter at the level.  Robinson Cano didn’t hit that well in Triple-A, neither did Melky Cabrera or Bernie Williams or Jorge Posada or pretty much any position player the Yankees have called up in the last 20 years....

All this stuff about him being frustrated and lacking effort isn’t a sign of some greater problem either, even though it will be spun that way. Have you ever been stuck at a job when you know there’s no promotion to be had? It freaking sucks....

He did what he had to do in Triple-A, let’s stop pretending he hasn’t and should instead be some kind of model person incapable of frustration and disappointment....

There’s an obvious path for him to get playing time in the big leagues which involves getting Frankie Cervelli's complete lack of positive impact off the roster and letting Montero serve as the backup catcher and part-time designated hitter. He could get four starts a week that way (two at catcher, two at DH), which is what the Yankees did with Posada a decade ago and how teams regularly broke in young players back in the day."

/stands up and applauds

I can't really think of anything to add to that post that makes it more right on the money than it already is.  I have been saying for a very long time now that Jesus should be on the 25-man and Cervelli should not.  Regardless of age, experience, tenure, or any other reason, at the Major League level it's about winning games and putting together the best 25-man roster that allows your team to do that.  And to Mike's point, Jesus has more than proven that he's a better all-around player than Cervelli and more than ready to make the leap to the Major League team.  He can learn more and work on his defense just as much on the New York Yankees as he can with the SWB Yankees, with the added benefit of getting used to life in the Majors so he can be fully adjusted next season and getting to be around one of the most talented and professional groups of players in the game.  Seriously, what benefits is he getting from trading hitting tips with Doug Bernier and Jordan Parraz (no offense, guys).

It really doesn't boil down to much more than that.  Cervelli sucks, Montero is better, and there are plenty of opportunities to get him the playing time he deserves.  Jesus benefits from it and the team benefits from it.  It's like Mike said:

"...the kid is so obviously ready and able to help. Stop fearing failure and let him do it."

Gordon Falls Behind In The Race To Keep A Rotation Spot

It wasn't a bad outing by any means last night for Brien Gordon.  But it also wasn't terribly good.  5 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks, and just 3 swinging strikes over 5 innings is about what you'd expect from a replacement level lifetime Triple-A pitcher.  And although it's a nice story and it sounds like Joe is going to give him another start, the clock is already counting down to the return of Bartolo Colon and Phil Hughes to the rotation, and he's sitting last out of the bottom 3 in the contest.

Ivan Nova, who is seemingly on the hot seat every other week, is coming off his 8-inning masterpiece and has quietly put together a 4-start string of outings that have ranged anywhere from pretty good to goddamn good.  He's starting to use his secondary pitches more effectively so batters can't sit on his fastball and he's certainly done enough to guarantee himself at least another 2-3 turns through the rotation, covering at least the return of Colon.

Freddy Garcia has also rebounded nicely after his stinkbomb against Bahhston, allowing just 4 ER over 20.2 innings in his last 3 starts, including 7 innings of 0 ER ball in yesterday's day game that would have and could have been at least 7, if not 8, shutout innings if Ramiro Pena knew how to throw.  Freddy's portfolio of junk is well documented by now, but there's no denying that he's performed well above expectations this year, and his 3.30 ERA after yesterday is currently better than CC's.  He's in.

So it's looking like Brien Gordon might be left out in the cold when Bartolo returns, assuming it's right after his DL stint ends.  And then it will be Freddy and Nova fighting it out to keep a spot over Hughes when he is ready to return in a couple weeks.  But that might not be such a bad thing for Gordon or the Yankees.  Jeff Marquez went on the DL yesterday and Hector Noesi got absolutely shelled late in the nightcap.  Gordon's impressive Triple-A numbers were racked up as a relief pitcher, so there's a good chance he sticks around to fill a gap in the 'pen even after he gets booted from the rotation.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It's A Doubleheader, All The Way


It's SO bright and vivid!!

In case you weren't already aware, there's a doubleheader today to make up for the rainout last night.  You got Freddy Garcia vs. Mike Leake at 12:35 EST/11:35 Central, and Brian "Killface" Gordon vs. Johnny Cueto in the nightcap at 7:10 EST/6:10 Central.

It's almost starting to look like a tripleheader!!

/starts hysterically crying

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Brien Gordon Is F*cking Ready!!!

(Photo Courtesy of The AP)


Seriously, forget "Eye of The Tiger." Gordon has the "Eye of the Vein-Popping Burrito Dump" down pat!  How did it take so long for this guy to make it to The Show with a look like that?  I'm not even in the same state and I'm scared to death right now.

I feel bad for the Cincinnati lineup tonight.  They better hope it keeps raining there.

Looking At The Newest Version Of The Bullpen

About a month ago, I went and addressed the state of the bullpen after Sourpuss Soriano hit the DL, and all signs were pointing to the bullpen still being in good shape.  Since then, the Yanks have lost Joba for the next year + and had Soriano moved to the 60-day DL, signifying a decreased likelihood of us seeing him in pinstripes again this year.  There has been some juggling and re-juggling of the 'pen over the last couple weeks and now there's some new faces and new roles that we need to familiarize ourselves with.  As we live and breath right now, the Yankee bullpen is:

- Mo
- D-Rob
- Luis Ayala
- Boone Logan
- Hector Noesi
- Cory Wade
- Jeff Marquez

Mo is Mo.  No need to discuss anything about him other than the fact that Joe still needs to be mindful of not overworking him and his 41-year-old arm.  And D-Rob, who has now assumed the setup role for Mo, is what he is.  He's a damn good relief pitcher with big balls and good stuff.  His walk rate is frightening to look at, but I can live with it if and when he continues to strand guys and strike out 15 batters per 9.

Ayala is an interesting and a much more important part of the bullpen puzzle right now because he's been very good so far.  He's pitched to a 1.59/3.27/3.70 tripleslash in 22.2 innings with a 7.15 K/9 and has been rewarded with more high-leverage innings recently.  His walk rate is a bit of a concern and we still haven't seen what he can do in true high-leverage situations, but he has earned some of Joe's confidence.

Also seeing more high-leverage work thrown his way lately is Hector Noesi, who, despite being overlooked for the Bartolo Colon replacement position, has continued to pitch well out of the bullpen.  His K rate also isn't great, and his higher FIP numbers indicate that his ERA isn't the truest depiction of how good he's been, but he has good stuff, has not appeared rattled by any of the situations he's been thrown into, and gets swings and misses when he needs them.  Between him and Ayala, Joe has 2 guys he can use for the 7th-inning role, since he's so in love with predetermined roles.  And that covers the solid holdovers.

A Super Night For Nova

Just when we think he's out of the rotation, he keeps pulling himself back in.

Last night was a masterful performance by Ivan Nova.  There's really no other way to say it.  He passed the eye test from anybody who watched the game, throwing all 4 pitches for strikes, and working brilliantly off of his changeup and that cutter/slider hybrid thing that we haven't seen much of lately.  And he certainly passed the stat test, putting up an 8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K line on 105 pitches (70 for strikes), with a 15/3 GB/FB ratio, 10 swinging strikes (a 9.52%), and a first strike thrown to 18 of the 28 batters he faced.  Last night was easily Nova's best start of his career from any and every possible angle and once again solidified his spot in the rotation and reaffirmed the Yankees' and Nova supporters' (like myself) belief that he can be a productive pitcher at the Major League level.

The fact that Nova set up the heart of the Reds' order with his offspeed stuff the first time through the lineup helped him actually be stronger the 2nd and 3rd times through because he hadn't shown them the fastball yet, something that bucked what has been the trend and biggest issue with Nova this year.  He pitched with the kind of intelligence and attacking style that we haven't always seen from him, but when he does he's always been successful.  They aren't all world beaters, but Nova throws 4 pitches and when he's mixing them all in and throwing them for strikes, he's tough.  And yeah, it was a National League team, but it was one of the better teams in the NL and a team that features the defending NL MVP and a few other above average-to-very good Major League hitters, so last night was no fluke.

And don't look now, but Nova has a 4.13/4.14/4.23 tripleslash and has a high WAR than A.J. Burnett.  I'm more than happy to take that from the 5th starter.  For a night, Ivan was The SuperNova again.  And now I get to break out this Photoshop that hasn't been used in a while.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Rebirth Of The "Who Should Hit Leadoff?" Argument Is Going To Come Soon. And It Ain't Gonna Be Pretty

(We should all be giving this guy low fives right now.  Courtesy of The AP)

Before the season started, this debate was one of the hottest Yankee-related topics, and people were generally in favor of Brett Gardner winning the job out of ST.  There was also general happiness when Gardner stumbled out of the starting blocks and Derek Jeter got the role.  But as the season has progressed and Jeter's 2010 decline looks to be the new rule for him rather than a one-year exception, and as Gardner rebounded back closer to his averages, the debate started to re-emerge.  And now with Jeter being on the shelf, Gardner absolutely lighting it up this month, and the Yankee offense being productive, the debate has once again turned decidedly in Gardner's favor, making for a potentially controversial decision when Jeter makes his return.

The statistical argument provides almost no support to the "Jeter should hit leadoff" theory.  In last week's "big picture" look at the team without Jeter, I touched on the fact that his numbers, bad as they were, were better as a leadoff hitter and even better when actually leading off an inning.  Unfortunately for Jeter, Gardner's line when batting first in the lineup (.255/.317/.382) is almost identical in much fewer ABs, and his line leading off an inning (.344/.420/.525 in 61 ABs) is even better than Jeter's.  And those numbers for Gardner are probably negatively affected a bit by his weak April.  Stretching the stats to cover the overall bodies of work of each player does even more to build a case for Gardner:

Jeter '11: .260/.324/.324  12 XBH  39 R  7.8% BB  83 wRC+  .297 wOBA in 293 PA

Gardner '11: .294/.372/.446  19 XBH  35 R  10.6% BB  124 wRC+  .357 wOBA in 236 PA

Any way you cut it, Brett Gardner has been the more productive player at the plate this season, bad start and all.  He's hit for a better average, hit for more power, and gotten on base at a much better clip than Jeter.  Sure, he's a disaster on the basepaths this year, but the sheer fact that he is on base more and the fact that he has better speed than Jeter means there are more opportunities for the team to score runs with him at the top of the lineup than The Captain.  From a statistical and pure logic standpoint, Gardner should be hitting leadoff over Jeter.

The reality of the situation, however, is that Jeter is going to get the leadoff spot back when he returns from the DL, because of who he is and the path to 3,000 career hits that he's currently on.  Joe has shown himself to be a very loyal manager to his older players, much like the previous Joe was, to a point way beyond where he rightfully should be, and I can't see him sticking Jeter in the 9-spot to complete his march to 3,000.

And this is where the interesting part of the debate will come in.  Joe was mostly praised for his decision to stick Jorge down in the lineup when he was struggling last month.  But now that Jorge has rebounded of late, Jeter will become the new weak link in the lineup, statistically speaking.  Based on his previous decision, Joe should move Jeter down and let Gardner hit leadoff, even against lefties, but how will that decision be received by the public?  Will he again be praised for putting the team's success over one individual player or will he be vilified for spitting in the face of the Almighty Captain and insulting his quest for 3,000 hits?  Jeter is much more of a fan favorite than even Jorge is, and the local writers will be chomping at the bit to get their 2 cents in on whatever decision Joe makes or doesn't make.

Jeter should really do the right thing and offer to move down in the lineup, as his traditional "team first" reputation would lead us to believe he would, but so far he has given no indication that this will happen.  Assuming he comes back, gets the leadoff spot, and continues to infield-hit his way to 3,000, the voices calling for Gardner are only going to grow louder, especially if Gardner continues to play well (the dude has a 1.126 OPS in June!!!).  At what point does Joe make the call?  Before 3,000?  After?  If after, how long after?  This is a very slippery slope that the Yankees are approaching, and it could become a major distraction moving forward.  Either one man will have to sacrifice (Jeter), or the whole team could end up sacrificing in the win column.

I'm just glad I'm not the one who has to make the call.

Sprained Shoulder For The Horse? Who Cares?

The big news last night in Yankeeland, besides the fact that they kicked the Cubs' candyasses all over Wrigley Field last night, came out early in the game when it was announced that, according to the ever knowledgeable anonymous clubhouse source, The Horse has been playing with a left shoulder strain for the past few weeks, with no clues as to when he hurt it or how severe the injury is.  I'm going to be honest with you, I didn't even realize horses, or centaurs for that matter, had shoulders.  I thought it was kind of like how your lap disappears when you stand up if you're a regular human being.  Walking on all fours like that would eliminate the shoulder from existence, right?  Wrong.  At least I learned something today.

Naturally, the guys on the ESPN "Sunday Night Baseball" broadcast were quick to jump on how this injury was negatively affecting his production and how he's only 4th on the team in HRs and so on and so forth.  And naturally, they and everybody else complaining about that are idiots.  They're missing the big picture.  And what that big picture says is that A-Rod has been playing much better over the last couple weeks, since he suffered this supposed injury, and the Yankees have been winning games since then.

May was a rough month for A-Rod.  He hit just .286/.325/.403 in 119 ABs with just 6 XBH, 12 RBI, and a 6/29 BB/K ratio.  Not exactly Triple Crown-caliber numbers, in baseball or in horse racing.  Fast forward to this month.  So far in 57 June ABs, The Horse is sitting at .263/.382/.561 with 9 XBH, 12 RBI, and a 9/14 BB/K ratio.  The numbers suggest that he's seeing the ball better, being more selective at the plate, and driving the ball when he makes contact.  Sure, the batting average looks a little down, but 2 more hits in those 57 ABs puts him at .298, so I'm sure there's some bad BABIP luck in there somewhere.

The point is, whatever problems The Horse is having with his shoulder aren't very big ones.  I can't imagine he's been having trouble with it since the beginning of May when he started to struggle because we would have heard something long before last night.  It's a minor injury, it isn't affecting his performance, and regardless of what his HR rate is this year, he's still on pace to score 100+ runs, drive in 100+ runs, and crack the 30-HR mark again.  And if you check the WAR rankings for AL 3rd basemen, you'll find The Horse galloping up at the top of the list, a full W ahead of 2nd place Youkilis and Adrian Beltre.

He's not on the DL and he's producing during a month when the Yankees are 11-6 so far.  In short, he's winning.  Chill out about the home runs.  It's not like the team total is suffering without a few more from him.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Was This The Best Play Of The Season?

(Russell Martin is a boss.  Courtesy of The AP)

The inning-ending double play in the 7th yesterday, Garder-to-Martin on a caught flyball/throw out at the plate to preserve what, at the time, was a 1-run lead was an absolute thing of beauty.  And when you consider how the Yankees mucked things up to even get in that situation, bases loaded and 2 outs thanks to a couple of sloppy errors, and you consider that the offense had once again been able to chip away at Cub pitching all day without being able to break through for more runs, I don't think there's any question that the plays by Gardner and Martin were the best of the season so far.

The throw by Gardner was textbook, and all set up by perfect positioning on the catch.  He transitioned so smoothly and quickly into the throw that anybody watching should have known that Pena was going to be meat at the plate.  Watch the replay.  By the time Gardner makes the catch and unleashes the throw, Pena is only a few steps off third base.  And then the job by Martin to make the catch, secure the ball, take a brutal hit without getting seriously hurt, and hold onto the ball?  Incredible.  The extra little dose of swag on the show to Pena after he got up was a nice touch too.  I haven't looked up the WPA of that play yet, and I don't want to.  Given the situation that it took place in, the execution of the play by both parties involved, and the fact that it held a slim lead in the late innings on the road, that's #1 for the season in my book.

P.S.- I was watching the 2nd half of yesterday's game at Hooters with a few people for a friend's going away party.  In typical Yankee fan fashion, I made one of the waitresses change the channel from the Sawx-Brewers game just so I could watch.  After the collision at the plate, I let out a couple of loud yells and started pounding the guy sitting next to me on the arm.  I got a couple of dirty looks from other restaurant goers and waitresses alike.  I'm a classy guy.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Yanks Somehow Lost To Doug Davis

I can't believe it either.  Doug Davis sucks.  Ask any Brewers fan out here by me and they'll tell you the same.

I'll chalk today's performance up to the situation.  Day game after an extra inning game in another time zone (I know, I know.  It's just one hour difference) is certainly a little different than the usual player routine.  There better be a little more life in those bats tomorrow.

Friday Day Game Linkapalooza

Here's some stuff to take up your time at work before the game starts:

- SG at RLYW examines the last 3 years of AL offense and adjusts the Yankees' 2011 output accordingly.  Maybe it's polishing a turd, but the numbers don't lie.  And they look better adjusted.

- Larry Koestler of TYA goes back to the ZIPs projections for 2011 and checks how the Yankees have been stacking up so far.  Things look good moving forward.

- Bronx Goblin proposes an alternative surgery option for Joba.  Who knows?  It could work.

- Lucas at Don't Bring In The Lefty makes some quick observations about the "new" Ramiro Pena.

- Mike Axisa of RAB continues to search through the scrap heap in the never-ending hunt for lefty bullpen help and uncovers the recently DFA'd J.C. Romero.  Hopefully Boone Logan reads that post and decides to start pitching well.

- Vizzini at NoMaas makes another desperate plea to Joe to stop platooning Brett Gardner against lefties.  .350 OBP against LHP shouldn't be that tough of a sell.  Wake up, Joe!

- And a nice little jab at Fraud Sawx Nation and a shout out to my original home state to cap things off.  The yearly Quinnipiac poll results are in and the Yankee fans have it over Bahhston, 43%-38%.  So suck it, Sawx fans.  Suck it long and suck it good.  At least something good comes out of CT.

For those who are able to watch this afternoon's game, enjoy.  For those like me who are stuck at work and can't, at least we can suffer together.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Brien Gordon: Hollywood Story

One man.  A man with a dream.  A dream he's waited 15 long years to live out.  And now his dream has become a reality.  At 32 years of age, Brien Gordon gets his chance.  The chance to be a starting pitcher for the New York Yankees.

/cue the dramatic music

This summer, Brien Gordon is...

Coming soon to a ballpark near you.

A Swanny Duckson Production

Non-Baseball, Anti-Boston Sidebar

Dan Shaughnessy, you unbelievable front-running douchebag: 

"Today would be a good day to call your out-of-town friends and tell them you live in a city that just won its seventh championship in 11 years. You live in the only hamlet that’s won the Grand Slam of North American trophies within seven years."

Because the "Grand Slam of North American trophies within seven years" is something that only became a relevant point to mention after the final horn sounded last night in Game 7.  It's not like there was a running ticker at the Elias Sports Bureau headquarters counting how long it had been since an American sports city pulled that feat off.  But yeah, go ahead and call your out-of-town friends.  Brag to them about how big a fan you are after you just purchased your 6th different off-colored Boston sports hat on Monday morning.  Openly flaunt your bandwagon jumpy-ness the same way you did in '04.  People respect that.

Not that I need to, but let me remind you that this is the same guy who spoke of a meaningless mid-March ST game like it was the fucking World Series.  And the same guy, who less than 2 weeks ago, wrote this in a piece for after the Canucks had gone up 2-0: 

"This beautiful city deserves a Stanley Cup and it certainly feels like the chalice will be delivered sometime soon.

I just spent five days in Vancouver last week and it's hard to carry a grudge against the city and it's great fans.

Sure it would be nice to see my hometown Boston Bruins win their first Cup since Bobby Orr and Co. hoisted the grail on the Madison Square Garden ice in the spring of 1972... But let's face it: Vancouver is no less deserving."

Shut the fuck up, Shaughnessy.  You are insulting to sportswriters and sports fans everywhere.  Of all the horrible things I think of when I think about Bawston and Fraud Sawx Nation, you might very well be the most horrible.

Hate Shaughnessy.  "Like" AB4AR.

The Impact Of A Jeter-less Infield

(Never a good expression when you're running to 1st.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

In terms of star power, name recognition, and MSM talking points, Derek Jeter's trip to the DL is a bummer for the Yankees and Yankee fans.  But realistically, it may not be all that bad of thing.  Jeter was hitting .260/.324/.324 before the calf strain, good for a .298 wOBA,  83 wRC+, and a ranking near the bottom of any statistical measurement system.  His range at short has also been suspect at best, and all indications were that the decline we saw at the end of the 2010 season was what the real Derek Jeter is and will be moving forward.  In the 2 games since his being placed on the DL, the Yankee lineup has been just as good, if not better, than when he was in it.  Now of course 2 games isn't enough to make good predictions about anything, but knowing what Jeter had been contributing and knowing there is another 2 weeks without him, I think it's worth taking a look at how things could change without him.

#1 Spot in the Batting Order- Brett Gardner won this job out of ST, but lost it almost immediately after a slow start.  To Jeter's credit, he has actually hit better as a leadoff guy, (.270/.336/.345 in 226 ABs as the #1 hitter, .344/.410/.456 in 90 ABs leading off an inning) but there is still room for improvement.  Jeter is averaging 3.85 pitches/plate appearance, 3rd lowest amongst Yankee regulars.  His replacements over the past 2 games, Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher, average 4.20 and 4.19 respectively.  They are working counts, setting up better hitting opportunities, and giving the guys behind them more chances to see the pitcher's stuff, all beneficial to offensive success.

Then there's the whole production thing.  Gardner went 3-4 with 3 R, 1 RBI, and 1 BB on Tuesday night from the 1-spot and Swish went 1-3 with 1 2B, 1 R, and 2 BB last night.  The nights of Jeter producing like that have been few and far between.  Both of these guys have been seeing and hitting the ball well lately, better than Jeter has at any point this year, which creates more opportunities for the offense as a whole to score.  Gardner sees more pitches, draws more walks, and has better speed than Jeter, and Swish sees more pitches, has more power, and also draws more walks.  Adding those factors into the offense over the next few weeks is an upgrade from where it was with Jeter in the leadoff spot and could provide more support for Joe changing things up and moving Jeter down in the order when he returns. 

Production/Performance from the SS Position- This will be the area affected the most by Jeter's absence, SS being his position and all, and just like the leadoff spot, early returns are looking good.  In the last 2 games, Eduardo Nunez has gone 4-8 with 2 R, 2 RBI, 1 HR, 1 BB, 0 K, 2 SB, and a hard hit ball almost every time up.  He's shown good patience and discipline at the plate, taken good swings, and hit the ball with more authority than Jeter has.  In the field he's still a bit of an adventure (see last night's botching of the in between ball in the 5th inning), but he does have a good arm, range at least as good as Jeter's, and he looked good turning the plays he did make last night.

Joe has all but said that Nunez is going to be the everyday SS while Jeter is out, so he's getting his first chance to show what he can do with regular playing time.  The Yankees have already held him out of some past potential trades, so they clearly think that Nunez has a chance to be a good player.  He doesn't have to go 2-4 with a homer and a stolen base every night, but if he can continue to show some pop in his bat while at the very least replicating Jeter's defense in the field, he can go a long way in proving he belongs and deserves more playing time regardless of Jeter's health situation.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Too Many Home Runs!

The Yankees hit too many home runs AGAIN tonight.  That kinda stuff might work now, but sooner or later they are going to have to start manufacturing runs without the long ball and play the hit-and-run game and blah blah blah sacrifice bunt blah blah blah stringing hits together blah blah blah A-Rod needs to pick it up blah blah blah the mainstream media doesn't know shit blah blah blah suck it, haters.

P.S.- Teix and C-Grand in a one-on-one duel in the HR Derby final?  That'd be cool, right?

P.P.S.- Back-to-back 2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI nights for Eduardo Nunez, including one of the too many home runs that were hit.  I know it's the smallest of small sample sizes, but you can't say the kid doesn't look good out there.

An Issue With Swish's Splits

While reading the always excellent Mike Axisa game recap on RAB of last night's ass whooping of Alexi Ogando, I was struck by this particular bit on Nick Swisher: 

"I thought Paul O’Neill did a fine job of breaking down Swisher’s left-handed swing during the broadcast, showing how he was opening up early and getting off balance. He hasn’t had those same problems from the right-side, which is why he went 2-for-3 with a double and a homer off lefties Michael Kirkman and Arthur Rhodes while drawing just a measly walk off righty Alexi Ogando. Swish is now hitting .176/.315/.284 off righties but .356/.439/.576 off lefties. That has to fix itself at some point, right?"

For one, I had no idea that Swish's splits were that awful.  Admittedly, I had never checked them in great detail this season, so I just assumed he was equally awful from both sides of the plate early in the season and had been hitting equally better from both sides during his recent resurgence.  To justify my ignorance to this situation, I will point out that Swish hit .286/.330/.549 from the left side of the plate in 384 at-bats and .291/.414/.429 from the right side in 182 at-bats just last year.  Why should I have expected anything different this season?

But the second thing that struck me about this bit of info was Mike's assumption that this issue with Swish is something that should/will fix itself as the season moves along.  We're talking about an over 400-point difference in OPS from what is typically Swish's stronger side of the plate in 2.5 times more ABs.  This isn't just something that should be expected to work itself with a little BABIP luck here and there. This, to me, represents something fundamentally wrong with Swish's mechanics and approach as a left-handed hitter right now.  If Paul O'Neill can call it out clear as day on the TV broadcast, then surely other people can recognize it too.  And when it comes to recognizing problems with a swing and correcting them, there's one man on the Yankee staff that needs to be involved in fixing them.

"Paging Dr. Long.  Dr. Long, you have a patient suffering from a severe case of lefty-swinging unbalance waiting for you in the lobby.  Dr. Long."

Methinks that Swish and Dr. Long need to get together for a quick checkup on that lefty approach and get things straightened out, especially considering they've already put so much time and work into retooling Swish's approach that got him the career-best results he's already had as a Yankee.  And sooner rather than later.  He's going to face a lot more right-handed pitching this season than he is left-handed.  Getting that swing fixed against those righties will help get Swish's production back to where it should be a lot faster.  They didn't sit back and wait for Swish's approach to fix itself when he first got to New York.  Why wait for it to fix itself now?

Ladies And Gentlemen, Brien Gordon

(Photo courtesy of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.  Awesome name)

I don't know how or why the Yankees came to this decision, but yesterday afternoon they signed 32-year-old Brien Gordon, a former Phillies Triple-A pitcher, to take Bartolo Colon's spot in the rotation tomorrow.

Now Gordon has been lighting the world on fire this year, posting a 1.14 ERA and a 2.55 FIP for Lehigh Valley, the Phillies' Triple-A affiliate, and he's also struck out 56 batters to just 7 BB in 55.1 IP.  But the guy is 32 years old and in his 15th MiL season, way past the point of being a hot prospect, and he is still pitching in Triple-A.  So spare me the "he's a converted outfielder" talk and just say that if he were that good of an outfielder or a pitcher he probably would have made the show for more than 3 appearances with the Rangers back in '08.

And another thing that concerns me is what kind of effect, if any, this move has on guys like David Phelps and Adam Warren.  They have both been fantastic of late and for their organization to sign another outside guy to make a spot start over them is kind of like saying that the organization didn't trust them to come up and pitch well.  It doesn't pop quite as much as Gordon's 9.11 K/9, 1.14 BB/9 rates, but Phelps' 7.78,2.36 rates are nothing to sneeze at.

Basically, this deal is in the same vein as the Garcia and Colon signings in the offseason, a low-risk, high-reward move for the Yankees.  They're putting minimal money in a guy who has been on fire this season to make a few spot starts.  If he has any kind of success, the deal is a plus.  And if he bombs, then you just cut his ass and go to one of your group of internal youngsters until Colon comes back.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Quick Dose Of Perspective

Just for the record, the Yankees came into last night's game with the following players on the DL:

- Pedro Feliciano
- Phil Hughes
- Eric Chavez
- Rafael Soriano
- Joba Chamberlain
- Bartolo Colon

And in addition to that, they now have Russell Martin and Derek Jeter banged up and possibly heading for 15-day stints themselves.  Essentially, the Yankees have been playing and are continuing to play winning baseball without 40% of what would be their starting rotation, 3 of their top 5 bullpen guys, their best bat off the bench, and their starting catcher and shortstop.  For all the bitching and moaning that I and others around the blogosphere have done about the negative aspects of the Yankee play lately, I have to admit that it's pretty damn impressive that they've been able to stay competitive and right at the top of the AL.

Lord knows the Fraud Sawx haven't had to deal with any issues to their catchers other than the fact that they both suck.  And Carl Crawford doesn't have any injury excuses to explain his still sub-.300 OBP.  So sorry if I've been unnecessarily harsh on you over the last month or so, boys.  You're doing a damn fine job with whatever 25 you've got on the active roster.

Except you, Cervelli.  You still suck.

The Yankee Catching Conundrum

For a team that's catcher-heavy from the top of the organization to the bottom, the Yankees sure are having problems with the position this year.  From free agents to backups to top prospects, everybody seems to be struh-gull-ing in one way or another.

Single-A: Gary Sanchez- He's started to come around with the bat lately, but Sanchez has lost a little bit of his preseason luster after being demoted to ExST because of reported "character issues," and he also has 18 passed balls on the season after last night's game.  It's only fair that some of the questions surrounding Jesus Montero and his defensive ability would also be asked about Sanchez.  And yes, I know the guy isn't old enough to legally drink, but this season still hasn't been as positive as last year was for him.

Triple-A: Jesus Montero- Speaking of The Chosen One, Montero is also experiencing some growing pains at Triple-A this year after not making the MaL team out of camp.  His mighty bat is not quite as powerful as it has been, as his tripleslash sits at .289/.333/.408 right now.  That's not bad by any means but not what we're used to seeing from Montero.  His defense is still not winning him any praise and he's dealt with injury issues and questions about whether or not he's pressing at the plate to prove he belongs on the big league roster.

Majors: Russell Martin- He hit .292/.378/.597 in April, .200/.333/.347 in May, and so far just .111/.200/.111 in June while missing 7 out of the last 10 games.  Obviously it would have been insane to expect Martin to keep up his torrid April pace all season, but I also didn't expect him to bottom out this badly over the last 6 weeks.  His back has been a lingering issue and can almost certainly be a contributing factor to his problems at the plate and kept him out of last night's game.  He needs to get that taken care and get back to 100% ASAP.

Majors: Francisco Cervelli- The biggest problem that Martin has, besides the bad back, is that Cervelli is his backup.  Allow me a quick rant here.  Francisco Cervelli is fucking terrible.  TERRIBLE!  His calling card his whole career has been a no-hit, solid-defense catcher who pitchers like to work with and who brings energy to the team.  He's certainly living up to the no-hit part with a .191/.250/.298 line in 47 at-bats, including a 29.79% K rate, but now he isn't even bringing anything to the table defensively.  He's allowed a couple of passed balls and thrown out just 2 of 20 base stealers.  The guy has been a black hole of baseball skill anyway you look at it.  These numbers wouldn't cut it in Triple-A let alone the Majors, but for some reason the Yankees continue to roll this guy out there, watch him contribute negatively to the team, and probably force Martin to get back into the lineup before he's physically ready because he sees how pathetic Cervelli is.

I like Cervelli as a clubhouse guy.  The energy and spunk and all that is a good thing to bring to a clubhouse.  But when that's ALL you're bringing as a professional athlete, and you don't have any positional skills to offer, then that just doesn't cut the mustard.  Francisco Cervelli straight up sucks as a baseball player and he shouldn't be on the active roster any more than Billy Crystal should.  Period.

Luckily it's not all bad attitudes, lack of production, and injuries for the Yankee catching team.  Austin Romine looks much improved at Trenton, hitting .298/.362/.421 with a career-high .357 wOBA and solid defense, and in limited time behind the plate J.R. Murphy has hit .297/.343/.463 with a .360 wOBA in A-ball.  But the biggest issue is the lack of depth and production coming from the Major League level right now.  And age, defensive skills, and years of team control aside, it's time to kick Cervelli to the curb and bring up The Savior.

Jeter Update

The official word on The Captain (not me) is that it's a Grade 1 calf strain, which is the lowest level of calf strain that one can suffer.  That's the good news.  The bad news is that it's unlikely Jeter will play tonight against Texas and even more unlikely he will be able to get his 3,000th hit at home during the rest of this homestand.

While the low level strain and Jeter's toughness are positives, the Yankees also have to be realistic about the situation.  The Horse missed 14 games with a similar injury last season, Jeter is 37 years old, and he plays a position that requires lots of movement and range, something his UZR stats show he already doesn't have.  Add in the fact that he's a groundball machine hitting leadoff, so the chances he'll be trying to leg out infield hits are high, and this is the type of thing that could linger all season long if it isn't allowed to completely heal.  It sucks, but the best thing to do is put Jeter on the 15-Day DL and see how it feels when he comes back.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Yanks Waste A Good A.J. Outing

It's not often that you get to see A.J. pitch into the 8th inning while giving up just 1 run on 6 baserunners allowed and striking out 8.  That's the type of game you HAVE to win and it's the type of game that good teams consistently DO win.  Unfortunately, the Yankees couldn't scratch together a run to help Good A.J. out tonight as they fell victim to their arch nemesis: the no-name pitcher with whom they aren't familiar.

In the bottom of the first, it looked like Carlos Carrasco was going to be in for a long night.  He gave up back-to-back singles to Jeter (more on him later) and C-Grand and then walked Teix.  But the Yanks could get nothing out of it and then stranded another 2 in the 2nd inning.  From then on, Carrasco seemed to calm down and he dominated the Yankee O through 7 shutout innings.  The Yankees certainly did their best to help him out, though, thanks to 0-7 with RISP, 8 men left on base, Brett Gardner's mind boggling decision to bunt with a full count on a pitch that was damn near over his head to lead off the 7th, Robbie Cano's continued unwillingness to take strikes early in the count, Francisco Cervelli's downright awfulness as a baseball player, and letting themselves get K'd in the bottom of the 9th by somebody named Chris Perez to end the game.

The loss sucks bad enough, but what makes it even worse is the real story of the night, that being Jeter leaving in the 5th inning after appearing to strain his calf on a swing.  No official word on what the injury is yet, but he was in pain almost immediately as he hobbled down the 1st base line and it looked like the type of tweak that will lead to at least a 15-day DL stint.  At this point, the Yankees pretty much have their own wing in the hospital.  Too bad for Jeter and all the fans.  I don't think I'm alone in saying I was getting excited about the possibility of him getting 3,000 at The Stadium.

More on Jeter's injury and Cervelli's suckiness tomorrow.

The Joba Chamberlain Experiment Has Officially Failed

( I miss these days.)

Now that I've had time to digest the Joba injury, accept that he's done for the season and some of next season, and think about his whole career as a Yankee up to this point, I think I can write this post without sounding like an angry, unintelligent fan who's just looking for someone to blame.  The bottom line is, regardless of whether people wanted him to be a starter or a reliever, regardless of what everybody thought about him as a pitcher, the Joba Era has been a complete failure.

Now I don't think there is one particular thing that can be called the reason for it being a failure.  There have been many missteps along the way, from the limited MiL experience (just 83.1 total IP through 3 levels in '07 before being called up), to the Joba Rules, to the transitioning of him and his approach back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen from 2008-2009, to the token "competition" for the 5th starter's spot that he was included in during ST 2010, to the bringing in of Kerry Wood and Rafael Soriano to hold down the setup role that had been his.  All of these things have added up to 3 years of good but not great results from Joba and the constant reminder of what could have/should have been after he burst onto the scene in 2007.

Because of the organizational mismanagement of his career, Joba has never really been given a fair shake at being a full-time starter or a full-time reliever/setup man since 2007.  The team didn't know how they wanted to use him, he didn't know how he was going to be used, and the injuries along the way only served to intensify that confusion about just where he belonged and where his skills could best be used to help the team.  And now that Joba has suffered an arm injury so severe that it requires Tommy John Surgery, it can be said with complete certainty that all the time spent vacillating on whether he should be a starter or reliever was a waste because in the end he still ended up never being able to replicate the explosiveness he had in '07 and he still ended up hurt.  Maybe he was just bound to have this injury occur eventually, and if that was the case then it would have been better to either commit fully to him being a starter or reliever, keeping him in that role, and getting the most of out him that could be gotten before the injury occurred.

It's impossible to say what kind of starter Joba would be today if the team would have stuck with their plan in '08 and given him the time to develop his secondary stuff and his approach.  It's also impossible to say if he would have been able to maintain the 11.00 K/9 rate that he held through his first 2 seasons if he would have been left in the 'pen.  Maybe we would be talking about the team's #2 starter right now or maybe we would be talking about the best reliever in the game not named Mariano Rivera.  We'll never know.  What we do know is that Joba was never given a chance to fully realize the potential he showed in either role, which was unfair to him as a player and unfair to us as fans.  The last 3 seasons spent drifting along the sea of uncertainty have essentially been a waste now that he'll spend the next year on the shelf.

For all the discussions about Joba and his role, and all the complaints about the player he's been since the beginning of 2008 (admittedly, some of those complaints coming from me), the numbers show that Joba has been a solid pitcher in his time as a Major Leaguer.  He has an ERA/FIP/xFIP tripleslash of 3.70/3.62/3.64 for his career, with 9.09 K/9 and 7.7 WAR accumulated in what equates out to about 3.5 years of baseball played.  He is still only 25 years old, and yet I can't help but feel like his best days are behind him and always will be.  As good as his numbers are, they could have been better if he would have been given a chance to live up to the expectations that the organization and the fans had for him.  I know I would feel a lot better about this upcoming TJS if I would have at least gotten to see him be fully committed to one role and watched that process play out over the last 3 seasons.  At least we would have known exactly what kind of pitcher he was and how good he would have been.  Instead, we still don't know and now we may never know.  And that's a damn shame.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Kei Igawa: Record Setter

AB4AR would like to be the first to congratulate Kei Igawa for setting the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankee all-time record for more innings pitched and most home runs allowed.  These records are a testament to Igawa's pedestrian stuff and dedication to being mediocre that have allowed him to be a constant staple of the Triple-A roster over the years.

So congrats, Kei.  I hope your teammates gave you the proper champagne shower in the locker room after the game.  You earned it, buddy.  I think we can now safely say that this was $46 million well spent.

/throws up

What To Do With The Roster?

The injury bug sucks, and it's been biting the Yankees hard over the last week.  The Yankee pitching staff was already hurting without Damaso Marte, Pedro Feliciano, Phil Hughes, and Rafael Soriano in the ranks, and then earlier this week they lost Joba Chamberlain, yesterday they lost Bartolo Colon and Amaury Sanit, and possible Triple-A replacement Tim Norton was also put on the DL earlier in the week.  Now Sanit is probably addition by subtraction, but it's a fair statement to say that the Yankee staff is in tatters right now and they need to get creative to stem the tide.

Coming into yesterday's game, Joe was carrying 13 pitchers, which was a ridiculous move when you consider that those 13 included Sanit, Jeff Marquez, and Lance Pendleton and not Hector Noesi, and even more ridiculous when you consider the fact that it left the Yankees with just 2 non-catcher bench players in Andruw Jones and Eduardo Nunez.  Things have already gotten straightened out a bit today with Noesi and Chris Dickerson being called back up to replace Colon and Sanit on the active roster and add a little more bench depth, but things still need to be figured out.

Noesi is the most likely choice to replace Colon in the rotation, but that isn't 100% certain.  David Phelps has been very good all season, Adam Warren has been great recently, and D.J. Mitchell pitched a pretty good start yesterday and is on the same schedule as Colon, making him the easiest to drop in.  If one of them gets called up to take Colon's spot instead of Noesi, then Noesi gets put back into the 'pen as the long man and somebody else has to go down.  That guy should be Marquez or Pendleton.  And the Yankees definitely don't want to play with fire by only having 2 available bodies on the bench, so Dickerson should stay.

It's a shitty situation to be in right now, but the Yankees have to figure out a way to make it work.  If it were up to me, I'd give Colon's rotation spot to Noesi, even if he can only work a short outing this next time out.  He has the highest ceiling of any of the candidates and has already shown he can get it done at the Major League level in his previous appearances.  I'd also think about strengthening the bullpen by swapping out Marquez and/or Pendleton for George Kontos a/o Ryan Pope from Triple-A.  You'd be upgrading the stuff and velocity of 2 middle relief options whose roles become more important with Joba and Soriano down while still having the option of carrying guys who can go more than 1 inning if needed.  Kevin Whelan was a good start, now it's time to get rid of the rest of the crap in there and at least have some solid arms.

My New Rotation: CC, A.J., Garcia, Nova, Noesi

My New Bullpen: Mo, D-Rob, Boone Logan, Ayala, Whelan, Kontos, Pope

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Thank You, Fausto Carmona

(HELLOOOOOOOOOOO!!! Courtesy of The AP)

Thank you, Fausto.  Thank you for dragging the Yankees out of the zombified state they've been in for the last handful of days after enduring another asswhooping at the hands of the Fraud Sawx.  Thank you for reigniting a fire within the offense that had seemingly been blown out, had a bucket of water dumped over it, and then covered in sand since about halfway through Wednesday night's game.  It was only one game, and sure, the Yanks could come out tonight and lay another egg, but it was good to see guys fired up again, it was good to see the lineup be patient and then string hits together to make pitchers pay for making bad pitches, and it was good to see home runs get knocked into the deepest parts of the park.

And thank you, Fausto, for waking Joe up.  Tt was especially good to see that he still has a pulse there in the dugout.  He's been just as MIA as the rest of his club lately, still clinging to the "we gotta make plays/one game at a time/come out tomorrow" cliche rope as the performance and health around him has been faltering.  It's a manager's job to get his guys ready to play and to keep them up, and you could hear in Teix's voice in his postgame interview that he was fired up after watching Joe go face-to-face with Manny Acta.  Hopefully that energy is still there in the clubhouse today and hopefully it carries through the rest of the series.

And thanks, Fausto, for giving Ivan Nova such an easy situation in which to work on fixing his issues and throwing strikes in a low-leverage situation to build some confidence.  2 runs and a season-high 6 Ks in 7 strong innings?  That's as good a performance as Nova has had all year, and he probably earned himself another 2 starts at least in the rotation as the Yankees continue to wait for Phil Hughes to return.

So thank you, Fausto.  Thank you for waking the sleeping giant, even if it was just for one night.  If they're all still awake and still remember your shenanigans from last night when they get to The Stadium today, then I feel bad for your starting pitcher today.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bartolo Colon Is The 900,000 Dollar Man

** CAPTAIN'S NOTE- This post was originally posted on 5/18 and got deleted during the little technical issue that Blogger had a few weeks ago.  But since it's all sadness and rain clouds in Yankeeland today and I don't feel like talking about any of that, I decided to brighten things up with a little comedy and re-post this gold.  A "Six Million Dollar Man" reference AND more Bartolo Colon fat jokes in the same post??  GodDAMN, I am hilarious!**

Nothing like getting some stem cells from your own fat hips injected into your shoulder to rejuvenate your career, huh? 

"According to a story in the Dominican daily Dairio Libre, the new life in Colon's arm could be partially attributable to two treatments of stem cells - or "células madre" as they're called in the Dominican Republic, where Colon had the procedures. The doctors, Sergio Guzman and Leonel Liriano, told the newspaper they... sent "an invitation" out to Colon, which he accepted in March 2010. Guzman was quick to insist, though, that when they took fatty tissue and bone marrow from Colon's hip and injected it into injured tissues in his rotator cuff and elsewhere in his right shoulder, they weren't doing anything revolutionary." (via MLB Trade Rumors)

I don't know what was a more genius move, Colon opting for this treatment to try and bring some life back what was his completely dead arm or the Yankees for picking him up.  And if you don't think Cash knew that this had happened before he even started watching Colon in the Dominican winter league let alone before he decided to sign Colon, then you are just a dope.  Once again, Cash was playing chess while other GMs were playing checkers.

Apparently MLB is now looking into this situation after the report came out yesterday, but as Ben from RAB wisely pointed out, there really isn't much they can do and nothing illegal happened, so this was a calculated risk that has seemingly paid off for Colon and the Yankees.

Announcer: "Bartolo Colon.  Pitcher.  A man barely alive."

Cash: "Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to inject stem cells from the butt into the shoulder to create the world's first 38-year-old man-titted effective starting pitcher. Bartolo Colon will be that pitcher. Better than he was before.  Better...stronger...faster.  But still pretty fat."


I really don't know what to say.  I really don't.  I had all the confidence in the world that the Yankees would sack up, rally behind CC last night, and at least salvage a win and a share of the division lead from this series last night.  I was so confident that I even broke out the sarcasm before the game when I made fun of the MSM and their collective hand wringing after the first 2 games.

Unfortunately the Yankees didn't hold up their end of the bargain, bowing down again last night 8-3 to Fraud Sawx Nation.  They led 2-0 after the first 2 batters in the bottom of the first and then managed to get nothing off of Josh Beckett for the next 7 innings, even when they had the bases loaded in the bottom of the 2nd.  That's just horseshit, no other to say it.

I'm well aware of the insignificance that this series will most likely hold in the grand scheme of the 162-game season, hence the aforementioned sarcasm yesterday.  But losing still sucks, losing to your biggest rival still sucks, and the sucktitude of any loss gets magnified when it comes as a result of playing piss-poor baseball.  This team still can't hit when it has to, it still plays sloppy defense, it still has questions in the rotation, and its bullpen is in complete tatters after yesterday's bad news about Joba.  I don't know when things are going to start turning around, and I'd like to say it will happen when the plummeting Indians come into town, but with the way the Yanks are playing right now, that's far from a certainty.

The best thing you can say about this series was at least somebody finally hit this asshole:

(Screen cap used courtesy of RAB)

Unfortunately, that doesn't do nearly enough to ease the sting of another beatdown.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Early-Season MSM Panic Meter Is Rising Rapidly

"There are Yankees killers and then there are Yankees killers and then there is Ortiz, who is a serial murderer of Yankees pitching." (Vaccaro, The Post)

"The Yankees are a second-place team now after falling 11-6 to Boston. Heck, they are just 4 1/2 games ahead of last-place Baltimore in the congested AL East." (Sherman, The Post)

"At this moment, just a game separates the teams ... Still, it feels like Boston is ascending, distancing themselves from their distasteful start to the season." (Sherman again)

"There are a thousand ways to look at the Red Sox domination of the Yankees, but start with the fact that when the Yankees need A.J. Burnett the most, he comes up small." (Kernan, The Post)

"Say the Yankees face the Red Sox in the ALCS. Who are they going to pitch in Game 2 of that series?" (Kernan again)

"It's becoming the first half of 2009 all over again, and right now the Yanks can only hope this season ends the same way that one did. But after an 11-6 Yankee loss Wednesday night, the Red Sox clearly have the Bombers' number, beating them for the seventh time in eight games." (Feinsand, The Daily News)

"It could have been a wonderful night, the best of the season at Yankee Stadium, a comeback to talk about all season. Are you kidding? After being 7-0 down against the Red Sox? It was right there in the bottom of the sixth, all over the bases and all over the place. Gardner didn't score. Jeter didn't hit. Red Sox win again." (Lupica, The Daily News)

As you can clearly see from all the literary mass hysteria, these are trying times in Yankeeland.  We're at DEFCON 2 here, people.  Another sweep at the hands of the Fraud Sawx is imminent, nobody can pitch, nobody can hit, Joba is staring down the barrel of TJS, and the Yankees are already screwed in the hypothetical 2011 ALCS showdown they will have with the Fraud Sawx.  And there is only one man who can save us.

(Courtesy of The AP)

That man is you, Carsten Charles Sabathia.  Your team needs you.  The NY sports writers need you.  We the fans NEED you, Carsten.  We need you to rise up, put the team on your back, and help salvage this all-important regular season series in June.  The Sawx are ascending, like majestic flying unicorns, towards the sun and their inevitable World Series trophy.  They are dominating your team, they have your number, and the last 2 days have shown that there is NOBODY on this team except for you and you alone who can turn out a good start.  For God's sake, you're 1 game back of the division lead, man! ONE WHOLE GAME!!!  IN JUNE!!!  DO YOU NOT SEE THE IMPORTANCE OF TONIGHT'S OUTCOME?!?!?!?!

The fate of the team, nay, the fate of the entire UNIVERSE may very well hang in the balance tonight.  Because I think we all know that if the Yankees lose tonight, and go down a whole 2 games to Fraud Sawx Nation, 1 in the loss column, then the season is basically over.  And even if it isn't, clearly the last 2 games have proven that this dominance will carry over for the rest of the regular season and into the hypothetical ALCS.

So save us, CC.  Save us from this terror and this misery.  Give us something to believe in.  Don't let the doom and gloom that has crept over all of us after these last 2 "do or die" June games engulf us all.

No, Really. Can Somebody PLEASE Hit This Asshole?!?

"I don't care what Joe Girardi says.  Take it like a man.  I'm done with that shit."

Seriously, fellas.  If you aren't going to make pitches, limit damage, or get hits with the bases loaded, can somebody at least put this clown in his place?