Monday, April 18, 2011

"Like" AB4AR

The official AB4AR Facebook page.  There it is.  Go check it out.  Live it.  Love it.  "Like" it.  We added a few more new fans last week and we're looking for more.  I need to build the AB4ARmy, people, and I can't do it without you.

It's got everything: Links, posts, commentary, analysis, Photoshops, black leather gloves.  It's a Yankee fan's dream.  And you, dear readers, need to do yourselves a favor and "Like" it so you're up to date on the latest and greatest coming from AB4AR at all times. 

Here it is again.  It's awesome.  Trust me.  Russell Martin is a fan on Facebook and that's why he's having such a good year so far.*

* (Comment cannot be confirmed) *

Is There Anything Up With CC?

(The man.  The myth.  The parachute pants.  Courtesy of The AP)

I touched on it briefly this morning, but the more I reflected on CC's last 2 outings the more I started to think that something was amiss in his game that was causing these un-CC-like results.  I thought surely there had to be some glaring difference in his stats this year that would point to the problem, so I consulted his Fangraphs page and came to a surprising conclusion.

Despite the less-than-stellar recent results, there really isn't anything that CC is doing wrong or not as well as usual that can be pointed to as the root cause.  His FIP (2.94) and xFIP (3.45) are slightly higher than his ERA (2.52), but not at such a rate that they should be a concern.  His WHIP (1.36) and BB/9 (3.24) are up from last year, but my belief that he wasn't throwing as many strikes isn't valid as his Strike % (63.41%) is right in line with what it was last year (63.31%) and close to his career average (64.56%).  In fact, his Strike Zone % (47.1%) and Swinging Strike % (10.5%) are actually higher so far than they were last year.  And CC is generating more swings and less contact than he did in 2010.  So at face value, he's throwing just as many strikes as he has before, and is getting better results on those strikes that he throws.

So then what the hell is the problem that is leading to more runners on base and more runs scored over the last couple games?  The answer can be found in the contact that is being made by hitters on the swings they are taking.  While they are swinging more and missing more, when they do make contact against him, the numbers being generated are not in line with what we're used to seeing from CC.  His Line Drive % is way up this year (31.1% compared to just 15.1% last year), and his Ground Ball Rate is significantly down (39.2% this year compared to 50.7% last year).  And to top it all off, CC's current BABIP is .324, over 40 points higher than last year and well above his career average.

Basically, what it comes down to is some bad luck on the part of CC.  Yes, he hasn't been able to put hitters away, but he is still getting the kind of peripheral results you want to see from a top-flight starting pitcher.  The problem has been guys managing to make better contact than usual against him and getting hits to show for it.  When the BABIP and LDR numbers regress back to CC's mean, we should see stat lines that we're used to seeing from him.  Seeing that most of his numbers are positive, it could also be fair to say that he's been getting some crummy calls by the umps that are contributing to his recent increase in walks.

In short, there's nothing to worry about with Carsten.  A few bad calls here and some lucky contact there is all.  Moving forward, we can expect some of those numbers to balance out with what we're used to seeing from CC and the number of baserunners and runs allowed will decrease as well.  Now if only the poor guy could get the bullpen to hold a lead for him.

Monday Morning Free-Flowing Commentary

(Yes, Mark.  Eric Chavez is the man.  Courtesy of The AP)

- CC did another decent job of limiting damage last night, but his last 2 starts have looked more like Phil Hughes' 2010 than the CC we're used to seeing.  He gets ahead in the count and the can't put anybody away with 2 strikes.  And his fastball command has been spotty at best.  The stuff is clearly there, but he needs to find his command.

- It's a strange feeling, but when Jeter came up with 2 on and 2 out in the 7th last night I had absolutely 0 faith that he was going to come through with a hit.  These days it's almost as sure a thing that Jeter will ground out in these spots as it used to be that he would come through with a clutch base hit.

- With his recent injury history and the devastating effects they have had on his swing mechanics, I am WAY more nervous about this A-Rod back/oblique strain than I normally would be.  If he plays on Tuesday, it will be easy to see if he's still feeling it or not.

- I know he hit a home run from the right side over the weekend, but it still looks like Teix is standing too far off the plate when he bats righty.

- Small sample sizes be damned, Cash looks like a genius right now for the moves he did make this offseason.  Russell Martin has been the best catcher in the AL, Chavez and Jones have combined for 11 hits (4 XBH), 4 R, 5 RBI in just 27 at-bats with solid D to go along, Colon has looked like Alfredo Aceves used to in his last 2 outings, and Freddy Garcia fired 6 shutout innings in his season debut on Saturday.  And go figure that the one guy Cash didn't want is the one who's been struggling early.

- Speaking of old Sour Puss Soriano, at what point do we start getting concerned about his lack of velocity the way we have been with Hughes'?

- The latest with Hughes (long-toss program and anti-inflammatories) is just as confusing to me as everything leading up to his DL stint was.  I thought he was supposed to be getting rest to build up arm strength.

- How are we supposed to feel about Joba right now?  Good that his velocity is back and he's striking out 9/9IP or bad that he's given up a run in 4 of his 9 outings and looked shaky coming out of the 'pen to relieve CC last night?

- Am I the only one who's excited to see Hector Noesi's first outing of the year?  If I am, how pathetic does that make me?

- Anybody who is actually considering watching that new "Franklin & Bash" show on TNT is an asshole.

- There are still issues to resolve on this team, and no part of it is anywhere near hitting on all cylinders yet, but the Yanks are still finding ways to win games and win series' and that's the most important thing.  They wake up today with a 2.5 game lead in the division and the distinction of being the only AL East team with a winning record.  I'll take that.

** P.S.- Somebody find me a video of Bobby Valentine calling Jorge "Whore-Gay Posada" at the end of the BBTN pregame show last night. **