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.