Sunday, September 30, 2012

Some Sunday Food For Thought: All Or Nothing

- Robinson Cano in the last 6 games: 12-23, 3 XBH, 3 R, 4 RBI

- Swish in his last 6: 7-22, 3 XBH, 5 R, 7 RBI

- A-Rod in his last 6: 2-19, 1 R, 0 RBI, 4 K

- Granderson in his last 6: 3-23, 3 XBH, 4 RBI, 7 RBI

This is why Mark Teixeira, who has played just 2 instructional league games and is almost assuredly not at 100% despite Joe saying he's done everything they wanted him to do, is being rushed back on Monday.  The middle of the order has been literally all or nothing, and A-Rod and C-Grand are leading the RISP Fail and LOB charge.  The Yankees can't score runs against shitty pitching and can't win games against shitty teams when they need to the most.  They have no choice, Teix has no choice.  I can't believe it's come to this.

Game 158 Wrap-Up: TOR 3 NYY 2

I really don't think I can write a normal, detailed recap of this game without getting really upset, and really upset is no way to start a race day on Sunday so I'm just going to hit the key bullet points.

Game Notes:

- The Yankees put Ricky Romero on the ropes early, loading the bases without nobody out, but managed to just plate just 2 runs on 2 outs by Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson to take a 2-0 lead.

- Andy Pettitte gave up a solo homer in the bottom of the 1st, and a 2-out RBI single in the 5th on an infield hit that probably would have been a foul ball if A-Rod wouldn't have fielded it.

- He put runners on the corners in the 6th before leaving, and watched the game-losing run score when Joba Chamberlain gave up a double on his third pitch.

- The offense did nothing for the rest of the game despite getting 6 more hits, drawing 3 more walks, and getting 2 free baserunners on Toronto errors.

- Joe was in on the action too, giving up the DH late in the game by pulling Eduardo Nunez, and using Cody Eppley and Boone Logan in the 8th inning instead of D-Rob.  Truly bizarro world shit.

- The Orioles beat the Fraud Sawx 4-3, so here once again the division is tied at the top with 4 games to go.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

What Did I Say The Other Day?

(#Failboat.  Courtesy of the AP)

Hmmm, I can't quite recall...

"That reality is that the Yankees are still a very flawed ballclub and they're going to remain a flawed ballclub through the rest of the season, however long it goes.

The things that have bitten the Yankees in the ass in the last few postseasons are the same things they struggled with last night and have struggled with all season long."

How'd that play out today?  Let's review:

Game 157 Wrap-Up: NYY 11 TOR 4

(The Muscle.  Courtesy of the AP)

I was dooming and glooming after Thursday night's game, obviously, but the good news was that the Yankees had plenty of chances to right those wrongs in the next 3 games of the series.  They got started righting those wrongs almost immediately last night against Toronto rookie Chad Jenkins, jumping out to an early lead and then ramping the offense back up in the later innings after Toronto tried to climb back in the game.  The pitching was a little spotty, but the offense stepped up and the carried the team, and the Yankees now find themselves right on the doorstep to the postseason with their playoff magic number down to 2.

Game Notes:

- The offense did its 1st inning damage with 2 outs, a rare feat for them, thanks to a pair of singles and a 2-run double by Nick Swisher.  Things could have been worse when Curtis Granderson lined one that took Jenkins' glove off his hand, but Jenkins caught the glove, and the ball, for the final out.

- Hiroki Kuroda wasn't all that sharp, but he did his best Houdini act to work out of trouble.  He put the leadoff runner on in the 1st, loaded the bases with 2 outs in the 2nd, but worked out of each inning without allowing a run.

- Kuroda's problem seemed to be an inability to get his sinker to drop out of the zone.  He's switched to throwing more sliders in place of the sinker this month, and I still say he's showing signs of being tired.

- Colby Ramus led off the 5th with a solo HR to get the Jays on the board, but the Yankees responded with 4 of their own in the top of the 6th.  The big blow was Russell Martin's 3-run shot, but the bigger blow could be an injury to Robinson Cano, who took a ball off the hand and had to go for X-rays after the game.

- Kuroda exited after just 5.1 innings and 98 pitches, and David Phelps took the ball through the 7th.  Little surprising to see Joe only use him for 26 pitches, but maybe not so much after Phelps gave up a 2-out, 2-run home run to Adam Lind to make it 8-4.

- To snuff out any chance of a comeback, the Yanks put 3 more on the board in the final 2 innings.  Robinson Cano singled Ichiro home in the 8th, and Eric Chavez hit an opposite-field 2-run jack in the 9th.

- Cody Eppley got 2 outs in the 9th and wasn't in any kind of trouble, but the binder must have said Soriano because Joe brought him in for the final out.  Whatever.

- 9 2-out runs for the offense last night.  That's what I'm talking about, boys!  More of that, please.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 9/28

In case you haven't noticed, election season is in full swing.  You could probably tell from the insane amount of local, regional, and national campaign ads that are dominating your television.  And no, I'm not going to get political here because I hate everything about politics.  I think every politician out there is a lying criminal bastard who only has his or her best interests at heart.  I take the George Carlin stance to politics; I don't vote, I'm not registered to vote, and I never will be.  If you are politically active, then good on you, but it's all bullshit to me, and it gets even worse during major election years when I can't watch anything on TV without being bombarded by this nonsense.  Just get the fucking election over with so I can get back to only being pissed about the Yankees not getting a runner home from third with 1 out and not some carefully crafted 30-second smear campaign that's been approved by whoever.  Now onto the links!

- On Monday, William Juliano of The Captain's Blog pointed out the Yankees' weakness in the pinch hitting department in 2012 despite the high number of pinch hitting opportunities they've had this season.

- David Waldstein of The NY Times had a really cool piece on Ichiro Suzuki and the incredible amount of care with which he handles his bats.  A special shock-proof, moisture-free carrying case?  How fucking baller is that?

- On Tuesday, Brien Jackson of IIATMS put the "veteran pitcher vs. young prospect" argument in perspective for the 2012 season, reminding everybody that the veterans have been the most crucial part of this year's starting rotation.

- Benjamin Orr of Yanks Go Yard pondered Phil Hughes' situation and how he fits into the plans for the rest of this season, next season, and beyond.

- On Wednesday, Jorge Arangure Jr. of ESPN did an excellent profile piece on Rafael Soriano, tracing his life back to childhood and his early baseball experience.  Arangure did a similar profile earlier in the season on Ivan Nova and this one is just as good.  Definite must-read.

- Greg Kirland of Pinstriped Bible took an anti-return stance on Brett Gardner and touched on how Gardner's limited playing ability just increases the number of incomplete players the Yankees have on the active roster.

- DBurchHero of The Greedy Pinstripes laid out the pros and cons of bringing back Hiroki Kuroda next season, and the effect other teams could have on the Yankees' decision.  As long as it's a 1-year deal, I think bringing Kuroda back is a no-brainer.

- SJK of NoMaas compared Nick Swisher's overall body of work in his 4-year Yankee tenure against the rest of the MLB outfield to show how Swish won't be easily replaced if the Yanks do let him go.

- Brian D. of Yankees Fans Unite, on the same topic of the outfield's future, looked at potential changes coming to the Yankee outfield in 2013.

- On Thursday, Joe Pawlikowski of RAB pieced Mark Teixeira's 2012 season together to show what led to his 3rd straight down year offensively, and the negative impact his injuries have had on other spots of the lineup.

- EJ Fagan of TYA unveiled the fall edition of his Top 30 Prospects list, complete with a detailed explanation of his ranking system and some commentary on individual players.

- George S of Gutty Gritty Yankees questioned some of Joe's recent lineup decisions, specifically ones where Joe seems to be resting guys.  Like George said, it's too late in the year for that.

- On Friday, Chad Jennings of LoHud asked a very pertinent question given A-Rod's latest semi-injury; where exactly does he belong in the Yankee lineup?  My answer- 2nd.

We haven't gone old school in what feels like way too long for the Friday Jam, so to remedy that I'm breaking out my favorite Zeppelin song.  I don't actually think I've ever plays Zeppelin for the FJ, which is an absolutely criminal mistake on my part, one that I apologize for.  But they're on today, so enjoy.  And if you don't like Led Zeppelin, just do yourself a favor and stop listening to music.

Enjoy your weekends, everybody.

How Are We Supposed To Feel As Yankee Fans Right Now?

I was really looking forward to this post.  I was fully prepared to write a Kate Hudson in "Almost Famous"-style, "it's all happening" post about the recent turnaround and positive momentum the Yankees were building at the right time as they headed into the final handful of regular season games against their 2 divisional doormats.  They had won 13 of 19 games, maintained sole custody of the AL East lead, shaved their playoff magic number down to less than a hand's worth of digits, and were getting healthier by the day.

CC was back and looking like the version of himself that everybody has been waiting for months to see; A-Rod was back, looking healthy, and helping to lengthen the middle of the batting order; Ichiro had turned back the clock to the mid-2000s and earned himself a spot at the top of the order thanks to his hot hitting.  Ivan Nova had been activated, Andy Pettitte had been activated, Brett Gardner and David Aardsma too, and there was still hope that we could see Mark Teixeira's goofy mug back on our TV screens at some point.  The Yankees were getting their shit together and re-positioning themselves to be the odds-on favorites to win the AL pennant when the playoffs started.  Then last night's game happened.

Game 156 Wrap-Up: TOR 6 NYY 0

(Wonder if he threw his record-setting XBH allowed ball into the dugout.  Courtesy of the AP)

There's no other way to say it then to just say that the Yankees didn't have it last night.  There's really no excuse for it, certainly not the travel.  They went Minnesota to Toronto, that's nothing.  I make basically the same flight every time I go home from Milwaukee to LaGuardia and it's only a 1-hour time change.  I guess facing Brandon Morrow in Toronto meant they were doomed from the start, but to come in off a series win and a complete team win against Minnesota on Wednesday and not even come close to putting 1 run on the board is deflating and not the type of result you want or expect against a last place team like the Jays.

Game Notes:

- Ivan Nova was a great combination of sharp and efficient through 2 innings, throwing 20 pitches and 16 strikes, but lost some of his edge in the 3rd, giving up a walk and a 2-run homer to Brett Lawrie to make it 2-0 Toronto.

- Shit didn't get any better in the 5th when things swung back around to the top of the order.  Nova gave up a 2-run double to Edwin Encarnacion to make it 4-0 and didn't make it out of the inning.  Just didn't have any kind of offspeed command.  Story of his season.

- I don't know what the deal was with the Yankee bats, but they couldn't solve the Brandon Morrow riddle through 6 innings last night.  Morrow only struck 2 batters out, and walked 2, but lived off the Yankees swinging early, swinging often, and making a lot of shitty contact.

- If that wasn't bad enough, the double play parade came back to town.  Nick Swisher hit a ball to the wall that was caught and turned into a DP in the 4th when Robinson Cano strayed too far, and Raul Ibanez rapped into an inning-ender to kill the 5th.

- Cano came to play, and sparked some life with a leadoff double and a follow-up walk by Nick Swisher against Morrow in the top of the 7th, but Morrow got the next 3 batters in order as his last hurrah to strand the pair.

- If there was one positive to take from last night's game, it was that David Aardsma finally made his return to the mound and his Yankee debut.  He gave up a solo shot, but whatever.  At least he's back pitching after over 2 years on the DL.

- Just for good measure, the Yanks put 2 more on to start the 9th, including another Cano hit, only to have the next 3 hitters fly out to end the game.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Don't Sleep On Clay Rapada

(Raise your hand if you thought this guy would be on the roster all season.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

Enough time has passed for me to get over Loone Bogan's 7th-inning bed shitting incident the other night.  In the end, it didn't cost the Yankees any ground in the division race and they still left the Twin Cities with a series victory.  What is still a serious problem is Logan's workload and the negative impact it now seems to be taking on his effectiveness.  Logan is the no-doubt #1 lefty in Joe's trusty bullpen binder, but he's been used so much that I almost have to question bringing Logan into big lefty-on-lefty situations with how out of gas he appears to be.  While Logan has been run into the ground over the course of the season, Clay Rapada has quietly continued to go about his business, and go about it quite well, as the designated #2 LOOGY.  In an attempt to get Logan some much needed rest, and to not risk blowing leads in tight games in the season's final week, it might be time to go to Rapada.

Teix Starts Running

Via Mike Axisa:

"... the first baseman has resumed running as he works his way back from his left calf strain."

Fuck yeah!  That's good news.  The calf must be feeling good.  Maybe there's a chance Teix can make it back by the end of the season.  Hit the music!

Game 155 Wrap-Up: NYY 8 MIN 2

(A million dollars says Joe wanted to bring in Logan there.  Courtesy of the AP)

Alright now I know the Twins are just trolling me.  Comic book character Hendriks, fine.  Spanish-language TV soap opera star Vasquez, OK.  But then they rolled out some schmuck named Sam Deduno yesterday afternoon to face CC Sabathia in the series finale and that's where I draw the line.  3 guys in a row that I've never heard of?  That's next to impossible, and my good friends who know how fanatical I am about sports would back me up on that.  The deck was stacked against old Sammy yesterday against a resurgent CC, and that was before he started having problems with his eyes.  This one was over early, folks.  Just the kind of win the Yankees need to close a series.

Game Notes:

- Deduno didn't make it out of the 2nd, but the Yankee offense had nothing to do with it.  He worked a 1-2-3 1st, and then left after walking 2 batters in the 2nd with "eye irritation."  That's a new one, and the lefty-heavy Yankee lineup suddenly had Brian Duensing to deal with.

- They didn't waste much time dealing with him, throwing a 6-spot on the scoreboard in the top of the 3rd.  Chris Dickerson got things started with a 2-strike single and the next 7 batters after him all reached base.  The big hits belonged to Robinson Cano (2-run double) and Curtis Granderson (2-run triple), which was nice to see given the way they've scuffled lately.

- CC gave up 1 cheap run in the 2nd on a couple of singles, and then allowed just 1 more hit through 6 innings after getting staked to the big lead in the 3rd.  Like he did in his last start, CC started with his fastball in the low 90s and worked up to the mid and had an absolutely killer slider.

- Funny/stupid moment in the 5th when Eric Chavez forgot how many outs there were and started jogging off the field after making the second out at third base.  No harm done, although CC did have to throw 4 more pitches.

- A 5-run lead was plenty for CC with the way he was pitching, but Dickerson decided to add a 2-run HR for good measure in the 6th.  Dude is making the most of his limited ABs since getting called up, and could be doing himself a favor with the OF situation in question next year.

- Sabathia allowed another cheap run in the bottom of the 7th after giving up 3 straight 2-out singles, the last one deflecting off his leg and into right field, but he was absolutely stellar in his 8 innings of work.

- Stat of the game- Joe Mauer saw 10 pitches against Sabathia.  He struck out on the first 9 and then grounded out on the 10th.  That's pure ownership.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Yankees Give Minnesota The D

No plate appearances since September 9th?  No big deal.  No starts since September 4th?  Big freakin' whoop.  Relegated to simple pinch runner and late-game defensive specialist duty, AKA roster expansion bitch work?  Ain't no thang.

Because Chris Dickerson is a bad man, plain and simple.  Dude's been worth close to half a win above replacement in just 14 PA.  He walks, he rakes, he steals, he fields, and he's basically an all-around boss.  I like to think I was the first in the blogosphere to coin the "C-Dick" nickname, and in keeping with that trendsetting reputation I am officially declaring that C-Dick as you know him is dead.  Chris Dickerson is now just, "The D."

Updating The AB4AR Sh*t List

(Where will the binderiffic wonder end up this time?  Click below to find out.  Courtesy of US Presswire)

It's been a solid 6 weeks since I did the last edition of the always-changing AB4AR Shit List, and after last night's bullpen gongshow today is the perfect time to come back to it and post what will, in all likelihood, be the final version of the 2012 season.  If you know me, know the site, and know what my hot buttons are, you should probably already have a good idea about what this edition is going to look like.  If you don't, well then this will be a fun little surprise for you now, won't it?

Remember that this isn't meant to be analytical in any way.  Just straight up, good old-fashioned fan griping and hostility.  Latest Shit List rankings after the jump.

Game 154 Wrap-Up: MIN 5 NYY 4

(I feel ya, Phil.  Courtesy of the AP)

Monday we got Liam Hendriks the superhero secret identity nobody, and the Yankees dispatched of him with relative ease.  Last night we got Esmerling Vasquez, another nobody that Minnesota plucked out of the bargain bin to fill out their rotation.  According to FanGraphs, he's a 28-year-old right-hander who the Yankees have faced before when he was with the D-backs, but with a name like that he sounds more like a female character from one of those soap operas on Telemundo.   He was tasked with stopping the Yankees and Phil Hughes, who were looking to extend their division lead to 2.5 games and chop 2 more off their magic number as they entered the season's final week.

Game Notes:

- The Yankees put runners on in each of the first 3 innings, but had nothing to show for it against Vasquez.  That changed the second time through the order when Robinson Cano singled for his second hit of the game and scored on a 2-run HR from the rapidly heating up Nick Swisher.

- After throwing 3 scoreless, stress-free innings, Phil decided it would be a good idea to start giving up runs in the bottom of the 4th when it was a shutdown inning.  Chris Parmalee can thank BABIP luck for his RBI double to make it a 2-1 game, but a better-placed slutter from Hughes could have finished him off.

- To Hughes' credit, he didn't get rattled.  He continued to pitch aggressively with his fastball, and used the slutter to get more GB outs than we usually see from him.  Hughes worked a quick and efficient 7-pitch 6th inning to keep it a 1-run game.

- It stayed a 1-run game because the offense couldn't do much else against Vasquez, that is until the top of the 7th when Russell Martin's solo HR to lead off the inning made it 3-1.

- Things started to get a little tense in the bottom of the 7th after Parmalee worked a 10-pitch walk to put 2 on with nobody out.  A dinky infield single loaded the bases, but Hughes battled back to get a big strikeout for his 2nd out of the inning.  Then Joe got involved.

- Hughes had earned the right to work out of his jam, at only 99 pitches and with 3 outs to his credit already against Denard Span, but Girardi and his fucking binder took that away.  Joe went to Boone Logan and Logan was terrible, giving up 4 runs on a pair of hits and a wild pitch and hanging the loss on Hughes' record.

- The lifeless corpse of Andruw Jones managed to stumble into a homer in the 9th to make it interesting, but the Yanks still ended up on the losing end.  Gotta be a real bad taste in everybody's mouth after the way this one went down.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Thanks, Joe

"A tired, overworked Boone Logan over a still fresh Phil Hughes?  Hmmmmmm... "


Some Stretch Run Concerns

(September hasn't been nearly as kind to Hiroki as August was.  Courtesy of the AP)

I've already thrown a Grade-A AB4AR jinx on the Yankees' playoff hopes once this season, and I've learned my lesson.  I've been taking very careful steps to not mention the "P" word like its a foregone conclusion again as we come down the homestretch of the 2012 regular season, even as the Yankees have turned things around, and I'm certainly not going to do that here.  What I am going to do is touch on some things that the Yankees should be monitoring as they make their final sprint to the regular season finish line.

Is David Aardsma's Return A Desperation Move?

Some discussion got stirred up yesterday afternoon after David Aardsma took to his Twitter account to drop hints that he was going to be activated by the Yankees today.  Aardsma has been out all year recovering from TJS, and already had his comeback temporarily put on hold after he suffered a setback during his rehab outings.  The expectation, at least mine, was that Aardsma would be shut down for the year to not risk further serious injury to his elbow and to allow him time to fully recover and fully prepare for the 2013 season, when the Yankees will have a dirt cheap 500k option on him.  Now it looks like plans have changed.

It's a little surprising to see Aardsma coming back this late in the season, and in a similar fashion as Andy Pettitte, without the benefit of real, actual game action as part of his rehab process.  At least it's surprising with respect to just Aardsma and his health.  When you factor in the workload being taken on by the bullpen recently, though, it does make some sense.  But enough sense to overlook the risks to Aardsma?

Game 153 Wrap-Up: NYY 6 MIN 3

(No biggie.  Just a little tune-up start against a Quadruple-A team.  Courtesy of the AP)

In all honesty, I had no clue who Liam Hendriks was before last night's game.  I looked the guy up on FanGraphs and Baseball Reference and I STILL don't know who he is.  I'm not entirely convinced he's a real person, let alone a person who got to start a Major League Baseball game.  He sounds like a comic book character, like the alias of a superhero.  Too bad for him his starting effort against the Yankee lineup was far from heroic, and too bad he was facing the wily old Jedi veteran Andy Pettitte.  There's every reason to think that the Yankees can, should, and will sweep the Twins in this series, and they got off to a fine start of that last night behind a solid Pettitte performance and some of that famous Yankee power.

Game Notes:

- Hendriks gave up a leadoff walk to Derek Jeter and a follow-up double to Ichiro Suzuki to start the game, which was not good for him.  Robinson Cano drove in Jeter with a sac fly, Nick Swisher hit a 2-run home run, and just like that the Yankees had done a little bit of everything to take a 3-0 lead.

- They extended that lead on a Curtis Granderson solo HR in the top of the 4th, his 40th of the season.  With that shot, Granderson became the 5th Yankee all-time to have back-to-back 40-HR seasons, a pretty impressive accomplish for a non-HR hitter.

- Andy labored through the 1st inning, gave up a few hits here and there, but managed to work through trouble and keep a relatively low pitch count through the early innings.  He got some help on a great throw by C-Grand to nab a runner at the plate to end the 4th and keep it a 4-0 game.

- Pettitte's 6th and final inning might have been his best.  Approaching his pitch count limit and facing the middle of the Twin lineup, he retired Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham, and the hollowed-out husk of Justin Morneau in order.  A fine performance.

- With the 'pen being counted on for 3 innings, the offense turned the power back up in the top of the 7th with a pair of solo HRs by Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez to chase a tiring Hendriks from the game.

- Cory Wade allowed a solo shot in the 8th, and Justin Thomas and D-Rob made a small mess of things in the 9th, but not enough to put the win in any kind of jeopardy.

- Honestly, that's exactly the way this game should have gone.  Yanks build a big lead against an inferior team thanks to better hitting and better starting pitching, then give some of the lead way late because the opposing team's lineup can only score against New York's worst pitchers.  I'm cool with that.

Monday, September 24, 2012

On RISP Fail And Expectations

(Has Curtis really been a RISP Failure this year?  Courtesy of the AP)

Despite being 2nd in the American League in runs scored, this has generally been considered a down year for the Yankee offense, and in some respects it has been.  For the better part of this season they've been a mostly one-dimensional team that seems to alternate between stretches of big-time production and big-time lack of production at the drop of a hat.  One of the biggest talking points when discussing this down offensive year has been the team's struggles to hit with runners in scoring position.  The Yankees' on again-off again relationship with RISP Fail was out in the open again this past weekend against Oakland, when they went a combined 6-28 in the 3 games, winning 2 close ones and losing another while being a few hits with RISP away from much more comfortable victories in each.

The RISP Fail theme has been around for so long this season that the perception is almost starting to become that the Yankees "can't" get big hits with runners in scoring position, which is not entirely true.  A look at the high-level team numbers will show that, but a look at the individual statistics is what adds fuel to this fire and, in my opinion, continues to drive this RISP Fail storyline.

Wild Weekend Thoughts & Afterthoughts

(Eduardo gets the Josh Hamilton walk-off treatment.  Courtesy of the AP)

If you don't already know from my 2 previous mentionings of the topic, or if you just forgot, I spent the weekend in Chicago with a couple of my buddies for a bachelor party.  The hijinks that ensued upon our Saturday morning arrival were right on par with the craziness that defined the Yankees' weekend series against Oakland.  They got a lights out pitching performance from CC on Friday, only to lose the lead in the 9th and win on a walk-off HR in the 10th; Saturday's game was up there with the wackiest games in MLB this season, and yesterday was another close game full of missed opportunities, blown calls, errors, and late-inning drama.  Seeing as how I missed most of that, I figured I'd use this morning to catch up and give my thoughts on the events that transpired while also sprinkling in some observations from my own wild weekend in Chicago.

Game 152 Wrap-Up: OAK 5 NYY 4

(Rough day, huh?  Courtesy of Getty Images)

The first 2 games of this series represented opposite sides of the starting pitching spectrum.  On Friday night, CC Sabathia threw 8 shutout innings that were about as dominant as one could pitch, against any lineup.  On Saturday afternoon, Ivan Nova couldn't even make it out of the 3rd before getting the hook, putting a tremendous amount of stress on an already overworked bullpen, stress that was only increased when the game went 14 innings.  The Yankees were hoping for length from their starter yesterday, and that's exactly what Hiroki Kuroda has provided many times this season when the team has needed him to step up.  He didn't do that yesterday, and the Yankees couldn't hold onto a lead that would have given them the series sweep.

Game Notes:

- Kuroda got burned early when he gave up a double, a walk, and a wild pitch to allow a run to score with 2 outs in the top of the 1st.  He was having trouble controlling his splitter, both in and out of the strike zone.

- That control problem spread to his other pitches in the 2nd.  After giving up a cheap single to Josh Donaldson to lead off the inning, Kuroda left a slider up to the immortal Cliff Pennington and watched it soar over the fence for a 3-0 Oakland lead.

- After failing to capitalize on putting the leadoff runner on in 2 of the first 3 innings, the offense struck in the bottom of the 4th.  Nick Swisher hit a 2-run home run to plate Robinson Cano, and a pair of follow-up singles came around to score on a Raul Ibanez double and an Eduardo Nunez groundout to make it 4-3 Yanks.

- Kuroda seemed to calm down through the 3rd and 4th, but got into trouble again in the 5th after giving up a single and a walk.  Yoenis Cespedes lined a 1-1 sinker that didn't sink enough to right for a game-tying single and the shutdown inning was blown.

- Eduardo Nunez won the game on Saturday by putting a ball in play that turned into an error, something he's usually on the opposite end of.  He got back on the right (wrong?) side yesterday, committing a throwing error in the 6th that led to an unearned go-ahead run and the end of Kuroda's day.

- The offense had plenty of chances after the 4th, but never scored another run.  They left 2 runners on in the 5th, 2 in the 6th, and 1 each in the 7th and 8th to cap off a 2-9 day with RISP and another series chock full of RISP Fail.

- The bullpen pitched 3.1 solid scoreless innings in relief of Kuroda, highlighted by some strong work from David Phelps and Boone Logan, but with the offense sputtering it ended up being for naught.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I'm Back

It wasn't quite that disastrous, but it was still a damn eventful bachelor party this weekend.  I'm mostly alive, relatively well, and still in possession of all my teeth, feelings probably not all that dissimilar to how the Yankees were feeling after last night's marathonand new "best game of the season."  Games like that take a lot out of you, especially this time of year, so to come out on the winning end was huge for the Yankees, even if the resulting hangover contributed to them failing to lock down today's game.

There are just 10 games left in the regular season, the Yankees are still in first place in the AL East, and they're heading out to Minnesota for their final long distance road trip of the season.  The rotation still has its issues, the bullpen workload situation has gotten worse, and the RISP Fail problems in the lineup are still front and center, but the Yanks can see a playoff berth right up ahead.  Getting off to a good start in Minnesota can get them closer to that berth and off to the right start against 3 subpar teams to close the regular season.  There's no reason why the Yankees shouldn't take at least 7 of these last 10.

I'll get back to the recap of today's game, analysis and thoughts on the weekend that was, and a look ahead at what's to come tomorrow.  Tonight, I'm spending the rest of my awake time recovering and watching Ray Lewis get praised for jumping on top of the pile after 5-yard gains.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Game 150 Wrap-Up: NYY 2 OAK 1

(That helmet deserved better.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

The general school of thought around the blogosphere right now is that the Yankees aren't going anywhere in the postseason, if they make it, without CC Sabathia finding his game.  While I don't necessarily think that's a 100% certainty, I do think CC pitching at the level he's capable of makes the Yankees a lot more dangerous.  CC didn't get the benefit of the slapdick Toronto offense as his opposition last night, but the Oakland A's lineup was only slightly more potent.  A more efficient, more CC-like performance against a potential postseason team would have been a great way for CC to start getting right over his final couple of starts.

Game Notes:

- Sabathia was on his game early.  He struck out the side in the top of the 1st, needing 24 pitches to do it, and held the A's hitless in their first turn through 3 innings.

- Oakland starter Jarrod Parker matched CC 0 for 0 until the bottom of the 4th, when the Yankee offense finally managed to string a couple of hits together.  Nick Swisher singled, Alex Rodriguez singled, and Curtis Granderson plated Swish with a sac fly.


- Things only got better for CC and his slider going into the middle innings.  He struck out the side swinging in the 5th, and was still looking at a 0 in the opposing "H" column.

- The offense got precious few chances after they scored in the 4th, and they killed most of those chances themselves.  Ichiro ran himself into an out trying to stretch a single in the 5th, and Robinson Cano grounded into a double play to end the 6th.

- CC's no-hit bid ended with a leadoff single in the 7th, but he kept right on throwing up zeros.  He ran out of gas in the 8th and actually loaded the bases, but managed to get out it unscathed.  The people wanted dominance from CC, and they got it last night.

- Once again, Joe didn't have much of a choice with a 1-run game, but he went to the Rafael Soriano well for the 4th time in 3 days and it didn't work out.  Soriano gave up a game-tying HR to Brandon Moss and the game went to extra.

- No, that wasn't a typo.  The Yankees only had to play 1 extra inning thanks to Russell Martin, who led off the bottom of the 10th with a game-winning solo HR to .  Ballgame over, Yankees win.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 9/21

It's the second straight weekend that I've got major activities planned, people, so you're looking at another light weekend of coverage on AB4AR.  A good friend of mine is getting married in a couple weeks, so it's another bachelor party for me (bummer).  We're doing it in Chicago, and yes I will be wearing pretty much all Yankee stuff per usual, and I'm planning on getting at least as hammered as I was at the bachelor party back in April.  This will be the second straight bachelor party where the overwhelming majority of the wedding party will not be in attendance, including the best man.  Maybe it's just my own pathetic, single, plenty-of-money-in-my-pocket life talking, but I just don't see any scenario where it's acceptable to be chosen to be somebody's best man and then not be present at the bachelor party.  You should have to forfeit your "best man" status for that and let better friends like me move up the groomsmen ladder.  Now onto the links!

- On Monday, SG of the Replacement Level Yankee Weblog used some zone-related advanced stats to compare Derek Jeter and Eduardo Nunez as defensive shortstops.

- El duque of It Is High... argued for Eduardo Nunez and Chris Dickerson getting more ABs over Jones and Ibanez.  Hard to argue against that when you check the numbers.

- On Tuesday, Matt Keegan of Pinstriped Bible looked at CC Sabathia's declining fastball in 2012, and how his approach has changed along with it.

- Mike Eder, TYA's resident PITCHf/x guru, examined the changes to Ivan Nova's delivery mechanics in his first start off the DL and the indication that he's changing his approach as well.

- DBurchHero of The Greedy Pinstripes made his case for why Rafael Soriano might NOT opt out of his deal after this season.  That's been a hot rumor lately, but there are some strong reasons for him to stay.

- On Wednesday, Alex Pugliese of Yanks Go Yard asked if Russell Martin could be back with the Yankees next year.  He could be and he will be.

- On Thursday, Mike Axisa of RAB pointed out that it's been the Yankees' young, homegrown starters getting the job done lately, a fact that all the Yankee haters can take and shove right in their ears.

- Rob Abruzzese of Bronx Baseball Daily mapped out a postseason roster based on recent performance, and didn't find room for Andruw Jones or Raul Ibanez on it.

- William Tasker of IIATMS, inspired by a Twitter exchange with Abruzzese, broke down the numbers to show the big decline in team production in the second half and how the Yankees' season-long offensive numbers can be misleading.

- On Friday, Matthew B of Yankees Fans Unite discussed CC Sabathia's down season and the pivotal role he plays in the team's chances for success going forward.

- William Juliano of The Captain's Blog evaluated the playoff races under the new Wild Card format and concluded that, for this year at least, they have been watered down.

We interrupt the regularly scheduled Friday Jam rotation for some more new Deftones.  They released the first song, "Leathers," from their upcoming album earlier this week, and it's quite good to say the least.  Deftones are just the balls.

Enjoy your weekends, everybody.  I know I will.  See ya sometime late Sunday.

Joe Leaning On His Bullpen Core

(How many untucks is too many?  Courtesy of Getty Images)

A Monday or 2 ago, I suggested the idea of Joe tinkering with his middle relief crew to see if he could find some more stable options.  With the deeper pool of guys he could help cover for the regression of some players, keep some of the harder-worked guys rested, and possibly overturn a viable option or 2 for postseason roster consideration.  Not only has that tinkering not really taken place, the regular middle relief crew has seen their workload cut back a bit in these last 2 weeks.  Joe has been leaning heavily on his core group of high-leverage relief pitchers lately, and now there might be cause for concern.

Game 149 Wrap-Up: NYY 10 TOR 7

(Gotta admire it when you haven't hit many in a while.  Courtesy of the AP)

The last 2 times the Yankees have played Toronto before this series it hasn't gone well.  Maybe it was Andy coming back, maybe it was the doubleheader, maybe it was just Ichiro being crazy, video game on fire, but the Yankees turned in a much better performance in terms of doing what needed to be done to win games in this series, and last night was a perfect example.  The pitching wasn't great, the offense blew a few opportunities, but they cashed in big in one inning and tacked on insurance when they needed it.  Don't look now, but this team has won 5 straight.

Game Notes:

- The stuff was definitely there for Phil Hughes last night.  The command?  Not so much.  Hughes got 5 swinging strikeouts in his first 3 innings of work, but he also gave up 2 XBH in the 2nd and a pair of hit batters in the 3rd to go down 2-0.

- Hughes found a little command in the 4th, and he ended up getting himself into the record books.  Hughes had to get a 4th out after a Russell Martin passed ball put a runner on.  He ended up getting all 4 outs in the inning via strikeout, just the second Yankee pitcher to do it.

- The offense only had 1 hit off Aaron Laffey after 3 innings, but it was an Ichiro HR to keep them within striking distance.  They were also making Laffey work by drawing a few walks.

- Those few walks turned into a few more in the bottom of the 4th, and then it spiraled into an all-out offensive assault.  Ichiro doubled home 2 more runs (dude is fucking nuts!), Derek Jeter singled home a run, and Nick Swisher slump busted by hitting a grand slam to make it a 7-run inning and an 8-2 Yankee lead.

- Hughes got 2 quick outs in the 5th, and appeared to be adjusting fine to pitching with the big lead, but then he gave up a dreaded 2-out walk and a home run to Moises Sierra.  His fastball was popping and his slutter was nasty; he just never really found that command.

- No worries, the offense got him his 2 runs back in the bottom half.  Jayson Nix hit a 2-out double to plate Curtis Granderson and The Captain followed that up with an RBI single of his own to make it 10-4.

- He's been mostly bad since his 4-inning save debut, but give credit to Derek Lowe for working 2 scoreless innings behind Phil.  He had his sinker working and even got a few strikeouts.

- Things got a little hairy in the 8th with Cory Wade on the mound, but Joba came in to limit the damage and then Joe went back to D-Rob for the 9th after his bombshow in the day game on Wednesday.  Robertson showed he had moved on by striking out the side to close things out.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

An Open Letter To D-Rob

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

Dear Dave,

Can I call you Dave?  Is that cool?  First off, let me just say that I'm a huge fan.  I've been a fan of yours ever since you first came up.  Love the escape acts, love the high socks, love the strikeouts, love the whole deal.  But you haven't really looked like yourself on the mound lately and I think I know what the problem is.  It's the cutter.  Look, I get that Mo is a great pitcher and a great teammate, and has the reputation of passing on the secrets of his cutter to any pitcher who wants to try and learn it.  As a Major League Baseball player, I imagine getting advice from Mariano Rivera on throwing a cutter is equivalent to mere mortals sitting at the right hand of Zeus while he rules the cosmos and tosses lightning bolts down on people, and I certainly don't blame you for trying to drink from that fountain of cutter knowledge.  But it's just not working for you, bro.  You need to cut out the cutter and get back to what you do best.

Jones & Ibanez Running On Fumes

(Doesn't look like a positive reaction to that AB.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

It's no secret that Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez have been complete dog mess at the plate for a while now.  It should also come as no surprise that they've done a slow descent into below replacement-level production territory given how much more they've had to play this year because of injuries.  Jones' 264 total plate appearances are already more than he had last year, and Ibanez's 385 PA are much more than the Yankees envisioned him getting after seeing how poorly he produced over the course of 500+ the year before.  This is the risk you take when you fill your bench with old, limited players and it's finally coming back around to bite the Yankees at the most critical of times.  The question now becomes what do they do with them moving forward?

Game 148 Wrap-Up: NYY 2 TOR 1

(Looks like he's gonna get in.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

Andy did the job in the day game yesterday, albeit a job that required 4 innings from the bullpen.  Joe managed that game to win, as he should have, and used his core bullpen guys to do it.  So that same pressure that was on Andy to deliver knowing it was going to be a tough day on the 'pen was transferred to David Phelps for the night game.  Phelps has no worries about pitch count, but he hadn't exactly been given a ton of leash in his previous starts this season.  He got some leash last night, and he ran with it all the way to a clean doubleheader sweep.

Game Notes:

- Walking guys will kill ya, and Phelps got another lesson in that in the top of the 2nd.  He gave out 2 consecutive free passes and got burned on a 2-out single by Adeiny Hechavarria.

- The bottom of the order got things started for the offense in the next half inning, with the suddenly red hot Ichiro involved again.  Jayson Nix walked and stole second base, then got thrown out at home on a single by Ichiro.  Never one to let a clutch 2-out scoring opportunity go by, Chris Stewart followed up with a run-scoring double to tie the game at 1.

- It was a damn good thing the bottom half was doing something, because the middle of the order was where rallies went to die.  Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson struck out to strand a Nick Swisher leadoff walk in the 3rd, then did it again to strand Swish and Cano to end the 5th.

- Phelps learned his lesson after messing around in the 2nd, and he was lights out after that.  He found his curveball and retired 10 in a row from the 3rd through the 6th.  Again, weak opposing offense, but still a solid job of pitching by Phelps.

- Phelps kept rolling into the beginning of the 7th until a Derek Jeter error broke his momentum.  A 2-out walk ended his night at 110 pitches and still just the 1 run when he handed it over to the 'pen.

- Ichiro was just absolutely out of his mind yesterday.  He stole second and third in just a handful of pitches in the 6th inning, and then singled home Granderson for the go-ahead run with 2 outs in the bottom of the 8th.

- I didn't think Joe would have the balls to use D-Rob or Soriano in both games, but he want back to Raffy for the 9th and Sour Puss delivered again.  A 9-pitch save, his second of the day, and he earned his untuck yesterday with a multi-save day.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hey! Who Got 2006 Ichiro In My 2012 Ichiro??

I mean, I'm not complaining.  Dude was 7-8 today with 2 doubles, 2 runs scored, 1 RBI, 4 stolen bases, and some damn fine outfield defense.  Shit's better than Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

(Photo courtesy of the AP)

Game 147 Wrap-Up: NYY 4 TOR 2

(Andrew Eugene Pettitte.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

A little bit of the luster was taken away from Andy Pettitte's return start after Mother Nature forced it from last night's main event onto the undercard of today's doubleheader.  But only a little bit, because Andy coming back and pitching is still a big deal and Andy is still awesome.  There was some added pressure on Andy to deliver in his limited pitch count, because Joe was going to have to be strategic with his bullpen usage, but the offense could have helped take some of that pressure off against the very hittable and generally terrible Toronto starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez.  They got off to a good start on that front, then faded and had to hold on for a semi-nail biter of a win.

Game Notes:

- After a scoreless top of the 1st from Andy, the offense came out and got 3 straight hits to get things rolling against Alvarez, the big blow a Robinson Cano RBI double.  A couple more runs on outs and the Yanks had a nifty little 3-0 lead.

- Andy wasn't shy about using all of his pitches today, and some were sharper than others.  He didn't use the cutter much, and he was throwing strike 1 regularly, but didn't seem to have the putaway location to work as efficiently as he would have liked.

- Pettitte worked around a couple baserunners in the 2nd, a pair of Nick Swisher errors in the 3rd, and a pair of singles in the 4th to keep the game scoreless, then had his best inning of the day in the 5th- a 7-pitch, K-groundout-groundout frame to end his day.

- The offensive disappearing act went into full effect after the 3-run 1st.  Alvarez retired 12 of 13 to keep them at 3 through 5 innings, and got a "strike 'em out, catcher interference 'em out" double play on A-Rod and Cano to end the 7th.

- A smattering of bullpen arms got the Yankees to the 8th with the 3-run lead intact, and Joe handed it over to David Robertson.  Unfortunately, D-Rob has fallen in love with his cutter lately, not realizing that he sucks at locating it and his curveball is his best pitch.  D-Rob gave up 2 earned runs on 4 solid hits without getting out of the inning to cut the lead to 1.

- Ichiro Suzuki got a rare day hitting leadoff and he didn't disappoint.  He singled and scored the game's first run in the 1st and came up with a bloop double down the left field line with 2 outs to keep the 8th inning going.  Swish singled him home for a big insurance run.

- He cleaned up D-Rob's mess in the 8th, and Rafael Soriano disposed of the Jays with the quickness in the 9th to give the Yanks their first win of the day.  Give this guy his due; he's been money since Mo went down.

Doubleheader Day Over/Under

I kinda liked doing that Over/Under post this past weekend.  It's quick, it's easy, and it doesn't require a whole lot of time surfing the various baseball websites while at work.  Since I don't have a lot of time today, and I'll be missing Andy's comeback start again, today seems like the perfect day to do another set.  First the lineup for today's first game:

1) Ichiro Suzuki- LF
2) Nick Swisher- 1B
3) Robinson Cano- 2B
4) Alex Rodriguez- DH
5) Curtis Granderson- CF
6) Russell Martin- C
7) Eric Chavez- 3B
8) Raul Ibanez- RF
9) Eduardo Nunez- SS

Jeter gets the bench to start to save him for the lefty tonight, which probably sets up a Jeter SS/A-Rod DH lineup for the nightcap.

Now the lines:

- Andy Pettitte IP Today: 5.1

- Ibanez-Jones Combined Hits: 1

- Combined Trips to the Mound for Joe: 7

- Total Hits for Cano: 4

- Total Team SB: 2.5

Doubleheader Pre-Thoughts & Thoughts

(Phil don't care about no rain.  Courtesy of the AP)

Monday was the last scheduled off day for the Yankees this year, an off day that was well-timed to get Derek Jeter another day off his bruised ankle and give the bullpen a day of much-needed rest.  Yesterday was supposed to be the start of a 16-in-16 stretch to close the season, but after the intense weather led to an early calling of last night's game it'll be a 16-in-15 instead, starting with today's doubleheader.  There's almost assuredly going to be some major strategic changes by Joe today, starting with his decision to announce David Phelps as the starter of tonight's second game.  My thoughts on today's double dip after the jump.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

RIP Brett Gardner's Right Elbow

At this point, they might as well just amputate.

"Brett Gardner started a hitting program today. He has not swung a bat since his elbow surgery, but he has been taking fly balls for about two weeks and could be activated any day now."

Well that's the end of Brett Gardner's days as a 4-appendaged human being.  I thought I had already made this perfectly clear, but the Yankees really just don't seem to get it.  Call ahead and pencil the guy in for surgery this time next week.

Paging Dr. Van Nostrand!

Derek Jeter And The AL MVP

(To quote WWE-era Kurt Angle, Jeter could win the Silver Slugger and MVP with a bruised freakin' ankle.  Courtesy of the AP)

At this point it's getting hard to find a positive adjective that hasn't already been used to describe Derek Jeter's 2012 season.  What he's done this year has been simply remarkable, and almost unthinkably good given how bad he looked this time 2 years ago.  While the rest of the team's veteran hitters around him have regressed, and guys still in their primes did the same, Jeter has been very consistent and very productive at an age when he rightfully shouldn't be, and has flat out carried the offense for stretches.  With the regular season winding down, Jeter in the context of the AL MVP race has become an increasingly popular topic of conversation.  I'm positive he won't win the award, and he shouldn't, but it's definitely worth wondering and asking where Jeter will wind up in the final voting.

What To Expect From Andy, Again

(He's already been struck down.  Does he come back more powerful than we could possibly imagine tonight?)

We've already had to do this once this season, and that was pretty damn unexpected, so just paint me completely shocked that it's the year 2012 and I'm writing my SECOND Andy Pettitte comeback post of the year.  After telling retirement to pound sand in the spring, and showing he had plenty left in the tank in 58.2 innings over 9 starts, Andy was sidelined in late June thanks to a line drive off the bat of Casey Kotchman that fractured his ankle.  He's worked diligently to make it back to the mound before the end of the regular season, and despite my skepticism that work will be complete tonight when Andy makes his return start against Toronto.  So what should we expect this time?

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Secret Of Loone Bogan

It's been another up-and-down year for Boone Logan.  At face value his numbers look pretty good- 3.99/3.72/3.61 slash , 11.05 K/9 in 49.2 IP over a career-high 72 games.  But the reality is that he's regressed from his much better 2011 campaign, suffering from problematic command (4.35 BB/9), general overuse, and possible over-exposure to right-handed hitting.  His groundball rate is down, his HR rate is up, and Logan is far from the dominant bullpen option he was earlier in the season and much closer to the designated LOOGY that he was when the Yankees first traded for him.

The issues that have plagued Logan this year are not physical, they are not mental.  They are the revelation of a long-rumored family secret, something that Yankee fans and bloggers alike have hinted at and joked about through the years but have never been able to positively identify as fact.  Until now.  In an AB4AR exclusive, I present the source of Boone Logan's 2012 struggles.

Please Don't Activate Brett Gardner

(If the cyborg elbow still can't swing a bat, why bother?)

Opposite the bummerific news of Mark Teixeira's lack of progress in recovering from his latest calf injury setback, the Yankees did receive some positive news earlier in the weekend on an even longer-standing member of their walking wounder brigade.  Brett Gardner, last seen being unofficially shut down for the season after finally having surgery on his troublesome right elbow, has been working on some bunting and baserunning drills recently and Joe indicated that there's the possibility of the Yankees activating Gardner to use him as a pinch runner/defensive replacement option in these last few weeks of the regular season.

As excited as I would be to see Gardner back on the field, and it's still crazy to me to think that he only played in 9 games this season, bringing him back now to serve in the capacity it sounds like the Yankees want to use him would be an unnecessary and potentially risky move.