Thursday, June 21, 2012

Curtis Granderson: Master Of The 3 True Outcomes

("Base hits?  Groundouts to third?  Sorry.  Fresh outta those.")

I've been having a bit of fun with the Curtis Granderon "not a home run hitter" theme in the past week or so.  I find it amusing that Curtis is still so adamant about NOT being a home run hitter, like it's some kind of pock mark on his statistical profile and reputation.  Being known as a guy who produces the best possible offensive outcome when he steps to the plate with great regularity is easily one of the best compliments that you can be given as an offensive player, so it entertains me every time he smacks one, knowing that the topic will come up postgame and I'll get the chance to read his response and chuckle to myself.

If Curtis doesn't want to be labeled as a home run hitter, more power to him.  But one trend that is undeniable is his movement towards becoming a much higher "Three True Outcomes" hitter since his well-documented hitting therapy session with Kevin Long in 2010.

Musing On The Future Of The 2012 Rotation

2012 has been a season of surprises for the Yankee starting pitching staff.  The mid-January trade for Michael Pineda was a surprise, as was the follow-up signing of Hiroki Kuroda, who did not appear to be on the Yankees' radar anymore at the time.  Andy Pettitte announcing his return was a surprise, and a welcome one after the surprising season-ending labrum tear suffered by Pineda.  Once the season started, the poor collective performance out of the gate was a bit surprising, with guys like Kuroda and Ivan Nova, who were expected to be at least above-average, contributing more poor starts than good ones.  The recent turnaround and red hot streak of the rotation (Phil Hughes' stinker yesterday not included) has been surprising.  And I don't think any of us envisioned Andy's comeback being this successful or a stretch where every start was pitching like a #1 or #2 guy.

This continuing string of surprises from what is almost always the most talked-about part of the Yankee roster should make the next 94 games incredibly exciting for Yankee fans.  Where will they go from here?  Who will continue to pitch well?  Will anybody get hurt?  Will the team trade for another pitcher (hopefully not)?  And not to jump the gun or anything, but assuming they make it, what is the postseason rotation going to look like?  But as I sit here on another off day, with Phil's bad outing very easy to analyze and nothing else really jumping out at me, my thoughts about the current rotation start to drift further into the future. I start to wonder about just where this group is going to be in 2013 and if there's a possibility of all of them being back in pinstripes.

Game 68 Wrap-Up: ATL 10 NYY 5

(Hot towel, anybody?  Hot towel?  Courtesy of The AP)

I don't consider a winning streak official until it reaches 3 games, and the same logic holds for losing streaks.  The Yankee pitching that had been so stellar this month hit another pothole yesterday, Phil Hughes in particular.  The individual HRs he had been allowing ballooned into multiple HRs and the Yankees found themselves in an early hole that they weren't able to dig all the way out of.

Game Notes:

- The theme of Hughes' inability to finish off batters and innings returned in the top of the 1st, when he got 2 outs but then gave up an RBI single to Dan Uggla on a 2-2 pitch and a 2-run HR to Freddie Freeman on a 1st-pitch fastball for a quick 3-0 Braves lead.

- Power from The Captain is always a plus, and Derek Jeter led off the bottom of the 1st with a 1st-pitch homer of his own off Tommy Hanson.

- Hughes got 5 straight outs after the Freeman dinger, but then got in trouble throwing 4 straight fastballs, the last one in a clear fastball count to Martin Prado in the 3rd that Prado hit for a HR.  Hughes missed with another 2-strike fastball to Jason Heyward in the 4th to make it 5-1 Atlanta.

- He mixed it up a little by leaving a curveball up just enough for David Ross to lead off the 5th with a HR, and Hughes had a new career high for HR allowed in a game with 4.  It was just a tough day for Phil.  He didn't locate his fastball or his curveball well, and with those 2 pitches being the bulk of his offerings these days, that wasn't a good combination.

- The offense slowly chipped away with a homer barrage of their own.  Eric Chavez led off the bottom of the 5th with a solo shot, and Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano hit back-to-back bombs in the 6th to pull within 2.

- Give a call to Cody Eppley and Clay Rapada, who worked a perfect 2.1 innings after Hughes with 5 Ks to give the offense a chance.  Damn fine middle relief work.

- Curtis Granderson got the Yanks within 1 in the 7th with an RBI single, but the good work Eppley and Rapada did was quickly erased by Cory Wade and Boone Logan, who gave up 3 runs in the 8th to put the game out of reach, the last 2 on Heyward's 2nd HR of the day off a hanging Logan slider.

- Fun fact on a bad day: the 9 combined HRs between the 2 teams tied a Yankee home game record and set the "new" record for the new Yankee Stadium.  Not that that makes the loss any better.