Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Optimizing The Platoon-Heavy Lineup

The announcement of the Mark Teixeira injury was the latest blow in the battle between the baseball gods and the health of the Yankee players, one that will leave the lineup even shorter and less flexible than it already was with Teix still active.  The Yankees made a move to add Steve Pearce to the roster yesterday, but that's hardly enough to make up for the loss of Teix in the middle of the order.  A post by Mike Axisa on RAB yesterday on how the Yankees can go about managing the lineup with Teix and A-Rod out caught my attention, in particular Mike's idea of just playing to the platoon splits:

"With Teixeira out of the lineup, the Yankees would have four players for four spots against righties — Dickerson, Ichiro Suzuki, Raul Ibanez, and Eric Chavez. Chavez has to play third and Ichiro an outfield corner; that’s the easy part. Having Dickerson around allows them to keep Ibanez at DH and put Dickerson in the other outfield corner while the switch-hitting Nick Swisher plays first. Against lefties they would have Andruw Jones, Casey McGehee, Jayson Nix, and the recently-acquired Steve Pearce for those same four positions: Jones at DH, McGehee at third, Nix in left, and Pearce at first with Swisher in his usual right field."

It's not ideal in the sense that there will be a lot of guys not getting regular at-bats, but with the collection of slightly-below to slightly-above average platoon hitters the Yankees have at the moment, it's probably the best option to maximize the lineup's output potential.  If you'll allow me a moment to put on my manager pants, here's how I would build off of Mike's suggestion and create the 2 platoon lineups.

Phil Hughes' New Pitch

The biggest talking point from last night's stellar 1-run outing by Phil Hughes was his introduction of a new/old pitch to his repertoire.  The Yankosphere and PITCHf/x are calling it a slider, and it damn sure looks like one...

(Courtesy of Mike Eder, TYA gifmaster)

... but via his postgame comments last night, Hughes himself is referring to it as a slider/cutter combo, bringing back together the pitch he abandoned earlier this year and the pitch that he abandoned far longer ago when he was still in the Minors.  The pitch certainly appears to slide more than cut, but if Phil is saying it's both then who am I to argue?  Plus, if it slides and it cuts then there's already a perfect name for it.

The Slutter.

Thank you, thank you.  I'll be here all week.

Game 129 Wrap-Up: NYY 2 TOR 1

(Always good to see Phil rise to the occasion.  Courtesy of The AP)

It's been a pretty black and white season for Phil Hughes in 2012.  He's made 26 starts and has 24 decision, 13 of them wins and 11 of them losses.  Of course there's some offensive support, bullpen work, and plain old luck that goes with determining what a pitcher's record is, but Hughes' results this year have been indicative of a guy who's either been right on his game or way off of it in most starts, with very few shades of gray in the middle.  The Yankees needed Phil to be on last night to help them avoid a series loss to the basement dweller of the AL East and he came up big.

Game Notes:

- Hughes walked leadoff hitter Rajai Davis to start the game, but quickly corrected that and looked sharp through the first 3 scoreless innings.  He was throwing all 3 pitches again, a good sign that he's continuing to improve his changeup, and mixing them well.

- He got a little run support in the bottom of the 3rd when Jayson Nix and Ichiro Suzuki hit back-to-back singles to put runners on first and second with 1 out.  The scalding hot Nick Swisher singled to drive in Nix and the Yankees led 1-0.

- The Yanks manufactured another run in the 4th when Steve Pearce walked, took second on a wild pitch by Ricky Romero, moved to third on a groundout, and scored on a Curtis Granderson sac fly.  It wasn't as sexy as Teix hitting doubles and homers, but it got the job done.

- Hughes struck out Adeiny Hechevarria with fastballs in the 3rd inning, and he tried to do the same in the 5th but missed and gave up Hechavarria's first career HR.  It was an unforgivable mistake, but the only one Hughes would make on the night.

- There was some trouble in the 6th after Hughes walked the first 2 batters, but a brilliant leaping catch and double play turn by Robinson Cano on a line bailed him out.  If your offense is hurting, you better be playing some good D, and the Yankees did last night.

- And the offense was hurting after the 4th inning.  They put 2 on in the 5th but didn't score, and then they were retired in order in the final 3 innings.

- The bullpen needed a rest, which Hughes gave them with his 7 strong innings, but Joe pushed for the win by going to the D-Rob/Soriano well for the third straight game.  They got the job done, in perfect fashion, to secure the win and likely ensure that we won't see either of them today.