Monday, September 30, 2013

Picking The Hypothetical Yankee Playoff Roster

The Yankees aren't going to be participating in the postseason this year.  It's only the second time we've been able to say that since 1994, and with the type of baseball we watched them play for the majority of the season it's probably for the best that they're on the outside looking in.  I've gotten so used to doing the end-of-year debate about the playoff roster that it's strange to not have to think about that this year.  Chances are the Yankees wouldn't get very far in the playoffs regardless of what 25 guys they took, but trying to predict the playoff roster is usually one of the more fun exercises of the year.  In the interest of trying to have a little fun, here's what my hypothetical 25-man playoff roster would look like.

Some Final Statistical Perspective On The Yankees' Season

The Yankees finished up their 2013 season with a series sweep of the god-awful Houston Astros this past weekend.  Those 3 wins gave them an 85-77 final record, expected when you consider where a lot of the preseason projections had them and somewhat surprising when you consider their -21 run differential.  That figure painted the Yankees as a sub-.500 team, 79-83 according to the Pythagorean W-L projections, and it's worth noting that the Yankees were the only team in MLB with a negative run differential that finished above .500 on the season.

There was no return of mystique and aura to carry this old, extremely flawed ballclub to the postseason.  There was no last magical run for Andy and Mo.  There was just a crummy baseball team that somehow slightly outperformed its mediocre statistical expectations.  If you need further proof of that, here it is in a nutshell.

No Mo This Weekend Was The Right Thing To Do

(Courtesy of the AP)

Along with Andy making his final career start in front of his second home fans, the only other source of buzz to this weekend's season-concluding series in Houston was what else Mariano Rivera had in store for a goodbye.  Would he pitch?  Would he play the outfield?  How much would Joe let him pitch if he was going to play the outfield?  Turns out the answer to all those questions was either "no" or "none".  After Joe said he was letting Mo call his own shots for the series, Mo ended up not pitching or playing at all in the final 3 games, citing arm soreness and general fatigue and a desire to respect the game and not play when he wasn't at his best.

AB4AR End Of Season Update

You may have noticed the site wasn't very active this past weekend.  That's partially due to the fact that I spent Saturday picking winners and making money hand over fist at Arlington Park in Chicago and mostly due to the fact that the season was already over and I didn't see the point in analyzing or reporting on stuff that didn't matter anymore. But now that one season is over, another can begin.  It's time for another Yankee offseason and here's the rough plan for what you can expect from AB4AR in the next 4+ months.

We'll start off this week with some random recap stuff and the AB4AR year end awards posts later in the week, then transition right into the 3-week 2013 season recap next week.  The format of the 3 weeks will be the same as it was for the season preview: 1st week will be the "2013 Storylines" follow-ups, 2nd will be the "What We Thought We Knew & What We Learned" to bridge the gap between 2013 and 2014, and the last week will be the "2013 Season Review" posts by roster group (lineup, rotation, bullpen, bench).

After everything is put to bed on 2013, we'll start diving into the hot stove stuff.  I'd like to do more trade and free agent target profile pieces, since the Yankees are going to have to get creative with both to have any hope of being competitive next year on a budget, and there will be plenty of posts devoted to that budget and payroll breakdown as well.  There will also be plenty of prospect talk, including AB4AR Prospect Week and the release of the 2014 AB4AR Top 30 sometime in January, and maybe another post or 2 devoted to at-bat/closer entrance music.

Baseball season never really ends at AB4AR, so get ready to re-live all the not fun and non-excitement of the 2013 season over the next few weeks.  If you want to refresh on the season preview topics before next week, you can get a head start by revisiting the "2013 Storylines" series here.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Game 162 Wrap-Up: NYY 5 HOU 1

(Courtesy of the AP)

With Mo and Andy's goodbyes out of the way and the playoffs long gone from view, there was nothing left to play for on the season's final day.  Joe managed the game that way, sitting Robinson Cano and Ichiro to give them some needed rest and giving the ball to David Huff to start the game.  If there was anything on the line today, it may have been chances for the young guys like Adams, Zoilo, Murphy, and Betances to make a positive last impression on the coaching staff before spring camp next year.  The game went long and the Yankees came away with a win to finish their 2013 season on a somewhat positive note.

Game Notes:

- Huff wasn't quite as effective as he's been as Phil Hughes' caddy in the 1st.  He gave up a double and a single to 2 guys named Jonathan Villar and Matt Dominguez to give Houston the early 1-0 lead.

- As expected, the skeleton lineup didn't produce much against Erik Bedard.  3 hits - a Curtis Granderson double and a pair of singles by Eduardo Nunez and Brendan Ryan - was all they mustered while striking out 7 times in a scoreless first 5 innings.

- To his credit, Huff shook off the tough 1st to pitch 4 straight scoreless frames of his own through 5.  He only gave up 1 single in that span and retired 11 in a row (including 5 strikeouts) with a good 2-seamer/slider combo.

- Bedard left after 7 scoreless and just like yesterday, the Yankee offense finally struck late.  Nunez doubled with 1 out to give the Yanks just their second RISP of the day, and with 2 outs C-Grand came through with a base hit to tie the game at 1.

- When it's the last game of the season, why not have some free baseball?  The game stretched into the thanks to solid relief pitching and poor hitting by both sides.  Biggest Yankee highlight was the combined 2.1 shutout, 4-K innings from Dellin Betances.

- At long last, Mark Reynolds got an "all" at-bat instead of a "nothing" one and homered to lead off the 14th.  After 2 strikeouts, the Yankees rattled off 4 straight hits to bring in 3 more runs and give D-Rob a comfy cushion to close things out.

Game 161 Wrap-Up: NYY 2 HOU 1

These last few games of the season have little meaning  in the grand scheme of things, but they've given us a few great moments to remember as we watch the final days of 2/3 of the remaining Core Four.  Mo's exit on Thursday night at The Stadium was as emotional a scene as I can ever remember at The Stadium, maybe the most emotional since President Bush came out to throw that first pitch after 9/11.  Last night, Andy Pettitte made his final start, and although it wasn't at home, there was still a lot of emotion attached and a lot to remember.  With nothing left to hold out for, Joe gave Andy the longest leash of the season and Andy responded by pitching his best game of the season, even better than his last home start last Sunday.

Game Notes:

- Andy put at least 1 runner on base in each of the first 4 innings, but worked his way out of trouble most of the time.  He gave up a run in the 4th on a single and a pair of groundouts, but he looked good and he was working quickly.

- The kid-filled Yankee lineup did its typical worst to help Andy early.  They stranded 2 runners in the 2nd, got sat down in order from the 3rd through the 5th, and generally looked weak and pathetic.

- They finally got their act together in the top of the 6th, on the back of a Chris Stewart leadoff single.  Eduardo Nunez and Robinson Cano followed up with singles of their own to score Stewart and chase Houston starter Paul Clemens from the game.  Alfonso Soriano walked to load the bases, and Nunez came around to score on a throwing error to give Andy a 2-1 lead.

- Once he had that lead, Andy buckled down and pitched like the postseason ace we've seen time and time again.  He walked the leadoff batter in the bottom of the 6th and then retired the next 11 batters he faced into the bottom of the 9th.  He gave up a 2-out hit, but Joe was going to let him finish what he started and he did just that by getting a groundball out to end the game, earn the win, and end his career in style.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Game 160 Wrap-Up: NYY 3 HOU 2

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

Normally the Yankees ending their regular season in the AL basement that is Houston would be a borderline insult.  This year, it's strangely fitting.  The Yankees are out of the postseason race, Mo had has day and night in the sun during the final homestand, there's just nothing left to care about this season.  Joe finally made the call to go to the younglings for this series and there were starting pitching holes to fill against the Astros.  Adam Warren got the spot start last night, in an early audition for the rotation competition next year.  After an up and down year as the primary long reliever, something positive to end his season would have been a good thing.

Game Notes:

- Something positive was exactly what he got.  Warren tossed 5 scoreless innings on less than 70 pitches, surprising considering how little he's pitched lately.  He gave up just 2 hits and 1 walk, and retired the final 8 batters he faced.

- The offense gave him all the support they could muster in the top of the 4th when a Robinson Cano single and Alfonso Soriano walk set the table with 1 out.  Mark Reynolds singled a run in to get the Yankees on the board and David Adams doubled to bring in 2 more and make it 3-0 Yanks.

- David Phelps relieved Warren in the 6th and pitched into the 7th.  With 2 outs and 2 on, Joe decided to take him out and go to Joba Chamberlain.  In typical Joba fashion, Chamberlain was a human dumpster fire, giving up a 2-run double on the first pitch he threw, a single on the next, and walking a batter before getting out of the inning.

- Preston Claiborne worked an effective 8th, highlighted by a J.R. Murphy-to-Adams caught stealing to end the inning, and David Robertson got a save opportunity in the 9th that he converted in 1-2-3 fashion.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 9/27/13

I don't know about everybody else, but I've been completely drained by this season.  I am literally (figuratively) sputtering to the finish line and I apologize if the quality of my writing or content has slacked in the past few weeks.  For a team that wasn't expected to seriously contend for a postseason spot and a season that played out about as we expected, it's been incredibly taxing and I'm going to be very glad when it's over so I can just kick back and watch the postseason games without having to stay up late or drag my ass out of bad early to write another depressing recap.  Now onto the links!

- On Monday, William Juliano of The Captain's Blog commented on the pending retirements of Mo and Andy and in what direction that might spur the organization going forward.

- EJ Fagan of IIATMS/TYA displayed an interesting graphical representation of the Yankee farm system's rapid decline in the last 3-5 years, or Exhibit B in the case of why the Yanks aren't built to contend on a budget.

- On Tuesday, SJK of NoMaas questioned many of the late season lineup decisions that Joe was sticking with after the team's postseason hopes were dashed.

- On Wednesday, Andrew Mearns of Pinstriped Bible ranked the top 5 moments of Andy Pettitte's career.  Hard to argue with number 1.

- Chad Jennings of LoHud had all the quotes from CC Sabathia on his tough 2013, what he thinks the problems were, and what he's already doing to start re-working things for next season.

- El duque of It Is High... used the Mo bobblehead disaster as a reason to recap the state of the Yankee organization since Hank and Hal took over.

- Alex Pugliese of Yanks Go Yard commented on the double standard for Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez when it comes to PEDs.  A very fair point that too often gets passed over by the MSM.

- Mike Axisa of RAB analyzed the upcoming A-Rod suspension appeal and how each potential scenario would work in and against the Yankees' best interests.

- On Thursday, Clive Barker of The Greedy Pinstripes mused on Mo and Andy's retirement and the all but official end of the last great era of Yankee baseball that comes with it.

- SG of RLYW looked back at the history of Yankee 1st round draft picks and where Phil Hughes fits into that history now that his Yankee career is almost assuredly over.

- On Friday, Greg Corcoran of Bronx Baseball Daily weighed the pros and cons of this offseason's top 2 international FAs, Jose Abreu and Masahiro Tanaka, and how they could fit the Yankees' needs.

- Chris Mitchell of Pinstripe Pundits looked back on the never-ending rotation of warm bodies through the Yankee infield in 2013, and how bad the performance from the majority of that group was.

This week's jam is "Enter Sandman."  For obvious reasons.

Enjoy your weekends, everybody.

What A Moment

Awesome.  Undeniably awesome and hands down the most memorable moment of the season.

No, thank you, Mo.  Thank you.

Game 159 Wrap-Up: TB 4 NYY 0

(Courtesy of the AP)

There's nothing to really say about the first 7 innings of last night's game.  The Yankees as a baseball team are a dead stick, they know it, and they're playing like it.  Joe can say whatever he wants about respecting the game, but his team isn't stepping on the field with any real passion or desire to compete and it's putting a sour ending to what's already been a tough season.  The real story last night was Mariano Rivera's final appearance at Yankee Stadium and it was a memorable one.  He pitched well, got countless standing ovations, and got to share a really touching moment on the mound with Andy and Jeter when they came out to get him and give him a chance to walk off the Yankee Stadium mound to applause one more time.  It was a very emotional finish to an otherwise emotionless game.

Game Notes:

- Ivan Nova made his final start of the season and he was pretty good again.  He gave up a few hits early, but escaped thanks to some key double plays on well-located fastballs down in the zone.  He also had the curveball working for swings and misses, and got 3 Ks in the first 3 innings.

- He gave up his first run of the night on a single, walk, single combo to start the 4th, then loaded the bases with only 1 out.  Needing to limit the damage to give his offense a chance, he retired the next 2 batters to hold the game at 1-0.

- Not that it really mattered, because even with a few kids in the lineup it was still limp.  They got 1 hit off Tampa starter Alex Cobb through the first 7 innings - in the bottom of the 1st - and only Curtis Granderson reached second base after walking and stealing a bag in the 2nd.

- Nova made 1 bad mistake with a fastball to Delmon Young to lead off the top of the 7th and Young, still a Yankee killer, hit it for a home run to double the lead.  He gave way to Dellin Betances in the 8th and Betances promptly created a 2-run mess to set up Mo.

- The crowd was only there to see Mo and he gave them a helluva show.  With 2 on and 1 out, he escaped the 8th on 6 pitches, then he came out and retired the first 2 batters of the 9th to set up the dramatics.

- Wanting to give him a special send-off, Joe sent Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter out to the mound to get the ball from Mo.  As soon as they reached the mound and Mo hugged Andy, all the emotion came out of him in what was truly a touching sports moment.  3 teammates, together for the last time, the final image of the great Yankee dynasty of the last 15+ years.  Mo got the moment he deserved, the applause he deserved, the love he deserved, and the final score of the game didn't mean a thing.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Let's All Calm Down About The Reported Cano Contract Figures

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

With the season unofficially over as of last night, the focus has already shifted to the upcoming offseason and all the things the Yankees are going to have to address while building their 2014 roster.  The obvious number 1 topic of discussion on that list is Robinson Cano's free agency and what the Yankees will or won't be willing to pay to retain him.  That stayed quiet for the majority of the regular season, but business started picking up this morning when reports of a 10-year/$300 million proposal from Cano's camp came out.

Via Buster Olney (Insider only), the numbers are actually 10 years and $305 million, the total value of Alex Rodriguez's contract with the HR escalator bonuses included.  David Waldstein reported that the Yankees made an offer of 7 years/$161 mil earlier in the season and the distance between those 2 figures has set off a ton of talk around the Yankosphere about what it all means and what the Yankees should do.  Before things get too out of control, I'd like to offer a simple reminder to everyone who's concerned about the numbers.  Relax.  This is how it works.  It's each side making their first offer as part of a negotiation and there's no reason to get worked up.

What A Night For Phil

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

It may have looked like the last in a long line of embarrassing late season outings for Phil Hughes last night.  He was ineffective again and he got yanked after recording only 6 outs and after Joe stopped off to argue a bad call with the umpire before making his way to the mound to get the ball.  But it wasn't all gloom and fastballs over the middle.  Phil actually carved out some nice space for himself in the record books last night.

CC Already On The Road To Reinvention

While he won't make another start this season, and it's still unknown how his hamstring injury will impact his offseason training/throwing schedule, CC Sabathia has already started working on his mechanics and approach in preparation for what everybody hopes will be a bounce back 2014.

Sabathia spoke to the media at length on Tuesday about his struggles this season, what he needs to work on to be better next year, and what he's already started working on to make that transition from power pitcher to pitcher.  There were references to changes in delivery and mechanics, bullpen work between starts in the past few weeks, and most interestingly, Sabathia saying he's started watching video of opposing hitters.  It's not something he's ever done before this season, and Sabathia acknowledged the need to start doing it as part of his pregame preparation, saying:

“I feel like at certain times, I kind of fell in the same pattern, pitching the same way.  Hitters watch video and they know what to expect out of me, so it’s only right for me to do the same thing.  I've always been a guy that never watched video and that’s something that I need to change. My preparation for games probably needs to get a little better in that way."

I was a bit surprised to read that CC has never watched video before.  I figured in today's modern age of analysis that would be at least a small part of every pitcher's prep routine.  If it's something he thinks is going to help next year and he's already started doing it, then good for him for manning up and not being stubborn about changing.  It's what older pitchers have to do to survive, and CC recognizes that he's an older pitcher now.  If he's already begun the transformation of his game, that's reason to be encouraged about a turnaround next season.

Game 158 Wrap-Up: TB 8 NYY 3

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

The Yankees didn't score a single run against a shaky Matt Moore and the Tampa Bay bullpen on Tuesday night.  They trotted out arguably a worse lineup last night against David Price, so if he was even half as on his game as Moore was there was a good chance New York would be filling the scoreboard with zeros again.  Whatever.  If Joe plays the crappy veterans and they don't score, he's an idiot for not playing the kids.  If he subs them all out and they don't score, he's an idiot for putting a bunch of unproven youngsters up against a Cy Young winner.  Not that it would matter much with Phil Hughes on the mound.  He was making his final Yankee Stadium start and it went about as you'd expect.  He was out early, the game was over early, and the Yanks were officially eliminated from the Wild Card race.

Game Notes:

- Phil was his usual self.  He gave up a run on back-to-back doubles in the 1st and put 2 men on base before escaping the 2nd.  Fastballs over the middle, failure to put guys away with 2 strikes, the usual.  He had the whole arsenal working.

- He had runners on the corners with nobody out after a handful of pitches in the top of the 3rd, in part because Vernon Wells is old and shitty, and a few batters later it was curtains.  Hughes didn't retire a batter in the 3rd, left the bases loaded, and got barely a reaction from the lifeless crowd as he walked off the mound.  "Oof" and "da."

- At least the offense kept it close early.  Robinson Cano plated Eduardo Nunez in the 1st with a double to left that just missed being a home run, and Nunez took Price yard to lead off the bottom of the 3rd to make it a 3-2 game.

- That was as close as the Yanks would get.  David Huff pitched 2 scoreless innings in relief of Hughes before blowing up in the 6th.  With 2 outs in the inning he gave up a single to James Loney, a 3-run homer to Evan Longoria, and a solo HR to David DeJesus in 3 consecutive ABs to extend the Tampa lead to 7-2.

- The Yanks managed only 2 more hits against Price as he cruised through 7 with a 5-run lead, and scored their final meaningless run of the night on a Lyle Overbay bases loaded walk in the 8th.

- Lotta bullpen scrubs got work after Huff left, but for some reason Joe decided to use David Robertson for the 8th.  Longoria tacked on his second homer of the night off Preston Claiborne in the 9th for a final insult.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Goodbye To Hughes

(Ahh, the good old days... )

It's been a homestand full of finales and goodbyes, and it continues tonight when Phil Hughes takes the mound in place of CC Sabathia.  After having the rotation rearranged to remove him from what could have been an important series, Phil gets to step back on the Yankee Stadium mound one more time in what will in all likelihood be his final appearance as a New York Yankee.  Unsurprisingly, there's no pregame ceremony planned.  With the way Hughes' season has devolved, there's almost no point in even giving him the ball in the first place.

Wednesday Late Morning/Early Afternoon Food For Thought

Hiroki Kuroda in the 1st inning in 2013: 32.0 IP, 46 H, 8 BB, 21 ER, 5 HR

Kuroda in the 2nd-9th innings in 2013: 169.1 IP, 145 H, 35 BB, 53 ER, 15 HR

He said he doesn't have an explanation, and given the fact that it's been a season long problem it doesn't seem like Joe or Larry Rothschild do either.  Make no mistake though, the 1st inning has killed Hirok this season.  Subtract that inning and its terrible results and he's probably still in the hunt for the AL Cy Young.  It wouldn't be such a problem if he had some offensive support, but the current lineup Joe's rolling out is almost as short and powerless as it was during the lowest times of the summer.  Once the 1st inning was over last night, so was the game.

The Reason Joe Didn't Play The Kids Last Night

("And I played Wells too, BAHAHAHAHA!!!!!"  Courtesy of Getty Images)

With little to play for entering last night's game except pride, many around the blogopshere were calling for Joe to pull the plug on the sub-replacement level guys like Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells, and Chris Stewart, and play the kids.  Knowing that you've got nothing to work with in those 3, it made sense for next season to see what you've got in guys like J.R. Murphy, Zoilo Almonte, and even David Adams and Dellin Betances.  Yet there were Ichiro's, Wells', and Stewart's names on last night's lineup card while the young guys stayed glued to the bench.

We all saw how that decision worked out and it wasn't pretty.  If you're upset at the call by Joe and don't understand why he did that, the answer is pretty simple.

Game 157 Wrap-Up: TB 7 NYY 0

(Game over.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

I have to admit, there's a small big part of me that enjoyed reading about all the Mo bobblehead night confusion and commotion last night.  I wasn't getting one anyway, so if all you lucky folks who did had to stand outside the stadium a little longer than you anticipated, good.  I hope you value that bobblehead.  And of course, with as perfect as the Mo ceremony on Sunday was, it came as no surprise that the team who paid Ichiro millions of dollars to play baseball for them for 2 full seasons couldn't go 2-for-2 and screwed up the bobblehead night.  Oh yeah, there was a baseball game last night too.  That kinda gets lost in the wash when the Yanks entered the game with a less than 1% chance of making the playoffs.  I wonder if they improved those chances.

Game Notes:

- For some reason, Hiroki Kuroda didn't have the feel for his stuff at the start of the game.  He gave up a leadoff home run to Matt Joyce and it only took him 11 pitches and 4 batters faced to make it a 3-0 Rays lead.

- The Yankee lineup, weak and unnecessarily veteran-heavy as it was, certainly made Matt Moore work early.  His command wasn't there either and they drew 5 walks against him in the first 3 innings.  They also only got 1 hit and had no runs to show for all their patience.

- Whatever it was that wasn't working for Hirok in the 1st got fixed quickly.  He held the Rays hitless through the next 4 innings, their only baserunner coming on an Eduardo Nunez error.

- Then he lost it in the top of the 6th and lost it in a big way.  Kuroda loaded the bases on a pair of walks and an Evan Longoria double and then gave up a 2-run double to James Loney to make it 5-0 Rays.  He didn't make it out of the inning.

- The offense stayed pathetic, scratching out 3 more measly hits from the 4th on and stranding all 3 runners.  Against the Tampa bullpen they managed just 1 hit and 4 strikeouts in 4 innings.

- Just for good measure, the Rays tacked on 2 in the 9th against Shawn Kelley.  In the end the people who waited in line all night to claim their bobbleheads didn't miss much and the Yankees are now 1 game away from playoff elimination.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Brendan Ryan Is My New Hero, And Needs To Be On The Team Next Year

(Oh so smoove.  Courtesy of the AP)

I have a confession to make.  I think I've got a little man crush on Brendan Ryan.  He's only been a Yankee for 11 games, but in those 11 games he's convinced me that he should absolutely be on the roster as the backup shortstop and de facto utility infielder next season.  It makes too much sense for him not to be on the roster.  He's exactly what the Yankees need at the position and a clear upgrade over any and everything they trotted out there this year in their lame attempt to cover for Derek Jeter's ankle.

Musing On The 2014 Bullpen

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

In case you couldn't figure it out, I'm pretty much done talking about the 2013 season.  It's been a long, disappointing, frustratingly repetitive season to write about, and with 6 games remaining and barely a whisper of a realistic playoff chance remaining I'm starting to turn my attention to next season.  I know, I know, it's probably not going to be much better next season.  I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.  For now I can still hope.

Any discussion about the 2014 Yankees starts with the roster.  The Yankees will be in the unenviable position of having to replace a lot of guys without the traditional means to do it.  Their $189 million payroll goal will put the clamps on their usual way of spending on the free agent market, in a way that will probably make this past offseason look like Black Friday, and they're extremely light on upper-level Minor League talent capable of stepping into everyday roles.  The lineup and the rotation will each have serious issues to address, but what about the bullpen?  The longstanding backbone of the Yankee roster every year is going to undergo a major overhaul and the Yankees aren't exactly preparing themselves well for it down the stretch of this season.

Yanks Put Six In Baseball America's Top 20 GCL Prospects List

Now that the Minor League season has officially been over for a few weeks, it's time to start rolling out the end-of-season top prospects lists.  Baseball America is posting their top 20 for the Rookie Gulf Coast League today, and the Yankees are well represented with 6 players making the list.

The 6 Yankee farmhands to make it, in order, are Luis Torrens (10th), Miguel Andujar (11th), Abi Avelino (13th), Gosuke Katoh (15th), Luis Severino (17th), and Thairo Estrada (20th).  That's an impressive number of reps at any level of the system, but it does come with the obvious disclaimer of the GCL being the lowest level of US pro ball.  These guys are all far too young to say definitively that any of them will be stars or even make the Majors.

Still, it's an encouraging sign that the lower levels of the system are stocked with potential to come up and fill that talent gap that exists in High and Low-A in the near future.  If you're a BA subscriber, you can log in and read the full write-up on each guy.  BA seems especially high on Torrens, praising his "sound hitting approach," and Avelino, who drew positive remarks for his offense and defensive tools.

Monday, September 23, 2013

How The Hell Is The 2014 Outfield Going To Work?

(1, or the number of wins these two have been worth this season.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

There was no shortage of heartbreaking, soul crushing, or facepalming plays in yesterday's 2-1 loss to the Giants.  Pick just about anything the Yankees did from the bottom of the 7th on and you're bound to come up with something that killed their chances to win what should have been an easy-to-win game on Mo Day.  The worst of the worst came when the Yanks were at the plate, which hardly comes as a surprise after 156 team games that have resulted in a .245/.309/.380 team batting line (.304 wOBA, 87 wRC+).

Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki striking out with 2 men on and 1 out in the bottom of the 7th, while not the worst, was certainly on the medal stand of piss poor offensive moments yesterday.  To not even make contact in those at-bats and put the ball in play was the latest slap in the face example of how poorly the front office's plans for cutting payroll and remaining competitive were conceived.  Wells and Ichiro haven't just been bad at the plate this year, they've been terrible.  They're both coming back next year, as part of an outfield that could be even worse than the 2013 edition.

Not The Way Andy Should Have Gone Out

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

I got nothing this morning, gang.  I'm still bummed about the way yesterday's game went down.  I know I shouldn't be.  If anything, I should have expected the Yankees to lose in the fashion they did because it's what they've done all year long.  Sure, there have been a few flashes of offensive competency here and there, but overall this has been a painfully bad offensive team incapable of doing anything - get a hit, put the ball in play, make contact - when they really needed to and they saved the worst for last yesterday.  The fairytale ending was laid out for them from about the 5th inning on and they gagged on their chance to write it time and time again.

BREAKING: CC Done For The Season

And the hits just keep on coming.  Via Dan Barbarisi, the Yankees announced that CC Sabathia suffered a Grade 2 strain of his left hamstring in his last start against San Francisco on Friday night and will be shut down for the remainder of the season.

Guess that throws Joe's rotation realignment plan out the window and it looks like Phil Hughes will get one more start in Yankee Stadium this week.  This puts a fittingly disappointing end to an incredibly disappointing season for CC.  On the positive side, he can rest up, get healthy, and get to work on adjusting his delivery for next season.  The injury is expected to take 8 weeks to heal, so hopefully it doesn't throw his offseason workout/throwing program off too much.

Yanks Rearrange Rotation For The Rays Series

The Yankees have their last scheduled off-day of the regular season today, and in a move that's ultimately too little too late but still the right strategic decision, Joe is going to use that off-day to rearrange his rotation.

The Phil Hughes-David Huff 2-headed 5th starter monster was scheduled to start tomorrow's series opener against the Tampa Bay Rays.  With the off-day keeping the rest of the rotation behind them on regular rest, Joe will skip over his 5th starters and go back to the top of the rotation.  He'll have 3 of his 4 best starters - Hiroki Kuroda, CC Sabathia, and Ivan Nova - start the 3 games against Tampa and push Huffes back to the final series in Houston later in the week.

In a perfect world, Joe would have Andy Pettitte in that mix, probably in place of CC.  Pettitte was brilliant yesterday and should have the adrenaline flowing again when he makes his final career start.  The Yankees' only chance to make the postseason is to sweep these 3 games from Tampa and get a lot of help, something that doesn't seem very likely given the agonizingly inconsistent nature of their lineup right now.  So with the season all but over, it's probably better to keep Andy on his regular schedule and let him make his final start in the other MLB city he called home.  Even without him, the decision to go Hirok, CC, Nova is the right one and an upgrade over letting Hughes and Huff pitch a meaningful game.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Game 156 Wrap-Up: SF 2 NYY 1

(Highlight of the day.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

Happy Mariano Rivera Day, everybody!  What a bittersweet day.  There's no modern baseball player more worthy of being honored like this in his final season and final home series than Mo, but the price of him having to retire after this season to make it possible is one many Yankee fans still aren't willing to pay.  It's still a bit strange to think that Mo isn't going to be back next year.  He's been such a fixture as a part of the Yankees for the past 19 years that it's almost as if the Yankees aren't the Yankees if he's not out in that bullpen.  The pregame ceremony was as outstanding as you'd expect it to be.  Events like this are things the Yankees always get right and if it didn't get a little dusty in your place while you were watching, well then you just aren't as big a Yankee fan as you think you are.  Once the game got going and Andy Pettitte took the mound for his final Yankee Stadium start, it looked like things would finish in storybook fashion.  Some bad late plays changed that feeling in a hurry.

Game Notes:

- The delayed start for the ceremony didn't affect Andy in the least, at least not that showed on the field.  He sat the San Fran lineup down in order through 3 with 3 swinging strikeouts and a handful of groundball outs.  He was on.

- A lot of Yankee hitters got good wood on flyballs in the first 2 innings that died before they got to the wall, and for once YS3 didn't look conducive to home run hitting.  Mark Reynolds finally got enough of one to hit it out into the SF bullpen for a leadoff HR and the Yanks grabbed the early lead.

- Andy started to lose the sharpness of his offspeed stuff as his pitch count rose, but he still made a lot of great 2-strike pitches and held the Giants hitless through 5.

- That lost sharpness came back to haunt Pettitte in the 6th on a 2-strike hanger to Ehire Adrianza.  Adrianza lined it into the left field seats for a game-tying home run that also broke up the no-hitter at 5.1 innings.

- Part lame lineup, part solid performance by Yusmiero Petit, the Yankees never put another run on the board into the 7th inning.  A pair of singles by Eduardo Nunez and Brendan Ryan gave them a scoring chance with 1 out, but they were stranded on a pair of strikeouts by Vernon Wells and Ichiro.

- Andy got his well deserved ovation after a Pablo Sandoval double to start the 8th and it went to the 'pen.  David Robertson came in and promptly gave up the go-ahead run on a couple of hanging curveballs to make it 2-1 Giants.

- The Yankees look like they'd finally get the dramatic run(s) they needed in the 8th after an A-Rod leadoff single and Robinson Cano's second double of the day put runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs.  Some terrible baserunning by Zoilo Almonte, terrible hitting by Curtis Granderson, and a great defensive play conspired to somehow keep anybody from scoring and break Yankee Stadium's heart in the process.

- Mo threw a scoreless 9th, but Sergio Romo shut down the bottom of the order (surprise) in the bottom of the 9th to turn what could have been a great day into a much crappier one.

Concussion Shutdown Adds To Mounting Health Concerns For Romine

It's been over a week since Austin Romine suffered a concussion against the Baltimore Orioles, and despite being cleared by team doctors to return to catching bullpen sessions, Romine is going to be shut down for the rest of the season due to lingering concussion symptoms.  Romine talked about still feeling the effects of the concussion to Andy McCullough of The Star-Ledger on Thursday, saying he felt "off" and "I know my body. I know what I can do. So when I do stuff I’m not used to doing, I’m like ‘What the heck?’ I don’t want that to happen in a game.”

Romine referring to his knowledge of his body and how he is feeling may refer to the last concussion he suffered in 2011, one that cost him a lot of time in the Minors.  He followed that up with a back injury that sapped almost his entire 2012 season away before he finally got back to full health this year, so concussions and injury problems in general are nothing new for Romine.  That he is still feeling symptoms of this latest concussion almost 2 weeks after the fact is very concerning.  Catcher is a grueling position to play, and Romine is already racking up the job-related injuries that can cripple a guy's ability to be a good catcher at a young age.

With brain injuries and concussions being such a hot button topic in sports today, the Yankees are doing the right thing in shutting Romine down for the season.  You can't be too careful and this is already his second documented concussion in 3 years.  His long term health is the most important thing right now, and at 24 he's got plenty of time to work on improving his baseball skills.  But keep this in mind next year when the catching competition starts heating up in spring camp.  Romine could be the favorite to win the job if the team isn't active on the FA market, and it will be interesting to see if they take any extra precautions to limit his exposure to another potential head injury.

Say It Ain't Mo (And Andy)

(Courtesy of the NY Post)

They have 72 win/save games together, the most in MLB history and a testatement to their greatness and longevity.  They have the most postseason wins (Andy) and the most postseason saves (Mo) in MLB history, a testament to the greatness of their teams and their knack for pitching the best when the lights are the brightest.  Between the 2 of them, they have a complete set of World Series rings for a pair of hands, something very few living players in baseball history can claim.

And this afternoon they'll both take the field in what could be their final time pitching together in Yankee Stadium.  Even if the game turns into a blowout, there's little chance Joe won't use Mo today on Mariano Rivera Day at The Stadium, and Andy isn't scheduled to pitch again until the final series of the season next week in Houston.  After all the history they've made together in Yankee Stadium, this afternoon's game could, and in all likelihood will be their last chance to add to that history.

I've been watching these guys pitch since I was 10 years old.  They're just as responsible for turning me into the Yankee fan I am today as Jeter is, and even though they've had long, illustrious, HOF-worthy careers, I'm still not quite ready to see them go.  If they have to, what better way than with a vintage tag team performance today to add to their records.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Game 155 Wrap-Up: NYY 6 SF 0

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

If they wanted to keep their faint glimmer of playoff hope alive, the Yankees needed to start pitching better.  They got a much improved 7-inning/1-run performance from CC Sabathia on Friday night and Ivan Nova following suit this afternoon would have been a huge boost.  They can't continue to roll with just Andy Pettitte as the only reliable starting pitcher.  Nova could help his stock for 2014 as well with a good start, and that stock is even more important now that we know Andy is retiring.  Ivan did answer the bell, and did one better by outdoing what Sabathia did last night and completely shutting down the San Francisco lineup on the way to the Yankees' second straight win.

Game Notes:

- Outside of a fastball over the plate to Pablo Sandoval, Nova looked pretty good through the first 3 innings.  He was getting ahead with his fastball, locating down in the zone to get a lot of groundball outs, and didn't put a run on the scoreboard.

- A pair of singles and a 4-pitch walk from the 7-8-9 hitters put the Yankees in business with no outs in the bottom of the 3rd.  They brought all 3 runs around to score on an Ichiro sac fly, an Alex Rodriguez RBI groundout, and a Robinson Cano RBI single to give Nova a cushion.

- That cushion got bigger and softer in the bottom of the 4th when Eduardo Nunez yanked a hanging curveball down the line and into the left field seats for a 2-run HR.  His lack of power development is one of the things that has made him such an extreme negative WAR player, but he showed some on that swing.

- Nova gave up a leadoff, sun-aided double to start the 4th, and then he was in full command for the remainder of his outing.  That runner never moved from second base, Nova retired the next 8 batters in a row, and punctuated his 8 scoreless with 2 strikeouts to strand another runner.

- Another Alfonso Soriano home run tacked on another run, and Nova finished what he started with another swinging strikeout at a nasty curveball.  2 games, 2 wins, and a stocked bullpen to support Andy tomorrow.

All Arms...

(Courtesy of

Like 100% arms.  No lower body in that swing at all.  And still strong enough to hit it well out to become the new all-time MLB leader in grand slams.  Guarantee Bud is trying to figure out a way to add 50 games to his suspension for reaching that milestone.

"But wait, Brad.  I thought centaurs didn't have arms.  How did he do that?"

Magic.  A killer wrist workout routine.  And probably a little HGH.

Game 154 Wrap-Up: NYY 5 SF 1

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

As recently as 2011, if your buddy told you he had tickets to watch CC Sabathia and Tim Lincecum pitch you would have been pissed that he didn't you.  Today, you'd probably come up with an excuse to not watch Sabathia and Lincecum pitch if he did invite you.  It's been a quick transition to below-average for these 2 former Cy Young winners, and the jury is still out on whether either of them can or will turn it around going forward.  They were getting the ball for their teams last night to start Mariano Rivera's final homestand, and CC could have given him a going away present with a vintage Sabathia outing.

Game Notes:

- The Yanks got on the board early with another Alfonso Soriano home run.  He went the other way to lead off the bottom of the 2nd and parked one over the short fence in right.

- Sabathia danced around a pair of baserunners in each of the first 2 innings, but couldn't erase a leadoff walk in the top of the 3rd.  Juan Perez doubled in a run on a poorly-located sinker and the game was tied at 1.

- Both Sabathia and Lincecum settled themselves down after the 3rd and kept the game tied into the 7th.  They each gave up a hit here or a walk there, hardly the type of dominance they used to display on their best days, but 1 run in 6 innings from these guys these days is a big deal.

- The Yankees set themselves up nicely in the bottom of the 7th with an Eduardo Nunez single and stolen base, a Brendan Ryan HBP, and a big 2-out walk to Ichiro.  Alex Rodriguez strode to the plate, bad legs and all, to face former Yankee prospect George Kontos.

- Kontos threw him 4 straight fastballs and A-Rod timed up the last one just right to hit it out of the park to right-center and give the Yanks a 5-1 lead.  If they were still seriously in the playoff race, it would have been the biggest hit of the year by far.

- With a 4-run lead in the late innings, Joe went to his bullpen horses.  David Robertson coaxed a double play ball to start the 8th and struck out Buster Posey to end it, and Mo went 1-2-3 in the 9th without the ball ever leaving the infield.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 9/20/13

Mo is my clear cut sentimental favorite athlete right now because of his pending retirement, and he's easily my 2nd or 3rd favorite athlete all time, but in terms of entertainment and rooting for them to do well my top 2 guys right now are Alex Rodriguez and Johnny Manziel.  The 2 biggest heels in the American sports media and I can't get enough of them.  What does that say about me as a sports fan?  What does it say about me as a person?  I'd like to think it means I'm smart enough to not get caught up in ESPN's constant anti-A-Rod and anti-Manziel shitstorms and evaluate their transgressions rationally and objectively, but maybe it's more than that.  Maybe I just like rooting for the bad guy.  Maybe I am a bad guy.  Do I need to adopt my own heel blogging persona?  Lot to think about here, mainly how fantastic it would be if A-Rod and Manziel could somehow play on the same team.

- On Monday, Jason Evans of Yanks Go Yard asked if we'd be seeing Brendan Ryan back as the starting shortstop next year.  I certainly hope not, although I would prefer him over Nunez for the backup role.

- On Tuesday, Mike Axisa of RAB laid out the rationale behind the Hughes-Huff tandem starter format Joe's using for the 5th rotation spot.  Can't blame him for trying something different.

- Derek Albin of Pinstripe Pundits commented on Chris Stewart's historically brutal 2013 and the outside forces that combined to make that brutality possible.

- Greg Corcoran of Bronx Baseball Daily examined the holes on the 2014 roster and how Tyler Austin could fit into the roster construction plans.

- On Wednesday, EJ Fagan of IIATMS/TYA came up with a formula for measuring the best hitting environments for Minor Leaguers and applied that formula to show where the Yankees rank in organizationl hitting environment.  The results may surprise you and may provide an explanation to why they've failed to produce quality hitting prospects in recent years.

- Bryan Van Dusen of The Greedy Pinstripes commented on the disappointing final season results for Mo and Andy. You know both guys were envisioning a final playoff run when they decided to come back.

- SG of RLYW projected the postseason odds over the final 11 games assuming different winning records.  The chances didn't look good before the end of the Toronto series.

- On Thursday, William Juliano of The Captain's Blog ran through virtually all of the potential AL East postseason tiebreaker scenarios.  Hard to see the Yanks factoring into that picture after last night.

- On Friday, Chad Jennings of LoHud had all the details on this weekend's plans for Mo.

- Harlan Spence of Pinstriped Bible broke down Brett Gardner's 2013 season to show why he might not be an ideal candidate for a contract extension.

- El duque of It Is High... started firing off questions that need to asked about next season and still haven't been answered relative to this season.

- SJK of NoMaas continued to bang the drum about the below-average bats the Yankees acquired for multiple years.  People may not like it, but it's something that needs to be revisited time and time again.  No way that plan gels with Hal's commitment to fielding a championship-caliber team.

Got some new music for this week's jam, specifically the new Red Fang track "Blood Like Cream."  New album out next month, no reason to expect it to be any less rocking than the last one was.

Enjoy your weekends, everybody.

Andy Pettitte To Retire (Again) After This Season

From the man himself:

“I’m announcing my retirement prior to the conclusion of our season because I want all of our fans to know now—while I’m still wearing this uniform—how grateful I am for their support throughout my career. I want to have the opportunity to tip my cap to them during these remaining days and thank them for making my time here with the Yankees so special.

I’ve reached the point where I know that I’ve left everything I have out there on that field. The time is right. I’ve exhausted myself, mentally and physically, and that’s exactly how I want to leave this game.

One of the things I struggled with in making this announcement now was doing anything to take away from Mariano’s day on Sunday. It is his day. He means so much to me, and has meant so much to my career that I would just hate to somehow take the attention away from him.”

It's never as big a deal the second or third time around, but it's still newsworthy that another member of the Core Four is hanging 'em up.  This one is especially newsworthy simply because Andy, like Mo, proved he can still get it done this season and the Yankees could definitely use him in next year's rotation.  Oh well, that's 40% that needs to be replaced with Kuroda still up in the air.

Mo's Final (Home)Stand

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

Tonight marks the start of the final homestand of the 2013 season for the Yankees, and with it the all but certain final 6 home games of Mariano Rivera's career.  After 573 regular season games, 653.1 innings pitched, and over 2600 batters faced inside the hallowed walls of the old Yankee Stadium and fancy schmancy walls of the new Yankee Stadium, the finish line on Mo's long and illustrious career is in sight and the first big milestone is a mere 6 days away.

It was a surreal feeling watching him run out of the bullpen a few weekends ago, and I imagine that feeling will be 10 times greater this weekend.  Mo has pitched what comes out to over 72.5 full 9-inning games at Yankee Stadium, and now he's down to his final few innings.  All the cutters, all the strikeouts, all the broken bats.  Not many more of them left to see and it still doesn't feel quite real.

There is a ton of stuff planned to celebrate Mo's career and retirement this weekend and all of it should be spectacular.  But nothing will ever equal the awesomeness of just watching Mo work.  I know I'll be parked on my couch on Sunday afternoon, hoping to get one more chance to watch him jog out to "Enter Sandman" and close out a game.  There isn't much left for the Yankees to play for this season.  Making this weekend count with some wins and sending Mo out on the highest note possible should be the top priority.

Game 153 Wrap-Up: TOR 6 NYY 2

(Deuces, Toronto.  It's been real.  Courtesy of the AP)

The whole season in a nutshell last night.  Shaky starting pitching, minimal, inconsistent offense, and a leaky bullpen late when the team needed it the most.  Hiroki Kuroda got the latest start to save the season last night and he didn't pitch any better than he has been since mid-to-late August.  His lineup didn't give him much support and the fat lady is finishing up her scales before she takes the stage.

Game Notes:

- More bad than good from the offense early.  Alfonso Soriano ran himself out of a base hit to start the top of the 2nd, then Lyle Overbay ended it with a double play.  And Todd Redmond struck out the side in the 3rd around a, go figure, Chris Stewart 2-out double.

- Hirok danced out of trouble with a bizarre rundown double play to end the 1st and escaped 2 on in the 2nd, but he wasn't sharp.  He cracked on a leadoff single and Jose Reyes triple in the bottom of the 3rd and he let that run come around to score to make it 2-0 Toronto.

- It took a while again, but the Yankees got on the board late.  With 1 out in the 6th and 2 strikes, Redmond left a sinker belt high to Curtis Granderson and the Grandyman yoked it to a right for a home run to cut the lead in half.

- The momentum of that homer was short lived.  With 2 outs in the bottom half, Hirok gave up a solo shot of his own to Anthony Gose on a slider that just didn't get down enough.  He had struck out the previous 2 batters and looked like he was heading for a quick inning.  Crushing blow.

- I'm sure he felt he had his reasons, but Joe should have never brought Joba Chamberlain into a 2-run game in the 7th.  He did, and Joba gave up a leadoff walk, a single, and a monster 3-run home run to Adam Lind to make it a 6-1 game.  Death blow.

- Fitting ending for the offense.  They loaded the bases with 1 out with the heart of order in the top of the 9th and watched that turn into only 1 run as Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay grounded out.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

F*cking Joba...

(Courtesy of the AP)

After all you've done this year to keep this team in sight of the playoffs, you put the season in Joba Chamberlain's hands?  Joba's??  Joba's.

I don't even have anything I can write that can describe how little sense that makes, Joe.  It defies explanation.  There is no explanation for it.  It was the exact opposite of what you did the night before quick hooking D-Rob and it rendered that decision meaningless.  I thought you did a hell of a job this season, you've made me a fan.  But it's going to take a while to try to figure out what that was tonight.

Fucking Joba.