Saturday, June 30, 2007

This is the ace from April 6?

Caught the first two innings of the ballgame tonight from Middleboro, which is where one of my jobs is taking me tonight. Robinson Tejeda is awful. He can't get the ball over the plate. Not that this is really a surprise. He's had control problems throughout his career, throughout the season, and throughout this game. Walks, hit batters, everything. The guy is a stiff. He's exactly the guy you want to work the count on.

The Sox did it tonight, and it paid off. He threw a lot of pitches and put a lot of guys on base.

This is a good thing, because they did the exact opposite early in the season, when Tejeda blanked them or gave up one run or something during a complete-game. It was embarrassing. The guy had a scouting report as a guy who rarely could find the plate, but they never worked the count. No plate patience. It was one of the more frustrating games I have seen all season.

I'm glad they have at least learned something in the last three months of the season.

I didn't see the innings where Beckett got lit up, but I do know he surrendered a home run to Sosa. I'm hoping for a box score, but this hotel's internet connection is pretty slow. But either way, I don't have the license to say too much. It's disappointing to see he won't get his 12th tonight.

Meanwhile, despite the Beckett underperformance, the Red Sox should be ahead in this game. It's inexcusable to only score two runs in those first two innings where Tejeda had less control than Proctor, Myers, and Farnsworth combined. They left the bases loaded twice. The only thing that makes me madder than double plays are leaving a crapload of runners on base.

Why do you think Nancy Drew pisses me off all the time?

In other thoughts...
-Timlin has to retire. The sooner, the better. Maybe he should go to the owner's box and announce it. It'd be a bigger deal than Clemens announcing his un-retirement.
-Lugo just ran for Pedroia. That's the first time he's been on base since...I don't know when. He makes Donnie Sadler look like Ty Cobb.
-Lugo just got thrown out at third base. Nice slide. Looks like first base isn't the only base he can't steal. How many losses is he going to contribute to?
-Ellsbury's major league debut was tonight. Infield hit? Nice. HYD Baseball readers know that I have mixed feelings about him. But it looks like the beginning of the end for Coco Crisp, who's the hottest hitter on the team right now. F.

I have a lot more to say--hopefully I can make a dent in it tomorrow or Monday.

Kyle Farnsworth

Kyle Farnsworth is going to make almost $6 million dollars this season. He is supposed to be the 8th inning guy. Miraculously, Torre still entrusts him with that role, but we'll get to that in a second.

For the money, for the role, for everything, Kyle Farnsworth has been terrible. He has appeared in 34 games, and has recorded only three 1-2-3 innings. He has allowed a baserunner in 31 of 34 appearances. Keep in mind his job is to primarily pitch in close games and preserve ties or leads. Tough to do that with baserunners all over the place. Further, in 31.1 innings he has given up 36 hits and 16 walks. That's 52 baserunners in 31.1 innings. Keep in mind this is the 8th inning guy. He has struck out only 21. His K:BB is 21:16, barely over 1:1. Keep in mind this is the set-up guy.

He has been awful. But tonight he took it to a whole new level. Coming in to pitch the 8th with a 2-1 lead, he actually got an out, but then gave up the requisite back-to-back singles to put the tying run in scoring position. Rivera is obviously up by now, but not yet ready. Torre lets him pitch to Swisher (Presumably only because Rivera wasn't ready. At least I hope this was the case, Swisher took Farnsworth about 450 to right in Oakland earlier this year). Farnsworth strikes him out. We'll take it, two baserunners and two outs recorded. Better than his usual ratio in this category. Rivera is now ready, and is coming in, obviosly. The Yankees need this win, the tying run is in scoring position, and Rivera is more than rested enough to come in for the 4 out save.

But Farnsworth apparently doesn't understand this, and this is where he took it to a whole new level. He actually got visibly upset about being taken out, met Torre at the bottom of the mound and handed the ball to him while in full stride back to the dugout, and muttered stuff angrily. When he gets back to the dugout, he slams his glove and is yelling.

Uhhhhhhhh, hello? A) You're being taken out for Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of all time. Even if you were good, which you're not, you shouldn't be perturbed by this. B) YOU HAVE BEEN ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE ALL YEAR. It's a miracle, and a mistake, by the way, that Torre continues to trust you with the 8th inning. Mariano has to come in to save you all the time. If you don't want to get taken out, work on those atrocious numbers mentioned above. Those numbers would be questionable for a middle reliever, let alone a set-up guy. The best 8th inning guy in baseball shouldn't be showing Torre up for lifting him for Rivera, let alone you! Get a grip buddy!

Somebody in the Yankees organization needs to wake up in regards to the bullpen. Proctor and Bruney have had their moments, but they are FAR better options than Farnsworth in the 8th. Just because he makes more money, doesn't mean he should get the more glorified role. The best pitcher should. Further, the Yankees have two guys, Chris Britton and Edwar Ramirez, lighting it up out of the pen in AAA. And Britton has been great in his two Major League stints this year in limited work. Why not give them a shot? The same goes for Sean Henn.

Somebody (earth to Brian Cashman) needs to take the 5 minutes it would take to look at the AAA stat sheet and see that the Major League bullpen is abysmal and there are guys who deserve a shot under these circumstances. Just because they get paid less doesn't mean they will produce less. Farnsworth certainly doesn't produce more just because he gets paid more. He just gives up hits and walks and hits and walks and runs and more runs and then gets angry when he gets lifted for the best closer in the history of baseball for a 4 out save with the tying run on second. Yeah Kyle, that doesn't make any sense to be either dude, not considering how good you've been, and how good you were tonight.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Yankees Season Could be Over in 10 Days

Sorry for the lack of Red Sox posting lately. DV has to work, and isn't fortunate enough to be an LSAT bum like me for a few months, although there is nothing exciting about studying for that test every day. I wish I could give something on the Sox, but I don't get the games, so there would be no original analysis. We are fortunate to have largely quality baseball minds on this site, and there is no need to insult those from Boston with commentary and observations on games I didn't see and they did. Plus, the AL East is O-V-E-R, and it isn't the Yankees winning it. That is very, very, very weird.

The Wild Card is still in the picture, albeit barely. The Yankes have 10 games coming up in 10 days against the A's, Twins, and Angels, all at home. This homestand, which takes them right to the All-Star Break, will make or break their season. Mark my words. If they go out these next 10 games and play any worse than 6-4, its nighttime. Better than 6-4 would be outstanding, but 6-4 virtually gets them to .500 (if you count tonight as a win it actually puts them at .500 on the nose). And it would be against three of the toughest teams in the American League, so it would be a big boost to play well going into the break.

The good news is the Yankees have been a different team at home this year, where they are 20-14, as oppossed to 16-25 on the road. The offense, the starters, the bullpen, everything has been drastically better at home. So you hope that continues.

The bad news is that these are very good baseball teams with very good pitching, the kind of teams the Yankees have not beaten. To make matters worse, the Angels treat the Yankees like they are a high school team, especially at the Stadium.

If the Yankees can play well for the next 10 days, the will give themselves a trying chance. After the All-Star Break they are playing 28 strait games against teams .500 or worse, so if they decide they aren't one of those teams anymore, they could get hot and make a move in the Wild Card standings.

But they have to go 6-4 or better to give themselves a chance to do that on this homestand. I'll be keeping close tabs.

One more thing. A lot of Yankees fans will complain about the Yankees not catching a break tonight with the weather. It seems like nothing is going right. I agree. But the way I look at it, its another win we can pick up later when we will feel like we need it even more. See if you can tack on a few more with 2 outs and a runner in scoring position, then no matter what, have Rivera ready for a 6 out save. Further, at least they showed a little fight with the bats tonight, and took some pressure of the pitching staff. Melk Man and Robbie, I owe both of you an apology. I am an avid supporter of the energy and enthusiasm the two of you bring every night. In my rage last night (which hasn't totally subsided, but improved) I lashed out. I'm sorry, go back to the handshakes and everything else, that's what the Yankees need. Johnny Day-To-Day and Kyle Farnsworthless, you both still suck. Really, really bad.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What do the New York Yankees Need? Me.

I can't pitch. I can't field. I can't hit (but neither can the Yankees, so perhaps I'd fit in at the plate).

But I can turn a clubhouse upside down. Anyone who has ever watched a game with me knows that. I've broken many a remote control, swiffer, broom, wiffle ball bat, lamp (To the horror of my mother, the list goes on. I know my father used to do the same thing, so he understands.) because of the Yankees. There is no reason I couldn't do it to the visitor's clubhouse in Baltimore, and I'd be more than happy to greet them in the Yankees clubhouse when they return home from a 2-7 or 1-8 roadtrip.

And I would. If you gave me 15 minutes in that joint, I would do some serious remodeling. And I'd tell Cashman, Torre, Mattingly, Guidry, Bowa, Pena, Long, the rest of the coaching staff, the trainers, the equipment managers, and any other Yankees employees that aren't on the current 25-man roster to take a walk. Why? Because I want the players and the players only. Why? Because this is all on them.

There are exactly six players who are safe. Jeter, Rivera, Posada, Pettitte, Rodriguez, and Wang. Of the 25 players on the roster, these are the six who have performed at or above what is expected of them. They understand the definitions of the words performance and accountability.

Damon, Abreu, Matsui, Cano, Cabrera, Farnsworthless, Proctor, Bruney, and Meyers, amongst others, can expect particular attention for not understanding the definitions of these words. That's over a third of the team.

It's not even about the fact that these guys are just struggling. It's not about how dramatically they are all underperforming at once. It's about the lackluster and visibly care-free way they are doing it (except for maybe Proctor, who at least appears to care that he can't throw strikes).

Damon? Nothing about your .247 avg., 36 runs scored, .333 obp, or eternal day-to-day status is funny, so every time YES pans to the dugout (where you usually are, as oppossed to in center field or leading off), stop laughing. Seriously, be a teammate and act like you care.

Abreu? You're a career .302 hitter, and in your 10 full Major League seasons you have recorded an obp under .400 exactly once, and it was .393. Right now you are at .253 and .346 respectively. New York isn't going to bite you. The right field wall isn't going to punch you. The baseball doesn't hurt if it hits you in the batters box. So stop playing so scared. And stop playing so soft. AND STOP PULLING OFF THE BALL. It's tough to watch a player of your caliber look like a deer in the headlights after over 1,500 career games.

Matsui? Here's a thought. Your not a home run hitter in America. This is your fifth season, and you've surpassed 30 homers exactly once. So forget that 40 and 50 home run in Japan swing you've been sporting all year, and become a hitter again. You were productive this way for us before, let's try it again. And how about a little emotion. Throw something.

Cano and Cabrera? Enough is enough. In case you haven't noticed, we're 3 games under .500, and nowhere near the playoff hunt. No more C and C boys, no more handshakes, no more joking about everything that happens in every situation in every freakin' game. You can start these things again when A) One of you is batting .270 or B) the Yankees are within 5 games of the Wild Card or C) one of you is batting .270. Until then, at least pretend to know that you're on a sub-.500 Major League team, and you are doing NOTHING to help the situation. These aren't good things, so stop laughing about it.

Farnsworthless? Absolutely the biggest culprit. You are amongst the worst pitchers on any level high school or above in America, but you don't care. Walks? Why not. Hits? Sure. Homers? The farther the better. Hit by pitches? As long as they don't hurt the batter to the point where you can't walk him again tomorrow! Anything that is not an out. Did someone in the Yankees organization do something to you? Because you have to try to be as bad as you are, and you wouldn't try this hard to be bad if you liked the Yankees, which you obviously don't.

Proctor, Bruney, and Meyers? Try this on for size. There is a strike zone. You throw the ball in that zone, its called a strike. Outside of that, its a ball. Strikes are better than balls. If thats too elementary, try this. All three (and your in on this too Farnsworthless) of your K/BB ratios are embarrassing, especially for relievers. Brain Cashman could lose his job for how few strikeouts and how many walks each of you gives up. How are we suppossed to win with a bullpen that not only can't strike anybody out, but can't force batters to put a bat on the ball? We know your so bad that you can't provide the biggest componenet of any successful bullpen (the strikeout), but at least make a team show you up close and personal how bad your stuff is (and all of yours stinks) by launching homers off your predictable fastballs since you have no secondary pitches (which, by the way, is embarrassing!) instead of walking the ballpark EVERY GAME. The worst part is that all of you were so good K/BB last year. Throwing strikes is about one thing, especially out of the pen with arms like yours: guts. Show guts.

This doesn't even scratch the surface. Unfortunately, I'll never get a chance to light the Yankees' world on fire. But it should have happened over a month ago, and it needs to happen now. Some players on this team don't care enough.

It's not Torre, Jeter, or Rivera's way, and I'm fine with that. They have won enough acting the way they do to continue to do so, and if they changed now it wreaks of panic. The team is tight enough as is. Posada is too fiery and he cares so much he would probably make some players feel so bad about themselves that it would have an adverse affect. Pettitte only plays once every five days, and he's gotten so little run support you don't want to seem like you are selling your teammates down the river. These are the primary canditates, and none of them are good fits for the clubhouse overhaul the Yankees need so badly right now.

So who does that leave? Alex Rodriguez. He is the best player on Earth, maybe ever. If you watched a second of his postgame interview today, you can see the anger and how much he wants to win. If he didn't before, he certainly has the respect and admiration of all the Old Guard this season, including, most importantly, Jeter. It is well documented how much the young guys on the team look up to him (Cano and Cabrera voluntarily follow his pregame workout routine with him daily). And he has been so mezmorizing to watch in every spot this year that it is impossible for anybody not to listen and be motivated if he finally tweaked and said he and Jeter and Posada need some help on offense, and that he could throw more strikes than the bullpen.

The guy makes more money this season than some others in the clubhouse will make in their careers, but yet he's the one taking extra BP 9 hours before games on the road, he's the one lifting after awful losses or 0-fer's, and he is the one standing in front of the media every night answering questions about how much the rest of you suck. Torre, Jeter, Rivera, Posada, and Pettitte will love it because it will accomplish what they can't do, and everybody else needs it because they don't care like you and the short list does. So go nuts Alex, be the vocal leader this team needs, let them know.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I'm Really Tired of this Pathetic Team

Losing is one thing. Each game one team has to lose. In the end, only one team wins the World Series anyway.

But losing like a bunch of Little Leaguers on a regular basis is a whole different thing. I'm down the Jersey shore more on the Philly end, so they have the Phillies, not the Yankees or the Mets. Therefore, while drinking with all my buddies, having a great time, I had the distinct pleasure of learning via Gamecast that Scott Proctor walked in the winning run, after walking two other batters earlier in the inning to load the bases. SCOTT PROCTOR WALKED IN THE WINNING RUN. SCOTT PROCTOR WALKED THREE IN ONE INNING IN A BIG SPOT. How can you be a Major League baseball player and be capable of this. If they are going to get a run off one hit, make them hit a home run. Don't walk the ballpark. And it isn't like this happens once in a blue moon, Myers and Bruney walked three including the go-ahead run Saturday! YES!

At some point someone has to take responsibility for the inability of this bullpen to throw strikes. Guidry, Cashman, Torre, the Minor League instructors, somebody. It's a joke.

My buddies just told me I've lost it. I'm blogging when I should be hanging out. But the reality is, I'm not blogging right now if they are winning, and I'm not even blogging if they are simply losing baseball games. But it is the incredibly EMBARASSING way that they lose that makes me need to vent. They are an ABSOLUTE JOKE.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Awful, Awful Week

Well, as quick as the Yankees were going really good is as quick as they went really bad again. 1-5 to the Rockies and Giants to limp to a 10-8 interleague record after starting 9-3. Brutal. I didn't even know what team I was watching this week.

They are now 36-37, a game under .500 once again. They simply cannot get any separation from .500 baseball, which as I continue to say, is the most important thing for putting together a playoff push.

The '07 season is starting to have an uncanny resemblance with '05, and this is not a good thing. They open up a 3 game set in Baltimore tomorrow, and if they take 2 of 3, they will be 38-38 after 76 games. Exact same record that they were at after 76 games in '05. I won't go into again, but all Yankees fans know what kind of second half that was, hanging on the edge of your seat every night, having to watch the Yankees go 58-28 the rest of the way to win 96 games and the AL East on the second to last day of the season. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, a repeat of this performance is highly unlikely.

I have been looking at a lot of SABR stuff lately, especially at the Replacement Level Yankees Weblog, about projections for the rest of the season. None of the equations (I look at four) are exact predictors, because you obviously have to play the games. But in following them for three seasons now, they are usually in the ballpark for most teams barring unforseen circumstances (injuries, major under/over performance, etc.) Its at least worth looking at.

What the equations show for the Yankees are both good and bad. The bad is what we already know, which is how grim it looks to catch the Red Sox in the AL East. Every equation has the Red Sox cruising to about 102 wins on average, a number the Yankees certainly will not be reaching. But you don't need projections to help you figure this out. The Sox have a 11.5 game lead on June 25. No matter what teams you are talking about, it takes a special effort or a big collapse or something of that nature to make up the ground.

The good news is something that isn't so obvious. The Yankees are projected to win about 93 games on average. The same goes for the Indians, while the Tigers are only projected to win 90 games on average. So based on the equations, the Yankees win the Wild Card.

This might sound slightly outrageous considering where these teams are now, but if you look at a few different factors, you could see how this could happen. Let's take a look.

1. Schedule - The Tigers and Indians are in a tougher spot, because they have a lot of games left against each other, as well as the Twins. They also have tougher out of division schedules than the Yankees. The Yankees have a lot games left against Toronto, Tampa Bay, and Baltimore, and have gotten 12 against the Sox out of the way. The Yankees will have to take advantage, obviously, but while the Central beats up on each other, they will have an opportunity.

2. Health - The Yankees have had a lot of trouble thus far this year. Even if the Tigers and Indians stay healthy, the chances of the Yankees relying as heavily on AAA starters in the second-half as they did in the first are beyond slim. But most importantly, Phil Hughes is expected back sometime after the All-Star break. Simply put, he could be a huge difference maker over the final 60-70 games, the equivalent of a big trade pick-up at the deadline. His individual projections are out of this world, and the projections take this into account.

3. Performance - The Yankees have underperformed thus far this season. They have scored 398 runs and allowed 336. Obviously, outscoring opponents by 60 should not equate to a game under .500. It's a statistical anomoly. Personally, I don't have time for statistical anomolies. I'm about winning baseball games in reality, not on paper. However, it is at least encouraging that the Indians and Tigers have performed how they should, and it is unlikely that the Yankees could underperform on this level for an entire season, and if they do, there is nothing you can do.

The Yankees still have a lot of problems. When they traded away Gary Sheffield's production, they didn't plan on getting nothing from Damon and nothing from Giambi for half a season and counting. I agreed with the Sheffield trade then, but now it is a little tougher to take with Damon and Giambi being non-existent. Last year Damon and Giambi were monster run-producers, and this year they literally are doing nothing. If they were producing anywhere near last year's levels, offense would not be an issue, and the Yankees would be a lot better than they are. But they aren't, the offense is an issue (it really is incredible to write that), and they are a game under .500. The Yankees need a power bat to help A-Rod out. They still have a lot of great hitters, but not nearly enough pop.

Sorry for the length here, but what it all comes down to is simple. The AL East is all but gone. The Wild Card is there, and what the Yankees need to rely on is feasting on an easier schedule while the Central beats up on each other. But most of all, they have to start playing better baseball, and get production from the guys they were expecting productiong from (sometime soon Johnny).

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Am I a Psychic?

The GM, April 2, 2007, from "American League Predictions (DV):"

I can't wait for the Mark Buehrle trade talk once Chicago falls out of the race. You heard it here first: Jacoby Ellsbury will finish the 2007 season in a Sox uniform: a White Sox uniform, and I will want to kill myself.

Joe Cowley, June 24, 2007, from "Buehrle to Boston: Chicago Sun-Times:"

"The Atlanta Braves and New York Mets were the leading contenders until this weekend, with the Boston Red Sox now becoming the front-runner."

"Starting pitchers Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden are on the White Sox' radar, as well as speedy outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and shortstop Jed Lowrie."

The GM, April 18, 2007, from "The Price Goes Up:"

"But now that the no-hitter has happened, you gotta think Buehrle's value has skyrocketed a bit. Who are they gonna trade in that desperation move to 1) keep him from the Yankees and 2) try to win another wild card before being shelled in the first round again? Bard? Hansen? Buchholz? Delcarmen? Only time will tell."

Cowley:

"According to the source, the Red Sox not only want to keep Buehrle away from the New York Yankees and are willing to offer him a contract extension in the five-year range he is seeking, but they have a farm system loaded with players in whom the White Sox are interested."

If you have been a loyal How Youz Doin Baseball reader, you knew this rumor over two months before it was even thought about. You also know how many problems I have with it. I don't want to make this post too long, so I will save those for a later day.

For now, I'm just going to revel in my own brilliance for a little while. Goodnight, baseball fans.

An Intriguing Matchup

Beckett vs. Peavy today was pretty awesome. As an East Coast Biased guy, I haven't been able to see much of Peavy, but I'd say he was very good today. Not great, obviously, because he did get knocked around and threw way too many pitches early on in the game, but I can see why he's one of the most unhittable guys in the NL.

He definitely throws a lot of good pitches. My brother commented on how his slider was not as sharp as usual. I was still reasonably impressed by it. Coco Crisp's hit was off of a really good pitch, and nobody was really whacking him really hard. He gave up three runs in five innings, but all of those runs were on singles, none of which were really rocketed at all. Only one of the nine hits he surrendered was for extra bases.

He missed spots, and got hit around. Only three strikeouts, which is a far cry from the several double-digit K games all season.

Meanwhile, Beckett put together another Josh Beckett 2007 performance. Another test passed after the "avulsion" debacle. It's fun to watch him pitch, because his stuff is so good. He's also become braver than he has ever been, as he threw a key 3-2 breaking ball way, way out of the strike zone. Of course, the Padres hitter chased it, and it was another one of his eight K's.

It's nice to see the Red Sox continue to beat up on the NL, especially against the best pitching staff in the NL in the Padres. Chris Young was unhittable last night (obviously--he broke Coco Crisp's hitting streak), and he did most of it by throwing absolute smoke.

I have a lot more to say, mostly off-the-field stuff, but it'll have to wait until later on, possibly tomorrow. I hope you can find some time in your night to read all three of my posts this afternoon.

Meanwhile, on BDD...

They're still finding fault.

Coco Crisp isn't talking to the media. He has a very good reason to not talk to the media. They treat him like crap. They only talk to him about his struggles, and they bash him because he's the guy after Johnny Damon.

Who, by the way, is awful. Hitting .248 in the second year of his contract is EXACTLY what the Red Sox were thinking when they decided to let that idiot leave. Put him on the DL already. Better yet, give him the Barbaro treatment.

After hitting .484 in his last ten days, Crisp is still not talking. Nor should he. Therefore, Boston media's not writing about his stellar performance. And good for him. I'm glad he's not talking. He should be making the Boston sportswriters' jobs harder by being a dick, because that's what they did for him. I honestly don't remember the papers and talk shows giving anyone a harder time than Coco Crisp. Ted Williams always talked about his troubles with the "knights of the keyboard," but let's face it. He hit .344 over his career. And the papers only came out once a day back then. In the age of blogs and online articles, I bet Coco's got it much worse. If they only want to mess with Coco when he sucks, he shouldn't do any kind of favor when he finally does get hot.

So what does Boston Dirt Dogs do? This. The guy tripled his home run total in one night and he's still being compared unfavorably to Johnny Damon. The same Johnny Damon who did the most egregious thing ever--sign with the Yankees after saying he never would. The same Johnny Damon who wouldn't stop playing violin music and telling people about his "Boston disrespected me" sob story, constantly reiterating that he deserved $11.5 million a year.

What's he doing now? Hitting .248. He has 14 extra base hits. He's so futile as an outfielder given his body's constant problems (didn't the Sox say his health was declining?) that they moved him to designated...out-er (a PF term). He's too injured to play everyday. He's playing like he's fifty. Bernie Williams would have done a better job.

However, Boston Dirt Dogs and the Boston media don't want to talk about that. They want to continue to run Coco Crisp out of town, despite the fact that he might win AL Player of the Week. They want to continue to hold the Johnny Damon Come Home candlelight vigil. Almost every single one of them is guilty of perpetuing this absurd notion that Coco Crisp is supposed to fill Johnny Damon's shoes. Go for it, media. Find fault in Coco Crisp's unanswered questions.

You hacks deserve every one of them.

I should pace myself, but...

I have a few hours to kill today, and I have a lot of things to write about for the last week in baseball, especially Red Sox baseball. I have to start with the hottest hitter in baseball right now.

That would be one Coco Crisp. It's been well-documented on this blog that I've become the #1 fan in the Coco Crisp fan club ever since Lent started and I gave up bashing him. I've written about how hard it's been lately to be a Coco fan, where some games it seems like he's snapped out of it, but then other games, he just goes back to being Coc-0for.

This week is the point where it hasn't been any better.

This week, Coco quadrupled his number of home runs for the season. He went on an absolute tear, going on an eight-game hitting streak. His chances for 57 were vaporized as he failed to get a hit last night, but he had another single and run scored so far today. Sweet, just like his newly-revamped swing with a much shorter stride. His swing looks a lot smoother and though he's never going to hit for much power, he's hitting the ball much more solidly. He just lined out as I write this, but he hit it hard. He's also hitting the ball through the hole between third and short again, which is what he needs to do. As far as I'm concerned, the home runs are just a bonus. But this new swing seems a lot stronger, so a Coco home run might be more common that it has been. He hit 15 and 16 respectively in his last two seasons with Cleveland. I don't think matching that figure is out of the question by any stretch of the imagination.

He's raised his batting average from a Lugo-esque .221 to a respectable .254. JD's Replacement (see next post) is now hitting higher than JD Drew AND JD Damon. Nancy has come alive a bit lately. Lugo, whose average was only nine points lower than Crisp's on June 14, has gone 1-25 since, and is now 58 points lower.

Of the "Theo's Trio" of underachievers, only one has woken up. And I can't be happier about it.

Friday, June 22, 2007

$1 Million a start not to be a stopper

Yesterday's game is why the Yankees brought Roger Clemens back. Big game stopper. Not to beat Pittsburgh on a Saturday when the bats are flying. Not to pitch well and get a hard luck loss against the Mets. He is here to take the mound on the road against a hot (and apparently good) team to prevent the sweep. Clemens pitches well, you get out of there 1-2 with as hot as the Yankees have been over the last 20, and you feel good.

I don't know what you call Clemens' performance, but it wasn't "big game stopper" or "showing up big". 4.1 innings, 4 runs, 7 hits, 6 strikeouts, 1 walk on 90 pitches is exactly what the Yankees didn't need. It wasn't even that the performance was that awful. It wasn't good, but it wasn't awful. But it didn't amount to why he is here, which is to pick the Yankees up in these sorts of scenarios over the final 3 months. It was his worst start by far, but also the only one that has counted. 0-1.

I'll be the first to admit I am glad Clemens is here, and I've been happy with his performance, and think he will continue to improve. I think yesterday was a bad game. But it was a bad game at a bad time, and the Yankees have no time for that from him.

This is about as frustrated as I have been with the Yankees this year. I know it isn't as bad as three weeks ago, but they had a chance to put .500 in the rear view mirror and they didn't. Never mind catching Boston, Detroit, Cleveland, or whoever. The first thing a baseball team in the AL that wants to be competitive has to do is put .500 behind them, because making the playoffs is going to take well over .500 baseball. You have to get to 8 over, 10 over, 12 over, then think about firing towards the teams ahead of you.

They were on that road Sunday night when they knocked the Mets around. Three games later they are in a much, much worse position. They didn't hit, they didn't run, they didn't pitch, and they didn't do the little things like throw baserunners out (teams have been running all over the Yankees on the bases of late). But most of all, after Mussina had a tough luck loss and Pettitte had the bad game that he is entitled to once every 15 starts, Clemens didn't show up. And that leaves me very frustrated.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Get me out of Colorado, Get me out of NL Parks

One thing I did not know heading into this season is that Colorado has a pretty good club this year. After seeing the scores from their trip to Boston last week, and watching the first two games of this series in Colorado, I don't want any part of them in their park under NL rules.

Matt Holliday is about as good an overall hitter as you are going to find. Tavarez, Matsui, and Helton are all batting above .315. It is a nice offense, especially for the NL style.

The pitching is good as well. They don't have any lockdown starters, but the bullpen certainly is. And the starters are putting up good numbers. I haven't seen any overwhelming stuff, but they stay within their limitations, keep the ball on the edges of the zone, and don't back down. The last part is the most important, and I don't know if it is an organizational thing or a Colorado pitching coach thing, but they will throw any pitch in any count, even to the best hitters in a given lineup. I have no idea if it works this well against everybody, but the Yankees can't figure it out. It's not even pitching backwards, its pitching totally unpredictably, and with enough command of the strike zone to have it work.

Pettitte had his worst outing of the season tonight. 9 hits and 6 earned over 6.2. He had a 2 hit shutout going through 5. But after the Yankees took a 1-0 lead top 6, he gave two right back on a two out 2-run homer from Holliday. Then with two outs in the 7th, he gave up 3 more, before being lifted for Vizcaino, who allowed the inherited runner to score, again with 2 outs. Six runs on FOUR 2-out hits really hurts.

Of the three RBI hits Pettitte gave up, the single and the triple were on cutters down and in, and the home run was on a fastball down and in, all too righties. Maybe this is just a case of getting beat, and Pettitte certainly deserves to be cut a break considering how brilliant he has been, but I thought it was all poor pitch selection. It was too much down and in to righties all night, and even though he had success, the third and fourth times through the lineup they got him on it. He should have been going away more, especially off-speed, and make them go the other way to the big part of the park. Very frustrating to watch.

Terribble job by Torre not lifting Pettitte after the 6th. He had only given up 2 runs but was clearly getting hit. Down 3-1 after a few more hits in the 7th Joe still stuck with him, and after another batter it was 5-1. It looked like Torre was caught up on not double-switching, and trying to just get Pettitte through the inning so he could simply pinch-hit. Bad idea and he got burned bad. Once Pettitte started getting hit, get him out, worry about the rest of the game later.

Boston won its 5th in 6 tries. Tavarez went 7 shutout. Unbelievable. F. They are really starting to hit again. And don't look now DV, but here come Coco and Nancy. I know you're happy about one and not the other. Something you are definitely happy about, however, is that Julio Lugo is at most two more consecutive unsuccessful ABs away from dropping his average below the Mendoza line (.200). Forget Nancy, forget Damon, forget Pavano, this could be the most incredible $36 million ever spent.

Bad news on Schilling. I know they say that nothing is structurally wrong, and I believe that. But that velocity was scary on Tuesday. Even when the Yankees had hit him three different times earlier this season, his velocity was there. To have a sudden drop off like this is never a good sign, because like I said yesterday, the Red Sox don't just need him to stay off the DL for any sort of extended period, but they need him to pitch and pitch effectively, injured or not. I don't think you want to be staring at a rotation of Beckett, Matsuzaka, Wakefield, Tavarez, and Lester for the final three months.

These last four games of interleague play are big for the Yankees. You don't want to get swept tomorrow, and you don't want to lose back to back series to start the roadtrip when you move onto San Fran. They have to be thinking 3-1, don't lose any games on .500, get out of the NL Parks with NL rules and back to the AL where they are comfortable and built to succeed.

Chien-Ming Wang and Josh Beckett as Aces

New York and Boston came into this year with two 26-year old pitchers who they considered aces, or at least viewed as having ace potential. Many were skeptical, or flat out disagreed, and for varying reasons because they are very different pitchers.

For Beckett it is very simple. It's all about health. Not just staying off the DL, either. He has to be blister free when he pitches too, because he needs his curve. When he pitches without it, he's too reliant on his fastball, and the results are disastrous. When he pitches with it his plus fastball/curve combination with a quality change mixed in is the stuff of an ace, and he has shown that in a big way to this point in '07. But aces put full seasons together, so we will have to wait and see on Beckett. But when he is healthy, he is an ace.

For Wang the questions are all about the peripherals. The end results have consistently been there since his debut in 2005, as in 61 career starts he is now 34-15 with a 3.69, essentially averaging 17 wins over his first two full season load. Impressive to say the least. But skeptics, especially SABR nuts, like to call him a statistical fluke. Yes he gets groundballs, but he gives up too many hits and doesn't strike enough guys out. As DV mentioned in a recent post, statheads believe this is leaving far too much up to luck for a pitcher to be an ace.

After reading Moneyball a few years ago I became very interested in all things SABR. While I still like it and use it, I don't think you can rely totally upon it as much as I used to. In baseball I think you have to mix what you see and what the stats say, not just one or the other. And Wang has gone a long way to showing me this.

Sabermetrics would tell you that Wang is going to slow down for the reasons I mentioned earlier. But when you watch AND look at the numbers, you see that this isn't likely to happen. Yes, Wang gets groundballs and therefore gives up hits. But the difference between Wang and many other groundball pitchers is twofold. 1) He doesn't walk anybody (only 1 BB every 4.1 innings). 2) He doesn't give up the longball (only 1 every 16.2 innings). So when Wang gives up a hit, there is usually nobody on, because he doesn't walk anybody. And when he gives up a hit, more often than not the next guy is hitting a groundball too, because he isn't hitting a home run. It's groundball after groundball after groundball after double play. Its not easy for offenses to score runs this way, even with the occasional extra-base hit. And even in this category the word occasional is appropriate, because Wang is allowing only one double/triple per 5 innings pitched.

So in the Pitching Success = SO + (BB+HBP) + HR equation, Wang has everything but strikeouts under control on a high level. He doesn't walk anybody and really limits extra base hits, forcing teams to string a lot of singles together to score off of him. Of the 420 hits Wang has allowed in his 412.2 career innings, only 106 have been for extra-bases. That means 314 have been singles. This is an absolutely incredible feat. It is simply difficult to score off of a pitcher like this.

Will this continue? I say yes, and this is where I deviate from statistics and mix what I see. Wang is special in that he is perhaps the only pitcher in baseball who has a true sinker (not a 2-seamer that tails or has a little sink) that can go as high as 95-97 mph. Most sinkerballers are in the high 80s or low 90s, and the pitcher with the best sinker after Wang, Brandon Webb, tops out at 93. Wang works consistently at 93, and when he is feeling it, he can do what he did to Jose Reyes on Sunday night and throw back-to-back 96 and 97 mph turbo sinkers to strike him out.

Hitters have equated it to hitting a bowling ball, and have talked about blindly swinging under the ball to hit it, because if they don't they will either miss comletely or barely top it. A sinker with this much movement, velocity, and location allows Wang to not only get groundballs consistently, but get quality ones too. It is so difficult for hitters to get good wood on Wang's sinker that many are hit weakly, making them more fieldable, and therefore creating more outs. Weak groundballs vs. hard groundballs doesn't show up in the box score, but Wang gets a lot more weak ones than hard hit ones.

And all of this is before we consider that Wang has a slider and change that are good enough to turn him into a reasonable strikeout pitcher, which he has shown flashes of lately.

So is Beckett an ace? If he is healthy. Is Wang an ace? All day everyday if you look at the numbers AND watch him pitch.

Quick Hits

As everybody knows Curt Schilling was sent back to Boston for an MRI on his pitching shoulder. I caught his start last night, and he looked about as bad as the numbers showed. I saw two different reports today, one that had him clocked at zero 90 mph pitches out of his 81, and another at only one. Injured or not, this is not a good sign. His split was still getting decent late movement, but when the split is running 82 and the fastball 87, that isn't enough differentation for it to be effective. Schilling doesn't have a big air splitter like a Clemens, Contreras, or Papelbon. He has a sharp late drop, and he really relies on his strait fastball to set it up. Even if he isn't injured, Boston needs him to be an effective part of the rotation, and he has been awful in 3 of his last 4 starts.

Beckett cruised to his 10th win tonight. That ties him with Santana and Wang for the most wins in the majors since the beginning of '06. At 10-1 with a 3.14, Beckett has certainly proved myself, DV, and the other naysayers wrong thus far this season. There have been instances when it looked like it might be back to the same old Beckett (the "avulsion" trip to the DL and a few shaky starts where he wiggled), but he has been able to minimize any and all damage, which is to his credit. There is still half a season left though, and I am holding onto "Beckett can't pitch 200 innings and be effective", and one or the other has to go.

Josh Phelps is out and Andy Phillips is in. Seriously, its about time. Phelps can't field and is all or nothing at the plate. At least Phillips can field and can do a few different things for you on offense. A lot of talk in the New York media recently about a potential move for a first baseman. I hope there is no truth to it. Miguel Cairo is the type of player you need in a stacked lineup. Scrappy on offense, great situational hitter, plays tremendous defense, steals bases, etc. The Yankees don't need another power bat. It is no coincidence they have started winning with guys like Melky and Cairo in the lineup. Baseball is about balance.

Lifeless effort from the Yankees tonight in Colorado. No energy whatsoever until the 8th inning when it was too late. Mussina was okay, good enough to win. I like that the fastball and strikeout numbers are back, always a good sign. However, I have no idea why he is attacking the #8 hitter in the lineup down a run bottom 6 in an NL park. Josh Fogg is (inexplicably) 4 hitting the Yankees and allowing only 1 run through 6. I don't care how bad you think you can get Torrealba out, put him on and at least force the Rockies' managers hand weather to pinch hit or not. If he does, at least you got the starter who is (inexplicably) shutting you down out, and you get into the bullpen. And if he doesn't, then get the pitcher out and you are still only down a run with 3 innings left. But Mussina grooved a 2-seamer to Torrealba, he crushes it, and now its 3-1 and Fogg gets to keep (inexplicably) retiring Yankees batters for another inning. Probably the stupidest move I have seen from a strategical pitching standpoint this season. F.

Yankees lose a game on both Boston and Detroit. Bats need to show up tomorrow so this road trip doesn't get started off poorly after the 8-1 homestand. Cancelling that 8-1 in too big a way is not what the Yankees need right now, and tonight was not a good start. The Yankees need to make this loss nothing more than the Friday loss to the Mets last week, where the bats were also asleep, but were very much present for the rest of the series.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Weekend

I was out for a lot of the weekend and caught none of the Sox, but I was following the scores closely. Safe to say they smacked the Giants, but when good American League teams are playing any National League team, what else is new? Against the NL the Yankees and Angels are 9-3, the Red Sox, Tigers, and A's are 8-4, and the Twins are 7-5. Even the Royals are 8-4. The only AL team with a winning record on the season and a losing record thus far in interleague play is the Mariners, who are 5-7. Its incredible the disparity between the two leagues.

Zito got spanked Friday. Even though its the Red Sox, this kind of makes me happy, because as many on this blog know I am not a Barry Zito fan. Nothing against him personally or anything, I just don't think he's that good, especially against good lineups. Outside of two great seasons his numbers are pedestrian, and his peripherals have been consistently questionable his entire career. He was the perfect thing to help a struggling Sox offense bust out.

Another point from that same game. Can Sox fans be anything but happy with what Julian Tavarez has given them out of the 5 spot this year. He's had as many good outings as bad, and when he's good he seems to be really good, like Friday. He has a .500 record and an ERA just under 5.00. I don't think many of us saw this coming, and has to be somewhat of a pleasant surprise for Boston.

Looks and sounds like Matsuzaka was nearly untouchable Saturday. The walks are still somewhat of an issue, but he strikes enough guys out to make up for it. I look for him to continue to progress into the summer.

Slugged their way to a victory Sunday to complete the sweep. Its a credit to the Sox that with the Yankees being this hot (14-3 in their last 17), that the Yankees are still 8.5 back. 8.5 isn't 14.5, but 14-3 is the kind of run that could have gotten them even closer. But the sox went 8-9 in what has been their worst stretch of the season, and somewhat held them off. These 20 or so games until the All-Star game are big for this divisional race.

Yanks took 2 of 3 of the Mets. Clemens went a long way to dispelling any notions that he can't face good lineups. I know the Mets are struggling, but they didn't have a problem hitting Tyler Clippard Saturday. Clemens was great allowing only 2 runs in 6.1 innings, and the 8 strikeouts is the stat you can look to even more if you are a Yankees fan looking to see how good Clemens still is and is going to be. The Yankees still lost the game, and they really struggle against hard throwing lefties (which is a problem), but Clemens pitching well is a big positive to take away.

Clippard (who has been sent down, a hopefully new and improved Igawa gets his place in the rotation starting Friday) put the Yanks in a hole early, and did so two more times. They showed good fight slugging their way to a win off Glavine and the Mets pen, because like I said losing 2 of 3 to the Mets would have been a deflator. Clippard really surprised me in his last two starts, pitching as poorly as he did. I'm still a fan of his stuff, he just isn't ready location wise. You can't walk Jose Reyes twice in his first two ABs and be successful.

Then you have my boy Chien-Ming Wang. As a serious question, how many starters in baseball would you rather have then him? Not many in my book. He catches a lot of unwarranted skepticism because he doesn't get a lot of strikeouts, people saying he isn't an ace because of this fact. 1) I didn't know strikeouts mattered more than the scoreboard, which Wang almost always has in his favor. 2) His slider and change are reaching levels where he is capable of sitting down a lot of batters on strikes, like he did to 10 Mets last night. If he starts striking guys out at half that pace with his grounball inducing ability, its a scary thought for opponents. He recorded 26 outs last night, 13 on groundballs, 10 on strikeouts, and only 3 (three) in the air. He went 8.2 innings of 2 run ball last night, improving his record to 7-4 with a 3.33. But after coming off the DL to start the season he went 1-3 with 5.40 over his first starts. Since he is 6-1 with a 2.26. He's an ace, no two ways about it.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Don't worry, Patriots fans!

A Super Bowl is going to be inevitable in each of the next five years for the Patriots, because they're going to acquire a franchise player who plays at a very high level exactly once a week.

That would be J.D. "Nancy" Drew, currently a member of the Boston Red Sox.

It's okay that Nancy hasn't really accomplished anything in the game of football to warrant anyone thinking he's a franchise player, but that's okay. He hasn't really accomplished anything during his baseball career that has warranted people to think he deserves 5 years and $70 million, but he got that anyway.

I figure Drew is a terrific athlete, and the Patriots only play once a week, so they're a perfect match, because Drew only plays once a week, too.

Last Friday night, Drew had two home runs and seven RBIs. And last night, Drew had three hits. Let's break down his stats since June 4:

Friday night: 6/9 (.667), 5 R, 2 doubles, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 1K
Sat-Thurs: 5/24 (.208), 2 R, 0 extra-base hits, 1 RBI, 7K

Not coincidentally, the Red Sox are 2-6 on non-Friday nights in that span, and they are 2-0 on Friday nights. If Drew hits, the Red Sox win. If Drew doesn't hit, the Red Sox lose. And for $14 million, that first instance has to happen a lot more often.

It's well-established that Nancy only shows up to work once a week. It's also well-established that the Pats have done quite well with guys named Drew in recent history. All the Patriots need to do is change their games to Friday night. Well, that, and restructure his ridiculous contract. They do that and they're golden until the first time he gets hurt.

Friday, June 15, 2007

"Good pitches don't get hit"

I wrote two weeks ago that Josh Beckett passed a big test by effectively throwing an array of breaking balls his first start back from his stint on the DL with an avulsion (not a blister) on his finger. In previous years, I wrote, he started pitching poorly after his first bout with finger problems. Many have postulated that he has started using fewer breaking balls in order to not aggravate the blemish on his right middle finger and cause further blisters/cuts/avulsions/problems.

Last night's game was bad. Not awful, but bad. Beckett got smacked around pretty well, especially with the fastball that Garret Atkins drilled into the Monster Seats. He was hit reasonably hard all game, and he was falling behind on many counts, including the count to Atkins. The one walk he gave up (right before the grand slam) is misleading: a more accurate representation was his high pitch count (100) through five innings.

Amalie Benjamin of the Globe wrote a terrific article about Beckett last night, chronicling his lack of control and how the balls he was missing with were breaking pitches. Therefore, he had to revert to a fastball that he knows he can get over the plate with consistency against, as Benjamin says, a "Rockies lineup full of good fastball hitters." Usually not a good combination.

I do acknowledge that if it were any other pitcher in any other situation, this is not that big of a story. It's the story of a guy who just didn't have it one night.

But this is Josh Beckett, previously unhittable, but after his first run-in with the blister problem. Is this the point where he reverts to the 2006 version? If so, that's going to be bad news for the Red Sox.

Beckett said that "good pitches don't get hit." Good pitches, for him, also may lead to injury. But as John said in the comments from that "big test" post, what the Red Sox need from him is good pitches. Rob Neyer said it best: he can't pitch effectively and still pitch 200 innings. The Red Sox need "good pitches" from him, even if it means an occasional stint on the DL. I'm not saying this is the return of 2006 Beckett, but it's reason to get a bit uneasy.

Donnie Sadler: Better Than Lugo?

Big news in Boston Tuesday, as the embattled shortstop Julio Lugo was dropped to ninth in the order, where Dustin "BEnch him four Cora!!!11" Pedroia was moved into the leadoff spot. About time.

As of Tuesday, when I started writing this article, Lugo's slugging percentage is two points lower than Pedroia's batting average. Think about that for a minute. His average is 103 points lower and his OBP is 125 points lower. As a leadoff hitter, you're supposed to be patient at the plate, but Lugo has only walked two more times in almost 100 more plate appearances.

As a result of not having two good games in the last two months like Nancy Drew did last weekend, Lugo is the current lightning rod for the Red Sox. The $36 million contract doesn't help.

Lots of people have compared the Lugo disaster to the disaster two years ago with Edgar Renteria. Let's look at Renteria's stats through June 14, 2005: .270 avg, .318 OBP, 5 HR, 22 RBI, .392 SLG, 32 K. The part about Renteria that infuriated me (other than the putting Hanley Ramirez out of a job for four years part) was his double plays: he grounded into 12 DPs thus far in that season.

Though the speedy Lugo has only managed to hit in half of the DPs that Renteria hit into through June 14, through Wednesday here were his stats in the same categories: .211 avg, .270 OBP, 4 HR, 34 RBI (largely because of guys getting on base so he can ground out them in), .317 SLG, 34 K.

Boston's former leadoff hitter gets out 73% of the time. All in all, those numbers are worlds and worlds worse than the Edgar Renteria disaster of 2005. He is only slightly better than Renteria in the field, too. And their high price tags are almost identical (Lugo 4/36, Renteria 4/40).

Lugo has become an absolute lightning rod lately, with Kevin Hench and Eric Wilbur becoming the two most recent outspoken player haters (or at least the two who have been profiled on Dirt Dogs, which is obviously a huge staple for me despite its "Where's Johnny Damon" vigil that is about to enter its nineteenth month). Between the two of them, they have pretty much covered everything.

"It's just a slump," some guys, including some of my Nashua Pride colleagues, say. This "slump" is now a good ten and a half months long. Maybe Lugo should do something differently. Just a thought. Because what's happening is not working. When you are hitting .214 in your last 392 at-bats, there's a big, big, big problem. Lugo came to Boston advertised as a guy with a little bit of pop in his bat. I didn't know that the "pop" was actually short for pop fly. He has 23 extra base hits since July 31, 2006. Rico Petrocelli might have more extra base hits in that time span. Former "offensive liability" Alex Gonzalez sure does.

"He sucked last year with the Dodgers because he wasn't getting consistent playing time and he had to play a bunch of different positions." Okay. What's his excuse this year?

I bashed Lugo before the season on this blog, and my boy Boland ripped me right back, asking me what my deal was. I cited Lugo's utter futility after he was traded in July from Tampa to the Dodgers, and Matt asked how he did with the D-Rays before. He said that I should be the first to shut up, as over the course of a baseball season, everything evens itself out. Lugo still had 12 HRS and a .278 average in 2006. He had a good point.

But now it's been almost a full calendar year that he's been hitting below .215. It's about that time that everything evens out, and it seems like everything may be evening out to a much, much lower level than anyone thought, including Theo Epstein and even including me. And I'm the guy who said that the Red Sox paid $36 million for a borderline major leaguer.

Let's put it this way. Donnie Sadler had better big-league numbers in his 3-year Red Sox career than Julio Lugo. And Donnie Sadler spent most of his time in Pawtucket.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Ebbs and Flows of the AL East

The Yanks won their 9th strait, the Sox continue to be in a mini-slide, and Detroit lost. That puts the Yanks 3 back of Detroit and 7 back of Boston in the loss column.

It is too early for this to really matter, because baseball has so many ebbs and flows. The Sox started the season blistering, and now the Yankees are the ones stringing a lot of wins together. It all evens itself out. But it appears the Yankees will be participating in this baseball season, and I love it.

Andy Pettitte continues to be out of his mind. He has gone 7 innings or more in 7 of his last 8 starts, his one miss being when he was dominant through 4 against the Sox and suffered back spasms in the 5th. He seems incredibly comfortable being back in the AL and pitching in Yankee Stadium in particular. As many postulated, he really developed into a new pitcher to be effective in anti-lefty Minute Maid Park, and being able to mix the new and the old styles at lefty friendly Yankee Stadium has been a recipe for success. But it goes even further than that, because he is pitching well everywhere and everytime out. He seems truly enthused to be back with the Yankees, looks relaxed and on a mission at the same time, and has a real feel for all of his pitches, each of them being effective almost every start. Its all working for him right now.

The Yankees continue to hit. Everybody. I really hope it continues.

I mentioned yesterday morning that with Schilling and Beckett going against the poor Rockies offense (21st in the majors in runs) the Sox could be lookig at a sweep. They both got lit and the Sox lost both. I hope DV and the Boston boys are able to fill us in here.

Pretty big weekend for both teams, but much bigger for the Yankees. Its only big for Boston because they have lost 3 of their last 4 series, and have their bottom 3 in the rotation going against three pretty good pitchers in Zito, Cain, and Morris. They are just looking to get back on track, but at the end of the day are still 17 games over .500 and have a 7.5 game lead in the division after a bad stretch.

The Yankees, on the other hand, are going to be playing a very good baseball team that is really struggling and bound to explode at any moment in a more-charged-than-usual environment. It will be a big test for the Yankees to play a team of this caliber now that they are back in business, and see if they can take 2 of 3 at home. If they lose 2 of 3, with Clemens and Wang going in two of the games, it will be a big deflator. Not the end of the world and not neccessarily the end of this winning streak, but a deflator.

I will be there with a bunch of my boys tomorrow for Clemens, including big Mets fan and regular reader/poster The Big Ticket. It is Clemens' second start, and he will be all juiced up for them, and they will be so for him. The Mets don't like Clemens because of the Piazza thing(s). Tomorrow is a big spot and a big test for Clemens. Atmosphere will be unreal. Go Yankees.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Here they come?

Yankees win. Red Sox lose. 8 1/2. In 13 days, the Red Sox lead has gone from 14 1/2 games to 8 1/2, one game shy of being cut in half from its max. 6 games in 13 days shows you how quick things can change in baseball. There is still a long way to go, and you are never as good as you look when you are going good, and you are never as bad as you look when you are going bad. The Sox still have a substantial cushion, but with 99 games left, the AL East is very much on the table again.

Only saw the highlights, but it looks like Schilling continues to be inconsistent. Gets roughed up by the Yanks, almost goes no-no on the A's, then gets knocked around by the Rockies. Hopefully DV or one of the Boston boys can give a recap of what happened in the game tonight, and where Schilling went bad.

Yankees' starters are taking great turns right now, with another beauty from Mussina tonight. 7.2 innings/6 hits/2 ER/7 SO/0 BB. Bigtime line. Out of nowhere his fastball reappeared for him. His 2-seam was consistently 87-88 with a lot of late life, as oppossed to the 84-86 it had been for much of the season. He even got a few strikeouts on it. I don't know if this was an abberation, but if he gets his velocity back to 88 consistently, he can be as good as he was the last two seasons. In addition to the live fastball, he had everything going tonight, and the extra zip on the fastball certainly contributed to this. Change, split, knuckle curve, it was all there, and the season-high 7 punchouts are evidence. When his fastball is 88, everything else is that much more deceptive, and this deception that he relies on has been missing for much of the season but was back tonight. Location was impeccable, no walks. Vintage Mussina. Hopefully with the warm weather he is going to heat up, and this is a sign of more good starts to come.

Abreu, A-Rod, and everybody 1-9 are attacking and raking top to bottom. Big games for both teams tomorrow, as the Yanks go for their second strait sweep and the Sox look to win another series.

Rivalry Tidbits

Yankees won again last night, 7 in a row. But so did the Sox. You really have to give the Sox credit here. After a series loss at home to the Yankees followed by three consecutive losses in Oakland, they have bounced back and won 4 of 5. Just another sign of a very good baseball team.

It is a little weird not being able to see the Sox on a regular basis. I was at a great advantage from both a baseball standpoint in general as well as on this blog at school in April and May, because I was able to watch both teams every night. But I catch what I can of the Sox now on the highlights etc., and Wakefield looked like he might have had his best knuckleball of the year last night. They aren't hitting, but the fact that they are winning when they aren't hitting is a good sign for Sox fans, and a bad one for Yankees fans. With Schilling and Beckett the next two nights, it could be sweep city.

Wang continued to dominate last night, going 7 and allowing 1 to outduel Brandon Webb, who is one of the best pitchers in baseball. To have a sinker like that to induce groundballs and two plus strikeout pitches to go with it in both the curve and change is almost unfair. It is very rare to have a guy who gets that many groundballs and that many strikeouts. (Yankees fans will get to see this in Phil Hughes if his minor league stats translate to the majors when he becomes healthy.) Anytime you can beat a pitcher of this caliber it is always a great win, and it is largely a credit to Wang who continues to be one of the best pitchers in the majors. Abreu, who is swinging a scorching hot bat, pouncing on Webb early was big.

Farnsworthless continues to pitch the 8th, and continues to be nothing short of adventurous. 4-1 lead, and of course the tying run came to the plate. Thankfully he got out of it. Proctor and Bruney are better pitchers, and you have to wonder how long and/or what it is going to take for someone to realize this, because obviously they are ignoring ALL of the numbers. Farnsworthless has appeared in in 28 games, and has worked three 1-2-3 innings. So in 25 of those innings he has allowed at least one baserunner. In the 8th inning that is going to mean the winning or tying run is at the plate a lot of times. Somebody please explain to me how this guy still gets the ball in this role? He is an absolute disaster, and it is going to bite the Yankees if they don't wake up.

The next 12 days, essentially closing out interleague play, is big. The Yankees are making a run and the Sox are largely holding them off. It will be interesting to see where this thing ends up on July 1.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Yankees Rolling...A Little

Sorry for the lack of posts, the weekends aren't exactly an ideal time for blogging, even for a junky like myself. I want to watch the games then go to the beach or the bar. I'm sure its similar for DV, although he is probably running a marathon after the games or something.

The Yankees swept the Pirates and have won 6 in a row. Encouraging, yes. A start, yes. A lot of good things happening in all facets of the game for the first time all season, yes. But the reality is that they dug themselves a big hole, and they have to continue to play this brand of baseball to get all the way out of it. They are not there yet.

Friday was a quality win. Pettitte once again pitched better than what he got in return, but a win in extras is always a great win. Jeter found a way on the game winning hit, what else is new.

Saturday was all about Clemens, and I was very happy with the results. Not just on the field, either. First and most important, although he wasn't dominant, he was healthy, both during and after. No signs of any residual effects with the groin, or anywhere else for that matter.

Second, I will take those exact results every fifth day. 6 innings, 3 runs, 7 Ks, and just fierce competition that carries over to the rest of the club. I hope he gets better, and I think he will, but the opposition will be better in almost every other start too. On a performance level, his split was as devestating as it has ever been. Nobody has a better split-fingered fastball in the majors, and only maybe Jose Contreras and Jonathan Papelbon have splits that are on his level. His fastball was 89-91 and he topped out at 92, and its location was suspect. But he is showing a slow curve in the strike zone more than he used to, and he needs to use it even more. His slider was also sharp, but I think he needs to it more as well. His velocity should improve, but even if it doesn't, if his split continues to be that effective at 83-86, and he can drop that slow curve in for quality strikes, 90 mph is going to be more than enough to compete. This is especially true considering most of his fastballs are now 2-seam and cut, with less riding fastballs. The addition of the cutter, which he didn't used to even have, makes 90 mph a lot tougher, because he can go 90 coming in on you or tailing away from you, both to righties and lefties.

The biggest thing will be commanding the fastballs much more consistently, and recognizing that he can no longer get by throwing fastballs in fastball counts all the time. He will have to come with other stuff, primarily the slow curve. Still, I love the 7 SOs, especially since 4 were on splitters, 2 were on fastballs, and 1 on a slider, a good mix. I love him telling Torre and Guidry he was coming back out for the 6th in his first start, even though they wanted to pull him. And I love the chance to win baseball games.

Clemens is one of the greatest pitchers of all time. Having his leadership, experience, and competitiveness around is going to really help no matter what. I know for that kind of money you would expect dominance, but what you are going to get is a chance to win almost every fifth day along with the qualities above. It is a lot more than Matt DeSalvo, Chase Wright, Jeff Karstens, Darrell Rasner, etc. can offer. No offense to them, but really, a lot more.

I missed my first full game of the year (no TV or Radio for any innings) on Sunday because I was at a part of the Jersey Shore that is more Philly than New York, so they have all Philadelphia channels and stations. F. But I got regular updates on my phone and a full one postgame and today. Clippard didn't have any stuff, obvisously, but the Yankees still slugged it out in a big way for the sweep. Being able to use the word "Yankees" and the phrase "slugging there way to a win" in the same sentence again is refreshing. Big week coming up to finish the homestand against the D'Backs and Mets.

Some tidbits:

Alex Rodriguez has 24 homers and 63 RBI in 61 games. Yo. In the 9th inning he is 9-18 (.500). 6 of those 9 hits are home runs. Yo. He has 16 RBI, and has struck out 0 times compared to 13 strikeouts in the 9th inning last year. Yo. I think its safe to say something has changed. Do it Alex.

Melky Cabrera is hitting .390 since becoming the everday center fielder 11 games ago. You think he likes playing every day? Not coincidentally, Robbie Cano has been hot since Melky starting playing everyday again. DV always talks about Tavarez's positive effect on Manny. It is the same with these two. They have been best friends since 16. Neither wants to sit on the bench or watch the other sit on the bench. They want to play and do that jumping handshake 19 times a game.

Bobby Abreu is 19-38 (.500) in the last 10 games. Most importantly, he has walked 9 times in that span. 8 of those 19 hits have been for extra bases. He obviously can't keep this pace up, but this is the dynamic Abreu we saw last year, working counts, walking, spraying the ball to all fields, hitting for extra bases, and being the perfect #3 guy. If plays like himself he makes a huge difference in the lineup.

In Mariano Rivera's last 13.1 innings he has allowed only 1 run on 8 hits. He has struck out 14 against just 2 walks. He has FINALLY been getting regular work, and it shows. To put it simply, he's back.

The Yankees are no where near out of the mess they put themselves in. It feels good now because they are on a little winning streak, but they are a bad week away from being right back in big trouble again. Like I said in the title, they are rolling, but only a little, and this is only a start. They are still a game under .500, trail the Division leading Red Sox by 9 1/2 and the Wild Card leading Tigers by 5 1/2. There are 101 games left in the season, and they are going to have to play the type of baseball that they have the last 11 games to make the playoffs.

That said, both the Division and the Wild Card are still there. Two weeks ago it looked like one was almost gone and the other was going to be a bigtime uphill battle. Now they are almost back to .500, and once you get above .500 you can think about attacking somebody in front of you.

In 2005 the Yankees were 38-38 after 76 games. Two weeks ago I was holding on to this stat tightly, hoping that they could get to that same number after 76 games and have a chance to fire. At the same time I knew how much of a struggle it was to fire and go 58-28 the rest of the way two years ago, and knew how improbably a repeat was.

Now the Yankees are back to almost that same winning pct. 15 games earlier, which I did not expect. They are essentially giving themselves 15 extra games to play with than in 2005, if they do something with it, which they need to. If they don't and they are at 38-38 or worse, things are really not going to be easy. But the rotation is finally set, they are hitting, and getting decent stuff from the pen, all at the same time (for once!). Using 2005 as a reference, the next 15 games will be telling of what the rest of the season is going to be like. Not using any references, every game is big, because they are still 1 under .500. But if they keep playing this kind of baseball with this kind of energy, confidence, and momentum, that could change in a hurry. Go Yankees.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

J.D. (a month and a half over) Due

The old cell phone was ringing off the hook tonight, as Nancy Drew made up for almost two months of hitting under the Mendoza line by getting a double, two home runs, and seven RBIs in a 10-3 blowout against Arizona. (P.S. The "made up for" part is sarcastic.)

I was listening to WEEI today the last two days and I will (to an extent) obey the Tony Massarotti law of "say good things when they're winning, say bad things when they're losing." Or at least I'll try--and probably fail.

Beckett surrendered a home run tonight, but his command again was very good. Eight strikeouts, zero walks, and he made a lot of D-Backs look about as graceful as he looked at the plate. He's converted this hater. He'll be the only Red Sox player to convert this hater tonight.

Manny Ramirez, as expected, is certainly coming around. Two more hits tonight and he raised his average to .293. His entire career has dictated that this was inevitable, and it's finally happening. He got drilled in the wrist today, and Manny going down would definitely be a HUGE problem. Ortiz's HR power has turned into warning track power, presumably because of his sore hamstrings. With Ortiz hurt, Manny hurt, and what has to be the worst production out of the 5-hole in the major leagues so far this season (worse than last year's Nixon/Varitek tandem, at least), this might be a problem.

I can't resist being sarcastic about Julio Due-go's home run. Lugo is still hitting under .220. As a leadoff hitter.

And this brings me to Nancy. I talked to Pat for about 20 minutes on the phone tonight, briefly discussing the draft, Jeter's walkoff hit, and, of course, Nancy Drew. Nancy's hit over .500 against Arizona for some reason last year, according to NESN. Pat said he was just waiting to feast off of the weaker NL pitchers. He said maybe this is the point that Drew finally snaps out of his almost-2-month-long slump.

I countered with the following arguments: 1) Four hits in two games does not necessarily mean you're out of a prolonged batting slump. Look at my boy Coco Crisp. 2) He was due for two home runs, because baseball evens itself out and he hasn't had one since April 22. He's barely gotten a hit since then. He was very due. 3) For $14 million a year, he should hit like tonight every night. Glenn Ordway of WEEI likes to bring up the point that Drew has been pinch hit for several times this year. You don't pinch hit for guys actually earning $14 a year.

I'll finish this post with an Office Space reference, possibly explaining why both Drew and Lugo snapped out of it tonight. The two have gotten A LOT of heat lately, and this is a new thing for media outlets in New England not named "How Youz Doin Baseball."

I believe Peter Gibbons said something along the lines of "All I want is to not get hassled. Between that and the fear of losing my job, that's enough motivation for me to work just hard enough to not get fired." The three combined home runs and eight combined RBIs will be enough to get everyone off these guys' back for a while. They'll no longer be hassled.

This might mean that neither of them will get a hit until they start getting hassled again. That could be September 15, given the fact that Drew hit .160 for almost two months without getting any heat. F.

I hope they prove me wrong.

(P.S. This post was written at 1:00 AM on Saturday morning. I'm sure Boston Dirt Dogs, the Boston Herald, and possibly the Boston Globe will all use "J.D. Due" tomorrow morning. You saw it here first.)

Friday, June 8, 2007

Rivalry Draft Review: Top Picks

I just spent a long time with my Baseball America Draft Preview open on the desk, cross-checking who the Yankees and Red Sox selected with Baseball America's top 200 Draft eligible prospects.

What a waste of time.

Both teams' draft can be summed up through one example: with the 574th pick in the 2007 draft, the Yankees selected Chris Carpenter from Kent State, who Baseball America has rated as the 31st best prospect available. And they aren't the only ones who think he's good. The Tigers took him much higher (7th Round) than the Yankees did this year when he was finishing high school. So to put it mildly, he's really, really good.

I could go on and on about who both of these teams took, and I'll give a little, but lets phrase it as simply as possible: for the third strait year, they both had phenomenal drafts, and will undoubtedly be ranked 1-2 in 2007 draft success, again. I haven't even gone all the way through either teams' selections (and don't plan on doing so) to see if and where they are ranked. But where I am, and I'm not that far considering there are 50 rounds (and as I pointed out above, these teams are capable of getting great prospects at any time), I already have the Yankees with 3 top 50 prospects, and 2 top 120. I have the Sox at 2 top 50, and 1 top 60. And like I said, I just stopped when I saw how ridiculous it was getting. My guess is when its over each team will have 7-10 top 200 guys, each. Think about infusing your farm system with 7-10 top 200 guys each year, and what that will do for your ballclub.

Both teams have fully realized the importance of the draft, and are exploiting how unfair the draft is. The Yankees took Andrew Brackman, the 6'10" 240 pound flamethrower out of N.C. State and the 7th best prospect available in the draft, a guy who is unquestionably a top 10 talent, at 30. If this draft were run like the NBA or NFL, he would have gone top 10 without a doubt. So 20 teams or so that would have taken him passed, because he is a Boras client, and because they feared wasting a high draft pick on a guy they wouldn't be able to sign anyway. But the Yankees and Red Sox are willing to pay above slot (way above) bonuses in any round, and that is why they are having such draft success, grabbing players way later than they should have been able to. Both teams even draft lower rated guys without big signing expectations earlier, knowing they will be taken soon, and let the highly touted guys with big signing expectations drop and drop, knowing they are only cometing with each other and a few other teams to get them.

It isn't fair, it needs to change, and that is why it is so hard for teams like Tampa Bay and Kansas City to get out of the basement, but it allows the Yankees and Red Sox to go to work.

Torre gets 2,000th

Last nights win over the White Sox was the 2,000th of his career, making him only the 10th manager in the history of baseball to reach the milestone. Of those 10 mangaers, Torre was probably the best player. So it could be said that he is the best player-manager combo of All-Time. It could also be said that he isn't, as I'm sure DV would. But I love Torre, as do most Yankees fans, and it is great to see him get to see him accomplish this feat in pinstripes, especially considering that 1,106 of those 2,000 have come with the Yankees. He is a Hall of Famer, congrats to him.

But even on a night when he reaches this milestone, and the Yankees get a big win, Torre leaves me scratching my head in the one area of his managing that even the firmest supporters (like myself) have to admit is a weakness for him: pitching management. Mussina had tossed 6 innings of 2 hit, no run, no walk, 4 strikeout baseball. He came out for the 7th cruising, at probably 70-72 pitches. He gives up a weak infield hit to Thome that Josh Phelps (who really is brutal in the field, wow was I wrong on him no matter what he does at the plate) should have fielded for an out. Then he gives up a hard single off the wall to Konerko. Sure, back to back singles on only one hard hit ball, 1st and 3rd no outs. But Mussina wasn't struggling, he gave up two hits, had a 1-0 lead, and was at 79 PITCHES!

Torre lifts him for Myers, who promptly gives up a single to Pierzynski (he rarely seems to win these lefty-lefty matchups when it counts, but he'll get everybody out when it doesn't). Then Proctor has to come in 1st and 2nd, still nobody out, and work out of it to preserve a 1-1 tie after 7. At 79 pitches, you can leave Mussina in, and he probably has a good chance to give you the same result. Then you use two less pitchers. But maybe Mussina keeps getting hit and it worked out. But I think you ahve to stick with Mussina there.

But this isn't the really frustrating part. The really frustrating part is that Torre keeps going to Farnsworth in the 8th inning. What has he done to deserve to be the set-up guy? He is Farnsworthless. He started the 8th last night, gave up 2 hits and 2 runs while only recording one out, and Rivera had to come in for a 5 out save. Proctor and Bruney are far more productive and reliable relievers, yet if they have one bad outing amongst 5 good ones it seems like Torre trusts them less. Farnsworth is bad pretty much every time out, especially by set-up guy, 8th inning standards. Yet Torre still goes to him. Makes no sense, and makes me want to jump out a window when I see Torre call for him again and again, with no justification, to preserve a lead in the 8th. It should be Proctor in the 8th. Bruney in the 7th. Farnsworth any time that isn't those two times.

Nonetheless great win, especially with what DV would consider a B-Team lineup in (Jeter and Posada sat and pinch-hit late). And as Peter Abraham pointed out on his blog, this is why Torre is as good as he he is. Sits two of his best players in an important game that he needs, knowing that it is more important to rest them and not burn them out early, and still gets the win. Not every manager would have the stuff to do that 10 1/2 back, but Torre does.

Bats are back top to bottom. Pitching has been great, both starters and the pen. It is too early to say the Yankees are out of it, its one winning streak. But they are heading in the right direction, and they have to keep it up. Three against the Pirates starts a crucial 9 game homestand that also includes the DBacks and Mets. Go Yankees.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Give me 1 hit any day.

First things first: I left some stuff out of my last post. Francona's blow-up last night was the best Francona blow-up I've ever seen. I was impressed. And second, I was watching the beginning of the MLB Draft in Peabody today and Darryl Strawberry was one of the honored guests on screen. Just two friendly reminders: don't do drugs.

Back to today's post.

I don't think Schilling is going to throw Varitek--or anyone, for that matter--under the bus on 38pitches.com tonight. What a performance. Granted, I was dozing off watching this one after watching three straight nauseating losses late at night, but from what I saw, both live and in highlights, I was impressed. Schilling is certainly not a power pitcher anymore, but the way he changed speeds, his pitch location, and his pitch selection was the best I've ever seen from him.

He's not gonna be striking out 300 in a season anymore, that's for sure. He only K'ed four guys today in a pretty weak-hitting A's lineup, but even as a fly-ball pitcher, he induced more ground-ball outs than I think I've ever seen from him (11 ground outs, 12 fly outs). What a game. Might have been better than his fictional no-hitter on Boy Meets World back in 1993 that made Cory Matthews fail a history test.

Thumbs up to Varitek, too. If pitch selection was the key to winning this game--power certainly wasn't--you gotta give the guy who's giving the signs some credit. I give Varitek a lot of crap on this blog, but not tonight.

The offense still sucks. Another huge 4-hit performance. The leadoff hitter is now officially under .220 and two of the outfielders are under .230. Youkilis stays true to his game, walking twice. But relying on David Ortiz for all the team's offensive production is not a good way to go. Please refer to the 2006 season for evidence.

The real story, though, is Schilling. All sarcasm aside, I can't wait to read what he has to say on his blog.

Give me 16 K's any day.

Last night's Red Sox game was not like the DiNardo game. Well, it kinda was. Same result, though. More double plays, more untimely hitting, and more losses. But Joe Kennedy and his "sweeping curveball" was pretty nasty, I will admit.

Wily Mo Pena could strike out 220 times in a season and I don't think I would be more frustrated than I am with the Red Sox hitting into eight double plays in two games. Game 4 is starting now, and I don't think I want to watch it.

I was looking through JC Bradbury's Baseball Economist, where cites a 1963 study on the average number of runs scored in certain baseball situations--with runners on base and with certain number of outs--and a double play is probably about twice as hurtful as a strikeout.

With a runner on first and no outs before the DP, the average number of runs scored is 0.813. With the bases empty and two outs, it drops to 0.102. With runners on first and second, the figure drops by almost two thirds. Meanwhile, strikeouts result in the figure being cut in half, very roughly. Looking at the numbers (I did so you don't have to), double plays are actually probably twice as bad as back-to-back strikeouts.

And the Red Sox did that eight times in two games. Woof.

Nancy Drew rode pine last night because of his inability to hit lefties. He's also shown weaknesses in hitting a curveball. The Sox acquired the first-ever $14 million platoon player.

They also may have acquired the first $9 million leadoff hitter who gets out 72% of the time. It's okay, though. The Red Sox propaganda machine says he adds "spark at the top." What a crock. You can't steal first base.

At least Gerry Callahan is keeping it real. He was relatively mean to Lugo earlier on in the season, but his ragging on the two newly-acquired disasters has been very consistent.

People told us haters to give these two guys a chance. Okay. I did. It's been two months out of a six-month season. Neither are hitting above .230. Is it fair to say they're terrible without having to shred my $199 Red Sox Nation membership card?

I wonder if Red Sox Nation membership spokesman Coco Crisp has shredded his yet. He's no longer talking to the media and I don't blame him, for reasons we've already gone over. Eric Wilbur has noticed his lackluster offensive performance this year, lumping it with Nancy's, but the first line is why I will continue to have the .229 hitter's back:

Johnny Damon? Johnny Bravo has had more hits than Coco Crisp as of late.

Sometimes, Boston media coverage is more unforgivable than the performances of Drew and Lugo.

I texted Pat this morning, telling him that the Yankees are going to win the AL East. At this point, it wouldn't surprise me. But looking from more of a distance, I realize they're not as bad as they are right now. But they're not as good as they were in April and May.

(P.S. Ortiz just homered. Didn't croak the ball, and his swing still doesn't look 100%, but a homer's a homer. Go Sox. Go Coco, hit for the cycle today.)

Good win, big opportunity tomorrow...plus Draft stuff

Yanks won 5-1 tonigh in large part thanks to a complete game 1 run effort by Chien-Ming Wang. His ball had classic Wang movement from the get go, and of his 27 outs 16 were recorded on the ground, and 4 via the strikeout. When you are recording 20 outs on the ground and on the strikeout and are keeping the ball in the ballpark (he hasn't allowed a homer in 36 innings), its going to lead to quality performances, as well as superb ones like tonight.

Bobby Abreu is right, homering to left center. You know he is right when that is happening. Robinson Cano is right. Melky Cabrera is right. Even Johnny Damon is coming around in a big way (4 doubles last two nights). When these guys play, alongside Jeter, Posada, A-Rod, and Matsui, the equation is totally different. Cairo looked good for a second strait night, collecting two hits and making every play at first. Like I said yesterday I love guys like Miggy, so I am biased, but him at first could be a big up.

Big opportunity for Mussina tomorrow. A win and they take the 4 game set on the road 3-1 (never an easy task to win a 4 game series, especially on the road), and go 6-4 on the 10 game road trip despite starting it with two losses to Toronto. Pettitte threw a bullpen today and said he is ready to go Friday. Likewise for Clemens and Saturday. Clippard goes Sunday, all three games against the Pirates, who have not been particularly good, before a much needed off day Monday. Really an opportunity for Mussina to step up after a bad performance last Saturday and give this team a chance for some big momentum.

For those of you who care, the First-Year Player Draft starts tomorrow and runs until at least Friday, maybe into Saturday. There are fifty rounds. The Yankees have the last pick of the First Round (30) because they had the best record in baseball last year. I'm not sure why, but the Red Sox don't have a First Round pick. The only teams with more than one pick in the First Round are the Blue Jays, who select twice, and the Giants, who have three picks. So it obviously has something to do with one of them.

But not drafting in the First Round in baseball is not the end of the world, especially if you are the Yankees or the Red Sox. A lot of players and agents have big signing bonus demands, causing teams with high picks to pass on them in fear that they will not be able to sign them anyway, and the players will be eligible again for next year's draft. In this respect, the Yankees and the Red Sox have been flexing their financial muscle in recent drafts, grabbing top notch players much later in the draft than they should go because they have the ability to sign them. Both teams have had monster drafts the past two years. Furthermore, there is a lot of talent in the draft, and a lot of room for development. A lot of times first rounders bust, and 40th rounders become studs. Much moreso than in any other sports draft, simply because there are so many players and so much oppourtunity for development.

With both teams putting a lot of emphasis on the importance of the draft recently, and having a lot of financial strength, look for the Yankees and the Red Sox to have big drafts again.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

"1-29"

According to Boston Dirt Dogs, Curt Schilling was talking about last night's game by Lenny DiNardo this morning on WEEI. If he pitches like that 30 times, said Schilling, he'd go "1-29."

The other time, he'd shut out the Boston Red Sox.

Just awful baseball last night by the Boston bats. Last night was the kind of game that makes me want to throw things at the screen. Much more than Sunday night's game. Matsuzaka pitched well, for the most part. He had some really good stuff working, a really good breaking ball. I made a comment last night on a great pitch he made to Eric Chavez. The next pitch, he mislocated a fastball and that mislocated fastball was re-located to the bleachers.

The real story was the offensive futility. Moneyball once said that the most inefficient thing to do in baseball is to strike out. I would disagree and say that a double play is much more inefficient. I remember vividly that 3-game series against the Yankees in 2004 where they grounded into a double play just about every inning, and it was possibly the most depressing baseball series I've seen in my life.

They literally grounded into four double plays last night. The Fastest Member of Red Sox Nation, who I usually defend, hit into two. Last night was another game where a few guys were rested (including Nancy, thank God), but it still wasn't a B-team game. They could still only muster three hits off of the likes of DiNardo and Kiko Calero. Nauseating.

The most nauseating part of this game, though, comes with a question: HOW DO YOU WALK SEVEN TIMES AND NOT SCORE A SINGLE RUN? I understand that games like this happen, and they have happened a couple times earlier on this season (especially while Matsuzaka pitches, by the way), but it still doesn't take away with how incredibly frustrating it is to see a pitcher throw more balls than strikes and still manage to shut out the team that has the best record in baseball.

Notice how I don't say the "best team in baseball." Because what I've seen in the last week has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that they're not. At least not right now. Instead of putting the Yankees and the rest of the AL East away, they're letting the Yankees stay in the race. And it's just a matter of time until they start playing to potential.

Seven walks. Lenny DiNardo wasn't Sandy Koufax last night. He was exactly the guy the Red Sox released this spring. Like the Bears in the eyes of Dennis Green, Lenny DiNardo was exactly what we thought he was. And we let him off the hook.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Maybe I should jump on Damon more often

My father and I were talking during the early innings, when Buerhle was cruising, that the Yankees have gotten away some from their offensive MO. Sure, all teams jump on starters and all teams get blanked, and the Yankees have still done both of those things. But what the Yankees have always been able to do in recent years, especially against tough pitchers like Buerhle, is run pitch counts up in the first five innings, even when they aren't getting runs. Then they jump on them in the middle innings or get into the bullpen earlier than the 0s on the board would indicate necessary. They didn't do a lot of that in May. But they did it tonight.

And a lot of it had to do with Johnny Damon. They won 7-3 behind a big 4 run 6th inning. Damon was in the middle of all the scoring with 3 hits. Don't get me wrong, the Yankees had 17 hits and everyone in the starting lineup had one, but Damon sparked it. When he is slapping the ball in the holes in the infield and down the lines in the outfield like he always has, the Yankees are a much better team. They need him to find a way to do this more consistently, because the results are big.

Two other big things coming out of tonight. One, Tyle Clippard can pitch. He isn't there yet, but he is showing consistent signs, learning, and producing while he learns. He tossed 5 innings of 1 run ball tonight, giving up 5 hits and 3 walks while striking out 4. In four starts he is now 3-1 with a 3.60. He needs to become more economical, but 89 pitches through 5 wasn't the end of the world tonight, and I think Torre pulled him because he started to fade to the last three hitters in the 5th, despite getting out of a minny jam with a great pitch to Dye. The only other things right now are consistency on the curve and keeping the change down more, but he challenges hitters with his fastball and trusts his off-speed stuff even in hitters counts.

On a side note here, reader and regular poster From the Bronx has voiced more than once his displeasure with Brian Cashman and the team he has put together this year. And he is one of many Yankees fans out there with these feelings. I agree with a lot of what he has said, and as I said in my most recent response, Cashman made a mistake putting so much faith in Pavano and Igawa on the back end this year. But we really can't blame him for all the injuries that have created a revolving door in the rotation and put a lot of sress on a decent bullpen.

At the end of the day Cashman had a top 8 of Major League ready pitchers going into the season of Wang (ace), Pettitte (front-end) , Mussina (good) , Pavano (mistake, Igawa (not ready), Hughes (ace in the making ready by June), Karstens (would be in a lot of rotations), and Rasner (would be in some rotations). Even minus Pavano/Igawa, what GM wouldn't take those other 6 into a season? That's a lot of depth. 7 of those pitchers have been on the DL, which is a FREAKY, FREAKY thing that has nothing to do with Cashman. Other organizations would be done. But Cashman has created pitching depth to the point that we still have guys to go to like Tyler Clippard, and aren't cooked yet. Despite his mistakes, and there are others like Wil Nieves, Brian Cashman is a good GM with an understanding of the present AND the future, something the Yankees haven't had recently. Injuries put us in this position, not Cashman. He isn't totally absolved of responsibility, but this isn't totally his fault, either. And we might just get out of this mess anyway, and if we do the organizational pitching depth Cashman has created will have played a role in it.

The other postive tonight was Miggy Cairo. Guys who know me know I love guys like Miggy, always have, always will. Chad Curtis and Bubba Crosby are other examples. Scrappers who take every AB and make every play like its the World Series because they are always fighting for a spot. Cairo played a TREMENDOUS first tonight (plays Phelps probably doesn't make) and had two hits. Getting him to contribute regularly in this role would be a big boost for this team.

I know I called a Sox win last night and they didn't win. But the way they played is exactly what I'm talking about with how good this team is. Tough, hard fought series at home against the Yankees losing 2 of 3. Red eye flight don't get in until 5 AM Oakland time, 8 AM Boston time. One of the best pitchers in the league vs. Tavarez. Papi beat up. Yet they rally from 2 runs down to tie it in the top of the 9th, then get out of a bases loaded, no out jam bottom 9 to go to extras. Thats just the sign of a good team. They could have mailed it in way before the top of the 9th, like say during the pre-game meal, but they went out and played. Truly impressive. And I'm not blowing smoke here, reminds me a lot of the Yankees teams in the late 90's and early 00's, and hopefully this year's club the rest of the way.