Wednesday, April 30, 2008

More on Young Pitching

If DV is going to use his administrative powers to post a comment, so am I. There is no way the Phil Hughes subject matter is turning into the Dan Vassallo show.

Part of this is my fault. The Yankees haven't had young pitching prospects worthy of getting excited about in my lifetime (Pettitte was basically already on the Yankees in my formative fandom years). As such, I got overexcited. I looked at Hughes' body of work last year, where he was league average on the nose, and said "he's going to contribute, probably even more than he did last year". I certainly didn't anticipate him regressing.

This was silly, and this is because I know about pitching prospects. Even if the Yankees haven't had any, I follow all of the others. I'm very familiar not only with initial struggles, but also "sophomore slumps", which can be applicable to any sort of regression after some sort of extended positive performance. That is what Phil Hughes is in right now.

Last year, Hughes posted an ERA+ of 100. This is average, to the decimal, for this statistic. Anything above average is 101 and up, anything below average is 99 and down. For some perspective for readers on this blog, Josh Beckett's 2006 ERA+ was 95. His 2007 ERA+ was 148. That gives you an idea of where 100 is on this scale.

We can use the Josh Beckett 2006 example as to why I thought Hughes would be good. Beckett wasn't very good in 2006, but he still gave his team some production. I figured if Hughes was better than this already, and could give us a little more, the Yankees would really be in the plus in terms of what they got from him.

But this was not smart. And I should have known it, but I didn't apply my knowledge because it was the Yankees, and because of what I saw last year.

That being said, even though I was in the wrong leading up to the season, a lot of other people are in the wrong right now. You have people out there who, legitimately, probably think he is miles away from being good, if he can be good at all. This is not intelligent. I mentioend a few big names in my last post. You can add in, more recently, Felix Hernandez, Jake Peavy, and Edinson Volquez, to name a few, as guys who either struggled out of the gates or had big sophomore slumps. I'm not 100% sure, but I think they turned out okay.

Just as I should have used these names to temper my expectations initially, others should be using these names to apply some logic right now. Hughes has already proven, over 13 starts last season, that he can be average. That was with all of the good and bad mixed in. Right now he is in a bad stretch, like he had last August. There is no rule against him going on a good stretch, like he had last September. A lot of other players (see above) have done just this. When you know something is there (like Papi or Cano right now, albeit to a lesser extent with Hughes), it usually finds its way out again.

Further, young players can just flat out improve, especially if the consensus is that they are talented. This idea that players can't improve, even under pressure and with expectations, drives me insane. Eli Manning. Eli Manning. Eli Manning. Eli Manning. Eli Manning.

Finally, we have the Yankees issue. Already, you have media member and people questioning where this leaves the Yankees. Ridiculous. First, this assumes that both Hughes and Kennedy will continue to be no good. Second, even with the Yankees going 2-9 in Hughes/Kennedy starts, they are a whopping 2 games out in their divison, trailing teams that I'm sure have 5 quality starters across the board.

Have we not learned anything from the last 2, 3, 13 seasons? Ok, so the last 2-3? This team makes the playoffs, regardless of circumstance. Eventually, they are going to miss it. And it very well may be this year. But let's stop speculating about it please, and if it happens, let's discuss it. They had no business making the playoffs last year, far less business than they would have with it this year, and they did it anyway. So speculating about whether or not they will do it is useless, because they can always do it. Always.

So let's (especially the media) spare everyone all the drama about the Yankees and the playoffs. The funny thing about this, it's usually Red Sox and Mets media/fans with all the excitement for this every year. I remember Dennis Eckersley announcing in May of last year that he just didn't see any way the Yankees could make the playoffs with (enter crappy pitchers here) pitching. Again, they did it anyway. If anything, it will be one of those two teams that will miss the playoffs. After all, while the Yankees are in the middle of their latest playoff run, neither the Mets or Red Sox have ever made the playoffs for even three consecutive seasons (unless you count the Boston Braves/Red Sox combo from 1914-1916, which even then was only three seasons). This statistic amazes me every day. How to have extended success in major markets, guys.

AAA Aphiliate

Another oversized comment made into a post by my administrator power. I figure if Yankee fans insist on calling Phil Hughes "Franchise," I'm going to call him by a more accurate name for a guy whose WHIP is a Timlin-esque 2.14 and whose traditional stats are 0-4, 9.00, 13 K's, and 13 BB's. Hughes is quickly becoming a fantasy baseball disaster along the same level of Mike Lowell 2005 and amphetamine user Mike Cameron for about three years straight.

There's a lot being said about AAA Aphiliate right now, whether he should indeed be sent back down to the minors. Honestly, I don't really care one way or another, because I'm not a Yankee fan and I don't get paid to make those f'ing decisions. Pat gave you part of the case of why AAA Aphiliate should stay in the majors, and his points are extremely legit. Sending AAA Aphiliate to SWB would be the equivalent of me going back and running up the score against mediocre runners if I had a bad race last week. Yup, it would make me feel good about myself (the same way I felt after winning the Maine Marathon), but would it make me a better runner against the best in the world? Probably not that much.

Also, it brings up a point that I believe someone brought up on this blog last week (maybe regarding Melky Cabrera): Does development just flat-out stop once a kid reaches the major leagues? No. It's not like Hughes staying in the Yankees MLB rotation is going to stunt his growth. As far as stunting his growth, the worst-case scenario is if he continues to put on the Derek Lowe Face and the mental game falls apart. That's what John Harper of the Daily News is afraid of. And it's a legitimate concern. After Cla Meredith got shelled in the Red Sox bullpen after being rushed to the majors too quickly, it took a long time (and a couple thousand miles) for him to get his stuff together again.

The other argument about sending AAA Aphiliate (and Ian Kennedy, for that matter) back to the minors is that they're breaking the Yankees' balls right now. More than Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, and Jason Giambi sucking in the field. More than the offense leaving the bases loaded again and again (perhaps a bit of an exaggeration). Those two guys are KILLING the Yankees right now. And your average Yankee fan, even the astute guys at NoMaas, will not tolerate any kind of rebuilding season. The Yankees must win, and they must win now. With a $200 million payroll, that is (and should be) expected. "At some point, you have to pay attention to the standings," NoMaas writes, and says that innings from Darryl Rasner would at least keep the Yankees in a position to win baseball games. A lot better than these stinkers being pitched by AAA Aphiliate and Kennedy have been keeping the Yankees in games.

Perhaps the biggest thing in the entire debate is the new mental midget who signs the checks. He has more or less said that the general manager will be fired if specifically Hughes and Kennedy pitch poorly this year and cost the Yankees a spot in the playoffs. At this point, you know that Hank is a ticking time bomb. He is just as volatile, impatient, and intolerant of ONE rebuilding season as your average non-Pat Yankee fan, and he will likely lead the charge of the people saying "WE SHOULDA TARDED FOR YOHAN SANTANA AND GIVEN HIM THE $$$$$$$$$4!!!!!!!!111"

As Pat said, sending Hughes back to AAA is sacrificing long-term "good" for short-term success. For a team like the Yankees especially, you have to balance this. It will be interesting to see what they'll ultimately decide to do.

Jon Lester? Really?

Somewhere around the seventh inning of last night's Red Sox game, I was starting to formulate what I would write on HYD Baseball to commemorate another Red Sox loss at the hands of the bullpen and an impotent offense. I started thinking about the fact that another great performance by a starting pitcher was wasted and about the fact that the Red Sox were a combined 0-7 against the Blue Jays and the Religiously-Neutral Rays.

But then they won, and now instead of an irate bus post, I can talk about how impressive Jon Lester (in whom I typically have little confidence) was last night. All the things I usually complain about didn't happen. According to today's Globe, Lester threw first-pitch strikes to 16 out of 27 batters. He usually throws sixteen first-pitch strikes in a fortnight. He got ahead in the count, "pounded the strike zone" as they say, and used all of his pitches. Really a masterpiece last night.

The Blue Jays were overly aggressive last night, too, which I suppose helped. That makes very little sense if you're facing a pitcher with a history of shaky control. But there were many occasions throughout the game where the Blue Jays were forced to swing the bat (because the ball was in the strike zone), did so, and got jammed, handcuffed, and were absolutely unable to hit the ball anywhere out of the infield. Thanks to Jon Lester last night, Toronto had nine June 2007 Julio Lugos in their lineup.

Best performance I've ever seen out of him. By far.

I think Ortiz is finally starting to realize he's out of the slump. If not, Halladay realized it after he hit the Doug Mirabelli/Kevin Millar-style foul ball bomb and didn't put another pitch anywhere close to the plate. And it was good for Youkilis, mired in a slump of his own, to get a hit, especially at that time. In other obvious news, the sky is blue and JD Drew is injured again.

Biggest play of the game by far was the Pedroia play. If that run scored, not even the 2008 comeback version of the Red Sox could have mustered up a rally after such a crushing blow. Without Pat's favorite baseball player, I would have written that 0-7 post I had been planning.

That's all I got to say about the Red Sox. Pat's post about Phil Hughes sucking again is below. I think Matt should leave him a comment thanking Phil Hughes for putting his fantasy baseball team up 12-3 this week.

Let's hope we can see a lot of games the next week with Coco Crisp in center and Ellsbury in right.

Lester Does His Thing, Hughes, Well, Doesn't

I don't miss Colby College very much. The only thing I miss is my boys. I appreciate my experience, the opportunity to get what I have to admit was a very good education, and the chance to live four years in a place very different from where I grew up and very different from where I will spend the rest of my life. But I love New York City, everything about the entire Tri-State area, and I belong here. As such, I don't miss the questionable decison making by the administration, useless security personell, and the stress and frustration caused daily by tree huggers and political activists. Not to mention incredibly aggravating ineptitude in terms of recognizing and appreciating non-academic accomplishments by students, facutly, or alumni, like say, I don't know, taking a week to acknowledge a 24th place finish in the Boston Marathon. Joke.

One thing I do miss, however, is the chance to watch both teams in this rivalry on a nightly basis. I'm a lunatic, but I'm not paying $80+ bucks for the season to watch the Red Sox on the computer now that I'm home. For the Yankees, it wasn't a question for four years. Last night, I would have been sitting in my common room with the Big Ticket, both of our laptops on the table, Yankees on one, Mets on the other. Red Sox on the TV. I would have gotten to see two starts I wanted to see, and a great game from the Mets, not to mention the entertainment that comes from watching a Wagner blown save with the Ticket.

Had this been one of the last four years, I would have had a chance to comment on Lester's start, which looked incredible (despite the four walks, but wow, do I wish I had that problem to nit pick at). But I don't. I feel strangely disconnected from the Red Sox, probably from four years of knowing way more about them than any of my Colby/Boston friends knew about the Yankees, and using that to my advantage. I look forward to DV filling us in.

On to Phil Hughes. There are two things you hoped at the start of the season would be mutually beneficial. Phil Hughes' long term success, and the Yankees immediate success. To date, this relationship could not be going worse. Now the Yankees have some decisions to make. For the Yankees immediate success, they need someone who can give them more every fifth day, and Darrell Rasner and his 0.87 ERA at Scranton appears ready. However, for Phil Hughes' long term success, he needs to take the ball on the Major League Level every fifth day, and that puts the Yankees at risk.

We know why the Yankees need someone who can give more. They want to win. But why does Hughes need to stay up? Last night is the perfect example. I saw every pitch of last night's game. I know that if he throws that exact same game against AAA hitters, he might not have surrendered a run. At the very least, he would have had another outing that was in line with the dominance he displayed for three seasons in the minors. But he threw that game at the Major League Level against a very good lineup. Granderson hit a perfect low fastball at the knees over the wall in center. Sheffield took a curveball at his shoelaces and lined one out to left, never getting 20 feet off the ground. He jammed Magglio Ordonez, but he was strong enough to fight it off to center for a two run single (Damon should have caught the ball, what a joke, story for another day). After it had all gone up in flames, Placido Polonco singled in the 6th of Hughes' 6 earned runs.

Curtis Granderson. Garry Sheffield. Magglio Ordonez. Placido Polonco. Four All-Stars. You don't see these kind of guys at Triple A. And these are the guys that are hurting Phil Hughes right now. Going down and blowing away Joey Three Hacks And Sit Down in the International League is not going to prepare Phil Hughes to get these guys out. He has to learn that by eventually getting these very guys out, however that may be. When you get a chance, go check out the 21 year old seasons of Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Johan Santana. Really ugly, just like this. But their teams let them ride it out, learn at the highest level, and even though it took two seasons in some cases, these guys obviously figured it out, and were better for it.

You have to remember, Hughes wasn't just one of those guys who had really good numbers against minor leaguers. He was like '99 Pedro Martinez throwing against high school kids for three seasons in the minors. I remember reading two years ago that his first 200 Minor League innings was one of the best ever. Going down there and letting up two baserunners per game isn't going to help him right now. He needs to experience failure, which he hadn't until last August. Especially because the one knock on him was that he didn't minimize damage whenever he did come across it. Minimizing damage is THE KEY to being a Major League pitcher. He needs to learn to do that against the top guys.

But right now he isn't, and this is where the Yankees immediate success, which is obviously $200 million of important, comes back into play. And I think the key here is Patrick Kennedy. I think (actually, I know) people forget how bad the back end of the Yankees rotation has been the last few years, years when they won 94-97 games. We've been through the names before, we don't need to again. Already this year, with Wang looking better than ever and Mussina back to servicable form, they are getting more from the top than they had in previous years. Of course, with the offense struggling and A-Rod and Posada injured, they have needed the increased pitching production.

And they are going to continue to need it. Enter Patrick Kennedy. I predicted a number of times earlier in the year that I though he would give the Yankees the most from a starting standpoint out of the Big Three. And I still feel this way. He's the most polished, he's been in big games, and he knows how to pitch, meaning I think he can keep them in more games (5-6 innings, 3 runs). Actually I know he can do this, because he's done it in two of his last three starts. In Cleveland, outside of a terrible second inning where he gave up all three runs, he actually looked great. Unlike Hughes, when Patrick has struggled, he's been a few pitches away every time. When he's been just okay, he's been a few pitches away from benig very good. This is what you want to see from a young pitcher, and if this were the case with Hughes, I wouldn't be writing this massive post.

If Patrick Kennedy can come out and do what he did in Tampa and Cleveland more times than not, the Yankees are going to be fine. How fine, I don't know, but they'll be right in the mix. I mean, look at them right now. He hasn't been that good and where are they? In the mix. If he completely turns the corner, all the better. They are going to get healthy and start hitting. They always do. Joba is 4-6 weeks away from the rotation. Improved April record aside, I'd much rather this 2008 situation, dealing with guys who, even if they aren't getting guys out now, we know they can. This is a deviation from Tyler Clippard, Matt DeSalvo, Jeff Karstens, Chase Wright, and Kei Igawa, who weren't getting guys out, and weren't ever going to.

And if they can be in the mix, it gives them flexibility with Hughes, because they won't be relying on him. He can stay up and learn where he needs to, in the majors. He stunk last August on the same level he's stinking now, and followed that up with a 3-0, 2.73 September that helped the Yankees win the Wild Card. I have to imagine this is in the back of the decision makers' minds. I hope it is.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Before it's completely moot...

It's necessary to talk about the Red Sox' weekend series against the Religiously-Neutral Rays. Yuck. I mean, maybe the top story is how the Red Sox lost despite having very good starting pitching. Steve Buckley was saying on television this morning that their offense just ran into very good pitching in the Tampa Bay squad. I'm pretty flabbergasted by this five-game losing streak, because there's not really one guy to blame. It's just been a few complete no-shows by the entire Red Sox' offense.

I actually got to watch the Saturday night game in its entirety, which is a rarity after a full day at the AA Affiliate. And Buchholz was better than I had ever seen him. I mean this. After walking two guys in the first inning, it was starting to look like another one of those days with the Red Sox' youngsters. But he settled down, mixed his pitches well, and (most importantly) seemed to command every pitch to exactly where he wanted it to. Most of his pitches were just unhittable. He blew some of the Religiously-Neutral Rays, and when he didn't, they just swung at the wrong spots. Wow. He was really, really on. Honestly, he looked better on Saturday night than he did when he pitched the no-hitter against Baltimore's September call-ups.

(An aside: He shook off Captain K quite a few times. Pat F has a wonderful story about Buchholz shaking off Captain K--something that got quite a bit of air time in New York. I hope he can post it in the comments section.)

He made two mistakes, obviously. One of them was to Pena, but he got away with that one. The other was to Iwamura--a hanging curveball that Iwamura clearly sat on. I don't think you can blame Francona for keeping Buchholz in the game, as he didn't really seem like he was tiring. Plus, given the performance of the Red Sox' bullpen pretty much all season, there was no need to do it.

(Another aside: Your typical Japanese baseball player in the past decade has been modest, polite, and respectful. That made Iwamura's pimping of his home run so much more memorable.)

From what I heard on the radio and saw on Gameday, Beckett looked like he pitched pretty well also. Thirteen strikeouts pretty much speak for themselves. Pitchers usually get away with winning a game if they give up one earned run on four hits and strikeout 13. F. And as much as I want to blame my usual suspects (Varitek 0-6 for the series, Drew 2-10), it's not just them. It was pretty much everyone. Ortiz was 0-6 in the first game, and hurt himself sliding into first base (stupid). But with the exception of that game, it's not that he was really playing that terribly. In an eleven-game stretch before Friday night, Ortiz had hit .294 with 17 RBI. The slump, at least in my eyes, is over.

And I know that neither Bryan Corey or Kyle Snyder are not that good, but they have to be better than Mike Timlin. The second-oldest player in the major leagues right now, Timlin has an ERA of over 11 and a WHIP nearing three. Timlin has faced thirty-four (34) batters. Fifty percent (17) have reached via a walk or a hit. Oh. My. God. Twenty-six percent (9) have scored.

After looking at those numbers, I'm done with this post. I'm just going to have to think about that for a while. If you're a Red Sox fan, you might want to do the same thing.

Big Night for Two Young Starters

Red Sox were off last night. Yankees won for their second consecutive day. Mike Mussina continues to do his job, and his three wins in April keep him well ahead of pace as far as what the Yankees need from him. You can lump him in with Wanger, Mo, and Melky as the biggest reasons the Yankees are a game above .500 after a vicious April schedule where they opened with 20 games in 20 days. After an off day, they are now in the middle of 11 more consecutive games. 18 of their first 27, which ended last night, were on the road. That's 31 games, with only one off day, and 18 on the road. You have to take 14-13 every time. Especially when you don't hit. At all.

If the Yankees have done anything right, it's the way they have stockpiled young, powerful arms in the bullpen. In years past, protecting a 5-2 lead for four innings would have been an adventure. Now, it was relatively stress free. Between Albaladejo, Ohlendorf, Farnsworth (I can't believe I'm including him, but I'm so glad I am, he's been lights out), and Chamberlain, all arms that touch the mid 90s and have at least one big nasty breaking ball, they are able to get the game to Rivera. Losing Bruney hurts, but even still, the quality and depth of power arms in the bullpen is a big improvement over last year's team.

And it's a good thing. Because the offense looks pitiful right now. And it isn't going to get better anytime soon, with A-Rod out again and news on Posada coming today.

Big starts tonight for Jon Lester and Phil Franchise. The Red Sox are in the middle of their first losing streak, five in a row. They have lost around the rotation once, and after an off day, you want to stop the bleeding. That falls largely on the starting pitcher, though I'm sure the Boston boys wouldn't mind a few runs.

The Yankees have won two in a row. In order to go on winning streaks, a lot of it falls on the starting pitching. For the Yankees, when I talk winning streaks, I'm talking 3-4 in a row for now. Hughes and Kennedy have been nowhere near good enough to get much past that, so you have to start small.

To have success in an increasingly competitive American League, two essential elements are stopping the bleeding when you need to, and going on winning streaks when you can. After losing five in a row, the Red Sox need to stop the bleeding. After closing a tretcherous road trip winning two in a row, and missing Verlander in this series, it would be a good time for the Yankees to go on a mini winning streak, and get some separation from .500.

This is only worth bringing up because of who the starters are tonight. Two kids that their respective teams need that haven't done much to date. If this was Beckett and Wang, you wouldn't worry about it. You know they are going to do it more often than not. If they don't one time, they will the next time. And it isn't about this one particular instance of stopping the bleeding and trying to go on a winning streak. It's a long season.

And that's just it. It's about the season. There will be many more times when the Yankees are going to lean on Jon Lester and Phil Hughes for things like they are tonight if they want to have success. How they respond tonight could tell us a little bit about them for the rest of the season.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Does Rivera Read This Blog? Weekend Review

First and foremost, Happy Birthday to DV. 23 years old and already a Top 25 finish in the Boston Marathon. Amazingly, who knows how many days after the fact, Colby College finally found time in their incredibly busy schedule to recognize this feat on their website. This should have happened within hours of the race finishing, at latest. Unbelievable. Anyway, Happy Birthday Danny, and congrats again.

The Good: About a month ago I STUPIDLY (like the moron that I am) gave into popular opinion and said that Mariano Rivera was no longer the best closer in baseball. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. I thought this might have been dumb at the time, since Rivera's 3.15 ERA last year (causing all the fuss that he was no longer the best) was a result of one terrible month, April (10.57 ERA). He then went on to post 1.74, 1.98, 0.71, 3.86, 2.77 the rest of the way, and of course, 0.00 in October. He is the best there has ever been, and still not one living human is better. Shame on me for letting one month and a public that, outside of New York, is rooting against him (especially for defying odds at his age) get in the way. So far this year: 11 IP, 4 hits, 12 strikeouts to 0 walks, 0 runs, 7 saves. Unforgivable on my part. Easily my worst moment on this blog. In good news, I can never top this level of lunacy, so at least it's out of the way.

Also in the good is Melky Cabrera. Fringe 4th outfielder? How about a team leading 5 home runs in April, three of which have been game tying or game winning, and three of which have come off of Roy Hallady, Jonathan Papelbon, and C.C. Sabathia. Wait, but you're telling me that just because a 23 year old reached the majors at a young age, he can develop new tools, just like minor leaguers at the same age can? No way! I have no idea if Melky's power surge will continue, but it looks pretty promising. And he was billed at a young age as a guy with solid power potential. Sadly, the Melky hating is more widespread than just Bronx on this site. Everyone points to the fact that he hasn't been spectacular yet (just solid) as a negative thing. Pretty hysterical. Patience. If 23 year old minor leaguers can develop, so can 23 year old major leaguers. Joe Girardi said it yesterday, and I'm saying it now: Melky Cabrera is becoming one of the most indeipensable players on the team.

The Bad: The offense. Not just overall, but with RISP, has been terrible. They are leaving too many men on base. Every inning it seems like it's first and second with zero or one outs, and nobody scores.

The defense. Anyone who wants a good laugh, check out Giambi's work on that sac bunt (turned into a basehit) Saturday. The bunt is up the third baseline, so all Giambi has to do is get to first base for the throw. Not Jason. He first charges (???), then makes a move towards second base (??????????????????????????), then catches the throw and gets beat to the bag (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). I think it was Bandi that made this point in the comments section. It isn't just that the Yankees aren't making phyiscal plays. They aren't making mental plays. I literally watch every day and walking away wondering if any of them had to play the field in Little League. Throwing behind runners, not handling bunts properly, its all on display every day.

Do the Yankees really have to win every day with pitching? Am I actually saying this?

The Ugly: Injuries. Brian Bruney is gone for the year. Not only was he 30 pounds lighter, but he was throwing strikes and had pitched 11.1 innings to the tune of a 1.57 ERA, with a 2-1 K-BB. Outside of Rivera and Joba, he was easily the best reliever in the bullpen, and the way he was throwing was taking the bullpen from very good to elite. Anyone who thinks this isn't a crushing blow is kidding themselves.

Jorge Posada could hurt even more, though we don't know the full extent of the injury. The good news is, regardless of severity, if he can hit, he can have a big impact on this team (which has always been a plus of his contract, more on this in a second). Because he can play first base and DH. I'm hopeful, considering he was back in the lineup far before he was ready to catch, that he will be able to hit again sooner rather than later.

I'm sure the contract experts will be out on this one. And that is totally fine. What isn't fine is that they will be talking about years. Wrong. You either need to be in the "The Yankees should have resigned Posada" camp, or else the "The Yankees should not have signed Posada" camp. This will undoubtedly not be the case. Everyone will be talking about that fourth year, or that he should have been reupped prior to 2007. Wrong again. You don't reup with 35 year old catchers before they have played out their contract. Why? Because if they break down that year, you want to be able to take that into account before investing more years and money in them. If they don't (like Posada), you get burned. But you have to take that risk. The funny thing is, the same people who criticize the Yankees for not signing Posada before 2007 would be the same people KILLING them if they had given him the contract pre 2007 and he got hurt or crapped out in 2007 saying "how do you sign a 35 year old catcher to 3 years before his contract is even up." Hysterical.

Now, once you get burned, like Posada did to them last year, and Mussina did to them in 2006, you're toast. You aren't going to get the years you want in a contract. The Yankees tell Posada 3, he says he can get 5 elsewhere, they settle on 4. The Yankees tell Mussina 1, he says he can get 3 elsewhere, they settle on 2. The only thing the Yankees can do when they (correctly) let aging players play out their contracts is decide to resign them or not. Because if they play well, the Yankees aren't going to get the contract they want. They didn't with Posada, and they didn't with Mussina. But this whole "the Yankees should have signed him before 2007" is ludacris because 1) it still would have been 3 years, which is a lot and 2) you don't give aging players contract extension before giving them every opportunity to crap out. If they don't crap out, your handcuffed, so the whole "the Yankees shouldn't have given Posada a fourth year" is ludacris because they had no choice.

Overall, I said I'd be happy with .500 for the month of April, and thrilled with a few games over. At 13-13, this team is on pace. A lot could go better, as the Yankees haven't hit, haven't defended, have two kids who haven't pitched, and are injured out the wazoo. Hopefully a few wins this week with some positive Posada news will get the Yankees out of this dreaded month for them okay.

Finally, will Chien-Ming Wang ever recover from two bad October starts? Obviously, two bad starts aren't just two bad starts. They are indicators that the previous 2.5 seasons and 500 innings were inaccurate, and Wang can't succeed as a statistical anomoly, groundball pitcher. At 5-0, 3.23, and striking people out at a higher rate than ever, it looks like that may be the case. The Yankees should release him.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

"What we do in life echoes in eternity." (Part 1)

Don't get me wrong, I highly appreciate the influx of readers on this blog in the last year or so, but only the original gangstas who read this blog at the very beginning (or the ones who read my previous writing) remember how insanely furious I was about the Red Sox' 2006-7 offseason. After the Red Sox fell apart in 2006, GM Theo Epstein claimed they were "re-tooling" and trying to build a solid core of major leaguers through minor league prospects. They claimed they had a long-term plan. But the following moves (and many of them are from before 2006-7) suggested they had no idea how to rebuild:


>With SS Hanley Ramirez waiting in the wings, the Red Sox signed Edgar Renteria to play shortstop for 4 years and $40 million in 2005.

>In 2005, the Red Sox traded Ramirez, a promising high-A pitcher Anibal Sanchez, and another highly-rated prospect for a pitcher with durability problems and a third baseman who hit .235/8/50 the year before. (Obviously, this deal worked out well for both sides, but the shortsightedness still stands.)

>In 2006, with first-round pick CF Jacoby Ellsbury already tearing up the minor leagues and Bill Mueller nearing the end of his contract, the Red Sox traded 3B prospect Andy Marte for Coco Crisp. Then they sign Crisp to a long-term extension, effectively blocking Ellsbury from gaining the CF spot.

>In 2006, with two promising shortstops in the farm system in Dustin Pedroia and Jed Lowrie, the Red Sox sign Julio Lugo to a 4-year, $36 million deal.

>On the same day, with outfield prospects David Murphy, Brandon Moss, and Ellsbury all deserving a crack at the lineup by 2008, the Red Sox signed career underachiever JD Drew to a deal that will last until October 2, 2011.


None of these deals sat well with me, even the one that worked out brilliantly (the Beckett/Lowell deal). The deals were against the so-called "retooling" process and, in my eyes, hindered long-term, low-cost development--which should be the aim of the team.


The Red Sox won the World Series in 2007 with a combination of cheap talent (Pedroia, Beckett, Ortiz), high-priced stars like Manny, and high-priced disasters such as Drew and Lugo. This is worth mentioning.


The question is, where does that put us going forward? Well, the answer is in a huge mess. And just now are we realizing that what the Red Sox did in these half-hearted "re-tooling" years will be echoing in eternity.

"What we do in life echoes in eternity." (Part 2)

So now we have a logjam at several different positions. As much as I'm going to defend Coco Crisp and his merits until I'm blue in the face, Jacoby Ellsbury is the center fielder of the future. But right now Crisp is untradable, unwilling to be a bench player, and still under contract until the end of 2009. I mean, I haven't played baseball since the glory days of Little League and I knew this was going to happen. If I hadn't taken up the Coco crusade starting in February 2007, I'd be more pissed off and more willing to see Ellsbury in the CF spot everyday. More on this later.


Meanwhile, David Murphy was traded to Texas and is excelling there. Brandon Moss is stuck in AAA despite having a tremendous spring training. Is he ever going to be a superstar in the major leagues? Probably not. But then again, was JD Drew ever a superstar in the major leagues? His zero all-star selections would suggest the answer is no. Like Drew, Moss is also a patient hitter, exceeding 50 walks in four of his seasons in the minors. He also has some decent pop in his bat. Maybe he wouldn't exceed Drew's 2006 production, but he would almost definitely exceed whatever Drew did in 2007. Then again, so would Troy O'Leary. My point is, Drew will be around until 2011, blocking the way of whatever prospect might deserve a job over him. He will remain in the lineup perhaps only because he's making $14 million a year and people expect him to not be terrible.


And yes, if the Red Sox had signed oft-injured right fielder who can't hit lefties Trot Nixon to a one-year, $3 million deal instead of oft-injured right fielder who can't hit lefties JD Drew to a five-year, $70 million deal, Moss would be able to prove what he was capable of. And if he wasn't capable of much, the Red Sox could have had somewhere to put Ellsbury.


Speaking of Ellsbury, he is being kept out of the lineup because of Crisp's presence until 2009. Once again, the Red Sox' previous shortsightedness is creating problems in the present. Maybe it's bad scouting and the fact that the Red Sox didn't project Ellsbury to be so good so quickly. But he was drafted IN THE FIRST ROUND AFTER putting forward a full college career! What did you expect? Not being major league ready until he's 28?


Last, but not least, is Julio Lugo. He has done nothing in his entire career (save four months in Tampa) to warrant four years and $36 million. I can't even fathom that the Red Sox thought it would be a good idea to invest not just the money, but more importantly the time in having Lugo as their shortstop for such a long time. His 2007 was atrocious. His 2008 so far is atrocious. But honestly, is his deplorable play that unexpected to Red Sox fans except for my boy Craig?



But after the Mike Lowell and Alex Cora injuries, Red Sox fans have been able to see a bit of Jed Lowrie, and Lowrie has produced quite well so far. But Jed Lowrie isn't making $9 million a year until 2010. So enjoy Julio Lugo. And Coco Crisp. And JD Drew. All because the Red Sox weren't thinking in 2005 and 2006.

"What we do in life echoes in eternity." (Part 3)

About a year ago, Red Sox fans were calling for Dustin Pedroia's head because he wasn't producing. He wasn't ready yet, they said, and he should have been benched for Alex Cora, who had performed well off the bench so far that season. I can see where they're coming from, as I'm saying the same thing about Ellsbury right now. But the thing with Cora is that he was performing at his ceiling, and, sure enough, once he got more at-bats he returned to expectations, finishing the season at .246. Cora is a fine bench player, but should not be an everyday player. Pedroia was. So by playing Pedroia instead of Cora, the Red Sox were forgoing the production Cora would bring to the table. Which really isn't that much.


Today, there are two situations similar to that. One of them is Ellsbury/Crisp. At this point, Ellsbury is not ready. His spring training at-bats were bad. Many of his regular-season at-bats are bad. Theo Epstein and his baseball people have admitted that he needs to re-discover his "batting practice" swing, and playing in the major leagues every day against the best pitchers in the world in games that might be the difference between playoffs and no playoffs probably isn't the best place to experiment. Meanwhile, Coco Crisp has shown enough flashes of brilliance to warrant an everyday job in the majors, including defensive value that is tops in baseball, both to people who just watch and the sabermetricians. The thing about replacing Crisp is that by playing Ellsbury, the Red Sox must forgo using Crisp, and as good as Ellsbury's been (especially in the week since I started this senior thesis), Crisp has been just as good.


So pretty much whatever happens here, the Red Sox will be wasting talent because of their shortsightedness in the winter of 2005-6.


Similarly, due to their shortsightedness in the winter of 2006-7, the Red Sox will be forgoing the production from Crisp and/or Ellsbury in the right field spot. As Ellsbury has a stronger arm than Crisp, he would be the logical solution in right field. But this will never happen, as for some reason, JD Drew will be hitting weak ground balls to the right side pretty much every day for the next thirty-five months. He is keeping someone more qualified to do his job from helping the team simply because he is making $14 million a year.


And unlike with Crisp, what do you forgo by benching or Frank Thomas-ing Nancy Drew? On-base percentage? Fine. Ellsbury's been on base at least once in every single game he's played in the major leagues except for one. But because JD Drew gets on base, he should keep his job and Coco Crisp shouldn't. Right. Drew's walks plus hits fall short of his strikeouts plus weak ground ball outs to the right side last year.


Same goes for Lowrie and Lugo. By signing Lugo on the same day they signed Drew (this day, in terms of Red Sox history, is about five times worse than the day Aaron Boone hit that home run), they essentially ran Jed Lowrie out of town. I'm not completely sold on Lowrie as a can't-miss prospect, but even if he ends up average, he has to be better than Julio Lugo. Yes, Lugo has started well, but just as I'm not completely sold on Lowrie, I'm not sold at all on Lugo as a can't-miss major league player. Well, except the fact that I can't say I'd miss him if he was taken out of the starting lineup.


By benching Lowrie, the Red Sox will forgo a shortstop who actually does have pop in his bat. Lugo came advertised as having "pop" in his bat, but I think what they meant was "pop-up." By benching Lugo, the Red Sox forego mediocre offensive production and poor defense. I know on this blog, we have probably more anti-Lugo people than anti-Drew people, so fire away.


But anyway, there is a logjam at three positions for the Red Sox this year. And here is why:

-The Red Sox signed a long-term extension for Coco Crisp, denying Ellsbury a job.
-The Red Sox signed a long-term contract for J.D. Drew, denying Ellsbury (or Crisp) a job.
-The Red Sox signed a long-term contract for Julio Lugo, denying Lowrie a job.


As a result of these three shortsighted moves, the Red Sox are wasting not only money, but also talent. This is why I was so pissed off during the dawn of How Youz Doin Baseball. And just now the Red Sox realize they have a problem.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Pissed-Off Ticket Customers

"What do you mean Justin Masterson's not pitching here tonight?"
"Well, he got called up to Boston."

Masterson pitched very, very well yesterday. I mean, the line really does tell the story. Maybe it's because hitters didn't know what to expect, but he fooled a lot of guys. He made quite a few look really stupid. And luckily for me, the fact that he wasn't pitching for the AA Affiliate last night didn't piss too many people off.

As far as the bullpen goes, I already wrote about them after they sucked last week. I'm convinced that Javier Lopez still has a job for the same reason Isiah Thomas had a job for so long: Incriminating photos of Francona/Epstein. It's really the only explanation.

As far as Delcarmen goes, I think Boston Dirt Dogs had it perfect this morning, referring to the revelations that he felt dizzy while warming up. That is something that should have been brought to the attention of the manager.

As far as Hansen goes, I know he's still young (24), but how much longer will the Red Sox wait for him? His lifetime ERA is over six and a half. Both Hansen and Delcarmen bombed in AAA at the beginning of the year either last year or the year before, but Delcarmen last year proved he's legit. That wasn't until he was 25, so who knows?

And as far as Okajima goes, I bet somewhere Pat saw that highlight and started screaming about how much he sucked and how horrible he was...in a triumphant way. Maybe he did the Montreal Canadiens thing and started lighting things on fire.

Speaking of lighting things on fire, anyone else see those bombs Coco hit? Anybody see the two times he stole third base? I'm not guaranteeing that he's going to be the hottest hitter in the American League coming off of this injury, but he's well on his way to doing that. If only the Red Sox faced a lefty every day so J.D. Platoon is lifted for Ellsbury and Coco could stay in center field!

This weekend, I will most likely finish my senior thesis on next week's inevitable controversy. I know very few people read HYD Baseball over the weekend, but I hope you can take a few minutes out of your weekend and add something worthwhile.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

It's Why We Watch (Volume 5)

Okay, life is starting to get back to normal for me. Except for an inability to walk down stairs or down hills, but even that will come back in a few days. Baseball hasn't been very present for me, but I'd like to think I've read and listened to enough to make a few observations.

1. I really, really, really like this comeback trend that we've all noticed about this year's Red Sox team. Unlike a lot of other years (including last year), we're seeing timely hitting from 1-9. I can't complain about how the Red Sox are Lorenz Curving the season again, as they had scored 5+ runs nine games in a row. Shaky starting pitching and Mike Timlin aside, this team has been pretty enjoyable to watch lately. I mean, I won't even harp too much on the fact that Nancy Drew hit a 3-6, a 3-1, and ANOTHER 4-6-3 last night on his way to nine weak ground balls to the right side in the last seven days.

2. I flat-out don't like Ellsbury. Being the first guy to hire Scott Boras after A-Rod opting out of his contract during Game 4 of the World Series is like being the first guy to hire Mike Nifong as his lawyer after the Duke Lacrosse case. And because he's the second guy responsible for the unfair public treatment of Coco Crisp, I'm going to be 10 times harder on him for it. On top of that, I feel similar to the way Matt feels, being turned off by the fact that he won the 2007 Pink Hat's Choice Award. If he becomes too much of a public figure and might need a security entourage, I hear that Donald Rumsfeld needs a job. Idiot.

That said, it's been hard to rag on him for the way he's performed on the baseball field. Despite his .212 batting average a week ago, he has been on base in each game this year in which he's had a plate appearance except for one. In the last week he's hit .417 while Coco has been injured...again. Though you already know which outfielder I think should be benched (please refer to the right side of this blog) once Coco is healthy again, it's hard to think about taking Ellsbury out of the lineup. He always seems to be around during those timely hits, either at the plate or somehow on base.

3. Buchholz finally got it together on Monday. That makes me feel a little bit better about the pitching staff. A little bit. Even Tony Massarotti gave Buchholz his props on Tuesday morning. But once again, it's the comeback tendencies for the Red Sox offense that has been bailing out just-okay pitching performances. And sometimes that's what you gotta do.

4. This illness thing sucks. Maybe it's a Japan thing like the illness that Jason Giambi got, making him lose all that weight in 2004. Oh, wait. He just stopped taking steroids.

5. Justin Masterson is not starting at the AA Affiliate tonight, which will drive down attendance here tonight. He's been pretty solid here so far this season, but hasn't lasted very far into games. The Red Sox, it seems, have been pretty cautious with the pitch counts. If he gets in trouble today, it's going to be more innings by the relievers, which scares me. There are two problems with the relievers throwing a lot of innings: a) they will surrender a lot of runs and b) the Red Sox might be forced into a Joe Torre situation with a lot of tired bullpen arms come summertime.

6. Gunn compared me to Ellsbury in a previous post. He said that would drive me crazy, and that is true (see #2). I said in an interview after the Maine Marathon that if I were to compare myself to anyone, it would be Pedroia, and I'm sticking to that. Maybe even moreso after the "Ask Jeff Francis" story and yesterday's Herald article about his doubters. The Wilmington people reading this blog know they didn't have to look far to find someone who was dissing my ability to run fast (some could just look in the mirror). So yeah...that, combined with my filthy mouth, my arrogance (it oozes from my posts, I've heard), and my insistence that everyone I run against sucks and is horrible, that's who I would compare myself to.

7. I may never shop at Olympia Sports again, even if they have Coco Crisp t-shirts at half price. Anyone who has been watching half an hour of NESN knows EXACTLY why.

If He Didn't Have to Pitch to Manny Ramirez...

Mike Mussina would have an ERA in the high 2's (Manny has driven in 6 of the 15 earned runs Mussina has surrendered, or 40%). Oh wait, he doesn't have to pitch to Manny Ramirez! And I understand that some of the 6 runs Manny drove in may have still scored, raising his ERA above the high 2's, even if he didn't pitch to Manny. But the point still stands. Mussina has not been okay, or good, or anything like that. Outside of Manny, he's been excellent, especailly given the expectations.

Meanwhile, someone finally figured out it wasn't illegal to score more runs in a game then the Red Sox. That team has been scorching hot. Lester seems to be having problems in the giving up hits department. DV must still be deservedly wiped from his incredible Marathon finish, as we haven't heard much from him lately. Would love an update on Lester.

Back to Mussina. I was hard on the guy in the off-season and during Spring Training. DV suggested last week that he probably shouldn't be pitching in the Major Leagues. Many others on this blog, and everywhere in America, said that he was cooked. I backed off my stance after the first game against Toronto, because I saw some great things. I'm willing to bet most other people are willing to back of their stances now.

It's not necessarily that Mussina is as good as he was last night (4 hits, 1 walk, 2 runs in 7 innings), or against Tampa Bay (2 hits, 1 walk, 1 run in 6 innigns), both good offenses. It's that those outings exceed what the Yankees need from Mussina by SO MUCH, it suggests that he at least has what they do need from him. Manny Ramirez aside, if in every five outings he's good twice, average once, bad twice, and gets 2 wins, that will be 14 good outings, 7 average outings, and 14 bad outings, and approximately 14 wins. Will he get there? Maybe, but probably not. Injuries, wearing down, and going back to being ineffective are all possibilities.

But that's just it. They don't need him to get there. The fact that he's ahead of pace is what is so exciting. If he somehow stays on this pace, he'll give the Yankees more than expected. If not, it gives a cushion for when he is bad, and a better chance to arrive in September at what the Yankees would like to get from him. Hopefully he stays ahead of pace for a while.

Big start for Phil Hughes tonight. He made progress in the "stop trying to hard" department in Baltimore, and was an A-Rod error away from a very good outing. If he takes a step back tonight, five starts into the season, it will be concerning. Not for his long term effectiveness, but for he and the Yankees in 2008. It's very difficult for a young pitcher to just "flip a switch" like a struggling veteran can (C.C. Sabathia this year). It is typically a progression, not just long term, but in the course of a season. If he doesn't continue to show signs of getting back on track tonight and in his next few starts, it will become more and more unlikely that he will figure it out this year. Wouldn't be the end of the world, but not going to help. Here's to him being Franchise again tonight.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wang Wins 50

With the win last night, CMW became the fastest pitcher in the last 22 years (Doc Gooden) to get to 50 wins, needing only 85 starts to do it. I'm not a big believer in wins. I think they matter, for sure, because wins are wins, and they are always the goal. However, I think losses and decisions, coupled with wins, matter even more. Wang has only 18 losses, and has had a decision in 68 of 85 starts. That's an incredibly low number of losses (and high winning pct.), and indicates that he is working deep into games, rarely getting lit up. 50-18 in 85 starts is a lot more impressive than 50-40 in 145 starts. Same number of wins, but getting there in very different ways. That seems obvious enough I suppose. Wang being the former is what casts him into the elite class of current pitchers.

The important thing is that the Yankees won behind Wang last night. With Wang and Pettitte now properly distanced in the rotation (they were back to back), it guarantees the Yankees getting at least one of them into every three game set. When they win the Wang/Pettitte game, like they did last night, it puts them in an ideal position, as they only have to split the Hughes/Kennedy/Mussina game to get a series win. Until at least one of those three displays some consistency, winning the Wang/Pettitte games is critical. Given that Wang wasn't particularly sharp, last night was a satisfying win. He battled without his best stuff(I'm mystified that he doesn't throw his 4-seam fastball more, but I guess people a lot smarter than me make those decisions), turned in a quality outing, and the offense picked him up.

Welcome to the 2008 season, Johnny Damon! Since the start of Spring Training, you've collected approximately US $2,000,000 in paychecks, or nearly five times the league minimum. League minimum, meaning what they pay either youngsters or utility guys FOR THE WHOLE YEAR, most of which are usually at or below league average in terms of production. Thanks for finally giving us something more than league average, what a bargain. On a more positive note, and I mentioned this in the comments, Johnny Damon has three home runs to right field in his last 28 at bats. When he is handling the fastball on the inner half, and pulling it for power, that's when he's right, and can really help this team. Hopefully it continues. At a higher rate above league average. Maybe like x100, comparable to how he gets paid.

Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi caught a big break last night with the Giambi homer. I was stirring when I saw the lineup and he was in it. That homerun doesn't change much in my eyes, as 1) he needs to do it more consistently (a lot more) and 2) his defense tries to cost us every game, as it did last night.

Robinson Cano's slow start is really starting to gain some press, and that's fine. He is well below the Mendoza line. Of course, it's for all the wrong reasons. People are talking about Larry Bowa leaving as if this is the reason for Cano's struggles. Goodness gracious. Yeah, I'm sure a coach's presence can really have this kind of dramatic impact on a player hitting the ball or not hitting the ball. Especially one who wasn't even with the team in 2005, when Cano batted .297 with 34 doubles as a rookie. I'm a big Bowa fan, and I know he helped Cano immensly. But that aid was mostly defensive, where Cano needed help. Cano didn't need help offensively.

Cano is maddeningly streaky, and this is the most likely reason for his slow start. He batted .400+ in Spring Training and we have a solid sample size that says he's a really good hitter. It's just going to come in bunches. It always has. I want him to start hitting as much as the next guy, because he's crushing us offensively right now. But all this analysis as to why he's struggling is overblown. He's going to get really hot, then really cold again, then really hot again. It isn't anything new. He's just in one of his cold spells right now (really cold). It isn't going to be the last. Hopefully that roped double to left-center last night will get him out of this one.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Mile 23

Thanks for all the kind comments on my marathon yesterday, folks. To answer some of your questions, no, I am not on drugs except for the fact that I have a troubling dependence on caffeine. As Rick Ross said, "you can blame that on my occupation." I am targeting the 2012 Olympic Trials and I'm not sure yet what my next marathon/race will be. Ross Kaplan did not teach me all I know about running, but I have run alongside him and Pat F both. Granted, we were on treadmills going different speeds, but it is what it is.

That said, let me just clarify that during my race, I ran the first fifteen miles perfectly and was within one second of my goal pace for each of the first three five-mile segments. Climbing the hills, I slowed down a bit, but so did pretty much everyone else. The Portland Press-Herald wrote this morning that only one person behind me at the half-marathon mark ended up beating me (I'm assuming that was Eric Blake, who's an absolute beast). Let's just say that Kenya's Joseph Koskei had a more brutal second half than I did.

I climbed the hill okay, coasted down the hill okay, and then hit the wall as I got to the bottom of the hill (around 22 miles in). In other words, I ran 22 good miles and 4 crummy miles.

So in the spirit of How Youz Doin Baseball, it is 100% fair game to absolutely harpoon my performance across those last four miles. The way I go after players for not performing (Varitek comes to mind, especially considering his production compared to the rest of the catchers around the league), it's only fair to put miles 23, 24, and 25 especially up to the same standard of scrutiny. My feelings won't be hurt, and the fact that you don't know everything about distance running is okay. I'm pretty confident that I even know more about baseball than distance running, even though the latter is the thing I do.

I have about four posts ready in the draft section, including one on Canseco's book and three about the argument that has started a little bit like a brushfire in some comments sections but will blow up significantly in the next week or two.

Monday, April 21, 2008

DV's Marathon Monday and a Weekend Recap

I meant to post this over the weekend, but since readership is generally low on the weekends I suppose now is just as well. I am proud to say that our very own Daniel J. Vassallo is running in the Boston Marathon today. I know very little about running, but I do know that if you qualified to run this morning, you are a pretty big deal. Danny was a primetime runner in college, receiving conference, state, regional, and national recognition on what became a seasonal basis. Here's to a great run today DV, best of luck.

More of the same from the Red Sox this weekend. And by more of the same I mean they saw Texas on the schedule and automatically got their brooms out. I have no idea when the last time Boston swept Texas was (I'd be shocked if it wasn't 2007), but I feel like it's every time they see them. I can remember right around this time last year, maybe a little later, having my Senior Spring negatively impacted by the height of the Yankees struggles combined with Boston (I believe) sweeping Texas on back to back weekends, both home and away. And I remember some of those wins being (painful) late inning comebacks, much like Saturday and Sunday. If one of the Boston boys can confirm their domination of Texas for me, both generally and around this time last year, I'd be appreciative.

Timely hitting has been the name of Boston's game for quite some time now, and they continued to get that all weekend. Outside of Beckett, the pitching certainly hasn't been spectacular, but they seem to be getting just enough from everyone in terms of keeping them in the game. When you get timely hits, that's really all you can ask for. They also seem to be playing with a very good level of consistency from one game to the next, even in losses.

All of this is more than you can say for the Yankees, who are up and down by the inning, let alone the game. Timely hitting? No thanks. Consistent pitching? No thanks. Defense having an impact that is anything but negative? NO WAY.

On the pitching side, Phil Hughes was very good through five innings Friday night. With one out and runners on 1st and 3rd in the 6th of a 1-1 game, #13 made sure the wheels came right off. Routine groundball right to him, he's indecisive about whether or not to go home, and ends up going to first and throwing it away. Far away. Instead of a runner on second with two outs and Hughes with a chance to get one more batter and have a solid outing (6 IP/2 R), we still have one out with runners all over the friggin' place and it ends up being a 7 run inning. Thanks, Alex.

Patrick Kennedy proceeded to be terrible and Pettitte proceeded to be lights out. If we were to have our first "Tale of the Tape: Yankees' Pitching Edition", we'd have split results through three weeks here on the blog. So far, I'd be on the losing side of the "Phil Hughes/Patrick Kennedy will be good right away" debate. I'd also be on the winning side of the "this is Andy Pettitte's crap out year and Chien-Ming Wang won't recover from the ALDS" debate. There is a lot to say about both Hughes and Kennedy, positive and negative, but not right now.

Not right now because they'll never get good results, even when they do pitch well, with defense like this. I'm sure everyone is already tired of hearing me talk about this. It's very easy to overlook defense when you root for a team like Boston, that only has one defender that contributes negatively (Lugo), and everyone else either does their job (Manny, Drew, Captain K, Pedroia) or contributes positively (Crisp/Ellsbury, Youkilis, Lowell).

Let me tell you, when nearly 70% of your starting defense is contributing negatively to the cause, it's not nearly as easy to overlook defense. Especially when your pitching is either fragile or looks to put the ball in play, which accounts for all of the Yankees starters. Everyone makes errors. But when you have terrible defenders like Giambi making RIDICULOUS errors, like turning routine groundouts into doubles, it makes the average error by a decent player look worse. When you take the timliness of everything into account (A-Rod literally ruined Hughes' outing, not to mention the game, on Friday) it makes me want to jump out the window.

Can I get a ruling on this defensive thing I've been harping on since the start of the season? Is it ridiculous on my part to think defense is so important, and to be so frustrated by the Yankees' lack of it? Do all of you Red Sox fans appreciate the fact that you have such a plus defense? Do you think it has a positive impact on your club the way I think the Yankees' defense hurts them? Would love to get some thoughts.

Do it to 'em DV.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Quick Thoughts on Thursday

1. Joe Girardi and Mike Mussina are dumb. Really really dumb. Manny Ramirez was the difference in that game. Sound familiar? That's because he was the difference five days ago. It's one thing, Joe, if you haven't been paying attention for the last seven years. It's a totally different thing, Joe, if you weren't paying attention last Saturday. Five straight fastballs (Mussina fastballs, that is) in that second AB? REALLY? How about some junk off the plate and if he doesn't bite, he takes first base. Let's try this once, JUST ONCE, and see if it is more effective (100% guaranteed, for those who are wondering). I don't know who is at fault here (Girardi or Mussina), but Girardi is the manager. He needs to take some control, because Mussina being stupid with Manny has cost us the chance to win two games already. Mussina stinks way too much to be pitching to Manny, let along throwing fastballs. File me under CONCERNED about our manager.

2. I can see why Clay Buchholz wasn't getting calls last night. He's a rookie and in addition he probably stole the umpire's laptop. But what did Josh Beckett do to get the called strike at the ankle? Goodness gracious. He's good enough with a strike zone at the knees, or at least the shins. We don't need him punching guys out with fastballs barely off the ground.

3. Josh Beckett is very good. Outside of that facial hair and the cool, relaxed, totally zen, quiet type of intensity that he so gallantly brings to the baseball field (fraud), he's a pleasure to watch pitch in his post 2006 form. That said, the Yankees are still taking a 2006 approach against him, which is to say, a bad approach. Patience is no longer going to have an impact, as he pounds the strike zone far too consistently and effectively. They need to be more aggressive with him than any other pitcher in baseball, much like they learned to do with Schilling. If he wants to beat them with curveballs and changeups all night, tip your cap. But if he wants to try to get ahead with first and second pitch fastballs, they have to be swinging. He's a totally different pitcher out of the stretch (and by totally different, I mean you have the chance to score off him), so you simply have to get runners on. It's not happening via the walk like it used to for every other batter. So they have to swing the bat, get base runners, and swing the bat some more to have a trying chance.

4. I'm sure there is going to be a big to-do about Farnsworth throwing high and behind Manny. Let me go on record as saying that I do not condone this type of behavior. It's only baseball, and you don't want to do anything dangerous. That said, it didn't hit him. And by didn't hit him, I mean it did the opposite of what happens to Jeter and A-Rod in every series vs. Boston (see: last night). You don't want a potentially dangerous situation to occur with Manny? Stop hitting Jeter and A-Rod. To this, I'm sure the reply is that Manny was thrown at because of the way he has crushed the Yankees at the plate. Doesn't matter why he did it though, because the Yankees SHOULD be throwing at Manny because the Red Sox have hit the Yankees more than DOUBLE the amount that the Yankees have hit the Red Sox in the last four years. I'm sure we are also going to hear all about how it was the location, not the intent, that was the problem. Well, let's just say we've had Red Sox with far better control than Farnsworth with the same up-and-in tendencies, except they actually connect. Twice as many HBP in recent years. Don't get too crazy here. Let's stop on the Boston side (something I'm rooting for), and we will surely have no reason to retaliate on the Yankees side (something I'm also rooting for).

5. I'll take this split any day of the week. The Yankees won the game they were supposed to, and lost the game they were supposed to. That said, it would be nice if we could try to get into stealing a game at some point. Joe Girardi and Mike Mussina are really getting in the way of this. Like I said earlier, Girardi is the manager. If Mussina is being stubborn, punish him. If Girardi is the one being stubborn, the Yankees are going to have some serious issues for as long as Girardi is in that dugout. And I tend to believe this is the case, because it isn't just Mussina getting smacked by Manny. The Yankees still have 14 more games against the Red Sox. You CAN keep one player from beating you. It's called first base.

6. Runs off Papelbon are never meaningless, he's way too good. Great job making some teamwide adjustments after getting blown away Saturday. Swing, swing, swing, and if he throws you three straight splits, tip your cap. They need to start doing the same thing with Beckett. Don't worry, they'll get ahead enough when you swing and miss or foul it off, they don't need help from batters who want to look at strikes to get behind in the count. At that point, you may as well go sit down. Swing the bat!

7. In related news, Melky Cabrera continues to show why he doesn't belong, I can't believe he's still starting.

8. Fire Girardi.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Slugfest and Scouting Clay Buchholz

I was at the Stadium last night, sitting in one of my favorite spots, front row of the right field bleachers. In addition to the entertainment value of the other fans in that section, it's actually an ideal view of the game in my opinion. You can see everything develop, but you can REALLY see the pitching, and as I'm sure everyone knows by now, I love this. Of course, all I ended up seeing from a results standpoint was balls flying out all over the place (you can see me and my boys going wild very clearly on SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight, as Abreu's homer landed about 10 ft. left of us).

Regardless, it was interesting to watch Buchholz live from that angle. One thing is very clear: he has "big" stuff. He doesn't rely on sharp, late action like a Schilling. He has huge movement like Joba and Papelbon, and you could see that with every breaking ball or changeup he threw last night. You can tell his "big" stuff makes him a little more comfortable on the mound than a Phil Hughes right now, because he will throw his curve or change in any count for strikes. That said, like Hughes, fastball and fastball location are the issue.

The Yankees teed off on that thing all night, and despite the big stuff, he's not going to have a lot of success until he starts locating the fastball. He doesn't have enough on it to get away with mistakes. This is where the Yankee fan has to hope Hughes catches or passes Buchholz, getting away with fastball mistakes. In their respective terrible outings in the last week, Hughes was still getting swing and miss fastballs, where as Buchholz was not. He has a little more on it with substantially more late life. The reason you have to hope for this as a Yankee fan is because, in my opinion, Buchholz's big curveball/changeup plays far better than Hughes' right now. Either way, they both have a long way to go, but I think they both have the makings of really good pitchers.

Wang stunk last night as well. No location, nothing on the sinker down in the zone, and seeing a Red Sox team who seems to get him every other outing twice in one week were all factors.

Good to see the Yankee offense finally explode, after teetering on the edge of doing so for two games in Tampa Bay. They owed the pitching one, as they are the reason this team is 9-7 despite scoring only 56 runs over the first 15 games (3.7 per) prior to last night. This is easily the best pitching, from the starters, to the bullpen, to the late innings the Yankees have had since 2003. It's not great pitching, but it's good, which is better than bad, which is what it has been the last few years. Hopefully the offense continues to build upon last night, and make this good pitching play better than it is.

Mussina/Beckett again tonight. It will be interesting to see how they respond to seeing the same offense twice in one week. Wang and Buchholz definitely failed.

It's Why We Gameday (Volume 4)

I'm going to keep this one short, because I have little to no authority on last night's game. Why is this, you ask? Well, that's because the AA Affiliate played a franchise-record 17 innings last night, elipsing the previous record for innings (16). It was also the longest game in franchise history in terms of time (5:42). So I watched zero innings of the Red Sox/Yankees game. I listened to zero innings of the Red Sox/Yankees game. I did Gameday the game, however, and this is what I have to say:

1. I talked to commenter Jack Sox at the game last night briefly about Clay Buchholz and he suggested that Buchholz is going to take lumps similar to the ones he took last night. He's going to surrender home runs, and most likely a lot of them. He could blow away the AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats. He could blow away the AAAA Baltimore Orioles. He can't blow away A-Rod or Abreu.

2. The burden of this season for the Red Sox rests squarely on the shoulders of Buchholz, Lester, and Matsuzaka. Yeah, that doesn't sound good to me either. I mean, these guys don't have to pitch like aces. They just have to a) not get lit up and b) get deep into games. Tim Wakefield's made a career out of not getting lit up and getting deep into games. These three guys have to do it, because...

3. The fewer innings thrown by the Red Sox bullpen, the less likely the Red Sox are to lose a game. I apologize for saying the Red Sox have the bullpen edge--I was wrong. I had somehow forgot how bad Mike Timlin was, especially when he's rushed back from an injury. As I wrote a couple days ago, you can trust Julian Tavarez about one-third of the time. The other two thirds, he's probably going to get lit up. But that's still better than your average major-league mopup guy.

4. Coco Crisp is not helping his trade value by getting hurt all the time. He's possibly more fragile than Nancy Drew. He's not making $14 million, though. His injuries mean that Jacoby Ellsbury is playing center field. Which brings me to my next point...

5. Ellsbury is the Red Sox' center fielder of the future. Duh. Everyone knows that. You ever heard that saying "the future is now?" Well...the future is NOT now. Ellsbury's hitting .233 and went 0-5 while everyone else in the order was shelling Chien-Ming Wang and friends. He's the center fielder of the future but is the fourth outfielder of the present.

That's all I got today. I'll let Pat tackle the specific's of last night's game that I missed.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Jason Vari-Horn

Jed Lowrie made his major league debut last night and was chiefly responsible for keeping the Red Sox in that game. He rocked the #12 jersey, previously rocked by one Mark Bellhorn, the immortal member of the 2004 Red Sox who basically did nothing except for walk and strike out.

The thing about Bellhorn, however, is that no matter how frustrating he was to watch about 85% the time, he had a knack for getting big hits. Though he's known for the big hits in the postseason and striking out looking...A LOT...he also had quite a few well-timed extra-base hits throughout the 2004 regular season. Every Red Sox fan got frustrated with Bellhorn that 85% of the time, and perhaps the only things that made Bellhorn's tenure tolerable would be his bargain basement salary and the game "Swinging or Looking," when you gamble money on which way Bellhorn would strike out that at-bat. It's not fun to play that game with two on and two out.

Meanwhile, Jason Varitek has never really been heralded as a very clutch hitter. There have been many things said about his low batting average with the bases loaded, and how such a prolific hitter had gone grand slam-less until very recently. Even when his batting average stayed above .250 for a reasonable amount of time, he wasn't ever--EVER--the guy you wanted at the plate with the game on the line.

Fast forward to this season, when strikeouts exceed hits for Varitek since 2006. His home run totals have dropped, his average has dropped, and his other numbers have similarly eroded. But so far this year, he's been bringing some serious tangibles to this team. He only has four RBIs. Yes, I can rag on him for that. But all four have been important.

>April 1, two-out go-ahead RBI double off of Joe Blanton.
>April 2, eventual game-winning HR off of Huston Street.
>April 6, game-tying HR off of Roy Halladay.
>April 15, eventual game-winning pinch-hit HR off of Jensen Lewis.

Other than the Halladay HR, the Red Sox won all these games and Varitek was responsible for it. Otherwise, he's been worthless to quite worthless, and many of his bad at-bats have also come at the most inopportune times (as you've heard about on this blog, obviously). I mean, everything I just wrote could have also applied to what Mark Bellhorn did throughout 2004. There are many frustrations to watching this guy, there aren't many hits, but the hits that do happen are always key.

Not that I'm letting Varitek off the hook by any means. And not that I ever let Bellhorn off the hook (nor did my brother, who will inevitably post a good comment on this entry) either. It's true that Bellhorn, despite the fact that he was on pace to break the all-time single season strikeout record (and would have broken it if not for a short DL stint in August), was a big player in big spots...sometimes. The Red Sox rewarded him for this, upping his salary to $2.75 million in 2005.

It's safe to say that Varitek will not be asking for a $2.75 million one-year deal this November. But I'd say that this would be the starting price for the Red Sox. Maybe $3.75 or 4 because of the scarcity of catchers and the (sigh) intangibles. As far as I'm concerned, a guy with Bellhorn production deserves Bellhorn money. Not that there's anything wrong with either of those. Bellhorn was clutch. The glory days version of Varitek was not. The new Varitek is clutch.

In the meantime, can we get the Red Sox to sew a "B" on his uniform to indicate that he's the 2008 version of Bellhorn? I figure if he deserves credit for being the captain with a "C" on his uniform, every single role he serves deserves similar recognition. In other words, I think the Red Sox should make Varitek's jersey look like a Boy Scout uniform.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Welcome Back

"Welcome back to Planet Earth" could be applied to many people relevant in last night's Red Sox/Indians game. Ortiz finally got a pair of hits, boosting his average back above half the Mendoza Line. As we saw with Jeter a few years ago when he started 0-24, his batting average, no matter how well he plays for the rest of the year, will probably never fully recover. But as long as he's no longer an automatic out, that is a good thing. Along the same lines, Mike Timlin is not going to give up a home run every time he's put into a baseball game, as evidenced by his 1-2-3 eighth inning last night. That said, he should still not be put into any tight situation unless Delcarmen's arm is falling off a la the Dodgers' bullpen in two months.

(Speaking of the Dodgers, is Andruw Jones ever going to return to planet earth and be good again? He's hitting .114 and has almost three times as many strikeouts as he has hits.)

Welcome back to earth, Joe Borowski. The fact that he somehow, someway, accumulated 45 saves in 2007 despite an ERA worse than the league average (as a reliever!) has to be some kind of abberation. He blew eight saves, which is high. But not as high as a 5.07 ERA would dictate. Was each save opportunity for this so-called closer a three-run game when he came in and a one-run game when he finished it? Borowski makes Todd Jones look like Mariano Rivera.

Anyway, Borowski is now 2/4 in save situations and has an ERA of 18.00. His Baseball-Reference page lists one of his "similar pitchers" as Kerry Ligtenberg. And like Kerry Ligtenberg, Borowski got lit up. Again.

Speaking of returning to earth, guess who has a three-game hitting streak? J.D. Drew! No, wait a second, that's a streak of three games without a hit. During those three games, he has struck out four times and grounded into two double plays to the right side. So let me be the first to welcome Nancy back to earth and express the happiness I feel everyday because I get to enjoy watching him and his .260 batting average all summer long. Note: Nancy hit .419 through his first nine games in 2007, too. Realizing that he would get a free pass from Boston fans for a while, he hit .233 for his next eighty-seven games. October 2, 2011.

Lester walked a bunch of guys. He threw a lot of pitches. He didn't throw a lot of innings. That resulted in a lot of innings thrown by Julian and Timlin. I feel like I've already written about a hundred posts about this, so I don't want to do it again.

On the bright side, the following must be noted:

-I can't be happier about having Julian Tavarez as the Red Sox' mopup guy. Dead serious, no sarcasm here. Not only does he deserve a hockey-style "A" on his uniform for keeping the future unanimous MVP happy, but in the midst of his perpetual suckitude (as that post explains in detail), he DEFINITELY shows flashes of brilliance. Last night was yet another example of that. Yes, he's going to frustrate about 60% of the time. But that's the nature of a mopup pitcher. I believe the Red Sox have the best in baseball.

-Youkilis is having a typical Youkilis April in which he is the man. This might be an unsettling byproduct of Lowell's injury: Youkilis might not get the days off he so deperately needs to prevent a typical Youkilis September in which he is the second coming of Ed Sprague. (Ed Sprague, by the way, should get a refund on his steroids and greenies. They didn't work.)

-One last point about coming back to earth, the rightful center fielder is hitting .343 and got robbed of ANOTHER bunt single by a call indicating that the umpire was cold and wanted to go home three outs earlier. Hitting .343 is a reasonable expectation of the Fastest Member of Red Sox Nation, especially if he can pull off at least two bunt singles every series. Unlike the other CF candidate, Coco Crisp will not "take his lumps" as a young player. He will instead continue to rip all year. As my brother said yesterday, he's got a tremendous chip on his shoulder. I would venture to guess he has a tremendous chip on EACH shoulder, as he should.

Defense

DV has a great post waiting in the drafts section that I hope he has time to post today. It will be a nice (and necessary) break from my whining, before Round 2 of Yankees/Red Sox.

So let me get this in quickly. Johnny Damon drops a fly ball he should have caught blindfolded, leads to a run and 5 extra pitches for IPK. Jeter allows a hardly above average level of difficulty groundball up the middle for an infield hit. IPK throws 12 extra pitches. It also indirectly lead to the run Traber gave up for IPK, assuming IPK would not have given up the same home run, because IPK would have still been in the game, not Traber.

Instead of his line reading 6 IP/3 ER, it probably would have read 7 IP/1-2 ER (again, assuming he didn't suddenly get lit up in the 7th). Instead of pitching only 6 innings, IPK would have had approximately 17 extra pitches to work in the 7th, which is significant. Instead of the bullpen blowing it all up, Kennedy would have still been on the mound, where he was in control the entire game.

This is all on the defense's running tab that, two weeks into the season, already looks like a 25 person dinner at Smith & Wolensky. Listen, I understand this is baseball, errors happen, not every play gets made, etc. But it doesn't happen every night. And these aren't always errors. They are just plays that should be made and they are not being made. As I mentioned yesterday, Yankee pitching simply cannot afford this. Routine plays, as well as slightly above routine plays, need to be made at a much higher clip than they are currently being made. I'm not hopeful for any improvement.

Anyway, good to see Kennedy calm everyone's nerves with his performance. A bad start from him, after Hughes the night before, would have had people in panic mode. The Rays have a well above average offense with Crawford, Pena, Upton, and Longoria (wait until you guys see Longoria, who doubled and homered last night), and Kennedy really looked strong. Crisp fastball to the glove in and out, getting both the curveball and changeup over, and a great swing and miss changeup down in the zone. He looked like the pitcher we saw for three great starts last year. If only he could get a little help.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Needed: First Baseman

The Yankees need a first baseman. Preferable right-handed with the bat. Definitely looking for a defensive upgrade. Giambi is all but toast. Betemit and Ensberg are not the answer, even as splits. And I'm more comfortable with Shelley Duncan in short spurts and on a situational basis than I am everyday (though I do like his game, and they need him back ASAP).

Oh wait, I think I know someone. He's right-handed. Great overall athlete and good with the glove, especially in small, more reactional spaces where he doesn't have to move to much. He's also a career .317 hitter with a knack for getting big hits. He's available and could be a great fit.

His name is Derek Jeter. The reason I'm suggesting this is not because the hole at first base is that glaring (though there is a need). It's because, after watching Alberto Gonzalez defensively for the last week, I'm not sure I want him to leave the position. Never mind that he's a halfway decent stick. The kid can flat out field. It's not a small upgrade from Jeter. It's night and day. With A-Rod and Cano already top defenders at their positions, the upgrade with Gonzalez at short, PLUS the upgrade you get with Jeter moving to first (another big one), and you are talking about the best defensive infield in baseball.

The impact here should not be underestimated. The Yankees two best pitchers, Wang and Pettitte, always have the ball in play. The Yankees next two pitchers, Hughes and Kennedy, are not good enough to overcome constant defensive ineptitude (look no further than Hughes' first and third innings last night). They are going to take their lumps enough WITH great defense (Hughes would have been bad anyway last night, but not as bad), so they can't afford to have Ellsbury going first to third on steal attempts, and the ball getting booted everywhere on potential inning-ending ground balls. It drives up pitch count, makes them work from the stretch, and shakes confidence. All three things you aren't looking for with young pitchers. Mike Mussina, as I've noted before, will gratefully accept any help he can get.

Will the Yankees make this move? No chance on this green earth. But they should at least be entertaining it. The result will be a few wins, wins they will need, over 162.

Franchise Ain't Got No Money...

S***, hold on, hold on, b****! HEY!

An oversized comment here. Despite the fact that I'm in the middle of a AA Affiliate homestand and fell asleep in the third inning last night, I still have a lot to say about this game and I will use my moderator power to avoid clogging up Pat's comments section.

I said I fell asleep in the third inning. In other words, I got to see "Franchise's" whole start.

Awful.

Not only was his "great stuff" getting belted the way Farnsworth's "great stuff" gets belted on a three-times-a-week basis, but you think your boy would learn a little bit from what Girardi may have taught him the day before. In the first inning, Ellsbury was on third base and Nancy was at the plate. Granted, a weak ground ball to second base would score Ellsbury, but a strikeout would not. Hughes walks Nancy. On four pitches. That weren't even close. It looked like he was pitching around Nancy (who, admittedly, has been hot) to get to Manny. Now there are two runners on base for Manny. Same story, different day.

Pat is right about Matsuzaka reverting to his 2007 form. He was also very bad. The command on his pitches was off again, and though I commend the use of a lot of breaking balls this time out, he did not locate them well at all. Walking six guys is just not acceptable, and it was obvious that he was, as Pat said, "bat shy" and occasionally overthrowing. Not good news.

Ortiz had the night off last night. Good, and better because he was actually in the dugout instead of a commercial shoot in New York, Tampa, Cleveland, Toronto, or San Diego. There's been a lot said and written about how bad he has been looking at the plate. Not as bad as Varitek in Japan (which hereforth will be used as a standard of looking like you should be playing the violin instead of baseball), but pretty friggin close. It's safe to say that the Red Sox will not score too many runs if he continues to be an automatic out in the middle of the order. The Red Sox have scored 55 runs this year, including 20 in two games and 35 (3.18/game) in the other 11.

In 2007, I compared Mike Timlin to Glass Joe from Mike Tyson's Punch-Out. That's bad enough. Glass Joe fresh off of an injury being put into a tight situation (Friday) is inexcusable (as long as we're ripping on managers this weekend). He was similarly put into a situation last night, and the same results followed. If this were 2007 Eric Gagne or 2005 Curt Schilling and the Red Sox were in a two-run game tonight or tomorrow in Cleveland, you know that Francona would put him out there to get shelled again, perhaps costing the Red Sox a game that counts in the interest of getting a guy ready to pitch again. This better not happen. But I have a bad feeling that it will, and Travis Hafner's going to be at the plate when it does.

That's really all I have to say about last night's game. Matsuzaka was bailed out last night by (among others) Alex Rodriguez and his big GIDP. It could have been a lot worse than it was. Obviously. He walked six (SIX!) guys. He was really bad last night. But Phil "I have a similar jacket to Chad Johnson's" Hughes was worse.

Bad Pitching, Bad Hitting, Bad Managing

This was a frustrating weekend. I'm not jumping off any bridges or anything, but boy was it frustrating. It's only April. The Red Sox did what they were supposed to do (win the series at home). The Yankees did what they were supposed to do (not get swept). But it was still frustrating because 1. Saturday was a win 95% of the time if they can get one more out without facing Manny and 2. the approach last night was pathetic on both sides of the baseball.

Phil Hughes is all over the place. I'm not overly concerned because his stuff is actually improving each time out. That being said, I'm concerned, because the results have gotten progressively worse due to some of the worst location that I've seen. And those results reached pitiful levels last night. It is a good lesson for Phil to learn. He can dominate a game against Toronto at 89-91 and without his best curveball because of perfect location. He can get lit up in Boston with a swing-and-miss good 93 mph fastball with life and a knee-buckling curveball due to location that could not have been much worse. The Yankees need to talk with him about composing himself, dialing it back, and pitching more like he did against Toronto. Less is more when you can locate. Ask Kyle Farnsworth, who is coming the closest thing to automatic there is in terms of giving up runs every time he appears.

Daisuke Matsuzaka wasn't much better. I think the concerning thing here is he looks like the exact same pitcher he did in 2007. Most notably, he doesn't throw strikes. Whether he is bat shy or just can't physically get the ball in the strike zone, I have no idea. But he has now walked the ballpark in 3 of 4 starts. And it's not a minor struggle. 6 walks in 5 innings is a major issue. He was lucky to get off with just 4 runs. If he puts 11 guys on and only strikes out 2 against the Yankees in August, more than 4 are scoring, that's for sure. This is why I want Andy Pettitte. He's not going to do this to you.

Great approach from A-Rod in the first inning. Matsuzaka has walked two already, Abreu on four pitches right before him. So the $28 million man swings at the first pitch, a ball, for a inning ending double play. It's times like this I say to myself, go Royals! I'll give Girardi some here too. When Alex is in the zone, fine, let him do his thing. Newsflash, he's not right now. Give him the red light. You think Matsuzaka is going to throw him strikes? Load them up with our hottest hitter on deck, Girardi.

More on Girardi. Damon isn't bunting with runners on first and second and nobody out in the 8th, down two. REALLY?! I'm sorry, even if Damon is going well, you bunt there. You give Cano and Abreu a chance to single and tie the game. You just do. The fact that Damon is a borderline high school JV player right now means YOU DEFINITELY FRIGGIN' BUNT.

I have to tell you, a lot of people are up there. Damon, Cano, Hughes, Posada were all pretty terrible this weekend. But Joe Girardi takes the cake. He gets an F. Total bomb out. Saturday was a winnable game and he lost it for us. He did NOTHING to help us out last night.

Anyway, one game in April. I'm sure both Sunday night pitchers will improve, and they need to. Matsuzaka was one hit away from being the story today over Hughes, and had that been the case, I'd be writing the same thing about Hughes right now. They were both that bad. Hughes was certainly worse, and that has to be a major Yankee concern right now. One more like the last two, and you have to think about taking alternative action.

A lot is going to happen in the next 149 games, and what that is we know very little about right now. Only one thing is totally for sure after this weekend. Dustin Pedroia is a joke. You cannot be as un-cool as he is and not be a joke. It's a rule. Did everyone catch that play at second base? "Safe! Safe! No! No!" in a voice that resembled a pre-pubescent 13 year old on the verge of tears. Goodness gracious act like a Major League player. I'm just glad the Yankees and Red Sox are on level footing in terms of laughability again after a few years of plus Red Sox. A-Rod put us at a major disadvantage, but Pedroia totally washes that out now. This guy is ridiculous on a #13 level, and this was confirmed for me by a Met and Indian fan watching with me this weekend. Much like I'm sure Red Sox fans can't help but laugh at everything A-Rod goes, same now goes for Mighty Mouse. Very exciting stuff.

Okay, I apologize for totally degrading this post and the chances of a quality comments section. I hope everyone else can be bigger than I am. Pitching to Manny on Saturday was really tough (I'm not even close to over it), and I am only kidding. I just can't help myself when it comes to the little guy. Much like the Security Guard at Coors Field, I forget his name now. Better f#%$ing ask Jeff Francis.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fire Girardi

I've been very happy with Joe Girardi so far thus season. I think I will continue to be happy with him overall. I think.

The reason I think instead of know is because with a 2-1 lead and runners on first and second, ONE out away from JoMo, Joe Girardi pitched to Manny Ramirez. Again, first base open, tying and go ahead run in scoring position, one run lead, Manny Ramirez. You can get fired for this type of decision.

You walk Manny Ramirez there. If Kevin Youkilis beats you 100 out of 100 times, you tip your cap. But you have to make Kevin Youkilis beat you. You cannot let Manny Ramirez beat you, not when you don't have to. And they didn't have to. But they did.

According to the papers, Girardi asked Mussina what he wanted to do (which apparently was pitch to Manny), but he ultimately had the final decision. Did they both miss out on the 5,000,000 foot bomb Manny had off him a few innings earlier? Have either of them been paying attention to Yankees/Red Sox games prior to yesterday? Did they think he wasn't going to drive in both those runs? Did anybody think he wasn't going to drive in those runs? What a joke.

It's only one game in April. But this was a terrible decision. I mean, you can't make a worse decision. And the scary part is, there wasn't even a decision to be made in my book! That's AUTOMATIC that he goes to first base on four pitches. And it is worrysome that the manager of the New York Yankees felt differently. I won't be over this decision for two months.

On another note, Chien-Ming Wang is a #1. For those who weren't around last year, CMW as an ace was a major debate. I was backed off that stance (that he's an ace), especially after October, and rightfully so. But I was backed off too far, all the way to #2, and that's my fault. Perhaps he isn't an ace yet, because he has to dominate the big games, but he isn't a #2 either. A career 49-18 (+31!) with a 3.64 is not a #2. What we saw Friday night is not a #2.

And good for CMW for answering the question mark from October so quickly and so forcefully. He's looked as good as ever these first three games, and I think Friday was the most dominant start of his career. He has been more willing to mix in his 4-seam fastball (which runs 95-96), and he has had more consistency with his slider. He has been a different pitcher this year, willing to not just be reliant on the sinker. Good for him for not accepting last October, and changing himself ever so slightly as a pitcher to become more effective. These changes could take him from #1 to ace. But he doesn't need anything to go to a #1, because that's what he already is.

Fun game tonight. Franchise's first start vs. Boston. Matsuzaka's first chance to make a statement against the Yankees in 2008. In general I love Sunday night baseball, minus the audio of course. If Phil Hughes doesn't pitch well, combined with yesterday's decision making, I'm going to be in tough, tough shape. Enjoy the game.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Melky and a Rivalry Weekend

Good spot in a must win game for the Yankees last night. Pettitte was sharp, and cruised after the first inning. It was good to see him looking like his usual #2 self, just because the Yankees are relying upon him being that so much. JoMo shut the door. The Yankees should put some sort of incentive clause in all five starters contracts for each time they deliver a lead directly to that tandem.

And Melky kept hitting. Much like the Bruney post yesterday, this is a small sample size. But .320/.393/.560 is a pleasure to look at, and I'm going to enjoy it for as long as it lasts. More importantly, and a topic we covered a few weeks back, Melky seems to have a penchant for stepping up in the big spot. The Yankees were down 1-0 after one trip through the order, without mustering much of anything. He blasts one to left center to get it started, and collects another RBI later.

My argument that Melky is a clutch player was disputed in the comments section. It is often difficult to argue "clutch", because it can be somewhat subjective, just like last night's performance. But Steve from WasWatching.com, who also thinks Melky is a clutch player, did take a look at some numbers yesterday. Baseball-Reference.com (which gets better every day) now gives splits for "leverage" situations (importance of a particular play). In low leverage spots, his average is .272. In medium leverage, .258. In high leverage (most clutch/important spots), he is a .323 hitter. The other numbers (OBP, OPS, tOPS+) are all in line with those increases as well.

These numbers clearly indicate that Melky plays bigger than his everyday game when it counts, ala Scott Brosius. I LOVE this. Few things infuriate me more than the idea that the Yankees are best served by having guys with great "numbers" across the board. Don't get me wrong. I love high average guys who walk a lot and have tons of power and this turns into a great individual and team OPS+. I love that the Yankees have a lineup that has more than one of this type, or at least close to this type. And this is all great during the regular season. But you need people to get the big hit, especially in big spots, especially in October. The 98-00 Yankees needed Scott Brosius. I'm a believer that the 2008 (and beyond) Yankees need Melky Cabrera. You can't just have overall numbers. You need high-leverage numbers, too.

This post has now become entirely too long, so I'll give my quick series preview. Wang has had good game and bad games against Boston, and most of the bad has come in Fenway. The Red Sox are a contact team, and I think that wall does something psychologically to a contact pitcher facing a contact team. He needs to throw as many 4 seam fastballs, sliders, and changeups as he does sinkers tonight. I haven't seen as much of Buchholz as I would like, but I've seen enough to know how good his fastball/curveball/changeup trio is. The Yankees can't let him get in a rythm. I would imagine he'll try to be pretty fine in the first few innings, not wanting to give up a big hit early. The Yankees can't do him any favors by being over-agressive and swinging at stuff off the plate. Baserunners will rattle him as much as a solo homer. EDGE: Yankees.

The Yankees have hit Beckett much like the Sox have sometimes hit Wang (better offenses usually hit pitching better than worse offenses, so it's no surpised Beckett and Matsuzaka's numbers are worse against the Yankees than they are against other teams), but the Yankees are going to have to hit Beckett a lot to make up for what Mussina is probably going to do. Look for a potential F U game from Beckett after Toronto last weekend. Unless Mussina surprises, almost a throw away game. EDGE: Red Sox.

While good offenses will hit good pitching, Matsuzaka really had some struggles vs. NYY last year, posting an ERA in the 6's. Walks and high pitch counts were a primarly culprit. Seemed very bat shy. That said, he's looked great so far this year. Really, really good. Only problem is he hasn't seen a good offense, and walked the ballpark in 2 of his 3 starts. Could be an F U game from him as well, showing that he's for real in 2008. Biggest spot of the weekend is Franchise on Sunday night. He looked great in his opener, bad the second time around, and now he has the first primetime game, on the road in a hostile environement, of his career. Will be very interesting to see how he responds, as I'm sure the Red Sox and their fans would love to pound him. I'm not rooting for greatness. I'm rooting for him to have us in the game after 5-6, because I think Daisuke gives up runs Sunday as well. Edge: EVEN! (I'm sure I'll get rocked for this one, but it isn't a pitching edge. I think the Yankees offense gets Daisuke...again).

Enjoy the games fellas.