Sunday, May 31, 2009

Who Wants To Win Baseball Games? Not Brett Gardner

Well, if you asked him, of course he'd tell you he wants to win. If you watched how hard he played, you'd get the feeling he wants to win to. Of course he does. But if you watched him play defense, he'd have you completely fooled.

Last Sunday Brett Gardner dove for a ball he had no chance of catching. Instead of a routine single, the ball got past him for an RBI double. That run doesn't score if he doesn't misplay it the way he did. The Yankees would come back to tie that game 3-3, ultimately losing 4-3. Had Gardner not made the crippling mistake he did, the Yankees win that game 3-2.

Today, trailing 3-0, a ball was hit about halfway between a linedrive and a flyball right at Brett Gardner. Very routine play. What does Gardner do? First takes a step in (which is one of the first things you're taught in Little League, never take a step in on a ball hit in the air, always take a step back first), then he freezes (I guess because he just has no idea where the ball is going, always a good quality for a center fielder), then starts sprinting back as the ball sails over his head and to the wall for a leadoff double. That run came into score on a sacrafice fly (that would have been the third out of the inning if the ball is caught) to make the game 4-0.

After a Mark Teixeira 2 run home run in the 6th and a Mark Teixeira 2 run double in the 8th (who by the way, despite having only 5 of his 44 RBI in blowout situations, and getting a massive hit in the 7th inning or later once a week, only hits in blowouts), the game was knotted at 4. Had Gardner not allowed that run to score, it would be 4-3 and the Yankees would be 3 outs from Mo (three outs that they got). Instead, the game went to the 9th tied at 4 and the Indians won it 5-4 on a walk-off single.

Two games in eight days where a defensive blunder by a weak hitting center fielder cost the Yankees a game is too much. Last week, maybe it could have been deemed overagressive from a guy trying to win playing time. But today was just misjudging a flyball, something we've seen A LOT of from Gardner this year. It had nothing to do with anything other than his inability to read the ball off the bat. And like I said, it has not been an isolated incident. I understand that with the Yankees starting center fielder out for a few days, the Yankees are left with no choice. But we are nearing the point - if we aren't there already - where he is a liability in the outfield. These are not difficult plays and he is turning them into an absolute adventure. Adam Dunn, going downtown 40 times per year, can get away with this in a corner spot. Brett Gardner, with his career 71 OPS+, cannot get away with this in center. Really you'd like him to see him be playing outstanding defense. Not only is he not doing that, but he's turning routine outs/singles into extra-base hits, and runs that otherwise would not have scored are scoring, ultimately costing the Yankees games. This should not be tolerated.

Continued excellence from Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi in the roster management department. In the 9th inning of a tie game today, there was nobody available to pinch hit for Brett Gardner (somebody you want to pinch hit for) while Angel Berroa continues to sit on the bench. He hasn't had an at bat since May 4th! Shelley Duncan is .304/.373/.690 at AAA with 18 boogies and 47 RBI. Todd Linden is .318/.385/.518 with 6 homers and 38 RBI, and has experience in a Major League bench/pinch-hit role. John Rodriguez is .301/.391/.555 with 10 downtowns and 34 RBI. Juan Miranda is .268/.356/.490 with 8 long balls and 32 RBI. In no way am I suggesting that these numbers translate. As we've seen with Shelley Duncan, who has the best numbers out of all of them, there are ways to expose him at the Major League level. What I am suggesting is that if Angel Berroa is never going to play, all of them would be more useful pinch hitting for Garnder or Cervelli late in games than Berroa is sitting on the bench.

Continued excellene from Joe Girardi in the bullpen management department. In relief of Phil Hughes today, Chien-Ming Wang (who looks to be back in every way possible), breezed through three innings of work on 42 pitches, allowing no runs while striking out three, at 93-94 consistently velocity wise with good bite on his sinker. If you aren't going to go to Mariano in a tie game bottom 9, why would you lift Wang under those circumstances? The way Wang looked, he probably had another 2-3 innings in him easy, if not more. Factor in that you need to stretch Wang out somehow anyway, and this is a no-brainer. Instead Girardi goes to Coke, a lefty, to face a righty (???) who he promptly walks. That walk came around, as leadoff walks generally do, to score the winning run. I just don't understand this. You have a starting pitcher who looks dominant and needs work at 42 pitches. You aren't going to go to your closer. Why not stay with the starting pitcher? Awful.

But we'd never have been in that situation if Brett Gardner would just catch flyballs. Mariano would have been protecing a one run lead in the 9th instead. Just like we'd never have been in that situation last week if Brett Gardner would let linedrives he has no chance of catching fall for a single instead of playing it into an RBI double. Mariano would have been in protecting a one run lead in the 9th. Mariano protecting leads in the 9th is something you want to get to. Brett Gardner has precluded this from happening twice in the last seven games. This is getting ridiculous. Just catch the ball.

Friday, May 29, 2009

And He's Got A Great Smile!

As the world continues to wonder what the F is wrong with David Ortiz, yesterday's game provided a few hints. And as I told Pat through an email yesterday, it's not that he's weak. He's not weak. So the whole "his power is sapped because he's off the steroids" argument is asinine. Why would he stop doing steroids after last season anyway? Doesn't make any sense.

Anyway, if you break a bat on a check swing, you are not weak. If Ortiz's power is sapped, you'd see a lot of 2003-2007 home runs die on the warning track. And anyone who has seen Ortiz this year knows that Ortiz does NOT even have warning track power! He's not even close to hitting the ball well.

Another tell-tale sign from yesterday was his eight-pitch strikeout against Anthony Swarzak yesterday. Swarzak threw Ortiz eight (8) straight fastballs. The result was two balls, five foul balls, and a strikeout swinging.

Anthony Swarzak's fastball is 91-92 miles per hour. Swarzak is a guy who smoked a lot of weed and got lit up in the minors, and has only started two games in the majors. He's a mid-level prospect, so let's not talk about this guy being David Price. Plus, he gave up two home runs to Jason Varitek. Hitting lefty. That is terrible. But he blew away Ortiz.

This leads me to the following conclusions: He can't see the ball, and his reflexes are shot. It's not a bat speed problem except for the fact that he's already about 15% done with his swing by the time the pitcher lets go of the ball (a slight exaggeration), as he's cheating and guessing and doing it wrong. This would explain why he's not getting good wood on the ball at all and he's not even achieving warning track power. Bad reflexes and bad vision. This happens to guys in their thirties. And after all, we don't really know how old David Ortiz is anyway.

Maybe the notorious Dr. Melky (a Lasik surgeon in Boston) can make an emergency appointment. Because a guy with such a great smile (that's a NESN commercial reference) should have great eyes again, too.

Other stuff from yesterday's very good win:
-If the 2009 Beckett is the real Beckett, and the real Beckett has an occasional good start like his last two along with mediocre starts and okay starts, I feel like this is a guy who should probably be on this team for a while.
-Ups to Varitek for getting himself thrown out of the game so that Beckett, a loose cannon who already had a suspension on his record this year, would avoid another one. And he blasted that ball for his upper-deck home run.
-Todd Tichenor is just another major league umpire who wants to be the star of the show and the center of attention. The quick hooks yesterday were unacceptable. Umpires need to realize that they are doing their job effectively if they are not noticed. By the way, nice pirouette when you do the "outta here" motion.
-In mourning 46's hitting streak, it's notable to say that he raised his batting average 36 points, from .273 to .307. He hit .340 during the streak, which has to be some kind of record for a low batting average for an extended hitting streak.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Jon Patrick Lester

The second time Jon Lester denies sucking after a terrible outing earns him the middle name that indicates you are delusional about your own sub-par performances on the baseball field. He follows the footsteps of Ian Patrick Kennedy and Forty Patrick Six after these irrational comments last night:

"I felt like I threw the ball pretty well. Made one mistake. He hit it out. That's what makes him a good hitter."

This is following this quote from an earlier shelling on April 13, when Nomar Garciaparra took him deep:

"I don't think I pitched as bad as the linescore says."

As I've said, there are 216 good reasons to be concerned about JPL's effectiveness this year. But no matter what the reason is for him sucking, he shouldn't be in Suck Patrick Denial. Make the adjustments or forfeit your job security. A good place to start is by not being content with the way you pitch after you get lit up.

However, it's not Lester's fault that the Red Sox have a knack for avoiding any timely hits on the road. Even in their win on Monday, they could only muster six runs off of sixteen hits. One for eleven with RISP last night. The $14 million platoon hitter is 0-for-the-series, probably protesting the fact that he had to pinch hit during his day off on Monday.

Around the league, the Carlos Zambrano blow-up is among the best in recent memory. Congratulations to Joe Maddon, who celebrated his three-year contract extension by blowing a ten-run lead to the Cleveland friggin Indians.

Back to the Metrodome, six wild pitches in one game is unacceptable. But a near-immaculate game from Matsuzaka and Delcarmen would have a stretcht to win. If nobody but Jason Bay hits, you're not going to win.

Perhaps the item on everybody's mind is Brad Penny. With Clay Buchholz lighting up AAA and John Smoltz only a few weeks away from uncertain contributions to this team, people want to trade him. I'm not sold on this one way or another yet. His potential replacements in Buchholz and Smoltz are both unproven. and Penny has been inconsistent. So have his boy Beckett and Lester. While I'm all for giving Buchholz a chance, I'm not quite ready to part with someone who has showed flashes of not terrible. Especially if there's an inevitable rotation injury and an inevitable bullpen injury: Both Buchholz and Smoltz can pitch in the bullpen.

Once again, I'm not sold either way. But what I do know is that I DO NOT want Jeff Francoeur. An underachieving outfielder with an occasionally-crappy attitude is not something the Red Sox are looking for.

Good News, Bad News

Winning streak is over, bus is back. Bad first.

Considering there were no expectations, Brett Gardner's .253/.324/.407 is approaching mediocrity for a player who is going to give you great defense (especially since he's gotten some hits in some big spots). The problem is he's not giving you great defense. It's not that he's been terrible. It's that he makes mistakes that someone who is as below average as he is offensively just cannot make. He cost the Yankees the game Sunday. In the 3rd inning of a 0-0 game, with 2 outs and a runner on first, he dove for a ball in front of him that he had absolutely no chance of catching. The ball got way past him, allowed the runner from first to score, and the batter to reach second. Instead of runners on first and second with no runs in and 2 out, it was a runner on second with 1 run in and 2 out. That one run is directly on him. The next batter singled to plate another run, and if that error is never made, you don't know how C.C. deals with that next batter. Maybe differently if there aren't little league mistakes being made behind him. Again tonight he did something that he's done at least three times previously this year, and that's go a long way to track down a ball, then coil up and not make an athletic play on the ball, and despite getting his glove on it, not catch it. Today it cost the Yankees' another run. Someone who hits like he does has to play great defense. Costing your team runs, let alone games, is not playing great defense.

Joe Girardi's bullpen managment has been both atrocious and perplexing. Case and point: he uses Alfredo Aceves in the 9th inning of an 11 run game yesterday and then the 5th inning of a 3-0 game today. I have no problem with having flexibility in the bullpen, and not locking guys down to certain roles. But Alfredo Aceves had a 1.84 ERA over 14.2 innings entering tonight's game. Long man, middle man, short man, use him where it matters. With Joba's last outing ending by him getting drilled in the knee, and him going the next day, if you think Aceves is the guy you want to go to if he goes down, might it make sense to keep him out of an 11-0 game? Yes, it just might. Girardi went to Aceves today and he was undoubtedly shorter than he would have been had he not pitched in an 11-0 game yesterday. Laughable. Mind you, this is just one example. Mind you once more, this is just one area of the game he's struggling with. Down 4-3 tonight (1 run) in the 7th (late in the game), he kept the infield back with runners on second and third and no outs. He allowed both runs to score without the Rangers getting a hit, turning a one run lead into a three run lead. I'm still in such a state of shock from this mindless decision I cannot comment on it further. Make. Them. Get. A. Hit. To. Beat. You. Not a groundout and a flyout.

Brian Cashman's and Joe Girardi's roster management has been beyond all comprehension. There have been so many bizarre decisions I can barely keep track at this point. The knee-jerk decision to activate Wang after Joba got hit and the bullpen was burnt, when it was already decided Wang needed more work in the minors (how to think big picture, fellas...this isn't a two-time 19 game winner or anything, let's worry about one game in May, not getting him back to form). Carrying 13 pitchers while Rodriguez was on the DL, our startes were working deep, and all we needed was late game pinch-hitters. Still not having any pinch-hit options late in games despite a few vialbe options at AAA and roster spots that are not currently being well-utilized. It goes on and on. It's been awful.

Joba has a 10.38 ERA in the first inning, 2.45 after. They (meaning everyone and anyone) needs to try to get this figured out as it's the difference between him pitching really well and just okay.

This team has to find a way to get runners in from third base and less than 2 outs. They were at least 0-2 in those situations yesterday, and definitely 0-2 in that situation tonight. Those two runs change the entire complexion of this game.

Three straight years, three straight young talents injured in Texas while playing the Rangers. What is it with that place? Hughes in '07, Joba last year, Melky tonight. Hopefully Melky's is less serious than both of theirs.

Which brings us to the good, which I'll try to keep short because the bad went so long.

Melky Cabrera. It's not just the .323/.368.481. It's not the 121 OPS+. It's not the very good, 20 UZR/150 he's playing in center. It's not the 3 walk-off hits. Kevin Long, the Yankees' hitting coach, keeps track of good at-bats vs. bad as well as hard hit balls vs. not. It's not that he leads the team in both categories, either. It's that he did all of this after losing his job, not a year removed from a terrible season, amidst a multitude of injuries, and while the team was getting absolutely nothing on either side of the baseball from the player who won the job out of Spring Training. Stepping up in a situation like that, in addition to repeatedly doing in the biggest in-game spots (which is not unique to this year for him) tells you something about Melky Cabrera that goes beyond talent. Great job out of him.

C.C. Sabathia has been as good as any Yankee pitcher I've seen in a Yankee uniform in quite some time.

Mark Teixeira is an animal.

The emergence of Phil Hughes has been a kick save and a beauty for the Yankees thus far (they are 4-2 in his starts this year), but if it continues, could also be a big part of the remainder of 2009 and beyond. At the very least, he's starting to more consistently show flashes of why the Yankees are so high on him. At most, he's been a very good fifth starter while most kids his age are finishing their senior years of college. Between the questions that will probably surround Wang, Joba, and Burnett all season, an effective Phil Hughes cannot be understated. To do what he did to the best offense in baseball in their park yesterday, while only one game, is certainly a very good sign.

The Yankees are winning. Despite the loss tonight, they are 11-3 in their last 14 and have turned the season around. It's important, of course, that they continue to build off of this, as 26-20 is no place to stop. What really has been impressive is the comebacks. It's been incredible. They have come back in every inning and in every way. That is something that was just not around last year. I'm glad it's back and I hope it continues.

Big one tomorrow as they try to avoid back to back series losses, which is not the way to follow up a long winning streak, even if it is on the road to a pretty good baseball team. Big start for A.J. Burnett. After being an absolute stopper for the first three weeks of the season, he's been all over the place since getting rocked in Boston. Both in terms of performance and where the ball is going. In the five starts since Boston, he's allowed 4,3,5,2, and 5 earned runs. The good thing is that he's gone 6 innings or more in all of those starts. The bad is that he's not consistently giving the team shutdown outings. Tomorrow is a spot for him to get it going again like he had it going early.

Monday, May 25, 2009

2006 Was A Long Time Ago

This is a true story. Of course, there are a lot of things we wish could be like 2006 all over again, such as the original "one nation, one network" NESN commercials, Alex Gonzalez not making errors at shortstop, Drew and Lugo both playing for the Dodgers, Colby College with me and Pat and chocolate chip pancakes on Monday mornings, and many other things.

Two more wonderful characteristics of the year 2006 are David Ortiz with 52 home runs and Jonathan Papelbon surrendering 3 home runs and 13 walks...over the course of the entire season. The Ortiz thing has already been addressed: An 0-for-the-series weekend doesn't really change our original concerns over him, and it's accelerating a team decision to try to move Ortiz down in the order. Drew should hit 3rd, as he did last year successfully with Ortiz out. His propensity to walk and 46 and Pedroia's propensity to get hits (yeah I said it) almost ensures that Youkilis and Bay get up to the plate with a guy on base when the inning starts with the top of the order. That is a good way to score runs.

The main focal point tonight, though, is the fact that the 2006 Jonathan Papelbon only still exists on NESN classic games and inside Jonathan Papelbon's head. It was apparently a big shock to a lot of people around here that Papelbon blew a save Saturday. It shouldn't be. He's had a clean outing in exactly 25% of his appearances this year (5 for 20), and that is not a good thing for a guy whose job it is to protect 1- and 2-run leads. By contrast, in Papelbon's first 20 outings in 2006, he recorded clean outings 45% of the time.

Again, if your job is to protect tiny leads at the end of the game, you are bound to choke up that lead a time or two if you frequently surrender walks, hits, wall-balls, and home runs. Papelbon has done all four of those things--including a bomb by Joe Mauer today--and it finally caught up with him on Saturday. While I'm being melodramatic when I say that he's kinda sucked this season, let's not pretend we're watching anything close to the 2006 version of this guy, where people literally were wondering if he'd EVER give up a run or blow a save. His velocity is down 3-5 mph across the board, his fastball lacks the late movement it used to have, he is becoming over-reliant on his slider, and uses the splitter less and less.

I've been saying this since the first series in Anaheim, but I think he's hurt. The grimaces during his warmup tosses today add to my suspicions.

I'm not quite at the point that I'm going to compare scary staredowns and being so intense on the mound to smoke and mirrors. But I don't trust Papelbon much right now. Not as much as Ramon Ramirez. Probably not even as much as Rusty Masterson. The 2006 Papelbon was like the Mariano Rivera for the last decade or so. What we see today is NOT the 2006 Papelbon. Therefore, Saturday should not be a surprise. At all.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

"I've got nothing for you guys."

Well, no friggin kidding, Julio Lugo. Of course, in that quote, Lugo was talking about how he didn't have any comments for the media. But it's also true that Lugo has nothing for any of us. Except for reasons to blog on a Saturday afternoon despite a traditionally-low weekend readership. Ever since he started here in Boston, and even dating back to August 2006, Julio Lugo has contributed absolutely nothing to the success of the team paying his salary.

Note: We all remember now what happened last night, but if I were to refer to this post on a future date, the Second Lugo Game of 2009 was when Lugo failed to turn a double play, catching the ball flat-footed on second base and lobbing it over to first. Jeremy Reed of the Mariners beat out the throw, keeping a rally alive. The Mets capitalized and their three-run inning proved to be the difference.

Last night was inexcusable, just another example in a long line of examples of why Lugo probably shouldn't be a major league baseball player. With the exception of four months in Tampa Bay (April-July 2006), Lugo has been a zero-tool player. Since he began seeing his name in Red Sox trade rumors, Lugo has been compared unfavorably to the following shortstops:

Nomar Garciaparra
Orlando Cabrera (Red Sox traded for him instead of Lugo)
Edgar Renteria
Alex Gonzalez ("Offensive liability" though)
Alex Cora
Jed Lowrie
Nick Green
Gil Velazquez (this happened on The Baseball Show this morning--I believe it was Sean McAdam who said Velazquez might be the better option right now)

For one thing, I do appreciate the fact that Lugo is embarrassed by the way he's been playing baseball. But that does not take away from the fact that he can't hit, he can't get to balls, and he makes hideous mental mistakes like the infamous botched double play last night. Honey, he can't play ball!

How many more games can Lugo cost this team? He's only played 20 games, and he has been the chief reason they've lost two of those games. He's responsible for losing 10% of the games he's played! Look, what's done is done. Theo Epstein made the grave mistake of paying this borderline major leaguer $36 million over four years. (By the way, who called him a borderline major leaguer in the advent of this blog?) It's time to make it right. Julio Lugo should flat-out not play baseball in Boston anymore. I agree with McAdam: Gil Velazquez is a better option.

Eckersley's four-letter word on the air was awesome, as the Gunn said.

Varitek, with a homer last night, should probably hit righty exclusively. I'll make another prediction and say he will NOT homer tonight.

Hopefully there will be no heinous errors tonight and I won't have to throw up a post tomorrow.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sore Glove Hand (Volume 5)

So the Red Sox swept the first-place Blue Jays. That's pretty nice, but probably expected since Toronto has three pitchers on the DL and nobody's really sure how good they are. Plus, they were at home, where they are currently playing .800 baseball (16-4). If they do indeed play .800 baseball for the last three quarters of the season, they'd be 64-17. Think about that: If they keep doing that (which is probably unlikely but they could be close) they could lose nine more games on the road than they win (36-45) and still win 100 games. They could win only 22 more road games and still win 95 games.

That said, that is NOT a challenge. The Red Sox probably should not do that.

It might be time to admit that 46 is a good baseball player. He'll have his ups and downs, with the beginning of the season being really far down, but he's a formidable major leaguer.

Jason Bay is a very good baseball player. I understand the points they were making on the radio that the Red Sox don't want to work on that contract extension now. He's so hot right now (is that a Zoolander reference) that his market value is sky high. So is it bad that I kind of want to see him go cold for a little while so a contract extension gets done? I really don't want to see Aubrey Huff.

So Adam Jones made it rain on Joba Chamberlain last night, and by "made it rain" I mean he drilled a line drive at him. So Chien-Ming Wang might get another chance after all.

This is the part of the year described earlier when you wonder if the Yankees will ever lose another game. Well, they're playing the World Champions, so maybe now is the time for that feeling to go away.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox are playing the Mets. It would surprise me greatly if they just laid down and died against Santana tonight. I've watched a Mets game or two at the gym, and one of Santana's most brilliant starts turned into a blowout loss because the Mets' bullpen is so bad. Let's just say J.D. Drew is going to do his best to draw walks and drive up the pitch count tonight.

That said, in order to get that rally against the Mets bullpen going, Matsuzaka has to have a short leash. The bullpen has not been overworked as of late, which is nice. Lester pitched a solid outing--you know, as solid as he could be while still scattering eight hits. But tonight is not a good night to wait for seven.

Also notable is that Coco Crisp is not going to be there to rob David Wright of a triple.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hit Righty

A few weeks ago we were wondering why Javier Lopez still had a job and why Joe Girardi plays the B-team against lefty pitchers. We discussed the overratedness of the "lefty-righty matchup." We dropped references to when Mr. Burns, manager of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant team, pinch hit the right-handed Homer Simpson for Darryl Strawberry against a lefty pitcher despite the nine (9) home runs Strawberry hit earlier in the game. A terrible righty doesn't have a better chance of getting a hit against any given lefty than a half-decent lefty.

Vice-versa also applies. A terrible left-handed hitter is not more effective against a right-handed pitcher than a serviceable right-handed hitter. Therefore, as I wrote on March 18, Jason Varitek should not be hitting left-handed.

After two more last night, Varitek averages a home run every six at-bats from the right side. Varitek hit .284 righty last year and at the Mendoza Line as a lefty. In other words, he's two players: A bad-to-terrible lefty hitter and a half-decent righty hitter. Is it really better for every right-handed pitcher to have the luxury of pitching to the terrible hitter instead of the good one, just because he hits from the left side of the plate?

Other stuff:
-I got eight text messages from Pat last night calling for the execution of Joe Girardi by firing squad. These were legitimate, though. Mariano Rivera was called into the eighth inning to record more than a three-out save. The game was still close in the eighth and Rivera held it down, as he always does. In the bottom of the eighth, though, the Yankees scored six runs and turned into a blowout. Who pitches the ninth?

Rivera. He's retained so the Yankees can protect an eight-run lead in a game in May. That is awful, and I hope Pat will light up the comments section for that.

-As the Gunn said last night, it was very relieving to see Ortiz finally hit that home run. Hitting another one off the wall is an okay sign too though. Not that he looks anything better than dead most of the time out there, though.

-Brad Penny's run support has to be some kind of record.

-I'll admit that 46 has performed well this year (the jury's still out on whether pitchers just aren't pitching carefully to him), but that had nothing to do with the 12 putouts last night. It was a matter of right place, right time. Actually, the World Series stolen base was the same way, and Red Sox fans gobbled it up.

-John and Matt (and maybe Mr. H?) are traveling across the country watching games. They were at Fenway two nights ago and at Yankee Stadium last night. Hopefully we can get a comment from them at some point when they're not in the car.

-Daniel Bard should not be the Red Sox' closer. People are really dumb.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pitching Decisions Abound

The Yankees have won seven in a row and 9 of 11, so the no complaining rule is still very much in effect, and I'll abide by it. Without getting an official ruling from Dan, I may respectfully disagree with some things that have gone on during this period regarding the team. I hope this is within the no complaining during a winning streak rule.

Two things before we get started:

1. CC Sabathia has arrived. In his last three starts he is 3-0, and in 24 innings has allowed 3 runs on 12 hits, while striking out 21 to only 6 walks. It's been pure dominance, and significantly, it's all been against division opponents. The key is to stay healthy. Other than that, it looks like the Yankees have their man.

2. Mark Teixeira, the pile jumper, the king of stat padding, the guy who only hits in blowouts, has now played in 36 games this season. Tonight, he collected his second hit in games where the margin is 4 runs or more, or in other words, blowouts. He's now batting .133 with 2 homers and 3 RBI in pile jumping, stat padding, blowout situations. He's batting .254 with 9 homers and 27 RBI when the game is 4 runs or closer and it's not pile jumping, stat padding, and blowout situations. There must be arithmetic that I'm not aware of where when you hit .121 points lower, 18% of your homers, and 10% of your RBI in one situation, then .121 points higher, 82% of your homers, and 90% of your RBI in a second situation, and yet you are the type of player that only hits in the first situation. Mark Teixeira, by the way, has arrived as well. One game shy of the quarter mark of the season and he's on pace for 44 homers and 120 RBI. Role player. (My apologies to John, who has said that DV and I going after each other in posts is tired, and he's right. This data was just too good to pass up though.)

As I mentioned yesterday, the Yankees are getting very good pitching. The starters have been good since April, and the relief is slowly rounding into shape, breaking out during this 11 game stretch. They have now allowed 5 runs across their last 22 innings. Although the offense has been good in the late innings - and save a few games that's the only time they've been good - it's the starting and relief pitching that has allowed the Yankees to be in a position to win those games in the first place. That said, they are going to have some decisions to make, both in the rotation and the pen.

First the rotation. Tricky spot, as there are a few factors at play between Wang, Joba, and Hughes. Wang is seemingly close to being ready health wise. What that means performance/results wise, we have no idea. Hughes has made four starts, and allowed 0, 3, 8, and 3. While this is not good, it's also not bad from a 5th starter who is 22 years old and needs to get work in at this level anyway. Chamberlain has a 3.76 ERA and has been the Yankees' second best starter behind Sabathia, but at 40 innings pitched is already ahead of schedule for his 140-150 inning cap.

There are a few things to consider. First, it is not 3 guys for 2 spots. It's 2 for 1. Joba is a starter, period. Second, I think a lot of Hughes vs. Wang depends on how Hughes pitches tomorrow. His 8.66 ERA across 4 starts against Baltimore means he's going to have to turn it around against them. Third, there is the option of skipping Joba now for 1 or 2 starts to begin keeping his innings down. Let Hughes and Wang battle it out in the same rotation. Joba is going to have to take time off, as tough as it's going to be, and better now than August and later. This might be the ideal time to do it when you have to figure out what Wang and Hughes can do.

For me, if Hughes pitches well, there is no way he's out. Like I said, he's not been great, but he's not been bad either, and I'm not a big fan of fixing what's not broken. Regardless of how he's pitching, the Yankees have been winning. To that end, Wang was a trainwreck to start the season. You could make the argument that he was as big a reason as any that the Yankees were so all over the place early. He ruined the bullpen and absolutely airmailed three games in the first two weeks, ruining any kind of rhythm the Yankees had or were trying to get going. Just inserting him right now, no matter how Hughes pitches, is risky in my eyes. I like Wang, as everybody knows, but still have a bad taste in my mouth from the start of the season, and am nervous about a repeat at a time when the team is really in a groove. If Hughes doesn't pitch well, giving Wang a few starts is more foreseeable. All this said, I'd lean towards putting Wang in for Joba. It's going to be tough to pull a guy who has been so consistent, but it is a reality of his development. Better now than later. Give him a week or two, save 12-20 innings, and have the added bonus of seeing what both Hughes and Wang can do at this level.

On the bullpen, let me be the first to welcome Brian Bruney back. He was sitting 94-95 with that filthy cutter/slider tonight, and his hitless, walkless, scoreless inning tonight was very encouraging. Needless to say, he was missed, and hopefully he can go back to locking down the 8th inning. To make room for him, they sent Edwar Ramirez down. He was certainly one of the two obvious candidates, with Jose Veras being the other. At some point, it's probably best that they both are not on the roster. I won't go any further than that as this is a no complaining zone. But Marte will be back, and Melancon and (especially) Robertson deserve further opportunity. At that point, you need to make room, and the two of them have been the most ineffective. Al Aceves has looked very good in both short and long relief situations, and should continue to be given an enhanced role. Right now, Mariano, Bruney, Coke, and Aceves are givens in my opinion. I would have Veras, and to a lesser extent, Albaladejo, in direct competition with Robertson. Until he performs poorly or there are better options, which there are not right now, Tomko stays too. If and when Marte is ready, they'll have some decisions to make.

I'd like to see the bullpen settle in at Mariano, Bruney, Marte, Coke, Aceves, Robertson, and one (whoever is pitching best) out of Albaladejo/Veras/Ramirez/Tomko. Allow Melancon to get some more seasoning, and see where he is in a few months as well. No matter what the combination ends up being, hopefully they all stay healthy and continue pitching how they've been pitching lately and not how they were pitching before that.

Hi kids, do you like violence?

As we addressed last week when it first happened, some drama between the Yankees and Orioles has popped up after future Red Sox outfielder-DH/current Orioles first baseman Aubrey Huff mocked Joba Chamberlain’s typical sixth-inning-strikeout histrionics and fist-pumping. After belting a home run, Huff pumped his fist and made a little scene at home plate.

Though I am far from a Huff fan, as I said, this scored a lot of points for him. And though Chamberlain claimed he didn’t see nor care about the celebration, I feel like his reaction might be similar to the reaction that murderer Ray Lewis had when T.O. mocked his dance.

Also staying on the football thing, it’s also very likely that some of the Yankees would be miffed about this celebration and might feel like crybaby LaDanian Tomlinson after the Patriots mocked steroid user Shawne Merriman’s “Lights Out” dance.

Really, what matters here is that there is a very high probability that Huff is going to get thrown at in the next three days. Could be Sabathia tonight, Hughes tomorrow, one of the Guys From SWB in the bullpen, or even Chamberlain himself on Thursday.

Again, as I addressed, I feel like retaliation for something like that is part of baseball as long as he’s not drilled in the head. Of course, Chamberlain has poor control, but that’s only when he’s facing Kevin Youkilis or when he’s debating whether he’s had one or four too many to drive. So we’ll see if Chamberlain does it the right way, if he has one of his boys do it, or if the Yankees do what they did in the Joe Torre era and just let things like this slide.

This kind of speculation adds an element to the game beyond another game in May against the same old friggin Orioles. And as much as I am an opponent of the unbalanced schedule, the fact that things like this are developing all over the place in baseball is a good thing as long as it’s handled right. Of course, Allan (he's not my bud) Selig wants to eradicate beanballs in baseball, so once again, the things he’s doing are totally counterproductive to his own goals.

Putting .500 In The Rearview Mirror

The Yankees have won 6 in a row, and The GM and I have something of a rule that there is no complaining of any sort when your team is on a win streak. I'm happy to abide by it. I'll try not to make this too sappy.

An important thing every baseball team that wants to be good (or at least wants to make it easier on themselves) can do is to put .500 in the rearview mirror. This is something the Yankees have struggled mightily with in recent years. Eleven days ago I watched the Yankees drop their 5th straight live at the Stadium, and it looked like they were again likely heading in that direction. I said in the bar that night to The Big Ticket that they needed a push to get rid of .500 in the near future if they didn't want to be dwindling around that number at the All-Star Break. He asked me if I'd sign for 5 over at the break and I said no, reasoning that one streak is all they needed.

Two road series wins, three consecutive series wins, a 4-game sweep, 6 in a row, and 8 wins in 10 games since that night, and the Yankees are four over. They have not yet put .500 in the mirror, not even close. But they have certainly put themselves in a position to do so much quicker than it looked like they would be able to 11 days ago. They key now is to build off this, and when they come back to earth, to continue playing consistently, win after losses, and try to extend winning streaks again.

Lots of praise to go around recently, so here we go.

It starts and ends with starting pitching. Even when the Yankees were losing, they were getting solid starts from their pitchers, and during this bout of winning they have been largely outstanding. Since the Friday night the sweep started in Boston, the Yankees have played 23 games. In those games, the starting pitchers have allowed 4 runs or less in 18 of them. Of the other five games, in only two of them were more than 5 runs allowed. The team has gone through the rotation nearly five full times, and has had only five below average games, and two poor ones. I said at the beginning of the season that I thought this team's biggest strength was when the rotation got comfortable and starting taking consistent turns. They've had it going for nearly a month now, and it's the biggest reason the Yankees are where they are. They are giving the team a chance to win almost every single night with incredible consistency.

Offensively, innings 1-6 has been nothing to write home about. 9th in the majors in runs scored. Yet, of their 21 wins, 15 (!) have been via the comeback. Many of these have been in innings 7-9. It really has been amazing to watch. In recent years, it seems like this team has rolled over a lot late in games. Now it's like they just expect they'll win if they are down 1, 2, 3 runs late in the game. Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera, and Mark "I Only Hit In Blowouts" Teixeira have all come up multiple time with massive hits in the late innings.

Speaking of Teixeira, it's tough to talk about the Yankees winning ways without mentioning Alex Rodriguez. The team is 8-2 since his return. Obviously this is not all credited to him, though his production, especially recently, has been most helpful. Moreso, as a lot of people predicted, he has gotten Mark Teixeira going. In the 10 games since Rodriguez's return, Tex is batting .342 with 5 homers, 3 doubles, 13 rbi, and 10 runs scored. Without Rodrgiuez, he just wasn't seeing any fastballs. With the pressure of a new contract in the biggest pressure cooker in the sport, teams dared him to take his walks. Take his walks he did, reaching base on balls 19 times in 28 games to start the season. But this isn't going to matter to a national media and opposing fan bases waiting to jump on him, and even to his own fans after a while. Since Rodriguez's return, that's all been out the window. He's got 10 home runs and 28 rbi, and as much as he didn't help when the Yankees were struggling, he's been the man and is challenging Damon for the team's offensive MVP since they started winning. Our very own Tommy The Gunn predicted just after he signed that Teixeira and Rodriguez needed players like the other, and that they'd make each other that much better. So far, it looks like that is the case.

The bullpen, for all it's struggles, has battled. Since the meltdown against Tampa, Mariano has been Mariano. Across the last 8 games, where the Yankees have gone 7-1 and all 7 wins have been via the comeback, the bullpen has allowed 5 earned runs in 20 innings. Though they blew a save in the 8th of one of those 7 wins, their holding the score after the starters have left, and allowing the offense to fight back in, has been a big a part of these comebacks as any. With Bruney being activated tomorrow, and further reinforcements in Marte hopefully on the way, their performance this past week plus could be where they turn the corner. I hope so.

Finally, have to give Joe Girardi credit. He's started to push a lot of the right buttons and has the team playing good, sound, fundamental baseball. He's also gotten guys that were struggling going, in many cases by giving them rest or a DH day at the right time. Hopefully he does so for Swisher tomorrow, as he seems to really need a day. Most importantly, he didn't lost the team when things were in a bad way. This team has a no-quit, we can win every game attitude that I have not seen in a few years from a Yankees side. Part of that hast to come back to the manager. Good spot by him.

The Yankees have gotten to CC with a win for the second consecutive time. Winning before CC is always going to be big because there is a chance for momentum to get built right there. Tomorrow, CC has a chance to simply keep it going against a team he dominated the last time he saw them, which got the winning ways started. It will be interesting to see how they adjust to him, and how he changes his approach and adjusts back to them, if at all on either count. Go Yankees.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Insert Your Rants Here

A few things to address today, and considering the majority of our readership is from Boston, I feel like the comments section might be a good depository for people's frustration.

First, as this website is called How Youz Doin Baseball, we'll talk about the frustrating Red Sox loss yesterday. The team was unable to hit friggin Jason Vargas, mustering only two extra-base hits. But, of course, the most frustrating part is when a routine ground ball to shortstop was botched by Nick Green, who sent the ball flying into the camera well. The runner reaching base on the Green error scored the winning run. This was Green's second error of the game and his eighth of the season, and as we already know from the Lugo Era, many errors don't end up mattering much, but it's just a matter of time that it costs you a game or two.

It's frustrating that Green sucks defensively, but it's hard to rag on him as he's still hitting .300, or about seventy points over his career average. The shortstop situation on this team is just frustrating. So is the DH situation.

Also feel free to express your distaste for the Celtics' Game 7 flop. Missed free throws and missed layups should not happen, period.

But on a little more of a macro level, going back to baseball, the Red Sox lost another two series on the road, dropping them to 2-5 on road series and 9-12 in road games. The good news is that they win consistently at home. Particularly good about that is that it drives Pat crazy enough to send me five text messages about it between the hours of 11:30 PM and 1:30 AM last night. My first reaction is that Fenway Park isn't going to help Nick Green throw the ball to first base.

But the Red Sox average two more runs per game at home than they do on the road. Is this because the team really is built for Fenway Park and is made up of a lot of really mediocre hitters when they're not being aided by the dimensions? We know that Mike Lowell's and Dustin Pedroia's splits are pretty dramatic. But is that really a characteristic of all Red Sox hitters?

Scoring eleven runs in a series against the Seattle friggin Mariners is unacceptable.

Also worth addressing is if this team's home dominance is going to be enough to overcome how much they suck on the road. Will that carry them to the playoffs? They're three games out of first place now. If they were 12-9 on the road, which is not too much to ask for a team that should be a playoff team, they'd be in first place.

A few more quick hits:
-Good for Jon Lester for his recovery from Suck Patrick Denial. He dropped some expletives about his performance in Sunday's paper, and that's a lot better than getting lit up and saying you thought you pitched well.
-Good work by emo kid Joe Maddon, who had to hit Andy Sonnanstine third in the lineup because he messed up the lineup card. Way to do your job. For them, good thing they were playing Cleveland.

Friday, May 15, 2009

You Ruined Miller Time

Bill Miller Time, of course. When yesterday's Red Sox/Angels game went into extra innings, the one person more pissed off about it than anyone else must have been home plate umpire Bill Miller. From the first inning, Miller wanted to go home: It was getaway day, an afternoon game, and he probably had a date afterwards. He called the game accordingly.

And you know what? That's fine. As long as you have a wide and tall strike zone for both sides, keep it consistent. And Miller did that as far as I'm concerned. The Red Sox might be fretting about that, but that's just because they're a patient team. Patient teams get killed by big strike zones.

The solution: Protect the plate. In order to prevent striking out looking a dozen times, foul pitches off or go with an imperfect pitch. You're a professional baseball player. You should have the thought process that if eight of your teammates already went down looking, you might not be able to take a pitch on the outside corner, just above the letters, or right down the middle. The Red Sox offense apparently did not think about this.

Speaking of not thinking, maybe we're at the point where we are expecting the miraculous from 46. After the theft of home plate (a smart play, admittedly) and taking two bases on that passed ball in 2007, you gotta think that 46 can tag up from second base and score on a ball hit to the deepest part of the outfield with the fielder's momentum taking him farther away from home plate. Or at least take one base.

46 was on second base when this happened late in the game. Instead of doing something between an obvious baseball play (tagging up and taking third) and a very smart baseball play (considering scoring), 46 just stood at second base. It's not like he was playing it halfway. He just stood at second base, bewildered and confused. By the way, nice catch by 46 as well. What a great defensive center fielder.

I will give credit to Nancy Drew for covering up 46's defensive debacle by making a good catch-and-throw to gun a guy down at the plate. It is notable, however, that he left the game shortly thereafter. Here is a multiple choice quiz of why Nancy left the game:

A. He felt that he contributed enough to the team after the excellent catch-and-throw.
B. His glove hand became sore catching that ball, and he threw out his back throwing it to the plate.
C. Fuentes was pitching the next inning, and Nancy is a $70 million platoon player.
D. Nancy found out that Dan Vassallo is taking a half day of paid time off Friday. He had to match that half day off.
E. Rocco Baldelli is a better baseball player than Drew.
F. Drew is still pissed off about having to pinch hit with a sore quad two and a half weeks ago.

More than one answer may be correct.

Manny Delcarmen is a stiff. But ups to Francona/Brad Mills for pitching Papelbon before pitching the Delcarmens of the world. Bringing in Delcarmen earlier and saving Papelbon for the save situation is a stupid thing to do, and it's nice to know that this staff has learned that.

Which brings me to Ortiz. Per his suggestion, I will write it down: Papi stinks. Leaving 12 on base ties a Red Sox record, and you know what? He very rarely has even come close to a home run. I didn't want to admit that he's cooked, but it might be that time. It has gone beyond "oh, he'll get it back" to "oh, he always starts this way" to "oh, it's funny that he still doesn't have a home run" to this. It isn't funny anymore. It's not quite depressing, it's not quite enfuriating, but it's somewhere in between those two. At what point does it become Lars Anderson time?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Big Win

There is only one question that really seems appropriate to start this post: who has more home runs in 2009, David Ortiz or Brett Gardner? I'll ask for Gardner's demotion everyday if he's going to go 2 for 3 with a homer, a triple, a walk, 3 RBI, and 2 runs scored every time I do so. Good job by him getting the scoring started after awful defense put the Yankees in an immediate 1-0 hole.

In my opinion, this was the Yankees' first must-win game of the season. Not must-win as in the season is over if you lose. Must-win in that the difference between winning and losing is big in terms of where it leaves you. A loss tonight, the Yankees are 3 games under, meaning .500 is at least a few games away if you start playing great baseball, and more than that even if you are playing well. The Yankees could essentially play well between tomorrow and the 10 game homestand and still be right around .500.

With the win, they hand the ball to CC Sabathia tomorrow with a chance to get immediately back to .500. If they do that, they have a chance to come home and do some damage on the homestand. Only Tampa Bay and Florida have played more games on the road than the Yankees' 20. After tomorrow, the Yankees will be 21 away to 13 home. If they get a win, being 17-17 while they are minus 8 home/away is really not the end of the world. You'd like to be a little better, but most teams, even really good teams, don't play above .500 baseball on the road. Last year, the Yankees and the Angels were the only teams in the American League to be above .500 on the road, and only 6 of 30 teams in both leagues did so. Again, you'd like to be better, and a loss tomorrow would make it worse. But if they get a W, considering the road schedule and the injuries (many of which are on the mend), it really could be a lot worse through the first 34 games. Let's hope they get the win, because even 16-18 will seem a lot, a lot worse. Go Yankees.

Still, let's make no mistake about it. The Yankees have played inconsistent baseball at best, dissapointing baseball at worst. And that's including all the circumstances surrounding being on the road and injuries. They are no excuses for the baseball this team has played at times. There have also been positives, such as both their willingness to comeback late in games (which has been astounding, and something missing in recent years) and to get up off the mat the day after a tough loss.

Today was another prime example of that. I didn't touch on it much, but last night was a disgusting loss. You don't expect to do much against Halladay, but the Yankees went above and beyond the call of duty. He dominated them, and they barely offered a fight outside of Damon. Then today, they do almost everything right. Give up a run in the first because of mindless fielding, come right back and get 5 in the top half of the next inning. Pettitte did his job. Aceves did his job. Stringing lots of hits together, especially of the extra base variety, something they have not done this year at all. It's like they've been afraid to get 3,4,5 hits in a row. They scored early, something they've also struggled with. All of this the night after looking asleep for the better part of 9 innings. If there is anything positive you can say about this team right now, it's the way they come out after tough losses and keep playing, and the way they come back late in games.

There is only one question that really seems appropriate to end this post: when will teams stop throwing Jason Bay fastballs elevated and middle-in? He is so comfortable demolishing that pitch, it's almost the same swing depositing the ball in the same spot just left of left center every single time. Eight of ten homers this year off fastballs. You can't stop throwing someone fastballs entirely, but when someone is dominating a pitch in a particular location to this extent, you have to make some sort of change and mix it up a little bit. Like, at least stop throwing him fastballs on the inner half, moving it to the outer half or way in to move him off the plate. Really, just try anything. No matter how badly it goes, it won't be worse than what he's doing to fastballs in right now.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Round Up

Lots to cover since last week. My thanks to DV for keeping it going during finals and now my transition to working again. Quick hitters.

- Last Friday the Yankees were down. Five straight losses, all in somewhat excruciating fasion, none moreso than the last two to Tampa. CC Sabathia wasn't just good when the Yankees needed him most. No. No. No. He was more. In the 9th inning, up 4-0, Sabathia gave up back to back hits to start the inning (a groundball up the middle and a pop up that fell in between Jeter and Damon), his first hits allowed since giving up back to back hits to start the game. Mariano had pitched two days in a row in losing efforts (how often has that happened?), and the day before had given up back to back homers for the first time in his career to take the loss. If there was ever a day he and the Yankees needed him to not come into a game during his career, this might have been it. Some guys might have wilted in this spot and forced Mo into the game. Sabathia got better. He struck out Jones, Markakis, and Mora, the heart of the Baltimore order, to end the game. As I said to my father after the game, that goes beyond talent. That's about who he is, about competing, about handling his business so somebody else doesn't have to. He went to another level those last three batters, it was plain to see, and it was awesome to watch as a fan. His desire coupled with his talent is something the Yankees have needed in a starter for a while, and now they have it.

- I talked about this last week with Jason Bay, but it needs to be said again. It's literally mind boggling how bad the Yankees are at adjusting to hitters from game to game and throughout the course of a season. As I mentioned, I talked about Jason Bay taking three fastballs deep in a 10 day period against New York. This past weekend, Aubrey Huff hits a three run job off Hughes on a breaking ball away Saturday. What does Joba throw in the first inning to Huff the very the next day? A breaking ball away. What does Huff do with it? Three run job. Like, are you kidding me? A primary responsibility of a manager is to adjust. Allowing the same guy to beat you the same way on the same pitch two days in a row (like Bay early last week and Huff over the weekend) is not acceptable. Other teams adjust to the Yankees all the time. It's ridiculous that they don't do the same, and this is 100% on Joe Girardi. If a guy looks comfortable against a certain pitch in a certain spot (comfortable, as in taking it 450), how about mixing it up and not throwing him that pitch in that spot? Not a difficult concept.

- Similarly, when the ball is kept in play, it's like the Yankees don't get tired of watching the same guys get hits in the same spots over and over. Mike Lowell hits a groundball double over third base every game against the Yankees it seems. I think Adam Jones had four of them this weekend. Scott Rolen, another pull hitter, had the big hit of the game - you guessed it - just inside third tonight. And he's a pull hitter facing a curveball that he's likey to pull if he makes contact. How about putting Rodriguez on the line in a situation where you are getting beat by the same player down the line consistently or against heavy pull hitters likley to hit it down the line? Is this difficult? I don't think so. I would seriously have a lot more confidence in Joe Girardi if the next time they play the Red Sox he took all 7 fielders not pitching or catching and lined them up on the third baseline from the bag to the wall equidistant apart when Mike Lowell was up. At least he'd be trying something different and not allowing him to double on a groundball or linedrive down the line. Because consistently positioning Rodriguez off the bag against hitters like Lowell and Jones who continually hit groundballs right inside the bag certainly isn't working. If a guy is beating you a certain way over and over, try taking that away from him. Again, this is on the manager. And again, not a difficult concept.

- The bench. Oh. My. Word. Cashman and Girardi are in a tough spot. They have a lot of injuries and want to keep both Pena and Berroa until they know Rodriguez is ready to play everyday. Fine. But being in a tough spot does not excuse total nonsense. Total nonsene as in, like, keeping Brett Gardner on this team instead of someone who can possibly hit the ball out of the infield. Having a viable pinch hitter (or two) is important for the Yankees right now because the injuries mean guys like Jose Molina and Kevin Cash are getting critical at bats late in games. Shelley Duncan, Juan Miranda, Todd Linden, John Rodriguez, none of them are likely to be great, but they are all more useful than Gardner, who is nothing more than a pinch runner right now, because at least there is a chance they can get a hit late in a game. Just as troublesome is their keeping of a 13th pitcher. There is absolutely no need for this. Keep two pinch-hitters. Todd Linden, who has experience in the NL coming off the bench/pinch hitting, is a must. Since he's a switch-hitter, take your pick between Miranda, Duncan, and Rodriguez, whoever you think has the best chance of giving productive at bats off the bench late in games. But for the love of all things good in this world, please get rid of Gardner until he can be useful as a 5th outfielder/pinch runner when the team is healthy again. And get rid of the 13th pitcher that you unequivocally do not need. This is pathetic roster managemement.

- The Yankees might have a little something in Ramiro Pena. He's a plus glove, especially at short, is not overmatched with the bat (.279 AVG, 6 K's to 4 BB's), and hits from both sides of the plate. A very valueable piece as a utility infielder right now, something the Yankees have not had in a while. And then, if he hits, maybe, just maybe, the Yankees' next shortstop. He's certainly got the ability defensively and athletically. It all depends on how he hits. The experience this year will certainly be helpful. I hope it happens, because it would be a pleasure ot watch him pick it and turn it every night at short.

- Joe Girardi has to get starters out of games earlier. He just has to. There is no formula for it, but as a manager you have to get your starters out before they become ineffective and let the game get away. 7 innings, 3 runs, and 98 pitches from Burnett is probably a good place to cut it when he worked like he had to work tonight. I'm sure Burnett wanted to finish the 8th, but that's why there are players and managers, not everyone all the same. It's Girardi's job to get him out in that spot at 3-1, and not let it get to 5-1. He's done it to CC and Pettitte recently as well. The only guy he's been consistently good with is Joba, and that's because (A) Joba is so filthy after the first inning there isn't much scoring going on at any time, so it doesn't matter when he takes him out he's still getting outs and (B) Joba is on very strict rules Girardi needs to abide by. Maybe someone should make rules for Girardi to abide by with the other pitchers. Not only is it an issue of that game getting out of hand, but you have to protect these guys. Burnett has a shaky injury history, and the Yankees need him, so there is no reason for him to throw 110 pitches unless he's really cruising - which was not the case tonight. Ditto for CC and 120 pitches. No need for this type of pitch count unless he's really dealing.

- Speaking of Joba and the first inning, is there any coaching going on with this team? I have no idea, so I'm going to assume they are addressing this, even though the results would indicate they have not done so adequately to date. For a guy to have a 13.50 ERA in the 1st inning and a 1.60 ERA (approximately) after that is really silly. Let's figure out a routine or something that works to get this ironed out. Even if the first inning thing is only temporary, what matters is that it's happening now, and the coaching staff should be devising a plan to solve it. I hope that they are.

- Tomorrow is one of those mini-big games for the Yankees. After a dreadful homestand, you win a series on the road over the weekend in dramatic fashion. You don't expect to beat Doc Halladay (who is the best pitcher in baseball - Greinke is the only one close at the moment, and he's just hot, he's not better than Halladay yet - Santana would not be doing the things Halladay is doing in the AL East, he's not even getting past the 7th in the NL), so you take the loss tonight. But if you win behind Pettitte tomorrow, you have CC going Thursday with a chance to win back to back series on the road before heading home for a 10 game homestand. Tomorrow is the types of game that can turn momentum. Go Yankees.

- One win away from the Celtics getting thrown to the Cavaliers. With every win, the Celtics get a few more believers. You can tell the team believes, otherwise they wouldn't play the spirited/relentless brand of basketball that they have. This is most important and a very positive development, because the more belief they have the more getting waxed by Lebron hurts. And, oh my goodness gracious, is a rested Lebron going to wax a tired Celtics side if they get that far. KG or not, nobody wants to get pummeled the way Lebron is going to pummel them, especially when you're defending a title. Will be very exciting and enjoyable to watch for everyone outside of New England.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

There's No Place For You Here In The Future

Big ups to the Red Sox’ impending 2009-2010 free agent acquisition over the weekend. Future Red Sox left fielder Aubrey Huff, after homering off of Justin Chamberlain, decided it would be fun to do a series of obnoxious fist pumps, mocking what Chamberlain does regularly when he finishes the sixth (6th) inning of a baseball game. It has been well-documented on this blog that I am not a fan of Huff, as I think he’s an overrated ballplayer who lost about fifty pounds when they started testing for steroids and his numbers suffered greatly. An alarming downgrade from Jason Bay, who is also a free agent after this season and will probably be willing to sign for less money.

But I will give him the credit he deserves. Anyone who will point out how absurd Chamberlain’s on-field behavior is wins points with me. Doesn’t outweigh the fact that he is all the things I outlined in the first paragraph, but this weekend certainly wins some points.

As much as I think the unbalanced schedule is bogus because I get sick of seeing the Devil Rays all the time and I get burnt out after every Yankees series—and because I miss Oakland and Kansas City games—it does provide this element going on here. The Yankees are throwing at Pedroia and Bay, the Red Sox are throwing at Longoria, and now Aubrey Huff and Chamberlain are barking at each other. Some people think this is detrimental to baseball, but not me. I like what Barry Melrose said on ESPN this morning: If you like the people you’re playing against, you’re doing something wrong. These storylines developing will make things a lot more interesting as the season progresses. What’s unfortunate is that the White Sox and Rangers don’t play each other 19 times a year, after Bobby Jenks admitted he threw at Ian Kinsler on purpose.

I liked Johnny Damon a lot better when he showed up to camp soft and chubby and was considering retirement. This new Johnny Damon sucks considerably more. But at least he’s not talking about how much the Red Sox disrespected him anymore. His numbers speak for themselves.

Just a question aimed at the Yankees fans around here: Obviously some things have gone wrong this season, notably with A-Rod’s injury, the pitching staff being terrible, and Girardi being a clown. But what would you say has saved this team from really going down the tubes? Melky Cabrera’s renaissance? Nick Swisher? Damon’s mega-renaissance?

How about Mark Teixeira, who’s on pace for 30+ home runs and nearly 100 RBIs despite a piss-poor batting average? Has he been the difference? Let me re-hash a quote from an October 7, 2008 Joel Sherman article:

"The statistics will be there, but this is not a player who will make anyone else on the team better," said a former teammate of Teixeira's. "The numbers indicate an elite player, but if you watch him every day you will realize he is a very good player, not elite."

I may have been wrong about Damon, but I’m not always wrong.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Now Re-Entering the PED Zone

Unlike Pat for twelve out of the last fifteen posts, steroids will not go away. The public is finding out for sure what they've pretty much already known: The Mitchell Report was just the tip of the iceberg. It didn't provide any closure, and MLB wasted a lot of money doing it. Maybe Bud Selig didn't anticipate all these extra details leaking out seven years after the scandal really started. But then again, Bud Selig doesn't anticipate rainy nights happening in October.

The latest thing rocking this place is former infielder turned talk show host Lou Merloni. This weekend he revealed not only that he and everyone else in baseball used amphetamines, but that the Red Sox, during spring training, had a team meeting where a doctor was brought in to discuss the safe use of steroids.

This sounds an awful lot like John Rocker saying a doctor (hired by the Major League Baseball Players' Association) came in to lecture some Rangers (steroid user Rocker, steroid user A-Rod, steroid user Palmeiro, and sure-fire Hall of Famer who was in the Canseco book, lost 40 pounds once testing started, but clearly not a steroid user Ivan Rodriguez, right ESPN?) about how if used correctly and not "like Lyle Alzado did," steroids could be reasonably safe.

Merloni didn't remember the year this meeting happened or if it was in the majors or minors, but then-general manager Dan Duquette confirmed on WEEI Monday that a doctor did come in at the behest of a team trainer and give that speech. Merloni seems to think the team was complicit with steroid use, and Duquette, who has been absolutely torn apart in every book I've read about his tenure with the Red Sox, denied that.

But the fact that both the Rangers and the Red Sox had meetings like this just further proves that baseball executives, just like baseball players, knew exactly what was going on and did nothing to stop it. This is a big problem, and unless someone starts talking, things like this are going to continue to leak out. No matter what Merloni (who, other than amphetamines, says he never used performance-enhancers--this probably cost him an everyday job in the majors) and Duquette continue to fire back and forth, it still doesn't change the fact that we now know about two of these meetings in the last decade. Not good news for baseball.

Meanwhile, as the comments section Monday indicated, there are some people who are curious about David Ortiz and steroids. Thus far I have given him the benefit of the doubt, as I will continue to do for him and everyone else who has not been implicated or busted. There are really two opposing schools of thought here, and both have strong arguments to back them up.

The first is that Ortiz, once he stopped playing for Tom Kelly and stopped playing on the Astroturf in Minnesota--conveniently when he was in his late 20s, enjoyed a few years of health. It is well-documented that Kelly and the Twins organization encouraged extremely hard that the Twins didn't hit for power--they instead hit the ball everywhere, especially the opposite field. In Ortiz's book, this constituted "hitting like a little bitch," and between arguments with management and injuries due to the hard surface in Minnesota, things did not go too well for him there.

He arrived in Boston, was permitted to swing for the fences once again, and did so. A lot. He grew, but he didn't get cartoon character big. Click here for a link of the old Ortiz, the Twins' team magician, and LaTroy Hawkins. He enjoyed the soft surfaces, the designated hitter position, and therefore flourished and became Big Papi. Now, not unlike Jim Rice and Mo Vaughn, he's a big guy getting old early. This could be because his birth certificate is phony. It could be because he isn't on steroids. But it could also be because he never was on steroids in the first place. He's been somewhat outspoken on the topic, calling for more testing and harsher penalties. Users would probably shut up.

The other school of thought cites the infamous rookie card (though look at Rich Garces's rookie card), the quote in the aformentioned article about how past transgressions should be dropped, his friendship with Manny Ramirez, his work with Angel Presinal, and--of course--the numbers. Just as you don't find two million dollars in a taxicab, you don't find 35 extra home runs a year by avoiding Astroturf. Clearly by the tone in the second half of this article, you know I'm really, really, really hoping Ortiz is clean. But, like everyone else in Boston, I'm not going to hold my breath.

Drew Shows Sign Of Life, Injures Himself

Lots of stuff to go over for the Red Sox' weekend. This probably would have been a Sore Glove Hand, but I couldn't pass up using the headline above.

JD Drew gets knocked a lot around here, especially on this blog, for looking like he doesn't care. Well, that and the fact that he also plays like he doesn't care, makes way too much money, and is the victim of a multitude of seemingly minor injuries. But Friday night he did something that impressed me: He showed that he was actually alive.

He hit a two-run home run (absolutely crushed the ball) to catapult the Red Sox ahead of Tampa, and it proved to be the game winner. Let's not affix the "clutch" label to him, because Jason Bay's three-run shot earlier in the inning tied the game. But after he hit the home run and crossed the plate, he actually showed some swagger, as if he were happy he hit that home run. I'm not sure how to describe it, but it was a strut of some sort--as he approached the dugout, he started walking strangely without bending his legs. It was not signs of being injured, it was swagger. He high-fived his teammates and continued to do his job. I was genuinely impressed.

The next day, with a lefty on the mound, the $70 million platoon player sat out with a quad injury.

It should not be news when a relief pitcher with a 9.26 ERA on May 10th gets designated for assignment. But the Red Sox finally realized that Javier Lopez was ineffective one too many times. On the radio, they were talking about how much of a shame it was because of the content of Lopez's character. I'm sure he's a model citizen, but he can be a model citizen for the Nationals or something. All season long, he pitched seemingly with a lack of focus (how do you walk a guy on four pitches when getting one or two guys out is the only thing you think about all day?) and a lack of urgency (if you're a middle reliever, your job is always somewhat in question). The last few days, when the only pitches that found the plate also found bats, were so bad that the team who let Eric Gagne blow games for three straight months even had enough.

Not too many months ago, Daniel Bard was called up to Portland. Live fastball, but didn't seem like he was unhittable--games were not exactly safe with him. I have my doubts about his readiness. But we'll see what happens.

Speaking of hittable, it's not fun having Papelbon pitch as if he's ordinary, which has been the case all year. Same with the Real Josh Beckett--it's frustrating. And Lester is not fooling anyone.

But let's end on a positive note. Varitek threw someone out yesterday. The Red Sox won a series against Tampa. And I don't have to find another obsure emo lyric for a post title until August or something.

Friday, May 8, 2009

West Coast Game Style

Okay, I had a lot to say about Wednesday night's Red Sox game, and I already had a post written. Then Manny got busted for steroids, so I had to put something up there. Then I was sick all night last night--not even Jason Bay and Tim Wakefield could make me better. So here are a few topics that aren't really that time-sensitive from Wednesday observations. I wouldn't be surprised if Pat had an afternoon post today after Mariano's rough day yesterday. Here we go.

I was at the game last night, enjoying the new right field roof box. I gotta say, as much as I was for a new stadium (and I still am), they did a good job on these new seats that didn’t exist two years ago. These seats were much more comfortable for someone who’s 5’9”. And while there are still thousands of seats in that park that don’t face home plate, I will admit that they made something out of nothing with this new section, and I’m sure it’s a similar situation for the majority of the new seats at Fenway.

Anyway, my biggest point today is that Rusty Masterson has to be moved back to the bullpen, permanently. You may think this is inconsistent or counterintuitive because I’ve had such a strong opinion on how Joba Chamberlain should stay in the Yankees’ rotation. Well, that’s because it’s totally different. The Chamberlain argument has everything to do with taking seven good innings once every five days instead of two great innings in that stretch. In this case, Masterson is able to give you 4-5 good innings every five days followed by one bad inning. I would take the two great innings over 4-5 good ones followed by one bad. And that’s the reality of what Masterson is going to give you.

He can throw in the mid-nineties as a starter and has an excellent slider. However, if you’re a hitter and you’re looking at that slider during three at-bats, you start to understand what’s going to happen with it the third time around. This is something we saw last year and something we’ve seen more of so far this year. And that’s not good. The 40+ ERA in the fifth inning as a starter (or whatever stat they flashed up on NESN last night) is pretty indicative of a problem.
As a reliever, Rusty has thrived considerably, as he can add a few miles an hour onto the fastball and the slider remains a mystery. He can be utilized most efficiently as Francona can pitch him to a long string of righties. This would minimize the concerns many people have regarding Rusty’s ability to get lefties out. So once again, we’re talking about two great innings a week as opposed to 4 good ones and a bad one. It’s a no-brainer.

Congratulations to Javier Lopez, who threw seven strikes out of 17 pitches last night. This newfound command over his pitches instead of throwing nine or ten balls in a row really proved to be effective, as one of these strikes was taken into the bullpen, two of them were singles, and one was a ground rule double. Awesome.

Did you know that in Kenmore Square they’re selling “Drew Crew” shirts, with the number 7 and “clutch” on the back of them? I almost jumped in front of a taxi cab when I saw that. A telling stat up on the scoreboard was his batting average with the bases empty, now .333. His batting average overall is .259. That means his batting average with guys on base is pretty low (actually .167). Yeah, he got three big hits. But a more accurate back of that shirt would be number “4-3” and the words “weak ground ball.”

If Drew was so clutch, he would have put together an at-bat a little better than an anemic inning-ending ground out to the right side (#13 of the season) with the bases loaded against Carl Pavano (who sucks). The Red Sox’ last opportunity to blow the game open. If it were 5-1 instead of 2-1, things may have been a little bit different with Rusty starting to unravel in the fifth.

Speaking of clutch, I got a text message from Pat at 9:56 PM: “[Teixeira] never gets big hits. 2 out bases clearing double in the 8th to tie the game.” I did not get a subsequent message when Teixeira failed to hit the ball deep enough to score a runner in the tenth. He is one for his last 20 with men on. Difference maker. Incidentally, there was no mention of this incident in his post this morning, nor his comments made at 3:00 AM.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Manny On Roids: What Does It Mean?

Manny Ramirez’s suspension for performance-enhancing drugs is not surprising, but obviously something everyone wants to talk about. He’s going to deny it. So what, everybody does, and everybody’s lying. A few quick observations on this:

1. Manny got his money. From the very limited information we have gotten, not very many people stayed on steroids non-stop, year-round, for several years. He was probably on something for at least part of his time in Boston, but for the sake of argument, let’s say he started using when he realized, “holy crap, I gotta play for my contract.” If he had continued his 2007-early 2008 production in Boston, he probably wouldn’t have even gotten the two year, $40 million option. But let’s say the Red Sox did pick that up before Manny started taking steroids. He would be due $40 million between 2009 and 2010.

Manny wanted more money than the option dictated. That’s why he orchestrated the crap he orchestrated, and maybe it was then that he started using—so he would be so good that his performance outweighed his, um, issues. That worked. And Manny got his money. He is now due $50 million between 2009 and 2010.

Due to the suspension, Manny will lose somewhere between $7 million and $8 million. In other words, in a crappy economy, he STILL got more money had he stayed clean (theoretically) and had Boston pick up the option.

Moral of the story: The 50-game suspension is not enough disincentive for players. Manny got more money despite the suspension.

2. The Dodgers are in first place, as Pat said in his comments section last night. Sure, they lose Manny for 50 games, and attendance may sag slightly, but fans will want to see the first-place team. Juan (“Lucky”) Pierre will be filling Manny’s shoes, and in the unimpressive NL West, the Dodgers will be able to tread water. Then Manny will come back for the second half of the season. Therefore, the Dodgers are not punished at all for going after a steroid guy.

Moral of the story: The 50-game suspension is not enough disincentive for teams, either.

Also fun, there is still no test for HGH in baseball because of the players’ union’s interference. Rick Ankiel is considered a “warrior” and fans will go back to Manny and A-Rod as long as they produce.

But yes, Bud Selig, baseball has taken tremendous strides in ridding the game of drugs.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Yankees' Pitching

A few quick points before we get started:

- I said it on Christmas Day when asked who was going to the finals (with my father and uncle to prove it), and I'm sticking to it now. The Nuggest are coming out of the West. Chauncy Billups is the most underrated player in the NBA (without anyone being even close), and is exactly what that young team needed. He makes everyone accountable defensively, is a big aid in channelling the the youthful exuberance around him, and is brilliant at providing whatever is needed that day to win out of the point guard position. Take 20 shots, take 5, it doesn't matter. Pleasure to watch, and he's taking them directly to the finals, where they fall short to the best player in the NBA and future Knick great, Lebron James.

- I don't relaly enjoy talking about off the field stuff, but sometimes it's necessary. It really is amazing, for such a gritty, gutty, and good team, how soft the Red Sox are off the field (note: difference from on the field). Even forgetting last year's whining about Japan for a second, and just focusing on 2009. First Big Pop Up is telling Joba what he should and shouldn't do. And now John Farrell is getting in on the act, saying Joba should "disguise it" better. This would almost be acceptable if these guys weren't employed by a team that has made a living in the last 10 years throwing at people, including Pedro Martinez, who was a flat out headhunter (especially against the Yankees - Soriano, Jeter, Garcia, etc.). Listen, Bay is batting about 2.000 against the Yankees. In the first pitch of an at-bat, Joba hit him right in the middle of the back, nice and clean, exactly the way it's been done in baseball for over 100 years and exactly the way you're supposed to do it. This is a part of baseball. The main issue here is that two years ago when Youkilis was running all over them and Proctor and Joba threw up and in at him, the Sox were yapping about how they have no problem with people getting hit, they understand it' s part of the game, but that there's a way to do it, on the side or in the back, not up and in. Now the Yankees hit one of their guys in that exact way, and he has to "disguise it". Give me a break. If he disguises it next time, they'll cry about how he should do it at a different juncture in a game, and so on and so forth. This is baseball. You've just beaten the Yankees 5 times in a row. You haven't just beaten them, you've walked all over them. What's more, you hit them, and everybody, all the time too. This isn't a new thing. Joba hits Bay, have Beckett put one right on Jeter's back and away we go. Don't talk about ridiculous things like "disguising it" when Joba did it exactly the way you're supposed to do it. It sounds incredibly soft and whiney, especially, especially, especially at 5-0. Take care of it on the field, either by continuing to pummel the Yankees on the scoreboard or hitting one of their guys, not on WEEI.

The Yankees have not pitched the baseball well this season. A few really awful performances (hey, Chien-Ming Wang) have skewed the numbers worse than it really is, but the starters have not been as dominant as expected and the bullpen has been dreadful. Let's go one at a time.

The starting pitching outside of Wang has not been bad. It's not been great, but it's been above average. They are giving the team a chance to win almost every game, allowing 4 runs or less in 10 of the last 12 games. The main issue is throwing too many pitches early combined with Girardi wanting to mile the starters for everything he can due to a lack of faith in the bullpen. Sabathia (twice), Burnett (once), and Pettitte (once) have all had games during that 12 game stretch where they were cruising along at 1 or no runs in the 5th or 6th inning, are totally gassed at over 100 pitches, and give up multiple runs because Girardi leaves them out there. I feel for Girardi in this spot. He can't win either way. But I think he has to start getting the starter out. Not because it gives the team a better chance to win, but because arms like Sabathia and Burnett not getting injured is more important than one game in April or May. Sabathia has started 6 times, and thrown 108-122 pitches in 4 of them. As bad as it might be losing these games now, they'll be losing a lot more if Sabathia can't pitch later on in the season. Ditto the entire staff. The bullpen might not give you a better chance to win, but at least you are protecting the starter, so that if we ever figure the rest of the team out, the starters are healthy and ready to get rolling.

On to the real issue, the bullpen. There are four things at play here:

1. Two of the three core guys (Rivera, Bruney, and Marte) heading into the season are on the DL. This is without question the biggest issue. If Bruney and Marte are pitching, the team knows exactly where they are going not just for the 8th, but the 7th as well. Instead it's a total free for all besides Rivera, with guys in roles they should not be in.

2. The only guy who has been any good besides Rivera is Coke. Veras had been awful, and Albaladejo, while getting out of a few big jams, hasn't been too far behind. Who do you think have the two highest IP totals in the bullpen? Those two. Welcome to the Joe Girardi era. These guys are given chance, after chance, after chance in close games despite their struggles. This was the exact opposite of what Girardi did last year. He rode hot hands and stayed away from cold ones. Now he's doing his best Joe Torre impression, except at least Torre wore out the guys who were good! This is poor management, and has undoubtedly contributed to the issues.

3. All the complimentary pieces pitching poorly at once. Entering the year, this is what you liked about the Yankees' pen. They have a dominant closer. They have two proven set-up men, one righty one lefty. Then they have 6 guys (Veras, Ramriez, Coke, Albaladejo, Robertson, and Melancon) who are young and, with the exception of Ramirez, throw very hard. What made the bullpen successful last year was the ability to balance the volitility of bullpen arms throughout the season by riding hot hands and sitting cold ones. You figure that between these 6, you can get 2-3 who are doing their job at any given time. So far this year, Veras, Albaladejo, and Ramirez have been abysmal. Robertson and Melancon haven't gotten much of a chance, and have been up and down in those limited chances. Coke has been very good. This, I think, has a lot to do with #4.

4. Chien-Ming Wang. There was no way the Yankees could have predicted 6 innigns in 3 starts from a guy averaging 6.2 innings for his career. You just can't plan for that. All of these guys were coming into games early and getting blown out pitch wise. In Wang's second start, the seventh game of the season, Albaladejo threw 60 pitches, Ramirez threw 51, and Coke threw 38. In Wang's third start, the 12th game of the season, Ramirez threw 58 and Veras threw 43. When you have guys that are one, maybe two inning relievers, throwing this many pitches multiple times in the first 12 games of the season, it's going to throw things off, and it's not going to normalize overnight when they are also being asked to be the set-up corps without Bruney or Marte. People are pitching too much, and then they are pitching in roles they should not be pitching in. This is not a recipe for success.

At this point, it will be almost impossible for the bullpen to post the overall outstanding numbers that they posted for the year last year. And that matters zilch. What matters is what their numbers are from here on out. Seeing as it's the same group, you have to hope they pull it together and, even if they don't go back to being elite, can post consistently above average production. This isn't happening unless one of Bruney or Marte, and hopefully both, get back and pitch effectively. If you get one or both of them back, then you just hope that certain guys get hot at different times, that Girardi starts pitching the guys that are hot and not those that are cold, and the starters start giving you more length. Conversely, a better bullpen allows Girardi to get the starters out of games when they should be coming out, saving them from high pitch counts.

It also wouldn't hurt if the offense would score some more runs early, take the pressure off the starters to be perfect, and allow them to just pound the strikezone. AJ Burnett struck out 8 guys tonight, and you could tell that's exactly what he wanted to do with every hitter so he did't give anything up, not even a run. This raised his pitch count to the point where he needed 114 pitches to get through 6 innings. How this team is within 4 runs of being second in the Majors in runs, I have no idea. It seems like they barely get any hits. But this whole thing is cyclical. When one facet of the game isn't producing, it puts pressure on other areas to do so. Right now, the offense and the bullpen are putting an incredible amount of pressure on the starters, who are the most important players on the team. Wearing them out early is not a good idea, and that's exactly the road the Yankees are heading down. They need to stop this nasty cycle, and they can do that by hitting, and getting one of Bruney or Marte back soon so that the bullpen can make an attempt to normalize a little bit.

A Different World

It's really strange: Last night I was watching Red Sox/Yankees and there was no dread. It was a 4-3 game, so the game was one home run...or one walk followed by one double...away from being tied. But it felt unlikely. As they said on the news last night and as Eckersley said during the game, a 3-run game felt like a blowout. I've never felt this way before about the Red Sox' middle relief corps. I doubt many people in the world have ever felt that way about their relief corps.

Meanwhile, the Guys from SWB looked awesome.

Perhaps part of why I felt so safe with this lead is because I got the following text from Pat: "Leadoff baserunner in the bottom of the 7th of a one run game. Doesn't move. This is the Joe Girardi era." While I'm certainly not a fan of the way Joe Torre did things, he did recognize that in some parts of games, you have to do things differently. Like small ball. Joe Torre also recognized the importance of not getting swept by the Red Sox. So there would have been almost a desperate effort to get that run home.

Girardi seems to be relying on the nature of baseball where everything evens itself out. Instead of actually doing things.

And he's absolutely out of his mind about the lefty-righty thing. That was a consideration while INTENTIONALLY WALKING JD DREW, who struck out looking twice, taking the same pitch four times between those two sequences, and who is hitting .259. I will not complain about this, because I won "he won't swing the bat for the rest of this at-bat" bets because of that.

Which goes right back to my original thought: I was so comfortable with a one-run lead that Drew striking out looking repeatedly on the same pitch on the outside corner was more funny than enfuriating. The comfortable feeling was a result of zero walks by Okajima and Saito.

I saw Tommy's comment about Eckersley in the broadcast booth. I am also impressed in the early going. There definitely isn't the same chemistry as Orsillo and Remy have, as there was a considerable amount of awkward silence. He said that Eckersley was better than the national telecasts, but that's not saying much, as hitting the SAP button is better than listening to the national telecasts.

With the notable exception of the first inning and Jason Bay being a complete beast, this was among the best games I've ever seen Joba Chamberlain pitch. I just watched John Kruk talk about how he gave the Yankees "nothing" by handing the bullpen only a one-run deficit instead of the other option: Sitting in the bullpen all night because the replacement starter had likely already given up more than four runs. I really wish this argument would go away.

Also, this was the best we've seen from Josh Beckett this season. If the Red Sox can get starts like this on a consistent basis from Beckett, he doesn't need to be the 2007 Josh Beckett. It was an impressive, clean, not-frustrating outing. Granted, he was facing guys like Jose Molina and Brett Gardner, but it is what it is.

I have some sarcastic comments to make from a day or two ago about Lugo and Varitek, but they will probably wait until some midday post.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


I'm tired because I haven't slept much recently studying for finals, and I just stayed up to watch frustrating baseball.

I'm tired of the Yankees managment. Lefties who hit lefties better than righties sitting against lefties. A red hot Ramiro Pena sitting for Angel Berroa. But most of all, Papelbum allowed a single and hit a batter to lead off the 9th inning. For the mathematicians out there, that's two runners on in a two run game. With nobody out. With Papelbum looking for his first 5 out save of the season and already at maybe 15 pitches. With Damon at the plate, do you think maybe you bunt? Do you get the tying run into scoring position for Teixeira and Swisher? Yeah, I think you probably do. It's a simple matter of putting pressure on the opposing pitcher. Girardi struggles with this constantly, 9th inning or 2nd inning. When you put runners on second or third base with 1 out, you are forcing the opposing pitcher to get two outs without allowing a single. It's a much tougher spot. Instead Damon swung away and flied out on the first pitch. Total waste.

I'm tired of Papelbum's demented celebration at the end of games. I really am so tired of it. It's shocking (and dissapointing) that he doesn't get tired of it. Act like you've accomplished one thing. Anything.

Jon Lester was excellent tonight.

Phil Hughes went back to trying to be perfect tonight, instead of just pitching like he did in Detroit. He needs to understand that when you try to be perfect it usually ends up worse than when you just pitch. Innings like the 2nd and 4th are going to happen against Major League teams. They are going to score runs. Innings like the 1st and 3rd are a matter of not being too fine and just attacking. It's a difference of two runs and 30 pitches, which is an entirely different outing.

Both of those things said, as PeteAbe reported, there was a huge discrepancy between the strikezone Hughes was getting and the one Lester was getting. From what I saw, it was more that Hughes' zone was tight than there was anything wrong with Lester's, who was just masterful. But that's what I saw. The Yankees clearly disagreed. Derek Jeter has been ejected from a baseball game exactly zero times in his 2010 game career, and rarely ever argues. The fact that he was after the umpire is evidence that it probably wasn't a good strikezone. Or maybe he was only upset because he saw where Hughes' zone was, and knew the one he was facing was different. Regardless, something was clearly wrong, and I think anyone who spent any time watching this game could see that. These things happen in baseball and there's nothing you can do about it, but it's worth pointing out.

I'm tired of the Yankees up and down with RISP. 0 for 7 tonight. Tough to win like this.

I'm tired of Jason Bay plating two runs every time he puts the ball in play. Maybe it's time to be a little bit more careful with him? As DV always talks about, concentration. It doesn't take much to concentrate enough as a manager to make the decision that a player is literally crushing you, and you need to adjust. Please, adjust to Jason Bay.

I'm not tired of seeing Josh Beckett's name on the schedule against the Yankees. Hopefully the typical Beckett, with his career 5.90 ERA against New York, shows up tomorrow. The Yankees need a win.

Finally, I'm tired of the Yankees handling of injuries. Damaso Marte comes back from the WBC with a barking shoulder, pitches ineffectively for three weeks, doesn't pitch for a week, then goes on the DL. Jorge Posada misses two games with a sore hamstring, comes back (albeit playing very well) and plays a few games, and now it appears hurts if further, perhaps very badly. It's early May. You have to protect players, even if it costs you games now. Because scratching and clawing with guys that are banged up this early only costs you games later. Jorge Posada is batting .312 with 5 homers and 20 RBI. I understand you want him in the game, I do too. And maybe this was just a fluke that had nothing to do with the sore hamstring earlier this week. But the Yankees seem to consistently have injury problems far worse than other teams. At some point, this has to be less about the individual players and more about the team's handling of these players. I'm really, really, really tired of all of these injuries.