Mar 30, 2007


That's what Brandon Inge said after he struck out swinging on a 3-2 changeup against 24-year-old Chase Wright today. He pitched admirably against Detroit's full ML lineup, going six innings with three earned runs. Wright was the single-A Florida State League Most Valuable Pitcher in 2006, posting this line: 119.2 ip, 12-3, 1.89 era, 100 ks, 43 bb, 1 HR. He'll be a starter in double-A Trenton this year and could move quickly through the organization, especially considering his left-handedness and the recent injuries to several of the Yanks top minor league pitchers (notably Chris Garcia, Mark Melancon and J.B. Cox). I expect he'll hit the Bronx as Mike Myers' replacement no later than mid-2008.

Roster set!

Some good choices by the Cash-Tor duo. RPs Brian Bruney and Sean Henn are in the pen - Ron Villone will either pitch in AAA or become a free agent. Back-up-catcher Wil Nieves made the team (mostly for defensive reasons) over Todd Pratt, Ben Davis or Raul Chavez. And best of all, 1B Josh Phelps will be the righty platoon over Andy Phillips.

ST stats -
Villone, 5 ip, 14.40 era, 5 k, 4 bb
Henn, 9 ip, 3.00 era, 6 k, 6 bb
Bruney, 7 ip, 3.86 era, 14 k, 2 bb
Makes sense.

RH First-base
Phillips, 22 ab, .182/.182.182
Phelps, 35 ab, .400/.436/.686
Makes even more sense.

Pratt, 21 ab, 143/.182/.190
Davis, 10, .200/.200/.500
R. Chavez, 18 ab, .278/.263/.444
Nieves, 20 ab, .150/.150/.150
Hmmm... I'm not quite sure why Nieves made the team. He was the worst hitting catcher in ST, and Pratt's defense was superior (from what I saw). I would've liked to see Davis get some more abs. Cash-Tor must be hoping Nieves' hitting is a victim of SSS (small sample size). His career minor league hitting is much better: 3368 ab, .288/.334/.398.

In past years, Torre almost certainly wold have gone with Villone, Pratt and Phillips for their 'veteraness.'

The complete Opening Day roster.
SP: Pettitte, Mussina, Igawa, Pavano, Rasner (with Wang and Karstens both about to be placed on the DL)
RP: Mo, Farns, Proctor, Vizcaino, Myers, Bruney, Henn
OF: Matsui, Damon, Abreu, Melky
IF: Arod, Jeter, Cano, Giambi, Dmint, Phelps, Cairo
C: Posada, Nieves

PS - My wife just scored two tickets to Opening Day!

Mar 28, 2007

Does plate patience mean more runs?

Looking at runs per game and pitches per plate appearance, it becomes apparent that the two are connected. I looked at the last five seasons, and there is a definite progression of pitches/pa that corresponds with runs/game. The higher the r/g, in general, the higher the p/pa.

The difficult part is determining whether the team sees more pitches simply because it has better hitters and the pitchers are trying to be cautious; or are the hitters actually being more patient? Regardless, it's pretty clear that patience does result in a better offense.

r/g rank r/g p/pa
2006 AL avg.

4.97 3.75
NYY 1 5.74 3.81
TOR 7 4.99 3.77
MIN 8 4.94 3.72
TB 14 4.25 3.69

2005 AL avg.

4.76 3.71
BOS 1 5.62 3.86
NYY 2 5.47 3.74
LAA 7 4.7 3.65
TB 8 4.63 3.6
MIN 14 4.25 3.71

r/g p/pa
2004 AL avg.

5.01 3.77
BOS 1 5.86 3.93
NYY 2 5.54 3.79
ANA 7 5.16 3.65
DET 8 5.1 3.74
SEA 14 4.31 3.77

2003 AL avg.

4.86 3.78
BOS 1 5.93 3.82
NYY 3 5.38 3.81
SEA 7 4.91 3.81
CHW 8 4.88 3.83
DET 14 3.65 3.67

r/g p/pa
2002 AL avg.

4.81 3.78
NYY 1 5.57 3.8
TOR 7 5.02 3.75
OAK 8 4.94 3.94
DET 14 3.57 3.61

Umps Effect on the Outcome of Games v. 0.9

AKA, Quantifying the umpire's effect (specifically, balls and strikes). In an attempt to quantify the effect of 'pitcher's strikes' and 'hitter's balls,' my plan is to analyze several games, pitch-by-pitch, and count the number of 'borderline' strikes and balls - calls that could've reasonably gone either way. Next, what is the result of the at-bat? What's the effect on the pitcher vs. the effect on the hitter? Do the calls even out over the course of a game? How often do they effect the outcome of the game?

My guesstimate is that on a given pitch, the outcome (strike, ball, hit into play) is controlled thus by responsibility: pitcher 70%, hitter 20%, umpire 10%. So the umpire will make a 'borderline' call every 10 pitches or so on average. That sounds about right to me, but I will test it against a few ST games (Yankees and Mets).

We know that hitters almost universally hit worse when falling behind in the count. And conversely, hit better when ahead in the count. What is the effect of calling the first pitch a ball as opposed to a strike? What about on a 1-1 pitch?

Ultimately, I would like to see umpires replaced by technological innovations that will never fall victim to human errors, e.g. giving an established pitcher (Maddux, Schilling) a strike solely due to renown, or vice versa for a hitter (Giambi, Ortiz).

As pitch counts for ST games are largely unavailable, I'll wait for the regular season. I expect to analyze a few early season games to determine how much effect different umps have on the outcome of games.

By the way, BP has an umpire report here. There are some large differences between umps, but I want to know more: do veteran pitchers/hitters get calls in their favor, and how many? Conversely, do rookies get close calls go against them? What about pitches where the catcher has to move his glove significantly? A lot of those calls go against the pitcher because the catcher's movement causes the ump to assume it's a ball.

my 2007 Yankee Projections

This is not based on hard statistical analysis, just what I feel each player will do this season.

148 gms, 615 PA, .286/.367/.434, 19 HR, 121 R, 84 RBI, 23 SB

154 gms, 625 PA, .323/.409/.421, 17 HR, 124 R, 90 RBI, 33 SB

145 gms, 595 PA, .307/.412/.497, 23 HR, 110 R, 109 RBI, 15 SB

158 gms, 630 PA, .298/.389/.545, 41 HR, 115 R, 135 RBI, 18 SB

139 gms, 560 PA, .262/.399/.551, 38 HR, 105 R, 125 RBI, 1 SB

147 gms, 585 PA, .310/.378/.490, 29 HR, 100 R, 105 RBI, 3 SB

140 gms, 550 PA, .282/.394/.480, 27 HR, 85 R, 98 RBI, 1 SB

157 gms, 620 PA, .331/.372/.535, 24 HR, 93 R, 107 RBI, 9 SB

95 gms, 350 PA, .274/.363/.401, 5 HR, 54 R, 66 RBI, 0 SB

60 gms, 250 PA, .289/.388/.474, 11 HR, 43 R, 59 RBI, 0 SB

140 gms, 450 PA, .290/.377/.421, 12 HR, 78 R, 75 RBI, 14 SB

16-10, 3.73 era, 185 ip, 12 HR, 47 bb, 92 k

17-11, 4.12 era, 200 ip, 20 HR, 66 bb, 150 k

16-8, 3.90 era, 210 ip, 22 HR, 50 bb, 190 k

15-9, 4.23 era, 225 ip, 30 HR, 80 bb, 200 k

12-11, 4.59 era, 160 ip, 18 HR, 60 bb, 150 k

1.40 era, 77 ip, 3 HR, 10 bb, 69 k

3.25 era, 70 ip, 9 HR, 25 bb, 87 k

2.90 era, 88 ip, 8 HR, 21 bb, 79 k

3.89 era, 92 ip, 11 HR, 29 bb, 71

3.43 era, 41 ip, 4 HR, 10 bb, 35 k

Feel free to add your projections in the comments section.

Who's the real Evil Empire?

Red Sox owner Larry Lucchino made the comment in 2003, comparing the Yankees to the Galactic Empire led by Darth Vader (or technically the Emperor) from 1977's Star Wars. Thinking about it (Star Wars) today, I realized something: Darth Vader used a red lightsaber, and Luke used a blue one. Corresponding colors perhaps?

Random thought:
I respect the hell out of Baseball Prospectus, but some of their equations/statistics don't sit right with me. One stat for measuring pitchers is SNLVA - Support Neutral Lineup Value Added. It measures the pitcher's effectiveness in winning games versus an average pitcher. Johan Santana's 2006 score: 5. So what BP is telling us is that the best pitcher in the game is only worth 5 more wins than Javier Vazquez or Jon Lieber (4.84 era, 4.93 era respectively) who both have scores of 0 (meaning they were exactly average last year in terms of SNLVA)?
I understand about park and league adjustments, but still! - for comparison, Chien-Ming Wang had a score of 2.3. How can I possibly believe that Wang gave the Yanks basically just 2 more good chances to win over those average guys mentioned earlier?
And nevermind SNLVAR, which is the same except it compares each pitcher to a replacement pitcher (basically defined as a fringe ML pitcher). Santana's score: 8.4. Wang: 5.1. Not plausible.

Mar 26, 2007

Best AB of Minky's spring

Today's game showed how solid a hitter Dmint can be. In the 5th inning, with runners on 2nd and 3rd and no outs, he fell behind 0-2. He fouled off several close pitches, working the count to 3-2 before lining a fastball into the RF corner for a two-run double. It gave the Yanks a 5-1 lead. It's at-bats like his that make the difference between a win and loss. A phenomenal situational at-bat. The idea was to at least get a sac-fly/grounder, but Dmint didn't like the first two pitches, and had enough bat control to foul off the close ones to force a hitter's count (3-2), and find a hittable pitch to not just get the sac RBI but to get the XBH RBI.

Igawa pitched well again: 5 ip, 1 er. Again, not a great ball-strike ratio, but I'd wager without seeing the stats that he threw the most first pitch strikes today than any game to date.

The big blow was Arod jumping on a first pitch fastball and destroying it over the LCF scoreboard. The inning was set up when Jeter reached on an error and Abreu worked a walk (surprise, surprise).

Matt Smith showed how the Yanks will be vulnerable to lefty specialists. He pitched 1.1 perfect innings - he struck out Arod and Matsui, and induced weak pop-ups from Abreu and Giambi.

Mar 23, 2007

Uh oh...

- The injury bug is biting. Chien-Ming Wang 'felt something' in his right leg and was shut down for the day.

First it was Abreu's oblique muscle, then Humberto Sanchez' forearm, then Pettitte's back and now Wang's leg. At least it's still March.

- As for today's game, Rasner pitched well. Despite giving up seven hits, he didn't allow an earned run and k'ed five over 4.2 innings. Colter Bean had his first poor outing of the spring: 1 ip, 3 h, 2 er, 0 bb, 2 k, and took the loss.

Mar 21, 2007

2-0 Game Notes

- Igawa had his best spring outing: 5 ip, 2 h, 3 bb, 3 k, 0 er (at a very concise 13 pitches per inning). Bad news is that he gave up some hard hit balls that were lucky to be caught. Good news is that he had much better control, and if not for a Jeter error, his numbers would be even better; he's definitely improving with each start. He should be in line for the #4 spot, with Karstens and Pavano battling for #5.

- Mo k'ed Ryan Howard on two changeups after two cutters. I don't believe he had gotten a single swinging strike on a change this spring until tonight. It's looking more and more likely that it will be part of his repertoire (however seldom).

- Who needs DMint with Giambi scooping balls out of the dirt like he's a gold glover? Perhaps this is what comes from playing 1b just once a week. It's a fluke though, and should not be expected from Giambi (despite Michael Kay's comments to the contrary).

- Little talk of Colter Bean. Should he make the team? With Britton apparently a given for AAA, and Villone no lock for the roster, why not Bean? He's pitched 6.2 innings, allowing two hits, no runs, no walks and eight strikeouts. Fantastic numbers. Shouldn't he be given a real shot in the majors, at least as a righty specialist (against whom he dominates)? There are only four pitchers who've gone more than five innings without allowing a run: Pettitte, Rivera, Proctor and Bean. Yeah, pretty surprising. He could face Manny, V. Wells, D. Young, Tejada, Sheffield, Dye, Guerrero, etc. Or am I being fooled by the ever ubiquitous delusion of 'small sample size'?

Mar 20, 2007

Have patience with Hughes

- From Project Prospect.

Is Phil Hughes destined to disappoint? Well, that depends on the fans. He’s about to enter a very tumultuous period for pitchers. In a study done by Nate Silver and Will Carroll for an article published in February of 2003 regarding injuries to pitchers they said:

"However, the risk does appear to be to some degree dependent on a pitcher's age. For the very young pitchers in our study--ages 21 and 22--the risk of injury is significantly higher, in excess of 20 percent."

In fact, their study showed that the attrition rate doesn’t reach that level again until a pitcher’s age 37 season. For many pitchers, attrition is at its highest point in their careers during their age 21 and 22 seasons. So, it is in Brian Cashman’s best interest to put pitch counts on him and limit his innings over the next couple of years. He does seem prepared to exercise restraint, which should mitigate the risk detailed above, but not remove it.

Greg Maddux, for example, made his major league debut at age 20 and had his first full season at age 21. His ERA’s in those years were 5.52 and 5.61, respectively. He settled in at age 22 and has gone on to have a remarkable career. Tom Glavine is a similar case, being called up at age 21 and struggling in both that and his age 22 season. But the 5.54 and 4.56 ERA’s were followed up in his age 23 season with a 3.68 ERA.

Curt Schilling was called up in his age 21 season and he struggled as well. 9.82 and 6.23 ERA’s followed before he had his first strong major league season. And it wasn’t until his age 25 season that he had his first dominant year as a starter. John Smoltz was called up at age 21 and was knocked around to the tune of 5.48 runs per 9 innings. He settled in the next year with a 2.94 ERA.

How about the three pitchers mentioned above as the best in the majors in 2006? Roy Oswalt didn’t get his call up until he was 24 but did hit a bump in the road in Single-A at age 22. It was his only professional ERA above 4.00 aside from a limited stint in Triple-A before his major league debut. He posted a 2.73 ERA in 28 appearances that year.

Brandon Webb, like Oswalt wasn’t called up until he was 24. Like Oswalt, has had a stellar major league career thus far. But Johan Santana appears to be a better comparison. He was called up at age 21 and struggled so much he started his age 23 season in Triple-A. He’s been the best pitcher in baseball ever since.

It’s not until we start looking at some of the all time greats – Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens… – that we see pitchers called up this young without struggling. Of course, it is possible Hughes will end up being an all time great but it’s far more likely he’s going to struggle a little in his first season or two. Yankees fans need to keep this in mind as they watch him grow.

New York can be a very difficult place to struggle. Jose Contreras comes to mind as an example of an extremely talented pitcher who couldn’t get it together in pinstripes. Hughes is likely going to have his ups and downs before he settles in as the pitcher he’s going to be throughout his career.

Have some patience with him. He’ll be a fine pitcher some day.

I couldn't agree more.

- Jeff Karstens had his first poor outing of ST: 4.1 ip, 4 er. On the bright side, he has yet to talk a single hitter in 13.1 innings, and his era is still just 2.70. Igawa's start tonight will give us a better picture of the rotation.

Chris Britton was rocked, allowing 5 er and recording just one out. He looks destined to start the year in Triple-A Scranton.

D-Mint had his second hit of ST, raising his batting average to a slightly less embarrassing .077 (at least it was a double). And Cano is raking (hitting two doubles), raising his OPS to .889.

- A lot has been made of D-Mint's recent decline in fielding ability. While his defensive prowess probably has diminished, he's still one of the best first-basemen in MLB. I'll refer you to a post I wrote over two months ago when he was first signed.

Mar 18, 2007

Mussina and Giambi

Mussina's best outing of the spring so far - five shutout innings. The offense had one big inning (seven runs in the 4th) and one big hit (Giambi's grand slam), and that was all they needed.

Moose had good command of all his pitches, and mixed them well. I only saw one curveball, but several sliders (more than he normally uses) and the usual assortment of changeups and knuckle-curves did the job. His fastball topped out at 88, but it was effective due to location and hitters' respect for the offspeed stuff.

The Yanks started an innocuous rally with Phelps on 1st: Cano grounded softly up the middle, the second-baseman bobbled it and missed nailing Phelps as he slid into 2b. Melky followed with an RBI single, Damon walked, Jeter walked, and up came Giambi. He somehow crushed a high and inside 90 MPH fastball over the RF wall. I thought it was going foul for sure, but Giambi's (hopefully) natural strength is so great he kept it from hooking foul.

Off-topic thought:
Does it seem like pitchers throughout baseball are throwing a bit softer during this ST? Pettitte has barely cracked 90. Wang, Farnsworth and Rivera have been in the low 90s. Even Joel Zumaya was throwing (relatively) slower - I don't remember him cracking 97 when he faced the Yanks. Jon Papelbon didn't top 92 (in his last outing) when he was hitting 98 last year. Is it something with the radar guns? Is it that pitchers are still building arm strength? Are pitcher's holding back because it's only spring? I expect the latter two are true; so come opening day, watch for a jump in velocity.

Mar 16, 2007

The NPB strike zone

A lot of people in the Yankee blogosphere have been discussing Kei Igawa's lack of control this spring. Is it early season rust? Is Igawa used to a larger strike zone in NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball)?

As I wrote earlier, I believe his 7 walks in 7 innings is just early season rust. Let's look at the evidence -

Exhibit A. Igawa had superb control in Japan, walking just 2.2 per 9 ip last season, and 2.9 for his career (for comparison, Andy Pettitte's career average is 2.9 bb/9 ip);
Exhibit B. Daisuke Matsuzaka, who many say has pinpoint control, had a worse walk rate during his NPB career (3.2/9 ip), although admittedly had a miniscule 1.6/9 ip last year - but the point is that Igawa is no Hideki Irabu (3.9/9 ip for his NPB career);
Exhibit C. NPB's strike zone is comparable and perhaps even smaller than MLB's. Check out this video of Igawa from 2001. He didn't have a single borderline call go his way. And since the strike zone could not have changed much (if at all) since 2001, we don't have to worry about him adjusting to an unfamiliar strike zone.
Exhibit D. Igawa has pitched only 7 innings this spring, hardly enough to get a true feeling for a pitcher. If we went by spring stats, Jeff Karstens would be our opening day starter and ace.
Exhibit E. Igawa didn't pitch off a mound between November and mid-February. This could certainly explain the rust. And he's getting used to the MLB ball, which is 'smoother' than the NPB one.

A side note: I've seen enough of Igawa in Japan and Tampa to know that he likes to use the entire strike zone: up, down, inside and out. Perhaps the reason he throws a lot of high fastballs (at the mediocre speed of 90-91 MPH) is that they make his low off-speed pitches that much more effective - the whole 'changing planes' thing that Al Leiter always talks about on YES.

Mar 15, 2007

Igawa: feast or famine

- Will this be the story of Igawa's season?

1st inning:
Johnson, bb
Renteria, bb
C. Jones, k looking
A. Jones, k swinging
Wilson, k swinging

It's quite funny (of course, it wouldn't be as funny if he was getting hammered), and so far his impressive strikeout ability has allowed him to escape a lot of jams.

The bad news: he throws so many pitches that he doesn't last long. He was supposed to go four innings tonight, but because of his high pitch count, he was pulled after three.

The good news: obviously his 'escapability,' or his knack for the strikeout. He pitched three innings tonight and struck out five, and has the most Ks among Yankee pitchers.

The question is this: why is Igawa walking so many hitters? He had impeccable control in Japan, walking just 2.1 per 9 ip last season. Is Igawa used to getting high strikes in his favor in Japan? Is his lack of control just a spring training/getting ready thing? Is it an early game thing? (I say this because his control definitely improved over the course of the outing tonight.) I'm going to assume it's an early season thing (having pitched just 7 innings so far), and come April, he'll have improved control.

- The first booing of the season for Arod tonight: Jeter on 3rd, 1 out, he takes a curve down the middle for a called strike 3. I don't know if this is 'newsworthy,' but hell, I found it interesting. Of all the Yanks hitters, I have the least confidence in Arod to do anything in those situations (runner on 3rd, less than 2 outs). Is the problem with me or him?

Manny Ramirowitz?

One of the funniest articles I've read in a while.

(Thanks to River Ave. Blues)

Mar 14, 2007

Arod 2x 2-0

- In Arod's first two at-bats of tonights game, he was ahead 2-0 with RISP, and both times failed to produce. Who was pitching? Carlos Silva, of the 5.94 era, and 246 hits in 180 ip last year.
All the starters who had two abs to that point had reached base at least once (except Arod). Ab 1: Jeter on 3rd, 2 outs, 2-0 count, Arod gets jammed on an inside fastball and lines softly to SS; Ab 2: Giambi on 2nd, 1 out, 2-0 count, Arod pops up a stomach-high fastball. Nevermind that Arod was late twice on fastballs, but they were Carlos Silva fastballs (91 MPH), on 2-0 counts! No one else looked even close to that bad in their at-bats. I can't stand watching a guy with his talent fail so miserably in (what should be) fairly easy RBI situations. If I was an opposing pitcher, I'd never be afraid to throw Arod a fastball, even a mediocre one (in location and velocity). It's still March... it's still March...

- Jeff Karstens looked downright dominant in four innings tonight. He struck out four and allowed one baserunner (a single on a high changeup) on just 41 pitches! His fastball reached 91 MPH, his curve was dropping off the table, and his change (his best pitch) had fantastic deception, not to mention he threw all his pitches with phenomenal command. He should seriously be considered for the 4th or 5th spot in the rotation (assuming he pitches at least average the rest of March, and Pavano and Igawa aren't dominant).

- Chase Wright looked very good in two hitless innings. His minor league stats overall aren't great, but he has improved every single year. 2006 in high A Tampa, he dominated: 119.2 ip, 1.88 era, 100 k, 43 bb, 1 HR. He has strange splits: he strikes out LHB far more often than RHB, but his OPSa LHB is 80 points higher than against RHB. The downside is that he's 24 years old, so if he's going to make the big league team, he'll have to move quickly. I see him hitting the majors in 2008 as a lefty specialist.

Yanks win, 4-1

Mattingly and Arod

- Should Donnie Baseball take over for Joe Torre at season's end? According to BP, he should, as managers tend to do their best in their late 40s, and decline significantly after that. Mattingly will turn 46 in April. Torre will turn 66 in July. I'd like to see Donnie as the manager with Joe Girardi moving from the YES booth to the bench coach position.

- More Arod shite. It's really getting out of hand - I mean it was before, but it's so ridiculous now. He did an interview on a local sports radio station in NYC (a station that I haven't listened to in 5 years), and gave some frank answers. My opinion on his opt-out clause (if you don't know, Arod can void the three remaining years of his contract and become a free agent after this season): he will opt-out. I am 99% sure. Why wouldn't he? He has a chance to make even more money. He can go to a town with less scrutiny and pressure. And last but not least, his agent is Scott Boras (which is reason enough). It's a win-win clause for him. If he has another disappointing season (with all the given negativity), he'll opt-out claiming New York doesn't want him and he wants to play for a team/city that does want him. If he has a stellar season, he'll opt-out because he's at his highest value (again, Boras wouldn't allow anything else).
This doesn't necessarily mean Arod won't be a Yankee in 2008. It just means he'll be getting paid even more than he is now.

Of course, if Arod does opt-out, I also foresee a win-win for the Yanks. If he leaves, the team won't suffer too much. He's a distraction to the organization, players and fans. Perhaps in 2008 the focus will be on baseball and not the Arod Saga. Remember Seattle shattered the AL win record the season after Arod left? Who to replace him with? How about the in-house scenario of moving Jeter to 3b and making Alberto Gonzalez the everyday SS? The offense would suffer, but the defense would be upgraded. I'd buy that for a dollar. Not to mention the trade opportunities presented now to Cash Money with the plethora of young arms at the Yanks disposal.

And if Arod does re-sign with the Yanks, then we have (arguably) the best third-baseman in baseball for a few more years.

Mar 12, 2007

Wrapping up Hughes' spring

With cuts coming tomorrow, Phil Hughes will likely be sent (across the street) to the Yanks minor league complex after another rough outing. What can we conclude from his spring, and what are we unsure about?

- The thing we all have to remember is that Hughes worked only 4.2 innings this spring. That's nothing. That's less than one full start. It's far too small a sample size to take the stats (although ugly) into account. The only real info we can gleam from his 4.2 ip is that he does indeed have great 'stuff.'
- He got unnerved a few times, but mostly showed excellent command of a 91-95 MPH fastball. He consistently hit corners, and moved the ball inside and out. We finally saw his good curve yesterday, which had tremendous drop and, when thrown over the plate, induced incredibly weak grounders. He didn't use his changeup much, but it had good 'deception' in that it was at least 10 MPH slower than his fastball. Overall, his fastball is ML ready, but his offspeed pitches need work. Once he can throw them all for strikes, he'll become the Yanks ace.
- The reason he hasn't mastered those pitches yet is that Hughes is still just 20 years old, and has only pitched the equivalent of one ML season in his minor league career (237.1 innings). It's only natural that he needs more time to refine his game.
- Another characteristic of Phil Hughes is the adjustment period that he (and most) minor leaguers go through every time they jump a level. It happened at AA Trenton when he allowed 19 er in his first six starts (34.1 ip). But then he adjusted and allowed only 11 er in his final 16 starts! Considering Hughes jumped from AA to ML hitters this spring, the learning curve is even steeper. A few months in AAA will do wonders for Hughes. If he's pitching well and called up in June or July, it should give him enough time to adjust again to ML hitters.
- Last thing: Hughes is not the only pitching prospect struggling this spring. Daisuke Matsuzaka, Homer Bailey and Tim Lincecum have all underwhelmed so far (the first, third and fifth pitching prospects respectively). Mats has allowed 3 er in 7 ip, Bailey has allowed 8 er in 2.2 ip (much worse than Hughes), while Lincecum has allowed 3 er in 5 ip. (For comparison, Hughes line: 4 er in 4.2 ip.)

Random thought.
Matsuzaka (who isn't even a 'prospect' really) got roughed up his last outing: 4 ip, 4 r, 3 er, 6 h, 2 HRs. When I saw Mats' groundout/flyout ratio from his first outing, it was 1/5, that's high. In his most recent game, it was 1/7 (not including 2 HRs), so for the whole spring it's 2/12! - I have a good feeling Mats will have trouble with the longball this year. Hughes, consistent with his minor league stats, has a 9/3 groundout/flyout out ratio. Good to see he's still getting those grounders.

Mar 11, 2007

Wang solid, Hughes not

This is from yesterday's game, but I just wanted to show Kei pitching with his shades on. Apparently, he hasn't pitched in a day game in about two years.

As for today, outside of a 1st inning bomb by David Dellucci, Wang was sharp, allowing 4 baserunners in 4 innings with 4 Ks (a lot for him). His sinker moved well despite iffy command. He got most of his Ks on a great slurve (85-88 MPH) that had a lot of downward action.

Rivera followed with a scoreless inning. He threw at least one changeup - the frequency and command of the pitch indicates to me that he will occasionally throw it in real games.

Phil Hughes, however, had another sub-par outing. After getting a quick first out, Victor Martinez battled him, fouling off pitch after pitch until he lined an outside fastball to LF. That must have unnerved Hughes because he lost it after that: Walk, Double, Sac fly, Walk. He was even worse his next inning, allowing a leadoff triple, a sac fly, and a walk. He was pulled for T.J. Beam who induced a GDP. Hughes did have good command of his low 90s fastball, but struggled with his curve and changeup command. It was obvious he didn't have enough confidence in his offspeed pitches to get strike 3 on them so he overused his fastball, and the hitters were sitting on it. A few months in AAA should do wonders for him.

The Yanks were rallying in the 7th when speedy CF Brett Gardner singled to right and stretched it into a double. Unfortunately, he was called out when he was clearly safe. The ump was apparently blocked by the SS - how can professional umpires not be in good position to make the call? Maybe it was that 10th donut he had for breakfast.

That was some at-bat by Jose Tabata in the 9th inning. He worked the count to 3-2 (taking several close pitches) before driving an outside fastball over the RF wall. He has a quick, powerful swing, and showed impressive strength hitting an opposite field HR. The announcers kept incorrectly calling him a 19-year-old. Tabata won't turn 19 until August.

4-3 Cleveland (the Yanks have just 2 losses this spring, both to the Tribe)

Pavano is starting tomorrow vs. Boston. Rasner and Ohlendorf will follow.

Mar 9, 2007

Jints trade Carter for Droughns

The Giants today added talent and experience to their offensive backfield by acquiring running back Reuben Droughns from the Cleveland Browns in exchange for [underachieving] wide receiver Tim Carter...
And so ends the great Tim Carter experiment. Good riddance. He was a 2nd round pick in 2002, and caught all of 72 passes in 53 games with 3 TDs. Apparently Cleveland thinks it can get Carter to reach his potential, but I just don't see how. In 5 injury-plagued seasons in New York, he averaged just 11 games and 14 catches a year.

Droughns averages 3.9 yards a carry, and 8.1 yards a catch. He has had more than 25 catches each of the last 3 seasons. And despite just 758 rushing yards last year, totalled more than 1200 each of the previous 2 years.

I like the move - mostly because it's addition by subtraction. Drafting a running back is no longer a priority (but I still wouldn't mind nabbing Marshawn Lynch or Antonio Pittman). But the need to go RB in round 1 or 2 isn't there. It frees up the Jints to take the best player available, regardless of position.

Day Game

Some early scoring in this game, then the teams decided they didn't want to hit again until the 9th inning.

- Josh Phelps is clutch. He's playing his way (notice I didn't say just hitting) onto the team. Unless Andy Philips tears it up when he returns, Phelps has to be the righty first-baseman. Perhaps the everyday guy if Minky still isn't hitting by opening day.

- Colter Bean had exquisite command of his pitches. Too bad none of them topped 85 MPH.

- Mussina also had great command, but his fastball topped out at 88 MPH, enabling a few hitters to stay on top and drive it instead of popping it up.

- Tabata had two singles. The first was a great at-bat which he worked to 2-2 before driving a Mike Gonzalez (who the Yanks almost traded Melky Cabrera for) fastball past the second-baseman. Despite hitting .400 this Spring, what's surprised me the most is his speed - he's beat out two infield singles, and goes easily from 1st to 3rd.

- There's now a dead heat to determine the 5th outfielder spot between Bronson Sardinha, Kevin Thompson and Kevin Reese. Reese is the best hitter for average, Sardinha has the most power, and Thompson has the best speed and defense. They're all playing well this Spring, and it's a good problem to have.

God, is Arod frustrating

I watched the replay of Wednesday night's Cincy game. Arod is lucky these games don't mean anything. Through just 3 innings, he: 1. bobbled a bunt into a hit (admittedly a tough play), 2. ran through Larry Bowa's stop sign to get nailed at home (which would have become a run later if he had paid attention), 3. made a poor throw to 1b (E-5) allowing the hitter to reach (forcing Pettitte to throw 9 extra pitches that inning), 4. with 2 runners on and 2 outs, took strike 3 called right down the pipe. It's only March, it's only March...

- Mo's split-change-slurve was less dynamic than expected when I first heard it reported. I'd still love to see him use it in the regular season. It would be very useful for those 10+ pitch at-bats where the hitter clearly has Mo's timing but keeps fouling off pitches - and at the very least, it can serve as a 'show-me' pitch.

- Melky made two nice plays in centerfield and another where he looked lost. He got a bad jump on a ball hit to right-center and dove several feet short of it. He should only improve though, as I was impressed with his overall D.

- Even though Minky doesn't have one hit yet, his eye and glove still work well. He's worked a couple walks and a HBP. He also made a fine stab tonight on a short-hop toss from Cano on a GDP.

- Josh Phelps is a great fastball hitter. Unless Andy Philips tears the cover off the ball, Phelps has got to be the righty first-baseman. (So far) he's hit his way onto the team.

- I know Brett Gardner is fast, but damn is he fast! Mark Bellhorn (yep, him) hit a shot to left-center that looked like an easy double. Not only did Gardner run it down, but nearly overran it. He looks big and strong enough to have some power, so if he can add just a little, he would be a fantastic OF defensive replacement/pinch-runner extraordinaire (basically Bubba Crosby times 10).

- Luis Vizcaino looked great against his first 2 hitters, then gave up a solo shot to Cincy prospect Joey Votto. In Vizcaino's defense, it was a tough pitch to hit: an inside fastball that Votto seemed to pop-up. He must be strong and there must have been wind, because it somehow carried over the RF wall.

Mar 8, 2007

More Prospects

Two, count 'em, two articles on Yankee outfield prospect Jose Tabata.

From Pending Pinstripes and Newsday.

And another on the whole Yanks farm system.

Mar 7, 2007

Mo threw a CHANGE?

I didn't get to watch tonight's Yanks-Reds game, but reports said Mo struck out Josh Hamilton on a changeup. Yes, a changeup! I've been waiting years for Mo to add an off-speed pitch to his repertoire. A change was Mo's best pitch coming up in the minors, and adding it to his already devastating fastballs will make him all the more dominating - perhaps better than we've ever seen! Unfortunately, I think Mo is just 'playing around' and won't use a change in the regular season. Details tomorrow when I watch it on DVR.

Jayson Stark has a nice, little piece on Phil Hughes. One comment that stood out was from Cash Money - he said the great thing about Cano and Wang becoming stars was that they were able to do it quietly, "and the expectation from the press wasn't there to impede their efforts." This is something I've been thinking: the media hype (e.g. the Post's 'Little Rocket' headline) could make it harder for Phil Hughes to succeed once he reaches the Bronx. The same fans who stupidly boo Arod will see the 'Little Rocket' headline and expect Hughes to dominate from day one. When he doesn't, and goes through an adjustment period (like he's done at every level), the pressure and negativity may prevent him from reaching his full potential (like I believe it's done with Arod, Contreras, Weaver, Rogers ad others). So I don't think it's necessarily bad if Hughes struggles a bit this spring or at first in AAA Scranton because the hype will decrease. And I'm not the only one who think this - Torre (who also said Hughes facing adversity is good) and Cash Money do too.

Mar 6, 2007

No TV today

I hate when the games aren't televised. The Yanks lost their first of the year to Cleveland, 6-5. The Tribe scored 3 unearned runs off Ross Ohlendorf when Alberto Gonzalez (playing out of position at 3b) booted a ball. Chien Ming-Wang didn't pitch particularly well, allowing 2 runs in 3 innings, but Phil Hughes fared much better his second time out- he walked the leadoff hitter on 4 pitches, but settled down to pitch 2 scoreless innings on 24 pitches. The offensive heroes were Josh Phelps and Kevin Reese, who each hit 2-run HRs.

Mar 5, 2007

Some Game!

It was nice to get a hair of revenge against Detroit for last year's LDS. In the 9th, with Felix Heredia (he's still in baseball?) focusing more on Brett Gardner at second-base, he hung a 2-out slider in Bronson Sarndinha's eyes, which he belted over the RF wall. Game over. Yanks win 6-5. Does Sardinha have a chance to be the 5th outfielder? I expect Kevin Thompson and Sardinha to battle each other for the right to be the first OFer called up from AAA. KT is more versatile, offering great speed and defense, while Sardinha offers a better bat and a strong arm.

The Yanks hit Verlander well, hammering him for 3 runs in 2 innings. It started with a 2-run liner over the RF wall by Matsui, followed by an RBI groundout by Cano. Speaking of Cano, he swung at some bad pitches today, striking out twice on FBs at shoulder level. Arod looked good - he singled twice - until he came up with 2 outs and 2 runners on; predictably, he struck out looking.

- Despite Igawa's shaking outing, I thought he looked quite good. His control was off (although he was squeezed on several close calls), and he walked in a run, but his stuff was impressive. He gave up a hit and 3 walks in the first inning yet struck out the side. Very peculiar and, as Kenny Singleton kept saying, it was 'feast or famine.' His fastball was sneaky, ranging from 88-92, while his changeup was excellent (when he controlled it), keeping hitters well off balance. I couldn't tell how many sliders or curves he threw (it was at least one) because the speed and movement looked very similar to his change. Whatever the pitches were, they ranged from 78-82, and moved in to righties (the curve/slider seemed to drop a bit more than the change).

- Mo looked like Mo (utterly dominant), with his normal low 90s cutter and pinpoint control. He worked one perfect inning with two Ks.

- Steven Jackson, a AA pitcher acquired in the Randy Johnson deal, looked good too despite giving up 3 runs. He walked 2 and allowed 5 hits (2 of the seeing-eye type), but showed good command and good movement on his sinker and splitter.

- But the best outing outside of the established pitchers was from Ty "The Yankee" Clippard. From reading his scouting reports, you'd think he had a Jamie Moyer type fastball (85 MPH), but it was quite a bit faster, ranging from 88-92 with great command. His curve was dropping, as was his change. He looked to have 3 plus pitches with plus command. He went two perfect innings with a K. If this analogy makes sense, he's a rich man's Jeff Karstens.

- Proctor also looked great, going one perfect inning with a K.

The Yanks are 5-0 in the Spring. Save some wins for the season guys!

Mar 2, 2007

Clem Labine

Labine, a pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, died today at 80. I generally don't report obituaries but this is different. I met Clem Labine in 2005 in Cooperstown. My fiance (at the time) and I thought of having our wedding there. Her parents are friends with an event coordinator who lives there, so we went up one day to check it out for our wedding. Not coincidentally, it was Hall of Fame induction weekend, and and she was throwing a large party with several HOF members. We normally never could have gotten in, but having the connection made it possible. My wife is also a Yankee and baseball fan, so we were both excited to meet and get autographs from some of the ex-players: Straw, Feller, Cepeda, Killebrew, Marichal, Niekro, Gaylord Perry, and Winfield (I'm forgetting a few others). After the food portion of the party (which was in an outdoor tent), we went into the large house on the estate to see how it could be used for a wedding. It was beautiful, and had some truly amazing baseball memorabilia (almost as good as the HOF itself). When we finished, we sat down in a screened-in patio, and who came in next but Clem Labine. I didn't know who he was, but my father-in-law told me his name (which I recognized but couldn't place). He was a member of the 1955 Dodgers he said. He was a very nice man - we shook hands, talked for a minute, and I sheepishly asked for his autograph. He gave it to me and I thanked him. That's the story. None of the other ball players that day were as friendly or sociable as him (Straw came close though). I'll always remember that about him. Anyway, the place was too expensive for our wedding so we went to Florida.

Labine was a good reliever for the Dodgers who twice led the league in saves and was a two-time All-Star.

Other tidbits.

- Phil Hughes' under-whelming Spring debut.

- And perhaps his future?

- A great discussion of Yankee prospects.

Mar 1, 2007

ST Game 1 vs. MIN

Ah, baseball is back. We get to see our friends again - Jeets, Melky, Robbie, Jorgie, Johnny, Wanger, Arod and the Giambino. It's cold up here in New York, but in Tampa it was 80 degrees and sunny today.

As for the game, I actually watched most of it while I was sitting in the dentist's office
having my teeth worked on. It was fantastic to walk in and find a flat-screen TV hanging on the wall. The assistant told me the YES was channel 26, which I turned to. She then said she had no idea there was a channel called 'YES.' I thought everyone knew what YES was. Anyway, I watched the middle innings while that excruciating metal pick was being used, but the game made it pass SO much faster than in previous dental visits.

Fortunately, I also DVR'ed the game -
Wang started off shaky despite 2 perfect innings. His sinker looked flat, and his command was a bit off, leaving several sinkers too high in the zone, but he still completed 2 innings on about 16 pitches, with 5 outs on grounders. His FB was in the low 90s, touching 94. No Ks and no BBs - a typical Wang outing.

Next up was phenom Phil Hughes, the Yanks #1 prospect. He was the shakiest pitcher the Yanks used today. His control was uncharacteristically off (he walked two hitters, although he got hosed on a 3-2 call on the second walk), and he could barely command his curveball (throwing the only wild pitch of the game). If it wasn't for a nice, sliding catch by Matsui with two runners on, Hughes would have allowed 3 earned runs instead of 1. His FB was occasionally perfect, topping out at 94 MPH on the corner. His changeup has improved since the Futures Game last summer, throwing it 4 times for 3 strikes. He did manage to strike out MVP Justin Morneau on a beautifully spotted inside FB, but since his pitch count was already 33, he was pulled for T.J. Beam. Hughes definitely looked the most raw of today's Yankee pitchers, and pitching a few months in AAA will refine his game a lot.

Ross Ohlendorf pitched two scoreless and impressive innings. His sinker was also in the low 90s with good command. He looked like a slightly bigger version of Wang.

But perhaps I was most impressed with Jose Vizcaino's outing. He threw a nice two-seamer, a solid slider, and what looked like a forkball/splitter. He had solid command of all his pitches.

As for the hitters, Damon led off with a HR. Nice way to start his season. Giambi had 2 walks and a HR for a decent OPS of 2.000. Posada, Matsui and Cano also looked good at the plate. Despite Arod's new stance which is supposed to quicken his swing, it was still way too long - like last year, he was fouling or missing mediocre fastballs (I'm talking 87-91 MPH belt high). At least he made a nick pick at 3b in the 1st inning.

I'm excited as hell for game 2, I can't wait to see more of the young guys (Gonzalez, Tabata, Hughes, Sanchez, Ohlendorf, Jackson, Clippard, etc.), and pissed that only half the Spring games are televised.