Aug 4, 2008

Movin' on up

Check me out over at my new pad, Pinstripe Alley, where I've begun and will be doing most of my future writing.


Jul 31, 2008

Farnsy for Pudge

This trade might not seem like a win at first glance. Kyle Farnsworth is having his best season since 2005 (ironically when he spent half the year with Detroit), while Pudge is having a pretty average season (for him). But Cashman, unlike the Marte/Nady deal, is selling high on Farnsy. Does anyone really trust Farnsworth despite a good season? It's quite possible (probable in my opinion) that Farnsworth was on a hot streak until his last two outings, when he gave up four hits in 1.1 innings. Cashman sold at the right time.

The Yanks are far more in need of a catcher than a reliever. The backup before today was Chad Moeller; now it's Jose Molina, one of the best defensive catchers in baseball this year.

Pudge will be a free agent after the season, and he'll likely be a Type A, netting the Yanks extra first and compensation round draft picks (if he declines arbitration (which Pete Abe says the Yanks won't even offer)). On the other hand, Farnsworth looks to be a Type B, which would only net us a compensation round pick. Would Pudge accept a one-year deal for $10-11 million? Or does he want to try to get one last multi-year deal?

There's more: the relief core is the strongest part of our team, so we're trading from an area of strength for an area of need. And the relief core will only get stronger: Brian Bruney is on his way back, Mark Melancon made a stellar debut for Scranton, Scott Strickland is having a phenomenal year there and Chris Britton is having another typically great season.

Pudge's game at the plate is much the same as Molina's, only he's far more successful. In other words, he's a hacker who can hit. He takes just 3.4 pitches per plate appearance, which is slightly below Jose Molina. Behind the plate, he's one of the best there's ever been, gunning down 36% of basestealers this year and 47% for his career.

- The trade takes some of the attention away from Joba (again). He was the starter the night the Nady/Marte deal was announced. Anyway, over his last four starts, the dude has completely dominated the opposition: 25.2 ip, 21 h, 5 er, 2 bb, 32 k.

Jul 29, 2008

They look aggressive to me

I don't know about you, but it's sure as hell seemed to me that Yankee hitters have been far more aggressive at the plate this year. Do the facts back that up? To BRef we go!

There are a few factors that can tell us whether they're being more aggressive. One is how often they're putting the first pitch into play.

- This season, Yankee hitters have put the first pitch into play 459 times in 4045 PAs. That's 11.3 percent. The AL, on average, is putting the first pitch into play 11.7 percent. So the Yankees have actually been slightly more patient in that regard.

Compared to last year, when the Yanks were the best offensive team in baseball, they put the first pitch into play 10.6 percent in 2007. So there has been an increase from last year.

- How often are they having two strike counts?

They're getting to two strikes in 46.7 percent of their plate appearances. The AL is at 47.4 %, so in this respect, the Yanks have been slightly less patient than the AL.

But compared to 2007, there's essentially no difference.

- How often are they getting to full counts? And are they taking more walks on a full count?

In 12.9 percent of their plate apperances, they're going to a full count. The AL is at 12.6 percent; so in this case, the Yanks are slightly more patient than the AL.

Last year, the Yanks were at 14.6 percent, so there has been a relatively significant decrease in full counts.

They're drawing more walks on full counts compared to the AL, but less than they did in 2007.

- What about putting 2-0 pitches into play? Because it seems like DJ swings at more 2-0 pitches than at any point in his career.

They've put 2.84 percent of 2-0 pitches into play this year, compared to 2.82 percent last year. Essentially negligible. While the AL is at 2.73 percent. So the Yanks are still less aggressive than the rest of the AL.

- How many pitches are the hitters seeing per plate appearance?

Some hitters are slightly below their career norms (Jeter, Arod, Abreu), while others are above (Cano, Giambi, Damon), so it pretty much balances out.

So I guess the conclusion is that the lack of offense this year (7th in the AL) is not due to the hitters being either too passive or too aggressive. Is it the aging factor? The injuries?

- Phil Hughes and Carl Pavano made their first rehab starts tonight for the A-ball Charleston Riverdogs. Neither allowed a run in five innings.

Jul 28, 2008

Posada officially done

He'll have shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum and will need about six months to rehab. He should be ready for Spring Training in 2009.

- Damaso Marte is pretty good. In fact, he's the second best left-handed reliever in baseball history!

- Tonight's game was bad. What else can you say? Moose just wasn't fooling anybody. This was a game where Moose needed to scare someone. The hacks the O's were taking, even with two strikes, were indicative of the fact they knew they weren't in any danger. It also didn't help that not one close call (or so it seemed) went Mussina's way.

- Just one phone call away:
Mark Melancon took one more step toward the Bronx when he was promoted to Triple-A Scranton. Chase Wright joined him.
(RAB with the tip.)

Jul 26, 2008

The trade changed

It's not Kontos and Coke, but Karstens and McCutchen going to Pittsburgh. This definitely makes it look better from Pitt's side, as McCutchen is a fairly high ceiling pitcher, and Karstens already has shown he can be an effective ML pitcher. Both should do better in the NL Central as well.

- The trade (unfortunately) overshadowed the best game of Joba's career. His slider was darting and diving, his fastall averaged 95 mph, and he even tossed in a few nice curveballs and changeups. Did he throw at Youkilis? Probably. Did Youkilis run over his dog or something? Maybe. I remember when Pedro put two Yankees in the hospital in the same game. Until Joba does that, he's ok in my book.

Jul 25, 2008

Yanks trade Tabata and others for Marte and Nady

The full deal is Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendorf, George Kontos and Phil Coke. Damaso Marte is an excellent lefty specialist, while Nady is a decent rightfielder. At first glance, I'm not happy.

Nady is having an extraordinarily good season, well out of line with his career averages. His 2008 looks like this: .330/.383/.535 (142 OPS+). Certainly a great season, but Pittsburgh is trading high; his career line is a slightly above average: .281/.337/.456 (108 OPS+). Range Factor shows him to be an above-average rightfielder. He's 29, so is at the peak of his career; it will probably all be downhill after this season. Nady is fairly versatile, having played 3b, 1b, and all three outfield positions in his career. However, with Abreu entrenched in RF, where does Nady play? Left-field, where he hasn't played since 2007 (when he played just 10 games there)?

Marte is an excellent lefty reliever, owning a career 141 ERA+, with 484 strikeouts in 454.1 innings. He absolutely owns lefties: .578 career OPS against them. What about 2008? Not quite as dominant: a .669 OPS against left-handed batters. Is that an aberration? It might be, because in 2007 he destroyed lefties - they had a .352 OPS against him. Ironically, Marte was with the Yanks for half a season before being traded for Enrique Wilson in 2001.

According to Cot's, Marte has a team option for $6 million next year, which will likely be exercised. Nady (as far as I can tell) is arbitration eligible.

Frankly, I don't understand the move because the bullpen is the strongest area of the team right now. Marte might be great, but he also might block guys like Cox, Melancon and Horne who deserve chances once they show they're ready (which should be soon). Both players are at or past their prime, and Nady is having a career year. The Yanks are buying high on Nady and selling low on Tabata and Ohlendorf (who are both having poor years).

Nady won't play his natural position of right-field because of Abreu, so where is he going to play? He hasn't played LF in over a year, so will he be expected to jump right into Yankee Stadium's spacious leftfield? Now that I think about it, he might be the 1b replacement for Richie Sexson, and occasional leftfielder.

- That was the Yanks best start of the year... after Wang's complete game shutout in Fenway of course. Just an incredible game by Joba. THAT'S why he became a starter: 7 ip, 3 h, 0 r, 1 bb, 9 k.

- Back from the dead, Carl Pavano is making a minor league start on Tuesday for the GCL Yankees. Monday will see Phil Hughes also make his first rehab start.

Thoughts on Shock, Barry and football rules

I'm very conflicted when it comes to Barry Bonds. I hated him for tarnishing the game's history with his PED-enhanced record-breaking homeruns. But if I hated him, shouldn't I also hate Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte, who have admitted and apologized for PED usage? I don't hate Jason and Andy, and here's why: I'm biased toward Yankees (what can I say?), they apologized for their transgressions, they were already on the team at the time (meaning the Yanks would be bringing in a known PED user in Bonds), and didn't break any cherished records, all unlike Barry. Yeah, those are fairly shallow reasons, but reasons nonetheless. I wouldn't like the idea of bringing the Bonds-media circus to the Bronx, but hey, if he helps us win ballgames, he'll be tough to dislike.

- The Giants offense may suffer this year with the loss of Jeremy Shockey, but it was the right move in the long run - and until Jerry Reese fucks something up, I'm going to continue believing he's infallible. Shockey was one of the better tight ends in the game, and also an excellent run blocker. I still remember his first pre-season game when he bowled over some poor Houston DBs as a preview to his career. Unfortunately, he never truly lived up to the hopes of management or fans.

His incessant enthusiasm was fun to watch (usually), but got out of control at times, causing stupid penalties and demands for more passes. His refusals to work out with Eli in New York didn't help either, as the two never seemed to get into a rhythm. Eli would throw left, Shockey would break right. And the worst thing that could have happened to Shockey happened: the Giants won without him. Steve Smith and Kevin Boss proved they could make big catches with the game on the line. They discovered Ahmad Bradshaw was the most explosive player on the team. Eli Manning actually looked comfortable - no one ran back to the huddle screaming for the ball. Football is funny: the Giants lost Tiki Barber and Jeremy Shockey, two of the better offensive weapons over the last decade, and went on to win the Superbowl.

With a year of experience under the belts of Smith, Boss and Bradshaw, a healthy Plaxico, an O-line going into it's second year entirely intact, and with the addition of Mario Manningham, the offense might not skip a beat. I expect we'll see more four and three (with two backs) wide receiver sets.

- Speaking of football offense, this high school has the right idea. They're using six-WR sets with two quarterbacks. If only the NFL was that brave and creative. Although I'm not sure if NFL rules would restrict such creativity. I don't know why the NFL has to be such a stickler for contrived rules. If the offense wants to send nine WRs out for a pass, why shouldn't they be allowed? Where did they come up with the arbitrary rule that five men have to be on the line of scrimmage? Why five? Why not four or six? Imagine how exciting that would be to see nine WRs out there. Maybe because of that, the defense, if they wanted, could blitz just two guys (because there'd be only one blocker, the center). That kind offense would require a mobile QB; it would be perfect for Vince Young and Michael Vick. But what about making a backfield of Eli and Vick, where the defense wouldn't know whether Vick would be running or throwing, if Eli would be throwing or handing it off or throwing a short pass to Vick. And hey, if you don't want to run that crazy offense, there's always the the tried and true I-Form. But it would nice to at least have those options.

Jul 22, 2008

Moose wins no. 13

Has you noticed how rarely Moose has been throwing his changeup recently? He threw just three today - all for strikeouts, and didn't unleash the first until the last pitch of the 7th inning. He's a lot of fun to watch.

- Missed this somehow: Jeremy Shockey was (finally) traded to New Orleans - for a 2nd and 5th round pick. His enthusiasm will be missed, but not his attitude.

a lil' hot stove

The Yankees are considering trying to acquire Seattle lefty Jarrod Washburn, who's been a solid back-of-the-rotation starter during his 11 year career. Apparently, Seattle would be willing to take Igawa, a mid-level prospect and cash. If that's true, the trigger has to be pulled. End the OKei experiment. Washburn has been a Yankee-killer, so this falls under the "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" category. At worst, Washburn will be a good lefty reliever.

- It's translating! Edwar Ramirez and David Robertson have sick minor league stats, and it seems that with regular work now, it's translating to the Bigs. Nice work by Cash and Girardi. (thanks to Pete Abe for alerting us.) In his last five innings, Robertson has allowed just one hit, two walks and nine strikeouts. Edwar has been even better: over his last 11.1 innings, he's allowed just one hit (including nine straight innings of no-hit ball), two walks and 16 strikeouts.

- Posada's throwing problems could continue "well into 2009".

Jul 21, 2008

Bad news on a good day

The Yanks won their fourth in a row (12-4 behind another lucky Sir Sidney start), but news came down that Jorge Posada could miss the rest of the season with a labrum injury. Jose Molina will fill in more than adequately behind the plate, but it's at the plate where Posada's loss will be felt most.

- Watched the Trenton Thunder game from July 17 (against Portland) and I just had to expound the virtues of Austin Jackson, who went 4-4 (including two doubles) with a walk. Three of the hits were to right-centerfield and the fourth was a lined shot to center, all on outside pitches. I was extremely impressed with his approach and ability to not only hit the other way, but for power. He looked like a major leaguer. What I didn't see though was his ability to hit inside pitches, which Portland stayed away from entirely. He can clearly handle outside pitches, and if he can handle the inside ones as well, he's a stud in the making.

- If you haven't seen The Dark Knight yet, you're missing out. A great movie, much better than the first, and the critics nailed it: Heath Ledger truly is remarkable as the Joker. I never thought I'd say this, but his Joker is at least on par with Nicholson's.

It ain't all great memories

(This was written specifically for River Ave. Blues, so now that it's been posted there, I'll do the same here.)

Remember when you used to love going to Yankee games? For me, although I certainly did, it’s hard to even recall why.

Let me explain…no, there is too much. Let me sum up. My father’s company (that he co-manages) was able to acquire box-seat season tickets when the Yanks were at their lowest: 1989 (”It’s a whole new ballgame” was the motto that year; I still have a bumper sticker with it.) I went to at least 10 games each year through the 90’s — saw the Jeff Maier home run in ‘96, Tino’s Game 1 grand slam in ‘98, Clemens spraying the fans with champagne in ‘99, and the following year throwing a bat at Mike Piazza. Each year though, my access to tickets waned as demand among my father’s clients increased. My father and his business partner sold all the playoff tickets in 2001 for several reasons: they were bordering on unaffordable, the offers/requests from buyers/clients were too strong to turn down, and they (and I admittedly) thought they’d be in the World Series about every year.

So I guess you could say we were part of the problem — the reason the attending fan base started to change to more corporate/casual-fan types (the ‘glitterati’ — you know, people who glitter). We definitely deserve some of the blame, but other reasons for that change include the success of the Yanks, the ensuing demand for tickets, and the freedom that gave the Yankees to raise prices astronomically.

There used to be knowledgeable, passionate fans in attendance, but a side effect of the team’s success is that those fans were forced out by demand. In fact, my wife and I prefer sitting in the $18 upper deck seats where the fans actually care about the game.

Does anyone, anyone, still do the YMCA? I pity the grounds crew that must endure that contrived garbage (aimed purely at casual fans) on a nightly basis. Then there’s the relentless audio bombardment that doesn’t let up until “New York, New York” has played several times. And what ever happened to organic chants, cheers and general fan enthusiasm? On countless occasions have I witnessed organic chants snuffed out by the PA system blaring some canned chant or music that we’ve heard a thousand times.

There’s just a lack of understanding of what the fans want, like the refusal to show video replays (of close plays) on the jumbo-tron. I know they don’t want to show up the umpires, but they do it all the time in the NFL, why not in MLB? I had no idea Jeff Maier had even reached over the wall until I got home that night to see the replay. That brings me to my next point: while all the cons of attending a game have increased over the years, the pros of watching from home have also increased. The advent of HD, surround sound, the YES Network and DVR have combined to make the home-viewing experience better than being there. And where would you rather sit, on a plastic folding chair or your living room couch?

Then there’s the food situation. I can order in a large pizza for the price of about three disgusting slices at the Stadium. $9 for shit beer? No thanks. I’ll take my favorite, Dogfish Head, which runs $9 for a six-pack. At my only game this year, the trio in front of me ordered food and drinks through the waiter service. It took almost two hours to get something akin to two beers, a soda, chicken fingers, a hot dog, and a sandwich (for $71 plus tip). It’s basically fast-food quality, only slow. I learned my lesson long ago and now bring soda, water, sandwiches, peanuts and seeds to every game. It saves money and time (outside of tasting better). The vendors don’t even come down to the box-seats; to get food you have to order through a waiter (and wait the requisite hour plus) or leave your seat to catch up to a vendor or wait in line at the food court.

Transportation has become more difficult. Instead of spending an hour (each way) and $20+ getting to and from the Stadium, I can spend that time walking my dog, cooking dinner, watching the post-game show, watching another ballgame, etc. Parking is absolutely FUBAR around the Stadium, and I have a knack for being the first car locked out of the parking lot (it’s happened twice) – I mean I was literally the very first car that cops started putting traffic cones in front of to block out of the garage. You might suggest taking the subway, which I did many times when I lived in Manhattan and Queens, but it’s hardly better than driving, only more cost efficient. The worst subway ride of my life followed a Yankee game: a hefty, teenage boy stood near me holding the ceiling rail on a hot summer day (you know what that means), and the stench emanating from him was unbelievable. It was hold your breath horrible, and there was no where to go as the train was completely packed.

On top of that, my wife and I have a talent for attending rained out/rain delayed games, which now kills us because we live in Philly (have since last May). I was upset to find out the new Stadium will not have a retractable roof. I know it would cost about $400 million, but they’re spending over a billion dollars already, and the Stadium’s supposed to last more than 50 years, why not make the investment that would ensure a complete and on-time game every single day? Yet another reason we have and will be attending fewer games.

My father’s tickets, $250 a seat this year, will jump to the $500-$2500 range next year, and they’re not even being guaranteed the same seats in the new Stadium. He’s going to try to “move back” to affordable territory: back section of the field level or front section of the upper deck (we hope).

With all that being said, I’m certainly going to a game at the new Stadium, but more for the novelty, not to watch my beloved Yankees.

This might come off as whiny, but don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy attending games in person, just not as much as I used to; and the preceding was a summary of my problems as a cathartic exercise. I know this is a season to celebrate the Stadium, but I for one will miss nothing but the history. As far as I’m concerned, the original Yankee Stadium was destroyed in 1974.

Jul 18, 2008

Sexson and ratings

To address their .732 OPS against southpaws, the Yanks signed former Mariner slugger (and I use that word loosely) Richie Sexson to a league minimum contract. At this point, he can't be worse than Wilson Betemit and will only play against lefties, so it's a low risk move. And he does hit lefties well: 1.045 OPS this year (albeit in 71 plate appearances) - his career totals aren't quite so hot: just an .879 OPS vs. southpaws. This presents a frightening scenario, what if Sexson regresses to his career norm? Then the situation is no better off and probably even worse than a right-handed Wilson Betemit. If that happens, Sexson can always be released, but the damage done will be irreversible.

- The 15 inning All-Star Game received great ratings, which will only further empower FOX and MLB that the 8 p.m. start time is perfectly suited. What kid watching on a Tuesday night stays up to 2 a.m.? I understand that 15 innings is an aberration, but even the normal All-Star game lasts until near midnight because of the frequent pitching changes and longer commercial breaks. Not a good formula for future fandom (how's that for alliteration?).

Jul 15, 2008


I didn't think hitting a home run out of the Stadium was possible, but Josh Hamilton came as close as I've ever seen, and made me actually believe it was possible. The most impressive was the shot that hit half-way up the wall behind the right-field bleachers.

And what the hell was Rick Reilly thinking? He made stupid and awkward comments throughout the telecast that I'm sure he believed were clever. The first was a diatribe about there being no minorities in the Derby (to which Karl Ravech, after a long, uncomfortable pause, said "Interesting concept.") He followed by slamming Arod, saying something to the effect of 'Arod couldn't put on a show anywhere near Josh Hamilton.' Really? The future all-time home run champ couldn't even come close? Then the final 'Huh?' comment was a knock on atheists; apparently because Hamilton is a born-again Christian, it "was a bad night to be an atheist" according to Reilly.

- Chase Utley cursed out the fans who booed him. That will only hurt him in the long run. New York, especially Met fans, don't forget quickly. He later apologized.

- The NYPD (not surprisingly) felt the need to choke a fan trying to catch a home run in the black seats.

Jul 12, 2008

Halladay was just too good

But Joba was nearly as good. If not for Posada, Cano and Betemit errors, he walks off with a line of 7 ip, 5 h, 1 r, 0 bb, 9 k. He allowed just one extra-base hit (I'm not counting the double that was lost against the ceiling of the dome). The most encouraging part is that Joba's control is improving: he threw a ridiculous 73% strikes, walked none, and got nine groundouts and just two flyouts. Outside of a sloppy 3rd inning behind him, this might've been his best start.

The Yanks managed a whopping two hits. What next, a run? HA!

Two runs or less counter: 32 out of 93 (34%)

Jul 11, 2008

Posada wants to catch

But Girardi ain't letting him (yet). It's not just that Molina is a better catcher - he's a much better catcher, so it's hard to blame Girardi.

- Phil Hughes will throw off a mound tomorrow for the first time since April. "The Yankees are hopeful [he'll] return in September." Ugh. Basically another wasted season for him.

Jul 10, 2008

Pen blows it

I spoke too soon. Jose Veras came in and promptly served up a two-run shot that won the game for Pittsburgh. Despite this article's title, it was really the offense that blew it. Two runs off Paul Maholm... Paul Maholm? Arod: 0-4, Cano: 0-4, Melky: 0-4, Molina: 0-4, even Justin Christian and Mike Mussina got hits.

Just when this team looks like it's going to go on a tear, they don't - story of the season.

As Pete Abe astutely pointed out, the Yanks have scored two runs or less 31 times this season (in 92 games). It means they have the slimmest of chances in a full third of their games. That's pathetic, especially with two first-ballot Hall of Famers and several multiple-time All-Stars.

- Great interview with Mark Newman, the Yanks VP of Baseball Operations, as he discussed the farm system. The most intriguing part:

There’s a health risk with pitchers, there’s a performance risk with hitters. When you see a pitcher in college or high school throw 98, or 95, or 92 with plus movement…if you see a breaking ball that spins, if you see delivery, if you see command, because they’re the initiator, we feel confident about that transferring to professional baseball. Pitchers are fragile physically. Hitters on the other hand, high school hitters are going to see an 80 mile per hour fastball most of the time. He’s going to hit with aluminum. He’s not going to see quality breaking pitches. And he’s not going to see a closer coming out of the bullpen that throws as well or better than the starter...

Typically, where we pick, the gold-plated, can’t miss position player is already gone. There’s some (hitters left), but you feel more certainty with the pitchers.

- For those who don't know, I despise Joe Buck. And here's yet another reason why. He watches 'barely any' sports, and watching sports is 'not part of [his] day, not part of [his] night.' And this guy is FOX's number one sports commentator?! Fine, I understand that he has a job, a baby and a wife, etc., so how about finding someone that does watch sports? I know, a radical idea for FOX.

- Thanks for voting in the Bill Belichick poll. The final tally:
36% - the NFL should asterisk Belichick's New England tenure.
33% - the Pats should be penalized (again) by the NFL. (They already lost a first round draft pick.)
27% - Belichick should be suspended.
19% - the Pats should have their titles stripped.
16% - Belichick should be banned from the NFL.
15% - let the Pats' opponents record their defensive signals (what the Pats were convicted of).
7% - ignore what Belichick and the Pats did.
(it adds up to more than 100 because voters were allowed to choose multiple selections.)

- A good MLB draft recap over at Saber Scouting. Listen at the 12:00 mark when they field my question!

Jul 9, 2008

Anyone still miss Joba in the pen?

Another stellar game from Yankee pitchers as they held Tampa Bay to one run in two games. Sir Sidney worked his magic again, allowing just one run despite nine baserunners. Veras, Farnsy and Mo (for two innings) shut the door as the Yanks finally got that second run in the bottom of the 10th.

The bullpen has a ridiculous .438 OPS against this month (Alberto Gonzalez territory), and it will drop even further after today's game. For comparison, the starters' OPS against is .825 (making ever hitter look like Jorge Posada).

Jose Molina's defense is so good that it's hard to take him out the lineup despite his .229/.268/.318 line. He's gunned down 25 of 52 base-stealers - that's a 48% clip, the best in baseball (for catchers with at least 25 games played).

What was Grant Balfour thinking, throwing a changeup (his 2nd or 3rd best pitch) to Abreu with the winning run on base? His fastball his the upper 90s and no one's been able to touch it recently, yet he pulled a Mark Wohlers and served up the game-winning hit.

Jul 8, 2008

Harden dealt to the Cubbies

That NL Central race is heating up!

Jul 7, 2008

The King of Pick-offs

Some off-day reading for y'all -

Inspired by a conversation with my father-in-law about Andy Pettitte, I decided to try to discover who has the best pick-off move in history (via stats). Bear in mind though, pick-offs have only been recorded since 1956, so we don't know about some of the great pitchers before that time (e.g. Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, etc.).

Going by total career pick-offs, Andy Pettitte ranks second to Steve Carlton. No surprise that southpaws top the list. Both Pettitte and Carlton are quality lefties, and both had/have pretty lengthy careers. The main reason Carlton bests Pettitte is longevity: he threw roughly twice as many innings, and hence has about twice as many pick-offs. That's not really fair to Pettitte, who has a better pick-off-per-inning rate than Carlton.

Pettitte picked off a runner every 31 innings. Carlton every 36 innings. The 'King of Pick-offs', though, might just be Darold Knowles, who nailed a base runner every 24 innings. He isn't higher on the list because he threw just 1092 innings, primarily as a reliever for nine different teams during the 60's and 70's.

That's not the conclusion though, because Carlton and Knowles pitched in more pitcher-friendly eras (meaning they generally had less base runners, hence less pick off opportunities). The real stat we need to find is pick-offs-per-base runner. We find this by adding hits and walks, subtracting home runs, and dividing by pick-offs. I'm not going to account for hit-batters and double plays as they roughly cancel each other out.

Carlton picked off one of every 42 base runners.

Pettitte: one of every 39 base runners.

Knowles: one of every 32 base runners.

Again, Knowles is the best, but we're not quite done.

Who was the best at keeping runners from stealing - who put the most fear into base runners?

We can find this by calculating total base runners, then dividing by attempted steals.

Carlton: one of every 11 base runners attempted to steal.

Pettitte: one of every 15 base runners attempted to steal.

Knowles: one of every 28 base runners attempted to steal.

So now we can make the educated assumption that Darold Knowles is one of, if not the best pick-off artist of the last 50 years.

(I wish there was video of him, but alas, I could find none.)

Jul 6, 2008

Sabathia to Milwaukee

From Yahoo -

The Milwaukee Brewers just made themselves legitimate contenders in the National League Central.

According to published reports, the Cleveland Indians on Sunday traded reigning American League Cy Young Award winner C.C. Sabathia to the Brewers for a package that includes top prospect Matt LaPorta.

Sabathia could be on the mound for Milwaukee as soon as Tuesday against the Colorado Rockies, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported. The deal is contingent upon paperwork being finalized and medical reports being exchanged.

The left-handed Sabathia will become a free agent at the end of the season and already had turned down a lucrative contract extension to stay in Cleveland. it is believed he will test the market at the end of the season, meaning he may just be a three-month rental for the Brewers.

- C-Rod no more: Cynthia will file for divorce from Alex tomorrow. He will become the most eligible bachelor in New York, although he might already be spoken for.

- Damon to the DL: Johnny Damon was placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career. Justin Christian was recalled from Scranton.

Jul 5, 2008

Odds and Ends

- Brian Bruney and Phil Hughes are making slow progress returning from injuries. We could see Bruney as soon as late July, and Hughes as soon as early August.

- Not to be forgotten is the (potential) gem of the Sheffield trade, Humberto Sanchez, who has thrown 3.2 innings for the Gulf Coast League Yankees down in Rookie Ball. Management will look to move him slowly (coming off Tommy John surgery), but I expect he'll finish the year with Triple-A Scranton. Both him and Melancon could be huge additions to 2009's bullpen.

- The big move this team needs to make in the off-season is acquiring C.C. Sabathia. He's not having a great season, but his numbers have been skewed by a terrible start. After his first four games (18 ip, 32 h, 14 bb, 14 k, 13.50 era), he's been his usual dominant self: 104.1 ip, 85 h, 20 bb, 109 k, 2.16 era). And best of all, he'll be just 28 next year, still in the heart of his prime. A top three of Sabathia, Wang and Joba would be sweeeeet. But he's not worth a two-month rental and the loss of our top prospects.

- A win might be nice today, then we could salvage a split tomorrow. If there is a bright spot, it's the bullpen, which has allowed just three earned runs in it's last 29.1 innings.

Jul 2, 2008

Deja vu

Melky didn't bunt (or hit), neither did Arod, Joba couldn't find the strike zone; apparently Mo can't pitch in a tie game and Posada can't throw out a runner if the game depends on it (oh, wait...).

Now we have to rely on Sir Sidney Ponson to merely avoid a sweep.

Jun 30, 2008


The worst pitching staff in the AL just shut down one of the best offenses in baseball. Explain that one to me.

Our pitchers threw a gem - you can't ask any more from Moose, and nine times out of 10, allowing two runs against the Rangers guarantees a win. Not tonight with the suddenly pitiful offense that has managed to plate two runs in the last two games and five in the last three.

These pitchers are simply not good. Oliver Perez' ERA entering yesterday's game was 5.29 (in the NL no less) with a career 93 ERA+, while Scott Feldman (yeah, who?) had a 4.60 ERA entering tonight's game with a career 97 ERA+. They ain't the fucking '65 Dodgers.

Jeter was the goat: 0-4, three weak groundouts and a strikeout with Gardner on 2nd (representing the tying run).

(Speaking of Feldman, I couldn't help thinking of the Bizarro Seinfeld episode - "This is Kevin, Gene... and Feldman.")

- Manny being a shithead.

Jun 28, 2008

Robertson gets his chance

David Robertson was promoted to the big club today. And he certainly earned it. During his 133 inning minor league career, he's sported a 1.15 ERA, 183 strikeouts, 54 walks, 0 HR and a .93 WHIP. His stats this year between Trenton and Scranton are just as impressive: 48.2 ip, 1.48 ERA, 70 strikeouts, 22 walks, 0 HR and a .97 WHIP. Yes, that's right, he hasn't allowed one homerun in his professional career.

His biggest problem coming into the year was control, but he's refined that at Triple-A, where he's walked just five in his last 17 innings.

- The baseball gods shone on Sidney Ponson last night. He escaped two bases loaded jams without allowing a run. He actually settled down and retired the last six batters he faced. Going purely by results, he deserves the next start over Giese.

- A scouting report on the top international free agent, Michel Inoa, who is expected to sign for upwards of $4 million. The Yanks are in the mix, but the A's look to be the frontrunner. (PP with the link.)

Jun 26, 2008

All right Phil!

I haven't listened to WFAN (on purpose) in about five years. But they interviewed Phil Hughes today so I took a listen. He's throwing from flat ground and doesn't expect to throw off a mound for weeks, but there was a bright side: he called out Chris 'Mad Dog' Russo for criticizing the Joba-to-the-rotation move. That bumps him up a notch in my book (if I had a book).

- Tonight's contest started with promise, as the Yanks tattooed Paul Maholm for three runs in the 1st (double, double, triple, double), only to storms stop the game in the 2nd. The reason the umps waited two-and-a-half hours to call the game (especially when the Yanks play a doubleheader tomorrow), is beyond me. Pittsburgh ain't that far from New York that they can't travel out there on an off day to finish the game (which is what they're going to do on July 10). It should've been called after an hour.

- Great interview with the Director of Player Development Mark Newman.

- A career projection for Johnny Damon. He actually doesn't tail off too badly.

99 MPH

If anyone was concerned with Joba maintaining his velocity late into games, there's your answer. His 104th pitch of the game, in the 7th inning, was clocked at 99 mph, which also happened to be his fastest pitch of the game.

Arod's hard slide to break up the double-play in the first was a game-changer. That catapulted the Yanks to victory. Not to be outdone though was Abreu's laser to nail a runner at home, which would have brought Pittsburgh within a run.

Joba threw 114 pitches, 6.2 innings, struck out seven, walked one, allowed six hits and no runs. If I had to nitpick, I wish he'd finished the 7th inning.

- The pitching matchups against the Mets this weekend are quite pitiful; it's conceivable we get swept all four games.

- Could 'Marvelous' Matt Carson be the next Scrantonite called up to the Bronx? He very well could be, and potentially have a Shelley '07/Spencer '98 type effect.

Jun 24, 2008

I stopped watching in the 5th inning

Specifically after Bautista's two-run shot, which made it 5-1 Pittsburgh (it's hard to say 'Pittsburgh' without thinking of a line from Groundhog Day: "I'm not going back to Pittsburgh.") This one ranks up there with the 12-2 Baltimore game.

Above all, it was frustrating watching the Yanks (specifically Jeter) help out the Gorzelanny by swinging when they were ahead in the count, often making outs. In the first, Melky was on first (walked), Jeter was ahead 2-0 and hit into a DP. In the fifth, Arod swung at the first pitch and popped to short-center. Gorzelanny walked five in six innings, but could've easily walked several more; for example, he walked Darrell Rasner (who made his ML debut at the plate) twice.

Justin Christian was called up to replace Billy Traber and made a costly error in the first, indirectly allowing Pittsburgh to score it's second run. He did however go 2-4 on the night with a double.

- Humberto Sanchez finally returned from Tommy John surgery. He pitched .2 innings for the GCL Yankees, allowing a run on a hit batter, a walk and a hit. Dellin Betances also returned from a short injury stint: 2 ip, 3 er.

JB Cox returned to action as well, throwing a perfect inning for Scranton.

- Elsewhere, the Giants' Chris Snee signed a six-year extension that will make one of the five highest paid guards in the league. He deserves it. If you go back and watch any of last year's games, the player Snee is blocking is almost always the farthest from the quarterback and often gets nowhere near him.

(thanks to Pete Abe and Giants 101)

Jun 22, 2008

I hate the rain

My wife and I attended today's game, and enjoyed a great performance by Andy Pettitte. I must say that Johnny Cueto has nasty stuff, almost at Joba's level.

Farnsworth took a liner off his hand in the 9th, and one must wonder if he'll be sidelined, and if so, who'll get the call up? Patterson and Robertson must be at the top of the list.

Jun 20, 2008

Yanks sweep; Venditte debuts

- A crisp 2-1 win over San Diego completed a three-game sweep and seven-game winning streak for the Bombers. Joba started and was dominant: he struck out nine in 5.2 innings, allowing just one run. As a starter (four games), he's been pretty filthy: 18.1 ip, 2.45 ERA, 16 h, 19 k, 12 bb, 1 HR. The only problem is the walks, which must come down.

- Pat 'Switch-Pitcher' Venditte made his pro debut last night for Staten Island. Take a gander at the video for a good laugh. It seems the rule is that the pitcher must first declare a side to throw from, then the batter (switch-hitter) can adjust to that, but once that first pitch is thrown, neither can change.

Jun 17, 2008

Bad news all around

- Chien Ming-Wang won't return until at least September. The depth chart for his spot looks to be (in order): Dan Giese, Kei Igawa and Jeff Karstens. Just when everyone was getting healthy...

- Willie Randolph was fired this morning. He got a pretty raw deal across town. Maybe the Yanks can hire him in some capacity.

Jun 13, 2008

Scraping by

One big hit was enough last night, tonight it was two. When will the offense get on track? It's like they get a few runs and decide, "That's probably enough." Fortunately, it has been because of stellar Yankee pitching: they've allowed just one run in three of their last four games. Tonight it was thanks to Joba, who pitched (by far) the best game of his short career - 6 ip, 1 er, 6 h, 4 bb (two intentional), 2 k. The 'Stros certainly helped out by swinging early and often - he averaged under 15 pitches per inning. He was able to keep the ball down for the most part (9 ground outs, 5 fly outs), even interspersing a few two-seamers (in the low 90s). For those wondering about his velocity, his last two pitches of the night registered 96 and 97 respectively mph... not bad I'd say.

How nasty was Jose Veras? Wow! And leave it to Kyle 'The Heart Attack' Farnsworth to hit the first batter of the 9th inning (he was closing because Mo's pitched five times in the past week). Houston again helped out by having Ty Wigginton (of all people) attempt to steal second where he was gunned down by Jose Molina.

- Meanwhile, the international free agent signing period begins on July 2, so here's a summary of the top talent.

Jun 12, 2008

JB Cox out 3 at least weeks

According to Pete Abe. It sucks because he was in-line for a call-up to the Bronx bullpen. This likely keeps him in Scranton until September. David Robertson and perhaps even Mark Melancon may move ahead of him on the depth chart.

But as one goes down, another comes up: Humberto Sanchez threw a bullpen session yesterday for the first time since his Tommy John surgery and should join a minor league team by month's end.

Back to .500

This is probably the most frustrating team I've seen in about 15 years. It's like they have some kind of phobia of not being near .500.

What I'm wondering is: what will Cash do if the Yanks are still at .500 at the end of July? There will be roughly 50 games to go, and if the Sawx and Devil Rays continue playing at their current pace, the Yanks will be 11 games back of Boston and eight behind Tampa. Do they think about trading off their veterans to reload for 2009? It will also depend on the Wild Card - but if they're 10+ games back in that race too, I say they do it.

The candidates are as follows:
Mike Mussina
Jason Giambi
Johnny Damon
Hideki Matsui
Bobby Abreu
Andy Pettitte
Latroy Hawkins
Kyle Farnsworth (only player without a no-trade clause)

The biggest problems will be getting these players to waive their no-trade clauses and to convince the target team to take on most or at least some of their contract. The good news is that the aforementioned players (outside of the relievers) are having solid to exceptional seasons, especially Giambi, Damon, Matsui and Mussina.

I do not think Cano, Melky or Wang will be on the trade block even though they would be highly sought after. They're young (all under 30), low-paid and most importantly, average to above players. Cano is the safest, mainly because there's just no one in the minors who could replace him. He's the complete package, unlike other 2b candidates such as Wilson Betemit (decent bat, passable 2b defense) and Alberto Gonzalez (great defense, below average bat). Wang would also be rather safe: he's a proven big league starter, unlike Hughes, Kennedy and Joba, and is still young and cheap (unlike Pettitte and Moose). Melky might feel anxious though - there are two quality centerfielders coming up fast behind him: Brett Gardner and Austin Jackson.

Looking at 2009's free agent class... If the parties are willing (in this case, K-Rod becoming a setup-man), we could have an absolutely sick bullpen next year that might look like this:
and one of Edwar, Ohlie, Alby, Patterson, Veras, Giese and Britton

Jun 10, 2008

I'm never going to praise Mo again

In the two games since I expounded his incredible season, he's given up his first two homeruns of the year, losing one game and nearly losing another.

Isn't that just a silly superstition? Probably.

Jun 9, 2008

I'll say it again

Ed fucking Montague. He blew his second call of the series, and just like last time, it cost the Yanks an out, a baserunner and eventually the game. I didn't need the replay to see Melky was safe at first on his sac bunt, it was clear, and fucking Montague is standing three feet from the base and couldn't see it. Unreal.

Is there anyone left who opposes instant replay?

Strahan calls it a career

The Giants' captain and all-time sack leader (tied with LT) is going out on top. I, for one, am rather surprised by his decision. I was sure he'd come back for another season considering how well he played and that he's going to be losing millions of dollars (although he already has a broadcasting job lined up already). He was a 7-time Pro Bowler, twice won the defensive MVP (2001 and 2003) and set an NFL record with 22.5 sacks in '01.

He's one of my favorite Giants ever (after LT) and was always a blast to listen to. The Giants sportswriters will have to work a bit harder this season to find interesting quotes.

This is bad news for the 2008 season in that it weakens two positions - 1. Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka will be counted on more (rather than for depth like last year), 2. if Kiwanuka is moved back to full-time DE, they have to find two new (starting) outside linebackers. Basically Renaldo Wynn - a good backup DE - replaces a first-ballot Hall of Fame DE. You can't blame Strahan though; what better way to retire than when you've just won the Super Bowl? - only I wish he had announced it before the draft so Jerry Reese could have properly addressed the situation.

Jun 8, 2008

If not for that one hanging slider

We're all praising Joba for a stellar outing instead of an average one. Regardless, it was definitely an improvement from Tuesday - he threw more strikes (lasting into the 5th inning), struck out more and walked fewer. And perhaps best of all, he maintained his velocity throughout, touching 96 into the 5th inning. He walked his last batter on a 3-2 curveball (his first out of the zone), finishing at 78 pitches (80 was his limit). In his next start (Friday), his limit will be raised to 90-95, so hopefully he'll get through the 6th.

His only big mistake was a full count hanging slider to Jose Guillen who crushed it to give KC the lead. Joba and Posada should have been a bit more cautious, considering the swings Guillen had taken on the slider earlier in that at-bat. Joba really didn't want to walk him so instead of going for the corner, he left a lazy slider up and out over the plate.

Anyway, Dan Giese had another solid outing (2.2 ip, 0 r). He's really showing himself to be a dependable long-reliever that might stick with the team when Moeller is (unfortunately) DFA'd.

Afternoon contest tomorrow: Moose vs. (2006 #1 overall pick) Luke Hochevar.

Another prospect

to keep an eye on, although he's not a member of the Yankees (or any other team) yet. It sounds like we may have a good chance to acquire him considering his idol is Arod and the Yanks have the most money.

Cuban baseball's brightest star, Dayán Viciedo, has escaped from Cuba and is now in Miami, following the footsteps of talented island colleagues who have found their way into the major leagues.

Viciedo, a 19-year-old third baseman, is considered as big a star in Cuba as Omár Linares, the most well-rounded player to emerge from the Cuban leagues since 1959 and a player highly coveted by major league scouts during the 1980s.

''At first I didn't like to be compared to Linares because he is almost a legend,'' Viciedo said. ``Later, I felt proud. As a third baseman I have two idols: Linares from the Cuban National Series and Alex Rodriguez from the major leagues.''

(BBTF with the link)

Mo was jinxed

by my previous post wherein I expounded on his excellence this season. Yesterday he gave up his first HR of the year - a cutter that was misplaced over the heart of the plate rather than where Posada was setting up inside.

Based on the two innings I saw Mark Melancon pitch last night for Trenton, the following is a (brief) scouting report:
Fastball - plus velocity, plus command. Started off nearly every hitter 0-1 with a well-spotted fastball at the knees. I've read his velocity is 91-94 and that jives with what I witnessed; not one fastball was well hit.
Curve - plus movement, average command. Struck out one batter on a curveball looking. Don't recall anyone swinging and missing on his curve. The three groundouts he induced looked to all be a product of the curve. Bounced a few before reaching homeplate.
His delivery is unsual in that he brings the ball down nearly to his back knee before exploding toward homeplate - similar to those old time windups.
Would have been two perfect innings if not for a botched throw by the shortstop. Of the six outs he recorded, three came via groundout, three via strikeout - it doesn't get much better than that; not a single ball reached the outfield.
He's listed at just 6'2", but looks much bigger on the mound. Perhaps it's because no member of Trenton's infield is taller than 6 feet. Not sure but he looked huge.

Jun 7, 2008

Hey, I remember him

Pat Venditte, the switch-pitcher from Creighton University, was selected in the draft by the Yankees for the second straight year. Now that he's a senior, he basically has to sign (unlike last year when he returned to school).

Pete Abe has the audio of an interview with first round pick Gerrit Cole. He sounds like he's 12 years old; he's just 17 so maybe that's not unusual. Did I sound that way when I was 17?

- Some win today for the Yanks. Where was that offense yesterday? I didn't get to see it because of stupid FOX and MLB's Saturday blackout rules. I'll catch it later when it hits

What's "momentum"?

Certainly not this. Homeplate umpire Ed Montague completely screwed us with his check-swing strike-three call on Giambi in the 8th. A blatant, blatant checked-swing. How the hell could Montague think that was a swing? Only God knows.

Jun 6, 2008

What a win, what's up with Wang, and Holy Mo-ly!

<-- That was the best win of the season (in terms of emotions). It looked totally lost at 7-2, only for the Yanks to crawl back to within one, then have Farnsworth re-blow the game, only to be followed by Arod, Matsui and Giambi coming up huge. In fact, Giambi increased the Yanks chances of winning 89.5% (almost unheard of).

And speaking of hitting, how about Wilson Betemit? His second HR in two days, this one coming from the right side. He gets killed a lot around the Yankee blogosphere, but it's rather unfair to him. He's a backup, and hence doesn't get consistent playing time. If he did, I'm sure he would put about a .250/.350/.480 line. One of the positives about Giambi missing some time is that it might give Betemit more playing time, allowing him to get into a groove. Right now, you have to keep playing him - it comes down to four of Betemit, Giambi (if healthy), Damon, Matsui and Melky. Currently, Melky's got to sit; the other hitters are just too hot to put on the bench. Damon is an inferior centerfielder, but the way he's hitting he'll easily make up for it.

- Now, on to Chien-Ming Wang: what's wrong with him? Is there anything wrong with him? 82.2 innings is not even half a season so we shouldn't jump to any definitive conclusions, but I'll try to head in that direction. His ERA is the highest it's ever been: 4.57. Through his first nine games, Wang was having a stellar year: 59 ip, 2.90 ERA, 38 K, 19 BB, 1 HR, .584 OPS against.

But he's (frankly) sucked in his last four starts: 23.2 ip, 8.75 ERA, 11 K, 14 BB, 3 HR, .794 OPS against. The stat that most jumps out to me is the walk rate. It went from 2.89 BB/9 through his first nine starts to 5.3 BB/9. That's almost double. It definitely jives with what my eyes tell me: Wang has been consistently missing his spots in his last several games.

To back me up, his BAA, BABIP and FIP are in line with his career averages. What I have to wonder is whether he's trying strikeout more hitters - and if that's causing him to avoid contact, hence throwing more pitches out of the zone. Along with a rising K/9 rate, his walk rate has also increased each of the last three years (along with his pitches/PA). And perhaps most disturbingly, his groundball rate has also decreased each of the last three years. My theory is thus: his critics who assailed him for not striking out enough hitters has caused him and his pitching coaches to try to improve his K rates, hence he's throwing more pitches out of the zone (to induce swinging strikes) - this causes him to fall behind in counts more often which leads to more hits and walks. My hope is that it's just a slump (it is just four games after all), but my fear is that the league has caught up to him or he's hiding an injury.

- If you hadn't noticed, Mariano Rivera is having a good year. How good is it?! It's so good that among relievers with at least 25 ip (going all the way to 1901):
a. he has the best ERA+ (1185)
b. 4th best K/BB rate (13/1)
c. best WHIP (.500)
d. best OPS+ against (negative 24 = ludicrous!)
e. 2nd best hit rate (3.81/9 ip)

- The MLB amateur draft can be found here. The Yanks selected high-school pitcher Gerrit Cole with the 28th pick of the first round. I don't know much about Cole, but here are several sources who do.
Baseball America
Perfect Game
River Ave. Blues
Keith Law (via Pinstripe Alley)

Jun 4, 2008

Underwhelming debut

With a pitch restriction of 70, Joba lasted just 2.1 innings (62 pitches). The problem was his control, which was all over: he walked four, and threw barely half his pitches for strikes. The two runs scored off him were of the cheap variety: the first scored on a walk, balk, passed ball and groundout. The other run scored on a walk, steal with a throwing error by Molina and another groundout. The one hit he allowed was a weak seeing-eye single. In his next start on Sunday, he's got to find his groove quicker. 37 pitches in the first inning is way too many.

Dan Giese came in and showed he can be a solid long-reliever. He went 3.2 innings allowing just one run. The game was still close at that point (3-2 Jays), but the pen imploded. First Veras, then Edwar, then Hawkins. Watching Edwar was just painful - the ump did have a small strike zone, but he threw just three of 17 pitches for strikes. Rick 'Wild Thing' Vaughan poppped into my head watching him.

May 30, 2008

Joba to start Tuesday

It's official. Joba will make his ML debut as a starter Tuesday night in the Bronx against Toronto. We should not expect too much. I'm thinking 5 ip, 3 er, which I would be happy with - just something positive to build on.

- Didn't get to see tonight's game but Moose apparently pitched well - Shelley's error hurt him though (costing him 18 extra pitches). Edwar continues to excel: he came in in the 7th with a runner on and one out and got two quick outs on just five pitches. His ERA over 14.2 ip is 0.00. By the way, Mo pitched a scoreless 9th - his ERA is a robust 0.38.

May 28, 2008

The Stopper

Dandy Andy to the rescue. 6.2 ip, 2 er - that's what you need from your stopper. Despite allowing eight hits, Pettitte escaped many a jam. Joba relieved him with two outs in the 7th - he allowed a walk and a hit before striking out Kevin Millar (I don't know how that felt for Joba, but it felt great for me). His problem that inning was falling behind hitters, but he quickly corrected that in the 8th, striking out two in a perfect frame.

Unfortunately, it was only a two-run lead at the time so Girardi opted for Mo to close it out rather than keep Joba in for a 3rd inning. As a result, he threw just 28 pitches. When Mo came in, Joba jogged to bullpen to throw another 25 or so pitches in a simulated game.

I'm sure a lot of fans out there will look at these last two games as the perfect example of why Joba should remain a reliever. Not me though. What we saw last night was poor starting and middle relief pitching. That's why the Yanks lost, because they allowed 10 runs. The difference tonight was clearly the starting pitcher. As opposed to 3 ip, 3 er, they got 6.2 ip, 2 er. It allowed the 2-4 batters to go hitless (0-12) and still win.

By the way, is Mo not having the best season ever by a reliever? Come back later for an analysis.

Posting will be sparse for the next few days as my wife and I are going on vacation. Later.

A shitty all around game

It was a Lazy Susan of ineptitude last night. First it was Kennedy blowing a four run lead (with Arod's help), then it was Ohlendorf doing the same, followed by Jeter making two costly errors (one on the bases, one throwing), and finally Betemit being incapable of playing a mediocre first base.

This is the price we pay for converting Joba to a starter. Despite what Girardi says, it does weaken the team in the short-term. I think we can assume Joba would have pitched better than Hawkins did, probably closing out the game. Joba's scheduled to pitch in relief of Andy Pettitte tonight (about 55 pitches).

Considering Kennedy is now on the DL with a lateral strain (the same injury as Posada), Joba could be starting in his stead the next time through the rotation. That would mean a Sunday afternoon or Monday night start in Minnesota.

Chris Britton was called up to take Kennedy's spot on the roster. But here's hoping to Hawkins being released. He was signed to a one-year deal for flexibility (aka, he could be cut if he sucked).

And will someone please brush back Kevin Millar?

May 22, 2008

I was there

At the game when Joba began his transition to starter. I didn't get home until 1 a.m. (the reason for the lack of posts), so I'll now catch up.

I went with a few guys and sat in Row V of Tier section 10. Rasner looked sharp from the beginning (as much as one call from from Row V of Tier 10); he k'ed two in the first inning.

Anyway, I had a feeling that Joba would pitch the tailend of the game (partly because he needed work), despite the 8-0 score. Lo and behold, I saw him warming, and he came in for the 8th. I then began to wonder if he wouldn't be used again for the 9th - to stretch him out in a low-stress situation. And it happened too.

When I arrived home, I was fairly shocked to see how open Girardi was about Joba's conversion.

Meanwhile, it should be pretty evident how badly the team missed Arod: two doubles and a HR (should've been two). That second double was tough to read, so I could understand calling it a double (I couldn't tell definitively either). It didn't appear high enough to clear the wall - I kind of lost it when it passed the Modell's sign, the next thing I saw it was rolling back toward the right-fielder. The only conclusion was that it either hit the concrete above the wall or the very bottom of the outfield wall (where there's no padding). Does anyone out there still think baseball shouldn't use instant replay? What if Arod finishes his career with 761 homeruns (one less than Bonds)?

May 20, 2008

The Next Pitching Wave

We now have four quality pitchers one bus ride from the Bronx. Two starters (Horne and McCutchen) and two relievers (Cox and Robertson). They all have a good chance to join the Bronx bullpen this year and improve it. When Joba moves to the rotation, it will open a spot most likely for one of these guys. And if more of the Scranton bunch force their way to the Bronx, it would probably mean the demotion of Veras, Ohlendorf and/or Edwar, and perhaps the DFA of Hawkins.

JB Cox
16.1 ip
12 h
3 er
5 bb
8 k
0 HR
2.38 ground outs/air outs

50 ip
38 h
14 er
15 bb
46 k
4 HR
1.26 GO/AO

8 ip
9 h
3 er
2 bb
8 k
0 HR
1.83 GO/AO

28 ip
14 h
5 er
13 bb
36 k
0 HR
.92 GO/AO

That's a combined -
102.1 ip
73 h
25 er
35 bb
98 k
2 HR

2.20 ERA
1.06 whip
8.6 k/9 ip
3.08 bb/9
2.8 k/bb
.18 HR/9
1.6 GO/AO

Those are very good numbers...
but you know what sticks in my craw when I see those (or any pitcher's good minor league stats)? They pretty much always pale in comparison to those of Phil Hughes (who did it all at the ages of 18-20!). I'm very confident Hughes will be at least a quality major league pitcher. He completely dominated the minors, a lot more so than other successful pitchers. It's just a matter of time.

Yankee Prospects

I'm divided

But not about one thing - this was (hopefully) the nadir of the season.

What I'm divided about is Latroy Hawkins. I like that he threw at Baltimore's Luke Scott, but I dislike that the pitch was near his head. I don't think he meant to throw it near his head, but he's got to be more careful. On the other hand, Cabrera has to be more careful throwing inside to Yankees; we're lucky Jeter's hand wasn't broken. I'm sure he is sick (I know I am) of constantly getting hit. Sure, pitchers throw inside to him which is fine, but that particular pitch was unavoidable. It was shoulder high, tailing in, at 92 mph.

And how the hell does Kevin Millar (who came in hitting .234/.318/.348) somehow hit like Albert Pujols whenever our pitchers face him?... Well, now that I checked the numbers, he doens't hit that well against us: a career 112 OPS+ against the Yanks compared to 114 overall. But doesn't it just seem like he kills us? Hmmm... Now I found it: his OPS against our current pitchers is 1.062, much higher than his career OPS of .825.

- Dan McCutchen is (finally) going to Scranton. The Yanks pen in the second half has a chance to be very nasty. Not even counting any current relievers, they'll have the opportunity to utilize David Robertson, JB Cox, Alan Horne and Dan McCutchen. Four very strong arms. And that's not even counting the possibility of others top prospects like Mark Melancon and Humberto Sanchez.

May 15, 2008

Moose shines

Moose came through again with another stellar outing: 6.1 ip, 1 er. It saved the series and gives the team a chance to once again reach .500. A win today would go a long way toward making the fans and players feel good about the next stretch.

- Hat tip to Pete Abe - Dan McCutchen will be promoted to Triple-A Scranton. The Yanks will have a lot of pitching options in the latter half of the year.

May 13, 2008

I must admit

I stopped watching last night's game in the 5th inning (when Tampa scored 4 off Andy). The offense looked inept, the pitching was declining as the game progressed; in other words, it was both exhausting and painful.

- However, there's good news today, as JB Cox was promoted to Triple-A Scranton and Mark Melancon was promoted to Double-A Trenton. I'll be attending tonight's Thunder game (as Dan McCutchen is starting), and with any luck I'll also get to see Melancon. If they both continue their early season success, Joba will be moving to the rotation soon to make room for one (or both) of them in the Bronx bullpen.

- Goose Gossage really needs to shut up. Unfortunately, he's (much like Hank) an instant quote, so whenever a media member wants something interesting, they know where to go.

May 11, 2008

Foul balls, rainouts and bad pitchers

Attended today's Wilmington Blue Rocks game (High-A affiliate of Kansas City) and (drum-roll please)... caught my first ever foul ball! Well, not exactly 'caught' - it more bounced and rolled right to me. We were sitting behind the first base dugout and a liner careened into my row, rolling toward me - I reached down and snagged it before it could get away. I was proud of my prize and I held it high for all to see.

Anyway, the Yanks were rained out which is a blessing in disguise: they can now push Kei Igawa back to Friday, when another pitcher could potentially take his spot. when his turn comes up on Friday. The other options are Ian Kennedy and Steven White, both of whom I would prefer to see take the mound.

May 9, 2008

Moose and the pen

Moose for five, the pen for four. An equation that worked well yesterday afternoon. Mussina was cruising through four (giving up just one hit), but it fell apart in the 5th, when he surrendered three runs (and the lead).

Fortunately, the Yanks found their power stroke and finally started hitting the way they're capable of. (Always make me think 'At Harvard, we don't end our sentences with prepositions.') Damon, Betemit and Giambi homered, Cano doubled and homered and Matsui had two hits.

Ross Ohlendorf is proving his worth, giving the team another multi-inning stint (2 ip, 1 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 1 k). Joba bounced back from his worth outing ever with a perfect, 1 k, fist-pumping inning. Rivera gave up a hit (!), but proceeded to shut the door. Even the hit was on a perfectly placed 0-2 cutter that the hitter took the other way.

The $46-million-man goes tonight against an offense that might literally kill him.

May 8, 2008

Cliff Lee?

I just don't get it. How is he getting by? Guys like Burnett, Sabathia, Beckett, Santana, Felix I understand. They have plus-plus fastballs and plus-plus offspeed pitches. Lee has an 88-92 mph fastball, a good curve and decent slider (and passable changeup) - he does have plus command, but still! Does being a lefty add that much? What the hell is so difficult about hitting him? His delivery is not particularly deceptive. He's not very tall (6'3"), and has a career ERA+ of just 98! They've faced much better pitchers in the past, future Hall of Famers in fact, and Lee made them look silly tonight...

Against southpaws, you really see how sorely the Yanks miss Arod and Posada, their best right-handed power threats.

May 6, 2008

Off days are strange

It feels like the Yanks haven't played in a month. In their past six games, they've swept and been swept. They faced three medicore Detroit pitchers (Rogers, Bonderman, Robertson), and were swept; yet when they faced two excellent Seattle pitchers (Bedard, Felix) and one mediocre pitcher (Silva), they did the sweeping. Baseball's a funny game.

Hopefully Andy can rebound from a poor start against Cleveland, the team that beat him up last time.

- Elsewhere, Phil Hughes has (again) had to explain his 'drop' in velocity. It's not really a drop at all. To paraphrase, he generally tops out at 94 in a game, but it's mostly below that. "I maybe touched 95 three times the whole year," he said. His command went awry sometime in April - that was his biggest problem. If he can get it back to his norm, he'll be fine.

- Ian Kennedy is starting tonight for Triple-A Scranton. Hopefully he too will iron out his command (he's had more walks than Ks this year).

May 2, 2008

Who else?

Chien Ming-Wang produced another gem, stopping the Yanks three-game skid. It's kind of sad that he's the only reliable starter right now. He might be the frontrunner for the Cy Young (not that it matters much in early May): 6-0, 3.00 era, 1.13 whip, 32 k, 13 bb, 1 HR.

The batters didn't help much, scratching across three runs in the first seven innings (with the Yanks only extra-base hit by Melky), until the 8th when they tacked on two more.

The pen though came through again with three shutout innings: Farnsy to Joba to Mo - 3 ip, 1 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 3 k.

- Elsewhere, Phil Hughes, already on the 15-day DL, found out he needs eye-glasses. He also thinks a mechanical flaw led to his fractured rib. Hopefully fixing both will improve his pitching (I'm really hoping). He probably won't be back in the Bronx until July.

May 1, 2008

Money talks

Especially to morons.

Apr 30, 2008

The Giants' Draft

I haven't yet touched on the crop of players the Giants drafted over the weekend, but here goes -

Getting Kenny Phillips from the U with the last pick of the first round was fantastic. He's probably better than either James Butler or Michael Johnson right now, and I could see him starting at free safety as early as week one. It also gives us great safety depth: Butler was the starting FS for the Super Bowl champs (who will probably be the backup), and Johnson is capable of starting on some teams right now. I didn't watch many Miami games last year, but from watching highlights and reading up on him, Phillips is a tremendous talent who was projected to go in the top 15 heading into his junior year - he slipped to the bottom of the first round after an inconsistent year. It's hard to characterize his biggest strength because he is solid in every aspect: he has prototypical size (6'2", 208), runs a sub-4.5 40, is a good tackler and blitzer, and played in one of the toughest college football conferences. I'm very excited to watch him, especially with our incredible pass rush - it could be easy pickings in the secondary for the good safety tandem of Phillips and Sammy Knight. After all, the pass rush made a sub-par secondary look good last year; imagine what a good secondary would look like.

- Terrell Thomas, a cornerback from USC, was taken in round two, followed by Mario Manningham, a high-upside Michigan wide receiver in round three. This will create some interesting roster battles in training camp as the Giants have seven corners and seven receivers. At least one from each group will be either cut or assigned to the practice squad.

- The givens at WR are Plax, Toomer and Smith. Moss, Manningham, Tyree and Hixon will all compete for the last few spots. I'm pulling for Manningham mostly because I want to hear announcers say "Manning to Manningham!" Hixon has a lead over the others because he's a very good kick returner, while Tyree is an excellent gunner on special teams. Moss can also return kicks but has very limited experience in that area (10 kick returns in his pro career, the last coming in 2006). My best guess is that Hixon is assigned to the practice squad, allowing Moss and Bradshaw to return kicks. Don't get me wrong, Hixon is a very good kick returner, but Bradshaw is just as good and you can't cut Tyree (the team's best gunner).

The cornerback depth chart is a bit easier to predict. The givens are Ross, Webster and Madison. That leaves Thomas, McQuarters, Dockery and Pope to fight for spots. Pope was last on the depth chart in '07 so he's most likely to be cut/reassigned. McQuarters is old (32) but is still a serviceable corner and punt returner. Dockery is very solid as a 4th corner, and usually lines up against the opponent's small, speedy receiver. Thomas is big (6'1", 202) and at the very least should be an excellent special teams gunner and occasional blitzer. My guess is Pope gets assigned to the practice squad, allowing McQuarters or Ross to return punts.


That's how I'd classify Phil Hughes' start tonight. I was hoping and expecting a solid outing but got another disappointing game where he only lasted 3.2 innings.

Can someone tell me what happened to his fastball command, an area he excelled in throughout the minors and during his first start of 2008? It's completely disappeared. That's one problem.

The killer was walking Granderson to lead-off the game. You cannot walk the lead-off hitter, whether it's in the first inning or anything inning thereafter. A 55-foot wild pitch two batters later moved two runners into scoring position, which was followed by a two-run single. Side note: if Melky Cabrera is playing center (instead of getting a day off), he holds Detroit to just one run there.

Either Al Leiter or John Flaherty made the point that of Hughes 80+ pitches, only five were not a fastball or curve (meaning a slider or changeup). Those pitches aren't bad: the changeup has good deception and the slider Hughes can throw for strikes almost at will. Using just two pitches is essentially being a reliever, except that the hitters get to face him multiple times. Maybe it's a confidence thing, but that's another problem.

Peter Abraham makes a good point that Hughes has thrown to four different catchers already this year, which might be a reason that he can't seem to get into a groove. There were at least three cross-ups with him and newly-promoted catcher Chris Stewart. Hughes hasn't had the same catcher in consecutive starts all year. That's a third problem.

Ross Ohlendorf should get a ton of credit for keeping us close, going 3.1 scoreless innings in relief (with five Ks). And it wouldn't kill us to get a hit with runners in scoring position. The Yanks had runners on 2nd and 3rd in the first - out. We loaded the bases in the 3rd with two outs - out. The bases were loaded again in the 8th - a walk garnered one run, then an out. Overall, eight runners were left in scoring position to end an inning. Ugh.

I really hope Hughes can get it together soon because the fans are turning ugly. They booed him was he walked off the mound - it was disgusting. The guy is the youngest pitcher in all MLB and is going through growing pains. Booing him will do anything but help.

Last but not least: who would replace Hughes right now? Igawa? Rasner? I'd much rather watch Hughes struggle and learn than watch guys with no future take starts away from promising pitchers. But if these poor starts continue (another 3-4 games), I wouldn't be totally averse to making him the long reliever and bringing up a Scranton starter. It would take a lot of pressure off and allow him to get his confidence back.

- The Yanks are down two of their best hitters, as Posada and Arod have been placed on the 15-day DL.

Apr 28, 2008

Oh, the mighty pen

This game was almost a pathetic excuse for one. The Yanks four-run rally in the 6th is one the weakest four-run outbursts you'll ever see: three infield hits, a line drive single, a hit batter, and two groundouts added up to four runs.

Aaron Laffey had held the Yankees hitless through the first five innings, and it seemed like another impotent night - only for Melky to start a rally with an innocent-looking well-placed bouncer.

Moose pitched another solid game, but the Cleveland hitters caught up to him in the 5th. And that's where the bullpen stepped up. Through the final four innings, Albaladejo, Farnsworth, Joba and Rivera allowed one walk, one hit, no runs and k'ed four.

Apr 25, 2008

A winnable one

According to Gameday, Hughes ranged from 92-95 tonight, so can we please stop talking about his (decreased) velocity now?

If Abreu’s double is a foot higher, the Yanks score 7 runs instead of 6. If there's no rain delay, Hughes probably goes at least five.

I had a very bad feeling when Giambi popped out with the bases juiced and was cursing at Jorge after his GDP in the 9th.

The 50-minute rain delay really sucked, because it forced Hughes out after just two innings. If he goes just 5 ip, 3 er, the team's in much better shape than what Ohlendorf put them in. In fairness to him, he pitched a great first inning, but to get through those great hitters (Thome, Konerko, Dye) it helps to have a 3rd pitch and he doesn’t have one (or doesn’t have confidence in it).

But I’ll try to be an optimist: better to lose the game in the 9th than to keep it tied well into extra innings, burning out the entire pen for the upcoming series. At least Mo is rested.

With any luck, Farnsy and Bruney will go on the DL (nothing against Bruney but he’s in a cast), and Ohlie and Moeller be sent down. That allows Shelley, along with three of Patterson, Edwar, Britton, Alby and Veras to come up to relieve the relievers.

By the way, that 1-2 fastball to Quentin in the 9th should’ve been strike 3.

PS: Another homer for Melky tonight. What a start for him (outside of some uncharacteristically below-average throws).