The Lefty Specialist

Some people on the radio this morning and in the papers have been killing Phil Coke for giving up that home run to Mauer last night.  Considering that Mauer is hitting .384/.459/.639 no pitcher should hang his head after getting beaten by him, but the argument seems to be that Coke’s job is to be a lefty specialist and he failed at his job.

My problem is that the numbers say that is not necessarily the best job description for Coke.  There is no denying that Coke is tough on lefties.  For his career he has held them to a line of .186/.212/.351.  The problem is he has been tougher on righties, holding them to a line of .147/.256/.240.  One thing that really jumps out at you with Coke is that while he is more likely to strikeout a lefty batter, 104 faced with 29 K’s, he is also more likely to give up a home run to one, 4 lefties have left the park.  Against righties, Coke has allowed only one homer in 87 plate appearances.  

And that’s my problem with Girardi pigeonholing Coke as a lefty specialist, it does not use him effectively because Coke’s numbers are spectacular either side of the plate.  Now in the current pen, both Robertson and Aceves are actually tougher on lefties than righties (the difference is small but there) yet neither one of them would be used as a "lefty specialist" because they are righties.  Coke shouldn’t be either, he should be used as one of the best bets in the bullpen to get anybody out.  

For now, if Girardi wants to use him against lefties, that’s fine.  But, he shouldln’t use him for a lefty and pull him, chances are he is going to a worse, right-handed, option than Coke.  When Marte comes back, that’s your lefty specialist because lefties have hit .200/.297/.292 against him in his career while righties have hit .241/.329/.394

The problem is Marte is making $4 million a year and Coke pitches for the league minimum.  Will Girardi ignore that and use Marte against a batter or two with Coke pitching more innings?  One can only hope so.   




I got a kick out of this story about Molina being activated and Cervelli sent down, specifically this quote: "But at 23 years old, Cervelli cannot yet match Molina’s offensive production"

First, what does being 23 have to do with it?  Albert Pujols hit pretty well at that age, so did a lot of players.

But more importantly, Cervelli has matched Molina’s offenisve production.  For his career Molina is a .238/.278/.340 hitter.  Cervelli (admittedly in only 78 AB’s) is .269/.284/.346, pretty much the same as Molina.  Plus, Cervelli is much better on the bases and he threw out 48% of the runners trying to steal on him.

Cervelli is going to go down to AAA and play everyday.  Much like they did with Pena, this is the right move for the 2010 Yankees.  Presumeably, Cervelli has shown the Yankees enough that he will be the backup in 2010 and Molina will be free to look elsewhere.  For 2009, it is debatable that this is the right move, but I don’t think it makes enough of a difference to debate it. However, if the Yankees are asked about trading Molina, they should not hesitate.

One other note about catchers.  Jesus Montero has a .505 slugging percentage in Trenton- a notorious pitcher’s  park.  It’s too early to put a lot of stock in that, but if he keeps that up Cervelli will have some serious competition for the backup spot in 2010. 

Aceves To The Rotation- My Plan

The Yankees have decided to let Aceves take the start on Thursday.  I am not a huge fan of this decision because Aceves pitched Sunday, throwing 43 pitches.  How much will he have available on three-days rest Thursday?  Plus, using him Thursday basically takes him out of action this weekend and leaves the bullpen exposed if they need innings in LA this weekend.  (Not exactly a long shot with Joba starting Friday)

So, here’s what I hope the Yankees do with Aceves.  Pitch him as long as he can go on Thursday and then immediately demote him to Staten Island after the game.  Staten Island is one of the few clubs that is playing next week, versus taking a break for an All-Star Game.  The Yankees could then start Aceves on regular rest (July 14th) in the minors and bulid up his pitch count.  He has to stay in the minors for ten days, but the Yankees would not need him to start again until July 21st, so that wouldn’t be a problem since they could activate him in time.  You could recall an arm from Scranton for this upcoming weekend (Ramirez, Clagget or Melnacon) and therefore not leave yourself short in the pen. 

By doing this plan you get the best of both worlds.  Aceves becomes the starter in place of Wang and you don’t leave yourself short in the pen.  That’s what I call win-win.   

Tuesday Trivia

Ok, new feature here at, Tuesday Trivia.  Each week I will post a baseball question and give you 24 hours to answer in the comments.  Sometimes they will be Yankees related (like this week) but not always.

Anyway, here is the first question:

How many former Rookies of the Year have played for the Yankees in 2009?  As a bonus, name them. 

Bates Motel

The Red Sox called up Aaron Bates to take the place of Jeff Bailey (ankle sprain, DL stint).  Bates is a bit of a surprise as he was just promoted to AAA Pawtucket and has struggled going .182/.273/.295 in 99 plate appearances.

Bates did crush the ball earlier this year while with AA Portland posting .340/.405/.505 in 232 PAs.

More surprising is that Bates is being thrust into the mix playing 1b tonight and hitting 9th.  Terry Francona certainly does like to get his players involved.  Mark Kotsay, the other obvious 1b, was quoted on as saying he has a calf issue and just needs to take it easy for a bit.

The Boston Globe ran a piece on Bates about a month ago and what has lead to his recent success.

Another interesting note is the return of Nomar Garciaparra.  This will mark his first return to Fenway.  I believe he was on the DL when another team of his played in Boston, but this should be the first time he actually confronts the Fenway Faithful.  My bet is a standing ovation.  Time heals…


How About Pedro?

There are few guys who Yankees’ fans have hated more over the past 15 years than Pedro Martinez.  The guy was an amazing pitcher with an enormous ego, two things that didn’t endear him to New York crowds.  And there was the infamous brawl at Fenway where Pedro and Don Zimmer mixed it up. 

But, Johnny Damon wasn’t exactly a fan favorite pre-2006 and Roger Clemens and Wade Boggs were welcomed in the Bronx, so why not Pedro?  At this point he is asking for a pro-rated deal of $5 million, or about $2.5 million to pitch the remainder of the season.  Now, I don’t know what the scouts are saying, but if he has shown that he can throw, why not take a chance on him?  

At this point the Yankees are going to pick a fifth starter out of a hat and since that is where we are, why not try Pedro?  Yeah he costs some money, but that isn’t a problem for the Yankees.  Plus, if he pitches well and Wang returns, can you imagine having Pedro in the bullpen?  It’s all probably way too far-fetched for Brian Cashman, but it would be pretty wild to see. 


The Yankees are going to have to keep their fingers crossed on Chien-Ming Wang, because if he is hurt they don’t have a lot of apparent answers for who takes his spot in the rotation.  You have to assume that Hughes isn’t in shape to start anymore and could probably only last 2-3 innings.  Aceves could probably throw 40-50 pitches, but that isn’t going to get it done.  Brett Tomko is probably in the same boat.

In the minors, Ian Kennedy is recovering from surgery and the other guys on the 40-man roster are either in AA or relievers right now.  That means we are going to have to find someone else and the first name that comes to mind is…gulp..Kei Igawa.  Now I suggested trying Igawa over Tomko a few weeks ago and I am sticking to that idea.  Worst thing that happens is you add him to the 40-man, he starts and gets bombed.  You can then pass him through waivers, or gladly see another team claim him and his $10 million remaining salary, and send him back to the minors.  

If the Yankees don’t go that route, Sergio Mitre is probably the answer.  Five starts with Scranton and a 3.26 era.  Other than that, there isn’t much.  I guess it is too bad Casey Fossum signed with the Iowa Cubs yesterday.   

UPDATE: Per Pete Abe, Wang to the DL  As he also points out they need a starter for Thursday and then have the All-Star Break.  They could then use the break to insure that Wang’s spot doesn’t come up again until July 21st. Technically, he could return from the DL in time for that start, but of course he won’t.  Unfortunately, the Yankees come out of the break with 17-straight games so they will need someone at that point.

A Sensible Approach

Kudos to Joe Girardi for tonight’s lineup.  Against a tough lefty he moved Cano down to 6 (not a bad idea no matter who is pitching) and he let A-Rod DH instead of Matsui. 

I imagine it didn’t escape the Yankees notice that Mike Lowell went on the DL yesterday because of his hip.  Lowell had the full operation last offseason and was "worn down a bit" (his manager’s words)  It doesn’t sound like Lowell will be out long, but the point is having this surgery and playing baseball may not be the best combination.  

It probably also didn’t escape the Yankees’ notice that A-Rod has been a different player since getting his mini-vacation in Florida.  He is 11-31 with 4 homers and keeping him fresh has to be a priority over the remainder of the season.  

That’s why the addition of Eric Hinske is great.  I know everyone is jumping on the "Hinske can’t play third well" bandwagon, but really so what?  The guy has played there before and even the best third basemen in the game only turn something close to three outs a game.   I am not suggesting they use Hinske if Wang is on the mound and I would definitely get someone else in there if the game is close, but for one start a week against a righty pitcher, he should be fine.

The biggest test of A-Rod will be when the Yankees head to Minnesota next week.  The Twins of course play on turf and that is not something great for tender players.  The rotation is currently setup to have Wang pitch Thursday and I would want A-Rod playing third for that, but maybe they can get Hinske out there for Tuesday and Wednesday.  

It will be interesting to see how Girardi uses A-Rod from this point forward.  Hopefully the addition of Hinske makes him more comfortable resting him.  If not, Brian Cashman has to step in and mandate that he does.