What Would You Do?

Andy here.  Peter and I were discussing C.C. Sabathia this morning and how his strikeout rate has dropped a bit compared to his 2008 season.  After thinking and analyzing a bit, we discovered that in 2008, his strikeout rate jumped quite a bit and in 2009 has really only returned to his normal level.

Then we got to talking about why this was.  At first we thought well, he did make 17 starts in the National League in 2008.  But if you look at this 18 starts for the Indians and 17 starts for the Brewers, his strikeout rate was virtually the same.  So the notion of National League line-ups being easier to strikeout didn’t necessarily come into play.

Lastly we settled on an answer:  Contract Year.  Sabathia probably changed his mind-set from pitching to contact with 2 strikes to pitching for the strikeout with 2 strikes.  It probably put more stress on his arm and was a potentially risky tactical decision as he could have done permanent damage (which it seems he did not).

That got us thinking about the most important question that we would like to pose to all of you:  If someone told you he would give you $160 million dollars, would you allow that person to permanently paralyze your dominant arm?

Again:  $160mm for the use of your dominant arm?  Please comment.

For the record, Peter said "Yes" in a heartbeat.  I, on the otherhand, struggled with this question.

A Big Series

Taking two-of-three in Anaheim is a big achievement for the Yankees.  They lowered their magic number to five for the AL East.  They also made it very likely that winning the AL East will clinch them the best record in the AL because Boston is closer to them in the standings than Anaheim.

Add in the way they won.  Good pitching, tight games and it definitely makes you feel good about the playoffs. AJ and Andy both pitched well and Chad Gaudin looked great until he tired.  

One thing that this game shows you is that Joe Girardi doesn’t have much use for Bruney right now.  I can’t blame him, Bruney hasn’t pitched well, but the fact that Girardi gave the ball to Ian Kennedy in the eighth with a one-run lead speaks volumes.  It was even more amazing that Josh Towers was the guy warming up in the bullpen when Kennedy got in trouble.  Right now I think you have to expect the Yankees will keep Bruney off the postseason roster and DFA him after the season.

No matter what happens in the next 48 hours, the Yankees will have at least a 5.5 game lead in the AL when Boston comes to town.  And, both authors of this blog will be attending Saturday’s game together.  Expect lots of posts, tweets and updates, assuming Andy survives a trip to the Bronx.    

Playoffs!

There was picture in the paper the other day of Michael Douglas playing Gordon Gecko on the set of the sequel to "Wall Street".  As I watched the Yankees game last night I thought of a quote from that movie.  Not "Greed is good" but this:

"Man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss." 

The Yankees kept out of the abyss last night.  They blew a 5-0 lead in hideous fashion and if they had not won, that was the type of loss that would have lingered for awhile.  Instead they rallied and moved closer to wrapping up the AL East.

And this morning you can see an "x" next to the Yankees in the standings.  Good to see that again. 

This Isn’t Working

Ok, I admit it, Joba is lost right now.  I thought this plan to start him every 5th day would give him the stability he needed, but I was wrong, it hasn’t and the Yankees have a big problem on their hands.

And the problem isn’t specifically limited to Joba.  Let’s start with the facts.  One more win or one more Texas loss and they make the playoffs.   They also lead the Red Sox by five games and the Angels by 5-1/2 with their next six games against those two teams.  3-3 or better and they should win the AL East and clinch the best record in the AL and that is the key to the playoffs.

It is the key because it would allow them to pick the ALDS where you only need three starters and that brings us back to our problem.  The Yankees don’t really have more than three starters right now and three might be stretching it.  Andy Pettitte has a huge game tonight because he has to put the fears about his cranky arm to rest.  A.J. Burnett looked a lot better last time out, but we need to see that again this week against prime competition to believe it.  If those two pass their tests then the Yankees enter the playoff with a 1-2-3 that’s good enough to win.  If not, well….

But that still leaves an empty hole where a fourth starter should go and if the Yankees reach the ALCS they will need a fourth starter.  That’s why I think they have to remove Joba from the rotation and think outside the box.

Let’s start with Joba.  He has thrown 146-2/3 innings this season.  Even if he didn’t throw another pitch this year, it would be reasonable to assume he could make it to 180 next season.  But he is going to throw more innings this year I just hope he does it from the bullpen.  Let’s move him back to the pen and get him ready to pitch in relief in the playoffs.  With a combination of Hughes and Joba in front of Rivera, the Yankees would have the ability to drastically shorten playoff games.  You could ask your starter to give you five innings and then bring in Joba for two, Hughes for one and Mo for one.  That is probably the Yankees best chance to win in 2009.

Moving Joba out of the rotation means you need to find a potential fourth starter for the ALCS.  Chad Gaudin walks way too many guys, but he has pitched well since coming over.  He is now a starter since Girardi finally realized Mitre wasn’t cutting it and he gets the first crack.  But the Yankees need a contingency plan and that is where Ian Kennedy comes into the picture.  The Yankees need to get Kennedy out there and see if he can get big leaguers out.   

Kennedy pitched three perfect innings in AAA last week and struck out six.  The Yankees have him on the roster and there is no reason why they couldn’t stretch him out over the final weeks of the season to be able to pitch five innings.  As I noted above, with Joba in the bullpen that is all the Yankees need right now and if Kennedy can pitch five good innings, he becomes a candidate for the fourth starter spot in the playoffs.

All of this assumes the Yankees realize that the Joba plan isn’t working.  Cashman and Girardi have done a ton of things right this season, but they still show a troubling tendency to let things that are broken stay broken for far too long.  (For examples think of Mitre as a starter or Angel Berroa sitting on the 25-man roster)  Admitting Joba isn’t up to starting right now isn’t a stretch.  Having him pitch out of the bullpen at this point really won’t hurt his long term development and it would make the Yankees better.  Isn’t that what you want heading into October? 

Congrats, Boston

Yup, those are words I do not like to write above, but Boston has gotten a great reporter from New York.  Pete Abe is leaving The Journal News and heading to the Boston Globe

It’s impossible to criticize him for this choice, the Boston Globe is THE GLOBE no matter what people think of it.  The Journal News is…well let’s just say it’s a paper in Westchester.  Too bad the New York Times wasn’t hiring.

Good luck Pete and enjoy him Red Sox fans, you picked up a hell of a reporter.   

 

Hmmmm…..

So tonight in Scranton, Ian Kennedy threw three perfect innings at while striking out six.  Over the three innings he pitched, he managed 43 pitches. 

I am just wondering if the Yankees will think about bringing him up to the majors next week.  Sergio isn’t doing it, but look beyond that.  The playoffs are looming and other than Sabathia, who do you trust?  AJ is a mess, Pettitte has shoulder fatigue and Joba is a mystery at this point.  What is the downside of bringing Kennedy up to the majors and giving him three more starts against "real" hitters this season?   He could quickly become a big part of a playoff rotation. 

Extreme Makeover

Daisuke Matsuzaka showed up at Fenway Tuesday night and was unrecognizable.

First things first, I will say it knowing that respected media outlet will not; Daisuke lost a ton of weight.  He looked healthy and clearly lost his pudge.  This was evident from the first glimpse of him warming up in the bullpen.  His uniform was baggy, as opposed to “filled-out” in his earlier starts this season.

Secondly, he attacked hitters and showed things we haven’t seen from him before.  He leaned heavily on his fastball and was able to locate the pitch.  He seemed to work faster and dictated the pace of the game, a very nice development as I’ve always said watching Matsuzaka can be painful because he works so slowly.

We also saw an interesting thing between innings.  During what would have been his warm-up throws, Matsuzaka stood about 10 feet behind the mound and aired out several throws to catcher Jason Varitek.  I don’t know the reason behind this, but I suspect it is the Red Sox meeting Matsuzaka in the middle philosophically.  He was quoted earlier this year in a Japanese newspaper that he didn’t think he could succeed with the regimen the Red Sox prescribed.

My guess is the Red Sox told him to get in shape and in returned said they’d be more willing to let him incorporate his past (i.e. Japanese) training techniques which, while unorthodox in the States, seemed to work just fine for him in Japan.

All in all, a great night for the Red Sox and Matsuzaka as with Tim Wakefield gimpy (that’s being kind) and Paul Byrd being Paul Byrd, the Red Sox had no rotational depth.  One start isn’t enough to label this a season saved for Matsuzaka, but it is a nice first step.

2010 Should Be Fun

MLB released the preliminary 2010 schedule today and the Yankees will have some interesting games.  Start with the season opener in Fenway and two more games there, followed by three in Tampa.  How’s that for a quick start?

The home opener is Tuesday the 13th against the Angels.

The first six Yankees-Red Sox games are in Boston and the Red Sox come to New York for two games in May. 

Interesting road trip in June after playing the Mets at home: 3@Arizona and 3@the Dodgers.  (Hello, Joe!)

Just like this year, the Yankees play Boston in May and then don’t see them again until hosting a four-game set in August.  

The season wraps up with a six-game road trip.  3@Toronto and 3 back where everything started-Boston.

 

Another Who Do You Root For?

So tonight we have Angels vs. Red Sox, a likely preview of Round 1 of the ALDS.  As a Yankee fan who do you root for? 

The reason I ask is because the Yankees are 7.5 up in the AL East over Boston and 6 up on the Angels for best record in the AL.  The nice thing for a Yankees’ fan is that over the next three days, these teams are going to combine for three losses.  Whichever way is happens, it’s a good thing no matter what. 

Interesting Move

T

The Yankees DFA’ed Anthony Clagget today and added "Fast" Freddy Gonzalez to the roster.  Clagget was a guy who probably was going to be removed from the 40-man after the season anyway, righties who are 25 with low strikeout rates are plentiful, so don’t worry about losing him. 

Gonzalez on the other hand has only one skill, he can run and run very well.  Now, baserunning ability is important and a stolen base in the postseason can be very important, but how will the Yankees shape the postseason roster?

As I mentioned here, the Yankees can take 11 pitchers and 14 position players becasue of how the roster was set August 31st.   Thanks to Nady’s injury, they can add Gonzalez to the postseason roster without a problem.  They can also add Gardner, who wasn’t on the roster August 31st since he was hurt.  What they cannot do is add Ramiro Pena or Francisco Cervelli since they weren’t on the roster August 31st and there were not any injured infielders on the 40-man (though I suppose they could try and reclassify Pena as an outfielder)

You would have to think that they are looking at Gonzalez because they plan on carrying 14 hitters. That means we have a mini-battle right now between Duncan and Gonzalez.  One gives you a power bat, the other speed.  You could make a good argument for either one, let’s see what happens over the next few weeks.