How About A Laugh?

I was doing some research for a post that is coming this weekend (teaser!) and I stumbled upon this quote from Johnny Damon in the May 3, 2005 New York Times:

"There’s no way I can go play for the Yankees, but I know they are going to come after me hard. It’s definitely not the most important thing to go out there for the top dollar, which the Yankees are going to offer me. It’s not what I need."

 

 

A Clue On Jorge?

Scranton started play at 11am today and Chad Moeller was catching with Jesus Montero DH’ing. That tells me the Yankees are not overly concerned about Jorge’s leg because they wouldn’t use both of their AAA catchers in today’s game if they felt one of them might need to get to Baltimore in time for tonight’s game. 

I wouldn’t expect to see Jorge catch tonight, but it seems like he doesn’t have a significant injury. 

The First Hiccup Of 2010

Sooner or later it was going to happen.  The Yankees were going to go through a stretch where they didn’t play very well and that time has arrived.  Losers of 3-of-4, New York is floundering a bit right now and it might be time for Brian Cashman to make a tweak to the roster.

I think we can all agree that the bullpen stands out as the biggest culprit of these loses.  Joba gave up the big homer Friday.  The intentional walk reversal on Sunday led to a home run off of Marte and Logan and Robertson combined to lose last night’s game.  

Now Joba and Marte aren’t going anywhere.  Joba has pitched pretty well and Marte is making $4 million this year.  Aceves has pitched decently and Marte is the best of the bunch right now so that leaves Robertson and Logan.

I wouldn’t give up on Robertson yet, because the evidence points to him being incredibly unlucky more than anything.  He is still striking out a ton of guys and his walks are actually down compared to last year.  His fastball is averaging 91.7 mph, the exact number it was last season.  He is getting more ground balls than he ever has and he is allowing fewer line drives.  So why is he getting killed?  Because hitters are hitting .600 against him when they put a ball in play.

That’s a function mostly of luck and the Yankees would be wise to let Robertson keep pitching in the bigs for now.  With Logan it comes down to what do you think is going to help this team more- a lefty specialist or another arm in the pen?  I made the case against Logan and for Melancon in this post and I think it still applies.  If Melancon isn’t to the Yankees liking, how about another shot for Albie (0.77 ERA in AAA right now) Either way, the Yankees should take advantage of their relievers with options and make an adjustment to the pen. 

Confounding

The one thing we were all sure of was that the Red Sox would have good starting pitching.  Maybe not the best, but decent at worst.

Through 21 games, the Red Sox are 10-11.  Red Sox starters are 5-6 with a 5.27 ERA.  Opposing batters are hitting .291/.363/.449/.812 against them.  That’s not going to get it done.

In fact, one of the bigger question marks in the rotation, Clay Buchholz, has been by far the best pitcher thus far posting 2-2 record with a 2.19 ERA.  Compare that to Josh Beckett: 1-0, 7.22 ERA, Jon Lester: 0-2, 6.23 ERA, John Lackey: 2-1, 5.09 ERA and Tim Wakefield: 0-1, 5.40 ERA.

What’s going on here?  Each starter has made 4 or 5 starts and at this point, should have mixed in a few good turns in the rotation.  I’m not worried long-term, but these games do matter.

Another confounding, yet less surprising issue is the Red Sox inability to stop base stealers.  Red Sox catchers have stopped 2 of 38 stolen base attempts which is about 5%.  They say a player should only attempt a stolen base if there is a 75% or so chance or better of success.  In other words, have at it opposition.  In fact, I’m stunned every last team hasn’t tried to steal second every chance they’ve had.  Why not?

Obviously opposing catchers and DH’s might not be wise to steal, but everyone else should be making the 90 foot dash.  Do it until the Red Sox can stop it.

My next post will address that lack of excitement and aura being created by this Red Sox edition.  I’m not feeling the excitement with this crew and I’m interested in figuring out why.

I Never Knew

If I were going to make a list of things I don’t know about, we would be here a long time, but I never thought that something about the Yankees would make that list.  While I cannot recite the starting lineups since 1950, I do consider myself to be a pretty knowledgeable fan when it comes to baseball and the Bombers.

So, I was somewhat taken aback when I learned that there were lyrics to the Yankees’ theme song.  From watching plenty of Yankees’ games on Channel 11, I can hum that song in my sleep, but I never knew it had words!  And apparently the writer wrote a number of other songs as well

So Yankees’ fans, did you know about the words or did you assume like I did that there weren’t any words attached to the tune?

Use Your Eyes Joe!

Watching yesterday’s game was like watching Game 3 of the ALCS Joe Girardi went to "the book" and it cost the Yankees.  Yes, Kendry Morales is a better hitter against RHP than LHP, but all Girardi needed to do was look at what his LHP was doing.  He walked Abreu, he hit Hunter, he got a lucky out against Matsui, it certainly seemed like it wasn’t going to be Marte’s day.  That’s why it made a lot of sense to intentionally walk Morales.  For whatever reason, Morales kills the Yankees and putting him on was a safe move.  Having Marte be the one to put him on made even more sense because then Robertson could come in and try and throw strikes to Rivera.  But for some unknown reason, Girardi changed his mind after ball 1 and the rest as they say is history.

Now, it’s important to note the Yankees were losing the game at the time so who knows if they would have mounted a comeback.  You can’t say that Girardi’s call lost them the game, but you have to hope he learns something from this.

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As Yogi said, "it’s getting late early" with Javy Vazquez.  What you had to hope for as a Yankees’ fan was that Vazquez would go out to Oakland and Anaheim and pitch well.  Instead he was mediocre against the A’s and terrible against the Angels.  Yes, Marcus Thames should have caught that ball, but a good pitcher picks up his fielders and Vazquez is not a good pitcher right now. 

The bigger problem is this has a good chance of turning into an Ed Whitson situation.  For those of you who don’t remember Whitson, he was a Yankee pitcher in the mid 80′s who was so viciously booed at home that the Yankees started using him only on the road.  Vazquez isn’t there yet, but if he gets bombed on Saturday things are going to get ugly.  Fans are not going to care that Melky has a .440 OPS (yup .440) or that Vizcaino has a plus-4 ERA right now, they are going to want blood. Saturday’s game is going to be a big one.

A Perfect Fit

Brett Gardner is probably not going to his .333 and reach base at a .440 clip this season.  He is also most likely going to end up with a slugging percentage below .400.  While that won’t profile as your typical leftfielder, for this team, Gardner holds tremendous value if he can get on base around .360 and keep up his current level of patience.

What this Yankees’ team is all about is wearing down pitchers and Gardner has done an excellent job of doing that, seeing 4.3 pitches per plate appearance.  That’s good for 10th in the AL and part of an offense that has 5 hitters in the top 18 of the league.   (Does it shock anyone that Nick Johnson leads the team at 4.58 with Swisher second at 4.36?)  When your number 9 hitter can be that patient, it puts tremendous strain on the pitcher, as he doesn’t have the traditional "quick" outs to get at the bottom of the order.

Throw in the fact that Gardner plays plus defense and if you put him on first he is probably getting to second and you have a pretty potent weapon.  It wouldn’t work on every team, but with all the thunder in the Yankees’ lineup, they can use some lightning.   Gardner can just focus on getting on base and getting into scoring position for the top of the lineup to drive him in. 

I think Joe Girardi is realizing this because today’s lineup has Gardner making his second-straight start against a LHP.  Girardi doesn’t have to start him against every lefty, Marcus Thames has shown that he can still mash lefty pitching,  but I hope he runs Gardner out there 140+ times this year. 

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On a separate note, Joe Girardi gave David Robertson a big vote of confidence in his interview with Mike Francesca today.  Girardi said that since Joba and Mo have pitched two days in a row he won’t use Joba and probably won’t use Mo.  Girardi then said Marte would probably be used against lefties in the ninth and Robertson against any righties.  It will be interesting to see if Girardi sticks to that in a one-run game, but at 1:40 EDT today those are his thoughts.

Hardly A Shock

Apparently, Joe Girardi has named Joba as the 8th-inning guy this year.  In other news, General Franco is still dead.

Once the Yankees moved Joba out of the rotation, the only logical spot for him was the 8th inning.  By leaving the rotation, Joba became the heir to Mo.  While there is a chance the Yankees could put him back into the rotation in 2011, I find it unlikely they will do so.  Unless Joba bombs in the 8th inning this year, the Yankees would have a hard time explaining a decision to reverse course yet again. 

What will be much more interesting is what happens if Joba excels in the setup role this season.  Let’s say he pitches like he did in 2007 and dominates the league.  Mariano is a free agent after the season and while the Yankees will certainly attempt and sign him, I don’t know how many years they are going to offer.  Even if Mo pitches like he always does this year, he is going to be 41.  I am sure the Yankees will offer him the biggest contract on a per-year basis, but will they offer him the most years?  Would Mariano take a three-year deal from another team?  I don’t know the answers to those questions, but Joba in the 8th inning could give the Yankees a hedge if they have to take an unpopular stance against a franchise great come November. 

Fun, Needed Win

Well Darnell McDonald knows how to please the home crowd.  In his Red Sox debut Tuesday night, McDonald hit a game tying 2-run home run in the 8th and then delivered a game winning, walk-off hit in the bottom of the 9th.

McDonald was called up today when the Red Sox put both Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron on the DL.  Arriving from Pawtucket with McDonald was Josh Reddick, who also had a good game driving in 2 runs.

So the new guys got it done offensively and the Red Sox bullpen showed up and shut the door.

A good win and a fun game, especially from the 6th inning on.  The Red Sox need to build off this.

In what might be a clear signal on how things might go from here, David Ortiz was pulled for a pinch hitter, a sign that Terry Francona will not let Ortiz scuffle his way out of a slump.  Francona must realize that these April games count just as much as the September games.

Is This Working?

The Red Sox made a clear shift from bashing to defense this off-season.  The players they got to play defense aren’t totally inept at offense, but they are best known for their defense.  Well, at least Adrian Beltre and Mike Cameron are, Scutaro is known for holding his own defensively.

Thus far, each has cost his team a victory.  In the opening season series against the Yankees Scutaro’s low thrown allowed the winning run to score.

On this past Friday night’s game (continued on Saturday), Adrian Beltre lost an infield flare in the lights allowing the first run of the game.  The Red Sox tied it and would have won it in 9 had Beltre made the play, instead the TB Rays won it in extra innings.

Lastly, Mike Cameron made a game changing/losing error in the top of the 1st on Saturday’s game (the 2nd one) which led to a 4 run inning instead of a 0 run inning had be made the catch.

It is early, but so far this defense experiment isn’t working with the Red Sox 4-8.  For those savvy with number crunching, how many times did the Red Sox go 4-8 (or worst) in any 12 game stretch last season?

It’s easy to blame the new guys on defense, but we are really looking at a perfect storm of lousiness.  The starting pitching, bullpen and offense are all stinking a bit.

Extended spring training is over boys, time to pay attention and win a few games.