Too Much Pitching?

No, that won’t be the Yankees’ problem when Phil Hughes and Bartolo Colon come back, but they will have some tough decisions to make. For instance, what are they going to do with Ivan Nova? Throw out his first three starts and he has a 3.60 ERA. Putting him in the bullpen as the long guy is probably the route they will take, but it will be a tough blow to a guy just establishing himself as a major league pitcher. If they do go that route, I hope they think outside the box and try him in the later innings, instead of automatically making him the long guy. Considering his reliance on two pitches (89.6% of his pitches this year have been either a fastball or a curve) you could make the argument his stuff would play better in the pen.

Furthermore, if they move Nova and Gordon out of the rotation who gets sent down to AAA? Buddy Carlyle is the obvious candidate, but who will be the second one? If I am right about Nova becoming a short reliever, then it probably makes sense to send Noesi down to get some innings under his belt. That would leave a pen of- Rivera, Robertson, Nova, Ayala, Logan, Wright and Gordon.

Finally, what will the timing of the moves be? There is some talk of starting Colon against the Mets this weekend. To me that is just stupid as the pitcher will have to hit and the less running Colon does the better. Plus, Gordon was a hitter before he became a pitcher, so why not give him the ball one last time?

Assuming the Yankees come to their senses and realize Colon should be nowhere near a bat they would then have the final seven games before the break to get Colon and Hughes back into the rotation. If Jeter comes back that week as well, it could make for an interesting stretch of games.

Bet The House

Certain things are inevitable. The swallows always return to Capistrano on March 19th and the Yankees will bring Sergio Mitre back to the Bronx.

Mitre was DFA’ed by the Brewers last night and I would bet anything the Yankees bring him back. Chad Jennings already posted this depressing piece- it’s really just a matter of time now. And don’t be fooled by Mitre’s ERA of 3.27, it’s an illusion. His strikeout rates are down to 3.8 per 9 in the NL while his other numbers have stayed almost constant from last year. What hasn’t changed is his incredible luck on balls in play. Hitters are only averaging .227 when they put the ball in play against him. When that changes, and it will, that ERA is going to soar.

Mitre part 2 will be depressingly familiar. It is just a continuation of the Yankees insistence on looking outside the organization instead of inside of it. We saw it with Ivan Nova last year and we can see it with Hector Noesi this year. Instead of being given the opportunity to pitch in meaningful spots, they are used inconsistently or demoted to the minors.

Noesi came into the season ranked the #8 prospect in the organization by Baseball America and while he wasn’t projected to be an ace, he was projected to be a starter in the majors. Yet, nearly halfway through the season he has thrown a total of 39 innings between AAA and the bigs. The Yankees have wasted 1/2 a season of potential development by not using him consistently.

It’s weird because the Yankees did the “right” thing coming out of camp and gave Nova a rotation spot. They could have given it to Colon, he had certainly pitched well in camp, but they went with the rookie and while he hasn’t dominated, he has shown enough to say their decision was a good one. But instead of trying to find the next Nova, they keep looking for the next Aaron Small or the next Shawn Chacon, two guys who had miraculous seasons in 2005 and then never came close to repeating them again. In baseball terms it is swinging for the fences every at bat. Sometimes a solid double is all you need.

I Feel Old

Sometime about 25-30 years ago I remember attending an Old Timer’s Day at Yankee Stadium. I remember the introductions and I remember not knowing anything about the guys they were introducing. Sure, when Mantle and DiMaggio were announced last (they were together) I knew what was going on, but most of it meant nothing to me because I didn’t recognize the players.

Today was different. A guy a few weeks younger than I am, Aaron Small, became an “old timer”. I knew almost all of the names and in my mind I could picture them all. I could see Oscar Gamble and his huge ‘fro parking one in right. Guidry using that effortless delivery to get another K. Bernie running like a horse around the bases. Strawberry’s amazing swing. Hayes squeezing a popup. Jackson uppercutting another ball. Barfield nailing another guy trying to advance. Mick the quick rounding third. Cone, Boomer, Lloyd, Nelson, Kelly…these were the guys I saw with my own eyes.

Old Timer’s Day represents the best things about baseball. Who was better- DiMaggio or Pujols, Jeter or Ripken, Mantle or Mays? Pick a side and make your argument, you may be right, you may be wrong, but no one can say for sure. Future generations will envy us because we actually saw Pujols, Jeter and Rivera play just like we envy those who actually saw Robinson, Williams and Mantle.

As James Earl Jones said in “Field of Dreams”

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.

Somewhere out there is a 10-year old who will burst onto the scene in the 2020′s to challenge all the records. I can’t wait to see him and compare him to Pujols, Ripken, Schmidt….

What Did You Expect Him To Say?

I really can’t believe Girardi’s statement that Jeter is the leadoff hitter is garnering so much attention. Did you really expect him to say anything other than what he said? Let’s review some facts.

1- Girardi and the Yankees got killed (rightfully) for the way they handled Posada’s demotion in the lineup.

2- Jeter is not current eligible to play and therefore cannot take any spot in the lineup.

3- Jeter is currently in Tampa and therefore not with the team.

Based on those three facts, is there any reason on Earth for Girardi to say anything besides what he did? Of course not, it would be creating a huge story that doesn’t need to be created.

Everyone knows Jeter should not be leading off (except perhaps against LHP), that’s not the issue. The issue is how to handle that move. I’ve thrown in my two cents, but the Yankees are going to have to be extremely careful with this. I’ve seen people dismiss the whole issue and say things like Jeter should stop letting his ego run the Yankees. I hate to break this to you, but Jeter’s ego is what has brought him to the brink of 3,000 hits. Every successful person believes in him or herself and that is part of the reason they are successful. Now some athletes do realize their skills are declining and accept a reduced role, but I would argue that is more the exception than the rule. And remember, if reports are true, Jeter thought he was worth a six-year deal this offseason. That’s not a stance taken by a guy who thinks he has nothing left in the tank.

The Yankees are going to have to figure this one out on their own. Maybe they decide that the internal damage of a Jeter move would be too great. I wouldn’t like that decision, but since I am not in that clubhouse everyday, I would have to respect it. Sooner or later the move will be made. Just don’t expect it to be done on a rainy day in Cincinnati when Jeter is on the DL and 1,000 miles away from the team.

What I Saw

I went to last night’s Yankee game. It was a perfect night for baseball, not too hot, not too cold. The beers on the Mailbu Sun Deck tasted better than usual. Allow me a few more observations from last night’s game.

If Eduardo Nunez keeps playing like this, the Yankees have a problem. He was everything the 2011 Jeter isn’t last night. He showed range, he showed power, he showed speed. Granted, it is only one game and even if he hits .500 while Jeter is hurt Jeter is getting his job back, but the Yankees need to start managing Jeter with a shorter leash.

Start with his ridiculous comments before going on the DL that “we’ve played one man short before”. I know he wants to play, but the DL was the only sensible move, especially when you consider the Yankees are about to play six games with NL rules. They could not afford to keep a guy who would be hurt for a week on the bench under those circumstances.

But it goes further than that. Jeter can’t hit righties anymore. Last year he hit .246/.316/.317 against them. This year he is hitting .246/.294/.297 against them. I know the Yankees are not about to platoon him, but they have to get him out of the leadoff spot against righties. Gardner is hitting .286/.359/.447 against RHP. Put him in there, or just slide Granderson into the leadoff spot against righties. Either way, Jeter has to be hitting 7th or 8th against RHP. He can stay in the leadoff spot against LHP, he still hits them (.299/.405/.403). This will have to be handled delicately. Wait until he gets his 3,000th hit and find a road game that won’t be on National TV and make the move. The conversations should start soon, but the move has to be made.

Some other observations from the game. A-Rod had a long talk with Rob Thomson while Texas had a meeting on the mound. A few pitches later, he stole third as part of a double steal, nice work.

Ivan Nova had nothing, absolutely nothing going for him, but he gutted out five-plus innings. Nice to see.

I saw Ramiro Pena go deep. I am still in shock.

Cory Wade looked good, but why do the Yankees keep going outside the organization to fill bullpen and rotation holes? Kevin Whelan has been lights out at Scranton. Hector Noesi has been awesome this year. Why do they keep turning to guys like Wade and today’s starter, Gordon, over homegrown talent? They did the same thing last year choosing Dustin Moseley to start over Nova in July and August and it frustrates me. Gordon has fantastic numbers at AAA, but he is 32. Noesi is 24.

Anyway, the Yankees could sweep this afternoon to finish the homestand 6-4, but even 5-5 would be a bit of a victory after the way it started.

Blah

There’s a great scene in the movie “Stripes” that captures my mood perfectly this morning. Bill Murray quits his job as a cabbie by stopping on a bridge and throwing his keys in the river. He returns home to find his car repossessed and then his girlfriend dumps him. After she leaves, he utters the words, “And then, depression sets in.” Hard to feel anything but depressed after last night’s game. The 7th inning was a horror show and the Yankees let the Red Sox beat them up.

The thing is, the Yankees can forget about Boston for two months now. They won’t face them again until August 5th. It’s somewhat eerie, but the Yankees are currently almost exactly in the same place as they were in 2009. On June 11th, 2009, the Red Sox completed a sweep of the Yankees to improve to 8-0 against them on the seasonand take a two-game lead over New York. That Yankees team had a record nearly identical to this one (34-26/33-27). That Yankee team went 69-33 the rest of the way. That team had a big bullpen problem that they didn’t solve until late June with Phil Hughes moving to the pen. What will this team do over the next 100 or so games? That is the $200-million question.

Ouch

Bad news as the Yankees just announced Joba has a ligament tear and will miss the rest of the season. It’s getting a little empty in that bullpen.

David Robertson has been Houdini, but his walk rate of 6.9 per 9 innings is going to kill him if he doesn’t fix it. Boone Logan has a nice ERA, but he has been terrible against lefties. Luis Ayala looks good, but can you trust him to keep it going? Anyone want to bet on Pendleton?

The Yankees need to think about trying some of their AAA arms out before heading to the trade market. Kevin Whelan seems to have finally put it together this year with 30K’s in 27 innings and a 1.67 ERA. Tim Norton, a former prospect who was sidelined for a couple of years, obliterated AA and made his first AAA appearance last night, striking out 2 in 1 inning and giving up a hit. He’s 28, so there isn’t a lot of downside to rushing him.

As for the rest of the club, I want to see some snarl tonight. The Red Sox are eating their lunch and I haven’t seen anyone stand up and say enough. Win or lose, that’s what I want to see.

Back later.

See You In July

The Yankees claimed Jeff Marquez off of waivers today and sent Hector Noesi down to AAA. To make room on the 40-man roster, Eric Chavez was moved to the 60-day DL, which means he won’t be eligible to return to the bigs for another month.

Marquez was picked by the Yankees 41st overall in the 2004 draft, a miserable effort put in by the Yankees decision makers. Other than Phil Hughes, Marquez and Michael Dunn are the only two players who reached the majors as Yankees (Marquez does so tonight) and Dunn only gave them 4 innings. The Yankees took Chris Davis in the draft, but didn’t sign him, he has hit 42 homers for Texas over parts of four seasons. Not one other player from that draft class even made the bigs. It’s an amazing display of futility considering the Yankees had 5 picks in the first 100 that year and another reason that Brian Cashman taking control of the entire organization in 2005-06 was a good thing.

I wouldn’t expect Marquez to be around for long. Clearly, Noesi wasn’t going to be available for awhile after throwing 71 pitches last night but I don’t expect that the Yankees will keep him in the minors any longer than the ten days he has to stay. By opening a spot on the 40-man, the Yankees could have promoted anyone they wanted from the minors. Choosing a guy with 1 career appearance in the bigs and a 3.97 in AAA this year leads me to believe that Marquez will be on a very short leash.

Two other notes before tonight’s game. First, Mark Teixeira is in the lineup and playing first. He is one tough hombre. Second, best wishes to Jorge Posada and his son who underwent his 8th operation today for craniosynostosis.

And let’s add another note to this post because the word just came down that Joba is headed to the DL and Amaury Sanit is coming back up. Joba has a strained flexor and will start throwing in 10-14 days. That’s a huge loss and I guess you can assume Ayala is the 7th inning guy and Robertson the 8th inning guy right now. Buddy Carlyle threw four innings in AAA the other day, so I assume that is why Sanit got the call.

Finally, Russell Martin’s back locked up and he is “day-to-day”. Since Posada is with his son, Francisco Cervelli better stay healthy tonight.

Payback Is Coming

I don’t think Jon Lester was trying to hit Mark Teixeira, but that doesn’t matter much. It doesn’t matter because he sent him to the hospital and thankfully x-rays were negative. Since the Yankee manager these days is Joe Girardi and not Joe Torre I would expect AJ Burnett to drill Gonzalez at some point tomorrow night. Girardi wasn’t going to ask Hector Noesi to do it, but you know he won’t feel the same way about AJ.

As for the game, not much to say except the Yankees didn’t take advantage of the opportunities they had. They made Lester work, but couldn’t get the big hit. Jeter took a hack at ball four against Papelbon in the 9th. On a positive note, Jorge Posada had a great night and got some hits as a righty. I would expect Jorge to be in there tomorrow at first because I don’t believe Teixeira is going to play the next few nights.

Kudos also to Hector Noesi for giving the Yankees a chance to win. The pitch to Ortiz was really his only bad pitch and those six innings were huge. The Yankees have doubleheaders in July and August and I hope they strongly consider letting Noesi take the ball when they need the extra starter.

One last note. I find it odd that the Yankees took Dante Bichette, Jr. with their first pick. Weird because he wasn’t projected to go that high and because Joe Girardi is such good friends with his Dad. (Apparently, Dante Jr. calls Girardi “Uncle Joe” and Girardi’s son is named Dante.) It opens a can of worms that I think the Yankees would have been better off leaving alone. It doesn’t mean it is not going to work, after all Chris Snee is Tom Coughlin’s son-in-law and he has certainly flourished, but it does make things tougher. It will certainly be interesting to see what happens down the road. (Please note, I am not accusing Girardi of having any influence with this pick. I think the scouts and Cashman run the show.)

Here We Go Again

Yankees-Red Sox, part 3 begins tonight and the sentiment around town seems to be that the Yankees need to send a message this series. They need to prove to the Red Sox that they can go toe-to-toe with them and they need to win a series from them. Hogwash I say.

Now don’t get me wrong, it would be very nice to win the series, but I can’t get too wrapped up about three games in June. Yes, the Yankees would drop out of first if they lost the series, but with over 100 games to play, even the worst case scenario, a sweep, would not be a mortal blow.

People seem to have short memories. In 2009 the Yankees lost the first eight games they played against the Red Sox. They then went on to win the final ten and hosted a parade up Broadway. Whatever happens in this series these two teams will still be very, very good.

What I hope to see from the Yankees is for Posada and Swisher to continue their recent offensive upticks (.300/.364/.500 and .250/.438./.833 over the last seven days respectively) and the starting pitching to continue to be effective. And I would like to see Derek Jeter get 14 hits over the next 10 games.

Back after tonight’s game.