HDLR 4/30/08: Tigers @ Yankees

Hi everyone and welcome to the Heartland Digital Living Room, where the hot dogs and chicken wings are always fresh, the beverages are always cold, and the chatter is always lively.  Tonight, the Yankees try to rebound from last night’s loss to the Tigers, sending stopper Andy Pettite (3-2, 3.23 ERA) to the mound against Jeremy Bonderman (1-2, 4.28 ERA).  The team has been consistently inconsistent, ineffective with runners on, and has taxed the bullpen.  Compounding matters, Posada and A-Rod will be on the DL for a while. This team needs a jolt.  Who will deliver it? Come on in, get comfortable, grab a digital leather recliner, and enjoy the game.  I should be in by about 6:30.  Let’s Go, Yankees!

Published in: on April 30, 2008 at 4:21 pm  Comments (146)  

Bad News; Bad Stats

So A-Rod is now on the DL for his strained quad, clearly hurting the lineup and taking a righty bat out of an already lefty-heavy lineup. Others need to step up but, at this point, that’s so hackneyed as to be cliche. This is becoming more of a weather-the-storm period, with young starters struggling and the bats collectively floundering.

Speaking of which, here are some numbers to ponder just how futile the Yankees, collectively and individually, have been thus far this year. The team is 7th in total runs with 123, and has dropped to 6th in batting average at .259. The Yankees are 12th in the AL and falling with RISP, falling to .236. To illustrate their difficulty further, they and Baltimore have each scored 87 runs from scoring position, but the Yankees have needed an extra 18 at-bats to reach 87, meaning Baltimore’s average with RISP is .270, 34 points higher. That’s not tremendous by Baltimore, but still significantly better than the Yankees. With runners in scoring position and two outs, the Yanks are 9th at .216. They are 9th in total walks with 85, far behind league-leading Oakland with 121. The team is 12th in stolen bases with 10–in 28 games. The Yankees are 12th in batting average against lefties at .237, and are 7th in the AL having grounded into 23 double-plays.

Individually, Giambi is just a disaster at the plate. He’s 0-16 against lefties, .091 with runners in scoring position (though delivering with an RBI single in this situation last night), yet .300 on first-pitch swings in play. Cano is equally atrocious, hitting .150 against lefties, 4-32 or .125 with RISP, and 3-21 or .143 on first-pitch swings in play. Abreu is .240 against lefties, but 9-24 or .375 with RISP. Matsui is .318 against lefties, but 4-16 or .250 with RISP. Jeter is a monster with RISP, still batting .429 (9-21). The Captain is also batting .400 on first-pitch balls in play, though he seems incapable of veering from this approach when the team needs him to work the count and tire a pitcher. Consider this: 45 of his 96 plate appearances thus far this season have ended on the first or second pitch. That’s ultimately counterproductive for a two-hole hitter.

The team stands 12th in team ERA at 4.51. The problem is getting hit and not so much yielding walks. The staff has allowed the third-most hits in the AL at 239 and is 7th in walks allowed with 90, leaving them tied for 9th in WHIP with 1.41 (though calculating the WHIP to the thousandths place lowers then to 12th). Not surprisingly, Yankees’ relievers have thrown the most innings with 96 1/3, but are 7th in bullpen ERA at 3.72, 4th in bullpen batting average allowed (BAA) at .237, and 4th in bullpen WHIP at 1.26. The starters are a different story. Not surprisingly, the starters are second-last in the AL in ERA at 5.07, 12th in starters’ WHIP at 1.52, 7th in hits allowed at 161, and 6th in walks allowed at 55. Their high WHIP thus results not from having allowed tons of hits, and not from having allowed tons of walks, but from having allowed what they have in an AL-low 142 innings. To compare, also in 28 starts, Angels starters have thrown 174 innings, Oakland’s starters 169, and Boston’s 164 2/3. To name names, though I respect and have been patient with the kids, Hughes in six starts has an ERA of 9.00, has thrown 22 innings allowing 34 hits and 13 walks for a WHIP of 2.14, and in three starts (excluding the rain game last Thursday in Chicago) has failed to complete four innings. Kennedy has an ERA of 8.53 in five starts, allowing 23 hits and an astounding 17 walks in 19 innings, from a control pitcher, for a WHIP of 2.11. Only against Tampa on April 14 has Kennedy pitched into a sixth inning this year.

In sum, the team and important players are terrible in key situations, aren’t generating enough offense especially lately, aren’t patient enough at the plate, aren’t hitting lefties, and aren’t running nearly enough. Other than that, the injuries, the poor and short starts, and their subsequent potential to tax a fairly good bullpen that leads the AL in innings logged, they’re just fine.

Published in: on April 30, 2008 at 9:45 am  Comments (1)  

Tigers 6 Yankees 4: Hughes, Offense Bomb

I feel for Phil Hughes right now, I really do. He’s the youngest pitcher and the second-youngest player in the majors, and he’s getting knocked around. This talented kid attuned to success has an ERA of exactly 9.00 after tonight’s loss that lowered his record to 0-4. He surrendered all six Tigers runs earned on eight hits, three walks, striking out two on 82 pitches/50 strikes. He struggled again to locate his fastball, his curve hung up, and he hardly threw his change-up and slider–the latter two a total of five pitches according to the YES crew. In sum, he’s been an ineffective two-pitch youngster, and it’s apparent that major-league teams have figured that out. Hughes coughed up two in the first on a walk to Granderson, a single to Polanco (who was on an 0-16 streak entering the game at .174, but got help from Yankees pitching to break his slump), and a single to Ordonez that Damon–and not Melky–blocked in center but couldn’t handle cleanly and couldn’t make a good throw on, 2-0 Tigers. Granderson, whom I respect a ton, homered to lead off the third, 3-2 Tigers, then Sheffield the slob slanderer homered, 5-2 Tigers. With two outs in the fourth, Granderson the Yankee Killer doubled and Polanco the Formerly Slumping singled him in, 6-2 and, after walking Sheffield the Slovenly Self-Promoter, Hughes’s night was over.

Too bad the offense did neither him nor the bullpen any favors, mustering little off the Pine Tar Gambler, that repulsive reprobate Kenny Rogers. The offense left 13 on base, eight in scoring position, and lost despite working eight walks off Tigers pitchers. Cano finally awoke from his deep slumber, homering on a line drive to right to tie it at 2 in the second, but the team continued to strand runners all night while the Tigers added on. With two outs in the first, Abreu and Matsui singled, with each moving up a base on Jones’s E7 but, with second and third, Giambi the Dead Spot popped to shallow left, stranding the first two of 13. Cano homered in the second to tie it at 2. The Yankees loaded the bases in the third in another unrequited rally. With two outs–the first of which saw Abreu fan on three pitches without taking the bat off his shoulder–Giambi, Duncan, and Ensberg walked to load the bases, but Cano’s F7 ended that particular rally. Jeter was stranded on first in the fourth. Duncan’s two-out double left him stranded after Ensberg’s first-pitch 5-3 in the fifth, and Cano, Stewart, and JD meekly went 1-2-3 in the sixth to end the Pine Tar Gambler’s night much better than it should have been.

Big-time kudos to Ohlendorf for holding the game tight through 3 1/3 IP, allowing only a hit and a walk while fanning five on 46 pitches/32 strikes. He was tremendous, and I hope that this prolonged stint against a team that lit up Hughes immediately before he entered restores some much-needed confidence in the talented youngster. He set the tone for the bullpen as a whole which, with Ramirez and Hawkins, only allowed a total of three hits and a walk through 5 1/3 IP of scoreless ball. Very impressive.

Unlike the listless bats, that is, standing in stark, ineffectual contrast to the pen. Matsui’s two-out single in the seventh left him stranded on Giambi’s 4-3. The Yankees threatened in the eighth, when they added a run on Jeter’s HBP RBI. But again, as one of the major themes introduced earlier, all this came with two outs–with no margin for error and no opportunity for productive outs–and Abreu’s force to Guillen at third ended a rally that actually saw the go-ahead run come to the plate. Bad in the clutch, yet again. The Yankees added another run in the ninth off so-called closer Todd Jones. Matsui walked to lead off and moved to second on a wild pitch, Big G actually delivered with a single down the right-field line, 6-4 Tigers with no outs. But Duncan’s one-pitch force got Giambi at second, Ensberg’s one-pitch ground out got him at first, and Cano fanned on three straight. 6-4 Tigers.

Among the few positives, Matsui must play every day. He was 2-4 with a run, is batting .326, and is one of the few Yankees who have steadily contributed this year. [cupping hands to mouth] Mr. Girardi–PLAY MATSUI DAILY AT EITHER DH OR LF, PLEASE!! Jeter was 1-4 and his RBI gave him 14 for the year. Cano homered for the second time this year, driving in two as part of an otherwise unproductive night. Duncan walked three times, showing good patience if nothing else, as well as an alternative to Giambi’s colossally wasteful end-of-contract play. Abreu was 1-5, and appears to have cooled, especially without A-Rod backing him in the lineup on a regular basis. Not to be overlooked with him–and A-Rod–is the syncretism in their productivity last season. The work of one enhanced the other–Abreu’s patience if early-season inconsistency helping to launch A-Rod to a monster year, A-Rod’s frightening presence later helping Abreu bounce back by seeing more and better pitches as the year went on in vain to avoid A-Rod. Now without A-Rod, and without A-Rod hitting great when in the lineup, Abreu just isn’t seeing a lot of very good pitches and he appears to be pressing, chasing some pitches that he otherwise wouldn’t to try to get runs all at once.  That’s not his or the Yankees’ game. Ensberg was 0-4, and is starting to clearly show why he’s a back-up. He’s OK in a pinch, but isn’t exactly turning over the bottom of the lineup, batting .233 and making me miss A-Rod even more.

But the persistently pernicious themes of this allegedly vaunted offense continue to rear their ugly heads–lack of clutch hitting, impatience especially in key situations and when they’ve worked a pitcher, and far too often starting potentially promising rallies with two outs thus allowing for no wiggle room, no productive outs, and no mistakes for an offense all-too prone to all kinds of mistakes. To me, the offense and not the performance of the young pitchers has been the biggest disappointment thus far this year. For while Hughes and Kennedy have struggled mightily, only the degree to which they’ve struggled has been the shock, not the struggles themselves. They’re young, teams are figuring them out, and they’re probably understandably on their respective heels from getting rocked. I didn’t expect a 9.00 ERA from Hughes, but I expected bad patches. They sure have come.

But Hughes and Kennedy have the excuses of youth. What of the far more experienced offense? Injuries have deprived it of A-Rod, Jeter for a stretch, and Posada for the foreseeable future. What’s Cano’s excuse, with his increasingly inexcusable and ineffectual impatience and propensity for chasing poor pitches baiting him into exactly the kinds of weak outs the opposition wants? Why is Giambi still trying in vain to bang hits through the teeth of a drastic shift? Why is Jeter swinging at the first pitch instead of showing some two-hole patience? Why has Damon failed to consistently deliver, even as he warms up? Why has this team, with all the collective talent, smarts, knowledge, and experience, scored just under 4.4 runs a game, seventh in the AL? Why entering tonight has this team batted .238 with RISP, and .226 with RISP and two outs, both of which have surely gone down after tonight?

I think it’s somewhat cyclical–the struggles causing them to press and therefore struggle more. But it’s deeper than that. It’s connected to poor approaches at the plate, impatience, swinging too early in counts, failing to really work over pitchers to get into bullpens earlier–such as tonight. I think the impatience is really the biggest thing, and it’s hurting the team’s chances to claw back in games, to get better pitches to hit, to make pitchers continually fall behind, and to make teams pay for their mistakes. Pine Tar Gambler Rogers got off easy tonight, not the first pitcher to do so against the Yanks this season. So did so-called closer Todd Jones. The Yankees had the tying run at the plate with one on and no outs in the 9th and, exactly five pitches later, the game was over. That’s an abject disgrace.

Back to .500 at 14-14. More losses to quickly erase gains. This team lacks a positive identity, a real shame for all the wealth poured into it, for all the talent on it, for all the effort it puts into games, and for all we as blogging fans have tried to discern it. When the team has two outs, it generates some but not enough offense. When it has no or one out, it too often fails to muster enough to tie or take the lead. Right now, the mystery is the identity, and that’s not good.

Published in: on April 29, 2008 at 11:12 pm  Comments (3)  

Yankees 5 Indians 2: Death By a Thousand Nubbers; Bullpen Dominates

The Yankees culminated the long road trip with a big 5-2 win to split the four-game series in Cleveland. Mike Mussina was good, hanging tough through a difficult fifth to minimize the damage to two runs on a night when he was otherwise in control. After five innings of futility against lefty call-up Aaron Laffey, the Yankees “exploded” for four in the top of the sixth, responding right after the Indians took the 2-0 lead. Matsui added a big RBI double in the eighth to salt it, and the bullpen shut things down, making it look easy. Big win, big split after losing the first two, and the pitching was quite good to keep it tight until the Yankees could cobble together runs in their improbable way in the sixth.  Mussina earned his 253rd career victory and his second straight.

Laffey was baffling the Yankees with his brand of junk, keeping the Yanks off the board. In the first, Melky worked a walk, Jeter reached on an E4, and Abreu’s deep fly move Melky to third with one out. But A-Rod popped out and Giambi flew out to end the threat. Until Cano was hit by a pitch with two outs in the fifth, Laffey had retired thirteen straight. Thankfully, Mussina was about as good, working out of some trouble. In the second, Peralta was erased on Garko’s 6-4-3 DP. The third was tight, but Mussina came through. Blake reached on Jeter’s second error of the year, Gutierrez singled, Michaels bunted them over, but Mussina fanned Dellucci and got Carroll on a 3-1 in a nine-pitch at-bat to escape trouble.

Tough, clutch work from Mussina, especially in the fifth. Blake, Gutierrez, and Michales hit consecutive singles to make it 1-0, and Dellucci’s single loaded the bases with no outs. But Mussina worked out of it, getting Carroll to pop out, Project Donkey’s sac fly made it 2-0, but was careful in walking Martinez before getting Peralta on a soft liner to Jeter. This could have been far worse, but Mussina’s tough pitching kept it close.

This paid dividends in the improbable sixth. Melky broke up the no-hitter with an infield single to short, Jeter’s weak grounder to third made it first and second, Abreu singled to left to load the bases, A-Rod was hit on the leg to score Melky, 2-1, Giambi’s and Matsui’s chopping ground outs to first made it 3-2 Yankees, and Jensen Lewis couldn’t handle Ensberg’s tapper, scoring A-Rod 4-2. Hardly a hard-hit ball in the mix, but the Yankees cobbled together four runs in highly unlikely fashion. In an odd way, there was some decent situational hitting. One can argue that Giambi and certainly Matsui did the right thing, chopping the ball to Garko playing fairly deep at first. One could see Matsui turn over his wrists to put top spin on the ball on his grounder.

Albaladejo came in and allowed a single and a walk, but fanned Dellucci on a nasty curve to end the sixth. Nuke looked like Cool Hand Nuke during his hot stretch in 2007, working a dominant 1-2-3 seventh that included fanning Project Donkey looking on a 96-mph heater on the outside corner. If the Yankees could get something close to that on a fairly consistent basis from Nuke, that would go far to replacing Bruney in the pen. I’ve discussed how the offense needs to step up to replace Posada’s gaping absence, but to a somewhat lesser but still significant degree, that holds for Bruney. Nuke and Albaladejo can do wonders for the pen with good relief work. This pen, despite some early-season struggles, has been fairly good on the whole and still has some good depth.

Damon batted for A-Rod in the eighth, working a walk, and scoring on Matsui’s roped double to the wall in right center. Michaels’s bobble ensured that Damon, who was showing very good wheels, would score on Meacham’s nice call. Joba then entered and tightened the vice, working an eleven-pitch eighth (after a ten-pitch eighth yesterday). Mariano earned his 451st save (and a very hearty congratulations to Mariano for his 450th save that I missed yesterday), blowing away Gutierrez, getting Michaels on a deep F9, and ending it on a 4-3.

Matsui was 1-4 with 2 RBIs (13 now), batting .317. Melky, Jeter, Abreu, and Ensberg were all 1-4. A-Rod was 0-2 with a walk and the RBI HBP, his 11th RBI, but sat in the eighth probably because of the sore quad. He’s clearly not himself at the plate. Not a good night for the bats, but good enough to win, and that’s what counts. Mussina was good, going five and allowing seven hits, two runs earned, a walk and fanning two on 92 pitches/60 strikes. He hung tough to even his record at 3-3. Again, the bullpen dominated, with the single and walk that Albaladejo allowed in the sixth the only base runners the bullpen allowed in four excellent innigns of efficient work.

Now the Yankees return home 14-13, playing 18 of their next 25 games in The Bronx. It couldn’t come at a better time, as the Yankees face the Tigers in a three-game set starting tomorrow. I’d love to see nothing more than the offense come alive, the good pitching continue, and the team get several games above .500 in the next week. They avoid Verlander this series. Time to put it together, guys.

Published in: on April 28, 2008 at 10:08 pm  Comments (15)  

Yankees 1 Indians 0: Wang & Pen Outstanding; Jorge Injured

Today is definitely a good news, bad news day. Yankees pitchers absolutely shut down the Indians on a day that they got only a solo blast from Melky, with Wang going seven dynamite innings and striking out nine and walking two on 113 pitches/73 strikes to earn his fifth win. Joba and Mariano each pitched a perfect inning with two K’s apiece, with Joba only throwing 10 pitches and Mariano throwing a mere 11. Damon and Cano had singles though Cano got picked off, and Jeter doubled. I didn’t see it because I was at the movies, but the highlights showed Wang was dominant with not only his sinker but had his slider, fastball and change working. Between him and the best bullpen duo in the majors, the Yankees needed this kind of dominance off the mound. Very impressive.

On the bad news front, Jorge Posada has a muscle tear in his shoulder and will go on the DL for the first time in his terrific career. The Yankees have had bad luck with injuries thus far, and this one appears serious. There is the possibility of surgery if rest doesn’t work. I like and appreciate Molina, and the timing of this is unfortunate given the team’s release of Moeller. But Molina and Chris Stewart from SWB will have their hands full replacing Posada’s offense. I feel Molina will be fine defensively but hope that he won’t break down, for he’ll sure get plenty of work now. Replacing Posada’s offense is another matter, and must from other position players picking it up. Cano, Giambi–this means you. The team did so when A-Rod was out for a few games. It appears now that the team will need to do so for Posada for quite possibly several weeks, if not more.

I can’t say that I’m impressed with the way that Girardi and the organization have handled this injury or especially the news about it. I’ve said it before, the Yankees have a bad history of handling news about injuries. While one does not want to see hurt players have their particular ailments exploited. I can’t help but think that regardless of what the team said before, the Yankees knew Posada was hurt more than they let on. Questions about whether or not Posada would have a cortisone shot, the description of a “dead shoulder,” it all spoke to something more serious than a strain. Maybe Posada’s recent play behind the dish. Maybe he was injured all along. Either way, Girardi’s touchiness about the injury hasn’t help us to understand the injury or how it developed. The more things change…

Published in: on April 27, 2008 at 6:45 pm  Comments (8)  

No HDLR Today; Some Stats Instead

Ebertfest is closing up today and I have the chance to see the brilliant John Turturro’s film “Romance and Cigarettes” today at noon.  Therefore, I won’t do the HDLR.  The next HDLR will be Wednesday’s night’s game.

In the meantime, here are some stats to consider:

The Yankees are 11th in batting with RISP at .249/.243, depending on which ESPN page you load.  They are 9th in RISP, two outs, but are even lower at .230.  Despite yesterday’s ninth-inning fiasco, Jeter is actually very good with RISP, batting .429, Abreu is .421, Posada is .333, Damon is .300, and Matsui is .267.  On the other end of the RISP spectrum, Melky is .188, Cano is .133, Giambi is .056, and A-Rod is .143.

The Yankees are 3-3 in one-run games, winning their first two and losing three of four since the third game of the year.  They are 3-2 in two-run games.  In all, the 6-5 record is a significant improvement from last year’s early-season mark, and the team is ahead of last year’s pace in a few respects.

The season thus far has been one of short, inconsistent streaks–win, loss, win, two losses, two wins, two losses, two wins, two losses, three wins, three losses, three wins, three losses.  They’ve literally erased their gains immediately after making them with losses in equal amounts to their progress.  There’s much that has contributed to it–poor clutch hitting, poor starts, a few shaky relief pitchers.  What it speaks to, in my opinion, is the fact that the Yankees have yet to combine potent offense and solid pitching for more than a very short stint, the longest being the finale in Baltimore and the first two in Chicago.  That was immediately followed by mediocre starts, the rain nonsense Thursday, poor clutch hitting, and late-inning losses. Win-loss, gain-lose, good-poor.  We’ll see which end of the dichotomy characterizes the next 25, but if this trend continues, the Yankees will probably find themselves more than 2.5 back after 50.

Published in: on April 27, 2008 at 9:40 am  Comments (2)  

Indians 4 Yankees 3: Worst Loss of the Year

Disgraceful loss, just positively disgraceful. The Yankees really screwed up this one, leaving nine on base, four in scoring position, grounded into two double plays including one with first and third in the top of the ninth, squandered an actual decent start from Kennedy, wasted multiple scoring opportunities and lost despite out-hitting the Indians 12-5 entering the bottom of the ninth inning. The 1-4 hitters went 10-19, but the 5-7 spots went 0-14. Hawkins and Nuke weren’t great but were good enough to hold it at 3 after Kennedy, who struggled mightily in the second when he allowed three, hung tough and gave the Yankees five quality innings. JD is up to .276 after his four-hit game. Jeter broke out and up to .282 after having three hits, but grounded into the DP in the ninth.

Jeter and A-Rod led off the fourth with singles, but the 5-6-7 spots let down, scoring none. Melky grounded into a DP in the fifth when they had first and second, one out. The Yankees had first and second with one out in the seventh–including a lead-off double by the surging Damon, but couldn’t plate them. Then of course, the Yankees had the ninth-inning wretch. Yet again, the team had plenty of chances but routinely failed to plate runners. Mike Sommer was steamed not only about Jeter’s ninth-inning DP but also that the team failed to avoid the DP and play aggressively, not laying down a squeeze. It’s a good point, and not just because of the result, but the lack of aggressiveness.

Kennedy’s inability to locate the strike zone hurt, but he settled down after the tough second, retiring ten of the last eleven he faced. He walked four and allowed four hits, three runs earned and fanned two on 105 pitches/60 strikes. His inefficiency meant using the bullpen early yet again. Hawkins got bailed out in the sixth when, with second and third and one out, Blake lined to Gonzo at third, and he swiftly dove to tag third and double off Peralta; in all, a hit and two walks in two decent innings for Hawkins. Nuke walked two but fanned Gutierrez on three pitches to end the eighth, looking fairly good. But Ohlendorf is a mess, looking like he’s aiming the ball and just not trustworthy. Joba’s unavailability and the thin bullpen (Bruney’s injury, Albaladejo used yesterday, Joba with a slight leg injury), worked early because of Kennedy’s high pitch count, resulted in that ninth-inning wretch. But it should never have come to that. The team scoring just one of those stranded runners would have meant Mariano shutting things down in the ninth instead of Ohlendorf puking it up. For me, considering the lopsided hit total through 8 1/2, the numerous stranded runners, the continued horrible hitting with RISP, this was the worst loss of the year by a mile.

Since I won’t be around for an HDLR tomorrow afternoon, I figured if anyone drops by, we can chin-wag.

Kevin Long is doing the FAUX lineup, and Shelley Duncan cheered loudly in the background as Long announced his name. Hilarious.

1st Inning: Top–Sowers down 3-0 to JD, with the third ball a veeeery tight call from ump Eric Cooper. Now 3-2, JD should have ripped at the 3-1, easy F8 shallow, one down. Melky the Clutch up, working it to 2-2 but punched out with a low strike. Two down for The Captain, who is 6 for his last 32, and he raps a 1-0 single cleanly to right, nice. A-Rod up to hopefully continue last night’s two-out success. He rips a liner to left but for the third out.

2nd Inning: Top–Giambi ahead 3-0, now 3-2, easy 3-1 and Sowers took his eye off the ball, E1! Shelley the Invincible Marauder up, 2-2 F7 one down. Ensberg ahead 2-0 and skies a pop foul to 2, two down, horrible. With Molina batting Giambi was caught stealing–I sure hope that was a missed hit-and-run call; three down. Bottom–Kennedy behind 3-1 to Peralta, 3-2, infield single to Jeter in the hole. The Captain was about ten feet onto the outfield grass. Cabrera singles past Gonzo into right on a hanging change. Gutierrez bunts the runners over, nice play by Kennedy off the mound. Blake was behind 1-2 but walked, terrible. Kennedy is at 40 pitches with one out in the second to Sizemore, who walks with the bases loaded, 1-0 Indians. More nibbling and/or inaccuracy. Dellucci sac fly scores Cabrera, 2-0, Melky with a horrible throw. Project Donkey with a flair over Ensberg in shallow left, 3-0 Indians. Martinez ahead 2-0 as Kennedy is up to 55 pitches–can you say overwork?–F7 finally ends the inning. 3-0.

3rd Inning: Top–Molina F8, one down. Disgraced former AG Gonzo up, F7 two down, another inning in which the Yankees don’t get runners on early. JD also ahead 3-1, but now 3-2, single up the middle–great hustle stretches it into a double, outstanding hustle; full marks in my book, JD. Melky out on a 4-3. when will this team get and score base runners before two outs, before one bad play ends the innings? 3-0 Indians. Bottom–Garko 6-3. Peralta F-Shelley, two down. Cabrera’s foul tips and Kennedy’s pitches are beating up Molina, BB after having Cabrera down 1-2. Gutierrez 5-3 ends the third, 3-0 Indians.

4th Inning: Top–Jeter ahead 2-0 and needs to get himself and the team going, and singles again, nice. A-Rod, keep it going, 3-2 single past Peralta, two on for Big G, but F7 shallow. Duncan gets a crack at Sowers, down 1-2, F7 deep on a breaking ball away that Shelley tried to pull, two down. Ensberg
down on the low strike looking, borderline but called all game and therefore not a mystery. The Yankees were .249 with RISP, fourth-worst in the AL. That just went down. Bottom–An actual 1-2-3 from Kennedy.

5th Inning: Top–Molina 5-3, Gonzo seeing-eye single through the hole for JD, who singles to right. Melky grounds into a 5-4-3. This team can’t get anything right, continually screwing up scoring chances. Wretched. Bottom–Terrific snag by Ensberg on Hafner’s liner. Martinez F8, two down. Garko F8, three down. Kennedy hung tough and has kept the Yankees in it, if only they would take him up on the offer and score some runs.

6th Inning: Top–Jeter K’s, A-Rod singles with one out, Big G HBP to bring the tying run in Duncan up to the plate, whose walk loads the bases with one out. Ensberg is due up in the biggest moment of the game. Cano is hitting for Ensberg (with Gonzo probably going to 3rd) against the righty Lewis, who K’s Cano on the low strike. Canos pinch-hit at-bat useless, two out. Posada is pinch-hitting for Molina, and just when you think this team won’t deliver again, Posads lines one to left that a diving Dellucci misses, scoring all three to tie it!! It’s about time! Jorge’s triple ties it. Terrific gamble by Girardi, and big clutch payoff from Jorge. Gonzo out on a ground out, but the tie is a huge lift–for me anyway. 3-3. Bottom–Hawkins in because the bullpen is thin and he walks Peralta on four straight. Cabrera ahead 1-0, his bunt resulted in a safe play after Giambi’s poor footwork cost the out. Gutierrez bunted them over, but Blake’s liner to Gonzo was nabbed and he dove quickly to double Peralta off third, great play by the kid in the clutch. This inning was huge. 3-3.

7th Inning: Top–Damon with a double, Melky made a terrible out chasing a ball way outside the zone, Jeter reached on an infield single to short, first and second for A-Rod. But in an eleven-pitch at-bat, A-Rod swung at a ball, two outs for Big G, who pops out to short. No time to left up on the tough love on Big G. He, A-Rod, and Melky did the Yankees no favors that inning with the lead-off double. Giambi swung at the first pitch right after Lewis got worked over, terrible. Bottom–Sizemore walks, Dellucci F7 deep, Hafner F8, and Jorge threw out Sizemore trying to steal second, three down. Hawkins was not bad.

8th Inning: Top–Abreu pinch-hitting for Duncan K’s against Kobayashi. Cano sticks to form, grounding weakly to second on the first pitch, horrible. Posada K’s, helping to make Kobayashi look like this year’s Okajima. Bottom–True to form as well, Nuke walks Martinez, Garko forces Martinez at second and the Yankees got a real break. Jeter’s bad throw bounced to Cano and it went off his glove. when he caught it with his bare hand, he was way off the bag. But the ump’s view was blocked, giving the Yankees a big break. Carroll is pinch-running for Garko (having stolen twice last night) with Peralta up and K’s, but Carroll stole second. Cabrera got an IBB to face Gutierrez, and Nuke fanned him on three pitches. Tough Love Spring continues!

9th Inning: Top–Gonzo out on a 6-3, nice throw Peralta. JD blooped a broken-bat single to center. Melky ahead 3-0, on 3-1 Melky slapped a lined single off Carroll’s glove at third, a ball he could have had, first and third for Jeter, who grounded into yet another DP to second. Two double-plays in the clutch, nine left on. The Yankees have out-hit the Indians 12-5, yet are still tied a three. Horrible clutch hitting. Bottom–Ohlendorf in against Blake and ahead 1-2, K on a nasty slider. Sizemore singles up the middle, Dellucci singles to right and Sizemore seemed to turn his ankle when he took his eye off the bag to look at Abreu. Project Donkey up, and the Yankees need a DP ball of their own now if ever. But a wild pitch, right on cue, makes it second and third. Disgraceful. IBB now to Hafner to face the hot-hitting Martinez with the bases-loaded, 2-1, and a single to left wins it. Worst loss of the year thus far.

Published in: on April 26, 2008 at 2:51 pm  Comments (58)  

Cano’s Slump in (Recent) Historical Comparison

Because I’m still winding down from having seen “Mishima” at Ebertfest, and because I’ve had this issue rattling around in my skull for a couple days, and because I’ve been delving into stats lately, I figured that I’d tackle something that had come up over at The Sommer Frieze which, if people aren’t reading, they really should. Mike Sommer mentioned that there is hope for Cano this year–though he needs to do a lot of hitting from here on out–to recover from his early but prolonged slump. Mike mentioned Jeter’s own slow and prolonged 2004 swoon, when he was batting .189 by the end of the day May 25th, with having sat one game out of 44 to that point.

I think this is a good comparison for a couple reasons. Jeter went on to bat .292 despite that long slump, and Cano can do that as well with a better approach and lots of hot hitting as his at-bats increase. I’d also argue that their slumps are similar in another respect that bears some watching. While Jeter struggled mightily, I’d argue that he had a somewhat productive slump or, perhaps more accurate, a not entirely unproductive slump. While it seems an oxymoron, the numbers bear it out. When Mike mentioned Jeter’s 2004 struggles, I remembered Jeter compiling hits even as his average dropped or stayed very low. In the first 44 Yankee games of 2004 (through May 25), Jeter batted .189 (36-190), with an OBP of .249–bad for sure. But considering that Jeter had the long 0-32 slide from the second at-bat of April 20 until his first at-bat of April 29 when he homered off Barry Zito, and also had an 0-17 stretch from his second at-bat May 15 to ending it with his first at-bat of May 20, he otherwise wasn’t horrible. If one were to factor out that collective 0-49, he batted 36-141, or .255 and, in the first 44 games, 43 of which he played, Jeter had hits in 26 of them. He had 3 HRs, 16 RBIs, scored 17 runs, drew 12 walks, but fanned 36 times. He usually got at least a hit every other game outside those long slumps.

Cano is more or less doing the same thing, getting a hit every two or three games but otherwise struggling, yet avoiding the kind of long slumps that Jeter had to start 2004. In other words, while he’s been bad at the plate this year, Cano has hovered similarly to Jeter statistically, getting a hit less frequently than Jeter did in 2004 but still in half the games he’s played (12 in 24). He’s a mess at the plate, but due for a warm-up. Like Jeter, he’s hovered low, and has actually struggled more of late, going 5 for his last 42–at just about the same time that Jeter suffered through his 0-32 malaise. Though Cano is 14-90, he’s fanned at a slower pace (11 times in 90 at-bats) than Jeter did in his first 43 games of 2004 (36 in 190 at-bats), and has walked more often (7 in 90 at-bats) than Jeter did then as well (12 in 190 at-bats). Cano’s downfall has been the ground out, while Jeter struck out at an alarming rate during his 2004 slump.

Cano should sit at least once against the three lefties Cleveland will put against the Yankees this series. This might allow him to refine his approach and clear his head of all the garbage he’s done lately, chasing pitches well outside the strike zone and helping pitchers way too often. But there is hope, and some modest statistical comparison I believe supports that possibility.

Published in: on April 26, 2008 at 2:24 am  Comments (7)  

Indians 6 Yankees 4; More Two-out Negatives Than Positives

I’m probably heading to Ebertfest locally, so figured an in-game would suffice to describe this bad loss, in which all ten runs were scored with two outs. Pettite extended innings and surrendered a 3-1 lead through inefficiency, allowing a three-run shot to Peralta in the fifth and a solo shot to Gutierrez immediately afterwards. Traber yielded a two-out RBI to Carroll, and the Yankees mustered nothing off Perez and Betancourt, just like last October. On the positive side, Giambi crushed two deep homers to fight-center and hit the ball hard most of the night. Damon doubled as part of his own resurgence, and Matsui, Posada, and Abreu singled. But Jeter and A-Rod were 0-4, Cano 0-2, and Melky 0-3. The team really got nothing going aside from Giambi’s blasts, looking tired after last night’s late game and early arrival this morning.

1st Inning: Top–Two down, Abreu lined a single through the hole, A-Rod popped to short for the third out. Byrd had it pretty easy, throwing only 13 pitches. Bottom–Nice 2-1 curve for the swing and miss, 2-2 but Giambi screws up an easy grounder, E3. Horrible. The guy continues to fail. 5-4 force, then Carroll stole second with Hafner up and his 4-3 moves Carroll to third. Pettite walked Martinez, being extra-careful. Peralta singles through the hole, 1-0 Indians. The pitch got a lot of the plate and was up a bit. Gutierrez up 3-0, with Pettite already at 22 pitches, and his 23rd walks the bases loaded. Yeeesh. Blake is up and it’s 0-1, Blake is .440 with RISP. But 6-4 force ends it with Pettite throwing 26 pitches, 1-0 Indians.

2nd Inning: Top–Matsui and Posada go down quickly, but Big G atones for his error with a big blast to right-center, ripping a belt-high fastball out for his 368th career homer. Cano takes Byrd to the warning track for the third out. 1-1. Bottom–Michaels out on a 5-3, and Shoppach singles to the gap, but Melky absolutely pegs him out, nice tag Cano. Melky fielded the ball off-balance leaning down to his right, righted himself quickly with a turn and, in one motion whipped a throw on a line to second. Shame on Shoppach for not running hard right away; it cost him. Sizemore pop 5 foul, three down, 1-1. Pettite is at 39 pitches.

3rd Inning: Top–Melky pop 4 in shallow right. Damon ripped a double off an inside curve into the right-field corner for Jeter, who cranks a fastball in to the warning track in right-center, moving Damon to third with two outs. Damon is really warming up the past several games. Abreu himself ripped one to deep left-center, but was robbed by Sizemore on a really good running catch. 1-1 still, though the Yankees are hitting Byrd hard–but for outs. Byrd is up to 39 pitches. Bottom–Carroll singles. Rick Manning makes a good point on how often Pettite is throwing over to first, protecting Jorge with the arm recovering. Hafner up…and down on a terrific K, slider down and in, one down. Martinez grounded into a 1-4-3 on the first pitch, giving Pettite a seven-pitch third. 1-1, Pettite at 46 pitches.

Top 4th: Top–A-Rod with a high pop-out to shallow left, one down on one pitch. Matsui down on a 3U, great to see two pitches and two outs. Nice patience. Posada singles to right, extending the inning for the moment. Big G up, and cranks another homer deep to right-center with two outs, 3-1 Yankees. Giambi creamed a breaking ball, silencing the “Yankees Suck” chants with career homer #369. Cano 3U, three down, but the Yankees take the lead. Byrd up to 55 pitches. I’d say that Giambi atoned for the error, with two homers bringing his average up to precariously close to the Mendoza line at .190. Bottom 4th–Cano robs Peralta, one down. Gutierrez K’s, two down. Blake walks, Michaels singles to center, Shoppach grounds into a 6-3, three down, still 3-1 Yankees. Pettite is at 69 pitches.

5th Inning: Top–Melky out on a 6-3. Damon out on F7. Jeter is 6 for his last 30 and needs to heat up but doesn’t yet, 6-3, three down, 3-1 Yankees. Byrd is at 67 pitches through 5 IP. Bottom–Sizemore out, F9, shallow, one out. Carroll out, 3U (Giambi?!?), two down. Hafner up with the bases clear, singling to left. Martinez does also, bringing up Peralta. On a 3-1 hanging change, Peralta caps the two-out rally with a three-run homer to left, 4-3 Indians. Pettite is behind Gutierrez 3-0, the third straight batter, and Gutierrez creamed a 3-1 pitch, 5-3 Indians. Terrible job by Pettite collapsing with two outs. He finally K’s Blake, but the damage is done. For the second straight game, the Yankees surrender a lead and trail 5-3. Pettite is up to 99 pitches and might be done.

6th Inning: Top–4-3 for Abreu, one down. A-Rod has looked rusty so far, understandable, but they need him especially now, but he chases ball three very low, 5-3 two down. Matsui cranks a deep homer to right, closing the game to 5-4. Matsui destroyed a breaking ball inside, chasing Byrd for the night. Posada will face Rafael Perez, and way to make him work Jorge, swinging at the first pitch against a guy who is 0-1 with a 6.52 ERA. Three down, but 5-4 Indians now. Interestingly, all nine runs in the game have been scored with two outs. Bottom–Traber in against Michaels, F8 one out. Shoppach up and K’s, two down. Sizemore worked a BB with two outs and stole second, Carroll’s broken-bat bloop single to left makes it 6-4, all ten runs scored with two outs. Traber horrible with two outs. Hafner up and Carroll stole second without a throw, while Hafner walks. Traber finally got Martinez, but they can’t do anything right with two outs this game. 6-4.

7th Inning: Top–Giambi ripped the first pitch to the track in right, but Gutierrez made a nice catch, one down. Cano awkwardly golfs at the first one, but works a walk. Melky grounds into a 6-4-3 DP, three outs, still 6-4 Indians. Bottom–Albaladejo in versus Peralta, 5-3 on a nice short-hop by A-Rod, one down. Gutierrez also out on a 5-3. A-Rod preserves his privates on another tough hop, 5-3, Indians still lead 6-4.

8th Inning: Top–Top of the order against Perez, Damon with a come-backer, one down. Jeter is struggling, 6 for his last 31, hard-hit F9 extends it to 6-32, two down. Abreu up. The Yankees have done nothing tonight before getting two outs. Abreu K’s. Boy, have the Yanks done wonders for the confidence of a kid who couldn’t buy outs to start this year. Picking up from last October but skipping over his struggles against everyone else, Perez went 2 1/3 IP, allowing only a walk on 23 pitches/17 strikes, fanning one, holding the lead, and lowering his ERA over a run with this stint. Bottom–A-Rod now has five straight assists, one down. Shoppach walks after being down 0-2. Sizemore out on a 3U, Shoppach to second. Carroll out F8. 6-4 Indians.

9th Inning: Top–Betancourt versus A-Rod who pops out weakly to first as part of a thoroughly unproductive night, one down. Matsui K’s on a change down. Posada F8 deep, three outs. 6-4 Indians.

Published in: on April 25, 2008 at 6:20 pm  Comments (14)  

Bad News, Good News

Bad News first. According to Pete Abraham, Brian Bruney has a torn ligament in his foot that will require surgery, and will likely keep him out for the rest of the season. Too bad, Bruney was doing fairly well and becoming someone the Yankees could rely on. He wasn’t rock solid yet, but had leap-frogged past Nuke on the pecking order. Bad break. Jon Albaladejo and Chris Britton are in Cleveland now. Abraham speculates that Ohlendorf will be sent down. That’s too bad. I like the kid and though he’s struggled late, Mike F. and I speculate it’s because of overwork. I also think that his flexibility has in part led to this, swinging between long and short reliever roles in the absence of a dedicated long reliever.

In somewhat better news, A-Rod was doing various regular running drills in the outfield and seems in good condition. Whether or not he’ll play tonight, just DH, or sit I don’t know. But he seems to be very close, if not ready.

Published in: on April 25, 2008 at 3:43 pm  Comments (3)