Benefits of Rain; Prelude to Tampa

The rainout of the series finale in Detroit yesterday provided a couple important benefits for the Yankees, primarily for the pitching staff. For the starters, the postponement allowed Girardi to shuffle the rotation to keep Pettite, Wang, and Mussina together.  I personally like that sequence–the lefty Pettite throwing fairly hard but with the tough slider; Wang mixing the heavy sinker with improved slider and breaking pitches; and Mussina keeping this slow and slower–three very different looks for opponents on consecutive days.

It also gives him the flexibility to skip Igawa’s next start Thursday against Tampa in favor Rasner, pitching either Igawa Friday against the Mets (GULP!), to replace him with Kennedy or another call-up from the minors, or keep him Thursday against the Rays. If the Yankees are for some reason committed to giving Igawa a second start (which I’d question), I’m slightly partial to it being Thursday and not Friday against the Mets in what is always a very intense series and atmosphere. He just doesn’t seem to handle pressure, and there would be pressure by the boat load Friday. Yet the Rays are no picnic, as was discussed on Yankee Fan Club Radio last night. Pitching Igawa Thursday would as of now mean he’d face tough lefty Scott Kazmir. The Rays might or might not crack .500 this year for the first time in franchise history, but they’re no pushover and, as we discussed on the show last night the Rays’ staff is stronger than in years past. While I’d hate to see Igawa (if he pitches at all) against the Mets, it’s unlikely he’d fare much better facing Kazmir and the Rays. I just don’t have confidence in the guy regardless of whom he faces. If he goes, the offense better score a lot of runs.

Back to what the Yanks gained from the rainout–a day of rest for the bullpen, which has been very good but overworked even with most of the recent Yankees starts being pretty good. Though the Yanks’ relievers have logged the second-most innings in the AL (just behind Texas) their bullpen ERA is third in the AL at 3.34, third in batting average allowed (BAA) at .228, and second in WHIP at 1.20. That’s pretty impressive given not just the overwork (mainly from lack of long starts from Kennedy and Hughes) but also the injuries to Bruney and Albaladejo, and Traber’s inefficiency leading to the lack of a lefty arm. The bullpen is a real strength for the team this year, and will be even more so when the offense comes around to consistently produce.  Nuke has been Cool Hand Nuke, allowing only 2 earned runs (on two solo homers in different games), eight hits, and three walks while fanning 12 in his last 11 2/3, helping smooth over the absence of Bruney quite well in the last month.  Importantly, Ohlendorf has been very good lately, throwing 6 1/3 innings of scoreless, three-hit ball with seven strikeouts in his last three appearances.  While still the de facto long reliever given the current composition of the pen, I’d be interested to see Ohlendorf get some short-stint work now and then provided the starters carry the ball through at least six.  He’s bounced back well from his earlier struggles.

The Rays have jumped out to a good start this year largely on the strength of their pitching staff for a change. While the offense ranks sixth in runs scored and eighth in both batting average and OBP, the staff is fifth in ERA and BAA, and fourth in WHIP. As the guys on YFCR said last night, their bullpen is much improved, ranking second in ERA and BAA, and third in WHIP. Troy Percival has rebounded well from forearm troubles that forced him to retire in 2006, saving 9 out of 10 chances. It remains to be seen how the team will fare in the next 3/4 of the season but, based on the first 1/4, the team is playing well and with confidence, but with stronger pitching than they’ve had before. The Yankees’ taking three of four is doable but a real challenge.

Published in: on May 12, 2008 at 1:27 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Well, the other side of that is the Yankees missed Nate Robertson, who could potentially be a fun pitcher to face.

  2. Hey, Jason !

    Not a good game for Andy Pettitte, and the Yankees, in their 7-1 loss to the Rays. But, since the Red Sox also lost [7-3] last night, it was a draw; and, the Yankees are still only 3-games behind the Sox in the loss column!

    Great series by the Twins. They beat the Red Sox 3 out of the 4 games they played in Minnesota. “Way To Go Twins” !!!

    The best news for the Yankees was the great game Alberto Gonzalez had. He was 2-3, and his “out” was very productive, as he hit a grounder to second base to move Jose Molina to third, setting up the Yankees only run of the night. I think Gonzalez has earned his way onto this team as the backup infielder, and the Yankees should make a spot for him on the roster. Gonzalez is much more valuable to the Yankees than Wilson Betemit, or, even, Morgan Ensberg, for that matter. Anyway, that’s my view!

    So, tomorrow is a new day. Let’s hope the Yankees start a long winning streak.

    Go Yankees !!!

    Take care, Jason.

    – Jimmy

  3. Hey Joe, it’s true about Robertson, although the Yankees have too often failed to capitalize on mediocre pitchers thus far this year.

    Hey Jimmy, I agree about Gonzo. The kid’s not a bad hitter, and his slick glove should keep him up. I think Ensberg’s days are numbered, personally. He hasn’t hit well and, while doing OK in the field at third, hasn’t hit nearly enough to justify being a backup where the Yankees have a glut of corner infielders. Gonzo’s ability to play middle infield–and to do it much better than Betemit–means he should stay up, to me. It’s amazing that the Yankees have stayed this close, given their consistently inconsistent play thus far.

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