Yanks Lose 7-3 to Twins; World Coming to an End

Joba struggled, Giese followed up with struggles of his own, and the Yankees offense cooled off after the second inning as they dropped the second straight game to Minnesota 7-3.  I can’t help but think how destructive this will be heading into the regular season, Minnesota having the Yanks’ number.  Clearly, their psyche is damaged after this.

Joba left pitches up and got hammered as a result in his one inning of work.  Francisco Liriano experienced the same fate as the Yanks tied it at 2 in the bottom half of the first.  But Giese got hammered, giving up a homer to Carlos Gomez and four runs earned in his two innings.  Igawa actually looked good in his two innings, and Veras was dominant in his one, fanning two.

The Yanks managed just seven hits, only one (Teixeira’s double) for extra bases. Jeter singled, Shelley the Marauder had two, Melky had one, and Jesus Montero had an infield single off former Yankee Sean Henn in the ninth.

Unfortunately, Jorge Posada experienced some shoulder soreness when stretching Thursday, and its acting up today caused him to be scratched from the DH slot.  He says it’s nothing major, but I’ll be relieved when Posada is back behind the plate on a regular basis.  He’s just too crucial to the team, especially offensively and with his leadership.  Fingers crossed.

Thanks to everyone for coming by the HDLR; it was fun regardless of the loss. Oh well, get ’em next time.

Published in: on February 28, 2009 at 3:02 pm  Comments (7)  

2/28/09 HDLR: Twins Versus Yankees

Hey everybody!  Welcome to the second of many HDLR games this season, and the first weekend HDLR.  Kick back in the many spacious digital leather recliners, grab some grub and cold coldies, and chinwag away.  Courtesy of Pete Abraham, the lineups are below.  Joba will go an inning or two, and others including Veras, Giese, and the K-Man will get some work.  Enjoy!

Damon LF
Jeter SS
Teixeira 1B
Rodriguez 3B
Posada DH
Cano 2B
Swisher RF
Molina C
Cabrera CF

Pitching today: Joba Chamberlain followed by Igawa, Dunn, Veras, Giese and others.

TWINS (3-0)
Span RF
Punto SS
Young LF
Kubel DH
Buscher 1B
Hughes 3B
Tolbert 2B
Butera C
Comez CF

Published in: on February 28, 2009 at 11:46 am  Comments (226)  

YFCR Returns Tomorrow

I got an e-mail from Ty Hildenbrandt alerting me that Yankee Fan Club Radio will return for a gig tomorrow afternoon at 6.  It will be via podcast and not live, but you can still e-mail questions and comments to the gang at radio@lvyankeefanclub.com.  I plan to tune in, and I hope you do too.

Published in: on February 28, 2009 at 9:58 am  Leave a Comment  

2009 Rotation Importance in Historical Perspective

Because I just don’t have enough stuff to do during the day, I like to assign myself some seemingly random, often statistical and, hopefully, ultimately relevant task to perform.  Having finished The Yankee Years, I was motivated by a good chart that Torre and Verducci (in all likelihood Verducci) compiled on page 460, breaking down from 2001 to 2007 what Yankees starters contributed regarding W-L, ERA, innings pitched, and K/9 IP.  The stats were revealing, showing for the most part steady declines in innings logged, wins from starters, and strikeouts per 9 innings especially after 2003.  This was no random table, for Verducci–to (probably safely) ascribe this work exclusively to him–argued (with persuasive quotes from Jason Giambi) that with the addition of Curt Schilling to Boston, the Red Sox had a second “alpha” starter with strikeout ability to complement Pedro and help Boston overtake New York for AL East, AL, and baseball supremacy.

Having had this stuck in my head for a week but lacking adequate time to compile and analyze this, tonight I broke down the stats for the years 1996-2000. While using Verducci’s baseline model, I added what I consider an important component–I divided the starters’ statistical contributions between “primary” starters–those delineated at baseball-reference.com based upon spending the majority of their appearances as starters in a given season–and “fill-in” [F-I] or “secondary” starters whose work as starters was occasional and/or rare relative to their overall work, who were not initially in the rotation, or did not spend considerable time in the majors.

Below are the results.  First, I listed the 1996-2000 seasons, followed by the 2001-2007 seasons.  Note that I did not break down the contributions between primary [P] and fill-in starters [F-I] from seasons 2001-2007, since what I did was already quite time-consuming.  More than just for statistical s*&%s and giggles, I believe there is a larger point to be made with this year’s Yankees.

Year                                W-L              ERA            IP                  K/9 IP

  • 1996 Total       68-49          5.05            921 2/3             6.17
  • 1996 [P]            62-36          4.48            809                     6.29
  • 1996 [F-I]         6-13             9.11            112 2/3              5.35
  • 1997 Total       72-42          4.12            1017 1/3           6.86
  • 1997 [P]            66-37          4.06           923                      6.95
  • 1997 [F-I]         6-5               4.77           94 1/3                5.92
  • 1998 Total        86-39          3.85            1061 1/3           6.96
  • 1998 [P]             79-35         3.72            947 1/3             7.32
  • 1998 [F-I]         7-4               4.90            114                      4.03
  • 1999 Total        71-50          4.33            1002 2/3          6.96
  • 1999 [P]             68-46          4.31             945                     7.02
  • 1999 [F-I]          3-4               4.53            57 2/3               6.09
  • 2000 Total       65-58          4.81             976 2/3            6.31
  • 2000 [P]            60-54          4.70           914 1/3             6.43
  • 2000 [F-I]         5-4               6.50             62 1/3              4.62

A few things are worth mentioning.  The first is the increased durability among the primary starters in the years 1997-1999, their very good ERA and K/9 IP, and W-L.  Importantly during that three-year span, the work of fill-in starters was at its peak in terms of ERA and, in two of the three years, K/9 IP.  They weren’t just workhorses, but good, very efficient ones.  Not surprisingly, that the team’s starters were relatively healthy in the 1997-1999 years correlated to both their effectiveness and that of the fill-ins, who were not overtaxed, especially flexible factotum Ramiro Mendoza, whose ground-ball ability minimized the K/9 IP ratio but also improved the overall effectiveness of the fill-ins during that stretch.  He ably started 15 games in 1997, 14 in 1998, and 6 in 1999 and, in doing so, allowed others to replace his bullpen innings a little at a time, sparing the team from the need to entrust too many leads or long relief stints to newcomers at any given time.  Mendoza’s effectiveness and importance to the team, therefore, is even greater than these numbers indicate.

Below are the numbers Verducci included in The Yankee Years, not broken down between primary and fill-in starters:

  • 2001 Total         64-48           4.34             974 1/3             7.79
  • 2002 Total         79-41           4.34             1024 2/3          7.32
  • 2003 Total         83-42           4.02             1066                   6.91
  • 2004 Total         70-46           4.82             942 1/3             6.55
  • 2005 Total         70-51           4.59             965 1/3              6.11
  • 2006 Total         74-42           4.54             933 2/3              5.84
  • 2007 Total         65-47           4.57             921                      5.61

I’ll add the somewhat dismal but somewhat misleading 2008 season below, just to illustrate the trend having, hopefully, run its course:

  • 2008 Total        59-53           4.58              898 1/3             6.19
  • 2008 [P]             45-34           4.25              635 1/3             6.84
  • 2008 [F-I]          14-19           5.37              263                   4.62

The 2008 statistics are rather revealing.  They indicate the low number of overall innings the starters logged due to ineffectiveness and injury, the poor W-L, the drastically high number of replacement innings that “fill-in” starters logged as well as their very low K/9 IP, and high ERA.  Rasner simply was not intended to make or effective in 20 starts, getting steadily worse the more teams saw him.  Nor was Ponson in his 15 starts.  The numbers certainly reveal a lack of quality depth in the rotation, an unusually high number of starters used (13, though Bruney made one in KC when Girardi out-thought trying to beat the weather and umpires as well as the Royals) and starts the fill-ins made (51).

But as bad as 2008 was, there are some bright spots worth remembering for this season.  The “primary” starters numbers include poor stats from Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy (aka Ian E. Neumann), who were dreadful especially early in the season.  Overall, Hughes was 0-4, 6.62 ERA, 6.09 K/9 IP in 8 starts and 34 IP, and Kennedy 0-4, 8.35 ERA, 5.89 K/9 IP in 9 starts and 36 2/3 IP.  Otherwise, the “primary” starters of Mussina, Pettite, Joba (whom I included here since he’ll be a starter in 2009), and Wang were quite good–45-26, 3.84 ERA, 6.95 K/9 IP in 564 2/3 IP and 94 starts.  Add Sabathia and Burnett to that mix (with the obvious subtraction of the now-retired Mussina), and that’s a staff with the potential to log big innings, win a lot of games, fan a lot of batters, and maintain a pretty good ERA.

To make a long and statistically-laden story short, the rotation of Sabathia, Wang, Burnett, Pettite, and Joba has significant potential to return the Yankees to the heyday of the late 1990s to 2003 form if they’r healthy and effective.  They have big-time strikeout potential and may well eat innings.  I admit to loving those whom Frank the Sage terms the “alpha starters,” the guys who demand the ball and deliver, but who can also overpower.  Wang does it with the sinker; others such as Sabathia, Burnett, and Joba do it via the punch-out.  The K is the ultimate veto power for pitchers, and it’s been a long time since a Yankee staff has been as rich in strikeout capacity as this one in 2009.

This is a team with the capacity to get the Yankees back to and deep in the post-season, if healthy and effective.  As the numbers above show, there is a general correlation between rotation effectiveness, durability, strikeout ability, and team success for the Yankees in the last 13 seasons.  It’s also one that, if effective and healthy, should allow Hughes, Kennedy, Aceves, and others spot starts to possibly maintain and effective level of replacement work for a change.

Published in: on February 28, 2009 at 2:46 am  Comments (1)  

Yanks Lose 5-4 to Twins; Season Ruined

Well, at least the Yanks won’t be saddled with the incredible burden of maintaining an undefeated Spring Training, dropping a 5-4 decision to the Twins.  Ian Kennedy had a good two-inning stint, allowing one hit and one walk while fanning three.  However, a few Yankee pitchers coughed up a 3-1 lead in the sixth, seventh, and eighth, and the arms didn’t look quite as impressive as they had in the two previous games and wins.  I believe they’ll survive.

Brett Gardner continued to set the pace in the race for starting in center, going 2-2 with a walk and stealing two bases with ease.  He’s really outpacing Melky, who went 0-3 and has yet to get his first ST hit.  Gardner, meanwhile, has been all over the base paths and has also impressed with his defense in center.  Regardless of his being out of options, Melky will be out of a job at this rate.  Through three games–and it’s assuredly early in camp–Gardner is doing everything and Melky nothing to earn the right to start in center.

Also impressing at the plate were Nick Swisher and Jorge, who each went 2-3.  Terrific to see that Jorge has 4 hits in his first 5 ST at-bats.  Cody Ransom is making a good bid for the utility infielder spot, going 1-3 with a run and RBI.  Justin Leone, a long shot to be in The Bronx after stints with the Mariners in 2004 and the Padres in 2006, was 1-3 with a solo homer in the second inning.  Xavier Nady earned the third Yankee RBI, and the fourth run came on a ninth-inning error.  Lots of others added a hit apiece, including budding prospect Austin Jackson.  Yet the Yanks hurt themselves at the plate, getting 14 hits and working 4 walks but only scoring 4 runs, stranding 12.

Some of the young arms struggled a bit as well.  Eric Hacker labored through 1+ innings following up Kennedy, allowing three hits, two walks, and a run.  Anthony Claggett was excellent in relief of him, allowing only 1 hit and striking out 1 in 2 very good innings.  Andrew Brackman allowed a two-out solo homer to Jason Kubel in the sixth, George Kontos allowed three hits and a run in the seventh, fanning two, and Wilkin De La Rosa was roughed up for two hits, two runs, and two walks while fanning one.  Todd Linden might have been robbed of an extra-base hit in the top of the ninth by a bad call, according to the Twins radio team, for they said that his hot shot down the left-field line drew chalk, yet the ball was called foul.  He then struck out before an E-5 cut the Twins lead to 5-4.

Honestly, I don’t sweat ST games.  They don’t count; they’re meant to get players fine-tuned for the regular season, settle the occasional position battle, to work on game situations and other things, iron out kinks, and get into game shape while staying healthy.  I’m not overly concerned with wins and losses in February and March, and if the kids and even veterans struggle during this stretch, so be it.  Better now than when April comes around, and especially with the kids, these things happen.  Heck, I’m just glad that players such as Brackman are on the mound and getting some work, that Claggett availed himself well in a jam, and that others get to face some decent competition in a reasonable facsimile of a pressure situation.  That Hughes and now Kennedy have begun with good, short stints are added bonuses.  Winning is fine in ST; the experiences, positive and negative, count more in my mind is building blocks.

HDLR for tomorrow’s game, with Joba getting the start.  It should be fun.  I have a mounting cold and bad back to nurse, and bellies to feed.  Pizza and salad beckon at a local purveyor of pie.  Hope to see everyone tomorrow.

Published in: on February 27, 2009 at 5:02 pm  Comments (3)  

Yanks Beat Rays 5-1

Led by outstanding pitching and paced primarily by the bats of Jorge Posada and Mike’s boy Shelley Duncan, the Yankees beat the Jays 5-1 in one of the fastest games that I can recall in some time.  It was a hitless game until Jorge led off the third with a first-pitch homer deep into the right-field bleachers–into a stiff wind, I might add, 1-0 Yanks.  I was making a bacon sandwich and, after Rays pitcher Wade Davis worked two easy innings including fanning Teixeira, A-Rod, and Cano in succession, I thought it was nice to have Jorge back, that he could jump-start the offense with a hit.  He did a lot more than that, then added an RBI ground-rule double to center that Gabe Kapler played badly in the wind, scoring Xavier Nady who himself reached on a ground-rule double to right; nice hitting by X-Man.  After the Jays closed it to 2-1 in the top of the seventh, Shelley the Marauder creamed a three-run homer to deep left to put the game as well as the ball out of reach.

Phil Hughes plugged two batters in the first inning but was otherwise good and, importantly, efficient, throwing 33 pitches in his two-inning stint and striking out two with fastballs up.  JB Cox surrendered three hits and the lone Jays run in the seventh, but otherwise the Yanks pitchers were outstanding, allowing only two hits and a walk while striking out five in the other eight innings.  Phil Coke was very good, allowing a hit with a K in his two innings that was all the more impressive to me because he faced a lot of righty hitters.  Brian Bruney looked excellent and downright slim in his inning, fanning one and throwing 94-95.  Damaso Marte was fairly good, and Mark Melancon made his Spring Training debut in the eighth, working a 1-2-3 inning.  He threw about 91-92, was around the plate, and got a strikeout of John Jaso looking.  To be fair, Melancon did get some help on a generous 3-1 call on a fastball up and in, and from Cervelli framing the 3-2 fastball on the outside corner.  But he was sharp, didn’t allow a base runner, and was very close on 2 of the 3 ball calls to Jaso.  Good looking stint for Melancon, and for Albaladejo wrapping it up in the ninth.

Cano looked terrific in the field, making a couple of great plays.  Teixeira was very good at first, stretching on a nice charging play by A-Rod to nail the runner and helping Cano out on another play.  I had to get my son from school before the seventh, so I missed Shelley’s tater and Melancon’s stint, but I watched both via MLB’s archive a little while ago.

Outstanding pitching, good defense, and some timely hitting–I can get used to all of that.  Thanks to Mike F. for dropping by the snap throw of the HDLR out there.  Another HDLR comes Saturday afternoon.

Published in: on February 26, 2009 at 6:02 pm  Comments (5)  

What the Heck…HDLR Thursday!

I’m working from home, so an impromptu Heartland Digital Living Room couldn’t hurt any.  Welcome to the Heartland Digital Living Room, everyone!  Grab a digital leather recliner, some wings, chips, and something cold to drink with the action.  Lineups as per Pete Abraham are below.  It’s a terrific pitching slate for today, with Hughes, Coke, Bruney, Marte, Albaladejo, and Melancon all getting work against the defending AL East champs Tampa Bay.  Note also that Cano is pegged fifth, an interesting move in what may be a close approximation of the everyday lineup for the season.  Come on in, relax, and enjoy.

Damon LF
Jeter SS
Teixeira 1B
Rodriguez 3B
Cano 2B
Nady RF
Posada DH
Molina C
Cabrera CF

Pitching today: Phil Hughes followed by Phil Coke, Brian Bruney, Damaso Marte, Jon Albaladejo, Mark Melancon.

RAYS (0-1)
Kennedy 2B
Crawford LF
Aybar DH
Ensberg 3B
Zobrist SS
Kapler CF
Richard 1B
Riggans C
Ruggiano RF

Rays pitching: Wade Davis followed by Winston Abreu, Calvin Medlock, Chad Orvella, Dale Thayer and Julio DePaula.

Published in: on February 26, 2009 at 11:05 am  Comments (155)  

“Forgotten Hoosiers”

Be sure to read this terrific story by Wayne Drehs at ESPN.com about the great run that Crispus Attucks High School of Indianapolis, led by Oscar Robertson and tough coach Ray Crowe, had through much of the 1950s, as well as the deep racism the team had to overcome.  Pain and perseverance–the story of The Big O’s life and so many others.

Published in: on February 25, 2009 at 10:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Yanks Open ST With 6-1 Win

Brett Gardner cranked the second pitch of the game over the right-field fence, A-Rod added a two-run shot in the fourth, and the Yankees hit well to start Spring Training with a 6-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.  Brett Tomko pitched two scoreless, one-hit innings to start and, after Veras worked out of some trouble in the third allowing only one run, a cadre of pitchers–Giese, Igawa, Christian Garcia, Michael Dunn, Steven Jackson, and David Robertson–allowed only two hits and a walk in the final six innings.

Cano (batting third) and Austin Jackson each doubled, and several other players added singles.  Although he was only 0-1 with a K, Nick Swisher showed patented patience, drawing two walks, as did A-Rod, while driving in a run.  Yet the game was also a mixed bag, filled with as many negatives to correct as positives upon which to build.  The team committed four errors (though I believe the one on Gardner was when his strong throw from center hit John McDonald tagging from third), fanned thirteen times (though eleven were by players likely to begin the season in the minors), and left eleven on base.  Much to correct, but the arms and bats were on the whole good. Juan Miranda and Todd Linden each added an RBI.

Gardner’s home run occurred as his wife and three-month-old son were in attendance, providing a nice moment for Little G and the family.  If only Gardner can maintain consistent gap power.  He and the Yanks will really have something, and Melky better bring his “A” game this ST.  Gardner started strong out of the gate.

Great to be discussing baseball again.  It’s possible that I might catch a couple innings of tomorrow afternoon’s game, but I have a lot of running around to do, including registering, getting new plates for, and transferring the title for a second car we bought today.  It’s old but seems a good runner, and goodness knows a second vehicle will come in handy for kids’ activities, our jobs, and much more.  We’ve had one car for most of the last six years, so this is a bonus we’ll appreciate.

Pete Abraham has a touching story about Jose Molina still dealing with the passing of his father, who died unexpectedly of a stroke last October 11.

Published in: on February 25, 2009 at 8:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Recreational Chemistry

Although the post’s title is from a song by the jamband moe. and about something else entirely, I figured it was apropos.  This might be one of Joe Girardi’s best ideas as Yankee manager, blowing off the day with the team at a local establishment for food, refreshments, pool, and bar games.  Brilliant move to foster team chemistry, and ironically coming on the heels of a lengthy confab last night between Frank the Sage and myself about the possibility that the 2009 Yankees will have better chemistry, in no small part from their new additions, than in recent years.

Clearly, spending the day in a patron-friendly pool hall was a big hit with the players.  Said Johnny Damon:

“I think everybody had a great time. We got to see who’s been spending too much time at the pool hall and we know the ones that don’t spend enough time in there.

“For Joe to let us take a day off from practice like that, it makes you want to work even harder for him.”

“Camp has been going great so far. We all have been rallying around each other, having a good time in the clubhouse. Today is one of those days that, as a ballplayer, you’ll never forget. I don’t think any team has ever really done this. It’s a day I’ll never forget. It says a lot about Joe. He knows we’ve been working hard and he rewarded us with a day off.”

New first baseman Mark Teixeira, who is so crucial to this year’s success, was equally pleased by how the team spent the day:

“It was great. That was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in spring training in my whole career.”

“I thought it was a great idea. We’ve been working really hard – the pitchers a little bit longer than the position players. We had a good week of practice and we’re going to start games here soon, so I think Joe just wanted to give us some time off.”

“I’ve never have (heard of a team doing something like this), but I think more teams should. This was a great time, great for all of us to get together.”

“There were probably 16-18 pool tables, there were some card tables, we had darts, we had guys playing dominos and we had lunch also. Everyone was just having a good time.”

“It makes you relax and realize that we can have fun off the field. Once we get on the field, it’s business, but we can build some relationships as well.”

“Usually during the season, you get to hang out with guys because we’re always on the same bus or the same plane. Our schedules are identical. In spring training, you don’t go on trips together, the pitchers have different schedules than the hitters and the hitters are in different groups, so there might be a couple guys you don’t get to know at all.”

Great move by Girardi.  It did wonders for the Giants’ chemistry and morale a couple years ago, when they went bowling as a team and eventually won the Super Bowl.  If the Yankees win the World Series, Girardi will set a trend.  I can’t wait to see Rays’ manager Joe Maddon riding on Space Mountain during the 2010 Spring Training in a futile attempt to win back the AL East.

Oh yeah, not surprisingly in the two two-man 8-ball tournaments the team held, organized by blind draw, Mariano’s pair won both times–once with Phil Coke and another with Andy Pettite.

Speaking of which, Phil Coke will be a reliever, according to Minnesota Girardi.  Like a few others, I’ve been a big advocate of this.  Coke in the pen, likely to give multiple innings relieving rather than starting, provides the Yanks two lefties in the bullpen if Coke makes the club.  This would parallel the two lefties–Sabathia and Pettite–in the rotation.  Coke’s velocity was quite good as a reliever, in the low to mid-90s and, although he only pitched in September of a down year, his 2008 numbers–1-0, 0.61 ERA, .682 WHIP, 14 K in 14 2/3 IP–are encouraging enough that he should be considered a strong candidate to make the team out of ST.

Published in: on February 23, 2009 at 5:58 pm  Comments (4)