Monday, September 19, 2005

Tough One (Or: Why Proctor Should Be On The Postseason Roster)

Yankees fans can learn a lot from the saying, “you can’t win ‘em all.” Doesn’t mean we don’t have the right to be a bit perturbed after yesterday’s narrow loss to the ‘Jays. That puts the 20-Game Tracker at 5-1, which isn’t a debilitating pace. It just applies a bit more pressure as the team heads back home for the pitiful Orioles, which I’ll get to in a minute or so (depending on how quickly you read).

The story of the game, as has become commonplace every fifth game now: Wright and the first inning. I remember making analogy a few weeks ago about Jaret Wright’s first inning flirtations and picking up women at a bar. Of course, he hadn’t actually allowed a first inning run to that point. But now that he has in his last three starts, how does this change the analogy? Is that like taking home a woman with VD?

But before we got to Act II, where Wright settles down and works innings two through seven with little trouble, fate had her filthy way with him. After being whaled in the neck/shoulder area with a line drive a few weeks ago, Wright’s arm seemingly got clipped by the sharp end of a broken bat. The preliminary injury report, courtesy of Michael Kay’s fat ass, lists it as a contusion, which is fancy speak for a cut.

Enter Al Leiter, the obvious choice for Wright’s replacement. Proving that hindsight is 20/20, I bitched about Leiter not subbing for Randy following his ejection Friday night, but everything worked out for the better. What we can all learn from this: the baseball guys know best.

Allow me to elaborate on that point just a bit. Following Randy being tossed – legitimately, in my opinion, at least from what I’ve read – the obvious move is to bring in Leiter. But Torre had other plans, using Scott Proctor in an attempt to exploit the righty-heavy Toronto lineup. I understand the strategy behind that, but shouldn’t Torre be bringing in the guy that gives him the best chance to win that particular game? I mean, that was the whole reason behind overusing Mo (of the 18 days that have passed this month, he has appeared eight times).

Once again, I’m not vehemently arguing with Torre on this one. His idea was strategic: bring in the righty to face a lineup designed for a lefty, saving the lefty Leiter as insurance for the weekend starters Chacon and Wright. After starting off as hot as they come, Chacon had a few bad outings, and seemed like he could be one bad inning away from a breakdown. And we were all wondering for weeks when Wright’s first inning problems would become insurmountable.

So my main complain lies with Torre’s selective use of the term, “We play to win today.” I guess it should be, “We play to win today, unless there’s a strategy I’d like to exploit.”

But it all worked out in the end, even though Proctor surrendered a few runs Friday and Leiter was the victim of a string of hits that led to what proved to be an integral run for Toronto. But all in all, both of them were adequate at the very least in their relief performances.

The guy I have beef with is Alan Embree. He’s brought in solely because there are two lefties due up next in the order. And what does he do? Issues a walk and lets up a single, plating a Sturtze run. Of course, this one was the killer, negating a Robbie Cano RBI in the ninth.

I actually question the logic behind yanking Sturtze in favor of Embree, even considering the double-barrel lefty action due up at the plate. Though he hasn’t been the most consistent contributor this year, Sturtze numbers against lefties are .237/.310/.351 (.265/.331/.426 vs. righties). Embree’s breakdown against righties is .267/.318/.545. Against lefties, his supposed specialty, he’s .301/.343/.516.

Keeping this in mind, what does Embree bring to the table? A lefty specialist with a lefty BAA of .301 isn’t exactly a specialist. Hell, even F-Rod has better numbers against lefties (.286/.401/.390). If he just threw friggin’ strikes, he’d be the clear-cut better option than Embree against lefties.

This should all be at the forefront when the team makes a decision on which pitchers make the postseason roster. There really is no hope for the Yanks as far as having a lefty specialist in the ‘pen. They’re better off cutting their losses and leaving Embree off the roster, since he doesn’t bring anything to the table. F-Rod and Sturtze are better options against lefties and should be used as such, despite common baseball strategy.

Before I did this research, I had the Yanks ‘pen in the playoffs tabbed as such: Mo, Gordon, Sturtze, Leiter, Embree, and the starter or starters who don’t make the four-man rotation. This means Chacon, Wang, Wright or Small, depending on how the season ends and how Moose does in his return.

Notice how Emrbee is on that list? If this were Survivor, I’d be voting him off the island right now. This opens up the bullpen for another one of those left out starters, but I actually have another idea for who should get the slot.

Scott Proctor. And please, hear me out before you call me a bumbling moron. The Yanks are lacking a lefty specialist, and that may come back to haunt come playoff time. But has anyone heard of a righty specialist? Well, what if I told you that Proctor’s line against righties goes a lil’ something like this: .191/.258/.292. And no, I’m not friggin’ kidding you.

How invaluable could Proctor be in the late innings against righties? Think about this: seventh inning, three righties due up. Or two righties and a lefty. Proctor can start the inning, and leave the lefties to Sturtze. Or, if lefties are due up to start the inning, Sturtze starts the inning to face them, Proctor comes in to face the righties, and if he gets in trouble, Flash is always a solid guy to bring in with two out in the seventh.

The scenarios are numerous, and in each one I can conjure up, Embree doesn’t fit into the picture. He’s a lefty specialist who has a higher BAA against lefties than righties. He doesn’t get outs in big spots. In short, he brings nothing to the table.

Scott Proctor has pitched well this season when he’s been called upon to go above and beyond the call of duty, being that he’s normally a one or two inning guy. His numbers against righties are astounding, and they should earn him a spot on the postseason roster. Hopefully the coaching staff catches on to this and utilizes him in these righty-heavy situations down the stretch.

Oh yeah, I said I was going to get to the Orioles. I guess that’s for a different day.