Thursday, July 28, 2005

Quick Thought

Normally, I'd post this on a messages board, and come to think of it, I probably will at some point soon. But...

For Saturday, if we're still without a starter, I say give Sean Henn another shot. If we're coveting him so much that we're not going to even consider trading him, you might as well gauge his progress. Starting him would be at least productive in those terms.

Short of that, Darrell May is dominating AAA, going 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA and a 0.50 WHIP. I know he got knocked around, but once again, we can't do much worse.

And Mike Vento is performing well at the moment, hitting .314 with 12 homers and 34 doubles. Why not give him a shot if the outfield is hurting?

Derp

Not too much time to moan about last night’s loss, but I just wanted to address some concerns that I’ve been reading around the web.

It seems that Joe is second-guessed by the fans every time he makes a decision that turns ill. Last night, Joe decided to hand the ball to Sturtze in the seventh, rather than keep Felix Rodriguez on the hill. The sentiment on the message boards is, “why didn’t Joe keep Felix in there for the seventh?”

And, of course, had Joe kept Felix in and he let up the three runs, we would have been reading, “how could Joe stick with Felix in the late innings of a one-run game?”

Point is, our bullpen is in the dumpster, and any move that Joe makes that goes beyond Gordon in the 8th and Mo closing the game is going to be second-guessed.

This, of course, is due to our starting staff not being able to carry a game into the seventh. But we’re riddled with replacement guys who struggle to finish five.

So we have two options at this point: pick up a middle reliever or pick up a reliable starter. And, as the problem always is, there just aren’t any available. End of story.

People can complain about Torre’s mismanagement of the bullpen all they want, but when he’s got a total of three guys (I’m still counting Sturtze despite last night) he can count on, there’s not much he can really do.

And before anyone gets on me about this, do YOU trust Felix Rodriguez to come in and get three big outs? Didn’t think so.

Maybe we can tattoo Joe Mays today and forget the whole thing ever happened. I mean, it WAS Santana.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Not Sold On Randy

It’s nice to see everyone back on the Randy Johnson bandwagon. After four months of inconsistency, he deserves a firm pat on the butt and a, “hey, Unit, nice job!,” right?

Not for the sake of being different, but I just don’t get why everyone is singing this guy’s praise. Are we forgetting the four months of ups and downs, three run outing after three run outing? Or how about those two seven run performances in late June and early July?

His lowest monthly ERA was in June, with a 3.63. His July ERA is 4.23. And it seems that I’m the only one who isn’t convinced that Randy is going to be Randy. Maybe it’s because I’m the only one who remembers seeing flashes of a youthful Randy earlier this season, only to be disappointed by his subsequent starts.

Just one year ago, on July 27th, 2004, Randy had a 2.68 ERA, and had 14 starts in which he gave up less than three runs. His ERA has just dipped to 3.95, and only eight (of 22) starts with less than three given up.

Everyone knows what Randy was brought in for: dominance. And we’re reminded of that after every start, whether mediocre – “what happened to the Randy of old? This isn’t what we brought him here for.” – or stellar – “Now THIS is what we’re paying this guy to do.”

Point is, Randy’s standing with the media and fans depends on his latest outing. He tosses a shutout, we’re kissing his ass. He gives up five runs and we’re wondering if he’s finally over the hill at age 41.

What we should be wondering is, “What is Randy going to do for the rest of the year?” If he’s going to turn out four mediocre performances for every dominant outing, the Yanks are going to be in the same position as they were last year, without a surefire ace of the pitching staff. Difference is that Boston is in the same boat this year.

Another difference is the other Sox, who have three starters with a better ERA than the best on Boston and New York. And Chicago’s fourth guy, departed Yank Jose Contreras, has an ERA .10 higher than Bronson Arroyo, Boston’s leader (who has also been involved in trade rumors). So while pitching within the division may have evened out, come October, both teams may find themselves in a heap of trouble. Because teeing off against guys with 4.50 ERAs is a bit different than teeing off against Buehrle and Garland.

But if Randy thinks he can get by pitching just good enough to stay ahead of his Boston counterparts, he’s sadly mistaken. For the $16 mil he’s making this year and with the hype that came along with his relocation to the Bronx, he owes the team and the fans five more starts just like yesterday before we can start singing his praise. And then we have the whole subject of October, which I won’t get into since this is the first year that we aren’t all but guaranteed to be playing then at this point.

While the rest of the media will suck up to Unit’s current success, I just can’t be sold at this point. Get back to me in a few starts, when his ERA is below 3.50, which would be the highest acceptable ERA for him. Until then, I guess I’m going to expect more of the same: mediocre starts, a few gems and a few 7-run bombs mixed in there.

And to end on a positive, a happy birthday to A-Rod.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Damn This Trade Deadline

I very much dislike going a day without writing something constructive about my beloved Yankees. But following an off-day, there’s just not much to talk about. The only worthwhile news are trade rumors, and since nothing new has popped up in the last 24 hours, that’s not exactly a productive road to travel.

But I will go on the record and say that it appears the Yanks are almost better standing pat than pursuing anyone currently on the block. Not that I think we have all the answers within the organization, but it just seems that the guys on the block aren’t worth their asking price. Maybe some of the price tags will come down as the week dwindles and there is less and less time for teams to unload these unwanted players, but until then, I think Cashman needs to keep his current posture.

There has been talk of acquiring a package of Ron Villone, Gil Meche, and Randy Winn from Seattle, but it looks like that stingy Mariners front office will prohibit from that. From the New York Post:

"The price for [Eddie] Guardado is laugh-out-loud ridiculous. They asked us for a package that we would not give up for any single player in professional baseball."

So I’m only assuming that the tag for those three players would be comparable. And since we’re not keen at this point on tossing prospects for mediocrity, I’d almost certainly rule out this trade, unless they can be had for a package of Womack, Proctor, and Eric Duncan, say.

Not that I’m too keen on dealing Duncan. He’s a North Jersey kid, and played high school ball at Seton Hall Prep, a team that my high school played twice a year. Problem is that he plays a position held by arguably the best player in the game over the past five years. Of course, the Yanks could pull a Robin Yount move and switch Jeter to center, A-Rod back to short, and implant Duncan at third. But then we have this year’s first rounder, C.J. Henry, who is supposed to be the shortstop of the future.

But talking about Henry may be jumping a bit far into the future. Then again, he’s been talked about as having a Jeter-like attitude and passion for the game. And although he’s hitting a mere .241 in the Gulf Coast rookie league, he’s already drawn 10 walks in 87 at bats, which leads the team, and inflated his OBP to a respectable .340. But it’s still early, and we’re going to have to see next year how he reacts to A ball. Thankfully, the kid’s only 18.

It’s more than a little comforting to know that we do have tons of upside potential in the minors. Philip Hughes is the talk of the town, and I’m not the only one anxiously awaiting his every start in his new home with the Tampa Yankees. Melky Cabrera may have been a failed experiment for this year, but kid’s only 20. And he’s hitting .308 in 17 games with the Clippers, so there is certainly hope in the future.

And even though he’s 28, Mitch Jones is putting on a show in Columbus, knocking 23 homers so far this season. He may not be a future superstar, but he can surely step in when Tino departs after this season, especially with the rejuvenated Giambi taking the bulk of the time at first.

It’s definitely comforting, knowing that there’s even a possibility that the Yanks may hold on to these young guys. Who knows, maybe we’ll be seeing an infield of Duncan, Henry, and Cano down the road. And that, my friends, would be a breath of fresh air.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Screwed?

How quickly a 5-2, optimistic road trip turns into a 6-5, “at least we salvaged that last victory” trip. True, there are worse things than ending a road trip just over .500 and heading home a game and a half back of the Red Sox. But at this point in this particular season, the Yanks just can’t take too much solace in that.

If one positive is to be taken from the four game stint in LA, it has to be yesterday’s performance by Mike Mussina. The Yanks managed to squeeze four runs out of their six hits, and Moose picked them up, going six and a third strong. This is how it’s going to have to work for the rest of the season: bats picking up when the pitching goes south and vice versa.

But it’s not like I’m introducing a new concept at this point. Problem is, the pitching staff just isn’t consistent enough to pick up when the heavy bats have an off day. And even when the guys do come out swinging – see Saturday – there’s always that off chance that Kevin Brown will be on the hill. And no one can post an insurmountable deficit like Brownie.

So now we’re stuck, pondering the same questions we were pondering for the past four months: can this team win? What do they need to change in order to actually win?

Let’s take a look at the thus far dominant Chicago White Sox for a comparison. Their top five OPB players are Scott Podsednil (.366), Paul Konerko (.355), Aaron Rowand (.344), Tad Iguchi (.340), and Jermaine Dye (.327). Their top five in terms of slugging percentage are Dye (.505), Konerko (.487), Carl Everett (.460), Joe Crede (.436), and Iguchi (.428).

Now let’s examine our Yankees. The OBP leaders are Jason Giambi (.437), A-Rod (.417), Sheff (.392), Jete (.376), and Matsui (.371). And in slugging, it’s A-Rod (.589), Giambi (.534), Sheff (.532), Matsui (.518), and Cano (.489).

What gives? The fifth highest Yank in terms of OBP has a better percentage than the highest Sock, and the slugging percentage comparison yields similar results. But, to make more sense of the stats, the Yanks have scored 537 runs (first in the majors) to the White Sox 465.

Oh yeah, I forgot for a second that baseball wasn’t just about hitting. There are those guys who hit the mound once every five days and toss the ball to those hitters. And, contrary to what the Yankees may lead you to believe, some of them don’t serve up three or more runs on a daily basis.

They have a legitimate ace in Mark Beuhrle (11-3, 2.66 ERA, 1.12 WHIP) followed by two solid hurlers – Jon Garland (15-4, 3.19 ERA, 1.12 WHIP) and Freddie Garcia (9-4, 3.60 ERA, 1.22 WHIP). And on top of that, they have two guys that while not in the upper echelon of pitchers, aren’t guaranteed to get hammered every time out (and former Yankees) – Jose Contreras ( 7-3, 4.36 ERA, 1.32 WHIP) and O-Dawg Hernandez (7-3, 4.78 ERA, 1.57 WHIP in 13 starts).

It’s going to pain me to make the Yankees comparison here, but for the same of analysis, I’ll grit my teeth and bear it. Our ace is a shell of his former self, posting a 10-8 record with a 4.18 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP, while giving up a whopping 21 home runs. The best starter on the staff now is 36-year-old Mike Mussina, who actually has an ERA below 4 (3.83), but posts a 1.33 WHIP, which could get him into trouble at some point. Our most consistent starter, Chieng-Ming Wang, is likely out for the season after providing a solid 3.89 ERA to go with a 1.21 WHIP as a rookie.

Beyond that, we have Carl Pavano, who personifies the word “struggling.” He boasts an inflated 4.77 ERA to go with a 1.47 WHIP, and the most unearned runs in the majors. Then it’s Al Leiter, who was the worst pitcher in the majors before coming to New York, as ESPN decided to point out on a daily basis. He’s had one very good start and one “eh, it could have been a lot worse” start since coming over. I think we can expect more of a happy medium between the two for the bulk of his remaining starts, but of course there are no guarantees to that. And don’t even get me started on Brownie (4-7, 6.50, 1.72).

But what even further separates the Sox from the Yanks is the bullpen. Not that the tandem of Sturtze, Gordon and Mo is deficient in any way. But the Sox – wow. Mo may lead the pack with 25 saves and a 0.85 ERA, but the Sox have three guys who have been as good if not better than Gordon thus far. Cliff Politte (1.51 ERA, 0.77 WHIP), Dustin Hermanson (1.91 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 23 saves), and Neal Cotts (2.36 ERA, 1.05 WHIP) have been lights out, and Damaso Marte (3.03, 1.65) has added a depth to the bullpen nearly unmatched across the league. Hell, even Luis Vizcaino (4.11, 1.57 WHIP) hasn’t been horrible, certainly a step up from the fifth best guy in the Yanks pen – Scott Proctor (4.80, 1.47). And God help the American League if the Sox can land Billy Wagner.

After Sturtze, the Yanks have zero reliability at this point. Maybe Felix Rodriguez will be able to step up and take some of the load off this year’s incarnation of the Three Headed Monster, but that’s mere speculation at this point.

So it becomes obvious what is needed. Problem is, what we need just isn’t readily available. A.J. Burnett is the only solid arm on the market at this point, and the Yanks aren’t even in discussions for him. Shawn Chacon is an option, but that’s not something anyone should be getting excited over.

And the relief market looks even bleaker. Seattle’s Eddie Guardado has been mentioned in trade rumors, but his price will likely be high considering his 1.64 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. Combine that with his age (34), and it looks like the Yanks won’t be willing to pony up the prospects for him, even in a deal that would also bring over Randy Winn.

With just six days until the trading deadline, it doesn’t seem like the Yanks will be able to pull off a deal that will fix the problems of the current club. This may turn in to a loooooooong second half.