Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Got Greed?

I guess I answered my question from yesterday. For those curious, it feels just as bad as losing the games to the White Sox two weeks ago, but a little worse because the Mariners are no Pale Hose. It was a 100 percent winnable game in which the Yankees just couldn't score the guys on the basepaths. And as I've said before, that's going to happen to teams built like the Yankees. Let's hope that kind of luck doesn't spill over into tonight.

Since I'm sick of leading these stories with Alex, I'm going to jump right to Jeff Karstens. He looked a little shaky – all right, a lot shaky. His 61-30 strikes to balls ratio wasn't bad, but just about everything else was. This includes his two home runs surrendered (Sexson and Beltre, which irks me just a bit), six total hits in five and a third innings, and his “eh” two walks to two strikeouts. Jeff at Lookout Landing has a take on that situation:

You see, Karstens was born without a lower jaw, and he's exploited this feature to his advantage by adopting a deceptive and distracting presence on the mound that keeps hitters off balance. It's been the key to his entire professional career, because he certainly doesn't have the kind of raw stuff on which he can survive alone. That became abundantly clear very early, when he flashed a straight fastball around 91mph, a slider with practically zero speed difference, and a curve that was more eephus than legitimate Major League weapon. Oh, and he threw them all with spotty location, routinely forcing Posada to move his glove a considerable distance to receive the pitch. After walking Chris Snelling, Karstens threw an absolutely godawful fastball to Adrian Beltre that would've crossed the middle of the plate at the belt had Beltre not crapped all over the ball and sent it beyond the left-center fence. Just like that, the Mariners had a 2-0 lead. Richie Sexson followed that with a deep fly out, Raul Ibanez followed that with a double, and Karstens' fate became clear - if he didn't start directing these balls in play towards his teammates instead of the wall, he'd be gone so fast his ghoulish head would spin, and he'd never get another chance in the big leagues again.

So, naturally, he settled down, aided by some unfortunately-textbook terrible approaches at the plate by Mariner hitters.
Karstens was surviving by the skin of the upper row of his teeth, and he knew it. Against any other lineup in any other stadium, he'd have been gone by the third, getting ready to take his Pony League repertoire back to AAA where he'd collect a smaller paycheck and get into arguments over why he has to pay his dentist a full bill for doing half the work. But no, not in Safeco, not against Seattle - in that environment, he was one out away from a quality start in his Major League debut in front of his disgustingly obese and unattractive family.

One could guess that Karstens would learn a bit from his first Major League outing and apply it when he faces a much tougher Angels lineup on Sunday. But after reading Jeff's assessment, I'm not so confident in that anymore. He may not be a professional, but Jeff often provides excellent insights into the nuances of pitching. It makes me want to go back and watch the game with a finer eye, but since I have this shitty job, that's not going to be possible. Though, I have to say, watching the game with the intention of nitpicking Karstens's performance isn't any less productive than what I get done at work.

Wanting to punch a hole in the TV: Alex Rodriguez striking out in his first two at bats.
Wide-eyed and cheering like a madman: Alex Rodriguez plastering one way into the upper deck.
Out at PC Richards, buying a new TV: Alex Rodriguez strikes out again in the ninth.

He had the chance to be a hero, in front of one of the three crowds in baseball that most detests him, against a terrible reliever (Julio Mateo – 27 strikeouts to 20 walks, 1.69 WHIP, 4.82 ERA). After taking the first three pitches and falling behind 1-2, he got beat with some high heat, leaving Jeter and Guiel on the base paths. If anything, this dispelled the notion brought up following his home run off rookie O'Flaherty that he only whales on shitty pitching. Because it doesn't get much shittier than Mateo.

Ron Villone didn't waste any time, though that home run is a bit confounding. It came on the fourth pitch of the at bat, on the heels of two swinging strikes. Normally, I'd blame a performances like this on the fatigue incurred by the Yankees pitchers over the weekend, but it seems that this was simply a misplaced pitch. The good news: he didn't work too hard, so if you give him the day off today he should be back to full strength tomorrow. And since we know Torre is wont to use Villone and Proctor as much as humanly possible, Wang absolutely needs to go deep into this game. I'm talking at least seven, hopefully eight innings, and we're desperately hoping for a 5-plus run lead, since Mo could use another day off as well. I can't envision a situation more appealing than Wang going eight followed by Dotel in the ninth. Of course, I also can't envision a situation more appealing than going 162-0, so yeah, just to put that in perspective.

So, what did we learn last night?

1)It still sucks balls to lose winnable games, even after you beat the second place team in your division five straight.
2)Alex Rodriguez needs to go to Baseball Analysts and read that breakdown of his swing, because there's obviously something wrong.
3)Jeff Karstens, while not very good, may very well be better than Jaret Wright
4)I can't believe I'm saying this, but...we could really use Carl Pavano right now. Hey, at least the guy is/was a Major League pitcher.
5)If your team rattles off a five-game winning streak amidst a 14-day, 15-game stretch, chances are you're going to lose the 16th game.

And we'll take these thoughts into tonight, as the Yankees second-year phenom faces the Mariners second-year phenom. Wang vs. Felix. It should be the best game of the series.