Friday, May 05, 2006

On Tap: The Rangers

I frequent a handful of Yankees sites daily, not in an effort to expand my knowledge of the team, but to observe what other fans think about our beloved team. This means reading the comments following the posts. And while there are lively discussions taking place at many sites around the net, I’ve found myself parked at Pinstripe Alley for most of the season. There are two major reasons for this:

1) It’s always a lively, diversified argument. There people of all ages arguing and discussing on that board, some of which are statheads, others of which who have never heard of VORP. But regardless of who is speaking, there is normally an understood degree of respect.
2) There aren’t hundreds and hundreds of comments on each post. I used to partake in the discussions over at RLYW, but since there are literally 120+ comments on each post, it’s discouraging to see something I say get lost in the fray.

There is one poster in particular, going by the name of "lee," with whom I routinely disagree. We have various talking/arguing points, but can never seem to hit a compromise. But at least we can agree on what’s in store this weekend in Texas.

[MORE]
the "inconsistent hitting" is more about good pitching beating good hitting than anything else. at LAA they lost to Escobar (ERA 3.41) and Santana (3.73), but beat Colon (7.07). at Minnesota they lost to Baker (4.40) and Rincon (2.70), but beat Radke (7.29). as i've said before, they have no problem beating up on poor pitching, but they have a heck of a time winning when they're up against good pitching.


Note: while Rincon pitched one inning to get the win, we did get to Santana in the game he’s talking about, posting four runs over 6 1/3. ANYWAY.

On tap this weekend are the pitching-starved Texas Rangers. And while their lineup can smack the ball around with the best of ‘em – even the Yankees – their lack of starting pitching has led to failure after failure. It even forced them to vastly overpay for Kevin Milwood and Adam Eaton, neither of whom is pitching this weekend (Eaton is on the DL). So here are the match ups:

Vincente Padilla (3-1, 4.04, 1.37) vs. Mussina (4-1, 2.31, 1.08)
Loe (1-2, 4.15, 1.33) vs. Chacon (3-1, 4.56, 1.44)
Robinson Tejada (1-0, 3.60, 1.80) vs. Wang (1-1, 4.89, 1.51)

In essence, there’s no top-notch pitching to worry about, so the Yanks should be able to slug their way to a series victory should the back end of the rotation falter. However, there is one problem the Yanks haven’t faced well: relatively newbie starters. You know, kinda like Robinson Tejada.

Look, we all know the Yanks can and likely will crush Kameron Loe. He may be a large, intimidating man, but I don’t think he has the stuff to contain the likes of Derek Jeter and Jason Giambi. And with Matsui and A-Rod seemingly righting themselves, this specemin in mediocrity should be taking an early shower on Saturday night. Padilla and Robinson, while ostensibly harmless, pose a different threat.

Padilla has been a career National Leaguer to this point, meaning he’s faced the Yankees maybe once, twice at the most, in his career. And honestly, he doesn’t have terrible stuff. He’s not an ace, but he served the Phillies well in the middle of the rotation. As such, I fully expect him to go Scott Baker on us. Same goes for Robinson Tejada, who just made his first start of the season on May 2. This isn’t to say that these outcomes are a certainty, but that should they happen, I won’t be shocked.

I’ll be pissed, however. The Yankees need to take full advantage of the forthcoming situation and run up the score against these mediocre pitchers. Of course, that’s much easier to type than to execute. But it’s frustrating to see a team that normally makes its living off getting guys on base falter against middle and back of the rotation guys, using the “we haven’t seen much of them” excuse. Well, you know what? Other teams haven’t seen much of these pitchers either, yet they beat up on them. That’s how we know they’re mediocre, because they get rocked most of the times they’re on the mound.

The Rangers may be atop the AL West, but there is absolutely no reason the Yanks can’t take all three this weekend. As always, I’ll be happy with two of three. Wang has been horribly inconsistent and could implode at any point. And Chacon has that nasty habit of allowing guys on base before he bears down and gets outs. This becomes problematic with the Rangers lineup, as they can slug, slug, slug. That, however, means that they’re relatively aggressive, which should play right into Moose’s hands.

Hope they’ve got a new shipment of lumber ready for Saturday and Sunday; we might need all the help we can get on the offensive side.

Yanks 10, Rays 5


PlayerWEPitcherWE
Cano.129Sturtze.024
Damon.122Proctor.016
A-Rod.115Myers.009
Giambi.114Johnson-.274
Matsui.107
Posada.067
Williams.062
Sheffield.026
Jeter-.014
Crosby-.053


Signs you’re getting over the hill: you falter against a lineup contained the previous night by Jaret Wright. Thankfully, we still have that 1,000 run offense, and could overcome Randy’s faults to overpower the D-Rays 10-5.

I don’t even want to talk about Randy, because I’m going to get all fired up and say things I really don’t mean. And then when he rolls around and dominates in his next start, I’ll look the fool. So, while I may have the urge to throw a right cross at his bird-like craw, I’ll refrain for the time being. Repeat after me: he’s still Randy Johnson, he’s still Randy Johnson.

[MORE]At least there was a happy ending to his start. He did, after all, retire the final six batters he faced in order, which is the opposite of normal proceedings. I guess he made a few in-game adjustments, and that allowed him to last through seven innings. Which, I have to say, is at least mildly impressive, considering his relative ineptitude in the first five innings.

To offset Randy’s performance, the bats had to come alive and bring the Yanks all the way back. I’ve been noticing that when it comes to Win Expectancy, one or two guys usually rise right to the top, with the rest falling in the middle and turning in performances under the 10 percent (.10) mark. That’s fine, because this is a team and sometimes one or two guys need to bear the entire load. But yesterday, five Yankees finished above the 10 percent mark, and only two hitters (three total with Randy) were in the negative – and none more than 53 percent (Bubba).

As with most nights at this point, I usually run through the game on MLB.tv when they post the archives around 11. I work until nine on most nights, and am seriously like a crack addict when it comes to checking the score. However, I still need to see what happens, because without visual observation, I’m just a stathead (not that there’s anything wrong with statheads). Anyway, I got into my car after work and turned on the radio (already pre-set to 880 AM) to hear Sterling’s booming voice.

“THAT BALL IS HIGH! IT IS FAR! IIIIIT ISSSSSS GONE! IT’S A GRAND SLAM! POSITIVELY, COMPLETELY DEMONIC! JOHNNY DAMON GRAND SLAM INTO THE RIGHT FIELD SEATS!”

My friend Liz was in the car at the time. Raised by her father to loathe the Evil Empire, she had to put her fingers in her ears and sing a little song while I basked in the glory that is Johnny Damon. She later admitted she was on the brink of throwing up when I did my little fist pump.

Too bad the Red Sox were able to actually win one against the Blue Jays. It seems the Yankees have overcome last year’s kryptonite-esque reaction to the Devil Rays, but the Red Sox are still having the same difficulties with the Blue Jays. That’s going to benefit us mightily if this trend continues down the stretch.

Rangers up next, and I think I’m going for a whole new post to preview them.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Yanks 4, Rays 2


PlayerWEPitcherWE
Damon.124Farnsworth.192
Posada.079Villone.090
Williams.073Rivera.079
Giambi.055Myers.060
Cano.037Wright.036
A-Rod.002
Matsui-.027
Stinnett-.033
Cairo-.064
Jeter-.095
Phillips-.123


All I have to say is that J-Wright deserved more credit than the WE gave him. But, I guess that’s what you get when you yield a home run to Tomas Perez later in the game. But, rather than stress that little mishap, I’m going to shower Wright with some praise. Hell, maybe he’ll regain some confidence and become an asset out of the bullpen once Pavano comes back and/or they sign Roger.

[MORE]While I could have done without some of the drama, this was another solid win for the Yanks. Then again, I’m never one to turn his nose up at a W, no matter how it finds them. While this game won’t help in the March for 1,000 Runs, it’s nice to know the Yanks can rely on their pitching to keep games winnable. Last year, had they gone six innings without scoring a run, the pitching might have already put the game out of reach. But this year, we actually have guys who throw, you know, well. And we all know what happens to good hitting teams that find some pitching…

My favorite player of the night was Ron Villone, hands down. Sure, he may have only worked the seventh, but he came through with the game tied. To this point, he has been relegated to mostly mop-up work, and sporadic mop-up work at that. Remember last year, when Buddy Groom flipped out on Torre? Said something to the effect that Torre’s inconsistent use of his bullpen affected his control to the point where he couldn’t get guys out. Well, Villone proved that he’s a much, much better pitcher than Groom. Not that I thought anyone was contesting that, anyway.

The following message is for my father: A-Rod, baby!!! Okay, so he muffed his at-bats in regulation, grounding into a double play, striking out, getting caught stealing, and leaving three men on base. But when it mattered, with runners at second and third with an out in the tenth, A-Rod not only knocked in Damon, but he hit the ball hard and squarely for what seemed like the first time in a long time. Can you imagine what this lineup is going to do once A-Rod and Matsui correct their swings?

I would also like to take this time to thank Bernie Williams for contributing to yesterday’s win with a 3 for 5 performance. And that’s all we’re going to get from him for two weeks or so, as his frail body needs to recover from such exertion. Too bad he won’t be sitting until Gary Sheffield returns. And this brings me to my question: is Sheffield over-nursing this injury because of his contract? Personally, I think that’s the case. Obviously I don’t know exactly how hurt he is, but this seems like typical Sheff.

Note to Joe Torre: starting Bernie, Phillips, and Stinnett is not a good idea. I didn’t catch any of the pregame, and I try to tune out Michael Kay during the game, so I’m not sure if anyone gave a reason for Stinnett starting. But with a day off yesterday and no day game after a night game until Sunday, why the hell wasn’t Jorge starting? Especially with Sheff out of the lineup and Bernie forced into action. I just don’t get it.

In closing, I’m officially scared tonight. Randy faces his kryptonite in the Devil Rays, while Doug Waechter hits the hill against the Yanks. Waechter sucks, which doesn’t bode well for the Yanks. See, there’s an interesting formula that nearly always works when the Rays play the Yanks.

Devil Rays + shitty starting pitcher = embarrassing loss for Yanks

Hopefully we can disprove this theorem tonight.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Sorry, Barry, I Just Don't Care Anymore

I’m past the point of sick regarding the Barry Bonds situation, but I feel the need to chime in for what could be the last time. As he continues to knock pitches out of the park, as he is wont to do, it’s becoming a reality that he will have hit the second most home runs in baseball history when all is said and done. And in doing so, he’ll pass one of baseball’s earliest saviors, Babe Ruth.

But you all know this; hell, even the most casual fans are aware of what’s in the offing. While ESPN is planning a round of festivities for when Bonds hits No. 715, most people around baseball won’t even budge.

Because we just don’t care anymore.

[MORE]There’s way too much taint surrounding Bonds to take this milestone seriously. And while most of us have expressed resentment and anger towards this in the past, the topic has grown stale. Yes, Barry Bonds injected himself with illegal drugs that enabled him to work out longer and more frequently. As a result, he was able to become much stronger and drive the ball with more force than previously attainable. This, of course, wasn’t/isn’t fair, but life isn’t fair. Barry cheated the system and got away with it – at least for the time being.

Just because he has physically hit more balls out of ballparks than all but one player in baseball history doesn’t mean that the baseball loving population has to recognize it. Of course, the uber-ignorant fans out in San Fran will stand and applaud and cheer their lungs out when Barry passes the Babe. Some will boo angrily. But most of us will sit back in our recliners and see what else is on TV. And I think that’s the best reaction to this situation.

See, Barry Bonds is a dickhead, and has been since he became a public persona. And as a dickhead, Barry craves attention. In fact, that’s probably the main reason for his douchbaggery. It’s much easier to garner attention by pissing people off than by befriending them.

And now he’s approaching what should be the pinnacle of his attention. He wants people to boo; he wants to be hated for passing the immortal Babe Ruth. The more people that care, the more his ego is fed. So, like the annoying bully in the schoolyard, the best remedy for Bonds is to just ignore him.

I’ve read Game of Shadows; I know the score with baseball players and steroids. I’m not saying that the book is 100 percent accurate, but I’m saying that it gives the lay person a portal into the world of sports doping. And I think it proves, within reason, that Barry Bonds was part of BALCO’s juicing scheme.

Ruth was the stuff of legends. He hit home runs further and with more frequency than any of his contemporaries. Bonds did the same, and that would be admirable if he didn’t have a synthetic advantage. So when I talk about the best power hitters in baseball history, I’ll graze over Barry and talk about Ruth and Aaron until I’m blue in the mouth. And when I’m telling my kids about what baseball was like when I was growing up, I’ll tell them about Barry and how he was arguably the best player in the game, and that wasn’t good enough for him. He had to take illegal drugs to enhance his performance

From reading this, it may seem that I care, but I don’t. Or at least this is my form of therapy so I can exorcise thoughts of Barry before he reaches Ruth.

Something for a Rainy Day


I just found this 1989 Fleer error card. I collected baseball cards in 1989. How the hell did I miss this? And when I say collected baseball cards, I mean blew all my allowance money on packs and Barry Bonds rookie cards, and had a long-running subscription to Beckett Baseball Monthly. Sadly, my mother talked me in to canning all of them.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

An April in Review: The Hitters

It’s time for another bimonthly assessment of the Yankees with a focus on their Win Expectancy. In my first edition, WE was the dominating aspect, mainly because I’m a newbie and still fascinated with all we can learn from WE. After a full month of tracking each game, I think I’m better positioned to make some apt commentary. Let’s eat!

We’ll go position by position. First I’ll list each players averages by Avg/OPB/Slg (yes, a return to slugging percentage for the time being, though I’ll talk about ISO in my analysis), followed by their respective AL rank at said position. Then onto some WE analysis and relevant commentary.

[MORE]Catcher (9 qualified players)
Jorge Posada: .288/.395/.452 – 6th/3rd/3rd
WE: .540
Notable WE games: -.138 (4/8 vs. Anaheim); .198 (4/9 vs. Anaheim); .179 (4/12 vs. Kansas City); .123 (4/14 vs. Minnesota); -.156 (4/15 vs. Minnesota); .148 (4/19 vs. Toronto); .170 (4/21 vs. Baltimore); -.154 (4/26 vs. Tampa Bay)

I have to admit Jorge has been a pleasant surprise this year. After a steep decline last year, he’s gotten back into his groove early. He ranks right up there with the best in the AL, though that’s not much of a change from even last year. What most people forget is that catchers aren’t expected to put up monster numbers. Guys like Piazza (in his prime), Victor Martinez, and Joe Mauer are aberrations among backstops. So to have a catcher who ranks third in OBP and Slugging – and second in Isolated Power (to the monstrous Victor Martinez).

His Win Expectancy is well in the positive, but as I’ve explained, that can be misleading. He has contributed more than .100 four times, while taking away .100 thrice, so he’s relatively even in that department. In those games, he’s +.200, meaning that he’s hacked his way to an additional .340 points in smaller situations. What I take this to mean is that he’s doing little things, and while he’s not dominating, he’s not killing the team by any means. And on top of being one of the best catchers in the AL, he’s got to be among the top No. 7 hitters in the league.

First Base (20 qualified players)
Jason Giambi: .344/.554/.852 – 2nd/1st/1st
WE: 1.171
Notable WE games: -.116 (4/5 vs. Oakland); .335 (4/11 vs. KC); .203 (4/16 vs. Minnesota); .139 (4/22 vs. Balt); .276 (4/23 vs. Balt); .153 (4/26 vs. TB); .176 (4/29 vs. Toronto); .104 (4/30 vs. Toronto)

Uh, yeah, Giambi is kinda sorta back in MVP form. And forget that 2nd rank in batting average; the only player ahead of him is Paul Konerko. And while his .360/.443/.640 line is quite impressive, all you have to do is juxtapose his with Giambi’s to prove who’s having a better season.

His greatest quality is his impeccable plate discipline, which has led to his possession of the highest OBP in baseball. Not only that, but since pitchers know he’ll only swing at strikes, they face the conundrum of facing him or putting him on base. The only snafu is that the only player protecting him is the slumping Hideki Matsui. But I’ll get to lineup optimization in just a little bit.

Second Base (14 qualified players)
Robinson Cano: .316/.341/.443 – 5th/5th/5th
WE: -.002
Notable WE games: -.118 (4/11 vs. KC); .123 (4/14 vs. Minnesota)

So here’s Cano, by the numbers one of the top second basemen in the AL, with an essentially neutral WE. He’s had one noticeably great performance (though he was the only one hitting on that horrid night in Minnesota), and sucked it up while the Captain saved the day against Kansas City. So his best game came in a loss, and his worst in a win.

Okay, we know WE isn’t the be all, end all stat when it comes to evaluating players. But we do know that it adequately sums up a player’s contribution to a win or loss on a game by game basis. And while Cano’s numbers are up there, his neutral win expectancy has me wondering. Why does it have me wondering? Well, let’s have a looksee at Candidate A.

Third Base (18 qualified players)
Alex Rodriguez: .267/.390/.477 – 12th/5th/11th
WE: -.159
Notable WE games: .143 (4/3 vs. Oakland); -.239 (4/4 vs. Oakland); -.142 (4/5 vs. Oakland); -.123 (4/8 vs. Oakland); .191 (4/19 vs. Toronto); -.165 (4/21 vs. Balt); -.167 (4/26 vs. TB); .126 (4/27 vs. TB)

Ouch. That’s all I can say about A-Rod. His WE is in the negative, and he’s not even among the top AL third basemen this season. Of course, we can expect a turnaround at some point, but it’s pretty apparent though traditional stats and WE that A-Rod just isn’t contributing to an acceptable level.

My father’s unabashed hatred for Smacky McBluelips has led me to become an A-Rod apologist. However, it has become increasingly difficult this year. What his WE composite number and game log can tell us is that, echoing a popular opinion, A-Rod is terrible in key situations. The NoMaas crew will try to have you believe otherwise by citing "Close and Late" situations (after the seventh when the teams are within three runs of each other). However, that is a very loose definition of clutch. A strikeout with the bases loaded in the fifth inning of a one-run game won’t show up in "Close and Late," but I’d define them as rather clutch situations. And there are few players I would like to see less in such situations than A-Rod at this point.

Shortstop (9 qualified players)
Derek Jeter: .396/.504/.637 – 2nd/1st/1st
WE: 1.595
Notable WE games: -.111 (4/5 vs. Oak); .122 (4/8 vs. Anaheim); .555 (4/11 vs. KC); .322 (4/15 vs. Minnesota); .100 (4/18 vs. Toronto); -.132 (4/19 vs. Toronto); .294 (4/21 vs. Balt); .100 (4/22 vs. Balt); .125 (4/25 vs. TB); .170 (4/26 vs. TB)

I’m going way out on a limb here: if any player in baseball can hit .400 this year I might just have to go with Jeter. Okay, realistically I’d say Albert Pujols. But, just look at the way Jete’s been hitting in the season’s first month. If he can maintain a .380 average for most of the season, it’ll only take a few hot streaks to push him over the threshold.

Of course, I’m being mildly facetious with this projection, but hey, we all know Derek is just one of “those players.” And “those players” always do something out of the ordinary. He’s never going to hit in 56 straight or win a home run title, but the .400 average mark is actually reasonable for Jeter – if reasonable for anyone in the majors. At the very least, I’d like to see him win a batting title. After losing the ’99 race to Nomar, he just hasn’t put up ridiculous averages. But his slide into the No. 2 hole seems to have benefited his numbers.

Left Field (17 qualified players)
Hideki Matsui: .247/.327/.409 – 11th/9th/10th
WE: -.544
Notable WE games: .117 (4/11 vs. KC); -.264 (4/15 vs. Minnesota); -.147 (4/19 vs. Toronto); -.274 (4/26 vs. TB); .173 (4/27 vs. TB); .118 (4/29 vs. Toronto); -.111 (4/30 vs. Toronto)

Okay, so maybe this isn’t as ugly as Jeter’s April of 2004. But he’s getting up there, mired in what could be the worst slump of his 3-plus year Major League career. I’m not exactly fretting over this, but I do know that his slump has cost the Yanks a game or two in April.

With Hideki, I keep thinking back to Mr. Baseball: he has a hole in his swing. He’s struck out 15 times in 104 plate appearances, or roughly once out of every seven times he steps up. That’s up from once every nine times last year, a significant downgrade.

Part of the problem, in my opinion, is his placement in the batting order. Now, I’m not saying that his numbers are deserving of a higher spot, but he looks like A-Rod in 2004, i.e. he’s not seeing enough good pitches, and is jumping on bad ones in an attempt to get a hit and start rolling. Once again, a lineup analysis is in the offing, but you can be sure I want to see Hideki moved up, at least temporarily.

Center Field (13 qualified players)
Johnny Damon: .299/.386/.485 – 3rd/2nd/4th
WE: .231
Notable WE games: .161 (4/4 vs. Oakland); .105 (4/7 vs. Anaheim); -.110 (4/8 vs. Anaheim); .123 (4/15 vs. Minnesota); -.204 (4/21 vs. Baltimore); -.112 (4/23 vs. Balt); .097 (4/25 vs. TB); -.103 (4/28 vs. Toronto); .248 (4/29 vs. Toronto); .148 (4/30 vs. Toronto)

Quickly note that Damon should be third in slugging percentage, since Craig Monroe is ranked No. 3. Curtis Granderson plays the majority of the center field innings in Detroit, making me wonder why Yahoo! includes Monroe in their listing. But whatever, you get the point; Damon is living up to the hype.

Damon had been hovering in the negative WE for most of April, until the weekend rolled around at Yankee Stadium. He’s in the positive for the moment, but I do expect further fluctuation into the negative. It’s much tougher for a leadoff hitter to accumulate a consistently positive WE, since the first out of the inning is more costly than the second and third. Damon also gets more at-bats, therefore recording more outs, which kicks his WE in the teeth.

While his OBP and average aren’t the best on the team, I can still live with him as a leadoff hitter. The big buzz around the media was how the Yankees had finally found a true leadoff hitter in Damon, but I’ve always been an advocate of Jeter in that slot – statistically the best leadoff hitter in baseball from 2000-2005. But Jeter seems to be flourishing in the two hole, and Johnny’s .386 OBP works for me.

Right Field (14 qualified players)
Gary Sheffield: .341/.390/.516 – 2nd/4th/6th
WE: -.114
Notable WE games: .220 (4/5 vs. Oakland); -.270 (4/7 vs. Anaheim); -.151 (4/11 vs. KC); .250 (4/12 vs. KC); -.105 (4/26 vs. TB); -.126 (4/27 vs. TB); .147 (4/29 vs. Toronto)

In a nutshell, Sheff has looked mostly lackadaisical out there. During his first two years in the Bronx, you could feel the intensity during every one of his at bats. The bat wave, the menacing glare towards the pitcher, the way he would rear back and put all of his force into his swing. And while that’s a completely intuitive notion, it’s how I feel about Sheff at this point. He’s walking less and striking out more, and as a result hasn’t been the power threat we’re used to.

And, like Matsui, I have a problem with Sheff’s spot in the order. I know it’s purely an ego thing that he bats third, but he really doesn’t deserve it. Then again, after reading an excerpt from The Book, I’m beginning to question the merits/importance of batting No. 3.

I wish Sheff would be reasonable and realize that playing well means Cashman will exercise his option. If he approached each plate appearance the way he has for the last two years, he’ll be pocketing an additional $13 million in no time. But, his logic is backwards, as he believes that giving a half-effort will send a message to the front office that he’s unhappy and wants to get paid. Sorry, Gary, but there are other guys in the league who can do what you do. Hell, if the Braves fall out of contention, they could be offering up Andruw Jones by mid-season. Same with the Twins and Torii Hunter.

And yet, the Yankees lineup just isn’t the same without him. This leaves me in an interesting place as a fan; on one hand, I love seeing Gary in the Yanks lineup, and am fairly certain he’ll finish among the top right fielders in the league. On the other, I hate his me-first attitude. All in all, given his performance decline over the last few years, I don’t think I’ll be all too sad to see him walk after this season. Then again, I could be singing a completely different tune in a few weeks.

All in all, the Yanks rank in the top of the league at nearly every position. This much was expected, though a bit of bad luck has led to less than optimized results. However, given the potency of this lineup, it’s a safe bet that they’ll get some good breaks to even out the bad luck. Then it all comes down to pitching and consistency, something the Yanks have been finding more of this year than they have for the past four or so.

I know this is already a long-winded piece, but I wanted to spend at least a paragraph talking about lineup analysis. Dave Pinto has a useful tool for this over at Baseball Musings. You simply enter each player’s OBP and Slugging, and the computer will spit out optimized lineups. I was tempted to write about this earlier in the month, but we were still victims of a small sample size. And really, we still are now, but it’s a little more accurate after a month of accumulating statistics. There are a few permutations of this list, and I’m going to pick the one that A) has close to the most projected runs per game and B) best aligns the team against the lefty-lefty issue.

6.976 runs per game (.09 less than optimal):
1. Jeter 2. Giambi 3. A-Rod 4. Damon 5. Sheffield 6. Matsui 7. Cano 8. Williams 9, Posada

Please note that of the 30 lineups spit out, Jeter was slated as leadoff 30 times, Giambi as No. 2 23 times, and Posada as No. 9 20 times. Bernie also landed in the No. 8 slot all 30 times. Here’s my take. There’s no way you’re moving Damon out of the No. 1 slot and Jeter out of No. 2. It’s just the way the lineup is going to be created, statistics be damned (not that I have a real problem with that 1-2 punch). So instead of doing what the numbers tell us, let’s take a more reasoned approach.

I like Giambi batting third, but I like him batting fourth more. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly a viable option if you want to avoid going lefty-lefty, considering my desire to see Matsui higher in the order. But I can’t really justify slotting him third, so fourth or fifth are the optimal spots. And remember, A-Rod and Sheffield still need their egos fed. However, screw Sheff at this point; he’s better suited to the No. 6 slot than Matsui. I still want to keep Cano at No. 9 so he’ll see pitches to hit with the top of the order due up. Taking all of this into consideration:

1. Damon 2. Jeter 3. Giambi 4. A-Rod 5. Matsui 6. Sheffield 7. Posada 8. Bernie 9. Cano

Just a few tweaks, but I think the Yanks will benefit more from Giambi batting third. He’ll have the opportunity to drive in runs with Damon and Jeter (and Cano, really) in front of him, and if they want to pitch around him, fine. He’ll take his base and leave the dirty work to A-Rod, Matsui, and Sheffield. Matsui won’t have to worry about seeing nothing to hit, since he’ll have the dangerous (or at least he’s perceived as dangerous) Sheffield hitting behind him. Jorge hasn’t had problems batting at the bottom of the order, and while I’d like to see the order go switch-lefty-switch, I’d rather see Cano hitting with Damon behind him rather than Bernie.

As you can tell, it’s been a long April. Tons of off-days and some bad luck make things seem to drag along, but things are still looking bright for the Yankees. The hitters are working, the starters are working, and the bullpen is working, so it’s only a matter of time before they fuse together to create another AL East title.

Red Sox 7, Yanks 3


PlayerWEPitcherWE
Cano.216Small.105
A-Rod.110Proctor.002
Jeter.055Myers-.101
Matsui-.056Wang-.144
Crosby-.078Sturtze-.215
Giambi-.085
Damon-.095
Cairo-.096
Posada-.165


Mike Myers showed up right in time to make me look like an idiot. He’s cruised in every appearance this year, leading me to believe he is the LOOGY that this bullpen has been missing for years. Of course, I came to this conclusion before Myers took the test; and man, did he freakin’ fail.

Everyone knows that the LOOGY in the Yankees bullpen, while having other more menial duties, is charged with one task: contain David Ortiz. And when placed into action, Myers failed. Of course, there will be time for redemption, but for now it’s Ortiz 1, Myers 0.

[MORE]See, I can forgive Myers; he had come into 10 games before tonight, and his ERA sat at a shiny 0.00. On the other hand is Tanyon Sturtze, who is a waste of a roster spot. Aaron Small – in his first appearance since last October – managed to scrounge together 2 1/3 innings without allowing a run,* but Sturtze couldn’t even retire a single batter in his appearance. And it was Mark Loretta. Mark Loretta who is hitting .214. Mark Loretta who is 6 for his last 41 (.146). God I hate Sturtze.

Not that the Yankees really deserved to win the game anyway. It was nice to see them string together a few walks and hits in the fourth to give themselves a fighting chance, but they sent only 26 hitters to the plate otherwise (of a minimum 24). While David Ortiz was busy going 3 for 4 with for RBI, A-Rod was just sitting there twiddling his thumbs, 0 for 2 with a strikeout. Though he did walk twice, which seems to be the only thing he can do right. I don’t want to overreact or anything, but I think it’s time he fired his therapist.

Really, what else can I say? Wakefield did what Wakefield does, which is pitch well against the Yankees. And from there it’s Gordon-Rivera – er, Timlin-Papelbon. Good 1-2 punch for ‘dem Red Sox.

A final note on pitching strategy. The NoMaas crew is rightfully bashing Joe Torre for his use of Sturtze while Farnsworth lie dormant in the bullpen. But really, his error was much earlier. Why was Small out there in the 8th? Now, I can understand not using Farnsworth to an extent; it was tied and he had thrown 1 2/3 yesterday. However, there is a kid by the name of Scott Proctor who has been lights out lately. Why not begin the inning with him rather than bring him in to mop up the mess you created?

All we can hope for tomorrow is that a full lineup be focused against that pesky Josh Beckett. I have a feeling he’ll be brining his A game to the park tomorrow, as will Shawn Chacon. Nothing would please me more than a 2-1 pitcher’s duel. Okay, scoring 17 runs would please me more, but beyond that…

Monday, May 01, 2006

Yanks 4, Blue Jays 1


PlayerWEPitcherWE
Damon.148Mussina.225
Giambi.104Farnsworth.064
A-Rod.077Rivera.056
Phillips.073
Posada.057
Jeter.033
Crosby-.005
Cairo-.062
Williams-.075
Matsui-.111


So after a few wasted opportunities, the Yankees turned it around on Saturday and Sunday to take the weekend set from the Blue Jays. And, as a result, the Yanks are now in a pseudo tie with the Red Sox for first place (actually have a better win percentage, but they have one more win and one more loss; always an advantage to have the games at hand). I guess that just makes the next two days that much more interesting. Not that we need incentive to get riled up over the inaugural Yanks-Sox series.

[MORE]You’d think we could avoid bad news on a weekend where we outscored the Blue Jays 21-7 (23-14 if you factor in Friday night), but two issues arose. First is Sheff, who will likely miss the next two at Fenway after his collision with Shea Hillenbrand on Saturday. From the replays, it looked like Hilly got the worst of it, a knee to the head. But in the end, fragile old Sheff will be the one missing games – and Hillenbrand managed to play yesterday.

The other issue was in the form of Randy Johnson, who pitched mightily bad on Saturday. The bats showed up to support him, but he couldn’t fend off the Jays and their determination to match the slugging Yanks. Thankfully, the bullpen has been quite effective this year, and that didn’t change on Sunday. Tanyon Sturtze – yes, Tanyon Sturtze – Ron Villone, and Matt Smith combined to finish the final four innings in the 17-6 win. But hey, if anything positive can be taken from this Randy outing, it’s that the mop-up guys in the bullpen got some work in. Though, with Aaron Small back in the fold, I guess that’s the last pitch we’ll see Matt Smith toss for a while – even while it’s a consensus among fans that Sturtze should be the one to go.

Sunday was my first Yankees game of the year. I can safely say that I would have rather been in the bleachers for Sundays game than 20 rows behind home plate for Saturdays (my buddy’s dad had offered us those tickets, but after we purchased the Sunday ones). Say what you will about your proximity to the game while sitting in the bleachers; it’s still the best place to watch a game. The only drawback is the idiot a few rows behind you emitting some grunting sound after every fly ball – apparently they think every pop fly is going to make it out of the yard.

Mussina was less than brilliant, but more than solid in his fourt win of the season. The only runs he gave up were on back-to-back hits by Alexis Rios and Frank Catalanotto. Other than that, he ran into some trouble with the bases loaded and two out in the fifth, but sent Lyle Overbay down swinging to quell the threat. And then the offense took over.

I’ve been to exactly to games in which Andy Phillips has started. During his at-bat in the fifth inning, I turned to my buddy Andy and said, “man remember the last time we were here in April when Phillips started? Yeah, he pounded one over the fence right in front of us.” Lo and behold, later that at bat, Phillips dunked one over the right field fence, tying the score. The guy sitting in front of us was amazed, and it looked like he was considering buying us tickets when Phillips starts. Alas, we never got an offer. So much for good luck charms.

My friends and I love the Yankees, but we know the score. We’re not homers by any means. We may yell and scream at the games; we may have the urge to lob bricks at the TV from time to time. So you can imagine the tension when Giambi walked to load the bases later in the fifth. A-Rod up, two down, tie score. This is precisely the situation in which A-Rod will hit a dinky grounder to end the threat. Thankfully, Chacin wanted no part of the MVP, walking him to plate Damon and take the lead.

My afternoon became complete in the seventh inning, as Jason Giambi slammed one off the façade in right, putting the Yanks up 4-1 and easing the tension out in the bleachers. Farnsworth and Mo combined to finish the thing. Man, all the sudden I’m having a ton more confidence in the bullpen. We’ll see how much longer that lasts.

On a closing note, an anecdote. We were sitting behind two dads and roughly 10 kids between the ages of eight and 10, apparently for a birthday party. They actually weren’t that obnoxious, though one of the kids clad in Yankees attire claimed that the Blue Jays were his favorite team, and the Yankees his second – this, of course, when the Jays were up 1-0. Anyway, come the eighth inning, with the Yanks securely up 4-1, the dads asked the kids if they wanted to stay or go. Of the 10 some odd kids, only one wanted to stay – a young’un who looked, to me, like a young Aaron Gleeman. I remember my dad taking me to the park when I was a kid, and I’d do everything in my power to stay until the game was over, even if it was a blowout (and this was in the late 80s, so there were plenty of them). So I’m pretty disappointed in the youth of America.

I’m working on the next WE bi-weekly analysis. It should be comprehensive, since we’re talking the first month of the season. It’ll give us a chance to compare conventional numbers and their WE counterparts. I want to have it done later today, but chances are I’ll publish it tomorrow. Until then, keep hatin’ them Red Sox.