Friday, June 09, 2006

Proposed Lineup, Sans Jeter

The optimistic view is that he'll be back in the lineup tomorrow, but the realisic view is that he's done for the Oakland series. Moving ahead with this in mind, Joe Torre would be wise to trot out the following lineup for the next three games:

1. Johnny Damon - CF
2. Melky Cabrera - LF
3. Jason Giambi - 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez - SS
5. Jorge Posada - C
6. Robinson Cano - 2B
7. Andy Phillips - 3B
8. Bernie Williams - DH
9. Kevin Thompson - RF

Once again, we're dealing with Torre here, so we'll be sure to get a steady dose of Miguel Cairo playing shortstop. Don't get me wrong; I like Miggy and all, but he's just not an everyday guy, and that goes tenfold when you're playing the Athletics. It goes twentyfold against the Red Sox, but that didn't stop Torre.

The reason the Yankees have been winning despite their injuries is that they've made the best with what
they've had (minus Terrance So Long). To continue using the ineffective Miguel Cairo is to definitively weaken the lineup. They gave Melky a chance, and he came through. So why not give Kevin Thompson his fair shake? He's eager to learn, and he looks poised at the place.

I know Torre is insistent on keeping A-Rod at third, but sometimes you need to adapt. A-Rod at short and Phillips at third is certainly the optimal configuration with Jeter on the shelf.

Can't Even Type the Score


(What's this?)

It sucked. That’s all I have to say. I had to sit next to some stupid guy routing for the Sox even though he’s a Mets fan. Honestly, there is nothing worse in the baseball world. Hate the Yankees if you will, and I will understand completely when you do. But to act like you’re a goddamn Red Sox fan for seven innings of a game, only to finally admit, “well, I don’t really like the Red Sox; I’m a Mets fan,” makes you look like a complete and utter dolt.

This guy also apparently has friends working with or playing on every professional sports team. Claims like this discredit you completely when you’re sitting at an Applebee’s bar. Plus, he had quite a large gray afro, complete with the bald spot on top. If I’ve learned anything in my 24 years on this planet, it’s that child molesters have wispy mustaches, and crazy dudes have big hair with a bald spot.

Two of three is always acceptable, but with the score 3-1 in the sixth, there was absolutely no excuse to not finish the sweep. Note to Joe Torre: Jaret Wright has been all fine and good lately, but he can only last five innings. Maybe this will become less of a problem with Octavio Dotel returns, as we can go Proctor, Farnsworth, Dotel, Mo after Jaret gets pulled for the sixth. Of course, that will never happen.

If I think of something good later today, I’ll post it. I’m on deadline and have a 1,500 word article on assisted living communities due by the end of the day. I have 600 down on paper at this point, but after I scrutinize it to the bone, it’ll end up under 500. Whoo hoo! One thousand words to write tomorrow!

Derek Jeter, where art thou?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

This Is What I Do When I'm Bored

There’s little in life more disappointing than a rainout when you’re rolling against the Red Sox. But with the injury situation and whatnot, this could end up being a blessing for the Bombers. A little rest for what’s ailin’ ya. We get a doubleheader in September out of the deal, though, which is pretty sweet. I wish there was a semblance of a chance that it would be a one-admission doubleheader.

If you’re jonesin’ for some Yankees literature, may I direct your attention to Baseball Prospectus, where Joe Sheehan has written an article titled OBP is Life. Of course, you need a subscription to read it, but I must say that my BP subscription is the best $5 I shell out per month.

[MORE]That leaves open the subject matter for today’s post. Sure, the notion of taking the night off rang loud in my head when I learned of the rain out. You know, give the old brain a break while I get acclimated to my new job. But my hunger for baseball is at an all-time high – probably because I don’t have regular access to a computer at work and have to speed-read Baseball Prospectus, The Baseball Analysts, The Hardball Times, and of course Deadspin during my lunch break. As such, I’m here to infect you with your daily dose of baseball.For some fun, I’m going to post a data table and let you make of it what you will.

A statistic with which I’ve become fascinated of late is Quality of Batters Faced. It’s rather self-explanatory. The statistic is just the average numbers for all the batters a particular pitcher has faced this season. What I’m going to do here is post the difference between Yankees pitchers’ Quality of Batters Faced and their Avg, OBP, and Slg against. I subtracted the former from the latter, so we’re playing by golf rules here.

PitcherBA DiffOBP DiffSlg Diff
Aaron Small.098.079.269
Chien-Ming Wang.016-.009-.071
Jaret Wright.032.016-.012
Mariano Rivera-.015-.044-.147
Mike Mussina-.044-.081-.099
Mike Myers.000-.036-.091
Randy Johnson-.003.002.008
Ron Villone-.063-.028-.153
Scott Erickson-.002.058.035
Scott Proctor-.053-.046-.084
Shawn Chacon.013.038-.006

The question now is how to interpret this data. If a pitcher is in the negative, that means that he’s performing better than the averages of the hitters he faces. Therefore, those hitters must be putting up their numbers against other, crappier pitchers.

The conclusions: Mussina and Mo rock, Small and Erickson suck. Though, I guess I didn’t need the chart to tell me that.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Yanks 2, Sox 1 -- It's Been A While


(What's this?)

Games of this ilk aren’t commonplace between the Yanks and the Sox. In their last 28 meetings (2005 and 2006), they have combined for four runs or fewer just twice – last night and the infamous Giambi homer/Randy shutout game last September.

From the beginning, though, it didn’t look to be a pitcher’s duel. After 48 pitches through the first two innings, Wang’s start was in jeopardy. The Red Sox, ever patient at the plate, looked poised to strike, either against Wang or his eventual bullpen replacement.

Ortiz took the first swipe, tagging Wang’s 52nd pitch for a 1-0 Red Sox lead in the 3rd. The floodgates were weak, primed for storming. Thankfully, Andy Phillips was there for reinforcement, using his catlike reflexes to snag a hot shot off the bat of Trot Nixon, effectively doubling up Manny and ending the third inning. The 1-0 Red Sox lead hurt bad, almost as bad as Wang’s 64 pitches.

[MORE]It was still 1-0 entering the bottom of the fourth, and Wang still had logged 64 pitches in the previous innings. However, he didn’t look like the guy who required a defensive gem to escape a potential jam an inning prior. Seven pitches, three outs. And then more of the same in the fifth. Eight pitches, nine if you count the pitchout, and all the sudden Wang is at 79 pitches through five, 15.8 pitches per inning, which is certainly serviceable.

Unfortunately, the Yanks were still down 1-0 with the bottom of the order coming up. Plenty of time left, but you don’t want to go scoreless against the Red Sox for a prolonged period of time. They have this guy, I think his name is Papelbon, and I hear he devours teams that fail to score runs against the Sox. Up comes Bernie, and – to borrow from John Sterling – he went boom. Solo shot, tie game.

I’d just like to take a second to address those in Yankeeland who believe Bernie has no business playing regularly. It’s obvious that he’s not the Bernie of old, or even the Bernie of 2002. Since May 15, in 64 at bats, Bernie is hitting .297/.361/.375. Of course, there are plenty of faults with that statement, including a small sample size and the fact that it proves he has little to no power left. But, just so we’re clear, he’s not the automatic out that he was in April.

Wang was rolling, which was great. But so was his counterpart, Dave Pauley. It was one of those things where you expect to tag someone so much that it makes sense when you don’t. But the seventh inning was not friendly to Pauley. After recording two straight outs, his demonstrated propensity to give up scattered singles caught up to him. Cairo and Damon strung them together, followed by Melky drawing a four pitch walk from the tired/flustered rookie. Then they subbed Rudy Saenez, and there was much rejoicing (yay!).

Saenez wasted no time falling behind 2-0 on Giambi, but redeemed himself somewhat by throwing THE perfect pitch – letter high with a little something taken off. Giambi, looking dead red for that pitch – but with a bit more oomph – swung right through it. Saenez looked poised to take control, but then he remembered that he is, in fact, a shitty pitcher and walked Giambi to plate the go ahead run.

And now we get to the play of the night. You all saw it. If you didn’t, well, it’s bound to be posted on various websites by now. Manny, already 2 for 2 with a walk, took a 1-0, 2 out Kyle Farnsworth pitch over the wall…and Melky pulled it back. He now finds himself nominated for the Pantheon of guys who make Red Sox fans cry.

Enter Mo. 1…2…3, and we’re 1 ½ games up in the AL East.

The past two games haven’t exactly been ripe for analysis; everything was cut pretty clear. Last night was in more of a celebratory vein, and tonight was a storytelling kind of game. And you know what? I’m ecstatic. And the only thing that can bring me down is…

Scratch that. I don’t even wanna talk about it.

P.S. There’s been plenty of talk about the MLB draft, more than I’ve seen in any year of my baseball fandom. I’d check out The Baseball Analysts for a general overview, and In George We Trust for Yankees specific coverage.

Taggin' Beckett


(What's this?)

All I can think of right now is Ren and Stimpy singing “Happy Happy, Joy Joy.” Having watched last year’s twin 17-1 drubbings and this year’s 14-3 channel-changer made last night’s dubya so much sweeter.

If you’re wondering why Mussina ended up with a -.096 WE, you can blame the hitters for pouring it on.

There’s so much to say, that I can’t say anything at all. The game spoke for itself. Here’s the box score. Bask in it.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Bottle No Longer Contains Lightning


I know it didn’t/won’t happen because of the current pitching woes, but Aaron Small should have been handed his walking papers following the game. The worst part of it all is that I don’t think anyone will disagree. The best part, I guess, is that Shawn Chacon appeared healthy in his start with Trenton, leaving viable the option of him throwing on Friday. And, when that happens, Small or Erickson should be gone. Not only because they’re demonstrably the worst pitchers on the staff, but because the only other option is the demotion of Matt Smith, leaving him zero options. Considering Smith has allowed zero runs in his six innings thus far, I think he has established his superiority.

This week could become a problem with the bullpen, as Torre is prone to overmanage. No one is particularly well rested, so a blunder here or there could prompt Torre to use another starter on his throw day. And if things get that bad against Boston…

[MORE]Things could be looking up in the near future, as Octavio Dotel will work back-to-back games again. His target return date is currently June 15th, which can’t come fast enough. I’m assuming they’ll continue the ridiculous trend of carrying 12 pitchers, meaning 7 relievers. Our optimal bullpen: Mo, Farny, Dotel, Proctor, Villone, Smith, and Myers. When you add in Randy, Moose, Chacon, Wang, and Wright, well that’s a full pitching staff, room for Small and Erickson be damned. Of course, one will probably make the cut with Smith returning to Columbus, which, as previously stated, is insane because it means that the next time he’s up, he’s up for good, lest he clear waivers – which would never happen.

The other question tossed around of late: for whom will the Yankees trade to replace Sheff and Matsui? Obviously Melky will fill Matsui’s role until further notice. But Sheff may be out for the rest of the year, leaving a gaping hole that Bernie Williams cannot begin to fill. You can forget about Terrance Long – I’d rather have Kevin Reese on the roster at this point. However, Kevin Thompson was impressive this weekend, especially to these eyes. Not only did he collect a few hits, but he wasn’t afraid to take pitches. Give him more starts in right field, and you just might see an adequate replacement and a surefire No. 9 hitter. If I’m filling out the lineup card, this is my 5-Days-A-Week team:

1. Damon – CF
2. Jeter – SS
3. Giambi – DH
4. A-Rod – 3B
5. Posada – C
6. Cano – 2B
7. Cabrera – LF
8. Phillips – 1B
9. Thompson – RF

These guys can hit. Other than Cano and to a lesser extent Phillips, they can take plenty of pitches. There are no automatic outs in the order, and the core is strong enough to carry the lineup. And to change things up, I wouldn’t mind seeing Bernie take Phillips’s or Thompson’s place a few days a week. Best of all, the six though nine hitters are all below the age of 30! Imagine that!
Once again, since we’re mostly familiar with Torre’s thinking, it’s safe to assume that Terrance Long will be filling Thompson’s spot, putting an automatic out in the nine slot. Why, oh why, Joe, must you insist on giving up a sure out every nine batters? Why not insert Thompson and give yourself a fighting chance? At least he’ll take pitches. And if he draws a walk, he’s probably the team’s best bet on the basepaths.

This will set the team up well for the August/September stretch. Cabrera and Thompson, given proper playing time, should be into their grooves. By that time, we should have either Matsui or Sheffield back (I think it’s decently safe to bank on the return of one of the two), meaning Thompson can slide to the bench. And you know what he becomes? An actual asset late in games, whether for pinch-hitting, pinch-running, or defensive purposes. But he won’t be effective if he rots away on the bench when he should be patrolling right field.

The whole point of this rant is that the Yankees aren’t in particularly terrible shape. They have nine guys on the roster who are worthy starters (you can make the case against Thompson, but I think he’ll be a productive player), four decent starters, a veritable ace, and a bullpen that, properly used, will be among the league’s best. And all of this is in the absence of Sheffield, Matsui, and Pavano, all of whom were expected to be big parts of the 2006 team.

We’re just a few smart managerial decisions away from having a very solid team.