Friday, June 23, 2006

Writing Off the Yanks?

It's mid-June, and in my opinion, talks of the postseason are at least a little ridiculous at this point. Teams play 162 games for a reason: because anything can happen given a small sample size. If they reduced the seasons to the 82 games employed by basketball and hockey you'd see a lot of teams get lucky, make the playoffs, and completely flop because their teams just aren't that good. Why, then, are many fans writing off the Yankees playoff chances – not only their chances of making them, but chances of going deep in them – when we've got more games to go than we've played?

This isn't to say that the Yankees are flawless; from from it, actually. The pitching staff is as shaky as it's been the past two years, and while the bullpen is reformed, there are plenty of issues yet to be addressed (i.e. will Scott Proctor's arm remain attached to his body?). The offense, even without their corner outfielders, have proven serviceable over a rather long stretch. Then again, most teams would kill to have Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, Alex Rodriguez, and Jorge Posada at the front of their lineups. And then there's Melky Cabrera – a work in progress – Bernie Willaims – recently resurgent – and Robinson Cano – well above league average and replacement level.

Working in favor of the doomsday-sayers is that the pitching staff likely won't get much better. Mussina will likely finish the season with the ERA on which he's currently sitting (3.42) and an extrapolated won-lost record from this point (8-3 over 16 starts, 18-6 over 35). That's quality for the top of the rotation, and if Wang can continue his current ways, they'll make for quite the 1-2 punch. Randy Johnson won't be as bad as he was over those six atrocious starts in April and May, but he likely won't be as good as he demonstrated a few weeks ago against the Tigers. Gene Michael thinks that Randy will look more like Randy once we're into the summer months, and I have to buy into that at least a little. After all, he did go 10-3 with a 3.73 ERA from July 1st on last season, with a more Randy-esque 8.71 K/9 and 1.95 BB/9 than his overall season stats would suggest.

That leaves the matter of the back of the rotation. I've ceased holding out hope for Carl Pavano, though there are indications that he could be ready by mid-August. Even so, believing that his stamina will hold up and that he'll be effective is wishful thinking. The best case scenario is that he comes back in a long reliever role, which could be integral, considering our fifth starter can't last more than five innings. Maybe, just maybe, Wright and Pavano can combine for a few effective games come September.

However, finding a fourth starter is going to be the key here. While I have a hard time writing him off, I'm fairly certain Shawn Chacon isn't the answer. He's always had a low Batting Average On Balls In Play, a statistic over which pitchers don't have much control. This year, he's sitting at .314, while his career average is around .260, which is impressively low. It could be that his luck is finally catching up, exposing him for the walk-happy pitcher that he is. Regardless of the reason, it appears that he won't be serviceable enough for the fourth slot, possibly prompting Cashman to eat his arbitration-driven contract and dish him, along with a few prospects, to acquire a fourth arm. That, my friends, may be the key to the Yankees eventual success or failure in 2006.

But who knows. Maybe, given a legitimate shot, Darrell Rasner can step into the starting rotation and give the team six or seven innings every fifth day. Maybe Steve White can translate his minor-league success into useful Major League frames. There are so many unknowns at this point, and to write off a pitching staff that has to this point pitched rather well is, in my opinion, silly.

Give Cashman some time. He's currently dealing with problems that normal GMs normally wouldn't see. I mean, whose contending team loses their two corner outfielders little more than a month into the season? And, to his credit, Cashman has done a fine job so far of using his available resources. Problem is, those fossil fuels are running dry, and he has to make a decision in the coming weeks: stick with what we've got and hope it's enough, or go out and wade in the trade market, leaving the team open for the fleecing.

Personally, I'd focus on acquiring a quality fourth outfielder and arranging the pitching staff. The Yankees have quite a few arms available, and it would be wise to assess their effectiveness before looking elsewhere for help. Hopefully, Cashman will implore Torre to use T.J. Beam and Matt Smith more often, so that he can determine if they're ready for the big time. If even one is successful, it would take a huge weight off the GM's shoulders.

My friends, we have played 70 games, are 10 games over .500, and have plenty of baseball still to go. This team has plenty of room for improvement, and time in which to do so. To write off the team's chances at this point makes no sense. Randy may not be getting younger and Wright may not be pitching more than five innings in the near future, but that's no reason to say the Yankees don't have a shot. Not only are they in contention, but they look to be the favorites once a few players return from the DL.

This summer could be very bright...

Coming Up: The Marlins

There is one distinct disadvantage to me writing this at work: it's very difficult to keep statistic web pages open with the boss strolling by every five minutes. The text I can pass off as an article on which I'm working (for legitimacy's sake, I've got a pending article open in another window). But to have and Baseball Prospectus open and in constant reference is a bit much. So I'm just going to plug away and hope that I don't make some egregiously false statement.

Let's start off with tonight. This will be only my second Yankees game this year, which is a complete disappointment. Last year in late June, I'd hit five already, having seen everyone on the staff pitch except Wang. And because of that freak rotator cuff injury, I wasn't able to see Wang when I returned to the stadium in August and September (though I did witness Chacon nail down a huge win in late September).

Tonight marks the first time I'll see Wang in person, and I'm kinda torn on how I feel about it. He's been lights out of late (2-1, 2.96 ERA, 1 save in June), placing rather lofty expectations on the evening. Plus, I'm going with some buddies I haven't seen in quite some time, and witnessing a Yankees loss to the $15 million Marlins isn't exactly what we have in mind. The clincher here: Chad Moeller is pitching for the Marlins tonight. Guy is terrible, and the Yankees should (should) have him out of the game by the fifth. That's not to say it's a certainty, as we've all seen the Yankees make fifth starters look like Cy Young candidates.

Tonight also marks the third time Andy Phillips will be starting in my presence (or at least it's expected with the return home). Each of the past two times, he's gone deep. I'm not putting any pressure on him or anything, but it'd sure be nice to see another...

If I hear one more person mention a trade for D-Train, I'm just going to snap.

I have some more thoughts, but I think I'm going to put them in a separate post. It's boring enough here at work that I think i can get away with it.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

I'll Take 2 Out Of 3 Anytime (Except against the Royals)


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This game, my friends, was pure enjoyment. It’s no secret that I’ve got foil-covered cucumber in my pants for pitcher’s duels, and while it wasn’t your typical showdown, it sufficed.

J-Wright, you can be my 5th starter any time. If he could only eek out one more inning per start, he could even pass as a fourth guy from time to time. The only problem is that by pitching so few innings, he’s going to need those bullpen guys every fifth day, limiting their respective roles over the other four. And unfortunately for us, I don’t think a team out of contention would be willing to chalk up a guy who can pitch deep into games.

A big high-five to Melky. After taking a run off the board by inexplicably bolting for home in the seventh with the infield in, he tacked on an extra one with an RBI single in the eighth. And then there was that whole business with the diving catch, which was just marvelous. This kid is going places, I tell ya.

[MORE]Talking with my brother before the game, I mentioned that I didn’t thing Giambi should have been playing. Predictably, he scoffed at the idea, citing his .980 OPS vs. lefties. But it wasn’t Hamels’s sinister nature that had me worried; rather, it was his out pitch, the changeup. We all know Giambi has a tough time handling off-speed pitches, and with Phillips having missed most of the last six days, the situation looked prime to slip Phillips a start, leaving Giambi to pinch-hit against a reliever. I liked the logic, but Torre went with Giambi anyway, who went 0 for 4 with a hat trick.

That, really, is the worst of my complaints about last night. I suppose I could nitpick over Torre’s decision to use Mo with a five-run lead in the ninth, but it really wasn’t that big a deal. He threw just 20 Tuesday and ended up with 11 last night. The only overriding logic here is that Matt Smith and T.J. Beam could have used some work. While I agree with that sentiment, I’m not going to bash Torre for neglecting to do so. He’s made a lot poorer decisions before and certainly will as the season goes along; I need to save my ire for those situations.

You know who looked real good tonight? Farny. He was consistently hitting 99 on the YES radar gun, and kept bringing the heat. I don’t think he threw a single slider to Bobby Abreu, making him look silly on two straight fastballs to complete the strikeout. I wonder, though, if he could have done the same if the score was still 1-0, or even 2-0.

So the road trip ended with a push, though conceivably they could have gone 6-0 (to be fair, they also could have lost Friday night’s and Tuesday night’s games, so we’ll say 5-1 to avoid sounding like greedy bastards). There was no excuse for losing Saturday, Sunday’s game came down to one bad pitch, and Monday the offense just couldn’t get behind a quality start by Randy.

I’ll be in the right field bleachers, drunkedly chanting roll call when the Marlins migrate here on Friday. They had won nine straight before dropping yesterday, so this series isn’t going to be the cakewalk we had envisioned in April (if anyone had envisioned anything about our June schedule back then). I was psyched to see one of the Marlins young arms oppose Wang (my first time seeing him live), but it ends up I’m getting Chad fucking Moeller. At least we should score runs off Mr. 10 home runs in 73 innings.

During the postgame report, Michael Kay noted that it would be tough to name four players on the Marlins roster. I swear that I’m doing this from memory, and that the only Marlin I looked up tonight was Moeller. Here we go:

C: not quite sure, but I know they were playing Josh Willingham here a bit. If he’s not currently catching, he’s playing the outfield, so I’m giving myself a point.
1B: Mike Jacobs, acquired from the Mets in the Delgado trade.
2B: Dan Uggla (not quite sure on the spelling). Would be the best name in baseball if not for Boof Bosner.
3B: Miguel Cabrera. You should all have gotten this one.
SS: Hanley Ramirez, who is sorely missed by the Red Sox.
CF: Reggie Abercrombie. I hate his clothing line.
RF: Jeremy Hermida
LF: If Willingham’s not catching, it’s him. There’s the urge to double-dip, but I’ll refrain.
P: D-Train
P: Jeff Johnson

Okay, so that’s 7/8 position players and two pitchers. Nine, Kay, nine.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

More About Last Night

Paul Katcher has a first-hand review of last night's game, along with pictures, over at his website,

I gotta say, the dude can be pretty funny. Lots of Yankees related content, though it's more of a smorgasbord.


Yanks 9, Ryan Howard 7

Mike M-.078

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There’s going to be plenty of talk about Moose not being for real. After all, he hasn’t pitched particularly well in the month of June. He did look shaky at times out there, but in all fairness, all the crushing blows were delivered by a singular freak of nature. And while you don’t want one guy owning you, I think it mitigates Moose’s performance, if only a fraction.

Speaking of fraction, I often wonder why we pay Mike Myers. I’ve been behind the guy most of the year, mainly because it was nice to finally have a guy who can come in and sit down a big lefty. However, when that is your one and only job, you best have an incredible success rate. And considering this isn’t the first time I’ve complained about Myers’s failure to retire a power hitting lefty, I think it is high time we start questioning his place on the roster. Two other lefties inhabit the bullpen, both of whom are more versatile than Myers. With Octavio Dotel and Darrell Rasner poised to return before month’s end, Cashman is going to have to seriously consider cutting the cord on a guy eating up a roster spot.

[MORE]It was good to see Villone in there for an inning and two thirds. It’s amazing what happens when you’re forced to trust somebody. And, since it wouldn’t be me if there wasn’t some Torre second-guessing, I’m kinda miffed he removed Villone before completing the seventh. I guess forced trust only goes so far when you have Scott Proctor in the bullpen, ready and able to fulfill the eight-inning role in Farnsworth’s absence. Except he’s not, putting Burrell on without a swing of the bat.

Thankfully, lady luck liked what she saw in Beam, because that was one scary liner by Rowand. After two straight pitches out of the zone, it looked like Rowand had put the Phils up 8-5. The UPN (My 9 my ass) cameras didn’t quite capture Bernie’s catch live, and I really thought it had bounced past him. But he made a vintage play on the ball, clotting the bleeding and bailing out the rook.

Despite the disheartening seventh, I was actually feeling good about the eighth. Everyone knows the Yankees history with Arthur Rhodes, and for him to post two consecutive scoreless outings would have been remarkable. The man who saved the seventh led things off with an error-hit, putting fate in Miguel Cairo’s hands. Normally, this would be a great time to set up a noose and a chair in the ole closet, but the thought of Arthur Rhodes kept me sane.

With Cairo aboard first via a 7-pitch walk, it was Melky’s turn. Demonstrating a keen eye, patience for a pitch he can handle, and the knack for fouling off a few, the rookie pulled it out, scoring Bernie and setting up the dominoes for the top of the order. And Damon, after two markedly poor swings, put the Yanks up for good.

Though Mo didn’t make things easy. He went a little John Wetteland on us, putting on two and forcing a showdown with Ryan Howard and his seven RBI. As Mo set in the stretch, he turned to the dugout and yelled, “Mike, write this down!” Mussina and Myers got into an argument over to whom he was talking, and missed Ryan Howard grounding out on the first pitch. Okay, so I made up the part about the fight. And the part about Mo telling them to write it down. But I didn’t make up the part about the groundout, honest.

The win went to T.J. Beam, his first for the career. It would be shocking if any of the fine Yankees blogs to your left fail to mention this.

Couple of issues with tomorrow’s game, beginning with J-Wright. It’s not his performance that has me worried so much as his inability to exceed five innings. This means a certain appearance by Proctor, which is beginning to scare me. The Yanks had better get some hats for bats tonight, because they’ll have to be nice and warm for tomorrow.

(And about the NBA Finals. Normally, I don’t feel too strongly about World Series, Finals, Super Bowl teams not my own. But for some reason, I got attached to Dallas over the course of these playoffs – and didn’t know how much I wanted them to win until it was all over. Anyway, I was headed to Mark Cuban’s blog shortly after the game, and apparently everyone else had the same idea. There’s about a 6 minute wait to load the page.)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Phils 4, Yanks 2


(What's this?)

I really want to rip into Cano a little bit, but it’s tough to turn on a guy who was spraying hits for the past two weeks. I will, however, say this. You know you’ve had a shitty night when your highlight is drawing a walk that even Angel Berroa couldn’t eff up. Coulda used ya in the seventh with the bases loaded, down by one. But I guess you can’t hit ‘em all.

Another satisfactory outing by Randall; I’m still not convinced, but it’s nice to see. That blasted Pat Burrell did the bulk of the damage, driving in the first two runs and drawing a nine-pitch walk to set up Rowand for the next. But seven innings of three-run ball is seven innings of three-run ball, and the offense has to do its job, too.

[MORE]The boys did what they do best, forcing Brett Myers to toss 124 pitches in 6 2/3 innings (18.6 per). Unfortunately, they just couldn’t finish off their six walks and six hits, leaving 11 men behind. This is partly because of some defensive heroics by Abraham Nunez, who robbed Randy Johnson of an RBI single on a ball that I’m fairly certain our second baseman wouldn’t have gotten to. Jimmie Rollins may have saved a run by stabbing Jorge’s poke with the bases loaded – though Giambi would have been the runner. And, to quote poster “pfistyunc” over at Pinstripe Alley, "Giambi runs like he is carrying a piano."

The normal game plan having failed, the Yankees apparently decided to go with Plan B – hack away! – when Arthur Rhodes entered the game. The plan continued with Tom Gordon on the mound, with even Jason Giambi chasing a pitch at his eyes. After seeing 131 pitches over the first seven innings, the Yankees saw just 23 in the last two.

I’ve been hearing lots of people wishing aloud that Melky slide down in the order. Despite my desire to disagree with the majority opinion, I have to stand behind this one. He’s a young guy in a slump, which is always going to happen. It doesn’t mean, however, that you should keep him batting second. With A-Rod looking more comfortable at the plate, it’s safe to slide the order up a bit and insert Melky into the eighth slot. Or – how I wish – return to the less insane 12-man pitching staff (you should really only need 11 pitchers), bring up Kevin Thompson, and give Melk Man the day off. Lord knows I don’t want to see Bubba starting again.

That insurance run in the eighth was totally Posada’s fault. If you call for the slider low, you best be prepared to get in front of it. As much as I’d like to pin this on Farnsworth’s worthless ass, he hit a great spot with the pitch. Normally I’d get pissed at him for not throwing gas, but he wasn’t consistently topping out at his normal 97-98 mark. Throw a mediocre fastball at the letters with two strikes, and you’re going to get beat. Throw a low slider with two strikes, and you pray your catcher gets in front of it.

I wonder if Cashman was ever interested, but it’s noteworthy that Royals castoff Kyle Snyder pitched well last night. He struck out six and walked none while allowing three runs through five innings, picking up the dubya against those bothersome Nats. I’m now disappointed that I never finished my Royals assessment a few weeks ago, because this was my bit on Snyder:

Idea No. 1: call up Kyle Snyder from AAA. He’s not a young buck at age 28, but through 60.1 innings in Omaha, he’s logged 43 strikeouts to a mere nine walks. And he keeps the ball in the park, allowing just four homers or 0.60 per nine innings. He may not find huge success in the Majors, but I’m confident he’d outperform Jeremy Affeldt (.309/.402/.495 against).

The Yankees were behind the Red Sox by a game in the standings on June 11th, the date that Snyder was both DFAd by the Royals and claimed by the Red Sox. Here’s hoping that I was dead wrong, that Snyder’s start was an aberration, and that the Red Sox did not find a capable band-aid for their rotation.

When Darrell Rasner, will he get a chance to become a cog in the rotation, or will he be sent to Columbus while the Major League team yearns for pitching? I would be baffled if Rasner didn’t steal a start from Chacon once he returns from the DL. It would require some shuffling of the roster otherwise, likely Matt Smith’s or Jose Veras’s demotion, depending on who gets the axe before tonight’s game. But moves like this are necessary if you’re going to accurately assess the state of your team before trading season. The problem here is that one start won’t be very telling, and Torre probably isn’t keen on Rasner, and unproven rookie, taking starts from his prized vets Wright and Chacon. Here’s to hoping that Cashman has the desire – and the pull – to get this one done.

Thankfully, a win tomorrow would ease my nerves. Close win, blowout win, lucky win, I’ll take whatever win is up for grabs. It’d also be nice for Moose to toss one of those April/May gems. Yeah, real nice.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The One That Got Away


(What's this?)

The only thing you can really say about yesterday: well, sometimes you lose ones like that. Zimmerman’s game winner was only the fifth homer hit off Wang this year, so you can’t be real harsh on him. He pitched a gem that ended on a bad pitch. It wouldn’t have hurt nearly enough had they not diarrhead the bed on Saturday.

It’s not like the offensive gave him a ton of help, either. Actually, you can credit Mr. Rod for contributing a majority percentage of both runs. Posada may have the RBI for the first one, but A-Rod drew a key walk to set him up. And then the eighth, well, that’s what the man is paid to do.

For yesterday’s revelation, I direct your attention to Peter Abraham:

If you ask me, the game illustrated why the Yankees need to trade for a starter more than an outfielder. The back end of their rotation is killing the bullpen. Those short outings by Shawn Chacon and Jaret Wright caught up to the Yankees today.

Livan Hernandez is the first name that comes to mind when it comes to pitching deep into games. However, two problems exist with that scenario. First is that Jim Bowden will likely request Phil Hughes in return. Given the roster moves of the past few weeks, I’m fairly certain we’re hanging on to the 20-year-old. The second complication is that while Livan is still among the NL leaders in innings per start, his 6.50 mark is down from his 7.00 normality from recent years past. And he pitches in the NL, which, given the Yankees current pitching problems, does not look promising.

Just one starter can make the difference, though. Moose and Wang are proving themselves reliable Nos. 1 and 2 guys, and Randy just might be a serviceable third starter. After him, I figure either J-Wright or Chacon could act as the No. 5 starter (there are plenty of teams with a worse No. 5 guy), leaving a hole at four. How hard can it be to track down a fourth starter?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Cashman Continues String of Logical Roster Moves

We’re just not used to this kind of reason and logic in Yankeeland. Most notably over the past five years, the Yankees have made unfathomable move after unfathomable move, which in part has led to the five-year World Series drought.

It seems, however, that things have changed.

Brian Cashman continued his string of positive changed by finally DFAing the completely ineffective Aaron Small. His replacement, 25-year-old prospect T.J. Beam. Not considered an elite prospect before this year, Beam made some serious noise early on. He posted 37.1 scoreless innings in Trenton this season, and in general was lights out. He ran into some tougher times once promoted to Columbus, allowing four runs in 9.2 innings. However, he also struck out 13 and walked only two in that time, showing that he’s likely ready for the chance he’s getting.

The only question remains is that of his fate once Octavio Dotel returns to action, probably later this week. My guess is that Matt Smith will be the odd man out; I just don’t see Beam being demoted so fast, and especially after he was anointed Torre’s seventh inning man during Kyle Farnsworth’s down time.

With the addition of Beam, the Yankees bullpen potentially becomes much stronger. He’s another guy who can earn Torre’s trust (the manager even went so far as to say Beam pitched very well Saturday, despite the MONSTER home run to that dude Ward who is way too fat to be playing pro baseball). He and Dotel should be able to take innings from Proctor, which in turn should allow him more rest, leading to a greater degree of effectiveness. At least in theory.

Now, if he can just go and nail down a starter. Having one of Wright and Chacon in the rotation won’t be killer, but I’m not so keen on both. It’s way too early to speculate at this point as to who is truly available, but I’ve got a few names I’d like to forward along to Cash. Hopefully I’ll have an article about these guys later this week, but I’m figuring I won’t finish until next week at the earliest.