Friday, August 18, 2006

Brilliance Personified


Go Team Child Molester!

Joseph's Top 40

First, off, congratulations to Aaron Gleeman, for furthering his dream and signing a multi-year deal to write for a living. Hats off, Aaron (and that's not in my normally snarky tone). Aaron has given me hope for my writing career. If he can do it, I can do it, and that's no insult to one of the pioneers of baseball blogging.

In the linked post, Aaron posted the first 40 songs that came up when he hit "shuffle" on his iPod, and challenged fellow bloggers to do the same. Well, here's mine:

The Zutons, Havana Gang Brawl
The Urge, Gene Machine
Pearl Jam, W.M.A.
Black Crowes, Lickin'
Tool, Useful Idiot
The Sex Pistols, Problems
Weezer, Butterfly
Snoop Doggy Dogg, For All My Niggaz and My Bitches
Incubus, Make Yourself (acoustic)
Green Day, 1,000 Hours
Nirvana, Something In the Way
Pearl Jam, Better Man
Green Day, Are We the Waiting
The Notrious B.I.G., Me & My Bitch
The Roots, I'm Out Deah
Pearl Jam, Rats
moe., Nebraska
Starland Vocal Band, Afternoon Delight
Eagles, Life in the Fast Lane
Blur, Parklife
The Clash, Remote Control
Alice in Chains, Swing on This
The Cars, Tonight She Comes
Pride & Glory, Lovin' Woman
Phish, Tweezer
Allman Brothers Band, In Memory of Elizabeth Reed
Aerosmith, Big Ten Inch Record
Mindless Self Indulgence, Played
Outkast, Toilet Tisha
Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stadium Arcadium
Nine Inch Nails, The Fragile
Public Enemy, Cold Lampin' With the Flavor
Outkast, Synthesizer
A Tribe Called Quest, The Pressure
Boston, Rock & Roll Band
The Urge, Divide and Conquer
The Hives, A Little More for Little You
Red Hot Chili Peppers, 21st Century
Elvis Costello, Man Out Of Time
Rush, Something for Nothing

All I have to say is that it's not quite the list I was looking for, but when you have 3,821 songs on random, you rarely get everything you want. For the record, I'm absolutely obsessed with the new Muse album, "Black Holes and Revelations." The last song, "Knights of Cydonia," is pure musical genius, and has an equally brilliant video (you can find it by searching at YouTube.)

Tyler Fucking Clippard!!!!!!

Just look at the box score.

And then let out a cry of joy.

I Hate Losing to the Orioles

That didn't exactly go as planned. A four and six start to a 21-game stretch is no way to assert your dominance. And losing two of three to the Orioles? Inexcusable in every way. We managed a total of four runs against Rodrigo Lopez and Adam Loewen, who bear ERAs of 6.03 and 6.12, respectively. If crappy pitchers can dominate the Yankees, we're absolutely screwed this weekend. A looksee at the Boston rotation:

PitcherIPK/9BB/9HR/9K/BBERA
J. Johnson25.04.323.960.721.377.20
J. Lester72.26.704.460.741.504.09
J. Beckett152.17.462.951.832.525.02
C. Schilling166.28.041.191.356.773.89
D. Wells26.04.501.732.422.606.23


So yeah, pretty terrible other than Schilling.

I can't even analyze this series. You can break it down all you want, but there is no predicting what will happen over the course of these five games. The pressure really is on Wang not only to win the series opener, but take some pressure off Ponson in the night cap. Statistics can tell you a lot, but they can't tell you how Ponson will perform in the face of a loss vs. a win.

This isn't a certainty, but it's been seriously discussed over the past few days. My buddy Andy and I are starting up another sports blog, An Irrational Discourse, and we're thinking about live-blogging the Saturday game. We'll be discussing our reactions to everything, along with poking fun at Tim McCarver (but no Joe Buck! WOOOOOOOOO!!!). Be sure to tune in around noon, since it wouldn't be a live blog if we didn't rip on the pre-game show. Then again, I don't know if I have the patience to handle Jeannie Zelasko.

And you know what? The boss is out until Monday, so there's a chance of a live-blog this afternoon. I might get the broadcast on MLB.tv, since I've gotten ESPN day games before. If not, it will be off the radio broadcast, so I may need some commenters here to explain a big, since Sterling rarely tells you the whole story.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

That's All We Got? Two Goddamn Runs?

I'll be brief with the recap for two reasons.

1)I fuckin' hate losing to the Orioles. It's one thing to 1-run games to good teams like the White Sox, but to drop last night to the Orioles was inexcusable. And somewhere, someone is finding a way to pin this loss on Alex.
2)My main writing for the day can be found over at Off the Facade. It's my, uh, different take on Yankees/Red Sox weekend.

So let's start the bullet points:

  • After the third inning, we were ready to hang Cory Lidle. But then he settled in and sat down the Orioles like the fourth place team they are. We knew what we were getting when we acquired him: six innings, three runs, just about every time. He gave us six and a third last night, though it didn't look like he'd make it that far after the third. Had he been able to finish off the Orioles after getting two quick outs just one of those innings, and we have a different ballgame. That's baseball for ya.

  • It was evident from the beginning that the Yanks probably weren't going to hit Adam Loewen very hard, but one would think that the Os bullpen would blow it as they always do. When Loewen exited after five and a third, you could feel the excitement; LaTroy Hawkins, meet your owners. Alas, the cold bats stretched throughout the night, and the Yanks couldn't even pull through when Abreu and Alex gave them a fighting chance in the eighth.

  • Even though the Red Sox won, this loss didn't phase me like some losses earlier in the season. I guess I'm coming to the realization that you're not going 162-0. I should pen a book called, Teams Will Lose Games, Even In A Championship Season. The tabloids would never allow its release, though, because that viewpoint would put them out of business.

  • If we lose again today, however, I'll be chirping about it.


I guess the team is going to head out to Boston immediately after the game. Hopefully it will be via plane, because no one's going to want to sit in the New York-New England rush hour traffic right after a day game and right before a doubleheader. I suggest the Yankees each take an Ambien upon entering their hotel and rest up for tomorrow. The prospect of this doubleheader is scaring the shit out of me.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Larry Brooks Does Not Watch Baseball

Intangibles Still in Torre's Corner

by: Larry Brooks, somehow printed in the New York Post

August 16, 2006 -- JOE TORRE was talking about the Red Sox, whom the Yankees will play five times in four days at Fenway beginning Friday, but he just as well could have been talking about his own team.

Interesting. Continue, Larry.

"Good teams find a way to get things done," Torre said last night when asked if he still considered Boston to be as serious a threat as ever, injuries to people like Jason Varitek, Trot Nixon and Tim Wakefield notwithstanding. "That's the intangible [that's tangible]."

Cliché quote? Check. Mention of intangibles? Check. I think we're in for an “old school” column, folks.

[MORE]It's the intangible that somehow kept the Yankees afloat in 2005 when their pitching staff fell to pieces and the season as well appeared about to shatter in the aftermath of miserable performances last June in Kansas City, Milwaukee and St. Louis.

And all this time I thought it was common knowledge that it was the fluky brilliance of Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon combined with the return of -- and serviceable performances by -- Jaret Wright and Chien-Ming Wang that kept them afloat in 2005. But I'll be darned, it was an intangible all along. But which intangible was it? Grittiness? Grinding it out? Regardless, I'm thankful for the correction of my logic. Where would I be without Larry Brooks to correct the flaws in my thinking?

It's the intangible that provided the stitches of the fabric this year that allowed the Yankees to prosper after corner outfielders Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield went down in May.

Once again, I was misled on this issue. But I'm still confused, Larry. Are the performances of Melky Cabrera and Bernie Williams intangible? Are Johnny Damon, Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, Robinson Cano, and Jorge Posada intangible? What about Wang and Mussina? I thought those were the “stitches of the fabric,” the guys who carried the team. According to Brooks, either I'm wrong or all of these players and their numbers are intangible. I wonder if Larry owns a dictionary.

Players come and players go. Heroes and goats exchange roles. Johnny Damon turns in a cowboy hat for Pinstripes. But still, for the ninth year running, and with the latest, greatest version of baseball armageddon just a couple of days away, there are the Yankees in first place and there are the Red Sox in second.

Do I need to point out that the first two lines are retardedly poetic? And did anyone else know that they wore cowboy hats in Boston? This jumble could be reduced to the following sentence: “Despite the constant swapping of players, the Yankees are in first and the Red Sox are in second for the ninth year running.” See how much tighter and to the point that is? Oh, damn, forgot about Larry's word count. And here you have the M.O. of sports columnists: why waste time with insight when I can string together meaningless words and sentences? Bravo.

And there are the Yankees in first place by three games after rallying to defeat the Orioles 6-3 in the first of three in the Bronx, while the Red Sox were losing their second straight at Fenway to the Tigers.

From the last paragraph: “...there are the Yankees in first place...”
From this paragraph: “...there are the Yankees in first place...” My copy editor would have lambasted me for this. Apparently Larry's doesn't hold him to as high a standard.

The Yankees are 24-11 since July 4 and 9-5 since Brian Cashman worked the trade deadline to give them a lineup that, including Bobby Abreu and Craig Wilson, is so long and deep that Torre can't quite figure out how to get Bernie Williams the at-bats he's earned. They've picked up seven games on Boston since July 4, four games since the deadline.

I have issue with the Bernie Williams statement. If Bernie so deserves these at-bats, then why did Cashman deem it necessary to go get Abreu and his $25 million contract? If you answered: “because there's no way Bernie would keep up this level of play through the rest of the season,” you win the knowledge that you are smarter than Larry Brooks. Though, I guess that's not much of an achievement.

"We can't worry about Boston yet," said Damon, who jacked a two-run blow in the seventh to get the Yanks even. "We have business to take care of with Baltimore."

The Yankees were somewhat fortunate last night to get away with a game that was hardly spotless. Perhaps it was a manifestation of intangibles, perhaps a manifestation of talent.


Alex singled with the bases loaded. That's tangible. Damon homered to tie it. That's tangible, too. Cano doubled to put them ahead. Like the first two, that is tangible. I think the latter would be the correct answer, Larry, because of one minute fact: scoring runs is a tangible event. The ball that's thrown, that's tangible. So is the ball hitting the bat. And then the ball landing where the fielders aren't, that's as tangible as it gets.

Abreu, who tripled two batters after Damon's homer and scored the winning run on Robbie Cano's two-out double, continued to look as comfortable in right field as Joe Lieberman at a Democratic Party-sponsored anti-war rally, misplaying a fourth-inning fly into a double. But respect for his arm kept the Orioles from trying to score what would have been a fourth run in the sixth when Miguel Tejada hit a one-out bases-loaded pop into shallow right.

Shtick alert! Not only was that not funny, but it was preceded by way too many qualifiers. How about, “Bobby Abreu continued to look uncomfortable in right field?” Or is that not artistic enough? I think it conveys the point just fine, and it makes you sound less like less of a dolt.

Alex Rodriguez, who did knock in a run in the sixth with a bases-loaded single, fanned with runners on first and third in the seventh after an intentional walk to Jason Giambi. And he continued to experience the yips at third, botching another easy one that might have been an inning-ending, run-saving double play in the sixth.

Larry does not watch baseball games. Because if he did, he would know that Alex didn't fan with runners on first and third. Rather, he popped one straight up. Happens to the best of us. How this made it to press is fucking mind boggling. His opinions are asinine, but they'll continue to seep through the pages of the Post daily because the idiot editors allow it. However, fact-checkers and copy editors can prevent patently false statements. Way to drop the ball, guys.

Still, when the game was there to be had, Damon helped grab it; Damon, who is two years removed from capturing the title that has eluded the Yankees since 2000, and who has brought every intangible with him from Boston to the Bronx.

Ah, the misused semicolon. See, a semicolon separates two complete yet related thoughts. For example: “He went to the store; he bought milk while he was there.” Yet, there sits a fragment on the right side of said semicolon. I'll cut him some slight slack and note that when speaking, this could be an acceptable form. But in print, it's just wrong.

Further nitpicking: Damon didn't capture the title, his team did. And I'm not concerned with the immeasurables he brought with him, I'm concerned about the baseball skills. But Larry doesn't like baseball, as we've recently discovered.

Note: I cut out some stupid quotes here because athletes rarely have anything interesting to say. This instance was no different.

There are games to be won tonight and tomorrow. Every game the Yankees win against the rest of the schedule reduces the urgency to devour the Red Sox, when the teams throw their intangibles and their talent against each other in an August Armageddon.

Remember before when I asked if Larry Brooks owns a dictionary? Obviously he doesn't. Because if he did, he would realize that the statement, “throw their intangibles” is, well, wrong by definition. But that doesn't matter to sportswriters today. Can't find anything interesting to say? Talk about intangibles. That way, you can spout off complete drivel and justify it by saying, “well, they're intangibles, so they can't be measured.”

And if he thinks that every Yankees win “reduces the urgency to devour the Red Sox,” then he's batshit insane. Forget the fucking rivalry, because it's manufactured by the fans. The Yankees want to beat the Red Sox because they're gunning for a division title, and the Red Sox are their closest threat. If they're up by 4 ½ games going into the series, they'll play it with the same tenacity as they would if they were up by 1 ½. Because if they didn't, they'd get shelled and lose the division. But that doesn't compute with Larry Brooks, avid baseball non-fan.

I've been running this Fire Joe Morgan-esque posts a lot recently, but I think they're justified. For this column, Larry Brooks was paid to say nothing. Seriously, what is the message? I'm not even being snarky here; I'm genuinely curious as to what I'm supposed to gain by reading this (see, proper semicolon usage).


Call It A Comeback

What if was to tell you that the Yankees would be losing to the Orioles 3-1 in the seventh inning. Is that something you would be interested in? Certainly not I, as the channel changed plenty of times between the fifth and seventh innings. In more ways than the preceding adapted quote, last night's game was much like Sunday's episode of Entourage

(I'll keep this part brief, as I understand that not everyone watches Entourage. But you should.)

We came into last night's game like Eric went into his meeting with Bob Ryan. He figured he was working with one of the all-time great producers and could come up with a project for Vince. The Yankees went into the game against the Orioles knowing they were working with one of the worst teams in the league and could at least maintain their lead over the Red Sox. Things went wrong for Eric when he got to Ryan's house, where there was no project for Vince. Things went wrong for the Yankees when they allowed the Orioles to score three runs before the seventh, and it looked like they wouldn't widen the gap with the Red Sox.

But things turned around for E when he noticed a picture of the Ramones in Ryan's house. Things turned around for the Yankees when Johnny Damon slammed a ball over the right field wall. Ryan and E went over a winning script, and Robinson Cano delivered a winning double. E, Ryan, and Vince went to Ari to close the deal, and Torre went to Mo for the same.

Sometimes it's nice to watch Yankees games with non-fans. I have to stifle my emotions just a bit – though the Damon homer still got a fist pump – but I feel more relaxed when I'm not in a room filled with baseball fans. And, if things get frustrating, the non-fans are more than willing to change the channel. That was the case in the sixth inning, as Miguel Tejada came to the plate with runners on first and third with none out. Dog the Bounty Hunter was on A&E, and while I find that show numbingly boring, it was better option than watching the Yanks collapse to the dismal Os.

There was no way, however, that I could refrain from asking to check a score during commercials. So when I saw Damon at the plate with a runner on third and no outs in the seventh, I kindly asked that the channel stay at 9 for a bit. A few seconds later I was vindicated, and the score was tied 3-3. An Abreu double and a Cano double later, the score was 4-3, and I felt at ease watching the rest of the game uninterrupted.

Before Mo induced a grounder off the bat of Chris Gomez, the out of town scoreboard flashed, revealing that the Red Sox had lost to the Tigers. Actually, I had gotten a text message to that effect a minute earlier. But when Michael Kay revealed that Wily Mo Pena dropped a fly ball that plated the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth and then struck out in the bottom half, I was a happy man. The lead is now three, a comfortable margin with which to enter this weekend's series. The best part is that the Yankees have a free chance to gain a half game before then.

The somewhat recovered Cory Lidle squares off against Adam Loewen tonight, and it's high freakin' time that the Yanks laid into this guy like the rest of the league. The scouting report is that he's wild, so when he came out throwing strikes a few Saturdays ago, it surely caught the Yanks off guard. I would hope that they get to him by the second time through the order, but we all know how the Yanks fare against young, struggling pitchers.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What do you think?

Predicatably, Joe Torre has implied that Sidney Ponson will start one game of Friday's doubleheader against the Red Sox. this seems logical at a glance, but allow me to offer an alternative.

Five games against the Red Sox, five pitchers in the rotation. You would think that the best solution would be to toss your five rotation starters into the fire for that series. Ponson would take Jaret Wright's start against the much less threatening Orioles on Thursday, paving the way for Wriggidy to pitch the day half of Friday's set. Wang would pitch the night game, followed by the normal rotation of Johnson, Mussina, and Lidle.

The catch: with Wang and Wright starting on Friday, the Yanks are left with a conundrum on the following Tuesday in Seattle. You either start Wright on three days rest (because there's no way in fucking holy hell Wang should be pitching with LESS rest), or toss Ponson that game. Now, Ponson's one decent outing this year came against the Mariners, with the bulk of the damage inflicted by a Richie Sexson home run.

Wright has had a light workload this year, so starting him once on three days rest isn't the worst idea. Starting Ponson in that spot, however, allows the Yanks to give Wang five days off rather than four, which would be ideal at this point. It would also set up the rotation for the Detroit series at the end of the month, with everyone getting an extra day off because of the Monday off-day.

So here are your choices:

  • Start Ponson against the Red Sox and all but forfiet the game.

  • Start Ponson Thursday against the Orioles, Wright and Wang for the doubleheader; Wright starts on three days rest Tuesday in Seattle.

  • Start Ponson Thursday against the Orioles, Wright and Wang for the doubleheader; Ponson starts again Tuesday, allowing Wang an extra day off and setting up the front of the rotation for Detroit, with each starter getting a day off.


Call me crazy, but I'm taking the third one.

This guy is much more intense than me

For any of you that don't check out the comments after each post, reader Kyle has taken my Ladewski bashing a bit further: he sent a series of e-mails to Mr. Ladewski, citing a whole ton of statistics that I'm much to lazy to look up.

His exchange is documented here.

The result is the exact reason that I don't attempt to correspond with these people. They're arrogant and don't believe that they could possibly be wrong and/or stupid. Kyle objectively broke down the scenario and forwarded those numbers along. I suspect that Ladewski didn't even look at the numbers, as his response didn't make any mention of them. Rather, he cited one flimsy statistic, and didn't even acknowledge the fact that the games are being called the same both ways.

When I rip a columnist, it's usually for my own pleasure. I make no secret of my aspirations to one day get paid to write about sports -- albeit never at the newspaper level. Ribbing the guys who currently are paid for this work gives me some degree of satisfaction. For the most part, I don't care who sees it. This time around, I'm kind of hoping Ladewski stumbled upon that post. And, if he wishes, we could go toe to toe. Not only do I have my own arguments, I have Kyle's rigorous research.

Alex Rodriguez Interpreted

I can't find any direct quotes, but apparently Alex mentioned on Sunday that he had been playing through the year with numerous nagging injuries. He went on to say that he's not making excuses, but you know how I feel about that kind of statement based on my Ladewski bashing.

But allow me to apologize for Mr. Rodriguez once again. I interpret these statements to mean: "Look, guys, I haven't exactly been healthy all year. I could have used a few days off in June and July to recover, but I didn't take them because the team needed me. Sheff, Matsui, and Cano were out, and the lineup couldn't lose another player. So please back the fuck off and let me play baseball now."

He says he's near 100 percent healthy now, so we'll see how those statements hold up.

Yanks 7, Angels 2 -- That Rocked, Just a Lil Bit

Blah blah blah, it was nice to get a split with the Angels, blah blah blah, they're the only team with a winning record against Torre's Yanks, blah blah blah. True, this is some solace to be taken from a split with the Angels, but the story focuses more on last night.

We're at the point where there is no telling what Randy Johnson we're getting on any given night. He surely has some implosions left in him this season, but he'll have a few more stellar performances, a la last night, when he didn't give up a run until there were two outs in the second. The brightest spot in the evening for Johnson came in the fourth, when he whiffed Tim Salmon for his 4,500th career strikeout. He received quite the standing ovation, and was greeted loudly again after he retired Robb Quinlan to end the frame. Three innings later, and Johnson exited as the pitcher of record, not only giving his team a chance to win but giving Proctor and Villone the night off.

I'm a pitching guy, and whenever a starter goes seven innings and only allows two flukey runs, he's going to get the lede. However, there is one name that I seriously considered supplanting Johnson at the top of the article: Alex Rodriguez. As you all know, I've become Alex Apologist No. 1, going so far as to avoid calling him that abbreviated moniker. Last night wasn't the best of his games, going 0 for 2 with a walk. However, in the bottom of the seventh, with the Yankees having just surrendered their 2-0 lead, Alex shined.

The inning was abnormal to say the least. It all started with a Damon bloop single behind third base. D-Rock stepped up next, and he was prepared to sacrifice. Normally, I totally disagree with such strategy, since Jete is batting .345 with a .420 OBP. But it was the seventh, and you gotta score that leadoff run. So he laid one down the third base line, hustled his ass off, and beat the throw, giving the Yanks first and second with none out. With Abreu, Giambi and Alex due up next, the probability was high that Damon would score from second.

Much to the surprise of about everyone at the Stadium, Abreu stepped into the box also ready to bunt the runners over. So many things seemed wrong about that scenario, yet so many things seemed right. Farnsworth and Mo were fresh for the eighth and ninth, so a run there could have been lights out for the Angels. Swinging away left open the possibility for a double play, so Torre decided to play for the one run. Abreu was successful, coming within a stride of beating the throw to the bag. Second and third, one out, Giambi up.

And Giambi walk. John Lackey wanted no part of him, opting to pitch to Alex with the bases loaded and one out. Big mistakey. I know Alex hasn't been as threatening a presence at the plate this year, but you simply do not walk the bases loaded for the man. I guess Mike Scocia was thinking...hell, I don't know what he was thinking! But Harry Doyle aside, he simple thought that pitching to Alex with a force at all bases was a better option than going at Giambi – who apparently owns Lackey – with a base open. After all, we've seen Alex ground into a big double play here and there.

The tension in the crowd was palpable as Lackey got ahead 1 and 2. A strikeout would be detrimental; a grounder to short worse. But these are all things many Yankees fans have come to expect of Alex when he's put in a big spot. Lackey delivered the 1-2, and as if answering directly to the fans, Alex took a mighty swing and hit one high and deep down the right field line. There were gasps in the crowd, because that one came rather close to getting out (it was in the corner and my view was obstructed, so I can't really speak to how deep it truly was). But it did the job, as Damon was able to score from third, and the Yankees took the lead for good, 3-2.

This hit was especially relieving, since it was down the right field line, a place Alex hasn't hit many balls this year. That could be due to altered mechanics in his swing, which is described in the linked article. From that article:



Notice how there's nothing down the right field line. His ability to slap hits there may determine his success from here on out.

I'm not going to wrap this up until I officially congratulate Jorge Posada on breaking out of his slump in a big way. He singled twice and should have been credited with an RBI on the first one. Problem was, Giambi was the runner, easily thrown out at home plate. This sparked a discussion between my buddy Jon and I about which diet would work best for Giambi, South Beach or Zone? Anyway, Jorge officially kicked the slump to the curb with a laser home run to lead off the eighth, giving the Yanks a two-run cushion. They blew it open from there, and went on to finish off the Angels 7-2.

Boston dropped to Detroit, putting our lead back at two games. They have two more games against Detroit this week while we're facing Baltimore for three. Hopefully Torre can give some guys a rest on Wednesday and Thursday (night game-day game), because they're going to be facing Boston for two on Friday. Oh yeah, and the Sox get Thursday off, which completely sucks. The good news: we'll get to face Josh Beckett, who was the pitcher of record last night.

This is the money week, folks. Shitty team followed by the rivals. How the Yanks come out of the weekend may indicate where they come out on September 31.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Rock on!

So I'm sitting at my desk, plodding through a Monday morning. In walks my boss, who says, "I've got two tickets to tonight's game and I can't use them. Joseph (yes, they call me that at the office), do you want them?"

Fuck yes I want them!

I'm officially psyched. They're loge box seats, meaning I'm in the second section up right behind first base. I've been spoiled with these sweet tickets lately, and am uneagerly anticipating my return to the bleachers for the Detroit series later this month.

Of Wang and Workloads

Before 2006, Chien-Ming Wang had never thrown more than 150 innings. That mark was set last year, when he missed a good portion of the season due to a freak rotator cuff injury. Right now, he’s at 166.1 innings, and it’s starting to show. The imminent question: is this a sign of things to come for the rest of ’06?

Allow me to quote someone with a bit more expertise in this field. From Baseball Prospectus’s Will Carroll (talking about Scott Kazmir, also in his second year):

He's testing the 130-inning hurdle, one of the four landmarks for seasonal fatigue. They start at 100 innings, then every 30 additional innings. Research has shown that the ability to "clear" one of the hurdles for the second time shows an ability to consistently hit that level.


Wang pitched 125 innings in 2003, 149.1 innings in 2004, and 150.1 innings in 2005 before his 166.1 so far this year. He’s hit the second hurdle, but for only the first year. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any further literature about these "landmarks for seasonal fatigue," so what follows is in accordance with my interpretation, based on this theory and other innings-based pitching theories.

[MORE]While Wang may have the experience of a second-year player, he basically has the arm endurance of a rookie. The main difference between rookie and veteran pitchers is the length of season. Most minor leaguers are limited to somewhere around 150 innings max for a season. So when they get to the Major League level, the extra month-plus workload makes them more susceptible to fatigue and injury.

For an example of this in motion, I’ll point to one of the phenom rookie pitchers this year, Justin Verlander. Since Verlander pitched only one year in the minor leagues, I’m going to stretch back to his college numbers.

Year20022003200420052006
IP113.0116.1105.2130.0140.0


Verlander hit his innings mark from last year during a 6.2-inning, eight-strikeout performance against Cleveland on July 26. His next start, on five days rest, was against Tampa Bay on August 1, where he allowed three runs on eight hits through five innings. The main reason for his removal was his pitch count, 91. Three days later, it was announced that Verlander would miss his next start. Nothing seemed wrong, just a precautionary measure due to his lack of experience.

"I'm definitely not hurting. You can nix that one. Obviously, there was a little fatigue that I felt last time out, so to be on the precautionary side, I get a start off.

"But to be honest, this is the best I've felt after a start in a while."


That quote seemed innocent at the time, but became suspect when Verlander, on nine days rest, got bombed by the White Sox on Friday, to the tune of 13 hits, five runs (four earned), and two home runs over five innings (98 pitches). The Tigers now face a major question in their pennant run: can they rely on Verlander down the stretch with so many innings already under his belt? This will probably manifest itself during Verlander’s next scheduled start, which would be Wednesday at Fenway, barring a further setback. Another weak outing could mean some extended time off for the 23-year-old.

The question is, are these situations comparable?

Year20022003200420052006
Verlander113.0116.1105.2130.0140.0
Wang78.1125.0149.1150.1166.1


Wang has consistently pitched more innings than Verlander, which at first glance doesn’t make the situations line up. However, they both demonstrated a drop-off when they reached their personal highs in innings pitched (both attained in 2005). The Tigers are making the right move by trying to give Verlander more rest. Unfortunately, that isn’t a viable option for the Yankees, who have no real adequate backup plans.

Let’s place this against a larger sample, Wang’s 2005 rookie pitcher class.

Year20022003200420052006
C. Wang78.1125.0149.1150.1166.1
F. Hernandez-69.0149.1172.1136.1
S. Kazmir18.0109.1134.1186.0128.2
Z. Duke60.0141.2148.1192.2143.0
E. Santana-154.143.2192.0147.1
D. Haren*193.2173.1174.0217.0161.2
G. Chacin119.269.1167.1203.251.1
*not technically a rookie, but the first year he pitched the bulk of his innings in the majors

Chacin has been mired with injury this year, which becomes more understandable when you look at his innings totals. Before the 119.2 innings in 2002, he had tossed 132 and 140 innings. This is quite the workload for a young pitcher (his age 19 and 20 seasons), especially at the start of a career (he pitched 64 innings in rookie ball the year before his 132-inning stint). The 2003 injury and subsequent drastic workload increase is probably the reason he’s having trouble staying healthy this year. It speaks volumes about the proper care of young pitchers (I’ll get to this with Phil Hughes in just a second).

Beyond that, it seems that most of these pitchers were properly worked in their respective farm systems. They are also well positioned at this point in the season; almost everyone is well below last year’s total except our good friend Wang. The only pitcher that comes close to him as far as IP for 2006 is Dan Haren, and his situation is more understandable, since he’s handled heavier workloads in the past.

So have the Yankees done a poor job in managing Wang this season? Looking at his peers, it would appear so. It is possible that his workload has been the result of consequence (i.e. the absence of $40 million dollar man Carl Pavano), leaving the Yankees with little beyond the option of pitching him normally and hoping there isn’t any negative result.

Just for kicks, let’s look at some 2003 rookies and their innings pitched loads in the subsequent years:

Year20012002200320042005
J. Bonderman-156.2162.0184.0189.0
R. Harden74.1153.1176.1194.2131.0*
C. Lee-156.0132.0179.0202.0
B. Webb162.1159.0198.2208.0229.0
D. Willis93.2157.2197.0197.0236.1
* injury season.

It appears that Wang hasn’t been nurtured like the rest of these arms. What it actually proves is up for debate, but I think it speaks to the development of young pitching and how their workloads need to be carefully monitored. These players were properly and incrementally worked harder each year, and are finding much success in the Major Leagues. It doesn’t make me any more confident about Wang.

Post-Script:

With this information in hand, let’s look at how the Yankees are handling Phil Hughes.

Year200420052006
IP5.086.1131.0


He’ll likely have three more starts this year (by the way, killer outing yesterday, 5 innings, 9 Ks, 2 BB, 0 ER), putting him at roughly 146 innings for the year. The idea next year would be to get him up to 160-170 innings, so that he’ll have a chance to hit 200 for 2008, which would likely be his rookie season. There is always the chance of his arrival in 2007, but due to his limited experience and workload, it may be more beneficial in the long term to keep him in Columbus. That is, unless he utterly dominates opponents in AAA. He’d just have to be closely monitored in the bigs, and would likely be a spot starter. The point is, though, that the Yankees are doing a good job of keeping his innings in check, positioning him better for future success.

Stats obtained from The Baseball Cube