Yanks head into well-deserved off day with another win

In which I apologize to Bob
College World Series participants set ... almost

I haven’t felt this good about the Yankees since we swept Cleveland. Finally, the Yankees have exploited a weak spot in their schedule and have rattled off six straight wins, and nine of their last 11. We’re finally back in second place, a half game ahead of the Blue Jays, and just a game below .500. And we have the second most runs scored in the majors, behind only Detroit (who are hugely benefiting from Gary Sheffield).

It’s a commonly held belief that you never want to ruin the momentum of a winning streak. If you’re hot you’re hot, and you want to keep rolling until the streak ends. However, I must disagree and say that today’s off-day comes at an opportune time. This is the team’s first day off in June, a month in which they have scored 74 runs. A day off to get collected is going to be a blessing. There’s simply no way the team can keep up with that torrid pace, so an interruption may be just long enough to recharge the batteries — especially since there’s no travel involved.

(Or maybe I’m just throwing darts because I’m so damn happy that we’re winning.)

Clippard’s start gave many Yankees fans pause yesterday. Yes, outings like that are to be expected of a fifth starter, but Clippard is demonstrating trends that don’t bode well for his MLB future. The most glaring of those trends is his low percentage of strikes.

He’s thrown just 58 percent of his pitches for strikes, and has been very consistent with that ratio. His 16 to 14 K/BB ratio (and 5.32 BB/9) just isn’t going to fly for much longer. Throwing 2/3 of your pitches for strikes is considered ideal, but it’s going to be a necessity for a guy like Clippard who doesn’t blow guys away. He demonstrated control in the minors — 2.21 BB/9 and a nearly 4.5 to 1 K/BB ratio — so we know he can do it. But can he execute at the major league level? We’ll probably get at least one more start to see.

Yesterday’s game was a lesson in throwing strikes. Here are each team’s pitchers and how they threw:

Yanks NP Str. %
Clippard 90 55 61
Henn 47 25 53
Viz 4 2 50
Proctor 29 16 55
Bucs NP Str. %
Chacon 96 55 57
Sharpless 8 5 62.5
Kuwata 40 22 55
Bayliss 27 15 55.5
Capps 17 11 65

Throw strikes, pitch well, says Matt Capps (in his small sample). The guys to whom you really want to pay attention are the starters, Clippard and Chacon, and the long men, Henn and Kuwata. Chacon and Clippard pitched like shit, and when you look at their strike percentages, it’s no surprise — especially for Chacon. Clippard broke the 60 percent barrier, which is nice because it brought his average up. However, as I said earlier, it’s just not enough for a guy who doesn’t consistently break 90 m.p.h.

Kuwata stunk, too. Two innings two walks, two runs. True, they both came off the only hit he surrendered — the home run to Alex Rodriguez — but those are the kinds of mistakes you’re going to make if you’re not throwing a good percentage of strikes (it was his 18th pitch of that inning, eight of which were balls). You can look at Henn’s results and say he did well, but we all know the jam he got himself into in the 5th. One tiny swing of the pendulum in the Pirates’ direction and they break through for a few runs in that inning (Jose Castillo taking a pitch with the bases loaded and two outs against a pitcher he has never faced would have been a good start).

All in all, though, a solid weekend by the Yanks. Bobby Abreu is heating up, Alex is rolling again, and hell, even our prospects are pitching crazy-good (or crazy-well, I guess). I don’t know what happened on the night of the infamous “HA!” incident, but it seems to have gotten something started. Now let’s see if the Yanks can roll through a few more NL teams, a la Boston last year, and gain some more ground. Nine and a half back, baby. Don’t count out the Yanks yet.

In which I apologize to Bob
College World Series participants set ... almost