Ineffectively slow, slower, slowest

Keeping the stadium intact until the end
Yanks sign another catcher

When A.J. Burnett throws six innings and makes one mistake, the only thing to do is tip your cap to him. The Yankees were simply outpitched last night, and as the old baseball adage goes, good pitching will beat good hitting nearly all the time.

But there are some takeaways from last year’s night, and most of them concern Mike Mussina. Submitted for your approval is a rather basic pitch graph of Mike Mussina’s night. It tracks the velocity of his pitches along the X-axis vs. the break of his pitches according to MLB’s Advanced Gameday application along the Y-axis.


The colors represent Mussina’s pitch repertoire. The green are his fastballs; the two shades of red are his breaking pitches; and the blue dots at the slow end of the slow spectrum are his knucklecurves. To really get a sense of how slow Mussina was throwing, Gameday kept calling his low-80s fastballs change-ups. Those, my friends, were not changeups.

And therein lies the problem. Mike Mussina threw fastballs for nearly 60 percent of his pitches. He threw about 10 each of his breaking pitches. While the break on his fastballs is encouraging, he doesn’t have enough gas to throw so many fastballs. He hit 86 mph five times but mainly sat around 83 and 84 with his fastball. Major League hitters are going to tee off against him.

Meanwhile, Mussina again seemed to pull his routine on the mound when Giambi made an error and Moose didn’t cover first base in time early in the game.

In the end, Moose’s results are serviceable. He gave up 3 earned runs in5.2 innings, but he put 10 runners on base and struck out only 2. While relying on his low-80s fastballs, Mussina will not be so lucky in the future.

Game Notes: Alex Rodriguez is very good at hitting baseballs. I’m very happy to see him back on this team for the long haul…Derek Jeter‘s fourth inning effort in turning an error into an out changed the dynamic of the game. That was sloppy baserunning by a usually reliable baserunner…A few commenters in the game thread bemoaned Joe Girardi‘s decision to keep Giambi in the game to face Brian Tallet in the 7th. When Giambi’s blast in the 9th fell a few feet short of tying the game, no one was complaining, and had it been warmer or windier in the right direction, the game heads into the 10th a tie. I understand the ideas behind playing the matchups, but in a close game, losing Giambi’s bat isn’t an option. He’ll always be more of a threat at the plate than Shelley Duncan or Morgan Ensberg.

Keeping the stadium intact until the end
Yanks sign another catcher
  • samiamsports

    Bottom line is moose is a decent 4 or 5 starter if he throws that kind of game….it just scares the bejesus out of me that the yankees are relying on this guy to have a somewhat of a good season to succeed. im just praying that joba will have that spot as soon as possible. maybe moose would be an effective releiver. and i dont want to hear the crap that hes a creature of habbit and he wouldnt succeed. its time for mike to get it through his thick skull IN ORDER TO HAVE A JOB IN THE MAJORS YOU GOT TO ADAPT.

  • Geno

    Why not call this year what it is – a rebuilding year. Put Mussina out to pasture in the pen and bring up Horne. Get all the great young guys as much experience at the big league level as we can. Who are we fooling with Mussina out there? Does anyone really believe we’ll be world champs with Moose on the mound? The sooner we replace Mussina with Horne, the better we’ll be in the short and long run.

    • steve (different one)

      it’s a rebuilding year because they lost 1 game?

      almost every OBJECTIVE projection system has the Yankees pegged to win between 94-98 games.

      how is that a rebuilding year?

      Moose is the Yankees #5 starter.

      if he does what he does last night, 5.2 IP, 3 ER all season, the Yankees might win 100 games.

      • Geno

        Horne pitched 153 innings last year, which puts him of pace to go for at least 175 this year. Do you honestly believe Mussina is going to put up better numbers this year than Horne would? How is this a knee-jerk reaction? I just want the best arms we’ve got pitching. Mussina’s not one of those arms. Expecting him to repeat last night’s numbers over the course of a full season, thereby helping us win 100 games this year is about as far from OBJECTIVE reasoning as you can get.

        • http://deleted Seamus O’Toole

          i honestly believe that mussina will put up better numbers than horne in the major league. regardless, mussina is our fifth starter–he did what a fifth start should do, numbers wise. it just so happened that he matched up against a very good number 2 in burnett. face it, burnett was dealing last night and we still put the tying run on base in the 9th with our fifth starter getting the start.

        • steve (different one)

          if Horne is ready to go, i don’t really have a problem bumping Mussina for him.

          that was not at all what i was reacting to.

          i was simply saying it’s ridiculous to call this a rebuilding year. this team is going to compete all year.

          and if they make the playoffs, Moose won’t be in the rotation.

          he just needs to eat some innings until some of the younger guys are ready.

          • Geno

            I guess I see the reluctance to replace Mussina with someone like Horne linked to the thought that we have too many young pitchers. The fear of having too many young pitchers being that the fanbase may look at it as rebuilding. I believe we should be rebuilding with Horne replacing Mussina, but I also think that staff – Wang, Pettite, Kennedy, Hughes/Chamberlain, Horne – is our best chance at success in 08 and beyond.

            • steve (different one)

              but I also think that staff – Wang, Pettite, Kennedy, Hughes/Chamberlain, Horne – is our best chance at success in 08 and beyond.

              gotcha. the term “rebuilding” has a very specific connotation to me, but i get your point now.

    • Simon B.

      Geno’s post pretty much epitomizes your classic knee-jerk Yankee fan.

  • YES

    I want to see Wang,Hughes,Joba,Horne,Kennedy in the rotation next year. It might happen.

  • Count Zero

    I said it in the offseason and I’ll say it again now: Moose isn’t going to be an effective anything in 2008. To survive in MLB with an 84mph fastball, you’d better not be throwing it more than once per AB — when they’re totally not expecting it. (cf. Byrd)

    Best case scenario, Moose is a #5 starter that wins some games because the Yankee bats provide him with 6+ run support. The Yankees would be very lucky to be .500 in his starts.

    He isn’t to blame for the loss last night, and having him go up against Burnett at this stage of his career is a total mismatch. Nonetheless, the sooner someone is ready to take his place in the rotation, the better. He doesn’t even belong in the bullpen unless you’re looking for a mediocre long reliever. ;-)

  • RichYF

    I was being very much of a dick last night regarding Moose, but I wasn’t all THAT upset with his performance. The truth is, however, that he’s essentially playing with fire each and every time out there. When he locates he’s more or less fine. When he doesn’t, well bad things can happen. Teams will sit on his breaking stuff because his fastball just isn’t very fast.

    Abreu needs to make at least one, if not BOTH of those throws. Both runners would have been out by a good amount if he doesn’t throw it to Roy Halladay sitting on the bench. Moose made a mistake pitch that got crushed, but other than that I wasn’t too upset. Last year or two years ago I would have been furious watching that game. Today, I just shrug it off. Granted, I was a little sad that my comments were not enjoyed by all as much as I enjoyed them, but that’s the nature of the beast. Maybe you guys will warm up to my jokes. Maybe not.

    • Ben K.

      Oh, I enjoyed them, but mostly I was reading them after the fact since I wasn’t at home to join in on the game thread fun last night.

    • Chip

      The thing is in the majors that almost any pitcher throwing less than 92 mph is going to get hit if he doesn’t locate his fastball. Joba might be able to get one by a guy at 98 mph down the middle but Kennedy can’t throw a 89 mph meatball and get away with it unless he’s got them set up perfectly

  • Mike P

    It wasn’t that bad guys. Moose pitched quite well. He was going up against Burnett and the Yanks still had a chance when he left the game. Moose will win a lot of games if he pitches like yesterday the rest of the season.

    What worried me about Mussina yesterday is that his margin for error is very small. Mussina had very good control. But every time he was slightly off or didn’t get a call, he was in a hole. I think Moose may have just enough to do the job this year. Remember, he’s the Yankees fifth starter and won’t pitch in the postseason.

    The problem is that it’ll only take a little for him to go off the rails.

  • Yankee Fan in Chicago

    I disagree. I thought Moose pitched well last night. He got burned in the first on some weak-ass hits and then made a huge error in that 2-out walk prior to the homer. Other than that he was good, good enough to get wins for the Yanks as long as they’re not facing a Burnett.

    Also, I’m not sure Moose can’t succeed even with a mid80s fastball. Sure, most guys couldn’t, but with his breaking stuff and command, and career success he’s better than most. If guys like Moyer and Byrd can be serviceable, so can Moose.

    David Cone made this point in spring trainning. When Kay pushed the “Moose has to throw 88-89 to be successful” line, Cone disagreed and said Moose could be throwing 80, as long as there’s separation btwn his fastball and his offspeed stuff, and as long as he spots his fastball in and out, working both sides of the plate. That seems right to me. Now ouf course, that means impeccable control, since you can’t let an 85 mph fastball catch much of the plate at all.

    From what I saw during Moose’s good and bad spells last season, when he got lit up was when he became afraid to throw his fastball inner-half, and everything was away away, and hitters just leaned over the plate and smacked everything. Girardi seems to understand that.

    If Moose pitches like he did yesterday he’ll be fine for us.

    • nmc

      I agree. I just worry that yesterday was Mussina’s “best stuff”… I don’t want to see a bad start.

      I am hopeful that he can be a little better than yesterday – his curve was pretty wicked looking. However, this was against a pretty weak Toronto lineup (their 3-4-5 hitters are really the only threats). I’m terrified of seeing him face the Socks or Les Tigres.

      If he wasn’t facing Burnett last night, the Yankees win the game.

      Also, can I mention A-Rod. I’m glad he hit that homer in the 7th, but that last pitch from Accardo should have been hit. Fastball over the plate. I can say, though, that I was really happy that he was at the plate. In close-and-late situations, I want A-Rod.

      • http://deleted Seamus O’Toole

        that first fastball should’ve been hit. likewise the cement truck slider that caught plate.

    • RustyJohn

      Let me see, our #5 goes up against not only a #2, but a very good #2, and keeps us in the game and everyone on here thinks he is dogshit? Maybe you’d rather see some of the other contending teams #4’s or #5’s like great pitchers like Josh Fogg or Mark Redman and see how they do against an AL East line-up?

      Cone is on the mark- pitch speed doesn’t mean crap if there is location and change of speed- see El Duque and Jamie Moyer (although not today) who are both in their mid-40s and air it out at 77 MPH. If Pettite weren’t hurt he’d ahve been starting tonight and we wouldn’t be having this discussions- wait another week and all will be right in the world.

  • Glen L

    Moose is fine as a 5th starter … look around the league at other 5th starters … no one should expect their 5th starter to pitch like a 2nd starter (even if he was our 2nd starter of the season haha)

    this, however, is why i really wanted them to bring back Doug Mientkiewicz … on days when Moose is going to pitch, the ball is going to be in play A LOT and i’d rather start Dougie out there at 1st and DH giambi … we wouldn’t even really be losing anything as I fail to see how Duncan and Ensberg (both righties) are not completely redundant on the bench … I wish we had gone with Mientkiewicz and Duncan OR Ensberg on the bench… Betemit and Duncan or Ensberg along with whomever isn’t playing out of the Giambi, Matsui, Damon group are capable bats off the bench

    • http://deleted Seamus O’Toole

      i couldn’t disagree more. the yankees as a whole are very left biased. lh batters: damon, abreu, matsui, giambi, cano. sh: posada, cabrera, betemit (all better from the left side too!). rh: jeter, a-rod.

      doug, though a good fielder, is essentially an automatic out. we do not need another lh bat that can’t hit. duncan and ensberg are not redundant. don’t think for a second that giambi is playing 162 games just because he had a healthy spring. when giambi isn’t playing first, either duncan or ensberg will be, leaving only one rh bat on the bench (though i guess molina technically counts too). carrying another player as a pure defensive replacement (in a non-premium position, i might add) in the late innings is a waste of a roster space especially considering our need for extra bullpen arms that will be persistent throughout the season.

      • Glen L

        That’s a very fair argument, and i completely respect your stance

        with that said, if moose is gonna put the ball in play this often every game, defense will matter a lot, and yes 1b isn’t an up the middle position, but maybe Dougie fields the ball cleanly in the 1st inning, sprints to the bag, and that little imp eckstein is never on base to score in the first place (granted mussina should have covered)

        plus, yes the team is very heavy lefty, but its the AL and honestly, which of the lefties are you going to pinch hit for? Matsui … fair enough, but i think we can survive with 1 of duncan and ensberg in addition to betemit

  • Simon B.

    I liked and was encouraged by Mussina’s start last night. He had a very nice two-seamer, had a great curveball, and was hitting his spots. He left one up to Vernon Wells, but other than that, he was pitching very well.

    I’m more annoyed at Abreu for screwing up what looked like two easy throws; didn’t that guy use to have a great arm?

    Like many have said, you have to tip your hat to Burnett. He’s truly in the top tier stuff wise. Who has the best stuff in the world? It’s probably going to come between Burnett, Felix, Lincecum, Verlander, and Joba.

    I think it’s very silly how everybody is throwing Mussina out on his first start, because a few things didn’t go his way and he was up against Burnett. He’s more than capable of a league-average year through 150+ innings, and that’s a terrific pitcher to have.

    • Ben K.

      It’s not juts one start; it’s all of last year combined with the fact that he’s another year older combined with the fact that his fastball never got above 86. He’s going to have to change his approach to pitching if he’s going to be league average. Throwing 60 percent fastballs at 83-86 mph will get him shelled.

      • Simon B.

        Be wary of velocity in the first few starts. Guys are still getting stronger.

        Even so, I was very impressed by Mussina’s stuff yesterday. You see that two-seamer on the inside corner against righty hitters? Superb, and the curve was good too. I think if he’s doing that every start, it doesn’t matter if his velocity is mid-eighties.

      • Count Zero

        Exactly, Ben. This is the point everyone is ignoring — throwing an 85mph fastball once or twice per AB is one thing; throwing it 60% of the time is another.

  • Tripp

    I’d take 6 innings of 3-4 runs a game from a 4th or 5th starter. If he doesn’t cut back on the fastballs then Ben is right in that he’s going to be in trouble.

    How much of this has to do with the catcher calling for the fastball to much and or Moose calling him off?

  • Mike A.

    He pitched well enough to win with that offense. He’ll pick up another few mph in a few weeks, once the guys start to get really stretched out. If all of Moose’s starts look like this, I’ll take it with a smile on my face.

  • Jamal G.

    The only issue I had with the game was my feeling that Joe G. should have brought in LaTroy Hawkins two battesr earlier. When it was was in the top of the sixth, with two on and one wout I felt the ground ball inducing Hawkins should have been brought in. Mussina then retired the next batter and then let up a 0-2, 2 out RBI single to Aaron Hill that gave the Jays a 4-0 lead. Hawkins was then brought in.

    I at first thought they should have PH for the BIG G but with nobody on what was the real point? Giambi does get on base at a respectable clip of .384 vs. LH over his career so he may not hit like he does vs. RH but at least he gets on base.

    So my only real problem was not bringing in the ground ball pitcher Hawkins in a DP situation to keep possibly keep the score at 3-0. Not a big deal, just my little nitpick.

  • ctkaiser

    A team loss. Most good HS pitchers are throwing the fastball the same speed as Moose. The last batter he faced he had 0-2. A waste pitch waist high down the middle did him in. He should be too smart to do that but at that point he couldn’t locate anymore. Moose also was pitching in the 2 spot (where Pettitte is supposed to be) against a real good number 2 pitcher. As many people have commented he’s nothing more than a number 4 or 5 starter. If he ends up there he should be able to get wins against a lot of teams’ number 4 or 5. Also once he gets past 5 innings you’ve got to think in terms of going batter by batter with him. Sad but true. I heard Gene Michael suggest last year on a talk radio show that Mussina would benefit by some weight training. I could not have agreed more but Moose is a little stubborn.

    • steve (different one)

      i thought he did do weight training this offseason?

  • mustang

    Moose did fine. A.J. Burnett won this game. Tonight is the BIG SHOW.

  • Bronx Cheer

    I am in the camp that thinks Moose’s effort was definitely adequate, but that we can’t expect him to pitch to these results over the course of the season unless he does develop more hop on the fastball. He has to be absolutely perfect the entire game with his current stuff. With an 85mph fastball, he is always playing with fire – just one meatball away from getting knocked out. Somewhere I saw that he gave up a 25% line drive percentage last night. Not good. While the balls weren’t being smoked, they were falling in. He also couldn’t get anybody out with 2 strikes. It appeared that batters were able to sit on off-speed stuff while still having enough time to react to the fastball.

    I just don’t think throwing his offspeed stuff slower is going to help out that fastball. MLBers have too good eye hand and reaction times to be fooled by such slow stuff.

    Let’s hope he finds the fountain of youth and about 4mph when the weather warms up.

    • http://deleted Seamus O’Toole

      the problem is that his off-speed stuff was sliders and knuckle-curves. not many change-ups in there last night to the best of my knowledge. does moose just not have a good one?

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  • Travis G.

    i wasn’t too disappointed in Moose. he made one bad pitch, in a game against a great pitcher. 5.2 ip, 3 er is a very good game from a 5th starter, period.

    you do NOT have to throw hard to be effective, e.g. Byrd, Moyer, etc. Moose has great command, and that will allow him to be an effective 5th starter. part of it is Moose learning to pitch with decreased velocity, and part is pitching in the AL East.

    dont forget: he’s in the rotation for (hopefully) only half the season, and will then be replaced by Joba.

    • Travis G.

      also, i agree with the previous guy about Abreu. he should have nailed at least one of those runners at the plate. strong throws, but way off.

  • GoYankees

    I doubt that Joba is ready to start this year. He did nothing in spring training that shows otherwise. Great potential, but he is just not there yet. For now, he is Mariano’s backup. But there are other arms rehabbing in the minors that should be ready by warmer weather. In the meanwhile, stick with Moose and hope he keeps his confidence. Pitching is about location, movement, and deception, and not speed. Just look at Farnsy’s great chart.

    • Ben K.

      Exactly what are you basing that assessment on? His Spring Training stats?

      • GoYankees

        you tell me, is Joba a pitcher or a thrower? A starter has to go around the lineup 3 times, which means making 2 adjustments. Can he be effective when as a starter he dials down to 94-95? I didn’t see it. But maybe I’m all wrong.

        • Ben K.

          Joba in the minors started 15 games and was utterly dominant in all levels. Every single talent evaluator thinks he has the makeup and stuff to be a top-line Major League ace. That says a lot more than a few starts during the first few weeks of Spring Training.

          As LaTroy said, “Spring Training don’t mean shit.”

  • Rob_in_CT

    I was encouraged by the movement on Moose’s (not-so) fastball. If he can compensate for lack of velocity with movement and placement, he can be decent, as he was last night. I’d sign up for ~180 innings of 4.75ish ERA from him.

    Of course, I think the Jays lineup is a pretty good matchup for him, and he gave up 3 runs in 5 2/3 innings. Against better teams with lefty power bats it coulda been ugly.

    The loss just doesn’t bug me. Burnett is a really good pitcher, when he pitches. I figured it was probably gonna be a loss, and lo & behold, it was.

  • Chip

    Joba destroyed the minors last year as a starter. I’m sorry but he will be a starter unless he proves he can’t handle it

  • E-ROC

    Moose was serviceable yesterday. I think that’s about as good as it’s going to get with Mussina.

    The friggin’ wind stopped the game from being tied and a Rios flyball from being a homerun. So I guess you can’t have it both ways.

    Farnsdearth might actually be Farnsworth this season.

  • Greg C.

    I believe Mussina does do weight training in the conventional sense, but he doesnt do “weight training” meaning: juice, HGH. So he’s a 39 year old with a loss of strength like most 39 year olds not on the stuff.

    The thing that frustrates me about Moose (being a Moose fan) is I think he could be very effective with the weak stuff he has, but he has to adapt.

    I certainly criticize him some, but he has always been held to an unfair standard. As others have noted look at other team’s number 4 or 5 starters. Look at how terrible all the other OLD guys are. People keep signing Jamie Moyer and other 40+ year olds who were never half as good as Mussina. Yet every time Mussina has a bad start the mob calls for his banishment and says he isnt even good enough to play on any MLB team as a 5th starter. Hell I remember last year some people saying the Yankees should sign the 44 year old David Wells. And need I remind anyone of some of the 4th and 5th starters the yankess have had over the past 5 years? Terrible YOUNG guys with FAST fastballs.

    Even in 2006 when Mussina was objectively the Yankee’s best starter and one of the top 10 starters in the AL, there were people calling for his head every time he gave up more than 2 runs. The anti-Moose mob is just hysterical.

    Realistically you are looking at a hittable ( Wang is hittable as well but is an “ace”) 5th starter who should be serviceable as long as he has solid defense behind him and locates his pitches. he will get knocked around when he makes mistakes.

    FWIW, Mussina has usually been “unlucky” with run support over his career. Some terrible Orioles teams as well as lower run support from the Yankees probably kept him from at least 3 20 win seasons. There were seasons when he pitched better than Pettitte and Clemens and lost twice as many games on the same team. So I get tired of hearing ( from yankee-haters moreso than moose haters) people say things like ” Well he’s on the Yankees. he’s sucked for years but anyone can win with all that run support.”

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