Running on the Sox

An open letter to Joba
Remembering an August series with Boston

Carl Crawford stealingThe Yankees have traditionally been a power hitting, high on-base percentage kind of team, going all the way back to the days of Ruth and Gehrig. They would dig in, make pitchers work, get on base somehow, then sit back and watch as their sluggers peppered the bleachers with big flies. This year’s club is no different, but this weekend they have a chance to exploit one of Boston’s biggest weaknesses: allowing stolen bases.

The Red Sox this year have been just terrible when it comes to allowing steals. I mean horrifically bad. On average, Major League clubs have stolen bases successfully at a 72.7% clip, but Boston has allowed runners to be successful on their steal attempts a ridiculous 85.2% of the time. All Star Catcher Jason Varitek has been the main culprit, allowing 69 steals in 83 attempts, or 85.6%. In addition to leaving his mask on during a fight, he’s also hitting just .212-.356-.349 since May 30th, and the team’s 3-4-5 starters have a combined 5.72 ERA. What exactly does he do well? Forgive me as I digress.

As for the rest of Boston’s catchers, Victor Martinez has only played one game behind the plate for them and no one attempted a steal. With the Indians though, baserunners swiped bags at a 84.8% success rate. George Kottaras was the best of the backstop bunch, allowing steals at just a 83.8% clip, but he’s on the phantom DL because the team has no spot for him and he’s out of options and they don’t want to lose him to waivers with a sore back and won’t play in the series.

As a team, the Yankees have stolen 71 bases, a modest amount good for 12th most in baseball and 6th most in AL. Their 78.0% success rate is fourth best in the game behind the Rangers (83%), Rays (80.2%), and Phillies (79.8%). Obviously most of the stolen base credit goes to the presently injured Brett Gardner, who’s stolen 20 bags with an 80% success rate. The Cap’n is second with 19 steals, getting the job done 82.6% of the time. Johnny Damon has picked his spots to go a perfect 8-for-8 in stolen base attempts. New addition Jerry Hairston Jr. hasn’t attempted a steal in pinstripes yet, but he had seven steals in ten attempts in Cincinnati.

The Yankees will do their usual shtick of drawing walks and working counts and hitting homers this series, but the opportunity is there for them to take an extra base almost at will. Given the way the team has hit with runners in scoring position this year, maybe that’s not such a good thing.

Photo Credit: Mike Carlson, AP

An open letter to Joba
Remembering an August series with Boston
  • Johan Iz My Brohan

    The Sox really like to abuse the disabled list to give them “more” roster spots don’t they….

    I wish Gardner could at least be used to pinch run if he can’t do anything else right now =(

    • zs190

      It would cost us a bench spot, which we can’t afford now that we actually have useful players on the bench. Might as well get him fully healthy before we get him up.

  • Dela G

    This is when i wish we had grit gutner

    can you imagine how many steals he’d have this weekend? Maybe 30

    • LiveFromNewYork

      Definitely miss the Gritner.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        We should sign someone to replace him for this series.

        You thinking what I’m thinking?

        Michael Vick.

        • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

          +a bazillion

          • Johan Iz My Brohan

            Usain Bolt biatchhh

            • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

              …What would it take? :)

            • pete

              steroids. except that would be sooooo epic. he wouldn’t even need a lead he’d just use the bag like starting blocks and go at the right moment. actually, come to think of it, i would abstractly have sex with the notion of usain bolt on the yankees.

              • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

                ‘…NOOWWWWWWW Pinch running for Hideki Matsui…#9.4, HOOOOOsaaaaaain….BOLT-t-t-t-t…..”

                (insider catcher’s head: oh fuck me. he’s gonna steal home. again. dammit i hate being sportscenter)

        • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

          Maybe we can coax Brett Favre out of retirement; he’ll only have to play the second half of the season, he could handle it.

          He may not be as fast but he’s a big boy, if you see him running ou get out of the way.

          • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

            *you* get out of the way.

        • Dela G

          i’m down for that

        • Chris

          We should sign someone to replace him for this series.

          Why? Even Jorge Posada can steal on Varitek.

  • http://twitter.com/JamalG Jamal G.

    To pile on the numbers:

    Jason Varitek threw out Carlos Pena last night. Why is that significant? It broke a string of twenty-seven successful stolen base attempts with The Heart of the Nation behind the plate.

    All Star Catcher Jason Varitek has been the main culprit, allowing 69 steals in 83 attempts

    Of those fourteen throw-outs by Varitek, six were pick-offs by Red Sox pitchers.

    • Dela G

      27??!!!??

      HOLY CRAP!

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      IETCVM.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Of those fourteen throw-outs by Varitek, six were pick-offs by Red Sox pitchers.

      He gets credit for those too.

      Pickoffs = No hitters

    • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

      From Pete Abe, comparing position by position:

      Edge: Slight edge to Posada. He’s a better hitter and Varitek is better behind the dish. Both are old cranks at this point.

      Varitek is better behind the dish?

      That is one of the most ridiculous comments I’ve ever read.

      • http://twitter.com/JamalG Jamal G.

        Great reporter; John Kruk-esque analysis.

        • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

          I agree. I like Pete, but he’s wrong all the time with his analysis and predictions.

          • Chris

            I find it funny that he would post something like that, but also criticizes people that were posting about how Posada is bad at calling games.

            • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

              As well he should. That was such a dumb deate.

              Still, this comment was ridiculous.

              • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

                *debate*

              • Chris

                I agree, but you really shouldn’t criticize people that say he’s a bad catcher and then come out later and say he’s a bad catcher.

                • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

                  The arguement was not bad dfense, it was bad game calling skills.

                • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

                  *defense*

          • BklynJT

            I agree. I hate Pete, and he’s wrong all the time with his analysis and predictions.

            • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

              Idon’t him, he’s a good reproter and he could be funny. I just don’t like his predictions or analysis.

              • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

                *I don’t hate him*, he’s a good *reporter*

                • pete

                  jesus, you’re sucking fucks today. using an iphone or something?

                • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

                  …how do people read this blog with an iphone? its @#$@# crazy… :(

      • Little Bill

        Yeah, Pete’s horrible at any sort of analysis and he hyperboles way too much. He said CC’s last start vs. the White Sox was the best game he’s ever pitched. I guess he’s a sportswriter though so it’s his job to say stupid stuff. I do like his blog for news though.

        • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

          its not just too much…he hyperboles ALL THE DAMN TIME.

      • http://www.richardiurilli.com/ Richard Iurilli

        Also from PeteAbe:

        “Ramon Ramirez, Manny Delcarmen and Hideki Okajima have been strong all year and Josh Bard throws wicked hard.”

        Ramon Ramirez’s FIP is 1.5 runs higher than his ERA. Oh, and when did Josh Bard move to the bullpen?

        • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

          Really? I guess I’m wrong but I thought Bard was in their bullpen.

          • Marcus

            *Daniel* Bard. Josh Bard is a catcher, now with the Nationals.

            • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

              Ah. Okay.

          • JGS

            he is, but Daniel Bard, not Josh Bard.

            Josh Bard played just seven games for the Sox in 2006 before he was shipped to San Diego for being comically unable to catch Tim Wakefield.

            Pretty sure Pete knows this and just had a brain fart while typing

      • YankFan

        Fits in w/ TSN article saying that Tek & Posade are about even. But Boston is better b/c of the cost of the contract.
        Like the fact that nobody wanted Tek didn’t play into his “value”. PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!

  • JobaWockeeZ

    Well Damon, earn my fantasy team some steals this series.

  • Chris

    It’s interesting that Boston has allowed the most SB in the majors this year(109) while the Yankees are second (96). Of course, the Yankees have thrown out 29% of base stealers and lead the league in CS (39). I’m assuming that teams were looking to run on Posada because of the shoulder injury, and just weren’t paying attention to how many guys were caught stealing.

    • Zack

      Yeah most SB is kind of irrelevant, the CS% is the stat to look at.

      • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

        …then we’re back to # of attempts being a useful primary stat to have.

        its too @#$@#$ hot here for me to figure out how many attempts without a calculator!

        er…121ish?

  • Hova

    Man I wish we had Gardner for this series. We have limited speed off the bench right now. Would it be dumb to send Claggett down and bring Pena up?

    • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

      Isn’t Hairston Jr. fast?

      • Hova

        Yea, I guess he might be. Attempted 10 steals, only caught 3 times.

        • Joe R

          Dont need to be fast to steal off Tek. Shit, Matsui could probably make it standing up.

          • Hova

            Well, as long as its not Cano. Haha. The dude is a terrible base stealer.

            • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

              Which is kind of weird because he’s not slow.

              • pete

                it’s b/c he’s a lazy dominican.

          • Salty Buggah

            Matsui carrying a 1000 lb elephant while pulling a train could make it standing up.

            • Joe R

              No wonder his knees are shot :o

              • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

                +1

        • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

          7/10 isn’t all that good. You wanna be at about 75% for your steals to be effective/not take away from run scoring. The Phillies of ’07 and ’08 are the best example of this. They didn’t steal the most bases but they had a ridiculously high success rate.

          • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

            7/10 is a very small sample size.

            • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

              I know.

              • andrew

                For his career, he is just under 75%, at 134/191. 7/10 seems to be in line with his career average.

    • Frank

      Would it be dumb to send Clagett and bring Pena up?

      That may well happen.

      • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

        I’d like that move.

        • JGS

          agreed. Claggett has all of 1.2 big league innings under his belt, and he gave up 8 runs in those. Using him as insurance for Mitre sucking against Toronto is one thing, throwing him against the Red Sox is another. Bring back Pena

      • Hova

        And it should happen. I understand Hairston can play every position known to man kind, but I would feel much better with Pena covering 3rd or SS in a big spot.

        • Salty Buggah

          And I’d love having Hairston is the OF in a big spot also, he’s pretty good out there if I remember the UZR numbers correctly.

          Pena and Hairston will be good for defense substitutions late in the game.

      • YankFan

        It sounds like they brought Claggett for depth for the whole series, not just Mitre. Girardi was saying it b/c Boston could still grind out some at bats. If Joba & AJ are dominant I can see it happening for Saturday;s game.

    • Klemy

      It’s too bad there aren’t any hurdles or boxes between 1st and second or Cody Ransom would’ve been absolute money for steals!

  • Ivan

    I like how John Harper of the daily news picked Drew over Swisher and Ortiz over Matsui.

    • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

      Cough biased cough.

      Sorry I have this terrible cough…

    • jsbrendog

      i would say it’s because BUT TEH BATTING AVERGUGEG!!11!! but papi’s sucks ass….and drew’s does too

      • Ivan

        But seriously, offensively Swisher has outperformed Drew and Matsui has certainly outperformed Ortiz.

        • Johan Iz My Brohan

          But Ortiz hits da homeruns…oh wait.

    • Zack

      it really said that? it’s funny Yankees are the only sports team in the nation that even the hometown papers/media are biased against

    • http://theyankeeuniverse.com Moshe Mandel

      Actually:

      WAR
      Drew: 2.1
      Swish: 1.7

      Drew is a much better defensive player.

      • Ivan

        I said offensively he beats Drew.

        • http://theyankeeuniverse.com Moshe Mandel

          Well, first you derisively pointed out Harper’s pick, which turns out to be justified. That was the comment I was responding to. As you said, strictly looking at hitting, Swish has been better.

        • Drew

          I’m the Wiz, nobody beats me.

      • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

        Drew’s having a second straight great season in right.

      • Sweet Dick Willie

        Drew is a much better defensive player.

        Yeah, but you gotta actually play for that to matter, and Drew has only played in 87 of his teams 106 games (not counting DH or PH).

  • CanoFTW

    lol – a caller just asked mike francesca whether he wants to revise his opinion about joba being in the bullpen and his response was “why are you bringing that up right now when hughes is already doing the job that joba was doing”…

    he didn’t really answer the question. all he said was “i don’t think he’s going to the pen anymore this year”

    that’s a dodge if i’ve ever heard one. HUGHES IS A STARTING PITCHAAA!

  • Hova

    I have to turn off the WFAN. I don’t know why I keep torturing myself. On a day when the Red Sox in town for a huge four game series, idiots are calling up about Joba and the bullpen. Freaking idiots.

    • CanoFTW

      but it’s so entertaining hearing mike dodge the question

  • jjyank

    Ahh this is why I miss Gardner, he would flat out own V-Tek if he got on base. Still, I think between Jete, Arod, Damon, and maybe Hairston could get the job done for us. Big series here, I’d like to see the Yanks come out and play aggressive early.

    My hope is between V-Tek’s catching “prowess” and Smoltz wrongly deciding to move out of the NL (or deciding not to retire, take your pick) we can open up that Sox bullpen like a little kid tearing the wrapping paper off of the biggest box under the Christmas tree.

    …how am I supposed to update these agreement renewal forms for my boss when the Yanks are playing the Sox tonight?

    • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

      is he a sox fan? then poorly.
      is he a yankees fan? then between innings :)

  • jsbrendog

    this is relevant because it has to do with victor martinez, a catcher who is awful at throwing out base runners, the topic at hand.

    but in steve phillip’s bbtn clubhouse write up he says francona can pencil in martinez at third, first, c, or dh….

    since when does victor martinez play 3b?

    • jsbrendog

      “His versatility in the field makes manager Terry Francona’s job easier, too, allowing him to mix and match the lineup as he sees fit because he can pencil Martinez in at third, first, catcher or DH”

      oh yeah, right, according to BR, never.

      way to go phillips. doucher

      • donttradecano

        this is from the same network that said Arod wasnt on the best active player team.

  • jon

    CENTER FIELD
    Yankees: The two-headed monster is down to one as Melky Cabrera mans the position alone while Gritty Gutty Brett Gardner heals. Melky has emerged as a hitter but still enjoys trying to throw the ball out of the stadium instead of to the cutoff man.

    Red Sox: Jacoby Ellsbury has had a consistently solid season. Not great, just solid. His defensive skills are top-notch.

    Edge: Even.

    Ellsbury URZ = -12.6

    Melky URZ = 0.8

    top notch defensive skills

    • Klemy

      Haha…nice.

    • Mike

      Yes, that’s pretty incompetent baseball analysis right there.

  • Bone

    Well said Mike. Varitek is terribly overrated for his “leadership” contributions, while he doesn’t contribute much at the plate or with his glove & noodle arm. I also often hear him praised for his outstanding ability to manage a staff. There is no solid statistical or anecdotal correlation between a catcher being able to handle a pitching staff and a team winning more games, yet he is consistently lauded for this because it’s not really measurable and he doesn’t have any other enviable qualities.

    On top of being an average to poor baseball player, the guy is pretty gutless as well. Fighting with his mask on this year was not the first display of his cowardice. We all remember this (http://www.earlyerabaseballphotos.com/aralrojavafi.html) so-called “fight” where Varitek basically suckered A-Rod with his glove while hiding under his catcher’s gear. He’s weak, I hate that he gets any love whatsoever. The “C” on his jersey is so tired as well. #2 doesn’t have to remind himself that he’s the captain, he just is.

    • jjyank

      True that.

    • jsbrendog

      he didnt fight with his catcher’s mask on this year did he? it was that one time they were referencing

      /nitpick

      • Bone

        I think he also left the mask on during the Angels fight at the beginning of the season when Beckett threw at Abreu…I could be wrong but for some reason I remember seeing him all geared up during the fracas

  • http://www.retire21.org Mike R. – Retire 21

    I can’t believe I actually heard a “Should Price be in the bullpen?” discussion on ESPN this morning. It took me a while to realize I wasn’t dreaming.

    • jjyank

      Why can’t you believe it? Everyone who knows baseball knows that the 8th inning >>>>>>> innings 1-7 + 9. A good player like Price must be used in as small a role possible. Giving good pitchers more innings is just crazy irrational thought. Come on Mike R., you’re better then that!

      /sarcasm, in case anyone lost the tone of this over the internet

      • http://www.retire21.org Mike R. – Retire 21

        You’re right! Thank you. What would I do without you to put me in my place? :D

        • jjyank

          Well, you would probably put guys like Joba, Hughed, Price, Porcello, etc. in your starting rotation. Silly you.

  • Ajax

    WTF??? Pukeilis in LF?

    Ellsbury CF
    Pedroia 2B
    Martinez C
    Youkilis LF
    Ortiz DH
    Drew RF
    Lowell 3B
    Kotchman 1B
    Lowrie SS

    • Ajax

      My fault. Courtest of PeteAbe http://yankees.lhblogs.com/

      • jjyank

        WTF indeed. According to B-Ref, he’s played a grand total of 18 games in LF. My guess is the Sox are trying to have a lineup comparable to ours.

        • jjyank

          Those 18 games all came in 2006, by the way, with a shiny -2.6 UZR.

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