Apr
28

Bullpen falters as offense can’t recover in 5-4 loss

By

After two impressive starts to begin his season, Phil Hughes struggled a bit last night. He struggled with control, often missing high in the zone and way off the plate. This led to not only four walks, but also just two strikeouts. It’s tough to get guys to swing and miss when you’re missing the zone so often. Despite his woes, he still pitched pretty well, allowing just one run in 5.2 innings. Only six Orioles reached base safely during that span. The bullpen, however, could not finish the job, and the Yanks dropped the series opener 5-4.

Biggest Hit: Posada puts the Yanks on top

Photo credit: Nick Wass/AP

After loading the bases in the third inning it looked like the Yanks might finally break open the game. Posada got things started in the fourth. After fouling off an outside fastball for strike one, he got one right down Broadway and hit it out to Eutaw. That gave the Yanks their first lead of the game, and with none out in the fourth it looked like they might start rolling. That, of course, did not happen.

Kevin Millwood got Curtis Granderson to ground out, and then got Nick Swisher and Randy Winn to both pop out on off-speed pitches. After a scoreless fifth inning Millwood again ran into trouble in the sixth, but we’ll get to that in just a moment.

Biggest Pitch: The other Hughes ties it

Through five innings Phil Hughes had thrown 101 pitches. This season Joe Girardi has shown a willingness to let his starters go further, but since Hughes had accumulated those pitches in a pretty short span, I was surprised to see him come out for the sixth. He answered the call, retiring Matt Wieters and Miguel Tejada to start the inning. That fit perfectly with the plan. The next step: bring in the lefty Boone Logan to face the lefty Luke Scott.

In his career Scott has performed worse against lefties than against righties, but he still hits lefties reasonably well (.339 wOBA). With Hughes’s night clearly over, Girardi was certainly going with the lefty, and Logan has been the hot hand in his short stay. The at-bat didn’t start well, as Logan missed with a fastball high and then a fastball away. He battled back, but on the 3-2 pith missed with a slider low. Girardi then went to David Robertson, who hit Ty Wigginton on an 0-2 count, moving the tying run into scoring position.

Robertson worked his first two pitches low and away to Rhyne Hughes, the Orioles recently recalled first baseman, but he got around on the second one, lining it to left for the game-tying single. I’m actually impressed that Hughes did what he did there. The pitch was a 93 mph fastball low and away. To pull it, and pull it on a line, is no small feat. Hughes should get plenty of credit for that one.

One batter later Nolan Reimold smacked a 2-2 curveball down the third base line to give the Orioles a lead they would not relinquish. As on the decisive pitches to Hughes, I didn’t think the ultimate pitch to Reimold was all that bad. The curveball touched the bottom of the zone, but Reimold, a good hitter, just got a good piece of it. Then again, the 0-2 HBP was completely his fault.

Photo credit: Nick Wass/AP

Heartbreaker with the bases loaded

The third inning looked like a triumphant one. Nick Swisher opened the frame by singling on an 0-2 curveball and Randy Winn followed with his first hit of the season. Jeter didn’t do his part, nearly grounding into a double play, but Rhyne Hughes didn’t make the play cleanly and could only get the out at first. The Yanks then caught a break when Miguel Tejada misplayed a sharp grounder by Gardner, which allowed Swisher to score. The game was tied at one.

After a walk to Mark Teixeira the Yankees had bases loaded, one out for their Nos. 4 and 5 hitters. With the way both A-Rod and Cano have been hitting they figured to get at least a run. A-Rod fouled off the first four pitches of the at-bat before smoking an inside fastball that went right into Tejada’s glove. Cano then got a waist-high changeup on a 2-1 count, but he just missed it. Had his bat made contact with the ball a fraction of an inch higher, that ball would have been warehouse-bound. Instead it arced into the mitt of Nick Markakis, thus ending the threat.

It was the Yanks best chance to break open the game. They came close, but I could name you more than one cliche about close not counting.

Baserunning blunders abound

Losses happen. In fact, chances are the Yanks will lose a ton more games this season. That’s why they play so many of them. One loss, even to the Orioles, never strikes me as particularly frustrating. What does frustrate me is when the team plays sloppily. When that sloppiness occurs all in one inning, it’s even more nerve wracking.

Robinson Cano is not a base stealer. He has been caught more times, 22, than he has reached safely, 19. There is just no reason to send him anymore, unless it’s the vaunted Tim Wakefield-Victor Martinez battery. Yet on the first pitch he was off. In his defense, it took a perfect throw to get him. Still, I don’t get the logic in ever sending Cano. Why risk the base runner when he’s made an out in more than half of his attempts.

Posada then drew a six-pitch walk, which drove Millwood from the game with one out in the sixth. With the way the Orioles bullpen has pitched so far this season, that presented an opportunity for the Yanks. The Yankees didn’t exactly take advantage of the opportunity, but they did blow a chance. Nick Swisher hit a ball that got by Tejada, but not far into the outfield. Jorge took a big turn around second, way too far for a player with his speed. Tejada recovered quickly and made a good throw to second, getting the diving Posada.

Posada and Cano are good players. We know, without having to think twice, that Jorge is a poor base runner and that Cano is not a good base stealer. Both had good showings at the plate. Both had their weaknesses exposed. That’s what was most frustrating about this game.

Well, that and the Wigginton HBP.

And the ninth

There’s not much to say about the ninth inning that can’t be told via the game log. Nick Johnson did his job by drawing a one-out walk, bringing the tying run to the plate. Jeter spoiled a good at-bat by swinging at a pitch that was a few inches off the plate. The way the home plate ump was calling the game, that wouldn’t have been close to a strike.

An error kept the Yanks alive, with runners on first and third and two out. Teixeira wasted no time in pulling a low fastball down the line to put the Yankees within a run. That brought up A-Rod, hitless in the game to that point. He saw nearly the exact same pitch as Teixeira, and he too put it sharply on the ground. Julio Lugo had him played perfectly, though, and got Teixeira at second to end the game.

It was a nice ending, with the Yankees rallying a bit. The O’s did help out, but what they gave away with the error they took right back by playing A-Rod right where he hit it.

Photo credit: Nick Wass/AP

Annoyances

Cesar freaking Izturis. I was talking to Jay from Fack Youk as Izturis knocked in his second run of the game and commented that the Yanks weren’t winning this one. “You don’t win a game where Cesar Izturis has two RBI,” I said.

It was only the 47th time he’d produced two or more RBI in a game. His team’s record in those games: 42-4, 43 after last night. He later knocked in a third run, only the 10th time in his career he has accomplished that feat. His teams are now 9-1 in those contests.

Have I mentioned the Wigginton HBP yet? Two outs, 0-2 count. Other than a home run, a HBP is the roughest outcome right there.

I think I’ve aired my other grievances well enough above.

Joys

Granderson did make a nice catch. He also went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.

Hughes allowing only one run, and lasting 5.2 innings, when he couldn’t put anyone away.

WPA Chart

If only that green line kept moving downward.

Up Next

They’ll play again tomorrow night, this time on YES. The Yanks try for a bit better turn through the rotation this time, as CC Sabathia makes his fifth start of the season. Jeremy Guthrie takes the ball for the Orioles.

Categories : Game Stories

67 Comments»

  1. JGS says:

    I wanted to see just how atrocious the home plate ump was tonight, but something seems to have happened to Brooks.

    A frustrating game all around

    • mbonzo says:

      I really didn’t think he was all that bad. He had an odd shaped strike zone but he was pretty consistent with it. Definitely a batter’s zone. Hughes walked a lot of Orioles, but like his first start, the ump was not helping. I feel that in all 3 starts he was able to consistently hit corners, its up to the umpire what the corners are I guess.

      • JGS says:

        Disagree. He couldn’t make up his mind on the high strike or the outside corner, especially for lefties (at least that’s what it seemed. Can’t verify this.) And it isn’t up to him–the strike zone is in the rulebook.

        • ROBTEN says:

          In reviewing Hughes’ pitches on Gameday, it seems as if the strike zone was wide rather than high.

          There were a few high strikes which were not called – the Reimold “walk” in the 2nd was particularly egregious in terms of bad calls and Wigginton also seemed to strike out on a missed call down in the zone – but at the same time Hughes did get two, and perhaps three strike calls later in the game on pitches which were wide outside the zone towards the opposite batter’s box.

          Otherwise, according to a quick look at Gameday, the calls seemed to reflect Hughes’ struggles pitching in the zone tonight.

          • JGS says:

            Gameday and Brooks seem to disagree a lot. I tend to trust Brooks more but I’m not entirely sure why. They seem to be unavailable regardless

  2. bexarama says:

    A-Rod’s awful luck in this game made me terribly sad.

  3. It’s amazing that as much as Hughes struggled, it was the bullpen that lost the game.

    But the past couple years, the bullpen’s been an arson squad in April and gels somewhere around the start of summer

  4. mustang says:

    The marginalization of David Robertson:
    “However, he doesn’t seem to have full confidence in Robertson, using him in a way that strikes me as “let’s quit while we’re ahead.””

    Reference tonight.

  5. Drew says:

    My biggest annoyance was that Winn throw. He probably wouldn’t have gotten the baserunner anyway. If Swish was in right, he wouldn’t have been close either. I just would like to see a respectable throw out of our right fielder. That’s not the first one he’s botched out there. He looks like an old man just biding time until the end.

    • JGS says:

      He slipped on the grass. Even he is capable of making a better throw than that under normal circumstances

      • Drew says:

        Eh, the point is, don’t slip.. heh, you know what I mean?
        It’s only a month in, but we’ve got young athletic guys that can, at the worst, do what Winn has done early in his Yankee tenure. He has looked like he’s done, tbh.

        • mustang says:

          Wanted it here

          “It’s only a month ”

          Just like to focus on that and that’s 2 million dollars out there for the “Budget Concern” Yankees.

          • It’s $1.1 million plus performance bonuses. He hasn’t reached any of them yet, and at this rate he’s not going to. How much do you propose we pay our back-up outfielders anyway?

            • mustang says:

              1.1 million Is still 1.1 million.

              It’s only been a month it doesn’t seem like a good budget move to be throwing that out 19 games into the season. But again the word “budget” around here is used in accordance with the player.

              • When he’s the 25th guy on the team making $3 million less than the league average salary, he won’t be on a very long leash, budget or not. Considering his replacement will probably be making the prorated amount off of the $400,000 league minimum, the Yanks would actually save money by cutting Winn before many of his performance bonuses vest.

                • mustang says:

                  But according you “at this rate he’s not going to”. And if reached the performance bonuses then the Yankees got the player they wanted.
                  So the Yankees pay Winn the 1.1 million plus another $400,000 for his replacement that might also be bad. Where are they saving money again?

                  • ROBTEN says:

                    So the Yankees pay Winn the 1.1 million plus another $400,000 for his replacement that might also be bad. Where are they saving money again?

                    As Ben said, they save money by signing a player who has a career line of .286/.344/.418 and has been a plus-defender for 12 seasons for a base salary $2 million below the league average. Even if he reaches his incentives, then he’s still being paid $1 million below league average. Even if they have to bring up someone from the minors:

                    $1.1 million + (prorated) $400 thousand < $3.26 million (league average salary).

                    And yes, I am aware that saving money only matters to the extent that you are also getting production, but we're talking about the 25th man who maybe starts once a week and is used mostly as a defensive replacement thus far (in the 11 games he's played, he's only gotten an at-bat in 5 of them and only more than 1 at-bat in 3).

                    The Winn signing is still an all-upside, little risk move. Could he be finished? Maybe. But it still hasn't (and won't) hurt the Yankees to find out.

                    • Mike HC says:

                      I wouldn’t exactly call the Winn signing an “all upside” move. He was a roster filler with basically no upside. You knew what you were getting. Good fielding, light hitting backup at the end of his career.

          • mustang says:

            It’s funny how some guys get all the time in the world while others need to be replaced in a month.

            • Drew says:

              Well, track records generally buy you time. Giving up on him now is premature. As long as his defense is solid, he’s doing his job. In a sense, we have two 4th OFers, one for offense, one for defense.

        • JGS says:

          Yeah, but that could happen to anyone. I try not to get upset over stuff like that

          • Drew says:

            Yeah, I’m not particularly upset, it’s just that spot annoyed me. I mean, he’s batting 9 and he’s the 4th(non offensive) OFer on the team. So long as Grit performs, Winn is really an afterthought.

            I’m just a bit thrown off by his early struggles, I had originally thought last year was an aberration, now I’m not so sure.

        • ROBTEN says:

          It’s only a month in, but we’ve got young athletic guys that can, at the worst, do what Winn has done early in his Yankee tenure. He has looked like he’s done, tbh.

          I get what you are saying, and as I’ve been stuck in Europe for the past couple of weeks I haven’t really seen him play that much. But, to my thinking it’s not like Winn has caused major damage yet. He’s got what, 17 innings and 13 plate appearances in 19 games. At $1.1 million, he is easy enough to move or DFA if he becomes too much of a liability. I expect a couple more weeks and perhaps a start or two before things start to work themselves out as to whether Winn stays or goes.

          In terms of analyzing his performance thus far, given the extremely SSS, it’s hard to draw any definitive conclusions. However, the one troubling thing is that he’s still swinging at a higher percentage of pitches out of the zone, similar to last year’s rate (which was much higher than previous years), and his percentage of swings and misses is dramatically higher. Combine this with his extremely low contact rates and either his timing is off as a result of not used to limited playing time and he’s pressing as a result or he’s losing his ability to track pitches and cannot generate enough bat speed to catch up, make contact and drive the ball. Only time will tell.

          • Based on that extremely small sample size, I’m inclined to say that he can’t generate the bat speed to catch up to MLB fastballs anymore. It might be a chicken/egg problem in which he needs more playing time to get the bat speed up but isn’t going to get more playing time. I haven’t been overly impressed with his outfield defense either, but that too is based on a small sample.

            He’s still at the top of the “First to be DFA’d” list this year.

            But let’s be perfectly clear: It’s not Randy Winn’s fault the Yanks lost tonight. It’s the bullpen’s, the defense’s and the sixth inning base-running combined with some bad luck on hard-hit balls off the bat of A-Rod.

          • Drew says:

            Only time will tell.

            Exactly.

            As annoyed as I get, I know it’s foolish to drop him anytime soon. In all likelihood, he will rebound and at least be a small contributor to the teams success. If he doesn’t, in a month or two Golson will be summoned or a better option will be acquired. I’m not particularly worried about it.

  6. bonestock94 says:

    Imagine getting hired for a $1.1 million/year part-time job with the expectation of mediocrity.

  7. JGS says:

    I blame this one on Boone Logan and his case of Jose Veras Syndrome (walking the first, and in some cases only, batter you face)

  8. ecology says:

    dont look now, the Mets are 12-7.

  9. larryf says:

    That PH walk by NJ and throw into CF by Posada (among his many defensive limitations) made me think about a little more Cervelli catching (I know they stole on him in his last game), NJ pinch hitting and Posada DHing. The late inning walk in a tight game is valuable.

    Too bad for Robbie. He had a great jump and it took a perfect throw. Eliminating the DP possibility with Jorge batting is always desireable. Slow and stupid on the bases and yet, a core 4!

    • pete says:

      most of this comment is a little confusing

      • larryf says:

        sorry, coffee not on board yet and unhappiness after a loss always leads to restless nights and morning incoherency…

    • Mike HC says:

      The problem with that is then we don’t have a back up catcher. We would have to carry a third catcher. And if you move Posada from DH to catcher, then the pitcher hits in the DH spot. I agree Posada is not good defensively but I don’t think that is the answer.

      • So the downgrade from Johnson to Cervelli isn’t the biggest problem here?

        • Mike HC says:

          ha. I was trying to play along with his idea that Cervelli is a better option at catcher than Jorge, which is obviously misguided.

          Kind of like a “even if Cervelli is the better catching option, which he is not, it still would not work and cause other problems.”

  10. pete says:

    seriously, don’t look. You’ll get hurt.

  11. pete says:

    Zen baseball ftw!

  12. How Ya Doin says:

    I know Teix ripped a single on the 1st pitch he saw in the 9th, but what if he waited and saw a few pitches in order to let Gardner steal 2nd? Maybe a single would’ve driven in 2. Just saying, can’t ask for more than what Teix delivered.

  13. steve s says:

    F zen baseball. After last nights mistake-fest and bad karma results the Yanks need to start showing some Bronx (with no apologies to Bobby Bonilla). Also while I’m at it F Curt Schilling.

    • It takes some time to get the bullpen sorted out. Last year they weren’t really firing on all cylinders until late May. I guess that’s the “price” you pay with excellent starting pitching.

      Also while I’m at it F Curt Schilling.

      Amen. I assume that’s in response to Curt’s sentiments on Javy. Like everything else, he gave his opinion on the matter. For more on that story, I have the link to the full article on my personal blog at HTWC.

  14. matthaggs says:

    Rotation except for Javy: A

    Bullpen except for Mo: F-

    They’ve lost a bunch of games in the pen already, and held on to a few only because Joe pulled the Mo alarm (prematurely/unnecessarily a time or two maybe).

    I’m sure everything will be fine but…well you know.

    • Rose says:

      Agreed. The bullpen is a cause for concern at the moment but it’s early. Yet, we were making excuses like this in Spring Training (“ST stats don’t matter!” or “They’re just working out the kinks!” or something of that nature)

      Either way, 6 out of the 7 losses have been almost directly contributed by Vazquez and/or the bullpen. The other loss was Sabathia who didn’t pitch great…but did alright. We’ve won 1 game out of our last 5. Tampa is on a roll and Boston seems to be righting their ship for the time being…

      It’s early and the team is nasty…but we probably can’t afford to combine slumping hitting with a bad bullpen (or Vazquez)…and we’re seeing that with the results of the past 5 games…

  15. Ted Nelson says:

    Where’s the feature article second guessing Girardi’s use of the bullpen? Leave Robertson in for 2 innings because Joba will obvious blow the game. No, don’t put in Robertson, he’ll blow the game. Hindsight is awesome!!!

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