Hughes, bats power Yanks to series win

Park injuries hamstring while warming up
Been caught stealing once

From the first batter last night it was clear what kind of Phil Hughes we’d see. Instead of the starter who threw 91, 92, Hughes came out throwing 93 and 94 mph fastballs in the first inning. He threw 13 pitches that inning, 11 of them four-seamers, and struck out two Angels. He pitched very well through the next three innings before running into a bit of trouble in the fifth, which he escaped without any damage. It wasn’t a great start, as he only lasted five innings, but it certainly was encouraging.

Biggest Hit: Curtis Granderson‘s first triple

Photo credit: Frank Franklin II/AP

The Yankees trailed for just three outs in the game. After Hideki Matsui homered to lead off the second, Robinson Cano answered with a lead-off shot of his own. From there on it was all Yankees. Jeter’s home run put the Yankees ahead, but it was Curtis Granderson’s triple that opened up the game a bit. It drove in Marcus Thames, who had singled to lead off the fifth after doubling off the wall in the second.

Granderson’s triple wasn’t valuable only because it gave the Yankees a two-run lead with a quality pitcher on the mound. It also put him on third with none out, which meant he himself had a high probability of scoring. That happened two batters later, when Derek Jeter pulled a double into the left field corner. The Angels were shading him towards right, so Jeter put it in the perfect spot. Unfortunately, neither Swisher nor Teixeira cold bring home Jeter and really open up the game.

Honorable mentions go to Jeter and Cano for their solo home runs. Cano’s was an absolute shot, and he followed it with another one in the fifth, that one chasing Scott Kazmir from the game. There might not be a hitter in the majors as hot as Robinson Cano.

Granderson pulled the improbable, tripling again one inning later. Only 67 players ever tripled twice in a game at the old Yankee Stadium. The last one to do it was Enrique Wilson in 2002. Granderson was the first to do it in the new Yankee Stadium.

Biggest Pitch: Matsui hits a rare Hughes mistake

Photo credit: Frank Franklin II/AP

Phil Hughes looked unstoppable at the beginning of the game, but the fourth batter he faced, Hideki Matsui, put the barrel on a 1-0 fastball that didn’t quite reach the outside edge. It went into the Yankees’ bullpen and gave the Angels their only lead of the night. Hughes came back to finish the inning strong, inducing a grounder before striking out two hitters with the curveball.

Hughes tires in the fifth

For the first few innings Hughes’s fastball looked like the one that made him the most coveted pitching prospect in the game. He sat mostly 93-94 mph in the first inning, dropping to 92-93 for the next few. By the fourth he was sitting mostly 92, and by the fifth he threw mostly 91 mph fastballs with some at 92. What impressed me most was the vertical break on Hughes’s fastball*.

*Quick, quick PitchFX primer. Pitches are compared to a pitch thrown with no spin. A pitch with no spin would drop quickly compared to a pitch with backspin. Vertical break refers to how much higher a pitch with backspin stays over a pitch with no spin.

There must be something up with the system this year, because Hughes’s veritcal break was sometimes as high at 18 inches. In last year’s system an 11 inch vertical break was considered excellent. Hughes was often at or above that figure, but 17 and 18 inches? That has to be a change in the algorithm, right?

The only negative from his performance was the inefficiency. He generated a lot of foul balls with two strikes, which drove up his pitch count a bit. That hit him especially in the third, when Torii Hunter extended his at-bat with three two-strike fouls. Brandon Wood also started the inning by fouling off two two-strike pitches. A few too many three-ball counts in the fourth, fifth, and sixth pushed his pitch count a bit high. Still, it was one of Hughes’s finer starts.

Cano is murdering the baseball

Photo credit: Frank Franklin II/AP

There might not be a hitter in the majors as hot as Robinson Cano. He came to the plate four times last night and picked up two hits, both of them home runs. That makes four home runs in 40 plate appearances on the season. It took him 17 games to get his fourth home run last year. The evening raised his average to .395, his OBP to .400, and his SLG to .816.

Not only has Cano been hitting the ball everywhere — he has more extra base hits than singles right now — it seems like even his outs are well-struck. That’s the way Cano works when he’s locked in. He has always possessed the talent to be one of the league’s best second basemen. I don’t want to make too much of a hot start, but this is the kind of talent we know Cano possesses. No, he won’t finish the year with a slugging percentage that resembles an OPS, but he can still hit 30 homers and 50 doubles. That would be an incredible year.

He’s in the prime of his career, he’s surrounded by elite hitters, and, not to get all intangible on everyone, he’s a champion. Hot starts can mislead, but I think Cano is going to turn this into one hell of a year.

Things that made me smile

Joba again. I had something to do and knew I’d miss the bottom of the eighth and the ninth, so I was kind of annoyed when Girardi made the pitching change. But Joba came in and got just what I was hoping for, a ground ball double play. I ducked out for the rest of the game, DVRing it. When I came back I mostly fast-forwarded, pretty much knowing the outcome. I especially enjoyed the Willets and Aybar at-bats. Joba fell behind both 2-0, but came back and threw nothing but strikes to each.

Thames producing against a lefty. No, Kazmir did not have his best stuff — and we don’t know whether he’ll ever have his best stuff again — but Thames had his number. His single in the fourth raised his average to .500, though later in the game it dropped to .429.

Did I mention Robinson Cano is slugging .816?

Robertson getting the ball just two days after his infamous ninth inning affair on Tuesday. He got the job done, getting two strikeouts and a groundout to end a minor threat in the sixth. He again looked strong in the seventh.

Nick Swisher is hitting the ball very well, too, but it didn’t show up in the box score tonight. He was 0-4 with a walk, but in fairer conditions he might have sent a ball over the center field wall in the third.

Things that annoyed me

I absolutely loved this game. The mound visits and other pauses between pitches in the fifth got old quick, but the results made me forget that pretty quickly.

WPA Chart

Can’t argue with a graph like that. Full boxscore at FanGraphs

Next up

The Rangers, with freshly converted starter C.J. Wilson, come to town tomorrow night. The Yanks will send their ace, CC Sabathia, to the mound for his 2010 Stadium debut.

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Park injuries hamstring while warming up
Been caught stealing once
  • jim p

    Hughes was picked to start, said the announcers, because he can locate his fastball. Which makes sense now that I’ve heard it. And Joba showed again in this game that he doesn’t have that down yet.

    I was of the party that wanted Joba starting. And still am, at the right time. Because if a pitcher can’t locate their fastball, then their other pitches simply aren’t going to be effective. It make sense to put him out there until he can get that consistent. As Hughes did last year from the bullpen.

    • jim p

      btw, location issues would be a reason Joba’s velocity is down, cutting back on the force to get the aim.

      • http://deleted RollingWave

        huh?

        a. Hughes walked 5 guys.. in 5 inning!! if that ‘s fastball locataion, then Nolan Ryan was control artist.

        b. Oh yes Joba is holding back the heater to try to get more location that he isn’t getting, instead of just blowing 100mph heater right down the middle that he can get away with 99% of the time anyway, sure, that would totally explain why his ERA since July of last year (when he really started to slow down) is north of 7 (Starting and RP combined)

        • The Big City of Dreams

          so if he is sacrificing velocity for location doesn’t that kinda of take away from who he is? So far what we have seen from him this season is that when his velocity is low he gets touched up a bit

        • Don W

          Check out the Pitch FX data. Hughes was getting squeezed on the low pitches. Several of the walks should have been K’s.

  • poster

    I think Cano wins MVP. Possibly the batting title too. At least one of the two.

    • jim p

      Guessing top 4 or 5 in each triple crown category, myself.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

      I think this is the year he finally wins RoY.

      • http://www.mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

        I bet Volquez beats him out. The voters love W’s.

        • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

          Funny enough, if you look at total plate appearances, I think Juan Rivera still qualifies as a rookie. How has he not gotten some pub? The tools! They ooze!

          /shouldn’t joke about that when we feature Nick Johnson

  • Brond

    I had no idea C.J. Wilson was starting now.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

      Yep. He killed it in his first start, too. 7 IP, 9K 0 R

      • http://deleted RollingWave

        making a great reliver a starter? that’s blasphamy….. if your the Yankees

  • pat

    Robbie looks like he hit the gym hardcore over the summer.

    • pat

      Durrrr, winter.

      • http://www.mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

        He hit the gym as soon as Melky was traded.

        If Larry Bowa were still around, Robbie would be looking at a .415/.495/.585 line. (with GG defense of course)

        • pat

          If Larry Bowa was still around Robbie Cano wouldn’t even be Dominican anymore.

          • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

            That line can’t be trumped. Well done. You made up for your earlier blunder.

            • http://www.mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

              Agreed. (though pat’s “blunders” generally cannot be excused, as they usually wind up with a dead hooker)

              • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

                As do all great romances.

              • pat

                Aren’t I really just doing society a favor in the long run?

    • Hughesus Christo

      I think it’s more about what he stopped hitting.

      /peacemelky

    • Salty Buggah

      I wonder how much A-Rod has affected him. I know he’s a gym freak and I know Robbie has been hanging out with him, working out and practicing early on the morning. I hate getting into narratives but I think A-Rod has had a great positive affect on him.

      The same also goes for K-Long. I noticed that Cano was communicating with him during ABs. Cano seems have established close rapport with Long and it seems K-Long has really helped him.

      Of course, while we could give credit to several people, most of it goes to Robbie himself. After a sub-par 2008, he really put a lot of effort into improving and he’s receiving the benefits now.

      • bexarama

        I hate getting into narratives but I think A-Rod has had a great positive affect on him.

        :: head explodes ::

        This is really well-said, though. I’m seriously impressed with how much Cano worked to improve after his 2008.

        • king of fruitless hypotheticals

          if by positive affect you mean positive test results, then yeah sure.

          /justkiddingdamnletitgoalready’d

  • http://www.mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

    So let me get this straight? We’ve faced the Sox and Rays on the road, then hosted our nemesis Angels at home, and are 6-3. Could any reasonable fan hope for more?

    • bexarama

      JAVY SUCKS BOOO!!!!!!!!! It’s been proven without any doubt to me!!!!!

      /jake’d

      • http://www.mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

        Out of those 3 losses, Javy has been wholly responsible for 2. If not for Javy, this team would be on their way to 117-45. No doubt.

        • mike c

          javy 2, chan ho park 1

          • pat

            javy 2, chan ho park lotta dialea 1

            • Salty Buggah

              What? Is funny?

              Save it

    • JobaTheHeat62

      Yea last year we would have been 2-7 probly..The Yankees always start slow, but who knows what they are headed for this season with the fast start. On top of the points you made, we did all that with our 3-4 hitters being rather nonexistent…I know A-ROD has some hits, but hes far from being A-ROD. I swear I see brilliance from this team if Hughes has more starts like tonight, and Javy rounds into shape, which we all know he will. The rotation this year is incredible.

    • http://www.thechuckknoblog.com/ JobaWockeeZ

      And this is the time where the Yankees suck the most. The Yanks beat the Red Sox where a year before there was 0-8. The Rays who are now really good and the Angels who they can never beat. And they won every series.

      Yeah I’m expecting 1998. Calling it now.

      • mustang

        I totally agree. I actually call that to a friend when they broke training camp. This is the best opening day roster I seen bottom line even when they lose I have no worries they are that good.
        Can anyone see this rotation lose 5 in a row?
        Nope, me either.

    • mustang

      Nope. I’m happy

  • Coach6423

    I enjoyed watching this game on MLB Network until Joba came in. The Costas and Kaat went on and on and on about how important the 8th inning was. Costas used Joba’s 4.18 ERA in his starts vs. his 1.71 ERA as a reliever as evidence that Joba is a future closer. Kaat said he is better served pitching in 55 wins of the 8th inning, vs. 12-17 wins as a starter. He said Whitey Herzog told him the 8th inning is the most important. I couldn’t have banged my head off the coffee table any harder.

    • bexarama

      I’m tired of the Joba debate but that’s really sad. Those two aren’t idiots. Between that and even JoePos being JTTPers, is there something we’re just. not. seeing.?

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

        No, we are correct. So the only conclusion is those two are idiots. At least anything pertaining to that.

        But it’s such a fundamental, simple thing it makes you wonder how you could trust their judgment otherwise.

        It would be like finding out Carl Everett were some sort of accounting savant and did my taxes, somehow saving me more than I grossed. But I’d still think about dinosaurs.

        I think it’s starting to tell that I’ve been drinking. That made no sense.

        • bexarama

          I am drinking some water. I nearly spat it out. Good job.

        • Salty Buggah

          Good thing you added that last line. I re-read your post 3 times before seeing that sentence.

        • Joe West’s Sense of Self Importance

          IETCarlEverettCVVVVVVVVVM

      • http://www.soxandpinstripes.net JGS

        The only thing I can imagine is that they are all flat out convinced that he won’t ever be even a decent starter. I’m not sure what caused that, but any other reason seems to be silly

        • The Big City of Dreams

          ppl just want him to be a reliever so bad that they take every opportunity to put down what he did as a starter. They overlook him being a 23 yr old kid in the AL and dealing with the crazy rules. More importantly they want him to be the next mo but joba will never be Mo.

  • Salty Buggah

    Awesome game again. Has anyone made such a good impression on fans so quickly like Granderson? Seriously, I love what he’s done so far and hope it continues (obviously). I know Swisher got off to a great start with the fans last year but I think Granderson might have topped him.

    • http://www.soxandpinstripes.net JGS

      They both did a pretty phenomenal job of winning the fans over, but I think Swish has the edge just because he pitched an inning.

    • Kiko Jones

      Yeah, I thought Granderson was gonna get a bigger hand on Opening Day…I’m realy diggin’ that cat.

      Robbie shone brightly, appropriately enough, on Jackie Robinson Day w/ 2 HRs. Sweet. Man, I hope he can keep it going; it would be a monster year for him.

    • JobaTheHeat62

      Swisher is loved by we Yankee fans…I know I love him, but Granderson is quickly becoming one of my fave players on the team, he just does so many little things in a game that make me smile.

    • Don W

      Paul O’Neill gets my vote for instant fan gratification. In 1994 Paulie:

      OPS’d 1.149 @ home
      Was hitting .382 .475 .622 at the all-star break
      Hit .448 .543 .806 in April
      Hit .410 .526 .667 in May
      Hit .385 .517 .578 RISP
      Hit .350 .471 .605 with men on
      Hit .357 .438 .714 with sacks full
      Hit .340 .492 .400 with 2 outs RISP
      Hit .410 .500 .602 in high leverage situations

      Beat that Granderson!

  • JobaTheHeat62

    I agree with loving this game…this was the best game to watch this whole season IMO..Hughes looked awesome, he didn’t finish with the greatest box score ever, but he has some nasty stuff when he is on..That high fastball in the first inning was simply devastating. Last year I was never excited to see Cano up to bat, I mean I wasn’t sad or anything, but this year I cannot wait for him to get up. I agree a HUGE season is on the horizon. Finally I LOVE Granderson, he is everything that is awesome about baseball. The triples were great, and gunning down Matsui at home plate. I love this team.

    • bexarama

      beating up on Papelbon might have been better watchin’ than this game ;). Actually, there have already been a lot of fun games to watch… this team is great. :)

  • Arman Tamzarian

    I can’t believe that Hughes is still only 23. He’s still a couple years from his prime, pretty impressive

  • http://twitter.com/j_sprouse2213 James

    Look. Marcus Thames does have value.

  • mustang

    Almost feel bad for RAB this team is done so well it’s really hard to find a fault so they jump on poor Marcus Thames. Then the guy goes 2 for 3 of a hard throwing lefty doing exactly what they sign him to do.

    That’s just funny.

  • http://kierstenschmidt.com Kiersten

    Let’s not forget that Cano has always been a slow starter. The fact that he’s jumping out of the gate like this makes me VERY excited to see what he can do this season.

  • BigBlueAL

    Jeter cost Joba a save tonight!!!!

  • http://kierstenschmidt.com Kiersten

    Also, let’s just never lose a series all season, sound good?

    • jim p

      plus no split series.

    • camilo Gerardo

      >= 108 wins, I’ll take that I guess.

      Get Dukes for Leftfield!

  • Joe West’s Sense of Self Importance

    DCBX and I were at the game tonight, in unnecessarily good seats. 2 points:

    1) If we’re gonna point out Swisher’s fly in the 3rd, we need to pay homage to his fly out in the eighth as well. It was a bomb. I was shocked when it stayed in the park, I mean, astounded, then we looked up and saw from the flags that clearly the wind had robbed him, but it was a rediculous moon shot.

    2) My bad, it’s my fault Jeter booted the ball. I had just been greedily lamenting the fact that the 4 run lead had cost us an opportunity to watch the Great One close it out, up close and personal. Clearly, Jeter overheard and took pity, affording us a one batter Nirvana. So, apologies from a very greedy fan.

    • Accent Shallow

      I was also at the game, where were you?

      I was in one of the 220 sections, on the 3B side.

      • Joe West’s Sense of Self-Importance

        section 23, front row, close enough to see the hair on the back of Scoscia’s neck. @75% off of season ticket price. Thank you StubHub. Thank you concept of wasting asset.

    • DCBX

      Mosanna in the highest :)

  • Sean

    Can you guys change the “Things that made me smile header”? it sounds like it’s the heading of a girls diary after she went on a date with the high school football captain. how about: Things that got me moist?

  • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ pete

    **Edit**

    Things that annoyed me: Michael Kay JIHPing over Robinson Cano hitting HRs on Jackie Robinson Day. I hated that so much. I was blessed by not only seeing that, but also having to hear waldman’s reaction to fans cheering for Matsui’s HR. It was close to the Clemens return.

  • CountryClub

    If the ump called strike 3 on Abreu the 9 pitch AB vs Hunter would have never happened. That stuff drives me nuts, expecially with the pitch counts these days. That being said, i was happy to see the Yanks let hughes get close to 110.

    Side rant: If you want to speed up games, call a correct strike zone.

    • larryf

      umps almost never call where the ball crosses the plate but where the catcher grabs it. All a catcher can do is try to “frame” a 12-6 curveball to help the ump when it drops from knees to ankles in the last few feet between the plate and the mitt…

      • Tank Foster

        How do you know that? I see lots of instances where I think the opposite: It will look like a ball to me based on where it is caught, but then they show other camera angles, especially the side view, and it will look more like a strike.

        I’m not saying you’re wrong, but how is it that you think they call it based on where the catcher gets it? Just your observation, or have you seen some sort of pitch track graph or other explanation of it?

  • Tank Foster

    Gotta say, I find these win probability graphs a little dweeby. What is the point, exactly? Does anyone need higher math to figure out that if someone hits a homerun to give you the lead, your chances of winning just increased?

    • Sweet Dick Willie

      The point is, to show you exactly how much your chance of winning just increased.

      Yes, a homerun to give your team the lead in the top 1st inning increases the chance of winning, but not nearly as much as one in the top of the 9th.

      The point is to show the difference.

      • Tank Foster

        I realize that it is quantitative. But I ask, again…what’s the point? What is the point of knowing your win probability increased by 2 percent….versus, 4.9 percent?

        • Sweet Dick Willie

          Well, what’s the point in knowing that a guy is getting on base at a .350 clip vs a .400 clip?

          Because it tells you something about the game, and what type of events tend to affect the outcome.

          • Tank Foster

            Touche. You got a point. I think I’ll go have two fingers of whiskey.

          • Tank Foster

            But do we publish graphs of players OBP, updated with each play or game? [Ducks for cover]

            JOKING>>>>>>>>>>>NO REPLY NECESSARY ;-)