Apr
25

Pettitte cruises as C-lineup powers Yanks to 7-1 victory

By

Photo credit: Chris Carlson/AP

Every time the Yankees head out to Anaheim we can be sure to hear two things. First, that the Yankees, during their decade-plus run of success, haven’t fared very well against the Angels, especially at Angels Ballpark. Second, that Alex Rodriguez has hit a lot of home runs there. To the second, of course he did. He spent the first nine years of his career on two teams in the AL West. Of the two remaining, one plays in a Stadium that has campouts in its foul territory. Of course he hit more homers at Angels Ballpark than any other stadium. To the first, well, it’s true.

A-Rod did not hit a home run yesterday, but the Yankees did score a victory in Anaheim. Andy Pettitte was the real story, going eight strong while striking out eight in a dominant start. The Yankees, owned by Pineiro just last week, apparently learned something and ran up the score in the middle innings. It ended with a decisive victory for the Yanks.

Biggest Hit: The No. 9 hitter comes through

Part of the reason the Yankees’ offense is off to such a hot start lies at the bottom of the order. They’ve gotten some clutch performances from their 7-8-9 hitters, which has helped make up for struggles from Nick Johnson and Mark Teixeira atop the order. Yesterday the Yanks got a big boost from the bottom of their order, as the No. 9 hitter slapped the biggest hit of the game.

I wasn’t a huge fan of how they got there, though. A-Rod and Cano both managed singles off Joel Pineiro to set the Yanks up for a big inning. With runners on first and second and none out up came Nick Swisher, who had doubled home the Yankees first run just two innings earlier. This time, though, he didn’t get a chance for another big hit. Instead he laid down a successful sac bunt, if you consider giving away a run a success.

With Ramiro Pena and Francisco Cervelli due up, Mike Scioscia had a no-brainer of a decision. Walk Granderson and deal with the bottom two hitters in the order — both reserve players. Pena’s ensuing strikeout came as no surprise. It actually represented the biggest negative WPA swing of the game, -.073, because it took off the sac fly. That brought up Francisco Cervelli. While he’s not as bad a hitter as Pena, he’s still not the guy you want up with the bases loaded and two out. Yet he came through, grounding one under Brandon Wood’s glove and into left for a two-run single.

Despite the positive result, I don’t like taking the bat out of Swisher’s hands there. He’s been swinging it well all season, making a lot of outs on well-hit baseballs. He had a homer on Friday and a double already in the game. Why sacrifice him when Scioscia can walk the next hitter and deal with the bottom of the order?

Biggest Pitch: Uh, Napoli’s single

Photo credit: Chris Carlson/AP

When a pitcher is as flat dominant as Andy Pettitte was yesterday, there tend not to be many big dings on his register. From the fourth on the Angels were pretty much out of the game, so their biggest hit clearly came in the early innings. That would be the third, when Mike Napoli singled to lead off the inning. Seriously. In the context of the game, that was the most grievous hit Pettitte allowed. The game was still 1-0 Yanks at that point, so it put the tying run on base, but not much else.

While it was a well-earned hit — Napoli worked a seven-pitch at-bat — he ruined it one batter later. Brandon Wood singled to left, a bit towards center. Napoli, by no means a fast guy, tried to sneak in the extra base, but Brett Gardner was having none of it. He actually took his time and made an accurate throw, giving Ramiro Pena enough time to apply the tag and get Napoli at third.

Pettitte finished the inning, but it was certainly his shakiest. After the Wood single Erick Aybar lined out to Cano and Abreu singled. Pettitte then caught a break on a 2-2 fastball to Torii Hunter, which just caught the inside edge. PitchFX did not like it. Nor did Hunter. But the home plate ump did, and that’s all that matters. It was the last time Pettitte had to worry about anything.

Pettitte again mixes it up

Photo credit: Chris Carlson/AP

Part of Pettitte’s success this season has been his even mixing of pitches. While he clearly goes back to the four-seamer most often, he’s used four secondary pitches, including a two-seam fastball, to retire hitter after hitter. In this game he not only went to his secondary pitches, but also threw them for strikes with consistency. Of his 114 pitches, 75 were strikes. Even more impressive, of his 65 non-four-seamers, 45 were strikes.

He also went to his secondary stuff pretty democratically, using 21 curveballs, 21 cutters, and 16 two-seamers (only seven changeups, but he always uses that less frequently). Here’s something, too. His two-seamer actually looks like an excellent complement to his four-seamer. I’d like to see what happens when he starts working it in more — but only after what he’s doing right now stops working. I like to break down baseball to its core, but never would I suggest someone like Pettitte change what he’s doing right now.

His four-seam fastball averaged 88.19 mph and maxed out at 90.4, breaking horizontally 0.30 inches and vertically 10.07. His two-seamer averaged 88.4 mph and touched 91. It broke horizontally 7.06 inches and vertically 7.39. According to FanGraphs’ pitch type values Andy’s fastball has been a positive for him so far this season, after being negative for the past three. The two-seamer, I think, is a big part of that.

Joys

Cervelli coming through again. It’s impossible to not like the kid, and although I think that some fans are starting to overhype him, he’s still a quality backup catcher. I love his antics behind the plate, and I love his attitude. The Yanks couldn’t ask for much more from a backup catcher.

That Derek Jeter guy just knows how to hit, doesn’t he. Another 2 for 5 day for the Captain. One of these days he’ll slow down, but I don’t think that’s coming soon.

Cano just keeps hitting. It’s still early, and we’ve urged caution when writing off certain players (::cough:: Nick Johnson ::cough::), but Cano has fit perfectly into the five hole.

Swisher was 2 for 4 with an RBI double. I still don’t get why he bunted in the fourth.

Few things make me happier than an excellent Pettitte start.

Brett Gardner’s extended announcement that he wants the left field job full-time.

Annoyances

I wasn’t going to mention the sac bunt again, but what the hell? Just not a move I’d ever favor. I’m glad it worked out, of course, but letting Swisher swing there would have been the preferred move.

That’s about it. Hard to complain about a decisive win.

WPA Graph

Booooooooring.

Full breakdown at FanGraphs.

Up Next

Rubber game tomorrow afternoon. It’ll start a little earlier, 3:35, this time on YES rather than Fox. Javy Vazquez tries for redemption against the Angels, while Scott Kazmir tries for the same. My money is on Vazquez.

Categories : Game Stories

39 Comments»

  1. Coach6423 says:

    Swisher bunted on his own….

  2. Coach6423 says:

    This team continues to be the balls..

  3. bonestock94 says:

    Pettitte is beasting this season, hope it lasts.

  4. JGS says:

    That sac bunt would be even more annoying had Wood snared Cervelli’s single like he should have. It went right under his glove

  5. bexarama says:

    Few things make me happier than an excellent Pettitte start.

    That. He looked shaky in the third when the game was still close, like you said. Everything was getting hit hard. Then he really settled down and pitched really well, to say the least. A Yankee pitcher striking out the side always makes me pretty excited but when it’s Andy Pettitte? It’s extra awesome. Also, as if I don’t like him enough, it was pretty endearing to see him get upset about allowing a sac fly with a 6-run lead.

    I hope the fact that that bunt ended up working, I guess, doesn’t lead to more unnecessary bunts.

  6. Drew says:

    You said “letting Swisher swing there” as if Joe asked him to do it. Swish bunted on his own.

    Maybe he didn’t feel comfortable in the box. Maybe he didn’t think C-Grand would get IBB’d, whatever the reason, Swish did that on his own.

    • Drew says:

      Whoops. Also and more importantly, it was a great game with the C-lineup and with AP dealing. Fun to watch.

    • Salty Buggah says:

      I thought he tried to bunt for a hit. It would unexpected considering Swish is good. Unfortunately, while his bunt wasn’t bad, it wasn’t well placed for a hit.

    • Zack says:

      “Maybe he didn’t think C-Grand would get IBB’d”

      Well that’s not thinking ahead, and uh that’s bad.

      • Drew says:

        Hey, I’m not saying I like the bunt right there. I’m just trying figure out why Swish took it upon himself to bunt.

        • Zack says:

          Oh I know, just saying if that’s his reason then it was bad. Hopefully he hasnt been hanging out with Jeter too much and is trying the whole, “let me bunt here then people can say what a team player I am,” when really bunting is the wrong play

          • bexarama says:

            I know people like to get on Jeter for that strikeout on the bunt in the WS (and it was incredibly stupid) but I don’t think Jeter bunted with two strikes because he thought “I’m such a great team player and everyone is gonna say what a great team player I am if I get this bunt down.”

  7. So, after doing some brief research (click my name for more, hint hint), Pettitte’s peripherals are basically in line with his career numbers, but the BABIP is .260 (w/o today’s game included)

    So, while I love seeing him be dominant, it does look like he might be due for some regression.

  8. dkidd says:

    kevin long must have studied pineiro’s last start. i love this team’s ability to make adjustments

    • Salty Buggah says:

      +28

      Basically, they noticed they were chasing a low sinkers that would mostly sink out of the zone, causing them to hit a grounder or for people like A-Rod, miss it completely and K. However, today they laid off of them and waited for a pitch up in the zone. It really is awesome how this team adjusts. Usually, they figure out a pitcher by the 2nd or 3rd time through the order. Pineiro got lucky he lasted a start.

  9. JobaWockeeZ says:

    One more win and Halos Heaven will murder themselves.

    Win. You must. For the sake of humanity.

    • bexarama says:

      A+

      I asked this, but does anyone know if there are any… you know… decent Angels blogs? Not because I want to read them so much but because I want to know they’re out there and not all Angels fans are irrational venom-spewing morons.

      • Tom Zig says:

        I’ve asked this before and will ask again. What’s with their commenting format?

      • ARX says:

        Reading that blog killed about 198345 brain cells. If that crap is the best they have to offer, then all I can say is thank god I’m a Yankee fan. Even the Mutts blog writers are better than that.

        Tho I must say it was kinda funny reading the commenters’ whines about the ‘Joe Buck pro-Yankeee suckfest’. Bias, I suppose, is in the eye (and ear) of the beholder. Or maybe it just seems like the announcers have it in for you when your favorite team is getting spanked on national TV :D

    • JGS says:

      Yankees, Andy Pettitte Enjoy Wide Bob Davidson Strike Zone

      -Halos Heaven headline

      ::goes to Brooks::

      wow, Davidson actually was pretty good. Not perfect, but better than we are used to

      • I like how someone comes into that thread and posts the Pitch F/X chart showing that Davidson was wide, yes, but that he really didn’t squeeze the low pitch, so the HH blogger is predictably full of shit. What a downright douchey blog.

  10. bexarama says:

    did anyone else think of the 2001 ALCS Game 5 during this game (Pettitte dominance, Piniero… not dominance)? Just me? Okay

  11. sleepykarl says:

    I love this version of Gardner. Fun with SSS; Brett Gardner’s wOBA .383, Jason Bay’s .316.

  12. MikeD says:

    Despite the positive result, I don’t like taking the bat out of Swisher’s hands there. He’s been swinging it well all season, making a lot of outs on well-hit baseballs.
    ————————————–

    Joseph, you’re writing this as if it was a Girardi decision. It was all Swish. Sometimes players decide to bunt on their own and Swisher has already admitted it was his decision.

    Bunting for a hit is okay…as long as the player gets the hit! In this case, it worked out fine, but I’m hoping this doesen’t encourge Nick to try it again. Bad decision, good result.

    • baravelli says:

      I think Fox actually addressed this on its broadcast, believe it or not. The intrepid on-field reporting of Ken Rosenthal revealed that Swisher did indeed feel silly for having bunted when it appeared that the Angels would be able to get out of the inning by walking Granderson and pitching to Pena and Cervelli – he apparently sheepishly said something like “if this doesn’t work here, I’m never bunting again.” So, maybe, hopefully, he takes something away from this, even though Cervelli did wind up picking him up and making it a moot point, and Swisher will think more carefully about the consequences of bunting in the future.

  13. RIYank says:

    On the Swisher bunt:
    I’m not a fan of bunting in that situation either, but this was not an egregious example. First, notice that the WPA graph is just about flat on that play, so there was no significant cost to win probability. Second, although it was foreseeable that Scioscia would call for an IBB for Granderson, it’s not at all clear that that IBB is a smart move. If a sac is giving away an out, then an IBB is handing the opponents a free base runner, a potential run. And indeed Granderson scored.

    Also, don’t forget that the sac did set up the most enjoyable moment of the game: Cervelli’s clutch hit! Can’t complain about that.

    • 28 this year says:

      yea but you’re ignoring the fact that it brought Pena and Cervelli up to the plate as the only ones who could try and knock in the runs. Sure they came through, but Pena and Cervelli are not nearly as good hitters as Swish and Granderson and while WPA says the play was flat, Swish has potential to create a bigger inning.

  14. Sweet Dick Willie says:

    The Yanks couldn’t ask for much more from a backup catcher earning the league minimum.

    I believe this gets overlooked a lot. By committing large sums to Alex, Tex, Jeter, CC et al, the Yanks need some league minimum contracts. The fact that those players earning the league minimum or close to it (Hughes, Gardner, Cervelli, D-Rob) actually contribute is a huge bonus.

  15. Mike Nitabach says:

    Very nice re-cap!

    The bunt was definitely Swisher’s choice. The fact that it turned out well is irrelevant to the stupidity of the decision of a power hitter to bunt with a man in scoring position, especially in a close game.

  16. Shawn says:

    Mike did you happen to miss the game yesterday? (sarcastically)

    As mentioned, Swisher bunted on his own and they talked about it way too much afterwards. Can’t just go off those graphs big guy

  17. craggy (formerly crapula) says:

    Andy once said he pitches better with men on base. Ever since I read that I look for it in every start. I don’t have a statistical analysis but he might be right.

  18. This game further proves my point that Gardner should be an everyday player. But I’m pretty much preaching to the crowd here.

    Cervelli WTG.

    Pettitte ages like fine wine. 8 masterpiece innings!

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