Yanks hit Angels hard in Stadium return

Noesi dominates again while Montero comes up with a big hit
Scenes from the destruction across the street
Photo credit: Bill Kostroun/AP

Derek Jeter said it best: “It feels like the season doesn’t get started until we play the home opener.” While the past week of baseball has provided nothing but enjoyment, the man has a point. Getting off the 4 train, walking to the Stadium among fellow die-hards, ascending the staircase to the grandstands — it made baseball seem real again. It helped that the Yankees continued their hot start, slapping around the Angels, at least for the first eight innings, en route to their fifth win of the season.

Biggest Hit: Nick Johnson‘s solo shot

Photo credit: Bill Kostroun/AP

As he’s done so many times since moving to the leadoff spot, Derek Jeter swung at the first pitch of the game, a 92 mph fastball from Ervin Santana. He pulled the inside pitch to Brandon Wood at third, who tossed the ball across the diamond to Kendry Morales for the first out. The Yankee Stadium speakers then played an odd tune for a ballgame, “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus. It was the at-bat music for the No. 2 hitter, Nick Johnson, who had chosen it because of his daughter.

Hopefully he changes it tomorrow.

It appeared that Santana and catcher Jeff Mathis had a plan. The first, a fastball, hit the outside corner for called strike one. They went back outside on the second pitch, but that one missed considerably, evening the count at 1-1. Again Santana went for the outside fastball, but this one caught a bit too much of the plate. Johnson laid into it, crushing it into the right field bleachers for the first home run in his return to the Yankees. It boosted the Yankees’ chances of winning by 9.5 percent, a good shift for the first inning.

Honorable Mention: Jeter to the pen

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

After retiring Jeter on just one pitch in the first, Ervin Santana fell behind 2-0 during their second battle. He missed with a fastball high for ball one, and then couldn’t catch the inside corner with a backdoor slider. The next pitch he served up, a 91 mph fastball down the middle. Jeter put a pretty swing on it, and put the Yankees up 2-0. That one, according to WPA, was worth just slightly less than Johnson’s shot, a 9.2 percent increase. With Andy rolling through three, the second solo homer of the game was a good base for the Yanks.

Biggest Pitch: Juan Rivera singles in the sixth / Wood walks

Photo credit: Bill Kostroun/AP

I bet you weren’t expecting that. Most people, I’m willing to bet, would have rated Bobby Abreu’s ninth-inning grand slam off David Robertson as the biggest hit for the Angels. This presents an opportunity to explain the underpinnings of WPA. Even though Abreu’s home run put more runs on the board than any other Angels’ hit, it didn’t necessarily bring them any closer to winning the game. After he hit it, his team was still down by two runs and had the bases empty with just two outs remaining. The odds of them winning at that point, in other words, were not that good.

In the fifth inning, however, thanks to some missed opportunities, the Yankees held just a 3-0 lead. Jeff Mathis singled to lead off the inning. When the next batter, Brandon Wood, walked, the Angels brought the tying run to the plate. This represented a 6.4 percent gain in WPA, because it brought the Angels closer to tying the game. Similarly, in the sixth inning Juan Rivera singled, advancing Howie Kendrick to third. That again brought the tying run to the plate, and was also a 6.4 percent gain in WPA.

Both of those hits brought the tying run to the plate. Abreu’s did not. It might have put the Angels in a better position to come back, but it did not directly lead to a game-tying opportunity. Wood’s and Rivera’s at-bats did. That is why they were credited with a 6.4 percent gain in WPA, while Abreu’s homer brought the Angles just 2.6 percent. The odds of them scoring two more runs with the bases empty and one out were just not that high.

Thank you, Mr. Kendrick

As described above, Juan Rivera singled with one out in the sixth to bring the tying run, Howie Kendrick, to the plate. Pettitte got ahead with a cutter, but missed the zone with his next three pitches, tipping the count in Kendrick’s favor. Pettitte delivered his second straight fastball, a hittable pitch about thigh high and over the plate, and Kendrick grounded it right to Jeter. He flipped to Cano, who threw to first to complete the double play and end the minor threat.

Looking back on the at-bat in Gameday, it could have turned out much worse. Kendrick is a dead fastball hitter. Pettitte delivered a pretty hittable fastball in a hitter’s count. It could have been a turning point for the Angels. Instead, it was the biggest negative WPA swing on offense for them.

Andy’s strikeout rate

Andy Pettitte does not look like a strikeout pitcher. His fastball hits low 90s at times, but he works mostly off his secondary stuff — the cutter/slider, the curve, the change. He uses it effectively, tough, keeping hitter off-balance by mixing his pitches well. Of his 100 pitches, only 52 were fastballs. He mixed in 25 cutters, 14 curveballs, and eight changeups — plus one unclassified pitch. He did allow eight baserunners in the game, five hits and three walks, but he helped stifle them by striking out six. It was all part of another quality start by Pettitte.

Things that made me smile

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Matsui’s ovation, obviously. The fans cheered him when he received his World Series ring, but the biggest ovation came when he came to bat in the first inning. We all miss Matsui, though with the way the team’s playing right now I’m not sure many people particularly care. That, of course, will change, and then change back, multiples times during the season. Have I mentioned that I love baseball?

Posada just continues to destroy the baseball. He went 3 for 4 yesterday with two doubles, raising his season average to .429. It won’t last all season, obviously, but it’s a nice opening statement from a guy who had a few question marks heading into the season.

Robinson Cano also has been hammering the ball out of the gate.

Also, Chan Ho’s outing was nice as well. The home run was a bit annoying, but it was Kendry Morales and he’ll do that sometimes. Otherwise, Park looked strong again.

Things that annoyed me

The ninth inning, obviously. It really couldn’t have been worse for Robertson. He actually got a gift, in that Kendrick did not score from second on Brandon Wood’s single. He then struck out Erick Aybar, a good sign. The Yankees could afford the run if Robertson needed to trade one for an out. Instead he threw two fastballs to Abreu, both around the same spot, and watched the ball fly out into the right field stands. Again, it didn’t really bring the Angels a ton closer to winning, especially since the home run brought on the save situation. Still, highly annoying.

The Yankees also failed to cash in some baserunners early in the game. Had Andy run into trouble that would have been even more annoying. They did rack up seven runs on 13 hits, though, so I guess it balanced itself by game’s end.

WPA Chart

As always, to FanGraphs with you for the full WPA breakdown, play log, and box score.

Next up

It’s another day game tomorrow, Javy Vazquez vs. groundball machine Joel Pineiro.

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Noesi dominates again while Montero comes up with a big hit
Scenes from the destruction across the street
  • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

    As I just noted on our Twitter feed, that graph is the perfect illustration of how a score makes the game seem closer than it ever really was. Still, I would have preferred a crisper inning from David Robertson.

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

    I wonder how much (if) the WE changes after that grand slam if you take a look at road teams that were down two, had two outs remaining and scored multiple runs in the inning instead of just a vacuum of being down two, having two outs remaining in the ninth and being on the road.

    • Dirty Pena

      I suspect it wouldn’t be as drastic as you might think. Having scored multiple runs in that situation means the deficit is at least 4, when lesser relievers are usually out there. Bringing it to 2 with bases empty almost always is a home run, at which point almost all managers are going to bring in their closers.

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

        Very good point, and I agree. If there is one thing that is made painstakingly obvious in numerous occasions in The Book, it’s that the notion of momentum is a load of bull.

  • dkidd

    the fact that nj chose that song for his daughter makes him even awesomer than he is already is for being larry bowa’s nephew

    • bexarama

      I love that he admitted to dancing to it in his living room

    • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bring-Melvin-To-America/193013541601?ref=sgm Andy In Sunny Daytona

      I find it funny that Nick hits a homer, gets on base FOUR times and Birthday Boy Pawlikowski wants him to change his walk-up music.

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

        You got it.

        Dare I call it pathetic and embarrassing?

        • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bring-Melvin-To-America/193013541601?ref=sgm Andy In Sunny Daytona

          Happy Birthday, bro. I hope somebody gives you a keg of your favorite beer.

          • king of fruitless hypotheticals

            happy birthday-yes.
            beer-yes.
            keg-mom won’t allow in her basement, so maybe you can hide 12 cans?
            change the music when the guy flips the switch-hell no! music stays still he goes o-fer with no walks.

            /lamebaseballsuperstition’d

  • bexarama

    Also, if you haven’t seen the pictures of A-Rod in the press conference with his ring, they rule. There are a bunch of them here:
    http://scores.espn.go.com/mlb/.....kees#pg_12

  • YankeesJunkie

    Things that annoyed me:

    David Robertson fucking my fantasy team!!!

    • Frigidevil

      The only reason why I wasn’t too beat up about that grand slam. Your loss is my gain this week MUAHAHAHAHAHA
      /I’m philthy

      • king of fruitless hypotheticals

        you have robertson?

        i thought i was messed up with javy, aj, andy and strasburg…

  • RollingWave

    Joel “NL” Pinero vs Javier “HR” Vazquez? this should be fun.

    • http://twitter.com/tafkasic the artist formerly known as (sic)

      Those are some boring-ass nicknames.

  • paK_

    I picked up David Robertson for my fantasy baseball team before last night’s game, and what do i get?

    A boost to me ERA of 108.00. Thanks a lot K-Rob.

  • CountryClub

    To be fair to Robertson, 2 of the hits before the HR were of the infield variety. It’s not like he was getting shelled. Hr’s happen to the best of them. I think he only threw 1 ball the whole inning too.

    • larryf

      0-1 fastball with the bases loaded-right down the middle. Abreu guessed right. next time it will be a 12-6 curveball….

  • CountryClub

    Pettitte said the pitch that got the double play was the only good pitch he threw in the 6th.

    • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

      Hell of a time, huh?

      • CountryClub

        Yup. He has a habit of doing that kind of thing. There’s definitely something to be said for experience.

  • http://dontbringinthelefty.blogspot.com Lucas AA, aka don’t_bring_in_the_lefty

    The offspeed pitch that Pettitte went to so much yesterday … was that the cutter? I remember it being 85, 86 mph last year and yesterday it was mainly in the low 80s.

    • larryf

      Andy must have watched CC throw that changeup in Tampa. He was very successful throwing it on 1-0 and 2-1 counts. Lots of swings and misses…