Thoughts following the back-to-back wins over the White Sox

Yankees rally late for 6-4 win over White Sox
Primary market best bet for early series Yankees vs. Red Sox tickets
(Harry How/Getty)
(Harry How/Getty)

So last night was pretty awesome. The Yankees mounted that hugely important come-from-behind win against the White Sox, the Pirates clinched their first non-losing season since 1992, and … I guess that’s it. Still a pretty great night. Anyway, I have some thoughts, so I will share them with you:

1. Now that the swap is official, I really have no idea what to expect about of Phil Hughes as a reliever and David Huff as a starter. Huff has pitched well in long relief against some bad teams (Blue Jays twice and the White Sox once) and his track record as a starter is ugly, but at this point the Yankees have to give him a chance. There’s just no way they could justify running Hughes out there every five days if they are serious about winning. I do expect Huff’s leash to be short however, which is easy to do with a nice big September call-up filled bullpen. All it takes is five decent innings to be an upgrade at this point.

Hughes, meanwhile, has never not been awesome out of the bullpen, but he hasn’t done it regularly since 2009. He did have a nice showing as a reliever late in 2011, but that was only a handful of outings. The Yankees don’t need him to be great since David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, and Preston Claiborne have the right-handed setup thing locked down, but it would be awesome of Hughes got back to being dominant in relief. He still gets an above-average amount of swings and misses on his fastball as a starter (9.46% according to Brooks Baseball), so hopefully that jumps a notch in relief (it was 11.97% in 2009). Hughes could be a nice middle innings weapon, especially since he’s stretched out enough to go two full innings and wouldn’t have to worry about turning a lineup over.

2. In an Insider-only piece, Jared Cross used pitch-framing data to examine the MVP candidacies of Yadier Molina and Jonathan Lucroy yesterday. Molina is a legitimate MVP candidate even without the pitch-framing stuff in my opinion, but I digress. Here’s a table from Cross’ article:

2013 Pitch Framing

That doesn’t includes yesterday’s games but I doubt it would change the data all that much anyway. Chris Stewart ranks fourth in the league with 17 runs saved via his pitch-framing — third on a per game basis, at least among those five players — which works out to roughly 1.8 WAR based on this year’s runs-to-WAR conversion factor. That’s an awful lot of value stemming from just catching pitches. FanGraphs had Stewart at 0.5 WAR yesterday, which includes everything but pitch-framing. So offense both at the plate and on the bases as well as catcher defense stuff like throwing out attempted base-stealers and blocking balls in the dirt. Add in the pitch-framing and he’s at 2.3 WAR for the year. I wish we had the pitch-framing numbers for the entire league to see where that ranks overall, but we usually have to wait until after the season for that.

A 2.3 WAR player is more or less league average … if you take the pitch-framing numbers at face value. There still a lot of work to be done in that area. I’m looking forward to seeing umpire-adjusted pitch-framing data, personally. Maybe Stewart’s even better than 1.8 WAR at framing, who knows? Stewart’s overall contribution has been okay, but he’s been so terrible at the plate lately (29 wRC+ since the All-Star break) that Austin Romine should get the majority of the playing time behind the plate. He’s supposed to be quite the pitch-framer himself, I hear. The Yankees showed they were serious about winning by replacing Hughes with Huff, and now they need to do it with Stewart and Romine.

3. Do you want to know what really, really sucks? There are only eight weeks left in Mariano Rivera‘s career at the absolute most. It hit me when he entered last night’s game that holy crap, this could be the last month of his career. We might only get to see him pitch another eight or ten times if the Yankees miss the postseason. That’s heartbreaking. Yankees fans have been through some sad goodbyes over the years — Don Mattingly, Paul O’Neill, Andy Pettitte (the first time), Jorge Posada, etc. — but those won’t be anything close to Rivera for me. He’s by far my all-time favorite Yankee and probably my all-time favorite player overall. (I had it real bad for Darryl Strawberry growing up as a kid and it only got worse when he came to the Yankees.) It’s cheesy and cliche and all that, but Mo is definitely the kind of player I’ll sit around and tell the grandkids about one day. The Yankees will find someone to replace him, someone to pitch the ninth inning and close games and maybe even throw the last pitch of four World Series, but there will never be another Mariano. He’s truly one of the kind.

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Yankees rally late for 6-4 win over White Sox
Primary market best bet for early series Yankees vs. Red Sox tickets
  • CountryClub

    Andy McCullough ?@McCulloughSL 4m
    One rival evaluator on Phil Hughes, once BA’s No. 4 prospect: “You just wonder why he isn’t better. It’s a brutal [expletive] business.”

  • yankeeparrothead

    Mo leaving will definitely be a very sad Yankee goodbye, by far the saddest in my lifetime, was Thurman Munson. I realize you are probably too young to remember that one, but his death was devastating for me at 15.

    • trr

      Mo is a player who will be truly legendary. My God, he may only have 10 or so appearances for us – so let’s all watch + enjoy!

      Hell, I remember Thurm. A fucking tragedy; for you younger fans, try imagining Jete or Mo dying suddenly in a plane crash

    • CS Yankee

      Yeah, I was about the same age.

      Hard to believe all that turmoil still led to rings but those guys were amazing. He was the player that made me a Yankee fan, I kind of followed the A’s with Reggie, Catfish and Vida before that but became a Yankee fan around ’75. Lyle, Thurm, Willie, Lou, Ron, Craig, Chris and Reggie made me realize that baseball is the sport.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      The telecast after his death remains one of my earliest Yankee memories.

    • MannyGeee

      While I can certainly understand the Munson sentiment, I don’t think you can compare. Mo retiring and Munson’s passing are both sad but for very very different reasons. Don’t want to take away from MO’s retirement and all, but the Munson stuff is a whole ‘nother level.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    You may find another great closer easily. Hell, David Robertson may be it. You’ll never feel the kind of comfort and stability, over as long as stretch a period, as you do with Mariano. You’ll never feel the rush just as he walks out of the bullpen. You can replace a closer, but you can’t replace Mariano Rivera. You never will.

    I love a decent BUC as much as anyone, but I love watching an improving young player try to show he can hang every day even more. Give me Romine, and give Murphy a bat and a glove and tell him to try and show he’s even better.

    While David Huff probably does grow on trees, sometimes, you can catch a ripe one. You better eat that ripe one before it goes rotten. Beat that metaphor, Eddard. Nah, you can’t.

    • Havok9120

      0_o

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      I actually don’t know that you can’t feel that comfort and stability over a long stretch. Never know who’s lurking in the wings waiting to be the next great Yankee Closer. They won’t be Mo though. There’s just something special about him, and I don’t know how to describe it. For me it could very well be just that I grew up with him; I don’t know any other way things could be.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I don’t know…..we’re talking sixteen years here. When you think about the type of pitcher that ends up meeting the criteria of “closer,” and how prone to both injury and volatility they often are, finding someone who can hold that role down, for even half those years, without a concern other than WWWMW, doesn’t seem very possible to me.

        Look at your Valverdes and Rodneys and the rest of the gaggle of gas and arrow/fist-throwers out there. You have your heart in your throat half the time, and they flame out within a few years. Same with your last generation of Robbie Nens and Robbie Dibbles and all Robbies not Cano.

        • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

          I mean it’s definitely unlikely. The combination of team, time period, the cutter, etc. And I guess the emphasis on starting pitching; the diminishing save rule(one can dream), you’re probably right.

          I just would love for future Yankee generations to have their Mo.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            It is our job to remind them every day that we had it better/worse than they did at all times, that they don’t know jack shit, just like every team not winning championships is clearly TEH HORACE CLARKE.

          • jjyank

            And they will.

            It may not be at his position, but there will be someone who comes up and provides a rock solid force at a difficult-to-fill position who also happens to be a classy idol.

            That’s not to diminish what Mo means to me, or the fan base. He’ll always be my favorite player.

            I will say this, though: The Yankees will find another closer who will be solid for them for a long time. But nobody is gonna touch Mo’s record. “Records are made to be broken”, yeah yeah. Fuck that though. Mo’s gonna have that forever, bitches.

        • Havok9120

          K-Rod and, sigh, Papelbon are the two that have most closely mirrored what Mo’s done, and neither of them did it for as long or on a team that was almost always competing for something. And they sure as heck don’t have the postseason experience. Not to mention that their stretches of utter dominance, where no one was expecting even a glimmer of hope to appear, lasted nowhere near as long as Mo’s has (I originally wrote “did” there, but then I looked at his season stats again- no one is coming to the plate with a reasonable chance of success).

        • VT Yankee Fan

          This graphic shows how hard it is to succeed at closer for even a few years much less over more than a decade and a half.

          http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....30_982.jpg

          • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

            I changed my mind. Not worth defending a .5-1% chance.

            Y’all are right. Long live Mo!

          • Caballo Sin Nombre

            Always hated that chart. It makes one year gaps look like two years are missing. Take a close look at Joe Nathan’s line.

            Also, it’s hard to pick up closers who had long careers across multiple teams, as with Bob Wickman. If a player changes teams, the chart makes it look as if there is a one year gap.

      • Havok9120

        I’m with the fishman. The level of talent isn’t the issue, it’s just that relief pitchers simply don’t have that long a shelf life. The number of guys that manage to be top-level players on competitive teams pitching tons of high-leverage innings for any length of time is incredibly small.

        That’s not to mention that DRob, barring some huge revelation in style, is going to regularly make close games even closer before he slams the door shut. So at least the immediate heir is going to be awfully short on comfort level.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          The true heir to Wetteland emerges.

    • MannyGeee

      ICE WATER IN TEH VEINZ! Seriously, Mariano is once in a lifetime.

      We will tell our grandchildren of his saves, the cutter, the knee injury in KC and how we all died a little inside that day, and how truly genuinely great of a person and ballplayer he was…

      And also about EddardWorld’s Small Sample Sizes… but they won’t give a shit about the latter point I would imagine.

      • Havok9120

        Not just how we all died a little inside, but how _awesome_ it was when he came back after the injury and put in what would be, for almost any other closer, a career year.

  • FrankeeYankee

    Doesn’t it seem a little strange that Mo is having the well deserved farewell tour, pub and accolades while this is likely fellow core four member Andy’s last year?

    Not taking anything away from Mo of course but there’s not much room left for Andy to publicly retire and get his hard earned recognition.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I’ve thought about it. Everyone has their path and preferred method to go out. Look at how Mussina handled his. God knows what Jeter will prefer.

      My hunch is that Andy likes this just the way he’s got it.

      • jjyank

        Women all over America (and Toronto) are all ready making space in their closets for gift baskets.

        • MannyGeee

          ietc

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      Andy isn’t nearly as beloved around baseball as Mo is. Still has the PED thing attached to him, the Clemens case and mis-remembering, etc. I love him and always will, but Mo is just a different animal altogether.

      • jjyank

        Yup. Mo is the best player in history to play his position. I love Andy, but he doesn’t have that title.

    • yankeeparrothead

      We’ve done the tearful goodbye thing for Andy (twice already). I still love him, but you can only say good bye so many times. It will be hard to believe he is really leaving until he is gone for a couple of years

  • VaYankeeFan

    You were right-on with your comments on MO, indeed there will never be another MO! As a life-long Yankee fan, over 50 years I will miss him so much; not just for his pitching but his professional attitude and how he has carried himself throughout the years!!

  • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

    Can’t wait to go the game on the 22nd. Putting all my eggs in one basket, but I really hope to see Mariano in my one and only trip to YS3 this year.

    Nah, screw it. I hope to see him in that trip, and in my playoff trip.

    • Havok9120

      There’s a non-zero chance I’ll be in Houston to watch us kick the crap out of the ‘Stros on our way into the play-in game. So I’ll get to see Mo collect his 58th and 59th saves of the season.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I’ll be at the stadium Friday! RT’s triumphant return!

      • lightSABR

        Me, too! I’ll be in town for the first and only time this year, and there’s no way I’m not going to a game. Here’s hoping for a beautiful save by Mo.

    • jjyank

      I got lucky. When I saw the Yankees in Baltimore, I knew that would be my only game this year, and my only chance to see Mo.

      Not only did I get to see Mo get a save, but I got to see Jim Johnson blow his save first, leading to my semi-drunken screams of “That’s how a REAL closer pitches!” to every O’s fan around me.

    • Get Phelps Up

      I got to see Mo in LA and San Diego close out wins on July 31 and August 3. Really awesome moments, especially at Dodger Stadium. I’m hoping to one day get my ticket stub from the last game I ever saw Mo pitch signed at some point down the line.

    • I’m One

      Got to see Mo at Coors Field this year (and have the pictures to prove it). The only 2 games I’ll get to see this season, as my next trip to NY will be on the last day of the regular season. Brought my grandson to his first Yankee game as well. He’s still talking about it and I’ll remind him the rest of his life that he got to see the Great Mariano Rivera.

  • Steve O

    What i’m wondering is what will Mariano’s post playing days career bring.

    Is pitching coach in his future?

    I mean who would not shut up and listen to Mo and do what he says.(except for Joba).

    • VT Yankee Fan

      He has already said he plans to spend his time running his family’s church.

    • jjyank

      My guess is that he’ll spend a few years with his family and doing charity work. I do remember him saying that he’d like to work with minor leaguers someday, so maybe he does that after awhile.

    • hogsmog

      As good as Mo is, do you think he’d actually make a good coach.

      “Oh ok kid, so you’re struggling? Invent one pitch so dominant you can throw exclusively that for twenty years. It’s as simple as that.”

      Since Mo never actually struggled all that much, or had to deal with aging/reinventing himself, he might not be that good at dealing with those who are.

      • jjyank

        He doesn’t need to be a coach that teaches pitches or something of the like, necessarily. But he might make a damn good mentor that helps these kids understand and deal with pressure, focus, etc.

        And he did struggle as a starter. He might bring some perspective there.

        Who knows what kind of a coach he would be. I do think he could be helpful to the organization at some capacity at some point in the future though.

        • WhittakerWalt

          Ted Williams was a shitty hitting instructor.

          • Havok9120

            Indeed, but he was also a pretty shitty person from everything I’ve ever heard. Dude could rake (and fish), but “personable” he was not.

            • VT Yankee Fan

              He was a hell of a fighter pilot too.

              • OldYanksFan

                He was an INSANE batter.
                http://www.baseball-reference......te01.shtml
                While he lost his age 24,25,26 years to the war, he played 19 years, and only had an OPS under 1.000 ONCE!
                Led the league in OPS TEN times.
                Career OPS+ of 190.
                At age 38, posted a .388 .526 .731 1.257 line
                Had a 1.096 OPS his last year, at 41.

  • RetroRob

    It’s even worse on for me. I’ve been traveling out of the country about 50% of the time, and outside of about a week-and-a-half return next week, and am then gone until October. I will probably see very few of Mo’s final games.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      :-(

    • Havok9120

      I haven’t seen the man pitch in a decade and my chances of seeing him this season are exceedingly small.

      …..

      Boo.

  • Coolerking101

    Reading these comments about Mo caused me to take another peak at his lifetime stats. In 96 playoff appearances he has a 0.70 ERA and a WHIP of 0.759. There will never be anyone better.

    • Havok9120

      We need to at least get his playoff appearances up over a hundred this season. Just so we get that third digit.

  • VT Yankee Fan

    The Yanks lost on August 7th to drop their record to 57-56. They were 7 games off the pace for the second wild card, behind 4 other teams.

    The good news is that since then they have an AL best 17-8 record. The bad news is that they will likely have to play just as well over the remaining 24 games. They likely will need to go 24-8 to get themselves to 90 wins and the second wild card spot.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      I disagree. The 2nd wild card spot is a mess right now, of teams that seemingly don’t want to win it.

      If the Yankees go 15-9, all they need is tampa to go 13-12, which at this point is not far-fetched, especially since we have head to heads left. And I guess we’d also need to worry that Cleveland doesn’t go 16-8.

      • VT Yankee Fan

        Oops, I wrote 24-8 but I meant 16-8 (24 games).

        • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

          We do get the Astros in there for 3 :)

          • Robinson Tilapia

            Those losses would count as two games in the “STYLE POINTZ” column, though, and three in the “MEDIA NARRATIVE” column…

            ….not that I read those comments anymore or anything.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      It was always going to be a damn tough fight and here we are, in a damn tough fight.

      16-8? GAME ON.

      • Havok9120

        We’re taking at least 5 from the Sox in the next two weeks. I’m calling it.

      • MannyGeee

        16-8? With the way they have been playing? And the way Tampa & Oakland/Texas have been playing? Shit yeah I’ll take those odds

  • Vern Sneaker

    What a piece of luck to be a fan of a team that’s had Mo. As an old guy who started rooting in the days of Rizzuto, Berra, Mantle, and Ford and down through all these years, I’d have to say Mo has been the greatest of them all.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      WOW. That is some praise. That’s honestly the biggest priase I’ve ever heard a fan bestow upon Mo.

      • Vern Sneaker

        Amazing to me, his professionalism: longevity and consistency of the highest possible quality and so often in huge key moments. Others have had long impressive Yankees careers and some have been more exciting (Mantle especially), but only Jeter approaches Mo’s length of service with such reliability of great performance. And I’ve loved his even keel, low-key style, too.

    • JLC 776

      I feel humbled to have grown up watching the teams of the late 90’s (to clarify, I was a senior in high school in 95/96). I’m already looking forward to showing my son all of my old team DVDs and world series tapes and specifically talking about Mo.

      We’re real lucky to have witnessed him.

      • MannyGeee

        To which your kid will respond, “Yeah, this MO guy was pretty great and all… but seriously what is a DVD or a tape?”

        • JLC 776

          I managed to get digital copies of a lot of the tapes, but I’m afraid a few will sit on my shelf and never again be watched.

          So long ‘Champions of the Heart’ VHS…

  • http://www.twitter.com/mattpat11 Matt DiBari

    I was sort of hoping they’d just bury Hughes next to Joba in the bullpen and never see either one of them again

  • JLC 776

    It’s strange, I have very similar feelings about Mo leaving as I did about leaving YS2. The countdown, the playoff race, everything.

    It’s incredible to think that at one point this team had Mo, Jeter, Bernie, O’Neill, Pettitte, and Jorge all playing at the same time. My God, what a team. That will never happen again in our lifetime.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      Nope, pretty unlikely we’ll see Mo, Jeter, Bernie, O’Neill, Pettitte and Jorge suiting up for the Yankees any time soon :)

      • JLC 776

        Damn you, Peckerhead!

  • Frank

    Mo is an icon, one in a million. Class personified. More reason Bald Vinny needs to forever banish those hideous t-shirts he’s pimping/giving away. Mo deserves better than that.

    • I’m One

      Yeah, I feel the same way. I wanted to want one, but I just can’t. They just don’t reflect who Mo is (IMHO).

  • LarryM FL

    What amazes me about Mo is his control of his pitches. His smooth repeating delivery affords him this control. With this control comes the mentality to look at ease with every situation.

    The only other pitcher in Yankee lure who has done it for such a long period of time IMHO is Whitey Ford. I have watched them both on TV and in person just amazing to witness.

    For all the younger Yankee fans I offer you some hope. My reason for hope is some fabulous Yankee teams from the middle 50’s that I have seen with some great young talent. The young talent will come and it may be assisted by a plan to stay in 189 budget.

    The last 18 years or so of winning baseball has cost the farm system some choice picks throughout the 40 the teams gets. There are many talented kids from 11-40.

  • BWillFan51

    Go away Mike, you made me real sad with that Mariano blurb, NEVER LEAVE MO :*(

  • Tom

    I’ve always wondered about the pitching framing stuff – I have no doubt that it can be a skill but the valuation of it is problematic. What’s odd is that Jose Molina is the name always mentioned and he is not in the top 5. Also surprised to see Conger’s name.

    In addition to normalizing for umpires they need to normalize for a bunch of other factors – Jeff Sullivan over at Fangraphs showed the impact of some variables (beyond the catcher)

    The count had a significant effect (obviously far easier to get a marginal 3-0 or 3-1 strike call than an 0-2 call)

    The pitch type had a noticeable effect. Easiest to frame the fastball (I think 4 seam), one of the harder to frame was curveballs. So what kind of staff a catcher is catching is important.

    The handedness of the batter and specific location where the pitch is marginal also matter (bottom of zone vs top, inside vs outside)

    As most of these studies assume every additional/fewer call is 100% catcher controlled, the impact is probably overstated. The problem is when these studies get published the average fan is see #, believe # and the potential error in the study is often not well established or understood.

  • Lukaszek

    Oh god I’ll probably have spaghetti all over my face when Mo retires ;_;