Athletics 5, Yanks 4

Player WPA pLI Pitcher WPA pLI
Giambi .177 2.22 Vizaino .213 2.78
Cano .090 1.79 Proctor .050 1.13
Jeter .082 1.15 Myers .048 1.82
Alex .048 1.86 Igawa -.022 1.02
Posada -.030 1.60 Farnsworth -.122 1.33
KT -.062 2.38 Bruney -.205 3.03
Abreu -.104 1.65
Damon -.147 1.36
Melky -.163 2.23
Minky -.353 2.23

Not much to add to Ben’s comments. Badly managed, badly played. Oh yeah, and Minky stinks. Big time.

I would like to see two tidbits of conventional wisdom erased from baseball groupthink: the hit and run and not using your closer on the road in a tie game. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I missed a lot of the Igawa innings, so I’m not going to trash him or praise him. It just hurts that Chavez took him deep on a pitch left up. Tsk tsk tsk.

At this point, we’re better off playing Giambi at first and letting the pitcher hit.

Oakland A’s 1, Joe Torre 0

When George Steinbrenner fired Joe Torre at the end of the disastrous ALDS against Detroit last fall, I wasn’t disappointed. Joe had a great run in New York, but his flaws had been out in the open for everyone to see since the 2004 ALCS. When he was unfired, I figured the Yanks could win despite Torre’s flaws.

Tonight’s game proved me wrong.

Let’s start at the end. With Brian Bruney working his second inning in the 11th, Torre let him pitch into trouble and toward a Yankee loss. Meanwhile, the Yankees’ best reliever, Mariano Rivera, never entered the game, never warmed up, never did anything. Bad decision number one.

Flashback to the 7th inning. Kyle Farnsworth, who had given up four runs in 0.2 innings one game ago, comes into the game, and, you guessed it, blows a one-run lead. Brian Bruney, who did pitch admirably in extra innings, was no where to be seen. Bad decision number two.

Bear with me as we jump ahead to the top of the 8th. First, Torre pinch runs for Jason Giambi. Had Giambi scored, he would have been insurance. Giambi – or pinch runner Kevin Thompson – never makes it around the bases, and the Yanks lose Giambi’s bat. Bad decision number three. Stop pinch running for your number five RBI guy in tie games. Just stop.

Same inning, Doug Mientkiewicz strides to the plate with the bases loaded and one out. Mientkiewicz swings mightly and hits a dinky pop up just past the pitcher’s mound. A-Rod, who had to hold at third, is out at the plate by a mile. Dougie, whose terrible throw at the end of the game sealed the deal for the A’s, had hit into double plays in his previous two at bats. Josh Phelps sat on the bench. And sat. And sat. And sat. Bad decision number four.

So that’s it. Mientkiewicz went 0 for 5 and stranded seven runners. He was responsible for 7 of the Yankees’ 33 outs this evening. Is his average defense really making up the runs for this pitiful offensive performance? I don’t think so. Does Joe Torre even know that Josh Phelps is on this team? I don’t think so.

Meanwhile, as is his style, Torre left Rivera in the pen and Josh Phelps on the bench. So while Brian Bruney, who threw well but had to go to a third inning (!) took the loss, this one belongs on Torre’s shoulders. Huston Street gets the win; Torre the loss.

Yanks can’t finish the sweep

Player WPA pLI Pitcher WPA pLI
Jeter .034 1.01 Henn .221 1.65
Damon .033 0.94 Vizcaino .092 1.18
Alex -.018 1.26 Moose .007 0.93
Posada -.032 0.68 Myers .005 0.09
Melky -.076 0.97 Proctor -.015 1.96
Minky -.080 1.03 Farnsworth -.375 1.40
Cano -.088 1.07
Abreu -.100 1.18
Giambi -.107 0.96

And the Yankees fail to complete the sweep. Winning two out of three obviously isn’t bad, but when you have a chance at a sweep, you’d like to see them come storming out of the gates. That goes doubly when Ramon Ortiz is on the mound, hef of the 5.57 ERA last year in Washington.

Focusing on the positive for one fleeting moment, Sean Henn has been stellar in this young season. He’s allowed just one run over eight innings, and his work in long relief has eased the burden on the rest of the pen. I could go on and note that his peripherals to this point don’t add up — just one strikeout to one walk and a 6/7 groundball to flyball ratio) — but I’ll stick with this positive while the positive is going.

As Ben noted, Moose may only miss one start, which could work under the current schedule. After the off day today, Igawa will start Friday at Oakland, followed by Pavano and Pettitte on Saturday and Sunday. Another off day on Monday helps, though it won’t keep Darrell Rasner from taking the ball Tuesday at the Stadium against Cleveland, Mussina’s scheduled start. So the Cleveland series will be Rasner, Igawa, and Pavano, lining up Pettitte to start Friday at Fenway. The hope from there would be to have Wang available for Saturday afternoon’s affair, and Moose ready to go on Sunday.

If Moose does end up hitting the DL, though, I’m going to come right out and advocate Phil Hughes for the job. I know many of you want to see him develop more in AAA, but I have to wonder how much that’s going to help. He looked more than solid in his first outing, and he pitches again tonight. If he’s dominating, I don’t see a reason not to challenge him at the big league level, especially since there’s now an excuse to do so. Give him the ball against Cleveland on Tuesday and then again against the Sox in Fenway on Sunday. That would also put him in line to start the following Friday night in the Stadium against Boston. Seriously, I cannot think of a better way to start off Phil Hughes.

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Yanks lose game, Mussina

Someone really ought to teach the Yanks how to stretch. First, Wang, then Hideki and now Mussina all go down to a hamstring bug. Mussina claims he’ll only miss a start, but that’s what everyone said last year about Robbie Cano before he missed 35 games.

Meanwhile, as Peter Abraham points out, you’ll be hearing Marty Miller’s name a lot over the next few days. He’s the new director of performance enhancing, and as The Times noted over the weekend, his new strenuous routine may be responsible for this rash of injuries. Check yourself before you wreck yourself, Marty.

(In case you’re wondering, Moose was a participant in Marty’s program. That voluntary involvement may have ended in the third inning tonight.)

Meanwhile, A-Rod went 1 for 3 with an RBI and continued his hot hitting. But outside of a 2 for 4 night for Johnny Damon, the Yanks’ bats were silent. A few nice plays in the field concluded the Bombers’ part of the highlight real. Derek Jeter turned a nifty double play on an over-the-shoulder catch, and Doug Mientkiewiczi made a nifty dive on a shot down the line.

The story tonight though, which Joe and I were discussing during the game, was the Big V: Velocity. Proctor didn’t have it, and Krazy Kyle — he of the leadoff walk, loss and 4 ER in 0.1 IP tonight — didn’t have it either. The gun readings showed these two power pitchers reaching the low 90s instead of their usual upper 90s. Maybe it’s a dead arm period after Spring Training; maybe it’s Marty Miller’s fault; maybe we could find a way to blame A-Rod. But it’s a concern.

Anyway, as long as Ron Villone doesn’t show up in the Bronx, and Fransworth and Proctor rediscover their heat, we’ll be ok. Two out of three in Minnesota is the way to go.

Image of Mussina leaving the field with Gene Monahan from The New York Times.

Yanks crush Twins, sky ceases falling

Player WPA pLI Pitcher WPA pLI
Alex .168 0.27 Pettitte .232 0.73
Melky .100 0.48 Vizcaino .021 0.19
Damon .043 0.48 Rivera .000 0.00
Cano .025 0.19 Proctor -.009 0.33
Jeter .019 .027
KT .001 0.01
Minky -.012 0.41
Giambi -.012 0.30
Posada -.036 0.27
Abreu -.040 0.36

Now, the only question that remains: do we cut off Chicken Little’s head for the false alarm? Or do we let him suffer the same fate as the proverbial boy who cried wolf?

It appears all has returned to normal in Yankeeland, as they got their second straight “normal” start. Like with Pavano last night, there were a few things I didn’t like from Pettitte tonight. Thankfully, most of those concerns amounted to his control, which is surely the result of a shortened Spring Training. This really isn’t troubling, especially considering he’s still on a rough pitch count (though he kind of blew through that last night).

I must point this out 15 or so times a season, but it is incredibly difficult to put together an interesting recap of a blowout like last night. Yeah, they hit a lot. Yeah, Pettitte pitched like we remember him. But there was little that sparked any emotion, save for Alex’s first-inning home run.

At least Melky was able to avoid looking foolish at the plate yesterday. He went 3 for 4, and didn’t seem to be flailing at pitches like he was in the season’s first week. I noticed this especially in his at bat in the ninth (which coincidentally followed a nice play on a liner to left to end the 8th). He laid off a first-pitch off-speed offering, which he might not have just a few days ago. He still has plenty to work on, but at least he’s got some semblance of a swing working for him.

A couple of notes:

  • I’ve been hearing a lot lately about all the times that Minky has saved errors this season. While it’s great that he’s playing solid D at first, I sincerely doubt that he’s saved more than two errors over what Giambi could have done. That’s because Giambi’s more glaring shortcoming isn’t his ability to scoop errant throws, it’s his complete lack of range (followed closely by his inability to throw the ball). But, as long as the Yanks are hitting like this, I’ll take him at first basel.
  • Ben had mentioned something about the weather in his previous post, which got me thinking. Writers and bloggers all around the league are complaining about the weather in some form or another. The thing is, though, that most are blaming it for their poor hitting, while Yanks fans blame it for their poor pitching. Maybe we should lay off the weather argument?
  • The biggest WPA shift for the Yanks today: Alex’s home run, of course (.174). The most detrimental to the Twins: Mike Cuddyer grounding into a double play in the fourth, with the game still close at 3-0 (-.126).

Mike Mussina gets his chance tonight against Ramon Ortiz. The Yanks just gotta take advantage of this crappy pitching.

Yanks win; Proctor struggles

Short post from me tonight on the game. We’ll have the WPA graph in the morning. Good work all around tonight. Alex Rodriguez is in the Zone with a big, fat capital Z. It’s something special when a player of his caliber enters this other-wordly hitting zone. I would think that no one will pitch to him soon.

Nice to see Andy Pettitte step up tonight. His success tonight and the Yanks’ overall play leads me to believe that the bad, cold weather had something to do with the Yanks’ lethargic opening week. Baseball is a warm weather sport. No team should play in 35-degree weather or the snow. Just as Indian fans.

Finally, a quick note about one of my favorite relievers. I’ve always loved Scott Proctor’s Stuff. His mid- to upper-90s fastball and complimentary breaking pitches made me a believer, and last year, he delivered on the goods. He also appeared in over half of the Yankees’ games and threw a career-high 102.1 innings.

But tonight, he threw 11 of his 17 pitches out the strike zone. He was pulled after 0.2 innings of work in what was then a seven-run game. On the short season, he has just 4.1 innings under his belt — small sample size, I know — but has given up four hits and three earned runs. His K:BB ratio, nearly 3:1 last year, is actually 1:2 this year. I just hope he wasn’t ran into the ground last year.

Yanks 8, Twins 2

Player WPA pLI Pitcher WPA pLI
Abreu .198 0.55 Pavano .155 0.53
Posada .126 0.56 Bruney .009 0.12
Damon .075 0.35 Farnsworth .004 0.11
Jeter .041 0.49
Giambi .030 0.45
Alex .021 0.43
Melky -.031 0.30
Minky -.060 0.50
Cano -.068 0.36

I won’t lie: I was afraid that this was going to be one of those games against an unknown or otherwise crappy pitcher where the Yanks can’t manage more than one or two runs. However, not even Sidney Ponson is that bad, apparently. The Yanks hit him hard and early, ending up with an 8-2 win.

Ben summed up the game well, so there’s no need to repeat material here. The only Pavano-related tidbit I can offer is that he was letting a lot of pitches sail early in the game. I suppose it’s one of those side effects of being out for a year and a half, and it did subside a bit as the game moved along.

Posada’s ground rule double was the biggest WPA shift in the game, moving the Yanks 13.2% closer to victory. It also came along with the game’s highest Leverage Index, so I suppose that was the most important at bat of the game.

For a different perspective, check out Aaron Gleeman’s recap. For the most part, I agree: the Twins played terrible defense and made some costly errors (Mike Cuddyer trying to advance from second on a grounder to short comes to mind, as well as Kubel’s misplay of Jorge’s aforementioned double). I initially took issue with his claim that the ump was squeezing Ponson, particularly on the walk to Giambi, but then I realized that the losing team’s fans tend to think they’re being squeezed. I do it all the time when the Yanks are down. When they’re up like last night, though, I tend not notice less and less.

Pettitte gets his shot at redemption tonight against Boof Bonser. Please, no jokes about his name.