Although the Yankees can wait until an hour after the Twins/Tigers playoff game is over to pick an ALDS series, according to reports out of the clubhouse, the team has all but decided on the longer series. Mark Feinsand tells us that Joe Girardi informed CC Sabathia he would pitch Wednesday against the eventual AL Central winner. That game — and Friday’s home game — will start at 6:07 p.m. Eastern time. By starting the series on Wednesday, the Yankees will need to use only three starting pitchers and will enjoy extra days of rest for Mariano Rivera and Phil Hughes, their weapons out of the bullpen. Meanwhile, the next 68 hours are going to seem really slow.
The past week has seen debate over what the Yanks should do with their ALDS roster construction. Which 10 pitchers should they carry? Should they add Freddy Guzman? Francisco Cervelli? None of these is the most important question — the one that will have the most impact on one or multiple games. No, that question is of playing time at catcher. We’ve seen some speculation that Jose Molina could catch A.J. Burnett, and given some of Girardi’s comments last night, it appears that will be the case. From Feinsand:
“We haven’t come up with any final decisions on how we’re going to do things,” Girardi said. “Jose is possibly going to play an important role next week, so we wanted to get him some at-bats.”
I don’t think that “an important role” means catching the eighth and ninth if the Yanks pinch run for Posada. No, “an important role” would appear to mean starting catcher. So for those who are vehemently against Molina seeing any playing time next week, commence flipping out.
I’m not necessarily against the move. If it makes Burnett pitch better, I’m actually all for it. The problem is that I don’t think there’s any certainty in that. Are we guaranteed a good Burnett start with Molina behind the plate? If so, start him. If there’s no guarantee, though, and there’s really not any objective way to say there is, then I have to question the decision to take either Jorge’s or Matsui’s bat out of the lineup.
While the Yankees could be waiting until Tuesday to find out their ALDS opponent, tickets for the series will go on sale Monday. Unlike in the old days, when you’d have to get there the night before and camp out in order to have a shot, this year it will be an online-only affair. Those interested can go to yankees.com starting at 10 a.m. EDT. From then until 9 a.m. “on the date of the Yankees’ first scheduled ALDS home game” — so Wednesday — it will be an online exclusive. After that tickets will be available at the Yankee Stadium Advance Ticket Windows.
Ross at New Stadium Insider has the pricing breakdown. The limit will be two tickets to one game per customer. So choose wisely. The press release, via LoHud, also notes some additional seating options:
There will be 60 café seats on the Field Level concourse available for $81 per ticket for the Division Series and $131 per ticket for the League Championship Series. Additionally, approximately 200 standing room tickets for dedicated standing locations on the Field and Main Levels will cost $33 and $25, respectively, for the ALDS and $64 and $48, respectively, for the ALCS.
If you’re planning to purchase tickets during the public sale, try not to get your hopes up. As Ross further notes, there are a limited number of tickets available: about 4,735 for the ALDS and 3,235 for the ALCS. So the bad news is that your chances are small of scoring even two tickets. The good news is that you don’t have to wait outside forever just to find out you won’t get them.
Again, the public on-sale date is Monday, October 5 at 10:00 a.m. EDT, exclusively on Yankees.com. Good luck to anyone who tries to snag a couple. Just keep your favorite hosts in mind when you’re deciding how to use your extra one, OK?
As the Yanks prepare for a three-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays to close out the season, the playoffs are looming large in the minds of the Bombers and their fans. With the pitching match-ups set for this weekend, we know a firm sense of the Yanks’ plans and can debate the merits of the Andy-and-A.J. decision.
Earlier this week, the Yankees announced that CC Sabathia would start on Friday night in search of his 20th win. Most of the Yanks’ A team will back him up. On Saturday, Andy Pettitte will take the ball in a final regular-season tune-up, and on Sunday, A.J. Burnett and the ALDS Game 1 lineup will earn themselves at least a few innings of time on the field. And so, as I’ve done once a week or so for the last few weeks, we extrapolate.
It’s safe to assume that the Yankees are going to take the longer ALDS series to avoid the Joba/Chad Gaudin decision that looms not as large as we might think (but more on that when and if the time comes). The pitching rotation, then, looks a little something like this:
We know that Chip Caray and Ron Darling will be manning the broadcast booth for the Yankees vs. Tigers/Twins. Now we have a pretty good idea who will be pitching.
On Wednesday, Joe tackled the Andy-and-A.J. debate and came to the conclusion I would have drawn. “I like A.J. as much as the next guy, he wrote, “but with the season on the line, I’d rather have Pettitte on the mound.”
Personally, we’d all rather have CC Sabathia on the mound in the a do-or-die Game 5, but Game 4 could be just as important. Either the Yanks will try to close the door on the Tigers or Twins or the Bombers will have to win Game 4 to force Game 5. CC fights the bill for that match-up.
There is an interesting twist to the post-season pitching previews as well that I didn’t include in the chart. Right now, the Tigers hold a two-game lead over the Twins. In an ideal world, these two teams will tie so that they have to play a game on Tuesday. In an also-ideal world, the Twins will be a game behind the Tigers come Sunday. That day, you see, is Justin Verlander’s next start. If the Tigers face a must-win situation, they will start Verlander on Sunday, and he won’t be available to pitch on regular rest until Game 2. Although that would line him up to pitch Game 5, I’d take my chances with the rest of the Tigers’ rotation.
If the Tigers win a pair this weekend or if the Twins drop two to the Royals, the point will be moot. Verlander can rest until Game 1, and we’d have ourselves a good old fashioned pitcher’s battle to start the playoffs. I’m ready. Are you?
There aren’t too many decisions left for the 2009 Yankees. Beyond some minor decisions on how to construct the postseason roster, there are only a few questions to ask. While some might be wondering if Molina will catch Burnett, I’ve got a bigger question in mind. Will the Yanks start Burnett in Game 2 or Game 3? This is no small matter. The Game 2 starter would also start a potential Game 5. Who do you trust most in that spot?
In the aggregate, Burnett and Pettitte look like similar pitchers. Their ERAs are right in line, as are their WHIP, H/9, and HR/9 numbers. Burnett strikes out more batters but also walks more, leaving the pitchers about even in K/BB. Both have had dominant stretches, A.J.’s from June through mid-July, and Andy’s in August. Using this base information it might seem like the decision could go either way. But as we’ve learned, things aren’t always as they seem in the aggregate.
Our favorite optimist notes one major difference between A.J. and Andy:
Take a look at these splits: Pettitte’s home ERA is exactly an entire run higher than his road ERA, an OPS against that’s over 100 points lower on the road and fourteen home runs surrendered at home against only five on the road.
Burnett’s splits are similar to Pettitte’s in terms of home-road difference, just reversed.
That would make it seem obvious, right? Start A.J. at home in Game 2 and then Pettitte on the road in Game 3. It’s called playing the percentages. It’s what smart managers do to win ballgames. The schedule would also point to this conclusion. If the Yankees choose the A series, as most of us expect, they’d be able to start Sabathia on normal rest in Game 1, then Burnett on normal rest in Game 2, with Pettitte starting on seven days’ rest on the 11th. If they went with Pettitte in Game 2 he’d be on five days’ rest, and Burnett would be on six days’ rest for Game 3.
Yet that doesn’t take into consideration other factors. For instance, commenter JGS on Rebecca’s post notes that Pettitte has pitched better at home since the All-Star Break:
Andy at home since the Break:
2-1, 2.79 ERA, 1.216 WHIP
Andy on the road since the break:
4-1, 3.47 ERA, 1.068 WHIP
Maybe the home/road split is a bit overblown. Do the Yankees go with the season-long numbers, or the post-break numbers, when they’ve played like a completely different team?
There’s one last monkey wrench to consider: what if the Yankees choose series B? It seems like a long shot, but it’s possible. A friend mentioned that on Baseball Tonight, Peter Gammons said he heard the Yanks were going with the B series. This would make particular sense if playing the Tigers, because it would force Jim Leyland to either use his fourth starter in a potential Game 4, or use Justin Verlander on short rest. Neither is an ideal scenario.
Choosing the B series would make the Burnett-Pettitte decision moot. Joba Chamberlain would then pitch a potential Game 4, against either Nate Robertson, Jarrod Wasburn, or Justin Verlander, and then CC would come back for a potential Game 5. The problem there is that you can’t reverse the decision mid-round. If the Yanks find themselves in an elimination Game 4, they might not want Joba out there. That would necessitate trotting out Sabathia on short rest.
If the Yanks sweep, all this will be moot. Game 3 in both series is on October 11, and the Yanks would be able to realign their rotation for the ALCS. The longer it goes, the more important the Yanks’ decisions — both the choice of series and the starter alignment — become. If the Yanks win in four with Sabathia on the mound they’d probably have to slide him back to ALCS Game 2. If the Yanks win in 5, I doubt they’ll mind holding back CC until Game 3.
I hope the Yankees choose the short series. There’s a risk in starting Joba, but that’s somewhat mitigated by CC’s potential Game 5 start. The only way that scenario plays out poorly is if the Yankees face elimination in Game 4. They’d almost have to use CC on short rest, and then their Game 2 starter in Game 5. In that regard, I’d rather see Pettitte in Game 2. I like A.J. as much as the next guy, but with the season on the line, I’d rather have Pettitte on the mound.
As Juan Miranda’s line drive literally off of Kyle Farnsworth escaped the Royals’ fielders and Eric Hinske scampered to the plate, the Yankees came together last night to celebrate their 15th walk-off win of the season. Juan Miranda became the latest victim of the Walk-Off Pie, and with their 102nd win, the Yanks opened a season-high 10.5-game lead over the Red Sox.
Lost in the feel-good defeat of a much-maligned former Yankee was another solid start by A.J. Burnett. Joe touched upon Burnett’s outing in the recap, but it warrants a closer look. Burnett went 6.1 innings, and he didn’t give up much. The Royals managed to plate two runs — one earned — on three hits and three walks. Burnett struck out eight on the night.
For A.J., last night’s outing was another in a string of good September starts. After a rough five weeks in August and September, Burnett has now surrendered four earned runs over his last 19 innings. He has surrendered 17 hits and just nine walks in that span while striking out 25. In fact, if we look at Burnett’s bad start against the Orioles, we see that, after surrendering a grand slam to Brian Roberts, Burnett was nearly untouchable. That day, he retired 17 of the last 19 batters he faced and threw 5.2 one-hit innings.
If we head back to Sept. 8, we see yet another good A.J. Burnett start. Against Tampa, he threw six innings and allowed one run on four hits and three walks. He also struck out eight that day. So over his last five starts, he has thrown 32 innings with a 2.81 ERA and has given up 28 hits and 14 walks while striking out 37. That’s not too shabby for a second or third starter.
There is, however, a downside to A.J.’s success. As Steve Lombardi concisely puts it in a color-coded post, Burnett’s success has come with Jose Molina behind the plate. Throughout September, Molina has been A.J.’s caddy. In August, during A.J.’s bad starts — an early August debacle against the White Sox and a late August shellacking by the Red Sox — Jorge Posada was catching.
And so we fear what this means. As Joe speculated last week, it appears as though Joe Girardi will pair up A.J. Burnett and Jose Molina during the playoffs. Jorge Posada would ride the bench and be available to come into the game the minute Burnett is removed. The Yanks, however, contend that Posada sat out not due to A.J.’s pitching but because of his sore neck. I report; you decide.
It’s hard to stress how much of an offensive blackhole Molina has been this year. His hit today broke an 0-for-19 streak, and his triple slash line is .215/.295/.262. Jorge, meanwhile, is hitting .290/.369/.534. Molina’s VORP is currently -6.7; Jorge’s is 35.1. Molina has contributed -9.0 runs above (below?) average at the plate while Jorge’s contribution is a positive 19.7. Get the picture?
Joe Girardi can get cute with the lineup if he wants to. It is, after all, his team. If he honestly and truly believes that A.J. Burnett is that much better of a pitcher with Jose Molina behind the plate, then so be it. I remain skeptical and shudder to see the lineup card when Burnett takes the mound next week in Game 2 or 3 of the ALDS.
Every time Chad Gaudin and Joba Chamberalin take the mound this month, they are auditioning for the Yankees. They aren’t really trying out for much beyond two post-season starts, but these outings constitute auditions nonetheless. After two solid outings from both pitchers over the last four games, the Yanks’ fourth starter picture remains cloudy.
Joba, as we know, has been bad. After three strong starts to begin the season’s second half, he is now 5-4 with a 5.37 ERA after the All-Star Break. In 63.2 innings, he has given up 30 walks and 63 hits while striking out 51.
After a series of horrendous outings in late August and early September, Joba seemed to turn it around on Friday when he went 6 innings in a win. He allowed three earned runs on five hits while walking just one and striking out five. More important, however, was Joba’s opponent, as he seemingly broke out of his slump against the Red Sox, a potential ALCS enemy of the Yanks.
Meanwhile, Chad Gaudin has been more than serviceable as the team’s fifth starter since coming to the Yanks. He has made six starts and has thrown 32 innings. While Joe Girardi has kept him on a short leash, Gaudin hasn’t lost as a Yankee starter and owns a win. In those innings, he has given up 28 hits and 15 walks while striking out 23. His ERA as a Yankee starter is 3.09.
Yesterday, Gaudin did what he had to do in his audition. Against a weak Royals team, he went 6.2 innings and gave up a pair of runs on four hits, two walks and five strikeouts. He threw 57 of 92 pitches for strikes and generally coasted through the game.
In one sense, this past weekend did nothing to illuminate the Yanks’ pitching plans going forward. As soon as Detroit or the Twins clinch the Central, the Yanks will opt for the longer ALDS, and the fourth starter issue won’t come to a head unless and until the Yanks reach the American League Championship Series. Even then, we’ve burned a lot of pixels arguing over which pitcher stands to make two or perhaps three postseason starts.
Yet, in a way, this issue is important for Joba Chamberlain. If the Yanks are confident in Joba’s abilities and his arm strength, they will give him the ball. He has, after all, been the fourth starter for the entire 2009 season. He has stayed healthy and has generally given the Yanks a chance to win games. After all, the Yanks are 20-10 in his games. But the Bombers are undefeated in Gaudin’s six starts, and the team won’t overlook that fact either.
Right now, I have no answer, and when we have no answer, we do what bloggers do best: We poll the audience. So as we count down the hours until tonight’s Yankee game, riddle me this one. I voted for Joba, but I don’t think the Yanks could make a wrong choice here.