Sergio Mitre was named International League Pitcher of the Week. Meanwhile, Jesus Montero was asked what the biggest challenge going from A-ball to Double-A in an interview at the Futures Game, and he replied “nothing.” How awesome is that?
If you still have any interest in watching the paint dry the Homerun Derby, scroll down and talk about it here.
Triple-A Scranton is off until Thursday for the All Star break.
Double-A Trenton (4-3 loss to Connecticut)
Austin Krum: 0 for 3, 1 RBI
Reegie Corona: 0 for 4, 2 K
Eduardo Nunez, Jorge Vazquez, Chris Malec & Noah Hall: all 1 for 4 – Nunez scored a run … Vazquez drove in a run … Malec doubled … Hall K’ed
Richie Robnett: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR,1 RBI, 1 BB
Edwar Gonzalez: 2 for 4, 1 R, 2 2B, 2 K
RJ Baker: 0 for 3, 1 K – he allowed two stolen bases, but he gunned down three others
Wilkins DeLaRosa: 3.2 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 1-3 GB/FB – picked a runner off first
Josh Schmidt: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 0-2 GB/FB
Kevin Whelan: 3 IP, zeroes, 4 K, 3-2 GB/FB
It’s hard to believe the 2009 Homerun Derby is already upon us, it seems like we’re just now coming down from the Josh Hamilton high of last year (no pun intended, I swears it). Ben and I were in the rightfield upper deck for that show, and it’s hard to imagine anyone one-upping that anytime soon. It would be cool if someone did though.
Here are the eight participants, listed alphabetically because I have no idea what order they’re going in.
Just so I can gloat later, my money’s on Pena. Enjoy the Derby.
Photo Credit: Julie Jacobson, AP
I’ve always been rather skeptical of the idea of Red Sox Nation. Do fans really need to prove their love of their team through the cost of their fan package and a ludicrous faux-presidential election? While New England dithered with their quaint fan club, the Bronx fans simply went on cheering for the Bombers.
Well, I guess the Powers-That-Be have determined a fan club to a lucrative venture. Earlier today, the Yankees announced the formation of the Yankee Universe, an official Yankee fan club with “members exclusive benefits, unique access and special savings.”
Per the press release, members of the fan club with earn benefits that “extend to all aspects of the fan experience.” They get 10 percent discounts at the clubhouse store and online specials at the MLB.com Shop. Those holding a membership card and a ticket will get fast-tracked into the stadium at Gate 2. That one, by the way, is the gate all the way out in left field at the corner of Jerome Ave. and 162nd St. It’s not really worth the walk.
In reality, this fan club isn’t much of anything. For $19.95 for the rest of the season, members gain access to the Gameday Audio package and all of these benefits. It’s basically an MLB.com enticement with some perks. Some of the proceeds will go to the Department of Pediatrics at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Boston may have its nation, but we have an entire Universe. We win.
At 51-37, with the third best record in baseball, leading the Wild Card and just three games back in the AL East, the Yankees had a fine first half. Yet it was a tumultuous three months, wrought with streaks and injuries and strange trends, causing mass panic at times among Yankees fans. Over the extended All-Star Break, we’ll go over each position to see what went right, what went wrong, and how things look for the second half. First up we looked at the starting pitching, now it’s time to take a look at the relievers.
The 2008 bullpen was one of the best in the business – ranking second in baseball in both FIP (3.82) and K/9 (8.66) – and the relief corps was expected to approximate that performance in 2009. The cast of characters was essentially unchanged, save a contract extension to southpaw Damaso Marte. Brian Bruney was set to join him as the primary bridge to Mariano Rivera, while rookie Phil Coke was primed to assume a key role. The rest of the pen was going to be filled out by a series of interchangeable parts, including Edwar Ramirez, Jose Veras, Jon Albaladejo, and David Robertson.
The results so far have been a mixed bag. The bullpen was dreadful in April, better in May, and flat out dominant in June. They currently rank second in the majors with a 1.26 WHIP (just one baserunner every 100 IP out of the league lead), yet their ERA (4.19) is just 22nd best in the game. The relievers have thrown the fourth-most innings in the American League, a number that has to come down to avoid a second half burnout. That burden falls on the starting rotation, however.
The bullpen’s revival is the result of the the massive turnover in personnel from April to June. Let’s touch on the major pieces.
Coming off a fairly major shoulder surgery, Mariano has been as fantastic as ever in 2009. Of course he did experience a rough go of it early after giving up some homers, but since May 21st he’s posted a 1.86 ERA and a 0.67 WHIP. Mo’s 14.33 K/BB is far and away the best in the game (next best is Scott Downs’ 8.06 mark) and the best of his Hall of Fame career. It took a little longer than usual, but Mo’s in midseason form and is as good as ever. He’s the least of the team’s concerns right now.
Brian Bruney & Damaso Marte
Bruney came out of the gate pitching like a man on a mission, out to prove all the B-Jobbers wrong about the lack of a solid 8th inning option. He struck out 12 and allowed just three hits over his first nine appearances, but went down with an elbow injury in late April. After being out for four weeks, Bruney lied about being healthy and came back too soon, ultimately landing himself back on the disabled list for another four weeks. He’s been nothing short of terrible since returning, allowing opponents to tattoo him for a .930 OPS. Right now, he’s a part of the problem and not the solution.
Marte’s season is just 5.1 ugly innings long, as a shoulder injury has shelved him since late April. When he was on the mound he was terrible, but how much of that is because of the injury we’ll never know. Currently rehabbing in Tampa, there’s still no timetable for his return.
Phil Coke & Phil Hughes
After a dynamite showing last September, Coke looked like he was poised to become the shutdown lefty reliever the Yanks have lacked for years. Coke’s overall numbers are rock solid, as are his splits against lefties, but his season has been a bit of a roller coaster ride. He was very good in April, pretty terrible in May, but fantastic since June rolled around. The only member of the bullpen to stick on the 25-man active roster all season besides Mariano Rivera, it’s no stretch to call Coke the Yanks’ second most reliable reliever of 2009.
The other half of Michael Kay’s stupid little Philthys Club, Hughes moved into the bullpen after Chien-Ming Wang appeared ready to become an effective starter once again, and has done nothing but dominate. His numbers out of the bullpen (18.1 IP, 0.65 WHIP, .379 OPS against) are better than Joba Chamberlain‘s first 18.1 innings of relief in 2007 (0.82 WHIP, .467 OPS against), more evidence that if you put a good starter in the bullpen he’d be a damn good reliever. There’s not much to say here, Phil Hughes the Reliever has been tremendous.
Al Aceves & David Robertson
The dramatic turnaround of the bullpen coincides with Aceves’ recall from the minor leagues. His 40 innings of stellar relief work have been just what the doctor ordered, as he’s pitched in every role and succeeded in every situation. Robertson has had his moments, mostly in low leverage spots, but he’s been an effective super-high strikeout arm that can go multiple innings if need be. He’s been pretty much everything you could want your fifth best reliever to be.
Jon Albaladejo, Edwar Ramirez, Brett Tomko & Jose Veras
Edwar and Veras were two stalwarts in last year’s pen, providing rock-solid middle relief all summer. This year was a different story, as the two combined to allow 28 runs and 70 baserunners in 43 IP. Edwar soon found himself back in Triple-A while Veras found himself with the Indians after being designated for assignment. Albaladejo has been up and down while Tomko was mostly down, but both guys have mostly acted as the last man out of the pen. Neither has been great nor horrible, they’re just kind of there.
The Up and Down Crew
Anthony Claggett was terrible in his one outing and doesn’t figure to be back up anytime soon. Stephen Jackson didn’t even manage to get into the game in his eight days on the big league roster before ending up in Pittsburgh. Mark Melancon has been meh in his limited showings. Zach Kroenke, Romulo Sanchez, Amaury Sanit and others are stashed away in the minors awaiting their turn.
Expectations for the second half
With the success the bullpen has experienced over the last month or so, it’s tough not to be optimistic about the second half. However, a key piece in Hughes or Aceves (or both if it comes to it) could be lost if their services are needed in the rotation. Don’t be surprised if the team seeks out another relief arm at this year’s trade deadline. Regardless, the Yankees will need the bullpen to do the job consistently in the second half if they plan on making the postseason.
The 2009 Double-A Eastern League All Star Game is being played right in our backyard this year, as Trenton’s Waterfront Park will host the event for the first time since 1996. Since it’s so close to the New York area, plenty of Yankee fans and RAB readers will be heading to the park Wednesday night to watch some of the best young players in the game have at it. This is a little primer for those of you heading to the game, so you know which players are the ones you should pay special attention to.
But before we get to the game, we should talk about the Homerun Derby, which is set to start at 4:45pm on Wednesday. Yankee farmhand Jorge Vazquez will be one of the nine players taking part in the event, and he would have more than the 13 homers he currently has if he didn’t miss a bunch of time due to injury. Double-A Trenton hitting coach and former big leaguer Frank Menechino will also take some hacks in the Derby, even though he managed to hit just 119 homers in over 5,600 professional plate appearances. You can see the rest of the Derby lineup here.
As for the game, here are the rosters for both the Northern Division Team and the Southern Division Team. The Yankees have six prospects in the game: Vazquez, LHP Mike Dunn, RHP Zach McAllister, RHP Josh Schmidt, C Jesus Montero, and SS Eduardo Nunez. Since they won the league title last year, Trenton’s coaching staff will manage the Northern Team, led by manager Tony Franklin. After the jump, we’ll breakdown the rosters for each club.
At 51-37, with the third best record in baseball, leading the Wild Card and just three games back in the AL East, the Yankees had a fine first half. Yet it was a tumultuous three months, wrought with streaks and injuries and strange trends, causing mass panic at times among Yankees fans. Over the extended All-Star Break, we’ll go over each position to see what went right, what went wrong, and how things look for the second half. First up: starting pitching.
The Yankees went into the 2008-2009 off-season focussed on adding a couple of starters. They got their guys in CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. After protracted negotiations they also brought back Andy Pettitte to anchor the back end of the rotation. Sabathia, Burnett, Wang, Pettitte, and Chamberlain looked as formidable as any rotation in the AL heading into the season. Plus, Phil Hughes waited in the wings as a viable backup plan. Fans could justifiably expect big things from these guys.
The staff wasn’t quite as dominant as we’d hoped, with each starter hitting a rocky path with varying degrees of severity. It led to some ugly results. The Yankees starters have combined for a 4.76 ERA through 88 games, which ranks 12th in the AL, besting only Baltimore and Cleveland. They’ve averaged under six innings per start, which is bad, and lead the AL in walks, which is really bad. It’s safe to say that the rotation has not lived up to expectations so far.
Part of that rests on the shoulders of Chien-Ming Wang, whose first three starts were so historically bad that they skew the numbers of the staff overall. I won’t remove them here, since they did happen. Still, even if we did remove them, the Yanks would still be at or near the top of the league in walks, and still probably wouldn’t be at six innings per start. Wang’s ineffectiveness is no excuse for the whole staff.
There were some bright spots, of course, so we’ll hand out props and boos to each individual starter.
Signed as the ace, CC has mostly lived up to expectations. He got off to a rocky start, as seems to be his calling card. He did manage one gem among his April starts, but that was against the pathetic Kansas City Royals. He found his mojo in May, though, coinciding with the return of A-Rod. Since then he’s 7-3 with a 3.43 ERA, throwing 65 percent of his pitches for strikes and holding opposing hitters to a .218 batting average. If he keeps that up through the second half — and over his career this seems to be the case — he’ll continue to be the workhorse ace the Yankees signed him as.
A.J. had his peaks and valleys early on, leading many to continue questioning the signing. Fans were especially vocal after he blew a game against the Red Sox in which the Yanks got out to an early lead against Josh Beckett. A.J. fanned the flames again when he couldn’t get out of the third inning in the repeat trip to Fenway. Since then, Burnett has been the best starter on the staff, going 4-1 with a 1.34 ERA in five starts. This is the Burnett the Yankees signed. Like Sabathia, Burnett has historically had slightly better second half numbers than first half. If he sticks to the trend, the Yanks will be set atop the rotation.
It was tough to gauge how effective Chien-Ming Wang would be after suffering a lisfranc injury last June. He seemed fine, but not great, in Spring Training, leaving few worries as the season opened. But then he sputtered in his first start, surrendering seven runs to the Orioles. His next start was so short that the Yankees called on Nick Swisher to pitch an inning when the game was far out of hand. His third start led to the worst drubbing of the year. The Yankees then placed him on the DL, giving him a chance to recover more fully from his injury. Then they rushed him back, and had to put him in the rotation at the expense of Phil Hughes, who had just started to pitch well in that spot.
Wang currently resides on the 15-day DL with a shoulder strain, and the severity of the injury is unclear. He’ll work his way back, but it’s tough for any Yankees fans to have faith in Wanger this year. He’ll have to earn back trust not only from the fans — which is mostly meaningless — but of the front office and coaching staff.
Heading into the season, Pettitte was viewed as the team’s fifth best starter. To this point, he’s mostly pitched like it. He’s had his good starts, and on those days it’s easy to forget his bad starts. But when he’s bad, he takes the team out of the game. Andy likes to blame the new Yankee Stadium for his woes, but his last clunker was on the road. Pettitte is another guy who has historically been better in the second half, but at age 37 one has to wonder whether he can continue that trend this year.
Yet another Yankee with ups and downs. He got lucky in some of his earlier starts, as he kept the team in the game while not throwing enough innings, not throwing enough strikes, and not throwing his pitches with the conviction we’ve seen in the past. He’s had starts that make us remember how he pitched as a starter last year, ramping up his fastball to that familiar 97 range, but for most of his starts he’s sat much slower on the gun. He’s turned himself into essentially a two-pitch pitcher, throwing either a fastball or a slider 87 percent of the time. He’ll need to work in his curveball and changeup more often to find success. Thankfully, even though he was bombed last time out, his fastball was up in the 94 mph range, which is probably where it should be as a starter.
In the second inning of Phil Hughes’s start against Baltimore on May 8, fans hung their heads and groaned, “not this again!” Hughes looked like he did last year, having trouble finding the plate and giving up hit after hit. He struggled through his next few starts before shutting down Texas for eight innings. It looked like he was finding his way, but after a rough subsequent outing against Cleveland the Yankees moved Hughes to the bullpen in favor of Chien-Ming Wang. He’s been lights out since the transition, which is a good sign, but it appears he’ll stay there for now even though the Yankees need another starter. We can only hope Hughes has learned a thing or two out there and that he’ll put it to work when he returns to the rotation next year (though hopefully this year).
Expectations for the second half
With so many pitchers on the staff who have historically pitched better in the second half, it’s tough to not have heightened expectations — especially considering how mediocre they were as a staff in the first half. They might not live up to those expectations, but we’re right to have them. The Yankees rotation has not been as good as advertised, and they’ll absolutely need to be in the second half if the team is to retake the division.
Record Last Week: 3-4 (44 RS, 45 RA)
Season Record: 51-37 (495 RS, 435 RA), 3.0 GB
Opponents This Week: All Star Break, vs. Detroit (3 games)
Top stories from last week:
- The week started with a frustrating loss in the series finale against the Blue Jays. Hard to complain about winning three of four against the division rival, but everyone was really gunning for that four game sweep.
- Up in Minnesota for the final time on Tuesday, CC Sabathia kicked the series off with a convincing win. AJ Burnett battled the next day and kept the team in it long enough for another win, and even though spot starter AL Aceves didn’t give the team any length on Thursday, they were able to finish off the sweep.
- The Yanks decided to start their All Star break early when they got to Anaheim, coasting as they were swept at the hands of the Angels. Hopefully they’ll rebound nicely in the second half after their seven day vacation.
- A couple of important Yankees are slumping at the moment, including All Star starter Mark Teixeira. Andy Pettitte has been struggling since last summer, and Joba Chamberlain‘s last few starts have been nothing short of dreadful. I even suggested he should go to Triple-A before his latest meltdown. The Yanks could make a run at the available Roy Halladay, but it’ll probably cost a few of their untouchables.
- The only roster move of the week was the call up of Mark Melancon to aid an overtaxed bullpen.
- Down on the farm, Sergio Mitre put together a pair of strong starts to put himself in consideration for a post-All Star Break spot start. Jesus Montero was ranked the third best prospect in the game according to Baseball America’s Midseason Top 25 Prospects List.
- Alex Rodriguez climbed into the top ten on the career homerun list over the weekend, nothing short of amazing (PEDs or not) considering he went turn 34 until later this month.
Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.
In each game of the past series, the Yankees have had an early lead. In each one they’ve squandered it. They’ve fought back to varying degrees, but in all three cases it was not enough. For most of the series the pitching took the brunt of the blame, but yesterday’s 5-4 loss was a team effort.
Once again, the Angels did it mostly with one big inning. Today it was the fourth, and it came against a bunch of guys CC Sabatia should have sat down handily. It started with a single by Maicer Izturis and a double by Bobby Abreu. Forgivable, especially when he got Napoli to ground out on the second pitch. Abreu was still on third with one out, but it wasn’t a bad situation, especially with Gary Matthews at the dish.
Then Sabathia walked Matthews — Matthews of the .281 OBP. Matthews of the .224 BA. Matthews of the .322 SLG. Walked him. Didn’t even make him take his bat off his shoulders. Then, after going ahead 0-2 on Howie Kendrick — Kendrick of the .228/.274/.342 — he allowed a double over the head of Erik Hinske. The subsequent run-scoring groundout was of little solace.
Yet there was an end in sight — Anaheim’s parade of shitty hitters had not yet ended. Still awaiting a turn at the plate was Robb Quinlan. Quinlan, whom CC had punched out with nifty changeup the inning prior. This time he singled in Kendrick. The baseball gods must have had a hearty chuckle at CC’s expense. They showed their clemency by telling Quinlan to steal on Molina. That didn’t work out too well.
After failing to score in the fifth or sixth, the Yanks put John Lackey on the ropes in the seventh. The Yanks got a run on a double by Melky and a single by Posada, pinch-hitting for Molina. The baseball gods, still feeling bad about their fourth-inning prank, let Brett Gardner reach on an error. Jeter did what Jeter does, and the Yanks were set up: bases loaded, none out.
If this were the Royals, there would be questions about whether they could plate some of those ducks. Seattle fans might fear their team would squander the situation. The Yankees? With Teixeira and Rodriguez up next? Perish the thought. With the score already closed to 4-2, the Yankees looked to take the lead with their two best hitters at the plate.
Again the baseball gods had a little fun. Teixeira struck out. A-Rod bounced to third, which resulted in an unlikely 5-3 double play. To twist the knife just a bit deeper, the Angels scored another run in the seventh. With two outs and two strikes on Chone Figgins, CC gave up a triple. (Could Melky have played that one better? I think so.) Next hitter, Izturis, with two strikes hit a flare over second base.
The Yankees again loaded the bases in the eighth, and were again done in by a double play. This time they scored, but not enough. Clutchy Cabrera hit an RBI single with the bases jacked, but the Yanks couldn’t plate two. Jorge delivered with a sac fly. Then Nick Swisher, pinch-hitting for Brett Gardner, got two questionable strike calls. He hit what looked like a bouncer towards the middle, but it never actually bounced. It landed in Darren Oliver’s glove, and the runners were too far off base. Double play. Rally over.
It wasn’t a pretty series. The Yanks had leads early, and threatened late. Nothing came of it. They’ll head into the All-Star Break losers of three straight — to the same team which has plagued them year after year. It’s disheartening to fans, and it’s surely disheartening to the players. They’ll move on, though. Second half starts up on Thursday.
See? The baseball gods have smiled on us in the end. They have given us four days off after that debacle. Also, Phil Hughes is awesome. Just wanted to get that in there somewhere.
The 2009 Futures Game just came back from a long rain delay. Jesus Montero drove in a run with an RBI fielder’s choice in his only at bat so far. Manny Banuelos hasn’t pitched yet. If you want to talk about the game, make sure you use our Futures Game Thread.
Triple-A Scranton (3-2 win over Buffalo)
Kevin Russo: 1 for 3, 1 BB, 1 K
Ramiro Pena: 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K – first game out in centerfield … 12 for 41 (.293) since being optioned
Austin Jackson & PJ Pilittere: both 0 for 3, 1 BB – Jackson swiped a bag
Shelley Duncan: 0 for 1, 3 BB – he’s getting the Bonds treatment … no, not that kind of treatment
Eric Duncan & Yurendell DeCaster: both 0 for 2, 1 K, 1 HBP – DeCaster drew a walk & K’ed
Colin Curtis: 0 for 4, 1 K
Doug Bernier: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 SB
Sergio Mitre: 8 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 15-4 GB/FB – 64 of 82 pitches were strikes (78%) … if that’s not enough to earn him a start after the break, I don’t know what is
Edwar Ramirez: 1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0-2 GB/FB – 15 of 21 pitches were strikes (71.4%)
Is it too early for a HIP HIP?