One day later and already the Yankees are changing the plans.
Tyler Kepner first broke the news early this morning that the Yankees were considering changing their weekend pitching plans. A few hours later, George A. King III reported in The Post that Joba would start on Sunday and then get a few extra days off this week.
According to King — and remember, this is an unconfirmed report from everyone’s favorite tabloid — the Yankees were concerned that by throwing Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre in back-to-back games, they would be left short-handed in the pen and with only Alfredo Aceves as a long-relief option. Mitre will get the ball on Saturday; Joba will pitch Sunday; and then Joba probably won’t start again until the Texas series at the end of the month. The Yanks may very well give him eight or nine days between starts.
Some fans will be up in the arms over this news, but I have no problem with it. The Yanks don’t short-hand themselves right now, and by stretching out Joba’s rest, they can better line up their rotation. In the end, it’s all about the innings, and a column by Joel Sherman drives home that point today. He writes:
Let’s consider this from a different perspective. In 2007, Chamberlain was progressing wonderfully as a starter in his first pro season. Without interference, he would have thrown 120 minor league innings, positioning him for roughly 160 innings between the minors and majors last year and roughly 200 this year. But the big club needed a reliever, and Chamberlain was instrumental in getting the 2007 Yankees to the playoffs.
That ignited a debate about his true role while retarding his normal progression, because he was never returning to the minors. But the Yankees have a prescribed innings total for each prospect and this is the time of year throughout their system that they are giving extra day’ rest or limiting innings as, for example, they have just done with Ivan Nova at Triple-A. Few notice because it is happening in minor league towns. But Chamberlain is still going through his build-up phase in New York.
Of course it is tough to give Chamberlain more rest or fewer innings in a playoff race. But, I believe it would be negligent to flush all precaution. It is a tough tightrope, but a necessary one to walk.
Sherman makes a similar point in a blog post as well. He says that the Yanks’ “Win-Now” attitude in 2007 cost Joba innings this year. It is, supposedly, a lesson in balancing patience and planning for the future with the demands and allure of a World Series title.
There is only one problem with Sherman’s charge: It’s not quite accurate. A look back at Joba’s innings tells a slightly different story. In 2005, at the age of 19, he threw 118.2 innings, and the next season, he threw a hair under 90 innings. At that point, the Yankees would have wanted him to throw around 120 in 2007, and between three Minor League stops, a stint in the Bronx bullpen and 3.2 postseason innings, he reached 116 innings.
As the Yankees have done with Andrew Brackman this year, so they did with Joba in 2007. Whether it was going to be in Scranton or the Bronx, Joba would have moved to the bullpen at around the time he did. In the end, he still reached his 2007 innings.
With 2007 in the books, the Yanks’ goal for 2008 was to bring Joba up to around 150 innings. When he went down with a shoulder injury in August, however, those plans were scraped. Joba returned to the bullpen in September, and the Yanks, for reasons unexplained, never had him start again. He finished 2008 with just 100.1 innings, and here we are in 2009 with the Yanks shooting for around 160 innings for Joba.
Despite this history, Sherman’s point still stands: The Yankees are wise to keep a close eye on Joba. Next year, he should be at a cap of 180 innings, and that will be enough to end this constant obsession-slash-controversy over Joba. He is and remains a starting pitcher.
When asked what three additions have meant most to the 2009 Yankees, the first names that probably come to mind are A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia, and Mark Teixeira. All three signed with the Yankees over the off-season, and they’ve been excellent upgrades over their 2008 counterparts. Still, Dave Pinto has three different names in mind: Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui, and Robinson Cano. Both were on the 2008 team, but the first two missed significant time with injuries, and Cano had a horrible first half and a good but not compensatory second half. Their returns to form this year have been a huge difference for this year’s team.
In 2008 Robinson Cano stepped to the plate 634 times and hit .271/.305/.410, his worst season since he was a rookie in 2005. His defense also suffered, as we saw him have trouble making some routine plays. It came at a curious time, as Cano had signed a four-year, $30 million contract over the off-season. Baseball fans love narrative, and this one wrote itself: Cano was lazy and he needed Larry Bowa to return to form.
This year Robinson has appeared at the plate 489 times and is hitting .318/.352/.513. He already had 18 homers and a team-high 32 doubles (tied with Tex). He still has his ups and downs, but that’s inherently Cano. He doesn’t necessarily rely on waiting for his pitch. Instead, he relies on timing, and sometimes his timing is going to be out of whack. That means a slump here and there, but as long as he can keep those limited, as he has this year, he’s going to be a valuable piece of any Yankees team.
Despite knee troubles that kept him out of action for two months, Matsui didn’t have a terrible 2008. He hit the DL hitting .323/.404/.458, which is fine for a 34-year-old with bad knees. Problem was, the injury came at a poor time. The Yankees were trying to pull of their second-half surge, but their offense sputtered in early August. A healthy Matsui would have done wonders then. He came back on August 19, but posted a paltry .209/.269/.326 line over 93 plate appearances the rest of the way. It left open the question of Hideki’s effectiveness in 2009.
This year Hideki has almost hit his plate appearance total from 2008, but is performing at a much higher level. The Yankees made the decision to keep him out of the field this season, and it’s paying off, as he’s hitting .269/.365/.516. We saw some extreme streakiness from Matsui earlier in the year, but it’s seemed to stabilize a bit lately. His .881 OPS is fourth on the team, and he’s had his share of big hits. The Yankees went on a similar post-break run this year as last, but this year were able to sustain it. Hideki is a big reason for that.
Finally, it’s impossible to talk about the 2008 season and not mention the loss of Jorge Posada. He and the team downplayed shoulder pain in Spring Training, and it turned out to be bad. Really bad. He hit the DL at the end of April in hopes that rest and rehab would heal it, but that just wasn’t the case. From mid-June, when he returned, to mid-July, when it was finally clear that he couldn’t go on, Posada hit .248/.380/.371, a far cry from the power he’s displayed in the past. Overall, the Yanks got a .230/.290/.335 line from their catchers, something they haven’t been used to.
After hitting the DL in May, it seems like Jorge’s been just fine physically. Among AL catchers with at least 200 plate appearances, Posada ranks third in OPS. The Yankees as a team are also third in the AL in catcher OPS. They were ninth last season.
While Tex, CC, and A.J. have been fine additions to the team, the Yanks have gotten what they’ve needed from their in-house guys, and then some. Before the season started, we asked which Yankee had the best chance of bouncing back from a poor 2008. Unfortunately, there was no all of the above option. That would have been the correct one. Jorge, Hideki, and Cano (and even Swisher) have all come around and have helped the Yankees greatly in 2009. They’re as big a part of the team’s success as the new guys.
Last night was one of those games where everything goes right. The offense piled up 15 hits, seven of which went for extra bases. CC Sabathia tossed eight dominant innings, striking out a season-high 10 and allowing just five baserunners. It added up to a landslide Yankees victory to kick-off a seven-game West Coast trip. Even with A-Rod and Posada sitting this one out, the Yanks still managed to pummel the Mariners, 11-1.
The Yankees started hitting early, and didn’t let up all game. They scored in five of nine innings, and put up multiple runs in four of them. Their seven extra base hits included a long home run by Derek Jeter, two shots to right by Hideki Matsui, and two doubles down the right field line by Damon. It helped that M’s manager Don Wakamatsu left in starter Ian Snell for six-plus innings despite obvious ineffectiveness.
One side effect of the offensive explosion, as requested yesterday, is that it gives Mo another day off. He proclaimed himself fit to close today, but Girardi will certainly feel more comfortable handing him the ball tomorrow after two full days’ rest. Not that he’d be uneasy if it came down to that tonight. It’s just that concerns about Mo’s “cranky” shoulder will be a day further in the past tomorrow. As the Yankees try to put some more distance between themselves and the Sox, Mo’s presence will be crucial.
On the mound, it was all Carsten Charles. A few weeks go, Mike commented on an article questioning CC’s contribution. Not his net contribution, which is decidedly positive. But rather his contribution in relation to the expectations. At the time Sabathia was 10-6 with a 3.67 ERA, quality by any measure, but was it ace-quality? CC didn’t help his case with an erratic start against Tampa Bay, and then a hot and cold start against Chicago. But over his last two starts CC has tossed 15.2 innings, allowing just five hits and one run, striking out 19 to four walks. They’ve been the definition of dominant.
During the month of August over his career, Sabathia has startd 49 games and has a 31-9 record, pitching 339 innings and allowing just 119 runs (3.16 ERA). Last year it was his best month, as he allowed just six runs over 48.1 innings, striking out 51 and walking eight. That was an insane year, and a repeat shouldn’t be expected — especially because it came in the much weaker NL Central. STill, CC has done his job these last two times out, and in emphatic fashion. He’ll get another tune-up start in Oakland before he gets another shot at Boston in Fenway. CC’s gotta be geared up for that one.
The game was awesome in every way. We had the pleasure of seeing the Yankees rack up hit after hit, run after run. We witnessed one of CC’s most dominant starts of the season. And we got it all in under three hours, a treat for a weeknight West Coast game. With the win and Justin Verlander’s dominance of Boston earlier in the day, the Yankees are again 6.5 games ahead of the Red Sox.
As if things couldn’t get any better, Carig notes that A-Rod is 50-50 for tomorrow. Considering how hard he got hit on the elbow and how questionable things seemed before the game, that’s quite good news. However, with Mitre and Gaudin going Saturday and Sunday, perhaps it’s best to have A-Rod feeling 100 percent for those games. The team might need the offense a bit more.
For tomorrow night, it’s Andy Pettitte vs. Ryan Rowland-Smith. A Friday West Coast game isn’t bad at all.
This one’s good for the ol’ run differential.
I like where this is going.
Make sure you scroll down for tonight’s game thread.
Game 1 (4-2 loss to Norfolk in 7 innings) makeup of yesterday’s rain out
Kevin Russo: 0 for 1, 2 BB - he’s been on base 133 times in 65 games
Reegie Corona, Juan Miranda & John Rodriguez: all 0 for 3 – Corona committed a throwing error on the same day he was named the Best Defensive Second Baseman in the Eastern League
Austin Jackson: 1 for 2, 1 BB
Shelley Duncan, Cody Ransom & Yurendell DeCaster: all 1 for 3 – Shelley hit a solo jack & K’ed … Ransom doubled & scored a run
Brian Peterson: 0 for 3, 1 K – Frankie Cervelli will be back from his hand injury soon, so his days are numbered
Romulo Sanchez: 3.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 4-3 GB/FB, 1 E (fielding) – 49 of 80 pitches were strikes (61.3%)
Mark Melancon: 2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1 HB, 3-2 GB/FB – 24 of 37 pitches were strikes (64.9%)
The dust has settled, and we can finally take a toll of the wounded Yankees. It’s not quite as bad as we might have imagined yesterday, but the Yankees aren’t carrying a full crew tonight. A-Rod is unavailable after taking a fastball off the elbow. Sounds like he might miss some more time as well, but we’ll know more tomorrow. Posada has some sore fingers, but says he could play. He’s not in the starting lineup. Mariano Rivera says his shoulder is fine and can pitch. Finally, Derek Jeter sits atop the order and at shortstop, despite yesterday’s hit by pitch.
That’s relatively good news for the Yanks. They have a slightly depleted lineup tonight, but even when they’re at 80 percent the Yanks lineup is better than most of the league. Plus, the pitching matchup is decidedly in their favor.
Taking the bump for Seattle is Ian Snell. Many Yankees fans, your truly included, wanted to see the team make a run at Snell, who fell out of favor in Pittsburgh. He ended up going to Seattle along with Jack Wilson, and will make his third start for the M’s tonight. His first outing wasn’t bad, as he lasted six innings on just 84 pitches, allowing two runs while playing the Texas Rangers on the road. The three walks and two homers were certainly a concern, but the results were there.
Snell hit a bit of a snag in his last start at home against the Rays. The M’s are known for having a spacious park and some excellent defense, but as the cliche goes you can’t defend against the walk. Snell issued six of them while facing just 13 batters. The affair ended after an inning and a third, in which Snell threw 60 pitches, just 27 for strikes.
In 2007 Snell had a seemingly breakout year when he scrapped his curveball to go fastball-slider-change. He pitched to a 3.76 ERA that year while reducing his walks. This led the pirates to sign him to a three-year, $8.6 million deal in Spring Training 2008, with two club options. Snell thanked the club for their confidence by completely bombing in 2008, walking two more batters per nine than he did in 07 and allowing way, way too many hits (201 in 164.1 IP).
Things haven’t been much better for Snell in 2009. He was terrible, and was so displeased with the club which gave him so much money that he requested an assignment to AAA, infamously striking out 17 in his first appearance there. This led to the pre-deadline trade.
Snell has picked up the curveball again this year, and emphatically so. He’s now throwing it nearly as much as his slider, and he’s also started throwing the change like he did in 2007. Problem is, it hasn’t changed much. You can have great stuff, but if you walk the farm you can’t expect to win ballgames.
Thankfully, the Yankees have CC Sabathia on the mound. I need not say more about the big lefty.
And on the mound, number fifty-two, CC Sabathia.
Ah west coast baseball. Nothing quite like staying up past your bedtime to watch the Yanks. Here’s some stray links to help you pass the time…
- Finally, a Michael Kay drinking game. We need to come up with one for Sterling now.
- After inking a deal with Cablevision to broadcast Yankee games online a few months ago, the service is now expanding to include Verizon FiOS subscribers. Time Warner can’t be far behind, right? Eh, doesn’t matter, their sevice sucks anyway.
- What side of The Damon Debate are you on? I’d be cool with a one year deal plus an option, but only at a reduced cost. Like, $5M per plus incentives.
- Baseball America polled scouts, managers, etc., and named Austin Jackson the Best Batting Prospect in the Triple-A International Leage (subs. req’d). Zach McAllister has the Best Control and Reegie Corona is the Best Defensive Second Baseman in the Double-A Eastern League.
- Jayson Stark has a great piece on the Stephen Strasburg situation, which I suggest you check out. The signing deadline is next Monday at midnight, and I’m still in the camp that thinks he’s going to sign. It’s almost impossible for his stock to be any higher, and if he has to “settle” for $15-18M, he’d still crush the previous draft record and be set for life. How can you turn that down as a 21-yr old?
- While on the subject of the draft, Bradley Suttle‘s $1.3M bonus in 2007 is no longer a fourth round record. The Royals broke it today when they signed ex-Yank draftee Chris Dwyer for $1.5M. Suttle, meanwhile, is out for the year with a shoulder issue.
- Olympic baseball is no more. At least until 2020. I might as well point you towards this post from my 2008 Olympics coverage since we just talked about Strasburg.
- Bryce Harper: good at baseball.
- Former Yankee Andy Cannizaro was traded to the White Sox. Andy hit .250-.333-.625 in nine plate appearances with the Bombers back in 2006.
- Joe would kill me if I didn’t mention this: Les Paul, the man who invented the electric guitar and is responsible for rock music as we know it, passed away today. At 94-yrs old, the dude was still playing shows in the city this year. A true legend.
Anyway, use this as your open thread for the night. We’ve got a few hours to kill before the Yanks-Fightin’ Ichiros game starts, so talk about whatever you like here. Just be cool.
Late add by Joe: Over the past few weeks I’ve been noticing a trend in the comments that get sent to the spam filter. Not only do most baseball-reference links go there, but if you use the word badass, without a space, your comment will not show up. Why that is, I have no idea. It’s just that ever “please moderate comment” email I get seems to have that word in it.
As the Yankees head west in an effort to continue their run of amazing baseball, the team is dealing with a few consequential injuries. While Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are nursing HBP-induced bruises, Mariano Rivera is out with a cranky shoulder.
For Rivera, as Joe wrote last night, the mid-August slump-and-injury is an annual rite of passage. What the real deal is, no one knows. In his Under the Knife column today, Will Carroll claims that Rivera’s shoulder is “inflamed and a bit sore.” Rivera is, after all, 49 innings removed from off-season shoulder surgery.
While I believe that Phil Hughes would inherit the closer mantle were Rivera to be unavailable this weekend, what struck me about Carroll’s coverage of the Yanks’ pen was his claim about Joe Girardi‘s reliever usage patterns. “The back of the bullpen,” he wrote, “is being treated like Joe Torre never left, and that could be an issue.”
Carroll’s claim directly contradicted a Baseball Prospectus article from Wednesday. In that piece, John Perrotto praised Girardi’s mixing and matching out of the pen. Wrote Perrotto:
In the course of getting there, Girardi is being lauded for turning a bullpen that, beyond closer Mariano Rivera, was perceived to be a weakness to many mainstream observers coming into the season into a strong point. Girardi has pieced together a quality bullpen without having any of his pitchers ranking in the top 10 in the AL in relief innings pitched.
“The bullpen, to me, is something you really have to watch,” Girardi said. “You have to be careful that you don’t fall in love with one guy because then you wear him down and he can no longer be effective. The key is to be effective for the whole year, not just two weeks or a month.”
As we attempt to assess Joe Girardi’s managerial efforts, let’s try to figure out which BP author is telling the truth. Submitted for your approval are a few select years of Yankee bullpen usage. I’ve chosen this year and last year to see how Girardi employs the pen and three years of Joe Torre’s recent tenure — 2007, 2004 and 2002. I picked 2007 because it was his last year in the Bronx, 2004 because he killed a few arms that year and 2002 in memory of Steve Karsay. To me, those bullpens are what Carroll means when he writes that “Joe Torre never left.” The cutoff for innings was 30 by game 114, the current point in the 2009 season.
On May 4, the Yankees placed Damaso Marte on the 15-day DL, retroactive to April 26, after seven pretty poor performances. The injury was termed tendinitis and weakness in his left shoulder. That’s never good news, especially for a guy who came back from the WBC nursing an injury. The outlook grew a bit bleaker when Marte took a trip to Dr. Andrews’s office in Alabama, but the good doctor didn’t find anything wrong. That was in mid-June. We’re now in mid-August, and we still haven’t heard anything about Marte returning any time soon.
Marte’s rehab assignment began on July 16 when he pitched an inning for the GCL Yankees. He then moved up to AAA Scranton, where he’s made 10 appearances so far. In his last 5.1 innings he’s allowed two hits, walked three, and struck out four, allowing no runs. It would seem from the results that he’s near a return. But, again, we haven’t heard anything to that effect from anyone. Just how long will Marte stay on this rehab assignment?
MLB rules allow for rehabbing players to play in the minors for 30 days. Since Marte first appeared on July 16, his clock started then. Today marks Day 27, so unless the Yankees pull him off the assignment for some reason, he’ll have to rejoin the team by Monday, in Oakland. It’s strange that he’s so close, yet the Yankees have been tight-lipped about his return.
If they were so inclined they could pull the same move they did with Humberto Sanchez last year. When his rehab clock was almost up they shut him down with another injury. When he finally got back into games, his clock re-started. Marte, of course, is a different situation. He’s a major league vet, and unlike Sanchez last year, the Yankees would be bringing him right back on the 25-man roster, whereas Sanchez would have been optioned to the minors. The move doesn’t seem likely, but it can’t be ruled out.
Assuming Marte does come back on Monday, as per his rehab clock, what move would the Yankees make to free up a roster spot? Would they dare option David Robertson while he’s pitching so well? Phil Coke? Would they go with 13 pitchers until rosters expand on September 1 and option Ramiro Pena? Those seem like the only three possible moves, and for one reason or another neither seems particularly palatable.
We’ll soon find out the Yankees plan. Until then all we can do is wonder. It sure would be nice to finally see some productivity out of the reliever to whom the Yanks committed three years and $12 million. If he can produce at anywhere near his previous levels, he’ll be a tremendous asset to the Yankees down the stretch.