Hooray for offense.
Two years ago today on DotF, Matt Carson homered for the second consecutive day to give Double-A Trenton it’s second consecutive 1-0 win.
Triple-A Scranton (10-5 win over Lehigh Valley)
Kevin Russo & John Rodriguez: both 1 for 3 – Russo walked twice & scored a run … J-Rod walked & K’ed
Colin Curtis: 2 for 5, 2 R, 1 RBI
Austin Jackson: 1 for 5, 1 R, 2 K
Shelley Duncan: 3 for 5, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 4 RBI - SHELLEY SMASH!!!
Juan Miranda: 1 for 4 R, 2 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
Yurendell DeCaster: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 RBI
Reegie Corona: 2 for 2, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 E (throwing)
Jason Hirsh: 4 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 5-4 GB/FB – 58 of 88 pitches were strikes (65.9%)
Zach Kroenke: 1.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 4-0 GB/FB – 16 of 22 pitches were strikes (72.7%)
Anthony Claggett: 2.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 5-2 GB/FB – 21 of 37 pitches were strikes (56.8%)
Amaury Sanit: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1-1 GB/FB – 8 of 9 pitches were strikes (88.9%)
You’re killin’ me Georgie…
So the Yankees have scored just three runs over their last two games, all coming in Sunday’s contest against Seattle. I was on a flight, and then in transit to a hotel, during most of yesterday’s game, but it seemed like they couldn’t get much going after A-Rod‘s double play — until the eighth that is, when Jorge struck out looking. I’m not sure what the game looked like, but Gameday said the ump was beyond atrocious. They’ll try to recover today by putting out their A-lineup, and that includes Hideki Matsui back in the DH spot.
Taking the bump for the A’s is Hackensack native Vin Mazzaro. Then again, with that name mentioning that he’s from Jersey is redundant. Recalled for a start on June 2, Mazzaro started off his career with a bang, tossing 13.2 scoreless innings over two starts, blanking the White Sox and the Orioles. Things got a bit tougher for him from then on, his ERA gradually climbing to 5.54. Somewhere in there the Yanks roughed him up for six runs in 4.1 innings while his high school buddies looked on from the upper deck.
Since then Vin has started four games, including two horrible ones against the Red Sox and Blue Jays. He allowed 19 runs, 18 earned, over 21.1 innings in that span, and opposing hitters have had a 1.008 OPS against him. Essentially, the average hitter against him over his last four starts has been Prince Fielder. Average. Or, if you want to play it another way, it would be like facing half Albert Pujols, half Ryan Braun.
Beware the reverse lock, thought. It cursed the Yanks last night against Brett Tomko and the A’s bullpen. Thankfully, they’re not taking Mazzaro lightly, considering the lineup.
And on the mound, number fifty-two, Carsten Charles Sabathia.
By now you’ve all heard and read about this silly little debate pitting the Yankee beatwriters against the rest of the free world, something that originally started out as a disagreement over UZR but has since evolved into a full blown MVP debate. Anybody who’s anybody has chimed in, including Rob Neyer, Joe Posnanski, and about a million others. Since we’re always fashionably late to these kinds of things, it’s time for us to chime in. Actually, no. It’s time for you guys to chime in.
We’re going to limit this little debate to Joe Mauer and Mark Teixeira since they’re the two most mentioned names, but don’t be mistaken, there are certainly plenty of other legit MVP candidates out there. Let’s look at some of the facts…
Pros: tied for fourth in the league with a .941 OPS … second in the league with 30 homers … third in the league with 86 RBI … late inning heroics (13 homers in innings 7+) … outstanding defense at first … arguably the best player on the best team in the league
Cons: hit just .191-.328-.418 through the team’s first 32 games … significant home-road split (1.031 OPS at home, .853 on the road) … just fifth among first baseman with a 3.9 WAR
Pros: leads the AL in AVG (.380), OBP (.446), SLG (.637) and OPS (1.083) … hitting .403-.490-.727 with RISP … outstanding defense behind the dish … tie with Albert Pujols for the league league in WAR (6.2)
Cons: missed his team’s first 23 games due to injury … plays for a team 6.5 games out of a playoff spot
That’s obviously just some of the data, but enough to get a conversation started. Whether you’re an old school batting average and RBI guy or a new schooler who digs positional value and stuff like that, this isn’t such a cut and dry debate. So … who ya got?
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Here’s your open thread for the night. The Mets and Braves are playing, but there doesn’t appear to be any games on the national networks. I hate west coast games. Anything goes here, just be nice.
One thing that’s become apparent over the course of this season: the Yanks are built for their home ballpark. Among their nine regulars they have just two righties. The rest are lefties or switch-hitters. Since the majority of pitchers are righties, that means the Yankees bat from the left side of the plate more often than not, which gives them a nice, short shot at the right field fence. This has led Pat Andriola of The Hardball Times to wonder whether the Yanks hitters are trying to put the ball in the air. Unsurprisingly, some players are experiencing the highest flyball rates of their careers: Mark Teixeira, Johnny Damon, and Jorge Posada, while Hideki Matsui is in the midst of his second highest rate season.
Is that necessarily good, though? Sure, Tex is just three homers behind his total from 2008 and is at his total from 2007, but it has come at a cost. Ground balls go for hits more often than fly balls, which has led Teixeira’s BABIP to fall to .289, the lowest of his career. Ditto his line drive rate, at 16.6 percent, and his batting average with runners in scoring position, .268. It’s also led to a high number of infield flies.
Also, Tex’s fly balls aren’t getting out at a greater rate. He has a 17.2 percent home run per fly ball ratio, which is at or below most of his previous years. It would make sense to swing for the fences more if the fly balls were going out at a greater rate, but they’re not. Then again, it’s tough to complain about Tex’s season at all right now. Maybe he’d be better off leveling his swing as in the past, but we just can’t know that. What we do know is that he’s battering the ball at Yankee Stadium.
Strangely, Swisher is not hitting more fly balls this year. In fact, it doesn’t look like he’s tailoring his swing to the new Stadium at all — or if he is, then it’s not working. Hey, maybe that explains his poor home splits. If he’s trying to put the ball over the short porch and is failing, well, that might explain his .206 BA and .323 SLG at home.
It’s an interesting thought, though. Considering how well the Yanks have played at home this season, it would seem to be working, if in fact that’s the case.
It’s no secret around here that I am not the biggest fan of Melky Cabrera. Never regarded as one of the Yankees’ top prospects, Melky had a surprising 2006 at the age of 21 and then backed into the center field job in 2007 when it became clear that Johnny Damon was better suited to left field. Cabrera hasn’t been able to replicate his 2006 numbers, and while it appeared as though 2009 would be his year, a recent slide has pushed his numbers below league average.
A few weeks ago, on Aug. 2, Melky hit for the cycle against the White Sox, and his OPS hit .819, a two-month high for him. With Brett Gardner on the shelf, Melky had no competition for the center field job, and the Yankees really needed him to step up his offensive game. The opposite has happened.
Since hitting for the cycle, Melky’s bat has gone silent. Over his last 56 plate appearances spanning 13 games, Melky is 6 for 52 (.115) with a .161 on-base percentage and a .173 slugging percentage. He has had but one day off during that stretch and is currently 1 for his last 20.
This slump though extends beyond the big cycle. Since Brett Gardner went on the disabled list on July 26, Melky Cabrera has ceased hitting. Even with that cycle, he’s at .200/.261/.375 over his last 88 plate appearances. This line or argument makes for a great narrative. Melky Cabrera cannot be a productive hitter unless someone nearly as good — or as bad — as he is breathing down his neck. With Brett Gardner, Cabrera is the Good Melky; without, he’s the Bad Melky.
The only problem — as Joe explained recently — is that narratives generally aren’t true. Right now, Melky is simply undergoing a market correction in a very short period of time. Coming into 2009, Melky Cabrera had career averages of .268/.329/.374 with an OPS+ of 84. He’s been an under-average player on a team that has been able to mask this offensive deficiency.
With this recent slump, Melky is now hitting .266/.327/.420. Outside of the .026 difference in slugging, those numbers are nearly identical to Melky’s career line, and yet again, I am left wondering if Melky Cabrera is simply a 90 OPS+ guy with a good arm who shouldn’t be a starting outfielder on the New York Yankees.
I want Melky to be a good hitter. I want him to be the Melky we saw through the end of May with an .850 OPS and some power. But every year, Melky goes through a tailspin slump, and his numbers end up where they always are, below average and disappointing.
Earlier this spring we found out from scouting director Damon Oppenheimer that he was given an actual budget to work with during this year’s draft, which promptly caused mass panic because, as we all know, the Yankees should have an unlimited budget for everything. Well, after last night’s last minute signing of 44th rounder Evan DeLuca for $500,000, the Yanks have spent at least $6.185M on this draft, and that doesn’t include the likely six-figure bonuses given to 12th rounder Brett Gerritse, 13th rounder DeAngelo Mack, and 14th rounder Graham Stoneburner among others. It’s not difficult to envision a scenario where the Yanks spent $7M on this draft.
$7M on one draft class is a ton of money, but just how much? The epiphany draft of 2006 – the one that landed Ian Kennedy, Joba Chamberlain, Zach McAllister, Mark Melancon, David Robertson and Dellin Betances – cost $6.7M. Just seven clubs spent more than that last year, and almost all of them had to shell major bucks out to top ten picks. By no means did the Yankees go cheap this year. · (133) ·
By all accounts but his own, Joba Chamberlain had a lousy start Sunday. He lasted just five innings, and his four runs allowed hurt the Yanks, who couldn’t figure out rookie Doug Fister. That all of those runs crossed the plate with two outs hurt even more. After starts like this, fans tend to clamor. Joba is obviously a reliever, some might say. Others go to the already tired line that Joba is being babied. I ranted on the latter topic on Sunday, but Gary Armida of the recently resurrected FullCountPitch.com takes a sober look at the handling of Joba.
A man obsessed with pitching — he has regular talks with former A’s and Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson — Armida understands the trouble of drastically increasing a pitcher’s workload from season to season. It can cause undue stress, the effects of which might not show up until the season after the increase. We’ve seen it plenty of times, as Armida chronicles:
Fausto Carmona is an example of a pitcher pushed too far. In 2007, Carmona threw 230 innings (including the postseason) which was more than 100 additional innings from 2006. Since 2007, Carmona has posted ERA’s of 5.44, 6.66 (this season) and WHIP’s of 1.624 and 1.772. This was after his 3.06 ERA and 1.209 WHIP of 2007. Jered Weaver of the Los Angeles Angels experienced the same drop off in production after throwing more than 50 additional innings in 2006. Weaver’s ERA climbed from 2.56 in 2006 to 3.91 in ‘07 and to 4.33 in ’08 with a disabled list stint thrown in for good measure. His 2009 season is remarkably better, but he even experienced shoulder trouble during spring training.
Perhaps the prime example of a pitcher being pushed too hard is Francisco Liriano. The Twins’ southpaw burst onto the scene in 2006 after throwing more than 40 additional innings in 2005. After a brilliant 16 starts, Liriano had surgery and is still searching for his dominant form of 2006. There are so many examples of teams just ignoring innings and getting burned. The Toronto Blue Jays have seen Dustin McGowan, Gustavo Chacin, Shawn Marcum, and Jesse Litsch all lose time to injury. They were all pushed through the organization at some point.
He notes that, according to the American Sports and Medicine Institute, fatigue and improper conditioning are the leading causes of arm injures. How does this fit into innings limits? Pitchers who experience a drastic increase in workload can become fatigued. Imagine running on the treadmill for 20 minutes three times a week, and then all the sudden increasing that to 35 or 40 minutes. Chances are once you pass the 25 or 27 minute mark, you’re going to be fatigued. Tired pitchers show the effects in many ways, including skimping on their mechanics. This can lead directly to injury.
Conditioning is the more debatable issue. As Armida notes, “One offseason conditioning program shouldn’t be enough for pitchers to throw 50 additional innings.” That might be true now, but as we discussed in the comments yesterday, Nolan Ryan is trying to prove that wrong. He wants to condition his pitchers to throw more, which means a more rigorous off-season conditioning program so that the pitchers can handle the increased workload. That might work out for them. At best, they could see a number of pitchers respond positively, though inevitably, because each pitcher’s body will respond differently to the stress, they’ll lose some talented arms to injury.
There are other issues, too. Armida notes a new study that examines pitchers who throw deep into the playoffs. While not every pitcher experiences this, a number of guys like John Lackey, Mark Buehrle, Chris Carpenter, and Josh Beckett have seen poorer performances, sometimes including DL trips, in the year following a World Series run. While teams should heed this factor, there’s not much they can do about it. Once you’re in the playoffs, all bets are off. The best use of this study would be to find out how to optimally use the shortened rest period to re-strengthen a pitcher’s arm after a seven-month season.
As it concerns Joba, the Yanks might not have handled him well initially, but I believe they’re doing a good job in 2009. While bringing him up in 2007 to help the bullpen gave the Yanks a push into the playoffs, it had some negative effects for his long-term development. Mainly, that he was essentially guaranteed a spot on the major league roster in 2008. Worse, because of his innings limits, that meant starting him in the bullpen and transitioning him to the rotation. That seemed to be a flawed plan.
Perhaps the biggest question here is of why the Yanks brought Chamberlain up so early in August. The idea behind it, said Brian Cashman, was that Joba was coming up against his prescribed innings limit, and that he could either finish out the season in the minors and pack it up, or he could come up to the majors and get those innings out of the pen. However, there’s a discrepancy here.
The Yankees are seemingly using 127 innings as Joba’s high water mark. Those would represent the 89.1 innings he threw in college in 2006, plus the 37.2 innings he tossed in the Hawaiian Winter League. Those were two greatly separated instances, where Joba’s college season ended in May, and his Hawaiian experience didn’t start until October. It would be tough to argue 127 innings as his high water mark, but since the Yankees are planning to use him in the rotation for the rest of the season, it would appear that is the case.
So if his high water mark was 127 innings in 2006, why didn’t he shoot for 157 in 2007? At the time of his recall he’d thrown 88.1 innings in the minors. If 127 was the precedent, he could have finished out the minor league season and then have come up in September, pitched out of the bullpen, and still have come in around 150 innings. Even with Joba’s 2005 high water mark of 118 innings, he could have still finished the minor league season and helped in September.
More and more, it seems as though the decision to call up Joba in 2007 related to the major league team’s woes at that time. For the team, it helped as they locked down the later innings and made the playoffs. For Joba’s development, it certainly hurt. His innings were significantly curtailed from where they could have (or even should have) been for the season. That led to a series of events in 2008 which culminated with his shoulder injury — which further led to a lower innings cap in 2009.
Before signing off, I want to note that none of this is necessarily causal. When it comes to pitcher development and injuries, it’s impossible to nail it down to one factor. Yet the evidence does point this way. It appears that the Yankees didn’t handle Joba in an optimal manner for his long-term development in 2007 and 2008. They’ve taken steps to correct that this year. All we can hope is that he responds well. As he’s demonstrated in flashes, Joba has all the tools to become a top-flight starting pitcher. It would be a shame to see that go to waste because of how the team handled him.
Once this season wraps up, there are few big-name free agents among the Major League outfielders. Matt Holliday will clearly lead the list with Jason Bay and the oft-injured Vladimir Guerrero behind him. Beyond that, a bunch of mediocre outfielders and aging stars will tempt teams.
One of those aging stars we know quite well. The Yankees’ left fielder Johnny Damon will be a free agent at the end of the season. A year ago, I would never have predicted a Damon return to the Bronx for 2010 and possibly beyond, but Damon has turned in a 2009 to remember. He is hitting .283/.364/.521 with 22 HR. He should top his career high in home runs of 24, and his OPS+ currently stands at 129, also a career high.
As the season has unfolded, Johnny Damon has continually stressed his desire to remain in the Bronx, and the Yankees have noticed both this enthusiasm and his production. According to Tyler Kepner, the Yankees and Johnny Damon may be picking each other as Damon hits free agency. The Times scribe writes:
Before the season, there was a sense that the Yankees would allow Damon to move on and turn over his left-field spot to a prospect like Austin Jackson or a younger free agent like Matt Holliday. But Yankees officials seem to understand Damon’s value on the field and in the clubhouse, and now they would like him to return. When the Yankees want to keep a player and the player wants to stay, that is usually what happens.
“I don’t know where else I would want to go to,” Damon said. “Obviously, that’s not the right thing to say when you’re about ready to approach free agency, but I’m very happy with playing in New York, and my family’s happy I play for New York. There’s no bigger place to go. If you play well here, you’re going to get paid. New York has the resources. But we also have the chance to win every year. I don’t want to attempt to go make more money elsewhere, for more years, with a chance to be out of the race by the first of June.
…Damon’s agent is Scott Boras, who is never shy about seeking the highest bidder. But Damon said that during his last free agency, he instructed Boras not to bother gathering offers from West Coast teams. He said Boras would listen to his wishes. “Scott knows,” Damon said. “Even if I did sign another two- or three-year deal to come back to New York, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be retired after that. There could be a time where I go somewhere and pinch-hit for a year or whatever.”
Damon, according to Kepner, recognizes that he’ll have to take a pay cut. After all, no team will pay an outfielder of his age more than the $13 million a year Johnny currently makes.
Now, we’ve recently saluted Johnny Damon. Not only is having one helluva season, but his career ranks him up there. His hits, runs and stolen base totals are among the leaders of this generation of baseball players, and he has been remarkably durable — or at least willing to play through injuries — since 1996.
Yet, I’m not sure how much I would give Johnny Damon. Two years seems reasonable, but should the Yanks be depending upon a 37-year-old Damon in 2011? If he isn’t blocking any younger — and potentially better — players, then so be it. As long as the Yanks do not handicap themselves with a sentimental deal, bring back Damon, but I’m rather wary of giving 36-year-old outfielders with decreasing range too many years or too much money.