What good is a lefty in the pen if he’s vulnerable to lefties? Chris Davis’s homer yesterday was the sixth Phil Coke has allowed to fellow lefties, calling his effectiveness into question. And with good reason. He’s had stretches of effectiveness, but there have been times when he’s just plain bad. Unfortunately, many of those bad times come against left-handed hitters, the very ones he’s most often charged with retiring.
This has left many wondering whether Coke is fit for duty in the Yankees bullpen. After yesterday’s game he has a 5.05 ERA, up from 3.15 on July 3. Clearly he’s on the downswing, right? Well, maybe not. While Coke isn’t nearly as good as he was earlier in the season, he still might have something to offer the Yanks.
Phil Coke had a great run in June and July. In 22.1 innings, he allowed just seven runs, striking out 22 against five walks. Opponents managed just a .508 OPS against him, and his GB/FB ratio was 1.85. After a rocky start to the season, it looked like he had settled into his bullpen role, which was mostly relegated to the seventh inning and lefties in the eighth.
(Of those seven runs he allowed in those two months, four came in one game, against the Angels when seemingly none Yankees managed to pitch well. So outside of one game, he was even more remarkable.)
Unfortunately, August started off quite poorly for Coke, as he allowed six runs while recording just one out on August 1 against the White Sox. That pumped up his ERA from 3.77 to 4.98, further showing why ERA is a poor indicator for a reliever’s effectiveness. He blew one game, which was pretty much blown in the first place, but had his ERA climb by more than a run. That should tell you all you need to know.
Then, of course, came the home run to Victor Martinez, which left a sour taste in our mouths. The Yanks came back to win that game, but that doesn’t erase Coke’s troubles. And then again yesterday, he gave up that three-run jack to Davis, putting a 3-2 game pretty much out of reach.
For the most part, Coke hasn’t been bad. He’s had a number of outings in which he has allowed multiple runs, which is never a good thing. He also has three blown saves, five if you count the two he recently blew that the Yanks came back to win. But he’s also had stretches where he pumps strikes and gets the Yanks through the later innings. He’s also done a decent job of keeping opponents off base — .223 batting average against and a .290 on-base against.
The problem with Coke this year is leaving sluggable balls over the plate. That is evidenced by his slugging against, .418, which is pretty bad considering the .223 average opponents have off him, and his HR/9, 1.6. We know Coke can pitch well. He did it for two straight months, minus one blip. He’s had some struggles lately, but for all we know that could be related to his new role, a reliever (he was a starter all of his career prior to last year), and a new setting, the majors. With rosters expanding, the Yanks can afford to give him time to settle down. Given the way he pitched earlier this year, he could be an asset in the playoffs.
You remember Phil Hughes, right? That great young pitcher the Yankees have decided is more valuable out of the bullpen? Well, have you seen him lately? It seems that the team, or at least manager Joe Girardi, has decided that the best way to utilize the kid’s talent is by using him as infrequently as possible. People used to trash Joe Torre for overusing his Circle of Trust™ relievers, but now we have the exact opposite going on; they aren’t being used enough.
A few weeks ago I mentioned that even though he was going to work in relief the rest of the season, Hughes would be generally okay in terms of his innings count, but since that post 22 days ago, Hughes has thrown a grand total of 5.1 innings, or just one every four days or so. Just to put this underuse in even more perspective, let’s bullet point some more stats:
- In the month of August (remember, today’s the 28th), Hughes has thrown exactly 8 IP.
- Here are the American League relievers that have thrown fewer innings than Hughes this month: Randy Choate (LOOGY), Edgar Gonzalez (Oakland’s mop-up guy), Jess Todd (called up a week into August), and Jason Jennings (DFA’d). That’s it. There’s roughly 155 relief pitchers in the American League at any given moment, and just four have been used less this month.
- Over the last 14 days Hughes has made two appearances, throwing 2.1 IP and a grand total of 37 pitches. Two appearances in the last two weeks. That would be fine if he were, you know, a starter.
- Over the last 16 days, he’s thrown 4.2 IP and 81 pitches.
- Every other pitcher on the Yankees staff has thrown more innings this month, including Chad Gaudin, who didn’t join the team until August 9th.
I understand that relief pitchers have become more and more specialized (damn you, Tony LaRussa, damn you to hell) and that the 8th inning has somehow morphed into the most important inning in the history of New York baseball, but this is getting ridiculous. We’ve seen the last two times out that Hughes was battling rust, yet the solution seems to be use him … less.
Please, more Phil Hughes. You’ll be amazed by what you see.
Once the trade deadline passed, things were going to be tough on the Yankees. Atop the AL East and with a growing lead, they would have last dibs in the AL for any waiver claims. This meant that the second-place Red Sox have been in a position to block any potential Yankee moves all month. Since both teams have been looking for pitching, that would seem to put the Yankees at a disadvantage — and it has to an extent. Not that they were necessarily interested, but the Sox did claim Billy Wagner before the Yanks had a shot. Who knows how many other times that happened with different players.
Yesterday we learned of the Yankees pulling two moves that hurt the Sox, though not in any truly significant way. First we heard that the Yanks put in a claim on AAA 1B/OF Chris Carter, whom the Red Sox placed on waivers at some point this week. Carter, who is on the Sox 40-man roster, is believed to be New York-bound in the Wagner trade. The Yanks claim means that Carter will remain a player to be named later, and will most likely change teams after the season ends.
This isn’t just a move to stick it to the Sox. As Buster Olney notes, this could put some pressure on the Sox in terms of their 40-man roster. Moving Carter would free up a spot that then could be used to add Paul Byrd or return Daisuke Matsuzaka from the 60-day DL. Now they’ll have to make another move. Placing Carter on waivers again would mean the Red Sox cannot pull him back, so if anyone claims him he cannot be sent to the Mets for Wagner after the season (obviously).
Just before we learned of the Carter claim, we heard that the Yankees put in a claim on Brad Penny earlier this month, and that the Red Sox pulled him back. This blocked the Sox from trading Penny to another team, meaning they could not get a Justin Smoak-type prospect in return for the recently released righty. We also heard yesterday that the Yankees might have interest in Penny. Could he be any worse than Mitre and Gaudin? Wait. Don’t answer that.
While the Sox have the traditional advantage of a blocking position, the Yankees are making their own moves to make life hard on the Sox. I wonder whose moves have hurt more. The Sox could have blocked any number of pitchers the Yankees might have considered trading for — though the pitching-starved Sox have not traded for any save Wagner. The Yanks have forced the Sox to make a 40-man roster move, possibly two, rather than clearing one for free. They also blocked the Sox chances of getting anything, even a pittance, in return for Penny (though no return was guaranteed).
In any case, I love to see this kind of stuff. If you have the chance to make life a little tougher on your opponent, especially when he has the ability to make life hard for you, then go for it. There’s no reason to let the Sox skate by and make easy moves.
When Junichi Tazawa — Japanese for Brad Penny — and the Red Sox lost to the White Sox tonight, the Yankees moved one game closer to wrapping up the AL East. With 35 games left this year, their magic number is 30. While that six-game lead can sometimes seem small and sometimes seem large, if the Yanks go 18-17 the rest of the way, the Red Sox would have to go 24-11 just to tie in the East. I doubt this Sox club can play .686 baseball for five weeks.
Anyway, with the stretch drive upon us, the Yankees have a few goals ahead of them: They have to rest their regulars to make sure that everyone is as fresh as possible for an October run. They have to get their pitching in order. And they have to accomplish these two goals while winning the division in a way that inspires confidence among the fans and, more importantly, the players. For how well the Yanks have played lately, backing into the post-season just won’t cut it.
As the White Sox come to town for the last home set in August, let’s take a look ahead at the Yanks’ schedule. In September, they face some very good teams and some very bad teams. In between is an annoying and potentially dangerous trip to Seattle and Anaheim.
I miss the days of baseball when September used to be reserved for division rivals only. A West Coast trip in the second-to-last week of the season should be outlawed. But such are the way of things. The Yanks could very well be playing in Anaheim come the first week in October, and the team should be prepared for the long flight.
Take a look at how the Yanks’ remaining opponents break down by record:
|Total||At or above .500||20|
As you can see, the Yanks play most of their games against teams at or above .500. Of course, had the White Sox lost on Thursday, these numbers would be flipped, but luckily for us, they did not. If the Yanks play just .500 ball against their .500 or better opponents, they would be 10-10 with 15 games left against bad teams. If they go 10-5 against the Orioles, Blue Jays, Royals — not an unreasonable assumption — they would finish the season 20-15, good for 99 wins. Technically, Boston could catch them, but it isn’t likely. Plus, I believe the Yanks can play better than .500 ball against their so-called “good” opponents. A series win against Chicago would get this stretch off on the right foot.
The key team in all of this is Tampa Bay. Recently ranked as the game’s best team in Beyond the Box Score’s SABR-minded power rankings, Tampa has given the Yanks trouble recently. They’re still clinging to the hopes of a playoff spot, and their season is hanging in the balance. These two teams play four at home starting with a Labor Day day-night double header, and Tampa will try to make things interesting.
In the end, I hate to count my AL East chickens before they hatch. I’ve seen far too many Yankee clubs sleepwalk their ways through September, and I won’t relax until the champagne is flowing. But I’d expect that party soon enough. Maybe it’ll come in Anaheim, but maybe it will happen at the best moment of September: with the Red Sox in town and on the field. I can dream, right?
Old buddy Dan McCutchen was named to the Team USA World Cup roster. JB Cox was part of the last World Cup team in 2007, when they won the gold medal by defeating Cuba in Taiwan. If my memory serves me correctly, Kurt Suzuki and Brandon Wood hit big homers in the finals. Kurt Klutch definitely did something big, I remember that much. I’m an idiot, nevermind.
Triple-A Scranton (2-1 win over Syracuse)
Kevin Russo: 2 for 4, 1 K, 1 CS
Ramiro Pena: 0 for 4, 1 K – 1 for his last 19 (.053)
Austin Jackson, Shelley Duncan & Juan Miranda: all 1 for 3 - Shelley scored a run … Miranda homered, drove in two, K’ed & committed a throwing error
Colin Curtis & Reegie Corona: both 0 for 2, 1 BB, 1 K - Corona committed a throwing error
Francisco Cervelli & John Rodriguez: both 0 for 3 – J-Rod K’ed twice
Romulo Sanchez: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 2 WP, 10-2 GB/FB - 55 of 96 pitches were strikes (57.3%) … just a brilliant effort from a guy who was nothing more than the fourth or fifth option out of the pen earlier in the season
Zach Kroenke: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1-0 GB/FB – 5 of 6 pitches were strikes
Jon Albaladejo: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 3-0 GB/FB – 13 of 19 pitches were strikes (81.3%)
For A.J. Burnett, the first 11 outs were a piece of cake. Coming off a bad start, the Yanks’ hurler recorded eight strike outs through the first 3.2 innings of the game, and then he ran into trouble.
He walked Josh Hamilton. He walked Nelson Cruz. Then, he threw a fastball to Ian Kinsler that should have been outside but caught too much of the plate. Kinsler lifted the ball over Johnny Damon‘s head and into the left field stands for a three-run home run. It was Texas’ first hit of the game. While the Rangers would eventually tack on four more runs, those three would hold up as Texas beat the Yanks 7-2.
After that home run, Burnett would go on to strike out five of the last nine Rangers he faced. He allowed just one hit and walked just one more Ranger. Overall, Burnett was as good as he could be with 12 Ks in 6 innings. But he threw a meatball at the wrong time, and Ian Kinsler made him pay.
During the early innings, though, the Yankees were not without their chances. They plated a run in the first, and with bases loaded and no one out, they had Dustin Nippert on the ropes. Robinson Cano lined a ball into left field that could have cleared the bases had it fallen. Instead, David Murphy tracked it down for the final out of the inning.
This would become a pattern. Nippert, in fact, threw too many pitches and walked too many Yankees to get a decision. His final line was ugly. He lasted 3.2 innings and gave up 4 hits and 7 walks. Yet, the Yanks couldn’t get that big hit. Mark Teixeira went 2 for 2 with runners in scoring position and had both Yankee RBIs, but the rest of the team went 0 for 10 in that situation. They left 12 runners on and lost a series at home for the first time since mid-June.
Until Burnett was lifted for Phil Coke in the 7th, the Yanks had their shots. Once Coke game in, though, the Rangers put the game out of reach. Murphy doubled, and then Coke misplaced a Taylor Teagarden bunt for an infield single. Chris Davis blasted a three-run home run to right, and that 6-2 Texas lead seemed insurmountable.
For Coke, this outing was the icing on a rather rotten cake. Over his last 20 appearances, he has thrown 15.1 innings and has given up 17 runs. At the same time, Phil Hughes, over the last 13 days, has thrown 2.2 innings and 37 pitches. Over the last 20 days, he has thrown a whopping 5.1 innings. With Hughes more than underused and Marte on the bench, I don’t know why Coke was throwing in a one-run situation after he had been used yesterday. Just because the Yanks have a seemingly large lead doesn’t mean Joe Girardi should stop managing to win. It isn’t, as we all know, over until it’s over.
In the bottom of the 7th, the Yanks nearly mounted a rally. Damon singled, and Mark Teixeira reached on a botched fielder’s choice. But A-Rod, Hideki Matsui and Nick Swisher all went down on strikes, and with it, the Yanks’ chances faded. Ian Kinsler would tack on the seventh Ranger run with his second home run of the day, and that would be all for the Yanks, doomed by one bad pitch and an utter lack of clutch hitting.
Feel free to use this as your open thread for the night. The White Sox, this weekend’s opponent, and the Red Sox are squaring off at 7 p.m., and that game is on the MLB Network. The Dolphins and Bucs play a pre-season game on Fox tonight. Half fun. Be cool. We’ll be back with DotF later on.
Via MLBTR, the Yanks have some interest in the recently released Brad Penny. Penny, who the Yanks creamed in his last start with Boston, is due to clear waivers on Monday and would then be free to sign with any team for the pro-rated minimum. His numbers are ugly (5.21 tRA, 4.48 FIP, 5.61 ERA) but the Yanks probably figure he’d be an upgrade over Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin as the fifth starter down the stretch. As a fifth starter for the pro-rated minimum during September, why the hell not? · (51) ·
Put one in the bullpen, Alex.
As they’ve been so many times this season, the Yankees are in a position to win yet another series. They’ve split the first two with the Rangers, and today’s rubber match finds them with the pitching advantage. For a fuller look at the pitching matchup, you can check out our Rangers series preview.
Beyond the pitching match-up, there’s not much to talk about today. Molina was playing today whether Jorge got hit last night or not. Call it a conspiracy if you will, but Jorge rarely catches day games after night games anyway. He’ll more than likely be behind the dish when Burnett makes his next start Tuesday in Baltimore. He could get a few more days off — with a day game after a night game on Saturday, we could see Molina catch CC tomorrow night.
Looks like Gritt Girtner could be back before long. He took swings off a tee today and hopes to play in a rehab game early next week. With Melky in a slump (though, in his defense, he’s hit some balls hard right at some defenders lately), the Yanks would probably love to go back to their quasi-platoon. It seemed they got the most out of both players that way.
And finally, they’re going to have such beautiful babies.
And on the mound, number thirty-four, A.J. Burnett.
There was a collective cringe — or at least I hope there was — last night when Jorge Posada took a foul ball off the glove and came up in pain. It was the second time in just a few weeks that Posada took one off the left ring finger, though I could have sworn the worst one a few weeks ago hit his (exposed*) throwing hand. In any case, Posada says he re-aggravated the injury, and that it might not “heal until the season is over.” Unfortunately, the Yanks aren’t quite in a position where they can give Jorge an extended break. Which is why they need to rally the troops in the next two weeks. Putting just a little more distance between them and the Red Sox at this point could afford Jorge some rest.
* Sorry for the Posterisk, but it amazes me that Jorge has continued to leave his throwing hand exposed on nearly every pitch, and hasn’t broken his hand yet. We’re taught in Little League to stash that throwing hand behind our backs or directly behind the glove. By high school we’re taught to hide it behind our thigh. Posada learned how to be a catcher in the minors. I thought they would have taught him that there.
One thing Joe Girardi has stressed recently is resting his pitchers down the stretch. Andy Pettitte expressed excitement for this, saying that a fresh pitching staff will really help boost these guys. Now the Yankees have one more reason to extend that lead and play a comfortable September, and that’s Jorge. Maybe his finger won’t completely heal until the off-season, but they can mitigate some of the swelling and pain if they can give him two days off in a row, and can generally keep him out from behind the plate just about every other day.
Even now, the Yanks could give him some extended rest, but they probably can’t/don’t want to fit Francisco Cervelli onto the roster. They’re already playing short a position player because of Damaso Marte‘s return, so it looks like they’ll have to suck it up for the next five games. Jorge will play in only three of those — day game after a night game on Sunday, though I’d give him Saturday off — so his exposure will be limited.
If the Yanks are concerned about giving their pitchers a rest down the stretch, they should feel the same for Jorge. The guy is an incredible contributor to the team’s high-octane offense, and while Molina and Cervelli are better defenders, they don’t even come close to Jorge’s bat. They’ll need him come playoff time, meaning it’s of the utmost importance to keep him fresh in the season’s final month.