It seems like every time Mark Teixeira steps up to the plate someone mentions — whether on Twitter or on the broadcast — that he hasn’t hit a home run in X at bats. That number reached 107 plate appearances last night. While home runs are nice, they’re not the only thing a player can do to help his team. Problem is, the home run drought has masked a 107 plate appearance slump for Teixeira.

Tex’s season numbers still look good: .281/.387/.548. But over his last 104 plate appearances he’s been at .258/.365/.326, recording just six extra base hits, all doubles, over that span. It’s not as bad as his early-season woes, but for a guy with Teixeira’s numbers and ability it certainly represents a slump.

When Teixeira slumped through April and the beginning of May, then subsequently surged though the rest of the month, commentators claimed in hindsight that Teixeira was seeing more fastballs with A-Rod back in the lineup. Of course, that’s just made up. Teixeira did not see more fastballs upon A-Rod’s return. He actually saw a few more fastballs in April, while he was slumping. The media can’t blame A-Rod for Tex’s troubles this time around. The cleanup hitter sports a .270/.453/.556 line since Teixeira’s last home run.

Now that we’re aware of Tex’s slump beyond the home run drought, what happens? Nothing, likely. Joe Girardi isn’t going to switch A-Rod and Teixeira in the order, and he’s made that abundantly clear with his actions. The Yankees are 12-8 since his last homer, which is an excellent pace (about 97 wins if extrapolated). They’ll continue to play through it, hoping that he goes on another .360/.441/.824 run like he did from May 7 through the date of his last home run, June 12. He did, after all, hit .366/.464/.656 in the second half last year.

It is kind of curious, though, that Tex’s slump coincides with his power outage. Even in his 122 plate appearance slump to start the year he managed five homers and four doubles for a .384 SLG — against a .192 BA, leaving him with a .192 Iso-P, while in his latest slump his Iso-P is just .068. One has to wonder if there’s something else going on, but without anything to go on, all we can do is call this what it is — a slump.

Categories : Offense
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Alfredo AcevesNow that he’s been named Thursday’s starter, it’s time for us to show some love to do-it-all man Alfredo Aceves. He’s been called The New Ramiro Mendoza, and his call up on May 4th coincides with the start of the bullpen’s turn around. On the date of Aceves’ call up, the bullpen’s ERA was hovering around 6.50 with a WHIP around 1.50. Since then, those totals have dropped to 4.02 and 1.24, respectively, no doubt thanks in part to Aceves’ stellar relief work.

Aceves has allowed just 30 hits and issued 8 free passes in 40 innings of work. He’s holding opposing hitters to a .208-.256-.354 batting line, which is slightly worse than Jeff Francoeur’s output this season. He’s entered games in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th innings. He came in to face a lone righty batter in one outing before picking up a four inning save four days later. His ERA at home is lower than his ERA on the road despite the New Stadium’s … ahem … fondness for hitters. Only 16 of the 156 batters he’s faced have worked the count full. He’s performed his best with that horrific game caller Jorge Posada behind the plate. Simply put, Aceves has been everything the Yanks could have ever asked for, and then some.

So spill your guts here, folks. Tell us how much you love The Mexican Gangster.

Photo Credit: Ray Stubblebine, Reuters

Categories : Players
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Yesterday’s news concerning the Blue Jays’ willingness to trade Roy Halladay sparked a fire storm of conversation among baseball fans around the nation. With that announcement, Halladay became the most sought-after July name, and early indications are that he would waive his no-trade clause for New York, Philadelphia or Boston. My money is on Halladay’s landing in Philadelphia, but we can’t count out the Yankees.

Yesterday, in writing about the potential for a trade, Joe mostly summed up my take on it:

What about acquiring him? Rosenthal notes that Ricciardi would deal within the division, though we all know there’s a premium there. Any package would probably have to start with Phil Hughes, and then include one of the Yanks’ precious few bats, likely one of the catchers. Would Hughes, Romine, and a third prospect, probably of the top-10 variety, be enough to land Halladay? Would the Yankees be wise to make such a move?

There’s no doubt that acquiring Halladay would leave the Yankees with the best rotation in baseball. In the short term, they’d be as well off as any other team, probably better off. In the long term they’d be giving up prospects, sure, but prospects can bust. It looks like Phil Hughes is finding his way, and it would probably suck to face him four or five times a year. But it wouldn’t be nearly as bad as facing Halladay that many times.

I’d add a caveat: Considering their respective ages, Phil Hughes could be a thorn in opponents’ sides longer than Halladay may be. Furthermore, as many have pointed out over the last 24 hours, if Brian Cashman opted 18 months ago to avoid sending Hughes and others to the Twins for a younger Johan Santana also with one year left on his contract, why would he do the same with Halladay? (Santana, by the way, has a 5.12 ERA over his last 10 starts with some bad peripherals. Meanwhile, Fangraphs posits that J.P. Ricciardi will not only ask for the sky for Halladay but deserves it as well. Roy is just that good.)

While we’ll be hearing a lot about Halladay and other potential trade targets over the next few months, I noticed an interesting thread in the comments from Yankee fans who were discussing potential deals yesterday. In light of a few bad starts and some thoughtless comments to the media, Joba Chamberlain isn’t as untouchable in the eyes of the fans as he once was. That’s an odd and confounding sea change in fan opinion, and I’m willing to discount it as the frustrations of a fan base expecting their 23-year-old stud to be lights out right away.

Anyway, these comments and the general state of trade rumors made me ponder the question of untouchables. As fans, we overvalue our prospects, but who among the Yankee farm hands is truly untouchable? Jesus Montero fronts that list. In two levels this year and at just 19 years of age, he is hitting .336/.391/.556. A young hitter who is, for now, a catcher such as Montero doesn’t come around that often, and the Yanks should hold on to that one.

Beyond Montero, I would also add Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes to that list. While both are clearly works in progress, they have shown the ability at a young age to get hitters out by way of the K. Hughes had shown his potential pitching out of the pen this year, and we know what Joba, when 100 percent healthy and on, can do with his high-90s fastball. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Yankees stopped developing young cost-controlled pitching to complement their free agent signings. With Joba and Phil, they can do just that.

Beyond that, though, anyone is fair game. The Austins — Romine and Jackson — both have a lot of potential, but both feature some red flags as well. Romine’s on-base percentage is just .316 at A+, and Jackson is striking out a lot. Keith Law, in particular, has accused fans of over-projecting A-Jax. For the right package, I would trade either. Other prospects are certainly movable too.

In the end, this boils down the simple reality that the Yankees must know when to trade from a strength. They have catching depth, and they have pitching depth in their farm system right now. Both of those are commodities, and either could land the Yanks a big fish. The next 23 days will be as interesting as they always are, and the Yanks should make some splashes. We’ll suffer through some separation anxiety, but with the right moves, it should be well worth it.

Categories : Musings
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Jul
08

What the umpires said

By in Rants. Tags: · Comments (45) ·

Previously on What the umpire saw: Derek Jeter tries to steal third base with no outs in the first inning. While the throw beat him to the base, his hand touches third before the tag. Umpire Marty Foster calls him out. “I was told I was out because the ball beat me, and he didn’t have to tag me,” Jeter alleges, and crew chief John Hirschbeck, who called Jeter “the classiest person I’ve been around,” promises an investigation….

When last we saw Monday’s umpiring crew, things were looking bleak for Marty Foster. Hirschbeck had refused to make him available to the media, and Derek Jeter was adamant in his critique. I blamed Foster for the bad call at third, and Cliff Corcoran slammed the umps for four bad calls. The men in blue were on the wrong end of a lot of scorn.

On Tuesday, though, this story took a turn for the bizarre. With the same crew working the Mets-Dodgers game, New York reporters had their second crack at Hirschbeck and Foster. Again, Hirschbeck declined to make Foster available to the media. The beleaguered umpire refuses to face the fire. Meanwhile, Hirschbeck has apparently changed his story after speaking with Foster.

According to the 25-year veteran, Foster told him that Jeter was wrong. According to Hirschbeck, Foster said, “The ball beat you, and I had him tagging you.”

To reporters, Hirschbeck defended Foster without reneging on his praise of Jeter. “I don’t see a problem with that,” Hirschbeck said. “Sometimes when tempers flare, you don’t hear everything that’s said.”

Tempers, though, didn’t flare until after Foster allegedly told Jeter that he would be out as long as the ball beat him regardless of the tag. Meanwhile, prior to the game — and prior to Hirschbeck’s discussion with the media — Jim McKean, an MLB umpire supervisor who liaises between MLB and the umpires, spoke with the crew. Do I sense a conspiracy afoot?

Right now, this story is just plan weird. Two members of the Yankees — their widely respected captain and manager — claim the umpire said something outrageous while the crew chief, after having enough time to get his story straight, said the polar opposite. We still haven’t and probably won’t hear from Marty Foster.

The calls for instant replay aside, this is a prime example of a problem with the current system. The umpires have become the story. ESPN has rebroadcast Jeter’s slide hundreds of times by now. The entire nation knows that he was safe. Yet, Marty Foster called him out, and John Hirschbeck seems to be sweeping this story under the rug.

We don’t need a full investigation. We don’t need some Watergate-level special prosecutor to turn up. What we need is for Marty Foster to step forward and tell us the honest-to-God truth. If he really thinks that Scott Rolen placed a tag on Derek Jeter, then so be it. He missed the call, and bad calls are just a part of the game. If he actually said that Jeter was called out regardless of the tag because the throw beat him, he shouldn’t be umping Major League Baseball games.

Either way, this has devolved into a “he said, he said” battle. Right now, I believe Derek. This latest development from Hirschbeck is far too convenient for my tastes.

Added by Joe: Since this is probably the last we’ll hear of this, I figured I’d add this tidbit. Apparently Joe Girardi didn’t get tossed on Monday for arguing the Jeter play at third. Erik Boland says it was because of a call from Sunday. Marty Foster was at home plate on Sunday for the play where Raul Chavez tagged Mark Teixeira with his glove, but the ball was in his other hand. Personally, I find that call more egregious than the one at third.

Categories : Rants
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To put into perspective just how well the Yankees offense was going last night: Robinson Cano got a hit with runners in scoring position. If that’s not enough for you, Frankie Cervelli hit a ball about five feet short of a home run, and then later drove one to the same spot for an RBI double. Yes, the Yankees were hitting from top to bottom, and combined with a gem from CC Sabathia it led to a 10-2 Yankees win.

The Yankees lead the league in home runs, but didn’t need any to plate 10 runs against the Twins. They accomplished it by putting men on base — all nine starters picked up at least one hit — moving them into scoring position, and knocking them in — the team went 7 for 17 with runners in scoring position. This led to runs in four different innings, including a monster five-run sixth. And they scored them in every way imaginable — sac fly, single, double, triple — really, every way but a homer (and, of course, the suicide squeeze).

Just because the Yanks didn’t hit any over the Hefty bag doesn’t mean they didn’t try. Alex Rodriguez made the first attempt in the fourth. HitTracker probably would have pegged the ball at 410 feet. With a 408-foot fence that seems plenty, but Carlos Gomez had time to position himself and timed his jump perfectly, robbing A-Rod of a grand slam. They’d pick up a run there with the sac fly, and then another after Scott Baker walked Swisher to plate a run. Hideki gave one a ride with two on and one out in the sixth, but it came up just short, and Gomez was there. Finally, in the seventh Mark Teixeira flirted with one, but it didn’t have enough height and Gomez was able to snag it on the warning track. Dude had a busy night.

Beyond hitting with runners in scoring position, another key for the Yankees’ offense last night was working the starter. Clearly, Scott Baker wasn’t on top of his game. The Yanks took advantage, forcing him to throw 86 pitches in 3+ innings. He finally came undone completely in the fourth, walking Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon on eight straight pitches. With the bases loaded, none out, and his team down only two runs, Ron Gardenhire had no choice but to replace Baker. As we all know too well, his replacement, Brian Duensing, almost let ‘em all score.

On the other side of the ball, CC was CC. While the offense rolled he kept up his end of the bargain, allowing just three hits in seven innings. Two of those were infield singles. Unfortunately the other was a solo homer. In the end it didn’t matter, though. Cuddyer’s shot was but a blip on the radar of the game. Solo homers will happen. What shouldn’t happen is walking Nick Punto on four pitches. That was infuriating for sure. Again, in the end it mattered nil.

There are few greater feelings as a baseball fan, and particularly as a baseball writer, than having little to say about a win beyond showering praise upon the good guys. CC pitched great. The whole offense hit, with runners in scoring position to boot. Carlos Gomez’s defense might have caused a few moments of anguish, but even those were light. The game was all Yankees.

Tomorrow the red hot A.J. Burnett takes on Glen Perkins, whom the Yanks bombed earlier this year. He hit the DL right afterward, and unfortunately for the Yanks has been good-to-really-good since returning in mid-June. Should be a good one in Minnesota tomorrow.

Categories : Game Stories
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Two years ago today on DotF, Mighty Matt DeSalvo threw 100 pitches in seven one-run innings against Ottawa.

Make sure you scroll down for tonight’s game thread.

Triple-A Scranton (5-1 win over Buffalo in 11 innings)
Kevin Russo, Austin Jackson & Doug Bernier: all 1 for 5 – Russo K’ed once, Bernier twice … Jackson doubled & was caught stealing … Ajax has three homers & two doubles in his last eight games, so the power’s coming
Ramiro Pena: 0 for 4, 1 BB
Shelley Duncan: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 Bb, 1 K – hasn’t hit a homer since June 22nd … what’s up with that?
Juan Miranda: 3 for 4, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB
Yurendell DeCaster: 0 for 2, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 2 HBP
Colin Curtis: 0 for 5, 2 K
Chris Stewart: 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI – 11th inning grand slam FTW
Sergio Mitre: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 10-3 GB/FB – 60 of 100 pitches were strikes … another quality outing
Zach Kroenke: 3.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 4-5 GB/FB – 29 of 40 pitches were strikes (72.5%)
Anthony Claggett: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 2-1 GB/FB – 10 of 13 pitches were strikes (76.9%)

Read More→

Categories : Down on the Farm
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Can they play the Twins every day?

Categories : Game Threads
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This is last series the Yankees will ever play in Minneapolis’s Metrodome, which will be replaced next year by the brand spankin’ new Target Field. How the people of Minnesota will ever bear an early season or late October game without a roof, I’ll never know. The Yanks are 74-64 all-time in the big garbage bag, so they’re guaranteed to walk away from the place with a winning record.

CC Sabathia didn’t face the Twins when they came to the Bronx for a four game set in mid-May, but the Yanks still swept the series thanks to a trio of walk-off wins. After an ugly outing last time out, Sabathia will look to right the ship tonight. He’ll be opposed by Scott Baker, the Twins incumbent ace who didn’t face the Yanks earlier this year. Baker’s overall numbers aren’t anything special, but his last six starts have been outstanding. They’ll have to earn this win tonight.

Here’s the starting nine:

Jeter, SS
Damon, LF
Teixeira, 1B - I’m calling it, he hits one out tonight
A-Rod, 3B
Matsui, DH
Swisher, RF
Cano, 2B
Gardner, CF
Cervelli, C

And on the mound, big bad CC Sabathia.

Oh, and Angel Berroa was released today. Forgot all about him.

Categories : Game Threads
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  • Aceves to start Thursday
    By

    Per the Yankee beat writers on various blogs and Twitter, the Yanks have told Alfredo Aceves that he will start on Thursday in place of the injured Chien-Ming Wang. It will be Aceves’ first start of the season after he has appeared 21 times out of the bullpen. On the year, he is 5-1 with a 2.02 ERA in 40 innings. He has struck out 34 while walking just seven, and opponents are hitting just .208/.252/.354 off of him.

    For now, Aceves’ start is a one-time event. The Yanks will not need the fifth starter again until well after the All Star Break, and the roster could look quite different by then. I had hoped to see Phil Hughes transition back into the rotation, but Aceves is more stretched out right now. He threw four innings with a low pitch count of 43 on Sunday and could probably go five or six innings if he again keeps that pitch total down.
    · (83) ·

In a rather dubious fashion, Kei Igawa tied a Scranton record yesterday, and in a few days, he’ll be the sole owner of the mark. PeteAbe with an assist from Chad Jennings, reports that Kei Igawa’s 26th win of his three-year stint at AAA Scranton ties the franchise record. He and Evan Thomas, a career minor leaguer with the Phillies organization, share this dubious distinction.

After the game, Igawa, stuck at AAA forever, kept his achievement in perspective. I can’t tell if he’s being somber or sarcastic. “As long as there is a record that I have chance of setting, it’s something the process to get through,” he said. “It’s a stepping stone, not a final goal of mine.”

Got that? Kei Igawa’s final goal is not to be the most winning Japanese pitcher in the history of the International League or Scranton’s most successful starter. I’m glad he cleared that up.

For his in-progress AAA career, Igawa is now 26-13 with a 3.56 ERA in 51 starts. He’s striking out over 7 per 9 innings and has a WHIP of 1.21. These decent minor league numbers though have not translated into Major League success. With the Yanks, he is 2-4 with a devilish 6.66 ERA in 16 games. Opponents have hit a stunning .302/.386/.549 off of the lefty. He was removed from the 40-man roster in 2008 and hasn’t seen Yankee pinstripes since a one-inning cameo last June. He is still under contract for the next two seasons.

At this point, there’s no real way to sugar coat the Yanks’ decision to sign Kei Igawa. They forked over $46 million for his services, and I doubt he’ll pitch another Big League inning before his contract ends following the 2011 season. While Peter Gammons once blamed Ron Guidry for tinkering with Igawa’s motion and alleged that the Red Sox would put in a waiver claim, that statement seemed more delusional than ever when Igawa passed through waivers last year.

Meanwhile, it is accepted knowledge that the Yanks decided to sign Igawa instead of taking a shot on Ted Lilly for four years and around $40 million. Lilly is third in the Majors in victories since then and 12th in strike outs. Ouch. This might just have been one of the worst Yankee decisions of the last five years.

But as we wait for the game to begin in a few hours, we will tip our caps to Kei Igawa. He now owns an American baseball record. It might be a dubious one, but it is a record indeed. The sad part is that he’ll probably have another two and a half seasons during which he can build on it.

Categories : Whimsy
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