Lay of the land
At 9-14, the Yankees sat last in the AL East on April 30, 2007. Even then, it took a couple of A-Rod walk-offs to even keep them at that level. They recovered, but then fell back off, again finding themselves in the cellar, tied with the Devil Rays at 22-29. Meanhwile, Boston has the best record in baseball. By July 15 they’d hit some kind of stride, creeping into second place but still 8.5 games behind the first-place Red Sox.
At this point the offense was starting to come around. Johnny Damon had somewhat recovered from his putrid start, which included leg cramps and a reported desire to walk away from the game. Robinson Cano had bounced back after a slow April. Bobby Abreu returned to form after a May which was so bad that some wanted to trade him for Jermaine Dye, who was hitting equally poorly.
Then, of course, were Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada, who were both tearing the cover off the ball. Melky Cabrera had heated up after a slow start. Hideki Matsui and Derek Jeter were both hitting to their expectations. Only two real holes remained on the offense, and they were Jason Giambi, who was out with plantar fasciitis and a partial tear of his plantar fascia, and Doug Mientkiewicz, who after kind of turning it on was out as a result of a Mike Lowell elbow.
The rotation looked the best it had in years, though that’s not saying a lot. Chien-Ming Wang was having another standout year, Andy Pettitte was contributing quality innings for the first time since 2003, and even Mike Mussina had recovered after a shaky start (though we know how that story ended). Roger Clemens was in the rotation and pitching okay. The bullpen is what needed some serious help.
Things were just starting to get good. The Yanks had propped themselves up by mid-July, and after the All-Star Break they went on a tear.
There were plenty of Yankees rumors leading up to the deadline, mostly focusing on acquiring Eric Gagne. It seemed like they were close with the Rangers, but it just didn’t work out. The Red Sox jumped in and got him. That was the big name. There were other little ones.
In an attempt to find someone, anyone who could pitch a scoreless inning, Cashman took a few shots in the dark. First was Runelvys Hernandez, though that experiment ended on July 7. He picked up Scott Williamson, who hadn’t pitched well since 2004. That was it on the bullpen front, though. Neither worked out, obviously.
There were a couple moves of note, though. Sick of watching Wil Nieves, the Yankees dished Jeff Kennard for Jose Molina. Then, in a surprise move which left the bullpen even weaker and spelled the end of Torre-favorite Miguel Cairo, Cashman traded Scott Proctor for Wilson Betemit.
That was it. Nothing major, just a few moves to the team going forward. This was a bit strange, because the Yankees were looking for relief help and so many relievers changed teams before the deadline. In addition to Gagne, Scott Linebrink, Dan Wheeler, Ron Mahay, Octavio Dotel, and Wil Ledezma all found new homes. The Yanks had someone better than all them, though.
How it all worked out
In early August, the Yankees decided to do something a bit unorthodox. They announced they’d take a look at first-year pro Joba Chamberlain as a reliever. The idea was that someone with Joba’s electric stuff could make a difference in the bullpen. They were right, and Joba served as the bridge to Mo over the last two months of the season. It was better than any deadline acquisition they could have made.
(Especially Gagne, who famously tanked.)
Yet even with a mostly quiet deadline, the Yankees picked up steam. Phil Hughes came back after tearing his hamstring amid a no-hitter and then rolling his ankle during rehab, pitching serviceably the rest of the way. The offense started hitting — including Jason Giambi, who came back in early August.
Despite their torrid start, the Red Sox cooled off, and found their lead as little as 1.5 games on September 23, with seven games left. They’d end up winning it, but the Yanks took the wild card with relative ease, The Yanks had almost come all the way back, by doing almost nothing.
The pickings were seemingly slim in 2007. The Yanks definitely could have used Mark Teixeira, but there was no way they could match the Braves’ package without giving up Phil Hughes, and in 2007 that was off the table (partly because he was untouchable, partly because hew as injured at the deadline). Even then, that was one helluva trade, and I’m not sure the Yanks could have matched it anyway.
It was all going so well, and they would have gotten away with it, if it wasn’t for those meddling midges.
In the three years we’ve examined, the Yankees have made one big move, the 2006 trade for Bobby Abreu. Other than that they’ve gone with a series of lesser moves in hopes of shoring up a few weaknesses. I expect much of the same this year. Maybe they get a pitcher today, but I wouldn’t bet on it. The Yanks look good now, their flaws no greater than those of other teams.
The good news: the good Andy Pettitte showed up last night. The bad news: the offense didn’t. Blame the umpire if you will — the Yanks did strike out looking seven times — but it was an all around poor offensive effort. It’s tough to win games when you only score two runs, and the Yankees weren’t an exception tonight. They tied the game up late, but lost in the bottom of the ninth, 3-2.
Pettitte did his part. He allowed just five baserunners over 6.1 innings. He threw strikes all night, 71 percent, which again was partly owed to the unnecessarily large strike zone. It resulted in eight strikeouts and two runs, one of which was unearned amid an inning full of defensive mistakes. While the walk-off put the nail in the coffin, that one inning did in the Yanks.
The seventh started off oddly, with Pettitte slipping while in pursuit of a Jim Thome tapper. What should have been an easy out netted the Sox a baserunner. Pettitte recovered with a strikeout, but then A.J. Pierzynski smacked one A-Rod‘s way, and it hit off his glove for a single. That was it for Pettitte.
Phil Hughes almost brought the inning to an end by inducing a ground ball right to A-Rod. He tossed to Cano, who could have gotten Carlos Quentin if not for Pierzynski’s slide, which caused him to throw off-line. Teixeira couldn’t corral it in time and Thome scored the go-ahead run. WIth Gavin Floyd rolling, things looked a bit dark for the Yanks.
The top of the ninth did little to lend optimism. Both A-Rod and Matsui struck out swinging to start the inning. That left Nick Swisher, 0 for 3 at that point with three strikeouts himself. But on an 0-1 count, Matt Thonton put one in Swisher’s wheelhouse, and it left the park, tying the game.
The bottom half wouldn’t be so kind. After getting Jermaine Dye to pop up to Jorge Posada, Phil Hughes gave up two straight singles, a bouncing ball towards no one in particular to Jim Thome, and a legit shot to Paul Konerko. Girardi called on Phil Coke, who got A.J. Pierznyski to fly out, but gave up a game-winning single on an up the middle line drive to Dewayne Wise.
It’s always tough to lose these games, but they happen here and there. Could Girardi have gone to Mo in the ninth? I think it’d have been a better decision than pitching him with a four-run lead on Wednesday night. Again, with the winning run in scoring position — as in, if he scores the game is over — you want your best guy on the mound so you have a chance to fight another inning. Managers never do that, so I’ve come to grips with it, but it still irks me every time. Especially, again, when said closer pitched with a four-run lead the night before.
As the Yanks have proven, the bats can come alive after a dead night, and that’s what they’ll hope for tomorrow. It’s Sergio Mitre vs. Clayton Richard. Splitting the four-game set with Chicago would be nice at this point, so a win tomorrow could go a long way.
Game 1 (6-2 loss to Durham in 7 innings) makeup of yesterday’s rain out
Kevin Russo: 2 for 3, 1 K, 1 SB, 1 E (fielding)
Ramiro Pena, Austin Jackson, Shelley Duncan & Chris Stewart: all 0 for 2 – Pena walks … Jackson walked & K’ed … Shelley was hit by a pitch & scored a run
Juan Miranda & Yurendell DeCaster: both 1 for 3 – Miranda homered, drove in two & K’ed
John Rodriguez & Colin Curtis: both 0 for 3 – J-Rod K’ed twice
Ivan Nova: 7 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 5 R, 3 BB, 2 K, 7-12 GB/FB – 60 of 91 pitches were strikes (65.9%) … 16 ER & 30 baserunners allowed in his last 15.2 IP, so yeah, he’s in a rough patch
While we await the start of this game, why don’t you check out The Sports Show Live with Joe Hayward, a/k/a RAB commenter Joey H.? I’ll be on around 9:10 to talk about the Yankees and what not.
If you miss this, you’d better be dead or in jail. And if you’re in jail, BREAK OUT! · (4) ·
(I keed, I keed, Chicago’s a great city)
Coming off arguably their biggest series win of the season, the Yankees head into Chicago’s south side for a four game set against the 51-51 White Sox. Just to give you an idea of how different the AL East and AL Central are, the ChiSox would be sitting in fourth place in the East, eleven games back in the loss column for first. Instead, they’re just three back of the Tigers and very much in the thick of the race.
I’m sure Nick Swisher and Ozzie Guillen will have a blast catching up during batting practice and stuff. We all know they had a harmonious relationship during Nick’s time with the White Sox, two peas in a pod almost.
Okay seriously, Ozzie effing hated Swish. I know some Yankee fans do as well because the guy botches the occasional defensive play, but Ozzie’s dislike for the guy allowed the Yanks to acquire an incredibly productive outfielder (120 OPS+) for basically nothing. So thanks, Oz. Keep smartballin’ teams to death, or whatever the hell they’re calling it these days. You’re only three games back after all.
The Red Sox already won this afternoon, so the division lead currently sits at three games. Let’s pick up that extra half-game tonight. Here’s the lineup that’ll oppose Gavin Floyd:
And on the mound, good ol’ Andy Pettitte.
In last night’s recap, I brought up the issue of how to handle Joba going forward. The immediate idea is that since his next start falls on an off-day, it’s best to skip him there. Not only can you manage his innings that way, but by doing that you line up A.J., CC, Joba, and Pettitte against Boston, rather than having Mitre in the mix. But what happens after that? The Yanks are going to have to skip him a few more times if the plan really is to have Joba pitch through the end of the season.
After Boston, Joba would have to pitch the series opener in Seattle, and again in the middle game of the Oakland series. The Yanks have an off-day on the 20th, which would be Mitre’s turn in the rotation, but they pretty much have to skip him that turn, because they have three games in Fenway. Yet because of the way the schedule is laid out — the Yankees have off-days surrounding the three-game set at Fenway — we might see Mitre tossing the series opener.
If the Yanks just push everyone back and pitch Mitre on Friday the 21, they could skip Joba again because his start would fall on the 24th, another off-day. He would be on tap to start again against the White Sox on the 29th. That would give him four starts in August, and at six innings a start would put him at roughly 135 innings, and if he’s pitching well it could put him near 140. That would appear to be right up against his limit, or at least what we’ve assumed is his limit.
So what about September, then? If Joba’s innings limit is 150, it’s pointless to even go through the schedule. He’d have just two starts left. The Yanks have 28 games in September, including a doubleheader with the Rays, and then three more in October. Are they just going to let Joba pitch, innings be damned? Are they going to move him to the bullpen in September?
Brian Cashman has said many times that there is a plan in place for Joba. As we move into August, they will start to unveil that plan. We’ll see if he gets skipped and when. We’ll see what kind of moves he makes not only at the deadline, but afterward. I’m not going to say I have the answer, even though I did lay out a possible plan above. It’s just a guess. But whatever the plan happens to be, it doesn’t look like Joba can get through the end of the season without massively exceeding his previous career high in innings pitched.
The Yankees activities over the next 22 and a half hours will speak a lot towards what they’re thinking.
After Joba Chamberlain threw over the head of Evan Longoria last night, Rays starter Matt Garza retaliated in the fifth by grazing plunking Mark Teixeira in the shoulder. I actually didn’t think it was payback at all; Dioner Navarro had set up inside, Tampa was already down 2-0, and Garza would have been putting two men on for Alex frickin’ Rodriguez. But alas, I was wrong. “I just kind of got tired of people brushing [Longoria] back,’’ Garza said. “I hate to be that guy, but someone had to take a stand and say, “You know, we’re tired of it.” You can go after our best guy, well, we’ll make some noise too, and that’s what happened.’’
Considering Josh Beckett and AJ Burnett received six game suspensions for not hitting batters this season, is it crazy to think Garza might get an 11-game suspension (forcing him to miss two starts) considering he hit a guy and admitted to doing it on purpose? Bobby Jenks got just a $750 fine for admitting he threw behind Ian Kinsler earlier this year, so maybe Garza just ends up missing one start and a couple grand. Who knows, but I think Bob Watson has proven something like this will not go unpunished. · (34) ·
This guest post comes from Moshe Mandel of The Yankee Universe.
We live in a town where the most popular sports talk radio host in the area knows Jesus Montero as “that catchuh in AA that everyone likes so much.” The fact that people who do not know anything about the farm system are the ones informing the masses leads many local fans to view prospects in a dismissive light. You will hear trade proposals from fans that empty a farm system because they really do not know much about the minor leaguers, and the hosts whom they trust are not about to inform them. Those of us who are internet-savvy and read sites such as BP, BA, and RAB tend to believe that our education in these matters grants us a greater understanding of the value of prospects, and we are disdainful of most of these trade proposals. However, there is a downside to our “education.”
Those of us who know all about the prospects quickly become attached to each one’s chances to prosper. We read DotF every night, and dream of the day in 2013 when the rotation is King Felix (of course), Joba, Hughes, McCallister, and Brackman, where Austin Jackson is patrolling center and Jesus Montero is hitting bombs into the bullpen. We tend to overvalue them, glossing over or rationalizing their flaws as youth and inexperience rather than actual limitations of talent.
When John Sickels or BA constructs a list of Yankee prospects, there are invariably claims of bias against the author, as we cannot fathom how player X was given a C+ grade. Suddenly, we are loathe to give up an Austin Jackson or an Austin Romine to improve the club, and would be livid at Cashman if he gave up legitimate prospects for almost anyone but Roy Halladay. While it is easy to say that a middle ground exists where a fan can properly evaluate prospects that belong to his favorite club, it is in practice very difficult for a fan to identify that ground and stick to it.
While I am sure that most of you are thinking “not me, I know how to value the Yankee prospects,” think about how you might have reacted if the Yankees had traded Jackson, Zach McAllister, Romine/Cervelli, and Dellin Betances/Arodys Vizcaino for Cliff Lee, a package similar to the one the Phillies gave up (Mike thought Cervelli and Vizcaino would be enough, Jim Callis thought it made sense with Romine and Betances included). I know that I certainly would have been conflicted about that sort of deal, despite the fact that it probably would have been the right move for the Yankees to make.
This does not mean that we should stop following prospects, or be satisfied when the GM gives them up in a clearly poor deal. Rather, it is important as fans for us to note that most prospects do not pan out. We see all of these guys as future contributors to big league clubs, but reality is usually not so kind to baseball players. A cursory glance at John Sickel’s
Baseball requires such physical precision that minor injuries can entirely derail a player’s career, and scouting in baseball is particularly difficult as a player’s skills often do not translate to higher levels of competition. It is the job of the GM to identify a position of organizational strength and deal from it to supplement the major league club, while retaining the guys that can actually help you down the line. Brian Cashman is fairly good at this, as the only legitimate major leaguers on the 2006 list are still in the organization. Remember that when he trades your personal favorite for a starter or reliever prior to the trading deadline.
What do you think? Does knowing a lot about prospects lead to overvaluation of those assets by the educated fan? Does it cloud our judgment of what might be a fair trade?