Just over two years ago the Yanks spent the 21st overall pick in the draft on a polished college arm out of USC, one Mr. Ian Patrick Kennedy. The smallish righthander wasn’t your prototypical electric stuff guy, he was a high probabilty four pitch command guy that repeated his delivery like a robot. He was one of the unsexiest yet safest picks in the class.
Kennedy proved to be worth the pick his first full season as a professional baseball player, going 12-3 with a 1.91 ERA & 0.96 WHIP across three levels before being named Minor League Pitcher of the Year by milb.com, as well as Minor League Player of the Year by us here at RAB. He earned a September call-up and thrived in the shadow of Joba Chamberlain, twirling 19 innings of 236 ERA+ ball during the stretch run, including this gem up in Toronto. Baseball America rated him the 45th best prospect in the game during the offseason, and grabbed the sponsorship for his B-Ref page.
Kennedy was sidelined by a strain in his right lat-muscle for over a month this year, but has since returned to form during his rehab stint. Climbing the ladder from the Rooklie level GCL to Triple-A Scranton, Kennedy basically repeated his 2007 performance, posting a sub-2.00 ERA (1.99) and a sub-1.00 WHIP (0.88). He allowed 4 runs in his last 27 IP, including a near 7-inning no-hitter, before the Yanks once again called his name. Back home in front of friends and family tonight in Anaheim, Kennedy will look to stabilize a Yankee rotation plagued by injury and ineffectiveness.
Everyone deserves a second chance now and then. Kennedy starts fresh tonight.
Notes: You want a good omen for tonight? Well here’s one: the only other time tonight’s starters (IPK & Jered Weaver) faced off was this game back in 2004, the first time Kennedy ever pitched for USC … if that’s not a sign of Kennedy starting off fresh tonight, nothing is … Hideki Matsui felt no pain in his knee after working out yesterday, a good sign … in case of chest hair emergency, pull tab quickly and back away … sorry folks, no DotF tonight (life interrupts blogging sometimes), so here’s the scoreboards for AAA, AA, A+, A-, SS & Rk … you can get to the box scores from there …
So we’ve got a game at 10 p.m. on a Friday night. Let’s while away the hours debating the 2009 Yankees. And as an added bonus, we’ve even got a rare RAB poll.
When the season draws to a close in a few months and the Yanks’ Front Office begins the process of reconstructing a roster for 2009, the folks in Baseball Ops will have a few decisions to make. Two of the tougher choices facing the Yanks this year will come internally and involve two of their more productive but older players: Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi.
In one corner, we have Abreu, the Yanks’ right fielder. On the season, Abreu is hitting .291/.363/.474 with 15 home runs and a team-leading 76 RBIs. While still good, his triple-slash numbers are well off from his career norms of .300/.400/.500, and at 34, Abreu is definitely past his offensive prime. In the outfield, his defense is merely okay. He has a stellar arm, but throwing accuracy has always been an issue for him. He isn’t the quickest guy in right, and his range has never been a plus baseball trait.
For the Yanks, Abreu represents a dilemma. Bobby wants to stick around, and he would be a good guy for the Yanks’ outfield. There is, however, a but. Right now, the Yanks are waiting for Austin Jackson to land in the Bronx. With an ETA of 2010, the Yanks don’t really need to sign an aging and declining player like Abreu to a deal longer than one or two years. Abreu will probably want a three- or four-year deal monetarily in line with what Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon have.
Meanwhile, the Yanks should have a glut of outfielders next year. For better or worse, Melky will probably still be around; Damon and Matsui — who should be healthy — are under contract; and Xavier Nady will play a role on the 2009 Yankees as well. Does Bobby Abreu fit in or do the Yanks say, “Thanks, but we’d rather have the draft picks”?
In the other corner, we have Jason Giambi. His situation is a bit more delicate. Similar to Abreu, Giambi has expressed a desire to stay in New York, and the Yankees are holding a $20-million option or a $5-million buyout on the Giambino’s deal. On the season, Jason is hitting .256/.391/.518 with 22 HR and 65 RBI. He seems to run hot and cold, and while he had a great series in Texas, he had been scuffling of late.
The Giambi decision is a bit more nuanced than the Abreu situation. First up is the option that the Yanks won’t pick up. If the Yanks cut Giambi and he signs somewhere else, the team will have, in effect, paid him $5 million to play against them, and the Yanks have never been too keen on that approach. Next up is age. Giambi, while healthy this year, will play his age 38 season in 2009 and doesn’t figure to be around for too long. The Yanks need to get younger, and they need a first baseman. Mark Teixeira looks awfully appealing.
So what do you do with Jason Giambi? Should the Yanks pay him to play elsewhere? Should they re-sign him to split time at first base and DH again? While Chuck Johnson recently penned a piece for the YES Network’s site calling for the Yanks to dump Giambi, I don’t think there’s an obvious answer to this one. It’s far, far easier to make the case against Abreu than it is to advocate for or against Giambi.
As always with these open threads, play nice in the comments and vote in the poll below. At this point, I’m voting for Jason Giambi but not Abreu. Number 53 still has a chance to change my mind though.
Updated: Courtesy of Ed Price comes a Joba injury update. The Yanks expect Chamberlain to miss at least a month with rotator cuff tendinitis. According to Price’s sources, the Yanks do not consider this to be a major injury. However, as Price writes, “there is also a chance Chamberlain does not return this season simply because the Yankees will be extremely cautious with their most prized young arm.” Meanwhile, Joba says that he’ll be back before the end of August. That decision though is really up to the Yanks. There is no point in ruining the future simply for the sake of today.
RAB Editors Note: We’ve got an open thread for you all at 7:00 p.m. and a game thread two hours later. Lots of good stuff tonight. So stick around. · (12) ·
While Manny Ramirez may be hitting .565/.615/1.130 in the early going with the Dodgers, apparently a 341 OPS+ isn’t quite good enough for Joe Torre. In a piece that notes the $200,000 Dodger fans have spent on Manny merchandise in the past week, Deadspin scribe Rick Chandler reports that Torre would like to see Manny cut his trademark dreadlocks. Oh, Joe. When will you ever learn? · (17) ·
For the last four days, the Yankee lineup has been Melky Cabrera-free. The benching of Melky was a move a long time in the making and well overdue. But later tonight, in the O.C., the center fielder, three days shy of his 24th birthday, will resume his duties in the starting lineup, and I have to wonder to what end?
First, a history lesson: Since May 6, Melky Cabrera is hitting .225/.275/.281 over his last 309 plate appearances. As Mike pointed out a few days, those totals rank him as one of — if not, the — worst every-day player in the Majors.
Now, we’ve been fairly critical of Melky over the last two years. We want him to succeed, but right now, he just isn’t getting the job done. With three years of Big League experience under his belt, Melky should be showing improvement. Instead, his numbers are getting worse each year. That .260 batting average with a low-.300s OBP and little power since the start of 2007 is about what you can expect from Melky right now, and that just doesn’t cut it on the Yankees.
When the team benched Melky earlier this week, they did so under the guise of giving him a rest. Melky Cabrera, the man who has played, on average, 150 games per season in his pro career, needed a break. The Yanks intended to give Melky just two days off, but Joe Girardi decided to add on an extra pair of days to that non-benching benching.
But here is where things get a bit ugly. According to that Ed Price notebook, Joe Girardi still views Melky as his everyday center fielder. “I think Melky’s a better offensive player than he’s displayed. And I think that Melky can have a strong last 50 games for us, I really do,” Girardi said. “The important thing is that he gets on base, and that’s what we need him to do more of.”
Now, I know and you know that Joe Girardi isn’t going to come out and say that they’re benching Melky for good. We know he isn’t going to throw Melky under the bus. That would completely negate whatever residual trade value Cabrera has. But I’m beginning to fear that Girardi isn’t seeing the forest for the trees.
Everyone loves Melky Cabrera’s supposed enthusiasm and love for the game. They love his energy, his center field prowess and his cannon arm. But it’s laughable to think that his presence in the starting lineup helps the team. For Girardi to say that “we need him to do more of” getting on base ignores reality. Melky, for the better part of four months, has gotten on base at a .275 clip. For the last two seasons, he has an OBP of .315. That’s not a sample size issue; that’s a full-blown trend.
What you see if what you get. If the Yanks choose to see boundless energy and youthful enthusiasm, they should know that those traits won’t win games. If they see Melky as a fourth outfielder capable of giving Johnny Damon, Xavier Nady or Bobby Abreu a night off but don’t want to damage a young player’s psyche or trade value, then so be it. But as Melky returns to the starting lineup tonight, I worry that the Yanks will use him everyday, and that does not a playoff team make.
Reading some of this might help kill the hours between now and quitting time.
Ed Price points us to some quotes from Ian Kennedy and Dave Eiland about the youngster’s start tonight in Anaheim:
“I feel real good lately,” Kennedy told the Times-Tribune of Scranton, “and I’d like to take that up there.”
“His command’s been a little bit better,” said Eiland, who watches video of the Triple-A pitchers. “And he’s commanded his slider a little bit more, it’s more consistent, with the tilt to it. He’s not hanging as many, he’s more consistent, he’s got a better feel for it. That just comes with repetition.”
The Angels will trot out Jered Weaver, who got knocked around last time against the Yanks. Here’s to hoping they can hit another four homers off him tonight. It would surely help out Kennedy, who could use some run support in his return to the show.
In the same piece, Price shares a quote from Girardi on Melky:
“The important thing is that (Cabrera) gets on base,” Girardi said, “and that’s what we need him to do more of.”
That’s the important thing for everyone. But the sentiment is appreciated.
Ivan Rodriguez is set to start tonight, despite his bruised knee. I’m a big fan of the youngsters going with Molina behind the plate, but if Pudge is going to be the regular catcher, you might as well have him work with Kennedy, who hopefully can reclaim his permanent rotation spot over his next few starts.
Dave Laurila of Baseball Prospectus sits down for a chat with Pat Venditte. The whole thing is a good read, but here’s a pullaway quote:
From the right side, I rely a lot more on my fastball; I throw a curveball but rely heavily on my fastball. From the left side, I rely predominately on my slider, which I throw from a low three-quarters slot, and an occasional fastball. I don’t have as much velocity from my left side, so I have to do certain things to equal it out. One of those things is being able to locate offspeed pitches, which is one thing I really need to do in order to get hitters out.
Finally, I’m not sure why this turned up in Google News, but it’s a Jack Curry article about Don Mattingly wanting to be traded 1991. It stemmed from the infamous “cut that hair!” incident, which also included closer Steve Farr, starter Pasqual Perez, and catcher Matt Nokes.
“Maybe I don’t belong in the organization anymore,” Mattingly told reporters after the Yankees had defeated the Royals, 5-1, without him. “I talked to him about moving me earlier in the year. He said we’ll talk at the end of the year. Maybe this is their way of saying we don’t need you anymore.”
Yeah, good thing that never happened.
Late yesterday afternoon, Mike reported the news, via Mark Feinsand, that Andy Pettitte may miss his next start. Well, when word of Feinsand’s story hit the Yankees’ clubhouse, both Andy Pettitte and Joe Girardi issued denials, and now the story is different. As Feinsand writes in his updated post, Pettitte will start on Sunday but could earn himself an extra day of rest the next time through the rotation. Clearly, Pettitte isn’t 100 percent; his post-All Star Break numbers are terrible, and he could be suffering from the ever-popular fatigue. We’ll see how this one develops, but the Yanks can ill afford to lose Pettitte right now. · (21) ·
On August 11, 2007, the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Devil Rays played a rather meaningless game in the scheme of the season. Both teams were far out of the playoff hunt, wrapping up the formality of a 162-game season. In that game, Edwin Jackson would throw a four-hit shut out. It would be the last time the Rangers would get shut out at home until last night.
Three hundred and sixty two days later, someone else finally shut out the Rangers in Arlington. As the team has scored a Major League-leading 651, this is, clearly, no small feat, and tonight, the superlatives fall on the shoulders of Mike Mussina, the Yanks’ first 15-game winner. Over seven innings, Mussina scattered eight hits — only two for extra bases. He struck out six and walked just one. He’s now allowed 20 walks in 24 starts. Not only is Mussina chasing 20 wins yet again, but he may well finish the season with fewer walks than starts.
Moose, ever humble and sporting a nifty 3.27 ERA, would have none of the praise. “I didn’t have my best stuff,” he said after the game. Of course not. Who shuts down the Rangers at home with their best stuff? And for all the grief I’ve given Moose over the years, I have to tip my cap to him this year. He has shown, week after week, that old dogs — headstrong ones at that — can indeed learn a few new tricks.
Meanwhile, after a hiccup earlier this week, the bullpen was again strong for the Yanks. Brian Bruney got his out; Damaso Marte got his two outs; and Mariano Rivera needed a whopping eight pitches to dispatch the Rangers in the ninth. Game, set, match.
For the Yankees, the offense came to them courtesy of Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Johnny Damon. The three combined for eight of the Yanks’ 11 hits. Jeter’s home run in the first and his single in the 9th plated two of the runs, and Damon’s fifth inning single plated the other.
Of note was the odd non-double play in the ninth. With Wilson Betemit on first, Jose Molina hit a sure DP ball to Ian Kinsler. But the Rangers’ second baseman threw to first, and Wilson Betemit, either alert or too oblivious, scampered back to the bag, safe. He would later score on Jeter’s single. I’ve never quite seen a play unfold as that one did.
As the Yanks head to Anaheim tonight, they do so 5.5 games out of first following a rare Tampa loss and three games behind Boston in the Wild Card. They have Ian Kennedy and Dan Giese lined up to start the first two games. Beyond that, who knows? But that’s the maddening joy of baseball. Anything is possible, and while the Yanks are down, they’re aren’t out yet.
Game A-Rod Slump Notes: Alex Rodriguez had a series to forget. He went 0 for 14 and hit into four double plays. Prior to this week, he had hit into four double plays all season. Hopefully, he’ll heat up in Anaheim. He is a career .332/.399/.678 hitter in 352 plate appearances at the Big A…When A-Rod struck out with Derek Jeter on third and one out in the seventh, it was his 35th at-bat with a runner on third and less than two outs. He is now 7 for 29 in those situations, and the runner has scored in 13 of 35 situations. Those are bad numbers, albeit in a small sample.
Triple-A Scranton (6-1 win over Pawtucket)
Matt Carson: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K – filling in for Brett Gardner, who’s day-to-day with sore legs
Eric Duncan: 0 for 4, 1 K
Shelley Duncan & Juan Miranda: both 1 for 3, 1 2B, 1 BB – Shelley scored a pair of runs, drove in a run & K’ed twice … Miranda K’ed once
Cody Ransom: 2 for 3, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 CS, 1 HBP
Ben Broussard: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K – 10 XBH in his last 11 games (5 doubles, 5 homers)
Nick Green & Chris Basak: both 0 for 3, 1 K
Chad Moeller: 1 for 4, 1 K
Phil Hughes: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 9-3 GB/FB – 40 of 64 pitches were strikes (62.5%) … that’s a classic Phil Hughes start right there, right down to the pitch count … Chad Jennings said he was looking pretty nasty
Phil Coke: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K – it’s always fun when a pitcher records all of his outs via the K
Steven Jackson: 1.1 IP, zeroes, 3-1 GB/FB
Mark Melancon: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K – 15 of 24 pitches were strikes (62.5%) … for the first time in his professional career, he entered a game in the middle of an inning
Bravo to Joe Girardi for the lineup the past few days. Melky’s been a drain on the offense, and I’ve said on more than one occasion that I think Wilson Betemit can be a productive (i.e. at least average) player if given regular at-bats. Last week I proposed a lineup scenario to Joe in which Betemit, A-Rod, Jeter and Cano played every day, taking turns at DH to keep everyone fresh, and it looks this may be the case, even temporarily.
This is the A-lineup right now, the best they can trot out there as long as Matsui’s hurt.
1. Damon, CF
2. Jeter, DH
3. Abreu, RF
4. A-Rod, 3B
5. Giambi, 1B
6. Nady, LF
7. Cano, 2B
8. Betemit, SS
9. Molina, C
And on the mound, the man with the third most wins in baseball, Mike Mussina.
Notes: Andy Pettitte might miss his start Sunday … Phil Hughes is scheduled to throw 60-65 pitches for Triple-A Scranton tonight … Bobby wants to come back next year … blogging HOFer Matt Cerrone at MetsBlog interviewed Giuseppe Franco …