During the Yanks’ victory over the A’s yesterday, Michael Kay dropped an interesting, if largely meaningless, statistic. Derek Jeter is 13 for 23 when facing a pitcher for the fourth time in the game. His hit on Sunday against Dallas Braden gave the Yanks a lead they wouldn’t surrender.
For Jeter, the two-RBI hit capped off a weekend to remember. On Friday night, he passed Ted Williams on the all-time hit list. Following the weekend set against the A’s, Jeter now has 121 hits on the season and 2658 career hits. Three thousand, here he comes.
During the post-game show, the YES Network hosts were praising Jeter. On the month, he his now hitting .367 with 15 runs scored and 11 RBI. He has hits in 19 of this month’s 22 games, and he has taken to the lead-off spot as a moth does to a light. Quietly, confidently, Derek Jeter, at age 35, is having one of the best seasons of his career.
On the season, Jeter is hitting .321 — a full .005 points above his career average — with a .398 OBP and a .457 slugging. While the slugging mark is in line with his career average, his OBP is well above his career .387 mark. He’s on pace for 19 home runs and 31 stolen bases.
Defensively, he has shown marked improvement as well. While his numbers aren’t as gaudy as they were in June, his UZR is a positive 1.8 and his UZR/150 is 4.5. For his career, those marks are at -38 and -5.5 respectively. If a 35-year-old short stop known more his bat than his glove can improve, Jeter is doing so.
During the TV broadcast, Michael Kay and Paul O’Neill were talking about Derek Jeter’s MVP-like campaign this year. In 2006, Jeter should have won the MVP when he hit .343/.417/.483. While Mark Teixeira has been an utter beast at the plate, Jeter in the leadoff spot has been a revelation for the Yanks. He’s hitting as well as he ever has, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
At some point, we’ll start to have some very serious discussions about Jeter’s future. He is after all making over $20 million and nearly playing to his salary this season, but he’s a free agent after next year. The Yankees are going to have to figure out how much to offer a 36-year-old who has been the face of the franchise since 1996. It is not a decision for which I envy the Steinbrenners and Cashman.
For now, though, we should just sit back and watch a master professional at work. At various points in his Yankee career, Jeter has been either underrated or overrated. No matter everyone else’s opinion, Jeter has just always been there, and this year, he’s doing it at a high level. To that, we offer up a tip of the cap to the Yankee captain. Keep it up, DJ.
Record Last Week: 6-1 (39 RS, 26 RA)
Season Record: 60-38 (543 RS, 466 RA), 2.5 GB
Opponents This Week: @ Tampa Bay (3 games), @ White Sox (4 games)
Top stories from last week:
- Hideki Matsui started the new week off with a bang, launching a walk-off homer in the series opener against the O’s on Monday. Sergio Mitre‘s pinstriped debut was good enough to earn him a win on Tuesday, and AJ Burnett did his thing to close out the series in style.
- After sweeping Baltimore out of town, the Yanks welcomed the Jason Giambi-less A’s to the Bronx. CC Sabathia outdueled local kid Vin Mazzaro on Thursday, and Joba Chamberlain dominated Oaktown for the team’s eighth straight win on Friday. The streak came to an end thanks to an Al Aceves meltdown the next day, but Derek Jeter steered the team back into the winner’s circle with a clutch two-run single yesterday and wrapped up a 9-1 homestand.
- Unfortunately, it’s not all good news as Chien-Ming Wang felt pain in his injured shoulder. First he was just going to get a third opinion from the almighty Dr. James Andrews, but now he’s actually going to head out to Birmingham so Andrews can check him out. All we can do is hope for the best.
- The Yankees also lost part-time centerfielder Brett Gardner for at least two weeks when he broke his thumb on a slide into second. It’s really unfortunate because Melky Cabrera’s production has been heading south since April.
- Thankfully, things are looking up for Ian Kennedy, who appears to be ahead of schedule in his rehab from an aneurysm and plans to get throw some innings in winter ball.
- MLB’s trade deadline is this Friday, and while things started out quietly, the Yanks have since been linked to everyone from Cliff Lee to Chad Qualls to Scott Downs. But remember, trading for big name pitchers doesn’t always work out.
- Oh, and Brett Tomko was DFA’ed. And there was much rejoicing.
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With Brett Gardner shelved until at least mid-August with a broken thumb, the Yankees will need another outfielder. They do have three players on the active roster — Cody Ransom, Eric Hinske, and Hideki Matsui — to spell their three starters, but each is questionable enough defensively to merit an alternative solution. Foremost among the concerns is that it would force Johnny Damon or Nick Swisher into center field to give Melky Cabrera a rest, an option the Yankees don’t seem comfortable with, and rightly so. Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be many alternatives to back up Melky in center.
Every mildly curious Yankees fan has pondered the option of promoting Austin Jackson from AAA Scranton to temporarily fill in. He’s one of the Yankees most promising prospects, and he’s one of the few players in the system who could play center field in the majors. It’s understandable that fans would want to see him get a shot in the majors, especially considering his successful season so far: .311/.375/.429 with 17 steals in 19 attempts.
The rules also favor the Yankees. By adding Jackson to the 40-man roster the Yankees will start his service time clock, but that’s of little concern at this point in the season. The more pressing concern is the use of a minor league option. There wouldn’t seem to be room on the roster for Jackson once Gardner returns, so they would have to burn an option by returning him to Scranton. But Gardner’s best case return time is 25 days, which would be August 19. Rosters expand on September 1, so if the Yankees optioned Jackson then he’d be in the minors for fewer than 20 days. Thus, the option would not be used.
(The Yankees did this with Brian Bruney in 2007, though they recalled him before rosters expanded. He went down on August 7 when Joba came up, and was recalled a bit later in the month. But because he wasn’t in the minors for 20 days the Yankees did not burn an option.)
The problem with adding Jackson is that they’d have to play him nearly every day. Is that something they should be committed to at this point? There is a little over two months left in the season and the AL East is anything but decided. Committing to Jackson might mean putting a black hole in the nine spot regularly. Since they’ll be playing against other American League teams, they need not hamper themselves with a pitcher’s spot — and worse on days that Jose Molina plays.
Not playing Jackson would be a complete waste. He’d be better off getting regular at bats in Scranton, and the team wouldn’t be that much better with him in reserve. They could always option him if the experiment failed, but then they would not only possibly trigger an option year, depending on when they pull the plug, but would also have to clear another 40-man spot to add a replacement outfielder. Those are considerably costs, and perhaps ones the Yankees should not be willing to risk.
There are legitimate concerns about Jackson’s ability to handle major league pitching right now. Two major points of debate over Jackson are his strikeouts and his batting average on balls in play. Of the former, he has 89 strikeouts in 347 at bats this season. How will he handle major league pitchers if AAA pitchers set him down frequently via the swing and miss? Of the latter, his BABIP is .407, which he certainly will not be able to replicate at the big league level. That could cause a massive drop-off in all of his numbers.
Jackson has also struggled lately, as he’s mired in a .167/.244/.194 slump over the past 14 days (not counting Sunday’s 0 for 3 performance). The Yankees did promote Jackson back in 2007 while he was hitting just .260/.336/.374 in Charleston, and he responded by tearing the Florida State League to shreds in the second half, hitting .345/.398/.556 over the final 67 games. But the Yankees can’t expect that to happen again. The expectations for immediate performance, given Jackson’s recent struggles, his general strikeout tendencies, and his high BABIP, would have to be rather low.
Few doubt Austin Jackson’s talent and potential to be a solid major leaguer in the future. He’s handled each promotion since 2007 relatively well, and has continued to perform over the course of the 2009 season. The Yankees might be attracted by the prospect of adding him to their outfield, but there is enough working against the move that they shouldn’t make it at this point. This could mean having to see Johnny Damon in center field once or twice over the next 30 or so days while Melky mans the position full-time. Those costs would seem to be less than those of promoting Austin Jackson and having the experiment fail.
What should the Yankees do, then? There are a few internal options, though few could play a passable center field. It looks like John Rodriguez, Shelley Duncan, Ramiro Pena, or a trade for a player who can man center. In any case, I wouldn’t bet on it being Austin Jackson. As much as I’d love to see the kid in the Bronx, it doesn’t seem like the right move for the Yankees right now.
One year ago today on DotF, High-A Tampa rallied for six runs in the final inning for a walk-off win over Dunedin.
Yes, I know Austin Jackson didn’t play tonight. And no, I don’t think it’s because he’s being called up. The kid is 7 for his last 38 (.184) with eight strikeouts in his last 21 at bats. It’s most likely just a day off to regroup.
Triple-A Scranton (10-2 loss to Toledo)
Kevin Russo, Shelley Duncan & Yurendell DeCaster: all 1 for 4 – Russo scored a run & K’ed … DeCaster doubled
Ramiro Pena: 3 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB – played CF as well
Colin Curtis & Frankie Cervelli: both 0 for 4 - Curtis was caught stealing … Cervelli K’ed twice
Juan Miranda: 1 for 3, 1 BB
The Ghost of Kei Igawa: 5 IP, 11 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 1-9 GB/FB – 75 of 119 pitches were strikes (63%) … SWB’s staff is stretched real thin, so they had to keep sending him back out there to take the beating
Amaury Sanit: 2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2-3 GB/FB – 22 of 36 pitches were strikes (61.1%)
Edwar Ramirez: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 0-1 GB/FB – 10 of 15 pitches were strikes
As we head into Sunday night, we have a piece of news on a Yankee pitcher and a day of celebration up in Cooperstown.
After the game, the Yankees revealed that injured hurler Chien-Ming Wang will head to Alabama on Monday to meet Dr. James Andrews. The baseball medical expert performed surgery on Wang in 2001, and his diagnosis will determine if Wang needs rest or surgery. No matter the outcome, Wang is pretty much finished for 2009.
Meanwhile, up in Cooperstown today, Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice headlined the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Despite his arrival in Cooperstown, Jim Rice will never really belong in my mind. Nothing has changed between this year and the 14 other times he didn’t make it. Also on the slate was Joe Gordon, a one-time Yankee middle infielder. Fack Youk profiled this forgotten Yankee. Check it out.
On another note, I’m heading out of town for ten days tomorrow afternoon. I’ll have a few more posts up over the next few days, but for the most part, Mike and Joe along with a few guests will take you through the Yankee road trip and the trade deadline. It’ll be a fun ride, and I’m sorry to miss it. I will, however, be back in time for game two of the Boston series.
Anyway, here’s your open thread. You know the drill. Anything goes. Just be nice.
When the All Star Break ended, the Yanks found themselves three games behind Red Sox. After a humiliating three-game sweep at the hands of the Angels in Anaheim before the break, the Bombers were looking for a hot start to the second half.
Ten days later, they have delivered. The beat the A’s 7-5 this afternoon on five two-out RBIs, and in doing so, they wrapped up a 9-1 homestand. They have also gained 5.5 games on the Red Sox since the break and head south to Tampa with a 2.5-game lead in the AL East. If not for a bad 0-2 pitch from Alfredo Aceves yesterday, they could have gone 10-0 to start the second half. Still, I’ll take 9-1.
Today’s game started off inauspiciously. Before the Yanks had an at-bat, Sergio Mitre had given up four hits and two runs. That would be a short-lived deficit. Single, walk, strike out, pop out, single, walk, double. 4-2 Yanks.
The big blow in the bottom of the first came off the bat of Robinson Cano. Struggling mightily with runners in scoring position this year, Cano lined a bases-clearing double into deep center field to give the Yanks their lead. It was a key hit in the game.
As the innings wore on, Mitre pitched a decent enough game. His final line was fairly mediocre — 5 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 1 K — but he benefited from three double plays and didn’t walk anyone. He’ll continue to make starts out of the fifth spot in the rotation until and unless the Yanks make a move. I’d rather see Phil Hughes transition back into the rotation, but Mitre is giving the Yanks a chance to win. The team is 2-0 in his first two starts.
Briefly, in the sixth, the Yanks ran into a spot of trouble. In the fourth, Derek Jeter had failed to get a runner in from third with less than two outs, and it nearly came back to haunt them. After Mitre surrendered a lead-off single to Kurt Suzuki, Phil Coke came in to face the A’s lefties. Ryan Sweeney flew out to left, and Daric Barton just beat out a relay throw to avoid a double play. With two outs, Mark Ellis lined a ball off of his shoe tops into the left field seats to give the A’s a 5-4 lead.
Again, this lead would prove short-lived. In the bottom of the 6th, Jeter again came to the plate with runners on second and third and one out. This time, an RBI single plated two runs to give the Yanks a lead they would not surrender. Mark Teixeira would, two batters later, give the Yanks a two-run lead.
Things got a bit hairy in the 8th though. After a 1-2-3 seventh and a K to start the 8th, Phil Hughes ran into a spot of trouble. He allowed a walk to Ryan Sweeney and a double to Daric Barton after a long AB. In came Brian Bruney, and we all held our breaths. Bruney, shakey of late, got a huge K, and then the Sandman came in for a four-out save. Nomar Garciaparra tapped back weakly to Mariano, and Rivera ran through the A’s in the ninth. Game, set, match.
The Red Sox and John Smoltz had just lost to the Orioles. The Rays had just lost to the Blue Jays. As Michael Kay said to end the broadcast, “All is right in the pinstriped world for Joe Girardi and his clan.”
Can Hughes go three? Maybe the question should be: will they let him?
Following this afternoon’s affair with the A’s, the Yankees will hit the road. In the midst of 17 straight games, they’ll fly to Tampa to play the third-place Rays, journey to Chicago for a set against the White Sox and stop in Toronto for a two-gamer before facing the Red Sox in a key showdown. This stretch of the schedule will be key to the Yankees’ 2009 season.
So as the Yanks gear up to leave town, Alex Rodriguez will get a day off. The Yanks’ third baseman, still building up strength in his legs, has had a great July but hasn’t enjoyed a day off since the All Star Break. He’ll be on the bench, a weapon with his bat ready to come in late in the game. That means we’re stuck, for another game, with Cody Ransom at third. With a groundball pitcher on the mound, things could get dicey.
For the Yanks, Sergio Mitre makes his second start. He wasn’t terrible last week. In 5.2 innings, he gave up four runs — three earned — one eight hits and a walk. He also struck out four and mostly kept the ball down. We’ll have to see if he can do it again and solidify that fifth position in the Yanks’ rotation.
The A’s counter with Dallas Braden. The 25-year-old lefty is 7-8 but with a 3.40 ERA. He has never started against the Yanks but made three relief appearances against the team. Braden features a fastball and slider with a good change-up. He came up through the system with a screwball too but has largely discarded it when it game him shoulder problems a few years ago.
2 Jeter SS
18 Damon LF
25 Teixeira 1B
20 Posada C
55 Matsui DH
33 Swisher RF
24 Cano 2B
53 Cabrera CF
12 Ransom 3B
45 Mitre P
PeteAbe has the news. It seems Gardner broke his left thumb yesterday sliding into second, and will be in a cast for two weeks before being reevaluated. Jon Albaladejo has been called up temporarily, but the team replace him with a position player in a day or two. Ramiro Pena has been playing some CF in the minors, but I’m not sure if the team thinks he’s ready to do it in the majors.
Meanwhile, in his Sunday column, Bob Klapisch reports on a Brett Gardner rumor. According to Klapisch, the Mariners asked for both Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera for Jarrod Washburn. This move would have left the Yankees with another starter but neither of their center fielders. Despite his landing on the DL, Gardner could still be traded this week.
For what it’s worth, Klapsich also debunks Jon Heyman’s report concerning Joba Chamberlain and Roy Halladay. The Yanks, he says, are committed to Chamberlain and see him as a long-term solution to their number three starter spot.