Mo: ‘I have another year, and after that, there won’t be any more’

Via Buster Olney, Mariano Rivera recently said flatly that the 2012 season will be his last. “I have another year, and after that, there won’t be any more,” said Mo, who signed a two-year deal this offseason. Or course, he qualified it by saying “That’s me talking [now].”

Mo has indicated many times in the past that the end was near, but yet he’s still here with that new contract. He’ll turn 42 years old after the season, so he’s already way past the point where he should stop being effective. “My will is one thing,” he said, “and the good Lord’s will is another. And I will follow his will.” Mo has defied he odds for so long that it seems like he could do it forever, but who knows what will happen over the next two seasons. Just make sure you appreciate whatever’s left of his career.

Medical Updates: Cervelli & Feliciano

Via George King, Francisco Cervelli has increased his rehab work since having the boot removed from his fractured left foot, but Joe Girardi says a realistic return date is early-May. “He has been running under water, doing agility drills and hitting but he is still a few weeks [away],” said the skipper. “He has yet to run on the field.” The schedule has been favorable when it comes to not playing Gustavo Molina, but that will change next week. Oh well.

As for Pedro Feliciano, he’s scheduled to see a doctor next week when the team returns to New York. With any luck, he’ll be cleared to throw and be able to start his rehab work. The good news is that the injury is not to his actual rotator cuff, but a muscle close by. Given Boone Logan‘s early struggles, I think we’re all looking forward to Feliciano’s return to health.

The poetic stylings of John Sterling

With new Yankees on the team, one rite of spring involves John Sterling’s home run calls. We wait to hear what the announcer dubbed Pa Pinstripe can come up with, and invariably it will make us groan. We’ve heard “Russel has muscle” and “Andruw Jones makes his bones” already this year, and Eric Chavez has yet to homer. As part of The Sports Section’s coverage of Opening Week, New York Magazine writer Joe DeLessio explored the seven types of Sterling’s home run calls. It is, well, something.

I’m pretty sure DeLessio hit on the entire oeuvre. He talks rhymes, plays on players’ names, alliteration, foreign languages (that make little sense in English), the ever-popular Granderson cultural references, references to Babe Ruth and, of course, made-up words. At least it’s not Hawk Harrelson.

Yankees pound Red Sox for 9-4 win

Order has been restored to the universe. The Red Sox won their first game of the season on Friday, but the Yankees reminded them who was boss on Saturday by taking batting practice off their prized young pitcher and revamped bullpen. The end result was a 9-4 win and Boston’s seventh loss in eight games.

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

The Bottom Third

A lot of jokes were made at the Yankees’ expense as they signed guys like Bartolo Colon, Eric Chavez, and Andruw Jones this winter, but right now they’re the ones doing the one laughing. Jones has a pair of extra base hits in his two starts against southpaws, Colon shoved it down Boston’s throat for four-plus innings on Friday, and Chavez led an offensive assault by the bottom third of the Yankees’ lineup on Saturday.

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

The party started right in the second inning. Seventh place hitter Curtis Granderson worked a walk off Clay Buchholz to put men at first and second with one out and the game still scoreless. Eighth place hitter Chavez jumped all over the first pitch fastball, driving it off the wall the other way for double and and the game’s first RBI. Ninth place hitter Russell Martin followed up a five pitch at-bat and a run scoring ground out.

Two innings later, Granderson worked a ten-pitch walk off Buchholz to lead off the frame before Chavez banged another opposite field double off the monstah. With men at second and third with none out, Martin said to hell with the RBI ground outs and clubbed a hanging curveball to left for a three-run homer, his second of the season. That made it 5-1 New York, with the bottom of the order doing all the damage. Granderson cut to the chase in the fifth inning, wrapping a two-run homer around the Pesky Pole for a 7-4 lead. Chavez would follow with a bloop single but didn’t come around to score. Martin tacked on another run with a solo homer in the seventh, his second of the game. It was the second two-homer game of his career.

All told, the bottom three hitters in the Yankees’ lineup combined to go 6-for-12 with two doubles, three homers, seven runs driven in, and two walks. At one point they were 5-for-7 with two walks. All three guys had at least one extra base hit, and Grandy was the only one without two. We know that the big names hitting towards the top and middle of the lineup will be the guys the team relies on all season, but yesterday was a good reminder of how deep and powerful this offense is.

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Nova Walks A Thin Line

Having watched Phil Hughes struggle mightily on Friday, the Yankees were looking for Ivan Nova to given them some length on Saturday. He lasted longer than Hughes but didn’t pitch deep into the game, walking the tight rope all afternoon long. Nova pitched around a pair of walks in the first and a pair of singles in the second, but the Sox scored a run after a Dustin Pedroia leadoff double in the third. A botched double play in the fourth extended the inning and ended up costing the team three more runs. After two of the first three runners reached in the fifth inning, Nova’s day was done.

Boston put the leadoff runner on in the second, third, fourth, and fifth innings, so Nova threw the vast majority of his 87 pitches from the stretch. The Red Sox bailed him out a bit by going 1-for-17 with runners in scoring in position, but more often than not, the pitcher is going to head for the showers early when he puts so many runners on base. Give Nova some credit for bending but not breaking, but I think today had more to do with Boston’s offensive struggles than his crafty pitching.

FOX fail. (Photo via Amanda Rykoff)

Leftovers

A good as the bottom third of the order was, that how as bad as the top of the lineup had been (/McCarver’d). Brett Gardner, Derek Jeter, and Mark Teixeira went a combined 1-for-14 with three strikeouts and a walk (Jeter had the hit and walk). Alex Rodriguez had a pair of singles while Robinson “don’t call me Robbie” Cano singled, doubled, and homered. That man loves him some Fenway Park. Nick Swisher drove in another run, something he’s done in six of the team’s eight games. The Yankees were again brutally patient, forcing Buchholz out of the game after just 3.2 innings because he’d thrown 92 pitches.

Big ups to birthday boy David Robertson (turned 26 on Saturday) for cleaning up Nova’s mess in the fifth by striking out Jed Lowrie and retiring Jacoby Ellsbury on a ground out. He then chipped in a 1-2-3 sixth inning. Joba Chamberlain grunted and farted his way to two strikeouts in a dominant seventh inning (topped out at 96.2 mph and averaged 94.98), and Luis Ayala wrapped it up with two sketchy but ultimately scoreless innings. Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera were tossing lightly in the bullpen in case things got out of control.

Based on WPA, the biggest play of the game for New York was Grandy’s homer at +.157. Martin’s first homer was second at +.114 WPA. The two biggest outs of the day came on Jarrod Saltalamacchia strikeouts, a second inning whiff with men on first and second and a fourth inning whiff with men on the corner. There were not outs in both situations, and both outs came in at +.059 for the good guys.

WPA Graph & Box Score

MLB.com has a box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the other stuff.

Up Next

ESPN is carrying the rubber game of the series on Sunday night at 8:05pm ET. CC Sabathia matches up against Josh Beckett, and Joe Girardi should be able to go nuts with Soriano and Mo if needed thanks to Monday’s scheduled off day.

Montero & Heathcott shine on Saturday

Triple-A Scranton (7-6 loss to Rochester in 12 innings, walk-off style) faced the Twins’ top prospect and a personal fave
Kevin Russo, 2B: 0 for 6, 2 K – 0 for 11 with 5 K so far
Chris Dickerson, CF: 3 for 5, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 SB
Jesus Montero, C: 3 for 6, 1 R, 1 HR, RBI – he hit another ball to the warning track
Jorge Vazquez, 1BL 1 for 6, 1 RBI, 4 K
Justin Maxwell, RF, Brandon Laird, 3B & Greg Golson, LF: all 1 for 5, 1 BB – Maxwell struck out three times & stole a base … Laird scored a run … Golson hit a solo jack, stole a bag, struck out thrice & threw a runner out at the plate with his rocket arm
Jordan Parraz, DH: 2 for 6, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 K
Ramiro Pena, SS: 3 for 6, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI – Ramiro hit a homer? I don’t believe it
Hector Noesi, RHP: 5 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 4-4 GB/FB, 1 E (throwing) – 62 of 90 pitches were strikes (68.9%) … a little too hittable, but it’s just his first start of the year
Eric Wordekemper, RHP: 2 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1-3 GB/FB – 16 of 30 pitches were strikes (53.3%)
Buddy Carlyle, RHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1-0 GB/FB – eight of his ten pitches were strikes
Kevin Whelan, RHP: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB. 1 K, 0-1 GB/FB – 12 of his 13 pitches were strikes (92.3%) … blew the save by allowing a homer to a guy with some big league time … they’re going to miss having Jon Albaladejo to nail things down in the ninth
Lance Pendleton, RHP: 2.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 2-3 GB/FB – 23 of 39 pitches were strikes (59%)

[Read more…]

Saturday Open Thread

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

The Yankees got themselves a win as well as a new pitcher today. Carlos Silva isn’t great or even good for that matter, but Phil Hughes has been awful and Kevin Millwood apparently looks like crap in Extended Spring Training, so it’s good to add the depth. Anyway, here’s the open thread for the night. You’ve got baseball all over the place due to the Extra Innings free preview, plus the Islanders are playing their last game of the season. If you feel like scoreboard watching, keep an eye on the Hurricanes and Lightning; anything but a Canes’ win gets the (NY) Rangers into the playoffs. Talk about whatever your heart desire, go nuts.

Site Notes: Please consider participating in our 2011 Pledge Drive … Also, please take our completely anonymous reader demographic survey if you haven’t already … Lastly, please vote for Alex Kresovich’s “The Return” track for the NBA2K12 by clicking “Like” on Facebook. Alex put together the intro music for our podcast.

The Chavez-Rodriguez-Posada connection

One of the downsides to Wednesday’s rainout against Minnesota in New York was that fans were prevented from getting their first glimpse of the new Yankee bench, particularly Eric Chavez. Fortunately Chavez got the nod today at DH and took advantage. As of post time, Chavez was 3 for 4 with two doubles, an RBI and a run. Brian Cashman signed Chavez this offseason to be a backup infielder, and his role on the team is to stay healthy and spell Rodriguez at 3B whenever Alex needs a day off. He can also DH, a role he took on today against Boston. When the Yankees signed Chavez, some criticized the move based on his extensive injury history. It’s hard to argue with these critics. Click here to navigate to Baseball Prospectus’ player card for Chavez (free for non-subscribers), and scroll down to his Injury History. It’s incredible. Regardless, no one can deny the fact that Chavez managed to stay healthy throughout Spring Training and now occupies a role on the 2011 New York Yankees. Indeed, not only is Chavez healthy but Mark Prior is currently healthy as well. Cats, dogs, living together as one. Presuming Chavez can stay healthy enough to play 1 or 2 games a week an interesting question arises: are the Yankees better on the days in which Chavez plays 3B and Rodriguez DHs than they are on the days in which Rodriguez plays 3B and Posada DHs? The answer is no, but it’s probably closer than most realize.

There are two questions that must be answered. The first is how much value the club receives, if any, by replacing Rodriguez on the field with Chavez. Chavez has long had the reputation of being a defensive wizard. As Mike noted when the Yankees brought him to camp on a minor-league deal, his best days in Oakland were days of double-digit UZRs at the hot corner. Now, whether some of this defensive skill has eroded over time due to injury, age or loss of flexibility remains to be seen. It’s logical that he won’t be as agile as he’s been in the past, or have the same arm strength. He at least has the pedigree. Rodriguez, on the other hand, doesn’t grade out particularly well at 3B. He’s shown increased mobility this spring, likely due to his hip injury finally healing all the way, but even before that they only time he showed a positive UZR at 3B was in 2004. Every year since then the grades have been below-average. This isn’t a case in which the defensive metrics disagree with what fans see, like how UZR and fans disagree on Teixeira. Most fans would likely agree that Rodriguez’s defensive pedigree is more or less average. Certainly none would label Rodriguez a plus defender. In the past, Chavez has been a plus defender. If he’s able to regain some of that defensive form at third, it’s likely going to be a bit of a defensive upgrade when Chavez is in the game.

The second question is how much value the club loses, if any, by replacing Posada at the plate with Chavez. In his heyday, Chavez was a very productive hitter. From 2000 to 2004 (arbitrary start/endpoint alert) Chavez hit .280/.357/.513, averaging exactly 30 home runs per year. Unfortunately, his offensive production and his ability to stay healthy started to decline after that. In 2005 and 2006 Chavez put together an OPS of .791. This would be the last time Chavez would play over 100 games, and since then his inconsistent health has prevented him from getting back on solid offensive ground. He is fully healthy, for now, but it remains difficult to know what to expect from him offensively. His playing-time adjusted PECOTA projection is .231/.300/.379, a line that not-coincidentally mirrors his 2010 line of .234/.276/.333. Marcel has him at .237/.292/.365. Given how these systems are constructed, weighting past performance heavily, such a pessimistic projection isn’t at all surprising. Yet, there’s considerable upside there. As Mike put it back in March, the number one question is the health:

His 3-or-3 effort in yesterday’s game bumped his admitted small (18 PA) spring line to .471/.500/.529, and based on the radio broadcasts, many of his outs have been hard hit as well…

Anyway, as good as the early camp stats are, the bat really isn’t the question with Chavez. I mean yeah, it kinda is since he’s hit just .233/.290/.399 in 628 plate appearances spread out over the last four seasons, but the biggest challenge he has to overcome is his health.

Chavez has a gigantic platoon split. In his career against lefties he has batted .237/.305/.392, but he’s hammered righties to the tune of .279/.359/.514. While no one expects him to regain his .875 OPS form, if he’s used exclusively against righties it perhaps wouldn’t be a surprise to see him settle in around .750. For his part, Jorge Posada can likely outproduce that by a decent margin. He’s a lifetime .855 OPS hitter and doesn’t have to bear the physical toll of catching this year. Posada can focus exclusively on his craft. He’s slumping right now, and spent today’s game on the bench, but would anyone be surprised if he cleared his 2010 OPS of .811 in 2011? It’s a reasonable bet that Posada will outproduce Chavez at the plate this year. By how much largely depends on proper usage (Chavez should face only RHP), whether the two of them will stay healthy, and whether Chavez’s lefty swing can take advantage of the dimensions of Yankee Stadium.

Ultimately this is a moot point. It’s not as if Chavez is going to suddenly supplant Rodriguez as the every day third baseman, forcing Rodriguez to the DH position and Posada to a bench role. However, thanks to his past defensive prowess and skill against right-handed pitchers Chavez has the potential to be better than your average defensive replacement. Yankee fans have become accustomed to bench players who either can’t hit (Pena, Nunez) or can’t field (Thames). In Chavez the team has a guy with the potential to do a little of both. Of course, potential has always been and will always be the operative word with Eric Chavez. But hey, hope springs eternal.

Note: I’ve had this post in the hopper all week. As I mentioned on Twitter, I’m well aware that it probably looks like I wrote it in the past hour after Chavez’s big day today. You’ll just have to take my word for it :)