• Mitre says he’s worked out the kinks
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    When a pitcher has a poor start, one of many excuses they offer up is that their mechanics were out of whack. We heard this from Joba Chamberlain earlier in the season — that he was working on his mechanics. Whether it’s true or not we can rarely be sure. Each pitcher has his own set of mechanics, so it’s tough to compare one to another. It looks like Sergio Mitre took this excuse after his poor outing on Friday against the White Sox. Via MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, we learn that Mitre has worked on his mechanics between starts, “concentrating on keeping his right arm and his body synchronized.” That, he says, will help keep his sinker sinking and away from the upper parts of the zone. We’ll see for sure a bit later tonight. · (80) ·

Yadel MartiLate yesterday evening we got word from ESPN’s Jorge Arangure Jr. that Cuban defectors RHP Yadel Marti (pictured), OF Yasser Gomez, and RHP Juan Yasser had been declared free agents and are now free to sign with any team. (All three players had defected late last year, so that gives you somewhat of a reference for how long it should take Aroldis Chapman to become a free agent.) The White Sox are at the forefront of the Cuban market these days, but the Yankees are established players with an strongtrack record. They signed Orlando Hernandez back in the day and brought him almost immediately to the big leagues, ditto Jose Contreras. Lesser players like Juan Miranda and Amaury Sanit are just a phone call away from the bigs in Triple-A. And as always, money talks.

Of the three, Marti is the most appealing to the Yanks right now because he’s a veteran guy and essentially ready to contribute to the big league club according to Arangure, plus he fits an immediate need. Gomez could be interesting for next year’s outfield, but there’s no spot for him on the team right now. Their agent, famed Cuban representative Jaime Torres, says that three NL and two AL teams have expressed interest in signing either Gomez and/or Marti for the stretch run this year. With Sergio Mitre presently occupying the fifth spot and Joba Chamberlain eventually having to be shut down due to workload limitations, the Yankees are in need of another starting pitcher. But we know that already.

Going after Marti wouldn’t require any finagling of the waiver system, no hoping that a competing team doesn’t block a player. All it takes is money and a sell job, something that shouldn’t be too difficult considering the team’s track record with Cubans and the fact that well, they are the Yankees. The 30-yr old Marti is no stranger to the big stage, having competed in top international competitions since he was 19-yrs old. He was Cuba’s best pitcher in the 2006 WBC, allowing just six hits and no runs in 12.2 IP with 11 strikeouts. B-Ref’s bullpen says that Marti’s fastball sits around 87-90, relying instead on his sinker, slider and curveball, as well as hitting his spots. This nearly two year old Baseball America article says he has “a pair of quality secondary pitches—a sharp-breaking curveball and a diving changeup,” and also mentions that he has “a pause in his delivery reminiscent of many Japanese pitchers.” You can see that right here.

That’s about all I can tell you about his stuff. I wish I had more, but that’s life. Certainly you can expect the Yankees to be a bit more thorough in their research before deciding to pursue Marti. Timeframe will also be an issue, because he’d have to be on the roster by August 31st to be eligible for the postseason roster. I mean, I guess they could always find some loophole to get him on the roster like the Angels did with K-Rod in 2002, but that’s not something that’s easy to do (the Angels “lucked out” when Aaron Sele blew out his shoulder late in the season). Marti would have to get in game shape before the end of this month, ideally making a minor league start or three before coming up.

By no means am I touting Marti as a rotation savior. I’m just presenting him as an alternative to staking out the waiver wire for a potential fifth starter that would cost money and (most likely) something in terms in players, even if it’s low level filler types. Assuming the money and contract details work out, and the team likes what they see out of Marti in workouts, then maybe there’s a match. It’s a stretch, I’ll certainly admit it, but the Yanks wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t at least look into it.

Photo Credit: Ricardo Lopez, Granma

Categories : Players
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This is a guest post by Moshe Mandel from The Yankee Universe.

Melky Cabrera is a polarizing figure amongst Yankees fans. While most love his exuberance and obvious love for the game, his talent has been questioned by many, including myself. Even when things were going well for Melky in the past, you always felt like the other shoe was bound to drop. He did not seem to have the swing to make consistent solid contact, and his approach at the plate was often awful. Yet all of that has changed. Melky has an wOBA of .350, which is a career high and 10th among all qualified center fielders. Typically worse from the right side, he is hitting lefties at a .303/.378/.525 clip. In the field, his UZR is -.2, but is .8 in center. Let’s take a closer look at the numbers to identify exactly what is behind the resurgence of Melky Cabrera.

Power: Melky is driving the ball with more regularity, as evidenced by his 20.5% line drive rate, which is the highest of his career. This has lead to an ISO of .169 and a SLG of .457, both career highs by a large margin. While some would suggest that he has been helped by Yankee Stadium, as he has 7 home runs at home and 3 on the road, his slugging numbers are actually pretty similar at home (.463) and on the road (.449), and his OPS is slightly higher on the road(.811 v. .806). Of course, the question remains, what has caused this increase in power? Why is Melky hitting more line drives? I think the next section can help uncover some answers.

Plate Discipline: Melky’s changed approach at the plate has been apparent to the naked eye. He seems less anxious at the plate, and has become less prone to swinging at a pitch near his eyes, something that had plagued him for much of his career. The numbers support this observation.

Melky is walking at his highest rate since 2006 (9.3%), and is seeing slightly more pitches per PA (3.9) than he has in the past. He has also brought his K-rate (12.9%) back to 2006 levels after having it balloon on him last season. His O-Swing % (percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the zone) is his lowest since 2006 (24.6%). Pitchers can no longer throw pitches in the dirt or at Melky’s eyes and expect him to swing, which makes it more likely that he will see some good pitches to hit.

What do these numbers tell us? They suggest that Melky has become a bit more selective at the plate this season when compared to his last two abysmal seasons. This has lead to more walks, fewer strikeouts, and is allowing him to wait for his pitch and drive the ball with regularity.

Is this turnaround sustainable? Who knows. It is important to remember that he is only 24. We often forget that Melky was in the majors for good at 21, and view him as a finished product. Considering that many players do not even see the majors until they hit Melky’s current age, it is difficult to say that he has reached his ceiling, or that his performance thus far is a fluke. It is reasonable to suggest that Melky could possibly have had another gear than what he had shown prior to 2009, and that he is just now realizing some of his potential.

Melky lost his job at the end of 2008 and was told to work on his plate discipline and approach at the plate. By being more selective, he is eating up more pitches per at-bat and making better and more consistent contact. He lost the job coming out of spring training, but it is hard not to be impressed with the way he handled that situation and prepared himself for his opportunity. He has had a solid season thus far, and his at-bats are no longer a sight to avoid. Another month or two of play like this, and I think those of us who did not believe in Melky will be gladly forced to admit that we were wrong. I look forward to it.

Note by Joe: Ditto those last two sentences.

Categories : Analysis
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  • Patience is a virtue … and a requirement
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    As fans we expect instant gratification, and for Yankee fans that goes double. Whenever a young player comes up a struggles, we’re quick to write them off as busts and include them in trade packages for established players. Major League clubs can’t afford to be so shortsighted and impatient, and as Chad Jennings shows, we as fans need to learn how to deal with the ups and downs of a young player’s development as well. Sometimes you don’t get the desired result right away, and that’s just the way it is.

    Preaching patience is one thing. Practicing it is something entirely different all together.
    · (69) ·

One often-repeated criticism of the Yankees is their relative inability to beat teams over .500. They are, after all, just 24-29 against those opponents, while they’re 40-13 against their weaker counterparts. Intuitively, this seems like a bad indicator of things to come. Once you get to the playoffs those sub-.500 teams are out of the picture. How can the Yankees expect to win if they can’t beat the better teams?

As it turns out, a team’s ability to beat other winning teams doesn’t mean much, at least so far as World Series titles go. As Darren Everson of The Wall Street Journal notes, of the nine champions this decade only four have had winning records against teams over .500. “The typical profile of a World Series champion in recent times is a club that cleans up on the weak and breaks even against everyone else.” So perhaps this isn’t the problem we’re making it out to be.

As Calcaterra muses, it’s probably a coincidence. I tend to agree. Baseball is like a biathlon, starting with a six-month marathon and concluding with a three-week sprint. Teams that fare well in the marathon might not handle the sprint so well, and vice versa (the Wild Card has allowed more of the latter to get into the playoffs). Combine that with the natural streakiness of baseball and you have a recipe for a postseason which does not necessarily reflect the 162-game season we all live and die through.

Not that it stops Craig from speculating:

The article doesn’t speculate about why this might be. Coincidence is almost always the best answer when one encounters weird and/or counterintuitive stats like this, but chalking stuff up to coincidence is boring, even if accurate. Because of this, let’s concoct an untestable yet moderately-satisfying hypothesis: Due to the 162-game regular season, teams that win the World Series are, by definition, marathon winners, not sprinters, and the mark of a marathon winner is somoene who knows when to conserve energy and when to put the hammer down. This is not to say that teams roll over for good competition. Indeed, as the article notes, the winners play even the toughest competition at something just less than .500 ball, which ain’t too shabby. It’s merely to suggest that on some subconscious level, the best teams know that all wins count for the same amount during the regular season and that it simply takes less energy to beat a bad team than a good one and act accordingly.

Really, though, it’s coincidence.

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The Yankees had a strange night against Roy Halladay. They worked him in the first, forcing him to throw 23 pitches in a two-run inning, which included an error by the man himself (though Millar got the credit, Doc kinda just dropped the ball). It was a rare early lead against Halladay, but he wasn’t about to give up much more. He rolled through the middle innings before wearing down at the end, surrendering three solo homers, which would be the difference in a 5-3 Yankees win.

After the first inning, Doc settled in, and that might be an understatement. After throwing 23 pitches in the first, Halladay finished all nine with just 103. This included seven pitches in the second, 16 in the third, 10 in the fourth, nine in the fifth, nine in the sixth, and five in the seventh. That left him with 89 pitches headed into the eighth, and for a guy who’s topped topped out at 133 this year that’s seemingly nothing.

Halladay looked strong again to start the eighth, retiring the first two hitters on five pitches. Then came Johnny Damon, who on the fifth pitch of the at bat hit one over the right field wall. Unlike his July Fourth jack, this was no cheapie, as it landed in the Yankees bullpen, extending the lead to 3-1. Mark Teixeira followed with a shot to right on the second pitch he saw, giving the Yankees a nice cushion. They’d need it.

Phil Hughes, who had come on for Pettitte with two on and two outs in the seventh, didn’t look his sharpest last night. Each of the five Jays he faced had two strikes, but three of them managed to foul a few off — ones that a few weeks ago Hughes would have blown by them. In total the Jays had seven two-strike fouls off Hughes, including four frustrating ones by Kevin Millar, who, like Adam Lind and Jose Bautista before him, struck out looking.

Yet Hughes did allow two hits in the eighth, which was enough for Girardi to call on Mo for another four-out save. That backfired, as he allowed a two-run double to Vernon Wells after going down 3-0 on him. That made it a one-run game, something you just don’t expect when staking Hughes and Mo to a three-run lead. Hideki Matsui made it a bit more comfortable with a first-pitch homer off Halladay in the ninth, but Mo made it interesting again in the ninth, putting men on first and third before closing the door.

Andy Pettitte did his job, though he seemed shaky at times. He didn’t throw a healthy number of strikes — 103 pitches, 57 strikes. It almost caught up to him in the fourth, when a single and two walks loaded the bases. That ended after a sac fly and a grounder to short, but it certainly cast some doubt on Pettitte’s ability to hold the lead. Yet he held on strong, pitching well until putting two runners on in the seventh, including a walk of Rod Barajas.

Another notable achievement for Pettitte was his six strikeouts in 6.2 IP. It marks the ninth time this season he’s struck out six or more. While his K rate isn’t quite where it was last year, it’s still at a good level for a 37-year-old who induces a lot of contact. Pettite has certainly gotten the job done lately, though, helping alleviate concerns about the back end of the rotation. Those concerns aren’t completely erased, of course, but a fairly effective Pettitte helps tremendously.

While this didn’t feel like an automatic loss before it started, the chances weren’t that great with Halladay on the mound. But the Yankees struck when they needed it most and prevailed despite a tough ending to the game. The Yanks guarantee their lead in the AL East at least one more day. That’s good news, as Sergio Mitre takes the mound tonight.

Categories : Game Stories
Comments (86)

Kyle Anson was placed on the disabled list. Those Double-A catchers are dropping like flies. Meanwhile, that nasty little rumor going around about Dellin Betances needing Tommy John surgery is false. PeteAbe confirmed it. He’s out with soreness and should start throwing next week.

Triple-A Scranton (6-4 loss to Pawtucket)
Ramiro Pena: 0 for 5, 1 K – how’s 2 for his last 27 (.074) sound?
Colin Curtis: 1 for 5, 2 K
Austin Jackson: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 K, 1 SB
Shelley Duncan & Yurendell DeCaster: both 0 for 2, 2 BB – Shelley scored twice
Juan Miranda: 1 for 2, 1 R, 2 BB – 7 for his last 15 (.467)
John Rodriguez: 4 for 4, 1 2B, 1 3B, 3 RBI - all he does is hit
Chris Stewart: 0 for 4
Doug Bernier: 0 for 3, 1 K, 1 E (throwing)
Ivan Nova: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 0 K, 9-5 GB/FB – 47 of 80 pitches were strikes (58.8%) … 38 baserunners & 19 ER allowed in his last 20.2 IP
Damaso Marte: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K – 10 of 21 pitches were strikes (47.6%) … 9-3 K/BB ratio in 9 rehab IP
Kevin Whelan: 0.2 IP, 0 H. 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 0 K, 1-1 GB/FB – 10 of 22 pitches were strikes (45.5%) … 7 BB in his last 1.2 IP
Amaury Sanit: 1.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 2-1 GB/FB – 15 of 25 pitches were strikes (60%)

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Categories : Down on the Farm
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More runs plsthxbye.

Categories : Game Threads
Comments (668)

I’ve pretty much given up hope of the Yankees ever missing Roy Halladay in a series, even if it is only two games long. He pitches the opener tonight, and will probably pitch the opener of the next series, Monday at Yankee Stadium. His normal rest would have him on Sunday, but I’d be willing to bet that Cito keeps everyone in turn so Doc can face the Yanks.

Halladay is in the midst of another Halladay-esque season. Even with a short stint on the DL he’s pitched 148 innings, including four complete games, and leads the league in K/BB ratio and BB/9. He’s right up there in WHIP, too, sitting at 1.074. Everything looks about the same as last year, which is to say that it puts Halladay near or at the top of the league overall. One change is in his strike percentage. It’s up slightly this year, at 69 percent over 67 percent last year, but the manner in which he’s gotten the strikes is a bit different. This year he’s getting fewer foul ball strikes and more strikes looking. That’s gotta be a good thing. He’s also thrown 68 percent first-pitch strikes, up from 63 percent last year.

This will be the third time this season the Yankees will face Hallady. He dominated them the first time, tossing a complete game and allowing just one run. The Yankees then rattled off nine straight wins. His next appearance was on July 4th at Yankee Stadium, and Doc didn’t quite prevail there, allowing five runs over 7 IP. The killer was a Johnny Damon three-run homer, a seeming Yankee Stadium Special. It led to an eventual 6-5 Yankees victory.

While Doc won’t be giving up any cheapie homers tonight, he also won’t be facing the same opponent. Chien-Ming Wang started for the Yanks on July 4, and that turned out to be his last start of 2009, as he left the game with a shoulder injury which would eventually require surgery. This time the Yankees send out Andy Pettitte. He pitched fairly well last time at the Rogers Centre, allowing two runs, one earned, over six innings, though he did throw a lot of pitches. On July 6th at the Stadium, the Blue Jays bombed Pettitte for six runs in six innings.

Over his career Pettitte has thrown 124 innings at the Rogers Centre, still referred to as SkyDome on Baseball-Reference. In that span he’s amassed a 3.92 ERA, allowing the Jays a .718 OPS. That’s not bad, but it won’t get the job done tonight. The Yankees need Pettitte at the top of his game if they’re going to eke this one out. The good news is that Scott Rolen, one of the Blue Jays’ top offensive contributors this season, is no longer with the team. Taking his place in the cleanup spot is Kevin Millar, who isn’t nearly as good, though he has a penchant for hitting well against the Yanks.

Lineup:

1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Johnny Damon, LF
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez. 3B
5. Hideki Matsui, DH
6. Jorge Posada, C
7. Robinson Cano, 2B
8. Melky Cabrera, CF
9. Eric Hinske, RF

And on the mound, number forty-six, Andy Pettitte.

Categories : Game Threads
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