We knew the winning streak wouldn’t last forever, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t be disappointed by tonight’s loss. Let’s recap this one bullet point style:
- CC Sabathia was not sharp at all. He had plenty of hair on his fastball to quote Michael Kay, but he couldn’t locate it nor could he get any consistency out of his secondary pitchers. After a ten start run of complete dominance, Sabathia was due for an outing like this. It sucks, but it is what it is.
- The 1-2-3-4 hitters combined to go 1 for 15 with a walk. That won’t get it done.
- Robbie Cano (3 for 3 with a walk) and Hideki Matsui (2 for 3 with a homer) came to play. Good for them.
- Al Aceves was fantastic out of the pen, but was sending him out for a third inning really necessary? He was getting outs and had a very low pitch count, but can you trust him to go through the order twice? It’s a tough call, I can see the argument for either side.
- Jorge Posada‘s thumb is bothering him, and he might not be able to go tomorrow. Jose Molina is due back next week, so reinforcements are on the way if needed.
Thankfully we have a quick turn around and the team will be back at it tomorrow at 1pm. AJ Burnett vs Brian Tallet in the boogie down. See you then.
Make sure you scroll down for tonight’s game thread.
Triple-A Scranton (4-3 loss to Pawtucket)
Kevin Russo: 0 for 3, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
Ramiro Pena & Austin Jackson: both 2 for 4, 1 R – Jackson swiped a bag & K’ed
Shelley Duncan: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 K
Juan Miranda: 1 for 3, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K
Jose Molina: 0 for 2, 1 RBI – caught the first five innings
Colin Curtis: 0 for 2, 2 BB, 2 K
Yurendell DeCaster & Eric Duncan: both 0 for 4, 1 K
Sergio Mitre: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HB, 9-3 GB/FB – 44 of 79 pitches were strikes (55.7%)
Mark Melancon: 2.2 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 7-0 GB/FB – 26 of 39 pitches were strikes (66.7%) … that’s domination, homes
Please get out of this.
Let’s see if Jeter swings at the first pitch …
You can’t expect a sweep. They just don’t happen too often, even with the best teams. By the third game of a series, it’s oftentimes a moot point. The situation for the Yanks tonight, though, is a bit different. They’ve won the first two games of the series and have their ace on the mound. This is the kind of game you just have to win. But not pressure or anything.
Carsten Charles was simply brilliant in his last outing against the Mets. He locked them down through seven innings, surrendering just three hits — all in the same inning — and striking out eight. This came after a bout of biceps tendinitis, so it appears that scare is over. He threw just 99 pitches in that effort, so it looks like Girardi is going to keep his pitch count in the safe zone for a bit. With the way the Yanks bullpen has been pitching lately, that’s not such a terrible idea.
Opposing him will be Jason Vargas. The Marlins selected him in the second round of the 2004 draft, and traded him to the Mets in a deal which landed them their current closer, Matt Lindstrom (who is currently on the DL with an elbow strain). He went to Seattle in the J.J. Putz/Aaron Heilman deal. He saw only limited time with the Mets, turning in the team’s worst starting pitching performance of 2007 (9 runs, 11 hits, balk, wild pitch, two HR) before being sent back down to New Orleans. He had surgery following the season to remove bone spurs from his elbow, and then missed the entire 2008 season with a torn labrum in his hip. It’s freaking contagious.
Vargas pitched well enough at AAA Tacoma in four starts to earn a call-up. He was a high-strikeout guy in the minors who just hasn’t been able to accomplish that at the big-league level. Through 181.2 career innings he’s averaged just 6.9 K/9. He averaged 8.4 per nine in the minors. In his limited sample from this year he’s been susceptible to the home run, allowing nine in 54.2 innings. That does not bode well for a slugging team in a hitter’s park.
One thing I’ve been going over in my head over the past two days is the Mariner’s defense. This was spurred by a post by Dave Cameron at FanGraphs. Dave, you might know, writes U.S.S. Mariner, one of two indispensable team blogs (Lookout Landing being the other). While his post had nothing to do with the Mariners, it made me think of their highly-touted defense. They have a number of highly talented defensive players on their team, including center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, who we’ve seen make a flashy play or two this series.
You can’t defend against the home run, though. While Gutierrez might bring a lot to the table defensively, so that he’s far more valuable than his offensive stats would imply, if the team’s pitchers keep giving up long balls there’s not much he can do. It also hurts his overall value, since his excellent defensive capabilities go to waste when the ball leaves the park. In other words, defense is great, even underrated to an extent. However, you need pitchers who can keep the ball in the park in order to take advantage of it.
And on the mound, number fifty-two, Carsten Charles Sabathia.
A few news items of note on an afternoon before a long weekend:
- Another sad story comes our way concerning Jim Leyritz. The former Yankee and former MLB.com personality has been arrested on charges of domestic abuse. Leyritz’s ex-wife Karrie called the police after Jim, according to the Sun-Sentinel report, “dragged her out of bed, struck her twice and pushed her on the floor.” The Miami Herald has a different take on the situation. Leyritz’s lawyer denies the assault, and police say the former Mrs. Leyritz changed her story a few hours after initially reporting it to the police. Leyritz goes on trial Sept. 14 for his 2007 DUI arrest following an accident that left another driver dead.
- At 11:59 p.m. this evening All Star Game balloting ends, and as of earlier this week, Mark Teixeira found himself just 40,000 votes behind Kevin Youkilis for the AL’s first base slot. Head on over to MLB.com to vote. Yankee fans can vote for Teixeira 25 times per e-mail address, and while you’re at it, vote for Ian Kinsler too. He’s holding onto a very slim lead over Dustin Pedroia.
- Joe Posnanski has profiled Mariano Rivera. Do you need to know anything more about it? Just read the article.
- From around the Yankee Blogosphere: Rebecca looks at some top MLBers who had success at AA. The Jesus Montero buzz is building. Fack Youk revisits Dave Righetti’s Independence Day no hitter and wonders what could have been if the Yanks hadn’t moved Righetti to the pen. Sound familiar?
- Finally, for the sports journalism junkies among us, Harvard’ Nieman Journalism Lab just wrapped up a four-part series on the shifting media power in sports. With more teams forming regional sports networks, more leagues creating their own TV networks complete with allegedly unbiased news coverage and more blogs gaining readers every day as newspapers see their circulation numbers decline, the world of sports journalism is undergoing something of a paradigm shift. In the series at NJL, Justin Rice focuses mostly on baseball to explore how sports coverage has responded to and embraced the Internet and where sports media is going.
As expected, the Yanks officially signed Dominican catcher Gary Sanchez to a contract that includes a $3M signing bonus today. It’s the largest bonus the Yanks have aver given to an amateur hitter, draft included, eclipsing the $2.44M they gave Wily Mo Pena back in the day. Kiley McDaniel at Baseball Prospectus says the Yanks will spend $4.25M total this signing period, probably landing just three players. Ben Badler tweets that the Yanks signed Dominican righthander Christopher Cabrera for $400k, while Jorge Arangure says Dominican shortstop Damian Arredondo will get $850k out of the Bombers.
Three players isn’t a whole lot, but McDaniel says those will be the Yanks only signings today. Badler compared the international market to electronics, saying you could get the big new thing now for lots of money, or wait a little while and get the same thing for half the price. Hopefully this is the route the Yanks go. For reference, the Yanks signed nine players in 2007 and at least five players last year. · (51) ·
When did this whole 8th inning phenomenon start? When did the Yankees, their fans and anyone associated with the team decide that the 8th inning was of such paramount importance that the team needs one reliever dedicated to the 8th inning and only the 8th inning?
Maybe it started with Joba in 2007, Kyle Farnsworth in 2006, Tom Gordon after the 2004 ALCS or Steve Karsay’s injury in 2003 after a very effective 2002. Maybe it started when Jeff Nelson left the Yanks after 2001 and Mike Stanton followed suit after 2002. No matter the cause, it’s an unnecessary obsession that can limit the Yanks’ flexibility in ways it shouldn’t.
Two bits of news from yesterday’s game and the subsequent post-game interviews reveal the dichotomies of the 8th inning. If ever there was a game for an 8th Inning Guy, yesterday was it. The Yanks had a two-run lead, and the Mariners were about to send their 9-1-2 guys up to the plate. As it happened, these hitters were also R-L-L, and the Yankees, instead of going to Brian Bruney, the anointed 8th Inning Guy, played the match-ups perfectly.
Al Aceves, ace reliever, started the inning. Ronnie Cedeno flew out, and Girardi pulled Aceves for Phil Coke, a lefty who is death on lefties. Coke got Ichiro to ground out and Russell Branyan to strike out. (With that appearance, by the way, lefties are now hitting just .188/.214/.406 with 19 K’s in 70 plate appearances against Coke. Damaso who?)
After the game, though, Girardi was singing a different tune. Per M.A. Mehta:
“He’s our eighth inning guy right now,” Girardi said. “We expect him to pitch better. I know he has not pitched great since he’s come back off the DL. He’s had some good outings and he’s had some tough outings. … He’s had success in that role. He’s struggling a little bit right now.”
“I know he doesn’t have a track record of a Tex or and an Alex or some of the other players that we have,” Girardi added. “But we didn’t panic with them. And we’re not going to panic with Brian Bruney. Obviously, you do have to perform and we expect you to perform at a high level. If you don’t, you do make adjustments.”
Girardi also balked at the notion that defining roles to his relievers can be counterproductive. He said he preferred giving his bullpen crew specific roles rather than riding the hot hand. “When guys have defined roles, they know when they’re going to pitch,” Girardi said. “And they can start preparing mentally a little bit earlier. I think that helps them. The other thing that does is that I think it keeps you from wearing one guy out. A lot of times if you have a guy who’s pitching extremely well, all of a sudden, you’ve used him five out of six days … And then you start wearing the guy out. And then he starts going backwards.”
Got all that? Basically, Girardi is willing to hand the 8th inning role because he’s “had success in that role” and because it’s important for relievers to have overly defined roles so they can mentally prepare to pitch when their inning comes around. Why though? I don’t believe these relievers benefit psychologically from the regimented inning-by-inning breakdown Girardi is trying to give. Rather, the reliever used should depend upon the situation.
Right now, the Yankees have four relievers that have been lights out for weeks. Obviously, Mariano is the go-to guy for saves and tight situations late in the 8th. After him though, Phil Coke, Al Aceves, Phil Hughes and Brian Bruney have all shown the ability to get key outs late in the game. Coke matches up against lefties; Bruney and Aceves against righties; and Hughes against everyone these days. Let the game determine the reliever. Let the pitcher feeling good that day take the innings and let these relievers know that, late in a game, they will be called upon when the situation warrants it. There’s no need to lock down the 8th inning as though it’s more important than the other eight innings combined.
Addendum by Joe: …because I had a whole post written on this same topic, referencing the same post, and didn’t want to waste it.
The trouble with specialization is that it calls for more frequent pitching changes. Bullpens are volatile. Therefore, every time the manager calls on a new reliever he’s increasing the chances he runs into someone who isn’t having a good night. Meanwhile, the guy who was successful the previous inning (or batter) languishes on the bench. We saw this in action on Tuesday. Phil Hughes mowed down the Mariners with nine pitches, but Girardi went to Bruney anyway. Unfortunately, Bruney was not having a good night.
With both Al Aceves and Phil Hughes capable of throwing multiple innings out of the bullpen, the Yankees are in a unique position to redefine bullpen usage patterns. They need not fall into the traps of multiple reliever usage, because they have a crop of quality starters and a capable corps in the bullpen. Why not use this opportunity to change the game?
In games like last night, where the starter goes seven innings and leaves with a lead, perhaps the traditional setup man to closer paradigm makes sense. With only two innings left and Mo ready for the ninth, a one-inning guy can slot into the eighth. That’s where Bruney could shine. Starter goes seven, then onto Bruney and Mo to ice it. However, it’s a different story when the starter goes six or fewer.
On Saturday, Chien-Ming Wang will take the mound again. There’s little to no chance he can go more than six innings. This leaves an opening for a longer relief stint. Why not use Hughes for two there, laying the bridge for Mo? Aceves could do the job as well. That way you’re sticking with just one reliever. If he’s good you can just leave him in there and avoid the risk of going to another guy, who might not pitch as well as the original.
If the starter exits the game before the seventh and the team has a number of good pitchers who can throw multiple innings, why take the risk of going inning-by-inning? It seems to me a better idea to stick with the guy who’s pitching well.
Eric Hinske finally escaped Pittsburgh yesterday and made it to the Bronx in time for the Yanks’ evening affair against the Mariners. When Hinkse donned number 14 and was activated, the Yankees optioned Ramiro Peña to Scranton for his AAA debut. This is, though, a demotion with a purpose.
Peña, a little guy at 5’11″ and 165 lbs., is not your typical middle infielder and doesn’t yet profile to be one. He’s a scrawny glove man with no power and little on-base ability. In 2008, playing his age 22 season, he experienced a second stint at AA. During an injury-free season after making it through just 52 games in 2007, he OPS’d .687, a good .050 points higher than his Minor League average. A hitter he is not.
Peña’s value lies on the other side of the ball. Not really a highly-regarded Yankee prospect, he is a glove man who can play second, third and short at a high level. During his three-month stint on the Yankee bench, he displayed his aptitude in the field, and the Yankees walked away impressed.
He may have hit .267/.308/.349 with 17 strike outs in 92 plate appearances, but the Yankees don’t mind. They want him for his glove. To that end, they have sent him down to AAA to become a super-utility player. “They told me I have a chance to be here for a long time,” Peña said to MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo on Wednesday.
What then do the Yankees expect from Peña, who will play some center for Scranton? In an ideal world, the Yankees are looking for their own version of a Felipe Lopez. They want a guy who can come off the bench, handle the bat, run a bit and, more importantly, play anywhere on the field.
It sounds like a great idea, but can it work? Lopez made his Major League debut at 21 and has played for five different teams. He owns a career OPS+ of 90. For what he is, he’s not terrible. Yet, he’s not a comp for Peña. In similar Minor League experience, Lopez turned in an OPS of .771. He’s a vastly superior offensive player than Peña is and a seemingly better base runner also.
I don’t mean to knock Peña. He certainly filled in admirably after both A-Rod and Cody Ransom went down. He can bunt; he can run; he can field. As Joe Girardi said, with more than a little hyperbole behind it, “He did more than what we expected. He was great.”
Yet, without the final component — that ability to hit just a little bit more, to get on base a little more frequently — the Yankees might be chasing something that doesn’t exist. Ramiro Peña is a glove man backup infielder. Maybe they should just keep him that way.