After a five and a half hour rain delay, it looks like the game will get underway at 6:30. You can find the original game thread here. Quick rehash of the lineup:
“I flat-out can’t have this discussion now. But I appreciate that they have interest. I was a Hanshin fan when I was a kid.” That was Hideki Matsui’s response yesterday when asked about the Hansin Tigers’ reported interest in bringing him back to Japan after the season. Godzilla did indicate that he would prefer to finish his career off in the States, but with the Yanks continued desire to get younger and more athletic, they figure to part ways with the two time All-Star when his contract is up after the season.
Matsui continues to remain a productive hitter (.249-.345-.477, 114 OPS+) but how many teams will be in the market for a 35-yr old DH with bum knees? · (13) ·
Pedro Martinez, after a strong showing for the Dominican team in the WBC, remains a free agent this year. He’s no longer the Pedro of the late 1990s, but to me, he seemed to be throwing free and easy against the international competition. Meanwhile, as the spring has stretched onto summer, Pedro is holding auditions in the DR. According to Gordon Edes, Yankee scouts will watch Pedro throw on Friday.
This is definitely interesting and intriguing news. As Edes notes, the Yankees are concerned with their pitching depth in light of an ineffective Chien-Ming Wang, and Pedro would help them shore up that hole. With Brian Bruney back and Phil Hughes providing some solid pen work for now, the team’s bullpen presents fewer concerns than it did a few weeks ago. So Pedro would be something of a luxury. While I pondered Pedro in January, I can’t see the team really finding a place for him. He won’t be guaranteed a role, and it’s doubtful whether he could still succeed in the AL East. It never hurts to kick the tires though. · (47) ·
First Pitch Update (3:15 p.m.): The Yankees have announced first pitch tentatively schedule for 4:05 p.m. We’ll bump the game thread back up once it’s clear this one is set to start. For now, though, please keep comments to this post on topic.
First Pitch Update Update (3:55 p.m.): The Yankees have just announced that “another round of showers is in the forecast. The start time for today’s game has been pushed back. First pitch time is TBA.” They should probably just pull the plug on this one.
As the Yankees and Nationals wait for a storm to clear that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere yet, the Yanks’ manager has shed some light on one of his decisions from last night’s 9th inning. While speaking with the beat writers prior to the rain delay, he talked about the first-and-third situation with one out and why A-Rod did not attempt a steal of second.
I was watching the game from the Grandstand, and everyone sitting around me was wondering the same thing. After the game, Joe and I had a discussion about it, and as he wrote in the recap, we would have attempted to steal. Why didn’t Joe Girardi then? Well, here’s what the Yanks’ skipper had to say:
“We had talked about it. It’s kind of a double-edged sword. You figure he can hit into a line drive and you get doubled up. Then you have Cano and Posada, two pretty good RBI guys, and you lose the chance for Posada to hit. Even though Robbie’s not a huge pull hitter, you close that hole up if he steals, and then they play the infield in. There’s a lot of different things that you have. Al is physically probably not running as well as he was last year, but he’s fairly close. If we got a 3-2 situation, am I saying that I’d hold him up? I’m not saying that. But we talk about it. MacDougal is quicker than he used to be to home plate. There’s a lot of factors that went into it.”
According to Marc Carig, Girardi was also concerned that the Nats might walk Cano intentionally or throw out A-Rod. So there are some valid reasons in there and some terribly convenient excuses.
The valid reason is Mike MacDougal. He was throwing 97 and was quicker to the plate. The Yankees’ coaches weren’t sure A-Rod, with just two stolen base attempts all season, would make it against a pitcher quicker than they expected. Fine. I buy that.
But at the same time, not making it to second is just part of the stolen base attempt. Maybe if A-Rod goes, the Nationals don’t even throw through because Brett Gardner can fly home off of third. Maybe anyone who attempts to steal a base gets thrown out. That really can’t can’t enter into the equation unless the runner has no chance.
I also don’t see what the double-edged sword is. Maybe Cano hits a line drive double play with A-Rod going, but that wouldn’t be any worse than what happened to end the game. Maybe the Nats intentionally walk Cano, but then the Yanks have bases loaded with one out and Jorge Posada at the plate. Who could complain about that?
In the end, I still come out where I came out last night: Joe Girardi should have at least attempted a steal with Alex Rodriguez on first base. We’re definitely second-guessing a tough decision, but Girardi’s excuses for it don’t really fly.
And with that, I’m done obsessing over last night’s game. I was at the stadium, and it was a tough loss to take. The fans were doing all they could to will that third run across the plate, and the energy went out of the park like a popped balloon when Cano grounded into that double play. We’ll get ‘em the next time once this rain lightens up.
I was one of many fans miffed on draft day when the Yanks passed up Tanner Scheppers and his electric arm with the 29th overall pick, but I figured the team knew what they were doing. Well, it turns out that Scheppers may need surgery to repair a 50% labrum tear in his throwing shoulder. Obviously a huge red flag. However, in his chat today Keith Law says to ignore the story because the “damage in Scheppers’ shoulder is no worse than what you’d find in the shoulder of a typical major-league starter, and it does not seem to be impacting his stuff or command right now.” Who’s right, I don’t know. · (70) ·
There’s nothing good about a loss to the worst team in baseball. The best thing the Yanks can do is put it behind them and trounce their inferior opponents this afternoon. Unfortunately the game is in limbo right now, as New York has morphed into a combination of Seattle and London. It has rained all freaking morning, and there are no signs of it letting up.
Yet the Yanks will do everything in their power to play this game today. The Nats will not be back in New York this season, so the two teams would have to find a mutual off-day on which to make it up. The Yanks have already blown three mutual off-days to make up games against the Angels, A’s, and Rays. Do they want to further burden themselves this summer? They could just do it on Monday, but that would put the Yanks in Florida, back to New York, and then down to Atlanta. Not optimal. Yet it’s the only off-day the two teams share for the rest of the season. I guess the only other solution is to make it up “if necessary.” That’s a shame, because the Yanks could use the win right now.
Joba Chamberlain gets the call for the Yanks. He’ll look to improve over his performance against the Mets, in which he tossed 100 pitches in just four innings. He’ll have Cervelli as a battery-mate this time, rather than Posada thanks to this being a day game after a night game. If Joba pitches well, look for plenty of clamoring for Posada DHing, Cervelli becoming the full-time catcher, and Matsui benched. They won’t necessarily be right, but they’ll be loud.
Rookie Craig Stammen toes the rubber for the Nats. He’s tossed 27.2 innings this year and, well, hasn’t fared so well. He’s struck out just 13 to nine walks, allowing 28 hits over that period. This is, of course, scary territory for the Yanks, as we saw on Tuesday night. Hopefully lightning only strikes once in this instance, however.
And on the mound, number sixty-two, Joba Chamberlain.
Update 3:15 p.m.: The Yankees have announced that first pitch is scheduled for approximately 4 p.m. today. It’s really dark outside, but the two teams are going to try to squeeze this one in.
Update 3:55 p.m.: The Yankees have just announced that “another round of showers is in the forecast. The start time for today’s game has been pushed back. First pitch time is TBA.” They should probably just pull the plug on this one.
Update 5:54 p.m: The game is set for a 6:30 p.m. first pitch. Reports from the stadium say that the tarp is coming off and the grounds crew is hard at work.
Click the image above. It gets very big, and I promise it’ll open in a new window. The play is a bit of a blur, but what do you see?
I see Mark Teixeira with his glove firmly around a strong throw from Alex Rodriguez and his foot planted on first base. I see Cristian Guzman still in the air above first base. I see unequivocal evidence that Guzman was out, and yet, a split second later, the umpire called him safe.
For a blown call, it was both monumental and underwhelming. It was monumental because Nick Johnson, the next hitter for the Nationals, blasted a two-run triple (not helped by a ill-conceived dive by Melky) that plated Cristian Guzman. It was underwhelming because, while the bleachers saw the replay and booed, it generated what looked more like a polite protest rather than a heated discussion from Joe Girardi.
Generally, when the umpires get it wrong, they don’t do so in such an obvious fashion. Bang-bang plays, slightly missed tags, balls that are just foul or kick up maybe a milimeter’s worth of foul line chalk — those are tough to see. This one, on a routine play at first, isn’t, and considering that umpires often listen — for the ball hitting the glove, for the foot hitting the bag — to make this call makes this worse.
Last year, Major League Baseball became the last major sport to institute instant replay review. It drove the purists nuts, but MLB had to embrace what has become a day-to-day technology in every broadcast of its events. When regional sports networks can replay bad home run calls to death, something has to give.
The way they implemented it, though, was entirely arbitrary. Only home run calls — fair, foul, over the fence or not, fan interference — would be subject to review. In a way, MLB modeled review after the NHL’s review of disputed goals, but the analogy lays bare the problem with it. Home runs may lead directly to runs, but baseball is a sum of its parts. A bad call at first base can be just as important as a home run. Why should one get special treatment while the other is subjected to bad calls?
Last night’s play at first base was unavoidable, and while critics of instant replay bemoan the time it takes to review plays, that is simply a red herring call. I got home, fired up the game archive on MLB.tv and zipped ahead to the 5th inning. Twenty seconds later, I had that screenshot and an unequivocal view of an obvious out that an umpire ruled safe. While Joe noted that the game probably unfolds differently if Guzman is out, we can’t dispute its impact on the Yanks’ loss, and I’d be happy to sit through a short 20-second review in exchange for the right call.
Right now, I don’t have a better solution. MLB can’t open instant replay to every ball and strike, to every close play. But when an umpire gets something so wrong and it changes the game, something has to give.
Poor Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees’ 27-Million-Dollar Man has had a month to forget. Since going 5 for 5 in Texas on May 25th, A-Rod has hit just .186 over his last 20 games with a .314 slugging percentage and a .352 OBP. That .666 OPS is devilish indeed.
Last night, A-Rod had a chance to be a hero. After a Mark Teixeira single, A-Rod came to the plate as the potential winning run. When the Yanks pinch ran for Teixeira with the speedy Brett Gardner, A-Rod’s chances of delivering improved. Gardner stole second on an 0-1 count and third on a 1-1 count. With the tying run just 90 feet away, A-Rod had a few pitches to lift a fly ball or knock out an RBI base hit to tie the game.
Well, as we know all too well, that didn’t happen. A-Rod drew a walk, and after a stellar at-bat by Cano, the Yanks lost when Robbie hit a 2-2 pitch on the ground right at Cristian Guzman. 6-4-3, double play. Game over. Nationals win.
After the game, as I made my way out of the stadium, I thought about how frustrating it was to watch Cano’s AB and to come away empty-handed. My dad texted me, though, and while he usually supports A-Rod, he put this one on the Yanks’ third baseman. “A-Rod was too happy to get that walk,” he said. “His job was to put the bat on the ball. He failed. He set up the double play.” After a few exchanges in which I defended A-Rod, he said, “A-Rod should have brought the run home.”
At first, I wasn’t too receptive to this idea. Of course, we wanted A-Rod to bring the run home but not at the risk of swinging at bad pitches. A walk, after all, keeps the line moving, and doesn’t baseball wisdom dictate that a walk is as good as a hit? Here’s a thought though: What if it isn’t?
To find out, let’s turn to some win expectancy numbers. These number measure the percentage of times the team in any given situation wins the game. When the Yanks started the 9th inning, they had a 9.7 percent shot at winning. After Damon’s home run, that number hit 20.9, and when Brett Gardner made it to third with one out, the Yanks had a 41.9 percent Win Expectancy. The game was nearly in their grasp.
When A-Rod walked, that number went up by 4.7 percent. Facing a one-run deficit with two on and one out, the home team wins 46.6 percent of the time. That move, though, didn’t maximize A-Rod’s potential contributions. In fact, outside of an unproductive out or an improbable double play, it was the least A-Rod could do.
With Alex up, there were a few different outcomes. He could end the game with a two-run home run; he could drive in the run with a base hit; he could drive in the run with an out; or he could walk. Ending the game would have pushed the Yankees’ Win Expectancy from 41.9 to 100. A base hit would have pushed the team’s WE somewhere from the upper 60-percent range to the low 80-percent area depending upon whether the hit was a single, double or triple. An out with an RBI would have tied the game. For 2009, in a tie game with two outs in the bottom of the 9th, the home team wins 53 percent of the time. Historically, that number is closer to 60 percent.
As we saw, A-Rod’s true outcome bumped the team WE up by 4.7 percent. A walk was not in fact as good as a hit.
A-Rod got on base; he improved the team’s chances to win; he kept the line moving. He didn’t maximize his opportunity, and he — as the clean-up hitter — didn’t drive home the run the Yanks needed to score. Maybe he didn’t see his pitch; maybe he’s not feeling it at the plate right now. He did not, however, induce the double play, and the Yanks had a better to chance to win after A-Rod’s at-bat than before it. It’s not always his fault.
It’s disappointing to see the Yanks drop a game to the Nationals, holders of the league’s worst record by no slim margin. When they have a lead it seems like the season is coming apart. The Nationals, the Washington Nationals, holding a lead over the New York Yankees? As if. This is baseball, though, and that kind of thing will happen over the course of a 162-game season. It was nothing but heart-wrenching to witness the loss last night, but there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with it.
Chien-Ming Wang was pitching for his future in the rotation, and he did just well enough to get himself at least one more start. Unfortunately, he didn’t look much different than in his starts against Texas and Boston. Sometimes the sinker worked, sometimes it didn’t. He left it high on a number of occasions and got away with it. On others he let it tail and he didn’t — Adam Dunn and Nick Johnson did damage on those. It wasn’t a great performance, and honestly it wasn’t even that good. The Yanks can only hope that Wang improves as he gets consistent work.
While Chien-Ming ended the day with five innings pitched and three earned runs, it’s easy to forget that a blown call kind of ruined the fifth inning for him. With Willie Harris on second and one out, Christian Guzman grounded one between A-Rod and Ramiro Pena. Alex snagged it and threw to first, getting Guzman by a half (or quarter) step. The replay showed he was out, but the first base umpire did not see it that way. Guzman was awarded a hit, and came around to score when the next batter, old pal Nick Johnson, slammed a tailing sinker past a diving Melky and into the left-center field gap for a triple.
That’s one run, which means that Johnny Damon‘s homer in the ninth would have tied the game. A ha, but remember that baseball isn’t a game of ones and zeroes. What happens on one pitch affects the next; what happens to one batter affects what happens to the next guy. It’s what Michael Kay calls the fallacy of the predetermined outcome, and despite our criticism of him it’s a perfectly valid point. Who’s to say that Jorge and Wang go through the same pitch sequence to Johnson with a runner on third and two outs? If they do things differently then Wang doesn’t throw that sinker and Johnson doesn’t hit a triple. He might have hit a homer, which would have put us back at square one, or he might have made the third out and Dunn’s homer would have remained the only run on the board.
(Using the fallacy of the predetermined outcome, we could also erase Robbie Cano‘s leadoff homer in the fifth. But we could also erase the rest of the game, leaving it to a completely different iteration. This is what I mean when I harp on randomness in baseball. One thing affects another, so when one thing goes wrong it sets off an entire series of events. Change one thing in a baseball game, and you really change everything that happened after it, too.)
Wanger’s next start should come next Tuesday in Atlanta. Their 268 runs scored ranks among the lowest in the league, lower than the Nationals. Again, given his success last night relative to his previous two starts, I imagine the Yanks won’t think twice about giving him another try. If they were facing the Red Sox, then maybe they’d pull him from the rotation in favor of Hughes. But with an offense like Atlanta I’m fairly certain that we’ll see CMW toeing the rubber at Turner.
The bullpen did a stellar job of keeping the game close. Phil Hughes pumped 24 pitches in his two innings, 16 of which were strikes (the magic 2/3 mark). He sure is pitching like he wants his rotation spot back. Failing that, he’s pitching like he doesn’t want to see Pennsylvania ever again outside the rare road trip to Philly or Pittsburgh. For the time being, he’s become yet another weapon out of the Yanks’ ever-strengthening bullpen. While I’d like to see him get well over the 150-inning mark this season, having him in the bullpen has been a pleasure.
As to the offense, when only three of your starting nine get hits in a game, you’re probably not going to win. That’s a shame, because this was the first loss in which the Yankees’ pitching allowed three or fewer runs. The Yanks did make the most of their four hits, though. Two left the yard and the last one nearly led to the tying run. Unfortunately the Yanks just couldn’t put it together in the ninth. With Gardner, pinch-running for Teixeira, on third, A-Rod worked a walk. Yeah, you’d like to see a hit from him there, but he didn’t get anything good to hit. The only real hittable pitch was the one he fouled off, and even that was down and in. Hey, if a guy’s going to give a hitter a walk he has little choice but to take it.
It all came down to Robbie Cano, and boy was that an at bat. Not quite as epic as his first-inning AB on Thursday in Boston, but he did everything he could to find the pitch he liked, fouling off six pitches before grounding into a game-ending double play. This is Robinson Cano, love him or leave him. Yeah, he probably could have worked a walk on that AB. Had that been Damon at the plate there’s little doubt that Posada would have been up with the bases loaded. That’s just not how Robbie does things, though. He’ll foul off pitches until he gets something he likes. Sometimes that means putting a bad pitch in play. That’s what he did on the ninth pitch of the at bat, hitting a low and outside pitch to Christian Guzman.
Should Girardi have sent Alex during Robbie’s at bat? I can see the argument going both ways. The scenario could play out so many ways. Alex could steal safely (possibly without a throw) and take off the double play, forcing the Nationals to move the infield in. Cano hits the ball hard, so that increases his chances of pushing one through. The Yanks might have sent Gardner on the throw, which might have plated the tying run. The Nationals might also have cut off the throw and gotten Gardner at home, leaving a runner on second and two out, still down by one. Or they might have gotten Alex at second and allowed the tying run to score. Finally, Alex might have just gotten nailed at second without any movement from Gardner, leaving a runner on second and two down. Girardi opted to do nothing. I find it difficult to fault him in the same manner I did Thursday night when he didn’t bring in his best pitcher when the game was on the line. This clearly was not as obvious a call. I would have gone for it.
The Yank will get an early opportunity to shake this one off, as they’ll play a getaway game tomorrow at 1:05. Joba Chamberlain starts against Craig Stammen. It can’t come soon enough.
I’ve got a buddy with a pair of bleacher seats for tomorrow, section 202, row 17. They’re going for face, $12, transaction over email. Just hit me up — email addy is on the sidebar — and I’ll hook you up. Please, do not email if you are not serious.