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They’re not paying him $300M for two run singles!!!

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Hey, kinda looks like A.J. Burnett, right?

It’s game two of the Yanks-Orioles series, and the story from the Yankees standpoint is Sergio Mitre. Normally I’d do a run-through of his career to this point, but Mike took care of that. We’ll just have to sit back and see what he can do against the Orioles offense, which ranks 10th in the AL in OPS.

The Yanks will face Rich Hill. The former Michigan Wolverine went in the fourth round to the Cubs in 2002. A fastball-curveball lefty, Hill had always been a strikeout pitcher. Problem was, he was also a wild pitcher, issuing an extraordinary number of free passes in college and his first few years in the minors. He broke out in 2005, though, getting his walk rate down as he pitched at three different levels of the minors. He also had an unsuccessful stint in the majors that year, but it was only 23.2 innings.

He got another chance in 2006, and pitched decently. His strikeout rate fell down to less than a batter per inning, but his walk rate settled a bit, too, to a manageable 3.5. He was even better in 2007, throwing 195 innings to a 3.92 ERA, striking out 183 and walking just 63. All the sudden, Hill looked like he’d reach his potential.

Yet 2008 was not so kind. Hill struggled early with his control, walking at least three batters per game in his first four starts, only one of which lasted six innings. On May 2 he walked four batters while recording just two outs. Manager Lou Piniella yanked him from the game, and the next day he was optioned to AAA. There he had back issues, and then in June was shut down and sent to work on his issues. In July the team said that Hill’s problems were more mental than physical. In August he faced more back problems and was placed on the DL, missing the rest of the year.

Over the winter the Cubs sent Hill to the Orioles for a player to be named later. He’s had enormous problems this year, with his walk rate up over 5.5 per nine. He’s had a few decent starts, but for every one in which he went six innings, three runs or better, he’s had an under-six inning, more than six-run start. Other than his standout start against Seattle on June 1, there’s nothing at all spectacular about Hill’s past two seasons.

Oh, and that failed cup of coffee in 2005? Part of that was at the hands of the Yanks. The Yankees were up three runs in the sixth inning on June 18, 2005. The Cubs starter, Glendon Rusch, came out to start the sixth, but walked Jorge Posada and gave up a single to Bernie Williams. In came Hill, who started off strong by striking out Tino Martinez, probably on one of those filthy curveballs. But he walked Robinson Cano — ROBINSON CANO — to load the bases. Derek Jeter was due up next. Perhaps this has jogged your memory. If not…

I was at a family gathering that day. Once Hill — I had no idea who he was at the time — came out and they cut to a commercial break, I guaranteed my uncle and cousin that when they came back they’d have up a note about how Jeter had never hit a grand slam in his career. Sure enough, they did. Moments later, Jeter took Joe Borowski deep, ensuring that commentators would never bring up that subject ever again.

Looks like the game will start at 7:30.


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

And on the mound, the newly-minted number forty-five, Sergio Mitre.

Categories : Game Threads
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  • Stadium Hits: Monument Park, God Bless America

    Some Yankee Stadium story updates before the game thread arrives: In the Yankee notebook in today’s Times, Tyler Kepner reported on some Monument Park news. According to Yanks’ COO Lonn Trost, the team has no plans to move Monument Park out from underneath the giant Mohegan Sun sports bar in center field. Supposedly, the logistics of a move and the fact that the monuments are fragile and set in stone preclude an off-season move. That’s a mistake. There’s no reason to shove Yankee history under a restaurant, and the prominent place Monument Park had at old Yankee Stadium should have been maintained.

    In other stadium news, C.J. Hughes followed some Yankee fans to that bathroom on Friday, and everything went a-OK. That, of course, sounds far sketchier than it is. Hughes’ story focuses around how the Yankees and their security guards are now letting fans move freely during Kate Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America.” After a recent lawsuit over the issue, politics, it seems, has been removed from the Seventh Inning stretch.
    · (17) ·

  • Brett Tomko, we hardly knew ye

    As the Yankees prepare to hand the ball over to Sergio Mitre tonight, the team needs to clear a space on both the 25-man and 40-man rosters. Mercifully, they have opted to designate Brett Tomko for assignment rather than sticking Mark Melancon or David Robertson back on the Scranton shuttle. The Yankees now have ten days to trade the right-hander or else they will release him. Tomko, 36, was 1-2 with a 5.23 ERA in 15 games out of the pen. His tenure on the Yanks won’t be remembered at all. · (62) ·

This morning, an e-mail from Sports Illustrated landed in my inbox. This week’s issue of the magazine, appearing on newsstands tomorrow, features one of SI’s frequent player polls. The topic is worst outfield arms, and the winner is someone near and dear to our hearts.

Of the 380 MLB players polled, a whopping 54 percent of them fingered Johnny Damon as the one with the worst arm. Juan Pierre came in a distant second with 23 percent of the vote, and Coco Crisp was third with 11 percent. Players could not vote for their teammates.

Now, generally, I don’t give much credence to anything Major League Baseball players have to say. Being a baseball player doesn’t give anyone particularly insightful glimpses into most arguments. (See, for example, Goose Gossage and the Joba Chamberlain debate.) This time, however, the players’ views count. After all, if they think that Damon has the worst arm and know he’s in left field, they are far more apt to challenge Damon when facing the Yanks.

Beyond the players’ opinions, though, the numbers bear them out. Johnny Damon has been absolutely horrible in the outfield this year. Take a look at his defensive metrics. He has a negative arm factor, a negative range runs above average, a UZR of -9.6 and a UZR/150 of -15.6. Among all left fielders, he is fourth worst in fielding runs above average with a -9.6 in that category.

From the perspective of someone who watches every single game, though, we don’t need these numbers to tell us that Johnny Damon is bad at fielding. We can see him take poor routes to the ball. We can see him misplay or just flat-out miss easy fly balls. We can see him weakly heave the ball toward the infield. We can see Joe Girardi opt to use Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner in the outfield in the late innings of close games. All in all, Damon’s defense has quickly become a liability.

In one regard, it’s really too bad that Damon has gone from an above-average left fielder to a defensive problem. On the other side of the ball, he is having one of his finest seasons ever. His weighted runs above average is now at 17.3, and he projects to a 25.7 wRAA, good for second best in his career. Damon is hitting .294/.398/.589 at Yankee Stadium with 12 of his 16 home runs coming in the new park. Those numbers a masking a .263/.331/.431 road split which is somewhat more indicative of a decline.

So where does this leave us with regard to Johnny Damon? Well, earlier this year, Damon reiterated his desire to stay in the Bronx, and at the time, we figured a two-year deal might not be the worst thing the Yanks could do. Yet as we’ve seen, defense is important, and Damon’s hitting outside of the Bronx has been underwhelming at best. As the Yanks come to grips with Damon’s lack of left field defense, they may be better off letting him walk after this year. That terrible, horrible, no good, very bad defense can be another team’s problem.

Categories : Defense
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Who is Sergio Mitre?

By in Pitching. Tags: · Comments (221) ·

Sergio MitreWith word of Chien-Ming Wang’s latest setback coming yesterday, it looks like newcomer Sergio Mitre might be sticking around for a while. I figured we might as well take a second to tell you about the guy, since we’re probably going to be seeing quite a bit of him over the next few weeks. Let’s start with a little background info.

Mitre grew up in San Diego and was drafted out of San Diego City College by the Cubs in the 7th round of the 2001 Draft. He was more of a mid-level prospect than a highly touted of stud, yet only Mark Prior reached the big leagues faster out of that draft haul. Mitre made his Major League debut in a spot start in Atlanta in July 2003, getting rocked for eight runs in under four innings. He made the Cubbies’ Opening Day roster in 2004, ironically filling in for the injured Prior. Sent back down once Prior came of fthe disabled list, Mitre did the up-and-down thing again in 2005.

With the Cubs looking to improve their offense and add a leadoff hitter, they packaged Mitre with prospects Renyel Pinto and Ricky Nolasco in December 2005 to acquire Juan Pierre from the Marlins. He started the 2006 season in Joe Girardi‘s Opening Day rotation, but was shut down with shoulder inflammation in mid-May. Mitre came back in August and finished the year pitching effectively out of the bullpen. He started 2007 in the Opening Day rotation, and enjoyed his best stretch of success in the show that year. In his first 17 starts (102 IP) he put up a 2.82 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP while holding opponents to a .665 OPS against.

Unfortunately, Mitre spent three stints on the disabled list that year because of blisters and a hammy issue. He came into camp the next year and faced just three hitters before being shut down with forearm tightness, but it wasn’t until mid-July that he went under the knife and had Tommy John surgery. Mitre didn’t pitch at all in 2008, and was released by the Marlins after the season. The Yankees swooped in and signed him to a split contract worth $1.25M with an option for 2010 in November on Girardi’s recommendation. Two months later he failed a drug test because a trace amount of androstenedione showed up in his system. Mitre took full responsibility and was suspended for 50 games, but was allowed to serve the suspense while rehabbing from TJ.

Mitre’s Yankee career started with him rehabbing from TJ in Extended Spring Training. That was followed by a pit stop with High-A Tampa before a move up to Triple-A Scranton. His last two outings with Scranton have been dynamite (14.2 IP, 11 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 13 K, 25-7 GB/FB combined), but more importantly, he’s stretched out and back to throwing 80-100 pitches per start.

Stuff-wise, Mitre’s primarily a sinker-changeup guy, throwing the former 70.3% of the time and the latter 16.0% of the time in his big league career. He fills in the gaps with a curveball and a slider, though his reliance on the curve has waned over the last few years. Girardi says he remembers Mitre’s sinker being high-80′s/low-90′s, and Chad Jennings says he’s been 90-93 with Triple-A Scranton. He generally gets about six or seven miles an hour of separation with the change. As you can imagine, he’s a groundball guy. posting a 2.53 GB/FB ratio in his big league career. For comparison’s sake, the guy he’s replacing in the rotation has career GB/FB rate of 2.70.

It’s fitting that one groundball guy is replacing the other in the rotation, and considering how terrible Wang has been this year, Mitre doesn’t have to do very much to match his production. SG over at RLYW already looked at the numbers, so I’m going to point you over there rather than doing everything myself. Simply put, if he gives the Yanks five or six innings of three or four run ball every five days, I think they’d take that in a heartbeat. Anything else is a bonus. Mitre doesn’t have to be a rotation savior, he just needs to hold down the fort until the team decides how it’s going to address it’s pitching situation.

Photo Credit: The Times-Tribune

Categories : Pitching
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  • Tickets available for Friday’s game

    A reader has some tickets they’re trying to get rid of for this Friday’s game against Oakland, and they’re not your typical upper deck/bleacher seats, either. These seats are located in Section 120, Row 21, which is field level right behind home plate. It’s not the fancy Legends Seats, it’s one section up behind the moat. The seller is asking for face value for the tickets, which is $375 each. He’s got four of them, so bring the kids.

    Email me via the link on the far right sidebar if you’re interested.

    Update (1:22pm): I’m an idiot. The tickets are Friday, August 7th vs Boston. Not this Friday. My bad, yo.

    Update (3:55pm): The tickets are claimed.
    · (24) ·

On July 28, 1995, the Toronto Blue Jays were 35-47, in last place in the AL East by four games, and 10.5 back of the first-place Red Sox. This was a shame as they had sent three young players to the Kansas City Royals for David Cone just before the season started. Cone was pitching well — a 3.38 ERA over 130.1 innings — but that wasn’t nearly enough. Beyond John Olerud, Roberto Alomar, and a budding star named Shawn Green, they didn’t have much of an offense. While Cone and Al Leiter anchored the pitching staff, presumptive ace Pat Hentgen was having a horrible year (5.11 ERA in ’95, which he followed up with a Cy Young in ’96). So on July 28, the Jays traded Cone to the Yankees for Jason Jarvis, Mike Gordon, and Marty Janzen.

I’ve often heard people say that deals like that don’t happen any more. Three nobodies for a pitcher like David Cone? Fat chance, right? Well, maybe not. Janzen, after all, ranked #40 on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects in 1996, so he wasn’t exactly a schmuck throw-in. He was actually a pretty good prospect who struck out about a batter per inning in the minors while keeping his walks very low. No, he never made it in the majors, but that’s the path trodden by many a prospect. So the Yankees didn’t give up nothing for David Cone. They traded a pretty good prospect, good enough to land fairly high on BA’s list the next year.

How does that compare to other memorable pitcher trades? RABer The Artist, writing as Steve S. at The Yankee Universe, takes a look back at seven recent pitcher trades and what the receiving team sacrificed in the process. In concluding, he notes that “the framework of a deal seems to include one top flight minor leaguer, surrounded by filler of various levels of floors and ceilings.” That seems to be what the Yanks gave up for Cone.

The most comparable trade on Steve’s list is the Tim Hudson trade. The A’s held a $6.5 million 2005 club option on Hudson. They exercised it and then dished him to the Braves for Juan Cruz, Dan Meyer, and Charles Thomas. It’s got the top flight minor leaguer in Meyer, plus the unknowns in Cruz and Thomas. Cruz had already bounced from Chicago to Atlanta, and was known for his velocity and inconsistency. Thomas was a decent prospect who had had a big season in AAA in 2004. The Braves turned that into Hudson, much like the Yankees took the high-ceiling Janzen, plus a few unknowns, and turned it into Cone.

While I disagree with some of the analysis (Brett Anderson was most certainly one of the centerpieces to the Haren trade, not Dana Eveland), Steve gives a good look at some recent deals. It seems the deals were split in terms of who won: the team receiving the pitcher or the team receiving the prospects. There were, however, a few landslides.

Unfortunately, this list doesn’t provide a ton of perspective for this year’s trade deadline. All the but one were in the off-season. Moreover, all of them involved pitchers 29 years of age or younger, while this year’s big names, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, are both on the other side of 30. The biggest difference, though, is the timing. Only the CC Sabathia trade came at the deadline. Both of this year’s names are a bit more attractive, because their contracts not only cover this year’s pennant rate, but also carry over to next year.

This doesn’t mean that Lee and Halladay will necessarily stay put. It does mean, though, that Mark Shapiro in Cleveland and J.P. Ricciardi in Toronto are right to demand top-tier talent for their pitchers. Unlike six of the seven deals Steve mentioned, these pitchers provide help down the stretch. Beyond that, they fill a rotation spot next year for the receiving team. That’s highly valuable, and Toronto and Cleveland should demand an equitable return.

Then again, once the deadline passes (there’s little chance either Lee or Halladay makes it through waivers), that added value is wasted. Neither pitcher will help their own team down the stretch as they could have helped another. In the off-season, teams obviously aren’t going to pay as much as they would now, since they only get one season out of the pitcher, rather than a crucial two months, plus the playoffs, on top of the one season.

There is still a wild card here, though. Heading into this season, most teams were tapped on payroll. Just a few could afford to add dollars. This affects deadline trading, because many potential trading partners just can’t afford to take on salary this year (though I’m sure most teams could find room for the remainder of Lee’s $5.75 2009 salary). Once we hit the off-season and teams shed some contracts, perhaps the Blue Jays and Indians will have more potential trading partners, creating more competition and therefore getting a better package of prospects than they would have received at the deadline.

We may see a pitcher dealt before the deadline, but it’s not a given. While pundits preach that the Blue Jays will never get more for Halladay than they will right now, they forget that only a small number of teams can even afford Roy. Opening up the bidding to more teams in the off-season, when teams will have more free payroll, could yield a larger return. So while we’ve seen prospects for pitcher deals work out in the past, don’t expect a team to gamble on one now.

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A couple of hours before the Yanks and Orioles squared off last night, the Yankees announced a setback for Chien-Ming Wang. Their erstwhile ace, on the DL since July 4 with a strained right shoulder, had experienced some bicep pain during a throwing session, and the Yanks no longer sound certain they will get any contribution from Wang this season.

“It’s not exactly the news that I wanted,” Joe Girardi said to reporters. “We were hoping two weeks’ rest would be enough for him to get on a throwing program. Does it mean he won’t pitch this year? No, I’m not saying that. But obviously, it’s not going to be as soon as we thought.”

During the pre-game news conference, Girardi hinted that Wang’s rotator cuff may be suffering as part of this amorphous shoulder strain. “I think anytime you’re dealing with cuff issues or shoulder tendinitis or whatever you want to describe it as, there is concern,” Girardi said. “Whatever he is able to do, we would love to have. But I think anytime someone is injured and you’re not sure when they’re exactly going to be back, you can’t count on them.”

For the Yankees, these apparent injuries justify what had been a controversial off-season tactic. For the last few seasons, the Yankees have opted not to sign Wang to a long-term contract. Rather, they have gone year-to-year with the arbitration-eligible pitcher. They did so because Wang’s peripherals did not necessarily predict future success and because the pitcher, as we’ve seen, is volatile. If Wang is out for the rest of the year, he will have gone 1-6 with a 9.34 ERA over just 42 innings since June 15, 2008.

Meanwhile, the Yanks have some other pitching questions to resolve. In writing about Wang today in The Times, Tyler Kepner explores how the Yanks’ rotation depth is suffering with Wang out:

Wang had pitched decently in his last few starts, and Girardi acknowledged that the latest setback was another reason to be concerned about rotation depth. After Mitre, the Yankees’ next option in the minors is Kei Igawa, who has repeatedly failed in the majors.

Relievers Phil Hughes and Alfredo Aceves are natural starters, but Hughes has become so entrenched in short relief that Girardi said he could throw no more than 40 pitches now. Adding 15 pitches an outing, it would take Hughes four appearances before he could throw 100 pitches.

That is not an easy or appealing option, especially because Hughes has been invaluable in the bullpen. Entering Monday, he had a streak of 19 scoreless innings, the longest by a Yankee since Mariano Rivera’s 23-inning streak in 2005, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

It’s far too early to write off Sergio Mitre. He hasn’t even thrown a pitch as a member of the New York Yankees, but my expectations aren’t high. Beyond Mitre, Kepner’s mention of Igawa is enough to make me want to curl up in a corner in the fetal position.

The answer though is staring the Yanks in the face. Sure, Phil Hughes’ 19 scoreless innings of the pen is an impressive number, but good pitchers make for great relievers. If the Yanks truly expect nothing from Chien-Ming Wang right now, the team would be far better off moving Hughes into the rotation. He may be on a pitch count, but it’s easy to stretch him.

First, the Yanks can have him duplicate what he did on Friday. That evening, he threw 40 pitches out of the pen. The Yanks could then have him make a 65-pitch start as they were willing to do with Alfredo Aceves prior to the All Star break. The 80-pitch outing leaves the bullpen in limbo, but with Brett Tomko still on the active roster and Mark Melancon ready to hop on the Scranton shuttle, the Yankees have some flexibility. That would do it.

As for the late-inning relief efforts, the Yankees still have Phil Coke and Alfredo Aceves ready, willing, and able to get the job done. It’s very tempting to keep Hughes in the late innings as a band-aid, but the Yankees need starters. Maybe Sergio Mitre can cut it, but Phil Hughes is the future while Mitre is a place-holder for Wang.

If Wang is out, if the Yanks are truly short in the rotation, it’s time to stretch out Hughes. He has the experience and the confidence. Now, all he needs is the work and the innings.

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