Orioles 7, Yankees 5
What is this nerdy graph?

Holy crap, this team is frustrating. They were bound to play like this at one point or another in the season, but why did it have to come at the start? It makes the whole thing so damned agonizing. You can only tell yourself “it’s just a slump” so many times before you get sick of hearing it.

The game started off well enough. Derek Jeter had another exemplary leadoff at bat, walking on six pitches. Things were looking good for a second when Damon ripped one to right, but it was too close to Markakis. After Teixeira hit the first of many Yankees pop outs and Hideki Matsui grounded out, the only enthusiasm left was for Chien-Ming Wang

…which evaporated pretty quickly. It was apparent right from the start that CMW didn’t have it, and when CMW doesn’t have it things get ugly. It started with a double from Adam Jones — on what I didn’t think was all that bad a pitch — and continued with belt-high pitches to Nick Markakis and Aubrey Huff, both also resulting in doubles. After Melvin Mora hit one Pasta Diving Ransom, Wang finally retired the side. Two and two-thirds innings later, Wang left the game having allowed seven runs.

Wang didn’t look bad in the second inning. He left one up in the zone to Felix Pie and he hit it much further than I had figured, but he kept the ball down to Zaun and Izturis, fooling us into thinking he’d settled down. But a shaky third inning turned into a disastrous fourth inning and Edwar had to finish the job. Thankfully, the bullpen took care of it from there, but the offense wasn’t up to the task.

The Yanks had a chance to do some damage against Uehara from the get go, but let him off the hook by swinging at too many pitches out of the zone. Tex popped up in the first on ball four, and Matsui swung at a number of pitches out of the zone before grounding out. Most of the guys just weren’t having good at bats. Robinson Cano, 2 for 4 with three good ABs; Jorge Posada, 1 for 4 with a double; and Derek Jeter, 2 for 4 with a walk and a homer, were notable exceptions.

What really irks me is that Uehara didn’t look that impressive. He had some good movement on pitches, but he was all over the place. He didn’t strike out anyone, and again he should have issued more than one walk. The Yanks just wouldn’t let him. They came around with some life in the ninth, but this wasn’t to be another April 19, 2007.

On the WPA side, Wang was obviously the goat. Hideki Matsui and Brett Gardner brought down the offense, which makes sense because it seemed like Jeter or Jorge lead off every inning. Cody Ransom’s double, the biggest WPA swing in the game, kept him atop the Yanks leader board. Jeter, Cano, and Nick Swisher‘s walk were the only other Yankees in the black.

On a parting note, I feel bad for Jorge Posada. What should have been a fairly easy pop out turned into an adventure at the on-deck circle. On one hand he has to keep his eye on the ball, or else it might hit him on the schnoz. On the other hand he has to watch his step, or else he might trip over the donuts or pine tar rag. He did all he could; there just wasn’t a good chance he was catching that ball.

Thankfully, we’ll do this again at 1:00 today. A.J. makes his Yanks debut, and hopefully the lineup can score early and often against the worst rotation in the league’s third best pitcher.

Categories : Game Stories
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Man, it’s hard to believe this is already my fourth year doing DotF. It seems like just yesterday I was posting about guys like Russ Johnson and Irwil Rojas and JT Stotts as they toiled in the Yanks’ minor league system. Where does the time go?

There were only four games scheduled tonight, all in the Double-A Eastern League. The rest of the minor league baseball universe starts it’s season tomorrow. Chad Jennings has Triple-A Scranton’s pitching matchups for their series at home against Lehigh Valley, and I’m guessing Dellin Betances will start High-A Tampa’s opener at Lakeland while Andrew Brackman opens Low-A Charleston’s season at home against Rome. You can check out the affiliates’ Opening Day rosters here. Robert Pimpsner at Baby Bombers tells me that outfielder David Williams was recently released. Joe’s crushed at the loss of the Rutgers’ product.

As per Opening Day tradition, here’s the stats for the full lineup and pitching contingent. It’s good to be back.

Double-A Trenton (5-3 loss to Binghamton)
Eduardo Nunez: 1 for 5, 1 K
Reegie Corona: 1 for 5, 2 K
Colin Curtis: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 E (throwing)
Edwar Gonzalez: 1 for 3, 1 2B, 1 HBP
Marcos Vechionacci: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 K – singled in Curtis for the first run of the year … hopefully he stays healthy this year and regains some of that prospect luster
Frankie Cervelli: 0 for 4, 1 K
Seth Fortenberry: 1 for 4, 1 R, 3 K , 1 E (throwing) – what did you expect from a guy who’s struck out 327 times in 326 career games?
Chris Malec: 1 for 2, 1 RBI, 2 BB – drew a walk to become the team’s first baserunner of the year … career K/BB ratio now sits at 142-184 in 377 career games
Kevin Smith: 1 for 4, 1 RBI, 2 K
Eric Hacker: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 11-3 GB/FB – rock solid Opening Day start
Kevin Whelan: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HB, 1-1 GB/FB
Eric Wordekemper: 0.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K – the walk was intentional … allowed one of Whelan’s two inherited runners to score
Mike Dunn:  2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1-0 GB/FB – gave up the go-ahead runs int he top of the ninth with some help from a bad Colin Curtis throw … love the strikeouts though

Categories : Down on the Farm
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Wang & UeharaThe last time we saw Chien-Ming Wang take the mound was, well last Friday, but the last time we saw him take the mound in a game that actually meant something was June 15th of last year, when you know what happened. Wang said that ten month hiatus felt like five years, and I’m pretty sure we can all agree with that. He had a good spring, putting up a 4.15 ERA in 21.2 IP covering 6 starts, but hopefully he gets back to being the dominant groundball pitcher he was before the injury.

The Wanger will be opposed by Japanese import Koji Uehara, who will be making his North American debut. The first Japanese born player in Orioles history, Uehara is a nine year vet of the Japanese leagues, where he was a teammate of Hideki Matsui with the Yomiuri Giants. As Tyler Kepner noted, he won the Sawamura Award in 2002 (Cy Young equivalent), the same year Godzilla was named league MVP and Yomiuri won the league title. Uehara is known as an extreme strike thrower, racking up just 195 unintentional walks in 1,354 career innings (1.30 BB/9) on the other side of the lake. Those kind of pitchers have been known to give the Yanks’ fits, but hopefully they can buck that trend tonight.

Tiny bit of roster news before we get to the lineups: Dan Giese was claimed off waivers by the A’s. Judging by their current pitching situation, he might make it back in the bigs before long. We wish him well. Here’s tonight’s lineup, same as Monday’s:

Jeter, SS
Damon, LF
Teixeira, 1B
Matsui, DH
Posada, C
Cano, 2B
Nady, RF
Ransom, 3B
Gardner, CF

And on the mound, the Taiwanese Terror, Chien-Ming Wang.

Notes: I thought Chris Britton was getting the shaft with the Yanks, but the Padres sent him to Double-A. Poor guy … how do you define yourself as a Yankees fan? … don’t forget to vote in this week’s Fan Confidence Poll if you haven’t already … please consider contributing to our Pledge Drive benefitting Joe Torre’s Safe At Home Foundation if you haven’t already, it’s a great cause.

Photo Credit: Wang via Getty Images, Uehara via AP

Categories : Game Threads
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  • Opening Day payroll totals slightly down
    By

    Maury Brown as the Biz of Baseball has Opening Day payroll totals for all 30 teams. The Yanks lead the pack with an Opening Day payroll of $201 million, a decline of about $8 million from 2008. The Mets ($149 million), Cubs ($134 million), Red Sox ($121 million) and Tigers ($115 million) round out the top five. Overall, Opening Day spending is down by about $43 million this year over last with the Padres’ 40 percent payroll reduction accounting for the bulk of that figure. As always, good stuff from Maury. · (7) ·

There’s nothing like a good DUI mugshot and video to spur on some high-n-mighty moralizing from the New York League of Self-Important Spots Writers.

First, the details: The Smoking Gun finally released the mug shot and video of Joba’s October arrest. I’ve been waiting to see this for months, and well, it’s what you would expect. Joba is dressed, as Deadspin noted, like a mime, and in the video, embedded below, he tries to buddy up with the cop.

As anyone with an open container in their car and a BAC well over the minimum would do, Joba first tries to play the Yankee card. “Obviously, I play for the Yankees,” he says to the unimpressed trooper. He claims New Yorkers aren’t polite and notes that Yogi Berra is short. I had no idea.

It is, in other words, your typical arrest video, but that shouldn’t let anyone from making more out of it than that! Of course not!

In his second-dumbest column this week, Wallace Matthews relates Joba’s arrest to his role in the rotation. While not quite saying that Joba should be pitching the 8th because he was arrested for drunk driving, Matthews really wants to make that argument.

The best moral rant though comes to us from Joel Sherman. He is concerned, so very concerned about Joba’s future:

It isn’t pretty. But ultimately it will go to the recesses of the mind, unless this video is about something more than a bad night in the life of Joba Chamberlain. There were organizations who bypassed Chamberlain’s 98 mph fastball in the 2006 draft for reasons beyond physical concerns. He comes from a broken home, and his mother was a self-professed drug abuser. Chamberlain also did a pretty quick turn from unknown right-hander to Broadway star. That could create trouble for even the most level-headed kid.

Members of the Yankee organization will admit that all of this gives them some concern. But they also say they think well of Chamberlain, that they sense an athlete with passion to honor his gifts. And it is not as if the Yanks have diminished the responsibility they’ve placed on that talented, fragile shoulder of Chamberlain…

When it comes to Chamberlain, we have always wondered if his body will withstand his violent delivery, all the skeletal cruelties that come with hurling a baseball that fast. But that video released yesterday will make you wonder if that is all that can curtail Joba on the way to being an ace.

Joba, all of 23, made a really bad inexcusable mistake when he drove drunk last year. What he did could cause more harm to other people than anything Alex Rodriguez ever injected into his body, and he doesn’t deserve a pass for it. The Yankees should make sure that Joba understands his responsibilities not just as a baseball player and role model but as a regular member of society who shouldn’t be driving under any influence.

That sad, Matthews, Sherman and their ilk are way out of line. Joba’s arrest isn’t a metaphor for anything. It’s not a sign that he can’t handle success. It’s not a sign that he should be pitching the 8th (and neither, for that matter, was Monday’s bullpen meltdown). It’s a mistake that shouldn’t have been made by someone who is, after all, fallible like the rest of us. Why can’t we just leave it at that?

Read More→

Categories : Rants
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At the rate we’re going, Yankee fans and the hypersensitive media that covers them are going to start panicking before Spring Training ends. Today’s freakout du jour comes to courtesy of Anthony McCarron, The Daily News and CC Sabathia’s in-game heating pad.

McCarron notes that a few Yankee watchers are concerned about CC’s health. It’s odd, they say, for a pitcher with a history of abdominal strains to use a heating pad on Opening Day to stay loose. (Oh, wait.) Noted doctor and pitching expert John Flaherty had a few things to say about Sabathia’s outing. “When I’m watching him pitch and see the heat pad and then see him throwing 88-89, it’s almost like he’s protecting something and pitching at 70%,” the YES Network color man said.

It’s a good thing I’m sitting here in my mom’s basement in front of a computer with access to, you know, real numbers. While the notoriously unreliable YES gun may have said 88-89, the true numbers provided to us by MLB.com’s Pitch f/x system tell otherwise. Mike explored this in depth yesterday, but it’s a point worth repeating. Pitch f/x had CC’s average fastball velocity as 93 with a peak of 95. His change-up was at 85, and his breaking pitchers were around 80. But, hey, why verify facts? If John Flaherty said it, that must make it reality.

McCarron eventually makes some good points. Will Carroll pointed out that Sabathia’s release point was off, and Jim Kaat wondered why Sabathia threw six straight sliders to Luke Scott. But those points are buried under an avalanche of Yankee denials.

Sabathia’s location was off on Monday because his release point was off. He just had one of those day and couldn’t get the pitches over. He had no problems with velocity; he is showing no signs of injury; and the Yankees aren’t about to start taking early-season chances with their $23 million pitcher. If he’s hurt he won’t pitch, and right now he’s going to pitch. If he doesn’t show improvement over his next few starts, we’ll all start to worry, but one game does not a trend make.

Categories : Pitching
Comments (79)
  • Brett Tomko, closer
    By

    Via Chad Jennings, Triple-A Scranton pitching coach Scott Aldred said the team will use veteran Brett Tomko as the closer this year. As Chad noted, they’re using Tomko in that role so they can have some flexibility and control the innings of the younger, higher ceilinged arms like Mark Melancon and David Robertson. This is nothing new; last year the closer at Triple-A was 32-yr old Scott Strickland, the year before it was 34-yr old Jim Brower, and the year before that it was 32-yr old Mark Corey. · (53) ·

Apr
08

And so it begins…

By in Yankee Stadium. · Comments (13) ·

Old Yankee Stadium deconstruction
WFAN has some photos of the deconstruction of the Old Yankee Stadium. Ben pointed the big hole in the wall out to me after the game on Saturday, and it was a very somber sight. Looking up at the seats I’ve sat in countless times and knowing that the process of tearing them down has started … well that’s just sad. (h/t Seamus)

Added by Ben: I noticed this on Saturday when I went up to the Stadium. If you walk down the stairs from the Manhattan-bound 4 platform, you get a perfect view of the destruction. It’s going to be tough emotionally watching the Stadium come down in pieces while fans flock to the new one.

Categories : Yankee Stadium
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For years now, Tom Verducci has studied the workload placed on young starters, and how dramatic increases in workload can lead to injury. As most baseball fans know by now, Verducci’s research claims that starters under age 25 are more prone to injury if they exceed their previous year’s innings total by over 30. Each year he identifies the young starters who took the biggest jump in workload and places them under the spotlight. Last year we saw Dustin McGowan go down with a season-ending rotator cuff injury.

Verducci leads off this year’s selection with a conversation he had with Mike Pelfrey, who apparently is familiar with Verducci’s theory (or what he terms a “rule of thumb”). With a 48-inning jump from 2007 to 2008, the Mets right-hander was a shoe-in for this year’s list. Yet he doesn’t think he’s going to fall victim like so many have in the past. Working in his favor, he believes, are his age, 25, and his size, 6’7″. Verducci responds:

“You’ve got a point,” I told him. After all, the dude is big. “I believe the bigger your frame and the older you are — guys near 25 are different from a guy who is 21 — can be mitigating circumstances. They probably put you at less risk — but still at risk.”

“I threw 140 innings at Wichita State — in three months,” Pelfrey said.

“Good point,” I said. “That’s still not 200.”

“The other thing is I bet I went through a lot more stress in 2007 than I did last year,” Pelfrey said. “It seemed like I constantly had runners on in 2007, and I really worked to improve my efficiency. So I might have thrown more innings, but I didn’t have all those innings with runners on base and high pitch counts.”

The last paragraph is the really interesting one. Innings are an inexact measure of workload. No number can give you a real look at a pitcher’s workload — not innings, not pitches, not even Baseball Prospectus’s Pitcher Abuse Points. Pitches and innings surely play a part, but when factors like when the pitches were thrown and how many of them were thrown at once come into play, you get a different picture of a pitcher’s stress level.

Jeff at Lookout Landing covered this a couple of years ago when the Mariners wanted to take this approach with Felix Hernandez:

It’s exactly how a young pitcher should be treated. Counting innings is what’s silly; 200 frames for Gil Meche are way different than 200 frames for, say, Roy Halladay, and the total barely even gives you an approximation of workload and stress level. It’s something of a barometer, since a guy with 100 innings will generally have less wear and tear than someone with twice as many, but it’s incredibly inefficient, to the point where it’s not even worth monitoring when there are better alternatives available. Which there are.

Innings sometimes provide a ballpark estimate, but pitch context and mechanical consistency tell you much much more. If Pitcher A throws 90 pitches and allows ten baserunners in five innings, while Pitcher B throws 110 pitches and allows six baserunners in seven innings, Pitcher A’s going to be doing more damage to himself, since he’s working in more stressful situations. That’s what wears a guy out and puts him at risk for injury – having to focus on every individual pitch with men on is way more tiring than cruising through the bottom of the order with the bases empty. That much we know. So why not account for it when you’re keeping track of a young pitcher’s progress?

I’m sure many teams employ these methods to ensure the health of their young pitchers. The Red Sox are known for administering strength tests throughout the season to make sure their players aren’t breaking down. Apparently Jon Lester, who tops the 2009 Verducci list with an 83.1 inning increase, passed all of his tests last year, so this will be an interesting study. If Lester holds up, you can bet a few more teams will implement a system like the Sox.

Other notables on the list include Cole Hamels, who pitched 79 more innings than in 2007. Hamels had elbow trouble this spring and missed his Opening Day start, though he won’t go on the DL. The NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum is No. 4 with a 49.2 inning increase.

While not an infallible rule, Verducci does note his success in the recent past. Over the past three seasons he’s identified 24 pitchers he’s considered at-risk. Of them 16 were hurt in the season he identified. Further, only one both avoided injury and saw a lower ERA in the Verducci season (Ubaldo Jimenez of the Rockies, for anyone interested). So while some might complain that the Yankees are babying Joba Chamberlain with his innings limit, it’s in place for good reason.

It comes as a relief that no Yankees made this list this year. Ian Kennedy did make it last year, and as we saw he went down with an injury, though it’s tough to say whether it had anything to do with his innings increase. You know what they say about correlation and causation.

Categories : Pitching
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Regular baseball coverage will resume at 9 a.m., but we’d like to take a second to point out the many ways you can follow RAB throughout the 2009 baseball season. Specifically, we’re going to pimp our RSS feed, Facebook page, and Twitter feed.

RSS feed

If you use RSS feeds, hopefully you’ve already subscribed to RAB. If not, you could do that right now. Click the Feedburner icon in the right sidebar and you’re set.

For those who don’t know, RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary, depending on who you ask. To use RSS, you need an RSS reader like Google Reader. Instead of visiting your favorite sites individually multiple times per day, you subscribe to their feeds and the information comes to you. For a much more comprehensive overview of RSS, including links to a number of RSS readers, check out this site.

In case you need convincing, I present an IM Mike sent me in January:

Michael: i did something over the weekend that changed my life
i started using an RSS reader
it’s wonderful, everything comes to me

Do you really need any more convincing than that? Subscribe to our feed today. If you don’t, you’d better dead or in jail. And if you’re in jail, BREAK OUT!

Twitter

For the longest time I tried to ignore Twitter’s existence, but eventually it became too powerful. It’s this really annoying Web service where you send “tweets” to your “followers.” Then they can respond to your tweets, and everyone can see. Essentially, these are pubic mass emails, limited in size to 140 characters.

(Aside: One might think that William Strunk would approve of Twitter for the brevity it enforces. Alas, instead of omitting needless words Twitterers regularly omit “needless” characters and replace others with phonetic truncations. I weep for our language. Keith Law knows what I’m talking about.)

If you’re on Twitter, you can follow @riveaveblues. I swear, we don’t tweet our every post. That’s annoying. In fact, we hardly tweet any of our posts. It’s mainly just banter with the readers.

If you’re not on Twitter, I salute you.

Facebook

Every so often I check the RAB Facebook page and see who has become a fan recently. Not that I’d recognize any of the names — though seeing my little brother had joined without my prompting him was pretty cool. Anyway, this is the most neglected of our social media presences, but we promise we’ll work on it. Follow us, though. It’ll give us more motivation to better utilize it.

That wasn’t that bad, was it? Cool. The baseball talk will be back any minute now.

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