During the letdown that was Opening Day, CC Sabathia labored through 96 pitches, throwing just 50 for strikes. Of those 96 pitches, 84 were either fastballs or sliders. This is nothing new for CC, who’s worked off these two pitches for the last seven years, mixing in the occasional changeup. Let’s take a look at how his two main pitchers were looking yesterday afternoon, via the magic of Pitch f/x. You can click on any graph in this post to open up a larger view.
First up, bird’s eye view, and what you’re seeing is the average flight path of his fastball and slider:
In case you’re wondering what in tarnation that graph and those numbers mean, you can check out this article for a damn fine explanation. The quick, quick version: it’s called Win Probability Added (WPA). It uses historical data to determine how important each game situation is to the ultimate outcome. For instance, it looks at all situations where, say, the home team has a runner on second and no outs in the bottom of the 7th while up by three runs. Using data from the game’s past, it can determine how many times a team in that situation went on to win that particular game. Then, say, the next hitter singles and drives home the runner. The situation changes to runner on first, no outs, bottom of the seventh, up four runs. That win probability will be higher than the previous scenario, so the batter is credited with the positive change.
The bars under the graph represent the Leverage Index. This is, quite simply, how important that particular at bat was. It represents the swing in the most successful play and the least successful play.
Check out the play log sorted by WPA change. It was easy for everyone to determine the two plays which cost the Yanks the most: the Xavier Nady double play and the Derek Jeter groundout. The latter is a shame, of course, because Jeter had such a good game otherwise. The third, though, might not have registered as having been as important as other plays, but when Mark Teixeira reached on a fielder’s choice in the eighth inning, the loss of the inning was apparently devastating. As you can see from the Leverage Index, it was an important situation, so losing the out there was big.
While the Yanks dominated the negative end of the WPA chart, they also had a number of enormously positive contributions. Specifically, the Matsui homer, the Swisher double, the Jeter single in the third, the Nady double, and Cano’s seventh-inning single were of great importance to the team. What’s strange, you might see, is that Jorge Posada‘s 7th inning walk was more important than his sixth-inning home run. This is because it came with the team down 6-1, so it didn’t do much at the time. It did build the foundation, though, for the Yanks coming back to within 6-5 before blowing it.
WPA isn’t going to give you a perfect measure of a player’s skill and abilities, but it does provide a narrative for the game. We know that Tex’s 8th inning grounder was devastating, and we know that Matsui’s homer was nearly a game-changer. This is to say that WPA is interesting, even if it doesn’t give us a further insight into skill and ability.
Good news for the Yanks courtesy of Bryan Hoch: Alex Rodriguez will be arriving at the Yanks’ facility in Tampa on Monday to ramp up baseball activities. A-Rod underwent surgery on March 9 to temporarily repair a torn labrum in his right hip, and in a text message exchange with Joe Girardi yesterday, A-Rod said he was feeling good. In fact, he was spied riding a stationary bike while watching the game yesterday. The Yankees, meanwhile, are holding true to their May 15 expected return date for A-Rod, but the whispers of a late April or early May return continue to grow louder. That day can’t come soon enough. · (17) ·
Cesar Izturis’ eighth inning home run pretty much summed up the Yankees’ Opening Day 10-5 loss. Izturis signed a two-year, $5 million contract with the Orioles this off-season for his glove. After he has a career OPS+ of 67 and blasted just two home runs over this last three seasons.
So of course, with the Yanks knocking at the Orioles’ door in the 8th inning, he turns on a Phil Coke offering and deposits it just out of the reach of Johnny Damon in the left field seats. I wouldn’t be surprised if Izturis’ blast is the only one he hits all season.
For the Yankees, Opening Day was an entire game of “just out of reach.” For CC Sabathia, the $23 Million Man, the strike out zone was just out of reach. He lasted just 4.1 innings, giving up 6 earned runs on 8 hits and an alarming 5 walks. He recorded no strike outs in a start — a feat he has accomplished four times in his career — for the first time since July 25, 2005.
One at-bat, in particular, sticks out for me. With the bases loaded in the fifth inning, Luke Scott was up. Sabathia got ahead 0-2 on two sliders Scott fouled away. Instead of attacking Scott with a fastball, Sabathia threw four more sliders. None of them got the plate, and Scott didn’t bite.
After the game, Sabathia said he just didn’t have it. He couldn’t locate his fastball, and as any pitcher at any level knows, a pitcher who cannot locate his fastball is pitching at a disadvantage. (The heating pack, by the way, was for CC to stay warm and loose. In the post game show, Sabathia and Girardi both said nothing was physically wrong with the lefty. He just “never got in the groove,” as Posada said.)
Offensively, the Yanks were always just out of reach of the Orioles. Down 6-5 in the 8th, Nick Swisher led off the inning with a double. Joe Girardi used the speedy Ramiro Peña to pinch hit, but then he gave away an out as Brett Gardner bunted. I understand the theory behind moving the runner to third. Peña could potentially score on an out. With three contact hitters in Gardner, Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon due up next though, why not let Gardner put the ball in play? As he showed in the third, good things happen when he does that.
Anyway, Derek Jeter tapped out to third, and after a Johnny Damon walk, Mark Teixeira left two runners. His 0-for-4 with 5 LOB left the Yankees just out of reach.
By the time Phil Coke and Brian Bruney combined for four earned runs in two innings, the Yanks had lost their chances. They had left 11 runners on base and couldn’t deliver that blow. The game was just out of reach.
While Sabathia wasn’t great, while the Yankees’ five runs and 11 hits weren’t quite enough, it is also important to keep it all in perspective. Game one is a loss, and what can you do? Jorge Posada showed some signs of power. Hideki blasted a homer. Damon and Jeter combined for five hits, and Robinson Cano walked twice. Anyway, we’ve still 161 more of these to go.
Mike Ashmore has the details. No real surprises, but they will have to remove two players from the roster before Opening Day to get down to the 24-man roster limit. I’m guessing that Justin Snyder and Jose Gil will get shipped down to High-A Tampa. The rotation is strong with Zach McAllister, George Kontos, Eric Hacker, Ryan Pope and Ivan Nova holding down the five rotation spots, and guys like Kanekoa Teixeira, Kevin Whelan, Mike Dunn and Josh Schmidt highlight a formidable bullpen. Chris Malec, Reegie Corona, Eduardo Nunez and Marcos Vechionacci represent a lock down defensive infield, but the outfield isn’t anything to write home about. Low-A Charleston’s roster was announced yesterday. · (38) ·
ZOMG CC is teh bust!11!! Keep the convo going here folks.
It’s like Christmas, but better.
After six long and occasionally torturous months, the Yankees will finally return to paying meaningful games today. The weather looked threatening at one point, but it’s cleared up a bit and it now looks like we’ll have baseball down in Baltimore. Praise be to Mo.
Your Opening Day starting nine:
And on the mound, weighing in at $170,000,000, CC Sabathia.
Notes: Expect Tex to get the bejesus booed out of him … you can find out 2009 Predictions thread here … please considered participating in The 2009 RAB Pledge Drive to benefit Joe Torre’s Safe At Home Foundation if you haven’t already …
Predictions are stupid (I said this yesterday). How can one person expect to figure out what’s going to happen over the course of a season before it’s even begun? The answer is they can’t. Yet if they’re right in their guesses, they’ll make sure everyone remembers it. If they’re wrong, no biggie; no one remembers pre-season predictions.
There is, however, value in the community. If we band together and each make predictions, perhaps if we add them together we’ll come up with something that resembles reality. Plenty of blogs conduct community projections for their teams’ rosters. While we’ve never done that at RAB, we’ve proved that we’re not above copying good ideas. So let’s dive into some community projections.
Here’s how we’ll work it. You’ll pick the six division winners, wild cards, playoff brackets, and MVPs, Cy Youngs, and ROYs for each league. Not only that, but at the suggestion of TJSC (okay, so maybe he came up with this entire idea; shut up), let’s take this further and talk mid-season trade. If a few high-payroll teams drop out of contention we could see a robust trade market come July. For the projections, name the player you think will be traded, and where he’ll land. Don’t worry about who the team gets in return. So, for example, Magglio Ordonez to the White Sox. That’s all we need.
To get the ball rolling, here are my picks:
WC: Red Sox
AL MVP: Mark Teixeira
NL MVP: Ryan Howard
AL ROY: Matt Weiters
NL ROY: Colby Rasmus
Magglio Ordonez to the Angels (after a Vlad injury)
Aubrey Huff to Cleveland
Jake Peavy to the Cubs
Placido Polanco to Arizona
Matt Holliday to Atlanta
Garrett Atkins to Houston
Make your picks, in more or less this format, in the comments. Then we’ll add ‘em up and make a page for it. With our powers combined,
we are Captain Planet maybe we can approach something resembling accurate projections.
When the Traveling A-Rod Circus makes its way up to Boston this year for the first time, the Yanks’ third baseman is sure to be greeted with a louder-than-usual chorus of Bronx cheers. Not one to engender much love in the Hub, A-Rod and his off-season steroid revelations simply give the Fenway Faithful more ammunition. I have to wonder though if this isn’t some huge act of hypocrisy perpetrated by baseball fans throughout the nation.
Yesterday, as I was
procrastinating work on an appellate brief browsing my usual baseball sites, I came across an article on Takashi Saito from the Oct. 3, 2008 edition of the Los Angeles Times. Saito, now the Red Sox set-up man was with the Dodgers at the time, and the article is about a medically groundbreaking procedure Saito received last July when he suffered what should have been a season-ending tear of his elbow’s ulnar collateral ligament.
Generally such an injury leads to Tommy John surgery, but in Saito’s case, it led to an injection of a medicine designed to greatly enhance his body’s natural healing process. That almost sounds like Human Growth Hormone, but it’s not. Here’s how the LA paper described the process:
Saito credited his unlikely recovery from a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow that he suffered in July to a cutting-edge medical procedure, which, to his knowledge, had never been tried on a major league pitcher. To this day, team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache can’t definitively say that injecting platelet-rich plasma into Saito’s elbow is what allowed him to avoid Tommy John surgery. ElAttrache also won’t guarantee how long the elbow will hold up or that Saito won’t have to have surgery in the future…
Trainer Stan Conte said he estimated that Saito had a 20% chance of pitching again this season and told management not to count on him being back. So when ElAttrache offered using PRP as an option, Conte was open to the idea.
Within a week of hurting his elbow, Saito had blood drawn and spun to isolate the platelets, which clot and promote healing. The platelets, 10 times more concentrated than in normal blood, were injected into the site of the tear in the elbow. ElAttrache said he used PRP in the past to repair tendons, but never ligaments.
So what’s the difference? Medically, Saito’s doctor took something found naturally in his body — platelets — concentrated them into a super-high dosage and then reinjected the platelets into the site of Saito’s injury. When a baseball player injects himself with a steroid, as far as my medical knowledge goes, he is basically doing the same thing. He takes a super-high dosage of testosterone, something found naturally in the body, or a synthetic substance and injecting into his body to promote quick healing and an unnatural edge.
Of course, what Saito did doesn’t run afoul of medical ethics, U.S. law or baseball rules. So the Red Sox fans will cheer him — or ignore him — as he contributes during the season, and A-Rod who went looking down illegal paths for that edge will get booed. It’s quite the conflict in baseball’s PED policy. How and where do you draw the line between acceptable forms of over-medicating?