Joba vs RedsIn what figures to be his final live game action of Spring Training, Joba Chamberlain looked like vintage Joba in Sarasota this aftenoon. He allowed two runs on five hits and three walks in five and a third innings, striking out six. Joba threw 86 pitches but tired towards the end of his outing, allowing two walks and two hits with one out in the sixth before being pulled.

“I’ve got to be more efficient,” said Chamberlain (via Bryan Hoch). “I had some good short innings, but there were other times when I got extended with two outs. I’ve got to shorten pitches and when things get out of whack, I’ve got to slow things down.” Becoming more efficient with your pitches is standard stuff for young starters, nothing out of the ordinary here.

The Great Joba Velocity Scare should be over, as scouts had the young righty in the mid-90’s all day according to Tyler Kepner. Oh, and Jorge Posada isn’t a B-Jobber anymore, according PeteAbe’s 3:38 update. Thank Mo.

Brian Bruney bailed Joba out in the sixth, stranding both inherited base runners thanks to a strikeout and fly out. Edwar Ramirez allowed a hit and an unearned run in an inning of work, while Phil Coke and Dan Giese posted identical 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K lines to close out the game. Coke was absolutely phenomenal this spring, putting up a 15-1 K/BB ratio with a 1.42 ERA and 11 hits allowed in 12.2 IP. Hopefully he doesn’t pull a Sean Henn, who followed up a strong Spring Training in 2007 with an ERA over seven in the regular season.

The center fielder battlers accounted for pretty much all of the team’s offense, as Brett Gardner went 3-for-4 from the leadoff spot while Melky Cabrera went 1-for-2 with three RBI’s and a run scored from the six-hole. Mark Teixeira doubled and walked, while Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada combined to go 0-for-6 with two walks and three strikeouts. Angel Berroa went 2-for-5 and was picked off first, and his hitting .379-.390-.621 this spring. The 6-3 win is the team’s seventh straight, and sixteenth in their last eighteen games.

The Yanks finish up the Florida portion of their preseason schedule tomorrow afternoon against the Phillies, and then will head home to New York before taking on the Cubbies in a pair of exhibition games at the New Stadium on Friday and Saturday.

Mo matters: Mariano Rivera pitched in a minor league game today, and was so dominant that he recorded five outs in just one inning of work. After serving up a homer to MVP05 legend Rich Thompson, Mo sat down the next three batters with ease, so the team stretched him out a bit and had him face two more hitters. He’s just that good.

Photo Credit: Pete Caldera

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  • Gardner takes home 2009 Dawson Award

    Via PeteAbe, new center fielder Brett Gardner was named this year’s winner of the James P. Dawson Award, given annually to the most outstanding rookie in Yankees’ Spring Training camp. He’ll be honored before tomorrow’s game against the Phillies, the Yanks’ final game in Florida of the preseason. Let’s hope things go better for Gardner than they have for the previous winners, which includes Shelley Duncan, Kei Igawa, Eric Duncan and Bubba Crosby.

    Update by Ben: While we’re on the subject of Spring Training awards, MLB announced today that the Yankees along with the Astros have captured the Bobby Murcer Award. The Yanks earned these honors by donating the most money in the A.L. to the Baseball Assistance team, an organization devoted to ensuring the financial security of former baseball players and coaches. B.A.T. raised $1.5 million this spring, an increase of nearly seven percent over last year. For more on B.A.T., check out its website.
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Open Thread: We Play

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Young JeterThat young whippersnapper is one Mr. Derek Sanderson Jeter, before he got all grow’d up and clutchy, and comes courtesy of his photo gallery at We Play. We Play is a website the Cap’n founded along with Peyton Manning and LeBron James to promote youth athletics. Jeter was on Good Morning America this morning to promote the organization, and it was your basic ABC puff piece until Robin Roberts broke out the A-Rod steroid questions. Parade, rain. Rain, parade.

If you want to learn more about We Play, give the site a visit via the link above. Whenever a superstar player uses his popularity for the betterment of kids, it’s a great thing. Well done Jetes. (h/t Deadspin)

Here’s your open thread for the night. The only local team in action tonight is the Knickerbockers, who are out in Denver. American Idol is also on, if that’s your cup of tea. Good thing I have lots of reading to catch up on. Anything goes here, just be nice.

Oh, and in case you need a little comic relief, Sidney Ponson has a spot in the Royals’ rotation all but wrapped up. (h/t jsbrendog)

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  • A-Rod’s rehab progressing well

    As he works his way back from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip, Alex Rodriguez has intensified his workouts and is still on target to return to the team in mid-May. He started throwing yesterday, and has been taken dry swings with a bat. A-Rod’s also been working out in a pool and performing range-of-motion exercises. “His rehab is taking another step,” says Joe Girardi. “He seemed like he was in a good frame of mind. We miss him, and he misses us.” A-Rod will arrive in Tampa in mid-April and continue to rehab there. He can’t come back soon enough. · (27) ·

  • Yes, my friends, there will be beer in the bleachers

    This off-season has been filled with questions about the new Stadium. One of the most frequent ones we’ve heard, besides “when will single game tickets go on sale?” was about beer in the bleachers. Would the Yankees lift the eight-year ban on alcohol? It appears the answer is yes. No longer will the bleachers be barricaded off from the rest of the Stadium. There won’t be any beer vendors, but there will be no restrictions on carrying your brew back to your seat. At $6 for 12 ounces, it’s not much more than your typical New York bar (if it’s more at all). · (110) ·

  • MLB projecting decline in attendance

    In a bad economy, superfluous expenditures — such as baseball tickets — often suffer. As the U.S. economy tries to right its floundering ship, baseball officials are predicting a six percent decline in attendance for the upcoming 2009 season. Officials see a lot of enthusiasm surrounding the game, and WBC ticket sales shattered the 2006 numbers. Baseball’s leaders are also counting on new stadiums from the Mets and Yankees to stave off a steeper decline. There is, of course, a rub.

    Last year at Shea Stadium, the Mets averaged just over 51,000 fans a game. This year, they’re playing in CitiField, a ballpark with a capacity of just 42,000. Even if they sell out every game — and early indications are that they will not — the Mets alone will be responsible for a one percent dip in baseball attendance. Who decided that building such a small stadium in New York City was a good idea anyway?
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  • Albaladejo makes team for second straight year

    The sentiment from earlier in the week has become a reality: the Yankees will not carry a long man in the bullpen. Instead they’ll carry Jonathan Alblajadejo, who impressed the coaching staff this month enough to warrant a roster spot. He’ll join Mariano Rivera, Damaso Marte, Brian Bruney, Edwar Ramirez, Jose Veras, and Phil Coke in the Yanks bullpen. All three of the long man candidates — Dan Giese, Al Aceves, and Brett Tomko — have been sent to AAA, as has catcher Kevin Cash. The only roster spot remaining is the utility infielder job, which is yet to be determined. Either way the Yanks will have to designate a player for assignment, which would almost certainly be Giese. · (101) ·

I was perusing Joel Sherman’s latest blog post about Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner last night when I came across an initially dismaying line. It is, on its face, the prime example of the anti-Moneyball approach to baseball. Wrote Sherman:

But when not hitting a homer, Giambi was – in many respects – an on-base detriment. He was station-to-station. He offered no threat on the bases. He scored nearly as many runs (32) via his own homers as all the other ways (36) combined, which also includes trotting home on other’s homers.

My kneejerk reaction to that statement — an on-base detriment — is to simply shake my head and move on. Joe Morgan and Dusty Baker hate players who “clog the bases” even when it’s been proven beyond a doubt that runners on base help a team score runs. That is, after all, the goal of baseball, and people who talk like Sherman did generally aren’t making valid points.

But then I got to thinking: What if Sherman is on to something here? Could a player be so slow that, while not a detriment, he underperforms on the base paths? Let’s find out.

In a way, Jason Giambi was remarkably inefficient on the base paths last year. With an OBP of .373 in 565 plate appearances, he reached base 211 times last year. He scored just 68 runs for a conversion rate of just 32.2 percent. As Sherman notes, when we omit Giambi’s home runs, he scored 36 runs in 179 times on base. That means that in just 20 percent of his non-home run times on base, Jason Giambi scored a run.

That doesn’t seem too impressive until we bring in Giambi’s overall numbers. Throughout his career, Giambi has scored 35 percent of the time after getting on base. If we eliminate his home runs, he has scored 26 percent of the time after getting on base.

But now we’re just looking at Giambi in a vacuum. Let’s see how the Yankees performed as a team in these situations. Counting the home runs, the Yankees turned 36.8 percent of their baserunners into runs. Discounting home runs, they turned 31.1 percent of their runners into runs. On a larger level, the American League numbers were 36.8 percent counting home runs and 31.5 percent without the home runs.

In other words, while Jason Giambi was just four percent worse at scoring overall than league average, he was nearly 10 percent worse at scoring in non-home run situations.

So what then does all of this mean? After all, Jason Giambi had a net positive effect on the Yankees in 2008 and had, by any account, a good season. Well, for starters, that combination of speed and power is quite valuable. A-Rod, for example, in his career has scored nearly 45 percent of the time he gets on base and 35 percent of the time in non-home run situations.

While the next obvious conclusion is that Jason Giambi, as he aged and slowed down, become a problem on the base paths, but that’s not one we can readily make. After all, Giambi’s scoring is as much a function of the guys hitting behind him as it is his own speed. For much of last year, the guys hitting behind Giambi included Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Wilson Betemit and Jose Molina. That was not a pretty bunch offensively, and they could very well be the reasons why Giambi’s percentage of runs scored not off of home runs was so slow.

Maybe, though, just maybe, Joel Sherman isn’t far off the mark. Maybe exceedingly slow — exceptionally slow, painfully slow — baserunners can slow a team down. It would require a lot more research, but as baseball analysis is all about challenging the norms, it’s an idea that shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand even if it runs counter to the Shrine of the On-Base Percentage.

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It was an relatively uneventful day in Dunedin. Andy Pettitte was strong for sixth and two-thirds innings, retiring ten straight at one point. He allowed just five hits and one run on the day, striking out seven against no free passes. He did uncork a wild pitch, but got himself up to 92 pitches. Afterwards Pettitte said he was pretty gassed, but feels good and has no complaints.

Damaso Marte finished the seventh inning, giving up a hit before recording the final out. Marte’s been entering games this spring in the middle of the inning with runners on base almost exclusively, so I guess they’re just getting ready for the situations they plan on using him in during the season. Jose Veras allowed a hit in an inning of work, while Edwar Ramirez threw a flawless ninth.

The Yanks scored a run off David Purcey nice and early, setting the tone for the rest of the game. Derek Jeter led off the first inning with a double, Johnny Damon followed with a walk, and Mark Teixiera singled in the Captain for a quick 1-0 lead. Tex drove in another run in 7th when he doubled down the first base line. Brett Gardner went hitless in three at-bats, but he managed to throw Scott Rolen out at third with an assist from Cody Ransom’s leaping skills. Hideki Matsui and Nick Swisher went a combined 0-for-7, leaving a total of eight runners on base. Godzilla did reach base when Purcey plunked him.

It was just another day in the office, and the win is the Yanks fifteenth in their last seventeen games. Spring Training records actually mean less than Spring Training stats, but it is good to see the team on a nice little roll with the season just a week away. Joba Chamberlain will make his final start of the preseason tomorrow afternoon against the Reds, and is scheduled for at least six innings of work.

Minor Note: Phil Hughes was scheduled to start today, but was pushed back to Wednesday to give him some extra time off and get the Triple-A rotation all lined up.

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