The 2011 RAB Pledge Drive

Update (4/13/2011): Just bumping this up in case anyone missed it. I replied to every pledge email I received with a real short “great, thanks,” or something to that effect. That’s just to confirm I’ve received your email. If you emailed a pledge and did NOT get my reply this afternoon, then please resend it. I’m worried the spam filter might be catching stuff it shouldn’t. Thanks.

Original Post (4/7/2011): In each of the last three years, we’ve helped raise money for various charities backed by prominent Yankees, both current or former. Three years ago it was The Jorge Posada Foundation, two years ago it was Joe Torre’s Safe At Home Foundation, and last year it was Curtis Granderson‘s Grand Kids Foundation.

This year we’re going to help raise money for Harlem RBI and DREAM Charter School, a foundation that launched a “capital campaign to build an innovative mixed-use facility in East Harlem, New York City, a community that lacks the resources needed for young people to thrive.” The new facility will house “program and office space for Harlem RBI, a permanent home for DREAM Charter School, low-income housing for East Harlem families and a public park in which the community can Play, Learn and Grow.”  Mark Teixeira continues to work closely with the organization (which you can learn more about at its website), announcing yesterday that he’s donated $1M to the cause.

We’re not going to raise that much money, but every little bit helps. We’re going to base this year’s pledge drive on Tex’s RBI total, which hasn’t been below 105 since his rookie season in 2003. If you pledge $0.25 per RBI and he has a season on par with his 162-game career average (121 RBI), your pledge will be just $30.25. See? That won’t hurt your wallet much. Plus it’s a charitable donation, so it’s tax deductible. You could pledge less or more, whatever suits you best.

If you wish to pledge this year, just shoot me an email at charity (at) riveraveblues (dot) com and let me know how much you wish the pledge per RBI. I’ll then collect the pledges after the season and donate everything to Harlem RBI & DREAM. Thanks in advance, and go Yankees!

Link Dump: Hughes, Draft, Felix

More links as we anxiously await tonight’s game…

"Dude, we both suck." (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Phil HughesVelocity Location

We’ve heard more than we care to hear about Hughes’ missing velocity this season/month, but what’s going on with his location? A pitcher could survive throwing 88-90 if he locates properly, but Phil hasn’t been doing that either. Jonathan Scippa at Baseball Analytics looked at Hughes pitches this year and shows that the right-hander is a) leaving everything up (I do mean mean everything), and b) is coming right in on left-handed batters. Last season he went after lefties away, away, away. A lot of that has to do with the cutter, which he’s relied on heavily without his normal heater in his two starts. The velocity is obviously the biggest concern, but damn kid, get that ball down.

Baseball America’s Updated Top 50 Draft Prospects

The college baseball season is halfway over and the draft is now less than two full months away, so Baseball America posted their updated rankings of the top 50 prospects. This one’s free for all, no subscription is required. They still have Rice 3B Anthony Rendon in the top spot, though they can be pretty stubborn about their rankings at times (see: Alvarez, Pedro). UCLA RHP Gerrit Cole is almost certainly the best talent in the draft class right now, especially since Rendon’s shoulder problems have gotten so bad that he’ll only be able to DH the rest of the season.

There’s a number of interesting players falling down the board, particularly TCU RHP Matt Purke and Indiana OF Alex Dickerson. I’m still a sucker for big high school arms, but the Yankees have shied away from that demographic early in the draft in recent years (Cole being a big exception).

Larry Bernandez! (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Today’s Competing GM Idea

Anonymous quotes are the backbone of the MSM. You can’t name a source because then they won’t give you the information they’re not supposed to be giving you in the first place. That’s cool, it’s part of the business, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get to make fun of them from time to time. From Jon Heyman today, a “competing GM” said “if he were in charge in Seattle he’d take young pitchers Ivan Nova, Dellin Betances and Manuel Banuelos plus catching prospect Jesus Montero from the Yankees for reigning AL Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez.” Oh, is that all? I thought they’d ask for Robinson Cano too.

In all seriousness, it would take a frickin’ ton to acquire Felix, and the Mariners wouldn’t be crazy to ask for that. Would it hurt to deal two of the three Killer B’s plus Montero in the same package? Of course, but if you’re going to do it for someone, F-Her is the guy. I’d try to swap out Banuelos for Andrew Brackman, or at least Nova for D.J. Mitchell or something, but I think I would pull the trigger on that one. You?

The Forgotten Yankee

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The season is just nine games old, but so far Joe Girardi has gotten every player on the 25-man Opening Day roster into at least one game, most more than one. Except one guy: Gustavo Molina, who has yet to take the field and play. The backup catcher by default, Molina is only with the team because Frankie Cervelli had a foul ball break his foot and Jesus Montero underwhelmed in camp. A career .235/.295/.348 hitter in the minors, it’s easy to see why Girardi has hesitated to use him in a game.

It’s not all on Gus* though. His name was penciled into the starting lineup last Wednesday, but Mother Nature intervened and rained the game out. That allowed the team to skip Molina’s start just like Freddy Garcia’s, keeping Russell Martin in the lineup. And it’s not like Martin has been overworked either. He’s started no more than four consecutive games at any point in the season so far, and it’s not like the sun has been beating down on him at this time of year. With the way he’s hitting, why would they want him out of the lineup anyway?

With the weather expected to clear up today and hopefully through the weekend, it looks like Molina’s first start is imminent. The Yankees will play in each of the next five days before Monday’s off-day, and I would be surprised if Girardi used his starting backstop in all five games. He knows all about the position, and four starts in five days seems to be the accepted limit for a catcher. Martin is playing well, but you don’t want to run him into the ground like Joe Torre did over the last few years and have him turn into a pumpkin come June.

Unfortunately for Gus, his time with the Yankees figures to be short lived. He might start this weekend, but he’s only keeping the job warm for Cervelli, who recently shed the boot and has resumed non-baseball workouts. Early-May sounds like a reasonable expectation for his return, but even if it’s not, Montero is hitting the snot out of the ball in Triple-A and could be called up at any moment. All of that means Molina is down to what is likely the last three weeks of his Yankees career.

But you know what? Gus will be able to tell his grand kids that he once played for the Yankees, and that alone is pretty cool. If things break right the rest of the season, he might even be able to show them his World Series ring. Now that would be cool.

* Yeah, I’m calling him Gus from now on. It’s an old-timey kind of New York name, and the Yankees could use a Gus.

Plotting the rotation going forward

No one likes a rainout. Even the eventual payoff — a doubleheader or a day of baseball where there otherwise wouldn’t have been — doesn’t compensate for the disappointment. After all, those games are in the future. We’ve been deprived of baseball now. One thing we can do, though, is look at how the rotation might play out in the next week or so.

The Yankees play for the next five days before hitting another off-day on Monday. They then have off on Thursday, which allows them to set up the rotation pretty much however they want. It will provide the further benefit of helping them prepare for their 17-game stretch that follows. Which order gives them the optimal setup?

Ideally, the Yankees would want their top four going as frequently as possible, with Garcia getting skipped whenever possible. They can’t just skip him outright, since he’ll need to pitch eventually and has to get some work. But I’m sure they’d prefer to line him up so he basically gets four starts between now and May 8. That appears to be the bare minimum. There’s also the possibility that Hughes tanks his next start and the Yankees skip him. I don’t think they’ll skip him for a full turn, since it would involve giving Garcia five starts instead of four. But they can still give him an eight-day break while keeping Garcia to the minimum four games.

There might be some small tweaks in there, but these iterations serve the Yankees best. It allows them to keep their guys mostly on turn, while using their fifth starter minimally. It also allows them enough flexibility to skip Hughes, if they think that can be a step towards his recovery.

Rainouts are the bane of a baseball fan’s existence. Yet they’re not all bad. They might cause scheduling problems down the road, but that’s for the future us’s to dissect. The two rainouts the Yankees have experienced this season have provided them with a great deal of flexibility in the rotation. Used optimally, it could aid them greatly in the next three weeks.

The David Purcey Band-Aid

The Yankees were dealt a double bullpen whammy yesterday, as Pedro Feliciano suffered a setback with his strained rotator cuff and Luis Ayala hit the disabled list with a strained lat. It appears as though Hector Noesi will get the call for now primarily because the Yankees aren’t exactly brimming with call-up candidates at the moment. Both Andrew Brackman and Steve Garrison made minor league starts last night, and so they’ll be unavailable for a few days. Ryan Pope is on the minor league disabled list himself. That leaves Andy Sisco and George Kontos along with the rehabbing Mark Prior. This is where David Purcey comes into play.

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Nathan Denette)

Purcey, an out-of-options lefty reliever, was designated for assignment by the Blue Jays yesterday, effectively ending a six-plus year relationship. They selected him in the first round of the 2004 draft out of Oklahoma (a year after the Yankees took him as a draft-eligible sophomore in the 17th round), but Purcey climbed the ladder slowly because of various minor injuries. He made his big league debut as a starter in 2008, but has since moved to the bullpen full-time. Toronto expects to trade Purcey, and they should be able to find a taker since he’s left-handed and on the right side of 30 (he turns 29 in about a week). Given the Yankees’ bullpen situation at the moment, he does make sense for them.

Purcey passes the eye test; he’s a 6-foot-4, 240 lb. left-hander that sits around 93 mph with his fastball and occasionally touches 95. Just about three out of every four pitches he throws is a fastball, and he’s since scrapped the curveball he used as a starter and replaced it with a sweepy slider. That pitch has helped him rack up just about eight strikeouts for every nine innings pitches as a big leaguer. He’s done well against lefties since moving to the bullpen, striking out more than one out of every five batters with a ground ball rate close to 50%, limiting them to a .287 wOBA. That’s not great, but we’re talking about the 25th man on the roster remember, the low-leverage lefty specialist.

The problem with Purcey has been and always will be throwing strikes. He’s unintentionally walked 4.58 batters per nine innings his career, 4.46 as a reliever, and 5.61 against lefties. If he was perfect, the Jays wouldn’t have cut him. The Yankees would obviously be banking on Larry Rothschild and Mike Harkey ironing enough things out so that Purcey becomes usable in a game that’s remotely close, something Ayala really isn’t. The Yankees and Blue Jays haven’t made a trade in a long time (last one was Raul Mondesi), but we’re not exactly talking about a Roy Halladay here. Trade talks for a spare part between division opponents shouldn’t be that difficult, especially since Toronto has no leverage because they have to move Purcey within the next week or lose him on waivers for nothing. Whatever they get is a bonus, and that bonus will likely be some Single-A prospect no one will miss.

Remember, not everyone on the roster has to be here for the long haul. I’m looking at Purcey as a short-term solution that will eventually be displaced by Feliciano or whoever comes back next, just a guy to fill a spot and eat some unimportant inning from time to time. Think Billy Traber or Jim Brower or Brett Tomko. He’s just a band-aid in my eyes, a big, hard-throwing, left-handed band-aid that could even surprise us and prove useful in one of the most insignificant roles imaginable.

Report: Noesi up to replace Ayala

The Yankees will add Hector Noesi to the 25-man roster to replace the injured Luis Ayala, ESPN Deportes’ Enrique Rojas reported this morning. Noesi, 24, had been slated to start for AAA Scranton tomorrow night, but with Ayala out for a week or two, the Yanks had to go with, as our own Mike Axisa said, the best of a few limited options. Andrew Brackman and Steve Garrison both had started last night, and few other viable arms on the 40-man roster right now. Noesi will serve as the club’s de facto 25th man right now, pitching in mop-up or emergency long relief, but the Yanks could see him as a potential rotation option depending upon how Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia look over the new few outings.

Fun With ESPN Player Headshots

The Yankees were rained out tonight, and I don’t think anyone is the mood for in-depth analysis and what not at this hour of the night/early in the morning, so instead I give you this: The 25 Most Terribly Awesome ESPN Head Shots. That one of Henry Blanco is called the “your wife just filed for divorce and wants half your sh!t.” Fitting, ain’t it?

It’s not exactly the most politically correct or safe for work link, so click at your own risk. All 25 are equally hilarious though, just in case you need a laugh on this Yankees baseball-less night.

(h/t BtB)