Yanks offense returns for 11-3 rout

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Put the man on and get him in. The Yankees had the first half of this formula all month, but they haven’t executed the second. Last night they took care of business, putting 17 runners on base and leaving just seven of them stranded. That helped CC Sabathia through a shaky first few innings. He settled down as the game went on and ultimately was awarded his 20th victory of the season. He cared so much that he was in the clubhouse when the team recorded the final out.

The Yanks had control of this game from the beginning. They loaded the bases on a hit by pitch, a walk, and a single in the first, and then brought around two runner on a Jorge Posada single. Then in the second they got another on a sac fly. While the Orioles did creep back into it with a run in both the second and third, that’s as close as they’d get the rest of the way. The Yankees answered with another run in the fourth and then two in the fifth before tacking on five the rest of the way to seal the game.

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Derek Jeter continued his revival, going 2 for 3 with two runs scored and two RBI. It seems like he’s had a good at-bat every single time up since the day off last weekend in Texas. His OBP has actually dropped a bit, but it seems like he’s ready to rip off a string of excellent games. The two runs scored put him over the century mark for the season. Robinson Cano also crossed the century mark tonight, as his two-run home run gave him 101 RBI on the season. He’s the third Yankee to reach the plateau.

What makes these plateaus so remarkable is that they come from infielders. The outfielders are always knows as the heavy bats, but the Yankees don’t operate that way. All four infielders slot into the first five lineup spots. That’s a pretty remarkable feat. What makes it more insane is that all three of the Yankees’ outfielders are among the top 11 AL outfielders in WAR. The offense might have sputtered lately, but it’s tough to question a group this stacked with top players.

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Sabathia added a line to his Cy Young resume by recording his 20th win of the season. This shouldn’t matter, but it does. CC has pitched wonderfully this season and has lived up to all expectations of him. He also happens to pitch for the best team in the league. That alone — the best pitcher on the bet team — certainly should warrant consideration for the award. But after further examination it’s clear that other pitchers are having better years. But for the Yanks, CC has done it all. With the magic number down to just 7, it looks like Sabathia can take it easy in his last couple of starts and gear up for a long playoff run.

After a mean slump followed by last night’s dramatics, a blowout was just what the Yankees needed. Berkman was the only starter without a hit, but he gets a pass for the way he’s laced the ball since he returned from the DL. Other than that it was a relatively stress-free game. We’ll take another one of those any day.

Trenton’s season ends as Altoona takes home title

Double-A Trenton (5-2 loss to Altoona) Altoona won the best-of-five series three games to one, and took home the Eastern League Championship
Austin Krum, CF: 2 for 3, 1 BB, 1 SB
Justin Snyder, 3B: 0 for 3, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 E (throwing) – given how much they struggled offensively, they probably should have at least tried Rob Segedin out at the hot corner
Dan Brewer, RF: 1 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 K – threw a runner out at third
Austin Romine, C: 0 for 3, 1 BB - he’ll get some much needed time off now to rest
Marcos Vechionacci, 1B & Rene Rivera, C: both 0 for 4 – Vech K’ed three times, Rivera four … Vech also committed a fielding error in what might have been his final game with the organization, since he’s due to become a minor league free agent
Damon Sublett, LF: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
Luis Nunez, SS: 0 for 3, 1 BB
Matt Cusick, 2B: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 3B, 2 K
Manny Banuelos: 4.2 IP, 5 H 4 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, 8-1 GB/FB – one of the walks was intentional … he took a line drive off his neck, below his chin in the fourth inning, but he stayed in the game
Wilkins Arias: 0.1 IP, zeroes, 1-0 GB/FB
Cory Arbiso: 2.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 3-3 GB/FB – first time he’s pitched since Sept. 5th
Josh Schmidt: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 0-2 GB/FB
Pat Venditte: 0.2 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 0-1 GB/FB

High-A Tampa beat Charlotte on Monday to win the Florida State League Championship, their second consecutive league title.

Low-A Charleston, Short Season Staten Island, and the Rookie GCL Yanks are done. None of the three qualified for the postseason. Triple-A Scranton‘s season ended when they lost to Columbus in the first round of the International League playoffs.

* * *

So folks, that’s it for the 2010 edition of DotF. The Arizona Fall League season doesn’t start until October 13th, and while DotF will certainly return with nightly updates then, it’s just not the same. This was the fifth year of DotF, and it was easily the best in terms of how much the system improved. So many breakouts, so few injuries and regressions. I wish every season was like this.

Anyway, thanks for all the feedback, comments, links, info, everything really, and thanks for helping make it another great season. See you in three-and-a-half weeks.

(Special thanks goes out to everyone who covers the various affiliates as well, every team should be so lucky as to have minor league coverage like this. Donnie Collins, Mike Ashmore, Conor Foley, Josh Norris, Jessica Quiroli, and everyone I regrettably forgot. Great job this season, folks.)

Game 148: A third try for 20

(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Despite having zero 20-win seasons to his credit, CC Sabathia has been here before. Just about two weeks his took the mound against the Orioles with a chance for his 20th victory of 2010, but the O’s jumped on him early and often and sent CC and the Yankees home losers that night. Their game plan was to jump on Sabathia early in the count, so it’ll be interesting to see how both sides adjust tonight. If Baltimore sticks with that same approach, I get the feeling that CC’s going to chew them up and spit them out.

Here’s tonight’s lineup…

SS Jeter, Derek
DH Swisher, Nick – hey, look who’s back
1B Berkman, Lance
3B Rodriguez, Alex
2B Cano, Robinson
C Posada, Jorge
CF Granderson, Curtis
LF Gardner, Brett
RF Curtis, Colin

And on the bump, it’s Carsten Sabathia.

Boo for Saturday night games. This one starts a little after 7:00pm ET and can be seen on YES. Hopefully it’s not a dramatic a last night, but with the same end result. Enjoy the game, everyone.

Darvish “highly likely” to be posted this offseason

Ken Rosenthal reports (with a hat tip to MLBTR) that the latest Japanese sensation, righthander Yu Darvish, is “highly likely” to be posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters this coming winter. It’s the same process that Daisuke Matsuzaka and Kei Igawa went through, meaning MLB teams will bid for the rights to negotiate with the player, and then discuss a contract separately.

The Yankees have been all over Darvish, having sent some serious heat to watch him in the not-too-distant past. Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker explained why Darvish is the real deal over at FanGraphs earlier this year, and it’s not hard to connect the dots with the Yanks in need of at least one, but likely two starting pitchers after the season. Believe it or not, Darvish is close to two full months younger than Phil Hughes.

25 things you don’t know about baseball

Yahoo’s Jeff Passan has a fun little article out today (or maybe it was yesterday, I forget) with 25 things you might not know about baseball this season. Yes, there’s the usual dose of Yankee hate, but there’s also plenty of cool and interesting pieces of info in there as well. I enjoyed it, so I’m passing it along. Check it out.

Gardy or Grandy in 2011?

Elsa/Getty Images

On twitter recently Stephen R. from TYU threw out a question about what you would give up for Colby Rasmus. It wasn’t considering team needs, salary, etc. but he wanted to know how Yankee fans valued their prospects vs. Rasmus. There were interesting responses, and one of the often repeated arguments was that Yankee fans would rather trade Gardner than Granderson. This brings me to my question: Who does more for the Yankees in 2011?

I’ll start by saying I am a big proponent of Granderson. I think going forward for 2011 and 2012 (at least) Granderson will outproduce Gardner. Looking at their 2010 seasons this assertion seems a little off the wall, but I think we have seen the worst of Granderson and the best of Gardner. Granderson has been a valuable player this year, Gardner has played at an All-Star level. I get that. My concern is going forward. Aren’t we seeing the absolute peak of Gardner’s abilities this year?

If the 2010 Granderson is the player he is going forward, he still provides value as an average offensive player with above average defense in CF. Working with Kevin Long has helped Granderson recently, though there is no way we can directly correlate that Long’s help “fixed” Curtis. Whether it was Long’s help or not, Granderson’s bat has picked up in the past month. Long will likely be around next year and Granderson is a willing listener and learner. Either way, Granderson definitely has room for improvement. Will he ever be the beast he was in 2007 and 2008? Probably not, though at just 30 years old on Opening Day 2011, he’s still in his expected prime and is definitely capable on improving his 2010 season. Granderson’s 2010 BABIP is .283 vs. a career BABIP of .316. I can’t ignore that his 2009 BABIP was .275 so I don’t want to say he has been unlucky for two straight years, but his batted ball data hasn’t seen any major shift in 2009-2010 from the rest of his career. His career LD% is 20.7 which he is matching this year and was at 21.2% in 2009. With his speed and line drive rate, I have to think his BABIP is due for a rise next year. Even if it doesn’t, he’s still valuable.

If the 2010 Gardner is the player he is going forward, he provides a ton of value. I’m just not convinced Brett will keep this up going forward, this is likely his peak. What can he realistically do better than he is doing this year? He’s not going to hit for power. I doubt he’ll become a .420 OBP guy. Are more of his balls in play likely to fall in for hits? Doubtful. His defense is great and isn’t something that he’ll necessarily improve going forward. Gardner to me is the epitome of a sell high piece right now. We don’t know that Gardner can repeat this next year. If he does, that’s great. If he doesn’t, then you’ve just lost a very valuable trade chip and might have a 4th OF on your hands. Noted Yankee hater* Keith Law is still not sold on Gardner. He doesn’t believe Gardner’s skill set will allow him to continue producing at this level. Whether it turns out to be true or not, that’s a fair assessment. I don’t advocate trading Gardner for a middle reliever, but if there are teams out there that are sold on Gardner’s 2010 as his true level, you have to investigate. Considering the financial cost, I believe Gardner, at least to some teams, would be more valuable on the trade market than Granderson anyway.

*not really

In 2011 Gardner could certainly be a more valuable player than Granderson, but Granderson is far more of a sure thing. Granderson’s potential peak is higher, but more importantly Gardner’s potential floor is lower.  Maybe the Yankees are 100% sold on Gardner and like his cheap production, but if these guys come up in trade talks during the offseason, I’d much rather Gardner be the one packing his bags.

A-Rod carries Yankees back into first place

We’ve seen this movie before, several times in the past week in fact. The Yankees push a run across early, but otherwise squander a fantastic opportunity or two to blow things open. The starting pitcher does his job, but can’t hold the opposition scoreless forever and the Yanks go into the late innings trying to find some offense. Thankfully, the movie had an alternate ending tonight. Alex Rodriguez pulled his latest Superman act to almost singlehandedly put the Yanks in the win column after eight borderline unwatchable innings.

He's got a big stick, and he carries it all day. (AP Photo/Rob Carr)

Biggest Hit: Just Get It To Alex

Those were my words when Mark Teixeira stepped to the plate with two men on and one out in the top of the ninth inning. Just get it to Alex, he will make everything okay. He already put the Yanks on the board with a solo shot in the second inning, but they needed him more than ever when Orioles’ closer Koji Uehara entered the game.

Jorge Posada led off the ninth with a single after monster at-bat (more on that in just a sec), and two batters later Curtis Granderson dunked a single into right. Tex did as I asked and merely popped out into foul territory to bring A-Rod to the plate as the tying run. Clearly, Uehara’s plan was to bust Alex inside with hard stuff, and he did exactly that with his first four pitches for a 2-2 count. The fifth pitch, a 90 mph fastball, was inside as well, but not as far as in the others. A-Rod jumped all over it, and everyone in the building knew it was gone just by the sound. Why they didn’t throw a changeup there, I’ll never know.

Just like that, the two run deficit became a one run lead, and all of the frustration from the last ten days was seemingly lifted off everyone’s shoulders. With that one swing of the bat, the Yankees went from their ninth loss in 11 games to first place in the AL East. Remember, just get it to Alex, he cures all ills.

(AP Photo/Rob Carr)

Honorable Mention: Jorge Works It

Of course, A-Rod’s ninth inning heroics wouldn’t even have been possible if it wasn’t for Posada’s huge, huge at-bat to start the inning. Uehara jumped ahead 1-2, but just couldn’t seem to find the put-away pitch. Jorge fouled off five of the next seven pitches to work the count full before going down and poking a changeup into shallow left-center for a leadoff single. I’m not convinced the pitch was even a strike, but it doesn’t matter. All Posada had to do was get on base, and he delivered.

Alex’s homer is clearly the most important play of the game, but there isn’t enough we can say about Jorge’s at-bat. Just a brilliant job by a brilliant player.

Oh Yeah, Good A.J. Showed Up

(AP Photo/Rob Carr)

It didn’t really feel like it when the game was going on, but the end result for starter A.J. Burnett was undeniably positive. Seven innings, three runs, six runs, five strikeouts, and 11 grounders against five fly balls. The first run was straight up manufactured by the O’s; hit by pitch, stolen base, grounder to the right side, sac fly. The second was an Adam Jones homer that Ben gets 100% of the blame for given the way he taunted Jones on Twitter all day. The third was Robert Andino’s first homer of a season, the only true WTF moment of A.J.’s outing.

Everyone wants to know how A.J. got his shiny new black eye, but if he keeps giving the Yanks outings like this, I couldn’t care less how he got it. He’s gone at least six innings in six of his last seven starts (ignoring the rain shortened start in Texas last time out), so lately he’s been giving them length, and the last three times out he’s even managed to keep them in the game. Burnett is definitely trending up at the right time, but there’s still more work to be done.

Still Wasting Chances

Ah yes, we can’t ignore those blown chances just because they won the game in dramatic fashion. The Yanks once again stranded double digit baserunners (11 this time), and their lone hit in nine at-bats with men in scoring position was A-Rod’s deciding homer. A bases loaded, one out situation in the second inning yielded zero runs, as did a first and second with two outs spot in the sixth. Hopefully Alex’s homer gets the monkey off everyone’s back and the team can just relax and loosen up a bit and start cashing in these opportunities. Honestly, I don’t know how much more of this I could take.

Leftovers

(AP Photo/Rob Carr)

Brett Gardner was back in the starting lineup for the first time since last Saturday after getting a cortisone shot in his wrist, and he promptly drew a walk in his first plate appearance. He didn’t reach base the rest of the night, though he did see 22 pitches in four trips to the plate. I love ya Colin Curtis, but I’m glad Brett’s back in there. Nick Swisher grounded out in his pinch-hitting appearance; hopefully he’s ready to go before everyone goes back to work on Monday.

Derek Jeter saw 24 pitches in his five plate appearances, but he got caught looking at strike three twice in the late innings to stall rallies. The Captain’s been swinging the bat much better lately, so I’m sure (hopeful) this is just a blip on the radar.

Yawn, Lance Berkman reached base three times in his four trips to the plate. Since coming off the disabled list, Fat Elvis is hitting a cool .455/.550/.515 with more walks (seven) than strikeouts (five). Love it. Meanwhile, Austin Kearns only struck out once in three plate appearances, so that’s progress.

Mark Teixeira had that beastly homestand a two weeks or so ago, but he’s hitting just .152/.298/.152 in his last dozen games. I know offense is down around the league this season, but I think we all expected a little more than .259/.367/.483 (his line after this game) out of Mark this year.

Two more perfect innings for the bullpen; one by David Robertson, one of course by Mariano Rivera. When rested, this relief crew is a force.

Tampa Bay fell to the Angels because of a late Brandon Wood (!!!) homerun, so the Yanks are back on top of the AL East by half-a-game. Boston lost to the Blue Jays, so the lead for the Wild Card is at seven games. Any combination of Yankee wins and Red Sox losses that total nine from here on out will clinch a postseason berth for the Bombers. There’s a very real chance the Yanks could clinch when the Red Sox come to the Bronx next weekend, just like they did last year.

WPA Graph & Box Score

Games like this are why I love baseball. That’s a .709 WPA swing right there. Point seven oh nine. It doesn’t get much bigger than that. MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the cool stuff like this…

Up Next

Oh yeah, CC Sabathia‘s pitching tomorrow. He gets the ball against Jeremy Guthrie at 7:05pm ET tomorrow night. I despise Saturday evening games, but what can you do.