After five games, Jeter goes back to old mechanics

Quite a stir was made a few days ago when Derek Jeter told Ian O’Connor that he wasn’t thinking about his new stride after working on it all spring. “I just said the heck with it,” said the Cap’n. “I wasn’t going to think about it. Before you’re trying to think about where your foot is and you’re trying not to move it, and it’s just too much to think about. So today I tried not to.” Rob Neyer picked it up and presented it as if Jeter abandoned the new stride and went back to his old ways, which wasn’t entirely true. He just said he wasn’t going to think about it, not that he was giving up on it all together.

Fast forward to this morning. Buster Olney reported before this afternoon’s game that there were “indications” that Jeter has in fact given up on his new stride and gone back to his old mechanics. It wasn’t clear if Olney was reporting this as new information or if he was just piggy-backing on O’Connor’s report, but then Jeter came to the plate in the first inning against Francisco Liriano with the leg kick and stride he used for most of his career. It worked today – he went 2-for-3 (legit double into the left field corner and an infield single) with a walk – and Jeter never really seemed to be get comfortable with the changes Kevin Long tried to make, so whatever works I guess.

Game Six: After the rain

That kid is up to no good I tells ya. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

In a lot of ways, the Yankees lucked out with last night’s postponement. They can skip not only one Freddy Garcia start but two, and the core bullpen pieces get some much needed rest. The regular position players also get a day of rest without missing an actual game, which is always a good thing. The less Gustavo Molina, the better.

New York will wrap up its first home stand of the season this afternoon, then they’ll head up to Boston for a quick three-game weekend series before returning home for another six game homestand. It sucks that 14.8% of the home schedule will be played in the first 9.3% of the season, but that’s the card they drew. Hopefully they can squeeze out a W and win their second straight series under some overcast skies today and leave town on a high note.

Here’s the lineup that’ll face lefty Francisco Liriano…

Derek Jeter, SS
Nick Swisher, RF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robbie Cano, 2B
Jorge Posada, DH
Andruw Jones, LF
Russell Martin, C
Brett Gardner, CF

A.J. Burnett, SP

It’s a 1:05pm ET start today, and the game can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

The RAB Radio Show: April 7, 2011

The Yankees had their first postponement of the 2011 season, though it didn’t seem like severe enough conditions to warrant it. That causes plenty of schedule changes. Mike and I walk through the team’s options and figure out what’s what.

Would you rather face Francisco Liriano or Carl Pavano today? We also talk about this issue.

Podcast run time 22:09

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Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.

Doctors push Feliciano’s time table back

Via Brian Costello, doctors have told Pedro Feliciano to take it easy as he comes back from a strained rotator cuff, pushing his schedule back just slightly. The lefty had hoped to begin throwing this week, but he’ll instead have to wait until next week to start playing catch. We heard Feliciano would be shut down completely for ten days right before the season started, which would have put him on target to being throwing this weekend. It’s not the end of the world, but when left-handed batters have a 1.000 OBP against Boone Logan like they do now, yeah, it sucks. Get well soon Pedro.

A division turned upside down

(AP Photo/LM Otero)
  1. Blue Jays (4-1, +17 run differential)
  2. Orioles (4-1, +9)
  3. Yankees (3-2, +4)
  4. Rays (0-5, -15)
  5. Red Sox (0-5, -21)

Those are the AL East standings as of this morning. The teams in Baltimore and Toronto are overachieving due to pitching and timely hitting while the Rays and Red Sox have fallen victim to a lack of offense and pitching, respectively. Tampa has scored seven runs total in their five games and haven’t even held a lead yet all season. Seriously, they’ve been nothing but tied or behind in 2011.

And then there are the Yankees. Right in the middle of the division, winners of three (really should be four) games and the only club in the East doing pretty much exactly what was expected of them. The offense is averaging just over six runs a game but is doing so with heavy reliance on the long ball. Take out their league-leading 13 homers, and they’re hitting just .190 with a .261 OBP as team. Of course it doesn’t work like that, those homers count so we can’t just take them out to fit a narrative, but at some point the balls won’t be flying over the fence with the same frequency. Neither the team ERA (4.89) or FIP (3.56) represents the pitching staff’s true talent level, which is probably somewhere in between those two numbers. We’re still well short of the point where some of these statistical indicators stabilize, so there’s no sense in obsessing over numbers just yet.

While it’s certainly fun to watch Boston and Tampa struggle out of the gate, we know it won’t last. The Red Sox will win a game soon enough, and if it doesn’t happen against the Indians this afternoon, then there’s a really good chance that it’ll happen against the Yankees over the weekend. That will probably begin a stampede toward to top of the standings. The Rays’ offensive ineptitude (.212 wOBA) won’t be around to make fun of all season, unfortunately. On the other side of the coin, eventually the Orioles’ team ERA will climb north of 2.00 (probably once their .212 BABIP and 87% strand rate returns to Earth). Reality will slap the Blue Jays in the face once they stop playing games against AL Central and AL West opponents.

There’s nothing special about the first five games of the season, at least not when it comes to predictive value. We just happened to remember these games more because we’ve been baseball-starved for the last five months or so. The first five games are really no different than a randomly selected five-game stretch in June, it’s just one small slice of the bigger picture. We’re talking about five games people, which is just slightly more than three-percent of the season. If the season was a nine inning game, there wouldn’t even be one out in the top of the first yet. That how much is still left to be played.

By all means, enjoy the Rays inability to get a hit (.152 BABIP) and Boston’s hilariously bad pitching performances (8.25 FIP) while they last. Reality is going to rear it’s ugly head soon enough, crashing through the wall like the Kool-Aid guy saying “OH YEEEEAH!!!” The standings right now are pretty much the exact opposite of what one could reasonably expect coming into the season, but the power of small sample sizes can work in mysterious ways.

Is delaying Freddy’s start the right move?

Don't worry, Freddy. Some day you'll take the mound wearing pinstripes. Maybe. (Kathy Willens/AP)

When the decision came down to postpone last night’s game, the Yankees caught something of a break. The extra day off not only gave the bullpen a night off, but also afforded the Yankees the opportunity to play with the rotation and line it up in an optimal manner. They wasted little time in announcing plans, which involve skipping Freddy Garcia a couple of times and keeping everyone else on turn. I’ve come to generally trust the Yankees’ decisions in such matters, but that doesn’t rule out an examination of the alternatives. Was this the best possible move?

The Yankees had two immediate options. They could have kept Garcia on turn, pitching him tomorrow afternoon, or they could have skipped him and let A.J. Burnett take his regular turn. It might seem obvious to do the latter, but the former has its advantages. Specifically, it lines up Burnett, Phil Hughes, and CC Sabathia to face the Red Sox this weekend. The Sox are reeling now, and it would be in the Yankees’ interests to hit them with everything they’ve got. The idea of completely removing Garcia from the equation, though, prevailed.

(I wonder how greatly Burnett’s poor performances in Fenway as a Yankee factored into the decision.)

Once they decided to skip Garcia this time, another opportunity arose. They could skip him again, thanks to an off-day on Monday. The Yankees opted to do this as well, scheduling him for the start next Friday against Texas. This actually strikes me as an odd decision. If they kept on turn — Burnett, Hughes, Nova, Sabathia — Sabathia would pitch on Friday night’s opener against the Rangers, leaving Garcia to pitch on Saturday the 16th. I do wonder if things will break that way, or if Sabathia will just get an extra day’s breather. Girardi does seem pretty set in going with CC every five days, so we’ll see if things change between now and then.

The only question, then, is of whether it’s better to use Garcia against the Orioles early in the week. They might be off to a hot start, but so are the Rangers, and it’s pretty clear that the Rangers are the better overall team. If they already have plans to use Sabathia that Saturday on five days’ rest, they could go Garcia in the opener against the Orioles, followed by Burnett, Hughes, and Nova. The only snag, I guess, is that they’d all be on extra rest, though I’m not sure if that even factors into the decision.

What might have made the decision between Baltimore and Texas easy was the idea of using Garcia out of the bullpen this weekend. The off-day gives everyone a break, which hopefully means everyone stays fresh for the next four games. But having that extra pitcher out there, just in case, can come in handy. Garcia might not be very effective. He hasn’t, after all, pitched since March 29. But it’s another option in case things get messy. In games between the Yanks and Red Sox, that can happen at any time.

Given the slew of options presented to the Yankees, this is the the best overall. First, it means not using their worst starter until the latest possible date. (Or, as it were, near the latest possible date.) It gives the Yankees an extra option out of the pen this weekend, and it keeps the main four starters — i.e., the guys who will most likely be around most of the season — on turn. It might make for an ugly Freddy Garcia outing against Texas next weekend. But then again, weren’t we all preparing for an ugly Freddy Garcia outing anyway?

With no DH on tap, Yanks push Garcia back a week

As both teams hit the road after their afternoon contest Thursday, the Yankees and the Twins aren’t going to be making up their rained-out game with a double-header tomorrow. Instead, tonight’s game will remain in limbo until the MLB schedulers can figure out how to get the Twins back into New York for a one-game set likely in September. Meanwhile, the Yanks are using the rainout to skip Freddy Garcia. Instead, A.J. Burnett will start tomorrow, and Garcia will not make his Bronx debut until next Friday’s affair against the Texas Rangers.

Joe will have more analysis on this development for the overnight. I have to think the Yanks will try to get Garcia some work out of the pen. By the time April 15 rolls around, it will have been 17 days since Garcia’s last Spring Training start. But on the flip side, as Cliff Corcoran noted, the Yanks will have played 13 games before needing Garcia’s services.