Sometimes, you just get smacked around. That’s what happened to both CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander today. Verlander, upon whom Detroit is depending for a bounceback season, allowed four runs, two earned, in his two innings of work, walking four along the way. None of the hits were for extra bases, though — in fact, the Yankees didn’t have a single XBH the entire game. Girardi pulled Sabathia after 1.2 innings, in which he allowed five earned runs on six hits, a walk, and a Gary Sheffield home run. Worst of all, he didn’t strike out a single Tiger.

After the game, PeteAbe and the beat crew spoke to CC, who said he’s fine. Of course he’s going to say that. What do you expect immediately after the game? “My shoulder was barking the entire time.” Even if it was, CC certainly wouldn’t mention anything right after the game. He’d get it checked out before anyone said anything to the press. Not that I think there’s a problem. Just saying that if there were, the press wouldn’t have found out so soon without CC showing some obvious signals on the mound.

Pete Caldera notes that two of the singles off Sabathia were bloops, a good sign for sure. Also, it appears his slider/cutter wasn’t working. As we learned earlier this month, it takes him a while to find the groove on his cutter. It’s good that he was out there working on it, results be damned. We’ll see how his handle of the pitch progresses in his next start.

Following Sabathia, Aceves allowed two runs in 3.1 innings of work, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out one. The killer were his two home runs, both to Gerald Laird. You can bet Aceves will remember that if the two face off during the season. Brian Bruney pitched a perfect sixth, striking out two. Veras followed with an identical frame, and Mark Melancon pitched a scoreless, one-hit ninth. The zero walks from the last three guys is encouraging, though that can probably be attributed to Detroit’s scrubs filling the lineup. They’re not going to walk their way onto the roster.

As mentioned previously, the Yanks scored four runs on zero extra base hits, and didn’t manage any runs off the Tigers bullpen. Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira each collected a pair of singles and a walk, Posada walked twice, Cody Ransom picked up another base hit (.346 BA so far this spring), and Kevin Cash knocked an RBI single. Nick Swisher left six men on base, about which he quipped:

“Give me some of those burritos. I need to feed that village of people I left on base.”

Not an inspiring day at the plate by any means, but the Yanks still mustered four runs in two innings off Verlander with singles and walks. The only stories of the day, really, were CC’s poor performance and Melky going hitless yet again (though he did walk once). Everything’s turning up Gardner these days.

Update: I’ve just been informed that Team Netherlands is playing on ESPN2 right now, so feel free to use this as a game thread for that. The regularly-scheduled open thread will hit at it’s normal 7 p.m. slot tonight.

Categories : Game Stories
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  • Yanks unveil promotional schedule

    Via New Stadium Insider comes word that the Yankees have unveiled their 2009 promotional schedule. It’s clear that the economy is having some impact on baseball promotions as this year’s schedule is remarkably light. Considering that the Yanks are opening up a highly-anticipated new stadium, I would think they’d have more than three promotions in June and two in August. Anyway, the schedule has the usuals — cap nights galore and calendar weekend — as well as some things, such as a New York Yankee passport holder, that no one ever thought they needed. Soup Bowl Night sounds particularly compelling. · (32) ·

Despite undergoing minor shoulder surgery after last season, this spring has been pretty typical for Mariano Rivera. As has become his routine in recent years, he doesn’t begin throwing until he gets to camp, and even then he works himself into his full routine. He only pitches in about five games before he’s ready to start the season. So while he’s taking it slow for his rehab, it’s also nothing out of the ordinary. Still, fans have to be just a wee bit anxious to see him get on the mound and test his shoulder. That happened today, and by all accounts Mo’s bullpen session went well.

According to Rivera, via Bryan Hoch, he was at about 90 percent velocity. His command was a bit off, as he missed inside a few times to BP hitters Jesus Montero and John Rodriguez. That’s to be expected at this point, injury or not, as it was Mo’s fourth pitching session of the spring, first with live batters. Afterward, he sounded like a guy on track to start the 2009 season:

“It’s getting stronger,” Rivera said. “Every time I throw, it’s feeling better and better. I have no doubts.”

This should allay any fears at this point. Figure on Mo getting his first game action some time next week — Hoch thinks Monday against the Phillies. He’ll probably go two games a week at that point until the season opens on April 6.

Edwar Ramirez, out since the beginning of camp with shoulder bursitis, threw 30 pitches to live batters as well. He said he felt good as well, though he’s in no position to say otherwise. There’s no word when he’ll see game action, but the sooner the better for him. With plenty of competition for the final four bullpen spots — and Phil Coke is making an emphatic argument for one of them — Edwar needs game action to prove he’s up to snuff.

Categories : Injuries
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2007 Dominance Factors

By in Analysis, Minors. · Comments (19) ·

Yesterday I took a look at how the Yanks’ minor league pitchers performed in 2008 using a new metric call Dominance Factor. DF was developed by Brett Sullivan of Project Prospect, and measures performance based on strikeout, walk and groundball rates, as well as age relative to level. I went through the whole schpeel yesterday, so I’m not going to explain everything again.

No one really separated themselves from the pack in 2008, but that certainly doesn’t hold true for 2007. Phil Hughes paced the organization with a score of 85.98, easily blowing by David Robertson‘s organization leading 68.46 DF in 2008. The only pitcher within 23 points of Phil was Joba Chamberlain, who didn’t have anyone within nine points of him. Combining Joba’s High-A and Double-A stats (he only threw 8 IP in Triple-A, so I’m leaving that out), his aggregate DF in 2007 was 76.01, nearly ten full points behind Hughes. That’s kind of crazy. Oh, and looking at the list, is it safe to say that David Robertson has been the Yanks’ most dominant minor league pitcher over the last to years? I think so.

I’ll try to get to the 2006 numbers this week, but until then check out the really big table after the jump. (click for a larger view)

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Categories : Analysis, Minors
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  • RAB Fantasy Baseball League

    Much like the RAB Fantasy Football League last year, we’re going to run a fantasy baseball league this year. It’s going to be another insanely deep league with 20 teams, plus there’s some unique scoring (Holds + Saves instead of just Saves) and settings (no waivers, everyone’s a free agent). We’re going to use ESPN instead of Yahoo this time because it’s more customizable and is a bit more user friendly. I gave first dibs on spots to those in the football league, but there’s still four spots left to be filled. If you want in, email me (Mike) using the link on the left right. Note that the comments for this post are closed.

    Please make sure you look over all the league settings (which you can find here) before deciding you want in. The draft date is set for Sunday, March 22nd at 6pm EST, and we’d like to have as many team owners there as possible. This is going to be a keeper league (so it continues on year after year), so please only email if you’re serious. We’d like to avoid having people abandon their team in midseason. Of course it’s free to join. Thanks.

    Update (11:19am): One more spot left…

    Update (11:23am): The league’s full. Thanks everyone.
    · (2) ·

  • Getting a return on a wasted investment

    With the appropriate caveats — it’s early; Spring Training stats don’t count for anything; small sample size — let’s pretend there is a pitcher who has thrown 8 innings for the Yanks this spring with very promising results. Let’s pretend that in those 8 innings, this left-hander has allowed three hits and no runs. Let’s pretend he has struck out six while walking none, and let’s pretend, for good measure, that the people watching the games are noticing his performance. And now let’s pretend that the guy’s name isn’t Kei Igawa. Would you consider him for the bullpen? Because that’s exactly what Kei Igawa has done this spring. · (108) ·

Performance issues in Spring Training are easy to write-off as no big deal*. Joba didn’t record an out against Team Canada? No sweat. It was only March fifth. That’s something for Future Joe to get worked up over. But what if Joba struggled against the Reds last night? Given my track record — I said not to get worked up over Hughes’s poor spring last year — I’d have continued not sweating, but there definitely would have been cause for concern. That’s not the case thankfully, as Joba tossed an efficient three innings.

He was so efficient, in fact, that in three innings he couldn’t get to his target pitch count. He needed just 29 to down the Reds, striking out three in the process. Stuff-wise Joba looked fine. He eased into his fastball, hitting low 90s in the first inning before ratcheting it up a few mph in the next two. His slider didn’t seem to have a ton of bite, but he got a couple of strikeouts with it, including a knee-buckling called strike three. It wasn’t Joba vs. Beckett good, but Joba’s performance quelled the murmur of concern surround him.

Phil Coke looked solid in his two innings of work, striking out three allowing three hits, and picking Brandon Phillips off first. He was hitting low 90s, a couple 93s on the gun, which is impressive to say the least. Igawa followed that up with two scoreless, two-strikeout frames. Chris Garcia struck out two and walked one in an inning, and Anthony Claggett finished things off with two strikeouts in a scoreless ninth.

On the offensive side of the ball, sure-to-be-optioned Juan Miranda crushed a homer to right center in the fourth, and Shelley Duncan hit his second of the spring in the seventh. Brett Gardner helped his case with two hits, though he did get caught trying to take second and he misplayed a liner right at him (tough sledding). Hideki scored from second on a single, Ramiro Pena picked up a double, and Jesus Montero went 1 for 1. It was a good day for both the offense and the pitching.

Plenty of folks watched Team Netherlands upset Team Dominican Republic last night, which means Robinson Cano should be back in camp in the next couple of days. Kevin Russo, please claim your spot in minor league camp. There’s little chance Cano will be around for tomorrow afternoon’s game against Detroit, but he could be back in the lineup Friday against Boston.

It was tough not to enjoy the game last night. If camp broke today, you’d have to believe Gardner and Coke would be heading north with the team. They’re really impressing this Spring. Now they’ll have to keep doing it for the next three weeks.

* That’s what she said!

Categories : Game Stories
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Shades of 2003

By in Injuries. Tags: · Comments (60) ·

I vividly remember Opening Day 2003. I was a sophomore in college, and on the night of the Yanks’ first game against the Blue Jays, I was in the middle of a rehearsal with my jazz group. When rehearsal ended, I had a phone call from my parents with some terrible, terrible news: Derek Jeter had been involved in a bad injury.

As the news unfolded over the next few days, the prognosis was not good. Jeter has dislocated his shoulder in a collision at third base with the catcher. He would not play again until May 13.

At the time, an injury to Jeter and a lengthy stay on the DL seemed unfathomable. How could the Yanks stay afloat with Erick Almonte filling in? Well, the team, behind some very solid pitching, went 25-11 without Jeter.

Flash forward to this weekend when Alex Rodriguez announced his intention to go under the knife. As Tyler Kepner noted, this injury had 2003 written all over it. The Yanks would be without one of their leaders for the first month of the season, but it will all be okay.

While a lot of crazy columnists wrongly feel the Yanks will be better off without A-Rod, the team can weather the A-Rod-less storm for a few weeks. As they did in 2003, they can lean on their pitching to bring them through April, and when A-Rod returns, well, the team just gets that much better.

Categories : Injuries
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Joba in Spring TrainingAll eyes are going to be on Joba tonight, especially after his poor performance in his two previous starts. He’s faced eleven batters this spring, walking four and allowing four hits while retiring just three, none via the strikeout. Is it a big start for Joba? No, not really. It’s March 10th for cryin’ out loud. Compared to where the rest of the rotation is right now, this should be his preseason debut. It would be nice to see some vintage Joba though.

As you can see, the Yanks are trotting out the A team:

Gardner, CF
Damon, LF
Nady, RF
Matsui, DH
Ransom, 3B
Molina, C
Miranda, 1B
Berroa, SS
Pena, 2B

Scheduled Pitchers: Joba Chamberlain, Kei Igawa, Chris Garcia, Phil Coke, Mike Dunn, Anthony Claggett

YES is carrying the game, first pitch is set for 7:15. Hooray for the first night game thread of the year.

Photo Credit: Steve Nesius, Reuters Pictures

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I just wrapped up the part of The Yankee Years that Tom Verducci and Joe Torre call the last moment of Yankee magic at the old Stadium. With one swing, the much-maligned Aaron Boone delivered a stunning end to one of the most dramatic playoff series of all time.

Since then though, the Yanks have suffered through five seasons of bad luck, on and off of the field: Jason Giambi‘s tumor, the 2004 playoff collapse, the Mitchell Report, the dismissal of Joe Torre, A-Rod‘s PED scandal, the bad PR over the season-ticket problems with the new stadium and the political scandals that have lurked around the edges of the new stadium as well. Some of these stories are driven by a media that is highly skeptical of the Yanks and their ways. Others constitute legitimately bad news.

To the end, in a must-read piece, Pete Toms, one of the authors at The Biz of Baseball, ponders the state of the Yankee brand. Is the Yanks’ brand a tarnished one? The Yanks, Toms believe, are overreaching at a time when the American people are economically weak, and the team may be out of step with its fans:

Of more importance to the Yankees than the admonishments of local politicians is the widespread anti Yankee sentiment amongst rank and file fans. Instead of excitement about the new stadium and free agent signings, Yankee blogs, message boards and newspaper reports are rife with the comments of angry fans expressing their outrage over how and where their seats have been “relocated” in the new stadium…The negative impact of the recession on the Yankees is not limited to diminished demand for expensive seats. The credit crisis increased the stadium construction borrowing costs. Bloomberg reported on how changes in the municipal bond market affected the Yankees second round of financing. “The New York Yankees sold $259 million of bonds at yields two to three percentage points higher than the baseball team’s first round of city-approved tax-exempt financing to finish its new stadium in the Bronx…”

On the field, the Yankee brand has been tarnished (rightly or wrongly) by A Rod. A Rod’s $300 million dollar contract was justifiable for the Yankees because of two reasons. 1. He would sell out tickets and luxury boxes at the new stadium during his pursuit of the HR record. AND he would do it as a “clean” player. In short, he would be the next Yankee icon. 2. The same pursuit would be of great value to YES. Again, somehow that seems a long time ago. Now the Yankees have hundreds of millions of dollars committed to an unpopular superstar who they can never portray as “good” to Bonds “evil”. Serious questions surround his long term health, particularly minus PEDs which have been credited with contributing to the extraordinary success of some superstar players at relatively advanced ages (Bonds, Clemens). Subsequent to the announcement of A Rod’s injury, some pundits are suggesting that the loss of the Yankees premier player and arguably MLB’s best player is actually a positive..

In the short term, winning is marketing. Much of the complaining about seat relocations, public handouts to billionaires paying millionaires and a cheating superstar, can be overlooked if the Yankees win. But as defined by Yankee fans, winning means winning it all. Long term, is what the Yankees are selling out of step with the zeitgeist? Tom Van Riper wonders, “Sure, the economic slump will only last so long, but some experts think the shock and suddenness of the global financial crisis may have shifted consumer attitudes permanently. For all but the wealthiest, the luxury sports experience could be out for a long time. That means a lot of $1,000 tickets and personal seat licenses could go unsold and unpopulated for a very long time.” That, not A-Rod, is the Yankees’ biggest problem.

The problem Toms identifies is part of the Yankee Catch-22. The team has become a brand because they won so often in the late 1990s. In order to continue winning, they started spending. In order to keep up the spending, they need more money. To get more money, they started a cable network and built a state-of-the-art stadium. To fill that stadium, they need to get prices at the right level, and they need to win.

Along the way, the team has hit a few speed bumps and larger roadblocks, but I think Toms nails it when he boils it down to winning. Non-Yankee fans may scorn and despise the Yanks, but they still turn out on the road to watch the Yankee brand play. If the team wins, if they get over this PR hump of the ticket problems — a PR problem about which most fans are antipathetic or ignorant — the brand is as strong as ever.

Those of us that put the Yanks under a microscope on a daily basis may see the last few years as part of a bad cycle for the team. However, as the stadium opens, as YES draws record ratings for Spring Training games, the Yankees and their brand are not suffering.

Categories : Analysis
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