Tickets for Wednesday’s day game available

A long-time RAB reader has a pair of tickets for tomorrow’s afternoon affair. The tickets are in the Grandstand section 414 in the top row (14). Face value is $20 per ticket, and the seller is willing to email the tickets or arrange a Manhattan trade-off. First person to e-mail me gets first crack at the tickets.

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2010 Minor League Awards

(Photo Credit: The Scranton Times-Tribune)

There’s no question that 2010 was a banner year for the Yankees’ farm system. Not only did their top prospects perform very well and continue along their development path, but numerous players broke out and several others returned from injury and exceeded every reasonable expectation. The system had been trending downward over the last few seasons due to graduation, trades, and normal attrition, but this year has re-established the system as one deep in both high end talent and role players, exactly what the Yankees need.

The Yanks’ six domestic affiliates went a combined 368-318 (.536) in 2010, at least the 28th consecutive season the affiliates have combined for an above-.500 record. Triple-A Scranton (right), Double-A Trenton, and High-A Tampa all won their division and qualified for postseason play. A large part of that success can be attributed to all of the top shelf pitching prospects the Yanks have at the upper levels. It really is an impressive group.

This post is not intended to be any kind of prospect ranking. It’s quite the opposite. It’s a recognition of those who had great statistical years regardless of their future potential. Sometimes, we just have to step and say damn, that guy was awesome without obsessing over the underlying data and whether or not it’s sustainable.

Here are my 2007, 2008, and 2009 awards posts. If you’re unfamiliar with how I do these things, I disqualify the Player of the Year from the other major awards just to mix things up. Variety is the spice of life, as they say.

Minor League Player of the Year: Brandon Laird, 3B, AA/AAA
Following a 2009 season in which he started off slowly before turning things around in the second half, Laird dominated the Double-A Eastern League right from the get go in 2010. He clubbed four homers with a .334 wOBA in April, then improved to six homers and a .408 wOBA in June, nine and .382 in July, and then four and .346 in August before being promoted to Triple-A Scranton. Overall, Laird hit .281/.336/.482 with a system leading 25 homers and 102 RBI, but his performance with Trenton is what really solidified this award for him. He hit .291/.355/.523 (.371 wOBA) for the Thunder, enough to win him the league MVP and Rookie of the Year awards. Of course, the RAB Minor League Player of the Year Award trumps all.
Honorable Mention: Jesus Montero, C, AAA; Graham Stoneburner, RHSP, A-/A+

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For Burnett, a longer leash

Mediocre A.J., the lesser known of Burnett's various personalities, reared his head yesterday. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

A.J. Burnett is struggling. He’s struggling to find command; he’s struggling to find consistency; he’s struggling to find the strike zone; and he’s struggling to find wins. In fact, the Yankees are 4-13 over Burnett’s last 17 starts and 1-6 since the start of August. During that stretch, Burnett has a 6.58 ERA, and it’s just ugly all around.

Yet, Joe Girardi is still willing to show faith in Burnett because his stuff is there, lingering in the background. Yesterday, we saw that faith, through no fault of Burnett’s or Girardi’s, backfire in the 7th inning. A.J. was one out away from escaping the game without a loss, but the Orioles had a threat going. With Corey Patterson on second, Brian Roberts, one of the Orioles’ few offensive threats, came up with two hits on him already.

Roberts is a tough player to neutralize. Historically, he hits better from the left side against righties than he does as a right-handed batter against south paws, but he’s a tough out from either side of the plate. This year, he is OPSing .858 in limited duty. It’s easy to second-guess the decision to allow Burnett to face Roberts. After all, the Orioles’ second baseman had a bead on Burnett’s stuff, and A.J. had passed 100 pitches. The Yanks could have played the match-ups and used Boone Logan to turn Roberts around to his weaker side, but Girardi stuck with A.J.

The pitch Roberts hit into right field for the game-winning hit wasn’t a bad one. It was a curve-ball, down and in, that Roberts fought off. A good hitter can do that to a good pitcher, and Burnett, speaking of his inability to shut down the Orioles, was highly critical of himself after the game. “It’s not about my seventh. It’s my whole day in general. I take pride in shutdowns. I’ve said it six times already, sorry I keep repeating it, but nothing else happened today. I wasn’t able to shut them down when we scored.”

What struck me about the game, though, wasn’t the outcome or Roberts’ lucky hitting. It wasn’t Burnett’s inability to hold the Orioles, although that obviously played a role in the eventual outcome. Rather, it was Joe Girardi’s willingness to stick with Burnett passed the breaking point.

On Saturday, Girardi sparked a mini-controversy when he lifted Javier Vazquez from a two-run game with two runners on and two outs in the fifth. That move backfired as well when Dustin Moseley allowed the tying runs to score, and Vazquez was steamed that he couldn’t work out his own jam. Javy, recently returned from the rotation, clearly has a short leash while Girardi wants to get Burnett as much work as possible in an effort to iron out what plagues him. Joe Girardi: “I thought it was a good step forward. I thought his stuff was very good today. He didn’t really have his changeup today, but his curveball and his fastball were very good. He got in some situations that he wiggled his way out of — a first and second with nobody out and didn’t give up a run. He pitched pretty well,” the Yankee skipper said after the game.

So why the disparate treatment? On the one hand, the issue is about stuff. On days when Burnett has something resembling a good curveball, he’s always just one good pitch away from getting out of the inning. On days when Javier Vazquez is throwing 86 mile-an-hour meatballs, it seem as though only Lady Luck can help Javy through five or six innings.

On the other hand, though, these decisions are about trust and the Yanks’ future. Javier Vazquez is a one-and-done in New York City. They brought him in to give them length in the rotation when they knew they couldn’t sneak by on CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, A.J. Burnett and two young guys or replacement-type hurlers. At this point, he’s probably on the wrong side of the bubble and wouldn’t make the playoff roster. Burnett, though, has to be ready for the postseason. If the Yankees are going to advance, A.J. Burnett and his $16.5-million salary will be asked to pitch in some must-win situations, and Burnett has to have confidence in his stuff. Furthermore, Burnett is here through 2013, and the Yanks can’t start banishing him to the scrap heap quite yet.

So A.J. gets a longer leash than Javier Vazquez, and even though both decisions — a non-move on Monday and a move on Saturday — backfired on the Yanks, both were the right calls. Sometimes, the Brian Roberts of the world just end up beating that good curve ball.

Yanks can’t answer Orioles in 4-3 loss

The Yankees played catch-up for most of Monday afternoon, but they couldn’t quite surpass the Baltimore Orioles. A.J. Burnett was neither good nor bad, but he gave the team a chance to win. The offense had its chances, but went 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position. That led to just three runs, which just wasn’t enough.

Biggest Hit: A-Rod ties it

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Derek Jeter doubled to lead off the game, but he was the only one who could hit Brian Matusz early. He retired the next 11 straight and looked generally in control of the game. With two outs in the third he missed low with two curveballs to A-Rod. He got him to swing through a high fastball and then came inside with one. It wasn’t quite as inside as the one A-Rod popped to left his first time, and that gave him the opportunity to get out in front of it. Into the visitor’s bullpen it went. A-Rod had tied the game.

The Orioles answered with one in each of the fifth and the sixth, but the Yankees started a rally in the sixth. Swisher walked and Teixeira singled, putting runners on first and second with none out. A wild pitch made it second and third. A-Rod got home the first run with a sac fly, and Cano followed with a game-tying RBI single, still with just one out. Cano had reached second with two outs, and although Jorge Posada worked a quality seven-pitch at-bat he ended with a slow grounder up the middle. The Yanks had tied it, but missed an opportunity to extend the rally.

The two RBI, as you might have read, give him an MLB record 14 seasons, and an all-time-tying 13th consecutive season, with 100 RBI. If he does it next year he’ll surpass Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx.

Roberts kills Yanks

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

The two biggest hits of the day for the Orioles came off the bat of Brian Roberts. In the fifth he came up with Cesar Izturis on second and two outs. Burnett threw a 2-0 fastball on the outside edge and Roberts lined it the other way for a go-ahead RBI. Then again in the seventh he came to bat with a runner on second with two out. This time Burnett threw him a 2-1 curveball on the inside corner. Roberts pulled this one on a line, again breaking the tie.

While Roberts broke two of three ties in the game, he also hurt his team with some poor base running. After fielding Roberts’s liner in the fifth, Marcus Thames fired towards home. A-Rod cut it off and caught Roberts trying to take second. Then in the seventh Roberts really got caught in a bind. I guess he thought Francisco Cervelli would be preoccupied with a play at the plate. Instead the throw was slightly up the line and Patterson was about to score anyway. Roberts got hung up between first and second, eventually being tagged by Derek Jeter. Both miscues ended the inning.

The plan backfires

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

When they’re on, the Yankees can run up their opponent’s pitch count. This comes in especially handy against young pitchers, who might not go as deep into games as veterans. The Yankees made Matusz throw 106 pitches through six innings, so they got to the AL’s second-worst bullpen for the final three. Considering they got three off Matusz, another two off the bullpen didn’t seem unreasonable. But the birds closed the door.

Matt Albers, Jim Johnson, and Koji Uehara held the Yankees hitless during their comeback attempt. Among them they struck out four and left both baserunners stranded. That was the big difference for Baltimore. The offense did an adequate job, and their starter gave them the minimum. Good bullpens can work through situations like this — the Yanks have put together three-plus-inning bullpen strings lately. Bullpens like the Orioles are normally prone, but this time they came through.

That said, play the last three innings 50 times and I bet the Yanks win more than 30 of them. Sometimes things just work out this way.

Miscellany

After recording two outs Boone Logan has lowered his ERA to 2.38. He has allowed just three of 22 inherited runners to score (14%).

In the past month Derek Jeter has hit .205/.273/.295. Get better, Derek.

I just noticed this, but before yesterday’s game Mark Teixeira‘s OPS+ was 141. It might have dropped a point yesterday, but that’s still 140 or so. Last year his OPS+ was 149.

Jorge Posada worked his third hat trick of the season. He hasn’t been horrible as a DH, .248/.328/.416, but he’s a much bigger threat when behind the plate, .276/.384/.529. A lot of that is probably him DHing when he’s a little banged up.

I wouldn’t expect to see Austin Kearns for the next couple of days. If his finger were feeling fine I’m certain he’d have pinch hit instead of Curtis in the ninth.

Graph and Box

So close. So close.

More at FanGraphs. Here’s the box.

Up Next

Back to the night games. I couldn’t be happier. It’s the Big Stoppa CC Sabathia against rookie Jake Arrieta.

Montero goes deep on season’s final day

Last day of the regular season, everyone. It’s been real. (Yes, DotF is still around in the playoffs for you noobs)

Triple-A Scranton (4-3 win over Lehigh Valley in 12 innings) they finished at 87-56, tops in the North Division … their playoff series with Columbus starts on Wednesday when D.J. Mitchell gets the ball
Reid Gorecki, CF: 2 for 6, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 K, 1 SB – threw a runner out at second
Kevin Russo, 2B, Juan Miranda, DH & Edwar Gonzalez, RF: all 0 for 5, 1 K
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K – finishes the season at .289/.353/.517 with career highs in doubles (34), triples (3), homers (21), walks (46), and strikeouts (91) … the strikeouts suck, but it’s not an absurd amount and you’d expect him to whiff more as a 20-year-old at this level … all in all, considering how poorly he started, it was a rather successful season for the Yankees’ undisputed top prospect
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB
Chad Huffman, LF: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K
Eric Bruntlett, SS: 1 for 5, 1 R, 2 K, 1 SB
Brandon Laird, 3B: 1 for 5, 1 2B, 1 RBI - finished the year at .281/.336/.482 with a career high 25 homers and 42 walks between AA and AAA
Hector Noesi: 6.2 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 4-6 GB/FB – 63 of 94 pitches were strikes (67%) … finishes with a 3.20 ERA and a 153-28 K/BB ratio in 160.1 IP at three different levels
Royce Ring: 0.1 IP, zeroes, 1 K – three of his four pitches were strikes
Zack Segovia: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0-2 GB/FB – nine of 13 pitches were strikes (69.2%)
Kevin Whelan: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1-0 GB/FB – half of his 22 pitches were strikes … I guess he’s the closer with Jon Albaladejo in New York, but he blew the save in this game when he served up a solo homer
Amaury Sanit: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 Balk, 1-1 GB/FB – 21 of 33 pitches were strikes (63.6%)
John Van Benschoten: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1-1 GB/FB – nine of 15 pitches were strikes (60%)

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Open Thread: My 2010 RAB Fantasy Football Team

Time for the annual tradition of revealing the fantasy football team I drafted for you all to mock and laugh at. We only did 14 teams this year (in the past it’s been 20), and it was basically the same people as last year. So you didn’t miss a post about signing up or anything, we never had one. Sorry. Anyway, here’s my squad…

QB: Aaron Rodgers (1st round, 6th overall)
RB: Jamaal Charles (2/23)
RB: Jonathan Stewart (3/34)
WR: Wes Welker (5/62)
WR: Donald Driver (6/79)
TE: Vernon Davis (4/51)
RB/WR: Laurence Maroney (7/90)
K: David Akers (13/174)
D/ST: New Orleans (8/107)

BN: Cadillac Williams, RB (9/118)
BN: Jacoby Jones, WR (10/135)
BN: LaDainian Tomlinson, RB (11/146)
BN: Austin Collie, WR (12/163)
BN: Jeremy Shockey, TE (14/191)
BN: Jason Campbell, QB (15/202)

Rodgers might have been a bit of an overdraft at six, but with all the premium backs already gone, I figured I was better off taking the mammoth quarterback production than gambling on Frank Gore’s knees. With any luck, Charles will continue last season’s breakout and Jacoby Jones has a breakout of his own in Houston. I could really use that big wideout. I’ve struggled with running back depth the last two or three years, so I was happy getting Maroney and Cadillac reasonably late since I know they’re at least likely to get the bulk of their team’s carries.

I’m not nearly as good at fantasy football as I am fantasy baseball, but I feel better about this team than any other team I’ve drafted in the past few years. My first four picks went exactly as I planned before the draft, so that made me feel good. Here’s the full draft results, if you’re interested. Next year I’ll remember to not schedule it on Labor Day weekend.

Anyway, here’s your open thread for the night. Depending on where you live, the Marlins-Phillies or Rays-Red Sox will be on MLB Network. At this point, Yankee fans have to pull for a Boston sweep. Just think of it as rooting for a Tampa loss, not a Red Sox win. Other than that, I’m sure there’s a bunch of college football on. Talk about whatever, just be cool.