Only in Spring Training
and game five of the World Series do teams tie. When two teams reach that ninth inning with no end in sight and no more pitchers ready, the managers generally call off the exhibition. Today, in Kissimmee, that is exactly what happened between the Astros and Yanks.
In March, the scores don’t matter. It’s all about getting a tune up, getting in swings, getting in pitches. For the 2009 Yankees, then, today’s tie was a big day. Chien-Ming Wang made his return to the mound after his freak Lisfranc injury last summer. While his sinker was up a bit — normal for this time of year, he said after the game — he held the Astros to two hits and no runs over two innings.
Offensively, the Yanks plated five runs but in unspectacular fashion. Angel Berroa, playing with Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez joining their respective WBC teams, homered and doubled; Melky Cabrera tripled in his bid to keep a job; and Jorge Posada went 1 for 3 as the DH, returning to play after a few days off due to shoulder soreness.
Beyond that, a bunch of guys who won’t make the team — George Kontos and Steven Jackson — blew the game in the 8th. Brett Tomko pitched two good enough innings, and two hours and 46 minutes after the first pitch, it was all tied up with nowhere to go.
Tomorrow, Phil Hughes will face Team USA in a game televised on YES, the MLB Network and I believe for free on MLB.tv. That should be a good one.
During the slow time of year that is early Spring Training, pieces like this fromWFAN’s Sweeny Murti are open thread gold. Sweeny posted a bunch of interesting/weird facts from the Yanks’ 2009 Media Guide, which always makes for a fun read. Here’s some of my favorites:
Hank Steinbrenner (General Partner/Co-Chairperson) was “directly involved” in the free agent signings and managerial hiring after the 2007 season, but was “part of the collaborative front office effort” this past off-season (page 8).
Translation: Hank, we’re putting the training wheels back on.
Joe Girardi was ejected twice in 2008. The Yankees won both games with “walk-off” hits (page 38).
I think this is a big enough sample for us to draw serious conclusions from. Joe, get in the umps face more often this year.
Nick Markakis (38) and Michael Cuddyer (37) are the only American Leaguers with more outfield assists than Melky Cabrera (35) since 2006 (page 76).
Elsewhere in the world of interesting stats, Melky’s totaled 2.1 WAR since 2006. Nick Markakis was a 6.1 WAR player last year alone.
Hideki Matsui acts as a foster parent for 10 kids in Vietnam and worked with Japan’s Eco-Safety Drive campaign in 2008, encouraging Japanese citizens to decrease their car pollution (page 164).
Very awesome of Hit-deki.
In 1991, Jorge Posada led New York-Penn League second basemen in double plays turned with 42 (page 200).
Holy crap, 42 double plays turned? They play like, 70 games in the NY-Penn League. That seems ridiculously high. Anyway, make sure you give it a read, there’s a ton of interesting stuff in there. Otherwise, here’s your open thread for the night. The Islanders are the only local team in action tonight, taking on the Avs at home. Anything goes, just be nice.
Oh, and if you haven’t voted in this week’s Fan Confidence Poll, make sure you do so.
Every day from 1 until 6:30 on YES, you can watch Mike Francessa talk to himself. It’s part of YES’s simulcast deal with WFAN, which allows the Yankees-backed station to broadcast Mike and The Mad Dog, now Mike’D Up. This gives YES content throughout the day so they don’t have to re-air the same Yankees Classics and Yankeeographies every afternoon. You can expect to see Francessa and his ego for years to come, as the two parties have agreed to a new multi-year deal. Also simulcast on YES: The NFL Now, also hosted by Francessa. · (33) ·
We spend a lot of time here at RAB being optimistic. In fact, as the 8.2 weighted average (as of 1 p.m.) from the team confidence poll suggest, we’re not alone in our rosy outlook for 2009.
But we can’t put the Yankee blinders on and assume that everything will go according to plan for the 2009 season. To that end, The Artist Formerly Know as “The” Steve wrote in with a question for me this morning:
The Yanks are not without question marks as they enter the 2009 campaign. What’s our worst case scenario? And more importantly, how are the Yanks prepared to deal with it?
So let’s put on our doom-and-gloom hats while we tackle Steve’s concerns. Mo willing, that worst-case scenario won’t come to pass, but we can’t ignore the obvious concerns. Today, we’ll tackle the pitchers.
First up is the big name and latest Yankee ace CC Sabathi. Asks Steve, “Will the innings load from last year affect him this year?” Josh Kalk at The Hardball Times tackled just this very question in September and concluded that Sabathia, so far, has been a horse. We don’t know how Sabathia will respond following two seasons and over 500 innings, but the Yanks will attempt to keep his innings down. Experts seem to agree that his easy, repetitive motion shouldn’t expose him to a greater-than-normal injury risk for a pitcher in his late 20s.
If Sabathia goes down, the Yanks will have to bump everyone up a slot while turning to a rookie. To that end, Steve’s next three questions are all related.
- On A.J. Burnett, coming off of a career-high 221.1 innings: “If/when he misses a month or two due to a minor injury, what can we reasonably expect from Hughes/Aceves/IPK?”
- On Andy Pettitte: “Is he starting to break down with age and no longer able to effectively hold up through an entire season? At 36 and never a hard thrower, what does he have left?”
- On Joba Chamberlain: “[He] has never pitched more than 120 innings at any point in his career, and some analysts like BA’s Bill Callis have always felt he won’t hold up to a full season.”
Remember too that Chien-Ming Wang is coming off of a serious injury as well.
That said, every team faces health questions about pitchers; it’s just the nature of the beast. I believe, though, that the Yanks could weather the storm of losing one pitcher. Right now, Burnett is slotted third in the rotation and Pettitte fourth. Clearly, the Yanks would rather not lose either, but to lose one would probably not crush the team’s playoff hopes. Here, the Yanks would have deploy their depth and turn to Phil Hughes, Al Aceves or Ian Kennedy probably in that order.
For Hughes, it’s really a matter of which pitcher shows up. In September and October in his career, he is 3-0 with a 2.59 ERA in 41.2 innings. He has struck out 28 and walked 12. In 65 MLB innings in other moths, Hughes has good strike out numbers but a 6.78 ERA and is 2-7. If Hughes has to fill in, the Yanks need the late-season Hughes to show up.
Kennedy, meanwhile, is one of the more polarizing figures in the Yanks’ system right now, as the comments to Joe’s IPK post show. Many fans don’t want to see Kennedy again because of some media-constructed story about his supposedly bad attitude; others are rightfully willing to him the benefit of the doubt. After his 2008 effort in the Bronx though, he’s third on the Minor League depth chart.
Al Aceves would fill in if Hughes can’t. The Mexican Gangster threw 30 decent innings last year, but his 16:10 K:BB ratio doesn’t scream future success. He does a good job of keeping the ball low though and limited the number of opposing baserunners.
Because all three are young and have limited MLB epxerience, it’s hard to project how they’ll do. Rather, with Burnett and Pettitte on board, the Yankees have the depth in the minors to weather the storm of a pitching injury. Last year, the Yanks were counting on Hughes and Kennedy to be effective Major Leaguers from Opening Day. This year, they’re the reserved, developing further at AAA until they are summoned. If a member of the starting five goes down, someone or a few someone’s should be able to piece together a league-average effort, and with this team’s offense, that’s all they need.
Of course, the Yankees, because of Joba, are going to need better than league-average performance from some pitchers not in their starting five. To that end, Hughes or Kennedy or Aceves will have to step in at some point (unless Mike Mussina is in shape and can be coaxed back). But the Yanks have a fallback plan for Joba too. He is adept at getting outs out of the bullpen. If he fails as a starting pitcher, the Yanks will slot him in as the heir-apparent to Mariano Rivera. While the B-Jobbers would be happy with that move, the Yanks are going to run Joba out there every five days or so until they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he can’t do it. That’s a future we don’t have to contemplate yet.
As with any team, the Yankees are not without their question marks. By bolstering their big league staff, though, the Yanks have ensured themselves the potential to exploit their depth should the need arise. Tomorrow, we’ll tackle the questions surrounding the lineup and the bullpen, but the 2009 injury scenarios are much less dire than they were a year ago.
As Mike mentioned yesterday, CC Sabathia’s scheduled simulated game was postponed until today. That happened a bit earlier, and CC threw 28 pitches in two “innings” to Hideki Matsui and Kevin Cash. He’s working on his cutter, which he says takes a while to get into a groove. Other than that, it’s just Spring Training business as usual. CC will make his spring debut on Friday night, which unfortunately will not be broadcast on YES. The following day’s game, featuring Chien-Ming Wang, will air on the network, as will tomorrow’s Phil Hughes start. · (12) ·
On January 3, 2008, the White Sox acquired Nick Swisher from the Oakland A’s for Ryan Sweeney, Gio Gonzalez, and Fautino De Los Santos. This seemed like a pretty good trade for the Sox. They had seen Swisher play center field more than any other position with Oakland in 2007, and thought adding his bat to their lineup would make the team better. As we know, things didn’t work out all too well there. Says his former manager Ozzie Guillen:
“When you have a bad season like that, a lot of people can be blamed if you want to be negative,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen recalled on Sunday. “(Swisher) did do some good things for us, playing out of position all season long. But when he started having trouble and was struggling, he couldn’t get control of that.
Part of the problem, I think, is that not only was Swisher playing a relatively new position for him — he hadn’t really played any center except for in 2007 — but also that he hit atop the batting order. Before 2008 he had hit leadoff a total of zero times in his major league career.
Ozzie is right in saying that “a lot of people can be blamed,” but it’s not only if you want to be negative. Swish definitely hit better when placed lower in the lineup, though “better” is a relative term here. In his 215 plate appearances from the seventh spot, Swish OPS’d a decent .779. That was a better OPS than what Ken Griffey Jr. mustered from center field in the second half.
Established players and rising stars stood in Swisher’s way. If the White Sox weren’t happy with Swish as a center fielder, they were stuck. Carlos Quentin, acquired exactly one month before Swisher, was in the midst of a breakout year, and established right fielder Jermaine Dye was having a good season. At first base, where Swisher did get reps, Paul Konerko was going to get every chance to prove that he could still hit. He did in the second half, posting a line of .270/.374/.535. In other words, there was no place to play Swish regularly if he wasn’t going to play center.
When the Sox traded him to the Yanks in November, it seemed like he’d finally have a starter’s role at one position: first base. Then, of course, the Yanks went out and got Mark Teixeira, complicating matters further. Where would Swisher play? That seemed to be a big question following the Teixeira acquisition.
Despite being displaced at one position, Swisher has a real chance for playing time with the Yanks, a chance he couldn’t get in Chicago unless he flourished in center field. All three outfield positions are open in one way or another. Swish could win the starting right fielder job over Xavier Nady, which is probably his best bet for playing time. He could take a good number of reps in center field if the Yanks so chose to do that, since there’s no budding superstar or established vet in that spot. Even at DH and left field, Swish could see some reps. Matsui and Damon are both 35 years old this year and could use days off here and there to stay fresh.
Had the White Sox hung onto him, Ozzie believes that Swish “would be in the same position he was last year — a fourth outfielder.” That’s the situation he could face on the Yankees too, but given the construction of each team, it looks like he’ll get a far better shot at significant playing time in New York. Which, I believe, will be Chicago’s loss and New York’s gain.
By nature, we Yankee fans are an arrogant bunch. It’s the New York in us, and we can’t help it. However, being arrogant and being confident are two different things, and I wanted to try to get an idea of how confident fans are in the general direction of their team.
Stealing an idea Taking a page from MetsBlog and Rays Index, I’m going to hold a weekly poll asking how confident you guys are in the team. I was originally thinking of conducting the poll once a month, but then we won’t be able to get a sense of how things like big wins, crippling losses, short term injuries, and the “honeymoon effect” of player acquisitions changes the perception of the team’s fan base. So from now on, every Monday morning you’ll find a poll like this, asking you to rate your confidence in the team.
Once we have a big enough sample (let’s call it two months), I’ll set up a permanent link somewhere on the site directing you to a graph showing how everyone’s confidence in the team has changed over time. But for now, please take a second to answer the poll question below. Thanks in advance.
With Opening Day 35 days and 16 hours (as of midnight) away, tickets are on everyone’s mind. The Yankees are trying to fill up the new Stadium, and over the last few weeks, they’ve faced a lot of criticism for their ticket polices.
Most notable was the brouhaha last week over the relocation policies. Many long-time season-ticket holders have been feeling slighted by the team, and the Yanks faced some flak over the obstructed views in the bleachers as well. While the team hasn’t been able to placate the rightfully disgruntled season-ticket holders, the Yanks dropped the bleacher prices $5.
Today, we have a few more ticket stories. First, Neil deMause reports that the Yankees are charging $8 more for standing room only tickets than they are for bleacher seats. DeMause sees this as a clear sign of things to come for the bleacher creature.
“The reason, obviously,” he writes, “has to do with the fact the Yanks held bleacher ticket prices at $12 from last year for PR reasons, but have no problem with charging through the nose for standing room, since there were no standing-room seats at the old stadium to compare prices with. Take it as a sign that bleacher prices will likely rise fast to meet market levels in the next year or two.”
If — or when — the Yanks raise their bleacher prices, the Creature will not take kindly to it. But as is often the case, ticket prices are about market economy. If the Yanks feel they can charge $20 for bleacher sets and sell out, they will do so, fans’ feelings or not. Ross at New Stadium Insider has a different take: He likes to roam the ballpark and sees SRO ticketing as a different way to enjoy the Yankee Experience.
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On the scalping front, WasWatching finds an analysis of the impact the high price of Yankee tickets may have on scalping.
Basically, Paul Mulshine at The Star-Ledger posits that because prices for many seats at the new Stadium are priced prohibitively expensive, scalpers won’t be able to turn a profit on them. The Yankees may then attempt to sell them through a so-called Dutch Auction on the day of game if they can’t package them to season-ticket buyers. That is, the Yanks will start the ticket off with a high price and lower it as the game draws closer. Scalpers can’t cash in if the seats are too expensive to sell.
It’s an interesting theory, but it doesn’t quite work that way. The high-priced tickets have earned headlines, but the vast majority of tickets in Yankee Stadium are closer to affordable. Scalpers will have no problem getting their hands on those tickets to sell at a significant mark-up this year.
Steve Lombardi does wonder though who’s really going to pay even $500 a ticket to see the Nationals face the Yanks in a Thursday day in June. That’s a good question.
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Finally, while we don’t have a set date yet for single-game tickets, Ross is eying sometime around March 17 for the big day. The Yanks are going to be offering a single-game pre-sale to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees season-ticket holders that day, and the general public should get a crack at whatever remains a few days later. We’ll update this info as we get a more concrete sense of the date.
Ray Negron — a 36-year Yankee vet and the subject of an excellent profile by Alex Belth last year — has a new children’s book, and his editors want more. In fact, according to Ken Davidoff, they want a tell-all memoir in the style of the Joe Torre/Tom Verducci book. Negron though isn’t about to bite the hand that has seen him through thick and thin for the better part of four decades. As a close confidant of George Steinbrenner, Negron has seen it all behind the scenes in the Bronx. Yet, as he told Ken Davidoff, he is “not for sale.”
“Joe Torre was supposed to be an icon in New York,” Negron said this past week in an interview. “To me, what he did with that book was just an insult to everything that’s supposed to be so good about the Yankees. You don’t take shots, you don’t talk negative, if you’re a manager.” Negron’s memoirs would be an era-spanning look inside a secretive organization, but I understand and appreciate his reverence and respect for the organization. · (10) ·
PeteAbe has a couple of small injury notes:
· Jesus Montero (strained right groin) was injured sliding to track down a passed ball. Joe Girardi said it seemed like a “moderate” strain. Given his status and youth, they’ll be cautious bringing him back.
· Jon Albaladejo caught a ball off the back of his left leg near the ankle and has a bruise. He’s day-to-day.
A pair of small nothings, if you ask me. Both guys have plenty of time to get healthy before the season starts. The more important injury news, that you might have missed earlier, is that Jorge Posada‘s shoulder is okay, and he could DH as soon as tomorrow. My educated guess it that the team will hold him back until Tuesday.
Former Yankee Updates: Chad Jennings checks in on some former Yankees and how they’re faring during Spring Training. Of note is the news that Carl Pavano managed to throw two scoreless innings without chipping a nail, stubbing his toe or bursting his appendix.
Here’s your open thread for the night. The Nets are the only local team in action because the Devils won this afternoon. Anything goes, just be nice.