Game 45: Just win series

The Yankees have won just one of their last four series, and that was the two-game sweep of the Orioles a few days ago. They haven’t really been sticking to the “just win series” mantra of late, but they could make it two series wins in a row today against the Mets. David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain could probably use the day off, so lots of runs and/or a dominant performance out of Ivan Nova would be pretty awesome. Here’s the lineup…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Jorge Posada, DH
Brett Gardner, LF
Chris Dickerson, RF – obviously, he’s been cleared to play
Frankie Cervelli, C

Ivan Nova, SP

The final game of the series can be seen on both YES and SNY locally plus TBS nationally. Enjoy the game.

Rafael Soriano Update: The Eighth Inning Guy™ played catch today and seems to be recovering well from his inflamed elbow. Yay.

Alex’s leg kick

Alex Rodriguez got off to a gloriously hot start to the season. In the first eleven games he hit .405/.511/.865 with 4 home runs, sporting an OPS of 1.376. Unfortunately, this hot start came to a screeching halt in Texas. On April 16th in Texas the Yankees removed Rodriguez from the game with a mild oblique strain. He avoided the disabled list, but he didn’t return to the lineup until April 20th. Whether the oblique strain was still bothering him or simply disrupted his timing is hard to say. What is clear is that Rodriguez went through a massive slump when he returned, hitting .188/.263/.294 with 2 home runs and 22 strikeouts in 22 games.

When the Yankees finished getting swept by Boston at home, they headed to Tampa. At the time talk surfaced of hitting coach Kevin Long working hard with Rodriguez to fix a mechanical flaw in his swing. They weren’t able to rectify it immediately, and in fact it seems that Rodriguez had difficulty implementing the change. In his first game in Tampa Alex went 0-4 with 3 strikeouts against Price. But they may have gotten a handle on it shortly thereafter. YES scribe and fan favorite Jack Curry had the details on this fix in a piece published May 18th, a day after Rodriguez clubbed two homers off Big Game James.

Long determined the cause of Rodriguez’s struggles, detecting that the third baseman hadn’t been using the lower half of his body to ignite his swing. Rodriguez called it a “disconnect” between his lower and upper body…

“We’ve diagnosed the problem,” Long said. “It’s vivid. We know what it is. But Alex said there’s been some hesitation. He knows he has to use his legs and he’s telling himself to use his legs. But when it comes time to do it, he hesitates. It’s all about fixing mechanics.”

Several hours after Long spoke to me about Rodriguez’s missing swing on Tuesday, Rodriguez corrected his mechanics and found that smooth swing again. Rodriguez blasted two homers off James Shields to help guide the Yankees to a much-needed 6-2 win over the Rays.

By taking a look at Rodriguez’s swing against the Red Sox Sunday night against Beckett and comparing it to his swing against Shields in Tampa, one thing stands out quite clearly: Alex almost completely eliminated his leg kick. Courtesy of friend of RAB Richard Iurilli, we can use .gif images to get a good slow-motion look at the difference. The first .gif is Alex striking out against Josh Beckett. (Update: Added the jump for site loading reasons)

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Yanks hit too many homers, take game two of Subway Series

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Hooray for solid, relatively stress-free wins. Got a little testy early on, but otherwise the Yankees did a fine job of putting this one … on the left side!

  • Wanna know how to avoid RISPFAIL? Don’t put any runners in scoring position. The Yankees did not pick up a hit with their lone at-bat with a man in scoring position, and that was Curtis Granderson moving Derek Jeter from second to third on a sacrifice fly in the eighth. Mark Teixeira drove him in with a sac fly one batter later, but why Grandy’s counts as an at-bat while Tex’s doesn’t is beyond me. Weird baseball rules. Anyway, this was the first time the Yankees left zero men on base in a game since June of 2001.
  • Four homeruns did the trick before that lame-o manufactured tack-on run in the eighth. Russell Martin took Chris Capuano deep for two runs in the second, Tex homered in two more the next inning, then Grandy and Alex Rodriguez hit solo shots two batters apart in the sixth. The first three came off Chris Capuano, who’s been getting his ass handed to him by righties all year. Tex’s homer was his second to right field as the right-handed batter this year, something he didn’t do at all in 2009 or 2010. Since 2006, he has just five opposite field homers as a righty, and two came this season.
  • Granderson’s long ball was his eighth off a lefty this season, which is notable for many reasons. He leads all left-handed batters with eight homers off lefties this year, and no other player has more than three. It also doubled last year’s output against lefties (just four homers), and was his 15th of the year, a total he didn’t reach until late-August last season. Jose Bautista (18 dingers) is the only other player in baseball with more than a dozen big flies. Good lookin’ out, Curtis.
  • Things looked a little sketchy early on, when the Mets loaded the bases with no outs in the first. A.J. Burnett got out of the inning allowing “just” two runs, then he gave up just three hits and two walks (one run) over his final 5.1 IP. Last season, that’s like a five run inning. This year A.J. has done a good job of limiting the damage in spots like that. Getting out of that first inning and settling down was a rather huge turning point in this game, even if came so early.
  • First and third, one out, Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay due up … and David Robertson cruises right along to escape the jam. Beltran struck out and Bay popped out harmlessly on the infield. It was a big part of the game, for sure, but Robertson made it look easy. Joba Chamberlain retired his three men in the eighth, then Luis Ayala did the same an inning later. I have to say, I wrote the Ayala signing off way too soon. He’s been rock solid so far (in admittedly limited action). The trio of relievers recorded eight outs on 30 pitches.
  • Jeter stole second in the eighth inning, tying him with Rickey Henderson for the franchise record (326 SB). Of course Rickey did it in 596 games while Jeter needed 2,337, but who’s counting?
  • After all the bitching and moaning following Friday’s game, the Yankees are now back in first place (thanks to Red Sox and Rays losses). How about that? Here’s the box score and here’s the WPA Graph.

Rubber game tomorrow afternoon, when Ivan Nova gets the ball against Mike Pelfrey at 1:05pm ET. If you’re in the area, head on over and check out the Delta Dugout.

Montero homers in Scranton loss

Update: Both the Double-A Trenton and Low-A Charleston games are over and have been added to the post.

Austin Krum was promoted to Triple-A Scranton, who is without outfielders Chris Dickerson (bigs), Greg Golson (hamstring), and Jordan Parraz (hamstring). Although he only has a .052 ISO in Double-A this year (.332 wOBA), he’s walked nearly as many times as he struck out (26 K, 25 BB in 181 PA) and is a perfect 14-for-14 in stolen base chances. Krum also led the system in walks last year (68), also spent with Trenton.

Triple-A Scranton (5-3 loss to Indianapolis)
Austin Krum, CF: 1 for 5, 1 R – threw a runner out at second
Ramiro Pena, SS & Dan Brewer, RF: both 1 for 4 – Ramiro scored a run and struck out
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K – second homer in eight games … five of his last eight hits have gone for extra bases
Justin Maxwell, LF & P.J. Pilittere, DH: both 0 for 3, 1 BB – Maxwell whiffed twice, P.J. once
Brandon Laird, 1B: 2 for 4, 1 RBI – OPS approaching .800 this month
Kevin Russo, 2B: 0 for 2, 1 BB, 1 HBP
Doug Bernier, 3B: 0 for 4, 1 K
D.J. Mitchell, RHP: 6 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 10-7 GB/FB – 56 of 96 pitches were strikes (58.3%) … only the second time all year he’s allowed more than two runs in a start
Buddy Carlyle, RHP: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 5-1 GB/FB – 29 of 43 pitches were strikes (57.4%)

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Game 44: But can they hit?

So last night didn’t go according to plan, but at least the Yankees (Freddy Garcia, specifically) pitched well. In fact, New York pitchers have held the opponents to two runs or less over the last four games, and over the last eight games they’ve keep the other team to an average of 3.5 runs per game. That’s plenty good enough to win, the offense just has to do their part. Let’s hope a right-heavy lineup against the southpaw Chris Capuano does the trick…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, DH
Robinson Cano, 2B
Russell Martin, C
Nick Swisher, RF
Andruw Jones, LF
Eduardo Nunez, 3B

A.J. Burnett, SP

Hate these Saturday night games, especially since this one is on FOX. Sigh. Try to enjoy.

Roster Move: Lance Pendleton has been recalled from Triple-A Scranton and Amaury Sanit was sent back down. Is carrying two long relievers really necessary? Another one inning, strikeout guy for the sixth and seventh innings would be cool.

Reminder: Ben’s going to be at the Delta Dugout tomorrow, click the link for all the details.

Should of kept

The most important part of being a fan is to constantly second-guess the decisions your team makes. If you don’t belittle your team’s management for every mistake they make, they’re going to think you didn’t notice. And if they think you didn’t notice, then they’re going to pull a Robbie Cano (get lazy) and just assume that you have their back in good times and bad. But that’s not what being a fan’s all about, and that’s why it is so important to let your team know that you’re willing to switch allegiance to another team at the drop of the hat. The Phillies didn’t cheap out on Cliff Lee, maybe I should root for them. The Royals have a lot of prospects, maybe it’s time to get on that bandwagon! And so on. Phillies fan FanSince09’s guide to being a Real Fan at Citizen’s Bank Park has all you need to know on this. The lessons are timeless and teamless, you guys.

In order to assist us all in our quest to become better fans, I’ve assembled a list of all the players the Yankees should of kept over the past decade, and a few they shouldn’t of kept! The links in the player names aren’t just Baseball Reference player pages, they’ll take you to box scores that document how foolhardy the Yankees have been, like evidence on CSI. Be sure to print this list out and take it with you to Yankee Stadium so you can remember all the reasons why you’re booing the team as they squander another game and slide towards last place. In fact, go ahead and make copies to hand out to your fellow box or luxury suite-mates, for a conversation starter over wine coolers and ceviche (5th inning snack). We’ll kick this party off right after the jump. Hope you have some Pepto handy…

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(Temporarily) Replacing Eric Chavez

Prior to last night’s loss to the Mets we heard that Eric Chavez is slowly but surely making his way back from a deep bone bruise in his foot and has not walked with a limp in days. He’s still a few weeks away from returning though, and the Yankees have been short a viable pinch-hitting option and true backup first/third baseman since he hurt himself legging out a triple in Detroit. Two players were dropped by their teams within the last 24 hours, so let’s see if either is capable of filling that bench role for the Yankees while Chavez is on the mend…

That poor baseball.

Russell Branyan (released by Arizona)

We’ve watched Branyan hit some absolute moonshots at Yankee Stadium over the last few seasons, like this one off Javy Vazquez or this one off A.J. Burnett or this one off Chad Gaudin or this one off Al Aceves. He’s managed to hit seven homeruns in just 12 games (11 starts) at the newest version of Yankee Stadium, including six (!!!) last year alone. The D’Backs cut him because he had a .285 wOBA as the third wheel in a first base platoon that included former Yankees Juan Miranda and Xavier Nady.

Cartilage damage and miscellaneous stiffness in his back has limited Branyan to just 256 games (out of 368) since 2009, but more importantly they’ve relegated him to first base and DH. He hasn’t played third base since 2008 (276 defensive innings) or a corner outfield spot with any regularity since 2007 (79.1 innings), so his value is limited. Despite the poor showing in the desert, Branyan’s underlying skills are still the same. He’s never had a sub-.220 ISO or walked in fewer than 10% of his plate appearances in any season in which he came to plate 100 times or more. It’s the standard three-true outcomes package, 50.6% of his career plate appearances have ended with a homer, a strikeout, or a walk.

At least that one was against the Red Sox. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

Dan Johnson (designated for assignment by Tampa Bay)

Johnson is another guy that has killed the Yankees over the last year or so, memorably hitting these two go-ahead homers homers (in the same game) last September. He started the year as Carlos Pena’s primary replacement at first but was so bad (.165 wOBA) that he eventually lost the job to Casey Kotchman (!!!) and did little more than pinch-hit or spot start before getting the axe yesterday.

There’s no way to spin that horrible performance into something positive, yeah his BABIP was low (.133) but that doesn’t explain why he all of a sudden decided to start swinging at 26.4% of the pitches he saw out of the zone (16.3% career). Johnson’s track record consists of patience (12.9% walk rate) and power (.169 ISO in the bigs but .253 in nearly 2,000 Triple-A plate appearances), and unlike Branyan he can actually play third. He’s played 45 games at the position since the start of 2010 (majors and minors) and although he’s not a great defender there, he can at least stand there and fake it every once in a while.

* * *

Neither Branyan or Johnson is a perfect fill-in for Chavez, but then again Chavez isn’t exactly perfect either given his propensity to get hurt. Too bad we can’t combine Branyan’s offense with Johnson’s health and versatility, that would be the best solution. Branyan would only cost the league minimum, though Johnson said he’d like to stay with the Rays’ organization if he clears waivers, so he’s unlikely to elect free agency. The Yankees would have to claim him off waivers, which would mean assuming his $1M salary for the rest of the season. That money is no big deal, but it’s worth keeping in mind.

Ultimately, either guy would just be stepping in until Chavez returns, but we have to remember who we’re dealing with. It sounds like Chavez will be back sometime next month, but he could easily be out longer than that given his injury history. Having a semi-capable replacement like Branyan or Johnson could end up being more important than we realize.

{democracy:157}