Weather no big deal for Yanks, huge for Boston

Are the Yankees at home? Then there is roughly a 50 percent chance that it will rain, if we’re to use this season as a guide. It’s coming down consistently hard as I write this, and the forecast shows it continuing into the evening. Even if the rain stops, it could take hours to get the field back into playable condition. In other words, there is a good chance that tonight’s game gets rained out. Normally that would create an unfavorable situation, but since the Yankees have already clinched the division they have little left to play for. Of course, their opponents have plenty at stake in the final six games, and a rainout today could mangle their plans.

If all went according to plan, the Red Sox would throw Jon Lester, Tim Wakefield, and Erik Bedard against the Yankees this weekend, and then have Josh Beckett, John Lackey, an then Lester again to finish out the season against Baltimore. That last start from Lester could be of great importance, since this season could very well go down to the final day. To experience a rainout tonight would create an unfavorable situation for the Sox.

A doubleheader tomorrow is tricky, since Fox has the game at 4:10 p.m. Since the Yankees will not play a single-admission doubleheader, especially against the Sox, maneuvering for one might be tough. They might have to play two on Sunday, though that doesn’t really matter. It still means postponing tonight’s game and then using two pitchers on either Saturday or Sunday. Where it impacts the Sox, and to a lesser extent the Yankees, is in the final series of the season.

If Lester starts tomorrow instead of tonight, he no longer lines up to pitch the final game of the season. The Red Sox would have none of their main five starters ready to pitch that day, meaning they’d have to use Andrew Miller or Kyle Weiland, or else start Lester on three days’ rest. If they need a win to clinch a playoff berth on that final day, it’s fairly certain that they’ll start Lester then. If they play the doubleheader Saturday they could then throw Wakefield in a potential Game 163, but if they play the doubleheader Sunday they’d again have no starter on normal rest. Erik Bedard would be the likely candidate to take the ball in that case. And then comes Game 1 of the ALDS on Friday, in which they’d either have to pitch Beckett on three days’ rest, or else go with Wakefield. It’s a mess any way you work it out.

The Yankees, on the other hand, would only be slightly inconvenienced with a rainout tonight. They can simply move Garcia back to Saturday and then go with Burnett and Nova in the Sunday doubleheader. Noesi could then go Monday, and then the final two games can go pretty much any way. Maybe they throw Colon, or maybe they give him a nice long rest before his potential playoff start. Maybe they get Hughes in for a game. Ideally, Garcia would have lined up to pitch Wednesday as a tune-up for a potential Game 3 start, but that’s not a huge deal.

This isn’t to say that the Yankees should root for a rainout tonight. Obviously it’s best to get in the games one at a time, line up Freddy for Wednesday, and generally finish the season with as few kinks as possible. But if the game were to get rained out, it wouldn’t be any big deal. The Sox might find themselves reeling, though, as their rotation currently lines up about as well as they could ask, considering the situation they’re in. One little rainout could change that. It could add yet another dimension to a wildly interesting Wild Card race.

The RAB Radio Show: September 23, 2011

We’re running a shorter than usual show today, because we’re all talked out about the 2011 Yankees. We’ve been doing this all season, and it’s been a blast. Next time we’re on the air, it’ll be time for Game 1 of the ALDS. So, without getting into any playoff previews:

  • Lots of stuff about the Rays and Sox and their race to the AL Wild Card.
  • A few things to look for in the final few days, including the Bartolo Colon situation.
  • The quick road ahead before they get to the playoffs.

Podcast run time 30:59

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:

  • Download the RAB Radio Show by right clicking on that link and choosing Save As.
  • Listen in your browser by left clicking the above link or using the embedded player below.
  • Subscribe in iTunes. If you want to rate us that would be great. If you leave a nice review I’ll buy you a beer at a meet-up.

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

RAB and FanGraphs, together again

Just bumping this up top as a reminder. You can still attend the event if you’re under 21, you just have to check in when you get there. They’ll give you a bracelet so they know not to serve you alcohol, but that’s better than not attending.

Last July, we got together with the crew from FanGraphs (and various Mets bloggers) for the first ever FanGraphs Live Discussion. There were a total of four panels and ours basically discussed the state of the team and what not (recap here), and the only complaint seemed to be that it ended too early. We had to be out of Florence Gould Hall by I think noon, otherwise we could have talked for hours. A great time was had by all.

FanGraphs has done a number of Live Discussions since then, and they’ll be coming back to New York this Sunday. This one will be much more informal, no panels or anything. It’ll just be a bunch of us baseball nerds talking about baseball. All the details can be found here, but here’s the nuts and bolts…

Time: 1pm ET (until whenever)
Date: Sunday, Sept. 25th
Location: Amity Hall

Ben, Joe, and I will be there, as will a few FanGraphers, Mets bloggers, etc. Best of all? It’s free! The last event was something like $10 a person, right? No worries this time though, just show up (the entire downstairs is reserved) and enjoy the happy hour prices and baseball talk (and watching, of course the game will be on). Don’t worry, we’ll post a reminder later in the week, but I just wanted to get this on your radar.

Kei Igawa on his future

Kei Igawa’s career with the Yankees is effectively over, the lefty was placed on the minor league disabled list about a week before the season ended and a month or so before his contract was set to expire. Patrick at NPB Tracker passed along a recent interview with Igawa from the Japanese version of the Wall Street Journal, in which he says he wants to sign with an MLB club that will give him a legit chance at a big league job this offseason. I, and I think several of you, assumed that he’d go back to Japan after the season, but the dude still wants to chase the dream. More power to him.

Interestingly enough, Igawa said in the interview that Brian Cashman and then-manager Joe Torre had to ask him what his best pitch was in a meeting during his first season in New York. Pretty good sign that the team may not have done enough homework before acquiring him.

Mailbag: Montero, Posada, Affeldt, Robertson

We’ve got four straight forward questions in this week’s mailbag, so no nonsense answers today. Remember to use the always handy Submit A Tip box in the sidebar if you want to send in any questions during the week.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America)

Will asks: What do you think of Jesus Montero‘s debut so far on the big league team? It seems like he’s been striking out way too much. Do you think Montero has a good chance at making the playoff roster? And how much can we expect him to actually contribute?

I think Montero’s been fine overall, neither great nor terrible. He obviously started out very well and has cooled off a bit (still at .313/.389/.542 overall), but that’s a function of having just 54 plate appearances more than anything else. Yeah, the strikeout rate is high (27.8%), especially of late (11 whiffs in his last 28 PA), but it’s not terribly surprising for a 21-year-old kid making his debut. Montero’s shown that Yankee Stadium-friendly opposite field stroke and we’ve seen the power on display, so we know the tools are there. Regardless of what happens this month, good or bad, we weren’t going to learn too much about the kid anyway.

As for the playoffs, yeah I think he makes the roster as the primary DH against lefties. We’ll talk more about Jorge Posada in just a second, but I hope the team decides to leave the traditional backup catcher at home and rely on those two as emergency fill-ins should anything happen to Russell Martin.

Cliff asks: Not sure when you do these but I was curious if you think Posada is going to make the postseason roster. If not, do you think they will announce it before Sunday so we can give him a proper send off in the last home game?

I was pretty sure that Posada was going to make the playoff roster all along, but I think that AL East-winning hit on Wednesday cemented it. He can still hit righties (.270/.346/.464), so he’s probably the best choice to platoon with Montero at DH. Plus Jorge can also be useful off the bench as a pinch-hitter and super emergency catcher. I don’t put much stock in intangibles but they definitely do exist, so if nothing else, we know that Posada won’t be overwhelmed by the moment in the postseason. He’s been through all that already, and it’s just one less thing the Yankees would have to worry about.

I would be very surprised if the Yankees announce that Jorge will not be on the playoff roster in time for the final home game,but like I said, I expect them to carry him on the roster. So that last point is basically moot.

(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images North America)

Scout asks: If the SF Giants decline his 2012 option, Jeremy Affeldt will become a free agent, and evidently without compensation. Does the lefthander make sense for the Yankees, assuming he will require a two-year deal?

Damaso Marte‘s contract expires after the season, so the Yankees have one of those $4M a year LOOGY spots to fill. We’ll go more in depth with potential free agent targets and what not during the offseason (so I don’t want to spoil it too much), but yeah, Affeldt would be a fine target. He held lefties to a .144/.206/.200 batting line with 24 strikeouts and just five walks in 97 PA this year, which is quite a bit better than the .245/.369/.365 batting line they posted against him from 2009-2010 (43 K, 29 BB in 195 PA). I think that has more to do with health than anything.

Affeldt, 32, still has pretty good stuff (low-to-mid-90’s two and four-seamers with a curveball) and he has been really dominant against same -side batters when it comes to getting ground balls over the last few seasons. The Giants have a $5M club option for his services next year, but apparently it will be tough for them to bring both Affeldt and Javy Lopez back next season. I’m very much against multi-year deals for less than elite relievers, but the Yankees obviously aren’t. Affeldt would definitely be an intriguing target after the season, assuming he hits the open market.

Daniel asks: With the success that Robertson has had this year and should he have a similar year next year, should he be made the closer after Rivera? If Rivera retires at the end of his current contract, the Yankees will still likely have Soriano for another year, and he has experience closing, but Robertson appears to be the better pitcher.

The one thing we have to remember is: how often do relievers have back-to-back elite years? The answer is not very often, so we shouldn’t plan out the rest of David Robertson‘s career just yet. That said, he’s obviously the best in-house replacement for Mariano Rivera, just like Phil Hughes was in 2009 and Joba Chamberlain was in 2007. I’d almost prefer that if Robertson does take over as closer, he does it as the guy that replaces Rivera’s replacement. It’s going to be impossible to fill Mo’s shoes, and I suspect the natives will be restless if the new guy struggles out of the gate. We saw it when Tino Martinez took over for Don Mattingly, fans booed him like he kicked their dog or something.

Assuming Rivera retires after next year, the last season on his current contract, I’m not sure the worst move in the world would be to let Rafael Soriano (a.k.a. the Proven Closerâ„¢) close at first, then have Robertson replace him if he fails. And if he doesn’t fail, then he’ll be a free agent after the year and Robertson could step after that. The closer’s job is overrated in general, and I think you can make a really strong argument that Robertson would be more valuable to the team pitching the seventh and/or eighth inning while a lesser reliever starts the ninth with a clean slate.