Yanks come back again, win third straight

No Mariano Rivera, no Rafael Soriano, no Derek Jeter, no Mark Teixeira … no problem. The Yankees mounted a come from behind win against the Blue Jays for the second straight game on Saturday afternoon, and once again it was Robinson Cano with the big hit. To the bullet points…

  • It was a weird outing for Bartolo Colon. It started with him striking out the side in the first and ended with him retiring six of seven, but in between he allowed seven hits to 16 batters (.434). Two of those hits went over the fence (solo jacks by Adam Lind and Dewayne Wise), one of them hit the first base bag and deflected past a diving Nick Swisher, and another blooped into the triangle in right-center. Bart did throw a season-high 107 pitches, but he was still pumping gas late. Not a great outing, not a disaster. I guess “servicable” would be a good word.
  • The Yankees scored three runs in the second on an Eduardo Nunez single and a Frankie Cervelli two-run homer (no, really), but they were down 4-3 when Cano did his thing in the seventh. Ricky Romero hit Curtis Granderson in the back with a curveball before walking Alex Rodriguez on five pitches, all with two outs, then gave way to righty Casey Janssen. He got ahead 0-2 on Cano then nibbled a bit, eventually leaving a fastball right over the plate that Robbie drove into the right-center field gap for a two-run double. At +.390 WPA, it was a bigger hit than Russell Martin‘s two-run double in Fenway Park the other night and the fifth biggest hit of the season for New York (by WPA). Nick Swisher followed that up with a single for an insurance run.
  • Without Mo and Soriano, the closer’s job fell onto the shoulders of David Robertson. He went back to the days when men were men and closers threw more than one inning, running right through the middle of the order in the eight and then tacking on a scoreless ninth for the save, the third of his career. Honorable mention goes out to Boone Logan, who retired the only two men he faced (both lefties) to bridge the gap between Colon and D-Rob.
  • Brett Gardner seems to be snapping out of his slump and went 2-for-3 with a walk and two stolen bases in the game. A-Rod, Swisher, and Nunez each singled and walked, Andruw Jones doubled, and Cervelli had two hits (including his first career homer at Yankee Stadium, the other three came on the road) and saw a total of four pitches in four plate appearances. Jesus Montero picked up his first career knock, a routine little single to left. Pretty good day all around.
  • The Red Sox beat up on the Rangers, so the lead in the division stayed at one game in the loss column. The Rays also beat the Orioles, so the lead on the wildcard remained at 9.5. The magic number to clinch a playoff spot did drop by one by virtue of the win, and right now it’s sitting at Whitey Ford, number 16 in the sidebar. Here’s the box score, here’s the FanGraphs stuff, and here’s the standings.

The Yankees will look to complete the sweep on Sunday afternoon, when CC Sabathia goes against 2010 Yankees Killer™ Brett Cecil in another 1pm ET start. If you want to catch the game, RAB Tickets can help get you there.

Banuelos bombed in final start of regular season

Sorry folks, but time is a factor tonight…

  • Triple-A Scranton (lost). Kevin Russo, Ramiro Pena, and Jordan Parraz each had two knocks, and Mike Lamb hit a solo dinger. Manny Banuelos had a disaster start in his final regular season outing of the year (look at the Banuelos Watch in the sidebar), but George Kontos picked him up 3.1 scoreless. Hector Noesi tossed a scoreless frame as well, but Kevin Whelan blew it all in the eighth.
  • Double-A Trenton Game One (loss). Melky Mesa doubled and homered while Corban Joseph singled. Craig Heyer gave up nine runs in four innings, and Brad Halsey cleaned up the mess with two innings of one-run ball.
  • Double-A Trenton Game Two is tied and still being played. Zoilo Almonte has a double and a triple so far, and Mesa launched another homer. Here’s the box score.
  • High-A Tampa (loss). Abe Almonte’s 34-game hitting streak came to an end yesterday, but he got right back on the horse with three hits (two doubles) in this one. Ronnie Mustelier, Rob Segedin, Cody Johnson, and Mitch Abeita all had multiple knocks, the last two guys a double each. Nothing noteworthy on the mound.
  • Low-A Charleston (loss). Only three hits (all singles) on offense, and they belonged to Danny Lopez, Kevin Mahoney, and Kyle Higashioka. Manny Barreda gave up three runs in four innings, then Michael Recchia relieved him with five one-hit, shutout innings.
  • Short Season Staten Island (loss). Cito Culver had two hits, including a double, and Dante Bichette Jr. hit his first homer at this level. Mason Williams did not play, but Isaias Tejeda did and singled. Nothing terribly exciting on the mound.
  • The GCL Yankees won their league title last week and (obviously) the season is over.

Both Double-A Trenton and High-A Tampa were knocked out of postseason contention last night due to their losses and the results of other games around their leagues. That’s a shame, none of the four full season affiliates will be in the playoffs this year. Short Season Staten Island will be though, and they’ll begin their first round series with Brooklyn next Tuesday (best-of-three).

Open Thread: The Divisions of Yankees’ Earth

Dustin Parkes of Getting Blanked posted that illustration at Baseball Prospectus earlier this week, and I thought it was pretty neat and figured it would be good open thread fodder. I never got into Lord of the Rings or even Harry Potter for that matter. Haven’t read the books, haven’t seen the movies, nothing. I dunno, just not my cup of tea. But I know how immensely popular that stuff is, and I sure there are plenty of you that will enjoy the graphic. Posada’s Path made me literally laugh out loud (lol, to the youths out there).

Anyway, here is your open thread for the night. The Mets are playing the Nationals, and MLB Network is showing a game as well (teams depend on where you live). College football just started up too, didn’t it? I’m sure you can find some of that somewhere. Use the thread however you see fit, anything goes.

Jake Cave named top prospect in Coastal Plains League

Baseball America is in the process of publishing lists of the top ten prospects in each of the various wood bat summer leagues, and Yankees’ sixth rounder Jake Cave was given the top spot in the Coastal Plains League. Thankfully, the scouting reports for the top prospects in each league are available for free right here, so you can see Cave’s write-up without a subscription.

Cave, who signed on deadline day for $825k, received the second largest signing bonus given out by the Yankees this year. The high school outfielder from Virginia was playing with college players in the CPL, so it’s rather impressive that he ranked as the circuits top prospect. Granted, it’s not the Cape Cod League, but it’s still impressive. Cave was a legit prospect both in the outfield and on the mound as a left-hander, but the Yankees drafted him as a position player and that’s what he’s been working at in Tampa since signing.

Breaking down Curtis Granderson’s defense

Everyone knows what Curtis Granderson is doing with the bat this year, but no one really seems to know what to think of his defense. The defensive metrics say he’s one of the worst center fielders in baseball but that doesn’t really jive with the eye test. I don’t think he’s a Gold Glover, but I really have a hard time seeing him as any worse than average.

ESPN’s Mark Simon broke down Granderson’s defense and those advanced metrics a day or two ago, looking at how the systems work and also how they can pick up things we just can’t see by watching everyday. He also recapped Grandy’s six worst defensive plays of the season, and spoke to long-time scout to get some old school opinion. It gets RAB’s highest level of recommendation, so make sure you check it out. Great read and well worth your time.

Game 137: A-Rod’s back, again

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

After missing all that time with the knee injury and then all that extra time with the thumb injury, Alex Rodriguez is back in the lineup and playing third base today. Oh, he’s also batting third for the first time since September 4th, 2008. Look who batted cleanup that day. Ay caramba. Here’s the lineup…

Brett Gardner, LF
Curtis Granderson, CF
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, 1B
Andruw Jones, RF
Jesus Montero, DH
Eduardo Nunez, SS
Frankie Cervelli, C

Bartolo Colon, SP

The game will start a little after 1pm ET, and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

The Miguel Cabrera Comp

When the news arrived that Jesus Montero would be called up to the big-league squad, Joel Sherman was on hand with a typically well-sourced article providing insight into the organization’s thinking about Montero’s role this season. Sherman noted that Montero would become the regular designated hitter against left-handed pitching, meaning that the team would like platoon Gardner and Jones in left field or simply give Jones fewer at-bats. He also suggested that Montero could eventually hit his way into the regular designated hitter slot, against righties and lefties alike. The money quote came from one of Sherman’s usual “sources within the Yankee organization”: “One Yankees official acknowledged Montero is coming with a chance to win a significant job and another member of the organization said definitively, “By the playoffs, he will be our best DH option.””

Another interesting part of the column came when Sherman brought up Miguel Cabrera as a comparison for Montero. This comparison has been bandied about elsewhere before, and in fact Brian Cashman himself mentioned Cabrera when talking about Montero’s future upside to ESPN’s Ian O’Connor: “In terms of hitting ability, Montero can be a Manny Ramirez or a Miguel Cabrera…He has a chance to bat third or fourth. He has the potential to be a beast in the middle of our lineup.”

The Cabrera comparison is an intriguing one, to be sure, and there are a few interesting parallels between the start of each player’s respective career. Despite the fact that Miguel Cabrera was well-regarded as a very talented prospect, he had a far less impressive minor league track record than Montero. As a teenager, Cabrera never put together an OPS higher than .754 at any level of minor league competition. The Marlins stayed confident in his skill though, and moved him to Double-A to start the 2003 season. It was there that the light went on, that his talent took over, that he finally got it, however you’d like to frame it, and Cabrera started raking. In a half season of baseball he hit .365/.429/.609 in 303 plate appearances. That June, the Marlins called Cabrera up directly from Double-A.

He began his career in an interleague matchup with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, in a game managed by Jack McKeon (FLA) and Lou Piniella (TBR), one in which a 21 year-old Carl Crawford tripled. Still wet behind the ears, Cabrera nevertheless homered in his first game, a walkoff shot in the bottom of the 11th. It wasn’t too shabby of a start for the kid. It wasn’t all walkoffs and heroics from there on out, of course. Cabrera struggled for the rest of June and ended the month with an OPS of only .542. Over the next few months, Cabrera would go alternatingly hot and cold, flashing a load of power but not a ton of on-base skill. A quick breakdown of his OPS by month shows a streaky hitter finding his way around major league pitching:

June: .542

July: .991

August: .640

September: .875

By October the Marlins were in the playoffs, and they brought the youngster along for the ride. While he still wasn’t walking a ton, he managed to club four home runs, one off Roger Clemens in the World Series. Along with Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, Brad Penny, Carl Pavano and Dontrelle Willis, Miggy hoisted his first and only World Series trophy that fall as the Marlins defeated the Yankees. The team became history fast, broken up by an owner not willing to pay the players commensurate with their market values. Cabrera was the last rat off the sinking ship, sent to Detroit in the winter of 2007-2008, where he’s flourished as a perennial MVP candidate ever since.

There’s always a danger in making a comparison to a big leaguer, successful or otherwise. No two players are alike. Yet as long as the comparisons are couched in a healthy dose of realism, I don’t necessarily see the problem in throwing up this comp as an example of what once happened when a much-hyped prospect with talent oozing out of his ears got called up for a pennant race. At the end of the day, a comp is just an analogy, or a metaphor. I’m not a neuroscientist and I’m not an expert on how the brain develops, but in my experience telling a 10 year-old “These Doritos are dynamite” would cause him to ask for one, not run in fear. Hopefully fans can be similarly discerning. Kevin Long’s message about the Cabrera comparison is probably the perfect mix of recognizing Jesus’ insane talent level and hedging it with all the necessary qualifications:

“It is fair [because of his talent] to say he can do it [be like Cabrera],” Long said. “But there are so many intangibles that go along with success here. So do I expect that kind of impact? No. Can it happen? Yes. But it is unfair to put expectations on someone who has not done it. But this is someone with as much hitting upside as anyone in the minors.”

Jesus Montero isn’t Miguel Cabrera. Sure, they’re both right-handed Venezuelan bonus babies with similar body type, batting swings, and prodigious power, but of course they’re two different people. They will have different career paths. Yet, the start of their careers looks just similar enough to merit mentioning, and perhaps provides a guideline for expectations as the team chugs towards the playoffs. Perhaps Montero will exceed expectations and be Miggy in July and September of 2003; perhaps he’ll flounder and be the Miggy of June and August; perhaps he’ll be a little of both. Perhaps he’ll homer off Doc Halladay and help the Yankees take home another World Series crown, or maybe he’ll miss the postseason roster. Isn’t that tension really what it’s all about, though? Is there anything more exciting than hoping that the best-case scenario will actually play out and get realized in dramatic, awesome fashion? And isn’t that why we keep coming back for more, even when those hopes are dashed and expectations aren’t met, and the game breaks our heart?