Fan Confidence Poll: August 22nd, 2011

Record Last Week: 5-2 (43 RS, 30 RA)
Season Record:
77-48 (675 RS, 487 RA, 82-43 pythag. record), 0.5 games up in AL East, 8.0 up for wildcard
Opponents This Week:
Mon. OFF, vs. Athletics (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), @ Orioles (four games, Fri. to Sun., two on Sat.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
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Powered by homers, Nova blanks Twins

Curtis Granderson awaits the pitch he would turn into his 35th home run of the season. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

Jim Thome had just singled when a fly ball floated into the gap between center and right at Target Field. As Curtis Granderson rushed over to make the catch, he waved off Nick Swisher, but Swisher, who wasn’t expecting Granderson to be there, didn’t hear the outfield captain making the call. The two pulled up short, and the ball fall into the space between for a double for Danny Valencia. The lumbering Thome ended up at third, and the Twins had a threat.

After the game, Swisher and Granderson owned up to their miscommunication. Granderson said he wasn’t aggressive enough in waving off Swisher, and Swisher pulled up when he could. Still, after a win, the Yankee outfielders were in good spirits. “Guys were busting Curtis and I a little, and I said, ‘What are you taking about? You should thank us.’ After that, Nova got filthy,” Swisher said.

That filthiness is of course what everyone was talking about, and just a day after A.J. Burnett‘s 1.2-inning blowup against the Twins, the rookie Ivan Nova led the Yanks to a 3-0 victory. After that Valencia double, he struck out Rene Tosoni and Matt Tolbert and induced a ground ball to Mark Teixeira off the bat of Drew Butera to end the Twins’ threat. Four innings later, the Yanks could close the books on a series win in Minneapolis and a 5-2 road trip. First place, you’d be so nice to come home to.

Before Ivan emerged, the story of the day seemed to be another episode of RISP Fail. The Yanks left Jeter on third in the first, and Nick Blackburn walked the bases loaded in the second. With one out, he departed with an injury, and Anthony Swarzak struck out Eduardo Nuñez while Derek Jeter flew out to end the inning. Then in the fifth against Phil Dumatrait, the Yanks again loaded the bases before Alex Rodriguez, playing in his first game back from knee surgery, popped out to Joe Mauer at first. Eight base runners, seven left on, one erased by a double play.

The team broke free in the sixth as Robinson Cano doubled, moved to third on a Swisher fly ball and scored on a Russell Martin sac fly. The fireworks, though, began in the 7th. Curtis Granderson hit a rocket to right center than bounded off the giant scoreboard. He motored around second, and Target Field saw Rob Thompson waving him home. A headfirst dive gave Granderson his 35th home run of the season, and it was an inside-the-parker to boot. “It was good until everyone wanted to talk,” Granderson said later. “As we’re coming in, everyone was asking about it, and I couldn’t really talk too much.”

Mark Teixeira followed with a laser shot down the left field line. The Yankees had their three runs, and Nova, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera would not need more. While Robertson walked a tight-rope in the eighth, Mariano barely broke a sweat.

The accolades though belong to Nova. He threw seven innings, gave up five hits and walked one while picking up five strike outs. He’s 13-4 with a 3.97, and while he was sent down to AAA just a few weeks ago, it’s nearly inconceivable that the Yanks would jettison him from the starting rotation after the Baltimore series. As the Yanks pack up from Minneapolis and return home for a set against the Oakland A’s, I’m left wondering how the odd man out can be anyone but A.J. Today, Nova made the 2011 Twins look like the 2011 Twins, and the Yanks’ flight home was, I’m sure, a happy one.

Austin’s huge day leads SI to even huge-er win

Bullet points, once again…

  • Triple-A Scranton‘s game was suspended after two innings and change. Here’s the box score, if you care to peruse.
  • Double-A Trenton is still playing a game that’s been delayed by rain numerous times. They might suspend it before long. Here’s the box score.
  • High-A Tampa (win). Abe Almonte and Walt Ibarra each had two hits, but they were all singled. Rob Segedin had a pair of knocks and one was a homer. Jose Quintana threw six scoreless innings, striking out five and walking just one.
  • Low-A Charleston (loss). Shane Brown and Jeff Farnham, a pair of non-prospects, each had two hits. Brett Gerritse was the only interesting player on the mound, allowing one run in two innings of relief.
  • Short Season Staten Island (HUGE win). Tyler Austin may have had the greatest offensive day in DotF history: 6-for-6, four runs scored, three doubles, a homer, and four runs driven in. That’s nuts. Zach Wilson had three hits and was a single shy of the cycle, and Bobby Rinard had three hits. Two left the yard. Cito Culver and Mason Williams had a single each. Nothing interesting on the mound, but the box score is worth checking out for the offense.

The Rookie Level GCL Yankees had their regularly scheduled Sunday off day.

Sunday Night Open Thread

You know what’s great about this afternoon’s win? What Ivan Nova did to the Twins is basically what the Twins wish their pitchers would do each time out. Pitch to contact and get quick outs when you can, then reach back for the strikeouts when you need them. Good stuff from the kid, who’s certainly got the flashy stats (namely wins) to make a serious run at the Rookie of the Year Award.

Anywhere, that’s a video of an outfielder turning a triple play after the ball hits him in the head (h/t Ian Casselberry), and this is your open thread. The ESPN Sunday Night game features two teams in the middle of a heated race for a playoff spot the Cardinals and Cubs, and not even the pitching matchup is interesting: Jake Westbrook vs. Rodrigo Lopez. Yuck. That what they get for slaving to big market teams and rivalries. Talk about whatever you want right here, anything goes.

Yankees’ offense amongst expansion era elite

Last week at Over The Monster, former Baseball Prospectus writer Marc Normandin noted that the Red Sox staking a serious claim to being to being the best offense of the expansion era. The case is compelling. At the time, the Red Sox were second only to the 1976 Reds in TAv and were tied for second with the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers in wRC+. Normandin also noted that the Sox were going to be cutting some dead weight from their lineup, which made sense at the time but didn’t happen once Youkilis and Ortiz got hurt. Since that point, the Yankees themselves have moved up the charts and may in fact beat out the Sox for best offense in 2011 and one of the best offenses of the expansion era.

As of Friday, the Red sox had played 123 games and scored 653 runs, an average of 5.31 runs per game. The Yankees had played one fewer game than the Sox, but had scored seven more runs, giving them a league-leading total of 660 runs and an average of 5.41 a game. If they both continue on their current pace, the Sox should score 860 runs while the Yankees will score 876. The below chart contains this data, as well as their respective TAv and wRC+ scores.

Offense since expansion era as of 8/19/11.

As you can see, the Red Sox lead the Yankees by 2 hundreths of a point in TAv. The Yankees mark of .286 leaves them within striking distance of the 1982 Brewers, while the 1976 Reds are likely out of reach for both teams. In wRC+ the Yankees lead Boston by one point, and their mark of 119 is good enough for third since the start of the expansion era, an impressive feat. Their wOBA is .351, a mark higher than any other team in baseball.

There’s upside in the Yankee offense down the stretch. The team is supposed to get Rodriguez back today, and he’s obviously a huge boost. Personally, I expect Rodriguez to be fresh from all the time off and able to hit for more power than he did earlier in the season now that he’s had his troublesome knee repaired. His defense may suffer a bit in the first few weeks as he works to regain quickness and begins to trust his knee more and more, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him go on an offensive tear over the next five weeks. Yet, as the team rolls into September and gets closer to clinching a playoff spot, it’s possible that some of the lesser talented offensive players, whether they’re bench players or September callups, will get more and more playing time. As a result, I wouldn’t expect the team to finish markedly below or above their current marks. The 2011 Yankees likely won’t be the greatest offensive force since the dawn of the expansion era, but they may rank in the top 5, and they may be just as good or better than the 2009 Yankees. Last I recall that team did OK for itself come October.