Lilly still an option for the Yanks?

(AP Photo/John Froschauer)

Yesterday it seemed as though the idea of acquiring Ted Lilly came and went. We learned that the Yankees won the waiver claim on Lilly, but also that the Dodgers pulled him back. That seemed like the end of it. The Yankees clearly had interest in re-acquiring Lilly for the stretch run, but the Dodgers apparently didn’t want to deal with just one team — if they wanted to deal with any teams at all. It’s a shame, since Lilly could have helped, but with the August 31 waiver trade deadline in the past, that notion is dead.

Or is it? According to a Daily News report, the Yankees think they can not only acquire Lilly, but also can add him to their postseason roster. This does strike me as a bit odd, because yesterday’s report indicated that the Dodgers pulled back Lilly from waivers. That means, as I understand it, that they can’t trade him without again exposing Lilly to waivers, at which point any team could claim him and the Dodgers could not again pull him back. But the Yankees, “believe there is a loophole that because they were awarded the claim before the first of the month, they could use Lilly on their postseason roster.”

This claim appears out of line with what we know about postseason eligibility rules. The general rule is that any player on the 25-man roster, disabled list, bereavement list, or suspended list can be added to a team’s roster in any round of the playoffs. For the Yankees that includes the 25 active guys plus Damaso Marte, Andy Pettitte, Alfredo Aceves, Lance Berkman, Nick Johnson, and Alex Rodriguez. If any of those players is still hurt come playoff time, the Yankees can substitute him for another player who was in their organization on August 31. Since Lilly can’t have been in the organization by that date, it seems that he would be ineligible for the postseason.

I did ask ESPN’s Keith Law about this. He’s not certain about the rule, but he doesn’t think such a loophole exists. He then asked a front office guy and got a similar response. Again, neither Law nor the front office guy is certain, but they both believe that the Yankees would not be able to pull off such a move. To be certain we’d probably have to leaf through the MLB rulebook, which is not available online (though if you’re a super geek you can find a copy on eBay). But from most indications the Yankees will not get their way here.

We’ve seen some strange things happen, and maybe the Yankees have done their homework and have found the loophole they need. Lilly would be a welcome addition to a staff that has hit something of a rough patch. But he’s not necessary, so it’s not the end of the world if theYankees can’t pull of this maneuver. It’s an interesting thought, but it looks like the Yanks will go to war with the guys they’ve got.

Glove slap to Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.

The low expectations for A.J. Burnett

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

With a patchwork rotation that includes a struggling Phil Hughes, a journeyman pitching way over his head and a 23-year-old with two Major League starts to his name as well as their ace, the Yanks have made it from one to A.J. Burnett start to another without a loss. It’s the first time since early July that the Bombers have won four in a row, and few fans expect Burnett to continue the streak.

We know how bad A.J. has been lately. The glow of his World Series duel with Pedro Martinez has long since faded into Yankee lore, and right now, we’re stuck with a guy who’s 3-10 with a 6.86 ERA since the beginning of June. We’re stuck with the innings eater who’s averaging under six frames a start. We’re struck with the strike-out pitcher whose K rate has dropped to 6.75 per 9 innings. And we’re stuck with the guy making $16.5 million a year through 2013. It isn’t a comforting thought.

Yet, the Yankees have little choice but to hand the ball over to Burnett tonight, and it’s in the club’s best interests to get A.J. straightened out. If we look beyond the numbers to the stuff as presented by MLB’s pitch f/x data, we can begin to see what ails A.J, and it seems to be a combination of a less effective curveball and a fastball without bite. What many have noticed about Burnett’s fastball this year is its velocity. He averaged over 94 miles per hour last year but has been sitting at 93 this year. The velocity chart shows a downward trend too, but a mid-90s fastball thrown thrown with proper movement would still be tough to hit.

Rather, Burnett’s problem appears to be just that movement. The horizontal movement on his fastball is nearly two inches less than what it was last year while the vertical movement is approximately an inch and a half more. So instead of tailing fastballs then run away to lefties and in on righties, his fastball seems to be moving less to the corners. Thus, Major League hitters will tee up on it.

The deuce seems to be giving Burnett problems as well. Last year, Fangraphs rated his curve as a plus pitch, 16 runs above average. This year, they rate it at -4.2 runs below average, and the pitch f/x data says the curve too hasn’t been moving horizontally as much as it has in the past. While Fangraphs didn’t smile upon Burnett’s fastball last year, without the movement on the fastball and with a stale curveball, the results have been, as we’ve seen, disastrous lately.

Right now, though, there are no other options. The Yanks could skip Burnett and hand the ball over to Chad Gaudin or Sergio Mitre for a turn, but they could also do that with Phil Hughes to give him some rest. They can’t take both Burnett and Hughes out of the rotation, and the Bombers need both ready to go come the American League Division Series. Without Andy Pettitte around, then, Burnett will get the ball every five days sink or swim, and to me, the data suggests that an adjusted release point and not more rest could solve some problems.

As a Yankee, Burnett has been an enigma. He signed an inflated contract because the Yanks desperately needed some power arms for their rotation, and his strike out numbers haven’t been where they were when he was in Toronto. He hasn’t been hitting his spots, and his walk rate over those last 15 starts is touching 4.5 per 9 innings. There is no Bad A.J. or Good A.J., only Infuriating A.J. Tonight, as the Yanks hold onto first place and try to ride out a winning streak, some A.J. will get the ball, and I’d be happy with next to nothing. Give me 6 innings, and give up 4 runs. That will satisfy my low expectations.

Yanks rout A’s en route to fourth straight win

Despite their generally mediocre starting pitching and lack of Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees managed to reel off three straight wins coming into Tuesday’s game against the Athletics, and they wasted no time making sure it would be four in a row. The struck early and often with a loud offensive attack that featured homers, double steals, triples from unexpected sources, you name it. They had it all working tonight, which led to a rather easy 9-3 win.

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Biggest Hit: Swish Goes Boom

The Yanks showed no mercy to Jersey boy Vin Mazzaro, jumping all over him for three runs in the very first inning. The A’s battled back for a run in the third, but that’s when our beloved Bombers put their foot down. Mazzaro had been flirting with disaster all night, but they weren’t going to let him off the hook anymore.

Derek Jeter started the frame off with a groundout before Mark Teixeira singled over the shift with one out. That’s where he remained when Nick Swisher came to the plate two batters later with two outs in the inning. Mazzaro was mixing his curveball, changeup, and fastball all night, but nothing seemed to work for him. His first pitch curve dropped out of the zone for a ball, then a fastball and changeup sailed up and away for strikes two and three, respectively.

With his quieter and more, dare I say, professional setup at the plate, Swish has turned it loose five times with a 3-0 count this year, getting four hits including a double. Prior to this season, he’d gone after a 3-0 pitch just two times (!!!) in his career. That’s quite a difference. I remember Jorge Posada going deep on a 3-0 count a few weeks ago, so maybe this is a new team-wide philosophy. Anyway, you know what happened next. Swisher swung at Mazzaro’s 3-0 heater, and tomahawked it deep into the second deck in rightfield for a 5-1 lead. The homer improved the Yanks’ chances of winning by 13.4%, easily the most damaging hit of the game.

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Honorable Mention: Jorge Goes For Three

We don’t see it often, so when it happens, we’ve gotta mention it. Jorge Posada, whose speed is typically measured in fractions of the Molina scale, hit a triple in this game, the tenth of his career. It was hit first three bagger since April 26th of 2008, and overall the Yanks are 8-2 when he hits manages to hit one.

As you’d expect, it wasn’t a standard rip the ball into the gap and run it out triple, it was a deep fly ball to left that bounced off the top of the wall and away from leftfielder Jeff Larish. Posada slid into third as the ball scooted by Kevin Kouzmanoff for a run scoring triple that put the Yanks ahead by three in the first inning. That’s pretty much when you knew things were going to go New York’s way.

Inefficient Phil

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Much like his last start, Phil Hughes wasn’t at his best in this one, running up a high pitch count and hurting himself with walks. It wasn’t quite as bad as his outing against the Blue Jays, but then again the A’s aren’t as good as our neighbors to the north. Four of the nine batters to reach base against Hughes do so with two strikes, and overall they fouled off 19 pitches, eight with two strikes. He walked five guys on the night (just one strikeout), giving him ten total walks in his last two starts after walking just nine in his previous eight starts combined.

It was just five innings of work, but Phil needed 98 pitches to do it, and just 52 of those 98 pitches (53.1%) went for strikes. Maybe it’s just me, but Hughes definitely looks like he’s in a need of a little breather, he’s been laboring an awful lot of late. Perhaps the Yanks will skip his next start or two to give him a rest, maybe they’ll just wait until later in the month once they have a playoff spot clinched. Yeah, his previous career high is 146 innings, but that was four years ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if all the work this season was catching up to him.

Leftovers

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

As you can imagine, there were several big performances offensively. Brett Gardner singled, walked, stole two bases, and scored a pair of runs. Teixeira had two hits including his 30th homer of the season. Curtis Granderson ran into one for his 15th homer of the season, his fifth since revamping his swing earlier this month. Ramiro Pena picked up yet another hit, and is now eight for his last 28, a more than respectable .286 batting average.

Speaking of Tex’s homer, the guy that caught it was Rob Iracane’s father. Rob’s been a friend of RAB for quite some time and one of the fellas behind the always entertaining Walkoff Walk. Cool little moment for them, glad they got some face time on YES.

Marcus Thames went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He’s allowed to have one of these every once in a while. I guess.

Very quietly, Chad Gaudin had himself a nice little August. He threw three innings of one run ball tonight, pushing his ledger for the month to 13 innings, five runs, and ten strikeouts. Three of those five runs came in his last time out, so he was effective much more often than not over the last 31 days. The lone run in this game came on a seventh inning solo homer with the Yanks up by seven, excusable even by the strictest of standards.

Both the Rays and Red Sox lost, so the Yanks now have a one game lead in the division and an eight game lead on the Wild Card. Can’t complain about that. Nope, can’t complain at all.

WPA Graph & Box Score

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love it when these things hug the Yanks’ side for four-plus innings. MLB.com has the box score and the video, FanGraphs the other stuff.

Up Next

Same two teams tomorrow night when A.J. Burnett tries to straighten himself out against personal fave Brett Anderson. With any luck, the Yanks will make it five in a row.

Varce dominates as Staten Island splits two

Just a heads up, the minor league season comes to an end next Monday (High-A Tampa and Short Season Staten Island finish up a day earlier). Triple-A Scranton and Double-A Trenton have already clinched playoff spots, and Tampa should do the same relatively soon. Low-A Charleston and SI are out of the race. Don’t be surprised if Bradley Suttle gets bumped up to Trenton for the playoffs with Rob Lyerly taking his place in Tampa. The Thunder have been missing a bat since Brandon Laird‘s promotion. There will also be some pitching moves as well, starting today with George Kontos, John Van Benschoten, Bryan Mitchell, Freddy Lewis, and … wait for it … Pat Venditte!

Meanwhile, Jesus Montero, Eduardo Nunez, and Jon Albaladejo were named to the Triple-A International League end of season All Star Team, so congrats to those guys.

Triple-A Scranton (6-0 loss to Lehigh Valley)
Kevin Russo, 2B: 1 for 3, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 CS – just seven for his last 28 (.250)
Greg Golson, CF & Jesus Montero, C: both 1 for 4 – Golson doubled & K’ed
Juan Miranda, 1B: 0 for 4
Jorge Vazquez, DH, Chad Huffman, LF & Eric Bruntlett, SS: all 0 for 3 – JoVa K’ed twice, Huffman & Bruntlett once
Colin Curtis, RF: 1 for 3 – threw a runner out at second
Brandon Laird, 3B: 0 for 2, 1 BB, 1 K – two for his last 28 (.071)
Lance Pendleton: 6 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 11-4 GB/FB – 60 of his 104 pitches were strikes (57.7%)
Zack Segovia: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 0-4 GB/FB – 23 of 34 pitches were strikes (67.6%)

[Read more…]

Yanks set to expand active roster

As the Yanks have wrapped play on August 31, they’ll soon have the option to expand their active roster to 40, and according to Chad Jennings, the team is going to take advantage of the added depth. The Journal News beat writer says that Greg Golson, Jonathan Albaladejo and Chad Moeller will be summoned to the big leagues. The remainder of the Scranton roster will have to take aim at the AAA title without its record-setting closer. Moeller’s promotion will require a 40-man move, but there’s a lot of dead weight on that thing right now.

In addition to these call-ups, the Yankees will activate Lance Berkman from the DL on Sept. 1st as well. Alfredo Aceves could rejoin the Yanks too, and A-Rod will be returned to us on Sunday once his 15-day stint is up as well. For now, Jesus Montero will remain at AAA.

Heyman: Yankees won claim for Ted Lilly

Via Jon Heyman, the Yankees recently won the waiver claim for Dodgers lefthander Ted Lilly. Team Torre pulled Lilly back, however, so he will not be traded to anyone, let alone the Bombers. Since the Yanks have the best record in baseball and thus are unable to block anyone, the fact that they claimed him indicates to me that they had sincere interest in acquiring him. Given the struggles of A.J. Burnett, Dustin Moseley, and Javy Vazquez, I can’t say I blame them, though I’m not confident with Lilly in the AL East. Oh well, moot point now anyway.

Game 132: Keep this train a-rollin’

Because these guys have, sadly, not been around much:

A wise man once said: “We won yesterday. If we win today, that’s two in a row. If we win tomorrow, that’s called a winning streak. It has happened before.” The Yanks haven’t had many winning streaks in August, but they’re on one right now thanks to a win last night. Now it’s time to keep that train a-rollin’ to four in a row.

Taking the hill for Oakland will be 23-year-old New Jersey native Vin Mazzaro. He’ll be making his third appearance against the Yankees tonight, and his second in front of the Yankee Stadium crowd. Last time he pitched here he allowed six runs in 4.1 innings. This year he’s been a bit better overall. Like Trevor Cahill, he seems to benefit a ton from the Oakland defense. His 3.61 ERA is quite a distance from his 4.59 FIP and 4.50 xFIP, and about a mile from his 5.07 tERA. Could we see the second night in a row of statistical correction?

Phil Hughes is coming off his worst start of the year, a 3.2-inning, 102-pitch effort in Toronto last week. He’ll look to get back into the six-inning groove tonight. We pay attention to Hughes’s starts because he’s good and has the potential to be better, but his starts are even more interesting now. He’ll enter uncharted innings territory tonight after just 1.2 innings, so it’s tough to know what to expect. I’m also curious to see if he ever plans to work in more curves and changes, or if he’s going to stick with his bread and butter, results be damned, for the rest of the season.

Lineup:

1. Brett Gardner, LF
2. Derek Jeter, SS
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Robinson Cano, 2B
5. Nick Swisher, RF
6. Jorge Posada, C
7. Marcus Thames, DH
8. Curtis Granderson, CF
9. Ramiro Pena, 3B

And on the mound, number sixty-five, Phil Hughes.