Pettitte dealing with ‘stiff’ back problems

As the Yankees gear up for another October run, they’re doing so with major question marks surrounding their pitching staff. A.J. Burnett has lost the ability to pitch consistently or effectively, Javier Vazquez is a nonentity at this point and Phil Hughes is bumping up against an innings limit of sorts. So it is with more than a bit of dismay that we learn about an new injury: Andy Pettitte, reports Mark Feinsand, is battling through a minor back injury the team believes to be muscular.

According to the Daily News scribe, Pettitte felt his back stiffen up during his 3.1-inning start against the Red Sox on Friday, and he attributed this injury to his inability to command his pitches. When the Yanks clinched a playoff spot on Tuesday, the team immediately postponed Pettitte’s outing to give his back a few days of rest. “The next day, I knew I was going to be fine,” Pettitte. “But you don’t want to have anything going on, especially after what I’ve been through with my groin.”

Yanks’ skipper Joe Girardi downplayed the injury. “It’s always a concern whenever a guy is dealing with something,” Girardi said to Feinsand. “But it was muscular, so you have to believe he’ll bounce back. It’s a little concern.” Pettitte is still slated to start on Friday, and Yankees fans will be holding their collective breaths in the meantime. It’s not a stretch to say that the Yanks’ championship hopes rest on Pettitte’s back holding up for four or five more starts.

Vazquez gets bombed as Yanks drop finale to Blue Jays

A few people will miss Javy Vazquez, but I’m sure the overwhelming majority were glad to see Joe Girardi come out of the dugout and remove him from the game for the final time in his Yankee career. Vazquez gave up hard-hit ball after hard-hit ball in his 4.2 innings of work, which resulted in seven Blue Jays runs. The bullpen would hold them down, but the offense couldn’t capitalize on a rally and ended up dropping their 10th game of the season against the Blue Jays 8-4.

Biggest hit: All those homers

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette)

Entering the game Vazquez had allowed 29 home runs, giving him the highest HR/9 rate in the league among pitchers with 150 IP. That went up in a hurry. A night after he recorded the Blue Jays only run on a homer off CC Sabathia, Travis Snider took Vazquez deep in the Jays’ first at-bat. Vazquez gave up a number of hard-hit balls that inning, but did manage to escape without allowing another run. That would have to wait until the second.

With none on and two outs in the second John Buck whaled a low, outside pitch over the wall in right-center, giving the Jays a 2-0 lead. Then in the fifth, this time with two men on, Vazquez gave up another long fly, this one to Aaron Hill. That made the game 7-0. That is almost certainly the last pitch he’ll throw as a Yankee.

I know there are plenty of fans who revel in Javy’s failures in pinstripes, but I’m as saddened by the end of his second stint as I was at the first. After 2004 I was sure that he would bounce back with a solid 2005. Trading him for Randy Johnson, I thought, was not such a great idea. This time around I realize that he has to go. He’ll sign for cheap somewhere, and while in a way I’d like that to be with the Yankees, I realize the impossibility of the idea.

Biggest bummer: Swish kills the rally

The Yanks actually fought their way back into the game in the sixth inning, right after Royce Ring came in and ended the game-killing fifth. A-Rod led things off with his 30th homer of the season, which gave him his 14th 30 HR, 100 RBI season, and his 13th straight. After Brett Cecil plunked Robinson Cano and walked Austin Kearns the Yanks had a shot. Cervelli started the carousel, singling in Cano and moving Kearns to third.

The mighty Greg Golson followed with his own single, which set up the Yanks with first and second with one out and drove Cecil from the game. In came Jason Frasor, who gave up a single to Derek Jeter. Nick Swisher came to the plate as the tying run, and he was backed by Teixeira and Rodriguez. But Swisher swung at the first pitch and grounded it to Aaron Hill, who started an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.

This, that, and the other

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette)

Andrew Brackman? Anyone? Bueller?

Francisco Cervelli in September: .367/.512/.433 in 43 PA. BABIP: .440. Hot and cold, hot and cold.

Alex Rodriguez has 40 fewer PA than Miguel Cabrera but has driven in just three fewer runs. A-Rod might be having a sub-par season by his standards, but he’s still coming up with men on base (.300/.372/.571).

If Mark Teixeira catches A-Rod’s throw Joba’s appearance looks a lot better.

At this point, is Sergio Mitre a better option than Chad Gaudin for the postseason roster? Ideally they’d carry neither — in fact, I submit that Royce Ring is a better choice then both.

Box and graph

I coulda done without this one.

More at FanGraphs. Boxy thing here.

Up next

It’s an off-day as the team heads back stateside and into Boston. Andy Pettitte and Daisuke Matsuzaka do battle on Friday.

2011 Draft: Pirates clinch first overall pick

With last night’s Mariners win, the Pirates have officially clinched the first overall pick in the 2011 draft. Pittsburgh and Seattle could still finish with identical records, but the Bucs would be awarded the top pick in that case because they had a worse record last season. Next year’s draft class is absurdly deep with high-end elite talent, offering no fewer than five players that would be legitimate first overall talents in a normal draft class and about 15 or 20 that would be top ten picks (at this point, these things always change in the spring).

As for the Yankees, they are currently unable to pick any higher than 27th overall and no lower than 33rd overall. Of course everyone and their mother expects them to sign some kind of Type-A free agent this winter, so that first round pick is probably moot anyway. It’s not an ideal class to forfeit a high pick, but you always take Cliff Lee over the prospect. Always.

Game 159: Where are the scrubs?

The day after clinching it’s expected that we’ll see the AAA lineup. After last year’s clincher Girardi penciled these names into the lineup:

1. Brett Gardner, CF
2. Melky Cabrera, LF
3. Robinson Cano, 2B
4. Jorge Posada, DH
5. Eric Hinske, 3B
6. Shelley Duncan, RF
7. Juan Miranda, 1B
8. Francisco Cervelli, C
9. Ramiro Pena, SS

Today’s lineup has far more regulars. I guess there’s good reason for that. Unlike last year, the Yanks aren’t quite done. They’re in the playoffs, yes, but they’re still in a battle of sorts for the AL East crown. Before the game Joe Girardi said that the team is still “playing to win this division,” so he’s not going to rest everyone at once. The off-day, he said, will give him a chance to get guys two days off. Some get today, some get Friday. If they stick to this, Matsuzaka will face quite a scrubby lineup.

Javier Vazquez gets the ball tonight in what could be his final audition for the postseason roster. I think he makes it regardless, but if he bombs there has to be a chance that they leave him off in favor of a more effective pitcher. He did settle down after plunking three straight batters last time out, so maybe he’s onto something. If he pitches well, look for the inevitable article asking whether he pitched his way into the ALDS rotation.

(There is no way this can happen if the Yankees are sane, so I suggest ignoring these.)

Anyway, here’s the lineup. I guess Jeter, Swisher, Tex, A-Rod, and Cano will sit on Friday in Boston.

1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Nick Swisher, RF
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Robinson Cano, 2B
6. Marcus Thames, DH
7. Austin Kearns, LF
8. Francisco Cervelli, C
9. Greg Golson, CF

And on the mound, number thirty-one, Javier Vazquez.

A rotation for the next few days but not yet the ALDS

Yankee manager Joe Girardi has unveiled his rotation for the first two weekend games against the Red Sox, but while we know that CC Sabathia is starting Game 1 of the ALDS, the Yanks’ skipper stopped short of revealing the Games 2 and 3 hurlers. As Marc Carig reported, Andy Pettitte will draw the start on Friday night, and A.J. Burnett will mercifully make his last regular season start of the year. Sunday’s starter remains to be announced.

I wouldn’t read into this announcement at all as far as a playoff rotation is concerned. Any of the Yanks’ starters could pitch Game 2 of the ALDS, and I’m reluctant to believe the Yanks would opt with A.J. over Phil Hughes, innings limit and all. For his sake and ours, I hope A.J. has a solid outing on Sunday, but when the games count again, Phil should get the ball.

ALDS tickets a hot commodity

At 10:01 a.m. this morning, I logged onto to Yankees.com hopping to find a seat — any seat — for the Yanks’ American League Division Series games. After watching the Ticketmaster website do its thing, I was greeted with a “No tickets found” page. No matter where I searched, I couldn’t find one single ticket for sale. Seats, it seemed, were wiped out in the presales for season ticket holders.

Luckily for us, the secondary market is alive and well. Our partners at TiqIQ tell us that, for the ALDS, Yankee Stadium tickets are going for 74 percent above the regular season average and are selling for well above face value. That’s hardly surprising, and this is a trend that will continue throughout the playoffs. Tickets for Game 3 are going for, on average, $202 even though it’s unlikely that the Yanks will host three home games during the first round of the playoffs. The sellers can keep their profits if the Yanks do not enjoy home field advantage, and buyers can get some of their money back.

Meanwhile, RAB Tickets should be your place for playoff tickets (and, yes, we get a cut of the sales). For Home Game 1, date still to be determined, there are 8343 tickets available, and for Home Game 2, we have 9511 listings. Check it all out at RAB Tickets.

After the jump, a neat graph of average World Series ticket price vs. the number of tickets available. Tickets for the Giants, Phillies and Rangers are going for top dollar. [Read more…]

The CC Sabathia Appreciation Thread

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The word ace gets thrown around quite a bit these days. Every team has one if you consider an ace to be the best pitcher on a given staff, and it’s usually whoever is designated as the Opening Day starter regardless of merit. By that definition, guys like Zach Duke and Scott Feldman are on par with Roy Halladay and Felix Hernandez. Of course that’s completely wrong, because not every team has an ace. In fact, there are probably fewer true aces than teams out there.

But the Yankees have an ace. They have a guy they can lean on in big games, that they can count on for dominant performances and scores of innings. A pitcher they can start in Games One, Four, and Seven of a playoff series on almost any amount of rest . A pitcher that when his turn comes every fifth day, a win isn’t just likely, it’s expected. That man is CC Sabathia, who almost singlehandedly pitched he Yankees into the postseason with eight-and-a-third dominant innings against the Blue Jays on Tuesday night.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Since signing that mammoth seven-year, $161M deal in December of 2008, Sabathia has been everything the Yankees expected him to be and then some. He hasn’t missed a single start, throwing a total of 467.2 innings across the last two seasons, earning every one of his MLB leading 40 wins over that time. His playoff performance last season was simply masterful, as he took ALCS MVP honors thanks to a pair of dominant eight inning outings against the Angels (one on three day’s rest) before limiting the Phillies to five runs in 13.2 innings in the World Series. The Yankees went 4-1 in his five postseason starts, and if a Game Seven was needed against the Phillies, he was ready to go yet again on short rest.

Aside from his work on the field, Sabathia has gone above and beyond the call of duty in the clubhouse. He’s helped transform a far too corporate and uptight environment into one filled with more smiles and comradery than anytime in the recent past, and that’s just me speaking based on what I’ve seen as an outsider. He’s arranged outings to basketball games and what not with teammates during Spring Training and even the regular season, something we never ever ever saw happen before he got here. Despite all that talk about his preference to remain close to home on the West Coast, Sabathia has fully embraced New York and his place as a Yankee. For once, it’s a player with a larger than life personality that no one dislikes.

CC turned 30-years-old just over two months ago, so he’s still very much in the prime of his career. He’s proven to be more than capable of handling the workload required of an ace and then some, and he’s become every bit a piece of New York as the Yankees themselves. There isn’t enough that can be said about how tremendous Sabathia has been in his two years as a Yankee, but I want you to try anyway. Give up to the big man, because we all know he’s gone above and beyond for us fans.