Yanks can’t solve Bullington, fall 1-0 to Royals

We’ve seen this movie before, the one where the Yankees are unable to solve a pitcher they’ve never seen before. Righthander Bryan Bullington did the honors today, treating the Yankees like he did the opposition during his career at Ball State, the one that landed him a $4,000,000 signing bonus as the first overall pick in the 2002 draft.

(AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Shut Down

It’s one thing to struggle offensively when you strand baserunners and hit a few balls hard but right at people, but it’s another thing all together when your struggle offensively because you can’t get anyone on base or hit a ball with any authority. Those are the frustrating games, the ones that have fans questioning the team’s effort (which, of course, is nonsense, every team has games like this), and naturally that’s what happened to the Yanks on Sunday.

Bullington, about two weeks shy of his 30th birthday, had a fairly simple game plan in this one, but it worked to perfection. Using a steady diet of sinkers early in the count and a sweepy slider as his put away pitch, he carved right through the Yanks A- lineup with relative ease. He threw nine pitches in the 1st inning, seven in the 2nd, 15 in the 3rd, and another 11 in the 4th without allowing a runner to reach base.

(AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

The Yanks didn’t put a man on until Robbie Cano singled on a ground ball through the right side with one out in the fourth, but he was quickly erased when Lance Berkman grounded into an inning ending double ball. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Berkman got hurt on the play. That was a 17 pitch inning for Bullington, his high water mark on the day. Brett Gardner singled on a ground ball through the left side with one out the next inning but got thrown out trying to steal, so that was another quick and painless inning on 16 pitches. A seven pitch 7th and a 15 pitch 8th inning later, Bullington was out of the game having limited the Yanks to those two ground ball singles and a walk, never allowing a runner to go so far as second base.

Even though Bullington finished the game with a modest 9-9 GB/FB ratio, the only time the Yanks even seemed to put a charge in the ball came early on, when Nick Swisher and Alex Rodriguez sent balls to the warning track for outs, eerily similar to first few innings of last night’s game. Of the 25 batters Kansas City’s starter faced, 12 were dispatched on three pitches or less. Twelve! Bullington earned his first career win, showing everyone what the Pirates thought they were getting eight years ago.

One Was Enough

You never expect a first inning run to stand up against the vaunted Yankee offense, but that’s exactly what happened in this one. A.J. Burnett, very wild with his fastball in the early going, allowed a single to Willie Bloomquist with one out in the 1st inning, but a poor throw by Frankie Cervelli on a stolen base attempt allowed Bloomquist to move all the way to third. I’m telling you, if a team ever tries to steal centerfield, the Yanks got that covered with Cervelli and Jorge Posada.

(AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Billy Butler followed that up with a single to plate the lone run of the game, and even though Kansas City threatened on a hit by pitch and a walk to open up the 2nd, Burnett quickly settled down and not only escaped the inning unscathed, he went on to retire ten of the next 11 batters he faced, and 18 of the final 22 overall. He found his curve, was able to locate his fastball, and even dropped in a few changeups for good measure. It’s the phenomenon that is A.J. Burnett, it just comes and goes without warning.

Burnett spared the bullpen with the eight inning complete game, limiting the Royals to just four singles and that one run. It’s as tough of tough losses come, because he was absolutely in command for the final six-plus innings. This was the Yanks’ third complete game of the season (naturally, CC Sabathia has the other two), but none of them have lasted nine innings and the Yanks have lost two of them. Go figure.

Leftovers

(AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher, a.k.a. the one-two hitters that are supposed to set the table for everyone else, saw a total of 17 pitches in their seven plate appearances. Throw in Mark Teixeira and the top three hitters saw a grand total of 28 pitches in ten plate appearances. I’m all for jumping on a pitch that you think you can do something with, but damn, that sucks.

Not only did Cervelli throw the ball into center on that first inning stolen base attempt, he also hesitated to go after the ball as he backed up first base in the 6th inning, then made a poor throw to second to try to get Gregor Blanco. Blanco ended up on third. Not exactly a banner day for a guy that’s here for his defensive reputation.

A-Rod hit another ball hard and to the track, a good sign. He’s been working with hitting coach Kevin Long on clearing his hips that last few days, and so far the result has been some balls driven into left-center. Love it.

Marcus Thames took over for Berkman after he left with his injury, and worked an eight pitch walk off Bullington. It was easily the Yanks’ best at-bat of the day. I assume he’ll get the majority of the playing time at designated hitter while Berkman’s on the mend.

Brett Gardner was caught stealing just once in his first 18 attempts. He’s now been caught five times in his last 21 attempts. Still a 76.2% success rate, but seriously, he’s got to do a little better than that. In his defense, Gardner got a bad jump on his attempt in this game, and it still took a perfect throw to get him.

Three errors today (two by Cervelli on the throws, one by Cano), just two hits. I can’t imagine many teams have won games when they had more errors than hits throughout history.

The Rays beat the Orioles but the Rangers dropped the Red Sox, so the Yanks lead in the division shrinks to one while their lead in the Wild Card standings remains at six.

WPA Graph & Box Score

This game never felt as close at the graph says it was. MLB.com has your traditional box score, FanGraphs the non-traditional box score.

Up Next

Following six games in the sweltering heat of Texas and Kansas City, the Yankees will return home tomorrow for a seven game homestand against a pair of teams that are a combined 29 games under .500. Javy Vazquez and his dead arm will take on the flamethrowing Max Scherzer Monday evening.

Noesi, Stoneburner dominate in wins

Josh Norris chatted with Nardi Contreras briefly, who talked about who might be going to the Arizona Fall League this year. We’re still waiting for part two of the interview, but check it out anyway.

Triple-A Scranton (7-4 loss to Toledo)
Kevin Russo, LF-2B: 3 for 5, 2 R – 14 for his last 42 (.333)
Eduardo Nunez, SS: 0 for 0 – left the game after fouling a ball of his face in the very 1st inning
Greg Golson, PH-RF: 2 for 5, 2 2B, 1 K – 13 for his last 39 with four doubled, a triple & three homers
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 5, 1 RBI, 1 K – 15 for his last 35 (.429)
Juan Miranda, 1B, Jorge Vazquez, DH, Brandon Laird, 3B & Eric Bruntlett, 2B-SS: all 1 for 4 – Miranda K’ed … JoVa drove in a run & K’ed … Laird K’ed twice … Bruntlett hit a solo jack & K’ed twice
Colin Curtis, CF: 2 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K – three homers in his last nine games after hitting just one in his first 59 games
Chad Huffman, RF-LF: 0 for 4, 2 K
Lance Pendleton: 5 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 2-6 GB/FB – 55 of 91 pitches were strikes (60.4%)
Zack Segovia: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1-3 GB/FB – 24 of 35 pitches were strikes (68.6%)
Amaury Sanit: 1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 1-1 GB/FB – 15 of 22 pitches were strikes (68.2%)

[Read more…]

Open Thread: Walking on hallowed ground

I haven’t been to a game in a few weeks, so I haven’t been able to check up on the status of the demolition of the Old Stadium across the street. Yeah, I know it’s a giant hole in the ground now (and has been for quite some time), but building and construction nerds like me enjoy that stuff.

With a big ol’ tip of the cap to Sliding Into Home, Baseball-Fever.com user DN4L posted some pictures of the new walkway that allows you to walk across the land where the Old Stadium used to be, like the one you see above. From the looks of things, it allows you cut across from 161st St. to the middle of Macombs Dam Park, but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. That’s certainly useful if you’re coming from the New Metro North Station, which of course I never do.

Anyway, here is your open thread for the evening. The ESPN Sunday Night Game features the Mets and Phillies, with the primo pitching matchup of Mike Pelfrey vs. Kyle Kendrick. Santana vs. Halladay it is not. Enjoy the game if you partake, and feel free to talk about whatever you want.

Rehab Update: Pettitte & Aceves

News of Andy Pettitte‘s rehab setback scared us all to hell on Friday, but the good news is that his injured groin felt a-okay when he met the team in Kansas City yesterday. He expected to be sore the day after throwing his simulated game, but it looks like he lucked out. There is no firm plan in place to restart Pettitte’s rehab right now, but the team is going to very careful as you could expect. He’s going to play catch early next week, and if that goes well he’ll progress to a bullpen session and/or a simulated game and then hopefully a rehab start. This whole thing set him back about a week or so, from the looks of it.

As for Al Aceves, who threw two fine innings with Double-A Trenton on Friday, he’ll make another rehab start with the Thunder on Tuesday and throw three innings or 30 pitches. Joe Girardi indicated that the team isn’t so concerned with stretching him out to 50 pitches or whatever, but they do want to see him pitch on “short rest,” as in just a day or two. After all the setbacks, it’s been so far, so good with Ace’s rehab. Keep your fingers crossed.

Berkman day-to-day with jammed right ankle

Update (4:45pm): Berkman’s day-to-day with a jammed right ankle. Not too bad, I guess.

4:00pm: Lance Berkman left today’s game with an apparent ankle injury after stepping on the back of Bryan Bullington’s foot as the Royals’ righthander covered first on a double play attempt. Marcus Thames took his place as the designated hitter. No word on the severity of the injury, but we’ll keep you updated.

Berkman was 0-for-2 on the day, but he was hitting .333/.444/.600 in his previous 18 plate appearances, so it’s obviously not an insignificant loss.

Game 117: Wait, he’s still in baseball?

(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Eight years ago, the Pirates made one of many poor early draft selections when they held the first overall pick in 2002. Instead of taking a premium up-the-middle talent like say, B.J. Upton, or a super-high upside arm like Zack Greinke or Cole Hamels or Matt Cain, the Bucs went safe and took a college pitcher, admitting soon after the draft that they projected him as a “solid mid-rotation starter.” Not exactly first overall pick material. That pitcher’s name? Bryan Bullington. Today’s starter for the Royals? Bryan Bullington.

The righthander from Ball State has obviously flamed out, failing to meet even Pittsburgh’s modest expectations following a litany of injuries and ineffectiveness. He’s bounced around a bit in the last several seasons and now finds himself in the Kansas City rotation and starting against the defending World Champs. Bullington has never faced the Yankees before, so we’re going to have to deal with the whole “ZOMG a pitcher they’ve never seen before” phenomenon. Don’t ask me why, but I feel confident about this one (that means they’re doomed).

Here’s the lineup…

Jeter, SS
Swisher, RF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Berkman, DH
Granderson, CF
Gardner, LF
Cervelli, C

And on the bump, it’s A.J. Burnett. Hopefully he repeats the outing he had in Texas, that would be fantastic.

It’s a get-away day for the Yanks, so this one starts a little after 2pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Link Dump: Defensive metrics, Greinke, Papelbon and Berkman

A few Sunday morning links for your reading pleasure:

Tim Marchman of SI.com addresses the problem with defensive stats and I couldn’t agree with him more.  While there is some value in the various defensive stats and the other stats that derive from them (WAR, VORP, etc.) I don’t think we can throw these out there every time to prove that Player X is better than Player Y simply because he has a better WAR.  The data isn’t 100% reliable as is shown by different metrics for these stats. I don’t know that there will ever be a perfect fielding metric as it will always have some subjectivity, having one uniform stat would be a good start.

Zack Greinke is unhappy in Kansas City.  Let the speculation begin, especially in New York.  I’m sure this offseason will be full of Greinke trade rumors, and whether or not the Yankees are involved they will be linked.  I think the Royals should trade him, looking for a Teixeira to the Braves type of package as they won’t go anywhere while Greinke is under his current contract and look at what the Tex trade has done for Texas.  While he is more than just a rental, the Royals should strike and get as big a package as possible.  From the Yankees perspective I’d just go all in on signing Cliff Lee and let Greinke go elsewhere.  The cost will simply be too much if he does go anywhere.

Another blown save by Jonathan Papelbon (and a doozy) and another article questioning whether he should be demoted with Daniel Bard taking over as closer.  As a Yankees fan I can only dream the Sox decide to put Papelbon in the 8th.  That would be beyond fantastic.  When Papelbon has been bad this year he has been really bad, but I don’t think it’s time to go to Bard.  I hope both Yankee and Sox fans get their wishes and the switch is made. I can’t imagine what we’d hear coming from Papelbon’s mouth if it happened, but I would get my popcorn ready if it goes down.

Here’s an article about one of the newest (and already hated by some) Yankees, Lance Berkman. It’s mainly about what he went through at the trade deadline and what he’s gone through since.  Pretty interesting to note the teams he was ok going to and those he wasn’t.  I can’t imagine why San Diego was ever interested in him, were they going to put him in the OF?  Scary thought.  Anyway it’s an interesting take from his point of view and also take note of the comments below the article.  Only a few fans have commented but they seem to show what a class act Lance was and expect him to help the Yankees in a big way. So do I.