Open Thread: Phillies trying to stay alive

This is neither the time nor the place for a nap, Cody. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

The Yankees and Phillies will always have something in common after meeting in the 2009 World Series, at least until this current crop of players moves on and some new blood trickles in. This year, both clubs were saddled with three games to one deficits in the League Division Series, and the Phightin’s will attempt to dig out of that hole tonight like the Yanks started to do yesterday.

Don’t get me wrong, by no means am I rooting for the Phillies. They could all go to hell for all I care. I just want to see some exciting baseball, preferably as much as possible. If the NLCS went seven games, I wouldn’t mind one bit. Roy Halladay gets the ball with the season on the line against Tim Lincecum, with the first pitch scheduled for just before 8pm ET on FOX. If you don’t want to talk about the game, that’s cool, chat about whatever you want instead. ‘Tis an open thread.

Add swollen right knee to Teixeira’s list of injuries

Mark Teixeira‘s season ended unceremoniously two nights ago when his right hamstring popped, but that was just the latest in a long line of the injuries the Yankee first baseman was dealing with. He’s been playing through a broken toe since Vin Mazzaro hit him with a pitch on August 31st, and he also received a cortisone shot in September after bruising his hand diving for a ball not long before that. Well, we can now add a swollen right knee to the list according to Marc Carig, and who knows how that happened. I don’t remember seeing Tex get hit by a pitch or fouling a ball off the knee, but I could very easily be wrong. For what it’s worth, he thinks that overcompensating for the toe injury led to the knee and hammy issues. One thing I do know for sure is that Teixeira really needs the time off this winter, dude took an absolute beating at the end of the year.

Baseball America’s 2010 Draft Report Cards

The gang at Baseball America is in the process of posting their draft report cards for each of the 30 teams, and yesterday they hit the Yankees. It’s a subscriber only piece, but I can tell you that they do say scouting director Damon Oppenheimer’s latest effort is a “high-risk/high-reward class with up-the-middle athletes such as [Cito] Culver, [Angelo] Gumbs and [Mason] Williams. With strong pitching at the top of the farm system, the Yankees gambled on prep talent, so it will take time to see if it pans out.”

As for some of the individual categories, Ben Gamel (10th rounder) was dubbed the best pure hitter, Williams (4th) the fastest runner, Gumbs (2nd) the best athlete, and Culver (1st) the best defensive player. Tommy Kahnle (5th) and Conor Mullee (24th) are each said to have the best fastball at 93-95 and touching 98. Chase Whitley‘s (15th) changeup is the best offspeed offering, and both he and Kahnle are the closest to having an impact in the big leagues. Unsigned righty Josh Dezse (25th) was hitting 95 this summer, but he’s heading to Ohio State and was best prospect the Yankees failed to sign. It’s a class heavy on potential and risk, but the Yanks needed this kind of infusion of upside and power arms. Hopefully a few of these guys pan out.

Feeding Josh Hamilton

Please don't let this happen again (Mark Humphrey/AP)

In the ALDS the Rays made the Rangers look like a beatable team. Sure, they had Cliff Lee ready to go twice in a series, but on offense the team didn’t look like much of a powerhouse. The main reason was that the Rays held down Josh Hamilton. The MLB WAR and wOBA leader went just 2 for 20 with two walks and no extra base hits in the series. This was cause for concern, because Hamilton was coming off a fairly serious rib injury. If the Yankees could similarly reduce Hamilton’s impact, they would have a much greater chance of winning the series.

It didn’t take more than one at-bat for Hamilton to show that his ALDS slump was nothing more than that. He took CC Sabathia deep to establish a 3-0 lead. For the series he is now 6 for 19 with four homers, a double, and five walks. That has helped his team claim a 3-2 edge in the series. While much of Hamilton’s turnaround is simply regression, there does seem to be another factor at play.

At ESPN 1040, Tommy Rancel, also of Rays blog The Process Report, explains the differences in how the Rays and the Yankees have approached Hamilton. During the regular season Hamilton fared best against fastballs and changeups. Throughout the ALDS the Rays attacked him with mostly curveballs. Of the 75 pitches he saw in those five games, 24 were curveballs — more than any other pitch. They threw him just 17 four-seamers and 13 two-seamers, while mixing in 15 changes. That seemed to work well, as not only did Hamilton not get on base, but he also struck out plenty.

The Yankees have apparently not learned from the Rays success. They have thrown Hamilton a four-seamer in 44 of 92 pitches. Almost all of these fastballs have come over the outer half of the plate, if they cross the plate at all. They have worked in plenty of curveballs and have had considerably success — Hamilton has swung and missed at 4 of 19 curves. But they haven’t worked in nearly enough other pitches. Instead they’re buttering Hamilton’s bread with fastballs.

This is Phil Hughes‘s most difficult task in Game 6. The season is in his hands. If he is to succeed he must hold Hamilton in check. That means breaking out the curveball often. There’s a chance that won’t work, but it’s better than continuing to go back with what we know doesn’t work. Josh Hamilton destroys fastballs. Stop throwing them to him so often.

Yankee pitchers performing well in the AzFL

Yeah yeah yeah, I know I’ve been slacking off big time with DotF lately. So sue me, playoff baseball is more important (and exciting). Anyway, let’s get you caught up on what’s been happening in the Arizona Fall League over the last few days…

Phoenix Desert Dogs (6-3 loss to Peoria on Monday)
Austin Romine, C: 1 for 4, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 PB – they stole three bases in three tries off him
Brandon Laird, LF: 1 for 4, 1 2B, 1 E (fielding) – first error in the outfield
Jose Pirela, 2B: 0 for 4, 1 K, 2 E (fielding, throwing)
Manny Banuelos: 4 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 6-5 GB/FB – 36 of 59 pitches were strikes (61.0%) … PitchFX had him topping out right around 94
Craig Heyer: 2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 6-0 GB/FB – 15 of 25 pitches were strikes (60%) … love the grounders

Phoenix Desert Dogs (7-3 win over Peoria on Tuesday)
Austin Romine, C: 1 for 4, 3 RBI – no one attempted to steal off him in this game
Brandon Laird, LF: 0 for 4 – threw a runner out at third
Ryan Pope: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 3-0 GB/FB – 19 of 29 pitches were strikes (65.5%)
George Kontos: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2-1 GB/FB – 15 of 22 pitches were strikes (68.2%)

Phoenix Desert Dogs (9-5 loss to Peoria on Wednesday)
Brandon Laird, LF: 1 for 5, 2 RBI, 2 K
Jose Pirela, 2B: 0 for 4, 1 K, 1 SB

Also, just so you don’t miss it, Jim Callis fielded a question about the best offensive prospect left in the minors in this week’s Ask BA. Callis went with Jesus Montero over guys like Mike Trout (Angels), Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Will Myers (all three Royals), saying there “isn’t a minor leaguer who can match [Montero’s] ability to hit for average and power.” He added that Bryce Harper, the first overall pick in this last year’s draft, has more power than Montero, but “but isn’t as polished or pure a hitter.” Sounds pretty good, eh?

Yanks send Shive, Cusick to Indians to complete Kerry Wood trade

Via Marc Carig, the Yankees have sent minor leaguers Andy Shive and Matt Cusick to Cleveland as players to be named later in the Kerry Wood trade. Shive had some sleeper potential as a relief potential, but he hasn’t really pitched much since having Tommy John surgery and will be 25-years-old in a few weeks without ever getting out of A-ball. Cusick, a 24-year-old utility infielder was the guy the Yanks got from Houston for LaTroy Hawkins a few years ago, and his best asset is probably his versatility. The Indians might have some use for him, but the Yanks definitely didn’t. No big loss at all.

ALCS Game Five Chat