The case of the missing change up

Hughes gears up to throw a curveball. Credit: AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

Lost in the eighth inning implosion of Joba Chamberlain in Saturday’s Yankees-Mariners affair was the change-up clinic but Javier Vazquez and Felix Hernandez put on. The two both throw devastating changes but with different approaches to the pitch. As the game wore on, the importance of the change, something plaguing Yanks’ youngster Phil Hughes, came into focus.

Javy’s pitch is a classic change. With his fastball sitting at 89 miles per hour, he throws the change ten miles per hours slower. Doing so allows his fastball to sneak up on hitters, and on Saturday night, as Javy no-hit the Mariners for the first five innings, the change shined. He threw 23 of them. Fifteen of those went for strikes with seven of the swing-and-miss and variety. As his four-seamer averaged 89.65 mph, the change at 79.55 mph worked wonders.

Opposing Javy was King Felix with a different approach to the change. Hernandez’s off-speed pitch isn’t nearly as off speed as Javy’s. On Saturday, for instance, his four-seamer sat at 94.5 miles per hour while the change clocked in at 89.96. The 4.5-mph difference makes an impact, but it doesn’t lend the pitch the same effect as Javy’s. Rather, Hernandez throws a change that moves. The vertical break on his change was over five inches, enough to watch batters swing well over the top of it. He threw 15 changes, 11 went for strikes and three were swings and misses.

We don’t need a clinic in pitching from Felix Hernandez to see what a sinking change up can do though because the Yanks have their own specialist in that field. On the season, CC Sabathia‘s change-up averages seven miles per hour slower than his fastball and has been sinking on average 6.9 inches. Sabathia’s change has always been a part of his success, and already this the pitch has been 7.1 runsabove average for the big man.

Enter Phil Hughes. A big part of the Yankees’ narrative coming out of Spring Training this year concerned Hughes’ change-up. Because, the motif went, Hughes had developed a third Major League quality pitch, the Yankees felt confident putting him into the starting rotation on the basis of a strong spring. Yet, Hughes’ change hasn’t made much of an appearance this year. The Fangraphs’ data isn’t entirely accurate, but Hughes has thrown only around two percent changes, and the pitch has been a below average one for the Yanks’ right-hander. For the pitches Pitch f/x counts as changes, the velocity separate has been around eight miles per hour, and the downward movement at 6.6 inches, both very good numbers.

By and large, though, Hughes’ change-up has been one of the major questions hovering around the Yanks’ pitching staff this season. Where has this pitch been? Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal asked just that question last week, and the Yankees insist they’re still working on it with Hughes. Jorge Posada spoke about their reasons for avoiding the pitch. “It’s only going to get better if we call it, but as a catcher, you don’t want to get beat on a fourth pitch, so you have to pick the spot to do it,” the Yanks’ cathcer said. “We know it’s there. It’s mainly my fault and probably Cervelli’s fault. We need to not forget about it and call it at times.”

Costa discusses how Hughes’ success with his fastball has led to his eschewing the change. Phil knows the heat can blow away most hitters, and as he dominates hitters during the first time through the lineup, there’s no place for the change. This pitch should come to play later, and as Costa notes, in admittedly small samples, Hughes’ ERA goes from 2.40 in the first three innings of the game to 5.14 after as hitters adjust to the four-seamer.

Still, Hughes maintains that this pitch will be a part of his arsenal this season, and he says he hasn’t shied away from throwing it during his bullpen sessions. “I really feel like it’s there,” he said. “Sometimes I just get away from it. One hundred pitches goes by quick. Before you know it, you haven’t thrown many…”I’d like to say that down the line, you probably will see more of it.”

I too would like to see more of it. Despite an All Star Game appearance in which he got dinked to death by a seeing-eye single, Hughes is on the brink of stardom. He should be a mainstay at the front of the Yankee rotation for years to come, but he and the team’s future need that change up. As the Yanks move into the heat of a pennant race and teams get their second or third looks at Phil this year, Hughes will have to throw that pitch to stay ahead of the game.

Looking at the defense of Yankee catchers

One of the Yankees’ obvious weaknesses this season is their defense behind the plate. Jorge Posada has long been a butcher back there, and even though Frankie Cervelli was voted as the organization’s best defensive catcher several years in a row by Baseball America, extended playing time in 2010 has exposed him as no better than average defensively. At least for now, I mean, he could always improve with more reps and experience.

Posada has thrown out just 19% of attempted basestealers this year, Cervelli even less at 14%, and that’s just part of it. The passed balls have allowed countless runners move up, and there’s no better example of it than this game against the Mariners two weeks ago. Posada allowed two runners to move up on a passed ball in the 8th inning, and one pitch later a two run single tied the game. While not completely responsible for the blown lead, the defensive miscue was certainly a big factor.

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Considering how much we’ve talked about catcher’s defense this year, I wanted to try and come up with an actual number for how many runs the Yanks’ backstops have cost them defensively this season. Because there are so many immeasurables when to comes to catcher’s defense, we’re going to have to stick with the basics: stolen bases, caught stealings, wild pitches, and passed balls. Of course this isn’t perfect, because it’s not just catchers that factor into those four stats, pitchers have a say as well. The broad assumption in this analysis is that the pitcher’s effect will even out when looking at the 30 teams across the first half of the season.

Stolen bases and caught stealings are nice and easy to understand, a guy either successfully stole a base or he didn’t. There’s a little more of a gray area with wild pitches and passed balls because official scorers and their sometimes questionable decisions come into play, and there are certainly wild pitches that a catcher doesn’t even have a chance to make a play on (say a pitch over everyone’s head to the backstop). I’m looking at it in a bottom line kinda way, did the catcher stop the ball or not? Good catchers will still stop a fair share of would-be wild pitches, and even then we’ll assume the number of plays a backstop had no chance on will even out given the sample.

I tallied up each teams total in the four stat categories for the 2010 season, then assigned run values to each event based on The Book. Defensively, a stolen base against costs a team 0.16 runs, but throwing a runner out trying to steal saves 0.45 runs. You don’t need to be a sabermetric whiz to understand that losing a baserunner hurts a team more than moving one up 90 feet helps. Wild pitches cost 0.26 runs, passed balls 0.28. It makes sense that those two are close in value, since they’re basically the same thing with two different names. I turned everything into a rate stat for comparison purposes, arbitrarily selecting 180 innings as my unit of time (20 games).

The big league average is exactly two runs lost defensively per 180 innings, which passes the sniff test because it’s tough for a catcher to prevent runs in this analysis. He’d have to throw out a ton of runners to actually save runs, which just isn’t realistic. It basically comes down to who gives up the fewest runs. The AL average is 2.2 runs lost, the NL 1.9. I ran the numbers just to see if the small ball NL approach had a big impact in the numbers, but it’s good to see that they’re close. I’m going to use ML average for the rest of the post.

You can see my entire table of results here. The table’s too big to embed, so just click the link if you want to see the full breakdown by team. My fancy acronym for this stat is cRSAA/180, which stands for catcher’s runs saved above average per 180 innings. Yes, I just wanted a nerdy name, so sue me. All I did was figure out how many total runs a team lost defensively per 180 innings, and compared it to that 2.0 ML average. The Cardinals have the game’s best defensive catching corps, saving 1.9 runs above the league average per 180 innings. This passes the sniff test because Yadier Molina has a reputation as a studly defensive backstop. The Diamondbacks are on the other end of the spectrum at 2.4 runs below average. Apparently they’re bad at everything.

The Yankees came in at 1.4 runs below average, tied for fourth worst in the game. The only teams below them are the D-Backs, Pirates (-1.6 cRCAA/180) and Angels (-1.5), and they were tied with both the Giants and Red Sox. Over a 162 game season, assuming nine inning games, the Yanks’ catchers will cost them 11.34 runs defensively, which is basically one win. For comparison’s sake, St. Louis would pick up a win and half because of their catcher’s defense, Arizona would lose another two games. The different between the best and worst teams is three and a half wins, hardly insignificant.

It probably didn’t surprise you that the Yanks came in towards the bottom of the pack, or at least it shouldn’t have. Let’s break it down individually for Posada and Cervelli…

First of all, apologies to Chad Moeller. Secondly, as you can see neither Posada or Cervelli are assets on defense. Posada has cost the team 1.8 runs below average with his glove for every 180 innings he’s caught this year, Cervelli a touch less at 1.1. If Posada were to catch 120 nine inning games, his defense would cost the team 10.8 runs, or one win. Of course his offense, even at 2010 levels, would provide just over 17 runs, so the next gain is six runs, for all intents and purposes.

Cervelli, on the other hand, would cost the team 6.6 runs below average if he played 120 nine inning games, and his bat would also be another 7.4 runs below average assuming 2010 levels of production. All told, the Yankees would be 14 runs in the red with Cervelli as their starting catcher compared to six runs in the black with Posada. It’s a 20 run difference, two wins in a tight AL East. This assumes a set designated hitter and that only one of the two catchers play per game.

Yes, this is an extremely oversimplified way of looking at things. There are parts of catcher’s defense that we can’t even begin to quantify, but the information we do have tells us that the Yanks’ catchers are hurting them with the glove. Posada mitigates all of that damage with his stick, Cervelli not so much. He’s supposed to be just a backup though, so in theory it shouldn’t hurt as much. You expect those guys to be below average. The real problem is that Cervelli has had to play so much this season that both his bat and glove have become detriments to the team in a very real way.

Catching issues are hard to hide just because of the nature of the game. The catcher is in on every play, every pitch. The demands of the position are so extraordinary that most of the time you’re just looking for the least harmful option. You don’t expect offense, you just hope for something more than complete incompetence.  The Yankees’ catchers are holding them back a bit this year, but their pitching and offense is good enough to more than make up that lost win in the standings.

Catch RAB on the Pulse Network’s Sports Buzz

A little late-morning self-promotion: I’ll be making a live appearance at 12 noon today on the Pulse Network’s Sports Buzz show. They’re on right now, talking with Dan Duquette, and you can watch it live right here. I’m calling in to talk about Joe Girardi‘s All Star Game decisions, where the Yanks stand heading into the second half, what potential moves the team could make before the trade deadline and, of course, George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard.

Poll: Favorite moment of the first half

As Yankee fans, we’re privy to many exciting and memorable moments. We have Aaron Boone taking Tim Wakefield deep, Derek Jeter diving into the stands, David Cone throwing a perfect game on the same day Don Larsen threw out the first pitch, Jim Leyritz turning a World Series around with one swing of the bat … I could go on and on, but we only have so much bandwidth to spare. The first half of the 2010 season was no different, as the Yanks again supplied plenty of memorable moments.

Today we’re going to vote for which first half moment was our favorite. After some consultation with Ben, Joe, and a few others, I picked out six of the best moments of the season’s first three months and present them below, not that you’ll need the refresher course. Once you relive the magic, vote in the poll at the bottom of the post.

April 7th: Granderson takes Papelbon deep (video)
The season was just two games old at this point, but new centerfielder Curtis Granderson had already made his mark in pinstripes by homering in his very first plate appearance of the year. After splitting the first two games of the series, the Yanks and Boston headed into extra innings tied at one in the third game. Jonathan Papelbon was on the bump for the Red Sox in the 10th inning, having already thrown a perfect 9th on just ten pitches. The first batter of extra innings was Granderson, who fouled off a first pitch fastball before connecting with a chest-high heater on pitch number two. The ball landed several rows deep in the right field seats, giving the Yanks a lead they would protect for the win. It takes quite a bit to win over Yankee fans, but hitting a pair of homers against the Sox in the first three games of the season is a good start.

April 21st: Hughes flirts with a no-hitter (video)
I wouldn’t call it controversial, but the team’s decision to go with Phil Hughes as the fifth starter in 2010 certainly wasn’t unanimously agreed with by the fans. It took Phil all of two starts to prove the Yanks right. After a solid outing against the Angels first time out, Hughes took the mound in front of his parents in Oakland and simply dominated the A’s. He started the game by striking out Cliff Pennington before walking Daric Barton on four pitches, but that was all the A’s would get for a while. Hughes retired the next 20 batters he faced, and there he was in the 8th inning just six outs away from a no-hitter with a very manageable pitch count of 85. Unfortunately, long-time Athletic Eric Chavez singled on a first pitch fastball off Hughes (literally) to start the 8th, Oakland’s first base hit of the game. Phil faced three more batters before giving way to the bullpen, and even though he didn’t finish off the no-no or even the game, he showed everyone why the Yanks were right to make him the fifth starter.

May 8th: Tex goes deep, again and again and again (video)
Mark Teixeira‘s early season slumps have become a rite of spring, and things seemed to be turning the corner in early May, just like last season. The Yanks were back in Boston with Tex sporting a .181/.328/.295 batting line, though he got the scoring started with a 3rd inning run scoring single. That was his least productive hit of the day. Two innings later he took Clay Buchholz deep to right for a solo shot, and then two innings after that he did the exact same thing to Ramon Ramirez. Two homers from Tex were a godsend given his performance to that point (he had two homers total coming into the game), but he tacked on a two run shot in the 9th off outfielder turned mop-up man Jonathan Van Every for his third homer of the game. Teixeira raised his season OPS from .623 to .740 in this one game, simultaneously becoming the first Yankee to have a three homer game in Fenway since some dude named Lou Gehrig.

May 14th: A-Rod slams the Twins (video)
Much like Teixeira, the 2010 season started off a little slowly for Alex Rodriguez. He went into the May 14th game against Minnesota with just one homer in his previous 89 plate appearances, and unsurprisingly the team had lost four of their last five games. Down 4-3 in the 7th, the Yanks started to scratch out a rally when Derek Jeter singled and Frankie Cervelli doubled, though their struggles with runners in scoring position seemed to kick in again when Brett Gardner popped up to shallow left. Twins’ manager Ron Gardenhire pulled a page out of the 2008 playbook, intentionally walking Tex to load the bases for the unclutch A-Rod. New pitcher Matt Guerrier needed all of two pitches to turn a 4-3 lead into a 7-4 deficit, surrendering a grand slam that carried just far enough to left-center. Alex had lifted the offensive burden off everyone’s shoulders, giving the team a much needed lead and win.

May 17th: Walking off against Papelbon (video and video)
I guess mid-May was a lot busier than I remember. Ben and I were in attendance for this one, and things started off very much in the Yanks’ favor. They hung a five spot on Daisuke Matsuzaka in the 1st inning, but slowly gave that lead away and then some over the next seven innings. The Red Sox carried a 9-7 lead in the 9th inning, and went to Papelbon to nail things down. Gardner made things interesting immediately, doubling to left to bring the tying run to the plate. Tex flew out deep to right, sending Gardner to third, but those extra 90 feet proved to be moot. A-Rod sent the first pitch of his at-bat into the visitor’s bullpen, tying the game at nine and giving the Yanks’ new life. Frankie Cervelli reached base on a hit by pitch after Robbie Cano made the second out of inning, and much like A-Rod three batters earlier, Marcus Thames jumped all over Papelbon’s first pitch for a two run walk-off homer. He became the second new Yankee of the season to take the Red Sox closer deep for a game winning homer.

June 27th: Comeback against the Dodgers (video, video, and video)
The calling card of the 2009 Yankees was their ability to come from behind and win, but up until this game they hadn’t really shown the same flair for the dramatic. The Dodgers headed into the 9th nursing a four run lead, and went for the kill by bringing in All-World closer Jonathan Broxton. What happened next? Tex struck out, A-Rod singled, Cano doubled in A-Rod, Posada singled and sent Cano to third, then Granderson walked. That loaded the bases with one run already in, but the rather punchless bottom of the order was due up. Boy, did they come through.

Chad Huffman singled to right to drive in two, sending Grandy to third. Colin Curtis, six days into his big league career, fouled off pitch after pitch in a ten pitch at-bat before grounding out to first, driving in Granderson to tie the game at six. One inning later, Cano muscled a ball over the left-centerfield fence for a two run homer, giving the Yanks a two run lead and grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat.

* * *

These aren’t necessarily the biggest moments in terms of WPA swings or anything like that, they’re just memorable occasions that stick with us, regardless of how important they were in the grand scheme of things. Heck, some of these aren’t even individual moments, but rather a series of moments. Vote below to pick your favorite, and if one of these wasn’t your favorite moment of the first half, then tell us what you think it is in the comments. Thanks in advance.

What was your favorite moment of the first half of the season?
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First Half Review: 7 who fell short

On Monday night Ben reviewed seven Yankees who performed better than we could have expected heading into the season. Those players have helped keep the team moving as various players slumped. Some of those slumps lasted longer than others, and that resulted in a number of players falling short of the expectations we had for them early in the season.

Nick Johnson

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Was an injury to Nick Johnson expected? To some extent it had to be. Even last year, when he was mostly healthy while playing for the Nationals and Marlins, Johnson still hit the disabled list for two weeks. But a season-ending injury in May? While it was a certain possibility I’m not sure any but the most cynical of fans had that in mind. It pays to be a cynical fan in that way — if you’re right you get to gloat and call everyone else an idiot, if you’re wrong you’re pleasantly surprised. It works well in a sport where the failures far outweigh the successes.

Even while Johnson was in the lineup he didn’t perform to expectations. As normal his OBP was high, on the strength of his superhuman 24.5 percent walk rate, but Johnson didn’t exactly hit to expectations. In fact, he had just 12 base hits in his 98 PA, while he walked twice as many times. Half of his hits did go for extra bases, a huge plus in a larger sample but mostly useless in Johnson’s case. He has been the big disappointment this season.

Chances are his season is done, even though the Yankees could use someone exactly like him right now. That’s a shame. There was so much potential there, and the Yanks realized none of it. They had to choose among injury risks for their DH spot, and they picked the one guy who didn’t stay healthy. Such is life.

Mark Teixeira

Credit: Darren Calabrese, AP Photo/Canadian Press

It hurts me just a little to put Teixeira on this list. Sure, he was the source of mass frustration in April, and then again in May, and then for a little of June. His slumps have put him in a tough spot, a .254/.360/.465 line headed into the break. In terms of his career that’s off the mark, but a .361 wOBA looks pretty nice all considered.

Teixeira produced the worst April of his career, a mere .136/.300/.259, .271 wOBA. We were used to Tex getting off to slow starts, but this was much worse than last year when he hit .200/.367/.371, .330 wOBA. May started off well but then he slumped again and finished the month with a .280/.366/.475 triple slash, .366 wOBA. In June he stumbled again, a .353 wOBA, but he has recovered in July with a .545 wOBA through 50 PA. That makes his May 1 through the break numbers look a bit better: .291/.380/.529. I don’t think anyone will complain if he maintains that pace for the rest of the season.

Derek Jeter

Photo credit: Ben Margot/AP

At the beginning Derek Jeter was an equal opportunity first-pitch swinger. It seemed like he was swinging at all of them and, for the most part, grounding them all to shortstop. Yet through his first 23 games he was hitting .333/.367/.510. The lack of walks was a bit concerning, but as long as Jeter was hitting all was well. Unfortunately, his torrid start ceased right there.

In the course of just a few weeks Jeter saw his average tumble to .266, a span during which he was 12 for 71. He then climbed back over the .300 mark for a bit, but has steadily declined since. He peaked on June 1, when he was hitting .307 after a 2 for 3 day. Since then he’s hitting .221/.319/.321.

Why are we citing Jeter’s batting average above all else? Because his game seems so dependent on it this year. Or, at least, it was. Since the April in which he walked in just 3 percent of his plate appearances, Jeter has steadily improved, walking 6.4 percent of the time in May before walking in nearly 13 percent of his PA in June and July. His BABIP has fallen off in these months, so if he can just put it all together I think he can have a fine second half. It won’t look like last year, but it should look a bit better than 2008 if all goes well.

Alex Rodriguez

Photo credit: Elaine Thompson/AP

Again, this is not a guy I wanted to put on the list, but with his subpar first half numbers I couldn’t leave him off. A-Rod has had some shining moments for sure, including three grand slams and a few game-changing hits. Still, on the whole he’s been something of a disappointment, probably in part because of his hip issues.

Everything is down for Alex this year, even his strikeout rate. His defense has been fine, but suffered a bit when his hip hurt him the most (just before he sat out against Philly and Houston). Since June 1 he is hitting .232/.298/.464, which is nice from an isolated power perspective, but even then it’s sub-par for A-Rod. Hopefully his proclamation at the Home Run Derby, that he felt stronger, holds true in the second half. The Yanks will need his production.

Curtis Granderson

Photo credit: Rob Carr/AP

One thing we knew when the Yankees acquired Curtis Granderson is that he’d need to work with Kevin Long in order to correct the problems that plagued him last year. They went beyond mere bad luck on balls in play; Granderson was putting the ball in the air more often, and had been especially pull-happy. While lefties pulling the ball at the Stadium can produce quality results, it doesn’t usually make for a well-rounded player.

Granderson’s first half results can be rated as nothing but a disappointment. He has produced even less than he did last year, a .319 wOBA. His walk rate and power are down, which doesn’t go well with his .280 BABIP. The good news is that he’s putting the ball on the ground and hitting it on a line more often, so maybe he’s working out of it.

Unlike the others on the list I don’t have as high expectations for Granderson in the second half. It took Long a year to transform Swisher, just like it took him time to get Robinson Cano into a good spot. I imagine that we might see some improvement from Granderson in the second half — he can’t really do much worse at this point — but I don’t expect it to be revelatory. I will still maintain faith, however, that we’ll see a different Granderson in 2011.

A.J. Burnett

Photo Credit: Elise Amendola, AP

In April and May Burnett killed opponents, a 3.28 ERA and 3.37 FIP. He had a few bad games in there, notably a nine-run performance against Boston, but for the most part he was pitching very well despite a curveball that wasn’t working like normal. So his strikeouts were down, but he made up for that by keeping the ball on the ground more often than last year. But then June came and ruined everything.

Burnett’s June totals: 23 IP, 35 H, 29 R, 29 ER, 17 BB, 19 K, 9 HR. He had allowed four home runs in his previous 77.1 IP. That’s the entire reason he comes in below expectations. Even with his two excellent starts in July he still has a 4.75 ERA and 4.73 FIP. That’s not what the Yankees are paying $17.5 million for. Burnett will have to hold up his end of the deal in the second half. Thankfully, everyone surrounding him is picking up the slack.

The non-Mo bullpen

Photo credit: John Froschauer/AP

The list could go on forever if we listed all of these guys individually, so it’s best to just lump them together. In terms of peripherals the unit has been adequate. They rank 4th in the AL in OBP against, 5th in SLG against, and 4th in WHIP. The strikeouts could be better, 7.43 per nine, 7th in the AL. But as a unit they’re simply giving up too many runs, a 4.14 ERA that’s good for 9th in the league.

Here’s a quick rundown of the individuals in the pen and their deficiencies:

Joba: Too many hits allowed. Not sure if this is luck or him just trying to not walk guys. He has walked only 14 in 37.1 IP, a decent rate, but one he’s going to have to eventually bring down if he’s going to be a success in the setup role.

Robertson: Still trying to work off that Abreu grand slam. He walks way, way too many guys, though his strikeout numbers are again impressive, 32 in 29.2 IP.

Park: Hits, homers, and a lack of velocity. He’s dialed it up recently, but with few positive results to show for it. His time is running short.

Marte: Again, too many walks. Lefties are hitting just .146 against him and he has allowed just one extra base hit to the 31 righties he’s faced, but those walks — eight to righties — will hurt plenty. Especially with no one else in the pen to pick up for him.

Gaudin: Again with the walks. I see little reason to keep him around. He won’t once the next guy returns.

Mitre: Very good all considered. His WHIP is 1.00, fueled by a low hit rate, but maybe that’s something he can capitalize on in the pen. Once he returns from his batting practice injury I think he’ll get a shot in one-inning stints.

Lyerly helps Charleston walk-off with a win

Triple-A Scranton is off until tomorrow for the All Star break. The International League defeated the Pacific Coast League 2-1.
Eduardo Nunez, SS: 0 for 2 – started the game & batted third … he saw a total of four pitches on the night
Jesus Montero, C: 0 for 2, 1 K – entered the game in the 5th inning … same deal as Nunez, saw four pitches all night, he looked pretty overmatched during the strikeout, two weak hacks … he replaced Eric Kratz, who exited the game because he found out he was being called up to the big leagues for the first time in his career … cool story
Jon Albaladejo: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 0-2 GB/FB – got the save in the 9th … ten of his 11 pitches were a strikes, and the one ball was borderline … he’s definitely a different guy than the one we saw the past few years, threw a ton of four seamers & a few curves, used to be sinker-slider … I can’t see why they wouldn’t give him a try, they have nothing to lose

Double-A Trenton is also off until tomorrow for the All Star break. The West All Stars beat the East All Stars 10-3.
Austin Romine, C: 0 for 2 – started the game & batted third
Brandon Laird: 0 for 2, 1 BB, 1 K – started & batted cleanup … the good news is that his ankle’s okay
D.J. Mitchell: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1-1 GB/FB – eight of his 14 pitches were strikes (57.1%) … pitched the 5th inning
Josh Schmidt: 0.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1-0 GB/FB – nine of his 17 pitches were strikes (52.9%) … pitched the 9th, or at least part of it

[Read more…]

Open Thread: Triple-A All Star Game

Photo Credit: Flickr user tjperr

All 30 big league teams are off today, with the Yankees even getting to enjoy one extra day off before returning to work on Friday. That doesn’t mean we’ll have to go without real live baseball though, because the Triple-A All Star Game is being played this evening in b-e-a-utiful Allentown, PA.

Three Yankee farmhands made the International League squad: Jesus Montero (right), Eduardo Nunez, and Jon Albaladejo. Nunez was voted in as a starter by the fans, Montero was selected as a reserve. The Yanks’ top prospect is hitting .312/.380/.550 in his last 30 games, helping erase any concerns about his slow start to the season. It just took the 20-year-old Montero a little time to adjust to Triple-A pitching, that’s all.

Albaladejo has been nothing short of fantastic this season, but I’m willing to bet he’ll handle the all important 8th inning tonight while Scott Mathieson of the hometown Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs gets the 9th inning glory. The game doesn’t mean anything, it’s just a matter of deferring to the hometown guy. I’m actually looking forward to seeing Albie again, just to see how much he’s changed since we last saw him. Supposedly he’s scrapped the sinker/slider approach and has gone with a four-seam fastball/curveball approach. Curious about how true that is.

Here is the rest of the roster, and here’s the team the Pacific Coast League is sending. The game starts at 7pm ET and can be seen on the MLB Network. You can talk about it here, or anything else you want in tonight’s open thread. You guys know what to do, so have at it.