Game 95: Freddy’s Turn

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Bartolo Colon rebounded from a pair of subpar starts last night, striking out a season-high nine in 6.1 IP. There’s always going to be a little bit of concern each time he starts, but last night’s effort let us sleep just a little easier because Bart showed that the clock had not yet struck midnight. Now it’s Freddy Garcia‘s turn to do the same after getting hit around by the Blue Jays last week. I really don’t know if there’s one specific thing to look for tonight, at least with Bartolo you could look to see if he had his velocity or was throwing an inordinate number of sliders. With Freddy … I guess just look to see if he’s leaving pitches up? Everything’s going to be off the plate, everything’s going to be soft, that’s just the way he operates. Anyway, here’s the lineup…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, DH
Russell Martin, C
Andruw Jones, RF
Eduardo Nunez, 3B – perfect day to start Brandon Laird, but alas
Brett Gardner, LF

Freddy Garcia, SP

Tonight’s game can be seen on YES when it starts a little after 7pm ET. Enjoy.

Yankee Clippings: 2012 Schedule, Nova on the DL

I have a bunch of browser tabs open with various miscellaneous Yankee news. Time to share.

  • From the “It’s Never Too Early To Plan Ahead” Department comes some information about the 2012 schedules. The details on the Yanks’ slate hasn’t hit the wires yet, but the Red Sox’s season schedule is out. Per Gordon Edes at ESPN Boston, the Yankees will be in Beantown on Friday, April 20, the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park’s opening. The two clubs then do not meet again until July 6-8 also in Boston. The Red Sox visit the Bronx for three game sets from July 27-29, August 17-19 and October 1-3. Essentially, the two clubs will play 12 games against each other over the final two months of the season.
  • Earlier today, during an appearance on MLB Radio on SiriusXM, Brian Cashman said Iva Nova would likely start on of the games of the July 30 doubleheader against the Orioles. However, he has been placed on the AAA 7-Day disabled list after rolling his ankle during his start last night. The Yankees still believe he will be ready for the doubleheader, and this trip to the DL shouldn’t impact his standing as a potential trade chip.
  • Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated says the 1998 Yankees were the best team he ever covered.
  • Watching the Yankees at home is akin to a baseball symphony, writes Times music critic Anthony Tomassini.
  • Finally, here’s one that’s been making the rounds lately: Light eyed players — including the Yanks’ own Brett Gardnerhave trouble fielding the ball during day games.

Mark Teixeira’s balance at the plate

It really does seem to be Mark Teixeira week here at RAB. On Monday Mike looked at Teixeira’s disappointing overall numbers, and yesterday I looked at some plate discipline and shift issues. Today we’re going to look at pictures rather than numbers. Many of us suspect that, beyond facing a defensive shift, Teixeira’s woes are at least partially mechanical. We see him up there wagging his bat, and it’s hard not to think that it takes away from his swing. We’re not hitting coaches, of course, so you can take our analysis on that matter with a grain of salt. Yet sometimes video does reveal some obvious issues.

Here’s a shot of Teixeira with the Angels in 2008, in the midst of an incredible offensive run. His stance is pretty basic, slightly opened with his hands up by his ears. I’m not going to dive too far into the technical aspects, since I’m not a trained scout. But there’s nothing that stands out here. Then again, that’s because we don’t yet has a basis for comparison.

Here’s Teixeira in 2009, another year in which he hit phenomenally. The camera angle is different than the one in Texas, so it’s not a perfect comparison. But it still seems close enough. His front leg does appear a bit more open, even though the camera angle is more centered (the Rangers camera is offset in left field). Still, it appears that he’s balanced up there.

This angle is essentially the same as the 2009 one, just zoomed in a bit. I tried to capture it at the same point in the pitcher’s motion, so we’re not seeing him at different parts of his swing. Look at that back leg. That’s way out there, far more open than it was in 2009. His balance does look a bit off, as you might imagine as he changes his center of gravity. I’m not sure how great an effect this has, since he takes his stride towards the center of the batter’s box. But it looks like his stride takes longer with the more open stance.

Another thing you might notice is in the swing itself. I’ll embed the videos here so you can have a look.

2009:

2011:

Maybe I’m only seeing this because I’m looking for something, but in 2009 it appears that his bat just glides through the zone. It’s a quick, easy swing. In 2011 it looks more like he’s clubbing the ball. If anyone else looks at the videos and sees something else, by all means chime in.

Again, as a non-hitting coach and non-scout, I can’t drawn any firm conclusions from the pictures and video presented here. They look convincing enough, as Teixeira’s stands does seem far more open, and his swing doesn’t appear as smooth. Unfortunately, even if this does identify the problem, it doesn’t necessarily lead to a fix. If me, a schlub with a computer and an internet connection, can see this in video clips, I’m certain that the Yankees are aware. But hitters can’t just change like that. Teixeira widened his stance for a reason, likely as a matter of comfort at the plate. It’s a shame if it’s hurting his swing, but there’s not much anyone can do unless he’s willing to make a conscious change. After all, there’s nothing worse than standing in the box while uncomfortable.

Scouting The Trade Market: Jason Marquis

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

As the rumors about Ubaldo Jimenez swirl, you can bet the Yankees are covering all their bases by looking for pitching elsewhere at the same time. One pitcher Jerry Crasnick says is available is Jason Marquis of the Nationals, which makes sense. Washington is out of it and he’s not a part of their long-term future, so they might as well cash in the chip before he leaves as a free agent. The Staten Island native has been pretty vocal about wanting to pitch near home at some point in his career, so is it worth it for the Yankees to make his wish come true? Let’s explore…

The Pros

  • Marquis is very quietly enjoying the best season of his career. His 5.42 K/9 is his best strikeout rate since 2004, and his 2.75 BB/9 is his best walk rate ever. A 53.7% ground ball rate is right in line with his last two years as well as his peak years from 2003-2005.
  • He’s a true three-pitch pitcher, getting ground balls with his high-80’s sinker (that will occasionally run as high as 93) and mid-80’s slider. He’ll also use a low-80’s changeup and yeah, every so often he’ll bust out a straight four-seam fastball. That’s just a show-me pitch though, a 3-0 auto-strike offering or something. The sinker-slider-changeup combo is how he makes his living, and because of that repertoire he has a negligible platoon split both this year and for his career.
  • Marquis has pitched in large markets like St. Louis and Chicago before, which is always a plus. He’s also pitched in the playoffs several times, including with the Cardinals during their 2004 NL pennant run.
  • The final year of his contract will pay him about $1.25M a month from here on out ($7.5M total salary), which is pretty cheap.

The Cons

  • After throwing fewer than 190 IP just once from 2004-2009, Marquis was limited to just 13 starts and 58.2 IP last season because of bone chips in his throwing elbow. He had surgery and was out from late-April until early-August. He’s been healthy since and hasn’t missed a start this year.
  • Marquis has little margin for error because he can’t miss bats when he needs to. He’s a classic pitch-to-contact guy, getting a swing and miss just 7.0% of the time this year, essentially identical to his 6.8% career mark. Those kinds of guys are tough to count on against good lineups.
  • He’s a career National League pitcher and has performed pretty poorly during interleague play, a 5.50 ERA and ~4.89 FIP in 168.2 IP over the course of his career.
  • He does not project as either a Type-A or B free agent and is pretty far from off from the cut-off, so no draft pick(s) if he leaves as a free agent. Marquis has already started talking about a multi-year contract extension, but whatever team employs him is under no obligation to give it to him.

For what it’s worth, Larry Rothschild was Marquis’ pitching coach when he was with the Cubs in 2007 and 2008, so there’s already a bit of a relationship and familiarity there. Let’s not kid ourselves here, Marquis is no savior. He’s a decent fourth or fifth starter option at best, something the Yankees already have plenty of. If they could get him for dirt cheap, say a Grade-C prospect and take on the salary, there’s no harm in it just to have him around as depth. The Yankees need to focus on getting a high-end starter though, guys like Marquis are filler. Not useless, but not a difference maker.

Using Boone Logan properly

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Last night Boone Logan did part of his job, the big part of his job, well. He came into a high-leverage situation and got what should have been a bunch of outs, but thanks to the stadium, and his own poor reaction time, the Rays squeaked across two runs and took the lead. Logan was clearly responsible for the botched comebacker, though he did induce poor contact on the play. In terms of pure pitching, though, there are no complaints, despite him facing two right-handed batters.

Logan vs. righties

It’s no secret that Logan, like most lefty relievers, is more effective against same-handed batters. He has faced 448 lefties in his career and has held them to a .249/.324/.364 line, while righties have hit .313/.390/.486 against him. While there are certain lefty relievers, such as the Cubs’ Sean Marshall, who can handle full innings of work, Logan, with nearly 200 innings of career work, has clearly defined himself as a left-hand only kinda guy. Why, then, was he facing right-handed hitters?

No platoon advantage

There is a surefire way for managers to make his opponent pay for bringing in a LOOGY. Since the rules dictate that any pitcher brought into the game must face at least one batter, the manager can pinch-hit for his lefty, thus turning the platoon advantage in his favor. Joe Maddon did just that last night, not only with Sam Fuld, but also with the next batter due up, Reid Brignac. In fact, it was an utterly predictable move. Neither Fuld nor Brignac is a good hitter, and Maddon has been known to maneuver like this in the past.

With two weak hitters due up, why didn’t Girardi go to Cory Wade instead? He wouldn’t provide a platoon advantage, but he doesn’t have a significant career lefty/rigthy split. Girardi could have used him against the two lefties and then saved Logan for Johnny Damon, who is a far greater threat than the two batters before him. That makes enough sense, and it very well might have been the right move. But it certainly wasn’t the only move.

LOOGYs facing righties

Girardi knew that Maddon’s bench was bare. When Logan was announced, Maddon sent up Justin Ruggiano, a 29-year-old with a career .233/.269/.381 line. In place of Brignac he sent up Elliot Johnson, a career .194/.252/.317 hitter. So while he negated the lefty-lefty matchup, he also sent up two horrible hitters. Even someone like Logan should be able to retire these guys (which he essentially did). It’s not as though it were Evan Longoria up there.

Because of the one-batter minimum, this is a situation LOOGYs face often. They’ll come into the game set to face a lefty, and the opposing manager will pinch-hit. But, because he’s pinch hitting from his bench, chances are the replacement is not as good as the original hitter. A good manager will consider his opponent’s bench before bringing in a LOOGY, to make certain that he’s not running into a regular starter who had the night off. I can’t say for certain that Girardi did that, but I’d bet that he did.

It is part of a LOOGY’s job, then, to face right-handed bench players. It’s unreasonable to ask them to face righties and switch batters who normally hit near the middle of the order. That’s asking for trouble. But I find it difficult to complain when the opposing manager gains the platoon advantage by pinch-hitting two guys who have terrible MLB track records. A LOOGY has to be able to retire guys like that. And, again, Logan essentially did.

Using Logan against righties

If pitchers like Logan have to face righties, they might as well face slap-hitting righties with poor MLB track records. That’s exactly what Logan faced last night. In fact, it appears that’s the type of righty he’s faced for the most part this year. Despite his pitching in a few mop-up situations, he’s still faced just 39 righties to 68 lefties, and has held them to a .200/.272/.200 line. That is, he’s allowed zero extra base hits and only seven hits overall to right-handed hitters.

His success is largely a product of luck; he’s shown an inability in the past to retire righties, and we shouldn’t think that just because he’s fared well in these 39 instances that he’s all the sudden cured. But as I look at Logan’s play log I see a bunch of poor-hitting righties: Derrek Lee, Mike McCoy, Yorvit Torrealba, Franklin Gutierrez, Orlando Cabrera, and Aaron Hill. Most of the better righties he’s faced, such as Kevin Youkilis and Miguel Cabrera, have come during garbage time, when the Yanks were either up or down big.

It’s certainly possible, then, that Girardi is putting Logan in a position to succeed. Again, he’s faced just 39 righties this year in 107 total chances, or 37 percent. Last year it was 78 of 169, or 46 percent. You can learn a lot about a guy in a year, and it appears that Girardi has learned not only to limit his usage against righties, but also limit it to poor-hitting righties.

While in an ideal world Logan would never face a righty, it’s simply a reality of the game. Thankfully, Girardi has placed him in situations this year that favor him. When he does face a righty, it is, for the most part, a poor hitting one. When he faces a quality one, it has come in mop-up duty. Last night was a further example of that. The Yanks lost the lead, due in no small part to Logan’s poor reaction time, but he did pitch well against light-hitting righties. It’s something that can be expected of him, even as a LOOGY.