• ‘Net’ gains in right field
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    After the umpires blew the call on A-Rod’s second ball hit over the wall yesterday, the Yanks sprang into action today. Joe Girardi, while on the dreaded Mike and the Mad Dog this afternoon, said that the stadium crews have placed a net between the staircase and the wall at the spot where A-Rod’s ball caromed back into play. With this solution in place one day late, it’s bound to never come up again in the short few months remaining in the life of Yankee Stadium. (H/T to Jamal, the one true M&MD fan around.) · (0) ·

A lot of Yankee fans like to point out that 2008 is far from the first time the Yanks have started out slowly. They found themselves in a big hole last year: 10.5 games out before turning the AL East into a pennant race. But there’s something different about this year’s slow start.

As Vegas Watch tells us, Pythagoras, or at least Bill James’ version of Pythagoras, knows the difference. In previous years, as Vegas Watch notes, the Yankees were unlucky; based on the numbers of runs the team had scored and had allowed, the team was underperforming. Through 44 games last year, they should have been 24-20 when they were 20-24.

This year, however, things are different. The Yanks, as sad as it sounds, were actually outperforming their expected won-loss record through 44 games and now right on target at 21-25.

So then what does all this mean for 2008? Well, as Vegas Watch notes, it’s not really relevant to compare the 2008 start to those of previous years because the causes — luck in the past, a slow offensive start this year — are not the same.

Rather, I look at these numbers, and I’m a bit comforted by it. The Yanks’ pitching is right on par with their 2007 numbers; the offense hasn’t been producing at all. We know that the Yanks have missed A-Rod and Jorge Posada, and I believe that, as the year goes along, the Yankee bats will produce at their expected levels. As that happens, that number in the W column will go up, slow start be damned.

Categories : Analysis
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This is a guest post by Lou Poulas. In conjunction with Razzball.com, Lou runs the Fantasy Baseball Hall of Fame, where the greats of the Fantasy Era are immortalized in html.

We all know by now, even if we don’t admit it to any Met fans we might be on speaking terms with, that the glory years of Yankee dynasty from 1996-2001 are long since over. I admit I originally thought Buster Olney’s book was a bit outlandish in claiming Luis Gonzalez’s bloop single was the dynasty’s swan song, but in retrospect the facts are undeniable. Whether you are in the camp that claims the “new” Yankees don’t have the heart to win or with their alter-egos who state the Bombers haven’t had the pitching to succeed, the facts remain unalterable – the team hasn’t made it to the World Series since 2003 and has been bounced out of the postseason in the first round three years running.

There are several statistics that tie these post dynasty Yankee teams together and one I would like to explore is there early season lack of success. The Dynasty Yankees of 1996 through 2003 had a combined April winning percentage of .640 (126-71) while the most recent versions of team have struggled to reach the .500 mark with an overall record of just 43-49. Each of these teams however, recovered during the regular season to make the postseason, averaging 97 wins in the process.

Quiet bats have been a recurring theme in the early going and trends emerge when looking at the basic rate stats for each April when compared with the rest of the season:

Mar/Apr Rest Season
2004 .230 / .336 / .387 .274 / .356 / .469
2005 .274 / .357 / .422 .276 / .354 / .455
2006 .299 / .395 / .495 .282 / .357 / .456
2007 .268 / .347 / .421 .293 / .369 / .470

Only in 2006, when the Yankees had a somewhat successful start to the season at 12-10, did the offense fail to improve considerably after a slow start.

On the mound it has been a somewhat different story. Each season the bullpen has been strong early only to fade late (thank you Mr. Torre) as the average April ERA for relievers has been a solid 3.68 but jumps to 4.49 over the rest of the season.

Yankee starters however, have had their issues too. Only in 2006 did they compile an ERA better than league average when Mike Mussina (2.31 ERA) and Sydney Ponson (3.13 ERA) of all people, were great, winning eight of nine in ten starts. In 2004 the starters ERA’s were equally bad both in April and the rest of the season; and in 2005 and 2007, the April’s were long months but at least things got markedly better as the season progressed.

Still, these mid-season corrections haven’t been enough to add a 27th World Championship banner to Yankee Stadium. Once October rolls around the trends seem to reverse again – the bats go cold, the pitching coughs up some runs, and the Yankees are lucky to make it out of the 1st round. In the losing series each postseason, the Yankee stats have been poor:

2004 – 5.17 ERA, .282 / .371 / .469
2005 – 4.40 ERA, .253 / .347 / .392
2006 – 5.56 ERA, .246 / .289 / .388
2007 – 5.89 ERA, .228 / .300 / .404

In looking at the failures at a player level however, there is no apparent common theme to harp on. We can’t point to Alex Rodriguez or Jorge Posada or any batter and blame them for recurring post-season lapses. We can’t point to Mussina, Chien Ming Wang, or any starter and call them out, as each has had their fair share of both success and failure since 2004. Just like in April, the Yankees, like any team, simply get cold at the wrong time.

In truth, over the past four seasons the Yankees have played in 5 post-seasons series, only St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox have played in more. Post-season winning is not a God given right as many us want to believe, and in fact, might be dumb luck. Witness just the handful of breaks Yankee fans enjoyed during their championship run:

1996 – Jeffrey Maier, Tim Welke, Mark Wholers’s slider
1998 – El Duque’s Game 4 against Cleveland, Mark Langston’s non-strike to Tino Martinez
2000 – Only 87 regular season wins; Three 1-run victories in the World Series

What we witnessed during the Yankee dynasty years was a once in a lifetime run that is duplicated only every 20 years or so, if not longer. These were great Yankee teams, but as with all great teams, a few bounces here or there and their legacies are much diminished, and the current squad has less to live up to. The current Yankee squad, like every other baseball team, has flaws. These are apparent in April or October.

Categories : Guest Columns
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  • At least Bob Watson is consistent
    By

    LaTroy Hawkins has been issued a three-game suspension for throwing near Luke Scott’s head on Tuesday. While the circumstances are clearly a bit different, this is the same sentence Kyle Farnsworth received for throwing at and missing Manny Ramirez in April. Hawkins plans to appeal. · (0) ·

May
22

Joba as a starter

By in Pitching. Tags: · Comments (0) ·

It’s old news by now: The process of converting Joba Chamberlain back into a starter has begun. There’s not much debate that the rotation is where Joba belongs, no matter what George King and Steve Phillips say. Your best arms should pitch the most innings, period. Case closed. End of story.

Lots of Yankees’ fans haven’t been exposed to Joba the starter, while others forgot just how great he was in that role. Well, if you’re one of those unfortunate people, I’ll show you how great the kid can be as a starter: I dug through the DotF archives and compiled Joba’s 2007 game log from his time in the rotation. The good … no wait … great stuff starts after the jump.

Started the year with High-A Tampa

May 7th: 4 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 4-3 GB/FB

May 12th: 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 6 K, 4-4 GB/FB

May 17th: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 WP, 1 HB, 6-4 GB/FB

May 22nd: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 9-1 GB/FB

May 27th: 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 9-5 GB/FB

June 2nd: 7 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 10 K, 1 WP, 8-3 GB/FB

June 7th: 5 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 2-3 GB/FB

Promoted to Double-A Trenton

June 12th: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 4-2 GB/FB

June 17th: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 2 HB, 3-7 GB/FB

June 22nd: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 9 K, 2 WP, 3-4 GB/FB

June 28th: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 10 K, 1 WP, 2-3 GB/FB

July 3rd: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 12 K, 5-1 GB/FB

July 14th: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 7-5 GB/FB

July 21st: 4.2 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 3 BB, 7 K

Promoted to Triple-A Scranton

July 26th: 5 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K

Joba was shifted to the bullpen shortly after his July 26th start. When you go through and add up his stats as a starter, you get this pitching line:

84.1 IP, 61 H, 24 ER, 27 BB, 117 K

That works out to a 2.56 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 12.49 Kper9, and 4.33 K/BB. He had double-digit strikeouts in 4 of the 15 starts, and 9 strikeouts in 5 others. He held the opponent scoreless in 7 of the 15 starts, and only twice did he allow more than 3 runs.

Small sample size yes, but his sample as a reliever is even smaller.

Categories : Pitching
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  • Wang, with strained calf, on pace to make next start
    By

    Not only did the Joba kerfuffle overshadow a solid Yankee win, but lost in the frenzy was some alarming news concerning Yankees ace Chien-Ming Wang. The righty suffered a calf strain on Sunday night against the Mets and kept pitching — poorly, at that. An MRI revealed a very slight tear, but the Yankees trainers and Wang say he is set to make his next start, for now. This is not an injury the Yanks can afford. · (0) ·

In a way, Joe Girardi’s brief post-game interview about Joba completed overshadowed tonight’s crisp and refreshing Yankee win. We — and every other Yankee blogger — will have a lot more about Joba tomorrow; as a teaser, PeteAbe aptly summarizes the 8th inning choices. For now, though, let’s just focus on the win.

Tonight’s game belonged to two Yankees. It goes without saying that they are Darrell Rasner and Alex Rodriguez. On the pitching front, Rasner dazzled the O’s all night. He doesn’t throw hard, but he changes speeds well and hits his spots. He threw 95 pitches over 7 innings (see that, Ian Kennedy?), and 61 of them were strikes. He gave up five hits and one walk while striking out six, and the Orioles put nothing together against him. At 3-0, Rasner is fast becoming this year’s Aaron Small but with a much higher upside.

Offensive, A-Rod is A-Rod. It’s pretty damn clear that this team missed their anchor during the last few weeks. A-Rod went 3 for 4 tonight, and he hit his second home run in as many days. He also blasted his eighth and ninth doubles of the year.

Or at least, he was credited with his eighth and ninth doubles. One of those, as we know, was actually his seventh home run of the season. The play — which you can watch here — unfolded as such: A-Rod hit a screaming line drive into right center field, and the ball just kept carrying. It bounced hard off the yellow staircase in front of the right field bleachers. Nick Markakis fielded the carom, and instead of stopping to retrieve a home run ball, he hurled into the infield as though it were still in play.

The replay clearly showed that the ball hit the yellow staircase. In fact, it was a good three or four feet above the top of the outfield wall. But the ball was so hard that none of the umpires could position themselves to see it, and A-Rod got himself only a double out of it. While much like Carlos Delgado’s disputed home run on Sunday, the missed call didn’t impact the outcome of the game.

But that’s not the point. On Sunday, on national TV, the umpires get the call wrong; two games later, with one of the game’s biggest starts up, the umpires get the call wrong. While opponents of instant replay say it would take too long and slow down games, would it really take longer than it took for the four umpires to confer and wrongly issue a call tonight? Of course not.

I know I’m beating the same drum I hit upon just three days ago, but this is just bad for the game. At what point, on what stage will MLB finally get it together to allow instant replay for these disputed calls? It doesn’t tarnish the game; it doesn’t cause irreparable harm to anyone. It’s more important to get it right than anything else, so why is baseball continuing to sacrifice that aspect of the game?

At some point, someone will hit a home run late in a meaningful and some team will win or lose the pennant or World Series off of a blown call by an umpire that millions of Americans can watch on repeat in their living rooms. Will it really come to that before MLB institutes instant replay?

A-Rod has been stellar since coming off the DL. He has hit three balls out of Yankee Stadium for two home runs. He’s been the offensive shot in the arm the Yanks needed. Now, if the weather holds, the Yanks will turn to Ian Kennedy later today. I hope they can turn their one-game victory into an actual winning streak.

Categories : Game Stories
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  • Girardi: ‘The process has started’
    By

    During his postgame interview with Kim Jones, Joe Girardi fielded a question about Joba’s throwing a career-high 35 pitches tonight. His response: “The process has started.” That process, of course, is turning Joba from a reliever back into a starter. Girardi, in announcing one of the more significant in-season moves the Yanks will make this year, was very matter-of-fact about it. So here it goes…

    Update: Courtesy of Mike’s DVR, we have a transcript: Kim Jones: What are we to read into it, Joe, that Joba pitches two innings and it looked like he started the ninth with a couple of change-ups? Joe Girardi: Well, the process has started converting Joba to a starter, and tonight was the first [time] extending him a little bit, and we’ll continue to do it and get him up to where he can throw enough pitches.
    · (0) ·

Triple-A Scranton had a scheduled off day.

Double-A Trenton (15-5 beat down of Reading) all that offense, and the game still took only 3 hrs and 27 mins to complete
Ramiro Pena: 2 for 3, 2 R, 1 BB, 2 K
Austin Jackson: 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K – believe it or not, that’s only the second best offense performance of the day
Colin Curtis: 0 for 4, 1 R, 2 BB
Edwar Gonzalez: 3 for 6, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI
Cody Ehlers: 1 for 4, 2 R, 1 K – 2 XBH in his last 10 games after piling up 16 XBH in his first 25 games
Jose Tabata: 3 for 6, 2 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI – matches his RBI output over the last 15 games combined
Kevin Russo: 4 for 5, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K, 2 E (fielding, throwing)
Eladio Rodriguez: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 K, 1 PB
Phil Coke: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 6 K, 6-6 GB/FB – easy to pitch when your lineup gives you that kind of run support
Eric Wordekemper: 1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K – 4.96 ERA this year after a 0.56 ERA last year
Zach Kroenke: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 WP

High-A Tampa (10-6 loss to Vero Beach)
Damon Sublett: 3 for 4, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB – first XBH since May 6th
Mitch Hilligoss: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 2B
James Cooper & Josue Calzado: both 0 for 4 – Cooper scored a run & was hit by a pitch … Calzado K’ed, committed a throwing error & threw a runner out at second from RF
Kyle Anson: 2 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB – 19-26 K/BB ratio in 34 games
Seth Fortenberry: 1 for 2, 1 RBI, 1 BB
Kevin Smith: 2 for 4
Luis Nunez & Tim Battle: both 1 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 K – Battle hit a solo bomb
Eric Hacker: 5 IP, 11 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 HB, 1 Balk, 9-3 GB/FB – easily his worst outing of the year
Phil Bartlewski: 2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 WP
Edgar Soto: 2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K

Low-A Charleston (20-2 massacre of Greeneville) dropped a 12-spot on 3 pitchers in the 4th
Austin Krum: 1 for 6, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 SB
Justin Snyder: 1 for 2, 2 R, 1 BB
Chase Odenreider: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 E (throwing) – came in for Snyder in the 5th when the score was 12-1, and he still got 3 at-bats!
Brandon Laird: 2 for 5, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI
Jesus Montero: 2 for 4, 3 R, 2 BB, 1 K – they score 20 runs as a team, but he gets shut out of the RBI column … hilarious
Brian Baisley: 5 for 6, 4 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 1 K – I told you Ajax had only the second best offensive showing of the day … this is easily the best game by a hitter this year
David Williams & Walter Ibarra: 2 for 5, 2 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 1 BB – Williams K’ed & was caught stealing … Ibarra committed a fielding error
Carmen Angelini: 1 for 2, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 E (throwing) – taken out in the 6th with a 17 run lead
Dellin Betances: 4.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 6 BB, 4 K, 3-5 GB/FB
Craig Heyer, Ryan Zink & Gabe Medina: combined 4.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 9-3 GB/FB

Categories : Down on the Farm
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So Derek Jeter. He’s a fighter, huh? Just one day removed from taking a 93-mph fastball on the wrist, the Yankee Captain is back in the lineup. That’s either insane or gutsy; I can’t decide.

Meanwhile, the Yanks’ hottest hitter — Jason Giambi and his thong are hitting .275/.444/.575 in May — have the night off. With a lefty on the mound, Giambi and his May OPS+ of 145 will give way to Shelley Duncan. With Abreu, Matsui, Cano and Damon all still in the lineup, I’m not quite sure what taking out Giambi does to improve the team.

Otherwise, the Yanks should just go out and win tonight. Play fast; play loose. A win would do wonders for everyone. Darrell Rasner, very well rested, takes the mound. He last pitched 11 days ago. Hopefully, that’s not a problem.

Game time’s at 7:05.

Damon LF
Jeter SS
Abreu RF
Rodriguez 3B
Matsui DH
Duncan 1B
Cano 2B
Moeller C
Cabrera CF

Rasner P

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