Slumping nothing new for the Yankees

After watching the Yankees for the past week I understand why football is such a popular sport. Each team plays once a week and there are only sixteen games before the playoffs. A few surprises occur each year, but for the most part the strong teams win and the weak teams wilt. A loss, especially to a weaker team, might sting, but there is a six-day recovery period during which the pain subsides. Even more beneficially to the psyche, you can tune in on Sunday, forget about football for the next six days, read a notes column and the injury report the following Sunday, and then enjoy the next game. None of this is true for baseball.

As Earl Weaver said, “This ain’t a football game; we do this every day.” Playing every day makes for great entertainment. It means that nearly every night from April through October we have something to watch. Yet because baseball happens every day it is much more prone to random outcomes. Dave Cameron explained this in July after the Dan Haren trade. While a season as a whole might end somewhere close to expectations, the day-to-day events will fluctuate. I recommend Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb for a more thorough explanation. He discusses it in the context of the stock market, but it applies directly to a baseball season.

This all leads to the way the Yankees have played for the past week. Starting two weeks ago the Yankees rattled off eight straight wins. If not for a walk-off home run last Wednesday they would have followed it with seven straight losses. Thanks to Nick Swisher the Yanks have only lost six of their last seven, but that one win is little more than a consolation. The Yankees are playing like crap, and things won’t get easier this week. Something has to change — though that’s always the case when a good team slumps.

The past week has taken a particularly significant emotional toll on the fans because of a few factors. It starts with the Orioles, a team the Yanks certainly should beat, and it continues onto the Rangers, a team the Yankees could face in the first round of the playoffs. It certainly has something to do with the nature of the losses, four of which were by a single run and two of which resulted in walk-offs. It also concerns the depth of the slump. To this point the Yankees have not lost six of seven. They have lost five of seven as recently as July 30 through August 6 and back in May they lose five of six. But six of seven and a three-game sweep? That’s uncharted territory for the 2010 Yankees.

Thankfully, the Yanks could take a few positives even from a swept series. On Friday and Saturday they scored 11 runs combined, or 5.5 runs per game, which is a tick above their season average of 5.34 per game. They might have left a combined 32 runners on base and gone 6 for 30 with runners in scoring position, but that means that they were getting men on base an into scoring position in the first place. If they keep doing that they’ll eventually drive home more runs. But last weekend they caught a few bad breaks in those situations.

On Saturday A.J. Burnett pitched better than he has in a month. The curveball wasn’t all there, but his fastballs worked just fine. He generated between seven and 10 swinging strikes — Baseball-Reference, PitchFX, and ESPN all have different numbers — and recorded six strikeouts in four innings before rain forced him from the game. The seven base runners were no picnic, but the four hits he allowed came on just eight balls in play. In other words, with a little more command he would have been phenomenal. If he can find that little bit between now and October he’ll make the playoff rotation decision quite a bit easier.

And, of course, there was Derek Jeter. On Friday night he went 1 for 7, dropping his OPS to a season-low .693 and his AVG to a season-low .260. In one of those AB he fouled a pitch off his knee, which made it easier for Joe Girardi to hold him out of the lineup on Saturday. On Sunday he came back with a fury, seeing 27 of Cliff Lee’s 108 pitches and going 1 for 2 with an RBI double and two walks. No matter what happens in the final few weeks 2010 will be the worst season of Jeter’s career. But if he can revert to 2009 Jeter for the next month and a half all will be forgiven.

Any time a team gets swept amid a 1-6 skid it’s easy to dwell on the negative. The Yankees suffered from bad bullpen outings and untimely hitting, but those are things they showed that they can do over the long haul. As was the case with previous slumps, they’ll bust out of this one in short order. It’s easy to forget that when they’re in the middle of it. There is no week-long recovery period after a tough loss. Instead they go out and play the next day. When the slide continues it can become a frustrating experience. But when they break out of it the feeling is pure joy. I think we’re in for a happy few weeks ahead.

Fan Confidence Poll: September 13th, 2010

Record Last Week: 1-5 (20 RS, 29 RA)
Season Record: 87-56 (763 RS, 589 RA, 90-53 Pythag. record), 0.5 games up
Schedule This Week: @ Rays (three games, Mon. to Weds.), Thurs. OFF, @ Orioles (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

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Yankees two-hit in Texas

It was bound to happen at some point. After avoiding it for the first five-plus months of the season the Yankees were swept in a three game series this weekend. None of the games was particularly inspiring. They were in all of them and scored their season-average number of runs across the first two games, but bullpen woes meant that no lead was safe. Moseley took one on the nose in this one, though he pitched as well as the Yankees could have expected. Cliff Lee made it all moot, though, as he had trouble with just one Yankees hitter in his eight-plus-inning, one-run auditionperformance.

Best photo of Jeter available (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Rather than dwell on the team’s poor hitting in this one, let’s look at the one bright spot. Derek Jeter came to the plate four times and had four excellent at-bats. The rest of the team had maybe one among them. In those four plate appearances Jeter saw 27 pitches, or just a hair under quarter the number Lee threw all game. That’s all the more impressive considering his third PA, a double that drove in the Yankees’ lone run, lasted just one pitch. The first and last were nine pitches and resulted in walks. The second lasted eight pitches and ended with a ground out.

Jeter went 1 for 2 with two walks and an RBI double against Lee. The rest of the lineup went 1 for 25 with one walk. This might not be Jeter’s finest season, but yesterday he looked like an All-Star while the rest of the team tripped and stumbled towards the end of the series. If he starts looking like this more often it could lend some consistency to the offense down the stretch and into the playoffs.

(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Dustin Moseley deserves some credit, too. He has thrown just 10 pitches since August 30, but he kept the Yankees in this one. Through six he was downright excellent, almost matching Cliff Lee frame for frame.

Moseley through 6: 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
C, Lee through 6: 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K

That all changed in the seventh, of course. Moseley had thrown just 79 pitches through six, and Girardi “loved the way he was throwing the baseball.” But his first seven pitches resulted in a walk, and considering his like workload in the past two weeks a move might have made sense there. Moseley did get the next two guys, but thanks to a smart tag-up at first by Ian Kinsler the Rangers were able to capitalize on a single. A stolen base and another single ended the day for Moseley.

The Yanks now fly to Tampa and try to escape this week-long funk. They’ll have their best guy give it a go tomorrow night, but it will be ace against ace.

Tampa unable to clinch FSL title in Game Three

High-A Tampa (2-1 loss to Charlotte) Tampa leads the best-of-five series two games to one … I believe Craig Heyer will get the ball in Game Four tomorrow evening
Ray Kruml, CF: 2 for 4, 1 SB
Jose Pirela, 2B: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K – he’s done a nice job of getting on base in the postseason
Bradley Suttle, 3B: 0 for , 1 BB, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
Myron Leslie, 1B: 1 for 3, 1 BB, 2 K
Addison Maruszak, SS, Zoilo Almonte, RF & Jack Rye, LF: all 0 for 4 – Maruszak & Almonte each K’ed twice, Rye once … Maruszak missed a catch for an error
Trent Lockwood, DH:  1 for 3, 1 BB, 1 K
Mitch Abeita, C: 1 for 4, 3 K – still hitting a cool .400 in the playoffs
Anderson Feliz, PR: 0 for 0, 1 CS – pinch ran for Abeita, then got caught stealing for the second out in the ninth inning … that’s bad
Shaeffer Hall: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 11-5 GB/FB – what more could you ask?
Preston Claiborne: 2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 4-2 GB/FB

Triple-A Scranton‘s season is over. They lost to Columbus in the first round of the International League playoffs.

Double-A Trenton swept New Hampshire in their best-of-five series to advance to the Eastern League Championship Series. They’ll take on Altoona when the series starts on Tuesday, and they’re going to have a rehabbing Andy Pettitte on the mound in that game.

Low-A Charleston, Short Season Staten Island, and the Rookie GCL Yanks are done. None of the three qualified for the postseason.

Open Thread: When good weeks go bad

(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

I really don’t think any of us want to talk about the Yankees right now, so let’s just cut to the chase and declare this tonight’s open thread. The ESPN Sunday Night Game features the Braves and Cardinals (Hudson vs. Lohse), and the late NFL game has the Cowboys at the Redskins. Chat about whatever you want, just be cool.

Game 143: Salvaging a win

Against the Rangers this weekend, the Yanks are hitting and getting on base. The team is 25 for 87 (.287) with 18 walks, good for a .421 on-base percentage. But the club is slugging just .345. They’ve gone two games in Texas without a home run and have just five doubles. They’ve also left 32 runners on base in a pair of infuriating games.

Today, they’ll try to put those struggles behind them, but they have their work cut out for them. Future Yankee Cliff Lee takes the ball for the Rangers today, and he’ll face Dustin Moseley. On paper, it’s one of the biggest mismatches of the season. Yet, Cliff Lee hasn’t been Cliff Lee lately. Out with a back issue, he’s making his first start since August 31st, and in his previous five outings, he was 0-3 with an 8.28 ERA. Opponents are hitting .333/.348/.538 over his last 29.1 innings. Could Lee be the cure for what ails the Yanks?

Moseley, on the other hand, is pitching on borrowed time. With Andy Pettitte‘s return fast approaching, he’s making what could be his last or second-to-last emergency start. He’s 4-2 with a 4.83 ERA/5.92 FIP in in 50.1 innings. Moseley needs to give the Yanks a handful of decent innings today too as David Robertson, Kerry Wood, Boone Logan and Mariano Rivera are unavailable.

Here’s your lineup. A-Rod gets the day off, Nick Swisher was a late scratch and Javier Vazquez is available out of the pen. In case of emergency, break glass.

Jeter SS
Granderson CF
Teixeira 1B
Thames DH
Cano 2B
Posada C
Kearns LF
Nuñez 3B
Golson RF

Moseley P

Afternoon football open thread

While we await the start of the Yankees/Rangers game, the Giants are taking on the Panthers in the first game at New Giants Meandowlands Stadium. Feel free to use this thread to talk about that game (or any other NFL contests). We’ll be back with baseball in a little while.