Game 54: Four in a row?

(Photo Credit: Amanda Rykoff)

Today marks the one-third point of the season and you know what? The Yankees have yet to win more than three games in a row this season. Can they they pull it off today and get that elusive fourth consecutive win? I hope so, that would be neat. Here’s the starting nine…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B DH
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Russell Martin, C
Andruw Jones, LF
Eduardo Nunez, 3B

A.J. Burnett, SP

First pitch is scheduled for 3:35pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy the game.

Some fun with stats

We’re all just kinda killing time until the Yankees and A’s start game three of their series in a few hours, so here are a few (less intense) statistical nuggets I came across the last few days to help pass the time…

  • RISPFAIL: In their first 39 games, the Yankees hit .236 with men in scoring position. Last 14 games? It’s .276 in those spots. That coincides exactly with the end of the six game losing streak. Interestingly enough, their OBP/SLG numbers aren’t all that different: .332/.432 vs. .344/.440, respectively. Just some BABIP luck more than anything.
  • No help from RF or DH: Combined, Yankees’ right fielders and designated hitters are hitting .198/.302/.329 in 450 plate appearances. We’re talking about two positions expected to provide above-average offense, and the Yankees have gotten next to nothing out of them.
  • More DH sadness: Yankees’ designated hitters have combined for -0.6 fWAR. That’s not just Jorge Posada, that’s everyone that has filled in at DH at one time or another this year. Astros’ pitchers have been worth -0.3 fWAR at the plate this year.
  • And yet: The Yankees lead baseball with 5.26 runs per game. The Cardinals and Reds are next best at 4.91 runs per game.
  • Away from home: The Yankees have played just 23 road games this year, tied with the Cubs for the second fewest in baseball (the Royals have played just 22 on the road). Despite that, their 13 road wins are more than a dozen other teams and are tied with six others.
  • Cured: Curtis Granderson leads all of baseball with nine homers off left-handed pitchers. Chris Iannetta is second with six. Grandy had six homers off lefties in 2009 and 2010 combined, and eleven from 2008 through 2010.
  • Anti-LOOGY: Granderson obviously leads the league in homers by a lefty off lefties, but third would be Robinson Cano with four. Jay Bruce is sandwiched in between them with five. Curtis is that far out ahead of everyone.
  • Like a boss: Bartolo Colon has already thrown more innings this year (66.1 IP) than he did in four of last five years. The lone exception is 2007, when he made it to the mound for 99.1 IP. Colon’s 4.13 K/BB ratio is fifth best in the AL and eight best overall.
  • Underrated ace: CC Sabathia‘s 2.96 FIP is his lowest since 2008 and the second lowest of his career. He’s on pace to throw 253 IP as well, but that won’t happen.
  • K-Rob: Some starting pitchers with fewer strikeouts than David Robertson (35): Mike Pelfrey (34), Wade Davis (31), Brad Penny (29), Ivan Nova (27), and Carl Pavano (26).
  • BB-Rob: Some starting pitchers with fewer walks than David Robertson (15): Dan Haren (14), David Price (13), Roy Halladay (13), Bartolo Colon (12), and Jair Jurrjens (11).
  • Joba’s grounders: At 62.3%, Joba Chamberlain gets ground balls at the eighth best rate among relievers (min. 20 IP). Jonny Venters of the Braves leads MLB at 82.9% (!!!).
  • Pythag: At +67, the Yankees have the best run differential in baseball. By 22 runs. The Cardinals are the next best at +45, and the next best AL team is the Indians at +38. Only six teams in baseball are at +30 or better, and the Yankees are at two times that.

Hughes throws simulated inning, could be near rehab assignment

Via Marc Carig, Phil Hughes threw a simulated inning today and will throw live batting practice over the weekend in Anaheim. If that goes well, there’s a chance he could go out on a minor league rehab assignment soon thereafter. At least that’s what Hughes hopes, not what the team has told him (for all we know). Either way, Phil is still a long way off, he’s going to need four or five or maybe even more minor league starts to stretch out and stuff. He basically has to go through Spring Training again.

The RAB Radio Show: June 1, 2011

The Yanks have rattled off three straight quality wins, and the offense has hit five of the better pitchers in the AL in the past five games. That leaves some positive vibes. Mike and I ride them and discuss the state of the team and how remarkable they’ve been, especially of late.

Podcast run time 17:49

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:

  • Download the RAB Radio Show by right clicking on that link and choosing Save As.
  • Listen in your browser by left clicking the above link or using the embedded player below.
  • Subscribe in iTunes. If you want to rate us that would be great. If you leave a nice review I’ll buy you a beer at a meet-up.

Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.

2011 Draft: Logan Verrett

The draft is just five days away, so between now and then I’m going to highlight some players individually rather than lump a few together in one post.

(Photo Credit: The Houston Chronicle)

Logan Verrett | RHP

Hailing from the baseball hotbed of The Woodlands, Texas, Verrett was a standout baseball and football player in high school before focusing on the former at Baylor. He holds several school and conference records, most notably Big-12 records for single season BB/9 (2.30) and K/BB ratio (4.14) as well as career K/BB ratio (3.83). Verrett was not drafted out of high school.

Scouting Report
A big right-hander with some projection left to dream upon (listed at 6-foot-3, 185 lbs.), Verrett throws three pitches for strikes. His fastball sits 89-92 on most days but has topped out at 95 in short bursts in the past. A slider that occasionally misses bats is probably his second best offering, though a sinking changeup in the mid-70’s might also stake a claim to that title. Verrett relies more on command and setting hitters up than pure stuff, but it’s a solid mix of pitches with good probability. His delivery is sound and he’s a big time competitor. Here’s some (slow motion) video.

Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer has made it clear over the years that there are two things he likes in college pitchers: polish and strong showings in the wood bat Cape Cod League. Verrett has both after striking out 34 and walking just five in 41.1 IP with the Chatham A’s last summer (64.2 IP, 66 K, 21 BB in his CCL career). All the tools are there for him to be a durable, mid-rotation guy in the future, though the lack of a true put-away pitch limits his ceiling at the moment. Keith Law and Baseball America ranked Verrett as the 83rd and 100th best prospect in the draft class, respectively, suggesting that he’s a second or third round kind of guy.

2011 Draft: John Sickels’ Mock Draft v2.0

John Sickels of Minor League Ball posted his second mock draft over the weekend (first round, sandwich round). His top three is the same as last time – Rice 3B Anthony Rendon to the Pirates, UCLA RHP Gerrit Cole to the Mariners, Virginia LHP Danny Hultzen to the Diamondbacks – but things get a little haywire after that. Sickels has the Yankees taking New York’s own Williams Jerez with their first selection (51st overall), noting that “stock is rising and he’s linked with the Yankees.” Fortunately, I told you everything you need to know about Jerez about two weeks ago.

The new A.J. Burnett, same as the old one

Given their pitching woes, the Yankees need A.J. Burnett to rebound from his horrible 2010 season and become at least a solid innings eater in the middle of their rotation this season. Not want, need. Burnett woke up this morning with a shiny 3.99 ERA, which is almost exactly league average these days. His 4.43 FIP is better than last year’s mark (4.83) but is still below average, though his 3.98 xFIP (4.49 in 2010) is basically on par with the rest of the league. Returning to league average is an improvement for Burnett, sadly.

However, ERA and FIP really don’t paint the whole picture. Offense was down last season and it continued to crater this year, so our feel for what’s good and what’s bad might need to be recalibrated. When you take a look at the underlying performance (table on the right), you can see that A.J. is essentially the exact same guy now as he was last year in terms of strikeouts, walks, ground balls, and homerun rate. The AL average strikeout rate actually dropped a bit this year despite the decrease in offense (6.83 K/9 vs. 6.67), but the homerun rate went down about a tenth of a homer per nine while walk rates remained static. So in a way you can say that Burnett’s fielding independent performance (particularly homers and walks) actually got worse this year.

So what’s different? For one, he’s managed to cut more than 70 points off his overall BABIP (.246 vs. .319) even though his batted ball profile barely changed. The BABIP drop is most notable when there are men on base.  Last year, opponents tagged Burnett for a .247/.319/.410 line with men on base and .260/.328/.450 with runners in scoring position. Those lines have dropped to .212/.300/.394 and .197/.253/.379 this year, respectively. The BABIPs nosedived from a normal .285 and .292 in those spots in 2010 to a measly .227 and .197 in 2011, again respectively. A.J.’s strikeout rate is pretty much the same in those spots in both years (about one whiff for every five batters), but the batting ball data shows that hitters have been putting the ball in the air a lot more often with men on base this year than last (about 10% more often). More balls in the air translates to a lower BABIP, but sheesh, not that low.

Aside from the remodeled (but not overhauled) mechanics and a few more changeups, the 2011 version of Burnett is pretty much exactly the same as the 2010 version. He’s running into some better luck (especially when pitching from the stretch with men on base) after being on the other end of the spectrum last season, but the underlying performance is all the same. If Burnett runs out of luck with men on base, it could get ugly, and will only emphasize the team’s need for another high-end starter. For now, the end result (runs allowed) is better, but at the end of the day it’s still the same old A.J.