Yanks offense makes life easy for Javy in 9-3 win

Today’s game might not have been as smooth as last night’s, but that’s for a good reason: the Yankees offense needed some more time to run up the score. It made for a comfortable game, where the Yanks had the lead most of the way. There was that microscopic length, which lasted just three outs, where the Astros had a one-run lead, but we knew that wouldn’t last. In fact, before the Astros could record an out in the bottom of the third the Yanks had essentially put the game away.

Biggest Hit: Jorge don’t need no stinkin’ rehab assignment

Photo credit: Seth Wenig/AP

In last night’s recap I mentioned Jorge’s poor numbers, including high strikeout total, since returning from the disabled list. It appears he could have used a rehab assignment, but given that he’s been back since the beginning of the month he’s basically been through one already. While his strikeout to lead off the second was discouraging, he made up for it in his next at-bat.

The entire bottom of the third was one long string of excellent. The Astros had just taken a 2-1 lead, and the Yankees just couldn’t stand for that. Derek Jeter started the inning by drawing a walk on a 3-2 count, and got a bit aggressive on the bases. He bolted for second and would have made it even if the throw didn’t get deflected into shallow center. That allowed him to take third and score easily when Nick Swisher lined one to left-center. Tie game.

Mark Teixeira continued showing a more discerning eye at the plate, drawing another walk. This is nothing but an encouraging sign. Robinson Cano followed with what Michael Kay called a potential double play ball, but probably would have accounted for only one out had the ball landed in Wandy Rodriguez’s glove rather than deflecting off it. That loaded them up for Jorge with no outs. It took just two pitches to put the Yanks out ahead again. Wandy came inside with a fastball for a called strike one, and then tried to go low and away with a curve. Jorge picked it up and smashed it the other way. Over the right field wall it went. 6-2 Yanks.

Jorge got on base in his next two times up as well via a single and an HBP. If he and Teixeira are staring to get into a rhythm, and if rest really does cure A-Rod‘s ailing hip flexor, the Yanks will be set for the summer. Also, I might be sounding a bit like Peter Gammons there.

Biggest Pitch: Stros take a puny lead

Photo credit: Seth Wenig/AP

Javy Vazquez looked good right at the start of this one. He was using his fastball and changeup well, retiring the side on 14 pitches, including a first-pitch pop out Carlos Lee to end the inning. He had a few hiccups, but nothing especially worrisome. In the second, Hunter Pence led off with a game-tying home run on the first pitch. It was a high fastball, a pitch Javy just can’t throw if his fastball is clocking under 90 mph. While he’s improved on that aspect of his game since April, I’m sure it’s easy to forget that his lack of velocity precludes him from throwing certain pitches in certain places.

The biggest blow came in the top of the third. Tommy Manzella, who apparently can hit only Yankees pitching, led off with a single. Javy then had one of the most amusing sequences in the game, throwing Michael Bourn six straight changeups, eventually getting him to tip one into Cervelli’s glove. He actually started off the next batter, Jeff Keppinger, with two changeups, both of which missed low. His next pitch, a slider, caught a bit too much of the plate and Keppinger lined it to the wall in left. With Marcus Thames out there at the time it was a no brainer to send Manzella home.

From there, however, Javy rolled. He retired 10 straight before Carlos Lee hammered a belt high fastball over the left field wall. He then got four of the final five hitters he faced. He threw just 95 pitches through seven innings, which made me wonder why Girardi removed him. But with the top of the order coming up I guess he wanted to get Javy out.

Strange fact of the game: Javy threw more changeups, 39, than he did fastballs, 24 four-seamers and five two-seamers. He also went to the curveball 16 times. The slider he threw most infrequently, 11 times. After the Keppinger double he threw only one, a first-pitch later that inning, until the seventh, when he attacked Manzella with it.

Stuff

Derek Jeter’s two-homer game was the ninth in his career and his first since August 27, 2006. He did it twice, in the same month, in 2004.

Another 1 for 3 with a walk day for Teixeira. Not only is he performing better, but he’s looking better at the place. Though I suppose the two go hand in hand.

Marcus Thames left the game with hamstring problems. He had an MRI. As of this writing I haven’t heard anything.

Jorge will catch tomorrow. I’m guessing they’ll recall Miranda and play him at DH if Thames hits the DL.

Yanks with RISP: 4 for 7. Thaaaaat’s more like it.

Six strikeouts and no walks for Javy. He’s been quite excellent lately.

Graph and box

You know it’s a good game when the graph goes flatline towards the end.

Box and graphs.

Next Up

Another matinee to close out the series. It’ll be Brian Moehler for the Astros against Phil Hughes.

Moseley & Montero guide SWB to a win

Triple-A Scranton (3-2 win over Indianapolis)
Reid Gorecki, LF, Rene Rivera, C, Reegie Corona, 2B & Greg Golson, CF: all 1 for 4 – Gorecki K’ed … Rivera drove in two & K’ed twice … Corona doubled & K’ed … Golson hit a solo jack & K’ed
Matt Cusick, 3B & Colin Curtis, RF: both 0 for 4 - Cusick K’ed thrice, Curtis twice
Eduardo Nunez, SS: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 K, 1 HBP
Jesus Montero, DH: 3 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B – eight for his last 20 (.400) with four doubles … he wasn’t even supposed to play today, he was a late add because of Chad Huffman’s promotion
David Winfree, 1B: 1 for 2, 2 HBP
Dustin Moseley: 7 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 10 K, 1 WP, 10-1 GB/FB – 66 of 108 pitches were strikes (61.1%) … that’s one helluva start … 21 outs recorded & just one in the air? studly
Boone Logan: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 0-1 GB/FB – 12 of his 20 pitches were strikes (60%)
Jon Albaladejo: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K - 13 of his 20 pitches were strikes (65%)

[Read more…]

Open Thread: Backman Goes Bananas

Someone sent that in during yesterday’s chat, but I had to wait until today for an open thread to use it in. The video both is and isn’t safe for work. There’s nothing inappropriate visually, but the audio is rather … colorful. Truly an epic meltdown by Wally Backman.

Anyway … eh screw it. You guys know what to do with these open threads by now, so have at it.

Thames hits the DL with hamstring issue, Huffman recalled

Leftfielder/designated lefty masher Marcus Thames left today’s game with a hamstring issue, and although the MRI came back clean, he’s been placed on the disabled list with a strain. Chad Huffman has been recalled from Triple-A Scranton to take his place.

Huffman was claimed off waivers from the Padres in April, and he’s pretty similar to Thames. Righty hitter, mashes lefties (.903 OPS vs. LHP in the minors, .830 vs. RHP) and is limited defensively to leftfield and first base. Considering that Thames is hitting just .176-.314-.250 since May 2nd with awful defense, chances are Huffman can step right in and the Yankees won’t miss a beat, if not improve.

Is Phil Hughes’ pitch selection really a problem?

There has been a much discussion around Phil Hughes and his lack of secondary pitches this year. Sure enough, he has primarily relied on the fastball and cutter, rarely broken out the curve, and the changeup we read about all winter is seemingly non-existent. There’s certainly some concern here as he starts to see teams for the second, third and fourth times this year, but if he can get by without mixing his pitches too much, should he?

We all remember Hughes’ start against the Red Sox where he couldn’t put anyone away and the Sox were fouling off pitches left and right. It was concerning, and was prefaced by a post that was questioning how Hughes would do the second time around.  The post turned out to be spot on for that appearance. While that start seems to stick out amongst a ton of great starts, I think we as fans are coming back to that start a little too often. I have read and heard a bunch of people talking about Hughes’ lack of mixing his pitches and that Sox start is being used as an example. He certainly struggled that night without being able to put batters away, but what do the stats tell us about Hughes’ ability so far to get people to swing and miss?

In researching this, I came across some pretty interesting info, but Hughes certainly isn’t struggling with foul balls and getting batters to swing and miss. He is inducing swinging strikes right up there with the best pitchers in the game (a group he may be on the way to joining). So far Hughes has managed to get swings and misses on 9% of his total pitches. Without context that’s somewhat meaningless, but let’s take a look at how some other pitchers are doing.

AL
Lester 10%
Burnett 7%
Price 8%
Buchholz 10%
Verlander 8%
NL
Halladay 10%
Jimenez 9%
Johnson 11%
Lincecum 13%
Wainwright 10%

In the AL, Verlander and Burnett possess some of the most lethal, swing and miss stuff in baseball, and yet Hughes is getting more swinging strikes than them. He’s also ahead of Price, and just below Boston’s duo of Lester and Buchholz. John Lackey, (not to be confused as having great stuff or being a great pitcher despite being paid like one) has garnered swings and misses on just 6% of his pitches this year. Clearly the guys in the NL have an advantage in that they are facing weaker lineups, but Hughes’ is getting as many swing and misses as Jimenez, who is off to a historic start, and is just behind Halladay and Wainwright.

I think a lot of the concern with Hughes’ pitch usage so far stems mainly from that Red Sox game, and sure enough that was his worst game all year in terms of swings and misses with just 5. We, as people, do a great job of remembering the outliers, not the norm. Is there a chance that the Yankees and Hughes have decided to try to get by early in the season on a limited repertoire, only to unleash everything else as the season goes along? It’s pretty far fetched, but if he’s having so much success with primarily two pitches, what’s the use of using the curveball and change? The obvious answer is that he doesn’t want to lose the feel for those pitches, though maybe he is focusing on those pitches in his side sessions. Again, I don’t think that was the plan, but he may be comfortable enough, and having enough success, that it’s not worth throwing the kitchen sink at the Detroit Tigers in a game in May. I don’t think Hughes will continue to have the same success going forward without mixing in more curves and changes, but in the meantime, I don’t mind the pitch selection. As soon as he starts getting hit (and that could mean within a game), they need to switch it up ASAP.  He’s not always going to have his best fastball, in terms of location or velocity, and while he hasn’t had major struggles yet, when the time comes, Hughes and the Yankees will need to respond.

For more of my work head over to Mystique and Aura.

Game 62: Javy vs. Wandy

You think Brandon Jacobs could play third until A-Rod's back? (Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, AP)

It’s a fitting pitching matchup today, a pair of ace-level performers from 2009 that are finding success much tougher to come by in 2010. The similarities end there though, because Javy Vazquez did whatever he needed to do to get himself back on track (2.73 ERA in his last six appearances), but Wandy Rodriguez is still scuffling along. The only possible explanation is that he’s on my fantasy team, and I had the nerve to call it a steal when I landed him 79th overall.

Anyway, here’s this afternoon’s starting nine…

Jeter, SS
Swisher, RF
Teixeira, 1B
Cano, 2B
Posada, DH
Thames, LF
Cervelli, C
Granderson, CF
Russo, 3B

And on the mound, Javier Vazquez.

First pitch is scheduled for 1:05pm ET, and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Interviewing Horace Clarke

Unfairly or not Horace Clarke has an era in Yankee history named after him. It was an inglorious time in Yankee history when CBS owned the team, and the Yanks, fresh off decades of dominance, faded into irrelevance. Clarke was supposed to be a part of the new guard, but instead he became known as a player who symbolized Yankee failure. For more on Clarke’s story, check out this piece from the Daily News and this spring training before I made the team, so I knew some of the guys. To meet guys like Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Clete Boyer, Tony Kubek, Elston Howard, and Bobby Richardson was a treasure. It was a treasure to be among players who were winning pennants and series for years with the Yankees.

Every time someone asks the question, “What was the greatest thing that you can remember in baseball”, I always mention this. When I got called up I joined the team in Boston and then we went to Baltimore and after that back to New York. The first day I suited up and went out onto the field at Yankee Stadium before practice I looked around in awe. Then I went out to center field where the greats were with their plaques. That was one of my biggest thrills, just putting on the uniform and going out onto the field. There were other times over the years where I did something, something that stands out, but just walking out onto that field was special. I remembered that I used to listen to the radio broadcasts about the stadium and the great players that played there; it was really a thrill and a terribly nice feeling.

During you first couple of years with the Yankees was there a sense among the players that the dynasty was over or that the team was in trouble?

There was not a sense of that but with all the big guys who were great players and were successful in New York leaving the game we realized that most of us were there to replace them. As a matter of fact it was because Richardson told the Yankees that he would retire in a couple of years when I was down in Richmond (AAA) that I got recalled. I was a shortstop all of my minor league career and they told me they were going to convert me to a second baseman. I didn’t know at that time that Richardson had warned them about getting out of the game. It was timely that he was leaving and I got to come to the big leagues and see him play along with Kubek and Boyer and see the way that they played. It was very impressive because I never saw some those plays made in the minor leagues.

Crosetti was their old third baseman and he was a coach there for 15-20 years after he retired, he was a fixture. I always sat by him when he was on the bench between innings and he would say certain things to me about playing the infield. I took so many ground balls in practice that I had a coach in Puerto Rico say to me that I was going to give him blisters on his hands. I was always a work horse when it came to bettering myself.

Mel Stottlemyre, Roy White, and yourself came along during a downturn in the organization. Your career story is similar to Mattingly’s in that you played between the dynasties. Do you feel any frustration about that?

Well sure, it’s a disappointment but the reality is we had talent that would get better with experience but there are not too many guys that are going to come up and replace Mantle, Maris, Rizzuto, Richardson, Boyer, Ford. Not too many players could replace those guys (Laughs). We had catchers on the team during my tenure there but the one guy who came up that everybody knew once he started playing was going to be a first-class catcher was Thurman Munson. So, players like that don’t come about everyday. I didn’t play on a championship team or a pennant winning team but in 1970 we were the second winningest team in baseball. We won 93 games and the Orioles won 108. We got a $600.00 check for coming in second place and home we went (Laughs). I didn’t have an opportunity to be in the wild-card like they have now, that might have made a difference. You know how many teams have been the wild card and have become champions? Maybe four or five. I was so happy that they went to the World Series in 1976 and then again in ’77 and ’78. I left five or six guys who were able to win a championship. They won after that long stretch of not being in a series.

I believe in some respect you were a victim of baseball history. Although the Yankees didn’t have all bad teams while you were there the fans had become accustomed to being in the World Series. The Yanks were there 22 times from 1936-1964. The advancing age and injuries to the team’s stars appear to be the reasons for the organization’s drop-off. Regardless, that period is often called “the Horace Clark Era”. This unfair label fails to recognize you as the Yankees most durable player of the late 60’s and early 70’s. (Clarke led the Yankees in hits twice, at-bats four times, triples twice, runs twice, stolen bases four times, and average once, and led the AL in at-bats twice.) Do you have any thoughts on this?

You see (Laughs) every time I hear “the Horace Clarke Era” I don’t know how to take it but I think it is mostly because we were losing and I was a member of all of those teams. I could understand because fans, writers, and commentators were spoiled at being so successful for so long. I know how the fans feel about the drought that we went through, it was a let down during that losing era. But when I hear it I think, “Here we go again. The Horace Clarke Era, the Horace Clarke Years”. I’m going to tell you something, while I was there some guys (writers) always target me, I was targeted more than anybody I think because I played just about everyday. When I was traded to San Diego a writer wrote, “You know, that guy wasn’t so bad after all.” Because he had gone to the record books and saw what I had done over those years.

They said I couldn’t make the double-play but Gene Michael and I were tops in double plays a couple of years. I have looked in Yankee books and compared my stats to some of the older second basemen over the years and they didn’t do any better then me but they were among elite players that won World Series. My play was consistent over the years. I got on base and scored runs everyday. During the time I played I had the 3rd leading fielding percentage among second basemen. How could I be that bad?

Did you stay in the game at all?

After the ’74 season I didn’t get any offers from Major League teams, just offers from Mexico and Japan. I said wait a minute, I played 17 years and I’m not going back to the minor leagues in Mexico or even Japan. I came home to St. Croix and I instructed the kids in baseball for 20 years retiring in 1995. That was something I was happy to do.

I was at opening day at the new Yankee Stadium. There was about 40 of us there and they called us out onto the field. It’s also nice that when I go back to the Old Timers Game and they announce you and you get some applause from the people who remember you. I don’t think it was all bad. I’m going to tell you this; your time is your time. I wouldn’t say that I was at the wrong place at the wrong time because I got to play 17 years in baseball and 10 years in the big leagues. I am able to retire and collect a pension from Major League Baseball. That alone, playing so long and collecting a pension, is great.

Kenneth Hogan is a New York City Firefighter who lives in Rockaway, Queens. He has written four books including America’s Ballparks, The 1969 Seattle Pilots; Major League Baseball’s One-Year Team, and Batting 10th for the Yankees; Recollections of 30 Yankees You May Not Remember (due August 2010). He has appeared on NBC’s “The TODAY SHOW” and White Plains Cable’s “Beyond the Game.”