Yanks win a game they had no business winning

Once a Yankee, always a Yankee. (Photo Credit: David Zalubowski, AP)

That game was simply dreadful. Embarrassing, really. It’s not worth my time and it would be too frustrating to put together an in-depth recap, but all you need to know is that the Yankees drew seven walks in the first three innings yet only scored two runs. Overall, there were 23 baserunners, just six runs, five GIDPs, three outs on the bases, wild pitches, a balk, strike outs after being up 3-0 in the count, Brett Gardner getting his hand stepped on after sliding into first, you name it. The Yanks simply had no business winning this game.

Thankfully, the Padres took care of business down in Tampa, and our old pal Jason Giambi made sure the Red Sox went home with a loss as well. The Yanks started the day a game and a half up in the AL East, and by the grace of Mo, they’re going to bed two and half games up. Not that they deserve it after this garbage. They better get their heads out of their asses before they get to LA.

But hey, a win is a win.

Romine’s bat leads Trenton to win

First of all, make sure you scroll down for tonight’s game thread. Secondly, Kevin Goldstein throws some love Dellin Betances‘ way (sub. req’d)…

Just as scary (as Betances’ stats), one of baseball’s most notable high-risk/high-ceiling pitchers is impressing with his stuff as well, sitting comfortably at 93-95 mph with his fastball, throwing his plus curve for strikes, and showcasing a surprisingly solid changeup.

Hooray for having three pitches. Meanwhile, Frankie Piliere gives it up for Hector Noesi

Noesi works in the low 90s with his fastball and reaches 94 mph consistently. But the biggest difference has been the emergence of his now very sharp curveball and command. He’s cruised up the ladder the last two seasons and should put on an impressive showing in Anaheim.

Noesi, along with Austin Romine, was selected to participate in the Futures Game next month.

Triple-A Scranton (7-6 loss to Pawtucket) Marcus Thames took batting practice with the team, so he probably close to a  rehab assignment
Justin Christian, LF: 0 for 5, 1 R, 1 K
Reid Gorecki, RF: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 SB - threw a runner out at first
Eduardo Nunez, SS: 2 for 5, 2 RBI, 1 K – 15 for his last 42 (.357)
Jorge Vazquez, 1B & Eric Bruntlett, 3B: both 1 for 4, 1 R – JoVa K’ed once, Bruntlett twice
Rene Rivera, C: 3 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI
Jesus Montero, C: 0 for 0 – he didn’t come to the plate, just played defense late after Jeff Natale pinch ran for Rivera
P.J. Pilittere, DH: 0 for 3, 1 K
Reegie Corona, 2B: 0 for 4
GReg Golson, CF: 0 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 SB
Dustin Moseley: 5 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 9-2 GB/FB – 44 of 81 pitches were strikes (54.3%)
The Ghost of Kei Igawa: 1.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 0-1 GB/FB – 19 of his 31 pitches were strikes (61.3%)
Eric Wordekemper: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1-1 GB/FB - 14 of 25 pitches were strikes (56%)
Royce Ring: 0.2 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1-0 GB/FB – four of his seven pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Game 72: Crap, another bad pitcher

Earlier this year the Yanks were scheduled to face Dontrelle Willis, but he was a late scratch. The Yanks ended up facing a string of Tigers relievers, demonstrating mostly futility against them. The Yanks lost the game, managing just four runs off the Tigers six relievers. Dontrelle has since been designated for assignment and sent to the Diamondbacks, where he’s allowed seven runs through 15 innings. long the way he’s walked more than he’s struck out, and holds a 1.80 WHIP.

Stephen R. explored the Dontrelle saga today at TYU, so in case you’re not up on tonight’s starter give that a quick read.

Posada gets the night off tonight, which makes sense for a number of reasons. Using him on back-to-back nights and then giving him two nights off is probably physically for the better. Also, it gave him a chance against Haren, while the Yanks might not need their best lineup against Dontrelle. Then again, considering how they’ve hit in the past week-plus against poor pitching, maybe I shouldn’t be making that assumption.

Lineup:

1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Nick Swisher, RF
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Robinson Cano, 2B
6. Francisco Cervelli, C
7. Curtis Granderson, CF
8. Brett Gardner, LF
9. Javy Vazquez, P

Open Thread: It’s hot, baby

Photo Credit: Ross D. Franklin, AP

I checked the weather report this afternoon, and at the time it was 107-degrees in Pheonix. One oh seven. Just look at that, it’s ridiculous. Why in the world would anyone want to live there? You’d have to live in a constant state if indoors and air conditioning. At least there’s not much humidity, that would be unlivable.

Anyway, here’s your open thread while we wait for the game to start a little later this evening. The Mets are taking on the Tigers, which is going to be broadcast on ESPN for you non-Tri-State area-ers. Talk about whatever, just be cool. Unlike Phoenix.

Bronx parks opening, but residents want more

Heritage Field finally has an opening date. With old Yankee Stadium now fully demolished, the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation says the replacement park at the old stadium site will open in the fall of 2011, more than five years after the city shuttered Macombs Dam Park. Meanwhile, other green spaces — a skate park and a track and field area with initial completion dates of 2007 and 2009 respectively — are going to be feted with ribbon-cutting ceremonies in the coming weeks.

While South Bronx residents are thrilled to be getting some of the park land that was lost to the stadium back, many community activists still feel shortchanged. The new stadium shanghaied 25 acres of the old Macombs Dam Park, and the new green areas amount to just 22 acres of replacement parks. “It’s a dog and pony show, and they basically shrug their shoulders and act like everything is okay,” Geoffrey Croft of the NYC Park Advocates said to the Daily News. “The thing is a mess. It’s just a mess.” For more on Heritage Field and the city’s plan for this new park across the street from Yankee Stadium, check out our coverage from February.

The new and improved Jon Albaladejo

When the 2010 season started and the bullpen picture became clear, Jon Albaladejo was on the outside looking in. He had minor league options remaining and his big league performance to date (4.21 xFIP in 62.1 IP) hardly stood out, so he was an easy cut. The Yankees simply had better options, so for the first time in his Yankee career, Albaladejo was not on the team’s Opening Day roster, instead sent back down to Triple-A Scranton to wait until his services were needed.

His chance almost came in Detroit last month. The Yanks had a doubleheader against the Tigers, so Albaladejo was summoned to the Motor City but not activated. The team instead had him sit around in the hotel, and if they burned through the bullpen in the first game, they would have officially added him to the roster for the second game. Javy Vazquez went on to have his best game of the season (to date), so the trip to Detroit resulted in nothing more than a few more airline miles for Albaladejo.

Photo Credit: The Scranton Times-Tribune

Biding his time until his next actual call up, Albie has been simply untouchable as Scranton’s closer this season. He’s struck out 45 batters in 34.1 IP, and just about 44% of the balls put in play off of him have been on the ground. Only 19 hits have fallen in behind him, and that includes the three he gave up in 1.1 innings of work two days ago. Just five of those 19 hits have come off the bats of righthanders, who are hitting (ready for this?) .085/.175/.101 in 63 plate appearances against the husky righthander. That’s a .276 OPS. Two seventy six. Lefties haven’t fared much better at .222/.292/.374 in 65 plate appearances. There’s no other way to put it, Albaladejo has been stunningly good this year.

The funny part is that Albie was simply dreadful in Spring Training, if you remember. He allowed 16 hits and 11 runs in just 2.2 IP after showing up to camp some 30 lbs. lighter, and the joke of spring said he needed to put that weight back on to be effective.

Now in his age-27 season, Albaladejo is starting what should be the prime of his career, but dominance like this goes far beyond just physical maturation. Yankee fans remember him as a mostly pitch-to-contact sinker-slider guy that sat 88-92 and would mix in the occasional curveball, but the scouting report has changed this season. Take it away, Donnie Collins

[Albaladejo] has completely reinvented himself, relying less on the two-seam fastball that he used to pound the zone with during his up-and-down tenure with the Yankees. Now, he’s almost exclusively throwing a four-seamer that touches the mid-90s, changing the eye level with his slider and keeping hitters on their heels with a knee-buckling curveball. He is still mixing in two-seamers, but it’s no longer his bread-and-butter.

Collins also provides a quote from Albaladejo’s teammate and fellow Triple-A bullpener Royce Ring, which backs up the increased usage of the four seamer.

Improvement is always good, but improvement with tangible evidence to back it up is even better. He’s essentially gone from a generic sinker-slider reliever to a guy that can pitch up in the zone with the cheese, making the breaking pitches down in the zone that much more effective. Quite frankly, it’s the same recipe that guys like Joba Chamberlain and Dan Bard and Brad Lidge and Jose Valverde and Joe Nathan and about a million other relievers employ.

So what does this mean for the Yankees? Well, obviously it means they have a cheap and flexible relief option that is pitching with extreme effectiveness and is just a phone call away at pretty much all times. The tricky thing is that Albaladejo will be out of options next season, meaning that the team would not be able to send him to the minors without first passing him through waivers. Spring Training and September are no time to evaluate players (again, just look at what Albie did in camp this year), so if the Yankees want to get a good look at what Albaladejo actually brings to the big league table, they’re best off doing it at some point this summer.

The core of the bullpen (Mariano Rivera, Joba, Damaso Marte, David Robertson) isn’t going anywhere, and you have to figure that Chad Gaudin is safe as the de facto long man for the time being. That leaves Boone Logan and Chan Ho Park, both of whom seem to be on perpetually thin ice. There’s really no sense in cutting Park right now because it’ll compromise depth, plus it’s not like he’s blowing games and being used in high leverage spots anyway. Perhaps the best more for the time being is to swap Albaladejo for Logan.

The Yanks finish off the first half with games against the Diamondbacks (one, tonight), the Dodgers (three, this weekend), the Mariners (seven total), the Blue Jays (three), and the A’s (three). Oakland is only one of those teams that can be classified as lefty heavy, so a second LOOGY is nothing more than a luxury until the All Star break. Why not give Albaladejo a look? Logan has options and can go to Triple-A without incident, so there’s no loss of depth and the Yanks get to see if what Albie’s doing in the minors can be somewhat replicated in the show.

Rumors have the Yankees on the prowl for a relief pitcher prior to the deadline, and if you’re going to go shopping for a volatile relief pitcher, why not give an in-house option the first look? Albaladejo’s certainly earned a shot, that’s for sure.

Starters continuing to get the job done

What good is an innings eater if he provides poor results? We hear the term so often when it refers to a pitcher who, sure, throws a lot of innings, but most of the time that pitcher just isn’t that good. At the top-end, they’re average pitchers. Tim Wakefield is routinely referred to as an innings eater. This 2006 USA Today article uses the term to describe Esteban Loaiza, who ended up, to no one’s surprise, being below average that year. He was average during his career, a 98 ERA+.

While the mainstream definition might not be that flattering, the concept of an innings eater is an important one during a 162-game season. A team will pitch at least 1377 innings every year, and that’s if there are no extra innings games and they lose every game on the road. Clearly, teams want the best pitchers filling the most innings, since that gives them a better shot of holding opponents to fewer runs. That, in turn, translates to more wins — or at least theoretical wins since there is the independent variable called offense to still consider.

It comes as no surprise that Sabathia ranks among the league's best innings eaters| Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

The point behind an innings eater, I suppose, is that teams don’t want to constantly fish from the bullpen pond in an attempt to find someone who can keep the game under control. That makes sense in a way. Relievers are typically pitchers who aren’t good enough, for one reason or another, to fit into the starting rotation. A team would, then, want to keep in the starter longer, since he’s presumably a better pitcher by virtue of being in the rotation in the first place. It’s not always true, of course, and oftentimes relievers can perform better than starers. For instance, in the AL this year starters have a collective 4.31 ERA while relievers, in half the innings pitched, are at 4.07. Relievers also posted a lower ERA than starters last season by nearly a half run per nine innings.

The 2010 Yankees have a different breed of innings eaters. All five rank in the top 50 in innings pitched per game started. That includes Javy Vazquez, who got pulled early in a number of starts earlier this season. A.J. Burnett, who has also been pulled early on a few occasions, ranks 36th. Pettitte and Sabathia both average 6.7 innings per start and are tied for sixth in the AL. Phil Hughes averages six and a third per start. The Yankees as a team lead the AL in innings pitched per game start with 6.3. This is, of course, fantastic. Not only are they eating plenty of innings, but they’re pitching well. This not only takes pressure off the bullpen, but it also gives the team a better chance to win every night.

Pettitte, on the other hand, has been a pleasant surprise in that category | Photo credit: Ross D. Franklin/AP

The Yankees, again, have used these starter innings effectively. They rank eighth in the majors, third in the AL, in starter ERA, 3.78. They again rank eighth, and again third in the AL, in opponent OPS, a mere point behind Toronto. They rank fourth in the majors, second in the AL, in opponent OBP. They’re doing it reasonably efficiently, too, averaging 100 pitches per game started as a team, which means 15.87 pitches per inning per game started. That’s good for fourth in the AL, third among teams that actually average more than 6 IP per game started.

To put it a different way, Yankees pitchers have thrown 625.1 innings. The five starters have thrown 438.1 of those, or 70 percent of the team’s innings. Again, that is a league-leading mark. It also seems like the ideal place for a pitching staff to be, considering the unit’s effectiveness. The staff is eating innings at a better rate than its peers, and it is pitching better than most of them. It is the main reason that the team sits in first place today. The offense has struggled at times, but the pitching has been simply lights out.

If it seems like I harp on this topic a lot, it’s because I do. The mid-00s taught me a number of lessons, chief among them that there is no substitute for strong starting pitching. Sure, you can bludgeon a team to death, as many of those teams did. But as we saw in years like 2005, 2007, and even 2008, it can also backfire. In those years the Yanks got off to slow starts and only made the playoffs, in the former two, and got to 89 wins in the latter because the offense eventually came around. Can that happen every year? I’m not sure. But what killed the Yankees those years was a complete lack of pitching. Last year we saw that change, and this year it has gotten even better. The Yanks staff is getting the job done, and the Yanks, at least for today, sit on top of the world.