Alex Eisenberg of Baseball Intellect breaks down the stuff and mechanics of Yanks first rounder Gerrit Cole over at The Hardball Times. You’ve gotta love the combination of velocity and movement he brings with his four-seamer, and the slight change with the two-seamer. His curve and change also figure to be above-average, so we’re looking at a guy with ace potential — though, as we’ve learned over the past few years, ace potential guarantees you diddly shit. Eisenberg’s conclusion: “Why fix something that ain’t broke?” Perfect. · (29) ·
It might be Hideki Matsui. The Yanks are hitting .252/.337/.380 since he went down. It might be Johnny Damon. The Bombers have mustered a .248/.315/.349 line since he hit the DL. But whatever it is, the Yankees just aren’t hitting right now.
Nothing proved that point like tonight’s uninspired loss to the Pirates in Pittsburgh. While Mike Mussina threw another quality start — 6 innings, 9 hits, 2 earned runs, no walks, 5 strike outs — to lower his ERA to 3.61, the Yankees bats couldn’t muster much of anything against a left-handed Paul Maholm. A brief two hours and thirty-seven minutes after the first pitch, the Yanks escaped Pittsburgh, losing an opportunity to gain valuable ground on the idle Red Sox and the shellacked Rays.
The game itself doesn’t lend itself to verbose musings. The offense looked bad, Jose Veras didn’t do the job, and the Yanks fell short. The story is in the details. In July, the Yanks bats have all but disappeared. Outside of that 18-run game against the Rangers, the Yankees, by my calculations, are hitting .230 with a .296 OBP and a .300 slugging percentage as a team in July. That’s worse than Melky. (Zing!)
Cheap shots at Melky aside, the only answer for this team right now is that they’re in a slump, and they are continually fielding a lineup with Jose Molina and the young Mr. Cabrera at the bottom. Bobby Abreu hasn’t hit much since he took out Nick Blackburn — .237/.318/.370 since the second game of that Twins seriers — and the lineup can hold up a bunch of struggling starters.
So far, the Yanks have managed to win because of their superior pitching. The bullpen — prior to tonight — has been outstanding, and the starting pitchers are, by and large, getting the job down with three of the hurlers being outstanding and two being serviceable to okay. The Yanks could have won many more games recently than they have.
At some point, something will give; the bats will come alive or the pitching will falter. I’m hoping for the former while dreading the latter. Either way, this offensive malaise doesn’t make for fun Yankee baseball.
Triple-A Scranton (7-3 win over Columbus)
Alberto Gonzalez & Eric Duncan: both 0 for 5 – E-Dunc K’ed
Matt Carson: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K
Juan Miranda: 2 for 4, 3 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB – went back-to-back with Carson to lead off the 6th
Cody Ransom: 2 for 3, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K – Chad Jennings says he’s taking Justin Christian’s spot in the All-Star Game
Ben Broussard: 0 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB
Jason Lane: 2 for 4
Dan McCutchen: 6 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 8-4 GB/FB – 61 of 89 pitches were strikes (68.6%)
JB Cox: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2-0 GB/FB
Chris Britton: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
Scott Strickland: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K – 6 baserunners in his last 13 IP … sick
Tyler Clippard: 5 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 1 K – ah there’s the T-Clip we all know and love
Yeah, so those last four spots aren’t going to look that pretty. Thankfully, though, this means that Girardi opted not to bat Melky leadoff tonight. That, unfortunately, means that he’s actually in the lineup. It’s too bad Brett Gardner isn’t hitting better, or maybe we’d have an option to take over for him in center.
Jorge’s starting at first tonight in place of Jason Giambi, though Hip Hip is none too happy about it. Too bad, I say. He had and continue to has shoulder problems (that labrum won’t untear itself), so Girardi has opted to go with Molina behind the plate more frequently. It has made perfect sense with Damon and Matsui on the DL. Jorge will be behind the plate tomorrow and on Sunday.
Giambi didn’t win the final vote contest, dropping it to a deserving Evan Longoria. He’ll have tonight off, followed by a three-day vacation next week. That can never hurt a 37-year-old with an injury history.
Quickie injury update: Damon is still sidelined, his shoulder still swollen. Matsui is progressing, though nothing is certain with him. Phil Hughes will toss off a mound Saturday.
Make sure to check out the discussion in Steve’s guest post. Seriously, with just a few exceptions, this is one of the best and most honest conversations about the youth movement that we’ve had on RAB.
TV ratings for nationally-televised MLB games are down, and Maury Brown at The Biz of Baseball notes the cause. According to Brown’s post, FOX had aired two more Yankees/Red Sox at this point last year, and ESPN had aired five more Yankees/Red Sox and Yankees/Mets games than they have this year. So as baseball looks forward to its second half, you can bet that we’ll be getting more than our fair share of Tim McCarver, Joe Buck and Joe Morgan. I can’t wait. · (7) ·
Scott of 3 Kids Tickets is putting up his four FanFest Tickets as well. The winner — and this one’s a contest — has to answer this admittedly simple question: Robinson Cano has not drawn a walk in 20 games. This is, however, not even close to the longest walk-less streak in Robinson Cano’s career. When was Cano’s longest span without a walk and what were the dates of that streak? Tickets will be FedExed to the winner.
Hint: The streak may span more than one season, and on a related note, the Baseball-Reference Play Index is a great resource. · (20) ·
This is a guest post by frequent commenter Steve S.
I guess I am writing this in order to be contrarian because I partially believe it and part of me wishes it weren’t true. For the past three seasons, prior to the Johan Santana trade I was a firm believer in the youth movement. Especially with regard to the apparent failures of free agent pitching and those acquired by trade.
In 2004, I thought Cashman was brilliant in avoiding Curt Schilling and acquiring Javier Vazquez (sidenote: Yankees gave up way too quickly on that one), especially considering Arizona’s demands for Schilling (ed. note: Nick Johnson and Alfonso Soriano). By 2005, I was convinced that Randy Johnson on a short deal was the right move, especially considering the fact that they managed to hold on to Wang and Cano in the initial trade deadline fervor. I admit I was concerned about Pavano and no one in their right mind expected Jaret Wright to work out.
As I was saying, I was a firm believer in developing pitching and the necessity to do it. Part of it was that these guys were failing, but what made convinced me was the way these guys were melting. Even Arod to an extent had been affected (thankfully his physical talent was able to overcome some of the mental difficulties). All of these guys seem to not just fail with respect to difficult expectations, but they weren’t even performing up to their normal standards. Contrary to popular belief Randy Johnson actually did well, but it was as if the minute he arrived here he went from stud pitcher to good pitcher with fundamental flaws in his delivery and his makeup. Javier Vazquez was great for the first half and then completely folded in the second half. Pavano, who most knowledgeable fans would have predicted a four ERA and probably between 10-15 wins, couldn’t stay on the field — and I say knowledgeable fans because anyone who expected this guy to be anything more than a number three starter hadn’t paid attention. And this is all when the farm system was barren of top pitching prospects.
So when Wang came up and succeeded it became apparent that the Yankees needed to change their course. Because starting pitching through free agency and trades had dramatically changed since 1996. You couldn’t go get David Cone, David Wells or Roger Clemens to front the rotation. So when I saw the reports on Phil Hughes I salivated, and his continued success made me long for this change in philosophy. However, I missed something that has now become apparent to me. This whole New York phenomenon regarding the unrealistic expectations of fans and the media and to an extent the organization is fundamental and isn’t just limited to superstars or free agents. It extends to these kids now. Whoever gets to the forefront becomes public enemy number one because there are so many revisionists out there.
This leads me to the current situation. Brian Cashman has done a remarkable job with restoring and righting this thing because the reality was that the Yankees couldn’t realistically continue down the path they were on forever. Especially in light of every small to mid market team locking up their young players to long term deals so early on (thank god for Scott Boras or else the hot stove would be so boring). As we can see one month into this, people are more than just squirming; there is a wholesale panic out there. And while it is not justified, the reality is that it is having an effect.
Ian Kennedy has been awful, but as everyone has noted here, there are glimpses of improvement. The only issue becomes how is this affecting him mentally. His comments before being sent down were the best portent of his ability to handle adversity in the New York media. And his performances have not even come close to what he was able to do in the minor leagues. Which leads me to believe that he might just be feeling overwhelmed. I think we all forget, and its even more prevalent now in age of sabermetrics and closely following the minor leagues, that these guys are human and they cant always perform the way the back of the baseball card or baseball reference.com says they should.
The same may unfortunately apply to Joba now since people are foaming at the mouth at this midseason change. If he stumbles at all, people will have the ignorant reaction to restore him to the bullpen. I’m saying this all now and acknowledging that hindsight is 20/20. I was one of those people who celebrated these moves. But now I’m starting to get weary because I fear what all this can do to these kids and this organization. I never expected people to be so quick to judgment, but I should have. And what I hate to say is that Brian Cashman should have to. By basing so much of this year, the year after the Red Sox won their second World Series in four years, on these kids the Yankees may have put the Arod target on the “Big Three’s” backs. And there is no telling if in this market, with this much money invested, whether the Yankees can fully execute this plan. The Red Sox had a third place finish; what would happen in New York if the Yankees crumbled in late August and finished in third place? The White Sox survived a year of John Danks and Gavin Floyd being awful, and now they are reaping the rewards. Could that happen in New York?
I just hope Brian Cashman has the backbone and the longevity to carry this plan to fruition. And more importantly, I hope these kids can survive this kind of scrutiny, because if they do flop, it’s going to set things back, both because the organization might start avoiding the youth again and because they might invest in what has become an even worse free agent market. And I think the blame falls on the fans. Not just on the impatient fans, but for those of us who lose sight of the intangible reality of playing in New York and the fact that these kids can sometimes mislead us when they are pitching in Scranton or Trenton.
Ed Price checked in with Hideki Matsui yesterday, and it’s tough to get a good read on the situation. Matsui, inactive for a few weeks due to inflammation in his knee, swung off a tee earlier this week and said he felt good. But the Yanks are guarded about Matsui’s condition. Team officials believe he will not be able to do anything other than DH this year, and if he doesn’t respond well to rehab, season-ending surgery will be a reality. I wonder if there are any other OF/DH types out there who could fill in for him… · (64) ·
Via The Clarion Ledger comes word that contract negotiations between the Yankees and second round pick Scott Bittle have reached an impasse after a physical showed “wear and tear” on his throwing shoulder. No surprise here, Bittle and his agent say he’s fine. The 75th overall pick threw 70.2 innings as Ole Miss’s closer this season, which is right in line with the typical workload of a top college reliever. If the Yanks don’t come to terms with Bittle, they’ll receive a compensation pick after the second round next year as per MLB’s latest draft rule change. Obviously you’d rather have the player now instead of the pick later.
Just for a historical note, the Padres discovered that Tim Stauffer had a fatigued shoulder after signing him to a $2.6M deal as the 4th overall pick of the 2003 draft. Stauffer’s bonus was adjusted down to $750,000, and he’s gone on to have an unspectacular career thus far. He’s currently coming back from Tommy John surgery. · (20) ·