Sunday Trivia and more with RAB at the Delta Dugout

As the Yankees and Mets gear up for yet another installment of the Subway Series, River Ave. Blues is pleased to announce that we will be hosting a Fan Flair challenge and New York baseball trivia contest at the Delta Dugout in Madison Square Park this Sunday afternoon.

The Delta Dugout, sponsored as you might have guessed by Delta Airlines, is becoming an annual happening around the time of the Subway Series. Open from 11 a.m. on Friday through the end of Sunday afternoon’s game, events include a Saturday night pre-game concert by Bernie Williams, an appearance by Joba Chamberlain on Saturday at noon, and an auction to benefit Harlem RBI that will begin with a Mark Teixeira appearance. (In fact, he spilled the beans via Twitter earlier this week.)

Our role in the event comes on Sunday for the Fan Flair Challenge and a subsequent pre-game trivia contest. At 11 a.m., Chris Carlin from SNY and I will be judging fans’ outfits. The Mets fan and Yankee fan with the most team-spirited based outfit will win a giveaway package to one of their favorite’s teams upcoming games. At noon, I’ll then be hosting a special edition of dugout trivia for the Fan Flair runners up with a chance to win tickets to Yankees and Mets games.

The rest of the weekend should be pretty fun too. The games will be shown on a big screen in the park with numerous food vendors. Some other famous New York baseball folk will be making some guest appearances, and batting cages and the like will be set up in the park. Stop by if you’re jonesing for some baseball before the games this weekend. For a full schedule, check out the event’s Facebook page or find out more on Delta’s website.

2011 Draft: Tyler Beede

The draft is just 17 days away, so between now and then I’m going to highlight some players individually rather than lump a few together in one post.

Tyler Beede | RHP

Background
Tucked away in the northeast, Beede attends Lawrence Academy in Groton, Massachusetts, which is north of Boston and not far from the North Hampshire border. He originally attended Auburn High School in Auburn, Mass., but transferred to Lawrence after his junior year to face better competition. Beede threw a perfect game last week and is committed to Vanderbilt.

Scouting Report
A big bodied righty (6-foot-4, 200 lbs.), Beede stands out for his command of four-pitches. He throws two fastballs (both a four- and two-seamers) anywhere from 89-92 with the occasional 93 right now, but there’s some projection left and reason to believe he could add a tick or two. A changeup is probably Beede’s best offspeed offering, and he also throws a low-70’s breaking ball that sometimes looks like a slider and other times a curveball. The command stems from a sound delivery with a big stride that Beede repeats well. Here’s some video from last summer’s AFLAC All-American Game, and there’s plenty more on YouTube.

Miscellany
Beede is one of those rare prospects that offers the command and polish of a college pitcher with the projection of a high schooler. I think he’s flown a little under-the-radar in this deep draft class in part because he doesn’t get much exposure in a cold weather state. High school guys that have shown command of four pitches are definitely a rare breed. Vanderbilt commitments are always tough to break, but the Yankees have had some success doing so (namely Dellin Betances) and he has expressed interest in turning pro.

Beede was ranked the 30th and 35th best draft prospect by Keith Law and Baseball America in the latest version of their rankings, respectively, but the Vandy commitment and desire for an above-slot bonus could cause him to slide.

Screen cap from the linked NESN article about the perfect game.

Jorge’s puzzling struggles against lefties

Keep working on that righty swing, Jorge. It'll come back to ya. (Kathy Willens/AP)

Three times in the past four games the Yankees have faced a left-handed starter. In each of those games Jorge Posada sat on the bench, watching as Andruw Jones, or, in last night’s case, Derek Jeter, got the start at DH. In a way it didn’t come as a surprise. The Yankees need to find at-bats for Jones, and using him in the DH role against LHP is one way of doing that. The bigger issue, though, has been Posada’s performance against left-handers. When flipped around to the right side of the plate this year he’s 0 for 24 with six walks. That’s quite out of line with his career numbers.

Throughout his career Posada has hit lefties just as well as he has righties. While his walk rate and power are slightly better against righties, he has dunked in more hits against lefties. It all adds up to a very similar line, .376 wOBA vs. righties and .366 vs. lefties. This skill did not seem to deteriorate with age. In fact, Posada hit lefties a bit better than righties as recently as last season. Here’s how his splits line up in the past nine years (as far back as FanGraphs goes).

There is no noticeable trend here. Some years he hit lefties better, other years he hit righties. It seems like normal statistical fluctuation to me, especially since it pretty much balances out during the course of his career. That’s why it seems so odd that his skill from one side of the plate would so abruptly disappear. Then again, it seems odd that his ability to hit in general has deteriorated so much during the course of a single winter.

Still, it’s not as though his struggles against lefties are just a drop in the bucket. It might be only 30 PA, but he has struck out in a third of them. That could suggest that something deeper is wrong. When he has put the ball on the play it hasn’t been hit particularly well — just one line drive out of the 14 times he has put the ball in play. That’s equal to the number of infield pop-ups he has against lefties.

Things have gotten better lately. Posada is 11 for 40 with three doubles and seven walks in May, good for a .275/.383/.350 line. That might not be a turnaround, but it’s certainly better than his .125/.232/.375 April. Part of the reason might be that of his 47 PA this month, only eight have come against lefties (3 K, 3 BB). That makes his line against righties a much more impressive .314/.385/.400. If he can pick up that power a bit, he’ll again turn into the heavy hitting force that Yankees fans have known for years.

As for his performances against lefties, it’s easy to see the justification in sitting him at this point. But there is nothing in his career track record that suggests that he’s deficient against them. As he recovers against righties, so should he recover against lefties. Batting from the right side is, of course, natural for Jorge, a right-hander who taught himself to switch hit. The problem is finding a spot for him. While the Yankees would benefit from his resurgence from both sides, they can’t afford to have him striking out every other at-bat. It’s why we’ve seen Jones taking those reps at DH, especially lately, when the Yanks need to rattle off a few wins.

To be sure, the team is better with a normal Jorge Posada. The only question is of how much patience they have for his recovery. If he can hit righties, he should be able to hit lefties. I’m just not sure the Yankees are willing to take that gamble right now.

The RAB Radio Show: May 19, 2011

Well, that was a long one. The Yanks and Orioles went 15 last night, so there’s plenty to talk about. Mike and I go over the Mo/Colon decision, the offense, and what it means for the next few games.

Podcast run time 19:41

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:

  • Download the RAB Radio Show by right clicking on that link and choosing Save As.
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Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.

A fresh arm for the bullpen: who’s available?

The Yankees’ bullpen has been worked pretty hard of late, and the table above a) comes from the great site Daily Baseball Data, and b) shows who’s pitched when and how much over the last week. You can click it for a larger view, if needed. Joba Chamberlain has pitched in four of the last six days, David Robertson in three of the last five with a lot of pitches thrown, 41-year-old Mariano Rivera in three of the last four, and on it goes. Boone Logan has worked so much of late that his arm is apparently barking, as Joe Girardi indicated that the ice pack on his lefty’s elbow last night was more than just routine maintenance.

After taking one for the team in extra innings last night, Hector Noesi is likely to be sent back to Triple-A Scranton today just to get a fresh arm in the bullpen. It’s a cruel world, but the kid certainly earned himself another look and will be back with the big league team sooner rather than later. So who is available to come up tonight? Turns out the answer isn’t very obvious…

40-Man Roster Guys

  • Andrew Brackman, RHP: Threw 92 pitches on Sunday, so tomorrow would be his regular turn. Might be a bit of a long shot, but not completely off limits.
  • Buddy Carlyle, RHP: Threw 35 pitches yesterday and 11 on Sunday. Unlikely, but possible.
  • Lance Pendleton, RHP: Threw 50 pitches yesterday, so he’s a definite no.
  • Ryan Pope, RHP: Threw 50 pitches on Tuesday, so he’s almost certainly a no.

Non-40-Man Roster Guys

  • Randy Flores, LHP: Just signed a minor league contract, threw eight pitches yesterday and hadn’t pitched since last Friday before that. He’s just a lefty specialist though, I assume they’re looking for someone that can give them at least two innings.
  • George Kontos, RHP: Threw 37 pitches on Saturday and hasn’t pitched since. He’s a definite candidate.
  • D.J. Mitchell, RHP: Started and threw 113 pitches on Saturday, so today would be his regular turn. Carlos Silva is starting for Triple-A Scranton tonight though, and I’m not sure if Mitchell got pushed back to tomorrow or if he’s scheduled to come out of the bullpen after Silva.
  • Andy Sisco, LHP: Another LOOGY, he threw 31 pitches on Tuesday and 14 on Sunday. Nope.
  • Kevin Whelan, RHP: Ten pitches yesterday, 11 pitches last Friday, and 16 pitches last Thursday. It’s possible.
  • Eric Wordekemper, RHP: Just three pitches on Tuesday but 32 on Sunday. Maybe.

David Phelps and Adam Warren have started the last two games for Triple-A Scranton, so they’re not options. Assuming Kontos isn’t hurt (just seems odd that he hasn’t pitched in four days, though SWB got rained out one of those days), he and Mitchell seem like the odds-on favorites, though Brackman’s in the mix as well. A 40-man roster spot isn’t much of an issue since Phil Hughes could just be moved to the 60-day disabled list, and if I had to guess, I’d bet on Mitchell getting the call just because he can provide some serious length if needed. Then again, so could Amaury Sanit, and perhaps a true short reliever with strikeout stuff like Kontos makes more sense. Me? I’d prefer Kontos, but what do I know.

Robinson Cano, hacker extraordinaire

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

“I just told Kevin [Long] I’m just going to keep swinging. I’m not going to take pitches or anything like that … I’m just going to go up there and do my thing.”

That’s what Robinson Cano told Kim Jones on the field immediately after last night’s game ended, referring to his 15th inning at-bat that resulted in a two-run, go-ahead double on Mike Gonzalez’s first pitch of the game, a 95 mph fastball left right out over the plate. Cano’s been doing a whole lot of swinging at the first pitch this season, with 38 of his 169 plate appearances (22.5%) resulting in a first pitch ball in play. Last year that number was 15.5%, for some perspective.

Robbie’s never been a patient hitter, but last season he saw a career high 3.47 pitches per plate appearance en route to a career high in just about every offensive category, including unintentional walk rate and OBP. This year he’s seen just 3.16 (!!!) pitches per plate appearance, which ranks 191st out of 192 qualified batters. Orlando Cabrera (2.96 P/PA) is the only one worse. Cano’s career worst was 3.05 pitches per plate appearance back in 2005, his rookie year, and he was never lower than 3.35 P/PA from 2007 through 2010. That isn’t that good either (would rank 184th out of 192 this season), but it’s better than what he’s done this year.

Jack Curry reported on Tuesday that Long had a “heart to heart” talk with Robinson on Monday about being more selective at the plate, primarily because pitchers just aren’t throwing him many strikes. Just 41.6% of the pitches he’s seen this year have been in the strike zone, the 21st fewest among those 192 qualified batters and the fewest of Cano’s career. Last year just 43% of the pitches he saw were in the zone, but the difference is that he’s hacked at 41.7% of the pitches he’s seen out of the zone in 2011 compared 36.5% last year and 32.6% for his career. Only seven batters have swung at more pitches out of the zone this season. Since the talk with Long, Cano has seen a total of 35 pitches in 14 plate appearances, or 2.5 per.

Robinson is never going to draw a ton of walks or be an elite OBP guy (last year’s .385 mark was fueled by .319 AVG and 11 intentional walks), but his discipline has cratered to levels usually reserved for the hackiest of hacks. That he’s still hitting .287/.325/.522 is a testament to his ability to make hard contact and get the bat on the ball wherever it’s pitched. But this kind of extreme plate indiscipline only works so much, the league is already aware that Cano’s swinging at so many pitches out of the zone and is only going to keep more and more pitches off the plate. Matt Wieters set up off away and off the plate in that 15th inning at-bat last night, Gonzalez just missed his spot and gave Robbie something to hit. It wasn’t by design.

As I harp on Cano’s plate discipline, I just make sure it’s clear that I’m not doing so because I want to see him walk more. That would be nice, don’t get me wrong, but the ultimate goal behind working the count is to get a good pitch to hit. It seems like Robinson needs to be reminded that just because a pitch is in the zone, it doesn’t mean it’s worth swinging at. He’s swinging at the first pitch essentially 25% of the time, and is the best pitch to hit the first one in one out of every four trips to the plate? I dunno, maybe it is, but it doesn’t seem likely, not when they’re only throwing him a strike on four out of every ten pitches. Swinging at so many pitches out of the zone, especially early in the count, just puts the pitcher in control.

Colon, Noesi shine in marathon win over O’s

And in the 15th inning, the Yankees finally won. This game featuring everything but a 1-2-3 inning from Rafael Soriano (zing!), including great pitching, (some) clutch hitting, great defense, and even a baserunner getting hit with a batted ball. It’s a good thing the Yankees managed to pull out the win, this is one that would not have sat well with the natives if it ended up in the loss column.

Nom Nom Nom

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Eight shutout innings, three hits, one walk, seven strikeouts, ten ground balls, 87 pitches, 61 strikes, and one no decision. Was this the best pitchedgame by a Yankees’ starting pitcher this year? Yeah I think so, and Game Score agrees with a score of 82. CC Sabathia‘s seven shutout innings against the Twins on April 5th was the previous best at 78, the game when Soriano blew a four-zip lead in the eighth. Nothing nice, eh?

Anyway, Colon was marvelous, commanding the fastball to both sides of the plate and adding velocity as he went along. The guy just continues to pitch well and deep into games, and unfortunately it all went for naught on Wednesday.

Gotta Go To Mo

It’s never a bad move to give the ball to Mariano Rivera, especially in a close game, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. This was one of those times. Whether or not Colon should have been left in for the ninth is debatable (I would have left him in, personally), but the bottom line is that Mo had to get three outs before allowing a run and he didn’t get the job done. He’s now blown back-to-back saves against the Orioles (granted, they were like four weeks apart) and three on the season. If you really want complain about something regarding Mo, complain about him not going back out for a second inning of work after throwing just nine pitches.

And 15 innings later, they score ... (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Goodbye Offense My Old Friend

Remember when the Yankees’ offense was a wrecking crew, capable of beating teams one through nine … well, two through nine? Those were good times, I miss them. Yankees’ batters left the go-ahead run on base in the 10th, 12th, 13th, and 14th innings, stranding a total of 15 men on base and going just 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position. It took back-to-back flare singles from Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez to leadoff the 15th and a Robinson Cano first pitch two-run double to plate the winning runs.

That double was the biggest relief I’ve felt in a while, because the Yankees just refused to capitalize on the chances they were giving. I don’t know what it is with this team, but they seem allergic to the big hit and incapable of finishing off a rally. They have no problem starting them, that’s for sure, but turning them into runs has been like pulling teeth lately. The Cano double was by far the biggest play of the game for New York at +0.262 WPA, it’s just too bad we had to wait 15 innings for it.

Well done, kid. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Trial By Fire: Hector Noesi

Given the circumstances – his Major League debut in an extra innings game with zero margin for error – I thought Noesi was absolutely fantastic. Four walks and four hits in four innings is nothing special, but he made pitches when he had to and looked anything but rattled. It had been 11 days since he last pitched, but Noesi did a fine job of pounding the zone to his glove side, with both fastballs and breaking balls. Sixty-six pitches in all, and he got the Orioles’ batters to swing and miss at ten (!!!) of them (15.2%). Just a great job by the kid, and there’s a good chance he’ll be rewarded with a bus ticket back to Triple-A Scranton to get a fresh arm in the pen for Thursday. It’s hard out here for a Yankees’ rookie, yo.

Leftovers

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

It’s late and I’m not going to drag this out too much, but the top five hitters in the lineup combined to go 11-for-32 (.344) while the bottom four went 4-for-21 (.190). A-Rod had four hits, all singles, and both Tex and Cano had two hits and a walk each. Russell Martin‘s day off ended up not being a day off at all; he pinch-hit in the tenth and had to catch five innings. He actually had more at-bats (four) than the starter Frankie Cervelli (three). Gotta figure he’ll get another day off tomorrow.

Scary moment in the 14th, when Chris Dickerson took a Mike Gonzalez fastball to the head. He walked off the field under his own power and went to the hospital for a precautionary CT scan, and hopefully everything checks out okay. Just to satisfy my nitpicking habit: I’m not sure I would have used A.J. Burnett as the pinch-runner there. They have a lot of money committed to him over the next few years. I’d have just sent Ivan Nova out there and told him to jog, that’s it. Anyway, that’s it, I’m done.

WPA Graph & Box Score

That’s one for the fridge, eh? MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs everything else.

Up Next

Two game winning streak! The Yankees will try to make it three in a row on Thursday night when CC Sabathia takes on … someone. Scheduled Orioles’ starter Jeremy Guthrie warmed up and threw seven pitches in this game, and I’m not sure what that does for his availability later tonight. If he doesn’t go, I assume it’ll be Brad Bergesen on regular rest (thanks to their rain out on Tuesday).