Fan Confidence Poll: June 27th, 2011

Record Last Week: 4-2 (27 RS, 26 RA)
Season Record: 45-31 (399 RS, 302 RA, 48-28 pythag. record), one up in loss column
Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, vs. Brewers (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), @ Mets (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

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Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
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Yankees come back for win on Old Timers’ Day

The afternoon started with some greatest players in Yankees history coming together on Old Timers’ Day, and it ended with a current Yankees great striking out the side in the ninth to close out the win. In between we got to see Tino Martinez go deep off David Cone (video!), Gene Monahan be honored (and receive a Price Is Right showcase), and a whole lot more.

So light on his feet, this Posada fella.

Too Many Homers (A Comeback Story)

The scouting report on Rockies’ starter Juan Nicasio says that he throws a ton of fastballs, enough that John Flaherty could say he was proud of it (repeatedly). Nicasio used that great fastball, which around 94 and topped out at 97, to retire the first 13 batters he faced. Five of those first 13 batters saw a three-ball count and only five saw a non-fastball (six total offspeed pitches in that time), and as Alexi Ogando can attest, that approach won’t work against the Yankees multiple times through the order.

Robinson Cano ripped a solid single to left with one out in the fifth for New York’s first baserunner, and apparently pitching from the stretch didn’t agree with Mr. Nicasio. He fell behind Nick Swisher 3-0 before getting away with a fastball over the plate (fouled off), but Swish didn’t miss the next one. The 3-1 heater caught too much of the plate before landing in the right field seats for a two run homer, Swisher’s sixth homer of the month and ninth of the season. That brought the Yankees to within one, but Jorge Posada fixed that with a solo homer into the bullpen to complete the back-to-back jacks. That was another fastball (1-2 count) in a bad spot, and it was Jorge’s second homer in the last five games. After four-plus innings of nothing for the Yankees, the two teams were right back to where they started.

He's almost got Robbie's backswing down. Almost.

Nova Gives It Back

Well, the tie didn’t last long, because Ivan Nova served up Ty Wigginton’s second homer of the day in the top of the sixth. The most annoying thing about the homer (besides the fact that it was Ty freaking Wigginton) was that this one came in a two strike count. Nova’s full count fastball was just in a bad spot, and Wigginton did was he was supposed to. His first homer was a solo shot in the second off another poorly located heater.

The final line for Nova is not good (6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 4 K), but that’s not surprising since he couldn’t seem to locate much of anything. I think it’s just the normal ups and downs of pitching more than anything else, sometimes it’s all working (like it did for Nova against the Reds), sometimes it’s not working on all. This game was kind of in between. Nova gave up three homers in the game, all solo shots, which is not really what you expect from a ground ball guy. He had allowed six homers total in his first 14 starts, then this.

Safe.

Deficit Erased, Lead Taken

The Yankees were not down long after Wigginton took back the lead for Colorado. Brett Gardner started the sixth with his second bunt single in as many games, this one a drag job down towards first base. He then stole second ahead of a Curtis Granderson walk, ending Nicasio’s day. Alex Rodriguez, who had six hits in his previous six at-bats with runners in scoring position, came up after Mark Teixeira grounding into a fielder’s choice to set up a first and third, one out situation. Matt Belisle started Alex off with a fastball before a ball before going with a slider, a pitch the Yankees third baseman clunked through the 5.5 hole to score Gardner and tie the game. It wasn’t picture perfect, certainly a ground ball with eyes, but it was all they needed at the time. Tie the game, then worry about everything else.

An inning later Belisle found himself with men on first and second with one out following a Troy Tulowitzki error on what looked like a douple play ball off the bat of Russell Martin. Chris Dickerson was sent in to pinch-run for Posada at second, which turned out to be rather important. Belisle went with two sliders against Eduardo Nunez, who did exactly what A-Rod did in the previous inning and grounded it through the 5.5 hole for a single. Dickerson raced around third and slid into home (Slip ‘n Slide style) well before the throw. The Yankees had the lead for the first time all game, and this one they didn’t give back.

No LOLpen This Time

After Nova’s six serviceable innings, the bullpen went to work. Luis Ayala was brought in to face the righty Chris Iannetta, who worked a seven pitch at-bat before singling to left. Boone Logan came in to face some lefties, and he promptly struck out Carlos Gonzalez (the guy that doubled off him Friday) on four pitches before getting the switch-hitting Jonathan Herrera to fly out harmlessly to center. David Robertson was up in the bullpen, but Logan was going to get a chance to face the left-handed Todd Helton. He started him off with a slider for a strike, but Iannetta stole second and went to third on what was dubbed a throwing error by Martin (I think it was a ball Nunez had to at least knock down though). The margin for error was gone, but Logan stuck to the plan and fed Helton slider after slider. Five pitches and four sliders into the at-bat, Helton rolled over on a ball and grounded it to second weakly to end the inning.

Robertson started the eight and had quite a battle with Tulowitzki, who fouled off seven pitches in a ten pitch at-bat before whiffing on a fastball at his eyes. Jason Giambi grounded out on the first pitch, and Seth Smith swung through a fastball for strike three and the third out. Mariano Rivera struck out all three guys he faced in the ninth, and that was that. Five of the last six Colorado batters didn’t even put the ball in play, and none of the last seven hit it out of the infield.

So good.

Leftovers

Tex gave the Yankees an insurance run in the eighth with a solo homer off Matt Reynolds, and it wasn’t even a bad pitch. It was a slider down below the knees that he just golfed out. It was his 23rd of the season, tied with Jose Bautista for the league lead.

Every Yankees starter had exactly one hit except for Grandy (who walked) and Martin (who reached on Tulo’s error in the seventh). With the homer and a walk, Posada was the only Yankee to reach base safely twice in the game. The homers by Tex, Jorge, and Swisher were their only extra base hits. Colorado pitchers threw 137 pitches in the game, which doesn’t seem like a whole lot when you mix in nine baserunners and six runs allowed.

Nunez let a routine double play ball go right through his legs in the first inning, making Nova have to work that much more to escape the inning unscathed. I’m not the world’s biggest Nunez fan, but even his biggest backers have to admit that’s a play he absolutely has to make. Period, end of story.

Michael Kay was talking to Tino in the booth during the game and mistakenly said “All Timers’ Day” instead of “Old Timers’ Day.” It sounded dangerously close to “Alzheimer’s Day.” I dunno, I figured that was noteworthy.

WPA Graph & Box Score

That’s it. MLB.com has a box score and video highlights, FanGraphs has everything else.

Up Next

For the third time in the last week, the Yankees will have the day off on Monday. They’re going to take that opportunity to skip Brian Gordon’s next start and instead roll with Freddy Garcia against the Brewers on Tuesday. He’ll be opposed by Zack Greinke, who should lose because he can’t handle New York, or something like that.

Brackman’s latest disaster comes in blowout loss

Josh Romanski has been promoted to Double-A Trenton, so says his Twitter account.

Triple-A Scranton (11-3 loss to Durham)
Austin Krum, LF: 1 for 4, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 CS
Kevin Russo, 2B: 2 for 5, 1 2B, 1 RBI
Mike Lamb, DH: 1 for 5, 1 2B – got picked off second
Jesus Montero, C: 0 for 2, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 K – on base ten times in his last six games
Terry Tiffee, 1B: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB – second straight day with a homer … he’s 7-for-18 (.389) since signing
Brandon Laird, 3B: 0 for 4, 1 K
Jordan Parraz, RF & Greg Golson, CF: both 2 for 4 - Golson whiffed
Doug Bernier, SS: 1 for 2, 1 R, 2 BB
The Ghost of Kei Igawa, LHP: 6 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 6 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 7-3 GB/FB – 52 of 94 pitches were strikes (55.3%) … this was his 74th career start for SWB, a new franchise record, so maybe he was too overwhelmed by the honor and couldn’t throw strikes
Andrew Brackman, RHP: 0.1 IP, 1 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 0 K, 1 WP, 1 HB – just nine of his 28 pitches were strikes (32.1%) … apparently he was sitting at just 87 and threw past the bullpen catcher several times in warm-ups … something is obviously very wrong here, it’s probably time for a stint on the DL to figure things out … what it is, they can’t keep running him out there like this, it’s not helping whatsoever
Josh Schmidt, RHP: 1.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HB, 1-1 GB/FB – 22 of 36 pitches were strikes (61.1%) … he allowed all three of Brackman’s inherited runners to score

[Read more…]

Open Thread: Jeter’s Birthday

(Photo Credit: Flickr user dbfoto™ via Creative Commons license)

It got lost in the fun of Old Timers’ Day, but today is Derek Jeter‘s 37th birthday. I was kinda surprised he didn’t make the short trip up from Tampa for the event, but who knows what’s up with his rehab schedule. Obviously his priority is getting back on the field. It’s hard to believe the Cap’n is 37 though, isn’t it? It sucks watching his play decline but it happens to everyone. He’s the first homegrown megastar whose career I was able to watch from start to finish, and there’s something both happy and sad about that. Happy birthday, Derek.

Here’s your open thread for the night. The ESPN Sunday Night game is in San Francisco for the Indians and Giants (Carmona vs. Bumgarner), so that should be fun. You all know what to do here, so have at it.

Pitching Probables

Pitching’s a crazy thing, isn’t it? Seems like we haven’t worried about anything besides it since day one aside from a few spots of sputtering offense. That, we know’ll improve. But this whole pitching thing has been crazy since forever. Good for writers. Bad for the team. And for fans. I wish we could have ace pitching and a crappy backup catcher to complain about. Wait….

Anyway, it’s looking like, for the first time in a while, the Yankees may eventually have more starters than they have rotation spots. This is a blissful change from the norm, where it usually seems like the question du jour is ‘who the hell is going to pitch tomorrow?’ On the bright side, it’s nice to have so many alternatives. On the downside, the decision isn’t an easy one. We’re not choosing between Justin Verlander and Aaron Cook here. To put it lightly, there’s going to be a pretty serious bottleneck if all the injured Yankees starters come back healthy. Which ones are more likely to stay in the rotation?

Phil Hughes – 90%

We see you too, Phil. (Photo by dbphoto on flickr. Licensed under creative commons. )

Since going down with mysterious arm weakness on April 16th, Hughes has been in and out of the public consciousness. While he’s basically guaranteed to scoop back up his rotation spot when he returns from the DL, the concern should be that both fans have the team have no idea what kind of Phil Hughes is going to come back. Remember that Hughes didn’t even start off the season right: his velocity never where it was supposed to be, even in Spring Training, and none of his three starts were passable. While It’s nice to see that his fastball is above 90 in his first two rehab starts, no one’s exactly sounded thrilled by what he’s showing so far. Throwing seventy pitches in 3 innings is closer to the kind of stuff he showed in late 2010, with an inability get guys out and each batter hitting approximately 203984039 foul balls – and that not the best pitcher Phil can be. My personal concern is not if he will get his spot back, because that seems obvious, but rather how long he can keep it, and what he can do to maximize his own effectiveness. Everyone knows that Hughes has all-star stuff, it’s just a matter of finding it again, and it’s impossible to say whether he will. If Hughes’ dead arm makes it hard for him to reacquire the stuff he had in early 2010, it’s hard to say where he’ll project long term. A 4/5 starter would be a possibility, or maybe even a disappointing move to the bullpen, continuing the Yankees’ general weirdness (in lieu of other words) with developing pitching.

Bartolo Colon – 85%

Who can say enough about Big Bad Bartolo? Fans (and probably the team) came into the year expecting absolutely nothing from Colon, who’d had a mysterious stem cell treatment on his arm during 2010 and hadn’t pitched all during the season. Here was a guy who the Indians wouldn’t sign due to his, err, quite obviously poor conditioning routine. Said routine (or lack thereof) has done absolutely nothing to hinder the fact that Colon was, up until his hamstring injury, the second-most effective pitcher on the staff and probably the one the Yankees were getting the most bang for their buck from. He was even good enough to get the steroid whispers started, which seems to be a compliment nowadays. It’s nice that the injury is in his leg and not his arm, and he seems to be on track for a relatively speedy return. His rehab has gone well and he’s scheduled to throw a simulated game on Monday, which would line up him to be back in the rotation over Brian Gordon if they use the off day (also Monday) to skip him. His injury wasn’t am related and he’s, uh, surprisingly agile on the mound, so here’s hoping we get the same Bartolo back that left. Because I don’t think I need to say this, but that Bartolo was really, really good. I blame that two-seamer. Am I allowed to say that pitch is sexy? If there was such thing as a sexy pitch, Bartolo Colon’s two-seamer would qualify.

Freddy Garcia – 50%

Here’s where it gets tricky. Out of the three rotation spots, the only one truly in question is the fifth starter, and it probably comes down the chief or the supernova. Personally, I would prefer to see Ivan Nova (I’ve always been a Nova supporter), but honestly, my gut is that it will be Freddy. Why? First of all, his stats appear a bit better (3.30 ERA/4.14 FIP, vs Nova’s 4.13 ERA/4.13 FIP), and second of all, the pitching plan has always seemed to be put the prospects in the bullpen first (Hughes, Noesi, Nova). While Freddy, like Colon, has exceeded most expectations of him, both his problem and his success can be very easily summarized: he is junkballing people to death. It’s certainly entertaining to watch batters be frustrated by his slow (87 MPH fastball), slower (80 MPH splitter), and slowest (70 MPH curveball) routine, but two utter takedowns by the Boston offense has shown that it’s not likely to work on a power team. That being said, Garcia’s proved he’s capable at least, and his veteran presence shoring up the back of the rotation may be the tipping point in the decision on the fifth starter.

Ivan Nova – 45%

Nova’s results this year have been, to say the least, interesting. What usually happens is that someone on the internet writes a scathing report of how bad he is and how he needs to be kicked out of the rotation, and then he goes out there and just tears up whatever team in question he’s facing. Nova’s biggest weakness is his inability to miss bats: his swinging strike percentage last year was 6.4%, with this year’s being a mere 4.8%, while he’s on pace for only only about 5 strikeouts per nine innings, just below his average from last year. While both years are a pretty small sample, the evidence is clear pretty clear that he’s no David Robertson. He makes up for this with decent ground ball rate (55%) that’s improved from last year’s few starts (51%). The reasons I think Nova should be in the rotation are as follows: first off, he’s young, and has showed improvement from last year to this year and continues to improve, even against high-powered offenses such as the Rangers and the Reds, and secondly, he clearly has the stuff to start in the bigs, and stashing him in the pen or demoting him won’t improve that stuff. The problem is, his stuff certainly would work better out of the pen than Garcia’s, given his slick little fastball-curveball combination and the jump we’d see in his speed if he was only throwing 20 pitches a night. Like I said earlier, though, putting young pitchers in the bullpen is an extremely frustrating part of this team: don’t do it to poor Nova.

Brian Gordon – 5%

Unless Brian Gordon goes out there and throws a perfect game, there’s little possibility that we’ll see him in the big league rotation after people start coming off the DL. While he was serviceable in his first start and has a really great story, there’s an obvious reason why he spent so much time being a minor leaguer. While Gordon is decent filler material while the Yankees deal with their injuries, he doesn’t appear to have the stuff he needs to keep his big league job with this team, at least. He’ll most likely be the first one to go – probably cut, given the excess of pitchers in Scranton and Trenton, but possibly demoted. Either way, Gordon’s been a placeholder for Colon until he gets back, and while he’s fine for a couple of spot starts, there’s really no way this guy is going to take a rotation spot over any of the options listed.

For the first time in what seems like a long time, the Yankees have too many pitchers fighting for a spot. What this comes down too, really, is Garcia vs. Nova, and it’s not an easy one to pick when you take all the factors into the debate. That being said, I personally think this is still a better problem to have than worrying about who the heck is gonna pitch tomorrow. Go Nova!