RAB on The Shore Sports Report

Just a reminder, my weekly appearance on The Shore Sports Report with Mike Krenek and Joe Giglio is coming up at 4:05pm ET today. You can listen in on either FOX Sports 1030 AM or WOBM 1160 AM, and I’m willing to bet that you’ll be able to stream it online via one of those links as well.

Game 54: CC for the sweep

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

It’s hard to believe, but CC Sabathia has been the Yankees’ worst starter the last three or four times through the rotation. He’s put 37 men on base and allowed 18 runs to score in his last 24 innings of work, and opponents have hit .300-.346-.530 off him during that time. He’s turned everyone into the 2009 version of Robinson Cano, basically.

There’s two goals for today’s game. One, beat the Orioles and complete the three game sweep. Two, get Sabathia’s ERA under Kevin Millwood’s, his former teammate who will be on the bump for Baltimore. CC sports a 4.16 ERA (4.11 xFIP) going into today’s start, while Millwood’s brings a 3.89 ERA (3.99 xFIP). He’s going to have to get a little help from the offense today to do that; if Millwood gives up three runs over six innings of work, Sabathia can’t allow more than one run in 6.1 IP. The O’s offense is brutal, so it’s not impossible.

Here’s the lineup…

Jeter, SS
Swisher, RF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Posada, DH
Granderson, CF
Cervelli, C
Gardner, LF

And on the mound, CC Sabathia.

I’m not quite sure why they needed a get-away day today, neither team is traveling very far after the game. The Yanks are going to Toronto, the O’s are going home to play the Red Sox. I’m not going to complain about a day game on an otherwise boring Thursday, though. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05pm ET, and the game can be seen on YES.

Yanks among several teams interested in Luis Heredia

Via MLBTR, the Yankees are among seven teams interested in 15-year-old (!!!) Mexican righty Luis Heredia, considered one of the top arms available on the international market this year. There’s a pretty big hurdle to clear though, the Mexican club that controls his rights has to make him available, and it could take upwards of $2MM to sign him. The Yanks have as strong a presence in Mexico as any team, especially with the success of Al Aceves to their credit.

Meanwhile, the Yanks lost out on another top international prospect when Carlos Matias agreed to a seven-figure deal with the Cardinals. The Yanks were supposedly in on the righty who flirts with triple-digits. Since they don’t pick until 32nd overall in Monday’s draft, it’s been speculated that the Yanks could walk away with two top talents during the July 2nd international signing period (sub. req’d). You can see video of this year’s top prospects at BA’s Prospects Blog, just scroll down a bit.

A young ace begins to emerge

AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

On a warm May night in Texas in 2007, those watching the Yankees and the Rangers square off saw the future for 17 outs. That night, 20-year-old Phil Hughes, making just his second Major League start, held the Texas offense hitless into the 7th until, on a curve ball, the right-hander overextended his leg and popped a hamstring. Hughes wouldn’t return to the big leagues until early August, and he scuffled a bit before hitting his stride in September.

As 2008 dawned, the Yankees had enough faith in Phil Hughes (and Ian Kennedy) that they entrusted him with a starting rotation spot right out of Spring Training. The youth experience that year was an utter disaster. Hughes, a power pitcher, was winless in his first six starts and had a 9.00 ERA to go with his 1:1 K:BB rate. A rib injury derailed his season, and again, Hughes didn’t return until September.

Last year, as we remember, was different. Hughes made a handful of starts in place of the injured Chien-Ming Wang, and he wasn’t lit up. He wasn’t great either, but he showed some flashes of being able to pitch and get outs at the Major League level. A disastrous start in Baltimore skewed his numbers, but the Yanks had enough confidence in what they saw that Hughes stayed in the pen after Wang was activated from the DL.

What happened in the bullpen was nothing short of a revelation. As a reliever, he threw 51.1 innings with a 1.40 ERA and a K/9 IP of 11.4. He got major league hitters out with a vengeance and grew confident as he did. Although we briefly feared that the Yanks would keep Hughes in the bullpen, those fears were assuaged as early as February when the team all but handed Hughes the fifth starter job for 2010.

Lost in the brouhaha over Jim Joyce’s blown call and Armando Galarraga’s 28-out perfect game was Phil Hughes’ domination of the Orioles. He threw 7 innings, gave up 6 hits and 1 earned run on a walk and seven strike outs. On the season, he is 7-1 with a 2.54 ERA. His peripherals are equally as impressive. He’s struck out 64 in 63.2 innings while surrendering just 20 walks and allowing only 4 home runs. Opponents are hitting just .203/.266/.299, and Hughes is making his case for early-season ace.

Phil has found success this year through an aggressive pitching style and the ability to both locate his fastball and have it move. He’s throwing far more cutters this year than he ever has, and overall, his 78 percent fastball rate dwarfs his career norm of 61. He’s establishing the zone and attacking it with his precision while using his devastating curveball as a weapon and an out pitch. It has truly been a pleasure of the early going to see Hughes excel.

There are, of course, some things to watch going forward. At last night’s game, I turned to my sister in the sixth and said that the third time through the order would be key for Hughes. He faltered a bit and had his worst inning of the game when the top of the Orioles’ lineup took their third cuts against him. As the season progresses and teams see Hughes again, he’ll have to adjust. So far, despite a lot of Grapefruit League focus, he hasn’t flashed much of the change-up, and to truly master a lineup, he’ll need that new look.

Yet, Hughes has been an illustration in patience and youth for the Yankees this year. Just a two years after the non-trade for Johan Santana, Hughes has shown why the Yanks didn’t want to pull that trigger, and he’s an ace, young and emerging. He’ll take his lumps later this year and bump up against an innings limit, but if this is the future of Yankee pitching, sign me up.

Yanks pile it on, crush Orioles 9-1

Though the Yanks walloped the Orioles in a thoroughly enjoyable fashion last night, the game was overshadowed a bit by other events around baseball. Ken Griffey Jr., hero to a generation of kids and a centerpiece to baseball card collections everywhere, announced his retirement. The announcement was past due, but for Griff we give a pass. Then there was the perfect game in Detroit that ended imperfectly. Armando Galarraga had it, Jim Joyce blew it, and, well, there’s no reason to rehash that whole situation here.

The swing defined the player | Photo credit: Osamu Honda/AP

Biggest Hit: Granderson puts them on the board

Sure, AP, deprive me a shot of Granderson's double | Photo credit: Frank Franklin II/AP

In a one-sided game, the first runs rule. That’s the case in this game, as the biggest WPA swing came in the second inning. Robinson Cano led off with a single, and then Jorge Posada, in his first at-bat back from the disabled list, worked a quick five-pitch walk, setting up an excellent situation for Curtis Granderson. Orioles starter Brad Bergesen went with the fastball exclusively, and left the fourth one right over the plate. Granderson hit it so hard and so definitively out of any fielder’s range that Posada scored all the way from first.

With Posada back and playing often, chances are Granderson will have to get used to hitting seventh. It’s like Robinson Cano hitting eighth on previous Yankee teams. On any other team he’d be hitting in a much more prominent spot, but with the Yankees’ lineup composition it’s one of the few areas he fits. He went 3 for 4 last night.

Honorable mention goes to Nick Swisher, whose double later in the inning gave the Yankees all they’d need. Bergesen tried to slip a slider by him, but it was right over the heart of the plate and Swish just tore into it. If he weren’t hitting so well then Granderson could very well be hitting second. But he is, and he’s a welcome addition to the top of the lineup.

Biggest Pitch: All of Hughes’s

The only pic of Hughes is a crappy one | Photo credit: Frank Franklin II/AP

Q: What was there not to like about Hughes’s start?

A: Very little.

Once again, Phil Hughes had the gas working last night. He threw 68 four-seamers and generated five swings and misses. He threw 101 total pitches, 72 of which were strikes. That’s quite the high strike total. Yet, despite that, he broke the Yankees’ three-game starter walkless streak. Burnett, Pettitte, and Vazquez avoided walking hitters in their starts, and with a strike to ball ratio like Hughes he figured to continue it. But no, he walked Luke Scott in the sixth, his only shaky inning.

If that’s the worst of the start, you know it’s another great one. Hughes struck out seven, five swinging. Even on the strikeouts looking he looked good. In the first he thew Nick Markakis an 0-2 curve that dropped right into the zone, and in the fifth he struck out Adam Jones on six fastballs, the last of which did look a bit off the plate, but it got the job done.

Another good sign: by my count there were only eight two-strike fouls. Part of Hughes’s problem in the starts against the Red Sox and Mets was the inordinate number of foul balls. That made him work deeper at-bats, and eventually meant an early exit. He has adjusted during the past two starts, going with his curveball a bit more often. He has also stuck with the four-seamer, almost daring hitters with it, rather than throwing a barrage of cutters, as he did against the Sox and Mets.

Another offensive slaughter

Prettiest lefty swing since Griffey | Photo credit: Frank Franklin II/AP

There weren’t many remarkable storylines in this one. It was domination from the beginning. The domination itself, in fact, was probably the most interesting part of the game, other than Hughes’s performance. The Yankees racked up 15 hits, four of which went for extra bases. Robinson Cano hit his 12th home run, Nick Swisher continued his hot hitting with a 3 for 5 effort, and Curtis Granderson continued to make Joe Girardi‘s decision to hit him seventh a difficult one.

Another high points: Jeter drew a walk to leadoff the game for what had to be the first time this season. Posada was the only other Yankee to walk. Granderson got another hit off a lefty. With a 2 for 3 night Gardner got the ol’ batting average back over .300. In more revealing stats, Swisher creeps closer to a 1.000 OPS.

Oddities

Just because there’s little else to say about the game:

Miguel Tejada tried to score from first, in the eighth, with none out, his team down 8-1.

Marcus Thames entered as a defensive replacement. Bask in those words, because you’ll probably never see them again.

Totally boring chart and box score

The green line means the Orioles suck.

You can get your regular box score at the .com and the green lines and acronyms you don’t understand at FanGraphs.

Next Up

Oh hey, day game. CC Sabathia vs. Kevin Millwood at 1 in the Bronx.

Heathcott’s season debut overshadows dominant night by starters

David Adams is getting closer to a return, and when he does it’ll make Trenton’s lineup stupid good. You mind many better in minor league baseball.

Triple-A Scranton (4-0 loss to Durham)
Greg Golson, CF: 1 for 4, 1 2B, 1 K
Reegie Corona, 2B, Colin Curtis, DH, Rene Rivera, C & Matt Cusick, 3B: all 1 for 3 – Corona drew a walk … Curtis doubled & walked … Rivera K’ed
Eduardo Nunez, SS, Jon Weber, RF & David Winfree, 1B: all 0 for 4, 1 K – Nunez committed a fielding error
Chad Huffman, LF: 0 for 3, 1 K
Dustin Moseley: 6 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 10-4 GB/FB – 61 of 103 pitches were strikes (59.2%) … picked a runner off first
Zack Segovia: 2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 3-2 GB/FB – 23 of 36 pitches were strikes (63.9%)
Royce Ring: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 2-0 GB/FB – 11 of 15 pitches were strikes (73.3%)

[Read more…]

Game 53: A battle of former teammates

Tonight’s starting pitcher matchup features two former teammates, though they didn’t play together in the minors and certainly not the majors. Nope, Phil Hughes and Brad Bergesen were teammates at Foothill High School in Santa Ana, California some six years ago. Both graduated in 2004, and went on to be drafted by AL East teams, with the Yankees taking Hughes 23rd overall and the Orioles taking Bergesen 109th overall.

Hughes rocketed up the ladder, but Bergesen’s ascent was a bit more deliberate. It wasn’t until he reached Double-A at age-22 that he really made a name for himself, but here he is two years later starting in Yankee Stadium. If you want to read the article about Hughes from the picture above, click here.

Here’s the lineup, which features the very welcome return of a certain catcher…

Jeter, SS
Swisher, RF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Posada, DH
Granderson, CF
Cervelli, C
Gardner, LF

And on the mound, St. Phil.

It’s a gorgeous day in New York, so this one will begun on time and under the sun at 7:05pm ET. The game will be broadcast on YES