Alright, Yankee fans, roll call time. Raise your hand if, in Spring Training, you predicted that Mike Mussina and his eight wins would be leading the Yankees. Put your hand down, you in the back.
As hard as it is to believe, Mike Mussina, 39, is the Yankees’ winningest pitcher. He’s confounding the analysts; he’s beating Father Time; and he’s certainly proving me wrong. By mixing speeds and hitting spots, Mussina is getting the job done.
Tonight, disaster nearly befell early on. Spotted to a 1-0 lead, Mussina came oh so close to falling apart when a Shelley Duncan error — his third of the season in limited duty at first base — lead to a big Minnesota inning. After the first, the Twins had scored four runs, two earned, and Mussina had thrown 36 pitches. Now, usually at this point, I’d write off Mussina, and in a text message to Mike and Joe, I did.
But Mussina, as is his wont this year, proved me wrong. Over the next five innings, Mussina would need just 73 pitches to keep the Twins from scoring again, and his line — 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K — is downright great. The final five innings looks even better: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K. Color me impressed.
(As an aside, it seemed to me on the highlight reel that a lot of the Twins’ base hits in the first were aided by the turf. On grass, some of those balls are outs, no?)
Meanwhile, the Yanks, who left their baserunning shoes at home today, let the bats do the work. Bobby Abreu, Alex Rodriguez and the AL’s leading hitter Hideki Matsui went a combined 9 for 12 and were on base 11 teams. Jose Molina and Melky Cabrera contributed hits as well, and the Yanks were able to plate six runs en route to a victory.
Of course, Kyle Farnsworth looked a bit dicey, and of course, the media is going to harp on this for approximately forever. But Joba’s starting, and the eighth inning is a work in progress.
So the Yankees find themselves with one game left in May, and I feel like this game can set the tenor for the next month. The Yanks are now at .500, and to end the month at one game over would be a huge boost. Meanwhile, Chien-Ming Wang, winless since May 2, could use that very same boost. I’m always wary of watching Wang pitch on turf; his career numbers on turf are not too comforting, and his ERA on turf is 0.90 higher than it is on grass.
But that’s a worry for later. Right now, the Yanks can sleep comfortably with their seventh win in nine games under their belts.
As the big league team faced the Twins tonight, the AAA, AA and High-A affiliates played the respective Twins’ affiliates. Freaky.
Triple-A Scranton (6-3 win over Rochester)
Brett Gardner & Greg Porter: both 2 for 4, 1 2B, 1 BB – Porter scored two runs & K’ed
Alberto Gonzalez: 1 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 K
Jason Lane: 0 for 3, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K
Ben Broussard: 1 for 4, 1 2B, 1 K – 4 of his 5 hits with Scranton have been doubles
Eric Duncan: 3 for 5, 3 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K – you tease
Jeff Marquez: 6 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 10-4 GB/FB – picked a runner off first … 1.70 WHIP & .307 BAA
Billy Traber: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K – 8 of 9 pitches were strikes
JB Cox: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 2-1 GB/FB
Scott Patterson: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 Er, 0 BB, 2 K
The Yanks are coming into this weekend’s wrap-around set at the Twins hot, having won 6 of their last 8 games. Despite that, I’m going to preview the series with one little question: Delmon Young has zero homers this year, how much you wanna bet that he hits at least one this series?
Thaaaaaaaa Yankees’ lineup:
1. Jeter, SS
2. Abreu, RF
3. A-Rod, 3B
4. Matsui, LF
5. Giambi, DH
6. Duncan, 1B
7. Cano, 2B
8. Molina, C
9. Melky, CF
SP – Mikey Moose
Notes: Joba’s starting on Tuesday … Jorge continues to make progress in his rehab … the air conditioner in my office is broke, and it feels like a sauna in here … did you know that Melky has a 4-yr old son named Melky Jr?
Get those tickets for Tuesday’s game, folks, because that’s Day One for everyone’s favorite fist-pumper. Joe Girardi announced during the Yanks’ pre-game routines tonight that Joba Chamberlain will start against the Blue Jays on Tuesday. Chamberlain will throw between 60 and 70 pitches during that start and is now considered a member of the starting rotation. The Yanks plan to add 15 pitches per outing until the 22-year-old reaches that magic 100-pitch threshold. Big days are ahead for number 62. · (26) ·
Keith Law has a ton of new draft stuff up at the Worldwide leader, including a Top 75 Draft Prospects list, a projected first round, and a general draft roundup. Unfortunately, the Top 75 and projected first round are protected by the iron curtain of ESPN Insider. Over at Baseball America, Jim Callis chatted about the draft today, and yesterday they posted their latest Draft Tracker. With each passing day, it seems less likely that Eric Hosmer will fall into the Yanks laps at #28, but more likely that Gerrit Cole will.
The draft is a comin’, can you feel it? · (19) ·
Remember April? Man, we had some heated arguments back then. Cano wasn’t hitting, Giambi wasn’t hitting, Damon was on and off, Jeter wasn’t off to the hot start we saw the past two years. Two guys in particular, though, took the brunt of the offensive criticism: Giambi and Cano. Each time they came to the plate and failed, people were clamoring for them to find a seat on the bench. There was even a contingency of Yanks fans who wanted to see Giambi released.
Good thing they didn’t get their way.
On the month of May, Giambi is hitting .339/.481/.726. That is absolutely insane. Each of those three numbers represents the top spot on the Yankees for the month. On the season, he’s at .244/.393/.556, a more than respectable line that, if nothing else, shows the effects of his abysmal April.
Before the season started and during the first few weeks, some Yankees fans were up in arms about Giambi. DFA him! He won’t be able to help this team! Even as we got into May and the Giambino started hitting a bit better, especially for power, the detractors were still out. At this point, though, to rail against Giambi seems a bit foolish, eh?
(Then again, guys like Jamal looked the fool when he continually defended Giambi in the early going. Baseball’s a funny game like that.)
The thing is, we’ve seen this before. I present to you the year 2005. Giambi was coming off a 2004 defined by a stomach parasite and a benign pituitary tumor. But he was healthy in the spring, and was ready to get back into the game. Problem was, he was no good early on.
Prior to June 15, he had just three home runs. On May 22, he was hitting .215/.368/.346. Yankees fans wanted him out, and wanted him out fast. Even as we moved into late June and his OBP rose to over .400, people still weren’t happy with Giambi. The stigma of steroids still surrounded him, and I heard many a person talk about how he can’t compete without the juice.
Then a funny thing happened in July. He started hitting balls out of the park. Two against the Orioles on the 4th of July. One the next day. After an off-day, one on the day after that. One against Boston on July 14, in an 8-6 win. Two on July 20, two on July 21. By the end of the year, that Giambi who had a slugging percentage under .350 on May 22 finished with a line of .271/.440/.535. The complainers had shut up.
(He hit .282/.463/.655 from July on in 05. Just disgusting numbers.)
This year, it appears his resurgence is coming along a bit quicker. He’s been one of the drivers of the Yankees offense, which is finally starting to look like we expected from the get go. And, most importantly, he’s hitting well enough to compensate for his poor defense at first base. There are no guarantees that he keeps it up — as I said, baseball is a funny game like that — but Giambi has shown that he can in fact contribute to the 2008 Yankees.
Hopefully, Girardi’s veteran rotation will help keep Giambi — as well as Matsui and Damon — fresh throughout the year. Matsui and Giambi in particular have been integral in molding the offense. With A-Rod back and Jorge on the way, maybe we can start to put up some more crooked numbers.
That’s a rather lengthy title, eh? Anywho, I’m representing the Yanks in what amounts to a huge mock draft involving bloggers from each team. There’s some blogging heavyweights involved, including Geoff from Ducksnorts (the godfather of baseball blogging), Jason from Prospect Insider, Kiley from Saber-Scouting and Bryan from Baseball Prospectus, so I think it’s pretty cool that I was asked to represent the greatest sports’ franchise in the history of the universe. There’s a site set up for all the action, which you can find here. If you want to cut to the chase, the picks are being made here, and the discussion is here.
We plan on doing the first and supplemental rounds, and the picks are being stretched out a bit to accommodate everyone’s schedule (we should be done by Sunday). I’ll post my picks with analysis and the reasoning behind them once they’re made. · (18) ·
During the Yanks’ extra-innings lost in Baltimore on Tuesday night, Mariano Rivera did something he had not done all season: He walked a batter. Amazingly, the world did not end. With that walk, Rivera ended a stretch of 19 straight appearances this season. It was the longest such streak to start a season for Rivera, and stretching back in 2007, Mo hadn’t allowed a base on balls since over his previous 23 appearances. But that wasn’t even the longest streak of his career. From June 12, 2007 to August 15, 2007, Rivera went 24 appearances without issuing a walk, and from June 26, 2005 to August 31, 2005, Rivera went 31 appearances covering 35.1 IP without issuing a free pass. Damn, this guy is good. · (4) ·
It’s a quiet night in Yankeeland. We’re awaiting word on Tuesday night’s starter, and the Yanks had an off-day on Thursday as they journeyed to Minneapolis for a wrap-around weekend set with the 28-25 Twins.
But across the city in Shea Stadium, Joe Torre made his return to New York. He managed the Dodgers to a loss against the Mets and was received warmly by the Shea Faithful. Jack Curry sat down for an extensive look at Joe’s life post-Bronx:
But Frank Sinatra never had to manage a baseball team in New York, New York. While Torre was renowned for his lengthy interview sessions and seemed to enjoy the interaction with the news media, he said that the coverage surrounding the team changed about eight years ago. Torre could not pinpoint why. He just felt as if the game details often became secondary to other issues. Torre recounted how the Dodgers plunked Boston’s Manny Ramírez with a pitch in an exhibition game and it was barely noticed.
“New York is great for the good times and memorable for the bad times,” Torre said.
Three nights after Randolph heard a smattering of “Fire Willie” chants, Torre was serenaded like a returning king. After a pitching change in the seventh inning, Torre received a partial standing ovation as he walked from the mound to the dugout. He lifted his cap to the fans.
While Torre couldn’t pinpoint what changed, I can. The invulnerable Yankees lost in the postseason eight years ago, and they haven’t really managed to win that Holy Grail, that 27th championship, since then. What happened in 2001 was hardly Torre’s fault. Mariano threw the ball away; Scott Brosius didn’t throw the ball to first; the roof took away a potential Shane Spencer home run.
But as the Yankees stocked up on talent — when Jason Giambi came in and the Yanks had to replace Tino and Paul O’Neill — the media began to nitpick every move the $200-million team made, and Torre bore the brunt of that scrutiny.
Today, we’re on the verge of wrapping up month two of the Joe Girardi Era, and it’s gotten off to something less than the smooth start for which we were all hoping. The Yanks enter Minnesota in last place, one game under .500. They’re only 4.5 games behind the Red Sox for the fourth AL playoff spot, and I have to believe that the team’s fortunes will improve.
As I watched some of the Dodgers-Mets game from the gym before the Lost finale took my attention away from baseball for a few hours tonight, I asked myself if I wished Joe Torre were still managing in the Bronx. My answer was still no. I loved Joe in New York, and I think it’s too bad that he couldn’t still be around to manage the team into the new stadium. But I still think it was the right move for him and the Yanks to part ways.
Today, he and Girardi are both managing teams with high payrolls and sub-.500 records. But only in New York is the manager, the General Manager and everyone else under the sun under fire for this start. In Los Angeles, Joe Torre just sounds more at home, green tea and all.
Picking up on a thread in the DotF comments, Jose Tabata was indeed removed from tonight’s Trenton Thunder game for disciplinary purposes. John Nalbone has the story, but details are scarce. No word if the Yanks’ prospect will face a second suspension this year yet. · (11) ·