Rosenthal: NJ to undergo surgery

According to FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal, Nick Johnson will undergo surgery on his right wrist. The Yanks’ erstwhile DH will be out until at least July as he recovers from the procedure. Over the weekend, we reported that the odds on Nick’s needing surgery were around 50 percent, and apparently, his wrist did not respond to a cortisone shot. Johnson, off to a slow start during his second stint for the Yanks, was hitting .167/.388/.306 before the injury, and the Yankees will now turn to Juan Miranda and a rotating list of veterans to fill the designated hitter hole. The Yanks’ lineup, as I wrote last week, is better off with a set DH, and I have to wonder if Brian Cashman is at all tempted to kick the tires on this guy.

For Nick and the Yankees, a wrist injury is both not surprising and very disappointing. If one major injury has plagued Johnson throughout his injury-plagued career, it has involved his right wrist. He missed the entire 2000 season with a right wrist injury and had surgery on the same wrist in 2008. He also suffered a left wrist injury in 2002 that carried over to 2003. Without strength in his bottom hand, the left-handed Johnson may find it hard to hit for much power if he returns later this summer.

Update (4:15 p.m.): Making this news official, the Yankees have confirmed surgery for Johnson. He’ll undergo the procedure tomorrow, and the team anticipates that it will be at least four to six weeks before Johnson resumes baseball activities. “This is not a quick fix,” Joe Girardi said to reporters. “This is going to be a while.”

Link Dump: Hughes, WPA, Draft Hype

You guys ready for another thrilling round of Yankees-Red Sox? It’s only their third meeting of the season within the first 40 games, but who’s counting? Anyway, here’s some spare link to check out while you anxiously await first pitch.

A Hughes Difference

I know I’m not the only one to feel this way, but next to the always-on pitch counter, Jack Curry has been the best addition to YES this season. In his latest at the dot-com, he spoke to tonight’s starter Phil Hughes about what he thinks the biggest difference is this year. “I think if you look at my raw stuff to when I was starting games this season to last season, there’s probably not that much difference,” said Phil. “I’m maybe a little bigger and stronger. But I feel what has really changed is my confidence out there and my ability to attack the strike zone. Those have been the two biggest things.”

I recommend reading the whole thing, it’s worth the time.

Yanks-Sox Through The Eyes Of WPA

Finally, someone came up with a unique way to look at the rivalry. Using WPA, Mark Simon at ESPN found the players with the biggest impact on the rivalry dating all the way back to 1995. It should be no surprise, but Manny Ramirez leads all hitters (and all players, period) with a 5.906 WPA, meaning he won just about six games all by himself. For the Yanks, the top hitter has been Alex Rodriguez (2.674 WPA), followed closely by Paul O’Neill (2.557). It drops off considerably after that. Your leaders on the mound are Mariano Rivera (3.664), Pedro Martinez (3.545), and Andy Pettitte (3.109). No one else is over two.

It’s a long read, but it’s really informative. I found it interesting how low Derek Jeter is on the list.

Hyping the Draft

Nothing is more exciting to the baseball blogosphere than a promising youngster, so it’s no surprise that the draft has taken on a mind of it’s own in recent year. Trust me, it’s not an accident that the two most hyped prospects in draft history have played during the Twitter age. Over at FanGraphs, Erik Manning looked at the attrition rate of first round picks from the 1990’s, and it turns out that just 6.8% of those picks developed into true stars. Just under a quarter of them amounted to anything more than an average regular, while a whopping 63.4% busted all together.

Teams have gotten better at evaluating and developing players, but the draft is still just a crap shoot. Now it’s just an expensive crap shoot.

Phil’s first real test

Huuuuuuuuuuughes. (Photo Credit: Ben Margot, AP)

I don’t know about you, but the best part of the 2010 season for me has been watching Phil Hughes take the ball every five days. Oh sure, a 24-13 start is great, but watching Phil deliver on all his promise has been far, far more rewarding. We dealt with the ups, the downs, the injuries, the doubters, and now our patience has been rewarded with watching him blossom into a true frontline starter.

We all know how spectacular he’s been this season, with a 1.38 ERA (1st in the AL), 2.50 FIP (3rd), and 3.61 xFIP (9th), but Hughes’ first real test of the season will come tonight against the Red Sox. It was just ten days ago that he limited that same team to two measly runs over seven innings in the most hostile of environments, but now the element of surprise is gone. Boston’s hitters have had a first hand look at Phil, so adjustments come into play.

In his first start against the Red Sox, Hughes threw 61 four-seam fastballs, 29 cutters, nine curveballs, and just one changeup. Let’s break it down a little further though…

First of all, disregard the fourth time through the order data. It consists of two pitches to Marco Scutaro to end the 7th inning. However, the pattern is obvious. Each time through the order, Phil threw fewer and fewer four-seamers and incorporated more and more cutters and curveballs. Granted, we’re talking about a small amount of curves, so perhaps we should just ignore them. But replacing those relatively straight four-seamers with a moving cutter disrupts the hitter’s timing, and that’s the name of the pitching game.

So now that the Red Sox will dig in against Hughes for the second time in a little over a week, and you can be sure they’ll dig into their memory banks to remember how they were attacked. Fastball heavily early on, more cutters later.

As always, the success doesn’t come from one individual pitch, it’s the separation between two pitches. Part of the reason why Hughes’ cutter has been so effective is because hitters also have to respect his four-seamer, and when both pitches come in at 90+ mph, there’s just not much time to adjust. However, most big leaguers can handle a fastball if they’ve seen it enough times and know it’s coming, so the first time through the order tonight will be particularly telling. Perhaps Hughes should switch it up and go with some more cut fastballs early on to “change up the scouting report,” so to speak. You might see a few more curveballs and (gasp!) changeups than last time just to mix it up a little more as well.

At this point though, the ball is in Boston’s court. Their hitters have to adjust and prove that they can handle Hughes’ fastball-cutter combo before the Yanks’ young hurler must make any changes to his approach. There’s no need to fix what isn’t yet broken. Like everyone else though, the second time through the league is going to tell us a lot more about what kind of pitcher Phil Hughes is than his first time through.

Four tickets available for tonight’s game

It’s kinda short notice, but a reader has four tickets available for tonight’s Phil Hughes vs. the Red Sox game. They’re located in Section 230, Row 14, Seats 14-17, which is the second deck in left field. It’s under the Audi Club and one section over. Face value of the tickets are $60 each, so it’s $240 for all four. If interested, email me via the link in the sidebar and I’ll put you in contact with the seller.

Update (12:43pm): The tickets have been claimed.

Fan Confidence Poll: May 17th, 2010

Record Last Week: 3-4 (30 RS, 24 RA)
Season Record: 24-13 (208 RS, 135 RA, 26-11 Pythag. record), 2.0 games back
Schedule This Week: vs. Red Sox (two games, Mon. & Tues.), vs. Rays (two games, Weds. & Thurs.), @ Mets (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
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Joba, Mo can’t finish off the Twins

No one likes to see a game like that. The Yanks seemed in control the whole time. Sergio Mitre did his job, and then David Robertson did his. To have it come apart in the hands of your two best relievers will certainly break hearts. We know that Joba can’t K ‘em all, and we know that Mo has one of these hiccups once or twice a year. I hope that, by this point, everyone knows it’s not time to write a column about how Mo’s time has come. Sadly, you know it’s there.

Biggest Hit: Winn splits the outfielders

Photo credit: Seth Wenig/AP

The Twins got on the board in the second when Justin Morneau hit a solo homer, but that wasn’t the biggest deal. Morneau will do that from time to time, and the Yanks were sure to score a run at some point. It didn’t look like that would come in the second. The first two batters made outs, though Jorge did come through with a single up the middle. Marcus Thames drew a rare walk, but even then things didn’t look good, for Randy Winn was at the bat.

During Curtis Granderson‘s absence I’ve grown accustomed to seeing Winn swing over pitches. Even with fastballs it seems like his bat passes through the zone a good few inches above where the ball crosses. This time, though, he went down and got a low fastball and drove it into the gap. The Twins fielders seemed ill positioned for such a drive — it takes a special kind of hit to score Marcus Thames from first, even with two out. That put the Yanks up 2-1.

Winn picked up another big hit, though we’ll get to that later. I want to like him — he’s been a solid player throughout his career and would make a quality fourth outfielder — but it just hasn’t clicked for him this year. It might not at all.

Biggest Pitch: Duh

Photo credit: Seth Wenig/AP

After inexplicably walking Jim Thome with the bases loaded, Mo got another chance to finish the eighth, this time against the lefty Jason Kubel. He opened with a cutter low and in, which Kubel looked at for ball one. The next one was in a similar spot, just a bit higher, and Kubel crushed it into the right field stands. We were all crushed, though it’s not an unfamiliar scene. It actually reminded me of Mo’s early appearance against the Rays last season (the one in May, not the one during the summer).

The first sin, of course, was walking Thome, who just wasn’t biting on those cutters low and in. He took one way off the plate for ball one, but the next two were much closer. After getting one over middle-low, Mo went back to working inside, generating two foul balls before his errant seventh pitch. That one was up and away, which makes me think he completely missed. He got another chance, though, and just didn’t come through. I’m sure he will next time they call his name.

Still, it was on Joba

Photo credit: Seth Wenig/AP

Mo might have thrown the pitches that turned the game, but Joba put him in that position. He actually started off the inning well enough. Denard Span singled to lead off, which is never ideal with a runner of his speed. But those types of things happen, and good pitchers work around them. Joba did by inducing a ground ball, but not one that would allow the Yanks to double up Orlando Hudson. He then pitched around Joe Mauer, an understandable strategy, before striking out Justin Morneau. All seemed well.

It was not all well, of course. Joba threw four straight breaking balls to Michael Cuddyer, and found himself in a 2-2 count. He did go to the fastball, 96 mph and high in the zone, but not quite high enough. Cuddyer fouled it away. Joba, ever the predictable one, went back to his slider, and Cuddyer crushed it towards Teixeira, who couldn’t hold on. I thought going to Mo was a bit premature there, especially with the slumping Jim Thome at the plate, but it was by no means a bad move. Calling on Mo never is. I just would have rather seen Joba clean up his own mess.

When the bottom of the order hits…

Joe Girardi sure knows how to waste his bench. When Greg Golson, defensive sub for Marcus Thames, came up in the eighth, Girardi still had Nick Swisher off the bench to pinch hit. Because the lefty Brian Duensing was on the mound, Girardi could use Swish, who can swing pain-free only from the right side. Ron Gardenhire predictably went to his righty, so Girardi had to burn yet another pinch hitter, Juan Miranda. And Miranda predictably struck out. That meant Randy Winn and Ramiro Pena were set to open the ninth.

Yet, by some stroke of luck, both singled off Jon Rauch, giving the Yankees three opportunities with the tying run at the plate. But Rauch got his bearings and struck out the next three batters he faced, the top of the order. It’s quite disheartening to see the scrubs give you a chance, only to see your best blow it. I don’t know what to say after that, other than that’s baseball.

WPA Graph and box score

Yes, you can make the joke about falling off a cliff.

More WPA info at FanGraphs and the box score at MLB.com.

Up Next

The Red Sox come into town for a pair. Phil Hughes and Daisuke Matsuzaka kick off the series tomorrow night at 7. The RABbis will be in attendance.

Laird drives in seven as Trenton pushes winning streak to ten

Hector Noesi has been promoted to Double-A Trenton. It’s well deserved, he completely overwhelmed the High-A Florida State League (2.06 FIP, 11.1 K/9, 1.3 BB/9, ~40% ground balls).

Triple-A Scranton (7-6 win over Charlotte)
Kevin Russo, 3B: 2 for 4, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 HB – on base seven times in his three games back
Reegie Corona, 2B: 2 for 5
Eduardo Nunez, SS & Jesus Montero, DH: both 0 for 4 – Nunez K’ed once, Montero twice
David Winfree, 1B: 1 for 4, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 2 K – he’s been a pretty nice find, can’t complain when it’s a minor league signing
Jon Weber, RF: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 E (fielding)
Chad Huffman, LF & Reid Gorecki, CF: both 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB
Chad Moeller, C: 1 for 4, 2 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 1 PB
The Ghost of Kei Igawa: 4 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2-8 GB/FB – 46 of 64 pitches were strikes (71.9%) … he’s not even getting it done in AAA anymore
Amaury Sanit: 2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 3-2 GB/FB – 23 of his 41 pitches were strikes (561%) … gave up two jacks, giving him five in 19.2 IP
Josh Schmidt: 2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 4-0 GB/FB – 16 of his 26 pitches were strikes (61.5%)
Mark Melancon: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1 WP – ten of his 15 pitches were strikes … 31 K in 23 IP

[Read more…]