Fan Confidence Poll: April 19th, 2010

Record Last Week: 5-1 (33 RS, 18 RA)
Season Record: 9-3 (60 RS, 47 RA), tied with Rays for AL East lead
Opponents This Week: Monday OFF, @ Athletics (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), @ Angels (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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Yanks complete sweep with win over Rangers

Taking two of three always represents a favorable outcome. That works out to a 108-win season, excellent by any standard. But when the opportunity to sweep a team arises, I always find myself a bit disappointed if they don’t deliver. For instance, not sweeping the first three series was fine because each featured a rubber game. In this weekend’s series, however, the Yankees had a chance to walk away perfect. They delivered in their first opportunity, defeating the Rangers 5-2.

Biggest Hit: Ramiro Pena‘s two-run single

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Rangers’ starter Rich Harden lived up to his reputation yesterday, showing good stuff and poor control. The Yankees took advantage, working the pitch count an driving Harden from the game in the fourth inning. The greatest damage came in the third, when eight Yankees came to the plate and saw 35 pitches. They also erased their only deficit of the game in quick, impeccable fashion.

Walks to A-Rod and Curtis Granderson, sandwiching a Jorge Posada single, set the Yanks up with bases loaded and one out. Nick Swisher failed in his attempt to capture the lead, striking out on three pitches. That left the inning up to Ramiro Pena. Harden started the at-bat with a low changeup, which Pena swung over. He came back with a fastball, slightly off the plate inside, but Pena kept his hands in and got a good part of the bat on the ball, sending it over Ryan Garko’s head for a single.

With Andy Pettitte dealing, the Yanks didn’t need any more than this. They got more, which is always appreciated, but they didn’t need it. The pitching has just been that good this season.

Honorable Mention: Teixeira’s jack

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

For the second straight season Mark Teixeira has started the season in a slump. It seems like he’s just missing some of these pitches, which is both encouraging and frustrating. Encouraging because it means that he’ll surely be in mid-season form before long. Frustrating because he’s so close to making an impact. Yesterday he took a step forward, hitting his first home run of the season and tying the game after the Rangers had taken the lead in the top of the inning.

Harden did not come out throwing gas in the third. His first pitch registered only 86 mph, and while it looked like a fastball PitchFX classified it as a changeup. The next pitch was similar in speed, just 1 mph faster, and break, but it was classified a fastball. In any case, neither of them were particularly impressive, and they both ran right down the middle. Teixeira jacked the second one, about thigh high, into the second deck in right.

Tex didn’t pick up a hit the rest of the afternoon, and it’s quite possible that his slump continues a bit longer. Still, it was nothing but encouraging to see him tie the game with his first homer of the year.

Biggest Pitch: Andrus and Young give Texas the lead (tie)

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

While Pettitte pitched well for most of the game, he still ran into a bit of trouble in the third. Matt Treanor opened the inning with a single, and after a sacrifice bunt found himself on second with one out. On a 1-2 count, Pettitte threw a cutter inside to Elvis Andrus, and the latter hit one sharply down the line for an RBI single. It wasn’t a bad pitch by any means. The pitch was in on Andrus’s hands, but he reacted quickly enough. It was much like Pena did in the bottom of the inning, though Pettitte’s pitch had a bit more movement than Harden’s.

Pettitte then delivered three fastballs off the plate outside to the next hitter, Michael Young. After a fastball strike on the outside corner, Pettitte again went away with the fastball, this time catching a bit of the plate. Young lined it to right, which all but assuredly would score Andrus. Swisher, possibly overestimating his own arm strength, gave it the ol’ college try, but all it did was allow Young to advance to second.

The situation nearly got worse when the next batter, Josh Hamilton, smoked one toward right field. Mark Teixeira made a leaping catch, though, and nearly got Young going back to second. One batter later, Vlad Guerrero popped one up to the infield, leaving the Rangers with their one-run lead.

Cano’s impatience can be frustrating

We’ve gone out of our way to praise Robinson Cano, the new fifth hitter, for his hot start. At times he’s seemed a bit more selective at the plate, even if he drew only his second walk today. During other at-bats, though, he still seems like the hacking kid who came up in 2005. This is what his at-bat in the third felt like.

After Teixeira’s game-tying homer, Harden lost control a bit. He walked A-Rod on five pitches, the four balls all high pitches. What does Cano do to follow-up? He swings at the first three pitches he sees. Harden went down the well, starting Cano with a fastball low in the zone, which the latter fouled away. He fouled the next pitch, a changeup that fell below the zone. The final pitch, a changeup in the dirt, drew a futile swing.

Cano will do this from time to time. The key, I think, is that these incidents are spread further apart than in the past. So far we’ve seen that, an encouraging sign. It’s tough to not be frustrated after watching that at-bat, though.

Happy thoughts

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Andy’s continued April brilliance. It seems like he’s been excellent to start the year since returning in 2007. He ran into a bit of rough patch early in 2008, but other than that he’s been money in the early goings. He’s not going to pitch like this every time out, but it’s nothing but encouraging to see Pettitte at the top of his game in April.

Brett Gardner’s big day. As Mike said, this isn’t going to be a regular occurrence, but it’s a nice reminder of what Gardner adds to the team when he gets on base. At very worst, his willingness to take pitches works right with the Yankees’ M.O.

The Yanks continue to work opposing pitchers like few other teams. Not only did they force Harden to throw 94 pitches in his 3.2 innings, but they also put a dent in the Rangers’ bullpen. Dustin Nippert threw 40 pitches in 2.1 innings, though Darren Oliver used just 23 to complete the final two. I wonder, though, if by the time Oliver came in everyone was just racing to the finish.

Jorge’s home run was a think of beauty. Nippert opened the AB with two curveballs that missed, and then went exclusively to the fastball. He reached back for something extra on the 3-2, hurling it at 94 after sitting mostly 91-92. It caught all of the plate, though, and Jorge sent it on a line over the right field wall.

Annoyances

Other than Cano’s three-pitch strikeout after A-Rod’s walk, I had few complaints about this one. I had few complaints about the series in general, and seeing how it resulted in a sweep I think I’ll back off the annoyances section for now.

WPA Graph

It dips and rallies.

You can check out the player breakdowns at FanGraphs.

Up Next

The Yanks take the day off today as they travel to start a six-game tour of the AL West. Thankfully, only half of those games start at 10 p.m., with the schedulers cutting us a break on Wednesday with a rare road getaway game. The A’s are up first, 10 p.m. on Tuesday.

Open Thread: Run Brett run!

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

I’m still not sold on his ability to be an everyday outfielder, but it sure was fun to watch Brett Gardner run wild against the Rangers. Dude went 5-for-6 with a walk, a hit by pitch, four stolen bases and four runs scored in the series, beating out three infield hits and almost a fourth. He’s tied for the league lead with seven steals despite starting just eight of the team’s 12 games. I don’t expect Gardner to maintain his .333-.444-.333 batting line all season, but I’ll sure enjoy it while it lasts.

Anyway, here’s your open thread for the night. You’ve got NBA and NHL playoff action, plus the Mets and Cardinals are your ESPN Sunday nighter. Hopefully this one doesn’t go 20 innings. You know what to do, so have at it.

Mitchell rebounds well in second Double-A start

Triple-A Scranton (4-3 win over Buffalo)
Kevin Russo, 3B: 0 for 5, 1 K
Eduardo Nunez, SS: 4 for 5, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 SB, 1 CS – helluva game right there
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 3, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 PB – still waiting for that elusive first homer, but it’ll come … don’t worry
David Winfree, 1B-RF: 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI
Jon Weber, DH: 1 for 5
Chad Huffman, LF & Reegie Corona, 2B: both 1 for 4, 1 K – Huffman threw a runner out at the plate … Corona drove in a run, walked & stole a base
Colin Curtis, CF-RF: 1 for 2, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 BB, 1 HBP
Greg Golson, CF: 0 for 4, 1 K – Juan Miranda pinch hit for him late, hence all the outfield moves
Ivan Nova: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 11-2 GB/FB - 61 of 96 pitches were strikes (63.5%) … 18-3 K/BB ratio in 17.2 IP
Royce Ring: 0.1 IP, zeroes, 1-0 GB/FB – threw three pitches, just one strike
Mark Melancon: 2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 4-0 GB/FB – 17 of 25 pitches were strikes (68%)
Jon Albaladejo: 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2-0 Gb/FB - nine of his ten pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Revisiting the Alfonso Soriano trade

When the Rangers and the Yankees square off, I always think about Alfonso Soriano and today’s Texas second baseman Joaquin Arias. As we all know, he was the Arlington-bound centerpiece of the package the Yanks dashed off to Texas in exchange for Alex Rodriguez, and Arias was the player the Rangers selected from the Yanks’ organization.

This afternoon, while I ducked out of the living room and had to listen to John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman for a few minutes, Waldman mentioned how the Yanks almost gave up Robinson Cano in that trade. I didn’t recall that and went digging for answers. I found a Jim Callis piece from 2004. The Baseball America scribe wrote, “Though initial speculation was that New York would give up a pitching prospect, baseball sources say the five-man list contains four hitters, including outfielder Rudy Guillen, shortstop Joaquin Arias and second baseman Robinson Cano, as well as righthander Ramon Ramirez.”

Eventually, Callis amended his list to include Bronson Sardinha and replaced Ramirez, today a pitcher with the Red Sox, with Jose Valdez. The Rangers on March 23 took Arias, and since 2004, they’ve waited and waited for him to arrive. This year marks his fourth season with an appearance in the Majors, and his track record is inconsistent. He had an impressive cup of coffee in 2006, missed most of 2007 to injuries, played 32 games in Texas in 2008 and played in AAA in 2009. For 2010, he’s hitting over .400 and may, at age 25, may finally be developing into a Major League infielder.

The Yanks don’t miss Arias because they have Robinson Cano, and it’s only through that twist of baseball fate that Cano stuck around. The team offered him to the Rangers, and the Rangers went with Arias. As Cano matures into the team’s number five hitter, I’m happy to see him in pinstripes, and the A-Rod trade would have looked much different had the Rangers opted for the right player.

Meanwhile, Alfonso Soriano has been in the news these days but for all of the wrong reasons. The Cubs, Dan McGrath writes in The Times today, don’t know what to do with him. The Cubs owe him $90 million and have him under contract through 2014. Yet, at age 34, he’s falling apart. His knees aren’t healthy, and his foot and bat speed are both on the wane. He hit .241/.303/.423 in 117 games and stole a career-low nine bases. His offense has picked up this weekend, but his defense in left field has taken a turn for the worse.

Since leaving the Yanks, Soriano has hit a very respectable .275/.328/.514 with 193 home runs. I thought the Yanks would miss him more than the team has. He gained two years after his real age came out following the trade, and his years as a 30/30 player seem to be behind him. I’ll take A-Rod – and Robinson Cano.

Game 12: Derek out with a cold

From my couch, it looks to be a beautiful day for baseball in the Bronx, but the weather is a bit deceptive. It’s 52 degrees out with a light wind. While the players on the field should be fine, the fans in the stands might get a little chilly as the day goes on.

Despite the weather, though, the Yanks are hot. They’re sitting pretty at 8-3, their best start since 2003, and they’ve won four series to open the season for the first time since 1926. A win today would give the team a sweep of the Texas Rangers. The Bombers are sharing first place with the Tampa Bay Rays – who beat the Red Sox twice yesterday – and will hit the road after their 1:05 p.m. contest wraps this afternoon.

For the Yankees, Andy Pettitte takes the bump this afternoon. After tossing six shut-out innings against the Angels in the home opener, the lefty is 1-0 with a 0.75 ERA in 12 innings. He’ll try to put a bow on this homestand as he goes up against Rich Harden. The Rangers’ right-hander is 0-0 with a 2.79 ERA, and while he has struck out 10 in 9.2 innings this year, he has also issued eight free passes. The patient Yankees will test him.

Offensively, the Yanks are giving Derek Jeter, suffering from a slight cold, the day off. Brett Gardner, he of the three infield hits yesterday, will man the leadoff spot, and Ramiro Pena will slot in ninth. This afternoon delight will be on the YES Network.

B. Gardner LF
N. Johnson DH
M. Teixeira 1B
A. Rodriguez 3B
R. Cano 2B
J. Posada C
C. Granderson CF
N. Swisher RF
R. Pena SS

A. Pettitte LHP

Game Notes: With the win yesterday, Joe Girardi became the 11th manager in Yankee history to win 200 games with the team…This is the last matchup between the Yanks and Rangers at Yankee Stadium this year. The Bombers make two trips to Texas later this summer.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Sunday reading: Saving Ruth’s other field

As Babe Ruths’ legend has it, he honed his baseball skills at the St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys in Baltimore. The school closed in 1950, and the Archdiocese of Baltimore took it over. For 48 years, it served as the home to the Cardinal Gibbons School, and the lot were Ruth learned baseball is still a baseball diamond. Now, the Archdiocese has said the school will close, and another field from Ruth’s baseball past may be lost to history. Richard Sandomir this weekend wrote about the school and the history behind it in The Times today. It’s been a rough few years for Babe’s baseball haunts.