Yanks lose game – and more – to ChiSox

Less than 24 hours after Derek Jeter almost single-handedly led the Yankees to the victory, they returned to the park hoping, praying, begging for Javy Vazquez to give them some kind of good start. Not just for the purposes of winning on Saturday, but also for some peace of mind going forward. Instead, the Yanks’ starter responded with his worst outing the season, and somehow exited the game a bigger question mark than when he came into it.

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, AP

Biggest Mistake: A.J. Pierzynski’s double

After surviving Javy Vazquez’s latest meltdown (more on that later), the Yankees mounted a comeback with a four run 6th inning off former Padre Scott Linebrink. With nine outs to go and six of those presumably in the hands of Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera, all the Yanks had to do was neutralize Chicago’s 3-4-5 hitters in the 7th.

David Robertson retired the resurgent Andruw Jones before Paul Konerko dropped a double into right, but the second out of the inning came when Mark Teahen grounded out weakly to third. Carlos Quentin represented the third out of the inning but was intentionally put on base (more on that later) to set up the lefty-on-lefty matchup.

Damaso Marte trotted out of the bullpen to face Pierzynski, he of the .203 wOBA this year. The Yankees’ lefty setup man has made a habit out of entering a game and immediately making things interesting, and he promptly missed wide with a slider for ball one. Jorge Posada called for a fastball outside, and even though it was just a little off the mark, it was still a pretty good pitch. Pierzynski just went out and got it, sending it out to left-center and over the heads of Brett Gardner and Randy Winn, who were playing relatively shallow for the ChiSox’s powerless catcher. Both Konerko and Quentin chugged around the based to tie and give Chicago the lead, respectively.

He faced just two batters, and didn’t even made that bad of a pitch on the big blow, but Marte reduced the Yankees chances of winning in this game by 31.6% all by himself, almost the same as Vazquez believe it or not.

Honorable Mention: Intentionally walking Quentin

Like I said, Robertson was ordered to intentionally walk Quentin following Konerko’s double to create a force at (almost) any base and set up the Marte-Pierzynski duel. It actually wasn’t supposed to be a free pass from the start, but Robertson buried a curveball in the dirt for ball one and missed high with another curve for a 2-0 count. That’s when the order to put him on intentionally came. I can’t help but wonder if the whole “walk him … oh no wait … pitch to him” situation with Kendry Morales last weekend played a part here. Did Girardi not want to second guess himself and instead go with the conservative move?

Anyway, the reason this is a blunder is because Girardi intentionally put the go-ahead run on base, which is quite simply poor strategy. The advantage gained by bringing in Marte to face Pierzynski was minimal because Pierzynski has been terrible against literally everybody this year. And it’s not like Quentin has been tearing the cover off the ball either (.323 wOBA). There’s no reason to give a poor hitting team like the White Sox free baserunners, especially in the late innings of a one run game.

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, AP

Biggest Hit: Nick Swisher‘s homer

Despite the hole created by Vazquez, the Yankee offense continued to wear down John Danks, sending him to the showers after five innings and 118 pitches thrown. He faced 23 total batters, but 19 (!) of them saw at least four pitches in their plate appearances and 16 (!!!) saw at least five pitches. Yankee batters fouled off a ridiculous 26 pitches when Chicago’s starter was on the mound.

So after all that work, Linebrink found himself pitching with a three run lead to start the 6th. Marcus Thames, Curtis Granderson, and Brett Gardner slapped three consecutive singles with one out to trim the lead to two, and Derek Jeter plated another run with a ground out to third.

With the tying run on second, Swisher came to plate after breaking an 0-for-11 skid with a well-placed groundball single an inning earlier. After Linebrink missed well off the plate with a changeup, Swish jumped all over a 92 mph hitmeball left out over the plate and sent it into the Yankee bullpen. After being down 5-1 earlier in the contest, the Yanks’ rightfielder capped off a four run inning with a two run bomb that gave the Yankees their first lead of the game. The homer bumped the Yanks’ chances of winning from 37.9% to 69.3%, so yeah, it was a biggie.

Biggest Out: Swisher’s double play

Swisher giveth, and Swisher taketh away. Three innings before giving the Yankees the lead with the above-mentioned homer, Swish faced a two on, no out situation with a chance to get his team back into it while Vazquez was tossing up a nice picket fence (one run in the 1st, one run in the second, one run in the third). Of course he worked the count full, it’s what he does, but Danks pulled the string on a 3-2 changeup when Swish was looking fastball. The result was a tailor made 5-4-3 double play that killed the rally before it even had a chance to start.

Oy Vey Javy

A fourth-inning sight all too familiar to Yankee fans. AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

There’s no getting around it now. Vazquez isn’t just the weak link in the rotation, he’s the weak link on the 25-man roster. No one expected him to repeat last season’s ace-like performance, but we all figured that he would be a league average pitcher that gave the team bulk innings from the back of the rotation. After five abysmal starts in as many chances, all Vazquez has done is approximate what some Triple-A scrub could have accomplished. Not even a AAAA player, a AAAer.

Javy recorded just nine outs on Saturday, allowing eleven men to reach base (seven hits, four walks) and giving up three homers, two to Andruw Jones and one to Zombie Mark Kotsay. Just 46 of his 83 pitches found the strike zone, and only 29 of those pitches were fastballs. Vazquez threw just 18 fastballs for strikes all afternoon. Eighteen. That’s a completely unacceptable number, especially against a team as offensively challenged as the White Sox (.313 team wOBA).

I don’t know what the problem is, and I’m not going to pretend to make an educated guess. Vazquez’s next start lines up perfectly with Thursday’s off day, and at this point I can’t see how the Yanks wouldn’t skip his turn. Not only would it keep him away from the Red Sox next weekend, but it’ll also give him a chance to catch his breath and try to get back on track. The Yankees are 1-4 when Javy starts and 14-4 when anyone else does, so they’re no desperation yet. Progress would be nice, though.

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, AP

Down goes Granderson

The loss is a loss, one of about 65 the Yankees will suffer this season, but the big blow is the injury to centerfielder Curtis Granderson. While rounded second when going first to third on a single in the 6th inning, Grandy came up lame and limped into third. He was immediately removed from the game and eventually found his way into the Carl Pavano Memorial MRI tube (/GAKIII’d). The results are not good – he has a Grade II strain of his left groin, and has already been placed on the disabled list.

In the best case scenario, he’ll miss 2-4 weeks, but it could easily be longer. Like obliques, groin injuries can linger if not taken care of properly, and the last thing the Yankees need is to have this hampering Granderson all season. I’ll be stunned if we see him before June.

Annoying Moments

Too many to count, really. Granderson’s injury created some lineup havoc, which led to the Yankees losing their designated hitter late. Joe Girardi micromanaged the living daylights out of this game, which is annoying enough, but that decision to pinch run Ramiro Pena for Alex Rodriguez in the 9th is almost comical. You’re gaining about half a step total going from first to home on a sprint, and it left no one on the bench should the pitcher’s spot come up in a 9th inning rally (unless Girardi was willing to burn Frankie Cervelli with Posada’s recent knee issue). It struck me as a completely unnecessary move that was made only for the sake of making a move. “Hey look! See, I’m trying…”

It would also be nice if Joba wasn’t just relegated to the 8th inning. A few four or five out outings won’t kill him.

Also, what kind of crap was that with Ozzie Guillen making Javy change his glove? You know he only did it to get in his head. Eh, whatever. I guess Ozzie has to do whatever he can to get his team out of last place.

Happy Moments

As frustrating as this game was, it was good to see the team fight back after falling into that big early hole. Their M.O. last season was to battle right down to last at-bat, and so far this year’s club has shown that same resiliency. Vazquez was awful, but his teammates picked him up and got him off the hook.

Watching Jorge Posada start to walk back to dugout on what should have been strike three but was called ball three was good for a laugh, though he did end up striking out on the very next pitch. That about sums it up.

WPA Graph

So close … yet so far. You can find individual player breakdowns at FanGraphs’ box score.

Up Next

Tomorrow’s rubber game features Phil Hughes and Mark Buehrle in another matinee, 1:05pm ET.

Brackman returns as Adams & Romine keep mashing

Triple-A Scranton (2-1 loss to Norfolk)
Kevin Russo, 3B, Eduardo Nunez, SS, Juan Miranda, 1B & David Winfree, RF: all 1 for 4 – Russo committed a throwing error … Miranda hit a solo bomb for the team’s only run & K’ed
Greg Golson, CF: 0 for 4, 1 K – he’s on the 40-man, so he’s got a heads up on the other guys when it comes to filling in for the injured Curtis Granderson
Jesus Montero, C & Robby Hammock, DH: both 0 for 3 – Montero K’ed twice
Chad Huffman, LF & Reegie Corona, 2B: both 1 for 3 – Huffman got picked off first, plus Golson’s comment also applies
Romulo Sanchez: 7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 4-4 GB/FB – 70 of 109 pitches were strikes (64.2%) … he needed an outing like this
Zack Segovia: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 0-1 GB/FB - nine of his 13 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Granderson to DL with Grade II left groin strain

Per LoHud, the MRI results on Curtis Granderson have revealed a Grade II strain, and the Yanks’ centerfielder will be placed on the disabled list. Mark Melancon, called up to help out the depleted bullpen, will take his place on the roster for now. Will Carroll’s initial prognosis is two-to-four weeks of missed time based on the severity of the strain, and the Yanks plan to shift Brett Gardner to center field while using Marcus Thames and Randy Winn in left. The team will probably call up another outfielder next week.

Please scroll down or click here for the Saturday night Open Thread.

Open Thread: The problems with Javy

A fourth-inning sight all too familiar to Yankee fans. AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

Mike will post a full recap of the Yanks’ disappointing 7-6 afternoon loss to the White Sox later tonight. I wanted to take the open thread to delve into one former scout’s take on Javier Vazquez‘s struggles over his first five outings of 2010. The Yankees have lost eight games, and he has pitched in five of them. Something clearly isn’t right.

For many amateur psychologists among us, Javier’s problems are mental. He can’t pitch in New York they say. His body language and demeanor on the mound foretell that fate. There is more than a little bit of confirmation bias going on there. Because he’s struggling, his mound demeanor isn’t great, but that simply means he’s not pitching well now. It doesn’t mean he’s not equipped to succeed in New York.

But something isn’t right with Javier. His pitches have no bite and no location. In the early goings, his velocity has been markedly lower than where it was last year. To me, this suggests either an injury or a mechanical problem. FanHouse’s Frankie Piliere, a former Texas Rangers scout, thinks Vazquez’s problem is one of mechanics. I’ll excerpt at length:

For the most part, pitchers need to stay on top of the baseball to be successful and it’s especially crucial for a guy like Vazquez who relies heavily on fastball movement, not raw velocity, and the action on his big curveball. Not being able to get on top of his pitches is the simplified version of why the beginning of this season has been such a nightmare for him…

Where he’s going wrong in his delivery surely isn’t a mystery to Vazquez, but fixing it isn’t as simple as identifying it. Vazquez’ delivery requires him to have his arm and lower half in sync perfectly. Right now, that’s not happening. Everyone is ready to jump on the fact that he is collapsing on his back side and that’s why he’s struggling. Well, not so fast. At this stage with a 33-year-old, you are probably not going to revamp his mechanics when he has been working from this delivery his entire career. The manner in which he collapses on his back side and drifts toward the plate do make him susceptible to funks like the one he is in now, but at the same time when his mechanics are clicking he’s quite effective. So let’s stop short of revamping a big league veteran’s entire delivery.

However, it can’t be said enough that timing in Vazquez’ delivery comes into play perhaps more than any pitcher on the Yankee pitching staff. If he’s early with his lower half and stride toward the plate, like he is right now, he’s going to have a lot of trouble. So far, his lower half has been far ahead of his arm and he’s getting too far out in front to generate any decent leg drive. He’s going to have to stay back longer over the rubber and allow his arm to catch up.

The way he’s delivering the ball, he’s throwing against his front leg, rather than driving over the top of it and getting on top of the baseball. Again, Vazquez always has and more than likely always will collapse on his back leg and drift toward the plate. But, recently it’s just gotten away from him. Because he’s unable to drive over that front leg and get on top, he’s forced to rotate around his torso and shoulders, creating more of a side-to-side effect than a downhill effect.

Piliere goes on to discuss how Vazquez’s front shoulder is flying open, and from watching the first and second innings of Javy’s outing against the White Sox today, it’s easy to see how Piliere’s analysis seems to be spot on.

The former scout says it’s a tough issue to correct, and the Yankees are going to have to adjust on the fly. Vazquez’s next start comes after an off-day and is slated to take place in Boston on Friday. Because of that off-day, the team could start Phil Hughes, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett on regular rest and wouldn’t need Vazquez until they arrive in Detroit. The spacious confines of Comerica may be the confidence booster Javier needs, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them hold him back a few days.

For now, though, the team has a problem with its fourth starter and the luxury of a 15-8 start which allows them plenty of leeway to fix that problem. Time for Dave Eiland to work some magic.

* * *
Beyond that, we have some bad news on Curtis Granderson. He’s out with a Grade II groin strain.

This is your open thread. The Rays and Royals are under way, and the Red Sox/Orioles affair starts at 7:05 p.m. The Canucks take on the Blackhawks on Versus at 8 p.m., and the Celtics and Cavaliers play Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals also at 8 p.m. on TNT.

Granderson ‘probably’ heading to DL with left groin strain

Update (5:25 p.m.): Joe Girardi has announced that Granderson will “probably” be placed on the DL. We don’t yet know the severity of the strain or the likely replacement. Jon Weber had a very good Spring Training, and Greg Golson remains an option as well.

Update (4:10 p.m.): Granderson suffered a left groin strain and is headed for an MRI. Generally not good.

3:47 p.m.: Curtis Granderson left the sixth inning of today’s game with some kind of lower body injury. He pulled up lame going first to third on a single, and may have stepped on the bag awkwardly goings around second. He was replaced by Randy Winn. There’s no word on how serious the injury is, but we’ll be sure to update this post when he know more. Obviously, losing Grandy for any length of time would suck.

Game 23: Shot at redemption

Photo Credit: Christine Cotter, AP

Javy Vazquez makes his second start at home this afternoon, and he’s surely going to get booed at every opportunity. It’s just the way it is, regardless of how you feel about it. The only thing he can do is pitch well enough to win, and the White Sox with their .313 team wOBA are a good opponent to do that against.

With the lefty John Danks on the mound, here’s the lineup…

Jeter, SS
Swisher, RF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Posada, C – hooray for a healthy starting catcher
Thames, DH – can’t keep him out of the lineup with how he’s hitting lefties, but it’s good to keep him out of the field
Granderson, CF
Gardner, LF

And on the mound, Javier Carlos Vazquez.

Game starts at 1:05pm ET today, and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

When objective reporting goes wrong

As we wait for the second game of the Yanks-ChiSox series, I thought it was worth pointing out this piece of nonsense. Daily News reporter Kevin Deutsch apparently rolled into Citizen’s Bank Park last night for the Mets-Phillies series wearing Mets gear, and taunting Phillies’ fans. Chants of “FIRST PLACE METS,” and “”Phillies suck” were delivered not far from the city’s famed LOVE sculpture.

And people wonder why the newspaper industry is on life support. Facts and objective reporting have been benched in favor of brash over the top accusations and discernible bias. Deutsch is not part of the team, he’s a reporter covering the team. Apparently he’s also a Mets’ fan, which is perfectly fine, but his job description is to report facts and not taunt opposing fans. Report the news, don’t be the news.

His article ends with “First place never felt so good,” which is both sad and laughable. You know who was in first place last year on May 1st? The Blue Jays, White Sox, Mariners, Marlins, Cardinals, and Dodgers. Exactly two of those teams were in first place at the end of the year. Enjoy first place while it lasts Mr. Deutsch, there’s only 86% of the season left to play.