A note from Chad Jennings: Jason Lane has an out in his contract that he can exercise on May 31. So the Yankees have a decision to make. Do you give Lane, who sports a .827 OPS at Scranton, a shot? Or do you let him walk? For what it’s worth, Jennings also notes that Lane was doing footwork at first base this week.
I’m personally of the mind that while the Ensberg experiment was a worthy one, it’s got to come to an end. Might as well plug in Lane and see what you’ve got there. Lane would take Ensberg’s 40- and 25-man roster spot, so there’s really no harm in this one. One experiment ends, another begins.
Wilson Betemit should be back soon, too. We could actually see the designation of Ensberg upon his return, with Lane taking the spot of Alberto Gonzalez. I actually like this a bit better. But in any case, there’s little chance Ensberg remains with the team past this week.
Hardware problems with our host knocked us out for the better part of the last nine hours, and we’ve temporarily lost two days’ worth of posts. But we’re back, and hopefully that’s the end of our weekend problems. The Yanks’ offense showed up tonight, and Melky’s and Cano’s batting averages are now seperated by just .033. Getting closer…
Discuss the game here. Tell us how much you missed us. I’d write more but this was an exhausting day dealing with our site problems.
As I like to do every few weeks when I head up the games, I snapped a bunch of photographs yesterday evening of the progress on the new stadium. As you can see from the collage above, the outside of the stadium is looking great. For a larger view of that panoramic shot, click here.
For the set this month, I had time for only a few external shots. You can see the construction trailers inside the work area, and they finally finished the gold lettering on what will be the right field entrance. You can view the full set here on flickr.
Last winter during the GM meetings, the General Mangers voted 25-5 to recommend that MLB implement some form of instant replay. The recommendation was non-binding and has sat on the Commissioner’s desk, largely ignored, since then. Now, however, three wrong calls over a span of four days has forced Bud Selig’s hand, and according to reports, Major League Baseball will test some implementation of instant replay review for only home run calls during the Arizona Fall League this year. Better late than never, I guess. I do think that the jump from the AFL to MLB is a rather significant one though that can’t be ignored. · (0) ·
With Joba’s needing more work now that he’s on the way to the starting rotation, the Yanks will juggle pitchers this weekend. Mike Mussina, coming off of a long 0.2 inning outing, will pitch on short rest on Saturday with Joba coming in for three innings in relief. Chien-Ming Wang and his aching calf will get an extra day of rest, and the Yanks’ ace will pitch the Sunday game on a week’s rest. His sinker may be up with so much time off so look for his secondary pitches at the outset. · (0) ·
If the umps can’t tell when the ball hits this fence, then they’re just hopeless. (Photo by )
Joe Girardi bounced out of the dugout in the bottom of the 9th inning with the intention of getting thrown out of the game. You could see in the spring of his step. He was fired up and ready to go. A few shouts, a few hat tosses and some dirt-kicking later, Girardi was on his way to the showers, and the Yanks would be one Robbie Cano hit away from their second win in a row.
One night after an A-Rod home run was called back because the umps couldn’t position themselves to make a good call, controversy erupted at a somewhat quiet and very relaxed Yankee Stadium in the 9th. Jason Giambi took a pitch that the home plate ump ruled had hit his bat. Foul ball. Strike three. Yer out.
The call was, apparently, delayed too because Ramon Hernandez didn’t do much of anything, and Giambi backed out of the box. After the call, Hernandez even threw the ball down to third even though Hideki Matsui was on first base. It was exceedingly weird.
But, hey, it fired up the crowd; it fired up Joe Girardi; and less than five minutes later, Frank was spreading the news as Yankee fans left the Bronx elated.
The rest of the game was a pitcher’s duel of sorts. Brian Burres kept the Yanks off balance, and they obliged by swinging at everything. The Yanks’ only walk tonight came when Bobby Abreu pinch hit in the 9th. It would be a key at-bat as that walk forced Matsui to second where he could later score on Robinson Cano’s hitting.
Of course, for us here, the story of the night was Ian Kennedy. He threw 6 innings of one-run ball. He gave up four hits and four walks (that’s nearing Dice-BB territory) while striking out four. It was by far his best start of the season.
But I can’t say I was too satisfied. In a way, David Pinto sums it up best. Pinto wonders if Kennedy’s bad peripherals are something on which we should keep an eye. He ponders if Kennedy was simply lucky today. Too many times tonight did Orioles’ hitters hit the ball hard against Kennedy, and the Yankee defense — a few Johnny Damon catches and a second-inning Robbie Cano double play come to mind — picked up the slack.
I don’t want to take anything away from Kennedy; he showed vast improvement tonight and wiggled out of a few jams. But he’s not out of the woods yet. His next start will be against Baltimore again but this time in the smaller Camden Yards. How he adjusts to hitters who have already seen him will be a telling moment in the youngster’s season.
In the meantime, a win is a win is a win. It feels good to win two in a row. Let’s make it three.
No DotF tonight, folks. Every now and then, life interferes with blogging, and Mike was out this evening. Box scores are here: AAA, AA, Tampa (Chris Garcia: 6 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 10 K), Charleston.
Nothing would be sweeter, right? Well, a solid start by IPK would add some icing, for sure. Hopefully, he can take those positives from last time out and turn them into a win this time. Otherwise, it will be tough to take similar positives from another losing effort.
A couple of notes. Wilson Betemit will start rehabbing tomorrow. He’s eligible to come off the DL tomorrow. Does this spell the bitter end of Morgan Ensberg?
Some rookie facts, courtesy of Mike. IPK will no longer be a rookie once he records the second out of the third inning tonight. Joba is 5.2 innings away, which he should get to rather quickly. The next closest from there is Ohlendorf, who needs 16.1 innings. Edwar needs 19, and Veras needs 23. Speaking of Edwar, he’s looked decent in limited time, right? With Joba stretching out, maybe we’ll actually see him used a bit more.
On the offensive side, Shelley needs just 14 at bats to shed his rookie status, and Alberto needs 75. I would be terribly saddened to see him sent down once Betemit comes back.
And now the lineup:
After the umpires blew the call on A-Rod’s second ball hit over the wall yesterday, the Yanks sprang into action today. Joe Girardi, while on the dreaded Mike and the Mad Dog this afternoon, said that the stadium crews have placed a net between the staircase and the wall at the spot where A-Rod’s ball caromed back into play. With this solution in place one day late, it’s bound to never come up again in the short few months remaining in the life of Yankee Stadium. (H/T to Jamal, the one true M&MD fan around.) · (0) ·
A lot of Yankee fans like to point out that 2008 is far from the first time the Yanks have started out slowly. They found themselves in a big hole last year: 10.5 games out before turning the AL East into a pennant race. But there’s something different about this year’s slow start.
As Vegas Watch tells us, Pythagoras, or at least Bill James’ version of Pythagoras, knows the difference. In previous years, as Vegas Watch notes, the Yankees were unlucky; based on the numbers of runs the team had scored and had allowed, the team was underperforming. Through 44 games last year, they should have been 24-20 when they were 20-24.
This year, however, things are different. The Yanks, as sad as it sounds, were actually outperforming their expected won-loss record through 44 games and now right on target at 21-25.
So then what does all this mean for 2008? Well, as Vegas Watch notes, it’s not really relevant to compare the 2008 start to those of previous years because the causes — luck in the past, a slow offensive start this year — are not the same.
Rather, I look at these numbers, and I’m a bit comforted by it. The Yanks’ pitching is right on par with their 2007 numbers; the offense hasn’t been producing at all. We know that the Yanks have missed A-Rod and Jorge Posada, and I believe that, as the year goes along, the Yankee bats will produce at their expected levels. As that happens, that number in the W column will go up, slow start be damned.
We all know by now, even if we don’t admit it to any Met fans we might be on speaking terms with, that the glory years of Yankee dynasty from 1996-2001 are long since over. I admit I originally thought Buster Olney’s book was a bit outlandish in claiming Luis Gonzalez’s bloop single was the dynasty’s swan song, but in retrospect the facts are undeniable. Whether you are in the camp that claims the “new” Yankees don’t have the heart to win or with their alter-egos who state the Bombers haven’t had the pitching to succeed, the facts remain unalterable – the team hasn’t made it to the World Series since 2003 and has been bounced out of the postseason in the first round three years running.
There are several statistics that tie these post dynasty Yankee teams together and one I would like to explore is there early season lack of success. The Dynasty Yankees of 1996 through 2003 had a combined April winning percentage of .640 (126-71) while the most recent versions of team have struggled to reach the .500 mark with an overall record of just 43-49. Each of these teams however, recovered during the regular season to make the postseason, averaging 97 wins in the process.
Quiet bats have been a recurring theme in the early going and trends emerge when looking at the basic rate stats for each April when compared with the rest of the season:
Mar/Apr Rest Season
2004 .230 / .336 / .387 .274 / .356 / .469
2005 .274 / .357 / .422 .276 / .354 / .455
2006 .299 / .395 / .495 .282 / .357 / .456
2007 .268 / .347 / .421 .293 / .369 / .470
Only in 2006, when the Yankees had a somewhat successful start to the season at 12-10, did the offense fail to improve considerably after a slow start.
On the mound it has been a somewhat different story. Each season the bullpen has been strong early only to fade late (thank you Mr. Torre) as the average April ERA for relievers has been a solid 3.68 but jumps to 4.49 over the rest of the season.
Yankee starters however, have had their issues too. Only in 2006 did they compile an ERA better than league average when Mike Mussina (2.31 ERA) and Sydney Ponson (3.13 ERA) of all people, were great, winning eight of nine in ten starts. In 2004 the starters ERA’s were equally bad both in April and the rest of the season; and in 2005 and 2007, the April’s were long months but at least things got markedly better as the season progressed.
Still, these mid-season corrections haven’t been enough to add a 27th World Championship banner to Yankee Stadium. Once October rolls around the trends seem to reverse again – the bats go cold, the pitching coughs up some runs, and the Yankees are lucky to make it out of the 1st round. In the losing series each postseason, the Yankee stats have been poor:
2004 – 5.17 ERA, .282 / .371 / .469
2005 – 4.40 ERA, .253 / .347 / .392
2006 – 5.56 ERA, .246 / .289 / .388
2007 – 5.89 ERA, .228 / .300 / .404
In looking at the failures at a player level however, there is no apparent common theme to harp on. We can’t point to Alex Rodriguez or Jorge Posada or any batter and blame them for recurring post-season lapses. We can’t point to Mussina, Chien Ming Wang, or any starter and call them out, as each has had their fair share of both success and failure since 2004. Just like in April, the Yankees, like any team, simply get cold at the wrong time.
In truth, over the past four seasons the Yankees have played in 5 post-seasons series, only St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox have played in more. Post-season winning is not a God given right as many us want to believe, and in fact, might be dumb luck. Witness just the handful of breaks Yankee fans enjoyed during their championship run:
1996 – Jeffrey Maier, Tim Welke, Mark Wholers’s slider
1998 – El Duque’s Game 4 against Cleveland, Mark Langston’s non-strike to Tino Martinez
2000 – Only 87 regular season wins; Three 1-run victories in the World Series
What we witnessed during the Yankee dynasty years was a once in a lifetime run that is duplicated only every 20 years or so, if not longer. These were great Yankee teams, but as with all great teams, a few bounces here or there and their legacies are much diminished, and the current squad has less to live up to. The current Yankee squad, like every other baseball team, has flaws. These are apparent in April or October.