The new and (slightly) improved Boone Logan

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

It’s been clear since the start of Spring Training that the Yankees are pretty excited about lefty Boone Logan, the other guy they acquired in the Javy Vazquez trade. Considering his awful big league performance coming into the season (5.78 ERA, 4.69 FIP), most of us figured it they were just blowing smoke and trying to pump up their latest acquisition. There’s nothing wrong with that, every team does it.

Logan then went out and had a strong showing in camp, allowing just four hits and a pair of walks against eight strikeouts in 10.1 spring innings. That caught our attention, but we still disregarded it until the old “Spring Training stands mean nothing” axiom. After being assigned to Triple-A to start the year, the 25-year-old southpaw from Texas allowed just four baserunners with nine strikeouts in 6.2 innings before the Yankees recalled him to take the place of the injured Chan Ho Park. Again, it’s a small sample, so most of us didn’t put any stock in it. The prevailing thought was that Logan got the call just because CHoP wouldn’t be out very long, and there was no point in summoning Mark Melancon only to have him go stale as the 7th man in the pen for two weeks.

So far, Logan has justified the team created hype, and it appears there’s more to his success than just “he’s figured it out.” Buried in the middle of this trade rumor piece, Ken Rosenthal mentions that the reason the Yanks are so excited is because of the results he’s gotten from a minor mechanical adjustment. Pitching coach Dave Eiland suggested to Logan that he should simply lift his leg a little higher during his delivery, allowing him to get his arm out in front and use his height (he’s 6-foot-5) to his advantage.

The results were almost immediate, as Logan noticed that his fastball picked up some armside run, his slider picked up some more break, and his changeup came back from the dead. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of Logan’s delivery this year and from his time with the Braves last year.

It’s a subtle difference, but it’s there. His knee isn’t any higher, but the front of his leg is. You can also see that he’s a little slouched over in the shot on the left, but with the Yanks he’s a bit more upright. Seeing the difference is great, but these days we have the means to verify if their effects match up with what Logan says is happening. We’re in ridiculously small sample size territory here, but we have nothing else to go off of right now, so let’s examine the PitchFX data…

Right away, you see the difference in the horizontal break of both his fastball and slider. The fastball has 1.58 fewer inches of break than it has in the past, meaning it is in fact running back in on lefties, albeit slightly. The slider now features 1.74 more inches of break, which is pretty significant. It’s the difference between squaring a ball up and hitting it off the end of a bat. I’m not going to bother to look at the changeup, because you could probably count the number he’s thrown this year on one hand.

Let me remind you that we’re talking about dangerously small sample sizes here, but at least the data we have supports the claims Logan is making about how adjusted his leg kick has effected his pitches. Whether or not these changes will translate into positive results is another story all together. For all we know, the added break on his two primary pitches could make him even less effective. I wait to pull the wait and see card, but that’s exactly what I’m going to do. We have to wait and see.

Logan’s success in Spring Training and in Triple-A has been one of the more welcome surprises of 2010, and it’s encouraging to know that there’s at least a tangible reason such improvement is possible.

White House trip caps off 2009 World Series celebration

Photo Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP

One of the many perks of winning the World Series is getting an all expenses paid trip to the White House, where hanging out and mingling with cut throat politicians in awe of their favorite players is one of the many items on the day’s agenda. Just imagine big CC Sabathia towering over Hilda Solis when the two were introduced. Or Alex Rodriguez and Hillary Clinton. I should stop there, but you get the idea.

"When I live here, I'm going to tell Dallas Braden it's an unwritten rule that he has to pick up my dog's poop. Bwahaha!" (Photo Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)

President Barack Obama gave a six-plus minute speech (full transcript here) during which he cracking jokes about the Cubs and singled out Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Mark Teixeira, and Jorge Posada for their work beyond the baseball field and the way they carry on the Yankee tradition. Sabathia, A-Rod, and Andy Pettitte apparently haven’t met the President’s criteria for True Yankeedomâ„¢ yet. Chad Jennings has more on Teixeira, who was honored for starting a scholarship in the name of a friend killed in car accident just days after cashing his first big paycheck back in 2001.

Other than that, Obama gave the usual shtick about being a champion and persevering and all that. I’m sure it’s a day that everyone in attendance will remember forever – I know I would – but more importantly, this trip basically concluded the World Championship tour. There are no more ring ceremonies, no more openers, no more trips to see the President. It’s all in the past, and the pursuit for the 2010 World Series crown now begins in earnest.

For those who missed it while at work or school today, the White House has made the video of the Yanks’ appearance available on YouTube. Check it out:

Ramirez outduels Vizcaino in Charleston win

The Scranton Yankees are going to get a shot at Aroldis Chapman on Wednesday. Trenton isn’t scheduled to play Harrisburg until July, so it’s unlikely they’ll get to step in against Stephen Strasburg. Scranton plays Columbus from May 10th to the 12th, so there’s a chance they could see Strasburg then if the Nationals decide to bump him up. They won’t play again until August, so that’s really they’re only chance to face last year’s top overall pick.

Corban Joseph was named the Florida State League Offensive Player of the Week while Graham Stoneburner took home South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week honors. Congrats to both.

Triple-A Scranton was rained out. They’re going to make this one up as part of a July 10th doubleheader. Meanwhile, both Double-A Trenton and High-A Tampa had scheduled off days.

Low-A Charleston (5-0 win over Rome)
Zoilo Almonte, CF: 2 for 4, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K
DeAngelo Mack, LF: 1 for 2, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 CS, 1 HBP
Jimmy Paredes, 2B, Kyle Higashioka, C, Taylor Grote, RF & Garrison Lassiter, DH: all 0 for 3 – Paredes drew a walk, scored a run & K’ed … Higashioka walked & K’ed … Grote & Lassiter each K’ed twice
Luke Murton, 1B: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HBP – 12 for his last 33 (.364) with six doubles & two jacks
Rob Lyerly, 3B: 1 for 4, 2 RBI, 2 K, 1 CS
Jose Ramirez: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 9 K, 3-5 GB/FB – matched up against Arodys Vizcaino, who you surely know the Yanks traded to Atlanta in the Javy Vazquez deal … Arodys went 3 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, serving up Almonte’s homer … Ramirez now has a 29-6 K/BB ratio in 23.1 IP … he’s crushing this league
Michael Solbach: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1-3 GB/FB
Ronny Marte: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1-1 GB/FB

Open Thread: Slow-Rod

With some help from Larry at Wezen-Ball, the Wall Street Journal took a look at how quickly seven of the Yankees’ regulars rounded the bases after whacking the ball out of the park last year (h/t Neyer). As you can see, Alex Rodriguez is the slowest, at nearly 25 seconds to go 360 feet (roughly 9.8 mph). A-Rod is three seconds slower than the league average, which will give some more reason to the hate guy, but in reality it isn’t much of anything. Give the guy a break, he’s got a bad hip.

Anyway, here’s tonight’s open thread. There’s both NBA and NHL playoff action on, but I’ll be watching the new episodes of House and 24. Chat about whatever you like, just be cool.

2010 Draft: KLaw’s Top 100 Prospects

Keith Law posted his updated list of the top 100 draft prospects this afternoon (subs. req’d), topped of course by Bryce Harper. He’s followed by prep shortstop Manny Machado, Ole Miss lefty Drew Pomeranz, and high school righties Jameson Taillon and Karsten Whitson. “It’s a strong draft for right-handed pitching and for catching, and weak in the middle infield and in college bats,” says Klaw. “It’s a good year to draft in the top 5, but not a great year to draft 6-20 unless some more top players pop up between now and the draft.”

The 32nd player (when the Yanks pick) on the list is Georgia high school outfielder Chevez Clarke, which is who Baseball America had 32nd overall in their latest set of rankings. The Yanks’ second pick is 82nd overall, and that’s where KLaw ranks Georgia Tech shortstop Derek Dietrich. A third round pick of the Astros in 2007, Dietrich is expected to move to the hot corner as a pro, but he’s hitting .356-.469-.731 with 14 homers this year. I’m not a fan, there seems to be a lot of questions about his ability to hit with wood.

Subway ridership down for Yankee Stadium in 2009

New York City Transit has released its annual survey of ridership data, and the agency found that, despite two new stadiums, subway ridership at the two stops serving the city’s ballparks declined from 2008 to 2009. In Queens, the Mets/Willets Point station saw just 1.826 million swipes down from 2.036 million in 2008 while in the Bronx, 161st St./Yankee Stadium saw traffic drop from 8.576 million rides to 8.41 million. The Times speculated this morning that the decline at Citi Field was due to the Mets’ poor play while the Yanks saw their numbers stay relatively constant despite an overall 2.7 percent drop in ridership due to the eight playoff games in the Bronx. I posited at Second Ave. Sagas that smaller capacity ballparks were to blame. After all, Citi Field and new Yankee Stadium hold 20 and 10 percent fewer fans, respectively, than the two parks they’ve replaced. The raw data, for those who enjoy this information, is available here on the MTA’s website.

A classy spokesman exploiting his niche

When Canali, the Italian clothing manufacturer, announced that Mariano Rivera would be their new spokesman, we noted how it seemed to be a perfect match. Rivera carries himself gracefully, and the pinstriped suit in which Canali outfitted Mo just seemed to fit. What other Yankee would we associate with an fine Italian suit anyway?

Today, Harvey Araton profiles Rivera in The Times. In one sense, the story offers up more details about the Mariano Rivera we have come to know and love. He is a soft-spoken, religious guy who does his job with ruthless efficiency. He has the respect of his teammates and opponents and is, in the words of Araton, one of “the most understated superstars in the history of American team sports.”

The part of the article that most intrigued me, though, was Araton’s recounting how Rivera and Canali teamed up:

The courtship, Rivera said, was no superficial whirlwind. Shopping in a Westchester store five years ago, he found a Canali jacket he liked but not in his size. He was directed to Lisa Ranieri-Emanuel, an executive in the company’s New York office and a Yankees fan. Canali has outfitted Rivera ever since.

In December, Rivera flew to Milan for the shoot, his first visit to the city and the country. On the day he landed, he worked half a day, striking Elisabetta Canali as “an uncommon celebrity.” She said the campaign, which began in the United States in March, would expand to other baseball-loving countries in the Americas and Asia.

Click on the English language section of the Canali Web site, and a smiling Rivera appears in a Yankees blue pinstriped blazer and a striped shirt with an open collar. The design and color are a coincidence, according to Elisabetta Canali. “He just looked so good in the pinstripes,” she said, an observation that could double as a baseball career epitaph.

[Yankee adviser Ray] Negron said Rivera as a male model was a stroke of marketing genius. “If I had to go with one guy in here for something like a clothing campaign, it would be him, without question,” he said.

His teammates, meanwhile, took a similar approach. Instead of subjecting Rivera to the hazing that often comes with new endorsement deals — and male modeling – Rivera’s fellow Yankees offered nothing but praise for him. We’ve seen the ads in the magazines, but he’s such a great guy, man, you don’t even want to try to get on him, Nick Swisher, not the most serious of Yankees, said. I mean, I don’t think there’s one bad thing I can say about him. Educated man, family man, dresses nice all the time, carries himself with class.

In essence, this is what Rivera’s greatness is all about. We love Mariano around here, and he’s certainly been a key cog for the Yankees over the last 16 years. But what is often overlooked is his professionalism. In an age of ostentatious relievers, Rivera quietly and confidently destroys his opponents. He knows he’s the best and doesn’t have to remind anyone of it off the field. The suit just makes him look even better.