Fan Confidence Poll: May 2nd, 2011

Record Last Week: 4-3 (30 RS, 20 RA)
Season Record: 16-9 (139 RS, 102 RA, 16-9 pythag. record), 2.5 games up
Opponents This Week: @ Tigers (four games, Mon. to Thurs.), @ Rangers (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 (new and improved!) Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

{democracy:153}

Yanks end homestand with 5-2 win over Jays

The Yankees were 3-3 on the homestand and 1-1 in the weekend series against the Blue Jays, so everyone wanted a win on Sunday to end the week on a high note. Ivan Nova was a little shaky early on, but the Yankees’ bats came alive and they rode their bullpen to their AL East leading 16th win.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Not quite a Granderslam, but close enough

Although Mark Teixeira put the Yankees on the board with a first inning solo homer, the team basically spun its wheels offensively until the fifth inning and the third time through the order. Toronto starter Jesse Litsch had kept them off balance with a mix of cutters and sliders and curveballs and changeups and sinkers, but his lack of a true put away pitch came back to bite him.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Jorge Posada led off the fifth inning with his first non-homerun extra base hit of the season, a double into the right field corner that I’m sure took a ton of weight off his shoulders given his slump. The molten hot Brett Gardner (more on that later) singled him over the third, and Frankie Cervelli drovehim in with an RBI ground out in his first game of the season. The Yankees caught a break when Yunel Escobar made a boneheaded decision and tried to cut Gardner down at third on a (surprise surprise) ground ball by Derek Jeter. Brett slid in safe and the Yankees had men on the corners with one out instead of a man on third with two outs. Yunel should know better, just take the out. That brought brought Curtis Granderson, who already had a single to his credit on the afternoon, to the plate.

One thing that caught me off guard when the Yankees acquired Granderson last year is his ability to work the count. I stupidly assumed that he was a hacker given his strikeout totals, but he’s never seen fewer than 3.96 pitches per plate appearance in a single season, and his career mark is a gaudy 4.09 P/PA. This year it’s 4.36 P/PA, the fifth best total in baseball. Litsch started Grandy off with three straight balls before the center fielder swung and misses when he turned it loose on 3-0. A few pickoff throws and a foul ball followed for a full count, then Granderson teed off on a 88 mph fastball over the plate for a three-run homer. It was quite a grand slam, but it gave the Yankees a 5-3 lead they would never give up. At +.208 WPA, it was easily the biggest play of the game.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Nova settles down, literally

In the first two innings, it looked like it was going to be a long day for starter Ivan Nova. The noted ground baller faced ten batters through the first two frames, walking one, whiffing one, and allowing the other eight to hit the ball in the air. Adam Lind hit an excuse me homerun off the screen on the right field foul pole and another single blooped in, then a second run scored thanks to a pair of singles and some steals in the third.

Nova settled down after that, allowing just five of the final 18 batters he faced to hit the ball in the air, and one of those air balls didn’t even make it out of the infield. Fourteen of his 19 outs came either on the ground or on strike three (one came on a caught stealing), and that’s what Ivan has to do to be successful. His pitches were certainly up in (and often out of) the zone early on, but the right hander settled in and started pounded the bottom of the zone. He brought everything down.

The key for him was again his curveball, which he threw 28 times (18 strikes, two swings-and-misses). Nova threw just one changeup in the game, so he was primarily a two pitch guy all afternoon, throwing a career high 100 pitches. The Yankees don’t need Ivan to be a star, they’ll take starts like this 30 times a year, and it was great to see him make that adjustment and start getting the ball down as the game progressed.

Leftovers

Cool picture, terrible play. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The sacrifice bunt from hell struck again. The Yankees were down 2-1 early on, in just the third inning, and Gardner worked a leadoff walk of four pitches. Cervelli bunted him to second either on orders from the dugout or on his own accord, but either way it was dumb. Jeter then got hit by a pitch and Granderson singled, loading the bases with one out before Tex bounced into an inning ending double play. Why was the bunt dumb? Well, first of all Gardner walked on four pitches well out of the zone and Cervelli didn’t bother to take a pitch (Jeter getting hit is further evidence that Litsch was wild at that moment in time). Secondly, the team’s fastest runner was on first, so wouldn’t you rather have him to try to steal (in fairness, Gardner got caught stealing later in the game, his fourth in his last five steal attempts, a terrible ratio)? Third, it’s the third inning! They played for one run and got zero, which is usually how the story goes. The Yankees don’t have to fight and claw for every run, so just stop it, a bunt made zero sense for this team at that time of the game.

Gardner reached base three times in his three plate appearances (two walks and a single), and is now 6-for-11 (.545) with six walks in his last six games (five starts). He’s upped his triple-slash line from .136/.190/.254 to a cool .200/.300/.400 in the last seven days. That’s a 22 OPS+ to a 93 OPS+. Not a bad week for the G-man. He also made two very nice running catches in this game, one in the first inning and one in the eighth.

Jeter took yet another 0-fer, putting him at .242/.308/.263 for the season. This is the guy getting more plate appearances than anyone else on the team. Alex Rodriguez went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and is just 5-for-34 (.147) with five walks and ten strikeouts since coming back from that stiff oblique, but I suppose the good news is that three of those five hits are for extra bases.

David Robertson walked Jose Bautista in the seventh to bring the tying run to the plate, but Boone Logan did a nice job bailing him out with a behind the back grab of an Adam Lind comebacker. Rafael Soriano allowed his contractually mandated baserunner in a scoreless eighth, and Mariano Rivera was flawless in the ninth. Aside from Soriano’s struggles, the Yankees’ bullpen has really come together over the last week.

WPA Graph & Box Score

I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I totally called the Yankees losing the first game of the series to Ricky Romero before winning the next two in last week’s chat. Anyway, MLB.com has your box score and video highlights while FanGraphs has everything else.

Up Next

The homestand is over and the Yankees are heading to Detroit to face the Tigers four times starting on Monday. Bartolo Colon takes on Justin Verlander in the opener.

Open Thread: Back to Detroit

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Curtis Granderson has yet to play in Detroit as a visiting player. He was on the disabled list when the Yankees made their lone visit to MoTown last year, so tomorrow’s game with be his first time facing Justin Verlander (in a game that matters) and his first time in Comerica Park’s visitor’s clubhouse. The Grandyman was an All-Star for the Tigers and helped them to the 2006 World Series, so I’m sure the home crowd will welcome him with cheers. I hope he enjoys the homecoming.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Mets and Phillies (Chris Young vs. Cliff Lee) are your ESPN Sunday Night Game, and there’s bound to be some NBA and NHL playoff action somewhere. You all know what to do, so go nuts.

Jesus walks (twice) in SWB win

With Gus Molina in Scranton, Jose Gil has been send down to Trenton and Jack Rye was released, so says Josh Norris. Mike Ashmore sat down for a chat with pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras, so of course you should check it out.

Triple-A Scranton (6-3 win over Gwinnett in ten innings)
Greg Golson, LF & Jorge Vazquez, 1B: both 0 for 5 – Golson scored a run and struck out … JoVa whiffed twice
Kevin Russo, 2B: 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K – ten for his last 29 (.345)
Jesus Montero, DH: 1 for 4, 2 BB, 3 K – got picked off second … those are his first two walks of the year
Justin Maxwell, CF: 2 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 0 K – that’s his league leading ninth homer
Brandon Laird, 3B: 0 for 3, 2 K – ejected after arguing balls and strikes following a sixth inning strikeout
Doug Bernier, 3B: 0 for 1, 1 RBI, 1 BB
Jordan Parraz, RF & P.J. Pilittere, C: both 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 BB – Parraz stole a base and struck out, though Pilittere drove him in the for the winning run in the tenth
Ramiro Pena, SS: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 BB
Adam Warren, RHP: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 5-8 GB/FB – 57 of 96 pitches were strikes (59.4%) … allowed two homers in this game, bringing his season total to three … he’d allowed five homers total in 192 pro innings coming into the year
Andy Sisco, LHP: 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1-0 GB/FB – just five of his 11 pitches were strikes (.455)
George Kontos, RHP: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 2-1 GB/FB – ten of 19 pitches were strikes (52.6%), though one of the walks was intentional … first time in his career he’s pitched on back-to-back days, and the Yankees usually don’t have their guys do that until they’re getting close to a call-up, so…
Eric Wordekemper, RHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 1-1 GB/FB – six of 11 pitches were strikes (54.5%)
Kevin Whelan, RHP: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1-0 GB/FB – seven of 13 pitches were strikes (53.8%)

[Read more…]

Cano leaves game with a bruised hand

Update (4:16pm): Cano left the game with a bruised left hand and is day-to-day. Joe Girardi said he hurt it catching a sinker-like pick off throw from Ivan Nova. Jack Curry says precautionary x-rays came back negative and Robbie plans on playing tomorrow. Exhale.

Original Post (4:05pm): Robinson Cano was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning of today’s game for an unknown reason. Eric Chavez came in and took the at-bat, then Eduardo Nunez headed out to the field in the next half inning. There was no obvious injury or anything like that, and I don’t need to tell you how bad it would be for the Yankees to lose Cano for any length of time. We’ll update this post once we know more.

Catching Up with Some Ex-Yankees

He looked nice in pinstripes, but he looks at home in the Cubbie blue & white, no? (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Aside from the clean-slate record, an awesome thing about the start of the new season is the batch of new players that comes in. Whether they be rookies coming up from the minors, off-season trades or free agent/pre-arbitration signings, it’s always interesting to see who’s becoming a Yankee this year.

Of course, with the arrival of new Yankees, others depart. Some of which we’re glad to see go, be that due to injury or ineffectiveness, and others we long to have back. I’d bet there’s a pretty strong correlation between who’s performing away from the Bronx and who would look better if they were back for another year in pinstripes. Considering the attention paid to the Yankee rotation and some recent bullpen drama, I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the pitchers the Yanks let go and see how they were doing around the league.

Kerry Wood

Wood rode into the bullpen like a knight in shining Cubbie armor in the 2010 season, wowing everyone. It’s imagine everything aligning better for Wood during his short stay in pinstripes: none of his bequeathed runners scored, his stuff was great, he was saving rear ends left and right. Though Wood had an expensive option, there was no way the Yankees were paying closer money to a man who would almost certainly not repeat his unsustainably good 2010 performance. Wood raced back to the Cubs and signed for $1.5M. He’s racked up an impressive 2.15 ERA and 4.49 FIP, though the 95% LOB is likely to drop. Even so, the 2:1 K/BB ratio is extremely promising.

"How about some support?" (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

Dustin Moseley

The spot-starter/longman for the Yankees signed at the pitcher’s heaven of Petco Park and has found himself a home in the Padres’ rotation. He’s making a comfortable $900k and is, uh, pitching his brains out, to say the least. In his five starts, he’s pitched to a 1.99 ERA (3.90 FIP). The Adrian Gonzalez-less Padres offense, which is slightly feebler than a dead rabbit, has really gotten behind his strong performance, and helped him go…… 0-3. In his five starts, the Padres have scored him a total of two runs. Pretty sad. Although his numbers are likely to go up (Moseley isn’t likely to hold down his .243 BABIP or hold up his 81% strand rate), it’s pretty freaking impressive as is.

Chad Gaudin

Gaudin also making $900K in the NL, though his home is located across the country in Nationals Park. The man’s picked up right where he left off with the Yankees, throwing spectacularly mediocre stuff and getting knocked all around because of it. In his 8 innings, he’s given up 12 hits, six ER (one homer), and eight walks. The only positive thing about his line is the 10Ks, but it’s not helping anything else. I wonder if Riggleman will have the same fascination with him that Girardi did.

Sergio Mitre

All right, I know you’re really interested in hearing about: the man that Marc Carig of the Star Ledger calls The Experience. Although he technically started off the year as a Yankee, Mitre’s been shipped over to the Brewers in exchange for Chris Dickerson. In his tiny 9 IP sample, he’s managed to give up six hits, three ER and a homer, and walk more batters (3) than he’s struck out (2). Of course, this is a tiny sample, and Mitre could get his act together and become the Rolaids Relief Man Closer we all know he could be. Right? Right?

(AP/Dave Martin)

Alfredo Aceves

The man they call Ace fought injures all through 2010, and because of that (and who knows what else), Cashman decided not to tender him a contract. The Red Sox picked Aceves up for a microscopic $650k. He’s been pretty effective for them too, making six appearances and racking up a 2.25 ERA. Way less impressive is his 5.80 FIP, helped out by the two home runs he’s given up. It’s hard for me to want a guy in Boston to succeed, but Ace was pretty awesome for the Yankees when they needed him, and I don’t know if I’m quite ready to let him go just yet. Silly sentimental me.

Javier Vazquez

Two trips to the Bronx still couldn’t cure Javy’s problems: a dead fastball and a reputation that wasn’t going to leave once it stuck his first time around. Vazquez has over 2,600 IP on his arm – I don’t even want to know how many pitches he’s thrown – and that wear and tear is becoming evident. Vazquez signed with the Marlins for $7M and he’s basically the same old Javy: a junkball and some other stuff being whomped around by better hitters. He’s made four starts and walked more than he’s struck out, even if his h/9 is still under one. 20 IP is too small a sample to really paint a picture, but here’s some food for thought: his average fastball velocity was 89 MPH in 2010. His average fastball velocity in 2011 so far is 88.4.

* * *

The Yankees pitching staff is pretty band-aided together right now, but quite frankly I don’t have a problem with it. If Nova wants to go 6.1IP and feel good about, awesome. If Colon wants to show off his amazing two-seamer and a 96 MPH fastball, even better! Honestly, if the worst thing that happens to Freddy Garcia is that he gives up a home run to Jose Bautista, things are going pretty well. Yeah, Garcia is going to throw some crappy pitches. But luckily, there are lots of crappy hitters out there to compensate. Plus, it’s basically impossible not to have Bautista homer off you these days. That should not be the standard of judgment. Also, go Freddy. And someone give the guy a towel, will you? He’s looking kind of shiny out there on the mound.

Game 25: Frankie’s Back

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The Gus era ended too soon, at least for me. But I guess if you’re taking away a Gus, you could do worse than bringing in a Frankie. Mr. Cervelli gets his first start of the season today after missing the first four or five weeks with a broken foot. Oh yes, there will be fist pumps. Here’s the starting nine…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Jorge Posada, DH
Brett Gardner, LF
Frankie Cervelli, C

Ivan Nova, SP

The game starts a little after 1pm ET and can be see on YES locally or TBS nationally. Enjoy the game.

Programming Note: There will be a feature on 2009 first rounder Slade Heathcott during the pregame show, so check it out. He’s killing the ball for Low-A Charleston right now (.370/.453/.630).