Montero has a big night in Scranton win

Dustin Moseley was placed on the DL, and Kevin Whelan was activated to take his place. It’s some kind of forearm issue, but there’s no ligament damage, and he might not miss that much time.

Triple-A Scranton (1-0 win over Syracuse)
Kevin Russo, 3B: 0 for 3, 1 BB
Eduardo Nunez, 2B & Chad Huffman, LF: both 0 for 4 – Nunez committed a fielding error … Huffman K’ed
Juan Miranda, 1B: 1 for 4, 1 K
Jesus Montero, C: 3 for 4, 1 2B – moved up to the cleanup spot, and looks what happens … has at least one hit in every game
Jon Weber, DH: 0 for 2, 1 BB, 1 HBP
Colin Curtis, RF: 1 for 3, 1 K
Greg Golson, CF: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI – he hit two homers last year, so of course the only run in the game would come when he goes deep
Reegie Corona, SS: 2 for 3

Zach McAllister: 4 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 3-4 GB/FB – 56 of 87 pitches were strikes (64.4% … left the game because his pitch count was getting up there
Royce Ring: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2-1 GB/FB – 19 of 30 pitches were strikes (63.3%)
Amaury Sanit: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2-1 GB/FB – 23 of 36 pitches were strikes (63.9%)
Mark Melancon: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1-0 GB/FB – 8 of 13 pitches were strikes (61.5%) … not a bad replacement for when your regular closer needs a night off

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Open Thread: Torii’s a girl’s name*

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

Am I the only one with an irrational dislike of Torii Hunter? He’s does a ton of stuff for charity and from what I can gather he’s a great guy, but damn, I just don’t like him as a player. His UZR in center over the last three years is -12.8, which is decidedly below average and the third worst in the game. His wOBA is strong at .361 over the same time, and is identical to Johnny Damon‘s. It’s good, but it’s not that good.

I mean, he’s a nice player, but is he as good as he’s made out to be? No. Is he worth the $18M annually the Angels are paying him? Good Lord no. I hate to hate on a player like that, but sheesh, I just don’t get it with Torii.

Anyway, here’s the night’s open thread. The NHL playoffs start tonight with the Flyers at the Devils, and the Nets’ season comes to a merciful end as well. As for baseball, you’ve got the Mets at the Rockies, and the Astros at the Cardinals on ESPN2. Houston is 0-7, and as a team they have drawn six walks. Nick Johnson has nine. That about sums up their situation.

* Someone yelled that from the bleachers at a game I was at last year. It still makes me laugh.

Waiting for Tex

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

We knew it was coming, but it’s still kinda tough to look at. Mark Teixeira, for whatever reason, is simply awful in April, and he’s doing it again this year. Through the Yankees’ first eight games, he’s hitting a cool .097-.263-.129 in 34 plate appearances, good for a .238 wOBA. All three of his hits came in the same game last week, though before today he had more walks than strikeouts. It’s a small consolation, but at least he’s still finding ways to get on base occasionally.

The bad news is that even with Tex’s dormant bat, the Yankees are second in the league with 46 runs scored, three behind the Tigers who’ve played one more game. I should probably make it clear that that’s bad news for the rest of the league. Robbie Cano is absolutely killing the ball with a .382-.389-.676 batting line through the first eight games, and even his outs are hard hit. Jorge Posada is batting the quietest .400-.516-.800 in history, and Nick Swisher is getting on base more than 45% of the time out of the eight hole. As ridiculous as it sounds, Tex is the easy out in the lineup right now.

And that’s the problem: the automatic out is smack dab in the middle of the lineup, not the bottom where they usually hide. Derek Jeter and Nick Johnson have collectively reached base 30 times in the team’s eight games, yet Tex has only drive in three runs. When he’s had men on with two outs, he’s made the final out of the inning 75% of the time, which is far too much with Alex Rodriguez batting behind you. There’s an easy way to fix this until he starts hitting, just bat him lower in the order.

I don’t think Joe Girardi would ever do it out of the loyalty or whatever, but if Tex is going to continue to toss up 0-fers for the next few games, why not drop him a few spots? The lineup wouldn’t require any fancy rejiggering, just push everyone up so A-Rod hits third, Cano hits fourth, Posada hits fifth, etc. That arrangement is obviously working, so there’s no need to screw with it. Batting Tex eighth would be embarrassing on both a team and individual level, but I don’t see a problem with slotting him into the six spot.

In that scenario, your lineup is…

Derek Jeter
Nick Johnson
Alex Rodriguez
Robinson Cano
Jorge Posada
Mark Teixeira
Curtis Granderson
Nick Swisher
Brett Gardner

Again, I don’t think it’ll ever happen, but where’s the harm? The lineup becomes a bit more circular, and now there’s no weak bat behind Jeter and Johnson. As soon as Tex warms up ever so slightly, you move him back up. Simple, right*?

* That probably means I’m dead wrong. [/JoPoz]

The Yankees are winning at games at a .625 pace, so there’s not much to complain about, but I don’t see what’s wrong with a little tweak here or there to maximize the lineup’s production for the next week or two.

Game Eight Spillover Thread

One more thread for good luck.

Game Eight: Getting down to business

"Eat it, bitches." (Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, AP)

At long last, all the bells and whistles are over with. No more openers, no more ring ceremonies, no more introductions along the baselines, all that’s left now is the routine of regular old baseball, day after day after day for the next six-plus months. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Show up to the park, take the field, take care of business, go home, and do it all again the next day.

Here’s the lineup that’ll face sinkerball specialist Joel Piniero today, the first day of the rest of the season…

Jeter, SS
Johnson, DH
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Posada, C
Granderson, CF
Swisher, RF
Gardner, LF

And on the mound, the Puerto Rican Punisher, Javy Vazquez.

First pitch is scheduled for 1:05pm ET, and can be seen on YES. Enjoy the game.

Robertson’s uncommon ninth inning

Yesterday’s game was an almost complete pleasure. The Yankees received their World Series rings with Hideki Matsui in the park. They hit around Ervin Santana and by the ninth inning had put seven runs on the board. All that remained were the final three outs. Joe Girardi tasked David Robertson with the assignment, and given what we’ve seen of Robertson so far in his young career I doubt anyone expected what came next.

Bobby Abreu gets high-fives all around after his salami | Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Robertson allowed three straight singles to load the bases with none out. The first two were a bit questionable, a weak grounder that neither A-Rod nor Jeter could field in time to get Howie Kendrick. The next batter, Jeff Mathis, laid down a bunt that Robertson hesitated in fielding, resulting in another single. Brandon Wood, batting under .100 at that point, singled to right in the next at-bat. Luckily, Kendrick did not score on the play. After a strikeout of Erick Aybar, though, I thought Robertson would get out of the inning with minimal damage.

That, of course, did not happen. Bobby Abreu crushed a fastball over the right field fence, plating four runs and putting his team within two. With the save situation in effect the Angels had little chance. They had just two outs remaining and had to face Mariano Rivera. He made quick work of Torii Hunter and Matsui, capping the Yankee victory, but the bit about Robertson still stung a bit. How did he let the game get away from him so quickly?

Instead of focusing on the why, though, after the game I wondered more about the what. Namely, the sequence of events that led to the Angels’ four runs. Robertson had allowed three singles and a home run in succession. How many pitchers had actually done that before? I thought it rare, since a runner on second will score on a good percentage of singles. Thankfully, there’s a rough way to check on that. I headed over to Play Index and ran the linked query. To recount:

I set hits to equal four, runs to equal four, and home runs to equal one, with the IP being a third of an inning or less. I also set extra base hits to equal 1*HR. That way I ensured that the three other hits were singles, meaning it was most likely that the home run scored all of the hitters who had singled. The only thing I couldn’t set, due to Play Index’s limited input fields, was limit walks to none. I accomplished that by sorting the results, though.

Since 1920, only 34 pitchers had experienced such a sequence of events. Thirteen of those failed to record an out. The other 21 got through a third of an inning, though only five of them accomplished that with a strikeout, as Robertson did. This information, while interesting, does not represent the oddest item I found on the list. What really stuck out was one name: Mariano Rivera.

On September 4, 2004, the Orioles visited the Stadium, sending Sidney Ponson to the mound to face Mike Mussina. The Yanks, for whatever reason, could not hit Ponson. He pitched a complete game two-hitter, walking just one. Mussina didn’t fare so poorly himself, finishing seven innings while striking out eight. He allowed just two runs, but when the other pitcher is going as well as Ponson it’s not good enough for the W. In any case, Torre wanted to keep the game close. He brought in Tom Gordon, who pitched a scoreless eighth. Then, in order to preserve the comeback possibility in the bottom of the ninth, he brought on Mo.

Here’s why I think Robertson’s sequence was a bit rarer than Play Index indicates. Mo actually gave up the home run to lead off the inning, to Rafael Palmeiro. Javy Lopez and David Segui followed with singles, and then Jay Gibbons sacrificed them to second and third. Larry Bigbie singled home Lopez, and that brought Torre out of the dugout. He sent in Bret Prinz to clean up the mess, but Brian Roberts immediately homered, bringing home Segui and Bigby and leaving Mo charged with four runs.

If anyone knows of a better way to check on the single-single-single-home run sequence, please let me know. We know that, at most, it has happened 33 times since 1920. I have a feeling that the actual number falls a bit below that.

Scenes from the destruction across the street

DSC00354

Over the last few years, I’ve been a vocal opponent of the new Yankee Stadium. I didn’t approve of the political process or the kickbacks the wealthy Yankees received from the city for the new park, and I didn’t believe old Yankee Stadium was beyond repair. Yet, from the day, Mayor Bloomberg announced his support of new ballparks for the Mets and Yankees, I was fighting a losing battle.

When the new stadium opened, I reluctantly embraced it. The Yankees, after all, would be playing in the stadium on the north side of 161st St. for the bulk of my adult life, and I could either choose to leave behind the Yankees or swallow the sting of losing the old House that Ruth Built. Not yet prepared to give up on the Yankees, I enjoyed my first year as a fan in the new ballpark. Although parts of it seem sterile and very much the same as any of Populous’ new ballparks that dot America’s baseball landscape, it’s very much a unique Yankee Stadium, modernized for the 21st Century.

The Bat Remains Yesterday, I steeled myself for some tough sights as I made my way up to the Bronx. Throughout 2009, old Yankee Stadium remained a familiar sight across the street. Crews were too busy ripping out the stadium insides to knock down any of the walls, and I could pretend that my old home – the place I spent so many nights growing up – wouldn’t be gone any time soon.

I took the D train yesterday to Yankee Stadium and didn’t have the shocking experience of seeing the old stadium in ruins from the elevated tracks as the 4 train emerges above ground after its stop at 149th St. Instead, I climbed the transfer from the IND platform up to the IRT, and the view was shocking. Fans getting their first glimpses of the destruction were silent and morose. This was a funeral for a friend, and it brought the glimmer of tears to my eyes.

It might be rare to be so sentimental over an old building, but this one featured so many baseball memories and New York City memories for me and millions of other fans. It provided solace after Sept. 11 and countless warm nights in high school when nothing mattered but the outcome of the game. The electricity of a postseason game would fill the air, and even during those early years of my fandom in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a sunny Saturday afternoon meant Yankee baseball. It meant a trip with my mom, dad and sister to the ballpark, and it meant watching Donny Baseball play the game with a bunch of schlubs around him.

Bring Out Your Wrecking Ball

New York City has a long record of tearing down its history. Parts of Lower Manhattan were settled nearly 400 years ago, but rare are the signs of anything newer than the skyscraper boom from the middle 20th Century. We tear down Penn Station; we tear down Yankee Stadium. We bury our past in picture books and minds, hoping that someone will try to save something – save Gate 2, save the dugouts, save home plate – and yet the wrecking ball brings it all down in the end anyway.

I arrived at the stadium yesterday at around 11:45 and spent some time just staring at the Yankee Stadium destruction pit. I tried to take some pictures that expressed the magnitude of the destruction, but it’s hard to capture the emotional depth of the sight. By mid-summer, the stadium will be gone, and the Parks Department will begin the process of constructing Heritage Field, a new park that, despite its name, will be without much Yankee Stadium heritage. And so it goes.

The full photoset from the Destruction of Yankee Stadium is available here on flickr. I’ve embedded the slideshow after the jump. All photos are by Benjamin Kabak. [Read more…]