Robinson Cano, hacker extraordinaire

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

“I just told Kevin [Long] I’m just going to keep swinging. I’m not going to take pitches or anything like that … I’m just going to go up there and do my thing.”

That’s what Robinson Cano told Kim Jones on the field immediately after last night’s game ended, referring to his 15th inning at-bat that resulted in a two-run, go-ahead double on Mike Gonzalez’s first pitch of the game, a 95 mph fastball left right out over the plate. Cano’s been doing a whole lot of swinging at the first pitch this season, with 38 of his 169 plate appearances (22.5%) resulting in a first pitch ball in play. Last year that number was 15.5%, for some perspective.

Robbie’s never been a patient hitter, but last season he saw a career high 3.47 pitches per plate appearance en route to a career high in just about every offensive category, including unintentional walk rate and OBP. This year he’s seen just 3.16 (!!!) pitches per plate appearance, which ranks 191st out of 192 qualified batters. Orlando Cabrera (2.96 P/PA) is the only one worse. Cano’s career worst was 3.05 pitches per plate appearance back in 2005, his rookie year, and he was never lower than 3.35 P/PA from 2007 through 2010. That isn’t that good either (would rank 184th out of 192 this season), but it’s better than what he’s done this year.

Jack Curry reported on Tuesday that Long had a “heart to heart” talk with Robinson on Monday about being more selective at the plate, primarily because pitchers just aren’t throwing him many strikes. Just 41.6% of the pitches he’s seen this year have been in the strike zone, the 21st fewest among those 192 qualified batters and the fewest of Cano’s career. Last year just 43% of the pitches he saw were in the zone, but the difference is that he’s hacked at 41.7% of the pitches he’s seen out of the zone in 2011 compared 36.5% last year and 32.6% for his career. Only seven batters have swung at more pitches out of the zone this season. Since the talk with Long, Cano has seen a total of 35 pitches in 14 plate appearances, or 2.5 per.

Robinson is never going to draw a ton of walks or be an elite OBP guy (last year’s .385 mark was fueled by .319 AVG and 11 intentional walks), but his discipline has cratered to levels usually reserved for the hackiest of hacks. That he’s still hitting .287/.325/.522 is a testament to his ability to make hard contact and get the bat on the ball wherever it’s pitched. But this kind of extreme plate indiscipline only works so much, the league is already aware that Cano’s swinging at so many pitches out of the zone and is only going to keep more and more pitches off the plate. Matt Wieters set up off away and off the plate in that 15th inning at-bat last night, Gonzalez just missed his spot and gave Robbie something to hit. It wasn’t by design.

As I harp on Cano’s plate discipline, I just make sure it’s clear that I’m not doing so because I want to see him walk more. That would be nice, don’t get me wrong, but the ultimate goal behind working the count is to get a good pitch to hit. It seems like Robinson needs to be reminded that just because a pitch is in the zone, it doesn’t mean it’s worth swinging at. He’s swinging at the first pitch essentially 25% of the time, and is the best pitch to hit the first one in one out of every four trips to the plate? I dunno, maybe it is, but it doesn’t seem likely, not when they’re only throwing him a strike on four out of every ten pitches. Swinging at so many pitches out of the zone, especially early in the count, just puts the pitcher in control.

Colon, Noesi shine in marathon win over O’s

And in the 15th inning, the Yankees finally won. This game featuring everything but a 1-2-3 inning from Rafael Soriano (zing!), including great pitching, (some) clutch hitting, great defense, and even a baserunner getting hit with a batted ball. It’s a good thing the Yankees managed to pull out the win, this is one that would not have sat well with the natives if it ended up in the loss column.

Nom Nom Nom

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Eight shutout innings, three hits, one walk, seven strikeouts, ten ground balls, 87 pitches, 61 strikes, and one no decision. Was this the best pitchedgame by a Yankees’ starting pitcher this year? Yeah I think so, and Game Score agrees with a score of 82. CC Sabathia‘s seven shutout innings against the Twins on April 5th was the previous best at 78, the game when Soriano blew a four-zip lead in the eighth. Nothing nice, eh?

Anyway, Colon was marvelous, commanding the fastball to both sides of the plate and adding velocity as he went along. The guy just continues to pitch well and deep into games, and unfortunately it all went for naught on Wednesday.

Gotta Go To Mo

It’s never a bad move to give the ball to Mariano Rivera, especially in a close game, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. This was one of those times. Whether or not Colon should have been left in for the ninth is debatable (I would have left him in, personally), but the bottom line is that Mo had to get three outs before allowing a run and he didn’t get the job done. He’s now blown back-to-back saves against the Orioles (granted, they were like four weeks apart) and three on the season. If you really want complain about something regarding Mo, complain about him not going back out for a second inning of work after throwing just nine pitches.

And 15 innings later, they score ... (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Goodbye Offense My Old Friend

Remember when the Yankees’ offense was a wrecking crew, capable of beating teams one through nine … well, two through nine? Those were good times, I miss them. Yankees’ batters left the go-ahead run on base in the 10th, 12th, 13th, and 14th innings, stranding a total of 15 men on base and going just 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position. It took back-to-back flare singles from Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez to leadoff the 15th and a Robinson Cano first pitch two-run double to plate the winning runs.

That double was the biggest relief I’ve felt in a while, because the Yankees just refused to capitalize on the chances they were giving. I don’t know what it is with this team, but they seem allergic to the big hit and incapable of finishing off a rally. They have no problem starting them, that’s for sure, but turning them into runs has been like pulling teeth lately. The Cano double was by far the biggest play of the game for New York at +0.262 WPA, it’s just too bad we had to wait 15 innings for it.

Well done, kid. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Trial By Fire: Hector Noesi

Given the circumstances – his Major League debut in an extra innings game with zero margin for error – I thought Noesi was absolutely fantastic. Four walks and four hits in four innings is nothing special, but he made pitches when he had to and looked anything but rattled. It had been 11 days since he last pitched, but Noesi did a fine job of pounding the zone to his glove side, with both fastballs and breaking balls. Sixty-six pitches in all, and he got the Orioles’ batters to swing and miss at ten (!!!) of them (15.2%). Just a great job by the kid, and there’s a good chance he’ll be rewarded with a bus ticket back to Triple-A Scranton to get a fresh arm in the pen for Thursday. It’s hard out here for a Yankees’ rookie, yo.

Leftovers

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

It’s late and I’m not going to drag this out too much, but the top five hitters in the lineup combined to go 11-for-32 (.344) while the bottom four went 4-for-21 (.190). A-Rod had four hits, all singles, and both Tex and Cano had two hits and a walk each. Russell Martin‘s day off ended up not being a day off at all; he pinch-hit in the tenth and had to catch five innings. He actually had more at-bats (four) than the starter Frankie Cervelli (three). Gotta figure he’ll get another day off tomorrow.

Scary moment in the 14th, when Chris Dickerson took a Mike Gonzalez fastball to the head. He walked off the field under his own power and went to the hospital for a precautionary CT scan, and hopefully everything checks out okay. Just to satisfy my nitpicking habit: I’m not sure I would have used A.J. Burnett as the pinch-runner there. They have a lot of money committed to him over the next few years. I’d have just sent Ivan Nova out there and told him to jog, that’s it. Anyway, that’s it, I’m done.

WPA Graph & Box Score

That’s one for the fridge, eh? MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs everything else.

Up Next

Two game winning streak! The Yankees will try to make it three in a row on Thursday night when CC Sabathia takes on … someone. Scheduled Orioles’ starter Jeremy Guthrie warmed up and threw seven pitches in this game, and I’m not sure what that does for his availability later tonight. If he doesn’t go, I assume it’ll be Brad Bergesen on regular rest (thanks to their rain out on Tuesday).

Dickerson leaves game after getting hit in the head by pitch

Chris Dickerson left tonight’s game after being hit in the head by a Mike Gonzalez fastball in the 15th inning. Bryan Hoch says he’s on his way to the hospital for a CT scan, and we’re all hoping for the best. Dickerson was down on the ground for a few minutes, but ultimately walked off the field under his own power, so hopefully that’s a good sign. Scary scary scary.

No homers for Charleston in loss

Jordan Parraz is out with a hamstring injury, and it might be a while. The Triple-A Scranton outfield is short as it is with Greg Golson on the disabled list (also a hammy) and Chris Dickerson in the big leagues, but they still have Justin Maxwell and Dan Brewer out there, plus Kevin Russo and Brandon Laird can handle left in a pinch.

Meanwhile, Mark Prior (remember him?) threw from 60 and 90 feet in the outfield today for at least 20 minutes. He’s been on the shelf for about four weeks with a groin injury, and his June opt out date isn’t all that far away. If Rafael Soriano‘s elbow keeps him out for a while, there’s a very real chance that Prior could get a shot in the big leagues within a month.

Triple-A Scranton (5-4 loss to Lehigh Valley in 11 innings)
Kevin Russo, LF: 1 for 6, 1 R, 3 K
Dan Brewer, RF: 1 for 6, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 K
Jesus Montero, DH: 0 for 5, 1 K – stuck in a little 8-for-40 (.200) slump, though he just missed a homer today
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K
Justin Maxwell, CF: 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 K, 1 SB – up to 61 K in 37 games
Brandon Laird, 3B: 2 for 2, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 3 BB – 13 for his last 39 (.333)
Ramiro Pena, 2B: 0 for 5
Gus Molina, C: 0 for 4, 1 BB, 3 K – threw out three of five potential base stealers
Doug Bernier, SS: 1 for 3, 1 BB
Adam Warren, RHP: 4 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 6 BB, 5 K, 0-3 GB/FB - just 48 of 93 pitches were strike (51.6%) … 24 BB in 45 IP this year after 33 BB in 135.1 IP last year … maybe the jump after just 54.1 IP in Double-A was too soon
Buddy Carlyle, RHP: 2.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2-2 GB/FB – 25 of 35 pitches were strikes (71.4%)
Randy Flores, LHP: 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K – eight pitches, three strikes
Lance Pendleton RHP: 3.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 3-1 GB/FB – 31 of 50 pitches were strikes (62%)
Kevin Whelan, RHP: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 0-1 GB/FB – half of his ten pitches were strikes … allowed an inherited runner to score the go-ahead run

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Yankees have had “zero discussion” about releasing Posada

Via Andrew Marchand, the Yankees had “zero discussion” internally about releasing Jorge Posada following last weekend’s falling out. Posada told the team he wanted out at one point, remember. That said, Marchand hears from a source that the team will “reconsider” Jorge’s future with the club if his performance does not improve by the All-Star break. The elephant in the room is Derek Jeter, because the Yankees will want Posada around when his friend and long-time teammate picks up his 3,000th hit.

Jorge hasn’t hit much all year (.179/.287/.366), his age 39 season, but he has reached base in eight of his last 13 plate appearances and is hitting .275/.383/.350 in May. Maybe he’s showing signs of turning it around, maybe it’s dumb luck, but either way it seems like his great career in pinstripes will be coming to an ugly end before long.