Link Dump: Joba, Sabathia & Crawford, Chan Ho

A few links on a gorgeous Monday afternoon…

Joba’s one of the 25 best players under 25

A pair of ESPN scribes are running a series of posts at the TMI Blog naming the 25 best players in the game under the age of 25. Joba Chamberlain checks in at number 20, but with the caveat that he is considered a reliever and not a starter. I know, I know. I don’t like that their list is based on a standard 25-man roster, with bench players and what not, but it’s still pretty entertaining. I’d rather just see a list of players that young, like Baseball America used to do. I don’t remember seeing them put one together in the last few season, but I remember. Miguel Cabrera dominated the top spot until he turned 26.

CC wooing CC

Via sucka got no juice, apparently CC Sabathia has been leaning on his good buddy Carl Crawford about joining the Yankees as a free agent next year. “I joke around with him all the time about that — all the time,” said Sabathia. “I told him I’ve got an extra room in the house, whatever he needs.” Let’s not forget that CC is close to Cliff Lee after all the time they were teammates in Cleveland.

Chan Ho Park had diarrhea

Last, but certainly not least. I’m sure you’ve seen this already, but in case you haven’t…

Yanks play long and win in season’s first week

I hold a very definite view of umpires. If I know your name, that’s probably a bad sign. In an ideal world, an umpire would act like the shadow that his black uniform suggests. Instead we have a world where some umpires get off on ostentatiously punching out hitters, and where veteran umpires like Joe West think it is in good taste to express his criticisms of two teams he is supposed to be officiating objectively. There have been enough pixels dedicated to West’s comments, including this amusing anecdote from Matt at Fack Youk, but I’d like to take a look at the long-game effect from Week 1.

The Yankees played six games in the season’s opening week and just one of them finished in under three hours. That, of course, was Friday’s 9-3 affair, in which David Price dominated the Yankees for most of his appearance. The Yankees saw just 132 pitches that night, 111 from Price. Yet not even that tells the whole story. Through the first six innings Price had breezed through the Yankees’ lineup, running into trouble just once and working out of that relatively quickly. He had tossed just 66 pitches, including single-digits in the first and fifth and 10 in the sixth. That makes for a fast paced game, but it did not work in the Yankees’ favor.

What made the game go even quicker was Price’s efficiency. Of those first 66 pitches, 40 were strikes. He even administered the lone walk efficiently, sending Nick Swisher to first base on four pitches. Of the 22 hitters he faced through the sixth, nine of them saw one- or two-pitch at-bats. Only two of them resulted in hits, and both were on the first pitch of an inning. Price’s dominance is what kept that game short. Had Javy Vazquez continued the proficiency he had showed in the first three innings, it might have been even shorter.

In the five three-plus-hour affairs the Yankees scored 33 runs, or more than six per game. Starting pitchers lasted just 27 innings, or just over 5.1 per outing. They threw 496 total pitches, so 18.4 per inning and 99.2 per start. This meant that the bullpen had to pitch the remaining 18 innings, or just under 3.2 innings per game. That’s 3.2 innings per game in which the Yankees get to beat up on lesser pitchers. The Yankees saw 357 pitches over those 18 relief innings, or nearly 20 pitches per inning. Best of all, they scored 18 runs off relievers, one per inning. It’s no wonder the front office has assembled a team that is willing to take pitches.

MLB has expressed its desire to hasten the pace of games, specifically ones involving the Yankees and Red Sox. As JoePos wrote, those two teams do indeed play the longest games. In fact, the entire AL East plays longer than the other two AL divisions. Yet the AL East contains the best two, and perhaps the best three, teams in baseball. This doesn’t mean that there is a direct correlation to playing long and winning. But it doesn’t seem to hurt.

West’s criticism, it seems, centers on the constant stepping out of the box, visits to the mound, and pitching changes. All of that comes along with the strategy of driving up pitch counts. When a pitcher throws more pitches in an inning he might need a breather or a refresher on strategy, hence the mound visits. He also might need calming down, hence the pitching coach trips. This is in an effort to keep the pitcher in the game, so that there doesn’t need to be a time-consuming mid-inning pitching change. Yet those inevitably happen. So the game goes on. I’m not quite sure batters asking for time significantly increases game time, but if it does that’s still on the pitcher. I don’t see many batters aimlessly calling for time. It’s mostly because the pitcher is taking too long in reading the signs.

For his statements, West received a firm admonishment from MLB. Again, since I’m of the mind that umpires should not at all be known, I disagree with the severity. West should have known to keep his mouth shut. Then again, since MLB itself has been vocal about the issue, it was doubtful from the start that he’d receive any kind of meaningful punishment. That’s kind of sad. We shouldn’t hear this kind of commentary from the arbiters of balls and strikes, safes and outs. They should be in the background, doing what they do diligently, respectfully, and quietly.

Fan Confidence Poll: April 12th, 2010

Record Last Week: 4-1 (29 RS, 19 RA)
Season Record: 4-2 (36 RS, 26 RA), 1.0 game back
Opponents This Week: Monday OFF, vs. Angels (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), vs. 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 Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
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A.J., Jorge pace Yanks to series win in Tampa

Over the last year, we’ve often talked about Jorge Posada and A.J. Burnett as though they were the Yankees’ version of Felix Unger and Oscar Madison. Yesterday in Tampa, though, the two silenced the battery doubters as Burnett escaped a shaky first inning to shut down the Rays, and Jorge Posada’s two-run home run gave the Yanks a lead they would never surrender. When the dust settled, the Yanks walked away with a 7-3 victory over Tampa, their second straight series win to open the season and a nifty 4-2 road trip to begin their World Championship defense.

Good A.J. arrives

A.J. delivers. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

One day after CC Sabathia flirted with a no-hitter, Jason Bartlett made sure that the Yanks and A.J. Burnett wouldn’t worry about baseball history and pitch counts. He singled to start the game, stole second and then scored on a Carl Crawford hit. The Rays were set up, and Burnett’s pitches seemed flat. Shades of Bad A.J. started to creep into the game.

But then, Ben Zobrist game the Yankees a gift. With the Rays’ win probability pushing 70 percent after a Crawford stolen base, one of the game’s better and more versatile hitters, laid down a sacrifice bunt. Burnett fielded the ball and fired to Mark Teixeira for the first out of the inning. Although a second run would score on a Carlos Peña ground-out, Zobrist’s decision to bunt cost the Rays a chance at that crooked number, and it gave Burnett a badly-needed out.

After that first inning, he and Jorge went to work. Although the strike-out pitch wasn’t working, Burnett kept the Rays off base and off balance. Overall, he went seven innings for his first W of the season and allowed just six hits and two earned runs. He walked three and strike out only one but stayed effectively wild. For a start, at least, Burnett and Posada were able to overcome their philosophical life differences and work together for a Yankee win.

Hip Hip Jorge! (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

Biggest Hit: Jorge Posada’s Home Run

As the sixth inning rolled around, the Yanks found themselves on the wrong end of a 2-1 game. James Shields had pitched well to that point, but as they do so well, the Yanks had worn him down. After an A-Rod fly ball and a Robinson Cano double, Shields was at 103 pitches, and Joe Maddon went to his bullpen. Strangely enough, with Jorge Posada up, Maddon went to Randy Choate, a lefty, and Posada was able to bat from his strong side.

Posada didn’t disappoint. He took a 1-1, 86-mph fastball over the fence in left-center field, and the Yanks had their 3-2 lead. After the A-Rod out to start the inning, the Rays’ win probability was at 69.1 percent. When Jorge’s blast settled into the seats, Tampa’s win expectancy was down to 37.3 percent. The home run was good for .254 WPA points, and the Yanks never looked back. Curtis Granderson scored on a wild pitch a few batters later, and the Yanks’ bats went to work.

Almost the Biggest Non-Out

With the Yanks clinging to a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth, the Rays, aided by their stadium, mounted a threat, and it appeared as though A.J. Burnett would give back the lead the Yanks had just secured. After two quick outs in the inning, Zobrist singled, and Evan Longoria hit a towering pop up that seemed to go foul. As the Yanks settled under the ball, it struck a speaker high up in the catwalk in the Trop and landed in fair territory. No one knew what to do.

The umpires conferred and made the wrong call. As both the Yanks’ and Rays’ TV announcers eventually explained, the ball struck a speaker in foul territory and should have been ruled a foul ball. Either the umpires didn’t know the rules or didn’t see the play. All of a sudden, Tampa had the tying run on first, and their big bats up.

Meanwhile, Burnett on the mound had to throw more pitchers to dangerous hitters. He avoided home plate against Carlos Peña as though it were infected and had to stare down B.J. Upton with two outs and the bases loaded. Upton swung at the first pitch and lifted a lazy pop-up to Mark Teixeira. Threat over. Tampa’s hopes over.

Things That Made Me Smile

This week made me smile. This is my first chance to tackle the game story this season, and I’m very pleased with what I’ve seen from the Yanks so far. They score runs in bunches and have a solid lineup from top to bottom. The outfield, in particular, has been a source of production. Curtis Granderson has played stellar center field defense. Today, he started a good old 8-3 double play, stole a base and scored on a wild pitch. He’s hitting .348/.423/.652 and will get a huge ovation on Tuesday afternoon.

And then we have Nick Swisher. After three bad at-bats, he felt his lumber was too light and switched to a heavy bat to slow down his swing. The result? A home run. He’s off to a great start with a triple-slash line of .333/.450/.571 and gives the Yanks great depth at the bottom of the order.

WPA Graph

Up Next

The Yanks have a day off tonight as they head back to the Bronx. Instead, they’ll host the annual Welcome Home dinner and gear up for a 1:05 Tuesday afternoon special against their ALCS opponent Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The team will get its World Series rings during the home opener, and Hideki Matsui will make his triumphant return to the Bronx.

Phelps dazzles in Double-A debut

In case you missed it, Manny Banuelos missed his scheduled start today.

Triple-A Scranton (4-1 loss to Buffalo)
Kevin Russo, 3B & Juan Miranda, 1B: both 0 for 3 – Russo was hit by a pitch … Miranda drew a walk & K’ed
Eduardo Nunez, SS, Jon Weber, LF & Jesus Montero, DH: all 1 for 4, 1 K – Nunez doubled
David Winfree, RF: 3 for 4, 1 R, 2 2B, 1 K – went from hitting .250 to .375 just like that
Colin Curtis, CF, Chad Moeller, C & Reegie Corona, SS: all 0 for 4 – Curtis drove in a run with a ground ball … Moeller & Corona K’ed
Jason Hirsh: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 5-6 GB/FB – 47 of 74 pitches were strikes (63.5%) … gave up all three runs in the first … allowed just two singles & a walk the rest of the way
Royce Ring: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 5-0 GB/FB – 15 of 26 pitches were strikes (57.7%)
Amaury Sanit: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 3-3 GB/FB – 16 of 20 pitches were strikes (80%)

[Read more…]

Open Thread: Time to come home

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, AP

Four wins after three games in Boston and another three in Tampa? I’ll take it every time. Now it’s time for the boys to take a day to relax, then come back to the Bronx to get their World Series rings. I can’t wait.

Here’s your open thread for the night. The NHL season is over, save for a few miscellaneous games still going on, but the Knicks are still playing out their schedule and are in action as we speak. You know the drill, so have at it.

Banuelos scratched from first start

Via Josh Norris, Yankees’ top pitching prospect Manny Banuelos was scratched from today’s start for High-A Tampa for an unknown reason. I suspect it’s injury-related, but that doesn’t mean it’s something serious. He could have the flu or something. A promotion to Double-A to take Chris Garcia’s rotation spot would be a) absurdly aggressive, and b) completely unnecessary since Trenton has Lance Pendleton (second in the system last year with 26 starts and 149 IP) in the bullpen. Hopefully it’s nothing major and he’ll be able to make his next start.