Vazquez leaves with bruised finger, x-rays negative

Update (10:14pm): X-rays negative. And exhale.

9:52pmIt’s a bruised right index finger for Vazquez, and he’s being taken for x-rays.

9:31pm: After six innings of one hit, no run ball, Javy Vazquez left tonight’s game with an apparent finger injury. Looks like he might have gotten clipped with the ball while laying down a sac bunt in the bottom of the 6th. He had only thrown 70 pitches up to that point. I’ll update this post with more info once it’s available.

Game 42: On the road, but not really

"And that's when I was like 'easy lady, 40 is too young for me." (Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP)

History is being made tonight, folks. For the first time in the history of the universe, River Ave. Blues is covering a game as a credentialed member of the media. We had to travel to lovely Flushing, NY to make it happen, but that’s a small price to pay. In case you missed it, here’s my pregame notes with a big Curtis Granderson update.

As for tonight’s game, well the Yankees can really use a win, regardless of who it comes against. This weekend will get an undue amount of hype as a big series, but the Mets are in last place in their division and have lost nine of their last 12 games. At least someone’s been worst than the Yankees recently. Javy Vazquez is making his first start since shutting down Detroit more than a week ago, but Mets’ starter Hisanori Takahashi is making his first start in the United States. It seems like no matter how bad things go for the Yanks, it’s just a little worse for the Mets.

Here’s tonight’s lineup…

Jeter, SS
Gardner, CF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Swisher, RF
Cervelli, C
Russo, LF

And on the mound, Javy Vazquez.

First pitch of the 2010 edition of The Subway Series is scheduled to be thrown at 7:05pm ET, and you’ll be able to watch on either YES or SNY. I totally cut in front of Gary Cohen on the line to get a drink in the media lounge earlier. Anyway, enjoy the game.

Pregame Notes: Granderson, Thames, Cervelli

Pregame stretching. Exciting stuff.

Curtis Granderson is leaving tonight to join Triple-A Scranton for a rehab assignment, according to Joe Girardi. He’s expected to play five out of six days while DH’ing some, and could be back in the Yankees’ lineup by the end of next week. Best news of the day.

Granderson was out on the field earlier running the bases, and he also fielded a variety of batted balls in the outfield – grounders, fly balls, liners off the wall, you name it. Girardi indicated that because he was moving around so well, it was time to get him in rehab games.

Here’s some other tidbits from the pregame press conference…

  • Marcus Thames‘ ankle is still bothering him, but he’s going to take batting practice and see how it goes. At best, he’ll be available to pinch hit.
  • Girardi didn’t seem concerned about Frankie Cervelli‘s heavy workload of late, and said there’s “no thought” about sitting him. He did say he’s going to watch him physically every day to see how he holds up. Tonight will be Cervelli’s fifth start in the last five days and seventh in the last eight, but he’s 24-years-old, lots of life in those legs.
  • “You start to feel it at game time,” said the Yanks’ manager when asked about the excitement of the Subway Series. “It’s the energy involved … players aren’t going to walk around and brag, but the fans might.”
  • As far as seeing Mets’ starter Hisanori Takahashi for the first time, Girardi basically said the only thing you can do is watch video. “It’s obviously more difficult. If you’re righthanded, you have to know you’re getting fastball-changeup.” The 35-year-old lefty has a 3.51 xFIP this season, though tonight will be his first start.
  • Girardi’s not concerned about Javy Vazquez‘s layoff at all. He basically had the “he’s been around a while, he knows what to do” attitude. Javy’s last start was nine days ago, but he did come out of the bullpen to strikeout Kevin Youkilis on four pitches Monday night.

Back with the game thread a little later on.

Yanks look to recover against crosstown foes

With the loss to Tampa Bay last night, the Yankees fell below .500 on their latest home stand, to 3-4. Thankfully, they still have three more pseudo home games to go. While they won’t be playing in the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, they’ll still have a hometown crowd behind them this weekend as they face off with the Mets at Citi Field. A bout with the National League might be just what the Yanks need to rebound from a tough week at the Stadium.

The Teams

The New York Mets

At 20-22, the Mets currently reside in the NL East’s basement. That’s not as bad as it sounds, of course, since there are more than a few terrible NL teams. Five teams have fewer wins than them, one has the same number, and two have just one more, so the season is far from lost for the Flushing faithful. They need a strong series just as much as the Yanks.

Batting stats (NL rank)

BA: .246 (13th)
OBP: .320 (14th)
SLG: .385 (12th)
wOBA: .315 (13th)

The Mets lineup features a number of poor bats, including right fielder Jeff Francoeur, who has cooled off considerably after a torrid start. Management finally wised up and jettisoned Mike Jacobs and replaced him with Ike Davis, and the difference has been tremendous. Jose Reyes has also turned in an underwhelming season so far.

Pitching stats (NL rank)

ERA: 3.97 (7th)
FIP: 4.37 (12th)
K/9: 7.70 (5th)
BB/9: 4.54 (16th)
WHIP: 1.49 (13th)
LOB%: 76.5 (4th)

That last number pretty much explains the rest of them. The Mets have a good team ERA, but that’s because they’ve been able to strand the inordinate number of batters they’ve walked. This appears a bit odd, considering the Mets have the third lowest ground ball percentage in the league. Keeping the ball on the ground can help prevent base runners from advancing more than one station. Still, the Mets have fared well with men on base, and it has helped their run prevention unit considerably.

New York Yankees

Even after the rough homestand the Yankees still own the second best record in the AL at 25-16. A few teams are close — Toronto has as many wins but two more losses — so the Yankees have to make a quick turnaround after a rough patch. They’re still missing Jorge Posada, Nick Johnson, and Curtis Granderson, but will have Nick Swisher back for the weekend series.

Batting stats (AL rank)

BA: .279 (1st)
OBP: .365 (1st)
SLG: .453 (3rd)
wOBA: .364 (1st)

Even while missing a number of starters in recent weeks, the Yanks have only gone through one real dry spell with the bats. Otherwise they’ve hit the cover off the ball, as their AL ranks indicate. For what it’s worth, and it’s probably only worth something to die-hard statheads, the Yanks are obliterating the rest of the league in advanced metrics. Their wOBA lead is by .010, and they’ve produced 13 more wRAA than the next closest team.

Pitching stats (AL rank)

ERA: 3.93 (3rd)
FIP: 4.41 (9th)
K/9: 6.88 (7th)
BB/9: 3.35 (6th)
WHIP: 1.30 (3rd)
LOB%: 74.0 (4th)

Like the Mets, the Yankees have prevented a good number of runners from scoring, at least relative to the league. They have also done a good job of preventing hits on balls in play — their .280 BABIP ranks second lowest in the AL. Part of that low BABIP comes from a high groundball rate, 44.9 percent, which ranks fourth best in the AL. This is even better, because the Yanks have the highest HR/FB ratio in the bigs. Keeping that fly ball rate down, then, means fewer home runs.

[Read more…]

RAB in the house at Citi

That picture was taken by Mike, from the press box at Citi Field. He’ll be covering the game from there tonight and Sunday, and I’ll be your humble host tomorrow afternoon. We’d like to thank the YES Network and the Mets for giving us this opportunity. Mike will be back later with lineups and your game thread.

Update By Mike (3:07pm): Curtis Granderson was on the field running the bases, sprinting from first to second as well as first to third. Played some long-toss in the outfield (he was by the Xerox sign in right-center, the guy he was playing with was on the foul line by third base. I couldn’t throw a ball that far with a relay man), and now he’s taking groundballs and shagging flies and fielding balls off the wall in center and throwing to third and all that jazz.

Here’s a shot of him running…

Curtis Granderson running the bases pregame.

Yankees, Scranton extend PDC through 2014

The Yankees will be in Scranton through at least 2014, the club announced yesterday. The big league organization has opted to extend its player development agreement with its AAA franchise to cover the next four seasons. Additionally, SWB Yankees LLC, the joint venture between the Yankees and Mandalay Bay that manages the team, has also re-upped its agreement for the same length of time.

“We remain committed to having our Triple-A franchise in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre,” Yanks’ COO Lonn Trost said. “The market offers us an excellent combination of business opportunities as well as player development and baseball operations efficiencies. We are delighted to be extending our relationships in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.”

Scranton has been home to the Yanks’ Triple-A affiliate since 2007, when the team left Columbus after a 28 year relationship. The team made the move to bring its highest level minor league affiliate closer to New York, and it doesn’t get any closer than Scranton. The PDC extension is good news yet unsurprising because it really is a match made in Triple-A heaven. With a strong fan base, geographically favorable and good business opportunities, it just makes sense for both sides.

Despite this convenience, a PDC renewal was no sure thing last year. As the Yanks adjusted to life in Scranton, the club found that the ballpark needed $13 million in upgrades due to a bad drainage system, and Scranton was not too keen on building a new stadium for the team. Still, the Yanks are committed to working through these problems.

“We look forward to continuing to work with county leadership and members of the Multi-Purpose Stadium Authority of Lackawanna County to develop a plan to significantly improve the current stadium or replace it with a new one,” Trost said.

With this news, Kei Igawa too stands to benefit as he’ll have a few more years to build on his career franchise-record win total.

Additional reporting by Benjamin Kabak

Are the Yanks swinging earlier in counts?

In his postgame notes from last night, Journal News beat writer Chad Jennings observed that the Yanks are swinging at pitches earlier in counts. He does note that he doesn’t have the numbers to back it up, and after scouring splits of every sort this morning I couldn’t find much either. What’s interesting, though, is Joe Girardi‘s reaction to Jennings’s observation.

“At times guys will do that,” Girardi said. “If you go up and take the first pitch all the time, just throw strike one and now you’re ahead of our hitters. I think hitters can’t fall into just one pattern of hitting. At times they have to be aggressive.”

The Yankees have long been a patient team. For years they featured hitters like Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi, and Bobby Abreu, guys who would work the count and wait for their pitch. Even after those three departed the team still features a number of patient hitters. Nick Swisher has long been known for working long counts, and Brett Gardner has emerged as someone who can not only take a pitch, but also foul off two-strike pitches not to his liking.

As Girardi said, this comes with unintended consequences. Aggressive pitchers could throw one over for strike one and pitch ahead for the rest of the at-bat. I’m sure we all remember games where the Yankees faced someone they should have beaten — or in my case, regularly beat — but can’t get anything going because the pitcher won’t play their game. I remember a start a few years ago where Josh Beckett threw strike one nearly every time, and the Yanks hitters just couldn’t keep up when he threw them a steady diet of breaking pitches later in the AB.

Has this changed lately, though? Looking at the team’s pitches per plate appearance, that doesn’t exactly appear to be the case. In April the team saw 3.98 pitches per plate appearances, and that number is down to just 3.91 in May, and 3.93 in the past week. That doesn’t represent much of a change. Most of it, I’m sure, comes from Nick Johnson‘s absence, though a number of guys, including Marcus Thames, have worked a few deeper counts in May.

Of course, pitches per plate appearance doesn’t tell the whole story. Guys might be swinging at the first pitch and missing, or otherwise fouling it away. They’d still be swinging at the first pitch, but they might end up working a deeper count because nothing happened on that first pitch. Another place we can look is FanGraphs’ first-pitch strikes. This is defined as either the ball being put in play or the count being 0-1. Flaws abound here, too, as a called strike one counts. We’re looking for swinging.

Just because it’s interesting, the Yankees saw a first-pitch strike in 57.9 percent of their April plate appearances, but just 55.7 percent in May. This suggests, if nothing else, that the Yankees are taking ball one a bit more in May. What we don’t know, and what I can’t readily find, is how those strike ones break down. Maybe there were a lot more called strike ones in April, leading the Yanks to be a bit more aggressive in May and swing at strike one more. That’s data I just can’t find, though.

Anecdotally, it would seem to be a positive if the Yankees are adjusting and swinging earlier in the count. As a general principle the correct approach is to remain patient, but if pitchers try to take advantage and start slipping by strike one, the hitters have to adjust. From what Jennings has observed and Girardi has confirmed, the team is doing just that. The data we have doesn’t exactly line up with that anecdote, but we also don’t have a perfect measure.