Game 37: Shakeup

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

For the first time in exactly 12 years, Jorge Posada will hit ninth for the Yankees. With his team in the midst of an offensive slump, Joe Girardi changed things up at the bottom of the order for today’s game, simply moving the slumping Posada and Nick Swisher down while Russell Martin and Brett Gardner moved up. Posada put it all on himself, saying he “put [himself] in this position” before the game, but I still kinda feel bad for him. Getting old in baseball isn’t pretty. Bottom line: it had to be done. Here’s the lineup…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Russell Martin, C
Brett Gardner, LF
Nick Swisher, RF
Jorge Posada Andruw Jones, DH- Posada was just scratched for an unknown reason

CC Sabathia, SP

Because Saturday night games don’t suck enough, this one will be broadcast on FOX. Fun fun fun. Anyway, game starts shortly after 7pm ET. Try to enjoy.

Notes: Phil Hughes continued his throwing program, again playing catch with Larry Rothschild before the game … Frankie Cervelli was on the field working on his throwing with Girardi and Tony Pena early this afternoon … the April 12th rain out against the Orioles has been rescheduled as part of a day/night doubleheader at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, July 30th.

Collective Bargaining Agreement Draft Rumblings

I’ve mentioned before that the upcoming CBA negotiations figure to change the draft in some significant way, but I don’t know how just yet. Jeff Passan hears that an international draft “remains extremely unlikely” for this round of negotiations, but MLB will fight tooth and nail over a hard-slotting system. “It continues to be an important component of the overall reform of amateur talent acquisition we want to achieve,” said MLB’s chief labor negotiator Robert Manfred, but three agents (including Scott Boras) were very clear in saying that they don’t believe it will ever happen. Not just this year, ever. I recommend giving the entire article a read, good update on this kind of stuff.

2011 Draft: Baseball America’s Mock Draft v1.0

Now that we’re three weeks away from the draft, the mock drafts are starting to roll on in. Jim Callis posted his first mock yesterday, and you don’t need a Baseball America subscription to see the picks. You do need one for the analysis though. The Yankees don’t have a first round pick so they’re not included in the mock, so the next few weeks are going to be pretty lame when it comes to this stuff. It’s not entirely useless though though, Callis is as well-connected as anyone and uses his info to connect teams to players. It’s a good snapshot of each player’s current value, so check it out.

Run boys, run

Over the offseason the Red Sox and the Yankees both pursued Russell Martin. The Yankees were all-in, promising Martin the ability to catch as a starter and offering him $4M. The Sox were far more tentative. Fearful of his injury history, the Sox medical staff declared Martin unsignable (h/t JamalGr) and  the Sox never offered him more than a minor league deal. Martin chose New York and now plays Call of Duty with pal A.J. Burnettgets his nails done in Westchester nail salons, and hits a healthy .256/.356/.510 with seven home runs. The Red Sox, on the other hand, are stuck with Salty and Tek.

Salty and Tek have been terrible in 2011, there’s just no way around it. Varitek is currently hitting a robust .154/.241/.212 in 59 plate appearances this year, while Saltalamacchia stands at .203/.250/.266 in 84 plate appearances. The two have combined for zero home runs. Better (or worse) yet, neither of them are a Yadier Molina or a Matt Wieters behind the plate. They both have trouble with preventing the run game. This is something the Yankees took advantage of last night, and it’s something they should continue to exploit this weekend and throughout the rest of the season.

According to Matt Klaassen’s catcher defense rankings, Jason Varitek’s catcher defense has been -0.3 runs below average. Varitek actually grades out fairly well across the board this year, registering positive value in fielding errors, throwing errors and passed balls and wild pitches. However, he received a low mark in the Caught Stealing category. In other words, Klaassen’s system grades Varitek well except when it comes to throwing out would-be base-stealers. Overall, Jarrod Saltalamacchia is far worse, coming in at -1.4 runs below average. Unlike Varitek, Salty scores poorly in the passed ball and wild pitches category. Like Varitek, though, he grades out poorly in the Caught Stealing category, scoring -1.2 runs below average. It’s not as bad as A.J. Pierzynski or Ryan Hanigan, but it’s close. Salty is easy to run on, and this says nothing of his frequent cases of the yips.

Catcher defense is notoriously difficult to quantify and rank. For this reason it’s often wise to listen to personal observation and anecdotal information. A perfect example of this came with Varitek earlier this week against the Blue Jays. Varitek was brought in as a defensive replacement for Salty, and with the game tied in the 10th inning Rajai Davis singled off Matt Albers. At that point the Red Sox correctly anticipated a steal and guessed right with a pitch out. Varitek received the pitchout and was poised to nail Davis, but couldn’t get the ball to Iglesias on the fly, bouncing it well short of the bag and allowing Davis to slide in safely. Davis subsequently swiped third base, David Cooper brought him home with a walk-off sacrifice fly shortly thereafter, and there was great rejoicing. You can read more about the sequence over at Red Sox Beacon, complete with plenty of screencaps showing that a good throw would have nailed Davis and ended the threat.

Saltalamacchia’s arm was on display last night in the eighth inning. The Yankees down 5-3 with one out and Daniel Bard on the mound, and Rodriguez and Cano executed a perfectly timed double steal, putting themselves in scoring position for Swisher and Posada. Swisher and Posada, of course, couldn’t take advantage, but it was clear that the Yankees recognized a tactical advantage and decided to take it.

And that’s really what this is all about. Spending a lot of money, as the Red Sox have, doesn’t guarantee you a weakness-free roster. It’s very difficult to build quality depth. It’s very difficult to acquire great players. Theo Epstein built a really good baseball club this offseason, maybe the best of his entire tenure as Red Sox GM. Sure, he may have whiffed on Russell Martin, but no GM has a perfect track record and Epstein at least has the cover of deferring to the medical staff. All of that aside: weakness is weakness. One area in which the Red Sox are weak is in preventing the running game. The Yankees aren’t built for speed, but they have plenty of guys who can swipe a bag against a weak arm. If last night was any indication, they may try to exploit this weakness whenever advantageous.

Girardi called team meeting after last night’s game

Buried in the middle of this predictable “the Yankees didn’t bury the Red Sox when they had the chance!” column by Joel Sherman is this little nugget: Joe Girardi called a team meeting after last night’s game. Not just the players either, the coaches as well. The message: cut the crap and stop playing so sloppily. Team meetings sound nice to us fans, because at least it looks like they’re trying to do something, but I highly doubt this alone will end this ugly slump. Better than nothing though.