Open Thread: Jeter’s Birthday

(Photo Credit: Flickr user dbfoto™ via Creative Commons license)

It got lost in the fun of Old Timers’ Day, but today is Derek Jeter‘s 37th birthday. I was kinda surprised he didn’t make the short trip up from Tampa for the event, but who knows what’s up with his rehab schedule. Obviously his priority is getting back on the field. It’s hard to believe the Cap’n is 37 though, isn’t it? It sucks watching his play decline but it happens to everyone. He’s the first homegrown megastar whose career I was able to watch from start to finish, and there’s something both happy and sad about that. Happy birthday, Derek.

Here’s your open thread for the night. The ESPN Sunday Night game is in San Francisco for the Indians and Giants (Carmona vs. Bumgarner), so that should be fun. You all know what to do here, so have at it.

Pitching Probables

Pitching’s a crazy thing, isn’t it? Seems like we haven’t worried about anything besides it since day one aside from a few spots of sputtering offense. That, we know’ll improve. But this whole pitching thing has been crazy since forever. Good for writers. Bad for the team. And for fans. I wish we could have ace pitching and a crappy backup catcher to complain about. Wait….

Anyway, it’s looking like, for the first time in a while, the Yankees may eventually have more starters than they have rotation spots. This is a blissful change from the norm, where it usually seems like the question du jour is ‘who the hell is going to pitch tomorrow?’ On the bright side, it’s nice to have so many alternatives. On the downside, the decision isn’t an easy one. We’re not choosing between Justin Verlander and Aaron Cook here. To put it lightly, there’s going to be a pretty serious bottleneck if all the injured Yankees starters come back healthy. Which ones are more likely to stay in the rotation?

Phil Hughes – 90%

We see you too, Phil. (Photo by dbphoto on flickr. Licensed under creative commons. )

Since going down with mysterious arm weakness on April 16th, Hughes has been in and out of the public consciousness. While he’s basically guaranteed to scoop back up his rotation spot when he returns from the DL, the concern should be that both fans have the team have no idea what kind of Phil Hughes is going to come back. Remember that Hughes didn’t even start off the season right: his velocity never where it was supposed to be, even in Spring Training, and none of his three starts were passable. While It’s nice to see that his fastball is above 90 in his first two rehab starts, no one’s exactly sounded thrilled by what he’s showing so far. Throwing seventy pitches in 3 innings is closer to the kind of stuff he showed in late 2010, with an inability get guys out and each batter hitting approximately 203984039 foul balls – and that not the best pitcher Phil can be. My personal concern is not if he will get his spot back, because that seems obvious, but rather how long he can keep it, and what he can do to maximize his own effectiveness. Everyone knows that Hughes has all-star stuff, it’s just a matter of finding it again, and it’s impossible to say whether he will. If Hughes’ dead arm makes it hard for him to reacquire the stuff he had in early 2010, it’s hard to say where he’ll project long term. A 4/5 starter would be a possibility, or maybe even a disappointing move to the bullpen, continuing the Yankees’ general weirdness (in lieu of other words) with developing pitching.

Bartolo Colon – 85%

Who can say enough about Big Bad Bartolo? Fans (and probably the team) came into the year expecting absolutely nothing from Colon, who’d had a mysterious stem cell treatment on his arm during 2010 and hadn’t pitched all during the season. Here was a guy who the Indians wouldn’t sign due to his, err, quite obviously poor conditioning routine. Said routine (or lack thereof) has done absolutely nothing to hinder the fact that Colon was, up until his hamstring injury, the second-most effective pitcher on the staff and probably the one the Yankees were getting the most bang for their buck from. He was even good enough to get the steroid whispers started, which seems to be a compliment nowadays. It’s nice that the injury is in his leg and not his arm, and he seems to be on track for a relatively speedy return. His rehab has gone well and he’s scheduled to throw a simulated game on Monday, which would line up him to be back in the rotation over Brian Gordon if they use the off day (also Monday) to skip him. His injury wasn’t am related and he’s, uh, surprisingly agile on the mound, so here’s hoping we get the same Bartolo back that left. Because I don’t think I need to say this, but that Bartolo was really, really good. I blame that two-seamer. Am I allowed to say that pitch is sexy? If there was such thing as a sexy pitch, Bartolo Colon’s two-seamer would qualify.

Freddy Garcia – 50%

Here’s where it gets tricky. Out of the three rotation spots, the only one truly in question is the fifth starter, and it probably comes down the chief or the supernova. Personally, I would prefer to see Ivan Nova (I’ve always been a Nova supporter), but honestly, my gut is that it will be Freddy. Why? First of all, his stats appear a bit better (3.30 ERA/4.14 FIP, vs Nova’s 4.13 ERA/4.13 FIP), and second of all, the pitching plan has always seemed to be put the prospects in the bullpen first (Hughes, Noesi, Nova). While Freddy, like Colon, has exceeded most expectations of him, both his problem and his success can be very easily summarized: he is junkballing people to death. It’s certainly entertaining to watch batters be frustrated by his slow (87 MPH fastball), slower (80 MPH splitter), and slowest (70 MPH curveball) routine, but two utter takedowns by the Boston offense has shown that it’s not likely to work on a power team. That being said, Garcia’s proved he’s capable at least, and his veteran presence shoring up the back of the rotation may be the tipping point in the decision on the fifth starter.

Ivan Nova – 45%

Nova’s results this year have been, to say the least, interesting. What usually happens is that someone on the internet writes a scathing report of how bad he is and how he needs to be kicked out of the rotation, and then he goes out there and just tears up whatever team in question he’s facing. Nova’s biggest weakness is his inability to miss bats: his swinging strike percentage last year was 6.4%, with this year’s being a mere 4.8%, while he’s on pace for only only about 5 strikeouts per nine innings, just below his average from last year. While both years are a pretty small sample, the evidence is clear pretty clear that he’s no David Robertson. He makes up for this with decent ground ball rate (55%) that’s improved from last year’s few starts (51%). The reasons I think Nova should be in the rotation are as follows: first off, he’s young, and has showed improvement from last year to this year and continues to improve, even against high-powered offenses such as the Rangers and the Reds, and secondly, he clearly has the stuff to start in the bigs, and stashing him in the pen or demoting him won’t improve that stuff. The problem is, his stuff certainly would work better out of the pen than Garcia’s, given his slick little fastball-curveball combination and the jump we’d see in his speed if he was only throwing 20 pitches a night. Like I said earlier, though, putting young pitchers in the bullpen is an extremely frustrating part of this team: don’t do it to poor Nova.

Brian Gordon – 5%

Unless Brian Gordon goes out there and throws a perfect game, there’s little possibility that we’ll see him in the big league rotation after people start coming off the DL. While he was serviceable in his first start and has a really great story, there’s an obvious reason why he spent so much time being a minor leaguer. While Gordon is decent filler material while the Yankees deal with their injuries, he doesn’t appear to have the stuff he needs to keep his big league job with this team, at least. He’ll most likely be the first one to go – probably cut, given the excess of pitchers in Scranton and Trenton, but possibly demoted. Either way, Gordon’s been a placeholder for Colon until he gets back, and while he’s fine for a couple of spot starts, there’s really no way this guy is going to take a rotation spot over any of the options listed.

For the first time in what seems like a long time, the Yankees have too many pitchers fighting for a spot. What this comes down too, really, is Garcia vs. Nova, and it’s not an easy one to pick when you take all the factors into the debate. That being said, I personally think this is still a better problem to have than worrying about who the heck is gonna pitch tomorrow. Go Nova!

Game 76: Old Timers’ Day

(Photo Credit: Flickr user bump via Creative Commons license)

Have you ever been to Old Timers’ Day? It’s a lot of fun but it’s also an incredibly long day at the park. Thankfully it’s not too hot out today, that only makes it worse. I’m not old enough to really appreciate any of the guys that played the majority of their career before the mid-to-late 80’s or so, but seeing players from my era is always a blast. Especially the dynasty Yankees, in particular the guys from 1996. No matter how many World Titles they win from here on out, those guys are always going to be special to me just because they were part of my first championship as a fan. You don’t forget that.

The full roster of old timers’ can be found here. First timers include Bernie Williams, Joe Torre, and Lou Piniella. The YES Network will carry all Old Timers’ Day festivities starting at 11:30am ET and will last for two hours or so. The Yankees and Rockies will play the rubber game of their series after that. Enjoy!

Brett Gardner, LF
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Jorge Posada, DH
Russell Martin, C
Eduardo Nunez, SS

Ivan Nova, SP

A-Rod playing through a sore right knee

Last week it was a left shoulder problem, this week it’s the right knee. Brian Heyman reported yesterday that Alex Rodriguez is battling through a sore knee he originally suffered during the Cubs series. “I think there are some injuries that you can play through and some you can’t,” said Alex. “This is one I feel I can play through. I met with my doctors and they pretty much assured me that it’s something you’re not going to reaggravate. It’s getting better each day.”

A-Rod was noticeably sluggish around the bases yesterday, and he’s been lifted for pinch-runners and defensive replacements regularly over the last few days. If the knee is bothering him at the plate, he sure has done a good job of hiding it; Alex was 2-for-3 with a double and a walk yesterday, and he’s hitting .354/.448/.620 since the final day of May.

Sabathia dominates Rockies as bats come alive

Saturday afternoon’s game was as close to flawless as victories come these days. Great pitching, a prolonged and diverse offensive attack that featured small ball and power, plus some fine defense. To the bullet points…

  • As far as I’m concerned, the star of the game was CC Sabathia. The big lefty struck out a season high nine in eight innings, throwing just 103 pitches and going to a three-ball count on only two of the 31 batters he faced. He whiffed five guys on sliders, two on changeups, and two on fastballs. Colorado didn’t get a man to second base until the fifth inning, and just three runners made it that far in Sabathia’s eight innings.
  • Aaron Cook really had no chance given his inability to miss bats. Brett Gardner started the game with a perfect bunt single, then stole second before scoring on Curtis Granderson‘s hustle double. Alex Rodriguez drove in Grandy with a single for the second run, and before you knew it the Yankees were up five-zip in the third inning following an A-Rod double and a Nick Swisher sacrifice fly. Another run came in the sixth, then two more in the eighth. Relentless.
  • Gardner, Robinson Cano, and Eduardo Nunez were the only players not to have multiple hits, though Gardner did augment his bunt single with two walks. Robbie grounded into two double plays, which were rather ugly. Mark Teixiera hit a garbage time two-run homer, Jorge Posada had a booming double to dead center, and even Frankie Cervelli slapped two singles. Fifteen hits and four walks are a good way to score eight runs.
  • How awful is Buddy Carlyle? He comes into the ninth inning with a seven run lead and immediately walks the leadoff man before giving up a homer to Ty Wigginton. Because that wasn’t good enough, Carlyle then walked the next guy, forcing Mariano Rivera to warm up in the bullpen. Thankfully the nonsense ended there and he retired the next three batters in a row, but good grief. Your roster spot is hardly set in stone, the least you could do is throw strikes.
  • Here’s the box score and WPA graph. Nothing more to see here.

The rubber game is Sunday afternoon but first we’ve got Old Timers’ Day. The festivities will begin at 11:30am ET and the full roster of attendees is right here. If you want to head up to the big ballpark in the Bronx, RAB Tickets can get you there on the cheap.

Trenton walks its way to blowout win

Remember when Steve Garrison pitched in relief for Short Season Staten Island last night just two days after starting? That wasn’t him, it was Caleb Cotham. The box score has been updated. David Phelps‘ shoulder injury is being described as simply “shoulder discomfort.” That sucks. Kei Igawa is heading back to Triple-A Scranton as well.

Triple-A Scranton (2-1 win over Durham)
Austin Krum, LF: 1 for 3, 1 BB
Kevin Russo, 2B & Brandon Laird, 3B: both 0 for 3, 1 BB, 1 K
Mike Lamb, 1B & Jordan Parraz, RF: both 0 for 4, 2 K – double sadface
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 3, 1 BB, 1 K
Terry Tiffee, DH: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 K
Greg Golson, CF: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI – 12 for his last 38 (.316) with one double, two triples, and a homer
Doug Bernier, SS: 1 for 4, 1 K
Adam Warren, RHP: 6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 6-2 GB/FB, 1 E (fielding) – 60 of 96 pitches were strikes (62.5%) … two runs allowed in his last 29 IP (four starts)
Eric Wordekemper, RHP: 1.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 2-0 GB/FB – 18 of 31 pitches were strikes (58.1%)
Randy Flores, LHP: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2-0 GB/FB – 11 of 15 pitches were strikes (73.3%)

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Open Thread: Hooray for CC

Two game losing streak? Kaput. CC Sabathia made sure of that this afternoon with eight splendid innings, giving up just one run in garbage time. Eight times he’s started after a Yankees loss this year, and six times he’s ended the schneid and pitched them to a win. That’s what the man is here to do. Bravo.

Anyway, here is your open thread for the night. A game will be shown on MLB Network, but the teams depend on where you live. Talk about whatever your heart desires there though, go nuts.