Open Thread: Those clouds look ominous

Photo Credit: Paul Sancya, AP

Well, there was just too much rain in the Motor City, so tonight’s game was postponed. The Yanks and Tigers are going to play two tomorrow, the first at 1:05pm ET and the second at 7:05pm ET. Not sure what this means for the roster moves, but Javy Vazquez will get the ball in game one, Phil Hughes in game two.

For now, just sit back and enjoy this nice refreshing open thread. The Mets are playing the Nationals, plus there’s NBA and NHL playoff action. Also, ESPn is showing some E:60 thing about Mariano Rivera and where he grew up in Panama and stuff at 7pm ET, so don’t miss it. You know what to do .

Aceves likely headed to the DL

Via Sweeny Murti, Joe Girardi indicated that Al Aceves‘ back is still an issue, and that he expects the righty to be placed on the disabled list. Marc Carig adds that he has a bulging disc in his back and is returning to New York, presumably for tests. My grandfather had a bulging disc in his back a few years ago, and all I remember was that he basically couldn’t do anything until he had surgery to correct it. Pretty painful and debilitating.

The Yankees also have yet to call up Juan Miranda despite indications that he was on his way to join the team. Considering the timing of this whole thing, it sounds like they were going to option out a pitcher for Miranda, but with Aceves’ back continuing to be an issue, they’re going to hold off and keep the extra arm around for another night.

The return of Javy Vazquez

Photo Credit: Christine Cotter, AP

Did you miss him?

It’s been more than a week since the Yankees’ ineffective fourth starter took the mound, but he’ll (hopefully) make his return tonight after two high intensity side sessions. “Usually my bullpens are nice and easy,” said Vazquez. “These I pushed it a little bit.” Of course, pretty much everything looks and feels good in the bullpen, so we’re not going to know if the extra work and extra rest does any good until a real live batter with the intention of beating the Yankees steps in the box.

There are two things I’m going to watching for tonight, and they aren’t mutually exclusive. First off all, I want to see how Javy works his fastball. Not necessarily the radar gun readings  (though I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing some consistent 91-92’s), but how he uses it. He’s throwing 49.9% fastballs this year, which is actually how much he threw it in 2009, but the big difference is when he’s going to the pitch. When he falls behind 2-0, Vazquez has thrown his heater 61% of the time this year, and in 3-1 counts it’s 71%. Last year those totals were 54% and 62%, respectively.

A large part of his success last year came from pitching backwards; when Vazquez threw offspeed pitches in fastball counts and fastballs in offspeed pitch counts. Now he’s being a bit more predictable. Most batters will sit on a fastball up 2-0 because the pitcher wants to throw a strike, and so far Vazquez has been giving it to them. More so than he did last year, anyway. Of course the simple solution is to stop falling behind hitters, but that’s easier said then done. Sometimes you throw strikes and the umpire just doesn’t call it.

The second thing I’m going to pay attention to is how efficient Vazquez is with his pitches. Last year the threw exactly two-thirds of his pitches for strikes, but this year it’s down to 61.6%, and thus his pitches per batter faced has climbed to 3.98 from 3.79. It doesn’t seem like a huge difference, but it’s very real and it does exist. The more pitches you have to throw to a batter the more likely you are to make a mistake, especially with slightly diminished stuff like what Javy has this year.

Using his fastball and throwing more strikes are part of the equation, the other part has to do with Vazquez rebuilding his confidence. I hate to play the part of psychotherapist, but I find it hard to believe that someone could take the pounding Javy’s taken so far and feel good about themselves. Phil Hughes has talked about it ad nauseum this year, that the difference between then and now for him is the conviction with which he throws his pitches. Vazquez needs to get a little of that back, but it won’t be easy. I don’t know what comes first, pitching effectively or confidence, but that’s not for me to figure out.

When will Girardi have seen enough of Boone Logan?

With this photo, I've already seen enough of Logan today. | Photo credit: Duane Burleson/AP

We haven’t seen much of Boone Logan this season. Recalled after the Yankees placed Chan Ho Park on the disabled list, Logan has appeared in just eight games and has faced 26 batters. Of those 20 have been in low-leverage situations. In other words, he’s something of a mop-up man who sometimes acts as a LOOGY. Either way, he hasn’t shown much in his short stint.

It seems like any time a manager has a lefty in the pen he uses him only against left-handed hitters — hence the term LOOGY (lefty one out guy). Joe Girardi has had Logan face 12 left-handed hitters this year, and the results are pretty disastrous. He has walked a quarter of the lefties he has faced. There is no way to rationalize that as acceptable in any way. Logan has never been a control guy, but at least in the past he’s avoid issuing too many free passes to same-handed batters.

To his credit, Logan had avoided the extra base hit until last night. Unfortunately, last night’s hurt a lot. It started with, guess what, a walk. He had actually walked Johnny Damon to start the inning, but erased him by inducing a ground ball off the bat of Magglio Ordonez. With a fresh slate and two outs he walked Miguel Cabrera. Then, facing lefty Brennan Boesch (shameless Brennan Boesch self-plug here) he laid a fastball right down the middle. That scored Cabrera and gave the Tigers a 5-2 lead. The Yankees would score two in the top of the next inning, but after the extra base hit it wasn’t enough to tie the game.

It might seem like Logan is getting a bit unlucky against lefties, since his BABIP against them is .355. That, however, is not the case. Of the six balls in play he has allowed off the bats of lefties, four have been line drives. Those are going to drop for hits more often than not. He has thrown only half of his 52 pitches to lefties for strikes. Apparently he’s made those count, laying them right over the plate. Lefties have gotten a good look at him, too, seeing 4.33 pitches per plate appearance. Righties have seen 3.64 pitches per PA.

Even if Logan reverts to his career numbers, he still won’t be a quality bullpen component. Against righties he’s an unmitigated disaster, a 5.69 FIP and 5.37 xFIP. Against lefties he’s a bit better, 3.91 FIP and 3.77 xFIP, but he still walks way too many of them and averages about a home run allowed every nine innings. That’s not impressive for a guy whose primary job is to retire lefties. He’s also terrible once men reach base, a 5.28 FIP and 5.15 xFIP. He’s also more prone to walk guys and less apt to strike them out.

This is mostly an emotional rant about the frustration I feel every time Logan enters the game. I understand that everything he has done falls under the short sample umbrella, and that he’s bound to do better against lefties as the season progresses. But, as I said, even his career numbers against lefties don’t represent anything special. The sooner he’s back in Scranton, the better.

Miranda recalled to add lefthanded thump

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

With Nick Johnson stuck on the disabled list for the foreseeable future, the Yankees’ lineup is lacking two things: a regular designated hitter, and a productive lefthanded bat. Curtis Granderson‘s absence makes the latter even more obvious. We can dream about Jorge Posada DH’ing most of the time with Frankie Cervelli assuming starting catcher responsibilities, but the team appears to have no interest in doing that. Adding a third catcher (likely Chad Moeller) to a team with a (usually) four man bench is less than ideal as well.

In an effort to correct that missing lefty bat, the Yankees summoned Juan Miranda from Triple-A Scranton today. There’s still no word on who’s going down to make room, but hopefully it’s one of the 13 pitchers. Preferably Boone Logan, but I digress.

Once upon a time Miranda was expected to be the Yanks’ first baseman of the future, but Mark Teixeira hitting the open market changed those plans. Instead, he’s been stuck in the minors for most of the last three years, save for September call-ups in each of the last two seasons. He’s actually hit pretty well in his limited big league at-bats, a .430 wOBA with one wallop of a homer and a walk-off single in 23 plate appearances. Overall, Miranda’s got a .371 wOBA in over 1,000 plate appearances at the Triple-A level, and has proven all he could at the level.

Miranda’s arrival does several things for the Yanks’ roster. For one, it helps settle the DH and leftfield situations, plus the overall lineup picture, all of which have kind of been in a bit of flux over the last week because of injuries both minor and major. Now, Joe Girardi can employ a straight platoon of Miranda and Marcus Thames at DH and in the 7th spot of the lineup. Randy Winn can’t hit, but he catches everything he should and then some, so now he’ll get regular playing time in the outfield. It’s not the prettiest picture, but at least now everyone has a defined role and we all have some peace of mind.

An added benefit is that the Yanks will now get an opportunity to evaluate Miranda for an extended amount of time at the big league level. It’s not just an audition for a possible DH job with the Yankees next season, it’s an audition for the other 29 clubs. If Miranda performs well and the Yanks deem him expendable – remember, he’ll be out of options next season, so he has to stick on the big league roster or go through waivers – they can use him in a trade to shore up another area of the team. A fringe benefit is that it also keeps Thames from being exposed against righthanders (dude’s got just four singles since Granderson got hurt).

I said during the offseason that I didn’t think Miranda could be a productive full-time designated hitter for the Yankees this year because of his troubles against lefthanders, but in a platoon situation he’s an acceptable option. CHONE projects a .341 wOBA with 17 jacks, and I’m willing to bet he could top that wOBA with limited exposure to southpaws. Even if not, it’s still more than we could ask for at this point. The Yankees just need Miranda to come in and help restore a semblance of normalcy to the lineup and roster. The constant juggling is no way to run a contender.

Derek Jeter hitting the same, but different, than 2009

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

The Yankees seemed poised for one of those late inning comebacks we grew so used to in 2009. Down 5-2 and facing the AL-best Detroit bullpen, the Yankees quickly loaded the bases with none out. Hope abounded when Marcus Thames grounded one just out of Adam Everett’s reach. Brett Gardner brought home a run on a chopper and reached safely himself (the Tigers took the out at second), leaving the Yanks with two opportunities to bring home the tying run. They did not capitalize.

While we can excuse Randy Winn’s pop up — no one expects much from him anyway — Derek Jeter‘s at-bat was a bit of a disappointment. It wasn’t so much because he made an out. Most major leaguers make outs in more than 3 out of 5 plate appearances. It was the heartbreaking way he made the out. He worked an excellent at-bat against Ryan Perry, running the count full. He got a fast fastball and did what he does best with that pitch. He drove it to right with authority. There was no doubt that Gardner would score and give the Yanks their first lead of the game. The only problem was that Magglio Ordonez made a sliding catch, killing the opportunity and leaving Jeter 0 for 5 at the plate.

That dropped Jeter’s numbers to .286/.324/.436, a .336 wOBA, which is certainly disappointing for the Captain after his stellar 2009 season. His performance last night prompted many comments regarding his production and his age. Jeter has still produced above average numbers, but we’ve come to expect more from him. We might get more, too. Apparently, many forget that just last season Jeter got off to a slow start, only to pick up the pace once the weather got warmer.

That line-out was Jeter’s 142nd plate appearance of the season, or about 20 percent of his season if he stays healthy. At this point last year he actually produced similar numbers. Through 30 games in 2009 he had 142 PA, same as this year. In that span he hit .266/.338/.406, a wOBA of around .350. That’s a bit better than last year, mainly because of his higher OBP. This year he’s walked a bit less, but has also hit for more power, which somewhat offset each other.

From his Game 31 through his game 153, Jeter hit .352/.423/.480 in 574 PA. He walked in 10.5 percent of his plate appearance during that span, compared to 8.5 percent through Game 30. His power did drop a bit, but Jeter has never relied on power. He hits singles the opposite way, draws walks and takes pitches. He hasn’t done much of the latter two so far this year, but as we saw last year, he can turn it around pretty quickly.

The beginning of 2010 has not looked pretty for Jeter. But, before we declare that he looks his age and that he’s slowing down, let’s remember what we were saying at this time last year. Jeter proved the naysayers wrong then, and I’m confident he’ll do it again this year.

Yanks can’t complete comeback, fall 5-4 to Tigers

Coming off what was probably their biggest series of the young season, the Yankees rolled on in to Detroit to face a handful of former teammates and get back on the winning track. We saw some of that never-say-die attitude that was the trademark of last year’s World Championship club, but ultimately they were unable to complete the comeback, losing back-to-back games for just the third time this season.

Photo Credit: Duane Burleson, AP

Biggest Out: Winn pops it up

As completely and utterly frustrating as this game was, the Yankees had more than one opportunity to tie this up in the 8th inning. With men on second and third, one out, and two runs already in, Randy Winn stepped to the plate against one of those former Yankees, lefty Phil Coke. A simple fly ball to the outfield would have tied the game with the lineup about the turn over.

Coke’s first two pitches to Winn were down and well out of the zone, putting him a comfy 2-0 count. The Yanks’ leftfielder was sitting on a fastball, which is usually what you do in that count, but normally you’d also hold up if the pitch almost hits you in the hands. Instead, Winn swung at a 92 mph high and tight heater, and popped it straight up to third baseman Brandon Inge. The run was unable to score, and sadly it was the third time Winn stranded a runner in scoring position in his four at-bats. The Yanks chances of winning went from a decent 41.5 percent to a slim 25.8 percent on the play.

Derek Jeter tried his best to atone for Winn’s shortcoming, but Magglio Ordoñez’s sliding catch robbed of him of a chance to be the hero.

Biggest Blunder: Two outs in the 1st

Photo Credit: Paul Sancya, AP

Thrust into a starting assignment because of Andy Pettitte‘s cranky elbow, the Yankees were hoping that Sergio Mitre could get off to a quick start with a painless 1st inning. He punched out two more former Yankees – Austin Jackson and Johnny Damon – on a combined ten pitches, though Ordonez ruined the perfect frame by singling into right. Miguel Cabrera posted a formidable threat at the plate, but teams have scored a run with a man on first and two outs less than 25% of the time this season.

After fouling off Mitre’s first sinker, Cabrera hit on top of the second one, grounding to towards Alex Rodriguez at third. A-Rod ranged to his left to the knock the ball down after being unable to field it cleanly, but he quickly recovered to fire over to first. The throw short-hopped Mark Teixeira and ended up in the stands, sending Ordonez to third and Cabrera to second. It’s an uncomfortable spot, but there’s still two outs and a rookie hitter at the plate, so if Mitre bears down he should be fine.

He did manage to induce another ground ball, but Brennan Boesch pulled it just out of the reach of Teixeira at 1st, and in came two runs. In the span of seven pitches, the Yankees watched the game go from two outs and a potentially scoreless frame to down two with a man on first. Mitre escaped the inning and otherwise did a splendid job in his spot start, but the Yanks had to play catch-up right from the get-go.

Photo Credit: Paul Sancya, AP

The Experience

Because he had spent the first month of the season in the bullpen, Mitre was expected to throw somewhere around 65-75 pitches on the night. If he completed five, Joe Girardi said he was literally going to do a cartwheel. He didn’t quite get there, but Mitre was decent enough to keep the team in the ball game.

True to the scouting report, Mitre recorded seven of his 13 outs on the ground. Four others came on strikeouts, and just two were hit in the air. He fell victim to some bad luck in that first inning, with the error and seeing-eye grounder through the 3.5 hole, so it’s tough to hang  that on him. After giving up another run in the second on a walk, single, sac bunt, and ground out, Mitre retired the next eight men he faced, needing just 28 pitches to do it.

His night ended when the sinker stopped sinking, and Johnny Damon deposited a 90 mph offering into the rightfield stands for his second homer of the year. At this time last season, Damon had nine homers. I don’t know why I mentioned that. Anyway, Mitre’s night involved 4.1 innings thrown, five hits, four runs but just three earned, and a pair of walks in addition to those eight strikeouts. As far as spot starts from your long man go, you couldn’t ask for more.

Sad Moments

Photo Credit: Paul Sancya, AP

There’s really too many to count. A-Rod’s error in the 1st stands out the most to me. Then there was Teixeira’s check swing double play with two men on to end the 5th. Le sigh. Also, Randy Winn swinging at Zumaya’s first pitch immediately after he walked Gardner to load the bases. I hate to keep dumping on Winn, but damn dude, the pitcher’s the one in trouble there, don’t help him out.

Boone Logan. What purpose does the guy serve? He faced two lefties tonight and they both reached, and overall he’s allowed 11 of the 26 batters he’s faced to reach base. That’s a .423 on-base percentage. The only thing the guy has going for him is the arm he throws with, yet Girardi seems to love him.

Jose Valverde. Get a grip man, no need for a first pump after every strike.

Happy Moments

This might have been the most frustrating loss of the season because the Yankees squandered so many chances (they had men on the 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 6th innings, yet scored zero runs), but there were still some things that made me smile. Brett Gardner beating out the double play in the 2nd, for example. His grounder to Inge was tailor made, but as soon as the third baseman double clutched, you knew he had no chance at two. You gotta love that.

Joel Zumaya came into the game with 23 strikeouts and zero walks in 18.1 IP, but the Yanks coaxed a free pass out of the flamethrower. The culprit? Gardner, of course.

How about Joba Chamberlain? Guy was en fuego this game. He went 96-97-97-97 to leadoff man Scott Sizemore in the 8th, and struck him out on three swings and misses. His first pitch to the next batter, Adam Everett? Try an 86 mph curveball for a called strike on the outer half. All told, Joba threw 14 pitches, got five swings and misses on his fastball, and hit 98 three times in Everett’s at-bat. It’s the best he’s looked probably since 2007.

David Robertson looked better as well. He’s still off a bit, but it was good to see him limit the damage after allowing a two out single. It’s a start.

And finally, May Tex lives on. Another game, another jack.

WPA Graph & Box Score

Individual WPA breakdowns are available at FanGraphs, and here’s the MLB.com box score.

Up Next

Same two teams tomorrow night, as Javy Vazquez looks to get back on track against Rick Porcello and his 7.50 ERA (4.63 xFIP). The forecast isn’t great, so a rainout is very possible.