Yanks hit Angels hard in Stadium return

Photo credit: Bill Kostroun/AP

Derek Jeter said it best: “It feels like the season doesn’t get started until we play the home opener.” While the past week of baseball has provided nothing but enjoyment, the man has a point. Getting off the 4 train, walking to the Stadium among fellow die-hards, ascending the staircase to the grandstands — it made baseball seem real again. It helped that the Yankees continued their hot start, slapping around the Angels, at least for the first eight innings, en route to their fifth win of the season.

Biggest Hit: Nick Johnson‘s solo shot

Photo credit: Bill Kostroun/AP

As he’s done so many times since moving to the leadoff spot, Derek Jeter swung at the first pitch of the game, a 92 mph fastball from Ervin Santana. He pulled the inside pitch to Brandon Wood at third, who tossed the ball across the diamond to Kendry Morales for the first out. The Yankee Stadium speakers then played an odd tune for a ballgame, “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus. It was the at-bat music for the No. 2 hitter, Nick Johnson, who had chosen it because of his daughter.

Hopefully he changes it tomorrow.

It appeared that Santana and catcher Jeff Mathis had a plan. The first, a fastball, hit the outside corner for called strike one. They went back outside on the second pitch, but that one missed considerably, evening the count at 1-1. Again Santana went for the outside fastball, but this one caught a bit too much of the plate. Johnson laid into it, crushing it into the right field bleachers for the first home run in his return to the Yankees. It boosted the Yankees’ chances of winning by 9.5 percent, a good shift for the first inning.

Honorable Mention: Jeter to the pen

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

After retiring Jeter on just one pitch in the first, Ervin Santana fell behind 2-0 during their second battle. He missed with a fastball high for ball one, and then couldn’t catch the inside corner with a backdoor slider. The next pitch he served up, a 91 mph fastball down the middle. Jeter put a pretty swing on it, and put the Yankees up 2-0. That one, according to WPA, was worth just slightly less than Johnson’s shot, a 9.2 percent increase. With Andy rolling through three, the second solo homer of the game was a good base for the Yanks.

Biggest Pitch: Juan Rivera singles in the sixth / Wood walks

Photo credit: Bill Kostroun/AP

I bet you weren’t expecting that. Most people, I’m willing to bet, would have rated Bobby Abreu’s ninth-inning grand slam off David Robertson as the biggest hit for the Angels. This presents an opportunity to explain the underpinnings of WPA. Even though Abreu’s home run put more runs on the board than any other Angels’ hit, it didn’t necessarily bring them any closer to winning the game. After he hit it, his team was still down by two runs and had the bases empty with just two outs remaining. The odds of them winning at that point, in other words, were not that good.

In the fifth inning, however, thanks to some missed opportunities, the Yankees held just a 3-0 lead. Jeff Mathis singled to lead off the inning. When the next batter, Brandon Wood, walked, the Angels brought the tying run to the plate. This represented a 6.4 percent gain in WPA, because it brought the Angels closer to tying the game. Similarly, in the sixth inning Juan Rivera singled, advancing Howie Kendrick to third. That again brought the tying run to the plate, and was also a 6.4 percent gain in WPA.

Both of those hits brought the tying run to the plate. Abreu’s did not. It might have put the Angels in a better position to come back, but it did not directly lead to a game-tying opportunity. Wood’s and Rivera’s at-bats did. That is why they were credited with a 6.4 percent gain in WPA, while Abreu’s homer brought the Angles just 2.6 percent. The odds of them scoring two more runs with the bases empty and one out were just not that high.

Thank you, Mr. Kendrick

As described above, Juan Rivera singled with one out in the sixth to bring the tying run, Howie Kendrick, to the plate. Pettitte got ahead with a cutter, but missed the zone with his next three pitches, tipping the count in Kendrick’s favor. Pettitte delivered his second straight fastball, a hittable pitch about thigh high and over the plate, and Kendrick grounded it right to Jeter. He flipped to Cano, who threw to first to complete the double play and end the minor threat.

Looking back on the at-bat in Gameday, it could have turned out much worse. Kendrick is a dead fastball hitter. Pettitte delivered a pretty hittable fastball in a hitter’s count. It could have been a turning point for the Angels. Instead, it was the biggest negative WPA swing on offense for them.

Andy’s strikeout rate

Andy Pettitte does not look like a strikeout pitcher. His fastball hits low 90s at times, but he works mostly off his secondary stuff — the cutter/slider, the curve, the change. He uses it effectively, tough, keeping hitter off-balance by mixing his pitches well. Of his 100 pitches, only 52 were fastballs. He mixed in 25 cutters, 14 curveballs, and eight changeups — plus one unclassified pitch. He did allow eight baserunners in the game, five hits and three walks, but he helped stifle them by striking out six. It was all part of another quality start by Pettitte.

Things that made me smile

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Matsui’s ovation, obviously. The fans cheered him when he received his World Series ring, but the biggest ovation came when he came to bat in the first inning. We all miss Matsui, though with the way the team’s playing right now I’m not sure many people particularly care. That, of course, will change, and then change back, multiples times during the season. Have I mentioned that I love baseball?

Posada just continues to destroy the baseball. He went 3 for 4 yesterday with two doubles, raising his season average to .429. It won’t last all season, obviously, but it’s a nice opening statement from a guy who had a few question marks heading into the season.

Robinson Cano also has been hammering the ball out of the gate.

Also, Chan Ho’s outing was nice as well. The home run was a bit annoying, but it was Kendry Morales and he’ll do that sometimes. Otherwise, Park looked strong again.

Things that annoyed me

The ninth inning, obviously. It really couldn’t have been worse for Robertson. He actually got a gift, in that Kendrick did not score from second on Brandon Wood’s single. He then struck out Erick Aybar, a good sign. The Yankees could afford the run if Robertson needed to trade one for an out. Instead he threw two fastballs to Abreu, both around the same spot, and watched the ball fly out into the right field stands. Again, it didn’t really bring the Angels a ton closer to winning, especially since the home run brought on the save situation. Still, highly annoying.

The Yankees also failed to cash in some baserunners early in the game. Had Andy run into trouble that would have been even more annoying. They did rack up seven runs on 13 hits, though, so I guess it balanced itself by game’s end.

WPA Chart

As always, to FanGraphs with you for the full WPA breakdown, play log, and box score.

Next up

It’s another day game tomorrow, Javy Vazquez vs. groundball machine Joel Pineiro.

Noesi dominates again while Montero comes up with a big hit

Triple-A Scranton (4-3 win over Rochester)
Kevin Russo, SS: 0 for 4
Eduardo Nunez, 2B & Reegie Corona, 3B: both 1 for 3 – Nunez doubled, scored twice & walked … Corona K’ed … the three infielders on the 40-man all played different positions tonight to get their feet wet elsewhere
Juan Miranda, DH: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB
David Winfree, 1B: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 K
Jon Weber, RF: 1 for 4, 1 RBI
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 4, 2 RBI, 1 K – two run single in the bottom of the 8th turned a one run deficit into a one run lead
Chad Huffman, LF: 1 for 4, 1 K – the catcher picked him off first with a snap throw
Greg Golson, CF: 2 for 3, 1 3B
Ivan Nova: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 7-7 GB/FB – 57 of 90 pitches were strikes (63.3%) … that’s a 11-1 K/BB ratio in 11 IP
The Ghost of Kei Igawa: 1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 2-1 GB/FB – 11 of 22 pitches were strikes … entered the game to face three righties with a one run lead in the 8th … so much for that
Jon Albaladejo: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1-0 GB/FB – 10 of 13 pitches were strikes (76.9%)

[Read more…]

Open Thread: The spoils for the victors

Take a good, long look at that beauty. That’s what you get when you win the World Series.

The Yankees and the Balfour jewelry company teamed up to bring the team a hand-crafted ring made of natural-finished white gold. The NY logo is diamond-clustered, and it rises up from a diamond-lined baseball diamond. On one side, Yankee Stadium is engraved on the ring while the other features the Yankees logo and a nod to tradition and unity.

In addition to the new rings the Yanks handed out today, Balfour and the Bombers announced an upcoming museum exhibit set for Opening Day 2011. The jeweler is going to produce replicas from all 27 World Series rings in franchise history and display them along with information about the details of each. This bling-filled display will go up at Yankee Stadium next year.

Meanwhile, Joe, Mike and I hit up Opening Day today to watch the Yanks beat the Angels 7-5 in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicated. We’ll have our extended recap up later tonight. For now, I have pictures. The full set of my photos from the ring ceremony is available here on flickr. Below are a few of my favorites.

Mariano admires the ring

Number 42

A-Rod salutes the crowd

A-Rod Waves

A group hug with Hideki

Group Hug

After the jump, I’ve embedded the full slide show. Use this thread as your open thread. In local action, the Mets and the Rockies play at 8:40 p.m., and there’s a new episode of LOST tonight. Have it. Be good to each other. [Read more…]

Introducing the Official Guacamole of the Yankees

That's the Official Salsa, Queso Dip and Guacamole of the Yankees. (Photo via Wholly Guacamole)

A flavorful guacamole, I find, is one of the easiest things to make. Grab a ripe avocado, a little bit of red onion and tomato, some jalapeno and garlic, a touch of salt, a few cilantro sprigs, a dash of cumin and lime juice. Voila, guacamole. For some, though, this simple bit of dicing and mashing requires too much effort, and when the urge for guacamole strikes, the supermarket should have Wholly Guacamole in a bag from Fresherized Foods. The things I didn’t know we needed…

Anyway, this week, Wholly Guacamole and the Yankees announced a parternship. The “Wholly” line of dips are now the Official Dips of the Yankees, a title I thought belonged to John Sterling. The guacamole is the Official Guacamole of the team, and the Wholly Salsa and Wholly Queso are the official salsa and queso dip of the Yanks, respectively.

According to a report on the deal, the sponsorship agreement is valued in the “low six figures,” and Wholly will market its products in the New York area with Yankee branding. At this point, is there anything for which the Yanks don’t have an official sponsor?

Game 7 spillover thread

I can’t seem to close the comments in the first thread, so use this when you see it.

Game Seven: Home Sweet Home

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

The season is six games old, but it hasn’t felt like it’s really started yet because the team has been on the road the whole time. That all changes today, when the Yankees take the field in the Bronx for the first time since walking off it as World Champions back in November.

Just like that great night, today’s game will be started by Andy Pettitte, who’s starting his fourth home opener. He’s a perfect 3-0 in those other three starts. There’s not much more to say, baseball is back in the Boogie Down. Enjoy it.

Here’s today’s lineup…

Jeter, SS
Johnson, DH
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Posada, C
Granderson, CF
Swisher, RF
Gardner, LF

And on the mound, the man who won the games that clinched the AL East, ALDS, ALCS, and World Series last year, Andy Pettitte.

Ben, Joe, and I will be at the game, so stop on by to say hi if you want. We’re sitting in YES’ private box Section 426 Row 11 Seats 10-12. For the rest of you watching on the tube, first pitch is scheduled for 1:08pm ET and can be seen on YES. Here’s the schedule of pregame ceremonies…

12:30-12:44 p.m.: Ring ceremony begins
12:44-12:54 p.m.: Introductions
12:54-12:56 p.m.: Giants flag, presentation of colors, and National Anthem
1:01 p.m.: Bernie Williams throws the first pitch

Game Notes: Yankees trainer Gene Monahan, currently away from the team with an undisclosed illness, will be attending the ring ceremony. Geno missed all of Spring Training this year, and although the team had kept his diagnosis a secret, Mariano Rivera said yesterday that Monahan had surgery for cancer. He should get a big standing ovation from his teammates and patience this afternoon as well as from the fans.

How will Yankee Stadium play in 2010?

Last April the Yankees were targets of widespread criticism. It wasn’t because of their lavish off-season, though, but rather because of their new palace in the Bronx. While the old Yankee Stadium was known as a haven for left-handed hitters, who could pop home runs over the short porch in right, the new Stadium seemed to exaggerate that effect. Both the Yankees and their opponents cleared the fence frequently last April, with the Yankees hitting a home run every 19.87 PA, while opponents hit one every 23.92 PA. The effect persisted in May, with only slight changes in the home run rates. Many thought that the Stadium was clearly hitters’ park, and some went so far as to call it an embarrassment.

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

In The Star Ledger, Marc Carig tackles the topic of how Yankee Stadium will play in 2010. He notes the trends that I wrote about a few weeks ago on ESPN. Once June hit the home run rate dropped. Opponents felt the brunt, dropping to one home run every 41.83 PA, and staying in the mid-30s for the rest of the season. The Yankees only saw a slight drop-off, though. Their June, July, and August numbers were only slightly worse than the April and May ones. I think this illustrates the issue.

The perception of Yankee Stadium as a bandbox started in April, and was based mostly on a game where Cleveland hit six home runs. Tampa Bay also had a game where they hit four homers. Remember, though, that opponents only came to the plate 311 times in April, hardly a meaningful sample. Opponents hit 13 home runs, but six of them came in that Cleveland game, where Chien-Ming Wang and Anthony Claggett served up the taters. May isn’t quite as explainable, as opponents hit 29 home runs in 672 plate appearances, a slightly quicker pace than April. But, again, their rate dropped off considerably after that.

As I noted in the ESPN TMI article, the Yankees hit a ton of home runs at the Stadium because the team was built to do just that. In addition to the three lefties — Matsui, Damon, and Cano — the lineup featured four switch hitters: Teixeira, Cabrera, Posada, and Swisher. Those four have all hit for more power from the left side in their careers. The plan worked, too, as each of them outpaced their career slugging numbers from the left side. Combined with the raw power of Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter’s excellent power numbers to right, the team was not only built for its home park, but was also well-rounded enough to succeed on the road.

We still don’t know if the early season power numbers from last season were an aberration or if they represent some kind of weather pattern at the Stadium. That’s why park factors are best examined using three-year samples. We just don’t know what caused the balls to leave the yard. Were the pitchers just not used to pitching at the park, as Joe Girardi says? Or is there an environmental effect that pushes the balls out? We’ll have a better idea after this April and May, though we still won’t have the full picture. That will take another year or two to determine.