Grandy, Cano, Nova lead the way in Yanks win over Angels

You gotta love the everyday aspect of baseball. Twenty-four hours ago, we were pulling our hair out over a stupid loss to the Angels, but now everything in the baseball world is right again. The Yankees roughed up a rookie pitcher and took home a stress-free win on Wednesday. Perfect.

Juuust enough.

Oh Curtis, I Can’t Stay Mad At You

Curtis Granderson was one of the goats of Tuesday’s game, getting picked off first base with Mark Teixeira at the plate and the tying run on base. It took him all of two pitches to make up for that mistake on Wednesday night. We’ll talk more about Angels’ rookie Garrett Richards more in a bit, but all you need to know right now is that he walked the first two men he faced before catching too much of the plate with a 1-0 fastball to Curtis. It was literally off the top of the wall in right center, hopping into the home bullpen after ricocheting off the fence. Three batters in, the Yankees had a three run lead.

Oh but wait, Granderson wasn’t done yet. He tacked on a second homerun in the fifth inning, a solo shot on another Richards’ fastball. This one was a no doubter to left and Curtis’ 31st homerun of the season, a new career high. There’s 47 games left in the season, and right now he’s on pace to finish with 43 bombs, which would be the second most in the AL since 2008. Obviously, Jose Bautista tops that list with 54 last year. Even if he takes mercy on opposing pitchers the rest of the way and doesn’t hit 40, Granderson has been a marvel this season and the Yankees’ best player day-in, day-out, no questions asked.

Cy Nova

Okay, let’s not get too carried away. Ivan Nova was very good yet again, serving up just a solo homer through the first six innings (more on that in a bit) before losing the zone in the seventh. He gave up two singles and two walks to the first four batters in that seventh inning, but before that he’s allowed just four hits and a walk in six frames. Fourteen of his 18 outs came on ground balls, but he didn’t strike out a single batter and only got two swings and misses (both on fastballs) out of 96 total pitches. That’s right out of Chien-Ming Wang‘s playbook.

Nova did get some help though, because he could have easily finished the game with a 6 IP, 6 R line rather than the 6 IP, 3 R he ended up with. Rafael Soriano stormed out of the bullpen with the bases loaded and nobody out in the seventh, then got a ground ball double play out of Peter Bourjos (run scored) and a harmless fly ball out of Jeff Mathis. He’s still perfect since coming off the disabled list, retiring all 14 men he faced plus a guy he didn’t even face on the double play. It might be overlooked given the score, but Soriano’s three outs in this game were huge.



You can see why Richards was the 42nd overall pick in the 2009 draft, the kid’s got a great arm. But he was in way over his head in this game, making his big league debut in Yankee Stadium without a single Triple-A inning to his credit. He walked the first two men he faced, gave up a homer to the third, didn’t throw a first pitch strike until the sixth batter, and didn’t strike anyone out until the fifth inning. The Yankees hung six runs on Richards thanks to six hits (including two doubles, a triple, and Granderson’s two homers) and the two walks, but you know what? He can say that his first career strikeout was Derek Jeter, and that he was the first starting pitcher to make his big league debut at New Yankee Stadium. That ain’t bad.

Granderson wasn’t the only offensive star of the night. Robinson Cano doubled in the first, tripled in the fourth, and homered in the seventh. The long ball was an opposite field shot, a non-cheapie that landed several rows up right next to the visitor’s bullpen. He didn’t get a chance to complete the cycle, unfortunately.

Aside from Grandy and Cano, you also had a pair of hits from Nick Swisher, singles from Eric Chavez and Russell Martin, and walks from Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter. Mark Teixeira and Eduardo Nunez were kept off the bases.

Nova has now given up eleven homeruns this season, but all eleven have been solo shots and ten of them have come in the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium. That’s what you call limiting the damage, folks.

Luis Ayala finished the game off with two scoreless innings, throwing 32 pitches. He’s pretty good for the last guy in the bullpen, a veteran dude that can soak up some garbage time innings and keep it from getting interesting. Anyway, the Yankees put their three game losing streak to an end and regained their seven-game lead over the Halos for the wildcard.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the nerdy stuff, and ESPN the updated standings.

Up Next

The rubber game is a matinee, a 1pm ET start on Thursday. Bartolo Colon takes the ball against his former team and rookie right-hander Tyler Chatwood. If you’re making a last minute decision to head up the Stadium, RAB Tickets can help you get in for cheap.

Sanchez homers twice in Charleston win

Ravel Santana got some love in today’s Minor League Update (subs. req’d), with Kevin Goldstein simply saying the “19-year-old Dominican is a high-ceiling tools machine with above-average power and speed.”

Triple-A Scranton (4-2 loss to Gwinnett)
Dan Brewer, RF: 0 for 0, 1 HBP, 1 CS – got hit then got thrown out trying to steal in the first, then immediately came out of the game
Jordan Parraz, RF, Brandon Laird, 3B & Greg Golson, LF: all 0 for 3 – Parraz walked … Laird drove in two … Golson walked and struck out three times
Chris Dickerson, CF & Jesus Montero, C: both 0 for 4, 1 BB – Dickerson struck out once, Montero twice … C-Dick also got picked off first
Mike Lamb, DH: 1 for 3, 2 R, 1 BB
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 2 for 3, 1 HBP
Luis Nunez, 2B: 1 for 4, 1 2B, 1 K
Doug Bernier, SS: 1 for 2, 2 BB – it seems like he walks a lot more than he really does (just 28 BB in 77 games)
D.J. Mitchell, RHP: 8 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 2 WP, 10-2 GB/FB – 62 of 101 pitches were strikes (61.3%) … picked a runner off first … way to be efficient
Logan Kensing, RHP: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1-1 GB/FB – ten of 14 pitches were strikes (71.4%)

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Game 115: Rookie vs. Rookie

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The Angels are throwing the Yankees a little bit of a curveball tonight, calling up rookie right-hander Garrett Richards to start instead of going with Hisanori Takahashi. Richards is coming straight from Double-A, where he posted a 3.54 FIP with an okay strikeout rate (6.38 K/9). Baseball America considered him the team’s seventh best prospect before the season, saying that he “touches 96 mph at times and sits comfortably at 92-93 with sink and occasional cutting action.” A mid-80’s breaking ball is his second pitch, which he calls a curveball but it looks a whole lot like a slider. BA cites observers that consider him “everything from a mid-rotation starter to a power reliever.”

Anyway, the Yankees have never seen Richards before, which usually means CERTAIN DOOM. I’m actually feeling pretty good about the matchup just because Richards is a typical power pitcher. The rookies with soft stuff are the ones that tend to give the Yankees fits, plus going from Double-A to Yankee Stadium in the middle of playoff spot race is a tough spot. Here’s the lineup…

Brett Gardner, LF
Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Eric Chavez, DH
Russell Martin, C
Eduardo Nunez, 3B

Ivan Nova, SP

The game starts a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES locally or ESPN nationally. Enjoy.

Baseball mortality during the dog days of August

As Jorge Posada, the Yanks’ once and former designated hitter, has come to grips with his newfound role on the bench, the hot-tempered elder statesman has not been in the best of spirits. “I’m not happy with it,” he said to reporters this week. “I don’t need to tell you again that I’m not happy with it. But I’m moving on, and I’ll be ready to play whenever I happen to play.”

Of course, Jorge isn’t happy, and he has many reasons not to be. At the tail end of a career that could land him in the hallowed halls of Cooperstown, Posada has been told by his one and only employer that he’s no longer with a job, and if he were anyone other than Jorge Posada, the Yanks probably would have flat-out released him a few weeks ago. Since he has a legacy, though, and rosters expand in three weeks, the Yanks will allow him to bow out somewhat gracefully at the end of the season.

For Posada, the end has been jarring. As the Yanks’ seemingly full-time DH for much of the season, he hit just .230/.309/.372 with nine home runs. He hasn’t homered since June 29, the date of A.J. Burnett‘s last win, and Posada posted just a .207/.258/.244 in 89 plate appearances since then. The league average DH is hitting .262/.338/.416. That sound Jorge hears isn’t the end of the road fast approaching.

For the past 15 seasons, Jorge Posada has been a stalwart. Often underappreciated for his hitting, he was a five-time All Star and finished third in the MVP voting in 2003. For the first few years of his career, he split catching duties with Joe Girardi and did not emerge as the Yanks’ full-time catcher until 2000 when he started 136 games the plate. His career numbers — .273/.374/.474 with 270 home runs — are particularly impressive as a backstop.

Posada was one of those Yankees with whom I grew up. We all know the stories of the core of the Yankee Dynasty as the team’s farm system produced Jorge along with his buddy Derek Jeter, their lefty Andy Pettitte, the closer Mariano Rivera and the graceful centerfielder Bernie Williams. Bernie’s slide into baseball oblivion was a quick one, spurred on by a slowing bat and a knee injury. He too was unhappy when the Yanks offered him only a Spring Training invite and only recently has re-embraced his turn in the Yankee spotlight.

Getting older though is what baseball is about. It’s a game dictated not by a clock but by the more leisurely pace of outs. As our favorite players age, the outs melt away much like innings on a scorecard. Jorge Posada isn’t the first former great to grow old before Yankee fans’ eyes, but he’s the first of the group that formed the core of my first Yankee Dynasty to suffer the fate. Andy Pettitte retired because his body couldn’t withstand the beating of another season, but he still had the skill to match.

Jorge isn’t alone here. We’ve seen Derek Jeter’s magical age-defying offensive streak come to a screeching halt lately as well. Even though he’s hitting better after coming off of the DL, his numbers are right-handed pitching are painful to see, and his overall line is a far cry from the halcyon days of 2009. The .273/.335/.360 slash line makes him seem like just another middle infielder and not Derek Jeter. One day in the future, in 2012 or 2013, the Yanks will be faced with a Jorge Posada situation with Jeter, and the boyish short stop won’t seem quite as timeless.

On the mound too, we’ve seen Mariano Rivera lose a little something. It’s not much, but it’s enough. Last night, it was the difference between missing middle-in on a 3-1 pitch that didn’t cut enough at 91 and missing middle-in on a 3-1 pitch that didn’t cut enough at 93 or 94 as he would have thrown five or six years ago. At 41, Rivera is the oldest Yankee, and baseball time marches on.

But baseball too is about renewal. Although no one will be the Next Mariano Rivera, young kids with live arms and lots of promise pass through the Yankee Stadium doors. We know the names of the players who are supposed to be the Next Big Thing, and we see a pitcher like David Robertson turn into a star. Soon, in ten or 12 weeks if the Yanks make a big October run again, it will be time to say good bye to Jorge Posada. But another feisty player with a hot temper will take his place. That’s the circle of baseball life.

The Jays and Stealing Signs

The Yankees, specifically Joe Girardi and Russell Martin, made a little bit of a stink during the team’s four-game series in Toronto immediately after the All-Star break, suggesting that the Blue Jays were stealing signs. They weren’t the first team to make such accusations, and the ESPN duo of Amy Nelson and Peter Keating published an article today about said accusations. They’ve spoken to opposing players who’ve seen a person relay signs from the standings, and dug up some more possible evidence. It’s a pretty interesting read, so check it out.

Link Dump: Burnett, Best Tools, Romine, Arodys

Lunchtime linkage for those of you that prefer a later meal, like myself…

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

The Jorge Posada Hypocrisy

I swear, I wrote the first half of his great Jack Curry article on the train this morning. I mean, granted it wasn’t word for word, the premise was the same: the Yankees are coming off as extremely hypocritical for taking Jorge Posada out of the lineup because it’s best for the team while continuing to give A.J. Burnett starts every five days (or every six days, really). Jack’s a far better writer than I am, so go read his article to get the gist of what I was trying to say.

American League Best Tools

Every year, Baseball America surveys managers, coaches, and scouts about the best tools in both the American League and National League (no subs. req’d). I usually find these pieces interesting, but this year’s effort is a bit … wonky. Those surveyed voted Brett Gardner as the best bunter in the AL, which is most certainly not the case. He’s gotten a lot better recently, a lot better, but I’m not convinced that he’s even the best bunter on the team.

Derek Jeter was dubbed the best hit-and-run artist, while Gardner took home fastest baserunner honors but was named just the third best overall baserunner (behind Jacoby Ellsbury and Elvis Andrus). CC Sabathia the was voted the third best pitcher (behind Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver) and as having the second best slider (Felix Hernandez). Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano were named the best defensive players at their position, and Alex Rodriguez was third at the hot corner (Adrian Beltre and Evan Longoria). And finally Mariano Rivera was named the top reliever, just ahead of … Kyle Farnsworth. Yep.

Austin Romine‘s Achy Back

Double-A Trenton backstop Austin Romine was placed on the disabled list a few days ago with a back strain, something that required an MRI but apparently isn’t serious enough to end his season. The club is hopeful he’ll be back by next week. How did he injure his back? As Mike Ashmore explains, it was just a case of minor league life…

“My back was tight after the long bus ride after the 7 o’clock game in Akron,” Romine said.

“We had to drive and get back really early in the morning, and I fell asleep with my legs up in a bad position.  I got up and my back was a little sore, and I thought it was just regular soreness.  I usually have soreness at this time of the year.  I played through it and woke up in the morning with a little pinch in my back, so I let them know.  It stayed sore for a little while, so they thought that sitting on the bus for four hours and going to Altoona would probably be a bad thing with the back thing going, so I stayed back and got treatment done.”

Romine said his back is “really good” right now but they’re just being cautious. You’d think he’d have the whole sleeping on a bus thing down after three plus years in the bush leagues. Of course, it could just be a cover story.

The Circle of Reliever Life

In case you haven’t heard, the Braves have released Scott Proctor today and replaced him on the roster with Arodys Vizcaino. It’s one former Yankees reliever for a former Yankees prospect, one pitcher they overworked for another they never had the chance to overwork. Arodys’ call-up is similar to Joba Chamberlain‘s in 2007; he’s been starting in the minors but they moved him to the bullpen to maximize his innings limit on the year. The only difference is that Atlanta doesn’t need Vizcaino right now, at least not like the Yankees needed Joba. The second (really third) Javy Vazquez trade didn’t work out for the Yankees, at all, but that’s life. Look ahead, not back.

Burnett to the bullpen, for the right reasons

(Charles Krupa/AP)

Last night’s game seemed like a replay of an old one. A.J. Burnett pitched well through five innings, but in the sixth he completely fell apart. All the good will he had accumulated by shutting out the Angels in the first five completely disintegrated when he handed them a three-run lead. The calls for his removal from the rotation were loud and frequent following the game.

As long as the Yankees employ a six-man rotation, there is no need to remove Burnett. As Mike argued last week, there are definite benefits to maintaining this six-pitcher arrangement for a few weeks. There’s a doubleheader later this month, which will require them to use six starters in five days, and everyone could probably use a bit of rest during the 30 games in 30 days stretch. But the six man rotation will not last until the end of the season.

The hope is that either Ivan Nova or Phil Hughes stands above the other and claims the final spot in the rotation. But what if they continue to pitch well, while Burnett continues to toil in mediocrity? The Yankees say that Burnett’s rotation spot is not in jeopardy, but they have every reason to say that right now. They might be singing a different tune, though, if Nova and Hughes produce quality results in their next few starts.

With more than two years left on his deal, Burnett is not going anywhere. The Yankees are not DFAing him, nor are they trading him. That leaves them with limited options. They’ve taken the path of least resistance, which is to continue trotting him out there and hoping for the best. But as has become apparent in the past two seasons, his best might not be enough. He’s been good at times, but he hasn’t sustained his success for any long stretch. It might be time to go with the alternative.

There is a right reason and a wrong reason for placing Burnett in the bullpen. The wrong reason is the one you’ll hear from most agitated fans: to get him out of the rotation. While that would certainly represent a byproduct of placing him in the bullpen, it does not represent a good reason for doing so. Placing him in the bullpen just to get him out of the rotation means, in all likelihood, that he’ll wither out there, waiting for a mop up situation. That’s not productive for anyone.

The right reason for placing Burnett in the pen is that he might actually find success there. Maybe if he’s able to gear up for short appearances, emptying the tank while taking advantage of his two-pitch arsenal, he could become a viable short relief option down the stretch. It might not be the best use of $16.5 million, but it’s better than leaving him in the rotation while a potentially better option leaves for the bullpen.

Two innings have bitten Burnett more than others: the 4th and the 6th. Why the fourth has been a problem remains something of a mystery. The sixth, though, is a bit more understandable. At that point he’s facing batters for a third time, and the third time through opponents have a .900 OPS against Burnett. In the sixth they have a .918 OPS. Even with the ugly fourth inning, if we look at just the first five innings Burnett has a .216/.294/.393 batting line against, with a 3.85 ERA and 4.17 FIP. It’s pretty clear that he lacks the stamina to give the Yankees length as a starter.

In the first three innings, however, Burnett’s numbers are much nicer. There he has a .205/.288/.358 batting line against, with a 2.88 ERA and 3.82 FIP. He strikes out almost a batter per inning, and has a 2.4 K/BB ratio. He does have some trouble starting a game, as opponents have a .812 OPS through 25 pitches, and a .728 OPS in the first inning. But perhaps Burnett could mitigate some of these numbers by 1) not necessarily facing the top of the order, and 2) emptying the tank rather than pacing himself. Given his overall numbers the first time through the order, when opponents have a .647 OPS, it seems worth the shot.

If stamina truly is the problem, and the numbers do indicate that is the case, then not all is lost for the last two years of the deal. It might be tougher to get into that peak physical condition, since Burnett will be 35 next year. But he can certainly work on building endurance during the off-season, with hopes of joining the rotation in 2012. But right now there’s no good way to improve his stamina. If he’s gassed after five innings, there’s little the Yankees can do.

Moving Burnett to the bullpen provides a potentially useful solution for a clear problem. Who knows: maybe Hughes or Nova will falter in their next few starts and necessitate Burnett staying in the rotation. But if they both pitch well, Burnett might not only be the worst of the starting options, but he might also be best suited for the pen. The chances are slim that they’ll do that, as they’ve remained adamant about keeping him in the rotation. But if the Yankees put him out there with the idea that he can play a useful role, then maybe they’ll gain some value from that.