These Saturday night games are a bitch, but here’s something to help you pass the time. Chris O’Leary, who’s written more about baseball mechanics than I care to recap, broke down Derek Jeter’s swing and shows us what’s going wrong with the Cap’n. “Jeter strikes me as your classic incredibly gifted athlete who, as he gets older, is no longer able to get away with a highly unusual, and fundamentally flawed, swing,” says O’Leary. Make sure you check it out, there’s tons of gifs to show you exactly what’s going on. Very interesting stuff.
On Friday over at The Process Report R.J. Anderson published a piece noting that the entire Rays rotation is pitching more backward. By this he meant that the staff was throwing more offspeed pitches early in the count than they had in the past. Anderson concluded that this was likely the result of a strategic decision by the Baseball Operations department. The Rays have the luxury of little turnover in the rotation (lost Garza, added Hellickson), so there’s good year to year comparative data there, but in New York the situation is slightly different. Andy Pettitte is out to pasture, Phil Hughes is injured, and Javier Vazquez is currently chucking his 87 mph nothingball for the Florida Marlins. The Yankees currently boast only two members of the 2010 Opening Day squad in the current pitching rotation: CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. By and large, Sabathia is doing what he’s always been doing, but there’s been a subtle change in AJ’s approach this year. It’s for the better.
The biggest anecdotal difference this year for A.J. Burnett is the increased quality of his offspeed offerings. Last year his curveball was flat and ineffective, and this year it’s shown signs of returning to form. Last year he rarely threw a changeup, but this year he’s been breaking it out way more often, albeit less as of late. Greater confidence in his offspeed stuff has enabled him to pitch more backwards this season, especially against left-handed batters. Here’s the breakdown for his pitch data against lefties in 0-0 counts in the past two years:
Like the Rays staff, Burnett is throwing fewer fastballs on 0-0 counts. It’s still his primary go-to pitch on the first pitch of the at-bat, but so far he’s thrown it 17% fewer than last year. Instead, he’s throwing his curveball and his changeup, upping the former by about 6% and the latter by about 11%. In fact, he’s thrown his changeup as a first pitch in 2011 only 4 times fewer than he did in 2010. Clearly he’s showing a greater willingness to deploy the pitch early on.
This usage pattern demonstrates a greater confidence in the quality of the pitches. He’s throwing his changeup for a strike about 58% of the time in 2011, up about 25% from his 2010 mark. This could be sample size noise but it does appear anecdotally that he has better command of the pitch than he did last year. Interestingly, he’s thrown the curveball for a strike on 0-0 only 37% of the time so far this year, down from 44%.
Despite the fact that he throws from the right side, A.J. Burnett has always been tougher on left-handed batters than right-handed batters. He boasts a career average FIP of 3.61 against lefties, with a 8.97 K/9 and 3.77 BB/9. Against righties he’s averaged a FIP of 4.02 with a K/9 of 7.99 and a BB/9 of 3.02. Last year everything fell apart, including his trademark toughness on lefties. A.J. struck out only 6.53 per nine and walking 4.2 batters per nine innings. This year he’s gotten the train back on the track. He’s been slightly less tough on righties (5.61 K/9 and 4.27 FIP), but he’s back to his old ways against lefties, posting an 8.50 K/9 and 3.50 FIP. This is no doubt related to the quality of his offspeed pitches. As he’s able to command one or more offspeed offerings and throw them for strikes early in the count he will keep hitters off balance and put them away via the strikeout. Given the considerable risk in the Yankees rotation, this improvement is a very welcome development.
I can’t be the only one who likes to look at all the terrible things people wear at the ballpark, right? There should be a law banning bad baseball clothes. Luckily, I’m a girl, so I’m perfectly prepared to make a proper list of fan appropriate attire, and a baseball fan, so I can judge other fans all I want. I could go on for a while with this, but I’ll only cover general stuff and the two most important things.
- You should only be wearing baseball attire of a team in your current ballpark. The lone exception to this is if you are sporting merchandise of a closely affiliated rival. If you’re wearing Red Sox gear at a Yankees/Twins game, I know who you’re rooting for. If you’re wearing Diamondbacks gear, you just look stupid.
- You should only be wearing the baseball attire of one (1) team that is playing in the ballpark. Anyone who wears both Yankees and Red Sox attire to a Yankees/Sox game should be shot. The point of wearing team colors is to show your affiliation to a team. Wearing both sides is like admitting you have no rooting interest. Why are you at the ballpark if you don’t want someone to win? Corporate event?
- Wearing gear of an affiliated minor league team to the major league ballpark (and vice versa) is very cool. Oh, you watch the Trenton Thunder? You must be wise.
- Don’t wear pink. There are lots of social settings for pink. The ballpark is not one of them.
- You can tell the SABR geeks from everyone else with their oversized calculators. Avoid at all costs.
The jersey is the ideal shirt for any baseball fan. There are going to be a lot of jersey-wearing folk at any game you go to. Obviously, the people wearing the jerseys are the best fans, so if you have any important questions about the team, they’re the ones to ask. Here are some important rules to follow:
The name/number on the back:
- Historical players and current players are both okay.
- The jersey should have the proper name of the player in question. Nicknames are not okay. “Sandman” is for the speakers, not your back.
- Obscure nicknames will be funny to the four people who recognize them, but I would personally advise against it if you don’t want people giving really strange looks to your back.
- “Captain Groundballs” and all other witty nicknames are only funny on the internet, not embroidered.
- Name shortening is not okay.
- Stealing other players’ nicknames is not okay, even if they apply. A friend of mine once saw a 2 Yankees jersey that had “the Franchise” on it. Take that guy outside and shoot him.
- Your jersey player shows what kind of person you are:
- Player working on long, storied career (Jeter, Rivera, Posada): I don’t want to screw up what jersey I have, because I only have one.
- Player just signed to big contract (Sabathia, Burnett, Teixeira): I like buying jerseys of players that are successful. I probably have a few.
- Player recently departed (Pettitte, Mussina, Matsui): I have been a fan since before this year.
- Successful player, but not quite storied (Granderson, Swisher, Hughes): I am trendy, and I’m going to tell people I had this jersey before the player in question got big.
- Any historically great player (Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio): I have more jersey security and less originality than you could ever have.
- Pavano jersey: So, what’s a home run, again?
A few additional notes:
- Do not tuck in your jersey unless you are actually going to play baseball.
- If you’re going to wear a jersey you found on the internet for $20, at least try to find one that looks close to what your team actually wears.
- Don’t wear a Pavano jersey.
Hats are big. Hats are where most fans go astray, too. The great thing about a hat is that it’s acceptable in virtually every social setting that’s remotely casual, so you can take your visible fan affiliation everywhere you go. While there are lots of different hats (and many you shouldn’t wear), I’m going to focus entirely on baseball caps. I’ve separated this category into some easy Do’s and Don’ts:
- Wear the hat most like the players of your team. Official caps are simple and classic. If it’s good enough for the ballplayers to be wearing it, you should be wearing it too.
- The older the cap is, the better. Wear makes hats look better, not worse.
- Got a cap with an old logo the team doesn’t use any more? Wear it. You’re obviously the best fan.
- Wear team colors. Again, no pink. The only other acceptable color scheme for a hat is black-on-black. Simple and classic, folks.
- Wear over-complicated designs. The more stuff going on on your hat, the less sense someone is going to make of it.
- Leave the sticker on your hat. I don’t know when this became cool, but if you take the tag off your clothes, why wouldn’t you take it off your hat?
- Wear holiday-baseball hats. There are no holidays (but there is a Holliday) in baseball besides the All-Star Break.
- Are you a hipster? No? No plaid. Is there a team that wears plaid? No.
- No pink.
Equipped with this knowledge, you can sally forth as the best-dressed baseball fan around. Even if you don’t actually know what you’re watching, you can certainly look like a long-term fan of whatever team you’re going to just by sticking to some easy rules. And after all, going to a ballgame is all about how you look. Right?
Three straight losses qualifies as a crisis around these parts, but the Yankees righted the ship tonight thanks to their fourth starter and the guy that was supposed to hit ninth before a head cold befell Nick Swisher. Let’s quickly recap…
- Give it up to Ivan Nova, the kid just had the best start of his big league career against the defending American League champs. He allowed just one (unearned) run in 7.2 innings, giving up just two singles and a walk. Of his 21 non-strikeout outs, 16 were on the ground. Nova was simply awesome Friday night, you couldn’t have asked for more. He’s now allowed just four runs in 22 innings over his last three starts, when he was probably pitching for his job.
- How about that Curtis Granderson fella? A two-run homer into the upper deck in the first inning, then an insurance run on a solo homer in the seventh. That’s how it’s done. Grandy’s ten homers lead the AL, and his 24 long balls since last August 14th are the most in baseball by someone not named Jose Bautista (he has 27). He didn’t hit his tenth homer until July 26th last season, so yeah, he’s ahead of that pace.
- Another inning’s worth of outs just given away in this game. Two stupid sacrifice bunts (neither worked) and Russell Martin got picked off third when he wandered a little too far from the bag. What kills me most about the bunts is that the guy on the mound had walked the previous batter each time (in Matt Harrison’s case, the previous two hitters), and they just gave a wild pitcher a free out. I’ve written more words about dumb bunt attempts this year than I ever thought I would have needed to this season, and it’s only been thirty games. Sigh.
- Turning Alex Rodriguez loose in a 3-0 count with two outs and the bases loaded in the second? Dumb. Harrison walked three batters in the inning and was clearly laboring, I highly doubt that he could have thrown three strikes before one ball in that spot. I don’t care if 2001 Barry Bonds was at the plate, take the run they’re trying to give you.
- Rafael Soriano allowed an inherited runner to score on his contractually mandated baserunner, so Nova wasn’t even on the mound when the run came across. Mariano Rivera was flawless in the ninth, just the way we like it.
- Derek Jeter had a hit and a walk and Martin drew a trio of free passes. The six through nine hitters went hitless in 11 at-bats, but they reached base five times total. The Yankees went 0-for-4 with men in scoring position and did leave seven runners on base, but homers cure all ills.
- Here’s the box score and video, here’s the WPA Graph.
Same two teams tomorrow night, when Bartolo Colon takes on lefty Derek Holland. Another 8pm ET start, which sucks on a Saturday.
Dellin Betances got some love in this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet, being named the sixth hottest prospect in the minors. The High-A Tampa Yankees have the fourth worst record in all of the minor leagues (coming into tonight), so yeah, they’ve been pretty bad. Sorry for the short recap, but it’s been a long day…
- Triple-A won. David Phelps was the story of the night, he struck out seven and allowed just four baserunners (one hit, one walk, two hit batters) in six scoreless innings. Dan Brewer drew three walks after coming up for Kevin Russo, and Chris Dickerson picked up three hits. Jesus Montero singled in four at bats, and almost everyone else had at least one hit as well.
- High-A Tampa lost again, their 15th in the last 17 games. DeAngelo Mack and Emerson Landoni each singled, but everyone else in the lineup took a big fat 0-fer. Jose Ramirez gave up five runs in four innings, his fourth straight disaster start.
- Both Double-A Trenton and Low-A Charleston are still playing, and are only in the middle innings. Click the links to go to the box scores to see what’s happening.
Update: Both Slade Heathcott and Rob Segedin homered, so hooray for that.