Yesterday at MLBTR, Tim Dierkes posted a list of starting pitchers that could potentially become available in a trade this summer. It’s all based on speculation, but few outsiders know the market like Tim. It’s your generic collection of impending free agents, salary dumps, and firesale types, but it’s a disappointing list overall. The most attractive name (by far) is John Danks, though I have soft spots for Hiroki Kuroda and Derek Lowe. The competition for starters like these figures to pick up now that the Red Sox have to replace Daisuke Matsuzaka (Tommy John surgery), so this should be a fun trade season.
Things were looking pretty grim for Nick Swisher. After slumping through April and most of May, his numbers started to resemble the ones that got him traded after the 2008 season. That earned him a seat for two straight games, but that didn’t seem to trigger positive results. In the two games that followed he went 0 for 7 with a walk, lowering his season numbers to .204/.321/.289 in 184 PA.
By that point the emails had become regular. What will the Yanks do in right field in 2011? Would the Mets trade Carlos Beltran to the Yankees? What happens after the season when the Yankees decline Swisher’s option? A large population of Yankees fans had lost faith in Swisher, despite his two straight career years in 2009 and 2010. In a way it was hard to blame them. The offense had struggled for brief stints, and Swisher’s troubles came to the fore during those periods. But in another way, it was a relatively small sampling of plate appearances. There was, and still is, plenty of time for Swisher to turn his season into a productive one.
That process just might have begun with the in-progress West Coast trip. Swisher has exactly one hit in each of the six games, but he has also averaged one walk per game, too. All in all he went 6 for 20 (.300) with six walks (.462 OBP) and three extra base hits (.650 SLG). Those numbers, even in a six-game stretch, are impressive by themselves. They become more impressive when we consider the pitching staffs he faced. The Mariners and the A’s have allowed the fewest runs of any AL team. Their pitchers rank near the bottom of the league in BA and OBP against, and they’re 13th and 14th in SLG against. Against teams that typically suppress offense, Swisher went on a tear.
As with any numbers that involve arbitrary end points, we have to be careful with what we make of Swisher’s hot week. After all, it could be just that. Yet we know what he’s capable of; we’ve seen it in the past two seasons. As Mike and I said in yesterday’s podcast, Swisher doens’t have to end the season with numbers that resemble 2009 and 2010. All he has to do is hit those marks for the rest of the season. If he does that, he’ll turn a weakness into a strength and further solidify the league’s best offense. This week might not mark a full recovery, but it sure is a good start.
It took until the first day of June, but the Yankees finally have their first four game winning streak of the season. They again struck early on Wednesday, taking a lead in the very first inning, but this one was a little less blowout-y than the previous two wins.
The Big Blow
Joe will have more on Nick Swisher‘s recent hot streak on Thursday, but all you need to know is that he kept it up in this game. Alex Rodriguez led of the fourth inning with an infield single off the glove of the defensively challenged Conor Jackson, after which Robinson Cano drew a four pitch walk. Crazy, I know. Gio Gonzalez was wild as he tends to be, but Swisher squared around to bunt on the first pitch of his at-bat. The pitch was down below the zone, so he took it for a ball. The same thing happened on the second pitch to put him into a comfy 2-0 count.
Swish said after the game that he missed a sign, and that he was supposed to go up there and swing away. That’s exactly what he did on that third pitch, a get-me-over fastball right over the plate. Swish yanked it deep to left field and comfortably over the fence for a three-run homer, turning a one-run deficit into a two-run lead. Neither team would score the rest of the way even if it didn’t feel that way after Swisher’s homer, and I’m sure he enjoyed it a little more than usual since it came off the team that traded him away.
Burnett Settles Down
A-Rod gave the Yankees the lead in the top of the first by driving in Derek Jeter with an opposite field double after the Cap’n doubled to leadoff the game. A.J. Burnett gave it right back and then some in the bottom half though, surrendering a two-run homer to Josh Willingham after David DeJesus doubled two batters earlier. It had the makings of a Bad A.J. outing, but to his credit, Burnett settled down.
Following the homer, A.J. walked three of the next nine men he faced, but that was it. Following the third walk, he retired a dozen of the final 13 batters he faced, the lone exception being a two-out triple in Coco Crisp in the fifth. Obviously, he did not come around to score and neither did any of those three walks. Burnett put six men on base in seven innings, striking out five and getting 11 other outs on the ground. Ten of his 103 pitches were changeups, quite a few for him, and another 28 were curveballs, so A.J. went a little more offspeed than usual. Either way, give him credit for righting the ship mid-game and putting forth a solid effort against an admittedly bad offense.
Curtis Granderson went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts, but he’s allowed to do that every so often. In fact, the Yankees only had six hits all game, two by A-Rod and the rest scattered around. The bottom three hitters in the order went hitless in ten at-bats, though Andruw Jones and Russell Martin each drew a walk. The 3-4-5 hitters saw just 30 pitches in eleven at-bats, with Cano doing most of the heavy lifting (12 pitches for him, nine each for the other two). Not a banner day for the game’s most productive offense, but there will be games like this every once in a while. Just gotta find a way to score anyway. Good thing they can hit some evil homeruns from time to time.
Speaking of Martin, he stole his sixth base (in six tries), and he managed to tweet a thank you for all the All-Star Game support while on base. Ah publicists. The tweet has since been deleted, by the way. For shame, people should have a greater sense of humor with stuff like this. It’s harmless.
Both Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera pitched for the first time in three days, so that was good. Joba allowed a pair of hits but got out of it after turning a line drive comebacker into a double play. David Robertson warmed up as well, which is good because he hasn’t pitched in three days either. You don’t want to run these guys into the ground, but you don’t want them to rust either.
The Yankees have now beaten the Athletics the last ten times they’ve played, and in 24 of their last 28 meetings overall. They’re like the west coast version of the Twins or something. New York has also won four in a row, six of eight, eight of 11, and 11 of 15 since that ugly six game losing streak. Good stuff. It’s still too early to obsess over standings, at least in my book, but they have a nice little three game lead over the Rays and Red Sox in the loss column.
WPA Graph & Box Score
The Yankees are heading to Anaheim, but not before taking Thursday off. Ivan Nova will start against Jered Weaver in the series opener on Friday. Fun fun fun.
Justin Maxwell just jammed his right shoulder on last night’s homerun saving catch, so he’s not expected to miss much time.
Triple-A Scranton (1-0 win over Indianapolis)
Austin Krum, CF, Jesus Montero, C, Brandon Laird, 3B & Jordan Parraz, RF: all 0 for 4 – Krum and Laird each struck out once, Montero did twice
Ramiro Pena, SS: 2 for 4, 1 2B, 1 RBI – got picked off first … eight for his last 20
Jorge Vazquez, 1B & Luis Nunez, DH: both 1 for 3 – JoVa walked once and whiffed twice
Kevin Russo, 2B: 1 for 4, 1 2B
Dan Brewer, RF: 1 for 2, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB –
D.J. Mitchell, RHP: 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 2 WP, 1 HB, 7-4 GB/FB – 59 of 96 pitches were strikes (61.5%) … the one walk was intentional … no runs allowed in three of his last seven starts
Ramon Flores, LHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K – five of his nine pitches were strikes
Kevin Whelan, RHP: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 WP – ten of 16 pitches were strikes (62.5%)
I don’t know if you saw it this afternoon, but ESPN’s panel of experts held what they called a Franchise Player Draft. It’s what you probably think it is, one of those “if you could start a team with any player, who would it be” things, except in draft form. The early picks were pretty predictable – Troy Tulowitzki, Joey Votto, Feliz, Hernandez, Joey Votto – but things got a little interesting later on.
Rick Sutcliffe took Neftali Feliz 23rd overall, ahead of Carlos Gonzalez, Clayton Kershaw, and Jose Bautista, and then Doug Glanville took Nationals’ catcher Wilson Ramos (!) with the final pick, number 30. I mean, if he wanted a catcher that bad, Brian McCann was still on the board. Ramos is hitting a fine .252/.336/.403 this year, but … really? Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, and Miguel Cabrera were all on the board as well. I don’t get it. Bryce Harper (9th) and Mike Trout (12th) also went in the draft, and as great as they are, I’m not sure I could justify taking them over a proven, well-above-average big leaguer. Ryan Braun went one pick after Harper, David Price one after Trout. I know which one I’d rather have.
Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Mets are playing the Pirates (Capuano vs. Correia) and the Giants are playing the Cardinals (Lincecum vs. Westbrook) on ESPN. The Stanley Cup Finals (8pm ET, NBC) also begin tonight. Plenty to occupy yourself with, so talk about all of that (and more!) here.
The draft is just five days away, so between now and then I’m going to highlight some players individually rather than lump a few together in one post.
Carl Thomore | OF
Mike Trout has ensured that New Jersey will no longer go under-scouted. Thomore, who attends East Brunswick High School, has already dealt with far more adversity off the field than baseball could ever match. His mother passed away due to breast cancer when he was in the sixth grade, and a brutal ankle injury nearly ended his baseball career before it started. You can read all about the gruesome injury here. Thomore is committed to
Rutgers Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Florida.
Thomore’s best tool is something that is in short supply these days: power. He keeps the weight on his 6-foot-1, 195 lb. frame back and generates big time bat speed from the right side, hitting the ball to all fields but doing the most damage when he pulls it to left. An advanced approach helps his cause. Thomore is a good athlete with a strong arm, though he’s not good enough for center and profiles best in right. His bat projects to be plenty good for the position though.
If it wasn’t for the thwo guys at UConn (Matt Barnes and George Springer), you could make a case that Thomore is the best draft prospect from the Tri-State Area. He’s one of the better power prospects in the entire draft class, especially from the right side, and he’ll also provide value in the field. Keith Law and Baseball America have some differing opinions on Thomore; the former ranked him the 68th best draft prospect while the latter had him 112th. That’s quite a spread. Either way, he’s a second or third round guy and a personal fave.
MLB released the early results of the AL All-Star voting today, and Yankees claim the top spots in six of nine positions. The entire infield – Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez – lead at their respective positions, as does Russell Martin behind the plate. Curtis Granderson is second behind Jose Bautista in the outfield voting, which is enough to earn a starting spot. These aren’t small leads, either, we’re talking hundreds of thousands of votes between first and second place at most spots. Cano has more than twice the votes as the runner-up at second. You know what the cool thing is? Aside from Jeter, you can at least make a case that all those guys deserve to start.