• Here comes the short stop debate

    With Jeter injured, the great Yankees short stop debate kicks back up again. We all know Derek Jeter isn’t the best fielding short stop around, but how should the Yanks replace him? Jeff Passan at Yahoo! Sports thinks that using A-Rod at short is so crazy it just might work. John Harper thinks that A-Rod, who has played just a few innings at short since 2003, should stay at third. I think using Morgan Ensberg at third and A-Rod at short isn’t the worst idea the Yanks have put forth recently. · (43) ·

The big news out of the Bronx tonight was not a resounding Yankee win for the first time this season. It was rather a strained left quad.

Yankee fans the world over held their breaths as Derek Jeter left the game on Monday night. Word out of Yankee camp is that Jeter is day-to-day but will not land on the DL. He could miss up to a week of baseball after removing himself from the game with a strained quad. One of the quad muscles is, by and large, the best leg muscle to strain because the three others that make up that muscle group can bear some of the load. It’s never good to suffer a leg muscle strain, but it sounds like Jeter will be slowed but not stopped by this injury.

But the bigger news as far as I’m concerned from tonight’s game was Mike Mussina and his approach toward pitching. Last week, I took Mussina to task for his pitching performance against the Blue Jays. While he kept the team in the game, I wrote, his apparent over-reliance on mid-80s fastballs was bound to get him into trouble in the future. Moose, long accustomed to throwing fastballs by hitters, would have to adjust to find success in the Major Leagues at age 39.

And adjust he did. Mussina threw six very effective innings against a good offensive team. He gave up two hits and one run on a mistake to Jonny Gomes. He walked just one hitter and struck out three while surviving a few defensive miscues behind him.

But more important than the results were the ways he went about getting those results. Last week, Mussina threw nearly 60 percent fastballs with the fastest topping out at about 86 and most staying within the 83-84 range. This week, of the 76 pitches Advanced Gameday logged, 29 of them — or 38 percent of them — were fastballs, and some of those had zip on them. Mussina hit 88 once and 87 a few times while largely staying between 84-86 mph.

He threw a whole bunch of breaking balls for strikes and 11 pitches under 70 miles per hour with some nasty break to them. The results, predictably, were outs.

For Mike Mussina to win games this year, he will have to duplicate this process in start after start. I don’t expect him to go out there every five days and give up just one run on two hits. But if Mussina stays away from his fastball and employs the slow, slower, slowest approach to getting outs, there’s no reason why he can’t keep the Yankees in the game. From a fifth starter, that’s all we want, and for one start so far, this old dog showed that he could still learn a few new tricks.

Categories : Game Stories
Comments (23)

Triple-A Scranton (9-2 loss to Louisville) check out which old pal batted cleanup for Louisville
Justin Christian: 1 for 4, 1 RBI – playing CF while Brett Gardner nurses a sore foot
Jason Lane: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI – broke up Justin Lehr’s perfect game, no-hitter and shutout with a solo job in the 7th
Chad Moeller: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 2B
rest of lineup: combined 0 for 20, 5 K – Cody Ranson K’ed twice and committed a fielding error … Eric Duncan K’ed once … Nick Green K’ed twice
Jeff Marquez: 4 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 8-3 GB/FB – he threw 38 pitches in a 6 run first, although he wasn’t removed from the game … the Yanks have a weird rule about taking guys out of the game after “high stress” innings, which are innings that require more than 30 pitches … maybe they just wanted him to suck it up and learn to get by on a day when he doesn’t have his best stuff
Dan Giese: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K
Heath Phillips: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K

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Categories : Down on the Farm
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Morgan Ensberg sits on the bench each day after a successful Spring Training wondering what he has to do to get into the lineup. Meanwhile, with Giambi out of the lineup, Wilson Betemit gets another start at first.

Further down the line, with Mike Mussina on the mound, Jose Molina is behind the plate. That’s not a coincidence, but the corresponding move means that Jorge Posada will miss this game. If I’m putting this lineup together, I probably go with Ensberg at first today. In six games, he’s been up to bat just once this season.

On the hill is my favorite Yankee pitcher. Mike Mussina will attempt to blow his 84 mph fastballs past the Tampa Bay hitters. In all seriousness though, today’s start should be one in which we see how Mussina responds to his stuff. Last week, he had a slow fastball and some good breaking pitches. But he spent the game relying on his fastball when it’s not quite good enough to be an out-pitch anymore. Hopefully, Mussina will befuddle and confound the Rays’ hitters with an array of slow, slower, slowest that doesn’t involve 60 percent fastballs.

The Yanks face Jason Hammel today. Maybe Hammel is the cure for what ails them. Hammel, making his first start of the season, does not have much Major League success. Over 129 innings spanning two season, Hammel is 3-11 with a career ERA of 6.70. He’s given up 161 hits — 19 of those home runs — while walking 61 and striking out 96. Opponents are hitting .308/.381/.514 against Hammel, and the Yanks really should tee off against the Rays’ righty tonight.

Damon LF
Jeter SS
Abreu RF
Rodriguez 3B
Matsui DH
Cano 2B
Betemit 1B
Cabrera CF
Molina C

Mussina P

Iwamura 2B
Crawford LF
Pena 1B
Upton CF
Floyd DH
Hinske RF
Aybar 3B
DiFelice C
Bartlett SS

Hammel P

Categories : Game Threads
Comments (215)

We’ve all seen it: A beautiful day at the Stadium, not a cloud in the sky. The Yanks are winning, and all in attendance — save for the occasional Mets or Sox fan — are in a gleeful mood. And how do they express that glee? By standing up in unison with the rest of their section and throwing their hands in the air. Yes, I’m talking about the Wave. And yes, it is without question the dumbest ballpark tradition ever.

Don’t just take my word for it, though. The guys at Drunk Jays Fans — quite possibly the funniest team-specific baseball blog — have created their guide to doing the Wave. Their biggest tip on when to start the Wave:

Don’t try to start the wave in the seventh, eighth or ninth innings if the score is within three runs, or anytime that anything happening on the field is remotely interesting or could affect the final outcome, or in the middle of a feisty at-bat, or when the home team is at the plate and threatening to score, or if there are runners in scoring position, or basically ever.

Yeah, that about sums it up. I’d recommend your read the entire article, because it took me at least 10 minutes to decide which quote to pull. In fact, it’s so good that I’ve got to pull another:

OK, so maybe you’re trying to impress the girl you’re with. If this happens to be the case, try asking yourself, do I actually think that starting the wave is going to impress her? If yes, you might want to consider the possibility that she’s a retard, and that there are a whole lot better ways to go about impressing her, which won’t also happen to irritate the fuck out of the people sitting behind you. You should also consider the possibility that you are a retard. However, it is, in fact, most likely that you both are.

The Wave is one of many reasons I love sitting in the right field bleachers. Every time I’ve seen a Wave going at the Stadium, it’s stopped dead in right field. This is a good thing. Yeah, I understand some people have fun with it, but for many it’s nothing but a distraction from the game at hand.

While we’re on the topic of dumb traditions, can we please, for the love of poop, get rid of Cotton Eye Joe? Someone tell me that it’s going to be buried underneath the rubble of the old Stadium.

Categories : Rants
Comments (17)
  • Briefly revisiting Nick Johnson

    MLB Trade Rumors notes today that the Giants have expressed some interest in Nick Johnson. The Nats’ first baseman, working his way back from a year lost to injury, is hitting .368/.455/.688 in the early going, and Washington could look to offload his salary. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The Yankees should be right there on the Nick Johnson talks if Washington is serious about trading the first baseman. He would the perfect fit. · (28) ·

Nothing incites passion in the world of Yankee blogs these days quite like Phil Hughes. Maybe it’s the hype; maybe it stems from the Santana trade that probably wasn’t going to happen anyway. But whatever the cause, when Phil Hughes comes up, passions run high.

On one side of the Great Phil Hughes Divide are sites like ours and Save Phil Hughes, to name a few. Carrying the torch for the anti-Phil Hughes crowd is of course this guy. Among the recent critiques of Phil Hughes has been a focus on his velocity. Hughes, once touted as a prospect with a mid-90s fastball, has sat consistently around 91-93 during his Yankee tenure. Mostly, to be fair, he’s sit around 91.

Apparently, it’s chic to be worried about a 21-year-old with pinpoint control and great breaking pitches who hasn’t yet in April flashed his top velocity. At the end of last week, a few baseball experts fielded the question should we be concerned with Phil Hughes’ velocity. For the most part, the consensus was no. Phil Hughes, the second youngest player in the Majors, is doing just fine, and it’s still just April. Plus, the belief that 21-year-olds won’t see an increase in strength and velocity over their next few years is simply not correct.

Today, a piece came out that has to be examined, and it’s time that we broke our silence on this whole Phil Hughes velocity thing. Mike Pagliarulo, the famed pitching coach who once said that Kei Igawa would be a serviceable Major League starter, has determined that Phil Hughes’ mechanics are out of whack. Pags writes:

What to do about Hughes? He needs to change his delivery, just as Roger Clemens did when he went from Boston to Toronto. Hughes’ mechanics are the weakest during pitching stages three and four, the time in which he takes the ball out of glove to when the ball leaves his hand. Two issues: First, he’s not getting full arm extension after taking the ball out of his glove – and this creates an inconsistent release point and, therefore, an inconsistent pitcher. Second, he’s leading with his head instead of staying back and throwing “around” his head – something that young, aggressive hitters can be guilty of…

You’ll notice that Hughes has been throwing his slider more often, despite the fact it’s just his fourth best pitch. Because of his mechanics, Hughes’ arm slot is lower than ideal and, thus, his slider is the only breaking pitch that he can command effectively. It’s the same reason you don’t see three quarter or side arm pitchers with good curveballs. It’s also why if you’re looking at Hughes behind home plate his curve ball is breaking at a 10 to 4 angle as opposed to its typical 12 to 6…

My guess is that if Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland is allowed to really work with him, Hughes will be on track by 2009 or 2010. Let’s not forget this kid should still be in AA Trenton.

Here’s the thing about Pags’ scouting report: It’s wrong. It’s coming from someone who doesn’t get along too well with the Yankee brass, and it’s designed to jab at the Yanks and their coaches.

Starting from the end, the idea that Phil Hughes should still be at AA Trenton is patently ridiculous. Two years ago at AA, Hughes blew through the league. Hitters were overmatched, and the Yanks rightly didn’t see any reason to keep him there.

Meanwhile, the idea that Hughes’ slider is his fourth best pitch also goes against prevailing Hughes wisdom. Hughes had a Major League slider when he was drafted out of high school, but the Yanks made him put it in his pocket to in an effort to develop his other pitches. It’s highly unlikely that he’s lost so much feel for the pitch that it’s now his fourth best offering.

As for the mechanical issues, what we see is a 21-year-old in his first start of the season reaching the low 90s with his fastball. We saw him hit the mid-90s in the warm weather during Spring Training, and we know what he was capable of in the Minors. At the Big League level, it’s only a matter of time and warm weather before Hughes is breaking out the speedier fastballs, and in the end, if the results are what they were last week against the Blue Jays, it doesn’t really matter. With stellar breaking pitches and a change up, those low- to mid-90s pitches will seem a lot faster.

Right now, a bunch of people rooting for the same team are arguing over minor points after watching a 21-year-old throw six innings during the 2008 regular season. Doesn’t this seem a bit overblown as well?

Categories : Analysis
Comments (50)
  • Putting Paul O’Neill’s number in perspective

    On Saturday, Ed Price took Yankee fans to task for booing LaTroy Hawkins’ decision to wear number 21 this season. Yesterday, Derek Jacques urged Yankee fans to engage in something he’s calling Project 21 in which we all write letters to Hawkins explaining why Paul O’Neill is considered a God among baseball players in New York. I’m beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, we’re all a bit too up in arms over a simple uniform number. · (32) ·

The book on the Yankees is that they’ll make your pitchers work. However, we have not seen this early on in 2008. As a team, they have seen just 3.05 pitches per plate appearance, after seeing 3.88 last year. Derek Jeter is particularly troubling in his hacking, seeing a hair over 2.5 pitches in each of his 25 plate appearances. Clearly, this is something that will change as the season matures. But it does begin to explain the Yankees’ current offensive drought.

We saw this from the get-go yesterday. Johnny Damon hacked at the second pitch of the game, and Derek Jeter at the third. A-Rod swung at the first pitch of the second inning. Through two frames, James Shields had tossed just 17 pitches. This is not what we’re used to seeing from the Yankees.

Things got a bit better in the third inning, though. Three of the four batters took the first pitch, and it looked like they were putting together some sort of inning before Betemit decided to try for third. In the fourth inning (when we scored runs!), four out of the six hitters took the first two pitches. Cano took the first pitch before fouling off a ton en route to a single, and Jorge took the first pitch to the warning track. So thing weren’t looking all bad.

Still, you’d like to see a bit more patience from the team in the next few games. This is quickly starting to feel like late April/May of last year, when the offense was underperforming and as a result pressing. They really seem to be lunging for balls out of the zone, and otherwise taking poor swings. There’s little left to say, other than: I hope they settle in and get into a groove.

Johnny Damon has the same idea: “When I go, this team goes a lot smoother.”

Well, then. Get to it, Johnny.

Categories : Game Stories, Offense
Comments (24)

Triple-A Scranton (3-2 win over Lehigh Valley)
Justin Christian & Cody Ransom: both 1 for 4 – Christian K’ed once … Ransom thrice
Juan Miranda & Alberto Gonzalez: both 0 for 4 – The Former Attorney General K’ed twice
Jason Lane: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI
Eric Duncan: 2 for 3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 SB – 2 SB this year, 2 SB all of last year … 1.012 OPS
Chris Stewart: 2 for 3, 1 PB
Darrell Rasner: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 5-8 GB/FB – 51 of 73 pitches were strikes (69.9%)
Scott Strickland: 1.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1-2 GB/FB – Chad Jennings speculated that he could be cut to make room on the roster for Jon Albaladejo
Chris Britton: 0.1 IP, zeroes
Jose Veras: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2-0 GB/FB

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Categories : Down on the Farm
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