Game 159: Bury them

The Rays did what they had to do this afternoon. If the Yankees win tonight, the Sox will have official blown their enormous lead and will be tied with Tampa with three games to go. Consider the Yankees a good samaritan, the innocent bystander that jumps in to help. Here’s the lineup…

Eduardo Nunez, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Robinson Cano, 2B
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Nick Swisher, RF
Eric Chavez, 3B
Jesus Montero, DH
Chris Dickerson, LF
Austin Romine, C

Ivan Nova, SP

The second game of the doubleheader starts at 6:30pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Game 158: All wrapped up

That's how I feel about Boston's collapse too. (Nick Laham/Getty Images)

The Yankees have accomplished everything they set out to accomplish. They won their division on Wednesday and clinched homefield advantage (with some help from the Orioles) last night. There’s nothing left for them to do over the final five games of the season, other than to make sure no one gets hurt, anyway. I supposed they could focus on passing the Phillies for the best record in baseball (one back in the loss column), but that won’t benefit them at all. It’s a bragging rights thing, and frankly I couldn’t care less. Beating the Red Sox today would just be iciing on the 2011 season cake. Here’s the lineup…

Brett Gardner, CF
Derek Jeter, SS
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Jorge Posada, DH
Andruw Jones, LF
Russell Martin, C
Chris Dickerson, RF
Brandon Laird, 1B
Ramiro Pena, 2B

A.J. Burnett, SP

Game one of today’s doubleheader starts at 1pm ET and can be seen on YES locally or TBS nationally. Game two is scheduled to start at 6:30pm ET. Enjoy.

CC Sabathia Update: Sabathia threw his simulated game this morning, throwing 65 pitches across four “innings.” He faced Greg Golson and Pena (batting lefty), and all went well. His next start will be Game One of the ALDS on Friday.

Reminder: Our get together with FanGraphs at Amity Hall is today. All the details are here. Stop by if you can, it’ll be a blast.

Comparing the bullpens of AL contenders

Starting pitching goes a long way towards determining how a team does in the playoffs, but having a strong bullpen can mitigate weakness in the rotation. As the Yankees move towards the ALDS and a matchup with Detroit or Texas, I thought it might be useful to see how their bullpen compares to the bullpens of other contenders around the league. I’ve tried to pick out each team’s best relievers, since the playoffs are an “all hands on deck” time in which the big guns get used early and often. Judge for yourself which team has the strongest bullpen. I’ll provide the numbers and note an interesting fact about an individual reliever or the bullpen as a whole.

Yankees bullpen

Since July 30th when he came off the disabled list, Rafael Soriano has thrown 22.1 innings, allowed 6 earned runs, walked 5 and struck out 25. That’s a 2.69 FIP and a 5:1 K/BB ratio. He’s finally looking like the guy the Yankees expected to get when they signed him to his big contract, and if this level of performance holds it doesn’t seem unreasonable to argue that the Yankees have the best trio of relief arms in the American League.

Red Sox bullpen

Matt Albers has the kind of arm that scouts dream on. He throws very hard, and he gets ground balls at a good clip. Early in the year, it looked like Boston had picked up a nice cheap middle innings arm, and at the end of June he had pitched to a 3.03 ERA in 29.2 innings with 12 walks and 27 strikeouts. For whatever reason, the bloom came off the rose. Since the first of July he has a 6.21 ERA in 33.1 innings. While he has struck out 38 batters over this span, he’s walked more than a batter every other inning. He’s no longer a reliable option for Francona, which means the Sox will be leaning heavily on Papelbon and Bard in the postseason.

Rays bullpen

As mentioned yesterday, the Rays have one of the weaker bullpens in recent memory. Farnsworth has great numbers for the Rays this year, but he’s currently trying to overcome elbow soreness. He did appear last night for Tampa, so his troubles may be behind him for now. Peralta has been more than solid, but that’s really where the strength ends. Cruz, Ramos and Howell all have walk rates over 5 per 9 innings, and Gomes is over 4. It’s true that Maddon uses these guys as situational relievers, but the fact is that the Rays middle relief is simply soft. This is why it’s important for the Rays to get length out of their starters, and this is why Matt Moore could be such a huge factor for them in the next week.

Rangers bullpen

*Edit: Adams’ ERA and FIP are 1.51 and 2.48, respectively.

If anyone is going to give the Yankees a run for their money out of the bullpen, it’s the Rangers. Texas made two fantastic moves at the trade deadline this year, adding Mike Adams from San Diego and Koji Uehara from Baltimore. Both relievers strike out loads of batters, and both relievers are stingy with the free passes. They’re exactly what you’d want from your relief pitchers. The weakness here is like Neftali Feliz. While his ERA is close to his 2010 number, his peripherals have deteriorated significantly. He’s striking out fewer guys and struggling with the walks.  He’s been better since the start of August, but he’s still handed out 10 walks in 21 innings.

Tigers bullpen

Provided Valverde doesn’t blow a save over the next few days, a lot is going to be made by various analysts and TV announcers of the fact that Valverde’s save record is perfect this year. As someone who resents his mound antics, I can only say with the upmost sarcasm: “good for him”. Fortunately, Valverde’s peripherals don’t suggest that he’s the type of reliever who could maintain such a level of dominance. He hands out more walks than the reliever who precedes him in the eighth inning and he’s not exactly a groundball machine like Alburqurque. It’s true that he has a nice arsenal of pitches and a tremendous fastball, but if I had to wager on a closer blowing a game in the playoffs this year, I’d go with Feliz first and Valverde second. Fingers crossed!

Yanks blowout Sox, clinch homefield advantage

It’s always fun beating the Red Sox, especially in blowout fashion, but it’s even better when the game means a whole lot more to Boston because they’re fighting for a playoff spot while the Yankees have already taken care of business. Let’s recap…

  • The offensive explosion will get the headlines, but in my opinion the biggest story of the game was Freddy Garcia. He’d been struggling of late, no question about it, so six shutout innings against a great offense is very encouraging. It was a typical Garcia outing too, lots of weak pop-ups, about a baserunner an inning, a few ugly swings. At this point, he has to be considered the favorite to start the third game of the ALDS next week. That’s subject to change by the day, though.
  • Okay, now we can talk about the offense. Jesus Montero was the star of the day, going 3-for-4 with a double to the wall in left-center and solo homer to right. He also saw 19 total pitches in those four at-bats, the most on the team. It’s  obviously a small sample (58 plate appearances), but the kid is hitting .346/.414/.635, and that’s pretty cool.
  • Russell Martin chipped in a two-run single on a ball that Carl Crawford should have caught, and one batter later, Derek Jeter made the Red Sox pay with a three-run homer to right. Nick Swisher had a hit and two walks, Andruw Jones two hits. The trio of  Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez combined to go 0-for-12 with four strikeouts, but everyone else went a combined 9-for-21. The joys of having a  deep lineup.
  • The bullpen after Freddy was pretty good, though Raul Valdes and Cory Wade managed to allow a run in two-thirds of an inning.  Boone Logan, Luis Ayala, and George Kontos retired the final seven Red Sox batters of the game. Kontos has looked pretty good in his limited action, no? He struck out two and showed a nice little slider. Gotta figure we’ll see a little more of him next season.
  • This game set a regular season attendance record for New Yankee Stadium at 49,556 fans. The previous record was 49,555, so they beat it by one fan. Anyway, this win coupled with the Tigers loss to the Orioles means the Yankees have clinched the best record in the AL and homefield advantage in the playoffs. Since the Mets swept their doubleheader against Phillies, the Yanks are just one loss back of their 2009 World Series  opponent for the best record in baseball. Here’s the box score, here’s the FanGraphs stuff, and here’s the standings.

The Yankees and Red Sox will play a day-night doubleheader on Sunday,  wrapping up their season series. Ivan Nova and John Lackey A.J. Burnett and Tim Wakefield will start at 1pm ET and be followed by A.J. Burnett and Tim Wakefield Ivan Nova and John Lackey at 6:30pm ET. RAB Tickets can help get you into the Stadium if you want to catch one or both of the games, or you could come to Amity Hall and hang out with us at the FanGraphs event. Details here.

Open Thread: Beatdown in the Bronx

See what happens when the A+ lineup starts against a left-hander? The Red Sox had no chance this afternoon. The Yankees scored eight runs off Jon Lester in less than three innings, meaning Boston’s bullpen will be that much more taxed for tomorrow’s doubleheader. Good times, good times.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Mets are playing the second game of their doubleheader against Phillies (Gee vs. Blanton), and MLB Network will have the Rays and Blue Jays (Niemann vs. Romero). There’s also a ton of college football on, but talk about whatever you like. Have at it.

Game 157: Still no mercy

(AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

Joe Girardi was ready to start the A+ lineup last night, before the sky opened up and rain postponed the game. He’s not backing off today though, it’s the same lineup that was supposed to play last night, and a preview of what we’re going to see pretty much every day in the  postseason. Here’s the starting nine…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Andruw Jones, LF
Jesus Montero, DH
Russell Martin, C

Freddy Garcia, SP

It’s a 4pm ET start, so you know what that means: it’s a FOX  broadcast. Try to not stick a pen in your ear. Enjoy.