The Phil Hughes Rehab Tour starts in SI

Make sure you scroll down for tonight’s game thread. Also, Ryan Pope has been placed on the disabled list, which might explain the shellacking he took the other night.

Short Season Staten Island (5-3 loss to Brooklyn)
Mason Williams, CF: 3 for 5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 SB – threw a runner out at third … have yourself a day, Mr. Williams
Cito Culver, SS: 0 for 5, 2 RBI, 1 K, 1 E (throwing) – still waiting on that first hit
Angelo Gumbs, 2B: 0 for 5, 2 K
Reymond Nunez, 1B & Ben Gamel, LF: both 1 for 4, 2 K
Cody Grice, DH: 0 for 3, 1 BB, 2 K
Casey Stevenson, 3B: 0 for 2, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 HBP
Nick McCoy, C: 0 for 4, 2 K
Shane Brown, LF: 2 for 4, 1 R
Phil Hughes, RHP: 4.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 2-3 GB/FB – 41 of 61 pitches were strikes (67.2%), and he was scheduled for 65 … his fastball ranged from 89-95 (92-93 consistently) but there are conflicting reports are whether he held the velocity throughout the outing or it dropped off in the later innings … he allowed singled to the first two men he faced, then sat down 13 of the next 14 men he faced before a solo homer ended his day … this was a nice step forward, but he’s still got a long way to go
Wilton Rodriguez, RHP: 2.2 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 HB, 4-2 GB/FB
Matt Tracy, LHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 2-0 GB/FB

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Game 70: Father’s Day

(Photo Credit: Flickr user jwannie via Creative Commons license)

Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there. Most of us wouldn’t care about baseball if it wasn’t for the old man. Let’s go Yankees.

Brett Gardner, LF
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Russell Martin, C
Eduardo Nunez, SS
CC Sabathia, SP

It’s an ESPN Sunday Night Game, so first pitch is scheduled for a little after 8pm ET. Enjoy.

Saying the Right Thing, Part 2

A quick question: If you didn’t enjoy part one of this series, why are you reading part two?

To quickly summarize before I get back into the nitty gritty of this extremely important topic, complaining is a key part of being a fan of any sports team, and a sports team as good as the Yankees requires a double-dose of this skill. There are a lot of different things to complain about, but the key is to know what to talk about when and what to complain about when. Generally, immediacy is key: complain about lineups when lineups are posted, complain about Francisco Cervelli when he throws the ball into center field, and so on. Yesterday I covered hitters and today I’ll round up the other important stuff.

Letting Runs Score

When you’re being paid as much as these guys are and you only have one job, you better do it damn well. If your job is to not let people score, you better not let them score. It doesn’t matter that the average ERA is around 3. No Yankees pitcher should ever allow any runs. To do so is to invite scorn on yourself. There is a notable correlation between money and scorn – all CC showings that are not shutouts are automatic failures, whereras giving Ivan Nova a couple runs of leeway before calling himself failure is okay.

Pitching Changes

This is an easy fallback for when the game is going slowly – every pitching change is wrong. Every. Single. One. There is never a right choice. It’s not like pitchers shouldn’t be taken out of the game, just that it should always be at a different time. Robertson with two on and no out? Leave the starter in to get out of it. Ayala to start the sixth? Should be Marquez. Mo in the ninth? Bartolo Colon should have stayed in. Burnett takes a hard loss? He should have come out earlier. Boone Logan at any point in time, ever? Wrong. Noesi? Why is he in the pen at all?

Developing Starting Pitching

Is Hector Noesi starting? No? He should be. He is? Don’t rush the starters! No matter what the front office does, it’s always wrong. No matter how successful things are, they could always be better. Brian Gordon gives a great start? Noesi should have started. Noesi throws a great start? He should have been called up earlier! This is a great topic because it is always relevant, even when CC or AJ is on the bump. Starting pitching is necessary for the current and the future of the team, so this is a great complaint for anytime. Off day? Offseason? Blowout win? This is the complaint of choice.

Throwing Balls During Blowouts

When you’re up 11-0 in the eigth, all you need is to get outs. When you can’t even get players to swing at your pitches, it’s enraging. The players are ready to shower, the fans have other stuff to do, and you can’t even get a guy to put a ball in play. Plus, the offending pitcher risks requiring the use of an important pitcher. Seriously. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Weekend Writers

They suck.

Food for thought: Cano’s on-base skills

One way to define an outlier is one observation that deviates in a notable manner from the other observations in a sample. Here’s a graph of Robinson Cano‘s on-base percentage throughout his career graphed alongside league average on-base percentage. See if you can spot the outlier(s):

The league average sits right below .350 in this sample. For Cano, the outliers here appear to be 2008, a year in which he posted a typically low walk rate and an abnormally low BABIP, and last year, a year in which he doubled his career walk rate and posted a relatively normal BABIP by his standards. To cut down on the effect BABIP can have on on-base percentage, here’s a graph over time of his walk rate. Again, see if you can spot the outlier(s):

This one’s even easier to pick out: the outlier is 2010. Unfortunately, the purple line here is league average walk rate and the green line is Cano’s walk rate. As mentioned above, Cano doubled his walk rate last year en route to a .319/.381/.534 line. At the time it looked like a big step forward for a young developing player entering his prime. This year it’s right back where it always has been, below 5%.

Many times it’s common to hear fans or announcers get frustrated with pitchers who can’t throw strikes and struggle with command. “Just throw strikes” is a common refrain, as if control and command were mere switches one simply flips on or off depending on concentration. For some this may be the case, for others it’s a question of ability. Certain pitchers, for whatever reason, aren’t good (by MLB standards) at directing the ball where they want it to go.

It’s similar with batters, and with Robinson Cano. Pitch recognition and plate discipline are things that one can get better at, true. Kevin Long seemed to attempt to infuse Cano with plate discipline earlier in the year by instructing him to stop swinging at the first pitch, advice which Cano disregarded. This is a frustrating state of affairs, but perhaps some of the frustration can be ameliorated by simply accepting that Robinson Cano isn’t very good at showing discipline at the plate.

Cano is 28 years old and he’ll turn 29 this October. A 5% walk rate is the norm for Cano at this point in his career; the 8.2% mark in 2010 appears to be the outlier. Barring him developing new skills, it appears that Cano’s on-base percentage will fluctuate between .330 and .380 as his BABIP fluctuates. It sure would be nice if he would develop some patience to complement his incredible power; it likely make him the best second baseman in the game. Yet it doesn’t seem likely to happen and that’s a shame, because it does represent a hole in his game. But hey, there are worse things in the world than having Robinson Cano as your second baseman, walk rate and all.

Rounding Up The Trade Rumors

(Photo Credit: Flickr user terren in Virginia via Creative Commons license)

A bunch of small, rumor-style reports surfaced this weekend about the Yankees and some pitchers they may or may not target in midseason trades, so let’s round them up chronologically …

Top Advisors Scouted The Cubs

Bruce Levine reported on Friday that the Yankees had some scouts watch Carlos Zambrano last weekend, and it wasn’t just a routine check-up. Levine said it was some of Brian Cashman‘s top advisors, and a number of them unsurprisingly prefer Ryan Dempster. Zambrano is willing to waive his no-trade clause, by the way.

Preference: Lefties And Rentals

George King reported yesterday that in a perfect world, the Yankees would like to acquire a left-handed starter that is not under contract beyond this season. That’s a limited (and unappealing) demographic since the only southpaws scheduled to become free agents after the season are Bruce Chen, Zach Duke, Jeff Francis, Paul Maholm, and C.J. Wilson. I can’t imagine Texas would be willing to trade their ace while in contention, and the others … yuck. Mark Buehrle has a clause in his contract that automatically locks in a $15M salary for next season if traded, so we can’t consider him a rental has a full no-trade clause but fits the bill as well.

I do suppose, however, that we could include players in their arbitration-eligible years (since they could be non-tendered, the same thing as a rental), in which case guys like Francisco Liriano, Clayton Kershaw, John Danks, Jonathan Sanchez, and Joe Saunders come into play. That’s better, but how many are realistically available? I can see Liriano, Saunders, and maybe Danks. Maybe. How sold are you on Liriano’s turn around?

Oh, Wait … Yankees Have “Zero Interest” In Zambrano

Wally Matthews reported late yesterday that despite the recent scouting trip, the Yankees have “no interest” in Zambrano. Perhaps they were turned off by his 6 IP, 9 H, 5 R stinker against the Brewers last week or his 6.1 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 7 BB gem against the Phillies nine days ago. This latest report makes me happy because I wasn’t a Zambrano fan even before his velocity dropped (again) or his ground ball rate declined (again).

I don’t know where a high-end pitcher is supposed to come from, but it’s pretty obvious the Yankees need someone like that. They can’t assume Bartolo Colon will come back from the disabled list throwing grenades like he was before, and with one more injury we could be looking at Ivan Nova, Brian Gordon, and David Phelps in the rotation all at the same time. Now that is scary.

Yankees win tie game 4-3 over Cubs

Russ just wanted to make sure Pena knew who won the collision.

Joe Buck got so excited when Reed Johnson hit that solo homer off Mariano Rivera to lead off the ninth that he declared the game tied. Of course the homer made it just a one-run game, and Rivera went on to navigate the rest of the inning to secure the win. It wasn’t easy nor pretty, but they all count the same. Let’s quickly recap…

  • If my Play Index skills are as sharp as I think they are, the Yankees are the first team since 1997 and just the 15th in history to score four or fewer runs in a nine inning game in which they had at least ten hits and ten walks. They left the bases loaded in the first, a man on second in the second, men on second and third in the third, men on first and second in the fifth, a man on first in the seventh, and the bases loaded in the eighth. Yuck.
  • Play of the game was easily Brett Gardner‘s double play in the sixth (video). The Cubbies had the bases loaded with one out, and Geovany Soto lined a pitch into left. Gardner caught it on the run and uncorked a perfect throw home to get Carlos Pena. The throw beat him by five or six feet, and Russell Martin held on after the collision for the inning ending out (gif!). At .252 WPA, it was far and away the biggest play of the game.
  • Everyone in the starting lineup reached base at least twice except for Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett. Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, and Martin each reached base three times. Nick Swisher and Grandy sacrifice flies were bookended by Eduardo Nunez and Robinson Cano run-scoring doubles, which accounted for the four runs.
  • Burnett had his best curveball in quite some time in this game, certainly his best of the season. Batters swung and missed at nine of his 44 curves (20.5%) and three others went for called strike threes. His one mistake was a meatball fastball to Pena, which he hit for a game-tying two-run homer. Burnett struck out eight of the 24 men he faced in 5.1 IP. Aside from Johnson’s homer and the Soto single that following, the Yankees’ bullpen was flawless. The only batter to reach base against Cory Wade, Hector Noesi, and David Robertson did so on an error. Based on the extremely small sample size of this one game, Wade’s the new fireman and Noesi’s the new seventh inning guy. I like it.
  • Speaking of errors, how bad has the defense been? Nunez flubbed a routine double play grounder and then Cano dropped a routine relay throw from A-Rod in that hectic sixth inning. That doesn’t include two bad throws by Nunez that Tex managed to turn into outs (one by tagging the runner, the other with a great scoop) because he’s awesome. I don’t expect the Yankees to be a brilliant defensive club, but the routine plays have to made, period.
  • Four outs on the bases, topping their season high of three last week (and at least one other time as well). Granderson got thrown out trying to steal second, A-Rod got his Jorge Posada on (tried to stretch a single into a double, was out by a mile), Gardner got picked off first, and Swisher got thrown out at the plate. Seriously, get these guys a baserunning coach. If they have one already, get someone better.
  • Here’s the box score and here’s the WPA graph. This game was an ordeal.

The rubber game of the series will be played Sunday night on ESPN, which means an 8pm ET start. CC Sabathia gets the ball against Randy Wells.

Reminder: We’re going to be running some maintainence from midnight to 6am tonight, so the site may be slow or down completely at times. Thanks for your patience.

Smith, Brackman combine for one-hitter

In case you missed it this morning, the Yankees have officially signed top pick Dante Bichette Jr. and confirmed that he will play with the Rookie Level GCL Yankees when their season starts on Monday. He did have a hit in an exhibition game today, hopefully it went about 500 feet. Also, here’s some video of Bryan Mitchell from last night (one, two, three).

Triple-A Scranton (4-0 win over Columbus)
Austin Krum, LF & Jesus Montero, DH: both 1 for 4, 1 R – Krum whiffed twice
Greg Golson, CF, Brandon Laird, 3B & Gus Molina, C: both 1 for 3 – Golson doubled and drove in a run … Laird struck out
Kevin Russo, 2B & Jorge Vazquez, 1B: both 0 for 4, 2 K – JoVa has struck out 22 times in his last 36 plate appearances (61.1%)
Jordan Parraz, RF: 2 for 3, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI
Luis Nunez, SS: 0 for 3, 1 RBI, 1 K
Greg Smith, LHP: 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 5-6 GB/FB – 57 of 84 pitches were strikes (67.9%) … wow, what a start, he retired 17 of the last 18 men he faced … he’s the first non-Kei Igawa lefty to start a game for SWB since Zach Kroenke in 2009
Andrew Brackman, RHP: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1-1 GB/FB – 18 of 32 pitches were strikes (56.3%) … walked the first batter on four pitches, then he sat down six straight

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