Notes following the rollercoaster

Tonight’s game was monster back-and-forth affair, but I don’t think anyone expect it to end like it did. “A perfect throw,” said Joe Girardi of Greg Golson’s rocket from right after the game. He did, however, seem more impressed with Alex Rodriguez‘s scoop of the short-hop at third to apply the tag. It was a perfect play all around, and it had to be to get a guy as fast as Carl Crawford. It’s definitely not the way you draw up the final out of the game, for sure.

Here’s some more highlights from Girardi’s postgame press conference…

  • Girardi attributed Ivan Nova‘s rough fifth inning to worrying too much about the baserunners and missing spots. He knew Tampa would pinch hit for Matt Joyce if he went to Boone Logan, and he liked the the Nova-Joyce matchup the best.
  • One of the biggest moments of the game for him was the Yankees’ half of the sixth and the way they bounced right back to tie the game after Tampa’s comeback. Curtis Granderson led things off with a walk, Mark Teixeira singled him over, then Robbie Cano capped things off with a run-scoring double.
  • After preaching before the game about not wanting to wear down his relievers and giving them rest after throwing three times in four days, stuff like that, he used both Kerry Wood and Boone Logan for the fourth time in five games tonight. When asked about that, Girardi said exactly what you’d expect. Wood’s a veteran and experienced, Logan’s a lefty specialist and hasn’t faced a ton of batters in that time.
  • He said he’d check with both guys tomorrow about their availability. I’ll guess no on Wood, but Logan for a batter in an emergency spot.
  • This will probably be a surprise, but Girardi called it one of the biggest wins of the season. Stunned I tell you.

As for Andy Pettitte, who threw five innings for Double-A Trenton tonight, they’re going to evaluate him over the next few days and see how he feels. Girardi wouldn’t commit to saying he’ll start Sunday, but it’ll be a massive upset if he doesn’t.

Trenton grabs Game One behind Pettitte

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

David Laurila interviewed Dellin Betances at Baseball Prospectus, so check it out if you have a subscription. He talked a lot about where he came from, how he got into baseball, lots of stuff like that. It’s not your generic “what kind of pitches do you throw” interview.

Double-A Trenton (3-2 win over Altoona in 10 innings) Trenton leads the best-of-five championship series one game to none … Betances gets the ball in Game Two tomorrow
Austin Krum, CF & Justin Snyder, 3B: both 2 for 5 – Krum doubled, drove in a run, scored another & K’ed … Snyder K’ed three times
Dan Brewer, RF: 1 for 3, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K – also made a nice running grab to end the ninth
Austin Romine, C: 2 for 5, 1 RBI, 2 K, 1 PB – drove in the go-ahead run with a single in the tenth
Marcos Vechionacci, 1B & Damon Sublett, LF: both 0 for 4 – Vech walked & K’ed three times … Sublett K’ed just once, but committed a pair of fielding errors
Rene Rivera, DH: 1 for 4, 1 K – what, no homer?
Luis Nunez, SS: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B
Matt Cusick, 2B: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
Andy Pettitte: 5 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 2 WP, 7-2 GB/FB – 49 of 67 pitches were strikes (73.1%) … he threw another 15 pitches in the bullpen after coming out … he gave up a homer to the first batter he faced on a 1-0 curveball, but pitched out of a bases loaded, no out jam in his final inning of work … I would say there’s no reason not to expect him to be on the mound Sunday in Baltimore
Andrew Brackman: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 2 HB, 6-5 GB/FB – the walk was intentional … that’s a huge performance right there, great stuff

High-A Tampa beat Charlotte on Monday to win the Florida State League Championship, their second consecutive league title.

Low-A Charleston, Short Season Staten Island, and the Rookie GCL Yanks are done. None of the three qualified for the postseason. Triple-A Scranton‘s season ended when they lost to Columbus in the first round of the International League playoffs.

Game 145: Time to get things right

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that the Yankees need a win tonight. Not just to reclaim first place or anything like that, just for their friggin’ sanity. Losing can wear on people, and getting back in that win column is pretty much the only cure. I know we fans need it as well, because losing freaking sucks, especially so close to the end of the season when everything’s magnified.

What more is there to say, really? The Yanks need the offense to get its collective head out of its ass, they could use a starter not named CC Sabathia to step up with a big performance, and a fully rested bullpen wouldn’t hurt either. I’m getting tired of saying the same thing day after day, so please Yankees, do me a favor and win the freaking game tonight.

Here’s the starting nine…

Jeter, SS
Granderson, CF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Berkman, DH
Kearns, LF
Curtis, RF
Cervelli, C

And on the bump, it’s the rookie Ivan Nova.

The game starts a little after 7pm ET, and can be seen on My9 locally and MLB Network nationally. Try to enjoy it.

Teixeira playing through a broken toe

The hits just keep on comin’ for the walking wounded. As George King reported today, Yanks’ first baseman Mark Teixeira has been playing with a broken toe since a Vin Mazzaro slider hit him on the right foot on August 31. “Every step I take it stings,’’ Teixeira, channeling Sting, said. “It’s worse on defense because I have to move side to side and shuffle.’’

Since the injury, Teixeira is just 9 for 43 (.209) with no home runs and five RBIs. At this point, the toe won’t fully heal until the off-season. The Yanks and Teixeira will have to simply manage the pain to ensure that the slugger can generate power as he bats. Teixeira joins Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner as regular Yankees dealing with late-season aches and pains, and the team will be leaning ever more heavily on A-Rod, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and the pitching staff for the next few weeks.

Swisher gets cortisone shot in left knee

Nick Swisher received a cortisone shot in his left knee today after an MRI reveal some inflammation. There’s not timetable for his return, but these things usually don’t take very long to kick in. Swish’s knee has been barking since he fouled a ball off it against the Blue Jays back in Toronto, and even though there’s no structural damage or anything broken, it just hasn’t been getting any better. He is not in the lineup for a third straight day.

Extra roster spots going to waste

(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Friday and Saturday we watched in almost disbelief as Rangers’ manager Ron Washington made pitching change after pitching change at a comical rate. He had extra arms available because of September call-ups, and dammit, he was going to use them. Last night though, we watched Joe Girardi be handcuffed by a short bullpen, one that added just one arm when rosters expanded this month.

What’s the bullpen situation going to look like tonight? You have to figure Kerry Wood will be unavailable (pitched in three of the last four games), ditto Boone Logan (also appeared in three of the last four). Chad Gaudin’s a definite no-no after throwing 31 pitches in two-thirds of an inning last night, his third appearance in the last four games. So that leaves Girardi with Mariano Rivera, Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, Jon Albaladejo, and Sergio Mitre. What happens if rookie Ivan Nova gets knocked out in the second inning? What happens if the game goes extras again? There’s no extra bodies around to soak up meaningless innings, which forces the core guys to work more than they should. Given the great lengths that Girardi goes to to rest his team, you’d think seats in the bullpen would be a premium because of all the extra arms.

Obviously, Romulo Sanchez’s poorly timed elbow injury hurt the September pitching situation a bit, but that’s life. Teams have to deal with injuries all the time. But to only have one extra arm in Jon Albaladejo, a short reliever at that, at this point in the season seems like a rather terrible use of the roster. And this goes beyond the pitching as well, I don’t want to keep jumping all over the bullpen. With Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher nursing injuries for quite some time now, why isn’t Chad Huffman with the team? Yeah, Greg Golson and Colin Curtis are up, but what’s the harm in calling up Huffman just for depth? He doesn’t have to play, but it sure would be nice to have him just in case.

You can add players  in September to make life easier on the regulars, so why aren’t the Yankees doing it? Yes, the 40-man roster situation presents a bit of a problem, but that’s a pretty lame excuse. I understand not wanting to call up someone like Andrew Brackman or Hector Noesi, an actual prospect, but every team has dead weight on the 40-man, the Yankees included. Reegie Corona can’t hit a lick (.259/.333/.344 in 2,959 minor league plate appearances) and is made completely expendable by Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena, so he can be taken off the 40-man in favor of someone like say, Royce Ring, who would give Girardi the basic September right of a second lefthander out of the bullpen.

The newly acquired Steve Garrison is another guy that could be removed from the 40-man roster in favor of a player that’s more useful to the big league team right now. Think about how the Yanks acquired Garrison for a second; the Padres designated him for assignment and they claimed him off waivers. Since the Yanks had the best record in baseball at the time, they were the last team that could have claimed him, so literally every other team passed on Garrison first. Chances are they’ll do the same less than a week later, no? That 40-man spot could be better used on someone that help the team right now, down the stretch, even in a limited capacity.

Roster spots are precious, like outs in a game, but September makes everyone’s life a little bit easier given the ability to call up extra players. The Yankees really aren’t taking advantage of those extra spots right now, certainly not on the pitching side of things, and it’s come back to bite them a bit recently. When your starting rotation is full of one ace and bunch of question marks, getting some extra arms seems like common sense. Considering how far ahead they are in the race for a playoff spot and all the players nursing injuries, the Yanks seem to be really dropping the ball when it comes to maximizing the roster this month.

Knowing your team and the situation

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Last night’s game provided more blogging topics than we know what to do with, from the bullpen machinations to the stellar starting pitching to yes, Curtis Granderson‘s bunt. Sacrifice bunting (hey, bunting for a hit is cool in my book) is a topic I’ve beat to death on Twitter and for the most part on the site as well, yet my pleas fall on deaf ears. Joe Girardi continues to employ the move ad nauseum with almost complete disregard of the game situation, and with the team struggling so much it’s just another thing to second guess.

It’s not so much about the actual bunt, the idea of sacrificing one of three outs in the inning to advance the baserunner an extra 90 feet, but what appears to be a lack of understand of what the hell is going on at the moment. Girardi appears to have a blind faith in the strategy despite watching it backfire numerous times in the last few weeks, and last night’s situation really looked like the tipping point.

Balfour’s first two pitches to Granderson were fastballs out of the zone both up and away, putting the count at two balls and no strikes. So let’s think about the situation for a sec. Grandy is a dead fastball hitter, and has been worth three runs above average against the pitch this season. For his career, he’s 58.1 runs above average or 0.75 runs per 100 fastballs seen. Balfour is fastball heavy pitcher, throwing it 77.1% of the time this year. Furthermore, he’s hasn’t thrown a non-fastball on 2-0 since 2007 according to FanGraphs’ splits. Three freaking seasons of nothing but 2-0 fastballs.

It’s a fastball hitter in a fastball count with a fastball pitcher in the mound. It’s a match made in baseball heaven. The player who executes the best in that situation (most likely) wins, but certainly you couldn’t ask for Granderson to be up in a better spot. Sure enough, Balfour threw a 2-0 fastball at 91 mph, and you know what happened. Granderson laid down a rather gorgeous sac bunt, getting Kearns into scoring position exactly as Girardi planned. In terms of WPA, the bunt actually increased the Yanks’ chances of winning by 2.6%, but the WPA swing lacks come context. Bunting was the wrong move not only because it took the bat out of Granderson’s hands in a situation where could have done some real damage, but it passed the baton to Colin Curtis, one of the very last guys on the roster you’d want up in that spot.

Again, I’m not so upset about the actual bunt, I’ve accepted it as part of the game, but rather the complete lack of understanding the situation and blindly following “the book.” This also goes back to Frankie Cervelli‘s bunt on a 3-0 count (!!!) in the Texas series. I mean, come on, taking a pitch and potentially get an extra baserunner (with one fewer out) for Marcus Thames and Nick Swisher would increase the Yanks’ chances of winning exponentially over moving the speedy Eduardo Nunez – who was already in scoring position – to third. Again, we have what appears to be a complete lack of understand the situation, or perhaps it’s just an unwillingness to adjust.

The Yankees, as presently constructed, are not some smallball team. Are they struggling to score some runs right now? Sure, but that doesn’t mean you overhaul the system. They have a .350 OBP and a .347 wOBA as a team, both the best in baseball. Their .170 ISO is third best in the game, and their raw homerun total of 174 is also third best. This is a team built around getting players on base and hitting for power, and it has been for at least a decade-and-a-half now. All of a sudden, now with a slumping offense (.218/.313/.287 over the last eight games) the plan is change up the strategy? I don’t get it. Stick with what got you there and what your players know. Don’t take them out of their element and try to force things. That only leads to more struggles.

This eight game stretch has made the Yankees look about as bad as they have at any point in the last two or three years, and naturally Joe Girardi’s decision making is going to be at the forefront of the blame. Bullpen moves are in their own little world of second guessing, but offensive strategies like bunting and giving away outs are easy to break down and criticize. There seems to be a disconnect between what the Yankees actually are and what Girardi either a) thinks they are, or b) wants them to be. He has to know the situation and his personnel way better than he’s shown over the last few weeks, and really the last three seasons. Remember, this bunting nonsense is not unique to September 2010.