Posada Hitting? It’s More Likely Than You Think.

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Psssst. Guys.

Don’t look now, but Jorge Posada is actually getting on base. I know, it’s hard to believe, right? I was under the impression the guy was going to be batting .160 all year and would never hit another extra base hit*, ever again. That’s what ESPN told me, at least. But I looked up some of his splits today, and he’s actually getting some hits. Now, I know statistics are only for people in their parents’ basements, but I just couldn’t help but notice some things:

Last 7 days: .333/.500/.556 with two strikeouts (12 PA), .400 BABIP

Last 14 days: .316/.480/.421 with four strikeouts (25 PA), .429 BABIP

April/March: .125/.232/.374, .065 BABIP

May: .261/.393/.348, .353 BABIP

Obviously, we’re dealing with some small samples, but if there’s anyone who’s saying that Posada’s done from his horrific start, they should probably also take into account Posada’s current (relatively speaking) hot streak. A lot of this is fueled by the fact that his BABIP has risen from a phenomenally, almost impossibly bad .081 to an only moderately terrible .188. Posada’s been a clear example of how regression towards the mean works: while the man is due for some decline (that’s what happens when you’re 40 years old), the chance that he’s going to go from hitting .248, last year’s average, to .160, is not impossible but not exactly likely. Yeah, you can’t predict baseball, but you can safely make some assumptions. The lowest single-season BABIP by any player (min 250 PAs) in the past ten years was Mark McGwire’s .171 in 2001.** While it’s possible Posada could do worse than that, it’s probably not likely, and you’re more safe in thinking there will be some bloop hits dropping in for him eventually.

I’m sure that his slow improvement will, at least in the bigger media outlets, be associated with the whole 9th hole drama, whatever you want to call it, but honestly I don’t think it has anything to do with that. I just think that Posada was slumping, and now he is not. The fact that the Yankees can’t hit with RISP and all their other associated problem just made the struggles of their 40-year-old catcher-turned-DH more evident. There’s been so many narratives flying around Posada it’s hard for me to keep them all straight. He’s 40. His contract is up this year. He will never catch again. He’s adjusting to the DH. He’s prideful. He has a temper. And so on.

If Posada follows his career track, his strong May will be swallowed up by a terrible June, which is usually his worst month. Curiously enough, his numbers between the first half and the second half are almost exactly alike, so his season month-by-month will either continue to play this terrible on-off game or will smooth out somewhere in between.

Whether Posada gets into the Hall of Fame or not, I don’t think a season in decline is going to change the opinions of the voters. And although the Hall of Fame voters’ opinions can have some…. interesting twists, I think having a final season in the decline isn’t something that should be the game-changer in the voting on Posada. Plus, there are some players that had some pretty bad seasons and still got in. So, Posada fanboys and girls, if your dream is to have him in the Hall of Fame, you’re probably still safe. If you’re a Posada hater, well, you’re wrong.

*Did you see him try to stretch that single into a double? Apparently he didn’t think he was ever going to have another XBH either.

**McGwire hit hit 29 home runs in 94 games and had a .187/.315/.492 line that year. His OPS+ was 105. Heh.

Hughes cleared to increase intensity of throwing program

Via George King, Phil Hughes has been cleared by the Yankees’ team doctor to pick up the intensity of his throwing program. “They have a program outlined, and there is a day I will get on the mound,” said Hughes, who admitted that he doesn’t know exactly when he’ll get back on a mound. He’s been playing catch from about 100 feet over the last two weeks or so and everything feels fine, but we won’t know if the missing velocity is back “until I get into a competitive atmosphere,” as Phil said.

Game 45: Just win series

The Yankees have won just one of their last four series, and that was the two-game sweep of the Orioles a few days ago. They haven’t really been sticking to the “just win series” mantra of late, but they could make it two series wins in a row today against the Mets. David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain could probably use the day off, so lots of runs and/or a dominant performance out of Ivan Nova would be pretty awesome. Here’s the lineup…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Jorge Posada, DH
Brett Gardner, LF
Chris Dickerson, RF – obviously, he’s been cleared to play
Frankie Cervelli, C

Ivan Nova, SP

The final game of the series can be seen on both YES and SNY locally plus TBS nationally. Enjoy the game.

Rafael Soriano Update: The Eighth Inning Guy™ played catch today and seems to be recovering well from his inflamed elbow. Yay.

Alex’s leg kick

Alex Rodriguez got off to a gloriously hot start to the season. In the first eleven games he hit .405/.511/.865 with 4 home runs, sporting an OPS of 1.376. Unfortunately, this hot start came to a screeching halt in Texas. On April 16th in Texas the Yankees removed Rodriguez from the game with a mild oblique strain. He avoided the disabled list, but he didn’t return to the lineup until April 20th. Whether the oblique strain was still bothering him or simply disrupted his timing is hard to say. What is clear is that Rodriguez went through a massive slump when he returned, hitting .188/.263/.294 with 2 home runs and 22 strikeouts in 22 games.

When the Yankees finished getting swept by Boston at home, they headed to Tampa. At the time talk surfaced of hitting coach Kevin Long working hard with Rodriguez to fix a mechanical flaw in his swing. They weren’t able to rectify it immediately, and in fact it seems that Rodriguez had difficulty implementing the change. In his first game in Tampa Alex went 0-4 with 3 strikeouts against Price. But they may have gotten a handle on it shortly thereafter. YES scribe and fan favorite Jack Curry had the details on this fix in a piece published May 18th, a day after Rodriguez clubbed two homers off Big Game James.

Long determined the cause of Rodriguez’s struggles, detecting that the third baseman hadn’t been using the lower half of his body to ignite his swing. Rodriguez called it a “disconnect” between his lower and upper body…

“We’ve diagnosed the problem,” Long said. “It’s vivid. We know what it is. But Alex said there’s been some hesitation. He knows he has to use his legs and he’s telling himself to use his legs. But when it comes time to do it, he hesitates. It’s all about fixing mechanics.”

Several hours after Long spoke to me about Rodriguez’s missing swing on Tuesday, Rodriguez corrected his mechanics and found that smooth swing again. Rodriguez blasted two homers off James Shields to help guide the Yankees to a much-needed 6-2 win over the Rays.

By taking a look at Rodriguez’s swing against the Red Sox Sunday night against Beckett and comparing it to his swing against Shields in Tampa, one thing stands out quite clearly: Alex almost completely eliminated his leg kick. Courtesy of friend of RAB Richard Iurilli, we can use .gif images to get a good slow-motion look at the difference. The first .gif is Alex striking out against Josh Beckett. (Update: Added the jump for site loading reasons)

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Yanks hit too many homers, take game two of Subway Series

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Hooray for solid, relatively stress-free wins. Got a little testy early on, but otherwise the Yankees did a fine job of putting this one … on the left side!

  • Wanna know how to avoid RISPFAIL? Don’t put any runners in scoring position. The Yankees did not pick up a hit with their lone at-bat with a man in scoring position, and that was Curtis Granderson moving Derek Jeter from second to third on a sacrifice fly in the eighth. Mark Teixeira drove him in with a sac fly one batter later, but why Grandy’s counts as an at-bat while Tex’s doesn’t is beyond me. Weird baseball rules. Anyway, this was the first time the Yankees left zero men on base in a game since June of 2001.
  • Four homeruns did the trick before that lame-o manufactured tack-on run in the eighth. Russell Martin took Chris Capuano deep for two runs in the second, Tex homered in two more the next inning, then Grandy and Alex Rodriguez hit solo shots two batters apart in the sixth. The first three came off Chris Capuano, who’s been getting his ass handed to him by righties all year. Tex’s homer was his second to right field as the right-handed batter this year, something he didn’t do at all in 2009 or 2010. Since 2006, he has just five opposite field homers as a righty, and two came this season.
  • Granderson’s long ball was his eighth off a lefty this season, which is notable for many reasons. He leads all left-handed batters with eight homers off lefties this year, and no other player has more than three. It also doubled last year’s output against lefties (just four homers), and was his 15th of the year, a total he didn’t reach until late-August last season. Jose Bautista (18 dingers) is the only other player in baseball with more than a dozen big flies. Good lookin’ out, Curtis.
  • Things looked a little sketchy early on, when the Mets loaded the bases with no outs in the first. A.J. Burnett got out of the inning allowing “just” two runs, then he gave up just three hits and two walks (one run) over his final 5.1 IP. Last season, that’s like a five run inning. This year A.J. has done a good job of limiting the damage in spots like that. Getting out of that first inning and settling down was a rather huge turning point in this game, even if came so early.
  • First and third, one out, Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay due up … and David Robertson cruises right along to escape the jam. Beltran struck out and Bay popped out harmlessly on the infield. It was a big part of the game, for sure, but Robertson made it look easy. Joba Chamberlain retired his three men in the eighth, then Luis Ayala did the same an inning later. I have to say, I wrote the Ayala signing off way too soon. He’s been rock solid so far (in admittedly limited action). The trio of relievers recorded eight outs on 30 pitches.
  • Jeter stole second in the eighth inning, tying him with Rickey Henderson for the franchise record (326 SB). Of course Rickey did it in 596 games while Jeter needed 2,337, but who’s counting?
  • After all the bitching and moaning following Friday’s game, the Yankees are now back in first place (thanks to Red Sox and Rays losses). How about that? Here’s the box score and here’s the WPA Graph.

Rubber game tomorrow afternoon, when Ivan Nova gets the ball against Mike Pelfrey at 1:05pm ET. If you’re in the area, head on over and check out the Delta Dugout.

Montero homers in Scranton loss

Update: Both the Double-A Trenton and Low-A Charleston games are over and have been added to the post.

Austin Krum was promoted to Triple-A Scranton, who is without outfielders Chris Dickerson (bigs), Greg Golson (hamstring), and Jordan Parraz (hamstring). Although he only has a .052 ISO in Double-A this year (.332 wOBA), he’s walked nearly as many times as he struck out (26 K, 25 BB in 181 PA) and is a perfect 14-for-14 in stolen base chances. Krum also led the system in walks last year (68), also spent with Trenton.

Triple-A Scranton (5-3 loss to Indianapolis)
Austin Krum, CF: 1 for 5, 1 R – threw a runner out at second
Ramiro Pena, SS & Dan Brewer, RF: both 1 for 4 – Ramiro scored a run and struck out
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K – second homer in eight games … five of his last eight hits have gone for extra bases
Justin Maxwell, LF & P.J. Pilittere, DH: both 0 for 3, 1 BB – Maxwell whiffed twice, P.J. once
Brandon Laird, 1B: 2 for 4, 1 RBI – OPS approaching .800 this month
Kevin Russo, 2B: 0 for 2, 1 BB, 1 HBP
Doug Bernier, 3B: 0 for 4, 1 K
D.J. Mitchell, RHP: 6 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 10-7 GB/FB – 56 of 96 pitches were strikes (58.3%) … only the second time all year he’s allowed more than two runs in a start
Buddy Carlyle, RHP: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 5-1 GB/FB – 29 of 43 pitches were strikes (57.4%)

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Game 44: But can they hit?

So last night didn’t go according to plan, but at least the Yankees (Freddy Garcia, specifically) pitched well. In fact, New York pitchers have held the opponents to two runs or less over the last four games, and over the last eight games they’ve keep the other team to an average of 3.5 runs per game. That’s plenty good enough to win, the offense just has to do their part. Let’s hope a right-heavy lineup against the southpaw Chris Capuano does the trick…

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

A.J. Burnett, SP

Hate these Saturday night games, especially since this one is on FOX. Sigh. Try to enjoy.

Roster Move: Lance Pendleton has been recalled from Triple-A Scranton and Amaury Sanit was sent back down. Is carrying two long relievers really necessary? Another one inning, strikeout guy for the sixth and seventh innings would be cool.

Reminder: Ben’s going to be at the Delta Dugout tomorrow, click the link for all the details.