Link Dump: No. 600 Edition

As I’m sure you already know, Alex Rodriguez hit his 600th career homerun this afternoon, crushing a 2-0 fastball from Shaun Marcum into Monument Park in the very first inning. It was a long time coming, but that doesn’t cheapen the accomplishment at all. As you can imagine, there’s a whole bunch of stuff about it on the interviewed right now, so let’s round it up…

  • First things first: here’s the video if you haven’t seen it already. A reader sent us this video from the Stadium as well.
  • Here’s what Hal Steinbrenner had to say: “Congratulations to Alex on this great achievement and on adding another highlight to Yankees history. We are especially proud he accomplished this feat as a Yankee and here before the most loyal fans in baseball.” Short and sweet.
  • Courtesy of the Yankees, here’s a look at the ball. Michael Kay said during the broadcast that Alex and the Yanks were prepared to trade a signed ball, bat, and jersey for the historic homerun ball, and if that didn’t work, the next step was offering a private dinner with A-Rod and Cameron Diaz. That woulda been pretty cool.
  • The Associate Press put together this cool little interactive package about Alex’s life and career leading up this afternoon’s homer.
  • Jack Moore took a look at A-Rod’s career going forward compared to some other members of the 600 HR club.

We’ll of course have our regular game recap later tonight, but for now here’s a spot to wax poetic about this historic feat, something everyone should take a second to appreciate. No matter how you feel about the guy, this is one hell of an accomplishment. It takes talent, durability, and a whole lotta luck.

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

Game 107: Salvaging a series

Photo Credit: Amy Sancetta, AP (Edited by me)

The Yankees have already clinched their second consecutive losing series, but no one wants to go into tomorrow’s off day with the season’s first four game losing streak. A win today gives everyone, not just the players and coaching staff, some confidence before Boston comes to town for a long weekend. Basically we just need a way to forget about the crap we’ve witnessed over the last few days

Joe made my life easy and already told you what the Yanks have to do to be successful against Shaun Marcum today, so I’ll just refer you to that. Phil Hughes needs to avoid the homerun ball today (duh), something that’s probably not going to be very easy considering Toronto’s swing from the heels philosophy and the general homer happiness of the New Stadium. Just keep ’em in the game Phil, and hope the offense wakes up.

Oh, and how about some resolution to this whole No. 600 business? That would be cool, I’m sick of hearing about it from MSM media types who said now one cares only to talk about it all the damn time. Anyway, here’s your lineup…

Jete, SS
Swish, RF
Tex, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Robbie, 2B
‘Sado, C
Berk, DH
Grandy, CF
Gardy, LF

And on the hill, it’s St. Philip of Hughes.

Game is scheduled to start just after 1pm ET, and you can watch on YES. And remember, it could always be worse.

This date in Yankee history: the Joba edition

Credit: AP Photo, Tony Gutierrez

On this date in 2008, Joba Chamberlain left his start in Texas after 4.2 innings with what the Yankees later termed right shoulder stiffness. Joba would sit out a month before returning to the bullpen in September. Questions about that shoulder injury have hovered around the youngster ever since.

Prior to that injury, Joba had taken the American League by storm. In 113 career innings pitched, he had thrown to a nifty 2.15 ERA (2.52 FIP) with 44 walks and 138 strike outs. Opponents had hit just .214/.291/.294 against him. Since the injury, Joba has thrown 214.2 innings with less than stellar results. He has a 4.78 ERA (but a 4.05 FIP) while allowing 97 walks and striking out 199. His K rate dropped from 10.99 per 9 IP to 8.34, and his walk rate increased from 3.5 per 9 IP to 4.06.

After the shoulder injury, Joba’s stuff seemed diminished. He had been reaching the upper 90s as a starter but couldn’t hit that mark last year as he struggled to adjust to Major League hitters. This year, his velocity has inched back up into the mid-to-upper 90s, but he hasn’t found the consistently dominating approach he enjoyed throughout those first 113 innings.

We’ll never know for sure exactly how much of an impact that shoulder injury had on Joba’s development. Maybe he’s struggled lately because Major League hitters adjusted to his style. Maybe he peaked young. It’s certainly happened to plenty of players. Maybe the back-and-forth from the bullpen hasn’t been the developmental guide he needed. Maybe the injury had absolutely nothing to do with his 2009-2010 results. Whatever the case may be, August 4, 2008 has always stood out in my mind as the night something changed. Joba left the game and hasn’t been the same since.

What to do against Marcum?

(AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

For the second straight day the Yankees will face a pitcher who features a changeup. As Mike noted in the recap, Marcum’s change ranks fifth among major leaguers in pitch type value, and even though we know the stat has its flaws, we also know that Marcum has a very good changeup. I wrote about it after his Opening Day start, and Marcum has continued to use it effectively this year.

It just seems like the Yanks can’t break through on pitchers who feature quality changeups. James Shields on Sunday, and then Romero yesterday, flat dominated the Yanks by making them chase pitches in the dirt. That’s the idea, of course. The changeup, executed properly, might be the most devastating pitch in baseball. The Yanks simply play into it by displaying an inability to lay off it.

Earlier in the season Joe Maddon got some people thinking when he started running same-handed batters out against changeup-heavy pitchers. Mike wrote about it in the context of Mark Teixeira, who had been swinging over nearly every changeup thrown to him at that point. Yet the idea stretches across the entire lineup. A good changeup, the devastating kind that Shields and Romero feature, not only travels slower than a fastball despite using the same arm action, but it also tails. For the most part, a changeup will tail to the pitcher’s throw side. That means that Romero’s changeup would tail away from righties. Since it’s easier to hit a pitch breaking towards you than a pitch breaking away from you, doesn’t that change the platoon situation?

For Maddon it did. When the Rays faced Marcum earlier in the year he stacked his lineup with righties, and even had his switch-hitters bat right-handed. There’s plenty of randomness in baseball, so it’s tough to attribute the Rays’ success that game solely to Maddon’s lineup decision. Still, it’s tough to ignore the 10 hits and seven runs the Rays scored in four innings against Marcum. They had also scored five runs in 8.1 innings against him the time before. His ERA went from 2.59 heading into those two games with the Rays to 3.38 afterward.

Does this mean that Girardi should employ a similar tactic? After last night it might not appear likely. Against Romero he went right-heavy, so why would he change tactics with Marcum? If he really is a numbers guy, as he proclaims, he might have reason. Righties have actually fared a bit better against Romero both this year and during his career. They hit home runs less frequently, but they also strike out less often and walk more often. Stacking the lineup with righties, then, made a degree of sense. It seems to make less with Marcum on the mound.

When looking at his career it looks like Marcum fares worse against opposite-handed hitters, despite his heavy changeup usage. Yet he seems like a different pitcher this year. He’s throwing the changeup a bit more often, 24 percent of the time, but he has also almost completely stopped throwing his slider. After throwing it between 12 and 15 percent of the time from 2006 through 2008 he has thrown it just 3.8 percent of the time this year. That’s the pitch that breaks away from righties. It seems, then, that he might be susceptible to a righty-heavy attack.

I’m not sure Girardi would have Teixeira, Swisher, Posada, and Berkman go up and bat right-handed, but he could mitigate some of Marcum’s threat by leaving, say, Brett Gardner on the bench and giving Kearns another start. Looking at it, that’s the only real substitution they could make. Which is a shame. It does seem like Shaun Marcum is having a bit tougher time against same-handed hitters this year.

Romero drops Yanks, Yanks drop to second place

When things are going well, no one wants to think about the bad times. When things are going poorly, no one can remember the good times. At least that what it seems like. The Yankees won 18 of 24 prior to the losing streak that hit three games on Tuesday, but all that good seems like a distant memory. The at-bats are now more ugly than productive, the pitches often hung, and the frustration apparent. With both the Rays and Red Sox winning, the Yankees are now in second place in the AL East for the first time since June 12th. They’re still five and a half games up in the Wild Card, if you want to look on the bright side.

Who invited him? (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Big Hit: Tex Puts Them Up Early

It’s become a familiar scene. For the third time in the last five games the Yankees have been on the business end of a two run first inning homer, but the caveat is that they’ve lost all three games. Mark Teixeira did the honors tonight following a Derek Jeter leadoff walk and a Nick Swisher line out, crushing a hanging changeup deep into the leftfield stands. I guess that’s really it, there’s not much to add about this homer. Or the offense in general.

If You’re Going To Lose, At Least Lose Efficiently

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Dustin Moseley wasn’t great in this game by any stretch of the imagination, but all things considered he wasn’t terrible. He took the ball into the 8th inning on just 85 pitches, so if nothing else he was efficient. Moseley needed more than 13 pitches in an inning just once, when he used 17 to navigate the three run 4th, and he generated 16 of his 22 outs either on the ground or via the strikeout. That’s straight up Chien-Ming Wangian.

The big problems came with two outs, which seems to be an ongoing theme for the last, I don’t know, two or three years. Four of the five runs charged to Moseley came with (you guessed it) two outs, including all three in the 4th when the Jays had no one on and two away. The two run homer to Travis Snider was actually a pretty decent pitch off the plate, but the young Jay just hooked it into the bullpen. Dude’s rather strong.

I’m not going to get on Moseley for this one, frankly he was way better than I thought he would be. No one expects greatness out of Andy Pettitte‘s replacement, and limiting the other team to five runs in seven-plus innings is usually a winnable game for the Yanks. Usually.


(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Ricky Romero had started against the Yankees twice already this season, once dominating them for eight innings and once getting smack around for eight runs. I expected something in the middle on Tuesday, but instead he turned in his best performance of the season. After the Yanks took the lead on Tex’s first inning homer, Romero retired 26 of the next 27 men he faced, straight through the final out of the game. That one exception was a Marcus Thames infield single to lead off the 5th. Just one of the final seven batters he faced managed to hit the ball out of the infield, so it’s not like the Jays’ ace ran into trouble as his pitch count climbed into the 110’s.

Even though he generated just four swings and misses all night, Romero kept the Yanks off balance by mixing his pitches like a fiend. He threw 56 fastballs, 30 changes, and 26 curveballs with a few sliders added in for good measure, and threw no more than nine pitches in four different innings. There was just nothing the Yankee bats could do, they got shut right down.

The bad news is that Shaun Marcum starts tomorrow, and at 2.89 runs above average per 100 pitches, he’s got the fifth best changeup in baseball. That pitch seems to be the Yanks’ kryptonite this season. They just can’t do anything with it.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)


Forget about hitting his 600th career homer, Alex Rodriguez just needs a hit now. Any kind. He hasn’t picked up a knock since the last game of the Cleveland series, nearly 20 plate appearances go. His OBP is all the way down to .335, the lowest mark in any full season of his career, majors or minors. I’ll take a broken bat blooper tomorrow, please. Just to take the edge off.

Kerry Wood hung something, looked like a cutter, to Aaron Hill, who did what he was supposed to do and put it in the people. Wood then struck out the next two batters to end the 8th inning and has a nice and clean 27.0 K/9 as a Yankee.

Austin Kearns doesn’t get cheated up there, does he? Dude swings with a purpose, that’s for sure.

I’m kinda sick of Frankie Cervelli, what about you? He’s got a sub-.500 OPS since May 23rd and threw a ball into rightfield when he tried to a pick a runner off first with a snap throw in the 5th. If Jorge Posada is only going to be able to catch four out of every seven games going forward, they have to get something more out of their backup catcher, it’s that simple.

The Yanks have lost three in a row for the first time since June 16-18th. That was the Jamie Moyer-Kyle Kendrick-Hisanori Takahashi suckfest, which I’m sure you remember. They haven’t lost four in a row all season.

WPA Graph & Box Score

It started out oh so promising. Here’s the box, here’s the nerd.

Up Next

A three game losing streak in early August isn’t the end of the world, but the natives are getting restless. Phil Hughes will try to get the Yanks back on track tomorrow afternoon when he faces Marcum on a get away day. Thursday’s off day can’t come soon enough.

Sanchez returns, and it’s like he never left

Both Dellin Betances (“With a fastball that is all the way back (94-98 mph) and control that we’ve never seen before, the 22-year-old has whiffed 68 over 57 innings while allowing just 31 hits and walking 15.  Only an ugly track record when it comes to staying healthy prevents him from being labeled with an elite tag.”) and Brandon Laird (“… now considered one of the better offensive prospects in the system.) got some love in Kevin Goldstein’s Minor League Update today (subs. req’d).

Triple-A Scranton (5-3 win over Syracuse)
Kevin Russo, 2B, Eduardo Nunez, SS, Juan Miranda, 1B & Jorge Vazquez, DH: all 1 for 4 – Russo doubled & drove in a run … Nunez doubled … Miranda scored a run … JoVa drove in a run & K’ed
Chad Huffman, LF: 0 for 4, 2 K
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB
Brandon Laird, 3B: 2 for 4, 1 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K – dude’s six for eight with two doubled & two homers in AAA
Greg Golson, CF: 2 for 4, 2 R, 1 3B, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K – got picked off first
Jason Hirsh: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 2-7 GB/FB – 48 of 80 pitches were strikes (60%)
Zach Segovia: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 1-3 GB/FB – 16 of his 28 pitches were strikes (57.1%)
Eric Wordekemper: 1.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1-1 GB/FB – 16 of 25 pitches were strikes (64%)
Royce Ring: 0.2 IP, zeroes, 1 HB, 2-0 GB/FB – just two of his six pitches were strikes … he gets the save with Jon Albaladejo unavailable because he’s pitching in four of the last five games

[Read more…]

Game 106: Keeping pace

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The Yankees fell into a tie for first place in the AL East last night for the first time since June 19th. They haven’t been a full game out of first since June 12th, but that could happen tonight if they don’t beat the Blue Jays and Ricky Romero and Tampa takes care of business against the Twins.

Romero, a changeup specialist (+1.39 runs above average per 100 thrown this year), has a reverse split this season. Lefties are hitting .267/.327/.404 off him, righties just .247/.325/.342, which is what you expect. Changeups are used to neutralize batters of the opposite hand, after all. So, naturally, Joe Girardi blindly loaded tonight’s lineup with righty batters, probably looking no further than what arm Romero throws with when setting the order. Danks Theory, baby. Learn it, love it, use it.

I haven’t complained about the lineup in the while. That felt good, I needed that. Anyway, here’s the order…

Jeter, SS
Swisher, RF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Thames, DH
Kearns, LF
Cervelli, C
Gardner, CF

And on the bump, it’s the immortal Dustin Moseley.

The game starts just after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES. It’s kinda overcast here in the Tri-State, but it’s not supposed to rain or anything. Try to enjoy the game.