Open Thread: A little vacation

Ashlie Christian, an Army captain based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and her mother, Debbie Christian of Payette, Idaho, watch 3-D highlights of Saturday's game before a baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Seattle Mariners in Seattle on Sunday, July 11, 2010. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)

Did anyone out there actually watch either of the last two games in 3-D? If so, how was it? The beat writers all loved it, but I’m curious to hear more.

Anyway, the Yankees wrapped up the pre-All Star break portion of their schedule at 56-32 today, owners of the best record and best run differential in all the land. Through 88 games last year, the Yanks were 51-37, three games back in the division. The bullpen’s generally a mess, the bench stinks, and the offense has yet to fire on all cylinders, but damn is this team good.

Use this as your open thread. The Futures Game is still being played, and you can talk about that in our Futures Game thread. The ESPN Sunday Night Game features the Cubs at the Dodgers (Carlos Silva vs. Vicente Padilla), but talk about whatever you want.

Game Thread: 2010 Futures Game

Perhaps my favorite part of the All Star Break is the Futures Game, which pits a collections of baseball’s best prospect against each other. Austin Romine and Hector Noesi are representing the Yankees, a year after Jesus Montero and Manny Banuelos did the honors. Keith Law rated Romine as the 15th best prospect selected to the game (Insider req’d), though Noesi comes in towards the back of the pack. Neither player is starting the game (lineups), but don’t worry, they’ll definitely get in at some point.

ESPN2 will broadcast the game, which begins at 6pm ET. Enjoy.

Game 88: Last one before the break

Photo Credit: Paul Sancya, AP

For the second straight year, the Yankees get to enjoy an extra day off during the break, not having to come back until Friday. The extra day will be hell on fans, but for a team sending nine players to the All Star Game with a few 30-something’s in the rotation and some nagging injuries, the extra time off is more than welcome.

CC Sabathia has a chance to send them into the break on a high note, hopefully erasing yesterday’s frustrating loss and giving the team eight wins in their last nine games. Sabathia is a cool 7-0 in his last seven starts, holding opponents to a .199/.273/.253 batting line against. He’s completed at least seven innings in each of those starts. With any luck, he’ll hand the ball right off the Mariano Rivera today.

Here’s the lineup that’ll face Ryan Rowland-Smith…

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

And on the mound, Big Stoppa, CC Sabathia.

Hooray for no more 10pm ET starts. This one will get underway at 4:10pm ET and can be seen on YES. There’s also a 3-D broadcast available if you have the proper setup. Enjoy the game.

Sherman: Pondering Jeter’s second half

Now that Derek Jeter is only a half a season away from free agency and hitting just .275/.342/.392 on the year, the issue of his impending contract situation is starting to become more urgent. While Jeter isn’t playing up to the lofty standards he has set for himself, he’s not doing anything worse than most other 36-year-old short stops, but the Yankees have publicly stated that they will “take care of him” come November. Today, Joel Sherman opines on Derek’s situation and notes that the Yanks have so far been justified when they decided not to extend Jeter after the 2009 season. “At this point,” Sherman asks, “if his name were not Derek Jeter, who would even give him a one-year, $10 million contract when this sure looks like late-30s decline?”

Right now, Jeter’s production puts him in line with a Marco Scutaro-type player, worth around $7-$8 million a season, and the Yankees’ front office clearly recognizes that Jeter won’t get better as he climbs through his late 30s. We’ll have more on the Captain over the next few weeks, but Jeter’s role on the team both this year and into the future is, as Sherman wrote today, one of the more pressing issues facing the Yanks as they begin their drive toward October.

Bob Sheppard passes away at 99

Bob Reads a Poem

Bob Sheppard made his final Yankee Stadium appearance during the closing ceremonies for the old stadium in September 2008. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

Updated by Ben (11:50 a.m.): Yankees public address announcer for over 50 years, Bob Sheppard, has passed away at his home in Baldwin, NY, the Associated Press reported this morning. Dubbed “The Voice of God” by Reggie Jackson, Sheppard annouced over 4,500 games, including 22 World Series. Long known for his introductions to the stadium (“Good Evening…ladies and gentlemen…and welcome to Yankee Stadium”), the national anthem and Yankee captain Derek Jeter, Sheppard would have been 100 this October. He’s been battling illness since 2008 and officially announced his retirement in November. In addition to his storied career as the Yankees’ public address announcer, Sheppard was a noted poet and spent many years announcer New York Giants’ games at the Meadowlands.

“The Yankees and Bob Sheppard were a marriage made in heaven,” Paul Sheppard, the PA announcer’s 71 year old son said to The Times’ Richard Goldstein. “I know St. Peter will now recruit him. If you’re lucky enough to go to heaven, you’ll be greeted by a voice, saying, ‘Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to heaven!’ ”

For many Yankee fans of a certain age, Sheppard was the only constant at Yankee Stadium. Through thick and thin, through ownership groups, last place finishes and World Series championships, Sheppard was always there. He began his Bronx career in 1951 when Joe DiMaggio still patrolled center field and a young kid from Oklahoma named Mickey Mantle made his Major League debut. He worked nearly every game until September of 2007 when he was sidelined with a bout bronchial infection that left his seriously weakened.

Sheppard never returned to Yankee Stadium after 2007, but his presence has been felt at Yankee Stadium, new and old. He appeared in a video greeting during the old stadium’s last hurrah in September of 2008, and Derek Jeter still comes to bat to a pre-recorded Sheppard announcement of his “Numbah 2, Derek Jetah.” He never made it to the new Yankee Stadium.

In 2000, the Yankees honored Sheppard with his own day at the stadium and his own plaque in Monument Park. Famed newscaster Walter Cronkite read the inscription: “The voice of Yankee Stadium. For half a century, he has welcomed generations of fans with his trademark greeting, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Yankee Stadium.'”

Sheppard also called New York Giants games from 1956 through 2006 and lent his voice to the basketball and football teams at St. John’s University, where he was a speech professor, as well. He passed away at 99, just three months shy of the century mark, and will forever be remembered as the Voice of the Yankees.

For more on Sheppard, be sure to read Marty Noble’s piece on Click through to see a video tribute to the great announcer from Bob Sheppard Day in 2000. [Read more…]

Joba and the unresolved 8th

(Photo Credit: LM Ortera/AP)

Last night’s game was absolutely heartbreaking when you forget that realistically, few thought the team would pull out a win with the quality of bottom of the order and opposing pitcher, Felix Hernandez, being, well, Felix Hernandez. By now, those who have stood by Joba despite his inconsistency are likely starting to question their commitment. If anything, the game may have crystalized some of the issues we’d seen with Joba Chamberlain this year.

After the game — in which Joba gave up a grand slam to steal Javy’s outdeuling of King Felix — Girardi said he’d continue to stick with Joba. “As we go forward, I would like to have an 8th-inning guy…I’d like to stay with one guy. I’m going to send him back out there,” he told reporters. He also said that Joba’s been “largely good” when they’ve had leads and he’s still re-adjusting to the 8th inning role.

In reality, some of what Joe said is true — he has been largely good (no, really) all things considered, but when he’s been bad, he’s been Ramiro Pena-in-an-0-2-count-against-Strasburg bad. But unfortunately for Joe and the rest of the team, the excuses aren’t really assuaging anyone’s fears. He’s still blowing up in too many games and he’s the primary reason the bullpen is one of the team’s biggest question marks. For an “8th inning guy,” consistency must be greater.

The starter-turned-reliever-turned starter-turned reliever has had some very impressive peripherals on the year and yet they haven’t turned into positive results. Chamberlain, prior to last night’s game, had a K/9 of 9.91, a BB/9 of 3.22, a microscopic HR rate (which will certainly go up), a festive 2.68 tERA and an FIP of 2.35. Yet somehow he also featured an ERA of 4.95 and a BABip of .378, far higher than anything he’s thrown up in his career. So what could possibly explain the drastic divide in what we know statistically should happen, and what has happened?

Undoubtedly, as the BABip and other peripherals indicate, Joba has had quite a bit of pure bad luck. The reason the results have manifested to such proportions, I suspect, is largely what’s happened after the poor luck. In all, there are ten appearances (not including the most recent game with Seattle) in which he’s given up runs. Maybe he just can’t handle the pressure after never quite regaining that plus-plus-plus stuff he had in 2007?

A quick look at those appearances:

  • Joba enters April 4th game against Sox. Starts with a weak groundout to third then gives up seeing-eye single, walk and a deep flyball and then a game-killing single to RF. Leverage Index was .79 (1.0 is considered high leverage).
  • April 11th against Rays, Chamberlain enters and gives up a sharp single then a triple. He settles down then issues a walk before getting a flyball out. Leverage index was again .79
  • Later in April, against the Angels, Joba enters and gives up a LD single then a home run and then recovers to retire three in a row on flyballs. Leverage index was .95
  • In mid-May, against the Twins, Joba had a wild time. He gave up a cheap single to start, then came back with a groundout, a walk, a strikeout, a single, another walk and finally, a home run. Leverage index was 2.47
  • The next game was against the Sox. Chamberlain saw runners reach on grounball single and an error before getting clobbered with doubles and singles. Leverage is 1.90
  • To close out May, in the infamous Cleveland game, Joba watched a seeing-eye single get through. Then was singled and doubled to death. Miserable. Leverage was 1.99. The previous low point of the season.
  • Sandwiched between some nice outings against Baltimore and Houston was a rough spot against the Jays. He threw 6 pitches; Jose Molina hits a double, Fred Lewis hits a GB single, scoring Molina (!) from 2nd. Leverage was 2.79
  • Squaring off against the Phillies, Chamberlain gave up doubles, singles, walks, steals — it was bad from beginning to end. Leverage was .25
  • Against the Bigelow Torre Tea’s in L.A., Chamberlain started off with a walk, got a double play, then saw a single, a stolen base and a double to allow the run to score. Only Torre’s remarkable incompetance saved him from being the goat again. Leverage was .14
  • Last week against Toronto was the previous mishap with Chamberlain. He gave up a scary out in LF (Gardner made a great catch), then saw a walk, a flyout and two singles. He was actually worse than his line looks. Leverage was 2.76

[Read more…]

Joba’s meltdown ends Yanks’ winning streak

With a nice three game cushion in the AL East and seven consecutive wins in their rear view mirror, the Yankees started Saturday’s game with every reason to feel good about themselves. Through seven innings, they still had every reason to feel good about themselves, but a meltdown 8th inning ended the winning streak, shrunk the division lead to two, and once again led to the question: Who, exactly, can be counted on in the bullpen behind Mariano Rivera?

Photo Credit: John Froschauer, AP

The Definition Of Insanity

Do you know what the definition of insanity is? It’s doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That’s where the Yankees and Joe Girardi are with Joba Chamberlain now. They just keep running him out of there in high leverage spots and expect him to all of a sudden stop sucking. Joba blew the game with an 8th inning appearance I don’t particularly care to recap (single, ground out, single, walk, grand slam), but it’s just the latest example of a guy keeping his job on three-year-old credentials.

I don’t know where the Yankees go from here, but any normal reliever with an 8.71 ERA and a -0.686 WPA since mid-May gets a bus ticket to Scranton. At the very least, he gets moved into a lesser role. The insanity must end.

What Does He Jav To Do To Get Some Run Support?

Photo Credit: John Froschauer, AP

In what has become an all to familiar theme, the Yanks scored basically no runs for Javy Vazquez. Yes, they were facing a great starter in Felix Hernandez, but the guy came into the game with a 3.01 ERA. Even if he threw a complete game, they were entitled to three runs. Yes, I’m kidding. Or am I…

It looked like they’d push some runs across early, with three of the first five batters reaching base, but the only run the Yanks would score came on a Nick Swisher solo shot in the 3rd. Javy has a 2.88 ERA in his last 11 starts, but the Yanks have lost five of those games. In the five losses, including tonight, they’ve scored a total of three runs. In three of the six wins, they scored three runs or fewer. The man should sue for unpaid run support.

In all seriousness though, Javy was pretty damn fantastic tonight. He took a no-hitter into the 6th, worked out of a big-time jam in the 7th, and gave the team every opportunity to win. I know it’s not easy to score runs off Felix, but the Yanks went one-for-eight with men in scoring position, and the one didn’t even score a run. As crazy as this would have sounded in April, Vazquez is the team’s second best starter at this point in time. Sorry, Andy Pettitte lovers.

Photo Credit: John Froschauer, AP

Random Points

Brett Gardner was caught stealing in the 1st for the  fifth time in his last 13 attempts dating back to May 19th. A 61.5% success rate just isn’t good enough for a guy who’s primary role on the team is to cause chaos on the bases.

Robbie Cano foul tipped a pitch into the dirt in the 8th inning, but home plate ump Lance Barksdale instead said he whiffed completely and called it strike three. That was an inning after Barksdale lost track of the count and gave Vazquez an extra ball to work with. Robot umps, they can’t come soon enough.

Unsurprisingly, the bottom third of the order (before Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada pinch hit in the 9th) combined to reach base zero times in ten plate appearances. They also left seven men on base. Throwing Colin Curtis, Frankie Cervelli, and Ramiro Pena out there against Felix Hernandez is like tying someone to a tree in the woods and pouring honey on their chest. The bear ate them alive.

Also, there needs to be less Cervelli in the team’s future. He’s flirting with a .500 OPS over the last two months and he’s clearly not all he’s made out to be on defense. I miss Jose Molina. Seriously.

And sheesh, could Gardner take the bat off his shoulders in the 9th? It’s his fifth time up against Felix, you’d think he’d know the strike zone and his stuff by then. If you’re going to strike out to end the game, at least swing the damn bat.

WPA Graph & Box Score

Here’s the box, here’s the rest.

Up Next

As infuriating as Saturday’s loss was, the Yanks still have a chance to take three of four from Seattle tomorrow. They’ll throw ace CC Sabathia against Ryan-Rowland Smith, who they beat just two weeks ago.