Open Thread: Andy Pettitte in potential clinchers

Andy Pettitte is the old man in the rotation, the been there, done that, respect him just because of he is who he is veteran. He wore pinstripes in both good times and bad, and he’s got more than a full season’s worth of postseason experience in that left arm (37 starts, 231 IP career in the playoffs). His reputation as a big game pitcher is a tad exaggerated, but he’s certainly done what the Yankees needed in the past.

In his career, Pettitte’s started eight games when the Yankees had a chance to clinch a series, like they will tomorrow night. Let’s quickly recap those starts:

1996 ALCS Game Five: 8 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
Pettitte was fantastic, and it certainly didn’t hurt that the offense put up a six spot in the third inning. Yanks won the game 6-4, and took the series against Baltimore 4-1.

1997 ALDS Game Five: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
Meh outing, Manny Ramirez’s two-run double followed by a Matt Williams RBI single in the third did him him. Yanks lose the game and the series 4-3 and 3-2, respectively.

1998 World Series Game Four: 7.1 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 K
Pettitte was spectacular against the overmatched Padres, but he wasn’t able to ease up until the team scored a pair of insurance run in the 8th inning. Yanks won the game 3-0, and swept the series.

2000 ALDS Game Five: 3.2 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 4 K
Pettitte kinda crapped the bed in the deciding game five, but luckily for him, Oakland starter Gil Heredia was even worse (six runs, one out). The bullpen held it down for 5+ innings. Yanks won 7-5, and finished Oakland off in the deciding Game Five.

2000 World Series Game Five: 7 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K
Pettitte hurt himself with an error in the third, but otherwise held it down until the Yanks took the lead in the ninth. Good guys won 4-2, and took the series in five.

2001 World Series Game Six: 2 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 1 K
This was the real clunker. After two magical come from behind wins in the Bronx, Pettitte blew up in the potential clincher. He later admitted to tipping his pitches, hence all the damage. Yanks took one on the chin, losing 15-2, and we all know what happened in Game Seven.

2003 World Series Game Six: 7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 K
Andy was good, but Josh Beckett was better.

2009 ALDS Game Three: 6.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
This one was just two weeks ago, so I’m sure you remember it. Pettitte could have gone longer, but was lifted after just 81 pitches. Yanks held on for a 4-1 win, and a trip to the ALCS.

Overall, the Yanks are 5-3 when Pettitte takes the mound in a game where the Yanks could clinch the series. What does this mean for tomorrow? Absolutely nothing. These are just isolated incidents, some over ten years old. All Pettitte has to do tomorrow is what he’s been doing all year: keep the Yanks in the game, and log as many innings as possible.

Update: I missed some games. See this comment for more info.

Anyway, use this as your open thread for the night. There’s literally no local major sports team in action tonight, just the Nets in a meaningless preseason game. There’s also some college football game on, but I don’t remember the teams. You could always come hang out with me at MLBTR. Talk about whatever you want, just make sure you follow the guidelines and be nice.

Yanks meeting with Chapman delayed

Once we found out that Cuban lefty Aroldis Chapman was coming to New York to speak with various GM’s about potential employment, it was only a matter of time before we heard the Yanks were scheduled to meet with him. Well, as ESPN’s Jorge Arangure tweets, the Yanks meeting with the southpaw was pushed back because the ALCS is running a little long. Don’t worry, I’m sure Chapman and his agent will give the filthy stinkin’ rich Yankees every opportunity to bid for his services before making a decision.

If a closer is a team’s best reliever, then why isn’t he used in the highest leverage situations?

If you’re still in the mood to think about baseball and haven’t read Rebecca’s article on leverage, I’d suggest you give it a look. She makes the case that we’ve been making here forever. When the game is on the line, you want your best guy out there. If he then can’t pitch the ninth, well, then that sucks, but if your lesser relievers blow the game then the ninth won’t matter (or, in the case of last night, won’t happen). It’s unorthodox by baseball standards, so it’s just a thought at this point. Managers want to do the safe thing, which is lock down the game at the end. The media might have tarred and feathered Girardi if he used Mo to quell the threat in the 7th and then Robertson blew the save in the ninth (though Rebecca and Ben have a better solution).

Expect this to be a further discussion topic this off-season.

RAB Live Chat

About pinch running for A-Rod last night…

…Dave Cameron at FanGraphs thinks Joe Girardi’s crazy. He says that Girardi took A-Rod “out of a game that could have easily gone to extra innings for something like a one percent improvement in his odds of scoring,” but bases that on raw stolen base numbers (among some other things). A-Rod’s a smart baserunner with good speed despite his hip issue, but Freddy Guzman is way, way faster. He’s Gardner fast. He’d smoke A-Rod in a foot race, and at that point in the game, that’s what it’s all about.

Considering the situation, the focus has to be getting that run across. That’s it, nothing else. There’s already two outs in the ninth, so there’s zero margin of error. There’s no point in worrying about the 10th or 11th or 15th inning when you’re not in a position to get there. If Fast Freddy scores on a Matsui double or a wild pitch when Swisher was up, then no one has a problem with the move. That was one of those rare times in a baseball game when you have to put all your eggs in one basket, and getting that run across is by far the most important thing to do at that point. I can’t believe people are upset about this.

Swisher can still redeem himself

The postseason so far has not agreed with Nick Swisher. He’s just 3 for 29 with three walks, far from the production he posted during the regular season. He started off the ALCS with two hits in two games, but his last hit came in Game 2. Since then he’s 0 for his last 11, including a brutal Game 5 performance. Yet Swisher still has a chance to make everything right.

Just how bad is Swisher hitting right now? In the Yanks breakout seventh inning, he made both the first and last outs. The last one hurt especially. Robinson Cano had just tripled in the go-ahead runs and was standing on third, waiting for Swisher to dunk one into the outfield and extend the lead. Instead, Swisher did what he has done so many times this series: flied out.

In the ninth, down by one, the Yankees mounted a two-out rally, sparked by the Angels’ decision to intentionally walk Alex Rodriguez. Matsui coaxed a free pass, and Cano took a breaking ball between the shoulder blades. That set up Swisher in clutchest of clutch situations: ninth inning, bases loaded, two outs, tying run 90 feet away. Swish didn’t have to hit a home run. With Brett Gardner standing on second base, all he had to do was dunk one into the outfield and the Yankees would have taken the lead. But as he did in the seventh inning, he failed.

Sometimes you just have to chalk it up to the pitcher. Fuentes is the Angels closer, and he had retired the first two hitters of the inning. The Yankees made a valiant effort, but came up short. Yet in this instance, the failure seems to be squarely on Swisher’s shoulders — the pitch was a 91 mph fastball right down the middle. See for yourself (via Brooks):

Swisher is simply off his game. He he been even close to his normal rhythm, he might have parked that pitch and given Mo a three-run lead. Even if he’s not going perfectly, Swisher should be able to line that one into the shallow outfield and give the Yanks a one-run lead. But Swish popped it up, demonstrating exactly how out of rhythm he is right now.

The beauty of the Yanks’ position, though, is that Swisher still has a chance at redemption. If he can put his horrible performances behind him and come up with a big Game 6, all will be forgotten. If he drives in a few runs, or gets on base to set up a big inning, leading to a Yankees win, we’ll put the bad memories in the backs of our minds. Yes, Swish had a chance and failed. But, because the Yankees put themselves in an advantageous position, they still have two more chances. Swisher can be a big part of a potential series win.

That’s why I’m not too down about last night. No one thought the Yankees would blow out the Angels, so to finish the series in five would have been a gift. Now they get another shot, at home, in Game 6, and Swisher gets another shot at redemption. Last night’s loss may have been tough, but there’s still plenty of reasons to believe that the Yankees will finish this out. I just hope Swish is a big part of it.

How were the Yankees assembled?

A new addition to my RSS reader is a blog called The Sports PhD. He brings some interesting ideas to the table, and some of them I’ve already riffed on, like the best worst hitters in the playoffs. Today he goes over how the Philadelphia Phillies were assembled. The obvious next step is to see how the Yankees put together their squad. I’ll do it in the same style as Sports PhD.

1B Mark Teixeira Signed as a Free Agent from Angels 2009
2B Robinson Cano Amateur Free Agent 2001
SS Derek Jeter 1st Round Draft Pick 1992
3B Alex Rodriguez Traded by Rangers 2004
RF Nick Swisher Traded by White Sox 2009
CF Melky Cabrera Amateur Free Agent 2001
LF Johnny Damon Signed as a Free Agent from Red Sox 2005
C Jorge Posada 24th Round Draft Pick 1990
DH Hideki Matsui Signed as Free Agent from Japan 2003
SP CC Sabathia Signed as Free Agent from Brewers 2009
SP A.J. Burnett Signed as Free Agent from Blue Jays 2009
SP Andy Pettitte 22nd Round Draft Pick* 1990
SU Phil Hughes 1st Round Draft Pick 2004
CL Mariano Rivera Amateur Free Agent 1990

*Pettitte was a draft and follow, drafted in 1990 but signed in May of 91.

The Phillies assembled their team with 6 through the draft, 1 Rule 5 player, 1 amateur free agent, 4 trades, and 4 free agency signings. I added a few more players for the Yanks comparison, but they added 4 through the amateur draft, 3 through amateur free agency, 2 via trade, 4 through traditional free agency, and 1 by Japanese free agency. That looks like a good breakdown to me. The Yankees had an advantage in Latin America scouting, and it paid off. That’s the biggest difference between them and the Phillies, who had better amateur drafts — partly because they finished worse than the Yanks in most years.

Hopefully, this won’t be the last Yankees/Phillies comparison we see in the coming weeks.