A belated DotF

Apologies for the tardiness, but loyal reader Andrew Brotherton put together a makeshift DotF of last night’s game for us…

Scranton beats Indy 10-7
Golson 2-3 with a 3 runs, a double and 2 walks with 1 rbi
Nunez 1-6 with 1 rbi
Weber 1-4 with a double and 2 walks with 1 rbi
Montero 3-5 with 2 runs and 1 walk
Gorecki 1-3 with 2 runs, a double, and 2 walks with 2 ks
Cusick 2-4 with 1 run, 1 double, 3 rbis, and 1 walk
Nova got hit around lasting only 2 innings and allowing 5 runs on 5 hits all earned with 2 walks.
Igawa got the win but still allowed 3 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, but 4 strikeouts
Albaladejo got the save with 2 innings allowing 1 hit and striking out 2.
Former Yankees: Anthony Claggett walked 6 in 1 inning, Steven Jackson with 1 k, and Jose Tabata 0-2 with 2 runs, 1 rbi, and 2 walks.

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Late and close, some haven’t delivered

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens (AP)

It’s difficult to come up with too many criticisms of an offense that’s put up a .363 wOBA – best in all of baseball – which is all the more amazing considering the team has seen a number of starters miss significant time due to injury. Unfortunately, as we saw in last night’s game and in Tampa, the team, even with a high-scoring offense, seems to strand runners in critical situations. A team with great on-base skills and featuring some of the top hitters in baseball will see a lot of situations with men in scoring position. Of course, the more opportunities the team has with runners in scoring position, the more often we’ll see them fail. It’s just a numbers game. But considering the talk of how last year’s team “was so clutch”, it might be interesting to see how the players on this year’s roster are doing.

In 2009, the team hit .272/.370/.433 with RISP. They overall hit well with bases occupied, almost regardless of how many outs there were, and .316/.403/.542 in late and close situations also looks great.

In 2010, with runners in scoring position, the team is hitting .279/.380/.458. Hmm…well that overall doesn’t seem to be a problem. Ok, what about 2 outs and RiSP? .286/.381/.418. Again, it’s not that. Well gee whiz, that’s pretty good. What about high-leverage situations? .283/.370/.473. The numbers say the 2010 Yankees are a fairly balanced offensive team. They hit well in tie games, ahead and behind. They hit with bases loaded, they hit well with no outs, kill teams the second and third time through the lineup, hit with RiSP and actually do well in what are considered “high leverage” situations. So maybe this whole notion that the team just isn’t “clutch” without Matsui and Smooth Johnny is frankly, bull crap.

But wait.

Look again and you’ll find the team seems to have issues with runners on second and third and in late and close situations. The team, with men on second and third, are hitting only .184/.353/.237 this year, with Posada, Jeter, A-Rod having hit one run in (via sac fly) combined over 17 plate appearances. And although the team is bashing pitchers in innings 4-6, too many players are dropping like flies in innings 7-9. Derek Jeter, Winn, Swisher and Teixiera have all had varying struggles in those innings. Add the Bullpen Adventures and you see a nasty witches brew in the cauldron.

The second issue is in “late and close” situations, where the team is hitting .223/.315/.392. When we’re in the 7th-9th and it’s close, Swisher, Winn and Teixiera have just killed their team’s chances of coming out ahead. Teix is hitting a paltry .056/.150/.056, Winn checks in at .125/.125/.125 and Swisher is staring at .143/.143/.143. In fact, if not for Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada and Marcus “The river giveth, the river taketh” Thames, the team would be entirely dreadful across the board in such situations.

As we can see, Randy Winn – possibly the most hated Yankee on the roster (high five, Boone!) – has struggled enormously. It seems that every time a key situation is brewing late in the game, he’s up. And the rally is over after he’s late on an average fastball. Well, the numbers seem to bear it out. On the year, Winn is striking out 25% of his at bats but over 30% of his PA’s late in the game.

Nick Swisher is hitting very well in high-leverage situations at .450/.500/.900(!), but isn’t doing so when it’s late and the game is on the line. He’s hitting .238/.304/.310 in innings 7-9 and has struck out in 5 of his 14 late and close PA’s. Jeter, whom I’m sure we’re all hoping is just greatly slumping and not declining as a player, is hitting .180/.212/.300 in innings 7-9 and .222/.263/.444 late and clutch.Teixiera might be the most interesting player to study. His slow starts have been well documented. But this start in particular is fairly awful and he just hasn’t been there when called upon. Your #4 hitter can only be so futile for so long in those spots before it costs the team ball games.

Luckily, possibly other than Winn, the talent level suggests these players will certainly be hitting well in no time. There’s no magic “clutch” concoction we can give these players. As they compile more plate appearances in such situations, they’ll start to produce. The 2009 team wasn’t some amazing mix of heart, guts and clutch-itity that separated them from all teams before and after them. They hit well enough to be called “the comeback kids” and had some good fortune (which some might call an anomaly). That’s it. Less than 20 plate appearances (in some cases) is by no means a good number by which we should judge a player’s aptitude in any given situation. All this says is that thus far, the team has had some players slumping at the most inopportune of times. It happens to every team. As we move closer to the dog days of summer, we should expect some of those numbers to improve. And for a team currently featuring a number of AAA players and bench players in their starting lineup due to injury, that’s a scary spot for the rest of the league.

Bleich likely headed for shoulder surgery

Via Tim Bontemps, Double-A lefthander Jeremy Bleich is likely headed for shoulder surgery after being placed on the disabled list a few days ago. “I don’t know,” said farm director Mark Newman, who was downcast when delivering the news. “We’re getting some information back from the doctors … he had more tests (yesterday).” Bleich, the team’s 7th best prospect coming into the season, has dealt with elbow injuries in the past, but this is his first shoulder issue.

The Stanford alum was the team’s highest signed draft pick in 2008, but he’s struggled mightily since being promoted to Double-A Trenton last season. He had a 26-28 K/BB ratio in 41.1 IP this season, though he did allow fewer than a hit per inning.

Vazquez strong again as Yanks take game one of 2010 Subway Series 2-1

Coming off three straight losses to division rivals, the Yankees needed to get out of the Bronx just to get the awful taste out of their mouths and get a fresh start. Luckily they didn’t have to go that far, just a few extra miles to play their little brother in Queens. Javy Vazquez was making his first start in nine days, but if anything, it looks like the extra rest agrees with the guy who, oddly, has been the team’s best pitcher the last two times through the rotation.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

The Rookie Gets It Done

With players dropping left and right due to a variety of sometimes comical injuries, the Yankees have had to use their bench a little more this month than they would have liked. Today’s hero was making his first big league start, at a position he’s played a grand total of seven times before, no less. Such is life when dealing with the wrath of the injury gods.

"Ruuuuuuuusso." Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Kevin Russo, a 20th round pick in 2006, picked up his first big league hit in his first plate appearance of the night, a legit single to center. With that milestone out of the way, Russo went ahead and got his first career ten pitch at-bat out of the way his next time up, and moved on to the runs batted in his third at-bat. With the game still scoreless in the 7th inning, the Yanks had a rally brewing after a leadoff walk and a classic Mets’ self-destruct error. Men were on second and third with no outs, so all the rookie had to do was slap a ball to the right side to get the job done. Even if he made an out, it was all good. The Yanks would take the lead.

An out wasn’t acceptable to Russo, who jumped all over an 83 mph slider from hey-look-he’s-still-in-the-league Elmer Dessens and sent the ball deep into the rightfield corner. Both runs scored with ease, and Russo trotted into second with his first career double, first career RBIs, and first career game-winning hit. Not a bad day, not a bad day at all.

You Jav To Be Kidding Me

Some things in life just aren’t fair. Given how poorly the season started for Javy Vazquez, you couldn’t help but feel good for the guy after his strong start in Detroit and big time relief appearance on Monday. He was returning to his National League roots tonight, so things were in his favor right from the get go, and he took advantage.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Even though his velocity sat in the high-80’s for most of the night, Vazquez cruised into the 4th inning having allowed just one baserunner, a 6 pitch walk to Alex Cora. Walking the worst non-pitcher hitter in the other team’s lineup is pretty inexcusable, so of course Javy walked him again (on four pitches!) to lead off the 4th. However, he managed to escape the inning on a pair of fly outs and a caught stealing, which was a common theme on the night. Javy was getting easy outs, nothing too difficult for the fielders, nothing that hard hit, it was all going according to plan.

The Mets didn’t pick up their first hit until there was one out in the 5th, and Vazquez pitched right around that baserunner and cruised through six innings of work on 70 stress-free pitches. It was a complete game pace, which was something the Yankees would have welcomed with open arms. Unfortunately Vazquez never got a chance to complete the game, or even start the 7th inning because he suffered a bruised right index finger laying down a sacrifice bunt in top of the frame. Thankfully, x-rays were negative, though his next start is in question until further notice.

It’s just par for the course these days.

Squandered Opportunities

The Yanks have developed a bad habit of not capitalizing on scoring opportunities, and that trend continued tonight. Frankie Cervelli led off the 3rd with a hard fought walk after falling behind 0-2, and Russo followed with a single. Vazquez bunted Russo over (Cervelli went first to third on the single), giving Derek Jeter a chance to drive in a run even by making an out. Instead, the Cap’n took three strikes (out of five total pitches) to gift Mets’ starter Hisanori Takahashi the second out of the inning, and Brett Gardner wrapped up the frame with a relatively weak ground out to third. Leaving men in scoring position would soon become the theme of the night.

With runners on first and third with one out in the very next inning, Nick Swisher swung and missed at three junk balls in a five pitch at-bat when a moderately deep fly ball would have given the Yanks a lead. The speed on those three pitches he swung through: 80, 70, and 79. Just brutal, he was out in front of everything. The inning ended one batter later when Cervelli flied out harmlessly to center.

Fast forward to the 6th, when Alex Rodriguez started a late rally by doubling to right with two outs. It was a pure hustle double given Jeff Francoeur’s strong arm. I guess you could say he needed all four legs to beat it out. Robbie Cano fought valiantly to work the count full, but he swung through an 80 mph somethingball (Gameday says it was a sinker, but whatevs) to end the frame.

The Yankees lineup is far too good to keep squandering these opportunities, but it’s definitely cost them over the last week, and it wasn’t far from costing them again tonight.

Things That Were Good

How about that Joba Chamberlain character? After a pair of dreadful outings, he came out and grunted and farted his way to a pair of huge strikeouts to end a 7th inning threat, then he came out to work a completely uneventful 8th inning. Five batters faced, three strikeouts, one ground out, and one lazy fly. Just like Joe Girardi drew it up.

Russo and Vazquez saw 18 pitches combined in the 5th inning. Even though they both made outs, what more could you ask for from your 8-9 hitters? All told, Vazquez had three productive at-bats (for a pitcher) when you add in the two sacrifice bunts.

Just because it needs to be mentioned: Russo is the sixth player from the Yanks’ 2006 draft class to make it to the big leagues. That’s an unreal number just four years out. Zach McAllister and Colin Curtis are right on the doorstep as well.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

How about Cervelli throwing Cora out at second from his knees to end the 4th? From his knees!

Things That Were Bad

Gardner squaring around to bunt with Jeter on first base in the 1st (!!!) inning. That’s just terrible. Just because you’re in an NL park doesn’t mean you have to play an NL style.

Two walks to Cora? Two?! C’mon Javy, you’re better than that.

This was my first time at CitiField ever, and it seems like balls hit to the outfield just die here. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be to play 81 games in this place.

WPA Graph & Box Score

MLB.com has the old school box score, FanGraphs the new school funny acronyms.

Up Next

Same two teams tomorrow night in a rare Saturday night game. FOX will have the prime time broadcast, and Joe will be in the press box to bring you everything your heart desires. Phil Hughes vs. Mike Pelfrey in a battle of former first round picks.

Postgame Notes: “Really not that bad.”

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

When Javy Vazquez left tonight’s start after taking a pitch to his right index finger, the first thing everyone thought was “here we go again.” It seems like every time the Yankeess play a game these days, someone goes down with injury. X-rays were negative on Javy’s bruised digit, and the good news is that the ball missed his nail. Just got the meat.

“Really not that bad,” said tonight’s winning pitcher when asked about the pain, in fact he joked that he didn’t even realize he had been hit until after running down to first. Vazquez didn’t know he was bleeding until he got back to the dugout and took his batting gloves off, at which point he basically said to himself “oh man, this is bad.” Joe Girardi couldn’t offer any more info beyond what we already know, but he did say they’ll know more by Sunday. Javy did some tests gripping a baseball, and said everything went fine. He still has to see how he feels in a few days, and how it feels actually throwing a baseball in his upcoming side work.

Vazquez will have an extra day of rest before his next start because of Monday’s off day, so it’s entirely possible he’ll make his next scheduled start against the Twins next Thursday. That would be pretty awesome.

  • Javy said his command is getting better, especially with his fastball. He seems like a very cool guy, he joked about being embarrassed by the injury because he’s been bunting in the NL so long. Said that’s never happened to him before.
  • The Yankees left eight men on base, but Girardi isn’t concerned that players are pressing. He praised Mets’ starter Hisanori Takahashi for getting strikeouts when he needed them, particularly Derek Jeter in the 3rd and Nick Swisher in the 4th.
  • Girardi also isn’t concerned about Mariano Rivera, who’s been hit unusually hard in his last three outings. “He usually has pinpoint control,” he said, “but it hasn’t been pinpoint the last few times. ” I don’t know if the fans are panicking, but no one in the clubhouse is.
  • “Big night.” That’s pretty much all Girardi – or anyone – had to say about Kevin Russo. Making his first big league start, Russo went 2-for-3 and saw 14 total pitches, driving in the team’s only two runs. I’d bet on him playing again tomorrow.

And finally, for any Mets’ fans out there, Jerry Manuel said Ike Davis didn’t hurt himself rounding second on his 9th inning double. He just missed the bag and had to go back to touch up. Mets baseball, ladies and gentlemen.

Update: Forgot to mention this above, but the pitch Javy suffered the injury on was not the deciding pitch of his at-bat. It was the foul immediately before that.

Vazquez leaves with bruised finger, x-rays negative

Update (10:14pm): X-rays negative. And exhale.

9:52pmIt’s a bruised right index finger for Vazquez, and he’s being taken for x-rays.

9:31pm: After six innings of one hit, no run ball, Javy Vazquez left tonight’s game with an apparent finger injury. Looks like he might have gotten clipped with the ball while laying down a sac bunt in the bottom of the 6th. He had only thrown 70 pitches up to that point. I’ll update this post with more info once it’s available.

Game 42: On the road, but not really

"And that's when I was like 'easy lady, 40 is too young for me." (Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP)

History is being made tonight, folks. For the first time in the history of the universe, River Ave. Blues is covering a game as a credentialed member of the media. We had to travel to lovely Flushing, NY to make it happen, but that’s a small price to pay. In case you missed it, here’s my pregame notes with a big Curtis Granderson update.

As for tonight’s game, well the Yankees can really use a win, regardless of who it comes against. This weekend will get an undue amount of hype as a big series, but the Mets are in last place in their division and have lost nine of their last 12 games. At least someone’s been worst than the Yankees recently. Javy Vazquez is making his first start since shutting down Detroit more than a week ago, but Mets’ starter Hisanori Takahashi is making his first start in the United States. It seems like no matter how bad things go for the Yanks, it’s just a little worse for the Mets.

Here’s tonight’s lineup…

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

And on the mound, Javy Vazquez.

First pitch of the 2010 edition of The Subway Series is scheduled to be thrown at 7:05pm ET, and you’ll be able to watch on either YES or SNY. I totally cut in front of Gary Cohen on the line to get a drink in the media lounge earlier. Anyway, enjoy the game.