Run boys, run

Over the offseason the Red Sox and the Yankees both pursued Russell Martin. The Yankees were all-in, promising Martin the ability to catch as a starter and offering him $4M. The Sox were far more tentative. Fearful of his injury history, the Sox medical staff declared Martin unsignable (h/t JamalGr) and  the Sox never offered him more than a minor league deal. Martin chose New York and now plays Call of Duty with pal A.J. Burnettgets his nails done in Westchester nail salons, and hits a healthy .256/.356/.510 with seven home runs. The Red Sox, on the other hand, are stuck with Salty and Tek.

Salty and Tek have been terrible in 2011, there’s just no way around it. Varitek is currently hitting a robust .154/.241/.212 in 59 plate appearances this year, while Saltalamacchia stands at .203/.250/.266 in 84 plate appearances. The two have combined for zero home runs. Better (or worse) yet, neither of them are a Yadier Molina or a Matt Wieters behind the plate. They both have trouble with preventing the run game. This is something the Yankees took advantage of last night, and it’s something they should continue to exploit this weekend and throughout the rest of the season.

According to Matt Klaassen’s catcher defense rankings, Jason Varitek’s catcher defense has been -0.3 runs below average. Varitek actually grades out fairly well across the board this year, registering positive value in fielding errors, throwing errors and passed balls and wild pitches. However, he received a low mark in the Caught Stealing category. In other words, Klaassen’s system grades Varitek well except when it comes to throwing out would-be base-stealers. Overall, Jarrod Saltalamacchia is far worse, coming in at -1.4 runs below average. Unlike Varitek, Salty scores poorly in the passed ball and wild pitches category. Like Varitek, though, he grades out poorly in the Caught Stealing category, scoring -1.2 runs below average. It’s not as bad as A.J. Pierzynski or Ryan Hanigan, but it’s close. Salty is easy to run on, and this says nothing of his frequent cases of the yips.

Catcher defense is notoriously difficult to quantify and rank. For this reason it’s often wise to listen to personal observation and anecdotal information. A perfect example of this came with Varitek earlier this week against the Blue Jays. Varitek was brought in as a defensive replacement for Salty, and with the game tied in the 10th inning Rajai Davis singled off Matt Albers. At that point the Red Sox correctly anticipated a steal and guessed right with a pitch out. Varitek received the pitchout and was poised to nail Davis, but couldn’t get the ball to Iglesias on the fly, bouncing it well short of the bag and allowing Davis to slide in safely. Davis subsequently swiped third base, David Cooper brought him home with a walk-off sacrifice fly shortly thereafter, and there was great rejoicing. You can read more about the sequence over at Red Sox Beacon, complete with plenty of screencaps showing that a good throw would have nailed Davis and ended the threat.

Saltalamacchia’s arm was on display last night in the eighth inning. The Yankees down 5-3 with one out and Daniel Bard on the mound, and Rodriguez and Cano executed a perfectly timed double steal, putting themselves in scoring position for Swisher and Posada. Swisher and Posada, of course, couldn’t take advantage, but it was clear that the Yankees recognized a tactical advantage and decided to take it.

And that’s really what this is all about. Spending a lot of money, as the Red Sox have, doesn’t guarantee you a weakness-free roster. It’s very difficult to build quality depth. It’s very difficult to acquire great players. Theo Epstein built a really good baseball club this offseason, maybe the best of his entire tenure as Red Sox GM. Sure, he may have whiffed on Russell Martin, but no GM has a perfect track record and Epstein at least has the cover of deferring to the medical staff. All of that aside: weakness is weakness. One area in which the Red Sox are weak is in preventing the running game. The Yankees aren’t built for speed, but they have plenty of guys who can swipe a bag against a weak arm. If last night was any indication, they may try to exploit this weakness whenever advantageous.

Girardi called team meeting after last night’s game

Buried in the middle of this predictable “the Yankees didn’t bury the Red Sox when they had the chance!” column by Joel Sherman is this little nugget: Joe Girardi called a team meeting after last night’s game. Not just the players either, the coaches as well. The message: cut the crap and stop playing so sloppily. Team meetings sound nice to us fans, because at least it looks like they’re trying to do something, but I highly doubt this alone will end this ugly slump. Better than nothing though.

The Slade Heathcott Brawl

Yeah, that doesn’t look so good. I figure the catcher had to have said something to him, maybe about yesterday’s article. Stuff like that about a first round pick gets around pretty quickly. Not making excuses for him, because that is total garbage right there and has no place in the game. Heathcott’s going to be suspended for a while, I just have no idea how long. My money’s on 5-10 games.

Yankees fall to Red Sox, drop third straight

There’s just not much to be happy about in Yankeeland right now. They lost yet another frustrating game full of sloppy play and a limp offensive attack that started rallies but just didn’t finish them. There’s really not much more to say than that, that’s been the script for close to two weeks now.

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Off The Hook

Nine. Nine of the Yankees’ 39 batters had a three ball count tonight. Do you know how many reached base? Three. Nick Swisher and Alex Rodriguez drew walks, and Derek Jeter reached when Kevin Youkilis booted a rather routine ground ball. So really it should have been just the two walks and seven outs. Coming into today, American League batters have reached base in 56.2% of the plate appearances in which they had a three ball count. Furthermore, the Yankees had four 3-0 counts and got on base exactly zero times. AL batters have a .956 .737 OBP (!!!) in 3-0 counts this year. Clay Buchholz threw a first pitch strike to three (!!!) of the first dozen men he faced, and just two reached base (including Jeter on the error).

Seriously, no one can say the Yankees didn’t have their chances on Friday. They had another crappy game with men in scoring position (1-for-7), and they left the tying run on base in each of the last two innings. They also stranded the go-ahead run in scoring position in the fifth, but that was still kinda early. The offense has been in a funk for what, two full weeks now? It’s frustrating beyond belief, especially when it comes to all those runners left on base. I mean, Buchholz got 17 swings-and-misses out of 110 pitches, which is ridiculous, but he keep falling behind in the count and the Yankees just didn’t make him pay.

Big Bad Bartolo

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Bartolo Colon made one terrible pitch tonight, that’s really it. A fastball that was supposed to be down-and-in to Adrian Gonzalez sailed over the plate belt high before sailing deep into the second deck in right field. That happens, I’m not going to lose any sleep over a solo homer in the fourth inning. The next batter, Kevin Youkilis, reached base on a wild pitch after striking out, then David Ortiz drew a walk. J.D. Drew reached on a fielder’s choice after the out was made at second on an infield grounder. Another walk and an RBI ground out later, and bam, Boston was up two-zip.

Two runs in six innings is what you’d take out of Colon every day of the week, but why he was sent back out to start the seventh is beyond me. He was already at 100 pitches on a nose, the most pitches he’s thrown in a game in almost exactly three years (June 1st, 2008 was the last time he eclipsed the century mark), and then a single scooted beyond Robinson Cano to leadoff the inning. It wasn’t exactly a banner night for Cano with the glove either, there were a few of those singles just beyond his reach that looked like outs off the bat. But anyway, in comes Joba Chamberlain, a double play is muffed (by Cano, who botched the transfer), then a sac fly and homer lead to a three-run deficit.

Pure garbage. If you’re willing to bring Joba into the game that inning, bring him in with a clean slate to start the frame. The Yankees aren’t getting brownie points by squeezing another out or two our of Colon. The defense was pretty awful yet again, though give Bartolo credit for six good innings. That’s a performance that usually leads to a win.

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)


Russell Martin hit a homer, so hooray for that. Curtis Granderson tripled to dead center, Swisher doubled to the opposite field, and A-Rod and Cano pulled off a gorgeous (and huge given the situation) double steal in the eight. That’s pretty much it for the good news, so let’s just leave it at that.

Bah, the Yankees suck right now. They’ve lost three in row, four of the last six, and seven of the last time. Since April 25th (an admittedly arbitrary endpoint), they’re just 8-10. Every team goes through slumps and what not, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be angry about it. If they’re running into bad luck and stuff, then fine. But fundamental mistakes and poor hitting when ahead in the count, I’m sorry, that’s on them. They need to play better.

WPA Graph & Box Score has the box score and the video highlights, FanGraphs the nerdy score.

Up Next

Same two teams tomorrow night in the rare Saturday night game at home. Blame FOX, who will broadcast the game. CC Sabathia toes the rubber against Josh Beckett.

Prospects Gone Wild: Montero, Slade ejected

Double-A Trenton manager Tony Franklin is resting comfortably at home after being taken to the hospital with chest pains prior to yesterday’s game. He was in critical care for a while, but doctors eventually game him a clean bill of health. He’s going to take a few days off an rejoin the team shortly. Glad he’s doing well, Franklin’s beloved by pretty much everyone.

In much happier news, Carlos Silva was added to the Trenton roster and will start tomorrow as he tries to get back into the big leagues.

Triple-A Scranton (2-1 win over Pawtucket)
Chris Dickerson, CF: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 3 K – 11 K in his last 20 at-bats
Kevin Russo, 2B: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 SB, 1 HBP
Jesus Montero, C: 0 for 1, 1 BB, 1 K – got ejected after arguing a called strike three, apparently he put his hand up to his collar to show the ump where the pitch was … good way to get tossed right there
Gus Molina, C: 0 for 2, 1 K
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 1 for 1, 2 RBI, 1 BB
Justin Maxwell, DH: 0 for 4, 3 K
Brandon Laird, 3B, Jordan Parraz, RF, Dan Brewer, LF & Doug Bernier, SS: all 0 for 3 – Parraz and Brewer each whiffed
Lance Pendleton, RHP: 3 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1 HB, 2-2 GB/FB – 39 of 50 pitches were strikes (78%) … Hector Noesi was supposed to start tonight, but Pendleton’s a fine fill-in
Ryan Pope, RHP: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 2-2 GB/FB – 26 of 33 pitches were strikes (78.8%) … very nice outing, he should be up before long
Eric Wordekemper, RHP: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER0 BB, 1 K, 4-1 GB/FB – 11 of 15 pitches were strikes (73.3%)
Kevin Whelan, RHP: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1-1 GB/FB – ten of 11 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Game 36: Put it on the left side*

Crush them, Bart. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Yankees, Red Sox, rivalry, blah blah blah just win dammit. Here’s the lineup…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Jorge Posada, DH
Russell Martin, C
Brett Gardner, LF

Bartolo Colon, SP

Yankees-Red Sox means national coverage, so you can watch tonight’s game on MLB Network if you don’t get YES. Enjoy.

* Is that not the worst Kay-ism of them all? Yuck.