Another day, another loss: Yanks drop fourth in a row

Same shit, different day. The Yankees lost their fourth straight game on Saturday night, getting shut out for the fourth time this season and the second time by Josh Beckett. To make matters worse, Jorge Posada pulled himself out of the lineup for reasons that vary depending on who you ask. Neither the team nor Jorge needed the distraction, but that’s another post for another time.

"I just want to take my hands and put them around my entire team's neck just like this, all 25 of 'em at the same time. Is that too much to ask? I don't think it's too much to ask." (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The Ugly Line That Wasn’t

When everyone looks back at this start in the future and sees 6.2 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 1 WP, 1 HB, they’re going to think Sabathia sucked. But through six innings the Yankees’ ace had held the Red Sox to just two runs on four hits and two walks, which is exactly the kind of start we’re accustomed to seeing out of CC. But a wild pitch, a blown call on what should have been strike three to Jason Varitek, a bobble by Nick Swisher, and a homerun allowed on his 116th and final pitch of the night uglified his line and put a game that was essentially out of reach even further out of reach. That seventh inning ruined what was a valiant effort by the big guy.

Sabathia retired a dozen in a row after allowing the first two runners of the game to reach base, emphatically striking out the side (not in order) to escape the jam in the first. I was ready to flip when they intentionally walked Dustin Pedroia to load the bases for Adrian Gonzalez later on, but a routine double play showed why I’m just some schmuck that writes a blog instead of managing a team. The homerun was unfortunate, but I have a hard time hanging this loss on just CC.

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Runs? Where They’re Going, They Don’t Need Runs!

Hitless in ten at-bats with men in scoring position and ten runners left on base. Just par for the course these days. The first two Yankees reached base in the first inning, then the next three batters went down like wimps. Red Sox pitchers (mostly Beckett) struck out the leadoff batter in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh innings, so the Yankees didn’t even put the ball in play and give themselves a chance to reach base. Batting average with men in scoring position isn’t the be all, end all stat, but they have four singles and a double in 39 at-bats with men on second and/or third during this four game suckfest.

The only batter in the Yankees’ lineup to get two hits and/or not strike out at all was Curtis Granderson, who is pretty much the only player worth watching right now. Alex Rodriguez took yet another 0-for-4, and the 5-9 hitters combined for three singles and a walk in 20 trips to the plate. Andruw Jones struck out three times, Robinson Cano twice, A-Rod twice, and Tex twice. At least the first baseman busted out of an 0-for-30 slump against the Red Sox with a dinky little seeing-eye single back up the middle in garbage time. I could go on about the terrible offense, but I’d just be repeating myself from the last few days.


What the hell is Fox trying to do by having Sarah Silverman in the booth while promoting Paul Simon’s music between innings? What’s the target audience there? And is anyone more outdated that Tim McCarver? Every reference that guy makes is to something that happened when there were just 48 states in the union. Relevant information, please.

The Yankees have lost four in a row, obviously, but they’ve also lost eight of their last 11 and have been outscored 54-41 in the process. They’ve dropped six of the last seven against the Red Sox, and eleven of their last 16. The next three pitchers they face? Jon Lester, David Price, and the awesome version of Jamie Shields. These next three days could get ugly.

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

Up Next

Another ESPN Sunday Night Game, which is what, the fourth of the season? It’s at least the third, I’m sure of that. Freddy Garcia gets the ball against Lester, so maybe reverse lock laws will apply. One thing to remember: a team is never as good as it looks on its best days or as bad as it looks on its worst. The Yankees are better than this, I promise you.

Cashman: Posada removed himself from lineup

Update (11:27pm): Now that Posada’s mini-presser has been aired on YES, I can say the “That’s the way he worked now” comment wasn’t nearly as vicious as it came across on Twitter. Jorge did talk in circles quite a bit though. Bottom line, everyone is in the wrong here. Well, everyone except Girardi, but Posada and Cashman definitely could have handled this better. No doubt about it.

Update (11:01pm): Posada said after the game that he told Girardi that he needed time to clear his head and that his back stiffened up after taking grounders at first, but Girardi said he was never made aware of any physical problem. As for as Cashman saying it wasn’t an injury issue during the in-game interview, Jorge said “[Cashman] made a mis-statement … That’s the way he works now.” Wow, shots fired.

Update (9:14pm): Via Ken Rosenthal, Posada actually sat out with back stiffness tonight. That sounds like a big ol’ cover story, but they can’t turn this into a big mess that divides the clubhouse or something crazy like that.

Original Post (8:00pm): Brian Cashman just told Ken Rosenthal during tonight’s broadcast that Jorge Posada removed himself from the lineup tonight and that it’s “not an injury situation.” Posada is expected to speak to the media after the game, but when asked what tonight meant for Posada’s future for with the team, he said he “didn’t want to speak for Jorge.”

For what it’s worth, Joel Sherman hears that Posada is not retiring. Jack Curry hears that Jorge was “insulted” by people penciled into the ninth spot of the lineup, and that he threw a “hissy fit.” Stay tuned…

Well, at least the Triple-A and Low-A affiliates can beat the Red Sox

Triple-A Scranton (10-2 win over Pawtucket)
Kevin Russo, 2B: 3 for 6, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K – 15 for his last 41 (.366)
Dan Brewer, RF: 1 for 6, 1 K
Jesus Montero, C: 3 for 5, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 HBP – I wonder if he would complain about hitting ninth
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 2 for 4, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K – up to 14 homers on the year
Justin Maxwell, CF & Brandon Laird, 3B: both 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 2B – Maxwell struck put … Laird drove in a run
Jordan Parraz, LF: 2 for 4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 K
Luis Nunez, DH: 1 for 5, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K
Ramiro Pena, SS: 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 RBI
D.J. Mitchell, RHP: 6.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 6 K, 6-4 GB/FB – 64 of 113 pitches were strikes (56.6%)
George Kontos, RHP: 2.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 1 HB, 2-1 GB/FB – 20 of 37 pitches were strikes (54.1%) … fine work

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Game 37: Shakeup

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

For the first time in exactly 12 years, Jorge Posada will hit ninth for the Yankees. With his team in the midst of an offensive slump, Joe Girardi changed things up at the bottom of the order for today’s game, simply moving the slumping Posada and Nick Swisher down while Russell Martin and Brett Gardner moved up. Posada put it all on himself, saying he “put [himself] in this position” before the game, but I still kinda feel bad for him. Getting old in baseball isn’t pretty. Bottom line: it had to be done. Here’s the lineup…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Russell Martin, C
Brett Gardner, LF
Nick Swisher, RF
Jorge Posada Andruw Jones, DH- Posada was just scratched for an unknown reason

CC Sabathia, SP

Because Saturday night games don’t suck enough, this one will be broadcast on FOX. Fun fun fun. Anyway, game starts shortly after 7pm ET. Try to enjoy.

Notes: Phil Hughes continued his throwing program, again playing catch with Larry Rothschild before the game … Frankie Cervelli was on the field working on his throwing with Girardi and Tony Pena early this afternoon … the April 12th rain out against the Orioles has been rescheduled as part of a day/night doubleheader at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, July 30th.

Collective Bargaining Agreement Draft Rumblings

I’ve mentioned before that the upcoming CBA negotiations figure to change the draft in some significant way, but I don’t know how just yet. Jeff Passan hears that an international draft “remains extremely unlikely” for this round of negotiations, but MLB will fight tooth and nail over a hard-slotting system. “It continues to be an important component of the overall reform of amateur talent acquisition we want to achieve,” said MLB’s chief labor negotiator Robert Manfred, but three agents (including Scott Boras) were very clear in saying that they don’t believe it will ever happen. Not just this year, ever. I recommend giving the entire article a read, good update on this kind of stuff.

2011 Draft: Baseball America’s Mock Draft v1.0

Now that we’re three weeks away from the draft, the mock drafts are starting to roll on in. Jim Callis posted his first mock yesterday, and you don’t need a Baseball America subscription to see the picks. You do need one for the analysis though. The Yankees don’t have a first round pick so they’re not included in the mock, so the next few weeks are going to be pretty lame when it comes to this stuff. It’s not entirely useless though though, Callis is as well-connected as anyone and uses his info to connect teams to players. It’s a good snapshot of each player’s current value, so check it out.

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.