ALCS Game Five: Yankees at Angels

We were lucky that the ALCS off-day didn’t come between Games 3 and 4. Otherwise there would have been almost two days of everyone questioning Joe Girardi‘s in-game management. Instead, they played Game 4 a day later and won decisively, making us forget about bullpen moves. We can thank CC Sabathia for that, who made moot any pitcher change issues. That’s what happens when you go eight innings and leave with a 10-1 lead.

As a Yanks fan, it’s hard to be more excited than I am right now. The team is on the brink of its first World Series since 2003, and the way the team is making it easy to feel confident. The pitching has been superb to this point, and maybe, just maybe, the offense is coming around after a slow start to the postseason. In fact, that could be one of the stories of tonight.

Only Hideki Matsui and Nick Swisher went hitless in the Game 4 assault. If they get in on the action tonight, man, I can’t imagine what the Yankees can do. They’re both starting tonight, though you could make a case for either or both of them sitting. WIth Jose Molina in the lineup, the Yanks could use Jorge Posada as the DH, and with a righty on the mound for the Angels (and with the flyballing A.J. Burnett pitching for the Yanks), they could have gone with Brett Gardner in center and Melky in right.

But Girardi doesn’t want to mess with the script that has gotten them to this point. The Yanks will certainly be looking to Swisher for a breakout game. As for Matsui, even with his 0 for 5 on Tuesday he’s still hitting .286/.412/.357 in the ALCS, so there aren’t many worries on that end.

We went over John Lackey earlier today, so for a quick take on him in elimination games, plus his performances against the Yankees in the playoffs, check out that. The Yanks fared well enough against him in Game 1, and will look for production similar to their nine hits and three walks off Lackey.

I have to cut myself off here. I’m just so damn excited.

Lineups:

Yankees

1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Johnny Damon, LF
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Hideki Matsui, DH
6. Robinson Cano, 2B
7. Nick Swisher, RF
8. Melky Cabrera, CF
9. Jose Molina C

Pitching: Number thirty-four, Allan James Burnett

Angels

1. Chone Figgins, 3B
2. Bobby Abreu, RF
3. Torii Hunter, CF
4. Vladimir Guerrero, DH
5. Kendry Morales, 1B
6. Maicer Izturis, 2B
7. Juan Rivera, LF
8. Jeff Mathis, C
9. Erick Aybar, SS

Pitching: John Lackey

Locker Blogger interviews Kevin Long

It’s amazing how these guys can pick up on such subtle problems with a swing, just by looking at it. I hope to one day be that smart. Or that attentive.

(h/t Fack Youk)

Steiner Sports, Yanks sued over stadium seat sales

A lifelong Yankee fan and 23-year season ticket holder is suing Steiner Sports and the New York Yankees over the way the two parties have handled sales of old Yankee Stadium memorabilia. In the class action suit filed yesterday in federal court, John Lefkus says he paid $2000 for his season ticket seats only to receive a different set of Yankee Stadium chairs. He is alleging deceptive acts and practices and false advertiser, among other charges, and is asking for both injunctive relief and compensatory damages.

According to the complaint, found in full below, earlier this year, Lefkus tried to take advantage of an offer from Steiner Sports to purchase his specific season seats. For $500 extra, he could buy Seats 1 and 2 in Row A of the Main Reserve section 11. According to Steiner’s literature, the special-order normal seats would come completely unrefurbished with the original seat, seatback and arm rests. To verify the seats, all orders were to come with a Letter of Authenticity from Steiner Sports and the Yankees.

When Lefkus’ seats arrived, nearly three months after he placed the order, he was dismayed to discover that his seats were refurbished. According to the complaint, “their original paint was stripped and the seats were repainted in a different hue from original.” He alleges that, during the dismantling, seats “were not properly cataloged or organized and as a result seats sold as specific seat pairs could not in fact have been provided because [Steiner] did not adequately record which seat parts came from which locations and because the seats themselves were dismantled and later reassembled without regard to which seat part went with which seats.”

In the complaint, Lefkus included a pictorial comparison of the two seats, and the differences are striking. The delivered seats are indeed a different color than the seats were in the Stadium; the numbers on the seats do not properly correspond to Lefkus’ order; and the alleged Seat 1 was not delivered as an aisle seat while the alleged Seat 2 was.

Furthermore, Lefkus’ complaint an admission by Steiner’s agents that “no effective tagging system was used to maintain the integrity of the offer to buy specific seats.” Due to these admissions and the fact that the seats come with a signed guarantee of authenticity, Lefkus is also alleging a breach of implied and express warranty on behalf of the class.

As of press time I could not reach Steiner Sports for comment. I believe, however, Lefkus’ complaint rests on solid ground. He seems to have evidence and admissions from Steiner that buttress his case. He is purporting to represent all buyers of Yankee Stadium seats, and although Steiner and the Yanks may attempt to challenge the class, Lefkus’ lawyers probably have a strong case for certification. (Ed. Note: For a detailed explanation of what this means legally, check out this comment from someone with real-world legal experience.)

In my unqualified opinion — as a law student, I am barred from offering legal advice and have a limited knowledge of the questions of law presented here — I anticipate a settlement in this case. It sounds as though Steiner Sports and the Yanks did not do an adequate job removing and cataloging seats from the old Stadium, and it sounds as though it is far too late to remedy the situation. Meanwhile, as potential buyers get wind of this lawsuit, they may not be so keen on dropping $2000 on a pair of seats that may not be the ones they believe they are buying.

In addition to monetary damages, Lefkus has asked for the court to order an end to Steiner’s allegedly deceptive advertising and marketing practices. How that charge plays out in a settlement is open for debate, but right now, I’m glad I didn’t try to buy my favorite seats from old Yankee Stadium.

After the jump, read the complaint in full. [Read more…]

Linkage: Chapman, Kikuchi, HOF, PitchFX

A bevy of links that warrant a mention, but not their own posts…

  • As you’ve probably heard by now, Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman is in New York to visit with several GM’s. Both the Yankees and Mets are expected to meet with him,  and the Red Sox definitely will. Speculation is that he’ll get $40-50M, but I bet he ends with closer to $15M. In the end, he’s still just a minor league pitcher that’s a year or two away from the big leagues.
  • In other amateur lefthanded pitcher news, Japanese teenager Yusei Kikuchi may announce his intentions to either stay in Japan or come to the States in the coming days. Ben wrote a bunch more about Kikuchi and the Yanks over the weekend.
  • Who do you think is a better Hall of Fame candidate: Johnny Damon, or Bobby Abreu? Rob Neyer thinks it’s Damon, I’m going with Bobby. There’s only 40 players in the history of the game that have reached base 4,000 times in their career, and 38 of those players are in the HOF, or will be soon. Abreu should reach that total within three years.
  • This isn’t Yankee related, but it’s a great piece on Cardinals assistant GM John Abbamondi, who discusses the place of advanced analysis in baseball. Nick Steiner at THT highlights part of the article where Abbamondi talks about how they use PitchFX data to supplement the evaluations of their scouts. Fascinating stuff.

John Lackey stands between Yanks and Series

The Yankees will face John Lackey tonight for the second time this postseason. Few ALCS pitchers have as much experience as Lackey, who came up in the Angels’ 2002 championship season. This is his fifth postseason, and he has amassed 71.1 innings over 11 starts and two relief appearances. Yet only two of those starts have come in elimination games for the Angels.

The first was the most important. Down 5-0 with just nine outs until elimination in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series, the Angels rallied for three runs in the seventh and three in the eighth to force a Game 7 against the Giants. Taking the ball was Lackey, a rookie that year who had impressed in 108.1 regular season innings. He shined in that outing, pitching five innings of one-run ball, while the Angels pounded Giants starter Livan Hernandez.

Final line: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K — 86 pitches, 56 strikes

Understandably, that set up Lackey’s reputation as a clutch performer. That tends to happen when a rookie wins Game 7 of the World Series.

He didn’t pitch in another elimination playoff game until 2008, when the Angels found themselves down two games to one against Boston in the ALDS. Again, Lackey pitched well. He allowed just two runs over seven innings, and immediately after he left the game the Angels tied it at two in the top of the eighth. Mike Scioscia, not using his closer on the road in a tie game, even an elimination game, left in Scot Shields to face the Red Sox in the ninth, and didn’t even replace him after Jason Bay hit a ground rule double. Jed Lowrie singled him in with two outs, and that was the Angels’ season.

Final line: 7 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K — 96 pitches, 56 strikes

It appears that the Angels have the guy they want on the mound tonight. While the Angels are 1-1 in elimination games Lackey has pitched, the loss was not his fault. He pitched as well as can be reasonably expected in the playoffs. If the Yankees get that line out of Burnett tonight, they’ll be happy I’m sure.

While we’re here, why not take a look at Lackey vs. the Yankees in the playoffs?

2002 ALDS

Lackey was part of the saddest game of that sad series. The Yankees jumped all over Ramon Ortiz, scoring six runs off him in the fist three innings, knocking him out with two out in the third. Lackey came on to pitch three solid innings, holding the Yanks to three hits and no runs. The Angels got a few back off Mussina in the meantime, setting up a Mike Stanton disappointment. Torre left him in two batters too long, tough his eventual replacement, Steve Karsay, gave up the home run that iced the victory.

2005 ALDS

Yesterday I second guessed the decision to start Scott Kazmir in Game 4 over John Lackey. Subconsciously, I think I was thinking back to the 2005 ALDS, when Lackey started on three days’ rest to foil the Yankees. It didn’t work out in the end, but it was still a valiant effort.

The Yankees jumped out to a 2-0 lead by the fifth, and were still looking good when Juan Rivera homered to make it 2-1 in the bottom of the inning. A couple of errors, one in the sixth by A-Rod and one in the seventh by Tino, allowed the Angels to open up the game, and they evened the series at one. Lackey did his job, pitching 5.2 innings of two-run ball, though the Yankees didn’t quite capitalize on their 10 base runners against him. Scot Shields replaced him with runners on first and second with two out and ended the threat.

With the Angels up two games to one, thanks to a complete pitching implosion in Game 3, Lackey came back on three day’s rest to pitch Game 4 in New York. Again, he went 5.2 innings, this time allowing one run on two hits and four walks. He gave up an RBI single to Gary Sheffield immediately before Scioscia lifted him, but was still in line for a win after the inning. The Yanks made an improbable comeback off of Scot Shields to force a Game 5. That one I do not wish to relive.

2009 ALCS

Continuing his trend of 5.2 inning appearances against the Yankees, that’s how long Lackey went in Game 1, allowing four runs, though only two earned. The first unearned was the ball that landed between Chone Figgins and Erick Aybar. It wasn’t unearned because of the misplay, though, but because of a Juan Rivera throwing error that allowed Damon to take second on a single. The other unearned run came off an errant Kendry Morales throw that allowed Melky to take second and eventually score on a Jeter single, which was compounded when the ball got away from Torii Hunter. Lackey’s line was not at all impressive in that game: 5.2 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K.

John Lackey is known as a big gamer, and he has mostly lived up to that reputation. It started in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series, and even though he’s pitched just one elimination game since then, he’s come up for the Angels in the playoffs. They’ll need him at his best tonight. The Yankees are poised to strike.

2010 Draft: Could Bryce Harper fall out of the first round?

It seems like we hear this about the top draft prospects every year, but in yesterday’s chat at ESPN, Baseball America’s Jim Callis said that it’s not far-fetched to think Bryce Harper could fall out of the first round entirely next June. He notes that it’s “going to be almost impossible to live up to the hype, and if he falls short and is looking for big money–is Strasburg’s contract a starting point–he may scare off clubs, who know he can re-enter the 2011 and 2012 drafts and still have lots of leverage.”

The Yankees – currently picking 32nd overall – did operate on a budget last year, but scouting director Damon Oppenheimer hinted that things could have changed under special circumstances. That probably means the team would have jumped all over Stephen Strasburg if he’d fallen into their laps. I don’t think the Yankees would go out of their way to make sure they retained their first round pick (by not signing a Type-A free agent this offseason) for the off-chance that Harper drops, you’d almost always rather have the big leaguer (unless we’re talking about someone like John Grabow or Kevin Gregg).

Jose Molina and the Game 5 DH debate

With A.J. Burnett taking the mound later tonight to try to secure a Fall Classic face-off against the Phillies, his personal caddy, Jose Molina, will be behind the plate. Although the offense suffers, I’ve come to terms with this decision. After all, Burnett is sporting a 2.19 playoff ERA in 12.1 innings and has struck out 10. If he truly does pitch better to Jose Molina, then the Yanks should, by all means, make Burnett comfortable in a potential clinching game.

Were the Burnett start ever so simple. As with every other A.J. Burnett outing, this one is not without controversy. Yesterday, Jorge Posada went 1 for 3 and was on base two other times while Hideki Matsui walked away from a 10-1 win as the other Yankee without a hit. For this short series, Posada is hitting .308/.471/.615 to Matsui’s perfectly respectable if powerless .286/.412/.357. Over the two games in Anaheim, Matsui has not looked particularly comfortable at the dish, but I’d hate to lose either player’s bat in Game 5.

So what are the Yanks to do? Would they DH Matsui behind Alex Rodriguez and prepare Posada for a mid-game pinch-hit appearance? Would they DH Posada, use Matsui to pinch hit and then either burn the DH spot or go with Francisco Cervelli behind the plate for the final few frames?

Marc Carig posed these question to Joe Girardi yesterday, and Girardi was nocommittal. “That’s something we’ll talk about,” the Yanks’ manager said. Posada issued a similar statement: “I don’t know yet. They haven’t said anything yet.”

The Star-Ledger reporter offered up this take on the situation:

Posada has hammered Angels starter John Lackey in the past. In 32 lifetime plate appearances against the Angels right-hander, Posada is 12-for-29 (.414) with three walks, a homer, and three RBI…Matsui hasn’t been bad against Lackey either. Though his .286 average in 32 plate appearance against Lackey pales in comparison, Matsui has two doubles, a homer and seven RBI against Lackey.

Based on some very limited numbers that generally don’t mean too much, Posada should start. He’s the hotter bat right now, and he has more success off of Lackey than Hideki Matsui does. Of course, the easy answer is to start Posada behind the plate. Although Jose Molina said he doesn’t know if he’ll be catching Burnett, I’m not going to mess with a good thing this late into October.

And so we await the lineup card. I predict Posada batting behind A-Rod. Jorge right now gives them the best chance to win, and with the Angels so close to elimination, the Yanks are going to apply as much pressure as they can later tonight.