Teixeira, Granderson back Hughes in 5-3 win

Runs have been at a premium for the Yankees over the last three games, and things didn’t figure to get any easier with Mike Pelfrey scheduled to be on the mound Saturday afternoon. To make matters worse, leadoff hitter Derek Jeter was out of the lineup with a bum heel, forcing Brett Gardner to serve as the table settler. The offense finally started to show some signs of life, and Phil Hughes settled down after a rocky start to earn his American League leading tenth win.

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, AP

Two Run Jack, Jack It Up

Although a first inning run to answer Jose Reyes’ leadoff homer gave us all some hope that offense would start producing like they were capable of, the Yanks started the 3rd inning down a pair of runs thanks to another Reyes shot. Much like the first inning, Gardner started things off a solid single back up the middle, putting instant pressure on Pelfrey with his speed.

Mark Teixeira, the embodiment of the Yanks’ offensive struggles, came to plate with Gardner on second following a Nick Swisher ground out. He worked a 2-1 count on three consecutive fastballs, then jumped all over a hanging changeup for a two-run homer, his first in what feels like an eternity. The ball clanked off the chain-link fence separating the rightfield stands from the Yankee bullpen, and for the second time in the game the Yanks came right back and answered a Mets’ run(s) the next half inning.

Not to be outdone, Curtis Granderson stepped up to the plate with Jorge Posada on second an inning later, hitting a two run shot of his own after fouling off three straight offerings as part of a seven pitch at-bat. Technically, that was a biggest Yankee hit of the game at 17.3 WPA, but for all intents and purposes Tex’s shot was just as important. His checked in at 17.2 WPA.

A Yankee Killer Does Them A Favor

Even though he only spent a year and a half with the Red Sox, Jason Bay has turned into a guy that Yankee fans never want to see at the plate with men on base. The Yanks were still clinging to the two run lead Granderson spotted them, but Phil Hughes put himself in a little bit of a jam by walking Ike Davis to put men on first and second with one out in the 6th.

Bay came to the plate with the chance to give the Mets the lead with one swing of the bat, but he did the exact opposite of what we’ve become used to him doing. He hooked a first pitch cutter on the outer half to the left side of the infield, right at third baseman of the day Kevin Russo. Russo fired to second for one out, and Robbie Cano turned the pivot to complete the double play and get out of the inning. The double play benefited the Yanks almost as much as the two run homers.

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, AP

A Hughes Turn Around

Phil Hughes’ overall body of work has been stellar this year, though his previous six starts have been rather mediocre. He pitched to a 4.95 ERA in 36.1 innings, allowing 41 hits and 13 extra base hits, though the team still managed to win five of those six starts.

Saturday’s game started out in inauspicious fashion, with Reyes sending Hughes’ second pitch of the day into the right fielder corner for a leadoff homer. Hughes pitched around a leadoff single in the 2nd, but Reyes touched him up another homer, this one a two runner, in the 3rd inning. That would be all the Mets would get, as the Yanks’ young starter retired eight of the next ten batters he faced, escaping the only other jam he’d face all day thanks to Bay’s double play.

Overall, Hughes allowed five hits and walked three, but he carried the Yanks through the 7th inning on an economical 99 pitches. His troubles finishing off batters weren’t much an issue, with the Mets fouling off only 15 of those 99 pitches this afternoon. Five of those fouls came in one 6th inning Angel Pagan at-bat. That’s a great improvement from the last few weeks, when the opposition was spoiling 40 or so pitches in a given start.

If you’re reading this site, you know that pitcher wins don’t mean much of anything. I have to admit though, seeing that 10-1 next to Hughes’ name is pretty damn cool.

The Goodness

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, AP

Big ups to Gardner for the job he did leading off today. Started off two innings with singles, and the Yanks went on to score both times. Can’t say their usual leadoff hitter has been that productive lately.

It won’t show up on the box score, but Nick Swisher hit three balls right on the screws, with just one single to show for it. Dems the breaks.

Mike Pelfrey had not blown a single lead handed to him by the Mets this season coming into today, but the Yanks got him to cough up two leads in the first three innings.

Meanwhile, Hughes came back to strikeout Reyes his third time up following the two homers. Good job of showing him who’s boss.

Ramiro Pena even picked up a single. When that happens, they have to win. Can’t waste that kind of production.

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, AP

Solid job by Joba Chamberlain in the 8th while wearing Boone Logan’s pants. Four straight sliders to strike out the amazing David Wright to end the inning, none hangers, all biting. Great stuff.

The Badness

The Yankees aren’t out of the woods offensively just yet. They squandered an opportunity with runners on second and third and no outs in the 8th with a chance to blow things open. I don’t blame Pena for making the final out of the inning, but Jorge Posada and Granderson have to at the very least get that run in from third. All they needed was deep fly ball to anyone but Jeff Francoeur, but they couldn’t come through. For shame.

WPA Graph & Box Score

This would look a lot more pleasant without Reyes. Here’s the box score, here’s the nerd score.

Up Next

The 2010 edition of the Subway Series concludes tomorrow afternoon with CC Sabathia taking on Johan Santana for the second time this season. Hopefully the bats continue to wake up a little.

Montero goes deep, but Scranton loses anyway

Bad news about Gavin Brooks. He hurt his labrum is Spring Training and needed surgery to repair it. He’s likely out until next year. In much happier news, the rookie level GCL Yankees kick off their season on Monday.

Triple-A Scranton (5-4 loss to Lehigh Valley)
Reid Gorecki, LF, Eric Bruntlett, 3B & Reegie Corona, 2B: all 0 for 4 – Gorecki K’ed twice, Bruntlett & Corona once each
Colin Curtis, RF: 0 for 3, 1 BB
Eduardo Nunez, SS: 2 for 4, 1 2B, 1 RBI
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 1 for 4, 1 R, 2 K – hitting just .182 with SWB … what gives?
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K – 15 for his last 29 (.517) with five doubles, two triples & a homer … I guess we shoulda taken the Montero Watch down sooner, right? … wait, what?
P.J. Pilittere, DH: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
Greg Golson, CF: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 K, 1 SB, 1 E (fielding)
Tim Redding: 5 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 7-3 GB/FB – 57 of 94 pitches were strikes (60.6%) … I usually don’t care about who the crappy veteran AAA innings guy is, but seeing Redding in the organization bothers me
Mark Melancon: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2-1 GB/FB – 22 of his 33 pitches were strikes … good to see him getting back on track
Royce Ring: 1 IP, zeroes, 2-1 GB/FB – six of his nine pitches were strikes

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Open Thread: RAB commercial on YES

Just in case you haven’t seen it during the pre- and post-game shows yet, here’s our 15 minutes of fame. We’re not good enough for the big money, between inning slots yet, but one day we’ll get there. Oh shush, we’re allowed to gloat every now and then.

Anyway, here’s your open thread for this beautiful Saturday evening. Depending on where you live, you’ll get either the Rays-Marlins or the A’s-Cardinals on MLB Network, plus you have UCLA-Florida in College World Series action on ESPN. Gerrit Cole starts tomorrow for the Bruins, but they’re sending Trevor Bauer out to the mound tonight, and he’s another potential first rounder next year. I can’t recommend the CWS enough, just great baseball. Anything goes tonight, just be cool.

Aceves throws off half-mound

Sorely missed reliever Al Aceves threw off a half-mound today, the first time he’s thrown off something more than flat ground since suffering a back injury in early May. He threw for approximately six minutes and reported no pain, but chances are the team will opt to leave him behind in New York during their west coast trip next week. I can’t see why they’d subject a guy coming off a back injury to sitting on a pair of cross country flights within a week.

Aceves said he might begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton soon, though that was just him spit balling it. The team has announced no plans, and presumably wants to see him throw comfortably off a full mound before starting his rehab clock.

Game 68: Time for Brian Cashman to crack some skulls

Things could be a lot worse right now. The Yanks are still 41-26, still in first place, still have the best record in baseball. At this time last year they were slumping as well. They had just beaten the Marlins 5-1, but were 38-29, three games out of first place. It took two more losses to Florida and a shutout in Atlanta to inspire Brian Cashman to visit the team. And we all know what happened from there.

This team is certainly as talented as last year’s version. They shouldn’t be losing three straight to the pitchers they faced. They shouldn’t have scored only four runs in those three games. But that’s how it goes sometimes. The whole team is uncomfortable, perhaps no one more than the guy who leads it all off, Derek Jeter. He has often said that he doesn’t slump, but rather that he sometimes feels uncomfortable at the plate. You can tell that’s the case right now. He’s squirming as he waits for the pitcher to deliver. He’s 4 for 29 since the start of the Houston series.

The Yankees aren’t panicking, though. They’re sending out the regulars in an attempt to stanch the bleeding against Mike Pelfrey and the Mets. I’m sure Phil Hughes wants to make the most of his return match after failing to put away Mets’ hitters last time.

Derek Jeter is out with a sore heel suffered running down the last night, so here’s the new lineup:

1. Brett Gardner, LF
2. Nick Swisher, RF
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez, DH
5. Robinson Cano, 2B
6. Jorge Posada, C
7. Curtis Granderson, CF
8. Ramiro Pena, SS
9. Kevin Russo, 3B

And on the mound, number sixty-five, Phil Hughes.

The future of Mark Teixeira

While I remain unconcerned that Mark Teixeira is done as a top notch hitter, it’s tough to ignore the now 3 month slump he is in heading back to the 2009 postseason.  While we can write off April as he always struggles, he hasn’t yet turned it around the way we expected.  Since the Yankees have Teixeira signed thru 2016 (his age 36 season) I wanted to see how comparable hitters thru age 29 fared from their age 30-36 seasons to see what could be in store for Tex.  I’m simply using Tex’s 5 most similar hitters (per B-Ref), so there can certainly be extenuating circumstances that can explain either a surge in offense or a drop off.  Tex should profile pretty well, as he has been healthy, is a hard worker, and seems to take care of himself off the field.  These guys may be fatter, skinnier, have used steroids, partied harder, etc., so it’s not necessarily a prediction of what Tex will do over the next 7 years (2010 inclusive), but more how comparable bats have fared.

#1 Carlos Delgado

Delgado was a beast from age 30-36.  In his worst season, his last in Toronto, he still managed a .269/.372/.535 129 OPS+ line with 32 HR’s in just 128 games.  If Tex’s production is anywhere near Delgado’s, the contract will play out just fine.  As a hitter Delgado’s best seasons are better than Teixiera’s, but Tex so far has been a little more consistent year in and year out.

#2 Kent Hrbek

Hrbek is certainly the scary name on the list but better than I remember.  He was a beast on RBI Baseball, and while his numbers thru age 29 don’t include any 40 HR seasons, he was  regularly in the mid 20’s when that actually meant something.  He was a solid hitter, but not in the truly elite class of baseball.  He never even made it to 36, retiring after his age 34 season.  Here’s hoping Tex does a lot better than Hrbek after turning 30.

#3 Jeff Bagwell

Bagwell had already slowed by the time he was 30 but was still producing in a big way.  From 26-29 his OPS+ was an astounding 168.  After the age of 30 his high was 162, and never hit 140 once turning 33, dropping every year from the age of 31 until he retired at 37.  I’d love to see Bagwell-type production from Tex, though he certainly was past his prime by the time he hit 32.

#4 Fred McGriff

The Crime Dog was productive from 30-36, but only had 2 great seasons in 1994 and 1999.  Every other year his OPS+ was between 106 and 119.  Clearly not a hole in the lineup, but not the production Tex was brought in to provide.  Of note with McGriff is that while 1994 was a great year for him, it was a great (and interesting) year for offense in baseball altogether.  When the strike hit, McGriff had 34 HR’s in only 113 games, which was just two off his career high.  Tex producing like McGriff from 30-36 wouldn’t be a total disappointment, but also not what the Yankees are paying for.

#5 Jim Thome

Thome is clearly the class of this bunch after the age of 30.  He had the two best seasons of his career at ages 30 and 31 and was still producing up to age 36 (and beyond).  He did have an injury shortened year at 34 which led to him ending up back in the American League as a full time DH.  DH’ing likely helped Thome’s later years, but it’s doubtful that Tex will be spending much time at DH in the future.  I’ll say right now that Tex will not produce like Thome from age 30-36 as he simply isn’t as a good a hitter as Thome was, but hopefully he’ll be able to age like Thome and continue to produce at a very high level.

The good news as you can see as everyone but Hrbek was healthy and played quite a few games from ages 30-36.  Hrbek was done after the strike season in 1994, playing just 81 games with a 99 OPS+.  Everyone else averaged at least 134 games (and that was Thome who was held back as a DH) and produced.  The bad news is that they all had their best seasons at either 30 or 31 and it was downhill from there.  Still productive but downhill.  While that’s concerning enough, it’s even more concerning considering all of these guys played in the height of the steroids era, when the aging process seemed to stand still for many players.  Clearly Tex’ best post 30 season won’t be this year, but even if he’s great again next year, it might be the best we see out of Tex for the remainder of the contract.

For more of my work head over to Mystique and Aura.

Staten Island’s season opener takes a backseat to Kontos’ return

Dellin Betances got some love on this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet as the tenth hottest prospect in the minors. Rob Lyerly sheds a single tear.

Triple-A Scranton (4-1 win over Lehigh Valley)
Reid Gorecki, RF & Greg Golson, LF: both 1 for 4 – Gorecki walked, stole two bases, drove in a run & scored twice … Golson doubled & scored a run
Colin Curtis, CF: 2 for 5, 1 2B, 2 K
Eduardo Nunez, SS: 2 for 4, 1 2B, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K
Juan Miranda, 1B & Eric Bruntlett, 2B: both 0 for 3, 1 BB – Miranda K’ed once, Bruntlett twice … Bruntlett committed a throwing error
Jorge Vazquez, 3B & Rene Rivera, C: both 0 for 4 – Vazquez K’ed once, Rivera twice
Jesus Montero, C: 3 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 K – had a chance for the cycle in his fourth at-bat, but he struck out on a slider, changeup, changeup, changeup
Dustin Moseley: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 10 K, 7-3 GB/FB – 66 of his 99 pitches were strikes … that’s 20 K in his last two starts (14 IP)
Zack Segovia: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1-0 GB/FB – 11 of 14 pitches were strikes (78.6%)
Jon Albaladejo: 1 IP, zeroes, 3 K – 11 of 13 pitches were strikes (84.6%) … he has to be better than Chan Ho Park at this point, right?

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