NLDS Game Thread: Braves @ Giants

In case you missed it, Tim Lincecum schooled the Braves in Game One last night. Atlanta took 55 swings as a team, and missed 31 freaking times. That’s insane. Anyway, tonight’s matchup features Matt Cain and (Cyborg) Tommy Hanson. Game starts at 9:37pm ET and can be seen on TBS.

Beyond the game, use this as your open thread to talk about whatever.

Facing a clincher, Yanks’ ticket prices spike

After the Yanks grabbed the first two games of their best-of-five set from the Twins this week, the action returns to the Bronx tomorrow night as the Yanks have two cracks at home to wrap up this ALDS. Not surprisingly, ticket prices are on the rise. Our patterns at TiqIQ provided us the above graph, and we can break it down.

As the playoffs have progressed the average price of tickets on the secondary market for Game 3, the first potential clincher, have shot up markedly. Between October 6th and earlier today, over 1000 tickets moved on the secondary market as the average price went from $283 to $384. Some of that movement was due to cheaper tickets coming off the board, but a few hundred have been added since. The extra inventory has pushed the price up around $10 on average, and it’s clear that people are paying with the hopes of seeing a clincher.

Meanwhile, Game 4, right now, is on the downswing. With the Yanks on the verge of an ALCS berth, the secondary market seems wary of a potential Game 4. I’d say snap up those Game 4 tickets now because if it looks as though the game will be played, the prices will shoot way up after Game 3. If the game isn’t played, StubHub’s FanProtect Guarantee will cover the price.

For those looking to buy tickets for Game 3, RAB Tickets has you covered, and we get a small cut of the sales to help power this site. Don’t forget, as well, to join the RAB Tickets Facebook page. After the ALDS is over, we’ll select one fan at random to win a Yankee cap.

NLDS Game Thread: Reds @ Phillies

As a reward for getting no hit by Roy Halladay, the Reds now get to face Roy Oswalt. Sounds like fun. Bronson Arroyo (hah!) goes for Cincy. Good luck with that. This one starts at 6:07pm ET and can be seen on TBS.

Beyond the game, use this as your open thread to talk about whatever.

Link Dump: Brown, Berkman, Lee

Running out the clock on the work day, aren’t you? Here’s some links to help pass the time…

Yankees Sign Breland Brown

Via Baseball America’s minor league transactions, the Yankees have signed outfielder Breland Brown to a minor league deal. Based on what I can find, the 25-year-old hasn’t played in affiliated ball and has just been bouncing around between independent leagues for the last few years. It’s just a minor league depth move, but if nothing else, Brown has a pretty active Twitter account. He’s even got some pics of his contract posted there.

Blast From The Past: Lance Berkman

In honor of his big game yesterday, Baseball America posted a scouting report of Lance Berkman from 1999, when he was the Astros top prospect. Most people don’t realize how dominant of a player he was at Rice, when he hit .431 with a 1.032 slugging percentage during his draft year, scoring 109 runs with 41 homers and 134 runs batted in in a whopping 68 games. Amazing, he was only the second Rice player taken that year before first overall pick Matt Anderson. Anyway, my favorite part of the retro scouting report was when they talked about Puma’s big league debut depending on the status of … wait for it … Derek Bell. Too funny.

Cliff Lee Wants CC Sabathia Money

This one is completely unsurprising, but MLBTR passes along a report indicating that Lee will seek something like the $161M the Yankees gave Sabathia two years ago. There’s no doubt that Lee is every bit as good, if not better than CC was when he hit free agency, but his track record isn’t nearly as long and he’s also two years older. Shooting for Sabathia money is just good business on their part, but I expect him to sign for something well below that.

A better zone and better pitches for Pettitte in W

When the Yanks named Andy Pettitte their Game 2 starter, the club seemed to be rolling the dice. Despite Pettitte’s voluminous postseason success, the lefty was just three Major League starts removed from a two-month stint on the disabled list due to a groin injury, and in one of those starts, a stiff back prevented him from located his pitches. All in all, Pettitte had thrown 7.1 innings over his last two starts with an ERA of 11.05 and had allowed 19 hits while laboring through 163 pitches.

Pettitte more than silenced the doubters last night. He went seven strong innings against the Twins and needed just 88 pitches to do it. He allowed just two runs on a five hits and a walk and struck out four. As the game wore on, he seemed to find a groove, and at one point, the southpaw retired 12 Twins in a row. It was vintage Andy Pettitte. So how did he get there?

After his Saturday start against the Red Sox last weekend, it seemed as though Pettitte could have used a few more times. While watching the game, I thought he looked healthy, but he seemed to be missing his spots by just a little. Considering his two-month layoff, I wasn’t surprised. After all, pitchers generally say that during the build-up to the season, their command comes back later than velocity. But when I dug deeper into the game, it seemed that home plate ump Mike Winters and not Andy Pettitte was responsible for the struggles. Take a look at the called strike zone from Saturday:

Based on the Pitch f/x data, Pettitte threw nine pitches in the strike zone that were called balls and another was a borderline pitch that went the way of the hitter. Generally, Pettitte wasn’t getting the call on low cutters, and because Pettitte so heavily leans on those low cutters, his approach suffers if the ump isn’t calling a strike a strike.

Now, based on the narrative around last night’s game, it’s tough to believe that Hunter Wendelstedt was calling a better zone than Winters did, but for Andy Pettitte, the strike zone was at least fair. While Carl Pavano somehow threw pitches out of the zone that were called strikes (and one pitch right on the edge of the zone called a ball), Pettitte seemed to get a much truer strike zone this week. Take a look at the called zone:

Wendelstedt apparently missed five pitches and didn’t give Andy the benefit of the doubt on two others. In that sense then, Pettitte was able to use the edges of the strike zone far more effectively this week than last. He also induced more swings on his cutter, a sign of improving pitches as he builds up strength from his injury. The full strike zone plot helps us to see how Pettitte was able to fool the Twins’ hitters.

Last night, Twins’ hitters swung and missed at five Pettitte cutters that were below the zone and another right on the edge. Against the Red Sox, Pettitte couldn’t drop the cutter into the zone, let alone below it, and Boston hitters were laying off the low pitches as Winters called a generous zone. Pettitte made Wendelstedt work for him last night, and Andy’s cutter had a greater down-and-in sweep to it last night. As the Twins’ hitters saw his pitches spin, they started to swing and miss.

As the playoffs progress, it’s easy to forget how the regular season can impact players today, but for Andy, last night was a bit step forward. It was just his fourth start back from injury, and it was by far the strongest he’s looked since returning to the rotation. His velocity is there; his command is there; his effectiveness is there. For a Yankee club looking to play deep into October, that’s news nearly as good as their 2-0 series lead.

Baseball America’s Eastern League Top 20 Prospects

Baseball America posted their list of the top 20 prospects in the Double-A Eastern League today, and four Yankee farmhands made the list: Andrew Brackman at #5, Brandon Laird at #11, Hector Noesi at #16, and Austin Romine at #20. Brackman trailed only Domonic Brown (Phillies), Zach Britton (Orioles), Kyle Drabek (Blue Jays), and Brandon Belt (Giants). Manny Banuelos didn’t have enough innings to qualify, and David Adams’ injury took him out of contention.

In the subscriber only scouting reports, they note that Brackman got better as the season went along, with his fastball going “from 89-92 mph to 93-95 in the middle innings of August starts.” They also say he can drop his curve in for strikes or bury it in the dirt for swings-and-misses, but the changeup needs work. Laird is said to have a knack for getting the fat part of the bat on the ball, an aggressive approach, and good power. He’s “adequate at third, with enough arm and solid hands but below-average range and speed,” and could end up at first.

Noesi’s best pitch is the old number one, a fastball that he manipulates by “adding and subtracting velocity from it, putting it where he wants despite its solid life and showing the ability to pitch to both sides of the plate.” They have his two-seamer at 88-92, and the four seamer up to 96. His changeup is a fringe pitch, but he also throws a slider and curve, with the latter showing more promise. As for Romine, whose stock took a hit after a rough second half, “he still has four average or better tools and the chance to succeed Jorge Posada as the Yankees’ catcher.” He has a strong but slightly inaccurate arm and overall profiles as a strong defender. Offensively, they say his “swing gets long and he’s not selective to fully tap into his plus raw power, but scouts project him as an average home run hitter.” They do note his ability to use the entire field.

The last list Yankee fans have to worry about is the Triple-A International League, which comes out on Tuesday. Jesus Montero is a lock for a top three or four spot, and chances are Ivan Nova will make the cut as well. Personal fave Eduardo Nunez will likely make an appearance as well.