New league forming in the Dominican

The amateur draft draws lots of headlines and we all know the Yankees don’t have a problem paying top dollar for talent, but for years their international scouting crew has brought in top notch prospects that continue to be among the best in the farm system. Until now, teams only were able to scout Latin American amateurs in workouts – bullpen sessions, batting practice, etc. – and not game situations, but as Jorge Arangure Jr. notes, big league scouts will soon have a new league to follow.

In what it is unofficially being called the Dominican Prospect League, teams made up of young players available on the international market will play once a week at various MLB club owned and operated complexes. Stats will be kept, and of course, profit will be made. Several big league clubs are backing the league, and Yanks’ farm director Mark Newman is on the league’s advisory board.

Before dropping $3M+ on a kid like Gary Sanchez, the Yanks will now have a chance to watch how he handles an actual live game. Sounds simple, but teams were not able to do this before. Frankly, it’s is long overdue, but better late than never.

Pettitte not sharp as Yanks drop third straight

For the second straight night the Yankees starting pitcher has struggled and left the game before completing five innings. Not that either would have remotely qualified for the win. On Friday CC allowed nine runs, five earned, through 2.2 innings, and last night Pettitte allowed five, three earned, in a slightly longer span, 4.1 innings. The offense could plate only three runs, and the game amounted to another loss.

Pettitte’s command was not there last night. He had trouble spotting pitches, and that led to general wildness. He threw just 54 of his 95 pitches (57%) for strikes, which is below his season average of 61 percent and even further below his second-half average of 63 percent. It led to four walks, and three of those runners scored — though the last two were because of Al Aceves‘s errant throw.

It wasn’t what the Yanks were looking for from Pettitte, but then again this was just a start to stay in rhythm. No one likes it that Pettitte didn’t pitch well, but as far as next week is concerned, it means nothing. Everything starts anew then, and Pettitte will come into his first playoff start well rested. The Yanks will need him to play a big role in every series.

After the throwing error, Aceves worked a perfect 2.1 innings of relief, striking out three Rays. Gaudin followed that with 1.1 innings of one-hit ball, striking out two Rays of his own. Aceves’s spot on the postseason roster is a lock, and Gaudin’s performance, combined with his efforts in the rotation this month, should earn him a long look. He, Brian Bruney, and Joba Chamberlain are vying for what could be just one roster spot.

On the offensive side, the Yanks put on 12 baserunners, which is not a bad total, but could bring only three around to score. This was the product of a 3 for 11 mark with runners in scoring position. With a version of the B or even C lineup in, it’s tough to expect more. Matsui and Swisher were the only regulars without a hit, though Swisher drew a walk.

Just one more game to go. A.J. Burnett gets his last tune-up under acting manager Jorge Posada tomorrow afternoon. It’d be nice to see the regulars get in some hits and finish the season with a win, but if they don’t? Meh.

Game 161: Just two more meaningless games to go

And so here we are, on the season’s penultimate day, going through the motions. Honestly, how many of you watched the whole game yesterday? It’s tough to stomach a game wherein the Rays score four first-inning runs and the ultimate outcome means nothing. Even the momentum factor is overstated.

There are but a few things to watch for tonight, and two of them involve home runs. If Mark Teixeira hits one, he’ll move into sole possession of first place in the AL, eclipsing the injured Carlos Pena. That would also set the Yankees’ single-season record for home runs. They’re currently tied with the 2004 team at 242.

The other thing is obviously Andy Pettitte, who gets his final tune-up start before the ALDS. Andy might take the ball again on Friday in Game 2, but it’s just as likely that he gets seven days off before a Game 3 start next Sunday. As with Sabathia, it doesn’t much matter how Pettitte fares. This game means nothing. His next start is what counts.

Jorge’s starting at catcher today. With tomorrow being a day game after a night game, one would expect Jose Molina to catch A.J. Burnett. It does appear that Molina will catch Burnett in the playoffs, odd as that decision may seem. There’s quite a robust discussion of the topic in the comments.

Lineup:

1. Brett Gardner, CF
2. Johnny Damon, LF
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Hideki Matsui, DH
5. Jorge Posada, C
6. Robinson Cano, 2B
7. Nick Swisher, RF
8. Eric Hinske, 3B
9. Jerry Hairston, SS

And on the mound, number forty-six, Andy Pettitte.

Choose your own ALDS Opponent

In a few minutes, the Royals and Twins will start their game. Zack Greinke goes for his 17th win as Nick Blackburn, on three days’ rest, looks to keep the surging Twins putting pressure on the Tigers. Right now, I’m just rooting for a one-game AL Central playoff on Tuesday.

But beyond that playoff, the Yankees will have to play someone on Wednesday in their hunt for an ALCS berth. Both the Twins and Tigers have their strengths and weaknesses. While the AL Central will be the worst, record-wise, of all AL playoff teams, we can’t count either out in a very short series.

So as the games begin and we await the time until the Yanks and Rays play game 161 tonight, let’s open this one up to a poll and a discussion. We’ll be back with the game thread in a few hours.

Which team would you prefer to see the Yanks face in the ALDS?
View Results

RAB Note: Feel free to use this thread to discuss the FOX game as long as it’s the Royals vs. the Twins. We’d like to keep this one somewhat on topic.

Previewing the Jason Bay ‘sweepstakes’

In a few weeks, current Red Sox outfielder Jason Bay will hit free agency for the first time in his career. With 36 home runs and 117 RBI, Bay is putting together some lofty stats at an opportune time, but still, his season comes equipped with numerous warning signs. Although the Yanks have been one of many teams mentioned as interested, they should become involved with Bay only to drive up the price for the Red Sox.

Through the middle of 2008, Bay excelled in relative obscurity. A darling for fantasy team owners, he was a stand-out player on years’ worth of terrible Pirates teams. He left Pittsburgh with a .281/.375/.515 line in six seasons and 131 home runs to complement the 131 OPS+. Bay arrived in Boston as a key piece in the three-way trade that sent Manny Ramirez to Los Angeles and clearly had some big shoes to fill.

While not nearly as good as Manny — who is? — Bay has found success in Boston. Through 198 games, he has a 132 OPS+ and has hit 45 home runs. His triple slash line this season— .275/.382/.537 — is impressive, and more than a few teams will come a-knockin’ when he hits free agency this winter.

Earlier this week, MLB Trade Rumors summarized the state of the Bay sweepstakes. Alex Speier in Boston believes that the bidding could reach $14-$15 million for Bay and that the left fielder will receive at least four years. Speier feels that Boston return is a “legitimate possibility” but notes that at least seven teams — including the Yankees — could have the interest and money to sign Bay.

To which I say, “Pass.” Right now, Jason Bay is a productive middle-of-the-order hitter, but warning signs abound. The most obvious problem is his age. He is 31, and his free agent contract will cover his decline years. With that in mind, we turn to his defense. Right now, it is atrocious. He hasn’t had a positive UZR since 2006, and even in Fenway’s limited left field, he’s putting up a -12.3 mark this year. While he may be worth 34.3 offensive runs above average, he is 12.3 defensive runs below average. That number will just get worse as he gets older.

Also of concern are his strike outs. He has a career-high 159 strike outs in 60 fewer plate appearances than when he sruck out 156 times in 2006. As he ages, his bat speed will slow, and that total should continue to climb.

Now, don’t get me wrong; Jason Bay is a very good hitter. His power bat would profile nicely for Yankee Stadium. Considering, however, the costs, years, his age and defense, I can’t see the Yanks expressing much legitimate interest. If the Yanks can force Boston to overpay for Bay without landing Bay themselves, well, that is a decent off-season plan.

Like it or not, Molina likely to catch in playoffs

The past week has seen debate over what the Yanks should do with their ALDS roster construction. Which 10 pitchers should they carry? Should they add Freddy Guzman? Francisco Cervelli? None of these is the most important question — the one that will have the most impact on one or multiple games. No, that question is of playing time at catcher. We’ve seen some speculation that Jose Molina could catch A.J. Burnett, and given some of Girardi’s comments last night, it appears that will be the case. From Feinsand:

“We haven’t come up with any final decisions on how we’re going to do things,” Girardi said. “Jose is possibly going to play an important role next week, so we wanted to get him some at-bats.”

I don’t think that “an important role” means catching the eighth and ninth if the Yanks pinch run for Posada. No, “an important role” would appear to mean starting catcher. So for those who are vehemently against Molina seeing any playing time next week, commence flipping out.

I’m not necessarily against the move. If it makes Burnett pitch better, I’m actually all for it. The problem is that I don’t think there’s any certainty in that. Are we guaranteed a good Burnett start with Molina behind the plate? If so, start him. If there’s no guarantee, though, and there’s really not any objective way to say there is, then I have to question the decision to take either Jorge’s or Matsui’s bat out of the lineup.

On a Friday night, CC throws a clunker

We talk about narratives a lot. Sometimes, they’re valid, but mostly, they’re used a tool to get through a very long season. Tonight’s game was part of that narrative.

Baseball is a marathon. For eight months, a bunch of players play nine innings every day. They play 30 games in Spring Training, 162 times during the regular season, and then, for the lucky and good teams, another 15 games in October. Sometimes, it just doesn’t go the way the fans want.

Tonight was one of those nights. As CC Sabathia said during the post-game interviews, he just wasn’t comfortable tonight. From the first pitch on, he couldn’t find his change-up, and when the Yanks gave up four unearned runs in the first, it just compounded the problem. By the time his night was over, CC had thrown a Joba-ian 82 pitches in 2.2 innings and allowed nine runs — five of them earned — as the Rays knocked 8 hits off the big man. He struck out three but walked five. Better today than next week.

While it would have been nice for Sabathia to win his 20th game, that’s about all it would have been. For the last three months, he’s been the staff ace, and in five days, he’ll take up that mantle in a game that counts. Feeling good after the game, he declared himself set for the post-season. “I’ll be ready five days from now,” CC said. So will the Yankees.

Meanwhile, Sabathia wasn’t the only one struggling to say focused and in control during a meaningless game on a Friday in front of 22,704 fans in Tampa. Phil Hughes, throwing in the 8th to get some work, couldn’t put away hitters. He threw 12 of 17 pitches for strikes but gave up three hits and a row. Joe Girardi lifted him for Damaso Marte, and it appeared to me as though Phil was just throwing for the sake of throwing. It was 12-3, and that’s called pitching to the score. At least Brian Bruney and Phil Coke looked good.

For the Yankees, the highlights were few and far apart. The first highlight — or scare — was retaliation. In the first inning, Mark Teixeira was hit on the left hand by a David Price pitch. It was clear retaliation for the Yanks’ unintentional beaning of Carlos Peña a few weeks ago. That HBP broke Peña’s fingers. This one just nicked Teixeira’s. “It just kind of grazed me. So luckily it’s good,” the Yanks’ slugger said after the game. He will be okay.

In the top of the 8th, the Yanks caught of glimpse of some left-handed power. Juan Miranda took a Dale Thayer offering into the back of the right field seats for his first career home run. The Yankees should be able to find a taker for Miranda this off-season, and while power-hitting left-handed first basemen are a dime a dozen, he’ll probably return something useful.

In the end, this was an ugly one. The Rays won 13-4, and B.J. Upton had hit for the cycle by the 5th inning. In five days, it’ll count. This one didn’t, and it showed.