A-Rod wants to stay in the Bronx

Newsday’s newest Yankee beat writer Kat O’Brien has the story on A-Rod. Said the super-human third baseman, “I want to stay in New York, no matter what.” If the image-conscious A-Rod is serious and doesn’t mind giving up a few bucks to stay in pinstripes, that’s the best news I’ve heard since, well, yesterday when the Yanks announced Hughes as tomorrow’s starter. This April has shown us all that Alex Rodriguez is the biggest piece to the Yankees offense. They gotta keep him.

Looking ahead to the draft, College Q&A

The very first post here at River Ave. Blues was a look at some college kids to keep an eye on for the 2007 draft, which I then followed up by previewing some noteworthy high school kids. With less than 2 months until the big event goes down, it’s time to start getting serious with the draft coverage.

I brought in the big guns for the next installment of my draft preview series, enlisting the services of Brian Foley, editor of The College Baseball Blog, a blog about (duh) college baseball which is just too great for words. You’d be hard pressed to find a site that’s more informative, comprehensive and entertaining than Brian’s. If you have any interest in college ball whatsoever, make sure you head on over and bookmark it, if you haven’t already.

Anyways, I asked Brian some questions, and he answered. I slacked off a bit putting this together, so any stats mentioned DO NOT include action from this past weekend. Enjoy.Â

Q: Teams love to draft college righthanders, they’re generally safe, cheap and plentiful. But outside of Andrew Brackman and Josh Fields, there doesn’t seem to be any truly elite RHP prospects, whereas last year there was Tim Lincecum, Brandon Morrow, Max Scherzer, Daniel Bard, Joba Chamberlain, Jeff Samardzija…I could go on and on. Are there any RHPs who could sneak up, have a great spring and really vault themselves into that elite prospect category? [Read more…]

Phil Hughes: The right move at the right time

Do you think Phil Hughes should have gotten the call? The debate sweeps through Yankeeland, as two opposing sides butt heads on the issue. On one side are the “babyers.” They want to see him “learn” in the minors and keep his innings limited, thus reducing the risk of injury. On the other side are the “throwers.” They believe that pitchers should pitch, and that a guy like Phil Hughes has little, if anything, left to learn in the minors. Obviously, the three of us are “throwers.” Let’s start this argument from the top.

Igawa’s performance last night helps illustrate why calling up Phil Hughes is the smart move. If the Yankees really just needed a pitcher or two for a couple of spot starts in place of Moose and Pavano, fine. You expect them back soon (Mussina at least), and the rest of your rotation is fine. However, this is obviously not the case. Pavano might not be back for a very long time, and even when/if he does return, there is even less a chance that he helps the team. He needs to build endurance, and you don’t do that sitting on the DL with an elbow strain (which is what King Felix has, by the way).

Then you have Igawa, in whom I have a dwindling amount of faith. I did point out that he had pitched better in each of his starts against progressively better opponents. If that was real progress, he would have fared well against the Devil Rays last night. Alas, he had no control and continued to leave the ball up in the zone. At a time when the bullpen desperately needed a rest, Igawa did not deliver. And I’m not convinced that we’re going to see him pitch well in more than one out of six or seven outings. That won’t even cut it for a No. 5 starter.

So that’s 2/5 of the Opening Day rotation in question. If you’re looking to replace just a No. 5 starter, Karstens or Rasner might be able to fill in temporarily. However, the Yanks are replacing two No. 5 starters, and inserting both Karstens and Rasner will probably have damning results (it is, by the way, excruciating to sit through a Darrell Rasner start).

So what do you do in that situation? You insert your next best pitcher, which is Phil Hughes. Cashman may say that he’ll be up as long as Mussina is on the shelf, but I think we can distance ourselves from his PR-speak. The rotation stinks. It will probably get better with Wang now back and Moose about a week away. But then that leaves you with just three quality starters — surely not enough to overcome Boston. By adding Hughes to the mix, you now have a fourth quality starter. Add Clemens, and you have the best rotation in baseball, without question.

[Read more…]

Devil Rays 10, Yanks 8

Player WPA Pitcher WPA
Giambi .240 Myers .027
Alex .226 Mo .003
Phelps .139 Bean -.038
Cano .125 Vizcaino -.065
Jeter -.023 Bruney -.087
Matsui -.028 Igawa -.440
Damon -.058
Abreu -.098
Melky -.178
Posada -.246

This is the type of game where the WPA is interesting — though highly discouraging. The Yanks may have lost by a mere two runs, but it was a struggle to make it even that close. It was Giambi, Alex, Phelps, and Cano vs. the rest of the team. It’s not often that you see a positive WPA from hitters in a losing effort. But, that’s just how bad Kei Igawa is, and how overworked our bullpen has become.

Honestly, does anyone want to relive last night via recap? I know I don’t. I can only type “Igawa” so many times before rage overcomes me. In fact, the only thing worse than thinking about his performance last night is thinking about his Saturday start against the Red Sox. If they teed off on Chase Wright, they’re going to run amok on Igawa. Thankfully, help is on the way.

You’ve got to admit it ain’t getting better

That Alex Rodriguez; he’s pretty good. But the Yankees just can’t win for him.

In Tampa Bay, the super-human A-Rod continued his hot spring. He went four for five with 2 HR and 3 RBI to raise his inflated numbers even further. He is now batting .400 with a .453 OBP and a 1.053 SLG. That’s off the charts. He has tied the record for most home runs in April and has driven in 34 runs already.

But that’s not the story here. Once again, the story was pitching. The story was yet another poor pitching performance from Kei Igawa and the disappearance of/Joe Torre’s utter reluctance to use Kyle Farnsworth. (Yes, I will point fingers at Joe Torre tonight. Thank for you very much. In fact, our six-hour outage this afternoon was, um, all his fault too. He went to the wrong server in the sixth inning.)

First, let’s talk about Kyle Farnsworth. Krazy Kyle is making $5.6 million this year to be the Yankees’ go-to reliever outside of Mariano River. Sure, he struggled in Minnesota. But does that mean he has to drop off the face of the planet? Night after night, Torre uses Proctor and Bruney and the unimpressive Luis Vizcaino. Farnsworth, meanwhile, has pitched a grand total of 2.0 innings in the last week. The rest of the Yankee bullpen has pitched many, many more.

When the time was right for Farnsworth to come in and hold down a one-run deficit to set up what could have been late-inning heroics for A-Rod yet again, in to the game jogged…Brian Bruney and Luis Vizcaino. Before you could say “not another bad bullpen performance,” the game was out of hand.

But hey, at least Joe Torre’s $5-million man is well rested for whenever it is that our asleep-at-the-wheel manager feels like sticking him into a game. As long as Proctor and Bruney and Vizcaino can still lift their arms above their heads, who cares about the guy with the 99 MPH fastball?

Now, let’s talk Kei Igawa. I don’t have any expectations for Igawa anymore. After tonight’s lackluster effort against the Devil Rays, Igawa is 1-1 with a 7.84 ERA in 20.2 IP. He’s given up 24 hits while walking 9 and striking out 13. Opponents are hitting .279 against him.

And based on what I saw tonight, I don’t think it’s going to be better at all. His pitches are soft, and while Joe Girardi kept insisting they had late movement, my eye saw a hurler throwing from a three-quarters motion on a level plane. In lay terms, that means righties have all the time in the world to pick up the ball, and even lefties won’t be fooled by Kei Igawa’s straight pitches.

While 20 innings isn’t enough to write off a pitcher completely, the Yankees now appear to have two huge holes in their rotation, and this is counting Wang, Mussina and Pettitte as healthy. Maybe I’m wrong; maybe Igawa is just adjusting to a new style of hitting. But Ron Guidry will have to work hard to turn Igawa into a sinkerball pitcher. He’s getting beat on pitches up in the zone, and Igawa made a career in Japan out of pitching up in the zone. That just doesn’t work in the Major Leagues.

When Phil Hughes takes the mound on Thursday, we’ll expect big things from him. But even if he just gives us five or six innings of competitive ball, that’s a better start than what we’ve seen so far from Igawa. As the Yankee starters struggle to make it through five innings, it’s clear that it won’t take much for Phil to stick around.

Down on the Farm

My official Phil Hughes prediction for Thursday: 6 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K 

Cashman says Hughes’ first Yankee tenure depends on how long Moose is out, but I think he’s up for good. They’ll keep him around to fill Pavano’s spot after Moose returns, and when (if) Pavano comes back, Hughes will just be too good to send back down.

This is the happiest day in my blogging life.

Triple-A Scranton scheduled off day.

[Read more…]