Archive for 2012 ALCS

Oct
19

Somewhere over the rainbow

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After a 162-game grind, you would think you know a team pretty well. After watching the same group of players face off for nine innings every night, winning many more games than they lose and scoring runs in bunches, you would think that the same team would show up for another round of games as they work toward a World Series title. You would think.

Instead for the past eight games, since their ninth inning outburst in Game 1 of the ALDS, we’ve watched the Yankees’ great bats disappear. While Alex Rodriguez has taken the blame, it was truly a team effort. Robinson Cano put up a historically awful post-season while Nick Swisher, despite his meditation efforts, continued his trend of vanishing once the clock struck October. Eric Chavez was abysmal as A-Rod‘s erstwhile replacement. Curtis Granderson failed to get a hit against the Tigers, went 3 for 30 with 16 strikeouts in the playoffs and is batting .208 with an OBP under .300 since June 6. Mark Teixeira managed one extra-base hit and drove in one run, and even the Yanks’ stellar pitching couldn’t overcome this offensive malaise to prove true the adage that pitching wins championships.

Here at RAB, we’ve tried over the years to explain baseball. One of the beauties of the sport is how, after enough at-bats, innings, games, trends and patterns emerge. We see how a team should perform over the long haul, and what their strengths or weaknesses are. As I’ve watched the Yanks disappear, my main thoughts have focused around the confusion of it all. Rather than being angry, I simply don’t get it. How could a team that was this good during the season, that finished the year 16-5, that nearly led the majors in runs scored turn into a worse version of the Astros?

Most of the explanations I’ve heard turn the Yanks into some cut-rate version of The Wizard of Oz. With runs at a premium, no one could find a way home. Spooked by boos raining down on them from the Yankee Stadium faithful, the team had no courage. The players played with no heart, and of course, the coaches and Joe Girardi had no brain. That’s not a particularly satisfying conclusion to the 2012 season.

Maybe there’s no real reason for the Yanks’ slide. Maybe they all started pressing. Maybe the Tigers and Orioles had their scouting reports down to a tee. Maybe an aging club saw its flaws exposed, and maybe the Yanks’ brain trust panicked a bit too much when the club struggled to score runs early in the postseason. Maybe, as John Sterling likes to say, you just cannot predict baseball. But something happened, and right now, I have no idea what that was. All I know is that the 88-win Tigers — the 7th best in the AL — made besting the Yanks look like a walk in the park.

So we wait out the off-season now. It will be a tumultuous one as A-Rod trade rumors swirl, and Brian Cashman reimagines a team. I think we’ll leave the last word with Ichiro though, who summed up everyone’s frustration perfectly. After the game, the quotesmith had this to say: “The feelings of dissatisfaction and hurt inside right now is something that I hadn’t experienced in a while. So to be able to experience even this pain right now, I’m just so grateful to the Yankees to give me this opportunity to do that.” It is a pain we all know too well today. May it not return next year.

Categories : Musings
Comments (119)

After all the homers, all the injuries, all the RISPFAIL, all the Raul Ibanez game-saving dingers, all 98 wins and 171 games … the 2012 season is over for the Yankees. The Tigers swept them out of the ALCS in four games, capping off the series with a lopsided 8-1 win on Thursday.

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

The Pitching Bubble Bursts

The lineup did next to nothing offensively during the entire postseason, but it wasn’t until Game Four against Detroit that the pitching staff started to crumble. CC Sabathia carried the Yankees to the ALCS with an utterly dominant showing against the Orioles in the ALDS, but he was unable to repeat that kind of success against the Tigers in Game Four. His defense (more on that in a second) betrayed him early and the long ball bit him late, and the end result was six runs (five earned) on eleven hits (!) and two walks in just 3.2 innings. Sabathia threw 93 mostly ugly pitches.

A five-pitcher parade of relievers allowed two tack-on runs — both solo homers, one by Austin Jackson (off Derek Lowe) and one by Jhonny Peralta (off David Robertson) — in 4.1 innings. The Yankees struck out just four of 44 hitters in Game Four and just seven of 80 hitters in the final two games of the series. Pitching was not the reason the Yankees were eliminated in the ALCS, though it certainly didn’t help the cause in Game Four.

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

LMAOffense

The Yankees didn’t hit a lick all postseason and that continued on Thursday, as they were two-hit by Max Scherzer and three relievers. Eduardo Nunez tripled to left-center to leadoff the sixth, breaking up the no-hitter, and two batters later Nick Swisher doubled to right-center to plate the team’s only run of the game. Ichiro Suzuki, Mark Teixeira, and Jayson Nix all drew walks and Nunez reached on an error as well. That’s it, six total baserunners. The final nine Yankees of the season made outs.

All told, New York hit a whopping .177 in the ALCS, the second lowest team batting average in a best-of-seven series in baseball history. They hit .188 in the postseason overall, the second worst mark in franchise history behind the 1963 squad (.171 in only four games). Robinson Cano had one hit in the series and finished the ALCS with a .098 OBP, the lowest by any player in playoff history (min. 35 PA). His .075 average was the fourth lowest in history. That’s hard to believe. Swisher didn’t hit, Curtis Granderson didn’t hit, Alex Rodriguez didn’t hit, Russell Martin didn’t hit, no one outside of Ibanez, Ichiro, and Nunez hit. A-Rod, by the way, went 0-for-2 off the bench and flew out with two men on-base against lefty Drew Smyly to end the sixth.

Derpfense

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The scoreboard says the Yankees only committed two errors as a team, but they have the hometown scorer to thank for that. Eric Chavez misplayed a routine ground ball in the first (he froze instead of charged), allowing Omar Infante to beat it out and eventually come around to score. That’s a play that has to be made by a big league third baseman. Teixeira whiffed on not one, but two ground balls in the third inning, leading to another run. The first whiff was ruled a hit for Prince Fielder, which was a pretty ridiculous scoring decision. Teixeira had the ball in the pocket of his glove before flubbing it. He made just one error in the regular season and what should have been two in the third inning of this game.

Anyway, Nunez made two funny plays in the first five innings. First he made play on a ground ball ranging to his left, but the throw to first was a lawn dart right into the ground and the runner was safe. I don’t think he would have gotten him anyway, but the throw was wretched. Secondly, he mistimed a jump on a little line drive/fly ball (fliner) and had the ball clank off of his glove and drop for a hit. Neither play was routine, but still. Not pretty.

(Leon Halip/Getty)

Leftovers

Joe Girardi used all of his position players, though the array of pinch-hitters didn’t help at all. The Yankees had ten total hits and two runs in the final 30.1 innings of the series following Ibanez’s game-tying homer in the ninth inning of Game One. That’s just unfathomable. Brett Gardner went 0-for-3 in Game Four and also slid head first into first base in the third inning. He missed the entire season with an elbow injury and still dove head first into first. Gritty or stupid? Both?

Joba Chamberlain allowed two hits (one of which I thought was catchable, but whatever) but escaped the seventh inning when he stuck out his back leg and make a kick save on Gerald Laird’s ground out. It was a nice but totally lucky play, and I’m surprised the ball didn’t shatter his ankle. Joba has that kind of luck, you know? He, Cody Eppley, and Clay Rapada were more effective that Lowe and Robertson. Rafael Soriano threw exactly one inning in the series.

I give Girardi a hard time and he catches a lot of grief in general, it comes with being the Yankees manager, but I commend him for the job he did while dealing with the loss of his father. I’ve been there and it’s a very tough thing. I can’t imagine dealing with it in the middle of the postseason. Joe’s definitely a trooper.

Box Score & WPA Graph

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights. The Tigers are the first team to ever beat the Yankees in three straight postseason series (2006, 2011, 2012), which sucks. The Yankees were swept for the first time since 1980, a span of 36 playoff series. That’s the longest such streak in history. The Yankees also didn’t hold a lead at any point in the series, the first time they’ve done that since the 1963 World Series. I suppose the good news is that New York has been swept four times before (1922, 1963, 1976, 1980), and each time they rebounded to make the World Series the next year.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

Well, I guess it’s time for the offseason now. Spring Training is 120 days away, give or take, so between now and then we’ll spend our team reviewing the season that was, breaking down potential roster moves, all sorts of stuff. It was a good year with a crappy ending. Thanks for sticking around.

Categories : Game Stories, Playoffs
Comments (200)

The Yankees never held a lead in the series and outside of the ninth inning of Game One, they didn’t put up much of a fight at all. Completely outplayed. Congrats to the Tigers, but I wish you no luck in the World Series.

Categories : Asides, Game Stories
Comments (337)

I was really hoping the Yankees would be around long enough to play today, but not under these circumstances. Rather than play Game Five of the ALCS this afternoon, the Yankees and Tigers will instead play Game Four following last night’s rain out. New York is still down three games to none in the best-of-seven series, a scary but not completely insurmountable deficit. Stranger things have happened.

Since the rain out pushes the series back and day will not allow the Yankees to use CC Sabathia on three days’ rest in a potential Game Seven, I expect Joe Girardi to really ride his ace’s left arm hard today. I’m talking 120+ pitches if need be, especially if the game is close and he wants to avoid the middle relievers before handing the ball off to David Robertson and Rafael Soriano. Of course none of that will matter if the position players don’t start hitting. Here are your starting lineups, the same ones that were going to be used last night…

New York Yankees
LF Ichiro Suzuki
RF Nick Swisher
2B Robinson Cano
1B Mark Teixeira
DH Raul Ibanez
3B Eric Chavez
Russell Martin
CF Brett Gardner
SS Eduardo Nunez

LHP CC Sabathia (15-6, 3.38)

Detroit Tigers
CF Austin Jackson
2B Omar Infante
3B Miguel Cabrera
1B Prince Fielder
DH Delmon Young
SS Jhonny Peralta
LF Andy Dirks
RF Avisail Garcia
C  Gerald Laird

RHP Max Scherzer (16-7, 3.74)

It was raining earlier this morning in Detroit, but the weather has cleared up and there should be no problem getting this afternoon’s game in. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 4pm ET and can be seen on TBS. Enjoy.

Ticket Update: If you’re optimistic and want to catch a future game in this series, either in New York or Detroit, make sure you check out RAB Tickets for some last minute deals.

Categories : Game Threads, Playoffs
Comments (982)

(Leon Halip/Getty)

The miracle comeback will have to wait another day. Game Four of the ALCS was postponed due to rain on Wednesday night, as MLB wanted to “preserve the integrity of a nine-inning game.” The Yankees and Tigers will instead resume the series at 4pm ET on Thursday, though it should be noted that the forecast calls for a ton of rain that day as well. I guess they’ll wait that one out as long as possible.

As far as the Yankees are concerned, the biggest impact of the rain out is that CC Sabathia will not be able to start a potential Game Seven on three days’ rest. He would have to go on two days’ rest a la Derek Lowe in 2004, which Brian Cashman already confirmed they would not allow Sabathia to do. Despite finishing with the best overall record in the league this year, the Yankees really got the shaft with the schedule. This stinks. Oh well, at least CC will be lined up to start Game One of the World Series.

I assume that if the Yankees actually win Game Four, Game Five would be played Friday night. Andy Pettitte has already been announced as the scheduled starter for that game. Phil Hughes may or may not be able to start a potential Game Seven given his stiff back, which could mean David Phelps gets the ball or Ivan Nova will be added to the roster. That’s quite a ways off right now though. The Tigers lead the best-of-seven series three games to none.

Categories : Playoffs
Comments (158)

Well, things haven’t exactly gone according to plan so far. The pitching staff owns a 2.25 ERA in eight playoff game,s but the Yankees only have three wins because they’ve just stopped hitting. Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson … you name it and they’ve stopped hitting. If it wasn’t for the heroics of Raul Ibanez, this team would have been dead in the water a week ago.

I don’t expect the Yankees to mount a historic comeback from a three games to none deficit in the ALCS, but I’m very open to being surprised. I just hope they avoid a sweep tonight and make the Tigers sweat a little bit. Put a little scare into Detroit that forces them to maybe ride their pitchers a little harder than they’d like, maybe even force them to travel and play another game in Yankee Stadium. That would be sweet. Let’s just worry about this one and enjoy what will likely be CC Sabathia‘s final start of the year. Here are your starting lineups…

New York Yankees
LF Ichiro Suzuki
RF Nick Swisher
2B Robinson Cano
1B Mark Teixeira
DH Raul Ibanez
3B Eric Chavez
Russell Martin
CF Brett Gardner
SS Eduardo Nunez

LHP CC Sabathia (15-6, 3.38)

Detroit Tigers
CF Austin Jackson
2B Omar Infante
3B Miguel Cabrera
1B Prince Fielder
DH Delmon Young
SS Jhonny Peralta
LF Andy Dirks
RR Avisail Garcia
C  Gerald Laird

RHP Max Scherzer (16-7, 3.74)

It’s surprisingly warm in Detroit, but there is the threat of rain and we might see a weather delay. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 8pm ET and can be seen on TBS. Enjoy.

Ticket Update: If you’re optimistic and want to catch a future game in this series, either in New York or Detroit, make sure you check out RAB Tickets for some last minute deals.

Update (7:55pm): The game will officially start in a delay due to incoming bad weather. No word on a start time yet.

Categories : Game Threads, Playoffs
Comments (159)

The season is officially on the line tonight, as the Yankees are one loss away from an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Tigers in the ALCS. CC Sabathia will be on the mound on regular rest and that’s exactly who the Bombers want out there, but pitching hasn’t been the problem. The hitting has been, and tonight the batters will see hard-throwing right-hander Max Scherzer.

Scherzer, 28, went to the Tigers in the trade that brought Curtis Granderson to the Yankees, and he’s shaken off concerns about his durability by throwing at least 185 innings in each of the last three seasons. He’s got a little A.J. Burnett in him in the sense that he’s enigmatic and is more hittable than his stuff indicates he should be, but Scherzer is still pretty good. He just happens to be the fourth best starting pitcher in his own rotation.

2012 Performance vs. Yankees

Date Tm Opp Rslt Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP ERA BF Pit Str
Apr 29 DET @ NYY L,2-6 L(1-3) 4.2 7 3 3 7 4 1 0 7.77 28 119 62
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/17/2012.

Just the one ugly start back in April, that’s it. Andruw Jones went 2-for-2 with a homer and a walk off the bench in that game, that’s how long ago it was. Those seven walks are a career-high for Scherzer, who struggled big time in April before pitching very well the rest of the season. Despite only the one meeting this year, both sides are certainly familiar with each other though after the ALDS last season and various regular season matchups (four total, to be exact) since the trade that brought Scherzer to the AL.

Pitch Selection (via Brooks Baseball)

Scherzer is a three-pitch pitcher who acts like two two-pitch pitchers. Right-handers get the fastball and slider while lefties get the fastball and changeup. That’s pretty much it, he’s very straight forward. The fastball usually sits comfortably in the mid-90s, but Scherzer has been battling some shoulder fatigue lately and he’s been sitting the low-90s more often than not. We really don’t know how much that will help the hitters if it continues tonight, but I can’t imagine it’s a bad thing for the Yankees.

Performance & Results

TBF wOBA FIP K% BB% GB% FB% LD% HR/FB%
vs. RHB 351 0.258 2.52 34.8% 4.0% 37.9% 44.2% 18.0% 13.2%
vs. LHB 436 0.360 3.93 25.0% 10.6% 35.4% 39.4% 25.5% 10.2%

Unlike Justin Verlander yesterday, Scherzer has a significant platoon split. The guy eats up right-handers but has his struggled against left-handers because he doesn’t strike them out nearly as often and will walk them more frequently as well. It’s worth noting that some poor ball-in-play luck (.378 vs. 273 BABIP) plays a part in the huge split.

Regardless, it goes without saying that the Yankees have to take advantage of that, perhaps by again sitting Alex Rodriguez in favor of Eric Chavez even though neither guy is really hitting. Joe Girardi could trot out a lineup with only two true right-handed hitters — Russell Martin and Eduardo Nunez/Jayson Nix — and those guys could easily bat eighth and ninth. Last night’s ninth inning mini-rally was encouraging if nothing else, and today the Yankees have a chance to build on it and actually generate some offense by stacking lefties against Scherzer.

Categories : Pitching, Playoffs
Comments (25)
Oct
17

The need for more speed

Posted by: | Comments (91)

(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Joe Girardi has had to tinker with his lineup far more than I’m sure he would have liked this postseason, and it was all out of necessity. Alex Rodriguez simply has not hit right-handers at all, and the duo of Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher went from middle of the order thumpers to bottom of the lineup automatic outs. He inserted both Brett Gardner and Eduardo Nunez into the starting lineup last night and was mostly rewarded, as Nunez drove in their only run with a solo homer while Gardner had some of the team’s best and longest at-bats. The Yankees still lost though.

I expect tonight’s lineup to be very similar to last night’s with maybe one or two minor changes. Maybe Swisher is back in the starting lineup and Granderson sits, something like that. Either way, I think the stretch of 9-1-2 hitters — Nunez, Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki — will remain the same to give the team some speed on the bases. They didn’t use that speed at all last night though, as Ichiro singled twice and didn’t bother to steal second either time even though the one thing Justin Verlander will let an offense do is steal a base. I understand that every base-runner is precious when you’re struggling to score, but I felt the situation called for pushing the envelope.

Max Scherzer is a bit more stingy with the stolen base than Verlander, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the speed game should come out of the playbook. Frankly it doesn’t make sense to play Nunez and Gardner and not have them try to steal when they do reach base. Obviously the whole getting on-base thing is quite important, but Scherzer hasn’t been himself lately and is probably the least effective Tigers’ starter right now. If last night’s ninth inning mini-rally is going to carry over to today, it will be because Detroit’s starter is still dealing with some nagging shoulder issues and can’t reach back for 95+ when in a jam.

Desperate times do call for desperate measures, and Girardi did sorta take those measures with his lineup moves last night. If he keeps Nunez and Gardner in the lineup for Game Four, even if they don’t bat back-to-back, the club has to try to take advantage of their speed. I’m surprised they have yet to lay a bunt down towards Miguel Cabrera at third or even Prince Fielder at first, but if Scherzer is pitching well the first time through the order it might be a shot in the middle innings. The Yankees have to try to generate some offense in different ways tonight and hopefully going forward later in the series, and taking advantage of the fresh legs (both Nunez and Gardner missed a big chunk of time with injury this season) could be one way to do it.

Categories : Offense, Playoffs
Comments (91)

Via Joel Sherman: Phil Hughes has been cleared by doctors to throw today after leaving last night’s start with mild stiffness in his back. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild saw the right-hander stretching between innings yesterday, which raised a red flag. He threw just three innings and 61 pitches in the game. Assuming today’s throwing session goes well, Hughes will be able to throw his usual between-starts bullpen session tomorrow and might even be available in relief down the road if the Yankees make the Tigers sweat a little in the ALCS.

Categories : Asides, Injuries, Playoffs
Comments (20)

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

The Yankees are playing with house money at this point. No one realistically expects them to win the next four games and mount a historic comeback from a three games to none deficit in the ALCS. The pitching has been fantastic and the hitting has been dreadful. Even is CC Sabathia goes out and dominates the Tigers in Game Four tonight, there’s a pretty good chance the Yankees will support him by scoring zero runs.

I hope that’s not the case though. Maybe those tough grind-it-out at-bats in the ninth inning last night were an indication that the Yankees are starting to figure things out offensively. Robinson Cano even got a hit in that inning, and they always say that all it takes is one hit to turn things around. Max Scherzer had a great regular season but has been battling shoulder problems of late, which is why his fastball velocity fell off in a big way in September. He averaged 94.2 with the fastball during the season but just 93.0 in Game Four against the Athletics last week.

Maybe that reduced velocity allows the Yankees to scratch a run or two across early and actually take the lead, something they’ve yet to do in the series. Maybe that’s enough for Sabathia to squeeze out the win. Then the Yankees have Andy Pettitte going in Game Five and Hiroki Kuroda on regular rest in Game Six. Sabathia would come back on three days’ rest to square off against Verlander in the winner-take-all Game Seven. It could happen. It’s incredibly unlikely, but not impossible.

At this point, the Yankees are the underdog. They’re not your typical small market underdog, but they’re an underdog nonetheless. No one expects them to win the series and I’m sure most people believe they’re going to lose Game Four tonight and get swept out of the playoffs as well. Expectations are low or just flat out non-existent, which can be a dangerous thing. It’s easy to forget how good of a team the Yankees really are, and if one or two (or three!) bats wake, they could become a headache for the Tigers in a hurry.

The Yankees have nothing to lose at this point other than their entire season, and I think most people assume that it’s only a matter of time before Detroit wraps up the series. Joe Girardi & Co. are going to take it one game at a time and blah blah blah cliche cliche cliche. There’s nothing to say, they just have to start hitting and hope the pitching holds up. It would behoove the Tigers to end this series as soon as possible though, you don’t want to give the Yankees that Game Four win. Anything can happen after that.

Categories : Playoffs
Comments (110)