Bullpens prove the difference in weekend series

The Yankees executed the game plan well this weekend. They continued their penchant for taking pitches, which prevented each Angels’ starter from pitching the seventh inning. They knocked out Ervin Santana and Joel Pineiro after six, and tagged Scott Kazmir during that inning. The overall line for the Angels’ staters didn’t look too pretty:

17.1 IP, 22 H, 14 R, 14 ER, 6 BB, 8 K, 3 HR, 297 pitches (just over 17 per inning)

Photo credit: Christine Cotter/AP

That left the Angels bullpen to cover 9.2 innings during those three days, which usually means success for the Yankees. They take pitches not only to work favorable counts, but also to tire out the starting pitcher. This means more innings for the bullpen, and since most bullpens feature pitchers weaker than the team’s starters the Yankees typically feast. At least, that’s the idea. Over the weekend the Angels’ bullpen pitched very well, allowing just one run in those 9.1 innings. Their final combined line:

9.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 7 K, 0 HR

Even with the five walks the Angels relievers allowed less than a base runner per inning, an excellent feat against a lineup like the Yankees. All three hits came during Saturday’s affair, a game which the Yankees had well at hand before Scot Shields relieved Joel Pineiro to start the seventh. In the two close games, Friday and Sunday, the Angels relievers held the Yankees to no hits and just three walks while striking out five in 6.2 IP.

This stands in contrast to what the Yankees bullpen accomplished over the weekend. While the Angels relievers were busy keeping the Yankees off the base paths, the Yankees relievers proceeded to blow two close games. That’s not an indictment of the entire staff, of course. David Robertson pitched very well in his two-out stint on Friday, retiring both batters he faced. Instead, it was just two relievers who performed poorly for the Yankees, Joba Chamberlain and Damaso Marte.

Photo credit: Chris Carlson/AP

On Friday night Joba opened the inning by allowing a single and a homer. He continued his shakiness, allowing a single and a deep fly ball to the next two batters before settling down a bit and retiring the side on two easy fly balls. On Sunday Marte clearly didn’t have it, as he walked a guy and hit a guy before falling behind on Kendry Morales 3-0. There were plenty of questions to ask afterwards, including why Girardi let Marte throw that pitch to Morales. It was also questionable to remove Aceves after his 1.2 perfect innings. No matter the management, though, those two losses are on the relievers who allowed the runs (though Sunday’s loss is much easier to pin on Vazquez).

Other than those two performances, the Yankees’ bullpen did just as well as its Angels counterpart. Boone Logan, Sergio Mitre, Al Aceves, David Robertson, and Saturday’s Damaso Marte combined for the following line:

5.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K

The Angels just happen to run into a couple of bad performances. On another weekend perhaps the Yanks take better advantage of Fernando Rodney’s wildness, maybe they mount a rally against Brian Fuentes, maybe they can hit Jason Bulger and Scot Shields like the rest of the league has to this point. This weekend, though, the Angels bullpen won. The Yanks bullpen made a valiant effort, but two poor performances from otherwise good relievers were the differences in two games. That will happen.

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Down and away wasn’t working for Marte

The seventh inning wasn’t supposed to happen like that. As Mike noted earlier, it was a trial by fire of sorts for Chan Ho Park. He failed in his initial assignment, though it’s likely he gets another chance in the near future. Maybe not in the next two games, but we’ll certainly see Chop in the seventh, and perhaps the eighth, again soon. His command just wasn’t there last night. It happens to the best of them.

With David Ortiz coming to the plate, Joe Girardi made the predictable move and called for his lefty, Damaso Marte. Just a few days removed from a “cranky” shoulder, Marte was pronounced in full health for Opening Day. Clearly, he would enter the game to face Ortiz if an appropriate situation arose. This seemed like it. Runner on second, two outs, tie game. As we saw, though, the sequence didn’t go well. Let’s take this pitch by pitch.

Pitch 1

As you can see, Jorge sets up low and away for the slider. Marte missed big time, overthrowing the pitch and sending it well to Jorge’s left and in the dirt. Still, it’s just one pitch. The runner on third rather than second doesn’t much matter, unless Marte has another wild pitch in him.

Pitch 2

It looks like Posada wanted the same pitch, same spot. He set up, and Marte missed again, though not nearly as badly. It wasn’t encouraging, though, that Marte missed with two straight sliders. That’s supposed to be his money pitch against lefties. The idea is to get Ortiz to misread it as a fastball and then give one of those long, loping swings and miss.

Pitch 3

Finally, Jorge calls for a fastball. He sets up low and away, even though Ortiz has had problems on the inside pitch over the past year or so. Marte unleashed one, missing his spot by a decent amount. This is where the pitch ended up.

Ortiz circa 2006 puts that pitch onto the Mass Turnpike. It was right around his waist and at a spot he could get his arms extended. Marte reached back and slung it at 93, which was probably his only saving grace. If that cranky shoulder caused him to hold back on his velocity, Ortiz might have been able to do more with it. Then again, maybe it was Ortiz’s slow bat rather than the pitch speed that caused the swing and miss.

Pitch 4

Again, setting up low and away. Posada and Marte had a plan here, though again I’m not sure I get it, considering Ortiz’s trouble with inside pitches. ESPN didn’t show Jorge giving the sign. Marte threw fastball, though maybe Jorge called for a slider. In any case, Marte threw one upstairs and Jorge couldn’t compensate.

I honestly hope that was a cross-up, because if not it reflects even more poorly on Jorge. Yes, the pitch was nowhere near the setup, but he still has to catch that. It’s more understandable, of course, if Jorge was expecting slider low and away and got fastball upstairs.

Pitch 5

Just for good measure, another low-away setup:

Apparently Jorge did call for fastball this time, because the pitch was even higher than the previous one. This time he caught it. Not that it mattered. It was ball four, and Ortiz isn’t the type to sprint around and take the extra base.

For reference, here’s where each pitch ended up:

That brought on Joba, who recorded the final out in the seventh before pitching his own sloppy eighth inning. Hopefully these were just some early season jitters. The bullpen looked like crap last night, and we all know that they’re better than that.

Spring Training Health Report: Everyone’s okay

The Yankees suffered a rash of minor injuries in the final week of camp, but they’ll have everyone available when the season begins tomorrow night. To put it succinctly, Jorge Posada‘s stiff neck is fine, Nick Johnson‘s bruised knee is better, Damaso Marte‘s shoulder isn’t cranky, and Al Aceves lower back is a-okay. Frankie Cervelli‘s sore hamstring is good to go as well, and he’ll be available off the bench. Thankfully everyone’s healthy, and the Yanks can start the season with everyone intact.

Marte has a “cranky” left shoulder

Via Marc Carig, lefty setup man Damaso Marte what he called a “cranky” shoulder, though he thinks he’ll miss two or three days at the most. The problem, or course, is that Marte had a shoulder issue last year that he classified as minor, yet he ended up missing four months. If he has to hit the disabled list for any length of time, you can all but guarantee that Boone Logan will make the roster.

Past Trade Review: Cashman’s Top 5 Blunders

Yesterday I listed Brian Cashman’s three most lopsided trades. Those, of course, all fell in his favor. Yet he’s not immune from the bad trade. His blunders aren’t as great as his successes — it’s tough to make up the wins he gained by acquiring Alex Rodriguez, Bobby Abreu, and Nick Swisher — but he’s still lost on a number of deals. Here are the trades that cost the Yankees the most in terms of WAR.

(Note: Since many of the deals happened before 2002, I’ll use the historical WAR database to determine the values.)

Mike Lowell

When thinking about Cashman’s worst trades, the first that came to mind was Mike Lowell. In 1999 he shipped Lowell to Florida for a package that featured Ed Yarnall, long coveted by the Yankees. Chances are Lowell wouldn’t have gotten the 339 plate appearances he did for the Marlins in 1999, because Scott Brosius would have been coming off a career year. Still, we can’t try to figure out when a player’s clock would have started. We’re still going with first six years, though his 339 plate appearances indicate that he’d have a seventh year before free agency.

From 1999 through 2005 Lowell was worth 16.4 WAR. Ed Yarnall was worth 0.3 in 1999 and -0.3 in 2000, leaving his overall WAR at zero. Mark J. Johnson was worth -0.6, and Todd Noel never made the majors. This certainly ranks as Cashman’s biggest blunder.

Loss: 17 WAR

Photo credit: Alan Diaz/AP

Damaso Marte

Not even a half season after signing him as a free agent, the Yankees traded lefty reliever Damaso Marte to the Pirates for Enrique Wilson. Apparently he hit well against Pedro Martinez, which is a perfectly acceptable reason to make a trade. Sarcasm aside, I don’t remember much of this trade, and so it likely went uncriticized in the press. Marte, at the time, had pitched just 8.2 major league innings. Upon his call-up to the Pirates he got hit around a bit in 36.1 innings and was worth 0 WAR. That would quickly change.

Over the next six years Marte was worth 7.9 WAR. Wilson actually cost the Yankees wins, as he was worth -2.2 WAR. It seems odd that such a minor trade would carry double-digit win implications, but this was the case with Wilson and Marte.

Loss: 10.1 WAR

Photo credit: Steve Nesius/AP

Ted Lilly

Thankfully, Ted Lilly was the only player of note the Yankees traded for Jeff Weaver. I remember the concern at the time that trading John-Ford Griffin could come back to bite them. He had hit very well at Staten Island during his debut in 2001, and was having a fairly decent, Austin Jackson-like surge upon his promotion to AA in 2002. He was also the No. 76 prospect in the game headed into that season. Yet it was Lilly whom the Yankees could have used in the following years.

As we well know, Ted Lilly qualified for free agency after the 2006 season. From the point the Yankees traded him in 2002 he was worth 9.7 WAR. Weaver, during his season and a half with the Yankees, was worth 1.1 WAR. That breaks down to 1.4 WAR in the second half of 2002 and -0.3 WAR in 2003. They still had him under team control for a few years, but instead packaged him in a deal for Kevin Brown. Brown was worth 2.5 wins in 2005, but -0.9 in 2004. Even if we count that, which we won’t, it doesn’t come close to balancing out Lilly’s 9.7 WAR.

Loss: 8.6 WAR

Photo credit: Ben Margot/AP

Nick Johnson, Randy Choate, Juan Rivera

After the losses of David Wells, Roger Clemens, and Andy Pettitte, the Yankees clearly had to reload their rotation. One measure they took was to acquire Javy Vazquez from the Expos. He didn’t come cheap, of course. At the time he was just 28 years old and was coming off four straight seasons pitching more than 200 innings. It cost the Yankees Nick Johnson, who was blocked by Jason Giambi, Juan Rivera, and Randy Choate. Considering the Yankees kept Vazquez for just one year, it certainly cost them.

During his sole pinstriped season Vazquez was worth 2.3 WAR. He added another 4.6 WAR over the next two seasons, the terms of his contract with the Yankees. They traded him for Randy Johnson, who was worth 5.8 WAR as a Yankee. That helps soften the blow, but doesn’t completely erase it (especially since we’re not counting it). Johnson currently has nine years’ of service time, so he would have been eligible for free agency after the 2006 season. From 2004 through 2006 he was worth 8.9 WAR. Juan Rivera would have been under team control through 2008, during which time he produced 1.8 WAR for the Expos and Angels. I have no idea how long Choate would have been under control, but he was 0.4 in 2004, -0.4 in 2005, and 0.0 in 2006 and 2007, so he’s a wash in any case.

Loss: 8.4 WAR

Photo credit: H. Rumph, Jr./AP

Ramon Ramirez

In 2005 the Yankees desperately needed rotation help. It seemed everyone was getting hurt. They turned to an unknown minor league lifer named Aaron Small to fill a spot, and right around the trade deadline they acquired Shawn Chacon from the Rockies in exchange for two relievers, Eduardo Sierra and Ramon Ramirez. Having been solidly in my blogging days, I researched these guys but didn’t find much. The need, at the time, for starting pitching was too great to think about two minor league relievers.

Fortunately, Chacon helped the Yankees make the playoffs that year. Unfortunately, that was about the extent of his value to the team. Meanwhile, Ramirez pitched well for the Rockies, Royals, and Red Sox following the trade. He has been worth 4.0 WAR in his four major league seasons. Chacon helped enormously with his 2.7 WAR in 2005, but negated much of that with a -1.2 number in 2006, making his total 1.5. That’s only a 3.5 WAR loss, so no big deal, right? The problem is that Ramirez is still under team control for three more years, and could continue to widen that gap.

Loss: 3.5 WAR and counting

Photo credit: Nick Wass/AP