Archive for Marcus Thames
Both times the Yankees faced the Blue Jays in August they lost the series 2-1. There are worse things than 2-1 series losses, especially to a team that has played like the Jays. It’s not like they lose a series to the Indians or Royals. With yesterday’s victory the Yankees locked down another series.
Biggest Hit: Mr. Automatic
What type of runs would you like? Do you like yours when down in a close game? How about game-tying? I hear that go-ahead runs are just the tastiest. Except walk-off, of course. Walk-off runs are the juiciest runs of them all. Marcus Thames has cooked up all of them this season. Yesterday he prepared us a helping of go-ahead runs.
The game took some early turns. Neither starter got through the fifth. Javier Vazquez did make a bid, but Joe Girardi removed him in a first and third, two outs situation in the fifth. In a scenario that we will discuss in a moment, the Blue Jays tied the game. It stayed that way for a couple of innings. Until Marcus Thames came to the plate, that is.
Thames actually led off in the bottom half of the fifth, but he realized that he had plenty of time. Instead of pulverizing a Jesse Carlson slider he merely grounded it to third. It was a gift by appearances, but Thames was just biding his time. In the seventh he recognized that the situation had become dire. Carlson retired six straight and his successor, Jason Frasor, added two to the tally. But then Robinson Cano snapped the skid with his second up-the-middle single of the game. Thames would not let the opportunity pass.
Frasor threw his first pitch, a slider, towards the inside edge. Thames swung, but he managed only to foul it away. Carlson, fool that he is, tried the same thing again, but this pitch he left right in the center of the plate. Thames put a mighty swing on it and drove it to the bit field in left-center. But it could not contain Thames. He sent the ball into the visitor’s bullpen, putting his Yankees ahead.
A curious pitching change
Over the course of a season the manager makes hundreds of pitching changes. There is no way that they’ll all work. Most of the time, if he’s a good manager, he’ll make the right call. But most is just more than 50 percent. There are plenty of times when the manager will make a good call that fails. Other times he’ll make a plain bad call. It happens. Joe Girardi mostly makes the right call. Yesterday he made a suspect one.
Javier Vazquez was not pitching like he had during his previous two relief outings. His fastball didn’t crack 90. He didn’t have the command necessary to compensate for his diminished velocity. He threw too many damn sliders, a pitch that just hasn’t worked this year. It amounted to three runs through four innings, both on second inning home runs. But Vazquez had settled down, allowing no runs in the third and fourth before retiring the first two batters in the fifth. But then he walked Jose Bautista. No biggie. It became a biggie, apparently, when Vernon Wells followed with a single.
That brought Overbay, who had homered earlier in the game, to the plate. Joe Girardi bound out of the dugout after the single, so it was clear that he in no way would let Vazquez face Overbay again. That might sound like a reasonable position, especially considering how Javy looked, but there were a few things to consider here. First, the tying run was 270 feet away, so it would have taken a big hit to score him. Second, the homer earlier on the game came on a slider. Letting Vazquez pitch to Overbay, but forbidding him to throw a slider, was probably the right call. But Girardi went to Dustin Moseley. I fail to see the upgrade.
Maybe if he’d gone to Robertson, or Chamberlain, or even Logan, I wouldn’t have thought it such a bad call. But Moseley? Maybe he could have brought Moseley in to eat an inning or two after that. The big guns in the pen have been worked hard lately. That tends to happen when you win a lot of games in a short span. If Girardi wants to go with the long man in the sixth with a two-run lead, so be it. But Moseley with the tying runs on base? It just seems odd coming from a guy who, just a month and a half ago, used Robertson in the third inning in a crucial situation.
This doesn’t make Girardi a bad manager. No one will make the right call 100 percent of the time. But this seemed like a fairly obvious one. Don’t go to Moseley with the tying run on base unless it’s of the utmost necessity.
For much of the season Brett Gardner has hit ninth. That makes him a “second lead-off hitter,” whatever that means. Really, it means he’s hitting ninth. I don’t know why Girardi does it, but he likes having that second leadoff hitting advantage. But ever since A-Rod‘s injury Girardi has found a spot in the top of the lineup for Gardner. Which makes sense. He takes pitches, he gets on base, and he’s a threat to steal. That means not having a wrap-around lineup. Unless you do.
Francisco Cervelli had another pleasantly surprising day. He doubled twice and came around to score both times, first thanks to a wild pitch and second thanks to a Derek Jeter chopper that — to invoke Michael Kay — fortuitously ricocheted off the third base bag. As Chad Jennings relays, it was the first multi-double game of Cervelli’s career. It’s always a little easier to score runs when the bottom of the order produces. Cervelli deserves much praise for his recent timely hits.
Graph and Box
If I just saw this graph and the final score, I’d probably think that this was a pretty good game. And I’d be right.
It’s never a bad game when you’re looking at not only a sweep, but a ninth straight win. Phil Hughes goes for it, while Brett Cecil tries to stop it. It’s Day Game No. 4 of 5 from the Bronx.
Everyone loves a nice feel good story, and that’s exactly what Marcus Thames is. He and his four siblings ran the household at a young age after his mother was paralyzed in a car accident, and after his junior year of high school Thames joined the National Guard to earn extra money for his family. Nicknamed Slick by his mother because he used to suck his thumb as a child, Marcus managed to overcome the hardship of his adolescence to become a big league baseball player that homered on the first pitch he ever saw, off a future Hall of Famer no less. It’s the kind of stuff they base movies on.
Thames’ season has been pretty storybook for the Yanks this year. His “welcome to the Yankees” moment, so to speak, was the walk-off homer off Jonathan Papelbon back in May. Another walk-off hit against the Blue Jays in July built up his good will, though his defense in the corner outfield spots tested the limits of the fans’ patience. A 2-for-23 stretch before a disabled list stint in June appeared to put his job in jeopardy, and quite a few people thought he would/should be designated for assignment after the Yanks acquired Austin Kearns and Lance Berkman at the trade deadline. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.
Free from the rigors of outfield defense, Thames has been a man on a mission this month while playing almost exclusively designated hitter. He started the month with four hits in eight plate appearances before stepping in for Mark Teixeira as the three-hole hitter during a two game series against the first place Rangers. Lefties C.J. Wilson and Cliff Lee started the two games, exactly the demographic Thames was brought in to face. He picked up five hits in the two game set including an eighth inning solo homer and a game-winning single in the ninth inning of the second game. Marcus’ latest masterpiece includes six homers in his last five starts, putting his season wOBA at .410.
Like I said, Thames was brought in strictly to pound lefthanded pitching, but he’s gone above and beyond the call of duty. He’s posted a .419 wOBA against southpaws but has nearly matched it with a .400 wOBA against righthanders. It’s his best single season performance against pitchers of the same side since he wOBA’s .378 off righties in 2006, the year he helped the Tigers to the World Series. In a year where almost every offseason acquisition – Nick Johnson, Javy Vazquez, Randy Winn, Curtis Granderson, Chan Ho Park – has failed to meet expectations, Thames stands out as the one great move.
The inevitable question will arise about Thames’ future with the Yanks, which of course is something we can’t answer until the season is over and we see how things play out. The answer right now is an unequivocal yes, but as always we have to remember to keep things in perspective. At .318/.398/.556, he is currently sporting career highs in all of the triple-slash categories, and it’s really not all that close either. It’s practically impossible for Thames to repeat that next year, and if he drops back down to .249/.315/.496 (his career average) as a 34-year-old next year, how useful is he to this team?
That’s a debate for another time, but right now Thames has been worth every penny of his $900,000 contract (there’s another $900,000 in performance bonuses in there, and I’m sure he’s met a few of those already). Every great team needs to get big time production from an unexpected sources throughout the season, and for this year’s Yankees, it’s Marcus Thames. Mr. Thames to you.
Heading into last night’s game, Trevor Cahill held the AL’s second lowest ERA, trailing just Clay Buchholz. So when the A’s staked him to a 3-run lead in the first, things didn’t look so good for the Yankees. It took all of five batters to change that outlook. The night continued to get better, and it ended with an 11-5 Yankees victory.
Biggest Hit: Swisher ties it early
For the most part Dustin Moseley has done a good job filling in for Andy Pettitte. He’s had some rough outings, but that’s expected. He is, after all, Dustin Moseley. All the Yanks ask is that he keeps them in the game. From the outset last night it looked like he would fail. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases, and the A’s struck for three before heading out to the field. That had to feel good with Cahill on the mound.
The Yanks wasted no time in evening the score. Gardner started with a walk, Teixeira followed two batters later with a single, and then Robinson Cano brought home the first run with a single of his own. That ball was so well struck that even though Mark Ellis was in a position to field it, he just couldn’t make the play. That brought Nick Swisher to the plate, and Swisher delivered.
Cahill delivered five sinkers during the at-bat, but only one of them ended up down in the zone — Swish took that one for ball two. The sequence went ball, foul, ball, ball, foul, double to deep center. Coco Crisp made a valiant effort, but the ball went beyond his outstretched glove. It took him a moment to recover, which gave Cano enough time to score from first and tie the game.
In a span of just five batters the Yanks turned this from a frustrating game into a new game. That’s what happens when you have such a high-powered offense.
Meet Saturday’s starter
When Moseley walked Kurt Suzuki in the fifth he accomplished two things. First, he guaranteed that Girardi would take him out of the game. The last pitch hardly had time to cross the plate before Girardi was out of the dugout and on a brisk jog to the mound. Second, he opened the door for Javy Vazquez‘s return to the rotation. For the next 4.2 innings, Vazquez made his case clear.
It took a Jeter jump toss to get out of the fifth, but from there Vazquez had things under control. He started the game by retiring seven straight and allowed just one run on two hits, striking out six. He even hit 90 consistently. Though, for what it’s worth, Moseley’s final pitch was also 90 mph.
Moseley’s next turn in the rotation would come on Saturday, but I’d bet on Vazquez slotting in there. It seems like a good time to see if he can be that guy he was from May into July. That will be a big boost to a rotation going through a rough patch.
Filling in for A-Rod
Marcus Thames hit his 10th home run of the season this year, though it certainly feels like he’s hit more than that — probably because he’s hit six in his last six games. The tear comes at a great time. It’s like not losing Alex Rodriguez at all. In fact, since A-Rod’s injury Thames is 11 for 34 (.324) with three walks (.432 OBP) and six home runs (.765 SLG).
Mark Teixeira, too, has been cruising along since A-Rod started missing time. He was 3 for 3 with a walk last night, and is 14 for 41 (.342) with six walks (.429 OBP) and seven extra base hits (.659 SLG). He and Thames have made missing A-Rod not as big a deal as it could have been.
Brett Gardner got on base three times and didn’t score. You won’t see that happen often.
How many young pitchers have we see throw 100 mph? How many of those pitchers sustained that speed? How many of them lasted long-term? Sorry, Henry Rodriguez, but you are no Billy Wagner.
Swisher is back up to .298, for those of you who are still holding out hope that he’ll finish the season at .300.
Trevor Cahill has allowed 50 earned runs this season. The Yankees have 14 of those.
Graph and Box
Phil Hughes attempts to recover from a poor start, while Vin Mazzaro starts for the A’s. Considering the sparse crowd last night, I’m sure Mazzaro will be able to get all of his buddies into the game.
Amidst rumors of an MLB probe, Yankee rookie Ivan Nova threw a gem against the White Sox on Sunday afternoon. He held the Chicago offense to one run over 5.2 innings, and the Yanks’ bullpen, shaky on Saturday night, spun 3.1 scoreless innings as the Yanks grabbed the rubber match of this three-game set 2-1.
Nova settles in
Ivan Nova isn’t one of the heralded arms leading the Yankee farm system this season. He doesn’t generate the same kind of buzz as a Brackman, Betances or Banuelos does. But for the second straight start, he has beguiled Major League hitters, lending stability to a shaky Yankee rotation. On Sunday, he earned himself the game ball as he picked up his first Big League win.
As he did against Toronto, Nova showed confidence in his stuff on Sunday. He averaged 94 with a live fastball and hit 96/97 regularly. He showed good velocity separation with his change-up and threw his curveball for strikes as well. As the stuff was there, so too were the results. Through 5.2 innings, he struck out seven Chicago hitters, and the White Sox lone run came on a Juan Pierre RBI single. The Yankees needed a good pitching performance, and Nova, all of 23 years old, delivered.
After the game, Joe Girardi announced that Nova would start next weekend against Toronto, and it will be interesting to see how a team fares against him in his second turn in short order. Nova is clearly on a short leash; he started leaving the ball up in the sixth, and Girardi took no chances after just 88 pitches. The Blue Jays, as we saw, are a solid offensive club, and facing them will be a true test for a pitcher who could be a key player in the Yanks’ rotation in September.
Let the good Thames roll
With Gavin Floyd on the mound, the Yanks couldn’t get much of anything going, but Marcus Thames came through in the second. Pressed into service against a right-hander because the team wanted to give Jorge Posada and Mark Teixeira remains sidelined by a sore hand, Thames led off the sixth with a booming home run to left field. The Yankees had a 1-0 lead they would not relinquish.
“I’m a power guy,” Thames said after the game. “And it’s big for power guys: You have to get into a rhythm to get some stuff going. But I know my role, so I don’t need to start putting pressure on myself. I’m just glad if I hit the ball hard every time I get a chance.”
For Thames, this homer was his ninth of the season and his fifth in his last four starts. On the season, he is hitting .320/.401/.544 in limited playing time. Considering how badly a pair of Brian Cashman‘s other off-season pick-ups have fared, Thames’ solid play is a breath of fresh air for the Yanks. He’s a true weapon off the bench and has delivered during his starts as well. As long as the Yanks don’t need Thames to put on a glove, he’s a fine contributor and at 1 win above replacement and counting, well worth the money the Yanks are spending.
Cervelli’s big day
For all the grief I’ve given Francisco Cervelli this season, I can’t wrap up this game without a nod to his 4-for-4 performance. It is but the second time in his professional career that the offensively-challenged catcher has knocked out four hits in one day, and on Sunday, Cervelli scored what would be the winning run.
On a 3-1 pitch to start the third, Cervelli roped a double to right field. After fouling off a bunt attempt, Brett Gardner swung away on 0-2 and lined a single to center. Cervelli scored, and the Yanks would plate no more men throughout the rest of the game.
Cervelli’s day wasn’t a good one just at the plate either. He had his moments behind the dish as well. With Joba on the bump to start the eighth inning, Paul Konerko reached on an error by Eduardo Nuñez. Brent Lillibridge came on to pinch run, and the stolen base was clearly in the mix. Lillibridge went, and Cervelli threw a strike to Robinson Cano. It was a huge out for the Yanks as Andrew Jones singled in the at-bat. Cervelli hasn’t been a defensive whiz this year, and with Jesus Montero knocking on the door, his time on the Yanks may be limited. But on Sunday, he gave the team its biggest late-inning WPA bump as the White Sox’s win expectancy dropped from 40.9 to 24.8 with that caught stealing. It was a good moment for the beleaguered Cervelli.
To end the game, Joe Girardi was able to mix and match with the bullpen. Although Kerry Wood came dangerously close to blowing the lead, the pen, so bad on Saturday, sealed the deal for Nova, Cervelli and Thames — three unlikely heroes — on Sunday.
With the Rays’ nailing two out of three from Boston, Tampa Bay and the Yankees remain tied atop the AL East as Boston slips 6.5 games behind the pack. The Yankees will take on the Oakland A’s tonight at 7:05 p.m. at the stadium in the Bronx. Dustin Moseley (4-2, 4.53) will face the man with a .215 BABIP and AL Cy Young candidate Trevor Cahill (14-5, 2.43).
Brian Cashman had a tough offseason coming into 2010. While many of his moves made sense at the time, several of Cashman’s offseason trades and signings have not worked out. Nick Johnson is likely out for the season after less than 100 plate appearances. Javy Vazquez has at least provided innings, but otherwise has been much worse than expected. Curtis Granderson, so far, has not rebounded from his poor 2009 and will need to hope Kevin Long can get him straightened out with an overhaul of his swing. Chan Ho Park and Randy Winn, again signings that made sense, were disasters. All of this brings me to one move that Cashman nailed in the offseason: Marcus Thames.
Thames was brought in to mash left handed pitching. Cash likely had some visions of Thames playing the OF, but the injury to Johnson has for the most part left Thames in the DH role. That’s a good thing. Thames is a butcher in the outfield, but we knew this before he was signed. Keep him out of the outfield at all costs. Despite doing everything asked of him and more, Thames has seemed to get no love this year which is unfortunate.
It started for Thames in spring training when he could not buy a hit. He went 7 for 52 putting up a stunning .135/.182/.269 line. Just 33 at-bats into spring training people already wanted Thames cut (Ed. Note: Like this idiot). Small sample size be damned, people were killing the Thames signing and instead wanted the Yankees to keep Jamie Hoffmann, or explore the Jermaine Dye, Gary Sheffield market. Luckily cooler heads prevailed and Thames made the cut.
Thames shining moment of the season, when he was finally appreciated by the majority of fans quickly disappeared. On Monday May 17th Thames did the thing that Yankees fans might enjoy most for a regular season game. Hit a walkoff against Jonathan Papelbon. It doesn’t get much better than that, and remember, Paps is a right handed pitcher, so it wasn’t what Thames was brought in for. If Thames had struck out there I would not have been surprised nor pissed at him, it’s not his primary role. 24 hours later of course it all came crashing down as Thames dropped a ball in the outfield that led to a Yankees loss, again against the Sox. Thames was nearly in tears after the game; probably as much for the reception he would get from fans as he was for blowing the game. Again though, Thames was outside of his element, he had no business being in the field in the 9th inning of a close game.
Getting back to Thames’ actual role he could not be doing a better job. He is hitting .343/.416/.448 off left handed pitchers. More shockingly Thames is even destroying right handed pitchers this year to the tune of a .283/.386/.500 line. For a guy who was only brought in to hit lefties, could he have possibly brought more to the table than he has?
Sometimes a game feels like two games. Sometimes that’s because of the action. Other times it’s because of the length. Last night’s was both. The Rangers did all their damage in the first five innings, while the Yanks brought the drama in the final four. The game time was three hours, 45 minutes, which added to the dual-game feel. But two games or one, the Yanks came away with the victory and extended their lead in the AL East.
Biggest Hit: The Captain ties it
With so many important points in the game it’s tough to pick just one that stands out as the most important. But if we have to, it’s going to be the hit that ties the game in the ninth. That came off the bat of Derek Jeter. Though he had plenty of help setting up the situation.
After pitching two innings in Tuesday’s game, Neftali Feliz got the call to hold the Rangers’ one-run lead in the ninth. Lance Berkman got the first crack at him and put together his best at-bat to date as a Yankee. Feliz threw nothing but fastballs, but Berkman stayed on them. He fouled off the first, took the second, and then swung through the third. From there he took two out of the zone, fouled off two, and then finally took the last one for ball four. It was quite the effort by Berkman, and it resulted in the tying run heading to first base.
That tying run wouldn’t be Berkman, though, but rather Curtis Granderson. That changes the game in two ways. First, it gives the Yanks considerably more speed on the bases. Second, it can distract the pitcher. To the latter point, Feliz threw over to first five times, one before each of the first five pitches. Before the sixth, in a 2-2 count to Brett Gardner, Feliz declined to throw over. Instead he threw his 14th straight fastball. Gardner dunked it into left for a base hit.
This set up Jeter well, but not perfectly. The tying and go-ahead runs were on base, and they were the fastest guys on the team. It didn’t take long for the situation to become perfect. On the second pitch, Feliz’s 16th straight fastball, the ball sailed away, above Bengie Molina’s head and to the backstop. It bounced right back to Molina, but even a perfect throw couldn’t get Granderson. The double play possibility was off, leaving Jeter with even more wiggle room.
He used every bit of it on the next pitch, Feliz’s 17th straight fastball, as he chopped it towards the middle. With the infield drawn it it squeezed through and got into center, which allowed Granderson to score the tying run. Gardner held up for a moment to make sure the ball got through. Had he been going on contact I’m confident he would have scored the go-ahead run right there.
Feliz finally went to the slider against Nick Swisher. Unsurprisingly it worked out, as Swisher went down swinging again. For those who like the phrase, that was the Golden Sombrero for him. But, after having thrown two innings on Tuesday and 20 pitches in last night’s game, Feliz was done. The game was left to a lesser pitcher from the Rangers’ bullpen. I’m not sure what was less surprising, Swisher’s strikeout or the Rangers’ bullpen giving the Yanks the lead.
MVP: Marcus Thames
Jeter might have been the hero with the tying run, but Marcus Thames did everything he could to help his team win the game. Normally he’d get a slot in the Miscellany section, but for his 3 for 5 night, which included a homer and the go-ahead single, he gets his own little section.
Thames’s homer in the eighth was what made me think the Yanks could come back. Frank Francisco is prone to the meltdown, and Thames’s leadoff homer made it seem like one was imminent. And it was. Austin Kearns bailed him out by missing a 3-1 meatball, which is a shame. But make no mistake: the Yanks had designs on this game in the eighth, and Marcus Thames led the charge. It’s fitting, then, that he drove home Gardner with a sharp groundball single.
Good things happen when Thames gets to hit but doesn’t have to play the field.
Ninth inning Leverage Index
Mariano Rivera remains the same on the mound no matter the situation. Whether it’s the bottom of the order with a three-run lead or it’s the top of the order with his team ahead just one run, Mariano stands there like Seneca, poised and stoical. In the ninth inning last night he not only had to protect a lead of a single run, but had to face the top of the Rangers order to do so.
The first batter, Elvis Andrus, came to the plate with a Leverage Index of 3.60. He didn’t feel the pressure, though, as he smacked one into the right-center gap, not only splitting Kearns and Granderson, but also hitting it to a deeper part of the park. That allowed him to take third base, which gave the Rangers an excellent chance to tie the game. That actually brought Texas’s win expectancy above 50 percent.
Michael Young batted next, and he actually faced a lower LI. Mo jammed him on the first pitch, and young popped one up to shallow right. Austin Kearns, making up for his rally killing double play in the eighth, sprinted in and made a shoestring catch to record the out. Andrus probably wouldn’t have scored in any case, but the out was big. It also increased the leverage dramatically.
The Rangers’ best hitter and MVP candidate Josh Hamilton batted next. This time the LI was 5.76. Mo did not feel the pressure. He just does what he normally does, which is to pump cutters. The first two crossed a bit too far inside, but on the 2-0 pitch Mo hit his spot. Hamilton tapped it weakly right back to Rivera for the second out. That left just one more batter.
Again the pressure was high. The Rangers’ win expectancy had fallen all the way to 17.2 percent, but they still had that tying run 90 feet away. Mo delivered a cutter, and again missed. He didn’t with the next. Guerrero pulled the thigh-high cutter right to A-Rod at third, who threw across the diamond to end the game.
I’m torn on how to evaluate Javier Vazquez‘s start. On the one hand, he allowed six runs in 4.1 innings, which is never good. On the other hand, he got some bad breaks along the way. There was no way anyone could rate this as a good, or even decent, start. But it was something less than the disaster that the scoreboard suggested.
The first run, a solo homer by Michael Young, just barely caught the foul pole in right. That’ll happen. No biggie. Even Cliff Lee will give up a run from time to time. But then in the fourth Javy gave up two more, and with Lee on the mound the game felt bleak. But I wasn’t killing Javy. The runs scored on a ball that Cano nearly fielded. And in any case, the Yanks shouldn’t have been in that situation. Why they thought it appropriate to walk David Murphy with two outs is beyond me. Javy got him to pop up in his first AB. Let him face the guy. It’s not like they were setting up the double play or anything.
(Still, can’t give Javy a complete pass here. He did walk Bengie Molina, which is hard enough on its own, but he did it after being ahead 0-2. Poor form, Javy. Poor form.)
He allowed another run in the fifth, this off the bat of Josh Hamilton. It’s a forgivable offense, but Javy was running out of rope there. Thankfully he rebounded, getting Vlad to bounce right back to him and then Nelson Cruz to hit one towards A-Rod. That prevented the run from scoring, as A-Rod threw home. But Jorge Posada botched the rundown and allowed Young to return to third safely. That became huge, because Murphy then singled and drove in two.
Sergio Mitre came on in relief of Vazquez and got Molina to fly out. For some reason Nelson Cruz thought it appropriate to tag up. With a break-even rate of roughly 100 percent, there’s no excuse for getting thrown out there. Cruz did, and he let the Yanks off the hook.
Mitre came out to pitch a scoreless sixth, and then Kerry Wood followed with two scoreless innings. Clearly, they’re stretching him out to be a starter down the stretch.
The Yanks offense did the coming back, but without solid work from Mitre and Wood they wouldn’t have gotten there in the first place. Hats off to them. I’ve noticed far fewer people complaining about the bullpen these days.
Any time you score four runs off Cliff Lee you can pat yourself on the back. Good job by the offense.
After the Rangers broke it open in the fifth, the Yanks immediately fought back. Or, should I say, Jeter fought back. He tripled to lead off the sixth and eventually scored on a wild pitch. He’s damn lucky on that one, since the next three batters struck out swinging. That was Lee’s first wild pitch of the season.
Lee had an odd line. He gave up eight hits, four for extra bases, but struck out 11. And, of course, he walked none. Anything more would be unsuitable.
Derek Jeter apparently does not appreciate it when people say he shouldn’t be the leadoff hitter.
Box and graph
The graph gets kinda crazy there towards the end.
The Yanks travel north to Kansas City to battle the Royals. Bruce Chen vs. CC Sabathia, Same CDT start of 8:10.
The first six innings of this one were fairly uneventful. Phil Hughes had a rough second. The Yanks didn’t get a hit until the fifth. Even then, things didn’t get interesting until the seventh, and things heated up for the final three innings. But the Yanks couldn’t capitalize and ended up dropping a tough one 2-1.
Biggest Hit: Thames almost gets it done
Teixeira’s homer, being the lone run, is probably the biggest hit. But, just for fun…
Low-scoring affairs always produce odd results in WPA. For instance, the Red Sox won the game and had a 2-0 lead for most of it. Yet their highest WPA play was Bill Hall’s RBI single, which was only the eighth highest WPA play of the game. Jacoby Ellsbury‘s single that moved Hall to third was actually a bit more valuable. The top six WPA plays all came from the Yankees. Go figure.
The biggest swing came in the seventh. Jorge Posada singled to start the inning, bringing Marcus Thames to the plate. He was in the lineup specifically to face the lefty Jon Lester, but list most of the Yankees was 0 for 2 at that point. This time around he got an outside pitch and went with it, driving it over the gap in right-center. The ball hit the top of the wall and bounced upward, leaving us uncertain for a second whether it would bounce over the fence or back into the field of play. It was the latter, which allowed Posada to move to third.
With second and third with none out it looked like the Yanks might finally break through. Things looked even brighter when Austin Kearns took one off the foot and strolled to first. But three strikeouts later, they had nothing going.
Strikeouts get the best of ‘em
There were plenty of wasted opportunities late in this game. There was the situation in the seventh, where Lester and Dan Bard struck out three straight Yankees to prevent even a single run from scoring in a bases loaded, none out situation. The first came with Curtis Granderson up. He’d made decent contact off Lester in his first two plate appearances, but this time couldn’t handle him. It was Lester’s last batter and I’m sure he knew it, so perhaps he was giving that little bit extra.
Next up was Derek Jeter, who struck out swinging on a high fastball from Bard. Ditto Swisher. The Yanks had a shot there — in fact, their WPA in the bases loaded, no outs situation was actually above 50 percent despite being behind two runs. But the three strikeouts eliminated the threat, moving the win expectancy down 38.8 percent.
A few other strikeouts hurt in particular. Mark Teixeira‘s game-ender, with the tying run on second, was the biggest negative WPA swing of the game, -15.3 percent. The batter before him, Nick Swisher, had the second highest negative swing of the game, -14.5 percent. Curtis Granderson’s ninth-inning strikeout moved the WPA down 9.6 percent. Only Derek Jeter raised it that inning.
It looked like a disaster at first…
I was fuming over Phil Hughes’s first two innings. While he didn’t allow any runs in the first, he didn’t look particularly sharp. That came back to haunt him in the second, when he threw 37 pitches to seven Red Sox. But a lot of that wasn’t his fault. He hadn’t after all, given up many hard-hit balls.
In the first J.D. Drew got a base hit on a grounder. David Ortiz had a well-struck ball, but that was all they’d get in that frame. Then in the second he allowed another single on a grounder, which was followed by another poor throw-down by Jorge Posada on a steal attempt. With Ryan Kalish at third, Bill Hall hit a groundball infield single, plating the first run. Jacoby Ellsbury then hit one just out of Jeter’s reach, and it was a ball that maybe he gets to if he’s not at double play depth. The walk is inexcusable, but then Hughes got another grounder. Cano had to hustle to the hole to get it, and so didn’t get the double play, which resulted in another run. And, of course, Hughes ended the inning with another groundball out.
After that, though, he settled down nicely, throwing 16 pitches in the third before getting the Sox on seven in the fourth. He ended the day with 114 pitches through six, having allowed just one hit after Ellsbury’s single. He struck out just three, but he did get nine ground balls and kept all nine fly balls in the park. Considering the poor luck he had in the second, it’s hard to hold this one against him.
Graph and box
The peaks represent frustration.
Over the past two nights we’ve been reviewing the first half of the Yankees’ season, looking at seven players who’ve exceeded expectations and seven who’ve fallen short. We’ll wrap up this short little series tonight by taking a quick look at those who are shooting par for the course. The guys that are doing pretty much exactly what we expected them to.
GM Brian Cashman brought Vazquez back for a second tour of duty in Bronx not expecting the Cy Young contender from 2009, but instead a back-of-the-rotation horse that would keep the team in games and chew up innings. Javy went on to do anything but that in the early going. He was so bad through his first five starts (.337/.429/.663 against) that the team skipped his turn despite having the opportunity to give everyone in the rotation an extra day of rest.
Since that skipped start, Vazquez has rebounded nicely and given the Yankees exactly what they wanted from him, if not more. He completed at least seven innings in seven of his next 11 starts, surrendering more than three runs just twice. The Yanks would have done better than just six wins during that stretch if they bothered to score more than 30 runs, just 2.7 per game.
Overall, Javy’s season numbers have come back down to respectable levels. His ERA sits at 4.45, his xFIP at 4.53, and his strikeouts at 7.58 K/9. The Yankees have to be thrilled with how well he’s pitched over the last two months, and right now he’s giving them exactly what they wanted.
The Yanks brought Thames in for one reason and one reason only: to mash lefthanded pitchers. By and large, he’s done exactly that. In a limited sample of 57 plate appearances against southpaws (due in part to a hamstring injury), Thames has hit .327/.421/.449. He’s even chipped in nicely against righties (.250/.370/.444 in 46 PA).
Thames has picked up the team’s only two walk-off hits of the season , including what the majority of fans consider to be their favorite moment of the first half. Although his defense in the outfield has left everyone speechless for all the wrong reasons, Thames has generally been a fine reserve player for the Yanks.
It’s hard to judge a manager, unless of course he consistently does things that are so monumentally stupid that you wonder how he ever got into baseball in the first place. Girardi’s job is fairly simple given all the talent on his roster, and really all he had to do was not screw it up. A subpar bullpen and colossal failure of a bench are not his fault, yet he’s managed to keep the regulars rested and not tax the bullpen. The Yanks haven’t just tread water, they’ve thrived.
Girardi’s job doesn’t figure to get any easier in the second half with two key pieces in Nick Johnson and Al Aceves unlikely to come back anytime soon, but there’s enough talent on the roster for the team to remain a force. All he has to do to be successful is exactly what he has been doing.
Honorable Mention: Frankie Cervelli went from super hot to super cold in the first half, but a .305 wOBA while taking some of the catching load off Jorge Posada‘s shoulders is pretty much what we all had in mind coming into the season … Damaso Marte‘s primary job function is to shutdown lefthanders late in the game, and he’s crushed them to the tune of a .146/.200/.268 batting line against … The farm system has also done what we expected it to: pump out useful players to plug the occasional hole on a temporary basis, whether it be Ivan Nova or Colin Curtis or Kevin Russo or Juan Miranda.
Out just about a month with a hamstring issue, Marcus Thames returns from the disabled list today to give the Yankees a little bit of pop off the bench and in the designated hitters spot. Unsurprisingly, Chad Huffman was optioned to Triple-A to make room on the roster since he’s basically a lesser version of Thames. Hopefully Marcus hits like he did in April and not like he did in May and June.
It’s hard to believe that we’ve been reduced to getting exciting about Marcus Thames returning, but that’s where we sit. The righty bat will play nine innings in the field during his third rehab game with Triple-A Scranton tonight, and if all goes well he could rejoin the team as soon as tomorrow. Given the current DH situation, that’s a good thing.
Meanwhile, Sergio Mitre made his first rehab appearance after an oblique strain last night, throwing just one inning for High-A Tampa before throwing some more in the bullpen. He’ll throw two innings on Monday, and right now isn’t expected to rejoin the team until after the All Star break. Al Aceves is going to throw 40 or so pitches off a full mound early next week, a rather significant step in his return from back issues. The Yanks are going to take is slow and be very cautious with him given the nature of his injury, so Ace is probably still a few weeks away.
Finally, we have Nick Johnson, who is actually going to swing a bat today. Granted, it’ll just be a fungo, but it’s progress. Assuming all goes well – not a safe assumption, of course – he’ll head down to Tampa and continue baseball activities there. NJ is still a ways off from rehab games and rejoining the team, but any news is good news at this point.