Devil Rays 7, Yanks 6

Player WPA pLI Pitcher WPA pLI
Matsui .208 2.30 Farnsworth .044 0.61
Jeter .201 1.83 Bruney 0.39 0.87
Minky .156 1.89 Myers -.036 1.56
Cano .104 1.90 Pettitte -.156 1.24
Posada .051 1.67 Vizcaino -.177 1.82
Giambi -.047 1.54 Proctor -.206 1.51
Phelps -.095 3.60
Abreu -.123 2.56
Melky -.161 2.27
Alex -.303 3.05

(What’s this?)
(Stats and graph courtesy FanGraphs)

Eek. Alex didn’t help himself much in the Leverage Index experiment. I suppose Abreu hitting a dinker the at bat prior didn’t help much, either. Anyway.

The viewer fatigue started kicking in during the top of the second. After a quick, eight-pitch first, Pettitte labored…and labored…and labored. I’d have blamed it on the cold, but Jae Seo didn’t seem to be having the same control problems on his end.

By the third, we were in “pull your hair out” territory. The Yanks were playing so sloppy, and the only reason they weren’t getting killed was because it was the freakin’ Devil Rays. Wild pitches, errors, passed balls (three, three, and one for the game, respectively). The inning did get a bit better, though, as Pettitte snuck in strike three on Jonny Gomes (decent acting job; I’d put him on par with Keanu Reeves). But then he blundered again by throwing to second on a pickoff play. Come on, Andy. Getcha head in the game!

I felt really bad for Matsui in the fourth. Poor guy couldn’t buy a hit, and when he finally hits one hard, Wiggington snags it. Yeah, I know he reached base and that it was officially scored a hit, but that was the Official Scorekeeper feeling bad for him. It was a hit, then immediately changed to an error. About three minutes later, it’s a hit again. Such a move should be illegal; OS’s should only be able to flip-flop once. Unless, of course, he goes by the name of John Kerry.

So after the Matsui “single,” Minky pops one up to center, but Elijah Dukes must have misjudged it, because he sprinted, then jogged, and the ball feel about five feet in front of him. Gotta catch those, rook! Anyway, at this point, Girardi suggests a bunt, since there are men on first and second with none out. So I whip out the trusty WPA calculator, and lo and behold, the current WPA with runners on first and second and none out in a tie game is .695. With men on second and third with one out, the WPA is .733. Sac bunt validated.

(For the record, I understand that more goes into the sac bunt than just the WPA outcome of one. It’s just that most objective evidence shows that the sac bunt normally amounts to merely a wasted out. It can be used effectively on occasion, as shown here.)

Despite him letting both inherited runners score, I thought that using Proctor in the fifth was an excellent idea. With Vizcaino and Farnsworth capable of handling the seventh and eighth, might as well use arguably your second or third best reliever to get out of a jam. Had he just let in the runner on third, I would have called it a success. Now I’m just calling it an experiment that will work more often than not, despite the sole sample we got last night. That’s the kind of flexibility this bullpen has — though you’d like to see that kind of situation in the seventh or eighth rather than the fifth, if for no other reason than starter longevity.

I made three notes during the top of the sixth inning:

  • Holy shiiiiiite
  • Jeter/defense
  • These are just long innings

The first was in reference to Duke’s tater, and the last is self-explanatory. The second I’ll allow the guys at NoMaas explain:

On defense, no one has looked worse than Derek Jeter. He committed two more errors to bring his total to three in just two games. In addition to his errors, Jeter has shown the range of a 75-year old woman. There were several balls on Thursday night which Jeter could have made a play on, but his lousy first step prevented him from doing so. How he wins Gold Glove awards is beyond our comprehension.

Speaking of Jeter’s defense, anyone catch Zobrist in the seventh? He made the Jeter-esque backhanded pick, leaped, and decided against making the throw. Smart man that Zobrist is. It looked like he realized mid-jump that he simply is not Derek Jeter — though he’s probably a better all-around defender. Okay, I promise not to bash Jeter’s defense…until they play another game.

The eighth is where the whole damn thing got frustrating. First, Stokes hands the Yanks a bases loaded situation by trying to get the lead runner instead of getting the sure out. So then we have this scrub against Abreu, and Bobby nearly gets doubled up. Okay, so now Alex is up. He took this chump deep on Monday, so things were looking bright. That is, until he popped one up to end the inning. It’s one of those moments where go from being so tense to basically losing all muscular tension and collapse on the couch.

Even after all that, though, I had one gasp of hope left as the ball left Jorge’s bat in the ninth. It looked good, and I tried to fool myself into thinking it had a chance, but the crack of the bat never lies. He just missed it, and the Yanks lost a close one.

Normally, I’m livid when the Yanks lose a game like this. It was a one-run affair, and they had more than their share of chances to take the lead at various points in the game. You can’t lose the winnable games. However, they played so damn sloppily that I can’t even get pissed at the loss. I’d like to blame it on the cold, but I’ll hold off on that, since tonight’s weather doesn’t look much better.

Moose vs. Cy Loewen. Let’s see if Phelps can figure this guy out. Lord knows the rest of the team hasn’t.

Yanks open with a win, 9-5

(What’s This?)

If you want the game recap, go read the live blog. It’ll only take you an hour, I swear. Anyway, onto the WPA analysis.

The consensus is that Carl Pavano didn’t pitch too poorly, and I tend to agree with that, though WPA does not. He ended up with -.222 for the game, meaning he took the Yankees 20 percent further away from a win. The Upton single in the second hurt a bit, costing him .115. This is where WPA gets very tough, though; I had already debited Jeter for the error that allowed Iwamura to reach base. Do I further debit him for the run he eventually scored?

The Dukes homer cost him another .103, though the Baldelli single was his worst pitch of the day, putting him a further .128 in the hole.

The Yanks picked him up later, though. The biggest gain of the game was — big surprise — Jeter’s two-run single to tie the game (.189). Giambi singling home Alex to take the lead was .118, and that was all the Yanks would need. For sealing the game, Abreu and Alex received .059 and .037, respectively.

Farnsworth headed up the pitching end of the WPA, racking up a total of .120 (it’s easy to calculate relievers). For Vizcaino’s effortless outing, he was credited .089.

A regular features with the WPA graphs last year was a table listing each player’s contribution for the game. Unfortunately, it is just not going to happen this year. I’ve had to switch from the excellent spreadsheet that Dave Studeman from Baseball Graphs and The Hardball Times created to Walk Off Bunt’s WPA calculator. Scoring the game isn’t a ton harder (a few formulas in Excel does the trick), but I’m not nearly advanced enough to have everything sorted by player. If I find someone with the know-how and the time to develop a simple Excel program to help me out, maybe they’ll return. But for now, we’ll just go with the biggest plays of the game and other little tidbits.

Opening Day: It’s live blog time

The problem about Opening Day, as Steve illustrated earlier, is that most of us are at work and cannot view the proceedings. Thankfully for me, and now thankfully for you, I’ll be watching the game from the comfort of my living room couch.

Keep checking back for updates. I’ll try to be as detailed as possible.

Top of the 1st
Here comes the first pitch..juuuust a bit outside, ball one, and the season is underway. The rollcall is BOOMING from the right field bleachers, quite the warming sound. And there’s Crawford, slapping a single between Jeter and A-Rod to open the season with a hit.

Pavano opens with a strike this time to Zobrist. Four pitches, and they’ve all looked in or close to the zone. Ball one on another close pitch; Crawford was moving, but Jorge couldn’t make the transfer. Good 3-2 pitch by Pavano, in on the hands of Zobrist. He fouled it off to stay alive; the pitch, on the YES gun, was 92…STRIKE THREE SWINGING! Fastball tailing away, 91 on the inflated gun.

Another first pitch strike, this time to Rocco Baldelli, DHing today. Deeeeep fly on the second pitch. Matsui tracked it down on the warning track; Crawford advanced to third.

And the boo bird come out early. On the first pitch, Ty Wiggington popped one sky-high in foul territory by third base. Alex — with the socks hiked — misplayed it, so we’re at 0-1. Wiggington dinked one back to Pavano, over to Phelps and that ends the half-inning. One hit, one error, no runs.

Bottom of the 1st
First pitch strike from Kazmir to Damon. Damon answers Crawford by slapping one between Upton and Wiggington for a leadoff single.

Low and in to Jeter (looked like a slider), 1-0. Line drive foul (out of play) to the first base side. Jete inside outs one to right field; Delmon Young moves into the corner, makes the catch, one down.

Here’s Bobby Abreu, who takes the first pitch at the bottom of the zone for strike one. I’m pretty sure that he didn’t even think about swinging at that. Good heater on the low outside corner, moving the count to 0-2. Kazmir wastes one in the dirt, 1-2. Well outside, 2-2. Gotta love Abreu’s approach. Line drive to left, base hit for Abreu. Damon only moves to second.

And they’re going crazy for Alex Rodriguez! First and second, one out. A hit here will certainly leave a favorable impression. In the dirt for ball one, as the Yankee fans chant “Let’s Go A-Rod.” I’m loving this! Low in the zone for strike one. Way inside for ball two. I can’t say enough (and Mike agrees) how much I love the hiked socks. High strike that had Alex locked up a bit, 2-2. Inside, 3-2. Good at bat by A-Rod. He took every pitch so far, and the strikes were borderline. Ah, nuts. Strikeout on a low and away pitch. A little booing, but as I said, it was a good at bat. Double steal on the play, so we have second and third with two outs.

Giambi’s up, and quickly takes a strike, followed by two out of the zone. Way low and out, 3-1. So you either walk Giambi or give him something to crush. Liner to center! Two runs score! Yanks up 2-0!

Inside to Matsui, 1-0. In the dirt, 2-0. Girardi just suggested that Kazmir should have thrown a slider on 3-1 to try and get Giambi to swing and miss. Easy to say that in hindsight. Outside, 3-0. D’oh! Hideki pounds a probably ball four into the dirt foul, 3-1. Fastball on the low outside corner, 3-2. Heh, Giambi’s going with the pitch. Doesn’t he look like a cartoon when he runs? Fouled off to the left side. Low and inside, ball four to Matsui. First and second, two outs.

Jim Hickey, Devil Rays pitching coach, is out to the mound to counsel the troubled-looking Kazmir. Mike notes that he looks lost out there. Low, 1-0 to Posada. Swing and a miss by Jorge on a pitch outside, 1-1. Way outside, 2-1. Big swing and a miss on another pitch reasonably outside, 2-2. Popped up behind first, Upton has it, and we’re done with the first. 2-0 Yanks, baby!
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