Archive for Whimsy

Even Bill Veeck might have drawn the line with this one. (Via MLB.com)

A few months ago, as the Marlins unveiled their plans for the ins and outs of the new stadium, the one aspect the took the public by storm involved a monument in center field. The word monument though doesn’t really do this thing justice. It’s large; it’s multi-hued; and it’s going to move whenever a Marlin hits a home run.

Now baseball is a sport firmly rooted in tradition. The boldest moves in recent years have concerned various iterations of home uniforms with different color combinations for different days of the week and — gasp — some sleeveless uniform tops. Baseball fans like their ball players gritty, their history hallowed and their records respected.

Throughout baseball history, those who dare to rock the boat risk alienation. Bill Veeck remains the most famous man to push the baseball boundaries. His Disco Demolition stunt backfired, but he granted Minnie Minoso at bats in five decades and introduced the world to Eddie Gaedel. He was a showman who wanted to entertain the masses, but after testifying on behalf of Curt Flood, baseball passed him by. As MLB has worked to keep Mark Cuban on the outside, there never has been an owner willing to take as many risks as Veeck.

In a few weeks, when the Yankees journey to Miami to close out Spring Training, the Marlins’ new ballpark will open. Like many other new stadiums, this one has a painfully tortured funding history. The city of Miami has ponied up far too many dollars to build a new stadium in an area of the city that is even further from a potential fan base than the Dolphins’ stadium is. Even with Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes in tow, drawing fans to Miami to see the team will be a challenge.

And so enter the Miami Marlins and their outfield monument to, well, something. A flying fish perhaps? Maybe it’s something baseball needs. Now I’m not saying each stadium needs something that looks like that, but maybe a little levity in the game can’t hurt. A look around Yankee Stadium reveals an attempt at recreating something Serious. These are Hallowed Grounds with a lot of History. We must respect the memories, and do not besmirch the team or else George Steinbrenner, forever staring out from the right field bleachers, will get you. There will be no flying fish here.

Ultimately though, baseball is a game, a sport. It’s about the spectacle, and the entertainment. The Marlins’ monument can rock the boat as much as it wants, and when the Yankees take on the Miami ballclub with the bright orange uniforms in a new stadium at the end of Spring Training, I’ll be rooting for a home run. Who doesn’t want to see flying fish light up with every four-bagger anyway?

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Feb
01

The Greedy Yankees

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It seems that people are thinking further and further ahead these days. It’s one thing to get emails about the upcoming free agent class while the Yankees fight for a playoff spot. But emails asking about the 2013 and 2014 free agent classes? It seems a bit far reaching. But you know what? Let’s run with it. Here are the official RAB recommendations for whom the Yankees should sign in the upcoming free agent classes.

2013: Cole Hamels and Miguel Montero

Adding Hamels to a rotation that already includes CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda would create, well, something that resembles what they have going on in Philadelphia. He’s clearly the best pitcher on the free agent market. His career numbers, in fact, closely resemble CC Sabathia’s at the time the latter hit free agency. With one more year similar to 2010 and 2011, Hamels will also have comparable numbers in the three years leading up to free agency. To say that he should get money somewhere near the Sabathia range is no exaggeration.

The Yanks might also need a catcher, since Russell Martin qualifies for free agency once 2012 ends. A boatload of other catchers become free agents as well. They’d do well enough to bring back Martin, but as Mike noted yesterday, Miguel Montero brings a bat to go with his defense. He’d fit well behind the plate for the Yankees, and would give them some more time to develop Gary Sanchez.

There remains a hole in right field, but with Hamels creating something of a pitching surplus, the Yanks can afford to move some arms in order to pick up a new right fielder via a trade. Or just re-sign Nick Swisher. Either way, it’s not a huge concern.

Total estimated outlay: $170 million.

2014: Jacoby Ellsbury/Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, Ryan Zimmerman, Tim Lincecum

Austerity shmausterity. Granderson and Cano fill obvious needs, but if the Yanks can’t agree with Granderson they can go younger and snag Ellsbury, which also helps because they’re taking him away from the Sox. Also, by 2014 it’ll be easier to move A-Rod to DH. Zimmerman represents a fine replacement — certainly better than the other third baseman free agent, David Wright.

Total estimated outlay: $440 million.

2015: Felix Hernandez/Justin Verlander/Clayton Kershaw/Jon Lester, Hanley Ramirez

By 2015 the Yankees will have Sabathia, Pineda, Hamels, and Lincecum under contract, so they only have room for one more pitcher in the rotation. That means they’ll have to choose carefully from among these deserving suitors. Kershaw will be the youngest at the time, so he’s the first target. There’s nothing really wrong with the other guys, though.

Also by 2015, Derek Jeter will have retired. His player option covers 2014, but by 2015 the Yanks will have a hole at shortstop. Hanley will probably be itching to move back there by then. Who knows if he can still play it by that point, but who cares? It’s not like the Yankees have realized stellar shortstop defense for the past, oh, decade or so.

2016: Neftali Feliz, Andrew McCutchen, Justin Upton, maybe Miguel Cabrera

Miguel Cabrera would be nice, but with Zimmerman, A-Rod, and Teixeira still under contract there just might not be room. Then again, Teixeira will have only one year left on his deal, so maybe they’ll just eat that $23 or so million so they can add Cabrera to play first and DH.

While they’ll have Granderson or Ellsbury for center field, they’ll do well to move either one to left field in order to accommodate McCutchen. That’ll make for some superb outfield defense. Add Justin Upton to the equation, and it’s a powerful and rangy outfield.

Feliz will be just 28 for the 2016 season, so signing him makes enough sense. Michael Pineda will be entering his final year of arbitration, so the Yankees can just trade him for a bullpen arm and then re-sign him the following off-season. Or they can just let his fastball play up in the bullpen.

There you have it. Here’s the Yankees projected 2016 lineup:

1. Andrew McCutchen, CF
2. Curtis Granderson/Jacoby Ellsbury, LF
3. Justin Upton, RF
4. Robinson Cano, 2B
5. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
6. Hanley Ramirez, SS
7. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
8. Alex Rodriguez/Mark Teixeira, DH
9. Miguel Montero, C

SP1: Clayton Kershaw
SP2: Tim Lincecum
SP3: CC Sabathia
SP4: Cole Hamels
SP5: Neftali Feliz

Closer: Michael Pineda
Setup: David Robertson

I thought about extending this to 2017 as well, but that would just be ridiculous.

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In the comments of my graphical look at Yankee starters’ ERAs over the last several years, reader Mike Myers asked if I could do a headshot graph for the Yankee relievers or bench players. Well, in the spirit of the holiday, ask and ye shall receive, and as a follow up to our graphical look at the Yankee benches from earlier this week, today comes a graphical look at the primary players the Yankees have employed as members of their bullpens since the 2003 season.

However, before we get to the headshots, here’s an updated chart showing how the Yankee relief corps have fared since the advent of divisional play:

With a 3.12 ERA, the 2011 relief corps was the best the Yankees have fielded in at least a decade, and represented the 8th-lowest lowest bullpen ERA a Yankee team has put up since 1969. The lowest? The strike-shortened 1981 team’s absurd 2.26, though that was of course compiled in only 107 games. The lowest full-season relief ERA since 1969 was the 1970 team’s 2.34 mark. However, this is extremely weird when you consider that the very next season the Yankees recorded both their worst ERA- and FIP- of all 43 teams surveyed here. I don’t know if they either blew the bullpen up following 1970 or all of the holdovers simply forgot how to pitch come 1971, but that is a pretty crazy one-year increase.

The next-best relief corps of the last 20 Yankee seasons was the 2001 ‘pen, which put up a 3.42 ERA, and they don’t check in until 18th on the list, which really drives home just how great the 2011 Yankee bullpen was. In terms of ERA relative to the league, the 2011 team checked in tied for 5th, with a 74 ERA-, with the 1981 and 1970 teams again at the top. In terms of FIP, the 2011 team fared a bit less impressively, with its 3.65 mark coming in at 18th-best (1972 led this list with a 2.85 FIP, which further begs the question what on earth was going on with the Yankee bullpens from 1970 through 1972? One year they’re incredible, the following year atrocious, then back to incredible), though its FIP relative to the league (88 FIP-) was tied for 10th-best, with 1982 topping the list with a 76 FIP-.

Now on to the individuals who comprised recent Yankee bullpens. In order to define who made the cut, seeing as how the Yankees can go through up to 30 pitchers (or more) over the course of the season between cuts, trades and September call-ups, I initially used 30 innings pitched as a benchmark. While I mostly stuck to that parameter, I did end up getting a bit lenient so that I could include some memorable names that perhaps didn’t quite reach that threshold, but came close enough. I did not end up using anyone below 20 IPs, so this should at least be a fairly representative sample of the primary players the Yankees utilized in relief during their respective seasons.

As for how I graded them out, I decided to go with FIP-, as neither ERA nor WAR are particularly great at telling us how effective relievers were. Focusing solely on what the pitcher was responsible for and comparing it against the league seemed like the most intuitive way to show just how good (or bad) the Yankee relief corps have been over the years.

(click to enlarge)

A few observations:

  • The Yankees, like every team in baseball, have had a lot of crappy relievers.
  • My primary memory of Juan Acevedo was of him botching one of Roger Clemens’ 8,000 attempts at getting his 300th win in a blown save against the Cubs on June 7, 2003.
  • Remember Felix “Run Fairy” Heredia, Felix Rodriguez and Luis Vizcaino?
  • I still hate Phil Coke, even though the 38 FIP- he put up in 14.2 innings in 2008 tops the list. Even though his ’08 season didn’t make the 30-IP innings cutoff, his 2009 season obviously did, and I wanted to show how bad he actually was in comparison.
  • The Yankees had a lot of crappy relievers in the middle of the aughts. Between bad pitching and awful defense, it still amazes me that the 2004-2007 teams still made the playoffs every year.
  • If you lower the innings cutoff to 20, Joba Chamberlain‘s 42 FIP- in 2007 is the second-best FIP- on this chart after Phil Hughes‘ 41 in 2009. In fact, those two are the third- and second-best relief seasons in all of Yankee history (going all the way back to 1871) in terms of FIP-. The best? Why, Mariano Rivera‘s 1996, in which he put up a 40 FIP- in 107.2 innings.
  • David Robertson‘s 2011 FIP- was the 5th-best relief season in all of Yankee history on the aforementioned list of 258 relief seasons of 20 innings pitched or more.
Categories : Pitching, Whimsy
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(AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

Brian Cashman has been the general manager of the Yankees for a long time now; he’ll be entering his 14th year once Spring Training rolls around. As you’ve probably noticed by now, he’s definitely got a sense of humor but also says a whole lot of words without adding much substance when he talks to the press. There will be words coming out of his mouth, but not many are meaningful. It’s typical YankeeSpeak, and Joe Girardi is starting to master is as well.

Well, Cashman is the opposite when he starts exchanging texts. He’s short and to the point, which is refreshing. Wally Matthews of ESPN New York exchanged some texts with Cash on Monday morning, and he was kind enough to post the conversation for all to see. You should head on over to check it out, it’s worth your time. In an effort to fit in, I’ve decided to share some text conversations I’ve had with various members of the Yankees’ brain trust recently…

* * *

Me: Have you called about Felix Hernandez recently?
Cashman: havent talked to jack z since cliff lee
Me: Are you holding a grudge because they backed out of the trade?
Cashman: lol no their roster just sux

* * *

Me: See anyone interesting in winter ball?
Billy Eppler: Paul Wilson is still pitching.
Me: Interested in signing him?
Eppler: No, but he’s still pitching. Crazy, right?
Me: Yeah I guess.
Eppler: You’d be surprised who you see out here.
Me: Anyone else interesting?
Eppler: Not sure, but I haven’t seen Bill Pulsipher yet.
Me: I take it he’s pitching there too?
Eppler: Yeah, crazy.
Me: Would you sign him if he looks good?
Eppler: No idea, but dude, it’s Bill [expletive deleted] Pulsipher.
Me: Looking forward to seeing Jason Isringhausen next?
Eppler: No Michael, that’s just stupid. End of conversation.

* * *

Me: Happy with the CC Sabathia extension?
Hal Steinbrenner: We’re extremely pleased.
Me: Would you have given him a sixth guaranteed year?
Hal: We have the best fans in the world, we would have done what it takes.
Me: What about seven years?
Hal: We have the best fans in the world, we would have done what it takes.
Me: Is there a point when you would have said enough is enough?
Hal: We have the best fans in the world, we would have done what it takes.
Me:
Hal: :-P

* * *

Me: Any surprise signings this winter?
Randy Levine: TALKING TO KROD WILL CHECK ON MADSIN
Me: Even with Rafael Soriano and David Robertson?
Levine: TOLD SORIANO TO OPTOUT
Me: But he didn’t.
Levine: SAID HE WOULD
Me: He didn’t though, and the deadline has already passed.
Levine: THATS BRIANS FAULT

* * *

Me: I hear the Braves are interested in trading for Eduardo Nunez.
Cashman: i kno lmao

Disclaimer: I can not guarantee that these text exchanges actually happened.

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Nov
11

The Steve is the thing

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Steve Sax is probably the best Steve in Yankee history, and that's not saying much.

When it comes to great Bens in Yankee history, they are few and far between. In fact, other than a fleetingly brief and utterly forgettable 11-inning stint by Ben Ford in 2000, the last Ben to play on the Yankees was Ben Chapman in 1936. His real first wasn’t even Ben. Rather, Benjamin was his middle name, and William his birth name.

As namesakes go though, there are more boring comps than Ben Chapman. Vehemently opposed to racial integration of the game, as a manager of the Phillies, Chapman and his team’s harassment eventually led to increased support for Jackie Robinson during 1947. As a Yankee for parts of seven seasons from 1930-1936, Chapman hit .305/.379/.451 and made the All Star team four times. Before Chapman was Benny Bengough (born Bernard) and Ben Paschal, a superb fourth outfielder actually born Benjamin.

So in nearly 110 seasons, only two players in Yankee history have been named Benjamin, and they have amounted to not much. That’s hardly however the biggest name failure in Yankee history. But who cares? What’s this all about anyway?

While searching for a topic for this post, I asked my followers on Twitter for ideas, and Jesse Spector, now the national hockey writer for The Sporting News, offered up a name-based suggestion. Talk about, he said, “lousy Yankees named Steve through history.” I hadn’t ever given it much thought, but when I looked up the history of pinstriped Steves, more than a few rotten eggs came up.

The most recent Steve to take the field for the Yankees was Mr. Garrison earlier this year. The 24-year-old New Jersey native made just one appearance and retired both batters he faced. As Yankee Steves go, it was a rather triumphant appearance. The previous Steve to pitch for the Yanks went by the surname Karsay, and his failures weren’t really his fault. Signed by the Yanks to a four-year contract prior to the 2002 season, Karsay suffered at the hands of Joe Torre. He made 78 appearances in 2002, missed all of 2003 and appeared in just 13 more games for the Yanks before he was released in 2005.

Prior to Karsay, the most recent Yankee Steves were of the Howe Farr variety in the mid-1990s. Steve Howe and Steve Farr provided a rather dynamic relief duo. For the Yanks, Howe made 88 appearances over six seasons as drug suspensions and injuries cut short his career. He was terrible in the 1995 playoffs and was cut by the Yanks a few months before their 1996 World Series championship. As the closer to Howe’s set-up man, Steve Farr racked up 78 saves in three years, but these two were just behind the curve. After they left, the Yanks’ bullpens improved tremendously.

That era of mediocre and downright awful Yankee teams in the late 1980s and early 1990s played host to a few other Steves as well. Steve Sax played just three seasons with the Yanks, but they were his three best offensive years. As a second baseman, he hit .294/.342/.376 in 472 games while also making 30 errors in the process. The Yanks eventually traded him to the White Sox for Domingo Jean, Melido Perez and Bob Wickman. Steve Balboni in 1989 and 1990 brought his brand of all-or-nothing baseball to the Bronx as well. After starting his career in the early 1980s in the Bronx, he returned for a 226-game encore and hit .216/.294/.435 in the process. He was the DH on the last Yankee team to finish in seventh place in the AL East. That 1990 also featured Steve Adkins for five awful starts.

Beyond that motley group of early 1990s Steves, the other players in Yankee history to don that name made small marks on the franchise. Sundra, Peek, Roser, Souchock, Kraly, Whitaker, Hamilton, Barber, Blateric — they bounced around the bigs, they came and went. Of them all, only Steve Sax was an All Star. One day, a great Steve may come through the Yankees’ system. Perhaps we’ll see our own Garvey, Bedrosian or even a Carlton. For now though, Steve, like my name, isn’t a great one for Yankee history.

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RIVER AVENUE BLUES EXCLUSIVE!

Late last night we acquired copies of New York Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman‘s private and confidential 2011-’12 offseason plan. The content of these highly-sensitive documents have never made public before now. Many Bothans died to bring us this information.

(click images to enlarge)

As you can plainly see, Cashman has a solid plan in place, and if he’s successful in its execution, the Yankees seem likely to win at least 145 games in 2012. In fairness, I don’t give this blueprint better than a 25% chance of happening, but if confirmation was ever needed on just how wily Cashman is, mission accomplished. He can plan my castle onslaught any day.

Oh, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, every 10th follower wins an iPad!

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Sep
30

Looking Back. Looking Forward.

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Every other week, Jamie O’Grady channels the 2005-version of Michael Kay by “Looking Back. Looking Forward.to get you caught up on what just was, and what soon will be with the New York Yankees.

LOOKING BACK: So what did you miss?

By now you’ve probably seen or read the accounts of Major League Baseball’s Game 162-madness on Wednesday night. With each League’s Wild Card up for grabs – and four teams (Boston, Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Atlanta) vying for the two remaining postseason slots – a confluence of improbability, fate and justice occurred, the likes of which none of us are likely to again witness in our lifetimes.

Which got me to (gasp) thinking…

For some time now, we’ve been hearing that the National Football League has usurped MLB as the most popular sport in the land. The numbers back it up, too, as last year was the first time that a prime time World Series game failed to draw as many viewers as an NFL game being broadcast concurrently. Heck, even I was watching the Saints beat the Steelers on Monday Night Football instead of the 2010 Fall Classic. In fairness, the 2009 Yankees-Phillies match-up did beat MNF head-to-head just one year earlier, but the overall trend is indisputable and likely irreversible. Or is it?

There is simply no way that the NFL (and it’s wimpy 16-game schedule) is able to replicate what can happen at the end of MLB’s six-month regular season. Wednesday’s penultimate games had it all: comebacks with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth inning(s); players once buried on the bench, or better yet, just called up from the minors, making the unlikeliest of heroic contributions; and season’s fates hinging and turning on seemingly innocuous base-running blunders and pitching substitutions. It was all on display.

In a 15-minute span late Wednesday night, a virtually infinite amount of 2011 pitches, swings and managerial moves came to a head in one glorious and riveting crescendo. These games served as irrefutable evidence that Major League Baseball remains both viable and formidable, and I encourage everyone to stop comparing and contrasting America’s pastime with its worthy pigskin-obsession. Both are amazing, in very different ways.

Besides, football could never have produced a fantasy outcome like this one (achieved by my 12th-year keeper squad on the last day of the season):

What we learned:

9/16 – 9/18 @ TOR I could tease Blue Jays fans about another hapless campaign by their franchise, but I’d actually have to find a Blue Jays fan first. Surely, that would be a fruitless exercise, but this Toronto season-postmortem by Bruce Arthur is a must-read for any baseball fan. On a personal note, I’d like to wish Brandon Morrow – he of the 11-11 record, 4.72 ERA and incongruous 10.2 k/9 – a joyous off-season. Despite his best efforts to repeatedly submarine my fantasy team, I emerged victorious nonetheless. Also, nice job by 1996 Cy Young Award thief winner, Pat Hentgen, as bullpen coach for the Blue Jays this year; he showed great poise in using the bullpen phone. Oh, and Cy Young runner-up Andy Pettitte? Busy somewhere in the greater Houston area, misremembering to count his $125,332,416 in career earnings. (Prediction: NYY win 2-of-3) (Actual: NYY lose 2-of-3)

9/19 v. MINWay back in 2006 – I still had thick, lustrous hair back then – I wrote on MLB.com that fantasy owners should say more yes on Morneau. Sadly, it might soon be time for the Twins to say “no mas” on the former AL-MVP, whose 2011 season was somehow worse than his lost 2010 campaign was. Look, concussions are no laughing matter – unless you’re Gary Busey – but when you hit four home runs in 264 at-bats, it’s something of a red-flag for management. I like Morneau, and Canadian-born ballplayers sure are awesome, eh, but small-market teams like Minnesota can’t afford to swing-and-miss on big-ticket items. A free agent after the 2013 season, Morneau’s days with the Twins may be numbered. (Prediction: NYY win makeup game) (Actual: NYY win makeup game)

9/20 – 9/22 v. TAMIf there’s one thing you can predict in baseball (and there really isn’t, Suzyn), it is that doubleheaders can never, ever be swept. And so the when the Yankees clinched the AL East by winning two games in one day, it was yet another sign that the Apocalypse is nigh. By the way, you might recall that in my last piece, I advised you to keep an eye on young Tampa whipper-snapper, Matt Moore. Well, I probably should have told you to keep both of your eyes on him. 11 Ks in five innings in his first Major League start? That’s almost Strasbergian. Should be awesome watching him confound New York for the next six years until we buy him. (Prediction: NYY split 4-game series) (Actual: NYY win 3-of-4)

9/23 – 9/25 v. BOSEarly this morning came word from Ken Rosenthal that Terry Francona will not be retained by the Red Sox. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Clay Buchholz didn’t throw a pitch after June 16. Kevin Youkilis compiled 40 at-bats after August 17. John Lackey had the worst statistical season by a Red Sox pitcher in franchise history. Carl Crawford signed a 7-year, $142m contract to impersonate a 37-year-old Johnny Damon. Tim Wakefield started 23 games. David Ortiz totaled one home run and eight RBI during the month of September. Yeah, like I said, that makes a lot of sense. Don’t get me wrong, Boston endured an epic meltdown this season, and Francona’s lack of leadership didn’t help matters, but you can’t just part ways with the guy that brought you two World Championships after a century of futility. It’s just too bad Ozzie Guillen decided to go to the Florida Miami Marlins. Just imagine the post-game press conferences that coulda been. Hilarity would have ensued. (Prediction: NYY lose 2-of-3) (Actual: NYY win 2-of-3)

9/26 – 9/28 @ TAMAnd speaking of the Red Sox, I don’t want to hear any complaining about Joe Girardi‘s management of the team during this series, as the great Harvey Araton of the New York Times wondered on Thursday. You see, the Yankees achieved this little thing called “winning their division,” but by doing so, afforded themselves the luxury of resting key veteran players and aligning their pitching staff as they saw fit. Make no mistake, the Yankees played these games to win, even if their A-lineup wasn’t present for all three games. Boston has no one to blame but themselves, and maybe Mark Wahlberg, who the universe seems hellbent on blessing with every success possible. So take that, Marky Mark, Ben Affleck, et. al. (Prediction: NYY win 2-of-3) (Actual: NYY get swept)

LOOKING FORWARD: What can’t you miss?

Well, duh, there’s a baseball game scheduled for tonight at the big ballpark in the Bronx. If you’re so inclined, tickets can still be had via StubHub for as little as $60.00. Sure, you’ll need binoculars to spot little Brett Gardner, but at least you’ll be in the building.

What we expect to learn:

Folks a lot smarter than me have got the ALDS preview thoroughly covered here at RAB, so I’ll be brief:

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that beating the Tigers starts and ends with beating Justin Verlander. Sure, the Yankee staff must pay close attention to both Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez – .374, 10 home runs in just 107 at-bats and 17 career-homers, respectively, against New York), and Doug Fister (he barely knew her!) has been pitching like Tom Seaver of late (8-1, 1.79 ERA since being acquired by the Tigers mid-season), but the prohibitive Cy Young Award favorite and likely MVP-winning Verlander is the key chess piece for Detroit.

Amazingly, the fearsome Yankee lineup fared quite well versus the Tiger-ace in 2011, as Verlander compiled a mortal 4.50 ERA in two starts, both no-decisions. Additionally, New York worked 8 walks in 12 innings against the righty, a formula they’ll need to repeat in the ALDS in order to get his pitch-count up as quickly as possible.

Oh, by the way, the Yankees have their own ace, CC Sabathia, but there are red flags abound. If Sabathia’s 2.64 September strikeout/walk ratio and career 4.66 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in the postseason weren’t enough to make you worry, he’s also sporting a no-so-nifty 4.54 career-ERA and 15-12 career-record against Detroit.

In the end, I suspect the ghosts will be joined by mystique and aura once again during the ALDS, and the Yankee lineup will bail out their suspect starting pitching. Combine their offense with David Robertson and Mariano Rivera, and there’s reason to believe.

Having already proven myself inept in the prediction business, there’s no reason to stop now.

YANKEES IN FIVE

And that’s all she wrote. I’ll see you back here throughout the playoffs, unless you follow me on Twitter, in which case I’ll see you every five seconds or so.

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RAB’s own Hannah Ehrlich found this the other day and passed it along to me, and … just watch. Words really can’t describe it. The hamburger desk just pulls the whole thing together. Just amazing.

(h/t the shark doctor)

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Sep
16

Looking Back. Looking Forward.

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Every other week, Jamie O’Grady channels the 2005-version of Michael Kay by “Looking Back. Looking Forward.to get you caught up on what just was, and what soon will be with the New York Yankees.

LOOKING BACK: So what did you miss?

One of my favorite movies of all-time is undoubtedly Bill Murray’s “Groundhog Day.” In the moviefilm, an immortal Phil Connors – slowly realizing that he’s reliving the same day over and over – advises the innkeeper that the “chance of departure is around 80%…75-80.”

Now, you may be wondering what this has to do with a supposedly Yankee-centric column, but there’s an obvious connection here to the total disaster which is Mr. Allen James Burnett. We already know that watching AJ pitch feels like deja vu all over again, yet despite only marginally improved results of late, the likelihood that Burnett is kept off the postseason roster feels much like Connors’ chances of leaving Punxsutawney without running into Ned Ryerson. Not. Gonna. Happen.

Wanna put the oft-ridiculed Yankee hurler’s 2011 statistics into some perspective? Check out this most recent 16-start sample size:

You don’t have to be John Sterling to recognize Starter B; he’s the aforementioned AJ Burnett. Player A? None other than Javier Vazquez. Yes, that Javier Vazquez. Really, is there any greater insult than being told “Dude, your ERA is like 4 runs higher than Javy Vazquez‘s, Bruh!” (UPDATE: Cy Vaz tossed a 5-hit shutout Friday night)

And no, despite my Burnetterrific frustration, I’m not planning on bathing with my toaster oven anytime soon.

Where in the world is Alex Rodriguez? Since returning from the disabled list on August 21, ARod has compiled just 36 at-bats (with two home runs), putting an exclamation point on his injury-riddled and disappointing 2011 campaign. Surely, $25m+ doesn’t go as far as it used to, what with the economy and all, but come on.

He’s allegedly still battling the worst jammed thumb in history, and his impending return to the lineup tonight – though welcome – doesn’t leave a ton of games for him to get his act together for the postseason.

Seriously, does anyone remember the ARod who closed April on pace for .290/41/146 this season? Yeah, neither does Cameron Diaz, apparently. I’m not judging, by the way. Perhaps ditching that insanely hot “distraction” will pay immediate Jeterian dividends.

Oh, some guy named Mariano crossed the 600-save threshold. And some guy named Jesus saved the franchise. We all just better pray that Joe Girardi doesn’t ask Montero to sacrifice himself. The worldwide religious implications are enough to make one’s head explode.

What we learned:

9/02 – 9/04 v. TOR I keep waiting for a NY Post headline which reads Ivan the Terrible, but Yankee phenom Ivan Nova just won’t allow it. He continues to lead all big-league rookies with 15 wins, and he hasn’t suffered a loss since way back on June 3. Nova is 7-0 since rejoining the club on July 31, and his 3.32 ERA over that time is actually much less impressive than his 1.14 WHIP (1.37 for his career) over the same span. Nova may not be able to retain his newfound-poise in a playoff atmosphere, but there’s no doubt his pure stuff is good enough to go head-to-head against almost any other AL team’s No. 2 starter. Prediction: NYY sweep series) (Actual: NYY sweep series)

9/05 – 9/08 @ BALWhat a disappointment. It took Jesus Montero all of four Major League contests to hit two home runs in one game, which puts him just 66 games behind Babe Ruth for the all-time Yankee lead in multi-HR efforts. I’m guessin’ the son of God will catch the Babe sometime in 2013. Scott Proctor made his first appearance as a Yankee since July 23, 2007. Predictably, he served up a long ball. I hadn’t been this excited to hear the name Proctor on TV since he and Lt. Harris were slow dancing at the Blue Oyster Bar. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. (Prediction: NYY win 3-of-4) (Actual: NYY split series)

9/09 – 9/11 @ LAASomewhat lost amidst the local joy surrounding Boston’s injury-induced September-meltdown is the fact that the Yankees remain particularly vulnerable against certain other potential playoff-opponents. Case in point: the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Orange County, California, U.S.A., Earth, Milky Way. Now just three games back of the AL West-leading Texas Rangers, the Angels - and their dominant 1-2 punch in Weaver/Haren - would be a lethal Yankee opponent in the ALDS. The Detroit Tigers – even with Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera & Co. – would be a better match-up for the Bombers. You might even be surprised to learn that Verlander is just 4-3 with a 3.97 ERA lifetime versus New York. (Prediction: NYY win 2-of-3) (Actual: NYY lose 2-of-3)

9/12 – 9/14 @ SEADon’t look now, but Phil Hughes (5-5) has held opponents to two earned runs or less in six of his last eight starts. He even managed to best the mighty King Felix in a Yankee win which saw Chris Dickerson take Hernandez deep for his first Major League home run. Dickerson can now retire tomorrow and still pick up chicks at will, although not at the Blue Oyster Bar. Not to be outdone by the aforementioned Montero, oft-hyped Yankee catching prospect Austin Romine collected his first big-league hit. At first glance, he looks very comfortable behind the plate. (Prediction: NYY sweep series) (Actual: NYY win 2-of-3)

LOOKING FORWARD: What can’t you miss?

Entering play tonight, Baseball Prospectus has the Yankees at 100% likely to make the playoffs (92% to win the AL East), so the remaining 14 regular season games are largely irrelevant aside from playoff seeding and setting up the starting rotation for the American League Divisional Series. What’s most important for New York over the next two weeks is the health and performance of ARod, who despite his 2011 disappearing act, remains an absolutely critical factor for the club’s chances at making the World Series.

It’s been readily apparent since Spring Training that the Yankee rotation was not going to be a team-strength, but even with the losses of Joba Chamberlain, Pedro Feliciano, and Damaso Marte, the bullpen has been nothing short of dominant. In particular, David Robertson (1.15 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 95K/62IP) has had the kind of season that makes you wonder if Mariano Rivera‘s eventual replacement has been here all along.

And so it remains that formula – CC Sabathia, an elite offense, and a lock-down bullpen – which Brian Cashman hopes New York can ride all the way to its 28th World Championship.

What we expect to learn:

9/16 – 9/18 @ TOR I really miss the original Blue Jay uniforms. Those badboys were awesome. Not much else to espouse about our friends from north of the border. They’re sporting a pedestrian 75-74 record, which makes sense given their above average lineup and well below average pitching staff. Ultimately, the Jays won’t be making any noise in the division until they find themselves an ace – no, not you, Brandon Morrow – and a closer who brings more to the table than a really questionable neck tattoo. I actually feel for the baseball fans in Toronto; to see your franchise trade away Doc Halladay and still support the team? That’s commendable. And stupid. (Prediction: NYY win 2-of-3)

9/19 v. MINLooking for a sign that the Apocalypse is upon us? Well, for the first time in about 68 years, the Yankees will not be facing the Twins in the playoffs, which is probably a good thing for residents of St. Paul, considering the fact that New York seemingly never loses to Minnesota in the postseason. That said, I will miss seeing Joe Mauer’s abnormally girthy sideburns in October. (Prediction: NYY win makeup game)

9/20 – 9/22 v. TAMHoly shizah, these are not your father’s Devil Rays! While the Red Sox have been imploding, the Rays have exploded, winning 9-of-12 and amazingly creeping to within three games of Boston in the AL Wild Card race. Make no mistake, despite losing half their roster in free agency, Tampa’s farm system is extremely well-stocked, particularly in the pitching department. Widely hailed as baseball’s best pitching prospect, Matt Moore was recently called up to bolster Tampa’s pen over the final 15 games. Keep an eye on him during this series, you’ll be seeing him torment the Yankees for many years to come. (Prediction: NYY split 4-game series)

9/23 – 9/25 v. BOSBoston closer Jonathan Papelbon has not had a save opportunity since August 18, almost one month ago! Daniel Bard, the usually dominant Red Sox setup man, has compiled a 17.36 ERA and 2.35 WHIP thus far in September. Kevin Youklis is hitting .197 with two homers since August 1. In short, the team that everyone picked to win the division has utterly collapsed due to a combination of bad play, untimely injuries, and bunch of games against really good clubs. Might we hear some completely unjustified “Fire Tito” chants in Fenway Park before the season ends?  (Prediction: NYY lose 2-of-3)

9/26 – 9/28 @ TAMThere’s only so much I can say about the Rays in one column, but I happen to like Joe Maddon’s glasses. Also, BJ Upton needs a new batting stance. Every time I see his weirdo ankle-shimmy I want to throw something at the television. Finally, what is up with having actual stingrays in an aquarium at the ballpark? Didn’t we learn anything from the untimely death of Steve Irwin? Call me crazy, but when I attend a baseball game, the closest I want to come to sea life is plunking down $20 for mediocre sushi at Yankee Stadium. (Prediction: NYY win 2-of-3)

Next stop…

 

 

 

 

And that’s all she wrote. I’ll see you back here in a fortnight, unless you follow me on Twitter, in which case I’ll see you every five seconds or so.

Categories : Musings, Whimsy
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Sep
06

Looking Back. Looking Forward.

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Every other week, Jamie O’Grady channels the 2005-version of Michael Kay by “Looking Back. Looking Forward.to get you caught up on what just was, and what soon will be with the New York Yankees.

LOOKING BACK: So what did you miss?

If you’re anything like me, you missed having electricity for a while thanks to that little vixen, Irene. No power meant no access to the Interwebs, and no way to share my musings.

Call me crazy, but anytime a storm causes catastrophic flooding, and like, deaths and stuff, I expect at least a half-day off from work. Nevertheless, Axisa, Pawlikowski & Kabak LLP runs a pretty tight ship, so let’s get right to it, shall we?

What do you get when you cross a 2.5 game lead for the best record in the American League, a Major League-best +206 run differential, and a 100% probability of making the playoffs? The 2011 New York Yankees, that’s what.

It’s taken virtually five months – amidst all sorts of uncertainty, injuries and controversy (in other words, a typical Yankee season) – but the 2011 Bombers now appear focused, opportunistic and capable of doing whatever is necessary to win games. They can beat you with power (197 team-dongs are 24 more than any other club) or speed (3rd in MLB with 131 team-swipes), they’re patient as heck (537 team-walks), and they can pitch a little bit, too (3.71 team-ERA ranks 10th in all of baseball – Boston lags behind at 20th).

And as if going 8-2 over their last 10 games wasn’t enough, New York recently “added” two potentially lethal right-handed bats to its already potent lineup with the return of Alex Rodriguez and promotion of the highly-touted Jesus Montero. Yup, it’s ARod and a son of God to the rescue. Montero, whose batting stance is eerily Pujolsian, arrived last Thursday, and if the early returns are any indication (5-for13 with 2HR), the Yankee lineup will truly be without weak link come October.

So you say you’re the biggest Yankee fan in the world, but have you actually looked at the numbers being put up by Curtis Granderson this season?

Admittedly, even I was astounded when I gave his 2011 statistics a bit of a “how’s your father.”

 The Yankee All-Star is first in the American League in runs scored (125) and runs batted in (107), he’s second in home runs (38), total bases (291),  and triples (10), and he’s the first Yankees player since Mickey Mantle in 1955 to record at least 30 home runs and 10 triples in the same season. In fact, Granderson is just the 15th major league player since 1950 to achieve that feat.

In short, the man is having an historic campaign, and with all due respect to either Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez, it’s hard to argue there exists a finer example of “most valuable” than Granderson. Well, unless you’re throwing Justin Verlander into the mix.

My second stab at the prediction business didn’t go so great, as the Yankees somehow managed not to play that .800 baseball I had called for. The nerve. Whatever, they’re bound to meet my lofty goals at some point over the remainder of the season, right?

What we learned:

8/18 – 8/21 @ MIN Just in case you missed it, Joe Mauer makes a helluva lot more money than you do, which is just a tad ironic given that he’s only managed to hit two home runs for the entire season. Apparently, Justin Morneau collects concussions like that dude from The Silence of the Lambs collects rare butterflies. The artists formerly known as The M&M Boys may be rapidly descending into Generation-K territory, although in fairness, none of the Mets’ trio ever won an MVP. Actually, rumor has it Bill Pulsipher is working for MVP Septic out of Schenectady. For a while there, it seemed like CC Sabathia had lost his moxie, but something happened in the 7th inning of his August 18th start when he retired Mauer, Morneau and Jim Thome. He’s been absolutely rolling ever since (3-0 with 36 Ks over 27.2 IP). (Prediction: NYY win 3-of-4) (Actual: NYY win 3-of-4)

8/23 – 8/25 v. OAKWhat a long, strange trip it’s been for Yankee hurler Bartolo Colon. After a lengthy sabbatical – presumably training for Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest – Colon and his 2011 revival has had been nothing short of amazing. Taking a page from Boston’s playbook, GM Brian Cashman struck gold with the HGH-enhanced Colon, but the joyride may finally be over. Since July 7, Colon is just 2-6, having rocked out to the tune of a 4.90 ERA. Opposing hitters are batting .301 against him, and his strikeouts are down from where they were in the beginning of the season. It goes without saying that Colon’s 145IP in 2011 are by far most he’s thrown since 2005. Tire much? Oh, New York scored more in one game (22 runs) against the A’s than the Jets are expected to score in the first month of the upcoming NFL season. (Prediction: NYY win 2-of-3) (Actual: NYY lose 2-of-3)

8/26 – 8/29 v. BAL – I’ve taken a lot of heat recently for dismissing Baltimore as some kind of minor league squad, so I decided to look deeper to try and find any redeeming qualities to the organization. Not including this season (84 losses already), the Orioles have averaged 91 losses per year since 1998. That’s not only dreadful, but it’s also patently inexcusable. Baltimore’s extended run of futility has coincided with high annual draft slots, yet there hasn’t been one impact player to come up through their system in the last decade. I’m sorry, but an allegedly juiced-up Brian Roberts isn’t exactly proof of organization competency. Moving on… (Prediction: NYY sweep series) (Actual: NYY lose 2-of-3 / rain-shortened 5-game series*

8/30 – 9/1 @ BOS – Yes, New York took two of three games. And yes, CC Sabathia proved he can actually beat the Red Sox. But for me, perhaps the more important take away is the sense that Mariano Rivera‘s lights-out-ed-ness is becoming less and less evident this season. The numbers say otherwise (his 7.43 K/BB ratio is almost twice his career average of 4.03), but I cannot remember seeing Mo experience such a consistent loss of command from one outing to the next. Maybe his stuff remains so great that location doesn’t matter as much as it would to some other aging closer, but my gut tells me that the long-feared (and oft-disproven) twilight of Rivera’s career has already begun. (Prediction: NYY win 2-of-3)  (Actual: NYY win 2-of-3

LOOKING FORWARD: What can’t you miss?

There are not a lot of unanswered questions at this point in the season, but the Yankee rotation continues to be one of them. Just when you think AJ Burnett’s carcass is finally ready to be cremated, he goes and tosses 5.1 serviceable innings in Fenway Park and completely redeems himself! Armed with a supposedly new, Larry Rothchild-inspired delivery, the enigmatic Burnett is going to have to show those kinds of results (and more) to be given any consideration for the playoff roster, let alone the playoff rotation.

On the bright side, at least the regular season’s conclusion means we won’t have to sit through three more months of Girardi promising to go back to a 5-man rotation.

And what of young Mr. Montero? We already know that John Sterling jumped the shark some decades ago, but his home run call for Montero was positively ungodly. Whatever, the coming of Jesus has been a long time… uhh, coming, and the smart money says that barring a complete September-implosion, Montero will be (and should be) the Yankee playoff-DH.

Mariano Rivera has amassed 597 saves over his illustrious career, and despite my unsubstantiated assertion that the inevitable end may finally near, 600 saves is nothing to sneeze at. Sure, the save statistic is oft-maligned (maybe rightfully so), but there’s no denying that Mariano’s brilliance is only slightly more amazing than his longevity. Here’s hoping he saves 600 more. Or at least 60.

It seems unfathomable, but Alex Rodriguez is finally flying under the radar in New York. Well, almost. While Granderson, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and to a lesser extent, Nick Swisher, continue to do the heavy lifting, you can take it to the bank that ARod will play a critical role in the success or failure of New York’s postseason aspirations. Rodiguez’s surgically-repaired knee should be fully healed by October, and I’m guessing that mid-season DL-stint will serve him well from a stamina perspective. 

What we expect to learn:

9/02 – 9/04 v. TOR – Sure, this series already happened, but I promise you my prediction was made before the four-game series commenced.  Check out this absolutely douche’alicious photo of Toronto phenom Brett Lawrie, and if that’s not enough of a reason to hate on him, he’ll only be tormenting Yankee pitching for the next six years or so before Cashman purchases the rights to his everlasting soul. Brandon Morrow and AJ Burnett should rent an apartment together and star in an ESPN2 reality series. They can call it “All Arms, No Brains.” Here’s the thing, Gents; when you throw 95+ mph, it’s a good idea to aim for that little thingy they call the strike zone. (Prediction: NYY sweep series

9/05 – 9/08 @ BAL – Oh Lord, these guys again? Seriously, how much can one man honestly be expected to write about this team? In fairness, the O’s did make an abnormally stellar move during the offseason, acquiring SS JJ Hardy from the Twins for a pair of minor leaguers. All he’s done this year is put up 26 homers and a .810 OPS. (Prediction: NYY win 3-of-4

9/09 – 9/11 @ LAAHave you heard of a dude named Mark Trumbo? Well, there’s a really good chance that Trumbo – I really hope his teammates have nicknamed him the “Rusty Trombo” – wins the AL Rookie of the Year Award. He’s put up 26HR and 80RBI  over 132 games, and he’s sure to garner enough votes to run neck-and-neck with Yankee starter Ivan Nova. The Angels have pulled to within 2.5 games of the AL West-leading Texas Rangers (2 games back in the loss column), so you know they’ll be plenty motivated this weekend with New York coming to town. Oh, the Yanks get to face Jered Weaver (16-7, 2.49ERA) and Dan Haren (14-8, 3.20ERA), too. Joy! (Prediction: NYY win 2-of-3

9/12 – 9/14 @ SEA – For fans of the Seattle Mariners, it’s all about baby steps. Like being on-pace for “just” 90 losses this year after 2010′s epic 101-loss campaign. Also on the plus side, Chone Figgins’ terrible four-year contract is almost halfway finished! Want to know how bad things are in the Pacific Northwest? Ichiro, a once-in-a-lifetime talent, is batting just .273, and he leads the team. At least Seattle still has an awesome stadium and cool uniforms.  And I’m pretty sure everyone who lives there hangs out with Eddie Vedder. (Prediction: NYY win 2-of-3

And that’s all she wrote. I’ll see you back here in a fortnight, unless you follow me on Twitter, in which case I’ll see you every five seconds or so.

Categories : Musings, Whimsy
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