Thursday, April 30, 2009

Detroit Series Wrap

After dropping the first game 4-2, the Yankees went on to score 19 runs over the next two games to beat Detroit 2-1 in a three game set in the Motor City. Sadly, I was unable to watch any of these games because none of them were on My9 and I'm blacked out of ESPN coverage. Luckily, I'll be graduating a week from Sunday so I'll be home to watch every game.

SERIES POSITIVES: Starting pitching. Yeah, when was the last time I could say that? The KC series? The Yankees got good performances from their starters in Detroit; combined, they went 21 innings while allowing only 4 runs (all of those from CC) for an ERA of 1.71. Phil Hughes looked incredible on Tuesday night, as his cutter was biting and his curveball was just absolutely filthy. Last night, the Joba Chamberlain of the present looked like the Joba Chamberlain of the future. It's games like Wednesdays that should remind everyone why Joba's future is as a starter.

SERIES NEGATIVES: The bullpen remained a little shaky, as it gave up six runs last night. But in a win, there's little to complain about. After all, the bullpen only pitched a handful of low-leverage situations during this series.

LOOKING AHEAD: The Yankees come home to play the Angels (9-11) stating today. The Angels are 5-5 in their last ten games, but they are on a three game win streak. The pitching matchups are:

Thursday: Anthony Ortega vs. A.J. Burnett
Friday: Jered Weaver vs. Andy Pettitte
Saturday: Matt Palmer vs. CC Sabathia
Sunday: Joe Saunders vs. Phil Hughes

OFFENSE: .279/.357/.470/.828, 116 OPS+, 30 HR, 113 R
PITCHING: 5.87 ERA, 81 ERA+, 1.511 WHIP, 4.1 BB/9, 7.0 K/9, 1.73 K/9

Monday, April 27, 2009

Boston Series Wrap...kind of.

This series was a mess. That's all I'll say about the games.

SERIES POSITIVES: Robinson Cano. He is hitting like a freakin' mad man right now and I love it. I'm a little worried that he hasn't taken a walk in a while, but I hope his patient approach in this first month sticks around so that Robbie can still be effective when the hits aren't falling.

SERIES NEGATIVES: Literally everything else. This series was Murphy's Law for the Yankees: Mo Himself blew a save, Burnett couldn't hold a six run lead, the bullpen was awful, and, I don't know if you guys heard this, but Jacoby Ellsbury stole home. Another negative for this whole series was the ridiculous bias FOX and ESPN have displayed against the Yankees.

LOOKING AHEAD: The Yankees head into Detroit this week and Phil Hughes will be getting a start on Tuesday. I look forward to that game, as well as the awesome Joba v. Porcello matchup on Wednesday night.

OFFENSE: .276/.358/.475/.833, 115 OPS+, 28 HR, 100 R
PITCHING: 6.26 ERA, 77 ERA+, 1.589 WHIP, 4.3 BB/9, 7.0 K/9, 1.62 K/BB

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Oakland Series Wrap and Centerfield Thoughts

The Yankees beat the A's in 14 innings yesterday thanks to a walk off homer by Melky "I'm Doing the Best I Can to Win My Job Back" Cabrera. The bullpen was spectacular last night after CC Sabathia had another shaky start, allowing 7 runs. The night before, the Yankees got a 5-3 win after 7 innings of 2 run ball from Andy Pettitte and an early offensive spurt; so, the Yankees come away with a sweep of the rain-shortened series.

SERIES POSITIVES: The bullpen, the bullpen, and the bullpen. Brian Bruney gave up his first runners/runs since opening day, but aside from that, the Yankees bullpen has been incredible. After relieving CC in the 7th yesterday, the bullpen held the A's scoreless for the rest of the game, striking out six and allowing only five baserunners. Jose Veras looked unhittable yesterday, striking out four over his 3.1 innings--he also only walked one and didn't allow a hit.

SERIES NEGATIVES: CC had another shaky outing, walking four while striking out only two. I would be alarmed, but CC had a rough April last year and rebounded nicely for Cleveland. After four bad starts in April, Sabtahia went on to post a 2.16 ERA, a 1.008 WHIP, a 5.45 K/BB, and a 9.42 K/9. Another negative is the fact that Joe Girardi had to pinch hit for Cody Ransom with Brett Gardner yesterday. You know you're having a bad day when Brett Gardner is coming into the game to HIT for you. Ouch.

LOOKING AHEAD: The Yankees have a day off today, except for CMW who's throwing an EST game to try and get himself right, and then they start a three game set with the Sox who've won seven in a row. The matchups are good ones with Joba facing Jon Lester on Friday, it's an alliteration battle on Saturday as Burnett takes on Beckett, and the series closes on Sunday with the veteran Pettitte taking on the young Justin Masterson.

OFFENSE: .271/.351/.485/.836, 114 OPS+, 25 HRs, 84 R
PITCHING: 6.02 ERA, 82 ERA+, 1.522 WHIP, 4.0 BB/9, 6.9 K/9, 1.70 K/BB

Now, onto my thoughts about centerfield. Early on, I advocated for Brett Gardner to start over Melky Cabrera. At this point, Brett really ain't cutting it. He can't seem to hit his way out of a paper bag, and despite his speed, he can't use it if he's not on base. Melky may not play as well on defense as Gardner (who's actually playing poorly now, but in a VERY small sample size), but he's got the hot bat and Girardi needs to play the hot hand. If I'm him, I'm starting Cabrera over Gardner in Boston. This vacillating back and forth between the two of them probably doesn't matter much in the end. Why? Because neither one of them is a viable long term solution in centerfield for the Yankees. If Gardner continues to hit this poorly, he should stay on the bench. If Melky regresses to his norm as a barely league average player, then the Yankees will need to pull the trigger on a trade for Mike Cameron or Marlon Byrd.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Last Night's Game and Xavier Nady

So the Yankees got a 5-3 win last night over the A's. It was Andy Pettitte's second win and Mariano Rivera's fourth save. Overall, it was a good game for the Yankees. They kept a sustained rally, Pettitte was able to pitch well despite not striking out a batter, and there were some flashy defensive plays. Brian Bruney allowed his first baserunner and run since Opening Day in the eighth, but Rivera was able to shut the door so it was all good. Brett Gardner, who also made a spectacular catch on a long drive from the very well received Jason Giambi, had two RsBI last night, thanks to a Bob Geren mistake. With the infield playing in early in the game, Gardner squeaked a single passed the slick-fielding Mark Ellis to plate the first two runs of the ball game for the Yankees. It was all down hill from there for Oakland starter Dana Eveland. On the plus side for Oakland, it was fun to watch reliever Andrew Bailey come in and throw some smoke. Despite giving up a homer--his first run allowed all year--to Johnny Damon, Bailey was blowing it by the Yankees in the mid-90's.

Two things that may fly under the radar are the two hits Hideki Matsui collected. The first was a double down the left field line and the second was a base hit right up the middle. What's so special about these two things? The directions of the hits. The double was on an outside pitch that Matsui actually went with and smoked down the line. The single was over the middle and that's where Matsui put it back after contact. Matsui usually has a tendency to roll his hands over on pitches that are middle/away and ground out weakly to the right side. It was very, very nice to see him drive the ball the other way and back up the middle. Perhaps he is coming out of his mini slump; I say mini-slump because despite not getting a whole lot of hits, Hideki is still reaching base. Counting last night, Hideki now has 9 walks on the season, and his OBP is up to .409. Matsui coming alive is a very good sign.

Another good sign for the Yankees is that Xavier Nady will not need surgery, and will most likely miss 4-6 weeks. This also likely means that the Yankees won't make a trade or pick someone off the free-agent/waiver wire, since X will be out for a relatively short period of time. It does, however, mean that Melky Cabrera will get more PAs. Melky's hitting .294/.368/.467 as of right now, but I would expect those numbers to fall with more playing time. Regardless, Nady won't have to have surgery and that's good news. Here's to a speedy recovery, X!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Poll Results and Thoughts

Okay so my latest set of polls has closed, time to look at the data.

For question 1, I asked you all how many innings you think CC will pitch in 2009. 10 out of 18 said 201-220, which is probably about right. For question 2,regarding Burnett's strikeouts, it was a little closer. There were 11 total votes and 4 said 181-200, and 4 said 201+. I'd be more likely to fall into the 181-200 category, but at the rate A.J. is pitching, 201+ seems reachable, no? The Gardner questions almost seem to be a moot point, considering the poor rate of Gardner's hitting so far in '09. Out of the 12 votes regarding steals, no one said BG would get less than 21 steals, and 3 brave souls predicted 40+. 8 of 12 said Gardner would hit his first homer in his first 50 at bats. Gardner's at 45 right now (50 plate appearances) so he could still do it before the 50 AB mark is eclipsed.


Via Pete Abe, Wang's next start will in fact be skipped. I think this is a smart move. The rain and the off day will line everyone up to pitch on full rest and Wang needs a day off. I know he wants to pitch and wants to get out there, He can't try to work out the kinks against the Red Sox in Fenway. Boston's scored at least 5 runs in 5 of their last 6 games, including double digit scores (10 and 12) twice. It looks as though their bats are starting to wake up and Wang would only help that. Wang has also struggled in Fenway for his career. Pitching in Boston, Wang has a 5.11 ERA, a 1.523 WHIP, and a .60 K/BB. Skipping Wang in Boston can only help the Yankees.

Like I said yesterday, I'd give him one, two his next start is good, before the Yankees find some reason to put him on the DL and let him work his stuff out in Tampa. This could give him time away from the big league club to work out his issues (which seem to be his release point, the elevation on his pitches, his hands, his arm, his body, his landing....everything) without the pressure of pitching in games that matter. It would also give Phil Hughes some Major League innings, which a) would be good for him and b) probably couldn't be any worse than what Wang did. If Wang was running out there giving starts like Ponson and Rasner did last year, that'd be "alright." But lasting no more than 3.2 innings this season is just unacceptable. In Scranton, Hughes is pitching to the tune of a 2.31 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, a 6/1 K/BB, and a 9.64 K/9.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Cleveland Series Wrap Up and Xavier Nady Musings

The Yankees just finished their first series in the new Stadium and it was "meh" to say the least. I was at my girlfriend's house, and was able to watch Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It was good to see some games in person and not have to follow Gameday Audio or Gameday itself. Joba's struggle with command was troubling, but that's gonna happen every so often. Saturday was, well, ugh. Sunday was better. It was nice to see that Burnett didn't fall apart despite walking seven. Granted, those types of days are the exceptions and not the rules.

The new Stadium is definitely playing small, as balls seem to be flying out to right. Maybe it's the weather? Maybe it's the wind? Maybe it's the balls? Maybe it's the players? Who know? But, I say we give it more than one series before we declare the new Stadium Arlington North or Coors East.

SERIES POSITIVES: Well, splitting a four game series is good, I guess. It's generally pretty hard to win three out of four. The offense is still clicking nicely, though, which is good to see. Brian Bruney had a good series; pitching in two games, the right hander threw two perfect innings while striking out two, throwing only 20 pitches between the two outings. Bruney hasn't allowed a baserunner since Opening Day. Are you watching, Wallace Matthews?

SERIES NEGATIVES: Wang. He was just awful again on Saturday. You've gotta wonder if he's near the end of the proverbial rope. I'm assuming (hoping?) that Girardi skips him in Boston this weekend. After that, he'll probably get one or two starts before we all start chanting "We Want Hughes," though I'm sure people are already chanting that.

LOOKING AHEAD: The game tonight against the A's is called, but they've got two more coming up against Oakland. It'll be nice to see the Big-G back in the Bronx and I hope he gets a big hand tomorrow. I feel like the Giambino will always be under-appreciated in the Bronx.

OFFENSE: .260/.342/.475/.817, 110 OPS+, 20 HR, 70 R
PITCHING: 6.54 ERA, 74 ERA+, 1.584 WHIP, 4.3 BB/9, 7.6 K/9, 1.76 K/BB

Nady Musings:

Via Kevin Devaney, Xavier Nady still doesn't have a diagnosis on his right elbow. No matter how much time X misses, it's not good for the Yankees. Sure, I wanted Nick Swisher to play over him, but not this way. While I think Swisher would've eventually played his way into the lineup over Nady--and Swisher is the better player--Xavier's absence hurts. The fourth outfielder is now Melky Cabrera instead of Swish or X. Any time the Yankees have to give more PAs to the Melk-man, it's not a good thing. This could give Damon less time off than Girardi would like, and it most likely means that if Brett Gardner struggles, a trade is going to have to be made. No Nady off the bench means that Swisher and Damon will probably see zero action in CF this year and maybe I'm looking too deep into my fake-crystal ball, but I don't see the Yankees giving Melky the CF job, even if/when Gardner falters. Nady would've also been able to spell Hideki Matsui against tough left handed pitchers if need be. I was never a huge Xavier Nady fan, but his presence on the team was vital to its depth. His injury means more playing time for a lesser player and maybe even an external move. Regardless, I hope X gets a good diagnosis and he's able to play again this season. If not, we've more than likely seen our last of Xavier Nady in the Bronx.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tampa Bay Series Wrap Up

After a disastrous 15-5 loss on Monday night, the Yankees came back strong behind A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte to win their first series with Tampa this season. While Monday night's game was just a mess, the pitching of Nick Swisher proved that he is clearly the greatest player to ever put on a Yankee uniform. This may or may not be hyperbole, but I don't care. After all, I am the self-appointed president of the Nick Swisher Fan Club, right?

SERIES POSITIVES: Two thirds of the starters in this series did a fantastic job. The two combined to allow just 5 runs in 15.1 innings (2.98 ERA), while surrendering only 9 hits and 2 walks between them (.728 WHIP) and striking out 13 (7.8 K/9, 6.5 K/BB). Both Burnett and Pettitte have been incredibly sharp in their first two starts, both of which came after awful outings from Chien Ming Wang. Which brings us to...

SERIES NEGATIVES: Chien Ming Wang. While Dave Eiland said he looked good in the bullpen before the game, Wang just couldn't get it right on the mound. He allowed 8 runs in just 1 inning of work (three of which scored on a grand slam by Carlos Pena, given up by Jonathan Albaladejo). That's two bad starts in a row for Wang, but we all seem to know what the problem is: Wang isn't getting on top of his pitches, leaving his release point too high, and it's leaving his sinker up in the zone to get crushed.

LOOKING AHEAD: The Yankees open up the new Stadium today against the Indians. This game features a great pitching matchup between the last two AL Cy Young Award winners: CC Sabathia (2007) and Cliff Lee (2008). Lee has looked pretty bad in his two starts so far in '09, giving up 17 hits and 5 walks in only 10 innings of work. On the plus side, he has struck out 10 batters, good for a 9.0 K/9. Lee's FIP stands at 4.13, though, so some positive correction for his 9.90 ERA should be coming--let's just hope it's not today! Go Yanks!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Center Field Options

Brett Gardner seems to be struggling at the plate a little bit (.227/.261/.273, though he is 2-2 in steals). Melky's hitting just as bad at .250/.250/.250. I know it's early, but we all know how much the Yankees love instant gratification. So, who could the Yankees turn to outside the organization to fill a potential offensive black hole in CF?

Internally, the Yankees could switch to Nick "The Greatest Player in Yankee History" Swisher or Johnny Damon in center. While both of these moves would be an offensive upgrade over Gardner and Cabrera, they are defensive downgrades from Gardner. Swisher said he didn't like playing the position, and the numbers bear that out. Swisher is -9.5 UZR/150 in center for his career. However, his offense could make up for this, as it'd be a huge upgrade over Gardy. Swisher, and Damon for that matter, could probably manage CF without looking like complete morons, but I'd rather not have Swisher play a position he doesn't like or Damon play a position that he may not have the health to play anymore.

Externally, there's Milwaukee's Mike Cameron. Cameron was the subject of much debate in Yankee land over the offseason and there was a slight possibility that he was going to be the Yankees Opening Day CF. Now, the Yankees need another aging outfielder about as much as they need Joba in the bullpen, but Cameron is in the last year of his contract and would just be a one real rental. Cameron has a career line of .250/.340/.448/.778, good for a 106 OPS+. So, at the plate, Cameron has been just slightly above average. In the field, Cameron is a plus player, coming in at 5.2 UZR/150 in CF. Again, Mike has been above average for his career in the field. Yes he's old and we all want the Yankees to go with the young guys, but if Gardner doesn't develop over the next month or so, Mr. Cameron will look better and better.

Next, there's Texas's Marlon Byrd. He's five years younger than Cameron and is a pretty similar hitter. Byrd's got a career line of .272/.342/.409/.751. That's only a 98 OPS+, so very slightly below average. Byrd may not offer much in terms of power, but he's got a decent OBP and has a 2.6 UZR/150 in CF for his career (424 games). Byrd is also on a one year deal, having avoided arbitration with Texas. Byrd could be the better option over Cameron since he's younger and could be brought back to the team, since the Yankees could lose Johnny Damon, Xavier Nady, and Hideki Matsui.

Those are the two probable options for centerfield in my opinion. However, I'm not advocating for B-Cash to get on the horn and make a trade right away. I'm more than willing to give Brett Gardner around 300 at bats to see if he can turn this slow start around. Melky, though, I really have no faith in. He's had his chance and he is what he is: a below average player.

About Last Night...


Yeah, last night was ugly. Wang couldn't get his sinker down and he got absolutely tagged. There really isn't anything positive to take from last night, is there? At least Nick Swisher pitched a scoreless inning. I think this is concrete proof that he is the greatest player in Yankee history.

The only thing the Yankees can hope to do is rebound tonight with A.J. Burnett on the mound. He righted the ship in Baltimore after Sabathia and Wang had bad games to open the season, so maybe he can do it again. In 2008, A.J. had a 3.15 ERA vs. the Rays, to go along with 26 strikeouts in just 20 innings of work.


Derek Jeter is one for his last 20 with only one walk, while Johnny Damon is two for his last 16, with two walks. With these two slumping, it's gonna be hard for the Yankees to come into some runs--unless of course Nick Swisher keeps hitting.


I didn't watch the game last night, but I followed it on Gameday and briefly listened to Gameday Audio, along with getting relays of the game from my girlfriend via the phone. From what I "watched," listened to, and heard, Cody Ransom is just a mess. Come on, Joe. I know it's early, but it's time to give Cody a game or three off. Put Ramiro Pena in the lineup and see what he can do. There's absolutely no way he could be any worse than Cody Ransom has been.


Swish added his third home run of the year last night, bringing his season line to .450/.542/1.150/1.692, 3 HR, 10 RBI. He's fourth in the AL in average, third in OBP, first in slugging and OPS, fourth in homers and third in RBI. These numbers are obviously going to come down, but they're fun while they last.

And while we can be easily swayed by these early stats, I think Swisher is showing everyone why he should've been the staring RF instead of Xavier Nady. Joe Girardi has said he still sees Xavier as an every day player and won't go with the hot hand. This is something I don't understand. Why not go with the hot hand? It hasn't mattered with Mark Teixeira missing the last two games with a wrist injury and Swisher manning first, but when Tex comes back, Swisher needs to stay in the lineup. Nady's been hitting alright at .280/.308/.440, so maybe he can stay in there. Maybe someone else needs a seat.


Matsui is hitting only .125/.190/.292 at this point. Perhaps when Tex returns to the lineup (hopefully tonight), Matsui can take a night off and Swisher could take over the DH duties. I doubt this happens, but Girardi needs to find a way to work Swisher into the every day lineup. He's hitting far too well to be kept out of it.

The lesson for the day: Nick Swisher is awesome.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Kansas City Series Wrap Up

Joe Girardi made some questionable bullpen moves yesterday, as the Yankees fell to the Royals, 6-4. The Yanks, however, still took two out of three from KC, winning Friday night and Saturday night, with strong pitching performances from Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia.

SERIES POSITIVES: The starting pitching was the most inspiring thing in this Yankees/Royals series. Friday night featured a vintage version of Andy Pettitte, Saturday brought us the CC Sabathia we've all come to know and love, and Sunday was Joba Chamberlain's first start of the year and if it weren't for said questionable bullpen moves, Joba would've had his first win of the year.

SERIES NEGATIVES: Cody Ransom. We knew he wouldn't be A-Rod, or anything close to it for that matter, but Cody is definitely playing well below where we thought he would. His play in the field isn't looking all the great either. Maybe General Joe will throw Ramiro Pena a start in the coming days, just to shake things up. He can't be worse than Ransom, right?

LOOKING AHEAD: The Yankees open a three game series in Tampa tonight. Both teams come in 3-3, trying to establish an early rhythm in the rough AL East. The pitching matchups are: Wang v. Kazmir, Burnett v. Garza, and Pettitte v. Sonnanstine.

OFFENSE: .262/.336/.452/.789, 108 OPS+, 7 HR, 35 R
PITCHING: 4.41 ERA, 105 ERA+, 3.4 BB/9, 7.1 BB/9, 2.11 K/BB

A sad note today as the baseball world lost its second member in a week. Legendary Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas died today before the defending champs' match-up with the Nats in Washington tonight. Kalas was truly one of the greats and Phillies games won't be the same without him. RIP Harry Kalas and Nick Adenhart.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Baltimore Series Wrap Up

AJ Burnett and Nick Swisher saved the season yesterday. The former struck out six in 5.1 innings to earn his first win as a Yankee and Nick Swisher homered and drove in five to help the Yankees to an 11-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles. Mark Teixeira tied the game at one early on with his first homer as a Yankee. After two bad games, the Yankees looked great yesterday.

SERIES POSITIVES: The offense was great this week, scoring 21 runs across the three games. Obviously, that's a pace that they won't keep up but it's great to see the bats getting going early. Robinson Cano was especially surprising, drawing three walks in the opening series. Hopefully he and Kevin Long worked to develop Robbie's patience and not just a new stance.

SERIES NEGATIVES: CC stumbled in his first start as a Yankee and Chien Ming Wang didn't look great in his first start since my 21st birthday (June 15, 2008). Both struggled with their release points and had trouble keeping the ball low in the zone. I was annoyed, but I'm far from worried. It was the first game for both of them. Chances are, this won't be a trend for CC and the Wanger. The bullpen also had one bad inning, but aside from that, they've been fine.

LOOKING AHEAD: The Yankees take on the Royals for a three game series in KC and since I'm going home for the weekend, I'll be able to watch my first games of the season. I'm pumped. This afternoon, they'll face former mate Sidney Ponson and, if we're lucky, Krazy Kyle Farnsworth will make another appearance for the Royals.

TEAM STATS TO THIS POINT: OFFENSE: .297/.368/.559/.927, 141 OPS+, 6 HR, 21 R -- PITCHING: 6.84 ERA, 67 ERA+ 1.800 WHIP, 5.4 BB/9, 5.8 K/9, 1.O7 K/BB

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Good evening everyone. Before I have to run off to my Depictions of Italian-Americans in Cinema class, I thought I'd share a few thoughts.

First, Opening Day was a disappointment. It was a crappy game and we didn't get what we expected. We'll get 'em for the next 161, though. That didn't stop Wallace Matthews from making a stupid argument though. How the first game of the year was a case for Joba in the pen is just beyond me. The Yankees were trailing for most of the game. How would a great relief performance have helped? It's not the bullpen's fault Rob Thompson made a bad call that got Nady called out. It's not the bullpen's fault Girardi put a sac bunt on instead of trying to score the run. It's not the bullpen's fault Derek Jeter couldn't hit a fly ball to get Ramiro Pena home. It's not the bullpen's fault that Mark Teixeira couldn't get Pena home with two outs. Whatever.

Second, it's a bittersweet weekend/week for UConn basketball. The men were eliminated by MUS in the Final Four in what was probably their worst game of the year. Shaky shooting, dismal defense, foul free throw shooting, and repulsive rebounding. On the other hand, the women completed a perfect 39-0 season, beating Lousiville last night in the championship. Congrats, girls.

Third, there's two articles from Beyond the Boxscore that caught my attention. The first is one about catching prospects and their arms. This article tells us one thing we knew for sure: Jesus Montero is a much better hitter than he is a fielder. 75% of guys are able to steal off of him successfully. Ouch. The surprising thing is how poor Austin Romine's percentage was: 82.4%. That's Yuck. What's "unsettling" about this is that Romine was supposed to be the good defender, not the bad one! I guess this is just another divide between stats and scouts that will have to work itself out. On a related note, there's the second article about CF prospects. Austin Jackson was basically the second worst minor league CF last year. This is a stark contrast to scouts who've touted him as very good in the field. Austin's defense (and his K/BB rate) are something we'll have to keep an eye on this year. If the defense can't improve, he might be relegated to a corner OF position and though A-Jax has a pretty good bad, it's not good enough to be a LF/RF bat.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Ladies and gentlemen, the start of the baseball season is upon us. Today is Opening Day. Today is a holiday for all of us baseball fans, so let's get out there and celebrate.

Go CC, go Yankees, and most importantly, go baseball.

Play ball, boys!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Division Preview Series Part Six: AL EAST!

Opening Night is a mere four hours away so let's get to the toughest division in baseball: the AL East!

1. New York Yankees Call it a homer pick but I believe it's totally logical. The Yankees were an 89 win team last year in a down year in which they had awful starting pitching at the beginning of the year--Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy--and awful starting pitching in the middle of the year--Sidney Ponson and Darrell Rasner. The rotation has been fixed by bringing in CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, along with re-adding Chien-Ming Wang and finally making the smart move by putting Joba Chamberlain into the starting rotation. The Yankees also have a great bullpen, led by Mariano Rivera. Young Phil Coke will be with the team for an entire season and he was brilliant in his time last year, as well as in spring training. Damaso Marte is a solid pitcher with a good track record and Jonathan Albaladejo has excellent potential. Jose Veras and Edwar Ramirez are "wild cards" in some minds, but I don't think so. They may not be all-stars, but they're incredibly solid. The Yankees also have a great lineup to put out on the field. While they'll be without A-Rod for at least the first month, adding Mark Teixeira will help alleviate that, along with a healthy Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui. Even if A-Rod's absence becomes an issue at the plate, the Yankees can win with pitching.

STRENGTHS: For the first time in a while, pitching is the main strength of the New York Yankees. The starting rotation could be the best in all of baseball when it's all said and done and the bullpen is also very good, even without Joba in the "all-important" eighth inning. The offense can probably still put up well over 800 runs this season, even if A-Rod is out for a while, so that's a strength, too.

WEAKNESSES: Staying healthy could be a problem for the Yankees. Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter are no spring chickens, Jorge's coming off shoulder surgery, and Hideki Matsui has the knees of an old woman. A.J. Burnett has a history of injuries, but he appears to have conditioned himself well enough to put those problems in the past. Health risks are an issue for any team, and the Yankees are no exception. If I had to pick an on field weakness for the Bronx Bombers, I'd say defense up the middle could be a problem. Jorge's never been great defensively, Jeter is Jeter, and Cano is all over the damn place. However, the OF defense has the chance to be stellar with Damon in left, Gardner in center and (hopefully later when Girardi realizes he may've made a mistake by starting Nady) Swisher in right.

Player to Watch: Jorge Posada. Jorge is the most underrated Yankee and one of the most underrated players of his generation. His absence from the lineup last year was the main reason the offense struggled as badly as it did. If Jorge can come back and catch 100-120 games, the Yankee offense should recover. If he can't, well, at least they have the pitching to make up for it.

2. Boston Red Sox The Sawx will finish in second and grab the wildcard again in '09. They return a great top three in Diauske, Josh Beckett, and Jon Lester, but after that, it's kind of shaky. Brad Penny and John Smoltz are health risks, Clay Buccholz is as unproven as Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy and Justin Masterson has been moved to the pen full time. Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia are coming off of career years (that they're unlikely to repeat or improve upon), Jason Bay is playing a full season with the Monster to his left, and David Ortiz is still a good hitter. Boston's lineup should be fine if Oritz and Mike Lowell stay healthy. However, I don't think they've got the rotation to keep up with the Yankees this season.

STRENGTHS: Boston has a very good bullpen. The Yankees were better as relievers last year (Yankees: 3.73 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 8.7 K/9; Sox: 4.00 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 7.8 K/9) but don't tell anyone at ESPN. Regardless, Boston's pen is a strength and the addition of Takashi Saito could improve it even more.

WEAKNESSES: Like the Yankees: health. After the Yankees grabbed three of the four top free agents out there (Tex, CC, A.J.), the Sox went shopping for cheaper players. They got John Smoltz, Brad Penny, Takashi Saito, and Rocco Baldelli. These are good pick ups because they're low-risk, high reward. However, they're all giant red flags for injury. Penny's coming off a 94 inning season, Smoltz won't be ready til May, and Saito's shoulder caused the Dodgers to not even give him a second look. Rocco Baldelli is a great story and someone we can all root for, but his health is a serious question and any returns he gives Boston will probably be minimal. If these players perform well, Theo Epstein once again looks like a genius. However, if they don't, he could come off looking foolish.

Player to Watch: Diasuke Matsuzaka was so lucky last year it's not even funny. His ERA was due for a correction all year and he never got it. It's highly unlikely he can continue pitching at a very high level while walking so many people. We'll have to watch this year to see if that ERA gets corrected.

3. Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays The Rays came out of no where and won the AL East last year, ultimately falling short to the Phillies in the World Series. They had a great blend of young talent, good pitching, and good defense last year, and they return basically the same team with a few additions. So, why the third place finish? It has nothing to do with them playing with "expectations" this year like Steve Phillips has said, but rather the fact that they, too, were a little lucky last year. All five of their starters made at least 27 starts. That sort of health is beyond lucky. I will be shocked if that trend repeats itself this year. While I'm more or less confident that Shields and Garza can stay healthy, I'm unsure about Kazmir's health (regardless of how good he is) and Andy Sonnanstine could revert to his '07 form.

STRENGTHS: If the starters stay healthy, they could push for second against Boston. They have a great top three, just like Boston and New York, but with David Price's demotion to the AAA, it may not be great. However, when he gets called up, they'll be alright. The starting staff should be their best feature this year, with their defense in a close second.

WEAKNESSES: The Rays' lineup doesn't scream "fantastic" (9th in runs scored last year, 13th/4th/8th in AVG/OBP/SLG in the AL) but it's not too bad either. The addition of Pat Burrell to DH is a very good one and will add some power to the middle of the lineup but there are some questions: Will B.J. Upton's power come around? Will Evan Longoria continue to hit at such a high level? Can Carl Crawford bounce back? Can Dioner Navarro repeat a career year?

Player to Watch: Evan Longoria. I mean, come on. Is this even in question? The reigning AL Rookie of the Year will have all eyes on him this year, watching for a sophomore slump. This slick fielding power hitting third baseman could be the best player on the Rays this year and for years to come.

It's worth noting here that I think the division race will be a very fierce competition all year. The top three teams will most likely be separated by no more than 3-4 games at the end of the year. I don't see any team winning more than 95 games in this incredibly tough division, either.

4. Baltimore Orioles The O's are gonna climb out of the cellar this year. However, it's not because of any real improvement, but rather the fact that the Jays are pretty dismal this year.

STRENGTHS: The OF trio of Scott--Jones--Markakis is probably the best defensive trio in all of baseball and they will probably be the core of Baltimore's offense as well. Markakis is a budding star and should be a household name by the end of '09.

WEAKNESSES: Pitching. Jeremy Guthrie is no slouch, but he's absolutely nothing to write home about. Sadly for the O's, he's their "ace." Guthrie's not like Sidney Ponson or anything, but he's also no where near Kazmir, Beckett, and Sabathia. After him, it really doesn't get much better. If the O's had a better offense, they could possibly hit their way out of such bad pitching but...they really don't. Their offense was middle of the road last season (8/8/5 in AVG/OBP/SLG) and that was with Aubrey Huff's 2nd best season and Luke Scott's 2nd best season.

Player to Watch: The next Jesus: Matt Weiters. Sorry, just thought I'd add to the hyperbole around him. He's going to be great, probably not this season, but he will contend for the AL ROY award.

5. Toronto Blue Jays Ugh. I almost feel bad for the Jays. They were 7 games under their pytahg record in '08 (damn bad luck!) and if they played in other divisions, they could be a contender. However, they've now lost A.J. Burnett to the Yankees and Shaun Marcum to Tommy John Surgery.

STRENGTHS: Roy Halladay. That's about it, really. The offense could improve this year, though, as Alex Rios continues to develop and Vernon Wells had a bounce back '08 (sign of good to come?) and the addition of Travis Snider. The bullpen outside is also a strength. But with a rotation like that, will it matter?

WEAKNESSES: Rotation. Am I overstating this? Perhaps, but I really don't see the Jays having a strong pitching season.

Player to Watch: Travis Snider. He's my pre-season AL ROY pick.

On another note, my girlfriend and I bought tickets to Saturday May 16th's game against the Twins. I'm absolutely pumped for my first trip to the new Stadium. Enjoy the game tonight and celebrate the start of REAL BASEBALL! LET'S GO YANKEES!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Why Do People Still Think Like This?

Why? Just why? Why do people still think that Joba Chamberlain is best used as a relief pitcher? It's just ridiculous.

Joba Chamberlain had his best outing of the spring Tuesday,, limiting the Reds to five hits and two runs in 51/3 innings. He was so good, in fact, that he pitched the Yankees almost to the point where, ideally, Joba Chamberlain would come into the game.

And that's the problem

So his pitching well is a...bad thing? Why? Because he did it starting instead of relieving? That makes very little sense.

Not even Joba, as good as he is, can fill two roles at once. He can start a game or he can finish it.

Or, he could throw a complete game and do both. But that's a rarity in baseball. It's also a story for another day. Anyway, if I have my choice between Chamberlain starting and pitching 5-7 innings, I'll take it over him relieving and pitching 1-2 innings.

The Yankees, who have an abundance of guys to start their games this year, think it's a good idea to take the greatest two-inning pitcher since Mariano Rivera, circa 1996, and turn him into just another starter.

Yeah, they also have an abundance of guys who can relieve. That's why Dan Giese, Brett Tomoko, and Al Aceves were sent down to Scranton instead of breaking camp with the Yankees. It's not like the pen isn't some rag-tag group of ne'er-do-wells. They've got a good core of live young arms--Brian Bruney, Phil Coke, Jon Albaladejo--two seasoned veterans--Mariano Rivera and Damaso Marte--and the capable Jose Veras and Edwar Ramirez. In fact, this bullpen had a 3.73 ERA in '08, along with an 8.66 K/9. I know that includes some of Chamberlain's numbers, but they'll be more than fine without him.

As for Mariano you wanna know why he was a two inning pitcher, Matthews? Because he failed as a starter. He was a fantastic starter in the minors, but he couldn't hack it as a starter in the majors. Why's that? Because he didn't have enough pitches to make it through the lineup more than once. Joba Chamberlain does not have this problem. He has a plus fastball, an explosive slider, a workable changeup, and a solid curveball. Guys with four pitches don't need to be wasted in the eighth inning.

I think they're nuts.

Pot? Kettle? Black?

The reality with starters is that they are six-inning pitchers on most days, seven- and eight-inning pitchers on their best days.

Yeah, and? Wouldn't you rather have a guy pitch six innings instead of one or two, especially if he was fully capable of doing so?

In four out of every five starts, they are going to need a guy to come charging out of that bullpen in the seventh inning to hold the game until the closer gets there.

A guy like Joba Chamberlain.

You wanna know the truth, Wallace Matthews? Most games are essentially already decided by the 7th inning. Using the WPA Calculator, we can see that a home team, winning by one, in the top of the seventh, wins the game 72.5% of the time. You don't need a guy as good as Joba Chamberlain to pitch the 7th or 8th to hold that lead down. You only need a guy as good as say...Brian Bruney or Phil Coke or Albie or Edwar or Veras or Marte...

Not to mention the Yankees were something like 73-2 in games in which they led after 7 innings. Taking Joba out of the 8th inning role will not drastically hurt that number.

But Joba isn't doing that anymore. Greater baseball minds than mine have analyzed this situation at great length and determined that Joba for the first six innings every five days is better than Joba out of the bullpen five times a week.

You know why they've determined that? Because even a slightly above average starter is more valuable than a lights out reliever.

I say that's like hiring Picasso to paint your garage door or asking Mozart to come up with a toothpaste jingle. Many can start; few can finish. Joba can finish. He was a great setup man, and someday he'll be a great closer. Those commodities are a lot scarcer on the market than starting pitchers.

Actually, I'd say in your situation. That'd be like hiring Picasso or Mozart to do such menial tasks. Joba is fully capable of being a great starter and wasting him in the eighth and ninth innings would be so silly.

That second statement about the market is just a joke. Why do you think CC Sabathia's getting $14 million in 2009 and $23 million from '10-'15 and K-Rod is never making more than $17.5 in a year? BECAUSE STARTERS ARE ALWAYS MORE VALUABLE THAN RELIEVERS!

And the Yankees, of all teams, should know it. In 1996, they wrote the book on the art of shortening the game. The nightly relay team - starting pitcher to Rivera to John Wetteland - was more reliable than Tinker to Evers to Chance. It forced every one of their opponents into the hurry-up offense, every night.

Again, Rivera failed as a starter. Go look up Rivera's minor league numbers. If he had been able to duplicate them at the Major League level, do you really think he would've been turned into a closer? I doubt it.

If you didn't get those Yankees within six innings, you weren't getting them at all, and the numbers bear it out - the record of the 1996 world champions was 70-3 in games they led after six.

That's because it's hard to win a game when you're down with only 9 outs to play with no matter who's pitching.

I also love how he completely ignores the Yankees good starting pitching in the late '90s, as if it was the bullpen that did the job.

The Yankees patented that formula, bottled it and swigged liberally from the bottle for the next decade, although it never worked quite as well when Rivera had to depend on mere mortals such as Brian Bruney and Kyle Farnsworth to get him the baseball.

Didn't the Yankees make the playoffs all the time despite "poor" set up men? Yeah, they did. They also survived with Joe Torre's more-than-questionable bullpen management. Also, Brian Bruney was awesome in '06 and '08 so I don't see Matthews's point here.


Best of all, he seemed to solve the biggest question the Yankees will have to face in the next couple of years, namely, who would replace the irreplaceable Rivera?

I'd say a bigger problem was their crappy starting rotation, which they've fixed with the likes of Sabathia, Burnett, and Chamberlain. As for who will take over the closer role? Well, if Rivera were hurt, there's a ton of bullpen guys who can do that. And there's Mark Melancon.

As great as Rivera has been for the Yankees, he is overrated. Yes, I said it. The closer is probably the most overrated position in American sports, even if it's Mo--the greatest closer ever.

Besides, now Joba and his colleagues will have to sweat out games entrusted to the likes of Bruney and Damaso Marte. It could be worse, I suppose, but thankfully Farnsworth is in Kansas City this year.

Like I said, Brian Bruney was fantastic last year. Damaso Marte wasn't great, but he has a history of performing very, very well. Does this guy seriously know anything about the Yankees?

This guy can shorten games for the Yankees now, and close games for them over the next 10 years. Barring catastrophic injury, that's virtually a certainty.

Yeah, you know how he can shorten games? Pitch the first six or seven innings, which are more important than the last two. Why do games get shortened in the first place? BECAUSE OF GOOD STARTING PITCHING! The bullpen can only be effective when the starters are good, right? You could have a 7-8-9 combo of Soria-Papelbon-Rivera but if your starters are Ponson, Rasner, and Igawa, what does it matter? I know it's not that drastic since the Yankees now have a strong rotation (with Chamberlain) but what's the point of weakening it by removing Chamberlain?

I'll end on this. Here are Chamberlain's stats as a starter:

12 G, 65.1 IP, 60 H, 25 BB, 74 SO, 2.76 ERA, 1.305 WHIP, 2.96 K/BB, 10.23 K/9