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June 10, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Good things happen when you hit the ball in the airI'd like to apologize for my behavior tonight on the Game Chatter, allowing my superstitions to get the better of me, and trying that "reverse jinx" stuff all game. I'll stop that now.

Today was a fun day. Not only did the Yankees win and Red Sox lose, but Godzilla got three more hits. The past five games Matsui has been on fire, and while it's only five games, a tiny, tiny sample size, it's been one hell of a five games. Godzilla's batted .706/.762/1.353--a 2.115 OPS! I really think he's turning into the slugger the Yankees thought they were getting. I actually picked up on this after Thursday's game, when I wrote:
Godzilla had a great game today, four hits, three doubles and a homer. I think that he's going to go off on a tear, something like .706/.762/1.353, but that's just a guess.
I got lucky I guess.

Of course, I didn't really predict anything, but I did point out that Matsui might have turned it around, and have been repeating that belief all weekend. When you're a former 50 HR hitter, and you're hitting everything on the ground, there's definitely something wrong with your mechanics, not necessarily your talent. I hope he's really turned it around.

Earlier, the Yankees released Juan Acevedo's sorry ass. There was a great deal of discussion the past couple of days about Acevedo over on Primer. The point of contention was Acevedo's quality, and whether he should really have been in that game Saturday in that situation. Acevedo's "supporters" pointed out that statistically, Acevedo has been an average or above average pitcher in the past, and well above average the past few years. They further pointed out that 23 innings is a very small sample size, and not enough to draw a conclusion about his pitching ability going forward this season. They do have a point here, but I still don't think he should have been put on the mound in that situation.

For those that don't have much understanding of statistics...well, I probably won't be much help, because I don't understand them completely, either. To the best of my understanding, here's the relevant idea: A player has a definite level of talent, and if you took an infinite number of at bats or innings, you'll get a true, accurate picture of their talent from the statistics. Since you can't take an infinite number of anything, you have to take a smaller number--a sample. The smaller the size of the sample taken, the less accurate the statistics are, the larger the sample, the more accurate. For example, as you flip a coin an infinite number of times, it is likely land on heads 50% of the time, and on tails 50% of the time. But if you flip the coin ten times, it can land heads ten times--but the likelihood of it landing on tails is still 50%, and as you approach infinity, the rate at which it lands heads or tails will approach 50/50. That is the basis for regression to the mean. (Thanks to eric, who does not own a television, for correcting me).

So, what this means is that Acevedo's true talent is far better than how the statistics show he's pitched this season. He will pitch better, and if given the ball enough times, he will pitch at the level he has pitched in past seasons, which is above average. Nobody knows when he'll do it, but eventually he is bound to. Looking at the problem in this manner would indicate that putting Acevedo in the game was not a bad idea, and also a better idea than putting in a pitcher who has performed well this season but not as well in the long term.

But I don't think that in a real world situation it's a good idea. Juan Acevedo is not a coin, he's a human being. There may be some specific reason that he has performed poorly that we cannot perceive, we cannot simply assume that it has to be a result of small sample size. If there's nothing wrong with him, or if he corrects the problem, he will regress to the mean, I won't dispute that. But he should demonstrate that he is capable of pitching well again before he is placed in a high-leverage situation when there are other acceptable options. Should he have been released? He refused an assignment to Columbus, and I don't think they should have kept him in the bullpen, so I think yes, they should have released him.

I think regression to the mean should be taken heed of much more when looking at a player who has performed at well above their established level, and understand that they're likely to regress to their previous level--I'm looking at you Chris Hammond. There are many more reasons for a player to suddenly decline than there are for a player to suddenly improve, and as Branch Rickey said, it's better to give up on a player one year too soon than one year too late.

The highlight of my day was when I got an unexpected email from Keith Law, a consultant on baseball operations for Toronto GM J.P. Riccardi, responding to a comment I made on Primer. I took the opportunity to ask the former Baseball Prospectus writer and Riccardi's right hand man what he thought about Alfonso Soriano, who has continued to excel (well not the past month and a half, but you know, sample size) despite lousy plate discipline. Is he a Freak of Nature, as Aaron Gleeman said, or what? He was kind enough to reply:
I figured the same thing you did - that his performance would slip given enough reps. But I do think that he's a freak of nature (Aaron's not the first to say that, I believe JP was quoted as saying it last year in a Gammons column), kind of like Vlad was early in his career. What I do know about Soriano is that he has tremendous plate coverage - there are few spots where it's safe to pitch to him, because he has both great bat speed (allowing late decisions) and long arms (allowing him to successfully reach many pitches out of the strike zone). IOW, you can get away with swinging at pitches out of the zone if you can hit them consistently, but rare is the animal who can do so.

Did that make sense? Re-reading it now, I'm not sure that it does.
It makes sense to me, but the one big difference between Soriano and Vlad is that Vlad never struck out as much as Soriano. It is an inspiring thought, though, that one of the smartest guys in baseball thinks that Soriano will remain productive despite his poor approach. I'd still like to see him be more selective, though.

Speaking of Soriano, Jay Jaffe commented about the Soriano Wager Watch, which tracks some wagers for lunches I made based on Soriano not producing as well as last year: "Larry, if you win that bet and the Yanks miss the playoffs because Sori didn't produce, I'm gonna find a new way for you to take lunch."

Gulp. Frankly, I want Soriano to bat .299 with 39 homers and a BB Rate of higher than .062. If he's batting .299 with 39 HRs and one non-BB PA away from dropping below .062, and the Yanks need a homer from him to make the playoffs, I'll gladly spend $30 on lunches. If the Yanks miss and I win, those meals are going to taste very, very bitter.

June 9, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Yankees: Rocket likely for Friday
A Yankees official said the team had been discussing whether to release right-handed reliever Juan Acevedo
Addition by subtraction?

by Larry Mahnken

On April 27th, on the second pitch of the ballgame against the Texas Rangers, Alfonso Soriano peaked. Hit by an errant Chan Ho Park pitch, Soriano's rate stats had all reached levels they had not been at since the first ten games of the season, when rate stats are always ridiculous--.389/.448/.699.

Just before the game started, Sean Forman wrote:
If you are like me, you check the box score every day hoping for the satisfaction of seeing a big, fat 0 for 5 next to Alfonso Soriano's name. Instead, Peter Gammons is proven more and more right with each passing series. If it were going to be easy to get Soriano out chasing bad pitches (call it the Samuel Theory), it would have happened by now and he would be hitting .260 with a .290 OBP.
And yes, this is the thinly veiled attempt of a Red Sox fan to jinx him.
Two days earlier, fellow blogger Aaron Gleeman wrote:
I still say a guy can't walk once a month, strike out 150 times a year and hit like Soriano does. Of course, I just said "and hit like Soriano DOES," so I guess maybe I should start believing it, huh?
And a few days later, some twit wrote his own idiotic theory about why Soriano was doing well, and created a crappy blog to publish the idiotic theory.

Well, since trotting down to first that afternoon, Soriano has batted .238/.294/.457.

Interestingly, another ballplayer noted for their poor plate discipline was having an outstanding season through the games of April 26th last season, too. Batting .342/.391/.620, the player was not as good as Soriano, but as the season went on, he alternated between hot and cold streaks, the cold streaks outweighed the hot ones, and he finished with a respectable .293/.330/.459. Just like Alfonso Soriano, people looked at Shea Hillenbrand through the first few weeks of the season and insisted that he defied the sabermetric theories of plate discipline. But once again, the defiant player has come back to reality.

Alfonso Soriano is a fantastically talented player, perhaps one of the most unique players in baseball history. His tremendous talent has made him a very good player despite his lack of plate discipline, because when he does hit, he hits the ball well. But he does not defy sabermetric theory.

Coincidentally, the game in which Soriano peaked was the same game where the Yankees peaked. 20-4 at that point, the Yankees took a 5-4 lead into the bottom of the 5th. Three outs later, they trailed 9-5, and since that day, they've gone 15-23. Of course, this is all Derek Jeter's fault, not Soriano's, but it's an interesting parallel.

Oh, by the way, I really do hate the Devils. Almost as much as the Red Sox.

June 8, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Are you the biggest idiot ever?Today, for the first time this year, the Yankees didn't give up. Unfortunately, Charles Gipson apprently didn't pay attention during orientation, and forgot that a huge part of his job is to not get picked off. I'm guessing he gets to sit next to Acevedo on the flight home.

The Yankees went 4-5 on this road trip, but if they had played good baseball--not great baseball, just good--they would have gone 9-0. Woulda coulda shoulda, didn't. But they're still only ½ game out of first, and if they can they can get through this week still within 1½, I think things are looking good for them to be in first when Bernie and Nick come back. Assuming they stop giving the ball to Acevedo in crucial situations, that is.

Captain Fansucktic came out again tonight in a 6-3 game, and left it an 8-3 game. Was it all his fault? No, the Yankees' defense helped. But in the end, the Yankees lost 8-7, and Juan Acevedo did much to lose the game, and again, he wasn't given a loss.

To be fair, if Andy Pettitte had merely pitched poorly, the Yankees would have won this game. Instead, he was downright Acevedish, putting the Yankees in a deep hole in the first inning. On second thought, if the game had been close, perhaps Baker would have abused Prior some more, and the Yankees wouldn't have scored those last four runs. Still, Pettitte pitched like crap, and the Yankees should be preparing to cut ties with him this offseason. Trading Brandon Claussen would not be a good way to do that.

by Larry Mahnken


Aww, fuck. This is lousy news. Fortunately, Bernie's healing well, and will probably return just after the break.

Here's something stupid:
An extended absence could change the way the Yankees go about making a July or August deal. Right now, their focus is on adding right-hander Ugueth Urbina to the bullpen, but if they can't count on Johnson, they may have to shop for a bat. Pittsburgh's Brian Giles would be the ideal hitter to acquire.
Actually, the ideal hitter to accquire would be Barry Bonds, but that's not going to happen, either.

June 7, 2003

by Larry Mahnken


1st Base C. DELGADO
2nd Base B. BOONE (He's passed Soriano)
3rd Base T. GLAUS
Catcher J. POSADA
Outfield M. CAMERON
Outfield M. RAMIREZ
Outfield M. MORA

1st Base T. HELTON
2nd Base J. VIDRO
Shortstop R. FURCAL
3rd Base S. ROLEN
Catcher P. LO DUCA
Outfield B. BONDS
Outfield A. PUJOLS

The current voting is a joke, right? Bagwell isn't seriously the leading NL 1B, is he? Giambi can't be leading in the AL. I bet Sosa drops pretty fast now...

by Larry Mahnken

Juan Acevedo, the Greek God of SuckThere is no further proof needed that pitcher wins and losses are useless statistics than the result of today's game. Roger Clemens got the loss. Juan Acevedo gets a "blown save". Oooooh.

What the hell was Torre thinking? Clemens apparently was forced to leave the game with an upper respiratory infection after 84 pitches, which is unfortunate, but understandable. He left the game with runners on first and second with one man out, a crucial situation that was likely to decide the outcome of the game. Who does Torre bring in? Jeff Weaver, who was good out of the bullpen last season and has good peripheral stats so far this season? Chris Hammond, who has been inconsistent but reasonably effective? Antonio Osuna, perhaps the Yankees best setup man, who threw only five pitches yesterday? Perhaps he breaks with traditional thinking and puts Mariano Rivera in the game, utilizing his best relief pitcher in the highest leverage situation?

No...he puts Juan Acevedo in the game. Juan Acevedo, who has not only been the Yankees' worst relief pitcher, but their worst relief pitcher
by a lot. This was not just a bad decision, it was an awful, stupid, unjustifiable decision. Managers rarely make decisions that win ballgames--after all, Bob Brenly has a ring--but they sometimes make decisions that lose them. Today, Joe Torre made one of those decisions.

And Acevedo made the most of his opportunity, giving up a three-run home run to Eric "Veteran Presence" Karros on the first pitch to surrender the lead, taking Clemens's 300th away, and handing him an undeserved loss. Acevedo spent the rest of the game sulking in the dugout. He would have done better to pack his things and leave. Why the hell did they send Jason Anderson back down to the minors when they brought in Sierra and not release Acevedo? The Proven Closer™ label is a hard one to ignore for traditional baseball thinkers, I suppose, but Acevedo is about as crappy a pitcher to ever get that label. He's about the suckiest suck in the history of suck.

And now come rumors that the Yankees are looking to trade Brandon Claussen for Ugueth Urbina. Well, he doesn't suck, but they can do so much better, for so much less. This would be a very bad trade.

It wasn't all bad today. Hideki Matsui got two hits, including another Home Run (although he should have struck out earlier in the AB), and really looks to me like he's about to break out big time. With Giambi being out of his slump, this could not be more crucial. The Yankees' offense has run hot and cold, and they need another bat to wake up if they want to minimize those cold spells.

Pettitte vs. Prior tomorrow on ESPN. I'm not feeling too optimistic about this matchup. Can Milwaukee beat Boston one more time this weekend? I doubt it, but if they don't, the Yanks might be right back in second place Monday.

June 6, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

The last time the Yankees played in Wrigley Field, Jesse Orosco was still just a rookie. With today's win, they're 5-0 all-time, and tomorrow Roger Clemens tries to make them 6-0, and make himself 300-154. To do it, they'll have to beat Kerry Wood, the only other man to strike out 20 men in a nine-inning game.

Today, Sammy Sosa was suspended for eight games, and as expected, he appealed that suspension. There aren't really any grounds to appeal the suspension, but he did so to avoid missing the Yankees series. He'll likely drop the appeal on Monday, and miss the Tampa Bay & Toronto series. Is it a farce, and a mockery of the appeals process? Yes. But, it's a rule that everyone can exploit, so there's no use in bitching about it now. Sosa didn't hurt the Yankees today, anyway.

The Yankees also made a trade today, accquiring "outfielder" Ruben Sierra for Marcus Thames, who last season experienced the equivalent of losing your virginity to Catherine Zeta-Jones, taking Randy Johnson out on the first pitch he ever saw in the majors. You remember Sierra--he's the guy who complained that all the Yankees care about is winning--heaven forbid! Sierra hasn't done much this year (.731 OPS) in a small sample size (147 PA), but it's pretty much what he did last season with Seattle, and he's been playing in a hitter's park. He's a switch-hitting Todd Zeile, but at least he's cheap. The trade itself isn't a bad one: Thames has probably done everything he ever will to help the Yankees, and they might catch lightning in a bottle with Sierra, but the accquisition is really a nothing. He won't really hurt them by being on the roster, but he probably won't help them, either. At least he's not making too much to release if/when they have to.

Matsui went 0 for 2 today with a couple of walks, a strikeout and a groundout to the pitcher. Not an indication that yesterday was a fluke by any means; if he can keep hitting it in the air, I think the hits, and especially the HRs, will come.

And Boston lost again, 9-3, to Milwaukee! So, the Yanks are right back where they were when interleague play began, 1½ games up. I know it's a Yankees blog, and I should be gloating whenever the Sox choke, but Grady Little really needs to be fired. The Yankees have no business being anywhere near first place.

June 5, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Perhaps we shall remember this day, the day that Hideki Matsui turned it around, and became a productive hitter. Perhaps today was the start of something great. For the first time, Matsui has consistently hit the ball in the air, and hit the ball well. This is the guy we thought we were getting, now the question is which guy are we going to get the rest of the season. We need Godzilla, not Hideki. We've already had a Hideki, and he sucked.

And so the Yankees are back in first place, as the Red Sox lost to the Pirates. Kay, Kaat and O'Neill talked on YES about a team viewing the starts of their ace pitcher as "Win Day". Well, the Red Sox probably look at the games Burkett starts as "Loss Day". And what the hell happened to Ramiro Mendoza? The Yankees bullpen has sucked, but it's strange to think that if they had kept Stanton and Mendoza, they wouldn't be better off. Here's how bad Mendoza has been:

Juan Acevedo has a better RRA than Ramiro Mendoza. You read that right.

(Stanton hasn't been bad this year, but he hasn't been great, either. His RRA is slightly better than the Yankees')

Now it's off to Chicago for Corkgate, Clemens vs. Kerry in #300 take 3, and insanely expensive seats. Will the Yankees leave town in first place? Probably not. They're not going to sweep the Cubs, and Boston gets Milwaukee. Considering how they've played lately, they might be lucky to win 1 game this weekend.

The x-factor, of course, is Sosa. MLB might suspend him before the series begins, and then the question is if he will appeal, as players usually do automatically. But in this case, Sosa has been taking a beating in the media, and appealing the suspension will undoubtedly bring even more criticism down on him. Would he dare do it? Well, Jay Jaffe pointed out in Game Chatter that MLB might just make the decision easy for him, delaying a decision until Monday so he can play this weekend, and miss the Baltimore and Blue Jays series. Sounds plausible to me. I think they'll suspend him tomorrow, and he'll appeal it immediately. Which means all weekend you'll hear the Yankees announcers complaining about the appeals process, and you'll probably hear Buck and McCarver talk about it, too.

But whether Sosa plays or not, it might not make much of a difference this weekend. For one, Sosa's been awful since getting hit in the head, and for another, starting pitching hasn't really been the problem, it's been the offense, which has been hot and cold. If Matsui's about to go on a tear, that'll help, especially now that Giambi is swinging the bat well again, but then Torre just moved them apart in the lineup, which could mitigate the benefits.

While he was at it, he stuck Soriano back in the leadoff spot, which is a great place for a guy who hits home runs and never walks to bat--right behind the pitcher. Genius. I bring Soriano up because he's kicking my ass. If you recall, I have three wagers out on Soriano's performance this season: he won't bat .300, he won't hit 40 HRs, and his RC will drop 10% unless his walk rate doubles. Well, he's on a pace to hit .307, 50 HRs, with 153.63 Runs Created. His walk rate has doubled, but it's plummeted in the past month, and right now it's barely double. So, it looks right now like I'm going to be buying some lunches. Well, it's worth it. A Soriano who generates 150 Runs Created this season, no matter what his walk rate, is vital to the Yankees' pennant hopes, and 50/50 would be pretty cool. I'm pretty sure that he's going to drop below .300 by the All-Star break, though.

June 4, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

0-2 with Derek "Clubhouse Cancer" Jeter as Captain.

Way to blow it, Yanks. They lost a game yesterday that they should have won, but blew, they lost a game today that they should have won, but didn't capitalize on their clear advantage in starters, much as they failed to capitalize last Saturday against Bernero. They are playing like garbage, and right now they deserve to miss the playoffs.

I realized a couple of days ago, that if the Yankees win the World Series this year, I will be genuinely ecstatic about it for the first time since 1996. In 1998, '99 and 2000, it felt anitclimactic, as though winning the Series was an afterthought to 114 wins, beating the Red Sox, and the first Subway Series in 44 years. The fact that they were short series that the Yanks never trailed in added to that feeling. Perhaps 2001 would have felt special, but there was something special for me in '96.

Part of it was the fact that I had never seen the Yankees in the Series, let alone win it. I was 18 at the time, had my hopes dashed by the strike, was devastated by the '95 loss (I still can't watch Edgar's double, and I still hate him for it), and the fact that they trailed 2-0 in the Series--and looked so bad doing it, too--all caused me to not expect victory, and to appreciate it more. In '98, '99 and 2000, and to some degree in 2001, I expected them to win. Losing hurt more than winning felt good. Losing still affects me strongly, but I've stopped expecting that inevitable victory at the end of the season. Winning would feel good.

I can't imagine what it would be like for a Red Sox fan when they inevitably win a World Series. There is something that a lot of older Red Sox fans have that I don't encounter in the younger ones, almost a resignation. They want their team to win, but they feel as though they won't. It's not that they don't expect victory--they expect defeat. My friend Jackie's father--a BoSox fan--told her after the Yankees won a particularly tough game to get used to it, the Yankees always beat the Red Sox in the end. It's not some irrational belief in a Curse, more like an acceptance of a fact of life. The sun comes up in the morning and goes down at night, we'll all die someday, and the Yankees will always beat the Red Sox. Being young myself, I haven't quite bought into that thinking completely, but it's nice to think that someday I might be that certain of things.

But when Boston does win a World Series... it'll probably make V.E. day look like a frathouse kegger.

Speaking of the Red Sox, they are one of the teams on the sabermetric bandwagon, with Toronto and Oakland being the other two hardcore teams. The Yankees are in the shallow end of the sabermetric pool with several other teams--not quite willing to go in the deep end. In the best-selling book Moneyball (which you can buy on the sidebar of my page...), there is a chapter about the A's strategy last season of eschewing traditional scouting, and only drafting players who they had statistical data on, namely college players.

A lot of people, I think, have misinterpreted the entire chapter. The A's did not draft the best players in the draft. They did not even necessarily draft the best players that they could have selected. They did, however, select players who were had the safest high-yield while remaining affordable. They could have taken players with more potential, and even players with more potential that would likely reach that potential, but those players were out of their price range. The draft philosophy of the A's would not have been the best one for the Yankees or Red Sox to follow, because they would be passing up on better players that they could afford. The Yankees can afford to draft a toolsy high school kid hoping he turns into A-Rod, the A's cannot. The Red Sox can afford to draft a college star that both scouts and statheads see as a sure-thing, and sign him for $3 million, but the A's cannot.

This is the core of the A's philosophy: determining the value of every player, finding bargains, and avoiding risk. Traditionalists react with hostility towards the A's, Jays and Sox because they use sabermetric statistical analysis to determine value. People like Richard Griffin, Phil Rogers and Joe Morgan seem unable to accept the fact that Major League Baseball is a business, and always has been, and if you're not going to run your business as efficiently as possible, you're a fool. Yes, the move towards OBP and SLG is going to make the game more boring, but the way to prevent that is not chase off the statheads, but to change the game. Make the parks bigger, deaden the ball, enforce the strike zone, raise the mound, and strategies like the sac bunt and steal become more viable, and the sabermetric teams will become more likely to use them. Taking the path that they are, Griffin and his compatriots are going to end up as baseball outsiders, because the A's, Red Sox and Jays are running their teams intelligently, and they're going to win and make money, two things that are going to attract every other owner in MLB down the line. It may take years, but it will happen.
Baseball people generally are allergic to new ideas. We are slow to change. took years to persuade them to put numbers on uniforms. ... It is the hardest thing in the world to get big league baseball to change anything—even spikes on a pair of shoes. But they will accept this new interpretation of baseball statistics eventually. They are bound to.

       -Branch Rickey, 1954

June 3, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

More proof that Jeter is destroying the Yankees. They name him captain, they go out and lose, apparently just to rain on his parade.

Strangely, I'm not pissed off. Normally, I would have had to destroy something to release my agressions about such a frustrating loss, but today...ehh. I think it's because I hurt my back at work today, and don't really care that much about a ballgame, or because my frustration was negated by my satisfaction at two other events today:

1) The Red Sox game was rained out. Normally, this would be a nothing event, but because it's an interleague game, it will be made up in a doubleheader tomorrow, which makes it somewhat less likely that they'll sweep the Pirates, and somewhat takes away from Boston's slight interleague schedule advantage.

2) Sammy Sosa was ejected for corking his bat today, and might be suspended for the entire Yankees series, probably completely negating Boston's slight interleague schedule advantage.

Sosa's ejection will likely be discussed ad nauseam for the next week, at least, so I might as well get my word in fairly early.

You're gonna hear a lot of mediots (*cough* Kornheiser *cough*) talking about how this "taints" the summer of '98, and it "taints" the 500 HRs. Well, it doesn't, because it's ridiculous to think that Sosa hit all those HRs because he corked his bat. First of all, he's been on this HR tear for six years, and I'm pretty sure he's broken several bats over that time. If he was corking the whole time, he'd have been caught by now. And second, corking the bat doesn't make the ball go farther, it in fact reduces the distance the ball travels by about ¾%. Which isn't really much, but it's still a reduction and not an increase. What corking the bat does do is increase a player's bat speed. Christian Ruzich over at The Cub Reporter quoted Robert Adair's book "The Physics of Baseball", so you can go over there and read about it (go over there anyway--good blog).

The other thing you're gonna hear is the question, "why would Sammy Sosa cork his bat? He doesn't need the help." Well, no, he probably doesn't, but people do all sorts of things that they don't need to do because they are still getting benefit. For example, Congress just cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans. OH! And he shows his true political colors!

Back to the topic at hand, this shouldn't damage Sammy's reputation, either. I'm not saying it won't, it just shouldn't. He cheated. Big fucking deal. Babe Ruth corked his bat, too. It's a ball game, get over it. He's still a good guy.

As for Jeter being named captain...well, it'll make Chrissy happy. I don't think it makes any difference that he's been "named" captain, because he was the leader of the team anyway. At least he's not going to be wearing that stupid C, a la John Franco. That only looks cool in hockey.

June 2, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

It's time to play, "What the hell were you thinking, Joe Torre?", with our host, Larry Mahnken.

Please take note that this is not a "Fire Joe Torre" post. It's a "Stop doing shit like that, Joe" post. The "Fire Joe Torre" post will come if they finish fourth this year.

In the top of the 10th inning yesterday, Jason Giambi drew a walk from Detroit "closer" Franklyn German. Joe then took Giambi out for a pinch runner--Charles Gipson.

What the hell were you thinking, Joe Torre?

Well, I can kind of see what he was thinking, but I'm not sure why. Gipson is faster than Giambi, so he was more likely to score from first on a double, second on a short single, or third on a sac fly. Considerably more likely. But the odds of any of those events happening at the moment Gipson came into the game, when he was on first, were fairly low. Certainly too low to take out perhaps the best hitter in an already decimated lineup.

The only way this move could turn out to be a good move is if Gipson scored a run that Giambi could not have, which didn't happen. They didn't even score at all. And so, they played the rest of the game--all seven innings of it--with Bubba Trammell in the cleanup spot. Trammell predictably went 0-3, flying out to all three outfielders. He came to bat with one out in the 12th and flew out to right, with two outs and Soriano on first in the 14th--a double would have scored a run there--and flew out to center, and followed Soriano's homer in the 17th with a fly out to left. Had Trammell gotten on base there, Posada's HR would have made it a three-run lead, and Acevedo wouldn't have come in with the tying run on second. The Yankees won, so it didn't hurt them, but it was a dumb move that might have extended the game several innings.

Why does Joe keep doing this? He did this several times last season, as well with Giambi and Enrique Wilson, and was burned by it a couple of times, when he was stuck with Wilson batting in the middle of the order in extra innings. The only time it worked out was in Anaheim, when Soriano ran for Giambi--but then, he's Soriano, so it wasn't like they were losing much offense. Soriano wound up getting the winning hit, as well.

I'm afraid that Torre is going to do this in the postseason and cost the Yankees a game or a series. Joe says he rarely looks at numbers, but this is one of those situations where he should, he's overmanaging.

June 1, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Okay, I'm not going to be like the Red Sox fans, who are obsessed with keeping Clemens away from 300 as long as possible. Today was a win, and that's all that matters. It doesn't matter that Clemens didn't get 300, it doesn't matter that they blew a 6-run lead, it doesn't matter that their infield defense played so hideously that only Rob Moses is myopic enough to think that they don't suck, or that Joe Torre employed the "take Jason Giambi out of the game for a pinch runner in a tied game so we won't have his bat in the not-unlikely event that we don't score or win it before his spot in the order comes up again" strategy yet again, it doesn't matter that it took almost two games to get the win. It's a win.

I don't really know about the Yanks after this weekend. On one hand, they look to be somewhat out of their slump, on the other, they did almost lose 2 of 3 to the Tigers. They really should have gotten a sweep out of this weekend series, but then the Red Sox probably should have won at least one game in Toronto, so it evens out.

Speaking of Boston, they've really blown a huge opportunity in the last two weeks. Two weeks ago, they were tied for first with the Yankees, and the Yankees were ice cold. Perhaps the Yankees' best hitter was out with a broken hand, and one of their best players was made ineffective by an injured knee, which would eventually knock him out of the lineup. Boston got to face the Yankees six times in those two weeks, with Cleveland sandwiched between those two series. Add to that the fact that the Yankees would get swept at home by the Blue Jays in a four game series, and the Red Sox had an opportunity to open up a four or five game lead in the division. Instead, two weeks later, they're 1½ games out of first. The only important injury that's happened to Boston these past two weeks has been Pedro, but then they won both games he would likely have started against the Yankees, so if they had won with him today, it would still be a ½ game lead for NY.

Of course, the perfect cure for the six-game losing streak is back-to-back series at Pittsburgh and Milwaukee--two teams the Yankees don't get to play. Boston might be back in first in a week. Might.

As for Toronto, they're only 2 back and red hot right now, but I'm not worried about them. They don't have enough pitching to keep up with Boston and New York all year, the willingness to part with prospects at this point to accquire pitching, or the financial resources to get someone in a salary dump. They'll finish around or above .500, and be a force in the AL East for years, but this year they'll fade. I'm so certain of this statement, that if they don't, I'll go back and edit the archives to delete this statement, so no one can ever prove I made it. I'm that sure.

Clemens goes for 300 for a third time next Saturday against Kerry Wood at Wrigley, another appropriate setting. Memorial Day versus his old team, in front of Ernie Harwell, against the team who he struck out 20 against for the second time, and against the only other man to strike out 20 in a nine-inning game. If he misses there, he could do it in Tino's return to The Stadium, and if that fails, he'll do it for sure against the Devil Rays, in a game with no apparent significance. But at least it will be at The Stadium. Maybe the Yanks could hold him back if it comes to that point and try to get him to do it at Shea. That would be pretty funny.

And, of course, I have to thank Aaron Gleeman for plugging me this afternoon in the Game Chatter--not that he singled me out or anything, but it was really cool.

May 31, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Okay, I can understand why FOX has exclusive rights, but was there any particular reason that the Yankees game had to be played at 1:05, instead of 4:05? That's just stupid. And because of this, I got to listen to Sterling and Steiner. Ergh.

Hey, it would have been okay if it was a Yankee win, but they go out and lose. Whee. It was pretty sad, watching, er, listening to the soft-tossing Bernero shut down the Yanks. Jeff Weaver probably got knocked out of the rotation today, too, although he doesn't really deserve to be demoted. Contreras was good last night, but it was just one start against a weak-hitting team. Weaver, on the other hand, didn't pitch poorly, and suffered from some bad luck. I'm okay with giving Contreras a start next time around, but I'm afraid that the Yanks are going to place too much weight on last night's start and leave him in the rotation if he gets knocked around in his next start.

The Tigers play "small ball"--they bunt and run and all that "fundamental" crap. It's more fun to watch that style than Home Run Derby, that's for sure, but it's usually a pretty bad strategy overall. Giving up outs for an extra base is almost never a good idea, and the added value of a stolen base is often not worth the risk of losing the baserunner and the out. But for a team as poor as the Tigers, I guess that the second half of that strategy is not a bad idea. I'm still completely against bunting, but maybe taking risks in stealing bases is a good idea. You're going to lose a whole lot anyway, so losing some more isn't really that bad, and playing the odds more or less means settling for a loss. But if you get lucky and steal bases above the break-even rate, you're increasing your chances to win. Maybe by some miracle, you can put together a half-decent record, for a short stretch at least, and even though you're probably still going to lose, it's a much more entertaining product for the fans. Even if you're stealing at below the break-even rate, it's still fun to watch. But stop bunting, cause that's probably not helping at all, and it's boring, too.

So now the Yanks have to rely on the red-hot Jays to remain in first for another day. Not that it really matters. I'll be happy if they're within three games going into the next series.

Rocket goes for 300 again tomorrow, against Jeremy Bonderman. If they lose, I will react much as Billy Beane did when the A's drafted Bonderman, by combining a chair and wall to make a hybrid chair-wall, or chall, if you will. Just be glad I haven't been bombarded with Gamma Rays, folks. LARRY SMASH!

May 30, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Hey, look, we're in first place, they're in first place again! I'm still waiting for them to send me a contract.

Although, to be fair, wins against the Tigers should count half, and losses double.

There were good things tonight, Giambi had a couple of homers, and his BA is up to .230, in fact, he has an OPS of 1.281 over the past nine games. I think he's definitely out of his slump now, and none too soon. Giambi on a tear might be enough to carry the Yankees through June. Also, Contreras pitched pretty well, although it was the Tigers. I don't think the Yankees should use this as an excuse to bump Weaver from the rotation, but I'm sure they will. Vörös works for Boston, so the Yanks front office probably won't look far past the ERA. .357 BABIP??? Oh man, I have no idea what's going on...

But, this was Detroit, and in the end, this was more or less an ordinary game by the Yanks, without any exceptional performances by anyone but Giambi. Nothing to get excited about.

Boston made a major deal yesterday that will have a huge impact on this pennant race. They traded Shea Hillenbrand for Byung-Hyun Kim. I didn't realize how absorbed in the stathead community I have become until I saw the non-stathead reaction to this trade. This is mostly because Hillenbrand is a high BA player, who always look better than they are, and Kim failed miserably in the two most important games of his life. But in reality, the Red Sox got the better end of this deal, and that's even before you consider context. Kim is simply better than Hillenbrand, especially going forward.

But in context, this really looks like a major deal for Boston. I can see the benefit to Arizona, Hillenbrand isn't much better than an average third baseman, but he's still better than Matt Williams, and it also cuts a couple million dollars off their payroll. But for Boston...well, they don't lose anything at third--in fact, Mueller has been the most productive 3B in the AL so far this season. More than that, it stop Grady Little from inexplicably using Hillenbrand at first instead of Ortiz, Millar and Giambi. They're already better BEFORE you add Kim. Add BK to the rotation, and you have a young pitcher with the potential of being a good starter, with an outside shot at turning into an ace someday. Stick him in the pen, and there's your "ace reliever" that Bill James has advocated. Bring him in for the high-leverage innings, and suddenly the BoSox have a lot more confidence in their bullpen.

This doesn't spell doom for the Yanks, or even doo. It might make the team make a foolish trade for a reliever who won't help much, but as it stands, I think the Yankees are still a better team than the Red Sox when Bernie and Nick come back.

Here's my All-Star Ballot for this week:

1st Base C. DELGADO
2nd Base A. SORIANO
3rd Base B. MUELLER
Catcher J. POSADA
Outfield M. BRADLEY
Outfield M. RAMIREZ
Outfield M. MORA

1st Base T. HELTON
2nd Base J. KENT
Shortstop R. FURCAL
3rd Base S. ROLEN
Outfield B. BONDS
Outfield A. PUJOLS

by Larry Mahnken

The King is dead. Long Live the King.

I gotta rant against a guy that most of you have never, nor will ever, meet. Although I'm sure you all know someone like him.

I am no longer the most myopic Yankees fan. That title now belongs to Rob Moses, my friend and coworker (although, since he's not a Primate, I guess I'm still tops in Bernal's book...). See, Rob today declared that not only did Jeter not almost lose us that game Wednesday (rather than Rivera, who could of pitched better, but then he could have gotten better defense), but that the Yankees have one of the, if not THE, best defenses up the middle in all of baseball. Posada, Jeter, Soriano, and Bernie. He said that. His proof? He watches them. I pointed out that they make a lot of nice looking plays because they're positioned poorly, or get a bad jump, which taints his observations. He says that they recover from that poor positioning and poor jump by being great defensive players! As if positioning and reflexes don't count! I guess it's all cosmetic with Rob. I pointed out that they don't convert BIP into outs, which is what defense is all about. He said the game's played on the field, not on paper, and that if the stats say that Jeter is a lousy shortstop, the stats must be garbage. He then pulled out this one--Derek Jeter is a "winner". He won those last two games by calling the rest of the team out. I think Bruce Chen, Matt White and Derek Lowe had a bit more to do with that...

Rob then went on to say that I'm really a Yankee Hater, because I have the audacity to see that Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano have major flaws in their game. I guess to be a Yankee fan, I have to delude myself into thinking Jeter and Soriano are even better than they really are. They're great, and they're really good guys, too (Chrissy met Soriano at the Yankees hotel last year--get your mind out of the gutter--and said he was really really nice. Although I think it helped that she's a babe. Sorry Alf, her heart belongs to D.J.), and if they play at this level for several more years, they'll get their numbers retired and plaques in Cooperstown, but they have major flaws in their game. Accept it.

One more thing about Rob. He said he was at the longest game in baseball history between the Rochester Red Wings (local team) and Pawtucket Red Sox. I do not doubt that. He insisted that it was at Silver Stadium. He would bet anything that it was. I bet him a dollar. Pay up, Rob.

OK, sorry, for bashing you Rob, but you are being a bit myopic. The Yankees batting average against on balls in play this season is .322, compared the the MLB average of .290*. Face it Rob, their defense SUCKS. Their fantastic starting pitching masks it--and actually people think their pitching is not as good as it is because of their defense. But it really does suck. I'm not trying to prove that I know more than you--there are lots of people reading this very blog who know a lot more about the game than me--I'm just trying to make you understand. Just because the people who played the game say something is so doesn't make it so. And if it's Joe Morgan, it more often than not makes it NOT so.

Yes, Rob, the game is played on the field, not on paper, but the numbers on the paper are a representation of what happens on the field. What happens on the field is really irrelevant unless it affects what happens on the scoreboard, and what sabermetric statistical analysis attempts to do is measure the run value of what happens on the field (as well as some other things, like prediction).

Okay, I could go on like this all night, but it's late, and I need to wake up for work early. That's all for tonight. Contreras makes his first MLB start tonight, and I think he'll do fine. But I think they should leave Weaver in the rotation, he hasn't been bad, just unlucky.

* It's 1:30am, so those might be a little off...

May 29, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

I upgraded my BackBlog account tonight, so you can post up to 1000 characters (instead of 400), and have more editing options. Unfortunately, because I made an error, I had to use a new account. So most of the comments are gone (not that there were many of them). I replaced the last weeks' comments on my own.

I doubt anyone cares much.

May 28, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Me watching the game tonight:

"All right! YEAH! Nuts. Ehh. Hmm. Blah. YES! Damn. WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?! Hey! Woo-hoo!"

So there you go.

The reports of the Yankees demise have been greatly exaggerated, although there is legitimate cause for concern. But now they're only ½ game out of first, and they've won four of six against Boston--with Johnson out for all the games, and Bernie basically useless in the games he wasn't out. THAT is perhaps the most important thing from the past two weeks. They don't need to beat Oakland in May, or Anaheim or Seattle or Texas. They don't even need to finish ahead of them in the standings--but Boston--they are the team to pay attention to. The Yankees are going bad, but they have been able to more or less handle the team that they most need to beat.

Of course, there was the ninth inning tonight. Hey, shit happens. I don't think Rivera's really going to be a problem the rest of the year (but who knows?), so I wouldn't worry about it too much. In fact, the way Contreras and Hitchcock have pitched lately (and Osuna, bob mong), it gives some hope that the Yankees might be getting some decent relief pitching. Weaver and Contreras have flip-flopped roles, but I think Weaver will do fine in the pen, too. So there we have it, for now. Still gotta add an arm, though.

The Red Sox have a slightly easier schedule than the Yankees until they meet again in July at The Stadium (.4435 to .4452 winning %). I think the Red Sox are a little better than the Yankees right now, so they will probably tack a couple of games on their lead by then, but hopefully Bernie and Nick will be back for that four-game series. As I said, this season is FAR from over. And as I said last week, the Red Sox have blown a huge opportunity to beat up on the Yankees. Do you think it's going to be any easier for them to win in the second half?

Now step back, look past that panic about maybe not making the postseason for the first time in nine seasons, and think...isn't it nice to have a pennant race again? Hmm?

by Larry Mahnken

Alex Belth's Bronx Banter

Alex has a good comeback for the overly proud Red Sox fans out there:
As we were leaving I heard one Sox fan offer, "Who's in first place?" I told Jay, "Who ain't won shit?"
Well, let them crow about being in first place at the end of May. It's all they got.

May 27, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Yaaay! The Yankees won! And boy, how they won! They finally got good pitching, they finally got some offense. They needed a win, especially against Boston, but also to stop the overreaction to their recent slump. Yes, they've been awful, but this season isn't over, even if they had been swept by Boston.

I cut my finger at work today, so typing is painful, and I won't write much, but today was great. Tomorrow they've got Moose going again versus Lowe, and I think they've got a shot to win this one, which would put them back within ½ game. If tonight was an indication of the offense's awakening, they could stay close with Boston until Bernie and Nick come back. But then, it was Chen, Mendoza and White out there tonight, so maybe it was just an abberation. We shall see.

No broken chairs tonight. I would probably say that I'm not the kind of guy you want to watch a ballgame with.

May 26, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

After Jeter was injured on Opening Day, the Yankees went 25-11 until his return. Since his return, they have been 3-11. I think you can guess where I'm going here.

We must kill Derek Jeter.

Hey, I like the guy, but it's obvious that his presence on this team has ruined their rythym, and that the mere thought of his imminent return sent waves of panic through the team, as they went 3-5 in the games before his return. Bernie Williams and Nick Johnson were so eager to get away from his awful presence that they injured themselves in the days following his activation. Even the ball dreads him, as shown by it's proclivity for avoiding his glove. There can be no other explanation for his inablity to get to balls hit in his area, as he is clearly an excellent defensive shortstop, as evidenced by that play two years ago where he was out of position.

Oddly, one might think that the overwhelming desire to get away from Jeter would improve the Yankees offense, as players would seek to avoid returning to the dugout by getting on base. However, after some thought, I have concluded that their offensive impotence is clearly a result of the classic Yankees unselfishness. Obviously, getting on base would allow a player to avoid Jeter for several minutes, but it would increase the time that his teammates would have to suffer him in the dugout. Ending innings quickly forces Jeter into the field, where he is out of direct contact with the entire team. Truly, the Yankees are a TEAM.

So, to get the Yankees out of their slump, we must destroy The Rangeless One. It is our only hope.

by Larry Mahnken

What happened? How does a team go from one of the best starts to...this???

You've got your major injuries. You've got your slumps. You've got a tough schedule, and you've got bad luck. A crappy bench and bullpen don't help, either. But, it's most likely that this is not an indication that the Yankees are done. To believe that (and yes, I was being sarcastic the other day), you have to believe that Giambi is a .200 hitter, Matsui hit 50 HRs in Japan by being a ground ball hitter, and that something will keep Johnson and Williams out well past the All-Star break. This team can overcome this. They have to overcome this.

I think that one of the key players over the next month is going to be Juan Rivera. I think he's going to be an excellent player someday, but the Yankees need him to be good now. They can't afford to have another out in this lineup, with Zeile playing pretty much every day in one way or another, and Flaherty spelling Posada every now and then.

Gnahr. I'm so frustrated right now, I can't really write. Damnit, they'd better start winning some games.

May 25, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

MLB All Star Game

1st Base C. DELGADO
2nd Base A. SORIANO
3rd Base T. GLAUS
Catcher J. POSADA
Outfield R. MONDESI
Outfield A. HUFF
Outfield C. EVERETT

1st Base T. HELTON
2nd Base J. VIDRO
Shortstop E. RENTERIA
3rd Base S. ROLEN
Outfield B. BONDS
Outfield A. PUJOLS

by Larry Mahnken

Here's a nice picture of a kitty.

That is all.

May 24, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Hey, I have a great idea. Let's spend $170 million on a baseball team--but don't spend ANY money on depth. ANYWHERE.

They've got a bench full of almost useless parts. John Flaherty is a no-hit/okay-field catcher, and he's so worthless to the Yankees that they play Posada almost every day, which will inevitably lead to an exhausted Posada at the end of the season, who doesn't contribute much in the playoffs. If they get to the playoffs, that is. Ultimately, they'll release Flaherty, and replace him with someone just as worthless.

In the infield they have Enrique Wilson, who can't hit, can't run, and isn't a spectacular defensive player. And yet Torre seemingly feels the need to pinch run him or Gipson for Giambi late in games, which several times last season led to a crucial situation in extra innings with Enrique Wilson batting instead of Giambi. Todd Zeile couldn't hit at Coors, and he can't hit at sea level, either. He can't field, either, nor can he run. The outfield features Bubba Trammell, who had a good year a couple of years ago, and Chales Gipson, who I'm sure was really awesome in high school. Okay, I'm not sure, but he might have been. Basically, you've got a bunch of players who can't really do anything well. There is a place for maybe one guy like that on a team, but usually he has to play every infield position and maybe an outfield position. Kinda like Randy Velarde was in the early 90's, but he could hit a little. A guy like that frees up space on the bench for guys who do other things. The downside of Velarde was, of course, that he inspired John Sterling to sing "Volare". Thus Velarde.

Basically, the knock against the Yankees in the past few years has been that they waste roster spots on guys like Clay Bellinger. This year they're wasting several spots. And now that they've got injuries piling up, that lack of depth is giving them a crappy lineup. Today they fielded a lineup that consisted of four hitters that are doing well, two hitters that are in huge slumps, one rookie, and two outs.

The Yankees brought in John Flaherty because Torre is convinced you need a good glove with your backup catcher. Why he thinks that, I don't know, but he apparently does. They brought in Bubba Trammell to get rid of Rondell White. They brought in Todd Zeile to platoon with Nick Johnson and Robin Ventura, not realizing that not only do those two players not really need a platoon, but that Zeile isn't really a viable platoon option, anyway. Then you've got Wilson and Gipson. Wilson is understandable, he can play three infield positions, but Gipson is ridiculous. He's basically a pinch runner and a defensive replacement, on a team that doesn't replace it's outfielders in the late innings and really shouldn't be running. The Yankees would have been better served giving that spot to someone who can hit, and do nothing else. Then at least they'd have a DH with Johnson out.

But, they don't. They have an average lineup and an overrated rotation and a bullpen that makes Baby Jesus cry. Tomorrow, Toronto goes for the sweep. Monday, Boston looks to put some distance between them and the Yankees. Soon, it will be June, with Bernie and Nick not back 'till July.

It's going to be the longest June in a long time.

May 23, 2003

by Larry Mahnken


Jeter didn't play tonight, making the Yankees lineup look uncomfortably similar to those of the early '90s. Still, it appeared for a short time that the Yankees still might win, Escobar was a bit wild, and they jumped on top early, 1-0.

But Moose wasn't great tonight, and Jason Anderson and Juan "The Gasman" Acevedo were predictably mediocre. Worse, the Yankees got themselves out several times, failing to take advantage of Escobar's wildness. Now the Yankees are no longer in first place, and if they don't get their heads out of their asses soon, they'll wake up next weekend to find themselves in third.

Wells vs. Lidle tomorrow. I'm predicting another defeat. I'm going to go further than that. I'm predicting that the Yankees are going to go into a tailspin, that they're going to miss the playoffs. That Torre will be let go at season's end. That George will go nuclear, signing Guerrero and any other free agent that suits his fancy, all to no avail. That we are entering the beginning of a new dark age in The Bronx. That for the next decade the Yankees will be always competitive, never great, never reaching that pinnacle again for many years. The final curtain will fall on the great modern dynasty.

Or, you know, maybe they'll win tomorrow.

by Larry Mahnken

Forget about what happened tonight; with Bernie out and Rivera not here yet, facing Toronto's ace and with Pettitte pitching, the Yankees were pretty much set up to lose.

This week has been one for all the know-nothings who have said before...well, every season the past few years...that the Yankees are a sure thing, and that Baseball ain't worth watching anymore, 'cause you know who's gonna win. Well, in case you haven't noticed, the Yankees haven't won in over 2½ years, and things ain't looking to great for the Bombers right now. For the next month and a half, they will be without two of their best hitters. Further, their best hitter is hovering around the Mendoza line, their new high-priced Japanese import is playing like their old high-priced Japanese import, and the OBP goodness of Nick Johnson has been replaced with the game-shortening batting skills of Todd Zeile. There are many teams who would like to have a lineup as good as the Yankees will have over the next two months, but those teams tend to dream of a winning season, not a World Championship.

The lineup won't kill them, good pitching could carry this team until the bats come back. Unfortunately, while the Yankees can expect good starts from Mussina and solid starts from Clemens and Wells the rest of the season, Pettitte and Weaver have pitched with a consistency similar to Orbitz. The bullpen setting up Rivera is a motley mix of crappy pitchers. You've got overpriced crap, imported crap, flukey crap, and Proven Closer™ crap. You've also got Jason Anderson and Antonio Osuna, who haven't done much to piss me off yet, but when those are your best setup men, you're in trouble. Thats the kind of bullpen that inspires a manager to go out to the mound and talk his spent pitcher into staying out another inning. It's the kind of bullpen you would have figured Jeff Torborg had been stuck with, the way he kept his starters out there.

So, for the next six weeks, the Yankees will be fielding a team that, while it doesn't suck, certainly doesn't scare anyone. Well, maybe some Yankees fans, but not many other people. Steven Goldman told us "Don't Panic!" earlier today, but after hearing about Bernie's injury, he changed his tone to "Yeah, go ahead and panic." Will they make a trade? Of course. They're sure to bring in some bullpen help, and if Rivera doesn't hit, they'll go out and get a center fielder (Jose Guillen?). But they won't bring in any stars--they don't have the prospects to pull off a trade like that, and it doesn't appear likely that any team will be looking to dump a star anytime soon. They might bring in someone expensive, I wouldn't be surprised to see them trade for an overpriced closer-type like Ugueth Urbina. If they're sharp, they'll realize that relievers are somewhat fungible, and they'll grab someone decent for not much. But George likes the names, so we'll wait and see.

Of course, there is reason to be positive...well, not negative. Their schedule through the All-Star Break has a healthy serving of Devil Ray, Oriole, Indian, Tiger and Met, and Giambi and Matsui are better than they've performed. Of course, Enrique Wilson is better than they've performed, but you follow what I'm saying. It's not really that unthinkable that those two, particularly Giambi, could explode over the next month and a half and carry the Yankees to a 7 game lead in the East. Even if the Yankees struggle, they probably won't lose the season here. This is really bad, but it's not fatal by any means.

Mussina will have his hands full tonight with the offense of the Jays, while the Yankees will try to touch up failed closer Kelvim Escobar. Should Escobar pitch well tonight, don't be surprised if he's coming out of the Yankees' pen in a couple of weeks, giving the pinstripers TWO mediocre relievers with a lot of saves in 2002. Gotta catch 'em all!

May 22, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Bernie Williams goes on DL

There are no swear words strong enough to convey my frustration about what has happened to the Yankees in the past week. Johnson out a month and a half, Karsay out all year, and now Bernie is out until the All-Star break. Juan Rivera will get a shot to show his stuff in left, so they're not stuck with Charles Gipson in the lineup, but this is really really bad.

The Yankees haven't really had a season of injuries like this in years. They've lost key players for a long time, but never so many at the same time.

Looking forward, the schedule until Bernie and Nick are both back alternates between easy and rough. They play Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Baltimore, the Mets and Detroit, but they also play St. Louis, Houston, the Cubs and the Red Sox six times. With good luck, they'll both be back in time for the second Boston series in that stretch. The schedule until the break isn't tough enough to kill their season, but they also might miss their shot to pad their record with these injuries.

Yes, friends, I am the most pessimistic Yankees fan in the world.

by Larry Mahnken : Yankees, Red Sox battling in AL East

Heh. Most fans are idiots.
A bad sign for the Yankees is that the Red Sox are just a game behind them in the standings even though Boston's best hitter, Manny Ramirez, hasn't even gotten hot yet.

Dom DeLuca
New Prague, Minn.
Yeah, and Jason Giambi's a .200 hitter.
Hey, Yankees and Red Sox: Don't think you are the only ones competing for the AL East title. Don't forget about the Blue Jays, one of the hottest teams in baseball.

Hey, Yankees and Red Sox: Don't think you are the only ones competing for the AL East title. Don't forget about the Blue Jays, one of the hottest teams in baseball.

Someone once said that a team is never as good as they look when they're winning, or as bad as they look when they're losing. Toronto will be a perrenial contender within two seasons, I'm sure, but right now, they're a mediocre team that'll finish at least 15 games off the pace.
Titles are bought in the AL East. Want proof? Watch the Yankees go on a buying spree if they lose a few more games. In baseball today, it is the Yankees and whichever team comes in second.

Hampton, N.H.
So the proof of your assertion is that you say the Yankees will do something in the future? Hmmm...
I think the Yankees and the Red Sox are the two closest teams in the league, but the Red Sox have one more thing going for them than the Yanks: team play. The Yankees seem to do most of their offense in one big inning with one or two good players each game.

Allen Nessen
Muncie, Ind.
So the Red Sox have the advantage over the Yankees in that they can't win with only one or two players contributing. Huh?

I think TSN prints some of these just for laughs.

by Larry Mahnken

"I am so glad I am not a Red Sox fan." - Bernal Diaz

Good starting pitching and good luck won this game for the Yankees, and put them back into first place all by themselves. They play Toronto next, who are playing far better than they were when the Yankees met them at the beginning of the season. However, they should be much easier to take on than the opponents they've faced in the recent stretch. Three of four this weekend and two of three against Boston next week could give them a bit of a cushion again, and I think they've got a decent shot to do that, if they can start playing to their level.

Which is, of course, the problem. We all know about Giambi's struggles, and Nick Johnson's injury puts The Mighty Zeile in the lineup on a regular basis. But Bernie has been frigid, Soriano's coming out of a slump, and Matsui has been mediocre all season. I'm not going to give up on Matsui yet, it's his first season in the majors, and just because Ichiro did well right away doesn't mean that Matsui necessariy has to. I also don't agree that we can forget about him showing any home run power, either. No, he won't hit 50, but once he gets into a groove, I can see him hitting 20+ by seasons end. Right now, though, 15 HRs or so seems more realistic. We'll see.

But my point is that the Yankees' offensive woes have been the primary reason for their slump this month, and much of that may be due to the fact that they've faced superior pitching. While Texas was able to shut them down last weekend, I think they can touch up Toronto a bit this weekend. Hopefully they will, and that momentum will carry over into the series against the Red Sox next week.

My parents have always been certain of the ultimate success of the Yankees over the Red Sox, probably because they've seen it so many times. Like my Red Sox fan friends who aren't jaded yet, I still have doubts. I'm an atheist, so curses and predestination are really not compatible with my beliefs, but then I'm also insanely superstitious. I'm just weird. I guess I won't be ready to declare the Red Sox dead until the magic number is zero. But in all honesty, the Red Sox probably just missed their best chance to put a hurting on the Yankees. The bullpen is in tatters, Wells had never pitched well at Fenway, and the offense is in a tailspin, and they were at home to boot. I think this series was more important to the Red Sox than it was to the Yankees, and losing 2 of 3 hurt them more than it helped the us.

May 21, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Seriously, if the Yankees don't get help in their bullpen soon, they're going to keep losing games like this. This group starts fires easier than Charlene McGee. Basically, the Yankees have a team that needs its starter to go seven innings and leave with at least a three run lead, otherwise, they'll probably blow it before they can get Rivera in the game.

Almost anyone would be an improvement over the motley bunch they have in there. There's plenty of underappreciated relief pitchers out there waiting to be snatched up at a cheap price. Instead, the Yankees go out and overpay an okay middle reliever like Chris Hammond to be a LOOGY, something he's not, and stick with Juan Acevedo (10th worst reliever in MLB according to Wolverton) and send Reyes (4th best reliever on the team) to the minors. Urbina would be overpriced, but still an improvement, and the Yankees can afford it. What they can't afford to do is let this fantastically talented team fail in the postseason because they have crap in the one key role where you don't need to spend money to get quality.

I admit it, I'm the most pessimistic Yankees fan in the world. But I've found that when you're pessimistic, you're less likely to be dissapointed by failure, and more likely to get joy from success. And anyone who has ever seen me watch the Yankees knows that I really need to get less dissapointed by failure. I'm very emotional.

Rocket goes for 299 next against Tim Wakefield. Unless Rocket works efficiently, I can see this game getting ugly again. The Yankees better hope that Wakefield's knuckler ain't dancin', because they're going to need to score some runs.

Thanks to Jay Jaffe and Alex Belth for linking to my blog. It's nice to see that someone other than Rob Moses (who I have two of the Soriano wagers with) has noticed the Soriano watch, and that people whose writing and insight I've admired have read my blog. On the other hand, it puts pressure on me to start writing something decent. ;-) Maybe that's a good thing...

May 20, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Yahoo! Sports - Yankees RHP Karsay to undergo shoulder surgery
"It's possible he'll be back this year," Cashman said. "But it's premature to say until he has the surgery tomorrow. If everything goes perfect, it is conceivable to have him back some time in September. I wouldn't give up hope on that, but more likely it's next year."
Oh, fuck. The Yankees need to go out an get a quality arm, and they're probably going to have to pay a premium for him.

Ken Rosenthal threw out a few names in his column the other day:
Trade possibilities include Jason Grimsley (Royals), Kelvim Escobar (Blue Jays), Buddy Groom (Orioles), David Weathers (Mets), Ugueth Urbina (Rangers) and the Marlins' Braden Looper and Armando Almanza.
Taking a look at Michael Wolverton's Reliever ratings so far this season, David Weathers and Armando Almanza seem like the best options of the group--which probably means that they'll trade for Escobar or Urbina.

The Yankees are rated the 10th worst bullpen in baseball by Wolverton's rankings, though if you take out Juan Acevedo, they're in the top half. The Yankees don't need to have a great bullpen, they just need a decent bullpen, one that you can turn to in a close game and still feel you have a good shot to win. With the strength of their offense and rotation, that should be enough. And for that, they need at least two more decent pitchers. Hopefully Contreras can turn into one, and Hitchcock has looked like one so far. Adding a good arm can only help, as long as Torre doesn't keep giving the ball to Acevedo.

Last night...yeah, sorry I didn't write after the game. I had to go see about a girl. But last night was a relief, they finally put some runs on the board against a decent pitcher, something they haven't done in a couple of weeks (unless you count Sele, who they've always hit anyway). But I don't think they're out of their slump yet, and I think they'll lost tonight, or at least not put more than 2 runs on the board. It is Pedro...

Soriano walked twice last night, although they weren't really that tough to draw. Lately it seems he's gone back to his free swinging ways as he's trying to get out of a slump. Hopefully he'll regain some of that discipline he showed in the first month when he starts hitting again.

May 19, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Mike's Baseball Rants

Mike has a great look back at the famous Pine Tar Incident.

by Larry Mahnken

Today was an experiment in superstition. It failed.

I have never been so disgusted by a three-game performance as I was by this series. To score only eight runs against the Texas Rangers, with the offensive talent this team has, is pathetic. The Yankees and Red Sox are now tied going into Fenway tomorrow, and I'm not feeling too good about things.

In May, the Yankees have several players who are performing below average--one who has been awful (Soriano), and nobody who's been great. Their best hitters this month are Robin Ventura and Nick Johnson--who's on the DL. The rotation has been mediocre, the bullpen has been awful. Yes, they've played the AL West this whole time--the best division in baseball--but they will need to beat these teams in October. They need bullpen help, but more than that, they need a kick in the ass. This team is better than they've played the past couple of weeks.

My friend Chrissy is finally home from school, which is awesome, because now there's another person around who loves the Yankees nearly as much as I do, along with Rob and Tyler.

Chrissy loves Derek Jeter. I think you know where I'm going here. If you're familiar with this topic, feel free to skip the rest of this post, I'm not going to say anything new.

Derek Jeter is a fine ballplayer. There is little doubt that he is the greatest Shortstop in Yankees history, and he'll likely have his number retired upon his retirement. Cooperstown is likely, and likely deserved. In 1999, he was possibly the best ballplayer in the game. No, he's not as good as A-Rod. He's not as good as Nomar. He might not be as good as Tejada. But he's still damn good. He can hit. He can run. He can field.

Wait, let's back up. Can he field?

This is a HUGE controversy between statheads and regular fans. The regular fans say "Of COURSE he's a great fielder! Look at him play!", while the statheads say, "Well, if you watch him play, of course you'll think he's a good fielder, because he looks great doing ordinary things. But the numbers show that he's not getting the job done."

Okay, for you regular fans, here's something to think about. Say there's a ball hit to a certain position on the field. In Situation A, the shortstop dives, gloves the ball, throws from his knees, and retires the batter by half a step. In Situation B, the shortstop gets behind the ball, fields it cleanly, and throws the runner out by two full steps.

Which was the better defensive play?

The answer is neither. Situation A was a better looking play, at least aesthetically, and will probably show up on Baseball Tonight as a "Web Gem". Situation B required more skill, as the defensive player had to show more range in getting to the ball. But the result of the play was an out, either way. They were both, in terms of their value, the same exact play.

That's where you need to start when you're evaluating a defensive player's skill, not by how good they look, but by how effective they are. How many balls they get to, not how they look getting to them.

And therin lies the problem with Derek Jeter. The numbers have shown that Jeter gets to fewer balls than other shortstops do. Partly this is because of the Yankees pitching, which strikes out a lot of batters. Partly it is because of positioning, which positions Jeter more towards the hole, making it more difficult for him to get to balls in the hole between short and third. Mostly it is because he has bad range.

Michael Lichtman's Ultimate Zone Rating for 2002 ranks Jeter's defense as being 24 runs below an average AL Shortstop, 43 runs worse than Mike Bordick, 32 runs than A-Rod, 28 runs worse than Nomar and Tejada. The second worst SS in the AL was Cristian Guzman (honest) who was 17 runs below average. Tony Womack was 22 runs below average in the NL.

Now, UZL has it's shortcomings, just like all defensive statistics. It doesn't take positioning into account. But what is clear is that Jeter is significantly worse than the other SS's in the "Big Four", and probably the worst defensive shortstop in the American League, if not baseball.

Even worse, his strength, offense, has been in decline ever since his spectacular 1999. His OPS from 1999 onward is: .989, .896, .858, .794

Now, his OPS in 1998 was .864, and he was bothered by injuries last year, so some may posit that he's not in decline, but that '99 was a fluke, and last year was really only an off year. Perhaps, and let's hope so. He should be peaking right now, not declining.

Ahh, but it's not all bad for our hero. He is one of, perhaps the, best baserunner in baseball. Since the start of the 1998 season to the end of last season, he's stolen 130 bases against only 24 caught stealings--nearly an 85% clip. And over the last two seasons he's stolen at a rate of 91%--59 swipes and 6 throwouts.

Of course, there's all those "intangibles". As far as I can see, those come down to being a Leader, Clutch God™, and that play against Oakland in 2001. Yeah, that was a nice play, wasn't it?

Okay, as for being a Yes, he's the first out of the dugout to greet his teammates. Yes, he's really good with the press, and is never saying how great he is, and brushes off compliments with a modesty that makes you realize how great his parents must be. He's a great guy, no doubt about it. Kinda guy you'd bring home to Mom & Dad. But does that help the team win?

I doubt it. The Yankees are a veteran team, so it's unlikely that petty bullshit that goes on in the background would hurt them much, if at all. Maybe Jeter's leadership would help another team, but I doubt that also. It's really just something that you can't measure, because it's effect is so miniscule, if it exists at all, that it doesn't show up on the scoreboard.

Then there's the Clutch hitter reputation that everyone in New York gets eventually.

Derek Jeter's Career OPS: .852
Derek Jeter's Postseason OPS: .850
Derek Jeter's World Series OPS: .787

So much for that theory. The World Series numbers are hurt by a small sample size and a crappy 2001 Series (even with the homer), though.

As for the play against Oakland, 1) If Jeremy Giambi had slid, he would have been safe, and 2) Jeter shouldn't have been there. He had no business being there. He was out of position. Yes, it turned out well, but do you really want to credit a guy for being out of position. But let's just credit him anyway. That's one run. In one game. Period. Does that negate any of what we've said above?

Let me make it clear, I'm not a Jeter hater, as Rob Moses seems to think. I love Jeter. He's a great player. I have a Derek Jeter jersey that I wear proudly, and I root for him to do well every time he comes up. But he's not A-Rod. Or Nomar. Although he is still better than Tejada (slight tangent: Tejada's OPS last year was .861. A-Rod's was 1.015. Soriano's was .880, and Giambi's was 1.034. How was Tejada MVP? Oh yeah, Bonds was 1.381. That's comically good.). Anway, Jeter's a great ballplayer, but let's love him for what he is, not what we want him to be.

And what I want him to be is part of a team that wins six games against the Red Sox in the next two weeks.

May 17, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Rangers 8, Yankees 5

Thank you, Angels. Thank you, Jeff DaVanon. Thank you Adam Kennedy. Thank you for keeping the Yankees all alone in first for another day.

Today, we let Juan Acevedo lose another game for us. Why not? He seems so good at it.

Before the season, I strongly advocated two moves for the Yankees: get rid of Raul Mondesi, or at least play Juan Rivera, and get rid of Sterling Hitchcock. So far, I'm glad they've done neither. Mondesi hit another home run tonight (although the ump didn't see it or call it), and Hitchcock was great again in relief. On one hand, I really shouldn't be all that surprised by Hitchcock's recent success, as he's never been that bad a pitcher, just overpriced, but it's surprising to see someone who has been basically given up on for two seasons suddenly pitch effectively, Tuesday's game nonwithstanding. Giambi looks to me like he's ready to break out big time, but Soriano's slump continues. His numbers are starting to look a lot like last season's again, and if he doesn't get out of it quick, they could end up worse.

And of course, there was Matsui's play. Really, I like Godzilla a whole lot. He obviously has a bit of showmanship in him, his cap continually flying off Willie Mays-style. He's fantastic defensively, but much more impressive to me, he doesn't complain. He takes a close pitch for a called third strike, he just turns around and walks back to the dugout. I was shocked that he showed emotion at getting thrown out at first the other night. He's great.

But the Yankees lost, despite a good effort in coming back. One might blame Willie for this loss, as he sent two runner that he shouldn't have, but it was two great throws that got them out at the plate. I prefer to blame Acevedo, since he sucks so much, and keeps getting put in important situations, and blowing it. More proof that Saves are worthless. There's a reason that everyone passed on him, Michael Kay, it's because he's not a very good pitcher. He doesn't deserve closer money. Just because he thinks he does doesn't me you should, too.

Bill James pointed yesterday out that the Red Sox bullpen has a better ERA than the Yankees bullpen. Except that's not saying much. God, I hope Contreras can be a stopper.

by Larry Mahnken


Moneyball arrived at my door at about 12:30 this afternoon. At about 10:30 this evening, I finished reading it--and that includes breaks for lunch and dinner, and a walk to the store to purchase said meals (a roast beef sub and Stouffer's Lasagna, in case you were interested). It was that good a read. If you haven't purchased the book yet, I highly recommend that you do so.

I wasn't going to review the book. That's been done by other bloggers, and much better than I could. Besides, this is a Yankees blog, not really the place to bring this book up. And yet I feel compelled to talk about it.

One thing that amazed me reading this book is how similar Billy Beane's personality is to mine. Except for the whole brilliant understanding of baseball thing, that is. He struggles with failure, allowing his emotions to get the better of him, he longs for recognition and approval. He believes he's the smartest person in the room, that he knows something others don't (I have this same attitude, although I'm not sure why). He has a difficult time watching his team play, especially when they're not winning. I indentify with him.

As a Primate, it's pretty cool to see Baseball Primer mentioned in the book (page 235), it makes you feel like an insider somehow. And insider to the outsiders. Also, if you're still wondering why Beane traded Giambi for John Freaking Mabry, the book tells us why (page 200)--and also that Beane didn't want Mabry to play at all after he accquired him. "Mabry's a great guy," he says, "but sooner or later Tattoo's going to show up and take him off the island."

But this book isn't really about Billy Beane, it's about the Athletics. More than that, it's about the movement the A's are the forerunners of, the background of it, the meaning of it, and the future of it. Rob Neyer said that it's the kind of book that won't have an impact for another ten years, and judging from the reaction of "insiders", he's right. The book challenges their authority as experts on the game, and they are entirely unwilling to accept that they might be wrong, but the younger, more impressionable audience--the ones who will be running the game in the future--can see the obvious truth in it. It's not right because Billy Beane says it's right, it's right because the results prove it's right.

Primer linked to an article by Tracy Ringolsby today, and while the conversation quickly shifted, as it always does on Primer, and there wasn't really room to comment on the article.

But I wanna. And this is my blog, so I'm gonna. Nyah.
Two things are apparent in the recently released book Moneyball, The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.

Oakland general manager Billy Beane's ego has exploded, and author Michael Lewis has a limited knowledge of baseball and a total infatuation with Beane.
Michael Lewis has a limited knowledge of baseball because the things he say don't agree with the things that Ringolsby believes. Except Lewis is right. Moneyball isn't really much of an analysis as it is a compilation. I found little in the book to be remotely enlightening, which speaks to this fact. The ideas that Lewis puts forward aren't his own, nor does he claim that they are. Anyone who's read Rob Neyer, Prospectus, Primer, and knows and understands them.

Nor should Beane be attacked for having an "exploded" ego. He gave Lewis full access to the front office, but it doesn't seem that he tried to get Lewis to cast him in any sort of positive light. It's obvious that he didn't like his scouts talking to Lewis about what a great talent he was, and yet Lewis did. This wasn't Billy Beane's book.
There is a chapter devoted to Beane's brilliance in acquiring left-handed reliever Ricardo Rincon when the truth is Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro was willing to give Rincon to anyone who would take his contract.
No, there's a chapter devoted to Beane working the phones trying to make trades. It states quite clearly that Shapiro was making a salary dump, what it does show is how Beane was able to both lower the cost to accquire him by floating Venafrom out there for the Giants and Mets. Read the book again, Tracy, if you read it at all.
Beane would like to fire his amateur scouting staff, according to the book, and rely totally on computer printouts from assistant GM Paul DePodesta on college stats in deciding whom to draft each June. Lewis praises the approach, which means not drafting high school players and not signing Latins because they have no college track record.
First off, the book just says that Beane "flirted" with the idea of firing his scouts and running the draft off of DePodesta's computer, not that he seriously considered it. Aside from that, Latin American ballplayers except for Puerto Ricans aren't drafted. Oh yeah...
There's no arguing that the college player is a safer gamble than the high school player, but if Beane and Co., have so much stronger a grasp of the game than the rest of baseball, why doesn't he use his supposedly vastly superior intelligence to determine the differences between the successes and failures among the highly-touted high school players.

How does a team find a Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez instead of wasting a high pick and a lot of money on a Billy Beane, whose mental toughness as a player never matched his physical skills?
Ahh, now you're onto them, Tracy. Because Beane hasn't been able to figure out what nobody else has been able to figure out, how figure out how a ballplayer will react under pressure, he's an idiot. Right Tracy? The reason they don't want to draft high school players is that it's better to just not bet on high school picks early, when so many of them bust and there's no definitive way of determining which will or wont. Some people try to say that there's no increased risk in drafting a high school player because the numbers bear out that just as high a rate of high school players make it in the majors as college players, they ignore the fact that which ones will make it is much harder to figure out before they're drafted. The A's can't afford the risk, so they don't take it.
And isn't it strange that the two best players on Beane's team aren't products of college programs - Eric Chavez, signed out of high school, and Miguel Tejada, signed at the age of 17 out of the Dominican Republic?
Well, only if you ignore Zito, Hudson & Mulder, that is. Besides, the A's system doesn't say that high school players can't pan out--after all, college players were once high school players--but that it's tougher to figure out which ones will. Sure, you can make a killing on the stock market buying high-risk stocks, but you're also likely to lose everything. The A's can't afford to take that risk.
Beane takes credit for drafting Barry Zito, but that had nothing to do with player evaluation. Ben Sheets was the A's target, but they didn't have the money in their budget to sign him and settled on Zito instead.
They didn't "settle" on Zito. Beane told them to take Zito. They didn't want to take Zito at all. THAT'S the point.
And if Beane was so sold on catcher Jeremy Brown last June, and so convinced no other team had any interest, why did he use a high draft pick on him and pay him $350,000, when he could have been signed for $5,000 as a college senior taken late in the draft?
Because I'm pretty sure that J.P. Riccardi would have another pick before the late rounds.
And Lewis left one major question unanswered:

How many world championships has Beane overseen as a general manager?

Heck, the A's haven't even been to the World Series in the Billy Beane era.
You didn't read the last half of the book, did you Tracy? For one, only the Yankees and Angels have been to the World Series from the AL in the Billy Beane era, which doesn't leave a lot of room for other teams, and the other, of course, is that the postseason is a crapshoot. The A's have won nearly 300 games in the past 3 seasons. With a combined payroll less than the Yankees' payroll last season. But of course, because he hasn't won the World Series, he must be an idiot.

I'm sure Billy Beane is thrilled that there are people like you out there. He hopes that some of them are running Major League Baseball teams.

May 16, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

MLB All Star Game

Third Ballot:

1st Base C. DELGADO
2nd Base A. SORIANO
3rd Base B. MUELLER
Catcher J. POSADA
Outfield R. MONDESI
Outfield B. WILLIAMS
Outfield C. EVERETT

1st Base H. CHOI
2nd Base M. GILES
Shortstop E. RENTERIA
3rd Base S. ROLEN
Catcher M. PIAZZA
Outfield B. BONDS
Outfield J. CRUZ, JR.

Nick Johnson's injury pretty much eliminates any chance of his making the team this year. Also, I wrote Everett in as an OF again because even though he's listed as a DH. Edgar's more deserving, but Everett--who's played the OF all season--is very much deserving of the spot. Even though he's an ignorant asshole.

by Larry Mahnken

Yahoo! Sports - Johnson out four-to-six weeks with injured hand

This is bad. This is very, very bad.

The Yankees have just lost perhaps their best hitter so far this season for at least a month, and that being a month where they will be facing some exceptionally good competition. This could be huge. I don't really see how they're going to fill this hole. Zeile has been acceptable so far this season, as has Trammell, but I don't know how much I trust them to step into the DH slot for the next month. It also severely cuts into their shallow bench, and hurts their defense.

But they were able to survive losing Jeter for a month and a half, so perhaps they can get past this. Jeter has been hot, and I think Giambi will break out of his slump soon. Boy, I hope they get past this.

Particularly worrying is that Johnson is suffering another hand injury. He's suffered several such injuries in his young career, establishing a disturbing pattern. Hopefully he'll come back healthy and get back in the groove quickly, but with two series coming up against Boston, this is bad.

May 15, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

If only they had faced Sele in the ALDS last season, we might be talking about the defending World Champion New York Yankees...

I wouldn't place too much emphasis on the performance of the Yankees tonight, since they were facing a pitcher who they've beaten several times. I'm also not going to go out and say Soriano's out of his slump because he went 2/4 with a homer and triple. What is encouraging is that he took two balls deep to left field, which does give me hope that he'll be back in a groove by Monday, when the games really count.

Steve Karsay has suffered another "setback", and might be out for the season at this rate. In the past three seasons, the Yankees have let Stanton, Mendoza and Nelson leave as free agents. Nelson's departure probably cost them the title in 2001, and while Stanton and Mendoza have had their struggles, they certainly appear more dependable than the motley bunch in the pen this season. The Yankees are certain to go out and get more relief somewhere, but they haven't traded for a quality bullpen arm since Graeme Lloyd, so I don't have much faith that they'll plug the holes. Someone needs to step up.

Today was my last day of classes for the semester, and having no exams, I can now look forward to having the rest of the summer off. Well, I do need to get a second job--Wegmans doesn't pay much--and I really need a roommate. If anyone from the Rochester area is reading this and wants to share a place with an annoyingly obsessive Yankees fan, send me an email.

With school out of the way for now, I'm looking forward to having the day off from work without some important project stressing me out and eliminating my leisure time. Fortunately, Moneyball arrives in the mail tomorrow, so I'll lounge around and read that tomorrow afternoon. In the evening, I'll watch the game, unless it gets rained out (which I will become extremely bitter about should it happen). I'll also be able to spend the day reading most of the threads on Primer and, which I haven't had the opportunity to do in quite a while. Maybe spend a while talking online to the lovely lady who I'm trying to get with (who is most definitely out of my league), more likely spend a longer while complaining online to my other friends about how my efforts to get with this lady are coming to naught. And perhaps embarrasingly trying to account for my talking about her on a weblog she is not entirely unlikely to take a glance at, thus revealing all my evil plans for her.

She will be mine. Ahh, yes. She will be mine.

Hey, I stopped talking about baseball, didn't I? Sorry about that...

There was an interesting post on Baseball Writing today about Giambi's slump. Joe posits the theory that Giambi's performance has declined because he's not getting pitched around in New York like he was in Oakland. That might make some sense, he was walked intentionally 24 times in 2001, only 4 times last season. But David Grabiner wrote an essay some time ago that basically shows that protection has little effect on a batter's hitting ability. I find it unlikely that someone of Giambi's obvious skill would be unable to hit more hittable pitches, and consider it much more likely that his struggles are a result of an early decline, as many predicted, as well as a combination of the knee injury and staph infection, and maybe a genuine slump thrown in for good measure. The latter two will pass, the former not so much. Giambi will probably be one of the better hitters in the league again once his injuries heal, but it's legitimate to question how effective he will be in the next few seasons. With the luxury tax in effect, the Yankees can't really eat salaries like they used to, unless they really are going to make $200 million a year from the YES network. I have a sinking feeling that the Giambi and Jeter contracts are going to keep the Yankees from being able to hold onto either Soriano or Johnson when they come up for free agency, maybe both (I'm guessing Soriano, as he'll probably sign for $20 million+).

So Rocket goes for 299 tomorrow night--maybe. The forecast calls for showers throughout the day, but it should slow to a drizzle by gametime. Hopefully the field will be in good enough condition to play (although I have a feeling the Yankees aren't too eager to get this one in). I for one would like to see Clemens win 300 at Fenway, because it would be appropriate, and it would be interesting to see if they boo or cheer him. If they cheer him, then they deserve to see their old hero reach the milestone in front of him, and if they boo him, they deserve to see their old hero beat their team. So, you can't go wrong either way.