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May 23, 2005

by Larry Mahnken

If the Yankees had continued at the pace at which they started, they would have lost over 100 games and finished with about the worst record in baseball, dead-last in the AL East, one season after coming within an inning of winning the pennant in a sweep.

Of course there was almost no chance of them continuing at that pace, because while many of their problems were due to inherent weaknesses with the team, bad luck had played an enormous hand in their playing that poorly for a month and a half. But having won only 11 of their first 29, they would need to play exceptionally well the rest of the season to make the playoffs, or at least get extremely hot for an extended period to get themselves back in position for a pennant run. And so they did.

A ten game winning streak is nothing but a good thing, there's no negative spin to put on it. However, it's too easy to put too positive a spin on a ten game winning streak. It got the Yankees back into contention -- they're only 4½ games out of first, and 2½ games behind the Red Sox, who are more likely to be there in the end than the Orioles (it's impossible to say that without disrespecting the Orioles, but it'll take more than two months to convince me that they're for real). But while they're back in contention, the first 29 games still happened, and the problems that plagued them then still exist. They're no longer magnified by bad luck, and they're largely overshadowed by some outstanding performances lately, but they're still there. This team can and will contend for the playoffs, division, pennant, and World Series championship, but those first 29 games cannot be ignored, they're a warning in big, neon letters: YOU'RE GOING THE WRONG WAY.

In promoting Cano and Wang from within, the Yankees have added solid players to the back of their rotation and their lineup without spending any money, a marked difference from their offseason strategy of adding players whose quality was little better, if even as good as, Cano and Wang for millions of dollars. When Jaret Wright comes back, will the Yankees demote Wang and put Lefty back out there to get knocked around again? Of course they will, because Wang has options and Wright makes millions. But it's a bad move from a baseball perspective, and not a very good move from a business perspective, either. Better to demote a middle reliever and keep Wright in the pen for mopup and emergency starts than to start him.

And better still to have never signed him in the first place. How predictable was Wright's performance so far this season? The guy had a 3.28 ERA last season, but he preceded that with a 7.35 ERA, 15.71 ERA, and a 6.52 ERA. Only two times in his career has his ERA been below 4.50, is giving up 20 ER in 20 innings really much of a shock?

Of course it isn't, nor is the fact that Tony Womack's OPS is lower than every qualifying second baseman in baseball except Kazou Matsui -- fortunately the Yankees have stuck him in left field, where his offense is even more of a detriment (but at least having him in left and Matsui in center improves the defense out there). These two players were among the worst free agent signings the Yankees have ever made, and yet the Yankees and the media that covers them (and many, many fans) think Womack is helping the Yankees, because he's stolen 14 bases. That helps in some ways, it helped them win yesterday, but it's not that important, especially at the top of the lineup.

The team probaby wouldn't have learned from the mistakes they made, in adding these poor players and failing to bring in a real centerfielder, even if they had continued to lose two-thirds of their games. They certainly won't learn from them now, and unless intelligent people can regain the ear of George Steinbrenner in the next offseason, they will continue to go down the wrong path, and eventually they fall that should never, ever come will, in fact, come.

As it stands, the Yanks are right back in the thick of things. Their rotation is going well, Kevin Brown has become effective again, as has Mike Mussina, as has Carl Pavano. Randy Johnson is clearly fighting through minor injury problems right now and probably needs some time off to get back to 100%. Hideki Matsui is coming out of his slump, Tino Martinez has been a stunning addtion to the lineup, and Alex Rodriguez is contending for the AL MVP -- and he's even hitting with runners in scoring position. It's going really well right now, and there's good reason to be optimistic about the rest of the season, but we can't forget that 11-18 really did happen -- and it wasn't just a fluke.

May 22, 2005

A gift-wrapped win
by SG

For seven innings today, the Yankees played well enough to lose. With injuries to Derek Jeter, Gary Sheffield, and Jorge Posada, the Yankees sent out what was likely their worst lineup of the season:

T. Womack lf
R. Cano 2b
A. Rodriguez 3b
H. Matsui rf
B. Williams cf
J. Giambi 1b
J. Flaherty c
R. Sanchez ss
C. Pavano p

A promising first inning ended abruptly when David Wright made a nice catch in the stands on a foul popup by Jason Giambi with the bases loaded and two outs.

Alex Rodriguez's defense continues to be a problem. With two outs in the second, he booted a routine grounder by Pedro Martinez with Doug Mispelling on third allowing the first run of the game to score. Carl Pavano then gave up a rifle single to Jose Reyes and the Mets plated a second run. Cliff Floyd added a homerun in the third to make the Mets lead 3-0. Interesting fact, Pavano has been traded for both Pedro Martinez and Cliff Floyd in his career.

With Pedro Martinez cruising and the Yankee offense inept, it looked pretty likely that the game was over at that point. However, Pavano settled down to pitch quite well, which was a concern for me after his long outing last time out. The Yankees scratched out a run off Martinez in the sixth after a Tony Womack single and steal of second, followed by a Rodriguez RBI single. Womack gets a lot of grief from sabermetrically-inclined fans like myself, but his presence was all over this game, as he scored two of the five Yankee runs and drove in the third in what was a very good day.

After seven innings and 99 pitches, Willie Randolph went to the Mets' hero from yesterday, Dae-Sung Koo. Koo retired Russ Johnson, who had pinch-hit for Carl Pavano to lead off the 8th. Then, Womack hit a grounder to Wright, who dropped the ball. Ruben Sierra came up next, pinch-hitting for Robinson Cano. I wasn't crazy about this, but Cano hasn't done much with lefties so far this season so I understand it. Sierra hit a tailor-made double play ball to Miguel Cairo, who flipped the ball to Jose Reyes. Reyes dropped the ball, and the Yankees were in business. Roberto Hernandez relieved Koo at this point.

The Yankees' wounded Captain made a pinch-running appearance for Sierra. Womack and Jeter proceeded to double-steal on Mike Piazza, and the Yankees had the tying runs in scoring position with 1 out and Alex Rodriguez and Hideki Matsui due up. Rodriguez had another disappointing AB in a clutch situation, fouling out to first base, which put the game in Matsui's hands. Matsui has had a disappointing season, particularly in the power department, but delivered in this AB, lining a 96 mph fastball from Hernandez into LF to plate Jeter and Womack. This brought up the much-maligned Bernie Williams, getting another game in CF with the injury to Sheffield. Bernie lined a 94 mph fastball into the RF corner for a double. Matsui rounded third as the throw from the RF came in to the cutoff man. The relay throw beat him home, but bounced up high enough that Matsui was able to hook around Mike Piazza to score the go-ahead run.

The Yankees started the 8th with Mike Stanton against Cliff Floyd, which scared the hell out of me for two reasons. For one, Floyd has crushed lefties this year, and for the second Stanton's not much more effective against lefties than righties. However, he retired Floyd on a deep fly ball that I thought was a HR when it was hit. Flash Gordon then came in, and gave up a couple of deep fly outs. I noticed him throwing more curves today, which makes me happy.

Willie Randolph continued the Mets display of charity by bringing in Mike Dejean in a high-leverage situation. The Yankees used this to their advantage as they tacked on an insurance run in the ninth behind a single, walk, and an RBI single from Womack as the threat of rain began to loom. Mariano Rivera came in to seal the deal, and the Yankees had a very satisfying comeback win.

Once again, the Yankees were able to win a game that was started by Pedro Martinez, using their normal formula of pitching well and keeping it close enough to rally off the bullpen late. It was also nice to win a game with so many key injured players. Hopefully the off day tomorrow will heal up the wounded, and the Yankees will be at full strength heading back to the Stadium to face the Tigers. And thankfully, 3 of the 6 games in the Subway Series are over.

May 21, 2005

This is not what we paid for
by SG

The cost to acquire Randy Johnson was huge, but the expected payoff seemed to be worth it. The Yankees gave up Javier Vazquez, Brad Halsey, Dioner Navarro, and $8-9 million in cash for the the best pitcher in the National League last year. They then extended his contract for another two years and $32 million. This move was made with one thing in mind, that when the Yankees started the playoffs they'd have a dominant starter to throw out there. Unfortunately, with the way the season has started, a playoff spot is not a sure thing.

It's pretty safe to say that so far, the trade has been a disappointment. Vazquez and Halsey have been very good for Arizona. With Jorge Posada showing signs that he's probably beginning his decline phase, not having Navarro around is also a concern.

After a solid start in the season opener against Boston, Johnson has been decent but not great. After giving up a total of 18 HRs last season, he's on pace to give up 30 this year. His K/BF ratio is also down significantly from last year. I prefer to look at the number of batters a pitcher Ks per batters faced, as opposed per 9 innings, as I think it cuts down a lot of the noise in the numbers.

Last year, 30.1% of the batters that Johnson faced struck out. This year, it's down to 23.6%. There are certainly league factors skewing this somewhat, but it's still a bit of a concern. I also noticed that his ground ball/fly ball ratio this year is 1.51, which is much higher than his career ratio of 1.20 (last year he was at 1.18). I don't know if this indicative of a change in approach, or just sample size and/or random fluctuation.

When I watch Johnson, I see a pitcher who's throwing two pitches. A 90-94 mph fastball and an 84-86 mph slider. He has busted out a splitter on occasion, a pitch I'd like to see him use some more. I don't see that mid to high 90s gas that he was throwing last year or throughout his whole career. His control is good, but he seems to sometimes have trouble putting hitters away that he didn't have prior. I think we can still hold out hope that he will regain some velocity as the season goes on, and there may still be some issues with a groin strain he suffered earlier. However, we must also be aware that he has had a pretty major knee problem and is now 41 years old, and this may be what we get for the rest of the year.

If you project Johnson for the rest of the year based on his performance so far, you'd get a final line of: 241 innings, 226 hits, 30 HRs, 45 BB, 207 K, a 15-11 record, and a 3.94 ERA. Certainly respectable, but not the numbers most Yankee fans were hoping for.

Moving on to something completely different, TVerik asked if anyone had the numbers for the Yankees prior to and post the big shakeup, where they benched Bernie Williams, called up Robinson Cano, and moved Tony Womack to LF and Hideki Matsui to CF. I decided to pull them together:

Actual W-L: 11-15
Pythag W-L: 12.6-13.4
RF: 135
RA: 139
RF/G: 5.2
RA/G: 5.3

Actual W-L: 11-5
Pythag W-L: 10.5-5.5
RF: 105
RA: 76
RF/G: 6.6
RA/G: 4.8

These were the numbers prior to the fiasco today at that dump in Flushing. The Yankees' improvement seems to be keyed far more by an offense that's scoring 1.4 more runs a game, and not as much by a pitching staff and defense that's allowing .5 runs fewer per game. These numbers are probably not very meaningful yet, since the bulk of the Post-shakeup stats were compiled against Oakland and Seattle. It may be worth revisiting later on.

With today's loss the Yankee drop back down to one game over .500 and face the Mets' best starter tomorrow, our old friend Pedro. It would be nice to take the series and beat him in the process. Let's hope Carl Pavano doesn't show any ill effects from throwing 133 pitches in his last start.

May 20, 2005

Subway Series: An Official Preview
by sj

When I was a young child my parents took me to one of those Mayor’s games at Shea, an exhibition, where the scrubs for the Mets and the Yanks play each other the day before the season begins. I looked at my dad and asked him why this game didn’t count, and if they ever would. “The Mets aren’t in the Yankees league,” he said, “Does the Notre Dame football team play junior colleges? Do the Lakers play UCLA?”

The answer, of course, is no. However, Bud Selig and the owners have set up a system where the touring AAAA squads host and visit their American League superiors. This is a shame. Yet it is a big deal in New York, so we will preview it.

I shall do one of those famous, lazy position by position breakdowns.

Catcher: Mike Piazza vs. Jorge Posada

These catchers were once great, and a person could argue that Piazza was the greatest catcher of all time. That person would be wrong, but you could argue that. Posada is not as good as he was a few years ago, but he is less crappy than Piazza is now.

Advantage: Yankees

First Base: Doug Something vs. Tino Martinez

Tino is cooling off from his amazing Dale Longesque run of homers. That Doug guy isn’t very good, but he has a pretty hot wife. So, he is good to have around the luncheon/charity golf circuit. Doug has the advantage with the glove. Tino with the bat.

Advantage: Yankees

Second Base: Kaz Matsui vs. Robinson Cano

From Baseball America’s top 100 prospect report, 2004.

7. Kazuo Matsui ss, Mets

Won't be the 30-30 guy he was in Japan, but should be one of the best shortstops in the National League.


Advantage: Yankees

SS Jose Reyes vs. Derek Jeter.

This is getting tiresome.

Advantage: Yankees

Third Base: David Wright vs. Alex Rodriguez

One day, this match up will be an advantage for the Mets, but that day is later rather than sooner.

Advantage: Yankees

Left Field: Cliff Floyd vs. I don’t even want to type the name

Cliff Floyd has 11 homers? He better get on the DL soon, because he is going to miss his annual July golfing vacation with Ken Griffey Jr., Nomar Garciaparra and Kerry Wood. I heard this year they are going to Whistling Straits. That course should be gorgeous in late July.

Advantage: Mets

Center Field: Carlos Beltran vs. Hideki Matsui

Beltran is a very good player, as is Godzilla. Beltran is just a different level of good. (Is anyone else worried about Matsui's pitch selection? He seems to be swinging at shitty pitches lately)

Advantage: Mets

Right Field: Mike Cameron vs. Gary Sheffield

Cameron is a nice player, but he isn’t in Sheffield’s class. Cameron has yet to strike a fan, though, so he has that going for him.

Advantage: Yankees

Starting Pitching

Victor Zambrano vs. Kevin Brown.

These guys both stink, the difference of course, is Brown was once great. Zambrano seems to hit Jeter every time he pitches against the Yankees, so Mets fans will have something to cheer for. Zambrano’s WHIP is 1.82!

Advantage: Yankees

Kris Benson vs. Randy Johnson

I don’t get it, she isn’t really worth the hype, in my opinion. Take away Benson’s wife, and he is just another run of the mill pitcher. Take away Johnson’s wife, and he is a Hall of Famer.

Advantage: Yankees

Pedro Martinez vs. Carl Pavano

Pavano is yet another Yankee National League convert. He pitched wonderfully in his last outing. He may get bounce from being back in his natural AAAA habitat. Pedro, even a slightly injured Pedro, is still one of the greatest pitchers in the world. I will be interested to see who he chooses to hit when the Yankees score a couple runs on him Sunday night. I am putting money on Matsui.

Advantage: Mets

Relief Pitching

I don't even know who the Mets have (Do they really have someone named Koo?) in their pen. But that doesn't matter, because the Yankees have the new, reborn Tanyon Sturtze. That guy is filthy. He is the David Mamet script of relief pitching: exciting, dramatic, and filthier than anything you have ever seen.

I am a believer.

Advantage: Yankees

Prediction: Yanks win the series 3-0.

Metsgeek - Subway Series Talk
by SG

The fine bloggers at asked some of us for our thoughts on some questions over at their site. If you want to know the answer to the pressing question about Which Matsui is better?, feel free to check it out.

May 17, 2005

Good Bernie, bad Bernie
by SG

The Yankees' ninth straight win today felt like a loss for most of the game. Bernie Williams got a rare start in CF and right away showed us why he's not really capable of being out there, as he misplayed a ball that led to two runs for Seattle. The Yankees looked awful against Aaron Sele for most of the game, only managing one run in six frustrating innings. When a guy with mediocre stuff like Sele is shutting your team down it can be far more frustrating than when it's a guy who's noted for being a good pitcher.

Luckily, Sele's poor control knocked him out of the game after six innings and over 110 pitches. The Yankees were able to capitalize on the Mariners' pen by loading the bases for Bernie. With hard-throwing J.J. Putz on the mound, I figured a walk would be the best possible outcome. However, Bernie drove a 96 mph fastball over the head of a leaping Jeremy Reed for a grand slam that turned a 2-1 deficit into a 5-2 lead.

I want to reiterate that when I complain about Bernie in CF, it's not a slight on him. He's been a brilliant player for many years, and one of my favorites to watch. That Joe Torre refuses to acknowledge what is painfully obvious to everyone else is a reflection on Torre, not on Bernie. I don't think it's unreasonable to say that Bernie playing CF cost the Yankees at least 2 runs yesterday, and maybe all 3. That he drove in 4 made it less painful than it might have been, but what will happen the next time he is thrown out in CF?

Tiger Wang was brilliant today. Throwing 92-94 and working efficiently and throwing strikes, he continues to impress. With a little better defense behind him, he may have pitched a shutout. He even had a stretch in the middle of the game where he retired 17 straight batters. What was particularly encouraging for me was that he had just faced this Seattle team last week, and they were not able to do much with him. A lot of times a rookie pitcher will do well mainly due to unfamiliarity, so this has to be taken as a positive sign. Is there anyone who'd rather see Jaret Wright than Wang right now?

Robinson Cano had another multi-hit game, his fifth in a row, pushing his average up to .333. No, he's not walking, but he's making hard contact and not missing pitches. The true test for Cano will be how he handles pitchers who try to make him expand his strike zone. I see a 22 year old with a ton of promise though, and it's exciting to watch. My hope with both Wang and Cano is that they continue to perform so well that the Yankees can't trade them.

Can the Yankees win their 10th in a row tomorrow? With Carl Pavano going against Julio Mateo the pitching matchup would seem to be in their favor. The faster this team can put .500 behind them, the happier I'll be.

Interestingly, the team has picked up 4 games in the standings on all the teams in front of them during this streak.

May 15, 2005

by SG

Who knew that being 19-19 at this point in the season would be good news? After three straight losses to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and a series opening loss to Oakland on May 6, the Yankees were 11-19. Newspapers and Yankee-haters rejoiced about the fall of the mighty Yankees, with story after story being written about all the problems on the team and how they would never recover. Many analysts ran estimations based on how many games they could possibly win if they were to play at their expected level going forward, which had them in the high 80s, and likely just outside of the postseason.

Eight games later, and this team is rolling. That it has come against less than stellar teams like Seattle and Oakland should be considered, but that doesn't lessen the importance of it. The Yankees are fine-tuning their defense and roster right now, and all seems to be falling into place.

The most encouraging thing in this streak for me is that outside of the absolutely unbelievable hot streak of Tino Martinez, no one else is playing above their heads.

Tino has been the MVP of this 8 game stretch, and continued to carry this team on his back today with two huge homeruns.

Robinson Cano has been killing the ball, and you can see him growing more comfortable at the plate in the field. He just hits line drives all over the field, and has not looked overmatched at all. I've also been very impressed with his range and smoothness at second base. The test will be how he responds when pitchers stop throwing him strikes. That will be an area to watch as his reputation grows.

I took a lot of good out of Jason Giambi's performance in this series. A lot of people have given up on Giambi, but I think it is too early for that. In this series, Giambi was not swinging through pitches, and only struck out swinging once. In addition, I thought he did a good job of making contact in most of his plate appearances, which has been his primary problem this season. In today's game in particular, he had an impressive AB where he was able to pull a 90 mph fastball from Ricardo Rincon(a lefty) into the right-field corner for what turned out to be the winning run. We'll see if the media gives him any credit for this after absolutely ripping him all season. I don't know if he will recover to be productive, but if it does come to pass, I'll remember this series as the starting point. I hope for patience from the Yankees, because a productive Giambi makes this likely the best offense in baseball. As it stands now, they lead baseball in runs scored at 217, and they're not even playing as well as I think they are capable of.

The starting pitching came back down to earth a bit in this series after a strong start by Mike Mussina on Friday. Kevin Brown and Randy Johnson were both shaky, but were helped by their offense to pick up wins. The bullpen was pretty good in all three games, particularly the two key guys in Flash Gordon and Mariano Rivera.

Seattle's on a bit of a roll after winning two of three against Boston, but I am hopeful the Yankees will take two out of three at the very least and get over .500. From there, let's just hope it's a case of adding more wins than losses for the rest of the season.

May 14, 2005

by Sean McNally

“I love winning man! It’s like, better than LOSING!” - Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh

After a horrific April and a bad start to May, the Yanks have strung together six straight wins (albeit against the non-cream of the AL West crop) and for the first time in five weeks are threatening the breakeven point.

What changed? Firey speeches? Bluster from the Boss? Well, no. For all the talk of lineup changes and shuffling the deck chairs on the H.M.S. Yankee, it’s been the pitching, stupid.

During the streak the Yankee starters have allowed just 13 earned runs and 17 total runs. Starters without Italian surnames have surrendered just 8 runs in their five starts, all of them earned. It includes the startling return of Good Moose™ and the apparent return of Kevin Brown to the living.

As the calendar turned from April to May, questions abounded as to whether Moose, like most the Yankee pitchers, was done. His velocity seemed down, his location was crappy and outfielders were asking Jorge Posada to borrow some padding to keep from getting hurt.

Hitters tattooed Bad Moose™ to the tune of a .361 average, that’s 43 hits in just 29 innings of work. Mussina also walked 10 guys and struck out just 18 – both well out of his historical norm. His April ERA was 4.97 and he was only giving the team a little more than five innings per outing.

Then starting with May 2 start against Tampa, Moose started putting it together. A 6-2 win, Mussina allowed just five hits over seven innings and gave up just a two-run homer to known steroid user Alex Sanchez.

Then things got really good. In two starts versus Oakland, here’s Good Moose™’s line.

16 IP 10 H 12/3 K/BB 2 ER 1.13 ERA .179 BAA

That’s what $19 million a year ought to buy you.

Overall, Moose lowered his season ERA by more than a run (1.04) to 3.46.

Kevin Brown has a less impressive streak of good starts – with one.

Over seven innings, Brown allowed just five hits and one walk in contributing to the Yanks second consecutive shutout. If he can build on that success, or at least improve on his horrid start to be just league average, Angriest Yankee could well be an asset.

Tiger Wang got his first win during the streak too and has proved that so far, he’s all the production of Jaret Wright with none of the big price tag.

Now, even with the streak, all is not well in Yankee land.

Tony Womack is barely an adequate second baseman, which makes him a horrific corner outfielder. Ruben Sierra is set to come off the disabled list soon, creating a logjam of struggling senior citizens in the designated hitter slot with Bernie Williams and Jason Giambi.

Williams and Giambi present their own problems, as injury, age and mitigating circumstances have seemingly caught up with both.

Giambi presents his own issues – although two nice at-bats last night (a long fly-out in the fourth that would have been out of the Stadium and a hard single to right that Bobby Kielty butchered into a two-run, two-base error and screwing Jason out of RBI) may have went a long way to getting him back on track.

The YES broadcasters seem to indicate they have lost faith in Jason, and if Michael Kay no longer has faith in you, then it may well be all over but the crying. Kay losing faith in a Yankee is like Cronkite losing faith in the Vietnam War.

But all that is sideshow as the Yanks have given fans a weeklong glimpse of what $200 million can buy and why perhaps reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated.

May 11, 2005

by SG

The Yankees pulled out their fifth win in a row today, in a less than stellar game. Carl Pavano struggled with his location, and Alex Rodriguez made a costly error in the first inning on a possible double play ball, and the Yankees found themselves in an early 5-0 hole. This is not new for this team this year, as the starters have often put them in a hole. What was different was how they responded.

Jeter led off with a single, then Tony Womack hit a likely double play grounder to Bret Boone. Boone did some kind of wacked out underhand flip which the Mariners' shortstop Wilson Valdez couldn't handle. Down by 5, Joe Torre gambled with a double steal. I thought this was a fine risk, because it was the first inning and a double play would've killed a potential rally. You also would set yourself up to score 2 runs without another hit. It turned out to be meaningless when Sheffield walked, which brought up the slumping Hideki Matsui. He hit a bases-clearing opposite field double, and the Yankees were right back in the game without an out being recorded.

I won't do a full play by play, you can get that anywhere, but I was impressed by the way the Yankees fought back from a big early deficit. At the end of the first inning, the game was tied at 5 and it was like starting over.

Unfortunately, Pavano was not able to capitalize, and got knocked out after 4 innings, giving up a total of 9 runs. However, down 9-6, Tino Martinez came through for the fifth consecutive game, with a three run homerun. From there, the game was in hand for the Yankees, as Paul Quantrill, Tanyon Sturtze, and Flash Gordon pitched five scoreless innings, and Jeter, Sheffield and Posada added homeruns for the final 4 runs in a 13-9 victory.

So after five straight wins, the Yankees are now 16-19. With each win, they've improved their likelihood of playing meaningful games in September. The next 6 games will be a challenge, just because the West Coast trip is always a challenge, but I think the Yankees have a good chance of going at least 4-2, which would be perfectly acceptable to me.

The good signs that I see are that some of the Yankees that have been slumping badly appear to be heating up(namely Posada and Matsui). Tino will eventually cool off, but hopefully there will be someone there to pick up the slack.

I was also encouraged by the performance of the bullpen. With the injury to Felix Rodriguez, the Yankees are finally down to a manageable number of pitchers. It seems like Torre is getting more comfortable with the personnel at hand. Paul Quantrill is a good reliever to bring in to start an inning, he will always give up hits, but his ability to get grounders will help him get out of it. However, bringing him in with runners on base has often proven to be disastrous. Sturtze was very sharp, throwing in the low 90s and consistently getting ahead of the hitters. I also thought Flash Gordon looked really good, he got up to 97 on his fastball and threw a few nasty curves. Hitters have been sitting on his fastball, so I hope he will work his curveball in more.

The defense again failed to impress today. I have no idea what's going on with Alex Rodriguez at 3B this season. Last year he was one of the top defensive players at his position in baseball. This year, he's been bad. His problems aren't coming on throws, they seem to be coming on fielding grounders, and I would blame a lack of concentration at times. I think that can get better. Womack had a tough time in LF today, but I will cut him some slack because I think he's been pretty good out there and is still trying to get comfortable.

There's still a long way to go in the standings, but plenty of games to get there. At least the games are fun to watch again.

May 10, 2005

What a Difference 4 days makes
by SG

15-19 sure feels a lot better than 11-19. The Yankees still have a long way to go, but at least they're showing some signs of life. Yesterday's game by Tiger Wang marked 5 straight quality starts by the Yankee rotation.

The competition they were facing needs to be considered when looking at this string of starts. Neither Seattle or Oakland has a very good offense, but all you can do is beat the team in front of you on that day.

There were two key players in yesterday's Yankee win. In Tiger Wang, you have a glimpse at the Yankees' future. If Wang can continue to pitch effectively, the Yankees may have a rare homegrown starter they can count on for years to come. I don't think Wang will ever be a front of the rotation starter, but from what I've seen I don't think it's unreasonable that he will develop into a solid third starter in the majors. He continues to keep the ball down and get ground outs, which are good things. I'm not sure what will happen to Wang if/when Jaret Wright comes back, but I think he's acquitted himself quite well for this season as well as the future.

Of course, you also had a glimpse of the Yankees' past in Tino Martinez. I was not particularly enthused about the Tino Martinez signing at the time. I thought he was taking a job from Andy Phillips and was being overpaid for past success, but Tino has been a key cog in this latest stretch, homering in all 4 Yankee victories. I don't know that it will last all year, but I will gladly admit to being wrong about Tino, and am happy he's getting one last chance to shine in Yankee pinstripes.

Mariano Rivera has looked better and better every time out. He's gaining his control and command, and I noticed him throwing a lot of 4 seam fastballs in tonight's game. That was the pitch that made him in 1996, if he can re-use it to change things up on his cutter, it can only help.

Of course, there are still the problems. The big buzz prior to and after the game was the Jason Giambi story. In this article in "The Ledger", Giambi's role on the team was discussed:

Jason Giambi could be headed to the minor leagues. With Giambi’s batting average down to .195, Yankees manager Joe Torre and general manager Brian Cashman met with Giambi on Tuesday night and asked him whether he would consider accepting a minor league assignment.

Cashman would not go into details on the meeting, which took place before New York played Seattle. The Yankees’ request was confirmed by a baseball official with knowledge of the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official said no decisions had been made, and Giambi said he would think about it.


If the Yankees send Giambi to the minors outright, they would save $37,470.73 in luxury tax for each day his $17,142,857 average salary isn’t included on the payroll of their 40-man roster, which is taxed at 40 percent over the 183-day regular season.

I'm not sure what will happen with Giambi. I like the idea of letting him go down to the minors and try to get his swing back in a lower-pressure environment. I also like the idea of saving all that money on the luxury tax. I don't know if Giambi will go along with it though, I guess we'll see how it plays out over the next few weeks.

Some players are still scuffling, notably the aforementioned Giambi, Hideki Matsui, and Tom Gordon. Derek Jeter has cooled off after a hot start, and Jorge Posada appears to be crawling out his slump but ever so slowly. The fact that they are winning despite this is potentially a good thing, in that it's very possible that this team is still not at its full ability.

One of the infamous West Coast Trips is coming up after a day game with Seattle tomorrow. Hopefully the Yankees take advantage of struggling Seattle and Oakland and can enter the Subway Series on a good note. With the Mets a much improved team this year, those games will be a challenge.

May 9, 2005

The best laid plans
by Larry Mahnken

If I can say that I've learned one thing over the past year, it's that the old saying, "The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry" is true. For myself, at least, plans have best served to alleviate distress about the future. If I have a plan, I won't worry about it so much. But rarely do those plans work out as I had hoped.

It's happening a bit like that for the Yankees this season, but the big difference is that the Yankees didn't do a particularly good job of planning. To be sure, they've gotten off to this dreadful start because almost everything has gone wrong, but that's largely a result of planning. The team they put together carried with it an enormous amount of risk, and it's hard for anyone to honestly say that they're surprised at anything that has gone wrong so far. It was all part of the assumed risk the team was taking when they put together this team, and so far they're paying for it.

Of course it's only May, and not very far into May at that. There's plenty of time for things to turn around, and this team has more than enough upside to make up for the terrible start. They can still make the playoffs, they can still win the division. Nothing is lost yet.

But when you look at your team and see Tony Womack in left field, the only good thing you can say about that is that at least Robinson Cano is getting a chance. Tony Womack may have played the outfield in the past, and his glove may be acceptable out there, but his bat is poor enough for a second baseman, where you're used to giving up offense. It's putrid for a left fielder, where you're supposed to have a big hitter. And the only reason he's out there is that the Yankees failed to forsee a painfully obvious fact: Bernie Williams can't play centerfield. What many had realized in 2002, and had become painfully obvious in 2003, didn't strike the Yankees as a problem until early 2005. Now they're left with a second baseman in left, and a weak-hitting DH on a team with too many weak-hitting DH's to begin with. This isn't a problem that should have surprised anyone.

I think the Yanks will get back into things, I'm frustrated as hell but not panicking. I'll be keeping an... ear on them (I can only follow on the radio now), and I'll be back to comment later, though I don't know when. My plans haven't quite gone the direction I expected, either. Once again, I'm off the radar screen, see ya around.

- Larry

May 8, 2005

Why the Yankee travails are good for YOU
by TVerik

Most of sportswriting deals with the performance of the team in question. That's fine, and much of it is very good.

But today I'm going to be very selfish and write about me, and about you - the fans. If people directly involved with the Yankees happen to read this, skip this entry; it's not for you.

I want my team to win every time they take the field. I want the Yankees to bludgeon the other team with great hitting and wonderful pitching.

That isn't realistic. It came close in 1998.

But more than not being realistic, it dulls my appreciation for the events on the field.

If you eat chocolate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, does it taste as good as the occasional chocolatey snack? Of course not.

Different Yankee fans are in different stages of denial about it, and we all as a group take guff from fans of other teams because we think we're special. We feel entitled to all of the great players around the league, and we expect to win every time out.

This has an element of truth to it, although I might quibble with the language. Good or great teams on the field most of the last decade have "spoiled" me, to an extent. I've come to the point where the regular season doesn't matter all that much; the only thing is winning the World Series.

That's fine. But focusing on a goal like that as a fan isn't good for me. I want my team to expect to win every day. I want my team to set a championship as a goal. But I want to be surprised when they win and happy when they play well. In 1998, when everything was going well, I admit to being bored with August matchups with the Devil Rays. If the Yankees beat them, it was expected. If the Rays won, it was the end of the world.

The expectations of the fan base for the 2005 Yankees was intense, and may have been unrealistic. We'll know more about the realism of that later.

But the team on the field got off to an undeniably rough start. Virtually every player has underperformed the fan expectations, and the record is putrid.

Given that (we can't change it, so accept it), an early-season matchup with a team that can't hit took on much added meaning to us, the fans. A series like this against a weak team two years ago might only be notable for the way in which the Yankees beat them. But this year, with the hole our team has dug for themselves, Mike Mussina's game the other day takes on significance not experienced often. Kevin Brown's effective start and the Yankee win on Sunday was a complete surprise, at least to me.

Being a Yankee fan has been very rewarding to me, and I'd imagine the same for most of the people reading this. I look at being a fan as a series of moments, which we must earn by living with the ebb and flow of every game.

An example that comes easily is Aaron Boone's 2003 blast to end the ALCS. It was a stunning moment, one that I won't soon forget. Making it all the more stunning was the fact that I completely didn't expect it to happen.

Perhaps the greatest moment of my fan-life was in 1996, when a Yankee team went down 0-2 at the Stadium to the World Champion Braves. I thought my team had had a great year and would have been happy to have the Series play out as it had been. But completely out of the blue (for me; I can't speak for other fans), the Yankees came back and won the Series, not dropping another game. I was ecstatic.

In the early seasons of this century, I've felt a certain burden, a certain expectation that my team would find a way to win each game. When it didn't happen, I was disappointed each time.

This is a very long way of saying that because of the last month, every game the Yankees play this year is meaningful. Every win has the element of the unexpected (again, to me). I believe that my team is going to win, but my certainty about that has been shaken.

And if/when my team overcomes all of the obstacles in front of it today and wins the World Series, I'll leap out of my chair in jubilation. Because while I hope for this outcome, the realist inside of me tells me that it won't happen. That voice has been pretty quiet since after the 1996 World Series.

May 5, 2005

Reality Check
by SG

At this point, it's pretty obvious that the Yankees are not as good as Yankee fans had hoped. We are well aware of the litany of questionable moves they made this past offseason. With very little in the way of tradeable players on the major or minor league level, I don't see the personnel on this team changing in any signifcant way. So the question of the day is, can this team recover?

I wondered if the Yankees have been unlucky so decided to look at Baseball Prospectus's adjusted standings.

Yankees 11 17 147 161 12.7 15.3 148 163 12.6 15.4 135 142 13.4 14.7 -1.7 -1.6 -2.4

W, L : Actual team wins and losses.

RS, RA: Actual team runs scored and runs allowed.

W1, L1 ("First-order wins"): Pythagenport expected wins and losses, based on
RS and RA.

EQR, EQRA: Equivalent runs scored and equivalent runs allowed (equivalent
runs, generated from the opponent's batting line)

W2, L2 ("Second-order wins"): Pythagenport wins and losses, based on EQR and

AEQR, AEQRA: EQR and EQRA, adjusted for strength of schedule: the
quality of their opponent's pitching and hitting. If AEQR is higher than EQR,
the team has faced better than average pitching; if AEQRA is higher than EQRA, the team has faced worse than average


W3, L3 ("Third-order wins"): Pythagenport wins and losses, based on AEQR and

D1, D2, D3: Deltas between actual wins and W1, W2, and W3. Positive numbers mean the team has won more games than expected from their statistics.

So, according to third order wins, the Yankees are closer to 13-15, which still stinks. This begs a follow up question, can the current Yankees improve?

At 11-17, the Yankees would need to go 79-55 to get to 90 wins, a 59% winning percentage going forward. This not unreasonable, although it'd be no guarantee of a playoff spot.

There are a ton of problems on the team, but which ones are likely to get better?

Despite some low scoring games, overall the offense has been ok. They are third in the league in EQA at .275, although they have not done a good job of consistently scoring. In theory, this should balance out over the course of the season. There is also room for improvement here.

Unlike many, I think it is too soon to give up on Jason Giambi. He hasn't hit particularly well, but his current VORP of 3.8 projects to a total of 22 over the course of the year which would be two wins over a replacement DH(hello Ruben Sierra). I don't know whether or not he will ever hit again, but the Yankees don't have any better options at this point so they need to keep running him out there in my opinion.

Jorge Posada is a player whom I'd expect to start hitting better. Granted, he is at a scary age for a catcher, but his lighter workload earlier in his career would seem to have been a positive. He's looked pretty bad at the plate so far, and it's certainly possible that he's not going to hit as well as he has in the past, but I can't imagine he'll continue to hit at this poor of a level all year.

After a scorching start followed by a bad slump, Hideki Matsui should improve. Right now he's not even hitting as well as he did in his rookie season. At this point it is unlikely he will match last year's performance but he should get better.

Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Gary Sheffield have all been good so far. I'd expect some regression from Jeter, there's no way that he can maintain a .453 OBP, but he shouldn't be a problem, and he may start hitting for more power. Rodriguez leads AL 3B in VORP with a 12.0, and I see no reason he can't continue to hit well all year.

Sheffield is old, but he sure doesn't look it. His bat speed appears to be fine, and he also leads the AL at his position in VORP, with a 13.9.

Tony Womack is what he is, a light hitting speedster. I don't expect him to hit much better, but I don't think he'll be much worse either. Tino Martinez shouldn't be a huge problem if he can hit for around an .800 OPS(currently .764).

We won't know about Robinson Cano for a while. His plate discipline will likely be a concern, but he has the potential to hit for a decent average and with some power. To expect much out of him at this stage would be risky though, as he will surely go through some growing pains.

The bench is not very good, even with Bernie Williams on it. I'm not sure if Bernie's elbow problem has affected his hitting, although it certainly seems to be the case. Andy Phillips will hopefully contribute with some right-handed pop off the bench and some spot starts, as long as Joe Torre stops making him bunt. Sierra's return could lead to him seeing some time in the OF spotting Womack, he won't get on base but can at least hit a bad pitch out every once in a while and he does have some propensity for clutch hits. Sanchez and Flaherty will not do much but I don't think they'll get that much playing time anyway.

Possibly the biggest problem on the team. The team's defensive efficiency is .6515, which means they convert hits on balls in play into outs at a rate of 65%. In other words, hitters are hitting .350 off Yankee pitchers on balls in play, by far the worst rate in baseball. The AL average is .6966. Looking at Baseball Prospectus's fielding runs above average for the team so far:

Tino -1
Giambi -2
Womack(2B) 4
Jeter 2
Rodriguez -4
Matsui(LF) 0
Bernie -2
Sheffield -2

According to these numbers, this combination of players has cost the Yankees 5 runs this year. That seems low to me. I always take fielding statistics with a grain of salt, and BPro's numbers have been sketchy in the past, but eyeballing this, Womack has been very good on defense at 2B so far, and Rodriguez has been horrid at 3B. I was slightly surprised to see Womack rate so high, not that he's been bad, just that I haven't noticed him being particularly outstanding. Womack did rate as an above average RF when he last played there, and he seems to have the speed to play LF. Rodriguez has been very disappointing in year two at 3B. I'm not sure why, he was quite good there last year. I guess I could see improvement by Tino and Rodriguez, and hope for continued good play from Jeter. I don't know how Cano will do at 2B, scouts are mixed on his defense but he seems like a good athlete with decent range, although he's been a bit shaky so far. Matsui in CF will likely be an improvement over Bernie. Sheffield is not a good outfielder, despite a strong arm so I don't expect much improvement from him.

Overall, I don't see much defensive improvement, but maybe the moving of some players around will help.

A large part of the defensive efficiency rating has to do with the pitching staff. Courtesy of The Hardball Times, the Yankees have a line drive % allowed of .192, which is high, but not as high as Boston or Oakland. Maybe hits are just falling in and this will even out. The starters and relievers are all culpable in this.

The Yankees' FIP(fielding independent pitching) ERA is 4.30, much better than their RA(runs allowed) of 5.91 and ERA of 5.18. This tells me defense has been a big part part of the problem.

Randy Johnson has been fine, assuming his groin issue doesn't linger, I don't expect any problems from him. Until Mike Mussina shows me more fastball, I will not be comfortable that he will be anything more than average. Pavano has been good for the most part, but will have his bad outings as a guy who doesn't miss bats. Kevin Brown is absolutely killing this team right now, and I really think he needs to go. His peripheral stats are actually not bad, but just watching him, he has been horrendous. Jaret Wright is gone and not exactly missed, and there are rumblings he may miss most of the season. We saw the successful debut of Tiger Wang, but as a young pitcher I expect inconsistency from him. Sean Henn was not good yesterday, and was clearly rushed in a spot start for Johnson, so I doubt he will contribute much this season.

The bullpen is a mess right now. Mo appears to have recovered his form, but until the team can use him it's meaningless. Flash Gordon is not good right now, but Torre keeps running him out there. When Sturtze comes back, I wouldn't be shocked to see him take Gordon's innings, but with Sturze unavailable right now, Gordon is still the 8th inning guy. Buddy Groom has been impressive in his Yankee stint, and may supplant Mike Stanton as the lone Yankee lefty if they decide to streamline the bullpen some more. Steve Karsay is gone, likely for nothing. Paul Quantrill will likely pitch in a mopup role for the rest of the year, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him gone soon. The same with Felix Rodriguez, who has been horrendous so far despite a mid-90s fastball. I don't see much room for improvement here. If Sturtze comes back strong, then I am confident that he and Mo will be fine at the top, but I have no faith in any of the other people here improving or pitching better.

Management,Coaching and the front office
Joe Torre is beginning to show the flaws in his managerial style that were masked by tremendous roster depth and talent that were put in place by the front office from 1996-2004. His bullpen management in particular has been atrocious so far this season. He doesn't trust most of his relievers, he's been leaving his starters in for far too long at times, and I feel that some of the pitchers in the pen are suffering from a lack of use. His postgame interviews are indicative of a man who has no idea what to do. Torre is a fine manager when he doesn't have to think and can execute a particular plan. It worked in 1996 when he asked his starters to pitch six innings, then Rivera for two and Wetteland for one. It worked from 1997-2000 when he could do the same when Jeff Nelson and Mike Stanton could set up Rivera. It worked in 2001 when he had Stanton and Mendoza to get to Rivera, and in 2002 when he had Karsay and Stanton to get to Rivera. He didn't have much to get to Mariano in 2003, but his starters made it easier by pitching longer. In 2004 it was Gordon=8th, Rivera=9th.

Now, he needs to be more flexible and he doesn't appear to have that ability. If a team is sending up a bunch of lefties in the 8th, maybe he shouldn't automatically go to Gordon. Instead, he is trying to force what worked into the past into the situation, rather than adapting. I don't see this getting any better.

Luis Sojo has been a terrible 3B coach, with several bad sends of runners that have resulted in momentum-changing outs at the plate. It's tough to get a read on Don Mattingly as a hitting coach. I don't think you can blame him for the struggles of a lot of people, although I wish he'd work with Giambi on hitting to the opposite field. Mel Stottlemyre's flaws as a pitching coach are often mentioned, although rarely quantified, but it's a rare pitcher that has improved under his tutelage, and many have regressed.

The front office put this team in place with a plan, but it was a lousy plan. They expected players who had career years to repeat them, and they expected the ravages of age and injury to stay away. They did not fill their biggest hole on defense with a marquee player who was just entering his prime. Will they be held accountable for this? Not likely.

Can this team still make the playoffs? Sure. Will they? I am pretty sure they will not at this point. If they are not around .500 by the end of May, I think they need to face the reality of the situation. I'm not sure what roster moves they can make, and they don't really have the youth to start a youth movement, but I just hope they don't do what they've foolishly done in the past and trade their few prospects for veterans with large contracts. If you couldn't sign Beltran in the offseason, why would you add salary now and give up prospects to do it?

How would this team look if they still had Ted Lilly, Yhency Brazhoban, Wily Mo Pena, D'Angelo Jimenez, Juan Rivera, or Marcus Thames, among others? Probably a hell of a lot better.

May 4, 2005

Minor League Notes: 5/3/05
by Fabian

Note: Park Factors are courtesy of Baseball Prospectus 2005 and “they are actually adjustments for teams, based on their own mix of home and road parks…relative to the league”. Numbers in parentheses are hitters’ totals in the respective category at this point of the season and counted across levels. A pitcher’s line consists of IP-H-R-ER-BB-SO-HR.

AAA Columbus (International League):
Park Factor:

The only prospect of note left on this team is Ramon Ramirez and he didn’t pitch yesterday, sooooooo…

AA Trenton (Eastern League):
Park Factor: .986

Trenton was being no-hit for a good portion of yesterday’s contest, so it should come as no surprise that their hitters did not have flattering final lines. Eric Duncan was 0 for 3 with a walk (12) and has slumped somewhat since my last set of Minor League Notes as his average has dropped to .216. As usual, his slump has not been as horrid as possible due to his increased walking when not hitting. Melky Cabrera, who was hitting much better of late, went 1 for 4 with a single to drop his average out of the .280s and down to .276. Finally, Bronson Sardinha continues to struggle and is now back on the interstate with a .196 average following an 0 for 4 with 2 strikeout (27) performance. In addition, his defense has been it’s usual state of bad.

A+ Tampa (Florida State League):
Park Factor: .979

Hector Made went 1 for 4 for the Tampa Yankees yesterday as he continues to not do much outside of producing the occasional single. Fortunately for him, he seems to have found a knack for doing so when men are on base and is probably developing a “clutch” reputation, which should help him a little bit when the time comes to consider whether or not he’s worth keeping at the A+ level.

Erold Andrus and Rudy Guillen both maintained their recent hot hitting, though Andrus did so more convincingly. Erold was 2 for 4 with 2 singles to get his average up to .295 and just like that his BA/OBP/SLG split of .295/.368/.453 looks very credible for a 20-year-old in his first taste of the FSL. Meanwhile, Guillen was 1 for 4 with a single to bring his average to .255.

Abel Gomez would have picked up the win in yesterday’s contest had the Tampa bullpen not imploded. Instead he had to settle for a no decision with a final line of 5.2-5-2-2-3-5-0. Gomez is still not in a groove as far as missing bats, but has nevertheless found success due to not giving up many hard hit balls. It was unfortunate to see him apparently run out of gas once again towards the end of his outing as he gave up 3 singles while picking up 2 outs in the 6th before being taken out of the game.

Before anyone says anything, yes John Urick is playing terrifically, but I’m going to wait a little longer before I say anything about him because he is an older guy.

A- Charleston (South Atlantic League):
Park Factor:

Tim Battle, like many of the Charleston players, had a frustrating game, as the team would end up losing in extra innings. Battle was 0 for 6 with 2 strikeouts (39) as his average dropped all the way to .222. Next up was Marcos Vechionacci who was 1 for 4 with a walk (9), but also made his 7th error of the season on a critical interference call during extra innings. Vechionacci has been slow getting started both at bat and in the field since returning from his injury over the weekend. Estee Harris was 1 for 4 with a walk (7) while also stealing a base (7). I found it strange that Estee was not running on the rare occasions that he did get on base earlier this season given his talents and the team’s coaching staff, but he has really picked up the stolen base pace over the past week or so of action. Irwil Rojas was 2 for 3 with a walk (7) and did not allow any passed balls, which is a nice step in the right direction. The 2 hit night helped ease the slide Rojas had been on since Nacci’s injury. Lastly, Jon Poterson was 1 for 5 with 3 strikeouts (25). Poterson has more than 3 times as many strikeouts than XBHs and BBs combined. If you go with H and BB, he still has 166% more Ks. This is just another way of saying that Jon Poterson is not very good right now.

Brett Smith started the game and continued his somewhat recent trend of not being awesome good, but rather very solid. The RHP finished with a final line of 8-6-3-3-1-3-0 and while his peripherals are doing a good job of talking for him, unless his ERA is lowered from its current 3.48 he likely won’t be moving as fast as possible through the system.

May 3, 2005

Youth Movement
by Fabian

I haven’t done Minor League Notes in a little while and I while I had planned to catch up on that last night, I didn’t do so due to the moves made by the Yankee front office. In what is looking like a very sudden youth movement, over the past few days, Chien-Ming Wang has successfully pitched his first ML start, Robinson Cano has been given The Call, and Sean Henn is on his way.

Wang’s start was exciting for me to watch and I felt he did very well for himself. Though I am somewhat of a stickler for strikeouts when it comes to banking on a pitcher’s success, I’ll let the fact that Wang had none in his first ML start pass as hitters were hacking too early in the count for him to get those strikeouts. My hope/expectation is that Wang will be about a league average starter during his stint, allowing the Yankee front office to see how dumb/unnecessary it was to pick up Wright this past offseason as well as set Wang up for an ’06 rotation slot.

Cano’s promotion came out of nowhere for me and I’m left with a few questions. The first reason I did not expect Cano’s promotion was that Womack has had a pretty BA thus far and usually that’s enough to keep your job, but I didn’t take into account whether or not the front office would own up to the Bernie Williams mistake and seek a drastic measure to rectify that situation. With Womack moving to the OF in an attempt to do so, the question now becomes how ready is Robinson Cano. While I’m glad to see Cano in the majors, I question the intelligence in making such a move when Cano is coming down from a hot streak, albeit his cooling down has still been hot by average hitter standards. In addition Cano will have to develop his selectivity on the fly, as ML pitchers won’t be giving him as many hitter’s pitches. All said, I think Cano has a more than decent shot at being a league average player, which coupled with Womack going to LF and Matsui to CF and Bernie to part time DH makes this team slightly better I feel.

I’m very weary about Henn’s promotion, as I wasn’t yet completely sold on his hot start in the minors. I think he’ll get knocked around, but it’ll still be nice to see him for at least one start.

May 2, 2005

New Blood Is Headed to the Aging Yankees
by SG

The win over Tampa was nice, but what caught my eye towards the end of the game was the article linked above that was in the NY Times.

The Yankees plan to promote infielder Robinson Cano from Class AAA Columbus and use him at second base, with Tony Womack shifting to left field and Hideki Matsui to center.

I'm not sure that I like the idea of Tony Womack getting AB at the expense of what will likely be Bernie Williams and Jason Giambi, but I like this move. I'm curious to see what Cano can do in the majors, and also curious to see what Matsui can do in CF. If he can play a creditable CF in the majors, he becomes immensely more valuable, and the Yankees have the easier task of importing a LF next year instead of a CF (assuming they re-sign Matsui).

The other good news in the article was this:

They are carrying 12 pitchers and expect to activate reliever Tanyon Sturtze from the disabled list Thursday. Cashman said the Yankees would not have 13 pitchers; in fact, he said, "I want to be at 11."

However they trim some of the fat from the pitching staff, it can only be a good thing. The trick will be to fill the newly created roster spot with a player that can complement their current core. If it keeps Andy Phillips in the bigs, then it's a good move (5 Ks tonight notwithstanding).

If nothing else, the team just got a lot more interesting to watch over the next few weeks. Ideally, Cano kicks some butt and keeps himself on the team. If Womack plays subpar, I'd imagine they'll get an other OF somehow.

Update: Supposedly, Steve Karsay has been designated for assignment but I can't find a link.

Update #2: Randy Johnson tweaked his groin and will miss his start Wednesday. In his place will be Sean Henn.