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July 31, 2005

July, a good month
by SG

The Yankees came back strong from a Friday night loss to the Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles to win the next two games of the series. Particularly satisfying was the way they took advantage of a fatigued Angels bullpento rally late in both games, which was the mark of last year's team.

The Yankees have continued to shuffle their bullpen around to try and find two lefties that Joe Torre can use. Here are the recent participants in LOOGY roulette.

Alex Graman (age: 27)
In Columbus
G: 23
GS: 16
IP: 96.1
H: 95
HR: 12
BB: 36
SO: 96
ERA: 3.18

Wayne Franklin (age: 31)
In Columbus
G: 41
GS: 0
IP: 35.2
H: 30
HR: 3
BB: 11
SO: 41
ERA: 3.79

Alan Embree (age: 35)
This season:
G: 44
GS: 0
IP: 37.2
H: 43
HR: 8
BB: 11
SO: 30
ERA: 7.88
2005 Vs. Lefties (.314/.342/.557)
2002-2004 Vs. Lefties (.221/.247/.361)

Wedsel Groom (age: 41)
This season:
G: 24
GS: 0
IP: 25.2
H: 32
HR: 3
BB: 7
SO: 13
ERA: 4.91
2005 vs. Lefties (.265/.294/.449)
2002-2004 Vs. Lefties (.261/.304/.406)

Out of the carnage this weekend have emerged Embree and Franklin, with Groom and Graman designed for assignment. Groom blasted Torre on his way out, saying:

"I wouldn't encourage anybody that's thinking about coming here. Don't come here thinking you're going to get any opportunities. Because unless you're one of Joe's boys, you're not. ... It was the same way last year in Baltimore with (Lee) Mazzilli, because this is where he learned it."

Maybe Groom should join this blog, because we've been saying the same thing for 2 years.

Groom hasn't been great, and some of his comments are probably just the typical denials of an athlete who can't face the fact that the end is here, but there is definitely some merit to his comments. A case in point would be the management of Saturday's game. Shawn Chacon pitched well, and was pulled after six innings for Felix Rodriguez. Rodriguez walked Jeff DaVanon on a full count. If this was Tom Gordon, he'd have stayed in, but since Rodriguez is not one of "Joe's boys", he was immediately pulled for Embree, Torre's new toy. Embree used to be one of the top lefty relievers in baseball, with a 95-97 mph fastball. With some injuries and perhaps other factors, he's lost about 5 mph on that fastball, and not adjusted. His HR rate is horrendous. He didn't pitch particularly poorly from what I can tell in the box score, although I didn't see the game, but I really think that spot would have been a good one to see what Rodriguez could do. Adam Kennedy is not Barry Bonds, there was no need to go to a lefty there.

All that being said, the difference between Groom and Embree is not particularly huge, and not worth getting that upset over. Groom has been traded to Arizona for either a PTBNL or cash considerations. I doubt it will be anyone of consequence if it is a player.

The larger issue that I had was the designating for assignment of Alex Graman for Wayne Franklin (I realize that technically it was for Chacon, but they could have DFA'd Franklin instead).

The Yankee starting pitching is in shambles right now. It can't really be called a rotation, because there's nothing circular about it. They've already used 13 different starters this year. Despite this fact, the entire Yankee bullpen is comprised of short relievers, who are not good bets to pitch more than an inning or two. Graman was a converted starter, who had put up very good numbers in Columbus as both a starter and reliever. He has been bad in his brief major league time, but he hasn't had enough of a chance to show anything, and he's not been used in a manner conducive to success. In his first outing, he was brought in with runners on 2nd and 3rd and one out. He had not pitched in 5 days. He didn't pitch well, but it was a tough spot to come into. In his second game he gave up a leadoff HR to Justin Morneau followed by a walk to Michael Cuddyer, then settled down and retired the next three hitters.

And that was it. Those were the only chances that Graman got to make the team.
Meanwhile, Wayne Franklin allowed 2 hits and 2 runs in his first outing. In his second outing, he pitched 1.1 scoreless innings. In his third appearance, he allowed 2 hits and a 1 BB, and 1 run in retiring one hitter. In his 4th game he allowed another 3 runs. In his 5th game, he provided what was in my mind the most painful loss of the season, the one I am still seething over two weeks later, as he allowed Hank Blalock's game winning 2 run HR.

Can anyone provide any rational explanation as to why Franklin was a better choice than Graman for the second lefty spot? I guess it's his major league experience, the experience that includes a career ERA of 5.53 and an ERA this season of 9.64.

Despite these shenanigans which I find irritating, the news is overwhelmingly positive, both in the short-term and the long term. July has seen the Yankees face their strongest competition of the season, with only Detroit below .500 at the time they played the Yankees. The Yankees went 17-9 in this month, and outscored their opponents 161- 130. They averaged 6.2 runs per game, allowing 5 runs per game. The 6.2 runs per game is good, the 5 runs allowed not so much.

Fueling the offense this month has been the much-maligned, much criticized, much-eulogized Jason Giambi. Giambi had a monstrous month. In 103 plate appearances, he had 27 hits, 14 of them HRs. He walked 21 times, and struck out only 20 times. He drove in 24 runs and scored 20. He hit .355/.524/.974 for the month, for an OPS of 1.498. This month has pushed Giambi into a tie for the league lead in OPS(with teammate Alex Rodriguez), at .998. I see no conceivable way that he doesn't win player of the month. And again, I told you that the upside for Giambi was too great to not give him a chance to shake off his rust. Thankfully, Joe Torre and the Yankees showed more patience in this instance than many Yankee fans.

The best part of July was that the Yankees knocked off 26 games from the schedule that will hopefully get them closer to getting some of their starting pitching healthy and are still only 2 games back of first in the loss column. The addition of Shawn Chacon paid immediate dividends, and Aaron Small and Al Leiter have both been reasonably good. There should be a Chien-Ming Wang update tomorrow. Let's root for Hideo Nomo to lead Columbus to the playoffs and never wear Yankee pinstripes.

The good long-term news is that the Yankees did not panic and make any significant deadline deals giving up any of their promising young players. The Yankee farm system has received a lot of flack, but it's starting to show some promise with people like Eric Duncan, Phil Hughes, Tyler Clippard, and Melky Cabrera starting to get some respect. Not to mention the contributions of Robinson Cano and Wang. Kudos to Brian Cashman and Stick Michael for resisting the urge to overpay for a stopgap that would have made minimal difference to this team's chances of winning and likely hurt future Yankee teams.

There's an off day tomorrow, then the Yankees head on a 6 game road trip to Cleveland and then Toronto, followed by a seven game set at home (3 against the White Sox and 4 against Texas). After that, the Yankee schedule gets much easier, as they face Tampa, Kansas City, and Seattle in 16 of the next 29 games. The Yankees have had their problems with Tampa and KC this year, but now that they're playing better that should be to their advantage.

July 29, 2005

by Larry Mahnken

The Yankees are only 1½ games out of first place (one in the loss column), but I'm not feeling very confident in their chances right now. Their rotation, the Thin Gray Line, is very precariously balanced on the edge of doom. They're not entirely dependent on Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina -- yet -- but they're close.

Al Leiter has, in terms of runs allowed, had two excellent starts and one awful start, but his last start wasn't as good as it looked and the start before that wasn't as bad. He's walked over 5 men per 9 innings in pinstripes, but not having given up a home run yet has kept that from killing the team. They could have won all three games he started, which is all they need -- but they've only won one game.

Aaron Small has been following the Chien-Ming Wang plan for success, getting hit-lucky. It's not likely to keep up, but the Yankees need to take it while they can get it, and they've won both of his starts.

Now they've added Shawn Chacon from the Rockies, which naturally makes it look like they've added an awful pitcher. Well, maybe they have, but the stats coing out of Colorado are always decieving, even the road stats.

His overall stats say he's got a 4.95 career ERA as a starter, 4.62 on the road. His career DIPS ERA as a starter is 4.89 (4.96 overall).

Over his career he's averaged 5.2 innings a start, which would be a little more than three runs a game, and taking it into the sixth inning. If the Yankees got that, they'd be in business.

Before I'd heard the Yankees had accquired Chacon, I had two hopes: first, that they'd somehow accquire Eric Byrnes in the deal. He's nothing special, but he's better than Bernie with the glove and adds a good bat to the lineup. Maybe they'll still accquire him, but I figured it would be cheaper to get him packaged with Chacon. Perhaps desperation for a starter on Saturday meant the Yankees were going to take what they could get and not push for more.

Oh well. The other hope I had was that, instead of trying to bring in someone to start Saturday, they'd try to get Pavano back for Sunday, and pitch Randy Johnson on three days' rest Saturday. He's done it before, he did well, he didn't overly exert himself on Tuesday.

But maybe Pavano's not ready, or they don't want to risk it. Well, that's their choice, and it is just one start, and maybe they'll win it anyway. Considering how Pavano has pitched at Yankee Stadium this year, they might have just as good a chance to win with Chacon as they would with Pavano.

But they do need Pavano to come back and be good. If they can make it to the postseason with what they've got, if Mike Mussina and Randy Johnson keep pitching like they have recently, they're still likely to need one more starter in the playoffs who can keep them in games. Pavano is the best candidate to be that starter, but he's hardly showing it so far this season.

The Angels stopped a great road trip dead in its tracks last weekend, winning the first three games of the series to force the Yanks to win Sunday just to finish above .500 on the trip. The Yankees need to exact some measure of revenge this weekend, they need to win tonight with Moose and Sunday with Unit, at the very least. They could win this series, they could sweep this series. But they could just as easily get swept, and head to Cleveland next week 4½ games back, and very nearly dead.

July 28, 2005

A Yankee Book Review
by SG

The Yankees blew a chance to steal a win last night, as a shaky Al Leiter somehow held the Twins to one run over five innings where he allowed 13 baserunners and threw 115 pitches. Johan Santana was not particularly sharp, but managed to hold the Yankees scoreless over seven innings. The Yankee bullpen blew any chance at a comeback by allowing 6 runs over 4 innings. It was just one of those games where the team never really had a chance to win. With a day game scheduled to start at 1:05, the Yankees will hope to do better against Joe Mays. They'll have to, because odds are that Aaron Small will give up a few runs.

Changing topics,

A Yankee book review

As baseball fans in general, and Yankee fans in particular, many of us grew up dreaming of playing in the majors. Unfortunately, without the physical talent to do so, we were stuck watching the game, either from the stands or on television. However, there are some who were lucky enough to be more involved with the Yankees, despite not playing for them.

Matthew McGough is one of these people. Matthew grew up watching the Yankees of the early 80s, and had a poster of Don Mattingly on his wall. He took the initiative to write a letter to most of the Yankees front office to apply for a position as a bat boy. To his surprise, he was hired for the 1992 season.

Matthew details his stories from two years in the clubhouse and dugout of the 1992 and 1993 Yankees in his book, Bat Boy: My True Life Adventures Coming of Age with the New York Yankees from Random House. From his first day, where he got to meet his idol Mattingly who sent him running around on a wild goose chase, to his last day where he watched the Yankees edge Detroit 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning, Matthew shares shares his stories.

I enjoyed this book very much, as it provided some insight into players as people, not just statistics or what we see on the field. It was great to see that Mattingly's reputation as a great guy was based in fact. Matthew also got to see the arrival of people like Bernie Williams, and was there the day 18 year old draft pick Derek Jeter came to Yankee Stadium for the first time and was too shy to hang out with the players, instead hanging out with the bat boys in the clubhouse.

The author also shares details of his life outside of baseball, but the bulk of this book has to do with the stories of his life in the dugout and clubhouse, including his story of Old Timers' day.

I would recommend this book to any Yankee fan who remembers the 1992-1993 Yankees and wants to read a little bit about the players outside their stat lines. Matthew has graciously volunteered to do a question and answer session with any of our readers, so if you have questions about players or general baseball stuff feel free to post them or email them to me, and I will forward them on to Matthew. He has also offered to give away a signed copy of his book to one of our readers.

You can purchase Bat Boy from this link and also read an excerpt of his book here.

July 26, 2005

That was what we paid for
by SG

Randy Johnson's disappointing tenure in pinstripes has been well-chronicled, both here and in other, more prestigious places. Coming off a season where he struck out 290 batters and pitched to a 2.60 ERA, Yankee fans were looking forward to having a true ace to front the pitching staff.

Unfortunately for us, and fortunately for the rest of the league, Johnson has been inconsistent all year. He's had flashes of brilliance, and flashes of Run Fairyness. He entered tonight's game with a 4.18 ERA, having allowed more hits than innings pitched and 3 more HR in 100 fewer innings than last year.

Tonight, the Johnson the Yankees traded for showed up. After grazing Shannon Stewart to start the game, Johnson retired 16 straight hitters, and flirted with a no-hitter, before allowing a sharp single to Juan Castro. Johnson did not have particularly great stuff tonight, topping out around 90 mph with his fastball, and throwing his slider in the 81-82 mph range for the most part. However, he took advantage of very good command and an aggressive Twins team and pitched a gem for 8 innings, allowing no runs, only 2 hits, and fanning 11. He did a masterful job of pitching high and low and keeping the Twins' hitters off balance. Torre pulled him after 97 pitches. Although I'd have liked to see him go for a shutout, with his back issue in his last start I didn't mind him being pulled. Flash Gordon probably didn't need to come in, but he looked pretty sharp, so I guess his tendinitis issues are past him. Still, it was pointless to use him in that spot, and the type of thing that Joe Torre gets a free pass on far too often. You pitch Wayne Franklin with a 1-0 lead in the 8th inning, then use your second best reliever with a 4-0 lead in the 9th? WTF is that?

I took encouragement from the fact that Johnson was able to pitch well despite not having overpowering stuff tonight. If Johnson is able to make adjustments like he did tonight when he isn't throwing 97 mph, then he can anchor this staff down the stretch. He was never in trouble, and the Yankees were able to scratch out four runs and win the game rather handily. The Yankees need a dominant Johnson, not just for the wins he can provide, but to rest a bullpen that is top heavy and in danger of being overworked at any time.

There's been some speculation on this very blog about trading Eric Duncan for a bullpen arm like Eddie Guardado, which would be foolish and short-sighted. With two months left in the season, you're going to get at most 30 innings out of the reliever, and with Sturtze, Gordon, and Mariano, they're going to be fairly low leverage innings. Duncan for a middle reliever could end up being a Jeff Bagwell for Larry Andersen trade. Really, I kind of hope the team just stands pat, and either makes or misses it on the strength of what they have on hand.

The rotation is still hurting, with the news that Kevin Brown will miss his next start, and Carl Pavano's rehab being pushed back. Aaron Small should get Brown's start, and right now it is looking like Tanyon Sturtze 2.0 will get the start on Saturday, although that could change. Just keep Tim Redding and Darrell May off the mound, please.

This homestand will be a big chance for the Yankees to dictate their season. A good series against the Twins, who will likely be one of their biggest competitors for the wild card if they are unable to win the division, will pay big dividends down the stretch.

This is a Yankee blog, but we all tend to keep an eye on the Red Sox. Matt Clement got hit by a line drive off Carl Crawford tonight, and had to be taken off the field on a stretcher. Initial reports are encouraging, and I hope for a speedy recovery for Clement. I want nothing more than for the Yankees to beat the Red Sox for the AL East crown, but I wouldn't want something like this to be part of the reason. Carl Pavano recovered ok from getting hit against Baltimore, I wish the same for Clement.

July 24, 2005

Road Trip Blues
by SG

Coming out of the All Star Break was a road trip that had the potential to make or break the Yankees' season. 11 games against teams that had a combined record of 148-116. The Yankees entered the road trip with a record of 4746-40(thanks to typo police), 1.5 games out of first place in the AL East and 1 game out of the wild card.

With today's 4-1 victory over Anaheim of Los Angeles, they exit with a record of 52-45, 1.5 games out of first place in the AL East and .5 games out of the wild card.

Entering the road trip, a 6-5 record would have been seen as a positive. However, with some better managing and breaks it could have been an 8-3 trip. The trip was not a bad one, despite losing 3 of 4 in Anaheim. I think most of us would have traded winning 3 of 4 with Boston for losing 3 of 4 to the Angels. Unfortunately, the Yankees did not make up any ground, but at least they didn't lose any. Anaheim is a tough team, with a bullpen that Joe Torre probably dreams of.

There were a lot of good signs in the road trip.

Mike Mussina pitched two very solid games after a rough start in Fenway. Moose is going to have to come up big for this team down the stretch, and right now it looks like he will be able to do it.

Jason Giambi carried his hot bat onto the road. On the season, he has a pretty significant home road split, with a 1.049 OPS at home vs. an .895 OPS on the road, and that includes a road trip where he hit .333/.500/.970 for an OPS of 1.470. His season OPS is now .971. David Ortiz's is only .949. Feel free to share this fact with any Red Sox fans you may encounter.

I thought Felix Rodriguez threw the ball pretty well. He probably should have started the 7th inning instead of Scott Proctor and then Buddy Groom in the Friday night loss at Anaheim, but maybe Torre learned something there. Rodriguez can be a big part of resting the trio of Sturtze, Rivera, and Gordon. Particularly Gordon, who just seems to be pitching on fumes lately.

Bubba Crosby is not much of a hitter and likely never will be, but he seemed to play decent defense and I think he has more potential than Tony Womack to contribute something, as his minor league numbers show some ability to walk every once in a while.

The schedule doesn't get any easier over the next 20 games, as the Yankees will be playing mostly contenders. Fortunately they are slowly but surely getting some health back in the pitching staff, with the return of Felix Rodriguez, who has pitched two scoreless innings, and the pending return of Carl Pavano and possibly Jaret Wright. Unfortunately, Kevin Brown did not remain injured, but that's another story.

July 21, 2005

Small Sample
by Larry Mahnken

Tuesday, the Yankees gave the game away. They should have won it easily, but they did a horrible job against Chan Ho Park and came away with only one run. Still, they should have won, because Mike Mussina had held the Rangers scoreless and they went into the bottom of the eighth leading 1-0.

But with Tanyon Sturtze and Mariano Rivera out of action for the evening due to overwork, Tom Gordon was the only ace left in the Yankees' pen, and they were saving him for the ninth. Proven lefty mediocrity Wayne Franklin was brought in to try and put in the last plank of the bridge to the ninth, and after two straight singles got a double play to put the Yankees one out away from Gordon, but the Rangers ninety feet away from tying.

And then Franklin gave up a 2-run homer to lefty-hitting Hank Blalock, and the Yankees lost.

It sounds like a second-guess, but I really felt at the time that the Yankees should have brought Gordon in for four outs. Yeah, the Yankees are wearing those three pitchers out again, but that's something that will hurt them later. Right now, they're not in a position to throw away games (last year, with a large lead in July, they were). They need to snatch up every win they can, and Tuesday was a win they should have had, both before the game started and in the late innings.

The only way to make up for a loss like that is to steal a game you have no reasonable expectation of winning.

Mission accomplished.

Aaron Small is a 33-year old journeyman who started 3 games in the major leagues before last night, all in 1996 in Oakland. Pitching most of his career out of the bullpen, he's posted a 5.52 ERA, and in almost 1600 minor league innings he's posted an ERA of 4.37.

The Rangers were starting Joaquin Benoit, a reliever, but one with a 0.69 ERA. With a 5.29 career ERA, maybe they could get some runs off of him, but how many of those would Small give back?

Not enough, as it turned out. Last night Small did what the Yankees had hoped Darrell May and Tim Redding would have done for them, pitching into the sixth and giving up only 3 runs. 3 runs is always enough to come back from, and if Small does that every time out he'll have an ERA over 5.00, but the Yankees will probably win a good share of those games.

As it turns out, the Yankees didn't need to come back at all. After the first four batters were made to look foolish by Benoit, Jason Giambi and Jorge Posada homered back-to-back to make the score 2-0. Tino Martinez homered to make it 3-1, Robinson Cano hit a 3-run homer to make it 6-1, and Giambi and Martinez homered one more time each to make the final score 8-4.

With one last stop left on this "killer" road trip, the Yankees are 5-2, though they're neither out of the woods for this trip, nor does the killer aspect stop Sunday. But the Yanks are more than holding their own against some excellent teams lately.

Fun with Multiple Endpoints:

Jason Giambi since the 10th inning against Pittsburgh on June 15th:

29/77 (.377 Avg.), .534 OBP, 9 HR (58 HR/per 500 ABs), .805 SLG, .442 GPA

July 20, 2005

Aaron who?
by SG

Tonight, the Yankees turned to their 12th different starting pitcher of the season. Aaron Small, who's been in nine different organizations and made a total of three starts in the majors, none since 1996. To put that in perspective, Mariano Rivera was still apprenticing under John Wetteland the last time Aaron Small started a game in the majors.

Proving that I am wrong as often as I am right(or more), Small pitched a solid game against Texas tonight, going 5.2 innings and allowing 3 runs. I didn't see anything remarkable that makes me think he'll be anything but a stopgap, but he did a fine job tonight and let the bats take the game over.

The Yankee offense came back from their one day vacation to pound Joaquin Benoit and the Rangers 8-4, behind 6 HRs. Tino Martinez and Jason Giambi both homered twice. Giambi's game pushed him past a statistically important milestone in the sabermetric community, the .500 SLG average. He now stands at .502, from a low of .318 in May. He is also just 2 plate appearances away from qualifying for the batting title, at which point his name will be tops in the AL in OBP.

Lost in all the hitting of the quartet of Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, and Giambi, has been the consistent play of Robinson Cano. Cano got very little respect by most prospect pundits this year. Reports described him as having a ceiling of .280/.320/.400, and that he would have to be moved to 1B because of his "horrible footwork." I must be watching a different player. Cano is now hitting .307 and slugging .480. Yeah, he's not walking much, but if that's your only flaw at age 22, you've got a ton of potential.

How good is the Yankee offense right now? They lead baseball in runs scored at 519, and are hitting .276/.356/.452 for an .808 OPS. That's pretty impressive, but if you remove the contributions of one player in particular, the numbers go to .279/.362/.468 for a team OPS of .830. I will leave the identity of said player as an exercise for the readers of this blog.

I still am a bit annoyed about yesterday's loss, but the win tonight in a game I did not expect to win has tempered that somewhat. Joe Torre thew caution to the wind tonight in using his big three with a fairly big lead, but I don't really feel like hashing through the wisdom of when to use your relievers again. I'll just say, I didn't have a huge problem with Sturtze or Gordon pitching tonight. I'd have preferred not to waste Mo, but as long as he's not showing ill effects of overwork, I don't really have any grounds to complain. He's throwing better than I can ever recall him doing. Plus, there are few things cooler in baseball than watching Mo decimate opposing hitters when he is on his game.

The main thing is, the Yankees went to Texas, and won 2 out of 3 games. Now, it's on to Anaheim, a place they've often struggled. Anaheim is a good overall team, but their offense is middle of the pack, which may help the Yankees' struggling pitching staff. Randy Johnson goes in the opener tomorrow. I've given up hope on the "real RJ" showing up, I'm resigned to the fact that what we've seen is what we're likely to get for the rest of the year. That still doesn't mean he's not a good pitcher, and right now he gives the Yankees their best chance to win every fifth day.

by SG

Learning nothing from Mike Stanton's last pitch as a Yankee, Joe Torre blew another one tonight. I'm too annoyed to write anything more about the terrible decision to pitch Wayne Franklin in the 8th inning of a 1-0 game in Texas.

Earlier tonight, I criticized Joe Torre's decision to bring in Wayne Franklin to preserve a 1-0 lead in the 8th inning. Here was the situation that led up to this point.

The Yankee offense mistook Chan Ho Park for Roy Halladay for seven innings, managing just five hits and no runs. Mike Mussina struggled with his command, pitching the most painful shutout baseball I've ever seen, needing 109 pitches to complete six scoreless innings. Fresh off the DL, Felix Rodriguez pitched shutout seventh inning.

Finally, in the 8th, the Yankees scratched out a run when Robinson Cano drove home Bubba Crosby from second for a 1-0 lead.

Torre had an interesting decision to make for who would pitch the 8th inning. Mariano Rivera and Tanyon Sturtze were not available to pitch last night, due to lots of work over the past week. This made Tom Gordon the closer, which meant it was not possible for him to pitch before the 9th inning, since closers aren't supposed to do that. This left as slim a lead as possible to be protected by one of 3 people. Scott Proctor, Edsel Groom, or Wayne Franklin.

We've seen Proctor enough to know that right now, his stuff doesn't match his results. He pitched with a bigger lead yesterday and could not find the strike zone. That left the choice of the two lefties, Groom or Franklin. With David Dellucci, Michael Young, and Mark Teixeira due up, Torre felt that Franklin was the better choice.

Franklin is a 31 year old journeyman, with a career ERA of 5.47. This year, in Columbus, he has pitched in 38 games and 32.2 innings, in which he's allowed 29 hits, 15 runs, 3 HR, 11 BB, and 39 K, for an ERA of 4.13. He has one job, and that is to get lefties out. As his innings pitched total shows, he rarely pitched to anyone but a lefty. Even then, they hit him at a .277 clip. From 2002-2005, lefties hit .249/ .310/.480, for a .790 OPS. So, in his job as a lefty specialist, lefties hit him about as well as Jorge Posada, Eric Chavez, and Dmitri Young have hit all pitchers this year.

Groom's splits aren't a ton better, but they are better. .261/.304/.406 for an OPS against of .710.

So this was my first issue, the choice of Franklin over Groom, although it wasn't as bad as Stanton over Rivera in Baltimore.

What happened next was where I took issue. Dellucci, the only lefty due up, singled. Michael Young singled. This brought up Mark Teixeira, who has hit 25 HRs this year. He smoked a ball to Alex Rodriguez that could very easily have been a 2 run double. However, it went right to Rodriguez for a double play, and brought up Hank Blalock.

At this point, there were 2 outs and a runner on 3rd. There were only 4 outs left to win the game. Granting that Blalock struggles against lefties, Franklin had been getting hit hard, and I would have preferred to go with the best pitcher remaining against Blalock, since THIS WAS WHEN THE GAME WOULD BE DECIDED. There is no sense in saving your closer for a ninth inning that may never come, while a pitcher who is lucky to be in the major leagues is pissing away your lead.

Anyway, as a wise man once said, "It was a loss. It sucked." The Yankees will try to win the series behind another pitcher who doesn't belong in the majors.

And, if you've seen Derek Jeter's bat, please call Brian Cashman and let him know.

July 19, 2005

What Can Brown Do For Us?
by Larry Mahnken

Okay, okay, let's not get too excited yet. Yeah, the Yankees are finally back in first place, but it might not be for long.

In the next 31 games, the Yankees' opponents have a combined .550 winning percentage (which is, in fact, better than the Yankees' winning percentage). The Red Sox and Orioles don't have it easy over that stretch, playing a .520 schedule and a .509 schedule respectively, but they also have one more home game in that time than the Yankees do.

During these 32 games, the Yankees will play precisely 6 games against team with a losing record, compared to Boston's 11 and Baltimore's 9. The 6 games the Yankees play are against the Blue Jays, who are still in contention and only 3 games under .500 at this time, and the Devil Rays, who despite being 40 games below .500 are 7-3 against New York this season.

Al Leiter was great Sunday, but can he repeat that? Or was it just a well-timed fluke? Wednesday they start yet another retread, this one without a track record. At 33, Aaron Small is the youngest starter in the Yankees' rotation -- by three years. The Thin Gray Line is looking very gray, and very thin, indeed.

And Kevin Brown's pitching last night was hardly encouraging. Of course, it was a rehab start in a great hitters' park against a very good hitting team, and he was undone by the long ball as much as anything else, which is atypical of him. Last night's performance was made up for by a spectacular offensive outburst by the team, and the total ineptness of the middle relief and defense was made up for by an eighth-inning comeback. They won, and in the end that's what mattered last night.

But it's one thing to say that the Yankees can get past a bad start by Brown, another to say that Brown can do much better than that. The fact of the matter is that Brown has to do better than that, the Yankees need him to do better than that. They don't need him to pitch like Leiter did on Sunday, they don't need him to be great. But they need him to give them five or six innings without putting them out of the game, and usually, his performance last night would have put them out of the game.

They're in first place. It's July 19th. It doesn't really matter that they're in first place.

But it does feel good.

First place
by SG

With yesterday's slugfest victory over the Texas Rangers, and Boston's loss to the Tampa Devil Rays, the Yankees have finally moved into first place in the AL East, for the first time since the second game of the season. With the wild streaks and inconsistent play so far this season, this certainly seems improbable.

They are not there to stay by any means. The starting rotation is still in shambles, although the news about Tiger Wang having shoulder inflammation and not needing surgery yet is very encouraging. If Al Leiter's performance was indicative of him re-discovering himself, and if Wang, Carl Pavano, Kevin Brown, and Jaret Wright can comeback, then the Yankees will be in decent shape. Brown was a disappointment again yesterday, but he was making a rehab start in the majors due to the Yankees' desperation so I won't write him off yet.

After criticizing Melky Cabrera's defense and sending him back to Columbus because of Bernie Williams's experience and one nice catch in Boston, Bernie was back to his defensive struggles, as he missed a double over his head and then called off Hideki Matsui to drop a ball that allowed Texas to tie the game and take the lead.

Fortunately for the Yankees, Tanyon Sturtze 2.0 shut down Texas and Ruben Sierra delivered a big clutch hit to give the Yankees a lead that they would not relinquish.
Sierra pulled his hamstring rounding first and will likely be headed to the DL. I never would have thought that this would be a big blow, but Ruben has gotten several huge hits for the team and will likely be missed, since it will mean more playing time for either the struggling Tino Martinez or the putrescent Tony Womack.

Today's game is huge. With Aaron Small called up to make spot start (career ERA of 5.49, ERA of 4.69 in Columbus this year) tomorrow, a win today will make tomorrow a less important game. With Boston playing the woeful Devil Rays, the Yankees need to try not to lose too much ground.

Felix Rodriguez is due back soon, which should help a bullpen that is in danger of being burnt out. Mariano Rivera has pitched in 3 of the last 4 days, but I can't blame Torre for that, these were all must-win games. I thought he waited way too long to pull Scott Proctor and then Wayne Franklin, which ended up costing the Yankees the lead.

Texas's Chan Ho Park would seem to be the type of pitcher the Yankees could explode on, so if Mike Mussina has a good game they may be able to give the bullpen some much needed rest today.

The Yankee offense is on fire right now, with Jorge Posada appearing to come out of a season long slump. Gary Sheffield still plays lackadaisical defense, but the man is a hitting machine. His line drive HR yesterday was one of the most impressive ones I've seen. If Derek Jeter remembers how to get on base, the Yankees should be in good shape to score enough to keep them in games until they can get healthy again.

July 18, 2005

Thin Gray Line
by Larry Mahnken

Four times this season the Yankees appeared to be dead. And 11-19 start was salvaged by a 16-2 run, but a 3-11 stretch against the Red Sox, Royals, Twins, Brewers and Cardinals left them on the brink again. They won 6 straight, but went 1-5 against the Devil Rays and Mets to fall to 37-37.

It was at this point where Dan "Curly Haired Boyfriend" Shaughnessy decided to chime in:
The 2005 Red Sox are going to win the American League East. By a landslide. Come late September, this is going to look like Secretariat at the Belmont in 1973.
Well, apparently the Yankees didn't get the memo, because a 12-4 stretch since that pronouncement has brought them all the way back from the brink to only ½ a game behind the runaway AL East winners.

But all is not well inthe Bronx, because coming out of the All Star break, they recieved just about the worst news possible: Chien-Ming Wang, perhaps the Yankees' most dependable starter this season, was placed on the DL with what appears to be a season-ending rotator cuff tear. With Kevin Brown, Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright already on the DL, the Yankees were left with precisely two starting pitchers -- Mike Mussina and Randy Johnson. They had nobody to start Friday, they had nobody to start Sunday. They had nobody to start Monday, either.

The Yankees have perhaps the best offense in basebal. The Red Sox lead the majors in scoring, but they play in a much more offense-friendly park than the Yankees, and the Bombers have four awesome hitters (A-Rod, Sheffield, Matsui and Giambi) to Boston's two (Ortiz and Ramirez), and the depth of the Red Sox lineup doesn't make up that difference.

But no offense is good enough to compensate for three vacancies in the rotation. This is not a case of the Yankees filling the back of their rotation with sub-par pitchers, or even replacement-level pitchers. The Yankees have no pitchers, and would be glad even to find a replacement-level starter to give them five innings without completely knocking them out of the game. Even then, the team would have trouble getting by, but it would still be better than what they had.

One vacancy was filled, for now, by Kevin Brown, who returns from the DL tonight in Texas. He's not techically ready, he needed a rehab start first, but the Yankees' desperation has lead them to making his rehab start against one of the top lineups in baseball. But even assuming he can give them enough to get by, that still leaves two holes.

Tim Redding tried to fill one of them Friday night, pitching for the team he grew up rooting for in Rochester. He barely got out of the first and couldn't record and out in the second, and Darrell May was hardly better in relief. Falling 17-1, the Yankees were face-to-face with their doom.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, but sometimes in that desperation teams will panic and give up too much for too little. There exists the temptation to trade Robinson Cano for an older, struggling pitcher like Tom Glavine, in the hopes that Glavine can help the rotation enough to make up for the hit the lineup would take in replacing Cano with Womack. That temptation must be resisted, because the chance of success is too small and the price is too high.

But what then to do? The answer, of course, is to explore the freely available talent, as the team did when they called up Melky Cabrera to replace Bernie Williams in center. That expiriment failed, but it didn't cost the Yankees any money or players, and leaves the Yankees to search for the next option in no worse position than they were when they started the search.

For pitchers, they first turned to Darrell May and Tim Redding, with disastrous results. But they still didn't panic, and on Saturday they picked up Al Leiter, who had been discarded by the Florida Marlins, and put him on the mound for Sunday.

Few expected the move to succeed, Leiter had been cut for a reason -- he was absolutely awful in Florida. But there was no better option available, and he was free. And unlike Redding and May, he has a long track record of success, a track record that his age and recent failure gave legitimate reason to ignore, but a track record nonetheless. And that track record gives the Yankees the hope that he can once again do something he's already done, rather than the faint hope that Redding and May can do something they've never done.

But no rational observer would expect success last night. The best I hoped for was five innings, four or five runs allowed -- a deficit the Yankees could reasonably come back from if their bullpen could hold the Red Sox there. Leiter's wildness in Florida made that hope look like a longshot.

The pitcher the Yankees got last night was not the same one the Marlins let go. Maybe that other pitcher will come back, but last night Al Leiter gave the Yankees as good a performance as they've recieved all season, and the most improbable one.

Leiter gave up just three hits, two of them singles, the double coming on a fly ball down the left field line. He walked just three, the third coming on his last batter of the game when he was clearly running on fumes. And he struck out a season-high 8 batters. When he left the game in the seventh the score was 4-1 and the Yankees were poised to win a series that on Thursday they may have hoped to split, at best, and perhaps looked to be swept in after the first inning of the first game.

Why did Leiter pitch so well? The biggest reason was control, Leiter was hitting spots with good pitches, and the Red Sox often could do no better than foul them off. Perhaps unfamiliarity played a crucial role, as the batter most familiar with Leiter worked two walks in his first two plate appearances, while the rest of the lineup was being shut down. The latter factor, if it was indeed a factor, will be adjusted for by the Red Sox when he next faces them, but the former is the far more important one.

And perhaps that control can be repeated. Leiter admitted before the game that mechanics had been a problem in Florida -- you get yourself into a slump through the normal course of playing, your confidence is damaged as it goes on and you start to press, and then well-meaning attempts to get you out of the slump create real mechanical problems that extend it. For whatever reason, Leiter's mechanics may have improved, and his quality with it.

Of course, last night was just one start, and even lousy pitchers have great starts every now and then (it's how they hold down jobs). But if Leiter can simply be good the rest of the season, the Yankees have made a stunning addition to the team -- and it's cost them almost nothing at all. And in a lucky twist, the team has added a pitcher who they were interested in signing this past offseason anyway, and they've done it for far less -- $400,000 -- than they would have if they'd signed him in January rather than July.

Despite that great starting performance, the Yanks barely escaped with the victory. A win that would have been an stunning surprise before the game had, by the ninth inning, seemed fait accompli. But a long homer by Manny Ramirez and a walk by Kevin Millar put the tying run on deck, and Mariano Rivera had to come in. Robinson Cano threw a rally-killing double play ball into left field, and a Jason Varitek single put the tying run on first. Bill Mueller singled to but the tying run on second with nobody out, and a tied game seemed inevitable, a devastating loss exceedingly probable.

But Alex Cora hit a hard ground ball to A-Rod, who threw home to get Nixon, and Posada threw to first to get Cora (well, that's what the ump said). A Damon groundout to second ended the game, and in the span of a couple of minutes, the Yankees wend from a huge win, to a crippling defeat, and back to a huge win.

The Yankees have been declared dead before, but this is the first time that declaration was due to more than their recent play (and, in fact, in direct opposition to their recent play), but to a serious problem with no obvious solution. Al Leiter is only a part of the solution, if he can fill the role the Yankees need him to. Kevin Brown is an equally vital part of that solution, as is Carl Pavano, and even Jaret Wright. The Yankees still have to turn to an unknown on Wednesday. Facing their toughest stretch of the season with as weak a starting rotation as they've had since the early 90's, there is every reason to expect the Yankees to fall out of contention in the next month.

But if they don't, if they can somehow manage to stay together until Pavano comes back, they have a shot to survive this stretch. If they can somehow be near first place when this stretch is over, they have a good shot at winning it. And if they are, by some miracle, in first place in late August, there will be no excuse for them not winning the AL East. If they can somehow do that, this might be one of, if not the most memorable seasons in Yankees history. If they can somehow do that.

But that's not today's problem. Tonight, somehow, they've got to find a way to beat Texas.

July 17, 2005

Al's well that ends well
by SG

16 years ago, the Yankees traded their top prospect, a young lefty who threw in the mid to high 90s and had struck out more than a batter an inning in his 18 starts as a Yankee. They got Jesse Barfield in the deal, who was past his prime and would last about 3 more seasons in New York before finally shutting it down. I was a prospect nut at the time, and it broke my heart to see Al Leiter go.

Leiter's gone on to have a great career, winning two World Series titles and 155 games. Make that 156. Defying almost all reasonable expectations, based on his stats this year and the opponent he was facing, Leiter pitched a masterpiece tonight at Fenway. I didn't think it was possible, with the way NL batters have cuffed him around this year and knowing how patient and potent the Red Sox are, especially at Fenway.

Throwing around 88-90 mph for most of the game with good command of the corners of the plate, Leiter allowed only 3 hits and 3 BB in 6.1 innings, fanning 8. He very possibly should have not allowed any runs, as Hideki Matsui pulled up on a ball near the wall that he likely should have caught that accounted for the only run the Red Sox would score off him.

I don't know how likely Leiter is to continue to pitch well going forward. The numbers don't lie, and they are ugly. However, the Yankees are absolutely desparate for bodies in the starting rotation right now, and Leiter did the job masterfully.

The game got a little too exciting in the ninth. After a leadoff HR from Manny Ramirez. Joe Torre should have pulled Tom Gordon at this point. After all, he is recovering from shoulder tendinitis and had thrown a lot of pitches yesterday. Instead, he kept him in to walk Kevin 'Scabby' Millar.

Enter Mariano Rivera, who had saved the two previous Yankee wins in this series, and dominated doing so, basically debunking the theory that Boston owns him. However, when Robinson Cano botched a tailor-made double play ball from Trot Nixon, I started to sense a Boston rally coming. Instead of two outs and a three run lead, there were now runners on the corners and no outs. Jason Varitek singled in Millar, and it was now a 5-3 game with the go-ahead run coming up, in the person of Bill Mueller, who beat Rivera in a game last year with a walkoff HR. Mueller hit a weak bloop that fell in front of Gary Sheffield, which loaded the bases and brought up Alex Cora. Cora hit a hot shot to third that Alex Rodriguez grabbed cleanly. Rodriguez made a perfect throw home to get one out, Jorge Posada made another perfect throw to first, and Tino Martinez made a great grab on the throw. The play was very close, and it looked to me like Cora may have beaten out, but #### happens. Johnny Damon came up hacking on the first pitch and hit a weak grounder to Cano, who made the play this time, and the game was over.

Tonight's game was the capper of a hugely successful 4 games series against the hated Red Sox. The Yankees did what they needed to do by winning 3 of the 4 games. Alex Rodriguez came up huge in this series, with 3 HRs, hopefully ending the talk that he can't hit against Boston. They are now tied with the Red Sox in the loss column, 1/2 game out of first place in the AL East, and also tied for the Wild Card.

It doesn't get any easier from here. Kevin Brown makes his return tomorrow in Texas, and will be on an 80 pitch count limit. I would guess that neither Gordon or Rivera will be available, so a blowout win would be nice. Brown is due to have some better luck on balls in play, which will be important if the Yankees want to continue playing well over this current stretch against teams over .500.

Tomorrow will be a big day, as Tiger Wang will be examined by Dr. James Andrews and Brown makes his return. It looks more and more likely that Wang will miss the rest of the season, so Brown will need to pitch well and stay healthy. I have a feeling he will pitch well, but I don't know how healthy he can stay.

The Yankees are also supposedly close on getting Shawn Chacon from Colorado, who may be decent outside of Coors Field, but has a shaky injury history and is far from a sure thing. At this point, they may run through replacement level starters for a while and hope they can get a few decent games out of some of them.

July 16, 2005

Newsday: Pitching-starved Yanks deal for Leiter
by SG

The Yankees and Marlins have an agreement in principle on a deal that will make Al Leiter a Yankee again, Newsday has learned.

The Yankees have agreed to send about $250,000 to Florida for Leiter, 39, the veteran lefthander who was recently designated for assignment by the Marlins. The Yankees will send no players to Florida, which will pay the remainder of Leiter's annual $8-million salary, minus the pro-rated portion, about $150,000, which will be paid by the Yankees.

Leiter will be thrown right into action by the Yankees. He is expected to start Sunday in Boston for them.

I would suggest anyone avoiding making plans to watch Sunday's game go ahead and make them. Leiter's done. He's been pitching on fumes for a few years and it's finally caught up to him this season.

July 15, 2005

The Only Thing They Can Do
by Larry Mahnken

The Yankees had a terrible day on Thursday, apparently losing rookie starter Chien-Ming Wang for the rest of the season. With Carl Pavano, Kevin Brown and Jaret Wright on the disabled list, that leaves the Yankees relying on two proven starters -- Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina -- and three empty spots. Tanyon Sturtze could fill one of those spots, but he's never had success in the rotation, and it will still leave two gaping holes even if he pitches at the start of the game like he's pitched late in games recently.

Sean Henn, Alex Graman? Two pitchers with minor league success who have been complete failures in the majors. Darrell May? We've seen what he can do, and what he can do is give up home runs. Tim Redding is younger with better stuff, but he's got just as bad a track record. Al Leiter, Shawn Chacon?

Ugh. Until Pavano and Brown come back, the Yanks are going to have to slug their way to victories.

They don't have a choice, maybe they'll catch lightning in a bottle every now and then and get a good outing from what's there, but don't count on it. They're going to have beat the living crap out of teams most of the time.

Fortunately, they're capable of doing that. The holes are starting to be filled, Robinson Cano has proved to be a solid second baseman, Jason Giambi has been as dangerous as any hitter in baseball over the past month (and his OPS over the last 7 games is 2.091). Bernie Williams is starting to hit solidly, and is finally out of the field. Melky Cabrera has been a zero offensively and defensively, but there's rumors that Eric Byrnes might be coming over with Chacon -- a move which would and a good bat to the lineup, and while not exactly a good fielder, he is better than Bernie.

There really is no positive way to spin the news that Wang is gone. There's no way to replace him, the Yankees just have to suck it up.

Last night they sucked it up, although it was in a game where Mike Mussina -- a pitcher who they need to pitch well -- stunk it up early. They lost a chance at a big inning in the first when Robinson Cano foolishly tried to stretch a single into a triple after Manny Ramirez turned it into a double, and fell behind 4-0 right away as Mussina struggled to find the strike zone. But they got two back right away as Jason Giambi and Bernie Williams homered down the right field line, and after Gary Sheffield drove in the third run with a double and the fourth with a homer, tied it, 5-5, on a two out error in the sixth.

After David Ortiz broke the tie in the seventh, the Yankees came right back to tie it again, with a double by struggling Jorge Posada followed by a double by Ruben "Big Mouth" Sierra. Gordon worked around a walk in the eighth, and in the ninth Curt Schilling came into the game as a true reliever for the first time since 1992 (his last relief performance was a postseason warmup in late 2002).

It didn't go well. Sheffield doubled again, and Alex Rodriguez hit the first pitch he saw deep over the centerfield wall. Rivera came in and blew away the team that "owns" him, and the Yankees moved to within 1½ games of first for the first time since April 13th.

The Yankees have a terribly difficult schedule coming up, and with only two pitchers it's going to be very difficult to keep in the race. But they have to stay there, they have to win games. They can do it, but they have to stay hot with the bats and get lucky with the pitching. They're only 1 game back in the loss column, giving up is not an option.

A well-managed game
by TVerik

Everyone gives Torre occasional grief for his in-game managing, and much of it is deserved. But in last night's Boston game, he consistently made good decisions, and put the Yankees in position to win the game.

First, the lineup:


I believe this to be very close to ideal, given the various abilities and current tendencies of the hitters.

In the seventh inning, Tanyon Sturtze relieved Mike Mussina. Given what Torre had to work with, I believe this is exactly the correct move. Sturtze gave up a home run to Ortiz; that kind of thing happens, and it doesn't invalidate the move.

Also, Tino Martinez came in defensively for Giambi. I'd have preferred this move an inning later, but Joe has consistently done this with the game close after a Giambi AB in the late innings. So I don't fault him for this.

In the eighth, Tony Womack pinch-ran for Posada after his leadoff double. I have no problem whatsoever with this move; this is Tony's best role, and it's a run the Yankees just had to have. Jorge is a disaster on the bases. Womack's speed really didn't come into play, but he scored anyway.

Then Torre pinch-hit Ruben Sierra for Melky Cabrera down one run. I like Melky, but this is why they carry Ruben on the roster. So I'd have made the same move. And Ruben got a big hit, which scored pinch-runner Womack and tied the game.

In the bottom of the inning, Torre brought in Tom Gordon. Again, I have no fault with this move - he's the best guy for the job. Womack stayed in the game to play center, and Flaherty began catching. I may have thrown Womack into left, shifting Matsui into center, but Hideki has played the tough LF wall in Fenway very well over his career; so Torre's alignment makes a lot of sense.

Gordon did his standard act, walking the first man before working a good inning. Neither Womack nor Flaherty were involved in any big plays, to my recollection.

In the ninth, the best part of Torre's lineup was able to produce two runs. Stacking these good hitters together and having them come up at the right time was something else Torre shouldn't get a medal for, but could have screwed up and he didn't.

Finally, he brought in Rivera in the ninth to close it. If you picked another option, you are not qualified to play Second-Guess the Manager. Sorry.

Torre doesn't deserve the Nobel Prize in baseball for his efforts on Thursday; that's what he gets paid to do. But he put players in a position to make a difference, and consistently had his best players around when it was time to win the game.

Contrast this with Francona. I'm not going to second-guess him unduly, but you could argue that if he started the eighth with Timlin instead of Embree (who gave up Posada's double and looked pretty bad in an overall effective seventh), none of this might have happened.

July 14, 2005

Get used to it
by Sean McNally

Eight runs given up. Fourteen hits. Six runs given up. Six runs. One Yankee win.

Hope you all enjoyed that, because the Yankees are probably going to have to play a lot of these games going forward to stay in the race for the AL East.

Before the game, Chien-Ming Wang was place on the 15-day DL with an inflamed shoulder. Word out of Yankee camp, particularly out of Michael Kay (who relayed a story from Ruben Sierra), is that Wang may have hurt his rotator cuff during a side session Sunday. Wang is supposedly on his way to see Dr. James Andrews, who incidentally stitched Wang’s shoulder together four years ago, for a second opinion on the shoulder. But the word doesn’t seem encouraging for a return any time soon.

The Wang injury leaves the Yankees with just two healthy starters that could be described as “major league quality” in Mike Mussina and Randy Johnson to start an 11-day, 11-game, three-time zone road trip.

So with recently acquired and called up Tim Redding going on Friday, Johnson on Saturday and perhaps Mahnken on Sunday the Yanks desperately needed Mussina to go deep into the game and give the pen a rest.

Mussina gave up four runs in the first. Thanks Moose!

The Yankees halved the lead on the strength of two solo homers by Jason Giambi and Bernie Williams in the second. Not bad for a couple of dead guys, eh?

A Gary Sheffield double plated Robinson Cano in the third, cutting the lead to 4-3. Cano, who earlier tried to stretch a double into a triple and killed a potential big first inning, wound up 2-for-5 in the game from the two-hole.

Moose gave that run back on a Jason Varitek RBI ground out, but the Yankees would ultimately knot the game at 5-5 in the sixth after a fifth inning Sheffield homer and a throwing error in the sixth by Bill Mueller.

Tanyon Sturtze came on in the seventh, and did alright, save for a David Ortiz homer giving Boston a 6-5 lead.

In the eighth and afterward, Joe Torre did something he hasn’t done in a long time: made great tactical decisions.

Jorge Posada doubled and was promptly pinch run for by Tony Womack. Bernie grounded out to second, moving the most expensive pinch runner in baseball over to third with one out and bringing Melky Cabrera.

Melky was pinch hit for by investigative reporter Ruben Sierra who drove a ball just inside the bag at first to tie the game.

Tom Gordon pitched a solid night then everyone's favorite Red Sock Curt Schilling came out to close.

Throwing with a noticeable lack of push and velocity, Schilling got ripped for a double off the deepest part of the Green Monster by Sheffield, bring up Alex Rodriguez.

For all of the offseason and spring training, Schilling and other Boston players took shots at ARod. He was a dirty player. He was a deadbeat dad. He wasn't a "real" Yankee.

Real Yankee this.

On Schilling's first pitch, ARod blasted a pitch to straightaway center. 8-6 Yankees.

Given a lead, Torre turned the ball over to Mariano Rivera, who was set on showing the Sox that April was April, and the calendar says July.

Thirteen pitches. Three swinging strikeouts. Game over and New York pulled within a game-and-a-half of Boston.

So a bunch of hits, a bunch of runs and shutting the opposition down late. Hopefully we'll get to see that formula a lot over the next 10 days.

Who's not clutch?
by SG

Soldiering on after the disheartening news of Chien-Ming Wang going on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, the Yankees had one of their most satisfying wins of the season tonight.

Alex Rodriguez, who has unfairly been labelled as "un-clutch" and as a guy who "puts up his numbers in blowouts" went a long way to quelling those ridiculous notions today. His soaring two run HR in the top of the ninth inning off postsseason hero Curt Schilling gave the Yankees their first lead of the game. As it turned out, it was the only lead they would need.

And apparently Boston forgot that they owned Mariano Rivera, as he breezed through Johnny Damon, Edgar Renteria, and David Ortiz in the bottom of the ninth, striking out all three.

Mike Mussina's final line was ugly, but he was really brilliant after a 4 run first inning. At some point, Jason Giambi's resurgence is going to have to be acknowledged as more than a sample size fluke. He got a lucky HR when a fan caught a ball that Trot Nixon would likely have made a play on, but it still counts.

Obviously, one game does not a season make, and the fact that the Yankees will be starting Tim Redding and at least one other bad pitcher in 2 of the 3 remaining games of this series is not particularly good news. However, after the news about Wang earlier in the day, and starting the game in a 4-0 hole, it would not have been surprising to see the Yankees fold like they have in this stadium many times in the past. If the Randy Johnson that the Yankees paid for shows up, then all they would need to do is split one of the remaining two games in this series for this to be a successful start to the second half.

There are rumors about a Shawn Chacon trade swirling, but nothing confirmed as of yet. His numbers aren't particularly impressive, but he may flourish outide of Coors. In other news, the Yankees have hired Joe Kerrigan as a an organizational pitching guru. If, like many, you believe that Mel Stottlemyre has been a detriment to his pitching staff, then Kerrigan can only help.

Despite some pretty bad play all year, the Yankees control their destiny at this point. They are 1.5 games back of first in the AL East, and got the first game of a rough stretch out of the way in impressive fashion.

The Importance of Taking Care of Business
by Sean McNally

Three wins and 10 losses. If the Yankees fall short of the playoffs, they'll only have themselves and their play against the dregs of baseball to blame.

In the first half, New York posted just three wins in 10 games against the woeful Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Similarly, the team went 1-5 versus Kansas City and Milwaukee as part of their "Road Trip from Hell," including a three-game sweep in Kaufman Stadium.

Going into tonight's game against Boston, the Yankees stand 2.5 games back from the Red Sox and just two in the loss column, but their miserable record against the most miserable in the league will leave them and their fans to wonder what might have been.

Last year, New York carried a 55-31 record and a seven-game lead on Boston, who possessed a 48-38 mark themselves. This year the Boston hold is just one-half game better at 49-38, but the Yankees are 46-40 - an astounding NINE (9!) games worse than in 2004.

Where’s the difference? It's in a 7-16 vs. Tampa, KC, Milwaukee and Baltimore.

If the Yanks had played up to expectations versus the weaker teams, which is what teams that fancy themselves contenders do, then essentially 2005 would look a lot like 2004 did.

Consider this, the Yankees finished 15-4 against Tampa and 5-1 versus the Royals last year. So let’s for sake of argument (and wishcasting), flip-flop their records against those teams this year - giving them a 7-3 mark against the D-Rays, rather than its current 3-7 and a 3-0 mark against Kansas City.

Hypothetically, that adds 10 wins to the Yankees record placing it at 56-30: one game better than last year! A 56-30 mark that would be good for a 7.5 game lead in the East, eight games in the loss column and second-best in the majors behind the scalding hot Chicago White Sox.

What's this all mean? Well, it proves that the Yankees should have listened to Washington Wizards head coach Eddie Jordan.

In basketball's version of the dog days of winter, Jordan uttered one of my new favorite quotes after being questioned about his team’s success against weaker opponents.

"We have to be like squirrels. We have to harvest our nuts right now, build up some wins for when things get thin later." - January 12, 2005

Well, things are looking thin coming up for New York going into an 11-game road trip where they will face Boston, Texas and the Angels - teams that are decidedly better than Tampa or Milwaukee.

Between now and Sept. 1, the Yankees play 47 games - of which 31 are against teams that are over .500.

These are the thin times, and the Yanks may not have the nuts to get through them. If they stumble in the next month and a half and fall short of the playoffs, they only have themselves to blame.

July 10, 2005

2½ back
by SG

Today's Yankee victory over Cleveland coupled with Boston's loss to Baltimore has pulled the Yankees with 2½ games of first place in the AL East. Heading into the All Star Break, it's been a harrowing first half for the Yankees and their fans.

The Yankees started the season 11-19. They then proceeded on a 10 game winning streak en route to going 16-2. They followed that up by going 3-11. They followed that up by going 7-1, then went 2-6, before finishing up the pre-All Star break by winning 7 of their last 8 games.

None of that is particularly meaningful at this point. What is meaningful is that they now sit within striking distance of a playoff spot, despite horrendous play for much of the season.

The stretch of games immediately after the All Star Break will likely make or break the season.

The next 29 games of the Yankee schedule are all with teams over .500.

4 @ Boston
3 @ Texas
4 @ Los Angeles of Anaheim
3 vs. Minnesota at home
3 vs. Los Angeles of Anaheim at home
3 @ Cleveland
3 @ Toronto
3 vs. Chicago White Sox at home
3 vs. Texas at home

Obviously, a lot of the focus will be on the 4 game set with Boston to open the second half. However, regardless of how the Yankees do there, it will be up to them to maintain a decent pace in this stretch. From there, the schedule will get much more favorable.

Can they do it? It's tough to say. The majority of the flaws that have hurt this team early in the season are still there for the most part. The starting pitching has been inconsistent and injury-depleted. The bullpen is weak outside of the big three, although getting Felix Rodriguez back may end up being a big help. However, the offense is clicking now, fueled by Hideki Matsui's continued solid play and the resurrection of Jason Giambi as a power threat. Giambi's resurgent power stroke has been a big factor in the latest Yankee run. If he can continue it, this is likely the best offense in baseball, especially with Tony Womack riding the bench. They currently lead baseball in runs scored, with 478.

The Melky Cabrera experiment has had decidely mixed reviews so far, but Robinson Cano also struggled initially so I'd be willing to give it a little more time, especially when the team is winning. Lost in some of his defensive struggles was a ball hit by Coco Crisp in the third inning yesterday. Cabrera's arm was able to hold Crisp at second, whereas he likely would have gone on to third on Bernie or Womack. Travis Hafner's groundout would then have scored Crisp, instead of moving him to third. It turned out to be meaningless in the end, but at the time it was a noteworthy play.

The big thing I am seeing on offense now is that the team is making pitchers work again. This was evidenced in particular in the fifth inning. After Jake Westbrook retired Derek Jeter and Cano on two pitches to start the frame, Gary Sheffield worked a 6 pitch walk. Alex Rodriguez followed with an 8 pitch walk. What shaped up as an easy inning for Westbrook became a nightmare following these 2 walks, as he ended up giving up 3 runs. They need to continue doing this.

One random note. The team is now 14-6 in games started by John Flaherty. This is really bizarre, considering Flaherty's .164/.197/.194 line, so I checked the Yankees runs allowed in games started by Posada vs. Flaherty.

In Posada's games, the team allows 5.06 runs per game. In Flaherty's, it's 4.85. In other words, it's not really significant. I guess Flaherty may benefit from catching most of Randy Johnson's starts, who despite underperforming expectations has helped the team win 13 of his 19 starts.

July 8, 2005

Why Joe, why?
by SG

The Yankees won their fifth in a row last night, behind a solid outing by Mike Mussina and some homerun hitting by Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, and Derek Jeter. This was a nice win against a solid team, but came at a possibly heavy price.

With a 5 run lead starting the 8th inning, Joe Torre went to Tom Gordon. In theory, with a 5 run lead and two innings, a pitcher with an ERA of 16.00 should be able to close it out, as allowing 4 runs in 2 innings would still end the game. However, Torre has never been willing to trust inexperienced relievers, and in this instance it may come back to bite the Yankees in the ass.

Tom Gordon has had a long, storied injury history. He's missed parts of several seasons with shoulder and elbow problems. However, Torre continously feels the need to use him in low leverage situations. He had him warming up in the ninth inning of a 10 run lead on Tuesday, then brought him into start the 8th last night. Gordon walked the first man, struck out the next two, then started twitching his arm. He was pulled, and Scott Proctor got the last 4 outs.

The official story was that Gordon "slept on his shoulder weird" the night before. If this was the case, should he even have been in there? Maybe Gordon didn't tell Torre about this, in which case some blame has to fall on him, but there really was no reason use him in that spot anyway. Proctor and Jason Anderson need to be tried in that spot. If they can't cut it, then you get rid of them and try someone like Colter Bean, Tim Redding, or Darrell May.

Gordon's supposed to get an MRI today, and hopefully it's nothing that a few days of rest won't fix. I would hope Torre would learn something from this, but if he didn't learn from last year when he wore Gordon out and made him ineffective in the playoffs, will he ever?

The Gordon situation sullied an otherwise wonderful game. Moose was solid, allowing 2 runs in 7 innings despite a shaky strike zone, moving to 9-5 on the season and lowering his ERA to 3.97.

Jason Giambi continues to show signs of life, when many wrote him off. I hate to say I told you so, but you know what? I told you so. One day I'm going to go back and pull back all the anti-Giambi comments from this blog and call you people out. All in fun, but this is good news for Yankee fans whether you hate Giambi or not. The Yankees have a big financial committment to Giambi and it is better for the team and for us as fans if he continues to hit. Giambi's 2-3 performance, aided by a HR that was knocked over the fence by Casey Blake, boosted his season stats to .274/.423/.452.

More Giambi stats:

He is now second in the league in OBP.

His EQA of .319 is higher than that of:
Hideki Matsui
Manny Ramirez
Melvin Mora
Jason Varitek
Derek Jeter
Trot Nixon
Mark Teixeira
Mike Young
Johnny Damon

His VORP of 20.3 is higher than that of:

Joe Mauer
Jorge Posada
Todd Helton
Lyle Overbay
Mike Cameron
Trot Nixon
Shawn Green
Shea Hillenbrand (All Star my ass)
Ivan Rodriguez
Garret Anderson
Mike Sweeney
Hank Blalock
Edgar Renteria
Eric Chavez
Paul Konerko
Carlos Beltran (Ha ha)

There's quite a few All Stars in that list.

Melky Cabrera debuted yesterday and fisted a single to the opposite field in his second AB. We didn't get to see his defense on display much, but as long as the Yankees are winning pressure should be fairly low on him.

There's a lot of rain headed to New York over the weekend, so I don't know what will happen with the remaining 3 games before the All Star Break. Hopefully they are able to get them in.

July 7, 2005

Cabrera to start for NY Yankees tonight
by SG

(Trenton, NJ)- The Trenton Thunder, the Double-A Affiliate of the New York Yankees, have announced that Melky Cabrera, who began the 2005 season with the Thunder, has been promoted to the New York Yankees and is scheduled to start tonight against Cleveland.

Cabrera was the Opening Day centerfielder in Trenton where he batted .267 with 9 HR and 44 RBI in 75 games. He holds a share of the longest hitting streak for the Thunder this season- nine games. While with the Thunder, the 20-year-old was named to the XM Satellite Radio All-Star "Futures Game" on Sunday, July 10th at Comerica Park in Detroit, MI.

On June 28, Cabrera was promoted to AAA Columbus where he batted .324 with 3 HR and 11 RBI in 9 games.

Cabrera is in his 4th professional season since being signed as a non-drafted free agent (11/13/01) by the Yankees.

The future is now apparently. Time will tell if he was rushed, but he'd have to be pretty bad to be worse than Womack.

Update: More on Melky from Pinstripes Plus. You may also want to check out Fabian's writeup.

July 6, 2005

Half-season Yankee report cards - Pitching
by SG

Today, I'll grade the Yankee pitching staff. The pitching staff has probably been the biggest problem on the team. I will grant that they are not helped by their defense, but that's not the only problem. The FIP that I reference here is a Fielding Independent Pitching metric developed by Tango Tiger similar to DIPS that is a better predictor of ERA going forward than current ERA. Eyeballing this # with the pitcher's actual ERA can tell you if a pitcher has been lucky or unlucky this year. VORP is value over replacment player. For starters, I will list SNVA, which is support neutral value added, and for relievers I will add WXR, a reliever's expected wins added. (Once again, thanks to Baseball Prospectus for these stats)

Mariano Rivera (4-2, 0.83)
VORP: 11.7
WXR: .853

He just may be immortal. At age 35 he's throwing better than ever. 6 of the 9 runs he's allowed this year are unearned, which makes his ERA deceptively low, but his K rate is higher than it's been since 2001, and after the early season struggles against Boston that had many proclaiming his demise, he's been lights out. I think a lot of it has to do with him not pitching as much this year, which allows him to be rested and at full strength when he does pitch, but hopefully he will get to pitch more in the second half and disprove that. There's been a noticeable change in his approach this year, with more 2-seamers and 4-seamers in different parts of the strike zone, as opposed to just using his cutter.

Grade: A+

Chien-Ming Wang (5-3, 3.87)

FIP: 4.23
VORP: 12
SNVA: 0.2

I love Wang. Not that kind of wang, but the pitcher. From a farm system that has been described as horrible by experts everywhere, Wang has emerged to be the Yankees' most consistent starter. His G/F ratio of 2.52 helps him keep the ball in the park. I am concerned about his low K rate going forward, but not overly so. His low K rate so far shouldn't discount what he has done to this point. His FIP is a bit higher than his ERA, but even if he approaches that for the rest of the year, he'd be solid. I also think his K rate will increase a bit, I just don't know how a guy who throws 96 mph doesn't miss more bats.

Grade: B+

Tom Gordon (2-3, 2.83)

FIP: 3.42
VORP: 13.2
WXR: .561

Gordon's been a bit shakier than last year, but to expect him to repeat 2004 is not fair. He's one of the top setup men in baseball, and a good thing for the Yankees to have. The idea of trading him for help in CF is still intriguing, but with the lack of depth in the Yankee pen it may be a risk not worth taking. Hopefully Torre will be more judicious in his use of him this year, as Gordon has had numerous injuries in the past and is getting up there in age.

Grade: B+

Tanyon Sturtze (2-1, 3.94)

FIP: 3.86
VORP: 6.9
WXR: .021

Sturtze 2.0™ as I like to call him. Putting aside his disappointing start against Baltimore where he just ran out of gas, Sturtze has defied his track record to be a key component in the bullpen. His FIP seems to match up to his performance, which tells me it's not as flukish as it may appear. I am concerned about him getting overworked, as Torre only trusts 3 of his 6 relievers, but the Yankees have to be very happy that they plucked him off the scrap heap.

Grade: B

Mike Mussina (8-5, 4.06)

FIP: 4.18
VORP: 16.1
SNVA: 0.1

Moose has not re-gained the consistent low 90s velocity on his fastball, but according to VORP he's been the Yankees' best starter (which is like being the tallest midget in the circus this year). His FIP says that he's not been particularly lucky or unlucky, so expect more of the same.

Grade: B

Edsel Groom (1-0, 4.29)

FIP: 4.39
VORP: 3.3
WXR: .419

I refuse to call a grown man 'Buddy.' Groom has actually not been a bad piece of the Yankee bullpen, considering he was an NRI and is now the token lefty. I expect the Wayne Franklin era to end very soon.

Grade: B-

Randy Johnson (7-6, 4.24)

FIP: 4.08
VORP: 13.4
SNVA: 0.2

The Big Useless? That's a little harsh, but Johnson has been a disappointment this year. Some falloff could certainly have been expected due to the league switch and his age, but he's really pitching no better than a third starter these days. I think there are nagging injuries here that are being downplayed, and that if he can get healthy he'll be better in the second half. The myth that the Yankee defense is hurting him is not accurate, his BABIP is reasonable. He's just giving up a lot more HRs than he did last year.

Grade: C-

Carl Pavano (4-6, 4.77)

FIP: 4.83
VORP: -2
SNVA: -1

I don't know what to make of Pavano. We knew that he was not a strikeout pitcher, although he certainly has good stuff. I was hoping for an Andy Pettitte type starter who would keep the ball down and get by. Pavano really struggles at home, and it's inexplicable. The shoulder issue he's having now could be looked at in two ways. A concern given his past injury history, or the potential reason for some of his struggles. He's serviceable as the 3rd or 4th starter if he can maintain a 4.00 ERA or so, but the Yankees look like they overpaid for him at this point. It's too soon to write him off as a bust though.

Grade: D

Felix Rodriguez (0-0, 5.40)

FIP: 5.08
VORP: .4
WXR: .009

Did the Yankees really need this guy more than a backup CF who's hitting (.361/.424/.452) this year? Rodriguez has been a big disappointment, despite a great fastball. I still hold out hope that he will contribute in the second half, and he is due to return soon.

Grade: D

Kevin Brown (4-6, 5.48)

FIP: 2.91
VORP: -2
SNVA: -1.1

Kevin Brown injured! In other news, the sun rises in the east. The number that really jumps out at me is Brown's FIP. His peripherals are really good, but he's getting hit and giving up runs. In theory that should balance out a bit over the course of the year, if he ever gets healthy again. I'd guess he won't make 10 more starts the rest of the year.

Grade: D-

Steve Karsay (0-0, 6.00)

FIP: 2.53
VORP: -1.2
WXR: -.047

Gone and forgotten. His fastball never came back.

Grade: D-

Scott Proctor (0-0, 7.71)

FIP: 7.06
VORP: -3.6
WXR: -.09

Proctor can throw a ball through a wall, and has a nice curve, but his control is awful. As a mopup guy he can do ok, but I don't trust him beyond that. That fastball is too straight and hittable, especially when you're always behind 3-1.

Grade: D-

Paul Quantrill (1-0, 6.75)

FIP: 5.20
VORP: -3.7
WXR: -.137

Quantrill was never a good fit for the Yankees although he gave them a solid half season last year. He may rebound a bit in San Diego with some more regular work, and in a good pitcher's park and with a better defense behind him. Darrell May and Tim Redding aren't likely to contribute much this year, but the fact that the Yankees got anything for him should be lauded.

Grade: F

Mike Stanton (1-2, 7.07)

FIP: 3.70
VORP: -2.1
WXR: -.388

Stanton's peripherals are not terrible, but he was never really a LOOGY type (this year's small sample size notwithstanding) and just did not have the stuff to put hitters away anymore. I wouldn't be shocked to see him latch on somewhere and pitch decently, but I'm not sad to see him go.

Grade: F

Jaret Wright (2-2, 9.15)

FIP: 7.21
VORP: -9.4
SNVA: -1

Wright has certainly been a bust. I think the Yankees should consider shifting him to the bullpen if he returns this year, as he was usually strong in his first few innings and they don't have any long relievers. It's not the optimum use of $7 million a year, but neither is starting every game in a 6-0 hole.

Grade: F

Jason Anderson (1-0, 2.45)
FIP: 6.71
VORP: 1.3
WXR: -.209

Anderson has been a bit shaky in his return to pinstripes, although he was pitching well in Columbus. I won't feel comfortable with him until he starts throwing consistent strikes, but he certainly has the arm to be an asset in middle relief.

Grade: Incomplete

Sean Henn (0-3, 11.12)

FIP: 9.04
VORP: -8.7
SNVA: -0.9

Henn's been good in the minors, and horrendous in the majors. I still think he's talented, but he's not ready for the majors, and won't be until he stops being afraid of throwing strikes. My guess is that he will be traded.

Grade: Incomplete

Colter Bean (0-0, 4.50)

FIP: 4.20
VORP: 0.3
WXR: .001

Can we give Bean a chance? He doesn't throw hard, but he throws strikes. As the misadventures of Scott Proctor and Jason Anderson have shown, what good is throwing 90+ if it's not over the plate.

Grade: Incomplete

July 5, 2005

Half-season Yankee report cards - Offense
by SG

Yesterday's 13-8 win over Baltimore was the Yankees' 81st game of the year. WIth the season now officially half over, I thought it would be a good time to run down what the Yankee players have done so far this year. I'll look at the position players today, and the pitchers tomorrow, hopefully. In addition the the rate stats for AVG, OBP, and SLG, I'll list their EQA, VORP, FRAR, and WARP1.(Thanks to Baseball Prospectus for these stats)


Alex Rodriguez(.319/.417/.570)
EQA: .342
VORP: 43.4
WARP1: 4.2

I think most would agree that Rodriguez's first year in pinstripes was a bit of a disappointment. This year, he's been the hitter the Yankees hoped they were getting, and probably the front runner for MVP if Brian Roberts remembers that he's Brian Roberts. He's getting clutch hits, which people villified him for not getting last year, and after a rough stretch to start the year is finally playing good defense again. The early defensive struggles knock his grade down a bit, but you can't be anything but happy with his performance this year, and anyone that blames him for the Yankees' uneven play this year is just flat out wrong. This is the best player on this team, and probably the best player most of us will ever see in Yankee pinstripes. Instead of criticizing his faults, enjoy his play.

Grade: A-

Hideki Matsui(.312/.379/.510)

EQA: .314
VORP: 30.0
FRAR: CF: 2, LF: 7
WARP1: 3.9

Matsui has had an extremely streaky season. After a hot start to the season, his bat disappeared. It's back now, and his numbers are back up to respectable. His defense still remains suspect, particularly in left field, but he's rebounded to be a key member of this team. The Yankees should have probably re-signed him when he was slumping, because his asking price is going up every day.

Grade: B+

Derek Jeter(.303/.392/.444)

EQA: .306
VORP: 34.5
FRAR: 16
WARP1: 4.5

Jeter has had another good season, getting his average and his OBP back up from last season. Unfortunately, last year's power spike has not returned. Statistically he has regressed somewhat from last year defensively, but he is still above where he was in 2002-2003. For a guy who's lauded as clutch, he sure has seemed to make a lot of the last outs in games this season. I say this not to denigrate Jeter, but to point out that the clutch myth is often applied arbitrarily and erroneously. I'd like to see a bit more power out of Jeter, but not if it comes at the expense of his OBP, especially as the leadoff hitter.

Grade: B+

Gary Sheffield(.297/.393/.502)

EQA: .317
VORP: 28.3
WARP1: 4.0


Gary Sheffield is remarkably consistent. His power is down slightly this year, but not hugely so. He's getting to the age now where he could fall off a cliff at any time, but I don't see any signs of it. His defense is still uninspired, and he still sometimes talks too much to the media, but he's had a fine season so far, and there's no reason to think it won't continue.

Grade: B+

Robinson Cano(.291/.319/.472)

EQA: .279
VORP: 11.7
FRAR: 2.5
WARP1: 14

Cano has been a huge addition to the Yankee lineup. As a 22 year old who is playing above average defense and slugging .472, he has been a big upgrade over the incumbent who started the year at second base. His P/PA is only 2.88, which means he's probably still a little too aggressive, and long-term I'd probably like to see him walking a bit more, but I think that will come with time. After starting the season 2-24, Cano is batting .318/.375/.500, and likely cemented himself as the starter at second for the rest of the season. Ignore the mediots talking about him being traded, he's not going anywhere.

Grade: B+

Jason Giambi(.258/.415/.400)

EQA: .296
VORP: 11.1
FRAR: -3
WARP1: 1.1

With a huge 2 HR game yesterday, Giambi continues to show signs of life. It is even more impressive when you look at his splits from the beginning of the season to now. Picking arbitrary endpoints to look at statistics is not really good sabermetrics, but in Giambi's case, it is interesting. Through May 9, in 27 games, Giambi hit .195/.386/.325. In the 37 games since then, he's hitting .301/.455/.451. You can't throw out the first 27 games, but you can hope there were extenuating circumstances that caused him to struggle. Coming off a basically lost season and a pituitary tumor, it's very possible that he was still getting comfortable again. Being off steroids has likely been a big physical and psychological adjustment. It certainly appears that some power has gone and is not likely to come back, but there's no way to say that he should not be playing every day. The defensive numbers are pretty ugly.

Grade: B

Tino Martinez(.222/.319/.467)

EQA: .281
VORP: 7.3
WARP1: 1.1

Another player whose best days are behind him, Tino has struggled outside of a hot streak where he homered in 8 straight games. He's been injured so he doesn't play much these days, but he is still a capable defensive replacement. The importance of his hot streak in the middle of a 10 game winning streak should not be forgotten if the Yankees end up playing meaningful games in September. Without Tino in that streak, the Yankees probably don't win more than 5 of them.

Grade: B-

Jorge Posada(.269/.363/.433)

EQA: .292
VORP: 20.8
FRAR: 12
WARP1: 2.9

Posada's been a bit of a disappointment this year. His SLG has dropped about 50 pts from last year, but it's not the HRs that are missing, it's the doubles. His average is still ok, and his OBP is still decent. He's certainly at the age that a decline is possible, especially for a catcher. Good thing the Yankees traded Dioner Navarro, huh?

Grade: C

Bernie Williams (.259/.345/.381)

EQA: .274
VORP: 9.4
WARP1: 1.6

Bernie's decline has been one of the most oft-repeated stories this season, Particulary glaring on defense, but it's shown up in his offense as well. He's had a few big moments this year, but for the most part the run is over. If you're a Yankee fan, it's a bit sad to see. Hopefully this year won't tarnish a great legacy, and the fans let him know how much they appreciate what he's done for this team since 1991.

Grade: C-

Ruben Sierra (.238/.267/.405)

EQA: .235
VORP: -0.7
WARP1: .1

Sierra's basically been reduced to Tony Womack's pinch-hitter at this point. He can still hit Steve Kline, but that's about it. He's not really capable of playing in the outfield much, but there are worse bench players, I guess.

Grade: D

Russ Johnson(.250/.333/.375)

EQA: .261
VORP: 0.6
WARP1: .1

He's a former Devil Ray. The Devil Rays determined that he was not capable of playing baseball anymore. Why is he on the Yankee bench? Anyone?

Grade: D

John Flaherty(.183/.222/.217)

EQA: .138
VORP: -4.1
FRAR: -3
WARP1: -0.9

Flaherty's never been much of a hitter, and it's gotten worse this year. Pitchers seem to like working with him though, and he doesn't get enough playing time to be a problem. With the lack of depth at catcher in the organization, I can't get too worked up about him being on the team.

Grade: D

Rey Sanchez(.229/.258/.398)

EQA: .227
VORP: -0.8
WARP1: .3

There's not much to say about Sanchez, except that since he got hurt he hasn't been missed.

Grade: F

Tony Womack (.244/.277/.268)

EQA: .217
VORP: -8.4
FRAR: LF: 6, CF: 0, 2B: 9
WARP1: 1

Larry covered my thoughts on Womack pretty well here. Fairly or not, Womack has been a whipping boy for a disappointing Yankee team, but he's done what the team has asked him to do, first moving from 2B to LF for Cano, then to CF for Bernie, then to the bench for anyone. I still think he could be useful as a bench player, but I don't know if he would accept the role. He really should never start.

Grade: F-

Bubba Crosby (.250/.294/.250)

EQA: .163
VORP: -1.8
WARP1: 0

Bubba's hustle in yesterday's game was pretty funny, as he hustled himself into an out. He can play a decent (read, better than Bernie) centerfield, but doesn't hit much, and likely never will. Odds are he won't get much playing time over the rest of the season, and with Kevin Thompson and Melky Cabrera both lurking in AAA now, there's a chance he could be out of the organization by next year.

Grade: Incomplete

Andy Phillips(.156/.156/.375)

EQA: .175
VORP: -2.1
WARP1: -0.2

Andy Phillips has not gotten a fair chance to contribute to the Yankees this season. He is killing the ball in Columbus (.331/.394/.629, 14 HRs in 178 AB). With the Womack situation, I never understood why the Yankees didn't try him in left field. Can he possibly be worse out there than Sierra? He's not young, and he's certainly not going to be a star, but he should be on the big league team and getting 2-3 games a week. And not bunting.

Grade: Incomplete

Kevin Reese (.000/.500/.000)

EQA: .301
VORP: -0.0
WARP1: 0

If you blinked, you probably missed him. Odds are he won't be back.

Grade: Incomplete

Yesterday's come from behind win coupled with Keith Foulke's continued ineptness has pulled the Yankees within 4 games. For all the glee that Red Sox fans took about the decline of Mariano, they seem to be getting a glimpse at a true decline now.

That the Yankees are still that close after playing some of the worst baseball imaginable is a bit encouraging, but hopefully it doesn't lead to a misguided move where they trade some of their promising prospects for a band-aid.