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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.