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April 30, 2005



by SG

At 9-14, the Yankees were desperate for a win. On a rainy day today, they sent out one of the few legitimate prospects in a pretty barren farm system out to try and break a 3 game losing streak. In addition to having lost 3 straight games, the Yankees had scored a total of 2 runs in three games, a feat they last achieved in 1999.

9-14 is not a good record, but it is worth noting that the 2001 Oakland Athletics started the season 8-15 and finished at 102-60, and the 2002 Angels started the season 9-14 and finished at 99-63.

So, with Jaret Wright out for the next 4-6 weeks, the Yankees had to dip into their barren farm system and ask Chien-Ming Wang, aka Tiger, to fill the fifth starter's role and pitch well enough to get a win with what would possibly be little run support. I was very anxious to watch Wang's debut. Fabian wrote a writeup about him a few weeks back, but I wanted to see him first hand.

Wang pitched a great game. He pounded the strike zone against an aggressive Blue Jays team, throwing a first pitch strike to 19 of the 29 hitters he faced. He primarily threw his fastball, which was around 92 mph for most of the game, with some occasional splitters. Wang gave the Yankees exactly what they needed over 7 innings, allowing 6 hits, 2 BB, and only 2 runs. He seems to have a free, easy motion that has some good deception, and got groundball outs for 15 of his 21 outs. One thing that was a bit troubling was the fact that he did not strike out anyone, and didn't seem to be missing any bats at all. However, his minor league stats and scouting reports don't seem to indicate this as a problem for him, so I wouldn't overreact to the results of one start. Lack of strikeouts aside, everything else that I saw was very positive. He kept the ball low, he was hitting the corners, and he pitched out of some jams for the most part. With a little better defensive play behind him his final line may have looked even better. I was also impressed by his calm demeanor on the mound and his poise throughout the game.

Unfortunately, most of the rest of the Yankees are still not playing that well, and Wang was denied his first major league victory when Tom Gordon grooved a 2-1 pitch to Corey Koskie that tied the game. With the Yankee offense again looking flat, and the Yankee bullpen a bit shaky, I figured the game was lost at this point.

The Yankees failed to score with Bernie, Sheffield, or Slump-Zilla™ in the bottom of the eighth. Joe Torre then went to his pen again, this time for Mariano Rivera. Mariano has been MIA for most of the season. He hadn't pitched since the 21st, due to game situations and a flu that he has been suffering from. Although still not fully over his flu, he took the ball and delivered his best outing of the season, throwing only 8 pitches, 6 of them strikes to retire the Jays 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth.

Vinny Chulk came in for the Jays and was wild, walking Alex Rodriguez on four pitches. That brought up Andy Phillips who had replaced Jason Giambi in the lineup when Giambi had to leave with cramps in his right forearm. Joe Torre decided that even though Chulk was having trouble throwing strikes, the Yankees should give up an out to set up the winning run on second with Tino Martinez, John Flaherty, and Tony Womack due up. Granted, Posada would likely pinch-hit for Flaherty, but this was a stupid decision based on not just who was due up, but also on the fact that bunting is clearly not one of Phillips's strengths, which he demonstrated when he bunted in front of the catcher who was able to throw out Alex Rodriguez at second. So the Yankees had exchanged an out for the right to have a slower runner on first. Thankfully, Tino Martinez singled through the right side and Phillips got to third. Posada then pinch-hit for Flaherty. What the Blue Jays did here puzzled me. Posada has been striking out and hitting into double plays all year, either one of those would have been what they needed, but they intentionally walked him to load the bases for the poster boy of the front office's blunders, Tony Womack.

Womack gets a lot of grief from most Yankee fans, because he's not a good player. However, I still rooted for him in this spot because I want my team to win. Womack singled into RF, the winning run scored, and Womack had his 'Yankee Moment.'(Thanks to Weekly Journalist at Baseball Think Factory for that one)

The Yankees will try and win the series tomorrow by sending Carl Pavano out against Ted Lilly. Pavano's been pitching pretty well, and Lilly has struggled this season, but until the Yankee offense starts scoring consistently I won't feel comfortable about them against anyone. It would be nice if they could start a winning streak at some point. Maybe this game will be the one to get them going.


April 29, 2005


Minor League Notes: 4/28/05
by Fabian

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

AAA Columbus (International League):
Park Factor:
.989
Record:
13-9

A 1 for 5 with a strikeout (12) night continued Robinson Cano’s slide. After opening the season as an unstoppable force, Cano is now experiencing his first rough patch; 9 for his last 31. One thing to keep in mind about yesterday’s performance though was that he faced LHP in 3 of his 5 at bats and was 0 for 3 with a strikeout against southpaws, while going 1 for 2 against RHP.

AA Trenton (Eastern League):
Park Factor:
.986
Record:
10-11

Melky Cabrera broke out of his recent slide in a huge way and Eric Duncan continued his hot hitting in yesterday’s Trenton slugfest. The two would combine for 8 of the team’s 12 hits as Duncan was 3 for 6 with a home run (2) and Melky was 5 for 6 with a double (2), a home run (2), a strikeout (11), and a stolen base (2). After starting the season off ice cold as far as hits, but walking a good amount, Duncan has ceased with the walking and proceeding with the hitting and is now 10 for his last 25, enough to get his season average up to .241. Prior to yesterday’s game, Melky’s average had actually been some .030 points behind Duncan, but he jumped over to him and is up to .253, which hopefully is just a short stop as he heads towards his customary .300.

While Melky and Eric were putting the ball in play with terrific results, Bronson Sardinha was left with a no contact night. The RF finished the game 0 for 4 with 2 walks (7) and 4 strikeouts (22) and what was once a decent start, especially in comparison to the rest of Prospects Row, is now a poor one.

A+ Tampa (Florida State League):
Park Factor:
.979
Record:
9-10

Hector Made and Erold Andrus both pulled their averages’ to the .250 mark with 2 hit performances last night. Made was 2 for 4 with a strikeout (12) and Andrus was 2 for 4 with a home run (2). While both hitters have BA of .250, Andrus’ has displayed more power and patience thus far and as a result his OPS is .104 points higher. Rudy Guillen also picked up a hit, but overall was only 1 for 4. More so than any other Yankee affiliate, I’m scared when hitters go to Tampa and pretty much hold my breath as far as their prospect status.

Abel Gomez picked up the win for Tampa by going 5.1-4-3-3-2-4-0. Once again, he tired in his last inning as he seems to be working through some of the rust as he would give up 2 walks, a double, and 2 runs (1 was an inherited runner scoring) in his final 1.1 innings. He should be back to racking up big K totals soon enough though, now all that is needed is for Eric Abreu to show up…

A- Charleston (South Atlantic League):
Park Factor:
.966
Record:
14-7

Tim Battle was 1 for 5 with a triple (2) and a strikeout from the leadoff spot in last night’s Charleston loss. Battle now has 9 XBH in 86 at bats and is really showing off his power, something that some had questioned based on his minor league work up to this point. It’d still be nice if he could get the BA up some though.

Irwil Rojas continues to cool off offensively; he was 0 for 5 with a strikeout (7) and continues to play questionable, at best, defense. Yesterday’s game saw Rojas give up 2 more passed ball to bring his total to 8, which incidentally is 2 more than the amount of walks that he has thus far. There’s pretty much no way that could ever be anything other than bad, so if he could rectify this issue, that’d be grrrrrreat.

Estee Harris continued to frustrate with a 1 for 5 night, but at the least he did not strike out and Jon Poterson…was not good. The much heralded, by some, RF was 0 for 4 with a walk (4) and 2 strikeouts (20), so at the least he’s managed to really improve his BB:K numbers lately. Unfortunately, his AVG, OBP, and SLUG are all still on the interstate.

Brett Smith had his second straight hittable start, but this time around the hits were hard and he was not able to post the K numbers to counteract this. As a result, his final line was an ugly 5-10-6-5-1-3-0 and after looking so good early on that some were seriously contemplating whether or not he should be promoted, Smith has come back to Earth. His seasonal line of 23-24-10-9-5-23-0 is more in line with what I would have expected this year, and still pretty decent in its own right.



April 28, 2005



by SG

It's still not time to panic. After two straight losses, the Yankees are 9-13, and it was frustrating to watch them tonight, but it is still too early to worry.

I was pleasantly surprised by Kevin Brown's performance. He had his best velocity of the season, and was very solid, especially over his last 3 innings of work. It was just one of those days where the offense couldn't get anything going. I thought the plate umpire had a lousy strike zone tonight which didn't help things, but John Lackey pitched pretty well, and the Angels bullpen is pretty damn close to unhittable. Sometimes you just get beat by a team that's playing better. Flash Gordon had his best inning of the season in the top of the ninth, with good velocity, good control, and a good breaking pitch.

I have mixed feelings about Buddy Groom's success so far. On the one hand, it's nice to see him being effective, on the other hand, it's led to some ridiculous stupid thinking by Joe Torre when discussing the pending return of Tanyon Sturtze.

Torre even floated the idea of keeping 13 pitchers on the roster, though that scenario is unlikely.

"We have to figure it out," Torre said. "If the concern is that we don't want to lose anybody, we may go with 13."


As stupid as the idea of carrying 12 pitchers is, this is even dumber. Yeah, Torre is part of the problem, but a bigger problem is Cashman not making a move to thin out the bullpen and build a better 25 man roster. As it is now, Steve Karsay, Paul Quantrill, and Felix Rodriguez are never pitching. I miss Mariano Rivera, at times I forget he is even on this team. And on top of this, you want to add another pitcher?

The Yankees get Toronto now. They really need to beat up on the weaker teams in the league if they want to quiet the talk about their decline. A good series this weekend against the Blue Jays would be a fine start. I look forward to Tiger Wang's debut on Saturday, and hope he can give us some optimism for the future, not just this year but for years down the road.

I guess I'm not sure when it will be time to panic. This will be the first year since 1991 that the Yankees have had a losing record in April. I would say that in another month, if the Yankees aren't playing better, it will legitimately be time to worry.




Minor League Notes: 4/27/05
by Fabian

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

AAA Columbus (International League):
Park Factor:
.989
Record: 13-8

Robinson Cano’s recent slump continued in Columbus’ 13-2 victory this afternoon. The 22-year-old 2B went 2 for 6 with a double (8) in order to drop his average to .347. During his recent slide he has gone 8 for 26 with 3 doubles. It has been an extremely tough time indeed.

As a note on the issue of Cano and his lack of walks this year, because he has been hitting the ball so hard and so consistently, I don’t care much that he hasn’t walked. You want guys to walk because they’re letting pitches they can’t put a good swing on go by, not just to walk for the sake of walking. Additionally, Cano hasn’t been swinging at everything as much as he’s been hitting a good portion of pitches within the foul lines, which gives him less of a chance to work the deep counts that generate walks.

AA Trenton (Eastern League):
Park Factor:
.986
Record:
10-10

While I’m not quite ready to proclaim Sean Henn fully back yet, I can’t say his performance thus far has been anything less than extremely impressive. After tonight’s 7-2-0-0-2-6-0 performance, Henn’s seasonal line stands at 25.1-16-2-2-9-21-1. I’m still going to be extremely cautious about him because of the inconsistency he displayed in ’04, but yes, right now Henn is showing why the Yankees felt he was worth a then record draft and follow bonus record (granted, the fastball isn’t the same).

Though I’m being extra cautious as far as my feelings towards Henn, I’m going to throw caution to the wind for Eric Duncan and say that following an extremely slow start to his AA career, the 20-year-old 3B has arrived offensively. Duncan was 2 for 4 with a strikeout (13) to pull the average up to .219 and he is now 7 for his last 19 with 3 multi-hit games out of his last 5.

Melky Cabrera, who it could once be said was off to a similarly cold start, has on the other hand only gotten colder. Cabrera took the collar once more; this time it came in the form of an 0 for 3 night, though he did manage to work a walk (3). Bronson Sardinha also worked a walk (5), in addition to going 1 for 3.

A+ Tampa (Florida State League):
Park Factor:
.979
Record:
8-10

Similar to Eric Duncan’s situation, I feel about ready to proclaim Rudy Guillen’s season opening slump as over and done with. The enigmatic CF/RF went 2 for 5 with a triple (2) and a strikeout (21) in today’s contest to boost his average up to .243. His OBP has finally joined his SLG in .300+ territory. LF Erold Andrus also had a good game, as he would go 3 for 5 to bring his average .236. Andrus and Guillen have kept close to each other in terms of recent performance while hitting 4-5 in the lineup. Hector Made was 1 for 4 with a walk (6), which is way ahead of where he was early on last season and also just about the only positive I can find to say about him thus far.

A- Charleston (South Atlantic League):
Park Factor:
.966
Record:
14-6

Tim Battle had himself a nice little game tonight where he could show off his tools, 2 for 6 with a double (4) and 2 stolen bases (13), while also showing off his weakness, 3 strikeouts (32). Of the 3 strikeouts, 2 were swinging, which clashes with the point I’m about to make; while Tim Battle strikes out a ton, it is not so much because he has no clue of the strike zone, which would make me more worried about the Ks than I am, rather it is because his ability to make contact isn’t the greatest. To be honest, Battle does have his fair share of at bats where he goes up hacking at high fastballs and off speed stuff out of the zone, but for the most part, and especially as of late, he seems to have a plan that he attempts to execute at the plate. The problem is just that his ability to make contact comes and goes whether he’s swinging at good pitches or not.

Irwil Rojas was 2 for 5 with a strikeout (6) and his strikeouts have now caught up with his walks, which brings to mind the fact that after being a walking machine early on Rojas has not been doing that much as of late. His strikeouts have actually caught up with his passed balls for that matter, though he did not have any today, thankfully. Continuing his recent stretch of not sucking, Estee Harris went 1 for 4 with a walk (6) and a strikeout (15). Jon Poterson was 0 for 2 with a walk (3) and a strikeout (18) before being replaced late in the game. It’s nice to see that he is now beginning to take his share of base on balls as his early season plate appearances that all resulted in weak pop-ups or ground outs to the 2B or a strikeout were really infuriating, especially since Gio Gonzalez looks like a stud right now (I couldn’t hold out any longer).



April 27, 2005


Minor League Notes: 4/26/05
by Fabian

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

AAA Columbus (International League):
Park Factor:
.989
Record:
12-8

Robinson Cano was 1 for 5 with 2 strikeouts (11) as he continues to drift back to Earth following his customary hot start. Though Cano has definitely slowed, he is still 6 for his last 20, which is a stretch many hitters, I can think of quite a few Yankee prospects right away, would take.

AA Trenton (Eastern League):
Park Factor:
.986
Record:
9-10

The Trenton Thunder were shut out, which generally means poor nights all around for Prospects Row. Of the trio, Eric Duncan had the best offensive game by going 1 for 4, which is good enough to raise his average a bit and at this point, any thing that can be done to push his numbers towards respectability will be accepted without complaint. Unfortunately, Duncan had a bad game on defense as he committed 2 throwing errors to bring his season total to 6 overall miscues. Once again, for those ready to permanently move him from the hot corner, he made 12 errors in his first 21 games last year.

Bronson Sardinha was next up in terms of productivity as he was 1 for 4 with a strikeout (18), and Melky Cabrera, in what is becoming an alarming trend, had the least productive night by going 0 for 4 with a strikeout (10). Throwing in the whole never walking any more thing with the hitting slump so far, Cabrera has been one of the weaker links in a weak Trenton lineup.

A+ Tampa (Florida State League):
Park Factor:
.979
Record:
7-10

SUSPENDED

A- Charleston (South Atlantic League):
Park Factor:
.966
Record:
13-6

Phil Hughes came back from missing time with a fingernail injury and had the type of start I expect out of a highly touted HS pitcher. Hughes’ final line was 5-2-0-0-2-8-0 as he lowered his ERA to 1.40. The only “complaint” I have in relation to this is that despite having issued just 6 walks in 19.1 innings and consistently being around the strike zone with his pitches, I expected Hughes’ control to be better. While I never came close to believing he could achieve his personal goal and stay within the single digits for walks on the season, I thought he would have a better walk rate than Tyler Clippard did last year and that does not look like it will happen at this point.

Tim Battle was 0 for 4 with a strikeout on this night, but did manage to reach base on an error by the 3B during his 2nd at bat. Once he got on base, he did as he has been wont to do and stole 2nd (11). As I have said previously, Battle is very raw on the base paths, but still manages to make up for it with truly outstanding speed. Irwil Rojas was 1 for 4 with another strikeout (5), as he seems to be regressing to the realm of good contact hitters. His defense behind the plate continues to be an issue as well as he allowed 2 SBs and another passed ball (6). Estee Harris had a good day at the plate as he would go 2 for 4 with a home run (2) to pull his average up to .176 and is now 5 for his last 14 with 2 doubles and a home run; his hottest stretch of the season. Lastly, Jon Poterson was 1 for 4 with a single as he has recently put together his own hot…more like mild, streak.





Is he a 'True' Yankee now?
by SG

When the Yankees got Alex Rodriguez, they got one of the best players in the game. However, for whatever reason, he's been criticized for not being a 'true' Yankee. Rodriguez had a somewhat down year by his lofty standards, struggled with RISP and was involved in a couple of incidents which tarnished his image. Last night, he may have arrived as a Yankee by blasting 3 HRs and driving in 10 runs in a 12-4 thrashing of the Angels. He even got a curtain call, which I don't remember him getting last year.

As the youngest regular in the Yankee lineup, Rodriguez is being counted on to have a monster year. With people like Bernie and Posada showing little power in the early going, it's going to be up to Alex to carry the team when the older bats are slow or slumping. Hopefully yesterday will be the spark that he needs to finally stop pressing and just play.

The whole 'true' Yankee stuff is stupid to me. A true Yankee wears a Yankee uniform and draws a paycheck from them.

Another good game from Carl Pavano. He won't blow people away, but he is quietly efficient and effective. I won't get too excited yet after watching Javier Vazquez impress in the first half last year, but I've been very happy with the Pavano signing.

Andy Phillips got another start, and singled doubled once in five AB. He also just missed a HR on a line drive down the left field line that just missed the foul pole. I don't know how much he will play going forward, but every hit he gets can't hurt.

We also finally got to see the debut of Colter Bean. He's been touted for a few years due to eye-popping statistics in the minors. However, scouts see a guy who throws with an ugly motion and barely breaks 85 mph, and think he'll get killed in the majors.

Bean looked ok to me. His pitches seemed to have good movement, if not enough velocity. For some reason, I got a Jeff Nelson vibe off him. He had a good first inning and a shaky second inning. He looks like he will struggle against lefty hitters, but I don't think it's impossible that he can be an asset in a Steve Reed/Chad Bradford way. He'll only be up for a few more days, but if there are injuries or trades he may find his way back up this year. If not, hopefully the Yankees will consider using him on next year's team when some of the bullpen contracts are up.


April 26, 2005


Minor League Notes: 4/25/05
by Fabian

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

AAA Columbus (International League):
Park Factor:
.989
Record:
11-8

Robinson Cano finished Columbus’ game strong in order to avoid me making serious mention of a slump, in reference to him, for the first time this year. Cano began the game 0 for 3 with a strikeout (9), but then doubled (7) in each of his last two at bats, one to CF and one to LF, to make this a game where he improved his AVG, OBP, and SLG. Unfortunately, Cano also made his 3rd error of the season when he muffed a catch.

AA Trenton (Eastern League):
Park Factor:
.986
Record:
9-9

DAY OFF

A+ Tampa (Florida State League):
Park Factor:
.979
Record:
7-10

For the first time in what seems like forever, all 3 of the primary Tampa offensive prospects had positive nights. Hector Made had the least impressive night of the three, as he was 1 for 4 with a walk (5). Rudy Guillen flashed the power and legs that help make him a 5-tool prospect in going 2 for 5 with a triple (1) and 2 strikeouts (20), as his K rate continues it’s climb towards extremely alarming. Finally, Erold Andrus was 2 for 4 with a walk (7) and a strikeout (13). While Guillen’s BB:K numbers are depressing, I have been impressed with the improvement that Andrus has shown in this department; Made has been somewhat decent as well, at least in comparison to ’03.

A- Charleston (South Atlantic League):
Park Factor:
.966
Record:
12-6

Jeff Marquez authored the best start of his ’05 season in leading Charleston victory, but the night was not without its hiccups. Marquez was dominant for much of the early portion of the game, including one stretch from the 2nd to 3rd innings where he struck out 3 men in a row on a total of 9 pitches. His power change-up was the primary weapon on this night and the opposition’s hitters had a ton of trouble with it. However, later on in the game he either tired or lost it somewhat as he began missing consistently, but was able to work out of jams due to his defense picking him up somewhat and turning some nice plays behind him. Finally, the defense failed him in the 7th as Estee Harris dropped a fly ball after Ben Jones made an error at 1B. In all, the start was impressive in that it showed that Marquez can get the job done at the full season level when he’s on, but one must still be concerned about his control at this point as he has now walked 13 men in 17.2 innings. His final line for the night was 7-4-2-0-3-5-0.

Marcos Vechionacci was once again MIA due to the injury he suffered in the home plate collision, though he is expected back sometime on the upcoming road trip, but on this night the rest of the hitters weren’t as good. Irwil Rojas had a forgettable game that included some half-hearted swings and a strikeout (4) as he took the collar in 4 at bats. Jon Poterson had one at bat conclude in a nice run scoring single, but was otherwise quiet in his 4 at bats. Estee Harris was 1 for 4 with a double (3) and a strikeout (14), but the double was more luck than anything else as the ball took an unexpected hop on the 1B allowing Harris to utilize his legs for the two base hit.

Finally, Tim Battle was 0 for 2 with a walk (7), 2 strikeouts (28) and a HBP (1). One strikeout was the product of a lopsided AB that saw Battle go down swinging on a high fastball, the 3rd pitch in the encounter, while the other strikeout was just Battle being caught looking on a 1-2 curveball. Battle also managed to steal his 10th base of the season in this game, which is impressive, but excitement about his base running capabilities must also be taken in the context that of the 4 times Battle has been caught stealing, all 4 have been on pickoffs. This is to say, Tim Battle is really, really, really fast, but also really, really, really raw on the base paths and tends to become overanxious leading to him getting caught leaning the wrong way. The final aspect of Battle’s night to consider is the catch he made going back in CF on a ball that seemed surely ticketed for extra bases.



April 25, 2005


Minor League Notes: 4/23&24/05
by Fabian

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


AAA Columbus (International League):

Park Factor:
.989
Record:
10-8

On Saturday afternoon Robinson Cano had his 2nd poor game in the last 4 outings prior as he faced off against LHP and former Yankee prospect Randy Kiesler. Though he had a couple hard hit balls, Cano finished the game with no positive results, as he was 0 for 5. He followed this disappointing game with his 2nd three hit game of the last 4 games. Once again, all 3 hits were singles and Cano’s average now sits at .354 with an OPS still above 1.000. This is a very critical portion of the first month for Cano as he has clearly cooled off from the offensive heights that he began the season at and will need to show that he can still be an effective player when not white-hot.

Ramon Ramirez started the Sunday game and did not have his control, as the results will show. Ramirez’s final line of 4.1-5-4-4-3-4-0 was not one to write home about and he has yet to get on one of his customary rolls where his walk to strikeout ratio is spectacular.

In Columbus promotion news, Colter Bean has been freed, at least temporarily and Chien-Ming Wang will be starting on Saturday. I’m excited about Bean’s promotion and hope he will get a legitimate shot as I have been waiting for this day to come since I first started the Minor Yankee Blog. In addition, while I’m excited that Wang will get a shot, my expectations for him are not too high and while he may be a better prospect than Brad Halsey was last year, I was more sure/excited of/about Halsey’s promotion then than I am Wang’s now; he should still outdo whatever Jaret Wright would have given the Yanks though. Lastly, Andy Phillips was given the start at 1B today and performed, as his numbers from the past year+ would indicate. Hopefully, Phillips sees more time in place of Tino and/or Giambi, as he should be given the shot to at least take Ruben Sierra’s role.

AA Trenton (Eastern League):
Park Factor:
.986
Record:
9-9

The Trenton Thunder, after starting the year off in horrid fashion, are on a roll and the starting pitching has played a large role in the goodness. Jeff Karstens has been dominant all season long and the case was no different in his 4th start of the year on Saturday; Karstens’ final line was 8-4-1-1-1-6-0 and now sports a 1.50 ERA in 24 innings of work There is no fault to be found with any of Karstens’ ratios and he has made the transition to AA in spectacular fashion thus far. I’d give it another month or so of similar work before any noise about promotions should be made.

Matt DeSalvo worked a dominant outing on Sunday as well, though for not nearly as long and with a messier line. DeSalvo went 5.2-2-0-0-5-6-0 to lower his ERA to 3.79. According to Frankie Pilliere of Pinstripes Plus who attended the game, DeSalvo worked his fastball mainly at 89-93 with most of them hitting 90 or 91. In addition, he says that of the 5 walks DeSalvo gave up, only 1 was “legitimate”. Still, DeSalvo’s control has been the most alarming aspect of his game thus far. In 19 innings, the RHP has walked 15. His control has never been something to be overly positive about, but never this bad when considering that some of last year’s AA control issues can be blamed on his injury.

On Saturday Eric Duncan followed a terrific Friday night with a forgettable game. With yet another LHP on the mound, Duncan could only muster an 0 for 3 with 2 strikeout (12) night. Then on Sunday Duncan had another terrific game; 2 for 4 with his 1st home run of the year. The overall numbers are still pretty bad, but with 2 good games in his last 3 and overall better hitting of late, Duncan is definitely picking up the pace as he attempts to recover from a horrendous start.

Melky Cabrera was also disappointing on Saturday as he was 0 for 3 with 1 strikeout (9). He then recovered in the Sunday game as Duncan did by going 1 for 3 with his first double of the year and his first unintentional walk of the season (2). Cabrera taking until April 24th to get his first double of the year may be the most surprising aspect of the Yankee minor league performance thus far considering his history of racking up 2 baggers.

Bronson Sardinha did not start on Saturday and was not especially effective on Sunday as he finished that contest 0 for 3 with a walk (4) and 2 strikeouts (17).

A+ Tampa (Florida State League):
Park Factor:
.979
Record:
6-10

Tampa’s game was rained out on Saturday, but they played on Sunday and Tyler Clippard authored his best start of the year; 6-1-0-0-3-8-0. Clippard’s control, at least based on box scores, still seems to be off thus far. His hit rate has been better than last year though so perhaps it’s a case of a guy learning that a little bit of wildness may increase effectiveness or it could just be small sample size effect.

Hector Made definitely appears to be back on the correct track following a long cold spell. The SS was 2 for 5 with a double (3) and is now 7 for his last 19. Erold Andrus also picked up a double (4) in his 4 at bats to get back to .200 and Rudy Guillen was 1 for 4 with a strikeout (18) to get his average up to .197.

A- Charleston (South Atlantic League):
Park Factor: .966
Record:
11-6

Christian Garcia started the Sunday game, Charleston’s 3rd in the last two days, and had his longest, most effective outing of the season. Garcia went 5-5-1-1-1-4-0, but was not able to pick up the win, as the offense did not arrive until a little after he left the game. While Garcia’s control has been reason for concern at times he has been one of the most exciting pitchers to follow thus far due to his spectacular curveball.

Marcos Vechionacci played in the first half of the Charleston Saturday double header and was 0 for 2 with a walk (7) and a strikeout (11), but hurt his back on a play at the plate and did not appear for the rest of the weekend’s games.

Irwil Rojas played both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader, a surprising move, but did not play on Sunday. On Saturday, Rojas was 1 for 5 with a double (4) and a walk (6). Rojas currently has more walks, 6, and extra base hits, 4, than strikeouts, 3, an impressive mark. His approach at the plate is indeed a thing to behold and while it does make one want to feel like Dioner Navarro is forgettable, you also have to consider that Navarro is 3 levels higher and only about a year older. In addition, while Navarro has been described as a lazy receiver, his actual defensive skills did garner praise, while Rojas seems to have a major problem as far as setting a target or blocking pitches.

Jon Poterson had arguably his best 9 at bat stretch of the season and it involved only picking up 2 hits. The RF was a combined 2 for 9 with a walk (2) and 2 strikeouts (16) with one of the hits being his 1st home run of the season and just 2nd extra base hit overall. Since Poterson and Eric Duncan are the first names that come to mind as far as best power potential in the organization it is interesting that both are sitting on just 1 double and 1 HR at this point in the season, granted Poterson’s overall struggles have been more serious.

Estee Harris did not play on Sunday, but had a very good Saturday where he went 2 for 6 with a double (2) and a walk (5). Harris has actually done a better job of making contact this year despite already accumulating 13 strikeouts in 43 at bats while not being a productive hitter. The team’s other multi-talented strikeout prone young OF also had a good weekend. Tim Battle played in all 3 games and was 5 for 12 with 2 strikeouts (26). After striking out 18 times in his first 36 at bats, Battle has “only” struck out 8 times in his last 28 at bats. His average is also up to .246 and his OBP has eclipsed the .300 mark. I was extremely concerned about him early on given the ridiculous K rate, but am now more confident in him validating me placing him as high on my preseason list as I did.



April 24, 2005


The Andy and RJ show
by SG

After a rough two games against Texas, the Yankees came out today and took care of business, playing a game that the front office probably dreamed of when they built this team in the offseason. Randy Johnson was dominating, despite not having tremendous velociy. Although he did get as high as 96 on one scoreboard reading, he was still working in the low 90s for the most part, but attacked Texas with sliders and impeccable control. He threw 103 pitches, 60 of them for strikes in 8 innings, allowing only 3 hits, 1 walk, 1 run, and with 7 strikeouts. I think most of us are not worried about RJ, but it was good to see him pitching so well. Tom Gordon pitched a perfect ninth, although his control wasn't great, but he looked pretty good as well.

The story of this game to me was the offense. Quietly, due to the Yankees' struggles so far, Derek Jeter is having a tremendous season. His 3 for 4 day, topped with a HR has him sitting at .361/.478/.514. The most pleasant sign for me is the spike in Jeter's walk rate. Most likely due to his slow start last season, Jeter's BB/PA ratio was a lowly .065. This was his lowest ratio since his rookie season. However, after today's game, he is sitting at .175, which would blow away his career high set in 1999, when he probably should have won the MVP. I'd expect that to come down as the season progresses, but it does bode well for the rest of this season.

But the real good news of the day was Andy Phillips. Prior to the game, 'Not Marv Cook', a poster at Baseball Think Factory posted:

"This would be a great day for Andy Phillips to pull a Bubba Crosby."

This was a reference to this game, when Crosby hit a 3 run HR to spark a 5-4 win over the White Sox for a Yankee team that had been struggling.

A surprising insertion into the starting lineup against a righty, Phillips had a big RBI double in the Yankees' 4 run second inning, and then hit a homerun in the 8th to turn a laugher into a blowout. He also seemed pretty good defensively, although he didn't really get tested. Joe Torre seemed very impressed on the postgame show, so look for Phillips to get some semi-regular playing time, or at least be called on to pinch-hit in key spots. Sierra will be out for 4-6 weeks, so he should have plenty of time to make the Yankees think about keeping him on the roster. Ideally, they will clean up the clutter in the bullpen at some point, and allow themselves an extra bat on the bench.

Paul O'Neill brought up an interesting point during the game about how having some youth on a veteran team can perk them up. Phillips is not young in years, but he is young in major league experience. Perhaps he can bring some energy to a team that's been lacking it. One thing I've seen with the Yankees so far this season is they seem kind of flat. I'm sure the pitching getting shelled has a lot to do with that, but they certainly looked like they had a spark today.

And now the Yankees are 8-11, the same record they had after 19 games last season. It doesn't really mean much, this is a different team, but it's a little more evidence that it's not time to panic yet.

The flaws that are on this team are not going away, but there is still a ton of talent on this team. As Yankee fans, we just have to hope that the good outweighs the bad enough that they can make the playoffs. Once there, I'll take my chances with RJ, Moose, Pavano, Mo, Flash, Sturtze? and this offense against anyone.


April 23, 2005


Sunk Costs, Part Deux
by SG

Among the many moves that a lot of Yankee fans were not particularly enamored of was the Yankees' signing of Jaret Wright off of a career year with Atlanta. There was certainly good reason for concern.


Year Ag Tm Lg W L G GS CG SHO GF SV IP H R ER HR BB SO HBP WP BFP ERA *lgERA *ERA+

+--------------+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+--+------+----+----+----+---+----+----+---+---+-----+-----+-----+----+
1997 21 CLE AL 8 3 16 16 0 0 0 0 90.3 81 45 44 9 35 63 5 1 388 4.38 4.71 107
1998 22 CLE AL 12 10 32 32 1 1 0 0 192.7 207 109 101 22 87 140 11 6 855 4.72 4.80 102
1999 23 CLE AL 8 10 26 26 0 0 0 0 133.7 144 99 90 18 77 91 7 4 609 6.06 5.02 83
2000 24 CLE AL 3 4 9 9 1 1 0 0 51.7 44 27 27 6 28 36 1 2 217 4.70 5.02 107
2001 25 CLE AL 2 2 7 7 0 0 0 0 29.0 36 23 21 2 22 18 0 1 140 6.52 4.53 69
2002 26 CLE AL 2 3 8 6 0 0 1 0 18.3 40 34 32 3 19 12 2 1 116 15.71 4.51 29
2003 27 TOT NL 2 5 50 0 0 0 17 2 56.3 76 46 46 9 31 50 3 12 269 7.35 3.98 54
2004 28 ATL NL 15 8 32 32 0 0 0 0 186.3 168 79 68 11 70 159 3 3 781 3.28 4.31 131


One of these things is not like the others.

The Yankees and their scouts felt strongly enough about Wright to sign him for 3 years and $21 million. The highest offer out of Atlanta was $4 million over 2 years. Rather than considering that the team he just pitched for didn't feel strongly enough about Wright repeating his performance to go higher than $2 million a year for two years, the Yankees had Wright take a physical, WHICH HE FAILED.

Rather than realize that maybe this could be a problem, they gave him another physical and this time he passed. They did "protect" themselves with an out clause, which can be triggered in year 3 of the contract if Wright spends a combined 75 days on the DL in years 1 and 2. They would still have to buy out year 3 at a cost of $4 million, so they would save $3 million out of the deal.

Here was Brian Cashman's take on the signing:

"I think when we approach our winter every year, the only sensible thing is to attack the areas of weakness," Cashman said. "Our biggest concern was our rotation, and the belief here is that we're going into the spring with a much stronger rotation than we ended with last season.

"We got younger at the same time, and that's always good," added the GM. "We're excited about the potential of the staff, but now we have to play it out."


Despite posting a 2-1 record, Wright had pitched very poorly going into today's game. He followed this up with his worst game of the year so far, giving up six runs in the first two innings before finally leaving the game in the sixth with what is being described as 'shoulder pain.' He will be re-evaluated tomorrow. I did not really care for the fans that cheered Wright's injury though, I thought that was pretty classless. Yeah, he's not pitching well, but he's trying. If you're going to be annoyed at anyone, be annoyed at the guys who brought him here. There's not anyone of us that wouldn't have taken the Yankees' offer if we were Wright.

Wright was signed in lieu of Jon Lieber, Matt Clement, Odalis Perez, Orlando Hernandez, and Eric Milton amongst others, at around the same dollar value or less.
With Clement and Perez, there were questions about their personalities, with Lieber and Hernandez there were age issues, and with Milton they felt he was asking for more than he was worth(at least they got this one right). I think it's safe to say that any one of them at this point in time would have been a far better signing, even Milton as scary as that is.

Regardless, what's done is done. At this point, I'd guess that Wright will go on the DL and they will call up Tiger Wang. The best thing for this organization would be for Wang to pitch well enough to be considered for a rotation spot if Brown/Wright can't pitch this season, or as the fifth starter when Brown's contract is finally up at the end of the season. The Yankees are notoriously impatient with young starters (see Halsey, Brad or Lilly, Ted) so Wang will have to do a creditable job from the start. With a very poor free agent crop of pitchers coming up, the Yankees have to stop doing what they've been doing, which is overpaying for mediocrity. It is far better to sign one Carlos Beltran for $14 million than to sign a Jaret Wright for $7 million, a Tony Womack for $2 million, a Tino Martinez for $2 million, and Ruben Sierra, John Flahery, and Rey Sanchez for $1 million each. The sooner they learn that, the better.

Another loss today dropped the Yankees to 7-11. If they manage to win tomorrow, they will have the same record as last year, so it is still not time to panic. However, it's so painfully obvious that this past offseason was not a good one, and it is becoming more apparent.

Tony Womack .233/.292/.283
Tino Martinez .200/.310/.360
Jaret Wright 2-2, 9.15 ERA
Randy Johnson 1-1, 5.13 ERA
Felix Rodriguez 4.70 ERA

Other names of note:
Jon Lieber 4-0, 2.73 ERA
Matt Clement 2-0, 2.13 ERA
Orlando Hernandez 2-1, 2.50 ERA
Odalis Perez 3-0, 2.04 ERA
Jose Contreras 0-0, 3.63 ERA

Update: Supposedly, the Yankees are going to call up Colter Bean to take Wright's spot. I guess this is because they won't need a fifth starter until next Saturday. It's not like Torre will use Bean unless there's a blowout though.




Minor League Notes: 4/21&22/05
by Fabian

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

AAA Columbus (International League):
Park Factor:
.989
Record:
10-6

My hope that Robinson Cano’s poor offensive night on the 20th was just a bump in the road seems to have come true. Cano followed one of his more forgettable nights thus far this season by going 3 for 5 on Thursday and then 1 for 4 with a walk (5) and a strikeout (8) on Friday. So, as Womack continues to flounder at the ML level with an OPS in the low .600 range, Cano continues to stay above 1. for Columbus. Cano is obviously beginning to cool off somewhat and it’ll be interesting to see exactly where the cooling off period leaves him. Regardless, he is still most likely better for the ML team than Womack is right now, despite whatever the front office may think.

Chien-Ming Wang started for Columbus last night and had a meh game. The first line of Yankee defense if/when everyone gives up on Kevin Brown went 6-12-4-4-0-3-0. Wang’s ERA now sits at 4.15 and he has not been nearly as good in this AAA stint as he was during last year’s but that should have been expected, to an extent. Still, Wang as been solid thus far and if nothing else, is proving he can eat innings even on his less than stellar days.

AA Trenton (Eastern League):
Park Factor:
.986
Record:
7-9

On Thursday, Eric Duncan was 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts (10), making his situation look more hapless than usual. Then, on Friday, he finally arrived. Duncan had what is easily his best game of the year as the 20-year-old went 2 for 3 with a double (1!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and a walk. Hopefully, finally having his first XBH of the season will get Duncan back on the track he needs to be where those types of hits come more often than not. While Duncan’s stretch to start the season was pretty horrid, it was only 50 odd at bats (hopefully) and he had a month last year, June, where he was much worse and still ended the year with fine overall totals so don’t write off his ’05 just yet. Just like the frustrations with the ML Yankees, things are only being amplified by taking place early.

In other Trenton offensive prospect news, Melky Cabrera has returned to the lineup and Bronson Sardinha promptly went cold. Sardinha is 0 for 7 with a strikeout (15) over the last two games while Cabrera has returned cold; the CF is 1 for 8 with 2 strikeouts (8). Due to uncharacteristically only having 1XBH thus far and his impatient hitting style only producing 1 BB, Cabrera has been just about as unproductive as Duncan thus far despite a BA about .40 points higher.

On Thursday night Sean Henn authored a reasonably dominant start despite less than perfect control. Henn was good for 7.1-2-0-0-4-5-0 and now has a 0.98 ERA in 18.1 innings, as he has gotten off to a fast start, similar to last year. The key will be if the fatigue issues that plagued him last year, causing an eventual pattern of good start-bad start, will once again crop up. I’m also curious to see how much Henn’s bullpen conversion will be pushed off based on the performance he has had as a starter thus far in ’05.

Steven White was initially scheduled to start Friday night’s game, but was not able to take the mound due to an injury he incurred during a side session. Perhaps the time off will allow him to clear his head and get his game together.

A+ Tampa (Florida State League):
Park Factor:
.979
Record:
5-10

Hector Made had what I guess could/should be qualified as a hot stretch, considering his seasonal numbers, over the Thursday-Friday games. Made was a combined 3 for 10 with a double (2), a walk (4), and a strikeout (10). His BA is now up to .219 with a .261 OBP and .281 SLG…terrific.

Rudy Guillen and Erold Andrus were not as fortunate during the two games. Andrus was just plain horrid, while Guillen did have 1 hit to talk about. The hit for Guillen was a HR, his first of this year and 2nd over the past two seasons, but overall he was still only 1 for 9 with a walk (5) and 5 strikeouts (17). Andrus was 0 for 8 with 2 walks (6) and 4 strikeouts (12). If I were looking for positives from the seasons of Andrus and Guillen so far I’d have to look at the fact that their walk rates are decent.

The most exciting news to come out of Tampa was definitely that the starter for Friday night’s game was Abel Gomez. Making his ’05 debut, Gomez was very good for 4 innings before losing control, literally, before walking 3 in his 5th and final inning. The final line for the LHP was 5-4-5-2-4-3-0. Gomez on the Tampa team definitely makes them a lot more exciting and now all that needs to happen is the return of Eric Abreu. I’m also excited to see how the adjustments that were made to improve Abel’s control will play out.

A- Charleston (South Atlantic League):
Park Factor:
.966
Record:
8-6

DAY OFF and RAINOUT.





Sunk Costs
by SG

Fortunately for me, I did not get to watch last night's game. I did listen to most of it on the radio, and as Kevin Brown gave another crappy performance to start the game, one thing that John Sterling said really got on my nerves:

"Brown's in the rotation, you have to pitch him."

I understand that Kevin Brown is making $15 million this season. However, if every time he starts he is putting his team in a 5 or 6 run hole to start the game, then the Yankees need to view him as a sunk cost.

From Wikipedia, here's what a sunk cost is:

In economics and in business decision-making, sunk costs are costs that have already been incurred and which cannot be recovered to any significant degree. Sunk costs are sometimes contrasted with incremental costs, which are the costs that will change due to the proposed course of action. In microeconomic theory, only incremental costs are relevant to a decision. If we let sunk costs influence our decisions, we will not be assessing a proposal exclusively on its own merits.

I'd swear that could've been written about Kevin Brown.

It's too soon to give up on Brown, it's only two starts, but if someone from the minors shows some consistency (Tiger Wang or Ramon Ramirez perhaps?), then I'd hope the Yankees wouldn't keep throwing Brown in the rotation strictly because they are paying him. That salary is gone, it's not coming back. You can't keep trying to justify it while costing your team wins. I guess I don't trust the Yankees to make that kind of decision, but perhaps an injury to Brown will make it for them.

Brown wasn't helped by a less than stellar offensive performance. The bullpen was strong again, especially Mike Stanton in a shocking peformance where he struck out all four batters he faced. I've basically accepted that the team will not leave April above .500 at this point, but as long as they win more than they lose going forward, I'll hope for a 15 game tear where they go 12-3 or something to get their record back up to respectability.

In other news, the latest on Ruben Sierra is that he will miss 4 to 6 weeks, and Andy Phillips has been called up. Shockingly, he got an AB yesterday. I'd like to see Torre give him some playing time, and hope that he can get some big hits so that Torre will play him ocassionally. Also, Tanyon Sturtze played catch yesterday and felt fine, so expect him to be back when his DL time is up.


April 22, 2005



by SG

If I had my way, every Yankee game would be like the game yesterday where they shellacked the Blue Jays 11-2. Games like that don't teach you as much about the team as games like tonight's though.

After young lefty Gustavo Chacin baffled the Yankees the first time through the order, they started getting more comfortable against him the second time through. Bernie Williams led off the top of the fourth with a single. I've been happy to see Bernie's bat come to life of late. His .264 average and .375 OBP are certainly respectable, but his .340 SLG is still not very good. Gary Sheffield continues to hit the ball as hard as anyone I've ever seen, even at age 36, and lined a double to bring home Bernie. Sheffield went to third on the throw home, and scored on a sac fly by Hideki Matsui. They added two more runs in the fifth for a total of four runs.

The offense is not a concern on this team. We know they're old, declining, etc., but they can be expected to produce. The bigger concern for me in tonight's game was Mike Mussina. Again, Moose was effective, but less than impressive. He did get up to 91 mph on one fastball, but most of the time he was working in the 85-88 range, and he seems to be throwing more breaking balls this year. I am hoping he is still building arm strength, because as it is he's not really much more than a mid-level starter. He is constantly getting into jams, but to his credit he's pitching out of them, including a very nice double play in the third inning with the bases loaded and one out, where Moose stabbed a sharp grounder and threw home for the 1-2-3 double play.

Joe Torre again failed to impress me with his bullpen management, although it all managed to work out. To relieve Moose with runners on second and third and only one out in the bottom fo the sixth, Torre brought in Buddy Groom to make his Yankee debut. Groom intentionally walked Reed Johnson to face Greg Zaun, and got him to popup on the infield. With Shea Hillenbrand up, Torre brough in Felix Rodriguez who induced a sharp grounder to Jeter for the third out.

Then, in the top of the seventh, after getting one out, F-Rod gave up a double to Vernon Wells. With lefty Eric Hinske due up, despite the fact that Rodriguez has historically been very good against lefties, Torre went to Mike Stanton, who has been a bit shaky this year, including walking the last two lefties he's been brought in to retire. Stanton vindicated Torre by getting Hinske to fly out to center, and then Torre went to Flash Gordon. Gordon looked very good, with a lone walk his only blemish.

Then came Mo. He still doesn't look like he's 100%, but he got through it despite a scare. I think each successful outing will help him put the first week of the season out of his mind.

So the Yankees are still 2 games under .500 despite winning 3 of their last 4 games, but things are looking up. They'll head back home for a three game series with Texas now. I really would like to see a sweep, the longer this team is under .500 the more we're going to have to hear about what a disappointment they are. After last week though, things are looking better. I was happy with the offense's clutch hitting, and I thought the bullpen did a fine job of picking up a struggling Mike Mussina.


April 20, 2005


Minor League Notes: 4/20/05 (Updated)
by Fabian

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

AAA Columbus (International League):
Park Factor:
.989
Record:
9-5

The Robinson Cano show came to, hopefully, just a slight pause today. In going 0 for 4 without a walk or HBP, Cano was left with his first game where he did not get on base for the young season. Cano’s average is also now down to a .350 BA overall.

AA Trenton (Eastern League):
Park Factor: .986
Record:
5-9

Not only did Trenton win again today, but also Eric Duncan had arguably his best offensive game of the season. The 3B who has been experiencing all sorts of troubles at the plate was 2 for 5 with a strikeout (8). The first hit was a grounder up the middle and the second was a liner into CF, so hopefully this is the start of something bigger. Unfortunately, Duncan also made his 5th error of the season and 4th in his last 3 games today. Similar to last year, it seems as though the miscues will be in bunches. For some positive spin on this issue, last year he had 12 in his first 21 games, and only made 14 in his next 92 games.

Meanwhile, Bronson Sardinha continued his recent hot hitting by going 2 for 5 with a double (4) and a strikeout (14). Sardinha has been the best prospect performer on the Trenton team thus far. Melky Cabrera once again did not play.

A+ Tampa (Florida State League):
Park Factor: .979
Record:
5-8

Hector Made had a very good game for the Tampa Yankees; the SS would collect 2 singles over the course of 4 at bats. Unfortunately, neither Rudy Guillen nor Erold Andrus was as good. Guillen’s night was the next step down as he had 1 hit in 3 at bats and Andrus was the worst of the three with no hits in his 3 at bats.

A- Charleston (South Atlantic League):
Park Factor:
.966
Record:
8-6

I had extremely high hopes for Jeff Marquez entering the ’05 season. Despite a low strikeout rate in the NYPL, I bought into the hype that his groundball tendencies would make that inconsequential and was fine with him potentially starting the year in the FSL; Marquez’s early season performance has cast the praises into doubt. For the 3rd start in a row (4th if you count the preseason game broadcast prior to opening day), Marquez was brutal. Today his final line was 3-6-6-4-3-1-0 to give him a seasonal line of 10.2-18-14-11-10-12-0. I guess the sinker is working in the sense that he’s yet to give up a homer and the strikeout rate is good, but that line is still horrendous. Thankfully, it’s only 10.2 innings and Marquez has time to turn around his season.

Marcos Vechionacci was given his first day off of the season, so Irwil Rojas took up the role of best hitter on the team. Rojas was 2 for 4 with a double (3) and is looking terrific at the plate right now, if only the same could be said of his defense. Tim Battle did not get any hits, extra base variety or otherwise, but got on base via walk (6) and was 0 for 3 with a strikeout (24). Battle’s season has been very good outside the first week or so and it’s encouraging that he’s making tangible adjustments. Estee Harris was also a recipient of a no contact night; the LF finished the day 0 for 3 with a walk (4) and 2 strikeouts (13).





Minor League Notes: 4/19/05
by Fabian

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

AAA Columbus (International League):

Park Factor:
.989
Record: 9-4

Robinson Cano
continued to demolish IL pitching tonight. To put his start in perspective, after going 2 for 5 with a double (5) tonight, his SLG is actually going to go down. Regardless, Cano is doing a spectacular job of erasing doubts surrounding his power. The only thing I can complain about is the lack of walks as only 1 of his 4 walks thus far was not intentional.

Ramon Ramirez had a solid start curtailed by control problems. The diminutive RHP went 5-4-1-1-3-5-1. Ramirez’s final line would have been much better had it not been for the issues he ran into in the 6th inning where he walked a batter, gave up a double, and walked another batter leading to an early exit.

AA Trenton (Eastern League):
Park Factor: .986
Record:
4-9

The Trenton Thunder had an offensive outburst tonight on their way to amassing 11 runs and 10 hits. Unfortunately, Prospects Row was not really a part of that. Melky Cabrera’s recent troubles gave him the night off, prohibiting him from the festivities, while Eric Duncan continued to scuffle. Duncan, at the least, had a couple hard hit balls tonight, but still no results, as he would go 0 for 5 with a strikeout (7). Duncan’s offensive ineptitude even seems to have begun affecting him in the field as his flawless fielding early on is no longer existent, the 3B made an error to give him 4 overall and 3 in his last two games. Bronson Sardinha was the lone offensive prospect bright spot. Sardinha was 1 for 2 and gathered two walks, clearly responding to my earlier post. Bronson also made a fielding error (2), but we’ll overlook that for now.

Matt DeSalvo is a pitcher often noted as lacking in big time raw “stuff”; in other words, his fastball isn’t THAT fast. As a result, he is the type of pitcher that relies on having a deep repertoire and being able to place those pitches. Tonight, Matt DeSalvo could not place his pitches and the result was ugly. DeSalvo went 3.1-9-5-4-4-1-0 for his worst start of the year.

A+ Tampa (Florida State League):
Park Factor:
.979
Record:
5-7

Tampa won a pitching duel 3-2 tonight and as would be expected, the offensive prospects played almost no real role in the game. Hector Made was 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts (9), Rudy Guillen was 0 for 4 with 1 strikeout (12), and Erold Andrus had the best day by going 1 for 4 with 1 strikeout (7). On the one hand, it IS the FSL and I am understanding of the difficulty of hitting there, but then again, with a bunch of Yankee prospects struggling there is more emphasis on these guys doing well in order to compensate for the rest of the farm so their “hitting” thus far has been frustrating.

A- Charleston (South Atlantic League):
Park Factor:
.966
Record:
8-5

Charleston won a slugfest by the final score of 10-7 and two of the offensive prospects shone brightly in today’s action. While Marcos Vechionacci had a forgettable play in the field and made a base running gaffe due to being overly aggressive, he was very good at the plate. Nacci went 3 for 5 to bring his average back up to .308 following a brief dry spell.

Tim Battle continues to impress following a horrendous opening to the season. While Battle struck out twice today (23) he also walked (5) and hit a mammoth HR (3). The homer was over the 415 ft. sign in CF and estimated at about 420 feet. In addition, Battle has continued to put together excellent at bats lately, making me not worry as much about the strikeouts, which are down somewhat from where he started the season.

Irwil Rojas was 1 for 4, but continues to worry me with his defense at C and Estee Harris was 1 for 4 with a double (1) and a strikeout (11). The only offensive prospect to not get a hit was, of course, Jon Poterson. The RF was 0 for 3 with a walk (1!!!!!!!!) and 2 strikeouts (14). Poterson’s stats also pretty much tell the story with him. Unlike Eric Duncan who has had many a solid at bat end unluckily, Poterson has just been really, really bad.

Christian Garcia’s final line, 4.1-3-3-3-1-6-0, is nothing to write home about, but not nearly indicative of how good he was on this day. In what was easily the best of his 3 performances on the year, Garcia used his curveball to overwhelm Columbus batters all night long and would have had a better final line were it not for Vechionacci’s previously mentioned fielding error. While Garcia does not have an ERA nearly as flashy, he’s provided more “take notice” moments than Phil Hughes thus far.



April 19, 2005


Minor League Notes: 4/17&18/05
by Fabian

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

AAA Columbus (International League):
Park Factor:
.989

Record:
8-4

Robinson Cano opened the season with a 10-game hitting streak before having it snapped on Sunday. A big reason why that hitting streak was snapped was that despite going to the plate 6 times, Cano only took 4 official at bats due to being intentionally walked twice (3). While it sucks that his hitting streak is over, it is impressive that opposing teams now fear Cano enough to walk him in critical situations. In Monday night’s game, Cano ended his 1 game “slump” by going 2 for 5 with 2 singles and is currently hitting .373 through his first 51 at bats of the year.

Chien-Ming Wang gutted through Sunday’s game for Columbus. The 25-year-old finished the game with a line of 7-7-4-4-3-2-0, as he did not have his typical control of the pitches. This included a 3rd inning that featured some very sloppy fielding by him and his teammates. In the end Wang was able to pitch a solid game as he continues to bide his time while Kevin Brown and Jaret Wright scuffle in the majors.

AA Trenton (Eastern League):
Park Factor:
.986
Record:
3-9

Eric Duncan was 1 for 8 with a walk (8) over the course of Sunday and Monday’s games. The 3B has now been dropped down to 6th in the order after beginning the season hitting 4th, but continues to struggle to find consistency. Duncan also, shockingly, has yet to collect an extra base hit after averaging 1 every 7.8 at bats prior to this year. In addition, Duncan has only struck out 6 times, which works out to once every 6.8 at bats, after striking out once every 4 at bats prior to this year. It’s still early and Duncan’s lack of power could just be a slump, but I can’t help, but wonder whether he made a conscious effort to cut back on his swing in order to curtail strikeouts and as a result, his power has been affected. Hopefully, he breaks out soon and this will no longer be a worry.

Melky Cabrera was recently able to parlay one of his customary hitting streaks into his first AA HR and XBH of his career, but has since returned to the form he showed in the earlier portion of this season. Melky went 0 for 9 over Sunday and Monday and just like that his average has dropped all the way down to .250. Due to his only having 1 walk, which was intentional, and 1 XBH, his average is more harmful than the standard .250 would be.

Bronson Sardinha went 3 for 8 with a home run (1), 2 doubles (3), and 2 strikeouts (13) over the Sunday and Monday period. Sardinha has been better at the plate as of late, but surprisingly still only has 1 walk to his credit and has had strikeout issues. Despite all of the issues he has had throughout his career as far as defensive inconsistency and power production inconsistency, one thing Sardinha has typically managed to do is maintain control of the strike zone, so I wouldn’t look at this as a long term problem. Once he gets where he needs to be with that issue his average should hopefully go up and his solid power production thus far will become more evident.

Steven White pitched the Sunday game and was horrendous, giving him 2 awful starts in 3 tries; White’s final line was 4.2-8-4-4-2-2-1. White has had some serious control issues in his 12.1 innings thus far as evidenced by a BB:K ratio of 7-9. With 16 hits, including 2 HRs, given up already it also seems to reason that his fastball may not be fooling many hitters either. The positive lining in all this is that White usually got better as his stints in a league went on last year and we can hope for that happening this year as well.

Jeff Karstens pitched the Monday game and continues to impress in the early going. Karstens took the loss, but his defense was to blame as his final line was 6-7-5-1-0-3-0. I expected Karstens control to aid him in making the transition to AA more easily than White would, but his performance thus far has exceeded those expectations.

A+ Tampa (Florida State League):
Park Factor: .979
Record:
4-7

If Monday’s game is any indication, Rudy Guillen may finally be awaking from his season long slump. The RF was 3 for 4 with a walk (3) and a strikeout (11) to bring his season average up to .220, which isn’t much in the absolute sense, but it is MUCH better than what he was doing earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Erold Andrus and Hector Made continued their slumps after getting off to more promising starts than Guillen. Made was 1 for 5 and his average sits at .196 while Andrus was 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts (6) and is hitting .244 thus far.

Tampa is the Yankee affiliate most difficult to get detailed information from/about, but at this moment I’m going to assume that Tyler Clippard left yesterday’s game after 4 innings due to reaching his pitch count rather than any sort of injury. Clippard began the game by getting strikeouts for his first 5 outs while allowing a single in between, but then seemed to run out of gas as the game went on to finish with a mediocre final line of 4-4-2-2-3-6-0.

A- Charleston (South Atlantic League):
Park Factor: .966
Record:
7-5

Tim Battle was only 1 for 8 with a double (3), a walk (4), and 3 strikeouts (21) between Sunday and Monday, but I have been impressed with his play of late. While he still strikes out a lot, it is not as much as he was earlier this year. In addition, while his strikeouts used to be mostly made up of at bats where he went to the plate, hacked at every pitch and then struck out swinging, some of his strikeouts of late have been due to working the count and laying off borderline pitches that don’t go his way. In addition, he has also been hitting the ball with much more authority has 6 XBH on the year.

Marcos Vechionacci was 1 for 9 with 2 strikeouts (10) during the 2 games, but I have no worries about him. He has been pretty consistent all year as far as putting together solid at bats, the only difference being that sometimes the line drives fall fair and sometimes they fall foul. I’m extremely impressed with the consistency displayed in this 18-year-old’s game.

Irwil Rojas has had a strange last two games as he struck out once in each game to give him 3 on the year. Rojas was 1 for 7 with a walk (5) to go along with those Ks. Rojas has been similar to Vechionacci thus far in terms of the offensive consistency when it comes to his approach. However, he does not the ball as consistently hard and has been very poor on defense; Rojas had 2 passed balls in Monday’s game and already has 5 on the year.

Jon Poterson, after a brief stretch of a couple games where he was good, has gone back to sucking. The RF was 0 for 8 with a strikeout (12) between Sunday and Monday. Estee Harris was not much better on Sunday, 0 for 4 with a strikeout, but then tripled his season hits total on Monday by going 2 for 4 with a strikeout (10). OF corners usually provide a lot of a team’s offense, but thus far this has not been the case for Charleston.

Brett Smith was victimized by poor defense and badly timed BABIP luck on Sunday, resulting in his worst start of the season, 5.2-8-3-3-1-8-0. Smith has still been very impressive thus far and still looks to be on course for at least a midseason promotion as opposing batters are having big problems handling his repertoire.

After Monday night’s game where Phil Hughes went 4-4-2-2-1-2-0, I began contemplating Hughes’ 3 starts thus far. The one thought I could not shake was that while Hughes had the nice tidy ERA of 1.88 thus far, none of his starts had left me as impressed as I thought they would heading into this year. His curveball had shown flashes, but that had been the only really exciting thing thus far as he had relied on weak contact by opposing hitters to get outs and was lacking the strikeouts I thought he would generate with a low to mid 90s fastball. Today’s BA Daily Dish shed some light on why this might be: “The Yankees are bringing right-hander Philip Hughes along slowly, and his stuff his coming along slowly as well. Hughes, the Yanks’ first-round pick last season, picked up his first loss Monday as he gave up two runs in four innings with two strikeouts against Columbus; his fastball topped out around 90 mph. He has a 1.88 ERA through three starts and has 11 strikeouts and four walks in 14 1/3 innings”. While it’s nice to know there is a reason why Hughes hasn’t been as spectacular as expected, it does worry me that he was only throwing around 90 as that leads me to worry about injury issues…or it could just be early season rust, hopefully.



April 18, 2005


SlumpBusters™
by Larry Mahnken

Certainly George will be happy, and probably a little self-congratulatory after last night’s shellacking of the Devil Rays, but lets keep things in context:

They beat the Devil Rays.

There, that’s pretty much enough context. They beat the crap out of a crappy team, it doesn’t mean that everything is going to be okay from now on. It doesn’t mean that they’re going to suck as soon as they play a good team again, and to win pennants you have to beat up on the weak teams, but it’s just one win, no matter how big.

To me, the element of this game most likely to be overlooked is the terrible performance by Jaret Wright. In his three starts, Wright has been pounded twice and was close to getting knocked out of the box by Boston. With a huge lead against a weak team, Wright barely got through five innings, and probably shouldn’t have been allowed to go that far. After a spectacular second inning, Wright quickly instilled a feeling of dread – if they blow this thing, it’ll be the low point of the year.

I didn’t expect much of Wright this season, and yet he’s failing to meet my expectations so far. How long it will take the Yankees to decide he’s worthless, and who will ultimately take his place in the rotation are fair questions to ask, but they can wait for another day, when Wright has actually cost the team a game.

For now, let’s focus the rest of our attention on the fact that the team won. They won with an amazing offensive outburst in the second inning against Rob Bell, sending seventeen batters to the plate, hitting two homers and scoring 13 runs. In two innings, Alex Rodriguez ripped a double and two homers, knocked in six runs, and was on his way to one of his best games in pinstripes – if not the best: 5/6, 2 HRs, 13 TB, 5 R, 6 RBI.

Jason Giambi doubled and singled, was walked twice, once intentionally, and hit by a pitch. Bernie Williams was 3/6, Derek Jeter 1/3 with 3 BBs. Tino Martinez hit his 11th career grand slam. With one out in the second, everyone in the lineup had at least one base hit.

These are the kinds of games that the Yankees are capable of when most of the lineup is clicking. Rob Bell is the type of pitcher who can help a lineup click, but he’s not that bad. Was this team angry, embarrassed, or scared of George Steinbrenner? Possibly, but it’s also possible – probably equally possible, I’d say, that this was just fortuitous timing, several slumping hitters breaking out all at once, at the end of a long skid. The Yankees won’t need these kinds of offensive performances all season, even behind Jaret Wright, but they’ll get a few of them.

I looked at the standings after yesterday’s game for the first time since Opening Day, not surprised to see the Yankees near the bottom, but also not concerned about that particular placement. Their overall performance has been frustrating, and I’ve been bitter, about the decisions they made that helped that frustrating performance, but I also knew that at this point in the season, a slump like this one, bound to be overreacted to at any time, will never be more overreacted to than in mid-April. Last night stopped a slide, for now, and it woke up some sleeping giants, for now. But the Yankees are still in fourth place.

For now.


April 17, 2005


Enough Negativity
by SG

My last two posts have been very negative, and rightfully so. The Yankees have been playing like crap. However, after reading some of the stuff that's coming out in the media today, I've gotten a bit annoyed.

Yankees turning into $200 million failure

First, we get the insight of JT the Brick:

American League team don’t fear New York anymore. They look forward to beating them. Boston proved that a team could not only beat the Yankees, but also embarrass them, evidenced by last year’s when the Yankees became the first team to lose a 3-0 lead in the ALCS.

I don't know what last year has to do with this year, but whatever JT.

Then came the news that Joe Torre held a meeting with the team.

When Torre talks, Bombers listen.

A quote from Torre:

"I'm not happy. We need to play a better brand of baseball," Torre said. "The confidence level is never good -- I don't care how good you are -- until you can go out there and dictate what goes on. We haven't been able to do that, and until it happens, not only am I concerned, but everybody in that room is, too."


And lastly, George Steinbrenner himself chips in with his thoughts.

Steinbrenner irate after another Yankees’ loss

“Enough is enough. I am bitterly disappointed as I’m sure all Yankee fans are by the lack of performance by our team,” Steinbrenner said in a statement issued immediately after the game.

“It is unbelievable to me that the highest-paid team in baseball would start the season in such a deep funk. They are not playing like true Yankees. They have the talent to win and they are not winning. I expect Joe Torre, his complete coaching staff and the team to turn this around.”


In addition to this, the Yankee haters are out in full force. Full of glee and sarcastic comments, and this is also getting under my skin.

The Yankees are 4-8. That stinks. It doesn't matter. We know about all the problems with many of the decisions they made in building this team, but like it or not, this is the team we will be watching for the rest of the season, with the exception of a few pieces perhaps. Rather than look back at what's been a bad start, I'm going to start looking forward.

I'm going to start rooting for Tony Womack to do well. I hated his signing, but being happy when he fails is being happy that he is hurting the Yankees.

I'm going to hope that Alex Rodriguez stops pressing and just lets his natural talent and ability come through.

I'm going to root for Bernie Williams to go out with a bang, and not be a laughingstock. Sure, his defense won't be good, but there's no reason he can't make up for it on offense, and he's looked better of late.

I can't imagine that Jorge Posada will continue to hit like Rey Sanchez, and once he gets going a big hole in the lineup will be filled.

We know the bottom of the lineup isn't that good, but when Sierra plays, I'll root for him to get a clutch hit. When Tino plays, I'll root for him to make good defensive plays and get some big RBI.

I'll pull for Giambi's continued comeback. I still think he is going to perform well, as he gets more comfortable and gets his timing back.

I don't worry about Jeter, Sheffield, or Matsui. They are all consistent performers for the most part, and we can expect them to do well.

On the pitching side, Randy Johnson's had a rough start, but I feel confident that he will be mowing hitters down for most of the season.

Mike Mussina has not been that good so far, but he's getting results. As long as he's healthy and keeps building arm strength, I see no reason to not expect him to resemble the Moose of the second half last year, the one with 57 Ks in 57.1 innings and a 3.45 ERA.

I've seen more good than bad from Carl Pavano. His raw numbers will look worse due to the move to the American League and the defense he'll be playing in front of, but as a third starter I see no reason not to expect him to be an asset.

I'm going to hope that Kevin Brown can make 25 starts and build on the last four innings of his game today. If he can't, I'm going to be excited to see if young arms like Tiger Wang, Ramon Ramirez, or Jorge Depaula can be parts of the pitching staff for years to come.

I get the impression that Jaret Wright is going to be inconsistent, but will have good games at times. I'll just hope that more often than not he can keep the team in the games he starts.

I am not concerned about the bullpen, only with Torre's handling of it. Rivera is still working his way back, but I have no doubt that he will be fine. Gordon may not be as good as last year, but if that's the case, they can give some of his innings to Felix Rodriguez. I also think Sturtze can be an asset despite his bad outing against Baltimore, and look forward to watching him defy expectations. I don't know what to think about Mike Stanton, but I do think he should not be used strictly against lefties, and that he shouldn't pitch as much as Torre seems to be using him right now. I think longer outings will help him stay sharper. I also hope that Quantrill and Karsay can get the consistent work they need to be assets.

We know the bench isn't good, but hopefully the Yankees will use the few strengths they have on it to the best of their ability.

Joe Torre could be a problem, but he won't be a problem if these players do what they should do.

I won't let all the asses rooting for the Yankees to fall flat on their faces get the satisfaction of watching me panic.

If they are still shitty in a month, then we can start to worry.




John Sickels on Robinson Cano
by Fabian

Sickels' take on Columbus 2B Robinson Cano. This was posted a few days ago on his website, but I havn't had time to link until now.


April 16, 2005


Mismanagement 101
by SG

Joe Torre has gotten a lot of praise for his team's successes over the time since he came aboard in 1996. Torre has his strengths, although they would seem to be in mostly unmeasurable areas. I'm not one to discredit team chemistry and intangibles, however since they are not something we can measure I can't really assess them. It seems that Torre does a good job of managing his team's personalities, he handles the voracious New York media with aplomb, and he manages to keep George Steinbrenner off his players' backs for the most part. However, he is clearly not a good in-game tactical manager, and as the quality of the team that the front office has assembled for him deteriorates, it becomes more and more clear.

I want to make it clear that Torre is not the only one to blame for the current flaws on this team, which is a good enough team to win the division and World Series as constructed, but has a lot of issues with its defense and depth. Brian Cashman deserves some blame as well. Granted, it's not clear how much autonomy he has with decisions, but as the face of the Yankee decision-making team, he is responsible for how this team was put together. If he is being overridden on all his personnel moves, then he needs to be more vocal about it and perhaps step down if that's what it takes. Otherwise, he risks any chance of moving on to a more favorable situation at some point in his career. That he has not done so tells me that he either approves of the moves being made, or does not feel strongly enough about them to fight them.

Also culpable in this is the Tampa think tank. This mysterious group, led by "superscout" Bill Emslie and "pitching guru" Billy Connors carries a lot of weight and influence with George Steinbrenner. They are the ones who recommended Tony Womack and Jaret Wright, while at the same time running the minor league organization into the ground.

The bench that was assembled this year is an embarrassment, particularly given the Yankees' tremendous financial advantage over the rest of baseball.

All of these factors came into play tonight, in a tough 7-6 loss.

In the starting lineup and batting fifth was Ruben Sierra. This is the first example of Torre and his mismanagement. He based this decision on the fact that Sierra has 7 hits in 23 AB against Rodrigo Lopez. It's certainly possible that this is indicative that Sierra has good AB against Lopez, but the sample size is not significant enough to completely warrant it. Torre has a bizarre fascination with batter/pitcher matchups, which have basically been debunked as having much validity by people far more astute than me about these types of things. To no one's surprise except Joe Torre, Sierra went hitless in five plate appearances, although he did drive in a run on a grounder to short late in the game.

Torre also took Jason Giambi out of the game after the top of the sixth inning to replace him defensively with Tino Martinez. Mark this one down, because it came back to bite the Yankees in the ass in the ninth inning.

Mike Mussina pitched a decent game, but he still doesn't look good to me, as his velocity is still in the mid to high 80s and his control is not sharp. However, he gutted through this outing and exited the game with two outs in the sixth, a 3-1 lead and one runner on. Mike Stanton was brought in to turn Brian Roberts around and walked him on 5 pitches. However, newest Yankee bullpen hero Tanyon Sturtze came in, allowing a single to Melvin Mora which cut the Yankee lead to 3-2. However, he then induced a grounder to retire Tejada and escape with the lead.

This is the second example of Joe Torre's mismanaging. Sturtze had been outstanding this year, but he is on pace to pitch 149 innings. On a team with 7 relievers, all of whom have a track record of success, there is no excuse for using one guy that much. It's still an open question if Sturtze has discovered a new talent level due to the change in his role and the cutter that he was taught by Mariano Rivera, but assuming he is now a good reliever, is he likely to be better than Felix Rodriguez, Paul Quantrill, or Steve Karsay?

The Yankees added 3 more runs in the top of the 7th and all looked well. However, reality came back to bite Sturtze in the top of the 7th. He was a bit unlucky as some flare hits landed in bad places, but he gave up five hits and four runs. Two of these runs scored when Flash Gordon gave up a two out HR to Brian Roberts.

Gordon has not been good this year, and my guess is that it is a lingering effect from his overwork last year. He has an extensive injury history and had not pitched nearly that many innings since 1998.

Gordon's innings pitched as a reliever:
1998 79.1
1999 17.2
2000 Out for the season
2001 45.1
2002 42.3
2003 74
2004 89.2


He is 37 this year, his season last year was huge, but there is no reasonable way to expect anything close to that this year, and I would not be shocked if he suffers from markedly decreased effectivenss due to his workload last year. However, Torre has his mind set up with roles. Stanton is the LOOGY, even though he is no more effective against lefties than righties, and is not nearly the same pitcher he was when Torre had him last. Sturtze apparently will always pitch the 6th and 7th with a lead, Gordon the 8th, and Rivera the 9th. Felix Rodriguez, Paul Quantrill, and Steve Karsay will apparently only pitch in blowouts, as they are not on Torre's infamous "trust" list.

Relief pitchers need to pitch regularly to stay sharp in my opinion, and Torre will often bury guys that he has no confidence in, which in turn affects their effectiveness and their own confidence, which in turn appears to justify Torre's use of them.

These are all season long issues however. The biggest blunder in last night's game came in the ninth inning. With dominant lefty relief pitcher B.J. Ryan in for Baltimore, the Yankees were due to send up Ruben Sierra, Tino Martinez, and Jorge Posada. Sierra struck out on three pitches, and looked awful in doing so. Giambi's spot in the order came up, but he was not in the game anymore, having been pulled in the 6th freaking inning. Ryan is tough on lefties, but Giambi has the power to hit a mistake pitch a long way, or at least the eye to work the count. However, in his place now was Tino Martinez. With a tough lefty on the hill, Torre decided to go to his bench for Tino, which was a fine move in theory.

His options:
Andy Phillips, Righty, age 28, a career .296/.366/.509 hitter in the minors who had a torrid spring training, hitting .333/.409/.718 with 4 HRs in 39 AB.
Rey Sanchez, Righty, age 37, a career .271/.308/.334 hitter who hit .246 last year and is known more for his defense.
John Flaherty, Righty, age 37, a career .255/.293/.382 hitter who is known for "calling a good game" apparently since he can't hit for crap or throw out a base stealer to save his life.
Bubba Crosby, Lefty, age 28. Primarily Bernie Williams's defensive replacement and a pinch runner, and would be overmatched against a lefty like Ryan.

I won't claim that Andy Phillips is a good hitter because of his minor league track record. I won't claim that he has that much potential, because a 27 year old beating up minor league pitchers isn't overly impressive. However, we do know the track records of Rey Sanchez and John Flaherty, and they're not good.

With only two out remaining in the game, Torre sent up Rey Sanchez to hit for Tino Martinez. By some miracle, Sanchez hit a weak grounder up the middle that just eluded Brian Roberts's dive. That brought up the comatose Jorge Posada, who has been horrendous so far this season. Posada struck out, leaving the game in Bernie Williams's hands. Bernie has looked a little better of late, and managed to draw a walk, putting two runners on. This brought up lefty "hitting" Tony Womack. Torre wisely realized that Womack would not be a good option to use against Ryan, and went to his bench again. This time, he chose John "Bad Flash" Flaherty over Phillips. Flaherty hit a flare that Brian Roberts caught to end the game.

Phillips should have hit for Sanchez, and when it got to Womack he should've hit for him. He has more power than either Sanchez or Flaherty, and at that stage of the game against that type of pitcher you need to hope you get lucky and connect on a pitch.

This team will start hitting, and when they do they can beat anyone, but the flaws they have are being compounded by the conservative and outright foolish manner that Joe Torre is using the players he has. I still think they are likely to make the postseason, and I haven't seen enough out of Boston that tells me the Yankees shouldn't be considered a co-favorite to win the division. However, I think it's time for the Joe Torre era to end, whether they win or lose this year. He's had a great run, and I thank him for that, but he's becoming more and more detrimental to this team's chances every year.

I'm going to go drink this one off, and enjoy my hangover and a sweep tomorrow.