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May 26, 2006

NY Times: Torn Hamstring Tendon Slows Posada
by SG

The Yankees' injury problems continued yesterday when catcher Jorge Posada's magnetic resonance imaging test revealed a torn hamstring tendon in his left knee.

Posada could be put on the disabled list if he does not improve over the weekend, and the Yankees plan to call up a catcher from the minor leagues today.

General Manager Brian Cashman, referring to his initial discussion with the team's trainers about Posada, said: "I was expecting some bad stuff when they told me there was a knot back there and they weren't sure what it was."

Cashman added: "The M.R.I. had to show something. As it was explained to me, there are several tendons that connect to the knee. This one is an unusual injury, but on the good side, it's a tendon that you don't need to function."

Cashman said that the injury should not limit Posada's ability to play catcher once the swelling and the pain subsided.

"I can't tell you the D.L. is not going to happen," Cashman said. "But we're going to see where he is at the end of the weekend."

Not good news. Let's hope for a speedy recovery for Posada, as the dropoff from him to his backups is pretty severe.

Also buried in this article is the news that Carl Pavano could resume throwing in three weeks, and Brian Cashman expects him to pitch this season. I won't believe it until I see it, but it's good news anyway.

I'm going to be on vacation next week, so no posts from me. Hopefully Larry or TVerik or someone will show up. If not, I invite you all to check out the Yankee blogs listed on the left, all of which I try to check out regularly.

May 25, 2006

by SG

The Yankees exceeded my expectations last night when they defeated Boston in another nail-biter, 8-6. Randy Johnson continued to unimpress, although he appeared to pick up life as the game went on. After giving up 9 hits and walking one over the first 15 batter she faced, Johnson gave up just one walk while striking out five over the last 10. I still think Johnson's got major problems, but enough about him.

The star of the day was Melky Cabrera. While Cabrera's lack of power has been an issue that depresses his overall value as a corner outfielder, he's done an amazing thing for a young player, and impressed Joe Torre to the point of him being inserted in the leadoff spot last night with Johnny Damon being rested due to his foot injury. Cabrera went 2 for 4 with a BB, but more importantly, drove in 4 runs and made a very nice running catch. Slowly but surely, he is showing that he may belong at the big league level.

I give Torre a hard time a lot, but I thought he managed a very good game yesterday. He gave Melky the start at leadoff and also managed his bullpen well. While I'm still not happy to see Scott Erickson on the team given the better options available in the organization, he did his job well last night. Mike Myers actually did what he gets paid to do, and to Torre's credit, he stuck with Kyle Farnsworth in a dicey situation with David Ortiz up with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the eighth. This was an important risk by Torre, because I think it showed trust in Farnsworth, and it also allowed Farnsworth to prove he was worthy of that trust. My gut without looking at the numbers is that Mo struggles in multi-inning saves, so Farnsworth needs to be able to get the last out in the eighth inning the majority of the time.

It was nice to see Bernie got 3 for 5 as a lefty hitter last night. While I still don't think he should be starting full-time, I'd like to see him get his numbers up to respectability. His OPS+ of 80 is still not any good, but it's getting better.

And kudos to Terence Long for changing some of the zeros in his batting line. Good job.

In roster news, the Yankees acquired infielder Nick Green from the Devil Rays on Wednesday, for cash and stuck him in AAA.

They also promoted Matt Smith from Columbus again, sending Kevin Reese back down. Maybe he'll even get used a bit.

Jorge Posada's getting an MRI on his injured knee, hopefully it won't be too bad. Posada may be the Yankees' most indispensable player given the crap behind him. The upcoming series with Kansas City may be a good chance to rest a few players like Damon and Posada.

May 24, 2006

Starting Lineup: Yankees vs Red Sox, May 24, 2006, 7:05 PM ET
by SG

M. Cabrera rf
D. Jeter ss
G. Sheffield dh
J. Giambi 1b
A. Rodriguez 3b
R. Cano 2b
B. Williams lf
T. Long cf
K. Stinnett c

Giambi's back! Unfortunately, Damon and Posada are out. Melky Cabrera, leadoff hitter? Interesting, and nice idea by Torre. Big ups for that. Terrence Long in CF? Bernie starting again? The opposite of big ups.

Wrong about Wright?
by SG

Jaret Wright still stinks -some moron, back in March.

After Jaret Wright's first five innings of the season, he sported a bloated 7.20 ERA. In his subsequent 27.3 innings, Wright has been far more effective, pitching to an ERA of 3.62. Wright was the main hero of last night's tense 7-5 victory, pitching five shutout innings before leaving with what was described as a tweaking of the groin.

Joe Torre's attempts to rebuild the '96 Yankees bullpen failed again, as Scott Proctor was lousy and gave back 4 runs in what was at that time a 7-1 lead. Proctor's command was awful, as he missed Jorge Posada's target repeatedly throughtout his 1.1 innings of work. While I still like Proctor and think he can be a useful low leverage reliever, this outing was a good reminder that he's still far from a sure thing.

Kyle Farnsworth also struggled with his command after relieving Proctor, although he made Doug Mirabelli look foolish on three straight sliders to close out the seventh. In the bottom of the eighth, Farnsworth fanned Dustan Mohr but then chose to walk Kevin Youkilis and Mark Loretta, since bringing David Ortiz to the plate as the tying run is always smart. Torre went to Mo, like he has so many times over the years, and Mo retired Ortiz before giving up a single to Manny Ramirez that made the score 7-5. Rivera then got Nixon to foul out to the unclutch Alex Rodriguez, whose HR in a blowout turned out to be the margin of victory.

Back to Wright, while I've been happy with the results, the peripherals warn me to not get too excited. Over his last 27.3 innings, Wright's FIP is 4.99. He's walked 11 and given up 3 HRs while striking out just 13, and is throwing 58% of his pitches for strikes. Wright as a fifth starter is fine if he continues to perform at this level, but there are indicators that he's been pitching over his head so far. One good thing is that his velocity has been outstanding of late, as he reached 96 a few times last night and worked in the 93-94 range very consistently. Even with that, he seemed to get pretty hard last night despite the results, with the good fortune of the balls finding fielders most of the time.

The Yankees did what I thought they needed to do last night by avoiding getting swept. Now, the worst thing that can happen is they leave Boston down by 2.5 games, with 118 to play. I think that I would rather see the Yankees lose a 2-1 game today with Randy Johnson pitching well than win a 12-10 game where Johnson gets shelled. If they don't get Johnson right, it's going to be a long season.

I'm thinking of adding a Terrence Long watch to replace the March to 1000 runs, but I fear it's going to aggravate me too much. Long playing over Melky last night was really annoying. Tim Wakefield could be on Boston for the next ten years. Shouldn't Cabrera get a chance to see him if he's going to be a part of the Yankees' future plans?

May 23, 2006

Starting Lineups: Yankees vs Red Sox, May 23, 2006, 7:05 PM ET
by SG

Johnny Damon CF
Derek Jeter SS
Gary Sheffield DH
Alex Rodríguez 3B
Jorge Posada C
Robinson Canó 2B
Bernie Williams LF
Terrence Long RF
Andy Phillips 1B

SP: Jaret Wright (1-3, 4.94 ERA)

Terrence Long, the new Tanyon Sturtze. HE GOT RELEASED BY KANSAS CITY FOR ####'S SAKE! - Sheffield declares himself fit
by SG

Apparently, four plate appearances was enough for Gary Sheffield to decide he was ready to return to the Yankees.

Sheffield started as the designated hitter for Double-A Trenton at New Britain on Monday, going 1-for-3 with a single and an RBI sacrifice fly.

After the game, he declared himself ready to return from the disabled list, where he has been since May 6 with a bruised left wrist.

"I feel great," Sheffield said through a team spokesman. "I'm headed to Boston."

Sheffield should be in the Yankees' lineup on Tuesday night against the Red Sox, though a roster move won't officially be made until he arrives at Fenway Park on Tuesday.

Thank Jeter.

The roster move better be the return of Terrence Long from whence he came.

May 22, 2006

Starting Lineups: Yankees vs Red Sox, May 22, 2006, 7:05 PM ET
by SG

Johnny Damon DH
Derek Jeter SS
Jason Giambi 1B
Alex Rodríguez 3B
Jorge Posada C
Robinson Canó 2B
Bernie Williams, CF
Terrence Long LF
Melky Cabrera RF
SP: Chien-Ming Wang (4-1, 3.79 ERA)

Damon must really be hurting. Good to see Posada back at least.

Treading Water
by SG

The injuries continue to pile up, and with it have come losses that you can't help but think might have had different outcomes if the Yankees weren't forced to bat Kelly Stinnett in key moments. Unfortunately, you can't do much about injuries, although you could try to build depth on your team to mitigate against them. That is where the Yankees have failed recently. There is no excuse for a team with the highest payroll in baseball to not even have a replacement level bench. However, right now, that's where the Yankees are. Part of it is the ridiculous need to carry 13 pitchers, which makes no sense on any level, but the bigger part of it is just overspending on the starting nine and basically ignoring the complementary pieces, as well as a distrust of players who are not "proven veterans", but whose minor league track records indicate potential to be cheap and useful pieces if given a a fair chance.

While missing the starting LF, RF and C are big issues, the starters who remain are also picking the worst time to slump. Since Matsui went out, here are some lines from some Yankee starters:

Giambi .143/.342/.179
Rodriguez .275/.356/.475
Cano .282/.326/.308

If not for Derek Jeter hitting .357/.400/.548 over this stretch, who knows how bad the Yankees would be.

The series with the Mets was an odd one, in that the Yankees could very easily have been swept, or could have swept. I did not expect the Yankees to take more than one out of three, so the end result matched my intuition. Now, they just have to do the same over the next three games against Boston. Taking one of the three games allows them to be 2.5 games out of first on the weekend, at which point it's possible Gary Sheffield will be back. A sweep would have them 4.5 games back, and more likely to panic and do something dumb.

There was a lot of roster churn and injury news over the weekend, some of it potentially good, some of it asinine and stupid.

1) Yankees placed RHP Shawn Chacon on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 17, with a bruised left leg.
I'm glad there was a physical explanation for Chacon's struggles last time out. Hopefully he shouldn't be out too long. Aaron Small was ok aside from one awful inning, so I assume he'll get the next start.

2)Yankees purchased the contract of outfielder Terrence Long from Triple-A Columbus.
In case you were wondering what I was referring to as asinine and stupid. Long's a bad defensive OF who has broken a .400 SLG mark once in the last 4 years, and had the following OBP over the last 4 seasons, .298,.293,.335,.321. But, since he's now 30, expect him to get priority in Joe Torre's pecking order over people who have the potential to be better than mediocre.

3) Yankees signed designated hitter Erubiel Durazo to a minor league contract.
I like this move quite a bit, as it looks like all upside to me. Durazo's got zero defensive value, but he can hit if he's healthy, and would make a fine DH if the Yankees decide to go that route, although it would seem that the Yankees would have to choose from either Durazo or Carlos Pena. Durazo's probably a better hitter, but the fact that he is useless defensively may not make him the better choice here.

4) Gary Sheffield did take a cortisone shot after saying he would not, and had a good batting practice session yesterday.
He may get a few rehab games in this week and be activated by the weekend, according to Peter Gammons on last night's broadcast. Update: According to this article in the New York Times, "Sheffield will play for Class AA Trenton at New Britain tonight, and he will rejoin the Yankees tomorrow in Boston if he feels ready."

5) Colter Bean was called up and pitched last night.
After one scoreless inning, he threw five straight pitches out of the strike zone and Joe Torre came out and pulled him. I'd be shocked if he sees another inning under Torre's watch.

Tonight's matchup seems to be the best chance for the Yankees to win one of the three games against Boston. Chien-Ming Wang has been very solid in his last three games, and Curt Schilling has been struggling of late. The good thing about Wang is that even in his worst games, he doesn't usually give up a ton of runs. Wang's made three starts against Boston in his career, and none have been particularly good, although none have been horrendous. His career line:

16.1 IP
16 H
10 R
8 ER
1 HR
11 BB
6 K
4.41 ERA

If Wang can throw strikes tonight, I think he'll be fine. With Jaret Wright and The Big Useless starting the next two games, I think he has to be.

May 21, 2006

Were you watching?
by TVerik

New York - Top of 9th Score
Billy Wagner pitching for New York NYY NYM
B Wagner relieved D Sanchez. 0 4
J Giambi singled to center. 0 4
A Rodriguez walked, J Giambi to second. 0 4
R Cano singled to center, J Giambi scored, A Rodriguez to second. 1 4
M Cairo flied out to center. 1 4
M Cabrera walked, A Rodriguez to third, R Cano to second. 1 4
K Stinnett walked, A Rodriguez scored, R Cano to third, M Cabrera to second. 2 4
B Williams hit for R Villone. 2 4
B Williams hit by pitch, R Cano scored, M Cabrera to third, K Stinnett to second. 3 4
P Feliciano relieved B Wagner. 3 4
J Damon grounded into fielder's choice to shortstop, M Cabrera scored, B Williams out at second, K Stinnett to third. 4 4
C Bradford relieved P Feliciano. 4 4
D Jeter grounded out to second. 4 4

I'd like to highlight an AB in that fateful inning. Wagner, an elite closer, started Melky Cabrera, a 21-year-old callup, 0-2. Melky then worked the most clutch walk of his career. This can't really be overstated. Yes, Wagner was wild, but that alone didn't get Cabrera to 1B, eventually scoring the tying run.

Also, when Torre took Proctor out of the game in favor of Rivera after this fateful half-inning, I ws actually pissed. This is the first time that I can think of in ten years that I thought the Yankees had a better chance to win with another pitcher on the mound. That was probably wrong of me to think, but I couldn't help it.

I agreed with the FOX guys once. McCarver said that Willie Randolph had to take Wagner out of the game before he pitched to, and hit, Bernie Williams.

This was the worst Yankee lineup in at least ten years - since the Danny Tartabull era, if not earlier. The only reason I didn't reach back further is that Damon-Jeter-Giambi-Rodriguez by itself is better than any four the Yankees could have put out in the Stump Merrill era.

Wagner, at home, faced Giambi and then the sucktastic bottom of this horrible order. Up by four. I agree with the FOX guys again - the ramifications of this game could be much more than what we see in the standings. I believe Billy Wagner is going to have trouble from the fans when he struggles at Shea this year - he hasn't built up the goodwill among the fanbase necessary to overcome an outing like this against a hated opponent.

Forgotten in all of this is the pitching of Mussina. He only gave up two solo home runs (I'm not counting the Yankee first inning "defense" against him), and looked, in the words of our friend SJ, "as good as he has all year". If he has outings like that and the Yankees recover at least a few of their injured legions, they're going to compete for the AL East title again, at least.

May 19, 2006

Bring on the JV
by SG

The wounded Yankees are heading 8 miles across town to face the much-improved New York Mets this weekend. I can't speak for anyone else, but I HATE inter-league play. I hate everything about it, from watching pitchers bunt or strike out, to all the hype, to how it skews the schedules for the playoff and wild card races. For the first time in a while, the Yankees and Mets seem pretty evenly matched. Here's a little comparison of the two teams so far.

Here, OPS+ is calculated using the following formula:

((Player OBP/lg OBP + Player SLG/lg SLG)-1) x 100

RAA is the runs above the average offensive player in the league. psOPS+ and psRAA are just adjusted to compare against players who play the same position in the league.

One fourth of the way through the season, the Yankees have been the far better offensive team, although they are now missing two key components in Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui. With no DH, it would seem like a great time to bench Bernie Williams, but expect him to start all three games, because "he's been there before." The thought of Randy Johnson and his cartilege-less knee batting would scare me more, if I knew he wasn't going to be knocked out of the game before his first plate appearance.

Here, you have the innings played and runs above/below average so far at each position, along with what they are currently on pace for based on current playing time. Obviously, Hideki Matsui's not playing 1045 innings, so adjust these accordingly in your mind.

Regression sucks. After a surprising defensive start to the season, the last few weeks have seen the Yankees move closer to what most projections would have expected. The Mets have been very good defensively so far, particularly in the OF.

In this chart, ERA+ is what the league ERA in that player's stadium would be divided by the player's actual ERA mutiplied by 100. BB+, HR+, and K+ are calculated similarly, and compare a pitcher's rates of BB, HR, and K per batters faced. All 4 are scaled so that 100 is average, and less than 100 is worse, greater than 100 is better. BABIP is the pitchers batting average allowed on balls hit into play, CERA (also called ERC) is a pitcher's component ERA, and RAA is runs saved above the average pitcher.

The pitching staffs are pretty close so far. The Yankees have done an outstanding job of preventing HRs, but are pretty average in walks allowed and Ks. The Mets are allowing HRs at a slightly higher pace than the league average (Lima Time!) but are making up for it by walking fewer batter and striking out a ton more batters than the league averages.

And here are your matchups for the weekend:

R. Johnson (5-4, 5.13) vs. J. Gonzalez (0-0, 5.40)

I have no faith in The Big Useless anymore, even against Jeremi Gonzalez

M. Mussina (6-1, 2.56) vs. P. Martínez (5-0, 3.19)

This one could be a treat.

S. Chacón (4-1, 5.21) vs. T. Glavine (6-2, 2.43)

Chacon has a 'Resolving Hematoma', which is a fancy way of saying a really nasty bruise, so he may not make this start. If he doesn't, I guess Aaron Small will get the call.

I just want the Yankees to win one out of three. I don't expect much offense until Sheffield comes back. Take away the DH and put Bernie plus a pitcher in three games, and I'd peg the over/under on weekend runs at about 3. Maybe they'll surprise me.

UPDATE:Bubba to the DL, Mitch Jones to the majors
Flushing, NY -- (Sports Network) - The New York Yankees placed outfielder Bubba Crosby on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring on Friday.

The 29-year-old Crosby, who had seen his playing time increase as of late due to the injuries of outfielders Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui, was batting .263 in 31 games this season for the Yankees. This will be his first career stint on the DL.

To take his spot on the 25-man roster, New York purchased the contract of outfielder Mitch Jones from Triple-A Columbus.

Thanks to yup for the heads-up.

May 18, 2006

Starting Lineups: Rangers at Yankees, May 18, 2006
by SG

Johnny Damon DH
Derek Jeter SS
Jason Giambi 1B
Alex Rodríguez 3B
Robinson Canó 2B
Bernie Williams CF
Melky Cabrera RF
Bubba Crosby LF
Kelly Stinnett C

SP: Jaret Wright (1-2, 5.06 ERA)

Bernie in CF? Oy.

Wang Rises to the Occasion
by SG

After a thrilling 14-13 win that was emotionally satisfying, but intellectually concerning, the Yankees came back with a more modest 4-3 victory over the Rangers last night. Fueling the effort was the continuing revival of Chien-Ming Wang.

Wang was maddeningly inconsistent early in the season, with both his mechanics and his results, particularly from the stretch. However, over his last three starts, he's displayed good control (3 BB over 22 inning) and while he's still not striking out many hitters, he's controlling the HR ball to good effect. He has allowed only two HRs in 57 innings this season. His HR+ of 349 is second in the majors among pitchers who have thrown at least 40 innings, and he has been the second most valuable Yankee pitcher, with ten runs saved above average.

Wang's final line of eight innings and two earned runs allowed is fine, but honestly, he pitched better than that until he got a pitch up to Gary Matthews Jr. in the eighth. Wang was consistently hitting 94 mph with his sinker, and even got up to 95 a few times. The best thing about Wang going eight means that Torre got to resist the urge to use "Everyday" Scott Proctor (thanks to Steve Lombardi, over at Was Watching).

Mariano Rivera, who has been in WWWMW (what's wrong with Mariano Week) to the point where it's WWWMM (what's wrong with Mariano month) looked much better last night. One of Mo's trademarks is breaking lefty hitters bats, something he used to do with regularity but something we have not seen much of this year. Last night, he sawed off Hank Blalock with a nasty cutter on strike one to break his bat in half, which I thought was a good sign that the cutter had that good movement that makes Mo so effective. He did scare us with a long fly ball down the RF line on the next pitch, but then got got Blalock on a checked swing on a 95 mph 4-seamer. I am really not worried about Mo at this point. For all the talk about how hard he is getting hit, he's allowing opposing batters to slug .314 against him. To put that in perspective, remember that Bernie Williams is slugging .327, and no one thinks he's hitting the ball hard.

I thought the game was decided in the fifth (obviously) by Jason Giambi's AB that led to an opposite field double. Kameron Loe was cruising to that point, and had retired the slumping Johnny Damon and then Derek Jeter on three pitches, and was staring at a very easy inning. Giambi took the first three pitches, fouled off two, took another ball, fouled off one more, and then doubled. Alex Rodriguez then reached on an infield single. Jorge Posada followed with another good AB before singling Giambi in, and then Robinson Cano and Bernie also both singled.

While Cano did drive in a run, I'm growing a little concerned about his missing power this season. Last year, Cano had an extra base hit in 9% of his plate appearances. This year, it's down to 6%. While I won't kill him while he's hitting .312, his lack of walks and his missing power makes his average pretty empty right now. I can't help but think there's been a change in his approach, as he's sacrificed power for contact. Last year he struck out in 12% of his plate appearances, this year he is around 9%. The good news is a marginally better walk rate, last year he was at 2.9%, this year he's at 4.1%.

Cano has also been very good defensively until last night, when he made two errors and bobbled a third ball that he was able to recover on. Hopefully that was just a blip.

Joe Torre continues to aggravate me. This time it was not starting Melky Cabrera for no real reason. Cabrera got two hits the night before, and rather than let him play again and follow it up, he benched him to get Bubba Crosby in LF. If he was going for the defensive upgrade, wouldn't it make sense to do it when it wasn't an extreme ground ball pitcher pitching? I think I'd rather see Crosby in CF with Damon DHing if Giambi can play first, given the foot issue that Damon is currently dealing with, or Bernie on the bench instead of Melky.

I'm not even going to say anything about Carl Pavano's latest setback.

Despite Jaret Wright's recent string of not horrible pitching, I'm not expecting much from him on a pseudo-House Money Day today. Maybe I'll be surprised.

May 17, 2006

Hip Hip Jorge!
by Larry Mahnken

The Yankees have lost some tough games this year, there's no doubt about that. In the second game of the season they wasted a glorious opportunity to break the game open in the first inning and ended up losing in the bottom of the ninth. A week and a half later they took a lead into the ninth against Johan Santana and the Twins, only to lose when the ball just barely eluded Robinson Cano's glove, scoring two runs.

Hideki Matsui stared at strike three with the tying run at third against Baltimore a week later, and a few days after that Mariano Rivera gave up 2 runs to lose to the D-Rays 4-2. Then last week, the Yankees lost both Hideki Matsui and a late lead against Boston. Hey, aren't you glad I'm reminding you of all these things?

Well, they all only count as one loss a piece. Well, maybe not the last one -- Matsui will cost them more than one game. But they all felt like more than one loss.

Last night the Yanks got one back, winning a game they had no business winning in a spectacularly dramatic fashion -- going instantly from a heartbreaking defeat to an uplifiting victory.

There are lots of reasons to be concerned right now. Hideki Matsui will be gone for a while, maybe the whole season, and if he does come back this season he might not be particularly effective. Gary Sheffield is out indefinitely, and his desire to be completely healthy going into potential free agency might keep him out longer than normal. Now Jason Giambi, perhaps the most valuable player in the American League so far, is out with a neck injury.

In less than a week, the Yankees went from having the best lineup in baseball, perhaps the best in a long, long time, to having a below average lineup. In the offseason the Yankees decided to stick with Bernie Williams at DH, Bubba Crosby as a backup OF, and Andy Phillips and Miguel Cairo as backup infielders. If the Yankees stayed healthy, it shouldn't have been a problem, but now with three of their top players out, the Yankees are paying for their gamble.

Bernie Williams probably shouldn't have a job, now he's batting in the middle of the lineup. Bubba Crosby would have been a weak choice to start in center, he's a terrible choice to start in left. Andy Phillips deserved at least a shot, last night he was the designated hitter!

Still, they have Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano. Those are four quality hitter, and last night, at least, they were enough.

They can't expect that to happen much more often, but then they can't expect Shawn Chacon to pitch quite as badly as he did last night. But still... this team suddenly isn't looking so great. A year ago they were five games back, one game over .500, but with a lot of potential to look forward to. Now, they're one game out, seven games over... and in serious trouble.

I think the Yankees are going to make the playoffs, and if Matsui and Sheffield are back they've got a great shot to win it all.

But I'm not that confident in that right now. So last night's win, that's the kind of thing we should hang on to. Those are the games that make baseball such a great game to watch, and they might end up being the great memories of the 2006 season, not anything that happens in October.

May 16, 2006

Jorge Posada is a Golden God
by SG

Wow. What an amazing game. Yankees 14, Rangers 13.

Where's the offense?
by SG

Eleven runs in five games have convinced me that the March to 1000 runs is no more. Now, with Jason Giambi wrenching his neck, it could get even worse.

I love the double-standard in the press regarding Melky Cabrera's defense. When Bernie Williams misplayed a ball down the RF line that ended up costing the team a game, I didn't read anything about it. When Melky bobbled wet ball down the line on what was already a hit, he is getting the full blame for a loss on a night when the team scored two runs. It's not just the press either. Joe Torre threw Cabrera under the bus the other night:

Cabrera brushed against the outfield wall attempting to rob Payton, but unlike Thursday night when Bubba Crosby brought back Mike Lowell's homer to left with a leap at the fence, Payton's ball made the seats.

"I didn't think (Payton) hit it that well," said Joe Torre, before adding that Cabrera "didn't get back to the fence like Bubba did the other night."

In addition to this, Torre has continually been pulling Cabrera for defense while leaving Bernie Williams, who is a worse defender in every way, in the games.

It will be interesting to see how Torre handles the current roster. Tim Marchman wrote a very good article about Torre's strengths and weaknesses. I have no faith in Torre managing this situation well, and fear that he will be more tempted than ever to give up outs with the current lineup struggling to score.

Bernie Williams is currently on pace to get 513 plate appearances, despite hitting .238/.274/.324, which translates to an OPS+ of 57. Only 4 other players on pace to have 500 plate appearances or more are worse. If Bernie continues to hit the way he has over the remainder of the season, he would be 31 runs BELOW AVERAGE. I still don't fault Bernie for wanting to play, but all evidence shows he should not be playing full-time, and he is. This is a management problem, on both Torre and Brian Cashman.

Tanyon Sturtze has a rotator cuff tear. Despite Sturtze's struggles, I can't help but feel bad for the guy. I did not want him on the team anymore, but I didn't want this to be the way for it to happen, and replacing him with Scott Erickson isn't going to help. Nice to see Scott Proctor pitching again last night too.

I'm really discouraged about this team right now. I don't feel sorry for the Yankees and their injury problems because other teams have them too. I'm just annoyed that instead of using this opportunity to see what people like Cabrera, Kevin Thompson, and Andy Phillips could do, they are continuing to run people with no upside out there.

May 15, 2006

by SG

The Yankees had the good fortune of playing an injury-depleted Oakland squad over the weekend, which allowed them to take two of the three games. With the 1000 run offense now a distant memory, the Yankees scored just seven runs over the three games. Thankfully, Chien-Ming Wang dominated Oakland on Friday night, and Jaret Wright pitched well on Saturday, and Kyle Farnsworth picked up Derek Jeter on what could have been a huge ninth inning boot of a double play.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, they have to send out Randy Johnson to pitch every five days. Will Carroll wrote about Johnson's knee after his last outing.

From the very first pitch, Johnson was not extending, appearing instead to shorten his stride to reduce stress on that damaged front knee. Watch Johnson’s leg--it’s nearly straight. He’ll either “pop up” on his follow-through, getting taller, or rotate to the third base side. Both actions take the energy that normally heads to the plate in a delivery and redirects it. While this is taking some of the pressure off the knee, it’s taking velocity off of the ball, and adding stress to the elbow and rotator cuff. Adding insult to literal injury, Johnson’s changed mechanics are also inconsistent, leading to his newfound control problems. It's notable that his release point seems to change, at least according to the video. Video obtained from scouting sources and then seen through the Dartfish program makes this even clearer. Johnson’s release point is more than inconsistent--it's almost random, adding stress to the shoulder. Fastballs from the normal slider release point and sliders from a higher ¾ point are consistent only in their ineffectiveness.

The key here is the knee. Johnson isn’t complaining about it, but it seems that Johnson is either due for a refill on his Synvisc, or the treatment is no longer effective enough to keep him effective. He’s too crafty and talented to write off without another couple of starts, but you don’t have to be an expert to see when Johnson’s on. You probably saw it last night in your own way, but I’ll give you an easy key--watch the front of his jersey. When it pops out hard, as shown on the cover of “Saving The Pitcher,” Johnson is okay. Surprisingly, the gloveside shoulder seems to be okay, despite previously reported problems. The Yankees went ahead and had an MRI on Johnson’s pitching shoulder yesterday to make sure everything was fine, meaning something was bothering him physically. Johnson says that he wants to “put his best foot forward” in his next outing. He’ll need to make sure that's done in combination with a solid knee, good hip turn, and proper energy transfer.

I didn't watch much of the game yesterday, since it was Mother's Day and I couldn't ask my poor mom to spend her day staring at RJ's mug, but from what little I saw I was once again unimpressed. If it is the knee, the Yankees are pretty much stuck with what they've got.

The Yankees finally did what they should have done with Tanyon Sturtze by removing him from the active roster. However, they disable Sturtze so they could bring in a virtual clone. Erickson has not been league average since 1999, and had hadn't even been pitching that well in Columbus. For some comparison, here are some numbers from Columbus.

Erickson: 17.0 IP, 1 HR, 11 BB, 11 K, 4.24 ERA

Darrell Rasner: 35.2 IP, 2 HR, 6 BB, 34 K, 2.52 ERA
Kris Wilson: 32.0 IP, 1 HR, 8 BB, 28 K, 3.09 ERA
Colter Bean: 23.1 IP, 0 HR, 11 BB, 30 K, 0.77 ERA
Mark Corey: 21.1 IP, 0 HR, 3 BB, 22 K, 2.53 ERA
Jose Veras: 18 IP, 3 HR, 7 BB, 22 K, 2.50 ERA
Ramiro Mendoza: 11.1 IP, 0 HR, 1 BB, 11 K, 0.00 ERA
Matt Smith: 9 IP, 1 HR, 3 BB, 8 K, 2.00 ERA

He is Scott Erickson. He's 38 years old. He doesn't have any upside, and he doesn't have any business being called up when he is the eighth best option in Columbus. Perhaps this was done with the expectation that Carl Pavano or Octavio Dotel would be back soon so they didn't want to yo-yo one of their better options, but it has the potential to cost the team some runs in the meantime.

Also, Scott Proctor is a wonderful story and I am hoping we're seeing genuine development from him, but does he need to pitch IN EVERY SINGLE GAME THE YANKEES ARE WINNING? Did Torre learn nothing from Quantrill?

Moose vs. Millwood tonight. Let's see if Moose can keep it going against a team that has recently seen him.

May 12, 2006

Assessing the Carnage
by SG

Hideki Matsui is out, and Joe Torre is saying it is going to be for three months. This is a bad, bad blow, but all the Yankees can do right now is look at the options available in his stead and try to go forward with the best plan of attack.

The Yankees called up Kevin Reese as soon as it was determined that Matsui had fractured his wrist. With Gary Sheffield also out for at least the next two weeks, here are the outfielders on the current roster.

Johnny Damon
Bernie Williams
Melky Cabrera
Kevin Reese
Bubba Crosby

And while he's not on the roster, Kevin Thompson should probably be considered as well.

Damon's a little banged up, but I'd have to assume he'll be locked in CF until Sheffield gets back. So the Yankees have to choose from the remaining four options to man LF and RF. Looking at how the players have performed to this point can pull us into the small sample size trap, so here's how each player projected going into the season using PECOTA. I will list each player's projected batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage, followed by the approximate run value of 300 plate appearances at that rate of production (about 80 games, or 3 months). Projections do need to be adjusted for how a player has performed so far this year, particularly for young players who may still be developing (Melky) and older players who may have lost more physical ability than the numbers would predict (Bernie). So Bernie's projection may be too high, and Melky's may be too low.

Matsui (.289/.361/.464, R: 13)

Bernie (.264/.347/.400, 3)
Cabrera (.267/.309/.393, 0)
Reese (.263/.330/.406, 3) - Reese did not have a PECOTA, so I'm using his ZIPS projection here
Crosby (.249/.303/.382, -2)
Thompson (.263/.333/.426, 8)

Incidentally, another option is Carlos Pena.

Pena (.259/.361/.506, 12)

According to these numbers, any option but Thompson is at least a one win offensive downgrade over Matsui. The good news is that with the exception of Bernie, almost every one of these players would be a defensive upgrade. I think Bubba is probably the best defender of the three, with Reese second, and then Cabrera followed by Thompson. Really, Bernie is the worst option of the five if you factor in offense and defense. Unless Melky's hot start has propelled him above Kevin Thompson, Thompson should be the one getting the bulk of Matsui's playing time. If the Yankees bring up Carlos Pena and he performs to his projection, they'd replace Matsui's offense while also upgrading their defense slightly at first base.

The Yankees' best option would have been to play Thompson in left, and Melky in right and start them both every single day. When Gary Sheffield is ready to come off the disabled list, they could send down the one who is performing worse, or get rid of Bernie or Bubba if both Cabrera and Thompson are performing decently and use them to rest Sheffield at DH. If they do what the statistics say are the best options, they could have the following potential lineups.


Damon CF
Jeter SS
Giambi DH
Rodriguez 3B
Posada C
Cano 2B
Cabrera RF
Pena 1B
Thompson LF


Damon CF
Jeter SS
Giambi DH
Rodriguez 3B
Sheffield RF
Posada C
Cano 2B
Pena 1B
Thompson/Melky LF

Unfortunately, they won't do either one. They will start Bernie and Bubba in 95% of the games going forward, or panic and trade one of their minor league chips for someone like Shannon Stewart.

This really sucks.

May 11, 2006 - Fractured wrist ends Matsui's streak
by SG

NEW YORK -- Hideki Matsui will miss an extended period of time for the Yankees, as the left fielder suffered a fractured left wrist in the first inning of Thursday night's game against the Red Sox.

Matsui was injured while attempting a sliding catch on Mark Loretta's fly ball to shallow left field. Matsui landed on his left arm as he slid, and his arm appeared to bend awkwardly in the wrist area.

After retrieving the ball and throwing it to the infield, Matsui sat back down on the ground. Manager Joe Torre and team trainer Gene Monahan tended to Matsui, escorting him off the field as Monahan held his arm to stabilize it.

Still in full uniform, with a sling supporting his arm, Matsui was taken to Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, where he was examined by Dr. Stuart Hershon, the Yankees' team physician, and hand specialist Dr. Melvin Rosenwasser.

X-rays revealed a fractured left wrist, which will require surgery, to be performed on Friday at Columbia-Presbyterian. It is unclear how much time Matsui will miss.

Early estimates are anywhere from 4-8 weeks. This stinks.

More Moose Madness
by SG

The Yankees beat the Red Sox 7-3 last night behind another solid outing by Mike Mussina. I'll admit it. Despite his success this season, I'm constantly waiting for Bad Moose to show up. I feared that he did in the first inning last night. After falling behind David Ortiz 3-1, Moose got him to foul off four pitches. Unfortunately, the next pitch was an 89 mph fastball right in Ortiz's wheelhouse, and he hit a shot off the third deck to put the Red Sox in front 2-0. He recovered to get Manny Ramirez to strike out looking, and from there basically cruised, aside from a hanging curveball to Mike Lowell in the third. After pitching a quality start (6 IP or more, 3 R allowed or fewer) in just 53% of his starts last season, Moose has pitched a quality start in all eight of his starts this season.

In some respects, Mussina is pitching than he ever has. Here's a look at some of his career stats.

He's striking out batters at a better rate than he ever has. He's also held opposing hitters to a lower average, on base percentage, and slugging against, than he ever has over a full season, even with the two HRs he surrendered yesterday. I've heard some theorize that it's just a salary drive, but I think it's a borderline Hall of Famer who just happens to feel healthy for the first time in a few years and who has adjusted to some loss of velocity by refining his changeup and adding some other pitches.

Thankfully, unlike Gary Sheffield, Moose won't pout about his option being picked up, but if this continues the Yankees should definitely consider bringing him back, although they should try to renegotiate an extension at a lower cost. Not just for Moose's pitching, but for what I think can be a mentoring role for someone like Shawn Chacon, who pitches similarly to Moose in many respects.

Mussina was just one story out of several good ones last night. Jason Giambi hit another HR yesterday, in the third inning. While his defense leaves a lot to be desired, Giambi is having a monster season so far. He's now hitting .314/.531/.779. Here's a look at the most valuable players in the American League so far this season when compared to the average players at their position. RAA at Pos is the runs above average at their position compared to the league.

The much-maligned Alex Rodriguez finally delivered in a clutch situation against Boston, hitting a soaring tie-breaking HR off Curt Schilling in the fifth inning after Schilling had struck out Derek Jeter and Jason Giambi and appeared to be settling down. Hopefully the guy who's "tracking a-rod's stats!!111!" will be by with an update as well as a reminder of how much Rodriguez is earning.

Schilling unraveled at this point, walking Hideki Matsui and then allowing another HR, to Jorge Posada. Quietly, Posada's rebounded a bit from last year's disappointing .262/.352/.430, now hitting .284/.398/.453. Posada's K rate is way down this year. He's struck out in 11.5% of his plate appearances, compared to about 17% in 2004 and 2005. So far, he's been the second most valuable catcher in the AL. Posada's OPS+ in 2005 was 105, this season he's up to 124 which is right around his 2002 level.

Has anyone else noticed how well Robinson Cano hits against Boston? .421/.431/.579 over 58 plate appearances in his career.

Scott Proctor put a punctuation on his displacement of Tanyon Sturtze on Joe Torre's notorious trust list, fanning Manny Ramirez with 96 mph heat with two runners on, although he got away with a hanging breaking ball earlier in the count. He pitched a perfect eighth as well. While I still don't think he should be used in very high-leverage situations, I think he's going to be useful.

By the way, what's up with the shift the Yankees are playing on Ortiz? Shouldn't the fielders be close enough to first base to actually throw the guy out if he hits it to them?

Mo closed it out and looked a little better, although I'm still a little worried about his missing Ks. His location was better last night, and his velocity was also fine, so I think it's just a case of getting sharper.

Good game all around. The rubber game is tonight, with Shawn Chacon facing Tim Wakefield. Wakefield always gives the Yankees problems, but hopefully Chacon is up to the task.

May 10, 2006

The Holy Grail
by Fabian

It sucks that the Yankees lost yesterday, but if you even care about minor league baseball in the slightest...this is the best thing to happen ever:

I know what I'll be doing with the rest of my day, but I don't know what I'll be doing with the free time I've been saved going forward.

by SG

In an ugly game, the Yankees were mauled by the Red Sox last night, 14-3. It was a rough game to watch, to the point where I did something I rarely do, and turned off the game after the Manny Ramirez homer off Aaron Small. Checking the box score, it doesn't seem like I missed anything particularly good.

There was plenty of blame to go around in this game. Alex Rodriguez's two errors were huge. Rodriguez has made seven errors of his 28 career errors as a Yankee against Boston. In other words, 25% of his errors have come against a team that he has played 11% of his games against. If there's any validity to the thoughts that he feels pressure in certain situations, this is pretty telling, although the two errors yesterday were both on somewhat tricky hops.

Melky Cabrera made an error on his first chance, misjudging a high pop, although it seemed that the wind had a lot to do with it. More impressive for me was that Cabrera was able to get two hits despite that, on a night when the Yankee bats failed to show up after the first inning. Errors happen. The mindset that wants to blame Melky and run him out of town for this is the same mindset that has a past-his prime Randy Johnson making ace-like money for fifth starter performance right now. Fear and lack of patience with youth and inexperience leads to an overpriced team full of players whose best days are probably behind them.

Johnny Damon again failed to do anything against his old team, and Bernie Williams has finally convinced me (not that I really had much doubt at this point) that he is completely done. I've never seen Bernie show the kind of frustration that he did when he threw his helmet back towards the umpire after getting called out on strikes. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets a suspension, and honestly, I wouldn't be disappointed about it either. At some point, Bernie either has to make a decision about whether he can continue, or the Yankees have to make it for him, but he's not helping the team in any way right now.

Aaron Small's magic 10-0 pixie dust has all but gone, like most people who have a more than basic understanding of statistics understood and expected this season. For those of you who hate statistics and statheads, maybe you should listen to us once in a while. I think Small should be sent back down to the minors to see if he can recover whatever it was he was doing last year. I'd doubt it at this point, but it wouldn't hurt to try it.

Tanyon Sturtze continues to suck, which to me was the best thing to happen last night. He's going to make what should be a ridiculously easy decision a no-brainer.

Honestly, while all the things I listed are disheartening, none of them really concerns me that much because they are all probably just blips or can be dealt with. While Alex Rodriguez's performance against the Red Sox has me somewhat concerned, I don't think it's anything that a few good games can't fix.

The only thing that I am concerned about from last night's game going forward is the continued ineffectiveness of Randy Johnson. He is chief to blame for last night's debacle. Randy Johnson should not be walking Alex Gonzalez. Randy Johnson should not be throwing nothing but 3-2 sliders out of the strike zone. Randy Johnson should not be walking nine people in his last 15.1 innings. Randy Johnson should not be lasting fewer than six innings in half of his starts.

The good stuff from yesterday was Jason Giambi pulling a 96 mph fastball for a homer and Ron Villone pitching two effective innings. While I don't think Villone is a world beater, is there any reason he is not pitching more often than Sturtze?

It's just one game. The overreaction by some Yankee fans is really amazing. I've always felt it's better to get your ass kicked than lose a nail-biter. Let's hope Moose is on his game today, because Schilling is usually on his against the Yankees.

May 9, 2006

Here we go again
by SG

After one game last week, the Yankees and Red Sox are set to battle over first place in the AL East again, with a three game set beginning today. The Yankees have won five straight games, and Boston has won four straight. In the first game, the struggling Randy Johnson will face the struggling Josh Beckett. I've already discussed Randy Johnson's struggles here, but what about Beckett?

Here's Beckett's scouting report, courtesy of Wikipedia (which is a great source for free scouting reports on a lot of players).

A native of Spring, Texas, Beckett has grown to become one of the premier young pitchers in the major leagues. He is a hard-thrower, wielding a 97-mph fastball, a consistently 90 mph changeup, and a 12-to-6 curveball, which is particularly evil and ranges in the mid-to-high 70 mph range. His career thus far has been impressive, but injuries (most of the time blister problems) have limited him to only 99 starts (101 appearances) over the past four years. His most productive season came in 2005, when he posted career-highs in wins (15), starts (29), innings (178.2), strikeouts (166) and WHIP (1.18), as he tossed in a sharp 3.38 ERA for good measure. He also hadn't won more than 10 games until the past campaign.

After starting the season with three strong starts, Beckett's struggled a bit of late. The league is hitting .230/.321/.439. More indicative of his struggles are his HR, BB, and K rates.

HR+: 83
BB+: 91
K+: 81

Beckett's been below average in all three of the outcomes that he has the most direct control over. What's interesting is that his ERA of 4.86 is better than both his FIP(5.56) and his Component ERA(5.40). So he's pitched even worse than his numbers indicate. It should be noted that all six of the homers he has given up came in just two games, against offensive powerhouses Toronto and Cleveland.

There's no question about his talent, but so far the new league has been a struggle for Beckett. Hopefully the Yankees can take advantage before he fixes whatever's wrong.

Johnson started six games against Boston last season, defeating them five times. Boston's got a new look this year with the additions of Mark Loretta, Mike Lowell, J.T. Snow, and Wily Mo Pena, who homered off Johnson last spring. Batter/pitcher matchups are generally useless due to the small sample size, but none of the new imports have had much success against Johnson so far, so we'll see if he can rebound.

The fact that Boston and New York are basically tied in the standings is pretty annoying, because the Yankees have outperformed the Red Sox in almost every measure so far this season but wins and losses.

Team OPS+
Boston: 109
Yankees: 128

Team ERA+
Boston: 108
Yankees: 124

Team Defense by Zone Rating
Boston: 8.3 runs below average
Yankees: 3.2 runs above average

What's interesting about those defensive numbers is that Boston's problems are almost entirely in the OF (-11). Their infield defense is slightly above average (.3 runs). The Yankees on the other hand are -2.2 runs below average defensively in the infield, and 3.6 runs above average in the outfield. Boston's catchers have been 2.4 runs above average, and the Posada and Stinnett have been 1.8 runs above average.

Pythagorean Record
Boston: 17-14
Yankees: 20-9

Runs Scored per game
Boston: 5.2
Yankees: 6.3

Runs Allowed per game
Boston: 4.8
Yankees: 4.1

Boston's had a slightly tougher schedule thus far, as their opponents have a combined winning percentage of .493, compared to the Yankees, whose opponents have a .479 winning percentage, but this is mitigated somewhat by the fact that the Red Sox have played 16 games at home (11-5) and 15 on the road (8-7), compared to the Yankees, who have played 12 games at home (9-3), and and 17 games on the road(9-8).

On a completely different note, a lot of my fellow Yankee fans have espoused pitching inside or even hitting David Ortiz as a means to combat the Yankees' seeming inability to get him out. It's conventional baseball wisdom, but would it really help? I took a look at Ortiz's career splits versus all opponents.

Ortiz has been hit by a pitch by seven of his 21 opponents.

His collective batting line against those seven? .278/.368/.536

His line against the teams that haven't hit him? .286/.367/.532

I don't think you can intimidate as good a hitter as Ortiz is. That's not to say that you shouldn't try to pitch him inside at times to be less predictable, but if people think that the only reason that he has killed the Yankees is because they don't pitch him inside, they are a)wrong b)not giving Ortiz credit for being a damn good hitter. The Yankees would be better off seeing how Anaheim and Oakland pitch Ortiz, as they've held him to lines of .217/.318/450 over 214 PA and .259/.325/.432 over 206 PA respectively. Incidentally, neither team has ever hit Ortiz with a pitch.

Gary Sheffield went to see a doctor for a second opinion on his wrist, according to Newsday.

When Gary Sheffield went to get a second opinion on his bruised left wrist yesterday, he feared the worst-case scenario, a season-ending injury, according to a friend.

The diagnosis Sheffield heard, however, was not nearly that bad. Manhattan-based hand specialist Dr. Charles Melone instructed Sheffield to rest his wrist completely for "10 to 14 days" so it can heal, Sheffield's attorney, Rufus Williams, said last night.

"It's unfortunate, because he wants to play," Williams said. "But it could've been worse."

The Yankees, while refusing to comment on Sheffield's latest diagnosis, spent the day making plans to put him on the 15-day disabled list and likely call up Melky Cabrera.

Cabrera did start in RF last night for the first time this season. If they do bring Melky up, I hope it is to start him as the regular RF. We've seen what Bernie and Bubba can do, and it's not much.

Update:It's official. Sheffield to the DL, Cabrera to the Bronx (thanks to Kevin Elster?)

The Yankees put Gary Sheffield on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday because of a bruised left hand and called up outfielder Melky Cabrera from Triple-A Columbus.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I don't like these Red Sox series very much. The games themselves are usually very tense and exciting, but the hype and nonsense tends to drown that all out. Anyway, here's hoping the Yankees take two of three.

May 8, 2006

Pitching, pitching, pitching
by SG

Coming into the season, it was a pretty safe assumption that the Yankee offense was going to be good. Pitching and defense looked like they were going to be an issue. 29 games have passed, and thus far, they have been strengths.

The charts below are sorted by Runs above Average, which is how many runs the pitching staffs have saved over a league average staff over the same number of batters faced. ERA+ is what the league average ERA would be if a team played in that stadium, divided by the team's ERA and multiplied by 100. OPS+ is the OPS+ that opponents have against the team, and HR+, BB+, and K+ are calculated just like I did in the Chacon entry below. All comparisons are based on the splits, so starters are only being compared with other starters, and relievers are only being compared with other relievers.

Let's start (get it? start?) with the starters.
Update: Thanks to shawn for calling my attention to the fact that I messed up the K+ column. Values were inverted in my original post.

American League Starters

The Yankees' starters have been the third best group in the league, primarily due to preventing the long ball. Can that continue? I'm not sure.

Next up the relievers.

American League Relievers

It's interesting that the relievers and starters have performed similarly when compared to their peers.

Add them up, and you get the second most valuable overall pitching staff in the American League by RAA.

Can it continue? I'd be concerned about the HR rate correcting itself. On the other hand, I figure Randy Johnson will get better which would offset Moose getting worse, and there's also the potential of replacing Tanyon Sturtze and Jaret Wright's innings with Octavio Dotel and Carl Pavano. I don't see that Shawn Chacon or Chien-Ming Wang are overperforming expectations. In other words, it's a surprise, but it may not be a fluke.

Ron Guidry for MVP.

May 7, 2006

Chacon shackles Texas
by SG

In the off-season, one of my biggest areas of concern with the Yankee rotation was what to expect from Shawn Chacon. He was outstanding for the Yankees in 12 starts, but his peripherals indicated a big falloff was due. He's now made five starts this season (in seven appearances), and although I still have some concerns, I think I see some good indicators that he's going to a be solid pitcher. Chacon helped lead the Yankees to a 6-1 victory over Texas, one night after the Yankees almost blew an 8-1 lead.

Normally when trying to gauge a player's talent, it is important to consider their entire career. However, Chacon had spent his entire career in Colorado prior to joining the Yankees, which makes his numbers almost impossible to analyze. For that reason, I'll just look at the time he spent with the Yankees last year, and how he's performed this year, with the understanding that it's only 111 innings and too small a sample to make any definitive assessments about.

Last year, Chacon pitched 79 innings with an ERA of 2.85. However, a little look deeper into his numbers indicated the potential for a fall-off.

The heart of baseball is the batter/pitcher matchup. Each pitch by the pitcher can lead to thousands of potential outcomes. The three outcomes over which a pitcher has the most control are walks, strikeouts, and homeruns. All other outcomes bring different factors into play, including their defense, the condition of the field, the weather, etc., When assessing a pitcher's ability, it is important to look at the things he has the most control over. I am not a big believer in determining a player's value by this method, because frankly, it is unimportant to me how a pitcher gets batters out when looking at how much they are contributing. However, when we want to see if a player is likely to continue performing at their current level, these underlying statistics are critical. This is the heart of Voros McCracken's DIPS (Defense Independent Pitching system, which is what convinced me to start looking at pitchers in this manner.

Because of this, I'm going to throw out Chacon's ERA and just look at four sets of statistics that he accumulated in 2005 as a Yankee.

Batters Faced: 330
HR Allowed: 7
Walks Allowed: 30
Strikeouts: 40

So, Chacon did the following on a rate basis last year.

HR/BF: .02
BB/BF: .09
K/BF: .12

Although I'm ignoring innings here, I'll put the ratios per nine innings as well since that may be more familiar to many of you.

HR/9: .8
BB/9: 3.4
K/9: 4.6

To put those in context, here is how the entire American League fared in these numbers.

Batters Faced: 87089
HR Allowed: 2416
Walks Allowed: 6791
Strikeouts: 13893

So the league performed as follows on a rate basis:

HR/BF: .03
BB/BF: .08
K/BF: .16

HR/9: 1.1
BB/9: 3.0
K/9: 6.2

I use these two sets of ratios to calculate what I call HR+, BB+, K+. I used to just divide the individual's ratio by the league ratio and multiply by 100, but to keep the scale consistent, I divide the league ratio for HRs and BBs (bad outcomes) by the individual's ratio, and then the individual's strikeout rate by the league strikeout rate. Therefore, 100 is league average. Less than 100 means that the player is worse than the league average in that component. Greater than 100 means the pitcher is better.

Chacon 2005
HR+: 131
BB+: 86
K+: 76

So Chacon did a good job of keeping the ball in the park last year as a Yankee, but walked more and struck out fewer than the average pitcher. This was the biggest reason I was concerned about Chacon, as HR rate in general tends to be more volatile than a pitcher's walk rate and K rate. The low K rate is also concerning because it indicates that Chacon had a lot of balls put into play that were converted into outs, which can also fluctuate from year to year.

Onto 2006, and although his ERA is about one run higher than last season's at 3.94, I think he's pitching in a way that indicates he's more likely to be a good pitcher than his performance did last year, if that makes any sense. First of all, his ERA as a starter is 3.69, as two bad relief appearances have skewed his numbers a bit.

Chacon 2006
HR/BF: .03 (.08 as reliever, .02 as starter)
BB/BF: .12 (.08 as reliever, .13 as starter)
K/BF: .20 (.15 as reliever, .21 as starter)

HR/9: 0.8
BB/9: 3.9
K/9: 6.5

2006 AL Averages
HR/BF: .03
BB/BF: .09
K/BF: .16

HR/9: 1.2
BB/9: 3.4
K/9: 6.1

Chacon's HR+, BB+, and K+ based on those league averages are:
HR+: 115 (39 as reliever, 153 as starter)
BB+: 70 (111 as reliever, 67 as starter)
K+: 128 (98 as reliever, 132 as starter)

The walk rate is still not very good, in fact it's worse than last year. The good news is that his K rate has spiked to above league average.

In watching Chacon this season, I can't help but think that his BB rate is high by design. Similar to El Duque, Chacon doesn't have overwhelming stuff, and he needs to hit his spots to succeed. Because of this, I think he intentionally will not give into a hitter, regardless of the count, because he realizes that he is better off walking people than giving up an extra base hit. When he starts ahead in the count, he can get batters out by painting the corners because they have to protect the plate, but when he falls behind the hitters have the advantage because he doesn't throw the type of pitches that hitters like to zone in on. I don't know if it's true or not, but if he continues to pitch out of self-induced jams and demonstrate an ability to to get better than expected results on balls hit into play, I may yet become convinced.

Scott Proctor gave me a scare when he started the eighth by allowing two singles after getting Hank Blalock to ground out, but to Joe Torre's credit, he stayed with Proctor and resisted the tempation to bring in Kyle Farnsworth or Mo and let Proctor pitch out of it himself.

Although his walk rate is still too high, Proctor has been very impressive. After walking 8 hitters in his first 15 innings, he's walked 1 over his last 7.1. He seems to be using his changeup and breaking pitch more this season to good effect, particularly against lefties, who hit .315/.405/.630 against him in 2005 but are hitting .222/.440/.333 so far this season (small sample size warning). Although lefties are still getting on at a good clip against him, they're not hitting him for the power they did last year. Proctor can be a useful middle reliever due to his ability to pitch multiple innings and due to the fact that he has very good stuff. Proctor relieving a soft-tosser like Randy Johnson would seem like he is throwing 200 mph.

Is it a coincidence that the Yankee pitching staff has been so much better with Johnny Damon in CF this season? I don't think Damon can be credited for the whole staff's apparent improvement (Mel who?), but he sure has been a tremendous upgrade in CF this season. I have him on pace to be about 5 runs above average on the season at his current pace, even with the bad arm. Not too bad. I may yet accept him as a Yankee, although I know some people who never will.

It's not all good news, as apparently Gary Sheffield realized he was hurt worse than he thought after starting on Friday night, with a stint on the disabled
list looking like a possibility

Gary Sheffield was a late scratch from Saturday's lineup, and although Joe Torre hopes to have the slugger back in the lineup by Tuesday, Sheffield is preparing himself for a possible trip the disabled list.

"We'll see," Sheffield said when asked about the DL. "Based on right now, that's probably what I'll have to do."

I've said it before, but I think the Yankees should DL Sheffield now. Any chance at a lingering wrist injury will be more detrimental than two weeks of games without him. It would probably also let them call up Carlos Peña assuming that decision has to be made soon.

The Yankees have already won one more game than I expected them to in Texas, so I'm sure it'll be "House Money Day in Texas, with Bubba, Stinnett, Phillips and Cairo all playing. I'd like to see Chien-Ming Wang pitch well, because while Chacon has begun alleviating my concerns about him, Wang has exarcebated the ones I had about him.

May 5, 2006

Bailed Out
by SG

After starting the season strong, Randy Johnson has been really bad. Fortunately, the Yankees have supported Johnson with an average of 9.3 runs per game, which they managed to exceed tonight, beating Tampa Bay 10-5.

Johnson appeared to have issues with his velocity tonight, topping out around 92 mph and also with his command, throwing just 30 balls and 62 strikes, but missing Jorge Posada's target quite frequently. It's been a tale of two Johnsons so far this season, and I can't help but think we haven't gotten the whole story from that game against Kansas City where he left after just five innings and 87 pitches.

In Johnsons' first 3 starts (including the KC game), he accumulated the following line.

IP: 20
H: 16
R: 5
ER: 5
BB: 0
K: 16
BB/9: 0
K/9: 7.2
HR/9: .45
ERA: 2.25
FIP: 2.25
Opp Avg: .213
Opp OBP: .213
Opp SLG: .280

Since then, it's been pretty ugly.

IP: 22.1
H: 25
R: 19
ER: 19
BB: 9
K: 13
BB/9: 3.6
K/9: 5.2
HR/9: 1.6
ERA: 7.67
FIP: 5.98
Opp Avg: .278
Opp OBP: .362
Opp SLG: .500

Despite that line, the Yankees have won three of those four games. In the post-game show, Joe Torre said that Johnson feels fine, so if there is any injury concern, Johnson's not using it as an excuse. It's a small enough sample that it could just be a string of bad starts, but any Yankee fan who's not concerned about Johnson should probably start to be.

Thankfully, the offense did its job and scored 10 runs tonight. Hideki Matsui appears to be busting out of his slump, with three hits including a HR. Matsui entered the game with a line of .255/.330/.408 and exited with a line of .272/.342/.456.

The best sight to see for me was Gary Sheffield making a Willis Reed-like return off the bench in the top of the 7th, with two outs and the Yankees trailing 5-4. Sheffield took three pitches, then lined a hard single to RF. Johnny Damon followed with another single, Derek Jeter worked a walk, and Jason Giambi worked a walk, forcing in the tying run. Alex Rodriguez came back from a 1-2 count to also draw a walk, giving the Yankees the lead. Sheffield drew a walk and also hit another ball hard in his other two trips to the plate.

Johnson finished strong by retiring the two lefties he was called on to face leading off the bottom of the seventh, and then Joe Torre brought in Tanyon Sturtze in a one run game to face the dangerous Jonny Gomes. Gomes hit the ball hard, but right at Jeter, and the Yankees were out of danger.

Johnny Damon hit a grand slam in the top of the eighth to give the Yankees some breathing room and to revive the slumping March to 1000 Runs™, and then Torre chose to take out Sturtze, which was curious. The reasoning behind it as espoused by Ken Singleton almost made my head explode. Singleton said that Torre was probably saving Sturtze for more important spots. I would think that a five run lead with Sturtze already warmed and in the game is pretty much the only time it makes sense to pitch him, but instead, Torre brought in Scott Proctor, ostensibly to save Sturtze for when it counts. He's never even done anything like that for Mariano Rivera. Proctor gave up a walk and then a cheap single after getting a groundout and K, and Torre went to Mike Myers, the Yankees' lefty specialist. With a five run lead. To pitch to what would end up being five hitters, three of them righties. It didn't burn them tonight, but I am concerned about the positive reinforcement that may have been planted in this game.

1) Myers can pitch to righties (he can't)
2) Sturtze can get outs in big spots (not with any consistency)

Torre's bullpen management continues to be bizarre at best, and downright troublesome at worst. Honestly, besides injuries, it could very well be the biggest issue facing this team going forward. Even if Octavio Dotel comes back, I'm not sure he will be used in the optimal manner, particularly if he is not sharp right away.

Enough negativity for now. The Yankees took care of business, beating Tampa twice, and keeping pace with the Red Sox. Playing Texas in Texas is always a pain in the ass. Here are the matchups for the weekend.

M. Mussina (4-1, 2.31) vs. V. Padilla (3-1, 4.04)

S. Chacón (3-1, 4.56) vs. K. Loe (1-2, 4.15)

C. Wang (1-1, 4.89) vs. R. Tejeda (1-0, 3.60)

Two out of three would be nice, but I have a feeling we're due to see Bad Moose at some point soon. The other two games look like tossups. I think one out of three is more likely.

May 4, 2006

Minor League Baseballlcom - Audio Schedule: May 4
by SG

In case anyone wants to listen to Phil Hughes's AA debut, scroll down the link to the Reading Phillies at Trenton Thunder game at 7:05 PM ET. I know a few people who may be attending, so hopefully I can get a report.

May 3, 2006

Expect the Unexpected
by SG

In order for the Yankees to beat the Devil Rays 4-2 tonight, it took several unexpected things.

Jaret Wright (yes, that Jaret Wright) pitched six effective innings, despite throwing only 42 strikes in 81 pitches, holding the Devil Rays to two runs.

Alex Rodriguez got a 1000 pound gorilla off his back, driving in the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th inning. The ice-cold Hideki Matsui added an insurance run with his second hit of the ninth, and Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect bottom of the tenth to close it out.

It was a good game all-around, despite the lack of offense. Mike Myers pitched pretty well and Kyle Farnsworth looked really good in his inning and a third of work, striking out two, and Joe Torre actually used Ron Villone in a high-leverage spot in lieu of Tanyon Sturtze, although he did have Sturtze warning just to scare us.

Today was Robinson Cano's one year anniversary as a Yankee. It's been a good year for Cano, who even drew a walk today.

Gary Sheffield got some oscillation therapy and is expected to take BP tomorrow, so he could be returning to the lineup soon as well.

With Boston falling to Toronto 7-6, the Yanks are back in a tie for first place. A little momentum would be nice. If Rodriguez and Matsui can build on today's game, the offense should be in pretty good shape.

May 3 Notes
by SG

Due to the impromptu off-day, I don't have much to write about. I guess I should look at injury and roster issues.

First off, the rundown from

Shawn Chacon is having his start pushed back to Saturday as a result of Tuesday's rainout. Surprisingly, Jaret Wright will start Wednesday as scheduled. With Chacon pitching on Saturday, Chien-Ming Wang will follow Sunday on five days' rest.

Obviously, my first reaction was disgust. However, B-Man made some good points about it, in that the Yankees still have to play five games in five days, so Wright would have to pitch at some point. Torre's setting him up to pitch against Tampa, whom he had a few good games against last season (3-0, 5.68 ERA). The ERA is skewed by one bad start out of four. I also wonder if the Yankees think that Wright's sharpness is affected by the constant time off he has been getting between starts, and want to see what he can do on a normal rest schedule. I'd assume time is running out for Wright with Aaron Small back. Hopefully, anyway.

Octavio Dotel, who was shut down two weeks ago after a mild setback in his recovery from Tommy John surgery, threw 35 pitches off a bullpen mound on Tuesday.
Dotel is scheduled for another mound session late this week and could resume pitching in extended spring training games next week.

Hurry back Octavio. This team needs to be de-Sturtzed, and you're the best bet for it to happen.

Carl Pavano (back) allowed one unearned run and two hits over five innings in an extended spring training game on Tuesday.
Pavano threw 58 pitches and struck out three. "He was outstanding," catcher Ben Davis said. Pavano is probably about four weeks away from rejoining the Yankees.

Good to see Carl getting over his bruised ass.

The latest on Gary Sheffield from the ever-reliable New York Post:

Gary Sheffield's sore left hand/wrist isn't getting worse but it's not improving, either. "No change, it's the same," Sheffield said.

Asked if he expected Sheffield to be ready to play tonight against the Devil Rays, Torre said, "I wish I could tell you."

While it's not on the front burner, the disabled list remains an option.

The march to 1000 runs needs Sheffield back, but I'd kind of like to stick him on the DL, make sure he's healthy, and at the same time see the Yankees call up Melky Cabrera or Kevin Thompson, just to see if they can contribute. While the offense on a whole has been good, I expect the pitching staff to begin regressing soon so the Yankees need to upgrade wherever they can. After a little cooling off, Melky has been hitting well again(.373/.425/.529). If he can hit .275/.325/.400 or so and play capable defense, he'd be a pretty big upgrade over Bernie Williams(.217/.262/.283).

Carlos Peña's deadline has come and gone, but given his mediocre showing in the minors so far, the Yankees have not made a decision about calling him up, and Peña appears to be willing to wait. Let's hope the Cubs don't snatch him away.

May 2, 2006

Do you really want to Sturtze me?
by SG

Last night, the Yankees lost a frustrating game to the Red Sox, 7-3. Chien-Ming Wang battled poor command through five innings, but left in a tie. Aaron Small made his return and pitched two mostly effective innings. However, after retiring Doug Mirabelli he walked Alex Cora on four pitches in the bottom of the eighth, which should have been a signal to get him out of the game. Instead, Joe Torre allowed him to pitch to Kevin Youkilis, who got hit by a pitch, setting up runners on first and second with one out.

At this point, the game was lost. Torre went to his personal favorite, Tanyon Sturtze. Based on a few good innings in 2004 and a decent first two months in 2005, Sturtze has become one of Torre's favorite relievers, belying a career of horrible pitching (784 innings, ERA+ of 88). Sturtze gave up a ground ball single up the middle that plated what would be the winning run. The ball was grounded to the third base side of second base, and Robinson Cano ranged over and the ball went under his glove. Derek Jeter, who the ball was closer to, was nowhere near the play. He does have two Gold Gloves though, so he's obviously a good defender. And this is not meant as a knock on Jeter, rather it's a knock on those who say he is a good defender.

Mike Myers then gave up a HR to David Ortiz, but for all intents and purposes that was meaningless, as the Yankees went out like wimps against Jon Papelbon in the ninth.

This was a team loss, but Joe Torre continued his horrible bullpen management. For some reason, Torre considers tie games on the road as a place to use his worst relievers. It already cost the team at least one game in Oakland, and may have cost them last night's as well, although I have no faith that the team would have scored again, not with Alex Rodriguez(.200/.356/.229 in his last 10 games) and Hideki Matsui (.156/.229/.219 in his last 8 games)mired in horrible slumps and Bubba Crosby being Bubba Crosby. I've said it before, but until Brian Cashman gets rid of Sturtze, Torre will continue to use him, and it will continue to cost the team games.

It sucked, but it was one game. I still think a healthy Yankee team is better than the Red Sox, and I am not too concerned about it. I'd like to see Rodriguez and Matsui wake up today against Josh "Respect the Game" Beckett.

May 1, 2006

Series Preview: Yankees at Red Sox, May 1 & 2
by SG

Heading into the first two games of 19 between the Yankees and Red Sox, the two teams are tied for first place in the AL East. How they've gotten there presents an interesting contrast so far, as despite being tied in the standings, the Yankees have been the far better team.

Part of the disparity has been the schedule, as the Red Sox have played 15 of their 25 games on the road. They've also played 7 road games at Texas and Cleveland, neither of which is an easy place to play. The Yankees have played 12 of their 23 games at home so far, including a big sweep against the Royals that helped them pump up their stats. Still, the underlying performance of the two teams have been pretty disparate so far.

The Yankees as a team are hitting .299/.395/.495. This translates to a team OPS+ of 134, which is by far the best in baseball. They have scored 144 runs(an average of about 6.3 per game), but by base runs they should have scored 146. In other words, their run total has not been fluky based on their performance so far. They see 160 pitches a game on average, which means lots of hacks against middle relievers. As a team, the Yankees have a BABIP (batting average on balls in play) against of .289, which ranks fifth in the American League. Their defense by zone rating so far has saved about 2.6 runs above the average defense. On the pitching side, they have an ERA of 3.65, which ranks second in the AL, and translates to an ERA+ of 132, which also ranks second. Opponents have an OBP of just .308 against them, and are slugging just .360. They have allowed a total of 91 runs, which is the second lowest total in the AL.

The Red Sox as a team are hitting .256/.353/.416, which translates to a team OPS+ of 99. They have scored 117 runs, about 4.7 per game, which is the lowest average in the AL East. Base runs says the Red Sox should have scored 123 so far. Poor hitting with runners in scoring position has depressed their actual offensive performance somewhat. They see 159 pitches a game on average, so they are still having good long at bats. As a team, they have a BABIP against of .298, which ranks sixth in the AL. Their defense has been really bad so far by zone rating, allowing 10 runs more than average, with Manny Ramirez the chief culprit (-4). Red Sox opponents have an OBP of .325 and a SLG of .442, and their team ERA of 4.67 translates to an ERA+ of 106, which ranks sixth in the AL.

What does this all mean? First of all, it's important to realize that the Red Sox are not at full strength with Coco Crisp out of the lineup. They are also getting sub-par play from some positions at which they have potential upgrades, notably short stop and second base. Hee Seop Choi will also be available, although he would be displacing either Kevin Youkilis or Mike Lowell if he were to play, both of whom are hitting well so far. It's also necessary to remember that players will tend to move towards their natural talent/ability level as the season goes longer, so how players are playing now is not necessarily how they can be expected to perform going forward.

Here's a quick lineup comparison of the two teams so far based on who is likely going to be available or playing.

Stats: (AVG/OBP/SLG, OPS+, RAA(offensive runs above average at position), FRAA (fielding runs above average at position)

CF Damon (.312/.400/.505, 135, 6.3, 0.8)
SS Jeter (.398/.505/.648, 199, 15.9, -4.1)
DH Giambi (.344/.554/.852, 261, 16.2, -1.1)
3B Rodriguez (.267/.391/.477, 126, 0.6, 1.0)
LF Matsui (.258/.340/.427, 99, 0.1, -1.2)
C Posada (.288/.395/.452, 121, 2.1, 1.0)
RF Bernie (.217/.262/.283, 43, -6.0, 0.9)
2B Cano (.317/.342/.443, 1.9, 104, 2.3)
1B Phillips (.154/.214/.269, 26, -0.6)

1B Youkilis (.299/.406/.414, 111, 1.1, -1.0)
2B Loretta (.218/.282/.297, 48, -4.4, 0.7)
DH Ortiz (.278/.391/.639, 135, 5.2, Hahaha)
LF Ramirez (.276/.417/.448, 121, 4.7, -3.9)
RF Nixon (.312/.419/.508, 122, 3.2, -2.0)
C Varitek (.250/.345/.375, 84, -3.3, 0.4)
3B Lowell (.318/.371/.511, 122, 1.8, 0.2)
CF Pena (.277/.340/.553, 122, 1.0, -1.6)
Mohr (.167/.219/.400, 53, -1.5, 0.7)
SS Alex Gonzalez (.186/.275/.243, 34, -5.4, 2.7)

For all the hype David Ortiz gets, Jason Giambi has been the far, far, far better player this season.

The pitching matchups for the series appear to favor Boston pretty heavily, with Tim Wakefield facing Chien-Ming Wang in the first game and Shawn Chacon facing Josh Beckett in the second game. The Yankees are bringing back former Yankee Joe Ausanio to throw some knuckleballs during batting practice. We'll see if that helps tonight.

I wouldn't read too much into the results of these two games. No Gary Sheffield, Randy Johnson, or Mike Mussina for the Yankees, and no Crisp for the Red Sox. That doesn't mean I don't want a sweep.