Look what people have to say about Larry Mahnken's commentary!
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said nothing meaningful. That's impressive, even for you." - Anonymous
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"you blog sucks, it reeds as it was written by the queer son of mike lupica and roids clemens. i could write a better column by letting a monkey fuk a typewriter. i dont need no 181 million dollar team to write a blog fukkk the spankeees" - yan
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"I'm not qualified to write for online media, let alone mainstream
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August 31, 2006
Magic Number - 23 by SG
The Yankees took a 3-2 lead into the ninth inning of the nightcap of their doubleheader with Detroit. With Mariano Rivera being rested, and Kyle Farnsworth unavailable due to his balky back, the Yankees asked Scott Proctor to close the game out, in what would have been his first career save. Proctor got two outs sandwiched around a walk to Brandon Inge, who had walked 35 in his previous 490 plate appearances this season. Then came another walk, to Curtis Granderson. Craig Monroe stepped up, hit the first pitch he saw for a 3 run HR, and a 3-2 win became a 5-3 loss.
It was a frustrating loss, but it's tough to criticize Proctor when he's gotten so many big outs this season. With no Rivera or Farnsworth, you can't really fault Joe Torre either. If anything, the offense probably deserves a lot of the blame for the loss, as they could only muster 3 hits.
Still, it was a good day, as the Yankees reduced their magic number by two. They've been scuffling for most of August, which was to be expected given the schedule they faced. Since taking 2 of 3 from Baltimore in Baltimore, the Yanks have played 6 series, and have only won one of them.
At Chicago Loss 5-6 Win 7-6 Loss 4-5
Home vs. LA of A Loss 4-7 Win 5-2 Loss 3-5 Win 7-2
Home vs. Baltimore Win 6-3 Loss 2-3 Loss 2-12
At Boston Win 12-4 Win 14-11 Win 13-5 Win 8-5 Win 2-1
At Seattle Loss 5-6 Win 9-2 Loss 2-4
At LA of A Loss 5-6 Loss 7-12 Win 11-8
Thankfully, they picked the right one to win. With the double-header split yesterday, the Yankees are 12-11 in the first 23 games of the 24 game stretch where the log5 method predicted 13-11, so if they win today they have basically met reasonable expectations, even if they picked an odd way to do it.
Given what I've seen out of Detroit's offense, I'm hopeful Randy Johnson can pitch a good game today. Detroit as a team has hit .271/.328/.434 vs. lefties this year, as opposed to .278/.329/.452 vs. righties, which isn't a huge difference but should help. Let's hope the Yankees remember how to hit against Jeremy Bonderman, who's got a 4.89 ERA since the All Star Break.
Mariano Rivera and Jason Giambi played in yesterday’s doubleheader, so their health status is not alarming to the Yankees. But the team was concerned enough about them to schedule magnetic resonance imaging exams.
Rivera has experienced inflammation in his right elbow and will have a precautionary M.R.I. on the elbow soon, perhaps today. He earned the save in the first game yesterday but did not pitch in the second.
Giambi had an M.R.I. on his left wrist between games of the doubleheader, after he went 1 for 3 with a sacrifice fly as the designated hitter in the opener. He missed a start Sunday in Anaheim because of cramping in his hands, and he has had his wrist wrapped lately.
The results of Giambi’s M.R.I. were not immediately available, and he started the second game as the D.H.
NEW YORK -- Hideki Matsui was cleared to take full batting practice for the first time on Tuesday, a big step in his hopeful return to the Yankees' lineup this season. Matsui is scheduled to hit indoors on Wednesday.
Matsui had no problems with soft-toss hitting drills on Sunday, but he hasn't taken live batting practice yet. The Yankees originally thought Matsui wouldn't be ready until some time later this week.
"In terms of being pain free, that's something I definitely feel good about and very satisfied," Matsui said through his interpreter. "I'm still working on my mechanics and things like that."
This could help Trenton's title run. --posted at 9:03 AM by SG / |
August 29, 2006
Meet the Tigers by SG
Over at Bronx Banter, Cliff Corcoran usually does a good opponent preview to open a series. I figured I'd take a shot at one for this series, since despite having the best record in baseball, Detroit's been flying under the radar for a lot of the season. There are still people out there who think they're not for real, but those same people were pretty insistent the White Sox weren't for real last season either. The question is, how did a team that projected to be about a .500 team this year storm out to the best record in baseball?
Their offense is ok, but nothing special.
Their defense, on the other hand, is sublime.
When you have a good defense, odds are your pitching's going to look pretty good too.
Overall, Detroit's played to a pythagorean record of 80-51, compared to their actual record of 82-49. They're not getting lucky, they're a good team. They've been stumbling a little lately, but are still on pace to win 101 games.
If the Yankees want to have a legitimate shot at home field advantage, they probably need to sweep this series.
Tuesday N. Robertson (11-10, 4.10) vs. C. Wang (15-5, 3.81)
Wednesday W. Ledezma (2-1, 2.08) vs. R. Johnson (14-10, 4.96)
Thursday J. Bonderman (11-6, 3.92) vs.J. Wright (9-7, 4.72)
Looking at those matchups, I think two of three is a more reasonable expectation.
In a completely unrelated note, I wish David Ortiz good luck with his medical scare. As much as he's killed the Yankees for years, I have nothing but respect for him. He seems to be not just an outstanding hitter, but a great guy. Let's hope it's nothing serious and he'll back on the field in no time, hitting clutch homers while the Red Sox lose every game.
Also, regarding Carl Pavano, I think people are being a little too harsh on him. The fact that he was willing to try to pitch with broken ribs shows me that maybe he's a little tougher than he's being credited for. Whatever you think of his tenure as a Yankee so far, this team would benefit from having him back. --posted at 10:16 AM by SG / |
August 28, 2006
Seems Like Old Times by SG
The Yankees beat the Angels 11-8 yesterday, to finish off a rough road trip.
Bernie Williams hit two HRs, and for a brief moment reminded us of just how good he used to be. He's clearly not what he once was, but it's always good to see him succeed, and in the right role he also can. Derek Jeter also homered twice, something he'd previously done seven times in his career.
If Jeter can hit for power over the remaining 5 weeks of the season, he can solidify a pretty strong MVP case.
Jeff Karstens pitched his second decent game as a starter. I'm still not particularly impressed by his stuff, but I do like his 114:60 strike to ball ratio. It'll be interesting to see if he can continue to perform reasonably well for however long the Yankees run him out there. Maybe it lets the Yankees dump Jaret Wright in the offseason.
The road trip started with 5 games in Boston, and ended with six games on the West Coast. All in all, they played 11 games in 10 days, and went 7-4. They began the trip with a 1.5 game lead in the AL East, and exit with a 6.5 game lead. I think any of us would have taken that as the start, although finishing 2-4 after winning the first five games seems like a disappointment.
Offense was not a problem, as the team collectively hit .310/.405/.508 and scored 88 runs. Pitching and defense was more of an issue, as they gave up 64 runs. That run differential would translate to a 7-4 pythagorean record, so they weren't particularly lucky or unlucky.
Next up are six home games against two of the best teams in baseball.
No blog entry would be complete without an injury update from Rotoworld, of course.
Hideki Matsui (wrist) reportedly took 25 long-toss swings Sunday and reported no problems. Barring a setback, Matsui is expected to take batting practice at some point this week. If everything goes as planned, he could begin a minor league rehab assignment over the weekend.
According to the New York Times, "there is a widespread perception in the Yankees’ clubhouse that Carl Pavano simply does not want to pitch." Pavano has suffered yet another setback in his recovery, making his status for a start this week uncertain. The newspaper reports that Pavano "seems to have no defenders among the players, who stopped counting on him long ago."
Melky Cabrera didn't play Sunday against the Angels because of tooth problems. Cabrera was expected to bat second today. He's day-to-day.
Good news about Matsui. I don't know what to make of Pavano, although I'm not comfortable questioning a player when it comes to injuries. I don't think he'll be back this year anyway. Looks like Melky is paying the price for Steinbrenner's new dental plan. --posted at 11:27 AM by SG / |
August 25, 2006
Randy Johnson disappointed again last night, leading the Yankees to a 4-2 loss and a series loss to the awful Seattle Mariners. In other news, grass is green, and the sky is blue.
To me, Johnson is the poster child of the problems inherent when you do not develop enough of your own talent.
The Yankees traded for and are paying for this guy.
Unfortunately, they've gotten this guy.
They're stuck with him for the rest of this season and next year, so I hope he will be useful most of the time, but I really can't wait for him to be off the team. At least he gave the bullpen a rare night off. Maybe they should make Johnson pitch a complete game every time out.
The Yankee offense wasn't much better last night, as Johan Santana Jarrod Washburn toyed with their hitters for 6.1 innings and Seattle's bullpen followed up with 2.1 perfect innings.
So yeah, Seattle sucks, and had lost 11 straight games before beating the Yankees in two out of three games. I was expecting a letdown after an emotionally draining series with Boston (where the Yankees swept five games) followed by a long flight to the West Coast. Any day where the magic number doesn't go down is not a good day, but the Yankees have the breathing room to let that happen once in a while. Hopefully they don't make a habit of it.
On to Anaheim, and the Angels, who are number two on my list of most hated teams. Losing two out of three to Boston at home didn't help their ranking either. If the Yankees don't want to lose to them in the playoffs, they'd be best served by beating them this weekend. Here are your matchups:
Friday J. Wright (9-7, 4.63) vs. J. Lackey (10-9, 3.52)
I think it's safe to skip watching this one.
Saturday C. Lidle (2-2, 2.82) vs. E. Santana (12-6, 4.28)
Sunday J. Karstens (0-0, 4.76) vs. J. Saunders (4-1, 3.06)
I hate all three matchups. Angels will sweep. --posted at 9:03 AM by SG / |
August 24, 2006
Wang > King by SG
West Coast trips are always a mixed bag for me. In some ways they bring back fond memories, like being in bed listening to an AM radio when I was supposed to be asleep as a kid, but they also bring back memories of some painful losses. Years later, and that hasn't changed. I stay up for almost every Yankee game on the West Coast. When they lose, I get really annoyed at myself for doing it, but when they win, like they did in last night's 9-2 victory, it doesn't seem so bad.
Despite scoring seven runs off the highly touted Felix Hernandez and two more off Joel Pineiro who relieved him, the hero of the game was Chien-Ming Wang. Wang had been pretty bad over his last three starts, pitching 16 1/3 innings, allowing 27 hits, 3 HRs, 8 BB, and 6 K. These starts coincided with Wang passing his career high for innings pitched in a season which was a concern for me. If I had to guess, Wang was going through a tired arm phase, as his stuff was flatter over those last three games. He had much better velocity last night, hitting 96-97 consistently on Seattle's broadcast and with a 90 mph slider with very good bite. As you can see from his pitch chart below, Wang was working up in the zone a lot more yesterday, which is not something he typically wants to do.
Pitching well against Seattle is not really that impressive. If you look at the OPS+ of the teams in the AL, they're 12th out of 14.
However, it was a good sign to see Wang getting over his recent struggles. I'd still like to see him get a bit of rest over the rest of the season if the Yankees can afford it, although Mike Mussina going to the DL complicates things.
On the offensive side, Bobby Abreu continues to excel, getting two hits and walking twice yesterday. After Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter made two outs on five pitches leading off the first, Abreu singled on the fifth pitch he saw, Jason Giambi worked a five pitch walk, and then Jorge Posada followed with an 8 pitch walk. Suddenly, an easy first inning had become a nightmare for Felix Hernandez, who then gave up a two run single to Robinson Cano. Cano went 2 for 4 with 3 RBI, and is hitting .343/.380 /.657 since returning from the DL.
Mike Myers and Octavio Dotel mopped up for Wang, and both were effective. I have no problem with Myers pitching to righties with a seven run lead. His motion is apparently easy on his arm so he's not a bad choice to use in mopup from time to time. Dotel also looked pretty good, although his control is still a little bit shaky.
On the injury front, as I mentioned earlier, Moose was DL'ed. I think this is smart, it's pretty apparent the groin has been bothering him for while lately. Hideki Matsui was cleared to hit off a batting tee, and Gary Sheffield is probably at least three weeks away from swinging a bat, which makes a return this season rather unlikely.
Randy Johnson (14-9, 4.98) vs. Jarrod Washburn (6-12, 4.43) tonight. RJ can pitch a good game at any time, but I never expect it. --posted at 8:32 AM by SG / |
August 23, 2006
The Yankees Lose, but I Don't Care by SG
Last night's 6-5 loss to Seattle is the type of game that typically has me throwing things around my apartment and screaming at everyone responsible. However, thanks to the Yankees sweeping Boston over this weekend (it sure is fun to keep repeating that), the game just didn't feel all that important.
I did feel bad for Yankee rookie Jeff Karstens, who made his major league debut and was in line for the win until Jaret Wright and then Ron Villone gave up his lead. Karstens pitched pretty well, aside from two homers he surrendered. He's basically a finesse righty with good off-speed stuff and a 88-90 mph fastball, so I don't think he's much more than a fringe rotation candidate going forward, but with a fatigued pitching staff he was helpful last night and will probably make at least one more start.
Speaking of fatigue, it's the reason I can't get upset with Joe Torre's bullpen management last night. As strange as bringing in Jaret Wright in relief was, the Yankee bullpen is beat up and tired. To me this was a lose the battle, win the war situation.
Speaking of Villone, the days when many were complaining about his underuse have long since passed. Villone has appeared in 23 of the team's last 39 games, pitching 30.1 innings. This is the equivalent of appearing in 95 team games and pitching 126 innings of a full season. Whether it's this overwork, or Villone just regressing back towards his established mean, his ERA is 4.15 over that stretch and he's given up 5 HRs, compared to giving up 1 prior. Villone's HR rate was flukishly low beforehand so I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. It'd be nice if the Yankees could start getting some innings from their starters at some point though.
With Boston losing, the Yankees' magic number actually dropped, so all things considered, despite the annoying loss, things are still ok. If they don't win tonight though I think I will get mad. --posted at 7:00 AM by SG / |
August 22, 2006
Commenters Blogs by Larry Mahnken
I was noticing today that some of my commenters have their own blogs. In the Smack My Bitch Up thread, I noticed:
On June 21st, 1996, the Cleveland Indians had the best record in baseball, and the Yankees were clinging to a 2½ game lead over the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East. On that Friday, as the Orioles opened up a weekend series with the last place Royals, the Yankees came into a Jacobs Field for a doubleheader that would start a crucial four game series.
The Yankees were facing 11-1 Charles Nagy in the first game, the amazingly great Indians lineup in both games (averaging almost 6 R/G through June 20th), and were throwing two rookies -- Brian Boehringer (0-4, 13.10 career ERA) and Ramiro Mendoza (1-3, 8.10) out there in the first and second games.
But the Yankees overcame a 5-1 deficit in the eighth inning of the first game, tying the game when Tino Martinez barely beat out a bases-loaded double play ball that would have ended the game, and won in extra innings. Then, even more amazingly, they pounded the Indians 9-3 in the second game, and won the doubleheader. They went on to sweep the series.
Three weeks later the Yankees went into Baltimore with a 6 game lead coming out of the All-Star Break -- you have to remember that at this time the Orioles were seen as the preseason favorites to win the AL East, and this series was to be where they'd turn it around and put the Yankees in their place -- but as George Costanza related to his deceased fiancee, they swept the O's out of Camden Yards, winning the first game 4-2 on an eighth inning Jeter two-run homer, the second (and first game of a doubleheader) by scoring two runs in the ninth inning off of David Wells (who was 13-4 career against the Yankees with a 2.70 ERA before that ninth inning), the third game behind new (and much criticized) accquisition Darryl Strawberry's two home runs, including the game-winner in the fifth, and the fourth behind a dominating pitching performance by Andy Pettitte.
These are the series' I think of when I think of this past weekend. But this was sweeter. It wasn't just because this series was more of a romp than those other two, in which the games had been decided quite dramatically, and it wasn't just because these games were against the Red Sox.
It was because these games were bigger than just the 2006 AL East race. These games were, to a degree, payback. Payback for 2004, and payback for the last three years where the Red Sox were the biggest thorn in the Yankees' sides -- challenged perhaps only by the Angels.
You see, on July 25th, 2003, the Yankees came into Fenway Park with a 2½ game lead and a chance to put some breathing room between them and the Sox. Since losing a 4 game series at Fenway 3-1 early in the 2001 season the Yankees had gone 28-15 against the Sox, and 12-2 in games after the All Star Break. The Yanks had Boston's number -- especially when it counted.
On this night, the Yankees and Red Sox played a glorious game. The Red Sox came back in the eighth with a game-tying single off of Mariano Rivera, the Yankees took the lead back in the ninth, and the Red Sox almost rallied to tie or win it again in the bottom of the ninth before Jeremy Giambi softly lined a 3-1 pitch to Alfonso Soriano. 29-15. 13-2 after the Midsummer Classic.
Saturday, things changed. After the Yankees rallied from a 4-0 deficit with 2 runs in the seventh and the eighth, Armando Benitez lost it in the bottom of the ninth with a walkoff single to... David Ortiz. The Yankees lost the next day, too, and the balance began to shift. They had to come back in the eighth inning of Game 7 to win the pennant that year, they lost the season series 11-8 the next, and blew a 3-0 ALCS lead to lose the pennant to Boston, and finished with the same record as Boston last year, winning the division by winning the season series 10-9.
From that Saturday afternoon game in 2003 through May 22nd of this year, the Red Sox had a 36-29 head-to-head record against the Yankees. They had outscored the Yankees 386-318 (a Pythagorean Record of 39-26), scoring nearly 6 runs a game while holding the Yankees' offense to less than five. They were beating the Yankees badly, and when they weren't, they were still scary.
For a little while, some Yankees fans could wrap themselves in "Mystique and Aura" and "The Curse", but 2004 erased that bullshit, and the hard fact needed to be faced: Boston was at least as good as New York, maybe better. And that stung. Badly.
The Yanks had won 4 of the last five against Boston since May 22nd, but it still didn't seem like they had the BoSox. Even when they won big, it seemed almost flukish, and the next game was a battle to the end again.
This series relieved that feeling. Suddenly, the Yankees seem to have Boston's number again. I guess we'll see if that holds up next month, but the Yanks have won nine of ten from Boston, won the season series, and have beaten them badly. It's the first time in a few years I can look at the Red Sox and think, "Yanks are better than them. Clearly." And to any die-hard Yankees fan, that means a lot.
* * *
Now to the bloodbath.
See, what was probably the best thing about this series was that, for me at least, there were only six innings of stress, though I guess there were a good 24 hours of stress going into it.
I figured they'd lose this series. The bullpen was shot, their offense had crapped out last week against two lousy pitchers, and Sidney Ponson was starting Friday night. I was worried that if Chien-Ming Wang didn't pitch well, they could get swept.
Well, Wang didn't really pitch that well, but Boston kept letting him off the hook, which was a damned good thing, because for 4? innings on Friday Jason Johnson looked like Adam Loewen and Rodrigo Lopez had the previous two days. Oh great, here we go again.
But Johnny Damon broke a 1-1 tie with a 2-run shot to right, Jason Giambi drove in the fourth run, and in the seventh they broke it open against Kyle Snyder and Manny Delcarmen, capping it off with four in the ninth against Rudy Seanez.
The nightcap was completely unstressful, because I knew they would lose. I KNEW they would lose, Ponson was starting, and no matter how bad Lester might be (and I didn't expect him to actually be bad), Ponson would be worse. With the Yanks leading 5-1 in the second as I followed the score on my phone at work, I said to a co-worker that at that moment, the Yankees had ZERO chance to win. Less than zero, if that was possible. My coworker being an Orioles fan, he knew I was right.
But I was wrong. Sure, Ponson was horrid, but Lester was nearly as awful, and the Yankees went into the late innings still within striking distance. And with two outs in the seventh, Derek Jeter erased a 2-run deficit with a bases loaded double to put the Yanks up 11-10. And then Terry Francona disrespected A-Rod like he's never been disrespected before, intentionally walking Bobby Abreu to get to him.
A-Rod ripped a double, which ended up driving in the winning run, and Robby Cano drove A-Rod and Abreu home to make it 14-10. A meaningless Ortiz homer in the ninth (which, had A-Rod hit, he would have been criticized endlessly for) made it 14-11, and ended an amazing sweep of the doubleheader.
And at this point, everything else was gravy. The Yankees were going to end the weekend in first place. They had a great chance to win the series and extend their lead, they had made Boston's bullpen work and balanced the scales a bit, and they had humiliated the Red Sox in front of their home fans. I couldn't imagine it would be better. But oh, how it did.
I think every true Yankees fan has a special hatred for Josh Beckett. Really, Beckett wasn't the one who won the 2003 World Series for the Marlins -- Pavano and Penny were more reponsible for that -- but he was the guy who was so untouchable in Game Six that they just couldn't get to Game Seven, where you just knew that Moose would win it for them.
So beating Josh Beckett is always going to feel good, especially now that he's on the Red Sox. But they didn't just beat him, they made him look like... well, like Brian Boehringer. It was only 6-5 when he left, but they ended up saddling him with 9 runs in just 5? innings, and getting into the Sox bullpen early. It ended up another romp, 13-5, and suddenly the last two days were gravy.
They had won the series, they had kept first place, they had added at least one game between them and Boston, and they had humiliated the Red Sox. I had already gotten everything I had dreamed of from this series, and while it would be great to win four of five, or even, maybe, sweep -- it would be enough even if they lost the last two, so long as nobody got badly hurt.
And then came the best win of the series. Falling behind to Curt Schilling 2-0 early, they came back after a long rain delay to take the lead on a Giambi 3-run homer, before Boston tied it and then took the lead on an Ortiz homer. They added to the lead in the seventh, and Terry Francona made what was then, and in hinsight remains, an odd decision.
Needing a win, he chose to bring in Mike Timlin instead of the untouchable Jonathan Papelbon. Had Timlin been pitching at his best, that might make some degree of sense, but Timlin had been struggling for weeks, and had played a huge role in Friday night's seventh inning blowup. Two baserunners and zero outs later, Francona brought in Javier Lopez to try to get Abreu out, and instead was forced to bring in Papelbon -- only now with the bases loaded and nobody out.
But Papelbon didn't simply luck his way into a .84 ERA, and after getting Giambi to hit a deep sac fly and walked A-Rod, he struck out Cano and Posada to preserve the 1-run lead.
In the ninth, Melky Cabrera did exactly what was needed, leading off with a double, moving to third on a wild pitch. But Papelbon struck out Bernie, and he struck out Damon, and he got ahead of Jeter, then jammed him inside.
But Jeter was able to get it over the infield and barely in front of Gabe Kapler in right, and suddenly, amazingly, the game was tied (and Papelbon's ERA was over 1.00). David Ortiz led off the bottom of the ninth with a hard hit ball that was misplayed by Giambi and got to second off of defensive replacement Bernie Williams' cannon arm somehow. But while the world fell to its knees to fellate Ortiz for his clutchness, the Yankees intentionally walked Manny "8 for 11 in the series" Ramirez. Nobody noticed that if Ortiz had stayed at first, Ramirez would have batted, and the Red Sox probably would have been better off. As it was, Ortiz was erased on a botched sac bunt, and Rivera worked out of the jam with a strikeout and comebacker.
The Yankees didn't allow the Sox to hang on any longer. Jason Giambi hit his second homer, Jorge Posada ripped a two-run shot after nearly getting hit by Craig Hansen, and Boston's season was basically over.
Normally I get pissed off at Joe Torre for playing his "House Money" lineup when the Yankees have won a series. It seems he plays that lineup when they're losing a series a lot, too, but yesterday, I didn't mind. Sure, I wanted to see the best lineup out there pound on David Wells, to complete the sweep and leave no doubt... but four of five was enough.
But five of five was better. Cory Lidle was utterly brilliant, and the Yankees won a rather uneventful 2-1 game, notable only for it's significance in that it more or less ended the AL East race.
Four days changed the season. Four days mean that Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui don't need to be be rushed, that they can take all the PAs they need when they do come back to get ready for the playoffs. Four days mean that maybe Joe Torre will give Scott Proctor a break, and get some use out of him in October, and not ruin his career. Four days mean... that the Yankees are once again a much better team than the Red Sox. 1918 is gone forever, but the important thing is, it appears, back to the way it once was. --posted at 7:23 AM by Larry Mahnken / |
August 21, 2006
How Sweep It Is! by SG
The Yankees did something I never would have expected, by heading into Fenway Park for a five game series and winning all five games. Each game presented a different story, but the end result of each one was just as satisfying. This doesn't mean the Yankees clinched the AL East, as they still have a rough stretch of games coming up, but they sure made their lives easier.
If the Yankees go 20-19 over their remaining 39 games, Boston would have to go 26-12 to tie them.
The best game of the series for me, as the Yankees entered the 8th trailing 5-3, loaded the bases with no outs, but only managed to get one run. Jon Papelbon got within one out of the save in the ninth, but Derek Jeter blooped in the tying run and probably picked up a few more MVP votes, Mariano Rivera did his typical outstanding work, and Jason Giambi's second HR of the day ended up being the margin of difference.
Cory Lidle pitched very well today, and Scott Proctor continued his heroic work in this series. Proctor pitched four games and six innings, allowing just one run and saving the Yankees in the late innings on several occasions. The offense managed only six hits, but got the two runs they needed to win.
There's plenty of credit to go around in this series, but the guy who most impressed me was Bobby Abreu. His approach at the plate is incredible. Whether or not he recovers his lost power, he's an extremely valuable player in the middle of the lineup, wearing pitchers down until they make mistakes, getting on base at a .400+ clip, and playing adequate defense.
I'm heading home from work so apologies for the thinness of this piece. I think Larry will be back later tonight with more. --posted at 4:25 PM by SG / |
August 17, 2006
Big-Ass Series Preview: Yankees at Red Sox, August 18-21 by SG
It's finally here, the series that most of us have been thinking about for the past few weeks. The Yankees are coming into this series on a down note, getting thrashed by Baltimore 12-2. The Yankees head to Fenway to play five games in four days, beginning with a doubleheader. Since this is primarily a sabermetric blog, it's time for math. First, here's a comparison of the primary starters for both teams as of right now, based on their performance to date, using linear weights for offense, and zone rating converted to runs for defense.
Now that I've presented these, let me talk about the limitations of these numbers first. First and foremost, we shouldn't just look at this year's performances when trying to gauge a player's true talent, so keep in mind a player's historic performance as well as other factors that may be impacting their ability right now, such as injuries, etc., Another issue is that fielding metrics are imprecise and should not be taken as gospel. In particular, I think Manny Ramirez gets unfairly penalized in zone rating due to the Green Monster. Zone rating is supposed to be park-adjusted, but I did a quick check of Red Sox LF since 1987, and they averaged a -21 per season. That indicated a park bias to me.
With those disclaimers out of the way, the numbers are certainly interesting. The Yankees as presently constituted have the edge at five of the nine positions, and it's fairly significant. This doesn't factor in things like the bench or matchups, but it's pretty encouraging to see anyway. Indications are that Jason Giambi will see some time at first in this series so his negative defensive value should also be considered (-9 on the season, -31 per 162 games).
Of course, positions players are just part of the equation. We also need to consider the pitching.
I've lined the pitchers up by the expected matchups. I'm using linear weights for calculating runs saved above average, and am comparing starters to starters only, and relievers to relievers only. The last column for the starters is runs saved above average per 27 batters faced, which I've concocted as a rough estimate of the value a starter would provide in a typical start.
The Yankees would appear to have the edge in four of the five pitching matchups, which is more good news. They also seem to have a pretty significant edge in the bullpen. I didn't include Octavio Dotel or Brian Bruney as their sample size this season is basically meaningless and they most likely will not see any action in meaningful spots.
What does it all mean? Not that much unfortunately. Anything can happen in a short series, and the bullpens may be stretched thin between the doubleheader and the Yankees' starters inability to go deep into games with any regularity. Based on these numbers, I'm fairly convinced the Yankees are the more talented team right now, but then again, they were more talented than the Orioles too. They're also going to be in Boston, where the Red Sox have won at a 67% clip, compared to their 49% winning percentage on the road.
The Yankees have a 1.5 game lead in the standings, 2 games in the loss column. Here is what we're looking at based on the possible series outcomes.
Frankly, I don't know what's going to happen. I'm a pessimist, so I'm planning for a Red Sox sweep. Then, any other outcome won't seem so bad.
On a completely unrelated note, Tyler Clippard pitched a no-hitter tonight for AA Trenton. --posted at 10:15 PM by SG / |
Orioles at Yankees: 1:05pm by Larry Mahnken
Lopez vs. Wright
Well, this is an important game. Lose, and you go into Boston only 1½ up, 2 in the loss column, win and you go in 2½ up, 3 in the loss column. With a win, the Yankees would realistically be facing, at worse, a ½ game deficit on Tuesday morning, with a 1 game lead in the loss column (a five game sweep would be an unmitigated disaster even if they have a six game lead).
And they need Wright to do something he hasn't done this season: go deep into a game. Not eight innings, but six would be a nice start. Seven would be preferable. Five would be totally unacceptable, even with Wang starting tomorrow.
Well, hopefully it'll be a blowout, so they won't need to use anyone important. --posted at 12:08 PM by Larry Mahnken / |
Cy Loewen by SG
The Yankees went into last night's game on a mini-roll, having picked up two games in the standings in two days. Unfortunately, they ran into the greatest pitcher ever, Adam "Cy" Loewen. Don't be fooled by his 6.12 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, and opponent's OBP of .389. Loewen held the Yankees to 2 runs over 5.2 innings, following up his last outing against them when he held them to one hit, and the Yankees did nothing against the Baltimore bullpen, losing 3-2.
In the big picture, the loss wasn't a huge deal, but it was one of those frustrating games that you feel the team should have won. They very possibly could have won if they had started Jorge Posada and Jason Giambi, but that was not the plan apparently. I have no problem with resting one or the other, but I question the wisdom of benching both on the same day, although they did both eventually get in the game. A bigger problem yesterday was Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter going 0 for 9, but both have been great this year, so I'm not going to get on them.
Octavio Dotel made his Yankee debut with middling results. His stuff looked great, as he was consistently in the mid 90s with his fastball and his slider had nasty break in the low 80s, but he looked like he was overthrowing or rusty as his command was pretty bad. Hopefully it was just nerves. This must be the hardest throwing Yankee bullpen in memory, with 3 guys who sit at 95 consistently and Mariano Rivera who usually works in the low 90s but dials it up there on occasion as well.
The Yankees play a day game today against Baltimore before heading to Fenway for a big five game set. Rodrigo Lopez (8-12, 6.20) takes on Jaret Wright (9-6, 4.24). I'd love to see 6 innings from Jaret Wright followed by three innings from Sir Sidney in a 12-4 win, especially with Boston getting a day off today, but I rarely get my wish. A win today would let the Yankees head to Boston up 3 games in the loss column, which would give them a bit more breathing room. They'd then be in the situation where even a 5 game sweep would only leave them 2 games back in the loss column. I'll run through all the scenarios tomorrow in my big ass series preview.
So, go Jaret Wright, and go Yankee offense. --posted at 9:10 AM by SG / |
August 16, 2006
Game Chatter by Larry Mahnken
Loewen vs. Lidle
Revenge or Repeat? Maybe the Yanks can get TWO hits this time! --posted at 5:50 PM by Larry Mahnken / |
With yesterday's 6-3 victory over Baltimore and Boston's 3-2 loss to Detroit, the Yankees are back to three games up in the AL East. After scuffling over the first five innings against Erik Bedard, who was pitching very well. Derek Jeter led off with an infield single, Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi (The Walking Twins) both drew full counts before walking, seeing 14 pitches between them. Alex Rodriguez followed with a flare single that only plated one run. Robinson Cano fanned, then Jorge Posada lined one as hard as someone can hit it, but right into Melvin Mora's leaping glove. It was hit so hard it knocked Mora out of the game. Craig Wilson then grounded out, and the Yankees had wasted an opportunity, although this inning knocked Bedard out of the game.
Mike Mussina pitched pretty well, although Rodriguez's defense hurt him in the sixth. Moose is still having a great year, but over his last 8 starts he's scuffling, with a 4.41 ERA. His FIP is 3.34, so he's not really pitched that badly. Unfortunately, his shot at 20 wins looks to be hanging on by a thread now. Moose was pulled after walking Ramon Hernandez for Ron Villone, who got a K then walked Brian Roberts, who's a real pain in the ass. Villone's been great this year, but walks have been a consistent issue with him. Scott Proctor got the last two outs in the seventh, and the Yankees went to work. Melky Cabrera singled, and Johnny Damon homered to tie the game.
I hated the Damon signing at the time, and in a few years I may hate it again, but right now it looks like genius. He's been key on offense and defense all season. I didn't know if I could ever really root for the guy, but consider me a fan now. If that makes me a hypocrite, so be it.
Abreu doubled after an out, and then Giambi was intentionally walked. Alex Rodriguez came up with a chance to further atone for his error but popped out on the first pitch. This brought up Robinson Cano, who's having a great season except when runners are in scoring position. Cano began the night hitting 225/.273/.350 with RISP, but he stroked one the opposite way for a double to drive in the go-ahead run, and the game was for all intents and purposed over.
With five games in four days against Boston looming, I'd like to see a rested bullpen over the next few days. I also think it may be a good idea to use Mike Myers if there's any intent of having him face the Crown Prince of WPA. I'd be satisfied with a split over the next two with Baltimore, and heading into Fenway with a 3 game lead in the loss column in the worst case.
Carl Pavano (elbow) threw four scoreless innings and struck out five in his rehab start Tuesday for Single-A Tampa. He allowed one hit and walked one. Pavano's next rehab start is scheduled for Sunday. He could rejoin the Yankees before the end of the month.
Darrell Rasner allowed one run in four innings Sunday in his second rehab appearance with the Rookie GCL Yankees. Rasner might be come off the DL and join the Yankee pen next month. He's been out since June 3 with a sore right shoulder.
Gary Sheffield took fielding practice and made throws at first base on Friday for the first time since his wrist injury. Sheffield has been told by Yankees' doctors that he could return around Sept. 15, but he hopes to return earlier. He reportedly feels great and, barring a setback, could be activated in early September.
Nothing on Dotel, although he's pitching in the minors and doing well. I'd assume he'll be brought up after the Boston series.
If Pavano and Rasner can contribute in September, it could be key. Not necessarily because they'd be particularly good, but because they could help rest people like Moose, Wang, and Proctor. --posted at 9:15 AM by SG / |
The game was actually closer than the final score would indicate. In the bottom of the seventh, Johnny Damon his a floater the opposite way for a single. Derek Jeter, who had homered earlier in the game then bunted, which I really hate seeing. He did reach safely, but that doesn't vindicate the willingness go give away one of the nine outs you have remaining in the game. I hated the decision-making that then followed in this inning. Bobby Abreu is one of the best hitters in baseball in terms of not making outs. Jason Giambi is as well. Instead of letting both of them hit with two runners on, Abreu was asked to bunt, something he hadn't done successfully since 1998. Abreu did get a sac bunt down, which moved the runners to second and third. This led to Giambi getting intentionally walked to set up the double play and bring up the much-maligned Alex Rodriguez. So bunting Abreu cost them a free out and a Giambi AB. Thankfully, Rodriguez worked back from a two strike count to hit a sac fly to RF that almost found it's way into the short porch. Vlad Guerrero made one of the sickest throws home I've ever seen, flat-footed on the fly but Damon got in before the tag, and the Yankees had the lead, 3-2.
The Yankees tacked on four insurance runs when the most unmanly rally ever took place in the bottom of the eight. Then, because a five run ninth-inning lead is always tenuous, Mariano Rivera was used to close out the non-save situation. Hopefully it won't matter, but I hate seeing Mo's arm wasted in these kind of outings.
Oh yeah, a tale of two Johnsons. So far this season, Randy Johnson has been either very good or very bad. He's made 26 starts now, and in 9 of them he's allowed more than 4 runs. Here are the two versions of Johnson.
So which Johnson is the real one? Unfortunately, they both are. There's nothing I've seen in his last few starts that makes me think Bad Randy went anywhere. Hopefully he just doesn't show up all that much, although I've said that before.
With the Detroit Tigers actually holding on to a victory in Fenway, the Yankees got one of the games they lost over the weekend back on their AL East lead. They get a tough draw tonight in Erik Bedard, who's been one of the better pitchers in the AL over the last 2 months (7-3, 2.27 ERA, 79.1 IP, 81 K, 22 BB, 4HR). Mike Mussina's chances at winning 20 games are fading, so he needs this one tonight. --posted at 8:05 AM by SG / |
August 14, 2006
by Larry Mahnken
Well, isn't that annoying?
Eight games, and we're right back where we started, only it doesn't feel like it, does it? Both the Yankees and Sox went 3-5, though the Red Sox did it the more streaky way, losing 5 then winning 3, and the Yankees cling to a 1-game lead.
But, there is this: the record of Boston's opponents over that span was .398, the record of the Yankees' opponents was .527 -- Boston should have gained a game over this span, instead they gained nothing. Well, it's something, at least.
The unfortunate fact is that the Yankees should have won at least two games in Chicago, and really should have won all three -- they had the Sox beat on Tuesday and only lost by their own mistakes on Thursday -- and instead they nearly got swept. The Angels always give the Yankees all they can handle and then some, so losing 2 of the first three, and potentially the third of four today isn't a huge surprise. But the good news is that while the Red Sox face the Tigers this week, the Yankees get the Orioles at home.
The bad news is that the Tigers are in free-fall, but there's a silver lining to that, too, I think. I think the Yankees are going to have a better record than the Tigers the rest of the way, and if the Yankees can catch Detroit, I think they clinch a playoff spot. I don't think Detroit will catch the Yankees once they've been passed, and if the Yankees stay ahead of Detroit and the Twins, the White Sox, and the Wild Card, are no longer a concern.
But, of course, what we want is the East, which I still think the Yankees should win without tremendous difficulty. Boston has some advantages the rest of the way -- more home games, and a more convenient off day going into the five-game set this weekend, but the Yankees' schedule is easier than Boston's -- a lot easier. It's easier than anybody's except Oakland's.
The average record of the Yankees' remaining opponents is .496, while it's .527 for the Red Sox, .510 for the White Sox and Tigers, and .503 for the Twins, and the Yankees' schedule is tougher than Boston's until September 26th.
But what this season will come down to is those nine games in seven days against the Red Sox. Particularly the way the pitching situation shakes out, this weekend presents a marvelous opportunity for the Red Sox to do some major damage to the Yankees, but if the Yankees' offense shows up against the Red Sox pitchers, it's an opportunity to put the Red Sox away for the Yankees. The September series offers another challenge, but it's this weekend's series that is the most dangerous for both teams. I'm sure both teams will be relieved to lose "only" 3 of the five games, which would be minimally damaging.
But that's this weekend -- what's important now is the Angels, who the Yankees almost have to beat tonight. If Randy Johnson pitches like he did last time, they still might not win -- John Lackey is a good pitcher. And the Yankees can't count on Johnson pitching well.
Remember what it was like when these games didn't count fifteen years ago? It sure was a whole lot less stressful. But it sure was a lot less fun. --posted at 7:15 AM by Larry Mahnken / |
August 13, 2006
The Sky is Falling! by SG
The Yankees have been through a rough stretch over the last week, dropping four of six games, the latest a 5-3 loss to the ####### Angels. The Yankees now lead Boston by just one game in the AL East, two in the loss column. Chien-Ming Wang had his second straight bad start, although his defense was not very helpful. Wang's now pitched 166.1 innings on the season, which surpasses his career high of 150.1 last season (split between Columbus and New York). I'm worried about Wang's workload over the rest of the season, but I don't know that his latest performance is due that or just the problems inherent when a pitcher doesn't make batters miss any pitches. I suppose we'll find out over the next few weeks. That 12-12 prediction for the rest of August suddenly seems optimistic. I'm not that concerned yet, and most of you should probably not be either.
Rightly or wrongly, Alex Rodriguez is getting the blame for this stretch, and to be fair he's been pretty bad. Out of curiosity, I took a look at Rodriguez's offensive performances in Yankee wins and losses.
Rodriguez has played 112 games, and the Yankees have won 65 of them, and lost 47.
In the 65 victories, Rodriguez has put up the following line: AB: 256 Runs: 62 Hits: 80 2B: 12 HR: 16 RBI: 61 BB: 41 K: 65 GDP: 9 .313/.415/.555
In the 47 losses, Rodriguez has put up the following line: AB: 170 Runs: 20 Hits: 42 2B: 7 HR: 9 RBI: 22 BB: 24 K: 40 GDP: 8 .247/.347/.447
So, when the Yankees lose, Rodriguez hasn't hit. Out of further curiousity, I did the same for Derek Jeter. Jeter's played 109 games, and the Yankees have won 65 of them.
The perception when the Yankees lose is that it's Rodriguez's fault. The numbers above help to show why. I still think he gets far more grief than he deserves. Baseball is a team game after all. I think it's fair to acknowledge that his season has been somewhat of a disappointment to this point (amazing that a player can put an OPS of .900 and be considered a disappointment, isn't it?).
There's still a third of the season left, and there's still time for Rodriguez to help his team win the division. If he does that and then plays well in the postseason, a lot will be forgiven.
I don't like the Yankees' chances tomorrow with Randy Johnson vs. John Lackey, but maybe they'll surprise me. I can't stand watching the Yankees play the Angels. --posted at 9:30 PM by SG / |
Johnny Damon CF Derek Jeter SS Bobby Abreu RF Alex Rodriguez 3B Jason Giambi DH Jorge Posada C Robinson Cano 2B Craig Wilson 1B Melky Cabrera LF
Mike Mussina RHP
Giambi and Damon are back. Good times. --posted at 7:30 PM by SG / |
Something Old, Something New by SG
Like him or not, there's no denying Randy Johnson's place in major league baseball history. The Yankees got him too late to enjoy his monster peak, but every once in a while he gives us a glimpse of what he used to be. Last night's 7-6 victory was a case in point.
Johnson absolutely dominated the White Sox over his first six innings as the only baserunner to reach against him came as the result of a second inning walk. The White Sox are the highest scoring team in baseball, on pace to score 921 runs. The Yankee offense slowed the game down in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings, which I think may have contributed to Johnson hitting the wall in the top of the seventh. He gave up his first hit of the game, then allowed the next 3 batters he faced to also reach. Ron Villone came in with runners on second and third and no outs, walked the first guy to make it exciting, then pitched out of it. Villone's been great all year. I keep waiting for the inevitable regression in his HR rate and his BABIP, but he continues to do well.
While the 43 year old Randy Johnson was doing his job on the pitching side, the Yankee offense was doing what we hope to see for the rest of the season. In 21 year old Melky Cabrera and 23 year old Robinson Cano, the Yankees have a rare infusion of youth. Melky homered in the fifth, pushing SLG above .400 on the season. If you look at Melky's line since June 27, you see that he's hitting .309/.365/.478, while playing plus defense. Using selective end points can make any player look as good or bad as you want, but in the case of a young player it can at times show genuine development. Robinson Cano has been playing like a man possessed since coming off the disabled list, on offense and on defense. He also homered, and has five hits in his first two games back. He's hitting .332/.359/.461 on the season.
In addition, Bobby Abreu hit his first Yankee HR, and has been absolutely great as a Yankee so far, hitting .412/.474/.588 in his first 8 games.
Despite all this goodness, the game ended very stressfully. After storming to a 7-0 lead, Johnson's seventh inning struggles gave two runs back. Then came some questionable managing. Johnny Damon apparently suffered an injury and was pulled from the game (described as a tight groin). Joe Torre shuffled the defense a bit moving Craig Wilson to RF and Abreu to CF, which seemed to hold ok. However, at some point Torre decided that he should lose his DH and weaken the defense by putting starting DH Bernie Williams in CF. More on this later.
Why can't Sidney Ponson pitch with a 7-2 lead in the 8th? If he can't, he shouldn't be on the roster. Instead, Kyle Farnsworth was brought in after pitching yesterday and with 20 games in the next 21 days. Farnsworth gave up four runs, and suddently it was 7-6 and Mariano Rivera was needed to get four outs.
Rivera got AJ Pierzynski on weird liner right to him that AJ fell down on to end the eighth. The Yankees didn't score in the ninth, and Rivera tried to close it out. With yesterday's blown save I was very worried that it was the annual WWWMW™, but he looked pretty good. Mo got Alex Cintron to ground out, then went to 0-2 and hit the .211 hitting Brian Anderson. He recovered to fan Scott Podsednik, and then Tad Iguchi flied out to CF. Except it wasn't an out, because defensive replacement Bernie played it into a single. Maybe my eyes deceive me but I think Bernie got a horrible read on the ball and Damon would have caught it easily.
So now, instead of the game being over, it was Mo vs. Jim Thome with the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on first. Rivera fell behind 2-0, threw a strike, then got a hard grounder up the middle that Robinson Cano managed to get to and underhandedly toss to the fist-pumping Derek Jeter for the final out of the game.
After almost blowing a 7-0 lead, I felt more relieved than happy. However, Kansas City reinstituted my happy feeling when they rallied in the ninth to tie and then win the game against Boston.
So the Yankees are now three games up in the AL East, four games up in the loss column. Yanks go for the series victory tonight at 8:05 ET, Moose (13-4, 3.46) vs. old friend Javy Vazquez (10-6, 5.18). --posted at 7:43 AM by SG / |
August 9, 2006
Windy City Blues by SG
A game that the Yankees play that leads to Mariano Rivera pitching with a lead should be a victory almost every time. Unfortunately, last night, it was not meant to be. Rivera threw a pitch in a bad location and Paul Konerko deposited it in the seats. The Yankees couldn't score off Bobby Jenks, and the White Sox managed to get a run in in the bottom of the 11th.
The Yankees didn't play very well yesterday honestly. They looked a little flat to me, and had terrible AB against Freddy Garcia IMO, making a lot of first and second pitch outs. Chien-Ming Wang continued to struggle on the road. At home, hitters are hitting .227/.273/.307 against Wang. On the road, they are hitting .316/.362/.400. This has led to an ERA of 4.99 on the road, and 2.66 at home. Wang exhibited similar splits last year, although not nearly as extreme. It's something to watch for going forward I guess.
Anyway, most of us with realistic viewpoints knew this stretch would be difficult. With Boston losing a game that they probably expected to win, it doesn't hurt all that much. Let's hope that Randy Johnson pitches better than he has been lately tonight. --posted at 9:16 AM by SG / |
August 8, 2006
Starting Lineup - Yankees at White Sox : 8:05 PM ET by SG
Johnny Damon CF Derek Jeter SS Bobby Abreu RF Alex Rodriguez 3B Jason Giambi DH Jorge Posada C Robinson Cano 2B Craig Wilson 1B Melky Cabrera LF
Chien-Ming Wang RHP
That's a bad-ass lineup right there. --posted at 6:41 PM by SG / |
Numbers, Schmumbers by SG
Since it's been a while since I posted a rundown of the Yankees' numbers, and with the off day I don't have much to write about, here's an update of how the Yankees are performing.
Jeter for MVP! On offense anyway. I must also say I could not have been more wrong about the Damon signing. He's having a very good season.
Moose continues to be the most valuable Yankee pitcher so far, with Wang picking up ground. For all the talk of the Yankee bullpen woes, their third through sixth most valuable pitchers have all been relievers. Unfortunately, that's probably a reflection on the mediocrity of the starters moreso than a testament to the greatness of Scott Proctor.
Remember when I said that Miguel Cairo was better than his OBP showed? That's why. You do have to take any defensive metrics with a grain of salt due their various limitations, but the numbers say Cairo was superlative at second while Cano was out. Does anyone miss the misadventures of Bernie in RF?
Update: Speaking of Bernie, here's his weekly breakdown in RF by request of Mike K.
Wang (13-4, 3.58) vs. Garcia (10-7, 4.87) tonight at 8:05 PM ET. I pray I don't get Hawk Harrelson. --posted at 9:44 AM by SG / |
August 7, 2006
A different way of looking at it by Larry Mahnken
SG's last post ran the rest of August projections using log5 to predict that the Yankees would go 12-12 over the next 24 games and go into September 2 games behind the Red Sox. I've got some issues with his conclusions.
First of all, there his projection of the Yankees/Sox 5-game set. He made a mistake somewhere, because Boston is projected to go 3-2 that series, not 4-1. They're not going to win 80% of their games against the Yankees at Fenway. That changes things to the Yankees and Sox being tied for first on 9/1, with the Yankees percentage points ahead.
The second is his HFA adjustment of .042. That's from Diamond-Mind's 2002 sim on postseason records, and they used the 2002 HFA of .542 to adjust the advantage that season. Well, it's not 2002, and HFA this season is only .535, and .540 historically. That makes a marginal difference.
The third is that he's simply projecting the outcome of each series by rounding the numbers. If the Yankees have a .499 expected winning percentage against the White Sox in US Cellular Field, then he projects they'll go 1-2, which is a .333 winning percentage, when they'd be only slightly less likely to go 2-1. (They actually should win .478 of the time there). If you don't round the numbers the Yankees should have a .556 winning percentage over the next 24 games rather than a .542. No, they won't be winning and losing partial games, but they're also not going to be missing every single break. Well, probably not.
This is more of an issue for the Red Sox, as they have a real expected winning percentage of .565 but a rounded winning percentage of .625. Sure, if they get the breaks they could do even better than that. But then, they also should have gone 5-2 this last week rather than 3-4.
Then, of course, there is using straight winning percentage for the projection. Not a huge issue, but there's also Pythagorean Record and BPro's W3% to try.
Using Pythagorean Record, and using a .535 HFA, and not rounding off the wins and losses until after you add them all up, the Standings on September 1st would look like:
If we used BPro's W3% instead of Pythagorean record (W3% factors in the strength of schedule), the standings would be:
And if we go with just plain old W-L record for or projections, but adjust the HFA to .535 and don't round until afterwards, the standings would be:
A lot of things can go wrong between now and September 1st, though. A lot of things can go right, too. This is a very tough stretch the Yankees are starting tomorrow, but the Red Sox are hardly going through an easy stretch themselves. --posted at 9:38 AM by Larry Mahnken / |
Setting our Expectations by SG
August has gotten off to a great start, as the Yankees have won 5 of 6 games after yesterday's 6-1 win over Baltimore. Jaret Wright continued to pitch effectively, if not particularly well and the Yankee offense backed him up with four solo HRs. With Jon Papelbon blowing a save in Tampa and Boston losing in extra innings, the Yankees picked up another game in the AL East and now sit two games up.
There's no doubt Wright's been useful of late, despite his inability to last deep into games. However, his underlying performance is pretty shaky, and does not bode well going forward. Opposing hitters are hitting .296 /.360/.409 against Wright on the season. He's allowed fewer HR per batter faced than any other pitcher in the American League who's pitched 95 innings or more. The problem with that is that his HR per fly ball ratio is .038, which is very low, and very likely unsustainable. If his HR rate normalizes towards his fly ball rate, his effectiveness will suffer markedly. We'll see how it goes.
Getting back to August, the Yankee schedule for the rest of the month is pretty brutal.
3 games at Chicago White Sox 4 games home vs. LA of A 3 games home vs. Baltimore 5 games at Boston 3 games at Seattle 3 games at LA of A 3 games home vs. Detroit
So, 14 games on the road, 10 at home, and only Baltimore has a negative run differential.
While I'd love to see the Yankees tear this stretch up, I also want to understand what the reasonable expectations for this stretch of games should be. To do this, I'm going to use Bill James's log5 method to calculate the expected winning percentage in a series between two opponents.
If you're not up to clicking on the link, here's the math behind it.
A - A * B WPct = ----------------- A + B - 2 * A * B
where A is team A's winning percentage and B is team B's winning percentage. Home teams get a .042 boost to their WPct to account for home field advantage.
In the interest of better utilizing each team's underlying performance instead of their raw winning percentage, I did this using each team's pythagorean record. If you're not familiar with pythagorean records, you divide the square of a team's runs scored(actual, Runs Scored raised to the 1.83 power) by the sum of their runs scored squared and runs allowed squared to get an expected winning percentage. The idea here is that a team's run differential is a better indicator of the team's quality going forward than their actual W-L record. I'll run through an example with the first series, which is the Yankees traveling to Chicago.
The Yankees pythagorean winning percentage right now is .587. Chicago's is .578. Since Chicago will be home, we add .042 to their WPct to get .062
That means the Yankees would be expected to win 46.6% of the time they play in Chicago.
I did this for each series and then calculated the expected series results. I did the same for Boston as well. And here's what they say.
So, the reasonable expectation for the Yankees is that they should go 12-12 over this stretch. This may seem disappointing, but playing 24 games in 24 days with only one off day is going to be rough. The 11 game stretch in the middle where the Yankees play five games against Boston before heading to Seattle and LA of A for six more games seems like the key to me. Taking only one of five games in Boston seems pessimistic to me, but that's what the numbers say. If the Yankees do what log5 predicts, they'll exit August trailing by just one game in the loss column and with a far more favorable September schedule. They'll also either have or be closer to having Gary Sheffield and/or Hideki Matsui back.
Obviously, there's a few things that should be kept in mind when looking at this. The first thing is that the Yankee team that put up a .587 Pythagorean WPct is not the Yankee team that will be playing this stretch of games. The additions of Craig Wilson, Bobby Abreu, and Cory Lidle and subsequent reduction in playing time for people like Andy Phillips and Bernie Williams could change things. The same should be considered for the opponents. Pitching matchups could also change the results of any series depending on how they shake out. Obviously, I hope for better.
"He is the best," Abreu said of Mattingly, who has gotten Abreu away from being pull conscious.
While Abreu isn't sure he was trying to pull everything as a Phillie, he is back to the way he should be hitting: spraying balls to all fields.
"He has helped me a lot with my mechanics and my approach," said Abreu, who went 3-for-4 in yesterday's 6-1 win over the Orioles. "I was hitting the ball too much out in front. Now I let the ball travel more."
And now, your regular injury updates from Rotoworld.
Octavio Dotel (elbow) struck out the side in a perfect inning Saturday for the Rookie GCL Yankees. Additional setbacks are always a possibility, but Dotel could finally make his Yankees debut this week.
Carl Pavano (elbow) threw 50 pitches of batting practice Saturday and said he felt crisper than he had in his first BP last week. The manager added Pavano could throw another batting-practice session or could be farmed out for a rehab assignment. "I felt good and I thought I looked good," said Pavano. "It's been a really long road. I'm not opposed to doing a game after this, but that's not my call." He will make a minor-league rehab start for Tampa (Single-A) Thursday. Torre said the Yankees were "very enthused" by Pavano's 50-pitch batting practice session Saturday.
There was nothing on Rotoworld about Robinson Cano, who played his third rehab game yesterday and went 0-3 with a walk, but more importantly got through the game healthy. With Miguel Cairo injuring his hamstring, look for a DL swap of 2B on Tuesday.
One more setback and Dotel ties Steve Karsay on the all-time Yankee setback list. I also think the likelihood of Pavano returning is about the same as the likelihood of me dating Adriana Lima. --posted at 8:35 AM by SG / |
Adding Jose Veras to the pen is not the real story. The real story is that the DFA watch has claimed it's 4th victim. Following in the storied steps of Terrence, Long, Aaron Small, and Scott Erickson, Bubba Crosby has been designated for assignment by the Yankees.
BALTIMORE -- Feeling uneasy with only 11 pitchers, the Yankees added Jose Veras to their bullpen before Friday's game, designating Bubba Crosby for assignment in the process. ... Designating Crosby was a "very tough" decision, Torre said. Crosby, who made the team's Opening Day roster, made 19 starts with the Yankees this season. He got 87 at-bats, hitting .207 with a homer and six RBIs.
Hopefully Bubba latches on somewhere and gets a chance to show that he's not a major league caliber player. At this point I'm pretty happy with the roster. 12 pitchers isn't ideal, but with Randy Myers having such a restricted role it sort of makes sense. I don't think I have anyone that I want to DFA now. Any pleas to put Miguel Cairo on watch will be ignored. I don't care what his OBP is.
Regarding Veras, I'm curious to see him pitch. Veras was a starter in the minors until 2004. He had a decent season for AAA Oklahoma last year out of the bullpen (61.2 IP, 72 K, 33 BB, 4 HR, 3.79 ERA) and was picked up by the Yankees in the offseason when Texas re-assigned him to the minors. He's had a solid year for Columbus (52.2 IP, 58 K, 18 BB, 3 HR, 2.73 ERA) this year. What's interesting is that he gave up 5 of his earned runs in just one appearance, May 28 versus Buffalo in 1.2 innings. Over the other 51 innings he's pitched, he's given up 11 ER, an ERA of 1.94. You can't just pull out a bad game, but he's been pretty solid overall.
Here's a very old scouting report I found on Veras from 2003 when he was a starter in the Tampa organization.
Jose Veras is an interesting prospect. He has never really put up great numbers in the minors, but scouts are still by his fastball. He has one of the better fastballs in the organization, regularly touching the mid-90's. He also throws a slider, but that needs work. He also has control problems, walking a batter every 2 innings. He has come up through the system as a starter, but is better sutied to pitch out of the bullpen. Jose should go back to AAA Durham for the start of the 2004 season, with a possible late season promotion, depending how he progresses.
Veras is still fairly young, turning 26 in October.
The Yanks edged Baltimore 5-4 last night. I watched the game on TiVO after a night of binge drinking so I don't really have much to add to the line score, except that the Yankees should have scored more than four runs off Chen, and that Jorge Posada kicks all kinds of ass. Craig Wilson is making his case for being the full-time starter at first base, flashing a decent glove and hitting well so far.
Randy Johnson was pretty bad, although he kept the team in the game. A Johnson that's not K'ing anyone is a problem, given his propensity for gopheritis. At least he didn't walk anyone either. Maybe he's trying to out-Wang Wang?
Did my eyes deceive me or did Mariano hit 98 on a pitch in the ninth? That was on the Baltimore broadcast. Incidentally, by finishing yesterday's game, Mo's option for 2007 has vested. Rivera has mentioned that he wants to pitch in the new Yankee Stadium, due to open in 2009. Let's hope he achieves that goal.
Robinson Cano played for Trenton yesterday, DH'ing and going 3-for-3 with a double and a walk last night. He's supposed to play two more games at Trenton and come off the DL Tuesday. I'd guess he'll take Nick Green's spot, although he could take Andy Phillips's. --posted at 10:04 AM by SG / |
August 4, 2006
The Hardest Part of the Year is Over by Fabian
With the trading season having concluded I can now write about prospects without fear that by writing about them I am only growing more attached to players who shall inevitably be traded. While the Yankees did end up making some moves that will greatly improve the big league club, the only minor leaguer of note that they gave up was C.J. Henry. C.J. Henry has been much maligned since the trade went down, but I’d like to give one last objective look at his merits before moving on entirely.
Henry was not drafted with much of a baseball background because he played his school baseball in Oklahoma rather than Texas, California, Florida, or other states known for their baseball productivity. Then, unlike many talented players plugging along in less prestigious states, he wasn’t able to fully dedicate his free time to showcases and the like because he was also a star high school basketball player. This was a player who lacked polish. Acknowledging that, the Yankees still felt good about choosing him with their first round pick because he was amongst the best athletes in his draft class.
An ok performance in the ’05 Gulf Coast League, combined with his work in the fall mini-camps was enough for the Yankee organization to feel Henry was ready for full-season baseball. He started off his South Atlantic League campaign very slowly before injuring himself and being placed on the disabled list. When he came back from the DL he put on the type of offensive show that the Yankees dreamed of him one day doing in the bigs when they drafted him and his season peaked on May 17th at .295/.377/.541. Since that day he has done next to nothing offensively while also playing inconsistent defense.
Taking all of this into account, getting Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle for a package centered around C.J. Henry is highway robbery in the sense that there’s an enormous chance that all the Phillies get out of the deal is financial relief, which as someone else pointed out is probably very necessary in a small market such as Philadelphia, and a solid reliever in Matt Smith. However, on the off-chance C.J. Henry does figure it out, he has the physical talent to be a very good player. If he fails again next year, then you can write him off, until then, I don’t think it’s fair to declare him a complete nothing as a prospect because while performance is certainly nice, so are tools.
While Clippard has spent the past couple months officially breaking out onto the prospect scene, the guy that everyone expected to do so for the Yankees this year, Christian Garcia, has just been getting his year underway. Garcia, to give a refresher, is the guy looked at by many as having the most physical talent of any pitcher in the Yankee organization. Yes, more than Mr. Hughes. Unfortunately his season was derailed when he was befallen by oblique troubles in the spring. The Yankees are especially cautious on oblique injuries to their minor league pitchers, Steven White was out for about 3 months with a similar problem last year, and rightfully so. Though it is not a “pitching injury” it is the type of ailment that a pitcher could come back from too early and in trying to compensate for it, hurt himself further. In the process of returning from the oblique problems, Garcia also lost more time to “sore arm”. While it was good to see him return to the mound in July for the GCL Yankees, he worried some by throwing a lot of wild pitches, hitting a lot of batters, and balking…a lot. This was good enough work for him to be promoted to Charleston as he made his full season debut last night and went 6-4-0-0-0-4-0 (IP-H-R-ER-BB-K-HR). Garcia should get about 6 more starts to prove that he is indeed fully physically capable. I expect him to do well and, if so, his prospect status won’t have been hurt too much.
There was another less-heralded hurler making a return from injury for a Yankee farm club last night, and it was Jeff Marquez. Marquez is a guy who often gets overlooked because he was in the same draft class as Hughes and Garcia and gives up a lot of hits, but I like him a lot due to his extreme GB tendencies, good fastball (90-94), and plus changeup. Prior to going on the DL he seemed to be breaking out after starting off ’06 very slowly and I believe that had he stayed healthy, he likely would have been promoted to AA by now, rather than Jason Jones who moved up at the AA all star break. Anyway, he had an encouraging line of 5-2-0-0-0-4-0 in his Tampa return. I expect to do well in the 6 or so starts he has left for the year and open ’07 in AA. --posted at 11:55 AM by Fabian / |
A Well-Oiled Machine by SG
The new-look Yankees finished off a sweep of the Blue Jays yesterday, 8-1. Cory Lidle made a successful Yankee debut, pitching six very good innings, allowing just four hits and one run.
The Yankee offense showed their strength yesterday, as they wore out Jays starter Shaun Marcum, who needed 61 pitches to get eight outs. The Yankees saw 129 pitches over the first five innings. I love what Torre did yesterday with Giambi batting fifth behind Abreu and Rodriguez. If Abreu has indeed lost his power but kept his on base ability, it makes some sense to have him batting third ahead of two guys who haven't lost any power.
The Yankees have now won four games in a row, and are 8-2 in their last 10 games. Only Detroit has a better record in baseball. The Yankees are on pace to finish 99-63, score 910 runs, and allow 762 runs.
It's on to Baltimore now, for a three game set with the Orioles. Here are your pitching matchups for the weekend.
Friday 8/4 R. Johnson (11-9, 5.07) vs. B. Chen (0-6, 7.07)
An exciting battle of two soft-tossing, junkballing lefties.
Saturday 8/5 M. Mussina (13-3, 3.40) vs. A. Loewen (1-3, 6.44)
A homecoming for Moose.
Sunday 8/6 J. Wright (7-6, 4.57) vs. R. López (8-11, 6.20)
Hmm, even this matchup looks like advantage Yanks.
On paper, that series looks like a sweep, but things happen on the road. I think 2 out of 3 would be fine. --posted at 7:09 AM by SG / |
August 3, 2006
The Wang Dynasty by SG
The Yankees won their third consecutive game last night, trouncing the Blue Jays 7-2. the star of the game was unquestionably the fireballing right-hander from Tainan, Taiwan, Chien-Ming Wang.
Wang had some control issues early in the game, walking three in the second inning. A lot of that had to do with a tight strike zone, although home plate ump Bruce Dreckman was consistent with both pitchers and throughout the game. Wang had his best fastball of the season, sitting at 95-96 for much of the game and even reaching 98 on one pitch. The other adjustment that I noticed was that he was mixing in more off-speed pitches, which I think he was doing due to his struggles against Toronto the last time they faced him.
Wang pitched eight shutout innings, running his scoreless inning streak to 18 and lowering his ERA on the season to 3.58.
Here are some numbers on Wang (rank in the AL amongst starters who've pitched 90 innings or more in parenthesis).
Update: Here's the full list of AL pitchers who've pitched 90 innings or more ranked by Runs saved above average
To this point, Wang is one of the best pitchers in the AL. His K rate is historically low, and it still remains a source of concern going forward, but we now have 272 innings in the majors and a career ERA of 3.77 with a low K rate, and Wang keeps on keeping on. At some point he has to go from a fluke to an outlier.
I also think that there's never been a pitcher with a K rate as low as Wang who had the kind of dynamite stuff that he has. Stuff counts.
Wang continues to save the bullpen with his starts also, which has team value that's not reflected in his own stat line. That also counts. Right now, I think he's a legitimate number 2 starter, and a borderline number one.
This is pretty cool (well, I think it is at least). Wang's pitch chart from yesterday. Notice how only five pitches were above waist-level.
New Yanks Bobby Abreu and Craig Wilson both chipped in two hits, and Derek Jeter continues to just hit. Since July first, Jeter's hitting an amazing .413/.441/.587. He's on pace to end the season with 215 hits, 40 2B, 12 HR, 102 RBI, and 35 steals in 38 attempts. He's having an MVP caliber season on offense. Here are the AL leaders in offensive position-adjusted linear weights.
Jeter's right there, especially when you don't factor in defense. If he can get to 100 RBI and up the HRs a bit, he's going to get some votes. His HR last night was stung the other way to right-center, so the power is there.
If Eric Wedge wasn't a horse's ass, the Yankees would have picked up a game on Boston. Unfortunately, he is a horse's ass, and the Yankees did not pick up a game.
It's House Money Day™ and a day game today. Sean Marcum (1-0, 4.81) vs. Cory Lidle, making his Yankee debut, 1:05 PM ET. --posted at 9:12 AM by SG / |
August 2, 2006
Look Who's in First Place by SG
The Bobby Abreu as a Yankee era got off to a rousing start with a 5-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. The box score will show that Abreu went hitless, but he had a good AB in the middle of the Yankees four run rally in the fourth inning, working back from an 0-2 count, fouling off three pitches, and then eventually setting the stage for Bernie Williams.
I was a little irritated to see Bernie in the lineup yesterday against a righty, particularly against A.J. Burnett who throws about 100 mph. However, Bernie shut me up by stinging a double the opposite way, driving in three runs and basically winning the game.
Bernie's not what he once was, but in the batter's box he's a touch below average, not horrible. His value gets supressed tremendously when he has to play the OF, which should be a less and less frequent occurrence going forward. Craig Wilson's a better player, against righties and lefties, but Bernie's on the team, he's going to play, probably a bit more than he should. Let's accept it and hope that playing the field less frequently speeds up the bat a bit.
I hate watching Jaret Wright pitch BTW. Even when he's effective, he's excruciating to watch. Maybe he should strictly pinch run.
Ron Villone, Scott Proctor, and Kyle Farnsworth finished up with varying degrees of effeciveness. Villone got five outs, but was getting hit hard all over the field, including a line drive that almost took his head off which he made a great catch on. Proctor looked shaky but got the job done, and Kyle Farnsworth continued a dominant stretch of recent pitching. Since June 28, Farnsworth has pitches 13 innings, allowed 8 hits, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 BB, and gotten 12 strikeouts. Control is key for Farnsworth, when he's throwing 101 mph on the black, no one's going to hit him.
Jason Giambi was removed from Tuesday's game against the Jays because his right leg cramped up. Giambi was playing first base tonight. He'll probably be back in the DH spot on Wednesday.
Octavio Dotel (elbow) pitched a perfect inning for the Rookie GCL Yankees on Tursday. He struck out two in his first outing in almost two weeks after experiencing elbow discomfort. Dotel reached 94 mph and threw 10 pitches, all fastballs. With no additional setbacks, Dotel could be an option for the Yankees next week.
Robinson Cano(hamstring) was hit just above the right ankle by a pitch during batting practice Tuesday but still expects to start a rehab assignment Thursday. The plan is for him to come off the DL and sent Miguel Cairo to the bench next Tuesday.
Hideki Matsui is scheduled to have his injured left wrist re-examined Thursday in New York. If the wrist shows enough progress, he might be given a timetable for taking batting practice. Matsui has experienced some shoulder soreness in his workouts, but he's not concerned. "Everything is fine," he said. "I physically feel pretty good. The shoulders are not sore anymore. It's fine."
Gary Sheffield (wrist) had his cast removed [last] Wednesday and has reportedly begun working with a physical therapist. Asked if Sheffield will return by September 1, general manager Brian Cashman said: "It’d be nice, but I don’t know. I can’t tell you Sept. 1 is going to be the date or not, but that’s what we’ll stay with right now."
With the Red Sox actually not coming back last night (thank you Mark Loretta), the Yankees are now in first place in the AL East. Feels nice, doesn't it?
While on a hot streak, Wilson hits for good power to all fields, waiting for a good pitch to hit and driving it with authority. If he does not get anything to hit, he will take a walk. When he is cold, he tries to pull everything, leaving him vulnerable to breaking balls on the outside corner. He can crush a mistake pitch, but usually he strikes out or grounds out to the left side of the infield. Wilson is versatile defensively, playing first base and right field, although he is mediocre at both positions. He was a catcher in the minor leagues, but the Pirates do not consider him good enough defensively to play the position in the major leagues regularly. He has below-average speed, but has good judgment about when to use it.
Wilson's been worth about 7.5 runs above the average player this season, 1 run above the average 1B. Over the remaining 60 games he'd be about +1 above average at 1B. Andy Phillips has been 12 runs worse than the average 1B this season offensively, so the difference between he and Wilson looks like around 10 runs over the rest of the season.
Here are the stats on Wilson's defense by zone rating.
As you can see, Wilson's basically Bernie in RF (career -36/162 in RF), but about average at first base. If we assume he remains average, we'd say Wilson would cost the Yankees about 2 runs on defense over the remaining 60 games of the year, compared to Phillips who would be about a +2 over the rest of the season if he continued to play as he has to this point. So the Yankees net around eight runs, a little less than one win. A nice little upgrade at a minimal cost. Thumbs up!
Reader George asked if there was any projection for how Cory Lidle would do as a Yankee. Here's a stab at it.
The Yankees have actually outperformed Philadelphia this season in defensive efficiency(converting balls into play into outs). The Yankees are seventh best in the majors at .707, Philadlphia is 27th at .682. I don't think defensive efficiency is a good measure of team defense because it does not consider types of balls that are hit into play, and removes the pitchers out of the equation.
By zone rating, Philadelphia's defense has been 13 runs better than the Yankees. However, the bulk of that difference is in the OF (read Bernie Wlliams), as the two infields have both made nine fewer plays than average. Since it would seem Bernie's role is going to be reduced, I think the Yankee defense going forward will be close enough to Philly's to remove it from the equation.
Lidle's BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is .299, which is much better than the Philly staff as a whole. The Yankees as a team are allowing a BABIP of .293. Therefore, I would hope that he shouldn't show much impact in this area.
The big difference then with Lidle will be moving from one stadium to another, and switching from the NL to the AL. The chart below has three lines. Line 1 is Lidle's raw stats in Philadelphia. Line 2 is his stats adjusted for a neutral National League park. Line 3 will be Lidle's raw stats adjusted to the American League and Yankee Stadium. Applying generic park factors to individual players is not very predictive, because players are not all impacted the same way by the park they play in. But, since this is all theoretical, I'm doing it anyway.
So park and league adjusting Lidle gives you a 4.90 ERA going forward. Lidle came into the season with a projection of an ERA in the 4.40 area, for the NL. The AL boosts scoring by 6%, so his projected ERA would have been around 4.65. I think something in the 4.80-4.90 ERA area is about what we can expect. Hopefully that translates to six innings and three runs most of the time. --posted at 7:43 AM by SG / |