13 April 2009

Royals - Yankees Series Recap

Seeing as Tampa's in the process of smashing us right now, I figure there's no better time to update the ol' blog with a series recap. We just left Kansas City, missing the 3-game sweep by a few horrid Phil Coke offerings. But more on that later.

Game 1 saw a vintage Andy Pettite performance. He was just brilliant going 7 innings, striking out 6, and allowing a lone run. He did a tremendous job mixing his pitches and utilizing the long shadows Kaufman Stadium provides the pitchers in the late afternoon sun.

In fact, both teams struck out 10 batters a piece and at one point, ex-Yank and new Royal Kyle Farnsworth came in and looked devestating by striking out the side. This was also a vintage Kyle Farnsworth performance. He looked very good while his team was down 3 runs. I don't know why he can't hold a lead, but he sure can hold a loss. Whatever, Yanks win 4-1.

Game 2 trumpeted the arrival of CC Sabathia. His fastball was on and he was lights out. The big man logged nearly 8 big innings, fanning a 6 big batters, and lowering his ERA to a big (but much smaller) 4.50 - sorry, he's a big dude.

This was also a big day for both Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada as both accounted for all 6 Yankee runs. Royals pitcher Horatio Ramirez had little to offer and was sent out after little over 4 innings. Yanks cruise to a 6-1 victory.

Which brings me to game 3. Really, everybody needs to get the kinks out early on and in the 8th inning, holding a 1 run lead, Joe Girardi completely overmanaged the situation and sent us to a heartbreaking loss when a big victory and 3 game sweep were all well within reach. It's April for managers too, I guess.

I really don't know what he was thinking. I mean it's the Kansas City Royals. It's not the Boston Red Sox circa 2003. There's no need to empty the bullpen and play the match-up game that way. There's one guy for the 8th and Brain Bruney's it. He deserves the ball. He's lost 40 pounds over the last two years and is ready for the mantle. Nah, it's Damaso Marte. Really, outside of Mo, Marte is making a ton of money. With that money comes expectation. The 8th should be his regardless of the situation. No, nix that, Jose Veras is the man. He's the longest tenured player and has the nasty stuff to do the job. I vote Veras.

The point I'm trying to make is any of the 3 is adequate. Hell, where's Edwar? Sending Phil Coke in, with the tying run at the plate made as little sense to me now as it does then. It was one of those, "Oh shit, he just lost us the game" moments I'm so very used to seeing. You know, whenever the manager takes one too many trips to the 'pen, and you can almost sense the disappointment coming around the corner. Apparently somebody else read Joe Torre's book. I just didn't think he had a chapter called "How to Misuse Your Bullpen".

The worst thing is that the press vultures seem to think they have enough evidence to thrust Joba back to the pen because we got "nobody" for the 8th. What they fail to realize is that Joba got us to the 7th and probably could have pitched into the 7th and beyond -- he looked that good. The 8th inning would be pretty much moot at that point. Stupid innings restrictions.

I still fail to realize why some people think a guy who can pitch until the 8th isn't nearly as good as a situational 8th inning pitcher. Yanks lose 6-4 and I'm pissed off.

Screw you Meatloaf, 2 out of 3 sucks!

12 April 2009

Nick Swisher: Legit!

Nick Swisher is hotter than a female teenage pop singer right now. He's hitting at a downright absurd pace. And he's having more fun on the baseball diamond than he's ever had in his entire life. And all he's really doing is making the most of his opportunities. He's doing so well that more opportunities keep presenting themselves and more days are being spent on the field than on the bench.

I know it's early, but Nick's stats need mention. Since coming off the bench, Swish has recorded 7 hits in 13 at-bats with 9 RBI. He's hitting .538 with an OPS of 2.010 -- that's pretty insane. But he's taking it all in stride. “I’m absolutely loving it,” Swisher was quoted as saying. “It’s like I almost don’t want to wake up, I don’t want to soak it in. I want to keep that fire and keep that passion and keep that attitude going. When I go to the ballpark right now, I feel confident.”

So do we Nick, so do we.

The whole thing has me thinking though. After all, I was very much in support of just going forward with Nick Swisher at 1st when we acquired him over the winter and not pursuing Teixeira at all. In fact it appears I was not alone. Kat O'Brien, over at Newsday had a great piece a few days ago that told a very interesting story in regard to the Teixeira deal. Simply put, Teixiera was never really an option. It was only after meeting with him in December, a move Cash admitted was more to leverage CC than land Tex, where the dream signing became a reality.

"Teixeira never was really an option," Cashman said. (see) "It was something I kept pushing, but it was not really being accepted by above me . . . I guess persistence paid off. I knocked on that door, I guess, just enough that someone finally answered. Hal really gave me the OK to pursue it over a few-day period. And at that point, I still thought the Red Sox were getting him."

After the mess the Sox ownership and brain trust made with Teixeira -- by way of their ridiculous obsession with trying to outsmart Scott Boras -- Cash was obviously more than ready to pick up the pieces and provide the team with tremendous depth at the same time. So thanks for being blowhards Sox brass, it's really paying off so far.

And for those interested, the wrist injury that sidelined Teixeira last night is apparently little more than tendinitis and only prevents him from swinging the bat right-handed. He should play this afternoon and hit lefty. It's nice to have switch-hitters.

Orioles - Yanks Game 3 Shots

I took my camera with me up to Baltimore last Thursday and got some shots of batting practice and some in-game shots. I was way out in the centerfield bleachers, so they're not the most exciting or crystal clear shots. I figured some might want to take a look though, so here you go:

Pettite and Wang spent a long time in Center, shagging fly balls and talking pitching. Let's hope whatever Andy told him sticks and the Wanger proves a bit more effective against the Rays.

You have to love Joba. Kids were hollering his name, he was yelling "what?" right back at 'em and then would bust his ass to shag a fly ball or two to give to some lucky young fans. Joba really rules.

Everybody's new favorite Yankee and Mr. 5 RBI himself (stupid Pujols and his 7 RBI a day later) Nick Swisher! This guy keeps hitting, he's gonna keep finding himself in the lineup.

I'm pretty sure this was one of A.J.'s K victims. Take a seat you blurry bastard!

10 April 2009

Orioles - Yanks Series Re-Cap

I'm giving you guys a different look. Instead of going game-by-game and covering each and every pitch, I've decided to simply take a look at the season as a number of 3 to 4 game series and spend time discussing the match-ups and the overall performance of the club during those stretches. Besides, as most of you who do read me know, I am very sporadic in my posting and updating. Covering the games this way will, hopefully, give me enough time to give you guys something tangible every few days.

Game 1
Not a great game pitching-wise. C.C. looked tentative and was missing consistently with his fastball. Overall, it was a very frustrating first impression that had all the usual suspects in the press running for the hills, more than ready to denounce the signing, his impact, and the entire season.

Revolting and typical. This type of coverage is only going to get worse with every poor performance and may get out of control when You-Know-Who come off the DL at the end of the month. Just be ready...

Anyway, C.C. is traditionally a slow starter. In fact, he was God awful last April in Cleveland going 1-4 with a 7.88 ERA. Obviously he got better throughout the season and was 9-0 in July and August. You know, when it means just a little bit more. All things considered, I can't be worried with what he does Game 1 in April and on the road.

The bullpen looked solid until Coke's leash got a bit too long. It was a garbage HR though and will probably be the only one Caesar Iszturis hits all year. That was the back-breaker though and was so late in the game that the Yanks couldn't mount another scoring spree.

Really, this game was very winnable despite Sabathia's performance. We were down 1 run late and there was a nice little small ball scoring opportunity Girardi constructed with Ramiro Pena at 3rd, having been bunted over by Brett Gardner after Pena pinch ran for the pinch hitting Nick Swisher -- who doubled. Wow. Nice use of the bench, Joe. Keep it coming.

Anyway, 3rd base is still the same Bermuda Triangle for Yankee baserunners as it ever was. Jeter couldn't knock him in after a soft grounder and Damon lifted an easy fly ball to end the inning. This situations are always unfortunate, mostly because people usually second-guess the manager for sacrificing the out to get the guy on second over to third while failing to realize that a simple, moderately deep fly ball brings the runner home from 3rd with 1 out, but I digress. Yanks lose 10-5.

Game 2
My Dad and I joked that afternoon that after C.C.'s loss Wang was sure to have no sinker and sport a flat slider. Guess what happened? Yep.

I hate to just let the excuses fly after two consecutive games, but this was an excusable performance. Wang was just off. Several times Jorge had to come out and remind Wang about release points and staying on top off the ball. And to their credit, the Baltimore hitters were taking advantage of the situation just as they did on Monday against C.C.

The Baltimore Orioles are something that's been severely missing from the coverage thus far. This is a good little team filled with emerging young players who can really play the game. Defensively, they look great in the infiled and untouchable in the outfield. And they proved that in this game. In fact, I'll put Markasis, Jones, and Pie up against any 3 outfielders playing today. I may not come out on top, but I'll be near it. They look to remain that same pesky team from Baltimore we can't put away and screws up our record.

I was proud to see the Yanks fight out of the hole again, but boys from the Bronx couldn't ultimately take this game as they fell 7-5 to the Orioles. In reality, it was another winnable contest that we failed to capitalize on. Wang's offerings were not staying on the ground off of Baltimore bats and those that were, proved just out of reach -- looking at you Cody Ransom.

It was a nice run in the 9th, but it all proved to be too little too late though.

Game 3
For some reason it was a big deal that the Yankees starters failed to strike out a single batter for the first 2 games. Sure, I expected C.C. to fan a few as that's why we got him, but he was just out of the zone for most of the game and the Baltimore hitters were very patient. Wang's another story in entirety. He doesn't strike guys out as that's usually the one bad thing his critics are quick to point out. Whatever though, A.J. soon made quick work of the K drought that plagued the Yankee rotation.

I was lucky enough to attend this game (I'll try to post some of my pics later) and was pretty impressed with Mr. Burnett. Sure the pitch count was high and he left the game a little early, but he was getting outs when he needed them and worked in and out of the zone very nicely. Stopper, I dub thee A.J Burnett.

Joe went with a different look on the field and it payed of tremendous dividends. Molina was behind the dish and saved at least one run by gunning down a runner trying to swipe a bag. I tend to believe he handles the pitchers a bit better than Jorge, based on nothing really, but this mini-theory based on nothing was proven true with a few K's and a dominant performance by the bullpen.

In other genius Giradi moves, anybody see what Swish did? Wow. He looks a bit better than a .219 hitter, huh? Again, it's early, but a 5 RBI is still a 5 RBI game, I don't care what month it is. Yanks roll 11-2 and I finally get to see a Yankee victory in 2009.

Outside of the starting pitching issues, this was a pretty good start to the season. We saw HRs from old favorites like Jeter and Cano, the DL boys in Posada and Matsui, and even the new guys in Swisher and Teixiera chipped in. We outscored the O's 21 - 19 and got a glimpse of a few very important key details necessary for success. First, the bullpen looks great. Second, Cano's hitting in April. Third, injuries don't seem to have slowed Matsui or Posada in any meaningful way. Fourth, Girardi has a plan. He's swiping bags, subbing players (I know someone saw Derek on the bench n the 9th and Pena at short yesterday) and creating runs. And finally, the offense is clicking. Different guys are getting it done up and down the lineup.

We're 1-2, yet I really like what I've seen thus far. And the season marches on...

05 April 2009

Ramiro Pena Makes Me Look Smart

When I previewed Spring Training, I gave my readers a list of names to watch while Jeets, Cano, and Alex were fighting it out in the WBC. Those names were Ramiro Pena, Eduardo Nunez, and Kevin Russo. Lo and behold, Ramiro Pena flashed the leather, put together a good Spring and won the utlity infielder's job over the much better hitter in Angel Berrora.

This is telling. History has taught me that 9 times out of 10 the Yankes go with the hitter over the fielder. The fact that Pena is considered one of the best young defensive shortstops in the game is also very important. For while Pena was turning heads and impressing the right people, Jeter was flailing, diving, and and desperately reaching for (and misssing) anything and everything to his left --- when Jimmy Rollins wasn't showing him how an elite SS plays the game that is. Finally, the "Derek Jeter is a shitty fielder" discussion has reached a national level. If the WBC has done nothing else, this should suffice.

The next two years with DJ may very well be our final. As good as he is, and he is good, there's just no spot left for a 37 year old SS. People point to the outfield, but the vastness of left would eat him alive. I mean if he's got no range or arm at short, why move him to the outfield? DH is also pretty much out of the question as Derek's SLG % and extra-base hits have been down year to year. No one really wants a singles-only DH. First is bloked by Teixiera til 2016. Cano's got 2nd and you-know-who's at 3rd until I'm 40.

Really, injury is Derek's best way out. That or the retirement of Alex Rodriguez. And while it is true that Image-wise the Yankees need Jeter's Ying to discount Alex's Yang. Or in a more Freudian way, Alex is the id and Derek is the ego -- too much, sorry. I point to guys like Teixiera, Robinson Cano, and even Brett Gardner to fill that "Aww shucks, I just play baseball, folks" pollyanna mentality that the media shines on Derek Jeter.

Clocks a' tickin' DJ and there's actually a guy behind you who can hold his own at the position.

30 March 2009

Gardner Tending The Field

An exciting race ends with a fairly lackluster finish as Brett Gardner beats out Melky Cabrera for the CF spot. At the very least, it was a good race that saw the speedy Gardner win the spot away from the younger and more experienced Cabrera.

Personally, I like either in this spot. With that in mind, I hope to never see Johnny Damon or Nick Swisher out in Center. In case you forgot, I need defense in that outfield. While I'm at it, I also never want to see the name Mike Cameron anywhere near the words "trade talks heat up".

The one thing that does surprise me about this move is the fact that we start Cody Ransom instead of the rehabbing Alex Rodriguez at 3rd base. I just think that Melky's experience kind of wins out in this situation. Maybe I'm splitting hairs, but an 8-9 of Cabrera, Ransom seems like it would turn over the lineup a bit better than Gardner, Ransom or Ransom, Gardner at the bottom.

I do expect to see a lot more running from this team this year though, and that seems to be the way Girardi's leaning. Melky's poor baserunning and nonexistant basestealing plus his lackluster and fading numbers are, after all, what sent him to Scranton last year. Anyone who's seen Gardner play knows that his speed is his game. And just to hammer his point on speed home, Girardi had this to say on the subject, “Speed is an interesting dimension to a club, and I like it, because it puts a lot of pressure on the defense”.

There you have it. With the Jeter-Damon flip-flop, the addition a Teixeira, a healthy Jorge and Matsui, Nady for a season with a touch of Swish, and Brett Gardner looking to swipe a few bags we've got a very new, new-look New York Yankees on our hands. This looks to be a very proactive and clever club equally adept at manufacturing runs as well as knocking them in.

Only one more week...

28 March 2009

Johnny's Last Stand

It's plain to see now. In fact it's fairly obvious. Johnny Damon's tenure as a New York Yankee is officially coming to an end. I couldn't be happier.

When I first heard that Joe Girardi made an adjustment to the top of the lineup by pulling the ol' switcheroo with Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon I assumed it was more due to Jeter's new habit of grounding into double plays in key situations. The more I thought about it, the more Johnny Damon's new role started to sink in. After all, Damon was seen as a much needed savior and crucial cog in the machine when he was acquired as a free agent 3 years ago. Keep in mind, back then he was a lead-off hitting centerfielder. He begins his final tour of duty in Yankee pinstripes as a leftfielder hitting out of the 2-hole. Frankly, he's outplayed his usefulness. Good riddance.

In typical fashion Johnny Damon had something to say and didn't disappoint. He said this of the move, "I'm definitely bigger than most leadoff hitters, so it's time for me to move down, and I hit the ball on the right side a lot." Damon added, "I’m O.K. with it. It makes the team better. We know Derek’s on-base percentage is a lot higher than mine. Hopefully, we can tinker with this thing, and my production in the two-hole will increase with Derek on base quite a bit [...] He'll be on first and I can jack home runs." Curiously, he then added "Whatever Joe wants, I think how this camp has been going, you know, everyone's got to do what Joe wants."

That last line I feel is th most telling. Joe Girardi may say he's "toying" with it, but I fairly certain his mind is made up in this regard. When we open in Baltimore, Jeter will lead-off and Damon will bat second. This will be the 1-2 punch all season. Get used to it.

The CF battle between Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera has been one of the more interesting stories to keep an eye on down in Tampa. Gardner seems like he's gonna get the nod. He's often cited as Girardi favorite and looks like a Giradi disciple. Plus he's batted at a .343 clip this spring with 3Hrs. Melky isn't going quietly though. He's hit at a .313 clip and boasts 9 RBIs. Personally, I'd go with Melky in Center, shift him to left in the 7th, bench Damon, and let Gardner patrol CF during the last 3 innings. Did I mention I hate Johnny Damon? Regardless, look for the decision to be made by Monday.

Speaking of decisions, the long-man spot out of the pen is up for grabs today. Dan Geise, Brett Tomko, and Alfredo Aceves take the hill vs. The Atlanta Braves toaday a 1:15 PM ET. This may seem like a throw away position to the uninformed and nothing more than a dull battle between garbage arms, but if you remember anything about recent Yankee history, you'd know pitching is the most important thing. This is no different. We have 5 starting pitchers, yes, but none of them are without their nagging questions. The long man can either save the day like Ramiro Mendoza or compound your troubles like Ramiro Mendoza. --Sorry, I can't think of another long man besides Ramiro Mendoza.

This battle is also important because if Brett Tomko wins it out, someone will have to be sacrificed off the roster to make room as Tomko came to camp as a non-roster invitee. For the record, Tomko looks far superior to the other two this Spring posting a 1.46 ERA through 12 and 1/3 innings. Aceves has pitched to a 4.97 ERA and Geise carries an ERA of 7.43 -- pretty ugly fellas. Uglier still when I mention the 9 combined HRs the opposition has hit off you both. Today may be the last to make an impression.