A pinstriped win, no matter what

jorge_250.jpg

NO MATTER WHAT
HAPPENS, IT’S GOOD FOR THE YANKEES

The next two weeks are going to be a fascinating, possibly
decisive time for the Yankees. First, they should have Jorge Posada back on
Friday, which means they’ll have something like their full offensive complement
for the first time all year–Brett Gardner 
substituting for Melky Cabrera for the next several days
notwithstanding, though Brett is actually out-hitting Melky in May,
.357/.449/.619 to .321/.348/.429, so you can’t say the lineup is suffering too badly
for his absence.

The Yankees then take their reconstituted offense into
battle against the Indians, a team that’s no pushover but has real pitching
problems–even during their recent little winning streak, they were pounded more
often than not. Following four games at Cleveland,
where the Indians are 10-11, they go home for three against the Rangers, a
dangerous team but one that is not nearly so dangerous on the road due to their
low on-base percentage. Yes, their power hitters are going to knock a few balls
out of Yankee Stadium II, but so will the Yankees, and they should have more
runners on when they do so.

The Rangers are followed into New York by the Rays, 12-16 on the road and
suffering from a rapidly unraveling pitching staff. After that series, the Yankees go to Boston, where they get another chance to make
some kind of statement against the Red Sox. Before the Red Sox get to that
point on their journey, the Sox have three games at Toronto, which means that no matter what
happens, one team next to the Yankees in the standings will be losing. Then it’s
off to Detroit,
where the Tigers are a tough 15-7 and currently lead the American League in
lowest run average. Finally, they entertain the Rangers at home while the
Yankees are grappling with the Rays. This could be the moment where the Red Sox
see the race slipping away. Their starting pitching is surprisingly poor. Josh
Beckett has now had five straight quality starts, but there are still problems
beyond him, like getting Daisuke Matsuzaka under control, Jon Lester fixed, and
figuring out how to get rid of Brad Penny so one of the kids can come up and
presumably have an ERA under 6.00. They have let David Ortiz kill them all
season long, and replacing him is going to be a painful and divisive thing to
do. This organization is endlessly resourceful, and they won’t just fall apart,
but they have real problems right now.

As for the Jays,
after the Red Sox, they host the Angels for three and the Royals for three,
both winnable series but neither sure things, followed by four games at Texas, which won’t be
easy at all.

 
THE BULLPEN: A QUICK
WORD

Remember Larry Andersen for Jeff Bagwell. Better by far to
give Mark Melancon a long look before dealing the farm for a Jose Veras
replacement.


MAKE IT STOP!
Are we done with Angel Berroa yet? Has anyone yet explained
his purpose? Does he have incriminating photos of someone?

It’s a small thing, a very small thing, the 25th
man, but then, remember what Joe Torre did with Homer Bush in 1998. Flexibility,
or for that matter a useful hitter off the bench, would allow the Yankees to
win more games. This would seem… obvious.

 

THE AROUND (AND
ABOUT)

Giants 6, Braves 3:
Randy Johnson threw six strong innings for victory No. 299 (one run, three hits,
no walks, five strikeouts). You’d rather not see him back into 300, and some of
his recent starts have been rough. He’s an amazing physical specimen: in 52
innings, he’s got 54 strikeouts, 9.35 per nine innings. The man is 45 years
old, and there are many, many 25-year-olds who don’t get that many batters to
swing and miss. Only 12 pitchers have thrown as many as 100 innings in a season
at Johnson’s age or older. At 45, Nolan Ryan struck out 8.98 batters per nine
innings. Phil Niekro struck out 6.10 as a 46-year-old Yankee in 1985. There
have been five geriatric seasons in the 5.00s, including Satchel Paige’s 5.93
in 1952. (Paige was a lot further above his league average than Niekro was
above his.) Johnson has the second-largest differential between his rate and
the league strikeout rate after Ryan.

 
Angels 3, White Sox 1:
Everyone pitched well, even Gavin Floyd and someone with the last name of
“Weaver.” These things happen. In fairness to the last-mentioned, he currently
ranks second in the league in ERA, about a run and a half behind Zack Greinke.
Obligatory former Yankees watch: Bobby Abreu went 2-for-3, as did Juan Rivera,
who is now batting .293/.335/.415, which is kind of like current Brett Gardner,
but without the speed and defense or the promise of improvement.

 
Padres 8,
Diamondbacks 5
: After a miserable, miserable, rehearsals-for-retirement
start, Brian Giles has hit .295/.407/523 over his last 14 games, throwing in
nine walks. It’s something, though 14 games is hardly definitive. Good to see
the Padres bounce back over .500 after their recent winning streak was
terminated; usually a fringe team that starts acting dominant for a couple of
weeks will quickly demonstrate the way gravity works (as in, what goes up must
come down).

Twins 4, Red Sox 2:
Solid work all around by Twins pitching in this one, including three innings of
scoreless relief, 1 1/3 by Jose Mijares, a rookie lefty with a
ninth-inning-worthy fastball-slider combo currently working the middle frames…
Another two-hit day for Ellsbury; if you get your batting average up high
enough, eventually it won’t matter if you don’t walk or hit for power. Said
batting average is higher still than your current .307; see Dernard Span–the
difference is a few more extra-base hits and about 14 more walks in exactly the
same amount of playing time.  

 
Mets 7, Washington 4: A
wild, wild night for Johan Santana, who still seems on pace to win that elusive
third Cy Young award. Three straight wins for the Mets with a lineup that for
the Yankees would be missing Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, and Jorge Posada. It’s
the Nats, of course, so thank the Lords of Good Timing, but all credit to the
Mets for being able to execute… And Daniel Murphy, who banged a home run off a
rather idiotically placed sign.

 
Reds 6, Astros 1:
Seventh straight loss for the Astros, who are starting to get to the place
where a 100-loss season becomes a real possibility–something that has never
happened in what has been a generally successful franchise despite never having
had a champion. From 1969 through last year, the club had won 175 more games
than it had lost… It’s not clear who they can trade, as the few exciting
players are signed to outsized contracts, and they have no impact-level
prospects, so the journey of the ‘Stros, not just through the rest of this
year, but into the next, is going to be an interesting one. As C-3PO said,
there’ll be no escape for the princess this time… Remember I was talking about
Phil Hughes and quality start percentage a couple of days ago? Bronson Arroyo
is at 60 percent, but his ERA is over 5.00–in his three losses, his ERA is
13.83.

 
Indians 12, Rays 7:
The Rays continue to lead the AL
in runs scored per game, but their pitching is like Cerberus’s chew-toy. That
they are hitting so well despite their injuries and a B.J. Upton who ranks as
one of the most futile hitters in the biz is amazing. The regression of the
hurlers is less so, and was widely predicted, though I for one was not so quick
to believe it. I certainly had higher hopes for control artist Andy Sonnanstine,
who has not been so controlling this year. As we saw with Ian Kennedy, a
similar pitcher last year, this model of hurler is either all right or all
wrong–their (lack of) stuff doesn’t allow for a middle ground. The good news
for the Rays is they have some alternatives, such as David Price (now up with
the club) and Wade Davis (not yet).

 
Marlins 6, Phillies 2:
Sometimes even the champions lose to a pitcher named Burke Badenhop, though not
often. Forty-five thousand watched this one at Philadelphia, and as Casey Stengel liked to
say, the attendance was robbed. If Ryan Howard was hitting better than
.227/.303/.455 (four home runs, 88 at-bats), they’d at least have more to talk
about during these Badenhop bow-downs.

 
Mariners 6, Athletics
1
: Nomar Garciaparra heads back to the disabled list. Just thought I would
point out the biggest non-news of the day. I’d also like to point out that
Mariners infielders are hitting .236/.280/.375 as a group, and that’s counting
Russell Branyan. With his fourth cought stealing, Ichiro equals his total for
all of 2008.

 
Dodgers 8, Rockies 6:
Andre Ethier had better hurry and find his stroke, because if Juan Pierre is
still hitting .400 when Manny comes back, even I’m going to have a hard time
arguing that he should be benched–that Pierre has allowed the Dodgers to feel
so little pain over Ramirez’s banishment is one of the stories of the year. The
story of the game was that Joe Torre’s pen bent but didn’t break.

 
Cubs 5, Pirates 2:
Notable mainly for Carlos Zambrano’s ejection-worthy explosion and the
relocation of the Cubs to a game over .500.

 
Tigers 8, Royals 3:
Another strong start for Rick Porcello, though the low strikeout rate is still
troubling. Kyle Farnsworth threw a scoreless inning in the loss, his usual spot
for scoreless innings.

Orioles 12, Blue Jays
10
: Add Nolan Reimold to the list of possibly invigorating youth the
Orioles are now playing with–next year, the AL East could be an even more
difficult place to win a pennant than it is now, though pitching is still going
to be a problem by the Bay. As for the Jays, by the All-Star break we’re not
going to remember they were ever in the race.

 
Cardinals 3, Brewers
2
: In which the Cardinals take control, largely due to their busy bullpen,
though Todd Wellemeyer was solid for five. You wonder if LaRussa’s hardworking
relievers can keep up the pace for the rest of the year, though to be fair he
has spread out the work… Albert Pujols has just one home run in the last two
weeks.  

 
MORE FROM ME
Wholesome
Reading

continues to be wholesomely updated with new entries, and I’m about to start an
argument with a commenter. Warning: politics!

4 Comments

I think I’m going to like some Wholesome Reading. Can NOT wait to read your rebuttal.

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

My apologies for this long comment, but in the words of a great American, well, allow me to retort!

Finally, they entertain the Rangers at home while the Yankees are grappling with the Rays. This could be the moment where the Red Sox see the race slipping away.

This is a bit presumptuous, don’t you think? If I am correct, you are talking about a series in early June – there are four more months of baseball to be played, including ten more head-to-head games.

Their starting pitching is surprisingly poor. Josh Beckett has now had five six straight quality starts, but there are still problems beyond him, like getting Daisuke Matsuzaka under control, Jon Lester fixed, and figuring out how to get rid of Brad Penny so one of the kids can come up and presumably have an ERA under 6.00.

It is quite true that the Red Sox starting staff has been lousy this year, but they do have a track record of success. When one sees a bad pitcher who is having a hot streak you can usually tell things are going to go south. The opposite can be said here. Although an incredibly frustrating pitcher to watch, Matsuzaka is allowing a WHIP of 2.32, which is exactly 1.00 over the stats compiled in ’07 and ’08. His BABIP has risen from .267 in ’08 to .436 this season, and his strand rate has tumbled from 80% to 69%. Yet through all that, his strikeout rate has stayed the same, and his walk rate has risen only marginally.

I’ll spare you the same gory details concerning the other starters, but the same is true of Lester (increased K/9, K/BB, with a huge jump in BABIP ). Short story long, it’s likely that these pitchers are going to post better results shortly. The stats say they’re due for a correction, and their track records agree. But even if all that falls through, you correctly note that there are plentiful reinforcements to be had with Buchholz, Bowden, and Smoltz all on the horizon. (A wise bird noted recently that Penny is eligible to be traded on June 15th, and guess what day Smoltz is expected to join the rotation? Wrong: June 16th.) To relate this all back to the Yankees, NY does not have anywhere near this type of depth.

They have let David Ortiz kill them all season long, and replacing him is going to be a painful and divisive thing to do. This organization is endlessly resourceful, and they won’t just fall apart, but they have real problems right now.

The Sox have treated Ortiz with the utmost (and some might say approaching too much) respect. I don’t see that there will be any divisiveness if they need to replace him, a process that may have already begun.

As far as the “letting Ortiz kill them” comment, again, Big Papi has a track record of success, and I’m certain, as The Wall is a great album, that had the Sox sat Ortiz after three weeks of lousy performance, you’d have killed them for it. You’d have been right to do so.

Even as a Red Sox fan, I always enjoy the Pinstriped Bible. It is eloquent, thought-provoking, and informative. Thanks for all your hard work., and the best of health to you, Steven.

-mattymatty

Steve – separate point…the Yanks are currently riding a 14-game errorless streak, which is only 3 shy of the record. We all know that errors are only part of the defensive story, so I’m wondering if the more advanced defensive metrics show an improvement in team defense that could be contributing to winning games. I don’t have the wherewithal to do that analysis but I think it might make an interesting topics for one of your next entries.

Continued health, and keep up the good work!

Steve, I would really like your take on Ortiz’s troubles. Why is it that with A-Rod and Manny getting in trouble for banned substance use no one even thinks twice to say maybe Ortiz was on something? You look at his track record in Minnesota he was always hurt and at his best was a 20-25 hr guy but then goes to Boston and becomes the best slugger of the last decade? He had a huge hole in his swing and couldn’t hit fastballs up and in then the second half of 2003 he started crushing them with 21 HR. Now it seems he has broken down with knee and wrist injuries. Is that not a tell tale sign of steroid abuse when your joints and ligaments break down? He does not deserve a free pass to say he was clean when everyone assumed A-Rod was too.

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