The Yankees have now played over 20 games both at home and on the road. At home, the Yankees have a hit a home run every 17.9 at-bats and are scoring 5.61 runs per game. On the road, the Yankees have homered every 27.4 at-bats and have averaged 5.43 runs per game. The change is small but significant. Overall, the Yankees are second in the league in home runs per at-bat, almost even with the leader, the Texas Rangers. The road rate is more of a piece with that of the Red Sox, Tigers, Rays, and Twins. The Yankees are not a product of their generous new home park, but without the winds of Yankee Stadium the offense would look like one of several solid efforts, rather than a league-leading collection.
The Yankees will get a boost in the power department when Jorge Posada returns–as nice a job as Frankie Cervelli has done hitting singles (he’s been better than could have been expected and yet still far from an offensive asset), he’s no power threat–and have already seen Alex Rodriguez raise their home run rate at third, but as things stand now, theYankees have allowed 42 home runs at home and hit 45. Adjusting for the differential in at-bats between the home team and visitors means that in equal playing time, the Yankees would lead their opponents 48-42. In the long term, that differential may prove to be insufficient, particularly in a playoff situation against an opponent which may have great power potential of its own. The Rangers, who the Yankees play in Texas starting today, come in next week, and we’ll see what the park does for a team with a great deal of power. The Phillies, another powerful club, hit six homers in two games before running into CC Sabathia on Sunday
At the trading deadline, the Yankees will undoubtedly have their main focus on relief pitching, but barring a major acquisition, the solutions to the club’s inconsistencies in the pen are likely to be found within the organization. Alfredo Aceves has helped solve the long relief problem, and before long Mark Melancon or David Robertson will finally click and give the club some reliability in the middle innings–keep in mind these two pitches have thrown a total of eight big league innings between them this season, and their problem was not necessarily hittability but what one assumes was a jittery loss of control. The club can better tolerate this transient tendency towards walks now that Jon Albaladejo and Edwar Ramirez have been sent into exile. There is also the possibility that Phil Hughes could work out of the bullpen for awhile when/as/if Chien-Ming Wang is ready to pitch with his old aplomb. The time to work through this is now.
If the bullpen problem can be solved internally, then Brian Cashman will be freed to give the offensive one last, persuasive boost. There will be candidates. With Washington’s nigh-historic record, Adam Dunn (.284/.420/.594) could be on the move again later this year, and just as I argued the Yankees should have been in on him last winter, they should be in on him at the trade deadline. He would be a massive upgrade on Hideki Matsui at DH and add the ability to play the field (nominally, but that’s still more than Matsui can do just now). Even if Matsui’s current slump–he’s batting .191/233/.368 in May, is 8 for his last 50, and is also batting .220/.313/.407 on the road–proves to be transient, he’s washed up in New York, a superannuated free agent after the season. If he finishes the season as a pinch-hitter, it’s no loss to the Yankees because he won’t be back. Dunn is signed through 2010, and at a million-dollar discount over Matsui’s current salary.
In 470 at-bats stretching back to last year, Matsui has hit 14 home runs. Given the reality of their park, the Yankees need more power, power to match cannonade for cannonade with the opposition. Picking up Dunn would be one way to reach past parity to superiority in the battle of warheads and throw-weight–you know, nuclear explosives. The Rays and Jays are likely locked into their current rosters, but you know the Red Sox won’t hesitate to deal, especially when they finally exhaust their patience with David Ortiz. If the Yankees put their focus in the wrong place, they will get left behind.
ACTION JACKSON NOTE
Austin Jackson went 4-for-5 against Pawtucket yesterday to raise his rates to .354/.440/.444. He is also a perfect 8-0 in stolen base attempts. There are two negatives in the record: no home runs in 144 at-bats, which should change at some point, and 40 strikeouts in 39 games, which perhaps argues that the high batting average is a bit of a fluke. Still, at this point Jackson is just someone else’s pulled hammy away from the big leagues.
An unrelated minor league note: Shelley Duncan should really be in the major leagues. Sure, he’s 29, has no defensive position, and won’t hit for any kind of average, but the Yankees’ bench is very limited and Duncan would bring it a touch of power. There’s no argument for Angel Berroa to be in the big leagues, especially when there’s not an alternative like Duncan around. Both are journeymen, but one of the two can actually do something useful.
THE AROUND (AND ABOUT)
Royals 3, Cardinals 2: I don’t know how many of you readers were around when Brian Bannister’s daddy Floyd pitched for the Mariners and the White Sox. He was a hard-throwing lefty who had trouble with consistency–some days he was untouchable, others he was wild and a bit prone to the home run–and you always felt like he could have been a bit better. Brian is a soft-tossing righty who always makes you feel like he could be a bit worse. As such, when he overcomes the Cardinals, his own manager (Horacio Ramirez again, the Royals’ Brett Tomko), and his own lack of stuff, it feels like the triumph of the little man. If only Bannister could strike out Bernie Madoff… The Cardinals get Rick Ankiel back and really need him to rake, because Albert Pujols is looking very lonely with Ryan Ludwick hurt and everyone else slumping–he’s getting the Bonds treatment now, walk him nearly every time up and take your chances with whichever anorexic bat is coming up next.
Rangers 5, Astros 0: Houston got a 4-for-4 from Miguel Tejada in this one, boosting his rates to .345/.370/.520–didn’t think the old boy still had it in him. He’s now hitting .378 in May. Obviously, such performances only can get you so far when the rest of the team is being shut down by Brendan McCarthy. Speaking of being shut out by McCarthy, which really isn’t something in McCarthy’s bag of tricks, Rangers fielders lead the AL in defensive efficiency, turning 72 percent of balls in play into outs.
Pirates 4, White Sox 3: In which the Pirates finally get their revenge for the 1919 World Series–they weren’t invited. No, it doesn’t make any sense, but I will take the opportunity to note that the 1919 Pirates were managed by a football coach and yet also carried three future pennant-winning managers, two of them Hall of Famers: Casey Stengel, Billy Southworth, and Charlie Grimm. They also had a fourth Hall of Famer in the fast Max Carey. Carey, Southworth, and Stengel actually made for a pretty potent outfield, at least against right-handed pitching, but Carey missed more than half the season with some kind of illness… Jeff Karstens allowed Brian Anderson his first home run of the year on this one.
Nationals 8, Orioles 5: No Nick Johnson in this one–he was scratched due to “stomach discomfort.” Naturally, we’re sympathetic–I ate some bad mussels once and had the worst three days of my life–but when you’re “Nick the Sick” you don’t get the benefit of the doubt; the Red Sox aren’t going to trade real pitching for you if you’re hooked on Nexium. As noted above
, Adam Dunn played first and drove in six runs on two homers. The miracle of this gtame is that the Nationals actually got three scoreless innings out of their pen, which has to have a lot more days like this to avoid a “worst in recorded history” rap. Adam Jones hit home run #10; looking forward to seeing the kid make his first All-Star team… Congratulations to the Orioles on the release of Adam Eaton, who has rarely helped anyone.
Braves 10, Blue Jays 2: It’s good to see Brian McCann (3-for-4, two home runs) have a big game after all his ocular problems… The Jays’ pen was the culprit in this one, giving up eight runs, seven in the seventh, after a solid five innings by Scott Richmond… Good for the Braves to get a win with both Chipper Jones and Yunel Escobar on the bench.
Marlins 5, Rays 4: In addition to possible loss of Akinori Iwamura, which the Rays are in decent shape to withstand, should it turn out to be a long-term thing (more on this tomorrow), it needs to be said that the name “Brignac” reminds me of the rock monster that Tim Allen fought in “Galaxy Quest.” Fascinating that of the Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, and Blue Jays, only the last have gotten a solid contribution out of the designated hitter spot. The Red Sox are pretending that David Ortiz’s season-long slump hasn’t held them back, but they’re 7-8 in one-run games. That’s one place where the evidence contradicts that stance… Scott Kazmir to the DL, Troy Percival to the retirement home?
Red Sox 12, Mets 5: And the Red Sox go into first, because, among other things, the Blue Jays are just a bunch of birds, and not in the nice, Swinging London sense of the word. Unusual to see a first baseman bat leadoff, but the Mets have nothing else to do with David Murphy, who is batting .158 this month, and their batting order is so contorted by injuries that they’ve really had to vamp. Strange to say it, but Gary Sheffield (.320/.452/.500 this month) has really helped.
Padres 7, Cubs 2: The Pads have won nine straight games. Er… what? How can you be a breakfast chain and not serve fresh-squeezed OJ? You know who I’m talking about. Oh, the Padres. They’ve reached .500. During the win streak they’ve hit–ready for this?–.209/.315/.356. However, the pitching staff has allowed 16 runs in the 88 innings of the last nine games, or 1.64 per game. It helps to play the Giants, a team which may yet rank among the worst offensive teams in history, but the Cubs and the Reds have less of an excuse, except perhaps that the Cubs aren’t really the Cubs right now.
Twins 6, Brewers 3: You cannot stop Mauer and Mourneau, you can only contain them, or feed them bits of cheese and hope they’ll be satisfied–.438/.525/.875, what is that? Does Mauer say “Shazam!” or “Kimota!” before an at-bat (or maybe… Kaji Dha)? Sincere condolences to Delmon Young (and Dmitri, too) who lost their mother last week.
Athletics 6, Diamondbacks 2: Josh Outman, another potential super-hero for Mauer’s league, has now pitched nine games and is 2-0 with a 2.90 ERA, a lot better than Joe Blanton. If there were accuracy in labeling laws for baseball, Blanton would have to replace the “t” in his name with a “d”… About time for a change of scenery for Travis Buck (.205), who might still have it in him to hit, but apparently won’t get to it in Oakland… Note Justin Upton’s home/road split. He’s hitting .320/.392/.612, which is a very nice thing for a 21-year-old to be doing, but more to the point, it’s not all Arizona hot air–he’s batting .359/.407/.705 on the road so far.
Angels 10, Dodgers 7: In which Joe Torre pushed a fading Chad Billingsley too far, but then proved to have been correctly a-feared of his bullpen, as they heaped on the humiliation. The Angels’ pen kept trying to give it back, too, helped by your favorite ex-Yankee, Bobby Abreu, who went 2-for-4 with a triple but also made a sliding non-catch that put his team in serious jeopardy late. He still hasn’t homered and is batting only .303–Brian Cashman made a good call in not retaining him, not offering arbitration, and in general saying a Bartleby-ish “I prefer not to” whenever anything involving the Vacillating Venezuelan was concerned. (“Vacillating” on fly balls–“Do I catch it? Do I not catch it? Is it too near the wall? Is the wall too near to it?”)
MORE FROM ME
Back to politics: Wholesome Reading has several new entries, and at popular request no less.
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SOMETHING TO BREAK…
…And hoping it’s not a leg or a Faberge Egg (Hey, A-Rod, how
far can you hit this priceless work of art?) but a deal. So far it seems that
there has been a little gabbing but not much deal-making out Vegas way. In
fact, even some of the gabbing hasn’t happened, as reports of Team A talking to
Team B about Players X and Y are quickly debunked by one of the general
managers in question. “Haven’t seen him,” he might say. “Not yet.” Or, “Sure,
we talked, but only about some very remote Dominican Summer League guys whom
you’ve never heard of, and frankly, neither have I.”
Thus far, Brian Cashman has had a chat with CC Sabathia, one
that seems to have gone better than Gene Michael’s with Greg Maddux under
similar conditions in 1992. Michael brought theatre tickets. Maddux wanted
Nintendo games. A bond was not established. Meanwhile, we have two Detroit deals going down.
The Tigers picked up a good field/no-hit catcher in Gerald Laird, who isn’t going
to help them all that much — compare and contrast: Laird’s .248 career
EqA to Brandon Inge’s .250 and the two catchers’ virtually equal caught-stealing
percentages. Inge’s reluctance to catch may have forced the move on the Tigers,
but that leaves them the problem of what to do with Inge, a very nice fielder
at the hot corner who doesn’t hit enough (.235/.310/.408 over the last three seasons) to
justify a daily place in the lineup. Inge would be worth something in a platoon
role against lefties with additional time as a defensive sub, though probably
not as much as the $12.9 million still due on his contract.
In return, the Rangers received two pitchers, one of whom is
just 17 and thus so far away as to be a shot in the dark, and another,
Guillermo Moscoso, a likely reliever who has put up some very nice strikeout
numbers in the Minors. We can’t know for sure what will happen, but a good rule
of thumb (one in operation here at the PB) is that all trades where the selling
team receives only pitching prospects should be judged guilty until proven
innocent. In eight of 10 cases, the arms fall off, the pitchers don’t progress
or both, and they come to nothing. Position players are always more projectable
than pitchers, and if you want certainty, you’ve got to get one. Again, that
doesn’t mean that the trade won’t be a real winner for the Rangers, but that
the odds are against it.
The Tigers also have reportedly signed punchless shortstop
Adam Everett, a career .246/.298/.355 hitter. If the Tigers’ infield is really
going to be composed of Miguel Cabrera, Placido Polanco, Inge, and Everett,
plus Laird at catcher, it’s going to be a very long year in Detroit, and that’s without considering the implosion
of the automobile companies. No matter what the outfield produces, there’s just
not enough offense there to start a fire.
IN MORE EXCITING NEWS…
There’s another Yankee in the Hall
of Fame. Joe “Flash” Gordon isn’t around to enjoy his enshrinement, but the
Veterans corrected a major oversight by recognizing the slick-fielding slugger
of the 1940s. If it seems as if I’m eliding his qualifications, it’s only
because I’ve written about them so many times, going back to the very
beginnings of my writing career. Gordon’s Hall of Fame case is one of the first
things I was ever paid to write about. Suffice it to say that he was a terrific
glove and a slugger at his position, and of the 18 second basemen in the Hall
of Fame, the only clearly superior players are (in no particular order) Joe
Morgan, Jackie Robinson, Eddie Collins, and Rogers Hornsby. You can argue with
that assessment, and no doubt some of you will, but you’ll find that even if
you want to slip in a Nap Lajoie or Charlie Gehringer ahead of Gordon, he
doesn’t sink too far.
…As events warrant.
MORE FROM ME
Various and sundry updates at Wholesome
including psychology’s impact on the economy. Warning! Politics!