Wednesday, September 30, 2009

So Who Starts Game Two?

The biggest question the Yankees have going into the postseason not named Joba Chamberlain is who will pitch game two?

The way the current rotation slots out, either AJ Burnett or Andy Pettitte could pitch game two of a postseason series.

The most cogent argument I've seen as to who the game 2 starter should be hinges on the fact that Burnett has clearly been a better pitcher at home and Pettitte better on the road. This argument also includes the notion that Pettitte, and not Burnett, has significant postseason experience, so in a must-win game on the road, Pettitte is probably the guy you want on the mound.

The argument to reverse the two is that Pettitte has been the better pitcher--more consistent--over the course of the entire season, but even so, I would rather Pettitte pitch where he has clearly performed better this year.

Take a look at these splits: Pettitte's home ERA is exactly an entire run higher than his road ERA, an OPS against that's over 100 points lower on the road and fourteen home runs surrendered at home against only five on the road.

Burnett's splits are similar to Pettitte's in terms of home-road difference, just reversed. It should, however, be noted that Burnett's road stats are likely inflated from his poor performances at Fenway Park (if the Yankees and Sox play each other in the LCS and it is possible to arrange it so, I can almost guarantee Burnett will be your game 2 starter...).

The Burnett should start game 2 argument has convinced me.

There are those that argue that Jose Molina should not have two postseason starts, but the likelihood of Molina starting just to soothe Burnett even though his bat is a serious liability--one that makes Francisco Cervelli look like a more reasonable choice--is extremely slim. I know Girardi has made some "buh" decisions, but he doesn't get to the best record in baseball by being bad at his job. Just sayin'.

Monday, September 28, 2009

And now the real work begins

So, are you past your celebratory hangover yet?


Because now is when the real work begins.

Okay, so the Yankees can put out a lineup today of Hinske, Hairston, Peña, Duncan, Cervelli and all other manner of scrub, but even that has a purpose.

Now that the Yankees have more or less done everything in the regular season that they could possibly do, the task becomes doing everything possible to win in the postseason. This includes giving the regulars some time off--not too much so they lose their stroke, but enough that they are suitably rested.

The Yanks' first round opponent will almost certainly be either the Tigers or the Twins, but fans should be a little wary--the Yankees' success against these teams this season doesn't guarantee wins in October. As 2006 and 2007 can attest, regular season success means little. At any rate, despite the 5-1 record against the Tigers and 7-0 record against the Twins, many of those games were close--three against the Twins close enough to be won on walk-off hits--meaning that those games could have easily gone the other way.

The Yankees right now are in the best possible place that a baseball team can be on September 28, but their work is far from done.

Some will argue that it is only just beginning.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bring on October

The Yankees, and their fans, can only hope that today's champagne drenched locker room is only the first of many to come.

As Mariano Rivera soaked Kim Jones in the clubhouse, and Nick Swisher chugged Dom in the middle of his postgame interview, Yankee fans could simply sit back and enjoy the moment.

A season that started with steroids scandal, a starter's complete collapse and a right fielder making an emergency relief pitching appearance has culminated now in a season guaranteed at least 100 wins and a division title.

This group of Yankees has been mentioned, by more than one, as being the first Yankee team in a long time that's fun to watch for fans--a team full of life, personality and good works. It would thus seem all that more fitting that it is the team that reclaimed the eastern division and will now have every advantage it is possible to have in the postseason.

The hardest work is still ahead of the Yankees, but they're ready for it.

2009 has certainly been a season to remember.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Yanks 2-hit Sox and Reduce Magic Number to 1 (postgame notes 26 September 2009)

As per my post on TYU:

Behind an absolute 7-inning, one-hit gem from CC Sabathia, the Yankees reduced their magic number for winning the AL East to one. One more Yankee win or Red Sox loss and the Yankees will be your 2009 AL East champions.

It should be noted here that the forecast tomorrow involves copious amounts of rain, so while we might all dream of the Yankees clinching while playing the Sox, they might not get the opportunity.

The pitching from Sabathia today should be the story, even more than the Yankees inability to hit with runners in scoring position, as this is the type of pitching the Yankees hope for--and even expect--from Sabathia in the postseason.

What's more, is that CC pitched most of the game while still scoreless. The Yankees simply refused to score with any runners on base (until the bottom of the eighth), getting their offense instead from a Robinson Canó lead off home run in the sixth.

The Yankees again ran against Boston, this time running against Victor Martinez instead of Jason Varitek. If defense--including catching--wins championships, then the Red Sox have some issues. The Yankees, with Damon in left, aren't perfect, but even Jorge Posada throws out more runners than the Varitek-Martinez tandem.

After a swing that saw the Yankees drop a series to the Mariners and lose the first of three to the Angels, the Yankees have now won four straight and are a virtual lock for the division.

Right now the Yankees' biggest concern is whether Andy Pettitte or AJ Burnett gets the ball in game two.

That's not a bad problem to have.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Joba pitches well, Melky takes out Lester, Yanks win (postgame notes 25 September 2009)

As per my post on TYU:

While beating the Red Sox always makes for interesting storylines of its own, tonight's game produced two occurrences of note:

1) Joba Chamberlain pitched well. If anything, Chamberlain may have been hampered by the long innings the Yankees had at the plate, but he pitched six innings completely and used only 86 pitches to get there.

2) Melky Cabrera took Jon Lester out with a liner off of the plant leg. Officially, it's a contusion on the quadriceps, but every fan of the Red Sox has got to be concerned--Lester appeared to be in serious pain, and he is easily one of the two best Red Sox pitchers (though he didn't pitch like it tonight.)

The Yankee offense has Alex Rodriguez to thank tonight--his four RBI ended up as the difference in the final 9-5 score.

It should also be mentioned that the Yankees ran roughshod over Boston's defense, stealing bases at will and not even coming close to getting caught.


Much of the broadcast tonight was taken up by Michael Kay and Al Leiter arguing that the current postseason format does not penalize the Wild Card slot enough.

While I don't agree with everything the two brought up, there are two points with which I do agree:

1) a five game series is too short of a series. It benefits the team with a better 1-2 starting rotation; not a better team.

2) Give the top two teams in the league a first round bye. Then, the Wild Card team or teams will have to exert more energy and more strategy in that first round. Think of an NFL-like scenario, though ostensibly without six teams.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Yanks take series in Anaheim. No, hell did not freeze over.

The Yankees won a well-played, tight 3-2 game in Anaheim, but that score alone will hide the larger victories:

  • AJ Burnett pitched well. He struck out eleven and threw too many pitches in doing so (strikeout pitchers will invariably throw a lot of pitches), but had it not been near 100 F in Anaheim, he may have stayed in longer than his just-over 100 pitches.
  • Ian Kennedy (remember him?) pitched a scoreless eighth inning. Sure, he loaded the bases, but the important thing here is that he pitched. After surgery for an aneurysm, Kennedy wasn't expected to pitch at all this season. He came back to pitch in the International League's playoffs (AAA) and now pitched for the Yankees. His last memory of 2009 then won't be the aneurysm, but getting that final out in the eighth in a 3-2 ballgame.
  • For the first time in five years, the Yankees won a series in Anaheim. Don't think it matters? It's a distinct possibility that the Yankees and Anaheim meet in the postseason. At this point it's unlikely that the Yankees would lose home field advantage, but even so the Yankees no longer have the monkey (bad pun intended) on their backs.

The magic number for the division is down to five, and while clinching against Boston is not a guarantee (though that would be awesome), the Yankees should be able to clinch it on their final homestand of the year.

Yankees Make Playoffs, First Time Since 2007

Regardless of what the conclusion of the Yankees--Angels game may bring (and this may be a good thing), the Yankees are guaranteed a postseason spot on the basis of the Texas Rangers losing tonight.

The 2009 Yankees, however, won't be celebrating merely making the playoffs--the goal is the division and then the World Series.

Home field advantage will be crucial if the Yankees and Angels meet in the postseason--at one point in time the Yankees were leading this game 5-0 and now, in the bottom of the eighth inning, the game is tied.

Just another game in Anaheim.

At least this time there will be baseball in New York in October.

[edit]: The Yankees came back to win the game. Brett Gardner scored on an Alex Rodriguez sacrifice fly, Mariano Rivera got the save (with the help of a strike-them-out-throw-them-out double play), and the Yankees got the win.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Joba this, Joba that

Joba Chamberlain is "only" the Yankees fourth starter come playoff time.

He won't start until the ALCS, and the Yankees have to make it there first, before they can worry about winning it.

The problem is, what happens when Game four ends up being a pivotal game? Game four, after all, is much more likely to be a pivotal game where one team has a chance to take a 3-1 series lead than it is a chance for the Yankees to sweep their opponent.

The problem with Chamberlain is that the issue doesn't end with him not pitching well--yesterday's performance in Seattle was especially ugly--but that Chamberlain doesn't even admit he's not pitching well.

Check out the audio from LoHud.

At this point in time, Chamberlain is the Yankees' fourth starter only because no other option has presented itself. Sergio Mitre has been so bad he's been banished the the bullpen, and Chad Gaudin falls apart like clockwork after the fifth inning.

River Ave Blues makes an interesting point that the Yankees have brought up Ian Kennedy, but after barely pitching all year due to his injury, he can't seriously be expected to pitch in the playoffs...right?

Right now, the Yankees just need to win one more game--or have Texas lose one more game--to make the playoffs. The division will be a bit harder to come by and the Yanks are doing a good job of making it interesting, but the Yankees should still get that, too.

Thus, the issues of discussion tend to revolve around what will be done in the playoffs. It's clear at this point that the biggest issue the Yankees have going into the playoffs is their starting pitching, and perhaps nothing looms larger than Chamberlain.

We tend to forget Chamberlain's still a young pitcher in his first full year in the rotation, who was hurt last year and is invariably going to struggle. Because he was so good so fast in 2007, we don't allow ourselves the possibility of him struggling. This is perhaps our fault; however, the refusal to admit he's pitching poorly is no one's fault but his own.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

PBP Live Chat #4: In which Life Happens

Should the Yankees bring Matsui back?

Throughout this season, we've been hearing one mantra: of their aging outfielders, the Yankees should only bring Johnny Damon back, if, in fact, they choose to retain either. Damon can still play in the field and run a bit on the bases, and his swing is perfect for the new Yankee Stadium. Hideki Matsui couldn't even play the field during interleague play when the Yankees had no DH for nine straight games, and periodically needs time off to get his knees drained.

The problem, however, is that when Hideki Matsui has been in the line up, he has mashed.

Despite an abysmally slow start, Matsui has an OPS of nearly 1.000 against LHP, and it should not go without comment here that Matsui is a left-handed batter.

He's not too shabby against right-handed pitching, either.

Last night, Matsui's two run bomb tied the game for the Yankees in the eighth inning. It's nothing new for Godzilla--but rather the type of thing he's done all year for the Yankees: coming up with the big hit at the right time and the right place. Let's not forget that previous west coast swing where Matsui hit two home runs in the same game against the Mariners and then did the same again against the Red Sox.

It's easy to say that the Yankees should let Matsui go, that they need to get younger, but when you look at what Matsui has done for the team this season, one must ask whether or not questions of his demise have been greatly exaggerated.

No one is arguing that the Yankees should offer a five year deal to Matsui, here, but can there be that much harm in a one-year deal?

Yes, it's true Posada will likely need more time at DH and that the Yankees will end up short a fielder in the outfield (unless you count Hairston or Peña who can play both IF and OF), but the benefit of Matsui's bat is tangible.

It's quite a quandry the Yankees will have--though they might find themselves aided by a thin free agent market and the knowledge that those that are available, like Bay and Holliday, won't come cheap.

At this point, I'm all for bringing back Matsui for a year.

He's done his job to convince me.


Reminder: Live chat on the blog at 8 PM! Be there!

The Position in which the Yankees now find themselves

As of 2 AM on 9/17/2009, the Yankees' magic number to clinch a playoff spot--not the division, but just assurance of at least a wild card--is four.

Make no mistake, all eyes are on the division and anything less would be considered a collapse, but the Yankees now have a very real chance to go into Anaheim with a postseason berth already locked up.

Given the Yankees' struggles in Anaheim, this is not insignificant.

The series with the Seattle Mariners won't be easy; unlike last time the Yankees have to face Felix Hernandez, but I don't think it's a stretch to say that the Yankees would like to wrap up an October berth sooner rather than later.


live chat reminder

Given Thursday's off day, I figure it would be a good evening for a live chat. Let's go with an 8 PM start time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Posada Suspended Four, Fined

Jorge Posada has been suspended four games and find $3,000 for last night's brawl.

If he has any sense, he'll start it tonight--Marc Carig and Sweeny Murti are reporting he's got a stiff neck, anyway.

Read more here

Given what Youkilis got in his brawl with Rick Porcello, Posada's getting off fairly lightly here.

On Posada and Basebrawls (postgame notes 15 September 2009)

I admit it.

Brawls, fights, whatever you call them, in the right time and place do not bother me.

Hockey is only second to baseball in terms of my love for the sport, and fights have long been part of the game. I like to see guys drop the gloves, play with a little intensity and bring some color to the game.

Don't blame me, I'm a Devils fan.

While baseball brawls, for the most part, play out like senior proms compared to hockey fights, I generally don't have too much of a problem with them. They can make a boring game a little more entertaining.

Then the fight happens to you or your team, and you realize there are very negative consequences.

The "fiery" Jorge Posada, as he's known, had every right to be peeved when Carlson threw behind him, but it should have ended there.

Be at the center of a baseball brawl, and two things happen: 1) you risk injury, and any injury in mid-September is likely to be season-ending, and 2) suspension.

Let's take these two in turn.

1) Injury.

This is by far the biggest issue. The Yankees are where they are right now because, for the most part, they've managed to stay healthy, or as healthy as you could expect a team with a LF, 3B, SS and other assorted on the wrong side of 30.

Even if it was just Posada that got hurt, it would still be a tremendous blow--I point you verily in the direction of 2008.

At the very least, those other teammates that rushed into to the fray put themselves at risk, too. While I understand that Shelley Duncan is unlikely to make the postseason roster, what the heck is Joba Chamberlain or any of the pitchers thinking when they are in the fray?

It'd be one thing if this was a last place team going nowhere, but the Yankees are legitimate contenders. They cannot, right now, risk anyone getting hurt. There's too much riding on it.

2) Suspension

In hockey, you fight and you get a five minute "major" and, barring extenuating circumstances, it ends there.

Baseball, alas, is not hockey. Fights come with suspensions.

If we look at Kevin Youkilis's six-game suspension for going after Rick Porcello, Jorge Posada might expect similar. The good news is that with September call ups, Jose Molina and Francisco Cervelli can split the catching duties as may be and neither will get too worn down. The bad news, however, is that all of a sudden the Yankees miss Posada's bat. The Yankees still have to go back to Seattle and Anaheim, which makes this an even less pleasing scenario.

There are two camps out there.

There's the camp that think the Yankees need to act with class and never retaliate, and then there's the camp that thinks the Yankees should retaliate, and the team should literally fight on occasion.

Normally I'm in the second camp, but this late in the season, with so much riding on it, Posada's actions hurt the team tonight and for the upcoming week.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bunting is bad

Last night, in the fifth inning of a tie game, Derek Jeter bunted runners on first and second over to second and third.

When you play small ball, it's expected that you can master the art of the bunt.

When you have hitters that struggle to hit for power or are otherwise weak--like pitchers and nine hitters--bunting can make some sense.

When you have a hitter that's headed to Cooperstown on the first ballot--like Derek Jeter--bunting makes almost no sense, at all. Sure, there's a risk that Jeter would hit into a double play, but the price of giving away an out in a close game is too much for a hitter of Jeter's caliber.

Bunting is what you do with your American League pitcher in interleague play or when Brett Gardner is batting and the infield is back looking for a double play.

It's not what you do with Derek Jeter. Or Nick Swisher (you remember that...).

I have very few complaints about the way that Joe Girardi has run the Yankees this year. Best record and all that. Still, if bunting costs the Yankees a postseason win against a team like those Angels (or Red Sox or whomever), it won't be pretty.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Dude. Just call the darned game.

It's September 11, a cold, rainy, windy, icky night.

Derek Jeter has broken the hits record--which is what about 80% of the fans paid way, way over market value to see...then again, you can't place a value on it...yadda yadda...


The Yankees, barring an Angels 1995-like collapse (in which case their problems become many), are going to the postseason.

The Orioles are going golfing in October.

It's nearly midnight, and the two teams have to play again at 1 PM the next day.

They have already played not just five, but six innings. The Yankees lost their lead, but they also had their at bat.

It's a 10-6--not a tied or even a close, even by 09 Yankee standards, game.

Why, on earth, was the game not called?

I know New York is the city that never sleeps and all that, but seriously?

Also worth noting here: via various updates on Twitter tonight, even when the game restarted at 12.40, with about 900 fans still in attendance, ushers were still checking tickets.

Dude, I know you're bored, but really?

I know New York doesn't have a reputation for being the friendliest city in the world, but seriously?

If the few hundred people in attendance can't be allowed to move down to the lower level in an empty stadium, I'm not sure what to say. I'm not talking about moving down to the Legends seats; I'm just talking about moving down from the grandstand.

These things make me a very, very grumpy fan.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Your new record for all-time hits as a Yankee goes to...

Derek Jeter.


Enough said.

[Scroll down for a more comprehensive post on Jeter].

One for the Bulletin Board

Today on SIRIUS XM’s Mad Dog Radio channel, host Gary Williams spoke with actor Matt Damon, who was on to promote his new movie, “The Informant,” and the charitable foundation he supports, “One X One.”

This will be of interest to Yankees fans:

Williams: “Meanwhile, your Red Sox, they’re only about 19 games back of the Yankees. Do they have anything for them in October?”

Damon: “Yeah, of course, man. October comes and everybody is 0-0. All we need to do is back into the wild card and we’re fine. We’re fine. Listen, New York, they’re going to collapse. They’re still, I mean, nobody on that team has won a World Series in... I mean, Jeter has but the rest of them…

Williams: “Posada has, Pettitte has…”

Damon: “Nine years ago these guys won the World Series. They got so smoked by the Red Sox in ’04, I mean, I’m telling you, man. They’ve got the yips. They’re going to fold like a cheap suit. You watch, man. You watch. If we make it into the playoffs, man, we’re taking them down.

Look, I've never met Matt Damon (though I'm sitting here with Dogma on TV), but I'd be thinking here that the team that's, you know, 91-50 and 39-8 since the All Star break doesn't actually need the extra motivation...

Ah, well, I mean.

It's not like the Yankees haven't taken seven of the last eight six of the last seven against the Red Sox including a fifteen inning walk-off and an eighth inning comeback victory.

Or that their only pressing concern is their #4 starter.

Or that the Red Sox are nine games back.

Or that this team is putting up a team OPS+ number similar to that of the 1927 squad.

Or anything.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

PBP #3: We Mash More (With Guest Mike Ashmore)

We don't need red hats on 9/11. We remember.

When talking to a friend last night about Derek Jeter and his record, he mentioned one thought to me: "I hope that Jeter doesn't have to break the hits record in a red cap."

While it's true that Jeter won't have to break the record in a red cap--he'll be wearing a batting helmet--it does bring another issue to light.

It is one thing to wear red caps on Memorial Day or July 4th--days that have equal meaning across the country. While I can't agree with their use on Memorial Day--I have issues with the commercialization of days designed for remembrance--I had no issue with their use on July 4th. July 4th, after all, is a happy holiday, a day of celebration, so why not commercialize the heck out of it?

September 11, though, really gets me riled.

Anyone who argues that September 11 holds the same meaning in say, Oklahoma, as it does in New York City must have not been in New York on that day.

It's no knock against the middle of our country, but 9/11 did claim the majority of its victims from New York.

We don't need red hats to symbolize that day; the date itself is enough for us to remember.

Should I describe to you my thoughts as a fifteen year-old student, watching my classmates, some of the toughest people I'd ever met, reduced to tears because they could not contact their parents who worked in lower Manhattan?

Should I describe to you my thoughts as I sat on the bus home, and how I saw the smoke rising from the New York City skyline?

If Major League Baseball wants to remember September 11, there are decent ways to do it.

Have a member of the FDNY play Taps before the game. Have a moment of silence. You don't need to sell hats that look a little ridiculous when matched with pinstripes.

If you really, really want to stick it to the terrorists, you know what you should do?

Play ball.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Derek Jeter and All That

The first time I heard of Derek Jeter, he was not a star shortstop, but instead a politician.

In 1996, my fifth grade teacher, Ms. S, tried to teach a group of fidgety ten year olds about the presidential election between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole.

To do that, she had the class divide in two, and each group had to dress up a life-size paper doll, come up with a name and come up with a platform for the candidate. Someone in my group decided that ours should be Derek Jeter. I didn't know who Derek Jeter was, and I didn't ask.

When I did start to follow the Yankees closely, I made a conscious decision that Derek Jeter could not be my favorite Yankee. Everyone loved Derek Jeter, and I needed to be different. I chose Mariano Rivera instead.

I don't regret my choice, but I've also come to realize that there's a reason everyone loves Jeter, and it's not entirely about his looks.

It's hard to explain Jeter to the uninitiated--he's not the most prolific home run hitter nor is he the greatest fielder--but there's only one Derek Jeter.

It's not just that Derek Jeter has a knack for doing the right thing at the right time, like that October night in Oakland in 2001, or that he won four World Series rings in his first five years (discounting 1995), or that he's now tied with Lou Gehrig as the Yankees all-time hits leader, but that he's done it all in a simple way: team first. Always, always, team first.

During Spring Training, Jeter was asked if he'd consider batting leadoff instead of batting second, to reduce the chances of him hitting into a double play. Jeter has the pull and the clout that he could have said no, and it would have gone unchallenged, but that's not who Jeter is. Jeter agreed, and now not only is 2009 a great year for him, but it's also been a great year for the guy with whom he switched places--Johnny Damon.

If ever the Yankee ghosts and the baseball gods have blessed someone, they've blessed Derek Jeter, and they've blessed all of us who have had the ability to watch him for these fourteen years.

It strikes me that Jeter should be tying a mark set by Lou Gehrig, because in many ways the two are similar: they play(ed) with grace and with class, role models in every sense of the word.

Gehrig and Jeter will likely have the two most well-known speeches in Yankees' history--Gehrig's already is, and Jeter's, given at the end of last season, will be made more with the passage of time. There aren't any other two Yankees you would want to give such speeches.


My nephew's much too young to understand all this--he's only four months--but when he's old enough, I'll take him to a Yankee game, and if his father hasn't already, I'll tell him to be like Jeter. To put one's team first. To play hard, even if you don't play well. To behave with dignity and class.

That's just the Jeter way.

Food for Thought (Again)

The Yankees have been playing at a .750 clip since the All Star break--the best they've done in Franchise history--yes, even better than 1998.

If a team was to play at that clip over a full season, they would win 121 games.

The Yankees lost just seven games the entire month of August, and have improved every month since June.

It'd be one thing to call a .750 a small sample size, but it's been nearly two months. Small sample size, this is not.

Eventually we'll start talking that all of this matters not if the Yankees can't get that ring, so, right now, while you can, take it for what it is and enjoy it.

Nine times out of ten, you won't see a team play this well for this long.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Yanks have 13th Walk Off of Season (Postgame Notes 08 September 2009)

For a complete recap please check out my post at The Yankee Universe

  • Nick Swisher hit two home runs, Phil Hughes blew a 2-1 lead in the eighth inning, and Chad Gaudin pitched an utter gem for six innings.
  • Derek Jeter was again held hitless, and it’s beginning to look like he’s pressing–not for sake of a record, but because Jeter is now in his longest 0-fer for the season.

  • The Yankees have been playing .750 baseball since the All Star break.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Stopping to smell the roses

Remember how much it rained at the start?

Remember that homestand where the Yankees endured a five-game losing streak? Remember how bleak it seemed?

Remember how neither bases-clearing doubles in the driving rain or 12 strike-out performances couldn't buy a win?

Remember how the starting catcher and his backup went down with injuries literally within days and the Yankees had to turn to a kid hitting .190 for AA Trenton?

I don't know if you do remember this or if you don't, but if you remember anything, I hope you remember the fight.

I hope you remember how the Yankees would keep fighting back, keep making you wait until that final out even if they couldn't quite get over it.

I hope you remember how we said that this team was too good to not eventually break through, to get over the hump, to turn those come back efforts into whipped cream pies.

Did we know then that we could be looking at a special team? Did we have even a slight inkling?

There are, of course, those of us that will say that we are looking at a good team, but that it's not a special team unless those men are all clobbered in a massive dog pile on the field against the cool Halloween air.

If these are the Yankees we are talking about--and they are--then one should expect no less. Twenty six championships in just over 100 years tends to spoil fans.

Even so, had you told someone back on May 5th that the Yankees would wind up on pace to win 104 games on Labor Day, would he or she have believed you?

How can you put it in perspective?

One hundred and four wins, if achieved, is still ten wins shy of 114--but perhaps, instead of saying how 104 wins still could not compare to 1998, we should look at how good 104 wins would be--and how much more impressive 114 is, still firmly entrenched in our memories.

Last year the New York Yankees won 89 games.

Eighty-nine wins is not a horrible win total. In 2008, 89 wins was only good enough for third place in the AL East, but it was good enough to win the AL Central and NL West, and only one game shy of the NL Wild Card.

Eighty-nine wins would have won the AL East in 2000. The Yankees won 87 games that year--and then went on to win the World Series.

Eighty-nine wins is living in playoff contention, not living on the edge of disaster.

Eighty-nine wins, for any team not from New York or Boston is reason enough to hold one's head high.

Eight-nine wins is also what the Yankees have in 2009 with 23 games still to play.

The Yankees probably won't win 23 more games--almost certainly not with another trip to Anaheim remaining--but where they are now, they could win 11 more games, finish with 100 wins even, and do not have to play .500 baseball to accomplish that.

One hundred and four wins hasn't been done by the Yankees--with the exception of 1998--since the 1970s.

One hundred and four wins a year after winning 89 is a fifteen game improvement in one year.

Many thought that the Yankees this year would end up winning somewhere in the mid-90s--not necessarily good enough for the AL East, but good enough for a Wild Card spot.

Some thought the Yankees could not compete with the Red Sox and the Rays.

Nothing is done yet, nothing is clinched, and teams have found ways to stage impossible collapses as recently as 2007.

That said, a nine game lead with 23 left to play is a pretty darned good place to be.

The Yankees have some issues and concerns--and they also have the luxury of being able to try to fix them. They don't have to start their #1 starter on three days' rest for half of a month straight, for example, and they can let Mariano Rivera take a couple days off if his groin is nagging him. Fans can focus on historic milestones, such as what Derek Jeter will likely accomplish this week, and watch other pennant races knowing that their team's fight won't be so much getting to October as it will be staying there.

This time last year we knew two things: the Yankees would need a miracle to meet the postseason, and the old Yankee Stadium had precious few days left.

This year, we don't know how it will end, but it has the distinct possibility of being the best possible opening year of all.

Baseball players can't stop to smell the roses--not until they can pop champagne or until they can pack the golf bag--but the fans--we--can.

Roses, like all plants, bloom most spectacularly after a rain fall.

Yanks Sweep Double-header; Magic # down to 16

For a complete recap, check out my post on The Yankee Universe

  • Perhaps it's a microcosm of how this season has gone for the Yankees, but both Sabathia and Burnett turned in stellar outings
  • In the first game, the Yankees remained deadlocked at 1-1 in a pitchers' duel until the eighth.
  • In the second game, the Yankees scored eight runs in the third inning, and never looked back, notching Burnett his first win since the end of July.
  • Derek Jeter went hitless, the first time in his career in a double-header.
  • Larry Mahnken of Replacement Level fame mentioned to me that the Yankees are now getting above league-average production at every position.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Trenton Attempts To Stave Off Elimination

As last night, I went to the New Britain/Trenton game tonight. Much was on the line: Trenton wins, they live to play on tomorrow. A loss, and they are eliminated from postseason contention.

Tonight was a little different than last night.

For one thing, Ryan Pope pitched pretty darn well.

Pope pitched 7.2 innings, allowing three runs on five hits, though the tying runs, although charged to him, were inherited runners that Valdez allowed to score.

The Trenton offense tonight was far from brilliant--even forgetting that you cannot, in fact, have two men on the same base--but a win is a win, and when you are trying to stave off elimination, any win will do.

Austin Krum AKA the dude from AAH Real Monsters AKA the Bulgarian Seeker...

Sunset shot from the game.

The Thunder won the game, 4-3, in twelve innings. They must win tomorrow and if they do, then again on Monday to make the postseason. It's a long shot, but it's by no means impossible.

Joba's Troubles Concerning

The Yankees, as of September 5th 2009, do not have a lot of concerns.

They have the best record in baseball by a decent margin and have had quite a few win streaks of seven games or more. Losses are rare; the team has lost only two series entirely since the All Star Break.

Life, as a Yankees fan, is pretty darned good.

It is not, however, perfect.

There are concerns, and right now there is probably none looming as large as Joba Chamberlain.

It's true that AJ Burnett hasn't won in a month, but some of those non-decisions and losses have more to do with the Yankees giving him no run support than they do Burnett pitching poorly.

Chamberlain, on the other hand, has not pitched well since before that first Boston game of that four-game sweep we remember so fondly.

Since that game, Chamberlain has pitched to an ERA of 7.96, which, even considering ERA's inaccuracies, is really, really bad. Like, Sergio Mitre in that time has been almost twice as good.


Chamberlain's 20-17 strikeouts to walks is nearly identical, which is not something you'd want even from your number five starter, let alone someone that's going to start games for your team in the playoffs.

Opponents are OPSing .923 against Chamberlain--that's better than Mark Teixeira.

Then there's also the fact that Joba is fast (okay, maybe not so fast) approaching the 150 innings gray area, in which the Yankees will begin to risk his long-term health if he keeps going out there.

In short, Joba has about four weeks to show some massive improvement, or else the Yankees might seriously consider starting Mitre, because if the Yankees are in the ALCS, fans will remember easily that a game four win actually matters. At least Mitre can get the occasional out.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Thunder lose heartbreaker

For various reasons, which you may or may not know, I ended up taking the Amtrak today from New York City to Hartford, with the singular purpose of catching the Trenton Thunder in their series against the New Britain Rock Cats, with dire playoff implications.

For the Thunder to make the playoffs they more or less needed to take three of four from New Britain--but alas, tonight it was not to be.

Jeremy Bleich started for the Thunder. He gave up five hits and walked two before recording an out.

The Thunder's first baserunner. At one point, the Thunder were trying to beat out the Yankees for the-most-likely-to-be-no-hit-tonight bid.

At one point the Thunder were down 7-0, which, given that the Thunder's offense without Montero is the AA equivalent of the San Francisco Giants, is usually an insurmountable thing.

At some point in time, however, the Thunder decided that it'd be fun to mess with everyone and stage a furious comeback. They tied the game with 6 runs in the 7th.

Thunder(ers?) trying to play the hero.

Alas, the comeback could not be completed and in the ninth inning the Rock Cats walked off--a walk, and then a line drive into the corner.

I'm going back tomorrow and may or may not take more pictures. If the Thunder lose another game they will be officially eliminated.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Jeter Would Be First Yankee to 3000 Hits

With Derek Jeter only nine hits away from breaking the Yankees all-time hits record, it struck me the other night that the Yankees have, in their illustrious history, not had a 3000 hit hitter--certainly not one that was a Yankee his entire career.

Yesterday, I was talking to Mike McCann of WFAN, when I brought this up, and we devolved into a long conversation as to why this has happened.

As it turns out, most of the everyday Yankees that we idolize as part of the team's storied history have legitimate reasons as to why they were never able to play long enough to collect 3,000 hits:

  • Lou Gehrig got sick with ALS, a disease that now commonly is referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease.  There is little question that had Gehrig remained healthy he would have broken the record.
  • Joe DiMaggio lost seasons due to World War Two, as did many other of the best players of that era.
  • Mickey Mantle's career was derailed by injuries and some not-so-good off field habits.

These are only three  examples, but they are among the most high-profile Yankees (you could also consider Babe Ruth and Yogi Berra here) to have ever worn the uniform.  If they never reached 3000 hits, that tells you two things:

1) It tells you just how hard it is to achieve this feat--how long one has to play and how long one has to remain healthy.

2) It tells you just how good Derek Jeter really is.  No, seriously.  He might never win that MVP award (Gehrig never won a World Series without either Ruth or DiMaggio; this is baseball, strange things happen), but Jeter is easily one of the ten best Yankees to have ever put on the uniform.

Late inning Yankee heroics are not your imagination.

Since last night's seven run ninth-inning brings the issue up, check this out:

In innings 7-9 the Yankees are batting .297/.383/.517/.900 as a team. It's more drastic if you look at innings seven and nine individually: in the seventh the Yankees are batting .314/.403/.528/.930 as a team.

That's right, in the seventh inning, the Yankees as a team are batting .314 (guys that bat .314 generally contend for the All Star team) and OPSing .930. To compare, Mark Teixeira is OPSing .920 for the year.

The ninth inning numbers are similar: .311/.399/.528/.927.

The difference here, however, is that while the Yankees always play a seventh inning, they don't always play the ninth (if they're winning and at home). So that makes the seventh inning numbers all that more insane.

The Yankees have scored 271 runs in the 7th-9th innings; they have not scored 250 in either the 1st-3rd or 4th-6th.

We knew the Yankee offense was good...really good...but their numbers in the latter innings are kind of insane.

Maybe this is why the Yankees have 12 walk off wins and g-d-knows-how-many come-from-behind wins. It's the mark of a team that keeps fighting.

Boy, is it fun to watch...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Yankees Sweep Baltimore; Rivera out with Tight Groin (Postgame Notes 2 September 2009)

View my complete recap at The Yankee Universe

  • Marc Carig and Pete Abraham are reporting that Mariano Rivera has tightness in his groin and will miss a few days but could be back by the weekend.
  • Sabathia struggled early--five hits in two--but picked it up afterwards and held Baltimore to one run.
  • The Yankee offense exploded for seven runs in the 9th.
  • All Eric Hinske does is come off the bench and hit HRs.

Is it too early to start talking about the postseason rotation?

Ask someone what the Yankees' biggest concerns are at the moment, and he or she might be hard pressed to answer. After all, when your team has the best record in the league and a 6.5 game lead in the division race, it's hard to find areas to complain.

Still, there will be those who say that AJ Burnett and Joba Chamberlain are worrisome, and that certain relievers in the bullpen can utterly not be trusted.

So, the questions will inevitably arise, how will the Yankees construct their postseason rotation?

No, the Yankees have not made the postseason yet, but we are fast approaching a point where if the Yankees do not make the playoffs, even as a wild card team, it would be a collapse of historic proportions. Thus, it does not seem a stretch to address this issue.

Right now, the Yankees' rotation comprises of CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Andy Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain and Sergio Mitre.

In the postseason, barring injury, you need four starters--so we can drop mighty mighty Mitre off the list for right now.

Thus, the question becomes, how do you organize the remaining four, and here the issue isn't so much the game one starter (Sabathia) or the game four starter (if needed) (Chamberlain). The issue is, as it was in 2007, who starts game two.

For most of this season, AJ Burnett has easily been the Yankees' #2 starter, but of late he has a couple of things working against him: he hasn't won in a month, and he's never pitched in a postseason game.

For me, at least, the second issue is more pressing than the first. Yes, Burnett hasn't won in a month, but he has been unlucky in some of those starts--like the fifteen inning game against Beckett, and the game he pitched in Oakland where he surrendered only three runs but the Yankees couldn't muster anything against Brett Tomko. His ERA for this time is over 6.00, but two absolutley horrid starts--in Chicago and Boston--are perhaps inflating it further. Of course, Burnett had a poor outing last night, so that doesn't do him any favors.

Still, the lack of postseason experience is a concern, especially if it follows Sabathia immediately--Sabathia's postseason number in 2007 and 2008 are not very good (though 2008 may perhaps be attributed to his pitching on three days' rest multiple times that September).

Pettitte as the number two starter would give the Yankees someone with a lot of postseason experience, and, since the All Star break, no pitcher has been better for the Yankees. Well, no starter, anyway (I'm looking at you, Mo Rivera). Last season, Pettitte pitched the second half hurt and put up some not very good numbers, but this season, well, on Monday Pettitte came within 7 outs of a perfect game.

A lot, however, can change between September 2nd and October 1st. In that time, Burnett could put it all together and Pettitte could fall apart, and in that case the decision would become even harder.

Still, if constructing your postseason rotation is your biggest concern, you're probably in a pretty good place.


On another note entirely, make sure you check out some great baseball travel posts from WFAN's Mike McCann. He's gone and visited numerous stadia at all levels--worth a gander if you like doing ballpark tours/trips.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bombs and Bullpen back Burnett (postgame notes 1 September (!!) 2009)

For a full recap, please check out my post on The Yankee Universe any time after midnight.


  • Handed leads of 3-1 and then 5-3, Burnett could maintain neither, and while he only walked two, he did surrender eleven hits.
  • The offense was Bronx Bombing at its best: five home runs, from Robinson Canó (who's hitting somewhere around .480 against Baltimore), Jorge Posada (who hit two, including one after he forgot the count and thought he had struck out!), Nick Swisher (whose home/road splits in the words of Girardi are "mind-boggling"), and Eric Hinske.
  • Damaso Marte, David Robertson, Phil Coke and Mariano Rivera combined to hold the Orioles scoreless for 3.2 innings.
  • The Orioles have been mathematically eliminated from AL East contention tonight.

Scranton Outing a Success

On Sunday, readers of Pete Abraham's LoHud Yankees Blog gathered in Scranton for the second annual LoHud blog outing.

The group was seated in the left field bullpen box--a field-level box, with all-you-can-eat ballpark food (the pasta salad was pretty good, actually...), and an open view to the field--so players could come over and say hi.

Francisco Cervelli came by; Shelley Duncan came by--and signed my program (yes, I'm a fair girl). Duncan would later hit the home run in the first game of a double-header, and a grand slam in the second.

We also received a visit from Champ, Scranton's mascot.

During the second game, a couple friends and I wandered to the other side of the ballpark and did a "Roll Call" for the minor league team. John Rodriguez, Shelley Duncan, Kevin Russo, Cody Ransom and Ramiro Peña all (not always eagerly) responded.

Through a raffle and donations, the LoHud group also managed to rage almost $800 for the Codey Miley Memorial Scholarship Fund. Miley, the son of Scranton manager Dave Miley, was killed in a car accident last summer.

Much thanks must go out to Ron H., who organized the outing for the second year running. It takes a lot of planning to put something that large together, and Ron has done a flawless job now for two years running.