Friday, August 31, 2012

Playoff Push: Yankees Getting Ready For Crucial Series vs. Orioles

Yankees and Orioles in for what could be a fight to the finish
The New York Yankees will begin a three game series against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on Friday night. The Orioles currently trail the Yankees by three games as September is only a day away. Buck Showalter is the man behind one of the biggest surprises of the 2012 campaign as the Orioles never faded after a hot start like was expected.

If the Yankees get swept by the Orioles, both teams will be tied atop the division. Things could get even more interesting if the Yankees win and the Rays manage to do the same to creep closer behind the Orioles for second place. The Yankees will take on the Rays next week at Yankee Stadium, so the stage will be set if it will be another battle between first and second place.

New York will send its best pitcher to the mound for the first game, just as if it was a playoff series. Hiroki Kuroda takes the hill and he is a much better pitcher than the last time he faced Baltimore at the end of April. The run support has to be there for Kuroda early, since the Orioles bullpen has managed to pitch to a 3.03 ERA.

Both Orioles starters, Miguel Gonzalez and Wei-Yin Chen, have wins against the Yankees and have put up solid numbers in their last few starts. Combined they are 4-1 with a 3.51 ERA in six starts. The ball should not be given to Luis Ayala from the bullpen, since he is showing that his great second-half with the Yankees in 2011 was not a fluke.

Before the series even begins, Nick Swisher talked to the media about the pressure and the importance of these next few games. Similarly, Showalter addressed the Orioles' upcoming schedule and said the team was going to have fun. Two different approaches to what could end up being an exciting race to the finish.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Next 20 Games Will Say A Lot About The Yankees

David Price's Rays play New York
six times in the next 20 games.
In the sports world, fans, analysts, and reporters think up dozens of ways to determine if teams can win a championship.

Some determinations border on the ridiculous (see the most absurd: the Yankees will win the 2012 World Series because every time the University of Kentucky wins the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship, New York has won the Fall Classic), most are based off generalizations (the Yankees have a great offense, so they will win), and others focus on character traits of a team (resilient, good chemistry, etc).

To be honest, I ignore most of these. They tend to fall into one of the following categories: short-sighted, trite, or oblivious to the other 29 MLB teams. Or all of the above. 

I like to analyze teams by their success in important games. Of course games between two teams jockeying for playoff positions are significant, but games against division opponents are important, too.

Well, if my theory had any creedence, then teams would do well in their divisions the year they won the World Series. And it does. Over the last five years, World Series winners are a combined 53 games over .500 against teams from their own division during the regular season. This year the Yankees are 25-20. Not too shabby, but it could be better. 

The next month will play a large influence on that number; the Yankees play division opponents in their next 20 games.

Don't discount the value of some of these games (against Toronto and Boston) because they still mean a ton. Regardless if a divisional opponent is in the basement or in the heat of a playoff race, it is more prepared because it has played the rival many times that year. Even more than that, teams are always looking to knock their rivals out of the playoffs, and younger guys on basement teams are looking forward to their September call-up. 

New York is in a good place right now. It is currently three and a half games up on the second place Orioles.

If the Yankees fail to play well over the next month against their division foes, they might not only lose their division lead, but it will tell me they are not ready to compete come October.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mark Teixeira Sidelined with Calf Strain

The New York Yankees pulled Mark Teixeira from last night's game after wincing in pain as he rounded the bases and after an MRI revealed a grade one calf strain, he will be out of the lineup for one to two weeks. Fans may remember this injury as very similar to the one that shelved Derek Jeter for about a month in 2011.

On the bright side of this injury, Teixeira will be able to rest his wrist, which caused him to miss a few games earlier in the month. Options to play first base for the time being are Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez, and Steve Pearce. The Yankees are only a few days away from September call-ups, so a disabled list stint may not be necessary.

Not Joshing: LA-Boston Trade Could Be Bad For Yanks' Future

Beckett and Gonzalez are gone, but the Yankees should still be cautiously aware of Boston's next move (Boston Globe)

I never thought I'd say this, but I really hope Josh Beckett has some great years ahead of him.  And Adrian Gonzalez.  And Carl Crawford. 

And every Yankees fan should do the same (unless you hate Beckett, I allow exceptions for that). 

Because good seasons from those three guys might be the only way the Dodgers-Red Sox trade will be considered fair in the annals of baseball history. 

Yesterday, David Fine accurately described this move by Boston as reloading.  While it pains them to do so, the team is dumping veteran players with high salaries and multiple seasons of commitment in the hope of using the money saved to reset the franchise.  So yes, you can rejoice in the fact that the Red Sox have given up this year. 

But you would be bold to rejoice for the next two.  Or three. 

This doesn't have to do with the players that Boston acquired on their end of the deal.  James Loney puts up average offensive numbers, but leaves a lot to be desired from a first baseman.  The bigger pieces of pitching prospects Rubby De La Rosa and Allan Webster, both regarded as strong prospects in the Dodgers system.  De La Rosa, 23 and recovering from Tommy John surgery, could become an asset in the Red Sox rotation as soon as next year.  According the Fangraphs, De La Rosa's average fastball in 2011 (when he pitched 60.2 innings) was 96.3 MPH, ranking in the top 20 in baseball.  His slider and changeup, though, both rate above average.

But again, Boston's side of the deal doesn't have to do with the players.  It's about the money freed up, somewhere around $60 million this offseason and north of $40 million for each of the next 5 years.  That's a lot of dough. 

They'll use some, as David wrote, to keep Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury and Cody Ross.  They have young guns like Will Middlebrooks and Ryan Lavernaway manning third base and catcher, respectively.  Jon Lester, Clay Bucholtz, and John Lackey (plus De La Rosa) will be around next year. 

For any other lingering questions (like left field long-term, shortstop, one other starter and especially bullpen), they have the flexibility to pick and choose who they sign.  They can bid for Josh Hamilton, and hope that his injuries will be minimized when he's parked at the base of the Green Monster.  They can go after Kyle Lohse for a rotation spot.  Plenty of bullpen arms are available. 

Of course, this depends heavily on Red Sox GM Ben Cherington.  He controls that money, he decides (with ownership approval) where it will be invested.  The Red Sox haven't "reloaded" in quite some time.  This will be a test for the organization as it is for Cherington. 

To put it simply, the history-making Dodgers-Red Sox trade hasn't ended until all that money is spent. 

And when it is, and if it is done well, pray that Gonzalez is still hitting .398 with RISP in Los Angeles.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Yanks Claim Steve Pearce

Per Joel Sherman, the Yankees have claimed Steve Pearce off waivers from the Astros and have acquired him for cash considerations. Pearce spent time in Triple A Scranton for the first month or so of the season before going to the Orioles and then Houston. He plays first base and some outfield and is just another lefty masher off the bench, sporting a career .356 wOBA against south paws. The Yanks could bring up Pearce tomorrow and send down David Phelps after tonight's starts and then re-call him on Saturday when rosters expand. Not a bad depth move.

Red Sox Aren't Rebuilding, They're Reloading

Boston gave up perennial all star Adrian Gonzalez, 
but is better off for it (Danny Moloshok/Reuters).
On Saturday, the Red Sox sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto to the Dodgers for first baseman James Loney and a couple of minor leaguers.

To many in Yankees world (check message boards and blogs if you don't believe me), this trade was one to celebrate. It essentially meant the Red Sox are giving up on this season.

That's the crux of the argument. This deal does not mean the Red Sox are, in classic sports terms, "rebuilding". That would entail a process of replacing current veterans with new free agents and home grown talent over the next 3-5 years. Boston isn't doing that.

The Red Sox are among baseball's elite that can woo players because they have enough money. This doesn't mean Josh Hamilton and other expensive free agents are the solution, but Boston will be able to match or outbid teams for free agents at positions of need. If it wants a certain type of player, management will have the money to go out and sign him.

At the same time, this doesn't mean the Sox will completely ignore their farm system. They have a few good impact players in the minors (according to Keith Law at the beginning of this season), and this trade increases the likelihood those players will get a shot.

From 2008 until this Saturday, Boston had become more like the Yankees of the mid 2000's (the Randy Johnson and Carl Pavano days), rather than the "character" model (Millar, Pedro, and Manny) it used to  win two world titles in 2004 and 2007.

In one swift move, the Sox gave up one star (Gonzalez), but also rid themselves of two players that would have severely limited their ability to sign free agents over the next half decade. Now, the Sox are able to start again while still holding on to all stars (Pedroia, Ortiz) that will help them remain talented enough to compete for the postseason next year.

Sounds like a great deal to me.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Happy for Donnie Baseball in Los Angeles

They're goin' goin' back to Cali Cali
The Boston Red Sox have abandoned ship and will most likely not pursue a title run in 2012. They currently sit at 13.5 games out of first place in the American League East. On Saturday morning, a trade was finalized between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Red Sox that will send Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Nick Punto, and Adrian Gonzalez to the West Coast. Boston will receive pitcher Rubby De La Rosa, first baseman James Loney, and three prospects.

The Dodgers immediately make themselves the favorites to make the World Series in the National League. The biggest part of the deal is the upgrade at first base from Loney to Gonzalez on the offensive and defensive sides of the game. Gonzalez is a native of Southern California and will be making his return to California, since his days as a San Diego Padres. He's got quite the reputation in the National League already.

The deal is just pending the approval from the commissioner's office, but everything seems ready since Nick Punto tweeted a photo of them on the plane headed to Los Angeles.

Magic Johnson is doing some interesting things since taking over as manager. Beckett will bolster the back end of the rotation and he's making the switch from the American League to the National League, so positive results could be easier to come by. Crawford's future with the team will be monitored closely as he comes back from surgery. A lot of money involved in taking on these two risky players.

Don Mattingly should be excited as the Dodgers are making moves reminiscent of the New York Yankees from the George Steinbrenner days.

Update: Rubby De La Rosa and Jerry Sands have been pulled from the Dodger's side of the trade.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Minor League Injury Bug Gets to Dellin Betances

It's been that kind of year for Dellin Betances
Just when you thought about how surprising it was for Dellin Betances to stay healthy for a full season after missing time every other year of his minor league career, the prospect was sent to the disabled list with right shoulder soreness. Lee Hyde will take his spot on the roster with the Trenton Thunder.

According to Josh Norris, who broke the news about Betances' injury, he asked the pitcher if there was anything wrong with his arm physically and he said no.

Betances was sent down to Double-A after he was struggling with command and walked 69 batters in 74.2 innings with theTriple-A team. He's worked on his stuff a bit with Trenton and in 56.2 innings pitched, he has 30 walks. There is still room for improvement and this disabled list stint also ensures that the Yankees will most likely not give him a call up with the rosters expand on September 1st.

The mechanic issues have been really big for Betances in 2012 and it has been pointed out by analysts like Keith Law and Kevin Goldstein. The Vice President of Baseball Operations, Mark Newman, said earlier in the year that the plan is still to have Betances start. The injuries and struggles are showing otherwise and he could be destined for a spot in the bullpen.

After Betances comes off the disabled list, he could be throwing around for a bit and they will assess what his condition could be like for the playoffs. The next time in which Betances could grace the mound around Major Leaguers will be Spring Training and he will be 25 years-old. Father Time is catching up to what used to be a young Yankees prospect.

It could be time to abandon the ship of trying to pan out his potential as a starter and make him a short reliever for 2013.

Ivan Nova Sent to Disabled List with Rotator Cuff Inflammation

Ivan Nova was sent to New York on Thursday to see team doctors after he complained about shoulder tightness in his throwing arm from his start on Tuesday night. The pain was felt after he faced his last batter in the sixth inning of the Yankees' loss to the White Sox and now it appears that he is suffering from rotator cuff inflammation and will be sent to the 15-day disabled list.

No surgery or procedure is needed to tend to the injury, but simple medicine and rest will do the trick. Nova will not pick up a baseball for the next five days.

As a result of Nova being sent to the disabled list, no roster move will be needed for CC Sabathia's return to the team. Joba Chamberlain's spot in the majors is safe for the time being. Nova was a candidate as well to lose his rotation spot due to his recent poor pitching performances.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Yankees Swept; Division Lead Down to Three Games

Swisher Says It All
The New York Yankees were swept by the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night, marking the first time in which this has happened on the road for the Yankees at US Cellular Field. The Tampa Bay Rays won earlier in the evening, which cuts the Yankees lead in the American League East to three games. White Sox ace Chris Sale just dominated in the 2-1 victory striking out 13 Yankees through 7 2/3 innings.

Derek Jeter provided all of the offense for the Yankees with a solo homerun off Sales. This was the third shot by Jeter in as many days and it was the first time that he has accomplished the feat in his career on the road. Sale only allowed three hits and the Jeter blast was the only mistake in the line score. 

Alex Rios provided his own solo bomb in the sixth inning off Phil Hughes. The homerun ball has been an issue for the right-hander all season and this time it was costly as he took the loss in the game. Five hits in seven innings is not too bad for Hughes, who has now surrendered three runs or less in 12 of his last 15 starts. 

Good news for the Yankees is that they will have CC Sabathia on the hill for their next game on Friday as the New York will start a three game series against the Cleveland Indians on the road.

Heyman: MLB to Suspend Bartolo Colon After Positive Drug Test

The Oakland Athletics are in the hunt for a playoff spot and the next few weeks will be crucial in order for them to make it there for the first time since 2006. Bartolo Colon has been an intricate part of the rotation for the Athletics, but they will need to toughen the rest of the reason out with out him. According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, Major League Baseball will suspend the burly right-hander after a positive test for testosterone. Colon's statistics for the 2012 season will end at 10-9 with a 3.43 earned run average.

In his 2011 campaign with the Yankees, he finished 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA. This past winter, Brian Cashman decided to go with resigning Freddy Garcia over Colon.

This news all comes shortly after Melky Cabrera was suspended by Major League Baseball for his own positive testosterone test. Colon becomes the 20th Dominican baseball player to be suspended for performance enhancing drugs.

Appreciate What Jeter's Doing --- It May Never Happen Again

Jeter is having a great season, but don't count
on him to do it again (Newsday).
A little more than one year ago, many Yankees fans thought Derek Jeter was done (including myself). I thought he could still hit, but there was absolutely no reason to believe he could hit above .300 for a season again. He had hit .270 in 2010, and could barely get on-base at the beginning of 2011. Then, he started to hit again (after he got his 3000th hit), and finished the year hitting .297.

I again had some belief that he could hit .300, but I didn't see this type of season coming. He has been absolutely incredible.

The magical thing about Jeter's season is that he is getting on-base almost every night. In 122 games this year, he has only gone hitless in 23 games. That's pretty unbelievable for any player. 

Jeter has also started hitting for more power. At one point last year, he could barely get the ball out of the infield on a fly and it was rare for him to get an extra base hit. He only had 34 extra base hits in 2011. This season, he has already surpassed that number (38 before last night), and already has more total bases than he had all of last year. His slugging percentage, which is .442 right now, is at its highest since 2009, and is near his career average of .449.

It's very rare that a player as old as Jeter has this type of season. More than that, it's even less common that player is as well respected and liked as Derek. He is our captain, and that distinction won't last forever. His career could be cut short by injury. Don't fall into the trap of saying, "that will never happen," because Mariano Rivera was supposed to be invincible too. 

When his contract ends in a few years, it's very unlikely he will be coming off the type of season he's putting together right now. What does Yankees management do after that?

For now, I will appreciate what Jeter is doing. If this is his last great year, I will be ok with that. 

As much as we would like for Derek to be Superman, every older player eventually breaks down. He has avoided it for some time now, but Father Time has a way of getting even.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Short Bullpen

John wrote a post a couple of weeks ago about the Yankees lineup and how they take advantage of platoon splits with their lineup. We see this with Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones, Eric Chavez, Casey McGehee, and Jayson Nix. As I commented, I'm okay with a few platoons, but having too many can be rough because it allows opposing managers to match up, which is what has happened with all these injuries. The problem is that this has also happened in the bullpen.
(AP Photo)
If we take a look at the Yanks pen at the moment, they really only have two or so guys that can get both righties and lefties out in high leverage situations: David Robertson and Rafael Soriano. You could maybe through Joba Chamberlain in this group when he's right and maybe Boone Logan, but that's not ideal. This means that Robertson and Soriano are the only ones who should that should face more than a couple of batters.

Cody Eppley, Clay Rapada, and Logan should only face same side hitters, which they are really effective against, with Joba throwing only low-leverage innings until he's right and Derek Lowe taking mop up duties. This really isn't ideal when a pitcher only gives you five innings like last night because you need to piece together innings with a couple of guys. The reason the pen was so successful earlier on in the season was because everyone was being used in the correct spots and pitchers were giving a lot of length.

Two things need to happen to correct this. First of all, they need to get Chamberlain more reps and back to where he was prior to his Tommy John surgery. Having him as that seventh inning guy or just a guy who can get multiple batters out in the later innings would be a huge plus. The other thing is getting CC Sabathia back on Friday so you can slot David Phelps back in the pen and he can work in this role. I know many want to keep him the rotation so he can start, but the team needs him in the bullpen now. He can go back to the rotation next year, but this is where they need him now.

This all being said, the Bombers bullpen is one of the much better corps in the Majors. They are fourth in FIP (3.39) and are top ten in strikeout rate (8.92 per nine innings). It's a very good group of arms and they're slumping right now. I have confidence that this will correct itself, but right now it is definitely something to be worried about.

Heyman: Nick Swisher Expected To Ask For $100MM+ Contract

According to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, Nick Swisher could demand a contract much like Jason Werth's deal, worth $126MM over seven years, when he hits the free agent market this winter. There have not been any talks to sign an extension in the middle of the season, since Cashman reserves those negotiations until the offseason. There is interest from both sides to have the right fielder in pinstripes in 2013.

Swisher sees the Werth deal as a nice base to start to frame negotiations around, but some scouts that talked to Heyman seemed skeptical that he would come close to that amount of money. The price tag on Swisher is looking like three years worth $45MM.

Analysis: I would be surprised is a team goes for more than $50MM on Swisher. If he is going to demand as much money as he says he is, he will be putting himself out of the Yankees reach real quick. With the focus of getting under that payroll limit in 2014 and extending Cano and Granderson, there will not be as much money to spread around for someone like Swisher. Can't help but aim high right now on Swisher's part.

A Quick Confession - I Was Wrong About Kuroda

In my opinion, sports journalism is not the most "liable" business. If you don't believe me, turn on an NFL football pre game show. Every "expert" is asked which team they think will win. It's a 50/50 situation, and analysts are wrong as much as they're correct when teams are virtually even. If the other team wins, who cares? It's just sports. If they guess right often, people listen to their every word, waiting to craft their own prediction (or bet) around that analyst's guess.

I am not the type of person that likes to make predictions. I am more interested in making "educated generalizations" that classify how we, as fans, might view a season. In the case of the Yankees, the most successful franchise in North American professional sports, I tend to see things through a demanding lens because of prior successes. When I watch my New York Jets fail year after year, I see things differently. You get the point.

I would like to point out a mistake I made so you know I am accountable for everything I say on this website. Earlier in the season, I wrote that Kuroda is a 37 year old National League pitcher and that he would not fare well in the power-hitting American League East.

I was wrong. Kuroda has been nothing short of spectacular lately and there is nothing I can say except that I still believe it was realistic for me to think he might struggle.

I am not going to fall into the same trap I made before, however. I am not predicting Kuroda will dominate for the rest of the year. I just hope he can keep it up because, let's face it, he's pretty old.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Game 122: Tex Is Back

(NY Daily News)
When Mark Teixeira sat out this weekend I was initially pretty worried because of Joe Girardi's comments and the fact that he had missed time for the same wrist injury a few weeks earlier. But he took batting practice today and felt fine, so that's good news. Here's the lineup:
  1. Derek Jeter, SS
  2. Nick Swisher, DH
  3. Robinson Cano, 2B
  4. Mark Teixeira, 1B
  5. Curtis Granderson, CF
  6. Eric Chavez, 3B
  7. Raul Ibanez, LF
  8. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
  9. Chris Stewart, C
And it will be Freddy Garcia on the bump. This one will start a little after 8 and can be seen on YES.

Developing: Michael Pineda Caught for Drunk Driving in Florida

Michael Pineda: Bonafide Goon
New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda was busted for DUI early this morning in Tampa, according to the New York York Post. His Nissan SUV was reportedly swerving without headlights on on a busy road. The 23-year old pitcher was described by police having "a fixed gaze and his eyes were bloodshot, watery and glassy." In addition to some of the physical signs of Pineda drinking earlier in the night, he slurred his words and there was a smell of alcohol in the car. 

Pineda was released from jail on a $500 bond just before noon on Monday. 

The Yankees dealt Jesus Montero to the Seattle Mariners in the winter for Pineda. The right-hander was shut down for the season after showing up to Spring Training overweight and then had to undergo shoulder surgery. He has spent most of 2012 working out at the Yankees' Spring Training facility. 

Although he was an All-Star in his rookie season, the Yankees will not allow talent to get in the way of issuing a punishment to the pitcher.

Update: General Manager Brian Cashman's response when asked about Pineda's arrest by the New York Post: "No comment."

Yankees Injury Report: A-Rod, Pettitte, Teixeira

Teixeira should be back in the lineup tonight.
The New York Yankees are hoping to have third baseman Alex Rodriguez and starting pitcher Andy Pettitte rejoin the team in September after missing the last few weeks due to injuries. Rodriguez was hit by a pitch on his hand by Felix Hernandez, which resulted in a broken hand.

The third baseman underwent an MRI last night and everything is looking good as Tuesday will mark the fourth week in which he has been sidelined on the disabled lists. He has been seen around the stadium keeping his arm fresh by throwing around a football and baseball from time to time. There is another trip to the doctor's office scheduled for Thursday when the Yankees have an off-day.

Pettitte just wants to join the Yankees and help the team win as soon as possible. Doctors have told him to slow it down, but the eagerness is shining though. The southpaw will be able to throw off flat ground while the Yankees tour the Midwest. He could be back on the mound when the team returns to the Bronx.

Mark Teixeira will most likely be back in the Yankees lineup tonight as New York opens up a series against the Chicago White Sox on the road. He was suffering from a sore wrist and missed three games as a result.

Roger Clemens to Sign with Sugar Land Skeeters

Former New York Yankee starter Roger Clemens is at it again. Fresh off a trial in which he was found not guilty for perjury, he has continued to loom around the baseball world around and will reportedly sign a contract with the Sugar Land Skeeters of an independent baseball league. His last time on a professional mound was with the Yankees in 2007.  He will be returning to the Houston area, where he was a member of the Astros from 2004 to 2006.

His close friend, Andy Pettitte, came out of retirement to sign with the Yankees in the spring. His velocity was down in his first few trips to the mound. Clemens may never get back to throwing in the mid-90's, but his fastball was clocked at 87 mph in his workout for the Skeeters.

Clemens will be joining the same team that Scott Kazmir signed with earlier in the year.

Update @ 3:30PM: Jim Baumbach of ESPN tweeted that the Skeeters' general manager believes that there will be major league scouts in attendance to see Roger Clemens pitch is first game on Saturday.

Here is a video of Roger Clemens pitching at the University of Texas alumni game back in January

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Japanese Take Over the Bronx in Yankees Series Win Over Red Sox

Hiroki Kuroda pitches yet another great game for the Yankees, while Ichiro goes yard twice and Rafael Soriano comes into the ninth to shut the door and earn the save. The previous sentence would have been considered crazy talk in 2011, but is the case on Sunday night in the Bronx as New York defeats Boston to take the series with a 4-1 victory.

After tossing a two-hitter against the Texas Rangers, Kuroda picked up right where he left off and kept the Red Sox scoreless until the seventh inning when Adrian Gonzalez belted a solo homerun. He now has a WHIP of 1.09 in the month of August and an ERA of 1.66, while striking out 14 in those four starts this month.

Moments after Japan hit a walk-off homerun to down Chinese-Taipei in the Little League World Series, Suzuki added his second homerun of the night and his third as a Yankee. Kuroda's fellow countryman is also having a great month as he raises his batting average in the month of August to .327 with his 3-for-4 night.

It seemed like some more of the veterans had some success at the plate on Sunday night as Derek Jeter piled up three hits for a career total of 3,151. WIth just one more hit, he will tie Nap Lajoie on the All-Time List.

For more fun from the game be sure to check out Twitter and get a laugh at the #Untuck stream and the #FireBobbyV feed. While you're there be sure to give @Chris_J_Chavez and @StirringStraw a follow!

Definitely a fun night of watching baseball from Japan!

Corban Joseph Setting Himself Up Nicely for September Call-Up

The Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees routed the Rochester Red Wings by a score of 10-3 with prospect Corban Joseph going three for six in the effort with three RBI's and a homerun. This is the second consecutive game in which he has gone yard and he has a .305 batting average in his last 36 at-bats. With september approaching, Joseph could be a candidate for a roster spot in the last month of the regular season.

Alex Rodriguez could be back by the time Joseph is called up, but resting the the veteran and some of the regulars in the infield would be preferred before the playoffs. That's where trying out Joseph at third base for a few games could work. Matt Filippi wrote a few months ago that it would not happen, but it could be worth a shot to test him at other positions and maybe something like the outfield for a few innings.

Someone like Eduardo Nunez could get the opportunity to be back in the Yankees infield first, but it wouldn't hurt to see what the prospect is capable of, since he is a part of the next generation of Yankees. There's no telling what the future has in store for Eric Chavez and possibly retiring after 2012 and that's where third base comes up as the option again.

Joseph may not be completely developed into a full-time Major League player, but his skills could definitely be used off the bench. As a second baseman, he will always be in the shadows of that Yankee named Robinson Cano, who puts up MVP-like numbers from season to season.

When John Balletta wrote about platoons recently, the thought of a Joseph and David Adams platoon wouldn't be a bad idea for a team. The Yankees will hold onto Cano, so this rules them out of doing it at second base, but who know what team will like what they see from one of those two prospects and want to make a move. Joseph will use September as a nice base and possibly a tryout for another team to see if they want to possibly give him a Major League spot for 2013.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Game 120: Keep Rolling

(Bangor Daily News)
The Yankees have won eleven of their last sixteen games and are apparently done with their slumping ways. Today they try to keep it going against the Red Sox. With another two wins, they could really bury them. Here's the lineup:
  1. Derek Jeter, DH
  2. Nick Swisher, 1B
  3. Robinson Cano, 2B
  4. Andruw Jones, RF
  5. Casey McGehee, 3B
  6. Curtis Granderson, CF
  7. Russell Martin, C
  8. Jayson Nix, SS
  9. Ichiro Suzuki, LF
And it will be David Phelps on the bump. This one will start a little after 4 and can be seen on FOX.

CC Feels Fine After Pen, Jeter Good Too, Felciano Continues Rehab

Per Jack Curry, CC Sabathia threw a bullpen and it went well and that he'll throw another one on Tuesday. He said his elbow felt great and he still expects to start next Friday. This is great news because even though they said it was a minor ailment with the way things have gone this season, you never know. Plus, you never like to see the ace of the staff go down with an arm issue.

Meanwhile, Derek Jeter is the designated hitter in today's lineup for the second straight day, but he says there's nothing wrong with him. Curry reports that he had a cough and also cited the fact that Jeter had played in 16 straight games as a reason for the rest.

And lastly, Pedro Feliciano continued his rehab with the GCL Yankees firing another scoreless inning, allowing a hit while striking out a batter. This is the third game he's appeared in so you have to wonder if he'll move up the ladder at some point soon.

Heathcott, Adams, and Romine to AzFL

Per Joel Sherman and Josh Norris, outfielder Slade Heathcott, infielder David Adams, and catcher Austin Romine will be all be headed to the Arizona Fall League following the 2012 season. Heathcott missed half the year due to shoulder surgery and Romine missed most of it due to a back injury so they'll be going to get extra reps, while Adams will be going to continue working on third base. Norris also reports that Zach Nuding, Tom Kahnle, Matt Tracy, Branden Pinder, Mark Montgomery, Preston Claiborne, and Dan Burawa are all options to go also. Rosters are released for another couple of weeks.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Intangibles Are Bogus, And It Applies To The Yankees Home Run Situation

Home runs have defined some of the Yankees best postseason moments,
yet some reporters believe the Bombers won't hit many in October (MLB).
I'm sick of reading articles about the Yankees home run hitting. Most of the articles have the same focus: will New York be able to hit home runs in the postseason? Pitching is (assumed to be) better in the playoffs, and if the Bombers cannot do it, they will almost certainly fail.

It is a legitimate question, but nonetheless a point that has been beaten to death. 

What I have not heard, amidst all the noise about past World Series winners success with the long ball, is a referendum on journalists' coverage of home runs. The long ball seems to be judged in a league of its own. I've never heard a writer ask if a team would stop hitting with runners in scoring position in the playoffs. Nor if a club would suddenly (almost magically) lose its ability to hit in later innings. There is no reason why home runs should be put on an elusive pedestal.  Yet they are, because they are no longer grouped among statistics that can only be explained by intangibles

It applies to all sports. There seems to be a tendency to overestimate abilities that supposedly cannot be quantified. Here is an example of that. It applies to Tim Tebow's clutch play last season with the Broncos, and it is pretty funny because of how silly ESPN's "experts'" analysis is. 

If you watched the video, Tom Jackson calls Tebow "magic". Trent Dilfer says "I cannot explain what is going on in Denver. It's magical". Sports coverage at it's finest (sarcasm).

Let's take this intangible theory a bit further, and apply it just to baseball. What if a team hits well with runners in scoring position because it has players with high batting averages? I've never heard this argument.

Just because a team is good at something doesn't mean its players have an "otherworldly" ability to do it, or that locker room chemistry makes players confident enough to accomplish a certain feat. Hollywood's depiction of professional athletes isn't very accurate. It might be in high school or little league, but not with players that dominated at every level before reaching "The Show".

I'm not saying intangibles should apply to home runs, because the entire theory is baloney. It's impossible to say one player is better than another because of an intangible. Yet, sports reporters use them to compare players even though there are no numbers to analyze them.

Here's a fact: the Yankees are very good at hitting home runs because, when healthy, they have seven players capable of hitting 20+ home runs a season in their lineup. Not much magic involved with that.

As for the playoffs, when success is really measured in the Bronx, it's not fair to worry about home run hitting until it's actually a problem. Regardless of what team the Bombers play, a Justin Verlander-like talent won't pitch every game. Every team has pitchers that surrender a good amount of long balls, and many of these players will be in playoff rotations.

There's no telling if the Yankees home run hitting will show up in a short five or seven game series. And it really doesn't matter, because by the time we realize there's a problem, the season might be over. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Game 117: Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head

It's just one of those nights in the Bronx. 
Rain is pouring over Yankee Stadium in the Bronx as the tarp is over the field and there is no scheduled time for first pitch tonight as the New York Yankees look to continue their four-game series against the Texas Rangers. This all happens on the same day where Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games due to testing positive for testosterone. Felix Hernandez of the Mariners provided some light on this dull day with his perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

1. Derek Jeter SS
2. Nick Swisher 1B
3. Curtis Granderson CF
4. Mark Teixeira DH
5. Eric Chavez 3B
6. Raul Ibanez LF
7. Russell Martin C
8. Ichiro Suzuki RF
9. Jayson Nix 2B

Ferddy Garcia will be on the hill as he tries to keep the Yankees' momentum going. He will be hoping that his lineup can score some runs without Robinson Cano in the lineup, who is out due to a stiff neck. No confirmation whether the neck stiffness comes from shaking his head at the Melky Cabrera news. 

Question: How Do You Say Ace In Japanese? Answer: Kuroda

The New York Yankees received a complete game shutout from Hiroki Kuroda as he faced one of the most potent lineups in the American League against the Texas Rangers. Among the American League pitchers, he now ranks 8th in ERA, 8th in WHIP, and 3rd in WAR. CC Sabathia is out for a few more starts, but in his absence and even when he was around with the team it appeared that Kuroda was pitching like the ace of the staff in 2012.

Kuroda could rack up some votes at the end of the season to possibly even finish somewhere in the fifth to tenth spot of Cy Young award voting. His ERA has dipped to 3.06 and has pitched to a 2.62 ERA since the month of June.  The impressive thing is how he's been able to accumulate wins with such little run support. This was also the case when he was in Los Angeles.

The Rangers have only been shut-out twice this season and Kuroda is one of them. Here is some interesting details from Yahoo Sports that go along with Kuroda's 2012 campaign and how it relates to Yankees in history:

"Tuesday night marked the sixth time this year that Kuroda has thrown at least seven scoreless innings (most in MLB) ... the right-hander's fourth career complete-game (all shutouts), and first shutout since his rain-shortened, seven-inning effort vs. the Toronto Blue Jays on July 18 ... first nine-inning shutout of two hits or fewer by a Yankee since Chien-Ming Wang's game against the Tampa Bay Rays on July 28, 2006 ... first time a Yankee has thrown a complete-game shutout vs. the Rangers since David Wells did so on Aug. 21, 1998, in Texas ... first time a Yankees starter has thrown two complete-game shutouts in a single season since Mike Mussina in 2005 (May 7 vs. Oakland Athletics; June 14 vs. Pittsburgh Pirates) ... and the Yankees' first shutout of Texas since Aug. 7, 2008, at the old Yankee Stadium."

One thing is certain is that he is making Brian Cashman look brilliant for piecing together this move in the winter instead of going for a much bigger name or veteran like Roy Oswalt. He could be a free agent after this season, but chances are that he will most likely re-sign with the Yankees. He's been the most consistent member of the rotation and his body has definitely held up to it's reputation of being one of a workhorse.

Kuroda is at 159 innings pitched in 2012 and he was up at 202 innings at the end of the 2011 season with the Dodgers. He's been very settled in the position that he has been in and could be around the same number of innings pitched with about a month to go in the season.

Once the Yankees attain a playoff berth, the question could arise whether Kuroda can be given the ball for the first game of the division series. Sabathia has been the ace in his career with the team, but with his shoulder issue and Kuroda's good year it wouldn't hurt. He's got his pitched tuned perfectly and his velocity to us.

The Japanese veteran is still under the radar, but in the final weeks of the season he could standout with a few more great starts and cement his campaign for some Cy Young award votes.

Melk Gone Sour: Former Yankees Outfielder Melky Cabrera Suspended 50 Games for Positive Test

San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera was putting together an amazing 2012 season, which would have him in line to make millions of dollars this winter as he tests free agent waters. Today the news broke that the former Yankee outfielder tested positive for testosterone and will be suspended for 50 games. ESPN's Jose Arangure was among the first to report of the positive test although there was buzz about it in the last few days among San Francisco writers.

His .346 batting average and eleven homeruns this season come into question now, even after winning All-Star Game MVP honors. In a statement from the San Francisco Chronicle, Cabrera admitted that he used a substance that is not permitted in Major League Baseball and accepts his punishment from the Joint Drug Program. The suspension means that he will not be eligible for the batting title since he will fall one plate appearances short for the requirement.

The estimate as to how much this may have cost him for the offseason is already being thought of being worth around $50-million. The divisional race is still up in the air for the National League West as the Dodgers and Giants battle it out in the coming weeks. Cabrera's suspension is definitely a blow to the Giants' lineup.

Update: Cabrera will be eligible to play in the postseason once his suspension is over. Looking at the calendar he would have to miss the first four games of the division series. (Via CSN Bay Area)

Derek Jeter's Amazing Season

After they struggled the first couple of months, the Yankees offense has certainly come on strong since the end of May. They are now fourth in the MLB in batting average, first in wOBA (by seven points), first in wRC+, first in homers, and second in runs scored. This is mostly due to the big bats of Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, and Mark Teixeira, among others, but there is one name being over-looked that usually has the headlines, and that is Derek Jeter.

We all know the story by now; Jeter looked like he was in a deep decline through 2010 and the first half 2011 until he suffered a calf strain and landed on the disabled list. This gave him time to work on things with old hitting coach Gary Denbo. When he came back, he was a different player and hit close to .340 for the rest of the season.

It is now August 15, 2012 and the captain owns a .320/.361/.424 batting line on the year, which for a 38 year old shortstop is pretty outrageous. Sure a lot of his range is gone as a defensive player, but he still holds his own at the position and he's putting up very solid numbers. He hit .400 in April before dropping to .293 in May, which is where I predicted he would sit at the end of the year. But it looked like he was going back to his old ways posting a .232 clip and hitting what seemed like a ton of grounders.

But when the calendar flipped to July something changed back. Since July 1, he's hit .358/.380/.461, something that had I had no idea about until I looked at the numbers. I knew he was hitting the ball real well recently, but I didn't realize it had been for a month and a half. Jeet now has the most hits in the American League (156) and ranks fourth among Major League shortstops in wOBA and wRC+. So considering what other teams are getting from the position, Jeter has become more valuable than you could have thought just 15 months ago.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Kuroda Brilliant As He Two-Hits The Rangers

For a National League pitcher Hiroki Kuroda sure has been pitching well in the American League in his first year with the New York Yankees. Kuroda flirted with a no-hitter back in June against the New York Mets and he did so again on Tuesday night in the Yankees' 3-0 victory over the Texas Rangers.

The no-hitter was taken all the way to the seventh inning before Elvis Andrus got on base with an infield single. A victory was yet to be secured even though Kuroda was pitching so well due to the run support.

On Monday night, Nick Swisher hit a grand slam to lift the Yankees over the Rangers and his bat would carry them again with a two run shot in the eighth inning that was followed by a homerun by Mark Teixeira to take the lead and seal the victory.

The Japanese right-hander went the distance and got the mighty Rangers' lineup to groundout 15 times and struck out five. With the victory, the Yankees now have the best record in baseball. Kuroda's dominance at Yankee Stadium continues and his ERA in his last ten starts is down to 2.49 with 59 strikeouts.

Game 116: Keep It Going

The Yankees have won four out of five, including a big rout of the Rangers last night. Tonight, they try to keep it going. Here's the lineup:
  1. Derek Jeter, SS
  2. Nick Swisher, RF
  3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
  4. Robinson Cano, 2B
  5. Andruw Jones, LF
  6. Curtis Granderson, CF
  7. Casey McGehee, 3B
  8. Russell Martin, C
  9. Jayson Nix, SS
And it will be Hiroki Kuroda on the bump. This one will start a little after 7 and can be seen on MY 9 and MLB Network.

Austin Romine And The Future

(NY Times)
The Yankees farm system is having a real tough year as far as injuries go. Pitchers Manny Banuelos and Jose Campos have both suffered elbow injuries while Mason Williams, who was having another terrific season, needed season-ending shoulder surgery and will hopefully be back for the start of Spring Training in 2013. Sure Tyler Austin has broken out and Slade Heathcott has performed well since getting back on the field, but it's still been rough.

Another guy who's injury really hurt the Yanks on a number of different levels was Austin Romine. Romine, 23, suffered some type of back injury in Spring Training that was brushed off as a non-issue. Yet he kept having setbacks. It is now August 14, and he has only played in 18 games all year. It should be noted that 14 of these games were of the rehab variety while the latter four were played for his actual team, Triple-A Scranton.

One of the reasons why this hurt so bad was because Romine essentially missed a year in his development as a prospect. He spent most of 2011 in Double A Trenton before getting a late season bump to Scranton and eventually a call to The Show as a September call up. Even with this, I and many others believed that he would be best served with another year at Triple A to serve as depth and to continue working on things while maybe becoming the future back stop since Russell Martin was only signed to one year.

The reason it really blows is because he could have provided a spark at some point this season. Yankee catchers have posted a .301 wOBA and a 84 wRC+ which is pretty awful. It's no shock to the fan base to hear this though, since Martin is hitting below .200 and and Chris Stewart is nothing close to special. We know that I wanted the Yanks to get George Kottaras or maybe another catcher at the trade deadline to inject some energy and offense into the lineup. Romine could have done this. Not to say that Romine was definitely the answer, but he is good defensively and has a better chance of sticking long term than Stewart does, so why not give him a shot.

Romine will finish off the season in Triple and will get a September call up again, but it's uncertain what lies further ahead. He'll probably be sent to the Arizona Fall League to make up some reps and I'm thinking that depending on how he performs he could be the back up next season (assuming Martin is brought back on a one year deal) and possibly could work his way into the starters role. But for now, he just needs to focus on staying on the field and getting reps in.

Derek Lowe Makes People Eat Their Words In Yankees Debut

Raise your hand if you predicted Lowe getting a save in his Yankee debut? *crickets*
When the announcement was made that Derek Lowe was going to be a New York Yankee, there were a lot of groans from fans that just took a look at his ERA and his basic stats from his year with the Cleveland Indians. It appeared that the pitcher that once contributed to the Red Sox's 2004 World Series run was done. That was until he took the hill in the Yankees' 8-2 victory over the Texas Rangers on Monday night at Yankee Stadium.

Lowe looked to change up a little bit of his mechanics in his delivery and he did so as he admitted to hiding the ball better in last night's game. His final line was one that most people did not expect as he pitched four scoreless innings and picked up the save. The right-handed veteran struck out four batters in his four innings of work. While with the Cleveland Indians, he did not even pitch four consecutive scoreless innings.

The opening game of the series against the Rangers put the talent that Brian Cashman trusted at the trade deadline on display. David Phelps did his part by outpitching Ryan Dempster, who took the hill for the Rangers and Cashman considered trading for on July 31st. It is only a very small sample size with one game, but things looked good. These two teams have the potential to meet again in the playoffs and some of the moves that Cashman was criticized for are paying off.

Speed Kills. Will Yanks' Lack Of It Kill Them?

Ian Kinsler and the Rangers use more than just power to score runs (WSJ)

Ken Singleton made one of those offhand comments in the first couple of innings of last night's 8-2 win that got you thinking. 

The screen had just displayed a figure on run differential.  The Yankees and Rangers are the top two teams in that category in the American League (and after last night the Yankees now lead baseball with +103).  Ian Kinsler was on first base and David Phelps threw over to check him back to the bag.  Kenny said something to this sort:

"Both these teams have great power and great offenses, but the Texas Rangers with Kinsler and Andrus really have some speed at the top of that lineup.  It's just another way for them to score."

The Yankees have a lot of offensive weapons.  Speed is not really one of them.  As a team, the Bronx Bombers have 60 stolen bases.  The Rangers, for comparison, have 82.  Alex Rodriguez leads the team with 11 - and is on the DL.  Curtis Granderson has 8 and Derek Jeter has 7.  The other two members of the top five, Dewayne Wise and Eduardo Nunez, have either been released or sent down.  Last year's team leader in steals, Brett Gardner, is done for the season. 

But this isn't some gaping hole in the Yankees' offense.  They are third in runs scored, and that run differential certainly points to strengths on both sides of the baseball.  The acquisition of Ichiro will also meliorate the loss of Gardner, both in the field and on the basepaths.  Besides, the way they hit home runs, stolen bases and first-to-thirds are luxuries more than necessities. 

But October baseball is a little different.  If the Yankees can pound pitchers with the same ability as Ryan Dempster for the rest of the season, then they can continue to employ the same strategies.  But will Joe Girardi consider recalling Nunez, who stole those 6 bases in a mere 20 games, as a speciality pinch-runner?  Would that put Jayson Nix out of a roster spot in the playoffs, or has his defense (or Nunez's defensive deficiency) made Nix too valuable for resting Jeter and Cano? 

Don't be surprised if Nunez gets some nice long looks come September. 

#SSMailbag Monday: Week of 8/13

Hello Yankee fans, welcome to another edition of #SSMailbag Monday.  David here to answer your weekly #SSMailbag questions.  You can find me on twitter with the username @Yankeesource and if you have a question just add the hashtag. #SSMailbag and I’ll answer them on the next edition of #SSMailbag Monday.

@DGabeking tweets: How come you say one start? He's pitched fairly well in most of the starts he's made this year? Shouldn't he get a chance? #Phelps

A: I said one start because as good as Phelps as pitched, he still needs to work more efficiently and prove that he can he start with more exposure. It's easy to jump the gun and say he will be this good forever but with more advanced scouting reports the difficulty level will increase.  I've always been high on Phelps, even when he was pushing his way up the system.  I didn't expect much length from Phelps tonight but he gave the Yankees a much needed victory with the Rays beating up on the worst of the American League at the moment.

@Yeahuda tweets: What's the idea of signing him with such a High ERA ?? #Lowe

A: Derek Lowe's ERA tells half the story.  He's second in the MLB in ground ball percentage and he's fixed some flaws in his mechanics so he was definitely worth a shot.  The Yankees needed a long man with Garcia and Phelps in the rotation.  Lowe has experience, is known to pitch under pressure, and can save the other arms in the back of the Yankees pen.  A low risk, high reward signing that could pay off for the Yankees.  Don't expect miracles from a long-man. He'll give up some runs but if he can be more good than bad, the Yankees have a winning situation.

@louiebrazil tweets: Thoughts on Ryota Igarashi?

A: He's not an MLB pitcher at the moment.  Igarashi has been hit in every appearance with the Yankees and he isn't fooling anyone with a mediocre fastball and shaky command.  I don't think you will see him again this year after his latest option back to AAA.  Chad Qualls v 2.0.

@RichardFrench tweets: Why isn't Chris Stewart and his .260ish BA not starting more games? Is Martin's defense THAT good?

A: Russell Martin isn't THAT good defensively and Stewart is arguably better on defense than Martin.  I don't know what to think of Stewart's hitting. He has a sound approach and his bat control looks decent enough for him to be a starter on some MLB team.  The Yankees need to find out what they have with Martin with his impending free agency just month's away. Martin has hurt his stock this year and it's unlikely he will get anything close to what the Yankees were willing to give him last offseason.  My personal opinion on Martin is that he is what he is offensively but still a decent backstop.  If it was up to me I would look to retain him on an incentive laden deal.

@DrunkBrianCashman tweets: At this point in his career, what type of player is Matsui in NPB?

A:  I don't think Matsui will be a bust if he returns to the NPB. He would still be an above average bat at the NPB level. Judging from the interest and from what I've heard from scouts over the past few weeks, teams want him more to fill up their stadiums.  The Hiroshima Carp have the most interest, but don't count out the Yomiuri Giants either.  The man is a legend in Japan, and fans will flock to see him back home.  They don't run from Godzilla.

Thank you for all your questions and don’t forget to tweet your questions with the hashtag #SSMailbag to my account @Yankeesource for the next segment of #SSMailbag Monday.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Lay Off Nova - He Could Be Worse

Ivan has not lived up to his "Super Nova" nickname this year.
Ivan Nova is not having a great season. He has a 4.70 ERA and has allowed 23 home runs already. He has 11 wins, but much of that is due to great run support (more on that later).

These stats are a little above average. Nova's 1.0 "wins above replacement" (WAR) score agrees with my conclusion.

Yet, in Yankee World, that is not the essential interpretation. More often than "how good is this pitcher?" is the other question: could we have someone better? The answer to the latter, in most cases, is "of course".

It bothers me that Nova is subject to this judgment.

I understand he is playing in New York, and is held to the highest standard of any MLB organization and fan base, but it's unfair to think a 25 year old pitcher with Nova's ability will never struggle.

His ERA is a full run higher this season (3.70 in 2011), but he only pitched 165 innings last season. So, he was fresher during his starts.

This year, he will have a few more starts and pitch more innings per start. Any young pitcher not named Strasburg might have some difficulties. Nova is also throwing more pitches per start this year.

I mentioned run support earlier, but I feel it is necessary to talk about it again. Last season, the Yankees offense scored an average of 6.5 runs for every "complete game" (every 27 outs, whether he get 27 outs in one start, two starts, etc) Nova pitched. Imagine how much confidence he had knowing his offense was scoring for him. It would calm any pitcher down.

This season, Nova has still received a ton of run support (5.3 runs/27 outs), but it still means he has been under more pressure.

It's important to remember Nova is only in his second full season. He has a lot of room to improve, and most Yankees fans agree he will. The crux is Nova will eventually have to put up good numbers.

And he better start soon. I won't be so kind if he plays this way next year.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Delving Into the Derek Lowe Signing

Lowe a familiar face from the 2004 Red Sox.
On Saturday afternoon, the New York Yankees announced the signing of right-handed pitcher Derek Lowe, after he was released by the Cleveland Indians on Friday. The plan for him is to use him as a reliever with having David Phelps move into the starting rotation. This all comes after the Yankees' front office decided to be cautious with CC Sabathia's elbow soreness and put him on the disabled list.

One of the biggest strengths for Lowe is his ability to get ground-balls. He's still ranked second in the Major Leagues in ground-ball percentage. 2012 has been a very injury prone year for him, so chances are that Phelps will remain in the rotation with Lowe being the long reliever. Phelps could have a limited pitch count in his first few starts since he is being stretched out on short notice.

Lowe adds depth to the bullpen, but he will most likely not be relied on in high pressure situations. He did have a nice start to 2012 going 6-1 with a 2.06 ERA in the first eight starts. He will not be starting for the Yankees, so he should have a similar role to Freddy Garcia's from the middle of the season where he was struggling and would mop up innings.

Adam Warren is not ready for the Major Leagues, so as much as the front office wanted to give him a call-up Phelps was the man to take Sabathia's spot in the rotation.

Lowe will be joining the team on Monday. Ryota Igarashi will be joining the team in Toronto for his third call-up in 2012 and he is expected to be sent down once Lowe joins the team. Igarashi will be present just in case Phil Hughes needs some assistance from the bullpen in Sunday's series finale against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Chavez Runs Yankee Stadium: Damon Runyon 5K

The warning track on the Runyon 5K course. 
The New York Yankees may be playing in Canada, but some great work was being done at Yankee Stadium on Sunday morning by thousands of runners and walkers participating in the Damon Runyon 5K for Cancer Research. I was proud to participate and laced up in the second heat of the runner's section.

After some opening remarks by fellow Xavier High School alum and "Today In New York" host Michael Gargiulo, Ron Bloomberg and Mickey Rivers welcomed all participants to Yankee Stadium. After about ten minutes of stretching and waiting around, it was go time!

I went out right in the front of the pack and maintained that pace staying in the top four throughout the first two laps around the first level of Yankee Stadium. A few sharp turns later, I was on the warning track on the field level. While some runners gazed and savored in the moment, I was locked in and was still in race mode. Staying up with the top three of my heat, I wandered closer the outfield walls just to get an idea of how talented Major Leaguers are to make catches over the obstacle that they really are. Truly impressive.

After two laps on the warning track, the stairs become the equalizer in the race. The pack of three in the front became a squad of seven to ten. It took a total of 103 stairs to get to the next part of the course. Dear lord! Not only does this race call for some time on the treadmill, but you should invest a couple minutes on the stair-master if you have thoughts of winning it all.

64 more stairs followed onto the third level. Not as bad, but still slows down the pace of the running. What does help is the ramps from the third concourse back through the Grand Hall. From there it's one more trip up 111 stairs.

In preparation for my half-marathon in September, I thought it would be a good idea to grab a cup of water to try and drink while running. Almost choked on my first attempt and settled for just pouring the entire cup on my head. I could still use some work in that aspect of distance racing.

On my final run through the ramps, I was making sharp turns and getting a final kick in. I made my move and although the official results have not been released, I am pretty confident that I finished top ten and possibly top five in my heat of 200 people.

I received my medal and chugged the free ice cold bottle of water at the end of the race. A great day of running, having fun, and contributing to an excellent cause. I'll definitely be back next year with hopes of placing in the first heat. Beat cancer!

Chris Chavez is the Editor-In-Chief of the Stirring Straw and an avid running fan. Feel free to give him a follow on Twitter for his take on Yankees news and some updates on his running exploits. Twitter handle: @Chris_J_Chavez

Friday, August 10, 2012

Russell Branyan Released By Yankees

The New York Yankees announced that they have decided to cut ties with first baseman Russell Branyan. This was a move that was also made earlier in the year when the Yankees adjusted his contract to meet the new collective bargaining agreement. He spent the majority of the year with the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees, he hit .309/.483/.655 in 33 games.

Series Preview: Oh Canada! Yankees Visit the Rogers Centre for Three

After getting fired up in their last game, Girardi turns to Toronto for three games.
The New York Yankees have been plagued by injuries in the 2012 season, but it has not been as severe as the Toronto Blue Jays, who have lost the majority of their starting pitchers for the season. Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie join their teammates on the disabled list, so the lineup is depleted. The trade deadline was very active for them, but it doesn't look like they will be doing much the rest of 2012 and look to set a foundation for their players' futures.

New York has momentum on its side as they come off two straight wins in Detroit before sending Freddy Garcia to the mound for the first game of the series. His last outing was on Sunday and he earned the win after pitching five innings and only allowing two runs for his 150th career victory. Garcia is 7-8 in his career against Toronto.

Edwin Encarnacion has fared well against the Yankees in 2012 and will have to step it up big. The outfielder is 7-for-19 in 2012. He has been slumping of late, but that has been the problem with most of the tea, as they only put together 12 hits in their series against the Rays. The Yankees had 18 in a single game against the Tigers.

Eric Chavez is on the flip-side of that, he has not hit well against the blue Jays on the year, but comes into Toronto hot. Earlier today, Phil D'Abbraccio showed some love for the third-basemen stepping up in Alex Rodriguez's absence. Chavez's has not seen much of Ricky Romero, Aaron Laffey, or J.A. Happ in his career, but in 38 games at the Rogers Centre he's splitting .277/.361/.387. He should be kept an eye on in this series after becoming very vocal of his role on the team.

The other two Yankee starters in Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes are trying to rebound after losses in their last starts respectively. Nova is winless in his last five starts and was shelled for seven runs, he's 2-1 against the Blue Jays in four starts. In 76 innings pitched against the Blue Jays, they have the upper hand on Hughes with three wins against him and a 4.38 ERA.

It must be killing Red Sox fans knowing that they have to be rooting for the Yankees this weekend in order to avoid being in last place of the American League East.

On The Yankees Lineup Construction

With the injury to Alex Rodriguez, Joe Girardi has been forced to mix up his lineup a little bit. Without A-Rod, he has a more lefty heavy group without a real righty power threat to balance it out. That's why we've seen a bunch of different lineup since then, including Ichiro leading off, Curtis Granderson leading off, and now Derek Jeter leading off.

The reason I bring this up is because when Granderson was put atop the order, all hell broke loose on Twitter. In my timeline included rants and questions to beat writers asking why Grandy was leading off and how awful this was for the team. I even heard someone call into ESPN radio to say that Girardi put him there to spite Yankee fans. Honestly, having Curtis lead off wasn't such an awful idea.

All the arguments were the same; he strikes out too much, he's a power hitter, etc. But the thing is he walks a ton (12%) and gets on base at a good clip (.337 which is deflated because of a recent slump). It actually makes some sense because you want to have your better hitters get more AB's which is what this did. He didn't hit well at the top of the order not because he can't, but because he was in a slump. In his previous twenty or so at-bats before the change, he wasn't hitting either. Maybe he's not an ideal lead off guy, but it's not something everyone should get worked up over like they have.

Now, I'm okay with Granderson moving down in the lineup, but one thing that I cannot get on board with that many people have been pleading for is Ichiro leading off. I have no idea what the appeal is. Maybe it's because he used to lead off for the Mariners, but he's just not that type of player anymore. Over the past two seasons, which is 1209 plate appearances, he has hit .267/.301/.343 with only 57 walks. He doesn't get on base that much which makes his speed pretty much useless. Tell me again though, why should he be leading off.

I'm a fan of this new lineup that the skipper has been deploying with Jeter leading off, Nick Swisher batting second, and Grandy hitting fifth or sixth. This being siad, lineup construction means very little in the grand scheme of things. Over the course of a season, it's only going to cary output by about ten runs or so. So unless we see a lineup with Robinson Cano or Mark Teixeira hitting eighth, it's really not that big of a deal.

A-Rod Who?

It is not easy to replace Alex Rodriguez. But Eric Chavez is faring pretty well at filling in for the irreplaceable.

In the eighth inning of yesterday’s win in Detroit, Chavez followed Mark Teixeira’s solo blast with one of his own to put the Yankees ahead for the final score of 4-3.

Batting fifth for the third straight game, he recorded two hits in the victory for his fifth multi-hit game of the month. Just eight games into the month of August, Chavez is hitting .458 with three home runs and has scored seven runs. His average for the season has jumped up 26 points since Aug. 1.

In Wednesday’s much-needed 12-8 win against the Tigers, Chavez got the Yankees on the board with a first inning RBI single. He reached base twice more and drove in another run late in the game. Chavez hit a two-run homer in Tuesday’s 6-5 loss and went 3-for-4 with two doubles in Monday’s 7-2 loss. In the four-game set with the Tigers, Chavez hit an absurd .563 (9-for-16).

Defensively, the third baseman still has the skills that won him 6 consecutive Gold Gloves as an Oakland Athletic from 2001-2006.

What has been very surprising about Chavez’s success is the fact that he has stayed healthy since A-Rod’s went on the DL and his level of play has elevated with his playing time.

Personally, I expected the newly-acquired Casey McGehee to get much more playing time than six at-bats through the team’s first eight games with him on the roster.

But McGehee, an everyday third baseman for the last two seasons, has taken a backseat because of Chavez’s torrid bat and the fact that the Yanks have faced six right-handed starters in eight games since the Trade Deadline. Utilityman Jayson Nix has also seen a decrease in playing time since Chavez went on his tear.

Manager Joe Girardi will have to find a balance between having Chavez’s bat in the lineup and keeping the injury-prone 34-year-old rested enough to stay healthy. 


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