Category Archives: Game Analysis

The workloads of Coke and Hughes

Two very questionable decisions by Girardi the past few games:

1) Bunting Nick Swisher in the bottom of the 9th in Monday night’s game.  I am not going to go into this one too much, because it’s something I’ve ranted about extensively in the past.  The Yankees are not a bunting team.  You can’t give away outs.  Etc, etc.  This is the most obvious example though of it costing them a game.  The Yankees have a great team this year; I worry about stupid decisions like these derailing them in big spots.

2) Letting Phil Coke face a right-handed batter in yesterday’s game.  I’m not sure you use Coke at all in that spot anyways, but at best in a close game he should only face lefties.  Remember what happened when he was allowed to face Victor Martinez?  Everyone saw that coming.  The move there is to either let AJ face another batter or two or you go to Phil Hughes.  Remember him?  He’s probably the 5th or 6th best pitcher on the team, yet he rots in the bullpen when the Yankees need him to pitch innings this year.

In a 3-2 game with 3 innings left to play at home, Girardi needs to treat that game like a tie or a lead, unless his bullpen is depleted.  Because let’s face it: the odds of the Yankees pushing one run across is pretty good.  Yes, I understand they didn’t, but if the game was 3-2 the whole time, their approach may have been different.

Really, this leads to the question, are the Yankees purposely trying to save Hughes and Rivera for the playoffs, figuring they could potentially turn games into a 6-inning affair (or less if both pitchers pitch 2 innings)?

This isn’t a terrible idea of course, but right now Girardi is abusing Phil Coke and we’re seeing the effects of it.  Coke is the only reliever who seems to pitch in any game situation and it’s catching up with him.  He leads the Yankees in appearances by a large margin, which would be fine if he was simply a lefty-specialist; but he’s not being used as one, and Girardi needs to figure out a more suitable role for him.

Right now, I think they just need to give Coke some rest and perhaps rely on Marte some more – they need to see what Marte has to offer at this point anyways.

And the momentum shifts back

I’ve been telling anyone who would listen (which probably isn’t that many people, but still) that you can’t make too much of the Yankees-Red Sox head-to-head matchups.  Sure, the Sox won 8 in a row early in the season, but baseball is a game of momentum.  So it’s silly to say things like “the Red Sox own the Yankees” or, if you’re John Henry, “maybe it’s the MT curse.”

The Yankees and Red Sox are pretty much always amongst the top teams in baseball.  So if the Red Sox won 8 in a row, guess what was probably going to happen next?  So the 4 game sweep isn’t necessarily all that shocking.  I do have to say though: don’t the Red Sox and their fans know better by now not to gloat over April wins?

The Yankees now have the biggest lead of any division leader and even the staunchest Yankee-hater would have to say they’re the best team in baseball right now.  There still is a lot of season left to play though and these teams have 2 more series against each other.  Realistically, the Yankees will only need to roughly split those games to maintain a lead, but who knows.  Last I checked Sergio Mitre is still in the rotation and Joba still has an innings limit.  But it’s hard not to be excited this past weekend.  Some thoughts:

–  The “A-Rod is not clutch” stuff needs to finally be buried.  How many times does he have to win games for people to stop believing the media storyline on this one?  He crushed a hanging breaking pitch to win the game against Tazawa, but I think his homer against Lester was even more impressive because Lester was dealing.  Everyone was hitting Tazawa hard.  That Lester pitch was a good pitch – A-Rod was just better.  And that’s what you’re cleanup hitter is supposed to do.

–  All of the top 4 starters are finding their groove, despite Joba’s 7 walk performance.  CC, AJ, and Pettitte are all traditionally 2nd half guys, excluding Andy’s last season.

–  The bullpen has been good – I’m even learning to have some faith in David Robertson – but I was definitely freaking out as soon as Girardi let Coke face Pedroia last night.  My fears turned out to be well-founded, but at the end of the day, a win is a win and now Hughes doesn’t pitch on three consecutive days.

–  And speaking of protecting young pitchers – how many more starts will Joba be good for?  He reaches the “30 innings more than last year” mark in 15 more innings.  He can probably go a little bit more than that, but by how much, especially with the Yankees hoping for a deep postseason run?

Glad I missed that one

Since my last post, the Yankees have been on a pretty good stretch and even if the Blue Jays are in a bit of a free fall, taking 3 of 4 from them is a good thing.  You’d like to see more consistency from Joba and Pettitte, but they easily could have won both games those two pitched and did in fact win one.

Yesterday’s game I only listened to part of on the radio and that was probably for the best.  I can’t stand when umpires blow fairly routine calls that have a large impact on the game and from the replays I’ve seen, the Yankees were victims of multiple such calls.  I know, I know, that stuff evens out supposedly, but does it really?  Why can’t we just figure out a way to get it right?  Sure, Pettitte and Bruney should have pitched better, but if the Jays had gotten a few bad calls instead, you’d be saying the same thing about their picthers right now.

The one good thing here is that there seems to be some pretty significant fallout over this game, particularly with Jeter being called out at third and then being told he doesn’t need to be tagged.  Sometimes you need one blown call to act as a tipping point for finally enacting some change.  It will probably take a call on a bigger stage (ie, playoffs) to make a rule change like more instant replay, but yesterday’s umpiring should at least make MLB look on its umpires with a more critical eye.

As A-Rod goes…

It’s always fun to blame A-Rod when the Yankees struggle, but the lethargic offense really needs him right now.  For a team with as much talent position to position as the Yankees have, for them to be struggling to score runs againt these NL teams is just awful.  Wang’s last night wasn’t a complete disaster and he almost certainly would have gone deeper into the game if it were in an AL park.  The bottom line though, is the Yankees should be winning games when they hold their opponent to 3 runs or less.

The team is certainly in a funk right now, but they are somehow still the wild card leader in what has been a very mediocre AL so far.  They can’t possibly continue to be this bad offensively.  Wang might not be great right now, but he’s no longer  a train wreck.  If they keep running him out there, he should continue to improve.

But I can’t help but think that these interleague games will end up coming back to haunt the Yanks later in the year.  The offense needs to get it going and if I’m Girardi I think I make a change here just to make a change – tinker with the lineup, whatever.  Hopefully, A-Rod can be the one to snap out of his funk and lead them.  Otherwise, I feel like I’ll be writing the same post, over and over again.

Pitching rounding into shape

Last night’s loss to the Marlins featured missed opportunities and sloppy defense.  It was a frustrating loss, but AJ Burnett had a good outing, which makes two in a row.  We also saw continued good pitching from Phil Coke and Phil Hughes out of the much-maligned bullpen.  Sure, the offense once again struggled to find the big hit, but it’s worth noting that Josh Johnson had absolutely overpowering stuff.  So while it’s easy to be frustrated with the offense, at least they weren’t up there struggling against some no-name.

It’s easy to forget, with all of the Yankees big name sluggers, that the 2009 Yankees were built to be a pitching team.  Obviously, it hasn’t quite worked out that way, but there is certainly hope.  Take a look at the Yankee pitchers; how many of them do you think will have a better second half of the season than first half?  You could actually reasonably say all of them.  Sabathia has pitched well, but he hasn’t quite put it together yet and been overpowering.  Burnett, Pettitte, and Joba have all dealt with wildness and inconsistency.  Wang couldn’t possibly be worse.  Hughes had a couple bad starts that hurt his numbers.  In the bullpen, Mo had a few bad outings stemming from a lack of control, which happens to him sometimes early on in the year.  Coke was pretty medicore but has been very strong as of late.  Bruney was hurt.  Robertson just didn’t get much of a chance.

Am I being optimistic?  Of course – what’s new.  But with Nady due back soon, the offense should have depth and if the pitchers can start reaching their potential, the Yankees should have another winning streak in them.

Also a silver lining: despite being only 4-6 in their past 10 games and looking relatively mediocre, the Yankees still have the 2nd best record in the American League.  I have been watching Tampa Bay’s games very closely, because I honestly believe that if the Rays don’t make a run, the Red Sox and Yankees will both cruise to playoff spots.  However, if you look at Tampa’s run differential, you have to think they’ll be close at some point.

Instant replay should be expanded

I understand why many people are hesitant to give instant replay a prominent role in baseball.  Baseball is a slow game and that aspect makes it unappealing to many fans who prefer more up-tempo sports like basketball and football (though to be honest, I think football is a pretty slow game too, but that’s not the point).

But if you look at how both football and basketball have used instant replay, the blueprint for success is there.  Those games have not been slowed down because of this technology and are certainly improved by it.

Earlier in the season, I said there was a need for a better system of determining balls and strikes – one that would help eliminate human error – but I don’t think instant replay is the answer to that, because if you still have an umpire reviewing the call, it’s still a judgment call.

Things like out or safe, whether the ball was caught, etc, though are pretty clear right or wrong issues.  So why can’t baseball use replay to revisit these plays?

Of course, I am inspired to write this because the Yankees were on the losing end of a terrible call at first last night.  A-Rod threw out Christian Guzman easily and yet the play was called safe.  If there was instant replay, one quick look would overturn that call.  That play ended up being critically important, as Nick Johnson tripled on the next at-bat, scoring Guzman from first.  At the time, I immediately said “you know this will end up being a one-run game.”  And, unfortunately, I was right.

There were, by my calculations, three pretty bad calls last night.  The Guzman call was the most egregious, though there were also two pretty bad ball-strike calls.  One was on Mark Teixeira, who watched what should have been strike 3 go over the plate, the same pitch that struck Nick Swisher out looking, only it was called a ball.  What did Tex do with his newfound life at the plate?  Grounded out on the very next pitch.  So yeah, bad call, but no harm done.  Melky Cabrera on the other hand, took a 3-2 pitch that almost hit him in the leg, yet it was somehow called strike 3.  A bigger deal obviously, because Melky should have walked in a game where the Yanks were desperate for baserunners.

Yeah, the Yankees ended up with their chances anyways, but it is disappointing to have to sit and wonder what would have been had Guzman been called out at first.  Why not give each team one challenge a game, similar to football, so they can use replay to challenge what could be a game-changing call?  Would that really slow the game down so much?  Not if done right.

As for the game itself, it seemed like the Yankees were destined to rally and I really have to wonder: why does Girardi not have A-Rod running there?  As soon as Cano came to the plate, I noted how smart it was that the Nats went back to double-play depth since Cano hits into more DPs than any other Yankee.  Surely, Girardi must know this as well.  A couple pitches in, it became obvious that Cano was going to keep making contact.  Why not at least try to hit and run?  I know A-Rod is not currently the runner he once was, but you still think he’d have to be going in that spot.  My biggest complaint about Girardi tends to be his knack for overmanaging, so it’s surprising for him to just sit back and do nothing in that spot.

All-in-all, a disappointing game, but it’s not quite the apocolypse some say a loss to Washington is.  The Nats had their best pitcher going and he pitched a gem.  The Yanks had their worst pitcher starting.  They almost won it anyways, but unfortunately the game just produced a loss and a bunch of “what–ifs.”

Yanks help to put the Santana storyline to rest

For the record, I like Johan Santana.  I used to cheer for him when he was with the Twins, assuming he wasn’t facing the Yankees.  Despite that, however, I find myself rooting against him now more than perhaps any other Mets player and the only real reason for that is I don’t want to hear anymore about how the Yankees should have traded for him.  I like having Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera (and Ian Kennedy for that matter).  I like CC Sabathia (who the Yanks would not have signed if they traded for Johan).

The bottom line always was, you don’t trade away talent for a player to then simply sign him to a market value, free-agent contract.  That doesn’t make economic sense.

So did the Mets make a good move?  Kinda.  They didn’t give up all that much talent and they probably felt that if Santana did hit the open market, they wouldn’t get him.  But I actually don’t think that would have been the case.

Let’s pretend for a minute that Johan was not traded and was a free agent last year along with CC, AJ, Lowe and everyone else.  We know the Yanks would be after CC.  Who would trump the Mets’ $140 million offer to Johan?  The Angels maybe?  I really think the Mets would have signed him anyways.  But the Mets didn’t give up all that much young talent, so it’s probably not a big deal either way.

But if the Yanks had given up Hughes, Melky, etc?  And then didn’t have CC (who, ironically, could have ended up with the Mets)?  The 2009 Yankees would, unequivically, be a weaker team.

The other reason why I didn’t want the Yankees to trade for Santana was on display yesterday.  I don’t know that he has the stuff anymore to routinely dominate the AL East.  He still has that crazy changeup and that should ensure he is a productive pitcher in the NL for a number of years (another reason why the trade was more low-risk for the Mets).  But without that mid-90s fastball, will he be able to dominate deep and patient lineups?  If yesterday’s game tells us anything, the answer is not consistently.