Game Preview | ALCS Game 6 | Angels at Yankees, Sunday, October 25, 2009

As much as I wanted the Yankees to play last night, postponement was probably the right call, I thought to myself, as I trudged through Tribeca in the pouring rain to meet Scott at Mudville9 for a game that wasn’t coming.

It initially sounded as though Jered Weaver might toe the rubber for the Angels in Game 6, a development which pleased me no end, as the Yankees have mostly been able to handle Weaver, especially in their home ballpark. However, it appears that Mike Scioscia is also sticking with his original starter, Joe Saunders, which is probably the right move here, especially when you look at Saunders’ last two outings against the Yankees, the latter of which came in this very ALCS:

September 21, 2009: 8.1 IP, 7H, 2R, 0BB, 3K
October 17, 2009: 7 IP, 6H, 2R, 1BB, 5K

Of course, Saunders is likely due for some market correction, and if the Yankees can actually get to Saunders early for once, they may end up seeing Weaver enter the game anyway.… Click here to read the rest

Kikuchi staying in Japan

Rather than pursue a career in the MLB, Yusei Kikuchi has decided to stay in Japan. The Yankees, along with several other Major League organizations, were interested in the young lefty. However, he’ll be a part of the Japanese amateur draft which is scheduled for October 29th (he’s projected to be the first overall pick).

Either way, for Kikuchi, I’m sure he was faced with a difficult decision and, at the end of the day, he ultimately chose what he was most comfortable with. During the press conference in which his decision was announced, Kikuchi said, “I don’t think I have what it takes to compete at the world level yet,” which is an extremely humble statement. Choosing a career in the MLB is obviously a lucrative situation, even as a prospect, but, it’s always difficult to take on such a significant cultural and competitive change. Perhaps we’ll hear about him again in a few years (there’s always the posting system).… Click here to read the rest

International Bits: Hinske, Kikuchi

Here are two quick international items to chew on before the game.

  • Apparently, the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, a Japanese team (Pacific League), are interested in signing Eric Hinske this offseason. They like Hinske for his left-handed power against righties (enjoy New York while you still can, Eric) and reportedly tried to sign him a year go.
  • In addition, NPB Tracker notes that Yusei Kikuchi, the young lefty who is torn as to whether or not he should pursue a career in Japan or the MLB, has scheduled a press conference for tomorrow. The conference will likely serve as the forum for his decision, which, to this point, is still unclear.
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Nick Swisher = Streaky = Benched?

As a fan, streaky hitters are one of the most aggravating facets of baseball.  It seems inexplicable how a guy can carry a team one month and be an anchor the next.  Nick Swisher, right now, is an absolute anchor.  It’s come to the point where the Angels will walk every hitter before him to get to Slumpy McSwingsandmissesalot.  Swish is no longer his nickname, but the sound the ball makes as it passes by his bat.  Yankee fans have had to deal with this in the past, of course, with Bernie Williams, but that’s not much of a consolation.  Right now, he’s absolutely killing us, while tomorrow, we could be tossing laurels at him.

How streaky is this guy?  How quickly can he flip ends?  Just look at his first two months.  Keep in mind that the month-by-month stats, if anything, wind up smoothing out the bumps, as a hot streak in the beginning of one month could ameliorate the slump at the end.  Even so, the monthly stats show an absurd amount of variance between them.  Streaky?  Just look at his first two months: April OPS: 1.144.  May OPS: .586!!!  What the heck happened in May?  Did they start putting kryptonite into the balls?  His next several months are like a roller coaser ride: .885, .777, .878, .949, .741 and, of course, a playoff OPS of .350 (yech!).… Click here to read the rest

Scioscia’s Stock Falls in ALCS

Mama told me there'd be days like these

. . in the Peanut Gallery that is the world of Sports journalism. Mike Vaccaro writes in today’s NY Post what many other pundits have been saying, that the ‘genius’ label for Angels manager Mike Scioscia has worn thin over the course of this series. He writes:

Lesson 2: Familiarity breeds contempt. Mike Scioscia came into this series with a reputation as something of a baseball Yoda: wise, savvy, capable of managing the Angels year after year to 90-plus wins and the playoffs because his team played the game smarter, harder and with more purpose than anyone else. It didn’t hurt, of course, that the Angels have as many big-ticket players in their lineup (and riding the bench, in the case of Gary Matthews Jr.) as anyone besides the Yankees. They won because the guy in the dugout gave them the winning formula day after day after day.

That was the story, anyway.

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Lookout Landing: AJ Just As Consistent As Pettitte

When AJ Burnett allowed 4 runs in the first inning last night, I received a number of angry text messages from friends. Most of them were along the lines of “I told you he cannot be trusted!!! He is way too erratic and inconsistent!!!” My response was the same as it has been all year: this is just a narrative that was created due to his personality, and the numbers do not support that point. Because he has always been seen as flaky, people take every poor start as a sign of some inner failing which suggests that he cannot be trusted.

A rudimentary look at this season’s game log showed that AJ had 4 starts this season where he totally blew up, meaning he pitched fewer than 6 innings AND allowed more than 3 runs, a “reverse” quality start. These are game where the starter provided neither length nor quality. CC Sabathia also had 4 such starts, while Andy Pettitte had 5.… Click here to read the rest

Whither Phil Hughes?

Upon further review, I may have been too quick to vilify Joe Girardi in looking for a scapegoat for last night’s loss (slightly off topic, Dave Cameron at FanGraphs has a great post today about Girardi’s overmanagement in the ALCS). I still think Joe should have removed Burnett after Jeff “Hanley Ramirez” Mathis picked up his third hit of the game to lead off the bottom of the 7th inning, but as many folks have pointed out, the bullpen simply did not get the job done.

The bullpen, considered to be one of the team’s strong suits coming into the postseason (with a regular season ERA of 3.91, good for 5th-best in the AL), gave up a winnable game in the 7th, with Phil Hughes’ inability to locate serving as the nail in the coffin.

Unfortunately, Hughes — key bullpen piece and bridge to Mariano Rivera — has had a pretty rough postseason, which few people expected after such a dominant stretch as the 8th inning setup man.… Click here to read the rest