Angels rough up Phil Hughes, spank Yankees

This one was ugly. On the first night when the Yankees needed players to step up they saw 4 different pitchers give up runs. Phil Hughes was not sharp. He lasted only 5 innings, gave up 6 runs, and 2 home runs. Jonathan Albaladejo made his first appearance of the year, and quickly reminded fans why the team had kept him in Scranton for so long. He allowed 2 hits, walked 1 and gave up a run in only 1.2 innings of work. I’ll go out on a limb and say that this guy isn’t the bullpen savior we’ve been looking for.

The game was out of hand, with the Yankees only scoring 2 runs, both of which came in the 1st inning, but there is no fire Chan Ho Park and Chad Gaudin can’t put some gasoline on. Park allowed a run in only 1.1 innings of work. Gaudin was worse. He only pitched the 9th inning in what was then an 8-2 ball game and made sure the final score was 10-2.

The Yankee offense helped out here too. I am shocked – SHOCKED – that the team managed only 2 hits over 6 innings and 2 runs against a rookie pitcher. If only someone predicted this would happen? Don’t the Yankees have advance scouts and film? Does the team have some deal to give rookie pitchers a chance? I need answers here. This act is getting old.

There was one silver lining in all of this. The Orioles beat the Rays! The Yankees should thank their lucky stars because they dodged a bullet. Instead of the losing 1.5 games on their lead in two days the Bombers can put this ugly game firmly in the rearview mirror.

Hopefully the team rebound. Tampa is still in Baltimore while the Yankees have a quick turn around, playing a matinee against the Angels. Javier Vazquez will take the mound against Joel Pineiro in a rematch of an April game that was an ugly home loss. For me the question of the day is how Javy will respond to his extended rest. He’s gone longer than any other Yankee pitcher between starts.

The problem with trading for Soria

Photo courtesy of the New York Times

I’d love to trade for Joakim Soria as much as the next guy. He’s one of the few Closers in Baseball that reminds me of The Great Mariano. Slight build, misses bats (10.10 SO/9) has good control (2.53 BB/9) and is cool as ice out there. Fastball sits around 89-94 mph and has natural cutting action, which he throws most of the time. When facing Lefties, he complements the Fastball with a Change with good lateral action that he throws around 80-84 mph. Against Righties, he employs a Slider with good tilt and slow Curveball (66-71 MPH) that he mixes in equally. The cut on the Fastball makes hitters speed up their bats, and the breaking balls put them away. Earlier in his career, Mariano was called ‘the assassin’ (or El Asesino) and Soria’s nickname is ‘The Mexicutioner’. You could slide Soria in as the setup man until Mariano retires, and then have his replacement in the fold. At 26 years old, he’s still young enough to wait a few years and still have plenty left in the tank when that day eventually comes.

But here’s the problem with trading for Joakim Soria (courtesy of Cot’s)-

Joakim Soria rhp
3 years/$8.75M (2009-11), plus 2012-14 club options

* 3 years/$8.75M (2009-11), plus 2012-14 club options
o signed extension with Kansas City 5/17/08
o 09:$1M, 10:$3M, 11:$4M, 12:$6M club option, 13:$8M club option, 14:$8.75M club option ($0.75M buyout for each option)
o escalators based on IP (as starter) or games finished (as reliever)

At those prices, you’d have to give a truckload of talent to offset how underpaid he is. If for some reason the Royals love Joba, that would be a good place to start. But you’d have to fill 2-3 needs minimum with MLB ready talent. Some have suggested taking the overpaid Jose Guillen back, which would solve the bullpen and bench problem with one deal. But even then you’re talking about the Royals only saving 1/3 of his 12 mil contract, which expires at the end of this season. So you’re still looking at giving up lots of premium  young talent to acquire Soria and control him for the next 4 seasons.

Checking in on Trade Candidates

The non-waiver deadline is a mere eleven days away, so let’s look into some potential trades the Yankees could make.

The Yanks, and the Sox, are apparently interested in Toronto RP Scott Downs. In his age 34 season, Downs is having a great year. His ERA is below three and his FIP is 3.09, while his xFIP is at 3.51. His career platoon splits aren’t bad either, with a 3.25 xFIP against LHB and a 3.95 xFIP vs. RHB. He’d be a nice get for the Yanks, and he projects to be a type-A so the Yankees could get a draft pick for him (though that’s unlikely).

Other teams are apparently interested in Francisco Cervelli. If this is true, the Yankees should listen long and hard. It’s likely that Cervelli’s already hit his ceiling and if the Yankees can turn him into anything, it’d be a good trade. But, there is something valuable about him. He’s a cheap back up catcher and likely will be with the Yankees until he starts getting too expensive (like Melky Cabrera); that is, he’s a fine piece to have, but once he starts making seven figures through arbitration raises, he’s gone.

Like always, the Yankees are making the bench and the bullpen the focus of trading season. I’d like the Yankees to work out the ‘pen from within, though it will be hard with the injuries to Damaso Marte and Andy Pettitte. This should open the door to guys like Romulo Sanchez and Jonathan Albaladejo, though. The post lists guys that the Yankees’ve been linked to, but none of them are too exciting due to either inconsistency or price issues.

As for the bench, that’s something the Yankees will likely have to look outside the organization for. Ramiro Pena is an automatic out and Colin Curtis hasn’t lit the world on fire, either, so another bench player would be helpful.

Finally, the Yankees are not very willing to move Jesus Montero. They used him as bait for Cliff Lee because it’s such a special case but he, wisely, will not be moved for any of the players on the market.

Like 2009, I don’t think there will be much of a splash from the Yankees at the trade deadline. If a move is made, it will be something small like a bench player. I’d love for the Yankees to get Adam Dunn or another big bat for a full time DH, I doubt that’s going to happen. And though there’s not much time, I’d like to see the internal bullpen options get a shot before a trade is made. If that takes too long, though, there is always the possibility of a waiver trade for a reliever.

Does Jeter’s 2010 performance *really* matter?

If you jump into the way-back machine, I wrote this in 2008 and in re-reading it now, it’s funny/sad/pathetic how quickly I was then to extend Jeter’s poor defense to a point that Jeter would be willing to vacate SS on his own.  How naive?!?  However, this point still resonates:

What if Jeter (and agent Casey Close) pull what Varitek/Boras are trying to do to the Sox: Sell the intangibles and disregard the facts? What if Jeter, at age 37 (during 2011), decides that playing SS is more important than any other factor? How will the Yanks react?

In many ways, he is our Derek Jeter, though the Yankees’ calm-eyed, fist-pumping captain is obviously superior in talent and production. They both have extremely recognizable profiles as central figures in baseball’s marquee rivalry. They both are greatly respected by their peers. They both loathe A-Rod. And one more commonality: When it became clear that the tangible measures were now suggesting that the player had significant flaws, they both had a well-stocked army of vocal and oblivious supporters who began clinging to the flimsy concept of “intangibles” as a vague means of denying the erosion of their idol’s talent. The emperor has no clothes – and in Jeter’s case, the emperor can’t go to his left, either. 

Here’s the thing: I think Jeter is self-aware enough that he won’t want to play if he can’t play at the levels he’s already set as his “norm”. I can’t see Jeter doing what other HOF’ers have done, hang on just to play another year. It sure won’t be for the money, that’s for sure.

And you can bet your bobblehead that punching holes in that particular argument carries a tremendous amount of satisfaction. For all of Varitek’s alleged intangibles – handling pitchers, hustling, grit, guts, toughness, chewing glass, spitting nails, squatting, scowling, etc. – recent events suggest he’s teetering on becoming one of the most vile subspecies of professional athletes: an aging, subpar performer who demands the salary and security of a prime-of-career star. 

You can virtually swap Jeter’s name for Varitek’s in the passage above and recycle this in two years. But I am hopeful, optimistic, homer-iffic in thinking that Jeter/Close won’t be looking for a 6 year deal at age 37. But there is a part of me that fears they will and fears more that Hank & Hal will be too scared not to relent. If Jeter wants to retire a Yankee and only play for this team his entire career, he’s going to have to adapt to the changing needs of the team and the changing level of his performance.

Of course, Jeter isn’t vacating his shortstop position ANY time soon. There’s noone to replace him (right now) at short.  There’s no natural Yount-like transition to the outfield on the horizon.  The DH will be clogged by Posada as well as giving other aging guys like ARod extra time off).  So if Jeter is in pinstripes the next few years, it will be at shortstop. 

So the only issue is…. (drumroll please)… MONEY! Shocking, I know.  Hal Steinbrenner is now firmly at the helm of this conglomerate.  He’s reportedly more savvy businesswise than his father and most certainly moreso than his older brother Hank.  Hal and Cashman seem to be operating in a less sentimental manner (looking at you, Johnny Damon) than The Boss used to operate.  And we all know how Hank handles high-profile staring contests (one of my first postings ever).

Will Hal and Brian lay out a multi-year plan (not just a contract) that has Jeter making above-market dollars for the next four years ($60m?) followed by a senior role within the organization?  Or will they be colder and more analytical, offering to pay Jeter closer to market value, enabling some other team to tell Jeter: “we love you more than your old team does?” Will some team jump high enough to pay for a legend?  Will Jeter even want to go somewhere else?  I can’t see it, either.  Jeter loves NY, the Yanks and everything that brings.  His 2010 performance is almost irrelevant to me.  He will be overpaid for his productivity, whatever it might be, until he retires, but he’s our Derek Jeter and we’re going to have to deal with that. And since he’s never done wrong by us, I’m OK with that idea.

Jeter is first class, prideful, immensely proud, ridiculously popular, the face of the organization, the most marketable:

Jeter is a “clear cut number one,” says Premier Partnerships President & CEO Randy Bernstein. “Derek is so marketable due to his likability, passion, hard work, leadership and most of all, his humility,” Bernstein said. “He is a proven champion and has led his one and only team to multiple championships while also building up exceptional Hall of Fame statistics.”

The ball will completely be in Jeter’s court glove: If he insists on the foolish money being paid to ARod, then I think he’s making a mistake in terms of assessing his own abilities.

I don’t see it happening.  Jeter gets his 3,000th hit in pinstripes and eventually retires that way.

I now feel old, just for the mere fact that we’re talking about Jeter’s retirement. Wasn’t he a young kid a few years ago. Time flies.  Jeter endures.

I’m Not Holding my Breath on Mitre

Let’s get this out of the way: I vehemently dislike Sergio Mitre. If you’ve followed me here from BBD or seen me comment over at RAB, my contempt for Mitre is pretty easy to see. Perhaps this is unfair because I’m influenced by his relatively poor showing last year that came after Tommy John Surgery. However, there’s just not a lot that impresses me about this guy.

His sinker is solid, though, and his near 60% ground ball rate is desirable, but that’s his only positive attribute. He doesn’t miss many bats (5.46 K/9), has good-not-great-control (3.02 BB/9), and gives up pretty solid contact (.325 BABIP).

This season, though, Mitre appeared–at least on the surface–to put it together. In a very small sample of 25 innings, Mitre posted a 2.88 ERA while stranding 78% of runners. This all seems well and good, but we need to look a little bit closer.

His FIP is a hefty 4.68 and his xFIP isn’t much better at 4.59. His groundball rate is down 8.5% from last year and is 9.9% down from his career rate. His strikeout rate is still iffy at 5.46 and his walk rate is up to 3.24, up both from last year and his career. His LOB% of 78 is also 12% over his career norm. In other words, it’s a big fat outlier.

So how was Mitre able to have such a good ERA despite iffy peripherals? His BABIP in 2010 was a ridiculously, horribly, unsustainably low .190. And, despite a big uptick in FB% (38.0 in ’10, 24.5 career), his HR/FB is down to 11.1% (14.4% career). The more innings that Mitre gets, the more those numbers are likely to go back up and his ERA will regress to the mean rather quickly.

I’m just not confident in Mitre over more than the occasional spot start. There aren’t, however, many alternatives. A trade would be ill advised since Pettitte will likely be out only a month and the internal options aren’t much better. Chad Gaudin hasn’t earned a start, neither has minor leaguer Zach McAllister. If Mitre stumbles, as I think he will, after one or two starts, I think the Yankees should recall Ivan Nova and see what happens. Again, it’s not ideal but I just have zero faith in Sergio Mitre.

IIATMS & The Batting Stance Guy: contest winners and answers


  1. Oscar Gamble
  2. Mickey Rivers
  3. Thurman Munson
  4. Roy White
  5. Jim Leyritz
  6. Dave Winfield
  7. Mark Teixeira
  8. Paul O’Neill
  9. Derek Jeter
  10. Bernie Williams

Yes, BSG did “goof” and called Munson the “last captain before Jeter”.  But the righty batting stance should have told you that it wasn’t Donnie Baseball!

Thanks again to the Batting Stance Guy (Gar Ryness and Caleb Dewart), all of the folks at Scribner/Simon&Schuster as well as Rob Neyer for providing the necessary introductions.  

Remember: Follow us on Twitter here and the BSG can be followed on Twitter here.

Series Preview: Yankees versus Angels, III

The Angels come to New York tonight for a quick, two game set. On the surface this series doesn’t seem important. The Yankees could lose both games and retain a lead in the division. Looking deeper, however, reveals that it will be important to see how the team responds to its first major injury this season. True, Curtis Granderson, Nick Johnson and Jorge Posada have all missed (or continue to miss) time this year, but the 2010 Yankees have thrived on their pitching, with Andy Pettitte at its core. The rest of the guys need to step up.

Scott Kazmir has been scratched from Tuesday’s game. The lefty has struggled this year, and was put on the DL with shoulder fatigue. The Angels have yet to announce who will pitch in his place. The early reports suggest either Trevor Bell (6.38 ERA) or Sean O’Sullivan (1.29 ERA, but in only 7 innings pitched) will take the mound for LA. Who? The Yankees have never faced either pitcher, which can only mean one thing: The Yankees will make the rookie look like 1969 Tom Seaver.

Phil Hughes will make his first start for the Yankees since he took the loss in the All-Star game. Hughes has been so-so in July, after his rocky June but excellent April and May. With Pettitte on the shelf for a while the Yankees will need Phil to rediscover the form he showed early in the season.

Wednesday’s game is a matinee, featuring Joel Piniero for the Angels and Javier Vazquez for the Yankees. Pineiro has been solid this year, and embarrassed the Bombers in his April start at the stadium. Offensively this game could go either way. Victory probably hinges on which Javy will show up – the one who was miserable against the Angels in April, or the pitcher who has been lights out in June and July? Vazquez hasn’t pitched since his July 10th outing against Seattle. Hopefully the time off hasn’t affected his mechanics. The Yankees can’t afford to have him fall out of rhythm.

This series seems difficult to predict. The Angels are a .500 team this year, and are only 2-8 in the new Yankee Stadium, including the post season. The Yankees, meanwhile, look to be clicking offensively. However, the teams woes against new pitchers and Pineiro could make things difficult. For the moment it looks like a probable split, with the Bombers winning the first but losing the second, but it could just as easily break in either direction. Tampa Bay gets to pound Baltimore, so hopefully the Yankees can continue to win.

Yanks complain and McCarver backtracks . . sort of

Photo courtesy of the

By now you’ve probably heard of Tim McCarver’s comments on the FOX Saturday broadcast, where he compared the Yankee front office to the Nazi and Communist regimes. If not, here it is again (video):

You remember some of those despotic leaders in World War II, primarily in Russia and Germany, where they used to take those pictures that they had … taken of former generals who were no longer alive, they had shot ’em. They would airbrush the pictures, and airbrushed the generals out of the pictures. In a sense, that’s what the Yankees have done with Joe Torre. They have airbrushed his legacy. I mean, there’s no sign of Joe Torre at the stadium. And, that’s ridiculous. I don’t understand it.

The New York Time Bats blog has a follow up to the story, where Timmy backtracks a tiny bit.

McCarver, a close friend of Torre’s, said Monday in an interview from Florida that his analogies between the Yankees and the Third Reich and Stalin’s Soviet Union were “inappropriate.” But he added, “In my opinion, the underlying point here remains true: Yankees management has erased Joe Torre from their history.” He said, “I don’t think the Yankees have embraced the image of Joe Torre.”

McCarver said he had seen the photographs of Torre that hang at the new stadium but that he did not believe the team does enough to honor Torre’s integral role in leading the Yankees to four World Series championships. “Retiring his number would mean embracing his legacy,” he said.

Jason Zillo, the Yankees’ director of media relations, called the Fox truck on Saturday to complain about McCarver’s comments. In a statement issued Monday, Fox Sports said that McCarver “regrets” using the World War II analogy and that it would take no action.

So until Torre has his number retired, Timmy won’t be happy. Gotcha. He might want to call his friend and ask him whose idea it was that he wouldn’t return to the stadium. If he had any intention of being fair he might ask himself how he would feel if he was Hal Stienbrenner, owned the Yanks and a former employee wrote a book saying some of the nasty things Torre did about his father, painting him as a bully and a buffoon, and Torre’s saying his experience with a father who beat his mother regularly prepared him for working with George. George was a man who, as we all know, was too addled by dementia to defend himself from Torre’s remarks at the time.

From Fox’s point of view, they might actually like the idea that Tim has stirred up a bit of controversy here. People may tune in the next time he does a Yankee game just to hear if he says something even dumber. For the rest of us, it just cements a suspicion Yankee fans have long had about Tim. That he’s still bitter about the way his (very short) tenure as Yankee analyst ended, that he’s always been someone who favors the National League style of the game, and that he is completely blind and one sided when it comes to Joe Torre. I’m not sure Tim has really been all that relevant for many years now, but this episode takes him from to obscurity to oblivion for me. I’ll never again get too worked up over anything he says from this point forward, since I know where it’s coming from.