Thames a Not-so-Unlikely Hero

I like bench players. Not in the sense that they become my favorite players and I decide they should obviously be starters, just in the sense that I like to see the guys who get brought in to do a certain, limited, role succeed. I have an irrational fondness for Ramiro Pena, for one thing. No, the kid can’t hit a lick, and sometimes it’s downright painful to watch him try to hit a baseball, but he seems to do everything else pretty well. He runs the bases well, has excellent fundamentals, and plays pretty good defense on top of it. I pray he’s never an everyday player for the Yankees, but it’s nice enough to see him play well in his current role. Continue reading Thames a Not-so-Unlikely Hero

On the eve of 39, what happens next year?

Happy early birthday to Jorge Posada! The longtime Yanks catcher turns 39 years old on Tuesday, August 17th. And as I can attest to, when you get to this age, you mind still believes you can do the things you could do at 25 but the body is no longer willing. {And it sucks. Bigtime.}

I’ve been a huge Posada fan for as long as he’s been in pinstripes. I’ve been amazed that he’s been able to remain a productive catcher even as he passed the threshold of when most catchers begin their rapid decent into retirement or DH/1B-land. Maybe it’s because Posada was originally a second baseman, coverted by the Yanks to a catcher. Maybe it’s because he split time with Joe Girardi early in his career. Regardless of the reason, Posada has been able to remain mostly healthy his entire career and has put up numbers that puts him in many “Hall of Fame?” discussions. But his ability to remain in the lineup, productive offensively while being at least adequate defensively appears to be fading. Fast.

Still, Posada’s nagging injuries have kept Girardi from overusing him, as last weekend marked the first time since May 1-3 that Posada caught three days in a row.

“Physically, he’s had knee issues and he’s had other issues that we’ve had to deal with,” Girardi said. “I can run him out there five days in a row, but I’m not sure when we’d get him back. That’s what I have to guard against. Those are the tough decisions that I have to make. Sometimes players aren’t going to like them, but we’ve been able to keep him off the DL for the most part this year.”

And this is the heart of my concern about Posada and the Yanks, for this year and next.

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Granderson’s swing to undergo transformation… hopefully

I can be stubborn. I like Curtis Granderson. Seems like a nice enough guy, the kinda guy you just want to succeed. I liked the deal when the Yanks got him and I am stubbornly clinging to hope that he can turn his miserable 2010 season around and get back to being the player we hoped he’d be. So when I hear that he approached batting coach Kevin Long for help, I’m encouraged:

“[Granderson] came to me and said, ‘I want to try something different. What do you suggest?’” Long said.

What the hitting coach came up with was what he termed “a total reformation of the swing that hopefully will work against lefties and righties, and hopefully will get him on a good little streak here.”

Simply put, Long is trying to shorten Granderson’s swing by eliminating extraneous movement, re-training him to keep his hands back, and getting him to adopt more of a rotational approach to his hitting than the weight-shift method he has used throughout his career.

Mark was all over Granderson yesterday, breaking the data down. Will was on this earlier in the season when Austin Jackson was on fire, yet Will was optimistic.

Long’s got a track record, having boosted Swisher from a career .250 hitter into a (nearly) .300 hitter this year. He did this by quieting Swisher’s approach, eliminating the bat waggles and extra “stuff”. I’m remaining cautiously optimistic. Continue reading Granderson’s swing to undergo transformation… hopefully

Game 113: Yankees 7, Rangers 6

With one of the best pitchers in the American League on the mound for the Rangers, the Yankees needed a good outing by Javier Vazquez and some pop from their offense Wednesday evening.  Vazquez did not have his good stuff, but the Yankees made a game out of it, rallying in the late innings and pulling off the 7-6 come-from-behind victory.

Michael Young got the Rangers on the board early, with a solo homer to right field in the bottom of the first.  The Yankees were unable to get much going off Cliff Lee the first time through the order, but started to click the next time.  Marcus Thames singled to center in the top of the fourth and Alex Rodriguez connected with a double to center, bringing Thames home and tying the score 1-1.

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Robertson and Logan Have Rebounded Nicely

Both Boone Logan and David Robertson got off to rocky starts with the Yankees in 2010. Logan couldn’t find the strikezone before being sent down to Scranton. Robertson couldn’t get anyone out. All of this now seems like it happened a long time ago. I’ve already dicussed Boone Logan’s resurgence and he did pitch 1/3 of an inning in last night’s loss, striking out Josh Hamilton. As for Robertson, the season outside of April has been very good. The walks, now 23 in 35.3 IP, are a little high, but that comes with the territory with Robertson. He’s balanced it Continue reading Robertson and Logan Have Rebounded Nicely

10 Facts About Cliff Lee

“See, he’s throwing that spiked curve.  It’s a spiked curve.  See how the ball drops there, he’s got that spiked curve.  If you’ll also notice, the ball is slower across the plate than when it’s released from the pitcher’s hand.  Incredible! Spiked curve!  The Yankees remind me of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, but worse.  For FOX, I’m Tim McCarver” Photo courtesy of daylife.com 1. Cliff Lee currently strikes out about 6.5 batters per game.  Assuming that rate stays consistent over his remaining 10 starts this season, he will need to walk a little over 8 batters per game in Continue reading 10 Facts About Cliff Lee

Yankees turn tables on Lee, come back from five-run deficit to top Rangers 7-6

If I told you before the game that the Yankees would knock Cliff Lee out before the eighth inning while hanging four runs on the best pitcher in the American League in the process you’d have (a) Called me crazy, (b) Signed up for that all day every day, and (c) Likely assumed the Yankees would’ve won. Well if you picked all of the above, you’d have been right! The Yankees, rather amazingly, battled back and toppled the Rangers 7-6, despite falling behind Lee and the Rangers 6-1 after five innings. I have a feeling there are going to be Continue reading Yankees turn tables on Lee, come back from five-run deficit to top Rangers 7-6

Stuck with Cervelli

As I’ve done with most of my posts this season, I’m writing this as the previous night’s game is going on. Like I always say, the player I talk about could end up doing something to make this scheduled post look bad. But, with this player, the chances are pretty slim. From July through Monday, Francisco Cervelli had a .494 OPS. Yes, that’s right. His OPS from July through August 9th was under .500. Extending that admittedly small sample back to June doesn’t help much (.510 OPS). This wouldn’t be so bad, as Ben Kabak wrote the other day. Quoth Continue reading Stuck with Cervelli

A Grand Canyon in the Lineup

Let’s all just get this out of the way. Say all of the following, until the second ellipses, with me … Curtis Granderson sucks. He’s been a massive disappointment. He can’t hit left-handed pitching. We’d all be better off with Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui … Okay, do we all feel better now? I didn’t think so.

Let’s start with Granderson’s offense. After a rough 2009, all sorts of analysts saw good things from Granderson for 2010, and there were plenty of reasons to believe them. His .275 BABiP was the lowest of his career, and it seemed bound to come up, bringing his BA, OBP, and SLG right up with it. People could bring up his fly-ball tendencies, which kill BABiPs, but he was pretty fly ball heavy in 2007, too. Things looked good due to the theory of regression to the mean.

Well, that didn’t happen, did it? His .240/.307/.417 line is worse than last season’s, and though he somehow managed to be 6 runs above replacement on offense last season, he’s been almost exactly replacement level this season. That BABiP did come up a bit (from .275 to .284), but it’s still a far cry from his career .317 mark. There are some disturbing trends, though. His K rate has risen (from 24.7 to 22.3) and his BB rate has dropped (10.1 to 8.7), but those aren’t catastrophic or way off from career norms. But there’s more. His 25.3% O-Swing rate, rate of swinging at pitches out of the zone, is up by 5% from last season and up 4% from his career mark, and even worse, he’s making a lot of contact with those pitches out of the zone (59%, up 9% from his career but almost identical to last season), which is obviously bad because hitting pitches out of the zone is harder than the ones in the zone. Additionally, his run values on fastballs have really declined (from 31 runs in 2007 to 2.4 this season), which may mean that he’s swinging at more fastballs out of the zone and/or that his bat speed has slowed. So what does all this mean? It means that his plate discipline has regressed, and coupled with the increased contact% on pitches out of the zone, he is making weaker contact. And his bat seems slower. Those are not good things, but there is some hope.

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