Game Thread | Game 134 | Yankees at Red Sox | Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Yankees look to secure their first series win against Boston in 2011 — which would also be their first against the Red Sox since May 2010 — as Phil Hughes faces Josh Beckett tonight.

Russell Martin is apparently still a bit banged up, so Francisco Cervelli will try to be the focal point of the proceedings for the second straight evening.

Brett Gardner LF
Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Eric Chavez DH
Eduardo Nunez 3B
Francisco Cervelli C… Click here to read the rest

Brett Gardner, infield-fly-ball machine

This isn’t meant as a knock on Brett Gardner, who, on the whole, has had a wonderful season in many respects. His speed and outfield defense are game-changing, and I absolutely love what he brings to the table.

Which is why I was a tad surprised to find that Gardner actually leads all of MLB in IFFB% with a 21.4% rate. This made me curious about his monthly batted ball splits, which inspired the following graph (click to enlarge):

Here’s hoping to an increase in GB%, decrease in FB% and substantial decrease in IFFB% for Brett in September.… Click here to read the rest

Catching notes: Cervelli’s scuffle and JESUS JUEVES!

There’s big news in the land of Yankee catchers. Let’s start with the small stuff…

So, Francisco Cervelli hit a massive home run last night against John Lackey and the Red Sox. It didn’t just go off the field of play, it went out of the stadium. Frankie Blue Eyes, he of the .072 career IsoP, put one onto the streets of Boston. Lackey, he of the showing-up-his-fielders ilk, did not take kindly to this. The next time Cervelli came to the plate, Lackey hit the young catcher in the shoulder with a pitch. The benches cleared. Larry Rothschild was ejected. Cervelli came around to score despite a double play by Derek Jeter. My immediate reaction was to thank Lackey for the free base runner. While the run Cervelli scored wasn’t huge, it was still a run and Lackey’s emotions are responsible for that run.

What Cervelli did to get hit–clapping as he crossed the plate after the homer–was beyond innocuous.… Click here to read the rest

Baseball’s Current Crop of Second Basemen Is Really Cleaning Up

(The following is being syndicated from The Captain’s Blog).

When the Yankees beat the Orioles on Monday night, Robinson Cano was batting in the cleanup spot. Then, in the team’s victory over the Red Sox on Tuesday, Dustin Pedroia was batting fourth in the opposition lineup. Why is that significant? Because of the position both men play.

Since 1919, only 7,096 lineups have featured a second baseman in the cleanup slot (or just above 2%). However, this year, that ratio has tripled, which signals the relative level of strength throughout the position in the current game.

Cleanup Hitters by Position, Since 1919 and Current Year (click to enlarge)

Note: Due to database errors, the position count differs from total games played by about 1%.

In addition to Cano and Pedroia, who have batted cleanup in 31 and 19 games, respectively, 12 other second basemen have been placed in the heralded power position, including Neil Walker, who leads the group with 66 games, and such notable names as Brandon PhillipsDan UgglaMichael Young, and Chase Utley.… Click here to read the rest

Bringing the heat

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Almost three weeks after suffering his fourth straight defeat against Boston, CC Sabathia delivered in kind on Tuesday night, throwing a season-high 128 pitches over six innings, striking out 10 and limiting the Red Sox to only two runs.

Following his messy August 6 start I took an in-depth look at the way he’d been pitching Boston on the season, and came away with several conclusions, one being that he didn’t appear to be challenging the Sox with his fastball as much as he might ordinarily be doing, throwing it for strikes less frequently than his season average while also somewhat abandoning his secondary stuff. So I was certainly curious as to whether he might change his approach at all.

Here’s an updated table of Sabathia’s five 2011 outings against the Red Sox (along with his averages for the entire 2011 season):

Well, he didn’t exactly mix the secondary stuff back in last night, throwing his changeup (7.8%) and sinker (5.5%) even less frequently than in any previous start against Boston.… Click here to read the rest

Can’t anyone here hit right-handed pitching?

But there is one glaring, annoying, hole in this team: There’s no one available to DH that hits right-handed pitching all that well. The Yankees have three guys in the mix at DH right now, Jorge Posada, Eric Chavez, and Andruw Jones, and all of the have their issues. You certainly know about Posada already, so we won’t dwell on that anymore. Chavez started out the season doing quite well at the plate, hitting .303/.410/.424 when he hit the disabled list in early May, but that has proven to be unsustainable, and right now he’s hitting just .275/.336/.367. And while Andruw Jones has been a pleasant surprise since I was ready to run him out of town, he’s also been a true platoon player, and has a wOBA of just .316 against right-handed pitchers (compared to .399 against southpaws).

Now, on some level this is pretty much the definition of a first world problem. The Yankees as a team have one of the best offenses in baseball, currently sitting atop the American League in both wOBA and wRC+, just a touch ahead of the Red Sox.… Click here to read the rest

Looking At Short Season Statistics

I’m back! My summer in the woods was fantastic, as always. I will now be writing regularly for the blog yet again. While I am away every summer, I always miss short-season baseball. I’m now presented with a nice, robust sample of number for two full Yankee teams to analyze. These statistics can be useful, but because the two short-season leagues that Yankee prospects play in are unique in many different ways, they need to be approached with some caution.

Let’s take Mason Williams, for example. Williams was no-doubt the Yankees breakout prospect this season. He hit .351/.399/.478 with 13% strikeout rate and 7% walk rate  for Staten Island at the age of 19. His numbers hold up even better when you look at his competition – the average player in the New York-Penn League was 21.1 years old, hit .250/.329/.355, struck out in 19% of plate appearances, and walked in 9% of plate appearances.

However, the New York-Penn League can be a little funky sometimes.… Click here to read the rest