Game Four: Ivan the Terrible/Great?

Three games, three losses. With CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Phil Hughes winless, the baton is passed to Ivan Nova. Nova had the worst spring training of any starter in the Yankee system, and now the Yankees are relying on him to stop this 3 game lossing streak. Against the surging Orioles, he might have a difficult night. In Nova’s career 25.1 innings against Baltimore, he has posted a 3.55 ERA, and at Camden a 4.38 ERA. Facing the lefty handed pitcher Brian Matusz, the Yankee will roll out the new lefty lineup with Alex Rodriguez DHing and Eduardo Nunez Continue reading Game Four: Ivan the Terrible/Great?

“No Defense” for Girardi’s Plan to Rest Yankees’ Veterans

(The following is being syndicated from The Captain’s Blog; follow me on Twitter at@williamnyy23). If the first weekend is any indication, Joe Girardi is going to be extremely pro-active when it comes to doling out rest to his aging veterans. Over the years, the Yankees’ manager has become fond of using the DH slot to give his players a “half day off”, but usually that practice has been reserved for later in the season. This year, however, Girardi has already put his plan into action. In only the second game of the season, Derek Jeter was allowed to cool his heels in the Continue reading “No Defense” for Girardi’s Plan to Rest Yankees’ Veterans

Game four: Chevy or Super Nova?

Ivan Nova and Brian Matusz have had their spring outings scrutinized and debated. Both will have increased scrutiny as they make their first starts of the 2012 season for the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles respectively. Nova won sixteen games for the Yankees a year ago but few believe he is that good a pitcher. Brian Matusz was supposed to be a great prospect for the Orioles but endured a season a year ago that went as bad as a pitching season could possibly go. Matusz will try to prolong the Orioles’ three game winning streak while Nova will try to end the Yankees’ three game losing streak. Other than that, no pressure though.

Matusz went 1-9 last season with an ERA of 10.69 and a WHIP of 2.11. That is certainly not pretty. But he had a very good spring with a high strikeout rate and a very low walk rate to go along with his 3.65 spring ERA. Nova, on the other hand, did not have a great spring.

Matusz started two games against the Yankees in 2011 and could not get out of the first inning in either game. Nova faced the Orioles three times last season and won two and had a no decision in the third. Both wins were quality starts and the third wasn’t too bad with three earned runs allowed in five innings.

Here are the starting lineups:

New York Yankees

Derek Jeter SS

Nick Swisher RF

Robinson Cano 2B

Alex Rodriguez DH

Mark Teixeira 1B

Curtis Granderson CF

Andrew Jones LF

Russell Martin C

Eduardo Nunez 3B

Baltimore Orioles

Nolan Reimold LF

J.J. Hardy SS

Nick Markakis RF

Adam Jones CF

Matt Wieters C

Mark Reynolds 3B

Wilson Betemit DH

Chris Davis 1B

Robert Andino 2B

As you can see, for the second straight time Joe Girardi has flipped Granderson and Swisher in the order against a left-handed starter and has sat Brett Gardner both times as well.

The game starts at 7:05 from Camden Yards in Baltimore. Be sure to also check out Gabe Lezra’s series preview. Continue reading Game four: Chevy or Super Nova?

Stoneburner going to DL

Via Josh Norris, the Trenton Thunder have announced that right handed starter Graham Stoneburner has been placed on the disabled list with an as yet unspecified ailment. As Norris says, he missed time last year with a pinched nerve, so perhaps that’s the problem this time as well. Stoneburner started for the Thunder last Friday night, lasting four innings while allowing five hits, a walk and no runs with three strikeouts. We ranked him as the Yankees’ 26th best prospect in our top 30 prospects rankings.
Continue reading Stoneburner going to DL

Yankees Vs. Orioles: A Preview In Three Parts

The Yankees travel to home-away-from-home Baltimore today (first pitch at 7:05 PM EST on YES) to take on the AL East leading Orioles (and yeah, that’s a phrase I didn’t think I’d have to write for another 10 years). Joe Girardi–can we already call him “embattled”?–will look to slow-starting Ivan Nova (and his ungainly 8.06 ERA in 22 spring innings) to stop the Yanks’ losing streak, while the O’s Buck Showalter will try to continue his side’s hot start by way of ex-top prospect Brian Matusz.

I’ve decided to break down the preview into three sections (I’m not counting that brief newspaper-y who/what/when/where lede as a section), but not because this is a three game series. Rather, it’s because I think there are basically three different ways that Yankee fans approach a season-opening slump, and I’m going to address each section to one of these groups. For what it’s worth, I seriously considered appending “, Or, A Study In Overreacting” to the title, but then I remembered that I’m not in college anymore, and that even my college self would have recognized how obnoxious a triple title is on an early-season baseball preview (or anywhere, really).

So, presented for your consideration: a preview in three parts. (I must have flipped on my pretentious switch this morning. Don’t know what’s come over me).

(click view full post to continue) Continue reading Yankees Vs. Orioles: A Preview In Three Parts

Sometime Soon, It May Be Time To Get Excited About Bryan Mitchell

On a Charleston Riverdogs team with Dante Bichette, Cito Culver, Mason Williams, Jose Campos, Angelo Gumbs, Tyler Austin, and Gary Sanchez, its easy for a solid prospect to get lost below the headlines. But the title of best opening weekend goes to none of them. Instead, Bryan Mitchell gave Yankee fans something to get very excited about. Mitchell pitched 6 innings in his debut start. He allowed no runs on just one hit and one walk, with six strikeouts. He is 21 years old, and has been kicking around the low levels of the Yankee farm system since being drafted Continue reading Sometime Soon, It May Be Time To Get Excited About Bryan Mitchell

In which I (sort of) defend Joe Girardi

I agree with Mike Axisa that the Yankees have a bit of a bullpen construction issue at the moment, but I disagree with him on this:

“It’s 6-2 and you’re down,” said Joe Girardi after Saturday’s game. “It’s the [seventh] inning. We’ve got a lot of days early on. We have one day off in the first 16 or 17 days, so we can’t burn these guys out in the first two days.”

First of all, let’s just ignore that Girardi basically said he doesn’t think his team could come back from four runs down. That’s an asinine statement we could facepalm over at some point in the future.

While you certainly never really want to hear the manager say that he didn’t think his team could win the game, as a substantive matter Girardi isn’t really wrong here. Based on Fangraphs’ WPA chart, the Yankees had just a 2.2% chance of winning the game when Carlos Pena came to the plate to lead off the 7th inning inning for Tampa Bay, making that pretty much the definition of mop up work. We like to remind ourselves watching the game that the Yankees’ offense is capable of coming back from big deficits thanks to their ability to work walks and hit home runs, and that’s certainly a true statement, but a baseball manager has to make decisions with the 162 game schedule in mind, and a big chunk of that, in my opinion, is playing these sort of percentages. I actually think Girardi has a better sense of this reality than most managers, at least in the regular season, and this helps him keep his top relievers’ workloads under control while also leaving them available for as many high leverage innings as possible over the course of the season.

That said, I do agree with Mike that, if you accept that Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, and Rafael Soriano are going to be married to specific innings and used only (or primarily) when the Yankees are leading or tied, the presence of Boone Logan and Clay Rapada presents a fairly large problem for situations like this. At some point, the Yankees are going to have to dump Rapada for someone who isn’t completely useless against right handed batters, or Girardi is going to have to become more willing to use some combination of Robertson/Soriano/David Phelps to get favorable match ups in the late innings of close games.

Continue reading In which I (sort of) defend Joe Girardi

Who cares what George would have done?

I briefly touched upon this in my last post, but can someone please explain to me what the point of columns like this is supposed to be? Yes, George Steinbrenner had a managerial style that was quite different than his son Hal’s. We’re 5+ years into the tenure of the latter, I think it’s safe to say that articles mentioning this fact have outlived their usefulness just a wee bit.

Conversely, the implication that George’s impatience was a good thing strikes me as both utterly insane and clearly refuted by the premise of the column itself. Say what you will about Torre as a manager, from a purely results based standpoint, the guy led teams that won the A.L. East in each of his first two seasons and captured the team’s first World Series championship since the late 70’s, and would go on to win three straight World Championships, four straight American League pennants, and five pennants in six years between 1998 and 2003. Obviously firing the guy 10 games into the ’98 season would have been a great idea.

I’m not going to say that George Steinbrenner didn’t have his endearing points, and he was certainly beloved by the scribes he gave so much material to (and continues to provide material for even after his passing), but from a day to day standpoint, the guy was a reactionary fool who enjoyed making himself the face of the Yankees, and that’s no way to go about running a baseball team. Continue reading Who cares what George would have done?

Three games is three games

The Yankees got swept by the Rays in the opening series of the season, which means that, here on the fourth day of the regular season, the Bronx Bombers are still without a win. Such a start is bound to produce a flurry of reactions, especially with the opening series falling on the weekend, and sure enough, these reactions were quite predictable. Some people took the big, bad, news! view of things, others took the occasion to engage in the requisite “What Would George Do?” game. Others, of course, pointed out that there are 159 games left to go, while others split the difference with the notion that, though the three losses aren’t meaningful, there were things to worry about in the way the Yankees played in Tampa.

Here’s my big addition to the genre: three games is three games. Profound, I know. Three losses does not tell you anything at the end of the day, whether they come with the team in first place in August or to start the season, and three games is certainly not a large enough sample to draw any meaningful qualitative conclusions from. The Yankees looked bad against the shift, you say? I say they scored six runs in each of the first two games of the series, and were just a Mariano Rivera save away from an Opening Day victory. C.C. Sabathia was less than stellar in the first game? Big deal, last year’s 3 run, 6 inning outing was his best Opening Day performance as a Yankee.

Here are a few off-hand observations about what the first three games means to the ultimate conclusion of a season:

  • The last time the Yankees opened the season 0-3 was 1998.
  • The last time the Yankees opened the season 0-2 was 2009.
  • Among teams that opened 2011 with 0-3 records were the Milwaukee Brewers, Tampa Bay Rays, and Boston Red Sox. All three won at least 90 games, two made the postseason, and the Red Sox were in first place in the A.L. East on September 1st.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, the Baltimore Orioles have now gone 3-0 start a season in consecutive seasons, and last year they did it by sweeping the Rays on the road.

That’s not to say that I don’t get why the first games of the season feel more important than others. By June or so, we’re two months into the monotony and routine of the baseball season, and the fact that individual wins and losses have a somewhat muted effect on the standings is pretty obvious to most of us. Now, however, we’re all amped up by Opening Day and the return of meaningful baseball, and going an entire series without picking up that first victory of the new season feels like a profound letdown. But it’s not, it’s just three baseball games.

And if it makes you feel better, the Red Sox are 0-3 too. For the second straight season. Continue reading Three games is three games