Game Thread: Yankees at Indians, Sunday August 26, 2012

After a disappointing sweep at the hands of the White Sox, the Yankees have split their opening games in the series against Cleveland. Every time it looks like the Yankees are going to start playing well in the second half, they seem to lose steam. Losing two of three to Cleveland after dropping three in a row to the White Sox would cement that. Every game may not be a must win at the moment, but the Yankees will put themselves in that situation if they let the Rays close to within two games in the AL East. Things are getting interesting, and not in a good way. Winning the series against Cleveland is a smart way to get things moving in the right direction. The Yankees send Freddy Garcia to the mound, while the Indians counter with Ubaldo Jimenez. Remember when Jimenez was a prize to be had? Me neither. He’s been awful this year. Enjoy.

Would A-Rod make sense for the Dodgers?

"Hollywood? Really?"

In the wake of the mega-deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto from the Red Sox to the Dodgers, a question popped up immediately in the minds of many Yankee fans, myself included. The Dodgers seem to have no regard for future obligations with their deep pocketed new ownership group. The Red Sox just got out from under 262M of contracts and have effectively hit the reset button for their franchise with one fell swoop. If there’s one contract the Yanks have on the books that they would love to get out from under, it’s the Alex Rodriguez deal. Would the Dodgers be interested?

One thing we know for sure, there’s no longer any such thing as a contract that can’t be traded. Anyone who thinks there is just hasn’t been paying attention. AJ Burnett, Carlos Zambrano, and now this mega deal by Boston which included a non-productive player who just had Tommy John surgery. The biggest stumbling block could be Alex himself. He has 10-5 rights, so has earned the right under the CBA to approve any transaction at this point of his career. Would he?

On the surface Hollywood would appear to be a perfect match for Alex. He dates starlets, appears in magazines, and craves the kind of attention he would get in LA. After a rough start in his first few years in New York with both the fans and the media, Alex has settled in to something of a routine where he no longer has the public missteps he did earlier. He has done this for the most part by A) Getting divorced, so his dating habits are no longer a story for the baseball beat writers B) Mimicking Derek Jeter’s ‘speak in nothing but cliches’ media approach. But I think its fair to say the real Alex was the one who showed up here in 2004. He’s won his ring here, would a new challenge in a new big market city be appealing? I don’t know what’s inside his head, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he jumped at the opportunity the way Beckett and Crawford did.

Here’s the good news. If the Dodgers have one glaring hole on their current roster, its SS/3B. We all know that Hanley Ramirez prefers to play SS from his initial disapproval of the Marlins acquisition of Jose Reyes. Most talent evaluators think Hanley Ramirez is getting too big to play SS, and the move to 3B is warranted for defensive purposes. But he’s still just 28 years old, an age at which the reflexes needed to play up the middle should still be there, at least for the next few years. He’s experiencing an offensive resurgence (.885 OPS) in LA, where he’s played most of his games at SS. A-Rod may no longer be among baseball’s elite players overall, but at his position he’s still a top 8 player over the past few years. He’s also a huge star, and that could go a long way for a franchise that was just purchased as much for media related business reasons as anything else. He’s certainly a big upgrade over Juan Uribe (.181/.250/.275) who currently mans third for the Dodgers. Uribe is signed (7M) through next year, so the Dodgers may want the Yanks to take him back in any deal, particularly to help with their 2013 budget.

That leads us to the bad news. As Mike Axisa detailed on MLBTR earlier this week, the Dodgers are pretty much maxed out in terms of payroll obligations for 2013 unless the want to start paying luxury taxes. Here’s the table Mike posted through the end of A-Rod’s deal:

  • 2013 ($188.68MM) — Gonzalez ($21MM), Crawford ($20MM), Matt Kemp ($20MM), Beckett ($15.75MM), Hanley Ramirez ($15.5MM), Andre Ethier ($13.5MM), Ted Lilly ($12MM), Chad Billingsley ($11MM), Clayton Kershaw ($11MM), Manny Ramirez ($8.33MM), Juan Uribe ($7MM), Aaron Harang ($7MM), Chris Capuano ($6MM), Mark Ellis ($5.25MM), Matt Guerrier ($3.75MM), Jerry Hairston Jr. ($3.75MM), Andruw Jones ($3.2MM), Yasel Puig ($2MM), Punto ($1.5MM), Juan Rivera ($500K buyout), Mike MacDougal ($350K buyout), Todd Coffey ($300K buyout)
  • 2014 ($130.7MM) — Gonzalez ($21MM), Kemp ($21MM), Crawford ($20.25MM), Ramirez ($16MM), Beckett ($15.75MM), Ethier ($15.5M), Billingsley ($11MM), Jones ($3.2MM), Puig ($2MM), Harang ($2MM buyout), Uribe ($1MM deferred), Capuano ($1MM buyout), Ellis ($1MM buyout)
  • 2015 ($88MM) — Gonzalez ($21MM), Kemp ($21MM), Crawford ($20.5MM), Ethier ($18MM), Puig ($4.5MM), Billingsley ($3MM buyout)
  • 2016 ($84.75MM) — Kemp ($21.5MM), Gonzalez ($21MM), Crawford ($20.75MM), Ethier ($16MM), Puig ($5.5MM)
  • 2017 ($88.5MM) — Gonzalez ($21.5MM), Kemp ($21.5MM), Crawford ($21MM), Ethier ($18MM), Puig ($6.5MM)

As you can see, the Dodgers are already over the luxury tax limit next year before they would add A-Rod to the roster. His annual salaries from 2013-2017 are 28M, 25M, 21M, 20M and 20M. First time offenders pay a 40% tax under the new CBA, so the Dodgers would be over the 178M threshold for 2013 by 40M before we even get into arb raises and filling out the roster. If you want to estimate they’d be over by 50M when all is said and done, they’d be subject to a tax of 20M. That’s not chump change, even for a team that has been spending like the Dodgers have of late. The A-Rod contract alone would cost LA 28M x 40%=39.3M. For 2014 and beyond there does appear to be some room, but the Yanks would have to kick in some serious cash to help with the 2013 budget. Maybe pick up his entire salary for 2013, so the Dodgers just pay the tax.

When the Yanks re-upped with Rodriguez after his huge 2007 season, a big part of the rationale was going to be his chase of the all time HR record.  Dodgers stadium has a well deserved reputation as a pitcher’s haven, but for a right handed hitter the dimensions are far more favorable than that of Yankee Stadium. Here are the two parks side by side:

Dodgers Stadium
Yankee Stadium


As you can see Dodgers Stadium is perfectly symmetrical, as opposed to YS3 which penalizes righty power hitters. The hard core east coast baseball fans will take A-Rod’s pursuit of the record  far less seriously in the wake of his steroid admissions, but the more casual fan base in LA would likely still embrace it. As we saw with Bonds in nearby San Francisco, all of the accusations surrounding his assault on Ruth and Aaron did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the locals. Dodgers Stadium would also work in A-Rod’s favor. Here’s Alex’s spray chart over the past 3 seasons from Texas Leaguers:

Looking at his spray chart over the past 3 years, you would have to subtract some of those Yankee Stadium specials down the lines, but you could add some of those warning track outs to his HR total. The standard length of a warning track is 15 feet. By my count (sorry, no overlay available) you should subtract 4 and add 16 HRs to his totals over the past 3 seasons, giving you net+12 dingers. Even if I’m off by a few, its safe to say Alex would have a far better chance to break Barry Bonds’ record if he was playing for Los Angeles.

One thing I haven’t addressed is whether the Yanks would be willing to do this. For all their talk of the 189M payroll target and fans bemoaning the albatross this contract is, the simple fact of the matter is A-Rod is an important fixture in the Yankee lineup. He lengthens it significantly, and provides a righty bat that is difficult to replace. He’s the only right handed power bat they have, and opposing teams often toss every lefty they have against the Yanks to take advantage of the ballpark and turn around some of their switch hitters. If something like this were to happen, it wouldn’t happen in season. The Red Sox are out of it, they don’t have to worry about facing the players they just dealt away in the 2012 post season. But as I laid out I do think the elements of a deal are there, assuming the Yanks kick in some cash to help the Dodgers with their 2013 payroll.



RISP failure or bad luck and good pitching?

The first one was in the fourth inning and perhaps this is a fail. There were two outs and Mark Teixeira came to the plate following Robinson Cano‘s double. As is his wont, Teixeira let a first pitch fastball right down the middle go by for strike one. That was the one good pitch he had in the at bat. Should he have gone for it? Perhaps. But he did not. Justin Masterson then executed a perfect pitch for strike three. Teixeira argued with the umpire, but it was a strike and a perfect pitch. You could call that a fail on Teixeira letting that first pitch go by or you can tip your cap to Masterson for the perfect strikeout pitch.

The fifth inning rally was a tough one to watch. With one out, Eric Chavez singled up the middle. Russell Martin singled to right. The Yankees had something going. Raul Ibanez hit a rocket up the middle. Would it have gone through the infield with the infielders shading the middle? Perhaps, perhaps not. But either way, the pitcher got his glove in the way and almost lost his arm. The ball trickled behind the mound. Ibanez is slow. The pitcher made a perfect recovery. A bad luck out.

With runners on second and third, Ichiro Suzuki came up and absolutely squared the bat on one and sent it soaring deep into the night. Unfortunately, it was to the deepest part of the park and Michael Brantley was able to  run it down. That’s just bad luck there. Two hard hit balls. No runs.

The sixth inning was another tough one to watch. Derek Jeter turned on a pitch and rapped a single to left. Nick Swisher walked. With runners on first and second with no outs, Robinson Cano hit a line drive. But since it was right at where the shortstop was standing, Jeter had to freeze. So when it got over the shortstop’s glove, Jeter could only get to third. Teixeira then nailed a pitch to center. But again, he hit to the deepest part of the park. Brantley again was able to run it down and all three runners advanced with Jeter scoring. Now there were runners on second and third with one out.

Curtis Granderson then walked to load the bases back up. Eric Chavez did something other Yankees’ left-handed hitters do not do (except Cano). In big situations, he’ll take the ball the other way. He did so perfectly and hit a rope. The problem was, it was hit right to where the third baseman was standing (in the normal shortstop hole). Two feet either way and that brings in two runs. Instead it was the second out. Russell Martin also took Masterson the other way and killed a pitch to right. He really hit it hard. Ten feet to the left or right and that is three runs. A little more loft and it is a homer. Instead it was a loud and long out. Bad luck.

Seventh inning. Raul Ibanez killed a pitch and hit a hard line drive. But the right fielder was able to track it down by the warning track. Bad luck. Ichiro struck out. Two outs. With two outs, Jeter singled and Swisher singled. Manny Acta brought in Vinnie Pestano, a very good relief pitcher. Pestano walked Cano to again load the bases. He looked like he was going to walk Teixeira and the count went to two balls. Manny Acta came to the mound and chewed Pestano out and told him to go right after Teixeira. You could read his lips. It was an excellent job of managing. Pestano made a great pitch and chew up Teixeira’s bat for a weak pop up to end the threat. RISP fail? Perhaps. From here, it was a tip of the cap to Acta and to Pestano.

The Indians have an excellent back end of their bullpen and the Yankees had no more chances. For this observer who watched the entire game (and agonized over it just like you), the final result was a series of hard hit balls that found homes in gloves and a couple of great pitches by pitchers when needed. If the Yankees made those pitches, we would be talking about how clutch those Yankee pitchers were. Call it a fail if you want. But the term is too simplistic. And it is too easy to say when luck and the pitcher has a lot to say with the final results. The Yankees lost. It happens.

The Farm Report: 8/25/12

Trenton lost to Akron 4-3:
Akron took the lead with a solo homer from Chun-Hsiu Chen in the second. Trenton jumped in front in the fourth. JR Murphy drew a walk and David Adams followed with a homer to left. The lead was short-lived, however, as Akron responded with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Adams hit a ground-rule double in the top of the sixth, scoring on a single by Addison Maruszak and tying the game 3-3. The Aeros wasted little time in retaking the lead for good, as Jesus Aguilar and Ryan Rohlinger both drew walks. Aguilar scored on a double by Michel Hernandez and Akron beat Trenton 4-3.

Adonis Garcia went 2-5 with a double. Adams went 2-4 with two runs scored, a double, a homer and two RBIs. Maruszak went 2-4 with a RBI. Shaeffer Hall went six and gave up four runs on five hits and four walks. Francisco Rondon threw two innings and gave up three hits, striking out two.

Tampa beat Daytona 3-2 in Game 1:
The game was scoreless after three, but Daytona broke through in the fourth. Ronald Torreyes hit a ground-rule double and scored on a ground out by Javier Baez. The Yankees took control in the bottom of the fifth. Ramon Flores drew a walk, but was out at second on a grounder by Slade Heathcott. Tyler Austin drew a walk, as did Kyle Roller, loading the bases. Gary Sanchez lined a single to center, scoring Heathcott and Austin. Zach Wilson walked, loading the bases again, and Kelvin De Leon drew a free pass, pushing Roller across the plate for the 3-1 advantage. Daytona managed one run in the sixth, but the Yankees held on for the win.

Flores went 2-3 with a walk. Sanchez went 2-3 with a pair of RBis. Austin went 0-1 with a run scored, a stolen base and three walks. Zachary Nuding went 5.2 and gave up two runs on two hits, six walks and two Ks.

Tampa lost to Daytona 4-1 in Game 2:
The Yankees took the lead in the bottom of the third. Yadil Mujica tripled to center and scored on a ground out by Flores. Daytona answered in the top of the fourth, scoring a run on a RBI single by Torreyes and a sac fly by Nelson Perez. Daytona added some insurance in the sixth, as John Andreoli and Torreyes hit back-to-back triples and Rebel Ridling singled. The Yankees couldn’t put together a rally, losing 4-1. Heathcott went 1-2 with a walk and a stolen base. Mujica went 1-2 with a run scored and a triple. Caleb Cotham went four innings and gave up two runs on four hits, no walks and three Ks.

Charleston beat Lexington 1-0 in 10 innings:
Lexington had a chance to score early, as Chan Moon doubled and moved to third on a sac bunt, but the Legends came up short. Charleston had two singles in the second, but were likewise unable to bring the run home. The RiverDogs threatened again in the top of the eighth, as Casey Stevenson singled and moved to second on a bunt. Cody Grice walked, but Cito Culver flew out to end the inning. The ninth inning ended with the game still scoreless, but the RiverDogs finally broke through in the top of the tenth. Dante Bichette doubled to second, but was out at third on a fielder’s choice hit by Stevenson. Ali Castillo followed with a double, plating Stevenson and giving the RiverDogs a 1-0 victory.

Castillo went 2-3 with a double and a RBI. Bichette went 1-4 with a double. The RiverDogs’ pitchers held Lexington to just one hit on the day. Corey Black allowed the hit and a walk, striking out five. Rigoberto Arrebato and Daniel Mahoney both pitched two hitless innings, striking out three.

Staten Island got blanked by Brooklyn 11-0:
The Yankees’ win streak came to a grinding halt on Saturday. Brooklyn took the lead in the first with a run on a sac fly by Kevin Plawecki. The Yankees had a chance in second as Ravel Santana drew a walk and Gregory Bird singled, but they came up empty. Brooklyn added to runs in the fifth and put the game away with eight in the seventh. The Yankees were unable to put together any real threat, losing 11-0. Santana, Bird and Jamiel Orozco each had  single for the Yankees. Gabriel Encinas threw 6.1 innings and gave up six runs (five earned) on six hits, four walks and two Ks. Zach Woods gave up five runs on three hits, two walks and a K in 0.2 innings.

GCL Yankees beat GCL Pirates 5-2:
The Yankees ended the 2012 season just as they started it, with a win. Unfortunately, they were one game behind the Pirates for the Wild Card spot in the playoffs. Miguel Andujar homered in the first, for the 1-0 lead. The Pirates picked up two runs in the fourth and held the lead through the eighth. The Yankees found their bats in the top of the ninth. Yeicok Calderon worked a walk and moved to second on a wild pitch. Nathan Mikolas drew a walk and Calderon moved to third on a wild pitch. Calderon scored on a grounder by Jerison Lopez, while Mikolas was out at second. Jorge Alcantara singled to right, putting runners on the corners. Eduardo de Oleo followed with a double to center, plating two more runs. Mikeson Oliberto lined a single to left, scoring de Oleo and the Yankees took a 5-2 victory.

Alcantara went 3-3 with a run scored and a walk. Oliberto went 2-4 with a double and a RBI. Andujar went 2-5 with a homer. De Oleo went 1-4 with a run scored, a double and two RBIs. Giovanny Gallegos went two innings and gave up one hit, striking out two. Rookie Davis pitched 2.1 innings and gave up two unearned runs on four hits, a walk and two Ks. Caleb Frare gave up one hit over 2.2 and struck out four. Chaz Hebert pitched two innings and struck out one.

RISP-tastrophy! Yankees lose 1-3 behind Masterson’s gem, missed opportunities

But there’s the catch: this lineup just couldn’t get it done. Kuroda had a rocky first few innings, where his pitches were sailing high on him, and he just couldn’t seem to keep control of–or even locate–the strike zone. He let a couple of Indians get on base in the first inning, then made one terrible mistake to Michael Brantley, and that was it. He settled down as the night wore on, collecting strikeouts, locating his pitches, and waiting for his offense to wake up.

But it never did. Watching this team play baseball tonight was like having front row seats to an open-heart operation where the anesthetized patient is awake but totally paralyzed (a sort of living horror the likes of which few people have ever experienced). Tonight was the baseball equivalent of the medical phenomenon known as “anesthesia awareness”.

Look, I’m still a RISP-nonbeliever. But I’m not immune to these awful games.

  • The answer that I give when I get the RISP question is basically this: “Look, baseball is a game of probability, luck, and what we generally accept to be a mean, or normalcy. When you take a small sample–say one game, or a series of games–you’re going to see extreme variations that seem impossible to explain. We call these extreme variations from the mean “hot streaks” and “slumps”; and players aren’t the only ones who go through these random fluctuations. Teams all have certain baseline means, averages, that we can expect them to produce over the course of a season: but that doesn’t mean that they will produce those numbers every single game, or even every single series. The point is that hitting with RISP is the same, essentially, as hitting normally: sometimes you hit, sometimes you don’t; sometimes teams hit, sometimes they don’t. Ultimately, the streaks will even out over the course of a season–and if you feel like your team is hitting more slumps than hot streaks, then you have to decide whether your team is a) unlucky or b) bad. If the answer is (a), then you’ll probably see your team hit a hot streak soon. If it’s (b), then it’s possible that the team isn’t in a cold streak at all, but instead is playing at their normal level.”
  • That’s a long, convoluted way of saying, “it all evens out eventually.”
  • Which is disturbing when you realize that postseason success is all about streaks.
  • Which, ultimately, is all about luck. (Sorry clutch hitting folks).
  • I realize I’m going to catch some flak for this, but I do think that this is backed up by evidence. Of course, I’d love to hear any evidence to the contrary.
  • Derek Jeter (2-5 on the night) is still hitting .326 on the season, which begs the question: if he hit really well in 2009 (134 wRC+, .390 wOBA), badly in 2010 (94 wRC+, .32o wOBA), acceptably in 2011 (104 wRC+, .332 wOBA), and really well in 2012 (123 wRC+, .357 wOBA), isn’t he still a good to very good offensive player on average?
  • Raul Ibanez cannot hit Masterson.
  • Mark Teixeira was 0-for-2 with RISP, both times with people on third base.

Yankees Blow An Opportunity To Increase Their Division Lead, Lose 3-1

I won’t say tonight’s game was a must-win but I will say it was a game the Yankees should have won. The Indians were in the midst of a nine-game losing streak coming into tonight but snapped that streak by handing the Yankees their fourth loss in five games. So far this has been the road trip from hell for New York who were swept in Chicago and with a loss tomorrow could finish the trip 1-5.

Tonight, the Yankees seemed to have the bases loaded every inning and couldn’t do anything. They ended the game 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position and their lone run came on a sacrifice fly by Mark Teixeira in the sixth inning.

Hiroki Kuroda was victimized by a three-run home run in the first inning by Michael Brantley.

That’s all the Indians would need to lock up the victory. Kuroda ended up pitching a complete game allowing only four hits in the loss.

Justin Masterson struck out six Yankees en route to his 10th win of the season and Chris Perez picked up his 33rd save with a 1-2-3 ninth inning.