William Tasker grew up in Bergenfield, New Jersey but has lived in New England since 1975 and in the far reaches of northern Maine since 1990. Tasker is the author of nine (non-baseball related) books and, besides writing here for three years, has written for his own site at www.passion4baseball.blogspot.com since 2003.

Author Archives: William Tasker

Fan versus the machine – 2014 hopes against the odds

Being a fan of a team and writing about that same team is a very difficult trick to pull off. The most difficult part is being objective and writing in a factual way without getting carried away by emotions. If you don’t fight the emotions, you end up writing screeds against the general manager or manager and players who don’t perform the way you expect or turn the other way and be exceeding in the praise. One way to really illustrate the problem is to look at the fan’s hopes during the season and cold, hard odds of making the wild card or winning the division as it is calculated every day by places like Fangraphs.com. It wasn’t until the end of the 2014 season when the hopes fell in line with reality.

What I did to illustrate the point was to list the day by day Fangraphs odds for the Yankees to either win a wild card spot or win the division from Game 1 of the season to Game 162.…

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Whiffing wonders – flipping a Marlon Byrd

(Syndicated from The Flagrant Fan)

Anyone who has read my stuff for a while understands that I am not fond of strikeouts. I have often jousted against the notion that an out is an out is an out. I respectfully disagree. Strikeouts give the batter no opportunity to have anything other than an out where a batted ball will give the batter a 30% chance to get on base. One of the few scenarios where a strikeout is better than a batted ball is a double play. Knowing my predilection to this part of baseball is my discovery that Marlon Byrd has done something in 2014 no player in the history of baseball has ever done before. Marlon Byrd struck out 150 times more than he walked in 2014.

Byrd had a pretty good offensive season by most standards. He had a 110 OPS+, hit 25 homers and drove in 85. In the world of the Phillies, that’s really productive.…

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VMart and Donnie Baseball

(Syndicated from The Flagrant Fan)

Victor Martinez is having a remarkable offensive season. And it isn’t just the 31 homers and 31 doubles and the .333 batting average. What is remarkable is that in the inglorious age of the strikeout, Martinez has only struck out 40 times all season. He is on pace to finish with 43 strikeouts. When considering that remarkable number, it made me curious as to how many times since 1961 someone has hit over 30 homers with less than 45 strikeouts. So I went to my trusty baseball-reference.com and checked it out.

First of all, why did I only go back to 1961? Good question. The answer is that 1961 was right around the first time when the strikeout rate averaged five strikeouts per team per game (1959 to be exact). And even going that far back is problematic. The average strikeout rate in 1961 was 13.2% compared to it being 20.3% this season. If you go back further than 1961, then a low strikeout rate with a lot of homers just wasn’t that remarkable.…

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Will Kevin Long be the sacrificial lamb?

For those of us who watch almost every game, the entire 2014 season has been a series of games with one common theme: A total lack of offense. A full fifty of the team’s games have featured a lineup that scored two runs or less. That is a full 31% of a season’s games, never mind that the season isn’t over yet. In contrast, the Orioles (congratulations) have had five such games. Fifty…five. With a disappointing season following an active off season big with the check book, who will pay the price for such a performance? Will it be the hitting coach, Kevin Long? Should it be?

Let’s look at some more putrid numbers. In the Yankees’ last seven days, they have registered the following triple slash line: .174/.244/.284 with a .201 average on balls in play. Take that same slash line over the last fourteen days: .194/.256/.321 with a .220 BABIP. Take it even further to the last 28 days: .228/.290/.373 with a .254 BABIP.…

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Game 148 – ESPNing

The Yankees try to delay the inevitable with the Baltimore Orioles on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.

The Lineups:

New York Yankees:

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury – CF
  2. Derek Jeter – SS
  3. Brett Gardner – LF
  4. Martin Prado – 3B
  5. Brian McCann – C
  6. Mark Teixeira – 1B
  7. Chris Young – DH
  8. Stephen Drew – 2B
  9. Antoan Richardson – RF

SP – Hiroki Kuroda

Baltimore Orioles:

  1. Nick Markakis – RF
  2. Alejandro De Aza – LF
  3. Adam Jones – CF
  4. Nelson Cruz – DH
  5. Steve Pearce – 1B
  6. J.J. Hardy – SS
  7. Kelly Johnson – 3B
  8. Nick Hundley – C
  9. Jonathan Schoop – 2B

SP – Chris Tillman

Enjoy the game!

 

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First pitch does not exist for Mark Teixeira

Diagnosing a problem happening with a member of the Yankees is pretty much a moot point right now. But sometimes, an observation has to be tested simply out of curiosity. My observation is that Mark Teixeira never, ever swings at the first pitch and it is usually the best pitch he sees in an at bat. The numbers back up the observation and they are not pretty.

Most assume correctly that Mark Teixeira’s batting average has shriveled up like a cold cut left out in the open air because he has not adjusted to the shifts deployed against him. His .237 BABIP attests to his inability (or lack of interest) in adjusting to the shift. But the shift being deployed in baseball is just the most visible sign of how much statistics and the trending they bring has changed the game. Number crunchers working for teams look for any trends that can be exploited. With Teixeira, it’s not just the pull tendency, but also his first pitch strategy.…

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Game 146 – Big day for Bryan Mitchell

After a brutal eleven innings of Yankee baseball this afternoon, at least the nightcap of the double-header will feature the first Major League start for Bryan Mitchell. If you love prospects getting their first real opportunity, then this game is for you. Bud Norris will go for the Orioles.

The bad news is that the Yankees will not have David Robertson or Dellin Betances available out of the bullpen. They both threw a lot of pitches in the first game as Girardi tried for the Hail Mary that fell harmlessly in the end zone. There is much more bad news, but let’s just let it be and root for the kid to pitch well.

The Lineups:

New York Yankees:

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury – CF
  2. Derek Jeter – SS
  3. Brett Gardner – CF
  4. Brian McCann – 1B
  5. Chris Young – LF
  6. Stephen Drew – 2B
  7. Ichiro Suzuki – RF
  8. Zelous Wheeler – 3B
  9. Austin Romine – C

SP Bryan Mitchell

Baltimore Orioles:

  1. Alejandro De Aza – LF
  2. Steve Pearce – 1B
  3. Jimmy Paredes – 3B
  4. Nelson Cruz – RF
  5. Delmon Young – DH
  6. David Lough – CF
  7. Caleb Joseph – C
  8. Ryan Flaherty – SS
  9. Jonathan Schoop – 2B

SP – Bud Norris

Not exactly a crack lineup there on either side.…

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Koji Uehorror – Yankees walk it off in the ninth

The Yankees appeared to be heading to another frustrating loss and Koji Uehara trotted in from the bullpen to protect a 4-3 lead. Three batters later, Mark Teixeira had tied it with homer and after a Brian McCann (hard hit) line drive out, Chase Headley hit a bomb to the third deck to win the game in walk-off fashion. Headley was met at home to a frenzied celebration and a Gardner Gatorade bath.

Uehara is really struggling right now and his big out pitch, the split-fingered fastball, is just not sinking and when that pitch doesn’t work, it becomes a batting practice fastball. Living in Maine with the blackout rules, I had to watch the game on NESN and the post game show featured Dennis Eckersley savaging Uehara. Hey, the guy won them a World Series last year, lighten up!

The game to the ninth inning was pretty tough to watch. Stacey Gotsulias was hurling epithets all over Twitter and who could blame her.…

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The expandables: Who will the Yankees call up for September?

We are two days away from that wacky time of year when team active rosters can expand from 25 to any amount from 26 to forty. If your team is out of the chase, you can call up a bunch of prospects you want to look at, but as Joe Girardi has said in the past, September is not the time for auditions when in a race to make the playoffs. While the Yankees are currently racing like Jeff Gordon trying to make the last four laps on bald tires, they are still giving it their best shot. That said, don’t expect any fun prospect porn from the Yankees.

First of all, you can only bring up players from your 40-man roster (I’ve read the actual MLB rules here and they are a bit ambiguous). So those of you hoping for a fun glimpse of Rob Refsnyder or even Pat Venditte will be disappointed unless the Yankees clear room on the 40-man roster.…

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