About William Tasker

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.

Game 9: Tanaka’s home debut

Masahiro Tanaka makes his Yankee Stadium debut tonight for the New York Yankees as the team plays the third game of its series against the Baltimore Orioles. The new pitcher for the Yankees has a tough test against a very good lineup.

Here are the lineups:

Baltimore Orioles:

  1. Nick Markakis – RF
  2. Delmon Young – DH
  3. Chris Davis – 1B
  4. Adam Jones – CF
  5. Matt Wieters – C
  6. Nelson Cruz – LF
  7. Steve Lombardozzi – 2B
  8. Ryan Flaherty – SS
  9. Jonathan Schoop – 3B

SP – Miguel Gonzalez

New York Yankees:

  1. Brett Gardner – CF
  2. Derek Jeter – SS
  3. Jacoby Ellsbury – DH
  4. Carlos Beltran – RF
  5. Brian McCann – C
  6. Alfonso Soriano – LF
  7. Kelly Johnson – 1B
  8. Brian Roberts – 2B
  9. Yangervis Solarte – 3B

SP – Masahiro Tanaka

Some things to look for:

  • Matt Wieters has an eight game hitting streak and loves hitting at Yankee Stadium.
  • Leading off the game or an inning, Brett Gardner is 0-11 with three walks and five strikeouts. He has a 36.9% K rate since moving into the lead-off spot. Certainly small sample size, but something to keep an eye on.

The Game starts at 7:05 and is being televised on YES. Continue reading Game 9: Tanaka’s home debut

Yankees finally hit a homer, beat Blue Jays, 6-4

The New York Yankees scored six runs before the fourth inning was over, all off Blue Jays’ starter, Drew Hutchison. The last two runs were the result of a Brett Gardner line drive homer, the Yankees’ first of the season. Hutchison took the loss and is now 1-1. David Robertson put two base runners on in the ninth for a little tension, but got Colby Rasmus to pop out to third and Melky Cabrera on a line drive to right for his second save. CC Sabathia picked up the win to even his record to 1-1. Continue reading Yankees finally hit a homer, beat Blue Jays, 6-4

Pineda is great-a but the offense duds, Blue Jays win

Michael Pineda made it worth the wait with a six-inning stellar performance that showed he can really help the Yankees’ rotation this year. Unfortunately, despite four really decent chances, the Yankees could not get the big hit they needed and laid an egg. In the eighth inning, David Phelps yielded a homer, a double and then another homer to put the game out of reach. R.A. Dickey got the win to even his record at 1-1 and Sergio Santos got a four out save.for his second of the year. Pineda got the hard luck loss and is 0-1.

Before we get to the bad stuff, let’s talk about Pineda.  He has been away from the Majors as long as Grady Sizemore. Think about that for a second. After working hard all winter and spring, he earned the opportunity to head north with the Yankees as the fifth starter. And what a fifth starter he can be!

Michael Pineda pitched six innings against a tough lineup and gave up six hits and no walks He struck out five. So after his one stint thus far, he has an 0.86 WHIP and a 1.50 ERA. The one run against him came in the second inning. Adam Lind went against type and hit a solid double to the opposite field. And they Josh Thole, only in the Majors to catch for Dickey, hit a little doink shot into no-man’s land between the shortstop and the left fielder. That was the only blemish.

Okay, that’s the good news. The bad news is that the Yankees really put up a dud of an attack. Despite a slow start, they did manage to get on base twelve times with seven hits, three walks and two hit batsmen. But ten of those runners were stranded, one was erased in a double-play and Francisco Cervelli was called out on a controversial call at home plate on the only time the Yankees delivered a hit with men in scoring position (Ellsbury).

After it was determined that Cervelli was not blocked from getting to home, it did appear that his leg beat the tag. But there was no angle that showed the foot touching the plate and the out call stood.

Particularly bad offensive performances were turned in by Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano and Dean Anna. Beltran stranded three batters and hit the double play ball. Soriano looked at a meatball over the plate for strike two and then swung at a 59 foot slider in the dirt to ruin another rally. Soriano has zero hits on the season. Dean Anna twice ended innings with runners on base with strikeouts.

Jacoby Ellsbury had three more hits and a perfect throw from Colby Rasmus prevented him from tying up the game. Rasmus had a terrific game in the field with a hard-running catch of a Francisco Cervelli smash in the ninth.

Cervelli also had a great day and went two for three with a hit by pitch and was robbed his last time up. Yangervis Solarte also had a two for three day with a hit by pitch. Cervelli, Solarte and Ellsbury accounted for all of the Yankee hits. Derek Jeter went zero for two but did walk twice.

So put this one in the loss column. The Yankees are now 2-3 and the Blue Jays are 3-3. The Yankees and Blue Jays will play one more tomorrow at the same time. It will be CC Sabathia versus young phenom, Drew Hutchison. Continue reading Pineda is great-a but the offense duds, Blue Jays win

Quit yer stallin’ for relief pitchers

Originally published at The Flagrant Fan

Although I am on the high side of my fifties, I am in large part still a kid inside. Baseball works very well for that. And when I yell at players on my television screen, I often yell in the voices of Bugs Bunny characters. If you don’t believe me, ask my wife. Such an occasion occurred last night in the Blue Jays – Yankees game when Toronto manager, John Gibbons, clearly stalled the game trying to give a relief pitcher in the bullpen a few more reps before he came in to pitch. Out of my mouth, Yosemite Sam’s, “Quit yer stallin’!”

This is how it happened. Starter, Dustin McGowan was having a rough night. Gibbons had been forced to start up the bullpen in the first when the Yankees started cuffing McGowan around and had the bases loaded with two runs already in. But McGowan got out of the jam without further damage and then pitched a successful second inning.

Lulled into thinking that McGowan had settled in, despite a walk and a stolen base by Brian Roberts, Both McGowan and Gibbons thought that McGowan got out of the third when Ichiro Suzuki was called out on a close play by the first base umpire. Joe Girardi provided the first stall as he waited by the umpire to hear from his dugout on whether to challenge the call. We’ll talk about this problem again in a minute.

Gibbons thought correctly that McGowan was in a compromised position by the call reversal and he desperately wanted to bring in Aaron Loup to take McGowan’s place. Loup had just gotten up when Yangervis Solarte boomed a double to score two runs. The problem was that Loup still wasn’t ready yet.

And so we saw what we see all the time. The pitching coach walks as slowly to the mound as he can without completely stopping in place. He then folds his arm while the entire infield gathers and stays like that until the umpire comes to break it up.

The pitching coach leaves and from the dugout, catcher, Dioner Navarro, is instructed to go to the mound and talk to his pitcher, as clear a further stall as has ever been seen. And in a move probably paid for by Toronto spies, a fan ran onto the field and ran around until he was captured thus giving Loup the time he needed to finish getting ready. For eight to ten minutes, no baseball happened. It was then that I yelled in Yosemite Sam.

I am not picking on just John Gibbons and the Blue Jays. What they did (other than the fan running around) is done every day by managers around baseball. Part of Joe Maddon‘s “genius” is his mastery of the stall tactic. Remember Sam Fuld warming up to pitch? Tony La Russa was also famous for his stall tactics.

In my mind, such stalling is cheating and not in the spirit of how baseball is to be played. If you read the official MLB rulebook, the word, “Delay,” appears 23 times. It is obviously something that is frowned upon. Heck, batters are not supposed to leave the batting box and pitchers are supposed to throw the ball within twelve seconds of receiving it. Don’t even get me started on these rules not being enforced.

Mound visits are not specified in the delay cycle of the rule book and it should be. But it also says that a team is in danger of forfeit if a manager tries to delay or shorten a game. You could read into this law for enforcement.

If the relief pitcher is not ready, the manager is at fault for not thinking ahead or panicking in time. If the relief pitcher is not ready, the game should resume with what he has on the mound and resume quickly.

Such a stall tactic is being allowed when it comes to the new instant replays. Managers are allowed to shuffle around next to an umpire until getting a signal from the dugout for a yea or nay on calling for a replay. This allowed delay is a flaw of the new system which has been mentioned many times by others. It needs to be fixed.

But the delay for relief pitchers is grievous to me. It is stalling and not in the best interest of baseball or its fans. It is cheating and just as bad as other forms of cheating. It should not be winked at.

The rules should be changed that when the manager does his little hand puppet gesture for the catcher to go talk to the pitcher, the umpire should have discretion to say no. The rule should be changed so that a pitching coach must jog or get to the mound and quickly as possible and not stay more than twelve seconds. And if he does neither a balk should be called.

Stalling is cheating. Say it is a part of baseball if you want. But that does not make it right. Continue reading Quit yer stallin’ for relief pitchers

Bullpen arms and anti-regression velocity

(Originally published at The Flagrant Fan)

In a post yesterday, I pondered relief pitchers like Chad QuallsMatt Albers and Jake McGee who have unexpectedly increased their fastball velocity with age. Their careers piqued my curiosity. And so I took a look at pitchers who have pitched in relief since 2010 and if their velocity has regressed or not. Let me share what I have discovered.

First, let me disclaim a few things. As always the disclaimer that I am not a math guy with a great handle on how to figure these things out. I am more like Joe Posnanski in knowing enough to be dangerous but not nearly as good at him at writing about my feeble discoveries and calculations.

Secondly, I am using Fangraphs.com’s Pitch Type tool which lumps all fastball types together (4-seam, 2-seam, sinker). While that is inconvenient, it does make it easier than tracking three different pitch types.

And lastly, I am not talking about success rates, movement, the value of the fastball or anything but velocity. As most of us know, velocity has a lot to do with success (ahem, Mr. Sabathia) but not everything. Location and command are just as important (ahem, Sabathia critics).

The first thing I did was look at league averages. Each year since 2010, there has been a fairly consistent total of 135 to 137 qualifying relief pitchers and the averages have been constant. They are as follows:

Year, Ave Fastball for All, Ave Fastball for top 50

  • 2010 – 92.45, 95.00
  • 2011 – 92.50, 94.97
  • 2012 – 92.51, 94.84
  • 2013 – 92.65, 94.94
  • 2014 – 92.47, 94.52 (SSS)

Two things pop up for me looking at those numbers. First, they are remarkably consistent from year to year, so it gives us a framework. And secondly, it is unbelievable that 37% of all relief pitchers throw some pretty serious cheese.

What I am now interested in is those relief pitchers that have pitched in all five of these seasons (or at least four of the five) and how many have had their velocity decrease (regress), increase (progress) and remain constant. And I am only interested in pitchers who have only relieved in that time period.

Going through all five years (that took hours!) I came up with 54 pitchers who pitched either all five or four of the five seasons. I may have missed a name or two, but the idea was to get a decent sample size. The raw numbers do not include factors like injuries, climate changes, etc. Nor does it take into account that in some cases, the fastball is not the relief pitcher’s main weapon (think Luke GregersonKoji Uehara).

I considered a significant change anywhere over .5 MPH plus or minus. As you will see from my list below, fifteen saw significant increases in velocity over the time period. Twenty-three pitchers saw significant drops in velocity, which is what you would normally expect. That leaves us with 16 that haven’t changed significantly either way, which is a story in and of itself.

The conclusions left still do not answer my question. How are guys like Jake McGeebeating the time machine? McGee has added significant velocity in each season! How isChad Qualls doing what he is doing? How about Matt Albers and his 6.3 K/9 rate suddenly blowing people out with fastballs?

Please don’t think I am stirring up controversy. I am not making accusations in this day and age. Gosh, no. It’s not that at all. It’s just that to me, velocity is age relevant and somehow, fifteen pitchers are resisting arrest…arrested development that is and it sort of messes up my head.

Name 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 (SSS) 1st to 2013 2014 age
Jake McGee 93.5 94.8 95.7 96.3 96.9 2.8 28
Chad Qualls 92.1 92.6 93.1 94 94 1.9 36
J.P. Howell 85.6 86.5 86 87.4 84.7 1.8 31
Junichi Tazawa 91.8 93.7 93.5 92.8 1.7 28
Craig Kimbrel 95.4 96.2 96.8 96.9 96.5 1.5 26
Logan Ondrusek 92.6 92.9 93.5 93.9 92.8 1.3 29
Jeremy Jeffress 95.4 96.8 94.7 96.7 95.4 1.3 27
Koji Uehara 88.1 88.8 88.9 89.2 1.1 39
Matt Albers 92.4 93.6 93.7 93.4 95.1 1 31
Tom Wilhelmsen 95.2 96.3 96.2 94.5 1 30
Jason Grilli 92.4 93.6 93.4 94.4 1 35
Fernando Rodney 95.6 95.5 96.1 96.5 93 0.9 34
Pedro Strop 94.9 94.3 96.9 95.8 95.5 0.9 29
Steve Delabar 94 94.6 94.7 92.6 0.7 30
John Axford 94.9 95.6 96.2 95.4 93.1 0.5 31
Francisco Rodriguez 91.1 90.3 91.8 91.4 90 0.3 32
Juan Gutierrez 94.7 94 95 94.7 0.3 31
James Russell 88.8 88.1 89.1 89.1 86 0.3 28
Mark Melancon 92.8 92.7 93.3 92.9 93 0.1 29
Joaquin Benoit 94 93.9 93.7 94.1 95.3 0.1 34
Dale Thayer 92.9 92.8 93.9 92.9 92.2 0 33
Joe Nathan 92.3 94 92.2 90.3 -0.1 39
David Robertson 91.9 93.1 92.2 91.7 -0.2 29
Jim Johnson 94 95.1 94.3 93.8 93.4 -0.2 31
Tyler Clippard 92.3 92.7 92.8 92.1 92.4 -0.2 29
Steve Cishek 92.5 92.7 92.2 92.3 90.1 -0.2 28
Jason Frasor 92.8 93.1 93 92.5 91.4 -0.3 34
Carlos Marmol 94.1 91.8 94 93.7 94.4 -0.4 32
Aaron Crow 95 94.5 94.6 91.8 -0.4 28
Ronald Belisario 94.9 93.5 94 94.4 94 -0.5 31
Casey Fien 91.5 92.8 91 92.3 -0.5 31
Drew Storen 94.4 95 94.6 93.9 92.2 -0.5 27
Matt Lindstrom 95.7 96 94.8 95 94.8 -0.7 34
Heath Bell 94 94 93.6 93.2 90.3 -0.8 37
Wilton Lopez 92.3 91.7 92.4 91.5 90.6 -0.8 30
Cesar Ramos 91.9 92.3 91.6 91.1 89.6 -0.8 30
Fernando Salas 91.3 91.2 91.8 90.4 93 -0.9 29
Sergio Romo 88.6 89.4 97.7 87.7 88.6 -0.9 31
Al Alburquerque 95.4 94.5 94.3 93.3 -1.1 28
Joakim Soria 91.9 91.4 90.8 89.5 -1.1 30
Aroldis Chapman 99.6 97.9 97.7 98.3 -1.3
Sergio Santos 95.9 95.3 94.8 94.6 93.7 -1.3 31
Kenley Jansen 93.9 93.3 91.9 92.4 94.9 -1.5 27
Bobby Parnell 96.5 97.2 95.7 95 92.3 -1.5 30
Antonio Bastardo 93.5 92.5 91.8 91.7 91.4 -1.8 29
Matt Thornton 96.1 95.8 95 94.2 -1.9 38
Chris Perez 94.6 93.4 94 92.7 93 -1.9 29
Rex Brothers 95.3 95.3 93.4 91.8 -1.9 27
Huston Street 91.3 90.1 89 89.4 88.6 -1.9 31
Addison Reed 94.9 94.6 92.8 93.4 -2.1 26
Luke Gregerson 90.6 89.7 89.2 88.2 87 -2.4 30
Jose Valverde 95.2 93.9 93.4 92.8 92 -2.4 36
Jonathan Papelbon 94.9 95 93.8 92 91.6 -2.9 33
Santiago Casilla 96.6 93.6 93.9 93.4 94.2 -3.2 34

Continue reading Bullpen arms and anti-regression velocity

Opening Day Trivia with answers

Bill must have taken an open book test? Heh. Here are the questions with the answers: Ten Years Ago In the 2004 opener, the Yankees played the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in Tokyo, Japan. Who was the only Japanese player to play in the game? An easy one to start with, right? – Hideki Matsui Which Yankee pitcher was the Opening Day starter and lost? – Mike Mussina. What former Yankee player went three for three for the Devil Rays including a double and homer? – Tino Martinez. Oh Tino, how could you do that to us? Twenty Years Ago Continue reading Opening Day Trivia with answers

The Yankees’ last roster spot is a real puzzle

Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com reported on the last roster spot and what he reported is mind-blowing. We already know that Dean Anna has made the team and that Joe Girardi hates tweets. But if Matthews is on top of the last roster spot situation, the Yankees have a very unusual situation between Eduardo Nunez and Yangervis Solarte. Look at Joe Girardi’s words closely from an earlier Matthews post concerning Anna making the team: “He (Anna) gives you a ton of flexibility,” Girardi said. “He played a very good shortstop for us, he’s a left-handed bat if we give Jeet a Continue reading The Yankees’ last roster spot is a real puzzle

A voice crying in the infield wilderness

Shoot me if I disagree with just about everyone in the universe, but I like this infield. All due respect to my colleagues who I respect highly and most of our regular comment folks and most experts everywhere, I think the Yankees’ infield will be okay. I don’t want Didi Gregorius or Stephen Drew or Darwin Barney. I am fine taking this infield into the season. Wow…it’s lonely out here. Continue reading A voice crying in the infield wilderness