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

From Lemon to Lemonade

Once Bob Lemon returned from three full years in the service of our country, he restarted his career with the Indians in 1946. He started it as an outfielder. His manager, Lou Boudreau, was concerned that Lemon would not hit enough to be an outfielder and after talking with several players that played with Lemon in the military, the extraordinary event occurred that mid-season, while staying with the major league Indians, Lemon was converted from an outfielder to a pitcher. He wasn’t sent to the minors to learn to pitch. He was assigned to the pitching coach and it went from there. He played twelve games in center field in 1946 and he also made 27 relief appearances and five starts. He finished with a 4-5 record, but somehow managed a 2.45 ERA that season in 94 innings.

In 1947, he would play twice in the outfield, once in center and once in right, but he was now a full time pitcher.…

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Joba Chamberlain rounding into form

From his season debut on August 1, through his ninth appearance on September 2, Joba was pretty scary to watch. He pitched nine times covering seven and two-thirds innings. In those outings, he gave up seventeen hits, five walks and two hit batsmen. Twenty-four base runners in seven and tw0-thirds innings is bad by any standard. His ERA after those outings was 10.57. Ouch. Worse still, Chamberlain was only striking out an occasional batter. He had only tallied five to that point.  His struggles prompted Joe Girardi to say that he would not use Joba any further in any situations that hinted of leverage.

And then suddenly, it started to click. On September 4, he pitched the eighth and final inning against the Rays with the Yankees down, 5-2. Joba faced the minimum of three batters in the inning and struck out two of them. He only needed eleven pitches to get the three outs. He appeared again on September 4 against the Orioles.…

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That it was the Yankees on the bad call is not the point

- If Teixeira had run through the bag instead of diving, he would have been called safe. Okay, first of all, Teixeira blew out his calf again on the play. There was no way he was going to make it running. He did the only thing a competitive player had left. He dove. It was a historic effort from the player and one that will cost him more time out of the lineup. But the major point behind this stupid argument is that if the way a player approaches first base throws off an umpire’s call, then replay should back it up if he is not trained to get it right. It was highly besides the point whether a physics study had proven that running through the base is faster than diving to get there. The point is that however a player gets there, the umpire should get the call correctly. If he cannot, then let’s look at a replay to get it right.…

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Russell Martin and BABIP

Upon reflection, my answer of bad luck was rightly called out by “roadrider” and yes, to say it is all bad luck would be a huge overstatement. But his  assertion that bad contact is a big factor in Martin’s BABIP might be too simplistic as well.  His point is well taken. A line drive in the batted ball statistics might be a screamer and it might be an broken-bat humpback thing that lands in an infielder’s glove. What we don’t yet have is the PITCHf/x equivalent on batted balls. How fast did they come off the bat?  We don’t know. And since we don’t know, all we can do is look at that .213 BABIP and have less-than-concrete discussions of why it is so low.

There are many reasons that go into how a ball is batted and what happens to it once it is put in play. There is pitch location and selection as the pitcher and catcher try their darndest to keep the ball off the sweet spot of the bat.…

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Call me Henny Penny

Sometimes I wonder if the Red Sox fans have it better this season. I mean, when their season broke, it really broke and it was like the Hoover Dam crumbled or something. At least fans of that team can now roll with it and enjoy watching the kids play. But Red Sox fans do know exactly how we feel right about now because they went through their own stretch nightmare a season ago. Instead of the dam breaking, it is more like a slow leak trickling until you suddenly notice that all the water has leaked out. To use another mind picture: A few weeks ago, the Yankees were a party balloon full of helium and floating high. After waking up this morning, the balloon has lost its buoyancy and is laying on the ground.

All during the season, after grousing on Twitter of all the opportunities wasted with men on base or the pitcher’s inability to have shut down innings after the Yankees got a lead, my personal and rational shoulder angel, Matthew Kory (@mattymatty2000), the terrific author on Baseball Prospectus and Over the Monster fame, would remind me that the Yankees were still six games up in the standings or four games up in the standings.…

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Dick Howser and the 1980 Yankees

That is quite a first paragraph. But Howser was quite a story. Howser lived through the craziest years of the George Steinbrenner era. He was there during the ups and downs of the Billy Martin tenures mixed in with the Bob Lemon and Bill Virdon tenures. He finished his playing days and starting his coaching duties during the Ralph Houk era, an era that ended when Steinbrenner purchased the club. And through it all, Dick Howser kept coaching third. He did manage one game in 1978 after Billy Martin was fired and before Bob Lemon could take over. And he got his chance in 1980 to run the team himself.

The 1980 Yankees were quite an outfit. Reggie Jackson was still there along with a group of position players in their mid-thirties like Lou Piniella, Bobby Murcer, Graig Nettles and Bob Watson. But there was also an infusion of some young players like Rick Cerone at catcher and Willie Randolph at second.…

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Pondering September call ups

The first thing to keep in mind is that the call ups are limited to players already on the team’s 40-man roster. That rules out relievers that could help out like Mark Montgomery and Kevin Whelan unless they are added to the roster, which is unlikely. But Justin Thomas and Cory Wade are on the 40-man roster and could be called up to thicken the bullpen up…though not necessarily make it better.

We are sure to see Steve Pearce, just acquired back from the Houston Astros (written before he was actually called up). With Mark Teixeira due to miss some time, Pearce might see some playing time, particularly against left-handed pitching. Good old Eduardo Nunez can give the Yankees another option as he can be pushed to third against left-handed pitching to allow Casey McGehee to play first.

It seems almost certain that the Yankees will call up a catcher. Both Austin Romine and Francisco Cervelli are on the 40-man roster, so which one would it be?…

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Well, that was ugly. Yanks lose, 8-5

After Sabathia worked around a Derek Jeter error in the first, the Yankees scored two runs in the bottom half of the inning. Jeter hit a lousy 0-2 pitch for a single and then Nick Swisher walked. Robinson Cano rolled over on a curve and hit a weak grounder to second advancing both runners. Andruw Jones rifled a single up the middle to score Jeter and send Swisher to third. Swisher would score when Curtis Granderson beat out a double play ball for the second out. Steve Pearce then popped out to end the inning.

Both pitchers had 1-2-3 innings in the second, but the Yankees would cough up the lead in the top of the third. Jeff Mathis (of all people) started off the inning with an infield single. He should have been thrown out at second when Adeiny Hechavarria grounded a ball to Jayson Nix at third. But Nix booted it and everyone was safe. Rajai Davis then swung at a pitch a foot outside and poked it to shallow right for a single to load the bases.…

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