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

Mickey Mantle’s 500th homer

On this Mothers Day in 1967, Mantle was stuck on 499 career home runs. It had been eleven days since he had belted 499 in Minnesota. It looked like it took an act of will for him to even step on the field at that point and so we wondered how long it would take.

For once, we boys were not sitting glued to the television watching the game. Choosing between watching the Yankees and having one of those Emerson steak dinners would have been an impossible choice. But it was Mothers Day and that trumped the decision. So we missed the game. Mel Stottlemyre got the start for the Yankees and Steve Barber, a left-handed pitcher who lost eighteen games in 1967, started for the Orioles. Barber would later pitch for the Yankees. With Barber pitching, the switch-hitting Mantle would bat from the right side and reached on an error in the first by Brooks Robinson. That didn’t happen often!…

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Playing with Jeter’s numbers

Jeff Passan is right in his article on Yahoo this morning. Derek Jeter will regress. There is no way he can sustain a .428 BABIP with a 62.5 percent ground ball rate. But where will Jeter end up by the end of the season? Passan doesn’t speculate. So I will pick up the slack. Dan Szymborski of Baseball Think Factory has already done some of that work with his ZiPS Projections. Before the season started, that projections system thought that Derek Jeter would play 110 games and finish with a triple slash line of, .285/.344/.395. And let’s be honest, if those projections were close, Yankee fans would have been thrilled. That isn’t bad for a 37 year old shortstop. But his amazing start has already tilted Symborski’s updated projections.

The most recent update of ZiPS now predicts Jeter will end up with 138 games played and a triple slash line of, .308/.364/.437. Wouldn’t we all be thrilled if those were Jeter’s final tallies?…

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Too much hope placed on Pettitte?

If this story happened a season ago and say Pettitte un-retired after he retired after the 2010 season, there would be less hesitation here. After all, Pettitte’s 2010 season was pretty darned good. But Pettitte hasn’t pitched for an entire season and is another year older. Can we really expect him to be effective? What are our expectations? Frankly, any expectations beyond being a league average pitcher is a stretch. If Pettitte is at least that, then we can be happy. The Yankees’ fifth starters have not been league average, so Pettitte would be an improvement. But, is even that expectation too high?

Pettitte’s peripherals in the minors this season seem to be the same old Andy. He is striking out 6.9 batters per nine innings. That is right around his 6.6 historical rate in the majors. He is walking 1.8 batters per nine, a little lower than his historical rate (though it has been higher in the starts at higher minor league levels).…

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Moving on

For the Yankees, in realistic terms, it means that the bullpen is one inning weaker. But also being realistic, the bullpen is the one area that can afford the hit. Even one inning weaker for the Yankee bullpen means a very strong unit out there. If push came to shove, Phil Hughes could easily make up that inning. Of course, we will have to debate the issue of sticking with Hughes in the rotation first. Much more pressing are the injuries to the outfield that have put the Yankees in a roster bind and have caused them to use far inferior players both defensively and offensively for the last week and for who knows how much longer.

In a long season, three straight losses is a drop in the proverbial bucket. A hot streak can erase such things from memory. What is perhaps being exposed is a team that lacks depth in position players. Perhaps only Joe Girardi and Tim McCarver may believe in Eduardo Nunez‘s potential.…

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Low expectations for Phelps start

Phelps has a couple of things going for him. He has already been able in this short season to get major league hitters to chase the ball out of the strike zone. His O-swing rate (SSS) sits at a very good 34 percent. The Royals are not the most patient and discriminating team in baseball. Only Mitch Maier and Alex Gordon have decent walk rates for their team. If Phelps can stay ahead in the counts, he can easily get the Royals to fish. The second thing he has going for him is these low expectations. He really has nothing to lose but to go out there and give it his best shot.

On the downside, Phelps does not possess overpowering stuff and a put-away pitch. He needs to be ultra-fine on the margins or he will get hit. The Royals have three hitters with very good power in Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler. Make a fat pitch to one of those guys and the ball will get lost in a hurry.…

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Arrieta blanks Yankees, 5-0

Of course, there are two sides to every story. You can credit the Orioles’ pitching or you can blame the Yankees’ offense. And that offense keeps taking some hits. The latest is Eric Chavez who dove for a ball hit down the line by J.J. Hardy and in the process gave himself whiplash or concussion-like symptoms. According to a tweet by Jeff Roberts, Chavez was sent to New York Presbyterian Hospital for head and neck scans and will not travel with the team to Kansas City. The Yankees are now without Chavez, Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner and will be seriously impacted depth-wise for several games.

Ivan Nova‘s winning streak came to an end and perhaps that is a good thing in that we can focus on his pitching instead of “the streak.” Nova was clearly not at his best in this one. Nova uncharacteristically walked four batters and hit another. Of his 114 pitches, fifty of them were balls.…

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