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.

The new Nick Swisher?

David Cone has become one of the game’s best color men in the broadcast booth. He is one of the few such creatures that do not constantly spout endless euphemisms about productive outs and taking one for the team. Oh sure, Cone will occasionally talk about good clubhouse guys, but what he does more often is mention a consistent stream of spot on analysis of the latest sabermetric data during the course of the game. Very few are as good as Cone at knowing his numbers, what they mean and how they affect the Yankees both good and bad. One of the things that Cone mentioned over this lost weekend with the Reds was a change in Nick Swisher‘s approach at the plate. What Cone said concerned Swisher being more aggressive on the first pitch and walking less. The numbers seem to back up what Cone was saying. This is a new Nick Swisher. But is this a better Nick Swisher?

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Pettitte great for eight – Yankees win, 4-0

Andy Pettitte tonight did what veteran pitchers do: He took advantage of an undisciplined Cincinnati Reds’ lineup. He did so masterfully for eight innings and other than a little less flash on the radar gun, he looked like the Andy Pettitte we all remember. After the game was over, Harold Reynolds said that Pettitte had his great night against a good hitting ball club. Wrong again, Mr. Reynolds. Even with the great Joey Votto batting third, the Reds are currently 15th in the National League in on-base percentage and 12th in batting average. Pettitte exploited those weaknesses to near perfection. His final line: Eight innings, four hits, one walk and nine strikeouts. Seems like there is supposed to be a “vintage” word in here somewhere.

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Game 39 – Interleague is fine

The New York Yankees begin a three game series with the Cincinnati Reds at Yankee Stadium tonight. Yes, it is interleague time (for a short spell). The Reds, like the Yankees, have had an inconsistent season and have had trouble stringing together wins. And much like the Yankees, the starting rotation and lack of timely hitting is part of the problem for the Reds. Something has to give this series as one of the teams will take at least two games.

Tonight’s pitching match up features the second coming of the second coming of Andy Pettitte and Bronson Arroyo. Neither will overpower anyone and will need to control the strike zone to win. Last season was a really bad one for Arroyo as he gave up 46 homers, tied for third most all time for a single season. In his first seven starts so far this season, Arroyo has cut his homer rate from 2.0 per nine innings to 1.0. Arroyo also gives up lots of hits and is averaging over ten per nine innings for the second season in a row. But he doesn’t walk anyone (1.0 per nine this season), so his WHIP is within reason. The Yankees hope they can end their recent trend of making marginal pitchers look mighty good.

Andy Pettitte is making his second start, post retirement (thus the second coming line). His first went about as you would expect. The home run hurt him just like it has hurt the entire pitching rotation thus far for the Yankees. Like Arroyo, his job will be to keep the ball in the park. His big test, of course, will be Joey Votto, who just might be the best hitter in baseball right now.

Mark Teixeira and Russell Martin are getting the night off. Andy Pettitte will be the first pitcher to throw to Chris Stewart as a starter other than Sabathia.

The Lineups:

Cincinnati Reds:
Zack Cozart – SS

Drew Stubbs – CF

Joey Votto – 1B

Brandon Phillips – 2B

Jay Bruce – RF

Chris Heisey – LF

Todd Frazier – 3B

Miguel Cairo – DH

Ryan Hanigan – C

New York Yankees:
Derek Jeter – SS

Curtis Granderson – CF

Robinson Cano – 2B

Alex Rodriguez – 3B

Raul Ibanez – RF

Nick Swisher – 1B

Eric Chavez – DH

Dewayne Wise – LF

Chris Stewart – C

The fun starts at 7:05 and the game can be seen locally on MY9 and nationally on the MLB Network. Continue reading Game 39 – Interleague is fine

Kerry Wood strikes out his last batter

Kerry Wood pitched to his last batter today in a game against the Chicago White Sox. Fittingly, the pitcher who has averaged 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings for his career, struck out his only batter. Wood retired immediately after the game. Early in his career, Kerry Wood garnered the kind of excitement that Stephen Strasburg does now. Wood shares the Major League record for most strikeouts in a game with twenty, matching only Roger Clemens.

Yankee fans will remember Wood for his amazing run down the stretch for the Yankees in 2010. In one of the best mid-season pick-ups in recent memory, Wood pitched 24 times for the Yankees that season accounting for 26 innings. He only gave up two runs. Wood struck out 31 batters in those 26 innings. Kerry Wood would go on to pitch seven more times in the post season for the Yankees that year. He pitched eight innings that post season and gave up two runs.

The Yankees wanted to sign Wood after the 2010 season, but the pitcher preferred to go home to the Cubs to finish out his career. He will be missed. Continue reading Kerry Wood strikes out his last batter

A purist comes to grips with interleague games

A baseball purist is a difficult thing to define. The strongest definition would be to say that a baseball purist is against any changes to the game. I would fail that purity test. After all, the game has changed so much over the last fifty years that a true purist would have to be a dinosaur. There has been expansion, a rise in relief pitching specialization, the designated hitter and the fundamental way statistics are viewed and how teams are using them. But I am a purist in one area. The National League should always play the National League and the American League should always play the American League until the World Series. But this one last stand is futile as interleague play has now been with us for sixteen years (is that possible!?) and will become even more the norm next year. So it is time for this guy to get with the program.

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No, Henny Penny, the sky is not falling

Yeah, yeah. The New York Yankees are 7-8 in May and are now three and a half games behind the Orioles and Rays in the American League East. And while the those that follow, write about and are fans of the team are in a semi-uproar following another disappointing (understatement alert!) start by Hiroki Kuroda, another game of men left on base in bunches, the sky is not falling. Oh, it may be a cloudy day and the sky may even look threatening. The long-range forecast for this team still contains hope. Consider for a moment that in the American League East, the Yankees are scoring more runs per game than all teams besides the Red Sox. Not bad for a team that cannot drive a man in when in scoring position. And, despite Freddy starts, Kuroda farts and bullpen ambulance carts, the Yankees’ pitching staff is only a half a run worse per game than the Rays and only a quarter of a run worse than the Rays. For gosh sakes, it is early yet.

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Kuroda spanked. Offense tanked. A Yankees loss in the dome

Kyle Drabek shut down the New York Yankees for seven innings and Hiroki Kuroda gave up three bombs to Blue Jays’ hitters as Toronto won easily, 8-1. The Yankees could muster only three hits and still managed to leave nine men on base as Drabek walked four batters and hit another. Curtis Granderson batted in the lead-off spot and went without a hit in five at-bats with two strikeouts. Nick Swisher batted in the second spot and went without a hit in four at-bats and struck out once. All others in the Yankees got on base via a hit, walk or HBP. But they could only push one run to the plate.

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Game 37 – North of the border

The New York Yankees traveled to Toronto last night to start a two game series with the Blue Jays before the interleague silly season starts. The Yankees hope to avoid starting a losing streak after last night’s setback to the Orioles. The Blue Jays will be trying to avoid a third straight defeat to American League East rivals as they lost both games of a short series against the Tampa Bay Rays.  The Yankees are 9-8 on the road this season and the Blue Jays are 8-9 at home and 19-18 overall. Both teams are 7-7 in May and sort of spinning. If you like really obscure statistics, 37 is a prime number and the Yankees are 7-4 in prime number games.

On the mound for the Yankees will be Hiroki Kuroda. He has never faced the Blue Jays nor pitched in Canada. For the Blue Jays, it will be Kyle Drabek, who is 2-4 this season with a 3.66 ERA. Drabek has had trouble with his control and is walking more than five batters per nine innings. Drabek is 0-2 against the Yankees with an ERA of 6.89 and a WHIP of 1.79. Look for the Yankees to wait him out and run his pitch count up. With the exception of the ageless Darren Oliver and Luis Perez, the Blue Jays’ bullpen is struggling. If Drabek can throw strikes, he can be quite difficult for the Yankees to score upon. Derek Jeter is sitting tonight as Joe Girardi is giving the Captain his first day off since the season started.

For Kuroda, the key will be to keep the Blue Jays in the building. In this short season thus far, Kuroda has already allowed six homers for a 1.3 homers per nine inning rate. Jose Bautista is off to a slow start, but he isn’t the only one on this team that can hit the ball out of the park. Blue Jays’ designated hitter, Edwin Encanacion, already has twelve homers and second baseman, Kelly Johnson, has seven.

The Lineups:

New York Yankees:

Curtis Granderson – CF

Nick Swisher – RF

Robinson Cano – 2B

Alex Rodriguez – 3B

Mark Teixeira – 1B

Raul Ibanez – LF

Eric Chavez – DH

Jayson Nix – SS

Russell Martin – C

Toronto Blue Jays:

Kelly Johnson – 2B

Eric Thames – LF

Jose Bautista – RF

Edwin Encarnacion – 1B

Brett Lawrie – 3B

Colby Rasmus – CF

J. P. Arencibia – C

Adam Lind – DH

Omar Vizquel – SS

The game starts at 7:07 in Toronto and can be seen locally on the YES Network. Continue reading Game 37 – North of the border

What is Cory Wade’s magic?

Understanding the success of Mariano Rivera was never really difficult. Oh sure, the story line was always, “How does he do it with just one pitch?”  But, heck, there is even a YouTube video of how and why his cutter is so devastating. David Robertson‘s success is also scientifically related to the length of his stride, the RPMs of his fastball and slider and how hard it is for batters to pick up his pitches. Even Rafael Soriano has a proven track record of a good fastball, off speed combination. What, then, makes Cory Wade so good? And now that Wade has vaulted to the Number Two guy in the bullpen because of injuries to Mo and Robertson, asking that question might be relevant to the here and now more than before. After all, nobody is going to call Cory Wade a power arm. What is Cory Wade’s magic and can it last?

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