Musing On Lineup Possibilities

Joe Lineup Card

“So I put Gardy here, and Teix here, and Didi here… “/Courtesy of Reuters

While they’re still hampered by an old, declining, high-injury risk group of power bats in the middle third of the batting order, the Yankees have done pretty well to upgrade their positions of greatest weakness and add some much needed depth to the position player portion of their roster this offseason.  There are enough guys in place and a few more guys who’ll be in play when ST starts to give Joe the potential to mix and match his lineups more strategically than he’s been able to the last few years.  Then it was him mixing and matching just to keep guys healthy and have enough warm bodies to fill out a lineup card.  Now it could be much more geared towards playing matchups and emphasizing the strengths of each player, of course with the goal of keeping the aforementioned old, injury-prone players healthy remaining in place.…

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Covering A Short Rotation With A Deep Bullpen, Or Why I Still Want A 1-Inning Closer

Soriano Untuck

An untuck reunion would be pretty sweet, no? Courtesy of Getty Images

We’re less than 4 weeks from pitchers and catchers reporting to Tampa for the start of Spring Training 2015.  When they do, the question marks and problems in the rotation will become all too real.  Every picture of Masahiro Tanaka or CC Sabathia throwing long toss is going to be a reminder that each of them may be 1 pitch away from major elbow and knee injuries at all times, and a reminder of how little depth the Yankees have behind them to fill in if/when injuries strike.

The Yanks continue to stand pat on diving into the free agent bargain bin to add an arm.  As much as some of us might want them to do that, the smarter way to upgrade the pitching staff might be to go back to the free agent reliever pool and lock up somebody to work as a traditional 1-inning closer.  The bullpen is already shaping up to be one of the deepest and best in baseball.  …

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Considering A-Rod As The Regular DH

A-Rod-HR-Celebration-vs-BOS

Still the best home run celebration ever.

Yesterday was proof that Alex Rodriguez still matters in MLB, even if he is a broken down, disgraced former great who might not even be physically capable of playing anymore.  I actually found it humorous that Cash’s comments about A-Rod’s role next year were such a big deal.  I mean, in Yankee media circles it makes sense.  He still plays for the Yankees.  But to see it mentioned on the ESPN scroll like it was actual news was ridiculous.  Like anybody else was holding out hope that he would be the starter at third even after they signed Chase Headley.

So love him or hate him, people still want to know what’s up with A-Rod and now we know how the Yankees are planning to utilize him next season.  With all the mileage on his body and multiple years remaining on his contract, the best way to get max on-field value out of him is from his bat.  …

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Quick Hit: Andrew Miller Gets It

Andrew Miller talked to the NY media for the first time yesterday, giving insight into why he decided to sign with the Yankees over his other pursuers and what role he saw himself playing in the new ‘pen.  The talk over who was going to do what was already intriguing before D-Rob signed with the ChiSox and it will only get louder now that he’s gone, either until the Yankees name Miller or Betances the closer or sign another reliever to handle that role.

To his credit, Miller said he didn’t really care where and when he pitched and that a promised closer role was never part of the discussion between he and the Yanks.  His take on how he should be used was actually one of the smartest things I’ve heard a professional baseball player say in a while (quote courtesy of Chad Jennings):

“I’m pretty confident in myself.  I think I can get three outs at any point in the game, wherever that may be.

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Instant replay a winner for Yankees

What is Joe Girardi thinking? (Photo: MLB.com)

What is Joe Girardi thinking? (Photo: MLB.com)

There are very few things that a manager and his coaching staff has total control of during a game.

He can set the lineups, but can’t make a player hit a home run on a curveball off the plate.

He can position the fielders in an optimal arrangement to maximize coverage of the diamond, but can’t make the fielder dive to his left or right to get a groundball in the hole.

He can bring in his best middle reliever in the seventh inning to escape a bases-loaded jam, but can’t make that pitcher execute the perfect sequence of pitches to get the batter out.

However, there is one area where a manager and his coaching staff can make a decision that directly affects the game: the new instant replay/challenge rule.

Notes on the Yankees instant replay challenges
The Yankees don’t have the league’s most productive offense or pitching staff or defense, but they seem to have mastered this new ability to challenge umpire calls via replay.…

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What to Watch For: Yankees vs Rick Porcello

The Yankees tonight begin a crucial three-game series against the Tigers, who are two games ahead of them in the Wild Card standings. Rick Porcello, who lost to the Yankees earlier this month, gets the ball in the series opener for Detroit.

The Tigers have three former Cy Young winners and the reigning league ERA champ in their (healthy) rotation, but that “other starter” – Rick Porcello – might be the most consistent pitcher on their staff this season.

Porcello owns a 3.10 ERA in 2014 and has seen that number drop each month, including a 2.53 ERA in August. He has yet to allow more than three runs in back-to-back starts this season and his three shutouts are tied for the most in baseball.

He held the Yankees to one run over seven innings in his only outing against them this year on August 7, a game the Yankees actually won 1-0 thanks to a more dominant effort by Shane Greene.…

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Tuesday Morning Food For Thought: Jeter’s Playing Time

Jeter vs TB II

Courtesy of Getty Images

Back in November of last year, when the disappointment of the season that was had fully worn off, I started looking ahead to this season and wrote this post discussing the possible playing time split at shortstop.  Derek Jeter was going to be 40, we had no way of knowing what kind of shape his ankle and legs in general would be in after a season in which they were a constant problem, and the Yankees had already re-signed Brendan Ryan as his defensive insurance policy.

In that post, I predicted Jeter would play in 120 games total in 2014 and about 80-100 of those games at shortstop while DH’ing in the others.  Why do I bring this up now?  Because we’re 122 games into this season and Jeter is well on his way to blowing my predictions, and the predictions of most others, out of the water.  He’s already exceeded the number of games at short that I called.  …

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Monday Mid-Morning Food For Thought: The One Positive From The Weekend Series

That was a rather sour finish to the homestand.  To go from taking 3 of 4 from the Tigers and outpitching their rotation of studs in the process to dropping 2 of 3 to the Indians and scoring 1 run in the final 18 innings of the series was the highest highs right back to the lowest lows, another example of this team’s maddening inconsistency.  The Yankees lost ground in the postseason races this past weekend and head into Baltimore for a crucial series needing at least a 2-1 series win to seriously stay in AL East title contention.

If there’s one positive thing to take away from the last 2 days, it’s this.  The Yankees are heading into Baltimore tonight with the big guns in their bullpen well rested.  The way the Cleveland series went down gave Joe the option of scaling back the usage of guys like David Robertson, Dellin Betances, and Adam Warren and it was an option he took.  …

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McCarthy Mixes Fastballs Brilliantly To Tame The Tigers

Last Tuesday was Brandon McCarthy‘s worst start as a Yankee.  Against a weak Texas lineup he didn’t have good command of his stuff and got hit around for 9 hits and 4 ER in 6 innings.  The Yankees eventually won that game, as they’ve won all 5 games he’s started since being acquired.  The 5th win came last night, when McCarthy was back on the hill and back in full command of his entire fastball arsenal.  He featured all 3 in different situations against different hitters and completely held the Detroit Tiger lineup at bay with the way used them.

Before we get to that, just a quick counting stats recap for those who either missed the game or didn’t fully appreciate how good McCarthy was last night.  He threw 116 pitches, his highest pitch count of the year and the 3rd straight start in which he threw 108 or more, and pumped in 81 strikes (69.8%).  He threw first-pitch strikes to 19 of the 25 batters he faced and had 11 swinging strikes (13.6%).  …

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