Josh Johnson and the Blue Jays handed this game to the Yankees in the fifth inning. With the Blue Jays leading 2-1, the Yankees loaded the bases on three hits by Chris Stewart, Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells. Johnson managed to get Travis Haffner out, but after that he completely lost the strike zone. Johnson issued bases loaded walks to Lyle Overbay and Eduardo Nunez, handing the Yankees a 3-2 lead. The Yankees expanded that lead the next inning when Brett Gardner scored Jayson Nix on a sacrifice fly. Suddenly the Yankees were up by two heading into the final innings with a possible sweep on their hands.
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Last Tuesday, in light of the middle relief corps’ poor start, I questioned the decision making in letting pitchers like David Aardsma and the still injured at the time Clay Rapada go in favor of guys like Shawn Kelley and Cody Eppley. I also quickly questioned the logic in keeping the team’s top two spot starters, David Phelps and Adam Warren, together in the bullpen as long relievers rather than sending one of them down to stay stretched out in case the Yankees needed a spot start or two. The middle relief issue has faded to the background a bit as the Yankees have gone on a nice little 6-1 run since their rough start, and Eppley has been banished to Triple-A thanks to the return of Phil Hughes to the rotation. But as that rotation has come together and everybody has gone through at least twice, the need for strong middle relief, particularly long relief, has continued to be put on display.
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There’s been a lot of talk about the slider that Nova added in the middle of the 2011 season, but few talk about his changed mechanics. His hand position is the biggest difference.
In 2011, Nova brought his hands above his head during the windup. Sometime in 2012, he changed this by keeping his hands level to his chest. This does a number of things, but most importantly it allows him to keep his head steady and maintain eye contact with the catcher. When he had his hands over his head, Nova was forced to drop his head, thus causing him to lose focus of home plate and slouch prior to his stride.
Since 2010, Nova’s BB% has dropped from 9.2%, to 8.1%, to 7.5%. Keeping his hands to his chest may be one factor in his improved walk rates.
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Though the season hasn’t even started, the Yankees have already had their depth tested in two positions. Curtis Granderson‘s injury has opened up a spot in the outfield, and the catching situation has been much maligned since the Yankees declined to re-sign Russell Martin and passed on signing A.J. Pierzynski. And with Derek Jeter‘s ankle injury, we’ll see the infield depth tested as Eduardo Nunez and/or Jayson Nix get some time at short to spell the Captain. On the other hand, the pitching seems to be fairly deep.
The bullpen is well-stocked and some pitchers (think Clay Rapada and Cody Eppley) will not last the year on the 25-man roster. Likewise, though not quite as widely, the starting rotation is considered to be an area of strength. It’s certainly a talented rotation featuring CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, and Hiroki Kuroda. But is it as deep as we think?
Phil Hughes has already suffered an injury. Andy Pettitte is coming off an injury (granted it was a freak, batted ball thing). Kuroda, though he showed few (if any) signs of injury last year, is coming off a career high in innings pitched. Sabathia, godly though he may be is coming off of (relatively minor) elbow surgery. It’s easy to imagine one or more of them missing time over the course of the season. If (when) that happens, where can the Yankees turn?
One of the biggest surprises in the 2012 season was David Phelps. In 57.1 innings started and 42.1 innings of relief, the right-hander pitched to a 3.34 ERA with a 23.2 K% and 9.2 BB%. Phelps fared better in relief appearances, where he held batters to a .209/.281/.359 slash and a 2.76 ERA. As successful as he [...]
Since 2007, when Joba Chamberlain was called up to the majors and became an overnight sensation, the Yankees have consistently been able to reach into their farm system to find young pitching talent capable of filling in an immediate need adequately, if not always brilliantly. After Joba it was Phil Hughes in 2009 and 2010. [...]
(The following is being syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod) The biggest non-Mark Teixeira piece of news to come out of Yankeeland yesterday was Joe’s pregame announcement that it would be David Phelps, and not Ivan Nova, who would be taking the ball for tonight’s game. At the time, this game was still a potential [...]
With three games remaining in the season and Nova having struggled mightily (to put it lightly) in five of six months, the Yankees have decided to give Phelps a shot with a veritable first-round ‘bye’ on the line. Nova’s struggles thus far have been well-chronicled, yet it seems as if the onus has been placed [...]
(The following is being syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod) I’ve written about David Phelps a pretty fair amount this season. I can’t help it, I think he’s an underrated pitcher and I’m fascinated by the way his season has gone down. Phelps’ 2012 campaign has been a continued series of fortunate opportunities created by [...]