Yankees win on wild pitch, avoid sweep

Sometimes you’ll take a win any way you can get it. After losing three consecutive slug fests to the Red Sox the Bombers finally got some pitching. Hiroki Kuroda lasted six innings allowing just two runs while striking out six. Was it great? No, but it was a tad better than Jon Lester who lasted eight innings but gave up three runs. The Yankee runs came off doubles by Mark Reynolds and Robinson Cano. The Pinstripes took a lead into the top of the ninth, Mariano Rivera time. Mo, unfortunately, didn’t have it. Will Middlebrooks hit a game tying home Continue reading Yankees win on wild pitch, avoid sweep

The struggles of Ichiro Suzuki

I don’t have enough time to write about all the Yankees who are under-achieving offensively. Instead, I’ll try to pick off the grossest offenders. We can start with Ichiro Suzuki. When the Yankees acquired Ichiro last season, the team wasn’t acquiring the .330 AVG hit machine who became famous in Seattle. When Bombers picked Ichiro up he was hitting a miserable .261/.288/.353. That’s not a player you want in your lineup. I don’t care how famous he is. Continue reading The struggles of Ichiro Suzuki

The Return Of The Old Guy Outfield Platoon

Ichiro vs MIN

The Yankees won for the first time in almost a week last night.  And they did it with one of their most recently productive bats on the bench to start the game.  With a left-handed starter on the mound, Joe elected to sit Ichiro Suzuki, probably for rest more than anything, and start Vernon Wells in right field.  With Zoilo Almonte looking good in his Major League debut and solidifying his role as the starting left fielder, right field turned back into the L/R platoon the Yankees always envisioned it, for one night at least.  With the way things worked out last night, Joe might want to consider going to that well more often.

Not even joking, I think last night might have been the first game all season in which both Wells and Ichiro had good games.  Wells, still batting cleanup even though the stats and spray charts say no way, had 2 singles in 3 plate appearances against Scott Diamond before giving way to Ichiro in the 8th.  The Twins went with right-handed Jared Burton that inning and Joe used the righty-righty matchup as the perfect reason to lift Wells and go with the lefty Ichiro, who set up the go-ahead rally in the inning with a bunt single.  He came up again in the 9th and lined one off the pitcher that could have been another run-scoring hit.  A 3-5 night from the right field position with a run scored, solid defense, and 2 hard-hit outs.  I don’t know about you, but I can live with that.

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Is Ichiro’s Bat Speed Slowing Down?

Us Yankee fans have grown used to watching older veteran players, and if we’ve learned anything, it’s that patience is an important factor in baseball. In the not so distant past, we’ve written off players like Raul Ibanez, Derek Jeter, and Mike Mussina, only for them to rebound into extremely important pieces.

Last year, the Yankees acquired the 38-year old Ichiro Suzuki after a year and a half of below average baseball. You’d think this was a big enough sample size to start coming to some conclusions, but there were some tidbits hidden in his advanced data. Ichiro was producing extremely high line drive rates, and for some reason the ball wasn’t falling into play. After the trade to the Yankees, the outfielder flourished, and looked like he reverted back to his old self through 283 plate appearances.

In reality, neither his three months with the Yankees in 2012, nor his previous year and a half with the Mariners is a big enough sample size to justify calling him done. We watched Derek Jeter produce awful numbers for the same length of time, only to rebound in the matter of a month to a silver slugging short stop at the age of 37. Now that we’re a little more than three weeks into the season, fans are starting to get restless over Ichiro Suzuki, and it’s fair to worry about a player so close to 40.

After producing a career high 24.7% line drive rate in 2012, Ichiro is only hitting line drives at a 17.3% rate in 2013. One factor that we saw influence him both last year and thus far in 2013, are the amount of liners that are falling for hits. Not all line drives are created equally, but only 5 of his 9 line drives have landed for hits, and in 2012 he only hit .571 on those balls in play. Over his career, Ichiro has held a slightly below average batting average on line drives, .672, which is still significantly higher than what we’ve seen of late.

Much like his line drives, only one of Ichiro’s 15 fly balls have fallen into play for a hit. While these two batted ball types can be influenced by age regression in hitting, the numbers have fallen so low that you’d have to think that they will normalize, even with just 3 weeks of baseball played. Fly balls and line drives make up more than 46% of his hits this year, and have been a huge influence on his .231 BABIP, which is .115 points lower than his career average, and around .070 points lower than last year’s.

So the question is whether or not these batted ball rates will continue. There’s no doubt that he’ll increase the BABIP on fly balls, and likely his line drive hits as well, but it’s very possible that Ichiro’s age has caused his bat speed to slow down. Less bat speed would mean a poorer ability to hit the fastball, and thus we see poorer contact and more strike outs. So I gathered all the pitches that Ichiro has seen and hit, counted them, and averaged their velocity.

Pitches InPlay (C) Hit/Run (C) SwStr (C) CaStr (C) Ball (C) Foul (C)
FF 91.5 (20) 92.2 (5) 89.4 (4) 90.8 (18) 90.6 (21) 91.1 (21)
FT 92.3 (9) 91.7 (4) 94.3 (1) 92.4 (8) 89.4 (13) 92.5 (7)
SI 88.2 (2) 83.9 (1) 90.8 (3) 91.8 (2) 90.9 (1)
FS 85.5 (1) 79.2 (2) 79.7 (1) 82.7 (4)
FC 87.4 (3) 89.7 (1) 85.9 (3) 85.1 (5) 90.2 (1)
CH 83.4 (5) 83.6 (2) 85.1 (10) 83.3 (10) 93.1 (3)
CU 76.8 (7) 75.9 (3) 75.9 (3) 75.7 (8) 80 (1)
SL 81.5 (7) 83.2 (1) 79.5 (6) 78.9 (5) 81.1 (9) 83.8 (2)

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Just one more day …

Tonight, the 2013 Major League Baseball season begins, with the Texas Rangers playing the Houston Astros. The most beautiful thing about the baseball season is that it changes how I spend my leisure time. Nothing on TV tonight? They always play baseball. Can’t think of something to do after work? Call a buddy and watch some baseball. Don’t know how to spend time on a sunny afternoon? Upper deck tickets are cheap on Stub Hub and the 4 train moves fast. 162 games plus the playoffs means something to do, something to watch and something to talk about for half the year, and in terms of weather it’s the better half of the year.

After the gift of always having something entertaining to do, my second favorite thing about the baseball season is following story lines. Most Yankee fans are upset because the team enters 2013 in the weakest state that it has been in since 2008. Not only is the team not favored to win the AL East, but many believe the team will miss the playoffs. Win or lose, challenging seasons at least give fans like me more story lines to follow. When the Yankees put a juggernaut on the field and it demolishes its opponents every success was essentially scripted and only the failures make headlines. When the team is predicted to struggle, as it is this year, then new story lines will emerge, not only about failure but also about unexpected success. If the Yankees are going to make the playoffs they’re going to need to get strong performances from a number of players who are not household names, especially while household names Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson are on the DL. Here are some of the story lines I’ll be following during the first month of the season: Continue reading Just one more day …

An outfield made of glass?

Yankee spring training has gotten off to a rough start. By now everyone knows that Curtis Granderson will be out until early May with a fractured forearm. That’s a huge loss for the Yankees. Granderson’s 2012 may have paled in comparison to his 2011, but he’s still a critical bat in the Yankee lineup. His absence will be felt immediately. The most glaring weakness that comes from Curtis’ injury is the loss of power. Granderson’s OBP may be inconsistent, but he’s managed 40+ homers each of the past few seasons. That’s production I’d rather have on the team than on Continue reading An outfield made of glass?

Piecing it Together: Part Three

In my last two pieces talked about building the lineup. To quickly test the potency of these lineups, I ran them through the lineup analysis tool from Baseball Musings. I used the PECOTA and ZiPS projections to get the players’ OBP/SLG. Remember, though, these projected OBP/SLG numbers are NOT split adjusted. Here are the results: PECOTA vs RHP This lineup projects to score 4.874 R/G, which translates to about 790 runs over the course of a 162 game season. PECOTA vs LHP, Rivera Using PECOTA and Juan Rivera as the, DH, the Yankees project to score 4.840 R/G, about 785 Continue reading Piecing it Together: Part Three

It’s Still Important To Stay Grounded With Ichiro & Gardner

(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod) ESPN NY’s Spring Training countdown series got off to a pretty crummy start, but he’s been a little better lately.  Earlier this Sunday morning, Wally Matthews took a break from handing out fictional punishments on Alex Rodriguez to discuss the 2013 outfield, which is actually a worthwhile topic.  The Yankees are looking at a serious offensive downgrade from that group this year, and the ability of Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki to be productive in their ways could be a big determining factor in the level of success this season’s team can have.  Wally, to Continue reading It’s Still Important To Stay Grounded With Ichiro & Gardner

Piecing it Together: Part Two

You’ll remember that last week, I mused about the possible lineup construction for the 2013 squad. Let’s revisit the idea of the lineup one more time, with something else in mind. If you’ve read this site, then you’re probably familiar with the Replacement Level Yankee Blog and its CAIRO Projections. The last iteration of them came out on January 28th. What’s nice about the CAIRO splits is that they also include platoon breakdowns; each player has his normal projections and his split projections in the form of wOBA vs. LHP and RHP. Let’s take a look at the lineups I Continue reading Piecing it Together: Part Two