This could be an interesting week for the Yankees

I feel like we have been here before. The last couple of the seasons the Yankees had a solid start with different players coming through in the clutch.

And, then, things fell apart – or more that it just stays even.

New York has lost 7 of its last 8, and won just two games on its recent nine-game road trip. These two days off this week may very well be needed as it starts a six-game home stand followed by a seven-game West Coast road trip tomorrow. Their next day off is not until June 4.

This coming week could be an important one in the Yankees season. Two months in, and things start to potentially show how the Yankees are going to play for the rest of the season.

In 2013, the Yankees were 30-18 on May 31. Starting on June 1, they finished the season 54-53, a mediocre team.

Last season, New York was just average the entire time with a few moments where it looked better than just OK. But they still finished 84-78, and played to a 55-52 record starting on June 1.

This seems to be the juncture – based on the last two seasons – where the Yankees will either be a mediocre team or a playoff contender.

Reasons to be optimistic
– Masahiro Tanaka is closer to coming back. While there still have been concerns about his pitching this year, if he comes back healthy from the DL, he can still be an effective pitcher.
– The Yankees bullpen has been solid, minus recent hiccups. Every team goes through a tough patch, and the bullpen should be able to rebound.
– The Yankees still have a positive run differential of +12

Reasons to worry
– Jacoby Ellsbury going on the DL is a major concern, especially depending on how long he is out.
– Starting pitching continues to be frustrating.
– Yankees have been one of the worst defensive teams this season with a team fielding percentage of .981, toward the bottom half of the league. Continue reading This could be an interesting week for the Yankees

Replays slowing the pace of baseball games; is it worth it?

Replay was used in Thursday’s Yankees game to check if a count was accurate.

New York’s Yangervis Solarte was at-bat in the ninth inning when there was discrepancy if the count was 3-1 or 2-1. The umpires initiated a review, got on the headphones and went over the count with the replay center.

Yankees.com’s, Bryan Hoch wrote: “The challenge was initiated after Astros catcher Carlos Corporan asked home-plate umpire Brian Knight about the count.

“I asked the umpire, ‘What’s the count?'” Corporan said. “And he said, ‘I don’t know, I’ve got 2-1.’ I said, ‘I’ve got 2-1 as well.’ I kind of forgot about the pitchout that we made. [Solarte] was like, ‘No, it’s 3-1,’ and [the umpire] said, ‘Of course you’re going to think it’s 3-1.’ They wanted to make sure, so they took a little time.”

Replay was expanded this season to incorporate many aspects of the game, and has been used a handful of times during in this season’s infancy. On the surface, replay is a good thing. Baseball needs to get the calls right. Human element has actually detracted from the game over the last several seasons with people seemingly more interested in umpire mistakes than in the game play.

But are these pauses hurting more than helping baseball?

The delay in the Yankees game lasted 3 minutes from the time the umpires conferred to when the proper count was given at 3-1. The time of Thursday’s game came in at a reasonable 3 hours, 17 minutes.

On Monday’s full-scale Opening Day, the five replays that day took an average of 93 seconds, USA Today reports. The A’s challenged a call at home plate on Wednesday where the review took five minutes.

Three days into the season may be a bit premature to decide whether replays need to move faster, but the pace of play has been an issue long before this season began. MLB has instituted few rules over the years to help with the pace only to add a big one this year that could drag games out.

Broadcasters are going to have to start coming up with stories to fill the gaps, and at least attempt to keep listeners engaged.

Are you willing to sacrifice the pace of play to get a call right? Continue reading Replays slowing the pace of baseball games; is it worth it?

ALDS Preview: Oakland v. Detroit

Lineup

There’s a perception out there that the Tigers have an overwhelming offensive advantage in this series. While Detroit will pump out some serious power in the form of Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Alex Avila it’s hardly an offensive mismatch. Consider the following chart from Beaneball.org:

Position A 2013 TAv Tiger 2013 TAv Winner
Catcher Vogt .250 Avila .246 A’s
First Barton .297 Fielder .290 A’s
Second Sogard .264 Infante .277 Tigers
Short Lowrie .289 Iglesias .260 A’s
Third Donaldson .321 Cabrera .365 Tigers
Left Cespedes .275 Peralta .286 Tigers
Center Crisp .291 Jackson .271 A’s
Right Reddick .259 Hunter .285 Tigers
DH Moss .325 Martinez .274 A’s

I mean, I’m not making the case that the A’s are offensively superior to the Tigers. From a talent perspective a few things can counter what the 2013 season numbers tell us. A healthy Miggy counts for a lot. Victor Martinez rounding back into form counts for a lot. Prince’s performance can swing the series. What I am saying is that at worst the Tigers have a definite, but not overwhelming offensive edge. Add in the fact that the A’s will attack Detroit’s righty dominant starters with a slew of left handed bats and this is a really close match up to call. Continue reading ALDS Preview: Oakland v. Detroit

Pirates v. Cardinals NLDS series preview

Pirates Depth Chart – (RH/LH/Switch)

Cardinals Depth Chart – (RH/LH/Switch)

In the Wild Card game we saw the Pirates exploit an extreme strength of theirs which just happened to turn the Reds best assets into liabilities. Liriano is death on lefties in 2013 and the Reds’ best hitters work from the left side. Votto, Bruce and Choo went cold and the Pirates cruised to their first playoff victory since 1992.

The Cardinals are a different beast, however. St. Louis hitters have a tremendous approach at the plate, specifically in RISP situations. Redbird hitters famously hit .330/.402/.463 with runners in scoring position in 2013. The lineup is loaded with a mix of smart hitters who understand situational hitting and guys who have enough pop to keep pitchers honest. The homerun totals aren’t gaudy but the gap power is legit. The Cardinals led all of baseball with 322 doubles.

Pittsburgh’s lineup, by contrast, is a mesh of good power, good speed and Andrew McCutchen who possesses both of those skills. The Pirates were third in baseball in HR’s (161) and fifth in stolen bases (91). Pittsburgh’s offense centers around McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez but guys like Justin Morneau and Starling Marte are also strong contributors.

What to watch for

Offensively Matt Carpenter makes the Cardinals go. The most intriguing match up in my mind won’t happen until game 3 when Liriano is sent out to the mound. We’ve covered how well Liriano does against lefties already but Matt Carpenter isn’t your typical lefty. In 222 PA’s Carpenter hit .294/.353/.467 against LHP which highlights just how good his approach is. However, against lefty sliders he only hit .257 with a .314 SLG. For contrast, this is what Liriano’s slider has done to other lefties.

The Cardinals have a definite edge when it comes to hitting but it’s ground that the Pirates make up for in pitching and defense. Defensively the Pirates have an big edge. Their outfield can cover a lot of ground and their smart use of defensive shifting can be a difference maker in the series. If we consider the starting rotation and bullpen to be even (which I do) then the defenders in the series will matter.

This is a tight series to call, home field advantage will matter to a degree. Defense will matter to a larger degree. Hitting and platoon splits will rule in the small sample size. Not having Allen Craig available is a huge hit for the Cardinals, one that significantly weakens how creative they can get late in games. The Pirates have a solid bench with Gaby Sanchez, Jose Tabata and Garret Jones coming off the pine.

I think this comes down to matchups and defense, and in that regard the Pirates have the edge. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Cardinals won but I do think the Pirates eek out the series in five games. Continue reading Pirates v. Cardinals NLDS series preview

Game 163’s pitching performances

Game 163 is in the books. We experienced two different types of pitching performance in the play-in-game to get to the play-in-game. Martin Perez and David Price both feature similar repertoires; they both work fastball-changeup and occasionally mix in a breaking ball to keep hitters honest. Awhile back I did a miniseries of sorts on visualizing pitch sequencing in a manner that seemed more intuitive to me. I’ve extended that project out a bit to give a clearer visual of what a pitcher tried to establish in each individual start. The result is this:   Hopefully that simplifies what David Continue reading Game 163’s pitching performances

Bud Selig speaks at annual chat; preaches status quo (mostly)

Over the past few years during the Allstar Break, Commissioner Bud Selig has hosted an annual internet chat with baseball fans from around the globe. During this year’s Q&A, Selig addressed a number of hot topics. Let’s recap some of the more frustrating intriguing points raised. On a salary cap: Selig was pretty adamant about his feelings on this one. He essentially guaranteed that the salary cap topic would not be involved with the next Basic Agreement. In conclusion: it’s still a good day to be a Yankee fan (or a fan of any big market for that matter). On a Continue reading Bud Selig speaks at annual chat; preaches status quo (mostly)

My expanded thoughts on expanded playoffs

Last week, it became clear that baseball was moving towards expanding the playoffs to ten teams, adding one from each league. The details have yet to be hammered out, but we know that the two wildcard teams would play each other in some format, whether it’s a best of three or a one game, winner take all playoff. I don’t love either idea, or the big idea for that matter. A one game playoff for teams that aren’t competing for the same spot just seems silly. Aren’t you basically negating the entire season at that point? As for a three Continue reading My expanded thoughts on expanded playoffs

MLB’s Advanced Media Strategy: What Strategy?

Although I think about this all the time, I got set off on this ironically by something on Twitter. Bill Simmons offered to have the head of MLB’s advanced media on his podcast to explain their “media strategy”. This was after MLBAM apparently removed a video of a NESN reporter choking on a sandwich for some reason or another. I’ve gripped about this quite often. MLB has had the worst internet presence and social media strategy in sports for years now. Most egregiously, they’re the only sport that has forbidden any highlights from appearing on Youtube whatsoever. So while I can Continue reading MLB’s Advanced Media Strategy: What Strategy?

Does Major League Baseball need a salary floor?

At the end of a recent episode of HBO’s Real Time, Bill Maher suggested that financial parity is the reason the NFL has become more popular than Major League Baseball. He didn’t use those words precisely but he suggested that the reason football is more popular than baseball is because in football any team can win while in baseball only the rich teams can win. Maher’s obvious political metaphor aside, he was referring to the NFL’s salary cap, its revenue sharing agreement and the perceived parity they contribute to the game. Was Maher’s assertion correct? Does baseball need additional revenue Continue reading Does Major League Baseball need a salary floor?