Players to Watch, NL East

Greetings to all those readers who still have power (I don’t; I’m writing this from the library). In keeping with some of my last posts, I’m going to throw a small bit of limelight onto some players outside the Yankee scope of things. I’ve covered the NL West and NL Central, so now I’ll turn my attention to a division a bit closer to home, the NL East.

There are two players we should watch out for, one on each side of the ball, in Philadelphia. The first is Jayson Werth, whom I’ve recently discussed. Werth is in the final year of his contract and will likely be looking for a big pay day post 2010. Werth’s posted three straight years of 120+ OPS+ marks, but is on the wrong side of thirty. We’ll have to watch this year to see if his late blooming continues or if he declines a bit.

On the mound, there’s one of my favorite players in baseball: Cole Hamels.… Click here to read the rest

In the end, it’s up to the pitchers to execute

CC Sabathia serves as an organic counter-argument to the notion that a three-man rotation, reliant upon four possible short-rest performances from its three starters, does not work in the World Series. In Game 1 against the Phillies, Sabathia pitched well and, in Game 4, to everyone’s surprise (well, not really), he also pitched well. Basically, despite performing on short-rest, Sabathia pitched as he normally does, rewarding Joe Girardi’s confidence in an abbreviated rotation.

However, thanks to A.J. Burnett’s memorable Game 5 implosion (6 ER over 2 IP), the three-man rotation, which seemed like a good idea after Sabathia’s outing, has suddenly become a bleak proposition. Pitchers are often billed as creatures of habit, therefore, to break that habit’s particulars and start a pitcher on short-rest seems like an outwardly destructive decision. Yet, I ask, in the end, isn’t effective pitching the simple result, not necessarily of an extra day’s rest, but of individual execution, as CC Sabathia demonstrated in Game 4 (and, as he had done during the ALCS)?… Click here to read the rest

Pettitte will start Game 6

It is officially confirmed. Tomorrow, at Yankee Stadium, Andy Pettitte will start Game 6 on short-rest. In his career, Pettitte has started 14 games on 3 days of rest, winning only 4 of those starts (6 losses). During those 86 2/3 innings, which is a fairly “substantial” sample, Pettitte had a 4.15 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP. He held opponents to a .266/.345/.387 line, striking out 69 while walking 38.

Pettitte last started on 3 days of rest in 2006, when he was 35-years old. However, Ed Price (FanHouse) reminds us that Pettitte has not started on 3 days of rest after throwing 100 or more pitches since July 19, 2001, when he was 29. He gave up 7 ER over 4 innings in that start against Detroit. One wonders if any of these numbers actually mean anything, though, given the unpredictable nature of this particular situation (as compared to the others).… Click here to read the rest

Nick’s new stance

From Ken Rosenthal (FOX Sports):

For Alex Rodriguez, the adjustment was simple — swing at strikes, the way he did in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

For Nick Swisher, the change was far more dramatic — stunning, in fact, considering that it came in the middle of the World Series.

Swisher, benched in Game 2, completely overhauled his stance for Game 3, spreading his legs far apart in the batter’s box.

So much for his 4-for-35 slump in the postseason.

Swisher went 2-for-4 in the Yankees’ 8-5 victory, hitting a double to start a three-run rally in the fifth inning and a solo home run in the sixth.

Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long said that Swisher’s new stance is the first step of a major overhaul that will continue in the offseason.

Swisher, a switch-hitter, had tried the stance in the batting cage and in batting practice in recent days, taking approximately 300 swings from each side.

The idea, Long said, is “to eliminate movement, put yourself in better position to react to the baseball.

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WS G3: Yankees @ Phillies

Lineups via LoHud:

YANKEES
Derek Jeter SS
Johnny Damon LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Jorge Posada C
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Melky Cabrera CF
Andy Pettitte P

Pitching: LHP Andy Pettitte (2-0, 2.37 postseason ERA)

PHILLIES
Jimmy Rollins SS
Shane Victorino CF
Chase Utley 2B
Ryan Howard 1B
Jayson Werth RF
Raul Ibanez LF
Pedro Feliz 3B
Carlos Ruiz C
Cole Hamels P

Pitching: LHP Cole Hamels (1-1, 6.75 postseason ERA)

TIME/TV: 7:57 p.m., FOX

Here are Hamels’ numbers against the Yankees, via Baseball-Reference.

Here are Pettitte’s numbers against the Phillies, via Baseball-Reference.

I think Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter will both have big nights against Cole Hamels.

It’s raining pretty hard right (I’m basing this on what I see on TV). Hopefully, we’ll have baseball tonight.… Click here to read the rest

Hitting Hamels’ changeup

Cole Hamels’ best pitch this year is, once again, his changeup. The pitch, which generally clocks in around 78-81 mph, on average, was thrown just over 30% of the time in 2009. It serves as Hamels’ main strikeout offering and, according to pitch value data, was 11.7 runs above average, the second best changeup value in the NL (only Tim Lincecum’s changeup was better). He’ll throw the changeup to right-handed hitters—low and away—as well as left-handed hitters—low and away—and, when facing righties, Hamels is not afraid to come inside with the pitch to induce a weak groundout. Therefore, while Hamels doesn’t have an overpowering fastball (90 mph, on average), his changeup is deceptive enough to help him strike out 7.81 batters per nine innings. Basically, expect to see a lot of fastballs—just under 60% of the time—and changeups, with the occasional curve mixed in.

So, Hamels’ changeup is good, that much is clear. However, who can we expect to have success against it?… Click here to read the rest

A-Rod, where did you go?

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Alex Rodriguez has 6 strikeouts, thus far, in the World Series. He’s performing like it’s 2006.

Here’s Tom Verducci’s (SI) take on A-Rod’s first two games of the series:

Those were some funky swings Alex Rodriguez took in Games 1 and 2 in the World Series, looking nothing like the compact, balanced strokes he took in the ALDS and ALCS. His swing was at times lengthened and at times became very defensive, more of swatting for the ball or feeling for it than taking a quick path to it. It’s almost as if he’s a shooter in basketball whose stroke gets tighter with each miss; he needs something to go down to restore confidence.In two games Rodriguez has swung at 23 pitches and put two balls in play: a grounder to third and a flyball to left field. He punched out three times in Game 1 and three times again in Game 2. Only one other player ever had back-to-back three-strikeout games in World Series history: Jim Lonborg.

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Hairston replaces Swisher

For Game 2 of the World Series, Jerry Hairston Jr. will start in right field over the struggling Nick Swisher. Hairston’s line against Pedro Martinez over 27 at-bats is .370/.433/.519. Of course, those at-bats are from years ago, when Pedro was with Boston and Hairston was with Baltimore, but Pedro was better back then, so maybe they’ll help Hairston tonight. Part of me wants to criticize Girardi for the move, as it smacks of desperation, but, to be honest, Swisher has looked awful at the plate—he’s practically diving on top of the ball before it gets to him—so I can’t complain (in Swisher’s defense, he did face Cliff Lee last night, who was damn near unhittable).

UPDATE – I’m left wondering, why not start Gardner or Hinske rather than rely upon dated stats?… Click here to read the rest