So, Ben Francisco, What Would You Say … You Do Here?

The-Bobs

(Originally published at An A-Blog for A-Rod.  Stats have been updated to accurately reflect Ben Francisco’s uselessness)

The Yankee offense’s struggles against left-handed pitching are long and well-documented.  It’s not like this is the first season they’ve failed to produce against southpaws, it’s just that the lack of production this season stands out even more due to the large absence of good right-handed regulars.  There are a litany of reasons one can give as to why the production has been so putrid, all of them perfectly legitimate and easy to understand.  But there’s one particular reason that continues to eat away at me.  Basically what it boils down to is the simple fact that Ben Francisco sucks at baseball.

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Report: Yankees Apparently Abandoning 2014 Budget Plans

steinbrenner
Before we all get too excited with the headline, this all seems a little too much like speculation to me. Jeff Passan over at Yahoo Sports has some quotes from Yankees sources and people close to the club, and it seems that those anonymous voices are all in agreement that the team will not reach their planned $189 million budget for the 2014 season.

“They’re going to be over 189,” one source said. “They know it. Everyone knows it. You can’t run a $3 billion team with the intentions of saving a few million dollars.”

This matches another report by ESPN New York from late-February, which stated that Hal Steinbrenner had grown tired of the public scrutiny, and that the Yankees were willing to abandon the budget and re-sign Robinson Cano to prove their dedication to the fans. Of course this never happened, and we’ve actually heard more rumors since, from both ownership and the General Manager, about how they plan to stick to the $189 million outline.

The premise behind much of Passan’s piece comes from the premise that the overall expected savings amount will be minuscule in comparison to the Yankees’ net profits, and the amount they believed to be saving has also dropped from what was previously estimated.

“The assumptions on the market-disqualification rebate haven’t held,” one American League executive said. “The pool is going to be much less than everyone anticipated.”

Maybe the Yankees have gotten close to a deal with Cano, and they want to announce their breaking budget with big fanfare. Maybe the empty seats this season have convinced the organization that it’s not just Stub Hub causing New Yorkers to pass on the high-priced seats this year. Maybe they realized that the team they put on the field is not championship caliber.

There are a ton of reasons for the Yankees to scrap their budget plans, but that doesn’t mean we should believe it. Passan’s piece consists of three quotes from anonymous sources, and although he’s a respectable national baseball writer, I’ve learned that you have to stay mindful when sports writers use this type of speculative reporting.

With that said, his final quote probably holds the most truth to it, since I think we can all agree that the budget hardly looked realistic from the start.

“It was a good idea to try,” one Yankees official said. “But deep down, we all pretty much knew it wasn’t going to happen.”

Continue reading Report: Yankees Apparently Abandoning 2014 Budget Plans

Yankees 5, Blue Jays 3: M-M-M My Kuroda

(I apologize for the title. I’m tired.)

I know it’s early in the season and I know it may be too soon to say this but I’m going to say it anyway.

I love when the Yankees beat the Blue Jays. And do you know why that is? Because Blue Jays fans have become entirely too confident and a tad too obnoxious for me. Just because your team won the offseason doesn’t mean that will translate into wins in the regular season. Hello? Doesn’t anyone remember the 2012 Marlins? You know, the team the Blue Jays essentially traded for in November?

Jeez.

With that said, I do follow a lot of cool Blue Jay fans on Twitter and I don’t wish them any ill will.

All right, let’s get to the recap. This one started off on the wrong foot with Hiroki Kuroda having a rough first two innings.

He gave up a two-run home run to Edwin Encarnacion in the first and then a solo home run to Brett Lawrie in the second. Kuroda looked all out of sorts and then he did what any good starter does, he made adjustments and was able to shut down the opposing team down for the remainder of his time on the field. He finished with six innings pitched, gave up those three runs on six hits, walked one and struck out three.

On the other side, Mark Buehrle, had a strong first inning and then gave up runs in the second, third and fourth innings – all on home runs, just like Kuroda.

In the second, Vernon Wells, who loves hitting Buehrle – he’s 24-48 in his career with three home runs and 10 RBI, hit a solo shot to cut the Jays lead to 3-1. Then Robinson Cano hit a three-run shot in the third inning to put the Yankees up 4-3. In the fifth inning, Buehrle got “Cerved” when Francisco Cervelli hit a solo shot, his third of the year, to put the Yankees up 5-3. (I can’t believe I just wrote that; both the horrible “cerved” thing and that he actually hit a home run. Like I said above, I’ll chalk it up to being tired and loopy.)

The bullpen continued to keep the Blue Jays off the board with three strong innings of work. Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera only gave up one hit (off Chamberlain) and strike out three (1 by Robertson and 2 by Rivera). Rivera picked up his seventh save of the season and the 615th of career.

Oh and in a cool, “Hey, I know that guy!” moment, my friend Mark caught Cano’s home run!
Continue reading Yankees 5, Blue Jays 3: M-M-M My Kuroda

Game 21: Rematch In The Bronx

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It’s been a week since the Yankees were home, and now they get to face the Blue Jays and a couple of left-handed pitchers. Unfortunately, the line up is incredibly light on right-handed hitters, and Kevin Youkilis is still struggling with back injuries. Tonight’s lineup is now dependent on the Francisco’s.

Brett Gardner CF
Ben Francisco DH
Robinson Cano 2B
Vernon Wells LF
Francisco Cervelli C
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Eduardo Nunez SS
Lyle Overbay 1B
Jayson Nix 3B

Mark Buerhle isn’t the most menacing pitcher, but this lineup might make him look like an ace. In his last matchup, also against the Yankees, the southpaw went 7.0 innings, giving up 7 hits, 3 runs, 2 earned, 1 walk, and 7 strike outs. Hiroki Kuroda, tonight’s starter, also pitched in that game, and outdueled Buehrle with 7.1 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, and 7 strike outs.

The game starts at 7:05 pm EST on YES or MLB Network. Go Yankees! Continue reading Game 21: Rematch In The Bronx

Quick Hits: Jeter, Lineup, Youkilis

Derek Jeter held a press conference this afternoon and mostly discussed his ankle injury. For the most part, Jeter did a wonderful job not saying anything at all, and refused to give a return date or timeline for his injury. Of the few things we learned, Jeter’s doctor indicated to him that he should return 100%, without any mobility issues. He has no doubt that he’ll return and play at the same level.

I mentioned in my last post that I can’t remember the last time the Yankees didn’t have an injury set back, and guess what, Kevin Youkilis had trouble with his back again. They’ll give it another go tomorrow.

Here’s tonight’s lineup.

Brett Gardner CF
Ben Francisco DH
Robinson Cano 2B
Vernon Wells LF
Francisco Cervelli C
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Eduardo Nunez SS
Lyle Overbay 1B
Jayson Nix 3B

Yeeeeesh. Thank god we got good news on Granderson taking batting practice this afternoon, since I don’t know how much longer the team can surivve with Ben Francisco batting second and Cervelli batting 5th.

Hiroki Kuroda takes on Mark Buerhle tonight at 7:05 PM on YES and the MLB Network. Continue reading Quick Hits: Jeter, Lineup, Youkilis

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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Afternoon Notes: Granderson’s Rehab, Williams’ DUI, Jeter’s Presser

Good afternoon Yankee fans. The team begin a four game series against the Blue Jays tonight, with Hiroki Kuroda and Mark Buehrle taking the mound in the Bronx.

Chad Jennings of LoHud has a video on Girardi discussing Curtis Granderson and the team’s plans for his return. The outfielder looks to be inching closer to some actual playing time, and the latest update is that he’s taking batting practice indoors. It seems that he’s only a few days away from some extended Spring Training game. The early May timetable is still realistic, though I can’t even remember the last time a Yankee didn’t have a setback.

Bad news on prospect Mason Williams, he failed a field sobriety test after being pulled over for speeding and weaving. Though his BAC wasn’t over Florida’s .08 limit, his .067/.062 was high enough to earn him a misdemeanor DUI.

We know that Derek Jeter had a setback in his ankle recovery, and that he’ll likely be out until after the All Star break. This afternoon, Jeter will meet with the media and host a press conference at Yankee Stadium. Alex Rodriguez has done this in the recent past, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the short stop just wants to address the issue now and get all the questions out of the way. Of course, a big press conference like this could mean other things, but we have no reason to believe he has any major announcements.

Finally, I thought it was interesting that Jose Valverde claimed to have a major league contract offer from the Yankees (and Mets) yesterday. It makes no sense that he’d decline either of those offers for a minor league deal with the Tigers earlier this month, and sure enough both Brian Cashman and the Mets have called Valverde out on his statement. Don’t know why he’d make something up like that after earning a major league contract with the Tigers yesterday.

Stay tuned for news from Derek Jeter‘s press conference and a post I have coming up on Ichiro Suzuki‘s bat speed. Continue reading Afternoon Notes: Granderson’s Rehab, Williams’ DUI, Jeter’s Presser

More Thursday Morning Musings

– Is it just me or is the CC Sabathia velocity thing getting a little overhyped now?  I know it was a concern in his first few starts simply because they were the first few starts back after surgery and after a scaled back ST, but at this point shouldn’t everybody just let it go?  CC’s outing on Monday wasn’t pretty, but it had nothing to do with velocity.  He threw the ball harder in that start than he did in his previous start.  CC’s problem on Monday was location.  He missed with a few offspeed pitches up, and he caught more of the plate than he wanted to with a few early-count fastballs.  The previous three starts and the rest of Monday’s outing are proof that CC can be effective without throwing 94-96, and he’s been making the transition to a more refined offspeed game for over five years now.  His changeup is really good, his slider is really good, and he knows how to mix pitches to both right and left-handed hitters.  He’s going to be fine.

– Speaking of old pitchers who know how to get it done with lower velocity, how about Andy Pettitte this season??  He took the L last night, but he gave the team 6 innings of 3-run ball, he struck out 10 batters to just a single BB, and every one of his starts this season have been at least that good.  He’s giving the Yanks everything they would want from a #2 starter, and he’s their #3.  While it’s incredibly cliche to use this phrase to describe him, it is very accurate.  Andy Pettitte ages like fine wine.

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