First Winning Streak Of The Year! Yankees Crush Indians 11-6

The Yankees played in their third home opener of the year this afternoon, a duel between Hiroki Kuroda and Ubaldo Jimenez. Both pitchers came into the game with their own concerns. Last week, Kuroda took a linedrive to his middle finger and was pronounced day-to-day. Meanwhile, Jimenez was coming off a strong outing in Toronto after an awful 2012 season.

The pitching worries were a big part of the first half of today’s game. Jimenez opened up the first inning with an 84 mph fastball, after averaging 96 mph just a few years ago in Colorado. After walking Robinson Cano and allowing a single to Kevin Youkilis, hometown hero Travis Hafner launched a 3-run home run to dead center.

Kuroda lacked control in the first inning, and immediately walked Michael Bourn. What followed was a series of unfortunate events for the right-handed pitcher. There were three ground balls that could have easily been double play balls, but they just happened to bounce off bags and gloves for infield singles. Kuroda’s pitches had the right movement, but defense, bad luck, and wildness helped the Indians tie the game up by the end of the first.

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Game 7: Reuniting In Cleveland

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The Yankees will take part in their third home opener of the year this afternoon, but this one will be a little more special. The Yankees have a number of ex-Indians on their team, and vice versa. Most notably, Travis Hafner, who spent 10 years in Cleveland, and CC Sabathia, 7 and a half years, will return to their old stomping grounds wearing pinstripes. In an Indians’ uniform, Nick Swisher will man first base after playing with the Yankees for four seasons.

Here’s today’s lineup.
Brett Gardner CF
Robinson Cano 2B
Kevin Youkilis 3B
Travis Hafner DH
Vernon Wells LF
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Eduardo Nunez SS
Lyle Overbay 1B
Chris Stewart C

It’s good to see Nunez back in the lineup, but I’m a little surprised to see Stewart in there. Francisco Cervelli has been red hot with the bat, and his defense has been far better than Stewart’s. Perhaps the Yankees are still testing them out, but Cervelli has undoubtedly outplayed Stewart at this point, and with an already limited team, it’s hard to justify playing an inferior lineup.

On the mound, Hiroki Kuroda takes on the right-handed Ubaldo Jimenez. After reaching ace status in Colorado, the move to a more pitcher friendly park has actually been counter productive for Jimenez. Since his trade to Cleveland in 2011, he’s shown a notable drop off in velocity, and last year he pitched to a 5.40 ERA, and a 5.06 FIP. He looked good in his first outing of the 2013 season, throwing 6.0 innings of 3 hit ball against the Blue Jays, but only averaged 92 mph on a fastball that once sat at 96 mph.

Also keep an eye on Kuroda today, who is returning from an injury shortened start last week. His middle finger was bruised by a line drive in the second inning, and remarked that the finger was still numb in his last bullpen session.

The game starts at 4:05 PM on YES and the MLB Network. Go Yankees!

(Photo courtesy of Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)
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Nova Adds A Sinker

sinkerivan

Ivan Nova didn’t give the greatest performance on Friday, but he did break out a new pitch. Giving up 5 hits, 4 runs, and 2 walks in 4.2 innings is hardly something to get excited about, but beyond the numbers, Nova could be taking a giant leap with his career, and the Yankees a giant leap with their pitching philosophies.

One of the weakest parts of Nova’s repertoire is his hittable fastball. Although he’s capable of velocity in the mid-90’s, Nova’s four-seam fastball lacks movement, and was hit around for a .371 average and .632 slugging percentage in 2012. Compare this to his slider and curveball, which respectively allowed .254 and .170 batting averages. His breaking pitches have developed well over the last few years, and from 2011 to 2012, he saw a spike in his K% from 13.9% to 20.5%. With a year and a half of success with his slider and curveball, he’s developed a high ceiling with genuinely nasty secondary pitches, but his four-seam fastball has been the weak link holding him back.

In a post last month, I discussed Nova’s new arm motion from Spring Training. I noticed that his fastball showed a considerable amount of sinking action compared to last year, and sure enough, PITCHf/x confirms that he was throwing a sinker. Take a look at the movement chart (below) from Friday to get an idea of how it compares with his four-seam fastball.

chart

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What is Robinson Cano really worth?

This is the most important season of Robinson Cano’s career. He’s established himself as one of the game’s premier players. Now, he’s about to enter free-agency for the first time. He’s even gone out and hired Jay-Z to be his agent. Everything about what Cano is doing indicates that he wants to make a big splash. The numbers being tossed around are as large as $200 million. Setting speculation aside for one moment, what would constitute fair value for Cano? If the Yankees were in a position to construct a deal that figured to compensate Cano fairly over the next several season, what would that contract look like?

Make no mistake, Robbie is a great player and the best hitter on the Yankees right now (his abysmal start to 2013 aside). The numbers back it up. According to Fangraphs, Cano is the 7th most valuable player in all of baseball since 2009, having accumulated 23.3 fWAR in that time. He’s just two wins behind Miguel Cabrera, the best player in all of baseball since 2009, according to fWAR. As a result, Robbie will get his due. Continue reading What is Robinson Cano really worth?

Status Not Looking Good For Jeter

Jeter Rehab

(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

Derek Jeter said he was going to be ready to start this season.  Both he and the Yankees did everything in their power to try to make that happen.  When his ankle started to act up earlier in spring camp, both he and the team passed it off as a blip on the radar.  Now, on the day he was supposed to be eligible to come off the DL and return to the lineup, Jeter finds himself no closer to coming back than he was when he first went on the DL.

There hasn’t been much progress in Jeter’s latest attempt to come back, as evidenced by this latest report from Bryan Hoch today on Saturday.  What Jeter is doing now is the same thing he was doing two months ago when he first really started to get back to baseball activities, and this second go-round with these incredibly watered-down activities is happening at a slower pace than two months ago.  Jeter still isn’t taking batting practice, he still isn’t taking real fielding practice, and he still can’t run the bases.  Those are the three fundamental activities for any baseball player at any position, and the plain fact of the matter is that there’s no timetable for when he’s going to start doing them again.  I’ve heard early May thrown around as the new possible return date, but even that looks like a stretch presently.

I said way back in November that I didn’t think Jeter was going to be able to make it back in time for Opening Day, and my preference was that he and the team didn’t attempt to rush his comeback to make that happen.  They did, it didn’t work, and now we don’t know when he’s going to be back on the field.  Normally I like to puff out my chest and sing my own praises on one of the rare occasions when I’m right.  In this instance, however, I really don’t want to.

(Photo courtesy of J. Conrad Williams, Jr./Newsday) Continue reading Status Not Looking Good For Jeter

This week in Yankees baseball – Week Two

yankeeslogo

After a very troubling first week of the season, the New York Yankees will continue on the road for the first four days of the week with a four game set with the Cleveland Indians before coming back home to play the Baltimore Orioles for the weekend. Many expected the banged up offense to be a problem for the Yankees but the pitching was expected to hold up the injury-riddled team to at least make them competitive. With the exception of Andy Pettitte, both the starting pitching and the bullpen has not been sharp and has not held up anything. So what lies ahead and is this team as in trouble as it looks? Let’s take a look.

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Random thoughts after week one

So, this has been a fun week. After 2+ seasons of covering the Yankees on an hour-by-hour basis, I’m trying to consumer games like a normal person, and I must admit, it gives you an entirely different perspective on things. Instead of watching every pitch of every game and jotting down notes, statistical tidbits, internet column ideas, etc., I’ve done a lot more flipping through channels to different games when things have gotten a bit dull, and done a lot more juggling of chores during the games. Did I mention that this gives you a very different take on things? Because at times it’s felt like an entirely different game than the one I’ve been following since 2009 or so.

With that said, here are a few semi-connected thoughts after the first week of the new season:

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The Farm Report: 4/7/13

The Yankees farm system ended the weekend with a split. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre continues to look for their first win of 2013, as Brett Marshall had a tough start. Meanwhile, Trenton showed just how potent their offense could be this season as they beat Portland. Tampa had a rough day at the plate, but Charleston made good use of the long ball as they shutout the Drive.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre lost to Pawtucket 6-2:
Melky Mesa started the bottom of the first with a bunt single and Zoilo Almonte drew a one out walk, but the RailRiders were unable to draw first blood. Pawtucket got its first baserunner of the day when Brett Marshall walked Ryan Lavarnway. A wild pitch moved the runner over and with two outs, Mark Hamilton hit a ground-rule double, giving the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. Pawtucket started to break the game open in the third, as Marshall quickly loaded the bases, giving up a single and two walks. A sac fly by Drew Sutton plated one run and a single by Lavarnway scored two more, putting Scranton in a 4-0 hole. Pawtucket added a run in the fourth and in the seventh, holding a 6-0 lead. The RailRiders finally started to threaten in the bottom of the eighth. Thomas Neal drew a walk and Addison Maruszak grounded a single to right. A single by Almonte scored Neal for their first run of the day. With three outs left, David Adams drew a leadoff walk to start the ninth. Cody Johnson and Austin Romine both struck out, but Adams scored on a single by Neal. Maruszak reached on an error but Mesa grounded out to short as Scranton took the 6-2 loss.

The RailRiders managed only four hits all day, none for extra bases. Mesa, Almonte, Neal and Maruszak each picked up one hit. They were 2-8 with runners in scoring position. Mesa, Johnson, Romine and Neal each struck out twice. Brett Marshall had a rough day. He lasted just 3.2 innings, giving up five runs on six hits, four walks and four Ks. Preston Claibrne pitched a perfect ninth inning, picking up one K.

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Yankees avoid sweep, beat Tigers 7-0

201304071243457920578-p2After getting off to a 1-4 start while allowing eight runs in consecutive games against the Tigers, the Yankees came into today’s game not yet desperate for a win, but certainly in need of one. Fortunately, that’s precisely what they got.

There was a solid chance the Tigers would sweep the Yankees. Justin Verlander was on the mound for Detroit. You never know when that guys is going to give you 8 innings of one run ball while Jim Leyland blithely allows him to throw 137 pitches. Today wasn’t that day. Verlander didn’t have his best stuff and the Yankees got to him early. The damage came in the second inning. Francisco Cervelli (who’s gotten off to an impressive .308/.438/.615 start) hit a booming double off Verlander that scored the struggling Ichiro Suzuki (.118/.200/.118) who had reached on a fielder’s choice earlier in the inning. Later in the second Jayson Nix came up and hit a two-run homer, scoring Cervelli (Nix had three hits in the game). Just like that it was three nothing Yankees.

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