Supercharged to face the Yankees?

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010, 2:23 AM [General]

    As the number four train pulled out of the Yankee Stadium station last night, a fan sitting in the corner seat muttered that the Yankees should have at least one hit per inning.

    That might be a little far-fetched, but you'd like to think the Yankees can generate more than four hits in 14 innings off two pitchers they had never seen before in person.

    The differences in video and in person are probably different perspectives but is it pitchers getting amped up to face the Yankees?

    Nick Swisher thought that some of these pitchers seem to have extra velocity from facing the Yankees, especially at Yankee Stadium.

    So naturally you wonder if it's actually true and begin researching that fact.  The best way to do that is to examine the start against the Yankees and the previous outing.

    Last night it was Max Scherzer, who made his debut against the Yankees.  In six innings, he threw 115 pitches and allowed two hits and struck out six.

    He threw 77 four-seam fastballs that averaged 93.02 miles per hour and 47 of those pitches were strikes. On August 10 against Tampa Bay, Scherzer threw 65 four-seamers and averaged 92.5 miles per hour in an 8-0 loss that saw allow an earned run and four hits in seven innings.

    On Sunday, Bryan Bullington threw 61 fastballs and averaged 91.9 miles per hour while throwing 40 for strikes. His previous start was in Anaheim where he allowed three runs and five hits in six innings.  In that outing, Bullington threw 46 four-seamers for an average of 91.8 miles per hour and four two-seamers for an average of 91.2 miles per hour.

    So what does that prove?  I'm sure pitchers are always excited to face and beat the Yankees but I don't know if that shows they're throwing extra hard velocity-wise.

    It's definitely not like the Yankees had opportunities in the 115 pitches seen from Scherzer.  He threw first-pitch strikes to eight hitters, had nine three-ball counts and made contact 38 times.

    It's a topic that shows up every year with a wide-ranging amount of theories. Some theories are reaches, others are valid but it remains a topic.

    The good news is the Yankees have seen Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman and Rick Porcello so that chatter about unfamiliar pitchers will subside until the next time.

    (note - all pitch data is derived from the PitchFx tool used on

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    Johnny Damon fondly talks about the Apple and Motor City

    Monday, August 16, 2010, 6:51 PM [General]

    When athletes have press conferences sometimes it's to apologize for their actions or speak in cliches about a milestone or team victory.

    There are exceptions to that rule, especially the cliche part and one of that belongs to Johnny Damon,who wherever he goes is among the more affable professional athletes.

    Currently, Damon is happily a Detroit Tiger and fondly recalls the four years he spent in New York where he went from an every day center fielder to a productive left fielder DH on a championship ballclub.

    As important as those things are, so is connecting with people and fans and in his years with Boston and the Yankees, Damon did that.  He's also doing that with the Tigers.  Not many people speak of trying to win a championship to the struggling economy of a city they play in, but that was among the numerous things Damon mentioned during a press conference that lasted roughly 20 minutes.

    The first sign you knew he was not a Yankee was the hair and if you've ever seen Ricky Vaughn's hair-do in Major League, that's how Damon's Mohawk looked.

    Another thing you won't hear too frequently is players speak in sentimental tones about going from team to team.

    "Unfortunately, fans don't get to follow their favorite players like they used to," Damon said. "Players tend to change teams. I'm one of those guys, I'm not a Jeter or Posada. This is my fifth team now."

    It also was the third time through the free agency process. Damon went through it in 2001 after his only season in Oakland.  Though he was a .256 hitter that year, he recieved a four-year deal from the Red Sox and was a key cog in the team that finally ended 86 years of frustration by winning the World Series.

    During his final season in Boston, David Wells was a teammate and he happened to mention to Damon what it was like in New York when the team went all the way.  That planted the bug in Damon's ear about coming here and when the Red Sox did not offer him a contact he liked, he headed to the Yankees for four years.

    Year One was spent trying to prove the Red Sox wrong and Damon turned that into .285, 24 home runs, 80 RBI and 25 stolen bases.

    Year Two was spent being slowly phased out of center field due to the emergence of Melky Cabrera and moving to left field and DH.

    Year Three was a productive one, but frustrating one and last year, it would be hard to top so that kind of eased the sting of having to leave New York a little for Damon.

    Damon has found a place he loves just as much as Detroit and is thrilled at getting to play with young players like Austin Jackson and Justin Verlander as well as the best hitter in the game in Miguel Cabrera.

    He sees himself as a player-coach for a Detroit team and would like to be around to add a third ring to his fingers, one with the Old English D.


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    Today is the deadline, but what about those already signed

    Monday, August 16, 2010, 11:38 AM [General]

    Today is the deadline to sign draft picks from this past June's draft that have remaining college eligibility.  That means if someone is a junior or has signed with a college out of high school and through yesterday, 19 of the 50 players selected by the Yankees have signed. 

    Here's a glimpse of how they are doing in the minors if they have reached there yet:

    1 - SS Cito Culver - playing with the GCL Yankees and through 40 games, has hit .277 with two home runs and 18 RBI. Also has 38 strikeouts to 13 walks.

    5 - RHP Thomas Kahnle - playing with the Staten Island Yankees and has made three relief appearances for a total of four innings and no hits, but seven strikeouts.

    8 - 1B Kyle Roller - playing with the Staten Island Yankees and has appeared in 47 games.  So far the East Carolina product is hitting .281 with four home runs and 24 RBI.  Roller also has a .367 on-base percentage.

    11 - RHP Zachary Vance - playing with the Staten Island Yankees and has a 5.32 ERA in 11 appearances.  The good news for him is that he won his first game yesterday by pitching 5 2/3 scoreless innings.  Varce's ERA is inflated due to a poor start last month when he allowed eight runs in 3 1/3 innings.

    13 - C Tyler Austin - playing with the GCL Yankees but has appeared in two games and none since last month.  I'll assume he's either injured or is getting more instruction.

    15 - RHP Chase Whitley - playing with the Staten Island Yankees and doing well.   In 23 relief appearances, Whitley has a 1.63 ERA and 11 saves.  In 27 2/3 innings, Whitley has fanned 38 with only 12 walks and that has earned him a spot on the NY-Penn League All-Star team.

    17 - RHP Preston Claiborne - playing with the Staten Island Yankees and also an All-Star reliever.  In 18 appearances, Claiborne has a 2.38 ERA.  He has pitched 22 1/3 innings and struck out 30 while walking just eight but also has allowed a .313 average to lefties.

    20 - LF Michael Ferraro - also playing with the Staten Island Yankees but hitting .212 and posting a .248 on-base percentage.

    21 - RHP Dustin Hobbs - playing with the GCL Yankees and has made five starts.  He is 2-0 with a 1.83 ERA and as the innings go up, so do the strikeouts.  In last two starts, totaling 11 innings, Hobbs has 16 of his 22 strikeouts.

    22 - LHP Trevor Johnson - playing with the GCL Yankees and has pitched 6 1/3 innings in six appearances but none since July 27.

    23 - C Shane Brown - playing with the Staten Island Yankees and though his average of .228 in 38 games is low, his on-base percentage is .401.  Has walked 29 times.

    24 - RHP Connor Mullee - pitching with the GCL Yankees and has a 1.89 ERA in 11 appearances, allowing a hit per inning through his first 19 innings, struck out 15 but also hasn't pitched since July 27.

    25 - 2B Casey Stevenson - playing with the Staten Island Yankees and hitting .196 with three home runs and 14 RBI. 

    31 - RHP Mike Gipson - pitching with the Staten Island Yankees and recently moved the bullpen.  As a starter, he had a 4.98 ERA but in six relief appearances he has a 1.88 ERA and has 19 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings and 46 in 36 total innings.

    32 - LHP Kramer Sneed - recently promoted to Staten Island following four decent appearances in the GCL. In three starts, he is 0-1 with an 8.10 ERA.

    35 - RHP William Oliver - pitching with the GCL Yankees and has made six appearances.  Also has two victories but has allowed six earned runs and 12 hits in 9 2/3 innings and a .316 batting average.

    36 - C Nick McCoy - playing with Staten Island and has appeared in 14 games. So far, he has a .283 average and driven in five runs and also 4-for-12 off lefties.

    46 - RHP Nathan Forer - Started off in Staten Island and had a 1.99 ERA in 16 appearances and earned a promotion to Tampa of the Florida State League and has made one appearance.

    47 - LHP Fred Lewis - Started off with a brief appearance in Staten Island but sent to the GCL. In six appearances, has pitched 5 1/3 innings.

    So what does all of this mean?  Nothing yet.  These numbers are probably way too early of an indicator of future major league appearances but all these guys are trying to make that dream come true.  Speaking of which if you read Mike Ashmore's fascinating piece, you will get a better feel of what life in the minors can be like. 


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    Another unfamilar face beat the Yankees

    Monday, August 16, 2010, 1:25 AM [General]

    Every time the Yankees lose to a pitcher they have neither seen before, people wonder why they are unable to get it done.  Yesterday, Bryan Bullington became another of those unknowns to shut down the Yankees.

    He held the Yankees to two hits in eight innings and joined a list that includes David Tomlin of Cleveland and Sean O'Sullivan then of Anaheim.

    Amazingly if Bullington's career had progressed by now the Yankees might have seen him at some point.  Eight years ago, the Pirates selected him with the top pick of the 2002 draft and through three seasons in the minor leagues, his career progressed somewhat.

    Bullington was 34-17 at four different levels but only made six appearances as a Pirate and took a 0-7 lifetime record into yesterday.  Yesterday, the Yankees never saw more than 10 pitches per inning and the at-bats clearly struck a nerve with manager Joe Girardi, who said the following:

    “I get tired of talking about it, I know that. You look for the ball, and you hit it. That’s the bottom line. I know when you haven’t seen a guy you aren’t exactly sure what he’s going to do to you, but we have a lot of good hitters in the lineup.”

    The loss was the eighth in 14 games for the Yankees but hardly the first time Girardi seemed that forceful on this topic.  If you flashback to June 18, 2009, you might recall a 3-0 loss to the Washington Nationals, whose starter Craig Stammen allowed six hits in a 6 1/3 innings.  The topic of unknown pitchers was broached yet again and though I don't recall the exact quote, I do recall Girardi getting agitated at losing to these pitchers.

    What actually is more interesting is how long it took for Bullington to get his win since he was the first starting pitcher drafted that year and usually pitchers drafted that high get called up quickly.  So here's a look at that and note this is not necessarily the first overall pick but the first starting pitcher taken over the last 25 years.

    2009 draft Stephen Strassburg - first career start, 6/8 vs. Pirates

    2008 draft Brian Matusz - first career start 8/4/09 at Detroit

    2007 draft David Price - third career start 5/30/09 vs. Minnesota

    2006 draft Luke Hochevar - third career start 4/26/08 vs. Toronto

    2005 draft Ricky Romero - first career start 4/9/09 vs.  Detroit

    2004 draft Justin Verlander - third career start 4/8/06 vs. Texas

    2003 dradt Kyle Sleeth - Tommy John surgery, retired in 2008 and never pitched above Double-A

    2002 draft Bryan Bullington - seventh career start, 8/15/10 vs. Yankees

    2001 draft Mark Prior - first career start 5/22/02 vs. Pirates now pitching with the Orange County Flyers of the Golden Baseball league following numerous injuries with the Cubs

    2000 draft Adam Johnson - third career start 7/26/01 at Oakland, pitched in the Golden Baseball League in 2009

    1999 draft Josh Beckett - first career start 9/4/01 vs. Cubs

    1998 draft Mark Mulder - first career start 4/18/00 at Cleveland - 103-game winner, retired this year

    1997 draft Jason Grilli - first career start 5/11/00 vs. Atlanta

    1996 draft Kris Benson - first career start 4/9/99 vs. Cubs - currently pitching for Reno of the Pacific Coast League

    1995 draft Kerry Wood - second career start 4/18/98 vs. Dodgers

    1994 draft Paul Wilson - fourth career start 4/22/96 vs. Reds - injury-plagued career of 40-58 that ended in 2005

    1993 draft Darren Dreifort - 39th appearance 8/30/96 at Phillies - injury-plagued career of 48-60 that ended in 2004

    1992 draft B.J. Wallace - 44 starts in the minors, none above Class A and last pitched with Clearwater in 1996

    1991 draft Brien Taylor 82 minor league starts, none above Class AA and none since 1998 with Greensboro

    1990 draft Alex Fernandez - second career start 8/7/00 at Royals (made six minor league starts)

    1989 draft Ben McDonald - sixth career appearance 10/1/89 at Blue Jays - 78-70 career record

    1988 draft Andy Benes - third career start 8/23/89 at Phillies - 155 wins retired in 2002

    1987 draft Willie Banks - second career start 8/6/91 at Angels - 33 wins in 181 games, currently pitching with the Newark Bears

    1986 draft Greg Swindell - fourth career start 9/6/86 at Brewers - 123-122 in 17 seasons, retired in 2002

    1985 draft Bobby Witt - third career start 4/22/86 at Blue Jays - 142-157 in 16 season, retired after 2001

    As you can see, there is a mixed bag of how someone's career turns out and how in some instances it doesn't pan out.  Looking at Taylor, Wallace, Sleeth, I'm sure Bullington knows how fortunate he is to be still around an organization eight years after he was the top pitcher selected.

    "At times," Bullington said, "there were days in Triple-A where it felt like I was never going to get another shot.”

    That was what Bullington said after his start and now because of the Yankees' inability to hit him, he will get another shot and not experience the stark differences between living in the minors and majors.
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    A-Rod kind of pulls a Reggie

    Sunday, August 15, 2010, 12:55 AM [General]

    Last night was a clinic of sorts from Alex Rodriguez, who reminded people that he still has some power, especially when the mechanics are right.

    In Kansas City, Rodriguez put on a hitting clinic that made us think back to years such as 2007 and 2005.  On three straight at-bats, he hit three home runs, connecting on a solo shot in the sixth and two-run drives in the seventh and ninth inning.

    In some ways, he pulled a "Reggie" by matching what Reggie Jackson did in Game Six of the 1977 World Series That is homering off three different pitchers on three consecutive at-bats, except that Rodriguez did not do it on three straight pitches

    Here's how each of those at-bats developed:

    Leading off the sixth against Sean O'Sullivan - changeup at the knees for a foul ball, sinker at the belt for a foul ball, sinker at the shoulders for ball one.  The home run pitch was a sinker on the inside corner around the knees that Rodriguez lifts to center field.

    One out in the seventh with Mark Teixeira on first and facing Kanekoa Teixeira - first-pitch fastball that was virtually the same location and lifted to center field.

    Nobody out in the ninth with Teixeira on first and facing Greg Holland - slider just misses the outside corner for ball one, slider over the plate that is called a ball, inside fastball slightly above the knees.

    The second home run was his 20th giving him 15 straight seasons of 20 home runs and since I'm into lists, here's the date and place when he reached 20 in previous years:

    2009 - August 7 off Boston's Junichi Tazawa in the 15th inning

    2008 - July 18 off Oakland's Dallas Braden in the sixth inning

    2007 - June 3 off Boston's Jonathan Papelbon in the top of the ninth

    2006 - July 16 off Chicago's Freddy Garcia in the first

    2005 - June 21 off Tampa Bay's Travis Harper in the eighth

    2004 - July 5 off Detroit's Nate Robertson in the second

    2003 - June 30 off Anaheim's Ben Weber in the top of the eighth

    2002 - June 5 off Anaheim's Jarrod Washburn in the top of the fourth

    2001 - June 17 off Houston's Scott Elarton in the top of the fifth

    2000 - June 19 off Tampa Bay's Albie Lopez in the third

    1999 - July 19 off Arizona's Vicente Padilla in the sixth

    1998 - May 28 off Tampa Bay's Jason Johnson in the top of the third

    1997 - August 22 off New York's Kenny Rogers in the first

    1996 - July 16 off Oakland's Bobby Chouinard in the top of the third

    The three home runs put Rodriguez on a pace for 29, but I have a feeling he will find a way to hit nine in the last 46 games.  By hitting 21 through 109 games that he has played, that comes out to one every five games.  Another factor that seems to be in his favor is this:

    Before the break, Rodriguez played 82 games and homered 14 times.  Since the break, he is halfway to that total in 27 games.

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