The stark differences between the two New York teams

    Thursday, August 12, 2010, 2:37 AM [General]

    If you want to know the stark differences between the two teams in New York, the events of last night might be a good starting point.

    In Flushing, the Mets failed for the 15th time since late June to win consecutive games, losing in a fashion that sadly for their fans, especially those that are my closest friends and Met fans, has become all too familiar.  It was a 6-2 loss to the Rockies, a team that actually is in the race but that doesn't tell the whole story.

    The Mets were close to a 2-1 victory despite getting three hits and one after the second batter of the game.  It was a case of terrible at-bats and if you don't believe me, consider this - seven straight hitters struck out at one point (five swinging, two foul tips).  What that tells me is a lot of long looping swings, not the short compact swings you should see.

    Of course that was the least of the problems since when I later found out that Francisco Rodriguez was charged with third degree assault.

    Before this, Rodriguez was the subject of an unpopular mangerial decision.  With a one-run lead, four outs to go and two on, you can either let your eighth inning guy or bring in the closer.  The last time I saw this scenario was Monday when Jonathan Papelbon relieved Daniel Bard.  So common sense would think you would do that and naturally when Melvin Mora hit a grand slam, that had you scratching your head.  However this quote from Jerry Manuel confounds me and probably anyone else who watched this game:

    "Usually, when K-Rod has been out there one night, we don't expect him to get a four-out or five-out save the next night. If we're going to ask him to get that extra out, we're probably going to lose him in the next 10 to 15 days."

    On to the starkly different side of things is what the Yankees pulled off in Texas.  The odds seemed stacked last night in Texas against Cliff Lee.  Lee did his part by striking out 11 hitters in 6 1/3 innings without a walk.  He had a 6-1 lead but was gone after 106 pitches.

    The top of the ninth was a joy to watch from a Yankee standpoint.  Against Neftali Feliz and facing a 6-5 deficit, it started when Lance Berkman fouled off two fastballs and walked. Next was Brett Gardner, who fought back from an 0-2 count and slapped a single.  A wild pitch moved runners to second and third, forcing Texas to bring the infield in or walk Derek Jeter, setting up a force at any base for Nick Swisher.  Instead Texas, brought the infield in and Jeter found the right spot with a chopper that scored the tying run.

    Marcus Thames, whose batting third for Mark Teixeira, drew the ire of some Yankee fans on twitter and facebook then produced the big hit and Mariano Rivera stranded Elvis Andrus on third by getting the final three outs in style.

    So there you have it, two teams playing in ballparks seperated by the Tri-Boro Bridge and roughly 10 miles apart.

    On one side, you have horrible at-bats, a toxic environment due to a frustrated fanbase and pitcher about to be arraigned.

    On the other side, you have a team chipping away (getting those famous Joe Torre small bites), players stepping up in the absence of others and a team that has won 70 of 113 games.

    It's not the first time the Yankees have been worlds apart from the Mets.  Considering the toxic environment in Queens, it might be the most noticeable especially in this day and age of blogging, social networking, messageboards and sports talk radio.

     

    2.8 (1 Ratings)

    Three and a Half Hours of Intrigue

    Monday, August 9, 2010, 11:30 PM [General]

    In many instances, a game that takes three hours, 33 minutes does not end at 2-1.  Usually it's a slugfest, but today's game between the Yankees and Red Sox was among the more interesting the teams have played.

    A game like this is so intriguing because one move, one swing or one pitch could alter its outcome and at the end, you're left wondering what if?

    That is the case for the losing side, which in this case was the Yankees, who were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11.  The trickiness and intrigue began when the Yankees reached the seventh and put two on.

    First Jorge Posada singled.  And since Posada is slow, is the strategy here to pinch run Gardner to try and move from first to third on a single or steal a base and score on a base hit?

    Posada made it to third but you have to wonder if Gardner would have scored from first when Marcus Thames' double deflected off the center field wall.

    So it remained 2-0 as opposed to 2-1 and the Yankees then loaded the bases for Curtis Granderson. 

    At that point, knowing Granderson's .206 batting average off lefties, would you pinch hit there.  Perhaps on other days with righties Austin Kearns (.240 off lefties) or Thames (.328 off lefties) it would have been considered but the problem was both players were in the lineup and thus the only other option would have been Lance Berkman (.185 off lefties).

    That means it was up to Granderson, who had seen seven pitches to that point and flew out in both at-bats on Lester's cutter.  Of those pitches, only two were off-speed (curveballs).  Lester almost retired Granderson on another cutter but that pitch was a close ball one so Lester went with the curveball.

    It was Lester's 15th and final curveball and Granderson swung right through it.  That was the out Terry Francona wanted and next up was Daniel Bard, whose first six pitches were the following:

    98, 98, 99, 98, 98, 99.

    But the seventh inning was a bunch of what if situations only to be followed by the eighth?

    That started with Mark Teixeira homering and left you wondering if Gardner had ran for Posada would the game have been tied instead of a one-run game.  Gardner made his appearance as a pinch runner for Alex Rodriguez but never ran as Bard made four pick off throws and at least two were close.

    The hits in the eighth came off Bard's fastball, so against Robinson Cano he switched it up. 

    After two fastballs, Bard got Cano to swing and miss on a changeup that was nine to 10 miles less than the fastballs.  The next two pitches were fastballs but Cano made good contact, so by then it might have been enough fastballs to Cano. So it was time to get back to the changeups and sure enough that's what Bard did and with a seven mile per hour decrease from the previous pitch and an offering on the outer edge, Cano lunged for it and grounded out.

    While that was an impressive outcome for Bard, he was not out of the woods and when his changeup missed for ball four to Posada, he faced Berkman.  Like Jeter and Swisher in the seventh, it was fastball, fastball, fastball and the end result a popup.

    Bard also had 29 pitches and had not exceeded 30 pitches since doing it five times last year, so it was time to close it out, even if it meant the four-out save.

    First pitch was a splitter and an out by Kearns, who had only seen Jonathan Papelbon's splitter through video tape.

    In the ninth, Papelbon went mostly splitter against Granderson, who fouled off two of those and a regular fastball. At that point, Papelbon might have gone with something off-speed but instead chose a splitter that was located right at the knees.

    Next came Jeter, who walked on a six-pitch at-bat.  Jeter did the smart thing by stealing second as Nick Swisher struck out, forcing another possible decision.

    Do you walk Teixeira, (0-for-8 lifetime vs. Papelbon but red-hot with the bat right now) and face Gardner, who on July 6, 2008 hit a game-ending single in extra innings off Papelbon in an eight-pitch at-bat featuring four foul balls.

    Teixeira had not faced Papelbon since making the final out of a 4-3 loss in Boston on June 11, 2009.  That day the sequence was four consecutive four-seam fastballs and it was a hard lineout to first.  Yesterday, it was all fastballs but located in different spots and when Teixeira swung at a splitter just off the outside corner, the Red Sox had their win and the Yankees began getting ready for the Texas Rangers.

    "I felt good," said Papelbon. "I think if I can put my body in a position to be at its best, my pitches are going to be at their best. I think that goes hand in hand. I felt good today. I would say that was one of the better days I've felt this year."

    It certainly showed in that at-bat to Teixeira.

    0 (0 Ratings)

    First Week has been great except for the Batting Average

    Sunday, August 8, 2010, 7:55 PM [General]

    Lance Berkman's first week as a Yankee and playing major league baseball outside Houston has been great - except for one thing.

    The one thing is a major component and that is performance at the plate.  Though Berkman was acquired in the midst of his worst offensive season, the Yankees liked his track record.

    That was a career batting average of .299 through 11 seasons with the Astros.  Similar to Mickey Mantle, it would have been .300 or better but last year's .274 knocked his career average from .302 to .299.

    Following a 2-for-22 start with the Yankees, it now stands at .296 but Berkman is trying to get that back up and get his swing going back to where it should be.

    "With the exception of hitting under .100 it's been great."  If I can get a few more hits, it would be great."

    Most players have a similar response to questions about fan reaction and Berkman is certainly no different.

    "That comes with the territory.  I'd be disappointed if they weren't booing, then I wouldn't feel like I wasn't in New York."

    Now comes the interesting part of listening to a hitter explain things:

    Q: What are you doing mechanically?

    A:  There's a couple of things.  That's the thing I wasn't hitting good in Houston.  I was having the worst year of my career.  I haven't had a good feel all year long.  I'm about at my wits end.  The key is taking a consistent swing.  I've been taking a good swing every once in a while but I am doing it like I have in the past like I've really locked in a good swing for most of the year.  That's when I have some good years.  But when you get into... you take one good swing and then you have four or five swings that aren't very good, you're not going to be good and you just have to be consistent.  I don't know how I've gotten away from it.  I don't know what's happened and I'm going to try to get me out of it.  That's the case this year and I'm going to keep working hard.

    Q:  It seems like you take one or two steps forward for progress and then you regress:

    A:  Yeah, you have a couple of good at-bats and then there's a couple you get a good pitch to hit and you end up grounding out because you don't make a good swing.

    Q: Have you had that feeling at all with the Yankees.

    A: Yeah, as bad as the numbers are I can be easily be 6-for-20 whatever I am, which is certainly a lot better shape than I am right now.  I've probably hit four balls right on the nose and they've gone right to somebody.  It happens to you too.  When things aren't going good it snowballs. You hit a ball good and the guy makes a diving catch, which it did the other night or lined out to the first baseman.  It's just stuff like that.

    Q: Are the good swings resulting in hard outs a positive sign:

    A:  It could be.  You've got to start somewhere.  What you have to do is do that more (than once or twice).  You have to hit the ball hard, hit the ball hard, hit the ball hard and they start to fall for you.

    Q:  It's also tough sometimes when you hear a lot of different voices:

    A: I've been around long enough to know what the problem is.  So when somebody makes a suggestion I know whether they know what they're talking about or whether to kind of discard it whether it pertains to my swing.  That's part of being around for a long time.  You learn your body, you learn what you're doing when you're going well as opposed to what you're doing when you're not going well.

    Q: What do you think could be the problem?

    A:  Technically it has to do with not using my leg like I should.  I think that stems from the leg injuries I've had the last couple of years and they both have been on my left leg.  I missed a month last year with a calf injury on my left leg and I had knee surgery on my left knee and missed all of spring training and the first two weeks of the season and I think that is a big part of why I've gotten out of whack mechanically because I'm not using my legs in my swing like I normally do or I haven't been doing it for a period of time. Now's it become a habit the wrong way and I've got to try and get back to where I was a couple of years ago.

    Q: Could the out of whack mechanics be related to the surgery and made you a little hesistant?

    A: It could be.  Maybe when I first started, I think that's what started me down the path of bad habits and not making good swings.  You do that and you're compensating without even realizing it and before you know it (you're doing bad mechanics).

    Basically Berkman explained that is inconsistent use of his back leg and not swinging in a straight line that has resulted in his offensive malaise this year.  Because it throws your shoulder and other parts of the body out of whack.  For a slumping hitter, there have been spurts when that is occurring but more times than not, those things are not happening.

     

    3.7 (2 Ratings)

    Welcome to NY - Big Puma?

    Friday, July 30, 2010, 5:55 PM [General]

    If you have your tweet deck application open and follow the world of baseball media as it pertains to the Yankees, then you might have heard things such as the following:

     

    Source: Yankees deal for Berkman is "imminent" - won't be giving up any big prospects, but will take on his contract. He'll be the new DH. - that's the latest from Mark Feinsand

    indeed moving quickly on Berkman, as others report. Team will NOT pick up 15M option as condition of deal; strictly a rental. - that's what Ken Rosenthal has stated but then he stated the following:

    Source says he gave approval earlier today, so everything should be OK. But official word would not be until Sat. aft.

    Second source says #Yankees "likely" to get Berkman. - that's one of the statements from Ken Davidoff

    Yankees-berkman in serious talks - that's the one from Jon Heyman.

    So you get the idea, Berkman might be a Yankee and when he does, the Yankees will have a guy with a cool nickname.  Berkman is listed at 6'1 and 220 pounds, so he's a little stocky for someone his height since I'm the same height and about 30 pounds thinner.  But you have to say "Big Puma" is a cool moniker.

    This is the official definition of his nickname from the funny site "Urban Dictionary":

    All Star first baseman Lance Berkman. A Big Puma glides effortlessly, and moves with cat-like nimbleness around the bases. Big Puma would never, ever fall while running the bases. Watching Big Puma accelerate gracefully to full speed has been known to make grown men cry. Occasionally, if you listen intently, you can hear the Big Puma battle cry: Raaayyrrrrrrrrrrrr!!

    Berkman has 326 career home runs in 1592 games since his major league debut July 16, 1999 at Detroit.  I once talked to him for a SportsTicker recap on August 23, 2008 when the Astros beat the Mets 8-3.  After he hit a three-run home run off John Maine, Berkman said the following:

    "I felt pretty good," Berkman said. "This time of year where you kind of get a little tired, you appreciate games like this because they don't come around as often as they do early in the season, when you have good bat speed."

    Some of those balls that we hit against Santana, if you get one of those to fall in, it's a different ballgame maybe. But different night and different result," Berkman said. "That's why you play them.

    "You can't expect the same thing to happen every night, and I think the key for us if we continue to give ourselves a chance with runners in scoring position, eventually somebody's going to get a hit."

    The next day the Astros beat the Mets and I chatted briefly with Berkman about how they won with him getting the day off.

    "It's great," Berkman said. "You can't win without contributions from all 25 players. It's just impossible to over the course of 162 games.

    "That's one thing that the long grueling schedule will bring to life, who has the best 25 guys, not who has the best seven or eight guys. You've got to use everybody, and today we did."

    As for this year, Berkman is hitting .245, with 13 home runs and 49 RBI in 85 games.  Put him on the Yankees and pace his numbers through 102 games since this doesn't appear to be happning until Saturday, he will finish with 21 home runs and 78 RBI.  However, he could generate more home runs being that he'll get some games at Yankee Stadium and six home runs this month are his best month in terms of longballs.

    So welcome to New York Big Puma, it's a cool nickname.

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Robinson Cano the path to 1,000 hits

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010, 12:39 AM [General]

    I meant to post this yesterday, but dozed off.  At some point between Robinson Cano getting his 1,000th career hit in his 830th career game and 3,232 at-bat, curious minds (actually just mine) wanted to know how long for him to reach each increment of 100 hits since he has reached 1,000 before his 28th birthday.  Thanks to the research tools of baseball-reference here are the answers:

     

    1 – single off Hideo Nomo at Tampa Bay 5/4/05 in game 2

    100 8/13/2005 – double off Juan Dominguez vs. Texas in career game 87

     200 5/18/2006 – single off Francisco Cordero vs. Texas in Game 168

     300 9/17/2006 single off Kyle Snyder vs. Boston in Game 240

     400 6/29/2007 single off Joe Kennedy vs. Oakland in Game 330

     500 9/25/2007 single off Jason Hammel at Tampa Bay in Game 410

     600 7/19/2008 – single off Lenny DiNardo vs. Oakland in Game 509

     700 4/27/09 – single off Justin Verlander at Detroit – Game 592

     800 8/4/09 – single off Roy Halladay at Toronto Game 678

     900 – solo home run off Scott Kazmir at Anaheim Game 752

     1000 – two-run double off Victor Marte vs. Kansas City 830

    So does this mean Cano will someday join the 27 others in the 3,000 club.  It's certainly possible since he reached 1,000 about halfway through his sixth season at the age of 27. 

    And here's when the other members of the 3,000 hit club reached their 1,000th hit:

    Pete Rose 831st career game 6/26/68 - infield hit off Dick Selma at Shea Stadium age 27

    Hank Aaron reached 1,000 in career game 782 on 6/6/59 with a single off Sandy Koufax at County Stadium in Milwaukee. He was 25 at the time.

    Stan Musial did it in Game 765 on 4/24/48 with a hit off Cubs pitchers Lefty Chambers at the age of 27.

    Carl Yastrzemski did it in his 893rd game on 9/15/66 off White Sox pitcher Jack Lamabe at the age of 27.

    Paul Molitor did in it Game 835 with a four-hit performance on July 2, 1985 in Milwaukee against the Red Sox. The 1,000th hit was a 10th-inning double off Bob Stanley and was about a month and a half shy of his 29th birthday

    Willie Mays accomplished it in Game 825 at County Stadium in Milwaukee on 6/23/1958 off Carl Willey at the age of 27.

    Eddie Murray reached 1,000 in Game 892 at Cleveland's Municipal Stadium with an RBI hit off Larry Sorensen on 4/10/1983 and he was 27.

    Cal Ripken did in it Game 894 at Yankee Stadium on 6/16/87 with a base hit off Rich Bordi. He was a little over two months shy of 27.

    George Brett reached 1,000 in his 827th career game on 7/23/79 with an infield single off Fergie Jenkins at Arlington Stadium. He was 26 at the time of the hit.

    Robin Yount reached 1,000 in his 948th career game on 8/16/80 in Cleveland's Municipal Stadium off Sandy Withol and he was 24 when the hit occurred.

    Tony Gwynn reached 1,000 in his 783rd career game on 4/22/88 with a leadoff single at Jack Murphy Stadium against Nolan Ryan. He was a few weeks shy of his 28th birthday.

    Dave Winfield reached 1,000 in his 978th game in the second game of a doubleheader at Shea Stadium on 5/4/80. The hit was an eighth-inning single off Neil Allen. He was 29 at the time.

    Craig Biggio's 1000th hit occurred in his 972nd game on July 1, 1995.  The place was Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh and the hit was a single off Mike Dyer. He was 29 at the time.

    Rickey Henderson reached 1,000 in County Stadium in Milwaukee on 9/9/95 and was playing for the Yankees and in his 909th career game. The hit was an infield single off Moose Haas and Henderson was 27 at the time.

    Rod Carew reached 1,000 in style on 8/14/73 during his 837th game.  He was 5-for-6 and reached 1,000 with an eighth-inning single off Ed Farmer at Minnesota's Metropolitan Stadium and Carew was about two months shy of 28.

    Lou Brock reached 1,000 in his 882nd game on 9/8/67 at Forbes Field. The hit was a leadoff single off Pittsburgh's Dennis Ribant. He was 28 at the time.

    Rafael Palmeiro reached 1,000 in his 921st career game on 5/16/93 for Texas.  In a blowout game, he had a single off White Sox pitcher Alex Fernandez and was 28 at the time.

    Wade Boggs reached 1,000 in his 747th career game on 4/30/87 at the Kingdome.  The hit was a leadoff single off Scott Bankhead and Boggs was 29 at the time.

    Al Kaline reached 1,000 in his 863rd career game on 8/11/1959 at Briggs Stadium against the White Sox. After homering off Billy Pierce for 999, he singled off Ken McBride in the seventh.  At the time, Kaline was 24 when he accomplished this.

    Roberto Clemente reached 1,000 in his 866th game on August 5, 1961 at Cincinnati's Crosley Field.  Two days earlier he had a five-hit game and he had three more in this game.  The first hit was a first-inning single off Ken Hunt and he was 13 days shy of his 27th birthday.

    No data was available for Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker Cap Anson, Honus Wagner, Nap Lajoie or Eddie Collins

    So what does researching this prove?  Not a thing, it is just interesting to see how others who reached 3,000 hits got there and how quickly they reached 1,000.

     

     

     

    0 (0 Ratings)

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