Mariano Rivera in Increments of 50

    Thursday, May 26, 2011, 3:24 AM [General]

    Yesterday Mariano Rivera became the 15th pitcher to reach 1,000 appearances and the first to do with it with the same team. There are certain Rivera appearances that most of us know such as his first appearance (5/23/95 at Anaheim), his first save (5/17/96 vs. Anaheim), his 400th save (7/16/06 vs. the White Sox) and his 500th save (6/28/09 at the Mets).

    If there is a best way to comprehend what 1,000 appearances with one team actually means, it's best to look incrementally such as in increments of 50.

    50 - July 6, 1996 vs. Milwaukee - A year and two days removed from his eye-opening 11-strikeout performance in Chicago, Rivera does what he did so often during the 1996 season. That was pitching the seventh and eighth inning and in a 2-0 victory, he put the tying run on first base in Jesse Levis but then retired Fernando Vina on a double play. At this point in his career, Rivera had pitched 127 innings and had an ERA of 3.76

    100 - May 24, 1997 vs. Boston - Approaching the two-month mark of his first season as closer, Rivera pitched the ninth (tie game at home) and replaced David Cone by retiring Reggie Jefferson, Tim Naehring and Troy O'Leary. Then Rivera was the winning pitcher when Charlie Hayes hit the game-winning two-run home run off John Wasdin. At this point in his career, Rivera has pitched 198 2/3 innings with an ERA of 3.26 and 19 saves.

    150 - April 27, 1998 vs. Toronto - In just his fourth appearance of the 114-win Yankee season due to a DL stint, Rivera enters a 1-0 game and keeps it that way by retiring the side, including two ex-Yankees Mike Stanley and Tony Fernandez. At this point in his career, Rivera had pitched 250 2/3 innings with an ERA of 2.91 and 50 saves.

    200 - September 26, 1998 vs. Tampa Bay - In his final appearance of 1998, Rivera replaced Mike Stanton with one out in the ninth and actually gave up a run on a bases-loaded walk to Mike Kelly. He kept the game at 3-1 by retiring Quinton McCracken on a groundout, ending an appearance with two hits and two walks. At this point in his career, Rivera had pitched 307 2/3 innings with an ERA of 2.75 and 84 saves.

    250 - August 24, 1999 at Texas - In an extra-inning game that saw the Yankees overcome an early 4-0 deficit and blow a 7-6 lead in the eighth, Rivera comes in for the 11th following a three-run home run by Tino Martinez. With two outs, Rivera had second and third but ends a 10-7 victory by striking out Ivan Rodriguez. At this point in his career, Rivera had pitched 359 1/3 innings with an ERA of 2.71 and 120 saves.

    300 - July 8, 2000 vs. New York Mets - In the nightcap of the first "Subway Series" game, Rivera finished out a game best known for the Roger Clemens-Mike Piazza drama that resurfaced in the World Series.  He nearly gave up an unearned run when Derek Jeter was charged with an error on a Jay Payton grounder but nails down a 4-2 victory by retiring Mark Johnson. At this point in his career, Rivera had pitched 416 1/3 innings with an ERA of 2.62 and 150 saves.

    350 - May 13, 2001 vs. Baltimore - This was a rough outing for Rivera who came into the game in the 11th after Paul O'Neill hit a two-run home run in the ninth. Rivera faced eight Orioles and allowed four hits and one walk. After allowing the go-ahead run on a groundout, Rivera allowed a three-run home run to Jeff Conine for the deciding margin in a 10-5 loss. At this point in his career, Rivera had pitched 473 1/3 innings with an ERA of 2.66 and 176 saves.

    400 - September 26, 2001 vs. Tampa Bay - A night after the Yankees clinched their fourth straight AL East title in the first home game after the Sept. 11 attacks, Rivera finishes up a 5-1 victory by hitting Jose Guillen with a pitch (In 2008 Guillen hit a go-ahead home run off Rivera for the Royals) but ends the game by getting Felix Martinez on a double play. At this point in his career, Rivera had pitched 530 innings with an ERA of 2.60 and 212 saves.

    450 - May 1, 2003 vs. Seattle - After injuries in 2002, Rivera makes his 2003 debut the night before and in this one he picks up his first save of 2003 by striking out Randy Winn, retiring Bret Boone and noted Yankee killer Edgar Martinez to preserve Mike Mussina's 6-0 start. At this point in his career, Rivera had pitched 581 innings with an ERA of 2.60 and 244 saves.

    500 - August 30, 2003 at Boston - Rivera reaches 30 saves with this 1 1/3 inning stint. He replaced Gabe White with first and second and gave up a two-run double to David McCarty. After Jorge Posada's two-run home run in the ninth, Rivera nailed down a 10-7 win by stranding David Ortiz at first as he retired Jason Varitek. At this point in his career, Rivera had pitched 637 1/3 innings with an ERA of 2.54 and 273 saves.

    550 - June 30, 2004 vs. Boston - During the famous Yankee sweep of the 2004 season, Rivera comes on after the Yankees scored twice in the eighth on a double by Gary Sheffield and a single by Hideki Matsui. And this time, he nails down the save emphatically by striking out Gabe Kapler, Varitek and McCarty. After this 4-2 victory, Rivera had pitched 689 1/3 innings with an ERA of 2.40 and 312 saves.

    600 - May 20, 2005 at New York Mets - Pitching at Shea Stadium in a 5-2 win, Rivera gets a three-run lead following two productive Yankee hits. He nails down his eighth save easily by retiring Jose Reyes, Mike Cameron and Carlos Beltran. At this point in his career, Rivera had pitched 743 innings with an ERA of 2.42 and 344 saves.

    650 - September 15, 2005 at Tampa Bay - With the Yankees needing every game in the AL wild card race because of their 11-19 start, Rivera enters into a 7-5 game with two outs in the eighth. After walking Eduardo Perez, Rivera retires Toby Hall. His teammates give him a four-run lead and Rivera seals a 9-5 victory by retiring Carl Crawford for the final out. At this point in his career, Rivera had pitched 799 1/3 innings with an ERA of 2.34 and 375 saves.

    700 - July 22, 2006 at Toronto - Two nights after giving up a game-winning home run to Vernon Wells, Rivera does not have to face him again and preserves a 5-4 victory. He does so with two groundouts by Aaron Hill and John McDonald and a pop-up by Reed Johnson. At this point in his career, Rivera had pitched 859 innings with an ERA of 2.32 and 702 saves.

    750 - June 29, 2007 vs Oakland - In a lost weekend against the Athletics, Rivera pitched a four-out save after Kyle Farnsworth put two on. He ended the eighth by fanning Jack Cust, hits Dan Johnson in the ninth and ends it by striking out Bobby Crosby for his 11th save in a 2-1 victory. At this point in his career, Rivera had pitched 913 1/3 innings with an ERA of 2.35 and 424 saves.

    800 - May 8, 2008 vs. Cleveland - The Yankees avoid the sweep against the Indians with a 6-3 victory and Rivera strands Ben Francisco on second. That was because he retired Franklin Guttierrez and Ryan Garko for the final two outs of his ninth save in the Joe Girardi era. After this 6-3 victory, Rivera had pitched 967 innings with an ERA of 2.32 and 452 saves.

    850 - September 23, 2008 at Toronto - Rivera is winding down the first non-playoff season of his career with his 38th save. Two nights after pitching the final outs at old Yankee Stadium, Rivera finished of a 3-1 win by getting Scott Rolen on a groundout and then by striking out Greg Zaun and Travis Snider. At this point of his career, Rivera had pitched 1,022 1/3 innings with an ERA of 2.29 and 481 saves.

    900 - August 14, 2009 at Seattle - As the Yankees took their hot performance out West, Rivera enters a 4-2 game after the Yankees scored two in the top of the ninth inning.  Three groundouts later to Rob Johnson, Josh Wilson and Michael Saunders on a ground outs. At this point of his career, Rivera had pitched 1,073 2/3 innings with an ERA of 2.27 and 316 saves.

    950 - July 5, 2010 at Oakland - In a 3-1 win over the Athletics, Rivera finished off a three-hitter and preserves Javier Vazquez's victory.  He does so easily by retiring Ryan Sweeney, Kurt Suzuki and Jack Cust. At this point of his career, Rivera had pitched 1,123 1/3 innings with an ERA of 2.22 and 545 saves.

    So there you have it and at some point, we might be documenting Rivera as he sails past some of the 15 men on the list of 1,000 game pitchers.

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    Items of Interest in the Tight AL East

    Wednesday, May 25, 2011, 12:39 PM [General]

    Today is May 25 and eight years ago, the Blue Jays were successful in a four-game sweep over the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. That weekend featured four dreary losses that saw the Yankees strand 34 runners.

    If that sounds familiar, it is because it is what has happened to the Yankees at times this month and seemed destined to happen again last night, putting Toronto in position to go for the sweep.

    Instead, things like Curtis Granderson’s first four-hit night as a Yankee, Jorge Posada’s pinch hit double put the Yankees in position to change the script and that was achieved with Mark Teixeira’s single off ex-Yankee Juan Rivera’s first baseman glove.

    "Toronto tended to have our number from last year to the start of this year,” Granderson said last night. “They're a team that always plays well against us. But to come back and get a victory over this team, and with the race in the American League East as tight as it's been all year, this is definitely a big one for us, and now we have a chance to win the series."

    Trouble is an accurate way to put and not just Jose Bautista and his major league leading 19 home runs. The trouble came in the form of smart base running instincts on April 29, and then with bunts and other assorted singles in the sixth inning Monday against Bartolo Colon and again last night in the fourth off CC Sabathia.

    Notice the word tight in Granderson’s statement. The win made the Yankees a first place team again for the first time since they held a one-game lead with a 20-13 record after beating Kansas City.

    Since that point, the Yankees have won six of 14 games and the race has stayed tight. The flags for the standings line up this way - Boston, Tampa Bay, Toronto and Baltimore – but that can easily be flipped a week from now considering the 3 ½ game gap between the five teams.

    If this keeps up and it seems that it might, especially since you go through all of baseball and see average play throughout with 12 teams between .500 and five games over.

    That’s what it looks like as baseball reaches the first of three mile markers – Memorial Day weekend.

    Elsewhere on a quiet Wednesday morning with a business trip to Seattle, Oakland and Anaheim on the horizon, Rafael Soriano is meeting with Dr. Andrews today. Meeting with Dr. Andrews is never a good sign but until his findings are revealed to Soriano, the Yankees won’t announce it.

    Assuming Soriano is out for a long time, you can expect to see more of Luis Ayala. Ayala essentially takes over the David Robertson role and that is his most prominent role since the Mets acquired him in August 2008 to be their closer after Billy Wagner’s injury.

    Ayala had nine out of 11 saves during his month with the Mets but was coming off an injury. Now that he is past that, it appears to Joe Girardi that Ayala is throwing like he did when he was the primary eighth-inning setup man for the Nationals.

    The Yankees will try to go six over against Jo-Jo Reyes. Reyes has gone 27 straight starts without a victory, one shy of the major league record set by Matt Keough with Oakland in 1978-1979. It is the longest since Anthony Young’s dubious run with the Mets in 1992-93.

    Keough’s streak ended September 5, 1979 when he pitched a five-hitter against the Brewers and bested Mike Caldwell. Young’s streak ended July 27, 1993 much differently.

    Young gave up the go-ahead run (unearned of course because the 1993 Mets were awful at defense). He was one out away from the 28th loss but was awarded the win when Eddie Murray doubled in the winning run.

    One person not worrying about a losing streak is Sabathia. Sabathia will start Sunday after the Yankee bats attempt to hit Michael Pineda and Felix Hernandez.

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    It's Jose Bautista's World and pitchers are living in it

    Monday, May 23, 2011, 6:28 PM [General]

    When it comes to power hitting in the major leagues, it is Jose Bautista's world and opposing pitchers are living it in. It is that way even if he puts it "every time I hit the ball hard, it just happens to sail over the fence".

    "As weird as it may sound, I don’t try to hit home runs when I go up to the plate," Bautista said. "I do try to hit the ball very hard and it just happens that when connect well on a 2-0 pitch – it’s going out."

    It's not everytime.

    But it's close such as once every 7.5 at-bats this year and once every 9.7 at-bats. That accounts for how frequently Bautista has hit home runs and since becoming the premier power hitter in the game at the start of last season, he has 72 over his last 705 at-bats.

    While skeptics may find it hard to believe, some Met fans might find it hard to swallow and perhaps even harder than when Jason Bay became a power hitter with the Pirates and then with the Red Sox after being a minor league teammate of Jose Reyes.

    Believe it or not, Bautista was in the Met organization for about five seconds if that and who's to say if he would made the adjustment described below and in this story from last year with the Met coaching staff:

    "It’s more of the timing of everything,” Bautista said. “I start way earlier and I’ve been talking about that for the last two years. It has created a night and day difference because I can get myself to that good hitting position consistently - see the ball better and attack the ball before it gets too deep in the strike zone and those good hitting counts, it’s no joke.

    "You can look up historically when people are hitting 2-0, 3-1 counts batting average and power production is way better than 0-2 or behind in the count."

    On a day Met fans might want to forget July 30, 2004, Bautista went from Kansas City to Pittsburgh with a layover in New York. The Mets obtained him from the Royals and then flipped him to the Pirates for Kris Benson. In Pittsburgh, he hit a home run once every 30 at-bats (43 in 1,314 at-bats).

    The first time Bautista did something of note against the Yankees was August 30, 2008. He had his first RBI for the Blue Jays and also made a key defensive play that started a ninth-inning double play against Alex Rodriguez.

    Though it might be lost in the memories of many, it might have been the first glance at what a complete player Bautista would eventually become. Not lost in the memories of many is what he did on April 29 in a 5-4 Blue Jay win.

    That night, he a home run that still has not landed, similar to the shot hit on Opening Day in Toronto. He also displayed smart baserunning instincts by distracting David Robertson and allowing Rajai Davis to score the game-winning run.

    "Thankfully, he's in our uniform," John Farrell said that night. "Whether it's an aggressive play on the basepaths, whether it's getting the right pitch in a certain situation where he drives it out of the ballpark ... We've said it a number of times -- he's very much a complete player, it shows up every night, and it's a fortunate thing for us."

    Now that we've delved into how Bautista became so good, which is something easily found by typing in "How did Bautista get so good", the question is how do you pitch to him or stop him?

    Advanced scouting seems to indicate there is no way.

    Perhaps the solution, if you want to call it that is throw it and hope for the best because after all it is Jose Bautista's world and major league pitching is living in it trying to stop the man known as Joey Bats.

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    Items of Interest - Home Run Approval Edition

    Sunday, May 22, 2011, 11:30 AM [General]

    Today is May 22 and a year ago at this exact time, the Yankees had hit 50 home runs. Two years ago at the same time, they had 66. Three years ago at the same moment (the morning of May 22), the Yankees had connected 46 times.

    Those are the home run figures through games of May 21 the previous three years of Joe Girardi's managerial reign and following yesterday's four home run display, the Yankees have hit 70 in 1482 at-bats, which means that every 21.1 at-bats a home run will leave someone's bat.

    The home runs have helped the Yankees lead the AL with 226 runs scored and with a .447 slugging percentage, but they also have seen the Yankees rank low in other hitting categories. In doubles, the Yankees are 14th, in total hits, they are 11th and in batting average, they are ninth.

    Much has been made about the home runs and the fact that the Yankees are the only team in the majors with more than four players hitting at least six home runs.

    And to Joe Girardi, so what?

    After all the Yankees have always been a team hitting a lot of home runs during their good years and what is the difference between scoring on a home run and scoring on a single, though it is entirely possible that the Yankees' 1-12 record when trailing through five, 1-14 when trailing through six, 1-16 when trailing through seven and 1-17 when behind after eight might be based on struggling to do other things besides hit home runs.

    The second part of that question is where the home run detractors come into play, especially since 118 runs (52.2 percent) have occurred that way. That means that the Yankees are not consistently hitting with runners in scoring position, which was evident during much of the last homestand that caused a five-game losing streak.

    Home runs 67 through 70 occurred yesterday and they were impressive-looking shots, especially from Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson.

    Teixeira had his back foot set as he batted from the right-handed side of the plate and launched a pitch over the right-center field wall.

    Granderson looked lost swinging at Chris Capuano sliders during his first two at-bats. On the third, he saw the same pitch and the outcome landed in the front rows of the right field seats.

    "I’d hate for anyone to say, ‘I don’t want to hit any home runs anymore,’ " Teixeira said Saturday. "It’s kind of a double-edged sword. If you don’t want the home run, then you better get a lot of hits. You better get a lot of base hits with runners in scoring position."

    Still you'd like to see runs scored in other ways, especially when what the AL home run leader in previous years looked like.

    "It’s important for us to think small ball and hit behind runners, and also score with base hits, doubles, sacrifices — there are many ways to score," Alex Rodriguez said. "Later on, when it counts the most - it’s hard only to score by home runs."

    The 2010 Blue Jays led the league with 257 home runs but then hit .248, which ranked ninth in the league. Two years ago, though was an exception as the Yankees led the league in home runs and were second with a .283 batting average.

    Three years ago, the White Sox led the league and made the playoffs despite the fourth-worst batting average in the league, which may have contributed to them being eliminated in the first round by the Rays after winning a 1-0 one-game playoff game against the Twins.

    You can go on and on with the arguments for and against home runs. And when the home runs fly like they did Saturday, you get a game like that. And when they're not, you get poor situational hitting such as Friday.

    Today the Yankees will try their luck against Mike Pelfrey, who has allowed eight home runs during an inconsistent 3-3 start. The eight home runs are four fewer than his total from last season though five have been allowed during this month when Pelfrey has gone 2-0 with a 2.11 ERA.


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    Items of Subway Series Interest - Primetime Edition

    Saturday, May 21, 2011, 5:10 PM [General]

    Today is May 21 and for the second year in a row on this date, the Yankees are playing the Mets. Last year, it was Javier Vazquez on the mound in one of his finest moments as a Yankee. Five years ago on this date, the Mets were winners over the Yankee at Shea Stadium when Carlos Delgado and David Wright hit home runs off Aaron Small.

    Small was like R.A. Dickey for the Yankees back then but the follow-up to a 10-0 2005 season did not end well, similiar to how Dickey had struggled until last night.

    Speaking of struggles, the Yankees have lost six straight home games and this is the second skid of that length since the 95-loss 1990 season. The other was during this in May 2003 when the Yankees dropped eight straight May 16-26, 2003, a stretch that included a four-game sweep to the Toronto Blue Jays.

    That time was a go for the bats and so has this stretch for the Yankees, who have dropped 11 of 17 overall, going from eight games over .500 to just three games over. The stretch has featured errors, poor situational hitting and occassionally poor pitching though you can't fault Freddy Garcia for his performance last night.

    Garcia will have a seat tonight as A.J. Burnett tries to keep that ERA below four. A year ago, it was at 3.83 but with another start like Monday's it could soar over four. That night in Tampa Bay, Burnett allowed season worsts of six runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings while blowing a four-run lead.

    Burnett is one of those who have played for both organizations though he never pitched in the major leagues for the Mets, who traded him three years after selecting him with their eighth-round selection in 1995.

    Burnett will face a Met lineup that has enjoyed mixed results. For example Jason Bay is 8-for-21 (.381) against Burnett, Carlos Beltran is 5-for-19 (.263) but Jose Reyes is hitless in 17 at-bats.

    In earlier posts this season, Burnett's changeup has been discussed. He has thrown that pitch 70 times but just 29 times this month and in starts against the Rays and Royals, it was thrown 16 and eight times respectively.

    If he does throw it, it might be because of what is contained in scouting reports showing what Met hitters do against changeups coming from right-handed pitching.

    Those reports might indicate that Reyes is a .227 hitter against that pitch. They might show that Bay hits .123 against the pitch and they might also indicate that Beltran is a .223 hitter off that pitch.

    Elsewhere with the Yankees, the topic of Robinson Cano was brought up. In recent games, Cano's defense has not been the greatest and his error last night was his fourth - one more than last night.

    But manager Joe Girardi said that was not a big deal and it's not right now because it could be one of those phases. But if that continues much like the situational hittinng issue that has plagued the team recently, it could be worth noting.

    That lineup will feature Alex Rodriguez as the DH, where he is a .296 hitter. Rodriguez is 7-for-18 in his last four games and will try to avoid hitting grounders to Reyes this time.

    The rest of the Yankee lineup will try their luck against Chris Capuano. Capuano's experience against the Yankees is limited and not very good. That was six years ago in Milwaukee when he allowed seven runs in four innings and that included a three-run home run to Rodriguez.

    At that time, the Yankees had dropped nine of 10. Their performance against Capuano was the first of eight wins in 11 games that culiminated with a 20-run performance at the Stadium against the Rays.

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