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    Javy's fastball life

    Tuesday, August 31, 2010, 2:10 AM [General]

    

    Late life on the fastball means a pitch that moves as it approaches the plate and appears to pick up speed on the way.

    When you hear stuff like the ball stayed true to the plate or it seems like the ball is exploding, that is what transpired.

    Last night, Javier Vazquez’s fastball featured that characteristic and during 4 2/3 relief innings, he threw 30 four-seam fastballs that averaged 89.37 and six two-seamers that averaged 88.6.  Of those pitches, 24 were for strikes.

    The reason Vazquez was so successful was because it had that life, it stayed true and didn’t stray away from the strike zone.

    "It’s just life," Jorge Posada said.  "After the ball left his arm, it seemed like the ball was exploding."

    The cause of this renewed life in the fastball was caused by making a mechanical adjustment at the urging of pitching coach Dave Eiland.  When Vazquez’s left leg is lifted in the delivery it is going further back

    "Just Dave suggested that I should raise my left leg on the lineup, more towards the back a little bit. I’ve been working on it the last week, week and a half," Vazquez said.

    So what does that mean? This is how Vazquez explained it.

    "It allows me to stay back better and having momentum going forward," Vazquez said.  "I’ve done it all my life and sometimes even though you’ve done it throughout your life, sometimes little things help and I’ve always been open to whatever the coaches think are helping."

    It also resulted in a higher arm slot, which was evident on the first fastball of the night to Jack Cust with one out in the fifth. Vazquez’s first three fastballs were clocked at 90 then in the sixth, he threw five straight to Mark Ellis that ranged between 86 and 88.

    Against Jeff Larish, Vazquez had two straight swinging strikes on fastballs clocked at 90 and had the first of his six strikeouts. Rajai Davis saw three fastballs and swung at one clocked at 92 for an inning-ending groundout.

    Cliff Pennington saw one fastball before making the first out of the seventh on a changeup.  Matt Carson saw two straight fastballs for strikes before striking out swinging on the curveball.

    The eighth was among the few times Vazquez was beaten by the pitch when Cust singled up the middle.  Larrish also beat Vazquez on the fastball with a ground-rule double.

    In the ninth, the fastball was used to set up Pennington grounding out on a changeup, Carson striking out on a curve and Gabe Gross fanning on a changeup.

    Velocity is important but so is movement.  In other words, if a pitcher can make that 88 mph fastball appear to be 90 or 91, then it could be his night.

    Right now, Vazquez’s next appearance is unknown.  In theory he could start Saturday against Toronto if the Yankees decide to pull Dustin Moseley.

    If that happens, it will be interesting to see if Vazquez can consistently repeat that aspect of his mechanics.

    Last Wednesday when he faced Toronto, 21 of his 28 fastballs hit 90.  Four days earlier against Seattle, only two of his 19 fastballs hit 90 and on August 16 against Detroit, just four of 51 fastballs hit 90.

    Vazquez’s most dominant showing this year was July 10 in Seattle.  That night he took a no-hitter into the sixth and allowed three hits in seven innings.  He threw 117 pitches and 35 of the 65 fastballs hit 90.

     

     

    0 (0 Ratings)

    AJ - knuckling under?

    Sunday, August 29, 2010, 9:13 PM [General]

    Maybe I am too much of an optimist but I believe A.J. Burnett will turn it around. I know he cares deeply about fixing whatever the problem ails him.

    "I leave the pen every five days feeling the same. Great warmup, (feel) strong. I’m just not taking it to the field. Enough’s enough.”

    That was Burnett’s comments after getting torched Friday in Chicago. We’ve seen this Burnett too often this year but we’ve also seen a pitcher who can display outings like October 29, 2009 and August 7, 2009.

    "The first one was Game Two of the World Series, an absolute must-win if there ever was one because the night before ace C.C. Sabathia lost to Cliff Lee and three games in Philadelphia were looming.  That night Burnett allowed one run, four hits and struck out nine in seven innings.

    Against the Phillies, Burnett threw 107 pitches, 58 for strikes.  His fastball averaged 93.6 the 53 times it was thrown and the curveball averaged 82.3 the 45 instances it was thrown.

    He also can display it in outings such as July 28 in Cleveland. Burnett threw 37 curveballs and 48 percent were for strikes and 29 percent put in play.

    "A lot of it does depend on that," Burnett said. "You can ask guys probably in this room, when A.J. doesn’t have his curveball it’s going to be a tough night. I left a couple up early that they hit, but for the most part, it came out of the same window every time."

    That was Burnett's comments to reporters after allowing seven hits and three walks in 6 1/3 innings.  By window, I assume he means the same release point, which if that changes too frequently can lead to massive problems.

    On Friday, 22 knuckle curves were thrown and here’s what happened with them:

     1 – ball one to Alex Rios with two on in the first

    2 – called strike three to Rios

    3 – ball two to Paul Konerko

    4 – ball three to Konerko

    5 – swinging strike two to Carlos Quentin

    6 – foul ball to Quentin

    7 – ball two to Quentin

    8 – foul ball to Quentin

    9 – swinging strike one to Gordon Beckham

    10 – foul strike two to Beckham

    11 – ball two to Quentin in the third

    12 – foul strike two to AJ Pierzynski

    13 – foul strike two to Pierzynski

    14 – ball one to Pierzynski

    15 – foul ball to Pierzynski

    16 – groundout to first

    17 – called strike one to Alexei Ramirez

    18 – swinging strike two to Ramirez

    19 – swinging strike three to Ramirez

    20 – ground out by Mark Teahen

    21 – ball one to Rios

    22 – RBI single to left to Rios

    To me the problem was not necessarily the pitch itself but on a night which the fastball had little bite on it, it didn’t seem like it was thrown enough.

    Overall according to data culled from Texasleaguers.com, the pitch has been thrown 658 times and for a strike 52.8 percent.  It has been put in play 14.7 percent and averages 82.0, which 11.1 mph below the average four-seam fastball.

    However, here is the monthly breakdown for that pitch:

    April: 120 knuckle curves, 82 mph, 52.9 percent for strikes, and 24.0 in play – performance 3-0 with a 2.43 ERA in five starts.

    May: 148 knuckle curves, 82.1 mph, 48.0 percent for strikes, and 8.1 in play – performance 3-2 with a 4.03 ERA in six starts.

    June: 138 knuckle curves, 81.6 mph, 58.7 for strikes, and 15.9 in play – performance 0-5 with an 11.35 ERA in five starts.

    July 101 knuckle curves 82.0, 56.4 for strikes, and 11.9 in play – performance 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA in five starts.

    August 131 knuckle curves, 56.5 for strikes, 22.1 in play – performance 0-4 with a 7.80 ERA in five starts

    It’s hard to tell especially since June was the month with the highest percentage of strikes with that pitch but his worst month.  The best way to possibly determine is look at his two worst starts of that month, which occurred June 21 in Arizona and June 26 in Los Angeles.

    That night in Arizona, he threw 20 knuckle curves and 20 percent were put in play.  It’s one thing if it was groundouts or fly balls but that night they resulted in three of the nine hits.

    Five days later at Dodger Stadium, its usage decreased to 18 times at a rate of 38.9 for strikes.  Only one the six walks allowed were caused by that pitch but the low strike rate appears to indicate that because he was missing little confidence for succeeding with that pitch existed.

    This is pure speculation, but it definitely is possible.  Right now, most of his pitches are failing Burnett and since he primarily is a two-pitch guy when one fails it leaves the other vulnerable and re-gaining any confidence in it and throwing it with conviction will probably be a major cause of any turnaround.

     

     

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Talking cutters and Pearl Jam with Kerry Wood

    Friday, August 27, 2010, 3:17 AM [General]

    In the regular season, Kerry Wood has thrown 21,767 pitches to 5539 batters since breaking into the major leagues as a hard-throwing 20-year-old with the Chicago Cubs in 1998.

    Wood struck out 233 in 166 2/3 innings that year, numbers you will unlikely see many rookie pitchers produce ever again.  The reason might be that Wood missed all of 1999 after undergoing "Tommy John" surgery.  That was the first of several significant injuries and one of the more recent ailments forced Wood to evolve as a pitcher.

    That meant adding a cutter, a pitch you definitely associate Mariano Rivera with.  Essentially it is a fastball that has some break as it approaches the plate.

    It is a pitch that can wow you the first time you see it, just ask anyone that Rivera retired on it in his early closing days.  It wowed me August 18 when Wood threw it to Detroit's Ryan Raburn and it produced a strikeout.  The situation was not technically a save but it might as well have been one.

    With two outs and two on, Miguel Cabrera was looming on deck.  Cabrera already had two home runs and an 8-for-31 resume off Wood.  In a situation like that, you expect a hard fastball for a strikeout but the strikeout pitch was a fastball but one that tailed and broke off the plate.

    Not quite Rivera-like, but enough to make the Yankees ride high amongst the waves.

    “It doesn’t always work out that way but you have to believe in the pitch you’re going to throw and you got to have conviction with it," Wood said that night.

    Two days later, Wood spoke with the same conviction when explaining how he evolved into someone who throws the pitch 25 percent of the time for an average velocity of 89.5

    Q:  How and when did you start throwing the cutter?

    A:  "It’s a pitch I started playing around with a couple of years ago.  It really came up when I had the blister in 2008 (on my index finger) and I was trying to keep my arm going by throwing that finger off the ball and just playing catch and try keep going.  The ball was cutting.  The finger got better.  I just kind of played around with it playing catch and took into a game probably not until 09.  I threw it quite a bit last year. 

    "It really wasn’t by choice.  My curveball and my slider kind of weren’t there and coming into the ninth inning you need more than one pitch.  So it was kind out of necessity at first – just to have a second pitch."

    Q: How do you think it has evolved from last year to this season?

    A:  "Better command. (I have) command of both sides of the plate, a couple of different of speeds.  I have one that’s a little bit shorter of a break and then I’ve got one that I can throw a little bit slower and it’s got more depth to it.  So I can throw it a couple of different ways."

    Q:  How do you develop better command of the cutter?

    A:  "Just throwing it in games and getting more comfortable with it.  You can throw all day long on the side in the bullpen but if you get a hitter in there swinging at it and seeing his swings and seeing how effective it is then you don’t really know until you get a hitter in there."

    Q:  Did you ever think you would throw a cutter when you first came up to the majors in 1998?

    A: "I didn’t think that I knew anybody who threw a cutter.  The cutter has been the pitch that seems to be the new pitch in the last six or seven years."

    Q: Have you heard any feedback from Rivera about the pitch?

    "I think he’s a freak and it’s kind of a natural thing for him.  I don’t think anybody can duplicate it.  It’s been a good pitch.  I wish I had it as a starter."

    Who knows what Wood have been throwing a cutter in the late-1990s?  One thing is certain, he's a pretty viable option in the late innings for the Yankees and he also likes Pearl Jam.

    The only reason I even knew this before discussing it stems from the only time I went to Wrigley Field on August 3, 2007.  I was there for a Pearl Jam show and Wood happened to catch the ceremonial pitch from lead singer Eddie Vedder.

    So with that memory, I mentioned to Wood I was a big fan, having seen them 20 times.  When I told him about the Halloween show that closed down the Spectrum in Philadelphia, his eyes lit up with that look that said "No Way Dude".

    Anyway, here's the lowdown on his fandom of the band.

    He became a fan like many of us, growing up in high school.  Wood finally met him sometime during 1998 and went to a show, though he couldn't recall which one. He said former teammate Mark Grace introduced him to the band.  He also usually sees them every year, even flying in from Cleveland with some teammates to see a show in Chicago.

    As for getting to hang with the band, he has nothing but good things to say and hanging out after a show is always an amazing experience that lasts deep into the wee hours.

    Wood couldn't pick a favorite album probably because that's a tough choice but he said how can you go wrong with "Ten".

    So there you have it from a relief pitcher with good tastes in music by liking Pearl Jam and in pitch selection by mixing in a cutter.

     

     

    [Edited By Moderator]

    4.1 (2 Ratings)

    Not Many Like Johnny Damon

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010, 1:35 AM [General]

    The baseball world is abuzz with reasons and theories about why Johnny Damon decided to stay with the Tigers and not go back to Boston and thrust himself into the pennant race.

    Some people think it's because of how his relationship with Boston ended the first time when he signed a four-year deal with the Yankees following the 2005 season.

    After listening to his introspective and entertaining press conference last Monday, I think I have a good idea about why Damon is staying.  During that press conference, he spoke fondly about things like the city of Detroit, the interest in mentoring some of the younger players.

    Reading some of the quotes such as this in the Detroit Free Press

    "I chose to be with this team that we started in the trenches together in spring training,” he said. “I think it sends the wrong message to say, ‘Here’s an opportunity to jump ship.’ I’m not going to do it. Not to these guys. We’ve learned a lot about each other. We’ve worked too hard. We’re going to try to make as strong of a push as we can.”

    In my mind, that is a man who is loyal, especially when you read comments such as this:

    "My heart all along has been with these players here," Damon said. "I've been saying all year long that Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter I've ever saw. I want to make sure I see it for a whole year. I want to see see Austin Jackson get his Rookie of the Year trophy. I want to see this team keep growing.

    "We've been playing all right lately. I've never liked to quit on anything, and I'm not going to take the easy road out and say goodbye. I love Detroit, love the fans, and I know I've let people know that plenty of times."

    Now you can make the argument if he's so loyal then why didn't he take what the Yankees offered.  However, you don't hear many say they don't want to leave for a contender and want to finish what they started regardless of how good or bad it is.  You can also say that if he didn't have two World Series rings that it might have turned out differently, but regardless his loyalty is admirable and touching to manager Jim Leyland.

    "I'm flattered that he obviously likes it here," Leyland said. "He probably hasn't produced quite as much as he would've liked, but he's been fantastic."

    Can the Tigers get back in the AL Central race?  Right now the odds are stacked.  A five-game winning streak over the Indians and Royals has put them within nine of the Twins and back to .500 at 63-63.

    Last year on this date, the eventual division-winning Twins were 62-63 and four and half back and four years ago the Twins with a much better record were six games behind the Tigers and eventually won the division.  That year it was irrelvant since the Tigers made it to the World Series as the wild card winner and the Twins lost in the Division Series to Oakland.

    There's no guarantees the Tigers have an interest in bringing back a 36-year-old player who is primarily a designated hitter.  Regardless of how the rest of the season unfolds, Damon's loyalty is worth noting and his ability to stick it to an employer that he feels might have mistreated him is something many of us would like to do if we had that kind of ability.

     


    0 (0 Ratings)

    Cano cleans up as a fill-in

    Monday, August 23, 2010, 12:16 AM [General]

    Hitting cleanup is not something you normally associate with second baseman but it does occur and with Robinson Cano it has taken place 12 times and the Yankees have won 11 of those games. The Yankees are 12-0 without Rodriguez and 11-1 with Cano batting cleanup.  Rodriguez had a day off May 2 and Nick Swisher filled in then, but you get the idea about how well Cano has been playing as a cleanup hitter and his MVP chances.

    Here’s a sampling of active second baseman who have batted there this year and in their careers:

    Dan Uggla 37 games .318 (43-for-135) with 14 home runs, 31 RBI, did it four times before this season.

    Brandon Phillips 22 games .239 (21-for-88) with three home runs, 10 RBI and a .285 OBP, never batted cleanup before this year

    Chase Utley’s career numbers there are .271 (29-for-107) with five home runs and 19 RBI

    Dustin Pedroia’s career numbers there are 13-for-20 with two home runs and seven RBI in six games.

    Aaron Hill’s career numbers there are 3-for-13 in six games.  He went 1-for-5 in one game this season as a cleanup hitter.

     As you can see, does not happen with great frequency even with some of the Hall of Fame second baseman.

     Rod Carew: 14 games, 15-for-37 with four RBI

    Bobby Doerr 211 games, .281 (229-for-815) with 25 home runs and 158 RBI

    Frankie Frisch 139 games, .277 (155-for-559) with 11 home runs and 111 RBI

    Charlie Gehringer 171 games, .334 (218-for-653) with 15 home runs and 134 RBI

    Billy Herman 38 games, .275 (39-for-142) with 0 home runs and 14 RBI

    Rogers Hornsby 1527 games .367 (967-for-2636), 97 home runs, 527 RBI

    Tony Lazzeri 102 games, .335, 9, 93

    Bill Mazeroski 76 games, .248, seven home runs, 35 RBI

    Joe Morgan 51 games, .248, two home runs, 17 RBI

    Jackie Robinson 683 games, .329, 79 home runs, 439 RBI*also played 247 games at third, 147 in left field (156 games at fourth in 1949), (137 games, 1950), (136 1951), (34 1952) (114, 1953), (those were his primary second base years).

    Ryne Sandberg 137 games, .270, 17 home runs, 72 RBI

    So does that mean Cano has a future as a cleanup hitter? 

    On other teams players on pace for 33 home runs and 112 RBI would definitely have a place there but as long as Alex Rodriguez is healthy, the cleanup spot is his. 

    The plus side is that assuming Cano does reasonably well, though .375 might be too high of an expectation in the cleanup spot, at least the Yankees know who the replacement will be when Rodriguez is nicked up or just needs a day.

    What bears watching is how Cano will do hitting cleanup since the competition level is about to improve slightly with the Blue Jays, White Sox and Athletics.  In Cano’s 11 games hitting cleanup that the Yankees have won when Rodriguez has been hurt or getting a day he has faced the following starting pitchers:

    1 – 5/28 vs. Cleveland Fausto Carmona, 3-for-4 with a grand slam off Tony Sipp saw 19 pitches and hit a first-pitch grand slam (slider, same location as French

    2 – 6/11 vs. Houston Brett Myers 1-for-4, 14 pitches

    3 – 6/12 vs. Houston Wandy Rodriguez, 9 pitches 1-for-3,

    4 – 6/13 vs. Houston Brian Moehler 1-for-3, home run (on the first pitch), 27 pitches

    5 – 6/15 vs. Philadelphia Roy Halladay, 1-for-5, seven pitches

    6 – 8/7 vs. Boston John Lackey 2-for-3, 14 pitches

    7 – 8/17 vs. Detroit Justin Verlander 1-for-4, home run 20 pitches

    8 – 8/18 vs. Detroit Jeremy Bonderman 1-for-3 home run 16 pitches

    9 – 8/19 vs. Detroit Rick Porcello 3-for-5, home run, three RBI, 17

    10 – 8/21 vs. Seattle Jason Vargas, 2-for-4, 2 RBI, 14 pitches

    11 – 8/22 vs. Seattle Luke French 2-for-5, six RBI home run grand slam, 20 pitches

    And for comparison to see Cano's improvement in various areas, here are his numbers through August 22 in each of the last four seasons.

     

    2010 – .325, 25 home runs, 86 RBI, OBP. 387, OPS .953, BB 45, SO 58

    2009 -- .314, 18 home runs, 61 RBI, .333 OBP, .756 OPS, 23 BB, 44 SO

    2008 -- .263, 11 home runs, 56 RBI, .303 OBP, .700 OPS, 24 BB, 44 SO

    2007 --. 306, 13 home runs, 71 RBI, .350 OBP, .784 OPS, 32 BB, 68 SO

    These numbers are fairly consistent with the exception of 2008 which is Cano’s well-documented down year.  The items that really stand out are the rise in on-base percentage, OPS and the jump in walks.  Cano’s 45 puts him on pace for 59 which would be his most on any level of pro ball.

    0 (0 Ratings)

    The incredible sinker-balling Felix

    Saturday, August 21, 2010, 1:50 AM [General]

    Felix Hernandez is very good.

    I know I’m not breaking anything new there, but what I didn’t know until about the end of June is that he is a sinker ball pitcher.  You remember that from when Chien-Ming Wang used to throw those for groundball out after groundball out in 2006 and 2007.

    From what I’m told by a source in the Seattle media, the development of this pitch is something relatively new.  Until this year I remember Hernandez as being a fastball pitcher with a good curve and slider and in the two previous times I saw him in person against the Yankees, here’s how it broke down:

    On May 3, 2008 in a 6-1 loss, Hernandez threw seven sinkers at an average velocity of 89.9 miles per hour. In that game, the Yankees saw 98 pitches and swung and missed four times.  They also tagged Hernandez for six runs and 12 hits in 5 2/3 innings on 98 pitches.

    The next time was Sept. 18, 2009 in a game decided by Ichiro Suzuki hitting a game-ending home run off Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning at Safeco Field.  Hernandez threw a complete game on 104 pitches.  Of those pitches 10 were sinkers, seven were strikes and it produced one swing and miss with an average velocity of 91.28.

    Here’s where you see the big jump in sinker frequency from Hernandez. He pitched a two-hitter on 115 pitches. That night, 58 were sinkers, 39 were strikes and the Yankees swung and missed three times.  The average speed was 93.52.

    On July 10 in Seattle, in a 4-1 win over the Yankees, he threw 48 sinkers, 32 were strikes, three were swings and misses and the average speed was 93.7.

    Coming into Friday, he had thrown an average of 35 sinkers in seven starts since the All-Star break.  The figure is a little lower because he threw 21 August 5 against Texas and 14 against Minnesota on July 31.  In both games, Hernandez allowed three runs and struck out a combined seven as the Mariners did not score.

    Last night, Hernandez produced 41 sinkers, 25 were strikes and the average speed was 94.2.  He also produced two swing and misses out of the whopping 15 from the Yankees.

    If you can get the Yankees to swing and miss 15 times, then you are definitely a CY Young award contender. 

    If your own catcher might struggle to catch a pitch with so much movement, you might also be a CY Young award contender.

     "That’s something that probably not a lot of people have been able to catch," Adam Moore said after catching Hernandez for just the fourth time as a major leaguer.

    "That first pitch to Jeter in the eighth, I was setting up for a backdoor sinker and it started probably the middle of the left side of the batter’s box.  By the time Jeter started his swing, I was reaching almost behind him to catch it.”

    The sinker was not perfect, it resulted in a four-pitch walk to Robinson Cano on sinkers that just missed spots.  The next pitch was also a sinker and Nick Swisher singled to right.  Curtis Granderson saw a sinker and a changeup and then grounded into a force play on a sinker just off the outside corner.

    Francisco Cervelli saw three sinkers, including one near his helmet for ball three followed by an outside corner sinker for ball four. 

    With the bases loaded, Hernandez got called strikes on his sinker and curveball on Ramiro Pena.  The at-bat ended with Pena striking out swinging on an outside corner changeup.

    Brett Gardner saw one sinker that he fouled off on 1-1 and then struck out swinging on an outside fastball.

    In the sixth, he got three outs on three different pitchers, curveball, changeup and fastball.  The inning-ending strikeout of Cano in the sixth was the first of four in a row.  He struck out Swisher on a changeup and fanned Granderson and Cervelli on fastballs.  In the seventh, he threw one sinker but in the eighth he threw six sinkers, including a first-pitch to Jeter that even amazed catcher Adam Moore:

    "That’s something that probably not a lot of people have been able to catch," Moore said after catching Hernandez for just the fourth time as a major leaguer.

    "That first pitch to Jeter in the eighth, I was setting up for a backdoor sinker and it started probably the middle of the left side of the batter’s box.  By the time Jeter started his swing, I was reaching almost behind him to catch it.”

    By the way if you’re keeping count, Hernandez is pitching on a team that has a .236 batting average countered by a 3.86 ERA.  Also if you’re keeping track, Hernandez has pitched 14 of the 72 games Seattle has scored three runs or fewer.

     

     

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Beautiful People, Beautiful Postgame Scene

    Friday, August 20, 2010, 12:31 AM [General]

    In years of attending games at Yankee Stadium, a number of amazing things have happened.  Those things are mostly baseball-related such as dramatic home runs, a World Series title, milestones for players and tremendous ballgames.

    If you want another thing that did not have anything to do with the game but more to do with the human side of ballplayers, the ones that rarely come out under the glare of microphones and digital tape recorders, then look no further than what took place after today's game.

    While people were writing about Phil Hughes' innings limit, reaction to Roger Clemens' indictment, injury updates to Alex Rodriguez, there was an amazing scene going on below.

    That was because a group of children with special needs called "Beautiful People" were taking the field with Yankee players.  The players were playing the role of fans holding signs and getting them on the center field scoreboard while the Bleacher Creatures chanted their name much like they did hours earlier for the Yankee fielders.

    It seemed appropriate that on the day the Yankees hosted a group called "Beautiful People", that it was a beautiful day and the Yankees put on a beautfiul hitting display in the sixth inning.  It also seemed appropriate that in the half-inning the Yankees rallied, 16-year-old Daniel Fratto filled the role of PA Announcer Paul Olden and announced the hitters.  It was so well-done that you wished the Yankees could have scored nine times.

    "He was outstanding," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I told him, 'You've got a bright future, young man.' HOPE Week is such a great thing. These kids are such an inspiration."

    Last year, the Yankees were 5-0 on HOPE Week.  Even though they've lost once during this year's edition, they are winners just for expanding their community outreach to even more inspiring levels.

    Strictly from observing the scene and reading the coverage of Jon Lane and Jerome Preisler, you truly learn how meaningful these things are and how trivial things such as how many times the Yankees have seen 30 pitches in an inning truly are.

    When you see a woman such as Jane Lang being escorted around the bases by Girardi and reading about what it takes to reach Yankee Stadium, things like the four train going local when it is supposed to be express hardly matter.

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Welcome Eduardo Nunez

    Thursday, August 19, 2010, 12:18 PM [General]

    About the last thing the Yankees want to do is get caught shorthanded.  For the last few days, they have been playing with a 23-man roster due to injuries by Lance Berkman and Alex Rodriguez.

    In the outfield and at DH there are a few options but in the infield is where there would be trouble if something happened such as Rodriguez trying to play a few innings and getting hurt again or Ramiro Pena getting injured.

    So with that in mind, Eduardo Nunez is here and here's what we know about him:

    He is a 23-year-old infielder from the town of Maca in the Dominican Republic who was not drafted and made his pro debut in 2005 with the Staten Island Yankees.  In his first 2 1/2 seasons, his average went from .313 to .227 and then slowly rose again to .238.  When he reached the Florida State League, he went up to .285 and two years ago his only full season at Tampa produced a .271 clip but last year with Trenton Nunez's average spiked to .322 with nine home runs and 55 RBI. 

    At the Triple-A level, Nunez batted .289 with four home runs and 50 RBI.  He also maintained a decent on-base percentage for the second year in a row, going .340 while walking 32 times.

    At this point, the bat is not the priority with Nunez here.  The Yankees definitely would love it if he hit whenever he plays, but he's here for his versatility which can be used at third, second or short so what the important things are would be errors, fielding percentage etc:

    This year, he has played three positions and made 14 errors in 452 chances.  A year ago, he made 33 in 484 chances.

    Besides the statistics, Nunez was also the sticking point in the attempt to get Cliff Lee last month from Seattle.  Reports had him not included in the original package and when the Mariners requested him, the Yankees declined.

    Earlier today, Nunez was described by GM Brian Cashman as an "asset to have", "tremendous" "always possessed the tools".

    I saw him play once but the only reason I know about it is because of the boxscore.  It was August 25, 2005 at Staten Island against Hudson Valley.  Nunez batted fifth that night and went 2-for-4, produced an RBI single in the sixth and scored the winning run in the ninth of 3-2 victory.

     

    0 (0 Ratings)

    35 pitches quickly becomes 114

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010, 2:21 AM [General]

    If first innings are the precursors of future events, last night was a good example.

    An offense that scored just once in the previous 18 innings opposed a hard-throwing ace pitcher and theoretically it might be the least desirable type of challenge.

    Sometimes familiarity helps and seven previous times the Yankees saw Justin Verlander.  The last time was a 6-0 loss on a cool Thursday afternoon in mid-May at Comerica Park where Verlander threw 119 pitches in 6 2/3 innings.

    In the previous occasions against Verlander, the Yankees faced him for 39 2/3 innings, which translates to roughly six innings per start.  So in that regard, the Yankees had that going for them.

     If that was not listed on the scouting report, then this likely was printed in bold and possible all capital letters:  an earned run average of over seven and a opponents batting average of .293 in the opening inning.

    Taking that message and applying it the Yankees saw 35 pitches and it was hardly a surprise they knocked him out after five.

    It was the second-most total seen in the first inning since Oakland’s Gio Gonzalez threw 36 and allowed three runs on April 20.  Gonzalez lasted just 4 1/3 innings and threw 97 pitches in losing 7-3.

    It was the sixth time an opposing pitcher threw 30-plus pitches in the opening frame and each time the Yankees have won.

    It was the first time they saw 30 pitches in an opening inning since scoring four on 32 pitches from Kansas City right-hander Brian Bannister.

    They also saw 30 pitches in the opening inning June 23 from Dontrelle Willis but scored one run in an eventual 6-5 win at Arizona.  It also occurred June 11 off Houston’s Brett Myers, who threw 34 pitches and allowed three runs in a 4-3 Yankee win.

    On May 17, Daisuke Matsuzaka threw 32 pitches and allowed five runs before lasting 4 2/3 innings.  The Yankees eventually blew a lead and won on a game-ending home run from Marcus Thames in the ninth.

    To counter the argument that seeing a lot of pitches early bodes well, was that the Yankees simply took what their opponent gave them and last night only 14 of those 35 pitches were strikes.

     In that inning, Verlander faced six hitters and threw two first-pitch strikes.  Of those pitches, nine were made in hitters’ counts and the only time he was ahead 0-2 resulted in a one-out walk to Robinson Cano that loaded the bases for Nick Swisher.

    "This," Verlander said, "is the worst I've ever felt on the mound as a professional baseball player, bar none. I feel like I was so far from where I needed to be."

    Regardless of whether it was patience or captializing on an elite pitcher missing his spots, the Yankees will take it.

     "He's no fun to face," Derek Jeter said. "We took advantage, early on it looked like he struggled with his control, but he's as tough as anyone in baseball. He throws hard, his ball moves. You really don't look forward to facing him."

    In reality the first inning is what won it for the Yankee lineup as Verlander retired 12 of the final 16 hitters.  That makes you wonder if the Yankees would have been in for another tough night had they seen less pitches in the first, allowing Verlander to go six or seven innings.

     

    And in case you’re wondering here is the list of previous Yankee first innings off Verlander.

     

    5/13/10 – 16 pitches, no runs, one hit – 6-0 Tigers win

    7/18/09 – 17 pitches, no runs, one hit – 2-1 Yankees win

    4/27/09 – 8 pitches, no runs, no hits – 4-2 Tigers win

    9/01/08 – 31 pitches, four runs, three hits – 13-9 Yankees win

    8/27/07 – 19 pitches, no runs, one hit – 16-0 Tigers win

    8/16/07 – 34 pitches, one run, two hits – 8-5 Tigers win

    6/01/06 – 14 pitches, no runs, one hit – 7-6 Yankees win

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    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 brooksbaseball.net

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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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