Items of Interest - ALCS Game Four

    Tuesday, October 19, 2010, 4:52 PM [General]

    Judging by the chatter on sports talk radio, another reason why I often take the approach of the players of paying little mind to it, you would think the Yankees are done. If you thought I was grasping at straws, then I don’t know what you could call some of those who believe Cliff Lee is doing something funny with his hat.

    As for today, which is October 19, it marks the fourth time the Yankees have lost consecutive ALCS games. It also marks the third time the Yankees have trailed two games to one in the ALCS and each time (1977 vs. Kansas City and 1998 vs. Cleveland), they came back and won.

    "We’re in a series where we’re down two to one and you would think we were down a lot further," manager Joe Girardi said. "When you lose a few games in a row in New York, it becomes a big deal. This is a very good team. We’ve won 95 games and our guys know that and we know that."

    In the most recent instance against the Indians, the Yankees were throttled by Bartolo Colon in Cleveland and had difficulty hitting. In that series, the Yankees scored five runs in the opening inning of Game One and then scored four runs and batted .167 over the next 29 innings.

    In the fourth game, Orlando Hernandez, who was untested in the playoffs, started, the Yankees scored on a first-inning home run by Paul O’Neill and won 4-0.

    Tonight A.J. Burnett starts and his season went nowhere as well as “El Duque’s, which has caused trepidation and fear among Yankee fans. But even if he is average (four runs, five innings), it all comes down to offense and the lineup, which features the normal order against a right-handed pitcher and Francisco Cervelli catching A.J. Burnett.

    Cervelli caught Burnett’s simulated game last week and also caught the righty in 25 of 36 starts. Burnett pitched 129 1/3 innings to Cervelli and had a 4.66 ERA in those starts.

    Who is catching Burnett does not matter. What truly matters is an offense that has performed awful for most of this series and needs to get going.

    In games started by C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis and Lee, the Yankees are hitting .194 (19-for-98) with 30 strikeouts, 12 walks and a .288 on-base percentage. Throw out the eighth inning comeback in Game One, the batting average is .155 (14-for-90) and throw out Robinson Cano’s 5-for-12, the Yankees are hitting .163 (14-for-86).

    Cano also has both Yankee home runs and half of the six extra-base hits. And if that’s not ugly enough, the Yankees are woeful with runners in scoring position as they are 4-for-26.

    Mark Teixeira is hitless in 11 at-bats and Alex Rodriguez is 2-for-13. Curtis Granderson is 1-for-8, Jorge Posada is 2-for-10 and Nick Swisher is 1-for-11

    "We've got to score some more runs," said Teixeira, who batted .308 in the ALDS. "Our offense has been great all year."

    Alex Rodriguez called it a personal challenge for the Yankees to score runs. For the Yankees, a nice three-spot in the first inning would help.

    "We have professional hitters that know how to hit and I believe in this offense," Girardi said. "It would be nice to score early but the bottom line is you score enough to win and it doesn’t matter when it happens.

    And finally in case you were wondering, here's a list of pitchers who were five or more games under .500 during the regular season and made postseason starts since 1969.

    1973 - Blue Moon Odom (Oakland) - 5-12, 4.49 ERA; started Game Four of the World Series and allowed two runs and three hits in 2 2/3 innings of a 6-1 loss to the Mets

    1974 - Jim Palmer (Baltimore) - 7-12, 3.27 ERA; started Game Three of the ALCS allowed one run and four hits in a complete game 1-0 loss to Oakland.

    1981 - Rudy May (Yankees) - 6-11, 4.14 ERA, started Game Two of the ALCS vs. Oakland, allowed three runs and six hits in 3 1/3 innings of a 13-3 win

    1985 - Bud Black (Kansas City) - 10-15, 4.33 ERA, started Game Two of the ALCS vs. Toronto, allowed three runs and five hits in seven innings (No-decision) of a 6-5 loss; started Game Four of the 1985 World Series against St. Louis and allowed three runs and four hits in five innings of 3-0 loss

    1995 - Steve Avery (Atlanta) - 7-13, 4.67 ERA, started Game 4 of the NLCS vs. Cincinnati and allowed two hits in six innings of a 6-0 win, started Game 4 of the World Series at Cleveland and allowed one run and three hits in six innings of a 5-2 win.

    1998 - Mark Clark (Cubs) - 9-14, 4.85 ERA, started Game 1 of the NLDS at Atlanta and allowed two runs and seven hits in six innings of a 7-1 loss

    2001 - Brian Anderson (Arizona) - 4-9, 5.20 ERA, started Game 3 of the World Series at the Yankees, allowed two runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings of a 2-1 loss

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    Grasping for Straws against Cliff Lee

    Tuesday, October 19, 2010, 3:02 AM [General]

    The term grasping at straws is loosely defined as using far fetched ideas and possibilites to reach the desired conclusion. Sitting in the upper deck for the eight innings that Cliff Lee dominated the Yankees, those things might have gone through the minds of those in the stands.

    At one point I noted how many foul balls the Yankees had against Lee and thought maybe the more they have the better. The answer and not that there is really any relevance was 28. It seemed logical that making that much contact that the Yankees were a few good swings from getting to him.

    It seemed logical to think that when Nick Swisher fouled off five straight pitches on a full count. Then he struck out flailing at a cutter.

    It seemed logcial to believe that when Mark Teixeira drew the first walk off Lee in the postseason that something good for the Yankees was going to happen. Then Alex Rodriguez lined a first-pitch cutter into left field and the fourth was over.

    It seemed logical that when Brett Gardner lined a single, stole second that the Yankees were due to score at least one run or maybe even tie it up in the sixth. It seemed maybe something was going to happen when he took third on a groundout in one of those productive outs. Then Teixeira grounded out and from that point, you might have known it was not going to happen even you were sticking around to find out.

    You hoped that one those pitches that stayed on the corner would cross the intersection and run into the bat and then run to some place where a fielder could not reach it.

    "You could say ‘Hey, why aren’t you guys swinging at those balls? But there wasn’t much that you could do with them," Curtis Granderson said.

    And there wasn't but for as much as the pressure falls on A.J. Burnett to be somewhat servicable, the offense might want to get going. After hitting .314 in the ALDS, the lineup is hitting .194 (19-for-98) with 30 strikeouts. Throw out Friday's eighth inning, the Yankees are hitting .155 (14-for-90).

    So for as much as everyone is waiting to see what Burnett will do, everyone is waiting what the offense will do.

    "I think collectively, we’re better than the two hits and one walk that we had tonight," Alex Rodriguez said. "We really have to take it as a personal challenge to score some runs."

    The Yankees have been shutout the following 21 times in postseason play:

    1921 Game Eight vs Giants - L 1-0 Art Nehf, CG, four-hitter, three strikeouts, five walks

    1922 Game Three vs. Giants - L 3-0 Jack Scott, four-hitter (won next game 4-3)

    1923 Game Three vs. Giants - L 1-0 Art Nehf, six-hitter (won next game 8-4) and won next three to win series

    1926 Game Three at Cardinals - L 4-0, Jesse Haines, five-hitter (won next game 10-5) but lost series in seven

    1942 Game Three vs. Cardinals - L 2-0, Ernie White, six-hitter (lost next two games and series)

    1949 Game Two vs. Dodgers - L 1-0, Preacher Rose, six-hitter, (won next three to win series)

    1955 Game Seven vs. Dodgers - L 2-0, Johnny Podres, eight-hitter

    1956 Game Six at Dodgers, L 1-0 (10), Clem Labine, seven-hitter (won Game Seven, 9-0)

    1957 Game Five at Braves, L 1-0, Lew Burdette, seven-hitter (won Game Six)

    1957 Game Seven vs. Braves, L 5-0, Lew Burdette, seven-hitter

    1958 Game Four vs. Braves, L 2-0, Warren Spahn, two-hitter (won next three games)

    1962 Game Two at Giants, L 2-0, Jack Sanford, three-hitter (won next game 3-2 and series in seven)

    1963 Game Three at Dodgers, L 1-0, Don Drysdale, three-hitter (lost next game and series in four)

    1996 Game Two vs. Braves, L 4-0 Greg Maddux and Mark Wohlers, seven-hitter (won next four games)

    2000 Game One ALCS vs. Mariners, L 2-0 Freddy Garcia, three relievers six-hitter (won next three and series in six)

    2001 Game Two ALDS vs. Athletics, L 2-0 Tim Hudson and Jason Isringhausen, seven-hitter (won next three)

    2001 Game Two at Diamondbacks, L 4-0 Randy Johnson three-hitter (won next three but lost series in seven)

    2003 Game Six vs. Marlins, L 2-0 Josh Beckett five-hitter (series clincher)

    2004 Game One ALDS vs. Twins, L 2-0 Johan Santana, Juan Rincon and Joe Nathan, nine-hitter (won next three)

    2006 Game Three ALDS at Tigers, L 6-0 Kenny Rogers, Joel Zumaya and Todd Jones,five-hitter (lost series in four)

    2010 Game Three ALCS vs. Rangers, L 8-0 Cliff Lee and Neftali Feliz, two-hitter (?)

    In the games that were not series clinchers, the Yankees have followed up being shut out by winning 13 of 16 times. Whether that trend continues in favor for the Yankees depends on how the offense does in addition to what Burnett does or doesn't do.

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    Items of Interest - ALCS Game Three

    Monday, October 18, 2010, 4:29 PM [General]

    Today is October 18 and 33 years ago across the street at Yankee, the Yankees were World Champions for the first time since 1962. That was the night that Reggie Jackson hit three home runs off three Los Angeles Dodger pitchers.

    Reggie Jackson obviously is not in the lineup, but the usual lineup against a left-handed pitcher is being used.

    That night Jackson was doing what the Yankees envisioned when George Steinbrenner signed him as a free agent and tonight Andy Pettitte takes the mound looking to add to his October totals in a positive light by pitching well against Texas.

    Since Cliff Lee is on the mound, it kind of allows Pettitte to fly under the radar, get overshadowed and lost in the shuffle. Those types of things are perfectly fine for Pettitte, who has 19 postseason victories, including several against pitchers with similar reputations as Lee.

    One that stands out it what happened October 24, 1996. That was 24 hours after Jim Leyritz’s pinch hit home run off Mark Wohlers helped the Yankees win Game Four 8-6.

    The next night Pettitte was pitted against John Smoltz, who at the time was 9-1 in the postseason.

    It was one of the best postseason pitching performances from a then 24-year-old Pettitte, who gave up five hits, walked three and made pitches any time there were signs of trouble.

    Two instances occurred after Chipper Jones and Marquis Grissom pulled off two-out steals of second but Pettitte retired Jermaine Dye on a groundout and struck out Mark Lemke. Another instance was after walking Fred McGriff moments after getting the lead and Pettitte retired Javier Lopez on a 6-4-3 double play.

    The sixth was really the inning that tested Pettitte. The Braves had first and second after Smoltz and Grissom singled, but Pettitte then made a tremendous barehanded throw on Lemke’s sacrifice attempt that nabbed Smoltz at third and then retired Chipper Jones on a double play.

    Plays like that make postseason games special but so do plays such as Paul O’Neill’s memorable catch in the ninth off Luis Polonia.

    Of course there are times when Pettitte has faced more pressure than the specter of being down 2-1 in a postseason series and not gotten the job done but it would be hard to go against him, regardless of who is on the other side.

    While what Pettitte does and what the Yankee bats do against Lee, the big pregame interest is also about A.J. Burnett, who for what seems like the hundredth time in the last week will start Game Four.

    Burnett’s saga has been well-documented from his accountability and inconsistency even in a simulated game.

    The Yankee believe in him even if nobody else because does they know the stuff is there, it is just the execution of the aforementioned stuff.

    Even if Burnett’s stuff is not entirely there, then the Yankees will have to achieve what they did during Kenny Rogers’ three postseason starts. Rogers had an ERA over 14 in his only postseason as a Yankee but the offense scored 22 runs and won each time he started.

    Obviously that is not the preferred scenario but it is one that has occasionally unfolded. Of course if Burnett throws like he did in Game Two of the World Series, the Yankees will not have to worry about it.

    Burnett was a late arrival to his press conference but when he did show, probably the most interesting thing he discussed was the things that are important for locating his breaking pitches.

    "Eyesight is a big key for me," Burnett said. "I think last thing I start thinking about is mechanics. When I go ball one, I don’t need to start thinking, oh God, what’s this, what’s that. I just need to get the ball and focus on my next pitch and I think when I start thinking too much about it, that’s when I start going haywire with the mechanics."

    Basically Burnett means that involves getting a good arm angle on the curveball so it does not stray low in the strike zone and has little bit.

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    Items of Interest - Sunday ALCS workout edition

    Sunday, October 17, 2010, 5:35 PM [General]

    Today is October 17 and a year ago, the Yankees were beating the Angels in 13 innings on Jerry Hairston’s dash to the plate. That gave them a 2-0 lead heading into three games in Anaheim, meaning the Yankees had five games to win two.

    Now because of the events of Game Two, the Yankees face a five-game series with the Rangers and whoever wins three games first will be the AL Champion.

    Many wondered how the Rangers would respond to blowing a five-run lead in Game One. The answer was pretty clear when they laid a 7-2 beating on the Yankees yesterday.

    In their first trip to Yankee Stadium since mid-April, the Rangers worked out first as by taking a loose session of fielding, throwing and batting practice to go along with a drill of pitcher’s fielding practice.

    Maybe it is because they have Cliff Lee going in Game Three and may face the unpredictable A.J. Burnett in Game Four, which appears to still be the case since CC Sabathia’s scheduled bullpen session did in fact occur.

    Lee is 6-0 in the postseason pitching for the Phillies and Rangers. The Yankees saw Lee twice in the World Series and won the game started by A.J. Burnett after facing Lee.

    As for the Yankees, while the chatter has been and will increase about Lee, they have a pretty good guy on the mound in Game Three.

    That would be Andy Pettitte, who has made 41 postseason starts and won 19 of them. He is unbeaten in his last nine postseason starts (5-0 with a 2.88 ERA, spanning 56 1/3 innings). The only others who had longer streaks in postseason play were Roger Clemens (12 starts from 2001-04) and Orel Hershiser (10 from 1985-1995).

    It is almost as Pettitte’s start has become an afterthought to all the superlatives surrounding Lee’s postseason presence and that’s probably fine with the Yankees, especially Pettitte.

    "I guess I can say I’m used to that," Pettitte said. “It’s always maybe the other guy that’s going to get that. That’s totally fine with me. I’m not a guy who likes a lot of attention. I’m kind of uncomfortable with a lot of attention."

    As for other Yankees, Derek Jeter and Joe Girardi remain extremely confident in Pettitte and who wouldn’t with that type of experience.

    "Besides just having good stuff, Andy Pettitte knows how to pitch," Girardi said. "He’s been through it so many times, does not become rattled and knows how to prepare for this type of game. Experience is an important thing when it comes to this time of year because you don’t expect Andy to get too hyped up."

    "He’s got a great approach," Jeter added. "He sticks with his plan. He knows what has made him successful. He doesn’t deviate from his plan. He’s got a lot of confidence in himself. It doesn’t mean he’s going to be successful but you know he’s not going to be flustered too much on the mound. Pretty much every situation you can think of he’s been in."

    The chatter, typing and tweeting is increasing about the Yankee starting pitching problems and until the Yankees prove otherwise by pitching better than what Sabathia and Phil Hughes showed, they will continue being prominent.

    Some past Yankee teams have shown to overcome that, even the 1998 team when it was down 2-1 in the ALCS and then Orlando Hernandez pitched a gem in Game Four.

    As for Lee a lot of things make him so good. One that stands out at least in Pettitte’s estimation is the cutter, the same thing that makes Mariano Rivera so good.

    Lee threw that pitch a career high 19.8 percent of the time, up from the 12.4 percent in 2009.

    In three starts against the Yankees, the cut fastball was thrown the following amount of times:

    June 29 – Seattle at New York – 34 cutters, 27 strikes

    August 10 – New York at Texas – 20 cutters, 15 strikes

    September 12 – New York at Texas – 33 cutters, 19 strikes.

    "What is separating him from any other pitcher right now is really his cutter – how late it is," Pettitte said. "People will whatever (he doesn’t have dominating stuff). That cutter has to be pretty dominating. It has to be moving extremely well for guys to have such a hard time handling it. I think at this stage right now – that’s what’s separating him from everyone else is to be able to cut that ball like he’s doing to both sides of the plate.

    "It has to be moving extremely late for guys not to be able to get their barrel on it the way they’re not doing."

    Finally, there has been some chatter in various areas of the AM dial about the rosin on Lee’s hat. Some might think it is a method of giving him an unfair advantage but Girardi does not agree and neither does Lee.

    "It’s rosin," Lee said. "I go to the rosin bag quite a lot. I touch my hate in the same place over and over and it just accumulates."

    So in a little more than 24 hours as the Yankees conclude batting practice with their special drill, expect a lot a good playoff matchup between Lee and Pettitte.



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    A guy walks into a bar to watch the Yankee Game and disaster strikes

    Saturday, October 16, 2010, 11:51 PM [General]

    There are several variations to the "Guy Walks into the Bar" thing and mostly are prefaces to funny jokes or corny jokes.

    Straying away from my HD-TV and watching on someone else's HD-TV, there was nothing funny unless you were a Ranger fan enjoying how awful Phil Hughes was in the sequel to his sterling foray into making postseason starts.

    There's no sense in re-living it, though based on the events of last night, this did not feel like a run of the mill never had a chance 7-2 loss.

    After seeing the eighth inning of Game One, there's no way you can leave the game, especially as the Yankees pile baserunner after baserunner against Colby Lewis and company.

    Excitement brews as Lance Berkman rips an RBI single in the fifth. Then disapointment because Berkman thought his speed rating was a 15 and not a 12.

    But still it's only 5-1, the chance exists and then Hughes gives up two more hits before Joba Chamberlain allows another. Suddenly 7-1 does not look so appetizing.

    The chance exists again when Robinson Cano absoulutely crushes a ball into the upper deck and it is 7-2. Then when the Yankees knock out Lewis by having Jorge Posada single and Berkman walk, the vibes are getting a little better because here comes Clay Rapada and images of that fastball he threw to Cano revive you along with another wing.

    When Marcus Thames pinch hits for Brett Gardner, the optimism builds and you're thinking Happy Thames are here again. The sense is that a rally appears on the horizion as he sees eight pitches but on the ninth Thames swings at a high slider for strike three and if there is a comeback it will have to wait.

    The seventh is similar, especially when with two outs Alex Rodriguez's pop-up bounces out of Elvis Andrus' glove and Cano comes up with first and second. Another attempt is thwarted when Cano strikes out swinging to end an at-bat of nothing but fastballs by Alexi Ogando.

    At this point, the feeling for a possible comeback still exists but deep down it is looking bleak and the realization that these do not occur all the time start sinking in. Still you watch, have another wing and take another sip because you never know even if deep down you actually do know.

    After a quiet eighth, Texas brings in closer Neftali Feliz and you start thinking there could be a chance since several pitchers tend to struggle when there is not a save situation. It seems slightly possible when Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira drew consecutive walks with Rodriguez and Cano coming up but in the end the comeback never happens.

    And depending on where you are, you're disappointed. But at least the burger, wings, beer and service was good and Andy Pettitte is on the mound for the next game.

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    There are wins and there are WINS

    Saturday, October 16, 2010, 2:38 AM [General]

    I haven't the slightest idea what you can say about what occured in a span of 35 minutes between 10:45 and 11:15, other than - whoa!, wow or holy @@@@!. Perhaps the win warble that John Sterling unleashed at 11:57 sums it up best, but this was a win, a hardcore comeback of epic proportions.

    It can be classified this way because until about 10:30 nothing was doing and it was turning out to be a lost night since the Rangers lost their home opener to the Maple Leafs while losing two key players. So you might have been closing on acceptance, thinking, ok no big deal, the Yankees have lost Game One of a series and still won before.

    Fifteen minutes later and with a run already on the board thanks to Robinson Cano's home run in the seventh, Brett Gardner legs out an infield hit with some big-time hustle and perhaps something is brewing. When Derek Jeter lines a double to left and Gardner races home from first, the comeback is on.

    It is one thing to overcome a three-run deficit, quite another to do it when trailing by five. The Yankees last did it in Game One of the 1997 ALDS against the Indians.

    One thing you notice on TV when something like this is occuring is the camera work. As the Yankees were mounting their comeback, it seemed every time in between pitches, Ron Washington was shown in various states of tension. You had to wonder what was going through Washington's mind, but whatever it was had to be some state of disbelief.

    At the point when the bases become loaded on consecutive walks to Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira, you know what could be going down. One pitch later, Alex Rodriguez confirms it with a base hit that is lined past third and into left. One pitch later, Cano confirms it again with another base hit, this time slapping a fastball up the middle.

    And when Marcus Thames grounds that single into left on a 2-2 pitch, it only affirms the inevitable. The only thing you have to wait for is Kerry Wood and Mariano Rivera to get the final six outs and if they do the Yankees walk away off the mat again, this time with one of their more impressive comeback playoff victories.

    They do and you go whoa, that was amazing. Even though the Yankees have comeback numerous times, see Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS, Games Four and Five of the 2001 World Series, Game Six of the 1996 World Series, it always seems like an amazing feat and when they pull it off, sometimes you still wonder the following:

    Did that really happen?

    It did and then there are three more victories to attain before the World Series.

    "I heard a couple of guys say, 'We stole one tonight.' It was huge." - Marcus Thames.
    It was huge and they did steal one, but there are 27 outs that must be attained before a victory can occur and the Yankees didn't let it happen. They just made you wait two-plus hours before getting going.
    Perhaps Joe Girardi summed it up best with the following comment:

    "I'm never surprised by what our guys do. Thrilled sometimes, but never surprised."
    Yankee fans were definitely thrilled and maybe surprised. Considering how they have won in the last two Octobers with 10 comeback wins, maybe it should not be a surprise. Maybe it should be a shock to the system in instances where it does not occur.
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    C.J. Wilson - What You Might See

    Thursday, October 14, 2010, 9:52 PM [General]

    C.J. Wilson will start Game One of the ALCS against the Yankees and before being relatively successful in 33 starts, his most major league experience as a starting pitcher had been six starts in 2005 (June 19-August 18).

    Until he took the mound for his start on April 8 against the Blue Jays, Wilson’s last start had been August 18, 2005 in Cleveland in a game that saw him allow five earned runs and seven hits in 2 2/3 innings.

    That start was the beginning of a 15-win journey and the first of 14 starts that lasted into the seventh. None of those starts came against the Yankees.

    On April 16, Wilson faced CC Sabathia at a rainy Yankee Stadium. In six innings, he allowed five runs – three earned – and seven hits with five strikeouts and three walks.

    That night the breakdown of his 112 pitches were the following:

    38 two-seam fastballs, 25 strikes

    31 cutters, 18 strikes

    19 four-seam fastballs, 14 strikes

    11 sliders, seven strikes

    8 changeups, two strikes

    2 curveballs, 0 strikes

    Wilson allowed runs on a first-inning passed ball by Taylor Teagarden (fastball), two in the fourth on a throwing error by Chris Davis after Curtis Granderson grounded a slider to first base. The fourth run was a single by Francisco Cervelli, who lined a cutter to left field. The final run was a Derek Jeter groundball infield single on a changeup that Wilson deflected towards shortstop Elvis Andrus.

    The next time Wilson faced the Yankees, he had 10 wins under his belt and the Rangers began seizing command of the AL West. The August 10 no-decision was part of a two-month stretch where Wilson went 11-2 over 17 starts.

    Against the Yankees in Arlington, Wilson allowed two runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out five, walked three and threw 96 pitches broken down in the following way:

    22 four-seam fastballs, 15 strikes

    17 sliders, 11 strikes

    16 two-seam fastball, 7 strikes

    15 cutters, 10 strikes

    15 curveballs, 10 strikes

    11 change ups, 6 strikes.

    Approximately one month later in Texas, Wilson faced the Yankees again and did not get a decision in a one-run Ranger victory. That night, he was not great, allowing four runs and six hits in three innings while throwing a season-low 75 pitches that were broken down the following:

    22 four-seam fastballs, 13 strikes

    17 cutters, 10 strikes

    11 changeups, 3 strikes

    11 two-seam fastballs, 8 strikes

    7 sliders, five strikes

    7 curveballs, 3 strikes

    That night the Yankees scored four times in the third, doing so on an Alex Rodriguez two-run double on the changeup, a Marcus Thames RBI single on a fastball and a Francisco Cervelli base hit on another fastball.

    Here’s how his first playoff start looked:

    28 two-seam fastballs, 13 strikes

    25 four-seam fastballs, 20 strikes

    19 cutters, 15 strikes

    15 changeups, 7 strikes

    13 curveballs, 7 strikes

    4 sliders, 3 strikes

    So how does anyone make the change from closing to being a 15-game winner in a rotation?

    An obvious answer is pitch selection.

    The fastball still is Wilson’s primary pitch as it was thrown 49.2 percent but that is down from 70 percent in 2009 and nearly 80 percent in 2008 when he saved 24 games.

    The most noteworthy change is the cutter development, which was thrown 18.6 percent of the time. That is up from 5.6 percent and the increase in use has come slightly at the expense of the slider, which was thrown 12.1 percent, a drop from 18.5 percent.

    Another difference is in the curve and changeup. The curve was thrown 18.6 percent, up from 5.6. The changeup was thrown 11.7, down from 5.3 and also three miles slower than in 2009 at 82.1.

    So with that in mind, what can Yankee hitters expect from Wilson? Here are the pitches that the lineup saw from Wilson the three times he pitched against them.

    Derek Jeter – .357 (5-for-17); 3-for-9 in 2010

    April 16 – 8 cutters, 4 fastballs, 2 changeups

    August 10 – 4 cutters, 2 changeups, 4 fastballs, 1 slider, 2 curveballs

    September 10 – 8 fastballs, 2 changeups, 1 slider, 1 curveball, 1 cutter

    Nick Swisher - .300 (6-for-20); 1-for-7 in 2010

    April 16 - 5 fastballs, 6 cutters, 1 curveball, 1 slider, 1 changeup

    August 10 – 4 fastballs, 3 cutters, 3 curveballs, 1 changeups

    September 10 – 2 fastballs, 4 changeups, 1 slider, 2 cutters, 1 curveball

    Mark Teixeira - .000 (0-for-7); 0-for-4 in 2010

    April 16 - 3 fastballs, 2 cutters, 2 sliders, 2 changeups

    August 10 – did not play

    Sept 10 – 4 fastballs, 1 slider, 3 cutters

    Alex Rodriguez - .077 (1-for-13); 1-for-4 in 2010

    April 16 - 10 fastballs, 3 cutters, 3 sliders, 1 curveball, 1 changeup

    August 10 – 4 fastballs, 3 sliders, 3 changeups, 2 cutters, 1 curveball

    September 10 – 2 cutters, 4 changeups, 1 fastball

    Robinson Cano - .286 (4-for-14); 2-for-5 in 2010

    April 16 – 6 fastballs, 1 cutter

    August 10 – did not face Wilson

    September 10 – 1 cutter, 1 fastball

    Marcus Thames - .455 (5-for-11); 5-for-8 in 2010

    April 16 – 1 cutter, 4 fastballs, 1 slider

    August 10 – 3 fastballs, 1 changeup, 2 curveballs, 1 slider

    September 10 3 fastballs, 3 curveballs, 1 slider, 1 changeup

    Jorge Posada - .000 (0-for-5); Did not face

    Curtis Granderson .000 (0-for-6); 0-for-3 in 2010

    April 16 - 11 fastballs, 4 sliders, 2 cutters

    Brett Gardner .000 (0-for-5); 0-for-4 in 2010

    April 16 – Did not face

    August 10 – 6 fastballs, 1 cutter, 1 slider        

    September 10 – 7 fastballs, 4 cutters, 2 curveballs    


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    Hitting .300 in the postseason - you don't see it too often by teams

    Thursday, October 14, 2010, 1:03 AM [General]

    If a ballplayer gets a hit out three out of 10 times, he is considered successful. During the ALDS, the Yankees had a hit 31.4 percent of the time as they batted .314. Hitting .300 in a series of three to seven games does not happen often, especially in the postseason.

    For the Yankees it was the ninth instance they hit at least .300 in a postseason series. Below are the previous years and below that are the other times it has happened in the postseason.


    World Series:

    1932 - .313 (45-for-144) - Lou Gehrig .529 (9-for-17)

    1936 - .302 (65-for-215) – Jake Powell .455 (10-for-22)

    1960 - .338 (91-for-269) – Elston Howard .462 (6-for-13)

    1978 - .306 (68-for-222) – Brian Doyle .438 (7-for-16)

    1998 - .309 (43-for-139) - Ricky Ledee .600 (6-for-10)


    1976 - .316 (55-for-174) - Chris Chambliss .524 (11-for-21)

    1978 - .300 (42-for-140) – Reggie Jackson .462 (6-for-13)

    1981 - .336 (36-for-107) – Graig Nettles.500 (6-for-12), Jerry Mumphrey .500 (6-for-12)


    National League Teams in the World Series

    1922 Giants - .309 (50-for-162) – Heinie Groh .473 (9-for-19)

    1953 Dodgers - .300 (64-for-213) – Gil Hodges .364 (8-for-22)

    1976 Reds - .313 (42-for-134) – Johnny Bench .533 (8-for-15)

    1979 Pirates - .323 (81-for-251) – Phil Garner .500 (12-for-24)

    1990 Reds - .317 (45-for-142) – Billy Hatcher .750 (9-for-12)

    American League Teams in the World Series:

    1910 Athletics - .322 (57-for-177) – Eddie Collins .429 (9-for-21)

    1989 Athletics - .301 (44-for-146) – Rickey Henderson .474 (9-for-19)

    1993 Blue Jays .311 (64-for-206) – Roberto Alomar .480 (12-for-25)

    2002 Angels - .310 (76-for-245) – Troy Glaus .385 (10-for-26)

    2007 Red Sox –.333 (47-for-141) – Jacoby Ellsbury (7.for-16),


    1969 Mets – .327 (37-for-113) – Art Shamsky .538 (7-for-13)

    1982 Cardinals - .330 (34-for-103) – Darrell Porter .556 (5-for-9); Ozzie Smith .556 (5-for-9)

    1989 Cubs - 303 (53-for-175) – Mark Grace .647 (11-for-17)

    1996 Braves -- 309 (77-for-249) – Javy Lopez .542 (13-for-24)


    1970 Orioles - .330 (36-for-109) – Brooks Robinson .583 (7-for-12)

    1975 Red Sox .316 (31-for-98) – Carl Yastrzemski .455 (5-for-11),

    1993 Blue Jays - .301 (65-for-216) – Devon White .444 (12-for-27)

    2007 Red Sox .318 (77-for-242) – Kevin Youkillis (14-for-28),


    1995 Braves - .331 (51-for-154) – Marquis Grissom .524 (11-for-21)

    1999 Braves - .304 (45-for-148) – Bret Boone .474 (9-for-19)

    2001 Braves - .303 (30-for-99) – Andruw Jones .500 (6-for-12)

    2002 Cardinals - .314 (33-for-105) – Fernando Vina .600 (9-for-15)

    2004 Astros - .322 (58-for-180) – Carlos Beltran .455 (10-for-22)

    2005 Padres - .302 (32-for-106) – Ramon Hernandez .455 (5-for-11)


    1995 ALDS - .315 (63-for-200) – Edgar Martinez .571 (12-for-21)

    1999 ALDS .318 (56-for-176), Mike Stanley 10-for-20

    2002 ALDS - .376 (56-for-149) – Adam Kennedy .500 (4-for-8)

    2004 ALDS .302 (35-for-116) – David Ortiz 6-for-11,

    2006 ALDS .309 (43-for-139) – Carlos Guillen .571 (8-for-14)

    2007 ALDS .315 (45-for-143) – Jhonny Peralta - .467 (7-for-15)

    Of those teams, seven did it against the Yankees and the only team to do it against the Yankees and lose were the 1953 Dodgers.

    Of those teams, the only time it happened for a losing team was the 1989 Cubs and the 2005 Padres.

    On the list, the only Hall of Famers to lead a .300 batting average team were Carl Yastrzemski, Ozzie Smith, Brooks Robinson, Rickey Henderson, Reggie Jackson and Lou Gehrig.

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    Items of Interest - A.J. Burnett simulated game edition

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010, 4:49 PM [General]

    Today is October 13 and a year ago, as the Yankees prepared for the ALCS with the Angels, A.J. Burnett was fielding inquires about pitching to Jose Molina as opposed to Jorge Posada.

    Who Burnett is pitching to likely will be the least-asked inquiry in the days leading to his Game Four start. Instead, everyone will be curious to see what he does and how he and the Yankees feel about his stuff.

    Burnett took the first step in his preparation for that start by throwing a simulated game. As seen from the third base dugout where I forgot it’s usually 10 to15 degrees warmer on the field, Burnett threw about 4 1/3 innings (at least in simulated games terms).

    A simulated game is just that so anything goes, meaning that a batter can ground out but because he is still trying to get some reps in and stay fresh he can continue if he wants.

    Burnett pitched to Greg Golson, Austin Kearns, Curtis Granderson and Ramiro Pena. He threw all his pitches and it lasted approximately 80 pitches.

    "Better than I thought," was Burnett’s assessment. "I was good all the way through it, so it’s a big step forward."

     In terms of what exactly felt better, Burnett said the following:

    "Just like pitch count because I was in the bullpen, it was like 20 pitches max, so it was good to get out there and be fatigued toward the end and work through it.

    "I felt the same pretty much the whole way. A couple of innings were longer and a couple were shorter but I felt great."

    One of the first pitches was thrown over Golson’s head. He also struck out Kearns swinging on two occasions.  Granderson also faced Burnett and hit a ball back to the mound and struck out swinging.

    Burnett’s outing also included hitting Kearns in the arm on a sinker but then the day ended with Kearns striking out swinging a second time.

    The two hit by pitches came on sinking fastballs away from hitters that Burnett estimated he throws once or twice per start. He walked away from the simulated game feeling better about the curve and also feeling better about throwing in the stretch after the first few pitches.

    Burnett is a confident person regardless but since he last pitched in a game on October 3, even he was unsure of how it would go.

    "I’m confident to begin with but to have that much of a layoff and be as sharp as I was for the most part – was great," Burnett said with an upbeat tone.

    So will feeling great in an empty stadium where the only ones watching closely are media members and coaches and players translate to success next Tuesday? The answer is stay tuned and don’t be surprised if it is one extreme of the other.

    Also pitching in the second simulated game in as many days were Javier Vazquez and Chad Gaudin, but their progress was not as important as Burnett since neither pitchers could be on the playoff roster.

    As for watching from the dugout, it’s a cool experience that George Vescey detailed in the Times. You definitely have to watch for flying objects such as bats, which Kearns’ bat did at one point by landing in the stands.

    The last time the Yankees were here, which was yesterday, they did not know if they would be packing for Texas or Tampa Bay. Now they know and they are aware they will face Cliff Lee next Monday in the Bronx.

    What they do not know is the rotation. They know that CC Sabathia starts Game One and Burnett gets the ball in Game Four. They have yet to decide when Phil Hughes or Andy Pettitte starts, though an argument could be made for Pettitte getting Game Three to align the lefty for a possible seventh game.

    And with that, it’s off to Arlington for the Yankees and then back to the Bronx for another fun encounter with Cliff Lee.

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    Items of Interest - ALCS Workout Edition

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010, 7:01 PM [General]

    Today is October 12 and a year ago, the Yankees were preparing for the Angels in the ALCS. The Yankees knew they would be facing the Angels because on the same day as their victory in Minnesota, the Angels scored three times in the ninth off Jonathan Papelbon.

    At a quiet Yankee Stadium, where the only activity is a simulated game the Yankees still do not know if it they will be facing the Rays or Rangers for American League pennant.

    One thing they seem to know is that A.J. Burnett will get a start and that will be Game Four a week from today at Yankee Stadium. Normally that would not be a big deal but the fact that Burnett’s numbers during the regular season were among his worst make it a concern.

    Manager Joe Girardi said he does have a belief in Burnett since he saw him pitch well in Game Two of the ALDS, ALCS and World Series.

    "It’s something that we definitely talked about going with the fourth starter,” Girardi said. "We’ve had some preliminary discussions about it and will continue with it tomorrow. My concern about going with a three-man rotation is you’re asking to do it a lot.

    "Last year CC did it once in the ALCS and then each guy did it once in the World Series. You’re asking them to do a lot – Hughesie’s never done it, Andy’s coming off an injury, so there’s some concerns them and then if you Game Seven you’re asking CC to do it twice in one series and then there’s some concern.”

    Burnett will get his chance to throw a simulated game at Wednesday’s workout and he will take the mound as he put it at "High Noon".

    The last high profile simulated game occurred Sept. 3 when Andy Pettitte threw to Alex Rodriguez but because of the potential ramifications of Burnett faltering in the playoffs, this one is a bigger deal.

    As for Burnett, about a month ago, this space touched upon how accountable he is when things go wrong.  and yesterday before a much bigger crowd that included some who you do not see when he spits the bit in the middle of the summer to Seattle, the righty explained continued to be accountable.

    "Those numbers aren't going to go away. But that's in the past," Burnett said. "This is October and whatever happens in the future is what counts. ... To be honest with you, I really don't want to look back. I put that behind me the best I can and I've been positive here every day waiting to get my shot. I'm ready to help."

    He discussed things like how he tends to think too much about his mechanics, which pitching coach Dave Eiland detailed here by saying he wants to fly open with his right side and that Burnett needs to self-correct whatever the problem is.

    "He's just been inconsistent, but the stuff is still in there," Eiland said. "He knows that he's probably going to pitch this series and he's excited about it. There's that twinkle in his eye again. We're looking for him to step up and pitch well for us." 

    Burnett’s simulated game will occur 24 hours after another took place involving the following players:

    Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, Sergio Mitre, Dustin Moseley, David Robertson and Kerry Wood, who pitched to Francisco Cervelli, Greg Golson, Austin Kearns.

    The most prominent name in terms of inquiries about his role is Chamberlain, who did not pitch in the ALDS and whose role was a subject of popular discussion, especially when he often pitched in the eighth inning often before Wood's arrival from Cleveland.

    "That was the purpose of today to get the guys back out there and sharp,” Girardi said. "Obviously we know that he’s rested and he’s physically strong. My hope is by pitching today and facing hitters and using all his pitches that he will be sharp."

    Statistically, Chamberlain had an interesting year. In 73 appearances, his ERA 4.40 and that spanned 71 2/3 innings.

    Chamberlain began the year by allowing runs in just three of his first 17 outings through May 14. Then he allowed 11 over his next five and 15 from May 16-June 17 turning his ERA to 5.72. He still continued allowing runs, giving up 10 from June 27 through July 30 and then Wood was acquired and Chamberlain allowed seven earned runs over his final 28 appearances.

    "When Joba seems to give up runs and a lot of times you’re judged on your ERA and they’re in bunches," Girardi said. "He won’t give up runs for a while and then he’ll give up a four-spot in an inning and that has kind of been the year. I thought he did a pretty good job in the eighth inning for us the first four or five months."

    The Yankees still were unaware of who their opponent was and while some might tune in, Curtis Granderson was not planning on the game denying him a trip to the movies.



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    Get the Bags - Yankees take care of Twins

    Sunday, October 10, 2010, 1:58 AM [General]

    Many years ago, well not that many, but it seems like it and when I worked in the newsroom of the sadly defunct wire service known as SportsTicker, a boss had a special way of indicating when he believed a game to be over.

    He would get up from his seat, do a little strut and proclaim “Get the Bags”, which is believed to be some variation of a line said by Ralph Kramden in "The Honeymooners". The actual phrasing may not necessarily be correct but you get the idea.

    It was a way of indicating that the winning team had indeed taken care of business and it might get uttered in various moments in games. It might have taken place early, late or in overtime and very frequently that proclamation was correct.

    People all have sayings and rituals for indicating when they believe something is over. At the old stadium when I felt a game was over in the ninth inning with Mariano Rivera on the mound, I would quietly remove my Metrocard from my wallet.

    That was before I began to linger around after games and wait for the subway crowds to somewhat lessen.

    Another ritual that was witnessed was what Bob Sheppard used to do at the old Stadium. After the second out was recorded, he would announce the next batter and in anticipation of the final out being made, he would stand at the back of the press box and if it happened like it was supposed to, he would head for the door and elevator.

    Watching the Yankees eliminate the Twins with a 6-1 victory, the sense was the game was over early, especially after Marcus Thames hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning as the place rocked as evidenced by our trip through the concourses.

    When the Yankees scored the first run in the second, it was the first time they did not fall behind early in a playoff game against the Twins since winning the 2003 ALDS with an 8-1 victory at the Metrodome.

    While the Yankees would not have panicked if the Twins scored the first few runs, there was a sense of: "hey, we need one more win to advance, let’s not screw around, get this done and take care of business."

    If you want proof of that mentality, this is what was said amid the loud music and champagne celebration that goes along with series clinchers.

    "We didn’t look at it like three games to win one," Mark Teixeira said. "We wanted to win today. It showed early."

    "That is exactly what we were talking about," Nick Swisher added. "When you come in a five-game series, there’s no messing around. So to be able here and be able to celebrate in front of home fans – it’s a great feeling."

    It also is a great feeling to avoid things like pitching CC Sabathia on three days rest, not taking another flight to Minnesota and not letting the window of opportunity open ever so slightly.

    The Yankees have experienced both sides of that in this round.

    In 1995, they flew to Seattle riding the emotional high of Jim Leyritz hitting a 15th-inning home run off Tim Belcher. Three days later, they returned to New York devastated about not getting the one win.

    In 2001, the Yankees flew to Oakland wondering what had happened in two home losses. They returned with two wins and secured that last one.

    "You don’t want to give anybody hope," Derek Jeter said. "You get a chance to close it out – you want to do it." 


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    Items of Interest - Twins-Yankees ALDS Game Three

    Saturday, October 9, 2010, 5:03 PM [General]

    Today is Saturday October 9 and the last time October 9 occurred on a Saturday, guess what the Yankees were doing then:

    Give up?

    The answer is doing the same thing they hope to do tonight – eliminate the Twins from the ALDS.

    That night in 2004 and playing in the Metrodome, the Yankees needed four hours, 16 minutes and 11 innings to advance to the ALCS. Like they have in the last two years against the Twins, the Yankees also were comeback winners, except the deficit was not one or two runs.

    It was four runs as the Yankees fell behind 5-1 against Johan Santana (87 pitches in five innings on three days rest) and Grant Balfour. The comeback began against Juan Rincon as Bernie Williams lined a single and Ruben Sierra crushed a three-run home run.

    The series was won when Tom Gordon pitched two shutout innings and Alex Rodriguez scored on Kyle Lohse’s wild pitch. When Mariano Rivera retired Shannon Stewart, the Yankees were headed for a rematch with the Red Sox.

    This is what it sounded like in the clubhouse that night after Rodriguez went 8-for-19 in the series.

    "You can't always play big ball," Rodriguez said. "I thought there was a window of opportunity with Lohse, and I told Sheffield before, 'I'm going to steal after the first two pitches.' Most guys don't take 1-1 changeups right down the middle to concede the stolen base."

     "It was incredible," Joe Torre said.  "He's on a special run right now, and hopefully we can carry it through the championship series."

    As for the present, you don’t need any kind of wireless device that has twitter to tell you what the lineup is.  All you have to do is remember the last lineup the Yankees used faced a left-handed starter in Game One.

    Phil Hughes gets the ball and he is the last Yankee pitcher age 24 of younger in the last 45 years to win at least 18 games since Andy Pettitte in 1996. Hughes and Pettitte are the last two homegrown Yankee starters that have turned into a prolific winner.

    Of course, Hughes would not be here if he did not volunteer to become a pitcher in high school.

    In other areas, yesterday when Kerry Wood was discussing Mariano Rivera, I asked who would be a good comparison in terms of the closer’s demeanor. He said Greg Maddux, which I wasn’t sure he would say but then I recalled that Maddux briefly returned to the Cubs in 2004.

    Manager Joe Girardi caught both Maddux and Rivera and agreed that was a good comparison since both are composed, confident, students of the game and future Hall of Famers.

    As for the Twins, they slightly changed their lineup. Jason Kubel moves from seventh to fourth behind Joe Mauer. During the regular season, Kubel batted fourth 34 times and his worst batting average came from there .197. He batted seventh in the first two games after hitting .327 in 15 games there during the regular season.

    Kubel’s most sustained stretch of batting cleanup occurred from Aug. 12 through Sept. 15 when he hit there in 20 of 26 games. During that period, the Twins won 19 times and Kubel batted .207 with three home runs and 15 RBI.

    The move did not necessarily spark the Twins but the assumption is that a bulk of Kubel’s time occurred during one of the best stretches, might be what manager Ron Gardenhire was thinking.

    With Kubel batting fourth, Delmon Young goes to the fifth spot. Young primarily batted seventh (65 games) but made 18 appearances as a fifth-place hitter and hit .254, which is his lowest average from any lineup spot during the regular season.


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