Dominating Effort Against White Sox

    Friday, April 29, 2011, 1:27 PM [General]

    CC Sebathia was able to continue the Yankees starters streak and throw the seventh consecutive quality start in a 12-3 Yankees victory over the White Sox, on Thursday night.  Sebathia allowed three runs, zero earned because of an Eduardo Nunez error, seven hits and he struck out six batters in seven innings pitched.  Surprise contributor Lance Pendleton, who has not allowed any runs in 10 appearances, pitched two innings of scoreless baseball only allowing two hits. 

    Pendleton was actually selected by the Yankees in the fourth round of the 2005 draft.  Shortly after he underwent Tommy John surgery and once he was recovered he went on to pitch in the minor leagues for a few seasons.  He was selected by the Houston Astros in the 2010 Rule 5 Draft, in December.  (If a minor league player is chosen in the Rule 5 draft he must be kept on the 25 man roster for the whole season or else he will be returned to the previous team.)  He returned to the Yankees on March 27th and was called up on April 15th when Phil Hughes was placed on the disabled list because of a “dead arm”.  

    Bartolo Colon actually started the streak of dominating efforts by the starters on April 20th when he pitched six and two-thirds innings while only allowing two runs.  He recorded seven strikeouts which would foreshadow his performance later in the week.  Since the victory on the 20th the Yankees have not allowed more than three runs in any contest.  Colon had another brilliant performance on Wednesday, against his former team, the White Sox, only allowing one run in eight innings, while recording six more strikeouts.  Colon is starting to prove the doubters wrong since he has had two superb starts filling in for Hughes.   This was also Sebathia’s second dominating start of the streak since he threw eight innings, allowing three earned runs and seven strikeouts during a 15-3 victory over the Orioles on the 23rd.

    However, this game signaled an offensive resurgence by the Yankees that will hopefully be a trend and not a mirage.  They had not scored more than three runs in any of the last three games, and they could have easily come away with a victory of they had given AJ Burnett and Ivan Nova some run support.  They were finally able to capitalize on Thursday, scoring six runs off of Edwin Jackson and feasting on a struggling White Sox bullpen.

    Nick Swisher probably had his best game of the season so far, contributing three hits and his first home run of the campaign.  Brett Gardner might be showing signs of a resurgence after stealing his fourth base and even hitting his third home run of the season.  Gardner actually has as many home runs as David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez combined.  Curtis Granderson continued his hot streak with a triple off of Jackson which scored Eduardo Nunez.

    I don’t expect the Yankees to score 12 runs every game but hopefully this is a sign that the offense is turning the corner in order to not waste many more quality performances by the starters.  As stated above, the rotation has been very reliable recently, but one does not know when Nova, Garcia or Colon will tail off.  However, right now it seems like Garcia and Colon will be more reliable than Nova.  

     

     

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    Cashman's Offseason Has Been Money

    Thursday, April 28, 2011, 12:47 PM [General]

    There is no way to tell if a players encouraging or underachieving start to the season will continue or not but so far Brian Cashman’s offseason signings have been a resounding success, overall.  He deserves praise for his strategy of signing many low risk high reward older players hoping that many of them would capitalize.

    Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez are both hitting above .300 in limited action with Jones even adding a home run as one of his six hits.  An added benefit of signing Chavez is that he gives the team versatility since he can play first base and third base.  Freddy Garcia has only allowed one run in three appearances, two starts.  They will need him to continue this dominance.  Russell Martin has played like the All Star he was a few years ago before his injuries.  He is hitting .292, with six home runs, 16 RBI and has shown the speed from earlier in his career with two stolen bases.  The offseason signing who has surprised the most is none other than Bartolo Colon. 

    Colon has likely been the Yankees most dominating pitcher so far.  He has proven that his excellent numbers from winter league and Spring Training were not a fluke.  Most probably doubted Colon in Spring Training because he showed up out of shape and did not even pitch in the major leagues last season but so far he looks the pitcher who won 21 games for the Angles in 2005.  So far, in five appearances and two starts, he has 26 strikeouts, six walks and has recorded a stellar 2.77 ERA.  Colon has remarkably been able to pitch this well even weighing in at 265 pounds.

    Cashman’s most expensive offseason signing was Rafael Soriano who was coming off an All Star season with the Tampa Bay Rays.  He was signed to a three-year, $35 million contract after recording a 1.73 ERA, 45 saves and 57 strikeouts with Tampa Bay.  So far this season he has allowed nine earned runs which is only three less than he surrendered all of last season.

    Soriano came to the Yankees with a lot of hype because it seemed like he would be the perfect bridge to Mariano Rivera in the eighth inning, and be a suitable replacement for Rivera when he does retire.  However, as stated above has not produced on the field, in addition to having meltdowns as well as refusing to talk to the press after ruining a CC Sebathia win against the Twins.  He has even used an excuse the cold weather as an excuse for giving up runs earlier in the season.

    It is possible that he is one of the players that just can’t handle the media and everything that comes with playing in New York City but based on his performance that last few years it seems like he will bounce back.   In 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010 he pitched in at least 53 games and his ERA was always 3.00 or below.  His previous track record surely suggests that he will have many more shut down performances than not the rest of the season.

    The other pitcher that Cashman signed that was going to be counted on as being a reliable lefty out of the bullpen was Pedro Felicano.  He was somewhat of a risky signing coming into the season because over the last three years he led the majors in appearances.  He suffered a torn capsule in his left shoulder in Spring Training and is now likely out for the season.  Cashman could not predict that this injury was coming and if needed the Yankees can sign another lefty in July.    

    Jones and Chavez offer reliable bats off the bench that the Yankees did not have last season and the team will need the stellar pitching from Colon and Garcia to continue.  Hughes will be out for an extended period of time so if Colon can continue to “turn back the clock” it will surely be an added and necessary bonus.  The bullpen can still be a strength of the team when Soriano lives up to his past performance.

     

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    The Rotation Uncertainties

    Monday, April 25, 2011, 10:08 AM [General]

    There have been three major surprises with the Yankees rotation to this point which I dont think many had expected.  In particular, the names that come to mind are Phil Hughes, Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia.  The first is a glaring negative and the last two are glowing positives.

    Hughes came off a campaign where he won 18 games, struck out 146 batters and recorded a 4.19 ERA.  He was named to the All-Star team but his stats were a lot better before the All-Star break than after.  Hughes also had a forgettable postseason series against the Rangers where he had an 11.42 ERA in two starts.  However, based on his performance the past two seasons (he was 8-3 with a solid 3.03 ERA in 2009), he was named the number three starter, and easily could have been Joe Girardi's number two starter coming into the season.  It seemed like Hughes would be the second most reliable starter for the Yankees this season after the always dependable CC Sebathia, but so far that recipe has not come to fruition.  

    It is hard to figure out why, but he has lost his previous mid nineties velocity on his fastball and in turn all of his effectiveness.  Hughes has been put on the disabled list because of a "dead arm" but the team is really just making up an injury so they can figure out where his struggles are coming from.  Hopefully a start or two at AAA Scranton and some work with new pitching coach Larry Rothschild can help Hughes regain his form 2009-2010.  It seems like whatever Rothschild has said has worked so far because he needs one more successful bullpen session before he makes a minor league start, likely on Thursday.  However, Hughes can't really be judged on his bullpen sessions because he is not facing live hitters in a game situation.  Come Thursday we will officially know how far he has come in turning the corner.  His turn around is critical because I don't think that the Yankees can rely on both their positive surprises, Colon and Garcia, for an extended period of time. 

    The reason it seems like they will not be able to keep up this dominating performance to start the year is because of their recent track record, but if they can it would be an added bonus because then the Yankees would be able to move Ivan Nova to the bullpen or AAA.  Colon has been even more of a surprise than Garcia because he did not even pitch in the majors last season.  He has successfully proven that his dominating winter ball performance was not a fluke.  Garcia recorded 12 wins last season with a 4.64 ERA, last season, with the White Sox so it is not likely this dominance will last for much longer from him.  He was decent last season but it is possible that Rothschild has helped him figure out some of his issues.

    Garcia and and even Colon have both exceeded expectations so far this season.  Garcia has only given up one run in 13 innings pitched and Colon has pitched well in his role coming out of the bullpen as well as starting now in place of Hughes.  Colon has a 3.50 ERA with four times as many strikeouts as walks.  If he can continue that production that will be an added bonus.  I don't have that much confidence in the young and inconsistent Nova, so when Hughes gets figured out it might be a smart decision to have Colon, Garcia and Hughes in the rotation until they can make an upgrade in July.

    Even though the Yankees have started 12-6, and are in first place in the AL East, nobody would have expected Freddy Garcia to be statistically the most dominating pitcher and Phil Hughes to be the one with the most issues to this point.  Hopefully Hughes' velocity issues gets resolved soon so that he can go back to pitching like he did last season.  The Yankees will need him to have a successful season but Colon and Garcia have been pleasant surprises.  

     

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    A weighty issue

    Friday, February 18, 2011, 4:17 PM [General]

    The weight of a player when they report to Spring Training, after an off-season away from the team, should not really be significantly dissected until the player starts to play games against other teams.  However, a sure sign that would prove that a player did not commit himself properly in the off-season would be if they showed up to Spring Training looking like Bartolo Colon.  On the other hand Colon has always pitched on the plus side and had a stellar campaign in 2005, when he won the CY Young.

    One player that has always played with a heavy figure is none other than CC Sebathia. He has proved to be able to excel while having extra weight throughout his career but has wisely cut off some pounds this off-season.  Sebathia trimmed off 25 pounds largely by cutting Cap’n Crunch from his diet, as well as other sugary foods.  This should help him be able to continue to be the durable pitcher that he has been during his stellar career.  He is one pitcher that the Yankees don’t need to worry about when it comes to their weight.

    Newcomers Garcia and Colon are heavy pitchers, weighing in at 250 and 245, respectively.  They should consult David Wells, who is in Spring Training as a special pitching assistant, regarding how to pitch well with extra girth on their body.  Wells was never in the best condition but he was able to throw a perfect game and was a three-time All-Star.  If Garcia can pitch like he did last year, while benefiting from Wells’ knowledge, the Yankees might be able to have a hidden gem at the number five spot in the rotation.

    Another pitcher whose weight has been a subject of some controversy in recent days has been Joba Chamberlain.  He is noticeably heavier than last season but it is reportedly mostly muscle.   It is still unprofessional of Chamberlain to arrive weighing more but the only thing that matters is if he can control his pitches when it matters. Since he will be pitching in the bullpen this might not be a major issue.  This might even help him have the consistent mid to high 90’s velocity that he had during his magical rookie season.

    On the hitting side of the equation, the Yankees also recently signed an outfielder, Andruw Jones who has battled weight issues for much of his baseball career.  Jones is currently listed at 230 pounds but in recent years weighed 250 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  His average since 2007 has never been higher than .230, but he did manage to slug 19 home-runs last season.  Jones is reportedly in better shape than last season, and if he can hit a similar amount of home-runs, stay injury free and play solid defense he will be a solid fourth outfielder. 

    This is a critical Spring Training for Chamberlain because if he can use his increased weight to his advantage he can really be an asset in the seventh inning.  If he can’t do this, he might be sent to the minors and his increased weight will be used as a scapegoat.

    Since Colon has had prolonged weight issues during his career, while not even pitching in the league last season, I don’t see him having much of a role with the team, but Garcia and Chamberlain can certainly be assets to be relied upon.  They could learn a lot from Sebathia and Wells during their time in Tampa.

     

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    The Case for Jesus Montero

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011, 8:09 AM [General]

    Jesus Montero is one of the top catching prospects in baseball, and even though the Yankees have the option of having Francisco Cervelli be the back-up catcher like last year, it would make sense to have Montero on the major league roster.

    He is either their catcher of the future or potential trade bait to get an elite starting pitcher and the Yankees should see what he can do against major league pitching.  Even though he is only 21 years old, I think he is ready to be called up, and learn from Jorge Posada and Russell Martin.  Right now he is rated as the fourth best prospect in all of baseball, after playing 123 games in AAA last season, where he hit .289 with 21 home runs and 89 RBI. Cervelli has shown a knack for being able to handle a pitching staff, but Montero has so much more upside.

    Another reason to call him up to the Show is that Martin has been injury prone and inconsistent, since his all-star campaign in the 2007 season. That season, he hit .293, with 19 home runs, 87 RBI and 21 stolen bases. The speed combined with the power output is highly impressive for a catcher. However, his production suffered dramatically in the 2009 and 2010 seasons.  He only hit .250 in 2009, and then in 2010 he hit a miserable .248 through 97 games, and then in August he tore his labrum in his right hip.  He is reportedly in much better shape now, after going through MMA training in the off-season, but one can only hope that he can continue his production from the 2007/08 seasons.

    The one knock on Montero has been his defense but he has reportedly improved on this aspect of his game. As long as he is adequate behind the plate, it is likely that his offensive numbers will be able to make up for any of his defensive deficiencies. He might be due for a position change in the future, but the Yankees should call him up as the back-up catcher because he is a better insurance policy than Cervelli.

    It makes sense that the Yankees signed Martin to a one-year contract because he has had success in the past, and is a suitable stopgap for Montero since he is not ready to be the everyday catcher out of Spring Training. However, since Martin has not had a productive season since 2008 there is no guarentee that he will bounce back. Having Montero learning from the veterans will be perfect for his development. The sky is the limit for Montero and this is the right time for him to show his skills in the Bronx. The Yankees have another heralded catcher in the minors named Austin Romine and they will be able to use one of the two in a trade to bolster their rotation.

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  • CC Sebathia was able to continue the Yankees starters streak and throw the seventh consecutive quality start in a 12-3 Yankees victory ... more
  • There is no way to tell if a players encouraging or underachieving start to the season will continue or not but so far Brian ... more
  • There have been three major surprises with the Yankees rotation to this point which I dont think many had expected.  In particular, ... more
  • The weight of a player when they report to Spring Training, after an off-season away from the team, should not really be significantly ... more

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