11-26-12 Avery Johnson's Pregame Quotes

    Monday, November 26, 2012, 6:22 PM [General]

    Avery Johnson covered quite a few topics - about the game itself, the Knicks, and many other things - in a nearly 15-minute long pre-game press conference Monday night. Here are a few of his standout quotes from the pre-Knicks presser:

    On the recent lack of CJ Watson and Deron Williams playing together: “I think it’s because of the matchups; sometimes when we’re a bit smaller in the backcourt, we’ve had trouble rebounding the ball, and it’s forced Deron to exert a lot more energy defensively battling some bigger guys. Statistically, it hasn’t really worked as well as we wanted it to, so with everybody healthy, it seems to help us when we’re bigger at the 2. I’m not saying we won’t use (that backcourt) in a situation we like it against, though.”

    On defending Carmelo Anthony: “Carmelo is a 3 who plays some small 4, but with the starting lineup, it’s really Brewer doing a lot of the dirty work and slashing to the basket. That’s kind of the trick; I don’t know how other teams feel, but with their starters, he’s more of a 3. Now, when they go small, with Felton and Kidd or J.R. Smith or Steve Novak, then I think he’s more of a 4, so the key is trying to put pressure on him when he’s on defense, knowing exactly where he is on offense, and trying to give him a lot of different looks.”

    On whether or not playing the Knicks is “more important” than other games: “As important as it is to us…it’s just as important to them, because if we’re the new kids on the block so to speak and try to take over some territorial rights, they’re going to try harder to push back as much as they can. I don’t think it’s so much of a Duke-North Carolina rivalry yet, but I think it’s great.”

    On what he expects from the crowd: “I think in my first two years here, it was basically an 80/20 split for their side (at Prudential Center); I hope that the 80/20 split is on our side tonight (Laughs). Again, I hope the fans in the building will be real proud of our team; even when we’re not playing well, my assistants tell me that the crowd is still really into the game. I assume we’ll hear the “Brooklyn” chant a little bit more tonight, from start to finish, but it means a lot to our guys and I think it will be interesting to see what happens, both tonight and when we play again.”

    On whether they can take any "moral victories" away from tonight: "This year, it’s never really good to lose a game. At some point, we want to be a contender and a playoff team with an opportunity to win a championship, so for us, it’s never really good to lose; we’re not into moral victories. We want to protect our home court, I think that’s important, so again for us, we want to try to come out and play well and minimize our mistakes. Our players know what it takes to win, they have a defensive rating that’s kind of our bible, and there’s a certain way we like to play offensively. We know on our team who our scorers are and where they like to get the ball, and we know how to attack defenses.”

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    11-26-12 Nets vs. Knicks Pregame Notes

    Monday, November 26, 2012, 5:05 PM [General]

    More than three weeks after originally scheduled, the Nets and Knicks will meet for the first time this season when the orange and blue invade Barclays Center tonight. The game will be broadcast nationally, and the country will get a matchup that (perhaps somewhat surprisingly) features the two teams at the top of the Atlantic Division.

    The Knicks come in as the division leaders, sporting a 9-3 record after Sunday’s win, while the Nets are just a game behind at 8-4 after topping Portland last night. That win gave Brooklyn a 7-1 record at Barclays Center this year, and pushing that to 8-1 will give them a share of the division lead before they head out on a three-game road trip tomorrow.

    One of the key matchups in the game will be at center, as Brook Lopez and Tyson Chandler clash for the first time as intra-city rivals. Lopez has been a focal point of the Nets’ offense this season, averaging 15.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game so far, but he’s got perhaps his toughest matchup of the season tonight against the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year.

    It will be up to Lopez to set the tone early; he is averaging 7.9 points (on 68.8 percent shooting) in the first quarter this year and the Nets are 4-1 when he scores double digits in the first 12 minutes,

    Another matchup to watch will be that of Carmelo Anthony against Kris Humphries and possibly Reggie Evans. Anthony, who has been starting at the four in the absence of Amar’e Stoudemire, is currently third in the league in scoring, but as Nets beat writer Tim Bontemps of the New York Post noted in his blog earlier today, Anthony has a common thread in all three Knicks losses: foul trouble.

    Humphries (and Lopez) did a good job of contesting his drives during their preseason game at Nassau Coliseum, and will hope to do so again tonight. In addition, Reggie Evans can also be an important factor in Operation Shutdown; Evans is averaging 8.0 rebounds per game, had a season-high 14 boards Sunday vs. Portland, and is averaging a league-high 20.8 per 48 minutes, so he will command a presence down low and, if and when paired with Lopez, can allow Lopez to be a little more committed to Anthony defensively.

    Other notes of interest:

    -Tornike Shengelia (sprained thumb) is inactive tonight, and it is likely that for the third straight game, Mirza Teletovic will join him on the sidelines as the Nets’ healthy scratch. Avery Johnson said prior to Friday’s game that with Gerald Wallace back in his regular routine, Teletovic would likely miss a lot of the upcoming contests, as they were playing a lot of teams who like to run small lineups, the Knicks included.

    -Brooklyn has held its opponents to 15 points or less in the fourth quarter and 35 or less in the second half in two straight games, but the Knicks are coming off a 121-100 win over Detroit that saw them hit 35 in the final 12 minutes alone…so something will have to give.

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    11-23-12 Nets vs. Clippers Pre-Game Notes

    Friday, November 23, 2012, 5:43 PM [General]

    The Nets are back in Brooklyn, returning tonight from a 1-2 West Coast swing to take on the 8-3 Los Angeles Clippers at Barclays Center.

    As it will be every time these two teams play in the near future, a big pre-game focus is the battle between point guards Deron Williams and Chris Paul. Drafted third and fourth respectively in the 2005 NBA Draft, D-Will vs. CP3 is a matchup that Nets coach Avery Johnson has said he would “pay to see.”

    However, another thing that should be a big focus for Johnson is the Clippers’ bench, as STAPLES Center’s junior tenant is one of the deepest teams in the league; both of their top backcourt bench options, Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe, average double-digit points per game, and L.A. also has a strong reserve front line with Lamar Odom and Matt Barnes on the wing and Ronny Turiaf and Ryan Hollins providing a presence in the paint. Brooklyn’s second unit is outscoring its opponents’ benches by nearly 10 points per game this season (and held the Lakers’ reserves to just 10 points on Tuesday), but the Clippers reserves will be perhaps the biggest test so far for the “Bench Mob.”

    “This is a very deep basketball team,” Avery Johnson said of the Clippers in his pre-game press conference. “Their starting lineup is good, but you add a guy who could right now be the sixth man of the year in Jamal Crawford, the way he’s playing off the bench … Ryan Hollins is a good energy guy, and if Caron Butler starts, then Barnes comes off the bench and he’s a quality pro … I think they’ve added a lot of the right pieces, and they’ve done a really nice job with their roster.”

    Brooklyn will have Gerald Wallace, who sat out the final game of the West Coast swing to rest his still-sore ankle back in the starting lineup, and Jerry Stackhouse, who flourished in the rotation in Wallace’s absence but also had Wednesday off to rest, active again tonight, with rookies Tornike Shengelia and Mirza Teletovic inactive.

    “As we planned it, Stackhouse was supposed that mostly inactive guy, player/coach…but he’s been giving us some quality minutes, so we’ve tinkered a little bit with the inactive list,” Johnson said. “We talked about it as a staff, and we like Gerald at the four sometimes against smaller lineups, so we feel like (activating Stackhouse over Teletovic) made the most sense.”

    Wallace starts at the 3 of course, but he likely won’t know who he’s matched up against until tip-off; Clippers starting small forward Caron Butler (strained right shoulder) is still a game-time decision according to coach Vinny Del Negro, and if the UConn product can’t go, he’ll once again be replaced in the starting lineup by Barnes.

    Other statistical notes of interest for tonight’s game:

    -The Nets are 4-1 at Barclays Center this season and are averaging just over 100 points per game at home. They’re also 4-1 in their last five against the Clippers and have been victorious against them each of the last four times they’ve scored 100 points or more – all numbers that bode well, at least on paper, for a strong performance tonight.

    -There is a lot of familiarity with the two teams, both here and elsewhere. Reggie Evans played for the Clippers in 2012, Josh Childress and injured Clipper Grant Hill both played for Phoenix the last two seasons, and the two coaches, Avery Johnson and Vinny Del Negro, were teammates in San Antonio for six seasons in the 1990s.

    Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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    11-15-12 Nets vs. Celtics Pre-Game Notes

    Thursday, November 15, 2012, 7:02 PM [General]

    The Brooklyn Nets make their exclusive national television debut tonight as they take on the Boston Celtics, and in addition to being the Barclays Center’s first national look, it will be significant for the announce team as well – specifically for Marv Albert, the Brooklyn-born former Nets on YES play-by-play announcer who will be doing basketball in his home borough for the first time tonight. He will be alongside current Nets on YES analyst Mike Fratello, and you can read more about his homecoming here courtesy of TheBrooklynGame.com.

    Come tip-off, if the Nets are to snap their three-game losing skid against the Celtics, they will have to do it without the services of Gerald Wallace, who will miss his sixth straight game with a sprained ankle – a status that “Crash” himself spilled during a charity appearance on Wednesday.

    "I'm not playing tomorrow," Wallace told the media at a charity event Wednesday in Manhattan. "I'm basically day to day. I'm just doing what they tell me. I'll be re-evaluated in the morning and then we'll go from there."

    Coach Avery Johnson noted that missing Wallace tonight against Boston’s Paul Pierce, who is averaging nearly 20 points per game this season, may hurt more than it has of late, but he is confident in those tasked with picking up Wallace’s slack.

    “No matter who he’s playing, Paul Pierce is a handful … having Gerald out obviously puts us in a bind, but no excuses,” Johnson said. “We’ve talked about our team being deeper than it has ever been, so now is the time to step up. Bogans has been providing defensive stability for us, and it’s given us a chance to really look at Josh Childress and give him minutes.”

    As for MarShon Brooks, who has missed the last three games with a sprained ankle of his own, he was a game-time decision earlier in the day, and coach Avery Johnson said about 90 minutes before tipoff that he was active and shouldn’t have any limitations.

    “MarShon is active, and Toko (Tornike Shengelia) is inactive,” Johnson said. “We’ll see how it goes (minutes-wise), you’ll basically see the same rotations you’ve seen over the last couple games, and if I need to go to MarShon tonight, we’ll go to him tonight; we’ll play it by ear.”

    Brooks has a bit of history with Boston, as he was actually drafted by the Celtics with the No. 25 pick in 2011 before being traded to the Nets, and he made first career start against Boston as well.  

    Joe Johnson was also a draftee of the Celtics back in 2001 (going No. 10 overall before being traded to Phoenix midway through his rookie year) and Avery Johnson was teammates with Boston head coach Doc Rivers for two years with the Spurs (1994-96), so there is quite a bit of familiarity all around, and Avery spoke extensively in his pre-game press conference about the Celtics’ culture, notably how they have been the Atlantic Division’s standard of excellence of late and the things he takes from preparing to play them.

    “Doc (Rivers) has done a really good job with this team, and I think the way Kevin Garnett communicates defensively is outstanding, so I bring his name up a lot when talking with our big guys,” Rivers said. “I think you can take bits and pieces from what successful programs have done. I tried to take a lot of what I saw in San Antonio when I went to Dallas, and now here; that’s what successful organizations do, and I’m sure (Nets GM) Billy (King) does that too.”

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    Blue Jays = Instant Contenders?

    Wednesday, November 14, 2012, 2:55 PM [General]

    In the wake of the pending mega-trade between the Marlins and Blue Jays, more of the analysis seems to be focusing on the negativity on the Miami side than on exactly what the Jays have done: make themselves into, on paper, an instant contender.

    Games aren’t played on paper, of course, but assuming the trade is completed/approved, than solely based on their currently contracted or controlled roster, the 2013 Blue Jays could look like this:

    LINEUP: SS Jose Reyes, 3B Brett Lawrie, RF Jose Bautista, 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion, DH/1B Adam Lind, LF/CF Colby Rasmus, C John Buck or JP Arencibia, 2B Maicer Izturis, CF/LF Rajai Davis

    BENCH: UTIL Emilio Bonifacio, C Buck/Arencibia, INF Mike McCoy, OF Anthony Gose or Moises Sierra

    ROTATION: RHP Josh Johnson, LHP Mark Buehrle, LHP Ricky Romero, RHP Brandon Morrow, LHP JA Happ

    BULLPEN: RHP Sergio Santos, RHP Casey Janssen, RHP Esmil Rogers, RHP Steve Delabar, LHP Darren Oliver, LHP Luis Perez, seventh from one of many under contract

    That’s not a bad collection of talent, and that’s not counting any more potential moves – and barring them pulling a surprise and going after one of the top outfielders (Hamilton, Bourn, Upton) or a marquee pitcher, there are a lot of small moves that they could make to bolster their squad.

    In the rotation, the Jays could choose to find a veteran fifth starter-type on a one (or even two) year deal to compete with Happ and/or serve as a fallback if Johnson gets hurt, Romero falters, etc. – a move that would also allow them to forget about trying to perhaps rush Dustin McGowan, Kyle Drabek, or Drew Hutchison back from their injuries at any point in 2013.

    In the bullpen, they could try to re-sign late-inning arms Jason Frasor or Brandon Lyon, look to bring back swingmen Carlos Villanueva and Aaron Laffey (which could serve the above as well) or find a veteran option (perhaps one with closing experience, like Kyle Farnsworth or even Juan Carlos Oviedo) who can be a fallback if Santos/Janssen struggle.

    In the lineup, the flexibility offered by Bonifacio, Izturis, and to a lesser extent the Encarncion/Lawrie/Bautista trio means they could eschew looking for a more traditional fourth outfielder or utility guy, instead looking for an Andruw Jones or Eric Chavez-type player (perhaps lefty-killer Scott Hairston to quasi-platoon with Rasmus) to exploit their splits.

    And, to top it all off, the Jays have Gose and/or Sierra and two other top prospects in catcher Travis d’Arnaud and first baseman Mike McDade to stash in Triple-A, so if any of them has a solid season, they could be traded (or could allow others blocking them to be traded) to fill a hole.

    All in all, the point is this: again, they don’t play games on paper, but in a division where the Red Sox are rebuilding, the Yankees face a ton of tough decisions on the eventual road to their $189 million goal, the Rays are faced with losing some key contributors, and the Orioles now have expectations, the Jays already look like they could make some noise in 2013.

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    11-5-12 Nets vs. Timberwolves Pre-Game Notes

    Monday, November 5, 2012, 8:27 PM [General]

    Two nights after finally opening their season with a 107-100 win over Toronto, the Brooklyn Nets look to put a second notch in the left column against the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight.

    Brooklyn will be without starting small forward Gerald Wallace, who coach Avery Johnson said is day-to-day after spraining his left ankle during Saturday’s game.

    “We’ll continue to treat him (Wallace) and see how he feels; probably keep him in the back during the game, ice him and treat him, and see where he is when we get on this road trip,” Johnson said before the game. He’s still a little bit battered, not good enough to play in the game, but he’ll be on the road trip.”

    Brooklyn will also be without forward Josh Childress, who will miss his second straight game with the sprained left ankle he tweaked during the Oct. 24 exhibition finale – but Minnesota is missing arguably its two top players, forward Kevin Love and point guard Ricky Rubio, and as the Wolves are also coming off a 104-85 loss in Toronto last night, Johnson wants the team to get off to a fast start.

    Keith Bogans, who played less than a minute on Saturday night, will start in place of Wallace, and Johnson said that the decision was part matchup and part Bogans knowing his strengths.

    “There are a couple of different ways we could have gone tonight,” Johnson said, “but we decided on Bogans, and we’ll see what kind of energy he can give us defensively early on. And, hopefully, if he’s open in the corner for some of his backside threes, he’ll make them.”

    Brook Lopez will also be a key according to Johnson, as he’ll be starting opposite Nikola Pecovic, a player he has never faced before.

    “(Pecovic) is big and strong and physical, so it will be a big matchup for Brook,” Johnson said. “It’s a team game, but you still have to win your individual matchups, so we’ll see how Brook responds. Blatche too, as they’re a two-headed center combo and we think we can have an advantage there.”

    The crowd may also become a factor tonight, as Johnson said that the fans were a big advantage on Saturday and the team admitted they fed a lot off the fans’ energy in the opener.

    “The great thing about our building is that when the fans start to chant ‘Brooklyn’ or ‘Defense,’ they do it on their own,” the coach said, “and when the fans are really crazy about their team, that’s when you start to move in the right direction. I hear it coming down the elevator, from the fans, the parking guys, everyone … everybody wants to talk basketball and is out there with their Nets gear on, and the excitement level is high.”

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    Nets-Knicks pre game notes

    Wednesday, October 24, 2012, 8:22 PM [General]

    The Nets and Knicks will “do it for real” on Nov. 1, but tonight, the two teams meet at Nassau Coliseum in the final preseason game for Brooklyn’s finest.

    The Nets will have their regular starting five of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, and Brook Lopez on the floor at tipoff, but the Knicks will be a little depleted. They knew they would be without big men Amare Stoudemire (ruptured knee cyst) and Marcus Camby (left calf strain) tonight, but they will also be missing Rasheed Wallace (conditioning) and swingman J.R. Smith (Achilles) as well.

    With the roster of forwards depleted, head coach Mike Woodson said he would wait until seeing the Nets’ starting lineup to decide if Carmelo Anthony would start at small forward or power forward. After seeing Brooklyn’s starting five, Anthony has been slotted in at the three, with Kurt Thomas starting in Stoudemire’s spot at the four.

    Other pre-game items of interest:

    - Brook Lopez has been the Nets’ leading scorer in four of the team’s five preseason games so far, and although he’s matched up against one of the NBA’s elite defenders in Tyson Chandler, that lack of depth up front could lead to Lopez having another big night.

    - Avery Johnson said that the likelihood of the Knicks using a lot of small lineups tonight would be a good test for his team, as he wants to see how the defense reacts in transition.

    “This is a team that likes to stop at the 3-point line and shoot threes,” he said, “and that’s a big weapon that they utilize. They haven’t changed much in that area in the last couple years; they still like to play small lineups and spread the floor out, so we have to get back in transition, and sometimes, when we’re a little bit bigger in the frontcourt, that can be an issue for us.”

    - Johnson also played down the Nets-Knicks rivalry a little bit in terms of how the crowd would react tonight; while this is technically a Nets home game, in the building the Nets called home in the 1970s, much of the arena was clad in Knicks gear.

    “We’re not even playing in either of our buildings, so I can’t really speak to that,” Johnson said. “I know we have history here, and the irony of it all is that we’re here given what’s going on with the Islanders (announcing a move to Brooklyn). But I’m more worried about when we play the Knicks in the regular season at the Barclays Center and at The Garden.”

    - Finally, the coach shared a light-hearted moment with a couple of Knicks during his pre-game press conference. As Johnson was talking to the media outside the Nets’ locker room, Chandler and Wallace walked through the hallway. Wallace locked eyes briefly with Johnson and gave him a salute, at which point both men laughed and the coach joked that “I don’t think he’s ever not on.”

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    Hiroki Kuroda By the Numbers

    Wednesday, October 10, 2012, 12:21 PM [General]

    Hiroki Kuroda makes his first postseason start for the Yankees tonight, and Joe Auriemma has a breakdown of the ALDS Game 3 pitching matchup between the veteran Kuroda and Orioles rookie Miguel Gonzalez.

    Here, however, is a mini-By The Numbers breakdown of what Kuroda has done in the past, present, and possibly future:

    11-6, 2.72: Kuroda’s record and ERA in 19 starts at Yankee Stadium this season. His first start in the Bronx, the Yankees’ home opener on April 13, saw him throw eight shutout innings against the Angels, and his last (against Boston last Wednesday) helped the Yankees win the AL East crown.

    .219: Opponents are hitting just .219 against Kuroda in Yankee Stadium, which is notorious for being a hitters’ park – and a key factor in that number is that Kuroda has struck out 101 batters in 132 1/3 innings pitched in the Bronx.

    1-1, 2.94: Kuroda is 1-1 with a 2.94 ERA in two starts against the Orioles this season, both of which came at Yankee Stadium. On April 30, he allowed one run on seven innings of the Yankees’ 2-1 win, and on August 31, he allowed four earned over 8.1 IP in the Bombers’ 6-1 loss – a game won by his ALDS Game 3 opponent, Miguel Gonzalez.

    2-1, 5.27: This is Kuroda’s first AL playoff start, but he was 2-1 with a 5.27 ERA in three postseason starts for the Dodgers in 2009 and 2010. He beat the Cubs (6.1 IP, 0 R, 6 H, 2 BB, 4 K) and Phillies (6 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 3K) in the 2009 NLDS and NLCS respectively, but was roughed up by Philadelphia (6 ER in 1.1 IP) in his lone NLDS start in 2010.

    17 2/3: Kuroda has been a workhorse for the Yankees this season, throwing a Major League career-high 219 2/3 innings in 2012. His previous high of 202 came last season with the Dodgers, meaning that he is already 17 2/3 innings into uncharted territory – and every out he gets this postseason will extend that mark.

    Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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    2012 Playoffs Start with a Bang

    Monday, October 8, 2012, 11:59 AM [General]

    As we enter this Columbus Day, a wild and wacky first weekend of postseason baseball began with a controversy and ended with a rain delay forcing the Yankees and Orioles to wait almost three hours to get their series started.

    Eight games into the playoffs, two “series” are in the books and four more are underway, two of which could end as early as Tuesday…so before we get bounced, here’s your holiday six-pack of factoids, observations, and things you may not have known about this year’s postseason so far:

    -Home field advantage is overrated. A lot of people in a lot of positions have griped about how the lower-seeded teams are playing the first two Division Series games at home; well, six games into the Divisional round, those teams are 2-4, with the only two wins coming courtesy of the AL Central champion Detroit Tigers. If you add in the fact that the No. 5 seed won both Wild Card Playoffs, the home team is 2-6 so far in the postseason.

    -Jim Thome is a bookend. Game 1 of the Yanks/O’s ALDS was the first postseason game played at Camden Yards since Game 7 of the 1997 ALCS, which Cleveland won to advance to the World Series for the second time in three years. That day, Jim Thome, then all of 27 years old, was the Indians’ first baseman; on Sunday night, the now 42-year-old DH was on Baltimore’s bench as an Orioles reserve – and is still waiting for his third trip to the Fall Classic.

    -Bronson Arroyo knows “better late than never.” Prior to Sunday night, Bronson Arroyo had made 11 postseason appearances (10 with the Red Sox from 2003-05 and one with the Reds in 2010), but had never recorded a decision. His seven shutout innings against San Francisco on Sunday earned him his first, and in getting that win he outdueled the duo of Madison Bumgarner – who was 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA for the Giants in the 2010 postseason – and Tim Lincecum (4-1, 2.43 in 2010).

    -Ryan Mattheus is Superman. You may not know the name of said Nationals reliever, but he accomplished the semi-rare feat of recording more outs than pitches thrown on Sunday. With Washington down 2-1, Mattheus entered Game 1 of the Nats/Cardinals NLDS in the bottom of the seventh to relieve Craig Stammen, who had loaded the bases with no outs, and subsequently retired the side on two pitches; his first got Allen Craig to ground into a fielder’s choice that forced Jon Jay at the plate, and his second got Yadier Molina to rap into a 6-4-3 double play. To top it off, because Washington scored two runs in the top of the eighth, Mattheus ended up getting the win for that effort.

    -Miguel Cabrera leads the postseason in RNBI. That acronym stands for “runs not batted in,” and Miggy has three of them; his first-inning double play in Game 1 “didn’t drive in” Austin Jackson to give Detroit a 1-0 lead, and the other two “RNBI” came when Jackson and Omar Infante scored on Coco Crisp’s error in the seventh inning of Game 2. Secondary fun fact: over their first two ALDS games, only one of Detroit’s eight runs has been scored on an actual hit – Alex Avila’s solo homer in Game 1.  

    -One and done is a trend. Atlanta may have gotten hosed on the now-infamous “outfield fly” call, but their loss in the NL Wild Card Playoff kept one trend alive: since getting swept by the Yankees in the 1999 World Series, the Braves are 1-8 in playoff “series.” Meanwhile, in the AL, the Rangers’ Wild Card loss dropped them to 1-7 all-time in playoff elimination games, with their only win coming in the 2010 ALDS – where they beat Tampa Bay in Game 5 to avoid blowing a 2-0 series advantage.

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    Yankees' Possible Playoff Fates

    Wednesday, October 3, 2012, 11:18 AM [General]

    Elsewhere in the YESNetwork.com blogosphere, Jon Lane has a graphical breakdown of the Yankees’ postseason scenarios.

    No matter what the Yankees do, the results of today’s Texas-Oakland and Baltimore-Tampa Bay games could (and will) heavily influence what the team does when they wake up Thursday morning. The winner of the former game will be the AL West Champion with the loser taking one of two wild card spots, and as that game begins at 3:35 ET, the Bombers could know part of their potential fate by the time they take the field tonight.

    Record-wise, the Yankees currently stand at 94-67 with Oakland, Texas, and Baltimore all at 93-68, and in terms of inter-division tiebreakers, Oakland has it on both NYY/BAL, Texas has it on Baltimore, and the Yankees have it on Texas. So, to piggyback on that graphic, here is how the postseason will shake out under all five possible scenarios for the Yankees:

    -They win the AL East, clinch the No. 1 seed in the AL, and will play the winner of the Wild Card Playoff between the Orioles and the TEX/OAK loser. That ALDS would begin on Sunday, and would begin on the road in Baltimore, Arlington, or Oakland.

    -IF BAL/OAK WIN: Oakland is the AL West Champion and the Yankees and Orioles tie for the AL East, so the Yankees would go to Baltimore for a one-game playoff on Thursday for the AL East title. If they win, they are the No. 2 seed and would start the ALDS on Saturday in Detroit; if they lose, they are the No. 4 seed and host Texas in the Wild Card Playoff on Friday, with the winner of that game beginning the ALDS at home against Oakland on Sunday.

    -IF BAL/TEX WIN: Texas is the AL West Champion and the one-game AL East playoff happens in Baltimore on Thursday. A win in that game would then mean the Yankees are the No. 1 seed and would play the winner of the Oakland/Baltimore Wild Card Playoff in the ALDS; a loss means they would host Oakland for the Wild Card Playoff, then would start the ALDS at Texas on Sunday if they win.

    -IF TB/OAK WIN: Yankees win the AL East and finish as the No. 2 seed, and will begin the ALDS at Detroit Saturday. Texas would host Baltimore in the Wild Card Playoff, and that winner plays No. 1 seed Oakland in the ALDS.

    -IF TB/TEX WIN: Yankees win the AL East and finish as the No. 1 seed, and will begin the ALDS on the road on Sunday. Oakland would host Baltimore in Friday’s Wild Card Playoff, and the ALDS matchups are Yankees vs. BAL/OAK winner and Texas vs. Detroit.  

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    Playoff Possibilities and Rotation Realignments?

    Monday, October 1, 2012, 12:49 PM [General]

    The Yankees are in the playoffs, but with three days to go, the Yankees could still land anywhere from No. 1-seeded AL East Champion to No. 5 seed headed West to Oakland for a virtual play-in game. They could begin postseason play on Saturday or be eliminated by then, or even have Saturday be their first day off in almost three weeks.

    The Yankees are still alive for the No. 1 seed, and hold the tiebreaker with Texas (by virtue of winning the season series 4-3) for that honor; however, they would lose the tiebreaker with Baltimore (for the right to host a one-game playoff for the AL East crown) and Oakland (for the right to host the Wild Card Game) if they finish as the No. 2 or 4/5 seed.

    Amazing how clinching a playoff berth was the “easy” part so far, no? It would take up way too much space to attempt to play out all the possibilities, but here’s the quick and dirty for both scenarios and seeds:

    -If the Yankees finish Wednesday tied with Baltimore, the Orioles would host a one-game division playoff on Thursday; in that game, the winner takes the AL East, while the loser faces Oakland or Tampa Bay (almost likely the former) in the Wild Card Game, with locale based on records and Oakland holding the only possible tiebreaker over the Yankees.

    -If the Yankees win the AL East as the No. 1 seed, they will play the winner of the Wild Card Game between Baltimore and OAK/TB starting Sunday, with Games 1 and 2 on the road.

    -If the Yankees win the AL East as the No. 2 seed, they will play the AL Central winner (likely Detroit, who is three up on Chicago with three to play) starting Saturday, with Games 1 and 2 on the road.

    -If the Yankees are the Wild Card, they will play the A’s or Rays on Friday in the Wild Card playoff, and a win there would send them on to play the No. 1 seed (either Texas or Baltimore) beginning Sunday with Games 1 and 2 at Yankee Stadium.

    That’s all subject to change almost by the minute as the week plays on, but one thing that isn’t subject to change is that as of now, the Yankees face some tough rotation decisions. CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, and Hiroki Kuroda are the scheduled to start the final three games of the season, and while CC is a sure thing, beyond that is almost anyone’s guess.

    Nova has struggled in the second half, and media speculation has already kicked in about whether his start on Tuesday could go to David Phelps or someone else, especially if the Yankees lose tonight and find themselves in second place and facing a “win or wild card” possibility. Meanwhile, if the opposite rings true and the Yankees clinch the AL East on Tuesday night, then Joe Girardi could opt to do what he did last season – have the bullpen pitch the entire season finale – and hold back Kuroda, who has already pitched a career-high 212.2 innings and would surely benefit from an extra few days’ rest.  

    Beyond that, there is the possibility of the Yankees having to play Thursday, Friday, or both, scenarios that would require Girardi to test the ideal that Wild Cards might have to burn their ace early and be put at a “disadvantage” in the ALDS.

    If the season continued, it would be Andy Pettitte (Thursday) and Phil Hughes (Friday) on schedule to pitch. Pettitte would surely go in the first game the Yankees have to play beyond Wednesday, but if he has to go Thursday and loses, will Hughes go Friday? He also has had an up-and-down season, and facing an ALDS schedule of Sun./Mon./Weds./Thurs./Fri., there is the possibility Girardi could ask CC Sabathia to pitch on three days’ rest to get the Yankees to an ALDS where then a Kuroda-???-Sabathia-???-Kuroda rotation would likely shake out with Pettitte filling one of those blanks.

    It’s up to Girardi which buttons he presses, and as of now all the Yankees can do is try to take care of their own business and hope Tampa Bay and/or Texas can help them out if they can’t. But no matter the results, one thing is for sure: the next 72 hours are going to be bumpy ones.

    Strap in and enjoy!

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    Six observations with six to play

    Friday, September 28, 2012, 12:37 PM [General]

    We’re now in the final week of the 2012 season, which is hard to believe because it seems like just yesterday that the Yankees opened Yankee Stadium on a balmy April Friday, But, alas, there are just three road and three home dates left for the Yankees, and with six days to go, there are still four divisions and six playoff spots to be locked up…and a lot of other things going on that might make you say hmm over the final week.

    Six observations for you to watch over the last six days:

    -Looking at the playoff picture, there’s a bizarre symmetry. In the AL, the three 2011 division winners (Yankees, Rangers, Tigers) all lead their divisions with six days left, and the Rays are once again making a late surge out of a seemingly hopeless hole…but in the NL, none of the three 2011 division winners will repeat, and the only “holdover” at the moment is St. Louis – who would be eliminated if not for the second wild card and still has to hold off late surges from Milwaukee or the Dodgers.

    -Derek Jeter still has a chance to set a new career high in hits (he needs 11 to tie and 12 to break his mark of 219 in 1999), is four runs shy of his 14th 100-run season, and his 15 homers is one shy of what he hit in 2010 and 2011 combined. He likely won’t pass anyone else on the hits list this year, but there’s still a lot of fun to chase for The Captain in the final six.

    -Ichiro has played 156 games this season, and if he doesn’t take a day off the rest of the way, he will finish with 162 games played for the fourth time in his career. Sure, 11 of the 61 games he’s played in New York so far have been games where he came in as a pinch-hitter or defensive replacement, but as you can ask Cal Ripken, the record books don’t count that. Technically, because the Yankees had played less games than the Mariners when he was traded, Ichiro could have played in 164 games this year…and given that he’s played 156 or more in 11 of his 12 MLB seasons now, that really doesn’t even look weird.

    -The record for strikeouts in a season is 223 (Mark Reynolds, 2009), and the record for combined strikeouts by a pair is 410 (Reynolds and Adam Dunn in 2010). As of Friday, the duo of Dunn (212) and Curtis Granderson (189) has 401 with each having six games left to play, meaning both “records” are within reach. Fun strikeout fact: Bobby Bonds set a Major League record in 1969 by whiffing 187 times. He broke that record by fanning 189 times in 1970, and that mark stood until Adam Dunn struck out 195 times in 2004. Today, the former total is 16th all-time, and Granderson’s next K will push the latter to 14th. Who says this is the live ball era?

    -Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown chase has been in the headlines for a couple weeks now, and as of Friday morning, he leads the AL in both batting and RBI and is just one home run behind Josh Hamilton. But has anyone noticed that Ryan Braun is right there with him? Braun leads the NL in homers (41) and RBI (110), and while he is .014 behind Buster Posey in batting average (.333 to .319), that’s certainly not insurmountable. His numbers will end up better than those of his 2011 MVP season, and if Milwaukee surges into the playoffs somehow, don’t be surprised if he ends up as the MVP again.

    -Speaking of NL MVP, Braun’s potential aside, could there be a more wide-open race? Of the four major MLB awards, probably seven of the eight races are likely between two or three men tops, but NL MVP could be anyone. The frontrunners are Braun and Posey, whose .333-23-100 line paces the Giants in all three categories by a wide margin, but you have Andrew McCutchen ( .332-30-93, 19 SB), a couple of Cardinals, maybe a Jay Bruce or Ryan Zimmerman type right behind…oh, and although most don’t like to vote for pitchers, you have Craig Kimbrel putting up ridiculous video game numbers in Atlanta and R.A. Dickey with 28 percent of the Mets’ wins and numbers that have him at or near the top of every major pitching category. I’d love to see all the ballots for that one.

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