Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Yankees and Pineda should have been much smarter about using pine tar or whatever substance Pineda wanted to use.  Even the coach of Boston said before the game I would hope he is more discreet about it.  After what happened last time with the same team, it was just stupid to do what they did.  The announcers (which I normally don't normally hear too much of the way I watch) were spot on in their comments.  It makes sense to have a legal substance for all pitchers to have grip.  They have a rosin bag for a reason when it is hot, so why not something that helps when it is cold?  Most pitchers do something in the cold to help with grip, but Pineda and the Yankees were just thumbing their noses at the rules and doing so against the same team they just had an issue with...

As for the game, I was disappointed that Lackey looked very good.  His slider was very good as usual, but he had great run on his fastball and was spotting pitches well.  Pineda was not as bad as it looked but credit Boston hitters for good AB's.  After Pineda started out throwing a consistent 93 in his early starts he has been consistently at 91 of late but getting it up there at 93 when he wanted a little more.  He has good movement though and his off speed pitches move as well.  I would like his changeup a little slower, but I like the way the Yankee pitchers are taking something off their fastballs at times and then bringing it harder when needed.  Tanaka did a great job of that the other night having a range of 91-95 on his fastball and it looked to me that there was a great plan of when to mix it up.  Of course, his breaking ball and fork ball were excellent and I was thrilled to see that.  I thought he was the great the other night!

Nova probably getting Tommy John surgery is a big blow; it is amazing how a guy is throwing and then shakes his arm and the next thing you know he needs Tommy John surgery. I shake my arm like that after every throw when I play softball...

A few other comments:

Jeter's defense has really been ugly.  He hurt Nova by messing up a fairly easy play up the middle on a ball that did have a lot of spin but he should have fielded the ball very close to the last hop to avoid the spin. In fact, on that play his first step was toward 3rd which made it even worse.   Then later on a routine grounder he threw it in the dirt and Tex couldn't scoop it.  Tex has played very poorly in the field this year as well.  In fact the Yankee defense has been pretty poor.  Even Gardner struggled yesterday in RF, but that does take some getting used to as the spin goes the opposite way and Gardner misjudged the ball down the line; even if he was afraid of the wall; he should have gone full speed and slid.

A bunch of nights ago, Ichiro was thrown out stealing on a play he beat the throw but ended up being tagged out because he has to have the worst slide of any very good base stealer in the history of the game.  He literally digs his front foot into the ground and it slows him up a lot, let alone the possible injury risk if he digs in too hard.  Next time you watch him steal, you will see a player that slows himself up sliding more than any player I have ever seen.  It is amazing he has stolen 473 bases with a success rate of 82%; if he knew how to slide I bet it would be closer to 90%.  That being said, he has played far better than we could have hoped so far and I hope he keeps it up (I doubt it though).  The crazy thing is he is hitting lefties at a .915 OPS and righties at .722.

McCann has started to go the other way with some power and that is very good to see.  I like that he is adjusting to the shift...take note Mark Teixeira!  I hate that mark says that he would not consider laying down a bunt or going away from his strength; I think it is absurd.  It doesn't mean he should change his entire approach, but what it means is if you get a fastball out over the plate or you wait on an outside breaking pitch you can serve it into LF and take a hit.  or lay a bunt down once in awhile and take the easy base?  The fact Tex has 1 extra base hit and has a pathetic .555 OPS makes you wonder why he is being so stubborn?  He will hit better regardless if he listens to me, but why not maximize your chances?

Kelly Johnson has done a nice job at the plate for us getting some power and being able to hit both ways so far (a little better against righties).

I am not sure how much longer we will keep the Brian Roberts experiment going?  He should not be playing against righties as I thought he was going to platoon with Johnson when we got him...that probably should still happen.  Of course, that is assuming Solarte can keep it up.  I can't get a good read on Solarte because he is such a free swinger.  Usually, that will lead to lower OPS based on not walking and getting himself out too much, but he has shown a good ability to make contact.  He appears to be much better from the left side of the plate than the right as his swing is quicker to the ball.  I just looked up his numbers and Solarte has an OPS of 1.076 against righties and .577 against lefties; I didn't realize there was such a large discrepancy, but I do like his swing and approach from the left side a lot more.

Scott Sizemore will probably platoon against lefties as he looks good so far.  I think he has had some tough AB's, meaning the pitchers have made good pitches against him and so far in only 8 AB's against lefties he has 4 hits (2 doubles).

Let's get this last game against Boston!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Before I get into last night's game and then a more thorough view of the team to date, I was looking through this site and down the right side of the page.  I was looking at my archive of posts and noticed that if I were a ball player the trend would be that peaked in 2010.  My posts started low in 08 and then increased to 29 in 09 until my peak of 2010 where I had 156 and then down hill to 111, 91 and only 40 last year. The way this year started and I am in the process of moving (only around the corner), I may need to work to get to 40...hopefully I can have a bounce back year!

Last night's game (Sunday):  Nuno did a nice job stepping in and mixing things up and seemed more comfortable starting than in relief where he might not "pitch" as much as throw strikes.  His stuff is not great, but yesterday he did the job for us.  In a 1-0 game I was surprised Girardi took Phelps out after only 1.1 innings and he had just struck out Myers to lead off the inning?   He wanted Thornton to face a lefty (Loney),  but when your starter is out after 5 you need to get some length out of someone who is looking decent.  Unless it is a key situation you should not be matching up so much in a tight game with 8 more outs to go; because it could be a lot more outs and in this case it was as it went into extra innings.

Speaking the obvious, our defense in the infield is pretty bad.  The one guy you expected to be your best, Tex, has been bad with 3 errors in limited time.  Even Dean Anna, who has been very good defensively blew one yesterday.  Roberts, who has been awful at the plate and weak defensively, had a poor call error against him as he clearly caught the ball on the attempted DP and then moved the ball toward his throwing hand and lost the ball in the exchange.  I am not sure why Girardi didn't review it as I thought it was clear?  It ended up costing us as we would have been out of the inning with no damage, but instead they tied the score.

Staying on defense; Jeter's lack of range has been extremely evident all year as many times I was very surprised he didn't get to a ball.  In this same 7th inning a rocket was hit to his right (in the hole) and Jeter was only able to dive similar to what a 3rd baseman would do on a rocket shot, but if Jeter could have taken a half or a full step he would have made the play.  I looked at the play in slow mo and other player did take a step; the reaction is just not there for Jeter.

I am glad to see Girardi not be afraid of taking Jeter out and in this game he took Jeter out after a leadoff single in the 11th to use Ichiro as a pinch runner.  It didn't work as Ichiro got thrown out and then Anna ended up batting in a key spot (not the way you would draw it up), but Anna did come through with the key AB in the game working a walk in a good 8 pitch AB where Anna was down 1-2 before working the count back and fouling off pitches before he held up on a breaking ball away.  This forced in the go ahead run after Maddon intentionally walked Ellsbury to load up the bases.  Maddon is not afraid to go the unorthodox way and I think he is an excellent manager.  I think he turned the game around in this series when the Yanks were up 4-0 and had a threat going when Jeter stepped to the plate in the 4th inning.  He decided to make a move early because this was the one opportunity to try and stop the bleeding and keep the game in check.  He yanked his pitcher early and brought in a righty to face Jeter...he got Jeter out and then Tampa came back and ended up blowing us out.  That was a key point in the game and Maddon knew it.

Two quick things and I will go through the players later tonight.  I hope Nova will be fine.  His stuff is good, but he just needs to get it under control as he hung far too many pitches, but give Tampa credit as they took advantage when he made a mistake.  I am very interested to see Pineda pitch again.  His first game I commented on him throwing a consistent 93 and getting up to 95.  This last outing he started about the same and then the rest of the game he was at 90.  I am not sure if anyone else said anything as he was very effective, but it was clear his velocity dropped a lot.  he was getting a lot of movement and that is probably better, but still showing the 93+ MPH makes the other pitches that much better.  He has done a great job of throwing strikes, walking only 3 batters in 18 innings.  I am interested to see how his velocity is is possible the cold weather does impact this, but when he started at one speed and then it changed a lot I have concerns.  Like I said though, he can still be effective changing speeds, having good movement and hitting spots without walking many guys; and he has done that so far.

Hey, we are in 1st place!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

I watched game 5 and I thought Pineda looked pretty good.  His slider was clearly very good and his fastball was a consistent 93, but my hope is that fastball becomes a consistent 94+.  I liked that he is not walking many batters.

One item I wanted to discuss in the earlier games was when McCann got hit on a foul tip off his hand. I have had an issue about this for some time and after Cervelli went out last year (much after I already complained about a bunch of times) you would think the Yanks would be all over this?  Well McCann still was leaving his hand out in the open in that game.  However, since then he seems to be hiding it a lot more and that is a good thing.  It will not impact anything as you can take the hand out if you need to if a guy is running or even take chances in times like that, but with nobody on you surely can hide your bare hand...Hopefully we will see all the catchers do this.

In the 3rd inning there was a play at the plate and Cervelli was called out when the catcher was blocking home plate without the ball. As it turned out the umps reviewed the play and upheld the call.  Kay thinks it will be a big issue but I think it is the right thing that they are trying to do.  Of course, being an ex catcher I have a bias, but I never understood how a runner could just plow a catcher over even if the catcher was giving him the plate.  I once got hit by a linebacker running full speed and he came up with forearm to my lip and I literally went flying a good 5 feet (explains a lot).  They also were saying the catcher had to go get the ball and that is why he drifted to block the plate.  I do not agree with that at all, he didn't have to drift, he did what catchers always had done which was position himself to catch the ball and block the plate.  He could have just drifted over in front of the plate instead of drifting back and over to block the plate?  I have no idea how Kay harped on the wrong thing?  Of course, the other part that Singleton did mention was that I thought Cervelli was simply touching the plate before he was tagged and I don't know hwy Girardi didn't challenge that as he was safe.

the Yankees offense was just baffled by the knuckle baller today.  I skimmed a lot of the AB's so I do not have enough opinion on the hitting strategy today, but it clearly didn't work.  Without Tex the lineup is toothless.  They will need to win with pitching because their IF defense is not strong.  In fact, the first AB of the game Melky grounded a routine ball to Jeter who stayed back on the ball and then didn't have the arm strength to throw Melky out and bounced the throw and Melky just barely beat it out.  It was a terrible play by Jeter and I don't know how Melky got a hit when the fielder stayed back on the ball and then threw in the dirt even though it was picked.  It was an error and a play that should be made at least 90% of the time.

BTW, look at the previous blog regarding the first 4 games

Hello Yankee fans; yes I am still doing this! 

Let me get right to some predictions. 

I get the feeling CC will struggle opening day followed by a decent performance by Kuroda who will surprisingly have Mark Teixeira (our only good infield defender) fail him as Tex will fail the other pitchers as well, in the first few games.  The Yanks will lose the first two games before rebounding to equal their record after 4

Seriously, my comments through the 1st four games…This was written BEFORE game 5

I was glad to see the Yankees keep Dean Anna and Solarte for a few reasons.   I had written this about Anna in December, “may platoon with lefty Dean Anna (27) who is a guy the Yanks picked up as part of a trade with SD who couldn’t keep him on their 40 man roster.  This is a deal that could be an excellent one.  He had very good stats in the minors last year (.929 OPS against righties but in the hitting friendly Pacific Coast League), however, he has been a career minor leaguer.  I have no idea about his defense, but this deal is one that appears to be a good one.”  He is a guy who gives us flexibility and I did like that he played SS in game 4 so he can support the infield in many places.  If he can give us an 800+ OPS against righties I think he will be playing 2nd base a lot for us.  Anna, seems to have a good eye at the plate and I like high OBP guys.  Solarte was hot in the minors and I would rather give him a shot than Nunez who, as you know, I was never a fan of his defense.  It is early but Solarte has been our best player so far so let’s ride it out!

Game 1:  As I wrote earlier, CC didn’t look any different than last year as his command is not where it needs to be.  He needs to be spotting his pitches far better.  We were sleep walking at the bat most of that game. There was very poor defense as well.  McCann threw one away, but the ump was in the way.  tex was bad as well.

Game 2:  Kuroda did look pretty good but our defense didn’t help again and our bats were pretty silent again.  Kuroda won’t pitch to the same ERA as last year but he will be good; in fact, I am very excited about our starters and want to watch Pineda pitch because if he pitches well our starting staff is as good as almost anyone’s; CC may be our weakest pitcher.  I am very hopeful about Pineda and was one of teh few people in favor of the trade to get him and trade away Montero.

Game 3: Nova’s stuff looked good, but he had poor command with 5 walks (4 too many), but got through with the help of double plays.  We got just enough hitting to take our first game of the year.  Solarte did the heavy lifting for us and Robertson did his job.  Probably the most popular question I received in the off season was about Robertson and how he would do.  I don’t expect him to be Rivera, but his stuff is good enough where he shouldn’t be an issue.  He will blow 3-6 saves which is in line; hopefully it is close to the lower end. I am more worried about our infield defense and now Tex being out as he is important to our power of the team.   I do hate that Tex refuses to go the other way with the shift, even if it is to lay down a bunt.  I find the arrogance/stubbornness to be self-defeating.

Game 4:  I liked what I saw from Tanaka.  I was very interested in watching him and I liked that he was consistently at 93, and showed a good slider and a solid splitter and very good control.  I love the fact he doesn’t walk many batters (the same reason why I like high OBP guys on the offensive side).  It was a little uncomfortable to see the first batter of his Yankee career go deep on him, but it was a hanging split and Melky jumped on it.  The next inning Tex blew it by not taking the out at 1st, but after that Tanaka was sharp and honestly could have easily pitched the 8th inning as he had retired the last 12 batters he faced.  He had thrown 97 pitches, but he was in complete control and he is used to throwing complete games.  It was game 1 but I would have let him go until a batter got on.  Ellsbury and Solarte had great games and Robertson did his job; 2 for 2, even if this one was not a save.  I have to say that Girardi really ticked me off.  Why in the world would he leave Betances in to start the 9th just because we scored another run to make it a 4 run lead and not a save situation?  I mean it is absurd that he manages differently because of the save rule.  I honestly believe he would manage the 9th inning differently if they changed the save rule; which makes no sense to me.  Tex commits 3 mistakes in 4 games (I think he only got 2 errors as the throw home was a fielder’s choice), and now pulls his hammy again.  This really stinks as he needs to be at least solid for us.  If he is out for a long time, I wonder if we can try Soriano over there?  They did move Kelly Johnson to 1st and he made a nice diving stop.  Without Tex our offense may be very weak...of course that assumed Tex would be hitting well.

One other comment was when Ichiro was up against a touch lefty, with a runner on 3rd and one out with the score 5-3 in the 7th inning, it was a perfect opportunity to squeeze bunt.  Ichiro is not a good sac fly guy, he is also a good bunter so why not do it then?  Girardi refuses to EVER try a squeeze; I honestly don’t believe he has tried it yet, if anyone can refute that please do.  I would bet it didn’t happen more than once in his managerial career with us. 

Instant replay was very helpful for us as changing the call at first base allowed us to get 2 runs we would not have had.  I like it in baseball as the game is not bound by time like other sports.  Also, momentum is not as big a deal as other sports as well.

I will update the Pineda game after I watch it