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Archive for April 6th, 2010

  • Defense was the early theme as the Yankees allowed Jacoby Ellsbury to reach base on a fairly routine pop up. It looked like Marcus Thames should have made the play, which plays to his reputation. Thames is a solid righty bat against lefties, but he doesn’t do that well enough to justify defense like he put forth tonight.
  • Jorge Posada’s defense was questionable again today. He was charged with a throwing error in the first when his attempt to nab Ellsbury bounced into center field. In the next inning, he bounced another throw to second base on Adrian Beltre’s stolen base. It looked like a decent throw would have nabbed Beltre.
  • Even though he gave up 4 runs in only 5 innings, AJ Burnett pitched decently. The first run was really the result of poor defense, so his outing wasn’t far from a “quality start”. More importantly, it looked like he and Posada worked relatively well together. There was only one mound conference at a key moment (against Ortiz in the 5th), and it seemed like AJ worked more quickly than normal. The only nitpick is it seemed like Posada was late to rely on AJ’s breaking pitch, but dedicated himself to it with the go ahead run on second base in the fifth.
  • AJ Burnett’s much heralded change-up was a no show in this game. By most accounts, he only threw one all game (to JD Drew in the 2nd innning).
  • The stabilizing factor in this game was Alfredo Aceves. With the two teams playing see saw, Aceves’ aggressive strike throwing gave the Yankees the time they needed to reclaim the lead. Hopefully, Girardi continues to use Aceves in the role of long relief specialist in high leverage situations.
  • Even though it worked out, I think Girardi erred with his bullpen usage in the 8th inning. Aceves had been rolling along, so he should have at least been left in to face Kevin Youkilis. By going to David Robertson to start the inning, Girardi was forced to burn an effective reliever without recording an out. He also then placed the game in the hands of a reliever (Marte) who struggled with health and command in the spring. It worked out, but the Yankees may not be so fortunate next time around.
  • Which leads us to Joba. He wasn’t quite vintage 2007 Joba, but he was pretty close. He effectively used his slider to set up a mid-90s fastball in striking out Beltre, and then did the reverse to put Drew away. Many may not like the Joba roar that came after the final strike out, but he can moonwalk off the mound if he keeps pitching like that. In the meantime, I think the performance will go along way toward improving both Joba’s confidence as well as Girardi’s faith in him. After the game, Jorge Posada made his feeling about the great Joba debate loud and clear. “I just love him in the bullpen,” Posada stated. A few more outings like tonight and I might be forced to agree with him.
Joba used a mid-90s fastball and sharp slider to slam the door in the 8th.

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The Yankees and Red Sox are back in action, this time with Jon Lester facing AJ Burnett. The current Red Sox lineup has had considerable success against Burnett, fueled in large part by AJ’s 8.85 ERA against Boston last season. Meanwhile, the Yankees will have to lean on the Captain and Arod because the rest of the lineup has struggled against the Red Sox lefty. The pitching matchup seems to favor Boston, but this rivalry always manages to surprise.

vs. Jon Lester PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Derek Jeter SS 26 0.375 0.423 0.375 0 2
Nick Johnson DH 3 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Mark Teixeira 1B 14 0.286 0.286 0.500 1 1
Alex Rodriguez 3B 17 0.250 0.294 0.688 2 4
Robinson Cano 2B 22 0.227 0.227 0.318 0 1
Jorge Posada C 14 0.231 0.286 0.231 0 0
Nick Swisher RF 20 0.133 0.300 0.400 1 2
Marcus Thames LF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Curtis GrandersonCF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 116 0.252 0.302 0.402 4 10
             
vs. A.J. Burnett PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Jacoby Ellsbury LF 25 0.261 0.292 0.391 1 1
Dustin Pedroia 2B 34 0.28 0.471 0.520 2 4
Victor Martinez C 23 0.235 0.435 0.294 0 0
Kevin Youkilis 1B 32 0.259 0.375 0.370 1 5
David Ortiz DH 34 0.273 0.294 0.667 3 8
Adrian Beltre 3B 28 0.231 0.286 0.500 1 5
JD Drew RF 31 0.269 0.387 0.385 0 4
Mike Cameron CF 13 0.364 0.385 0.909 1 4
Marco Scutaro 2B 21 0.316 0.381 0.368 0 0
Total 241 0.271 0.357 0.478 9 31

Key Storylines

  • Curtis Granderson will be facing Jon Lester for the first time in his career (Lester has only started one career game against the Tigers). This will be a big test for Granderson, who has historically struggled against lefties.
  • Jorge Posada will be catching AJ Burnett as the duo hopes to start the 2010 season on the right foot.
  • After working on the pitch all spring, AJ Burnett unveils his newly developed changeup. It will be interesting to see when and how often he throws it.
  • Marcus Thames gets his first start of the year. His main role on the team is to hit lefty pitching, so a good performance could help cement his standing on the team.

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Stop Whining…

That was the message sent by Yankees President Randy Levine to Brewers Owner Mark Attanasio in an interview with ESPNNewYork.com.

“We play by all the rules and there doesn’t seem to be any complaints when teams such as the Brewers receive hundreds of millions of dollars that they get from us in revenue sharing the last few years. Take some of that money that you get from us and use that to sign your players.

“The question that should be asked is: Where has the hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue sharing gone?”

I’ll take Randy Levine’s question one step further. Why is Attanasio complaining about the Yankees when he doesn’t even have to face them until the World Series? Shouldn’t he be more concerned about the Cardinals and their $93 million payroll first? Does he think he needs to spend more than $83 million in order to be competitive in the NL Central, and if so, why doesn’t he spend some of that $12 million in operating profit that the team made last year (and that’s before you factor in the fancy accounting tricks for which baseball owners have become famous)?

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Traditions abound on Opening Day, but one unfortunate reoccurring part of the festivities seems to be at least one inane and misinformed article touting the demise of baseball as the national pastime. I am convinced that the same article gets passed around each year so a new author can add a few extra distortions and inaccuracies. The latest example comes to us from John R. Miller, a visiting scholar at the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, who penned this year’s version of the same old tired piece for the Wall Street Journal. Let’s take a look at his effort and see if we can’t add a little common sense.

Jacques Barzun, the French-born, American cultural historian, once wrote that “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.” Today Mr. Barzun would have to refer his foreign readers to professional football or even automobile racing, both of which trump baseball in television ratings.

Sadly, this logic isn’t what you’d expect from a scholar, especially one who purports to be a baseball fan. The NFL and NASCAR are both event driven sports. The number of televised contests are limited (and usually conveniently scheduled on Sundays). Baseball, however, has each team playing 162 games. As a result, it isn’t event-driven, but local-driven. Yankee fans watch the Yankees. Mariner fans watch the Mariners. And so on. Comparing the ratings of these sports is absurd. With so many more games at one’s disposal, the imperative to watch a game of the week is lost. If baseball only played games on Sundays and Mondays, I’m sure its regular season ratings would compete with football’s. Finally, it isn’t fair to compare the World Series to the Super Bowl because the later is viewed as more than a sporting event. In a sense, the Super Bowl is a reality show, with viewers tuning in to watch the commercials, see if their “box” wins or just provide background noise for a party. In my experience, when people gather to watch the World Series, the focus is almost undividedly on the actual game (of which there can be up to 7, as opposed to just one).

Major League owners like to boast that attendance at their games, except for the recent recession, has increased. But with the disappearance of hundreds of minor league and semi-pro teams—and thousands of teams in almost every town, factory, prison and military post across the land—interest in baseball and attendance has plummeted overall. Soccer has superseded baseball in suburban parks, and basketball has replaced stickball in the cities.

Major league owners like to boast about attendance because it has been extraordinary, even in spite of the recession and the two New York ballparks scaling back about 15,000 total seats per game. The notion that this attendance is being fueled by the obliteration of the minor leagues is not only absurd, but just plain wrong. According to MiLB.com, the number of minor leagues and teams has varied overtime, but the general attendance trend as been on the rise. For example, MiLB set its all-time attendance mark in 2008 by drawing over 43,000,000 fans, topping the previous mark of 39,640,443 when there were 488 teams. Now, I can’t speak for the decline in prison game attendance, but both minor and major league baseball are doing incredibly well at the gate. Unfortunately, a reliance on similar incorrect anecdotal evidence seems to be the pillar of Miller’s argument.

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