Archive for April 21st, 2010

Phil Hughes looks to follow-up on his solid first outing of the season and continue a stretch in which Yankee starters have earned the victory in all five games of the current winning streak. In his first game, Hughes unveiled a slightly different arsenal that relied more on a cutter and less on a curveball. He also mixed in a couple of change-ups, something he may use a lot more tonight against the A’s lefty laden lineup. 

The A’s counter with the often injured Ben Sheets, who has a strong 2.65 ERA in 17 innings over three starts this season. The more telling statistic, however, may be his BB/K ration of 10 to 8. If Sheets is unable to get ahead and pound the strike zone, he’ll be ripe for another early exit by an opposition starting pitcher. 

In other prominent news, Chad Jennings reported that Joba Chamberlain is now the official 8th inning setup men. Of course, had he been in that role yesterday, he wouldn’t have been available to strike out Ken Kouzmanoff with the bases loaded in the 7th. Hopefully, Girardi will be flexible enough to use Joba earlier in the game when the situation dictates it. According to Jennings, Chamberlain is available tonight.

vs. Ben Sheets PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Derek Jeter SS 4 0.333 0.500 0.333 0 0
Nick Johnson DH 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Mark Teixeira 1B 4 0.250 0.250 0.250 0 0
Alex Rodriguez 3B 3 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Robinson Cano 2B 3 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Jorge Posada C 3 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Curtis Granderson CF 3 0.000 0.333 0.000 0 0
Randy Winn RF 7 0.167 0.286 0.167 0 0
Brett Gardner LF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 27 0.125 0.2222 0.125 0 0
vs. Phil Hughes PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Cliff Pennington SS 1 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Daric Barton 1B 1 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0
Ryan Sweeney RF 1 0.000 1.000 0.000 0 0
Kurt Suzuki C 2 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Eric Chavez DH 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 1
Kevin Kouzmanoff 3B 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Gabe Gross CF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Adam Rosales 2B 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Eric Patterson LF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 5 0.250 0.400 0.500 0 0
  • Robinson Cano is 0 for his last 29 at the McAfee Coliseum.
  • Alex Rodriguez’ 585 home runs leave him one behind Frank Robinson for 7th place on the all-time list.
  • Ben Sheets only career start against the Yankees was a 7-inning shutout effort on June 7, 2005, when he was a member of the Milwaukee Brewers.
  • With another victory against the A’s, the Yankees will notch their fifth consecutive series win to start the season, a franchise record matched only by the 1926 ball club.

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Much to the dismay of Joe West, the Yankees have made an early season habit out of wearing down starting pitchers. In the last three games, each opposing starter has had at least one 30+ pitch inning, and all failed to make it through five innings. So, it is not surprising that the Yankees lead the American League in runs per game.  Then again, patience simply for the sake of taking pitches is not necessarily an optimal offense strategy. Consider the following:


Team R/G PA Pit Pit/PA
CLE 3.54 479 1949 4.07
BOS 4.07 542 2191 4.04
NYY 5.85 515 2070 4.02

As you can see, the Yankees only rank third in terms of pitches seen per plate appearance. But, that’s not the whole story. More important than taking pitches is not swinging at balls. In other words, there is nothing wrong with swinging at strikes, particularly ones in a hitter’s hot zone. In fact, a closer look at the numbers reveals that this is the approach that the Yankees have perfected.


Team R/G PA Pit Pit/PA Str Str% BB BB/PA
CLE 3.54 479 1949 4.07 1234 0.63 47 0.10
BOS 4.07 542 2191 4.04 1336 0.61 45 0.08
NYY 5.85 515 2070 4.02 1206 0.58 71 0.14

As evidenced by the expanded chart, the Yankees have been most successful at drawing balls (i.e., not turning them into strikes by swinging). As a result, they have taken many more walks than the two teams ahead of them in Pit/PA. Because OBP correlates better to run scoring than just about any other stat, converting pitches seen into walks is vital. Again, however, there is more to consider. (more…)

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Eduardo Nunez gets a helping hand from Derek Jeter during Spring Training. Could he be Jeter's backup by the summer?

 In his Daily Futures feature on ESPN.com (insider only), Kevin Goldstein identified Eduardo Nunez as a potential sleeper who could help the Yankees this season. Nunez, currently hitting 370/.442/.522 while playing SS at Scranton, was originally signed by the Yankees as a non-drafted free agent on February 25, 2004. Initially regarded as a promising prospect (ranked by Baseball America as the organization’s 6th best prospect in 2006), Nunez had toiled in the minors for five years before jump starting his career with a fine season at Double-A Trenton in 2009. Although his offensive production has come around, he has still exhibited a propensity for making errors in the minors (33 errors in 120 games at Trenton last year), so that might still keep him from overtaking Ramiro Pena as the Yankees main utility man. Still, Nunez has yet to turn 23, so the Yankees may eventually be able to extract some value from him.

For a more complete profile of Nunez, check out this full scouting report from Yankees Daily.

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FanGraphs.com has released its first installment of 2010 UZR data. I am not a big fan of this metric for reasons previously outlined, but nonetheless, it is gaining prominence and is worthy of consideration.

Not surprisingly, the Rays place atop the early UZR returns with a team rating of 10.5. Right behind them in fourth place, however, is a surprise. If you’ve watched the Red Sox, you’d swear that their defense has been a major reason for the team’s early malaise. However, according to UZR, Theo Epstein’s genius is real as the Red Sox check in with a UZR of 6.6. Meanwhile, the Yankees, who have committed only 4 errors and currently have a nine game errorless streak, rank toward the bottom of the UZR charts with a rating of -6.1.

The Yankees biggest UZR culprits are the double play tandem of Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano, who currently rank near the bottom at their positions with a UZR of -2.3 and -2.9, respectively. Is Jeter reverting back to his status as UZR’s whipping boy at short? Anecdotally, he has looked shaky on defense, both in terms of range and the mishandling of routine balls that were scored hits (by my count, at least two opposition “hits” should have been scored as an E-6 on Jeter). Of course, one should caution that even for a full year, the sample size for defensive stats can be too small to draw meaningful conclusions, so two weeks is basically the proverbial grain of salt. Then again, any sample of data would be enough to accurately portray Marcus Thames inability to play the outfield. In 19 defensive innings, Thames UZR stands at an abysmal -2.0 (UZR/150 of -148.7).

On the bright side, Alex Rodriquez has been playing a great 3B. According to UZR, Arod’s 1.8 rating ranks him as the second best defensive 3B in the game so far. Again, I think most who have watched every Yankee game would agree with this assessment (check the Sabathia near-no hitter for a case in point). Another early positive has been the CF play of Curtis Granderson, whose early UZR returns have him at 1.4, good for 6th best among major league center fielders.

Other notables atop the leader boards include former Yankees Johnny Damon, who ranks second among left fielders, and Austin Jackson, who tops all center fielders with a UZR of 3.1.

UZR Data obtained from FanGraphs.com.

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Javier Vazquez earned is first victory of the season and first as a Yankee since September 2004, but two late home runs took some of the luster off his performance. Even though he threw an impressive 72 strikes, Vazquez needed 107 pitches to complete only 5 1/3 innings. Also, while he did mix his pitches, he seemed to shy away from the slider in favor of the curve and change. With his fastball missing about 2 mph, there were fewer swings and misses resulting from the change of speeds. To be fair to Vazquez, a miscommunication by Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano in the sixth inning did contribute to one of his earned runs, and his six strikeouts in 5+ innings do suggest superior stuff. Still, Vazquez will need to find his lost velocity (only 40% of his fastballs topped 90mph) and also throw his slider more if he is going to repeat his 2009 success. In the meantime, he can use this victory as a stepping stone heading into his next start in Anaheim.

Javier Vazquez bested the Athletics to earn his first Yankee win since September 2004 (Photo: Getty Images).

As has become their usual, the Yankees used a very patient approach to frustrate starter Gio Gonzalez, whose pitch count approached 100 by the fifth inning. It was the third straight game that an opposition starter threw at least 30 pitches in an inning, and failed to complete 5 innings as a result. The Oakland defense also contributed to Gonzalez’ demise as a Daric Barton misplay, curiously scored a hit, on a Jorge Posada grounder led to three first inning runs.

  • Nick Swisher snapped a 0-16 stretch with a two run single in the first inning.
  • Yankee batters drew 10 walks in the game, the most since taking 11 free passes against the Mets on June 28, 2009. Three of the walks were issued to Robinson Cano, who had accomplished the feat three times in the past, including most recently against the Texas Rangers on August 5, 2008.
  • Alex Rodriguez’ fifth inning HR was the 585th of his career, leaving him one behind Frank Robinson for 7th place on the all-time list.
  • Boone Logan made an eventful Yankees debut in the 6th inning. One pitch into his appearance, home plate umpire Ed Rapuano, who earlier had been hit in the facemask by a foul ball, was forced to leave the game, resulting in an extended delay.
  • Logan was also forced to get an extra out in the 7th inning when Derek Jeter double clutched on an infield single by Rajai Davis. Eventually, Logan would depart with the bases loaded, but Joba Chamberlain stranded his runners by striking out Kevin Kouzmanoff.
  • Athletic’s reliever and former Yankee Edwar Ramirez made his first appearance against his old mates. In typical Edwar fashion, he walked four and struck out two in two innings of work.
  • Derek Jeter went 0-5, snapping his season long hitting streak of 11 games.

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