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Archive for June 29th, 2010

With the Red Sox and Rays playing a three game series to start the week, the Yankees should have been presented with an excellent opportunity to gain some ground by beating up on the lowly Seattle Mariners. Unfortunately, Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez are lined up to pitch the first two games of the series, so taking two of three, not to mention sweeping, won’t be so easy.

With the Mariners about to waive the white flag on 2010, Lee is likely to be the one true difference maker available in the trade market. In fact, the rumors have already started, including more than a few that have the Mariners’ lefty landing in the Bronx. Such a scenario is unlikely, but Lee is all but assured of being somewhere else by this time next month. For the time being, however, Lee remains a Mariner, making him the Yankees’ problem tonight.

Including his two victories in the 2009 World Series, Lee is 4-1 with a 2.31 ERA in five starts against the Yankkes since 2008, Lee’s Cy Young season. Yet, several current Yankees have had success against the talented lefty: Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez both have an OPS well above 1.000, while Jeter, Swisher and Posada all top the .900 mark. As a team, the Yankees have an OPS of .901 in 185 career plate appearances against Lee. Even though those figures do not include Lee’s two World Series victories, they do suggest that Lee will have his hands full with the Yankees lineup.

Even if Lee does have a strong outing, the Mariners still need to score runs off of Phil Hughes. With an OPS+ of 79 and a paltry runs per game of 3.40, the Mariners haven’t had much luck scoring off of anyone, so facing the Yankees talented young righty figures to be an even greater challenge. With the exception of the always dangerous Ichiro and defensive whiz Franklin Gutierrez, the rest of the Mariners lineup has performed not only well below expectations, but also well below league average (the Mariners have five regulars with an OPS+ below 78). In order to help boost their floundering offense, the Mariners reacquired Russell Branyan, and he is batting third in the lineup tonight.

One potential pitfall for Hughes could be the long layoff since his last start. In an effort to curtail his number of innings, the Yankees skipped over Hughes’ last turn in the rotation, giving him 10 days of rest before tonight’s start. It remains to be seen if that long period of inactivity will result in a loss of command, but assuming he is able to quickly shake of the rust, Hughes should be primed for a strong start against the run starved Mariners.

vs. Cliff Lee PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Derek Jeter SS 30 0.407 0.467 0.519 0 5
Nick Swisher RF 24 0.333 0.458 0.444 0 1
Mark Teixeira 1B 26 0.391 0.462 0.696 1 6
Alex Rodriguez 3B 20 0.333 0.450 0.733 2 6
Robinson Cano 2B 19 0.222 0.263 0.222 0 1
Jorge Posada DH 22 0.286 0.273 0.667 2 5
Curtis Granderson CF 38 0.278 0.316 0.417 1 3
Chad Huffman LF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 1
Francisco Cervelli C 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 179 0.323 0.369 0.519 6 28
             
vs. Phil Hughes PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Ichiro Suzuki RF 3 0.333 0.333 0.333 0 0
Chone Figgins 2B 4 0.000 0.250 0.000 0 0
Russell Branyan 1B 4 0.333 0.500 1.333 1 1
Milton Bradley DH 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Jose Lopez 3B 4 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Franklin Gutierrez CF 1 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Jack Wilson SS 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Rob Johnson C 3 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Michael  Saunders LF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 19 0.143 0.250 0.357 1 1

 

Yankees vs. Mariners    
Season: 2010 Season: 2009 Season: 2008 All-Time
TIED: 0-0 NYY: 6-4 NYY:7-2 NYY:197-157

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Last night’s opening game in the 2010 College World Series was supposed to be a showcase for UCLA ace Gerrit Cole, but South Carolina’s Blake Cooper stole the show.

Gerrit Cole's elbow shows the strain of one his 127 pitches in last night's College World Series game.

Cooper, who earlier in the month was drafted in the 12th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks, struck out 10 Bruins over eight innings, while only surrendering three hits and one run. Meanwhile, the much more heralded Cole suffered one of his least impressive outings of the season by giving up 11 hits and six runs over seven innings.

The scouts watching, however, were likely more focused on the radar gun than the scoreboard. While Cooper was throwing in the high-80s, Cole was hitting mid-to-high 90s late into the ballgame. That fastball is why many project Cole to be a top-5 selection in next year’s amateur draft.

Most Yankee fans are probably already familiar with Cole because he was the team’s first round selection coming out of high school in 2008. Despite being a Yankee fan, not to mention a rumored signing bonus of over $3 million, Cole opted against signing with his favorite team so he could attend UCLA. As he toed the rubber in Omaha last night, that decision looked to be a very intelligent one, especially considering the much larger payday looming next June.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed in baseball. Cole’s risk is still a year away from paying off, which considering the precarious nature of pitching, is not insignificant. One only needs to look at the video of Joel Zumaya writhing in pain after throwing a pitch in yesterday’s game against the Twins to realize how suddenly a pitcher’s career can change.

Because of that fragility, another important statistic also worth noting from yesterday’s game is the pitch count of both starting pitchers. Despite being down six runs as early as the fifth inning, Cole was allowed to throw 127 pitches in his seven innings. Meanwhile, Cooper needed 136 pitches to get through his eight innings. What’s more, Cooper was pitching on only three days rest, giving him a nine-day pitch count of 301. A workload like that would be enough to give even the major’s most durable work horse a moment to pause. It’s almost unconscionable to think that a college program would ask an unsigned 12th round senior to literally shoulder such a burden. You can bet the Diamondbacks took notice.

Hopefully, Cooper does not suffer any ill effects from his College World Series efforts. Similarly, one hopes Cole’s junior season is injury free. Major college programs may be great havens of development for talented young arms, but it is important to remember that they are also playing to win ballgames, not just groom future big league aces. The risks taken with young arms are real, and the financial implications for the athletes can be significant. It may be sour grapes from a Yankees fan, but you have to wonder if UCLA is the best place for Cole to be.

Pitchers Who Have Thrown As Many as 136 Pitches Since 2005

Pitcher Date Pitches
Livan Hernandez 6/3/2005 150
Edwin Jackson 6/25/2010 149
Livan Hernandez 7/31/2005 145
Tim Lincecum 9/13/2008 138
Livan Hernandez 6/15/2006 138
Livan Hernandez 7/15/2005 136
Carlos Zambrano 5/8/2005 136

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