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Archive for July 2nd, 2010

The same problems that plagued the Yankees in June have spilled over into July. The offense continues to struggle, while the bullpen aside from Mariano remains a crapshoot. In yesterday’s ball game, Arod was able to salvage a win despite an otherwise lack luster effort from the offense, but today the Yankees were not so lucky. If changes aren’t made or a bat added, the Yankees luck is eventually going to run out.

Brett Gardner temporarily saved the Yankees 1-0 lead by making a leaping catch in the bottom of the eighth inning (Photo: The Canadian Press).

Recounting all of the Yankees missed opportunities in today’s game would overload the internet’s bandwidth. Inning after inning, the Yankees put men on base, but each time they came up empty, extending a hitless stretch with runners on base to 18 at bats. Of course, anyone following the team closely probably isn’t surprised by the lack of production. Since early June, the offense has been trending down, but the Yankees organization has done little to remedy the problem. As a result, the lineup regularly features an out or two, while the bench remains populated by minor league journeyman. For a team with the resources of the Yankees, that level of neglect is shameful.

Of further concern is both Robinson Cano (2 for his last 16) and Brett Gardner (0-7 since returning from being hit on the wrist) have joined the rest of the team in a lineup-wide slump. Cano and Gardner had been the two lone stalwarts in June, so their lack of production has really been a drain. Whether it’s acquiring another bat or promoting a prospect like Austine Romine, the Yankees are sorely in need of a boost, but is Cashman paying attention?

There was one small bright spot amid an otherwise bleak afternoon at the Stadium. With Dave Eiland back in the dugout, AJ Burnett turned in a very strong performance, keeping the Jays off the board for 6 2/3 innings before departing to a standing ovation. Boos had been accompanying Burnett’s departures as he stumbled through June, but on this afternoon, he was able to hold his head high. Aside from not surrendering a run, Burnett’s most encouraging achievement was his ability to handle adversity, particularly in the second and third innings when the Jays put two runners in scoring position. Unfortunately, Burnett wasn’t able to record a well deserved victory because in addition to receiving little run support, he was abandoned by his bullpen as well.

In what is becoming an all too common event, Joba Chamberlain once again blew a late inning lead. The Yankees’ erratic reliever was actually  lucky to escape without surrendering the lead as a spectacular catch by Gardner against the left field wall prevented further damage. By the end of his outing, however, the boos that alluded Burnett finally and deservedly rained down on Chamberlain.

After Mariano pitched a scoreless ninth, Dave Robertson was entrusted with the extra innings. Robertson did wiggle his way through the 10th, but eventually surrendered the go ahead run in the 11th before departing with the  bases loaded and one out. At the point, Girardi turned to the flammable Chan Ho Park who stayed true to form and presided over an additional four runs. Why Park not only continues to remain on the roster, but also pitch meaningful innings is a mystery, but with all of the other confounding moves by Girardi, that will have to remain a question for another day.

Girardi’s biggest flub in the game was failing to have Francisco Cervelli bunt with runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs in the sixth. Cervelli’s slump has been considerable, but Girardi allowed two hits in the game to dissuade him from what was obvious bunt situation. With Burnett pitching well and the Jays offense scuffling even worse than the Yankees, one extra run could have been a knock punch. Instead, Girardi allowed Cervelli to swing away, and he promptly bounced into a double play. Girardi used Posada’s lack of speed as his main alibi for erring with the decision, but the one thing the Yankees do have on the bench is speed. Excuses aside, the real culprit was Girardi’s systematic lack of creativity that has cost the Yankees during his tenure as manager.

The failure to bunt wasn’t Girardi’s only mistake in the game. In fact, the most glaring was the one he made just before Opening Day, and which he has remained committed to despite evidence to the contrary. By installing Joba as the “8th inning” guy before he actually earned it, Girardi has cost the Yankees a handful of victories. Chamberlain’s poor command has made him much too inconsistent to be regularly trusted with close and late situations, yet Girardi has continued to go with him regardless of the context. Compounding the Joba reflex in this game was the silly use of Damaso Marte to close out the seventh against the light hitting Fred Lewis. By burning Marte in that inning, he wasn’t available to pitch to the dangerous Adam Lind in the 9th. Lind had been 7-12 against Joba before the inning, and his eventual single helped set up the tying run.

Bad offense, bad relief pitching and bad managing: that trifecta added up another bad loss. Instead of putting space between themselves and their division rivals, the Yankees have ignored their weaknesses and hidden behind the veil of having the league’s best record. If the organization doesn’t address the team’s glaring flaws sooner than later, they will no longer have that record to provide them with a false sense of security.

AJ Burnett’s Pitch Breakdown

  Avg. Speed Max Speed Count Strikes Percentage
Changeup 88.6 88.6 1 1 100.0%
Curve 82.2 84.4 32 20 62.5%
Sinker 92.7 95 13 7 53.8%
Four Seam Fastball 93.2 94.9 60 40 66.7%

 

Inning Pitches Strikes Percentage
1 13 11 84.6%
2 22 15 68.2%
3 22 10 45.5%
4 9 7 77.8%
5 10 5 50.0%
6 21 13 61.9%
7 9 7 77.8%
Total 106 61 57.5%

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The last time the Yankees saw the Blue Jays, the Toronto nine was hitting home runs by the bunches and hanging with the big boys in the AL East. After a miserable 9-17 record in June, however, the Jays have fallen nine games off the pace and are fighting to stay alive in the pennant race.

Over the first two months of the season, the Jays surprised everyone with a power laden offense that was able to compensate for a very low on base percentage. Well, the power was shut off in June. After hitting a whopping 54 HRs in May, the Jays only belted 26 round trippers in June. With an OBP of only .293 in the month, the Jays also saw their run production get cut half, dropping from 164 to 80 month over month.

AJ Burnett isn’t likely to have much sympathy for the Jays’ plight because he is also coming off a miserable June that was of historic proportions. At 0-5 with an ERA of 11.35 in the month, Burnett probably couldn’t wait to turn the calendar to July. More importantly, Burnett has also been anxiously awaiting the return of pitching coach Dave Eiland, whose leave from the ballclub for personal reasons happened to coincide with the start of Burnett’s struggles. According to reports, Eiland and Burnett have hammered out more than a few issues, so if Eiland really has the magic touch, Burnett could be poised for a rebound.

Regardless of how well Burnett pitches, the Yankees bats, which also slumped in June, but not to the extent of the Jays, have to support him. Jays’ starter Brett Cecil shut the Yankees down the last time these two teams met in Toronto, so the Yankees will need to adjust to the soft tossing lefty’s dominant change-up that kept them so off balanced last time around. Cecil will face what right now is the Yankees’ “A-lineup”, which features Posada at DH and Cervelli’s better defense behind the plate.

So, today’s game is the proverbial battle between the immoveable object (the Jays slumping offense) and the irresistible force (Burnett’s string of awful outings). Something has to give. The Yankees hope it isn’t Burnett.

vs. Brett Cecil PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Derek Jeter SS 10 0.444 0.500 0.444 0 0
Nick Swisher RF 9 0.250 0.333 0.250 0 1
Mark Teixeira 1B 9 0.333 0.556 0.833 1 1
Alex Rodriguez 3B 6 0.333 0.333 0.500 0 0
Robinson Cano 2B 9 0.500 0.556 0.875 1 1
Jorge Posada DH 9 0.375 0.444 0.375 0 2
Curtis Granderson CF 3 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Francisco Cervelli C 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Brett Gardner LF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 55 0.354 0.436 0.500 2 5
             
vs. AJ Burnett PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Fred Lewis LF 3 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Alex Gonzalez SS 9 0.250 0.333 0.625 1 1
Jose Bautista RF 3 1.000 1.000 4.000 2 3
Vernon Wells CF 13 0.333 0.385 0.667 1 1
Adam Lind DH 13 0.200 0.385 0.200 0 0
Aaron Hill 2B 15 0.286 0.333 0.500 1 1
Lyle Overbay 1B 21 0.050 0.095 0.100 0 0
John Buck C 15 0.214 0.200 0.714 2 5
Jarrett Hoffpauir 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 92 0.217 0.283 0.506 7 11

 

Yankees vs. Blue Jays    
Season: 2010 Season: 2009 Season: 2008 All-Time
TOR: 2-1 NYY: 12-6 TIED: 9-9 NYY: 260-207
  • Before the game, the Yankees activated right handed pitcher Dustin Moseley and optioned Boone Logan back to triple-A Scranton.

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Somewhere on a quiet, sun drenched field in Viera, Florida, Chien-Ming Wang is scheduled to throw a live batting practice session of 45 pitches. Today’s session will be Wang’s second stint from atop a mound as he attempts to rehab from last season’s shoulder surgery. The Nationals were hoping to have Wang back by June, but the severity of his injury has resulted in a much longer recovery period than first anticipated.

For those with the shortest of memories, it was just over two years ago when Wang sustained a serious foot injury while running the bases during an interleague game against the Astros. At the time of his injury, Wang was 7-2 for the Yankees and perhaps on his way to a third consecutive successful season. In his previous two seasons, Wang won 19 games in each to lead the team. To that point, the Taiwanese groundball machine had compiled an impressive 54-20 record in basically three full seasons worth of games.

Unfortunately for Wang, he never really recovered from his foot injury and after a disastrous brief campaign in 2009 wound up injuring his shoulder as well. That second injury effectively ended Wang’s Yankee career as the team decided to not offer him a contract during the off season, which paved the way for his eventual signing with the Nationals.

Instead of using news of Wang’s slow recovery as a reason to lament the untimely demise of his Yankee career, it’s probably better to look back at his time in pinstripes with appreciation. For starters, Wang’s impressive .679 winning percentage puts him 10th among all Yankee starters with at least 50 decisions and 500 innings pitched. Incredibly, if not for the Yankees ill advised decision to have Wang pitch at the start of last season, his winning percentage would have been .729, good enough for the best mark in team history.

Yankees All-Time Leaders: Winning Percentage

Rank Player W-L% IP
1 Johnny Allen 0.725 615.3
2 Spud Chandler 0.717 1485
3 Jim Coates 0.712 510.7
4 David Wells 0.708 851.7
5 Vic Raschi 0.706 1537
6 Monte Pearson 0.700 825.7
7 Whitey Ford 0.690 3170.3
8 Allie Reynolds 0.686 1700
9 Bob Grim 0.682 454.3
10 Chien-Ming Wang 0.679 670

Wang’s somewhat lofty position among all-time great Yankee hurlers is the result of his 2006 and 2007 seasons. Over that span, Wang’s 38 wins lead the entire major leagues and represented the first time a Yankee pitcher had won at least 19 games in consecutive seasons since Tommy John accomplished the feat in 1979 and 1980.

Major League Leaders: Wins, 2006-2007

Rank Player W
1 Chien-Ming Wang 38
2 Josh Beckett 36
3 Justin Verlander 35
4 Carlos Zambrano 34
5 Johan Santana 34
6 Brandon Webb 34
7 Brad Penny 32
8 Aaron Harang 32
9 Roy Halladay 32
10 John Lackey 32

Although it still seems a shame that Wang’s career was completely derailed by such a simple action as running the bases, he was still able to leave an impressive mark in the history of the sport’s most successful franchise. Hopefully, Wang can make it all the way back to the majors and resume a meaningful career with the Nationals, but if not, his Yankees legacy is secure.

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