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Archive for August 12th, 2010

vs. Bruce Chen PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Derek Jeter SS 34 0.406 0.441 0.750 3 3
Nick Swisher RF 9 0.143 0.333 0.143 0 0
Mark Teixeira 1B 15 0.643 0.667 2.071 6 12
Alex Rodriguez 3B 26 0.240 0.269 0.320 0 4
Robinson Cano 2B 15 0.250 0.357 0.250 0 1
Marcus Thames DH 15 0.333 0.333 0.583 1 7
Austin Kearns LF 1 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Curtis Granderson CF 7 0.286 0.286 0.286 0 0
Francisco Cervelli C 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 122 0.345 0.385 0.673 10 27
             
vs. CC Sabathia PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Gregor Blanco CF 4 0.000 0.250 0.000 0 0
Jason Kendall C 22 0.381 0.409 0.381 0 6
Billy Butler 1B 27 0.360 0.407 0.440 0 2
Kila Ka’aihue DH 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Yuniesky Betancourt SS 11 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Alex Gordon LF 19 0.118 0.211 0.118 0 1
Mike Aviles 2B 6 0.500 0.500 0.667 0 0
Mitch Maier RF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Willie Bloomquist 3B 28 0.320 0.333 0.440 0 1
Total 117 0.278 0.308 0.333 0 10

 

Yankees vs. Royals    
Season: 2010 Season: 2009 Season: 2008 All-Time
NYY: 3-1 NYY: 4-2 TIED: 5-5 NYY: 259-175

.

  Last 10 Last 20 Last 30
Yankees 4-6 11-9 18-12
Royals 3-7 6-14 9-21

.

  Road vs. LHP
Yankees 33-23 23-17
  Home vs. LHP
Royals 23-29 9-18
  • Derek Jeter is one hit away from tying Frankie Frisch for 37th place on the all-time hit list.
  • C.C. Sabathia’s 16 wins against the Royals are his highest total against any team. Sabathia has also started more games, thrown more innings and recorded more strikeouts against the Royals than any other opponent.
  • With a win, Sabathia’s record will improve to 15-5, which would be the best winning percentage over the first 25 games in any season of his career.
  • Bruce Chen has won two starts in a row. The Royals’ lefty has not won three games in a row since August 2005.
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Several of Marcus Thames hits this season have had Yankees fans jumping for joy, including his walk off home run against Boston in May.

 At first glance, Marcus Thames seemed to be miscast as Mark Teixeira’s replacement in the three hole during the team’s brief series in Texas. On a team full of All Stars, there seemed to be quite a few more worthy candidates, but Thames rewarded Joe Girardi’s confidence with five hits over the two games, including a key 8th inning home run and 9th inning RBI single in last night’s 7-6 comeback victory.  

Despite playing a relatively minor role on the team (he has had only 133 PA to date), Thames has been no stranger to dramatic moments. In addition to yesterday’s game winning single, Thames has also been the author of two walk off hits, including a homerun against Jonathan Papelbon on May 17. Based on WPA, those three games have ranked among the top-25 most valuable individual performances by a Yankee this season. Only Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano have had more games within that framework, and each of those players has come to bat at least 300 times more. Even more incredibly, Thames ranks fifth in WPA for the entire season, ahead of such heralded stars like Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter.  

When Brian Cashman acquired Marcus Thames during a busy offseason, it hardly raised an eyebrow. In retrospect, however, the signing has turned out to be Cashman’s best acquisition, which admittedly is damning with faint praise. Still, Thames’ contribution has been worthy of notice, and even more importantly, worthy of increased playing time.  

Top-25 Most Valuable Contributions, by WPA

Players Games WPA*
Alex Rodriguez 6 2.254
Robinson Cano 4 1.652
Curtis Granderson 3 1.068
Marcus Thames 3 1.188
Nick Swisher 3 1.453
Brett Gardner 2 0.67
Derek Jeter 1 0.523
Juan Miranda 1 0.298
Mark Teixeira 1 0.467
Nick Johnson 1 0.291

*Total only for games in the top-25.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

Yankees WPA Leaders, 2010

Player WPA
Robinson Cano 2.61
Nick Swisher 1.82
Alex Rodriguez 1.54
Brett Gardner 1.01
Marcus Thames 0.59
Mark Teixeira 0.52
Derek Jeter 0.24
Nick Johnson 0.23
Chad Huffman 0.00
Greg Golson -0.06
Colin Curtis -0.07
Jorge Posada -0.10
Chad Moeller -0.13
Ramiro Pena -0.20
Lance Berkman -0.22
Kevin Russo -0.22
Curtis Granderson -0.29
Austin Kearns -0.30
Randy Winn -0.30
Juan Miranda -0.73
Francisco Cervelli -1.31

Source: www.fangraphs.com

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Despite playing a stretch of games in oppressive heat, a cool breeze has been following the Yankees around in August. During the month, the number of swings and misses by the team has reached historic levels, which is probably at least partially responsible for the bats going cold just when everything else seems to be heating up.

Lost amid the drama of the team’s stirring 7-6 triumph over the Rangers last night were the 17 strikeouts recorded by Cliff Lee and a handful of Texas’ relievers. That total matched the Yankees record for most punch outs since 1920, a ignominious feat matched only two other times in team history.

Most Strikeouts in a Game By Yankee Batters, Since 1920

Date Opp Starter Rslt Inn PA SO
8/11/2010 TEX Cliff Lee W 7-6 9 41 17
9/30/2001 BAL Jose Mercedes T 1-1 15 56 17
9/10/1999 BOS Pedro Martinez L 1-3 9 28 17

Source: Baseball-reference.com

Anyone watching the team closely over the last two weeks probably shouldn’t be surprised by last night’s strikeout total. In seven of the last 11 games, the Yankees have been set down on strikes at least 10 times. Before that stretch, opposing pitchers had only recorded double digit strikeout totals in 10 of the previous 102 games. Lowering the bar a little, the Yankees have struck out at least nine times in five straight games, another first in team history. Although matched by a similar stretch in 1968 and 2001, the current swing and miss epidemic has been responsible for the team’s highest five game strikeout total. For the entire month of August, the Yankees strikeout total of 94 leads the majors, ahead of such free swinging teams as the Diamondbacks (90), Rays (89) and Cubs (87).

Longest Streak of Nine Strikeouts or More By Yankee Batters, Since 1920

Start End Games W L AB SO OPS Opp
8/7/2010 8/11/2010

5

3 2 177 58 0.744 BOS,TEX
9/1/2001 9/5/2001

5

4 1 168 50 0.594 BOS,TOR
7/26/1968 7/29/1968

5

3 2 175 49 0.665 CLE,DET

Source: Baseball-reference.com

So, what’s the reason for the Yankees recent surge in strike outs? The easiest answer is to look at the opposing pitchers. With names like Garza, Shields, Morrow, Beckett, Lester and Lee, it’s easy to see why the Yankee batters have been heading back to the dugout with their heads down more frequently than normal. Judging by the monthly progression of the team’s strikeout-to-PA ratio, the recent run of superior opposition pitchers seems to be the most likely culprit. Considering that the team still ranks all the way down at 19th in all of baseball, there is probably no reason to sound the alarm about this recent strikeout epidemic.

Yankees Monthly Run and Strikeout Totals

Split G R R/G PA SO SO/PA
April/March 22 118 5.4 860 134 0.16
May 29 171 5.9 1158 191 0.16
June 26 124 4.8 1009 174 0.17
July 26 150 5.8 1022 174 0.17
August 10 39 3.9 371 94 0.25

Source: Baseball-reference.com

At the individual player level, the Yankees have three players (Swisher, Teixeira and Gardner) in the top-10 for most strikeouts in August, and nearly every starting regular has seen a rise in their strikeout rates during the month. The most dramatic increase has come courtesy of Mark Teixeira, whose strikeouts have more than doubled in August even while he has posted an OPS of 1.021. Brett Gardner, however, has not been so lucky. His strikeout rate has increased all the way to a whopping 40%, while his OPS in the month has plummeted to .300.

  August   Season  
Player PA SO SO/PA . PA SO SO/PA Diff
Ramiro Pena 7 0 0.00   107 18 0.17 -0.17
Robinson Cano 38 4 0.11   434 50 0.12 -0.01
Lance Berkman 34 5 0.15   396 76 0.19 -0.04
Derek Jeter 46 9 0.20   520 73 0.14 0.06
Francisco Cervelli 9 2 0.22   246 34 0.14 0.08
Austin Kearns 18 4 0.22   360 82 0.23 -0.01
Jorge Posada 30 7 0.23   309 64 0.21 0.03
Alex Rodriguez 35 9 0.26   462 74 0.16 0.10
Nick Swisher 46 14 0.30   402 69 0.17 0.13
Mark Teixeira 35 12 0.34   504 81 0.16 0.18
Curtis Granderson 25 9 0.36   336 74 0.22 0.14
Marcus Thames 18 7 0.39   133 36 0.27 0.12
Brett Gardner 30 12 0.40   468 100 0.21 0.19

Source: Fangraphs.com

As the Yankees embark on a stretch against some weaker pitchers, their collective strikeout rate should normalize somewhat. If it doesn’t, however, the team may have a real problem on its hands. In the meantime, the Yankees may as well enjoy the breeze because it isn’t going to be any cooler in Kansas City.

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When the Rangers carried a 6-1 lead into the sixth inning, the storyline was practically written. After failing in their attempt to obtain him via a trade, the Yankees offense was shut down by Cliff Lee in a preview of the fate that awaited them come October. Unfortunately for the beat writers and bloggers covering the game, however, the Yankees didn’t stick to the script.

In a rare sight, Cliff Lee is pulled from a ball game in the middle of an inning. The Yankees knocked Lee from the game with one out in the seventh (Photo: AP).

After Derek Jeter singled on the first pitch of the game, Lee bounced back to retire the next nine batters in a row. The early display of dominance was made even more ominous when Michael Young clanked the shortest homerun in Rangers Ballpark history off the right field foul pole to stake Lee to an early 1-0 lead. An RBI double by Alex Rodriguez in the fourth inning served as a temporary reprieve, but Javier Vazquez could not hold up his end of the pitchers’ duel in the middle innings. The Rangers rallied for two runs in the fourth and three in the fifth before Vazquez made the slow walk from the mound toward certain defeat.

Derek Jeter’s lead-off triple in the sixth seemed more cosmetic than prophetic at the time, but when the Captain scored on a wild pitch the comeback had begun. The Yankees continued to chip away at Lee in the seventh when Lance Berkman’s ground rule double knocked home a run ahead of an RBI single by Gardner that knocked Lee from the game. Despite handling the Yankee lineup with relative ease entering the inning, including 11 strikeouts along the way, Lee was forced to work hard in the 99 degree Texas heat, and that effort seemed to finally catch up with him.

Things didn’t get easier with Lee out of the game as Rangers’ manager Ron Washington played the matchups and called upon Darren O’Day and Darren Oliver to strike out Jeter and Swisher, respectively, and keep the Yankees deficit at 6-4.

The Rangers bullpen has been a strength all season, but in this series, Frank Francisco proved to be the weak link. One night after Arod reached the hard throwing righty for a home run, Marcus Thames greeted Francisco with a titanic blast deep into the left seats. The Yankees’ power display seemed to scare Francisco out of the strike zone has he walked two of the next three hitters, but the rally was thwarted when Austin Kearns grounded a 3-1 pitch into a double play.

For the second night in a row, it seemed as if the Yankees’ failure to take advantage of Francisco’s ineffectiveness would result in a loss at the hands of Neftali Feliz, but this time the Yankees broke through against the Rangers’ rookie closer. The inning started with a leadoff walk by Lance Berkman, for whom Curtis Granderson pinch ran, that was followed by a Gardner single on a flare to left. With runners on first and second, Jeter appeared to be bunting, but a wild pitch advanced the runners for him. After striking out in the same situation two innings earlier, Jeter seemed determined to put the bat on the ball and accomplished his goal by bouncing a weak groundball over Feliz’ head and through the drawn-in infield. Washington then removed his young closer, who had thrown 21 pitches the night before, from the game in favor of Alexi Ogando, who entered the game with an ERA just above 1.00. Ogando made quick work of Swisher, but Thames singled through the shortstop hole to plate the go ahead run.

Each August, Mariano Rivera seems to have a short stretch of games when a combination of bad location and bad luck conspire against him. So, when Elvis Andrus led off the ninth inning with a triple, it seemed like now was that time. On the next pitch, Young lined a ball that seemed ticketed to right field, but Kearns made a running shoe string grab that held the runner at third and seemed to give Mariano new life. After falling behind 2-0 to Josh Hamilton, Rivera sawed off the bat of the AL batting leader and induced a weak comebacker. Then, Rivera completed the escape by getting Vladimir Guerrero to ground out to third. Six pitches after facing certain disaster, the Yankees were on the mound celebrating one of their best and most improbable victories of the season.

The Rangers came into this brief two game series wanting to make a statement, and despite letting last night’s game slip away, the message was delivered loud and clear. Texas has established itself as a legitimate World Series contender and, unlike the late-1990s, will not be a push over come October. The Yankees also made a statement, however. Even in games when they don’t play particularly well, the defending world champs never give up. It remains to be seen whether these two teams will meet in the post season, but if this series was an indication, the final storyline has yet to be written.

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