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Archive for October 19th, 2010

vs. Tommy Hunter PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Derek Jeter SS 3 0.667 0.667 1.000 0 2
Curtis Granderson CF 6 0.667 0.667 1.167 1 1
Mark Teixeira 1B 3 0.333 0.333 0.333 0 0
Alex Rodriguez 3B 5 0.000 0.200 0.000 0 0
Robinson Cano 2B 5 0.400 0.400 0.600 0 0
Nick Swisher RF 3 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Lance Berkman DH 5 0.500 0.600 0.500 0 1
Brett Gardner LF 3 0.000 0.333 0.000 0 0
Francisco Cervelli C 2 1.000 1.000 1.000 0 1
Total 35 0.387 0.457 0.548 1 5
             
vs. A.J. Burnett PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Elvis Andrus SS 17 0.214 0.353 0.214 0 0
Michael Young 3B 37 0.250 0.270 0.361 1 1
Josh Hamilton CF 19 0.250 0.368 0.563 1 3
Vladimir Guerrero DH 60 0.232 0.283 0.446 2 6
Nelson Cruz RF 18 0.143 0.333 0.429 1 4
Ian Kinsler 2B 22 0.200 0.273 0.350 1 4
David Murphy LF 22 0.294 0.455 0.471 1 2
Bengie Molina C 5 0.200 0.200 0.200 0 0
Mitch Moreland 1B 2 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 202 0.228 0.292 0.400 7 20
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As if the decision to start AJ Burnett in game four wasn’t controversial enough, Joe Girardi has compounded his decision by substituting Francisco Cervelli for Jorge Posada.

Apparently, the decision to go with Cervelli was predicated on the need to make AJ Burnett feel more comfortable, which on the surface seems to have some merit. After all, AJ Burnett had a 4.66 ERA in 129 1/3 innings thrown to the Yankees’ backup, compared to a 7.28 ERA in 38 1/3 innings thrown to Posada. In reality, however, the samples are much too small to draw any meaningful conclusion. Instead, going with Cervelli is essentially enabling Burnett’s fragile mental state and providing excuses for his inability to perform.

Make no mistake about it…unlike last postseason with Jose Molina, the Yankees are not getting much of a defensive upgrade with Cervelli. In fact, Cervelli has thrown out even fewer attempted base stealers than Posada (14% to 15%), and managed to top Posada’s error total by a whopping five. With 13 errors, Cervelli actually led the Yankees in errors (Posada was second with eight), so no one should expect him to serve as a deterrent to the Rangers’ running game.

Where the Yankees lose the most in the exchange is with the bat, even though Posada has struggled mightily over the first two rounds of the playoffs. Still, Posada is always one at bat away from making a huge impact, so Girardi has effectively downgraded the lineup by one weapon at a time when it needs as much firepower as possible.

Even factoring in the drop off on offense, you could probably still make the case for giving Cervelli a game, but that ignores the impact the move may have on the clubhouse. As a result, the decision to go with the Burnett/Cervelli combination has the potential to become Girardi’s waterloo. You can guarantee that Posada will not be happy with Girardi’s decision, and many others in the clubhouse probably feel the same way. If the Yankees lose because Burnett doesn’t pitch well and/or Cervelli has a bad offensive game, the grumblings could get very loud.

Francisco Cervelli vs. Jorge Posada

  Inn WP PB SB CS E Burnett ERA
Cervelli 727 35 2 55 9 13 4.66
Posada 679 1/3 32 8 72 13 8 7.28

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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Andy Pettitte, the pitcher with the most wins in the postseason, threw one his better games in October, but the Yankees still lost. In fact, they never really had a chance. That’s how good Cliff Lee was last night, as the Rangers’ ace joined Warren Spahn, Randy Johnson and Sandy Koufax as lefties who have dominated the Bronx Bombers in the postseason.

Yankee batters had pained expressions all night against Cliff Lee (Photo: AP)

Game three of the ALCS was basically over before it started when Josh Hamilton belted a two run homer only three batters into the game. Against a mortal pitcher, such a blow would hardly register as a blip on the Yankees’ radar, but with Lee toeing the rubber in opposition, Hamilton’s blast could have been measured on the Richter scale. By the end of the bottom of the first, it was evident that the Rangers’ ace was on his game and the Yankees chances of overcoming the deficit were slim.

To his credit, Pettitte rebounded from the home run to allow only three more hits in 6 2/3 scoreless innings, but that was just window dressing. With Lee mowing down the Yankees in the bottom half of each frame, the only purpose of the Rangers’ at bats was to delay the inevitable. Lee didn’t allow his first base runner until walking Mark Teixeira in the fourth and his first hit until a bloop single by Jorge Posada in the fifth, but each “rally” occurred with two outs and was quickly extinguished. The Yankees only real scoring chance took place in the sixth after Brett Gardner singled up the middle and stole second base with no outs. Lee responded to the threat by striking out Jeter and inducing two weak groundouts from Swisher and Teixeira, and what passed for the Yankees’ offense was once again turned aside.

The Yankees only hope to steal the game rested on Ron Washington’s infatuation with overusing his bullpen. Before he could get the chance, however, the Yankees’ bullpen was the one that proved to be incendiary. In the top of the ninth, the Rangers salted the game away with six runs scored off Boone Logan and David Robertson, leaving little need to run Lee back out to the mound in the bottom of the inning with 120 pitches. After the game, Joe Girardi was criticized for falling to go to his closer in the ninth inning, but with Lee still in the game, the Yankees two run deficit was really more like eight runs. Instead, the more valid criticism once again falls at the feet of Washington, who did use his closer, Neftali Feliz, to protect an actual eight run lead. Feliz needed 20 pitches to complete inning, so if he is unavailable or limited later in the series, you can point to Washington’s curious decision.

Although the story of last night’s game was the dominance of Cliff Lee, the postgame attention quickly turned to AJ Burnett, upon whose erratic right arm the Yankees’ season now rests. It didn’t have to be this way, of course. The Rangers entered the ALCS with their rotation dictated by a five game ALDS, but the Yankees had the opportunity to line their starters up. The ideal plan seemed to involve Sabathia for games 1, 4 and 7, Pettitte in games 2 and 6 and then Burnett against Lee and Hughes in game 5. Because the Rangers actually hit better against righties, especially hard throwing ones, using Sabathia and Pettitte (on full rest) for five games should have been the centerpiece of any plan, especially because three of those matchups (against Tommy Hunter and two against Colby Lewis) would have highly favored the Yankees. Furthermore, Hughes has struggled when pitching on long rest (8.04 ERA and 1.101 OPS against in three starts with greater than six days rest), so a game five start would have permitted him to throw an inning in games 1 or 2. Finally, pairing Burnett against Lee would have either leveraged AJ’s potential to be dominant, or mitigated his propensity for being awful.

All of that is water under the bridge now as the Yankees turn to AJ Burnett to even the ALCS at two games. Of course, if the Yankees’ lineup continues to struggle, it won’t matter who takes the mound for them. As a team, the Yankees are hitting .194/.288/.296, but without Robinson Cano’s contribution, that falls to .163/.270/.198. In the middle of the order, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira have a combined OPS of .522, while Jorge Posada, Marcus Thames and Nick Swisher, all with an OPS below. 500, haven’t been much better. In other words, as great as Lee was last night, the Yankees have made just about every starter look like an ace in this series. If that doesn’t change soon, the ALCS will not be returning to Texas.

Historic Aspects of Game 3 of the ALCS

  • The Yankees 8-0 loss was the most lopsided shutout in the team’s postseason history.
  • The Yankees three base runners were the fewest recorded by the team in a postseason game. The team’s two hits also matched an all-time low, joining game 3 of the 2001 ALDS (Barry Zito) and game 4 of the 1958 World Series (Warren Spahn).
  • Cliff Lee’s 13 strikeouts was the third highest total recorded by a pitcher against the Yankees in the postseason, matching Bob Gibson’s performance in the 1964 World Series. Only Sandy Koufax (15 in the 1963 World Series) and Carl Erskine (14 in the 1953 World Series) had more.
  • The Yankees 15 strikeouts matched the franchise’s postseason high for a nine inning game (Koufax in game one of the 1963 World Series).
  • The five earned runs surrendered by David Robertson was the third highest total allowed by a Yankees’ reliever in the postseason. Only Jay Witasick (eight in 1 1/3 innings during the2001 World Series) and Hideki Irabu (seven in 4 2/3 innings during the 1999 ALCS) allowed more.

Top-10 Postseason Games Pitched Against the Yankees, by Game Score

Player Date Series G# Tm Rslt IP H ER SO GSc
Randy Johnson 10/28/2001 WS 2 ARI W 4-0 9 3 0 11 91
Cliff Lee 10/18/2010 ALCS 3 TEX W 8-0 8 2 0 13 90
Don Drysdale 10/5/1963 WS 3 LAD W 1-0 9 3 0 9 89
Warren Spahn 10/5/1958 WS 4 MLN W 3-0 9 2 0 7 88
Bob Gibson 10/12/1964 WS 5 STL W 5-2 10 6 0 13 87
Jack Sanford 10/5/1962 WS 2 SFG W 2-0 9 3 0 6 84
Josh Beckett 10/25/2003 WS 6 FLA W 2-0 9 5 0 9 84
Cliff Lee 10/28/2009 WS 1 PHI W 6-1 9 6 0 10 83
Pedro Martinez 10/16/1999 ALCS 3 BOS W 13-1 7 2 0 12 83
Pete Alexander 10/3/1926 WS 2 STL W 6-2 9 4 1 10 82

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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