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Archive for March, 2011

vs. Justin Verlander PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Brett Gardner LF 7 0.400 0.500 0.400 0 0
Derek Jeter SS 26 0.364 0.462 0.409 0 0
Mark Teixeira 1B 20 0.059 0.200 0.059 0 0
Alex Rodriguez 3B 19 0.188 0.316 0.375 1 4
Robinson Cano 2B 22 0.190 0.227 0.238 0 0
Nick Swisher RF 48 0.186 0.271 0.442 3 7
Jorge Posada DH 20 0.333 0.500 0.467 0 3
Curtis Granderson CF 2 0.500 0.500 2.000 1 1
Russell Martin C 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 164 0.246 0.338 0.377 5 15
             
vs. CC Sabathia PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Austin Jackson CF 7 0.143 0.143 0.571 1 1
Will Rhymes 2B 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Magglio Ordonez RF 72 0.266 0.333 0.516 3 17
Miguel Cabrera 1B 15 0.538 0.600 1.077 2 9
Victor Martinez DH 24 0.227 0.292 0.545 2 3
Ryan Raburn LF 18 0.176 0.222 0.294 0 3
Jhonny Peralta SS 15 0.083 0.267 0.167 0 0
Brandon Inge 3B 61 0.151 0.262 0.208 1 2
Alex Avila C 1 1.000 1.000 1.000 0 0
Total 213 0.269 0.328 0.500 9 35

 

Yankees vs. Tigers    
Season: 2011 Season: 2010 Season: 2009 All-Time
TIED: 0-0 TIED: 4-4 NYY: 5-1 NYY: 1039-923

Random Notes:

  • Magglio Ordonez’ 17 RBIs are tied for the most by any player versus C.C. Sabathia. Torii Hunter also has the same amount.
  • The Yankees are 2-3 in home openers against the Detroit Tigers.
  • Derek Jeter is making his 15th Opening Day start, tying Bill Dickey for second most in franchise history. Mickey Mantle is the leader with 18.
  • Jeter is also one hit behind Al Simmons for 35th place on the all-time list.
  • With a home run, Jorge Posada can join Babe Ruth with five on Opening Day, the most in franchise history.

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For a few years in the 1990s, Opening Day wasn’t exactly a time of new hope and great expectations for Yankees fans. Younger followers of the team probably can’t fathom the idea of a season beginning with the Yankees staring down the barrel of last place, but such was the case two decades ago.

Considering the team’s extended run of success, it’s easy to lose perspective, which for today’s Yankee fan means overlooking a potent offense, deep bullpen and rotation fronted by a genuine ace to instead fret about the fifth starter. However, 20 years ago, the team’s Opening Day pitcher was a fifth starter, and it only went down hill from there.

TYA has a nice breakdown of the Yankees’ last 20 opening day games. Included on the list is a three year period in which the Yankees trotted out the likes of Dave LaPoint, Tim Leary and Scott Sanderson for the first game of the season. Clearly, optimism is a relative term.

Thanks in large part to a new young manager named Buck Showalter, 1992 would be the last time the Yankees started a year without a reasonable expectation for success. This year, Showalter will try to work the same magic for the Baltimore Orioles, who have suffered through an extended period of futility that makes the Yankees’ previous drought seem like a small island in the ocean.

So, in case you’ve forgotten what it was like to get ready for a season of discontent, here’s a friendly reminder from Dewayne Staats.

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Opening Day is always a joyous occasion, but if Jorge Posada’s afternoon is tinged with a touch of remorse, it’ll be easy to understand. For the first time in 12 years, Posada will be watching the first pitch of the season from the dugout instead of catching it behind the plate.

With Posada’s string of consecutive Opening Day starts at the same position coming to an end at 11, Bill Dickey can now rest easy because the Hall of Fame catcher’s franchise record of 14 is safe for the foreseeable future. Posada’s installation as the DH also prevented the Yankees from fielding the exact same starting nine on consecutive Opening Days for the first time ever, dating back to 1919.

If not for a strained thigh muscle in 2001, Jeter would be making history with his 16th consecutive Opening Day start at the same position. Instead, he’ll have to settle for matching Dickey for the second most Opening Day starts with 15. If Jeter cracks the lineup in each season of his new deal, the Captain would match Mickey Mantle’s franchise record of 18. Whether he can do that playing short stop remains to be seen, but it’s worth noting that the Mick’s last two openers came at first base.

Listed below is an assortment of team and player Opening Day facts and figures to keep you busy until the start of this afternoon’s game.

Yankees Opening Day Starters, 1919-2010

Most Opening Day Starts   Most Common Opening Day Lineup
Players G   Po  Player G
Mickey Mantle 18   C Bill Dickey 15
Bill Dickey 15   1B Lou Gehrig 14
Lou Gehrig 14   2B Willie Randolph 13
Derek Jeter 14   SS Derek Jeter 14
Bernie Williams 14   3B Graig Nettles 11
Willie Randolph 13   LF Roy White 9
Babe Ruth 13   CF Mickey Mantle 13
Yogi Berra 12   RF Hank Bauer 8
Graig Nettles 11   SP Whitey Ford 7
Jorge Posada 11   SP Ron Guidry 7
Phil Rizzuto 11   SP Mel Stottlemyre 7

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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During his over 40 years in the game of baseball, Bill White was a successful player, broadcaster and executive. Now, you can add author to the list.

Uppity: My Untold Story About the Games People Play” is due out on April 1, an ironic date considering White earned the reputation of being nobody’s fool. As a college educated black man playing throughout the segregated south in the minors and then in St. Louis as a big leaguer, White’s career began in the early days of integration, continued with him becoming the first black man to hold a full-time broadcasting position and then culminated with him blazing another trail as the first minority to be appointed to a major executive position in major league baseball.

This afternoon, White joined WFAN’s Mike Francessa in the studio for an hour to promote his book, which focuses on the obstacles he had to overcome during his career. In his discussion with Francessa, White mentioned that his main motivation for writing the book was to educate people, but mostly modern players, about the how far the game of baseball has come since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.

For perspective, when White broke into the big leagues segregation was still rampant, especially in the south and during spring training. After playing his first game, one newspaper headline read “No Jittery Big-Time Debut for Giants’ Negro Rookie”. Even though he debuted nine years after Robinson, black players in White’s era were still expected to keep a low profile. As the book describes, that was apparently the one thing White could not do.

Bill White, 22-year old New York Giants rookie, is a somber young man who refused to be nervous over his first appearance in a major league lineup.” – AP, May 8, 1956

Most Yankees fans who are over 30 years old have some memory of White on the air, either doing radio for WMCA, WINS or WABC or TV for WPIX. If George Steinbrenner had his way, however, White could have left a different stamp on the team. In his interview with Francessa, White stated that the Boss once offered him the job of General Manager. Considering the job security of that position compared to his broadcast role, White obviously made the right choice.

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Another season is upon us, and so too is the time for predictions. Listed below are my forecasts for the regular season standings as well as the major award winners. In addition, a capsule for each team is provided below. For what it’s worth, the Captain’s Blog did a pretty good job predicting the standings last year, so feel free to take these prognostications to Vegas. Just don’t send me the bill at the end of September.  

AL East W L   NL East W L
Yankees 94 68   Phillies 93 69
Red Sox 91 71   Braves 90 72
Rays 84 78   Marlins 84 78
Blue Jays 82 80   Mets 74 88
Orioles 76 86   Nationals 68 94
             
AL Central W L   NL Central W L
White Sox 91 71   Cubs 89 73
Twins 87 75   Brewers 87 75
Tigers 80 82   Cardinals 83 79
Indians 76 86   Reds 82 80
Royals 60 102   Astros 70 92
        Pirates 67 95
             
AL West W L   NL West W L
Angels 88 74   Giants 90 72
As 85 77   Rockies 84 78
Rangers 83 79   Dodgers 81 81
Mariners 65 97   Padres 77 85
        Dbacks 69 93

ALCS: Yankees over White Sox
NLCS: Phillies over Braves
World Series: Yankees over Phillies

AL Cy Young: David Price
NL Cy Young: Josh Johnson

AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez
NL MVP: Prince Fielder

AL ROY: Kyle Drabek
NL ROY: Domonic Brown

American League East

Yankees: A lot has been made of the uncertainty in the backend of the Yankees’ rotation, but dire assessments made on that basis seem to ignore that the team had 68 games started by a pitcher with an ERA+ of 86 or lower…and still managed to win 95 games Last year, the team led all of baseball with a wOBA of .347, despite off years from Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, all of whom could rebound in 2011. If Curtis Granderson is able to build on his second half resurgence and Brett Gardner continues to evolve as an offensive player, the combination of a dynamic offense and deep bullpen should be more than enough to keep the Yankees atop the East.

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

Branch Rickey was always considered to be a man well ahead of his time. The former GM of the Cardinals, Dodgers and Pirates is best known for being an instrumental figure in breaking baseball’s color barrier, but he is also credited with such innovations as developing the minor league farm system and pioneering advancements in equipment. And now, perhaps to the consternation of modern day purists, it appears as if he was also the father of sabermetrics.

Over the weekend, The Good Phight, a Phillies blog on the SB*Nation network, featured intriguing excerpts from a LIFE magazine article about Rickey’s statistical proclivities (“Goodby to Some Old Baseball Ideas”, published on August 2, 1954). The Good Phight does an excellent job juxtaposing some modern examples of reactionary baseball thinking against the lucid, progressive thoughts of Rickey that were uttered over 50 years ago. Apparently, the same resistance to change that existed in Rickey’s era continues to this day. I guess the more things change, they really do stay the same.

President Branch Rickey is quietly patting himself on the back because of a new Rickey idea: that of sending a statistician along with the club on its final western road trip to tabulate every pitch made for and against the Bums.” – Frank Eck, Associated Press, September 23, 1947

That Rickey was involved in advanced statistical analysis isn’t surprising. As the LIFE article mentions, he was widely regarded as “the first executive to see the value of using baseball statistics in putting together and running his teams”. While GM of the Brooklyn Dodgers, this realization inspired Rickey to hire a full-time statistician named Allan Roth in 1947. Only 26 years old at the time, the Montreal-born Roth was charged with recording every conceivable piece of data pertaining to the team and then synthesizing it into relevant strategy.

Roth is the figure filbert brought in by Branch Rickey to record every possible statistic on Dodger players almost down to the total drops of perspiration per nine inning game”. – Steve Snider, United Press, December 28, 1950

Rickey hired Allan Roth as a fulltime statistician in 1947 (Photo: Life).

Based on Roth’s findings, Rickey began to espouse ideas that were revolutionary in baseball circles. The most profound was probably the notion that a player’s performance was impacted by (left hand and right hand) splits, but Rickey was also one of the first of his era to vocally suggest that metrics such as batting average and fielding percentage were highly overrated, and in some instances, meaningless. Such statements cause resentment even today, so just imagine how Rickey’s contemporaries must have felt?

Interestingly, Rickey’s statistical revolution not only impacted his own industry, but it left a mark on the publishing realm as well. Just in time for the 1949 season, a newspaper called the Daily Baseball Form was launched. Much like today’s fantasy baseball-inspired websites, such as Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs, the new publication was geared toward those inclined to place a wager, but it’s volume of statistics eventually made it a universal resource.

Daily Baseball Form records are as complete as Branch Rickey’s statistics…For instance, if Joe Panhandle is going today, and the Braves got to him in the seventh and eighth innings of his last two starts, it is suggested that a good manager will have the boys wait him out in the early innings.” – Harry Grayson, NEA Sports Editor, April 29, 1949

We’ve gone off the beaten path a bit, but let’s jump back to the LIFE article. As we’ve established, there really is nothing surprising about the idea that Rickey was an early day sabermetrician. In fact, the most astounding thing is how little so many associated with the game have evolved. Having said that, the level of sophistication revealed in the article is certainly eye opening.

Branch Rickey explains his formula (Photo: Life).

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

The Yankees rounded out their rotation this morning by naming Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia as the team’s fourth and fifth starters, respectively. It was also announced that Bartolo Colon would serves as a swing man in the bullpen, similar to the role Alfredo Aceves performed when healthy over the past three seasons.

Is Ivan Nova ready for the bright lights of being a major league starter?

Although the spring battle for the rotation was billed as an open competition, the decision to go with Garcia over Colon wasn’t really surprising. Heading into camp, it seemed as if the Yankees preferred Nova and Garcia in the rotation, so it wouldn’t have made much sense to change plans based on 15 exhibition innings. As previously noted, however, the Yankees rotation will remain very fluid throughout the year, so by no means are these assignments set in stone, especially with Kevin Millwood now in the fold.

During March, a lot of attention was paid to the Yankees’ cavalcade of veteran starters, which collectively resembled more of an Old Timer’s Day All Star team than an opening day roster, but the real story that emerged from camp was the performance of Ivan Nova.  In addition to posting a 1.80 ERA in 20 spring innings, Nova also impressed observers by quickly learning how to throw a new pitch. Under the tutelage of Billy Connors last October, Nova adjusted the grip on his slider, effectively turning the pitch into a cutter.

During the spring, Nova used his new pitch to great effect, but it remains to be seen if he’ll enjoy the same amount of success once the games start to count. Combined with his already impressive fastball, above average curve and functional changeup, however, the addition of cutter makes Nova a much more dynamic pitcher, and perhaps one worthy of lofty expectation. After all, Connors has a pretty good track record teaching the cutter. Just ask Greg Maddux and Andy Pettitte.

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Sergio Mitre‘s tenure in pinstripes came to an end today when he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for reserve outfielder Chris Dickerson. Once Mitre dropped out of the race to win a spot in the starting rotation, his place on the team became somewhat precarious, making today’s trade a confirmation of the inevitable. However, the downstream implications remain to be determined.

The Yankees threw in the towel on Mitre by trading him to the Brewers.

By trading Mitre, the Yankees effectively cleared space for both Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia to go north with club next Thursday. More significantly, because the Yankees have cleared a roster slot, Ivan Nova is now all but assured of starting the season in the rotation. So, the only question remaining is who will fill out the staff: Garcia or Colon?

Based on spring training statistics, the fifth spot should go to Colon. In addition to compiling a 2.40 ERA in 15 innings, he has surrendered only 10 hits and recorded 17 strikeouts. Meanwhile, Garcia has pitched to a 5.93 ERA in 13 2/3 frames. If spring training really was meant to be a fair and open competition, the choice would be clear. Basing an important decision on such a small sample would be absurd, however, so hopefully the Yankees aren’t thinking that way.

An argument in favor of Garcia is his relative health. While Colon missed the entire 2010 season, Garcia turned in a workmanlike campaign with the White Sox.  Relative is an operative term, however. After all, the two pitchers recorded a combined 462 innings since 2007. In other words, you can throw past performance out the window. Considering all the time missed over the past five season, there really is little about each pitcher’s past upon which to forecast their performance in the future.

Can Colon turn back the clock for a month or two?

The only numbers that seem to have any significance right now are the ones being registered on the radar gun. All spring, Garcia has been throwing in the mid-80s, while Colon has topped out around 94. Colon has also managed to impress scouts with the depth to his breaking ball and deception of his change. In other words, even if only for a couple of weeks in March, the former Cy Young winner has seemingly turned back the clock to his prime. Granted, it would be naively optimistic to assume that Colon can maintain this resurgence, but why not for a month or two? If so, the Yankees would gladly take it.

Instead of trying to find one pitcher to be the fifth starter, the Yankees might be better off going with a backend rotation by committee. Maybe the likes of Colon, Garcia and the newly acquired Kevin Millwood only have 50-60 good innings left in them, but that’s all the Yankees really need. Ultimately, Brian Cashman may have to make a more substantial trade or promote a prospect from the minors. In the meantime, however, the Yankees probably get by without filling the holes in their starting rotation if they can just find a pitcher or two who won’t dig them any deeper.

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Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi has been making waves of late…radio waves that is. Over the past two weeks, the Yankees’ manager has caused such a stir in radio circles that even Heinrich Hertz would be impressed.

Chris Russo frothed at the mouth after Joe Girardi canceled a scheduled guest appearance on his radio show.

At the beginning of March, WFAN afternoon host Mike Francesa announced that Girardi would be expanding his weekly appearance into an almost daily segment before each Yankees game. Getting the manager of the city’s most high profile team on such an extensive basis was seen as a major coup for Francesa, but the win was short lived because less than two weeks later Girardi reportedly backed out of the deal. Despite suffering a small embarrassment, Francesa was gracious in acknowledging that the rigorous demands of a daily segment likely caused Girardi to have a change of heart. When the popular manager backed out a recent segment with Mad Dog Radio’s Chris Russo, however, the reaction wasn’t as understanding.

As reported by the Daily News’  Bob Raissman, the doggie went off his leash when Girardi allegedly backed out of a scheduled segment on his radio show, which has been touring various Spring Training camps during March. Russo reportedly took his program to Port Charlotte on Monday with the expectation that Girardi would appear, but was later surprised when the manager canceled. Needless to say, the Mad Dog became rabid, slamming Girardi and his agent, Steve Mandell, for pulling the plug at the last minute.

After enduring Russo’s on-air tirade, a Yankees source told Raissman that Girardi canceled his appearance, which was never guaranteed, because the manager was in the process of negotiating a deal to appear regularly on Sirus/XM’s (the same company that owns Mad Dog Radio) MLB Channel. As a result, Mandell did not want Girardi to appear on another company station until the terms were finalized. Apparently, that reasoning didn’t mollify Russo, who continued to bash both Girardi and his agent as well as question MLB’s promotional tactics.

But look how bad things are. I’m the only guy doing talk shows [from spring training sites] and [Bud] Selig and the powers that be wonder why a Richmond-Morehead State basketball game gets a better [TV] rating than a baseball playoff game. If they promoted their sport properly that wouldn’t be the case.” – Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, quoted in The New York Daily News, March 25, 2011

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Among baseball teams, the Cleveland Indians have been at the forefront in embracing social media. Instead of taking a combative position toward platforms like blogs, Facebook and Twitter, the Indians have actually gone out of their way to not only encourage, but support them. It’s time for the rest of baseball to follow their lead.

In 2010, the Indians established a "Social Deck" for bloggers to attend games at Progressive Field free of charge.

Last year, the Indians created the “Tribe Social Deck”, an information-age version of a press box with 10 seats reserved for bloggers and other social media users who create content about the team. As an encore, the Indians have chartered a more encompassing social media strategy for 2011, including the creation of Twitter accounts for several players, coaches and executives. Talk about “Progressive” Field…apparently, the Indians home ballpark is named for more than just a corporate sponsor.

Baseball has never shied away from integrating itself with prevailing social trends, and has certainly never turned away from adding new sponsors. Social media presents an opportunity to accomplish both, so Bud Selig and the rest of the power brokers in the game would be wise to follow the Indians’ lead and embrace the many possibilities.

The best place to start would be by holding a league-wide “Social Media Day”. Just imagine the possibilities. Every team could host its own selection of bloggers, perhaps by inviting them to take part in the game’s broadcast. What’s more, the last name on each player’s uniform could be replaced with a Twitter handle (the Yankees could use a patch on the sleeve), and in-game segments on the big screen could feature the Facebook pages of not only players, but randomly selected fans. The possibilities are endless, and so too would be the publicity surrounding such an event. What’s more, the benefit wouldn’t be a one-way street. Although social media has enjoyed impressive penetration, the addressable market remains much larger. Who knows how may baseball fans would be introduced to Twitter, for example, if they knew their favorite players were only 140 characters away? The time has come to find out.

Baseball already has a very successful arm that is heavily involved in social media: MLB Advanced Media. In addition to running websites, fantasy services and a blog platform, MLBAM also provides streaming and archived media as well as real-time information across various platforms, including Apple’s iPhone and iPad. MLBAM has already enjoyed immense success, but additional lucrative opportunities could be created if it was even more heavily integrated with the likes of Facebook, WordPress and Twitter.

Baseball is a very traditional institution. It doesn’t take to new ideas very quickly, but the time has come to hop fully aboard the social media bandwagon, even if for no other reason than there’s a lot of money to be made along the way.

MLB and Social Media

Team Likes on Facebook Players on Twitter
Yankees 3,373,852 5
Red Sox 2,176,824 6
Cubs 1,083,096 1
Giants 864,058 4
Phillies 804,291 2
Cardinals 650,515 2
Braves 617,229 4
Tigers 559,524 4
Dodgers 554,156 1
White Sox 546,569 4
Twins 535,513 10
Rangers 518,650 2
Mets 355,534 3
Brewers 335,159 2
Reds 311,000 4
Indians 305,037 7
Mariners 281,749 5
Rockies 259,230 2
Rays 256,697 7
Astros 255,669 4
Athletics 247,274 3
Angels 231,264 9
Blue Jays 227,785 6
Padres 219,420 3
Orioles 210,281 3
Royals 184,509 3
Pirates 157,066 5
Marlins 141,782 9
Dbacks 115,561 4
Nationals 78,110 7

Note: Data as of March 24, 2011. Twitter accounts are for players verified by @MLB and consenting to be listed in the directory.
Source: Facebook.com and twitter.mlblogs.com

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