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Archive for April 6th, 2011

The Yankees' Ron Blomberg was baseball's first DH.

The early part of a baseball season is about uncovering early clues to help answer all the questions that accumulated in the offseason. Heading into the 2011 season, one of the concerns facing the Yankees was whether Jorge Posada would adapt to his new role as a fulltime DH. With three homeruns in his first four games, the early signs look good.  And, if Posada continues his smooth transition from behind the plate, the real question may be whether he can become the best DH in franchise history.

Many Yankee fans probably know that the team’s first DH was Ron Blomberg, who was also the first DH in baseball history. However, Bloomberg was never primarily a designated hitter. In 1973, the bulk of the job went to Jim Ray Hart.  Since then, the team has featured a revolving door of designated hitters, not only from year to year, but often within a season.  In fact, on 19 occasions, the Yankees used at least 10 designated hitters, including 2010, when 16 different players performed the role. As a result, there haven’t been many opportunities for a Yankee DH to post prolific numbers.

Yankees’ Primary DH, 1973-2010

Player Year G PA R HR RBI BA OBP SLG
Jim Ray Hart 1973 105 370 30 12 50 0.256 0.325 0.416
Roy White 1974 53 239 35 3 22 0.264 0.345 0.370
Ed Hermann 1975 34 118 8 3 13 0.286 0.356 0.429
Carlos May 1976 81 332 39 3 34 0.256 0.341 0.339
Carlos May 1977 54 189 21 2 15 0.222 0.293 0.299
Cliff Johnson 1978 39 123 13 3 11 0.217 0.325 0.396
Jim Spencer 1979 71 220 44 18 37 0.280 0.364 0.606
Eric Soderholm 1980 51 173 26 8 22 0.307 0.384 0.523
Bobby Murcer 1981 33 113 14 5 20 0.284 0.345 0.490
Oscar Gamble 1982 74 268 32 12 38 0.264 0.366 0.485
Don Baylor 1983 136 570 82 21 83 0.303 0.363 0.500
Don Baylor 1984 128 540 81 25 85 0.262 0.340 0.481
Don Baylor 1985 140 562 71 23 91 0.232 0.332 0.432
Mike Easler 1986 130 500 58 11 70 0.304 0.359 0.443
Ron Kittle 1987 49 161 21 12 27 0.278 0.304 0.550
Jack Clark 1988 112 485 63 21 72 0.243 0.386 0.434
Steve Balboni 1989 82 261 29 14 52 0.255 0.307 0.502
Mel Hall 1990 54 184 20 4 18 0.239 0.261 0.375
Kevin Maas 1991 109 436 54 17 43 0.211 0.326 0.386
Kevin Maas 1992 62 239 24 7 26 0.238 0.301 0.374
Danny Tartabull 1993 88 388 57 20 70 0.260 0.374 0.508
Danny Tartabull 1994 78 347 47 13 42 0.224 0.314 0.416
Ruben Sierra 1995 46 200 29 6 42 0.260 0.325 0.424
Ruben Sierra 1996 61 270 31 7 34 0.275 0.348 0.428
Cecil Fielder 1997 89 392 45 13 58 0.263 0.357 0.422
Darryl Strawberry 1998 81 291 36 20 44 0.254 0.361 0.552
Chillli Davis 1999 132 540 69 19 73 0.270 0.369 0.449
Shane Spencer 2000 33 131 15 4 12 0.233 0.298 0.422
David Justice 2001 85 344 49 16 43 0.228 0.323 0.436
Jason Giambi 2002 63 277 43 12 37 0.271 0.397 0.489
Jason Giambi 2003 69 305 37 16 41 0.220 0.377 0.452
Ruben Sierra 2004 56 221 27 13 41 0.236 0.281 0.458
Jason Giambi 2005 60 235 31 8 22 0.209 0.404 0.367
Jason Giambi 2006 70 306 55 21 66 0.224 0.373 0.531
Jason Giambi 2007 57 233 27 9 30 0.246 0.365 0.426
Hideki Matsui 2008 66 273 29 7 33 0.285 0.355 0.423
Hideki Matsui 2009 140 562 71 23 91 0.232 0.332 0.432
Marcus Thames 2010 41 144 18 9 24 0.291 0.326 0.530

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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The Yankees let a victory slip away when an ill-advised slide by Nick Swisher allowed the Twins to tie the game in the eighth, but the real slip up was committed by Joe Girardi before the inning even started.

For most of the game, the Yankees seemed on their way to an easy 4-0 victory. After being staked to an early lead on another three-run home run by Mark Teixeira as well as a solo blast by Andruw Jones in his first Yankee at bat, CC Sabathia cruised through the Twins lineup until he was inexplicably lifted before the eighth inning.  At the time of his departure, the Yankees’ ace lefty had retired the last 15 batters faced and thrown only 104 pitches, but Joe Girardi opted to go to the bullpen anyway.

In his first two outings, Rafael Soriano has looked every bit the lock down setup man the Yankees inked to a lucrative three-year deal. From the first pitch in yesterday’s game, however, something didn’t seem right. Normally pinpoint with his control, Soriano struggled to command the strike zone. In two-thirds of an inning, the right hander walked three batters, including Joe Mauer with the bases loaded.

Girardi eventually lifted Soriano in favor of David Robertson, who was unfairly tagged with a blown save when Delmon Young’s shallow fly ball squirted past Swisher and cleared the bases. Had Swisher played the ball correctly, Robertson would have had the chance to escape the jam with a 4-3 lead, but instead the overzealous attempt gave the Twins a second chance. Since Ron Gardenhire has been manager, the Twins have usually been the ones giving games back to the Yankees, but this time his team closed the deal by scoring the winning run against Boone Logan in the tenth.

Relief pitching has been touted as one of the Yankees’ strengths, an expectation that will undoubtedly prove to be true by the end of the season.  However, when C.C. Sabathia is wheeling and dealing, the bullpen should be an afterthought. By ignoring this rule of thumb, Girardi not only helped turn a victory into defeat, but also burned through his entire bullpen.  Now the question becomes who will be available tonight when Freddy Garcia makes his first start of the season?

Sabathia’s Scoreless Games of Seven Innings or More as a Yankee

Date Opp Rslt Dec IP H R ER BB SO Pit
4/11/2009 KCR W 6-1 W 7.2 6 0 0 0 6 108
5/8/2009 BAL W 4-0 W 9 4 0 0 1 8 112
7/18/2009 DET W 2-1 W 7 5 0 0 3 4 114
8/8/2009 BOS W 5-0 W 7.2 2 0 0 2 9 123
9/26/2009 BOS W 3-0 W 7 1 0 0 2 8 96
4/10/2010 TBR W 10-0 W 7.2 1 0 0 2 5 111
6/20/2010 NYM W 4-0 W 8 4 0 0 2 6 100
9/2/2010 OAK W 5-0 W 8 1 0 0 3 5 95
9/13/2010 TBR L 0-1 ND 8 2 0 0 2 9 119
4/5/2011 MIN L 5-4 ND 7 2 0 0 1 6 104

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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