Archive for April 13th, 2011

Buck Showalter’s new and improved Orioles left Yankee Stadium with the same old result: a loss.

Arod's first inning home run gave the Yankees a lead they never relinquished (Photo: Getty Images).

One pattern from past seasons that didn’t hold, however, was the performance of A.J. Burnett. Over the first two innings, the Yankee right hander struggled with his command and mechanics, but managed to pitch around trouble in each frame without surrendering a run. Instead of collapsing in the face of adversity, as had become epidemic in 2010, Burnett rebounded after his rough start to retire 13 of the next 15 hitters before running out of gas in the seventh.

Aside from his ability to overcome early setbacks, the most remarkable thing about AJ Burnett’s fast start has been the evolution in his pitching repertoire. According to Burnett, he threw 16 changeups in the game, or 14% of all pitches. Entering the game, Burnett had thrown a changeup 9.7% of the time, indicating that he is slowly gaining confidence in the pitch. For perspective, Burnett has never thrown more than 3.5% changeups in a full season as a Yankee, so if the right hander can continue to develop the pitch, his margin for error should increase.

Evolution of A.J. Burnett’s Changeup

Year Percentage Average Speed
2002 5.1% 83.9
2003 7.7% 83.2
2004 4.7% 87
2005 9.9% 85.9
2006 4.2% 88
2007 7.1% 88.1
2008 0.5% 86.8
2009 3.1% 87.8
2010 3.5% 88.4
2011 11.3% 88.4

Source: fangraphs.com and brooksbasell.net

The Yankees entered the game with several key figures in the lineup slumping, but Orioles’ starter Chris Tillman provided an early cure. In 1 2/3 innings, the tall right hander surrendered six runs on nine hits, including a first inning three-run homer to Alex Rodriguez’ and a two run double to Robinson Cano. More importantly, however, the first two innings also featured two base hits by Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira. For Jeter, the pair of safeties helped move him into a tie with Barry Bonds for 31st place on the all-time list, while Teixeira’s two hits helped break a 0-18 slide that started to reintroduce whispers about the first baseman’s notoriously slow starts.


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vs. Chris Tillman PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Brett Gardner LF 5 0.333 0.600 0.333 0 1
Derek Jeter SS 8 0.429 0.500 0.429 0 1
Mark Teixeira 1B 6 0.400 0.500 0.400 0 0
Alex Rodriguez 3B 6 0.500 0.500 1.000 1 3
Robinson Cano 2B 8 0.857 0.875 0.857 0 2
Nick Swisher RF 8 0.167 0.375 0.167 0 0
Jorge Posada DH 8 0.000 0.250 0.000 0 1
Curtis Granderson CF 9 0.286 0.333 0.571 0 2
Russell Martin C 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 58 0.383 0.483 0.489 1 10
Brian Roberts 2B 52 0.300 0.327 0.540 3 10
Nick Markakis RF 55 0.271 0.327 0.313 0 4
Derrek Lee 1B 9 0.250 0.333 0.250 0 0
Vladimir Guerrero DH 63 0.254 0.302 0.458 2 6
Luke Scott LF 34 0.259 0.412 0.630 2 4
Adam Jones CF 37 0.257 0.278 0.514 2 7
Mark Reynolds 3B 2 1.000 1.000 4.000 1 1
Matt Wieters C 21 0.000 0.143 0.000 0 1
Robert Andino SS 9 0.375 0.444 0.750 1 2
Total 282 0.257 0.326 0.458 11 35


Yankees vs. Orioles    
Season: 2011 Season: 2010 Season: 2009 All-Time
TIED: 0-0 TIED: 4-4 NYY: 5-1 NYY: 1040-923


  Home vs. RHP
Yankees 4-2 4-3
  Away vs. RHP
Orioles 3-0 5-1

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In a baseball sense, Peru is on another planet.

The Yankee logo on a window of a truck in Lima, Peru.

Despite my best efforts to propagate the faith on a trip two years ago, baseball remains a relatively unknown game in the Andean region of South America. At least some progress has been made, however. During a return trip that spanned the past 10 days, I observed nine Yankees caps atop the heads of Limeans (not including the ones I passed out two years ago) as well as two vehicle decals. In comparison, only one Red Sox’ and one Mets’ hat was observed, so although penetration remains light, at least the Yankees have an early foothold.

Even with occassional internet access, you can’t get further away from baseball consciousness than being in a country like Peru. As someone who usually doesn’t miss more than a handful of Yankees games during an entire season, being disconnected from the team was somewhat disconcerting, meaning it’ll probably take a few days to get back into the flow of the season. Nonetheless, below are some early observations culled from abroad as well as a few corresponding “what if” scenarios worth monitoring over the rest of April.

  • The Yankees have been this year’s version of the 2010 Blue Jays. Despite leading the league with 18 HRs, the Yankees rank 22nd with a paltry on-base percentage of .311. The power surge has helped compensate for the lack of base runners, but if the Yankees hope to lead the league in runs, they’ll need to stop making so many outs.
  • One of the reasons the Yankees’ offense has sputtered is because the top of the lineup has failed to get on base. In particular, Derek Jeter has done little to dispel concerns about his 2010 struggles. And, even more alarming than his .535 OPS has been the weakness of his outs. Over his first nine games, the Yankees’ captain has grounded out a  shockingly high 79.3% of the time. Meanwhile, Brett Gardner has struggled just as much as Jeter, creating a significant void before the middle of the order. If both players’ struggles persist, Joe Girardi may be forced to shake up the lineup sooner than anticipated by even the most pessimistic in the fan base.
  • Russell Martin’s early season resurgence has combined with initial contributions from Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones to portray Brian Cashman’s off season in a more favorable light. If all three wind up offering a positive contribution, the Yankees’ GM would enjoy at least a little bit of vindication. Of course, if the pitching staff continues to struggle, all fingers will once again be pointing at Cashman.
  • Even though Freddy Garcia has yet to throw a pitch as a starter, the Yankees’ rotation has shown some early cracks. Ironically, A.J. Burnett has not contributed to the concern, but his history of getting off to a fast start means the jury is still out on his 2011 comeback. In the meantime, the Yankees have to be at least a little worried by Phil Hughes’ combined loss of velocity and lack of command as well as Ivan Nova’s continued struggles after one pass through the lineup. If both problems persist, Kevin Millwood  could find himself in pinstripes before the end of the month.
  • The bullpen hasn’t been the strength most envisioned because of its inconsistency. Both Rafael Soriano and Joba Chamberlain had high-profile blowups, but the least effective reliever has been Boone Logan. If the Yankees’ only lefty reliever doesn’t regain his 2010 form, he could forfeit his spot on the active roster when Pedro Feliciano comes off the disabled list.
  • Although the middle relief has been sketchy, Mariano Rivera remains near perfect. If the Yankees’ closer continues to rack up saves in the early going, he could become baseball’s all-time saves before the end of the year.

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