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Archive for the ‘Alex Rodriguez’ Category

Joe Girardi should be fired. Alex Rodriguez choked again. Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher aren’t tough enough to perform in the postseason. The Yankees should just let CC Sabathia opt out. He can’t win in October anymore.

For Yankees' fans, an early playoff exit shouldn't have to mean total despair (Photo: AP).

Undoubtedly, many of the sentiments above will be expressed today by Yankees’ fans who are still angry over their team’s early dismissal from the 2011 postseason. Unfortunately, too many of those who follow the Bronx Bombers are of the opinion that if the season doesn’t end with champagne, it must be a failure. Of course, you really can’t blame them when that “all or nothing all” philosophy has also become an organizational mantra.

It might be blasphemous to say in Yankeeland, but winning the division is just as important as winning the World Series. Although most seem to view the 162 marathon as nothing more than a qualifying heat for an October sprint, common sense seems to dictate that these two formats be viewed separately. In many ways, the relationship between baseball’s regular season and playoffs is akin to European soccer teams playing a league schedule along with an international tournament. Both are important, but failure in one shouldn’t take away from success in the other.

Yankees Historical Per Game Run Differential

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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On Tuesday, the Yankees were simply looking to survive. Tonight, they hope to conquer.

Thanks to the surprising performance of A.J. Burnett in game 4 of the division series, the Yankees escaped from Detroit with their World Series hopes intact and now face a sudden death playoff game for the first time since losing the 2005 ALDS to the Anaheim Angels.

Facing Sudden Death: Yankees’ History in Postseason Series Finales

Source: Baseball-reference.com

The Yankees have played in the most winner-take-all October showdowns, which shouldn’t be surprising considering the team’s playoff history encompasses 368 games to date. However, despite the franchise’s incomparable 48-22 record in all postseason series, the Bronx Bombers are only 11-10 when facing a mutual elimination. Of course, that speaks to how difficult it has been to knock the Yankees out in October. While fewer than one-fourth of their series wins have come gone to the wire, almost half of their loses have gone the distance.

Because the Yankees have played in almost 14% of all sudden death postseason games (21 of 152), many of the sport’s most dramatic October moments have involved the pinstripes (for a companion piece on sudden death games involving all teams, check out my latest post at Bronx Banter). In terms of WPA, five of the top-25 offensive performances in the history of deciding games have been recorded by Yankees. Perhaps the most famous such game is Chris Chambliss’ pennant winning homerun against the Kansas City Royals that sent the Yankees back to the World Series in 1976 for the first time in 12 years. Of course, younger fans of the Bronx Bombers are probably more partial to Aaron Boone’s long ball, which sealed the Red Sox fate in the 2003 ALCS. Either way, both moments not only rank among the most dramatic in Yankees’ history, but all of baseball lore.

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After falling behind 6-0 to the Oakland Athletics in last night’s game, the Yankees mounted a furious comeback attempt that literally just fell short when Nick Swisher’s bid for a walk-off grand slam landed in Coco Crisp’s glove, just inches from the center field wall.

As is often the case when losing by a slim margin, there are several at bats, plays, and managerial decisions (bunting with one of the games’ hottest hitters, for example) that can be second guessed, but perhaps no one will be kicking themselves more than Swisher and Mark Teixeira. Not only did the two Yankees’ switch hitters fail to deliver with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, but the duo combined to leave 11 runners stranded.

If Swisher’s fly ball had traveled a couple of more feet, he would have been hailed as a hero. Instead, he wound up producing the lowest WPA by a Yankee batter this season. At least Swisher hit the ball hard (although the wisdom of swinging 2-0 against a wild pitcher could be questioned). After popping up to third base, Teixeira had no such consolation. Thanks to his ninth inning out, which capped an 0-5 night, the Yankees’ first baseman also cracked the top-10 lowest WPA games by a member of the offense.

Top-10 Lowest and Highest WPA Games by a Yankees’ Batter, 2011 (click to enlarge)

Note: Based on available data.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

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

Some of Brian Cashman's best decisions have involved trades he didn't make.

The trade deadline has resulted in some of the most lopsided deals in history, but that doesn’t mean evey swap made under the gun has to have a winner and loser.  Each year, there are just as many deadline deals that are prudent as ones that are impetuous, but what about the trades that don’t get made? Sometimes, by not pulling an itchy trigger, a general manager can make his team a deadline winner even without making a single transaction.

During his Yankee tenure, Brian Cashman has not been very active during the trade deadline. In fact, when he has made a major in-season deal, it has often come earlier in the year when the pressure of the deadline was off in the distance. What Cashman has been very good at, however, is avoiding impetuous deals that would have a negative impact on the future more than help in the present.

In his first year as GM, Cashman inherited a strong team and built it into a powerhouse with additions like Chuck Knoblauch and Orlando Hernandez. However, despite compiling a record setting winning percentage over the first four months, the Yankees were still front and center amid several rumors at the deadline. In particular, it was reported that the team was close to securing Randy Johnson for a package including Hideki Irabu and a combination of prospects like Ramiro Mendoza, Mike Lowell, Ricky Ledee and Homer Bush.

Although it’s hard to imagine that Johnson would have had a negative impact on the Yankees, an improvement would have been impossible.  Granted, if the deal had been made, the Yankees may not have had to face Johnson in the 2001 World Series, but it’s also possible they wouldn’t have gotten there without the likes of Roger Clemens and David Justice, two players later acquired using players rumored to be in the mix for Johnson.

In 1999, the Yankees reportedly considered trading Andy Pettitte for Roberto Hernandez.

In 1999, Andy Pettitte was having one of his most difficult seasons in the big leagues. During the first half, the normally reliable lefty compiled a 5-7 record with a 5.59 ERA, leading to speculation that the Yankees might trade him before the deadline. One of the more prominent reports involved the Yankees trading Pettitte to the Phillies for two prospects who would then be flipped to Tampa for Roberto Hernandez. Had that trade been made, there not only wouldn’t have been a core four, but it’s also possible the Yankees wouldn’t have had four championships to celebrate. Because of Cashman’s ability to resist the pressure from above to trade Pettitte, the Yankees were able to enjoy 85 more wins, including nine in the post season, from the homegrown left hander.

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When Derek Jeter returned from the disabled list on July 4, there was some concern about whether his re-installation atop the lineup would short circuit a Yankees offense that had scored 5.7 per game in his absence. In addition, there was speculation about whether Joe Girardi might drop the Hall of Fame shortstop down in the lineup once his milestone 3,000th hit was attained. Almost immediately, however, the Yankees’ manager put an end to the whispers by steadfastly stating that Jeter would remain at the top of the batting order for the remainder of the season. Since then, Girardi has been more than rewarded for his vote of confidence.

Although the Yankees have experienced a one run per game decline in offense since Jeter’s return, the shortstop hasn’t been to blame. In fact, since July 4, Jeter has been the team’s best offensive player. Over the last 18 games, Jeter’s line of .324/.385/.521 has more resembled some of his best seasons than the year-plus decline that has led many to question his future. Expanding the sample to include the entire month of July, Jeter’s wOBA of .402 ranks third on the team behind Eduardo Nunez (.406) and Brett Gardner (.403). Jeter also leads the team with a WPA of 0.76 during the month, a figure equal to the combined total of the next two leaders (Nunez and Gardner). Ironically, in the absence of Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees who have stepped up the most are the ones most fans probably least expected.

Derek Jeter’s RHP/LHP Splits, 2002-2011 (click to enlarge)

Source: fangraphs.com

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

The Yankees offense currently ranks second among American League teams in just about every meaningful category, including wOBA, OPS+ and runs per game. However, the lineup has seemed to lack consistency as well as a definitive positive trend. As a result, the aggregate numbers look good, but to the naked eye, something seems to be missing.

Most recently, that “something” has been Alex Rodriguez. In the eight games played during his absence, the Yankees has posted a line of .244/.307/.333 along with a wOBA of .294 and per game output of four runs. Thankfully, the pitching staff, namely C.C. Sabathia, has been good enough to give the team a 5-3 record in that span, but if the bats don’t pick up, the Yankees may not be able to keep up with the division leading Red Sox.

Top-10 Offenses Compared to League (R/G Basis), 1901-2010 (click to enlarge)

Source: Baseball-reference.com

The Red Sox have been able to pull ahead in the American League East because of the prolific production by their lineup. Granted, the Red Sox have taken considerable advantage of FenwayPark (wOBA of .376 versus .333 on the road), but nonetheless, the bats have been booming in Beantown.  In terms of runs/game versus the league average, the 2011 Red Sox not only rank second in franchise history to the 1950 squad, but also compare favorably to some of the best offenses of all time. Currently, Boston has outscored the league average by 27%, a rate that, if maintained, would rank eleventh among all teams since 1901.

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As the trade deadline nears, the Yankees will probably be linked to every impact player available on the market. If the team gets shutout, have no fear, Carlos Beltran is on the way. Or, if Bartolo Colon stumbles again, there’s still no reason to fret. Ubaldo Jimenez is being measured for pinstripes. Whatever the Yankees’ need, the next two weeks will provide a rumor to fill it. Of course, much of the rampant speculation will likely be news to even Brian Cashman.

Although it’s fun to identify acquisition candidates based on marquee value, it’s sometimes more constructive to examine the relationships between general managers. For example, if the Red Sox need reinforcements, there’s a good chance Theo Epstein will turn to the San Diego Padres. Not only is Padres’ GM Jed Hoyer a former Red Sox’ executive, but the two teams have made 11 trades since Epstein took the reins in Boston.

Brian Cashman’s Most Common Trade Partners (click to enlarge)

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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