• The Great Mets Collapse Of 2007

    Posted by on September 30th, 2007 · Comments (14)

    This whole Mets-Phillies race really had my attention over the past few days.

    First, I’m a baseball history nut. I just can’t get enough of it. And, the event of a team blowing a 7-game lead with 17 games to go is, well, something for baseball history.

    Think of it this way: If you had a 7-game lead with 17 games to go, and the team chasing you went nuts, and they went 14-3 (a winning percentage of .824!), still, all you would need to do is go 8-9 in your remaining games to hold them to second place. Yes, you could close with a losing record while the other team played .800-baseball and you would still finish first. So, to lose that type of lead, you’re really blowing it.

    Second, as I’ve stated before, I feel bad for Willie Randolph here. When you’re a manager and this happens to you, it goes on your resume and it never leaves – ever. When you hear “Gene Mauch” you think “1964 Phillies.” That stayed with Mauch his entire career. The same can happen here, now, with Willow. That’s sad.

    Third, as to why this thing had my interest, is more of an experiment/study type thing.

    As a Yankees fan, I know how I feel about the 2004 ALCS – especially how I felt at that time. I was angry, disgusted and embarrassed. (And, today, I’m still upset about it – in some ways.) But, I could not say for sure that I knew (then) how other baseball fans felt about the Yankees failures in that series – outside of Boston, of course – or how they felt towards Yankees fans at that time (or later). Now, having seen another team, close by, where I know many fans of the team, choke one up, I have some perspective.

    Don’t get me wrong, as a Yankees fan, there’s a slice of me that feels good having this “seven and seventeen” card to play now whenever a Mets fan wants to get on my case about 2004.

    However, it’s not like I now feel like I’m loaded for bear and need to start shooting at anything that poops in the woods. I followed the collapse, witnessed history, felt bad for a former Yankee, and, now, it’s over. It’s in the books and that’s pretty much it. I may not even mention it to my Mets fans friends unless they bring it up first.

    Perhaps I feel this way because of the 2004 ALCS? Maybe the historic choke of 2007 by the Mets would resonate longer (or different) with me if not for the recent Yankees choke? It’s possible. But, since I cannot make the 2004 ALCS results go away – as much as I would like to – I’ll never know for sure.

    To me, at this time, the great Mets collapse of 2007 is just another flashy news story that will soon lose it’s place in the headlines to the next great sensational new shocker.

    Is this the way that non-Yankees and non-Bosox fans feel about the 2004 ALCS? Is it old and forgotten news already? Maybe not – considering the fact that it was Boston and New York, and the history and the hype there?

    As Yankees fans, how do you feel about the great Mets collapse of 2007 now that it’s a reality?

    September 30th @ The Orioles

    Posted by on September 30th, 2007 · Comments (2)

    Another Spring Training type game today.

    Still, a win is a win – and this one gave the Yankees 94 for the season (which is their lowest season victory total since 2000). Considering how they started, getting to 94 wins is, well, in the words of Larry David, prittay, prittay, good.

    Nice that Torre let Posada run the team today. I actually think Posada will make an excellent manager someday in the future. He’s a catcher – so, he knows pitching. He’s worked hard to make himself a great switch-hitter. And, he comes from a baseball family. It’s in his blood. Plus, he can speak Spanish too. There’s a lot of things going for him there, if he wants to lead a team after his playing days are over.

    Yankees To Carry 11 Pitchers In ALDS

    Posted by on September 30th, 2007 · Comments (3)

    You know that Chamberlain, Clemens, Farnsworth, Hughes, Mussina, Pettitte, Rivera, Vizcaíno and Wang will be on the team. That’s nine.

    This means that Torre and Cashman will pick two from the following: Britton, Bruney, Igawa, Ohlendorf, Ramírez, Veras and Villone.

    I have a feeling that Villone is a lock – being a lefty and someone who can go long in a blow-out.

    This leaves one spot between Britton, Bruney, Igawa, Ohlendorf, Ramírez, and Veras.

    It’s not going to be Igawa, for sure. It will be a choice among the right-handed RPs: Britton, Bruney, Ohlendorf, Ramírez, and Veras.

    Knowing Torre, and watching who he has been using lately, in Joe’s mind, it’s probably either Bruney, Ramírez, or Veras. If it’s Torre’s say that is the final vote, I bet Joe takes Ramírez.

    That’s a shame, because, Ohlendorf could be a sleeper here – much like Mo Rivera in the 1995 ALDS.

    And, let’s watch Bruney’s reaction to being left off the roster. It could mark the end of his Yankees’ career.

    Godzilla To Have Knee Drained

    Posted by on September 30th, 2007 · Comments (3)

    From the Post -

    Joe Torre insisted Hideki Matsui being sent to New York last night to have his balky right knee drained today isn’t that big of a deal. However, the procedure likely will limit Matsui to DH duty against the Indians when the ALDS opens in Cleveland on Thursday night.

    “It’s nothing serious,” Torre said of Matsui having fluid removed from the hinge that has been a problem for most of the season. “It won’t affect his status.”

    What it does do is kill any plans Torre may have had about getting Jason Giambi into the lineup as the DH, playing Matsui in left and using Johnny Damon in center for the slumping Melky Cabrera, who has one hit in 20 at-bats (.050).

    Of course, Giambi could be used as the DH if Matsui can’t make it. Matsui, who ended the season batting .285 with 25 homers and 103 RBIs, finished in a 6-for-23 (.261) mini-slide. The knee wasn’t a serious enough issue to keep Matsui out of left field Thursday and Friday night.

    I’m having John Olerud, 2004 ALCS, bad flashbacks, hearing this news.

    ALDS Dates Are Set

    Posted by on September 30th, 2007 · Comments (5)

    The Red Sox have opted for the eight-day ALDS set-up. This means that the Yankees-Indians ALDS will be played across seven days – and, therefore, the Indians can’t C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona twice in the series on normal rest.

    Here’s the schedule:

    Thursday, Oct. 4: Game One at Cleveland
    Friday, Oct. 5: Game Two at Cleveland
    Sunday Oct. 7: Game Three at New York
    Monday Oct. 8: Game Four at New York (if necessary)
    Wednesday Oct. 10: Game Five at Cleveland (if necessary)

    It’s going to seem like forever, going Monday morning until Thursday, to wait for Game One. And, it’s going to feel empty on Saturday, October 6th, with no game on a weekend-day.

    September 29th @ The Orioles

    Posted by on September 30th, 2007 · Comments (0)

    Andy Pettitte’s ERA for the season took a beating with this game. It was 3.81 coming into the contest and it’s now 4.05 (on the year). That’s a shame – because the 3.8 mark was more fitting to his effort this year than the mark of 4-plus.

    Call me crazy, but, I would love to see Shelley Duncan get the start at first base against C.C. Sabathia in the ALDS.

    That’s about all one can say after watching this game. It really was more like a Spring Training game. As such, you can’t take too much out of it and give it serious consideration.

    SOTD: Reaching The Post Season With Just 3 Horses

    Posted by on September 29th, 2007 · Comments (0)

    Come and knock on our door…..
    We’ve been waiting for you……

    Three’s company too.

    Schmidt: A-Rod Needs To Ease Up

    Posted by on September 29th, 2007 · Comments (0)

    From Hall-of-Famer Mike Schmidt, via an AP feature:

    With all due respect to the great years by my friends George, Wade and Brooks, the greatest year ever by a third baseman will very soon be owned by Alex Rodriguez.

    He’ll eclipse my year in 1980 when we won the World Series, Brett’s MVP and near-.400 year, and you can pick any one of several great years by Boggs and Robinson.

    My regular season of 48 home runs and 122 RBIs looks rather minuscule in comparison, but project that into today’s environment and it would be similar.

    The challenge ahead is [Alex's] well-documented nemesis, as it was for me: the postseason.

    In my case, the 1980 NL East race wasn’t decided until the final series in Montreal. There was no wild-card fallback — you either were the best in the division or you went home.

    For me, that was a career-defining series, the series that erased the ghosts of postseason past. You see, you can take all the regular season game-ending home runs, Gold Gloves and MVP awards, and they mean very little compared to success in the postseason.

    For our Phillies, Montreal might as well have been the postseason. We had to win two of three at Olympic Stadium to win the division against Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, Steve Rogers and company.

    Long story short, with the pressure on, I went 6-for-11 with home runs that won the first two games.

    I mention my stats not to brag, but to make the point that those two games erased the ghosts of my past and established my ability to come through in the clutch. We failed in 1976, ’77 and ’78, and in each case I stunk it up as a hitter.

    I carried that burden of postseason flops with me each year. It’s the same burden A-Rod should erase this fall.

    There are always postseason flops, but when you’re the star of the show, when the focus is you, people hold you to a higher standard. It’s not enough to lead the team to the post season, it’s can you finish the job? It’s what you get paid the big bucks for! A-Rod, yes, super large bucks!

    Here’s the real story on “postseason pressure” Most major league players treat every at bat, every pitch and every game like nothing else matters at that moment.

    Winning the battle of who you’re facing, the pitcher-hitter battle, is the ultimate in sports. It’s our competitive nature, it’s part of why we are in the highest league.

    For some of us, though — and I include A-Rod and myself in this group — we sense and apply a greater importance to our role in the big games, in the more important series, in the postseason.

    It would be better for us if we didn’t, if we could treat them like games in April. The ol’ “big bucks” theory applies again. When I played, I was the highest paid, I did feel the need to lead. Same with A-Rod today.

    The problem comes when this sense of increased pressure affects your metabolism and your thinking process, and that increases your anxiety level. For someone like A-Rod, an intelligent hitter with a strong sense of “feel,” a small flaw in the stroke can become a big problem when the pressure is on.

    Combine that with opposing pitchers grinding on every pitch to him, a couple key hard-hit outs, and announcers and fans waiting for him to give them a slight opening for criticism.

    Much of my career I feared failure. I believe A-Rod did, too.

    I’ve studied this because I wanted to be Rose or Derek Jeter, that kind of player. We all do.

    I concluded that an athletes that was extremely gifted physically was better off with a blase or indifferent attitude concerning the public perception of him. Rose? Reggie? Gary Sheffield? Manny Ramirez? There are many more.

    It helps to place little, if any, credence on what people think of you or what writers or the media are writing about you. To be impervious to pressure, you either have to be borderline ignorant, or totally secure with yourself as a person. You must have a plan of attack to combat the demons of pressure.

    Alex Rodriguez wants to be liked. He cares about his image, the public’s perception of him, and he wants to add adjectives like “clutch” and “winner” to his resume.

    He wants to be perceived in the same way as Jeter, but he knows he has to earn it. You can’t fault him for that. However, the correct approach is to let it evolve, let it come to you.

    Keeping your focus on the little things allows the big ones to find you. This is great advice for all postseason combatants — especially one named A-Rod, who has one final hurdle.

    Michael Jack Schmitty offering up some unsolicited, yet still somewhat interesting, insight on A-Rod, huh? But, here’s the deal: The “pressing” Alex Rodriguez disappeared this year. It seems, that, this year, A-Rod is not so wrapped up with what people think about him.

    And, as I wrote five days ago:

    The funny thing is, that, before Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS, Alex always seemed to hit well in the post-season. Go ahead, check the stats. His numbers from the 1997 ALDS, 2000 ALDS and ALCS, and 2004 ALDS are very good.

    Basically, it’s been Games 5, 6, and 7 of the 2004 ALCS and the 9 games from the ALDS of 2005 and 2006 where A-Rod has failed. These contests are Alex’s October Dirty Dozen.

    Personally, and this is just a hunch, I think Rodriguez will have a fine post-season this year. Maybe it won’t be off-the-charts, in terms of being positive. But, it will not be a total bomb like 2005 and 2006. And, the fans will be fine with that effort – regardless if the Yankees win or lose.

    Granted, A-Rod had an MVP-season in 2005 and then did not have a good post-season. So, I suppose that anything is possible.

    Still, this season, Alex hit (in terms of BA/OBA/SLG) .333/.442/.861 against the Angels, and .333/.407/1.083 against the Indians, and .254/.397/.540 against the Red Sox. This said, it would not shock me to see A-Rod tear the cover off the ball this October.

    Jeter’s Lack Of “Glove” Not Really A Big Deal?

    Posted by on September 29th, 2007 · Comments (8)

    From John Dewan’s Stat of the Week with a hat tip to BaseballThinkFactory.org -

    Fact: Derek Jeter had the second worst plus/minus figure at shortstop in 2005 at -34.

    Fact: Derek Jeter had the second worst plus/minus figure at shortstop in 2006 at -22.

    Fact: Derek Jeter is tied for the worst plus/minus figure at shortstop thus far in 2007
    at -34.

    Fact: Virtually every other fielding metric shows similar results.

    But Jeter won Gold Gloves in 2005 and 2006. And he’ll probably win again this year. As my good friend Carmen Corica used to say, “Don’t let facts cloud the issues.”

    The issue is that Derek Jeter is the best shortstop in baseball. The first shortstop I would pick in all of baseball to play for my team this year or next year would be Derek Jeter (though I would have to consider putting A-Rod back at short as well). Jeter is great offensively and has tremendous leadership skills. But he is not one of the best defensively. The managers and coaches who vote for the Gold Gloves have a hard time separating the best defensive shortstop from the best shortstop.

    So, Derek Jeter makes 34 fewer plays than the average player at shortstop. Derek Jeter averages about 155 games played per season. This means there is one play, at short, every 5 games (rounding up) that Derek Jeter fails to make that an average shortstop would handle.

    What does that mean? Well, one study says that a batted ball out is worth -.299 of a run. So, if Jeter misses 34 plays a year, he’s costing the Yankees around 10 runs a season with his play at short. Or, if you look at his games played per season, Jeter is costing the Yankees one run, with his glove, per every 16 games (rounding up) that he plays at short.

    That doesn’t seem like a lot of damage – does it?

    But, again, this is compared to an “average” shortstop. If you compare Jeter to a Troy Tulowitzki type, then he’s costing the Yankees around 20 runs per season – or one run, with his glove, per every 8 games (rounding up) that he plays at short.

    What does this mean? Let’s use pythagorean winning percentage for a test. The Yankees, to date, this season, have scored 938 runs and allowed 753 runs. That’s a pythagorean winning percentage of .608.

    Now, take away 20 runs (that Jeter allows compared to a great fielding SS) from that runs allowed total. This would give the Yankees a pythagorean winning percentage of .621.

    The difference between the .621 and the .608, in terms of wins, over a 162-game season, is two wins.

    Therefore, in the end, I would suggest that having Derek Jeter at short, compared to having a world-class fielding SS at that position, is costing, the Yankees two wins per season. (Keep in mind this is under the condition of the Yankees having a great offensive team.)

    Without looking, I would bet that Jeter makes us those two wins, somewhere, with his bat.

    Don’t get me wrong here. My blood pressure goes up every time I hear “Past-a-diving Jeter” during a Yankees broadcast. And, when I hear it, the fanboy in me comes out and says “It’s time to get someone with some range at short.”

    However, in the end, when you look at the numbers, it’s really not like Jeter is hurting the Yankees with his glove – or, better said, he’s not killing them with his glove. And, at this moment, it only makes sense to move Jeter off short if you had a replacement who fielded like Adam Everett and who could hit like Jeter.

    So, unless you had a healthy Barry Larkin in his prime, you’re not going to find someone who will help the Yankees more at short than what Derek Jeter is doing now…even with his defensive “shortcomings.”

    Memo To Self: Never Boost The Sports Section In Taipei

    Posted by on September 29th, 2007 · Comments (0)

    From MonstersandCritics.com -

    Taipei – The popularity of Taiwanese New York Yankees pitcher Wang Chien-ming proved so deadly that a man was clubbed to death for stealing a newspaper supplement about the baseball star, Taiwan media reported Saturday.

    Chou Chu-hung, 51, was caught red-handed by a convenience store manager in the northern county of Taoyuan Friday when he tried to steal a newspaper supplement reporting on the Taiwanese star, cable news network ETTV said.

    In a fit of anger, the manager, identified as 26-year-old Chen Kuo-chih, beat Chou with a baseball club until he died, ETTV said.

    Footage of the brutal act recorded by the convenience store’s video camera showed Chou used both hands to protect his head and repeatedly asking Chen for forgiveness, but Chen ignored his begging and continued to club him until the man collapsed.

    Chen was later arrested by police for murder, ETTV said, adding the newspaper, which cost just 10 Taiwan dollars (30 US cents), inserted a supplement reporting on Wang’s 19th victory in his US baseball career.

    Wang, who is highly popular in Taiwan, is described by Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian and Taiwanese news media as ‘the island’s glory.’

    All of the stories related to baseball and “supplements” in the news these days, this one has to be the strangest.

    September 28th @ The Orioles

    Posted by on September 29th, 2007 · Comments (5)

    When you throw 6 pitchers out there, including Mike Mussina and Mariano Rivera, and Kyle Farnsworth is the one who gives you the best performance, you know things are not good.

    Moose was strange in this one. Some innings, he looked great – yet, in others, well, not good at all. At this point, you do have to wonder which Mussina will show up in October? Will it be the one that got pounded by the Tigers and Angels and lost his spot in the rotation? Or, will it be the one that was great when he returned to the rotation after losing his spot? We saw a little of both those Mussinas in this game.

    Rivera? Well, let’s just see how he does in his next game. I would guess that he’ll get one more inning in, somewhere, before the ALDS. It will be interesting to see if he has issues again there.

    What about Edwar Ramirez? Well, at this point, if it’s not clear that he has no business whatsoever being on the post-season roster, there’s no other way to convince anyone of it. He’s just been awful lately.

    Hey, it was not nice to lose this game. But, look at it this way: It’s not as painful as the Mets loss in Shea on this date, is it? Plus, in a way, it’s probably a good thing. (Wow, look at me saying that a Yankee loss is a good thing!) If they Yankee had finished first in the A.L. East, there was a chance that they would have faced the Angels in the ALDS. Now, that’s moot – thanks to losing this game.

    Yes, there can be serendipity in suckiness sometimes, even in Yankeeland.

    The UPS Man Delivers Donna Summer

    Posted by on September 28th, 2007 · Comments (7)

    Sweet…

    PostSeasonTkts2007.jpg

    If there’s a last dance, I’ll be there!

    Prince Hal Elected Chairman Of YGE

    Posted by on September 28th, 2007 · Comments (1)

    Via Bloomberg -

    George Steinbrenner’s son Hal was named chairman of the company that owns the New York Yankees, a possible sign of who will be the next boss of the Major League Baseball team.

    Hal Steinbrenner, one of four children in the family, was promoted from executive vice president and treasurer of Yankees Global Enterprises LLC, the holding company for the team and the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network.

    He replaces Steve Swindal, who is getting a divorce from Steinbrenner’s daughter Jennifer. Steinbrenner said two years ago that Swindal would one day take over the team.

    George Steinbrenner, 77, hasn’t formally named a successor since Jennifer filed for divorce in March. He did say that the franchise would stay in the family. Sons Hal and Hank had been mentioned as possible candidates, with each taking on a larger role with the organization.

    Steinbrenner spokesman Howard Rubenstein declined to comment on Hal Steinbrenner’s role as a possible successor to his father. He said Swindal relinquished his positions with the Yankees as part of a settlement.

    Hal, 38, is chief executive of Steinbrenner Hotel Properties. He graduated from Williams College and got his Masters in business administration from the University of Florida. Hank Steinbrenner has worked on the family horse farm, Kinsman Stable, in Ocala, Florida.

    Felix Lopez, who’s married to Steinbrenner’s daughter Jessica and is a Yankees senior vice president, was named to the board of directors of Yankees Global Enterprises.

    And, from the Yankees site -

    Statement by Harold (Hal) Z. Steinbrenner

    “I am very honored to be elected Chairman of Yankee Global Enterprises LLC. There are many exciting ventures that we’re considering, and I look forward to working hard to bring about success for our organization and for all Yankee fans.”

    Click here to learn more about Hal.

    There are many exciting ventures that we’re considering…

    Let’s just hope that one of them is not ‘selling the team.’ Yankees Global Enterprises is worth about $3 billion. Cashing that in, has to be something that they’ve thought about, at some level, I would bet…it’s only natural.

    September 2007 Survey Question #3

    Posted by on September 28th, 2007 · Comments (0)

    What will happen, in your opinion, if the Yankees face the Indians in the 2007 ALDS?

    Update: This poll is now closed. Click on the thumbnail below to see the results:

    September 2007 Survey Question #2

    Posted by on September 28th, 2007 · Comments (0)

    What will happen, in your opinion, if the Yankees face the Angels in the 2007 ALDS?

    Update, 9/29/07: This poll is now closed. Click on the thumbnail below to see the results:

    How About A Super Sunday In The A.L.?

    Posted by on September 28th, 2007 · Comments (4)

    The odds of this happening have to be off the charts, but, here goes…

    What if the Yankees and Angels both win their next two games while the Red Sox and Indians both lose their next two games?

    That would put the Yankees, Angels, Red Sox and Indians all at 94-67 going into Sunday’s games.

    Nah, it could never happen, right?

    Of course, if the Red Sox and Indians both win tonight, and if the Yankees and Angels both lose, then it’s all nailed down – no matter what happens this weekend: The Yankees get the Indians in the ALDS and the Red Sox get the Angels.

    Is It Too Late To Disable Giambi?

    Posted by on September 28th, 2007 · Comments (10)

    Jason Giambi, since he’s come back from the D.L., to date this season:

    Games: 34
    PA: 103
    BB: 11
    SO: 26
    RBI-HR: 6
    BA/OBA/SLG: .202/.311/.461

    Jason Giambi, since September 1st, to date this season:

    Games: 17
    PA: 52
    BB: 10
    SO: 13
    RBI-HR: 5
    BA/OBA/SLG: .154/.365/.333

    Looking at these numbers, it’s clear that Giambi only has one thing left to offer, offensively, at this point in the season: His ability to draw walks. Outside of that, he’s terrible and hurts the team when he’s in the line-up.

    Further, this season, to date, Giambi has only 4 BB in 70 PA against left-handed pitching. This tells you that his one remaining skill this season, to draw walks, only works when facing a right-handed pitcher.

    In the end, Jason Giambi is not a good baserunner or a fielder – he’s so bad that you would lift him, late, in those spots during a close game. And, in terms of a being a hitter, the only thing he offers now is the ability to work a right-handed pitcher for a walk.

    Is there really room on the Yankees post-season roster for a player, like Giambi, who offers you this little and who could hurt you in so many more ways?

    Daniel Cabrera hit Jason Giambi with a pitch on September 17th. Giambi missed two games after that. Since then, he’s had two singles, a walk, and five strikeouts in 13 Plate Appearances.

    Maybe it’s time for the Yankees to say that HBP is reason enough to put him on the D.L. for October and give his roster spot to someone who can actually help the team in the post-season?

    The numbers suggest that the Yankees should at least consider the notion.

    How The Yankees Pulled It Off

    Posted by on September 27th, 2007 · Comments (6)

    From Kat O’Brien -

    But after the Yankees clinched a berth in the postseason Wednesday night, at least a few players admitted the almost unthinkable — that they had their doubts this season.

    “I didn’t think we would be here,” Alex Rodriguez said shortly after the 12-4 win over Tampa Bay that clinched at least the wild card. “It feels weird for me to say that.”

    The Yankees were 21-29 on May 29, and Rodriguez said all the losses “started stacking the chips” against the Yankees. Back in June, Mike Mussina calculated the kind of winning percentage the Yankees would need to get to the postseason. The mathematics were daunting.

    When the Yankees fell to 38-41 on July 1, they trailed wild-card leader Detroit by 8 1/2 games. But they went 53-26 in their next 79 games.

    “I don’t think people realize how difficult it was to be able to pull this off,” Andy Pettitte said.

    Various turning points stand out to members of the Yankees as far as when they got on track.

    Torre saw hints of good things as far back as April 19, when the Yankees rallied from a 6-2 ninth-inning deficit against the Indians and won on Rodriguez’s walk-off three-run homer. For Torre, a better turning point was when Melky Cabrera began to play every day because of the “energy” he provided.

    For Pettitte and several others, May 28 stands out. Although the Yankees lost to the Blue Jays, 7-2, and lost again the next day, 3-2, they held a pregame meeting that many see as a starting point.

    Another key game occurred on June 3 in Boston, when Rodriguez homered off Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning to give the Yankees a 6-5 win.

    Johnny Damon’s thought was that the arrival of Duncan and Chamberlain provided a spark.

    That team meeting was on May 28th. Melky pretty much became the full-time center fielder on June 1st. (For what it’s worth, June 1st was also the day that Jason Giambi left the line-up as a full-time player.) Shelley Duncan came up on July 20th. Joba Chamberlain came up on August 7th.

    To me, that June 28th observation that I made the other day still stands out.

    Looking at it some more, I just noticed that Johnny Damon, from Opening Day through June 27th, batted .247/.333/.357 (BA/OBA/SLG) in 66 games. From June 28th through September 26th, Damon batted .283/.363/.409 in 72 games. Could Damon’s return to good production be the key to the Yankees turnaround?

    Or, was it all about Robinson Cano getting hot with the bat?

    Perhaps the key was Damon and Cano starting to swing the bats well? Then again, Hideki Matsui ripped the cover off the ball in July and August this season – as did Bobby Abreu.

    It’s probably safest to say that the Yankees season started to take-off after June and once Damon, Cano, Matsui and Abreu began to mash the ball – joining Posada, A-Rod, and Jeter (who, as a trio, had been doing it all year). When these guys are hot, and doing it at the same time, it’s the best “one through seven” in baseball when it comes to the sticks.

    September 27th @ The Devil Rays

    Posted by on September 27th, 2007 · Comments (5)

    I met a friend for dinner tonight at “The Thirsty Turtle.” (Really, that was the name of the place.) It’s a casual setting. No complaints on the service or food. If in the area, I would go there again.

    It’s about 50 miles north of my house. So, I had a bit of a drive home.

    I decided to listen to this game on X-M Radio – which picks up the feed of the home-team broadcasters. I think the Rays’ radio guys were Andy Freed and Dave Wills. In any event, I thought they did a pretty good job doing the game. It was a nice change to hear the Yankees covered from someone other than Sterling and Waldman. (And, it reminded me of days gone by when the Rays’ radio guys mentioned that some of the remaining Tampa Bay games would not be on TV. Remember what it was like before every game was on TV? We really are lucky in New York these days.)

    I got home just in time to see Jose (the new Luis Sojo) Molina get the hit to break the tie in the game. Between listening to the Rays’ radio broadcast, and seeing the game on YES from the point that I got home, I was impressed with Phil Hughes tonight. I think Al Leiter made a good point on YES when he said that Hughes using all his pitches made his fastball feel electric – even though it was on the gun around 88-91.

    If you ignored the radar readings, and went by batter’s reactions, it looked like Hughes was over-powering this evening. Joe Torre, in his post-game, even said that this was Hughes best start – even better than his “no-hitter” in Texas.

    Getting Hughes peaking at this point is great news for the Yankees. They’re going to need some Roger Clemens insurance – between Rocket’s elbow and hammy – and there’s a chance that Hughes might be called upon to be a big part of the Yankees chances this October. If Phil throws like he did tonight, that will be awesome for the Yankees.

    Nice moments for Gonzalez and Sardinha today as well – both getting their first big league hits. It will be night that they both will always remember.

    Lastly, how ’bout those Amazin’s? It’s almost time to tell the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers to move over, huh? I still feel sorry for Willow. This is something that he does not deserve to have on his resume.

    Support This Blog

    Posted by on September 27th, 2007 · Comments (0)

    The question came up today (in a comment left on an entry to this blog) as to whether or not donations to this site were still being accepted. (Thanks for asking Don.)

    The answer to that question is: Yes, of course, if someone wants to lend a hand in supporting WasWatching.com and help to offset the costs associated to producing and maintaining the site, anything that is offered would be welcomed and appreciated.

    And, thanks to PayPal, making a donation is easy – just click on the button below and follow the steps. It’s also safe.




    Thanks in advance to anyone who wants to make a donation and lend some support.

    Book It: Yanks To Face Tribe In ALDS

    Posted by on September 27th, 2007 · Comments (4)

    The Red Sox have a magic number of two in the A.L. East. This pretty much means that the Yankees will be the Wildcard in the A.L. this season.

    The Angels are three games behind the Indians in the loss column. This means that the Tribe now just needs one more win this season (in their remaining four games) to ensure that the Angels have the third-best record among the division winners.

    And, once that happens, it means the Red Sox would face the Angels in the ALDS and the Yankees would take on the Indians.

    Between facing the Angels and the Indians, I would take the Indians. So, this is a nice break for the Yankees – in terms of who they will face in the ALDS.

    Extra Innings Not A Nice Time For Yanks This Season

    Posted by on September 27th, 2007 · Comments (0)

    I received the following e-mail from “Doug in Seattle” yesterday:

    Is it my imagination, or do the Yankees seem to wilt in extra innings? It’s amazingly frustrating to watch their “best lineup in baseball” fail to score even a measly run, often against September call-up AAA pitchers. When watching I get the sense that no matter how long the game lasts, the Yanks won’t score, and it’s just a matter of time before a member of the NY bullpen coughs up a run (or three). Some of these extra inning losses shouldn’t be blamed on the bullpen, in my opinion, but on the offense. It’s unfair to ask the bullpen to blank the opposition indefinitely. That being mentioned, pitchers such as Henn and Karstens are not major league material.

    How have the Yanks fared in extra innings this year? How many home runs have they hit? How many scoreless innings has the offense contributed? How many bad pitchers with high ERA’s have the Yanks failed against? These might be good questions to answer, especially as the playoffs approach.

    The Yankees have played 12 extra inning games this season, so far, and have lost eight of the twelve.

    As far as the stats, check these out:

    In “extra innings,” so far this season, Yankees pitchers have faced 108 batters and allowed the following BA/OBA/SLG line: .278/.340/.505

    In “extra innings,” so far this season, Yankees batters have come to the plate 107 times and produced the following BA/OBA/SLG line: .189/.311/.256

    Yes, check out those numbers.

    In “extra innings,” Yankees batters have an OPS of .567 (in 107 PA) and Yankees pitchers have allowed an OPS of .845 (in 108 PA). That’s a huge difference.

    Doug, it’s not just your imagination.

    Mets Fan On Yankees Clinching

    Posted by on September 27th, 2007 · Comments (22)

    From Matt Cerrone of MetsBlog on September 19th, 2006 (basically, this time last year):

    There have been roughly a dozen phone calls in to WFAN this morning, most likely from Yankees fans, goofing on the Mets for having such an elaborate post-game celebration in honor of their division championship last night.

    Isn’t that for the Mets to decide?

    I mean, if the Yankees are bored with winning, so much so that they no longer know how to have fun, how exactly does that impact how the Mets and their fans choose to celebrate.

    It doesn’t.

    And it shouldn’t.

    Why were these so-called Yankees fans watching the Mets anyways?

    Pinstripes, mind your business – and if you want to watch the Mets so bad, you’ll hopefully get plenty of opportunities at the end of October.

    Enjoy.

    From Matt Cerrone’s Metsblog today:

    …by the way, it doesn’t help that the Yankees clinched a wild-card spot last night, and celebrated like Little Leaguers for finishing in second place…umm, didn’t their fans mock the Mets for behaving this way in 2000…anyway…

    …i keep hearing these people talk about how miraculous it is that the Yankees came all the way back from a 14 game deficit…the thing is, they didn’t…they failed in that mission…instead, they were never more than eight back in the wild card, and it’s that mission they conquered…

    …not that any of this matters…

    …it’s just, on a day like this, the less a Yankees fan is sticking his chest out, the easier it may be for us…that’s all…

    What a difference a year makes for some Mets fans, huh?

    September 26th @ The Devil Rays

    Posted by on September 27th, 2007 · Comments (10)

    When you can clinch with a blow-out, it seems to add to the party mood. Good job in this one by the Yankees.

    After losing 29 of their first 50 games, the Yankees have now secured their 13th consecutive post-season berth. (This streak is now one shy of the record set by the Atlanta Braves from 1991-2005.) New York has gone 70-38 in their last 108 games, a winning percentage of .648 to comeback from their terrible start this season. That’s impressive.

    The first thought that I had, about the Yankees locking up #13 now, was: “Man, all Yankees fans who are 21-years old or younger, have been spoiled. They really know nothing but making the post-season.” But, then I thought: “Too bad that those who are 14-years old or younger probably don’t know what it’s like to see them win a ring.”

    Hopefully, the Yankees will win one for the youngsters this season.

    After the game, Derek Jeter said: “This definitely has been the hardest one. We really battled.” Derek may or may not be right about that one – after all, 2005 was a battle too – but, this one is surely right up there with the more recent tough seasons for New York.

    In any event, now, a new season begins for the Yankees – October, 2007. Let’s hope that they don’t get off to a slow start in this second season.

    Good to hear that George Steinbrenner was at the game – even if he left after 7 innings. It’s nice that the boys put on a good show for the Big Stein on a special day.

    In addition to doing it for the youngsters, hopefully the Yankees will now win one for Stein, an old-timer, as well. This could be his last shot at seeing one while he knows what’s going on…

    Bronx Banter Offers Book Excerpt

    Posted by on September 26th, 2007 · Comments (5)

    Bronx Banter has an excerpt from “It Ain’t over ’til It’s over: The Baseball Prospectus Pennant Race Book posted today.

    It’s from Steven Goldman and it’s entitled “How to Break Up the Yankees.”

    Click here to read it.

    To be candid, I have not always been a fan of Goldman’s work. But, this piece will be a trip down memory lane for some and an education for others. The excerpt is worth checking out, if you haven’t seen it yet.

    Good News If The Yankees Face Tribe In ALDS?

    Posted by on September 26th, 2007 · Comments (10)

    One of the fun things that BaseballReference.com offers is batting splits per type of pitcher faced.

    This is how the pitchers are “typed”: Power pitchers strike out or walk more than 28% of batters faced, Finesse pitchers strike out or walks less than 24% of batters faced. Stats are based on the three years before and after (when available), and the season for when the split is computed. A split in 1994 would consider years 1991-1997.

    Updating something I did in July, here’s how the Yankees batters break down on this, to date:

    Split	        G	PA	BA	OBP	SLG
    vs. Power	132	2033	.254	.344	.395
    vs. P/F	        112	1878	.296	.367	.481
    vs. Fin.	130	2389	.310	.377	.501
    

    Clearly, the Yankees batters are not too crazy about “power” pitchers.

    Here are all the teams in the majors, to date, in terms of K+BB/BF – via the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia:

    BFP	SO	BB
    Cubs	6010	1174	561	28.9%
    Marlins	6335	1111	645	27.7%
    Orioles	6191	1050	666	27.7%
    Dodgers	5996	1151	502	27.6%
    DRays	6209	1151	550	27.4%
    Red Sox	5890	1110	472	26.9%
    Mets	6098	1082	552	26.8%
    Brewers	6078	1133	491	26.7%
    Angels	6011	1130	465	26.5%
    Giants	6139	1034	583	26.3%
    Dbacks	6025	1057	527	26.3%
    Braves	6092	1069	527	26.2%
    Rangers	6242	958	655	25.8%
    Padres	6002	1080	449	25.5%
    Tigers	6215	1030	552	25.5%
    Jays	5910	1032	465	25.3%
    Yanks	6081	975	561	25.3%
    Phils	6202	1007	549	25.1%
    Astros	6224	1066	491	25.0%
    A's	6097	1002	517	24.9%
    M's	6093	981	534	24.9%
    Twins	5953	1062	407	24.7%
    Reds	6159	1029	469	24.3%
    W-Sox	6109	986	489	24.1%
    Royals	6070	955	501	24.0%
    Nat.	6182	910	568	23.9%
    Pirates	6174	964	504	23.8%
    Indians	5988	1012	402	23.6%
    Cards	6092	911	499	23.1%
    Rockies	6046	911	481	23.0%
    

    Interesting – look at the O’s and D-Rays. Maybe this is why the Yankees have had issues with Baltimore and Tampa Bay this season?

    But, also, look at the Indians. This could be another reason why the Yankees could have an edge against Cleveland in the ALDS.

    The 15 Percent Rule

    Posted by on September 26th, 2007 · Comments (10)

    From the Cleveland Plain Dealer, back in 2003:

    This information, plus another computer analysis that showed no one player’s salary had exceeded 15 percent of a team’s payroll on any World Series champion club since 1985, overrode the Tribe’s emotional instinct to pay Thome the guaranteed salary he wanted for six years to allow him to finish his career in Cleveland.

    From the New York Times, back in 2004:

    ”If you get one player making much over 10 percent of your payroll, you’re asking for trouble,” said a general manager who has made a study of the effect of unusually large salaries on club payrolls. ”When payrolls get high, 90 or 100 million dollars, it compounds that. A guy making 20 or 30 percent of it makes it worse.”

    From the Chicago Tribune, last month:

    Assuming that the prospective ownership groups were briefed on the Zambrano signing, it would seem to indicate that they foresee future payroll of $120 million or more. His deal to believed to average a little over $18 million a year (the level that Alfonso Soriano’s contract escalates to in 2010 and beyond). That would represent 15 percent of a $120 million payroll, and history has proven it’s almost impossible to get to the World Series when one player is taking up such a large percentage.

    This is probably why Brian Cashman is willing to let A-Rod walk away after this season…if New York cannot use that money from Texas to drive down what percentage Alex’s salary would be…compared to the whole team.

    Torre Tries To Be Like Berra

    Posted by on September 26th, 2007 · Comments (1)

    From Ed Price -

    Manager Joe Torre and general manager Brian Cashman will discuss postseason roster combinations today over lunch, and they will have some tough calls.

    “When it comes down to having to make the decision,” Torre said, “you’re going to have to make one.”

    When Yogi says something like this, it’s cute. But, when Joe says it, well, it just scares me.

    Yanks & Angels To Meet In ALCS This Year?

    Posted by on September 26th, 2007 · Comments (5)

    Record In 2007 when Opponent’s Season W-L% Greater Than or Equal to a .525:

    Team   Games Wins Losses  Win%     RS     RA
    LAA      56    33    23   .589    308    293
    NYY      63    34    29   .540    358    299
    BOS      66    35    31   .530    337    302
    CLE      51    25    26   .490    236    266

    These stats suggest that the Indians do not play well against good teams – at least this season. And, that, when facing the best, the Angels are up to the task.

    If the Yankees face the Indians in the ALDS, and the Angels play the Red Sox, we might be looking at a Yankees-Angels ALCS in 2007.

    Who Wins And Why In October

    Posted by on September 26th, 2007 · Comments (0)

    Tom Verducci takes on “debunking the biggest myths of MLB’s wild-card era.” Using stats, Tom offers that, come October, the team with the better record is not the favorite, “hot” teams (the ones that play well down the stretch) are not the ones to fear in the postseason, and that the team that won the season series has no edge over its opponent.

    Last week, I suggested that, when you crawl into the post-season, you’re going to need something to restart your engine for the big race. Back in 2003, after the World Series, Paul O’Neill touched on this when he said that “There’s one game throughout the series that seems to just change everything.”

    What I would like to see, as a follow-up to Verducci’s study, is an examination of how many times where the team with the better record, or the hotter team, etc., did not win was there was some “turning point” (like using Jeff Weaver in Game 4 of the 2003 World Series) that can be found to explain why the “lesser” team took the series.

    Maybe there’s nothing here – but, then again, maybe there is?

    Or, maybe it’s time to look back to Buster Olney’s post-season Productive Out study – and update that through 2006? Perhaps that’s the reason why teams are able to beat others in October? Perhaps that’s where making contact comes into play?

    For me, that’s what it comes down to in October – not who’s hot or who has the best record, etc. – the team who does not deliver in the clutch, who makes unproductive outs, and/or who makes unwise decisions in a pivotal games, will be the team that does not win.

    It will be interesting to come back to this notion, after this October, and compare how the Yankees did in these areas compared to their overall team results in each series.

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