• Yankees Bullpen Performance In September

    Posted by on September 26th, 2007 · Comments (4)

    Here are the stats, to date:

    SeptPen.jpg

    Let’s face it, the only Yankees relievers who can be trusted, now, are Chamberlain and Rivera. Once again, as it has been the case for the last half-dozen years or so, the Yankees pen is extremely weak heading into the post-season…because of the lack of depth and the wear and tear on the guys who were good during the year.

    The best chance that the Yankees have to win any game this October is for their starter to go six or seven inning and then turn the ball over to Joba and Mo. But, you can’t do that everyday…or else then Chamberlain and Rivera will get taxed too.

    It’s not looking pretty…at all.

    September 25th @ The Devil Rays

    Posted by on September 26th, 2007 · Comments (9)

    So, now, the Yankees are 8-8 this year against the Devil Rays – the team with baseball’s worst record.

    The arson twins did it again. Last Friday, I wrote:

    Well, at the least, it was a preview of what you will see if the Yankees have to use Edwar “Boom Boom” Ramirez and/or Brian “The American Armando Benitez” Bruney in a post-season game this year.

    So, that’s twice in the last five games for Ramirez and Bruney. I think we’ve seen enough – and they should be sent packing for October.

    With this loss, the Yankees can forget about catching Boston – and even the Indians and Angels too. There’s just not enough time to match their win totals. It’s time to just limp into the post-season…too bad.

    Lastly, where were all those D-Ray relievers who were so good at blowing games to the Red Sox recently? I would have liked to have seen some of that happen for New York last night too. Why did the Rays decide to start pitching better out of the pen now?

    Rocket Grounded

    Posted by on September 25th, 2007 · Comments (3)

    Peter Abraham is reporting that Roger Clemens cannot pitch for the Yankees this evening – and is being replaced by Kei Igawa.

    Makes sense – if Carl Pavano can pitch on Opening Day, why not have Igawa go on the night where you can clinch a playoff berth? It’s the perfect bookends for this wacky season.

    Fit To Be Tied – And That Would Be Good

    Posted by on September 25th, 2007 · Comments (1)

    From the Boston Globe -

    TIEBREAKERS

    Red Sox and Indians tie: Red Sox win because of 5-2 edge in season series.

    Red Sox and Angels tie: Red Sox win because of 6-4 edge in season series.

    Yankees and Indians tie: Yankees win because of 6-0 edge in season series.

    Yankees and Angels tie: Angels win because of 6-3 edge in season series.

    Indians and Angels tie: The season series was even at 5-5, so Indians win by virtue of better divisional record (46-23 vs. Central, while Angels are 30-21 vs. the West).

    Red Sox, Indians, and Angels all tie: Red Sox are No. 1 seed because they have combined 11-6 record vs. the other two clubs (Angels 9-11, Indians 7-10); Indians get No. 2 seed because their tie with Angels reverts back to two-team tiebreaker.

    Yankees, Indians, and Angels all tie: Yankees are No. 1 seed because they have combined 9-6 record vs. the other two clubs (Angels 11-8, Indians 5-11); Indians get No. 2 seed because their tie with Angels reverts back to two-team tiebreaker.

    So, if I’m reading this correct, if the Yanks, Bosox, Indians, and Angels all finish with the same record, then the Yankees would have homefield advantage for entire post-season.

    Yanks break the tie over the Sox. And, as per the above, because New York has a combined 9-6 record vs. the other two clubs (Angels 11-8, Indians 5-11); Indians get No. 2 seed because their tie with Angels reverts back to two-team tiebreaker. Plus, the AL gets homefield in the World Series because of the All-Star Game results.

    So, as Yankees fans, you want to see a four-way tie at the end of the season here. Here’s how the four teams sit now in terms of wins and losses:

    Indians	92	63
    Red Sox	92	64
    Angels	92	65
    Yankees	90	66
    

    If I had to guess, I would offer that the Yankees are going to have to go 5-1 in their remaining games to pull off a tie here – with any of these teams. But, it’s not impossible.

    Yanks Contact Skills To Help This Post-Season?

    Posted by on September 25th, 2007 · Comments (5)

    You know that I’ve always had this thing about teams needing to make contact in October. Well, three years ago, Vinay Kumar did a study that suggested the following:

    Interestingly, the only batting category that shows as a strong indicator of post-season success is batters’ strikeouts — the one category that sabermetricians have long called meaningless. I initially didn’t consider this alarming, because HR and K are highly negative-correlated; the players who knock a lot of balls over the fences also whiff more than their share of the time. So strikeouts and home runs would have to balance, I thought; once you know how poorly homers show up on the list, it’s not additionally surprising that contact hitting shows up so high.

    But then I looked at the data, and while strikeouts and home runs are strongly related for individuals, that’s not the case for teams; the team with more home runs than its opponent struck out more often only 33/63 times (another way to put this: the correlation between home runs and strikeouts among playoff teams is only .091 — virtually nothing). So maybe the statheads have been missing something.

    Tying this all together, I decided to use the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia to see which teams do (and do not) whiff a lot – compared to thier league average, as of today:

    STRIKEOUTS                      DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE
    1    Twins                      -199      809     1008
    2    Dodgers                    -177      825     1002
    3    Mariners                   -174      822      996
    4    Angels                     -154      846     1000
    5    Giants                     -136      883     1019
    6    Cardinals                  -125      871      996
    7    Orioles                    -108      906     1014
    8    Yankees                     -66      940     1006
    9    Mets                        -54      949     1003
    10   Astros                      -18     1004     1022
    11   Blue Jays                    -2     1005     1007
    12   Cubs                          3     1005     1002
    T13  Tigers                        7     1024     1017
    T13  Red Sox                       7     1004      997
    15   Royals                       19     1034     1015
    16   A's                          56     1082     1026
    17   Reds                         60     1072     1012
    18   Diamondbacks                 67     1055      988
    19   Nationals                    72     1084     1012
    20   Pirates                      87     1097     1010
    T21  Brewers                      88     1087      999
    T21  Rockies                      88     1092     1004
    23   Braves                       93     1103     1010
    24   White Sox                    95     1110     1015
    25   Phillies                    148     1160     1012
    26   Indians                     149     1151     1002
    27   Padres                      156     1168     1012
    28   Rangers                     168     1185     1017
    29   Marlins                     263     1272     1009
    30   Devil Rays                  267     1276     1009  

    Based on the above, it appears that the only 2007 post-season team out there who is better than the Yankees, in terms of making contact, is the Angels. (Although the Mets are close.) Perhaps this “skill” will be an edge for the Yanks this post-season?

    Here’s where the Yankees ranked, in the AL, for this stat, in the last few years:

    2006

    STRIKEOUTS                      DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE
    T1   Orioles                    -132      878     1010
    T1   Twins                      -132      872     1004
    3    Angels                     -102      914     1016
    4    Blue Jays                   -95      906     1001
    5    Mariners                    -47      974     1021
    6    A's                         -41      976     1017
    7    Royals                       24     1040     1016
    8    Red Sox                      38     1056     1018
    9    White Sox                    40     1056     1016
    10   Yankees                      46     1053     1007
    11   Rangers                      47     1061     1014
    12   Devil Rays                   96     1106     1010
    13   Tigers                      118     1133     1015
    14   Indians                     205     1204      999  

    2005

    STRIKEOUTS                      DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE
    1    A's                        -171      819      990
    2    Angels                     -140      848      988
    3    Orioles                     -75      902      977
    4    Blue Jays                   -26      955      981
    5    Twins                       -18      978      996
    6    Mariners                      6      986      980
    7    White Sox                    14     1002      988
    T8   Devil Rays                   18      990      972
    T8   Yankees                      18      989      971
    10   Royals                       30     1008      978
    11   Tigers                       56     1038      982
    12   Red Sox                      78     1044      966
    13   Indians                     112     1093      981
    14   Rangers                     125     1112      987  

    2004

    STRIKEOUTS                      DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE
    1    Orioles                     -93      949     1042
    2    Angels                      -86      942     1028
    3    Devil Rays                  -75      944     1019
    4    Twins                       -59      982     1041
    5    Yankees                     -42      982     1024
    6    Indians                     -34     1009     1043
    7    Mariners                      4     1058     1054
    8    White Sox                     5     1030     1025
    9    A's                          14     1061     1047
    10   Royals                       23     1057     1034
    11   Blue Jays                    58     1083     1025
    12   Rangers                      73     1099     1026
    13   Tigers                      114     1144     1030
    14   Red Sox                     163     1189     1026  

    The Yankees contact “skill” (as a team) this year looks to be the best that they’ve had since 2004. By the way, why didn’t it help them in 2004?

    Clearly, in addition to making contact, you need to have some pitching too – if you want to win in October.

    Yankees Bloggers Pre-Playoffs Predictions

    Posted by on September 25th, 2007 · Comments (2)

    A couple of days ago, I made the following post-season prediction for the Yankees:

    In a best of five, both the Indians and Angels present problems for the Yankees.

    However, if New York can win their ALDS, I like their chances in the ALCS. If it’s Boston, we know the Yankees can match-up with them. And, if it’s the Angels or Indians, I think the Yankees have a better shot against them when it’s “need to win four out of seven” – because then New York can pound on those less-than-great pitchers who will be forced into some game action against the Yanks.

    And, as far as the World Series, I think the Yankees can hold their own against whoever the National League wants to throw in there.

    But, getting past the ALDS is still key for New York – and perhaps the biggest challenge they will face this October.

    After, that, I was curious as to what other Yankees Bloggers thought. So, I asked. Here’s what they had to say:

    From Tony Gicas of Bronx Liaison:

    The success of the Yankees may well depend on who they draw in the LDS. Should the Boston Red Sox hold on to clinch the AL East division, New York would draw the best record between Cleveland or Los Angeles. As I write, the Indians are one up in the loss column over the Angels. Although I do not believe Cleveland to be as much of a pushover as many are assuming, they are certainly a more favorable opponent considering New York’s poor track record against the Angels. The Angels and Indians each have two stud starters. John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar for Los Angeles, and C.C. Sabathia, Fausto Carmona for Cleveland. Though it’s debatable which twosome is better, the running game that Mike Scioscia implements combined with their strong bullpen and confidence when facing pinstripes are reason enough to avoid them in playoff competition.

    On the other hand, the Yankees can outslug the Indians, close with Mariano Rivera against Joe Borowksi, and boast a more balanced starting rotation. Late inning horses Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez have been outstanding, but they’re young and inexperienced. Though the Angels strike fear into the heart of Yankee fans, the Red Sox have no such problems. Boston would outpitch and outhit Los Angeles, creating the matchup which forces all of baseball to take notice.

    After winning the season series and taking eight of the last ten again Boston, the Bombers have collected a reservoir of confidence to build on should the storied rivals meet again in postseason play. The Yankees have overthrown the unbeatable tandem of Papelbon and Okajima, watched Eric Gagne become a puddle of blown saves, and presented a much more potent lineup. At times, they’ve outclassed Boston’s best starting pitching and saw their late-inning relievers – Rivera, Vizcaino, Chamberlain – gain confidence in big spots. Though it’s probably already pretty evident, a LDS of New York versus Cleveland would force me to send the Yankees through to the World Series, beating the Tribe and Bosox along the way.

    From YF of Yanksfan vs Soxfan:

    Not the faintest idea. And wouldn’t trust anyone who thinks they have one. As in 2003 and 2004, if the Yanks and Sox end up in the ALCS, I suspect that will be more interesting than the World Series.

    From Patrick O’Keefe of YanksBlog.com:

    I’ll take the Yankees to win it all because I think we’ve got the best conglomeration of offense, pitching and depth that we’ve had in a while. Let’s start with pitching. In the last 3 postseason series’ that we lost, here is who we started:

    2006: Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson and Jaret Wright.
    2005: Mike Mussina, Chien-Ming Wang, Randy Johnson and Shawn Chacon.
    2004: Mike Mussina, Jon Lieber, Javier Vazquez, Orlando Hernandez and Kevin Brown.

    This year: Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and Mike Mussina (probably).

    Looking at it from the point of where they all are/were in their careers, this could be the best rotation of the bunch. Perhaps more importantly – it has the best 1-2 punch of them all, given the way that Wang and Pettitte have pitched this season.

    The bullpen is the same. In those same 3 series, here are the relievers that threw in more than 1 game:

    2006: Scott Proctor, Brian Bruney and Kyle Farnsworth.
    2005: Al Leiter, Mariano Rivera, Tom Gordon, Scott Proctor and Tanyon Sturtze.
    2004: Mariano Rivera, Tom Gordon, Esteban Loaiza, Paul Quantrill, Tanyon Sturtze and Felix Heredia.

    Our bullpen this year is going to have Chris Britton, Joba Chamberlain, Kyle Farnsworth, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Mariano Rivera and Luis Vizcaino. Again, looking at where they all are in their careers, when the Joba Rules get ripped up, you have the best 2 man setup team of all in Vizcaino and Chamberlain, I’d have to say. The only one that’s close is probably Proctor and Bruney, based strictly on Bruney’s hot numbers coming into last year’s postseason. In the other two, you had poor regular season numbers from Proctor, Sturtze, Quantrill and Heredia. In Hughes and Kennedy, you also have better long relief in case Clemens or Moose comes out early in one of their games. We won’t have to give those innings to pitchers like Cory Lidle, Aaron Small, Randy Johnson (well, OK, that one wasn’t bad in 2005), Javier Vazquez and Esteban Loaiza. I’ll take my chances with Kennedy and Hughes over that assortment.

    On top of that, we’ve got the offense, too. They lead the league in runs scored (the closest playoff team is the Red Sox and the difference is around 80) and runs scored from the 7th inning on (again, closest playoff team is the Sox, about 15 away). The team hits for average (best in baseball), slugs it (best slugging percentage in baseball) and steals bases (7th in baseball, 4th in AL). We’ve got a solid bench, too, with the best backup catcher we’ve had in years as well as Betemit, Damon, Giambi and Mientkiewicz (depending on who’s playing where that day). And we’re playing good baseball right now. There is not a team right now that you can look at and say they are that much better than us. So, I think we can play with anyone. Of course, we’ll see what happens when we actually play the games.

    From Andrew Fletcher of Scott Proctor’s Arm:

    If the Yankees play the Indians and Red Sox in the first two rounds, they could easily make the World Series. They have the pitching and lineup to finally be successful in October. The Yankees are also better than all of the contending NL teams.

    I predict that the Yankees will beat the Cubs in six games for their 27th world championship.

    From Mike NYY of River Avenue Watch:

    I think the Yankees will go down in the first round but if they can slip through the first round than I think they can win the World Series. The Angels and Indians both have better pitching than the Yankees and better bullpens but if they can make it through there and they face Boston in the ALCS they match up well with Boston. If they face the other team in the ALCS I think their chances go down a lot. IMO they’re also better than any NL team.

    From Rebecca of This Purist Bleeds Pinstripes:

    The Yankees have the potential to go all the way this year, and more so than in recent years. They have a combination of young and vets that you get maybe once in a generation and the similarities to the ’96 team are uncanny.

    That being said, the Yankees will face the toughest challenge from the Angels, and if they lose in the playoffs, it will most likely be to them. The Yanks’ bullpen is also a question mark; aside from Viz, Joba and Mo everyone else is either great when on or horrible when not.

    However, I still think the Yankees will take home the prize!

    Yep. Eternally optimistic here!

    From E.J. Fagan of Pending Pinstripes:

    I feel better about the Yankees this year than any other year since 2004 in the post-season. Yankee starting pitching is deeper than any other year since. Instead of Randy Johnson starting Game 3, we have Roger Clemens. Instead of Mike Mussina game 2, we have Andy. In addition, I think that Joba Chamberlain gives us a tremendous advantage out of the bullpen. It’s easy to underestimate how much a 7th inning, bases loaded strikeout can do for a team.

    But really, this is all moot. The biggest factor in the post-season for the Yankees? Alex Rodriguez is due. That’s a dangerous player to be due.

    From Travis G. of New York Yankees etc.:

    A tough one, because I have a hard time differentiating between my subjective love of the Yankees and an objective view of their chances. Subjectively, they could go all the way if they get good starting pitching – the offense is there, the bullpen (read Joba, Mo) is there, but will they have a lead to protect? If the starters pitch the way they are capable of, I feel confident in this team adding number 27 to the exterior of Yankee Stadium.

    Objectively, the starters will be a problem – Pettitte, despite his ‘veteraness’ has been known to implode during playoff games (2001 WS game 6, 2002 LDS game 1, etc.), and Wang can only be counted on at home (a career era difference of 1.6 runs, a big problem if the Yanks don’t have homefield), Clemens is 45 and (ala David Wells) capable of pulling/straining/tweaking something at any time, and Mussina, despite recent success, has a 4.96 era on the year. That’s the main problem, but if the offense can keep them close (which I expect), Joba and Mo can shut down the other team from the 7th inning on (much like Mo and Wetteland in ’96), giving the offense more chances to score than the opponent. This hinges on Joba/Mo being better than the opposing bullpen, which is not a certainty but certainly possible. In conclusion, it’s all about the starting pitching – if it’s effective, the Yanks will go far, if not it’s another early exit. (For the record, I’d rather lose the division and play Cleveland in the LDS than have the best record – and homefield throughout – and play Anaheim in round one.) Go Yanks!

    From Brent Nycz of MVN – The Bronx Block:

    I think the Yankees will win the ALDS, either by beating the Indians or the Angels. However, going into the ALCS, I believe the Yankees’ feverish run to even make the playoffs (and possibly, winning the division) may take its toil by the ALCS, losing to the winner of the ALDS against the Red Sox in 6 games. The postseason chances will fall on the shoulders of the bullpen arms from Mariano to Luis to Joba. The less the Yankees see of Edwar Ramirez and Kyle Farnsworth among others, the further they will go in the playoffs. With all that said, the Yankees have themselves set for a stronger World Series run for 2008, and due to the young’uns stepping up, for 2009 as well and beyond.

    From Sean McNally of Replacement Level Yankees Weblog:

    Going in, it looks like they are going to wind up the Wild Card, which is fine. Streaks of division titles come and go, and in this era of the open tournament, just getting into the dance is all you need. Heck, since 2002 at least one of the teams in the World Series was the Wild Card winner. The playoffs are much more like the NCAA tournament now – or at least that’s what the ethos should be – survive and advance.

    As for how they’ll do, a lot depends on who they’ll face and in which series they face them (the 7-day or the 8-day). Given that right now it looks like Cleveland, we’ll assume they’ll pick the 8-day tilt so they get to throw Carmona and Sabathia twice (if necessary), so that works to the Yankees advantage in two ways: they avoid Anaheim in a short series and they get to throw Wang and Pettitte twice, with a dash of Rocket and/or Moose in there somewhere.

    I think they win a series against the Tribe and the past two seasons bear that out: New York is 14-6 against Cleveland in that time and 6-0 this season. Heck, even Kei Igawa beat them. In games this year, the Indians hit .228/290/.345 (think Tony Womack) while the Yankees hit .348/.396/.588 (think A-Rod).

    So if they advance to the LCS, they’ll be on the road again, and face the winner of Boston and Anaheim, well the team that wins, because honestly, when those two face off there are no winners – just a lot of losers and a lot of red.

    I think they can beat the Angels in a seven-game series. I know they can beat Boston in one. So in this rare circumstance, I’m rooting for Boston.

    Then in the World Series, c’mon – at the risk of angering the ghost of Tony LaRussa and Jack McKeon – it’s the Junior Varsity, what could possibly go wrong?

    So this is supposed to be a prediction, well unlike Steve, I’m a hopeless optimist so I’ll say, in the words of Jake Taylor, they’ll win the whole f*@#$%in thing. Besides, the Yankees haven’t won a World Series in my son’s lifetime (born Aug. 8, 2007) and that’s just not right.

    From Dan LaTorraca of Pinstripes PA:

    ALDS:
    Yankees over Indians,3-2
    Red Sox over Angels, 3-1

    ALCS:
    Yankees over Red Sox,4-2

    World Series:
    Yankees over Cubs,4-2

    P.S. – It’s not that I’m biased, its just that the Yankees have played the best during the second half.

    From Jen of No Sense Worrying:

    If they can make it past the ALDS I like their chances to make it to the Series. The bullpen scares me a bit. Ok, it scares me a lot. But I think they can find ways to win regardless. As long as they don’t draw the Angels in the Division series that is. I don’t want to see them in a short series again, nothing good can come of that.

    Well, there you have it – a fair mixture of confidence and concern over the Yankees post-season chances this October. On the whole, it’s probably he best way to look at it – expect nothing and be prepared for everything!

    Thanks to all my fellow Yankees Bloggers for taking the time to share some thoughts on this topic. Your kindness is very much appreciated.

    Red Light’s Been Around For A Long Time

    Posted by on September 25th, 2007 · Comments (2)

    The 2007 Yankees have played 156 games so far this season and are presently 2 games back of first, in the loss column, behind the Boston Red Sox.

    Let’s go back to the Yankees 156th game of 1988. In this contest, Ron Guidry and Dale Mohorcic (yes, Dale, My Horse Is Sick!) defeated Baltimore – and the O’s rookie starter that day…a kid named Curt Schilling. (Don Mattingly homered twice off Schilling that day.) That win by the 1988 Yankees in their 156th game put New York 3 games back of first, in the loss column, behind the Boston Red Sox. (The 1988 Boston Red Sox would go on to get swept in the post-season by the Oakland A’s in the ALCS.)

    How long ago was that game back in 1988? Put it this way, (current) Yankees starting pitcher Phil Hughes was 2 years and 3 months old at that time.

    Joba The New Mo?

    Posted by on September 25th, 2007 · Comments (14)

    From Newsday -

    Yankees manager Joe Torre said yesterday he is planning to pitch Joba Chamberlain in back-to-back games for the first time this week in preparation for the playoffs.

    Torre also voiced the thought that Chamberlain might be a reliever in the future, the first time a member of the Yankees’ braintrust has veered from the party line that says Chamberlain will be a starter in 2008.

    “Mariano [Rivera] was a starter,” Torre said. “He turned into a setup man, then a reliever. Whatever the organization can visualize [Chamberlain] as, there’s no question about it, he certainly has given the organization something to chew on with what he has done here so far.”

    With Rivera a free agent at the end of the season, the Yankees will have to at least entertain the thought of moving on without him, although that seems unfathomable. Chamberlain picked up his first big-league save on Sunday while subbing for Rivera, who had pitched three of the previous four days.

    Of course, Torre will be a free agent, too, after the season, so it may not be up to him.

    Torre being Torre.

    The Bronx is Burning DVD Set

    Posted by on September 25th, 2007 · Comments (1)

    In case you missed it, The Bronx is Burning DVD set comes out today. Amazon has it for $19.99. Not a bad deal, at that price.

    There’s No Place Like Home

    Posted by on September 24th, 2007 · Comments (8)

    YanksOz.gif

    Looks like the boys had fun with it.

    Click Here To See Photos

    September 24th vs. The Blue Jays

    Posted by on September 24th, 2007 · Comments (12)

    It will be so nice, after today, not to have that “1/2 game” in the standings hanging around any more.

    Update, 9/24/07, 1:15 pm ET: Andy Pettitte has now faced 123 batters in the 1st inning of games this season and retired 97 of them. That’s 79%. Maybe he should be the next Yankees closer? (Just kidding.)

    Update, 9/24/07, 1:21 pm ET: The Blue Jays’ Jesse Litsch has one of the more interesting MLB.com Gameday photos out there:

    Litsch.jpg

    Anyone else see a little Fire Marshall Bill there?

    Update, 9/24/07, 2:57 pm ET: F.M. Bill gave the Jays a neat and tidy first 6 innings in this contest. Only 5 Yankees reached base in the first six – and one of them was on an error.

    Update, 9/24/07, 3:39 pm ET: Now I get it. Litsch may look like F.M. Bill, but, today, he pitched like Rick Waits.

    Update, 9/24/07, 3:53 pm ET: I think the Yankees packed their bats a little early today. Oh, well, Wilcard it is…no shame in that, after all, according to Terry Francona.

    Operation Raw Deal

    Posted by on September 24th, 2007 · Comments (4)

    No, it’s not the Yankee contracts for Kyle Farnsworth, Kei Igawa, or even Carl Pavano. It’s what the DEA has been up to over the last four days. Press conferences on this are scheduled for 1 pm ET today in New York, San Diego, Kansas City, and Providence.

    Let’s hope that there are no Yankees named in any of this stuff.

    Jobawocky In Yankeeland

    Posted by on September 24th, 2007 · Comments (1)

    From Joel Sherman -

    After Joba Chamberlain was deployed in yet another new fashion, with just one day off after a two-inning stint and to register a save, Mike Mussina strongly stated that the fireballing righty must be allowed to pitch daily in October.

    “When you put on a uniform in the postseason, you’re available every day,” Mussina said. “That’s just simply the way it is.”

    When asked if this represented a team-wide view, Mussina said, “I am pretty sure you can take a survey, and it would be the same opinion.”

    However, general manager Brian Cashman is entrusted to balance both the present and a future in which he wants a healthy, overpowering Chamberlain in the rotation. So as the overseer of the Joba Rules, he was hardly thrilled about Mussina’s sentiments, saying by phone last night, “Mike needs to worry about doing his job and we will do our job. “At the end of the day, we [upper management] know what we are doing.”

    Remember that Cashman only authorized the promotion with the rules attached. And it is generally understood within the organization that the rules were established because of concern that Torre, who has a penchant to overwork favored relievers, would tax a kid who had never before relieved.

    It is also clear Torre has never been fully comfortable with the rules. In fact, he often misinterprets just when he could use Chamberlain. For example, Torre, Cashman and minor league pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras, the author of the rules, had a conference call on Friday in which it was determined that rather than two days off following a two-inning stint (like Friday night’s), Chamberlain could return after one off day as long as he was limited to fewer than 25 pitches.

    Torre, though, told the media before yesterday’s game that Chamberlain was unavailable. And Cashman said he had to inform Torre that Chamberlain could pitch, which necessitated another conference call with Contreras just to verify that about a half-hour before the first pitch.

    I think, for October, the “Joba Rules” should be boiled down to “He only pitches in a game where the Yankees are winning by three runs or less.” That’s easy enough for Torre to understand. And, it will mean that he doesn’t pitch everyday – because the Yankees are not going to be winning by less than four runs in every game.

    Like I wrote three weeks ago, Joba’s a big boy. He can handle it.

    The First Step Is The Steepest (Again)

    Posted by on September 24th, 2007 · Comments (0)

    Just about this time, last year, I offered the following 2006 post-season prediction for the Yankees:

    If the Yankees win the ALDS, I can see them going back to the World Series and then winning a ring in six games. This said, the ALDS will be one small step for the Yankees this October, but, one giant leap for their overall chances.

    As lazy as it seems, I have to rubber-stamp that one for this year too.

    We know that the Yankees will face the Angels or the Indians in the ALDS this October.

    We know all about the Angel Bugaboo – the Halos have owned the Yankees during the last two regular seasons and they waxed New York in the 2002 and 2005 ALDS match-ups. Mentally, the Angels have an advantage over the Yankees. Everybody knows it.

    The Indians are basically all about C.C. Sabathia, Fausto Carmona, Rafael Betancourt, and Rafael Perez on the mound. Still, that combo can win you three games in a five game series. Plus, Victor Martinez, Grady Sizemore, Ryan Garko or Travis Hafner are all capable of ruining a game for you with the bat.

    In a best of five, both the Indians and Angels present problems for the Yankees.

    However, if New York can win their ALDS, I like their chances in the ALCS. If it’s Boston, we know the Yankees can match-up with them. And, if it’s the Angels or Indians, I think the Yankees have a better shot against them when it’s “need to win four out of seven” – because then New York can pound on those less-than-great pitchers who will be forced into some game action against the Yanks.

    And, as far as the World Series, I think the Yankees can hold their own against whoever the National League wants to throw in there.

    But, getting past the ALDS is still key for New York – and perhaps the biggest challenge they will face this October.

    SOTD: Push ‘Em Up Tony Still Stands Alone

    Posted by on September 24th, 2007 · Comments (0)

    Louie ‘Bleeping’ Gonzalez.

    Leitch: Inside A-Rod’s Endgame

    Posted by on September 24th, 2007 · Comments (2)

    From NY Mag – with a hat tip to BaseballThinkFactory.org:

    And though the Yankees have drawn some life from portly Nebraskan relief wunderkind Joba Chamberlain and resurgent veterans Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada, the real reason they’re headed to the postseason again is third-baseman Alex Rodriguez—baseball’s best player, a lock for the American League MVP award, a superstar having the best season of a career that would already put him in the Hall of Fame even though he has years left in his prime. Without Rodriguez, the Yankees would be lost; with him, they could win it all.

    Yet in less than a month and a half, there’s a chance he could opt out of his contract—the biggest in sports history—and voluntarily leave baseball’s wealthiest and most successful team. It depends on how Rodriguez plays in the postseason; it depends on how a cadre of Yankees insiders in the dawn of the post-Steinbrenner era can work with A-Rod’s agent, Scott Boras. If Rodriguez leaves, the repercussions for the future of the Yankees organization could be enormous. And in the end, what happens might depend less on the actions of any one person than it will on the mood at Yankee Stadium the moment the team finishes its last inning of the year.

    Given [Scott] Boras’s style—which has been called “ruthless,” but in the incompetence-plagued world of pro-baseball management might be better described as “not boneheaded”—and simple common sense, the possibility seems small that Rodriguez, after the best year of his career, won’t sell high. And there are plenty of teams out there ready to bid for his services. The leading competitors are the Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs. Other, less likely possibilities include both Los Angeles franchises, the Detroit Tigers, and, if they can figure out a place to play him, the Mets.

    G.M. Brian Cashman is in charge of baseball operations, and without Steinbrenner to interfere, he’s shown a level of clearheadedness that gives no reason to indicate he’d want to lose the best player in baseball. Cashman doesn’t cut the checks, though it’s not like the money isn’t there, in the form of the YES Network. Kagan Media Research has estimated that YES made $136 million in profit last year. The financial decision, insiders say, could be heavily influenced by Lonn Trost, the Yankees’ C.O.O., the guy who knows the true ins and outs of the Yankees’ business. YES, for example, was his brainstorm. In the middle of it all is Randy Levine, the Yankees’ president, who’s known to have difficult relationships with Cashman and manager Joe Torre. Levine has driven the construction of the team’s new stadium; he believes A-Rod is financially indispensable to the franchise, especially given the investment in the new park, and is pushing to re-sign him at almost any cost.

    On the field, the major knock on Rodriguez has been that he didn’t “come through in the clutch.” Statistical analysts might debate whether such an animal as “clutch hitting” exists, but Yankees fans have no doubt. The notion that some players like Derek Jeter have a champion’s biochemistry is particularly strongly held in New York. Rodriguez was booed relentlessly last year for alleged clutch dysfunction. In last season’s four-game ALDS loss to the eventual American League champion Tigers, he went 1 for 14 with four strikeouts, prompting Torre to bat him eighth in the deciding fourth game. His most famous postseason moment, to date, is his illegal attempt to slap the ball out of Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo’s glove in the 2004 ALCS. As every Yankees fan knows, the team has failed to win a World Series since acquiring Rodriguez. This year, though, he’s led the league in RBIs and hit several dramatic home runs late in games. He hasn’t been booed much lately.

    If A-Rod plays well and the Yankees win the World Series, it’s a moot point. Everyone’s happy; management offers a massive contract—they’ve got enough money to outbid anyone, in the end—and he accepts. But what if he struggles and they lose? What if he struggles and they win? Maybe he’s earned enough goodwill this year that the tide has turned. But maybe the crowd will boo and the sports pages will vituperate. Even in that scenario, the Yankees will likely still bid as much as anyone else: Cashman knows that the team would never have even made the playoffs without him; Trost, unlike Steinbrenner, is a moneyman who will rely on Cashman rather than emotion; even Levine, Steinbrenner’s heir in unpredictability, is set on bringing A-Rod back. But if the fans don’t want him, A-Rod’s history indicates he won’t want to be here. Boras’s history indicates he can certainly find a satisfactorily gigantic pile of money elsewhere in America. And losing A-Rod—with the consequent near-guaranteed crumminess of next year’s team that entails—is the kind of catastrophe that could leave the tenuous Torre-Cashman-Trost-Levine management system in ruins, ending the Yankees as we’ve known them for the last twelve Octobers. In the end, the Zeitgeist may have the final say. So take heed, Yankees fan. The future is in your hands.

    I’ve noticed this year, while attending games at Yankee Stadium, that during a player’s first At Bat of the game, A-Rod gets the biggest ovation (of all the Yankees) from the fans. Even more so than Jeter these days.

    I was at the game last Friday, and, the place practically erupted when Alex came to bat for the first time and his name was announced.

    It’s clear to me, now, that this is not 2006 anymore and Yankees fans, on the whole, love Alex Rodriguez more than ever before.

    That said, if A-Rod goes 2 for 15, or 1 for 14, in the ALDS this year – with some strikeouts in big spots, or a GIDP or two when the chips are on the line, it will be interesting to see how the fans react to that result – especially given Alex’s performance in the 2005 and 2006 ALDS games for the Yankees.

    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.

    The only way the fans will turn on A-Rod now is if he has a post-season this year like Willie Wilson’s World Series for the Royals back in 1980. Or, if he leaves town for the money after this season. If I had to place a bet on what’s more likely to happen, I’d go with the latter over the former.

    September 23rd vs. The Blue Jays

    Posted by on September 23rd, 2007 · Comments (6)

    What, no extra innings today?

    When it was around ten after two, and it was only the second inning, and the score was tied, 3-3, I thought that today was going to end up like Friday and Saturday – with one of those long days in the Bronx.

    In the end, compared to the last two games, this one turned out to be quick.

    Another big win for the Yanks. I still want them to (at least) tie Boston for first place – as that would give them home-field in the ALCS if they face the Red Sox. Sure, yeah, I know they had home-field in 2004 and it did not help. But, I think it did help in 2003, no? In a close series, or a close game, it helps to get that last At Bat. Plus, Wang and Clemens pitch so much better at Yankee Stadium.

    According to reports, by reaching 90 wins today, and for the seventh straight season, the Yankees now have the third-longest streak in major league history (of 90+ wins seasons) – behind the 1947-58 Yankees and the 1904-12 Chicago Cubs. That, is something. Very impressive.

    By the way, I was totally wrong about Jose Molina. That was an excellent pick up by New York, in retrospect.

    Yankees Blogger Survey

    Posted by on September 23rd, 2007 · Comments (0)

    I’m conducting a quick survey of Yankees-bloggers. If you would like to be included, drop me a line with your name and blog URL. Thanks in advance!

    One Sox Fan’s Thoughts Today

    Posted by on September 23rd, 2007 · Comments (5)

    If last week wasn’t enough for you, here’s some more today from Corey Fyke:

    I love the trash talk coming from the Yankee sycophants. “Oh big whoop! You beat Tampa!!! Wowee!”

    You gotta beat who’s on your schedule, losers. Just because the Yankees are basically .500 against Tampa and Baltimore, don’t take it out on me. Go back to your parents’ basement, with your pinstriped futon sheets and your Derek Jeter bobblehead collection, and concentrate on your own team. By the way, what’s happening with your team?

    Oh yeah, you’re 2 ½ games out. The Greatest Pitcher Who Ever Lived, Phil Hughes, looks like Kyle Farnsworth Jr. more than the next Roger Clemens. You almost dropped two straight to Toronto who’s playing without Vernon Wells. Your bullpen is shot aside from Joba Chamberlain and Mariano. Andy Pettitte is running out of gas. Roger Clemens is hurting. And the bloom has come off the Wang, so to speak. Good luck winning a playoff series.

    One week to glory. May the best team win. And I’m fully honest in admitting that the Yanks might catch the Sox, since we’ve already clinched a playoff spot, and Boston’s lineup looks only slightly better than the Royals’ offense without Manny and Youkilis and with Big Papi hurting. But who cares?

    One week to glory.

    Something is missing here.

    Aren’t promises like that usually followed by instructions to gather your new black Nike sneakers, tin foil hats, Kool-Aid cups, and map to the compound?

    NY Mag: Boras Trying To Cut A-Rod Deal With Cubs

    Posted by on September 23rd, 2007 · Comments (2)

    From the Post -

    A new report says Alex Rodriguez’s agent has spoken to a potential new owner of the Chicago Cubs about a bank-breaking deal that could give A-Rod a cut of the team.

    The powerful Yankee third baseman is eligible to opt for free agency 10 days after the World Series ends this fall. And, New York magazine reports, super-agent Scott Boras is already talking to who he thinks is the favorite group vying to purchase Chicago’s first-place team.

    According to the magazine, Boras is peddling a Second City deal that could go for an average of $30 million a year over 10 seasons, with much of that cash backloaded for the 32-year-old Rodriguez – who would then be given the right to buy a chunk of the Cubs at the contract’s conclusion. The report does not indicate who would pay for this proposed, precedent-setting deal.

    New York magazine writes that Boras is in talks with the ownership group that insiders believe will win the Cub-purchase derby.

    That, however, may violate Major League Baseball rules.

    “It is tampering for an agent to talk to anybody about a player who is under contract with another team,” a sports-business expert told The Post.

    Boras did not return calls for comment.

    Asked about the potential deal after the Yankees’ win yesterday over the Blue Jays, A-Rod said only, “I don’t know what that’s about.”

    I hope the Yankees get a lot from what might be the last seven weeks of A-Rod’s tour of duty in the Bronx. If this Cubs deal is true, no one would match it – and Alex would be heading to Wrigley.

    Starting To Look Like A 1997 Rematch

    Posted by on September 22nd, 2007 · Comments (2)

    We know that the Yankees will play either the Indians or Angels in the ALDS this year. And, it’s starting to look more and more likely that the Yankees will be the A.L. Wildcard this season in October.

    Right now, both the Indians and Angels have a magic number of one – which means they’re just about done in terms of worrying about winning games. And, they both have 91 wins to date on the season.

    The Indians play Oakland on Sunday. Then they go to Seattle for 4 games, including a double-header, and then off to K.C. (for 3) to close the season.

    The Angels play Seattle on Sunday. Then they go to Texas for 3 games and then off to Oakland (for 3) to close the season.

    I’m going to say that both the Indians and Angles win on Sunday to clinch. And, I’m going to say that they’re both going to lose 2 of 3 in their final series of the season.

    That’s a push – which means it will come down to the Indians at Seattle for four and the Angels at Texas for three to determine which team wins more games this season – and faces the Wildcard from the East.

    I predict that the Indians will split that double-header in Seattle and split the other two games with the M’s.

    All of this means that I predict the Indians to go 4-4 in their last 8 games.

    I can see the Angels being flat for Texas and only taking 1 of three from the Rangers. This means that I predict the Angels to go 3-4 in their last 7 games.

    In the end, with these predictions, the Indians will finish the season with one more win than the Angels – and Cleveland will face New York in the ALDS.

    Red Sox Secure Playoff Spot

    Posted by on September 22nd, 2007 · Comments (0)

    From the AP -

    The Boston Red Sox became the first team in the majors to clinch a playoff spot this season, rallying on ninth-inning home runs by Jason Varitek and Julio Lugo to beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 8-6 Saturday.

    The victory assured the Red Sox of at least the AL wild-card spot. They held their 2 1/2-game lead in the AL East over New York, which beat Toronto 12-11 in 10 innings.

    Boston trailed 6-5 when Varitek led off the ninth with an opposite-field homer to left off closer Al Reyes (3-3). Eric Hinske then doubled and scored one out later when Lugo homered.

    So, the Red Sox now have seven games left – which the team may, or may not, consider to be meaningless. Let us assume that Boston goes 4-3 in those seven games.

    In order to pass the Red Sox, if they go 4-3, in the A.L. East, the Yankees would have to win all of their remaining 8 games. That sounds extremely uphill for New York.

    However, let’s assume that the Red Sox go 3-4 in those seven games. If the Yankees then go 6-2 in their 8 remaining games, the two teams would be tied for first place at season end – and the Yankees would get the tie-breaker since they won the season series from Boston.

    Can the Yankees win 6 of 8? Sure. It’s possible. And, it’s not impossible for the Red Sox to lose 4 of their last 7 – since they’ve now clinched a playoff spot – if you believe that they intend to now rest their players for October.

    Hip, Hip, But Not For Fashion?

    Posted by on September 22nd, 2007 · Comments (4)

    I was at the Yankees game yesterday. For about 45 minutes, I hung out by “the bat” – just people watching. I find it interesting to examine fellow Yankees fans, tourists, and fans of other teams as the gather and mill around outside the Stadium. Plus, I always like to see if I may run into someone that I know – within the big crowds that now form in the Bronx on game-days.

    Yesterday evening, I decided to take note of what people were wearing.

    Sure, there was the “straight from work crowd” that were attired in business appropriate duds. And, there were the “fans of other teams” crowd – although not as much as when a team like Boston comes to town. (I saw two guys wearing Phillies jerseys and caps. And, one guy wearing a Blue Jays T-Shirt.)

    But, mostly everyone had on some sort of Yankees top – men, women, and children. Some were game-replica type jerseys and others were just T-shirts. Some had some sort of designer-type garb with Yankees on it, etc.

    Seeing this, I decided to focus in on player’s numbers and names that were featured on these Yankees shirts. Since Worm Killer Wang was pitching, there were tons of fans in shirts with “Wang, 40″ or just “40″ on them. And, there were several hundred fans with shirts that had “Jeter, 2″ or “2″ on them – and just as many with “Rodriguez, 13″ or “13″ on them.

    I also saw many shirts for Yankees from the past – like “Ruth, 3″ and “Gehrig, 4″ and “Mantle, 7″ – as well as shirts for Thurman Munson, Paul O’Neill, Don Mattingly and Bernie Williams.

    Among other active players, I saw shirts for Damon, Clemens, Melky, Cano, Matsui and Pettitte. I even saw a handful with “Giambi, 25″ or “25″ on them.

    I saw a few with “Rivera, 42″ or “42″ on them – but not as many as Jeter or A-Rod, for sure, and not even as many as I saw for Matsui, Cano, and Melky. That was a bit odd.

    I even saw one guy with a Yankees BP jersey that had “Costanza” on the back, across the shoulders, with double-zero for the number.

    However, in the 45 minutes that I was out there, while I saw hundreds of Jeter’s and Rodriguez’s, and several for the other guys that I mentioned, I saw just one shirt – yes, just one, that said “Posada, 20.” And, it was not until I was just about to go inside the Stadium that I saw it. It was one of those navy T-shirts with the name and number. A girl was wearing it. I want to say that she was about 17-years old.

    In the 45 minutes that I was out there, I must have looked at 1,500 people come and go – most wearing some sort of Yankees shirt and most of those shirts tied to a player and/or a player’s number. And, I saw just one person wearing a shirt for Jorge Posada. That’s kind of shocking.

    Put it another way, I saw just as many people wearing Yankees gear for George Costanza as I did people wearing Yankees gear for Jorge Posada.

    What’s up with that? Is Jorgie not getting the love from the fans that he deserves?

    September 22nd vs. The Blue Jays

    Posted by on September 22nd, 2007 · Comments (6)

    RockyDidIt.jpg

    They got knocked to the mat last night in a tough loss. They got knocked to the mat in the 4th inning today…and then again in the 7th and the 8th innings too.

    But, the Yankees kept getting back up and continued to fight.

    Being able to call on this experience is going to help the Yankees in October.

    And, with their bullpen, outside of Mo, Joba and Viz, they’re going to need it.

    Long day. Huge win. Let it now sit on the scoreboard tonight down in Tampa as the Sox play this evening.

    September 21st vs. The Blue Jays

    Posted by on September 22nd, 2007 · Comments (4)

    I called it – extra innings.

    Ugh. What a long night in the South Bronx. (Yes, unlike thirty-something thousand people, I stayed for the whole game.)

    You cannot lose this game after that ninth inning miracle comeback – not to mention the date, the standings, etc.

    You just cannot lose this game. But, they did.

    Well, at the least, it was a preview of what you will see if the Yankees have to use Edwar “Boom Boom” Ramirez and/or Brian “The American Armando Benitez” Bruney in a post-season game this year. (And, if you think I’m being unfair on Edwar, let me remind you that he’s allowed 6 homers this season in the bigs over 17 games – while facing 87 batters.)

    Lastly, regarding the Yankee Stadium cam-crew choosing “Harlan from Nebraska” for the “Match Game” on the big screen out in right (above the bleachers) – where he had to find the two numbers that had “Joba Chamberlain” behind them – well, guys, please, enough with the Harlan Chamberlain stuff. It’s played, dude. Way played.

    In Theo They Fuss

    Posted by on September 21st, 2007 · Comments (6)

    From Jim Donaldson -

    Hope Theo Epstein still has that gorilla suit in his closet.

    Because if the Red Sox somehow manage to lose the A.L. East to the Yankees — again, for the 10th consecutive year, after having led them by 14 1/2 games — or, even worse, are quickly eliminated from the playoffs, he’s going to need it to slink out of Fenway Park next month.

    Let’s check out the Boy Genius’ off-base percentage this season.

    As all devoted Sox fans know, Theo and his stat-geek, baseball-fraternity-boy buddies put great stock in players’ on-base percentage. Off-base percentage, in the case of general managers — especially those with hundreds of millions of dollars to spend — measures how often they make a move that is way off-base.

    So, what’s your favorite Epstein deal this season?

    How’s that Eric Gagne trade working out?

    Do you think J.D. Drew is worth $14 million a year?

    Julio Lugo, Boston’s fifth shortstop in four years, was signed to a four-year, $36-million contract, but couldn’t be bothered running hard to first base with the game — and, arguably, the division title — on the line Wednesday night in Toronto.

    And, while we’re talking money, it should be pointed out that Daisuke Matsuzaka, who cost the Sox $103 million, is 7-10 since May 30 going into his start Saturday night in Tampa Bay against the last-place Devil Rays, against whom he is 1-3 this season.

    Is it any wonder, then, that it seems the Red Sox have been winning in spite of the moves Epstein has made this season — not because of them?

    We don’t even want to talk about last year, when Theo let Johnny Damon go to the Yankees and replaced him with Coco Crisp; traded Bronson Arroyo to Cincinnati for Wily Mo Pena, and gave up Cla Meredith in order to get Doug Mirabelli back.

    The Sox may yet regroup and win the A.L. East, then go on to play well in the postseason.

    But if they don’t, Theo might want to keep that gorilla suit handy.

    I wonder if Brian Cashman will do for Theo now what Epstein did for Brian back at the end of May?

    Tonight’s Aces Match-Up

    Posted by on September 21st, 2007 · Comments (3)

    I’ll be at the game tonight to see Worm Killer Wang and Doc Halladay face-off against each other. This made me want to look at some numbers on both of them:

    Roy Halladay
    ERA this month, to date: 3.42 (3.82 Overall on Season)
    Road ERA this season: 4.59 (compared to 3.12 at Home)
    ERA vs. Yankees this season: 3.21 (1.29 at Yankee Stadium)
    Road IP/GS = 7.14

    Last time faced the Yankees at Yankee Stadium: July 17, 2007
    Game Score = 66

    Chien-Ming Wang
    ERA this month, to date: 4.05 (3.82 Overall on Season)
    Home ERA this season: 2.85 (compared to 5.05 on Road)
    ERA vs. Blue Jays this season: 9.90 (27.000 when not at Yankee Stadium)
    Home IP/GS = 6.95

    Last time faced Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium: July 19, 2007
    Game Score = 55

    When you look it all over, it would not shock me to see this game end up being tied at three as it enters the eighth inning. Looks like this evening could come down to the bullpens. Since both teams have pretty good back ends of the pen, could we be seeing extra innings tonight?

    I better start turbo loading the caffeine now…

    Meanwhile, On The Other Side Of Town…

    Posted by on September 21st, 2007 · Comments (4)

    From Jeff Passan -

    The New York Mets are like a Jenga tower right now, fragile and teetering, everyone waiting for it to crumble, and poised to scream, bellow and cackle when it does.

    If the Mets do collapse — if they really, truly do blow their seven-game division lead they held on Sept. 12 — it will register as one of baseball’s all-time great accordion jobs, and not just because they’re from New York.

    To see a team with immense talent play like bums is harrowing. The Mets blew another inexplicable game Thursday night, ceding a three-run ninth-inning lead in an 8-7 extra-innings loss at Florida. It was the Mets’ sixth loss in seven games, and Philadelphia’s 7-6 comeback win against Washington propelled them to 1 1/2 games behind the Mets in the National League East standings.

    Closer Billy Wagner was the latest denizen of the Mets’ training room, missing the game with back spasms and forcing manager Willie Randolph to rely on a patchwork bullpen that behaved as such. Afterward, Wagner said all he could do was “wish and hope and pray” for his return.

    The rest of Queens wishes, hopes and prays for a pulse. The entire borough is quivering with fear, which makes Mike and the Mad Dog’s lives a lot easier and gives the tabloid headline writers a chance to earn their paychecks.

    This is how scapegoats are built, and this year Randolph has assumed that mantel. All of a sudden, now that the Mets are losing, his lack of fire is in question.

    Man, you have to feel sorry for Willow. Randolph is a big part of Yankees history. Only ten players have appeared in games for the team more times than Willie. He won two rings with the Yankees as a player (in 1977 and 1978) and won a ring with the team four more times as a coach (in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000).

    I wish for him to see better days soon – unless he’s facing the Yankees, of course.

    What To Do With Bobby Abreu?

    Posted by on September 21st, 2007 · Comments (6)

    From Peter Abraham -

    The Yankees were off yesterday and many of his fellow high-salaried teammates used the time to take private jets to their homes in other states. But Bobby Abreu stayed in New York.

    He honored a commitment to visit some sick children at a hospital in New Jersey in the afternoon, then spent some time “just hanging out” at his apartment in Manhattan. Abreu lives in a spot downtown where, he says, it’s a little less frenzied than in other parts of the city.

    “New York is cool. I love it,” he said. “It fits my personality.”

    It also fits his skills as a baseball player. As the Yankees climb to what could be a first-place finish, Abreu is hitting .285 with 111 runs scored and 98 RBI. After a rocky spring, he now walks into the clubhouse every day knowing he will hit third between Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

    “The best spot in baseball,” Abreu said. “You have to be careful with Derek and nobody wants to pitch to Alex. So you have to pitch to me. I’m in a great position.”

    But as this season comes to an end, there are no guarantees for 2008. When the Yankees traded for Abreu in 2006, he came with a $16 million team option for 2008. The deadline to pick up that option comes after the World Series. If the Yankees pass, Abreu would become a free agent.

    “It’s not a decision I can make. Somebody else has to make it,” Abreu said. “But I want to play here. I really do like it. This has been perfect for me.”

    General manager Brian Cashman has given no indication to Abreu or agent Peter Greenberg what his plans will be.

    If you would have asked me in May, I would have said that the Yankees should let Abreu walk after this season. At that time, he was not hitting – and, he’s never been a good outfielder.

    But, Abreu has turned it on since then with the bat. Look at his splits, below, with September being to date:

    Month	G	PA	BA	OBP	SLG	OPS
    April	23	111	.253	.360	.308	.668
    May	28	116	.208	.267	.274	.541
    June	27	121	.287	.405	.465	.870
    July	26	112	.353	.384	.588	.972
    August	28	117	.324	.410	.559	.969
    Sept.	17	 73	.288	.356	.545	.902

    Since June, Abreu has been a force with the bat for New York. That’s the reason why he’s their #3 hitter. Of course, if he left next year, you could bat Damon first, Melky second, and Jeter third…as all those guys could handle those spots.

    However, if A-Rod opts out, and Giambi continues to regress, that leaves the Yankees short in terms of guys who should hit in the middle of the line-up. Posada, Matsui and Cano are all run-producers. But, they’re not in the level of A-Rod…or even Abreu when he’s going well.

    At this stage, since the Yankees have no control on A-Rod, if he really wants to walk, I think you have to pick up that option on Abreu for 2008 – and just hope that he comes into camp in shape and ready to play. Since it will be a walk year for him, I think the incentive is there for him to put up a monster season next year.

    Wildcard Just As Good As First Place?

    Posted by on September 20th, 2007 · Comments (6)

    Here are the teams who have won Wildcard post-season berths (so far in baseball history) – and how they’ve done each October:

    1995:
    AL: Yankees | NL: Rockies
    Both lost in the LDS

    1996:
    AL: Orioles | NL: Dodgers
    Orioles lost in ALCS, Dodgers lost in NLDS

    1997:
    AL: Yankees | NL: Marlins
    Yankees lost in ALDS, Marlins won World Series

    1998:
    AL: Red Sox | NL: Cubs
    Both lost in the LDS

    1999:
    AL: Red Sox | NL: Mets
    Red Sox lost in ALCS, Mets lost in NLCS

    2000:
    AL: Mariners | NL: Mets
    Mariners lost in ALCS, Mets lost in the World Series

    2001:
    AL: Athletics | NL: Cardinals
    Both lost in the LDS

    2002:
    AL: Angels | NL: Giants
    Angels beat Giants in the World Series

    2003:
    AL: Red Sox | NL: Marlins
    Red Sox lost in ALCS, Marlins won World Series

    2004:
    AL: Red Sox | NL: Astros
    Red Sox won World Series, Astros lost in NLCS

    2005:
    AL: Red Sox | NL: Astros
    Red Sox lost in ALDS, Astros lost in the World Series

    2006:
    AL: Tigers | NL: Dodgers
    Tigers lost in the World Series, Dodgers lost in NLDS

    In total, there are 24 Wildcard teams here. How did they do as a whole, on average?

    41.67% of the time, the Wildcard team lost in the LDS
    25.00% of the time, the Wildcard team lost in the LCS
    16.67% of the time, the Wildcard team lost in the World Series

    83.33% of the time, the Wildcard team lost somewhere in the post-season
    16.67% of the time, the Wildcard team won the World Series

    33.00% of the time, the Wildcard team reached the World Series

    That last line really gets my attention. One-third of the time, the Wildcard team, over the past dozen years, has won the pennant (and made it to the Fall Classic). Which teams did this? They are the:

    1997 Marlins, 2000 Mets, 2002 Angels, 2002 Giants, 2003 Marlins, 2004 Red Sox, 2005 Astros, and 2006 Tigers.

    When I look at these teams, the first thing that comes to my mind are some outstanding post-season pitching performances in recent LCS history: Livan Hernandez in 1997, Mike Hampton in 2000, Francisco Rodriguez and Jason Schmidt in 2002, Josh Beckett in 2003, Keith Foulke in 2004, Roy Oswalt in 2005 and Kenny Rogers in 2006.

    I also see teams who got fairly good pitching performances from their starter in Game 1 or 2 of the LDS that season: Kevin Brown for the Marlins in Game 1 of 1997, Al Leiter for the Mets in Game 2 of 2000, Kevin Appier for the Angels in Game 2 of 2002, Russ Ortiz for the Giants in Game 1 of 2002, Josh Beckett for the Marlins in Game 1 of 2003, Curt Schilling in Game 1 and Pedro Martinez in Game 2 for the Red Sox in 2004, Andy Pettitte for the Astros in Game 1 of 2005, and Justin Verlander for the Tigers in Game 2 of 2006.

    This all in hand, I would suggest, that, for a Wildcard team to reach the World Series, they better have a good effort from their starting pitcher in Game 1 or 2 of their LDS – followed by an outstanding LCS from one (or more) of their pitchers.

    Then again, you could apply that rule to just about any post-season team hoping to reach the World Series.

    This brings us to who’s pitching well now, and who is not. Here are the major league team ERAs for this month (of September) so far:

    RK	TEAM	        GP	ERA
    1	Cleveland	18	3.07
    2	Chisox	        17	3.28
    3	Yankees	        17	3.64
    4	Atlanta	        17	3.80
    5	S.D.	        17	3.83
    6	Milwaukee	17	3.95
    7	Toronto	        18	3.96
    8	Dodgers	        18	4.04
    9	Arizona	        17	4.20
    10	Cubs	        20	4.24
    11	Detroit	        18	4.24
    12	Washington	17	4.37
    13	Mets	        17	4.47
    14	Minnesota	17	4.49
    15	Angels	        18	4.50
    16	Boston	        18	4.61
    17	Tampa	        18	4.77
    18	K.C.	        17	4.80
    19	Colorado	18	4.83
    20	S.F.	        17	4.93
    21	St. Louis	20	5.06
    22	Cincinnati	17	5.08
    23	Phil.	        18	5.25
    24	Texas	        18	5.47
    25	Oakland	        18	5.71
    26	Seattle	        18	5.77
    27	Pittsburgh	18	5.80
    28	Houston	        17	5.80
    29	Florida	        17	6.34
    30	Baltimore	18	7.11

    This suggests that the Yankees, Padres and D-backs could be O.K. this post-season, as a Wildcard team, because their pitching is somewhat hot. On the flip side, it suggests that the Mets, Red Sox, Rockies and Phillies, if the make the post-season as a Wildcard team, may not have the hot pitching that you need to reach the World Series in October.

    Then, again, if you have the pitching, or not, it probably really doesn’t matter if you’re a Wildcard team or not. It’s all about getting into the big dance and then having your pitchers do what’s needed.

    Therefore, when the Boston Red Sox say that it doesn’t matter to them if they lose first place in the A.L. East, as long as they make the post-season and rest their pitchers, it makes sense to think this way…because it is really all about having your pitchers set-up and ready to come through in October.

    And, perhaps the Yankees should look at their “Wildcard” magic number in terms of when to celebrate making the post-season in 2007 – and start to line-up their pitching for October too?

    Ah, ha! Not really. Look at how the Yankees pitchers throw at home, this season, to date:

     I                G   W   L   S   CG SHO   IP     ERA    H    R   ER   HR  BB  IBB  SO  HBP  GF  GS
    +-+------------+----+---+---+---+---+---+------+------+----+----+----+---+----+---+----+---+---+---+------------+
    CWang          15  10   4   0   0   0  104.1   2.85   90   33   33   6   29   1   56   4   0  15 CWang
    APettitte      16   8   3   0   0   0   95.1   4.15  110   47   44  10   30   1   72   0   0  15 APettitte
    MMussina       13   6   5   0   0   0   76     4.97   84   44   42   9   13   0   52   2   0  12 MMussina
    RClemens        9   4   2   0   0   0   52     3.29   57   24   19   4   12   0   37   3   0   9 RClemens
    LVizcaino      35   5   2   0   0   0   34.2   5.71   34   23   22   2   20   5   33   0   8   0 LVizcaino
    MRivera        29   3   2  13   0   0   31.2   3.41   30   12   12   2    5   0   37   2  27   0 MRivera
    PHughes         6   1   2   0   0   0   30     6.00   38   22   20   3   13   0   27   1   0   6 PHughes
    KFarnsworth    28   1   0   0   0   0   27     4.00   25   13   12   4   14   1   23   1   4   0 KFarnsworth
    BBruney        26   0   0   0   0   0   23.1   3.86   17   11   10   2   15   1   21   1   6   0 BBruney
    RVillone       15   0   0   0   0   0   22.2   1.19   14    3    3   2    5   1   17   1   7   0 RVillone
    IKennedy        1   1   0   0   0   0    7     1.29    5    3    1   1    2   0    6   0   0   1 IKennedy   

    Now look at how the Yankees pitchers throw on the road, this season, to date:

     I                G   W   L   S   CG SHO   IP     ERA    H    R   ER   HR  BB  IBB  SO  HBP  GF  GS
    +-+------------+----+---+---+---+---+---+------+------+----+----+----+---+----+---+----+---+---+---+------------+
    APettitte      18   6   5   0   0   0  109     3.47  115   46   42   4   35   0   68   1   0  17 APettitte
    CWang          13   8   3   0   1   0   82     5.05   96   47   46   2   26   0   38   4   0  13 CWang
    MMussina       13   4   5   0   0   0   64     5.06   86   37   36   5   20   2   32   2   0  13 MMussina
    RClemens        9   2   4   0   0   0   47     5.17   42   28   27   5   19   0   31   2   0   8 RClemens
    LVizcaino      38   3   0   0   0   0   37     2.43   23   11   10   2   21   6   25   2   5   0 LVizcaino
    MRivera        34   0   2  17   0   0   35.2   2.52   34   10   10   2    7   2   33   3  31   0 MRivera
    PHughes         5   3   1   0   0   0   30.2   3.52   15   13   12   4   13   0   23   0   0   5 PHughes
    KFarnsworth    31   1   1   0   0   0   28.2   5.02   31   18   16   4   12   1   22   1   6   0 KFarnsworth
    BBruney        30   3   1   0   0   0   25.1   4.26   24   12   12   1   19   1   14   2   9   0 BBruney
    RVillone       18   0   0   0   0   0   15     9.60   21   16   16   2   11   2    8   2   6   0 RVillone
    IKennedy        2   0   0   0   0   0   12     2.25    8    3    3   0    7   0    9   0   0   2 IKennedy  

    Interesting, huh? For the Yankeees, Wang, Clemens, Farnsworth, Bruney, and Villone all pitch better in the Bronx than on the road. Actually, the only Yankees pitchers that get hurt in the Bronx are Hughes and Vizcaino. Mussina is about the same, home and away, as is Rivera. And, while Pettitte has better numbers on the road, it’s not like his Bronx totals are terrible.

    Therefore, if pitching is important in the post-season, regardless of how you get there, and the Yankees pitch better at home – especially Clemens and Wang – then doesn’t it make sense for the Yankees to want that home-field advantage that the Wildcard does not get in the post-season?

    Yesterday, I wrote that the Indians, to date, are 48-28 at home. And, the Angels, to date, are 51-25 at home. These are the teams that they Yankees would face, at least one of them, in the ALDS – regardless of how New York gets there.

    Because of this, yesterday, I said “I’m leaning towards saying the Yankees should go for it…and try and win the East (if that’s what it comes down to this season). If that means you have to start Hughes, Mussina or Kennedy in Game 1 of the ALDS, so be it.”

    Now, when you factor in the home/road splits of Yankees pitchers, on top of the home-field records of the Angels and Indians, there’s little question, in my mind, on what the Yankees need to do here.

    Let the Red Sox punt and back into the post-season. For them, it makes sense. But, just because it makes sense for Boston, it doesn’t make sense for New York.

    Finish first in the East and get that home-field edge. For the Yankees, it matters – and it matters a lot.

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