• The New Yankee Trend: Weak Pen Coming Back To Haunt

    Posted by on June 3rd, 2008 · Comments (12)

    May 26th will always be a day that stands out to me on my personal Yankees calendar. It’s not because of some on the field result, player news, or front office move, etc. It’s because the first time my kids ever went to a Yankees game was on May 26th (of last year).

    So, as I was looking at the Yankees schedule this morning, May 26th caught my eye – being a special date, etc. And, I noticed that the Yankees have now lost four of seven since May 26th (this season). That’s not good. But, “how” they have lost these games is worse. The rundown:

    May 26, 2008: Yanks trailing, just 1-0, heading into the bottom of the 7th inning. La Troy Hawkins and Jose Veras imploded in that inning and, bam, the Yankees are now in a 6-0 hole with 6 outs left. They lose the game 6-1.

    May 27, 2008: This one hurt. The Yankees led 4-0 after one and a half – and Ian Kennedy allowed 4 in the second to tie the score. Then the Yankees led 8-4 heading into the bottom of the 5th – and Ross Ohlendorf allowed four in that frame to tie the score. Then, the Yankees take the lead in the 11th, 9-8, only to have La Troy Hawkins blow the game in the bottom of that inning. They lose the game 10-9.

    June 1, 2008: The Yankees trail, 3-1, heading into the bottom of the 6th inning. Darrell Rasner was tired – having thrown 92 pitches in the first five innings. He’s left in the game for the 6th, and, by the time he’s thrown his 111th pitch of the day, and thanks to some bad outfield defense, the Yankees are down 4-1. Scott Patterson allows another run in the 7th inning. New York can never catch up. They lose the game 5-1.

    June 2, 2008: This one was like May 27th. Yanks lead, 2-0, after one. Then the game is tied at two after three. Yanks pull ahead, 4-2, in the 6th inning – but allow the Twins to tie the game that inning (4-4). Yanks pull ahead again, 5-4, in the 7th inning – but allow the Twins to tie the game that inning (5-5). Each time the Yankees had the lead, Andy Pettitte allowed the Twins to come back in the game. When Pettitte blew the lead in the seventh, it was on a homer to Joe Mauer – off Pettitte’s 92nd pitch of the game. Next, Kyle Farnsworth allows a double-bunt-double combo in the 8th inning inning. They lose the game 6-5.

    The Yankees lost these four games because their pitchers either could not keep a close game close or because their pitchers could not hold a lead when it was presented. Sure, you cannot win everyday. But, it’s not a reach to say that the Yankees should have won at least one of these four recent losses – and maybe two.

    The key has been the bullpen. If the Yankees had better arms in the pen then maybe a tired Rasner and a tired Pettitte do not allow those late inning runs (in their losses). And, maybe you don’t allow guys like La Troy Hawkins and Kyle Farnsworth to blow games for you too.

    I saw this coming – way back in December. But, then again, the Yankees have not had an effective pen, outside of Mo Rivera, since 2003.

    If things don’t turn around soon, then, for the last five seasons now, Brian Cashman deserves an “F” on the “bullpen” section of his report card.

    Comments on The New Yankee Trend: Weak Pen Coming Back To Haunt

    1. Raf
      June 3rd, 2008 | 10:10 am

      BP management hasn’t been much better; can’t fault him for going to Hawkins in Bal’mer, Hawkins was coming off a scoreless innings streak. I will fault him for going with Ohlendorf for longer than one inning when it has been shown that he’s effective only for short stints…

      Anyway, 7th inning, runner @ 3b, weak hitter in Moeller @ bat. You have Molina in the dugout, as a BUC, you have Betemit on the bench. Either you pinch for Moeller, or you have him lay down a safety squeeze. We got neither. Instead, we got Moeller looking at a curve for strike three.

      Jeter gets caught napping, failing to cover 2b. He also got thrown out trying to stretch a single. Maybe he makes it if he’s running harder out the box?

      Bad game all around, there’s a lot of sloppy playing, on offense and on defense. Blame the bullpen, but it never should’ve gotten to that point.

    2. cooper
      June 3rd, 2008 | 10:38 am

      Last night was on Pettitte IMO. Yes, the pen has been poor but this team was built offense first. The avg w/ RISP has been so poor it’s not a surprise that they are a .500 team.

      Isn’t this the same team as last year really? The difference is they are not scoring as many runs this year. You can make a bad bullpen look better with decent leads.

      Steve – I know you were very much in favor of Girardi b/c he would be tougher on these guys which in theory would lead to sharper play. I agree with Raf, they have been really sloppy. How long do you give Girardi before you say he is just like Torre? They look pretty un-inspired, no?

    3. Zack
      June 3rd, 2008 | 11:00 am

      “The Yankees lost these four games because their pitchers either could not keep a close game close or because their pitchers could not hold a lead when it was presented. Sure, you cannot win everyday. But, it’s not a reach to say that the Yankees should have won at least one of these four recent losses – and maybe two. The key has been the bullpen. If the Yankees had better arms in the pen then maybe a tired Rasner and a tired Pettitte do not allow those late inning runs (in their losses). And, maybe you don’t allow guys like La Troy Hawkins and Kyle Farnsworth to blow games for you too.”

      -Steve, there is a blatant fallacy in this argument. The Yankees did not lose any of these games “because” of the pitching. They lost them in part due to pitching, in part due to hitting, in part due to bad management, and in part due to the other teams.

      There is no doubt that the BP has not been great, but there is also no doubt that the BP has not been handled well at all. Why Hawkins is still on the team, why Britton never pitches, why Ohlendorf is still used for more than 1 innings, why Farnsworth is trusted in the 8th inning–These are all Girardi’s decision’s that have severely hurt the BP…

      But the last two games are as much on the offense as the pitching. The Rasner game they didn’t do squat, and last night they had no business not blowing Hernandez out, considering how many people they left on base or erased via DP. Sure, Pettitte and Farnsworth basically sucked, but the offense let the team down just as much…

    4. TurnTwo
      June 3rd, 2008 | 11:13 am

      well said, Zach.

      it seems to me that the easy thing to do is criticize the bullpen.

      but when you look at the way its been managed, i think that the options are there to get the job done, just that the tools arent being used to bring out their full potential.

    5. BIYANKEE
      June 3rd, 2008 | 11:53 am

      Can’t argue with anything here. 57 games into the season and Girardi still seems to be feeling his way around. It seems that even though he has the parts, he’s not comfortable with them executing the plays that need to be made. With all the salaries coming off the books, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a significant roster upheaval over the winter to give Girardi a team he feels he can win with.

      This is like watching the teams of the mid 80s. You know they should be better, but they’re not. Very frustrating.

    6. antone
      June 3rd, 2008 | 2:23 pm

      I thought they played sloppy last night in general(basepaths, defense) and that’s what cost them the game.

      Farnsworth sucks too and the 8th inning is definitely a problem but A-Rod was out at the plate so the Yanks really had an extra run they shouldn’t have had too. They were lucky they were even in a tied game at that point considering their bad play and the bad call at the plate with A-Rod.

    7. hopbitters
      June 3rd, 2008 | 2:29 pm

      A-Rod was out at the plate so the Yanks really had an extra run they shouldn’t have had too.
      -

      He was clearly out, but then again if MLB would play by its own rules, there is no doubt that they would have scored a run on the ground rule double. Bad calls and rules are so ubiquitous that they tend to cancel themselves out. That said, there’s no excuse for the sloppy play overall.

    8. ken
      June 3rd, 2008 | 3:50 pm

      There is a larger issue here that goes beyond the Yankees:

      Starting pitchers rarely hand off games to the closer. Middle relievers are increasingly determining outcomes of games. Yet, these guys are where they are for the reason that they are not good enough to start or close.

      I’m not sure that any team has a solution for this yet.

    9. June 3rd, 2008 | 11:22 pm

      [...] to the serious stuff. This contest was just another game in the recent string of games where the Yankees pitchers could not keep a close game close. Will this stop soon? [...]

    10. Jake1
      June 4th, 2008 | 10:57 am

      I used to disagree with you on Cashman. But this season has made me go over to your side. He has been flat out awful in bringing in talent especially pitching talent and hasn’t improved the big league club since 2003. It’s a joke.

      50 other guys can do a better job at GM. The only pro he has on his belt right now is the last 3 drafts and really lets give that to Damon O.

    11. Jake1
      June 4th, 2008 | 10:58 am

      “Starting pitchers rarely hand off games to the closer. Middle relievers are increasingly determining outcomes of games. Yet, these guys are where they are for the reason that they are not good enough to start or close.

      I’m not sure that any team has a solution for this yet.”

      Heres the solution. You get better pitchers!! At all points. Starters relievers closers.

    12. Raf
      June 4th, 2008 | 11:57 am

      A refresher post, from williamnyy;
      “Aside from whether Cashman should be vilified over his creaky pen, I don’t necessarily agree with the premise…that the Yankees have always had a bad pen under his tenure. All you can expect is to have 2-3 reliable guys and maybe another decent option or two. For the most part, the Yankees have had that since Cashman took over.

      In 1999, the Yankees had a pretty solid pen, and Cashman’s two additions were both strong contributors: Allen Watson and Jason Grimsely.

      In 2000, the bullpen was solid again. The only major addition was Dwight Gooden, and he pitched pretty well in relief.

      In 2001, once again, the bullpen was solid. The only major off season addition was Boehringer, who was actually very good before being trading mid season.

      In 2002, the Yankees bullpen was actually pretty good (that year, the Yankees had one of their more stable staffs). The big addition was Karsay, and he performed pretty well in his first season.

      In 2003, the big decisions were to let Mendoza and Stanton go (which, I think, ultimately proved to be correct). Hammond and Osuna, two of the replacements, were actually above average. Along with very good short-term contributions from guys like Heredia and Reyes, as well as fine bullpen work from Contreras, all in support of a dominant Mo, the Yankees bullpen wasn’t a major weakness.

      In 2004, the Yankees bullpen was a two man show…Rivera and Gordon. Gordon was just good, he was great (ERA+ over 200). When you consider that Cashman also brought in Quantrill (coming off an ERA+ of 231), I think you’d have to say Cashman did pretty well that off season.

      In 2005, Gordon was very good again, but you can lay some blame on Cashman for not finding another decent option. That year, the Yankees pen was abysmal.

      In 2006, the Yankees big decision was to let Gordon walk (which turned out to be a good one). Unfortunately, Farnsworth, the man signed to replace Gordon, didn’t work out. I guess you could fault Cashman for that, but he was coming off a pretty good season. Personally, I thought he’d be able to handle set-up. Anyway, two righties did emerge to fill the gap, and both were acquired in very savy trades. They were Proctor and Bruney. At least for that year alone, Cashman turned nothing into 121 very good relief innings. I think that should be counted as a feather in his cap, not to mention having Small and Chacon basically save the season.

      Finally, last year, the Yankees pen was an early mess, but doesn’t Cash deserve credit for Joba? Still, I’d agree that he could have come up with another body here.

      If you look at it season by season, I don’t think the picture is as bleak as you suggest. Also, how many times have the Yankees been burnt in the post season by a bad pen? In 2002, the pen probably played the biggest negative role, but it was reliable guys like Stanton, Mendoza, El Duque and Karsay who coughed it up. In 2003, the pen did blow a huge game, but I think we can lay that on Torre’s doorstep. I don’t think Cashman intended to have Weaver used as a extra inning reliever when Mo was available. Again, 2004 saw some late blown leads, but Rivera was on the mound (one BS the result of Gordon putting the tying run on 3rd, and the other a pesky Dave Roberts). Finally, in 2005-2007, the starters were much more at fault than the bullpen.”

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