Chad Gaudin Really Sucks As a Major League Pitcher – Please release him!

June 30, 2010

Don’t believe what you saw over the last couple of outings or that one really good night against the Philadelphia Phillies. After Bad AJ Burnett coughed up six runs in three plus innings, Chad Gaudin did his job by teaming with another terrible pitcher, Boone Logan, to shut down the opposition.

Gaudin threw three shutout innings, allowing no base runners while striking out three. He saved the Yankees from using their key bullpen arms prior to tonight’s series finale.

Don’t get too used to this Yankee fans, because…

Chad Gaudin sucks as a major league pitcher. He can not consistently throw strikes, can’t get out left handed hitters, and is a guy who is only on the roster because Alfredo Aceves and Sergio Mitre are hurt and on the disabled list.

Depsite three socreless outing in a row, Gaudin will more easily put up appearances like thisthis, or this bomb here.

That last game is what got him released from the Oakland A’s.

Gaudin was also released by the New York Yankees in Spring Training mainly as a casualty of the enormous amount of starting/long relief arms they had at their disposal.

Many Yankee fans were not happy with Gaudin’s release.

I was.

They basically thought Gaudin was a fifth starter/long relief candidate, but while he was on the Yankees post season roster last year, he only pitched one inning. Not exactly a huge vote of confidence.

He is the Yankees 12th guy. He is the bullpen arm which should never be on the roster since these guys always are veteran retreads who stink, and never pitch unless the game is out of hand early or blown open late.

That roster spot should ALWAYS be used for another position player who would be more useful to win individual games, like a speedy, defensive outfielder or a big home run threat off the bench, like the future Yankee full-time DH, Jorge Vazquez.

But have no fear Yankee fans. Since Mitre will return soon, and Aceves reported no back pain the last time he threw in Tampa, Gaudin will be gone soon. This is a blessing for Yankee fans everywhere.

Now if we can only get Girardi to realize two left-handed pitchers in the bullpen is a bad idea when one of them is named Boone Logan.


Ubaldo Jimenez 2010 vs. Bob Gibson 1968: Who’s the Better Pitcher Through June?

June 29, 2010

Ubaldo Jimenez has a great start to the 2010 campaign, where he has a 14-1 won/loss record to go along with a 1.83 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. It measures up against many of the great pitching starts to any individual season.

But how does it measure up against the start of one of the greatest pitching seasons of the modern era? The 22-9, 1.12 ERA, 0.853 WHIP, 258 ERA+ of Bob Gibson’s 1968 campaign?

By the end of June, Gibson was a rather pedestrian 9-5, but his ERA was 1.14, and he already had lost games by scores of 1-0 and 2-0. The league ERA at the end of June was 2.93, so Gibson ERA+ was around 257  after three months of work.

 These figures are right in line with Gibson’s seasonal marks of 1.12 ERA and 258 ERA+. It speaks volumes on how Gibson was extremely consistent throughout that amazing season.

During that entire season, however, the Major Leagues were terrible hitters across the board. For example, only one American League batter, Carl Yastrzemski, hit over .300 (barely at .301), and very few batters in either league hit for power. Willie McCovey of the San Francisco Giants led the National League with 36 home runs and was the only NL player with over 100 RBI, racking up 105.

The NL in 1968 had a slash line of .243 BA/.300 OBP/.341 SLG/.641 OPS. Only one team, the Cincinnati Reds had a team OPS over .700. The average runs scored per game that season in the NL was 3.43.

These were terrible offensive statistics.

The biggest factor was the size of the mound. In 1968, the mound was 15 inches high, but reduced to 10 inches beginning in 1969. But wasn’t the mound height 15 inches in the seasons prior to 1968?

Of course, they were 15 inches high since 1903 (sometimes higher), so why weren’t the ERA’s well below 2.00, and near Gibson’s 1.12 ERA in the preceeding seasons?

Maybe the pitchers did not pitch as well. Pitchers do have different seasons all the time. Mechanical faults often lead to missing locations of pitches. This usually leads to more runs scored for the opposition.

But those great pitching seasons do come around from time to time,and the 1968 season was the post-war “Year of the Pitcher.” Of the 16 post war (World War II) seasons which had sub-2.00 ERA’s, and with Gibson leading the way the 1968 season produced seven of them.

In the year of the pitcher, Hoot was by far the best.

By the end of June, Gibby had a .775 WHIP. In June alone, he had a 6-0 record, six complete games, a 0.50 ERA and five consecutive shutouts. Does it matter that he was facing some anemic hitters. Why didn’t everyone in that era then perform like that?

Whereas Gibson was facing poor hitters, Jimenez is facing a more potent lineups, with pretty much any hitter from 1-8 in the National League able to hit the ball over the fence at any time. 

During Jimenez’ great 2010 start, the major leagues are hitting at a slash rate of .259/.329/.405/734 OPS, much superior to the National League hitters of the 1968 season. Hitters today are much more advanced than their predecessors, with video clips, better ideas on hitting mechanics, a tighter strike zone, and that lower mound.

But despite the great 14-1 record thus far, Jimenez has a higher ERA than did Gibson through June at 1.83, and a higher WHIP at 1.053. His ERA+, which measures his performance against league average, is 246, lower than Gibson’s 257 through June.

Ubaldo’s ERA+ has also significantly declined each of his last two starts.

Two starts which have yielded a win and a no-decision, allowing ten earned runs in 11.2 innings. His record in June is 4-0 with a 4.41 ERA and 1.439 WHIP.

Those last two numbers are far worse than league average of 4.11 ERA and 1.379 WHIP.

Gibson allowed more than three earned runs only twice in his 34 starts in 1968, one which was over 11 innings.

With his combination of complete games, five straight shutouts (48 straight scoreless innings) and extremely microscopic ERA of 1.14, Bob Gibson had the better three-month start to his 1968 season over Ubaldo Jimenez’ 2010 start.

And the best part is that Gibson keeps up that pace through the season, while Jimenez has shown signs of mortality over his last couple starts.

Bob Gibson’s 1968 campaign was the best ever for a pitcher in the modern era, and we will likely be saying that for decades to come.


New York Yankees: Good Decision in Limiting the Innings of Phil Hughes

June 28, 2010

Phil Hughes, aka Phranchise, will start Tuesday night’s game against the Seattle Mariners and Cliff Lee. Hughes, though, had his last start skipped out on the West Coast trip through Arizona and Los Angeles.

The reason? After throwing mostly in relief last year, he is on an innings limit this season, with the Yankees likely not to let Hughes go above 180 innings. After throwing 105 innings last season, Hughes would have that number bumped up by 75 innings over 2009.

Depending on the source, this number of 180 innings does or does not include playoffs.

Why so much of an increase? The Verducci Effect, says that any young pitcher under the age of 25 who throws more than 30 innings over the prior season is ripe for injury or a lower level of production.

It started out as 40 innings over the prior season, but I guess there were not enough injuries, so Verducci reduced the number to 30. The original theory only contained injuries, but King Tom also added an increase in ERA to prove his points.

Well, Hughes did throw 111 innings in 2007, 100 in 2008 (including the 30 he threw in the Arizona Fall League), and 105 last year. He also threw in the 2007 and 2009 post season.

Maybe the Yankees feel that Hughes has built up enough innings over the last three years (316) that he can withstand the “rigors” of 180 innings.

I feel that Hughes also can withstand those innings, and much more and I would not have sat him at all, especially with the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays in hot pursuit.

But I understand why the Yankees did it. They do not want to be blamed for anything if Hughes ever hurts his arm*. Don’t want to hear if from the fans, the media, the agents or even fantasy baseball owners. They don’t want to lose their future investment of a great arm.

* Newsflash! Almost all pitchers hurt their arms during their careers, many needing surgery. It is the nature of the beast in a most unnatural act. Even Roger Clemens, one of the most durable pitchers of all time, had shoulder surgery in 1985 at age 22. He only won 350+ plus games afterwards, and is 16th all time in total innings pitched.

Those who do not hurt their arms, usually have tremendous mechanics like Greg Maddux, who threw 167 pitches in a game at age 22, and still made his next 700+ starts. Maddux also has starts that season of 131 pitches (twice), 134 pitches and 143 pitches in his first start, April 6th.

Maddux also had accumulated 86 professional innings in 1986, jumped to 186 innings the following season (increase of 100), then threw 196 in 1986. After throwing 183 comined minor and major league innings in 1987, Maddux threw 249 major league innings in 1988, a jump of 66 innings over the prior season.

The reason? Great mechanics, which lessened the pressure on the shoulder and elbow.

The fantasy baseball guys are already complaining about Hughes’ innings limit, but for a different reason. They want the wins and strikeouts that Hughes was bringing to the fantasy baseball table.

And since Hughes has now become what was expected of him, a really good young pitcher and is 10-1, with a 3.14 ERA entering Tuesday, the Yankees are taking it easy.

It is a mistake but I applaud this move by the Yankees to limit Hughes’ innings.  

All the horror stories of Mark Fidrych throwing 250 innings in 1976 at age 21, Doc Gooden throwing 276 innings in 1985 at age 20, are scaring off these teams. And both Don Gullett and Gary Nolan of the Big Red Machine days of the early 1970’s had logged innings totals of 200+ innings in their early 20’s, including Gullett at age 19.

All four of these young pitchers were never the same after many years of these high innings pitched seasons.

Well, can someone please let me know how Doc Gooden would ever replicate one of the greatest pitched seasons of all time when he went 24-4. 1.53 ERA, 268 strikeouts and 0.965 WHIP in 1985?

What many people do not understand that the idea is to win games, not protect your “investments.”

There, I said it.

That means if a young pitcher, like Hughes or Gooden or Gullett, or even Stephen Strasburg, are throwing well in a tight pennant race, they have to pitch. I don’t care how old they are, or how many innings they have thrown.

But I still like what the Yankees are doing with Hughes.

Injuries happen whether a pitcher is overused early in his career or not. While Fidrych, Gooden, Gullett and Nolan are on one side, there are guys like Dennis Martinez, Bert Blyleven and Don Sutton who threw a lot of innings before age 25, and had long, productive careers.

And I also contend that Nolan and Gooden had nice careers, too. Nolan ended up having 110 wins and started 30+ games five times, while Gooden started 410 games over a 16 year career, winning 194.

Lots of guys today are having Tommy John surgery (TJS) and have been limited in pitch counts and their innings. Josh Johnson of the Florida Marlins has TJS a few years ago, and was closely monitored throughout his pro career.

The Yankees have a bunch of minor leaguers who have had TJS and they monitor everything pitcher wise, including the use of the minor league “phantom DL” to give guys innings breaks. Heck, a few years ago the Toronto Blue Jays had a slew of young pitchers who had surgery, and they were monitored throughout their careers.

All the precautions in attempts to extend a young pitchers career has eliminated the dominant season (glad Ubaldo is here now), or that run of great seasons. Building up guys over time is fine, but now even veteran pitchers are limited to seven inning starts and a little more than 200 innings a year.

There are too many decisions going to middle relievers, guys with no business being in the critical parts of games. Is asking a pitcher to throw 15 pitches an inning over nine innings too much?

It is ridiculous to ask someone to be like Iron Joe McGinnity again, but to throw 135 pitches over nine innings (15 per inning) does not seem problematic, especially when a pitcher conditions himself to do so.

Most great pitchers like Juan Marichal, Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver and the like only became what they were because they were allowed to become what they are.

Steve Carlton only became Steve Carlton because he was allowed to be Steve Carlton.

And that is to take the ball all the time, throwing enough to win (or lose) the game that day, going out and doing it again every four (now five) days. Those types of pitchers used to “get better as the game went along.”

That phrase was even used this season about Strasburg. But Strasburg is not yet being allowed to become Strasburg. And Hughes is not yet being allowed to become Phil Hughes.

But I like what the Yankees are doing with Hughes, and what the Nationals are doing with Strasburg.

And what the Reds are doing with Mike Leake, what the San Diego Padres are doing with their young starters and what the Baltimore Orioles are doing with young starters Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta.

The Yankees, as well as many other teams, most notably Kansas City when Zack Greinke started games, lost games in which they held middle to late inning leads. What the manager did was remove the starting pitcher after six or seven innings to hand the lead over to the bullpen.

Many times this ends in team losses, and in close pennant races in September, those games blown early count just the same.

Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts died just about two months ago, and he won 286 games, including 20+ wins in six straight seasons from age 23 through age 28. He also won 19 a year later at age 29. He dominated those six/seven seasons, and despite having double-digit wins in eight other seasons.

He was really never the same after age 28 after he averaged 319 innings per season.

But I would rather have the dominating six years, than a real good pitcher for 15 seasons who doesn’t dominate, but gets his obligatory 12+ wins every year. Are these teams trying to get 30 starts out of these guys for 15 years? That would be 450 starts.

Know how many pitchers have started 450+ games? Only 77. In the history of major league baseball, only 77 pitchers have started 450+ games, the equivalent of a 15 year career at 30 starts per season.

And most of these guys began their careers before 1985, the era when pitch counts started to become common.

So let’s get these pitchers to start dominating again over shorter time periods.

Give me Phil Hughes or Stephen Strasburg or a Mike Leake dominating for seven seasons before mediocrity hits. The teams will be better because of it, and if a tam cannot develop another good starting pitcher or two (or three) in seven years, then player development is a problem.

But I like what the Yankees are doing with Hughes, what the Nationals are doing with Strasburg, and what the Reds are doing with Leake.

Because when one of these guys (or any other “limited innings” pitcher) gets an arm injury and needs surgery, then baseball can get back to the days of the dominating, workhorse starting pitcher.

I believe Phil Hughes can be that guy. Just let Phil be Phil.


The New York Yankees: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Segment No. 5

June 28, 2010

This is the latest installment of the 2010 New York Yankee progress, honoring the epic Clint Eastwood movie of the same name.

MOVIE TRIVIA: Given that the Italian Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo literally translates to the English: The Good, the Ugly, the Bad, reversing the last two adjectives, advertisements for the original Italian release show Tuco (Eli Wallach – the Ugly) before Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef – the Bad) , and, when translated into English, erroneously label Angel Eyes as “The Ugly” and Tuco as “The Bad”.

Now I know why beat reporters who work on deadlines get very frustrated.

I had the following paragraph all ready during the 9th inning of last night’s Yankees – Dodgers clash.

“Since my last installment (No. 4), the Yankees have played 12 games, resulting in a 6-6 record. What is more important is that the Yankees still have themselves the No. 1 record in the major leagues at 46-29, a game up on the pesky Boston Red Sox.”

After the stunning comeback last night over the Dodgers, correct that to a 47-28 record and two game lead over the injury-depleted Red Sox.  

The Yankees have been 16-8 in June, with a split of their just completed, six game West coast Inter-league trip through Arizona and Los Angeles. During the last 12 games, the Yankees lost three in a row once (two to Philadelphia and the opening game versus the New York Mets).

All numbers are from the last 14 days, unless noted.

THE GOOD

CC Sabathia – with all the hub-bub over AJ Burnett’s disastrous June, have you noticed that the only pitcher the Yankees should have signed two season’s ago, is 5-0 in June? Sabathia became the third pitcher this season to win five straight starts while going seven plus innings in each?

The other two? See below.  

CC was 3-0, 1.57 ERA over the three starts the past two weeks. Simply dominant.

Phil Hughes – because of his innings limit skipped start out west, he only made one start over the last weeks. Phranchise made it his 10th win, going seven strong over the New York Mets, avenging his only loss to the Mets and Mike Pelfrey.

Robinson Cano – hit .298 BA/.365 OBP/.489 SLG/.855 OPS with two runs, which isn’t exactly Canoesque as we have been programmed to see. But he continues to come through with huge hits, culminating in last night’s extra-inning, game-winning home run off of left-handed reliever George Sherrill.

He also has a string of 60 errorless games. Interestingly, his throwing error was during Dallas Braden/Alex Rodriguez “don’t cross my mound” game.

Alex Rodriguez – starting to get the power stroke back with three home runs this past week. He slashed .256/.362/.564/.926 with the three HR’s and 11 RBI. All three home runs were huge, giving the Yankees the lead in this game and this one.

His home run last night got the Yankees on the board with his fifth inning two-run shot off of Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

I am concerned with Alex’s hip/groin issue as it has made him much slower in lateral movement. It also has eliminated his ability to steal a base.

Brett Gardner – until getting hurt last night, Gardner was hitting .342/.419/.395/.813 while continuing to play great defense. He still leads the other New York left fielder, Jason Bay, in OPS this season (.821 vs. .791), while making considerably less money.

Colin Curtis – due to inter-league games in NL parks, he made his major league debut this past week. When Jorge Posada was catching, Curtis was the primary left-handed bat off the Yankee bench.

He had a few hits in six at bats, driving in four runs. His great at bat last night led to a RBI ground ball.

He has shown a good knowledge of the strike zone, takes great swings and can play better than average defense.

Read more about Curtis here in my 40 man roster advice from last season.

Good video of Curtis here on the biggest challenge of his life.

Good deal for Curtis, who is a very likable guy, cancer survivor and all.

He also played his college baseball at Arizona State. I remember in 2008, after the Trenton Thunder won the Eastern League title, I asked Curtis if that title was bigger than starring in the College World Series his junior season.

He smiled, took a few seconds, and said “the College World Series was awesome.”

In that Series, he faced Joba Chamberlain and former Yankee Zach Kroenke of Nebraska in Game 2, doubling off Kroenke in the 8th.

Chad Huffman – like Curtis, Huffman got his first major league hit within the last two weeks. He also had that big two-run single in Sunday night’s stirring comeback against the Dodgers.

And he hustles all the time.

Mariano Rivera – A great move by Joe Girardi in bringing in Mo into a tie game on the road again last night.

Two times in one road series, and two wins. I guess Girardi can learn from his mistakes when he did not use Rivera in that June 5th extra-inning road game at Toronto.

As I tweeted last night, Rivera is like an elite piece of real estate – location, location, location. When he hits the corners, he is unhittable.

David Robertson – he continues his really good pitching after a disastrous beginning to 2010.

In 5.2 innings over the last two weeks, he allowed a single cheap run. His overall ERA is now 5.04 (it was over 14 in early May!), but in June he has pitched to an ERA of 1.00.

People wanted to dump him to the minors in early May, but he is now the most consistent bullpen arm not named Rivera.

Yankees rookies – very interesting, but four Yankee young players have gotten their first major league hit this season; both Curtis and Huffman, plus Greg Golson and Kevin Russo. And Ivan Nova and Romulo Sanchez pitched well earlier when the bullpen needed a few new arms.

Sure, the team’s payroll is around $200 million, but the organization is doing a much better job at bringing up their young players and letting them play.

Joba, Phranchise, Gardner, Francisco Cervelli, David Robertson, and even when they started this new trend by bringing up Cano and Chien-Ming Wang in 2005.

THE BAD

Mark Teixeira – I am sorry, but Teixeira needs to change his approach from the left side to stop being a complete pull hitter.

But from what I hear, Teixeira is not a willing participant in the adjustment game, and thinks “he will come out of it on his own.”

He won’t by continuing to try and pull every pitch when he hits left handed.  

With pitchers getting better, Teix getting older and the usual big shift, Mark’s split against RHP is a terrible .228/.333/.386/.719.

I do not see him improving unless he makes some changes.

Jorge Posada – he is beginning to look old, with a slower bat. But it might just be him getting back into the groove of playing every day.

Posada will get more consistent at bats as the Yankees are finished with the National League parks and Jorge can DH a few days a week.

Last night’s 9th inning ten-pitch at bat against Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton was the Posada we know.

If he hits the way he can, the lineup can withstand the continued year-long slump from Teixeira.

Joe Girardi – even though I am a big fan of his Mariano Rivera move, Girardi still tries to show everyone that he is a National League manager. Too many double switches by pulling Swisher out of games, and leaving his bench very vulnerable.

But the NL park games are over.

He was gong to pinch hit Ramiro Pena at Arizona in the Mariano game. I would rather see CC Sabathia pinch hit then Pena, especially after using both catchers. Pena is the emergency backup.

Then with first and third, with one out in LA, and Gardner on first base, Girardi elects to have AJ Burnett bunt over the runner to second.

Why not have Gardner steal second instead? If he gets thrown out, and AJ makes an out (very likely), then Derek Jeter leads off next inning.

I am a big fan of the bunting game, but with one out, giving away an out when AJ isn’t moving over two runners is a big mistake.

THE UGLY

Derek Jeter – whew! That three strikeout performance Saturday night was brutal. His slash line over the 12 games is worse – .244/.358/.289/.647 with ZERO extra base hits and no RBI.

Chan Ho Park – a .400/.444/.680/1.124 slash line is great if you are a hitter, but just brutal if you throw the ball for a living. Many have pointed out that it is usually his second inning which causes lots of damage, but some of his single inning appearances aren’t great either.

I do not believe it is Park’s durability which is an issue, as he was a starter and has several successful multi-innings appearances this season, including April 7th at Boston and June 5th at Toronto.

But after a really good 2009 season, maybe Park isn’t that good this season. This is typical of many relief pitchers.

But if the Yankees only pitch Park for a single inning, then he needs to go. Other pitchers can go the one inning route, but an effective bullpen needs lots of guys who can go multi-innings.

When Alfredo Aceves comes back, Chad Gaudin is gone, but Park is not far behind. The Yankees have lots of patience with ineffective relievers (see Damaso Marte last year), but if Sergie Mitre comes back, too, Park could be gone.

AJ Burnett – it is not Dave Eiland’s month off, lack of in your face, walk-off cream pies, or Jorge Posada catching him.

It is AJ Burnett. He is not that good.

I was against him coming here in the first place, and have never wavered off my thoughts. I still believe he will eventually be on the disabled list.

He can not throw strikes to specific spots, thus leaving the ball out over the plate, where it gets roped all over the park. Except for his really good 2008 season, Burnett is basically a .500 career pitcher. There is a reason for that.

He is not that good. When you can not command your pitches, you will never pitch well. And it does not appear he concentrates on every hitter in every situation.

Never a good combination.

ANSWER: The other two pitchers in 2010 besides Sabathia with five straight starts, five straight wins and each win going seven or more innings is Ubaldo Jimenez and Nick Blackburn.

Jimenez was the easy choice, but Blackburn was tough. He has had a terrible April and June, but sandwiched them around an amazingly dominating May.

I guess he is destined for a really good July?


Colin Curtis: This New York Yankee Rookie Might Stick Around

June 28, 2010

He opened some eyes in spring training, when on opening day in Tampa, Colin Curtis belted a three-run, walk-off home run in the first exhibition game.

That was huge for two reasons. First, no one likes to go extra innings in spring training games, and Curtis’ 9th inning blast helped everyone go home at the correct time. Second, extra innings mess up the teams pitching plans.

Curtis has shown a little pop over his Yankee career, and the former 2006 4th-round draft pick (the 7th player from that Yankee draft to make the major leagues) out of Arizona State only has 27 career minor leauge home runs.

That is one reason why I wrote last August when discussing possible Yankees Rule 5 draft decisions: “Curtis likely won’t stick with another team if taken (outfielders stick much less than infielders), but he is a sparkplug type of guy. A little pop, good defense, some speed. Of the maybe tweeners (for the 40 man roster), I would keep both George Kontos and Jason Stephens, but let Curtis dangle. Yankees might feel otherwise as Curtis is destined for the Arizona Fall League. Is it maybe an audition for Colin to make the 40 man roster this year? Kevin Russo did the same last year. He was a surprise pick for the AFL, but really blossomed out west and worked his way into the Yankees plans.”

However, despite having a good AFL, Curtis was not taken by any team and stayed in the Yankee organization, a team he loves. Due to the recent inter-league games in NL parks, he made his major league debut this past week. When Jorge Posada was catching, Curtis was the primary left-handed bat off the Yankee bench.

Curtis likely would have been called up sooner, but he suffered a high ankle sprain in April and missed significant time.

He has a couple hits thus far in six at bats, while driving in four runs. This included his first career hit, a two-run double in Arizona, a place where he played his college baseball.

His great at bat last night led to a game-tying RBI ground ball.

He has shown a good knowledge of the strike zone, takes great swings and can play better than average defense.

Read more about Curtis here in my 40 man roster advice from last season.

It is a good deal for Curtis, who is a very likable guy, cancer survivor and all. Grwoing up in Washingotn State, he matriculated to and played his college baseball at Arizona State. I remember in 2008, after the Trenton Thunder won the Eastern League title, I asked Curtis if that title was bigger than starring in the College World Series his junior season. He smiled, took a few seconds, and said “the College World Series was awesome.”

In that College World Series, he faced Joba Chamberlain and former Yankee Zach Kroenke of Nebraska in Game 2, doubling off Kroenke in the 8th.

It would be a shame if Curtis gets sent down now that the Yankees are back into the DH mode, with having fewer needs for double switches.

Right now the roster looks pretty good with all those youngsters making contributions.

Lets hope that both Colin Curtis stays a while.

UPDATE: Colin Curtis made his first major league start tonight against King Felix Hernandez, and doubled in three at bats. He played pretty well in left field, making a nice catch near the wall late in the game. Granted the double was a pop up to the second baseman, which was not seen in the early evening twilight, but many runners (like Hanley Ramirez and BJ Upton) would not have hustled to second out of the box.  

Other Curtis you tube video: http://uk.video.yahoo.com/watch/122342/1322152 

He is a great story.


Young Kids Propel NY Yankees to Comeback over LA Dodgers

June 28, 2010

In the top of the 9th inning Sunday night, the New York Yankees scored four runs to turn a 6-2 deficit into a 6-6 tie game.

In the middle of the rally were Chad Huffman, acquired off the waiver wire in May, and Colin Curtis, a 2006 Yankee draftee who made his major league debut this past week. I repeatedly contend that the Yankees 2006 draft will go down as the greatest draft class of all time.

Both outfielders, Huffman was brought up from Triple A two weeks ago, and Curtis was promoted for the inter-league games in National League parks where the DH is not used. Curtis has yet to start a game, but has appeared as the primary left-handed bat off the Yankee bench (at least when Jorge Posada is catching.)

Huffman came through last night with a big two-run single, and was followed by Curtis who hit the score tying ground ball to first base.  Before plating the tying run, Curtis had a tremendous at bat, fouling off four two-strike pitches from Jonathan Broxton, one of baseball’s hardest throwing closers.

Huffman and Curtis made their major league debuts this season, as has utility man Kevin Russo, and right-handed pitcher Ivan Nova. Two other players, OF Greg Golson and RHP Romulo Sanchez, had cups of coffee for other teams, but until this year, both had not played in the majors in basically two seasons.

The four Yankee position players all connected for their first major league hits this season, and have helped the Yankees win games this year. Nova and Sanchez were each brought up in May to give an overworked bullpen some fresh arms. In fact, Nova’s promotion was to replace Sanchez.

That is four guys getting their first hits, and four guys making their major league debuts.

Joe Girardi has no issues in using his young players.

But this would not have happened if Joe Torre were still managing the Yankees. Torre was more of a veteran player type manager, continuously using veteran players, guys he trusted to do certain jobs. That is why Torre always used the same guys out of the bullpen. He didn’t really trust certain players, especially youngsters.

That makes last night’s game so ironic in that two rookies knocked in three runs in that last inning, helping to tie the game which Robinson Cano won with a two-run homer in the top of the 10th.

With the exception of Ivan Nova, probably all of the young players mentioned here will not have a impact during future seasons, but in 2010 they have all a little something to help win games for the Yankees.

The turnaround in organizational philosophy towards using their younger farm system talent is getting better all the time. Phil Hughes, Brett Gardner, Francisco Cervelli, David Robertson and Ramiro Pena have greatly contributed in recent seasons.

There are even more young players “down on the farm” who will continue to get their shots at the major leagues in a Yankee uniform.

And that is a good thing to see, as the precedent set by their predecessors has been quality, winning baseball.


Minnesota Twins Offer Better Deal for Seattle Mariners Than Do The New York Mets

June 25, 2010

I wrote a piece on Wednesday night about how the Seattle Mariners traded Cliff Lee to the Minnesota Twins for minor league catcher Wilson Ramos, left-handed pitcher Brian Duensing and a low-level minor league outfielder.

The trade disintegrated when Ramos got hurt last Saturday playing for Triple A Rochester.

Once Ramos returns to active duty (he is day-to-day with a strained oblique), the trade will be consummated like a new bride on her wedding night.

It is no coincidence that the Twins pitched Duensing for 3.1 innings last night in relief of a very ineffective Twins starter Nick Blackburn. It was 3.1 scoreless innings of relief by the way, where the lefty allowed three hits while striking out three Milwaukee Brewers hitters.

It basically cements the deal for Lee, with the only obstacle coming in the form of the New York Mets. With the Philadelphia Phillies floundering, the Mets believe they have a real shot of winning the NL Eastern division this season.

Renting Cliff Lee will not only help them achieve that goal, but when combined with a healthy return of outfielder Carlos Beltran, it would help them get to a World Series.

Never forget that Omar Minaya will strip an entire franchise’s farm system for one pitcher he feels can put him over the top. He already did it in 2002 when he was GM of the Montreal Expos.

Back then he TRADED Cliff Lee as part of a package of young players for right handed pitcher Bartolo Colon.

The Mariners could get greedy and, by using the Mets as leverage, try to wrest more away from the Twins.

But oftentimes the greedy get what they deserve, and that is usually something not nearly as good as what they had in pocket.

Why would the Mariners trade with the Mets anyway? The Mets have nothing the Mariners need, who, for starters, want a young catcher with the potential to start right away.

Ramos fits that bill. But is that why the Mets brought up catcher Josh Thole the other day, to show him off in the big leagues? The Mariners will have a few scouts in town this weekend scouting the Twins and can get a look at Thole. The Mariners will also be in town next week when they come in to play the Yankees.

But while Thole has rebounded well from a horrible April, he is very young defensively behind the plate and does not hit for much power (10 career HR’s in 3+ minor league seasons).

The Mariners also want a left-handed starting pitcher. While Duensing is not a complete youngster (he is 27), he does have good major league experience and can step right into Lee’s spot in the rotation–maybe throwing to Ramos. The Mets only have Jonathan Niese as a starting left-handed pitcher, and with his pretty good season thus far in 2010, it does not look like he is going anywhere.

The Mets do have other prospects they would give up for their rental, including a package built around prospects such as Ruben Tejada, Fernando Martinez, Wilmer Flores, and Jeurys Familia.

But although these players are good, none are what the Mariners are seeking, so the Twins deal makes better sense for the Mariners.

But if the Mets give them ALL of those prospects, then you might have a deal.


MLB Trade Rumors: Mariners Cliff Lee Will Be Traded to the Minnesota Twins

June 25, 2010

The Minnesota Twins are tired of running headlong into the buzzsaw that is the New York Yankees. This is the team that has beaten the Twins in the playoffs three separate times during the managerial reign of Ron Gardenhire.  

In their new 2010 Target Field, the Twins want to win the whole thing this season. They have a potent offense, led by three-time batting champion and 2009 MVP Joe Mauer and former MVP Justin Morneau.

They have the financial wherewithal with the new stadium and have upped their payroll already to $98 million, more than the Los Angeles Dodgers’. In addition, the Pohlad family, owners of the Twins franchise, are one of the wealthiest families in all of sports.

Yankees be damned!

Speaking with someone familiar with the situation (and verifying the initial conversation), the Twins traded for Cliff Lee last week, but the deal fell through. The primary player going to the Seattle Mariners, catcher Wilson Ramos , suffered a strained oblique during Saturday’s game. Ramos is expected to miss seven to ten days .

Ramos was not yet placed on the seven-day minor league disabled list, keeping the trade possible. Unless the Commissioner’s office signs off on the deal, players on the disabled list are usually ineligible to be traded. There must be an understanding that both teams know that player is on the disabled list.

The deal included Ramos, a Twins Major League-ready pitcher (believed to be left-handed reliever Brian Duensing ), and a low level minor league outfielder. The Mariners might be including a low level player, too.

Once Ramos gets clearance to play baseball again, this trade will again be made.

It appears that this deal heavily favors the Twins, as they would get one of the premier pitchers in baseball essentially for a young catcher their system sorely needs, a possible starting pitcher, and a filler.

If I were the Mariners, I would hold out (briefly, like a day) for 3B Danny Valencia , instead of the low level player, in addition to Ramos and Duensing.

This deal would give the Twins a very formidable starting rotation with Lee, Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowey, Scott Baker, Carl Pavano, and Nick Blackburn.

Pavano, Baker, and Blackburn are without any type of innings limits. Slowey (91 innings pitched in 2009), and Liriano (138 innings pitched in 2009), are both coming off arm injuries and will likely be monitored for the rest of 2010.

In addition, Blackburn, who is signed through 2013 and is usually the team’s most reliable starting pitcher, has had a very off year so far. His record is a respectable 6-4, but with a 5.80 ERA. We all know, however, that the pitchers’ wins are more important.

Seattle had scouts watching Blackburn’s start on Thursday night, and weren’t impressed. They really want to get back a left handed pitcher, and Duensing fits that bill. He will be converted to a starting pitcher. The Mariners are also adamant about getting back a high level catcher, and would likely move their top catching prospect, Adam Moore, to first base.

The Twins staff already has five good starters, but Lee would fit in nicely in any team’s rotation. As I write this, Lee just finished up another complete game , beating the Chicago Cubs 8-1 with nine strikeouts and ZERO walks.  

It is Lee’s fourth complete game this season.

He is now 6-3 with a 2.39 ERA and a 0.912 WHIP. He has struck out 76 batters in 86.2 innings, and he has walked only four batters.

Dontrelle Willis walked seven hitters in only two-plus innings last night.

Ramos is a good, young catcher but is blocked by Joe Mauer, making him expendable. Ramos came up to the majors earlier this season when Mauer was hurt and hit .296/.321 OBP/.407 SLG/.729 OPS with three doubles and an RBI in limited time.

However, he is struggling with the bat in Triple-A Rochester, hitting only .218 with four homers and 18 RBI.

That positive Major League time gave the Mariners an idea that he can be a good starting catcher. In fact, Ramos could step into a starting role right away.

Duensing is a 27-year-old left-handed pitcher who was squeezed out of the Twins rotation in 2010. He started nine games last season, including this gem over the rival Detroit Tigers, which helped lead the Twins into the playoffs.

Duensing was 5-1 as a starter down the stretch last year for the Twins.

Even though he has been great as a reliever this season (2-1, 1.88 ERA, 0.812 WHIP), and really tough against lefty hitters (.122 BA), I do expect the Mariners to convert Duensing back to a starting pitcher.

It is not enough of a haul for the Mariners, especially well before the trading deadline and with Lee pitching brilliantly right now.

The Mariners are basically giving the American League Central division title to the Twins.

And that is bad new for the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers, and any other possible American League playoff team which could face Lee in the 2010 playoffs.


New York Yankees: Joe Girardi Makes Excellent Move with Mariano Rivera

June 24, 2010

It wasn’t a classic to begin the evening, with lots of walks and terrible clutch hitting, but last night’s New York Yankees-Arizona Diamondbacks matchup ended up being a really good baseball game.

It had everything in the latter innings: great defensive plays, big hits (although not enough), and some stellar clutch pitching by the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history, Mariano Rivera.

With the Boston Red Sox blowing a lead in Colorado and Tampa Bay’s starting pitching continuing to crumble, the Yankees had an opportunity to pick up another full game on both their closest division rivals.

At this point, they were playing with house money.

A nice eighth inning rally scored the tying run on Alex Rodriguez’ sacrifice fly. And it all happened without the benefit hit, the Yankees’ second such inning of the game.

Simultaneously, the game was utopia and a virtual disaster for the sabermetric crowd. The Yankees “didn’t make outs” on 23 of their 47 plate appearances, generating 13 walks and ten hits plus A-rod’s sac fly.

But while their on-base percentage was about .500 for the evening, they were terrible in getting hits with runners in scoring position. Robinson Cano, their best hitter this year, had multiple opportunities to drive in runs, but he could not do the job. They hit into five double plays. It happens.

But it shows the RBI stat can be a big deal and is very important.

Joe Girardi saw an opportunity to steal a game in the standings and went for it. Again, he was playing with house money. What helped was that the Yankees have an off-day on Thursday, and Rivera would have an extra day to rest.

The manager brought Rivera into a tie game, something he rarely does. Not bringing in Rivera in a tie game earlier this season at Toronto cost the Yankees a chance at winning another contest.

(Isn’t the image above this piece priceless? It is from last night’s game, and it shows Girardi leaving the mound basically saying, “I’ve done my job, no need to say anything else. You do your job and go get ‘em, Mo.”)

Instead of Rivera in the 14th inning of that game, Girardi used Chad Gaudin (who stinks) and the waiver wire pick-up only needed nine pitches to lose that game.

But Girardi used his biggest bullpen chip at Arizona, and Rivera used his Houdini escape tricks to help seal another Yankee win.

And now they have a 2.5-game lead on both Boston and Tampa Bay.

OTHER THOUGHTS ON LAST NIGHT’S GAME

While Girardi did make a good move by having Rivera in the tie game, he did (and almost did) make some head-scratchers.

1) Why did Girardi pinch-run for Nick Swisher in the ninth inning? Is Kevin Russo that much of a burner that he is significantly faster than the Yankee right fielder? And why put in Chad Huffman to play right field, essentially burning three guys on one play?

Girardi might have been better off sticking with Swisher (since he was not the tying run) and keeping the extra position players. Remember that the Yankees had already used Colin Curtis (a great kid by the way) earlier to hit for Javier Vazquez.

The game might have gone into further innings, but…. 

2) The Yankees didn’t seem like they wanted more extra innings. That is the reason they went for broke and brought the infield in with the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the 10th.

The normal move would be to play the infield back for the double play, give up the tying run and then try and get out of the inning with the next batter.

By using almost his entire bullpen during Monday and Tuesday night’s games and burning Damaso Marte, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, and now Mo in the current game, Girardi likely wanted to win the game there in the 10th or lose it there in the 10th.  

He did not want an 11th inning.

 

 3) I would have blown a gasket if Girardi brought in Boone Logan (who was warming up) in for Rivera in the last of the 10th inning. You don’t need to pinch-hit for Mo in that spot already up a run.

I would rather go into the bottom of the 10th with a one-run lead and Rivera on the mound than try to extend the lead with a pinch-hitter and put Logan on the mound.

4) But if you are going to use a pinch-hitter, why use Ramiro Pena? He is your last position player, and you have no one else to back up Francisco Cervelli in case he gets hurt.

Remember that Girardi had used Jorge Posada to pinch-hit in the eighth inning.

That is why burning up all your players for unnecessary pinch-running stunts causes you to lose your bench quickly.

And that is why I always like to have only 11 pitchers at the most and more position players, especially when playing in National League parks.

But if you are going to use a pinch hitter for Rivera (now batting in the No. 2 spot), why not use C.C. Sabathia?

He loves hitting, is pretty good at it, and you don’t use your last bench player IN CASE the game goes longer than the 10th inning.

Sabathia is actually a better hitter than Ramiro Pena, anyway.

But as I said earlier, Girardi was playing with house money, as Boston and Tampa already lost, and he was going to win the game in the 10th or lose it there.

He did win it by making his best move of the night (and maybe the season) by bringing in Mariano Rivera to pitch the bottom of the ninth inning in a tie game.


New York Yankees After Chicago Cubs Marlon Byrd? Are you insane?

June 23, 2010

I read a small piece here where a guy says the Yankees are after Chicago’s Marlon Byrd.

Where has it ever been reported that the Yankees are interested in Marlon Byrd? I love it when these guys listen to talk radio, and report what one of the hosts suggest as “rumors” and “needs.” Earlier yesterday, WFAN host Mike Francesca suggested the Yankees would be better with Marlon Byrd, as he is cheap (3 yrs/$15 thru 2012) and a “pretty good hitter, c’mon he is second in the National League in hitting.”

First, the do not need another outfielder. They have Brett Gardner in left field (.320/.402/.422/.824 OPS), Curtis Granderson in center field (.235/.313/.426/.739 OPS) and Nick Swisher in right field (.298/.378/.512/.890 OPS).

Where is the room for Byrd?

Where would he play? Oh, you mean he will play for Granderson against lefties? Sure Curtis is a dismal .207/.246/.328/.573 OPS versus southpaws, so now the suggestion is to platoon Byrd and Granderson in center.

We now have a $12 million platoon centerfield position. That is really good. This retards the growth of Granderson in getting to hit lefties. Changing a players approach to hitting takes time.

Kevin Long is a really good hitting coach. He has worked for two seasons with Gardner and Swisher, and they have responded tremendously. Long has had four months with Granderson. Four months. A few tweaks in hitting mechanics can be done quickly, but to transfer that “tweaking” to games takes much longer than four months.

And why would people think that the Chicago Cubs would trade their only productive, low-cost hitter in Marlon Byrd? His contract is great, and they have guys like Derrek Lee, Kosuke Fukodome and Aramis Ramirez getting big money to not hit.

Alfonso Soriano is having an MVP-type year compared to those three Cub hitters.

True, the Cubs have a good young outfielder named Tyler Colvin, but why not have Byrd and Colvin in the outfield more often? Xavier Nady is better trade bait for the Cubs, but the Yankees don’t need him here again mucking up things.

After talking about Byrd, the author discusses the Yankees and Baltimore Orioles utility guy Ty Wigginton.

Wigginton would make more sense, but he hasn’t hit that well since a scorching first six weeks of the 2010 season.

He only has three home runs since the first week of May and NONE in the last month. And if you saw him on defense against the Yankees a few weeks ago, he is brutal with the glove.

But I would trade Kevin Russo and any pitcher at Double A Trenton not named DJ Mitchell, Hector Noesi, Tim Norton or David Phelps for Wigginton.


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