The Boston Red Sox Decline Was Accurately Predicted Before Last Season

May 11, 2012

Back in December 2010, I wrote this piece  indicating the Boston Red Sox were “trying to keep up with the Joneses” ie: the New York Yankees, when they traded for then San Diego Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

The premise behind the story was that the Red Sox didn’t have the kind of money the Yankees have, and they would likely fall the way of the old Soviet Union if they tried to keep up with the Yankees in spending. Paying tons of money and trading young kids to win now over the Yankees would make the Red Sox worse in the long run when their farm system becomes incapable of producing new players to fill in for their aging stars when those stars suffered declines or get injured.

I was ripped twice as hard about this story as I was in my Jason Bay Would Be a Huge Mistake for the New York Mets piece I wrote a year earlier. And Mets fans really ripped for that piece.

But in both instances I was completely wrong.

It really didn’t take as long as I originally thought for both those thought processes to prove fatal for each team.

The Boston piece was more about their thoughts on trying to outspend the Yankees rather than actually getting Gonzalez, but by using their top prospects for trades and signing free agents to win now. The Yankees spent lavishly after not making the playoffs in 2008, inking CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and AJ Burnett to over $400 million, then promptly won the World Series in 2009.

The Sox thought having overpaid superstars at every position would help them, so in successive big name transactions they traded for Victor Martinez (during 2009) and Gonzalez, plus signed John Lackey (5/82.5), Mike Cameron (2/15.5), Carl Crawford (7/142), Bobby Jenks (2/12) and Marco Scutaro (3/17) to multi-year free agent contracts. Josh Beckett was also re-signed to a big extension  (4/68) prior to 2010.

And before all this, Daisuke Matsuzaka has cost the Sox over $110 million for one good season. He missed most of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Scutaro has since been traded but Lackey, Crawford and Jenks have all been hurt, Beckett was good last season until he started drinking beer (1-2, 5.48 ERA down the stretch), and has his own problems this season*. In addition, they are now paying Gonzalez $21 million over the next six seasons.

* I was at the Winter Meetings a few years ago and was speaking with someone who knew Beckett pretty well, and told me a few pretty intersting stories from his Florida Marlins days. Let’s just politley say that Beckett isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.

That is now $458 million to be paid out to five players (AGon, Beckett, Crawford, Jenks, Lackey) of which only one is now playing equal to what was expected. But did you also know that so far this season Gonzalez has the fewest number of extra base hits of any Red Sox starter with 100 or more plate appearances?

But, with all that outlay of cash and traded away young players) the Red Sox haven’t won a post season game since 2008. They haven’t even made the post season since 2009 where they were swept by the Los Angeles Angels in the ALDS. Martinez didn’t help them win in that series, did he?

Here is a direct quote from my Gonzalez piece: “...the Red Sox do have a set pitching staff entering 2011 with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Beckett, Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Felix Doubront, who the Padres did not receive, is a very capable reserve starter.

That is it, though. There are no other starting pitchers in their higher up system who is any good. So the Red Sox have a top six with no others to complement them if there is an injury.”

They collapsed last season in September when they blew a nine game lead and most of that collapse centered on the lack of healthy and effective starting pitchers who could win just one game! Maybe Justin Masterson (traded for Victor Martinez) might have helped. Casey Kelly might have been good enough to come up from Double A and win one game. They also had some bullpen issues last year which Nick Hagadone (also traded for Martinez) might have helped. Hagadone is a hard-throwing lefty who has also been one of the Cleveland Indians best relievers this season with a 0.87 ERA, .484 WHIP and 8.7 K/9 ratio.

This year, under new manager Bobby Valentine, similar events are occurring to this organization, especially injuries and much ineffectiveness. Lackey is out for the season, Matsuzaka and Crawford have not played in 2012, Youkilis is hurt again (a nagging back injury), Jacoby Ellsbury is sidelined (again), and the starting pitching has been brutal.

Plus, in their quest to convert their top set up man Daniel Bard to the rotation, the two big arms looked on to fill the bullpens late innings, Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon, are both not with the team. Bailey has been hurt all year and Melancon (who I really like as a reliever) was ineffective early and shipped to Pawtucket. Similarly, the player they received for Theo Epstein, Chris Carpenter – another late inning reliever, is also disabled.

And you probably thought only the New York Yankees had miserable results with pitchers they traded for?

And like last season, there is not a lot in the Red Sox minor league system that can help now. Sure, Will Middlebrooks was brought in for Youkilis and has performed well (can I throw out a SSS here?) but not many of their other top prospects are remotely close to helping out in 2013, let alone this season. When Ellsbury went down, the Sox had to trade for an almost finished Marlon Byrd; when the bullpen needed help, they turn to Vicente Padilla and Andrew Miller, one of the failed starters from September 2011. 

Now, the Red Sox look to bolster their offense with the promotion of Daniel Nava. Lol.

I am not saying that trading for Gonzalez was a bad idea in and of itself. Obviously, he is a quality player who can consistently put up big time, MVP caliber number each season. But he is committed to the first base position for several years, until David Ortiz is gone and then AGon will likely move to DH.

But with all that money spent with no titles, no ready prospects to fill in when injuries occur, was it really wise to try and spend like the Yankees and lose young players at the same time? If the Red Sox let Anthony Rizzo play at Triple-A last season and then come up this year, would the Red Sox be any worse than they are now? Which, of course, is mired in last place, a full 7.5 games behind the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays.

Was it worth it to try and buy a title last season?

It is interesting that both teams the baseball pundits thought would be in the 2011 World Series, the Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies, didn’t even make that World Series and are mired in last place this season. Like the Sox, the Phillies lost key contributors Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, and after they traded many of their top prospects, they have no one to come up and contribute on offense. Plus, like the Sox situation with Crawford, the Phillies owe an already performance declining Howard over $100 million for next FIVE years.

But unlike the Red Sox, the Phillies do have a trio of tremendous starting pitchers in Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.

Those teams which try to win every year by overpaying for talent eventually have problems when injuries and ineffectiveness occur. Too much money for very little return puts a damper on their current team and down the road when young kids are blocked by overpaid bums.

Most of the World Series championships won over the last 30 years have been won with home grown players who, when allowed to develop and contribute, provide their organization with quality value with quality play.  San Francisco won with their home grown starting pitching and Texas has been in the last two World Series with mostly young players who have come up through their system. Of course there are exceptions (like the 2009 Yankees), but these are exceptions and not the rule.

The Red Sox do have some promising kids in their system, but they are all down in the Low-A and High-A. It would behoove the Sox to allow these kids to develop and be ready for 2014 and beyond. Trading away any of these kids for an arm or big bat now will only continue the circle of idiocy. But one small issue like not being very good for a couple years might have to be stomached by Red Sox nation.

So, what to do? Let the kids play.

The Red Sox have an average age of over 30 for their team, way too old for the young game played today. The Sox need to get younger and use some of the tools they have in their system. The aformentioned Middlebrooks. Keep him in the lineup. Mike Aviles is a nice player, but is he your future at shortstop? You have a top prospect at Triple-A in Jose Iglesias. Why not let him play? From his days with the Texas Rangers and New York Mets, Bobby Valentine appears to work well with young players and wanted to have Iglesias as his starting shortstop at the beginning of the season, but was “overruled” by GM Ben Cherington. Ryan Lavarnway is a power hitting catcher who would fit nicely in Fenway Park.  

Time the change the attitude in the clubhouse.

When the Red Sox tried to win it all every year after year by obtaining Victor Martinez, John Lackey, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, costing themselves cost-controlled young talent and future draft picks, then re-signing the intelligently challenged Josh Beckett, the hierarchy put a process in place which could affect their ability to win over the next few years.

If I was a conspiracy theorist, I might believe that Theo Epstein, who conveniently left to become grand pooh-bah of the Chicago Cubs, did this on purpose.

My prediction of the Red Sox demise by not having quality young players to help in case of injuries to overpaid talent came to roost last season with no pitchers who could win a game down the stretch, and this downfall continues at the beginning of this season.

I am sorry Red Sox fans, but this case of Keeping up with the Joneses has pushed this team into pre-foreclosure status.


MLB Winter Meetings: Jayson Werth to Washington Nationals, Adrian Gonzalez Deal Dead?

December 5, 2010

On the ground at the winter meetings in unseasonably cold Orlando, Fla., there has been quite a bit of action already.

Actually, in much colder Boston, the Adrian Gonzalez trade is currently off, as the slugging first baseman and the Boston Red Sox could not agree on an extension. They had a window until 2 p.m. today, and while the Red Sox were willing to given Gonzalez a six-year extension, the player wanted eight years and “Mark Teixeira money.”

Many people here believe that if Gonzalez tests the free-agent waters after this season, there would be up to six potential suitors for the type of money (eight years/$180 million) Teixeira signed for two winters ago. Those teams include the Dodgers, Angels, Nationals, Cubs and, of course, the Red Sox.

The Cubs were the other teams heavily involved in trying to trade for Gonzalez last week. Could talks with the Cubbies begin anew?

While the deadline for an extension has passed and the trade is now dead, it does not mean it is completely done. The teams could talk trade again (same players involved), and the Red Sox could up their offer.

I believe the Red Sox need Gonzalez so bad that they at least go to a seventh year (he would only be 35 in that last season), and this trade eventually gets done.

It gets done because of the major news today from the meetings that former Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth, he of the 120 career home runs at the age of 31, signed a big-money contract with the Washington Nationals.

That deal is for seven years and $126 million. Are you kidding? This deal will turn out just as bad as the deal Jason Bay signed with the New York Mets. Maybe it’s the name.

Well, Scott Boras did his work here and earned every penny of what he is getting paid by Werth.

But the right-hand hitting Werth was also on the Red Sox radar, to complement the trade for the left-hand hitting Gonzalez.

Now Werth is out, and the Gonzalez deal is done, for the time being. Even if the Red Sox do eventually get Gonzalez, they need another bat.

And that means going after Carl Crawford. The Sox can put a dent in the Yankees and Angels’ pursuit for CC No. 2 and improve their own lineup, too.

Let’s say the Red Sox then do sign Crawford. That means the Angels are needing to improve their team. They would like to get lineup help and want Crawford to be their No. 3 hitter.

But if Crawford signs elsewhere, the Angels can improve their team by getting better starting pitching.

And that means going heavy for Cliff Lee. What better way to crush the rival Texas Rangers, hurt the Yankees and improve your own team?

I have always thought the Angels were going to be a dark horse for Lee. However, many people here believe that Lee does not want to go back to the west coast. Valid point.

Also, the Angles aren’t hurting for starting pitching, with five starters already in the fold, including Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, Joel Piniero, Dan Haren and Scott Kazmir. But Kazmir is mostly ineffective and could be moved, as he only has one year left before free agency. They could also move the more desirable Santana to make room.

However, money does talk (ask Werth), and the Angels will certainly be able to go $150 million for six years for Lee. That might get it done. Angels owner Arte Moreno has never been shy about spending his hard-earned cash.

Plus, I have always believed the Angels don’t really need Crawford with speedy youngsters Peter Bourjos (ready now) and Mike Trout probably ready in 2013 or sooner. Trout could be the best overall prospect in the major leagues.

Going after and signing Lee would make the Angels the leading contender in the AL West and would severely alter the Yankees pitching plans for their rotation.

If Lee signs elsewhere, what do the Bombers do then? I have several thoughts on what they could do,  but they will be held for another piece.

These possible moves are the domino effects of the Gonzalez trade being called off (for now) and Werth strictly showing us money was the only factor in signing with the Nationals.

So much has gone on here at the winter meetings, and they haven’t even officially begun.


Red Sox Trade for Adrian Gonzalez: Keeping Up With The Yankees Could Prove Fatal

December 4, 2010

One of the most often said phrases is “Keeping up with the Joneses,” a catchphrase referring to the comparison to one’s neighbor as a benchmark for social status or the accumulation of material goods. To fail to “keep up with the Joneses” is perceived as demonstrating socio-economic or cultural inferiority.

In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan built up the Star Wars defense initiative and the Soviet Union tried to keep up but went bankrupt. Not until the Russians privatized their state industries did the Russian Mafia become the wealthy capitalists they are now.

In the case of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, it would be baseball inferiority, with the Yankees leading the way and Red Sox trying to keep up. Yanks get Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett, the Red Sox get scared and re-sign Josh Beckett and go out and sign John Lackey.

So when the Red Sox did not advance past the first round of the playoffs in 2009, getting swept by the Los Angeles Angels, and then FAILED to make the post season last year, they have to do something else now, right?

The Red Sox must be thinking, “We can’t let the Evil Empire go out and get Cliff Lee. And now they are talking about getting Carl Crawford?”

We must do something!

Theo Epstein had to move quickly to get the guy he has always desired, Adrian Gonzalez. Reports have Gonzalez already in Boston for a physical to complete the deal.

Confirmed reports say it definitely includes RHP Casey Kelly, 1B Anthony Rizzo and OF Reymond Fuentes. The Sox are giving up their top pitching and positional prospect available to trade (Anthony Renaudo can not be traded yet) and what potential studs they had at the higher levels of their farm system are now gone.

*I feel the Padres got rooked in this deal, and that the deal was basically a give back to Theo from his former assistants Jed Hoyer and Josh Byrnes. Rizzo is two years away, as is Kelly, while Fuentes, an outstanding defensive outfielder, might be four years away. None of these guys are major league ready talent.

Most of their next wave of Red Sox positional talent is down in the lower levels.

But the Red Sox do have a set pitching staff entering 2011 with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Beckett, Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Felix Doubront, who the Padres did not receive, is a very capable reserve starter.

That is it, though. There are no other starting pitchers in their higher up system who is any good. So the Red Sox have a top six with no others to complement them if there is an injury.

Also, while their lineup will be better with Gonzalez, a lineup of Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez, Youkilis, Ortiz, Drew, Varitek, Scutaro is top heavy. While it is not easy to navigate, many of the guys can be pitched to.

It is not nearly as good as the names suggest.

Pedroia, Ellsbury and Youkilis are coming off injuries and Ortiz will get off to his usual slow start. What if one of the aging guys gets hurt? Where do they go for help? Will Drew continue to decline in his final year? Varitek getting another 400 plate appearances like he did in 2009 is enough for any Red Sox fan to groan. 

Is Jed Lowrie (always injured) or Ryan Kalish the answer? Darnell McDonald? C’mon. Since no one of very high talent is coming through the system now, the Red Sox will be required to dig deep again into their pocketbooks and sign Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth.

The reason for going and getting Gonzalez and needing Crawford/Werth is that the Sox missed out on Mark Teixeira two years ago. They put all their eggs in the Tex basket, but when Mark decided on the Yankees, Theo needed to go to Plan B.

They traded for Victor Martinez last season (even though they gave up nothing) but V-Mart left and created a huge hole the Sox could not fill internally. Now the trade of more young players for Gonzalez. 

The Red Sox are trying to keep up with what the Yankees are projecting by boosting their lineup with Gonzalez and possibly Crawford/Werth.

But the A.L. East is based upon pitching to these stacked lineups and the Red Sox are treading on thin ice with their starting staff and bullpen.

The Red Sox staff of Clay Buchholz and John Lester were good, while Beckett, Lackey and Dice-K were basically ineffective.

Victor Martinez gave them a pretty good hitter in the middle of their lineup last season, a switch hitter with some power. Gonzalez gives them Gold Glove defense (although Youk was pretty good over there, too) and will probably hit 35-40 HRs.

Is A-Gon’s productivity enough of a difference over what they got with Martinez last season to justify trading away their top pitching and positional prospects? AGon’s WAR last year was 6.3 while VMart, in 154 less plate appearances was 3.8.

Will Youkilis be a good enough defender at third base for an entire season?

Trying to keep up with the Yankees is tough to do as the Yankees have many more pieces in their farm system they can trade off. Plus, if the organization allows them to, more who will be able to contribute within two years.

Keeping up with the Yankees via outside, high-priced talent is going to eventually bankrupt the Red Sox, both in the terms of money and a farm system to replace their senior citizen players with internal talent.

You can’t keep up with the Joneses, let alone the “Evil Empire” in the Bronx.

The other Evil Empire learned that 30 years ago


Why Would The New York Yankees Trade for Cliff Lee Now?

June 10, 2010

There was a recent NY Post report by columnist George King which portrayed the New York Yankees as being interested in the services of left handed pitcher Cliff Lee of the Seattle Mariners. Lee is an outstanding pitcher, one of the top five pitchers in baseball.

The report states that Seattle expects the Yankees to attempt to obtain Lee, with information gathered from a person “familiar with Seattle’s thought process.”  The Mariners are preparing for the Yankees to try and trade for Lee, and has scouts in attendance at various Yankees minor league games.

The Mariners, therefore, are assuming the Yankees have interest now.

Recently the Mariners have had two scouts at Low A Charleston and two in Reading, PA checking in on the Yankees Double A squad, the Trenton Thunder.

Possiblities in Charleston include pretty much nobody, except OF Slade Heathcott and C/DH J.R. Murphy, last years first and second round picks. Those two aren’t going anywhere. You want to say, maybe, Charleston RHP Jose Ramirez might be wanted, then OK, because he might have that proverbial upside. Otherwise, Charleston really offers nothing of value.

But Double A does offer real value for another team. Reportedly the Mariners like RHP David Phelps, 3B/1B Brandon Laird and C Austin Romine. Well, who doesn’t, right? You don’t have to be a pro scout to figure out that these three are the top players.

Phelps gets guys out and doesn’t walk anybody, Laird hits for great power and average, plus doesn’t strike out much. Romine is an above average defensive catcher who hits for a high average. Three solid players who will all get to the big leagues…for some team.

The Mariners are starting with a combination of one of the Yankees top catcher (either Jesus Montero or Romine) and Triple A shortstop Eduardo Nunez.

But just because the Mariners are scouting the Yankees prospects does not mean the Yankees are interested in trading any of them right now for Cliff Lee.

Knowing their 2010 season is shot, Seattle is probably getting a list of players they like for a proposal to the Yankees. The Mariners would like a few players in return for Lee who could help on the offensive end*.

 *The funny thing about Seattle and their new defensive first concept is that it worked well for one year because it took everyone by surprise. Now they improved their defense again by adding 1B Casey Kotchman and 3B/2B Chone Figgins, plus re-signing SS Jack Wilson. But a team can save all the runs they want, but you still need to hit or the lack of consistent run production will add to the tremendous amount of pressure already on the pitching staff.

When a pitching staff knows it cannot give up 3 or more runs a game, the pressure to make every pitch count becomes unbearable.

While there is lots of talk regarding a trade of Lee to the Yankees, it doesn’t seem like the Yankees have initiated any of this talk of a trade. No one from the Yankees camp has ever said they want to trade with the M’s for Lee.

The Yankees M.O. is to wait and be patient until impending free agency, and not to trade prospects for veterans, especially when the veteran can walk that off season after the trade. Think what GM Brian Cashman did when Johan Santana was on the block prior to the 2008 season.  

The Yankees refused to trade RHP Phil Hughes, RHP Joba Chamberlain and 2B Robinson Cano (among other players) in several possible deals with Minnesota for Santana. Cashman was ripped for not making a trade for Santana, especially after the Yankees did not make the playoffs in 2008.

Instead Cashman went out and signed a free agent pitcher in CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett that following off season.

They did not make the playoffs in 2008, but the team won the World Series in 2009 and is now better in the long run.

Much of the talk now, though, is that the Yankees will trade for Lee. FoxSports Ken Rosenthal picked up on the story and quoted a rival executive saying the Yankees will trade for Lee because he is a “top of the rotation starter.” Many of these national writers don’t have any original ideas, but use only what comes from their sources.

They very rarely use analysis to figure out what would be good for the teams and why teams would do, or should not do certain things.

For example, for several reasons it is a flat out given that Cliff Lee will sign as a free agent with the Yankees in the off season.

1) Lee is really good friends with CC Sabathia, and CC has told him how great it is to play in New York.

2) Lee is really good friends with AJ Burnett, both are from Arkansas, and share the same agent.

3) The Yankees have five really good starting pitchers right now. Even with Hughes on an innings limit this season (about 180, but it keeps going up), they only need to fill maybe five extra rotation starts during the season. That is assuming that no starter gets hurt. 

Seattle is the impatient group here, not wanting to worsen an already terrible trade they made for Lee. They really needed a bat, probably two. Not that the players the Phillies got back from Seattle are any good either. Seattle did not give up much for Lee, and the players are all struggling this season in the Phillies system.

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik is blowing smoke out there wanting to have other teams think the Yankees will attempt to get Lee this season. Similar to how agents let it be known the Yankees want to sign their free agents (even if it is not true), Zduriencik wants to drive the price up for his biggest trade bait. There are already stories out there asking why don’t this team or that team now try and get Lee. Even Red Sox fans are wondering if Lee would be good for them.

I know the Mariners GM is doing his due diligence and seeing what the market can bear for his ace starting pitcher. But rather than approach other teams, it might be best to let other teams come to them. That way you can get more because the other teams are the needy ones.

But Seattle would be best to take the picks from Lee’s departure (although if it was the Yankees signing him, it would be lower picks) and use them in what already appears to be a really good draft pool of talent next season.

By not trading for Lee this season, theYankees do not give away any players and only need spend money to sign Lee next year.

And by that time, they can then decide what to do with free agent to be Javier Vazquez and get feedback from Andy Pettitte with what he will do about a possible retirement.

This trade does not make sense from a Yankees stand point, unless one of their starters gets hurt–then the entire ballgame MIGHT change.


New York Yankees Next 35 Games Are Of Extreme Importance

May 24, 2010

The Yankees began a crucial 35-game stretch Thursday night with a 8-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Bombers then have split the first two games of the Subway Series against the cross-town New York Mets.

The Rays showed just how much better they are than the Yankees, with better pitching, scoring early and having a back end of the bullpen which did not blow games.

They also out-scouted the Yankees, using defensive positioning to help defend Mark Teixeira and surprisingly, the newly-promoted Juan Miranda. 

With all the injuries and the starting pitching not performing well (at least the last turn through the rotation), it will be interesting to see how the Yankees respond to this upcoming stretch.

After concluding their three-game set at the Mets, the Bombers travel to Minnesota, then home for seven games against second division teams Cleveland and Baltimore. The Yankees go on the road, seeing for the first time the pitching-rich and homer-friendly Toronto Blue Jays.

Interleague play continues with three against the Houston Astros, last year’s World Series opponent Philadelphia Phillies and another series with the Mets.

The Yankees go west for the second time, including visits at the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Yankees renew friendships with former Yankee skipper Joe Torre and former pitcher (and first-round pick) Ian Kennedy.

It is about this time where Jorge Posada should be ready again, out for about a month with a stress fracture in his foot. The foot injury is devastating for any catcher who continually squats down and flexes his feet.

However, with the defense which Francisco Cervelli is displaying, Posada mostly could be used as a DH with occasional catching duties.

While Cervelli has certainly been impressive, it has mostly been as the “backup” catcher. Despite playing the majority of the last 10 days behind the plate, it was not until Posada actually went on the disabled list (DL) that Cervelli became the “starting catcher.”

While no one expects him to become the next Yogi Berra, the pressure is now on Cervelli to keep playing well. If he doesn’t, there is no one behind him to help carry the load. He has only hit .227 over his last six games, the time which Posada has been out.

Nick Swisher is back and hitting. Curtis Granderson has begun a minor league rehab assignment, and the Yankees could have a full complement of starting position players (minus Posada and the easily replaceable Nick Johnson), within a week.

After being swept by the Rays, the Yankees need to win 20 or more of these 35 games over these next five weeks, before they get Posada back.

At least keep the distance manageable from the Rays, but these upcoming games are not important due to catching the Rays, but because the Yankees are looking to keep distance between them and the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers.

Minnesota has the same record as the Yankees while Detroit is only two games back of the Yankees entering Sunday’s schedule.  

Both those AL Central teams have good starting pitching, with the Twins complementing that with a really good, powerful lineup.

The Tigers are riding veterans Johnny Damon, Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez, and have had immediate success with rookie outfielders Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch. They did recently take three of four from New York.

Lots of question marks remain relative to the Yankees starting pitching, relief pitching, recent offensive woes and some defensive issues with Alex Rodriguez and his throwing. 

Is that all?

With certain guys still out, it is imperative that veterans Mark Teixeira (1 for his last 20) and Derek Jeter begin to improve their strike zone discipline and the starting pitchers work more efficiently to keep the weak middle relief off the field.

With all the other issues, the Yankees can ill afford to further their recent skid which has seen them drop nine of their last 14 games.

Other teams are lurking.


The New York Yankees: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Segment No. 3

May 19, 2010

We are here with our third installment of the Clint Eastwood crusade regarding the New York Yankees. If you missed the first installment, click here .

Second installment? Click here .

The Yankees record is 25-14, three games behind the American League East leading Tampa Bay Rays. And the Yankees are home against Tampa for the next few games, then have a short road trip (across the river) to face the New York Mets for three games, and then on to Minnesota.

While the Yankees did not get into first place after Tampa’s dominant nine-game West Coast road trip earlier in the month, they have a chance to make up two games quickly.

After the Yankees, the Rays head to Houston where they luck out against the worst team in baseball.

THE GOOD

Brett Gardner

He has been really good in his time as a starter . Gardner has put up a line of .280 BA/.345 OBP/.380 SLG/.725 OPS with two doubles, a homer, 3 RBIs and 4 stolen bases. He also scored 10 runs. In February, Yankee fans would have signed on the bottom line for those slash numbers for the entire 2010 season. Currently at .321/.399/.412/.811, Gardy has surpassed all of our expectations.

Alex Rodriguez 

After there was talk about his lack of power, he comes up and wins one game with a grand slam , and ties another with a two-run shot in the bottom of the 9th. Even if he wasn’t hitting home runs, I remember lots of stinging line drives ripped all over the field. His OPS is 1.064 over the last two weeks.

Mark Teixeira

The three and four hitters are finally cranking. Tex has raised his season average to .219 with a two-week spurt of .300/.375/.640/1.015 OPS with five homers and 16 RBI. Although, during the last two Yankee losses, he has come up in the last inning with runners on base and made out both times.

Francisco Cervelli

A total pleasure to watch play the game. No HR’s so far (tied with Ben Zobrist in that category). Enthusiasm, ability to call a game, sets up hitters well, and really comes through with RISP. He slashes .647/700/.882/1.582 in that situation with 15 RBI.

I like his aggressive hacks at pitches in the strike zone. Good to see that aggressive nature in this take a pitch down the middle world we live in.

Juan Miranda

Huh? Why? Well, despite his .231 average, Miranda has a .872 OPS with a long double and booming home run. I love the way he attacks the baseball, looking to hit. But while he is aggressive, he does not swing at too many bad pitches.

I have noticed his tendency of being pull happy, trying to pull fastballs on the outside corner. Even the HR he hit last night was on an outside fastball, but he did try and pull a similar pitch in the 9th inning, too.

He must only like the pitch over the plate because he takes too many fastballs on the inner half.

I truly believe the Nick Johnson signing was a waste of $5 million, when Damon or Miranda could have been had for about the same money.

Young pitchers

Because of injuries to Chan Ho Park and Alfredo Aceves, the Yankees had the Chris Britton memorial shuttle to Scranton working overtime. They needed arms and brought up Romulo Sanchez and Ivan Nova to the majors.

Both players responded very well, combining for 6.2 innings of no run ball, allowing five hits, a walk while striking out four.

Nick Swisher

I was not a huge fan of the trade for Swisher , not because of his talent, but when the Yankees got him they had a glut of 1B/DH/RF types already on the roster.

But since the injuries to Curtis Granderson and now Swisher, you really see how Swisher’s presence is missed in the lineup and in the outfield. His new mentality in the batters box really lengthened the Yankee lineup.

Phil Hughes

Despite the not so bad start Monday, Hughes still had a good two weeks. He made three starts, going 2-0 with a 3.32 ERA and 1.105 WHIP. He only walked three batters in 19 IP, a very impressive number.

Andy Pettitte

One start after being skipped and it was more of the same from Andy. 6.1 IP, no runs, good stuff and his fifth victory.

Javy Vazquez

He is moving up the charts quicker than a Taylor Swift single. He was impressive in his two outings, one a start, and one a relief appearance. He pitched seven solid innings in Detroit (but lost a tough one), and entered Monday night’s game to face Kevin Youkilis, and got him swinging with two men on.

His curve appears to have that good break and location, but he needs to keep the fastball on the corners, not in the middle of the plate.

THE BAD

Robinson Cano

He is beginning to swing at non-hittable pitches, getting himself out in the process. His last two weeks have produced .239/.327/.326/.653 OPS with six strikeouts.

CC Sabathia

Three starts, no wins, 5.09 ERA. I know he was ripped off by the bullpen last night and should have gotten the win in Boston before the rain fell, but he is the ace and he can not go three straight starts without a victory.

If I were him, I would sit down with Joe Girardi and tell him, “Unless I am getting knocked around, I want to go eight or nine innings every start. No more of this seven inning garbage.”

AJ Burnett

Two starts, 0-1 record and 8.18 ERA. He is back to Bad AJ, issuing seven free passes and 16 hits in two starts. Almost Ugly. If he has no control of the curveball, he is useless.

David Robertson  

He is improving, but he still walks too many. Six walks in five plus innings, but seven whiffs. He should throw his curveball more for strikes early in the count. No one swings at it and if they do, it isn’t a hittable pitch.

Marcus Thames  

I really would not care if this guy hit five game winning home runs last week, he stinks. The only reason he is not part of the ugly group is the one game-winning home run.

He obviously can’t field, can’t throw and can’t hit righties. He is the ultimate one-dimensional player.

And with a team beset by injuries, that is the worst type of position player to have on the roster.

THE UGLY

Derek Jeter

If I see one corpuscle of blood come across the hall…I mean one more weak ground ball to short, I am going to freak out. FREAK OUT!  

Last night, I had more confidence in Juan Miranda coming through in the ninth inning than I would have if Randy Winn got on base and Jeter came up with a chance to win the game.

He takes too many fastball strikes, can’t hit with authority with the ones he does swing at, and flails at WAY TOO MANY breaking pitches outside the zone.

Jorge Posada

He needs to play or go on the DL. It is a waste to have him on the roster without using him.

If a limping Kirk Gibson can go to the plate in the 1988 World Series against Dennis Eckersley, then Posada could have pinch hit for Winn in the bottom of the 9th inning in Tuesday night’s game.

Posada is showing his age with all the nagging injuries. As I said, either DL him or play him.

Boone Logan  

Boone Logan stinks. Why is Girardi the only one who does not see this? In 6.1 innings this season, Logan has allowed ten runners! Lefties are hitting .357 off him with a .500 slugging percentage.

Send him out and bring up a versatile position player like Kevin Russo, who is now playing outfield in Scranton.

Joba Chamberlain

Whew! Not much to say, we all saw the two games.

Joe Girardi

I pretty much said a couple things about Joe already, but for him to need another pitcher by sending down a speedy outfielder like Greg Golson when Nick Swisher is unavailable, this might be the dumbest move I have seen all year. 

Except when Girardi brings Logan into a game.

Girardi has this penchant for resting certain guys as DH’s, giving them a half day off. That is stupid. Either give them the full day or play them in the field. Have a set DH.

The revolving DH has pushed the Yankees into a non-DH situation three times recently where the pitcher would need to hit, one which was Monday night when there were no bench players left. If the game went into extra innings, then Vazquez would have had to hit.

And if Posada can not play, then Cervelli is the only catcher with Ramiro Pena as the back-up. But when Pena was removed from the game the other day (Alex went in), the DH was lost and not only did the Yankees have no one to pinch hit, they had no backup catcher at all!

Girardi needs to have much better roster management. With too many guys unavailable, but still on the roster, they need versatile guys and a set DH.


The Red Sox Hitters Adjusted Against Phil Hughes. Will He Respond?

May 18, 2010

When one looks at the line of Phil Hughes’ start last night against the Boston Red Sox, they see 5 IP, 6 hits, 5 ER’s, 1 BB and 3 strikeouts. However, the big stat were the two home runs hit off of Hughes, a solo job by David Ortiz and a three-run jack to the newly rejuvenated J.D. Drew.

Ortiz was almost on the unemployment line until he started to get hot. Big Papi has a .400 BA/.421 OBP/.771 SLG/1.192 OPS over the last two weeks.  

J.D. Drew? What is this, a contract year for a Scott Boras client? Drew is really on fire, hitting in 13 of his 15 games played in May. After a terrible start, Drew is hitting .356 BA/.427 OBP/.621 SLG/1.048 OPS.  

Although Drew is signed through 2011, it IS somewhat a contract year as Drew needs to play in 129 games in 2010 to get his $14 million salary next season, and not having to get $9 million of it deferred.

So many times, it is not who you play against, it matters when you play them. And these two lefty hitters are hot right now.

Anyway, both home runs were on cutters on the inner third of the plate, were hit with authority by both left-handed hitters Ortiz and Drew. Actually, both pitches were really in good spots, although Francisco Cervelli wanted the pitch to Drew a little higher. Both pitches were in on the hands, but were still hit hard.

This tells me the lefties in the Boston lineup were looking for that pitch. Advanced Boston scouts probably noticed Hughes cutter is being thrown a lot, actually 28% of the time. Hughes’ fastball is his best pitch right now, and that Hughes will go to the cutter at least once an at bat.

Versus lefties, that pitch is coming inside. Last night’s cutter was thrown to all hitters, but the lefties were keying on it.

Hughes faced nine left-handed hitters including Drew (3x), Victor Martinez (twice), Ortiz (twice) and Jeremy Hermida (twice). He threw cutters or fastballs on the inner half to these four guys 14 times and they swung at every single offering. However, when outside fastballs were thrown, they were seldom swung at, mostly when they had two strikes on them and were fighting off the outside hard stuff.

The left-handed Red Sox hitters were looking for the inside cutter, and when they got it, they aggressively attacked it.

Hughes’ cutter is good, but it doesn’t have the same movement and depth of Mariano Rivera’s cutter so it was hittable when lefties were looking for it. In fact, Dustin Pedroia’s great at bat against Hughes a batter before the Drew home run ended when Hughes threw a cutter away and Pedroia pulled into the left field corner for a double.

He came up and was looking for the inside pitch. In that at bat Drew fouled an inside cutter, took a fastball strike outside, took a ball high, fouled off an outside fastball, then deposited the next pitch, that inside cutter into the right field stands.

Before that inning, Hughes was great. He blew through the first two hitters until Drew fought him on a ten pitch at bat, before flying to center. Drew performed the same routine, swinging at every hard pitch inside but fouling off stuff away until he finally got an inside pitch he put in play.

The Adrian Beltre RBI single in the second ws a high outside pitch which Beltre just went the other way with. One of the biggest pitching no-no’s is throwing hard stuff up and away to a hitter who does not have the bat speed anymore to handle good, hard stuff.

Beltre does not have the bat speed anymore. That is his second opposite field RBI single against the Yankees, the first one on opening day versus David Robertson which tied that game at five. The chart say it was a single to center but it was hit past Robinson Cano into right center field.

That pitch was also a fastball out and up.

Hughes has a great fastball and a knee buckling curve ball. He is throwing the fastball at 58 percent of the time in 2010, with the curve ball only 12 percent. He should use those pitches more often and back off the cutter a bit. Also, lets mix in the change-up a little more. That pitch seems to get some extra swings and misses.

Red Sox left-handed hitters are jumping on his hard stuff inside and paying the pitch count game on stuff away. It is only a matter of time before other teams begin to do the same.

So Hughes needs to get ahead while away, show some stuff in for show and get them out on low hard stuff away.

The league has adjusted to him.

Now it is time for Phil Hughes to adjust back to the league.


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