Happy Birthday, Frank Robinson!

August 31, 2010

Today, August 31, is Hall of Famer Frank Robinson’s birthday. He is 75 years old. I met him two years ago at the baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, and he was gracious and kind.

He was with baseball commentator Ed Randall, who said, “See Frank, someone does remember you!” And Robby laughed.

The Judge, as he was sometimes known, was one of the most underrated ball players of his generation. And it is tough to be underrated when you are  Hall of Famer! He played the game hard all the time and was one of the fiercest players on the diamond.

Robinson is one of my favorite all time players, and not just the way he played the game.

We share the same birthday.

But Robinson is not the only Hall of Famer born on this day. Eddie Plank, a left-handed pitcher for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s team in the first two decades of the 20th Century was also born on August 31st. Plank won 326 games over 17 season with 2.35 career ERA.

Five times he threw over 300 innings, with a high of 357 IP in 1904 when he won 26 games.

Maybe we can get another HOFer born on this date as Tim (Rock) Raines was born today, too.  Rock received 30.4% of the ballots this year, his third on the ballot.  He is currently the manager of the Newark Bears in the independent Atlantic League.

Other well-know ballplayer born on August 31st include Tracy Stallard (Gave up Roger Maris’ 61st HR), Claudell Washington, Tom Candiotti, Von Hayes, Hideo Nomo and Ramon Ramirez.

These are good baseball players, but none were better than Frank Robinson.

Happy Birthday, Frank!


Vin Mazzaro and Mike Minor Hurling Against the New York Teams Tonight

August 31, 2010

And I sponsor both their pages on baseball-reference.com.

Here are those pages:  Mike Minor and Vin Mazzaro.

Mazzaro is a Bergen County (NJ) kid who dominated high school at Rutherford High. He played his games just over the George Washington Bridge from Yankee Stadium and I still do not know why the Yankees did not select him as he was right under their noses.

But, while he is in the majors now for the Oakland A’s, if Mazzaro was a Yankee, he likely still would have been mired in the minors.

And speaking of minors, Mike is 2-0 in his young career and is coming off a 12 strike out performance over the Chicago Cubs. He was the 7th overall pick in last years amateur draft out of Vanderbilt University.

Many baseball analysts said he was a reach going that high, but it sure has worked out better for he and the Atlanta Braves than the first guy drafted last year, huh?

Anyway, I also sponsor guys like Josh Johnson, Mike Leake, Rick Porcello, Mark Melancon, David Robertson, Johnny Sain (former Yankee great pitching coach) and Jim Tracy, who went to Marietta College like I did.


Jesus Montero Eligible for Postseason If Not on Yankee Roster by Aug. 31

August 30, 2010

With a nice series win over the weekend in Chicago, combined with the Tampa Bay Rays taking two of three against the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees now have a 6.5-game lead over the Red Sox for a playoff spot.

While no lead is insurmountable (right, 2008 Mets?), there is a really good chance the Yankees will be playoff-bound.

With the Minnesota Twins now having a 1.5-game lead over the Texas Rangers for the second best division record, it might even be better for the Yankees to not win the division.

Their pitching matches up better against the Twins’ lineup, and the Yankee rotation would likely suffer more against Josh Hamilton and Co. in a first round matchup.

With the waiver deadline ending tomorrow, teams are jockeying for position to get their August 31st rosters set.

But why? The MLB rule states that any player in the organization on August 31st is eligible for the postseason if they are on the list of eligible players.

This list is generally assumed to be the 40-man roster, and that is true, but that list can be expanded.

Playoff rosters must be set at 25, not including disabled players, on August 31. For each player on the 60-day DL, teams may add players to the eligible list during the playoffs provided that they were in the organization on August 31. Teams must choose 25 players from their playoff-eligible list before each round of the playoffs.

For an example, let’s look at the 2009 New York Yankees.

On August 31st (my birthday, by the way) last season, both Xavier Nady and Chien-Ming Wang were on the Yankees’ 60 day DL, and Brett Gardner was on the 15-day DL. That gave the Yankees a pool of 28 players from which to choose their 25-man playoff roster.

An injured player can be substituted for by another player who is on the 40-man roster. The Yankees added Freddy Guzman to “replace” Nady, and Guzman was on the Yankees’ postseason roster.

In 2002, Francisco Rodriguez was not called up by the Angels until mid-September, had all of five innings pitched that month, and was on the playoff roster. He ended up winning five games that postseason!

According to this unpublicized rule, a team must replace position with position. An outfielder in Nady needed to be replaced with an outfielder in Guzman.

But I also read somewhere that it does not have to be position by position.

For example, in 2007, Jacoby Ellsbury was NOT on the Boston 25-man roster on August 31st of that season, but he was eligible for the playoffs as he replaced Brendan Donnelly, a pitcher, who was on the 60-day Boston DL at the time.

This move on the roster must be reviewed and approved by the Commissioner’s office.

Current New York Yankees on the DL include Nick Johnson (60-day DL) and Alfredo Aceves (60-day DL). Aceves is likely to come back off that DL, but the Yankees do have another roster spot that can be added with another player.

Therefore, the Yankees could add any player who is in their organization on August 31st for any playoff series roster to “replace” Johnson, and that player does not even have to have major league experience or be the same position! Just be on the 40-man roster sometime in September and get the Commissioner’s office to approve.

Therefore, all players in the organization can all be on the playoff roster for the ALDS and further series.

With the way Jesus Montero has been hitting over the last two months, and with tremendous power to right field, his right-handed bat could pay dividends for the Yankees in the postseason. He could play for Scranton in the playoffs in September and still help the major league club later on.

Or if the Yankees feel that Damaso Marte or Aceves is not ready and won’t be a factor in the postseason, they could keep Aceves on the 60-day DL and then allow someone like Jonathan Albaladejo and his 43 saves this season to pitch in October.

Lots of opportunities for the Yankees to add Montero and others to the postseason roster.


With Strasburg’s Injury will Yankees Alter Their Plan for Phil Hughes?

August 27, 2010

Stephen Strasburg needs Tommy John surgery (TJS), and if you are in shock over this, you shouldn’t be. Strasburg has all the requirements of a guy destined for this procedure.

First, he throws extremely hard, upwards of 100 MPH. That is just too taxing on the throwing arm’s tendons and ligaments. There is a certain threshold for the body when it comes to pitching a baseball. Second, Strasburg has brutal pitching mechanics, with a very violent motion.

Rather than a smooth arc in his arm’s backswing, Strasburg uses a direct path, leading with his elbow. In leading the backswing that way, Strasburg’s elbow ends up well above his shoulder, putting extra stress on his arm.

With his velocity, that combination is a terrible one-two punch, most often leading to surgery. AJ Burnett, who still has bad mechanics, was a similar pitcher at a young age and needed TJS many years ago.

Unless they have great mechanics, most hard throwers have multiple arm issues. I spoke at length with pitching coach Rick Peterson last winter and he agreed that the Strasburg and Burnett-type arm action was detrimental to a pitcher’s health.

Strasburg has been babied and coddled as much as any pitcher ever and he still came down with an injury (actually two if you count his shoulder soreness earlier). But like other hard throwers who had TJS (Josh Johnson, Tim Hudson, Chris Carpenter), Strasburg will eventually come back and throw.

Let’s hope he has better mechanics upon his return or he is destined to be a reliever.

Many people are wondering why Strasburg was even in the majors just one season after his college career. Well, he dominated every level up to the major leagues and had nothing left to prove. He was carefully monitored, and likely would have the same injury pitching in the majors, minors, or college this season.

It is just a good thing that the Nationals were not in a playoff race and using Strasburg more than what he was actually used. That would have brought down a heap of big criticism from fans and media about “what is best for the player” and “the Nationals caused this injury.” *

*I am waiting for the criticism to start on Tony Gwynn, Strasburg’s head coach in college. While there is NO WAY Gwynn had anything to do with this injury by pitching Strasburg, someone has to be responsible in this blaming society we live in. Dusty Baker will never live down the injuries to Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, yet he had nothing to do with the terrible mechanics of both young pitchers.

Everyone knows how strict the Nats were with Strasburg. He never threw 100 pitches in any start, topping out at 99, and only entered the seventh inning in three of his 12 starts.

Yet he still needed surgery. It is more bad mechanics and his great velocity which put more torque on the elbow and shoulder than innings or pitch counts.

But while the Nationals had no playoff aspirations when Strasburg was called up, the Yankees do have World Series thoughts on their minds.

That begs the question of Phil Hughes’s innings limits this year. Hughes is 24, and has not had a full season on the mound yet in his major league career. He has a somewhat similar backswing arc as Strasburg, but it is not as drastic or violent as the Nationals phenom.

Hughes’ limit this year is in the 170-180 inning range, and he is currently at 144. He should be expected to make about six more starts which could give him another 35 innings or so. The Yankees might look to skip Hughes a start, or limit him in certain games, piggybacking Javier Vazquez in Phil’s starts.

But according to Cashman, come playoff time, “it’s all hands on deck” and Hughes could be part of the playoff rotation. The Yankee GM said he could not look people in the organization in the eyes and not use his best pieces in the most important games.

That means Hughes in the postseason rotation, likely slotting into the No. 4 spot.

While I have many times stated in the past that Hughes will definitely not be part of the postseason rotation, but will be in the bullpen, it likely is not the case. This is not to say that is what I thought the Yankees should do, but what I expected the Yankees to do was to put Hughes in the postseason bullpen.

Despite his last start in Toronto, Hughes is the Yankees’ second most consistent starting pitcher next to CC Sabathia. I trust him more in a playoff start than I do Javier Vazquez, Dustin Moseley, or even AJ Burnett.

Although I expect Andy Pettitte to come back into the rotation, and today’s news of an issue-free bullpen session was positive, Hughes still needs to be part of the rotation if the Yankees will win this year.

So, if Hughes is OK with getting postseason starts and innings, putting him over 180 for the season, why isn’t it OK for him to get a few more regular season innings? Important, down the stretch innings? *

*And for the record, major league innings in May and September are the same. There are no “extra stress” innings. Pitchers do not throw with less effort in May than they do in September, or less effort in the third inning than they do the seventh. Certain pitches in certain game situations might be thrown harder (AJ does this way too much) but pitchers generally throw with the same effort all the time. High stress innings is one of the biggest misnomers in baseball pitching theory.

That 34-inning increase violates the Verducci Effect and, according to the theory, would put Hughes in an “at risk” situation the following year. This is why the Yankees are looking to maybe skip Hughes or use the piggyback method. 

Before his last start, Hughes suffered miserably after he was skipped in a start around the All-Star break. He needs to pitch on a consistent, rotated basis and not be skipped or reduced. The Verducci effect has not been proven to be a precursor to injuries, and all the pitchers on this “at risk” list over the last two seasons have been major injury-free.

The injury to Stephen Strasburg showed that pitchers who are limited and coddled are not immune to injuries. Most pitchers go through arm problems and it’s not a given that if Hughes is limited, he will be immune to injury. The risk is always there.

But that risk and concern should have no bearing on the Yankees winning another World Series title this year. The idea of baseball is to win games and World Series titles.

Hughes has been durable all year and the Yankees need his innings down the stretch, especially with 10 of the last 14 games against the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox.

And if Hughes does have any arm issues next season, then worry about it next year. While he is going over his limit with the playoffs, another 12 regular season innings is not going to drastically affect his future. His career will not end if he throws 200 total innings this season including playoffs.

Winning another World Series title and ring should be the important thing right now.


The One Man Who Can Stop Albert Pujols From Winning the Triple Crown

August 25, 2010

During Monday night’s St. Louis Cardinals loss to the last-place (and worst record in baseball) Pittsburgh Pirates, Albert Pujols was 3-for-5 with a double, raising his batting average to .322.

I know this stat is not important to saber heads (please bear with us), but for this argument it is imperative.

Meanwhile, on the west coast, Cincinnati’s Joey Votto went 1-for-4 in a 13-5 drubbing by the now offensively resurgent San Francisco Giants. That effort dropped Votto’s season average to .323, a single point above Pujols.

With Pujols ahead in the National League in home runs (33) and RBI (92), the batting crown is the only leg of the Triple Crown he doesn’t lead.

Adan Dunn, with 31 jacks, and Votto, with 29 dingers, are right behind Phat Albert in the HR race. And with 86 RBI, Votto is six back of Pujols, I believe Albert is safe in both power departments. He is on a roll with the power and when that happens, usually a tidal wave of home runs (and RBI) ensue.

In fact, Albert’s August barrage of nine home runs, 20 RBI while hitting .436 is what has put him back into the Triple Crown race.

While Votto is leading with a .323 average entering Wednesday’s games, Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez is currently hitting .319, while Atlanta’s Martin Prado is at .317. Both could also end up with a higher average than Pujols in his quest to become baseball’s first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastremski in 1967*.

*If you have never looked into Yaz’ stretch run in 1967, when he was not only attempting to win the Triple Crown, but more importantly, trying to lead Boston to the AL Pennant, you need to look into it. It is perhaps the best clutch performance of any player of all time.  

While fending off Detroit, Minnesota, and Chicago (what no Yankees?) in a four-team race for the pennant, Yaz went 7-for-8 in his final two games with a double, HR, and six RBI including a 4-for-4 performance on the final day. During the September stretch run, Yaz hit .417 with nine homers, but hit .541 with four homers and 14 RBI over the last 10 games.

It was truly a remarkable performance.

Pujols is starting to turn it on with his incredible month of August, but it is probably the batting average category which could forestall any thoughts of a Triple Crown.

But despite all of Pujols’s greatness, there is one guy who can keep Albert from winning the Triple Crown. Joey Votto, right?

Wrong.

It is Omar Infante of the Atlanta Braves.

What? Yes, you saw it correctly. Infante is the one player who can keep Pujols from winning this year’s Triple Crown.

Entering today, Infante is hitting .349 this season as a utility player for the first place Braves, and was having such a fine season at the break, he even made his first All-Star team.

But he only has 342 plate appearances thus far, and with the Braves already playing 126 games, Infante currently needs 391 to qualify (3.1 plate appearances per team game played).

Infante is not just a utility player anymore, and has been a regular in Bobby Cox’s lineup since late July. And he is not slowing down now that he is a regular. He has hit a robust .370/.400/.560/.960 OPS clip for August (37-for-100) with four home runs.

This is coming off him hitting .429 in July (27-for-63).

With Atlanta only 2.5 games ahead of Philadelphia, Cox has no reason not to play the red-hot Infante every day. With Chipper Jones out for the season, Infante is now the starting second baseman, with Martin Prado moving from second over to third.

Even when Troy Glaus comes back, I still see Infante in the lineup every day until the end of the season. 

So let’s do the math.

Infante has 342 plate appearances, but needs 502 to qualify for the batting title. For a conservative estimate, lets give him four plate appearances for each of the next 36 games the Braves have left.

That will allow for some games of five PA, while he may sit a game to get some rest. He may even be dropped in the batting order, who knows? He has hit in every spot in the lineup this season but fifth, but has been in the leadoff spot the last couple weeks.

That gives him another 144 plate appearances (36 games x 4 PA per = 144), and add that to his current 342 would give Infante 486 PA for the season. That is still 16 PA short of qualifying for the title.

Lets also say that Infante (even after his very hot July and August), hits only around .320 the rest of the way. Infante does not walk much (another no-no for any saber head HOF consideration), so lets say all his 144 PA become actual at bats.  

If Infante gets 46 hits in his 144 remaining at bats (a .319 average), he will end up .33978 for the season (158 for 465). This leads Votto and Pujols at their current averages for the batting title.

But under our situation, Infante is still 16 PA short of a title. This is where playing with the numbers comes into play. Major League Baseball rules regarding a batting title state in order to become eligible, a player must accumulate 3.1 PA for every team games played, or 502 PA.

But if the player with the highest average in a league fails to meet the minimum plate-appearance requirement, the remaining at-bats until qualification are hypothetically considered hitless at-bats; if his recalculated batting average still tops the league, he is awarded the title.

Thus if we give Infante an additional 16 “hitless” at-bats to a total of 481, he would then have a batting average of .32848, still about five points higher than Votto or Pujols is hitting right now. Reduce Infante by one hit, and his average would then be .32640. Reduce by another hit (only 156 hits/481 AB) would reduce his average to .32432, still slightly above where Votto and Pujols are.

This tactic of adding “hitless” at-bats was started in 1967, and was implemented most recently in 1996 when Tony Gwynn won the batting title while only having 498 PA.

I believe Infante will hit around .320 (or better) the rest of the season, and pose an issue for the batting title and possible Pujols Triple Crown. At the end of the season with an average in the .326 to .333 range—after the hitless at bats are added.

This is all moot, of course, if Votto or Dunn, Gonzalez, or even Martin Prado gets hot at their specialties and pushes Pujols out of one or more of the other two categories. 

Throw in a Cincinnati and St. Louis Divisional race down the stretch and the last six weeks become even more interesting for Pujols, Votto, and the rest of the National League.


Mid-Market MLB Method: Lock Up Now or Wait Until After Arbitration Years

August 24, 2010

When the Tampa Bay Rays opened the 2008 major league season, third baseman Evan Longoria was playing for the Durham Bulls in the Triple A International League.

It was the minor leagues for the Rays first choice in the 2006 draft, and was the third overall pick. Many people, including myself, suggested the Rays were trying to save themselves some money by delaying Longoria’s “arbitration clock” by sending him to the minors.

Isn’t the idea to try and win games? Longoria was the Rays best opportunity at third base to help them win, but was mired in Triple A for financial reasons.

But being mired lasted all of seven games and 25 at bats, before Longoria was promoted to the majors. The Rays were going to let the clock start early on their prize after all.

But even the Rays startled everyone by signing Longoria the next day to a six year, $17.5 million contract through 2013 including three club options for 2014-2016. The Rays bought out all of Longoria’s arbitration years and his first three free agent years with club options.

Based upon Longoria’s performance, the team has made out very well. Even though they gambled on an unproven young talent and are going to save a bunch of money over the long haul.

This buying out of a players early “control” years is a growing trend which began in the early-to-mid 1990’s by General Manager John Hart when he was with the Cleveland Indians. He signed up youngsters Kenny Lofton, Sandy Alomar, Jr., Carlos Baerga, plus Joey and Albert Belle to multi-year deals WHILE they were really good…and really young. 

For example, Lofton has a 7.7 WAR* in 1994 (shortened season due to strike), the highest in baseball that season and his WAR was 7.3 in 1993. He made only $925K that year and $1.925 million in 1995. His salary would have been much higher had Lofton actually gone to arbitration in 1995.

*That is the first time I used the WAR stat in any article ever. While I am not needing to be rushed to the hospital, I am still in shock. It was needed for reference on how good Lofton was those seasons. Don’t expect it all the time.

Hart needed to do this to keep together what he projected his core would be for many years at reasonable prices than what these players would receive through arbitration and early free agency. As a smaller market team, Hart reasoned the Indians had a smaller window to win.

Signing up young players is a great tactic for these small market** teams to use.

**I love the term small-market. With all these billionaire owners, they can afford to spend their OWN PERSONAL money on players. I don’t mean to spend frivolously big on free agents like you are Omar Minaya, but to spend to keep the players your organization develops.

Why then are there small markets when these guys have their own money they can spend. Before he died, Carl Pohlad of the Minnesota Twins was the richest owner in baseball but did not spend money. Lucky the Twins re-signed Kirby Puckett when Carl was alive, but I am not so sure he would have signed Joe Mauer to that contract last off season.

Should other small-market teams use the same ideas?

Of course, they should. They have to in order to compete with the so-called big boys of Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.

But these big teams do the same thing.

The Red Sox signed Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia, and Kevin Youkilis to long term deals before even going to arbitration on Lester and Pedroia and after the first arbitration year for Youkilis. I fully expect them to extend Clay Buchholz after the 2011 season.

They want to see players perform for two or three seasons before they sign players longer term. This allows for any adjustment periods the league makes to the players after their rookie and sophomore seasons.

The Yankees also did that with Robinson Cano two seasons ago and even Derek Jeter, who was signed to a ten-year deal after his second arbitration year. Yankees would probably sign Phil Hughes to a multi-year deal, too, after 2011, buying out several arbitration years and maybe a free agent year or two.

Even the Philadelphia Phillies tied up their young guys Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard, who were tied up after their first arbitration years.

There is quite a bit of talk now about the MLB financial statements for several teams being made public. These statements put teams like Pittsburgh and Florida into bad light, and for once it was not about their on field records. They show that the teams have made tens of millions of dollars but have not put that much of that money into player salaries.

These teams need to start signing their young stars when they believe their young players are going to be well-above average for the long haul. This is tricky because if you jump too soon on a player, you could be left holding the bag at big dollars for very little in the way of results.

Similar to what Scott Kazmir and Nate McLouth have become.

But certain smaller-market teams have reaped the benefits of signing young talent early, like Milwaukee with Ryan Braun, Yovani Gallardo and Corey Hart, the Marlins with Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson; and the Mariners with Franklin Gutierrez and Felix Hernandez.

Other teams like the Braves with Brian McCann (and likely Jason Heyward soon), have done this.

The Pirates have a couple good, young talented ballplayers in Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen. Alvarez is signed through 2014 (including club options), but it would be good to spend some of that profit and also sign McCutchen after his first full season to a long-term commitment, saving long-term money.

The smaller-market teams need to decide who the players they want to keep. Not just “team” players who can be replaced cheaper through from their farm system, but players who already have been All-Stars.

And who they feel will continue to be All-Stars and league leaders, not league average.

McCutchen appears to be that type of player a team can take that risk.

Many other teams have major decisions to make.

Players like Wandy Rodriguez of the Astros, Dallas Braden and Trevor Cahill of the A’s, and Jair Jurrjens of the Braves need to be looked at longer term at below future-market rates. 

But the biggest task might fall to the Cincinnati Reds have to decide if Joey Votto (yes, of course!), Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto need to be locked up soon. They all are coming up on their arbitration years.

This would be a great move for the first-place Reds to sign all three, who have plenty of young players in the fold who could keep the Reds at the top of the NL Central standing for many years to come. Similar to what their in-state brethren, the Cleveland Indians, did almost 20 years ago.   

Most of the big market teams seem to like to get their players just before or a year after their first year of arbitration. 

I feel it might be better for the smaller-market teams to take a bigger risk by signing top guys earlier, like Longoria in Tampa and Troy Tulowitzki (his college teammate) in Colorado. The Rockies would be wise to lock up Carlos Gonzalez to a “Longoria type” deal this off season and keep the young slugger locked up in Colorado through age 30.

It sure worked for the Rays.


Cliff Lee: With CC Sabathia Leading the Way, Is Lee To Yankees a Done Deal?

August 23, 2010

A story in today’s New York Post quotes CC Sabathia after his 17th win yesterday, “I’m here,” Sabathia said. “Hundred percent.”

Sabathia is referring to the clause in his contract to opt-out after next season. CC was not sure he or his family would like the hustle of New York, and being Californians, wanted the option to go back to the west coast.

I think you know I’ve built a house here, right?” CC said. “My kids go to school here. We live here year round. So I’m not going anywhere.”

That is great news for the Yankees, who have relied on Sabathia more this year then they even did last season. A remarkable feat indeed, considering CC won 19 games in the regular season last year, three more in the post season and was the stopper when the rotation became erratic.
Deja vu all over again in 2010, right?
What CC’s declaration also tells me is that Cliff Lee is even more likely to sign with the Yankees next season after becoming a free agent. After being traded THREE times in less than a year, Lee wants to play with what is comfortable to him.
And CC is comfort food for Cliff Lee.
They are really good friends since their days with Cleveland, and CC is perhaps the biggest cheerleader for players to come to New York. And with Lee and Yankee rotation stalwart A.J. Burnett both hailing from Arkansas and sharing the same agent, Lee is almost guaranteed to become part of the 2011 Yankee rotation.
But would it be a good idea?
Lee has not been that good since the early July trade to the Texas Rangers. In his nine starts for Texas, Lee has a 2-4 record with a 4.18 ERA, and the Rangers are 3-6 in Lee’s nine starts. His seasonal ERA has risen almost a full point from 2.34 to 3.09.
And most of this damage has come from the American League East opponents Lee has faced, the same opponents he would face in about half his starts if he were a Yankee next season.
Baltimore beat Lee up Saturday, hitting four home runs in the process. The Orioles also bombed Lee in his first Rangers start, belting three more dingers. It is interesting, but the Orioles (the last place Orioles) have scored at least one run in eight of the 15 innings they have faced against Lee.
Lee did not fare well against Tampa Bay in his one Ranger start, allowing six earned runs, and lost both his Tampa games while pitching for the Seattle Mariners. Lee dominated Boston for most of his one start as a Ranger, but blew the lead in the bottom of the 9th inning. It was a game the Rangers would eventually lose.
And that game was the first of many games Lee has allowed late leads to evaporate. On the 11th, Lee dominated the Yankees but blew up in the 7th inning, allowing four hits and two runs before leaving. His next start, Lee had a two-run lead in the 8th against the Rays before allowing five hits and four runs.
In Lee’s five starts against the AL East since the trade, the Rangers are 0-5 and Lee has a 6.22 ERA. But in his four starts versus the lowly Los Angeles Angels and Oakland A’s, Lee is 3-1 with a 1.91 ERA*.
*Funny thing, is that Lee is dominant against all teams but the AL East and the San Diego Padres, who have tattooed Lee for 10 earned runs in 13+ innings.
Is it the vaunted issue of pitching against the AL East? If so, then it would be a major problem if Lee signed with the Yankees at a five (or more) year deal for CC type money. Similar to how the Red Sox must feel about signing John Lackey away from the comfy AL West to the powerful AL East.
Is it because certain teams approach Lee differently? In his most recent start against the Rays, Lee faced 34 batters, and has 27 of them swing at a pitch before taking a called strike. In his last start, the Orioles also were very aggressive, with 19 batters swinging at a pitch before getting down in the count by taking a strike.
Or coming off his 272 inning 2009 season, is it that Lee has just tired some during this season? He did miss the first month of 2010 with a small suspension for throwing at an opponent and then suffering a minor injury.
What ever it is, Lee has not been the same pitcher.
The Yankees would want to sign Lee for their own purposes, but to also keep him away from one of the AL contenders for the next four or five years like Texas or LA, maybe Boston if they can deal away Lackey or Daisuke Matsuzaka.
But the last time the Yankees signed a free agent pitcher to keep them away from their rival did not work out as expected, right A.J. Burnett fans?
Even though the Rangers still have an eight-game lead in the AL West, Lee’s performance has not been what they, or anyone else has expected. Lee will not have the comforts of facing the NL or AL West lineups in the post season.
Despite last years playoffs, the Yankees have scored seven runs in 15 innings against Lee this year, and Tampa Bay has beaten Lee three times this season.
Lee’s performance against the AL East playoff teams should be a huge factor regarding the value of his next contract. If he suffers through a miserable 2010 post season, would the Yankees go all-out for Lee as is expected?
CC Sabathia hopes so, and might change his mind about the future if Lee is not in pinstripes.