With Recent Acquisitions, Yanks Need to Rid Themselves of Burnett

January 21, 2012

Since Brian Cashman traded Jesus Montero for RHP Michael Pineda, and then signed RHP Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year deal for $10 million, the Yankees are flush with starting pitchers. It appears that in all the frenzied moments of last Friday, the Yankees lost track of how many major league ready starting pitchers they really had in their organization. For purposes of this article, they have eight who have pitched in the major leagues plus three others on the precipice, who I believe are ready for the major leagues.

The starting rotation appears to be some combination of CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda, with Freddy Garcia, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett battling for the final spot. Dellin Betances also has a few major league innings under his belt, but should pitch most of the 2012 season at Triple-A Rochester.

The old, but relatively new, adage is you can’t have enough pitching, especially quality starting pitching. With injuries invariably occurring within most starting rotations, smart organizations will have an additional veteran or several ready youngsters to fill in starts where needed.

See also: 2011 Boston Red Sox.

But even after these two starting rotation moves, if I told you the Yankees can get another veteran starting pitcher for their rotation, who, during various seasons, led his league in games started, strikeouts, lowest hits per nine innings and fewest home runs per nine innings, would you be interested?

And the guy is only looking for a two-year deal for a little over $15 million per, just enough time for Manny Banuelos to get a little more seasoning in Triple-A before he takes a spot in the rotation. And this veteran wouldn’t cost the Yankees a draft pick or any prospects.

Wouldn’t this be a good pickup? Don’t you want him? He would really round out that new rotation, wouldn’t he?

But the Yankees currently have three veteran arms vying for that fifth spot. Garcia threw very well last season (ERA+ of 122) in the difficult-to-navigate lineups of the AL East. Hughes threw the ball much better late last season, showing glimpses of his 2010 performance. However, many people believe Burnett, because he is being paid $16.5 million this season (and next), is a lock to get that final spot.

Most Yankee fans dislike Burnett, and I had previously written that the Yankees shouldn’t even have signed him.

If you had the opportunity, would you sign Burnett again if he were a free agent? Of course not. Not even for two years at a total of $33 million, that same amount the Yankees still owe him? Nope.

Yet, that veteran pitcher I previously mentioned for a two-year deal is A.J. Burnett. He did lead his league at one time in all of those categories.

Since he is getting paid very well, some people feel AJ should get that fifth spot, and somehow will make him a better pitcher.

The current theory is that since Burnett is getting all that loot, there is no reason to “waste” that money by shipping him to the bullpen to throw maybe twice every week. I disagree. A thought is that his win total likely would look better if facing the other teams’ fifth starter most of the time.

My win total would be better facing a fifth starter more often, too.

But there are several reasons why Burnett should NOT be considered for the Yankee rotation and, in fact, should not even be on their roster come opening day.

First, Burnett is not a good pitcher. Not even close. Many people say “he has great stuff.” A.J. does NOT have great stuff. Great stuff does not get you a 34-35 record in three seasons as a Yankee, especially with this offense, and ERAs over 5.00 each of the last two seasons. Great stuff doesn’t allow you to allow the most walks (2009), most hit batters (2010), most wild pitches (2009 & 2011) in the league while also allowing 81 home runs during these three seasons.

Second, A.J. has mostly been a malcontent. When things didn’t go his way in Florida late in 2005, he lashed out against the team and was suspended for the balance of the season. During his Yankee tenure, Burnett appeared with a black eye, which no one in the organization talked about. Do you really think that if his role with the Yankees was reduced, he would abide by Joe Girardi’s decisions regarding his reduced playing time?

And forget about Burnett to the bullpen. The Yankees already have Mariano, Robertson and Soriano, with Joba coming back mid-year. They don’t need Burnett stirring up garbage down there.

Third, A.J. will not improve his performance. He is what he is, a mediocre pitcher who USED to have the best fastball in baseball. He also has a good curve ball, which he cannot control and rarely throws consistent strikes with the pitch. He has no command over either pitch, and that costs him dearly. Like 81 HRs dear over the last three seasons. As I said last off season, new pitching coach Larry Rothschild would not be able to “fix” Burnett.

Even though Burnett did stop lots of his movement during his delivery, it still did not help his command. How many times have you seen the Yankee catcher set up outside and A.J.’s pitch is delivered up and in or, even worse, down the middle, and it gets whacked pretty hard?

Too many times to count.

Fourth, A.J. is getting worse. He was terrible the second half of last season, getting bombed in most of his starts. His slash line allowed was .316/.387/.554/.942 OPS with a 6.85 ERA and 1.746 WHIP. All that with a K/9 rate of 9.3. So much for a pitchers ability to get strikeouts.

In Burnett’s 13 year career, he has had eight full seasons with minimum of 25 starts. His two worst seasons of those eight? Yep, his last two seasons, all in Yankee pinstripes. And his 2009 season wasn’t all that great, either.

What makes you think AJ will suddenly turn it around? His glowing personality? The way he glares at Kim Jones after a biting question after another bad start?

If A.J. was in the starting rotation, the Yankees would get a .500 or worse pitcher who loses concentration on the mound, and cracks under pressure.

Fifth, the Yankees are paying Phil Hughes $3.2 million this season. The Yankees are not paying Hughes that much money to pitch in the bullpen…at least not during the first half of the season. Hughes has been the Yankee golden child since being drafted in 2004, and the Yankees want to see how he looks as a starter this season before deciding whether he will become another bullpen arm, especially after his improved performance late last season. I just wish Hughes would stop throwing that cutter, as I feel it’s a velocity reducer.

Sixth, Freddy Garcia is a better pitcher, with better stuff than Burnett, and is currently signed for 2011. In 2010, Garcia had a better season than Burnett and appears to be a better teammate. Garcia took Nova under his wing last year and was a guiding force in Nova’s development. Don’t think for a second that Garcia will not be as equally valuable to the recently acquired Pineda. Unless Garcia gives them permission (a possibility now), the Yankee cannot trade Garcia until at least June. I hope they keep him around.

Let’s say Burnett repeats what he averaged over the last three seasons. That would be a sub .500 record, ERA of 4.79, BB/9 rate of 4.0, HR/9 rate of 1.2 with a WHIP of 1.447. Those are the numbers of a kid prospect usually puts up his rookie season. Hell, Zach Britton of the Baltimore Orioles had a better season than Burnett last year. Would you rather have a kid prospect putting up those numbers or A.J. Burnett? I even feel that as a fifth starter, A.J.’s attitude would worsen and his actual numbers would not even be that good.

So why not have David Phelps or Adam Warren, two pitchers who I feel are major league ready get those necessary starts? I have confidence both guys could at least replicate, or likely better, Burnett’s numbers from the last two seasons. In his most recent chat (1/19/12), ESPN’s Keith Law said he feels both Phelps and Warren are “major league ready, back end starters.”

I agree, and the Yankee would be better off with one of them in the rotation rather than AJ Burnett.

With a plethora of major league ready pitchers plus two (if not three or four) major league ready prospect starters in the minors, there is no room for Burnett on the staff, either in the rotation or the bullpen.

That means he should not even be on the roster.

But no one wants to trade for Burnett. The Yankees found that out when they shopped him over the last couple months. But those trade proposals had the Yankees paying about half of Burnett’s salary for the next two seasons. No team in its right mind would trade for Burnett and pay $16 million to him.

Well, maybe Kenny Williams of the Chicago White Sox would, as he did for Alex Rios and Jake Peavy. Maybe Williams would trade Gordon Beckham for Burnett.

Seriously, though, the prior trade proposals did not match what the trend is for other veteran, high-price pitchers. That is for the current team to pay MOST of the salary, like the Chicago Cubs did with Carlos Zambrano to the Miami Marlins, and Atlanta Braves did with trading Derek Lowe to the Cleveland Indians. The Yankees should be willing to pay $30 million of the current $33 million Burnett is currently owed. That would then interest a few teams.

That is money wasted, but what good is it having Burnett pitch due to his salary, if he continues to pitch very badly? That is like a stock trader throwing good money after bad money when the bad stock goes down in value. Burnett’s salary is already a sunk cost. No reason to hurt the Yankees in 2012 by pitching Burnett, especially with good team like the Tampa Bay Rays, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers and maybe the Toronto Blue Jays fighting the Yankees for the precious few playoff spots.

If the Yankees pay most of Burnett’s salary, certain teams like the San Francisco Giants, Oakland A’s, and Detroit Tigers might be tempted; all teams who pitch in big parks, which Burnett might benefit. But a team like the Kansas City Royals with all their kids, they might need a veteran to allow the kids like Mike Montgomery and to develop a little more.

As told to the Kansas City Star’s Bob Dutton after Kansas City re-signed Bruce Chen, Royals general manager Dayton Moore said “We’re not done. We’re still looking to add another pitcher.”

No matter what team would want Burnett, it is imperative for the Yankees to rid themselves of a guy who really isn’t any good. If no trades can be made, I would vote for an outright release. There are much better opportunities for the Yankees rotation and bullpen now and in the future.

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New York Yankees Comeback Reveals Rangers Manager Ron Washington’s Weaknesses

October 16, 2010

I am 100 percent confident that C.J. Wilson does NOT give up five runs in the eighth inning if Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington allows Wilson to stay in the game.

He gave up two runs on two hits in that inning, and was pulled in favor of Darren Oliver following a Derek Jeter RBI double.

But the Yankees would probably have only scored those two runs (or maybe just the one already in) had Texas manager Ron Washington avoided being like Bobby Cox and Bruce Bochy.

When you try to over-manage based upon matchups, you end up losing most of the time, like Bochy and Cox in the NLDS and now Washington in Game 1 of the ALCS.

I have to give oodles of credit to YES announcer and ESPN radio host Michael Kay, who has constantly said that Joe Girardi will out-manage Washington. Girardi has proved Kay to be prophetic.  

Girardi made a good move by using Joba Chamberlain in the fifth inning, but I applaud Girardi for throwing a nice changeup and bringing in Dustin Moseley for the sixth and seventh innings.

I am not a big Moseley fan (in fact he stinks), but bringing him in after Joba was throwing 95-96 MPH heaters was a stroke of genius.

The Rangers hitters were completely off-balance on Moseley’s 89 MPH fastballs (acting like a change to Joba’s and C.C.’s heat) and were more off-balance when Moseley threw his rinky-dink high 70’s breaking pitches.

Dustin’s two-inning scoreless effort allowed that Yankee comeback to occur. Sandwiching him between two fireballers in Joba and Kerry Wood made Moseley more effective and probably made Wood’s fastball appear even quicker.

Most people are saying that Washington did not use his hard-throwing closer Neftali Feliz in that eighth inning. That is a valid point once the decision to remove Wilson was made.

But why did Washington remove Wilson in the first place? Don’t give me that bull about pitch counts, matchups, that Wilson was finished or “you want to remove him with a lead and feeling good.” Total garbage.  

There are no pitch counts in the postseason. As NFL head coach Herman Edwards has said, “You play to win the game.” Wilson was dealing very well at that point.

He gave the Rangers the best chance to win at that moment, certainly better than Darren Oliver or Clay Rapada. No need to remove Wilson. He allowed a weak ground ball single to Brett Gardner and then a hard double to Jeter.

The end of the world? Hardly. Lose with your best on the mound, not with your middle relievers. The best at that point was Wilson.

When Alex Rodriguez came up with the bases loaded in that inning, TBS commentator  Ernie Johnson said that Alex was “0-for-3 with two strikeouts.” That was against Wilson, and Rodriguez had not even come close to catching up with Wilson’s fastballs.

Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira had not done much of anything off Wilson either.

At that point in the game, the Yankee two (Swisher), three (Teixeira) and four (A-Rod) hitters were 0-for-9 with three strikeouts.

So why the need to take out your starting pitcher when he has dominated all game long?

I was watching Game 3 of the NLDS between the Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants. Jonathan Sanchez was on the hill in the eighth inning (that fateful inning again) for the Giants, winning 2-1. With one out and a man on first, he had dominated a very weak Braves lineup.

Cox brought in right-handed hitting Troy Glaus to hit for lefty-hitting Rick Ankiel against the lefty Sanchez. Bochy went to his bullpen for RHP Sergio Romo.

Again. Why? I texted about a dozen people at that time saying how terrible a move that was. Sanchez had dominated up to that point, so why remove him? After the pitching change, Eric Hinske pinch hit for Glaus and powered a go ahead, two-run home run.

Bochy is lucky that Cox was even more idiotic in the top of the ninth, and the Yankees are lucky that Washington is more of an idiot than either two of those N.L. managers.   

From the seventh inning on, why do managers feel the need to remove starting pitchers after one hitter hits the ball hard?

But since Wilson WAS removed by the inept Texas manager, why not bring Feliz into the game? Your best pitchers need to be in the game late, not Oliver and Rapada.

Rapada was added to the ALCS roster for this series to face lefties like Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, but Rapada had not pitched in a REAL GAME against REAL HITTERS since Oct. 2.

This is a little known secret. Throwing more bullpens between appearances to stay “sharp” is of very little benefit when facing guys with bats in their hand.

To put Rapada in last night’s game on national TV to face Cano, who hits left-handers just as well as right-handed pitchers, is akin to pulling the switch on an execution.

I prefer the dominating starting pitch to remain, but if you want to bring in your top reliever, that is less of a quibble.

In Game 1 of the 1972 World Series (a day game by the way), Oakland A’s manager Dick Williams brought in his best relief pitcher, Rollie Fingers, in the SIXTH inning with no outs and the tying run on second. Fingers stranded Johnny Bench at second and the A’s won.

Williams also brought Fingers in the FIFTH inning of Game 5 that series. Fingers shut the door early before allowing the tying run in his THIRD inning of work that day. That thrilling game was the last weekday day game played in World Series history.

Once the decision was made to remove Wilson, Washington managed last night’s game based upon the save statistic and not to win the game.

Often times during important games, the big inning is not the ninth inning, but an inning earlier in the game when men are on base and a potential game-tying rally is forming.

If the manager wants to make a move, that is when your best relief pitcher should be brought in the game. However, I wouldn’t have made the move.

Washington managed that game not to lose, but he ended up getting what he deserved.

A well-earned loss.


New York Yankees Make Mistake By Having AJ Burnett on the ALDS Roster

October 5, 2010

The New York Yankees post season roster is always highly debated, but this season the roster has a few extra spicy sidebars. We now know for sure what has been assumed for at least a few weeks: AJ Burnett will not get a post season start.

But if Burnett is not going to get a start, then he should not be on the post season roster in the ALDS at all. He is not going to get any late innings work, as those are reserved for Mariano Rivera, Joba Chamberlain, Kerry Wood and David Robertson.

A.J. will only get long relief work, and that is if the Yankees are down by a few runs early or the games goes into a few extra innings.

In the first case, the reliever is in the game to “hold” the other team down and keep the game close. In the second example, the tight game takes on added pressure that a single bad pitch could cost a victory. 

One of the biggest needs to be a relief pitcher is to have control of the strike zone. I do not care if the reliever gives up hits, just do not walk anybody. Without a walk involved or back-to-back extra base hits, it usually takes three hits to score a run.

In either scenario, there are usually very few or no innings left and the team can not afford to put extra runners on base. If a reliever walks guys and gives up a few runs, the offense has fewer opportunities to get those runs back. While it is not OK for a starter to walk many guys, either, a team has far more chances to get early runs back if a starter gives up walks and runs early on.

It is imperative, and rule No. 1 for a relief pitcher, to throw strikes.

A.J. Burnett DOES NOT throw strikes consistently and can not be trusted to pitch in big spots, especially extra innings where his high walk rate (3.8 per 9 IP) would really hurt. He does not deserve a roster spot as he will not even get a chance to pitch.

But Burnett will pitch in the ALCS if the Yankees get that far. Probably in a Game 4, and for that reason, Burnett should also be off the ALDS roster.

It will allow him to go to Tampa to work out in Tampa and pitch during instructional league games against real hitters.

Forget the innings limit garbage and “saving the arm.” One of the keys for starting pitchers is to throw consistently against hitters, keep in rhythm and stay in pitching shape. If A.J. is in the bullpen for the ALDS, he is taken out of his consistent throwing.

I also believe Sabathia will have issues after not throwing for eight days between his last start and his first in the ALDS.

CC Sabathia will go his customary seven or eight innings win or lose, and I do not foresee him getting rocked early to where he has to be removed. So, no need for a long man in Game One. Andy Pettitte will go Game Two and will get at least five or six innings, maybe seven if he is cruising along.

And with Sabathia saving the bullpen in Game One, everybody is ready for Game Two. Phil Hughes has been pretty reliable all season. He has gone at least five innings in all but one start, and if not on an innings limit this year he probably would have gone five in that game, too. Expect Hughes to give his customary six innings in Game Three while allowing three or four runs, including at least one home run.

If those first three starts go as I anticipate, then the bullpen will need to get seven innings worth of outs. Joba, Wood, K-Rob and Rivera can do that with a little does of Boone Logan thrown in. There is no need for Burnett, unless one of the games goes extra innings.

And isn’t that what middle relievers are for?

Burnett was not great the last time he pitched in extra innings, allowing three hits, two earned runs and a walk, taking the loss. Granted he did throw that inning on two days rest (stop the presses!), but still was typical AJ Burnett.

Joe Girardi made a great choice in putting Sergio Mitre on the roster instead of Chad Gaudin. Mitre throws more strikes (2.7 BB/9 IP), has a lower ERA, WHIP and HR rate.

He also does very well against left-handed hitters (.226 BA/.261 OBP/.368 SLG) and in 13 relief appearances of more than one inning, Mitre has only allowed runs in four of those contests. Gaudin allowed runs in 10 of his 17 appearances of more than one inning. Mitre’s success against left-handed hitters (plus his ability to go multiple innings) likely cost Royce Ring a shot to get a roster spot as a second situational lefty.

And why is Dustin Moseley on the ALDS roster? He will not pitch unless the Yankees are getting killed, and they probably will end up losing by more if he enters a game. On the season, Moseley had an ERA just under 5.00, and the worst strike out rate, walk rate and home run rate of any Yankee pitcher. He is the worst possible candidate to be on a post season roster.

Girardi’s confidence in Moseley is baffling.

He has worse numbers than even Javier Vazquez, and has terrible number in relief roles. Meanwhile, Vazquez is 2-0, with a 2.70 ERA and limiting opponents to a .528 OPS in relief.

So instead of having both A.J. Burnett and Dustin Moseley on the ALDS roster, with both likely in the same role as Sergio Mitre as long man, Girardi should have been more versatile with his roster. I would have taken Vazquez over Burnett and taken an extra bench player such as Eduardo Nunez over Moseley. Burnett and Moseley are not going to pitch much, if at all, and it would be better for the Yankees to have that extra bench player.

With Golson in for Swisher for defense, the Yankees also lose their speed player in case they need to pinch run for someone. For example, Yanks are leading late and Golson is in for Swisher for defensive purposes but the Twins rally and tie the game.

Posada gets on base his next time up and you want to run for him. Run with Cervelli since he will replace Jorge? Good, but not great. It can’t be Ramiro Pena because he is your emergency infielder. If he runs for Posada, what happens if Alex pulls something? Who plays infield then?

That is where Nunez comes in to play. He can run and then provide added insurance as another infielder.

Roster management in a five game series should be much different. Teams don’t need that extra pitcher, and the Yankees have 11 arms on their ALDS roster. Extra position players would help a team more in various situations than an 11th pitcher.

The Yankees made a mistake carrying both Burnett and Moseley.


Joe Girardi Continues to Display Ineptness Regarding The Bullpen

July 11, 2010

On the west coast road trip to Oakland and Seattle which saw the Yankees go 6-1, could have possibly been 7-0. Then the Yankees would have a three game lead over Tampa Bay instead of just a two game lead.

But in a great pitching matchup between the New York Yankees Javier Vazquez and the Seattle Mariners’ Felix Hernandez, Girardi pulled his usual stunt.

The game was 1-0 Yankees and Vazquez had a NO-HITTER through the first 5.2 innings, finally allowing an infield single to Ichiro. At one point Vazquez retired 15 straight batters. He loaded the bases on two singles and a walk, but got out of his only jam by retiring Milton Bradley.

Then with a three-hit shutout going, Girardi removes Vazquez after seven innings. “You did your job Javy,” Girardi likely told the 34-year-old, 13-year veteran.

Are you kidding me? Did his job? What job was that? Getting pulled from a great pitchers duel because the manager has no concept of how to manage a pitching staff?

Vazquez was pulled because his pitch count (here we go again!) was at 117. So lets leave the balance of the game in the hands of Joba Chamberlain, a pitcher who has struggled mightily with his control, command and concentration.

And Joba did not disappoint by loading the bases very quickly and allowing a home run on a pitch way up in the zone, and even further away from his targeted location.

So why not leave Vazquez in? It’s his game. He had been outdueling the great King Felix all night.

Because Vazquez was at 117 pitches and Joba is the Yankees 8th inning guy. 

The real reason is that Girardi is playing the games based upon the “new book,” the one which states you must bring in your setup, 8th (or 7th) inning guy if your starter is over 100 pitches. No matter what the situation, no matter what the score, no matter how effective your starting pitcher is doing.

That is similar to the prevent defense in football. When your team has a decent lead in the fourth quarter, you play a soft defense allowing the other team to gain yardage, but not to hit the big play.

What the prevent defense usually does in football is prevent a win in the game for the preventing team.

Vazquez needs to be in that game for the 8th inning, pitching until he is no longer effective. It is his game, not Joba’s, and if there is a thought that the pitch count was too high, than baseball has just about stopped being a man’s game.

I thought the pitch count fiasco was only for younger pitchers who have not yet built up their arms to the rigors of professional baseball?  

Why are we then worried about Javier’s pitch count? He is a 13-year veteran who has not ever been injured. Vazquez was even rumored to be traded during that series against Seattle, and probably will not even be a Yankee next year!

And even after seven innings and 117 pitches, right now Vazquez is a much better pitcher than Joba Chamberlain and anyone else in that bullpen not named Mariano.

That loss at Seattle was not a Joba problem or a bullpen problem. It is a Joe Girardi problem.

Pitch counts should not be a reason to bring in a new guy, but Girardi abides by the new book. Hell, my son threw five innings the other day, and the threw 200 pitches of wiffle ball later on that same day. And his arm is still attached.

After the grand slam and the Yankees were behind 4-1, the 24-year-old, six-year veteran King Felix went back out on the mound and shut down the Yankees in 9th inning, throwing a total of 126 pitches. It was his fourth complete game in his last five starts.

Hernandez did not need anybody to finish his game.


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.


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?


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.