Ike Davis’ Small Adjustments at the Plate Has Led to His Improved Results

June 18, 2012

With the New York Mets surprising most people around the game by playing solid baseball and using mostly young kids who are making minimum salaries, one hitter who wasn’t up to the standards of Mets fans was first baseman Ike Davis.

All the frustration on the talk radio shows and in the online media was that Davis should be sent down. The biggest reason was that the Mets were competing for first place, and after Davis slumped through a 1-18 stretch (8 Ks) which lowered his slash line to .158/.234/.273/.507 OPS, fans wanted Ike sent down to the minor leagues.

New York fans usually smell blood in the water towards a player after an 0-4 game in spring training, so this Davis futility was like a True Blood movie premiere.

The talk of sending Davis down had been around for a couple of weeks, but the Mets brass insisted Davis was staying with the parent club.

Since that 1 for 18 slide, Davis has gone on an eight game hitting streak, going 11-23 with two doubles, a home run and 7 RBI. He has had big hits within this span, including the double in the final game of the series against the Yankees and last Thursday’s RBI single against Tampa Bay which gave the Mets a 4-3 lead.

Hitting takes talent, but all hitters can improve if they do the correct things necessary for hitting. These include not drifting, keeping the hands “quiet,” having a short/quick swing and staying balanced. What Ike was doing for the majority of the early season was exactly the opposite. He was moving to the ball, excessively hitching his hands and pressing forward with his upper body.

During his hitting streak Ike just didn’t “start hitting.” He changed his approach to what he was originally doing, one that gives him a greater chance for success. This proper approach makes hitters successful at every level, from the major leagues all the way down to the Little Leagues.

When the ball is about to be released by the pitcher, the hitter begins his “load” to begin his swing. You have to go back in order to go forward. This is similar to having to bend your legs and squat down before you jump up in the air. The load could be a very slight weight shift to the back leg and small movement of the hands back, or it can be just a small toe tap and slight inward turn. An example of a near perfect load is what Curtis Granderson does or what Albert Pujols does.

DRIFTING

The hitter then takes his stride forward, gets his foot down (hands must stay back), recognizes the pitch and if he likes it, takes his swing. This process is so fast (less than a half-second), that all the movements must be in synch to make it work. If any part of the timing is off, hitting the ball hard will almost never happen.

The front leg must be solid, giving a sturdy base and the hitter’s weight must be against the front leg, not on top or over the front leg.

What Ike was doing was moving his body too far forward over his front foot, with his upper body pushing forward over his front leg. When the hitter moves forward towards the ball onto the front leg, it is known as drifting.

When many hitters get into a slump, drifting to the ball is one of the main reasons.

The more a hitter stands tall and almost upright in the batter’s box, the more susceptible he is to drifting. Ike used to be really tall in his stance, with no flex or bending of his knees. Now his knees are more flexed and his stance is slightly wider.

Just as important is that a hitter needs to wait on the ball and not move towards the pitch. I tell young hitters all the time to “wait for the pitch to get to you” and don’t go out to hit it. The ball will eventually get to your hitting zone. Ike was going out to get the ball and was not waiting for the ball to get to him.

Moving towards the ball forces the head to move, in essence making the ball appear faster.

Ike began to wait on the ball and hit against his front leg, not on it over it. Drifting to the ball curtails a hitters power.  Since the hitters weight is already forward, his legs are taken out of the swing. A hitter can’t rotate his hips as much, and power is derived primarily from hip rotation and lower body force. The force won’t be with you if the hitters weight is already forward.

With Ike drifting forward and not waiting on the ball, it led to a very weak swing, using mostly his arms, and not using his hands and legs. Good hitters hit with their hands, not their arms. With Ike not staying back and him having to reach for the ball (especially the ball away), Ike’s hands were extended away from his body and he began to roll over the ball.

That is why so many pitches turned into harmless ground balls to the right side. Robinson Cano did the same “rolling over” early in the season, too, when he was slumping.

A hitter needs his hands tight to the body to generate more power. Think about the last time you performed dumbbell curls for your biceps. Did you have your elbows away from your body or close to your body? They were close to the body, allowing you more strength to lift more weight. A hitter who keeps his hands tight to the body (think Cano and Granderson), generally have more bat speed, use their legs more and have more power. This is the hitting process incorporated by Kevin Long.

This is a video of Granderson’s home run against the Washington Nationals this past weekend. Contact is made at the four-second mark of that video on MLB.com. Pause it there. Check out how tight the hands (and back elbow) are to his body, allowing the Grandy Man (who also uses great lower body torque) to get on top of and drive a high fastball. His balance is perfect and there is no drift of the weight forward.

EXCESS HAND MOVEMENT

Ike had a pretty severe hitch in his swing, a pre-swing up and down movement with his hands, exacerbated by a circular motion. While hitches are mostly bad, all hitches aren’t necessarily problematic. Barry Bonds had a hitch, but he ended up getting his hands in the power position when the ball was on its way. Granderson has some excess movement, too, but like Bonds he has his hands set when the pitch is released.  

Davis rarely got his hands set before the ball arrived.

Slight hand movement is good as it helps ease tension in the upper body, but excess movement is often not good. Ike’s hitch led to a timing issue where his hands were still moving when the ball was released and he wasn’t able to get the bat to the ball quickly enough.

Combined with his drifting, Ike was in no position to drive the ball.

With these hitting issues, the only pitch you can hit is the pitch over the plate, as hard stuff inside “gets in your kitchen,” and the result is a swinging strike or jam shot. Hitters then tend to look for only pitches over the plate and take those inside pitches.

At the beginning of his career, Ike had movement but not the severe hitch he had earlier this year. Now, while some up and down movement is still there, Ike has lessened his hitch and his hands are mostly finished moving when the ball is released. I would still rather have Davis eliminate the hitch completely (its one of the easier “faults” to fix), and like Granderson does, having only a slight movement back. This would allow his hands to be even quicker on fastballs up and on the inside part of the plate.

BALANCE

When Ike was drifting out forward and had his arms move out over the plate, many times his upper body bent forward at the waist, leaving Davis is an unbalanced position. Hitting coaches call this “a forward press with torso.”

This forward movement, which is different from drifting, further deceased his ability to hit for power. When a hitter takes his stride, whether it be an actual movement forward of a couple of inches or a lifting of his front foot up and down (like Granderson and Pujols), the upper body must be on top of the lower body. This allows the hitter to be balanced before, during and after the swing.

Balance, in addition to not drifting, is important to help generate power with the legs.

In proper balance, think of the hitter as a building with a steeple (upper body) on top of the foundation (the legs). The midpoint is the waist. Throughout the swing, the steeple always needs to stay on top of its foundation. If it doesn’t, the foundation cannot support the steeple, and the building becomes weak.

If the hitter doesn’t stay balanced, the body is not strong throughout the swing.

As mentioned earlier, Ike is more flexed in his knees to help stop his drifting. Staying balanced is also easier if the knees are flexed. Ike now has a slightly wider stance with his knees flexed (like Granderson and Pujols) which helps control drift and balance, leading to better contact and more power.

See how precise hitting a baseball is? One hitting fault can create more faults, which creates havoc with the chain of events a hitter needs to have success.

I remember when I was in the last years of playing baseball ( I was 42). I found myself always drifting to the ball and getting chewed up inside and had to “cheat” with my swing to hit the good fastball. With the help of Lenny Webster, former major leaguer and hitting instructor, he helped me widen my stance, sit down more (like Pujols does), which eliminated my drift. I could then wait on the ball more, and I began to hit for more power.

Just like Ike Davis has done, I made adjustments to be a better hitter.

Good hitters really don’t change anything major to their swings; they just make little adjustments along the way.

Look at Ike earlier this season against Tim Lincecum. (He is shown at the 15 and 25 second marks.) Remember this game of two Ks and the big double play? Ike was taller, drifted forward and although he was balanced, he took inside fastballs for both Ks which he couldn’t handle with the excess hand movement. He was looking for pitches over the plate he could handle.

Now look at Davis last week against Tampa Bay: The adjustments are slight, but the knee flex is there, as is a slightly wider stance, improving his balance and helping eliminate the drifting.

How about this game-tying double against the Yankees?  The hand movement is there, but the hands get set in time, he doesn’t drift forward and his swing balance is perfect.

I am surprised the Mets hitting coach, Dave Hudgens, didn’t change these faults with Davis earlier, but it is very difficult to change hitters from their lifelong habits. Especially major league hitters who have had success doing what they “have always done.” Hudgens is a well-respected hitting coach. In addition, as the old saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

The reason why Long has had success with guys like Granderson, Cano, Nick Swisher and Raul Ibanez is they were likely willing students receptive to making changes. These changes do not happen overnight.

It might be that these slight adjustments made by Davis were weeks in the making, which would be a credit to both he and Hudgens. I still would like to see Davis eliminate more hand movements and get his hands tighter to his body to generate a shorter bat path to the ball. But right now, Davis is moving in the right direction, which will help him produce more in the Mets lineup.

And keep him out of Buffalo.


The New York Yankees are at a Crossroads

May 6, 2012

Well, the New York Yankees are at a crossroads.

And that was well before Mariano Rivera tore the ACL and meniscus in his right knee.

I was talking with Mike on Saturday, saying how this Yankee team was in a serious situation. They have a veteran team, aging superstars and aging bench players. Guys right now are playing every day that weren’t signed this season to play every day.

An aging and expensive team in a young man’s game. And the team is only getting more aged and will be getting more expensive.

So, these Yankees are at that crossroads and there are several reasons for this.  

First, there are the exorbitant salaries paid to aging players whose careers are on a decline. You see the decline already. Alex Rodriguez and especially Mark Teixeira are in their decline phases of their careers, former top of the line talent now slowly sinking down the rope to the floor below.

I wrote about Teixiera here, saying if he doesn’t change his approach (not trying to pull every pitch), his carrer as we had known it is effectively over. And over and over again I see Alex beaten inside with moderate to advanced fastballs, indicating his bat speed is further slowing.

Two guys, who play the infield corners for the Yankees, earning a total of $51.5 million this year, are in slow to moderate declines. They are owed a combined $204 million over the next 4/5 years. I bet the Kansas City Royals wouldn’t trade their current infield corners, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer (who had all four RBI in last night’s game) for Alex and Teixeira, even if the Yankees paid upfront to the Royals all of Alex and Teixeira’s salaries for balance of their careers.

Second, there is the self-imposed salary cap of $189 million for 2014.

It is this number which the Yankees owners have said they want the team payroll to be in 2014. This number will allow the Yankees to avoid huge luxury tax monies required to be paid to MLB. Not that the Yankees couldn’t afford higher salaries and additional luxury tax monies. They could even get a rebate if they remain under that amount for 2015 also.

With the $78 million tied up in Alex, Teixeira, CC Sabathia and Derek Jeter ($8 million player option) for 2014, the Yankees would “only” approximately have $111 million available for 21 other players. And they still have to re-sign Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano to extensions likely to cost $15 million each on an annual basis. Then by 2014, players such as Joba Chamberlain, Brett Gardner, Phil Hughes, David Robertson, Eduardo Nunez and Ivan Nova will all be eligible for arbitration or will be locked up for “below market” multi-year contracts.

That’s a lot of players important to the roster who will be making mucho more cash.

Third, the Yankees will very likely lose Russell Martin and Nick Swisher to free agency after this year. During every long Yankee run of titles, the team has a high quality catcher and right fielder. The Yankees have had such a history at catcher with Wally Schang (an OBP machine), Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, Thurman Munson and Jorge Posada. In right field they had Babe Ruth, Bob Muesel, Tommy Henrich, Hank Bauer, Roger Maris, Reggie Jackson and Paul O’Neill. But now, two important starters in highly Yankee-fabric positions of catcher and right fielder need to be replaced.

Both Martin and Swisher will likely command three year deals for $8-12 million per year. That might be too rich even for the 1% Yankees.

These open spots lead to the fourth reason the Yankees are at a severe crossroads. They have a severe lack of quality position player depth at their higher levels of the system. They have ZERO, repeat ZERO help on the way to fill any open starting position players for at least the next two seasons.

And I hope you aren’t saying to yourself, what about Zoilo Almonte, who impressed the spring training? Well, he wasn’t that good the first time playing at Double A, and it is a stretch to see him seriously contributing at the major league level until at least 2015. Other strong players such as Austin Romine (remember him?), David Adams, are always hurt, with Romine having chronic back issues. That isn’t good for a major league starting catcher.

All the other position players are three years away, and with the Yankees patient nature in developing young players, it may be even longer.

Yankee fans are now suffering through injuries, lack of production and, even though the playoffs were expanded, a feeling that they just might not be strong enough to make this postseason, let alone make a run to the World Series. New York fans, in particular most Yankee fans, have what have you done for me now relationship with their players.

Many have written that maybe the Yankees should have traded Gardner before last season when his value was highest; saying his success in 2010 was never going to be improved upon. But now they miss his OBP skills, speed and quality defense on an everyday basis.

After Swisher struggled again last October, almost all Yankee fans wanted to trade Swisher this past off season. But you see how Swisher and Gardner are very important to the Yankee lineup. Along with Jeter, they are the only two Yankee hitters who consistently go the away with pitches, opening up the field and therefore, getting more hits.

Now these same Yankee fans seriously wish both could come back from their injuries quickly. The New York fans love to react to those small sample sizes.

What the Yankees have done by playing the Ponzi scheme method of long term deals to players who are now aged and much less productive is coming home to roost. There is now dead money for guys, who aren’t producing up to their salary levels, will continue to decline and because of their salaries, would be blocking any young players the organization might have developed.

So, what to do?

The Yankees could continue with what they have always done and go with the veteran presence at most positions, eschewing young talent in their system and paying big dollars to players who are getting older, and will decline over time.

Let’s all admit it right now; the 2009 World Series title was bought with shelling out over $400 million to Sabathia, Teixeira and AJ Burnett. It sucks that the rules were changed in the middle of playing the game, and the luxury tax threshold was inserted. But that is the hand you are currently being dealt. Try to think of it as the Turn card in Texas Hold ‘Em improving the odds for your opponents.

The key for any team is to constantly work in young players with established veterans, letting certain veterans go free agent when they have kids ready for the majors. But the Yankees have not produced enough young players or given them a serious chance before pulling them, benching them or having fans ridicule them every time they make a mistake (like Nunez).

I say continue with letting David Phelps get starts, let Robertson now close and bring up another reliever (Chase Whitley) if they need a one inning type arm. I wrote about Whitley here. Since there isn’t a great need in the bullpen even with Mariano out, let Phil Hughes continue to start and get his innings in and see what you have over a full season.

You really don’t know what Hughes can do. Let the guy throw the ball as a starting pitcher. Starting pitching is the largest annual expense for teams, especially if you have to go out on the free agent market and attempt to sign a Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke type starter. Except for a game here and there, Hughes can barely make it out of the fifth inning most games because that he what he is used to throwing. That is the way he has been developed. Hughes has made 77 career starts and pitched 7+ innings only 13 times, most recently in his last start when Joe Girardi finally let Hughes throw 115 pitches, only the second time he has reached this plateau in his career.

In regards to the veterans on the team, offer Cano and Granderson semi-long deal of 4-5 years at $15 million each. First one to take it gets his money, the other needs to re-evaluate. With the self-imposed $189 million payroll, this is more important than ever. You can’t let a player dictate what the team can afford.

But if the Yankee brass decides they can withstand higher salariesand go over the $189 million threshhold, all bets are off. Sign away and watch the aging team get even older. The only way the Yankees survive is letting their kids play and develop. You know how the other way works now.

They might not make the postseason each and every year via development, but then again, this 2012 team is no lock right now either.


New York Yankees: Do Their Deadline Moves Really Help Improve The Team?

August 10, 2010

The non-waiver trading deadline was an exciting time if you are a fan of the hype and hoopla derived form that day. I try not to get involved in who is going where unless it is an impact guy going to a contender.

New York Yankee fans were really involved Saturday, July 31st, because it was “critical” that General Manager Brian Cashman shore up their perceived weaknesses.

First, the Yankees needed to get another bullpen arm for the “8th inning role” because Joba Chamberlain was not “getting it done” the way he did back in 2007*.

*Really think about that situation. The Yankees NEEDED another relief pitcher then and Joba was promoted for this reason. He pitched 24 innings over 19 appearances (all in relief), allowing only 12 hits (one HR – quick, who hit it?), walking six and striking out 134 batters. Seriously, it was only 34 K’s, but it seemed like more, right?

His ERA was a scant 0.38. That Mike Lowell HR was the only earned run Joba allowed all regular season, his first major league experiences.

Sure, he has not been like 2007, but who else in baseball history has? Can we be realistic?

Enter Kerry Wood who was traded for a low-level prospect (I mean really low) or cash. Woods is a reclamation project whose only good characteristic is that he strikes out a lot of hitters. I know that appeases all the sabermetric guys out there, but I like relief pitchers who throw strikes.

Many people who like the Wood move say that since he is replacing the ineffective Chan Ho Park, it is at worst a wash, and if Wood pitches well, it is a steal.

Never mind that in addition to a high strikeout rate, Wood gives up lots of hits and walks a lot of hitters. His WHIP of 1.663 before the trade is not very good for a late inning reliever.

So far, he is what the Yankees thought and what they have received. Through 4.1 IP, Wood has struck out seven, but has allowed four hits, three walks and a long home run.

Don’t worry, though, he is limited to moderate mop-up/low leverage situations. So far.

Wood’s trade has been a pretty good motivator, though, as Joba has not allowed a run in his last three appearances since he was demoted and all the trade talk for a reliever picked up.

The trade for Lance Berkman is pretty straight forward. The Yankees did not like Juan Miranda (never have really) and felt that the switch-hitting Berkman would fit into the designated hitter slot pretty easily.

This would move Jorge Posada to more catching duties, and eliminating Francisco Cervelli’s bat from the lineup. Cervelli has not hit at all since his early season successes, and despite good catching skills, he is basically almost an automatic out.

Cervelli just takes too many pitches, good pitches right over the plate. He is not that accomplished a hitter to take pitches and get behind in the count. Cervelli “working the count” is never a good idea.

This Berkman move was a good one for the simple reason the Yankees have a better, more deep lineup, especially against right handed pitchers. The only way it can falter is if Berkman starts to feel slighted that he is mostly a DH, but Joe Girardi will get him a game every week or so at first base to keep him happy, and Mark Teixeira fresher.

The third move was cash or a crappy minor leaguer for Austin Kearns. If you really aren’t giving up much for an eight-year veteran like Kearns, then it is likely HE ISN”T ANY GOOD.

I do not feel that Kearns is a good enough baseball player. One of the main reasons the Yankees obatined the right-handed hitting Kearns was to spell Curtis Granderson some against left handed pitchers.

Granderson has hit a woeful .206 BA/.243 OBP/.275 SLG/.518 OPS against left handed pitchers this season, and has not been all that great against southpaws in his career.  Kearns has not been great against left handed pitchers this year either, slashing .248/.336/.381/.717 OPS.

But he is better than Granderson, and thus his arrival and increased playing time. Up until yesterday, however, Kearns had yet to get a hit in pinstripes, and after last night, now has three hits as a Yankee.

Kearns had the same amount hits in his second game against the Yankees this season, than he does as a Yankee. Interestingly, Wood got the save in that game, and characteristically gave up a run, a hit, and a walk but did strike out a batter.

Defensively, Kearns is above average in right field, but is terrible in center and below average in left field, where he will likely play most of all when he supplants Granderson. Kearns has already shown a propensity to make things interesting in left field.

My fear is that Girardi will start to mix-and-match with his overmanaging trait, pulling players early like pinch hitting for Granderson in the 5th or 6th inning of a game, then limiting himself later on due to not having any bench players left.

With teams usually carrying 12 pitchers (another horrible team move), there is no added manueverability with only four bench players, one being a second catcher and the other being Marcus Thames. Without a multi-positional player for infield and outfield, when Girardi begins to make early moves, he is susceptible to problems later, like Thames needing to play the outfield.

He already has done that once this season, ending up with and outfield of Kearns in left field, Nick Swisher in center and Thames in right field. Girardi likes to show everyone that he can read the split matchup sheets he has printed for him for each game.

This often gets the Yankees in trouble.

Kearns will probably get about 100 at bats for the Yankees this season, spelling Granderson or Gardner and various pinch hitting roles. Since his OBP is about a hunderd points higher than Granderson’s against lefties, Kearns will get on base about 10 more times than will Curtis.

Will that be a tremendous improvement offensively over Granderson to where the Yankees will benefit? I don’t think it will, and it will negatively impact the Yankees outfield defense. Kearns good game last night will only have Girardi playing him more, typical of Girardi falling in love with players after a good game or two.

Once in a while Kearns should be able to play the field in place of Granderson. When the improvement is minimal offensively, I would take the defense over offense every day, especially in the potent Yankee lineup. I even write this AFTER Kearns’ positive game last night

The Berkman deal is the only one which I would have made. It fits to the Yankee role as a switch hitting pitch taker with a high on base percentage.

As with Wood and Kearns, these moves could have been done differently. A Yankee farmhand with strikeout capabilities like Romulo Sanchez or even Jonathan Albaladejo would have been a batter fit than Wood.

And a more utility type player would have been a better fit than Kearns. Someone iwth infield and outfield capabilities.


Big Night by Ohio State Alum Nick Swisher on Big Tribute Night for The Boss

July 17, 2010

On a night when hearts were heavy and tears were plentiful, the New York Yankees Nick Swisher capped a momentous evening with a single in the bottom of the 9th inning. That single, Swisher’s third hit of the night, scored Curtis Granderson with the winning run in a 5-4 victory at Yankee Stadium, the House the Boss Built.

With tremendous tributes to both former principal owner George Steinbrenner and Public Address Announcer Bob Sheppard (who also was a former cast member of the Seinfeld series*), the Yankees won in walk off fashion with Swisher’s third hit, and third RBI, of the night.

*Sheppard’s voice can be heard in three different Seinfeld episodes. One at Giants Stadium asking if Elaine’s boyfriend, ” Will Joel Rifkin please report to the stadium office.” The next two are scenes set at Yankee Stadium where Elaine willnot remove her Baltimore Orioles hat and another episode when the Miss America contestant are announced. “Poise, poise, poise!”

The drama and circumstances were eerily similar to the August 6, 1979 tribute game* to the late Thurman Munson (my favorite player) when Munson’s great friend, Bobby Murcer, hit a walk-off, two-run single to win that Monday night baseball game. The Captain’s funeral was earlier that day in Canton, OH, and Murcer gave one of the eulogies, then hit a three-run homer in the 7th inning that night before the two-run opposite field single in the 9th.

Murcer drove in all five runs that night in the Yankees 5-4 win, the same score they won by on Tribute NIght to the Boss and The Voice.

**Another great thing about this game is that Ron Guidry, who got the win, pitched a complete game despite allowing nine hits and four earned runs. He also struck out nine and his pitch count must have been somewhere around 125 or more. Bet if Joe Girardi was managing, Guidry would have been removed from the game after seven innings, and history would never have happened.

It was fitting that Swisher, who went to Ohio State (where Steinbrenner once coached football and as a native Ohioan was an avid Buckeye supporter), had the same type of game in support of Big Stein that Murcer did for Munson, another native.

Swisher ended the night 3 for 5, with three RBI, including a mammoth HR in the 8th inning to tie the game at 4-4.

It was a big night for all Yankees and Yankee fans, fitting that The Boss was presented with a classic Yankee style victory.

George M. Steinbrenner would have demanded that type of finish, and not expected it any other way.


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

June 23, 2010

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

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

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

Where is the room for Byrd?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The New York Yankees: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Segment No. 4

June 15, 2010

This is the latest installment of the 2010 New York Yankee progress, honoring the epic Clint Eastwood movie of the same name. According to the astute readers of imdb.com, the Baseball-Reference of the movie and T.V. industry, “Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo ” is ranked as the No. 4 movie of all time .

What is more important is that the Yankees have vaulted themselves into the No. 1 record in the major leagues. With Sunday’s 9-5 win over the Houston Astros, combined with Tampa Bay’s 6-1 loss to the Florida Marlins, the Yankees and Rays are tied atop of the AL East with identical 40-23 records , the best record in MLB.

The Yankees have been 9-3 in June, fattening up on the Baltimore Orioles (5-1) and the Houston Astros (recent three game sweep), while losing two of three to the pitching-rich Toronto Blue Jays.

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

Il Buono

No. 1 Robinson Cano —has slashed .395 BA/.469 OBP/.605 SLG/1.074 OPS, with three doubles, two homers, seven RBI and 13 runs scored. Even more impressive are his numbers over the last month at .443/.476/.660/1.136.

During one stretch of his recent 17 game hitting streak, Cano had multiple hits in eight straight (19-33, 3 2B, 3 HR, 14 RBI).

Simply ridiculous, and at the top of the leaderboards for American League MVP.

No. 2 Brett Gardner —How can you not love Brett the Jet?  After a mini-slump which brought his numbers down considerably, Gardner began to hit again (and walk), by slashing .455/.552/.773/1.324 over the last week. Included were a double, triple, and his third home run.

Until Sunday, that homer tied him for the New York city left field lead with the New York Mets Jason Bay, he of the $66 million contract. Bay hit his fourth home run Sunday, but Gardner still leads the very wealthy Bay in OPS (.822 vs. .806).

No. 3 Derek Jeter —Do you really think he was going to stay on the bad list forever? After going through a long funk at the plate and in the field, which prompted the annual “Is Derek Jeter Done?” articles, Jeter has ripped a .333/.391/.514/.906 line over the last month.

While many do not like it when Jeter goes after the first pitch, he is hitting .404 with a .908 OPS when hacking at the first offering. The key is swinging at good strikes.

No. 4 Curtis Granderson —While Granderson’s overall numbers since returning from the disabled list are not great, the team has picked up its pace since Curtis returned to the lineup and his position in center.

That is because we saw less of Randy Winn (before being released), Marcus Thames and rookie Kevin Russo.

The Yankees are 12-4 since his return, but were only 7-11 in the last 18 games he was out of the lineup.

I would still like Granderson to sit back more when he swings, as he is often out in front on the right leg during swings and misses.

No. 5 Nick Swisher —He is turning in to one of my favorite Yankee players. I was not a fan of the trade which brought him here, but he has done very well, and has been instrumental in the lengthening of the 2009 and 2010 lineups. Has hit a very consistent .308/.402/.495/896 with 19 runs, eight doubles, three homers and 16 RBI over last month.

No. 6 CC Sabathia —What? He is struggling, right? Well, he is 2-0 with a 3.21 ERA in his two June starts. A 6-3 record thus far should be 8-3, but CC lost a win at Boston because of a rain delay and another when Joe Girardi pulled CC early against the Sawx and the bullpen blew the game.

This is a durable pitcher who should be allowed to throw 125-135 pitches each start.

No. 7 Andy Pettitte —Happy Birthday to Pettitte, who turns 38 today. Imagine on Thursday when Pettitte faces Jamie Moyer, who is seven years older than Andy?

Age is no factor for Pettitte, who is still dominating lineups by changing speeds and hitting corners. Again, why do scouts always worry about velocity and arm strength when a guy who does not top 90 MPH can consistently get guys out?

No. 8 Yankee bullpen —Over the last two weeks, the main part of the bullpen, Mariano Rivera, Joba, D-Rob, Chan Ho Park and Damaso Marte have been outstanding. They have thrown 21 innings, allowing 12 hits, five walks, and struck out 23. That is a WHIP of .809 and the one earned run allowed leads to a miniscule 0.43 ERA.

No. 9 Javier Vazquez —He is 4-1, 3.03 ERA over the last month with a 0.918 WHIP. While he has allowed five home runs, Javy has only walked five over his last 33 innings. He has been the most consistent starter this side of Pettitte.

He is similar to Andy by changing speeds and hitting that outside corner to RH hitters with his curve ball being the key to his success.

Il brutto

No. 1 Francisco Cervelli— Wow! He has come back down to earth faster than the Space Shuttle. Over the last month, the Cisco Kid has hit under .200 with an OPS of .522. He still dos come through with key RBI singles.

His 13 hits (all singles) over the last month have produced 12 RBI. He is still a force on defense and calls a great game.

I love the way he watches the batter before he puts down the sign. Concentrate on Cervelli during a couple at bats tonight and you will see what I mean.

No. 2 Alex Rodriguez —it has nothing to do with his lack of power, because he is still hitting the ball hard. But his injury could be more severe than a few missing days. Any long term time missed could hurt the Yankees lineup at a time when it was finally complete. (I do not count Nick Johnson).

No. 3 Jorge Posada —Two swings doesn’t make a season. Posada was brutal before his two grand slam weekend, but he also swung the bat better in other at bats during the Houston Series.

Posada gets into a taking pitches groove once in a while, taking good hitting strikes. This leads to indecisiveness and too much thinking at the plate.

When Posada is aggressive and still taking his walks by not swinging at balls outside the zone, he is a much better hitter.

Stay aggressive and hit good pitches, Jorge!  

Il cattivo

No. 1 AJ Burnett —An 0-2 record with 7.11 ERA in June with four home runs allowed in two games. Combine that with five walks and 14 hits in 12.2 innings pitched, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Bad AJ go home, but tell your twin brother, good AJ, to come back out and play.

No. 2 Marcus Thames —basically it is the entire bench which stinks, but since I think Thames never should have made the team in the first place, he is my poster boy.

Thames is 2 for his last 22 with eight strikes out and an OPS of .322. By the time his injury heals, I hope Chad Huffman (or Jorge Vazquez from Triple A) takes his roster spot – for good.

Combine Thames with Ramiro Pena, Kevin Russo and Chad Moeller, and the bench is 14 for 81 with four doubles and six RBI over the last month.

That is why Alex needs to be back in the lineup soon.

No. 3 Chad Gaudin —There is no conceivable reason why Gaudin actually pitches in games or is on the roster. He stinks!

Having been released twice already this season, once by the Yankees should only reiterate how bad this guy is.

There is no reason why Gaudin should have been in the June 5th game in the bottom of the 13th in a tie game at Toronto. It only took nine pitches before the Yankees were walking off the field.

That 13th inning rundown: Batter One – leadoff walk on FOUR pitches. Batter two – sac bunt on second pitch. Batter three – game winning single on an 0-2 count!

No way the Yankees should lose on the road to a division rival without using your best relief pitcher, Mariano Rivera.

Get rid of this loser, Gaudin, and bring up Mark Melancon for good.


New York Yankees DO NOT Need David DeJesus

June 7, 2010

There have many reports which have Kansas City Royals outfielder David DeJesus being available in trade. And why not? The Royals stink and they can do just as badly without DeJesus as they can with him*.

*That reminds me of a story in which Ralph Kiner, then a power hitting right-handed hitter for the Pittsburgh Pirates, going into Branch Rickey’s (then GM of the Pirates) office before the 1953 season to talk contract. Kiner had just led the National League again in home runs (he would lead the NL in home runs his first seven seasons!).

Kiner wanted a raise, and Rickey, a notorious tightwad, wanted no part of it and cut his salary from $90K to $65K. When Kiner said he just led the league in home runs again and would possibly hold out the season, Rickey replied, “well, we came in last place with you, and we can certainly come in last place without you.”

So DeJesus is not doing any good being in Kansas City, and if the Royals can move him for a few younger players, they can save a few dollars and get younger. DeJesus is due about $3 million remaining on his 2010 contract, which also has a club option for $6 million or a $500K buyout.

Speculation by Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated suggests DeJesus would be a good fit for the Yankees.

He would be wrong.

Why do the Yankees NEED David DeJesus? He is a good player, but the Yankees are good with outfielders, and have more than enough 30 plus-year-old designated hitters.

The Yankees already have starters Brett Gardner in left field, Curtis Granderson in center field and Nick Swisher in right field.

That is a pretty good outfield with each corner outfielder doing their jobs, while Granderson could begin hitting for a little more power. Although Granderson’s April numbers were horrible, he has been very productive since returning from his groin injury.

Granderson is hitting .314 BA/.368 OBP/.514 SLG/.882 OPS with six runs, four doubles, and a home run since returning to the lineup. His approach has been better and he is hitting left handers much better, too.

Gardner went through a mini-slump in late May, but has since rebounded nicely, and Swisher is having one of the best starts of his career. Don’t overanalyze the people writing about Swisher starting well in other seasons, then heavily regressing. With Kevin Long in his corner, and Swisher’s great work ethic, those slump days are long behind him.

So, with all three outfielders performing well right now, why the need for DeJesus? If the Royals trade the highly respected outfielder, they would need at least a prospect such pitchers Zach McAllister, Ivan Nova, David Phelps or Hector Noesi and/or Double A hitting star Brandon Laird.

That would be too much for a guy who would be sitting the bench. Yes, DeJesus would not start for this Yankee team.

If he would be a starter, the Yankees would make a huge mistake.

DeJesus would probably take over left field, then, right? Play in place of Gardner. But why?

Gardner is slashing .311/.393/.421/.814 OPS with 41 runs scored, 25 walks and 20 stolen bases.

DeJesus is slashing .307/.380/460/.841 OPS with 30 runs scores, 23 walks and two stolen bases.

So, a little pop via more doubles for DeJesus. With Gardner’s blazing speed, his ability to steal bases gives his singles and walks a chance to be converted to ” Brett type doubles.” Heyman talked about the Yankees wanting a “a high on base guy.” Don’t they already have that in Gardner, who has an actual higher OBP than DeJesus?

And Gardner’s defense is much better than DeJesus’, who is four years older.

This type of move for DeJesus is a bad one for the Yankees, as they do not appreciably improve their team.

If that trade is made, Gardner’s development and improvement will be stagnated. He is playing Brett baseball – no need to change that.

I actually advocated the Yankees go after DeJesus in December rather than sign Johnny Damon to an exhorbitant contract.

That was before Gardner became Brett the Jet, and began to play his game very well in the majors.

But now that Gardner is playing well, the Yankees do not need any moves right now.