Thoughts on the Recent Three Game Series in Anaheim

October 23, 2009

Well, the Yankees dropped their first series of the post season, losing two of three from the Angels. I thought this would happen, but I also thought the Halos would take one of the first two games in Yankee Stadium, but their defense and untimely hitting made that impossbile.

The Angels changed their approaches while playing at home. During Games 1 and 2, Vladimir Guerrero was constantly being challenged inside and he never once came though with a big hit.

However, during Game Three he tied the game at three all with a two-out, two-run homer off of Andy Pettitte. When Guerrero first came to the plate that game I said to my friend, “Vlad’s off the plate more than he was in Games 1 and 2. He is compensating for his slow bat.” Just last week, I wrote that Vlad was being pounded inside by the Yankee pitchers. We went to and saw video of Vlad in Game 2 and from Game 3.

Vlad was off the plate more in Game 3 and this little adjustment helped the Angels take two of three out there.

Being off the plate allows an inside ball to become a pitch Vlad is better able to hit. And he showed that with the tying home run. The Yankees have to notice this and begin to mix up their locations. Always a game (and series of adjustments). Vlad also came through in crucial Game 5 with a game tying, two-out single off Phil Hughes.

He is not back to the old Vlad, but the Yankees need to realize they must mix their locations more and not leave pitches over the middle of the plate to him.

Or to Jeff Mathis for that matter. The Angels back up catcher is known as more of a good field, no stick catcher who only it .211/.288./.308/.596 with only 13 XBH in 272 plate appearances (PA). His line last season was about the same, only he was below the Mendoza line. And Mathis strikes out way too much for a hitter, as he totaled 90 whiffs last season (in 328 PA) and 72 K’s in 2009.

And here is a quirky stat: Mathis has struck out the same number of times as the amount of total bases he produced in each of the past two seasons. He totaled 90 bases last year and 72 this season and had the exact same number of whiffs.

That is almost impossible for a non-pitcher to attain. A hitter who is that unproductive usually is not in the majors very long.

Defense is why Mathis is in the majors, but offense is why he is playing more in the ALCS, where he is hitting .600 (6 for 10) with four doubles. He is also John Lackey’s personal catcher. As a Yankee fan, I hope Mathis does not get a chance to hit again this series, meaning there is no Game 7 and a possiblity of Lackey going on short rest. 


Doesn’t it seem like every time there is a called strike on the Angels right fielder, that he has a look of disgust on his face? It never appears that Abreu thinks any time he takes a pitch, it should be called a strike. He is a patient hitter, walks a lot, taught the Angels hitters to be patient, blah, blah, blah but Abreu is not Ted Williams.

There is a great story about a young catcher who asked the home plate umpire where a close pitch was on a certain lefty slugger. The umpire replied the pitch was outside, when the catcher said, “No it wasn’t, it was right on the corner.” The umpire came back with, “the batter up right now son is Mr. Ted Williams and he has such a good batting eye that if Mr. Williams does not swing at a pitch, it is most ceratinly off the plate.”

Abreu has not had a good series, going 3 for 21 (.143 BA) with two doubles and one RBI. He has an uncharacteristic seven strikeouts, one for every three at bats. Instead of taking all these good pitches for strikes, it might be wise to adjust a little and begin swinging earlier at better pitches to hit.


Swisher had the ultimate opportunity to cleanse his putrid ALCS system with a go-ahead hit against Angels closer Brian Fuentes on Thursday night. The two- out, 3-2 pitch from Fuentes was a virtual meatball, down the middle at 89 MPH. A very, very hittable pitch.

And Swisher muffed it. It is impossible to come through all the time in big situations but on a pitch like that from Fuentes, the odds of getting a hit go up immeasurably, and a good major league hitter like Swisher should have rocked that pitch. All the pressure was on Fuentes to throw a strike as he did not want to walk the ever patient (and walk machine) Yankee right fielder.

But it was Swisher would wilted under the pressure. In between every pitch in that at bat, Swisher was seen taking huge deep breaths, trying to calm himself down. Wilting under playoff pressure is nothing new for Swish, as he has been a dud in most of his other post season experiences.

That is why I felt it strange Yankee manbager Joe Girardi did not “rest” Swisher in Game 5 against the right handed Angels starter John Lackey. I thought Girardi should give the start to Brett Gardner, using his speed to give better defense and utilize Gardner’s speed on the bases a few times a game except for once a game.

Gardner offers different weapons than Swisher and it is all dependent on Gardner getting on base, but he couldn’t be any worse than Swisher at getting on base at this point. Also, Lackey has shown often in this series that he can be agitated on the mound, and what better way to agitate a pitcher than to have speed on the bases.

But that being said, Swisher will likely start against lefty Joe Saunders tonight. Any other righty power hitters on the Yankee bench, or even in their system?

Shelley Duncan where are you? Better yet, this role will be played next season by Jesus Montero.


Jorge Posada Gets His Big Ears in An Uproar

September 17, 2009

Childish, baby like and potentially dangerous. That is what Jorge Posada’s actions were Tuesday night in the fracas that erupted at Yankee Stadium.

And I thought boxing was coming to the New, New Yankee Stadium a few years from now, but not as soon as last night.

Posada felt he should not be the recipient of the Toronto Blue Jays retaliation of “my hitter gets hit, so we must hit yours.” Actually, that is a badge of honor to be the recipient. It means the other team values you as a player, so as the player who was hit, Posada should have just taken his base and let it go.

I remember one time when Albert Belle was on the Cleveland Indians and in his prime. At one point the Red Sox couldn’t get him out, so someone on the Sox threw at Belle. Albert then hit a home run his next time up and when he got to the Dugout, he pointed to his bicep. In essence Belle was telling the Red Sox, “I am too strong for you, you might as well hit me because you can’t get me out.”

A badge of honor.

Posada, though, never lets anything go, which is sometimes good as clubhouse motivator, but oftentimes it puts the Yankees in a bad situation*.

* Posada holds grudges and thinks he is beyond things. I believe he still does not like Joe Girardi since Girardi stayed on as Yankee catcher for the 1999 season and taking time away from the early part of Posada’s career. But Posada still does not get that Girardi stayed on with the Yanks that year to help WITH Posada’s development. Posada had completely cool feeling towards Girardi the entire 2008 season, not helping the transition with General Joe’s first year at the Yankee helm.

Everything started in the top of the 8th when Mark Melancon plunked Toronto second baseman Aaron Hill, one of the bright, young hitting stars on this Blue Jay team.

Melancon appears to be the guy that Joe Girardi is authorizing as his late inning retaliator. On August 6th, Melancon beaned Dustin Pedroia, then buzzed Kevin Youkilis, leading to an agitated Youkilis. Melancon has hit four guys so far this season (in only 16 innings), two Red Sox players (Jason Bay and Pedroia) and two Blue Jays players as M.M. plunked John McDonald earlier this month.

I hope Melancon is not eager to get the reputation as a head hunter. That would not bode well for his popularity on the team amongst the everyday lineup players who likely would be on the receiving end of the retaliations.

Posada needed to leave well enough alone, as when the fight broke out, the last things the Yankees need is to have one of their big arms like Sabathia, Burnett, Pettitte (already with a sore shoulder) or Chamberlain hurt like Boston Red Sox hurler Bill Lee was back in 1976 in a brawl against the Yankees.

It is good to see that Shelley Duncan always has his teams back. Duncan was in the mix early on, separating players and being a Yankee enforcer. He was in the middle of the scrum two springs ago with the Tampa Bay Rays after Francisco Cervelli had his wrist broken. Too bad the Yankees front office does not have as much love for Shelley as the Yankee fans do.

As much as the Rays probably hate Shelley, he would be a great fit for that team with his versatility (1B, OF, RH bat off the bench) and could do offensively for Tampa what Pat Burrell gave them this season…at a fraction of the price.

One more thing about that fracas last night. Michael Kay, the Yankee play by play guy on the YES Network harped on the slight swelling on Girardi’s left eye after TV camera’s captured the Yankee manager. Kay said repeatedly that John McDonald, the slightly built Toronto shortstop sucker punched Girardi when Johnny Mac entered the fray. That was the furthest thing from the truth as McDonald appeared to be a peace keeper.

Replays showed that McDonald’s left hand did make contact with Girardi, but had made contact with the RIGHT SIDE of Girardi’s face, and only by accident as McDonald was trying to pull people away. Girardi also said that he got his bruise from one of his own players who inadvertently elbowed him during the scrum.

If McDonald wanted to cheap shot someone, he definitely would have gone after A-Rod.

Posada could have caused more harm than good with his childish antics, and it is great that he got to spend last night on the suspended list while the Yankees walked off with another win.

New York Yankee 40 man roster needs this off season

August 20, 2009

Every year right after the World Series, the various major league teams need to update their 40 man roster. Sometime in November new names are added and mnay players are designated for assignment and released. The new 40 man roster attendees are usually young players (unless your the Mets, then you need to be over 40) who have impressed and moved up the ranks.

Most are in AA and AAA, but a few needing protecting could be in A ball, especially if the player has just come back from injury. In fact, the Yankees do have one pitcher who fits that description.

If a player not on a 40-man roster has spent four years with a minor-league contract originally signed when 19 or older or five years when signed before the age of 19, he is eligible to be chosen by any team in the rule 5 draft during the off-season. Usually when college players are drafted and they spend three seasons within organization, they are eligible for the Rule 5 draft. High school players (or underage free agents) need to spend four seasons before needing 40 man protection.

The 40 man roster was devised to keep deep teams from hoarding talent within their system.

The Yankees are very fond of keeping young pitchers on the 40 man, exposing injured players and generally have been pretty good about keeping their good talent within. No, I won’t get into the Damaso Marte/Xavier Nady deal for Ross Ohlendorf and Daniel McCutchen. By the way, Ohlendorf now is 11-8 with a 4.15 ERA (sorry no FIP numbers available) for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

But the Yankees will need to make significant changes to their 40 man roster this off season. There are good things and bad things about having a tremendous draft (like the Yankees did in 2006) is that all the great college players they took in that draft need to be on the 40 man roster this November. Or they could be drafted elsewhere.

Also, all the high school talent taken prior to 2006 need to be added, too. This group includes future Yankee fan whipping boy Austin Jackson, taken in the 8th round in 2005.

I have identified 11 Yankee farmhands who need to be protected this off season, some household names to those who follow the Yankees, and some which are not.

Those I would ABSOLUTELY protect at Triple A include Jackson, UT Kevin Russo, LHP Zach Kroenke (who will likely be called up anyway in September) and RHP Ivan Nova. Interestingly, both Kroenke and Nova were left unprotected last season, were selected by the Marlins and Padres, respectively, then offered back to the Yankees.

I was shocked both of those guys did not stick with the drafting teams.

Russo is a former college hitting star who can multiple positions including third, second and short. Similar to Ramiro Pena, but with more pop, but less of a glove. He will stick with another team if taken, but his history of injuries might scare off teams.

At Double A Trenton, I would ABSOLUTELY keep RHP Kanekoa Texeira, SS Eduardo Nunez and RHP Lance Pendleton. Little Tex was obtained from the White Sox in the Nick Swisher deal, and Nunez surprised many people in spring training with his hitting exploits (which have carried over into this season). Pendleton is interesting because while he is 26, he finally has been healthy.

Also starting the season at High A Tampa was RHP Tim Norton, a 26 year old taken out of college in that great 2006 draft. I would protect him, too, unless his recent 7 day DL is related to his shoulder surgery he had over a year ago. He is a beast on the mound with a little bit of a mean streak which would serve him well in the bullpen.

That is eight guys, but there are a few tweeners, too. Guys like OF Colin Curtis and George Kontos at AAA plus RHP Jason Stephens, who has bounced around the entire minor league system and is currently at High A Tampa.

Curtis likely won’t stick with another team if taken, but he is a sparkplug type of guy. A little pop, good defense, some speed. Kontos had Tommy John surgery on July 7th and should be out May/June of next season, so he might slip through. But he was performing extremely well before the surgery and I might not take on chance on him. The Yankees are very high on him, and if he didn’t not hurt his arm, he would likely be the #5 starter right now.

Jason Stephens is still only 24 and has been in the Yankee system since age 18, when he was a third round pick out of high school. He has appeared in High A, AA and AAA this season. He had really good success in the early part of his career before elbow surgery, and has pitched effectively this year despite the bouncing around, both with the levels and as a starter and reliever.

I feel if the Yankees left Stephens alone as a starter at Double A this season, he would have better numbers all around. I would protect Stephens because a lesser team could just stick him away as the last guy in the bullpen, and at age 24, he still has loads of potential. 

Of the maybe tweeners, I would keep both Kontos and Stephens, but let Curtis dangle. Yankees might feel otherwise as Curtis is destined for the Arizona Fall League. Maybe an audition for Colin to make the 40 this year? Kevin Russo did the same last year. He was a surprise pick for th AFL, but really blossomed out west and worked his way into the Yankees plans. And that is probably what the Yankees will do, too, as they love to hold young pitching.

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 last year 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.”

He actually faced Joba Chamberlain and Zach Kroenke of Nebraska in Game 2, doubling off Kroenke in the 8th.

But since we are adding 10 guys to the 40 man roster, there needs to be some people released off the current 40.

On the current Yankees 40 man roster are marginal players not likely to have an impact on the Yankees major league team such as Jonathan Albaladejo, Wilkin De La Rosa, Christian Garcia (he’s hurt AGAIN!), Edwar Ramirez, Kevin Cash, Shelley Duncan and Xavier Nady.  

That’s seven guys right there – gone, released, see ya’. No way they ever get a shot with the parent club, and many could be re-signed after the release. Yankees just need to clear room for the new blood.

Everyone expects Francisco Cervelli to become the full time backup next season, so that eliminates Jose Molina. Hideki Matsui, as I have written previously, will not be retained. And that is even more true now that he recently had his knee drained, the second time this season he has had that procedure.

That’s nine.

And now the big decisions. Despite how they pitch this season, I can’t see Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre being part of the team for next season, but the Yankees could keep one (if not both) on the roster for depth. Even more so if what I believe should happen, will happen.

That gets us down to the last two possibilities.

Chien-Ming Wang had surgery on his shoulder in July and no one knows how that capsule tear will respond to the stress of throwing. If the Yankees release Wang, will another team claim him? If the Yankees offer Wang arbitration (they have tow more years left on Wang control), he will definitely get no less than $4 million. MLB limits salary reduction at 20%.

The Yankees likely will no-tender Wang, and try to sign him to a minor league deal where he can rehab at his own pace. But if another team signs him to a major league deal, Wang will get major league money, and that it is a possibility of Wang pitching in late 2010 or even 2011 with say…the Dodgers.

The other possibility is Andrew Brackman. Is there anybody out there in Yankee land who thinks this guy is ever going to make it to the big leagues, let alone any higher than Double A? He can’t even throw the ball into the strike zone – at Low A Charleston! Imagine him trying to throw into the miniscule strike zones of major league umpires?

The most important aspect in pitching is control, more important than velocity of “stuff.” Very few pitchers succeed with velocity and stuff but no control, but many succeed with great control and normal velocity.

But no way the Yankees (ie: Brian Cashman) releases Brackman off the 40 man roster, at least not until he gets another year under his belt.

If it comes down to making a decision on one more player to be released to fill out the 40 man roster, I would probably release Wang, try and sign him to a minor league deal then hope for the best that he doesn’t still feel too perturbed about being taken to arbitration a few years ago, losing, and having the Yankees brag about it to the press.

The Yankees would then likely need both Gaudin and Mitre on the roster if Wang goes somewhere else on a major league deal.

That’s what I would do with the 40 man roster this off season. Ten men in, ten men out.