Greetings Yankee Fans!
And welcome to the 11th Edition of Yankee Yapping.
Away we go!
My thoughts on…
The Baltimore Series
The Yankees did not look sharp for the better part of this past weekend.
Coming off a four-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Bombers lost two out three to the pesky Baltimore Orioles. It was the first time since June 17-18 (vs. the Washington Nationals) the Yankees lost two in a row at home.
On Friday night, Andy Pettitte did not look as dominating as he did the last time he faced the O’s on Aug. 31. Flirting with a perfect game, Pettitte tossed eight innings and only gave up one run on two hits. He allowed no walks in that start and struck out eight.
In contrast to Aug. 31, Pettitte only lasted five innings and gave up three earned runs on five hits. He walked three and struck out five.
The bullpen didn’t offer any help, giving up seven runs in the four innings following Pettitte’s departure. The Yankees were beaten, 10-4.
Saturday was yet another ugly day to be a Yankee fan, as the Orioles topped the Bombers, 7-3.
I really can’t understand A.J. Burnett at this point. He is an enigma, it seems. In his last game (in the night half of the doubleheader against Tampa Bay on Labor Day) he made a quality start: six innings, three runs, four hits, eight strikeouts. On Saturday he was touched up for six earned runs in the second inning.
Five of the six second-inning runs given up by Burnett came off the bats of Nolan Reimold and Brian Roberts. Reimold smacked a solo home run in the inning while Roberts crushed a grand slam.
After the six-run second, Burnett allowed no more runs and only one other hit in the seven innings he pitched.
While Baltimore made the second inning a big one, the Yankee offense was basically lulled to sleep by rookie Brian Matusz. He tossed seven innings of four hit, one-run ball and looked good with three strikeouts.
Finally on Sunday the Yankee offense broke through, scoring 13 runs on 20 hits. Although they broke it out and scored runs, they still looked very sloppy; it seems they got very complacent. I almost lost my mind when Johnny Damon lost track of how many outs there were and allowed Jeff Fiorentino to score from second base in the top of fourth. But the Yanks’ offense was able to pull it out.
They also received yet another great game out of their ace, CC Sabathia. He didn’t look like he had good command of his pitches but he was still able to give the Yankees a quality start.
In Sunday’s game I saw a side of skipper Joe Girardi I have never seen before. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad thing, to be honest.
I suppose it was good because it fired the team up. In the bottom of the fourth, Alex Rodriguez was called out on a third strike that looked well off the plate. Obviously Rodriguez didn’t like the call and let home plate umpire Marty Foster know it.
When he went out to his position he argued with the umpire again. Foster did not appreciate Rodriguez’s words and ran him from the game.
Girardi dashed out of the dugout and got right in Foster’s face. Just seeing the vein on the manager’s neck bulge out made me cringe; Girardi was extremely unhappy and just infuriated. He was just screaming and so fired up, I have never seen Girardi that annoyed, and of course he was also tossed out of the game.
That was Girardi’s fourth ejection as Yankee manager, and from my point of view he certainly got his more than his money’s worth with his vehement argument.
His last ejection came in the sixth inning on June 24 in Atlanta during inter-league play against the Braves. The Yankees were down 1-0, but came back to win 8-4 after umpire Bill Welke ran Girardi from the game.
After the game Sunday, Girardi gave his reason for the tirade.
“It was premature,” he said to the press of Rodriguez’s ejection.
“All Alex told Marty was that there were a couple balls outside. There were no obscenities said by Alex, there were no warnings issued, and I took objection to it.”
It seems legitimate to me; Girardi was just trying to win a game after losing two in a row and Rodriguez didn’t say anything wrong, he just expressed his thoughts without being told to stop. Girardi said usually the umpire will say something like, “one more and you’re out,” or “stop or I’ll eject you.” They never said that to Rodriguez, and that got Girardi upset.
Not to mention the game was tied 3-3 when Rodriguez was tossed; Girardi didn’t want to lose his cleanup hitter, and for good reason.
Foster already has a strained relationship with the Yankees. Back in the month of July he called Derek Jeter out at third base when he was clearly safe, prompting Jeter to argue with him–arguing with an umpire is something Jeter rarely ever does.
Rodriguez has called Foster “unprofessional” twice, and said he doesn’t know what his problem is with the Yankees.
I, for one, hope he’s not umpiring the Yankees’ playoff games.
But despite the battle between Foster and the Bronx Bombers, Hideki Matsui hit a three-run home run, Melky Cabrera knocked in four runs, and like I said, the Yankees’ offense just sparked. Sunday’s 13-3 win marked the 46th come-from-behind win this season and the 17th win of the year for Sabathia.
Now the Yankees will play a potential playoff opponent, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, in a makeup game tonight followed by two more home games against their division rivals, the Toronto Blue Jays.
When they finish up the home stand, the Yanks will make a west coast trip this coming weekend to play the Seattle Mariners for three games followed by the Angels for another three-game set.
This next week will be a true test of the Yankees’ toughness.
Another Milestone for Derek Jeter
Although the Yankees were beaten on Friday night, history was once again made by Derek Jeter.
The Yankee Captain led off the bottom of the third inning with a single, his 2,722nd career hit. With that he passed Lou Gehrig on the all-time Yankee hits list and is now the all-time Yankee hits leader.
Until Friday night, the Yankee hits record stood for 72 years, five days. I’m not sure if there will even be another player that will come along and break that record. Jeter just might hold it for the rest of time.
If there was one player to break the record, Jeter was the man. He now holds four all-time Yankee records: most hits, most singles, most at-bats, and most hit-by-pitches…the fourth record doesn’t sound so good, but the rest of them do.
Jeter also needs just eight more hits this season to get to 200. If he does hit safely eight more times, it will be the seventh time in his career he had recorded 200 hits in a season. That gives you an idea of why he is now the franchise hits leader.
And it just seems that Jeter keeps on chasing the Iron Horse.
In Sunday’s win over the Orioles, Jeter scored his 100th run of the year. He has now scored 100 or more runs 12 times in his career, which puts him in second place on the Yankees list in that category.
Gehrig has scored 100 or more runs 13 times in his career and sits in first place on the “100-run seasons list,” if you will. If Jeter scores 100 next year, he’ll tie Gehrig and if he can manage 100 runs scored in 2011, he’ll be the leader.
In the seventh edition of Yankee Yapping I blogged about Jeter’s 2,674th career hit, which put him at the top of the all-time shortstop hit list as he passed Luis Aparicio; in other words he has the most hits among any other shortstop in the history of baseball. I said last week that Jeter keeps putting lines in his history, and it looks like he’s going to be doing that until the day he dies.
Last night after the New York Giants were finished beating the Washington Redskins 23-17, former defensive end Michael Strahan even pointed out Jeter’s accomplishment and remarked how extraordinary it is that Jeter holds the record.
I think that’s a great sign of respect from Strahan, and it just goes to show how much Jeter is admired amongst his peers.
After the game last night I read that Jeter received a phone call from the boss, George Steinbrenner. He told Jeter how proud he was of him for setting the record and even issued a statement about Jeter’s milestone.
“For those who say today’s game can’t produce legendary players, I got two words for you: Derek Jeter,” the statement read.
“Game in and game out he just produces…Jeter is one of the finest young men playing the game today.”
I couldn’t agree with Steinbrenner more. In fact, I think Jeter is the finest player in the game today and he is so humble. When he tied Gehrig on Wednesday night, he even remarked how he didn’t want to disrespect the Tampa Bay players by acknowledging the crowd.
Bottom line: Jeter is a class act. He is an amazing ballplayer bound for the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. I can’t say enough good things about the man, and I hope to God he wins the Most Valuable Player Award this year. If he doesn’t, I think it’s a major rip-off.
On the Yankee Yapping Facebook page, someone went as far as saying Jeter is the “god of baseball.”
In a lot of ways he is god-like to us fans, similar to Babe Ruth, Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Reggie Jackson, and Don Mattingly. You can mention Jeter with the all-time Yankee greats, but in all likelihood, Jeter is in a class all by himself.
Hideki Matsui and Nick Swisher
Both of these guys have surprised me this year.
At the beginning of June I wrote an article about why I thought the Yankees should trade Hideki Matsui.
I noted that he is aging and can no longer play the outfield with his bad knees. I suggested maybe a trade for Jermaine Dye of the Chicago White Sox (although they are the same age, Dye can still play the field and hit for power) I also brought up trading Matsui to a team that has fallen out of their race, like the Oakland Athletics or the Cleveland Indians.
I didn’t think Matsui had it in him anymore but he has definitely proven me wrong.
Showing a clutch facet of his game, Matsui belted a huge walk-off homer on July 20 to beat Baltimore at home. That was basically the moment where I thought to myself, “Matsui is alright. He can stay.”
But I think he’s gone above and beyond his expectations this year. I don’t think at the outset of this season the Yanks expected him to hit 24 home runs and average .275 with 81 RBIs, which are the numbers he has posted this year to this point.
Matsui even earned himself Pepsi Clutch Performer of the Month for his ability to carry the Yankees throughout the month of August.
He played in 24 games in August and averaged .281 with eight homers and 25 RBIs. His biggest series came the weekend of Aug. 21 at Fenway Park in Boston against the Red Sox. Matsui crushed four homers over the three-game weekend in Boston and averaged .400 in close-and-late situations.
He was also the first Yankee since Mickey Mantle in 1966 to homer multiple times in a game over a seven-game stretch, and he is the second Yankee to win the Pepsi Clutch Performer honors in 2009. Melky Cabrera won the title in the month of May.
And then there’s Nick Swisher.
On Thursday Nov. 13, 2008 the Yankees made a deal with the White Sox that sent Wilson Betemit to Chicago. The Yanks got Swisher in exchange and it looks like the trade was a steal for the Yanks.
In 2008 Swisher hit 24 home runs but only averaged .219. I thought he would just be a bust with the Yankees, maybe putting up numbers similar to Betemit’s while being a full-time bench player.
Now consider Xavier Nady’s injury; He was slated to be the everyday left fielder with Swisher as his backup. But with Nady going down with an elbow injury (consequently needing Tommy John surgery) Swisher stepped up his game and has enjoyed some decent success this year.
Swisher has become a huge part of the Yankees’ loose attitude; he’s always laughing and keeping everyone loose. Swisher never seems stiff and I think that rubs off on the rest of the team. Do you think if Nady never went down, he would have made the same impact? I’m not so sure. Maybe it was a good thing Nady went down, who knows.
I do know that Nady’s injury allowed Swisher an opportunity to shine, and he certainly has. He had demonstrated his ability to play hard on the road, hitting 21 of his 27 long balls away from Yankee Stadium.
Swisher has also shown versatility, hitting home runs from every spot in the batting order except the number one and nine holes.
At press time Swisher has 27 homers and 79 RBIs, and like Matsui, I feel he has gone above and beyond his expectations. I’m sure the organization expected him to play to the best of his ability (like they expect every player to) but I’m not sure if they expected him to post the kind of numbers he’s put up.
On Wednesday Sept. 8, Swisher hit his first walk-off home run as a Yankee, capping a two-home run night and procuring the Yankees’ 90th win of the year–quite a feat considering the Yanks never even reached 90 wins all of last year. After the game he could barely speak, he was so happy with what he had done.
Both players have done very well this year; a resurgent Matsui and an off-season trade that has paid off royally in Swisher. I can only hope both players keep on swinging their hot bats in the autumn month of October.
The Yankee Starters
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about the starting pitching right now.
At this point, I could care less about individual numbers. CC Sabathia has 17 wins. Andy Pettitte has 13. A.J. Burnett has 11. Heck, Alfredo Aceves has 10 victories in relief.
That amounts to 51 wins among those four pitchers alone. And I really don’t care.
The only thing I’m concerned with is the inconsistency among the majority of the starters and how they will pitch in the post-season. The only rock in the Yankees’ starting rotation has been Sabathia. The rest of the pitching staff is totally up in the air. Some of them go out and just puzzle the opposition one game and the next look totally lost.
Since I’ve blogged about Burnett (and defended him to his critics) I’ll start with him.
Like I said before, I have no clue what to make of him anymore. YES Network analyst and former pitcher Al Leiter made the best comparison yesterday: he said Burnett has almost taken on a “Jekyll and Hyde” persona. There are games he can take the mound and just make pitches and get hitters out with his breaking ball while taking good command of his fastball.
Yet there are other games where he takes the mound and is just totally lost, leaving pitches up and out over the plate for hitters to feast upon. He seems to get rattled too easily and lets bad innings kill him.
He is fiery some games and you can tell he wants to win, but there are other games where he has almost that “gunslinger” mentality and he walks too many guys and gives up home runs.
Joe Girardi said they will straighten him out and I sure hope they do. If they don’t, the Yankees’ bid for a 27th World Series title is in jeopardy. The Yankees need Burnett to be dealing come the playoffs.
Consider Burnett’s numbers: in his first 11 starts he posted a record of 8-2 with 2.08 ERA while only allowing five home runs. It seemed everything was going according to plan with him until the nine starts that followed. In those nine starts he went 1-5 with a 6.14 ERA and gave up nine homers.
Those kinds of stats are exactly like what Leiter described: Jekyll and Hyde.
Joba Chamberlain is next.
This poor kid was doing just fine until the Yanks put him back on the “Joba rules.”
Right out of the stretch after the All-Star break he went 4-0 with the Yankees winning his first five starts. I have to admit, Chamberlain looked great; his velocity in the mid-to-upper 90s and his changeup fooling a lot of hitters. Everyone talked about his downtime over the break and how he sort of “found himself” during that period.
But then he made a start in Seattle on July 16 and lost. Since then he has yet to win a game and has lost twice since that start against the Mariners.
I have to defend him; it’s not all his fault. He made one bad start at Seattle and since then hasn’t thrown more than four innings. If you don’t allow him to throw he’s never going to get any better.
The problems with his command and the quality of his stuff are not going to get any better if they don’t stretch him out. The problems are just going to continue to get worse, which is what has seemed to happen.
I heard that Chamberlain is on the innings limit for his last handful of regular season starts. In his final start before the playoffs they say he will throw six innings. I don’t even know what to expect from him.
Hopefully Chamberlain can go out and pitch effectively in his last few starts and that will continue through the playoffs. I am also hearing that they don’t know yet what role Chamberlain will take for the playoffs–starter or reliever. Whether he is a starter or reliever, I just hope he can do it.
I can’t fully blame him for not pitching well. Chamberlain doesn’t know what he’s doing and it’s not his fault. I blame the innings limit. If they had kept him on a normal schedule I think he’d be enjoying a lot more success than he is now.
Message to the Yankees: the year is 2009, Chamberlain’s third season in the big leagues. If you’d like to baby him, send him to the minors. Take the leash off and let the dog run, already.
Then there’s Andy Pettitte.
There was a stark contrast between the start on Aug. 31 at Baltimore and the start he made this past Friday at home vs. Baltimore. Obviously he wasn’t bidding for a perfect game on Friday like he was on Aug. 31, but he only went five innings and gave up five hits.
That was somewhat surprising to me since he had pitched at least six innings his previous three starts.
Pettitte has certainly been extremely more consistent than the rest of the pitchers (other than Sabathia) especially through the month of August when he went 4-0. He’s also a big time pitcher when the post-season rolls around, as noted last week when I said he’s pitched in World Series clinching games.
We’ll need to see that version of Pettitte show up in the ALDS and the rest of the post-season.
And finally we come to Sabathia.
The ace has been the only constant in the Yankee rotation all year. Just looking at his numbers since the All Star break he is 9-1 with a 2.75 ERA. Obviously there’s a huge difference between him and everyone else on the pitching staff.
This is why the Yanks signed Sabathia–to put up these types of Cy Young Award-worthy numbers. And I seriously meant it when I said he is a “second half player.” Historically Sabathia puts up his best work in the second half of the year, and this season is no exception.
Despite all the worries and negativity about the starting pitching, I have to say, they’ve done well this year. The Yankees would not have 92 wins without each and every one of the starters throwing the ball well. All of them have contributed to the Yankees’ success.
I also have to point out their ability to pick each other up. When Pettitte was scuffling in July, Burnett was on fire, going undefeated in the hot summer month. But when Burnett was struggling in August, Pettitte picked him up by going 4-0 that month.
If they maintain that same formula in the post-season, there’s a lot of room for success and winning. Not saying I want one pitcher to be hot and the rest of them cold, but they can still find ways to win despite struggling. However, if history has showed us anything, it’s that a team cannot go into a playoff series with cold pitchers.
The starters have to be rolling and keeping the other team off the board, giving their offense a chance to win the game. Come Oct. 6 (game one of the ALDS) we’ll see if that happens for the Yankees.
Well that does it for this week. The regular season is almost over, days are closing in, and hopefully we’re on our way to more positive history in the Bronx.
See you next week with more highlights, analysis, and topics.
Until then, Go Yankees!!!