Results tagged ‘ Melky Cabrera ’
Greetings Yankee fans! And welcome to the 13th edition of Yankee Yapping.
Well….start spreading the news. We’re leaving today….for October!
If October Gonzalez still blogs here on MLB.com, he needs to get ready to do some…Yankee Yapping.
Away we go!!
My thoughts on…
The AL East Title
As everyone in the world already knows, yesterday the Bronx Bombers clinched the American League East title with a victory over the Red Sox, completing a weekend sweep of their arch-rivals. It marked the first time since 2006 the Yanks have won the AL East and the first time since 2005 they won the title in front of the Red Sox.
In ’05 the Yankees won the crown on the second-to-last day of the season at Fenway Park.
The Yankees also won their 100th game of the season, and that marked the first time since 2004 the Yanks accomplished that feat. And oh, by the way, they have home-field advantage throughout the post-season.
The Yanks pretty much made out like bandits Sunday afternoon.
I have to admit I almost broke down and cried. I was so overjoyed when they won yesterday. Considering the Yanks missed the playoffs last year and remembering how sad I was on the last day of the 2008 regular season, yesterday was pretty special.
I liked the analogy Derek Jeter used when speaking of the Yankees early winter last year. “It’s almost like you’re a kid and your parents don’t let you go outside and play,” Jeter analogized.
“You’re watching everybody outside the window because you’re in trouble. That’s what it felt like. Now you’re off punishment and you can go back outside.”
The last day of the regular season is always melancholy; it means the summer is truly over. As a diehard baseball fan, I wish the season could last forever.
It doesn’t, but at least with your team in the playoffs, you are guaranteed a shot at the World Title and a chance to see your team try and give you a memory that can last a lifetime.
When your team wins it all, you will remember it forever.
But the AL East is only one step toward what the Yankees and we the fans are looking forward to. It was nice to celebrate yesterday, but we are going back to work this week vs. the Royals and this weekend against the Rays.
I’m sure the Yankees were proud of themselves, which they should be, but I’ll bet if you ask Jeter or Mariano Rivera, or any of the other players, they’ll say that there’s a lot more work to be done.
Which is certainly true. The Yankees have accomplished something good. And now they must continue to move forward and hopefully reach “baseball nirvana.”
Weekend Sweep of Boston
After the Yankees went 0-8 against Boston at the beginning of the season, I never would of thought they’d rebound as nicely as they have.
The Yankees have won nine out of their last 10 games against the Red Sox and the way they played them this past weekend gave me even more confidence in the Yankees’ ability to beat Boston if they happen to meet in the ALCS this year.
The last time the two teams squared off in the 2004 ALCS….well, we need not relive that. But at least the Bombers have demonstrated the ability to match the Red Sox punch-for-punch, which is what they need this late in the season.
In this weekend’s three-game sweep, the Yanks outscored Boston 16-7. Back in August when the Yankees swept the Red Sox at home, they outscored them 25-8. So it’s apparent that the Yankees know how to drive runners in against the Red Sox, a good ability to have against a potential playoff opponent.
On Friday I was thrilled to see Joba Chamberlain pitching well and the Yanks won, 9-5. He tossed six innings and gave up three runs on five hits. He walked one and struck out five. He got the win and ironically his last win before Friday came against the Red Sox on Aug. 6.
You see guys: when you let Chamberlain pitch without worrying about his innings limit, he can actually perform well!
However, I did feel sympathy for Jon Lester, getting drilled with a liner off the knee on a ball crushed by Melky Cabrera. I don’t like the Red Sox (obviously) but I have a lot of respect for Lester. He is such a great success story, coming back from cancer and throwing a no-hitter. So yes, I felt bad for him.
Lester had to leave the game in the third inning, but he wasn’t pitching effectively, anyway. He had given up a homer to Alex Rodriguez and was losing before he got hit, so I don’t think he would’ve been in the game much longer, as it was.
Lester was charged with five earned runs and registered the loss.
Saturday looked like a classic pitcher’s duel; Daisuke Matsuzaka for the Red Sox and CC Sabathia for the Yankees.
The “Dice-Man” hasn’t really had much success against the Yankees (going into Saturday he was 3-2 with a 6.35 ERA lifetime vs. New York) but he still put up a good game. Well, I don’t know if I should say “good;” the Yankees left a lot of men on base and just didn’t capitalize. They could have had some big innings, but just didn’t score.
And Sabathia was Sabathia, of course. He fanned eight BoSox over the seven innings he pitched and didn’t give up any runs. In fact, he was tossing a no-hitter up until Mike Lowell broke it up in the fifth with a line drive to centerfield.
Sabathia no-hit the Red Sox through 5 2/3 on Aug. 8 until Jacoby Ellsbury broke it up. I find that so fascinating; Sabathia carried a no-hitter into the middle-to-late innings twice against the Red Sox this year. I don’t know of any other pitcher in recent history who’s done that.
The Red Sox looked lost; I mean, they only had three runners in scoring position all day and they went 0-for-3. Boston also only had two hits all day. That’s containment, if you ask me.
Robinson Cano broke the scoreless tie in the sixth with his 24th homer of the year. It’s funny; I never really thought Cano would generate that type of power. He has made me look at him totally different. When he comes up to bat, I’m thinking, “We may have a shot at a homer here.” What an awesome year he’s had.
Saturday’s final: Yankees 3, Boston 0. Good enough for me.
And Sunday was the finale. Andy Pettitte was the man the Yanks sent to the hill to claim their AL East title and he completed their mission. The veteran lefty went six innings and gave up two runs for a quality start en route to the Yanks’ 4-2 win over Boston.
The champagne celebration followed the final out.
Cabrera and Mark Teixeira each homered while Hideki Matsui put the Yankees ahead in the sixth with a two-run single.
Here’s something I should point out: Derek Jeter led off the game with a single. That marked the 51st time this year the captain has led off the game with a base hit. I think the strategy of Jeter as the leadoff hitter has paid off in a big way and it could be something that is showcased in the playoffs.
Overall, it was a great weekend to be a Yankee and a Yankee fan. And that’s probably the biggest understatement of this century.
Chances in the Post-Season
The Yankees have made it to the post-season for the first time since 2007. But recent playoff memories for Yankees fans are…well….not fond ones.
The Bombers have not won a World Series since 2000. They haven’t played in the World Series since 2003. And they haven’t made it past the American League Division Series since 2004.
But here are a few reasons I think the Yankees’ chances are better than ever in 2009.
The one thing the Yankees accomplished in the off-season was the acquisition of starting pitching. I mean, let’s face it–these last few playoff appearances, the Yanks just didn’t have any effective pitching.
Not knocking Mike Mussina–he did some great things in the post-season. I can’t thank him enough for getting out of that bases loaded, one out jam in game seven of the 2003 ALCS (fans might remember it as the “Aaron Boone Game”)
Mussina came into the game in an extremely pressurized situation–really the weight of the game was on his shoulders. He thankfully got Johnny Damon to bounce into a double play to avoid any further trouble.
I just feel bad Mussina never got a ring. He always called himself “Mr. Almost.” Meaning that he almost got a World Series ring, almost won a Cy Young, and almost had a perfect game (Sept. 2, 2001 at the Red Sox. Carl Everett broke it up with two outs in the ninth with a bloop single to left field)
For as good as “Moose” was, he was never an overwhelming power-pitcher; he was more of a smart, mental pitcher. His strength relied primarily on his knuckle-curve ball and his fast ball was not a live as some of the Yankees’ starters today.
Case in point: CC Sabathia, who is 19-7 this season with a 3.21 ERA. Now a lot of people might be quick to judge Sabathia’s playoff numbers, which aren’t pretty–he’s 2-3 with a 7.92 ERA lifetime in the playoffs for the Cleveland Indians and the Milwaukee Brewers (that includes two losses to Boston in the 2007 ALCS)
But I’m really willing to look past that right now.
Last year Sabathia was pitching a lot on short rest, something that will probably not be done this year. He has been dominant vs. Boston this year, so I’m not concerned with who he faces. It’s not only Boston; save for just getting himself acclimated to New York and struggling a little bit in the beginning of the season, he’s been dominant against every team he has faced.
I have a feeling the ace will be performing and dealing, just like he’s been all year. Sabathia has given the Yankees quality and quantity all season, so I’m not really expecting that to change just because it’s playoff time.
I would also take a guy like A.J. Burnett over a pitcher like Randy Johnson.
Now granted Burnett has not had the easiest season, posting a record of 12-9 with a 4.19 ERA, he has still been a force in the rotation. I would rather have a pitcher like Burnett who is in his prime than the older Johnson who was past his prime when he pitched for the Yankees.
When Burnett is on, he can be one of the best pitchers there is. A lot of people have compared him to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, meaning he is either really good or really bad when he pitches. I cannot say it enough; we need the “Mr. A.J. Burnett-Hyde” to show up in the playoffs.
He’s had some rough starts versus Boston, but also matched Josh Beckett pitch-for-pitch on Aug. 7. Not to mention, he went undefeated in July, going 4-0 with the Yanks winning all five games he started. And his last start–when he beat the Angels—gave me some peace of mind.
There’s also been talk as to which game Burnett will start: game two or three of the ALDS. If he starts game two, he’d be pitching at home where his ERA is 3.65 (lower than the 4.73 ERA he has posted on the road)
Ideally it would make sense to start a lefty, a righty, and then a lefty again, which would mean Burnett starts game two. Manager Joe Girardi has not yet revealed what his post-season rotation will be.
Johnson posted a record of 0-1 with a 7.04 ERA in two playoff starts with the Yankees. I think Burnett can do a little better than that.
And lastly there’s Andy Pettitte, who has been a rock for the Yankees in October. In the LDS, he own a career record of 5-3 with a 3.92 ERA (which includes his 2005 appearance with the Houston Astros)
I remember he was really the only starter who kept the Yankees in the 2007 ALDS vs. the Indians. He started game two in Cleveland and was just incredible. He tossed 6 1/3 innings, giving up no runs on seven hits. He walked two and struck out five.
I expect the usual out of Pettitte, who claimed his 14th victory of the year in the Yankees’ AL East-clinching win on Sunday.
The pitching is just there, which it hasn’t been these past few years.
The Yankee bullpen has been so valuable to the team’s success. In the AL East-post game celebration, many people mentioned the bullpen in terms of the Yankees’ ability to win games.
Consider Alfredo Aceves, a middle reliever with 10 wins. In games where the Yankees looked like they were out of it, Aceves would come in and just get hitters out.
No, his fastball isn’t terribly overwhelming, but he’s demonstrated the ability to fool a lot of hitters with his breaking ball and he has found ways to make big outs.
On July 5 vs. Toronto, Aceves came on in relief of Joba Chamberlain, and tossed four innings of one-hit ball. He struck out five batters and didn’t allow a walk. That was when I thought to myself, “This guy might take us a long way.”
He certainly has.
Then there’s Phil Hughes, who is just virtually un-hittable.
He has cemented his spot as the Yankees’ eighth inning setup man and like I said in Edition 10, he has carved a niche for himself in the ‘pen. He started seven games this year with things not going so well for him, but he was sent to the bullpen and everything went right.
Everything from Hughes’s velocity to his win-loss record improved when he made the transition from the rotation to the bullpen.
In a close game, I fear for the opposing teams. Take Saturday, for instance. The Yankees were up by one run in the top of the eighth. Hughes came in and just shut down the Red Sox, allowing no runs and fanning two for his 18th hold of the year.
Hughes has also only allowed 65 hits in the 84 1/3 innings he has pitched this season. Obviously that is way less than a hit per inning, so the Yankees can feel at ease knowing they have Hughes out there. He keeps the opposition off base.
Oh yeah, and the Yankees have Mariano Rivera.
In the ALDS alone, Rivera is 2-0 with 15 saves and 35 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings pitched. If that doesn’t say lights out, I’m not really sure what does.
This year, Rivera has 44 saves (at press time) and he’s only blown two.
The confidence in the bullpen is existent and if the Yankees are in a close-game situation, they will be in good shape with their bullpen in the state it is in now.
3) Addition by Subtraction
The Yankees got rid of some players and added other players prior to this year and to this point, it’s looking like they made the right moves.
I think what some people sometimes overlook is Jason Giambi’s two home runs in game seven of the 2003 ALCS (once again, “the Aaron Boone Game”) but other than that, he wasn’t a force in the playoffs the way Tino Martinez was.
Martinez had a rough time in the 1996 playoffs, but he basically exorcised his demons in 1998, putting up great numbers and even hitting a grand slam home run in game one of the World Series. Giambi never did that.
He was good in 2003 but was rendered basically useless when the Red Sox came back from 3-0 to beat the Yankees in 2004. I think the subtraction of Giambi was good move.
And along with the subtraction of Giambi came the addition to Mark Teixeira, who has fit in so well in 2009. Not only is he a gold glove caliber first baseman (something Giambi never was) but Teixeira is posting mind-boggling numbers and is an MVP candidate.
He is doing so many things to help the Yankees win this year and his performance could be one of the deciding factors in the playoffs.
It took a little while for Teixeira to settle in, but when Alex Rodriguez came back, he was all systems go. Since Rodriguez’s return on May 8, Teixeira is batting .311 with 32 home runs and owns a .596 slugging percentage.
They protect each other in the lineup, another positive factor that works in the Yankees’ favor and something they never really had these past few years.
The Yankees also possess speed in a guy like Brett Gardner, something they never really had in playoffs past. In a close game situation when the Yankees need a stolen base, they basically have the Flash on the bench, ready to run for them.
They have never had speed like Gardner on the bench (not to mention Gardner is pretty good on defense and not a shabby hitter, either) and once again, it’s something that could decide a playoff game.
If you add players like Teixeira and Gardner (while subtracting them from Giambi and even other useless players, like Carl Pavano and Bubba Crosby…and Gary Sheffield…and…well, this list could go on and on) to the other hitters who have just had great seasons, like Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Hideki Matsui, and Nick Swisher, the Yankee lineup in going to be awfully tough to pitch to in the playoffs.
The Yanks made themselves so much better by adding the right pieces to the puzzle while dumping the liabilities.
Well, on behalf of the fans, I’d like to say Congratulations to the 2009 New York Yankees. The AL East Title is yours, but we have more work to do.
I will be back next week with the final regular season edition of Yankee Yapping. I’ll hand out my end-of-season awards and offer more post-season analysis.
Until then, Go Yankees!!!
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!!!
The first thing I’d like to do is thank everyone who became fans of “Yankee Yapping” on Facebook. It’s great to have a following on the ‘net, and I hope everyone enjoys the blog every week and the other postings each day.
Anyway, away we go!
My thoughts on…
Road Trip and Why the Yankees Didn’t Get Washburn
It’s been an up-and-down road trip for the Bronx Bombers to this point, as they’ve gone 3-4 over their last seven games.
Taking two of three from Tampa Bay was a great thing and a good way to start the trip, but it all came tumbling down for some reason when the Yanks got to Chicago.
Game one of the four game series wasn’t terrible; we just caught a bad break in the bottom of the ninth and we lost, 3-2. But respect to Nick Swisher for keeping us alive in the top half of the ninth with that solo home run.
The White Sox turned it on and just beat us down in the next two games, and the Yanks really didn’t help themselves. They played some sloppy defense and didn’t get great pitching on Friday night. Sergio Mitre, simply put, was awful. It was disgraceful to watch as a Yankee fan.
Friday was also the non-waivers trade deadline and I was hoping for the Yankees to make a pitching move. One name that kept popping up was Jarrod Washburn, but it just didn’t happen for the Bombers.
The unfortunate truth is that the Yanks called Seattle about Washburn who has put up some decent numbers this year (Washburn was 8-6 with a 2.64 ERA at the deadline) But the Mariners wanted either Jesus Montero or Austin Jackson in the deal. Unwilling to part with either one of those top prospects, the Yanks tried to negotiate for lesser players and called Seattle to inquire.
But Seattle never got back to the Yanks, giving them the opportunity to trade Washburn away to the Tigers. And it proved to hurt the Yanks, seeing as how poorly Mitre pitched in Friday night’s 10-5 loss (three innings, five earned runs on seven hits, two walks, and one strikeout)
So instead of a pitcher, the Yanks added utility man Jerry Hairston, Jr. Coming over from the Cincinnati Reds and only playing in two games for the Yanks thus far, Hairston already has three hits, two RBIs, and a run scored.
Hairston has also played some solid defense in the last two games, earning himself a “Web Gem” on Sunday night’s edition of “Baseball Tonight” on ESPN. He made a great, diving stop at third base to prevent a hit in the first inning of Sunday’s game.
Good pickup for the Yankees in Hairston, but we could have used a starter.
For as bad as everyone said A.J. Burnett looked on Saturday afternoon, I personally didn’t think he was that horrible. He walked a batter with the bases loaded in the second inning, an inning that the White Sox scored six runs.
But if you took a close look at the pitch that was called ball four, it was not a ball. That pitch was right over the plate and knee level, but the umpire refused to ring it up. Burnett only walked two batters and he struck out four over the 4.2 innings he pitched, but he was getting no help from the umpires and overall wasn’t terrible. The Yanks lost big, 14-4.
Finally the Yanks pulled out a win in Sunday’s game, winning 8-5 and hopefully gaining the momentum back for tomorrow’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays.
In yesterday’s 8-5 win, it was a banner day for Melky Cabrera. He started the Yanks off on the right note with a home run in the top of the second.
He then went on to double in the fourth, single in the fifth, and triple in the ninth, completing the first Yankee cycle since Sep. 3, 1995 when Tony Fernandez accomplished the feat against the Oakland Athletics.
He also became only the 15th Yankee to ever do it, joining the likes of Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, and Bobby Murcer among others.
Another interesting stat that came up was that like Cabrera, Mantle and DiMaggio also hit their cycles against the White Sox.
Looking at the emotion on his face after he slid head-first into third base, you could just tell how happy Cabrera was. I think it really meant a lot for him to hit for the cycle, and after the game he was so thankful for Joe Girardi giving him the chance to play everyday.
Remember that Cabrera and Brett Gardner battled for the starting centerfielder job in Spring Training, a battle that Gardner won. But so far it looks like Cabrera is winning the war.
Cabrera has set a career-high in home runs this season with 10 to this point (the most he ever hit in a season was eight coming into this year) and he has been clutch in every facet of his game. He’s made some great catches on defense and has a handful of walk-off hits under his belt.
He was named Pepsi’s Clutch Performer of the Month in May, and he certainly earned it. As of June 9, Cabrera had 23 RBIs on the year, and of those 23 runs batted in, 11 of them either tied the game or gave the Yanks the lead in the seventh inning or later.
At press time Cabrera is sporting a .292 batting average with the noted 10 homers and 40 RBIs. Fans can expect more big things from the clutch Cabrera down the stretch, as this is proving to be his best season yet.
I think the Yanks made the right move not trading him for Mike Cameron in the off-season.
David Ortiz and his use of PEDs
I’m really not surprised David Ortiz’s name was on the list of 104 players that tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
As a Yankee loyalist, I am by no means a supporter of the Boston Red Sox, but I have to say I was disappointed in Ortiz for it. I really have nothing against him personally; I feel he has been the face of their organization for a few years now, and he has such a way about him.
Ortiz seems to keep the Boston clubhouse loose with his attitude and presence, and he’s been doing that ever since he arrived in Boston.
But I cannot tell you how many conversations I had with my best friend about how Big Papi all of a sudden gained legendary power.
We used to say all the time, “he didn’t hit anything when he was a Minnesota Twin. Then he goes to Boston and he’s Mr. Power?” It didn’t make sense then, but it does now.
While a member of the Twins, Ortiz hit a total of 58 home runs over six years. In his first year with the Red Sox in 2003 (which was also the year he tested positive for PEDs) he hit 31 home runs and averaged .288 with 101 RBIs. Before ’03 Ortiz had never knocked in more than 75 runs in a single season.
I would be extremely upset if I were a Boston Red Sox supporter. That would be like finding out Derek Jeter took steroids. It would crush me.
Hopefully the players wise up and realize that if you take steroids, you will get burned. Your reputation gets tarnished and everything you do is looked at differently. Now other players (most notably Torii Hunter of the Los Angeles Angels) are saying Boston’s 2004 and 2007 World Series Championships are tainted.
I would say in a way they are, more so ’04 than ’07. Ortiz was a major reason (if not the reason) the BoSox even made it to the World Series in ’04. He was named the MVP of the ALCS that year—the series Boston rallied back from 3-0 to beat the Yankees.
Speaking of MVP Awards, Manny Ramirez was named the ’04 World Series MVP. He was also caught for using PEDs, so yeah; I would say Boston’s ’04 World Title is looking pretty phony and artificial.
But good performances and timely hitting from clean players like Dustin Pedroia and Mike Lowell were bigger reasons they won it in ’07. Unless players from the ’07 team test positive for banned substances in the future, I would say they won it fair and square that year.
Upcoming Series vs. Boston
On Thursday, the Yanks start up a four-game series against the arch-rival Red Sox. This is the series that can either make or break either team, and determine which club will have the upper hand in the AL Eastern Division and which one will have to stay afloat in the Wild Card.
At press time the Yankees currently sit in first place with their record of 63-42. Boston is 62-42, ½ game out of first place and even with New York in the loss column.
Girardi is doing the right thing with today’s off-day. He is re-configuring the rotation so that the better of the Yankee pitchers match-up with the Red Sox.
Andy Pettitte and Mitre are starting the two games against Toronto, while the brunt of the staff will go head-to-head against Boston.
Joba Chamberlain, Burnett, CC Sabathia, and Pettitte will be the four pitchers the Red Sox will see (on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, respectively). Right now the Yankees are looking at John Smoltz and Josh Beckett in games one and two of the series, and it is not yet known which two Red Sox pitchers will go on Saturday and Sunday.
The Yankees have not beaten the Red Sox at all this year, going 0-8 against their worst enemies. But the Yanks have an advantage playing at home where they are 35-17 this year.
Whatever happens, the Yankees need to at least split this series, and if not take three out of four or sweep them. If the Yankees and Red Sox finish with the same record and Boston wins the season series against the Yankees, Boston gets the division crown.
So with roughly two months to go, this series may prove to be huge in which team gets the division.
“It’s the master plan…God’s way…Yankees/Red Sox.”–Johnny Damon
That does it for this week’s edition of Yankee Yapping. I’ll be back next week with more topics and analysis.
Until then, Go Yankees!