* SCHEDULE & WEATHER – A threat of showers for Saturday afternoon, and a tad chilly on Sunday night. Looks like we might see stiff winds straight out to right field for the finale, similar to the ones that carried Martinez's and Napoli's homers over the RF pens last night. There's also a chance of thunderstorms tonight, but they're not expected to hit the area until after midnight.
As usual, the parasites at FOX and ESPN monopolize the weekend coverage of this rivarly, force feeding us back-to-back heapin' helpin's of McCarver and Morgan – the baseball broadcasting equivalents of broccoli and brussels sprouts.
* TEAM RECORDS – In contrast to the Sox' embarrassing collective bend-over in Baltimore last weekend, the Yankees made the Orioles their bitches in a 3-game sweep. They arrive at Fenway winners of 4 straight and 7 of their last 8. Meanwhile the Sox did the exact same thing to the Angels, a team that took 3 of 4 from the Yankees in Anaheim last week. Yesterday's off-day allowed the Yankees to skip their #5 starter.
NYY - 19-8 (.704), 2nd in AL East (1.0 game behind TB), 2nd best record in AL
BOS - 15-14 (.517), 4th in AL East (6.5 games behind TB), 6th best record in AL (tied w. OAK & TEX)
NYY - Scoring 151-96, Pythag W-L: 19-8
BOS - Scoring 150-150, Pythag W-L: 15-15
It's fair to say the Yankees have yet to be truly tested. The average current W-L record of the teams they've played so far is 13.1-16.0, and only 3 of their 27 games have been against teams with a record better than 15-14. Meanwhile the Sox' average oppositional W-L is 14.6-14.3 with 13 of 29 games against teams better than 15-14.
* PITCHING MATCHUPS – The bummer here is that the Sox miss Javier Vazquez, who's been the David Ortiz of AL starting pitchers this year. The rest of the rotation has been lights out. Pettitte (14.9), Burnett (14.0), Sabathia (12.2) and Hughes (11.3) rank 4th, 5th, 8th and 12th in VORP among AL starting pitchers. They're 15-1 with a 2.14 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and a .216/.288/.300/.588 opponents' batting line. They've combined for a .259 BABIP, and regardless of what extent that's due to good defense (doubtful) or poor quality of contact (likely), I doubt luck has been an overwhelming factor. Not even the friggin' Yankees can be that lucky in 22 starts.
Credit where credit is due: Where the Yankees appear to have flubbed their management of Joba Chamberlain's development, they've hit it out of the park with Hughes. It started in mid-2006, when he became less reliant on his slider and began developing his 1-7 curve, which he threw in the low 80s. His fastball sat in the 91-95 range, but he struggled to control his changeup, which posed a significant hurdle to his advancement the next two years.
Two big things happened in 2008 for Hughes: First, he developed a cutter (the archived page seems to be redirecting mid-read, so I'll spoiler the copied text):
Second, later that fall, as he told Peter Abraham, he shifted gears with his curve and change:
Hughes devoted a lot of time in the Arizona Fall League to working on that particular pitch. “It’s hard to change because you get used to throwing a pitch a certain way,” he said. “In games, you tend to go back to what is comfortable. But they’ve been staying on me to throw the power curve more. I have to trust it and I do.”
Hughes also has changed the grip on his change-up. He throws it like a splitter.
The results were a curve that jumped from 72 to 77 mph, and a change that went from 80 to 83. The approaches made them easier to control and throw for strikes, as well as deceive batters with more uniform motions and release points. But the cutter is what's made the biggest difference, as Moshe Mandel illustrates in this excellent analysis. Even when hitters guess correctly that a fastball is coming, they're having trouble discerning the cutter from the four-seamer. The overhead view of the pitch trajectories tells a lot of the story – their paths don't diverge until the ball's about 25 feet from the plate.
According to Fangraphs, Hughes is throwing his cutter 25 to 30% of the time now and it's by far his most valuable pitch. But it's also drastically raised the effectiveness of his four-seamer. The change and two-seamer are now a much smaller part of his arsenal, but so far his three primary pitches have been sufficient to flummox lineups. Batters' fortunes haven't improved at all the second or third time through the lineup either. Righties are hitting .077/.122/.077/.199 against him, with just 2 walks in 41 PA. His control vs LHH hasn't been as sharp, with 10 walks in 53 PA and a .163/.321/.233/.553 line. Let's hope that if Papi DHs tonight he exercises some modicum of patience.
* YANKEES LINEUP & BENCH – Tex and Johnson remain impotent with the stick, though Nick's drawing his walks. A-Rod still hasn't hit his groove, and Gardner's been a pest with plate patience. The big story has been Cano's emergence as an absolute stud.
* Swisher and Thames have been used wisely to maximize their platoon splits, with 28 of Marcus's 33 PAs coming vs LHP (.458/.536/.708/1.244) and Swisher hitting 67 of his 109 times against RHP (.305/.379/.678/1.057). Even against RHP, Swisher's enjoyed some surprisingly high contact rates, with only 3 Ks.
* What the hell is up with Cap'n Intangibles' low walk total? Just 5 in 123 PA, or 4.1%?? He's on pace for the lowest walk rate and OBP of his career, and the worst since 2004 (6.4%, .352). He's also been far less effective in the game's first at-bat (.269/.269/.346/.615 with no walks in 26 PA). Sure enough, he's swinging at far more junk outside the strike zone (34% this year vs 22.2% last year). Of course, his contact rates are also up. He's only whiffed on 29 of 229 swings with 93 fouls and 107 in play. His BIP is .313, but there's a weird skew. Jeter's a stunning 15-for-15 on line drives (AL average .737), 7-for-17 (.412) with an SF on fly balls (AL = .223), and 17-for-74 (.230) on grounders (AL = .209). However the AL frequencies for GB-LD-FB are 44%-20%-36%. For Jeter they're 69%-14%-17%. That's a shitload more grounders, and well ahead of his career rates (55%-23%-22%). So he's yet to hit any of his liners right at fielders, and he's gotten some directional or fielding breaks on some of his fly balls. Without that sort of luck, we're looking at a completely different hitter if he sustains this plate approach. An allowance should be made for the quality of the pitchers he's faced so far, which have a collective .322 OOBP. That ranks 24th lowest out of 137 AL batters with at least 50 PA.
* The bench has been a mixed bag. Cervelli is hitting like a creature from outer space, substantially outperforming his 2009 line (.298/.309/.372/.682). It's mainly due to a ridiculously unsustainable platoon split: .647/.684/.824/1.508 (11-for-17) vs LHH, and just .111/.200/.111/.311 (2-for-18) vs RHH. Winn and Pena have sucked with the stick, but have been decent in the field.
* Golson was called up Tuesday to take Granderson's slot, and he should serve primarily as a defensive replacement and pinch-runner. He's a former Phillies first-round pick (21st overall in 2004), and it's his third cup of coffee in the majors with 3 different clubs (PHI in '08, TEX last season). Golson's also still looking for his first big league hit (0-for-7 with 5 Ks). He's never displayed the type of plate discipline necessary to make the jump and stay with the big club, with a career minors OBP of .307, a .054 walk rate, and a K/BB of 4.83. This year he's killed LHP down in the minors (.308/.357/.577/.954 in 26 PA), but that's an SSS anomaly. Over his career in the minors he's shown no platoon split whatsoever, with a line of .263/.315/.404/.719 vs LHP and .264/.306/.398/.704 vs RHP.
* YANKEES BULLPEN – Mariano continues to amaze. He's a one-man Ripley's Believe It Or Not exhibit.
* Joba may have found his niche. It's a far lower market-valued niche than the starting role for which he was so carefully primped and groomed, but so far he's successfully filled a critical need for the team. Only 1 of the 11 runners he's inherited has scored, he closed he deal on both save opps with Rivera sidelined, and he's walked just 4 of the 51 batters he's faced
* Aceves is having a nice little run so far, though only 4 of his 9 outings have come with a Leverage Index over 0.67. He's been far from a whiff machine, with just 1 K in 48 batters.
* “Mitre-Marte” sounds like a lame Letterman-hosting-the-Oscars skit. Like Aceves, Mitre is keeping the ball down, pitching to contact and generating grounders primarily in long relief or low-lev mop-up work. Aside from a 3-run HR to Kendry Morales, Marte has done just fine in his situational duties, though only 15 of the 26 batters he's faced have been lefties.
* Logan, acquired from the Braves in the Vazquez deal, took Chan Ho Park's slot a few weeks ago. He's just 25 but on his third go-around with an MLB club, and he's pitched parts of 5 seasons in the bigs.
* Robertson's been the Cinderella of the bullpen, but only the part where he gets shit on by the wicked stepsisters.
* YANKEES INJURIES – Curtis Granderson's on the 15-day DL with a groin strain and is likely out until late May. Then again, maybe he did the Yankees a favor. After putting up a .326/.370/.605/.974 in his first 11 games, he had slumped to .108/.250/.108/.358 in his next 12 before going on the shelf … Pettitte, who turns 38 this June, threw 5 innings of 6-hit, 1-run ball against the O's on Wednesday, but was pulled after just 77 pitches with elbow stiffness. An MRI revealed inflammation of the joint but no ligament damage. He'll miss at least one start (5/11 @ DET) with Mitre taking his spot … Posada, who'll be 39 in August, missed he last two games in Baltimore with a “mild calf strain” but is expected to return to the lineup for the Sox series … The 40-year-old Rivera hasn't pitched since April 30 and wasn't available at all this week due to “left side stiffness”, whatever the hell that's supposed to mean. He told the club he could pitch Wednesday, but Girardi exercised caution and held him out … After stymying the Sox with 3 shutout relief innings on 4/7, Chan Ho Park didn't pitch again until a week later against the Angels. Two nights after that he tweaked his right hamstring and hit the 15-day DL on 4/16. He could begin a rehab assignment next week.
* WHO'S HOT – In his last 8 games dating back to 4/11, only 2 of the last 21 batters to face Rivera have reached base, and 8 have struck out … Gardner has an 8-game hitting streak over which he's 12-for-27 with 4 walks and just 2 Ks (.444/.516/.593/1.109) … Swisher is 9-for-19 with 3 HR in his last 5 games (.474/.524/1.000/1.524) … Johnson's become far more patient the past week and a half, going 5-for-18 with 6 walks in 8 games (.278/.458/.556/1.014)
* WHO'S NOT – Let's start with Vazquez and his 1-3 W-L, 2.043 WHIP, 9.78 ERA, .429 OOBP and 1.092 OOPS. He's given up 8 HRs in 23 IP while his rotation mates combined have yielded just 6 taters in 147.1 IP … Robertson's faced 13 batters in his last three outings, yielding 6 H, 1 BB, 1 HBP and 6 ER and throwing just 30 of 57 pitches for strikes … Through 16 games, A-Rod had a .322/.437/.576/1.013 line. Since then he's 6-for-40 with 7 Ks and a .150/.200/.175/.375 line … Jeter went 2-for-14 in the sweep of the Orioles … Has Cano peaked? On 4/29 he was hitting .407/.444/.790/1.235. In the 6 games since he's 5-for-24 with 5 Ks (.208/.269/.375/.644), though he tagged a Mark Buehrle meatball for a 3-run HR on an 0-2 count … Teixeira went 1-for-11 against the Os this week … Posada's 2-for 12 in his last 4 games with 4 Ks …
* “I HATE THIS PLACE” – Let's just say Fenway hasn't been too kind to these guys. The charts below include tOPS+, which is their career OPS split at Fenway relative to their overall career OPS (courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com). Posada and Cano are the only Yankee hitters who've fared better at Fenway over the years, while Marte is the only hurler to have better success there.
* LOGAN'S RUN – Despite having pitched 169 games in the majors since 2006, with all but 20 for AL clubs, Boone Logan has pitched just once in Fenway, facing just one batter – J.D. Drew – and walking him. It was the 2nd of 5 straight walks issued to Sox hitters in a 7-run 7th inning on 7/22/2007 vs the White Sox.
Edited by mabrowndog, 07 May 2010 - 12:03 PM.