Saturday, May 06, 2006


The Yanks won last night, 8-7, almost managing to blow a big 7-1 lead in the 8th inning when first Aaron Small and then Kyle Farnsworth couldn't hold the Rangers offense down. Finally, Mariano Rivera had to be summoned with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth, Yanks up 8-4.

Rivera, who hasn't really hit his stride this season, yet, allowed two singles to Hank Blaloch and Kevin Mench to bring the score to 8-7, and then hit a batter with a pitch to load the bases, before the Yanks got out of the jam.


Anyway, the title of the piece comes from an odd detail about last night's game. Between the Yanks and the Rangers, in the confines of the Ballpark at Arlington (I know, it has some stupid corporate name now, right?) there were 19 hits in last night's game...and 16 singles. One Texas batter hit a single, and two Yanks doubled.

Overall, it was a nice job by Mike Mussina to hold the Rangers to one run through seven innings (Moose left on a batter in the 8th, who came 'round to score). Alex Rodriguez, dropped to fifth in the lineup just as he returns to his old haunts (but on the road, and prior to the Yanks' big mid-week series against Boston) capped the Yanks' 5-run 4th inning with a 2 run single.

So Shawn Chacon goes today, with Chien Ming Wang pitching tomorrow. That sets things up for Boston with Randy Johnson, Mussina and Chacon going against Beckett, Clement, and Schilling. But it's important not to look past the next two games, despite all the temptations. More on this tomorrow.


Meanwhile, I've been busy over at the Baseball Prospectus website. Yesterday, my take on the Marlins went to press. Here's the taste:

As a May 15 deadline approaches for the Marlins to commit to San Antonio, and the Florida legislature mulls a tasty bit of subsidy swag to keep the team from moving, it would be easy for folks to forget that they’re still playing ballgames and not just politics in southern Florida. Judging by the attendance, many have forgotten.

For those few who have braved a trip to Pro Player/Dolphin/Wayne-Huizenga-Sucks-Away-All-Your-Profits Stadium, the Marlins have certainly put a forgettable product on the field. The team is 2-9 at home, 8-18 overall, a hair below the Washington Nationals for the bottom spot in the NL East, just above the Pittsburgh Pirates for worst record in the league.

What’s gone wrong? It starts with the pitching. Going into last night’s game, the Marlins had the worst pitching in the league, by RA+ (0.87) and VORP (9.0), despite ranking 12th in the league in ERA (4.67). The Marlins also ranked last in strikeout to walk ratio (1.35), a far cry from last season, when Marlins pitchers struck out two men for each one given a free pass.

Last week, I forgot to mention, I covered another one of my semi-regular teams, the Pirates:

Well, this hardly feels like progress, does it? Last year, through 23 games, the Bucs were 8-15. This year, carrying a payroll that is some $8 million higher, the Pirates have started 5-18. They have already had two long losing streaks--six games to start the season, seven games and counting as we go to press.

Perhaps some of this can be chalked up to a punishing schedule. In contrast to most teams in April, the Pirates didn’t have an off-day until April 20, after their 17th game. No other National League team went through the second week without a scheduled off-day. All but two of their opponents have been in the top half of NL teams per the PECOTA-powered preseason Hit List rankings.

Some of it has been bad luck. Sean Casey was posting a solid .296 EqA prior to fracturing two vertebrae in a collision with the Cubs’ John Mabry. Depending upon how you look at things, the Pirates’ 2-6 record in one-run games and .334 BABIP--second worst in the league, after the Phillies--could also be considered symptoms of misfortune.

However, a much larger portion of it has been plain old bad baseball. While Casey was doing well prior to his injuries, new arrivals Jeromy Burnitz and Joe Randa have each contributed to the teams’ .313 OBP (13th in the league) with on-base percentages below .260. The Pirates’ offense has no middle class, with four players sporting EqAs over .290, and eight players under .240; among the position players, only catchers Ryan Doumit (.286) and Ronny Paulino (.276) fall in between.

Part of what is appealing to me about covering the Pirates and Marlins (as well as the Yanks) for Notebook is that it serves as a bit of a reality check. Whenever I feel like getting too wound up about the number of at bats Bernie Williams is getting, or the C/P Ratio, or Jaret Wright starting, or anything like that, I am reminded that many teams wish they had these kind of problems, and many fans as well. Even when the Yanks were at their worst, the talk was only ever of them moving across the river to New Jersey, not moving thousands of miles away to Texas.

It's something to keep in mind.

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