Monday, July 31, 2006

Week in Review and Abreu, Too

Record on the Week: 5-1 (34 RA, 37 RS)

Overall: (61-41, 1/2 game behind the Red Sox)

Player of the Week: Anytime someone hits .481/.481/.815, they're Player of the Week. That was the Captain this week, also leading the team with 7 RBI and 6 runs scored. The Yanks had lots of good performances on the week, including Johny Damon (only 4 games played, but .412/.444/.824) Aaron Guiel, (.308/.57/.46) and Bernie Williams (308/.471/.538). The latter two guys are going to lose latying time, as you'll read below.

On the pitching side, Chien Ming Wang shutout merits an honorable mention, as does Mariano Rivera (4 scoreless IP, 3 saves).

Dregs of the Week: Mike Myers got his first dregs week in, allowing three runs without having recorded a single out, and TJ Beam bettered his performance, but not by much (4 runs in 2 IP). Randy Johnson's horrible, horrible start against the Devil Rays on Saturday (9 runs allowed in 3.3 IP) more than washes out the quality start earlier in the week. However, the week's true Dregs performance came from Shawn Chacon, proving himself utterly useless in a garbagetime relief appearance against the Rays that punched his ticket out of the Bronx.

Other folks setting standards for underachievement last week? Let's start with the two components of the now-defunct C/P ratio, Miguel Cairo (.190/.190/.238, 21 AB) and Andy Phillips (.222/.333/.222, 18 AB). Among the regulars, Jason Giambi batted .095 for the week, but at least mitigated it with his secondary skills (6 walks, both of his hits for the week were homers).

Story of the Week: Alex Rodriguez...Just kidding. The Yanks have shaken up the roster, at remarkably low expense in terms of talent surrendered.

Taking the last trade first, after hearing all about how difficult it was for the Yankees to deal with the Pirates, the Bucs wind up sending OF/1B Craig Wilson to the Bronx, in exchange for...Chacon!?! That's a long way down from Phil Hughes, for a player the Yankees coveted even before Hideki Matsui broke his arm. Wilson's a bad defender in the outfield and first base, but he can mash a little from the right side (.988 OPS against lefties over the last three years), and what some people call "having no defensive position" we call versatility. I'd love it if Wilson brought the tools of ignorance with him to the Bronx, to steal some backup AB's from new backstop Sal Fasano. Wilson played catcher as recently as two years ago, well enough to get 20 starts in the show behind the plate.

In exchange for Wilson, you had Shawn Chacon, who turned out to have just been lucky last season. We'd hoped it wouldn't be so, but it was. If the Pirates hadn't taken him, the Yankees might have looked at a DFA for Sloppy Shawn.

In other, bigger, news from the State of Pennsylvania, the Yankees traded with the Phillies on Sunday, bringing former all-star Bobby Abreu, and current league-average innings muncher Cory Lidle to the team. In exchange for the two, Brian Cashman gave up a very modest quartet of minor leaguers. The names most fans will recognize are CJ Henry--the Yanks' controversial first-round pick last year--and Matt Smith, who had 12 scoreless innings pitched with the big club this season. Henry's a five-tool talent, but his tools haven't translated to baseball skills yet, and he was struggling in Low A ball. Given the rawness of his talent, and the fact that Henry's a shortstop by trade, and the Yankees already have Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, CJ was a project of the long-term variety. Smith may have been impressive now that he's converted to relief, but it wasn't so impressive that the Yanks kept him on the roster, regardless of how many scoreless innings he had. Smith earned his B+ just by making a good enough showing to be worth something in trade. The other two prospects, catcher Jesus Sanchez and RHP Carlos Monasterios, were in rookie ball. Both are promising, but they were four or five years away from helping the Yankees, at best. Sent to the Phillies, they help the Bombers now.

In return, the Yankees get Lidle. It's easy not to get excited about Lidle, because he looks mediocre. He is mediocre. His career ERA+ coming into this season was 99, which makes him almost perfectly average. I've often wondered what's the appeal that so many teams find in this guy. But when judging this trade, you can't compare Lidle to a good pitcher, you have to compare him to what the Yanks were getting from Sidney Ponson and Chacon. Which is to say, not a friggin' lot. Even if Lidle sucks, he'll go one up on those guys if he's able to give the Yankees innings, and help save the bullpen.

The fact is, Lidle's a throw in. The main attraction is Abreu, the former All-Star. For those of you not familiar with him, Bobby's main quality is that he's an on-base machine. Secondarily, he's fast, with 20 SB this year, and no less than that number for each of the past seven years. He's also been a 20+ homer guy each year during that span. Overall, Abreu has long been considered one of the most underrated players in the game.

The caveats about Abreu have always been matters of...not attitude, exactly. The thought has been that he's a guy that needs to be pushed a bit; that without someone prodding him on, he'll let his conditioning slip, or get sloppy on defense. Yanks thirdbase coach Larry Bowa, who managed Abreu through his peak years in Philly, seems convinced that a reunion--and a pennant race--is just what Bobby needs to get himself on track.

Abreu's acquisition means that the Yanks are not counting on comebacks by Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui, and may indicate well-concealed setbacks for either or both players in their rehabs. It definitely means that Sheffield won't be back after this season, since Abreu plays right field and is signed through next year. Ideally, Abreu also takes Sheffield's spot in the lineup, getting on base at a 40%+ clip for the big dogs like Giambi and A-Rod. Another option is Abreu in the #5 hole, protecting Rodriguez and setting up Posada and Wilson in the bottom half of the lineup. After all his hard work, Robinson Cano could find himself back in the #9 spot when he returns from his rehab.

Aaron Guiel has been the sacrificial lamb so far--he was sent down to Columbus soon after the Wilson acquisition was announced. Bubba Crosby, despite being the Joe-Certified(tm) backup centerfielder for the occassionally banged-up Damon, should probably have been sent down, instead (yeah, I know he probably doesn't have any options left--but does anyone think that Bubba wouldn't make it through the waiver wire?). Aside from Guiel, the big losers on these moves are Bernie Williams and Andy Phillips, who each gorged on playing time over the last month, with divergent results (more on this in tomorrow's Month in Review). Now, they're being squeezed from both ends--Wilson a firstbaseman, primarily, and Abreu's a rightfielder. Both are expected to remain with the team, for the time being--they like Phillips' glove at first, and Bernie's...well, his position is ensured by nostalgia. Aside from the fond memories of championships past, Bernie's .327/.397/.505 line against lefties suggests that the guitarrista has some utility left in him, in a limited role.

I suspect I'll have more to say on roster construction tomorrow, when the Yanks make room on the roster for Abreu and Lidle.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Happy Birthday! (Belated)

Alex Rodriguez must be traded. Now. To the Pirates for Joe Randa, Roberto Hernandez, Jeromy Burnitz and a case of Michelob, if necessary. If not, to the Red Sox for a PTNBL out of low-A ball. But then again, the Red Sox probably wouldn’t want A-Rod, not even if the Yankees sent along enough cash to top off the contracts of Manny Ramirez, Jason Varitek, and David Ortiz.

Why? ‘Cause the Red Sox value chemistry. They know that having a guy that’s booed in his own ballpark isn’t just going to affect the way he plays—and particularly, the way he throws—but it has to affect his teammates, their morale, their performance. Why, even Barry Bonds isn’t booed at home, which isn’t to say that the Yankees shouldn’t trade Rodriguez for Bonds, given Jason Giam…

[Ed. Note: SLAP!]

Uh, thanks. Sorry about that. I was just momentarily beguiled by the hypnotic arguments of the talking heads on Baseball Tonight, telling us that the Yankees must trade Alex Rodriguez. Must…Trade…Rodriguez…

Wait! No need to slap me again. I'm over this. To be perfectly fair, I floated the idea of trading Alex Rodriguez before it became fashionable. At the time, I hadn't realized two things, first because it hadn't happened yet, and second because I'd simply forgotten it. First, there is no way to get fair value in a trade of Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees would be trading Alex at the low point in his career, when he’s not hitting and when he looks like a guy who’s overmatched at third base, rather than a shortstop in exile. The last guys who attempted to trade for A-Rod’s contract needed to unload the second-highest contract in the game as part of the deal, which raises a question as to whether there is any other team who would be ready to take on the financial commitment that Rodriguez represents.

Second, and more important, Rodriguez has a no-trade clause in his contract. So not only do the Yankees have to find a trade partner willing to take on Rodriguez’s salary, they also have to make sure the deal would be one the thirdbaseman will not protest. As a quick review, there are three prime reasons why a ballplayer with a no-trade clause accepts a trade (in no particular order): a move for more money, a move to a contender, or a move to get the heck out of a bad work environment. Now, Rodriguez isn’t going to find any team who is willing to sweeten his existing deal—to the contrary, it’s likely a trade partner would ask Alex to defer some of his contract. Any team with as good or better shot at the postseason than the Yankees would likely be unwilling to part with the quantity of talent the Yanks would seek in return for Rodriguez.

Which leaves us with the thesis that has been espoused by Steve Phillips on Baseball Tonight—that Rodriguez should want to get out of town because he will never win New York fans over. This doesn’t work for Rodriguez, either. Alex Rodriguez is an elite athlete, perhaps the best all-around player of his time. There is every indication that he wants to be discussed in that inner circle of the best ballplayers, ever.

If he begs out of New York after a half-season of boos, he can forget about that inner circle. When you think of the cream of the crop in Cooperstown, did any of those guys, in their prime, ever get drummed out of town for failing to perform? Do you see Ty Cobb or Babe Ruth or Ted Williams meekly accepting such a trade? Rodriguez is stuck in New York—even if he wanted out of town, he can’t leave under these circumstances. It would be like tattooing “I crap my pants when I’m under pressure” on his forehead. The stink of it would follow him to any major league clubhouse in the land.

Of course, there’s a certain irony to Steve Phillips noting that Rodriguez can’t catch a break from New York fans. It’s a little like Osama Bin Laden complaining about increased airport security. Is Phillips too humble to recognize his role in Rodriguez’s plight?

Flash back to November, 2000. The Yankees had just beaten the New York Mets in the World Series. Throughout the baseball season, and even as the Mets won the Wild Card, and advanced to the World Series, some Mets fans already had their eyes fixed on the off-season, when Alex Rodriguez, best player in baseball and childhood Mets fan, would be a free agent.

Fans and media alike wanted Rodriguez to come to Shea. Rodriguez himself seemed to want to play in New York, across town from his buddy, Derek Jeter. The one person who seemed not to favor Rodriguez coming to the Mets was the Mets’ GM—Steve Phillips. As early as July, 2000, it was rumored that Phillips favored signing Mike Bordick, rather than blowing his budget in a Scott Boras-led bidding war.

So in mid-November 2000, Phillips held a conference call with the New York media, announcing that after a single face-to-face meeting with Boras, the Mets were dropping out of the hunt for Rodriguez. Phillips aired a little dirty laundry about Boras’s proposed package for Rodriguez, which included a number of perquisites Phillips derided, characterizing Rodriguez as a “managed” athlete. At the time, Phillips was quoted as saying, “I have serious reservations that a structure where you have a 24-plus-one-man roster can really work. In fact, I don’t think it can work.”

A cynical person could think that Phillips never wanted Rodriguez, never intended to bid for his services, and that the GM only met with Rodriguez’s agent to get ammunition so as to make Rodriguez less desirable to Mets’ fans and the New York media. Regardless of Phillips’ motives, the effect of his preemptive strike was that—for the first time, really—people looked at Rodriguez as something other than a nice guy and a great ballplayer. Now he was a pampered snob, a hothouse flower who couldn’t survive being just one of the guys on a major league roster. When Rodriguez signed with Texas, the “24-plus-one” meme followed him, along with a nasty undercurrent of hatred for the man and his “greedy” contract.

Five and a half years later, the highest-paid player in baseball is booed at home—in the same city where Phillips threw down the gauntlet against him—whenever he makes an out with a man on. Maybe it would’ve happened without Steve Phillips’s help, but we’ll never know that, will we? What we do know is that trading A-Rod is one of those things that is easy to demand, hard to justify, and even harder to execute.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Notes from a Saturday Afternoon

First things first: I was at dinner last night, when my brother gave me The Call. The "You might want to be watching the game" call. There was no TV at the restaurant, and by the time we wrapped up, and I was trying to find a bar to catch the game at, the second phone call came, saying that Ty Wiggington knocked the Devil Rays' first hit, in the fifth inning.

But the call was indicative of the kind of stuff that Chien Ming Wang had last night. Wang went the course with a two-hit complete game shutout, his 12th win, bringing his ERA down to 3.77.

Coming into spring training, 2005, Wang was considered a marginal prospect. He only got a chance last year because the Yanks' new acquisitions for the rotation came up lame. Still, the thought was that Wang was closer to being a league-average innings-eater than anything special. Now, he's the Yankees #2 pitcher, easily.


On another side of things, no one can make up their mind whether or not Yuliesky Gourriel has defected from the Cuban National team. A news report out of Colombia (via the Dominican Republic) claims that Gourriel's not only defected, but on his way to the Bronx. For those of you who don't read Spanish, here's a translation:
Cartegena, Colombia -- The Cuban ballplayers Yuliesky Gurriel (sic) and Eduardo Paret have defected in the Colombian port city of Cartegena, Colombia, host of the 20th Central American and Caribbean Games, according to local press reports.

"One of the members of the Cuban team who defected was the star second baseman Yuliesky Gurriel, considered one of the best in the world at his position. It would seem that his next destination would be the New York Yankees" reports the Times of Bogota.

According to the newspaper, "the other Cuban defector is shortstop Eduardo Paret."

On Tuesday, Cuban athletes Damaris Nay, Julio Acosta and Carlos Castillo defected in the Dominican Republic, which is the sub-venue for the Team Handball competition in the 20th Central American and Caribbean Games.
Meanwhile, another report has him safely in Cuba as of Thursday:

Sancti Spiritus, Cuba, July 28 (Prensa Latina) Cuban second baseman Yulieski Gourriel said on Friday that he was satisfied with regaining the baseball title at the 20th Central American and Caribbean Games in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.

The young player was warmly welcomed upon arrival in this central Cuban province on Thursday and "received phone calls from all over Cuba, from his friends and relatives", according to her (sic) mother, Olga Castillo.

If Gourriel has defected, he's definitely a player the Yankees will be interested in. He's only 20 years old, and he has a plus power bat that can play at second or third base. He'd probably have been the first position player taken, if he'd been in this year's amateur draft, and some say he would have been the top pick overall.

Now that the rumored Wilson Betemit for Scott Proctor deal is off (Betemit went to the Dodgers), the Yankees are still looking for infield depth; however, it's doubtful that Gourriel's the kind of prospect to skip the minors altogether even if the Yankees were able to sign him at top speed. Before a Cuban defector becomes a free agent, they have to establish citizenship in another country--usually Costa Rica or the Dominican Republic--so this could take a while to play out, if true. Still, we'll follow this story.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Week In Review: The Shakes

Record for the Week: 3-4 (38 RA 28 RS)
Overall: 56-40 (2nd Place, 2.5 back)

Player of the Week: His catching of Sidney Ponson on Sunday put the "brew" in brutal, but Jorge Posada's bat (.391/.391/.696) made him the Yankee of the Week. Distant runner up is the Captain, maintaining his high batting average and OBP, but with absolutely no power. Has Jeter become the East Coast Ichiro?

On the pitching side, Randy Johnson had the best start of the week with three runs (two earned) seven hits, one walk, and 11 K's this week. He took a loss. Wang had one start that was as impressive (against Seattle) and another nowhere close (6 IP, 10 H, 4 ER) against the Jays. Two wins. But the real stars were in the bullpen. Ron Villone and Kyle Farnsworth pitched well last week, seven total scoreless innings, but the big welcome back goes out to Scott Proctor, finally having a good week after stinkin' up the joint for so long. In 4.7 innings, he had 9 strikeouts and only 2 hits allowed. Nice.

Dregs of the Week: The five errors made the news last week, but he also "hit" .154/.185/.346. Ladies and gentlemen, Alex Rodriguez! Lots of folks joining him on the dregs side, in this suckass offensive week: Andy Phillips (.148/.148/.333 in 27 AB), Miguel Cairo (.167/.200/.167). Melky and Bernie had sorry weeks, too.

The pitching staff dregs are just as concerning. What do Sidney Ponson, Kris Wilson, and Jaret Wright have in common? They're all guys who've been on the waiver wire in the past three years, and each helped the Yanks lose last week. All told, they pitched 15.3 innings, and allowed 20 runs.

Right now, Yankee Stadium's a multimillion dollar mansion, with furniture by IKEA. Make that K-Mart.

Story of the Week: I worry. In the comments, below, Zach from the Yankee Mania blog said he didn't think that Alex Rodriguez was developing a Chuck Knoblauch-type throwing problem, noting that everyone--even the Captain--has bad weeks. That's true, and I always preach patience with the boys.

But there was something about the way that Alex was throwing, that looked familiar. It was a delay, that looked familiar to anyone who remember's Knoblauch's throwing yips, or Mackey Sasser's adventures throwing back to the mound. It's that moment's hesitation as something which is for a player of Alex's caliber is natural and routine (almost instinctual) becomes something you have to think about. Shockingly, the same affliction has struck Alex's bat, to the point where he was swinging blindly on Saturday, with the bases loaded and the Yanks up a run.

Yeah, the team still won the game, but during that game you could see a giant hole in A-Rod's swing--basically, the inside part of the plate, from the navel to the crotch. Blue Jays pitchers kept going back there, and kept getting rewarded as Rodriguez blindly swung over their pitches.

It was ugly, it was worrisome, and hopefully, it was normal stuff that he'll get over. More on this in the next installment.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Technical Difficulties (Please Stand By)

Writing this from my phone, on the LIRR as we crawl thru Queens circa Kew Gardens...

Output's been light this week, both here and at Prospectus, because my broadband connection is toast, and has been dying for almost 2 weeks. It could be worse, I could have no electricity, like approximately 100,000 New Yorkers just this week. Time Warner Cable is sending a repair person on Monday, we'll see what happens.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Week(end) In Review, Plus

In honor of the shortest week of the season, the shortest week in review.

Record for the Week: 3-0 (26 RS, 12 RA)
Overall: 52-36 (2nd place, 0.5 games behind Boston)

Player of the Week: The runners-up are Jeter (.333/.385/.833) and Alex Rodriguez (.417/.462/.667), and Andy Phillips (.333/.400/.889) had a nice weekend as well. But this week, we're giving the hardware to Randy Johnson, who set the tone with his seven inning, three run, six-strikeout outing to start the second half, and bested the unbeaten Jose Contreras. Mike Mussina also turned out a quality start against the defending champs.

Dregs of the Week: Do we even need to have dregs this week? Jorge Posada batted .273/.385/.273 last week, which is hardly a sin. Kyle Farnsworth gave up a run on Sunday night, which made things a little more exciting than usual. It's decided, no dregs this week, just runners-up.

Story of the Week: The Yanks set a high tone against the defending champion White Sox, while the Red Sox flounder a bit, and get the Yanks close enough to smell blood. While all this was happening, the Yanks were fielding--and getting nice performances--from castoffs like Miguel Cairo, Aaron Guiel, and Nick Green. And they were busy acquiring Cardinal castoff Big Sidney Ponson--don't tell him that big building beyond Yankee Stadium is a courthouse--to replace rotation washout Shawn Chacon.


Last night's story wasn't so much Mariano Rivera's 401st save, or the Yankees' victory, but Alex Rodriguez's fielding miscues, which put groundball machine Chien Ming Wang in some peril. Don't know why Alex has been scattershot with his throws this year--he's been throwing sidearm more often than I remember from before, but that's just anecdotal--but I pray the problem isn't the beginning of a Chuck Knoblauch-style breakdown.

And here I thought that superstar players were supposed to set your mind at ease, not give you ulcers.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Mid-Season Review, the Hitters

Hitter grades, this time in order of performance:

Derek Jeter: A. What's the most negative thing we can say about the Captain this year? His power's down, but if he can keep that .427 OBP for the entire season, who cares?

Jason Giambi: B+. This year, we've finally seen Giambi take the role he was intended to play when he first joined the Yankees--the big bopper in the middle. His fielding still sucks, and his batting average isn't up to snuff, but he's slugging and driving in runs.

Johnny Damon: B+. Aside from his injury problems, Damon's given the Yanks exactly what they expected from him.

Robinson Cano: B+. His value is all in that .325 average, but hey...he's hitting .325. This was a guy no one thought was ready for the majors last year.

Jorge Posada: B. Jorge's performance is often overlooked because it's almost monotonously good.

Bernie Williams: B. Not really a good peformance--that .323 OBP isn't up to snuff. But Bernie's been better than expected, pressed into more service than we'd be comfortable with.

Melky Cabrera: B. The Melk-man's .357 OBP isn't too impressive, but it's good enough to keep him in the depleted Yankee lineup.

Gary Sheffield:B. Sheffield tried playing through his wrist injury, and his power suffered as a result. He wasn't up to par at the time of his his standards. If his and Matsui's rehabs go as fast as they're saying, the outfield could be a crowded house come September.

Alex Rodriguez: B-. He hasn't been bad. The glove has been awful, but that .890 OPS is better than most. It's just a matter that we all know he can do better.

Hideki Matsui: B-. Wasn't having a good season when he got hurt. That .807 OPS isn't what was expected when he signed the big contract this winter.

Andy Phillips: C-. You have to manage a .300 OBP (much higher than that, actually) to play in the big leagues. No excuses, no matter how much we like you.

Miguel Cairo: C-. See above.

Kelly Stinnett: D+. When you're brought in to be Randy Johnson's personal catcher, and Johnson has his worst season, better hit. Stinnett isn't.

Bubba Crosby: D. Not stepping up to those outfield vacancies. Next!

Terrence Long: F. Mercifully, the reign of Emperor T-Long was brief. That's the only good thing we can say about it.

Incompletes: Kevin Thompson, Aaron Guiel, Nick Green, and Kevin Reese.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Mid Season in Review: Pitchers

We're doing this letter grade style, starting with the pitchers:

Shawn Chacon: D-. I warned everyone during the off-season that this might happen; for a short while in April, it looked like Shawn would defy that analysis by changing the way he pitches, becoming more of a strikeout guy at sea level. That didn't last, neither, does it seem, will Chacon.

Scott Erickson: F. Erickson's got an amazing reputation, matched only by Jose Lima, perhaps. It leads to comeback attempt after comeback attempt when the guy isn't pitching well enough to deserve it. Erickson didn't pitch well at Columbus, then came up to the show and lasted about a month before the Yanks caught on that he wasn't pitching well in the major leagues. Compare that to Colter Bean, who got two appearances and a DFA.

Kyle Farnsworth: C-. Has allowed a hit an inning, and 21 walks in fewer than 40 innings. And four wild pitches. Not good. It was easy to take Tom Gordon for granted the last couple of years...

Randy Johnson: C-. He's been much better of late, true. Still, since his big Memorial Day start against the Tigers, Johnson's ERA is 4.21. It's better than the 5.89 ERA he sported coming into the game, but that's still not what you expect from your ace. The Yanks thought they got a dominator, and instead they have a flawed six-inning pitcher.

Mike Mussina: A. Now this is how your ace pitches. Completely unexpected, too, because for the last couple of years Mussina looked stick-a-fork-in-'im done. Also, a total joy to watch pitch.

Mike Myers: A-. Recent slip-ups aside, Myers has been an excellent addition to the Yankee pen. Although righthanded batters have hit him like he's throwing slow-pitch softball over the years, this year, he's held his own when he's had to face them.

Scott Proctor: C-. Had the misfortune of doing well at the same time that Torre mainstay Tanyon Sturtze was failing. Had a 1.69 ERA in April, and hasn't been under 5.00 any month since. May wind up a case study on reliever abuse, a concept sabermetricians have never really explored.

Mariano Rivera: A. The strikeout rate is a little down, but otherwise everything is in its usual state of excellence with the Yankees closer.

Aaron Small: F. Cinderella didn't live happily ever after. It happens. Instead of mourning the sudden end of Small's amazing, unexpected run, we should just realize that it just points out how special Small's 2005 actually was. A shame the Yanks couldn't get him a ring to go with the 10-0 record, because that would have gotten him a Disney movie contract, for sure.

Matt Smith: B+. Has a 0.00 ERA, and has spent the majority of the season with the big club. Don't know who he is? Not a problem. True to form, as the third lefty in the pen and a rookie, Torre's had him buried, giving him the lowest leverage innings of any of the regular relievers. Here's hoping that in the second half Torre realizes "Matt Smith. It's not just for garbage-time any more."

Tanyon Sturtze: D. Gets the benefit of the doubt because of the torn rotator cuff that will keep him out this season.

Ron Villone: B+. Has done a good job (2.54 ERA in 43.7 innings) but gets a small deduction in that it took him so long to get Torre to give him the ball when it counts. If he could keep up this production while slipping into the #2 or 3 reliever spot (the old Mike Stanton role), it'd be great progress.

Chien Ming Wang: A-. Right now, he's the rock that's holding the Yankee rotation together. He's the #4 pitcher in the rotation, because you need someone who can give you innings between Jaret Wright and whoever the #5 guy will be. But Wang's my second choice to start a playoff game right now, behind Mussina and ahead of Johnson.

Jaret Wright: B-. He's been league-average, which is way better than we expected after last year's performance. If he were more than a five-inning pitcher, you'd have a real commodity.

Incompletes--TJ Beam, Colter Bean, Darrell Rasner, and Kris Wilson all fall below my arbitrary 10 IP limit for grading pitchers. I will refrain from comment.

We'll come back for the hitters. In the meanwhile, here are your weekly awards for the last week of the first half:

Record for the Week: 4-3, 50-36 overall, 3 games behind Boston

Player of the Week: Melky Cabrera had a big week, going .333/.419/.519 to finish the first half strong. He's the player of the week. Runners up include Derek Jeter, continuing his torrid batting for average with a .407/.419/.444 week, Bernie Williams (.364/.417/.500), Miguel Cairo (.381/.381/.476), Wright (10 K in 6 scoreless IP) and Villone (3.18 ERA in 5.7 relief IP).

Dregs of the Week: Shawn Chacon probably wore out his welcome with a 1.3 IP 6H 3BB 7ER start. Jorge Posada hit .143/.250/.143, and Andy Phillips had an abysmal .138/.138/.138 week, continuing his pattern of consistent inconsistency. While not really a "dregs" week, we will note Alex Rodriguez's .259/.355/.296 week. Way to follow up last week's dramatic homers, huh?

Saturday, July 08, 2006


You look up and you haven't posted all week. Part of it's the holiday, another part the post-holiday crush that comes from having to do the week's work in three days.

So I had to see last night's game in condensed version, It's amazing to see a whole ballgame reduced to something that's less than 10 minutes long, and even more interesting when the game is a pitching duel, that was short enough to begin with.

Two moments in this game really left me impressed with Jaret Wright (or should that be, Condensed Jaret Wright?). In the first, the Rays got players on second and third with no outs, and it looked like you might have a replay of Wright's ill-fated start against the Mets. Instead, Wright froze the runners with a hard lineout (assist to the Captain) a pop-out, and a strikeout, running through the heart of the Tampa order. Aside from the assist that the Captain gets for keeping the game scoreless, a big assist to Bubba Crosby, who seems to have properly decoyed Julio Lugo on a ball that was clearly over his head--this kept Lugo from scoring from first base, and held the batter, Carl Crawford, to a double.

Later, in the fourth inning, Aubrey Huff hit a lead-off double, and made it to third with only one out. Again, Wright turned it up a notch (with apologies to Mr. Lagasse) striking out Yankee-Killer Johnny Gomes and Russel Branyan.

Offensively, there wasn't much going on on the Yankee side, beyond Bernie Williams' two-out RBI single that scored a lumbering Jason Giambi. But that's all you need when you win, 1-0.


Dioner Navarro might have given some clue why he's on his third team in three years with his strikeout in the bottom of the fifth. Navarro seemed to be either sulky or inattentive when he struck out swinging in the fifth inning, on a ball that got away from Posada. As Posada frantically tried to get the ball back to tag out Navarro, Dioner was head down, walking back to the dugout. Seemed oblivious.

Aaron Guiel on a $200+ million roster? I'll take the caviar, the foie gras appetizers...and the Quarter Pounder with Cheese. I'm sorry, where are my manners, I should call it by its French name, Royale with Cheese.

Short verdict on Superman Returns. Have you ever cooked something from a recipe, gotten to the end and tasted it, and there's something missing? It's not like the meal is ruined, it still tastes OK, but it just doesn't taste like it's supposed to. That's this Superman flick. It's a good film, Brandon Routh's performance is great (in Brother T's words, he seemed not to be acting so much as "channeling Christopher Reeve"), the action scenes all work. Just something's missing, and as a result, the movie was short on exhiliration. Mild recommend, maybe more on this later.

The schedule going forward? Don't know if I'll have time to post tomorrow. On Monday we'll have a Week In Review, and I'm shooting for a First Half in Review by Wednesday.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Week In Review: Getting Off the Subway

Record for the Week: 4-2 (32 Runs Scored, 25 Runs Against)
Overall: 46-33 (2nd, 4 games behind the Red Sox)

Player of the Week: Let's leave aside Alex Rodriguez's .333/.407/.833 week, what with the four homers and twelve RBI. There are, after all, other candidates. If we go just by the rate stats, Jason Giambi had the better week, hitting .333/.481/.905 with four homers. Melky Cabrera got off the slide with a .945 OPS for the week.

Aside from those offensive performances, Chien Ming Wang led the pitching staff with two runs allowed in his eight innings of work. Mussina couldn't have been any better in the four innings he pitched--they were perfect, with four strikeouts.

But I don't think there is much doubt as to who the player of the week was. More on that below.

Dregs of the Week: It was a bad week for veteran outfielders. Bernie Williams "hit" .133/.235/.133 last week, Johnny Damon had a far superior, but still pretty weak .182/.357/.227.

In relief, Kyle Farnsworth and Scott Proctor made sure the "bridge" to Mariano Rivera was a rickety rope bridge with several boards missing midway accross.

Undisputably, however, the week's low came from Miguel Cairo, who was tithed a bunch of playing time as a result of the injury to Robbie Cano. Cairo hit .150/.150/.150--that's three singles in 20 at bats, for those of ou who are mathematically-obsessed. That's pitcher bad. At the end of the week it was revealed that Cairo has been suffering from a strained hamstring which, however, is "not debilitating." Comforting, no?

Story of the Week: I was at a cookout with La Chiquita's family on Sunday night. I couldn't sneak off to the TV room, but I had my phone, and therefore a very imperfect way of checking the score.

So I'm sneaking looks at the phone as the Yankees rally in the third, when Alex Rodriguez comes to the plate with the bases loaded. The count runs to 1-2 on Rodriguez when I reach a point in the party where I can no longer acceptably sneak looks at my phone.

I'm left wondering what happened. I figure if Alex struck out, the boos came back ringing down upon him. A double play would completely erase the goodwill from his walk-off homer earlier in the week, and would indelibly mark him a choker, as sure as if it was tatooed on his head. On the other hand, a grand slam would be a big fat bag of STFU (um, that's Shut The Fools Up, for those under 18...) for the haters, probably good until October.

Call me silly, but the next time I checked my phone, when I saw the Yanks had put up an eight spot in the inning, I knew what happened. Alex even added a three-run shot later on, to add a little insurance. So the haters better hush up, since between this and his game-winner earlier in the week, Rodriguez seems to have his groove back.

'Til October, that is. If the Yanks make it that far, all bets will once again be off.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Notebooks & Such

I've got a Notebook piece up at Baseball Prospectus, on the Yanks and the booing of Alex Rodriguez. Normally I'd give you a taste (that is, a small sample of the article) but I'm away for the weekend, posting this from my cellphone. Clicking the title of this post should give you the full article, which is free (no sub required).

I know the Yanks have split their first two games with the Mets, but I haven't seen a pitch of the action. If any kind souls want to reflect on Subway Series Games 4 & 5, please feel free to use the comments below.