Monday, April 23, 2007

Week in Review: Sweep/Sweep

Week 3: April 16-22

Record for the Week: 3-3, 44 RS, 32 RA
Overall: 8-9, 114 RS, 91 RA

The Breakdown:

4/17 Cleveland 3, Yankees 10
Onetime Yankee farmhand Jake Westbrook gets brutalized in the second inning, including A-Rod's 8th homer. Chase Wright learns that it can be good to debut as a Yankee.

4/18 Cleveland 2, Yankees 9
Jeremy Sowers is made to squeal like a pig while A-Rod collects more kudos. Kei Igawa gets his first win.

4/19 Cleveland 6, Yankees 8
The unkindest cut of all, the Indians come into the ninth inning leading 6-2, get two outs, then blow the game. Alex gets his second come-from-behind walkoff homer of the year, even more unexcusable since first base was open. This could be the death knell of the "let's disrespect Alex Rodriguez movement" by opposing managers if not the home fans.

4/20 Yankees 6, Boston 7
Now it's the Red Sox turn to come from behind, as a 6-2 lead becomes a 7-6 loss. Mariano Rivera is brought in to stop the bleeding in the middle of the eighth inning with men on--often not a good place for the Sandman--and it turns out horribly. Then the Pinstripers fail to take advantage of the Papelbon Rules, by which the Red Sox closer isn't allowed to pitch three days in a row. The most frustrating loss of the season, thus far.

4/21 Yankees 5, Boston 7
The Sox put the smackdown on a fresh-off-the-DL Jeff Karstens. Yanks waste a game in which they tagged up Josh Beckett for five runs.

4/22 Yankees 6, Boston 7
Back. To back. To back. To back. The second time out isn't kind to Chase Wright, even though the Yanks again lay the bats on Daisuke Matsuzaka (6 runs in 7 innings).

Player of the Week: Yeah, there's not a lot of drama about this one. Jason Giambi got off the schnide, with a .435/.500/.783, 2 homer, 8 RBI week. Nice week...for a mortal. Jorge Poada hit .333/.357/.667--he's having a really good month, so far. But they're not Alex Rodriguez.

Alex added another five homers, and another 13 RBI to his tally. His rate stats .370/.393/1.000 are simply phenomenal. He's having a historic start to this season. By the way,
Alex Rodriguez .370/.393/1.000 5 HR, 13 RBI. He's simply so strong right now that when he makes an out in a big spot--like his lineout in Friday's game against Hideki Okajima, it's a surprise. And I'm starting to get tired of reminding people that it's only April.

On the pitching side of the ledger, Kei Igawa and Andy Pettitte did well for the week, Pettitte again pitching on his throw day against Boston on Sunday. I like that Torre's doing something innovative, but it's a little strange that the innovation is happening with a) a guy with Pettitte's history of injury, and b) the Yanks' only reliable healthy starter. Ick.

Dregs of the Week: Chase Wright uses his one-time plenary indulgence, and isn't a guy we're talking about in the Dregs column. Despite the four-in-a-row bombardment on Sunday, Wright did an OK job in his first start, and should get some leeway considering that he came into last week only two starts away from the Florida State League. Jeff Karstens was pretty brutal, too (7 runs in 4.1 IP), and Melky Cabrera's slump is starting to take the dimensions of something more--.208/.240/.208 this week, .203/.233/.203 for the season, given regular playing time. At least he's doing better than the runner-up, Wil Nieves, who was 0 for the season, 0 for 11 last week.

No, the Dregs honors this week have to go to one of the sacred cows of the Pinstriped faith, Mariano Rivera. Sure, it was only one appearance, but it was his only appearance of the week...which, come to think of it, may be part of the problem. A little perspective--Mo has as many appearances this season as Pettitte. Although Rivera's four-seamer has shown good velocity, his bread-and-butter pitch, the cutter, hasn't been sharp so far.

Rivera spent a lot of time this Spring working on a changeup which looked like a great new addition to his arsenal. However, I don't think I've seen the pitch since Rivera was unable to throw it for strikes in the opening series against the Devil Rays. I don't know if working on the change meant Rivera neglected his main pitch, or if the experiment's thrown his mechanics off. It's altogether more likely that he's just rusty.

As usual, two stright blown leads means that some folks are hitting the "Is Rivera done?" macro in Microsoft Word--which automatically sets up a game story template where all you have to do is put in the details of the latest blown save to frame a discussion of whether Mariano has finally turned into a human being just like the rest of us. The answer, as with many things is that it's still very early, and we don't know anything for sure--Rivera could be on the decline, or it may just be a bad week-plus; A-Rod could be en route to the best offensive season since Bonds broke the home run record, or he could be booed consistently in the second half if he "only" winds up hitting 40 homers.

[SIDE NOTE: I've seen in a few places accusations that Mariano Rivera "threw at Julio Lugo's head in frustation." Get real. If Rivera were throwing at Lugo the guy would've been in the hospital, not enjoying his umpteenth crotch-tug of the inning afterward.]

Story of the Week: Smoke 'em while you got 'em, Red Sox fans. I was flooded with work from my day job last week, so I only caught snatches of the action throughout. Whenever I tuned in to the Yanks/Sox series, something bad happened. I tuned in right before the 8th inning meltdown. The next day, convinced I was a jinx, I boycotted--but I couldn't resist the temptation and saw Karsten's too-too straight fastball getting teed up. Sunday, I turned on the TV for just one moment and saw Manny, J.D. Drew, and Mike Lowell go back to back to back. I turned off the TV in disgust before Jason Varitek joined the home run derby and Chase Wright got a bad place in the history books.

It was a good series for the Red Sox, and for all I know, maybe this is a sea change in the AL East. But taking a closer look, this is Boston winning three very close games, with their three best starters, while the Yanks pitched Pettitte (who pitched quite well), a guy who'd been rushed back from the DL (Karstens) and a guy who'd been rushed in from AA. Under those circumstances, and without Hideki Matsui, and punting offense in the first base slot, the Yanks were in every one of those games at Fenway. So pardon me if I don't give up on the season in April.

If the Yanks rotation doesn't get healthy, Alex Rodriguez could hit 75 homers, and the team would still come up short at the end of the season. If Darrell Rasner, Jeff Karstens and Chase Wright break 45 total starts for the season, the streak of first place finishes in the AL East will be over--and the Red Sox will have relatively little to do with it. While the Beantowners did a nice job over the weekend, their team still plays a short lineup, and the bullpen's weak outside of one guy whose pitching shoulder is a ticking time bomb. In a month, maybe I'll get worried; but right now it's important not to get too up when the Yanks sweep, or too down when they get swept.


Anonymous said...

Papelbon's arm is no ticking time bomb. You are really just worried that he will dominate the Yankees for the next 10 years!

Mario who?

Hope he plays this coming weekend for more Red Sox victories!!!!!!

Derek said...

Papelbon's in his early 20s, and the Red Sox were claiming all winter that he wasn't "medically cleared" to pitch relief. They were so desperate to get him out of the pen that they were looking at possibly the worst pitcher in baseball last year, Joel Piniero, to close for them. Then all of the closer contingencies didn't come to pass, and suddenly whatever "medical" reason he had not to close? Magically all cleared up.

That sound you hear? Tick, tick, tick.

I'm not wishing ill on him--even though he's with the Red Sox, he's an excellent pitcher, and baseball needs more of those around. I don't want Papelbon to pitch this weekend, but not because I hope he gets hurt, but because I want for the Red Sox not to have a lead at any point in any of the games :)

As far as Mariano (someone needs to teach Red Sox fans how to spell) pitching this weekend, I'm all for it, since again, if they play Enter Sandman at the Stadium it will likely mean that the Red Sox are trailing, which is always a good thing.