Monday, April 30, 2007

Week In Review: They Were the Worst of Times

Week 4: April 23-29

Record for the Week: 1-5, 23 RS, 41 RA
Overall: 9-14, 131 RS, 125 RA (5th Place AL East, 6.5 games out of 1st)

The Breakdown:

4/23 Yankees 8, Tampa Bay 10
Big A-Rod performance (4 for 5, 2 HR) squandered by Kei Igawa (7 R in 4.1 IP) and the previously-steady Brian Bruney. BJ Upton and Rocco Baldelli put the screws to New York. Lesson learned: Turns out those Devil Rays can score some runs (2nd in the league in runs scored, behind the Yanks)--then again, they've had some help from the Yankee pitching staff.

4/24 Yankees 4, Tampa Bay 6
Chien Ming Wang comes off the DL, and shows some rust (4 R through 6.1 IP). The Yanks led 3-2 in the 7th before the Rays broke it open, with a grand slam by Carl Crawford off Mike Myers. Lesson learned: What do you call a Lefty One Out Guy who doesn't get lefties out? Waste of a roster spot, perhaps?

4/25 Blue Jays at Yankees, Rained Out
Lesson learned: When you've lost five in a row, sometimes you can use a little rain. Or maybe not.

4/26 Toronto 6, Yankees 0
The Golden Child, Phil Hughes, debuts. Kind of a lot to expect that the rookie will end the losing streak, and he doesn't really pitch well enough to win. Not that he had a chance, since the Yanks gave him absolutely no run support. Lesson learned: There's a reason why the Blue Jays gave AJ Burnett all that money. When he's not on the DL or pitching like a bonehead, he can throw the ball pretty good.

4/27 Boston 11, Yankees 4
Early favorite for most disgusting loss of the year. The Yanks led 4-2 after four innings against Daisuke Matsuzaka, and then Andy Pettitte, Everyday Scott Proctor and Mariano Rivera all spit the bit. Lesson learned: Losing seven in a row is very, very painful.

4/28 Boston 1, Yankees 3
Talk about your bad news/good news situations. On the first pitch of the game, Jeff Karstens takes a liner off the knee. He has a fracture, but tries to continue pitching. Kei Igawa then comes in for his first relief appearance since losing his slot in the rotation, and gives the Yanks six scoreless innings. They weren't perfect innings (2 hits and 4 walks went with Igawa-san's 6 Ks) but he got the Yanks out of a two-on no-out jam in the first, and really came up big against all expectations. Jorge Posada struck the big blow, a two-run home off Wakefield. Lesson learned: Maybe Igawa shouldn't pitch from the windup for the rest of the season.

4/29 Boston 7, Yankees 4
The Yankees take a 3-2 lead into the fifth--the three runs coming on a Doug Mientkiewicz homer--but good things just aren't lasting long with this pitching staff. Wang's control was off, perhaps due to a split fingernail. Losing ensued. Lesson learned: when Doug Mientkiewicz is the guy driving your offense, you're probably going to lose.

Player of the Week:
Alex Rodriguez gets a break from Player of the Week props, slacking for only 2 HR and 3 RBI on the week (.304/.360/.565), and missing out on the all-time April records for homers and RBI. The week's honors go to Derek Jeter (.444/.450/.611). Jason Giambi also contributed a nice week (.450/542/.550), and made his first appearance in the field in Saturday's game. That was pretty much it, though.

Dregs of the Week:
The only pitcher who didn't surrender a run on the week (Colter Bean), got sent down to AAA. The whole pitching staff was awful, with Mariano Rivera and Sean Henn having superficially the worst week(s). Since Igawa's six scoreless came in relief, the Yanks managed to get through the week without a single quality start. However, since Dregs is mainly an individual honor, we feel bound to single out Bobby Abreu (.087/.222/.130) who had the worst hitless streak (0-19) of his career this week. Johnny Damon (.158/.273/.158) and Robbie Cano (.143/.217/.286) also had weeks they'd like to forget.

Story of the Week:
We've already talked about the Phil Hughes experience, so I'll take a pass here and just segue into some short-form Month In Review awards.

Player of the Month:
Well...duh. Alex Rodriguez leads the AL in OPS (1.297) is the only Major Leaguer with double digits in home runs (14) and the only player in the Show with over 30 RBI so far (34, nine ahead of the next guy down the list). There is no conversation to be had about this.

Dregs of the Month:
The only time Mariano Rivera has posted an ERA higher than this month's 10.57, was in his rookie season. In June 1995 Rivera allowed 12 runs, 11 earned, in 6.1 innings, for a 15.63 ERA. In Friday night's game, for the first time I can recall, Rivera actually looked like a beaten man. Thankfully, he and his pitches looked better on Saturday, when he got the save to end April on an up note. Still, we're holding our breath hoping that this month isn't a sign that he's hiding an injury, or of ineffectiveness to come.

Mariano shares Dregs "honors" with Melky Cabrera. Somewhere, out there, Bernie Williams is thinking that he could do better than this--and since Melky hit .200/.238/.213 in nearly full-time April work, with just one extrabase hit, Bernie Baseball would probably be right in that assessment. The organization made the right decision to give Melky the fourth outfielder job, but you have to wonder how long he'll get to struggle like this before he's sent down, and maybe Kevin Thompson is brought up to take that extra outfielder role?

Story of the Month:
For the second time since the end of the 2006 season, Joe Torre is on the hot seat. This team's systemwide failure goes beyond Torre--there's some bad injuries, bad luck, and mainly there's been bad pitching--but like with Melky you have to wonder how long these poor results will be tolerated before the brass decides a change is needed, if only for change's sake. The man who's widely acclaimed for saving Torre's job this winter, Steve Swindal, is no longer with the ballclub.

Now, getting rid of Torre would be an overreaction, a classic panic move. I don't know that Torre's presumed successor, Don Mattingly, could do a better job motivating this club--is a month as bench coach enough experience for the most high-profile managerial job in the game. I will say that if he got the job now, he'd likely look successful just based on the fact that this club is operating far below its level now, and is likely to bounce back to decent if not better than that.

I'd hope that Torre gets a couple of weeks with a more-or-less intact starting rotation before anyone makes any rash decisions. The Yanks haven't had four of their intended starters in the rotation at the same time since the Minnesota series. The Yanks, through no fault of Torre's, have had to go to the bullpen more than any other team in the AL--97 bullpen innings in April. Normally we'd be slagging Torre for the fact that four Yankees are in the top 9 pitchers in the AL in appearances--Scott Proctor and Luis Vizcaino share the league lead with Dennys Reyes with 15, and Mike Myers and Brian Bruney aren't far behind with 14 each--but what choice has he had? The starters have had the third worst ERA, as a group, in the majors (5.94, just ahead of Tampa Bay and Texas) and they have the fewest quality starts in the majors. If something's going to change, that has to be it--because I'm pretty sure the Yanks can't keep this up for the rest of the season.

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