Monday, June 04, 2007

Week in Review: It Only Hurts When We Laugh

Week 9: May 28-June 3, 2007

Record for the Week: 3-3, 35 RS, 36 RA
Overall: 24-30, 8th place in Wild Card standings, 7.5 games behind Detroit

The Breakdown:

05/28 -- Yankees 2, Toronto 7
Now known as DeSalvo's last stand. The game actually got out of hand on Ron Villone's watch, when he showed the stuff that made him so popular with hitters in the second half of last season--the hanging sliders, the bad control, it was all on display. And Dustin MacGowan made the lineup his girlfriend. Lesson learned: Never match wits with a Sicilian, when death is on the line?
[UPDATE: DeSalvo's back to start tonight's game against the White Sox, in Roger Clemens's stead.]

05/29 -- Yankees 2, Toronto 3
How many wins have Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez cost Andy Pettitte? Last year, there was that weird thing where Rodriguez would make errors in Mike Mussina's starts, this year, the defense breaks down when Pettitte's pitching--never so cleanly as in this game. The Jays took an early 1-0 lead thanks to a throwing error by Jeter. In the seventh inning with the score 1-1, Rodriguez's throwing error set up Aaron Hill's steal of home. After the Yanks tied it again in the eighth, the Yanks surrendered the lead for good in the top of the inning. Lesson learned: Brian Butterfield, who was the Yanks' first base coach Pettitte's rookie year, supposedly clued Hill in that Pettitte was vulnerable to a steal of home. Isn't that Yankee treason of some sort?

05/30 -- Yankees 10, Toronto 5
The Yanks break the five-game losing streak, as Tyler Clippard and Jorge Posada experience some tension, Johnny Damon got a couple of hits, including a homer, and Robbie Cano went 4-4. But the signature moment came when A-Rod used a little gamesmanship in the ninth to get the Yanks a whole bunch of insurance runs. Lesson learned: HA!

06/01 -- Yankees 9, Boston 5
The Yanks tag up Tim Wakefield for eight runs, and cruise behind Chien Ming Wang. Lesson learned: Some days you control the knuckler, some days (6 BB, 2 passed balls, 1 wild pitch) the knuckler controls you.

06/02 -- Yankees 6, Boston 11
Mike Mussina looked old, and was put out there one inning too many, but the Yanks were OK until suffering an ugly meltdown in the seventh. Lesson learned: When we say Bobby Abreu sometimes looks lost in the outfield, we only mean that he occasionally looks like he's never played the game before in his life.

06/03 -- Yankees 6, Red Sox 5
Andy Pettitte gets derailed in the fifth, apparently hurting himself as he tried to put a little something extra on a fastball to Julio Lugo with the bases loaded and no outs. After the game, Pettitte says he tweaked his back a little, no problem--at the time, it looked like he was shaking out his pitching elbow. Whatever it was, Andy stayed in the game, but didn't get another out. For several seconds during that inning, I think my heart had actually stopped. I'm convinced this team is trying to kill me. All's well that ends well, I guess, with A-Rod taking Papelbon out of the yard in the ninth. Lesson learned: Red Sox fans intermittently serenaded the Yankees with chants of "Where is Roger?" once again showing their inability to keep their attention on the task at hand.

Player of the Week: Melky Cabrera had the right attitude about his new starting centerfield job, batting .471/.550/.765 on the week. Runner-up Robbie Cano is continuing his bounceback from his personal low against the Mets a couple of weeks ago, showed the pop in his bat with a homer, a triple and three doubles. Bobby Abreu's bat has come alive, even if his ball-tracking in the outfield hasn't, he hit .350/.435/.500 for the week. Mariano Rivera contributed three scoreless innings, and much maligned Luis Vizcaino did a tolerably good job this week (4 innings, 1 run allowed).

Dregs of the Week: Mike Mussina had a brutal start against the Red Sox (5 runs on 9 hits and 4 walks in 5 innings) to grab the "honors." Johnny Damon is struggling at .100/.280/.250, and Doug Mientkiewicz wasn't playing too hot prior to getting brained by Mike Lowell's hip (.182/.182/.182).

Link(s) of the Week: There were a lot of great takes on the A-Rod non-story this week. The best serious one was Tim Marchman taking Bill Madden to the woodshed on the simple point that you can't decry the gossip column culture while simultaneously wallowing in it. Even better, however, was Jim Baker's take on this at Baseball Prospectus. Yes, it's a pay article. It's also, in my humble opinion, worth the price of a subscription all on its lonesome.

Story of the Week: It's been another week, and another wave of injuries for the Bronx Bombers. Jason Giambi's plantar fascia has torn, which could mean he's gone a month, could mean he's gone the season. It's an injury that's big with the PED set, the same injury that killed the end of Mark McGwire's career. We'd learned the day before that the already-injured Phil Hughes has the worst type of ankle sprain known to man, which places him two months, maybe more out of the action. Then on Saturday Doug Mientkiewicz's head collided with the baserunner as he tried to fish out Derek Jeter's errant throw. That's one mild concussion, cervical sprain, and broken wrist added to the tally. Then came the news of Roger Clemens's "fatigued groin" on which he needs an MRI. Rocket's saying his launch is only delayed to Saturday, against the Pirates--but really, how does anybody know when the guy will be starting if they haven't seen the MRIs yet.

The Mientkiewicz/Giambi injuries--and we really have to treat them as one cluster, even though there couldn't be two more different guys--raise some interesting questions about the path this ballclub will take going forward. The Yanks are now genuinely thin at 1B/DH. For the moment, the DH slot is the refuge of Johnny Damon's sore calves; Damon could also see some time at first base. But that still leaves Josh Phelps as the starting 1B with no real backup. The starting rotation remains unstable. What do you do?

I mean, my BP colleague Steve Goldman wrote a piece in the New York Sun last week entitled "It's Not Like [the Red] Sox Haven't Had Problems of Their Own." It's a very valid point, but if you're comparing the Sox problems to the Yanks, you really have to stop at the starting rotation. The Red Sox have used seven starting pitchers, giving all but two starts to their intended starting five. The Yankees have used 11 starters, and their intended starting five have only made 35 of 54 starts. That's a huge difference.

So what's clear after last week is that a move has to be made, either building up or tearing down. And I wouldn't bet on the latter happening, barring (yet another) catastrophe. But anything's possible, since there's apparently a new sheriff in town.

No comments: