Monday, July 09, 2007

Week In Review: At the Break

Week 14: July 2-8, 2007

Record for the Week: 5-2, 49 RS, 24 RA
Overall: 42-43, 8 1/2 games behind Cleveland for the Wild Card

The Breakdown:

7/2 -- Twins 1, Yankees 5
Roger Clemens two-hits the Twinkies over eight innings, and Bobby Abreu smacks a homer to start off the four-game series on a winning note. Lesson learned:

7/3 -- Twins 0, Yankees 8
Chien Ming Wang keeps the good pitching going, and Robbie Cano hits a homer to drop Minnesota again. Another sixth-inning barrage puts the game out of reach. Lesson learned: Edwar Ramirez has got a spastically great changeup, a Bugs Bunny-type deal that had the Twinkies talking to themselves in the ninth inning. Ramirez struck out the first three batters of his Major Leagu career.

7/4 -- Twins 6, Yankees 2
Jason Kubel put the Twins ahead with a two-run shot off Mike Mussina in the seventh inning. Johan Santana wins the pitching duel. Lesson learned: It might be a little unfair, but I'll ask--why is Moose pitching the seventh inning?

7/5 -- Twins 6, Yankees 7
Yanks do a little home run derby on Kevin Slowey in the second inning, but it's Hideki Matsui's homer off Pat Neshek that put the Yanks over the top. Lesson learned: Kei Igawa? Really not this team's savior. You knew that already, but I just wanted to say it again.

7/6 -- Angels 9, Yankees 14
The Yanks and Halos slug it out, as neither Bartolo Colon and Andy Pettitte can get it done, and the game is 9-9 after 5 1/2 innings. Alex Rodriguez's sixth inning two-run homer pushes things over the top. Lesson learned: Edwar Ramirez gets roughed up a little--it was bound to happen sooner or later.

7/7 -- Angels 2, Yankees 1
We covered this on Sunday: Old Timer Rock 'n' Roll. Lesson learned: Old Timers' Game outfielders play shallow. Oh, and it's good when the guys don't swing at a ton of pitches out of the strike zone.

7/8 -- Angels 0, Yankees 12
Wang, Mike Myers, Scott Proctor and Ron Villone team up on the shutout, and Hideki Matsui, Robinson Cano, and A-Rod all hit three run homers. Nice to get another series win, and nice to beat Ervin Santana, who's one of those players I dislike irrationally. Lesson learned: Three run homers help win ballgames. Duh.

Player of the Week: Chien Ming Wang threw 13 1/3 innings of shutout ball on the week, and won both his starts, which is usually all we'd ask of a Player of the Week. But Roger Clemens did Wang one better. Sure, he allowed runs (all two of 'em) and the Yanks lost one of his starts, but he pitched more innings (16) and allowed fewer baserunners (9) than Wang (15). That's the player of the week. Joining Wang among the honorable mentions are Scott Proctor (4 2/3 IP, three baserunners, seven strikeouts; Robinson Cano (.385/.429/.769, 3 HR), Hideki Matsui (.308/.438/.731, 3 HR), and Bobby Abreu (.500/.500/.727). And a very special shout-out to Andy Phillips for managing two straight good weeks (.389/.450/.556 this week). This has been a problem in the past.

Dregs of the Week: The lefties--Andy Pettitte and Kei Igawa--combined for 13 runs allowed in 10 innings. Compared to that, none of the hitting performaces look all that bad (Johnny Damon: .200/.375/.200 and Jorge Posada .231/.333/.308 are the west).

Story of the Week: The first half is over, the Yanks are still under .500, and the team is still buried behind five other teams for the Wild Card. I know letter grades are somewhat cliche--but then again, so's bringing your sweetheart red roses. We do it anyway:

Chien Ming Wang (A): 9-4, 3.36 ERA -- Pretty easily the definition of an ace starter--one of the top twenty pitchers in Major League Baseball. It's made all the richer by the fact that he came out of the Yankees farm system at a time when the favorite adjective used to describe it was "barren" (although some people preferred labels like "empty" or "bereft of talent").

Roger Clemens (B+): It's early, yet, and the shrinking strikeout rate is a real problem. Still, he's pitched well, and has been totally screwed for run support. I'm no Alanis Morissette, but I think there might be some irony in there, somewhere.

Mariano Rivera (B): 3.71 ERA, 11 Sv -- Tempting to append a minus to that grade because of the high expectations Rivera brings with him all the time. We'll settle for the fact that since the April meltdown, Yankees fans have felt safe with Rivera on the mound a good 80% of the time. Now, that's down from previous years, but still about as good as it gets.

Andy Pettitte (B-): 4-6, 4.25 ERA -- Held the team together while Wang and Mussina hit the DL, and while they were waiting for Clemens to arrive. Upon the arrival of his good Texas buddy, has fallen apart. The question with Pettitte is, is this a physical problem? Has a reputation for not fessing up when he's hurt.

Scott Proctor (B-): 1-5, 3.59 ERA in 47 2/3 IP -- The peripherals all look bad for Proctor. He's throwing lots of innings, he's walking more guys, his strikeouts are down. Still has those Proctor moments where a game will end with a bases loaded walk. How many elite relievers do that, anyway?

Mike Mussina (C+):4-6, 4.62 ERA -- Looks tired. The much maligned 100 pitch count is a simplification...and we discuss Mussina, we may be talking about at a guy for whom 100 pitches is way too much. After 90 pitches, batters against Mussina hit .500/.529/1.188.

Darrell Rasner (C): 1-3, 4.01 ERA -- treaded water well enough as long as he could remain in the game. With Yankees blue-chippers at Trenton, the window for Rasner and Karstens and so many others could be closing fast.

The Low-Leverage Trio (C-): This would be Mike Myers (2.61 ERA), Brian Bruney (2.57) and Ron Villone (3.26). These guys all have nice ERAs, but they're not allowed within a country mile of a game that's actually a contest. Bruney's the big disappointment, since he has a live arm that seems completely messed up right now. Mike Myers isn't making lefthanders scared anymore, so he has done most of his work in deep mopup assignments. Now he's joined by another lefty in the pen...who's also a mop-up specialist. Guess what? This team doesn't have enough mop-up innings for all three of these guys. Until someone steps up, it's C-minuses all around.

Luis Vizcaino (C-) 4-2, 5.02 -- Right behind Proctor in innings pitched, though the grind seems to have had a good effect on him. He's been a good pitcher in June and July after being radioactive in May (9.00 ERA). Still walks too many guys to be the go-to man.

Kyle Farnsworth (D+) 1-1, 4.46 -- Useless disproportionate to his performance. Even when he pitches well, there are so many strings attached that you don't know if he'll be available the next time he's needed. Has not exceeded an inning pitched in any appearance--even if he's only thrown eight pitches in his inning of work, like he did on Saturday. Has only pitched back-to-back days four times all year. It's like having a cell phone that only works for two hours in any given day--and you never know which two hours they'll be.

Matt DeSalvo and Tyler Clippard (D) -- They've become a single creature in my mind, the way that Karstens and Rasner became conjoined last year. They're both high-strung pitchability guys, Clippard's the prospect, DeSalvo's the underdog. Even moreso than Rasner and Karstens, they should be hearing footsteps.

Sean Henn (D): 0-2, 4.66 -- Showed good velocity out of the pen, and looked on route to earning Torre's confidence early in the season. Then it all fell apart, thanks to those mean ol' base on balls.

Kei Igawa (D-): 2-2, 7.14 -- It's like Kenny Rogers, Hideki Irabu, and Jose Contreras all wrapped into one ugly, neurotic package. In a way, he's symbolic of everything that's bad about this ballclub--simultaneously awful and expensive, and the awful won't stop any time soon because of the expensive. Has no fastball, and therefore no trade value. Can't even do the Ron Villone Extremely Low Pressure relief work, because he can't maintain his pitching mechanics. How the heck was this one of the best pitchers in Japan?

Carl Pavano (F): Yeah, I know he's injured. Doesn't make him any less of a failure. All that big talk about how this was the year that he was going to get back out there and prove to his teammates he was healthy...and boom! He goes straight from pitching effectively against the Twins to "out indefinitely," and from there to surgery.

Phil Hughes -- His return could be the remaining bright spot to this season, if the Yanks can't find some way to get back into the hunt.
Chris Britton -- How do you get from Scranton to the Bronx? I'm sure Britton can give detailed directions by now. A few more one-day call-ups, and he'll likely be able to drive the route in his sleep.
Edwar Ramirez -- Could be the most fun we get to have this year--aside from the Alex Rodriguez contract run--is watching Edwar pitch. It'd be great if someone, either Edwar or Bruney, stepped into the Farnsworth gap.
Chase Wright -- Has 33 walks and 33 strikeouts in 70 2/3 AAA innings. This does not bode well.
Colter Bean -- Has always been able to get AAA batters out--until this year (6.33 ERA at Scranton).
Jeff Karstens -- Already on his rehab assignment, which should put some pressure on Igawa.

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