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Posts Tagged ‘American League’

These are the current American League Wild Card standings. The Yankees now sit two games behind the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have played poorly of late, dropping 7 of their last 10 games. This is exactly the time for the Yankees to make a move and play catch-up. They’ve got these next two games against the Orioles and then a big three-game series against the Boston Red Sox. At this point in the season, every head-to-head game is crucial. They can’t really afford to lose many more games to the Orioles or Rays with only 17 games left to play in the regular season. If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t say the Yankees have a great chance at making the playoffs..but it’s definitely doable. As I write this post, the Cleveland Indians are losing 5-2 to the Kansas City Royals in the top of the 8th inning. Let’s hope it stays that way.

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The 2013 MLB All-Star Game may decide whether the AL or NL receives home field advantage in the World Series, but there was a bigger story that night. At least, for us Yankees fans. Mariano Rivera jogged out of the bullpen in the 8th inning (a decision by AL manager Jim Leyland to make sure he would make it into the game) to a stirring tribute. Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” blared through the stadium, as a rousing applause and standing ovation came from both the players and fans to one of the game’s greatest players. Rivera tipped his cap graciously to the crowd and his fellow all-stars, giving everyone a memory that they will never forget. Mariano proceeded to toss a 1-2-3 8th inning and the American League went onto win the game 3-0. To top it off, Rivera received the All-Star Game MVP Award, becoming the first reliever to ever receive that honor. Mariano delivered a speech at the end of the game, thanking the fans and stated, “You guys almost made me cry.”

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Without Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson, the Yankees have certainly held their own thus far. They’re playing above .500, rank towards the top of the league in home runs and they’ve got quality pitching from their rotation. Many of these so-called “experts” picked the Toronto Blue Jays as the favorite to win the AL East crown. Meanwhile, they’re laying in last place and sit 5.5 games back out of first place. These same analysts predicted that the Yankees and Red Sox would finish at the bottom of the division. I know it’s very early in the season, but it just goes to show that these wins occur on the ball field, not on paper. With all of these injured players the Yankees expect to come back at some point this season, there’s a positive outlook surrounding this ball club. So far, so good.

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Photos from tonight’s AL East champagne celebration at Yankee Stadium.

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Photo Courtesy of Kevin Rozell

When Hiroki Kuroda signed a one-year contract with the Yankees this past January, my initial reaction wasn’t so great. I’ve never been a fan of pitchers transfering from the National League to the American League. It just didn”t sit well with me, and we’ve seen plenty of pitchers come over and you see a big spike in their numbers; especially when they enter the AL East. You just think, “Here we go again.”

As the season has gone on, I’ve watched this guy and have been more than impressed. His W/L record doesn’t do him justice, and sometimes that’s beyond his control. He’s also on the verge of having a sub-3.00ERA. Maybe he’s not our so-called “ace,” as that’s really supposed to be CC’s rank, but he’s sure pitching like one. Let’s hope the best is yet to come.

Kuroda’s 2012 Stats: 159.0IP  (W-L) 11-8  3.06ERA  54ER  38BB  121K

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Just a few weeks ago, the Baltimore Orioles sat 10 games back in the Al East. Now, they sit 4.5 games back. If the Yankees want to take home the division crown, they better get their act together quickly. Winning only 3 of their last 10 games, and currently riding a two game losing streak, Sabathia gets the nod tonight against the Tigers to set things straight. Here’s the matchup.

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With the Yankees riding a seven game winning streak, they are now officially tied with the Boston Red Sox for first place in the American League East Division with a record of 68-42 (.618 PCT).

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The 2011 Yankees work out during Spring Training

It’s that time of year. Spring training games are underway and baseball fans everywhere are having heated discussions about who will finish where. It’s kind of silly, really. As any Yankee fan can tell you, “You can’t predict baseball.” Still, we make the effort – never mind that mid-season injuries, trades and call-ups always alter the picture. Add in the players who have break-out years (seriously, who thought Jose Bautista would slug 54 homers in 2010?) or unexpectedly terrible ones (think Carlos Lee), and predicting anything this time of year becomes an exercise in futility. But it is a fun exercise, so here I go.

I’ll start by posting the expected finish of team, including record. How did I come to this? I ran 100 season simulations, based on a program I originally wrote for picking football games. Of course, this assumes I’ve correctly guessed every team’s roster on Opening Day and that nobody suffers a significant injury. It’s worked well for me in picking the NFL (as those of you who followed my picks on Twitter last year probably know), but this is the first time I’ve ever tried it in baseball. By the way, the division names double as links, you can hit them to get to a more in-depth prognostication.

AL East

  1. New York Yankees,     105-57    0 GB
  2. Boston Red Sox,     105-57    0 GB
  3. Tampa Bay Rays    95-67    10 GB
  4. Baltimore Orioles    94-68    11 GB
  5. Toronto Blue Jays    67-95    38 GB

AL Central

  1. Minnesota Twins    87-75    0 GB
  2. Chicago White Sox    84-78     3 GB
  3. Detroit Tigers        71-91    16 GB
  4. Kansas City Royals    55-97    32 GB
  5. Cleveland Indians    45-107    42 GB

AL West

  1. Oakland A’s        97-95     0 GB
  2. Texas Rangers        85-77    12 GB
  3. Anaheim Angels    83-79    14 GB
  4. Seattle Mariners    64-98    33 GB

Yes, the AL East is that good. And yes, Cleveland is that bad.

Season’s biggest surprise: The Oriole starting rotation. I know, you probably think I lost my mind. But the O’s may have the best stable of young arms in the league, with Jake Arrieta (25), Brian Matusz (24), Brad Bergesen (25) and Chris Tillman(23). Add in a resurgent Justin Duchscherer and the steady Jeremy Guthrie, and that’s a lot of promise.

Season’s biggest bust: Texas. They’re really going to miss not re-signing Cliff Lee. Not to mention the whole Michael Young saga is a great case study in how to blow up team chemistry.

MVP candidate: Robinson Cano. If you thought last year was special, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

CY Young Candidate: Since this award seems given to somebody from a losing team lately, I’ll stay with the trend. Here’s a vote for Joakim Soria.

As always, I look forward to your feedback. And…PLAY BALL!!!

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I took an English course this past semester at school, and the main theme of the class was “Spectacle”. For our final paper, we were able to choose a topic that we thought fit that category, and I chose George Steinbrenner’s reign as owner of the New York Yankees. The purpose of my paper was to show how the different personality traits that he possessed led to success in many different aspects of his job.

spec·ta·cle [spek-tuh-kuhl]

–noun
1. anything presented to the sight or view, esp. something of a striking or impressive kind:
2. a public show or display, esp. on a large scale

Steinbrenner’s Reign

              George M. Steinbrenner III has gone down in the record books as one of the most controversial and successful owners in the history of sports. His demand for excellence and his hunger to be the best did not always put him in a good light with the people he worked with, because he was stubborn and wanted to do things his way. During his reign as owner with the New York Yankees, he had run-ins with authorities, MLB officials, players, and team personnel. If things didn’t go according to his plan, he would take matters into his own hands, berating players and messing around with the minds of his managers and employees. Even though many of his tactics were thought to be unethical, Steinbrenner transcended the game of baseball in the process by: bringing about the development of free agency, having the first organization to own and operate its own television cable network, controlling the back pages of the newspapers, and changed the way other clubs ran their teams. These developments allowed the fans to forgive and forget about the stunts Steinbrenner pulled. It was his attitude, competitiveness, larger than life personality, and his generosity that allowed his to shine the brightest in the biggest media market in the country. These personality traits were critical factors in his success as an owner: financially, on the ball field, and with the media and fans.

            Steinbrenner was a remarkable competitor, who was motivated to be successful like no other owner in the sports world. “Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing. Breathing first, winning next,” he said. His whole life was a competition, dating back to his childhood when he was constantly trying to gain approval from his father. George’s father, Henry Steinbrenner, “ruled with an iron fist” and instilled the idea that winning was all that mattered in life. George could tell him that he won two out of three races in school, but his father would only focus on why he lost that third race and what went wrong. In 1973, Steinbrenner and a small group of investors purchased the New York Yankees from CBS for $8.8 million dollars. Thirty-seven years later, the organization is now worth $1.6 billion, which is the most valuable baseball team in the league (and 3rd most valuable franchise in the world. 1st: Manchester United $1.8B, 2nd: Dallas Cowboys $1.65B). When he first bought the team, he led New Yorkers to believe that he would not be a hands-on owner, but he would rather keep his distance from the team and go back to his family shipping business. “I won’t be active in the day-to-day operations of the club at all. I can’t spread myself so thin. I’ve got enough headaches with my shipping company. We plan absentee ownership as far as running the Yankees is concerned,” he stated. It turned out to be the complete opposite, because he wanted his own project to work on, rather than staying put in his father’s shipping company. “I’m not here to run a country club,” Steinbrenner said. “I’m here to run a winning organization.” He soon donned the nicknames “The Boss” and “Manager George”, and would meddle in the general manager’s meetings and many of the on-field decisions. There were several occasions during the 1970’s where George would call Yankees manager, Billy Martin in the dugout during a game and give him a tongue-lashing. He would complain about anything from why they didn’t bunt in a particular situation to why Reggie Jackson wasn’t batting fourth in the lineup. It was a display of just how unreasonable George could be at times. (more…)

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Throughout the season, you kept on hearing about how well the Yankees were playing and why they were the favorites to win the World Series. They spent 94 days in first place. On the other hand, the Texas Rangers were certainly considered a formidable opponent, but you didn’t hear people talk about them like they were on top of the American League. The Yankees, Rays and Phillies were thought to be the strongest teams in all of baseball.

By Season Half: New York Yankees

First Half: (W-L, 56-32) RS: 469  RA: 352  WP: .636

Second Half: (W-L, 39-35) RS: 390  RA: 341  WP: .527

As the season was winding down, the Yankees looked as if they were dragging their feet across the finish line. They weren’t playing like they did in the first half of the season. Girardi was resting players when they didn’t lock up the AL East division. I just never understood how you could bench your starters (even if they could use a day of rest) if you are in the middle of a pennant race. The bottom of the lineup consisted of Ramiro Pena, Austin Kearns and Juan Miranda. That wasn’t going to cut it with the fans. It’s always good to give your players a rest, especially if you expect to go deep into October, but you can do all that once you lock up that playoff spot.

The month of September didn’t turn out  the way the Yankees had envisioned it. It wound up being the worst month of the season, compiling a W-L record of 12-15 (.444). They were playing under .500 baseball during the most important part of the season. Their offense may have been doing just fine during that period, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the large deficits the pitching staff was placing them in. In the last 12 games of the regular season, the pitching was horrendous, allowing an average of 6.3 runs per game. In that time, they went from 2.5 games up in the division to 1 game back. In the end, the Yankees (95-67) handed the division over to the Rays (96-66). You were actually hearing rumblings from the fans about how they “might not make the playoffs” (even though they had a nice lead over the Red Sox) during the month of September. They took the AL Wild Card and stumbled into the postseason. They had a clean slate after that. They gained some confidence when they swept the Twins in the ALDS. After seeing the Rangers take the Rays in five games, it looked like Texas was for real.

The Yankees took Game #1 of the ALCS, but you wouldn’t see them laughing after that. The Rangers would go on to win the next three games of the series (Lewis won Game #2, Lee won Game #3, & blew out the Yankees 10-3 in Game #4). Lewis pitched really well for the Rangers, but he’s not the type of pitcher who should be shutting down the Yankees. The ball was given to CC Sabathia in Game #5, and he pitched well enough to force a Game #6 (even though he didn’t have his best stuff that day).

The Yankees had their season lay in the balance, and they gave Phil Hughes the ball. Colby Lewis shut down the Yankees offense in embarassing fashion. The Rangers batters eventually got to Hughes in the 5th inning, and it was all over. You can blame the manager in some instances, you can blame the lineup and the pitching staff. In general, the team didn’t play up to what they were really capable of. There were a few players who stood out, such as Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Curtis Granderson. That wouldn’t be enough to get this team to the Fall Classic. The Rangers simply outplayed them in every facet of the game.

We all saw the Rays get knocked off by the Rangers, the Rangers eliminate the Yankees and the Giants beat the Phillies. Now, you can ask yourself..how did that happen? Back in July, the Rangers swooped in and grabbed Cliff Lee from the Mariners, which made them a major threat to anyone they would face in the postseason. Their offense was rolling on all cylinders, and the young arms on the team raised their level of play when it mattered most. Some might say the New York Yankees were the better team, but they simply didn’t step up in big situations. During the regular season, the Yankees went 4-4 against Texas. The Rangers came to play, and they earned every right to be in the World Series. Sometimes, the better team doesn’t always win.

  (2nd From L-R) Kerry Wood #39, Mariano Rivera #42, Derek Jeter #2, And Andy Pettitte #46 Of The New York Yankees Look

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There’s been quite a bit of discussion lately about where Derek Jeter should hit in the Yankee line-up, and some of you have asked for my opinion (I’m flattered, by the way, and flattery will get you everywhere). It’s certainly an interesting topic. The last time the Captain regularly hit anywhere other than lead-off or second was 1997, when he made 33 starts as the 7th place hitter. But his abysmal (by Jeterian standards, anyway) 2010 has quite a few fans grumbling that it might be time to slot Jeter 8th or 9th.

For starters, I can understand wanting to move Jeter out of the leadoff spot, particularly given his sub-par year. But there are two big factors working against hitting him in the 8 or 9 holes. First, and while statistical purists may not want to hear it, Jeter is the face of the current Yankees. Much the same way that Mickey Mantle or Don Mattingly were never going to hit at the bottom of the order, even after it was evident that their skills had eroded, the same can be said of Jeter. Secondly, putting Jeter down that low means shifting somebody else to leadoff.

The first thing that has to be asked if contemplating that move is, has Jeter been effective as a leadoff hitter? The most important statistic for anybody in that spot is their ability to get on base, especially leading off the game. Everything else is secondary. In that regard, Jeter is well ahead of the league average:

Leading Off Game
BA OBA SLG OPS
Jeter 0.322 0.381 0.374 0.755
Amer. League 0.258 0.317 0.352 0.669

Ok, so Jeter – even in the midst of a season long slump – has been much better than the league average lead-off hitter. Jeter’s struggles this year haven’t come when leading off the game. He has 126 plate appearances in that situation, among the league leaders and his performance is among the best. In fact, Jeter hits 61 points higher leading off the game than his overall season number, which indicates hitting him lower in the order would probably have him with even worse numbers than he currently does. Unless you’re going to permanently bench Jeter, he would seem to be most effective leading off.

But is there anyone on the team who can surpass Jeter’s leadoff ability? Well, Brett Gardner has been remarkably effective when leading off games. The biggest argument against him is the limited sample size (only 21 plate appearances thus far). However, if comparing leading off any inning, where sample sizes are more equal, things look better for Gardner vs. Jeter:

Leading Off Inning
BA OBA SLG OPS
Jeter 0.311 0.367 0.409 0.776
Gardner 0.349 0.367 0.491 0.939

An argument can be made that Gardner should hit lead-off, particularly when looking at both players peripherals in hitting with men on base and with more than one out in an inning. In both of those situations, Jeter outperforms Gardner, indicating that you could switch their spots and probably improve the offense. Except, when Francisco Cervelli and Ramiro Pena are semi-regulars, hitting Jeter behind either of those two would be more than a perceptual insult.

So, if you move Gardner into the leadoff role, where do you hit Jeter? The line-up position would have to take advantage of Jeter’s ability to lead off innings (that .367 OBA leading off an inning is one of the highest in MLB). You also would need a spot where Jeter’s abilities with men on base could come into play (he’s produced a .286 BA with RISP in 2010). That all adds up to hitting Jeter 7th, sliding Lance Berkman to 8th and Curtis Granderson to 9th. Why 7th? Traditionally, that position leads of the second most innings of any in the line-up, behind the leadoff hitter and the Yankees are no different. The 7th place hitter also tends to get a reasonable number of RBI opportunities. Finally, if you hit Jeter 7th, between Jorge Posada and Berkman, you’re hitting him between two switch-hitters, preventing opposing managers from lining up a top right-handed reliever to face him in late innings.

So, there you have it: the best possible line-up for the Yankees would look like this:

  1. Brett Gardner, CF
  2. Nick Swisher, RF
  3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
  4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
  5. Robinson Cano, 2B
  6. Jorge Posada, C
  7. Derek Jeter, SS
  8. Lance Berkman, DH
  9. Curtis Granderson, CF

So, what do you think? Should Jeter move out of the leadoff spot or hit somewhere else in the lineup? If somewhere else, where? Let me know!

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