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Posts Tagged ‘Curtis Granderson’

Hal and Hank Steinbrenner (Hal is on the left)

The Daily News reported this morning that the Steinbrenner family may have the Yankees up for sale.

“Rumors are flying in Major League Baseball and New York banking circles that the family that has owned Major League Baseball’s premiere franchise since Cleveland shipbuilder George Steinbrenner purchased the club for $8.8 million in 1973 is exploring the possibility of selling the Yankees.”

Later this morning, the Yanks issued a flat denial. Via Bryan Hoch of MLB.com:

“‘I just learned of the Daily News story. It is pure fiction,’ (Hal) Steinbrenner said in a statement. ‘The Yankees are not for sale. I expect that the Yankees will be in my family for many years to come.'”

Is this a case of the Daily News, forever locked in a back-page battle with the New York Post, creating a story to spur readership? Or are the Yankees actually on the block? If this were any other tabloid, my gut would be to dismiss the story outright. But this one has Bill Madden in the byline, and over the years I’ve come to respect Mr. Madden’s ability to unearth behind-the-scenes information. So…

The answer may not lie in the perceived value of the Yankees franchise, currently reported to be around $3 billion. Instead, it might be better to examine the current ownership group for any signs they may want out of the baseball business. The two principles, Hal and Hank Steinbrenner, are near polar opposites in terms of their personalities. Hank is much more the fan and fiery competitor. Like George, he also has something of a mercurial temperament – this is the son who lambasted the NL for not having the DH, called out Derek Jeter for building a mansion in Tampa, and stoked the Yankee – Red Sox rivalry by memorably deriding “Red Sox Nation.” Hank even looks more like his father than his brother. Hal, on the other hand, is far more concerned with the bottom line. Hal once referred to himself as a “finance geek.” While it should be obvious to anyone that while he may have been one, I can’t ever picture the bombastic George referring to himself that way.

There is also the fact that Hal is beginning to realize that while Hank was probably overzealous in giving Alex Rodriguez a ten year, $260 million extension going into his age 33 season, his preferred method of building from within isn’t exactly as easy as Gene Michael made it look in the 1990’s. None of the top prospects he anticipated being part of the team’s core by now – Phil Hughes, Jesus Montero, Eduardo Nunez, Dellin Betances, Austin Romine, Ian Kennedy and Manny Banuelos – has been able to establish themselves as major leaguers. Of that list, only Hughes is a regular contributor; Montero and Kennedy are now elsewhere, Nunez is back in the minors and Betances, Romine and Banuelos have been plagued by inconsistency and injury while in the high minors. He understands that the Yankee fan base won’t stand for losing. In order to keep the seats filled at Yankee Stadium (and ad revenue on the YES Network peaking), he needs a winning product on the field. At the same time, Hal has made it a goal to have payroll below the anticipated $189 million luxury-tax threshold by the 2014 season – a season in which the Yankees already have $75 million in salary committed to four players and will likely be well over $100 million if they decide to resign any combination of Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Ivan Nova, Nick Swisher and Russell Martin.

While I find it hard to believe that Hank would be willing to part ways with the Yankees, it isn’t hard to see Hal wanting to leave the circus and go home to heading Steinbrenner Properties. If this season’s on-the-field troubles continue, I suspect Hal may begin earnestly looking for a way out. He’ll be pressured to do something that really doesn’t work well in the New York market: find inexpensive talent to replace popular (and productive) players jettisoned for contract reasons. He got to preview the way a frugal owner gets treated in the situation when negotiating Derek Jeter’s contract last year. Imagine him playing hardball over money with Cano and Granderson, two popular players entering their prime and the resulting back page fallout from that.

The big question is whether the rest of the family trusts Hank to run the financial side of the team and keep his temper in check. Those of us old enough to remember George Steinbrenner from the 1980’s shudder a bit at the thought of Hank reprising that role. Still, if Hal actually does want out (that $3 billion price tag is awfully enticing to a “numbers guy”), I can see the family giving Hank first shot at forming a new ownership group. It would certainly be interesting, in an All My Children kind of way.

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Last night Granderson hit 2 more home runs, bringing his total to 38. He was 3 for 5 with 4 rbis and 2 runs scored.

Granderson is on pace for 47 homers and 132 rbis.

Current Stats: HR 38 – RBI 107 – AVG .278 – SB 24

Closer Look: 21/38 hrs have been solo, .268 avg with RISP, 138 Strikeouts


PS: Kevin hasn’t had power since Saturday, so he has been unable to update things.

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As I’m writing this, the Yankees are in first place, 2 ½ games ahead of the hated Red Sox.

Stop to think about that for a second. Despite all of the injuries and preseason prognostications calling Boston the greatest team since the ’27 Yanks, It’s the Yankees who have the best record in the league. So much for predicting baseball, eh?

So how did we get here? And what about the next 84 games – can they keep it up?

CC and the 7 Dwarves

The starting rotation, if unspectacular, has been steady. That CC Sabathia  (10-4, 3.25 ERA) would turn in a typical ace-like season was not in much doubt. But when Phil Hughes broke camp without a fastball or command, an already shaky rotation seemed destined for trouble. Instead, AJ Burnett (8-6, 4.05) has seemingly put last season’s demons on hold, Freddy Garcia (7-6, 3.28) keeps junkballing his way to wins, Ivan Nova (7-4,4.26) has gotten progressively better as the season has moved into the summer and Bartolo Colon (5-3, 3.10) found the fountain of youth. Even journeyman Brian Gordon has turned in a couple of credible starts. With Hughes and Colon due back from the disabled list within the next week, the Yanks still may not have a “name” #2 guy, but the team won’t suffer from a lack of credible rotation options in the second half.

Mo and the other 7 Dwarves

At the beginning of the year, the bullpen was supposed to be the best in baseball. And it started out that way. But Pedro Feliciano was injured before camp even opened. Then Rafael Soriano (1-1, 5.40) followed up an erratic first month by hurting his elbow. Joba Chamberlain (2-0, 2.83) needed Tommy John surgery. Suddenly, a lock-down bullpen had holes everywhere except closer, where the ageless Mariano Rivera (1-1, 1.72, 21 SV) remains incomparable. Stepping into the breach has been Houdini’s reincarnation, David Robertson (1-0, 1.11) and a bunch of guys that barely earned a mention in the media guide: Hector Noesi, Luis Ayala, Buddy Carlysle, Lance Pendleton, Cory Wade, Jeff Marquez, Kevin Whelan, Amauri Sanit. Even the much-maligned Boone Logan has managed to become effective lately. Here, too, reinforcements are on the way, as Soriano looks to be ready by mid-July. And just to add to the laugh factor, yesterday the Yankees re-acquired Sergio Mitre.

The EVIL Home Run

Call it a sign of baseball experts not being as expert as they thought. A common refrain is that the Yankees hit too many home runs. Maybe I’m thin-skinned, but I take it to mean that the Yankees “cheat” because they do what they do best: hit home runs. They lead the majors in homers (115), runs scored (416) and OPS (.793). If the rest of baseball is jealous simply because the Yankees sport an offense that means they’re never out of a game, let them eat (AJ) pie. Oh, and for all of those NL “small ball” types: the Yanks are third in steals, with 71.

What probably scares the bejeezus out of the rest of baseball is that as good as the offense has been, it hasn’t really clicked on all cylinders yet – even though it’s beginning to heat up. While Curtis Granderson (.276, 21, 56, along with a ML leading 70 runs) is having an MVP type year and Mark Teixeira leads the majors with 24 homers, Nick Swisher (.250, 10, 43) and Jorge Posada (.240, 9, 27) have just started to hit over the past couple of weeks. Derek Jeter (.260, 2, 20) was playing old before his injury and Alex Rodriguez (.299, 13, 51) still hasn’t recovered his power stroke. Robbie Cano (.289, 14, 49) is hitting 30 points under last season.

The Manager

I’ve never been a fan of Joe Girardi. I probably never will be. But I have to give credit where it’s due and this season, Girardi deserves mention for Manager of the Year. He has stumbled a couple of times, but for the most part he has managed to string together enough oddball pieces to keep this team playing better than the sum of its parts.

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There can be no doubt that the American League East is easily the best division in baseball. In fact, this year could wind up being historic in terms of division play, as my projections show 4 of the 5 teams capable of winning 90+ games this season – a feat that’s never been accomplished before. Is the talent level in the East really that much better than the rest of the AL? In a word, YES.

Both the Boston Red Sox and Yankees look to be the class of baseball this year. I project both teams to win 105 games this year and finish tied for the division crown. How evenly matched are the two juggernauts? The projections also have them splitting the season series, 9-9. Many prognosticators are giving the edge to the Red Sox this year, based on their starting rotation of Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz. While the Yankees rotation is known to be unsettled, relying on a return to form by AJ Burnett, Phil Hughes avoiding regression from his 18-8 2010 season, and a collection of rookies and reclamation projects to fill the 4 & 5 spots, the Sox rotation also has question marks. Can Lackey reclaim his form? Can Beckett come back from an injury plagued season? Will Buchholz ever deliver on his promise? Can Matsuzaka come back from injuries and inconsistency? In short, both teams could have excellent rotations – or horrible ones, once you get past the aces. But offensively, both squads are loaded 1 – 9. The Yankees projected line-up of Derek Jeter, Nick SwisherMark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada, Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin and Brett Gardner may actually be better than the team that led the league in runs scored last season. Boston counters with Carl Crawford, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, JD Drew, Marco Scutaro, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jacoby Ellsbury. Both line-ups are capable of scoring 1,000 runs. The real differentiators between the teams are in the bullpens and on the bench. The Yanks have a slight edge in the bullpen, with the 1 – 1a tandem of Mariano Rivera and Rafael Soriano. The Sox have a slight edge on the bench.

As for the rest of the division, Tampa Bay suffered some tremendous free-agent losses. Despite that, they come into the season with their only real question being the strength of the bullpen, where the oft-traveled Kyle Farnsworth heads a makeshift relief corps. The additions of Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon, along with new shortstop Reid Brignac and rookie Desmond Jennings, should actually make the offense better. And Tampa’s rotation remains one of the game’s best, led by David Price. But while good enough to win pretty much any other division in the game, this year’s Rays aren’t in the same class as either New York or Boston.

The same goes for the Orioles, although Baltimore may have the most improved team in the league. The infield was completely remade, as Mark Reynolds, Derek Lee and JJ Hardy join Brian Roberts. The O’s also brought in veteran slugger Vladimir Guerrero and closer Kevin Gregg. Add in what looks to be the league’s best young rotation and proven winner (and old friend) Buck Showalter as manager, and Baltimore is poised to shock people the same way Toronto did last year.

As for the Blue Jays, this team lost too much – and replaced those parts with questionable signings – from last year’s overachieving squad to compete this year. They’ve brought in pitching guru John Farrell to lead the team, but this team will suffer from losing Cito Gastons “let-’em-fly” attitude on offense. Include a rookie catcher, changes at 1st, 3rd and all three OF spots and it will prove to be too much turnover to overcome. One bright spot for the Jays this year could be rookie starter Kyle Drabek, one of the game’s more hyped young pitchers.

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Fourth in a series

2010 was the tale of two offenses for the Yankees: there was the offense that could explode at any moment; that led the league in runs scored and struck fear into opposing teams. And then there was the offense that could go days without getting a clutch hit; that lived and died as it waited for someone to hit the mythical 5 run homer. Both offenses were evident in the 2010 ALCS. Unfortunately for the Yankees, the latter offense was the one that spent most of the time on display. Injuries to key players like Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada robbed key players of time in 2010 and 2011 doesn’t figure to offer much improvement on that front. Of the 9 projected starters, 3 (Derek Jeter, Posada and Rodriguez) are older than 35. Additionally, the only projected regulars under 30 next season are Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner. This isn’t meant to be pessimistic – the emergence of Cano as an MVP caliber player and Gardner as a solid corner outfielder were huge positives for the team in 2010. There’s also a crop of intriguing minor leaguers nearly ready for the jump to the Big Ballclub in the Bronx. Once again, players highlighted likely won’t be back in 2011.

Under Contract (9):

2B Robinson Cano, C Francisco Cervelli, LF Brett Gardner, CF Curtis Granderson, IF Ramiro Pena, C Jorge Posada, 3B Alex Rodriguez, RF Nick Swisher, 1B Mark Teixeira

Free Agents (6):

1B Lance Berkman, SS Derek Jeter, 1B Nick Johnson, OF Austin Kearns, C Chad Moeller, OF Marcus Thames

Minor Leaguers to Watch (9): Note – this group includes players who received a call-up during the 2010 season

IF Reegie Corona, OF Colin Curtis, OF Greg Golson, 3B Brandon Laird, 1B Juan Miranda, C Jesus Montero, IF Eduardo Nunez, C Austin Romine, IF/OF Kevin Russo

Infield:

Derek Jeter may be a free agent this offseason, but nobody honestly expects him to sign elsewhere. GM Brian Cashman may have pulled some idiotic maneuvers in the past, but if he fails to re-sign the Captain I would fully anticipate his head being hoisted on a pole outside gate 4. That said, all four infield starters from last year – A-Rod at 3B, Cano at 2B, Teixeira at 1B and Jeter at SS look to be back next year. The key for this group in 2011 is health, as age, injuries and lack of rest caught up to them. Jeter had what is easily the worst season of his illustrious career, and at times seemed to have a slow bat. Teixeira battled nagging injuries throughout the season, as did Rodriguez. Cano finally realized his incredible potential and had his best season ever, but tailed off towards the end of the season – although he did seem refreshed by October. Despite their troubles, the infield combined for 102 HR, 401 R and 409 RBI. Getting the regulars some rest on occasion can only help their production, especially down the stretch. To that end, the Yankees need to decide what to do about reserve infielders. Ramiro Pena has a sure, if unspectacular glove but tends to get his bat knocked out of his hands, managing a meager .504 OPS despite garnering 167 plate appearances. Eduardo Nunez got a look late in the season, but displayed shaky defense with a middling bat. Kevin Russo got a look early in the year, but proved to be another Cody Ransom. Expect Reegie Corona to get a look this spring, but I expect he’ll spend a year at Scranton as the Yanks look to see if he might be able to fill in for Jeter in 2012. Another option is the free agent market, which is loaded with career utility types. One in particular, Willie Bloomquist, has piqued the Yankees interest in the past. As for Nick Johnson, 2010’s big offseason free agent signing: I don’t think he can pack his bags fast enough for the Yankees or their fans.

Catchers:

This was a definite weak spot for the Yankees in 2010. Neither Jorge Posada nor Francisco Cervelli proved to be worth much defensively. To make matters worse, Posada not only battled an assortment of injuries during the season, but suffered through a decidedly sub-par season offensively. Cervelli finished with decent numbers for a catcher (.694 OPS), but disappeared for the entire summer, hitting only .147 in June, July and August. Fully expect touted rookie Jesus Montero to make his Bronx debut in 2011, although that will crowd the situation behind the plate. If the Yankees do keep 11 pitchers on the roster, as is generally the case these days that only leaves room for 14 fielders – carrying three catchers is probably a luxury the Yankees can’t afford. Expect the Yankees to give Cervelli a look at third before making a final decision, to see if he can field the position defensively. Whatever the future holds for Cervelli, fully expect Posada and Montero to split the catching duties, with Montero getting the bulk of the starts behind the plate as the season progresses. The reviews on Montero’s defense have not been kind, but the Yanks hope that he can learn on the job, similar to another young, power-hitting catching prospect from 15 years ago. Some kid named Jorge Posada.

Outfield:

The Yankees seem to be set, with all three of 2010’s starters returning. But here’s the catch: there are two FA outfielders the Yanks have long coveted, Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth. Should the Yankees sign one or the other, a stable outfield situation suddenly becomes crowded. Do you sit Brett Gardner, who had a very respectable .762 OPS and stole 47 bases? Do you trade Nick Swisher, who is a fan favorite in the Bronx and posted a .288/29/89 line? Do you trade Curtis Granderson, a former all-star who found his stroke towards the end of the season? The most likely scenario has the Yankees signing Crawford (.307,19 HR, 90 RBI, 47 SB), if for no other reason than to keep him away from Boston, starting him in left and sitting Gardner. Also expect the Yankees to make an effort to re-sign Thames, who proved to be a valuable bat off the bench. But since 2011 looks to offer him even fewer opportunities than 2010, Thames will likely look elsewhere first.

That means the projected opening day line-up in 2011 would be:

SS Jeter, LF Crawford, 1B Teixeira, 3B Rodriguez, 2B Cano, RF Swisher, C Posada, DH Montero, CF Granderson

Current MLB players on 40 man roster:

Position Name Age Avg OBA SLG 2010 Salary 2011 Contract
2B Robinson Cano

28

0.319

0.381

0.534

$ 9,000,000.00 $ 10,000,000.00
C Francisco Cervelli

25

0.271

0.359

0.335

$ 410,800.00 Under Team Control
LF Brett Gardner

27

0.277

0.383

0.379

$ 452,000.00 Under Team Control
CF Curtis Granderson

30

0.247

0.324

0.468

$ 5,500,000.00 $ 8,250,000.00
IF Ramiro Pena

25

0.227

0.258

0.247

$ 412,000.00 Under Team Control
C Jorge Posada

39

0.248

0.357

0.454

$ 13,100,000.00 $ 13,100,000.00
3B Alex Rodriguez

35

0.270

0.341

0.506

$ 33,000,000.00 $ 31,000,000.00
RF/1B Nick Swisher

30

0.288

0.359

0.511

$ 6,850,000.00 $ 9,000,000.00
1B Mark Teixeira

31

0.256

0.365

0.481

$ 20,625,000.00 $ 22,500,000.00
1B Lance Berkman

35

0.255

0.358

0.349

$ 15,000,000.00 Free Agent
SS Derek Jeter

37

0.270

0.340

0.370

$ 22,500,000.00 Free Agent
1B Nick Johnson

32

0.167

0.388

0.306

$ 5,500,000.00 Free Agent
OF Austin Kearns

31

0.235

0.345

0.324

$ 750,000.00 Free Agent
C Chad Moeller

36

0.214

0.267

0.429

Unknown Free Agent
OF Marcus Thames

34

0.288

0.350

0.491

$ 900,000.00 Free Agent

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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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Tonight, the Yankees start the second leg of the Chase for 28 in Arlington, Texas. The game is on TBS and coverage begins at 8pm ET.

The Yankees got to this point by disposing of the Twins in 3 straight, while the Rangers are coming off a much more grueling 5 game victory over the Rays. The teams split their regular season series at 4 wins apiece – but this is the postseason, where the Yankees have historically owned the Rangers. But these aren’t your father’s Rangers. Those teams tried to club you into submission; this one features some pitching and speed in addition to the power.

During the regular season, the Rangers cruised to the AL West crown, finishing 9 games ahead of Oakland. Still, they would have finished third in the AL East, only one game ahead of Boston – and Boston was never really in the race after the All-Star break.

Let’s break it down.

Rotations:

Each team is planning on going with a four man rotation, although if either is down 3-0 the smart money is the game four starter will change.

Game 1: CC Sabathia vs. CJ Wilson

In the battle of Starters With Initials For Names, Sabathia is the Yankee ace and won 21 games this year. Wilson is the Rangers version of Phil Hughes, emerging from the bullpen to realize his potential this season. In their respective starts in the ALDS, Sabathia worked through 6 innings, demonstrating why he’s an ace: even without great command or life on his pitches, he kept the Yankees in the game until the team solved Francisco Liriano. The guy just finds a way to win, especially in prime-time. Wilson dominated the Rays in Game 2 of that series.

Game 2: Phil Hughes vs. Colby Lewis

Hughes gets the ball in Arlington, where he’s pitched well in the past. Lewis is a reclamation project, being rescued from Japan. Hughes went 18-8 while Lewis parked a 12-13 record. Each pitcher is relatively inexperienced in the postseason and will be making their second start, although Hughes also pitched out of the pen in last year’s postseason run to #27. In their previous starts, Hughes dominated the Twins in winning the clincher. Lewis was nearly as effective in game 3 against the Rays.

Game 3: Andy Pettite vs. Cliff Lee

The marquee matchup of this series pits Pettite, the all-time leader in starts and wins in the postseason against the Rangers ace – who has been dominant the past two years in October. Prepare for one of those classic 1-0 type games.

Game 4: AJ Burnett vs. Tommy Hunter

Burnett is basically like the lost lamb trying to find his way back, after a season in which he posted career highs in hit batters and ERA while posting a career worst WHIP. It was an ugly year for AJ and is pretty much getting the start only because the Yanks don’t want to burn out CC before the World Series. However, the Rangers may be the perfect team for AJ to get his groove back – the only teams he was statistically better against in 2010 were the Royals and Indians. Hunter posted career highs in wins, starts and innings pitched, but he’s very much a pitcher who relies on guile and command. Yankee Stadium in October isn’t exactly conducive to easing rattled nerves for opposing players (just ask the Angels from last year).

Because the Rangers had to go the distance with Tampa Bay, the Yankees catch a huge break: Rangers ace and Yankee-killer Cliff Lee will, at best, get 2 starts (games 3 & 7). But the odds are this series won’t go the full 7 games. Edge: Yankees

Bullpens:

The Yankees have the ultimate post season weapon in closer Mariano Rivera, and set him up rather nicely with Kerry Wood, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain and lefty Boone Logan. Despite the Rangers being primarily right-handed offensively, Logan still figures to be an important weapon out of the pen against Josh Hamilton.

The Rangers feature first-year closer Neftali Feliz and veteran lefty swing-man Darren Oliver. After that, it’s a hope, a prayer and somebody getting thrown to the wolves. The primary set-up man this year is Darren O’Day, but expect lefties Michael Kirkman and Derrek Holland to see plenty of action, as well. The Rangers also added another lefthander, Clay Rapada, to the roster for this series. Edge: Yankees

Offenses:

The Yankees led the league in scoring and the lineup is so deep that veteran All-Star Lance Berkman hits 8th. MVP candidate Robinson Cano is joined by perennial All-Stars Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira in the 100RBI club, and 5 Yankees went deep 25 or more times in 2010. When future Hall-of-Famer Derek Jeter is the weakest link in your lineup, you’re pretty set offensively. The Yankees also have speed in Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner (3rd in steals). Marcus Thames adds a proven power bat off the bench. The key to holding the Yankees down is hoping that Joe Girardi goes insane and starts IF Ramiro Pena and OF Greg Golson.

The Rangers boast some serious offense with the likes of CF/LF Josh Hamilton (also an MVP candidate), RF Nelson Cruz, DH Vladimir Guerrero, 3B Michael Young and 2B Ian Kinsler. SS Elvis Andrus and CF Julio Borbon add speed, but not much pop and not much in the way of getting on base. OF Jeff Francouer was brought over from the Mets to add a RH bat off the bench and pair with lefty OF David Murphy. The Rangers are offensively challenged at C and 1B, although C Bengie Molina can turn on a mistake. Still, the Rangers are only a real force offensively in positions 2-6. Edge: Yankees

Defenses:

The Rangers are a solid team defensively, particularly in the outfield, where the speed of Hamilton, Cruz and Borbon lets them get to a lot of balls and both Hamilton and Cruz feature excellent throwing arms. On the infield, Kinsler and Young don’t make many mistakes, but both have been compared to statues in the past. Catcher Molina is a weapon against opponents running games, but more importantly works well with the pitching staff. Reserve C Matt Treanor also figures to get at least one start. SS Andrus has terrific range and a good arm, but can be erratic at times. Manager Ron Washington has done a terrific job in shoring up what was once one of the worst defenses in baseball, but the Rangers aren’t on par with 1976 Reds yet.

The Yankees feature Gold Glove defense at 1B, 2B and LF. The greatest weakness is behind the plate, where C Jorge Posada had a sub-par year both throwing and blocking balls. Reserve C Francisco Cervelli seems destined to get the game 4 start, but has only been marginally better. Edge: Yankees

On the whole, the Yankees are clearly the better team. Watch out if the Yankees win the first two in Texas – this series could be over before Cliff Lee even takes the hill in game 3. Pick: I was originally going to say Yankees in 5, but I talked myself into it…

Yankees in a sweep.

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During and after yet another playoff victory for the Yankees over the Twins, the main story line for TBS and ESPN wasn’t Andy Pettitte’s terrific pitching performance or Berkman and Granderson’s offensive production…no, instead it was the strike called ball to Berkman in the 7th inning before his go-ahead double. What TBS and most other media outlets failed to report is during that at bat, the first pitch called a strike was actually a ball and for most of the night Pavano benefited from a very friendly strike zone. Below is the strike zone from tonight’s game (via Brooksbaseball.net):

 

Hunter Wendelstedt had a bad night

 

(Each pitch is represented by a single dot. Green dots are balls and red dots are strikes. Pitches marked as belonging to a particular team (for example “min” or “nya”) are designated with different shapes. These teams represent the pitching team, not the batting team. So, a pitch marked “nya-Called Strike” was thrown by a Yankees pitcher)

  • Twins pitchers had 14 balls called strikes
  • Yankee pitchers had 2 balls called strikes
  • Twins pitchers had 6 strikes called balls
  • Yankees pitchers had 5 strikes called balls

So while the media won’t let the facts get in the way of a good story, its clear the Yankees and not the Twins got the short-end of the strike zone stick last night.

Follow me on Twitter @eddieperez23

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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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As we prepare for tonight’s tilt with the Rays, there are numerous questions surrounding the Yankees. Will Andy Pettites groin be fully healed before the playoffs? Will Phil Hughesinnings limit result in him being ineffective? Who will be the fourth starter? Will the offense ever remember how to hit? Can Derek Jeter regain the form that made him a Yankee icon?

But the biggest question of all has to be this: Why is Joe Girardi still the manager?

Yes, I realize Girardi was the manager last year for #27. But many observers, myself included, felt the team won despite his managerial hijinx, not because of them. And the job he’s done this year – well, this current road trip pretty much sums up his season.

A manager’s job is two-fold: one, to put his players in the best position to do their job; and two, to motivate and inspire his squad to shine. Girardi consistently fails to do either. He insists on putting in line-ups where there are as many reserves as regulars. (How else do you explain bench players accounting for 21% of the teams plate appearances this season?). Quite frankly, I’m getting tired of seeing a bottom of the order consisting of Ramiro Pena and Francisco Cervelli. (That particular duo has started together an incredible 15 times this season – better than 10% of the season). It’s nothing against either of those guys, but this is supposed to be the Yankees, not the Orioles. Or the Cubs.

Girardi over-relies on the bullpen; the Yankees only have 3 complete games as a staff – 11th best in the AL. Don’t forget; this is the same guy who was run out of the Marlins clubhouse largely because he burned his bullpen so badly in 2006, they fell out of contention. It makes you wonder if Alfredo Aceves‘ workload contributed to his (possibly career-threatening) injury.

He also rubbed that clubhouse the wrong way, as the players simply got tired of his act. I doubt we’ll ever hear anyone on this team complain about the skipper – they’re all too professional for it – but I defy anyone to tell me this team actually wants to win for Girardi. To be blunt, lately the Yankees look as though they would rather be taking a nap than playing baseball. That type of lethargy is direct reflection on Girardi’s leadership -or lack thereof.

Last night’s game – with the odd bullpen choices (Kerry Wood and Boone Logan combined to throw fewer pitches in 1 1/3 innings than Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre did in 2/3 of an inning), lackadaisical hitting, base running blunders – was a microcosm of the season thus far. Lost in all the noise about the bullpen maneuvering and Brett Gardner’s inexplicable attempted steal of third were two other moves that make absolutely no sense. In the 5th, Jorge Posada was caught stealing. On a straight steal. With two out. Later, in the 11th, after Austin Kearns led off with a sharp single, Girardi had Curtis Granderson bunt. If you have the heart of the order coming up, that makes sense. But not when the next hitter is Colin Curtis.

I’m sure the infamous binder had all kinds of percentages for each of the weird moves we saw. But games aren’t won in a computer model; they’re won by players on the field. Speaking of computer models, the Pythagorean prediction says the Yankees should be 89-55 or two games better than they’ve played. Why do you suppose that is?

Managers can rarely win a game. But when they insist on managing like the league idiot, they can certainly lose them. For that reason, Joe Must Go.

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NY Daily News/Aris Sakellaridis

Sabathia & Berra lend their voices to ‘Henry & Me’ C.C. Sabathia, Yogi Berra, Reggie Jackson, Alex Rodriguez, as well as other Yankees players, recorded parts for the upcoming movie, ‘Henry & Me.’ “Their message to the sick child “Jack,” the “Me” in the story: You can do it, kid. Just keep telling yourself you can, and you will.”

Ron Guidry and the Beach Boys:Guidry played the drums when he was with the Yankees, and he was skilled enough to perform once with the Beach Boys as a drummer in a post-game concert. But playing the drums also benefited Guidry’s pitching.”

“I kept a set of drums at Yankee Stadium for one reason,” said Guidry. “Playing the drums kept my wrists very strong, and a strong left wrist allowed me to throw my slider more effectively.”

Yankees and  Jay-Z team up on co-branded merchandise. From the AP: “The hip-hop mogul is teaming up with his favorite baseball squad on co-branded clothes that will be sold exclusively at Yankee Stadium beginning next week. All the items, from baseball caps to T-shirts and hooded sweat shirts, will feature Yankees and Jay-Z logos. In a news release Thursday, the Yankees said the attire was created to commemorate the first official concerts at the new Yankee Stadium on Sept. 13 and 14, when Jay-Z and Eminem will co-headline.”
 
  • Yanks lose fourth straight, grip on first place
  • CANALI RE-SIGNS MO AS THEIR MR. OCTOBER
  • Nobody can throw the ball like Catfish can
  • Donald Trump blogs about Steinbrenner
  • (more…)

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    As we get ready for tonight’s tilt with the Blue Jays, a few thoughts from last night’s game:

    • If Ivan Nova was brought up with the idea of resting the pitching staff, it seems somebody forgot to tell Joe Girardi. Nova only pitched 5 1/3 innings, throwing 73 pitches. After a rough 1st inning, he settled in nicely. Other than a poorly located pitch to Jose Bautista, he didn’t give the Jays anything. I’m still scratching my head over Girardi’s decision to yank Nova in the 6th and use 3 relievers last night, particularly with Dustin Moseley (averaging 5 2/3 innings per start) and Phil Hughes (he of the innings limit) coming up next. Assuming Nova maintained his 14 pitch/inning rate (not improbable), he wouldn’t have hit 100 pitches until the 9th inning. Strange, but I’m sure Girardi had his reasons.
    • What was with that line-up? I understand Derek Jeter needed a night off. But by putting Jorge Posada in the DH role, that left the bottom of the Yankees line-up looking more like the bottom of the line-up for Scranton-Wilkes Barre. A better option would have been to start Posada behind the plate and pencil in Austin Kearns (who’s been hitting pretty well, btw) into the DH role. I also would have batted Curtis Granderson 2nd and Nick Swisher 6th, since Swish is a far better run producer than Granderson. That would have left the Yankees with

    Gardner LF; Granderson CF; Teixeira 1B; Cano 2B; Posada C; Swisher RF; Kearns DH; Pena 3B; Nunez  SS

    Then, tonight you could have DH’d Posada and an 8-9 of Francisco Cervelli and Pena. As it was, the Yankees got exactly the kind offense you could expect from the line-up Girardi put out there.

    • Speaking of Bautista, two questions come to mind: First, why are the Yankees still throwing him fastballs? Second, is anyone else just a little suspicious that Bautista has nearly tripled his career high for home-runs while playing in the same town that Anthony Galea calls home?
    • Finally, I can’t wait to see what the umpires have in store for us tonight. MLB sent what might be the worst umpiring crew I’ve seen all season to work this series – and that’s really saying something. The HP ump couldn’t find the strike zone, leaving both teams hollering at him. The first base ump blew a call that obviously cost the Yankees a run. You also have to wonder if that call might have caused just a moment’s loss of concentration for Nova, since it was the following AB that Bautista did his best Barry Bonds act.

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