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Posts Tagged ‘Joe Girardi’

Class is now in session….

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Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro Tanaka

Pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is the seventh Japanese player to be part of the New York Yankees.

Before signing him, the Yankees were in the ninth place in the odds lists for winning the 2014 World Series. The favorites to win this season are Los Angeles Dodgers. You can check your favorite team’s place in SportsBettingDime.com.

Tanaka signed a seven-year $ 155 million contract, becoming the fifth Asian pitcher to join New York. The Yankees will have two Japanese in the rotation for next season, with Tanaka and veteran Hiroki Kuroda. The 25-year-old ended last season with a 24-0 record playing for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, with a 1.27 ERA. In 175 games, the Japanese threw 53 complete games with 18 shutouts and 1,238 strikeouts.

The team led by Joe Girardi has had a good experience with Japanese players (Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui), but none has excelled on the mound. The first Japanese pitcher to reach the Yankees was Hideki Irabu in 1997, who won two World Series with the team but did not take part in any game. Irabu finished with 27 wins and 24 losses in two years in New York, with a 3.31 ERA. He allowed 396 hits and 165 runs while striking out 317 rivals.

Kei Igawa was signed in 2007 and stayed only two seasons with the team. The former Hanshin Tigers player started 13 games and finished with a 2-4 record with a 6.66 ERA. He allowed 89 hits, 54 runs and 15 home runs. Due to his low-level of play, the team sent him to AAA team and tried to trade him to another squad in Japan.

Ryota Igarashi, who arrived from the Toronto Blue Jays, was the third Japanese pitcher to try his luck with the Yankees. He joined the team in 2012, but had only two appearances, pitching three innings with four hits and four runs.

After four seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kuroda signed a one-year contract with New York in January 2012 and achieved a 16-11 mark. Thanks to his good numbers he stayed for another season, but only got 11 wins and closed with seven losses in his last 10 appearances.

Next season, Tanaka will be the ninth Japanese active player in the MLB, but the Yankees expect him to become the biggest star of the Rising Sun country to return to the playoffs and aspire to another World Series title.

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The New York Yankees have said that CC Sabathia has a grade 2 left hamstring strain and won’t pitch again this season. Supposedly, CC injured it during his last start but pitched through it. One would have to guess that he kept the injury secret from management, because I doubt Girardi would have kept him out there if he had known. This puts the nail in the coffin for the Yankees season (that’s if you still thought they had a chance).

CC Sabathia

CC Sabathia

 

 

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Remember when, during the original Star Wars (Episode IV for you younger fans), Ben Kenobi pulls a Jedi mind trick on a pair of stormtroopers? “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” he intones – and the troopers repeat mindlessly after him. We Yankee fans are wondering if ol’ General Obi Wan was employed by the Yankee front office to pull a similar trick on us during the off-season. “These aren’t the pitchers you’re looking for…”

After twelve games, the Yankees are 6-6. While a .500 is hardly the record that the team’s fans expect, the Yanks could be worse off. Equally unsteady play from the rest of the AL East means they haven’t dug themselves a major hole – they’re only a game from first place (but also only two from last). That being said, the fans are grumbling and we all know that in days of yore, King George would have Joe Binder on speed dial.

Much of the grumbling seems to be centering on the offense. While it’s sputtered at times, and Yankee hitters have done a miserable job with RISP (their team .240 batting average in such situations is 26 points below the league average), the offense has still scored the second most runs in the league. Simply put, even if A-Rod and Robbie Cano continue to have dismal 2012 seasons, the rest of the team should still score enough to keep the team in any game.

No, the problem has been the starting pitching. 12 starts, but only four of them have been “quality starts” – that is, at least 6 innings and no more than 3 runs allowed. At this point, only one starter has a better than league average ERA (Ivan Nova, at 4.15). The rest of the rotation have ERA’s north of 5. The back end, featuring Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes have been particularly putrid so far: the pair have combined to allow 34 baserunners, 17 runs and 5 home runs in only 18 innings over 4 games. It’s gotten to the point that the Yankee hitters have to feel as if they’re down by four before they even leave the clubhouse on days when either of the duo pitches. The rest of the staff hasn’t been much better, although CC Sabathia seemed to finally wake up in his last start. The book is still out on Hiroki Kuroda: he threw a game for the ages during the home opener, but followed it up by throwing batting practice to the Twins last night.

And right now, hopes are pinned on the returns of Andy Pettitte and Michael Pineda. While you would be hard pressed to say either can be worse than the current fourth and fifth starters, a dose of realism is in order. Pettitte is returning from retirement, will be 40 in June and hasn’t thrown 200 innings since 2008. Pineda was a phenom for Seattle during the first half last year. His fastball disappeared after the 2011 All-Star break, along with his success. The Yankees diagnosed him with a shoulder strain during Spring Training, which is why he is currently on the DL. If Pettitte is a victim of Father Time and/or Pineda can’t rediscover the velocity that made him a feared righty last year, then the Yankees season might well be sunk. Because let’s face it: Kuroda might be experienced, but he lacks the stuff to be a true number 2. Nova is probably in the right spot as a number 3 guy. But Garcia is quickly proving that last year’s high batting average against isn’t something that you can pitch around consistently. Hughes is showing that 2010 wasn’t a break-out season for him, but rather a wondrous year in an otherwise sub-par career.

Tonight is another game and another start for Hughes. It’s time for he and Garcia to prove they can get guys out in the major leagues. If they can’t, then 2012 is going to be a long season.

***UPDATE: Game in progress, top 1st. Hughes wasn’t helped by an Eduardo Nunez error, but he’s allowed four runs. ***

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Joe Girardi has chosen the NY Giants to prevail over the New England Patriots to win Superbowl XLVI. I’m not going to argue with a prediction like that. He says the G-Men will win 27-24. Girardi said that he’s a fan of Tom Coughlin’s work and they’ve even been known to exchange text messages after a victory.

I can only imagine the texts that those two send. I love Coughlin, but I’m quite surprised that he knows how to send text messages. Maybe Girardi texts Coughlin to run more with Bradshaw after referencing his trusted all-knowing binder?

I figured in honor of the Giants, I would make this post. GO GIANTS!

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The 25-man roster for the American League Division Series has been finalized by Joe Girardi. Here’s what it looks like:

Pitching: CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia, Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano, David Robertson, Boone Logan, Luis Ayala, Cory Wade, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes.

Hitting: Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Eric Chavez, Eduardo Nunez, Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, Andruw Jones, Chris Dickerson, Rusell Martin, Jesus Montero, Jorge Posada.

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The long-awaited September call-up of top Yankees hitting prospect, Jesus Montero has finally come. Joe Girardi has slotted him in the lineup tonight against Boston Red Sox as the designated hitter. It’s will be interesting to see Jorge Posada’s reaction to being pulled off the playoff roster if Montero puts on a clinic this September.

Montero will be donning the No. 63 on his uniform.

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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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From Chad Jennings:

OAKLAND, CALIF. — Phil Hughes is almost ready to face hitters, but he’s still more than a month away from rejoining the Yankees’ rotation. Manager Joe Girardi said the All-Star break is a reasonable target for the Yankees’ injured starter.

“It’s probably, realistically, some time in July,” Girardi said.

Working his way back from shoulder inflammation, Hughes will throw another bullpen Wednesday and could face hitters by the weekend, but Girardi said the process will be similar to spring training. Hughes still has to build arm strength, go on a rehab assignment and make multiple starts before he’ll be ready to return to the big leagues.

“Do you need six starts (like in spring training)?” Girardi said. “I don’t know, but you’re going to need at least, I would say, four or five. At least. So when you’re coming into a game, and you’re coming to helps us, you’re not going three innings and then we got to go to somebody else.

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Phil will throw a bullpen session today, and proceed to pitch batting practice in Anaheim if everything goes well. With no concrete date of his return set in stone, it’s just a matter of taking it slow and bringing him back at full strength. Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia have both done a fine job holding their own in the rotation while he’s been out, so there’s no need to rush him.

Hughes is 0-1 with a 13.94ERA over 10.1 innings this season (last pitched on April 14th).

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Anyone who has spent any time at all this season watching our beloved Yankees realized something was amiss. From the first series of the year, parts of the team failed to click. The problem was, nobody could put their finger on it and they were still winning, so what the hell, right?

Over the last two weeks, that nagging voice in the backs of our heads has become a full roar, overwhelming everything else in our baseball-related worlds. Six straight losses and 10 of 13. The problem is obvious, if you just step back for a moment. This is not a team; it is a collection of talented players, each one looking out for their own interests. Placing their own (often inflated) egos ahead of the group. Three incidents particularly point up the lack of leadership and chemistry.

  1. The Jorge Posada situation: Once upon a time, Jorge Posada wouldn’t have dreamed of throwing the type of temper-tantrum we witnessed on Saturday, especially against the Red Sox. Any player trying that would have been faced down by his teammates long before reaching the manager’s office – and Posada would have been the one leading the charge. Posada, as much as I love all he meant to past Yankee glories, quit on the team before one of the biggest games of the year. All over the perceived injustice of hitting 9th – even though his .165 batting average is dead last in the majors. Screw the team; just give me my at-bats with RISP so I can keep striking out.
  2. The Derek Jeter incident: The day after Posada opted out of the line-up, Jeter offered a defense of Posada instead of calling him out. I don’t mean in the press – that would have been the wrong way to go about it, and Jeter’s pretty bland answers were the right move there. I mean in front of the team. Jeter, the ostensible captain of this forlorn bunch, should have stepped up and let it be known that if anyone else wanted to quit, they needed to go through him first. Instead, he did nothing until called out by management.
  3. Post-game yesterday: All the reports I’ve read this morning regarding the post-game clubhouse yesterday show a clubhouse in dangerous need of repair. Rafael Soriano offered this tidy bit of analysis – “To me, I don’t think (the) bullpen (is) the problem. I think it (is) the hitters.” So, a relief pitcher who thus far has made 16 rather ineffective appearances (5.40 ERA, 76 ERA+) and now heads for the DL, is offering up half the team as sacrificial lambs.

If that isn’t evidence enough, then simply watch the results. This team is obviously distracted by something. The mental errors are staggering and affecting every facet of the game. The talent is as good as any team in either league, yet the Yankees sport the seventh best record in the AL.

I’ve read plenty of articles recommending minor tweaks – calling up a couple of minor leaguers, shifting the line-up and the like. But for any of those moves to have a snowball’s chance of working, the team needs to believe and trust in the manager. Joe Girardi, for whatever reason (maybe because he’s a clubhouse mouthpiece for the front office?), does not have that confidence from his players.

Yes, the team needs a shake-up. There are few situations in which replacing the manager is actually the correct move. Managers generally get fired because they have bad teams that not even Casey Stengel could turn into winners. But, when the manager loses the clubhouse, when he no longer effectively leads the team, then firing the manager is not only the correct response.

It is the only response.

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The Yankee offense has been both exciting and frustrating over the first 5 weeks of the season. Exciting, because they’re mashing home runs like it’s 1961 again. Frustrating, because they seem to leave runners on the bases every inning.

Three players have particularly drawn attention due to their offensive liabilities: Brett Gardner and two Yankee stalwarts, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada. Of the three, Jeter is the one I’m least concerned about. First, if you look at him in terms of playing his position, he still rates as a top 5 shortstop. Yes, the numbers this season (.276 BA, .331 OBP) are far from the numbers Jeter has put up over his career. But if anyone honestly thought he was still a .320 hitter at age 37, they probably need a good psychiatrist. Here’s how Jeter stacks up with other AL shortstops right now:

Jeter is 2nd in batting average, 4th in on-base and 5th OPS. This list also represents only those AL shortstops who have amassed at least 100 plate appearances – something has to be said about durability. Note that none of the other players on the list have hit their 30th birthday yet. The other reason I’m not worried about Jeter is who knows how the chase for 3000 is affecting him? I doubt the added stress is helping. Let’s see how he does after hit #3000 is in the books before passing judgment.

We may be seeing all we’re ever going to see out of Gardner: a guy who can fly but lacks aggressiveness, both at the plate and on the basepaths. Working a count is one thing, but taking strike one on fastballs down the middle is ridiculous. As is his approach on the bases: great basestealers don’t read pitchers; they force pitchers to read them. Maybe the Yankees can hire Rickey Henderson as a special instructor and have Gardner hang out with him for a couple of weeks. If he doesn’t go completely insane, he may just pick up some of Rickey’s attitude.

That leaves us with Jorge. I’m afraid that Posada may be done and we’re seeing the death throes of a terrific career unfold before our eyes. I wouldn’t be so worried about him except for this: Posada has always demolished pitchers in April and May during his career; slumped badly in June and July and then picked it up as the playoffs approached. But this year’s numbers look nothing like a typical Jorge Posada April and May:

The drops from a typical Posada season to this one are alarmingly extreme: he strikes out more often and when he hits the ball, it’s without much authority. The result is the 130 point drop in batting average and 261 point decline in OPS. While he is homering more frequently, this looks more like the career of Rob Deer than Jorge Posada. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him look so lost at the plate, lunging at breaking pitches and unable to catch up to fastballs. Maybe the switch to full-time DH this year affects him more than he lets on. Regardless, I doubt either Joe Girardi or the front office will put up with this for too much longer, and I would hate to see one of the all-time greats go out on such a sorry note.

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Yesterday, I posted about what a Yankees season without Phil Hughes might look like. At the time I wrote it, we all were unaware of what a serious condition Hughes faces. In case you missed it: after last night’s excellent win (featuring Bartolo Colon returning to his 2002-2005 form), Joe Girardi announced that Hughes may have Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, a rare circulation problem. Commonly referred to as TOS, if left untreated can lead to some really nasty complications – including stroke. Hughes is scheduled to see specialist Robert Thompson in St. Louis on Monday for a final diagnosis and treatment options, if this is what he has.

Other major leaguers have suffered from TOS. Some have made it back, some had their careers ended and some returned but were only a shadow of their former selves. Regardless, all of that is secondary right now. I’m sure column inches will be dedicated to that discussion in the future, but for now I’m sure all Yankee fans join me in saying…

Get Well, Phil!

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