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Posts Tagged ‘Lance Berkman’

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.

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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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On Thursday, Lance Berkman was placed on the disabled list with a sprained ankle. He was 7-for-39 with no homers and 4RBI’s as a Yankee. “We just felt that it hadn’t progressed quite as quickly as we wanted it to,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We just felt that it was probably in his and our best interest to DL him and that way he’s not rushing back. He still lacks some stability and has not had a chance to run yet.”

Frankie Piliere of Fanhouse gave full-length scouting reports of Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos.

On Betances: The bottom line here is this: keep Dellin Betances on the mound and healthy and his talent is as good as anyone at the minor league level. Health is the only thing that can hold him back.

On Banuelos: Look around the big leagues and find the left-handed starting pitchers that average 93 mph or better with their fastball. It’s a very short list. Throw in the fact that Banuelos is a consistent strike-throwing machine with two above-average secondary pitches and you have a very rare commodity….If he can remain healthy and keep his shorter frame in check, he is a true front-of-the-rotation type pitcher.

Yankees prospect, Zach McAllister, was sent to the Indians as the player to be named later in the Kearns trade.

(more…)

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I was going to write about the sudden spate of injuries that hit the Yankees this past week. But I figured enough has been written and said regarding Andy Pettitte‘s groin, Alex Rodriguez‘s calf, Nick Swisher‘s forearm, Alfredo Aceves‘ back and Lance Berkman‘s ankle that you probably know more about their injury status than I do. Besides, after a post about Javier Vazquez‘ dead arm, I’ve had my fill of negativity. ESPN loves to talk about how the Red Sox have overcome their injuries to remain in the hunt, but they generally neglect that some pretty important players in the “Evil Empire” have dealt with – and are still dealing with – some significant injuries. So, if Boston is playing with such extreme grit and fortitude, than the Yankees must
be doing something even better – after all, the Beaneaters are still 5 ½ games back. So I decided to write about one of those things. (Ok, enough of the digression – but it gave me a chance to get a dig in on the Red Sox, and I can’t pass those up!)

One of those good things for the Yankees lately is the play of Curtis Granderson. Traded to the Yankees for Austin Jackson and Phil Coke during last offseason, Granderson has been largely a disappointment this year. Many fans (me included) have wondered what happened to the guy who hit 30 home runs last year; who blended speed and power into an all-star caliber player. Just 5 short weeks ago I wondered aloud if just maybe, Dave Dombrowski had snookered Brian Cashman. Even Joe Girardi had seemed to lose faith in his stating center fielder – after acquiring Austin Kearns in a deadline deal, the skipper looked to be employing a platoon between Granderson and Kearns.

But something magical happened between then and now. I’m not sure what it was, but the Yankees should patent it and sell it to every player in a season long slump. Most folks point to Kevin Long instilling a new swing and enhanced plate discipline during a 3 game respite on the last road trip. I’m not quite sure that’s all there is to Granderson’s revival. After all, you have to presume Long was working with Granderson over the previous 100 odd games, so I suspect there was a riot act read to him either before or during that hiatus. Whatever the case, Granderson has emerged from that brief interlude with a revamped approach – he’s quieter at the plate now, holding his hands closer to his body and slightly lower, and his crouch isn’t as exaggerated as before. Don’t listen to all of those folks saying Long adjusted Granderson’s swing – the one thing anyone who’s played the game knows, is a player’s swing is as natural as breathing. Even if you need to make changes, it’s not something that can be done in a few days. But the approach can. In Granderson’s case, those adjustments have made a world of difference. His bat was always quick; he just found himself swinging at air too often because his approach at the plate inhibited his view of the ball. It caused his head to bob; his hands had to drop and come in to get into hitting position. As a result, pitchers knew they could bust him inside, leaving Curtis vulnerable to off-speed pitches away.

Although hardly a sample size to get excited about, the results from a few tweaks in Granderson’s in Granderson’s hitting style have been eye-popping:

Date

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

BAbip

k%

Before 8/12

0.239

0.306

0.415

0.722

0.317

22.0%

Since 8/12

0.364

0.440

0.727

1.167

0.421

12.0%

The last two columns are the ones that may indicate this isn’t a temporary change in Granderson’s fortunes. Granderson is swinging and missing less often (though still more than I’d like for a speed guy) and when he hits the ball, he is scorching it more often. I doubt he can maintain that average on balls in play for an extended period (or the OPS – both are in Barry Bonds territory), but if he can hold that metric at a .350 or so clip and keep the strikeouts down it translates to a .308 batting average and .414 on base average for the rest of the season, very respectable numbers that the Yankee will gladly take from their 7 hole hitter.

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So, Berkman’s hardest hit of the season took down A-Rod…

From ESPN New York: (Wallace Matthews & Ian Begley):

NEW YORK — Alex Rodriguez was scratched from the lineup about 90 minutes before the start of Saturday’s Yankees-Red sox game after suffering “a contusion of the lower left leg” after he was hit by a line drive off the bat of Lance Berkman during batting practice.

Berkman, who was batting right-handed, ripped a one-hopper down the third-base line that apparently caught Rodriguez on the left shin as he was taking grounders. “Look out!” Berkman shouted as the ball left his bat.

In obvious pain, Rodriguez hobbled around on the infield grass for a few seconds before staggering into short center field, where he rolled around on the grass before turning face down. Some of Rodriguez’ teammates, including Derek Jeter, thought at first that he was joking and yelled some light-hearted insults. Then, when it was obvious the injury was serious, Jeter shouted in the dugout for trainer Gene Monahan, who hurried out to where Rodriguez lay.

According to Bryan Hoch, Alex Rodriguez suffered a left leg contusion. X-Rays are being taken.

We’ll have more information as it comes available.

Update 4:23PM ET: A-Rod’s x-rays came up negative. He remains day-to-day.

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The trade deadline has come and gone and Brian Cashman was certainly busy over the final 48 hours, landing three new players. With Lance Berkman, Austin Kearns and Kerry Wood now wearing Pinstripes, let’s look back at what were generally considered the Yankees biggest needs heading into this year’s trade season and see how well Cashman did in addressing them.

  1. Bullpen: The struggles of Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson and Chan Ho Park this year, along with injuries to Alfredo Aceves, Sergio Mitre and Damaso Marte turned what looked like a major strength at the beginning of the season into a major question mark. Cashman picked up Wood hours after the Indians activated him from the DL. And that’s been Kerry Wood’s big problem throughout his career – the guy just can’t stay healthy. At one time, he was supposed to be the Next Big Thing; now, his career has devolved into that of middle innings guy. Still, Wood has a plus fastball and curve and hitters don’t like to face him. Additionally, acquiring him gave the Yankees the perfect excuse to send Park and his thrill-a-minute pitching style packing, so that’s a plus right there. Also, Cashman gave up virtually nothing to get him, other than money and a future low-grade prospect, so there isn’t much risk involved here. Of course, this doesn’t really address the eighth inning role, but adding a power arm is never a bad idea. Grade: B-
  2. Outfield bench: Replacing Melky Cabrera, Johnny Damon and Eric Hinske with Randy Winn and Marcus Thames didn’t exactly pan out. Thames has demonstrated that his all-hit, no-glove reputation is well deserved and Winn played so well he was asked to run away from Yankee Stadium. Enter Austin Kearns. Kearns represents a serious upgrade to this unit. Unlike Thames, he is a better than league-average defender at both corner spots and league-average in center, if needed. He has better than average speed, although it’s never translated to stolen bases. He has decent power from the right side, although not enough to ever be considered a power hitter. In other words, he is the epitome of a fourth outfielder even though his past teams were so awful he found himself thrust into starting roles. Once again, Cashman brought a solid player in from Cleveland for cash or the infamous PTBNL (btw, I want to meet that guy one day – he gets traded A LOT), so there isn’t much risk involved, either. The only thing keeping this from being an “A” is that Kearns doesn’t project as a guy you want starting 3-4 weeks in a row, should a serious injury occur. Grade: B+
  3. Infield Bench: This is the one area that still needs some work. Neither Ramiro Pena nor Kevin Russo are guys you really want to see with a bat in their hands, but the Yankees were unable to find any help. A waiver trade is always a possibility, but Tampa, Boston and Texas will know what the Yankees are up to and probably try to block any such move. Grade: F
  4. Designated Hitter: A full-time DH wasn’t a serious need, even if Nick Johnson is likely done. Using the DH role to rotate some of the Yankee vets would have been fine, if a strong utility guy could be found. None were, so Cashman did the next best thing: bring in some big-time thunder for the DH role. Although undeniably on the downside of very good career, Lance Berkman’s arrival means the Yankee line-up gets lengthened, with legitimate power threats from 2-8. The undeniable shocker of the trade deadline. Grade: A

Overall, I give Cashman a B- for this year’s deadline dealing, although that stands to improve if the Yanks can swing a deal for utility infielder.

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Lance Berkman

Houston Astros first baseman, Lance Berkman, was not in the lineup posted outside the clubhouse today.

Via Twitter:

Joelsherman1: “Hearing Berkman deal from Astros to Yankees is on verge of completion.”

Buster_ESPN: “Heard this: The Steinbrenners have given pre-approval to the acquisition of a large salary such as Lance Berkman or Adam Dunn.”

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Now that a White Sox – Nationals trade sending Adam Dunn to Chicago’s South Side seems more likely than ever (the White Sox just landed Edwin Jackson, who Nat’s GM Mike Rizzo is said to covet and have included him in their offer), it’s time to look for alternatives for the slugging southpaw. Mind you, I never thought Dunn (or any 1B/DH types, for that matter) are really needed in the South Bronx and I think the team needs help in the bullpen and a bench IF more than a lefty bat. But, it seems the Yankees front office has decided to find a left-handed bat they can plug into the DH role.

Option 1: Adam LaRoche, Arizona – Call him “Dunn-lite.” A left-handed first baseman, LaRoche currently sports a slash line of .254/.330/.446 and a career slash line of .271/.341/.487. Over seven seasons, he averages 1 HR every 21.4 AB’s, 1 K every 4 – and is a notorious second-half hitter. Although the rumor mill is quiet about him, it would make sense for Arizona to move him. The team is on obvious salary-dump mode and LaRoche is on a one-year, $4.5M deal with a mutual $7.5M option for next year (or a buy-out for $1.5M). One drawback for the Yankees is that option increases to $9.5M if traded. Still, it represents a way for the D’backs to shed about $4M from their anticipated payroll if they have no plans to keep him next year.

Option 2: Lance Berkman, Houston – Trades with the Astros are notoriously difficult, unless you happen to be the Phillies. However, the Roy Oswalt trade yesterday may signal that owner Drayton McClane is finally waving the white flag. The former all-star should be familiar to most fans, but here’s the upside: Berkman is a veteran switch hitter with power (1 HR every 17 AB) and one of those high-quality clubhouse types. Unlike Dunn and LaRoche, nobody has ever questioned this guy’s work ethic or desire. But he is having a down year in terms of production and has missed significant portions of the last two seasons with injuries. Although on the production side of the equation, he is walking more than ever – a sure sign that pitchers are avoiding the one true threat in an anemic Astros line-up. The money is also going to be difficult for the Yankees. Berkman is owed around $7M for the remainder of this year and he has made it clear he wants his $15M option for next year guaranteed in order to not exercise his no-trade clause. $22M for an injury plagued 1B on the downside of his career should be too much for Cashman & Co. to swallow.

Option 3: Derrek Lee, Cubs – The Cubs are rumored to be looking to shed payroll, although they have yet to make any deals. Lee is owed around $6.5M this year before hitting free agency. This would be a bit of a reach, since Lee is having a really bad year after a bounce-back type season a year ago. If you take 2009 out of the equation, then his last three seasons work to a .290/362/.408 line. While his HR production would probably increase some at Yankee Stadium (1 for every 29.5 AB over the past 3 years), you have to wonder how he would handle NYC and the post-season. In 23 career post-season games, Lee is a .263 hitter. On the plus side, Lee is considered an A+ type guy in the clubhouse. I’d consider this a real “Hail Mary” play if the Yanks were to pursue it.

Again, I don’t think the Yankees should really go hard after any of these guys, but if they happen to fall into Brian Cashman’s lap, then they might be worth it for the 2010 stretch run. Another thing to keep in mind is that these guys will almost certainly clear waivers because of the money involved, so if the Yankees still find themselves in need in mid-August odds are one or all three will be available. That leaves us…

Option 4: Nick Johnson, DL – Yes, you heard that one right. Mike Axisa reports that Johnson is resuming baseball activities in Tampa, though they’re limited to fielding grounders and soft-tossed fungoes for now. Still, if Johnson can make it back by September then he at least has a chance to redeem himself somewhat.

Author’s note – I checked the wires just before posting this. Joel Sherman tweeted the Yankees “are definitely in for Lance Berkman, considering him seriously.” Sherman also broke the news the Yankees had landed Cliff Lee, so take it for what it’s worth.

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