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Posts Tagged ‘Pedro Feliciano’

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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Dejected Orioles, thanks to Yankee Bats & Weather

We’re often quick to criticize the Yankee front office and ownership when they do something silly (Hank? Anyone seen Hank?), stupid (like criticize the team’s franchise player) or just plain baffling (like sign overused relievers to multi-year deals). But it isn’t often that we take the time to acknowledge them when they do something that reminds us the Yankees remain the classiest organization in all of MLB.

The latest example of that came about the other night. If you weren’t there or weren’t paying attention, the Yankees hosted the Orioles on what may have been one of the ten worst nights in history to play a baseball game. (Yankees won 7-1, by the way). The wind chill was in the low-30’s for the entire game, and when it wasn’t foggy there was a steady drizzle of what felt like wind-driven pellets. Often, there was both. It stands as a testament to loyal Yankee fans that anyone bothered showing up for the game. The announced crowd of 42,171 obviously included a lot of people who didn’t venture into the elements, since there is no way there were 32,000 people in the stands – let alone 42,000+.

Under different circumstances, the game might have been called due to weather. It certainly wasn’t ideal conditions to play a game and I’m still surprised none of the players wound up with a pulled anything afterwards. But that would have meant the third postponement in the Yanks first seven home games – something no team wants to do.

But the Yankees, midway through the game, announced everyone with a ticket could use their stub to either get a free ticket or 50% off a ticket for the high-rent district (excluding suites) to ANY other game. It’s a simple gesture of thanks to the 42,000 people who bought a ticket to a game that nobody should have been forced to watch outdoors. And one that will cost the Yankees every penny they made from this game – and possibly more, depending on how many of those $5 bleacher seats wind up getting traded in for a half-off ticket in the 200 level. I can’t think of another team that’s willingly thrown away a game’s gate.

Class? You betcha. Thank you, Yankees.

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With the recent acquisition of Rafael Soriano, the seemingly ageless question of whether Joba Chamberlain should be moved back into the starting rotation has resurfaced. It’s a question that has plagued the Yankees ever since Joba exploded on the scene as Mariano’s set-up man in the second half of the 2007 season.

Really, nobody thought the question would be a topic of discussion heading into this season. Joba was given a shot at the #5 spot last spring and lost to Phil Hughes. Going into this offseason, he seemed destined to be given a legitimate chance at earning the 8th inning role, despite his erratic pitching in 2010. After all, the Yankees were the consensus pick to land Cliff LeeAndy Pettitte wasn’t supposed to semi-retire. There wasn’t any room for Joba in the rotation and 8th inning duties looked to be a battle between him and David Robertson.

My, what a difference a few months and one type A free agent signing can bring. Now the 8th inning role is filled and the 7th inning features Joba, Robertson, Boone Logan and Pedro Feliciano, while the rotation features world-beaters Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre. Given the way the pitching staff has suddenly been reshuffled, it’s no wonder the question of Joba’s proper role has resurfaced.

There are plenty of statistical reasons for making Joba a starter again. Mike Axisa of RAB has the usual arguments listed here. There’s also another reason moving Joba to the rotation makes sense: as currently constucted, the ‘pen doesn’t have a long man – the guy you bring in when the starter blows up in the 3rd or 4th inning. Last year, that role was filled by Mitre and Chad Gaudin. The rotation as currently set, with three guys who have a history of falling apart early in starts (not only Nova and Mitre, but the volatile and erratic AJ Burnett), that role looks to be more important than ever this year. After all, the back end of the pen is solid. The middle looks solid – but all six of the guys the team is counting on will wilt in the second half if they’re logging 1/2 of the teams innings.

The argument against Joba starting boils down to two problems: first, how healthy is his shoulder? Second, will he ever display the consistency to be effective over 7+ innings every five days – or is he more of an AJ-lite?

As to the question of health, we’ll never know unless Joba is returned to the rotation, it seems. Last year, his average fastball clocked in around 94-95mph, ending a three year decline in velocity. But, Joba also threw fewer pitches than in any full-season – 30% fewer. Was the increased velocity the result of a lighter workload not taxing that injured shoulder? If returned to the rotation, how will tripling his pitch count affect his velocity and control? (Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs)

The maturity question is another one that’s hard to gauge at this point. If it’s true that being bounced around from one role to another makes a pitcher great, then Joba should be ready to become the next Bob Gibson. But all the evidence thus far points to pitcher who has difficulty controlling his emotions, which is the principle reason he was relegated to the pen in the first place.

Of course, the Yankees could sign a back-of-the-rotation type over the next 4 weeks (Justin Duchsherer, perhaps?), relegating Mitre back to the pen or Nova back to the minors and rendering the whole question moot.

For now.

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The Yankees have been busy since Cliff Lee stunned the baseball world and retreated to the quiet confines of Citizen’s Bank Park, home of those welcoming Philadelphia types. (Unless you happen to be Santa Clause, that is). After devoting the entire offseason plan to signing Lee, you couldn’t really blame Brian Cashman and company if they didn’t have a plan B. But, much to my amazement and joy, they did! And they didn’t waste any time whatsoever in implementing it!

It seems plan B consists of signing every retread and injury-prone player still available. First, they landed their big-name pitcher in Mark Prior. Who cares if Prior hasn’t thrown a ML pitch in 4 years and has a history of shoulder ailments dating back 7 seasons? He was once one of the best right-handed starters in the majors. Then, virtually in tandem with signing Prior, the Yankees swooped in and grabbed C Russell Martin. Who cares if Jesus Montero is waiting in the wings to prove why he’s one of the 5 best prospects in MLB? The Yankees just signed a catcher who lost 1/2 of 2010 to hip surgery; a guy who once was an All-Star for the Dodgers but had played so well over the past three seasons that they flat out released him. To address a leaky bullpen, today the Yanks signed Pedro Feliciano, formerly of the Mets. Ok, so, he’s thrown in a ML leading 408 games over the past 5 years, but he’s only 34. Oh…right.

In defense of the signings, each does bring something positive – Martin does have a history of throwing out runners (2nd best percentage in baseball since he broke in). Prior is one of those low-risk, high-reward types; if he can throw effectively and recapture some of his early magic, he beats anything the Yankees currently have lined up for the end of the rotation. And Feliciano is a lefty-specialist who was put into bad situations over the past two years by Jerry Manuel. Nobody has been better at keeping LH hitters off base over the past three seasons.

But each also brings questions, and not just about durability. Can Martin still move behind the plate to be an effective defensive catcher? And potentially relegating Montero to the bench certainly won’t endear him to many who bleed Pinstripes – after all, we’ve been salivating at the thought of watching him launch moonshots for 3 years now. Will Feliciano be nearly as effective in the AL East, particularly against the likes of Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, Nick Markakis and Carl Crawford?

In the meantime, the biggest questions surrounding the 2011 Yankees have yet to be addressed: starting pitching, a quality set-up reliever, outfield and infield depth.

Plenty of rumours continue to swirl around the team, especially when it comes to starters. Zach GreinkeFausto CarmonaCarlos Zambrano and Felix Hernandez have all been mentioned as potential trade targets. Greinke and Carmona are probably far-fetched possibilities; both have team friendly contracts with teams that are looking to bring in an entire farm system in return. While Jack Zduriencek is known for trading, you can reasonably expect that he’ll want a kings ransom in return for King Felix (after all, he did just win a Cy Young for a last place team). Zambrano may be easier to get, but his temper amy be more destructive than his ability to win 20 games. And of course, we all wait on Andy Pettitte’s decision on whether or not to come back for a 17th season.

Infield rumors were centered on Bill Hall and Jeff Keppinger. There are reports that Hall just signed with Houston, which would seemingly make Keppinger an easier get. But really, is Keppinger that much of an upgrade over Ramiro Pena? Certainly not defensively – and his bat doesn’t make up the difference. As far as RH relievers and OF go, there hasn’t been any action to speak of. On the relief front, time is getting short. With Bobby Jenks, Matt  Guerrier, Jesse Crain, J.J. Putz, Matt Albers, Kerry Wood and Joaquin Benoit already signing elsewhere, there aren’t many proven relievers left on the market. Thus far, nobody has even whispered what the Yankees plan to give their OF some depth. MLBTR has a listing of the available free agents here: there are some intriguing names on the list (including old friends Eric Hinske, Austin Kearns and Johnny Damon).

It’s only December, so Cashman gets an incomplete on this years offseason. But March is coming quickly and the most glaring problems – the ones that sent the Yankees home to watch this year’s World Series – remain, while players who could fill those voids are signing elsewhere. Heck, it was even reported that the Yankees no longer have the game’s highest payroll, a testament not only to Boston’s spending but to Cashman’s not spending.

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