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Third Time's The Charm
2005-05-09 19:42
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

The Yankees did it again, defeating the Mariners 4-3 behind eight strong innings from Randy Johnson, some clutch hitting by their worst hitters, and yet another Tino Martinez homer to push their current winning streak to three games, their longest of the season.

With last night's win, the Yankees move past the Mariners and within 1/2 game of the A's as they slowly claw their way back to respectability in the American League. You can thank the starting pitching for that. Here are the lines of the Yankee starters in their last four games:


PitcherIPHRHRBBK
Pavano773233
Mussina940023
Brown750014
Johnson873127
Totals312363817

And here are Randy Johnson's per-start averages on the season:

7 1/3 IP, 6 H, 3.25 R, 1 HR, 1.5 BB, 7 K

I'd take that every time out, but Johnson will likely pitch even better than that from here on out, as that average line includes three of seven starts in which he gave up five or more runs.

Last night, Johnson showed little ill effects from the tight groin that prompted the Yankees to skip his last turn, or from the resulting ten-day layoff. He got his fastball into the mid-90s and his only real mistakes were a one-out walk to the Mariner's ninth-place hitter Wilson Valdez in the third and a sixth inning homer on a 3-1 count by Adrian Beltre. Otherwise, he threw 65 percent strikes and one of his two walks was intentional, putting Richie Sexson on with a man on second and two outs in the eighth to face the shell of Bret Boone instead.

For the Yankees part, they didn't play as cleanly as they did in their two shutouts against Oakland. Derek Jeter made a throwing error in the first on an admittedly difficult grounder up the middle that carried him into center. Tony Womack was picked off first to end the third and in the top of the seventh broke back instead of in on a Wiki Gonzalez jam shot to left, which allowed the ball to drop in for a single. In his defense, Womack has played a nearly perfect left field, has made strong, accurate throws back to the infield, and in this instance was reacting to the full swing Gonzalez took on the pitch, a mistake any left fielder could have made and one Johnson easily pitched around.

What's more, Womack was one of the key offensive performers of the game. In the bottom of the first he drew a five-pitch walk (his second in as many games) and came around to score on singles by Sheffield and Matsui. Then in the eighth, with the game tied at 3-3, he followed a Rey Sanchez pinch-hit single (for Cano; Sanchez is now 7 for 16 on the season) and a perfect Jeter sac bunt, which the Captain nearly beat out, with what turned out to be the game-winning hit, a bouncing-ball single to the right of second base that plated Sanchez.

With all of that said, I have something to confess: I'm not hating Tony Womack. Yes, I understand that he's only slugging .318 and has a .228 GPA. And, yes, I would still take Placido Polanco over him one-thousand times over. But I can't bring myself to dislike the way Womack plays on a day-to-day basis. Despite past struggles, he played well above average defense at second base (leading the league in double plays when he moved to left, if I recall correctly) and has seamlessly shifted into left field. He's a heady baserunner (though he's currently just 2 for 4 in steals and did get picked off today) and hustles at all times.

Most of all, despite the fact that he doesn't draw many walks, Tony Womack is not a hacker. In case you haven't noticed, Womack does work the count. Thus far this year he's seen 4.05 pitches per at-bat, which is nearly equal Jason Giambi's career average of 4.06. Of all the Yankee hitters, only Giambi (who refuses to swing the bat) and Andy Phillips (at 4.06) have seen more. Derek Jeter, who is second in the AL in walks, has seen just 3.78, and the true hackers including Ruben Sierra, Rey Sanchez and Robinson Cano are below 3 pitcher per at-bat. What's more, Womack saw 3.95 pitches per at-bat last year, so this is not a sample-size fluke.

Let me reiterate, this is not to say that the Yankees should have signed Womack this winter, or that I'm glad he's here now, or that they shouldn't make every effort to replace him, but simply that, unlike Enrique Wilson (who admittedly was a vastly inferior ballplayer by any measure), it does not anger me to see him in the Yankee lineup and I am not pained by his play or horrified by his occasional successes. This Tony Womack Brand Kool-Aid goes down smoother thanks to the fact that he's hitting .345 with runners in scoring position, but on some level I at least understand why he keeps getting starting jobs from teams that don't pay as much attention to the numbers as they should. He does appear to be a very useful player, even if he's actually not.

What does anger me right now is Jason Giambi's continued lack of performance. After an 0 for 3 night last night (complete with a strikeout looking), Giambi's batting line has dipped to .195/.386/.325. That .386 OBP is awful nice, but his GPA is just .255 and he's striking out once every 2.66 at-bats. Giambi has just four extra base hits on the season in 101 plate appearances and he hasn't had a hit of any kind since the Angels were in town almost two weeks and 14 Giambi at-bats (and 9 Ks) ago. Taking away his three home runs (the last of which came three weeks ago) and he has just three other RBIs.

I can't imagine that Bernie Williams could be any worse than this. Bernie brings the added risk of the double play, but also the added possibility of getting hot. Giambi seems beyond that as he's not even attempting to hit the ball any more. That said, his ability to work walks and the ever-present threat of the big bomb (even if illusory) would make him a decent lefty pinch-hitter for the time being.

Giambi's failures and the struggles of Andy Phillips set Tino Martinez's recent hot streak in greater relief. Now hitting .259/.354/.529 (.292) on the season, Tino homered again last night for the third consecutive game, giving him seven on the year and tying him in tenth place in the AL with Melvin Mora, Manny Ramirez and Vladimir Guerrero.

Once again, my mom claims to have been responsible for Tino's homer. As she told me excitedly on the phone moments after Tino had rounded the bases, she had just flipped on the game and saw Tino at-bat with two strikes. She then called out "It's okay, baby, I'm here, you can do it now!" and on the next pitch Tino blasted a two-run shot into the right field seats. Here's hoping mom's watching again tomorrow.

Comments
2005-05-10 05:42:55
1.   wetnap
"With last night's win, the Yankees move past the Mariners and within 1/2 game of the A's"

I didn't realize the Yankees were playing in the AL West this season. I guess that's good news for the Red Sox and Orioles. just kidding...

I'm wondering...are you concerned at all about the low strikeout totals for Pavano, Mussina, and Brown? Pavano's line for his last start especially stands out - only 3 K in 7 IP to go with 3 BB, 2 HR and 7 hits. I'm not a Yankee fan, so I didn't see the game, but it seems lucky that Pavano got out of that game only giving up 3 earned runs.

2005-05-10 06:04:15
2.   Jen
From what I've read, Pavano really isn't considered a strikeout pitcher.
2005-05-10 06:04:23
3.   STONER
Good, solid win last night - glad to see the bench contribute (pinch-hit for Cano)...
Jason, Jason, Jason, it really hurts to see him struggle as he is - it's hard to believe his past career success was attributable to 'roids. If so, then it's a very sad situation. The media is reporting home runs are down this year and they are leaning towards roid testing as the reason. I don't know, kinda of early to be drawing conclusions, give it a year and see what happens. Anyway, homers are down cause Barry's been out all year...LOL!
2005-05-10 06:05:01
4.   Alex Belth
Joel Sherman (http://www.nypost.com/sports/yankees/43855.htm) and Mike Lupica (http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/story/308131p-263660c.html) have columns killing Giambi's lack of production today.
2005-05-10 06:05:02
5.   Alex Belth
Joel Sherman (http://www.nypost.com/sports/yankees/43855.htm) and Mike Lupica (http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/story/308131p-263660c.html) have columns killing Giambi's lack of production today.
2005-05-10 06:05:42
6.   Alex Belth
Doh. Don't know why that posted twice. My bad.
2005-05-10 06:15:40
7.   Simone
I actually admire Womack. He must be thinking to himself, "what the ...," but he didn't complain when he was moved from 2nd to a position he has never played before. Instead he sucked it up and has focused on playing a solid left field. He has contributed more on offense than I expected and his speed is amazing. He got home from 1st on a single the other day and usually only Jeter does that.

Your criticism of Giambi is on point. It looks like either he is trying to work a walk or get hit by a pitch and that is not acceptable.

2005-05-10 06:25:48
8.   Dan M
Add to Giambi's lack of production is the fact that Cano is an automatic out and needs to take the bullpen car back to Columbus asap. The bottom of the lineup is weaker than most in the NL. Hopefully a trade for an outfielder is in the works.
2005-05-10 06:33:10
9.   seamus
I hope the Yankees don't overreact and give up on Cano so quickly. The Yankees need to put someone who can hit at #8 and give Cano time.
2005-05-10 06:47:05
10.   STONER
Simone wrote: or get hit by a pitch and that is not acceptable. ///

Yeah, I saw that not too subtle move by Jason in his last at bat last night, with two strikes on him, he tried to stick his elbow into a slow curve but the damn ball kept breaking away from his elblow - Stike Three, sit down...sad.

2005-05-10 06:50:05
11.   rsmith51
Womack can do things that a lot of other players can't do on the bases. I thought he would be a great utility guy to have around. He can play a lot of positions. He can run the bases well and though he can't hit well, he is a better ph option than Rey Sanchez. Rey Sanchez is pinch hitting 100% more than I thought he would this year. He is actually having success, which I don't think will last. Maybe the pitchers give him about as much respect as I do.
2005-05-10 07:50:40
12.   singledd
I don't think you can attribute Giambi's problems to steroids. They do have an effect on the ability to build muscle and recooperate faster, but if you have been reading the 'real' articles on roids... they are not a magic pill. Giambi was an excellent hitter before roids. He is bigger and healthier then last year. Anyone who missed the previous year is usually a little slow coming back.

We know Giambi is not good under pressure. It took him a while in his first year to produce. While I think his persona is a good fit for the Yankees, I think he needs the laid back atmosphere he had in Oakland. Maybe he would fit in Boston, where he could get 'hairy' again.

I think most of his problem is mental. His physical problem is a big, long swing. He needs to get back to a shorter stroke and be more concerned with putting the bat on the ball as opposed to pulling/hitting it hard.

You can take any great power hitter. ARod, Thome, Bonds, Sosa, Sexton... anybody.... and if they get in a rut and try to yank the ball, their numbers go way down. Giambi has simply not adapted his attitude or his swing to be a contact hitter again.

Harold Reynolds on ESPN told a story about B. Boone and Pinella. Pinella told Boone that if he didn't hit 3 out of 4 balls to right, he would sit him down. So guess what? And Boone also discovered he had more power to right then he thought. Torre/Mattingly NEED to do this with Giambi. Tell him outright, hit the ball to left, or you sit down. Hit 2 homers to right, you sit down. Ground out twice to SS, you play. Make his job dependent on going the other way.

This is one of Torre's failings. He is a 'find-it-for-yourself' kind of guy. With Giambi, he needs to have an ultimatum. Not to perform (which will make things worse), but to go the LF or sit.

2005-05-10 08:15:34
13.   Murray
I was sitting eight rows from the field behind third yesterday, and Womack definitely butchered that Gonzalez single, but whatever. If you think Womack has the makings of a bad leftfielder, explain why Willie Bloomquist was playing center while Randy Winn was playing left. The Mariner lineup liked like the kind you see during the B game at Vero Beach.
2005-05-10 08:26:48
14.   Nick from Washington Heights
heard a rumor that the Cubs and Yanks were talking about Felix Rodriguez. Anyone know more about this?
2005-05-10 08:29:53
15.   Cliff Corcoran
People have to understand that when a person stops using steriods they don't snap back to being in the same physical condition before they used. Steroids ravage the body. Besides which, Giambi is in his mid-30s now. What you see now is the result of the negative long-term effects of the steroids (now minus the short-term positive effects), the rash of injuries he's suffered in the past two seasons (some of which surely stemmed from his drug use), and the natural effects of aging and limited playing time.

The biggest change that I can see is his bat speed is shot. He hasn't been able to hit high heat since his back knee gave out at the end of the 2003 season and now it's just depressing to watch him try. He's a mistake hitter at best. I do believe he has the talent to correct for that by spraying singles and doubles around the field, but that would require him to swing the bat. Something he refuses to do, likely in part because he knows almost anyone can blow a high fastball by him.

2005-05-10 08:30:42
16.   Knuckles
Might Flaherty be in the lineup tonight?

For the second time in a week, the Yanks face a pitcher whom Flaherty has had some ridiculous small-sample-size success against.

6 for 14, 3 HR

Nuts.

2005-05-10 08:35:52
17.   Cliff Corcoran
Nick, I heard that rumor, but don't know what the Cubs could offer in return. Would likely be a dump trade, which at least would get them down to 11 pitchers.

I was just IMing Steve Goldman last night. I would undo that Kenny Lofton trade in a second. Not because of Rodriguez's poor performance, but because he's an unecessary uextra part stuck in the Randy Choate Memorial Bullpen Spot.

2005-05-10 08:46:07
18.   Jen
Well, there was talk of a Cubs/Phillies trade involving Polanco. You could always hope there's some sort of 3 team trade in the works with Placido ending up in the Bronx.
2005-05-10 09:14:58
19.   Harley
Yeah, you're right about Womack. Everybody's burying him -- well, except for the undaunted YES crew, no justice in Justice, etc. -- and the Professor is wielding the shovel. But when you watch him every day, I dunno, like you said, it's hard not to root for the guy, and even appreciate whatever value he brings to the ballpark.

How about a Sturtze for Cameron trade? (Mike and Mad Dog approved!)

2005-05-10 09:18:44
20.   Alex Belth
Sturtze and who else?
2005-05-10 09:21:36
21.   Cliff Corcoran
exactly
2005-05-10 09:28:02
22.   Patrick
Even when you "praise" Womack, it comes off as criticism. Most people are too hard on the guy. Does he have to hit .500 with runners in scoring position before you say he's doing a solid job? Are you just waiting for his average to drop to pounce all over him?

Does he have to hit .500 with runners in scoring position to get clean praise? Not... "well, I don't hate him and he's doing alright, but I don't want him". The reason he gets starting jobs is because he's good - good enough to start. If he wasn't, he wouldn't have been doing it for this long. No smoke and mirrors, just a useful player who helps fill holes when teams have them.

I'll praise Tino because Tino's done well. I'm not gonna say... well, Tino's done well, but I'll take Pujols. No sense in it.

2005-05-10 09:30:31
23.   Nick from Washington Heights
Jen, that 3-way idea would be great! Polanco would fit in perfectly.

Alex, how about including F-Rod. Colter Beane would then step up to fill a relief spot.
,

2005-05-10 09:38:30
24.   Harley
Sturtze and cash? Sturtze and Navarro? (Too late.) Suggestions welcome.
2005-05-10 09:52:32
25.   Marcus
The 3-way deal with the Cubs and Phillies won't happen. The Cubs need a middle infielder with Nomar and Todd Walker out, so they'd love to get Polanco. The Cubs need relievers too, but not as bad as they could use Polanco.
2005-05-10 10:00:27
26.   Nick from Washington Heights
Sturtze and Melky Cabrera. Probably too much though
2005-05-10 10:07:15
27.   Cliff Corcoran
Patrick, Tony Womack is not good enough to start. The reason is his offense. He doesn't draw walks and he doesn't hit for extra bases and unless you hit .350 every year, that singles-or-outs production at the plate is not good enough, even if you hit .350 with runners in scoring position (note that Tony has just 6 RBIs).

GPA is an improved version of OPS that combines OBP and slugging (the two most important hitting stats) with appropriate extra weight (x1.8) given to OBP in order to attempt to capture a players' value in a single statistic. It's frequently very close to Baseball Prospectus's EQA, which is a far more complex adjusted total offense stat that also imitates the scale of batting average. By that I mean .300 is great. .280 is good. .260 is average. Below that is bad. Tony Womack has a .228 GPA on the year and a career GPA of .234.

2005-05-10 12:24:56
28.   Patrick
Based upon what you say, it would be safe to say that a good chunk (guessing 20-30% or more, perhaps) of everyday starters in the majors right now are not good enough to start in your opinion, right?

So, how does that work? Will we ever get to the point where every starter in MLB is good enough to start? Aren't the top 30 second basemen (the everyday starters - forgeting platoons and the like for a moment) good enough to start at second base? Or what are they doing there? Or are only 10-12 or so... Soriano, Polanco, whoever... good enough to start and the rest of the second baseman in the league just aren't good enough to start even though they are starting? How many second baseman are good enough to start?

2005-05-10 12:37:50
29.   rilkefan
Patrick, (my perception of) the Moneyball point of view is that many major leaguers are no better than good AAA players - that many are at or below replacement level (i.e., you could go out and get somebody as good without trouble). I would be interested in a (correct and) more quantified expression of the above.
2005-05-10 12:53:06
30.   Fred Vincy
Actually, Patrick, it's the reverse.

If (as you suggest) Womack is qualified to start because he starts, then no one is ever unqualified.

Take a look at Yahoo's sortable stats by position. His career OPS is lower than every starting second baseman for anyone who's ever played full time and (though I didn't check( every Lf as well. For 2005, he's 6th from the bottom, with all 5 below him having obvious upside -- either prospects getting a chance or struggling stars (Infante, Durham, Boone, Matsui (OK, Japanese star), Gotay).

Last year was his best year ever and there he is, 6th from the bottom. No one disagrees that he was "good enough to start" last year, but when you are 35 and your best year ever made you the 6th worst starter in baseball, that's pretty close to not qualified to start in my book.

2005-05-10 13:06:46
31.   Patrick
Mr. Vincy,

What I suggested was that the top 30 second basemen in MLB are good enough to start. If some of the top 30 second basemen are not good enough to start, then that would mean that multiple teams will start a second baseman who is not good enough to start because they have no other choice. (Have the Yankees ever had a team where all 9 in the lineup were good enough to start?)

I wasn't suggesting that everyone who starts is good enough to start. For instance... if Luis Sojo comes out and retirement and starts 1 game, that doesn't mean he's good enough to start.

"No one disagrees that he was "good enough to start" last year..."

Everyone agrees about last season after the season is over. :) But, given the chance, you would have said he wasn't good enough to start last year before last year was played, wouldn't you?

What is the OPS cutoff for good enough to start in your opinion for a player who plays decent but not spectacular defense?

2005-05-10 13:55:10
32.   Alex Belth
Sturtze and F. Rodriguez sound fine from the Yankees' perspective. I wonder how the Mets would feel about it?
2005-05-10 14:51:17
33.   Fred Vincy
Obviously, there's not a particular cut-off, since the answer depends on a team's options. But someone who's 35, consistently in the bottom 20% of 2Bs in OPS, and not a star defensively is someone I would expect to get replaced in a year or two, not someone I would go out and sign. But look, Womack and his $2 million/yr. were pointless, but I hardly think he deserves to be blamed for our current problems.
2005-05-10 16:02:16
34.   brockdc
For a #9 hitter, Womack is fine. Poor OBP but excellent speed and generally puts the ball into play. He catches far too much criticism, especially from Goldman, for what he is not. Remember, we had few off-season options (other than Polanco) at this position, and he's a slight upgrade from Cairo. With all that said, I would love the guy if he could take a few more pitches.

How about Flash for Patterson?

2005-05-10 20:15:48
35.   Zack
I think trading someone like Melky or any of our at least potential prospects for Cameron would only continue our problem. We really have very little to trade from our system, and need to rebuild it. Thus the thought of the Yanks trading for either Cameron or a 2B and using even more from the farm scares me

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