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Youse Guys Stink
2008-05-14 05:24
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

"I feel like their energy is definitely more than ours."
--Hideki Matsui
(Feinsand, N.Y. Daily News)

In the top of the fifth inning last night, YES broadcaster Ken Singleton said, "The Yankees look as if they are hitting under water." It was an apt description and a nice way of puting it. Listless, ancient and awful are other words that come to mind. The Yanks didn't score their first run until the ninth inning, when with one out, Hideki Matsui ripped a high fastball from Troy Percival for a solo home run. Derek Jeter, standing at the top of the dugout, immediately raised his arms and turned to Johnny Damon to slap five. Al Leiter, Singleton's partner on the air, mentioned that Jeter must have called Godzilla's blast. Jeter's face is a deeply tanned and he smiled broadly.

It was to be the last good moment of the evening. Kyle Farnsworth got through the ninth and Mariano Rivera survived a lead-off single to Carl Crawford in the tenth, but Mo couldn't get past a lead-off base hit by Cliff Floyd in the eleventh (this was New York's first trip to extra innings this season). When Jonny Gomes entered the game to pinch run for Floyd, a sinking feeling overcame me. Sure enough, Gomes swiped second and then raced home on a base hit by Gabe Gross. Final: Rays 2, Yanks 1. All three hits against Rivera came from lefties. His location was off, but he can hardly be blamed--this was the first run he's allowed all season. Neither can Chien-Ming Wang, who wasn't brilliant, but damn good, giving up just one run over seven innings.

No, the blame rests squarely on the offense. Even without Posada and Rodriguez, $200 million has to buy more than this. Hank Steinbrenner, talking to Kevin Kernan in the Post, agrees:

"The bottom line is that the team is not playing the way it is capable of playing," Steinbrenner said. "These players are being paid a lot of money and they had better decide for themselves to earn that money."

...He then paid the much-improved Rays a compliment, saying, the Yankees have "got to start playing the way the Rays are playing. (The Yankees) need to start treating it like when they were younger players and going after that big contract, like they're in (Triple-A) and trying to make the majors. That's the kind of attitude and fire the players have to have.

"There's no question we need to turn it around and we have the talent to turn it around. We've got the team in place, and now they just have to go out and do it.

"This is going to get turned around," Steinbrenner said. "If it's not turned around this year, then it will be turned around next year, by force if we have too."

According to Kevin Long, the hitting coach:

"Realistically, we should score about five runs a game if a guy's not on his game," Long said. "A guy like tonight, we could probably push across three runs with the stuff he had. Last night's guy, we probably could have got more.

"You've got to figure they're probably a run, a run and a half," Long continued, referring to the run production lost without Rodriguez and Posada, "but we've talked about it. Each guy thinks we should be able to score five."
(Kepner, N.Y. Times)

Pete Abraham collected some cherce quotes from the Yankee pitchers:

Chien-Ming Wang: "It's tough pitching with no runs. It's surprising because we have good hitters. I got my job done and kept the team close."

Mariano Rivera: "We have to score some runs and we haven't done that."

Joba Chamberlain: "It's tough right now. Every run against us looks huge."

With Shields and Kazmir pitching the next two days for the Rays, it's hard to imagine the Yankees leaving Florida with a split. Go figure that. The Rays, it should be noted, are now in first place, and last night marked a high-point in their history.

"You're looking for growth moments?" said Rays manager Joe Maddon. "There's one right in front of your face tonight."
(The Tampa Tribune)

No kidding.

Comments
2008-05-14 06:12:07
1.   horace-clarke-era
Have to say, dismal as last night truly was, there is something 'good for the game' in seeing the Rays be a seriously good and entertaining team.

I had a strategy thought: why was Giambi guarding the line vs Crawford? I know it ended up not matrtering, but Hinske's way too easy steal against the wretched throw (he should have been out by two steps, he WAS out by two steops) makes it clear to me, that Maddon blew it by not sending Crawford. My point is, with a rocket speedster, a single WILL be a double 80%+ of the time and Giambi should have been where he normally plays, not guarding the line.

Still, this is just musing. Agree with Alex and punditocracy ... this remains on the hitters, has to, even with 8/9 too close to auto-outs. Most teams have a couple of slumping or useless bats. The six or seven good ones need to be good. Silver lining, only one, is Boston also slack right now, so are Cleveland and Detroit and that matters. I imagine fans of latter two are equally distraught this month. Finish line is a LONG way off.

2008-05-14 06:28:01
2.   rbj
I went to the store this morning for some milk. Instead of a missing person's picture, they had a picture of the Yankee bats.

Ugh.

2008-05-14 06:28:50
3.   ny2ca2dc
Well, at least we can watch the kidlings develop. At least we're not this bad & old with NO youth. I really hope Cashman has a long talk with Hank and JoeG and others at the deadline, and if they decide to trade guys, to just get rid of all the oldsters (Damon, Mats, Abreu, Giambi if takers, etc) and get ready for the off season. When is Frank Cervelli going to be back? Would be nice to get him a shot, boost his value.

Then again maybe ARod comes back and does what he did last April and the O starts clicking. I worry more about the state of the team, and the overall mediocrity, than the standings.

2008-05-14 06:29:02
4.   ny2ca2dc
2 ZING
2008-05-14 06:43:10
5.   Simone
Bad loss. The Yankees should have scored runs last night. Oh well, we can only hope that Shields and Kazmir are weak. The Rays are coming into themselves. They may be serious contenders in a couple years.
2008-05-14 07:05:10
6.   williamnyy23
Now that we are at the quarter post, I don't think you can still say it's too early anymore. Clearly, the loss of Arod and Posada has been massive, not only because of who is out of the lineup but also because of who has replaced them, but the bigger problem to me is the abandonment of a patient approach. With Molina and the 3B slot being a black hole, the Yankees need the rest of the lineup to have better ABs. Guys like Matsui, Cabrera, Damon and even Giambi have been relatively patient, but the three players I see giving away the most ABs are Abreu, Jeter and Cano. Not only are the Yankees getting much less patience from those spots, but they aren't getting much power at all. With Cano, you hope he'll snap out of it like he did last year, but I am starting to have creeping doubt about Jeter and Abreu. Even with Arod's return, if those two don't start having better ABs, the offense may still not be strong enough to support what still is a rotation in flux. What's more, if Jeter is in decline, that could have serious ripples on the team's future lineup. At age 34, this season could be a pivotal one in determining what kind of player Jeter will be over the last half of his career.
2008-05-14 07:20:44
7.   Raf
1 IIRC, according to "the book" you always guard the line late in the game. I remember Nettles mentioning that he used to do the opposite, using a line of reasoning similar to yours.

6 It's still early. Especially when you place the Yankees' record in context with the rest of the division. Having said that, I am a bit troubled as well by their hyperaggressive approach to hitting. Cano will always be that way, but Jeter & Abreu need to go back to their game.

2008-05-14 07:21:02
8.   Bob B
I can barely watch these games. The offense is so pathetic that the game borders on watching soccer.
2008-05-14 07:23:48
9.   horace-clarke-era
Abreu:
Last year: 283/.369/.455
This year: .287/.355/.427

He's off, but this is not a plunge from what he gave us last year. I'm not sure it calls for a dump on Bobby crusade as in 'giving away at-bats' ... and he does seem to get hotter as seasons go on. (Not huge splits, but trending upwards.) He is not the .400+ on base monster he was in Philly, but he wasn't that last year either.

I'm not sure what you mean by not 'too early any more', william ... not too early to panic? Get mad? Trade people for AA mediocrity while eating salary? Blow up the team? Hank talked about 'by force if necessary' and I found it hilarious (so did Pete Abe, I see). Blow up the team taking on new meaning.

We were 8 1/2 out last year on this day. We are now 4 back of Boston and Cleveland and Detroit are also scuffling badly (yes, I am unfairly not saying 4 1/2 back of Tampa). Is there an obvious reason why this year's team is less likely to get better, as last year's did? Girardi instead of Torre? (Maybe, in fact.)

Cano has been discussed a lot. General feeling he'll get it together. Jeter is a concern, though not a large one to my mind. I think he's trying to oick up some rbi slack for the missing studs and his walks will come back when Alex does. His power does appear to be largely gone, but we saw that last year, I think and power was never his game anyhow. (I'd really like to see more doubles, though.)

I also think (influenced by the announcers, so discount for that!) that pitchers are challenging the batters more, since they are not on their game, collectively. Makes it harder to be patient, as 0-2 or 1-2 are issues, even for Abreu. These things interweave, right?

2008-05-14 07:28:09
10.   horace-clarke-era
One more thing, kind of obvious, but ...

Everyone really needs to remember how stunning Alex was last spring (Rodriguez, Belth hit his stride in summer) and how exceptional Jorge was ... these are losses on a MASSIVE scale for the attack. And we all know (or should) that the most common cause of slumps collectively is teams trying to 'pick it up' 'do too much' when someone's missing.

I say be grateful (very) for troubles elsewhere making this a season still entirely in-play, more so than a year ago at this time.

2008-05-14 07:30:54
11.   JL25and3
6 Pitches per at-bat this year:

Abreu - 4.27
Damon - 3.99
Giambi - 3.98
Cabrera - 3.90
Matsui - 3.80
Cano - 3.58
Jeter - 3.30

So whatever Abreu's problem may be, it's not lack of patience. On the other hand, Jeter - who's never really been all that patient - has been horrible this year.

Both Abreu and Jeter have been showing a power drain for some time. By this point, I've got to figure it's for real.

2008-05-14 07:33:38
12.   williamnyy23
7 Literally, it is still early, but I don't think enough games have been played to form meaningful opinions. Here is my litmus test for the Yankees. I think they need at least 4 of the following 5 scenarios to be realized if they are going to make the playoffs. The healthy and effective return of Phil Hughes by July might also ease the burden some.

1) Arod returns healthy and productive by next week.
2) Posada returns healthy and productive by mid-June.
3) Kennedy establishes himself as a solid starter.
4) Rasner establishes himself as a solid starter.
5) Cano regains his All Star form.

Is that asking a lot?

2008-05-14 07:41:02
13.   Raf
9 Thanks, I hadn't realized that Abreu was in line with his normal numbers...

10 I say be grateful (very) for troubles elsewhere making this a season still entirely in-play, more so than a year ago at this time.

Even if there weren't troubles elsewhere, history has shown that May is too early to panic. Especially when you consider the July & August trading deadlines. Remember, last year Cashman rebuilt the bench & bullpen on the fly, with the acquisitions of Betemit, Molina, and calling up Joba.

There's plenty of time.

2008-05-14 07:44:16
14.   williamnyy23
9 You have to be careful comparing Abreu's numbers because he was awful for two months last year and really picked it up over the last four. I am judging my assessment more off how Abreu has looked for the most part this season. Now, he could really turn it on again, which is what I am saying the Yankees need.

As for what I meant by it not being too early...I was referring to having enough of a sample to start making informed opinions, reasonable predictions and a meaningful analysis.

For example, I do not think it is too early to pass judgment on the Mariners. Even though I picked them to win only 83 games before the season, that was more speculation. Now, with one-quarter of the season gone, I feel very confident in predicting that the Mariners will not do better than that 83-win level. Does that mean I'd stop watching them or trade off players? Not yet, but I'd at least be contemplating the latter.

Finally, I made the same point yesterday about the lack of patience going hand-in-hand with Jeter, Abreu and Cano being overpowered by the fastball. Pitchers are attacking them now. What ever the reason for the decline in patience, the result is a concern.

2008-05-14 07:47:24
15.   williamnyy23
11 Abreu's figures surprise me...do you have what his historical Pitches/AB have been?

I also disagree about Jeter never being patient. Maybe relative to the rest of the lineup he was, but Jeter was never this aggressive.

2008-05-14 07:47:53
16.   JL25and3
12 I think it's too early to start making playoff calculations. There are dozens of scenarios that could get them there, and dozens that could sink them in the next month or two. The pitching stays good and a few guys get hot at the plate: 21-7 tear. The offense stays as it is, but Wang slumps a little and Rasner turns back into a pumpkin: 9-19.
2008-05-14 07:49:09
17.   Andre
The Yankees are bad right now but they're not the only ones. Everyone seems to be sort of hovering in mediocrity. Couldn't this just be the long anticipated correction that should have been expected when greenies and steroids were banned (and the bans were enforced). I have always believed that 80%-90% of MLBers were using, and this stat may be bearing out. Younger teams should fare better because those bodies are still young enough to rely on pure talent and youthfulness. Older teams will suffer because they're no longer being propped up by additives. I think this should become obvious by the end of this season if the younger teams are standing on top with all of the talent-laden older teams looking up.
2008-05-14 07:50:21
18.   williamnyy23
16 That's where I disagree...I don't think it's too early to key in on some things. Clearly, certain assumptions apply, but all things being normal, I think the Yankees need most of the list above to come to pass in order to win 90+ games.
2008-05-14 07:52:37
19.   JL25and3
15 That's right about where Abreu's been most of his career, maybe the slightest tick below the last few years.

Jeter's never been as bad as he is this year, but he's also never been especially patient, either. His career numbers are slightly better than Alfonso Soriano's.

2008-05-14 07:54:17
20.   JL25and3
18 I know, that's been your focus practically since the season started. I just don't think it's useful - or particularly interesting - to keep talking about season-long trends and how to get to 90 wins. The way to get there is to do well this month, and then again next month.
2008-05-14 08:00:15
21.   williamnyy23
19 In Jeter's case (or in any hitter's), median might be more useful than mean. He has always seemed to have a plan...either attack early if he gets his pitch or work the count. In other words, he might have a 1 pitch AB or a 6 pitch AB, resulting in a mean of 3.5. This year, however, it seems more like he is swinging early in ever AB.

20 I don't think you can ignore season long trends and just expect new ones to develop as the months go by. Every game doesn't start with a fresh slate...it brings the baggage of those that came before. Otherwise, we'd literally be taking these games one day at a time. That might work well from a player's standpoint, but I don't find it to be very useful or interesting from an analytical point of view.

2008-05-14 08:03:34
22.   pistolpete
6 Does anyone else think maybe arrogance and/or ego has anything to do with the way these guys play? Every year they seem to pull a playoff berth out of the proverbial magic hat, so how is there ever any urgency in April or May...?

Call it heresy, but I'm almost rooting for this team to miss the playoffs to wipe the smug grins off some of these guys' faces.

WAKE THE F*CK UP AND PLAY LIKE YOU GIVE A SH!T.

2008-05-14 08:06:14
23.   pistolpete
17 That's our saving grace right now – with the exception of the D-Backs, no one's playing over .600 ball.

But my fear is that when we finally decide to kick things into gear, Boston & Toronto will most definitely follow suit.

2008-05-14 08:07:51
24.   tommyl
How sad is it that last night when Jeter was on third I was glad we didn't have someone on first so that a double play groundout couldn't be hit?
2008-05-14 08:11:24
25.   williamnyy23
22 I don't think attitude plays too large a role, but man would I love to have someone on the Yankees running the bases like Gomes has been in this series. I blame that more on Girardi though.

Also, another thing that Posada and Arod bring to the lineup is emotion. Maybe it's irrelevant to winning, but that's just one more thing I miss about both men.

2008-05-14 08:12:51
26.   Raf
22 Does anyone else think maybe arrogance and/or ego has anything to do with the way these guys play?

No, not really. A case could be made that arrogance/ego's the reason Giambi keeps hitting into the shift... Speaking of which, did anyone see Delgado bunt against the shift last night? Giambi could try that, but I'm afraid he'll hurt himself running to first :)

2008-05-14 08:14:33
27.   williamnyy23
26 Considering it can take three hits to score Jason, and Cano, AG/Ensberg and Moeller/Mollina are hitting behind him most nights, I don't think a bunt against the shift would be the best strategy.
2008-05-14 08:29:25
28.   horace-clarke-era
17 That's really interesting, you know, but probably un-provable! I think we can generally say that older guys can have a rougher time in spring, colder, more aches and pains, AND (call it arrogance if you like, but it can be otherwise defined) a sense that 'it's a long season' ... especially on a Yankee team that under Torre always did find a way, like a horse down the stretch.

I sort of thought part of Girardi's job, his newness, was to generate more urgency ... and I admit I worried about it, the loss of poise and patience. It may well be that some of the comments made here about Jeter (on Abreu people are just wrong) reflect the captain trying to listen to his new skipper, be more aggressive, create urgency. (He was NEVER, as some have said here, that patient, and it seems odd to use median/mean and then shift to 'he always seemed to have a plan' ... those aren't the same language, william!)

22 Pete, despite the polite asterisk, that is just ... silly. How and in what way are you (or I) in a position to say they are mediocre because they don't care? Why would you ever assume they don't? These are among the most competitive humans on the planet. Tigers don't care? Indians don't? They didn't care last year, 8.5 out right now, and then steamrollering from June? They took 'give a shit' pills on the holiday weekend? I have seen any smug grins at all, anyone else see 'em?

2008-05-14 08:46:08
29.   Shaun P
23 Toronto is toast. They have no offense. Even if Rios hits like he should, and Wells, they have too many black holes to overcome. I do not fear Toronto.

Tampa Bay, on the other hand, if the starting pitching holds together, . . .

24 The Yanks have grounded in 34 DPs this year, good for 7th fewest in the AL. The White Sox, Ms, Twins, Tigers, Angels, Red Sox (44), and Jays (52!) all have more. So it might seem like a lot, but its not too bad.

27 I continue to believe Giambi should hit 8th until he picks it up more. He's sees too many runners that he isn't driving in from the 5 spot, and when he does get on base, as you say, the dregs behind him do not drive him in either. Hitting him 8th might alleviate both problems.

2008-05-14 09:37:38
30.   JL25and3
21 Trends are fine, but trends can change in a week, or a month. If Abreu and Jeter hit .350 for a month and Giambi hits 10 HR - all very plausible - suddenly they're 10 games over .500.
2008-05-14 09:47:57
31.   JL25and3
21 Hmm...the stats must be misleading, because he always seems to have a plan.

In his best years, Jeter has been very good at taking pitches, but never great. In his less-than-best years, he's decent, no better. That's been consistent over the course of his career, and I don't see any reason to believe that the stats mean something different for him than for everyone else.

2008-05-14 09:49:10
32.   rilkefan
See Replacement Level's top post for a discussion of the strength of schedule issue. The team is not in fact underperforming much given the loss of A-Rod and Posada.

Also note that offense is down across the league so one's expectations for hitting stats should be adjusted accordingly.

2008-05-14 09:58:54
33.   Shaun P
32 Ah, strength of schedule, also known as the reason why the Cards and Marlins have done so well so far. Thanks.
2008-05-14 10:01:21
34.   mehmattski
29 Of course, you need to factor in the number of GIDP opportunities. That's a lot harder to do, and I can't figure out how to make B-R.com do that for me. The Yankees have come to the plate with a man on first base 468 times this year, but I have no idea how many of those were with less than two outs.

The Red Sox, for comparison, have had a runner on first base for 574 plate appearances. The Red Sox still have a slightly higher rate (7.6% GIDP/man on first) than the Yankees (7.2%) based on those numbers. But in general, I would not be surprised if teams with higher OBP had more GIDP simply because they have more opportunities to do so.

2008-05-14 10:51:32
35.   williamnyy23
30 Trends can change, but absent waiting for things to unfold and doing a recap, you need to have a reason to expect they will.

Also, consider the following stats in May:

Jeter: .922 OPS
Giambi: 1.097 OPS
Abreu: 916 OPS
Yankees: 5-6

Apparently, the Yankees need more than those three to win some games. I think looking at stats out of context can often be misleading. In this case Jeter and Abreu have been highly inconsistent and Giambi has been awful with men in scoring position.

That leads me back to my original post in 12 . The Yankees need many, if not all, of the above to come to fruition in order to be successful.

2008-05-14 11:02:38
36.   rilkefan
35 "I think looking at stats out of context can often be misleading."

"Giambi has been awful with men in scoring position."

Bwa ha ha! I see you're bitterly clinging to your Giambi-bashing. Well, how many standard deviations from his average performance is his RISP performance, relative to the expected difference?

2008-05-14 11:10:59
37.   mehmattski
35 Damon, Abreu and Jeter, the players who last night you said were in a sharp decline, have been masterful with RISP this year.

It's convenient to bring out the "consistency" attribute, as if it were a real thing that is measurable.

Based on the team's total EQA, the Yankees should have scored about 10 more runs than they have so far. If that EQA is adjusted for park and opponent, the Yankees should have scored about 20 more runs based on their offensive output. (source: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/statistics/standings.php)

You can call it "unclutch" or "inconsistent" if you want, but I'll call it "unlucky." There is no evidence that players perform differently with runners on versus not, so I have to have faith that, eventually, the Yankees will get hits with runners on, and even up the "Expected Runs" ledger.

2008-05-14 12:06:38
38.   williamnyy23
37 I didn't mention Damon...also, my contention that Abreu and Jeter could be showing evidence of decline phase is based on observations, not small sample subsets of stats (say that fast 5 times). If this was 2-3 years ago, I'd be 995 certain it was a slump. At age-34, you have to consider the possibility that either or both is beginning a decline.

Consistency can be measured, but I just don't have the time to do it. It is no more a mystery than being "unlucky".

2008-05-14 12:17:49
39.   JasonO
Agreed with all of the above re: The Yankees. The only possible silver lining is that Giambi is showing signs of life.

Re: Tampa Bay 2008...recall in 2005 that the Baltimore Orioles were 31-20 on June 1st...and finished 4th in the division.

Let's start talking about the Rays if they're still in contention in June, mmm'kay?

2008-05-14 12:19:14
40.   ny2ca2dc
37 So if we take those 20 runs, that's 2 more wins = .500. meh. That's the whole point; sure, there have been some unlucky bounces, but without ARod and Po, there's just so much mediocrity. I don't even think it's worth pointing fingers at one or two or three guys, there's mediocrity everywhere, and the injury replacements are sapping the few positives (Wang, BP).

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