Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Now We All Grown Up and Old
2008-07-08 09:22
by Alex Belth

Scott Kazmir and the Rays are ready to rumble in the Bronx. According to Bart O'Connell in the Tampa Trib:

"It's going to be different. I think the fans are going to be a little more on us, compared to the past," Kazmir said. "It might be kind of mixed a little bit, because we've been beating the Red Sox and they like that, but coming into their park, I don't think they're going to be too happy to see us and we're ahead of them. There's going to be a lot of tension in there."

Kazmir does not see this series alone as an opportunity to knock the Yankees out of postseason contention, a possibility some have suggested.

"No, no, no. Nothing like that. We still have a whole half of the season to go, so it couldn't just be on one game, one inning," he said. "But if we put the pressure on them these next couple games, and end up finishing strong in the first half, I think it'll put us in a good situation."

In the New York Post, Brian Costello has this from Cliff Floyd:

"It used to be going to play the Yankees was a big deal. It's not a big deal. We're just going to play baseball. We put ourselves in a position where there's no pressure."

Also, from the Tampa Trib:

"Sometimes you could beat them on mistakes, and they don't make mistakes any more," [Jason] Giambi said.

..."When you get veterans from other teams saying those kinds of things, that, to me, means as much as anything," Maddon said after reading Giambi's words of praise. "I think peer acceptance, peer validation, is the strongest or the one that resonates the loudest. For me, that does mean something and it does matter and we as an organization appreciate those comments."

Could be a fun two-game series. Sure is a hot one out there...

2008-07-08 09:48:08
1.   liam

hat tip, pinstripe alley. what a game that was.. lets go yankees....

2008-07-08 09:50:38
2.   williamnyy23
You can't expect the Yankees to score many runs off Kazmir, so this game will ride on Pettitte. It's also hard to get too wrapped up in the time for the Yankees to make their run theme when you realize that Ponson and Rasner are next to follow. Not having Damon and Matsui is rough, but the loss of Wang is still the roadblock that I think may make another late season run too much to ask.
2008-07-08 09:54:37
3.   Jen
Got 2 tickets (bleachers) for tomorrow's game if anyone is interested. (I know the allure of watching Ponson pitch is irresistible, right.)

jen AT nosenseworrying DOT com

2008-07-08 10:07:02
4.   williamnyy23
I was thinking about the Rays and why they've really taken off. The first thing that comes to mind is that with Pena, Upton, Longoria and Crawford, they have a great four man combo in the batting order. Of course, that analysis would be dead wrong. From that grouping, only Longoria is playing exceptionally well. What has made the Rays offense so good is their balance and depth. With the exception of Bartlett and Gomes, every offensive player with over 75 ABs has an OPS+ of 100 or better. Guys like Hinske, Gross and Floyd have been very instrumental to the Rays success.

On the pitching side, you have the emergence of a bullpen comprised of older relievers and retreads complementing a strong group of starters.

When you really think about it, only the starting trio of Kazmir, Garza and Shields stands out as the beginning of a likely long-term trend. On offense, I could easily see a fall back among the veterans mentioned above, while in the pen, it wouldn't shock me if the whole thing imploded. I guess my point is that even if the Rays sustain their success this season, I am not sure they have cemented their position among the elite, unless guys like Price are the real deal.

2008-07-08 10:25:05
5.   ny2ca2dc
4 Your last sentence is key, and I haven't seen one hint of an indication that the Rays farm isn't all that. After all, with all those top picks year after year, how could you NOT assemble a contender. Even is Price isn't ready next year, they have 3 or 4 or 5 guys who could wind up being #2-5 starters.
2008-07-08 10:25:26
6.   Vandelay Industries
3 The thought of Ponson starting tomorrow got me to thinking. Is the Yankees lot so treacherous this season that I can actually hold out hope that a Pavano return in late July might actually help this team?
2008-07-08 10:28:45
7.   Vandelay Industries
5 See Kansas City Royals. See also Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates.
2008-07-08 10:32:32
8.   mehmattski
Tonight is my last game in Yankee Stadium. I'll be sitting in Tier Box MVP 616 with my dad, brother, and uncle. Should be a great pitching matchup in Pettitte-Kazmir.I'm so glad I don't have to watch Ponson tonight!

I'm excited, I've been waiting for this game since March!

2008-07-08 10:51:17
9.   Shaun P
8 Enjoy, mehmattski! Hope they get a win for you.

4 You left out the defense. Last year, Tampa Bay had the worst defensive efficiency for a team in the last 48 years (BP's database goes back to only 1959), at .662.

This year, their DefEff is at .722, tied for best in MLB with the A's.

Joe Sheehan detailed it very nicely at BP last week (subscriber only I'm afraid):

Nate Silver covered it from a related angle here (this one's free):

The Rays worry me a lot. OTOH, it will be fun to (finally) watch another (real) competitor in the division that isn't the Red Sox.

2008-07-08 10:55:34
10.   williamnyy23
9 DefEff seems to fluctuate though. Didn't the Yankees recently go from near the bottom to the near the top to back near the bottom in three years? Unless Longoria and Bartlett are making all the difference, they don't really have much of a different team in the field.
2008-07-08 11:06:49
11.   Sliced Bread
8 great seats, and what a matchup you lucked into, mehmattski! Hope you have a great visit to the Stadium with your family.

9 I obviously hope the Yanks win this series, and eventually the division, but I've never been as jazzed (for lack of a better word) about another AL team's success, let alone a division rival's, as I am about the Rays.
They're a great story, and a fun team to watch.

That said, I truly hope the Yanks crush them tonight, and tomorrow.

2008-07-08 11:25:27
12.   cult of basebaal
5 huh? why? none of those teams ever came close to having anything like the collection of talent the rays have assembled. since friedman became gm, the rays have consistently drafted and signed the best players possible, especially low in the first round, which is exactly the opposite approach taken by the teams you mentioned in the period before their new regimes.

4 i'll agree, elite takes a couple of year. take the indians of last year for example; they should have been in the world series, now they're reduced tohaving a garage sale in july.

that being said, i'm expecting the rays to be a pain in the ass for a while to come, they're smart and well run and they've got the consensus (BA/BP) best farm system in the game.

2008-07-08 11:43:09
13.   horace-clarke-era
12 that being said, i'm expecting the rays to be a pain in the ass for a while to come, they're smart and well run and they've got the consensus (BA/BP) best farm system in the game.

Yup. AND I fully expect them to use that system in the next 3 weeks to get better for this year with a deal or two. Milwaukee's CC move feels very much a rental but a defensible one (this is their shot and they are deep in areas where LaPorta would matter). I can see the Rays making moves where they keep the guys they get. I also expect Crawford to be a killer in the 2nd half and Pena can hit much better, and Upton has WAY more power. They should improve as a team, actually. Boston's season, like ours, turns on getting veterans back, Cleveland is done because they WON'T get them back. Tampa Bay has an entirely legit open door and I do agree that it is solidly in the 'good for the game' category. (Evil Angels will be getting better too, though, in next 2 weeks.)

2008-07-08 11:46:59
14.   monkeypants
2 Wang was hurt on June 15. Dan Giese more or less replaced him on June 21 and pitched a very good game in a losing effort (6.2 INN 4 H 3 R 0 ER). Starting June 27, Ponson has essentially taken his spot and won both games that he's pitched with smoke and mirrors admittedly.

Interestingly, I'm not sure the team has suffered measurable from Wang's absence. They may feel the blow as the season progresses and Ponson runs out of magic dust, but for now his injury has not been the issue.

2008-07-08 11:57:17
15.   Vandelay Industries
14 And maybe the rest will keep him from imploding in the playoffs once again.
2008-07-08 12:05:11
16.   dianagramr
How deep is the pitching well the Yanks are seemingly scraping? How about VICTOR ZAMBRANO?

"In their never-ending quest to find starting pitching, the Yankees plan to send a scout to watch the free-agent righty throw sometime this week, according to a source.

Zambrano is infamous for being the pitcher the Mets got when they shipped highly touted prospect Kazmir to Tampa at the trading deadline in 2004.

Zambrano, who went 10-14 over three seasons with the Mets, pitched for Toronto and Baltimore last season, but hasn't pitched in the majors this year. After being designated for assignment by Colorado at the end of spring training, Zambrano went 0-6 with a 9.45 ERA for the Rockies' Triple-A club."

2008-07-08 12:06:42
17.   dianagramr

I agree with your sentiments, while adding that the BoSox need RP help to get to Papelbonbon.

2008-07-08 12:25:13
18.   JL25and3
16 I think they should sign Zambrano, but only if they hire Rick Peterson first.
2008-07-08 12:41:13
19.   Shaun P
10 DefEff does fluctuate, but not like that! From Silver's free article:

"This degree of improvement is literally without precedent. The Rays have improved their DER by 58 points this year, which is the largest year-over-year improvement that we've ever tracked." (Of interest - second is Billy Martin's '80 A's team, +.049.)

And I'm summarizing Sheehan here, but, its not that the personnel are all that different, its where they're playing that makes the difference.

2008-07-08 12:42:12
20.   YankeeInMichigan
14 While the Yankees have won both of Ponson's starts, Sir Sidney has certainly not "won both games." In his second start, the Rangers lit him up for 7 runs on 9 hits in 5 innings, with 2 homers and 3 walks.

I was surprised that Girardi was letting Ponson pitch to Tampa Bay. Then again, Rassner has not been much better, as he has not pitched well since his hard-luck loss to KC on June 6 (even in his win against San Diego, he walked 5 in 5 innings). Perhaps pitching to Toronto will restore his confidence.

As for the competition for the 4-and-5 spots post-ASG, Kennedy got a bad break by being washed out after 2 innings last Thursday with SWB. I would have thought that he would be in line to start tonight at Toledo, but lists tonight's starter as TBD.

Speaking of Toledo, they beat up on Karstens yesterday and hit Ohlendorf pretty well on Sunday. McCutchen, on the other hand, was brilliant on Saturday, throwing a complete-game shutout against Syracuse with 10 Ks.

2008-07-08 12:52:57
21.   Shaun P
13 Yep. TB's core is all pre-30-years-old guys, and all bound to get better. Most of their guys aren't even in their primes (26-30) yet. That won't happen for another 3 or 4 years. For example, in 2011, Crawford is 29, Upton is 26, Navarro, Kazmir and Garza are 27, and Longoria and Price are 25.

And they've got more on the way: Brignac; Jennings; more pitchers than you can shake a stick at; oh, and Tim Beckham.

My guess is that they don't trade for anyone this year, but that Price comes up in a Joba-like bullpen role in late August. Which might fix their one weak spot, the end of the pen.

2008-07-08 12:53:33
22.   Bama Yankee
8 Hope you and your family have a great time at the game tonight, mehmattski. I'll be watching for your section to display a little "Cameron Craziness" tonight... ;-)
2008-07-08 13:01:53
23.   monkeypants
20 I agree...I never said he "won" both games. I'm just saying that they have won thetwo games where he essentially replaced Wang, so that Wang's loss has yet to be felt. Basically, the team has gotten lucky.

Rasner has been the bigger problem over his last few starts. One could make the case the real damage caused by the Wang injury is that it has forced the Yankees to stick with Rasner longer. But I am not sure the Yankees could have demoted Rasner even if Wang were healthy. Hwo would they have replaced him with? Giese, probably, since Ponson would never have been signed.

2008-07-08 13:02:09
24.   Vandelay Industries
21 Bring 'em all up. Bring up Horne, bring them all and give each a shot.
2008-07-08 13:03:31
25.   monkeypants
20 Once Ponson gets lit up a couple of times, starting with the game I am going to on Wednesday, we will see McCutchen on the roster. It's just too bad that the team will sacrifice a couple of games first, instead of quitting with Ponson while they're ahead.
2008-07-08 13:28:02
26.   cult of basebaal
24 whaaa? have you been drinking? what does horne (who's on the DL, for the 2nd time this year, btw) have to do with what tampa bay is going to do regarding the promotion of their top prospects?
2008-07-08 13:38:13
27.   Start Spreading the News

check out the link above. It is amazing to see how the Yanks rank compared to the other teams. Cubs have highest VORP in baseball but also surprisingly good pitching.

Meanwhile Mets have about the same VORP as the yanks in terms of offense.

2008-07-08 15:13:11
28.   Shaun P
25 Its too bad Horne got hurt, if he'd been healthy and reasonably effective, Ponson might never have been an option.

You could probably replace Horne in that sentence with Karstens, FWIW. My guess is that's why McCutchens and Alfredo Aceves has been moved up. Karstens and Horne were supposed to be the next backup guys (after Rasner), and when they went down, Giese stepped in but clearly more help is needed . . .

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