Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Earl Weaver Special
2008-07-31 23:08
by Cliff Corcoran

On a hot, humid night in the Bronx last night, Andy Pettitte had a hard time staying cool and composed. Drenched in sweat and clearly off his game, Pettitte struggled with his command and the communication with his new catcher, Ivan Rodriguez--at one point Pettitte simply mouthed "four seam, four seam" before delivering a pitch. The big lefty managed to strand a pair of walks in the first inning and work around a pair of singles in the second, but in the third he gave up a pair of three-run homers to Torii Hunter and Juan Rivera that broke the game wide open.

The Yankees got a run in the fourth on a Bobby Abreu solo shot off Angels starter Jon Garland, and another in the fifth when Melky Cabrera tripled and scored on a subsequent hit by Johnny Damon, but the Angels got those back and more in the sixth. Pettitte gave up one more tally before getting the hook with one out in the sixth, but he left two runners on base for Chris Britton. Britton retired two of the first three men he faced, but the one he didn't get was Vlad Guerrero, who added yet another three-run jack to push the score to 10-2 and end any real hope of a Yankee comeback.

Britton gave up two more runs in the eighth, but saved the rest of the pen by finishing the game (3 2/3 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 1 K). Meanwhile, Xavier Nady, who is stinging the ball in blow-outs but still hitless as a Yankee when it matters, led off the seventh with a solo shot off Garland, then keyed a somewhat hopeless Yankee rally in the ninth with a lead-off single. The Yanks wound up scoring three runs off Darrens Oliver and O'Day in the ninth to make the 12-6 final look closer than the game actually was. Here's hoping that rally carries over into tomorrow's game.

In his Yankee debut, Ivan Rodriguez saw three Angels steal successfully against him and Pettitte and went 1 for 3 at the plate with a strikeout and a double play. Rodriguez's one hit was a hard shot that Chone Figgins knocked down at third, but couldn't gather in time to throw Rodriguez out. Pushed to third by a Cabrera single, Rodriguez made a deft baserunning play when Johnny Damon subsequently hit a comebacker that Darren Oliver juggled then threw wildly to second to force Melky. Rodriguez broke for home as soon as Oliver committed to his throw and made a nice outside slide around catcher Jeff Mathis, sticking his left hand in to touch home safely. The only problem is that home plate ump Ed Hickox completely blew the call, telling Rodriguez that he had missed the plate, and calling him out on a phantom 1-6-2 double play. Another bummer on a night full of them (I didn't even mention the slack defense of Robinson Cano and Bobby Abreu, which stood in stark contrast to the play of the Angels, particularly Figgins . . . oh, I guess I just did).

2008-08-01 04:05:50
1.   rufuswashere
OK, I'll be first.

An obvious Molina strength: handling pitchers. A rumored Pudge weakness: same. Media often forgets this, but we saw it last night, didn't we?

I still like the deal for the Yanks, but it doesn't make them as good as Anaheim.

2008-08-01 04:49:43
2.   ny2ca2dc
1 Lets make our evaluation after more than one game, no?

Nice recap Cliff. Too bad this 'market correction' on the starters ERA had to come all at once. A'all didn't really think the staff ERA would stick at ~1.5 for the whole month, didja! Anyone else think that while Britton is a nice reliever to have (and has been bounced around more than is, uh, optimal), the guy doesn't seem to do well coming in with men on base. And not just last night.

I loathe the Angles. Almost as much as the Orioles.

2008-08-01 05:10:10
3.   OldYanksFan
Let's give Pudge some time to get aquainted with our pitchers. I like that he beat out an infield hit. He runs especially well for a catcher. He is offensively, a huge upgrade over Molina, and shouldn't be much of a downgrade defensively.

It looked like a slaughter, but there were a lot of what ifs. If our defense had been decent, it's a much closer game. Cano let's the 3rd out in a ground ball get by him, and then there is a 3 run HR. A 3-0 game instead of a 6-0 game at that point is huge. We also lost 1 on Pudge's play, and 2 or more on great D by the Halos in the 9th.

We have lost some bad ones, but at least our O has not laid down and died. We scored 6 and got 13 hits and actually had a little fight in us, so I will tale a little solace in that.

As Cliff (?) and others pointed out, with Pontoons and Raz in the rotation, Andy and Moose have to be near perfect. I guess Washburn might help some, but it's nothing to get excited about.

MP asked why the Angels are doing so much better then us with offensive and pitching numbers that are pretty close. The answer is execution. While we have good days, there are too many gaffs for us to win consistantly. Too many stranded runners on third. Too many poor ABs when we are on the verge of scoring.

El Dopey did it again, trying for 3rd with 2 out. He made it on a bad throw, but still it's a terrible play that you don't expect from a little leaguer. Abreu (once again) has an automatic brake that goes off whenever he comes within 10' of anything solid. Cano was uncharacteristically poor in the field.

Jeter's numbers seem solid if not great, but my eyes keep telling me he is not hitting in high leverage situations. Actually, many of us are happy if he simply doesn't hit into a DP.

2 of our bad defensive plays (Cano and Bobby) led directly to 4 runs. 2 of their defensive plays (in the 9th) saved (at least) 2 runs. Andy wouldn't say anything, but he looked pretty pissed at some of the fielding behind him. It is obvious when our pitching or offense loses a game. But I think our defense loses a lot of games too.

Our SP is still a bit weak, but we are putting a pretty good team on the field now. The boys have a real fight coming up over the next couple of weeks. We will see if Jeter and the others can step up. Step up and EXECUTE.

2008-08-01 05:20:19
4.   monkeypants
3 "Jeter's numbers seem solid if not great, but my eyes keep telling me he is not hitting in high leverage situations. Actually, many of us are happy if he simply doesn't hit into a DP."

According to Baseball-Reference:

Jeter 2008
High Leverage: .358 .419 .453 .872
Medium Leverage: .261 .311 .376 .686
Low Leverage: .283 .356 .408 .764

Late and Close: .319 .396 .447 .843
2 out RISP: .333 .412 .444 .856

Perhaps your eyes deceive?

2008-08-01 05:24:50
5.   horace-clarke-era
Agreed on the give-Pudge-time. It is not an automatic for a pitcher and catcher to mesh, life and baseball would be too easy if it was. Also seems a little ironic to cite great Angels D when Vlad butchered a single into a triple ... they had a yin yang there too. Pudge showed seriously good baserunning, only undermined by appalling umping and a blowout game. A close game, the right call, he's a hero for that deft slide.

Angels have been superb for awhile and just got stronger. No secret to anyone, I suspect. We have too many games left against them, alas.

Basically, last night is on Andy, though. Not saying that to dump on him (though it feels unfair to blame Pudge!), as he's been outstanding, but it is a fact. 6-0 early, then three more is Sir Pontoon country.

Oh. Right. About tonight ...

2008-08-01 05:25:12
6.   ChrisS
I think the Yankees are a playoff caliber team, but the Angels are a great team this year. They are good enough from top to bottom, offensively, and have an excellent starting staff. Chone Figgins doesn't have power, but that doesn't hurt as much when he's got a .383 OBP.

The Yanks can make the playoffs this year, but they need a lot of work because 80% of their potential 09 starting line-up is either a question mark or another year deeper into their decline years. And so far that hasn't been pretty.

2008-08-01 05:27:00
7.   ChrisS
5 "Oh. Right. About tonight ... "

Yeah, Karstens is going for Pitt, I wonder who, between he and Ponson, will have the better night.

2008-08-01 05:27:54
8.   horace-clarke-era
4 I'm with monkey (and the numbers) here. It is very well known that eyes do deceive, and memory, in baseball fandom. Abreu has been superb in 2 out risp and I wonder if people are registering the fact, for example.

A guy can 'blow it' 2/3 of the time close and late and be excellent. The hard nature of the sport.

2008-08-01 05:29:00
9.   horace-clarke-era
7 Well, Sir Sad Sack has the tougher lineup to face.
2008-08-01 05:40:34
10.   Shaun P
After all the excitement following the huge win on Wednesday, and the Pudge deal, last night sucked.

2 I also loathe the Angels. They always hit 'em where the Yanks' fielders ain't. Its very frustrating to watch.

Why did the schedule makers set it up so that all of the Yanks' games against these games would come at the end of the season? I'd be happier if this was the last time we'd see the Angels, not the first.

2008-08-01 06:09:27
11.   OldYanksFan
4 So tell me MP.. we watch these games together. Do your eyes see Jeter coming through in big situations? Do you WANT him up with men on base? Man on 1st?

I believe in stats. They don't lie. But they don't always tell the story. I wonder if Jeters high RISP is when we have leads, and big leads? I don't know. But I have watched every game but 3 this season. I'm not quite that senile (yet). I just can't say Jeter is one of the guys helping us win.

But again, perception is not always reality.

2008-08-01 06:14:16
12.   Shaun P
I wish there was a way to watch the Old Timers' Game outside of NY, instead of having my dad tape it and then bring it.

From Pete Abe:

"Baseball's all-time stolen base leader Rickey Henderson will make his first Old-Timers' Day appearance at Yankee Stadium"

2008-08-01 06:16:36
13.   Shaun P
And (forgive me if someone found this out yesterday), here is why the Yanks traded AG (more from PeteAbe):

"The Alberto Gonzalez move cleared a 40-man roster spot and removed a player who was blocking AA infielder Ramiro Pena. The Yankees like him a lot. If they suddenly need an infielder, it'll be Cody Ransom."

2008-08-01 06:23:37
14.   williamnyy23
3 At least "dopey" had a pulse yesterday. His attempt for third was ill-advised, but so was Irod dash for home. Again, at least those two looked interested in playing. Abreu and Cano seemed as if being at the ballpark was an inconvenience.

11 I believe Jeter started the season with inordinantly good numbers in high leverage. Despite still being respectable, those numbers have come down.

2008-08-01 06:29:34
15.   murphy
while i am not advocating to play molina every day in any way shape or form, yanks pitchers are gonna need to speed up their games with pudge behind the plate. there is a marked difference in their CS% with Molina the CLEAR leader. this was evidenced by the 3 SBs last night by a team that is only 9th in the league and only steals bases successfully at a 72% clip.
2008-08-01 06:30:52
16.   monkeypants
11 I want him him up more than I do Melky or Gardner or Molina or Cano (for half of the season)...meaning that I think he has been about the middle-most reliable player in the lineup most of the time, which is just about right based on his numbers.

You yourself argued earlier this year (we were sparring on a similar topic) that Jeter disappoints you more because you have higher expectations. I suspect that is what is clouding your judgement in this case.

It has been interesting to watch opinion on Jeter shift so radically in the last few years, at least on sites such as these. He has gone from being the most overrated player (Mr. November, Mr. Clutch, etc.) to the object of scorn. And frankly, I just don't get. He is accused of arrogance and selfishness, etc., and yet no evidence is ever produced to verify these claims. And many of the very same fans who sing the praises of winners like Tino (who was awful at the end) and O'Neill (similar) or Mattingly (indeed) all seem to be lining up to pile dirt on the Jeter.

The guy has been a great player for a long time. He was drafted by the Yankees and will hopefully retire with them. He will be the first Yankee to get 3000 hits. He is easily the best player at his position in team history, and arguably one of the ten best at the position ever. He is having his worst season since his rookie year, and he is STILL out-performing the bulk of the players in the league at his position. Can some of us stop ragging on the man and look at his performance at least a little objectively?

So, to get back to your questions, who do I want up in a big situation? Well obviously I want A-Rod, because he is the best hitter on the team. I would want a healthy Matsui, or Johnny (before crunching his shoulder), of 'Stache. Because they are better hitters than Jeter. But just because I want to see A-Rod up instead of Jeter is not an indictment of the latter, nor does not it compel me to bitch and moan about him at every turn (or maybe it only seems like every turn--perception can be cloudy).

2008-08-01 06:32:45
17.   monkeypants
14 I usually argue with you on these types of posts, but I agree, Cano and Abreu looked like they were not too inspire yesterday. MAybe they were out partying together or something...
2008-08-01 06:39:25
18.   monkeypants
11 I can answer you questions in an even more nuanced way. Jeter has been in a little mini-slump the last week or so, after he had that nice run of a few weeks, steadily improving his season averages. Right now--as in today--if I had to go with my gut, I would say that he is "cold" while, say, Abreu is hot. So last night, I would have preferred Bobby to Derek when the game was on the line.

Except of course, the game was ever really on the line after the second inning.

We'll see if the last few days were a blip (Jeter spanked two balls last night, and he is hitting with far more authority than he did during his big slump earlier this year), or they are the beginning of a longer-term slide. That would be very troubling, for as William has pointed out, the teams margin is razor thin. If one or a couple starters go in the tank, it could be curtains.

2008-08-01 07:07:38
19.   ms october
well in honor of the post's title:
"The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three run homers."

16 thank you mp. in addition to the swing from over-rated to over-bashed; there is too much arod/jeter dichotomy. like it's against some baseball principle to like them both.

2008-08-01 07:33:09
20.   horace-clarke-era
19 This feels like a sharp observation, thank you for it. It used to be said, to wander a bit afield, that a film buff could not like both Fellini and Antonioni as directors. (Yes, one could dislike both, I suppose.) I always found it absurd: why must OUR taste be so narowly defined that we can't like different artists with different styles?

I think when A Rod was the whipping boy, DJ was the god-who-must-be-equalled. It felt unfair then. In the same way, if Jeter has slipped a bit, it feels absurd to turn (for example) his once-praised toughness, playing hurt, never talking about ailments, into a negative (he's selfish, hurting the team).

There is a weird momentum to these things, a hell-hath-no-fury-like-a-fan disappointed. Is Jeter supposed to be immune to turning 34-35 with a LOT of baseball on a slender frame? No slippage tolerated without being savagely noted? No slumps allowed, nothing less than All-Star (and EARNED All-Star, dammit!)? Captain Clutch or nothing?

I was never a Bosox fan (!) or an Oriole, but don't remember Yaz and Ripken going through this. If I think about it, I recall some negatives about Rip's streak, that playing every day was hurting him and the team, but it was accepted as normal, even proper, that a guy would slide from his peak in his mid-30s. That's what happens in sport. Even to Derek Jeter.

If I can cast the comment a bit wider, bring in the Melky-bash stuff ... isn't some of this a huge sense of entitlement that Yankee fans sometimes have? The idea that we must have a star at every position, we have a right to it. If we don't, the GM screwed up. That a mediocre or mainly defensive CF batting 9th is an outrage to Yankeedom. Or a slowly aging ss, very good but not what he once was in his glory.

And do people actually believe Robbie Cano or Bobby Abreu decided they didn't CARE about yesterday's game? Honestly?

July and August are HARD in baseball, playing every day in summer heat is really hard, it is one of the compelling aspects of the sport, and one of the things that makes or breaks a manager, keeping fuel in all tanks.

Yesterday, I'll say it again, was Pettitte's. He's entitled to a stinker or two. We do need IPK or PKH to come back up, though. In a hurry. Tonight feels like another avert the eyes...

2008-08-01 08:00:38
21.   williamnyy23
19 That's a great point. When Arod was being booed in 2006, a lot of fans heaping scorn upon him held Jeter (who had an MVP year that season) over his head like an albatross. I think that made at least a few others start to resent Jeter a little by turning it into an Arod vs. Jeter debate. Personally, I know I was a little angry that Jeter refused to support Arod like he did for Giambi. I honestly think the 2006 season would have been different if Arod had gotten a little more support from Torre and Jeter.

20 Reagrding your comment about caring, no, I don't think anyone thinks Robbie and Abreu went all Manny, but I do think they played yesterday's game with less than full concentration. When the happens, you get lackluster play and mental mistakes. You can fail to give a full effort without it being the result of intentionally not caring.

2008-08-01 08:04:08
22.   pistolpete
It was nice to get Pudge in the lineup right away and all, but does anyone else think that perhaps he could have sat on the bench for a game or two and watched how Molina deals with the staff?
2008-08-01 08:05:45
23.   YankeeInMichigan
1 Being in Michigan, I've followed Pudge quite closely over the past few years. He seems to be a high-maintenance guy who brings his A-game when he is content. He certainly did a masterful job handling the young Tiger staff in 2006, and he and Kenny Rogers have frozen more baserunners than probably any pitcher-catcher combination in history (I was expecting similar results with Pudge and Pettitte, so last night's 3 steals were particularly disappointing).

When times get tough, however, Pudge tends to dog it, both in his hitting approach and his game-calling. I recall that, in 2005, Tiger radio color-man Jim Price constantly blamed Nate Robertson's poor 2nd-half performance on predictable pitch selection (we'll never get such insight from Suzyn). I was always bothered the reluctance of Price and others to direct the blame toward Pudge. That same season, as the Tigers were crumbling, Pudge threw half his teamates and his manager under the bus. When someone brought up his sub-.300 OBP, he arrogantly proclaimed "I don't like walks."

2008-08-01 08:07:27
24.   williamnyy23
22 I agree, but not because I think he needed to watch the staff. Instead, after hearing his itinerary, it seems foolish that he played. Apparently, he awoke at 3AM, flew to Detroit, took care of some personal issues and then hopped a flight to NY. I don't think I'd have enough energy to watch the game if I had that schedule, not to mention catch it.
2008-08-01 08:31:48
25.   Zack
I generally make it a point not to watch or listen to the Yanks-Angels games, because they are infuriating on many levels. I can only listen to how amazing their manager is, how many intangibles Chone brings to the table, or watch them outplay the Yanks in every way and make them look like they are old and don't care so many times before I turn into the Hulk. The fact that Fat Sid is pitching tonight is further reason to stay clear away.

I do think people are vastly overvaluing Molina's ability to "hold" baserunners. Sure, he has a great % this season, but its still only %40 or so. That means that over half the time the runner is safe, and its not like Pudge is exactly a wet noodle back there.

I would not be shocked at all if the Yanks get swept and look like horse$#t in the process. Its just how it happens, and at least this year the Angels are actually that good...They certainly made easy work of the Sox, in Fenway, where they normally seem to choke...

2008-08-01 08:44:07
26.   pistolpete
24 Interesting, but I'm guessing he showed up and told Girardi he absolutely wanted to play that night. Adrenaline was a factor I'm guessing; probably why Pudge palmed that first throw down to second.

25 I'm beginning to think you may have a good idea. I've already sworn off Sox games, I may have to boycott LA as well. Just better ways to spend an evening than to have my blood pressure spike around the 4th or 5th inning.

2008-08-01 08:51:27
27.   pistolpete
26 I tend to repeat myself, I'm guessing.
2008-08-01 08:58:44
28.   JL25and3
25 I agree completely, though I watch the games. In fact, I watched last night's from the upper was a shame to have such good seats for such a horrific game. Partway through I started to pay a lot less attention to the game and a lot more to talking with my niece.

Anyway, I've hated the Angels for that sort of crap for a long time. It was even worse when their poster boys were Darin Scrapstad and Li'l Davey Gritstein. Plus, of course, they routinely destroy the Yankees.

I'm not sure what Pudge's ability to "handle" pitchers had to do with Pettitte's command problems last night. That was strictly a matter of Andy making (or not making) his pitches.

3 "It looked like a slaughter, but there were a lot of what ifs. If our defense had been decent, it's a much closer game." Reminds me of Sammy Baugh's famous line after the his Redskins lost the 1940 NFL championship game to the Bears, 73-0. Early on, a Redskins receiver dropped an easy pass that would have tied the game at 7. After the game Baugh was asked if the game would have been different if the pass had been caught. "Sure," Baugh said, "then the score would have been 73-7."

Yesterday really was a slaughter. If things had gone better it would have been less of a slaughter, that's all.

2008-08-01 09:12:46
29.   cult of basebaal
don't look now, but it looks like ROTTEN robbie may be back ... 3 for his last 22 and playing with his head up his ass in the field ... god but he's a frustratingly inconsistent player
2008-08-01 09:44:40
30.   JL25and3
29 Great point. His fielding yesterday was atrocious, but his at-bats were nothing to write home about, either.
2008-08-01 10:32:49
31.   weeping for brunnhilde
30 Well, he did have that long ab, fouling off a lot of pitches before eventually (as I recall) skying out. But generally, yes, something's up.
2008-08-01 10:33:21
32.   weeping for brunnhilde
Or maybe that was in the previous game against Baltimore.


2008-08-01 13:43:21
33.   nick
11 all I can say is look at ALL the bb-ref splits: there are a lot of breakdowns one could consider "clutch", and Jeter is generally speaking better, this year, in important situations than he is in general. sure, you can cherry pick: he's not very good in 1 and 2 run games; he's not at all good with 2 out. but leverage, which works as the best single "clutch" stat, says he's getting important hits.

the more you look at splits, the less you tend to believe in "clutch" ability. eg, I just looked at Abreu. he's GREAT late and close, but lousy in tie games. so presumably his "late and tied" numbers would be somewhere in the middle. does it really seem like these sorts of numbers correlate with some single ability?

sorry for all that--fucking Angels making me cranky....

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