Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
2005-05-17 22:50
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

Or as Alex would likely title it ". . . and ya don't stop."

The Yanks won their tenth straight last night behind a dominating complete game shutout by Meat Pavano against the very same Mariner team that beat him bloody last week in New York. Here's his final line:

9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K, 68 percent strikes

Pavano allowed just six baserunners all game, a full third of them in the ninth inning. Meat hit Bret Boone with a pitch in the second, gave up consecutive singles to Richie Sexson and Raul Ibanez in the fourth and a single to Boone in the seventh. Pavano did not allow an extra base hit, did not walk a batter, and did not allow a runner past second base. His seven strikeouts tied his season high and 15 of the 20 outs recorded by his defense came on ground balls. Seattle never had a shot.

The only concern in all of that is that Pavano threw 133 pitches, two more than Mussina needed for the shutout that started the current Yankee winning streak. Pavano's previous high this season was 101. His season high last year was 125 on June 16 (a complete game shutout of the White Sox). He has not passed 120 pitches on any other occasion in the past three seasons. The good news there is that his low pitch counts overall should allow him to absorb one long outing, as he seemed to do after that shutout last year allowing just four runs in fourteen innings in his next two starts combined. Meanwhile, if his post-game comments are to be believed, Pavano may have reinforced some good habits (not rushing the ball to the plate and in turn keeping it low in the zone) on the mound last night.

The Yanks scored six runs for Pavano, five of them against spot-starter Julio Mateo. Two came in the second on singles by Matsui, E-Rod, Posada and Giambi (the last a pop up to no man's land in shallow center). A walk by Tino, an Olivo passed ball, and another Giambi single (this a hard grounder through the far right side of the shift) added another in the fourth. A Sheffield infield single and a no-doubter E-Rod dinger, his major-league-leading 13th and the first allowed by Mateo this year, tacked on two more in the fifth.

The final run came on a sixth-inning Giambi homer well into the seats in right. That gave Jason a 3 for 4 day with 3 RBIs, but I still found it a bit troubling. Giambi's first RBI single was a pop up on an 0-2 count. His next was a ground ball on a 1-2 count. The homer came on an 82 mile per hour breaking ball after Jason had failed to catch up with a 92 mile per hour fastball. Why reliever Matt Thornton didn't stick with the heat, I'll never know.

I still do not believe that Giambi can catch up with the high heat. My concern is that poor teams will continue to give up big hits to him on breaking stuff (or worse, hanging breaking stuff) and when the Yankees need him most they'll be facing a team that knows to challenge him with the fastball and he'll go back to being a non-factor. I will continue to doubt Giambi until he can make teams pay for challenging him with fastball strikes. Of course, it still appears that no one has figured out to do so yet. In the meantime, his increase in production is certainly welcome, but if Bernie can hit a grand slam on a mid-90s fastball that Giambi simply cannot make contact with, isn't Joe Torre playing the wrong guy?

In the interest of ending on an up note, the Yankees current ten-game winning streak is their longest since July 1998 when the won exactly ten against the Phillies, Orioles and Devil Rays from June 30 to July 12. That ten-game streak was the longest enjoyed by that 114-win club.

2005-05-18 00:15:32
1.   rilkefan
On the strike-percentage thing - is there any rules of thumb out there about what's the right number? I seem to recall you quoting numbers quite close to 67% for good starts. I wonder how this depends on umpire error as well as pitchers' control.

Re heat and Giambi, one would think the 92-mph pitch was intended to make him speed up too much on the 82-mph pitch. A steady diet of fastballs will speed up his bat, won't it?

2005-05-18 04:26:09
2.   Fred Vincy

I think your worry about Giambi is exactly the right one -- and a lot more realistic than the worries that the he was really the .195 statue we saw during the slump. This is actually what started worrying me about him during the '03 playoffs. For what encouragement we may take, miserable as he looked on high fastballs during those playoffs, he did get those 2 critical homers off Pedro (and another against Looper in the series).

2005-05-18 04:30:15
3.   Simone
I came here really excited because I saw how well Giambi had done last night on SportsCenter, only to have Cliff's comments about him feel like cold water has been dumped on me. I can't believe his bat speed is still so bad that he can't hit a fastball. At least, Giambi has been embarassed into actually swinging the bat and is making contact so that is a good first step.

Despite Pavano's high pitch count, his shut out is really great. Apparently, Mel's suggestions are working for Pavano. I like the strike outs because he isn't known as a strike out guy. Nice to hear that the defense was solid as well.

I am very optimistic that the Yankees can win the last game against Seattle and then maybe even sweep the Mets. Pedro will be batting. I really miss Clemens right about now. He would settle up the old debts.

2005-05-18 04:37:50
4.   singledd
Question: Assuming that Giambi was doing steroids for a LONG time, that he quit last year, and that his health problems were related to steroid use/withdrawal... is it possible that if he continues to take care of himself and continues to play, that he might get more 'back into form'?. I don't know why his bat speed would degenerate so much... he's not that old. Any chance that with playing time and confidence, his bat speed may improve from what it is now?
2005-05-18 05:27:45
5.   rbj
If we want to start throwing cold water on things, just consider that the ten game streak has come at the expense of two sad sack teams, that are now both 15-24, a winning pct. of .385. I'll take this as a starting point for both the team and Jason. And Bernie, too.
What ticks me is skipping Wang's next start.
2005-05-18 05:59:43
6.   Knuckles
\\the ten game streak has come at the expense of two sad sack teams, that are now both 15-24, a winning pct. of .385//

Better to go 10-0 against those teams than don't get to choose your opponents, you just beat the ones put in front of you. And riding a hot streak like this into matchups against the Mutts and Sox is the best you can hope for.

2005-05-18 06:24:39
7.   jayd
Say Cliff, how do you make judgements on bat speed or is this something you are passing on from another source?

In spring training I recall that Mattingly said that Jason's bat speed was "back", but now you are saying it is not there. Batters get fooled on pitches and you will see them swing late any number of times (just as they will be way in front of a changeup). How does one go from that possibility to making an observation on bat speed?

In any event, I think Jason's game problems this year has always been mental and we're seeing the result of steroid dependency more than anything else.

One hot streak is going to toast all that and here's hoping for a monster May-June tear. Can you imagine Sheff/Matsui/ ARod/Jason all in synch? Talk about Murderers Row, this is going to be Serial Killer's Alley...

2005-05-18 06:54:03
8.   rbj
Don't get me wrong, I'll take a ten (shall we go for eleven tonight?) game streak against sad sack teams, I just don't think it's fair to single Giambi out for doing well against poor teams. I'll put down the entire team's performance lately as the team waking up and getting into the swing of things.
2005-05-18 07:04:26
9.   Cliff Corcoran
rilkefan, yes a 2:1 ratio (which you could round down to 65 percent) is ideal. Below 60 is bad, above 70 is exceptional. Yes, a bad game by an umpire will mess with this percentage. At the same time balls put in play count as strikes, so if the opposition gets lots of hits, but early in the count, it will artificially inflate that percentage (usually this is not an issue as pitchers who get roughed up tend to fall behind). Where this really gets skewed is with guys such as Quantrill/Lieber/Mateo who pitch to contact. Mateo threw 75 percent strikes last night. Obviously, strike percentage alone will not tell you if a pitcher was effective, but it does add detail to the picture painted by the rest of his line. Was he dominant (high percentage, good line)? Lucky (low percentage, good line)? Lacking command (as opposed to control) or movement on his pitches (high percentage, bad line)? Or just flat awful (low percentage, bad line)?
2005-05-18 07:28:50
10.   Cliff Corcoran
JayD, my judgements on Giambi's bat speed are from observation. I can't remember the last time I saw him make contact with a 90+ MPH fastball, let alone hit one with authority. Whenever I see 90-something on the YES gun during a Giambi at-bat it's after a swing and miss (or yet another take).

That said, here's an assignment for you all: Keep and eye on the radar gun during Giambi's at-bats and let me know what you see him do with those 90+ MPH heaters, particularly the ones high in the zone.

Rilkefan, until I see it happen, I won't believe his bat can speed up. Either way, if I'm an opposing pitcher/hitter/manager, I give him nothing but high heat until his bat does speed up (because I don't believe he will), then I take advantage of his sped up bat with breaking stuff.

Thus far the only pitcher I've seen really challenge Giambi is Rich Harden, who struck him out on three pitches (way behind on a fastball, then two more heaters he took for strikes) the only time he faced him in his last start in Oakland (when Harden faced Giambi in the Bronx he was having trouble throwing his heater for strikes, thus he walked him twice and struck him out once in three trips).

Fred, Giambi's inability to hit the high heat in the '03 playoffs was less about bat speed and more about his knee injury. His backside would give out on him and he just couldn't physically hit those pitches. That said, supposedly he stopped using steroids half way through that season and one advantage of steroids that is often ignored is not increased strength, but increased quickness (your muscles fire faster).

Off topic: Simone, great observation about Pedro. I bet the Yanks could get Brown to plunk him.

2005-05-18 07:31:06
11.   markp
The Giambi "analysis" is biased.
2005-05-18 07:45:53
12.   Cliff Corcoran
MarkP, I can accept being wrong (watch out for that high heat and report back to me if I am), but I'm not biased. I don't know if you recall or not, but I was calling for Yankee fans to support Giambi this offseason and was hoping to get something solid out of him. I'd much prefer he be useful than cost the team $60-80 million for nothing and take away at-bats from players who are. I'm just reporting what I see. The advantage of this format is that you can counter with your own observations, but I must protest your cries of bias.
2005-05-18 08:38:20
13.   Murray
The last thing the Yankees need right now is for somebody to get ejected/fined/suspended, or, even worse, hurt at the bottom of a beanball-induced scrum just because we all agree that Pedro Martinez is a bastard. Can we please stop trying to settle up old debts? This isn't "The Godfather: Part II."
2005-05-18 08:58:43
14.   JohnnyC
I'd be shocked if any bean balls were exchanged Friday. It's definitely not Torre's style. If Torre hasn't exploded over the last 3 years where the Red Sox have hit 3 Yankees to every Red Sox hit by a pitch than he isn't going to make this weekend a crusade for Old Testament justice. Calm down.
2005-05-18 08:59:14
15.   Dan M
I'm more worried about Brown imploding in front of the whole city on Friday night than anything else.
2005-05-18 09:17:00
16.   markp
He's hit a lot of balls very solidly for the past week. He hit s decent pitch for a game-winning double on Sunday along with a couple of other well hit balls that were caught.
His second hit last night was very well hit, and he hit the HR off of a guy who got everyone else out save a single and a walk.
His OPS is currently 52 points higher than Hideki Matsui's. Where's the "I still do not believe that Matsui can catch up with the high heat." analysis?
Who are these hitters that are able to routinely hit high heat? The reason pitchers with good or better velocity throw fastballs at and above the letters is because very, very few hitters are capable of doing much with that pitch.
Microanalyzing Giambi while giving guys like Matsui a pass is bias.
2005-05-18 09:38:32
17.   Cliff Corcoran
Mark, I don't want to get into an argument, but I've only been refering to Matsui as "Slumpzilla" and "Groundzilla" for a month now. I've cooled that as of late because he's 9 for his last 27 with four doubles. In fact, here are the two players in question over their last 20 ABs:

Giambi: 7 H, 1 2B, 1 HR, 11 TB, 4 RBI, 3 R, 2 BB, 5 K

Matsui: 7 H, 3 2B, 0 HR, 10 TB, 1 RBI, 5 R, 1 BB, 3 K

The biggest gap there is RBIs. Matsui had five in the 7 at-bats prior to those 20. Giambi's last RBI prior to the four listed above was on 4/23.

I'm not pleased with how either looks at the plate right now. Matsui's just harder to figure. Giambi I believe I have pegged. As I've said, let's all watch to find out if I'm right.

2005-05-18 09:44:48
18.   jedi
I agree with markp. As much I am not convinced that Giambi's "swing" still exists, Matsui is getting a huge pass these days. Attribute it to moving to CF then back to LF on any given day or etc. But, I think everyone should be concerned over Matusi's swing selections and reduced homerun ball numbers than Giambi's ability to hit any high heat. If everyone hit it then it wouldn't be called high heat.

Back to reality and being good ole bias joe... Who here is annoyed at Giambi's dedication to immediately look down and clean the left side of the plate with his cleats of white chalk and dirt every time a pitch is delivered. He looks like he is trying to learn the waltz out there! hah That has to be up there with the most annoying batter box routines in baseball. Nomar up top is a given...but the person who takes the cake for me was Knoublach. What's your favorite/least favorite batter box routine in baseball?

2005-05-18 09:55:08
19.   Simone
"Can we please stop trying to settle up old debts? This isn't "The Godfather: Part II."

Against Pedro, never. I don't think myself as a particularly vengeful person, but Pedro has it coming 100 times over. I'll settle for a Yankee pitcher plunking him any where from the neck down hard and good just once.

2005-05-18 10:03:48
20.   Alex Belth
I'll settle for them scoring seven runs off of him in three innings and sending him to the showers.
2005-05-18 10:04:49
21.   Cliff Corcoran
Jedi, I'm with you on the Giambi thing. It's less disturbing now that he's actually swinging, but it used to be: take, smooth dirt, take, smooth dirt . . . take strike three, sit down.

Pete O'Brein used to wiggle the bat through his practice swings prior to a pitch in a way that drove me nuts. It still wigs me out just thinking about it. I always thought Soriano pounding the velcro on his gloves was pretty stupid. Matsui's shoulder shrug kind of bugs me. Ichiro's dramatic bat pointing and sleeve adjusting is cool once, after which it's infuriating. I never liked when players would pull the backs of their jersey over their shoulders (Danny Tartabull and Kevin Seitzer come to mind). Lastly, I always loved Jim Leyritz's bat spin, but I hated the little bat slapping hip wiggle he'd do after it.

2005-05-18 10:11:13
22.   Nick from Washington Heights
It's funny but as a Yanks fan I loved Pedro. I think he's a witty and honest guy. People from the media claim that Yanks players had a personal grudge against him, and then in the off-season you had Posada and A-Rod talking about how much they respected him and would love to play with the guy. I don't think Pedro headhunted against the Yanks. He wasn't against using the inside of the plate as a tool to pitch well. In that infamous game where he sent both Jeter and Sori to the hospital, he wasn't beaning them. Heck, Jeter lunged into that pitch.

About the criticism that the Yanks have done this against awful teams. A ten game winning streak is an exceptional thing to do in baseball. Please ask Tigers fans about this who haven't experienced such a streak in 37 years.

2005-05-18 10:29:51
23.   jayd
An excellent point, Nick. After moaning about 11-19, this same group (my god, the cup is actually less than half-empty if you hold it up to the light...) smoothly shift gears into the "awful teams" logic.
2005-05-18 10:31:34
24.   Clay Caviness
I can't stand Carl Everett's destroy-the-batter's-box-and-practically-stand-on-the-place routine. especially when he hits left-handed.

But that's surely exacerbated by my extreme dislike. Of all the possible Red Sox batters to break up Mussina's perfect game! Arrgh! I'm red-lining thinking about it.

I like Thome's pointing the bat to the outfield schtick.

2005-05-18 11:07:47
25.   Nick from Washington Heights
loved the player, hated the spitting: Tony Phillips. I just remember him incessantly squirting tobacco juice onto the dirt, and then getting a clutch hit against the yanks. The spitting was part of his batting routine. Gross.
2005-05-18 11:37:46
26.   Jen
Pedro won't be pitching Friday night btw. He had a cortisone shot in his hip. He's set to go on Sunday against Pavano.
2005-05-18 11:41:43
27.   Cliff Corcoran
Red Sox and former Expos fans must be love-hating that match-up, the prospect vs. the legend pitching for the two NY teams.
2005-05-18 13:08:46
28.   Rob
i hadn't thought of the Pete O'Brien wiggle in some time.. thanks a lot for putting that back in my head! The Leyritz wiggle always bugged me, I always loved the Winfield bat sway (not to mention the illfitting helmet) and who can forget the Nomah!
2005-05-18 13:15:49
29.   Murray
I don't like Martinez--just in case anybody wants to accuse me of bias, I figured I'd make it clear where mine lies--but if you don't think he'd been throwing at the Yankees (regardless of how close to the plate some of those guys stand) over the past six years, then I don't know what you've been watching.

And of course, Sunday's is the game I was just given a pair of tickets for, so I get to boo Martinez. Martinez is one of those guys whose greatness I acknowledge, but whom I dislike anyway. I view him as more of a spoiled child than as witty and free-spirited.

2005-05-18 14:38:37
30.   singledd
Those 2 awful teams just took 4 of 6 from the Red Sox... and traveling to and playing on the West Coast is never fun. Lets hope they are not-so-awful when they play Baltimore.
2005-05-18 15:12:54
31.   Dan M
Um, singledd, that game isn't over yet ...
2005-05-18 15:27:38
32.   Nick from Washington Heights
the elipses is now a period. the game is now over. singledd's point is official.

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