Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
If the Yankees win tonight and tomorrow to complete a four-game sweep of the Orioles, they will wake up on Friday in first place in both the AL East and the Wild Card race, and there's not a damn thing that Boston or Cleveland can do about it. That's because the half game by which the Yankees currently trail those two clubs is the result of the Bombers having played one less game thus far this season. On Thursday, the Sox and Tribe will be idle while the Yankees finish the current series with the O's, thus that pesky half game will be gone, for better or worse, come Friday.
As a result, with the exception of the final three games of the season in Boston, each of which counts for a full game the AL East standings, tomorrow night's game is the most important one on the Yankees remaining schedule, as it is guaranteed to effect a half-game swing in the race for the playoffs. Joe Torre knows this. Prior to last night's game he made a comment about how much he was looking forward to eliminating that half game come Thursday. Thus his decision to give Mike Mussina his first start since Aug 29 tomorrow night is . . . well, maybe it's just Joe being Joe.
It's common knowledge that Mussina struggles on irregular rest, and you can't get much more irregular than 23 days, even if Moose has been throwing bullpen sessions over the past week to test his arm coming off the elbow inflammation that bounced him from the rotation three weeks ago. I've already expressed my concern about starting Mussina coming off an injury in the midst of a pennant race in which there absolutely no room for error. The upside is that a healthy Mussina could be the difference in the postseason, or in the season-ending series against Boston (remember his season-saving appearance out of the pen in Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS). The downside is that one tanked start by a rusty Moose could keep this team out of the postseason altogether.
To his credit, Mussina is very aware of the risk involved:
"You don't want to do anything that hurts our chances. I want to be in the mix, and, obviously, I want to contribute. [But] We've done some nice things; I don't want to mess it up." (MLB.com) "I don't know if it's going to be rusty, if it's going to be good, if it's going to be in between. I don't know what it's going to be like." (NYT)
Mussina will be starting coming off a Monday bullpen in which he threw at a maximum of 70 percent of his full velocity and, while he's reported that his elbow is feeling worlds better, he will not have had a rehab start (as the minor league season is over), and will be limited to 80 pitches tomorrow night. As Mussina would regularly hit 80 pitches in the fourth or fifth inning prior to being shut down, it would seem that tomorrow night's game will actually be a tandem start between Mussina and Al Leiter (which explains Leiter's absence from last night's game).
As to why Torre felt the need to attempt this experiment on Thursday of all days, I suspect that's a case of Joe misusing statistics once again.
Throughout his Yankee tenure, Joe Torre has had a habit of either ignoring statistics altogether (see Womack, Tony) or over relying on meaninglessly small samples (see Wilson, Enrique v. Pedro Martinez). Thus far this season, Mike Mussina has a 3.18 ERA against the Orioles and a 10.24 ERA against the Blue Jays. I can only imagine this is the reason Torre has decided to start Mussina on Thursday, the final game of the Baltimore series, rather than Friday, the first game of the Toronto series (both games are at home).
But a closer look reveals that the ERAs listed above have come from a grand total of just three starts. Moose had one solid outing against the Orioles back on April 16 (6 2/3, 7 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 4 K), admittedly when the O's were a much hotter team. Meanwhile, his 10.24 ERA against the Blue Jays is the result of two disparate starts against Toronto. The first was an April 21 win in Toronto that wasn't a far cry from his previous start against the O's (5 1/2 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 5 K), the second was a loss in his penultimate start before being removed from the rotation (4 1/3 IP, 6 H, 8 R, 1 HR, 2 BB, 4 K). Yes the later start was both at home and more recent, but it was also very much an indication of the elbow injury from which he's supposedly recovered.
The one caveat to this is that Shawn Chacon, who will be bumped from Thursday to Friday by Mussina, has dominated the Blue Jays in two starts against them since joining the Yankees (1.20 ERA, .192 BAA in 15 IP). Then again, that means that Toronto has seen him twice and could make adjustments that would reverse that trend on Friday, whereas the Orioles have not seen Chacon at all and could be every bit as susceptible to his stuff as the Jays have been in those two previous starts.
The other effect of Mussina being inserted into the rotation on Thursday is that Torre has decided to go with a six man rotation "for the time being." According to the New York Times, Torre doesn't expect the six-man order to last, but the point is somewhat moot as by the time Mussina's next start comes due there will be just five games left in the entire season.
With that in mind, here's how the rotation projects over the remainder of the schedule:
Wed 9/21 v Bal: Johnson
Thu 9/22 v Bal: Mussina
Fri 9/23 v Tor: Chacon
Sat 9/24 v Tor: Wright
Sun 9/25 v Tor: Wang
Mon 9/26 @ Bal: Small
Tue 9/27 @ Bal: Johnson
Wed 9/28 @ Bal: Mussina
Thu 9/29 @ Bal: Chacon
Fri 9/30 @ Bos: Wright
Sat 10/1 @ Bos: Wang
Sun 10/2 @ Bos: Small
This actually works out very well for the Yankees. If Wright falters on Saturday, Wang and Small can pitch on regular rest in the first two Boston games, bouncing Wright to the pen and moving Randy Johnson into the starting spot in the season finale on regular rest. If the Yankees need to win that final game to force a one-game playoff, Johnson could similarly step in for Small, with Small moving to the bullpen. Mussina would then be in line to start the playoff game, which would be played on Monday. However, if the Yankees have already clinched a tie entering the final game, they could take their chances with Small, saving Johnson for the potential playoff game and Mussina for Game One of the ALDS, with Johnson and Mussina set up to start the ALDS if Small wins and the playoff game is not needed.
This six-man rotation could also be beneficial given the lack of a single off-day in the remaining schedule and the various aches and pains being suffered by the Yankee starters (Johnson's calf cramp from his start against Boston and his ongoing back and knee problems, Mussina's elbow, Wang's shoulder, Wright's knack for getting hit with projectiles). The only problem is that it eliminates the opportunity to use the odd-man out to beef up the Yankees' dreadful middle relief, or to become a tandem starter should one of the Big Six have a disaster outing. Then again, if Torre is truly willing to think out of the box regarding his rotation, the six-man order might increase his willingness to use his starters out of the pen on their throw days, as he did earlier this year with Shawn Chacon and seemed ready to do with Randy Johnson during Aaron Small's shutout in Oakland.
Speaking of Johnson, he's the man taking the mound tonight against Rodrigo Lopez and the Orioles. Johnson, of course, is coming off his embarrassing ejection in Toronto on Friday night, which interrupted his best sustained pitching performance of the year (four consecutive quality starts: 28 1/3 IP, 15 H, 4 R, 0 HR, 6 BB, 26 K). Lopez, meanwhile has been all over the map of late (though for the most part he's been lasting a minimum of five innings, the quality of those innings has varied widely). It's worth noting that after his spectacular April 10 start against the Yankees in Baltimore (8 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 8 K), the Yankees have battered him something awful in his two other starts against them (9 1/3 IP, 18 H, 15 R, 10 ER, 4 HR, 4 BB, 11 K). Here's hoping that continues as the Friday morning scenario that began this post can't occur unless the Yanks win tonight.
(Well, I suppose it could still happen if both Cleveland--throwing Scott Elarton against Jon Garland--and Boston--throwing Wakefield against Scott Kazmir--also lose, but what are the odds of all three of these teams taking a loss on the same night, or shouldn't I ask?)
Here's hoping RJ is an angry man tonight!
Ortiz or A-Rod for MVP? You can vote on who made the better argument. (Not surprisingly, the essay supporting Ortiz is winning by 2 to 1.)
But not too angry. :-P
And Lawton? Why Lawton?
Lawton in right. How does that song go.
"When will you ever learn . . . . when will you ev . . . . .er . . . .learn"
Post AS break:
Sierra: .137 .170 .235 .405
Lawton: .217 .312 .278 .590
Sierra: .098 .140 .171 .310
Lawton: .083 .241 .083 .325
Lawton v. Lopez:
1 for 6 before tonight
Bernie v. Lopez:
0 for 15
Sierra: .268 .316 .451
Lawton: .267 .368 .418
Shaun, if something is up with Randy, I'm pinnin' it on you ;-)
Don't do that to us.
"He continually misjudged balls in Pgh. He would jump up after the ball had passed him; he'd be way out of position; he'd get late breaks on the ball. Then about every 20 games he'd make a spectacular catch. I can't understand why the Yankees have him doing anything except DH."
The Tigers are the anti-Tribe.
that's why I said Lawton is a better hitter than him.
What is Jeter trying to do, kill him?
Jeter has been pulling Giambi off base, left, right, up, and down lately. It was stretching for one of Jeter's bad throws that caused Giambi's back spasms to begin with.
I believe the thumb is removed from the glove. That way it doen't constrict too much as it would if he wore it under the glove.
mlb.com is showing Tribe playing KC tomorrow. I was looking forward to tomorrow being the great equalizer as well. At least hopefully it will be for the division if not the WC.
Not nearly as often as you mention that you unbelievable schmuck you.
Man, I bet Felix Hernandez is wishing he had ARod at short right about now.
C'mon guys. For Pete's sake already.
we do not need a lead that is middle relief proof. we need a manager who will not use the same old middle relief when he has three bona fide starters he can use instead.
Now might be a good time to fill up your car. Rita looks to be even worse than Katrina, and she's headed for an area with even more oil infrastructure.
He must finish the job. He has no problem going 130-140, he has done it many times.
Jeter's hand has got to be bothering him. I can't blame him completely, I sense something is amiss.
Jeter is not clutch this year. He's way below his career average for two-out hits. I think that's why he's not getting more attention this year. He's getting hits, but not the clutch ones that catch people's attention.
Not to be a jerk, but Jet Blue pays more than that. One of only 3 airlies to make a profit last year. The airline does have a defined benefit retirement as well as a matching 401(k). The benefits are average.
Need a couple of few runs here Alex, Sheff...
I can believe RJ is pitching a great game.
I can't believe our offense has been so pathetic. Would someone please tell them we are in a do-or-die penant race, and every or any at-bat could cost us the PS.
For drying our loud guys...... SCORE SOME RUNS.
I bet none of them will make a profit this year. Jet fuel has surpassed labor as the biggest cost for airlines.
Sheff, Matsui...got to get this run home.
Bklyn 60 do I get credit for Unit's fantastic start? =)
Would it be too much to ask for a 3 pitch, 3 out inning?
let's go DEVIL RAYS!
Let's see "Big Papi" field a tough grounder in the 9th inning to protect a one run lead.
Zack, Mo's a religious guy, right? Maybe the power of prayer will keep it on! I'm not sure what else will.
Come on Mo. Dig Deep!!!
Instead of knee-jerk blaming Joe for EVERYTHING because that's the cool thing to do these days, point the finger at the offense.
BTW, whoever asked in the last thread, THIS is why so many were pissed when Mo was used in blowouts in May - and pissed again when he was used last night. Tonight is where we need him - he should be well-rested for it. But of course he's not . . .
Randy is a first ballot HoFer, btw. Leaving him kind of made sense.
If Mo pitches tomorrow, heads should roll.
And TB up 5-4!!!
Man am I ever glad to be wrong about that one, even though the O's hit the ball pretty well off Rivera. Terrific play by Matsui to prevent Tejada from going to third on the Javey Lopez single.
12 pitch inning.
Is anyone out there breathing? Yo, I'm downright jittery over here.
And Alex, your boy Johnny Gomes might have just given us the division lead! 5-3 Tampa!!
Our bullpen is ridiculous.
Alex, a few days ago you asked if anyone was getting any sleep lately. Not me, at least until tonight. =) I'll sleep and breathe easy for a change.
Sox have ortiz, manny and ???? up in the 9th
How about "Bamtino's " play at first.
Mo, please.....miss your ride to the game tomorrow night
And Matt Lawton was the difference. Wow.
0 for 11, 9 LOB
There's the blame for tonight. Moose will need to be economical with his pitches tomorrow - and those three can't do that again.
Hope Giambi is OK - but I'd give him a day off tomorrow.
BTW - another good game for Bubba. Think he gets to play again?
7-4 Tampa. This might be a very very good night indeed!
1. Thanks for Mo
2. The Sox complete collapse
3. Repeat #1 and #2
Even now, after 5 years of marriage, it sounds weird to say things like "my wife".
Anyway - GO YANKS !
joe, you should invest in one too. =)
First place - can't wait to see what the Globe has to say tomorrow morning!
1. Hang Yankee flag (finally) on garage.
2. Dress my 3 yr old and 1 yr old sons in
Yankee gear for daycare
3. Get Boston Globe from end of driveway
4. Buy Herald on way to work
5. Just enjoy WEEI for a change as they
whine all day.
6. Check out www.dirtdogs.com for signs
of panic in Sox land
7. Hope I haven't jinxed my (our) Yanks !
Joe, that flag should never have come off the garage.
Mo shuts the door on the O's,
Hello half-game lead.
Way to go!
"Jet Blue passengers have seatback monitors with DirectTV, and thus have the ability to watch live coverage [assuming it wasn't turned off] of their troubles..."
NetShrine, I know see #195.
Randym, 288: yup, RJ has four to five days to recover, Mo doesn't get that. 293: I love New Yorkers.
Cleveland/Chicago had 6 games. We needed a lopsided victor. So far, Cleveland 2 of 3. Next time around, someone has to sweep.
Its great to be in first, but it is very tenuous.
We need 8 of 11 for a chance, 9 for a peaceful, easy feeling. Last night, Randy gave our O a chance to rest Rivera, and the O did not respond.
We need every game, but I don't want to drag into Boston with everyone bleeding. We can only hope Ortiz slips on a banana peel.
22 AB/ 4 HR / .318 - .429 - .909 - 1.338
Out of Baseball the entire season and back a week. Un-freakin-believable. 4 HRs in his first 22 ABs. Un-freakin-believable.
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