Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
The Tortoise and the Hare
2006-04-25 20:42
by Cliff Corcoran

The biggest story of the season thus far for the Yankees has to be the resurgence of Mike Mussina, who has found the fountain of youth in the form of a 70-mile-per-hour changeup. Moose did it again last night, stymieing the Devil Ray's B-squad for six innings, holding them to four hits in six innings while walking none and striking out seven. Only a first-inning Jonny Gomes homer (his league-leading tenth) managed to spoil Moose's evening.

Fireballer Scott Kazmir, meanwhile, was unable to uphold his end of the bargain, walking Johnny Damon on four pitches to start the evening and then surrendering a two-run homer to Derek Jeter to hand over the lead before he had recorded a single out. By the time the first inning ended on a broken-bat grounder by Andy Phillips, who didn't strike out once in his rematch with Kazmir, the Yanks had a 3-1 lead and were off to the races.

In the fourth, Phillips delivered a one-out opposite-field single and came around to score. In the sixth, Tampa manager Joe Maddon replaced Kazmir, who walked five and threw 101 pitches in his five innings of work, with Scott Dunn and watched as Dunn and subsequent reliever Ruddy Lugo doubled the Yankee run total to make it 8-1. In the eighth, the Yanks plated a lead-off double by Jeter--who was 3 for 5 with a double, a homer, three runs scored and three driven in on the night--to push the eventual final score to 9-1. Sturtze, Villone and Proctor mopped up for Moose, allowing just one baserunner across three innings (a single off Villone).

Other highlights included Miguel Cairo going 2 for 3 with a pair of doubles and a walk (though he did get picked off second following the first double). Not bad for his first start since April 12. Jason Giambi, meanwhile, went 2 for 3 with a double, a walk and three RBIs from the DH spot giving him a two-day DH line of 7 AB, 3 R, 5 H, 8 RBI, 2 2B, 2 HR, 1 BB, 0 K. Hmmm, maybe he can hit in that role after all.

Finally, making his fourth start in five games at first base, Andy Phillips made a pair of nice plays in the field and is starting to look more comfortable at the plate. Phillips has singling in each of the last two games, worked a full count with the bases loaded in his third at-bat last night (though that AB ended in another broken bat groundout), and drove a ball to deep center in his final trip. He's also struck out just twice in his last 11 plate appearances. These are small signs of what I hope will be greater things to come. Hopefully Phillips will start again on Thursday against lefty Mark Hendrickson.

2006-04-25 22:23:25
1.   mikeplugh
I love Moose. What he's doing this year is the stuff of Legend. At least if he can keep it up. Whatever happens from here on out, he has helped to steady a shaky ship in April.

The other two Yankee stories so far, in my opinion, are Jeter and Giambi. Jeter is absolutely mashing in the #2 hole. As great a leadoff man as he was for a couple of years, I LOVE him in the 2-hole. He was the best #2 hitter in baseball earlier in his career and he's off to a crazy runs and RBI start in April.

Giambi is looking like Oakland A's Giambi and it seems his work with Mattingly has helped him to overcome the obstacles he's had in pinstripes. He works very hard....I don't know how much of it is Donny Baseball, but G-man swears by him so I won't argue.

If we can get a good Chien Ming Wang tomorrow, things will be looking very nice.

2006-04-26 05:18:19
2.   Dimelo
The other impressive thing, at least so far this year and I don't remember it being this good last year, is that the back-end of the bullpen is doing its job in blowouts. I remember last year if it wasn't Gordon or Rivera nobody, absolutely nobody, in that bullpen could hold down the fort. It would drive me insane. I hope that keeps up because the more guys like Mo, Farnsworth, Myers and Sturtze are saved for the latter part of the season then the better off the Yanks will be.

Here's hoping my big Wang can come through and drop a load on'em. Obviously, no pun intended there.....

2006-04-26 05:21:55
3.   Dimelo
Steve did a good job with this nice write-up on Proctor.

2006-04-26 05:24:52
4.   Sliced Bread
Phillips was shown in the dugout sharing a laugh with Sheffield last night. First, I was struck by the sight of Sheffield laughing. He's usually wearing his game-face mask of intensity. But it was great to see Phillips relaxed and enjoying himself among his teammates.

Matsui, on the other hand, was wearing the uncertain expression of a man who can't find his car in the parking lot. Observing him at the plate in his final at bat you knew, whether it was looking or swinging, he was going to strike out grimacing.

A couple of shaky plays in the field, and that foul ball deflected by a fan probably didn't help his concentration at the plate.

We know he'll snap out of it -- but isn't it funny how the game can humble and befuddle it's finest players?

2006-04-26 05:30:48
5.   Rob Gee
Shaun had this great link yesterday -

Basically, it's Verducci talking to Moose. Turns out in a Spring split-squad game Jorge was all over a 3-2 change. And shocking as it may sound, Moose asked him about how he did it. The reply - he could see the third finger on top of the ball as it left Moose's hand. So Moose developed more of a circle change with his index on the side of the ball to better hide the pitch. The result: a 70 mph change and an amazing start. Good stuff!

2006-04-26 05:54:04
6.   Sliced Bread
5 Underscoring the importance of Spring Training (even for veterans), and the idiotic timing of the WBC: If the Yanks allow Posada to play for Puerto Rico, or if Mussina decides to represent, Moose probably doesn't adjust his grip on the change-up.
2006-04-26 06:03:35
7.   Sliced Bread
6Then again, maybe the timing of the Posada-Mussina exchange had nothing to do with the WBC, re-reading the Verducci quotes, Mussina says it was a split-squad game 5 days before his first start of Spring Training, which indicates they probably would have been at camp together regardless of the tournament.
Either way, it underscores how important it is that pitchers and catchers are together for spring training.
2006-04-26 06:13:02
8.   Rob Gee
7 I was shocked Sliced that it took that long to come out. Is the relationship between pitchers and catchers that tenuous that Jorge could use this knowledge against Moose but wasn't going to tell him without being asked? Sure, you're not going to tell a MLB pitcher to change their grip on anything but why not point out that I can see it coming?

Further, how much better would a team be if the hitters pointed out the things they use to succeed against the pitchers. If trends suggest that Damon hits Moose hard, for example, why not asked for his input too? Of course, not all of it will be helpful, but some pitchers (Chacon, Wang) could probably benefit from this hitter-based feedback. I suppose the worry is that you give pitchers too much to think about, but then you have results like Moose. Imagine if he still had his 93-94 mph fastball AND this change. My god...that little conversation could have added three years to his careeer.

2006-04-26 06:13:37
9.   Dimelo
Rob & Sliced, but why can't that type of analysis be done at game time too? Or after the game? Is it because he'll start working on a new pitch and he can only do that in spring training? Posada is the catcher and he sees everything the hitter is seeing.
2006-04-26 06:17:38
10.   Paul in Boston
Our run differential must be terrific so far ... blow-outs in the wins, relatively close games in the losses. If you believe Neyer's book on the great teams, this is the recipe for success!
2006-04-26 06:42:19
11.   Rob Gee
9 Yeah, it is tough, I imagine, to develop then use a new pitch during the season. I think pitchers will just tend to go back to what they know and trust. Problem is, alot of times that stuff isn't working and either they'll need to adapt or die as a pitcher (see Wright, Jaret).

10 Our run differential is huge:

115 RS (4th in MLB), 72 RA (tied with Mets for 1st in MLB)

One qualifier though - we've played two fewer games than most teams. So both will go up a bit - but still, you're right:

It most certainly bodes well for the regular season.

2006-04-26 06:51:49
12.   rsmith51
I am amazed that teams are keeping up with the Yankees in the runs scored department. The AL East has a lot of good hitting. The White Sox are scoring quite a bit (Great move picking up Thome).
2006-04-26 06:55:19
13.   Shaun P
Thanks for the props 5, Rob! I hope Moose can keep it up, this year and for a couple more. IMO, he's a Hall of Famer already, but I'm sure that without (1) a Serious championship and/or (2) 300 wins or damn close to it, the writers won't put him in. If Moose can hang around a couple more years and keep pitching well . . . both could be in his future.
2006-04-26 06:58:12
14.   Sliced Bread
Good questions, Dimelo and Rob, I don't know why Posada didn't or wouldn't point that out to Moose earlier.

Could it just be an insider's lack of perspective?

It's Posada's job to know what pitch Mussina is going to throw, so maybe Jorge didn't recognize Moose was tipping his changeup until he saw it from a hitter's perspective?

Glad they finally had that little talk.
Makes you wonder what else Posada can teach his pitchers.

2006-04-26 07:13:31
15.   Cliff Corcoran
14 Sliced, I think you hit on what everyone else is missing. When catching Mussina, Posada's probably watching his mechanics and location and thinking about what he should throw, but he's not trying to figure out what Moose is throwing because he just called for it. As a hitter, he's looking for any clue as to what's coming. So I don't think Posada could have given him that tip without hitting against him. I also tend to wonder if he could have seen that extra finger on the ball as well from the catchers crouch as he could standing up in the batters box.

At any rate, what's also been lost in this discussion is what a tremendous hitter Posada is, that he's able to notice something like an extra finger on the ball and adjust his timing fast enough to cream a change-up from one of the better pitchers in the game.

Great stuff.

2006-04-26 07:27:31
16.   Shaun P
On a side node, the Times noted today that Aaron Small might be called up for the upcoming roadtrip, which starts in Boston this Monday. I'd say that means that Matt Smith is probably on his way down, no? Think he'll get to pitch at all in the next 5 games?
2006-04-26 07:34:19
17.   Cliff Corcoran
I certainly hope so 16, though the good news is he's been nails in his small opportunity, so he very well could be at the top of the list should injury (or collapse) create another opening.
2006-04-26 07:38:58
18.   Rob Gee
You're probably right Cliff - what he sees as a hitter is likely different from what he sees as a catcher.

Even still, I've never heard something like this before and it begs the question - We have a ton of great hitters- why aren't they asked in Spring Training if they ever use little things like "the extra finger on top of the ball"? That level of feedback seems it could be very insightful, esp. for the guys in a position to learn. Or why not take high-res video from the hitters perspective and ask the guys to watch it as they would the opposition?

2006-04-26 07:56:47
19.   Cliff Corcoran
18 My answer to that would be, just because we don't hear about it, doesn't mean it doesn't happen.
2006-04-26 08:18:26
20.   sabernar
Mussina note (according to Lee Sinins):

Mussina passed 300 career RSAA (runs saved above average) and is tied for 9th in AL history--

1 Lefty Grove 668
2 Walter Johnson 643
3 Roger Clemens 613
4 Pedro Martinez 348
5 Whitey Ford 321
6 Bert Blyleven 318
7 Jim Palmer 314
8 Hal Newhouser 309
T9 Mike Mussina 301
T9 Tommy Bridges 301

Not bad company.

2006-04-26 08:19:33
21.   Sliced Bread
15 That's a good point, Cliff, re: Posada probably not noticing Mussina's grip from the crouch.

re: Posada's hitting approach. I think his somewhat twitchy demeanor at the plate belies his hitting intelligence.

Between pitches he'll occasionally blink his eyes, as if he's trying to focus them. Or he'll stretch out his jaw, as if relieved to be unconstrained by his mask.

With that relaxed stance of his, you wouldn't think Posada's actually dissecting the pitcher's delivery, making observations, seeking an advantage, but he is.

Funny how he rolled the ball back to Mussina last night after the 2nd out of ? inning, thinking it was the 3rd out. D'oh!

2006-04-26 08:20:56
22.   Rob Gee
You'd think you'd hear about it more though - no?

In my twenty-five plus years as a ballfan, I've never heard such a thing. As a player, I never thought to share that info. It may be just me, but most folks are more interested in what they're doing than what the other guys do or don't. Plus, who at the MLB level would try to influence the grip of pitches by pointing out their flaws. Not only would the pitcher have to be amenable to the feedback but the hitter would have to be very gentle in how they approach it or asked directly about it.

The question I'd want answered from Jorge is: was that the first time he put three = change together or had he known that prior to the AB. And would he have said anything if Moose didn't ask?

2006-04-26 08:27:09
23.   Dimelo
Rob, I thought of you yesterday, I was flipping between the Yankee game and a bunch of other games, then I flipped to the Sawx game and I heard Jerry Remy talking about some comments Francona had made about the lack of decent backup catchers in the league. That teams aren't developing good catchers, and only a select few of teams have really good catchers, and hardly no team has a good backup catcher. Anyhow, the point being is that your off-season rants about CASH-man came to mind and I don't think it's a CASH-man problem here but a league-wide problem. I'm sure you'll have an interesting rebuttle.
2006-04-26 08:37:44
24.   Shaun P
20 Further proof, at least to me, that Moose is already a Hall of Famer, lack of 20-win seasons and Cy Young awards be damned.

If Moose gets 21 more RSAA - which is a pretty good season (for example, he had 23 RSAA in 2003) - he'd be FIFTH alltime in the AL. Whatever your thoughts on Lee Sinins's RSAA - I happen to think its a pretty nifty stat - to be 5th all-time in the AL for anything is pretty incredible.

2006-04-26 08:40:09
25.   Rob Gee
23 No, I think you and Remy (good god!) are right. But I just think with a 200 mil payroll we can set our sights a bit higher than Kelly Stinnett that early in the off-season. More specifically, I would have preferred a catching apprentice that we could develop at the same time Jorge got more AB's at DH. I suppose Stinnett is not a bad alternative just not a great one either - par for this GM.

The real pisser is we could have moved Meat and $$ for a C prospect (AA or AAA would depend on the team - see Rentaria, Edgar). Jeff Clement in Seattle was probably there for the taking (With the Kenji signing and Clement hadn't broken out yet - now he has) if a certain GM would have been willing to move Meat. But he wasn't and his value has only dropped dead from the tenuous place it was. But at least then you could have spun last year as a fluke (which of course it wasn't). That's the problem now - if we want any mid-season help, short of Rocket the only guys to move are the prospects.

2006-04-26 09:23:37
26.   Paul in Boston
FYI, Remy is excellent, one of the best ex-player commentators on the game out there. He is obviously a Sox fan, but has surprising objectivity and is not afraid to criticize the home town club. Many terrific baseball insights too.

In fact, the Boston TV crew (Orsillo-Remy) is pretty strong; it's the radio guys (especially the "way back" one) who are horrible -- can be nails-on-a-blackboard to listen to them call a game. I'm sure Sox fans feel the same about Sterling-Waldman.

2006-04-26 09:33:33
27.   Dimelo
The Boston games I've seen and heard on television - Orsillo and Remy - are really good. I agree with Paul that Remy is really good, but I don't think Orsillo is quite as objective as Remy. Didn't McDonaugh do the games too? He does women's college basketball and NCAA Men's basketball too.

The thing I like about Remy is how politically incorrect he is, I remember watching one of the first few games this year and Orsillo was complementing him on his new tie and then he turns to him and says "what is this now? Brokeback Announcing". I couldn't stop laughing.

2006-04-26 09:39:01
28.   Cliff Corcoran
I've got a rainy day post in me about how Kelly Stinnett is actually one of the top 5 or so back-up catchers in the game. Maybe I'll break it out soon.

Meanwhile, ironic about this coming out on a Sox broadcast, as they traded both Doug Mirabelli, who just might be the best backup catcher in the game (not that Mark Lorretta wasn't worth it), and Kelly Shopvac, er Shoppach, who has the potential to take that dubious distinction away from Mirabelli. Now they have Josh Bard. I'll take Stinnett, thanks.

2006-04-26 09:44:02
29.   Start Spreading the News
26 I'm a Yankees fan and I have a hard time listening to Sterling and Waldman. Sterling and Kay were more fun to listen to. They had excellent banter and pretty funny stories. So did Steiner.

Though when they went thru the "Yankees desparately need a new Stadium" phase, they were pretty tough to stomach.

2006-04-26 09:46:36
30.   Rob Gee
28 We've argued about this before, and I'm sure I'll be just as motivated to respond to your eventual post, but:

With the impending doom that is Posada's end of season stats, including the post-season, and the need for a young guy to eventually take over, why wait for Jorge to hit a wall or get injured to have something in the organization?

Great, we have a capable back-up. But he's not a guy you want starting more than one game a week and not at all in the post-season.

2006-04-26 09:55:21
31.   murphy
sterling and kay... those were the days. i think the michael kay we all have such negative reactions to is almost a different guy than the one we see now. when we SEE him do every game and hear him on the radio every day, his gregarious nature is quite grating, but his mr. excitement to sterling's mr. cool was always part of a great combo in my mind. i still love playing all-star baseball 2001 on my N64 because they do all the calls.
2006-04-26 09:59:14
32.   Dimelo
As much as we bash Pavano and the bad signing that it was, it could have been worse. Like Burnett worse. I hate that J.P. Ricciardi is always so quick to throw out a quote on how abysmal the Yankee pitching is but he never bothers to look at anything he's doing. I remember him being quoted this year saying that he doesn't think the Yanks are going to win the division because of their pitching. I can take that kind of talk from Epstein (who won a championship, but he's not that type of guy either), but from J.P. Ricotta - hell f'en NO. He hasn't won anything, I really hope the Burnett signing blows up in his face. He should worry about his own team and his own pitching woes. BTW, I have Burnett on my fantasy team....thankfully he only cost me $14 bucks so he can sit and rot for all I care.

From RotoWorld.

A.J. Burnett - S - Blue Jays
An orthopaedic surgeon interviewed by the Toronto Star painted a very bleak picture regarding A.J. Burnett's elbow injury.
"Scar tissue is not as strong as the original ligament," Dr. Darrell Ogilvie-Harris said. "When there is a tear of the ligament and scar tissue, this tells us that there is residual weakness from the previous surgical repair. This complicates recovery and increases the risk of re-injury. If he had to undergo surgery again, chances are it would be career-ending." Apr. 26 - 10:18 am et

2006-04-26 09:59:56
33.   Cliff Corcoran
30 Right and my argument is there's nothing better out there. Your pipe dreams of getting one of the few legit catching prospects in the game in exchange for Carl Pavano and his exploding inevitable don't translate to the real world. That said, I will admit that Pavano's meager trade value actually has dropped since the season started, but I still think the combination of his contract and injury history/present made him virtually untradeable to start with.
2006-04-26 10:21:01
34.   Rob Gee
33 It wasn't just Meat - but his value went from something (I think 50 cents, you might think 20) to nothing. The only time to move was this off-season. If you can't get C prospect - you get something else. There were rumors of Meat for Reed. A great GM sees Clement there for the taking last November. Why not Shoppach for Stinnett and a young reliever like Bean? Nonetheless the reason Meat wasn't moved isn't because there weren't takers, it's because he's the GM's guy.

Even still, there are other options. A catching prospect is more valuable to us than Duncan or Melky or anyone in the organization besides Hughes. The fact that there's nothing in our system, and damn well needs to be, is a serious short-coming. It's CF all over again.

How many years of Jorge's end-of-season trends do you need to see before you agree we don't need a decent back-up (30-40 games) - we need a starter willing to play 60-80 games. I'm sorry, but you do what you have to to get that done (trade propspect for prospect, Meat and 10 mil, prospect for higher draft pick) - something!

2006-04-26 10:32:09
35.   Alex Belth
Two quick observations from last night: I love watching how much joy an intense competitor like Jeter gets out of a gaffe like the one his boy Posada made last night when the catcher rolled the ball back to the mound after a strike out thinking it was the third out (it was just the second). After the game, John Flaherty teased Jeter in the post-game interview about it and Jeter said that Matsui busted Jorge's chops before Jeter even got him. They ran a clip of Jeter, smiling broadly, talking with Posada in the dugout right after the play and you could see Jeter say, "Matsui?" Like he was so proud that Matsui had gotten to him first.

The other play involved Matsui as well. In the eighth, with two out and a man on second, Joey Gathwright lifted a fly ball along the third base line in left field. Matsui got to the ball only to have a fan reach out into the field and break up a sure out. It may have been a tough play but Matsui looked like he was going to make it. Thank goodness it was a blow-out game, but Matsui was still appropriately irked. He just looked up at the fan, and as he turned away, he stuck out his throwing hand and made a dismissive gesture. It was about as demonstrative as I've ever seen Matsui. He was like, "You idiot, you cost us an out, and you are a Yankee fan."

Yay, Godzilla.

2006-04-26 10:51:31
36.   Shaun P
31 I agree, the radio duo of Sterling and Kay gave me some of my best memories, when the only way to hear the Yanks in Boston was to listen over the 'Net.

27 Dimelo, Sean McDonough did Sox games for a while, but I believe Orsillo took his place. The funny thing is, they almost sound alike.

2006-04-26 12:58:33
37.   YankeeInMA
36 - Shaun - they DO sound a lot a like. Personally, I like McDonough much better. I found his dismissal/replacement really odd. Just a year or so before, McDonough was offered more money as the Mets play-by-play guy, and he turned it down. Said something about loyalty to the Red Sox.

Not a huge fan of Orsillo

I agree about Kay and Sterling - it just worked really well. That said, I like Suzyn Waldman.

As far as Kay now, I much prefer hearing Singleton and Kaat in the YES both. I like Senator Al too

Sox WEEI radio team - Jerry Trupiano and Joe Castiglione - are really hard on the ears

2006-04-26 13:30:52
38.   Dan M
The first year I had Extra Innings, I went for the first three months thinking that Orsillo was McDonough.

I hate to say it, but Orsillo and Remy are way better than any combo YES has to offer. How many times do we have to hear Kay say "they'll start the merry-go-round" or "the old Jeff Nelson" (on the fake to 3rd, throw to 1st pickoff attempt)?

Then again, the absolute worst announcer in the game is Rick Sutcliffe. Utter moron.

2006-04-26 13:49:06
39.   randym77
5 Thanks for the link. That's a fascinating story.

I, too, am wondering why Jorge didn't speak up sooner.

Maybe it just never occurred to him that Moose didn't know?

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