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2008-03-04 13:21
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Rain interrupted the Yankees' game against the Blue Jays twice this afternoon. First a rain delay ended Phil Hughes' day after his first pitch of the second inning (Hughes threw a pair of 15-pitch "innings" indoors to get to 40 tosses on the day), then rain ended the game itself with the visiting Yanks leading 2-0 with two outs in the top of the sixth. The Blue Jays sent just 15 men to the plate. None of them reached base.

Lineup:

L - Johnny Damon (LF)
R - Derek Jeter (SS)
L - Bobby Abreu (DH)
R - Alex Rodriguez (3B)
L - Jason Giambi (1B)
S - Jorge Posada (C)
R - Shelley Duncan (RF)
S - Melky Cabrera (CF)
S - Bernie Castro (2B)

Pitchers: Phil Hughes, Scott Patterson, Kei Igawa, Billy Traber

Subs: Morgan Ensberg (1B), Alberto Gonzalez (SS), Cody Ransom (3B), Jose Molina (C), Colin Curtis (RF), Justin Christian (CF), Greg Porter (LF), Juan Miranda (DH)

Opposition: The Blue Jays' starters minus Alex Rios.

Big Hits: Doubles by Shelley Duncan (2 for 2) and Morgan Ensberg (1 for 1).

Who Pitched Well: Everyone. Phil Hughes got through the first inning on nine pitches (six strikes), getting two outs on the ground. Billy Traber struck out the side (two lefties and righty Frank Thomas) in the fifth for the save. Scott Patterson struck out one in his lone inning. Kei Igawa went 3-0 on his first batter, but recovered and struck out two in his two perfect frames (more on Igawa here).

Ouchies: Updating my note on Hideki Matsui from yesterday, Godzilla did not take batting practice yesterday or today due to his stiff neck. The original goal was for Matsui to start participating in games this weekend, but that target is starting to slip. Robinson Cano missed the game to get a couple of fillings in his teeth.

More: Tyler Kepner has a brief note on the Andy Pettitte workout group, which now includes six Yankee hurlers. Kat O'Brien has some nice Joba anecdotes here. The other pitchers scheduled to pitch today (Jeff Marquez, Chase Wright, Alan Horne, and Mark Melancon) will get their work in during a brief intrasquad game tomorrow morning scheduled for 10:15. Assuming there's no more rain, I'll be liveblogging the actual game against the Twins at 1:00.

Comments
2008-03-04 20:33:46
1.   Mr OK Jazz TOKYO
Cold and windy day
Baseball magazines come soon
Hear, crack of the bat

Thankfully got some preview magazines arriving tomorrow in the mail, the countdown begins! Anyone care to share what's the consensus back home? I'd imagine most people picking Boston to repeat with the Wild Card fought for between us and Dee-troit...
Also, does anyone remember the Bill Mazeroski Yearly Preview that came out every year? When did they stop publishing that, was always one of my favorite guides..

2008-03-04 20:51:21
2.   Mr OK Jazz TOKYO
1 the bad haiku above was inspired by Joe Posnanski's AL East Haiku preview
2008-03-05 04:18:08
3.   williamnyy23
1 That's pretty much the concensus..Yes, I remember the Maz previews and also really enjoyed them. With the proliferation of content on the internet, I no longer read pre-season guides. Not only is the same (and better) information available on so many websites, blogs, etc., but for someone like me who follows baseball 24/7/365, I have a feeling I could probably write my own...if you'd like, I'll send you the first copy ;)
2008-03-05 05:22:24
4.   williamnyy23
More class from Red Sox Nation. I wonder what he was scouting in the pool?

http://tinyurl.com/yqeabp

2008-03-05 05:23:36
5.   Sliced Bread
Clever title, Cliff. Might make a good one for a Mussina book.

Sorta feels like Opening Day ST style for me today. Finally getting to see some live game action. Joba and Kennedy to boot!

I'll have the game on at my desk, but job demands and deadlines will surely distract. Counting on the live blog n' banter to keep me in the game.

Let's go Joba! Hit the mitt, kid.

2008-03-05 05:25:38
6.   Bagel Boy
I guess the defending champs get the benefit of the doubt. I remember those days...

But honestly, here are the rotations:

1. Wang to Beckett
2. Pettitte to Dice-K
3. Moose to Wakefield

Sure, the Sox get the edge at #1. But, conservatively, I can't see how #2 and #3 aren't pushes. Dice-K might get better, but I don't know how a sophomore gets the benefit of the doubt over Pettitte. And while Moose sucks, Wakefield is no guarantee either.

After that, don't the Yanks have the edge at the back of the rotations? Both in projected strength and in the limited performances so far (Hughes, Joba, IPK vs. Lester and Buchholz).

Now all that means the rotations are very, very close, especially with Schilling likely toast. But the Yanks scored 100 more runs last year and both lineups are almost identical to 2007. Furthermore, while the Sox pitching staff is mostly unchanged, apart from losing Schilling, the Yanks would be hard-pressed not to upgrade from:

27 GS of Moose at 87 ERA+
12 GS of Igawa at 72 ERA+
6 GS of Clippard at 71 ERA+
6 GS of DeSalvo at 72 ERA+

That's 51 craptastic starts! I should damn well hope those top two aren't give half as much of an opportunity to suck as bad.

And it seems one of the kids could approximate Rocketjuice of 17 GS at 107 ERA+ for 18 million less.

The only real advantage the Sox would seem to have is in the bullpen. But even there, results may appear closer than they are. Maybe that's why Baseball Prospectus is calling the Yanks the favorites?

2008-03-05 05:30:22
7.   williamnyy23
6 There really is no way an objective person can say that either the Yankees or Red Sox have a distinct advantage over the other. I think you can make a case both ways, but neither would be conclusive. I have no problem with someone picking Boston, but it's the presentation of a it being a foregone conclusion that bothers me.
2008-03-05 05:35:38
8.   williamnyy23
6 Also, what most people don't realize is that once the Yankees recovered from their early season malaise, they severely out played Boston, finishing 11 games better from June 1 on.

If you recall, half the Yankee lineup tanked in April and May, and the rotation and bullpen were a mess. Now, perhaps things always even out, but if the Yankees can get off to a better start, and the infusion of Joba/Phil/IPK can make up for the dregs that the Yankees sent to the mound in the first two months of April/May, the Yankees will have the inside track on the division.

2008-03-05 06:33:01
9.   tommyl
If the Yanks get off to a quicker start this year (I hope), how much blame would you guys lay at Torre's feet for the anemic starts the last few years? Several players have admitted to not being ready when the season started. Doesn't some of that blame lay at Torre's feet? Had they started better, they wouldn't have had to play so well just to catch up.
2008-03-05 06:35:21
10.   tommyl
8 Too many variables. Lester and Bucholz might suck, Okajima might pitch more like he did in Japan, but Hughes might suck, Farnsworth might not be able to hit a barn door and all the BP kids could suck. Its just too hard to call at this point I think. The last few years with the Sox and us most of the team was returning and not rookies or second year guys. A lot easier to predict how Derek Jeter is going to play than Shelly Duncan.
2008-03-05 06:38:50
11.   Bagel Boy
7 You just said that far better and in many few words than I! Thanks!

8 I was thinking along those lines as well, but I imagine the other side would point to Manny and Papi (at least as far as power) as having below their average years. But the point remains - the Sox had no major injuries last year. The health of just Schilling puts a big crimp in their plans. If one more pitcher goes down for any length of time then their 2008 starts to look like our 2005, but they have less room for error with their offense.

2008-03-05 06:40:43
12.   williamnyy23
10 I think what the Yankees have going in their favor is they have essentially faced a worst case scenario with their pitching in each of the past three seasons and still won the division two times. If Hughes/IPK/Chamberlain don't live up the the hype, could it be any worse than what the Yankees have been using anyway? The Red Sox in 2007, meanwhile, enjoyed a best case scenario with many of their pitchers (especially in the bullpen). Will that repeat? With Schilling possibly done for the year, that proposition has already taken a hit.
2008-03-05 06:44:25
13.   williamnyy23
11 Actually, Papi's 171 OPS+ was the best of his career. I think a more credible argument would be to suggest that Ortiz' early signs of knee trouble in 2007 could continue to manifest itself in 2008. For a man his size, the aging process does seem to accelerate in the 30's.

Manny is perhaps a good bet to improve on offense, but I think the more disturbing trend for Boston is that he has only played 130 games in each of the past two seasons.

2008-03-05 06:48:35
14.   tommyl
12 That is a good point. I really don't know, fortunately it doesn't matter much what I think. Surely you have to think Kennedy and Hughes will be better than Igawa, and that multi-headed hydra that was the fifth spot last year.

Also bear in mind, if things go as planned this year will likely be our worst year in the near future. With players like Ajax, Montero, Tabata, Bettances, Brackman, Melancon, Sanchez....etc. all in the pipeline I think this team is only going to get better. A lot better.

2008-03-05 06:52:21
15.   Bagel Boy
9 I think that's a very interesting and real possibility. Add also the energy of the kids (who Torre was always less likely to play). Actually who's the last rookie to begin a year as a starter? It can't be Jeter, is it?
2008-03-05 06:57:46
16.   Bagel Boy
12 I couldn't agree more.

13 Right on both counts. I was just trying to argue the other side. There's something to be said for the fact that Manny and Papi "only" produced 55 HR and 205 RBI's.

2008-03-05 07:01:46
17.   tommyl
15 Hmmm...I don't know actually. And if we're being honest, Jeter was only the starter because Tony Fernandez got hurt in ST.

It will be interesting to see what playing time LaRoche gets in LA this year.

2008-03-05 07:16:06
18.   horace-clarke-era
Predictions are what they are. Best guesses. Injuries + the kids on BOTH teams will tell. The vets tend to regress to the mean, with one or two going over the hill in a hurry. We expect Abreu to be better, Jorge to be worse. They figure Manny will improve (for manny reasons!) and there will likely be slippage at 3base there.

That's why we play the season.

2008-03-05 07:58:30
19.   Bagel Boy
17 The last word from Torre is that LaRoche is on the outside looking in at Nomah.
2008-03-05 08:01:20
20.   williamnyy23
19 And even worse, the Dodgers are rumored to be interested in Brandon Inge, with whom both Torre and Bowa have been impressed, according to the same reports.

If the Dodgers make that deal, the honeymoon could end quickly for Joe.

2008-03-05 08:26:58
21.   Bagel Boy
20 Perfect example where the manager (and his intended uses) dictates the roster. No surprise there - we saw it for at least the last five years.

Seriously can anyone name one rookie, besides Jeter (and yeah, that was because of Tony Fernandez and I think it being Torre's first year), that started the year as a starter under Torre?

For the life of me, I can't.

Cano came up in late May.
Wang got his first start at the end of April.
Melky wasn't the starter last year.
Bubba Crosby and Andy Phillips were on the bench for multiple seasons.
We all know he never developed one relief pitcher.

Is there anyone? In eleven seasons not one rookie starter? Really?

2008-03-05 08:33:47
22.   Comrade Al
13 It may not just be the size with Ortiz. If steroids are involved (which I believe), the breakdown may occur even faster - see Giambi, J.
2008-03-05 09:14:05
23.   Shaun P
21 Soriano. And Nick Johnson. And Ricky Ledee (his rookie season, for RoY purposes, is 1999).

And as Mendoza (unlike Mo) did not make his debut until 1996 - and started 11 of 12 games his first year to boot! - you can credit Torre with him as well, and as a relief pitcher.

You can probably count Brian Boehringer, and Mike Buddie, and Randy Choate as relievers as well. Its up to you, if you want to call them successes or not. =)

I always doubted Torre's abilities to work a rookie hitter in myself, but, in looking over the rosters, the truth is, he never really had many opportunities to. And I don't think you can fairly hold Melky against him. Going into '06, Melky had hit .248/.309/.366 in AAA at the end of '05 - numbers that scream "needs more time at AAA". I don't recall any of us pining for Melky going into '06. It was only when he destroyed AAA pitching at the start of '06 that he earned his call-up. And Melky played almost fulltime.

Torre's real problem with the Yanks was, especially the last couple years, when an established regular got hurt, he turned to crappy vets, instead of rookies with some potential.

2008-03-05 10:08:51
24.   Bagel Boy
23 Soriano (2001) and Nick the Stick (2002) both qualify, thanks!

Ledee though wasn't really a starter. True, he started the opener but then sat on and off all season.

I'm a bit more hesitant to call it for the relief pitchers. They were always buried then had to earn their keep. There was never a starting pitcher in the rotation from the beginning of the year?

I disagree on him not having chances though. I count a bunch of borderline guys that never really got a shot with the Yanks because Torre wouldn't give them a fair shake - from Ledee and Juan Rivera to Andy Phillips and Bubba Crosby to Josh Phelps and Carlos Pena.

With what's happening in LA, I have to think Torre deserves more, if not most of the blame, for Womack, Minky, Long, Cairo etc because those types are barely in the running this year over the youngsters (Duncan, Betemit, and all the young starters). That tells me it was the manager more than the GM.

I agree with that last sentence though.

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