Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Towel Off
2008-04-20 16:43
by Alex Belth

It was pouring rain late Sunday morning down in Baltimore. It was so bad, Michael Kay later said on the YES broadcast, the Yankee players were sure that the game would be called. But they played ball after all and while the rain delayed the game in the late innings, the Yankees came away with a sorely needed win, beating the O's, 7-1. Our boys are now 10-10.

The Yanks do not have an ace. Earlier this week, Howard Megdal, writing in the New York Observer, said that Josh Beckett, who is a true ace, is the difference between the Yanks and Sox. The Yanks didn't have anyone that could match Curt Schilling for more than a minute before that. But I was confident that Andy Pettitte would go out and throw a good game today because he's got a history of being reliable when the team needs to stop a losing skid. And just like an ace, that is exactly what he did. The Orioles didn't have their first base runner until Jay Payton's two-out infield dribbler in the fifth. Pettitte pitched seven shut-out innings, allowing four hits, striking out five and walking none. It gave me a peaceful, easy feeling to watch (speaking of which, Adam Jones is a pleasure to watch man centerfield for the Orioles).

Chad Moeller and Johnny Damon had a couple of hits, and so did Derek Jeter, including a three run double in the ninth inning that put the game away. Robinson Cano picked up a single and hit the ball hard in two other times with nothing to show for it. Jason Giambi wasn't as fortunate, as he hit into a inning-ending double play with the bases juiced and went hitless dropping his average to .109. Alex Rodriguez picked up an RBI double but left the game early with a sore quad.

It wasn't a dramatic-looking injury and hopefully it is not severe. Just a pull as Rodriguez ran up the line to first base. But dag, it's hard not to hold your breath with Rodriguez. The guy has enjoyed such good fortune as far as his health his concerned so far in his career. Who knows how long a guy's body will hold out before it starts breaking down? Could happen at any time really. Look at Junior, of course, but also, look at Chipper Jones. Dick Allen had monster years at 30 and 31 and was done by the time he was 35.

He could miss a few games.

In the meantime, the Yanks have a much needed day off before the road trip continues.

2008-04-20 18:05:57
1.   Jeb
I normally hate off-days (even more so when we lose) but I am so damn glad the Yanks are getting a day off. Maybe they can regroup now and get a few wins.

I guess we all need to hope that the Yanks can just go 15-15 this month because of the schedule. Hell, they've already won 10 games and only won 9 last year, so this isn't too bad I guess.

I hate to look ahead too much, but July looks like the linchpin month to this season -- it's sort of the response to the April road woes. If anyone hasn't done so, take a look at our July schedule. The Yanks only have 2 road series (at Boston and at Toronto) and don't leave NYC the rest of the month. Also, they'll get four days off during the All Star break.

So we just need to tread water this month, build some next month, build a little more in June, and then the Yanks need to be bombing come July.

Go Yanks!

2008-04-20 18:37:19
2.   joejoejoe
I wonder if JP Riccardi called Cashman and said "Want to swap Thomas for Giambi and you eat the difference in contracts?" before releasing the Big Hurt. It would have made a lot of sense for both clubs swapping the righty bat for the lefty.
2008-04-20 18:53:31
3.   Alex Belth
Is Mike Piazza still without a team? Thomas, Piazza and Bonds...I bet one, if not all, could be at least servicable...
2008-04-20 18:55:09
4.   joejoejoe
3 There's almost 1/2 of a 1998 All-Star team available. What a drag it is getting old.
2008-04-20 19:09:53
5.   monkeypants
The Big Hurt was released, in reality, so the Jays could avoid his 10 million option for 2009 vesting. That said, they had a good excuse to release him: his current slump.

How long will the Yankees endure Giambi's slump? I was a big supporter of the Giambi-at-first experience this season, but I know my patience is all but gone.

2008-04-20 19:28:18
6.   Jeb
Sterling and waldman keep claiming that Giambi is having great at bats and drilling the ball, but is simply unlucky. And I say they're crazy and he needs to head to the bench. I don't want to eat that salary yet. Let's try 10 days off as a starter and some pinch hitting and working with long. Maybe he can work through it, no?
2008-04-20 19:43:30
7.   wsporter
6 Not sure what those two are looking at. He's laying off pitches that he could take the other way and is swinging at anything that he can pull and hitting into the teeth of the shift. I know he's being pitched that way but he needs to adjust.

You know Jason, adjust: move off the plate, let the ball get a little deeper in the zone, layoff pitches inside off the plate, stop trying to tear the cover off on every swing. You know Jason, things a professional hitter would do.

It's really frustrating to watch him hit with the entire left side of the infield empty and still pull the ball at the beer league short fielder standing in shallow right field. Great at bats my aunt fanny.

2008-04-20 19:55:15
8.   joejoejoe
5 Bob Timmermann made a good point on The Griddle -- Frank Thomas is hitting about as well as David Ortiz and you don't see the Red Sox releasing him. It's a slump. Frank Thomas is the Rodney Dangerfield of sluggers. He's as good as he's every been against lefties. I'd sign Thomas to a 3yr/$15 million dollar deal and tell him he's going to grow old feasting on LH pitching and nothing else. He's got 16 PAs vs. LH pitching this year and 3Ks. He's not hitting a lick now but last year Frank Thomas was .336/.431/.631 vs. LH pitching, better than ARod. I'd take that in a minute.
2008-04-20 20:01:10
9.   weeping for brunnhilde
7 Giambi is what he is.

I'm through being exasperated with him.

He's fooled us long enough.

2008-04-20 20:05:16
10.   weeping for brunnhilde
7 If he could demonstrate he could use the left side of the field, they'd have to stop shifting. Then he could go back to hitting the ball to short right field, only there'd be no one there so he might actually get more hits.

Ok, that's it. I've said my peace.

He's dead to me now.

For real this time.

2008-04-20 20:13:27
11.   Zack
0 I still have a hard time calling Beckett a "true ace." I still want to see him put it together for more than one season. A career 116 era+ with but two exemplary seasons, only one of which was a fulls season. I have no doubt he has the "stuff" to be a true ace and has shown he can do it in the PS, but the difference between the Yanks and Sox?? I don't think its nearly that simple. Right now what separates the two is the Yanks' crap offense..
2008-04-20 20:20:35
12.   joejoejoe
The Yankees have had too many thirtysomething LH bats for years now. Until Cashman moves one of Giambi, Damon, Abreu or Matsui the team is going to have issues with platoons, DH ABs, and at 1st base. I swear sometimes I'd rather have Aaron Guiel than Matsui or Damon because at least he can play first and was OK with playing part-time.
2008-04-20 20:37:48
13.   monkeypants
8 The only problem with Thomas is where does he fit on the team? He simply cannot play 1B, so he would have to DH v. LHP. But we already have DuncBerg, plus Posada on off days and Matsui as full-time DH (unless Damon finally dies), and Giambi.

I'm not saying that Thomas wouldn't be the best of the lot, especially in a platoon role, but I just don't see whom he would displace. I guess Duncan, keeping Ensberg for 3B? And even then, when Thomas plays, that means no Matsui or Posada.

I'm just not sue there are enough ABs on this team for the fit to work.

Now, on the other hand, if Damon were to get the axe, that would free Matsui to LF (which would cause OldYanksFan to have a stroke) and open up the DH spot--then we can start looking at a DH platoon.

2008-04-20 21:06:40
14.   joejoejoe
18 I don't know.

There aren't a lot of teams out there that have contracts the size of Yankee contracts to swap problems. Either Damon or Matsui would be the highest paid player on the Dodgers but I think of them as having mid-sized contracts! The finances of the Yankees are truly unique. In some ways I think eating bad money as sunk costs is the best course of action. Having a well constructed roster should be worth more in the aggregate than any individual contract but it just doesn't work that way or hasn't in the Bronx.

2008-04-20 21:07:22
15.   joejoejoe
Oops. I meant 13 .
2008-04-20 21:15:05
16.   Zack
Anyone see this article from Hank?
2008-04-20 21:26:51
17.   Mr OK Jazz TOKYO
16 Yep, just saw it. Took 20 games for Hank to shoot off his mouth, er, provide constructive criticism..though I actually agree with him. Is it THAT much of a risk to have Joba throw starter's innings?
2008-04-20 21:34:52
18.   monkeypants
14 I agree, but my post at 13 say nothing about contracts. rather, I am arguing that there is no fit for Thomas on the Yankees because there are already too many DH-types on the roster, including two RH platoon players already: DuncBerg (I know Duncan is at AAA for now, but he is effectively on the roster). The only way that Thomas fits is if one of these guys gets axed.

Even then, he doesn't fit the roster well since he cannot play any position. That means he has to DH. Now, if you are talking about a Thomas/Matsui platoon, that's not bad. Or even a Thomas/Abreu platoon, with Matsui swapping out to RF. But, a full time DH platoon means no ABs for Posada on his non-C days. If A-Rod gets the day off, no DH for him while Ensberg plays. And so on.

Really, Thomas would not be a platoon player for the Yankees (most likely), but rather a powerful bench player. I'm not sure he wants that.

2008-04-20 22:39:19
19.   Yu-Hsing Chen
12 that's a good way to start turning this team into the Royals .

i'm not sure about Giambi, though he's not exactly overmatched K/BB wise, until his OBP falls off the face of the earth too I'd be willing to give him more time .

2008-04-20 23:51:11
20.   joejoejoe
18 You're right that there is no room for Frank Thomas. I just get crazy whenever there is a RH bat on the market and the Yanks have no room at the inn.

19 I'm just saying spending $13 million per year on a 4th OF/part-time DH is not a choice you would make in an ideal world. And if the Yankees had the Royals pitching this year they'd be in first place, not 4th.

2008-04-21 00:25:55
21.   coolblueseason
8 That's ignoring the biggest difference between ortiz and thomas. Their age difference. Ortiz is obviously in a slump and should have a few more years. Thomas might be in a slump. He also might be coming to the end of his career.
2008-04-21 02:41:43
22.   Yu-Hsing Chen
20 the issue here is that your assuming
they'll never improve from their current sample size i'm not sure about Giambi (who's super low LD% is truely distrubing), but Damon's ratio look perfectly fine to me, he's OPSing well over .700 despite the low BA and his K/BB ratio and LD% doesn't suggest a collapse in that department. just like Robby Cano's high LD% suggest he's due to have some 4-4 nights soon.

I'm not quiet sure why you meantion Matsui / Abreu, since both of them have been hitting very well so far this year. as for the time splits, you must also look at this from anothe perspective, by sharing DH time and a little platooning they're also potentially more likely to stay fresh / healthy for the year. definig strict roles in the field is almost as pointless as doing so for the bullpen

and if anything, when you have enough money, I'd certianly be more than happy to have a Damon / Matsui riding bench then looking there and realize that if one of my OF goes down i'm starting Bubba Crosby.

of the regulars right now, the only guy i'm really concerned is Giambi and his non-existent LD rate, but the sample size is at the point where a good game or two could still put it back with-in the realm of respectability, so it's way too early to panic there. if a guy is truely finished he would most likely suffer dramaticly in his K/BB ratios and so far Giambi is perfectly fine there (if not better than most of the last few years)

2008-04-21 04:55:21
23.   monkeypants
22 Good analysis. I assume that you meant one of my posts when you asked: "I'm not quiet sure why you meantion Matsui / Abreu, since both of them have been hitting very well so far this year." I only made reference to them because they are the most likely starters to see decreased PT if someone like Thomas were signed, especially Abreu with his historic splits against LHP. I agree that they are both hitting well, and this only furthers my argument that there is little room on the roster for Thomas.

I do have one question about your analysis of Damon. He is currently "on pace" to blow away his season high for walks (career high 75, on pace for around 100). If you look at his game logs for this season, he has three gamees with 2 BBs and one with 3 BB. So, nearly 70% of his 13 walks came in 4 games, representing only about 20% of the games he has played. Is it possible that his BB rate (and therefore OBP) are somewhat exaggerated in this early stage o the season, pumped up by a couple of games where the opposing pitcher was wild?

On the other hand, if what you say is correct about his line drive rate, then presumably some of his drives will start dropping for hits. I haven't actually watched to many games this year, but every time I have seen him it's weak grounders and pop-ups.

2008-04-21 05:11:01
24.   Raf
13 Now, on the other hand, if Damon were to get the axe, that would free Matsui to LF and open up the DH spot

I would suspect Damon's value is that he can play LF & CF.

I do agree with the overall point that there's no room for Thomas.

2008-04-21 05:19:14
25.   monkeypants
24 Right...I forgot about that CF thing. So, to drop Damon would require adding someone like a Gardner, and that still leaves no additional room for Thomas.
2008-04-21 06:43:51
26.   mehmattski
22 8% of 60 is.... 5! Five line drives. So it means that the statistical significance of having a LD% of 8% is next to none, as there is roughly a 13% chance that the "true" line drive percentage is still at 16% (his career rate) and this is just a sampling error. I'm no Giambi supporter, but his line drive percentage is, at this stage, a meaningless statistic.

If there were no injuries to Jeter and Posada, I'd like to think that Giambi would be sitting. But the Yankees made the mistake of sending down Shelley Duncan and so now have to play Giambi almost every day. There are plenty of pitchers who don't belong in the majors that Duncan can mash against, so I hope he comes back soon. As for Giambi, well, somewhere along the line he lost the ability to hit to the left side, and it's severely limited his game to the Three True Outcomes. Which makes him a good pinch hitter, but not much else...

2008-04-21 07:54:43
27.   horace-clarke-era
22 Bang on, well noted. I wonder why every time a geriatric with name recognition pops up (or MIGHT pop up) there's a buzzy, grab him mood here. I could see it somewhere silly like the espn threads or even LoHud, but this ... this is supposed to be the SMART place. C'mon dudes, have your coffee first! I am still reeling from the Sign Piazza to CATCH movement.

Thomas may possibly not be absolutely done. He's had wretched springs last couple of years and strong summers - AT DH. Only. He made clear that part-time didn't fit his sense of the Hurt. This is part of the reason he's gone from Toronto (DHing vs lefties would have negated his automatic 10 million for next year based on plate appearances).

So the idea of the Hurt as a pinch hitter and dh vs lefties, aside from negating what we already have in house vs lefties, ignores HIS clear statements. Beyond that, anyone really want to have another Giambi to suffer through for the next 4-6 weeks - in best case scenario? (Can't just wait till July, he won't GET it back, even if he could, without plate appearances.)

I remain unclear why so many people are still all over Damon 1/8 of the way in. Given the even stronger view Matsui can't play left, what exactly do people want? Christmas in April with a young, slugging LF showing up?

I agreed yesterday that Girardi (my personal question mark so far) could be creative with the batting order, but we've also ALL read (I hope) the decade-long discussions of how overrated batting order is, too, (and computer simulations) and there is overall value to players having clear focus on where they fit. I think Damon's fine. I think Giambi's a worry and our lack of depth at first base is exposed by his struggles. (It is weird to complain he doesn't go to left ... he's gonna learn that NOW?)

26 I suspect you are right and Shelley may see some at-bats vs righties when Jorge goes back behind the plate. We will also see some bouncing throws past first base. Stand by.

2008-04-21 07:59:31
28.   monkeypants
27 "I remain unclear why so many people are still all over Damon 1/8 of the way in. Given the even stronger view Matsui can't play left, what exactly do people want? Christmas in April with a young, slugging LF showing up?"

Please see Steve Goldman's piece on this, from about 10 days ago:

As to the question what do people want, I know that I want a LF who hits sorta like a LF.

2008-04-21 09:42:48
29.   horace-clarke-era
Monkey, interesting Goldman comment, and I do agree that there seems to have emerged a FAST consensus (always worth being suspicious of that) that Matsui's done as an OF. May have to do with a perception his knee is close to gone.

If that 'even stronger view' I mentioned about Matsui is NOT a given (though it has been here, I think) then it is a manger's juggling call and I don't actually think this makes us too deep. Having bodies to rotate is useful IF your manager pushes the buttons right. No one is young, the season is long ...

As to 'what we want' well, yeah, a great LF, young etc. would be nice. Quick, find one! Me, I want another non-Joba starter. I think Hank, by the way, is about right on cue, but also about two months early for the team. This is ONLY arising because both Hughes and IPK are scuffling. And indeed, it is a new open question if Phil needs some AAA time to get his breaking pitch and confidence back.

I remain of the wait-and-watch school on almost all of these issues, though Giambi's got my own shortest leash. As I said, my bet is when Jorge can catch, Jason loses at-bats. Matsui and Damon figure out LF/DH, Shelley or Ensberg or the revitalized Wilson (I keep thinking the volleyball in the movie) get shots at first. Girardi figures it all out.

There's a wish.

2008-04-21 09:44:56
30.   Raf
27 I wonder why every time a geriatric with name recognition pops up (or MIGHT pop up) there's a buzzy, grab him mood here.

Because it's a low-risk, high reward move. Taking a flyer on Bonds, Thomas, or Piazza makes a lot of sense in that regard. If it doesn't work, cut them loose. If it works out, great. Maybe you catch lightning in a bottle, maybe you don't.

2008-04-21 09:57:30
31.   Bob B
"Here come the new Boss-just like the old Boss". Hank Steinbrenner is quoted in the Daily Rag about Joba"I want him as a starter and so does everyone else, including him, and that is what we are working toward and we need him there now. There is no question about it, you don't have a guy with a 100-mile-per-hour fastball and keep him as a setup guy. You just don't do that. You have to be an idiot to do that." I guess that means we're not going to try to make the playoffs this season but instead build up our starting pitching by hoping one of the three works out. I'm not asking for anyone to say "you told us so" but I wondered long and often preseason what we would do when Hughes and Kennedy needed to be sent down to the Minors. Wouldn't it be nice to have Wang, Pettite and Santana pitching in that order. Well, here's hoping I'm wrong about Hughes and Kennedy but 9. ERA's don't get you very far.
2008-04-21 11:13:35
32.   Raf
31 There is no question about it, you don't have a guy with a 100-mile-per-hour fastball and keep him as a setup guy. You just don't do that. You have to be an idiot to do that."

Does this mean Krazy Kyle's going back into the rotation? :)

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