"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

They say that the road ain’t no place to start a family . . .

The Yankees are only team in the majors not to have played a home game this season and enter their home opener this afternoon coming off the longest season-opening road trip in team history. Here are some quick impressions from that just-complete trip:

Record: 5-4
Record in Series: 2-1
Runs scored per game: 5.67 (7th best in MLB)
Runs allowed per game: 5.22 (8th worst in MLB)
Runs allowed per game minus Monday’s blowout: 4.00

AL East Standings:

BAL .5
NYY 1.5
TBR 2.5
BOS 3.5

  • The Yankees were without Alex Rodriguez. Mark Teixeira missed three games due to a wrist injury. Hideki Matsui and Cody Ransom went a combined 6-for-49 (.122) with five walks. Yet the Yankees scored four or more runs in every game and averaged 5 2/3 runs per game on the trip.
  • A great deal of the credit for that goes to Nick Swisher, who drove in or scored 18 of the Yankees’ 51 runs (35 percent) on the trip.
  • The trip ended with the news that Xavier Nady will likely miss most or all of the season with a tear in his right elbow, but Nady was hitting a very Nady-like .286/.310/.429 and will be replaced in right field by Swisher. That’s an upgrade. Swisher will surely cool off, but he should have been the starting right fielder over Nady anyway. Where the Yankees will miss Nady is on the bench, as Matsui and Johnny Damon will need days off. Nady might be a very ordinary hitter, he’s still more productive than Melky Cabrera.
  • In the comeback department, Matsui and Chien-Ming Wang have been awful, but Robinson Cano has been terrific, hitting .382/.447/.618 with four unintentional walks, and Jorge Posada has looked good both at the plate, driving in nine runs (second on the team to Swisher’s 11) with five of his seven hits going for extra bases, and behind the plate.
  • Despite the solid offensive attack, the Yankees come home just a game over .500 at 5-4. Three of those losses were directly attributable to poor staring pitching performances (by CC Sabathia on Opening Day and by Chien-Ming Wang in both of his starts).
  • Sabathia was not only better, but dominant in his second start. A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte both pitched well twice, and Joba Chamberlain turned in a solid outing in his only start thus far. That leaves only Wang as an issue in the rotation. Dave Eiland is on the case and working hard to get Wang back on track.
  • Since the duds by Sabathia and Wang to open the season, the Yankees have gone 5-2. After dropping the opening series in Baltimore, they won their next two series, most significantly taking two of three from the Rays at the Trop.
  • In their five wins, the Yankees have allowed just nine runs, or 1.8 per victory.

  • The one loss not attributable to a poor starting pitching performance was the result of a bad outing by rookie reliever Phil Coke. Chamberlain started that game off with a quality start. Over six innings, he struck out five Royals and held them to three runs, two of them unearned following a groundball that skipped under the gloves of both Nick Swisher (at first base for the ailing Teixeira) and Robinson Cano. With the Yankees up 4-3, Brian Bruney, who has since struck out the last five men he’s faced, pitched a scoreless seventh. Lefty Damaso Marte followed by getting the first two men out in the eighth. Trey Hillman then sent up lefty-killer Billy Butler (.329/.391/.567 career vs. LHP with 12 homers in 252 at-bats) to pinch-hit. Joe Girardi countered with righty Jose Veras.

    To that point, all was going according to plan, but Veras walked Butler on five pitches, and Girardi responded to the tying run reaching base with two outs in the eighth by bringing in not Mariano Rivera, but Coke. Being a lefty, Coke to spun weak-hitting third-string catcher Brayan Peña around to what historically has been his stronger side (.509 OPS vs. RHP; .669 OPS vs. LHP). Not that the split mattered much. Coke had nothing. He gave up a game-tying double to Peña on an 1-0 count, an RBI single to Alberto Callaspo on another 1-0 count, and an RBI double to John Buck on a 1-1 count before finally getting the last out of the inning with the Royals leading 6-4. Joakim Soria struck out the side in the ninth to make that score the final.

  • Coke has had a rough start to his season. In his first outing he gave up a two-run home run to the punchless Cesar Izturis. In his second he struck out the only two men he faced. His third was the loss described above. In his only appearance since then he was forced to get an extra out after Cody Ransom lost a pop up in the Tropicana Field roof, but nonetheless issued two two-out walks and then gave up a bases-clearing double to lefty Akinori Iwamura. That’s one good, three bad for Coke thus far. David Robertson, who has struck out ten men in five scoreless innings thus far for Scranton, lurks.

Summary: If you take out the losses attributed to Wang and Coke, the Yanks are 5-1. Even still, they just took a series from the defending AL Champions in the latter’s home ballpark. If Wang gets straightened out, Coke gets straightened out or replaced, and Alex Rodriguez returns on schedule, the Yanks will be in great shape.

Tags:  Phil Coke  Series Wrap  Xavier Nady

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1 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Apr 16, 2009 6:26 am

Great recap, Cliff.

Some banal impressions after watching game 3 vs the Rays:

B.J. Upton..awesome player! The Rays D is really impressive, with speed everywhere.
Cano looks like he's going to be steady the whole year but if he's All-Star level it will be huge.
Is Tex healthy? I know he takes a lot of pitches but..to whiff three times looking? Seems overly cautious..
Michael Kay + Cone and Flaherty were really good. Kay seems much less verbose the last few games, hope it lasts. Where is Ken Singleton though?
The cowbells at the Trop...yikes..
Swisher should get 25 dingers this year and be solid in RF. You sure Melky can't be productive in 250 ABs over the season?

2 The Hawk   ~  Apr 16, 2009 7:52 am

Of Cano's four walks, three were in the first three games, I think. I'm sure the Yankees are aware of this, but he needs to be kept on the straight and narrow in that regard or else I suspect he'll revert back to last year's form.

3 RIYank   ~  Apr 16, 2009 8:16 am

Today's Stadium-opening line-up (via the Star Ledger)

1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Johnny Damon, LF
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Nick Swisher, RF
5. Jorge Posada, C
6. Robinson Cano, 2B
7. Hideki Matsui, DH
8. Cody Ransom, 3B
9. Brett Gardner, CF
CC Sabathia, P

Just a murderer short of murderer's row, wouldn't you say?

4 Mattpat11   ~  Apr 16, 2009 8:29 am

Oddly enough, I never felt like this was an extraordinarily long road trip.

5 The Hawk   ~  Apr 16, 2009 8:46 am

I wish they'd put Jeter back batting 2nd. Two 35 year olds have been batting in the wrong spot for pretty much their entire careers? Girardi the Genius is the only one to figure this out?
I suppose it's possible ...

6 monkeypants   ~  Apr 16, 2009 9:00 am

[5] No, Girardi has not been the only one to figure this out. Just about everybody who posts regularly on teh Banter, as well as the site creators themselves, have known for years that Jeter is the better leadoff man. Now, as his power has declined, the choice of him batting #1 is even more obvious.

On the grand scheme, however, the difference is not huge (though it probably gets Jetes an extra 10 ABS or so on the season). So what's the beef?

7 RIYank   ~  Apr 16, 2009 9:03 am

It doesn't make much difference, statistically speaking, which of them bats first and which second. But I'm pretty sure Girardi is right. The higher OBP guy should go first, and the higher SLUG guy should go behind him. (Jeter's GIDP problem also contributes, but it's also a very small effect.)

8 RIYank   ~  Apr 16, 2009 9:04 am

Hey, cut that out, monkeypants. As I'm sure you will recall, we agreed yesterday to continue to disagree today! We're off to a bad start.

(And now I'm off to work.)

9 The Hawk   ~  Apr 16, 2009 9:16 am

[6] Ha! Even better ... It's Girardi and his Merry Band of Internets Experts! World Series, here we come!

I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when Girardi had his Eureka moment ... He's sitting at his desk, poring over charts and graphs, furrowed brow, muscles tensed when suddenly, lightning strikes! "Doh!" he says and slaps his forehead.

(Seriously, I don't have a major beef, it's just tradition ... #2 in the 2 hole. If it doesn't make a big difference, I'd just as soon leave the old men in their traditional spots.)

10 PJ   ~  Apr 16, 2009 9:32 am

"If it doesn’t make a big difference, I’d just as soon leave the old men in their traditional spots."

Just be sure to not have both catchers in the game too often, please...

Can Swisher catch?


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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver