"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Lost Weekend

A few scenes from the Yankees’ weekend in Boston:

Yeah, that coulda gone better.

With the obligatory disclaimer that it is only April, etc. etc., the Yanks had another tough loss to the Sox tonight, going down 4-1 to complete Boston’s sweep.

The game was tied at one when, in the fifth, things got a bit away from Andy Pettitte. It wasn’t a meltdown, as he was able to limit the damage, and the bullpen for a change didn’t give up a run — but the Sox’s three-run lead turned out to be plenty. New York’s only run came when Hideki Matsui scored on Bret Gardner’s sacrifice fly; the offense had several promising opportunities, but couldn’t get a big blow against the Sox pitchers, and ended up stranding eight runners. Twenty-four-year-old Justin Masterson was solid for Boston (though he did have some help from Angel “.167/.167/.167″ Berroa), and so was hot prospect Michael Bowden, who pitched two perfect innings. Takashi Saito closed it out.

It was in that fateful fifth inning that Jacoby Ellsbury stole home, which I have to admit was pretty freaking awesome. Some blame goes to Posada for apparently not paying close enough attention – with a left-hander in the batter’s box, he should have had a clear view of third base – but credit where credit’s due, that’s a gutsy move. I know some people aren’t going to like that Ellsbury took a curtain call, but I say you go for it there: the crowd was insistent and besides, while people hit big home runs all the time, how often do you get to steal home? It was the first time a Red Sox player has done it in 10 years.

Mark Melancon, who we’ve been hearing about for quite a while now, relieved Pettitte in his Yankees debut, and started off pretty well with a scoreless 7th. One inning later, he seemed to have utterly lost the strike zone– a single, a walk, a hit batter – but much to my surprise he wriggled out of the bases-loaded, nobody-out jam, with a strikeout sandwiched between two ground balls.

Momentum-shifter?… well, no. Still, at least this was a decently crisp and fairly close loss, and not another hot mess like yesterday. Yes, I am struggling to find positives here.

Other good things I noticed from last night’s game:

-Nobody was injured.
-It didn’t rain.
-Mark Melancon doesn’t seem to rattle easy.
-Unlike during Saturday’s game, my dog did not puke up an entire sock.
- Every season, Kevin Youkilis looks more and more like the kind of disreputable extra that late-career John Wayne would punch out in a frontier bar brawl.

The Yankees head to Motown tomorrow… which I guess is as good a place as any to do a little soul-searching.

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32 comments

1 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Apr 27, 2009 1:17 am

Remember, there is no hole in the wall.

For what it's worth, Ellsbury stole home because they had the shift on Drew and Berroa was essentially playing shortstop. There was no way for Pettitte to check him back to the bag. It's still embarrassing, and they should have been able to throw him out at home, but they basically gave him the first 45 feet. Also, Pete Abe reminded us that Aaron Hill stole home off Pettitte a couple of years ago. Amazingly, some fan filmed it (see the 2:20 mark here).

2 PJ   ~  Apr 27, 2009 2:44 am

Note to Emma:

When your dog gets one of your socks, take it away and insert a tennis ball into it and tie a knot as close to the toe with the ball inside it as you can, keeping it in place at the toe of the sock. This will teach your dog to only play with a sock that contains a tennis ball. Once the ball breaches the sock from the wear of repeated chewing and playing, replace it with the second one of the pair. Repeat as needed. Your sock supply and your dog's digestive system will thank you! You and your dog will also have much more fun!

: )

3 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Apr 27, 2009 4:00 am

The BoSox have allowed 43 fewer runs to score in the same amount of games..That does not bode well for the rest of the season. Blowout-Wang games or not, that differential is no good!!

Bullpen for rest of the year: Edwar, Melancon, Bruney, Veras/Marte, Mo..is it sufficient?

I heard Lima Time is still out there somewhere..maybe he can be the long man?

4 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Apr 27, 2009 4:15 am

After some early afternoon sunshine and a trip to the local "depa-chika"
http://tinyurl.com/cjyvtf 

I am feeling much more confident. The Sox get the sweep, yes. Beckett got roughed up though, and Papelbon, despite the saves, gave up hits and walks..I think he can be beaten more often than Mo (Friday notwithstanding..). Youk is bound to cool down, and Papi is finished..the Sox are not "all that"!

Andy P was still pretty solid, Melancon is the real deal, Cano and Jeter are having great starts, Tex is a black hole with the glove (mostly)..and all this with the shocking putridity of Gardner and Ransom/Berroa eating up ABs!

Stay a few above .500, get A-Rod back, watch CC go on a role..the division is ours for the taking...

5 Diane Firstman   ~  Apr 27, 2009 7:45 am

[2]

Can we teach Hank Steinbrenner that too?

6 rbj   ~  Apr 27, 2009 8:36 am

Feh! Totally lost weekend. And now I've got to sweat the layoff notices coming out tomorrow.

7 The Mick536   ~  Apr 27, 2009 9:04 am

[6] Don't know if you are laying off or being laid off. If its the latter, I hope you adjust and don't get down on yourself. Being out of work in the Spring ain't so bad if you can afford life. More time for boxscores.

As for the Yankees, they leave me a little cold. The stealing of home felt like a kick in the groin. Posada looked clueless. Teix left three on base. I still cannot lose the picture of the K on the high hard one Friday night. He took one in the same place Saturday. And last night, he left three on base. Swished last season stats will reappear, regardless of Cashman's view that they were the result of bad luck. Not sure he can field his position either. I also cannot adjust to the Gardner experiment. Solid looking triple A sort of player. I think they have to put Melke back in Center and force Damon to play more, until they can get someone else.

8 Rich   ~  Apr 27, 2009 9:05 am

[3] If there is a brain in the Yankee decision makers' collective heads (starting Berroa, among other things, causes me to have doubts), a bridge to Mariano comprised of Bruney, Melancon, Robertson, and Coke would be potentially awesome. Tomko or even Veras, or maybe Kennedy or Aceves, could be the long man. I would hope that Marte wouldn't be (over) used because of the stupid contract they gave him.

The Yankees scored 15 runs in this three games series (without the best player in MLB)) and in some ways beat themselves. I'm really not concerned about the Sox or any team if their starting pitching lives up to expectations.

9 The Hawk   ~  Apr 27, 2009 9:19 am

[4] I like the way you think.

Honestly, a sweep always stinks, a sweep by the Sox always stinks, but it's not the end of the world. April is weird and not necessarilyt indicative of the rest of the season. I don't think this team's record reflects what they're ultimately going to be up to - the only question is when they are going to get on track. That has to do with starting pitching, which has been the major problem. Hopefully Saturday was a hiccup for Burnett - otherwise he's been very good. Pettitte has been as good as could be expected. Wang is on the DL and hopefully Hughes can do a little better.

The question comes down to Sabathia, as I see it. If he can start to dominate, not only will it win them his starts but I think it will build confidence overall and we'll get on a roll. (Before anyone references Santana's brilliance and the rest of the Mets' staff ineffectiveness, our starters are much better.)

The offense has been good for the most part. They've battled, they've come back a few times. Last night it seemed obvious they gave up and just wanted out of there, which I can't blame them too much for. After getting the okey-doke on Friday then the outrageous, exhausting game Saturday, it's only natural. Go to Detroit, hit reset, then hopefully next time you see the Sox, take control. The Yanks are capable, I'm pretty sure - they just need to get something going.

10 rbj   ~  Apr 27, 2009 9:43 am

[7] Potentially getting laid off.

How could a team that looked so good in ST be playing poorly now.

11 Alex Belth   ~  Apr 27, 2009 9:52 am

6) Dude, thinking of you. That sentiment hovers over nearly everyone these days.

12 Mattpat11   ~  Apr 27, 2009 10:03 am

In one week, I have my first game of the season. I'm focusing on that now.

13 Diane Firstman   ~  Apr 27, 2009 10:11 am

[8]

The Yanks DID score 11 of those 15 runs in one game .... (just sayin')

14 Yankster   ~  Apr 27, 2009 10:56 am

I'd like to throw out a theory:

Gardner is guessing pitches with his first two strikes and when he gets fooled, which is often, his swing and the amount by which he misses is literally viscerally embarrassing to fans. A-Rod actually had several swings with no strikes last year that looked this way - missing a ball with a big swing by three or more inches. On the other hand, with two strikes he totally changes his approach.

Gardner's swing becomes much shorter, he shifts his weight less, and he seems to be fully reactive. I know everyone changes their approach with two strikes, but to me Gardner looks like a different player. And, in my opinion, the swings with two strikes play much more to the strengths of his game (such, as as few as they are). He seems to make much better contact, actually fights off a few pitches, and with his infield outs at least gives his legs a chance to make a play (and the defense a chance to botch it).

In other words, what do you think of the idea that Gardner would benefit from defending the plate rather than trying to get a hit?

Newbie stats question: What's the best place for me to get pitch by pitch stats for Gardner?

15 The Hawk   ~  Apr 27, 2009 11:18 am

[14] I haven't observed what you have necessarily but I think it makes sense that he not be too aggressive, since he isn't a good hitter and has little power.

In general, I've seen enough of the guy. What few moments he's had have seemed unconvincing to me. It just appears that he's maxed out and there's not much there. Melky at least might have a little room to grow.

16 Diane Firstman   ~  Apr 27, 2009 11:28 am

[14]

Gardner pitch-by-pitch stats:
http://tinyurl.com/dg5qmp

17 Diane Firstman   ~  Apr 27, 2009 11:31 am

Power pitchers have their way with Gardner ...
http://tinyurl.com/cqnoyl

18 The Hawk   ~  Apr 27, 2009 11:34 am

If I read that right, Gardner hasn't yet gotten on base with an 0-2 count, in 17 ABs. Essentially, two strikes and he's out. Yikes.

19 Diane Firstman   ~  Apr 27, 2009 11:40 am

[18]

You're sort of right .... when his AB is decided on the pitch IMMEDIATELY AFTER an 0-2 count, he's 0-17.

However, a little lower down on that chart is "After 0-2", which encompasses ALL pitches after that count, and he bats .147 in those circumstances (no one does that well down 0-2, though)

20 Diane Firstman   ~  Apr 27, 2009 11:43 am

[18]

For comparison sake, here is the American League 2009 season-to-date splits based on count:
http://tinyurl.com/d7bhrx

21 The Hawk   ~  Apr 27, 2009 11:48 am

I can't sit here and pretend I'm objective. I don't like him. He bugs me. Of course he wouldn't so much if he were effective.

But even allowing for my bias, I think there's an easier con argument than pro in regards to the "gritty" lad.

22 Diane Firstman   ~  Apr 27, 2009 12:01 pm

OPS+ for CFers age 25 or younger, in their first or second seasons, since 1961.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/play-index/shareit/Cbu2

FYI, Gardner's OPS+ for his career is 48.

23 PJ   ~  Apr 27, 2009 12:22 pm

[5] I'd be more inclined to teach Hank how to play catch with and retrieve a Frisbee, which can be easily done by feeding him out of one. As he ages however, his permanent teeth and increased jaw strength will create jagged marks and holes in them, which make the edges too sharp to handle and catch, and the toys have to be replaced more often.

Fun has it's price too, I'm afraid.

Besides, I don't think he's even housebroken yet...

;)

24 Diane Firstman   ~  Apr 27, 2009 12:33 pm

[23]

You are weird ...

(Fortunately, I find that a wonderful attribute) :-)

25 Diane Firstman   ~  Apr 27, 2009 12:38 pm

Yankee CFs OPS+ for single season, minimum 100 games played in season:
http://www.bb-ref.com/play-index/shareit/F5eZ

(You'll notice Melky's 2008 at the bottom of that list)

26 The Hawk   ~  Apr 27, 2009 12:42 pm

There is no doubt Melky had a terrible year last year, or else we wouldn't be contending with Gardner now (most likely).

27 zack   ~  Apr 27, 2009 1:13 pm

This weekend was exactly what I feared. I don't think it means anything in the long run, but when everyone was trumpeting the Yanks record and saying, "look, they are three games over despite not having A-Rod and 3 of the losses being Wang's," I was pointing out how bad everyone else was basically playing too.

And here we are, back at .500 yet again. Ahh, the joys of April Yankee baseball

28 PJ   ~  Apr 27, 2009 1:23 pm

[24] It's the "George Carlin" in me. It can also be a defense mechanism I have, as I try desperately to follow this Yankees team in a positive and productive fashion.

Also, when I was much younger, I helped to raise four litters of dogs (Doberman Pinschers), including a litter of ten...

: )

29 newbs   ~  Apr 27, 2009 1:27 pm

A disappointing weekend, for sure, but at least we get the Emma Span recap. That brightened up my Monday a little bit. Plus my son went to his first MLB game and got to see Giambi's first HR of the year.

30 The Hawk   ~  Apr 27, 2009 1:37 pm

Mike Francesa sure took this weekend hard. Usually he poo-poos panic, but he's hit that button himself it seems.

31 PJ   ~  Apr 27, 2009 2:48 pm

[30] I find it highly ironic that his lauding and magnifying the "genius" within the Red Sox in recent years, in addition to the "tragedy" that is the Yankees FO, has been met with a faulty microphone...

Randy Levine really is quite powerful, isn't he?

;)

32 Yankster   ~  Apr 27, 2009 3:58 pm

[14] [16]
Diane,
Thanks for the great links into Gardner's Baseball Reference data.

Just using Gardner's 2009 stats (which results in numbers with basically no statistical significance because there are so few PA at each count) Gardner is better with two strikes than he is without two strikes with the exception of being 0-2.

After having each of the following counts, these are his numbers:*
0-2: PA 8 BA .143 OBP .250 OPS .536
1-2: PA 17 BA .267 OBP .294 OPS .694
2-2: PA 18 BA .294 OBP .333 OPS .686
3-2: PA 9 BA .250 OBP .333 OPS .583

Compared to his 2009 Season Average:
PA 65 BA .220 OBP .254 OPS .525

And for a little fun comparison, two strike BA
A-rod's for 2008: .228
Gardner's season to date .212
Melky's 2008 .158
Jeter's season to date: .263

* The "after two strikes" stat apparently gets counted repeatedly in the same at bat, so if I'm 0-2 and then it becomes 1-2 the PA gets counted again, so you can't total the plate appearances.

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