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News of the Day – 8/26/09

Today’s news is powered by some vintage Neil Young:

. . . Jorge Posada, 37, Johnny Damon, 35, Hideki Matsui, 35, and Derek Jeter, 35, all have better OPS marks this year than last. (Alex Rodriguez, 35, has only a slight decline). Andy Pettitte, 37, and Mariano Rivera, 39, are almost as good as ever. . . .

Perhaps least surprisingly, Jeter, whose body and game have changed almost not at all over the years, is having a prime Jeter season, including a .332 batting average.

“He’s always been good at getting those [bloop] hits here and there,” hitting coach Kevin Long said, “but this is a hard .330. It seems everything he has hit has been hit hard. All year long. And that’s because he’s swinging at a lot of strikes. Everything he’s swinging at is a good pitch. To me, it’s been about his strike zone recognition.

“He’s been much better at deciding which pitches to swing at. He’s more disciplined than I’ve ever seen him at waiting for pitches to be in the zone. And when you wait for good pitches to hit, you’re going to hit better.”

Jeter is striking out at a career-low rate. He said his improved plate discipline is due more to consistent good health than to a change in his approach.

Injured Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner tested his left thumb for the first time in nearly a month on Tuesday afternoon, and if all goes well, he could be activated in the next week.

Gardner took swings and threw at what he estimated to be 50-60 percent prior to the Yankees game against the Rangers.

“Everything felt pretty good,” said Gardner, who is confident he can at least serve as a pinch-runner in the coming weeks.

The key in determining whether Gardner will be used for more than his legs is how his thumb holds up at the plate.

“He needs to get some at-bats,” manager Joe Girardi said. “How many at-bats he needs, I can’t tell you. But I think a lot of [his timetable] depends on how these first few days go.”

Before Tuesday night’s game against Texas, Swisher had 21 home runs this season; 3 had come at Yankee Stadium. How does he explain that?

“I don’t,” Swisher said. “I guess I’m a road warrior. But I do know that on the road, it seems like I get my stroke going on the road.”

His statistical anomalies do not end there. Swisher, a .248 hitter, had 207 plate appearances at home, 259 on the road. His average at home was .206; on the road it was .277. But his on-base percentage was .385 at home and .360 on the road. Swisher had drawn 13 more walks at Yankee Stadium than he had on the road.

  • The excellent Fangraphs site analyzes Phil Hughes’ improvement:

Since June Phil Hughes has been recast from disappointing former top starting pitching prospect to shut down reliever. He started off as a sixth/seventh inning guy, but by mid-July had established himself as the 8th inning setup man to Mariano Rivera. His numbers are great 11.36 K/9, 2.52 BB/9, and a sparkling 1.26 ERA (1.77 FIP), but built, partially, on a lucky 0.274 BABIP and under 3% HR/FB.

This year Hughes added a cutter and got rid of his slider (this was also true of his early stint as a starter), and as a reliever has stopped using his change. So he is a three pitch guy: a four-seam fastball, a cutter and his big 12-6 breaking curve. As a reliever he throws about 65% fastballs, with the rest an equal split of curves and cutters to RHBs and almost all curves to LHBs.

In the pen everything has gotten much better, as expected. His fastball and cutter have gained speed (fastball from 91.8 to 94.5 mph and the cutter from 87 to 89 mph). Both the pitches are in the zone more often and gotten more whiffs. His fastball, as a reliever, has more rise and is higher up in the zone, making it more of an extreme whiff/flyball pitch. As a result it does not get as many ground balls, but induces more pop-ups.

  • Morgan Ensberg turns 34 today.  Ensberg struggled to the tune of .203/.263/.243 in 80 PAs for the Yanks last year before getting released.
  • On this date in 1987, the Yankees and Reds exchange starting pitchers, with Dennis Rasmussen going to Cincinnati for Bill Gullickson.
  • On this date in 1991, number one draft pick Brien Taylor is signed to a guaranteed $1.55 million contract by the Yankees. It is the largest deal ever given to an amateur player, surpassing the $1.2 million paid to Todd Van Poppel by Oakland in 1990.
  • On this date in 2002, the first video streaming coverage of a major league baseball game takes place on the internet. Approximately 30,000 fans visit MLB.com to see the Yankees defeat the Rangers, 10-3.

Categories:  Diane Firstman  News of the Day

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1 Rich   ~  Aug 26, 2009 9:09 am

“He’s been much better at deciding which pitches to swing at. He’s more disciplined than I’ve ever seen him at waiting for pitches to be in the zone. And when you wait for good pitches to hit, you’re going to hit better.”

If Cano could assimilate this approach, he would be about as good as any player in the game.

Regarding Swisher's disparate home/road splits, it's kind of comical to recall the predictably stupid comments from Lupica a couple of weeks ago to the effect that Damon's NYS HR totals prove that the stadium is Coor's Field east.

Hughes has been mixing in his slider.

2 Paul   ~  Aug 26, 2009 10:02 am

The stadium isn't Coors bad, but it does give up it's share of dingers. No surprise that Verducci didn't do the extra work to explain the success of older players from good home/road splits. For the individual players Verducci is analyzing, Damon and Posada have a +.200 to .300 OPS at home and Jeter is +.050 at home. Only Matsui is better on the road (+.200 OPS).

3 Raf   ~  Aug 26, 2009 10:07 am

But his on-base percentage was .385 at home and .360 on the road.

Even more of a reason to call off the bunt, or not even call it in the first place.

4 Diane Firstman   ~  Aug 26, 2009 11:33 am

Here's something to brighten your day ...

If the season ended today ...

Brad Lidge would set a record for worst ERA for anyone with 25 or more saves in a season.


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