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News of the Day – 8/26/09
Posted By Diane Firstman On August 26, 2009 @ 8:42 am In Diane Firstman,News of the Day | Comments Disabled
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.
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.
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URL to article: http://www.bronxbanterblog.com/2009/08/26/news-of-the-day-82609/
URLs in this post:
 veteran Yankees: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/tom_verducci/08/25/yankees.redsox/index.html?eref=writers
 Gardner: http://newyork.yankees.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090825&content_id=6610392&vkey=news_nyy&fext=.jsp&c_id=nyy
 Joba Chamberlain: http://newyork.yankees.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090825&content_id=6610396&vkey=news_nyy&fext=.jsp&c_id=nyy
 Nick Swisher: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/26/sports/baseball/26yanksnotes.html?_r=1&ref=baseball
 Fangraphs: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/phil-hughes-as-shut-down-reliever
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