"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Meet the Pres, Beat His Team

The Yankees began the week in Washington D.C., where on Monday they stood on risers like members of a high school chorus as President Obama addressed team personnel and then exchanged pleasantries with each individual member of the organization. They closed the week with President Obama’s Chicago White Sox visiting them in the Bronx.

Following the long 10-game road trip, despite the Yankees winning the last two games, they started off shaky and couldn’t get into a flow. Carlos Quentin’s line-drive double off Andy Pettitte in the top of the first was the last straw. That initial part of the opening frame Friday night was atypical for Pettitte, as far as this season is concerned anyway. Pettitte had allowed just four runs over his first four starts. Three of those four runs came in the third inning, usually the beginning of the second cycle through the lineup. Yet here he was having yielded three runs and four hits to an anemic White Sox offense that stood 11th in the American League in runs scored (88 total through 22 games).

Cue the coaching visit. Whatever was said resonated with Pettitte, because subsequently struck out Mark Teahen and Jayson Nix, and the Yankee offense got two runs back in the bottom half to provide a pseudo-bailout. Pettitte had trouble with that top third of the ChiSox order again and didn’t really settle down until he got Paul Konerko, whose three-run home run in the first did the initial damage, to fly out to end the second.

Pettitte threw 42 pitches over the first two innings and dug the Yankees a bit of a hole. In this way, it was a typical Andy Pettitte start — more than a hit per inning, four runs allowed, the offense having to score at least four or five runs to muster a victory. He didn’t run into any more snags until the fifth, when that same bunch of batters — Gordon Beckham, Alex Rios, Konerko and Quentin — staged a threat, which Pettitte deftly dodged.

Those are moments where as an observer you can say, “This could be a turning point.” It didn’t look that way when Freddy Garcia made quick work of Curtis Granderson and Francisco Cervelli, but when Brett Gardner singled and stole second to pass the baton to Derek Jeter, there was stirring. The stirring came to a boil when Jeter launched a curveball into the left-field seats to tie the game at 4-4.

“I was just looking for a good pitch to hit,” Jeter told Kim Jones on YES. “I haven’t been swinging at a lot of strikes lately, so I tried to bear down, and I got a good pitch that was up.”

Jeter got a pitch that was up again in the 7th against Matt Thornton, with runners on first and second. This time it was a 95-mile-per-hour fastball that Jeter inside-outed past a diving Jayson Nix into the right-field corner. Cervelli, who reached on an HBP, and Gardner, who gutted out a single before scored on the triple.

The two runs gave way to the formula: Damaso Marte for LOOGY duty and Joba to close out the 8th, then Mariano Rivera throwing straight cheese to retire the side in order in the ninth.

The 6-4 win gave the Yankees their first April with at least 15 wins since 2003, when they went 20-6. It also kept Andy Pettitte unbeaten in April for the first time in his career.

It was the kind of game we’ve gotten spoiled with over the last five or few years: fall behind early, come back in the middle innings, hold it down late. It’s the kind of win a President can appreciate. Then again, maybe not. He roots for the White Sox.


* Before the season started, if you looked at the Yankees’ schedule and saw the Red Sox, Rays, Angels twice, and the White Sox on tap, with 15 of those games on the road, you might have said, “Man, the schedule maker boned the Yankees again. If they get out of this a few games over .500, that’s a decent start.” They closed the month with a .682 winning percentage, which would put them in first place in any other division. And neither Mark Teixeira nor Alex Rodriguez have even remotely begun to hit. Despite that lack of thunder from the middle of the lineup, the Yankees have thrived with Jeter, Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada picking up the offensive slack, an effective left-field committee, and of course, solid pitching. Maintaining that .682 clip puts the Yankees on track for 110 or 111 wins. That wouldn’t be just good, it would be historic, considering only two other teams in Yankee history won at least 110 games: 1927 and 1998.

* Do you think Cervelli is ready to thrust Spaceball 1 to Ludicrous Speed? The fortified helmet is worn out of necessity as a result of the concussion he sustained in spring training, but he looks like my father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate with that thing on. Even the interlocking NY logo on the front of the S100 model helmet looks piddly.

* Brett Gardner hit two balls out of the infield, bringing his total of non-infield hits to … 2 (I know, it’s at least 5). In all seriousness, though, his at-bat against Thornton, which preceded Jeter’s triple Jack Curry called “the at-bat of the night” was as good as it gets for a lefty-lefty battle.

* Nick Johnson’s nickname should officially be Nick the Stick On the Shoulder. His line for April: .138/.383/.224, 8 hits, 21 walks, 21 strikeouts.


1 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Apr 30, 2010 11:37 pm

It was clear to me that Posada hit for Johnson with Jeter on third because Girardi had no confidence in Johnson's ability to put the ball in play and with a man on third and one out a walk won't get the job done, but it will set up a double play. Of course, Posada struck out.

As for Cervelli's helmet, I'm pleased to see him sticking with it and glad it's a non-issue, save for Al Leiter praising him for wearing it on tonight's broadcast. It certainly isn't hurting his hitting. Cervelli is quickly becoming one of my favorite Yankees, not because of his value, but because of his attitude. I love watching him burn behind the plate, jawing, gesticulating, making big convoluted windups to throw the ball back to the pitcher or around the horn. Seems he talks non-stop on every mound visit. He cracked Rivera up after the last out. Plus he's got that old-school vibe with the high socks and no batting gloves, but, and this is the key, he's smart enough not to rail against a helpful measure like the helmet.

2 monkeypants   ~  Apr 30, 2010 11:42 pm

[1] I get that this was probably Girardi's thinking, even though it still doesn't make much sense to me. But if one is going to PH for his #2 hitter in that circumstance---if one has so little confidence in him---then why keep batting him #2? And if Po was healthy enough to DH and NJ warrants so little confidence, why not just start Po at DH for the game?

3 Will Weiss   ~  Apr 30, 2010 11:47 pm

[1] I agree with you on both points. Don't get me wrong, I think Cervelli is going to be a fan favorite, if he isn't already. I can see the Cerv/Posada tandem this year becoming what Posada/Girardi was in '98. May sound wacko, but maybe not that far off.

4 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Apr 30, 2010 11:49 pm

[2] Again, Johnson gets on base, which is valuable, but in that situation he needed a ball in play to get a run in. Also, they already had the lead, so it was a good situation to allow Jorge to test his knee. Could be Jorge can't run the bases and they were going to pinch-run for him if he got a hit (guessing, not sure). I had no problem with starting Johnson or pich-hitting Posada.

I did have a problem with using Marte to face Mark Teahen with a two-run lead leading off the eighth. Was that necessary? What if the Sox had tied it up and a lefty had come up in a more important situation later? Joba can't face a lefty with no one on base and a two-run lead? Managers do this sort of thing constantly, it's absurd.

5 monkeypants   ~  Apr 30, 2010 11:59 pm

[4] But if Johnson gets on base, no *harm* has been done. You then PR Peña for him and try to double steal, if fear of the DP is so great. As you say, they already had the lead, so cashing in the runner on third was not vital (though I imagine that at that stage, a three run lead is much bigger than a two run lead). If you're really going to play for one run, hack, PH with Peña and have him bunt!

My other concern with PH Posada---even to test his leg---was raised in the game thread: now they have lost the chance to retroactive DL him if it turns out that the injury is more severe than previously thought.

In the end, this is all small potatoes. I guess my real complaint derives from my role as NJ apologist. Batters are struggling up and down the lineup, including Teixeira (who has not been putting the ball in play as much as NJ), but Girardi *seems* to have singled out NJ, who is at least getting on base.

I agree about the BP absurdity, but at this point I've almost given up even thinking about it.

6 monkeypants   ~  May 1, 2010 12:00 am

[5]...heck, PH with..."

7 Cliff Corcoran   ~  May 1, 2010 12:12 am

[5] How has Girardi singled out Johnson? He hurt his back. Other than this at-bat and two games against lefty starters (one of which was much earlier in the season) Johnson has played at every opportunity. If anyone is being singled out, it's Gardner, who should play over Granderson vs. lefties, something that's more clear every day, yet Granderson has started all but one game this season.

8 monkeypants   ~  May 1, 2010 12:41 am

[7] I agree about Gardner.

How has Johnson been singled out. Well, admittedly I do not get all of the games on TV up here, but when I have watched and listened to the games the announcers harp on NJ's struggles, he's too passive, etc. Then a few games ago supposedly adopted a new "aggressive" approach (much lauded by Singleton). Then we hear on LoHud that Girardi, until recently more or less supporting NJ, questioning his approach: "Girardi said Nick Johnson, who’s back in the lineup, may be taking too many pitches at times, that Mark Teixeira may be starting to come around and that A-Rod has basically been hitting in hard luck."

Yes, he hurt his back, but I am not convinced that this was not used as an excuse to sit him for an extra game or two. After all, NJ was used to PH on April 27 after sitting for two games. Then he sat again on April 29. Yes, against a LHP, but NJ has hit LHP ever so slightly better than RHP over his career.

It's starting to look to me---and this is just the sense that I get---that NJ is becoming the first guy Girardi bumps from the lineup, despite Girardi's public statements about remaining patient. I'm sure that I'm overreacting, but we'll see how this continues to play out as the season goes on.

9 Mattpat11   ~  May 1, 2010 12:41 am

I thought Cervelli didn't look nearly as silly as Wright did. I think Frankie has a much bigger head than David, so it looked more in proportion.

10 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  May 1, 2010 12:58 am

Dodgers - Pirates thoughts:

Dodger Stadium looks cook. Vin Scully announcing the game by himself is a pleasure to listen to. Jonathon Broxton looks like he could be a sumo wrestler. The Pirates are an awful, awful team.

Time to head out, hope to wake up and read a good game re-cap!

11 williamnyy23   ~  May 1, 2010 2:17 am

I am surprised no one in the game thread (or on the YES broadcast) commented on Cano’s rather significant base running blunder in the first. On the Swisher DP, Cano slid into second, when what he should have done was stop half way and wait until Arod crossed the plate with the tying run. In what was a close game, that play could have been a deciding factor.

12 cult of basebaal   ~  May 1, 2010 2:36 am

I dunno, it didn't seem a "significant" blunder to me.

It took a *very* good throw from Konerko to get him, he was this close to being safe and the throw could have just as easily hit him, given the angle Konerko took in throwing it.

13 Cliff Corcoran   ~  May 1, 2010 7:46 am

[12] Agreed.

14 RIYank   ~  May 1, 2010 8:43 am

[5] But if Johnson gets on base, no *harm* has been done.

Of course. But if he walks, then you still need Teixeira to get the run in, and that's not automatic.

Look, Posada and NJ have essentially the same OBP. But (i) NJ has a much, much smaller chance of getting a hit, and (ii) this year he's striking out a whole lot more. Those are the two main factors that will decide whether the runner scores from third, so Posada is a much better bet.

As you say, they already had the lead, so cashing in the runner on third was not vital (though I imagine that at that stage, a three run lead is much bigger than a two run lead).

Entering the 8th with a 2 run lead, the home team wins 9 out of 10. With a 3 run lead, it's 19 out of 20. With Chamberlain and Rivera in the bullpen, I'm sure the Yankee's win expectancy was higher than that. I guess the point is that the one extra run has a lot of value compared to additional runs you might score in a rally (thus, NJ working a walk is low value in that situation).

15 monkeypants   ~  May 1, 2010 9:31 am

[14] No one denies Posada is the better hitter and especially so far this year, so he will be the better choice to get the run in over anyone in the lineup not named Cano. That is not the issue.

But if he walks, then you still need Teixeira to get the run in, and that’s not automatic.

This is true. Though the idea that you would pinch hit for a batter because you are afraid of him walking is bizarre, if you ask me, unless (maybe) if you have no faith in the guy batting after him. But, this is more an indictment of Teixeira, no? As I suggested last night, if the run at 3B is so important, then perhaps the better move is let the high OBP guy try to get him in (NJ) and if that fails, PH for Teixeira, who is scuffling about as much as anyone in the lineup. Then move NJ to 1B for the last inning or two.

Of course nothing is automatic. As we saw last night, putting in Posada did not get the run in from 3B. My guess is that PH Posada only marginally increased the odds that the ball would be put in play and score a run (I'm guessing a 25% better chance of the ball put in play, of which the run scores only on a subset).

I guess the point is that the one extra run has a lot of value compared to additional runs you might score in a rally

Very true. But it does not take into account things like the ramifications for potentially having to DL Posada. Or, for that matter, since the run was relatively unimportant, giving NJ an extra AB to work out of his slump...or letting him walk so that Teix can take a crack at driving in the run.

As I said last night, this is all pretty small stuff; I recognize that my complaint is greatly out of proportion. On the other hand, that third run was so marginal and the odds of scoring it improved (my guess) to such a small degree, that it begs for an action v. non-action analysis. That Girardi made the move, unless he really, really felt that the one run was important, suggests that he has lost faith in NJ---which again was my main beef. But if has, then why bat the man #2?

16 RIYank   ~  May 1, 2010 9:44 am

Though the idea that you would pinch hit for a batter because you are afraid of him walking is bizarre, if you ask me,

It's not that you're afraid of NJ walking. It's that walking, which is his strength, isn't (very) helpful in the circumstances. The stuff that Posada does well is very helpful.

unless (maybe) if you have no faith in the guy batting after him. But, this is more an indictment of Teixeira, no?

Sure. But Girardi has to go to war with the... nah, forget that one.

My guess is that PH Posada only marginally increased the odds that the ball would be put in play and score a run (I’m guessing a 25% better chance of the ball put in play, of which the run scores only on a subset).

That's a lot, by my standards. Suppose you gain 10% in your chances of scoring a run. Think of it this way: with a runner on second, it's the difference between having a .350 hitter at the plate and having a .250 hitter.

17 monkeypants   ~  May 1, 2010 9:49 am

Ah, my guestimate was not bad. Including last night's game, NJ has put the ball in play (not K or BB) about 48% of his PAs while Posada has put the ball in play about 75%. So, that means Girardi increased the chances of the ball being put in play by a little more than 25%.

Of course, that does not mean he increased the chance of scoring the additional run by 25%. For example, so far this season NJ has hit the ball to the OF 27% of the time, Posada 40%. In terms of strikeouts, NJ has K-ed 27% of his PAs, Posada 14%.

So, PH with Po increased the chances of scoring the one run *in that AB*, say, 15%?

18 monkeypants   ~  May 1, 2010 9:53 am

[16] It is a lot, general speaking, but as you pointed out, the run is not that important anyway. So, you increase the chances of scoring a third run by 10 or 15 or 20%, a run that will increase the chances of victory by 5%. So, in that circumstance, I'm sure the decision to PH added much to the chance of victory, but it did a lot to demonstrate (in my mind) that Girardi does not trust NJ.

Thinking about it more, it also shows that he does not really trust Teix either (or else he would not have been so driven to score the run in THAT at bat), but he is more resistant to PH for the Teix for whatever reasons.

19 RIYank   ~  May 1, 2010 10:13 am

You're right, it comes to maybe 1% of a win.
I guess I look at it like this: there are many opportunities for managerial moves in the season. If Girardi could consistently add as much as 1% of a win when he makes a move, that could make him a valuable manager. On the other hand, no single move matters much.

If there's a significant cost to the PH move, that makes it very questionable. I suspect that there is no significant prospect of Posada needing a DL stint.

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