"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

When a Fence is not a Fence

Robinson Cano has been magnificent of late. Spectacular in the field and prodigious at the plate. But with bases loaded in the ninth trailing by two runs, his willingness to hack helped Joakim Soria escape a terrible jam. Mark Teixeira walked on four pitches in front of Cano to load the bases with one out. Soria threw five straight balls to Cano, but Robbie ripped at two of them. Soria won the battle as Cano flew out to left.

That was the big out of the inning, but the Yankees still had life. Swisher walked (on four pitches, Robbie) after a passed ball and the bases were loaded again. Birthday boy Jorge Posada followed. I hope his cake is extra sweet, because he struck out without taking the bat off his shoulders. Two of the pitches looked outside, but the last one was too close to take. Maybe ripping ain’t such a bad idea when the umps can’t find the strike zone. Or the outfield fence.

When Mariano Rivera needs to be restrained in the dugout, that’s probably a blown call. In the third, the umpiring crew saw a ball that clearly bounced off the fence as a home run. But the fence is segmented, so that a small chain link fence sits above a green padded wall. More green padding edges the top of the chain link section. Common sense dictates that the entire structure represents the “fence” but this is Kansas City, so apparently nobody knows for sure.

Billy Butler, reaching for his helmet to return to second base, could not contain a smirk when he saw the signal. “He’s looking like the cat who ate the canary,” said David Cone. Kim Jones talked with Royals personnel, including the great Frank White, and reported that no, it was not a home run.

After the game, Joe Girardi explained that crew chief Dana DeMuth understood the ground rules differently. He didn’t think it needed to clear the entire fence to be a home run. Girardi assumed the umpire knew the ground rules and didn’t protest. He plans to check on the ground rules tomorrow by calling the League Office. What is this, 1954? Everybody in KC is out celebrating the victory? Gimme a break, we should have that information before this post is finished.

Since he didn’t protest at the time, it’s likely the Yankees have lost the chance to protest the game – though they should at least make the attempt. Maybe they can send a message to the League Office by carrier pigeon.

With better pitching from Bartolo Colon or more timely hitting from the Yankees, that run would not have mattered. Though the Yankees pounded Bruce Chen’s offerings early and often, they only managed to charge three runs to his account. In the first two spots of the lineup, Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson combined to go seven for nine with a walk, two doubles and a homer, but somehow only contributed three runs. The Yankees went one for ten with runners in scoring position.

Jeter singled to lead off the game and was caught stealing by Chen’s pick off move just before Granderson homered. When Granderson doubled off the wall, Jeter wasn’t on base. And second baseman Johnny Giavotella robbed Granderson of a base hit and RBI after Jeter’s long double. When they finally joined forces to lead off the seventh with a single and a walk, Teixeira, Cano and Swisher struck out in succession. (Both the umpire and the three Yankees lost track of the strike zone during those at bats – the first slider to Swisher was the only sure strike for me.) Russell Martin stranded five in his first two times up and then hit a lonely homer in the sixth. Before you knew it, Bruce Chen was racking up a victory, 5-4.

The Royals smashed Yankee starters all series long, so it should be no surprise that Bartolo Colon got lit up. The Yanks offense didn’t support him the way they did Burnett and Nova and the bullpen was spent, so perhaps he would have pulled when he was in trouble in the fifth. Kauffman Stadium played like a bouncy castle this series, so Yankee starters will be glad to see Minnesota.

The Yanks are now done with KC, so we bid farewell to Melky Cabrera. He’s among the top twenty hitters in the American League and hit the ball hard all series long. The Yankees traded him, stud prospect Arodys Vizcaino, who’s already in the Major Leagues for Atlanta, and Michael Dunn for a batting practice machine with Javy Vazquez’s name on the back. I think this is going to leap past the Marte-Nady deal as the worst of Cashman’s tenure.

Tabata’s where Melky was at 22; Melky’s finally taken a few steps forward. And while Karstens is having a nice year, Vizcaino has oodles more talent. Of the Dunn-Logan-Marte loogy triumverate, Marte’s spotless Postseason in 2009 rates over what the other guys have done, though if Logan does something special this year, he’d shoot to the top.

The Red Sox lost earlier in the day so the Yankees squandered a chance to increase their lead in the standings. Bummer.



Top Photo via Zack Hample


Categories:  1: Featured  Game Recap  Jon DeRosa  Yankees

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1 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Aug 17, 2011 11:58 pm

Wow, that sounds like an apalling mistake by the umps.

And I will live healthier if never read again about that Javy Vasquez trade..bleccch!

2 jjmerlock   ~  Aug 18, 2011 12:02 am

Not strikes.

Not that we don't get a few.

But that high and outside pitch is one that a batter with an eye worth a damn won't swing at.

Only time I did was on my last HS at bat, and only because it was clear that I had to. And I still told the ump he was a hump once I got to first base.

That's just a horse shit job all the way around by the umps. Yes, I'm still steamed.

3 Jon DeRosa   ~  Aug 18, 2011 12:08 am

[1] ha yeah, that trade sucked. but it's not like melky was this good when they traded him. i don't think melky had shown enough to make the yanks think this was a likely outcome.

4 Jon DeRosa   ~  Aug 18, 2011 12:09 am

[2] I thought the strike zone reeked. Especially in the seventh.

5 jjmerlock   ~  Aug 18, 2011 1:14 am

[4] That pitch to Swish was a joke.

It's never pretty when a pitch was never remotely a strike.

I've seen shitty strike zones all year.

Just furthers my longstanding opinion that just because a guy is "qualified" to be an ump on the base paths, doesn't mean that you're remotely qualified to call balls and strikes.

Although missing a call at the bags is even more unforgivable.

I'm just pissed at the umps, altogether, tonight.

6 Boatzilla   ~  Aug 18, 2011 2:39 am

When did baseball fences become so fat and complicated?

[voice of Gabby Hayes] Why I remember back in the day, when a fence was a fence. Four-inches think at the most, barely fat enough for a baseball to bounce off it. By gum!

7 Jon DeRosa   ~  Aug 18, 2011 9:19 am

Did the Yankees receive their telegraph in morse code from the league office yet? I can't believe Kim Jones report is the most official comment i've seen yet...

8 ms october   ~  Aug 18, 2011 9:25 am

i still can't believe mo was so heated.

just one of those bad timing, bad luck, blah pitching from bart.
but bart is going to have to make some adjustments methinks. his location is not as precise as it was so i think he is going to have to mix a bit more.

[6] i also don't get why these damn fences, walls, etc. have become so damn complicated.

9 Chyll Will   ~  Aug 18, 2011 10:27 am

But if they were so hot and bothered by the blown call that very well cost them the game, why would they procrastinate in protesting or calling the league? Is Girardi and Co. scared of ticking someone off and getting a plethora of blown calls the rest of the season? When does someone stand up to this bullshit and start mushing this complacency?

10 Dina   ~  Aug 18, 2011 10:37 am

[8] Not to be a downer this early in the morning, but I imagine this is why fences have become so complicated...or at least trying to prevent things like that.

11 ms october   ~  Aug 18, 2011 10:41 am

[10] yeah the safety factor is definitely a huge concern. but the fence that caused all the controversy last night was this small thing that only covered a portion of the section.

12 Jon DeRosa   ~  Aug 18, 2011 10:51 am

[9] once girardi did not protest the call when the homer was upheld, and at that time he had little reason to think a protest was warranted, he lost his chance. he needed to have a better grasp on the ground rules so that he could clearly understand the umpire's mistake.

13 Dina   ~  Aug 18, 2011 10:55 am

[11] Good point, and there's even another safety rail behind it, so maybe this fence has a little too much going on for its own good.

14 Bama Yankee   ~  Aug 18, 2011 11:23 am

What's even worse is that it seems that Mick Kelleher DID know the ground rule.
From MLB.com

Yankees third-base coach Mick Kelleher said that he had discussed the wall situation with DeMuth before Monday's series opener, and the interpretation seemed different than the one applied on Wednesday.

Kelleher said that his understanding was that the ball needed to also clear a chain-link fence and padded railing to be a home run, a topic he said they discussed when exchanging lineups on Monday.

"We went over the ground rules and they were pretty explicit and clear, but there was one question that I had: it was about the top rail in left-center field," Kelleher said.

"It was padded; the ball had to leave the ballpark. We talked about that twice. ... It doesn't make sense to me. The ball never left the ballpark, so how could it be a home run?"

15 cult of basebaal   ~  Aug 18, 2011 1:54 pm

The Yankees traded him, stud prospect Arodys Vizcaino, who’s already in the Major Leagues for Atlanta, and Michael Dunn for a batting practice machine with Javy Vazquez’s name on the back. I think this is going to leap past the Marte-Nady deal as the worst of Cashman’s tenure.



By definition, some trade has to be the worst of a GM's tenure.

That doesn't make it a bad trade, just a trade that turned out badly.

16 YankeeAbby   ~  Aug 18, 2011 1:56 pm

I don't think I've EVER seen Mo lose his cool like that.

...that was HOT! ;-)

17 Jon DeRosa   ~  Aug 18, 2011 4:21 pm

[15] If you thought Javy Vazquez would be a good pitcher for the Yanks in 2010, then it was not a bad trade idea, just a bad result. If you were among those who thought Javy Vazquez sucked, then it was a bad trade idea and a bad result.

18 cult of basebaal   ~  Aug 18, 2011 6:20 pm

[17] Well, but what would it say if "you were among those who thought Javy Vazquez sucked"? To me, it wouldn't say much about a person's powers of analysis, because 2009 Javy Vazquez most certainly didn't "suck"; he was one of the best starters in the NL that year.

19 cult of basebaal   ~  Aug 18, 2011 6:34 pm

The Yankees weren't even counting on Vazquez to be an ace, they way they did when they traded for him in 2004, just an innings-eating, mid-rotation starter, which is completely reflected in the price they paid for him: a tweener outfielder with motivation and fitness issues, a hard-throwing LH reliever with control issues and a very good pitching prospect who was, however, both in Low A ball AND had long term questions about his suitability to start long term.

All the Yankees needed was 200+ innings of league average pitching (for the AL East) from Javy and they would have a) gotten what they wanted and b) walked away with the 2 draft picks after Vazquez left as a Type A Free Agent.

They didn't get it, obviously (though they did draft Dante Bichette with the pick they got when Florida signed JV).

But just as I don't give a broken clock credit for telling the time correctly twice a day, I don't give the "Javy Vazquez sucks and can't pitch in New York" people any credit for what happened in 2010.

Javy Vazquez didn't have a poor 2010 because he couldn't "pitch in New York", Javy Vazquez had a poor 2010 because he lost 4-5 mph off his fastball* and couldn't make the adjustment, like almost any pitcher in that situation.

Now, if anyone wants to point me to their prediction at the time of the trade that it was a bad idea because Vazquez was going to go from a 92+ mph power pitcher in 2009 to a 86 mph slop thrower at the end of 2010, well, I'd be happy to sign up for their newsletter ...

* In 2 stages roughly equal stages; one before the season and one after the All-Star Game.

20 cult of basebaal   ~  Aug 18, 2011 6:45 pm

Actually, I should qualify. JV lost velocity twice in 2010. Once before the season and once after the All Star Break, but he DID make adjustments, at least after the 1st drop. If you go to fangraphs or BBREF, you can break his season in to 3 parts: 1st) Start of the season until his last start before being pulled from the rotation the 1st time, 2nd) relief appearance against Boston after being skipped and working with Eiland through the All Star break and 3rd) after the All Star break.

Vazquez lost about 2 mph off his fastball before both 1 and 3 (per fangraphs), but in the period of 2, after working with Eiland, he posted the following line:

11 G
10 GS
6-3 W/L
65 IP
41 H
21 W
53 K
2.77 ERA

Which, of course, just goes to show the "Javy wouldn't/couldn't make adjustments" meme was nonsense as well ...

21 Jon DeRosa   ~  Aug 18, 2011 10:14 pm

Cult, so you're saying one would have to choose between being a good baseball analyst and being correct that Javy was going to suck in 2010? ;)

Perhaps some analysts put too much faith in one outlier season for a 32 yr old in the weak league for a team that churns out great pitching seasons from a lot of not-great pitchers. Perhaps some people looked back and saw that Javy struggled in arizona, and for 2 of the three years he was with the white sox and saw a classic case of the braves selling high. perhaps they didn't think a homer prone pitcher would play well in the new YS.

there were tons of unwashed spouting javy can't handle new york nonsense, but you didn't have to buy into their reasoning to have low expectations for vazquez.

22 cult of basebaal   ~  Aug 19, 2011 4:09 pm

perhaps some analysts put too much faith in one outlier season for a 32 yr old in the weak league for a team that churns out great pitching seasons from a lot of not-great pitchers.

Except it wasn't an outlier season, JV had had seasons of roughly that quality before. Atlanta played a pitcher's park in 2009, but actual analysts account for park factor in making predictions and evaluations. I'm not sure where the meme about Atlanta "churn[ing] out great pitching seasons from a lot of not-great pitchers" comes from, perhaps you're thinking of the meme of don't trade for pitching prospects Atlanta is willing to give you, which has more truth to it, but also notably exceptions.

Perhaps some people looked back and saw that Javy struggled in arizona, and for 2 of the three years he was with the white sox and saw a classic case of the braves selling high.

Analysts looked at JV and saw what he was, a 200+ innings a year guy that would fluctuate between average and above average from year to year.

Here are Javy's ERA+ for the time between his NY visits:


But analysts also know that 200+ innings of league average pitching is quite valuable, so here are his bbWins Above Replacement over the same time:


A 2010 season in line with the average of his previous seasons would have left Vazquez as probably the 2nd most valuable Yankee starter, behind CC. Even a season in line with his 3 worst since 2004 would have left him a solid contributor to the team's cause AND would have left him a Type A Free Agent and the Yankees with 2 draft picks in the rich 2011 draft.

perhaps they didn't think a homer prone pitcher would play well in the new YS.

That's why people use park factors in doing analysis and projections. ZIPS, PECOTA, CAIRO, etc, all account for park factors and league difference.

I can't say what other people were thinking, but I certainly had no expectations of Vazquez coming over and being an ace and I evaluated and approved of the trade on that basis. Frankly, I think it's pretty clear that the Yankees didn't evaluate Vazquez as if he were an ace, they got him to be their #4 starter and to give them innings and durability and "good enough" performance. Frankly, as I explained above, that's the price they paid: an arb-eligible 4th outfielder with motivation and fitness issues, a hard-throwing LH reliever with considerable control issues and a Low-A lottery ticket.

Javy Vazquez didn't fail because he had an outlier season in 2009, he didn't fail because he moving from a pitcher's ballpark in the weaker league, he didn't fail because of some mysterious curse of a post-Braves existence, he didn't fail because he's was going to be pitching as a fly-ball pitcher in a home run park.

Take a look at his 2011 season in Florida, in a pitcher's park, in the weaker league. His ERA+ is 80, just like it was in 2010.

Javy Vazquez failed because he lost 2 mph off his fastball before the start of the 2010 season and then, after he had made the adjustment to that drop, lost another 2 mph coming out of the 2010 All Star break and that's something he just couldn't overcome.

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