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Twelve Days of Christmas – Baseball Names Edition

 

So, have you heard enough holiday music yet?  Are you missing baseball enough?  If the answer to both questions is “yes”, please take a gander at my baseball name-oriented version of the “12 Days of Christmas”.

Enjoy!

Million Dollar Movie

Aliens (1986)

In 1979, director Ridley Scott brought us “Alien“, a horror/sci-fi film revolving around the crew of a space freighter Nostromo battling a merciless extraterrestrial being wanting to use humans as “hosts”.  The alien being “attached” to the face of the victim, and implanted its egg down the victim’s throat.  The egg would grow and eventually a new “baby alien” would announce its presence by bursting through the victim’s chest.  Oh, and the blood of these aliens appears to be a highly corrosive acid, so please don’t let any of it get on you.

The film provided a rarity … a female lead character (Ellen Ripley, portrayed by a then-barely known Sigourney Weaver) that didn’t launch into a “Perils of Pauline” dialogue during a crisis.  The movie was an unexpected hit.  Seven years later, James Cameron, fresh off his massive hit “The Terminator,”  gave us “Aliens”.  Rarely has a sequel measured up to its predecessor, let alone surpassed it.

As the film opens Ripley, (the only human survivor from the destroyed Nostromo of the original film) is rescued and revived after drifting for years in a space shuttle while in a form of “hypersleep”.  Her employers, a corporation named Weyland-Yutani, do not believe her tale of the “alien” encounter as no physical evidence of the creature survived the destruction of the Nostromo.   She has her space flight license suspended as a result of this, and learns that LV-426, the planet where her crew first encountered the Alien eggs, is now home to a terraforming colony.

Ripley is later visited by an employee of Weyland-Yutani, Carter Burke (Paul Reiser, in a rare dramatic turn)  and Lieutenant Gorman (William Hope) of the Colonial Marines, who inform her that contact has been lost with the colony on LV-426. The company decides to dispatch Burke and a unit of marines to investigate.  Ripley is given the chance to restore her flight status and have her work contract picked up if she will accompany them as a consultant. Naturally shell-shocked by her previous encounter with the Alien, Ripley initially refuses to join, but finally accepts as she realizes she can face her post-traumatic fears. Aboard the warship Sulaco she is introduced to the Colonial Marines, including Sergeant Apone (Al Matthews, who it turns out actually was a Marine for six years), Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn, working with Cameron again after starring in “The Terminator”), Privates Vasquez (the wonderful chameleon of an actress Jenette Goldstein) and Hudson (Bill Paxton, another Cameron holdover from “The Terminator”), and the android Bishop (Lance Henriksen, and yes, he appeared in “The Terminator” as well).

The Marines are dropped onto the surface of the planet and find the colony seemingly deserted.  The gungho troops, pumped up by Sergeant Apone but led by the soon-to-be-revealed very inexperienced and over-his-head Gorman, have never encountered anything like this.  Their entrance into the colony’s main building is at first executed with typical military precision, but when things start to turn against them, and members are picked off one-by-one by Aliens, Gorman freezes, and Ripley takes over.

A little while later, two living Alien creatures (having hatched from the eggs that had been inside their human hosts) are found in containment tanks in the medical lab, and the only colonist found is a traumatized young girl nicknamed Newt (Carrie Henn).  Henn, no more than eight or nine when the movie was shot, gives a wonderfully nuanced performance.  It is an exquisite look of utter blankness and shock upon her face as she is discovered, initially resists being “captured” by the Marines, and finally allows Ripley to hold her and calm her down.  (Interestingly, this is Henn’s only acting credit in her life . . . she grew up to be a schoolteacher).

Flashing forward a bit, Ripley discovers that Burke hopes to return Alien specimens to the company laboratories where he can profit from their use as biological weapons. She threatens to expose him, but Bishop soon informs the group of a greater threat: the planet’s energy processing station has become unstable and will soon detonate with a catastrophic impact. Now it becomes a race not to save any survivors on the planet, but to just get off the planet.

Ripley, with her maternal instinct dial now at “full”, and Newt fall asleep in the medical laboratory, awakening to find themselves locked in the room with the two facehuggers, which have been released from their tanks. Ripley alerts the marines, who rescue them and kill the creatures. Ripley accuses Burke of attempting to smuggle implanted Alien embryos past Earth’s quarantine inside her and Newt, and of planning to kill the rest of the marines in hypersleep during the return trip. The electricity is suddenly cut off and numerous Aliens attack through the ceiling. An extended and tense battle scene ensues, with Hudson, Burke, Gorman, and Vasquez eventually all killed and Newt captured by the Aliens.

Ripley and an injured Hicks reach Bishop and a rescue dropship, but mama Ripley refuses to leave Newt behind as the countdown to planet extinction nears.  She locates Newt, and torches the Alien queen’s hive of eggs, enraging the queen.  In the film’s climactic scene, we see Ripley’s transformation from simple “employee” to “soldier”. She dons an “exosuit” normally used for loading heavy cargo, and utters to the Alien queen the catchphrase of the movie, summarizing her maternal instincts and pissed-off attitude in six simple words.

“Get away from her you bitch!”

Grab your popcorn, settle on your couch, and hold onto a pillow … tight.   You are in for one scary adrenaline-fueled ride.

Bombers Bunt-Bunt-Bloop-Blast beats Burnett’s blahness

A.J. Burnett toed the rubber Wednesday night looking to extend the Yankees recent string of good starting pitching.  The Yanks’ current five-game win streak had been fueled by a 5-0, 2.25 ERA run by “CC and the question marks” (Burnett was the last starting pitcher before the streak, and was coming off a horrible, winless July).  They had also jumped out to early leads in most of those games, 23-2 in the first three innings of the last four games.  In Gavin Floyd, the Bombers were facing someone who had gone 3-0 with a 0.81 ERA in his last three starts, and 2-1 with a 3.06 and 32 Ks in 35.3 innings in his last five games versus the Yanks.

Brett Gardner started the game with a perfect bunt on the grass near the third base line and then Derek Jeter followed that up with his own perfect bunt that stayed fair in the dirt portion of the third base line.  (So when is the last time a team has started a game with two bunt singles?  Anyone? Bueller?).  After 90 total feet of singles, Curtis Granderson got badly jammed on a Floyd fastball, but muscled it out into short center, dunking it just in front of Alex Rios to put ducks on the pond.

Hot-hitting Mark Teixeira lofted the first pitch he saw to deep center for a sac fly, and Rios inexplicably tried to nail Jeter going to third.  Jeter made it safely, and Granderson moved to second on the throw.  The White Sox elected to pitch to, and not pitch around Cano with first base open, and he made them pay with a three-run shot to the right-field bleachers on an 88-mph cutter.

So Burnett had a comfy 4-0 lead as he took the mound.  Juan Pierre led off with a line drive down in the right field corner that bounced into the stands for a ground rule double.  Omar Vizquel then offered up his own bunt down the third base line that was moving from foul territory back fair.  Eric Chavez tried to pick it up while it was still foul, but was too late, putting runners on first and third.  Carlos Quentin lofted a sac fly to Gardner, and Burnett escaped the inning still leading 4-1.

The Yanks extended the lead to 6-1 in the second on a Gardner hit-by-pitch, a Jeter single to right and a Granderson double, all coming with two out, as Floyd’s breaking ball was sitting up in the strike zone and being hit hard.   But Burnett was still not comfortable as he yielded consecutive one-out singles (both on 3-1 counts) to Rios and Alejandro de Aza.  But he recovered to get Brent Morel to ground into a force, and Pierre to fly to center to end the threat.

New York decided to put Floyd out of his misery in the third as four of the first five batters reached base, including Chavez’s first homer as a Yankee, a 404-foot shot to right.  Will Ohman came in and was no better, allowing a single to Gardner and a 2-run single to Jeter.  After Granderson struck out, Teixeira lined a shot towards center field.  Rios took a bad route to the ball (even though it was in front of him), and played it off to his left side.  The ball bounced just in front of Rios, and skipped past his glove, rolling all the way to the wall.  It was mysteriously scored a triple for Teixeira, and after Cano singled him in, the Yanks had a seemingly-Burnettproof 13-1 lead.

But the enigmatic and frustrating Burnett yielded five runs on five hits in the bottom of the fourth, capped by a Carlos Quentin three-run shot on a hanging curve.  So the Jets led the Bears 13-6.  Chicago drove down the field again the next inning, knocking Burnett out of the game after a single, a double and a hustling double by de Aza pared the lead down to 13-7.  Joe Girardi walked to the mound, Burnett shoved the ball in Girardi’s hand, and A.J. then tore off his uniform top as he descended the dugout steps into the tunnel.  Cory Wade put out the fire without any more runs scoring.  Burnett’s final line: 4.1 IP, 13 H, 7 R.

Wade kept things quiet in the sixth, and the Yanks pounded former teammate Brian Bruney, and then Matt Thornton, for four more runs on five hits in the 7th to take the pressure back off.  Jeter collected his fifth hit (and fourth run) of the night in the 8th as the Bombers tacked on another run, and the Yanks had an 18-7 win.

But the big question remains, “what to do with Burnett?”

 

 

 

 

 

Reality Bites

If you read USS Mariner or FanGraphs, you undoubtedly know the name Dave Cameron.  Dave is one of the founders of the USS Mariner site, and is now the full-time managing editor and operator of the FanGraphs site.  Today he posted a very sobering entry:

Here on FanGraphs, we talk a lot about probability and likely outcomes. When making a decision, we think it’s generally wise to understand historical precedent, and to learn from history rather than repeat it.

But, there are times in life that you’re not making a decision, and knowledge of the probability of outcomes just doesn’t help at all. You are just rooting for one specific result, even if you don’t have any control over whether it occurs or not.

I’m now in one of those situations. Last week, I was informed that I have Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a particularly nasty member of the cancer family. History has given my doctors all kinds of data about cure rates and life expectancy, and statistical analysis is helping them decide just what kind of chemotherapy I’ll be taking in a few hours, which I’m really thankful for.

Cameron’s outlook seems positive, as evidenced later on in the entry:

…  Save the odds for the doctors; I’m planning on living a long time. I’m planning on beating this thing. I’m planning on watching the Mariners win a game, and at this rate, that might take years. I want to be around to see it, though, and I just don’t care what the odds say is likely.

We at the Banter wish Dave well … here’s to a swift and full recovery!

Jeteronomy The Milestone: Take Two

Lasting Derek Jeter Memories: Hit #2,722

(VOICEOVER)

“When he enters a room, there is always a recording of Bob Sheppard announcing his presence …”

“The Oxford English Dictionary apologized to him for neglecting to include the word ‘Jeterian’”

“He has brought such honor to his uniform number, when little kids have to go to the bathroom, their mothers say ‘do you have to do a number 3?’”

“He is . . . the most interesting shortstop the Yankees have had since Tony Fernandez.”

(CUT TO SHOT OF JETER SEATED AT TABLE SURROUNDED BY MINKA KELLY AND HER EQUALLY-ATTRACTIVE GAL PALS)

“I don’t often drink . . . but when I do, I never drive my new 2011 Ford Edge with the cool Panoramic Vista roof immediately afterwards.”

* * *

Once upon a time, in the days before free agency, “franchise players” were plentiful.  Most of the upper echelon teams had at least one such player.  Even some of the sad sack teams had their icon.

Here’s a list of the “2,000 or more games in career, all for one team” retired players club

Player G From To Tm
Honus Wagner 2298 1901 1917 PIT
Lou Gehrig 2164 1923 1939 NYY
Charlie Gehringer 2323 1924 1942 DET
Mel Ott 2730 1926 1947 NYG
Luke Appling 2422 1930 1950 CHW
Ted Williams 2292 1939 1960 BOS
Stan Musial 3026 1941 1963 STL
Mickey Mantle 2401 1951 1968 NYY
Ernie Banks 2528 1953 1971 CHC
Al Kaline 2834 1953 1974 DET
Roberto Clemente 2433 1955 1972 PIT
Brooks Robinson 2896 1955 1977 BAL
Bill Mazeroski 2163 1956 1972 PIT
Carl Yastrzemski 3308 1961 1983 BOS
Willie Stargell 2360 1962 1982 PIT
Johnny Bench 2158 1967 1983 CIN
Bill Russell 2181 1969 1986 LAD
Dave Concepcion 2488 1970 1988 CIN
Mike Schmidt 2404 1972 1989 PHI
George Brett 2707 1973 1993 KCR
Frank White 2324 1973 1990 KCR
Robin Yount 2856 1974 1993 MIL
Jim Rice 2089 1974 1989 BOS
Lou Whitaker 2390 1977 1995 DET
Alan Trammell 2293 1977 1996 DET
Cal Ripken 3001 1981 2001 BAL
Tony Gwynn 2440 1982 2001 SDP
Barry Larkin 2180 1986 2004 CIN
Edgar Martinez 2055 1987 2004 SEA
Craig Biggio 2850 1988 2007 HOU
Jeff Bagwell 2150 1991 2005 HOU
Bernie Williams 2076 1991 2006 NYY

Nowadays, the Braves’ Chipper Jones and the Yankees captain are two of the few active “iconic” players in baseball, easily identified by their career-long associations with their respective teams.

With career-long associations with one franchise comes the inevitable march up the team leaderboard for many counting stats, and hits is probably the “showcase” number.  Here are the current franchise leaders for each team (excusing the Yankees for a moment):

Franchise Leader Total
Detroit Ty Cobb 3,902
St. Louis Stan Musial 3,630
Atlanta Hank Aaron 3,600
Boston Carl Yastrzemksi 3,419
Cincinnati Pete Rose 3,358
San Francisco Willie Mays 3,187
Baltimore Cal Ripken Jr. 3,184
Kansas City George Brett 3,154
Milwaukee Robin Yount 3,142
San Diego Tony Gwynn 3,141
Houston Craig Biggio 3,060
Pittsburgh Roberto Clemente 3,000
Minnesota Sam Rice 2,889
Los Angeles (NL) Zack Wheat 2,804
Chicago (AL) Luke Appling 2,749
Chicago (NL) Ernie Banks 2,583
Los Angeles (AL) Garrett Anderson 2,368
Colorado Todd Helton (active) 2,308
Seattle Edgar Martinez 2,247
Philadelphia Mike Schmidt 2,234
Cleveland Nap Lajoie 2,046
Texas Michael Young (active) 1,949
Oakland Bert Campaneris 1,882
Washington Tim Wallach 1,694
Toronto Tony Fernandez 1,583
Tampa Bay Carl Crawford 1,480
New York (NL) Ed Kranepool 1,418
Arizona Luis Gonzalez 1,337
Florida Luis Castillo 1,273

Given the Yankees history, its surprising to note that the Bombers have never had a 3,000 hit man.  Though Joltin’ Joe, The Mick and the Iron Horse all eclipsed 2,000 hits in a Yankee uni, Joe DiMaggio lost three prime years to the service and Mickey Mantle and Lou Gehrig saw their productivity diminished due to injury and illness respectively.

So when Derek Sanderson Jeter came upon the scene in 1995, no one could have foreseen that this polite, photogenic and disciplined shortstop would stand upon the precipice of Yankee history on the night of September 11, 2009.  Jeter’s inside-out, line drive to right-center machine of a swing had pumped out 2,721 hits to that point, knotting him with Gehrig.

Despite it being the eighth anniversary of the Taliban attacks that killed nearly 3,000 New Yorkers, and despite a rainshower that delayed the start of the game by nearly 90 minutes, there was electricity and anticipation in the new Stadium that night. A near-capacity crowd of 46,771 braved the elements to cheer on The Captain.

The Yanks faced Chris Tillman of the Orioles.  Tillman was making only his ninth career start in the Majors.  Leading off the bottom of the first, Jeter struck out swinging on a 1-2 pitch, but Alex Rodriguez hit a three-run homer later in the inning, and the Yanks still led 3-1 when Jeter stepped to the plate leading off the third.

He took the first two pitches for balls, then in truly “Jeterian” form, rapped a single between Orioles’ first baseman Luke Scott and the foul line, with Nick Markakis tracking the ball down as it made its way towards the right field corner. Jeter rounded first, clapped his hands and returned to the base.  He shook first base coach Mick Kelleher’s hand, handed him his shin guard, and then, the Yankees filed out of the dugout amidst a thunderous two-minute standing ovation and chants of “Jeter! Jeter!” from the crowd. Jeter’s father could be seen high-fiving anyone and everyone he could up in one of the Yankee suites. In the opposing dugout, the Orioles clapped in appreciation of the achievement.

It was an odd sight, as the Yanks (and Orioles) were all wearing red caps for the memory of “9/11″, but the night belonged to Yankee navy blue and white. Jeter would end up two for four on the night, leaving the game after a second rain delay. The Yanks would end up losing the game 10-4, but with a nine game lead in the division heading into play and only 20 games remaining, the loss was rendered especially insignificant. Derek Jeter had broken the 72-year-old hits record of Lou Gehrig, and the “new” Yankee Stadium had its first truly memorable moment.

Last Night Was So Much Fun, Let's Do It Again!

The Yankees, coming off a 12-4 thumping of the Rangers Tuesday behind a good but not great CC Sabathia, took the field Wednesday night behind the inconsistent Ivan Nova, with a line-up that resembled one that Billy Martin would occasionally pull from a hat.

With Derek Jeter “decalfinated” and lefty Derek Holland pitching for the Rangers, Joe Girardi chose to sit the hot Brett Gardner, and installed Nick Swisher as his leadoff man.  Swisher last led off back in 2008 as a member of the White Sox.  The line-up also featured Alex Rodriguez at DH, Ramiro Pena manning third, Eduardo Nunez at short and yet another start for the embattled Francisco Cervelli.  Fortunately for the Yanks, Mr. Holland’s opus when it comes to the Bombers is an atonal dirge.  Coming into the game, in 21.2 innings versus the Yanks, Holland had allowed 41 baserunners and an 8.31 ERA.

Neither starting pitcher distinguished himself.  They each had only one 1-2-3 inning before getting the hook.  Nova gave up two in the top of the first on two hits and a walk, and offered up one of the worst (highest) pitchouts seen in baseball in 2011, giving Cervelli no chance to cut down Ian Kinsler.

Mark Teixeira evened the score in the bottom of the frame with a long homer just to the left of the “State Farm” sign in left, and the Yanks could have had more if not for Holland deflecting a Nunez hot shot up the middle and turning it into a 1-6-3 DP.  They added a run in the second, but Nova promptly gave the lead back on a booming homer to Kinsler and an Adrian Beltre sac fly in the third.

Nunez, celebrating his 24th birthday, took Holland deep to tie the score at 4 in the 4th. After the Yanks took a 6-4 lead in the 5th, Curtis Granderson saved Nova’s night, thwarting a Ranger rally in the 6th, by cutting down Yorvit Torrealba at the plate on an Andrus single to center with two on and two out.  From there, the Yanks battered Mark Lowe, Darren Oliver and Neftali Feliz for six runs on five hits and three walks.  Included in the barrage was a bleacher shot by Ramiro Pena (!), another bomb by Teixeira (from the left side of the plate, marking the 11th time in his career he has homered from both sides in the same game), and a Robinson Cano three-run blast in the ninth.

Final score . . . just like before . . . 12-4.

 

 

 

 

 

RISP Averse

The Mets hospital ward team came into Yankee Stadium Friday night missing starting third baseman David Wright, center fielder Angel Pagan, first baseman Ike Davis and staff ace Johan Santana. Since the beginning of the 2010 season, the anticipated heart of the lineup (Beltran, Wright and Jason Bay) have been active at the same time for a total of 27 games. Their starting infield tonight: Daniel Murphy (1B), Ruben Tejada (2B), Jose Reyes (SS) and Justin Turner (3B). Not quite the ’77 Dodgers. Despite this, and a 5-13 start to the season, new manager Terry Collins had them at 21-22, five games behind the first place Phillies.

R.A. Dickey, the Mets knuckleballing starter, had been cuffed around for most of the early season (1-5, 5.08 ERA).  The Yanks countered with Freddy Garcia, who was probably salivating over the depleted opposition, given the way the Red Sox treated him in his last start (5 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, 2 HR, 5 ER).

Unfortunately for Garcia, Dickey had an ally on this night, namely the Yankees continued inability to get a clutch hit.  Going into the evening, the Bombers were 9th in the AL in batting average with 2 out and runners in scoring position (.219).  The worst offender, Nick Swisher, finally got his first hit in 20 tries Thursday night in Baltimore.  He couldn’t offer a repeat performance.

Alex Rodriguez doubled to right-center to start the bottom of the 2nd.  Robbie Cano struck out and Russell Martin grounded out.  Jorge Posada worked a walk and Swisher was plunked on the knee by a 68-mph flutterball to load the bases.  Alas, Brett Gardner hit a two hopper to Turner for a force at third to end the threat.

Mark Teixeira cracked his 11th homer of 2011 with two out in the third for the game’s first run . . . a wall-scraper that landed in the first row of the right field seats just over Beltran’s outstretched glove.  The Mets got the run back in the fourth on a two-out double by DH Fernando Martinez and a double down the right field line by Turner (one of his three hits on the night).

The Yanks had chances to retake the lead over the next two innings.  Swisher came up with two outs and Martin on second in the fourth and struck out.   Gardner and Derek Jeter reached safely to start the fifth, but Curtis Granderson flew to right, Teixeira was caught looking and Rodriguez grounded to short.

The Mets reclaimed the lead in their half of the sixth on a leadoff homer by Daniel Murphy inside the right field foul pole.  Garcia subsequently walked Beltran and two outs later Turner dunked a ground rule double in front of a diving Swisher (fortunate for the Yanks as Beltran would have scored had the ball stayed in play).  Garcia wiggled out of trouble by getting Josh Thole to bounce out to Teixeira.   Dickey survived another runner in scoring position jam in the bottom of the inning, as Russell Martin’s one-out double went for naught with strikeouts of Posada and Swisher.  And that was the last threat (and baserunner) the Yanks would muster, as three Met relievers combined to strike out five of the last nine Yankee batters.

In all, the Yanks went 1-10 with runners in scoring position, and wasted a good bounceback effort by Garcia (with solid relief from David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain, each of whom allowed one single and struck out two in their respective inning of work).

Final: Mets 2, Yanks 1.

Harmon Killebrew dies at 74

 

A sad day for Twins fans and the baseball community, as legendary slugger Harmon Killebrew passed away this morning at 74, from esophageal cancer.

Personally, Killebrew was on the down side of his career by the time I got into baseball, but I still vividly remember the Yankees yearbooks of the early 70s featuring pictures of the Twins masher as part of their “Visiting Stars”.

For what it was worth, Killebrew compiled a line of .239/.333/.455 with 22 homers in 121 career games at Yankee Stadium.

May he rest in peace.

(Over at SI.com, Steve Rushin has a nice obit.)

Bantermetrics: Chicks Dig the Long Names (NYY Edition)

Over at my VORG site, I ran down the players with the longest names in Major League history.  Let’s do that same exercise, but only for the Bombers.  A few ground rules first.  We won’t include dashes, periods or hyphens in the letter count.  We won’t include nicknames unless the nickname was the player’s entire first name (ex. Catfish Hunter would be allowable, Bullet Joe Bush would not.)

Let’s start with first names.  The Yanks have had five players with nine letter first names. Everyone’s favorite Brains, Francisco Cervelli, is the most current entry.  The Yanks employed Jonathan Albaladejo from 2007-10 (he’s now pitching in Japan, and yes, we’ll again be seeing him later on in this piece).  Wormkiller Chien-Ming Wang was a 19-game winner in 2006 and 2007.  We next come to Christian Parker, who made one poor start for the 2001 Yankees (but they gladly took Parker and others in order to make Hideki Irabu an Expo).  Finally, there is Glenallen Hill, a mid-2000 acquisition who posted a .735 slugging percentage (16 homers) in 143 PAs.

Turning to last names, you might think Doug Mientkiewicz’s 12 letter surname has the honors, but Dougie is beaten out by Bill Knickerbocker.  Knickerbocker, a marginal middle infielder in the late 1930s, compiled quite the stolen base record in his career, netting a mere 25 steals in 71 attempts.

Finally, for total name length, Albaladejo’s 18 is matched by Claudell Washington.  Washington’s most memorable Yankee moment might have been April 20, 1988, when he launched the franchise’s 10,000th homerun, a pinch-hit job off of the Twins’ Jeff Reardon.

Till next time!

[Photo Credit: Was Watching]

The Ex-Catcher is Awry

For all the hand-wringing regarding Derek “4-3ter” Jeter, the Yanks are getting even less out of their DH, mainly in the form of Jorge Posada.

Posada’s current .152/.257/.354 line in 113 plate appearances is ugly enough.  Of the 173 players who have amassed at least that many plate appearances this season, Posada ranks dead last in batting average (Kelly Johnson is next in line, at a comparatively gaudy .175), tenth-lowest in OBP (though still higher than the $142 million man Carl Crawford’s .250), and 118th-best in slugging (between Michael Cuddyer and the recently-exiled Milton Bradley).

If we consider only DHs, Posada fares no better. Of the DHs with 75 or more plate appearances, Posada is last (out of 13) in BA, next-to-last in OBP (ahead of only Magglio Ordonez) and fifth-worst in slugging.  And its not like its all about age, as 4 other DHs are 37 years old.

We all know that offense is down again in 2011, and DHs are not immune to this, as they’ve hit a composite .257/.339/.394 so far.  But the question remains, could someone (anyone) provide more offense for a role that is ONLY about offense?

We know the Jeter slippery slope towards (and below) mediocrity still has a while to play out.   The Yanks have no better internal option in the near-term.  But what about Posada?  The Yanks owe him nothing after this season, and swallowing the remainder of his 2011 salary (roughly another $11 million) would certainly sting a bit, even for the Steinbrenners.  But the Yanks do have a viable DH option down in Triple A, and we all know Jesus Montero’s value is heavily tilted towards his bat.

Looking forward towards the July 31 trade deadline, promoting Montero to full-time DH now would allow for roughly 70 games/280 at-bats to showcase what he can do at the major league level.  Assuming the Yanks will throw enough money at Russell Martin to bring him back for 2012 (when he’ll still be only 29), Montero can be safely dealt for whatever needs the Yanks may have at that time (starting pitching most likely, and middle infield help better than Pena and Nunez).

Or . . . the Yanks could hold onto Montero through the end of the year (presuming he’s putting up a 800+ OPS), and then value the free agent market before involving him in a deal.

Rob Neyer wonders the same wonder as I do, and comes down on the status quo side:

. . . nearly all of Montero’s value as a hitter this season is due to his batting average … and batting average is highly subject to luck. Which isn’t to say Montero’s not a high-average hitter; he’s got a .315 career batting average in the minors. But he might not really be a .337 hitter in Class AAA, and he might not be a .300 hitter in the American League. And given the paucity of walks and power, if he’s not hitting .300 he’s not creating many runs. Not yet, anyway.

That said, I do not think the timing is a real issue. Since when do the Yankees care about someone’s “Super 2″ status? Plus, the rules regarding such things might well be different after this season, since they’re a part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that expires soon. What the Yankees probably do care about is Montero’s development. Do they want a 21-year-old catcher serving as their primary DH? Alternatively, do they want their primary catcher learning on the job, while Russell Martin or someone else is DHing?

No, probably not.

Opinions?

The Weighting is the Hardest Part

The last time Bartolo Colon started a major league game was 635 days ago . . .  July 24, 2009.  On that date, Phil Hughes still had a 94 mph fastball, Derek Jeter was hitting .320/.396/.451 and Joba Chamberlain started that night’s game, throwing 7+ innings of two-hit ball.

Much has transpired within the Yanks starting pitching ranks since then, and retirement/injury/inefficiency thrust the well-traveled (and fed) Colon into the starting rotation for tonight’s matchup against the Blue Jays, and their own “Hefty B.C.”, 6’1″ 235-pound Brett Cecil.  Cecil started five games against the Bombers in 2010 and went 4-0.  But he had been dealing with his own Hughesque decline in velocity and it continued in this game.

The Yanks eschewed their usual smashmouth offense for much of the game, jumping out to a 5-1 lead after six innings, with four of the runs scoring on either sacrifice flies or groundouts. Meanwhile, Colon turned the clock back to his Cy Young form of 2005, flashing a fastball at 93 or 94 and mixing in lots of late-breaking off-speed stuff.  His only mistake was a hanging slider that J.P. Arencibia parked in the left field stands leading off the second.  Through the first six innings, Colon allowed only two flyballs and two other hits (both singles).

Colon started to tire in the seventh, and the Jays were poised for a huge inning.  With one out, Juan Encanarcion doubled to right and Arencibia followed with a walk.  Travis Snider then singled sharply to right, and Nick Swisher charged the ball and threw a strike to cutoff man Mark Teixeira, holding Encanarcion at third.  The only problem for the Jays was that Arencibia never stopped running, rounding second too far with his head down, and he also ended up on third.  Teixeira ran over and tagged anyone with a Blue Jay uni on, and suddenly it was two outs and men on the corners rather than one out and bases loaded.

That was Colon’s 89th and final pitch (56 of them for strikes).  David Robertson came in and Jayson Nix battled him for eight pitches before driving an RBI single to center to cut it to 5-2.  Robertson held the fort there as he got John McDonald swinging.

In the 9th, Curtis Granderson greeted Frank Francisco, making his 2011 (and Blue Jay) debut, by slamming the first pitch over the RF wall for a 6-2 margin.  With Mariano Rivera needing a day off, and a four-run lead, Joe Girardi summoned Lance Pendleton to close it out.  Pendleton walked two of the three batters to face him, and Rafael Soriano had to put out the mess.  He managed to do that despite walking the bases loaded.

Final: 6-2 Yanks

Notes: Teixeira had three doubles, to three different parts of the park.  Derek Jeter went 0-5 with one of the RBI groundouts, but four ABs ended with the ball in the infield.

Ready to Feel Old?

Don Mattingly turns 50 today.  Happy Birthday to Donnie Baseball!

(image: Topps Heritage)

Bantermetrics: Grounding Jeter

Much has been made of the ever-increasing frequency of Derek Jeter’s ABs ending in a grounder to short or second.

I decided to take a look at this via Baseball Reference.  Here is Jeter’s year-by-year games, ABs that ended in a ball to the infield, total ABs for the year, and the percentage of total ABs that ended in the infield.

Year G Infield AB Infield/G Tot AB Inf AB/ Tot
1995 15 20 1.33 48 42%
1996 157 196 1.25 582 34%
1997 159 287 1.81 654 44%
1998 149 259 1.74 626 41%
1999 158 214 1.35 627 34%
2000 148 217 1.47 593 37%
2001 150 243 1.62 614 40%
2002 157 268 1.71 644 42%
2003 119 188 1.58 482 39%
2004 154 248 1.61 643 39%
2005 159 272 1.71 654 42%
2006 154 268 1.74 623 43%
2007 156 263 1.69 639 41%
2008 150 266 1.77 596 45%
2009 153 278 1.82 634 44%
2010 157 333 2.12 663 50%
2011 9 23 2.56 34 68%

Verdict: Many more worms are dying at the hands of the Captain.

We're talkin' Scrabble (no Kluszewski, no Campanella)

Yours truly is the “Listener of the Week” on the Baseball Prospectus “Up and In” podcast.  I get to talk about the world of competitive tournament Scrabble.

If you don’t feel like listening to the entire podcast (Itunes link), just forward to the 1:09:36 mark.

Up and In Podcast

Enjoy!

2011 Season Predictions – Part 2

As promised, we’re now polling the Banter masses regarding various Yankee-centric items for 2011:

[poll id="77"]

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2011 Season Predictions – Part 1

Let’s poll the Banter masses regarding which teams will be playing meaningful games in October:

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Banter Battle 2011

Its time once again for Fantasy Baseball at the Banter. The third annual “Banter Battle” over at Yahoo is free, but restricted to returning owners, and new owners who pledge to NOT abandon their teams during the season. We had 20 teams last season, but four of them made NO moves at all during the year. Those four aren’t going to been invited back.  Sorry.

http://baseball.fantasysports.yahoo.com/b1

League ID: 78376

Password: sandman

There will be a live on-line draft on Wednesday March 23 at 9:30 Eastern.  You can pre-rank your draft if you can’t make the live draft.

Hope to see you there!

Foot Fault

The foul ball that nailed Francisco Cervelli’s foot earlier this week has turned into a worst-case scenario, as further tests reveal a fracture.  Cervelli will miss a minimum of four weeks, with some estimates extending to eight weeks.

Paging Jesus Montero!

Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects

Baseball America unveiled their Top 100 Prospect list today.

Six Yankees made the list:

3. Jesus Montero, c
30. Gary Sanchez, c
41. Manny Banuelos, lhp
43. Dellin Betances, rhp
78. Andrew Brackman, rhp
98. Austin Romine, c

In terms of sheer number of prospects, this is the best showing for the organization since 1999, when the Bombers also placed six in the top 100 (including SS Alfonso Soriano and 3B Drew Henson).

Montero’s #3 ranking is the highest for any Yankee prospect since Joba Chamberlain was the #3 prospect in 2008.  Montero was 38th on the 2009 list, and fourth last year.

In 2010, the Yanks placed only two names on this list (Montero and Romine).

Read more about the BA 100 here.

(photo: NY Daily News)

Going Prospecting

Over at Baseball Prospectus, Kevin Goldstein runs down the Yanks’ Top 11 prospects. Here’s some tidbits on the big names:

1. Jesus Montero, C

The Good: . . . plus-plus power and hitting ability. . . . excellent bat speed, fantastic hands, quick wrists, and immense strength . . . drive balls out of any part of the park while maintaining a high batting average. . . . continued improvement in his approach . . .

The Bad: . . . remains a well below-average catcher . . . just isn’t designed to play to position. . . . poor receiver who handcuffs balls. . . trouble blocking pitches in the dirt, . . . arm strength  mitigated by the amount of time it takes his immense frame to get out of a crouch and release the ball. . . .

2. Manny Banuelos, LHP

The Good: . . . added significant velocity in 2010, with a fastball that suddenly was sitting at 92-94 mph while touching 96. His changeup is a true plus offering with excellent fade and deception . . . consistency with it rarely found in a pitcher so young. . . . a good curve, . . . extremely easy mechanics and clean arm action that combine to provide above-average command and control.

The Bad: . . .  curveball can be inconsistent, and he clearly loses feel for the pitch at times. . . . small frame is cause for some concern, and he has yet to throw more than 109 innings in a season, so his ability to handle a big-league workload is unproven.

4. Dellin Betances, RHP

The Good: . . . fastball sits in the low to mid-90s, consistently touches 97 mph, features some natural tailing action, and that’s not even his best pitch, power curveball . . . comes in hard and then falls off the table. . . . made some progress with a changeup, . . . delivery is much cleaner than the one from his pre-surgery days.

The Bad: . . . only pitched 85 1/3 innings last year, has thrown less than 300 in his five years as a pro, and he needs to prove that he can maintain his stuff over a full season. His changeup is still highly inconsistent, as he can lose feel on it and overthrow. He has put significant bulk on his frame over the past three years, and conditioning could be an issue down the road.

7. Andrew Brackman, RHP

The Good: . . . fastball generally sits in the low 90s, touches 96 mph, and his height adds considerable downward plane to the pitch, leading to plenty of ground balls. His curve was once a fringy offering, but he’s refined it into an easy plus offering by focusing more on spin than velocity. . .  scouts noted a much more consistent delivery.

The Bad: . . . had starts where his heat sat at 90-92, and others where he rarely went below 94, and still had some occasional struggles with finding the strike zone. His changeup remains a below-average pitch, as he telegraphs it with notably different arm action.

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