"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Category: Diane Firstman

Making a Splash

Our old pal Diane Firstman weighs in on Robin Ventura over at ESPN’s Sweet Spot blog. Don’t miss it.

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!

Once Again, The Whirled Serious

It’s Rangers vs. the Cards. A friend of mine was moaning today because he doesn’t like either team. I suggested that he focus on the loser instead of paying attention to the winning team. He can’t go wrong that way (kind of like Arthur Rhodes getting a ring no matter what). Or something like that. I don’t have any great love or hatred for the Cards or the Rangers so I’m rooting for seven games.

The BP crew has the preview, and Diane has one, too.

Let’s Go Base-ball!

[Picture of Ron Washington Jack O’Latern:  Big League Stew via High Leverage Inning]

More Fun With Words


Dig Diane get all Star Wars with it.

[Photo Credit: Ayolucas]

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!

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)

Word Play

Diane makes the big time.

Mazelprops.

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.

What's New?

Our pal Diane Firstman has a new site–with a great name–Value Over Replacement Grit. Bookmark it and make it a regular stop.

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"]

[poll id="78"]

[poll id="79"]

[poll id="80"]

[poll id="81"]

(more…)

2011 Season Predictions – Part 1

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

[poll id="71"]

[poll id="72"]

[poll id="73"]

(more…)

feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver