"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: CC Sabathia
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Satisfaction

We may have to take our pleasure in small doses this year, $200 million payroll be damned, and today offered plenty of things to make us happy. Like Francisco Cervelli and Jayson Nix touching Justin Verlander early, staking the Yanks to a 3-0 to lead that was never in peril. And Kevin Youkilis irritating Verlander in the first inning when Youk hit a double. He’d just missed a home run on the first pitch of the at bat (long foul ball), and then doubled to left center field. He yelled something as he ran to first and when he reached second, Verlander stepped to him and screamed, “What did you say?” I don’t know if Youk was talking trash or just yelling at himself but the man has a talent for pissing people off.

Or how about CC Sabathia, still only throwing his fastball around 90 mph, handling the Tigers’ impressive hitters and throwing seven scoreless innings? Yeah, that was best of all. Some late insurance runs  put the game out of reach. Hell, even watching the Great Mariano work out of a jam in the ninth, striking out Torii Hunter–man, that dude has never done well against Mo–to end the game was pleasing.

Final Score: Yanks 7, Tigers 0.

“I don’t care who they got missing, that’s the Yankees,” Verlander told The Associated Press. “They have a winning mentality about them, and they’re going to find a way to win this year. You don’t ever take anything for granted. As you saw, it was the bottom of the lineup that did the damage.”
(Via Lo-Hud)

We’ll take it.

Photo Credit: Carlos Osorio/AP]

Terminal Velocity

 

Sounds goo, right? A totally in-my-face shoot ‘em up. CC Sabathia’s heater wasn’t that fast yesterday. Chad Jennings has the report.

I also nabbed this AP photo from Jennings’ great Yankee site. Okay, so there’s no game today, I got that wrong. But it is a new day.

Left Over

Elbow trouble for CC. Hopefully, it’s not too bad.

Thunder-in, Shakin’ the Concrete

The Orioles are dead. The reason I know this is I saw them lose with my own eyes. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have believed it.

They pursued the Yankees all summer long, took the ALDS to five games and in the eighth inning had the bases loaded with one out, down by a couple of runs. Right there biting at the Yankees’ heels because where else would they be? But tonight, CC Sabathia delivered arguably his finest performance as a Yankee. He not only got out of the jam in the eighth but he returned in the ninth and finished the game as the Yanks beat the Orioles 3-1 to advance to the ALCS.

The game began essentially where it left off last night and for the first four-and-a-half innings it was like watching Groundhog’s Day. No hits, no runs.

Then Mark Teixeira led off the bottom of the fifth with a single over the shift into right field. With first baseman Mark Reynolds playing behind him, Teixeira took a walking lead and then sprinted to second and made it safely. Raul Ibanez fouled off a few pitches and then singled Teixeira home. The next inning, Derek Jeter walked with one out and scored all the way from first on a double off the bottom of the right center field wall by Ichiro. And then in the seventh, Curtis Granderson finally got a pitch in the strike zone that he could handle, pounding it into the seats in right field for a home run.

That gave Sabathia a healthy 3-0 lead and he cruised through the Orioles lineup. The only bad moment–and it was a hold-your-breath-tight spot–came in the sixth when Nate McClouth launched a 3-2 pitch high into the right field seats. It went over the foul pole and was ruled foul. The Orioles protested, the umps huddled, and the replays showed that the ball was in fact foul. However, one replay, with an extreme close up of the pole, showed that the ball could have scraped the pole. You can see the ball slightly change directions as it passed the yellow stick. But it wasn’t clear enough to overturn the call and the umps upheld their original call. McClouth whiffed on the next pitch and before you knew it, Ichiro had given the Yanks a two-run cushion.

Sabathia worked easily through the seventh and then came his bend-but-don’t-break eighth. Matt Wieters singled to start the inning and Manny Machado followed with a walk. Mark Reynolds worked the count even, missed a fastball that got too much of the plate (fouling it off), and then whiffed on a breaking ball. Had a pitch, missed the pitch.

But Lew Ford hit a ground ball through the left side for a base hit–watching the replay it was as if someone yelled “Timber” as Jeter dove after it. I thought Brett Gardner, who’d just entered the game as a defensive replacement, had a play at the plate on the slow-footed Wieters but instead threw to third base in order to prevent the runners from advancing.

Robert Andino, another scrapper, hit a slow chopper toward third. Sabathia hopped after it, fielded and then hesitated for a moment, looking at third base. But Chavez had gone after the ball too and wasn’t near the bag. The play was to first, but Sabathia threw to second instead. Too late. His mistake loaded the bases.

He summoned up a mess of courage, struck out McClouth and then got JJ Hardy to hit a slow ground ball to short. Jeter charged in, fielded the ball, and then made an off balanced throw to first. It reached Teixeira in plenty of time for the third out. Jeter may not have much range but he didn’t botch the one right at him–and one he had to make a play on, it was no gimme–when the chips were down.

Sabathia came back out in the ninth, got Adam Jones to sky out to Gardner, struck out Chris Davis, and ended the game by getting Wieters to hit a harmless ground ball to the mound. Sabathia tossed the ball to Teixeira like he was tossing an egg at the county fair.

Final Score: Yanks 3, O’s 1.

CC is a Stud.

The Orioles were resilient and relentless. The Yankees, as fate had it, were a touch better, or luckier.

However you want to call it, the Bronx be happy.

Tomorrow gives the Tigers. Tonight gives relief, hugs, and love.

[Photo Credit: Alex Trautwig/Getty Images North America; Elsa/Getty Images North America]

Don’t Get Mad…


The Red Sox look to get even with the Yanks this afternoon. Fab Five Freddy Garcia–flammable so far this season–will pitch for the Bombers. C’mon, Freddy, hold that pill like a fuggin’ egg and throw the crap out of it.

Derek Jeter DH
Nick Swisher RF
Robinson Cano 2B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Curtis Granderson CF
Andruw Jones LF
Russell Martin C
Eduardo Nunez SS

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

 

Take It Like A Man

CC Sabathia, Francisco Cervelli, Joe Girardi

CC Sabathia heads to the dugout after giving up a 2-0 lead in the seventh. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

If a game happens and no one stays awake to watch it, did it actually happen? The answer, of course, is yes.

The start of Thursday’s game was delayed 3 hours and 27 minutes due to thunderstorms that ripped through the New York metropolitan area. The lone West Coast game in San Francisco started and finished before the Red Sox-Yankees series finale.

And if you thought a first-inning home run by Curtis Granderson, one that gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead, would be the start of a big night against Josh Beckett, you’d have thought wrong. Beckett, who entered the evening 2-0 against the Yankees this season, with 19 Ks and holding the Yankees to a .128 batting average against him through 14 innings, settled in and only allowed five more base runners (2 H, 2 HBP, 1 BB), and no one advanced beyond second base.

CC Sabathia, on the other hand, was an ace in his own right, but only through six innings. The turning point was a dumb-luck triple by Jed Lowrie to right field in the top of the seventh inning. The ball was scooting along the ground down the right field line, and Nick Swisher anticipated playing the carom. Instead, the ball stayed close to the ground and skidded, finding its way onto the metal below the padding of the wall and hydroplaned past Swisher and into the corner. Swisher fell down in the process. This mishap, all of which took about two seconds to develop, allowed David Ortiz, who led of the inning with a seemingly harmless single, to score.

At that point, you could sense the Red Sox’ attitude morph into a collective “We’ve got ‘em now.” And they did. When the carnage of the inning was completed, 11 men were sent to the plate, eight got hits, and seven scored. Ortiz alone had two hits, scored a run, and drove in two. Ballgame over. The outs were louder than some of the hits. The singles by Jason Varitek, Jacoby Ellsbury, and the bases-loaded single by Adrian Gonzalez that eventually sent Sabathia to the showers were seeing-eye singles. Bleeders. But they were better than anything the Yankees could muster against Beckett.

The good tidings the Yankees brought home following a 6-3 West Coast trip have officially been erased. A one-game lead is now a two-game deficit. The Yankees are 0-6 against the Red Sox at home this season, and 1-8 against them overall. A quarter of the Red Sox’ wins and a third of the Yankees’ losses have come against each other.

We could say, “This is setting up for the typical second-half surge against the Red Sox,” but doing so could be a mistake. This Yankees team has not hit well with runners in scoring position. The Red Sox have. (Thursday’s split was 7-for-15 for the Red Sox, 0-for-5 for the Yankees). The Yankees’ bullpen is in shambles, with the recent news of Joba Chamberlain’s season ending and the high likelihood of his requiring Tommy John surgery. The starting lineup only carries one hitter with a batting average above .275.

To paraphrase former NFL coach Dennis Green from one of the all-time greatest post-game press conferences, the Red Sox are who we thought they would be. What are the Yankees?

Thunder Storms in Balti'mo

The Yankees lineup slumps as a team and hits as a team. The slump: Wednesday night. Fourteen innings, fourteen singles, and a 1-for-14 effort with runners in scoring position was the epitome of the Yankees’ recent bout of anemia. The hits: Robinson Canó’s 2-RBI double in the 15th inning not only broke the singles brigade and the RISP issues, it was the beginning of an avalanche of offense.

Derek Jeter led off the game with a double, and Curtis Granderson followed with an RBI triple off the top of the right field wall. A productive out by Mark Teixeira had the game at 2-0 before some people realized the game had even started. Later in the inning, Brad Bergesen drilled Cano, walked Russell Martin on four pitches, threw a wild pitch and was forced to walk Jorge Posada to load the bases. Nick Swisher unloaded the bases with a double. 5-0 after a half inning. Score truck idling on Eutaw Street.

Ahead to the fourth inning, where Brett Gardner and Jeter hit back-to-back triples, and then Big Teix went yard. 9-0 and pray the rain held out. It did. The game was official. Tack-on runs in the fifth and sixth. Even Eduardo Nuñez belted a home run to cap the scoring.

The early barrage was more than enough for CC Sabathia, who was on auto-pilot from the get-go. About as economical as he gets: average of 14 pitches per inning through his 8 IP, and struck out nine. No walks. Seventy-seven percent of his pitches went for strikes.

As good as CC was, make no mistake, this game was about the offense. Up and down the lineup, it was like a huge exhalation. A channeling of several days of frustration. The Yankees did what they’re supposed to do: destroy bad pitching. And the timely hitting was there. Eight of 13 runs were scored with two outs. They went 6-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

This was the type of victory the Yankees needed. Now if they could only have this kind of effort against teams other than the Orioles…Wait, how about the Mets?

NOTES:
* Jorge Posada was in the field, at first base, and went 1-for-3 with an RBI, a run scored, and two walks. His long flyball out to center field in the eighth inning has him 0-for-25 vs. LHP this season. A great note on Posada, though, from YES Network’s Jack Curry, via Twitter: Since he asked out of the lineup Saturday, Posada has reached base in 7 of 9 plate appearances.

* Another beauty from Mr. Curry: Swisher had 4 RBI tonight. He had just 3 in his previous 17 games.

* When Sabathia was removed in favor of Amauri Sanit for the ninth inning, the Yankees extended their MLB record streak of consecutive games without a complete game to 337.

* Courtesy of Larry Koestler at YankeeAnalysts, the Yankees have never had their starting pitchers go 8 innings on consecutive nights. Sabathia and Bartolo Colon just did it.

Which Pitcher is the Story?


The story of the past week has been pitching, in a number of facets. But which pitcher was THE story? Let’s take a look at the items up for bid …

* Mariano Rivera blew two consecutive saves after converting his first seven save opportunities and looking as superhuman as ever. And he wasn’t booed, because these saves were a) blown on the road; and b) didn’t come against the Red Sox at home.

* Rafael Soriano, however, was booed, and deservedly so, during and after Tuesday’s 8th inning meltdown. Strong pieces at ESPN New York by Johnette Howard and the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Barbarisi on Soriano’s fragility.

* Phil Hughes went to the DL, tried to throw, his arm was a noodle, and now a mysterious shoulder ailment that may or may not be Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is being discussed as a possible diagnosis. Compression of either the nerves, artery or vein in the clavicle area signify TOS. One of the possible causes of the “repetitive trauma”. The pitching motion classifies as repetitive trauma. In more severe TOS cases, surgery is required. Former Yankee Kenny Rogers had surgery to repair TOS in 2001. He came back and pitched seven more seasons.

* Pedro Feliciano, it was great to meet you. Who is Lance Pendleton?

* Bartolo Colon, who many believed should have been in the rotation anyway based on his performance in Spring Training, replaced Hughes and tossed an 8-inning gem. Even more impressive was the consistency of his velocity: 95 in the early going, and 96 in the later innings. Is he the Yankees best pitcher right now, as Wally Matthews suggests? Maybe.

* Freddy Garcia, who pitches tonight, has a matching WHIP and ERA (0.69), and has allowed just 5 hits in 13 IP thus far.

* AJ Burnett may be the best story of all. He suffered a hard luck loss on Monday because the Yankees’ offense is ineffective against pitchers that a) they’ve never seen before; b) pitch like Mike Mussina in the 86-89 mph range, but change speeds and have movement on their pitches. Despite the team result, he may have pitched his best game of the season. The question, as it always is with Mr. Allan James Burnett, is consistency. Will he breathe out of the correct eyelids in May?

* Ivan Nova proved he may be able to get past five innings. Small sample size, yes. But still …

* And of course, there’s CC Sabathia. He’s the ace, the grinder, and the guy who more often than not, somehow makes the right pitch to wriggle out of jams. An ace isn’t always a dominant strikeout pitcher. The main job, keep the opposition off the scoreboard and give your offense a chance to support you. He did it Thursday, just as he did so many times the previous two seasons.

Of those guys, which story had the greatest impact? My vote is for Hughes, because of the trickle-down effect it’s caused in the rotation. If Colon and Garcia keep this up, they get the Aaron Small / Shawn Chacon Memorial “Surprise MVPs” Award.

Feel free to agree / disagree below, in Comments.

[Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun/AP]

Crazy Lucci

The overweight lover’s in the house…

A False Spring

Yeah, it’s cold again in New York, but their is plenty of hot air about C.C. Sabathia keeping heads busy down in Florida. Hey, Sabathia might opt out of his deal at the end of the year: Oh, word?

Meanwhile, George King has a piece on A.J. Burnett:

“Last year it really hit me how important I am to this team,” Burnett said yesterday on the way out of George M. Steinbrenner Field.

“I am not saying that we didn’t win the World Series because of me, but I know if I had been right, it would have been a lot easier chore. I never knew how important I was to a team. That’s not being cocky or arrogant, it’s the way it is. I mean, what did I do to help?”

King also reports that Joba Chamberlain is ready to step up to Brian Cashman’s challenge.

A Yankee Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol has remained popular and continually adapted for several reasons. The first is that it is a timeless, joyful story with themes that still resonate today; the second is that it’s in the public domain. Dickens’ classic has been reimagined (and sometimes mangled) so many times over by now that I don’t feel too bad about jumping in, with assistance from fellow Banterers/muppets Alex, Diane, Will, Jon, and Matt, with yet another version and a new cast.

Our protagonist this time is no cheapskate Scrooge, but Brian Cashman, an elf/businessman in the middle of a difficult offseason. This Christmas Eve, he’ll undergo a life-altering experience…

STAVE 1: MARLEY’S GHOST

There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. If we were not perfectly convinced that Hamlet’s Father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts, than there would be in any other middle-aged gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy spot — say Saint Paul’s Churchyard for instance — literally to astonish his son’s weak mind.

Scrooge never painted out Old Marley’s name. There it stood, years afterwards, above the warehouse door: Scrooge and Marley. The firm was known as Scrooge and Marley.

Marley: George Steinbrenner, of course.

Bob Cratchit: Joe Girardi, who will have to break it to his family that thanks to his bosss, they won’t be able to have  a Cliff Lee or even a Carl Crawford for dinner this year.

Tiny Tim: head Bleacher Creature Bald Vinny.

‘A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!’ cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.

‘Bah!’ said Scrooge, ‘Humbug!’

He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge’s, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again.

‘Christmas a humbug, uncle!’ said Scrooge’s nephew. ‘You don’t mean that, I am sure?’

Scrooge’s nephew Fred: Nick Swisher.

STAVE 2: THE FIRST OF THE THREE SPIRITS

It was a strange figure-like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man, viewed through some supernatural medium, which gave him the appearance of having receded from the view, and being diminished to a child’s proportions. Its hair, which hung about its neck and down its back, was white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle in it, and the tenderest bloom was on the skin. The arms were very long and muscular; the hands the same, as if its hold were of uncommon strength. Its legs and feet, most delicately formed, were, like those upper members, bare. It wore a tunic of the purest white; and round its waist was bound a lustrous belt, the sheen of which was beautiful. It held a branch of fresh green holly in its hand; and, in singular contradiction of that wintry emblem, had its dress trimmed with summer flowers. But the strangest thing about it was, that from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light, by which all this was visible; and which was doubtless the occasion of its using, in its duller moments, a great extinguisher for a cap, which it now held under its arm….

…’Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?’ asked Scrooge.

‘I am.’

The voice was soft and gentle. Singularly low, as if instead of being so close beside him, it were at a distance.

‘Who, and what are you?’ Scrooge demanded.

‘I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.’

‘Long Past?’ inquired Scrooge: observant of its dwarfish stature.

‘No. Your past.’

The Ghost of Christmas Past: This ghost changes its shape as it moves through Ebenezer’s past; at one moment, it looks like Carl Pavano; at another, Mike Mussina; at times, it takes on the ghostly form of Sir Sidney Ponson.

Old Fezziwig (under whom Scrooge apprenticed): Gene Michael.

Belle, Scrooge’s former fiancee, who released him from their contract when he became too concerned with “gain,” and her joyful current family: Cliff Lee and the Phillies.

STAVE 3: THE SECOND OF THE THREE SPIRITS

It was his own room. There was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising transformation. The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green, that it looked a perfect grove; from every part of which, bright gleaming berries glistened. The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors had been scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney, as that dull petrification of a hearth had never known in Scrooge’s time, or Marley’s, or for many and many a winter season gone. Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam. In easy state upon this couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see, who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty’s horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door.

‘Come in!’ exclaimed the Ghost. ‘Come in! and know me better, man.’

Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this Spirit. He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the Spirit’s eyes were clear and kind, he did not like to meet them.

‘I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,’ said the Spirit. ‘Look upon me!’

The Ghost of Christmas Present: C.C. Sabathia.

Mankind’s children, Ignorance and Want: Kyle Farnsworth and Kei Igawa.

STAVE 4: THE LAST OF THE SPIRITS

The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.

It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded.

He felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside him, and that its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved.

‘I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?’ said Scrooge.

The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its hand.

The Ghost of Christmas Future: Sergio Mitre.

STAVE 5: THE END OF IT

‘A merry Christmas, Bob!’ said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he claped him on the back. ‘A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!’

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.    He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!


Generation Gap in CYA Mode

Greetings from Kansas City! Home to great barbecue, baseball history (the Negro League Hall of Fame), and my grandmother’s all-time favorite golfer, Tom Watson. Wednesday evening, after Roy Halladay was unanimously chosen the NL Cy Young Award winner, I was perusing the net, digesting the commentary and scrounging for material, when our good friend Repoz over at BaseballThinkFactory posted a link on Facebook.  I had to click.

It was, in the irony of all ironies, a blog post from the irascible, former New York Times baseball columnist Murray Chass. In a textbook anti-stats, antediluvian rant that may as well define “generation gap,” Chass claimed that Hernandez winning the AL Cy Young Award would be, among other things, a sign of the “Dark Side” taking over, and that this was the “wrong year for Hernandez.”

Well it looks like the BBWAA just became a sith.

Thursday, Felix Hernandez, winner of just 13 games, took the 2010 crown. Until Hernandez, 16 victories was the floor for starting pitchers to have won the award in a non-interrupted season (David Cone set that mark in the strike-shortened 1994 season). Lefties David Price and CC Cabathia, who combined for 40 victories, finished second and third, respectively.

Hernandez’s Cy Young was seen as a triumph for the sabermetricians; the “stat nyerds,” as Alex Belth noted in his hilariously titled post. The blog at Baseball Reference called it a “great day for stat geeks like us,” adding that it “goes to show you how little Wins and Losses mean as an individual pitcher stat (despite being, obviously, the most important team stat).” At Baseball Musings, David Pinto wrote, “With this vote, and last year’s awards, the wins column seems to be out of style in choosing the top spot. That’s a great stride forward for the BBWAA.”

Tyler Kepner stated in his post over at Bats that you didn’t need advanced metrics to make the case for Hernandez.

You don’t have to look up the meaning of Base-Out Runs Saved or Win Probability Added or anything like that. The stats that on the backs of baseball cards for decades make the case quite well.

And he’s right. Hernandez led the major leagues in ERA, led the AL in innings pitched, batting average against, and was second in strikeouts. He was last in the league in run support. Even Price agreed with the voting.

From tampabay.com:

“I feel like they got it right,” he said on a conference call. “I feel Felix deserved it.”

Price said he considers ERA the most important stat, and had no issue with Hernandez, who led the majors with a 2.27 mark, winning the award despite a 13-12 record.

Indeed, the pattern is similar to last year, when Zack Greinke and Tim Lincecum claimed the AL and NL prizes. Greinke led the majors in ERA, led the AL in WHIP, was second in the AL in strikeouts, and had the benefit of Hernandez and Sabathia splitting the vote. In the NL, Tim Lincecum was a 15-game winner but he led the NL in strikeouts and led the majors in K/9, and had the benefit of St. Louis Cardinal teammates Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright splitting the vote.

In fact, one can argue that Hernandez’s 2009 season was better than 2010. He was tied for the AL lead in wins with Sabathia (19), led the league in hits per nine innings and win-loss percentage, was second in ERA, third in WHIP, and fourth in strikeouts. Last year, his teammate helped him enough offensively to boost his win-loss record.

More from Kepner …

Over the course of a career, won-lost record is important, because luck generally evens out over time. But in the framework of a season, 34 starts or so, it’s not always revealing. Too many variables beyond a pitcher’s control can mess it up. Hernandez had 12 starts in which he allowed two earned runs or fewer and did not win. Price had five starts like that. Sabathia had three. Hernandez pitched in front of the worst A.L. offense of the designated-hitter era. That’s not his fault. That’s bad luck.

Speaking of luck, Chass recounted Steve Carlton’s Triple Crown season in 1972, when Lefty won 27 games for a Phillie team that won just 59. Luck wasn’t involved. Carlton was that good. Chass was trying to illustrate the premise that “great pitchers find ways to win games.” He also referenced Roy Halladay’s subscription to that philosophy. Kepner and others quoted Halladay similarly. But in Carlton’s case, he made 41 starts that year, pitched on a four-man rotation, completed 30 games, pitched more than 300 innings — it’s silly to even bring that season, as magnificent as it was, into the discussion. You can’t compare the two.

Later in the column, Chass criticized his former colleague, Kepner, and his former employer, for delving into highbrow intellect to add further context to the Paper of Record’s baseball coverage. Kepner committed an egregious act — using the Total Zone Total Fielding metric — to argue why Derek Jeter should not have won the Gold Glove, despite his making the fewest errors of any shortstop in baseball. This incited the elder’s ire.

The Times has increasingly used statistically-based columns, often at the expense, I believe, of the kind of baseball coverage it used to emphasize. But Kepner’s use of “Total Zone Total Fielding” was the clincher, demonstrating that the Times has gone over to the dark side.

Kepner, the Times’ national baseball writer, used the statistic in reporting that metric men were critical of the selection of Derek Jeter, the Yankees’ shortstop, as the Gold Glove shortstop. The Total Zone formula, Kepner wrote, rates Jeter 59th, or last, among major league shortstops.

“‘Within an hour of Tuesday’s announcement of the American League Gold Glove awards,’” he wrote as he planted both feet firmly on the dark side, “editors at Baseball-Reference.com summed up the general reaction to Derek Jeter’s latest victory at shortstop: ‘We can’t believe it either,’ a notation briefly on the site said.”

The game is more specialized. It’s data driven. Statistics don’t tell the entire story, but they help to put the story into perspective. This movement, which has evolved off the field since Bill James ascended to prominence and has gained more traction over the last 15 years, is not going away. On the field, managers like Earl Weaver and Tony LaRussa were pioneers in how the game is managed today, helping feed the depth of analysis that exists.

There is a place for some of Chass’s arguments. To say “great pitchers find a way to win games” is callous. But highlighting Carlton’s season the way he did allows us to cross-check Baseball Reference, Retrosheet, Baseball Almanac et al and use the stats to compare pitchers from the different eras. What the stats tell us, and the sabermetricians will agree, is that the truly great players, even with the advanced metrics, would have been great no matter when they played.

The fact that writers like Kepner, and Jayson Stark and Peter Gammons before him continue credit those sites and help bring them to the fore is a good thing for baseball fans. If reporters are supposed to be our eyes and ears — and they still can be — what better way to prove it than to show us that they visit the same websites we do to get information? Christina Kahrl of Baseball Prospectus has a BBWAA card, after years of fighting for it. That group, a group with I was proud to call colleagues for two of the annuals, was part of the “basement bloggers” that Murray Chass-tised a few years back. Now they’re mainstream and didn’t have to sell out to get there. And by the way, Mr. Chass should note that the CEO of that enterprise is the same brain behind 538.com, which changed the way elections were covered two years ago. It’s now a leading political blog under the New York Times umbrella. Numbers feed words.

This progression is healthy. Tradition can still be strong. But it should be put in context with the modernization of the game. Even Tevye, the protagonist in “Fiddler on the Roof,” came to accept that the traditions he held dear were changing and he needed to adapt.

With that post, Chass showed he’s rooted in “tradition” and is past the point of adapting.

CC UTK

According to the New York Post:

CC Sabathia was diagnosed with a minor meniscus tear of the right knee that will require surgery, The Post has learned.

Sabathia was diagnosed yesterday at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and is expected to undergo surgery in the coming days. The Yankees do not consider the procedure significant and expect Sabathia to recover within three weeks and be fully ready for spring training.

Gainin’ On Ya

CC and Yanks, do or die, ’nuff said:

Go git ‘em boys. We’ve got your back.

Let’s Go Yan-Kees!

I Can’t Believe I Eighth The Whole Thing

My new screen saver, courtesy @KRADeC

On paper, you have to like the Yankees odds in a C.C. Sabathia – C.J. Wilson matchup. Off paper, well, it didn’t go quite the way you might have expected… but it came out all right in the end.

Sabathia was off tonight, because of the long layoff or who knows why; he got off to an inauspicious start in the first, with a walk, a single, and a prompt three-run home run to Josh Hamilton before I’d even had time to crack a beer. He got out of this inning with a diving play at the plate – and watching C.C. Sabathia dive is a thing to behold – and kept it together after that, more or less, but was never close to his dominant self; as he said after the game, he couldn’t execute a game plan because he couldn’t get the ball over the plate consistently. In the fourth inning he gave up two more – singles to Matt Treanor and Elvis Andrus, and a double to Michael Young. It was 5-0, the Yankees had barely touched C.J. Wilson, Sabathia was out of the game, and it didn’t look good for the Bombers.

Joba Chamberlain took over and threw a solid inning, with just a walk and no further drama. He was was followed by Dustin Moseley, who much to my surprise became one of the night’s heroes: he went two innings, struck out four, and allowed exactly no baserunners. (He was also adorably thrilled after the game, eyes bright and wide and talking about how tonight was a dream come true). New York didn’t get on the scoreboard until the seventh inning, when Robinson Cano hit an arcing home run that landed just on the good side of the right field foul pole. At the time, it seemed like a moral victory – hey, at least they won’t be shut out.

Then came the eighth inning.

Ahhh… the eighth inning.

The Rangers went through five pitchers in the eighth before they recorded a single out — and bafflingly, none of them were Neftali Feliz. A gassed C.J. Wilson started it off, Brett Gardner singled, and the old-school version of Derek Jeter doubled him all the way home (Brett Gardner, incidentally, will henceforth be known as “Zippy” in my household). Ron Washington turned to his bullpen, and came up with Darren Oliver – who although I’ve seen him pitch many times this season, my initial reaction is always “wow, he’s still playing?!” He is, and he proved it by walking the only two batters he faced, Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira. Next up was Darren O’Day, who came into the unenviable situation of bases loaded, zero outs, A-Rod at the plate. The result was a sharp single and two Yankee runs that made it 5-4… and another pitching change. Clay Rapada, come on down! (The Rangers bullpen is just Chock Full O’Lefties, not that it helped them tonight). His luck, or stuff, was no better, and Robinson Cano’s single tied the game. The Yankees had come all the way back, and were rewarded with yet another reliever: Derek Holland, who promptly allowed a single to Marcus Thames. A-Rod scored, clapped and pumped a fist, and the Yankees took the lead, 6-5.

Holland settled in and stopped the arterial bleeding after that, but it was too late – and where was Neftali Feliz? (As The Joker would say: “he’s at home, washing his tights!”) Joe Girardi is a fairly by-the-book guy, but he’s shown time and again that when things get tight in the eighth, he’ll go to Mariano Rivera, at home or on the road. Ron Washington has yet to reach similar conclusions, apparently.

Mariano Rivera came in for the ninth, of course, and outside of a Mitch Moreland single he was just fine. Fittingly, given the way the game started, it was Josh Hamilton who made the final out. It would’ve been a tough loss for the Yankees, but it turned into a tougher on for the Rangers – and it was only the fifth time in all of postseason history that a team came back from a deficit of four or more runs in the eight inning or later. Since it was only Game 1, I don’t know that this ranks at the top of great Yankees October comebacks, but it was still a hell of a win and a great start to the ALCS. Tune in tomorrow for the Phil Hughes Show.

(more…)

Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Win

C.C. Sabathia pitched pretty well, but pretty well wasn’t going to get it done against Francisco Liriano tonight. No, scratch that. Liriano was magnificent, but in the sixth inning his slider turned back into a pumpkin and the Yankees – no, never mind, in the sixth inning Sabathia lost it and the Twins finally – nope. It was Curtis Granderson – no, it was Mark Teixeira who – it was Mariano – the blown call in the ninth could’ve… screw it, the Yankees won, 6-4.

I went through quite a few different ledes tonight.

Initially, it looked like Francisco Liriano was going to out-ace C.C. Sabathia. The Hefty Lefty wasn’t bad, but his mistakes were taken full advantage off: a two-run Michael Cuddyer home run in the second inning, and a failure to cover first base quickly enough one inning later — combined with heads-up Orlando Hudson base running and a Posada passed ball — led to a 3-0 hole for the Yankees. At the time, that seemed like a lot of runs.

Meanwhile, for the first five innings, Liriano alternated between merely pitching well and making the Yankees look ridiculous. During his streak of 10 New York batters retired in a row, hitters like Gardner and Granderson and Alex Rodriguez were cutting loose with swings that came nowhere near the ball in either time or space.

But then all of a sudden Liriano turned mortal – or perhaps, to be less dramatic about it, in their third time through the order the Yanks just got a better feel for him. Mark Texeira got things started with a double, and Alex Rodriguez, who had struck out flailing on three pitches in his previous at-bat, worked a walk. Robinson Cano singled, and after a rather hapless-looking Marcus Thames struck out, Jorge Posada had a fantastic at-bat and pushed a single into right. Curtis Granderson’s triple finished the Yanks’ scoring in that inning, and also finished Francico Liriano’s night.

The bottom of that inning wasn’t any kinder to Sabathia, who had a very un-C.C. meltdown (“you’re being very un-Dude, Dude”). A walk, a double, and another walk loaded the bases, at which point Sabathia walked in the Twins’ tying run in the person of Danny Valencia (who has been a pleasant surprise for the Twins this season and is about to become an unpleasant surprise for a lot of Yankee fans). Yoicks. He recovered to strike out J.J. Hardy and end the inning, but the lead was already gone and everyone headed into the seventh inning all tied up at 4.

It was Texeira who led the second Yankee comeback, too, following a Nick Swisher single with a high, slow two-run home run just fair to right field. (I don’t know if it was an actual phenomenon or just a product of weird camera work, but the fly balls hit tonight seemed to have an unusually long hang time; I could’ve recited “Jabberwocky” in its entirety while waiting for that ball to come down on one side of the foul pole. Joe Girardi was shown yelling “Stay fair! Stay fair!” and his leadership skills with inanimate objects must be impressive, because it worked). So now the Yankees had a 6-4 lead, but with as many reversals as this game had, nobody was relaxing.

The Yankee pen kept things right there, although not without a few terrifying moments. It took the combined efforts of Boone Logan, David Robertson, and Kerry Wood to get the ball to Mariano Rivera, with two outs in the eighth and runners on second and third. And Rivera — who one of these days will start showing some cracks in his 40-year-old facade, but not today — got Denard (“No Relation Unless He Has Some Short Uncoordinated Jewish Relatives We Don’t Know About”) Span to do what hitters traditionally do against Mariano Rivera, and ground out.

The ninth inning would’ve been another by-the-numbers Rivera classic except that the third out, a shoestring catch by defensive replacement Greg Golson, was incorrectly ruled a trap by the umpires. As if we needed yet another argument for instant replay in the postseason, and if the Yankees had gone on to lose I would’ve suggested a Tweet-up at MLB Headquarters with pitchforks and torches. Instead, Jim Thome popped up the first pitch he saw, and the 6-4 lead held up.

For all the tsuris over how hard the Yankees should play for the Division as opposed to the Wild Card, the Twins lost their home field advantage along with this game. Andy Pettitte starts Game 2 tomorrow for roughly the 300th time in his career, and with the Yanks up 1-0 in the Series, I look forward to actually being able to breath during that one.

Clinched

When it comes to late-September series in Toronto that carry postseason implications, the Yankees have a mixed history. In 1985, the Yankees entered the season’s final weekend needing a three-game sweep of Bobby Cox’s Blue Jays to force a one-game AL East playoff. They won the first game but lost the second game and watched the Jays celebrate their first-ever playoff appearance. The next day, the season’s final day, Phil Niekro won his 300th game.

Ten years later, the Yankees were the ones celebrating. They swept the Blue Jays to complete a 22-6 September and clinch their first playoff berth since 1981. The image of Don Mattingly pounding his fist on the top step of the Rogers Centre dugout, knowing he was finally getting his chance to play in a postseason series, is ingrained in the memories of Yankees fans.

Tuesday night, Toronto was the site of yet another Yankees playoff clincher. Following Monday’s two-and-a-third degree burn from the Purple Pie Man, there was a sense of confidence and calm with CC Sabathia on the mound. CC was back to his ace-level self, powering through the first eight innings, allowing one run on two hits in that span.

Sabathia was pulled in the ninth inning after putting the first two runners on base and retiring Jose Bautista. With a 6-1 lead, manager Joe Girardi could have summoned anyone to get the final two outs — I’ll be honest, I was ready for any combination of Javy Vazquez, the inimitable Chad Gaudin, even the Meat Tray — but he put one over on those of us who thought he was mailing it in since last Wednesday by calling on Mariano Rivera to close it out. Six pitches later, it was done. If corks didn’t pop, sighs of relief were definitely released.

Two thousand miles to the south, the Rays’ ace, David Price, shut out the Orioles to secure Tampa’s spot in the playoffs and keep them a half-game ahead of the Yankees.

Now the Yankees have a decision to make: Be content with just reaching the playoffs and rest the aging veterans prior to the start of the Division Series, or go for the Division crown and home field? Two games separate the Rays, Yankees and Twins. Only two of those teams will open their first-round series at home.

Girardi has said he wants to win the division. He has four games to prove it. At the very least, though, it’s nice to see that “x” next to the Yankees’ place in the standings.

QUICK GOOFY GAME NOTE
The Yankees did a great job of plating runners with less than two outs. And none of those runners scored as a result of a hit. While the Yankees did muster two hits with runners in scoring position, five productive outs — three sacrifice flies and two groundouts — and a bases-loaded walk provided the six Yankee runs.

Gloom and Doom

For you skeptics out there, last night’s loss is proof that this is not a magical year, that this Yankee team will get bounced from the playoffs in early October. We’re always looking for signs and the Yanks have not played well over the past month. This morning, the papers took notice.

In the Post, George King begins his recap:

Joe Girardi and CC Sabathia better be correct. Because if they are wrong, the Yankees’ October experience is going to be a short one.

The manager and ace both said the max-effort pitching duel between David Price and Sabathia less than two weeks ago in St. Petersburg, Fla., didn’t bankrupt the Yankees ace’s tank.

In the News, Mark Feinsand writes, “The standings still show the Yankees in sole possession of first place in the American League East, so why does it feel like they lost the division Thursday night?”

Nobody was happy in the comments section here at Banter last night, either. So? What does it all mean? Can this team turn it on and go back to the Whirled Serious? Or is this 2006 and a first round bump?

I don’t think the Yanks will repeat but also would be surprised if they don’t at least make it to the ALCS.

Boy, That Escalated Quickly

The last time Sabathia and Price faced each other, I compared it to Dinocroc vs. Supergator. This time around I’m afraid it was more like Sharktopus vs. a blonde in a bikini; the Rays creamed the Yankees 10-1 in a game that saw Sabathia uncharacteristically implode, and Javy Vazquez not entirely uncharacteristically implode.

Neither starter was as sharp tonight as they were in their last matchup, but Price and Sabathia hung in there well enough to keep things close for the first five innings. The Yanks took an early lead when Marcus Thames (“Glenallen Hill Historical Re-Enactment Society Chairman Marcus Thames,” as Jay Jaffe dubbed him) hit a big ol’ homer to left, scoring Robinson Cano. The Rays came right back in the third, as a series of singles allowed Ben Zobrist to score Jason Bartlett; but in the bottom of the fifth, Greg Golson reached home on a gentle Nick Swisher single, and with Sabathia on the mound guarding a 3-1 lead it looked like the Yankees might get the best of this series.

It was at this point that the game got out its MetroCard and hopped on the 9:15 crosstown handbasket to Hell.

Carl Crawford singled, Evan Longoria doubled. Fine – these things happen. Rocco Baldelli singled, which is a bit more surprising but, given all he’s been through, hey – good for him, you know? 3-2 Yankees. Willy Aybar singled; Kelly Shoppach walked. It was at this point, with the game tied, that I began to suspect an evil alien force had possessed Sabathia, and when he then walked Sean Rodriguez, it was all the confirmation I needed. C.C. Sabathia just doesn’t do that sort of thing, and I only hope Gene Monahan and the Yankee trainers have some good exorcism strategies to get this demon out of the Yankee ace before the playoffs start.

Joe Girardi came to this realization around the same time I did, and yanked Sabathia in favor of Joba Chamberlain, who turned 25 today, and also gave up a ground-rule double to B.J. Upton and a single to Carl Crawford. This was probably Sabathia’s worst start of the year – it was the most runs he’s ever given up as a Yankee – and certainly his worst since May, when he scuffled for a few weeks. It was 8-3 Rays, but at this point it looked like a run-of-the-mill bad game, just one of those nights. It took Javier Vazquez to elevate things into Grand Guignol.

I don’t generally buy into the whole “he just can’t handle playing in New York” idea, but if anyone ever changes my mind on that point, it will be Javy Vazquez. I don’t know if he was merely having a very, very bad night or if we just witnessed a Steve Blass-style mental and physical breakdown live on television; Vazquez came into the game and walked Ben Zobrist, then hit the next three batters in a row. This tied the American League record, and was only the eighth time in all of Major League history that a pitcher has hit three in a row. Whether to conserve his pen or to allow Vazquez to reclaim a shred of dignity by letting him clean up his own mess, Girardi left him in the game. The worst was over, but it was one hell of a discouraging moment for a pitcher who’s had a number of them in the Bronx.

The inning finally bled out; it was 10-1 by then and not even the most die-hard fans could envision a comeback. By the end of “God Bless America”, most of the crowd had evaporated and Girardi had replaced his regulars with most of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre roster. Inspired by that choice, I’ve decided to do the same thing and remove myself from this recap.

Now typing for Emma Span: her dog Pearl.

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Saturday Night Special

Big CC Going for win number 20…

Batter Up:

Serve ‘em up fresh, CC.

Let’s Go Yan-Kees!

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