Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Catching Up 

[note: do to an undiagnosed error, this post from yesterday never got posted]

So first we had this:

Brown: 8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K, 0 HR, 71% of 107 pitches for strikes
Vazquez: 8 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 3 K, 1 HR, 74% of 92 pitches for strikes
Hernandez: 8 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K, 0 HR, 67% of 104 pitches for strikes
Lieber: 8 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 71% of 107 pitches for strikes

And all was good. Nobody seemed to notice or care that three of those starts came against a Toronto Blue Jays team that was in last place due to its underperforming offense and that subsequently fired its manager in part because of accusations that the team wasn't making an effort on the field.

Never mind all that. In four straight starts the Yankees' starters posted this line: 32 IP, 19 H, 4 R, 5 BB, 22 K, 1 HR. The team, of course, went 4-0 in those games and neither Tom Gordon nor Mariano Rivera was required to throw a single pitch (though Paul Quantrill threw 42 in closing out the first and last games in that streak).

Then we got this: 8 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 9 K, 0 HR, 62% of 108 pitches for strikes

That's Jose Contreras's line from his second start as a White Sox, this one against the Indians. I still think the Yankees were smart to deal El Titan, even if the early results disagree.

For his part, Esteban Loaiza decided to test my thesis (and my conviction) by turning in another 6-inning, 5-run performance. The Yankees, despite being dominated by Josh Towers for six innings, still scored four runs and put the tying run on with none out in the ninth, though they failed to push it across.

Last night, Kevin Brown was done before he even left the bullpen, battling through five innings, giving up five runs (4 earned) on eight hits and two walks without striking out a single batter. Scott Proctor made things worse and the Yanks were lucky to avoid getting shutout by pushing Matsui across the plate in the ninth.

Brown now has just two losses on the year, both coming in Arlington. Brown defeated the Rangers in the Bronx, though he got beat around in that start as well (six runs on seven hits in six innings). On the season, his line against the Rangers looks like this: 15 2/3 IP, 25 H, 16 R (14 ER), 5 BB, 6 K, 4 HR, 1-2, 8.04 ERA.

Brown's failures against the Rangers are a compelling weakness. Brown, of course, spent six years as a member of the Rangers starting rotation from 1989-1994, during which time I remember him as being a pitcher with a 4-something ERA who simply owned the Yankees (of course the purchase price on the Bombers was pretty low during most of those years). Looking back, Brown's ERA was 3.60 or better in four of those six seasons, though he didn't really become Kevin Brown until he put up a 1.89 ERA with the Marlins in 1996.

Brown spent one year in Baltimore in 1995 but then departed for the NL until joining the Yankees this year, thus his exposure to the Rangers as an opponent has been minimal. He likely faced them a few times as a Dodger in NL West vs. AL West interleague play beginning in 1997, but has not pitched against Texas in his previous three seasons at the very least (due to the rotating format of interleague).

What's far more compelling than his personal history with the Rangers about Brown's lack of success against the team is that there's a very real possibility that the Rangers could be the Yankees ALDS opponent come October. The Rangers are currently in a three-way tie for the Wild Card with the Angels and Red Sox. If the Rangers win the Wild Card, they'll almost certainly draw the Yankees in the ALDS. Should the Red Sox win the Wild Card, the Yankees will face the division Champion with the worst record. The Rangers are just 2.5 games off the AL West lead as of this morning.

In other news, Javier Vazquez, despite being due to pitch tonight, did not accompany the team to Texas because he's still suffering the effects of conjunctivitis or pink eye. Javy had the pink eye when he pitched his 8-inning game against the Jays on Friday, but has not yet gotten rid of it. Perhaps more importantly, as anyone who went to public school knows, pink eye is very contagious, so avoiding putting Javy on a plane with the rest of the team was likely a wise decision, even if it means Tanyon Sturtze will start tonight in Texas. Javy will rejoin the team in Minnesota and will likely pitch one week from today against the Twins.

Jason Giambi, meanwhile, has been cleared to resume "baseball activities" in Tampa, though there is still no timetable for his return. John Olerud is 7 for 22 with two walks, three strike outs, two doubles and seven RBIs in six games (.318/.400/.409) while fielding 68 chances without an error since joining the Yankees.

As Gary Sheffield continues to suffer from the pain in his left shoulder, remember that nine years ago he was shot in that shoulder by something other than cortisone. The two may not be related (the gunshot supposedly resulted in a mere flesh wound), but the incident (chalked up to a failed carjacking) seems to have been largely ignored in the coverage of Sheffield's injury thus far this season.

Don't forget to sign up for the Baseball Prospectus Pizza Feed on Friday at Shea Stadium (deadline for tickets, mid-day Friday). Will Carroll, Chris Kahrl and Steven Goldman will all be there, as will Allen Barra, Jay Jaffe and myself among others. Don't miss this opportunity to talk and watch baseball with some of my (and your) favorite baseball writers!

posted by Cliff at 10:21 AM

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