Saturday, September 18, 2004

Mariano's Secret 

In my previous post comparing the Yankee and Red Sox pitching, I wrote the following:
"Rivera has allowed a run in just three post-break appearances, only two of which came in save situations, and those were just two days apart in late July."

What I failed to mention was that the first of those two post-break blown saves came against the Red Sox. In the game made infamous by the Alex Rodriguez-Jason Varitek fight, the Yankees entered the bottom of the ninth with a two run lead. As expected, Joe Torre handed the ball to Mariano Rivera. Rivera got two quick strikes on Nomar Garciaparra and the Yankees looked well on their way to victory, but Nomar laced Rivera's third pitch into left center for a double. Rivera then fell behind Trot Nixon 2-0, then 3-1. Nixon hit a fly ball to right that backed Gary Sheffield up against the wall and advanced Garciappara to third. Kevin Millar then singled Nomar home on the first pitch he saw. Fortunately, the Yankees had picked up an insurance run in the seventh on a Ruben Sierra homer, so Garciaparra's run meant nothing. Furthermore, having Dave McCarty pinch running for Millar on first set up a potential double play that could get the Yankees out of the game. But Rivera, struggling with his control, fell behind Bill Mueller 1-0 then 3-1. Rivera's fifth pitch to Mueller would be his last of the game, as Mueller rocketted a two-run game-winning home run to right center.

It seemed like a fluke at the time, but as last night's game began to slip away from Mariano due to a similar lack of control, the CBS broadcast team brought up some interesting statistics, which pointed me toward the following:

1.89 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 92% of saves converted
3.82 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 67% of saves converted

The second line is Mariano Rivera against the Red Sox since 2001. The first line is Rivera against the rest of the league over that span. With last night's loss, Rivera has blown two of his four save opportunities against the Red Sox this season with his Sox/AL splits looking like this:

vs. Boston: 4.66 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 50% of saves converted
vs. rest: 1.55 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 96% of saves converted

Those are pretty striking numbers, but by themselves they are a bit decieving. First there is Rivera's performance in two post-season series against the Red Sox (the 1999 and 2003 ALCS): 1.41 ERA, 0.79 WHIP (1 ER and no walks in 12 2/3 IP). Secondly, since 2001, Rivera has posted a 3.57 ERA against Baltimore and a 3.45 ERA against Cleveland, neither of whom have been as strong offensively as the Red Sox. Then again, Rivera's WHIP and save rates against those two teams have been much closer to his overall numbers.

Still, it's quite evident that if there is a team out there that can get to Mariano Rivera with anything approaching regularity, it is the Boston Red Sox, and that has to concern Yankee fans. Coming into the current series, Rivera's last outing against the Red Sox was the Rodriguez-Varitek game that ended with Bill Mueller's game-winning home run off Rivera. Then there was last night.

Orlando Hernandez wasn't at his best last night, needing 68 pitches (only 56 percent strikes) to get through the first three innings before getting forced out of the game by a one-hour rain delay that came in the middle of the third. Indeed, the game had a rather frightening start for Yankee fans. With one out in the first, Mark Bellhorn singled on a full count and Manny Ramirez followed with a shot to left that was initially ruled a home run, but then (correctly) overruled and called foul. Ramirez went on to work a full-count walk and Ortiz followed with a single to right. Fortunately, Sheffield was able to hold Bellhorn at third on Ortiz's hit, keeping the bases loaded and a zero on the scoreboard. Trot Nixon then hit the first pitch he saw back to El Duque who fired home for the force only to have Jorge Posada fall on his rear and fail to complete the double play. Unfazed, Hernandez struck out Jason Varitek to escape the inning unscathed.

Not a batter reached base after that until Johnny Damon launched a 3-1 pitch into the upper deck in right field to lead off the third and give the Sox a 1-0 lead. Bellhorn followed with a shot to right that just curved foul before eventually striking out. After another Ramirez walk and a 19-minute rain delay, El Duque finished off the side to put his final line at 3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 K.

The Yankees got their first baserunner of the game after the hour-long rain delay when Miguel Cairo was hit by the same Bronson Arroyo pitch that caught Alex Rodriguez in the hip back in July. It's interesting to note that Arroyo not only leads the AL in hit batsmen, but in Game 2 of last year's ALCS he hit Alfonso Soriano, yet another right-handed batter, after Jose Contreras had stood up David Ortiz in the top half of the same inning . . . then came Game 3.

In the bottom of the fourth Rodriguez himself led off with a double and came around to score following a Sheffield single and an RBI groundout by Posada to tie the game at 1-1. John Olerud lead off the bottom of the fifth with a solo shot into Section 37 of the right field bleachers that would give the Yankees a 2-1 lead that they would hold until the ninth inning.

Curiously, Miguel Cairo followed Olerud's home run by first attempting to bunt his way on (a clever play) and then smacking a shot just over the wall in left that Manny Ramirez timed perfectly and snared for an out. Cairo's eyes somehow deceived him on the play and he rounded the bases, high-fived Luis Sojo, dodged the home plate ump, and touched home, only to be informed that he had just made the first out of the inning. Cairo's reaction was more one of confusion and shock than anger, while Ramirez, who had rounded the bases himself on his foul home run in the first, seemed to take particular delight in the play, pointing both index fingers at Cairo as a sly grin creased his face.

On the other side of the ledger, Tanyon Sturtze had come in to pitch for the Yanks following the rain delay and turned in his finest relief outing of the year. Johnny Damon walked on four pitches and stole second in the fifth, but the only real jam Sturtze found himself in came in the sixth when David Ortiz came back from a 0-2 deficit to draw a walk that was followed by a Trot Nixon single to put runners on first and second. Sturtze needed just four pitches to escape the two-on, none-out pickle, stricking out Jason Varitek on three pitches (a foul and two swings) and getting Kevin Millar to tap a lazy check-swing grounder to the right of the mound, which Sturtze pounced upon and fired to second to start an inning-ending double play. Of the 13 batters he faced, Sturtze started ten of them off with first-pitch strikes. His final line was 3 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K, 61 percent of 59 pitches for strikes. Had the Yankees held on to the lead he would have picked up a much deserved win.

Despite cruising right along and striking out Cabrera and Youkilis to start the seventh, Sturtze seemed to be having a small blister problem and was pulled after the Youkilis K in favor of Tom Gordon, who then set down the next four Red Sox in order, including Ramirez and Ortiz to finish the eighth, striking out two. As Joe Girardi pointed out in the post game coverage on YES, Gordon was using all of his pitches and moving up and down and out and in with great command.

For the Red Sox, Bronson Arroyo lasted six despite the two rain delays, allowing just two runs and just five baserunners (one walk, four hits) while striking out three. A lanky righty with blonde cornrows who looks like a cross between Layne Staley and Kid Rock, Arroyo frequently drops his arm angle (as Jim Kaat pointed out for CBS, almost exclusively on breaking balls) and has some nasty movement on his pitches. If I was Terry Francona, I would give some serious thought to using Arroyo over Lowe in my postseason rotation. Of course, Lowe will get to answer Arroyo's performance tomorrow.

Arroyo was succeeded by Alan Embree and Mike Timlin who combined to strike out four in two innings, allowing just one walk to Gary Sheffield (Timlin) between them.

Then came Mo.

Rivera simply didn't have it last night. He faced seven batters and fell beind 1-0 to five of them. He was unable to put Trot Nixon away on a 2-2 count to start the innng and eventually walked him. Dave Roberts ran for Nixon, who is still having some tightness in his legs, and stole second as Rivera struck out Jason Varitek (who picked up the Golden Sombrero on the night). Mo then fell behind Kevin Millar 2-0 before hitting him in the hip with a 2-1 pitch. Rivera's pitches to the right-hand side of the plate were sailing a foot or two (if not more) to the right of Posada's target all night. Rivera then fell behind Orlando Cabrera 2-0 and Cabrera punched a 2-1 pitch through the right side for an RBI single, tying the game and moving pinch-runner Gabe Kapler to second. Rivera then managed to strikeout an uncharacteristically aggressive Kevin Youkilis (an insane 4.60 pitches per PA on the season) on four pitches.

The next batter, Johnny Damon, lifted a dying quail to center. Kenny Lofton had been playing Damon the opposite way and took a circuitous route to the ball, easing up at the last moment to play it on a bounce. The hit scored Kapler to give the Red Sox the lead and Rivera, who was already visably angered at his own performance, was seen shouting at Lofton to "catch the ball" as he turned to back-up home. Indeed, Gary Sheffield arrived at the ball at almost the same time as Lofton (they actually bumped in to one another as Lofton attempted to return the ball to the infield), so Kenny could have easily made an attempt for the ball and had Sheffield backing him up. Torre and Rivera refused to blame Lofton in their post game interviews, but an out there would have ended the inning with the score tied. Of course, the Red Sox would have had a strong pitching advantage in extra innings, so the point may be moot.

Keith Foulke came on in the ninth and retired the side in order, striking out two, to deliver Game 1 to the Red Sox who are back within 2 1/2 games of the Yankees in the East. It was a painful loss for the Yanks to say the least. It would have been one thing if Sturtze tanked, but to see Mo crumble like he did against the rival Sox was a bit too much to bear.

One note to last night's game. Joe Torre decided to go with Jason Giambi at DH. His logic is sound, Giambi needs at-bats to get his bearings. But after Jason struck out, grounded out and popped out in his first three at-bats, making him 0 for 10 with five strike-outs and a walk since being activated (on top of a mere 2 for 16 in Columbus), I find it disconcerting that Torre didn't pinch-hit for Giambi when down by one run in the bottom of the ninth. Yes, a healthy, locked-in Giambi is one of the biggest home run threats in the game, but that was not the time to gamble on his being up to the task of hitting major league pitching. With Tony Clark, Ruben Sierra and Bernie Williams on his bench, there was no excuse to have Giambi hitting there. Giambi, by the way, struck out in that at-bat.

Looking at his overall performance last night, Giambi didn't make good contact on either of the balls he hit fair. Four of his seven swings missed, two of them being way ahead of change-ups from Arroyo and Foulke. Giambi's doing an excellent job of working the count, but he seems out of his league right now when it comes to actually hitting the ball.

I won't be around to post after tomorrow afternoon's game because I'll be heading out to see my former bassist's new band play at the Charleston in Williamsburg. I'll then be getting up early to attend Sunday's game in person, but hope to have a lot to say Sunday night. Let's hope the Yanks are up by 4 1/2 and the magic number is down to 10 by then.

posted by Cliff at 1:32 AM

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Yankees vs. Red Sox, part 1: Pitching 

When the Yankees and Red Sox were set to face off for the first time this season back in mid-April, I posted a rant about how the series was placed too early on the schedule, complaining that there was no drama or passion involved in the match-up, just a lot of hype. What I was waiting for then is what we're getting now. With just 16 games left in the season (17 for the Red Sox) the Sox trail the Yankees for the AL East lead by just 3 1/2 games. Beginning tonight at 7:05, the two teams will play six of those final 16 games (more than a third of the remainder of the season) against one another in what is sure to be an intense, passionate series of games that should be everything that April series was not. Of course, all of the games count the same in the final standings, but this is where the drama lies. This is why following a team's ups and downs for six full months is so rewarding. This is why a 16-game football season, or basketball and hockey leagues that send more than half of their teams to the playoffs can't begin to compare to baseball, regardless of one's opinion of the sports themselves.

With tonight's showdown approaching, there has been a lot of debate about which of these two teams is superior. Red Sox fans point out the fact that the Red Sox score more runs (about 5.9 per game vs. 5.6 for the Yanks) and allow fewer (4.68 vs. 4.98), while Yankee fans point out that their team has the advantage in the only two statistics that truly matter, wins and loses. The problem with both measures is that they take into account the various highs and lows each team has experienced over the past 140-odd games. (which reminds me, my pre-season forecasts for each team can be found at these links: Yankees , Red Sox.) What I want to know, and will attempt to figure out in two posts, one today and one prior to next weekend's series in Boston, is which team is better right now and heading into the playoffs, where an ALCS re-match is a strong possibility.

This week we'll take a look at the pitchers. Next week we'll look at the hitters. In the process, we'll get a good look at how the Red Sox have changed since the Yankees last saw them in July, and get a fresh look at the state of the Yankees.

On with it . . .

Let's start with the bullpens. At first glance, both teams have a Big Three headed up by an ace closer, a wild card short reliever, and a muddle of middle relief. We begin with the closers:

Foulke: 1.93 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 8.32 K/9, 64G, 1.16 IP/G
Rivera: 1.73 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 7.56 K/9, 68G, 1.07 IP/G

Foulke goes longer, strikes out more men and allows fewer on base, but the numbers are so close that anybody who sees them as anything other than a wash is . . . well, a Red Sox fan. Since the All-Star break, Foulke's ERA has been 2.60 and Rivera's 2.96, but what's hidden in there is that Rivera has allowed a run in just three post-break appearances, only two of which came in save situations, and those were just two days apart in late July. It just happens that when Mo's given up a run he's thrown a couple more in there for good measure. Still, it's advantage Foulke once again, but anyone willing to bet against Rivera in October is . . . well, I don't think that person exists. For those who care (and you shouldn't) Rivera has 49 saves to Foulke's 29, though it is worth noting Foulke, despite having 18 fewer save opportunities, has blown two more saves (5 to 3) than Rivera. Neither has blown a save since July 26, and that's probably the most telling stat of all.

Moving on to the set-up men:

Gordon: 2.33 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 9.78 K/9, 1.13 IP/G
Timlin: 4.15 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 6.75 K/9, 1.02 IP/G

Quantrill: 4.33 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 3.32 K/9, 1.13 IP/G
Embree: 4.53 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 6.50 K/9, 0.72 IP/G

Gordon quite clearly blows Timlin out of the water. Even considering Gordon's reduced effectiveness in the second half (3.26 ERA), he's still leaps and bounds better than Timlin (5.25 2nd-half ERA). Quantrill and Embree are more difficult because we're not really comparing similar substances. Quantrill is a traditional set-up man, while Embree is a LOOGY (or a LTOGY, looking at his IP/G). Things are further complicated by the fact that Quantrill has been trailing off badly in the second half, posting a 5.11 ERA since the break and getting significantly worse by the month. After posting a 6.19 ERA in August, Quantrill has given up a run or more in four of his six September outings. That completely wipes out the fact that he's capable of giving the Yankees more innings than Embree. In fact, at this point Quantrill may even be a liability to the Yankees, all of which makes the sum total of each team's Big Three a wash, despite the considerable advantage the Yankees have with Gordon.

Which brings us to the Wild Cards. On September 1 the Yankees activated Steve Karsay, who last threw a major league pitch in the 2002 ALCS. Karsay was the Yankees primary set-up man in 2002 (3.26 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 6.62 K/9, 1.13 IP/G) and has thus far made four appearances allowing two solo homers, two singles and walking one while striking out two in four total innings. Should Karsay get up to speed by the end of the month, he could capably step into the role that Quantrill has more or less vacated.

Replacing Quantrill with Karsay would seem to push the Yankees potential Big Three over the top, but then the Sox also have an ace up their sleeve. Scott Williamson, who blew out his elbow against the Yankees back on June 30 (the Heredia vs. Ortiz game), was activated on September 9. Since then, Williamson has made two appearances allowing a single and a walk and striking out two in two innings. Two innings are not much to go on, but take a look at Williamson's pre-injury numbers as compared to Tom Gordon's pre-All-Star break numbers:

Williamson: 1.25 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 9.97 K/9, 1.03 IP/G (21 G)
Gordon: 1.78 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 8.53 K/9, 1.15 IP/G (44 G)

Assuming Williamson's injury and inactivity will have about the same effect on him as Gordon's heavy workload (81 IP at this writing), it seems fair to say that Williamson could give the Sox what Gordon gives the Yanks, thus evening things out once again if we were to revise our Big Threes to Karsay/Gordon/Rivera (KarGorMo?) and Timlin/Williamson/Foulke.

Yankee fans could point out that a healthy Steve Karsay should be able to out perform what Timlin has done for the Red Sox this year, and should certainly out-pitch the second-half version of Timlin. They could also point out that regardless of how effective Scott Williamson might be, it's unlikely that, coming of an injury, he will be able to go two innings as easily or as often as Tom Gordon. Red Sox fans could counter that Yankee fans should not expect anything from a man who hasn't pitched in almost two full years and that Gordon's work load has reduced both his ability to go two and his overall effectiveness. I asked Baseball Prospectus's injury guru Will Carroll about Williamson and Karsay. His response was that Williamson is a better bet for performance, but also a bigger risk for reinjury as he's trying to avoid another Tommy John surgery by pitching with a torn UCL. Bicker all you want. I'll call this a wash.

Of course, if we promote the two Wild Cards into the Big Threes, that spits out Embree and Quantrill, who are then factored into the middle relief picture. As I said before, Embree is a LOOGY, something the Yankees don't have. The only two lefties in the Yankee pen are C.J. Nitkowski and Felix Heredia. Those two have combined for a 6.94 ERA for the Yankees, which makes the league-average Embree look like an ace. Then there's what lefties have done against each of the three. Using Nitkowski's totals with the Braves and Yankees (because I have to), here are their numbers against lefty hitting:

Embree: .253/.266/.368 (.212)
Heredia: .234/.355/.438 (.269)
Nitkowski: .283/.386/.400 (.274)

For comparison's sake, here's what Embree does against righties: .253/.320/.484 (.265). That's right, Embree is better against right handers than either Heredia or Nitkowski is against lefties. Ouch.

Ah, but the Yankees have a solution! (though they probably haven't figured it out yet) Check out these numbers against portsiders:

.125/.154/.208 (.121)

Anyone care to guess which active Yankee not yet mentioned in this post has put those up this season? (answer in a bit)

So the top three wash and the Red Sox have a huge LOOGY advantage, at least given the thus-far considered options (we'll get to the need for LOOGies when we discuss the offense), what about the four men left in each pen? Yankee fans, cover your eyes:

BostonERANew YorkERA
Ramiro Mendoza1.88Scott Proctor5.06
Mike Myers4.15Bret Prinz5.47
Curtis Leskanic4.71Tanyon Sturtze6.47
Terry Adams6.92Esteban Loaiza8.51

[the above chart uses ERAs with the Yanks and Sox only, but does not eliminate starting appearances]

Sure, the Yankees have gotten 77 more innings out of their four than Boston has out of theirs (largely because all but Mendoza, who spent two months on the DL himself, played the majority of the season in a different uniform), but at what cost? At what cost!

Leaving out Quantrill, who is either a complete unknown quantity or a serious liability at this point, the Sox not only have a middle relief corps that's a full 2.5 runs better than the Yankees', they also have a second league-average-or-better LOOGY (Mike Myers: .226/.320/.333 - .227 GPAA against lefties on the season). But far more important that Myers is Mendoza, another Sox reliever who lost a large portion of his season to injury. Unlike Williamson, however, all but one of Mendoza's appearances have come since returning from injury. Here's his line on the year:

Mendoza: 1.88 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 4.13 K/9, 1.14 IP/G (24 G)

Putting Mendoza into the Sox's Big Three explodes any hope of an end-of-game advantage the Yankees might have had. Given a healthy and effective Williamson, Mendoza/Williamson/Foulke (Wilkoza?) could certainly take QuanGorMo or KarGorMo in a fight, and Mendoza gives them the extra innings pitched that TimFoulkson (okay, I'll stop now) lacked. That would then push Timlin into the Sox's "final four" picture, inflating the collective ERA of that group to 5.38, which would still be more than a run better than the Yankees' final four.

That configuration would have the Yanks and Sox in a push at the top two bullpen spots and Boston dominating the rest of the way through, which means that the Yankees starters have to get the ball straight to Gordon to counter the Sox's bullpen advantage (I smell a segue into the rotation) . . .

The Red Sox rotation of Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, Tim Wakefield and Bronson Arroyo has been steady all year. Only four starts have gone to pitchers other than those five (three to Byung-Hyun Kim and one to Abe Alvarez). That is the complete antithesis (appropriately enough) of the Yankee rotation, which has used twelve different bodies. That's the most ever by a Joe Torre-era team, tying the record held by the 2000 and 1996 teams, both of which had four starters that made 29 or more starts, but simply couldn't find a fifth man.

Only one Yankee starter will reach 29 starts this year (Javier Vazquez, who's already there), thanks primarily to injuries to Kevin Brown (surprise!), Mike Mussina and Jon Lieber (remember he missed April with a groin pull, not because of his Tommy John surgery). The fifth spot in the Yankee rotation has been more than capably filled by Orlando Hernandez--who was called up to replace an injured Mussina just before the All-Star break and, much like his spiritual forefather Satchel Paige, hasn't looked back--but the replacements for the injured hands (as it were) have been either dreadful (Graman, Loaiza, Donovan Osborne--yes he started for the Yanks this year) or injured themselves (Jorge DePaula). The Yankees best replacement starter has actually been Tanyon Sturtze, who's posted a league-average 4.50 ERA in his three spot starts.

But consistancy and injuries are irrelevant to this analysis. We're trying to find out what team is better right now and heading into the playoffs. Thus we will look at the Yankees' current starting four of Hernandez, Mussina, Lieber, Vazquez and toss the self-mutilator into the fifth spot, which is largely irrelevant at this point in the season anyway.

With Mike Mussina finally pitching like . . . well, Mike Mussina, both teams have a clear top two starters, so let's start with them:

Pedro Martinez: 3.43 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 9.60 K/9, 6.63 IP/GS
Curt Schilling: 3.29 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 7.83 K/9, 7.18 IP/GS

Orlando Hernandez: 2.49 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 8.83 K/9, 6.01 IP/GS
Mike Mussina: 4.76 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 7.11 K/9, 6.07 IP/GS

The rejuvenated El Duque looks to be able to hang with Shilling and Martinez, but Moose looks flat outclassed, that is until you look at recent trends, such as performance after the All-Star break:

Mussina: 3.52 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 9.39 K/9, 6.39 IP/GS
Schilling: 3.66 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 6.75 K/9, 7.15 IP/GS
Martinez: 3.07 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 11.09 K/9, 6.83 IP/GS

Of course, Mussina's post-break numbers have been compiled in just half as many starts as Schilling and Martinez's, but then Mussina has also steadily improved over the course of those starts and appears more likely to exceed the above post-break numbers than his is to replicate them. It's also worth noting that Schilling's large lead over El Duque in innings pitched per start is partially illusory. Hernandez's number is hurt by a late July start in Toronto in which he had to leave after two scoreless innings because of a tight hamstring. Taking out that one start, El Duque's IP/GS jumps to 6.39. Limit the figure to just August and September and it climbs again to 6.67 IP/GS. I would still give the two Boston starters a slight advantage here, but this is one case in which the numbers are deceptive. If I were Joe Torre, I would feel confident sending El Duque and Mussina to the hill against Pedro and Schilling.

Next up are a pair of alliterative sinker/slider pitchers who pitch to contact and rely heavily upon their defense, Jon Lieber and Derek Lowe. The comparison is admittedly a bit forced. Lowe is a far more extreme groundball pitcher (this season he's induced three times as many ground balls as fly balls, which is amazingly a career, uhm, low), who relies almost exclusively on a sinker and walks far more batters (he'd have to) than the stingy Lieber, who has walked a David Wells-like 0.98 batters per nine innings. Lowe also has equal success against lefties and righties, while Lieber owns righties (.218 GPAA) but is murdered by lefties (.285 GPAA). Still, the similarities between the two are reinforced by their overall stats:

Lieber: 4.46 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 5.04 K/9, 6.47 IP/GS
Lowe: 4.91 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 5.94 K/9, 5.94 IP/GS

Advantage Lieber, but watch how things tighten up if we look post-break:

Lieber: 4.11 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 6.10 K/9, 6.58 IP/GS
Lowe: 4.12 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 5.95 K/9, 6.56 IP/GS

The jump in Leiber's strikeout rate is typical of a pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery and reflects a shift toward his career number of 6.53. The increase in Lowe's IP/GS reflects the elimination of two first-half disaster starts in which Derek didn't make it out of the third inning (one of those coming against the Yankees in the only game the Sox lost in the first series of the year between the two teams).

Both pitchers have also been excellent in the most recent past, posting ERAs of 2.61 (Lowe) and 2.84 (Lieber) thus far in September, though both also had ERAs in the fours in August. Again I'd call this a wash with a slight advantage to the Yankees in head-to-head competition based on Lowe's recent history against the Yankees (7.08 ERA in four starts this season, 6.43 ERA in two starts in last year's ALCS).

That brings us to Tim Wakefield and Javier Vazquez:

Wakefield: 4.80 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 5.40 K/9, 6.36 IP/GS
Vazquez: 4.75 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 6.95 K/9, 6.21 IP/GS

[note: I'm using Wakefield's stats in games started only]

Again, very very close. One's tempted to give the advantage to Vazquez, but then there are the post-break numbers:

Wakefield: 5.59 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 5.45 K/9, 6.00 IP/GS
Vazquez: 7.04 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 6.46 K/9, 5.58 IP/GS

What really stands out here is Vazquez's ERA, which along with his IP/GS figure has been killed by a pair of recent disaster starts. To be fair, both pitchers have slowly gotten worse over the second half. Wakefield's ERA after three September starts is 8.04, which includes a start in which seven runs scored on his watch, but only two were earned. Vazquez, meanwhile, has recently showed signs of reversing his downward spiral with two strong seven-inning starts that saw him strike out a combined 15 men. Of course those two starts surrounded one of those disaster starts, so the jury is still out. As a fan of both Vazquez and his team, I'm tempted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but what tips the scales back in Wakefield's favor is the knuckleballer's recent run of success against the Yankees that includes a 0.68 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in two starts this season and a 2.08 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in two starts in last year's ALCS.

A team doesn't need more than four starters in a playoff series, and it seems obvious to me that, unless the Yankees have clinched at least a tie by the final regular season game between these two teams one week from Sunday, they'll be starting someone on short rest to avoid using their fifth starter, whomever that might be, in Fenway. Thus, we can take stock here. Despite the presence of Pedro and Schilling and the general disarray that the Yankee rotation has been in all season, these two teams are pretty evenly matched as far as starting pitching goes. The Sox enjoy a very slight advantage, but not one significant enough make them a clear favorite based on pitching match-ups alone.

Lowe and Wakefield are just as likely to have a disaster start as Lieber and Vazquez, and even on their worst days Mussina and Hernandez have the pitching smarts to avoid being bounced in the early frames. The latter part is crucial, as we've seen how the Red Sox middle relief is leaps and bounds better than the Yankees'. Bringing the pen back into the picture, the Red Sox clearly have a better overall pitching staff, but if the Yankee starters can get the ball directly to Gordon and Rivera, things even out once again.

That being said, let's move on to consider each team's fifth starter. For the Yankees, we'll go with Kevin Brown here, even though I am not optimistic about his return and would be perfectly happy to see the Yankees proceed without him, as the above shows they are fully capable of doing.

Brown: 3.99 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 5.70 K/9, 6.32 IP/GS
Arroyo: 4.02 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 7.10 K/9, 6.19 IP/GS

That's right, Arroyo holds up pretty well against Mr. Surly. Actually, Arroyo's overall numbers are better than both Tim Wakefield's and Derek Lowe's, but I can't imagine the Red Sox using Arroyo over Wakefield against the Yankees in light of Wakefield's recent success against the Yanks. For his part, Lowe has past glories and a strong September to hang his hat upon, so Arroyo, who was effective in relief in last year's ALCS, is the man most likely to get bumped to the pen, making the Red Sox's long relief just that much better. Imagine a Boston bullpen of Foulke, Williamson, Mendoza, Timlin and Arroyo from the right and Embree and Myers from the left. The Yankees can't even hope to step to that.

But they do have this guy:

vs. lefties: .125/.154/.208 (.121)

Have you figured out who he is yet? I'll give you a hint, he's the one active Yankee pitcher I still haven't mentioned in this post.

The answer is ace post-season LOOGY Brad Halsey. If only someone would notice (ask Colter Bean about how likely that is).


Rotation - even
Bullpen - advantage Sox

Overall superior pitching: The Boston Red Sox

Sorry, Yankee fans, better luck next week.

posted by Cliff at 2:43 PM


Javier Vazquez's line from yesterday: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 7 K, 0 HR, 65 percent of 115 pitches for strikes.

The last time Vazquez left a game without giving up a home run: July 21
The last time Vazquez left a game without giving up a run: May 18
The last time Vazquez left a game having given up three or fewer hits: April 30

Conversely . . .

The last time Vazquez walked four or more men in a single start: July 9

It's great to see a start like that from Vazquez, but he walked too many and wasn't particularly efficient. He was facing the Royals' day-game-after-night-game line-up, which subbed in Desi Relaford and Alberto Castillo (who went 5 for 37 as a Yankee two years ago) for Joker Joe Randa and Monday's homer hero John Buck. I'm not sure this start by itself proves much of anything. It merely continues the every-other-start trend Javy's been on since July.

Vazquez should get three more regular season starts, including one in the Yankees three-game series in Fenway next weekend. Unless he can pull a similar trick (say seven-plus innings, max three runs) in all of them, I would still consider him the Yankees fourth starter going into the playoffs (behind Hernandez, Mussina and Lieber).

In his second game since returning to the big club Jason Giambi went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts, two swinging, one looking. The one ball he hit fair was a groundout to third. The only pitches he swung at and missed were the two third strikes (from lefty starter Darrell May and righty D.J. Carrasco). He fouled off three pitches. Having not seen the game, I can't say how he looked at the plate. If anyone did catch it, feel free to comment.

My instinct at the moment says that Giambi should not start against the Red Sox, though if he gets a key pinch hit in one of the first two games, I might be tempted to start him the next day. I would also not hesitate to put Giambi in should the Yankees be fortunate enough to have a significant lead in one of the games. I want him to see Boston pitching, just not at the expense of a game in the standings.

The Sox won last night as well, though the D-Rays made them work for it. Thus the Yankee lead remains at four. The Sox will add or subtract a half game when they play the Rays tonight.

Finally, the Yankees have rejiggered their schedule next week in order to make up that elusive game with the Devil Rays. They've moved Thursday's game with the Blue Jays to Monday (still 7:05pm) and in it's place will face the Devil Rays on Thursday at 3:05 with all tickets being sold for $5 and the proceeds being donated to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. Both classy and appropriate. Those of you with loose work schedules would do well to snap up some choice $5 seats.

posted by Cliff at 1:16 AM

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

A very good day 

As hoped, Mike Mussina was aces against the Royals last night, dig:

8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 11 K, 70 percent of 97 pitches for strikes

That drops his season era to 4.76 and pushes his composite line from his last three starts to:

23 IP, 14 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 25 K

Although Moose wasn't allowed to start the ninth inning last night (Tom Gordon was perfect in relief, striking out two), he still improved for the sixth straight start since coming off the DL in mid-August.

Up in Fenway, Moose's mound opponent for the climactic game of this weekend's showdown in the Bronx, was effective (6 IP, 3 H, 10 K), but not dominant (5 BB, 61 percent of 113 pitches for strikes). Prince Pedro gave up solo shots to Carl Crawford (leading off the game) and Rocco Baldelli, and although he would only allow one more hit in his six innings of work, those two runs were all that rookie Scott Kazmir would need as he matched Martinez through six (3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 9 K). Although the two bullpens combined to allow five more runs in the final three frames, the Devil Rays hung on to win, adding a game to the Yankees' lead in the east, which now stands at an even 4 (the half will return when the Sox play an unanswered game on Thursday).

As for Pedro's outing, its interesting to note that last night's start was very similar to his outing against the Yankees in the now legendary July 1 contest at the Stadium. In that game, Pedro lasted seven, giving up three runs on two homers (one driving in a preceding walk), allowing just two other hits, walking a total of three and striking out eight.

Looking at Pedro's numbers, his walk rate surpassed 2/9IP last year for the first time since 1998, his first season in Boston. Last year he walked 2.27 men per nine innings. This year he's walking 2.48 per nine. More significantly, he's given up 22 home runs this year, the second highest total of his career, just four fewer than his all-time high of 26 (also 1998). Pedro is allowing homers at a rate of 0.99 per nine innings this year. On his career he's allowed 0.67 per nine, during his six previous years in Boston combined he allowed 0.59 per inning and last year he allowed just 0.34 per nine innings.

Pedro's still a dominating pitcher, and he's suddenly a durable one (the next out he records will push him past 200 innings for the first time since 2000), but he's been less effective this season than in any other since 1996 according to batting average, on-base percentage, ERA and even K/9, and since 1995 (his first full year as a starter) according to slugging percentage. This is all a testament to just how remarkable his run was between now and then, but it's also hard evidence that Pedro, despite his surprising durability this year, is more beatable than he's ever been during his Red Sox career.

Getting back to the Yankees, Mike Mussina's dominating start wasn't the only highlight of last night's game (though it certainly was the primary one). With the Clippers having been eliminated from the International League playoffs by the Richmond Braves, Jason Giambi rejoined the big club last night, batting sixth as the team's DH. Giambi was 2 for 16 with Columbus with a pair of doubles, four strikeouts a few walks and a hit-by-pitch. Last night, Giambi came to bat four times. With two outs in the second, he sized up a 3-1 change-up from Zack Greinke, launching it toward right center into a stiff wind where it died and fell into the glove of David DeJesus. With one out in the fifth, Greinke, the tremendously impressive Royals rookie, struck Jason out looking on a 2-2 count with an absolutely nasty curve that came in eye-high and dropped into the zone. In the seventh, facing lefty reliever Dennys Reyes, Giambi offered at the first pitch looping it to DeJesus in center for another out. Finally, in the ninth, facing lefty Jeremy Affeldt, Giambi walked on four pitches.

Looking at those four at-bats, Giambi didn't take any ugly hacks. He made contact on three of four swings (one miss, one foul, two fly outs to center). He worked the count well, taking a couple of close inside pitches for balls. Only the first-pitch fly-out against Reyes bothers me in the slightest. Reyes had just entered the game and had only thrown two pitches to his first hitter, Jorge Posada (a called strike and a groundout). Giambi must have figured he had Reyes measured, and he did make decent contact despite hitting the ball right at DeJesus.

It's good to see Giambi back for a number of reasons, all of which should be fairly obvious (the return of an important bat, the end of his struggles to get healthy--knock on wood in both cases). I for one agree with the decision to activate Giambi rather than attempt to set him up with simulated games in Tampa (though one wonders if Hurricane Ivan had anything to do with that decision). Simulated games would have been a step backwards. I'd much rather he see as much major league pitching as possible before the Yankees decide whether or not to include him on the post-season roster.

I also agree 100 percent with Joe Torre's current line-up, which places Giambi sixth behind Matsui and Posada, pushing Olerud and Williams down to the bottom three. I gave Joe a lot of heat at the beginning of the year over his inclination to bat Matsui ahead of Posada and lead-off Kenny Lofton. Injuries to Lofton cured Joe of the latter ailment. Meanwhile, the drastic improvement in Matsui's game has reversed my opinion of the former (which Torre has handled very well throughout the season as Posada and Matsui have passed each other in offensive value).

There are basically three things to consider when constructing a line up:

1) The batting order distributes plate appearances. The lead-off hitter will get the most. The ninth hitter will get the least. And everyone in between will get an amount proportional to their distance between the two.

2) Because baseball does not have a clock, the only thing that limits a team's ability to score runs is it's tendency to make outs. Thus, the most valuable offensive skill in baseball is the ability to get on base, because getting on base means a player has avoided making an out, thus prolonging his team's opportunity to score.

Combining 1) and 2), the batters who reach base most often should be given the greatest number of at-bats.

Now, one could stick hard and fast to 1) and 2) and produce a Yankee line-up that looked like this (OBP in parentheses):

S - Jorge Posada (.406)
R - Gary Sheffield (.405)
L - Hideki Matsui (.394)
R - Alex Rodriguez (.375)
L - John Olerud (.374 with NY)
L - Jason Giambi (.359)
S - Bernie Williams (.348)
R - Derek Jeter (.347)
R - Miguel Cairo (.334)

But, I do believe that there is something to be said for batting your best hitter third (where he's still guaranteed a first-inning at-bat, but has a chance to get that at-bat with men on base), and for placing some speed (with OBP as a prerequisite) atop the line-up. I also believe there is something to be said for splitting up lefties to stymie the use of LOOGies. All of these beliefs make up 3).

Gary Sheffield (.324 GPA) has clearly been the Yankees best hitter this season, thus he gets the #3 hole. Alex Rodriguez is clearly the team's best combination of OBP and speed (a team-leading 23 stolen bases at an 85 percent success rate), and thus should hit ahead of Sheffield. Derek Jeter ranks toward the bottom of the above list--much to the Yankees credit, all nine men in their line-up as well as Kenny Lofton (.346) have OBPs at or above league average (.334 in 2003)--but entered the season with a career .389 OBP and is easily the best baserunner on this team (22 SB at 88 percent success to go with incredible instincts). Thus, I can abide him hitting atop the order (especially if it will keep him from sac bunting), with Rodriguez and his extra sixty points of slugging batting second to drive him in.

After Sheffield, Posada and Matsui are largely interchangeable (and Torre does indeed swap them according to the preferred pitching hand of the opposing starter). However, with lefties Olerud and Giambi next on the OBP list, it makes more sense to use the switch-hitting Posada after Matsui to break up the southpaws, just as it makes sense to use the switch-hitting Williams to break up Giambi and Olerud themselves, with Giambi and his career .415 OBP entering this season getting the nod over Olerud, whose combined OBP in on the season is actually lower than Giambi's at .357. That leaves Cairo to bring up the rear. Thus:


Which is exactly the line-up that Joe Torre handed in last night (and, yes, I sort of forced the Jeter leading-off thing, but I think we can hold off on that can of worms for now, especially as I've been arguing for years that he's been the most logical Yankee lead off hitter since Knoblauch lost his knack).

In other news, the Yankees also called up Scott Proctor, Andy Phillips and (sadly, too late) Felix Escalona. Escalona (who's just 25 and went .308/.371/.431 in 448 at-bats with Columbus) should have replaced a released Enrique Wilson (31, .216/.256/.333) well before the August 31 deadline for making players eligible for the postseason rosters.

The good news in my continuing campaign to rid the Yankees of the accursed Wilson is that when Andy Phillips pinch-ran for Giambi in the ninth inning of last-night's game, he was wearing number 39. Phillips was giving number 70 when he was briefly called up during Alex Rodriguez's suspension in mid-August, fellow call-ups Dioner Navarro and Escalona were given numbers 68 and 60. Neither Navarro, nor Escalona is eligible for the post-season, thus the spring-training numbers. Seeing Phillips with 39 on his back makes me think that he's being seriously considered for the post-season roster, one hopes at Enrique's expense. Those who share my quest will happily note that Enrique has made just one start in September, hasn't reached base since August 29 and hasn't had a hit since August 25. Enrique's last three starts have all come in the final game of series that the Yankees have already won. I was hoping this would happen. Joe seems to have realized that when winning really matters, Cairo gets the start.

One other note on the roster moves, in order to add Escalona to the 40-man roster, the Yankees released Danny Borrell. Borrell, a left-handed starter, looked like an exciting prospect as recently as last June, but season-ending shoulder surgery derailed his steady progress, which had pushed him all the way to Columbus. This year, coming off surgery, Borrell made four very impressive starts for the Rookie-League Gulf Coast Yankees before getting roughed up in a pair of starts for single-A Tampa. Just 25, one would think Borrell would get another chance somewhere. Perhaps even with the Yanks, who may be gambling that he won't get snatched up. That, or he's experienced an injury-related set back that I'm unaware of. Borrell's career minor league numbers are a 3.03 ERA with 7 K/9, 2.92 BB/9 and a 1.22 WHIP in 73 starts and four relief appearances.

Javy Vazquez pitches this afternoon to keep the Red Sox out of striking distance going into the weekend series (a win would clinch a 3 1/2 game lead entering Friday). Javy's a can of worms himself. After he gave up six runs in 6 2/3 innings in Minnesota on August 18 after missing a turn in the rotation due to pink eye, I chalked it up to rust:
Javy's had some poor outings this year that weren't due to long rest, but only four times this season have his total runs allowed equaled or surpassed his raw innings pitched (sans thirds). In two of those four games Javy was pitching on extended rest (in Boston in his second start of the season and in Detroit following the All-Star break) and in a third he allowed five runs in five innings in LA, but only two of those runs were earned (that was the game in which Vazquez threw three wild pitches and made a throwing error). It's also worth noting that Vazquez has not had such a start at home this year as he has a rather extreme home/road split:

Home: 3.36 ERA, 7.05 K/9, 1.73 BB/9, .201 BAA, 9-2
Road: 5.07 ERA, 6.72 K/9, 2.88 BB/9, .288 BAA, 4-4

Since then, Vazquez has had two absolute disaster starts in four tries, one of them coming at home against the Indians (perhaps you remember it, something about 22 runs). In those two starts, Vazquez combined line was: 3 2/3 IP, 10 H, 14 R (all earned), 4 BB, 4 K, 1 HR. In his other two starts during that span his combined line was: 14 IP, 12 H, 7 R, 6 BB, 12 K, 2 HR (both were seven-inning no decisions won by the bullpen).

More significantly, other than strong showings in April and June (combined 2.61 ERA), Javy's been flat awful this season (6.77 ERA in all other months, escalating from 5.34 in May to 6.61 in July, 7.43 in August and 10.61 thus far in September). With Mussina and El Duque pitching lights out, it's extremely frustrating to have Vazquez spiraling out of control (or command, as it were). Indeed, Vazquez's failings have brought a lot of heat upon the head of Yankee pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre from on-line analysts such as myself. This criticism is most succinctly, technically, damningly and, I fear, accurately summarized by Alex Belth's recent interview with author and one-time pitching prospect Pat Jordan ("It’s not a case of trying to hard it’s just bad mechanics obvious to anyone except the Yankee brain trust"), a must-read.

posted by Cliff at 11:41 PM

Captain Hook 

Imagine this situation. You are managing the best team in your league in a game against the worst team in your league. Your team, which has scored an average of 6.5 runs per game in its last 12 games, takes the field for the bottom of the fifth inning with a 3-2 lead. Your starting pitcher has thus far allowed five hits, walked none and struck out two while throwing 65 percent of his 77 pitches for strikes. With the top of the order coming up, the first opposing batter walks on four pitches. The second batter bunts the fifth pitch of the inning toward third and is safe at first on a very close play.

Do you take your starter out at this point?

If you're Joe Torre and that starter is the young Brad Halsey, it seems that you do. I know I wouldn't have. It's easy to second-guess someone after a decision blows up in their face (the Royals went on to score ten runs in the fifth after Joe removed the Halsey), but loyal readers will recall my mentioning Torre's quick hook with Halsey in yesterday's post, and my girlfriend, cat and houseplants will recall my disgust at seeing Halsey removed as it happened last night.

In Torre's defense, Halsey is a rookie who has never seen professional action into September. Then again, Halsey pitched 175 innings between single and double-A in 2003 and just 163 between Columbus and New York this year prior to his most recent call-up. As one should expect a developing pitcher to increase his workload somewhat each year in pursuit of 200 innings, it doesn't make sense to baby Halsey before he even equals his previous year's workload.

One might argue that Torre is trying to protect Halsey, taking him out before he starts getting smacked around. But I'd say that it's equally possible that such reasoning would stem from Joe being gunshy from Alex Graman's two Yankee starts. Besides which, is it more damaging to a pitcher's psyche to give up a few runs, or to have his manager yank him early at the slightest sign of trouble? I say the latter.

Most importantly in this particular case, the lead-off walk to DeJesus to start the fifth was the first issued by Halsey in the entire game and Berroa reached on a bunt, and only because of a poor play at first by Miguel Cairo (though it was ruled a hit). Couldn't Torre have at least waited until Halsey issued a second walk, or gave up a clean hit? Halsey only surrendered one extra base hit in his outing yesterday, would it be too much to make the Royals prove they could hit Halsey hard before yanking him in with no outs in the fifth?

As for the blowing-up-in-his-face part: Tanyon Sturtze came on and was victimized by an even more perfectly placed bunt that loaded the bases. With no outs, Sturtze was in a hell of a jam through no fault of his own. Then this happened: walk, wild pitch, balk, each scoring a run and pushing Ken Harvey (the walk) to third. Having surrendered the Yankee lead in mind-numbing fashion, Sturtze got Joe Randa to ground out for the first out of the inning. Joe Torre then had Sturtze intentionally walk lead-footed lefty masher Matt Stairs to set up the double play and bring up rookie catcher John Buck. Buck fouled off three 0-2 pitches from Sturtze before launching a three-run homer to put the Royals up 8-3. Sturtze then got the second out before giving up three straight singles, pushing the score to 9-3. With seven Royal runs having crossed the plate since he removed Halsey, Torre put Sturtze out of his misery and handed it to Bret Prinz. With two men already on, Prinz walked the bases loaded, then walked in a run, then gave up a 2-run single to Joe Randa. Joe then went to C.J. Nitkowski to get Matt Stairs to ground out and end the inning.

To recap: After Torre removed Halsey, the Royals scored ten runs on five singles (one a bunt), a three-run home run, four walks (one intentional), a wild pitch and a balk. The Yankees needed three pitchers to get the three outs to end the inning, one of them (Prinz) failing to retire a single batter. Entering the bottom of the fifth leading 3-2 the Yankees left it trailing 12-3. It's unfair to say that Halsey could have done better, but that doesn't make it any less true.

Tonight Mike Mussina pitches a warm-up for his showdown with Pedro this Sunday. A good start would drop his ERA below 5.00. More significantly, Moose hasn't walked a batter in his last 15 innings pitched. Since coming off the DL, Mussina has gone one inning deeper in each of his starts, from his four-inning outing on August 18 through his eight-inning start last Wednesday. In his last two starts Moose has posted this combined line: 15 IP, 11 H, 3 R, 1 HR, 0 BB, 14 K, good for a 1.80 ERA, a .204 BAA and a 0.73 WHIP. If Mussina is really back to his old (pre-2004) self, he could be a difference maker for the Yankees both in the Boston series and the postseason. Stay tuned . . .

posted by Cliff at 10:14 AM

Monday, September 13, 2004

Cliff Van Winkle 

Sorry, have I been asleep on the job here?

My bad. Sadly, this is not really a post as much as a confirmation that I'm still alive. I intend to cover this weekend's Red Sox series (see expected pitching match-ups on the side-bar) like I would the playoffs, and hope to get a few state-of-the-Yanks posts up between now and then.

General thoughts: The Yankees are 9-3 on the month (also 9-3 since their 22-0 loss to Cleveland, which occurred on August 31). That's a .750 winning percentage. The Red Sox were 2 1/2 back when I typed my last post one week prior to this past Saturday. They never made it to 2, let alone 1 1/2 back and are currently 3 1/2 back. The Yanks have scored 6.5 runs per game thus far in September, allowing 4 1/3 per game over the same span, both significantly better than their season totals.

For their part the Red Sox are also 9-3 on September having been slowed more by the lowly Mariners (a split four-game series) than they were by their Wild Card rivals (8-1, the one loss to the Rangers). The Sox have scored 6 1/3 runs per game and allowed 3.4 on the month thus far. Those numbers are a bit deceptive as the Sox have been scoring almost as much and pitching almost a full run better than the Yanks against better competition (Ana, Tex, Oak, Sea vs. Cle, Balt & TB), but the fact remains that the Yanks and Sox are matching each other game-for-game on the month.

I'll break down the two teams in the coming days. Meanwhile the bits of news I've missed:

Kevin Brown required surgery on his left hand and is out until at least the final week in September. He broke two bones in the hand, one was a clean break, but the other required the insertion of two metal pins. He began a throwing program on Saturday to keep his arm in shape for his eventual return.

Jason Giambi is playing for the Clippers in the International League playoffs. In his first two games he was hitless in six at-bats, but reached bass three times via two walks and a hit-by-pitch.

Bret Prinz and Brad Halsey have joined Karsay, Heredia and Navarro on the expanded Yankee roster. Prinz has appeared just twice (1 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 everything else), while Halsey made his fifth career start against the Devil Rays in the second game of last Thursday's doubleheader. Halsey didn't make it out of the fourth inning in that start (partially due to a quick Torre hook that paid off), but will get the ball again tonight against the Royals.

It's a very good sign that the Yankees are giving Halsey the ball over Loaiza, who clearly won't make the postseason roster and won't be back next year, and Sturtze, who Torre has said he prefers in the long-man/mop-up role. Giving youth a chance over pathetic veteran options. Fantastic! Now about Colter Bean . . .

posted by Cliff at 3:53 PM

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