Friday, October 01, 2004


The Yankees clinched the AL East last night in grand fashion. Having come from behind to tie the Twins three times in the game (2-2, 3-3 and 4-4), the Yankees sent Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui and Bernie Williams to the plate in the ninth to face Juan Rincon, who had finished the eighth by striking out Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez on seven total pitches. Sheffield worked a full count before becoming Rincon's fifth strikeout of the night. Ron Gardenhire then called on lefty Aaron Fultz to pitch to Matsui, who worked a full-count walk to bring Bernie to the plate. Thus, in the last half of the last inning of the last home game of the year, with 48,454 fans going absolutely wild, the most tenured Yankee, a man whose name was first written on a major league line-up card by Stump Merrill in 1991, who first signed with the Yankees organization in 1985, took one ball and then, batting righty, clubbed a two-run, game-winning, division-clinching, 1961-team-homer-record-breaking, walk-off home run into the net above the retired numbers. Perfect.

In other news, Javier Vazquez pitched well, though not spectacularly: 6 2/3 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 4 K, 2 HR (grrrr), 69 percent of 95 pitches for strikes. Kevin Brown would have to throw a three-hitter this weekend to take the Game 4 start from Javy at this point. Not to say that couldn't happen.

Felix Heredia again got Jacque Jones (.231 GPA vs. lefties) to ground out to end the seventh. Tanyon Sturtze worked a perfect eighth, throwing 8 of 12 pitches for strikes, and may get some of Paul Quantrill's innings in the playoffs, which at this point could be a good thing. Word has it Sturtze has picked up a cutter for Mariano Rivera, which has increased his effectiveness of late. Tom Gordon keeps allowing baserunners but not runs, this time escaping first and second with two outs by coming back from 3-1 to strike out Lew Ford to end an eight-pitch at-bat and the top of the ninth.

Elsewhere, the Angels lost and the A's won on a walk-off homer from Bobby Crosby. The two teams are tied atop the AL West with three to play, all against each other, in Oakland. The A's and Angels are also tied with the Twins at 90-69. As one of the AL West teams is guaranteed to win at least two games this weekend and the Twins lost the season series to both teams, the Twins would need to sweep the Indians in Minnesota to even hope to get the second seed in the AL and host the Red Sox. Otherwise, they'll be back in the Bronx on Tuesday for a rematch of Wednesday's Game One and last year's ALDS Game One: Mussina vs. Santana.

In the NL, the Cubs got a 9-inning, 3-hit, 1-walk, 1-run, 16-strikeout performance from Mark Prior and still managed to lose their third straight to the Reds. You see, Sammy, Nomar, Moises, Aramis, Derek et. al couldn't get more than one run (Sammy's 34th tater) off of the murderer's row of Aaron Harang, John Riedling, Gabe White, Jose Acevedo and . . . Juan Padilla, who was released by the Yanks on September 1 to make room on the 40-man roster for Steve Hearsay (nickname reinstituted due to Joe Torre's use of him, or rather lack thereof) and picked up by the Reds just three days later. The Reds got the winning run in the top of the 12th when Adam Dunn made like Ichiro by singling, stealing second, and moving to third on an out. He was doubled home by Javier Valentin. Javier Valentin! If you know any Cubs fans, do something nice for them. They could use it.

The Giants beat the Padres, who are now three back in the wild card with three to play, to move into a tie with the idle Astros for the NL Wild Card lead, one game ahead of the Cubs. The Dodgers, meanwhile, answered a tenth-inning run before defeating the Rockies on a two-run, twelfth-inning, walk-off home run by David Ross. They remain three up on the Giants and have thus clinched a tie in the West with three to play against the Giants this weekend in San Francisco.

Ichiro is now just one hit shy of George Sisler's record. See my previous post for my take on that and the major "hitting" record broken yesterday.

This will be my last post of the regular season as I'm off to Washington, DC this weekend with a gagle of baseball writers including Steven Goldman, Alex Ciepley, and Jay Jaffe. We're going to drop in on Chris Kahrl and see the Baseball as America exibit at the Smithsonian among other things. I'll of course have my eye on the races, records and Yankee box scores and hope to have a post up Sunday night. If not, I'll surely get some sort of preview of the Yankees ALDS series up before Tuesday's Game One.

posted by Cliff at 3:09 AM

Hits and Strikeouts 

Mark Prior struck out 16 men yesterday afternoon as the Cubs drove yet another steak through the hearts of their fans, losing their third straight game to the Cincinnati Reds. The third man Prior struck out in that game was Adam Dunn (on a 2-2 count, all three strikes swinging), thus allowing Dunn to accomplish what Jose Hernandez twice refused to do: break Bobby Bonds' single-season strike-out record.

Hernandez sat out the final games of the 2001 and 2002 seasons to avoid breaking Bonds' mark of 189 strike outs set in 1970. In 2000, Preston Wilson did the same. The two fell a combined 7 strikeouts short of the record in those three seasons combined.

Adam Dunn, and his manager Dave Miley, had no fear and Dunn blazed past the record, finishing yesterday's contest with 191 strikeouts. Although many see the strikeout mark as a dubious record, it's hardly a scarlet letter K as Hernandez, Wilson and their managers (Davey Lopes, Jerry Royster and John Boles) made it out to be. One has to be awful productive to be given the chance to strike out 190 times. Perhaps that's why Hernandez and Wilson were not given that chance. Dig:

Wilson '00: .265/.331/.486 (.270) - 187 Ks
Hernandez '01: .249/.300/.443 (.246) - 185 Ks
Hernandez '02: .288/.356/.478 (.280) - 188 Ks

Note the correlation of GPA to Ks. Hernandez was below replacement level (88 OPS+) in '01 and was benched well clear of the record. In '02 he was actually quite good (121 OPS+) and got within one. Wilson in 2000 (107 OPS+) falls right in between on both counts. Now look at Adam Dunn through Thursday's game:

Dunn '04: .264/.387/.564 (.315) - 191 Ks and counting

With numbers like that, Dunn could record all of his outs via the K for all I care. An out is an out, and as long as he's reaching base at a near-.390 clip, he's not making enough to bother me.

Speaking of which, it might surprise you to learn that, in the season in which he set the record (breaking his own mark of 187 from the year before), Bobby Bonds hit .302 and collected 200 hits (.302/.375/.504 - .295).

Speaking of hits, Ichiro Suzuki picked up another yesterday and is now just one behind George Sisler's single-season mark with 256. With four games left to play, only an injury or a massive choke could prevent Suzuki from breaking the record as he's not had more than two consecutive 0-fers at any point this season.

258 hits. It's pretty mindboggling, but how valuable are all of those hits? Here's a look at Ichiro's line on the season through yesterday:

Suzuki '04: .371/.414/.455 (.300)

Mighty fine, but notice that Ichiro trails new all-time single-season strike out leader Adam Dunn in GPA by a convincing 15 points. Looking at Baseball Prospectus's EQA, a more complete "total offense" stat which adjust for park and league and even incorporates baserunning (Ichiro has 35 steals in 46 tries to Dunn's 5 in 6), Dunn still leads convincingly .321 to 307.

There's something interesting going on here and it points to my reluctance to post counting stats on this blog. That is, counting stats are a byproduct of playing time and production than they are an indication of performance. Suzuki is the perfect example. While it's unfair to call his 256 hits "emtpy," he has quite simply been no where near as productive as the men who fill out the rest of top-10 single-season hits list (I've extended the following chart to include eleventh place Babe Herman and Heinie Manush):

Ichiro Suzuki2004256+.371/.414/.455.300NA
George Sisler1920257.407/.449/.632.360181
Lefty O'Doul1929254.398/.465/.622.364159
Bill Terry1930254.401/.452/.619.358158
Al Simmons1925253.387/.419/.599.339149
Rogers Hornsby1922250.401/.459/.722.387207
Chuck Klein1930250.386/.436/.687.368159
Ty Cobb1911248.420/.467/.621.378196
George Sisler1922246.420/.467/.594.359170
Ichiro Suzuki2001242.350/.381/.457.286127
Babe Herman1930241.393/.455/.678.374170
Heinie Manush1928241.378/.414/.575.330154

For those bothered by the fact that ten of the twelve seasons listed above occured between 1920 and 1930, here are the five highest non-Ichiro hit totals since 1940:

Wade Boggs1985240.368/.450/.478.322151
Darin Erstad2000240.355/.409/.541.319137
Rod Carew1977239.388/.449/.570.345178
Don Mattingly1986238.352/.394/.573.321161
Kirby Puckett1988234.356/.375/.545.305152

Not until you get down to Kirby, more than 20 hits below Ichiro's soon-to-be record, do you find a player with a GPA even close to as low as Suzuki's this year, and even in Puckett's case, the pitchers' era in which he played gives him a solid OPS+ number. Another way to look at it: not one of the 16 non-Ichiro seasons listed above sees the named player fail to accomplish an OPS of .900. Thus far this year, Ichiro is at .869.

So what is it that Ichiro doesn't do? Well, just about anything other than hit singles. Just 37 of Ichiro's 256 hits thus far this season have gone for extra bases. That's just 14 percent of his hits (by comparison, 52 percent of Dunn's have resulted in bonus bags), and in September Suzuki is hitting for extra bases half as often (3 of 43). He's also drawn just 49 walks on the season, and more than one-third of those (18) have been intentional. That means he's worked just 31 walks on his own in his 721 other plate appearances (our old friend Alfonso Soriano, who had a disappointing year for Texas, drew 29 in 654 PA before being shut down)

Yes, Ichiro steals bases (he's in the top-10 in the majors), but his 76 percent rate means that he basically breaks even on the bases. Want proof? If we add those 35 extra bases to his total bases and subtract eleven singles for times he's turned hits into outs with his legs, we can adjust Ichiro's line to this: .355/.396/.491 (.301) - 245 hits. Note that the increase in GPA is from .30005 to .30095. The steals are doing essentially nothing.

I don't mean to reign down on Ichiro, he remains a valuable offensive performer, in addition to being an excellent defensive ballplayer and an exciting player to watch. It's just that he's greatly overrated, and this impending record will only make things worse. If given the choice between the two, I'd take Dunn, who also happens to be six years Suzuki's junior, and his 190-plus strikeouts in a heartbeat and never look back.

As for historic seasons, the traditional baseball media would be much better off focusing their attention on Bobby's son Barry, who has reached base 61 more times than Ichiro in 142 fewer plate appearences. A lock to break his own single-season on-base percentage record (the record is .582, if he goes 0 for 5 without reaching base in each of the Giants final three games he'll finish at .596), Bonds is bidding to become the first player with more than 17 plate appearances to finish the season with an OBP over .600. That's not a typo: seventeen plate appearances. Billy Earle had a .647 OBP in 17 plate appearances in 1892 (he caught five games for the Pirates that season). No man has ever come to the plate more often in a single season and finished with a .600 OBP. Bonds has been to the plate over 600 times this year. Now that is a record worth paying attention to.

posted by Cliff at 1:10 AM

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Three down, one to go 

The Yankees were forced to schedule an emergency double header yesterday after Tuesday night's game was washed out by the remnants of Hurricane Jeanne. As a result, they made it a single-admission day, allowing those with tickets for yesterday's regularly scheduled 7:05 contest to show up at 4:00 and take in Game One as well. By sheer chance, I was offered a ticket to last night's game and was able to convince my boss to let me out at 3:00 so that I could make both games.

As expected, Game One was sparsely attended, much like the first game of the Yanks' twin-bill against the Devil Rays back on the 9th. Attendance figures for both games remain listed as "N/A," but one imagines the actual figure was similar to last September's make-up against the Blue Jays which brought a paltry 8,848 fans to the Bronx.

With the stands largely empty, I was able to watch the entirety of Game One from a cushioned box seat one section behind the Yankee dugout (though I remain offended that they chain off the field boxes, even when they're empty). I showed up in the middle of the first, which means I missed Mike Mussina giving up three two-out runs on a Torii Hunter homer, a four-pitch walk to Justin Morneau and a pair of doubles by Matt LeCroy and Corey Koskie.

What I did get to see was Johan Santana work his magic. Derek Jeter blasted Santana's second pitch for a double and Gary Sheffield singled off his fourth offering of the inning to drive Jeter home, but otherwise Santana was dominating. His fastball was untouchable, which only made his change and slider all the more unpredictable and unhittable. Fortunately, with the Twins having already clinched their division and Santana making his last regular season start before taking the ball in Game One of the ALDS, Ron Gardenhire had limited him to 70-pitches. Santana finished the fifth inning with 71 pitches (68 percent strikes), having retired the last eleven Yankees in order.

While Santana was working magic, Mussina was making like Houdini. A double play erased a lead-off single in the second. In the third and fourth innings Moose stranded a runner at third with one out, stranding yet another at third in the sixth to hold the Twins scoreless over his final five innings of work in an ugly-but-effective performance that was surely described as "gutty" by the Yankee broadcasters.

With that, it was in the hands of the bullpens. Grant Balfour worked a scoreless sixth for Minnesota. A double play saved Paul Quantrill from the two singles he allowed in the seventh. The Twins, still up 3-1, then went to J.C. Romero, who started the seventh by striking out Posada, who picked up a hat-trick on the day.

Next up was Hideki Matsui who doubled off Santana in the second, the third and final hit the Twins' starter allowed, and blasted a long-out to deep center off of Johan in the fourth. You could tell Hideki was feeling it yesterday, and Romero's third pitch to Matsui landed in front of the bleachers in right, 3-2 Twins. After a Ruben Sierra groundout it was two-out rally time. John Olerud, who had worked the only walk off of Santana, worked another and was pinch-run for by Bubba Crosby. Miguel Cairo singled to center and Crosby went to third when Hunter failed to scoop up the ball. Gardenhire then called on Juan Rincon to face the top of the order. Derek Jeter hit a bouncer to the left of the pitchers mound that Rincon was able to get a glove on but couldn't reel in. The ball trickled behind him for a 75-foot RBI single to tie the game. Alex Rodriguez followed by blasting a shot off top of the Japanese ad in right. Jason Kubel lept for the ball at the wall but missed it and the ball rolled back into right field for a two-RBI triple. 5-3 Yankees.

Enter Gordon for the eighth. Enter light, exit night. Game over.

There's little doubt that the Santana could have won this game for the Twins, but Gardenhire was smart not to overextend his most important postseason player for a meaningless win. Credit the Yankees for getting to two of the Twins best relievers.

Game Two, which I watched from my actual seat (sort of) in the upper deck behind home, was less thrilling, but no less successful for the Yanks.

Matsui continued his hot day, blasting his 30th homer of the year off Kyle Lohse to drive in the first three Yankee runs in the first. Jon Lieber gave two of those runs back in the second on a Guzman double and a trio of singles by Augie Ojeda (yes, that's right), Pat Borders (no really), and Jason Kubel. An Alex Rodriguez homer to lead off the third put the Yanks back up 4-2 and some sloppy play by the Twins helped turn a lead-off Jeter double in the fifth into the Yankees' fifth run. Lieber gave two back in the sixth following his own error (in which he gloved a ball hit to his left and then from about six feet away looped the ball a good four feet over Tony Clark's head) and two more singles. Lieber gave up ten hits in just 5 2/3 innings of work, but only two of them were for extra bases, both doubles.

Speaking of doubles, twice yesterday a Twins player hit what looked like a standard single to center and hustled it into a double by exploiting Bernie's arm and lackadaisical manner of fielding singles. Just dreadful.

Felix Heredia (the best pitcher in Yankees history named Felix, sez Steven Goldman), finished off the sixth by getting Jacque Jones (.232 GPA vs. lefties) to ground out. Enter Tanyon Sturtze, who was the story of this game.

Sturtze struck out the first two batters he faced (Lew Ford and Justin Morneau, no less) on six pitches. He retired all five batters he faced, three by strikeout, and needed just 15 pitches (12 of them strikes - 80 percent) to do it. I never thought I'd say it, but that was an electrifying performance by Sturtze (I'm sorry, I can't say that with a straight face). Looking at his game, log, since the massacre in Kansas City on the thirteenth Sturtze has put up this line in four appearances (including two against Boston and one against the Twins):

9 2/3 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 12 K

To the aliens who have taken over Tanyon Sturtze's body: what can I do to make you more comfortable? Can I offer you a tasty beverage? Perhaps an after-dinner mint?

Gordon and Rivera followed Sturtze to slam the door on the double-header sweep. Despite using five pitchers, the Yankees didn't issue a single walk in Game Two.

Meanwhile in Tampa, the Devil Rays made like the Yankees, defeating Pedro Martinez for the second time in as many tries. Pedro (5 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 5 K) has now lost four straight starts for what I'm told is the first time in his career. As a result, the Yankees shaved their magic number down from four to one in a single day and Terry Francona was finally able to figure out who his Game One starter would be (hint, not Pedro).

Elsewhere, the A's fell the M's (Ichiro got one hit and is now just two behind Sisler with four games left), and the Angels beat Texas. Anaheim now leads the AL West by one game has a record identical to Minnesota's.

In the NL, the Giants (to the Padres), Dodgers and Cubs all lost while the Astros, completing a sweep of the Cardinals in which they outscored them 18-8, won. The 'Stros are now up 1/2 game in the Wild Card race with three games left against the Rockies. The Cubs, meanwhile, have lost four of their last five to the Mets and Reds and will take on the Braves for their final three starting tomorrow while the Dodgers and Giants will play their final three against each other (the Dodgers took 2 of 3 from the Giants in San Francisco last weekend). All of which clarifies the NL picture considerably. Things are too close to make bets, but I'd be surprised if the Astros and Dodgers don't hold on to fill out the NL playoff picture, which would have the Cardinals host the Dodgers, and the Braves, who are 9-1 against Houston in three NLDS, host the Astros.

That makes the AL West the division to watch, especially for Yankee fans eager to know whom the Bombers first-round opponent will be. The A's and Angels finish with three in Oakland (the Halos took 2 of 3 in Anaheim last weekend) while the Twins travel to Cleveland to face the Indians, who split a series in Minnesota last weekend.

By the way, neither Steve Karsay nor Brad Halsey made it into either game yesterday, though both Halsey and Kevin Brown were seen warming up in the bullpen in the eighth inning of Game Two. Jason Giambi DHed in Game Two, picking up an infield single in four at-bats. He didn't get a ball out of the infield, though he didn't swing and miss at all either.

Oh, and the Expos' move to Washington is finally official. They won't, however, become the Senators Mach III. I'll write more about the 'Spos during the offseason when I have time to go into some detail.

posted by Cliff at 1:14 PM

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Change of plans 

Hurricane Jeanne washed away last night's game forcing the Yanks into a Twin bill (rim shot) today. Game One, scheduled for 4:05, could very well be a preview of ALDS Game One with Mike Mussina facing off against Johan Santana (though the Twins still lead the now-tied A's and Angels by 1 1/2). Game two will see Jon Lieber face off against last night's scheduled Twins starter Kyle Lohse.

As for last night's scheduled Yankee starter, El Duque has been pushed back to Thursday or Friday after complaining of a tired arm. That sounds like bad news, and it well may be, but the good news is that a Thursday start would come on eight days rest. A Friday start would come on nine days rest and would still allow him to start on regular rest in Game Two of the ALDS.

Elsewhere, the Sox have now won twice with the Yankees idle and are 2 1/2 games back.

The Cubs lost and Giants won, they are now tied for the NL Wild Card lead.

The Astros beat the Cardinals for the second straight night to pull within 1/2 game of the Cubs and Giants.

The Dodgers scored five in the bottom of the ninth, thanks to four straight walks from Rocky closer (rim shot) Shawn Chacon, to come back and beat Colorado, holding the Giants to 3 back.

The Padres lost to San Francisco and are now 3 back in the Wild Card race and have been eliminated from the NL West race.

Ichiro picked up two more hits as the M's beat the A's. He's now 3 short of Sisler with 254 with five games to play.

Lastly, Brad Halsey was suspended for three days for throwing at Dave Roberts. He's appealing (rim shot) and doesn't expect to serve until next year.

posted by Cliff at 1:06 AM

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Six Pack 

These are the stories we've been following for you:

My two Yankees vs. Red Sox posts concluded that the two teams were extremely evenly matched. Indeed, they wound up splitting their final six games, the home team winning 2 of 3 in each weekend series. The Yankees entered those six games up 3 1/3 games in the AL East and finished the set with the same lead. The best news to come out of this past weekend is that they beat Pedro Martinez in back-to-back starts, which seemed to get inside Prince P's head.

The Red Sox eliminated the half game once and for all last night, defeating the Devil Rays to pull within three games with six to play. The Yankees' magic number to win the division and clinch homefield advantage throughout the playoffs and World Series remains at four. Thus, if the Yankees go 2-4 in their final six while the Sox go 4-2, the Bombers still clinch. The Yankees will have to face Johan Santana, Brad Radke and Roy Halladay in half of their remaning games, but the Red Sox will have to play four against their new arch nemesis, the Baltimore Orioles.

Meanwhile, the Twins have pulled a game ahead of the AL West leading A's for the second seed, meaning that the Red Sox and not the Yankees would have to deal with Johan Santana in the ALDS should things remain as they are. The A's are now just one game ahead of the Angels, who just suspended Jose Guillen (.294/.352/.497 - .283, 27 HR, 104 RBI) for the remainder of the season and posteason due for being a poor teammate (there is clearly more to this story).

The Angels and A's will face off in Oakland over the season's final three days. Meanwhile the Angels are in Texas and the A's host the surging Mariners, who are saying goodbye to Edgar Martinez and have Ichiro Suzuki looking like a lock to break George Sisler's single-season hits record. Suzuki, at 252 hits as I write this, has already moved into fifth all-time with the highest total since 1930, pushing his rookie total of 242 to tenth. Suzuki and Sisler are the only two men to appear more than once on the list of the top ten single-season hit totals.

Over in the National League, Cubs lead the Giants by one game, the Astros by a game and a half and the Padres by three games in the Wild Card race. The Giants, meanwhile, trail the Dodgers by three games in the NL West. Those two teams will play their final three games against one another in LA. The Giants preceed that with a stop in San Diego while the Dodgers host the Rockies. The Cubs host the Reds and Braves. The Astros host the Cardinals (whom they beat 10-3 last night) and Rockies. The Padres follow their trip to San Fran by hosting the Diamondbacks. This thing is still wide open, and Barry Bonds OBP still starts with a six.

Back in Yankeeland, the concern remains pitching. Mike Mussina regressed slightly in Fenway (three walks, two homers), but still put up a solid outing (6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 6 K, 66 percent of 103 pitches for strikes) that matched Pedro through six. Likewise, El Duque suffered his first loss of the season, but put up a line nearly identical to that of his August 19 outing in Minnesota (a no-decision in a 13-10 Yankee win). Both should be dismissed as standard deviation resulting from facing the league's best offense in a hitter-friendly park. Meanwhile, Jon Lieber has been solid, stingy and efficient for two months now. In his last start he required just 82 pitches to complete 7 1/3 innings. His last loss came on August 20 when he allowed just three runs (2 earned) in 6 1/3 against the Angels. His previous loss was August 3.

Those three are the no-brainer top three for the Yankee playoff rotation. Unfortunately, Joe Torre has fouled up getting Lieber on proper rest for Game 3. The rotation for the remainder of the season, as I wrote a week ago, should look like this:

9/28: Lieber - normal rest
9/29: Hernandez - 7 days rest
9/30: Mussina
10/1: Vazquez
10/2: Brown
10/3: Lieber
10/4: off day
10/5: Mussina (ALDS Game 1) - normal rest
10/6: Hernandez (ALDS Game 2) - 7 days rest
10/7: off day
10/8: Lieber (ALDS Game 3) - normal rest

Instead, Joe is starting El Duque tonight and Lieber tomorrow, which fouls up their rest, resulting in something like this:

9/28: Hernandez - 6 days rest
9/29: Lieber - 6 days rest
9/30: Mussina
10/1: Vazquez
10/2: Brown
10/3: TBA
10/4: off day
10/5: Mussina (ALDS Game 1) - normal rest
10/6: Hernandez (ALDS Game 2) - 8 days rest
10/7: off day
10/8: Lieber (ALDS Game 3) - 8 days rest

Looking at the above, one wonders if Joe is going to start El Duque on the final day of the season and swap Hernandez and Lieber in the postseason rotation. If that is the case, it is likely the result of Lieber's home/road split.

As for the rest of the rotation, here's what Vazquez and Brown did in Fenway last weekend:

Vazquez: 4 2/3 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 62 percent of 97 pitches for strikes
Brown: 2/3 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 0 BB, 1 K, 0 HR, 66 percent of 32 pitches for strikes

Both will get one more start in Toronto as per the probables on the side-bar or the schedules listed above. Brown was leaving everything waist-high and over the plate (half of the hits he allowed hit the outfield walls on the fly). Jim Kaat speculated that the pain in his glove hand was keeping him from droping his front side low enough to get his pitches down. Whatever the problem, he's got one chance to fix it. Vazquez has gone from inconsistant to consistantly unreliable. After Saturday's game, Torre and Stottlemyre praise his stuff and continued to talk about confidence, which is to say nothing is changing.

In the pen, Esteban Loaiza got lit up on Sunday and should be left off the postseason roster as I had assumed before his "comeback" start against the Blue Jays last week.

Steve Karsay needed just five pitches to retire the only two batters he faced on Sunday. Unfortunately, those were the only two batters he had faced since working a perfect inning the previous Sunday. Karsay has seen action in just six games since being activated on September 1, all of them blowouts. Meanwhile, Paul Quantrill got lit up for four runs in just one inning of work on Saturday. His ERA on the month is now 11.45. He's walked more than he's struck out and given up one hit short of twice as many hits as innings pitched on the month. Yet Karsay has been given no opportunity to take his job.

One bit of good news is that Brad Halsey was used out of the pen on Sunday to face a pair of lefties (Mientkiewicz and Damon). He struck out Minky, got Damon to line out and then struck out the switch-hitting Bellhorn for good measure. He was then left in to face lefty Dave Roberts to start following inning, which he began by retaliating for Pedro Astacio's attempts to hit Kenny Lofton in the top of the inning by throwing at Roberts. All of which should only increase his standing in the mind of his teammates. Here's hoping Halsey now has Torre's attention as a potential LOOGY. Failing that, Felix Heredia looks to get the job in the postseason. Though the 4 2/3 innings he's pitched since returning to the team don't really tell us much, the 3 1/3 that C.J. Nitkowski has thrown in September confirm that he's awful.

Elsewhere, Bret Prinz has not pitched since the Sept. 13 blowout in Kansas City in which he failed to retire a batter, while Scott Proctor has allowed a run in two of his three September outings while not striking out a single batter.

With Tanyon Sturtze now a sure-thing for the playoff roster and even getting some fan support as the fourth starter (!), the post-season pitching staff might look something like this:



Which would leave room for six men on the bench. Putting Lofton in the line-up, those men would be Tony Clark, Ruben Sierra, John Flaherty, and Enrique Wilson and two of three from the Jason Giambi/Bubba Crosby/Andy Phillips (still assuming he's eligible) grab-bag.

As for Giambi, he had just one at-bat on the weekend. That came leading off the ninth inning on Saturday with the Yankees down 12-5 and Keith Foulke on the mound. Giambi worked the count to 2-1 then grounded out to short. He will start today and Thursday against the Twins, sitting out against the dominating and left-handed Johan Santana tomorrow. I would then expect Giambi to start all three games in Toronto. That's just five games to prove something, though to his credit he is now 2 for his last 7 (.286) with a home run, 2 walks and just one strikeout. Right now, I'm thinking he makes it.

Phillips, by the way, hit a 2-run home run off of Terry Adams over the green monster in his first major league at bat. Insert Marcus Thames reference here. (by the way, if Marcus names his son after Chone Figgins, he'd be Chone Thames, pronounced "Shawn Timms")

Have I left anything out? How about I go out with some Heroes and Goats for this past weekend's series at Fenway.

Yankee Goats
Kevin Brown the goat to end all goats right now, coming back from a self-inflicted injury, Brown put the Yanks down 0-4 facing Curt Schilling and wasn't even able to finish the first inning.
Esteban Loaiza made bad worse, 4.2 IP, 6 H, 7 R (6 earned), 5 BB, 6 K, 1 HR. Threw 109 pitches, just 58 percent for strikes.
Javier Vazquez the Yanks had a shot on Saturday, entering the bottom of the fifth with the score knotted at 3-3. Javy couldn't get out of the inning.
Paul Quantrill With Saturday's game tied at 5-5 in the bottom of the eighth he gave up a single, a stolen base, a walk and an RBI double before intentionally walking Ortiz to load the bases and being replaced by . . .
C.J. Nitkowski, who gave up one 2-RBI ground-rule double, hit a batter, then surrendered another 2-RBI double, a sac fly and an RBI-single before finally getting the final out of the inning. Total damage from NitQuanski: 5 hits (3 doubles), 2 walks (one intentional), a HBP and seven runs.
Derek Jeter 1 for 12 at the plate with no walks. 2 errors in the field.
Kenny Lofton 0 for 6 with a walk. Elbowed Doug Mientkiewicz on a force out at first to start a half-assed beanball war on Sunday.
John Olerud 1 for 11 with a walk.

Red Sox Goats
Pedro Martinez lost on Friday night after allowing five runs on nine hits in 7 1/3 innings, then called the Yankees his daddy. Pedro has lost his last three starts, something that's not happened since September 1998.
Terry Francona pulled a Grady Little and left Pedro in too long on Friday night, then didn't give the retiring Ellis Burks an AB on Sunday, the Sox final home game, despite the pleas of the Fenway faithful.
Mike Timlin gave the Yankees an insurance run in the ninth on Friday.
Doug Mientkiewicz 0 for 4 with three strikeouts and the garbage with Lofton.

Yankee Heroes
Hideki Matsui 4 for 9 with a double, two homers, five runs scored, 3 RBIs and three walks.
Jorge Posada 3 for 11 with 2 doubles and 6 RBIs.
Ruben Sierra 2 for 4 with 2 RBIs
Mike Mussina matched Pedro through six one start after flat-out beating him.

Red Sox Heroes
Trot Nixon 6 for 10 with a double, a homer, four RBIs, four runs scored and a pair of walks.
Manny Ramirez 5 for 11 with two doubles, a homer, four RBIs and four runs scored.
Mark Bellhorn 4 for 10 with a double, four runs scored and four walks.
David Ortiz 3 for 10 with two doubles, four runs scored, three RBIs and three walks.
Jason Varitek 3 for 8 with a double, four RBI, a run scored and a walk.
Doug Mirabelli 2 for 3 with a double, a homer, two runs scored, 4 RBIs and a walk.
Curt Schilling seven innings of one-hit ball on Sunday despite four walks an a poor 57 percent of his pitches for strikes.
Keith Foulke needed just eleven pitches for a four-out victory on Saturday.
Ellis Burks didn't play, but was the subject of a "we want Ellis" chant in the bottom of the eighth on Sunday in recognition of his impending retirement.

posted by Cliff at 1:29 AM

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