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Posts Tagged ‘Yankees’

Tribe-Yanks Wrap: The Kids Are Alright

Posted by Fred on April 29, 2008

Cue Charles Dickens, with a soundtrack by The Who.  The Indians’ series against the Yankees started out so promisingly, with a 6-4 victory on Friday as the aged Paul Byrd outpitched the aged Andy Pettitte.  The Tribe followed that up with a 4-3 win on Saturday behind Jeremy Sowers’ pitching and Victor Martinez’ walk-off single, running the winning streak to five.  Unfortunately, the Tribe followed those victories with yet another 1-0 loss for C.C. Sabathia (his third in the last two seasons and the 10th game over the past two seasons where the Indians scored 2 runs or fewer for the ace) and a 5-2 loss for Aaron Laffey, leaving them two games under .500 and three games behind the Central-leading White Sox.

The Good

  1. C.C. Sabathia.  It certainly appears that C.C. has regained the form that earned him the AL Cy Young Award in 2007.  After a 6 inning, 0 run, 11 strikeout performance against the Royals, Sabathia pitched 8 innings against the Yankees, giving up only a solo homer to Melky Cabrera while striking out 8 in 8 innings.  Unfortunately, Yankees ace Chien-Ming Wang went him one better, giving up no runs and striking out 9 in his 7 innings and earning the 1-0 victory.  Overall, however, Sabathia has shown dramatic improvement over his last two starts:

      IP/G H ER SO BB %Str Game Score SO/9 BB/9 WHIP OPS
    First 4 starts (0-3) 4.5 32 27 14 14 63% 22 7.0 7.0 2.56 1.170
    Last 2 starts (1-1) 7.0 8 1 19 3 69% 75 12.2 1.9 0.79 .457
    2007 (19-7) 7.1 238 86 209 37 66% 58 7.8 1.4 1.14 .684
  2. The bullpen.  With the exception of Jensen Lewis, who allowed a run of his own and three runs charged to Jeremy Sowers and one to Aaron Laffey in 3IP, the relief crew was outstanding, allowing no runs in 8IP on 2 hits, with 5 strikeouts and a walk.  Jorge Julio, Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez allowed only a walk in 5IP, while Masa Kobayashi pitched 3 innings of scoreless relief, allowing 2 hits and striking out 2.  
  3. Victor Martinez.  The Tribe catcher had 5 hits in 14 AB, including the game-winning hit on Saturday afternoon with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.  Amazingly, this was the first walk-off hit of Victor’s career.
  4. Jhonny Peralta, Jason Michaels and Franklin Gutierrez. Continuing a recent trend, the Tribe got production from the lower part of the order.  Peralta was 4-for-15 and led the team in RBI for the series with 4.  Michaels had 4 hits in 10 AB, including a double.  Gutierrez continues to come out of his season-long slump, getting 4 hits in 12 AB against the Yankees, including a home run.

The Bad

  1. Travis Hafner.  Pronk continued to struggle at the plate, managing only a pair of singles in 12 AB.  He did walk 4 times and pick up a run and an RBI, but he also struck out 4 times.  For the year, Hafner is hitting only .219 with a .667 OPS.  One big problem is that he is not hitting the ball in the air.  In 2006, Hafner hit 38% ground balls.  In 2007, it was 49%.  this year, it’s 44%.
  2. Casey Blake.  For a time, Blake was the Tribe’s hottest hitter, but now he’s among the coldest.  Against the Yankees, Casey was 1-for-12 with 6 strikeouts. For the season, he’s hitting an anemic .224.
  3. David Dellucci.  Offensively, Dellucci was adequate (3-for-12 with an RBI), but his misplayed line drive in Saturday’s game almost cost the team a win, as he tried to make a diving grab with the bases loaded.  If he plays it straight up, certainly no more than 2 runs score on the hit, and with slow-footed Jason Giambi at second, perhaps only one.

The Ugly

  1. Ryan Garko.  Garko’s trouble at the plate continue, as he had no hits and 3 strikeouts in 11 AB.  Entering the game against the Twins on April 18th, Garko was hitting .315 with a .948 OPS.  Since that time, he has only 3 hits in 34 AB, walking twice and striking out 7 times.  He’s watched his average drop by 88 points and his OPS by 250 in 8 games.

Next up:  the Tribe continues its homestand with three games against the Mariners.  Fausto Carmona (3-1, 2.89 ERA) matches up against Carlos Silva (3-0, 2.83) tonight.  Silva complained of tightness in his right thigh in his last start, when he gave up 2 runs on 6 hits in a 6-inning no decision against Baltimore.  He says he’s good to go for tonight, however.  Carmona looks to shake off a rough outing against Kansas City (which followed a week off and a start postponed due to rain). Tomorrow sees Cliff Lee (4-0, 0.28) and Jarrod Washburn (1-3, 4.03).  Lee will face another relatively weak-hitting lineup – the Mariners are 11th in hitting and 8th in runs in the 14-team AL, although they don’t strike out much (best in baseball with only 122 Ks). Thursday night’s rubber game features Paul Byrd (1-2, 4.85) and Miguel Batista (2-3, 5.26), who lasted only an inning in his last start.

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Girardi agrees to manage Yankees

Posted by Fred on October 30, 2007

Let us all now have a moment of silence for Joe Girardi, your newest Steinbrenner minion.  Girardi joins a long tradition of ex-Yankee players turned managers, although it hasn’t always worked out for the best (of the previous 19, only 11 left with winning records, with Joe McCarthy and Billy Martin the standouts).  Girardi will have his work cut out for him.  Unlike Torre, Girardi enters with heightened expectations.  It’s easy to forget, but the Yankees prior to Torre were in a definite down state. They won 79 games and made the playoffs in Buck Showalter’s final year, but before that, they won the World Series twice since 1962 and hadn’t sniffed the postseason since 1981 (and were Octoberless entirely from both 1981-1995 and 1964-1976).  The run under Torre made Yankees fans think the Stengel years were here again, and Steinbrenner is certainly unlikely to support a rebuilding process.

But rebuilding, not reloading, is what Girardi may face.  The Red Sox just won their second championship in four years with a $143 million payroll, so Joe G. won’t have the luxury Torre did of winning the division with 92 wins (in 1996) or with the fifth-best record in the AL (in 2000).  His best hitter just opted out of his contract, and his catcher and closer are free agents who may be gone as well. There are some fresh young arms to put into the rotation, but 60% of last year’s starters are over age 35.  The AL is also stocked with good teams that don’t play at Fenway.  Cleveland tied Boston for the best record in the majors in 2007, and returns essentially the entire roster for 2008.  Detroit already filled one hole by trading for Edgar Renteria and moving Carlos Guillen to 1B.  The Angels were considered by many to be a better team than any of them if healthy, and may be poised to sign A-Rod (I’d bet the cross-town Dodgers are more likely, however).  Girardi has his work cut out for him.

Girardi is a good guy and a former manager of the year.  Steinbrenner will spend what it takes to compete.  But Girardi couldn’t work with Jeffrey Luria, and there’s no telling whether he’ll get along with his new bosses.  Mattingly may be the real winner here – go with Torre to LA, get the Dodgers back to the playoffs (improving on the Grady Little years in a tepid NL West should be manageable), then take over when Torre retires.

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The Sports Guy says leave LeBron alone

Posted by Fred on October 10, 2007

Bill Simmons thinks we should all cut LeBron some slack:

So while the average Cleveland fan is thinking LeBron is a turncoat, I’m glad to see a superstar show a little guts for a change. The next time we see LeBron at a Yankees-Indians game, I have the sinking feeling his advisers will have gotten to him. He’ll be wearing a Nike hat and saying how great it would be if both teams could win. Sager will nod approvingly, and the local fans will sigh with relief. Watching it, we’ll think LeBron looks like a savvy businessman or pol.In other words, he’ll look like almost every other athlete of the 21st century.

LeBron’s not a turncoat, he’s a front-running, bandwagon-hopping idiot. He’s from Akron (just like me) and his favorite teams are the Yankees, Cowboys and Bulls.  It’s hard being a Cleveland fan. LeBron is 22, so he wasn’t born the last time the Indians won the series (duh). He was 5 the last time John Elway beat the Browns in the AFC championship game. He was 7 the last time the Cavs were in the Eastern Conference finals (before his own arrival). But that doesn’t mean you hop on the latest trend, not if you have any loyalty to local teams. Adopt a second team to follow, sure, but don’t give up on the first.  Thus I rooted for the 1990 Reds because my grandfather was a fan. But I sure wouldn’t call myself a Reds fan.  I even cheered on the Cowboys in the 1970s (at least it wasn’t Pittsburgh like a lot of my fellow Ohioans).  But don’t abandon the local boys and adopt their arch-rival.  And don’t expect props for your “honesty” in adopting a fading dynasty as your favorite team.

I suspect the first time Tom Brady shows up at Fenway in navy blue pinstripes, the Sports Guy will change his tune.

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Saraceno: just business for Yankees and Torre

Posted by Fred on October 10, 2007

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Jon Saraceno thinks The Boss has a point:

Everyone loves Joe. Everyone loved Casey [Stengel], too.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter.

Managers invariably pay the price.

Speaking of prices, any team owner who spends in excess of $200 million on player payroll and gives his manager $7 million a season has a right to be dissatisfied when that team is a postseason disappointment — sometimes an outright embarrassment — three seasons running. If Torre doesn’t return, it’s fine to be melancholy, but it’s hardly an injustice. It’s business.

I’m no Yankees fan, but Torre’s getting a raw deal here.  It’s not Joe’s fault that Steinbrenner thinks he can buy a championship through overpriced and old free agents.  It’s not Joe’s fault that he’s handed a lineup with little starting pitching and expected to field a team that slugs its way to a championship. And it wasn’t Joe’s fault that his team did what offensive juggernauts invariably do when they run into good starting pitching.  If Torre was involved in the decision to go with Clemens, Pettitte and Mussina rather than developing a young rotation, I can see the point, but if this decision came down from Cashman and Steinbrenner, then he’s getting a bum deal.

Yeah, the schadenfreude of watching the $195 million Yankees stay home, while the $168 million combined Indians, Rockies and Diamondbacks advance is delicious,  but $55 million of the total is wrapped up in Clemens, Mussina and Pettitte, with another $23 million for the broken-down Jason Giambi.  That’s $78 million, more than the total payrolls of three of the four remaining contenders.

Finally, it’s pretty ridiculous for any owner to expect championships in this day and age.  Since 1980, there have only been repeat champions twice (the 1992-93 Blue Jays and 1998-2000 Yankees).  This year will be the seventh year in a row without a repeat, and if Colorado or Cleveland win, it will be seven different champions in seven years.  Compare this to the 1970s, before free agency and expansion, when the As won three in a row followed by back-to-back runs by the Reds and Yankees.  Or the 1947-64 Yankees, who appeared in the Series 15 times in 18 years.  Times change.

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ALDS Recap: And a Dynasty Crumbles

Posted by Fred on October 9, 2007

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The dynasty crumbling seems to be the prevailing theme. Jerry Crasnick says that the Tribe “can take satisfaction in knowing they’ve rescued a large segment of the American baseball-viewing public from another dose of Armageddon fatigue.” Howard Bryant points out that “the old dynasty finally fell, and for good Monday night in the Bronx.” Thus the baseball punditocracy does what they always do, and points us to the ways the Yankees lost, not to how the Indians won. Let us now turn to the victors, who vanquished the New Yorkers 6-4 in Game 4 for a 3-1 victory in the series.

An Open Letter to Eric Wedge

Dear Wedgie:

Never doubt a Playoff Beard. As fans, you’d think we would have learned this lesson by now. Obviously, you and Carl Willis knew something we didn’t, and your insistence that Paul Byrd get the start in game 4 over CC Sabathia on short rest paid off. Maybe it was rewarding loyalty, handing the ball to a 15-game winner with underpowering stuff. Maybe it was playing the odds – starters operating on short rest in the post-season have a woeful winning percentage (witness Chien-Ming Wang’s 1+ IP), and Sabathia has only pitched on three days’ rest once in his career, and that hardly counts (5 IP three days after a 5 inning start). Maybe you saw something in Byrd or his numbers that we didn’t – fans focused on his 2-3, 5.21 ERA September, but Byrd was significantly better on extra rest (with 6+ days rest, he was 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA in 6 starts).

Be all that as it may, the fans wanted you to fly by the seat of your pants, starting CC and Ryan Garko over Byrd and Kelly Shoppach, but you didn’t and it paid off. Shoppach was 2-3 with two doubles, a HBP and a run scored. Byrd gave up hits, as a 84 MPH “pitch to contact” pitcher is wont to do, but he kept the damage to a minimum, and left the game with a 6-2 lead. And in a sense, Byrd’s outing wasn’t that much worse than Sabathia’s was last Thursday:

		IP    H   R   ER  BB  SO  HRSabathia        5.0   4   3   3   6   5    2

Byrd            5.0   8   2   2   2   2    1

And you stuck with Borowski, too, even though Cleveland sports bars were full of fans yelling for you to leave Betancourt in for another inning. Joe B. made it interesting, like he always does, but in the end your plan worked, and the next game will be in Boston, with CC starting on full rest, to be followed by a rested Carmona. You were right and we were wrong.

Sincerely,

The Fans

So now it’s on to Boston for a Sabathia-Beckett matchup. The Sabathia-Wang battle was anticlimactic.  Maybe the BoSox’s Cy Young candidate can do better.  Game 2 will be either Carmona-Dice K or Carmona-Schilling before moving to the back of the rotation. Will Carmona be lights out again? Will the Tribe keep hitting with 2 outs and RISP (one presumes they can’t keep hitting .500 in that situation)?  Will Papi and Manny do what A-Rod, Jeter and Posada could not? The answers will start to be filled in on Friday night.

For now, Cleveland fans can relish the taste of victory, and baseball fans everywhere can be happy ESPN and Fox won’t try to force-feed us more of the most Overhyped Rivalry in Sports.  Here’s a useless stat for today – the Red Sox-Yankees “rivalry” is almost entirely a creation of six-division realignment and cable sports news. From 1920-1994, the Yankees and Red Sox finished 1-2 in the standings seven times. During that same period, the Yankees and Indians finished 1-2 eight times.

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Game 1 recap: what year is it again?

Posted by Fred on October 5, 2007

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On a night that ace C.C. Sabathia was stymied by old fogy umpire Bruce Froemming’s paper-thin strike zone, it was 1995 all over again as Kenny Lofton helped the Indians spank the Yankees to take a 1-0 series lead.  Lofton, Victor Martinez and Ryan Garko went a combined 9-17, with 2 2B, 2 HR, 6 R and 9 RBI.  Kenny even had his 33rd postseason stolen base.  Asdrubal Cabrera added a HR and scored twice.  In the 44 games since Cabrera was inserted as the regular second baseman and #2 hitter, the Indians are 32-12. In the 36 games since Lofton was put in the 7 hole on a fairly regular basis, he is hitting .296 and the team is 27-9.

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Sabathia ended up walking six in five innings (including an intentional pass to A-Rod to get out of a dicey 5th with a one-run lead intact), but was able to limit the damage to three runs.  He clearly didn’t bring his A game – those six walks match his total for all of September – but Froemming’s strike zone clearly didn’t help matters any.  More importantly, he put the team in a position to win, and Jensen Lewis, Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez finished with four strong innings, giving up only a meaningless ninth inning single and striking out six while walking none.

On the other hand, Chien-Ming Wang looked like a shell of an 18 game winner, A-Rod went 0-2 with two walks, and Joe Torre’s bizarre decision(s) to start Doug Mientkiewicz (0-1 before being lifted in the 5th) and Hideki Matsui (0-4, 2 Ks, 5 LOB) backfired as the Yankees lost their fourth postseason game in a row.

One game does not a series make, and the Tribe remains in a tenuous position.  Andy Pettitte starts tonight for the Yankees, who has a reputation as a stopper (70-39 career in games following a Yankees loss).  The Yankees are also a veteran team unlikely to be fazed by being blown out – in games following losses of five runs or more in 2007, the Yankees went 10-5.  Fausto Carmona takes his 19-8 record to the hill for the Tribe.  It will be important for Carmona to eat some innings, as Wedge used his three best relievers for four innings last night.  Perez pitched two innings, which would suggest he may be unavailable.  Twice this year he has pitched following a 2+ IP appearance.  On August 8 he pitched 2 1/3 innings against the White Sox, and pitched an inning the next night (0 H, 0 ER, 1 K, 0 BB).  Then on August 26 he pitched 2 innings against the Royals, appearing the next night against the Twins for a three-pitch inning (the 5-4-3 triple play).  Overall, Perez has been pretty good pitching on no rest (7 appearances, 7 1/3 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 5 K, 0 BB).

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Game 1: Tribe vs. Yanks

Posted by Fred on October 4, 2007

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In a couple of hours, it’ll be Game On (cue the Imperial Death March music). With the other three series starting yesterday, commentary on the Tribe-Yankees series has been a battle of dueling conventional wisdom. Conventional Wisdom A says that in a short series, pitching reigns supreme – no matter how well the Angels play the rest of the way, Beckett’s performance yesterday places them in a huge hole. Advantage here would appear to go to Cleveland, with two legitimate Cy Young contenders facing one semi-legitimate Cy Young contender and a bunch of old guys. Conventional Wisdom B says go with experience, of which the Yankees have a closetful and the Indians have Trot Nixon.

The early trend seemed to be for pundits to go with Cleveland’s pitching over the Yankees offense, with the majority of the ESPN prognosticators picking Chief Wahoo over Pinstripe Man. Late returns suggest it’s going the other way, as the burden of that 0-6 record against the Yankees looms larger. Looks like a 5 game series that could go either way, with the first game even more important than usual. If the Indians win tonight, the Yankees know they have to face Sabathia again and Carmona twice, and the Tribe knows the 0-6 record means nothing. If the Yankees win, do the kids from Ohio see a first-round loss as inevitable?

Tonight’s game features Sabathia and Wang:

		Starts    W-L    IP  	K      BB    WHIP    ERA
CC Sabathia     34        19-7   241    209    37    1.141   3.21
Chien-Ming Wang 30        19-7	 199    104    59    1.294   3.70

Over the last ten starts, Sabathia is 5-1 with a 2.43 ERA (74 IP, 61 K, 14 BB). Wang is 6-2 with a 4.16 ERA (62 IP, 40 K, 25 BB). Over the last five, the edge goes to Sabathia as well, 4-0, 2.37 vs. 3-1, 2.37.

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ESPN predicts Tribe in five games

Posted by Fred on October 1, 2007

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OK, so now I’m worried. Yankees and Red Sox fans remain confident that the inevitable will happen and we’ll reprise 2004. Before New Yorkers assume that that 0-6 mark will mean a sweep of the NLDS, recall that 2004 was also the last time the pinstripers faced Sabathia.   And that the sixth and final victory occurred on  August 12. Two games later, Eric Wedge inserted Asdrubal Cabrera as the everyday second baseman and the rest is history (31-12 the rest of the way).  Also, Pronk finally woke up from his five-month slumber, and posted a .965 OPS with 23 RBI in September.  I still worry about the Yankees more than any other team, but it’s not what NYY fans think it is, especially if Sabathia and Carmona keep the game away from Borowski.

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