Friday, April 30, 2010

The Genius Maker #18

If it is possible for a position player to be the player of the game when your pitcher goes 8 shutout innings...tonight was that game. Robinson Cano had 2 homers and a line bullet double off the wall tonight and those were not the best of Cano tonight. If you have not seen it (or even if you did) take a look at this! Please copy and paste in your URL

This was as good as any play I have ever seen from a 2nd baseman on a ball up the middle. To reach and get the ball at full speed and then immediately throw the ball accurately and with some power to first base was jaw dropping. WOW!

As for AJ, he did not have good command of his curve again although it had some use. he did mix in only a few change-ups, but his fastball had excellent command and decent movement. AJ went 8 and turned it over to Mariano who looked good tonight to close out the 4-0 victory.

It is a shame we didn't sweep Baltimore, but at least we took 2 of 3. We are doing well considering Texiera is doing worse than the beginning of last year, ARod is in his longest hitless streak in 3-4 years, Granderson has not hit well and many of our bullpen guys have not done well.

Enjoy Robinson Cano's day!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Genius Maker #17

Folks, you will have to deal with a short blog as the one I had written got erased on my final sentence.

Long story short... Frustrating day as Hughes had little movement or control of his cutter and Baltimore got a lot of 2 out hits (not off of Hughes) in the 6th to beat us 5-4. We were down 5-2 going into the 9th, but we were not able to finish off the comeback.

I guess my night/morning was more frustrating when my blog erased, but I will be back at it tomorrow...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Genius Maker #16

Sunday afternoon was one of those games that a lot of emotion came out of me. Second inning - Cano leads off and Kazmir buzzes a very inside pitch to Cano that he gets out of the way from. The next pitch he plunks him middle of butt. There is no question this was intentional especially as Kazmir walked toward home plate afterward (someone mentioned walking toward the plate is an indicator and this time it surely was). Just in case somebody feels that it is no big deal, remember that Cano hit two homers off of Kazmir earlier this year at Yankee stadium. I was ticked off, but glad there was nobody and out and then I was much happier after Posada hit the first pitch he saw for a 2 run shot. As Posada ran around the bases, I muttered “…. you Kazmir!” Thames hit a double and moved to 3rd on a Granderson bunt. Cervelli was up next and Thames mad ea heads-up base running play as the catcher allowed a ball to go right under his glove for a PB or WP but the fastball ricocheted back to home plate and Thames who was already on his way home quickly recognized the play and scurried quickly back to 3rd base, diving in. Cervelli (who BTW, has slowed a lot of his movement he used to have) worked a walk next. Then Jeter hit a double play ball to 3rd base, but Kendrick was not quick enough to turn the DP and Jeter just beat the throw for the 3rd run of the inning. It was one of those plays where the quick and strong armed turn by Cano would have turned the DP.

Unfortunately Vazquez has continued to struggle with his command and stunk again. The Angels took a 5-3 lead before Cano hit another homer off Kazmir to make it 5-4 into the 7th inning. After Boone Logan did a good job for an inning, Aceves took over and pitched 1.2 innings of perfect ball on only 15 pitches, but Girardi decided to take him out Abreu, Hunter, Matsui and Morales coming up. Now I would agree the lefty in this spot is a good choice, but Ace was cruising along and had only thrown 15 pitches, why would you take him out there? Honestly the only guy I would have been concerned about was Morales as he is much better against righties, but I would have let Ace continue on. Marte walked Abreu and then hit Hunter. He then got Matsui to check his swing and get a force out. Now is when my emotions got a little hot. It was 1st and 2nd with 2 outs (Ace got the first out of the inning) and Morales was coming up. At this point Marte was not sharp but keeping him in against Morales I was OK with. (even though Robertson was ready and is better against lefties). I am just telling you that I would have been OK with the change, but my decision at the time was to leave Marte in as well and this is what I said at that time. Then I see Cervelli stand up and give the intentional walk sign. I said out loud, “what the heck are they doing?” After ball one, Girardi or someone realized that they had 1st and 2nd and the matchup was an OK one. This is why I don’t listen to people when they say these guys no what is going on, obviously they didn’t and obviously they were lost at this juncture. It may not happen often, but how about waking up in the dugout. So now Marte has given a hot a hitter a 1 ball edge. After 2 more balls and a SB of 3rd base where a good throw by Cervelli would have ended the inning (important) I said, “now you just walk him or throw him a slider for a strike.” Marte threw fastball on 3-0 and Morales ripped a 3 run homer that ended the game. That was an awful job by the Yanks coaching staff right there!

Other Notes:

In the 4th inning, Thames missed a top spin line drive that led to at least 2 runs. He got a late jump on the ball and couldn’t hall it in. This was a big play that Gardner would have caught. Later in the game Gardner made a running catch that looked fairly routine; I am sure Thames would not have been able to get to it. Not knocking Thames as we know he is a hitter, but the defense gets overlooked to often.

Vazquez now has an ERA of 9 after 3 starts. This is very disturbing considering he was always mediocre in the AL and after being dominant in the NL last year there was hope he learned something new. So far, he has been worse than in the past and while I don’t expect that to continue, having the same ERA in the AL as he has had can be expected.

We have now finished the 1st inning of the year as we have played 18 out of 162 games. With 8 more innings to play, we are doing pretty well.

• We are 12-6 playing .667 ball which leads to a final record of 108 wins; I will sign up for that right now
• We are 1.5 games behind TB, but 4.5 games ahead of Boston. Minnesota is the only out of division team with a better record in all of baseball at 13-6.
• 4-5 of the rotation have been solid
• The Genius Maker has been extremely effective, with an ERA of 0.00 in 7 innings of work while only allowing 3 hits and a walk with 6 K’s. However, I have not felt that he has looked that good in 5 of his 8 outings. I hope it is just because it is early in the year
• Thames is leading the team (14AB’s) with an OPS of 1.420 followed by Cano at 1.092 and then Cervelli at 1.029 with 14 AB’s also.
• The rest are Jorge (.994), ARod (.915), Jeter (.824), Gardner (.809), Granderson (.785), Swisher (.779), Nick Johnson (.606) and Texiera at (.534)
• Cano is leading the team in RBI’s with 14 and surprisingly the leadoff guy Jeter has 12 in 2nd place. Posada and ARod have 11 apiece.
• Pena is 1-9 with 2 RBI’s and Winn is 0-10 with no walks
• Gardner has 9 SB’s and has been caught once (he was picked off going to 2nd)
• The Yanks as a team have 19 SB’s and have been caught 5 times. The competition has 15 SB’s and been caught 3 times…which is about the same in effectiveness. I usually consider 2 SB’s and one CS to cancel each other out for effectiveness.

The Genius Maker #15

TB keeps winning and Boston seems to win all their games by one run…but at least the Yankees bounced back from their first 2 game losing streak in excellent fashion. Andy Pettitte has been pitching as well as I have ever seen him. I said it after his last outing and I can say the same this outing, he has been outstanding. He is all over the corners of the plate, but he is mixing his speeds, height and location of the plate with as much precision as I have ever seen from him. This is also a surprise for me as many of you know I didn’t expect an ERA from Andy to be anything other than average at best last year and he surprised me. This year, my expectation was not any different and he has been amazing. I can only hope he stays healthy and can take this into the rest of the year and the postseason. Great job Andy!

The story of this game was some very clutch 2 out hits. Cervelli had the really big one to get us started by knocking in 2 runs with 2 outs; Jeter followed by knocking in another. Later in the game after a leadoff triple by Gardner, Texiera and ARod failed to get Gardner home, but Cano came through with a clutch 2 out hit and after a few wild pitches/passed balls Swisher added another 2 out hit.

Gardner batted 2nd and had 3 hits!

Girardi correctly took out Andy and brought in Marte with some lefties up and Marte finished up the 7-1 victory!

Time to win the series today!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Genius Maker #14

AJ Burnett really struggled Friday night. He had no command of his curveball and Anaheim was able to sit and wait on good fastballs to drive. Burnett allowed 9 hits in 6.1 innings and 4 runs. Robertson came on and pitched a good 2/3 of an inning throwing only 6 pitches, but Girardi did not want to keep him in there during a tie game. I don’t really understand why you wouldn’t try to get another inning or a few more outs in a game that looks like it has the possibility of going into extra innings (tied after 7). Veteran readers of this blog know that I always had an issue with the Torre’s method of changing out relievers almost “trying to find the reliever who was not pitching well.” My feeling is that if a guy is looking good and the matchups make sense then you should stay with the guy and get a few more outs if it is reasonable from a work load standpoint. Relievers will all have days where they are not sharp and you want to limit those times and take advantage of the times they are sharp. Robertson has been a little more successful against lefties and with Matsui and Morales leading off I would have left him out there. Joba does not need to be the 8th inning guy. This was my feeling at the time. That being said, this next comment is a hindsight comment because I was not aware of the Morales great success against Joba and knowing his “owning of Joba” I would not have put Joba into the game unless Robertson started poorly in the 8th and didn’t look good. Joba allowed a single to Matsui and then simply hung a slider (that didn’t break) and Morales homered to basically end the game. It happens, but I am not sure why Joba started the 8th inning anyway.

Other quick points on the Friday game

Brett Gardner popped up a high fastball with 1st and 2nd and nobody out. He needs to be much smarter about that. I like the call to bunt in that situation with Gardner up but he failed to execute.

Robbie Cano had a great AB really working a walk and laying off some close balls to get to first. That is a great sign as he seemed to be reverting a little bit.

Fuentes closed out the victory for Anaheim and did so in perfect fashion, but I have to say he looked very ordinary as the Yanks just missed some hittable fastballs. He doesn’t scare me if we have righties up.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Genius Maker #13

Not a real exciting game as the Yanks were in a hole early thanks to 2 walks and a homer in the first inning against CC. The Yanks bats never mounted much of a threat as they were kept off balance by Braden and the Yanks didn’t seem to adjust enough to him. They also just missed a few pitches, but could not string things together. Their 2 runs were solo homers by Texiera and Thames.

However, there was excitement in the bottom of the 6th inning. Oakland had 1st and 2nd nobody out when Suzuki (who already homered) stepped to the plate. He hit a hard grounder down the 3rd base line that ARod grabbed took a few steps to 3rd base then immediately and quickly turned and fired a strike to Cano who made his usual quick turn to 1st base for a triple play! It was the first since 1968. That was pretty much the excitement for the game for Yankee fans.

CC seemed to struggle all night with his motion as he could not get any consistency. In fact, I am not sure if I ever saw him less comfortable on the mound. The A’s offense is very weak and he was fortunate to hold them to only 4 runs in 8 innings as he kept the Yanks in the game, but the offense just didn’t get the job done.

The guys on offense who need to pick it up are Nick Johnson who now sports and OPS of only .611 (thanks to little power and batting average) and Texiera with a .557 OPS.

TB won and Boston lost. TB is now in first.

Just a game to turn the page on and it is time to take a series for Anaheim…again.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Genius Maker #12

There are a lot of points I want to make about this game, but the most important point is about Hughes tonight. This was a fun game to watch from a catcher’s perspective. A lot of interesting pitch selection calls to make with the repertoire Phil Hughes has now.

Phil featured an 88-90 mph cutter, a fastball 92-94 and a curveball that was usually around 78-80. The heralded reason for Phil getting the 5th spot was his changeup, but I don’t think it was used the entire night, nor was it the definitive pitch to throw at any point in the game.

Phil and Jorge mixed the cutter and fastball perfectly deep into the night. I was not counting curveballs, but I would estimate the fastball or cutter was featured about 80% of the time. Oakland is not a good hitting ball club and the spacious foul territory turns fouled balls into outs, but Phil’s improved cutter has opened up his game tremendously. Just featuring a well spotted 93 MPH fastball and a cutter that is about 4MPH less kept the batter off balance and they had trouble centering too many. Mix in a curveball that has a lot of break and you have the makings of a very effective pitcher. Phil had a no hitter at the end of 7 innings with only one batter having 3 balls on them (according to the announcers). That batter walked on 4 pitches. The no hitter was broken up on a line drive back that hit Hughes on the non throwing heel of the glove/forearm. After walking the next batter and having thrown his 101 pitch, Girardi correctly took out Hughes as the slim margin was only a 2-0 lead and Oakland now had 1st and 2nd with one out.

Back to Hughes and Posada; they really mixed up the pitches well and while at times I would have mixed in a few more curves, what they called worked and it worked because of the way they mixed it up and the speed, movement and location differentials on the pitches. This makes for a fun night to call pitches. Phil’s line ended up 7.1 innings, 1 hit, 1 run, 2 walks and 10 K’s.

Joba came on and after getting an out, had a couple pitches fouled off before allowing an opposite field single to close the gap to a one run lead. Joba recovered to get the final out of the 8th.

The Yanks got a huge insurance run when Posada got a single and got replaced by Granderson as they forced Posada at 2nd base. Granderson went to 2nd on a groundout by Winn. Gardner then stepped up and proceeded to get ahead in the count, but was not aggressive failed to swing at a hittable pitch. I was disappointed because this was a time where a walk was not too important and in that spot you have to try and take a cut at a strike and drive in that run. Fortunately, Gardner redeemed himself by coming through with a very important single to LF on a 3-2 count. I just wanted to make sure that I was critical of his approach because I would have mentioned it if he hadn’t come through.

Rivera came on and closed the 3-1 win out, but did allow a hit and hit a guy who he had 2 strikes on. I want to make this point now before it happens, but I think the way we will start to see the effectiveness of Mo decrease will be in the form of consistency. He will not be as sharp as often and because of that he will lose some games for us this year. We are still in the 1st inning of this year and he may not be in top form, but he has had too many games where he has not been sharp…even though he has been very effective thus far. Maybe I am saying this just to prepare all of us for the inevitable? Then again, I would have expected this comment to be made and be correct 3 years ago and he still has been great. The only difference is that I didn’t make the comment 3 years ago, because he was still throwing great consistently; I am not seeing that in the 1st inning of this year.

That last paragraph is tough to write and I hope I have to eat those words…

Onto other points on this enjoyable game:

• Jeter jumped on the first pitch of the game and singled. I think the first pitch of the game is a good pitch to jump on for a guy like Jeter (not every time) even though it flies in the face of us wearing pitchers down all the time.
• I was very annoyed with Jeter for swinging at the first pitch when Gardner was on 1st base with 2 outs in the 7th inning with a 2-0 lead. You have to give Gardner at least 1 pitch to try and steal. If you are down 0-1, then you take your hacks. It is kind of a selfish to swing at the first pitch; also it was a curveball.
• In the first inning, I was very annoyed with Girardi. As you know the first inning tends to be a higher scoring inning as the top of the lineup is up and the starting pitcher is not fully in a groove. The Yanks had 1st and 2nd with nobody out and Texiera had a 3-2 count on him and Girardi sent the runners. Texiera looked at strike 3 and Jeter was easily thrown out. Texiera really screwed up; not sure how he didn’t swing at a definite fastball strike and that is not Girardi’s fault, but with a free throw to 3rd base with a lefty up why take that risk when Tex is not swinging well and he strikes out a lot? I want ARod up with 1st and 2nd and one out if Tex doesn’t get the job done; why the risk there? Was the reward that great? Girardi and Tex screwed up there!
• While there have been a few times where Nick Johnson has not been aggressive, overall, he has a great eye and one of the main reasons why he is walking so much is the great eye combined with refusal to expand his strike zone and the fact he fouls a lot of pitches back that others would put in play create these walking situations. There have been more than a handful of AB’s this year where he has fouled off 2-1, 2-0, 3-1 pitches that were very hittable pitches. Later in that AB he walks. Maybe he is not locked in with his swing, or maybe that is just him, but if he gets locked down on his swing more you will see some of those walks diminish and hopefully you will see more hard hit balls. He did hit one right up against the fence about 350’ away in this game
• Cano was 0-29 in Oakland before he grounded a single through the right side
• The Yanks scored their 2 runs and back to back triples by ARod and Cano in the 4th inning. Posada drove in Cano when Oakland left the infield back. It seemed like Posada gave himself up to ensure the run came in
• I said this when they got him, but I am not sure why we got Winn? I know it is early and one good game his numbers will look good, but I thought keeping Hoffman or using one of our younger guys would have saved the over 1 mil Winn is getting. I hope I am wrong, but I would not be surprised if he gets released later in the year.
* That said about Winn, our speed in the OF is excellent with Granderson and Gardner at the other positions. Further our defense has yet to commit and error this year (although Jeter did commit one they just didn't call it one). This is a very good defensive team!


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Genius Maker #11

These updates are good because the west coast games are brutal to stay up for on the East Coast. I just record them and watch them at 5 am.

My take:

Vazquez was still not that sharp. His stuff was not bad, although I would like to see his fastball at 90+ all the time and most of the time it ranged from 88-91. He struggled with his change as it ran away outside to the lefties most of the night. The announcers said they wanted to see more fastballs, but from the start his best pitch was his slider and curve. His change did get a little better later in the game, but both homers he allowed (5th and 6th inning) were off fastballs. He got a little unlucky that before the 2nd homer there was a popup that both Granderson and Cano gave up on. I think they both could have caught it, but Cano peeled off and Granderson stopped to look at Cano. The ball should have been the CF’rs though so Granderson gets the blame. Javy ended up going 5.1 allowing 3 runs while striking out 6. Should have been only 2 runs and 5.2, but he still has not been good; I expect him to right the ship and be in that low 4 ERA area.

First inning – Swisher got a big 2 out single that gave the Yankees an early lead.

ARod continued to be locked in showing great plate discipline and later crushing a 3 run homer that was a no brainer. ARod's OPS is now 1.035

You could tell Jeter is still battling his head cold as he looked a little weak at the plate and also should have had an error later in the game (I have no idea how they scored it a hit – it was an error). Jeter went 0-5

Cano had a memorable game. I don’t know the history, but Cano walked 3 times! Yes, read that line again – he tripled his walk total in one game. The odd part was that he didn’t have good AB’s; he tried to swing at a lot of balls yet he still got walked as he fouled off about 8 pitches that were balls. He is not being as disciplined as he should be and needs to lay off the inside pitches he can’t do anything with but hit foul or miss – he did K the other 2 times he was up.

We got to see Boone Logan for the first time and he seems like an ordinary lefty who is a little better against lefties. He throws a fastball around 91-92 and has a slider he throws about 81. Nothing is sharp, but if he can throw strikes he can be somewhat effective. The matchup with all the lefties Oakland has a good one for him, but he doesn’t impress me as anything other than another mediocre lefty arm (which is not always easy to find sadly).

Joba came on with the bases juiced and a 7-3 lead and 2 outs and struck out Kouzmanoff to end the threat. Joba was throwing 94 consistently and hit 96 a few times. He pitched a dominant 8th as well. He only threw 18 pitches and I was wondering whether Girardi was going to stick with him for the 9th. The previous inning they showed Rivera who looked cold and was yawning (it was a cool and windy night) so I didn’t expect Rivera to start the 9th, I expected Robertson to start the 9th with a righty and then a switch up. But Marte came out and he walked the first guy and after ball one to the next batter Girardi pooped up and brought Rivera into a game NOT in a save situation! As I mentioned before I could care less about the save, but it seemed like the type of game I would not want my old closer to get up in, but if Robertson was available I think Joe’s biggest mistake was not starting Robertson in the 9th (I understand not letting Joba go another inning). Of course, Rivera earned his nickname as the Genius Maker because regardless of what the manager does, Rivera bails out the manager almost every time. He didn’t look good, but the results were excellent10 pitches, a K and a DP ended the game!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Genius Maker #10

Pettitte was not that sharp, especially out of the stretch where it looked like he was rushing his mechanics a little too much and then he didn’t locate the plate very well. However, after a huge 2 out 2 RBI hit by Ramiro Pena, Pettitte settled down and did not work from the stretch for 3 straight innings and Texas seemed to give up. Andy went 8 and at the end of the day had a really good start. The Genius Maker, who had very good location and movement (a great sign) finished up for an easy save.

Swisher missed a lot of hittable pitches as I mentioned in the previous blog, but I have to take Kay to task as he got on Nick for jumping on the first pitch later in the game after he hit a line drive to center field. Yes, he is struggling but when you hit one on the screws and you are out that is a good sign, not a bad sign. Earlier in the game he was too quick on a fastball and he pulled it foul, but hit it solidly.

It is hard not to love Jeter and he is also hitting so well, but Pena is much smoother out there defensively.

Cano started expanding his strike zone last game after 2 bad calls against him and it continued today…he had a bad approach over his last 6 AB’s.

Good to see Tex hit a homer and he made a good play on a line drive and an excellent play on a dive to his right.

Once again the Yanks knocked out the opposing pitcher by wearing him down. Harden couldn’t get out of the 4th inning and had already thrown 94 pitches!

Nick Johnson did get caught looking a bunch of times, but at least he made the pitcher throw strikes. Nick’s main issue so far is that when he is swinging he has been fouling pitches off instead of hitting them fair; it will come around. Also, I don;t get fans booing him? Is that supposed to help him? Same with Javier Vazquez...why boo?

ARod was locked all day collecting 3 walks and a single on an inside fastball he pulled his hands in and lined it up the middle.

9-3 tied with TB, but the Red Sox have dug themselves a little hole and are 5 out.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Genius Maker #9

Friday’s game was all about the rain, CC’s dominance and the terrible defense by Texas. CC threw a ton of strikes and was in complete control.

Saturday’s game had a lot more interesting items to it.

First, it was a classic Yankee game where they wore down the pitcher. Feldman (who has nice movement and control) had already thrown 50 pitches and was still in the 2nd inning as nick Johnson had a great AB (although he did catch a break where his check swing fouled off a pitch that probably was a strike) to work a bases loaded walk. Now Texiera was up with the bases loaded and he broke his bat on a routine type of grounder to the right side hole…their 2nd baseman froze for the equivalent of about 3 steps and then could barely reach the grounder and the Yankees (and Tex) caught a break on another poor play by Texas. It appeared he froze because the bat went one way and the ball went another. Of course, then Michael Kay had to use the obligatory and randomly correct/incorrect comment that maybe “this is what will break Texiera out of his slump.” I looked at my daughter (who could care less what I was saying) and said, I would think a line drive for an out would make me feel better that Texiera was breaking out of a slump. Of course, Texiera did nothing the rest of the game.

Posada has been hitting great, but he has been very sloppy behind home plate. He makes a great block turning his shoulders in and drops the ball right toward home plate one time and then the next play he doesn’t move at all and lets a ball get past him by trying to catch the ball with his glove (instead of blocking it). I did notice two things that might be nothing, but are concerning. Posada took a foul ball off his forearm and those are spots that can get black and blue very easily and be sore for awhile. Second, after one of his hits, he seemed to have tweaked his back a little bit. Hopefully these are nothing, but as he gets older, it could be an issue. BTW, congrats to Jorge for collecting his 1500th hit!

Swisher has had an average start overall, but he has been missing a lot of very hittable pitches of late.

Gardner was using his speed to get 3 infield hits, however, one of them was because of one of the pet peeves I have where the first baseman did not stretch toward the pitcher and received the ball with his feet sort of in the line in between 1st and 2nd base. Those of you remember me making comments about this before with 1st baseman and I still don’t get it. When a first baseman needs to stretch on a close play form everywhere else, they keep one foot on the bag and almost do a split, but on throws from the pitcher and catcher (on close plays) they don’t stretch at all; if they did here Gardner would have been out as they lose at least 3 feet on the lack of stretching. If you are not sure what I am referring too, stand with your feet a little wider than should width and stretch out as far as you can with your glove hand. Then take one foot and pretend that was on the bag and stretch as far as you can extending the other foot in front of you in a stretch position and see how much farther your glove goes.

Jeter Crushed an inside fastball; I still don’t know how he swings like he does. On that pitch he pulled his hands far in, but still got the barrel around to hit a line drive homer.

ARod got his first of the year on a patented opposite field shot (always a good sign for ARod hitting a homer to the opposite field)

As many of you know, I almost always watch the game on video so I don’t hear the commentators very much, but I do catch some of their comments. Today I was building legos with my son while the game was on and Michael Kay was discussing changeups with Flaherty. It had to do with Burnett learning to throw his change more often and can he do it. Then they started talking about Phil Hughes getting the 5th spot because of his change, yet he threw only 2 in the game, so what was the big deal? First, they were wrong, he threw 5, but the main point was that having the ability to throw a pitch is important even if you don’t and 2nd just throwing it poorly can have some impact on the next pitch as it changed the speed to a batter. Now I am not saying you should throw a bad pitch just to throw it, but mixing up your pitches has benefits. The final straw for me to even bother writing this to you folks was when they started in with never get beat with your 2nd best pitch…That is one of the most incorrect cliché’s you will here. If you always throw your best pitch at every critical moment you encounter, I will promise you that you will not be a good pitcher (of course Rivera breaks the mold). You have to mix it up even if it means throwing your 2nd best pitch at critical times otherwise people will sit on your best pitch thus making it not nearly as effective. Again this is why what Rivera does is simply amazing, throwing the same speed every time.

8-3 and looking good! Boston may be 4 out after tonight and if they are 3 out, that means we are a game up on TB.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Genius Maker #8

3 series in the books, all 3 are good teams, we have won each series and we are 6-3! We are on a pace to win 108 games; I think we all could live with that.

The middle game of the series (Wednesday) saw the Yanks face a pitcher who had a ton of movement on all his pitches and the Yanks never really squared him up. Joel Pineiro mixed things up very well and the Yanks never adjusted and were not able lay off the balls to force more hittable pitches. Vazquez never got in a groove but battled before allowing 2 runs in the 6th inning that turned a decent battling performance into a poor one. His main issue was his command of his fastball as he could not spot it for strikes and fell behind too often. In the 6th, Posada and he threw 5 changeups out of 6 pitches before allowing a key hit that put the game just about out of reach. It was bad pitch selection by the 2 of them, not because it didn’t work, but because the batter had seen far too many of them and was not fooled by them. The Yanks tried to be cute and it backfired.

Yesterday’s game (Thursday) saw the Yanks offense take control of the game led by Cano’s 2 line drive homers. Hughes was falling behind people as well and did not pump enough strikes at the batters. Overall, he did OK, but, 5 walks in 5 innings are not acceptable, although he should have never been out there for the 6th inning. It seems that my disagreement with the Yanks handling of pitchers has put me on the less aggressive side every time. However, after 90+ pitches through 5 innings and allowing only 1 run, I would have taken my young pitcher who I have already stated will be on a pitch inning limit out of there. It defies logic in having him throw more pitches than he ever has in a start in his first start of the year? What were they thinking? I mean isn’t an innings limit just a way to have your pitcher throw less pitches? There is no way Hughes should have come out for the 6th inning and I am sure whatever answer Girardi gave would be one I would disagree with. If Hughes were not on some inning limit then I wouldn’t be as concerned (although I still would not have done it), but for your young future (hopefully) stud…no chance he sniffs the 6th – very poor job by Girardi. Not only that, Hughes allowed a single and a walk before exiting (and eventually a run). It gave Anaheim some life. All that being said about Hughes, it was good to see him work the changeup into his repertoire along with his good breaking ball and usually well spotted fastball. The pitch I thought was extremely effective though was his cutter. He had very good movement on that pitch and I am very confident that with that cutter, Hughes will be just fine. I hope that was not an aberration and he can throw that cutter consistently. While Hughes is not in Halladay’s league, Roy Halladay became one of the best in the game when he harnessed that cutter.

Robertson bounced back after giving up the grand slam and looked good in 1.2 innings allowing only a walk and K’s 3.

Jeter failed to get to 2 balls to his left that would be routine for guys with very good range. The last one (which was easier) cost Joba a save as Jeter should have received an error for a play he just got eaten up by. I would not have brought in Mo to get the save; I would have given Joba one more batter. I still think managers bring in their closer just when it becomes a save situation regardless of whether the situation warrants it. If the rule was changed about a save, I really feel managers would act differently with their closer…and that is pretty silly.

Nice start to the year!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Genius Maker #7

I didn’t get a chance to watch too much of the ceremony, but it was nice to see the team mob Matsui and also the way the fans gave him a standing ovation when he came to the plate. Andy Pettitte was classy as he stepped off the mound to allow Matsui to tip his hat. Then, Matsui went out and helped us again, going 0-5!

I thought Andy and Posada pitched/called a great game. They mixed up pitches extremely well and many times the Angels were looking for different pitches in different locations. Andy also didn’t leave too many pitches over the heart of the plate. Extremely well done by Andy and I have to say I am pleasantly surprised!

The Yankees really should have blown this game wide open with 22 guys on base, but with a 7-1 lead one would think the game was in the bag. After Robertson gave the Angels some hope, Girardi didn’t mess around and went right to The Genius Maker who didn’t disappoint. While his velocity was still low, his movement was MUCH better and he looked good. That was very encouraging because it appears that nobody is ready to take over for Rivera yet.

BTW, a few comments from some of you I will answer. I really like Nick Johnson in the 2 hole. Many people don’t like him clogging up the bases, but he isn’t horribly slow and you have to figure 70+ times the guys behind him will be hitting homers so he will be trotting around the bases.

Some have taken me to task about Granderson against lefties, but in the very small sample this year, he has a .664 OPS, which is 2 points behind Gardner’s .666. Of course, this is such a small sample, but I think Gardner will have a better OPS against lefties than Granderson after the year is over. That says something considering Gardner is not setting the world on fire right now, although he was robbed by a fantastic play by Aybar at SS with the bases loaded. The infield was in and Aybar dived (I still think this should be dove) to his right fully extended and snared the one hop and then threw home for a force out. I think we will see Thames bat against lefties every time, but the platoon partner will go back and forth between Granderson and Gardner unless one is a lot better. Swisher tends to be streaky so I think they will ride his hot runs and use Winn when he cools, but Swish is the clear starter and will only get a blow here and there. Swisher is a little better from the right side (.851-.801) over the last 3 years and Winn is identical so I would expect rest would come against a righty pitcher if it can be planned.

Don’t forget to check periodically the archives and specifically the predictions of the players. I have a bunch completed and will load them over the next week.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Genius Maker #6

4-2 after two road series' against power house teams in the AL; that is a very encouraging start!

On Saturday CC was very good. He threw a lot of pitches, but I think his pitch count was high because TB did a good job of not swinging at some close pitches. CC was nibbling a little as well. Either way, a very good game all around as the offense came to play also.

In the series deciding game on Sunday, there was a lot to talk about (at least in my view).

Jeter has been first pitch swinging almost every time. He will need to mix it up and make an adjustment because he has been making fast outs and this is against the philosophy of what the Yankees do well.

While I am on Jeter a little bit, the first inning was a classing example of one of the weaknesses Jeter has in the field and that is tagging runners out. the Yanks correctly pitched out on BJ Upton and the throw from Posada was release quickly, but a little on the SS side of the bag where Jeter took a long time to swing the tag around and tagged BJ on the shin rather than the foot. Replays showed it was a bang bang play, but a quicker and better tag would have given us the out call without question. This cost us an extra run and obviously more work for Burnett. AJ did settle down and pitch very well the rest of the way.

I am tired of every ball hit to the OF being "driven" according to Michael Kay. Mike, a little tip, when the ball is off the end of the bat or off the handle it is most certainly not "driven."

4th inning with the Yanks trailing 2-1, ARod led off with a double. Cano came up and he has shown better plan on how to handle early swings in the count. However, he did a poor job of trying to pull the ball as he flew out to LF on a pitch he should have been turning on. Just for clarity, I don't want many of the Yankees hitters giving themselves up just to move runners along, but it is OK to look for a pitch to pull and Cano missed an opportunity. After that Posada had a great AB to work a walk. He was really locked in laying off close pitches and working the walk. Unfortunately, Granderson and Swisher didn't get it done.

Nick Johnson has lined out about 4 times; his hits will come.

Shields was pitching well for TB, but most of the Yankees were working the pitch count very well on Shields and he entered the 6th inning at almost 100 pitches. After he got ARod out I was surprised that Choate didn't come in to face Cano. After Cano doubled though, I would not have brought in Choate (a true lefty specialist) to face the switch hitting Posada. Fortunately for us Posada took advantage of the mismatch and homered. Not sure what their coach (Maddon) was thinking? Either way, the Yanks plan of wearing down the starting pitcher and then creaming the bullpen worked great today.

Granderson made a bunch of nice plays in the field. the best was coming in on a line drive and doubling off Burrell at first base. BTW, him going in a little hard after Texiera was not that big a deal. Not nearly as big a deal as the stupid comments made by Joe West. I wonder what fine Girardi would have if he said that West's crew was embarrassing and pathetic?

BTW, Granderson also made a good baserunning play by getting to 3rd which allowed him to score on a wild pitch with 2 outs.

Man, what a silly dome where an out turns into a hit. This is a professional game for crying out loud. Can you imagine if that was a playoff game?

After that crazy play it was 1st and 2nd with 2 outs and Burnett fell behind Pena 3-0. Burnett then walked Pena not giving in, BUT moving the tying run to 2nd base and the go ahead run to 1st base. This was the most interesting strategic part of the game to me for a variety of reasons. First, do you go after Pena or do you really put at risk a big inning? At the time, I was saying to pitch carefully with a weaker hitter in Upton on deck, but man it is risky. Then, after the walk I think many people would have said that Burnett should have come out of the game as it looked like he was frazzled after the pop up. This I did not believe and fortunately neither did Girardi as Burnett got Upton out and the end of the key threat in the game. I really believe there were a lot of people who would have Monday morning QB'd that one and said "it was obvious Burnett was flustered and he should have come out." Good job by Girardi and Burnett to get the job done.

Cano stroked a ball down the LF line very well in the 7th inning, but Crawford made an excellent running catch. Gardner, Ellsbury and Crawford are probably the only LF'rs who could have made that catch as it took some raw speed.

Job's velocity was back down to 93 as he seemed to be throwing a little more with his arm than his body to me. Posada worked in his curve twice and it was outstanding at both times.

The only little concern I have is that Rivera looked very weak again to me. Very little movement and his velocity was 89-91. It is expected to see a slow down from him, but after last years amazing year, I want to hope he can give us another really good year. So far, he has not looked to me.

Overall, 4-2 is a very good start!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Genius Maker #5

I am not sure why the managers are allowing their starting pitchers to throw 100+ pitches on their first outing? In theme, I also don’t know why Girardi sent Vasquez out on the mound to start the 6th inning after not having good command all day and fortunately getting through the 5th inning unscathed after a terrible 4th inning. His control was off and he had little movement of speed on his fastball (which was getting hammered). I would have ended his night on a positive note after 5 innings. After a leadoff double in the 6th, I would have most certainly ended it, but instead Girardi kept Javy out there and after allowing a homer, the game for Vasquez and the Yankees was over.

Not much of note that stood out in the game, other than Thames missed a fly ball double that Gardner would have easily caught (that is at least 2 balls this week that were sure catches) and Granderson is off to a bad start against lefties. Now I know it is very early and Texiera is 0-16, but track record shows Tex will be OK and Granderson probably will not be (against lefties).

All is fine with this team, although I would have been much happier with Javy looking a little sharper. His track record in the AL is just OK, but after last year’s NL dominance the hope was he learned a lot. So far his grade is a D/D-. Also, Posada’s throws have not had much on them to 2nd base.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Genius Maker #4

Very solid game! Lackey pitched very well and so did Pettitte. Andy was all around the strike zone and pitched extremely well. When he missed it was very close.

I thought Posada called a very good game, but I was upset when they gave Ortiz the fastball and he knocked in their run. It was not a good time to be cute.

I think we saw Curtis Granderson’s ability today. Key spot a lefty (not a great one) comes in and makes him look foolish and then when a good righty is on the mound he takes him deep for a game winning extra inning homer! When I criticize Granderson against lefties, understand that I liked getting him and think he is great player against righties, but one must understand that he is a bad hitter against lefties and he should bunt more often against them. They also must be willing to pinch hit in a key spot very late in the game.

Chan Ho Park pitched excellent and Girardi stayed with the hot hand even after 2 very good innings. I was OK with him starting the 3rd inning, but I would have taken him out after the Beltre fly out. If I remember from my review of the playoffs he was a little better against righties and with Drew coming up and Beltre hit the ball hard, I would have made a move. Girardi stuck with him and he allowed a single to Drew. Now with Cameron up I most certainly would have made a move as I thought he was pushing it with Park, but he got away with a bad pitch and Cameron almost got a cheap green monster double, but instead flew out. Girardi stuck with Park again and Scutaro hit one on the screws but right at Gardner. It worked so maybe I would have been wrong to take out park, but I don’t understand having him finish his 3rd inning of work? Either way, I did like staying with him for the full 2 at least as he was throwing very well showing a good fastball, slider and breaking ball.

I really like our defensive OF when we have a lead. There is some serious speed out there when Winn is in RF.

The Genius Maker was not sharp at all. In fact, he had very little movement on most of his pitches, but he did get through the inning (thanks to Pedroia for swinging at ball 4). 2 saves already and we now have a one game lead over Boston!

The Genius Maker #3

First play of the game, Ellsbury hits a blooper that drops in between Jeter and Thames that would have been easily caught by Gardner. Ellsbury then steals 2nd and goes to 3rd on a bad throw by Posada. He ends up scoring…Gardner would have stopped it. For contrast, later in the game, Tex broke his bat and Ellsbury made the catch; end of rally.

Burnett made good pitches to Victor Martinez who fouled off a good fastball and did not swing at two good breaking balls to work a walk (he is a solid hitter). Martinez continued his excellent AB’s with a 2 run homer later and another hit. His defense is very bad, but he can hit.

Granderson had a bad AB against Lester (a lefty) with bases juiced and one out when he struck out waving at two bad pitches. Granderson did get a hit later in the game against a lefty which led to a great AB by ARod. Twice Lester beat ARod on fastballs inside and then ARod made the adjustment and doubled to tie up the game.

I still think Granderson will end up being platooned and Gardner will probably be a better hitter against lefties than Granderson.

Every reader of this blog knows I am a huge Posada fan, but I think when he hit into a DP it had be the slowest double play in history; I can’t believe they turned 2 on such a slow grounder to SS.

I think Boston swung the bats very well because Burnett pitched well and the Red Sox swung at good pitches and showed good control on the bad ones.

Great game by Ace! Aceves put up 2 perfect innings. I keep saying it but I am a big fan of his; he is a rare crafty righty.

Nick Johnson is an on base machine!

In the 8th Girardi did the right thing starting Robertson, although he did not get the job done. He then did a good job going to Marte and then it was great to see Joba with 2 k’s and hitting 96. When he can get up to 97 consistently I will be very happy, but he had a very good breaking ball showing great downward movement on his slider against Drew.

Cano’s solo homer was a big insurance run!

And we have a sighting! The Genius Maker comes in and closes out the game. I thought Scutaro was out on strikes and the ump blew the call, but Rivera still got the job done. Great to see his first save of the year.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Genius Maker Blog #2

Game 1 is in the books and the outcome was not what we hoped. Things looked promising after Posada and Granderson hit back to back homers and the Yanks ended up with a 5-1 lead going into the bottom of the 5th.

CC struggled with his command all night and could not work his changeup effectively. In the bottom of the 5th he struggled, but got out of the inning with only his 2nd run allowed and I felt, in game 1 of the year, I would have taken him out. I believe is pitch total was just about 90 and I would have turned it over to a very deep and rested bullpen. As it turned out, Joe left him out there to start the 6th and after walking Pedrioa I would have most certainly taken him out. If I had targeted a number of pitches at the start of the game 90 would have been my number. I was very surprised CC stayed in to allow another double and triple after the walk and also to throw 104 pitches in game 1 of the year. You can ride your horse, but why push it in game 1?

Now the outcome of the game may not have changed as the bullpen was ineffective at almost every turn, but perhaps things would have been different if Robertson started the inning?

A couple of other notes:

• Posada did a poor job defensively which contributed to the go ahead run. He was a hitting star though.
• I like having 2 lefties out of the pen. I can’t say I know how good Boone Logan is, but the threat can be important.
• Boston used Showenweis (Kind of like their Boone Logan as he was the last guy to make their team) against Granderson with 2 guys on and 2 outs and Granderson struck out. Granderson did work out a walk against Okajima later, but did not look good in doing so (0-1 with a walk against lefties)
• Gardner had an errant throw, but had a very good game offensively while stealing home. Man, he is blazing
• Chan Ho Park was the big goat though as he allowed 3 hits, including the bog blow the 2 run HR to Pedroia. I thought the ump missed a breaking ball to Dustin which made him come in with a fastball that was deposited over the fence, but either way a poor job.
• Marte didn’t do the job either (with some help from Posada). Marte is really a key guy for us in the pen. I hope his shoulder holds up.
• Nick Johnson will fit in perfectly into this team. He hit the ball well twice (for outs) and worked 2 walks.

It is only game 1 and doesn’t mean too much, but when you are up 5-1 with your best pitcher on the mound and a rested bullpen, you should win the game!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Pre Game 1 Regular Season

A lot of ground to cover and I still owe everyone my year in review predictions (last year). For this year, I will make some but I am a little behind.

I will look forward first so that I can get these in before game 1. Here are some of the questions I have received:

1) Why didn’t the Yankees just re-sign Matsui and Damon

I covered this a few times before, but my belief was I would have resigned Matsui for the 5-6 mil it would have cost because he would have paid for himself in marketing to Japan. That being said, I think the Yankees did a terrific job in getting Nick Johnson once the Yankees made the mistake of letting Matsui go. I would not be surprised if NJ had a better OPS than Matsui and NJ might even be healthier, but dollar wise I think Matsui was less expensive. Overall, I am not too concerned though.

As for Damon, I also have chronicled that I think Gardner’s overall value is on par with Damon’s when you take Gardner’s extra bases with SB’s and his stellar defense into account. But, the truth is Granderson is replacing Damon and outside of me being one of the only people who seems to think Granderson should be platooned and will not be able to play against lefties, I would rather Granderson on my team instead of Damon.

2) Who should play CF?

I would rather play Gardner is CF and Granderson in LF. However, I am not strong in my opinion. Granderson will end up being platooned after awhile so I believe Gardner will end up in CF 20% of the time anyway (assuming Granderson does play against lefties he has a good matchup against). Maybe they don’t want to move Granderson back and forth but don’t mid if Gardner does? I just think Gardner’s elite speed is better in CF, but Granderson is no slouch so it is not worth losing sleep over.

3) Can Gardner really be our starting LF?

Well, his weak offense does not look as good in CF, but again I am hopeful he can slightly improve on his .724 OPS (not sure I would predict it though) and with his defense he saves a lot of runs. If you figure he can save 3 bases a week in CF he should be able to save 2 bases a week in LF and along with his SB’s that would make his OPS the equivalent of around .825 compared to an average defensive LF.

4) Who will win the right handed hitting platoon role and will this be good?

Marcus Thames has won the job. He has very good power and should have a solid OPS against lefties, but his defense is very poor. I would expect him to either start against tough lefties or pinch hit at key moments late in the game when we are down. He could also DH if needed against lefties.

5) What did you think of the Bruney trade?

I liked Bruney a little more than most, but I trusted Cashman had someone he liked in the rule 5 draft. Something tells me a guy he thought would be there was not and then the Yanks took Jamie Hoffman. Jamie was an interesting guy as his defense was excellent everywhere, but I guess they felt he can’t hit as the Yanks offered him back to the Dodgers who took him back. Overall, Cashman made a mistake here as Bruney was given away for nothing.

6) What did you think about the Randy Winn signing?

I didn’t really understand this signing. It was only a little over a mil, but with Hoffman already on the roster, we had a good defensive player who doesn’t hit so I didn’t get it. Wynn is not better against lefties so I am not really sure of the fit. Now it is possible that last year was just a down year for him, but at his age down years are not usually an aberration. I don’t expect much from Wynn, but the signing was worse because of Hoffman. Once Hoffman was released I guess Wynn could be used in RF to spell Swisher, possibly play for Gardner or possibly platoon for Granderson, but not a great move IMO.

7) What did you think of the Vazquez trade?

Really liked it! Vazquez is a very good #4 and if he did really learn in Atlanta could be an absolute finding of gold! I expect somewhere in the middle and would hope he could give us an ERA around 4 and hopefully just south of it. I am drinking the Kool-Aid that he did learn something in Atlanta as he did pitch really well. Yes, it was the NL and I am very guarded about that; especially from a guy who never showed that ability in all of his AL years. He won’t duplicate what he did in Atlanta, but I would not be surprised if he was better than he has been in the AL. I also think Boone Logan may be able to support us in the bullpen as I like having 2 lefties in the pen.

8) Who should be our 5th starter?

From the start I felt Hughes would win the job and Joba would be in the pen. The Yankees felt the same way I believe. I like Aceves and think he could start as well, but Hughes will be given a great opportunity and I think he will show good promise this year.

9) Is Joba the setup guy/will he ever start?

Joba is a tough one. I don’t think we will see those 98-100 MPH days anymore. I am saddened about that because he was VERY exciting too watch. I do think he can be a good setup guy, but he better throw 95+ to go along with the great slider. I think his mindset is better suited for a bullpen guy. I know starters are worth a lot more, but I think he settles into the bullpen role and I really hope he is good enough to grab the setup role because we have some good arms out there.

10) Is Chan Ho Park going to help?

This was interesting because the Yankees players said he was very tough to hit. The numbers showed that he was a guy who did very well out of the pen but struggled as a starter. People are saying he is the setup guy, but I am not sold that he is better than Robertson, Ace or Joba for that matter. The good part is those are some pretty good righty arms to go along with Marte is getting the ball to the Genius Maker

My quick Vegas prediction…

The Yanks will win more than 95 games (that is the over under in Vegas) as long as they stay in “normal” health for a major league team

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Predictions of Players

2010 predictions – My apologies for not getting this out earlier. If you would like to view this throughout the year it will be tagged as 2010 Predictions in the labels or Predictions of Players and you can find it in the archive section. I will be adding to this as I get them done.

Jorge Posada – Last year Jorge had an OPS of .885, a little above his career OPS of .860. For a catcher that is an outstanding number because of all the bruises you accumulate throughout the year at the most physically demanding position in baseball (spoken like a catcher). Jorge has been one of the best hitting catchers in MLB history. That being said, I would expect father time to wear Jorge down a little and expect a reduction in OPS of somewhere around 40 points. He is still a very productive hitting catcher, but there is a reason why catchers don’t stay behind home plate that long and hit well. Jorge’s defense has slipped as his throwing since his surgery is not as good as his prime (he actually was very good at throwing runners out for most of his career and was much better than Girardi at it). Jorge also calls a very good game. His major weakness is his receiving ability as he is not smooth at catching the ball as he fights it frequently. He blocks balls about average when he moves his feet, but he has been getting lazy of late (Molina was lazy) and because of that his blocking ability is below average. He is also below average at plays at the plate. Overall, he is still an above average catcher because of his excellent offense out of the catcher’s position. At this age, Posada is a similar player to Victor Martinez for Boston.

Mark Texiera – Mark is very consistent and I would expect that to continue for us this year. He had a .948 OPS last year and I would expect an OPS in the same neighborhood, possibly a tick lower (.940), but he could just as easily be a little above. He also is part of the guys who can wear down the pitchers. His defense is really good, but I don’t think it is in the Mattingly/Hernandez area that many talk like it is. He makes plays look a little harder than they are by swinging his arms and over playing it a little (I guess the opposite of Cano), but he is still one of the better defensive 1st basemen in the league. Mark also throws well for a 1st baseman. The only part of his game that is below average is his speed. Who cares, he has locked down our 1st base situation until his contract is up!

Robinson Cano – As many of the loyal readers know, I am a huge fan of Cano’s. When there was talk about Cano being traded I was against it. Last year I put my entire reputation on the line as I predicted an enormous increase of over 100 points in his OPS and he came through with an increase of an amazing 152 points. Cano has some of the quickest wrists in baseball. He also has great hand eye coordination. His biggest issue is his plate discipline and his plan at the plate. This off season this was the training for him and I expect Cano to take his game to an even higher level this year. Cano has a career OPS of .820 and I expect him to go over .900 this year and I would not be surprised if he is right there with ARod and Texiera either. Cano has that much ability; he just needs to mature as a hitter. My prediction will be .910 and if this wasn’t already almost 100 points above his career mark I would probably make it higher. Plate discipline is all he needs! Robbie’s defense is silky smooth and graceful. His hands around the bag are extremely quick and I have mentioned numerous times that we would get more outs at 2nd base if Cano took the throws instead of Jeter; the difference in quickness is dramatic. Cano also turns 2 much faster than Jeter. Robbie finishes off his game with a very strong arm. He runs pretty well, but he is not a great base stealer.

Alex Rodriguez – Arod has been persecuted by the fans and media unfairly and I have been one of the few that was steadfast in stating the lack of being clutch was a bunch of crap. Well, he finally showed up in the postseason and was enormous for us, being the key cog in carrying us to the title! I hope people will use him as an example of the mistake people make when they label people on a small sample size. ARod has hit 30 homers and 100+ RBI’s for the past 12 years. Even last year, while missing 38 games he still hit those numbers. ARod is a fantastic all around player who has excellent base running instincts. His contract makes him a target, but let’s remember that he wanted to play for us and I like that about players (read that Greg Maddux). I think his contract will be an albatross by the end, but hopefully we will have 3 more titles by that time. I am going to say ARod will be right at his career OPS of .965. ARod’s defense is still good even though he was very stiff last year. He is a solid defender with a strong arm; I would expect his defense to be a little better this year.

Nick Johnson DH – As you read in my free agent analysis previously, I thought the Yankees screwed up letting both Matsui and Damon go. My main point was Matsui would pay for himself in Japanese money and he would still be productive. I stated that I was fine with Damon being let go, but I would have kept Matsui and at the time I stated we will regret this decision. That being said, the Yankees reacted very well in signing Nick Johnson. He fits into the wearing out philosophy we have as a team and I expect he will be a big part of us knocking out pitchers early and then creaming their middle relief. I also expect a little more power than he had the last 2 years as he had a combined 13 homers in the last 2 years. I would expect him to hit that total if he gets 500 AB’s. Health is always a concern with Nick and he did have some back stiffness in spring training, but hopefully he will be fine come the regular season. Assuming reasonable health an OPS near his career OPS of .844 seems a good guess. His ability to get on base at above a .400 clip in front of Texiera and ARod will be very valuable in the 2 spot…and yes that is where I would bat him. People have said he is too slow, but you don’t need to run too fast when Texiera and ARod are hitting 80 homers behind you.

Brett Gardner LF – Again, I will be repeating myself in items that I wrote defending my position that Gardner is as valuable as Damon as an overall player (I took a lot of abuse about this). I also want to point out that Gardner is really only replacing Melky and Granderson is replacing Damon, but because the Yankees have decided that Gardner will be playing LF I am using this comparison. I also want to state that I felt Gardner should be in CF and Granderson should be in LF, but it is not that big a deal to me. Defensively, Gardner’s arm is better than Damon’s worst in the league and Gardner will get to about 2 balls that Damon could not reach. Conservatively I will assume that between the arm and the balls Damon could not get to, the difference in bases is 1.75 a week with Gardner. Assuming Damon has an OPS of .820 (a little above his career of .794 and a little below what he did for us last year) and adjusting it to include SB’s to .835 and we assume that Gardner’s OPS will be about the same as last years with a small bump (.724 last year) up to .735 with a SB adjustment to .795. I used 60 SB’s with 15 caught (the CS is a little high but I am trying to be conservative). Once the 1.75 bases a week for defense is added into the equation you can add another 75 points to the OPS which puts Gardner as a more valuable player than Damon overall…or at least close if you don’t like my math. Gardner is not a great ballplayer at 26, but his skills have a lot more value than people account for and defense is one large part of that. He can save a double with his feet and this is the same thing I used to say about Melky in that Melky was just too slow to be a CF’r. Bottom line is that if Gardner can give us an OPS of .735 and steal bases and play good defense this will work great. I expect Gardner to give up some AB’s to Thames or a platoon partner, but I also expect the same from Granderson and I would not be surprised if he will hit lefties better than Granderson, although neither will be a great option. As many of you know, I think Gardner will do the above and be a good part of our team. If he were in CF his lack of traditional OPS would not be seen as big a deal, but in LF where OPS is usually higher people will be a little more critical.

Curtis Granderson CF – Outside of the comments I stated in the write-up about Curtis, I am very happy with his pickup. I don’t see why so many people think he will all of a sudden become a good hitter let alone an average hitter against lefties, but he is a legitimate stud against righties and playing solid defense makes him very valuable and more valuable than Damon IMO. Over the last 3 years Granderson has an OPS against righties of .940 and an OPS against lefties of .570. I am not sure why I would expect much of a change off of that and in fact, I would be fine with that. Add in SB’s of approximately 20 while getting caught at a reasonable 5 times and he should do just fine. His defense is very solid in CF and while many say he has a weak arm, I think his arm is fine for CF or LF. I would still put Gardner in CF to take advantage of his elite speed, but I am not going to get crazy about the decision as Granderson is still an upgrade over Melky.

Nick Swisher RF – The crazy Nick brings some personality to the team, but also is a pretty good fundamental player. He can sacrifice and while is not a great tracker of balls gets a very good jump on balls. His weakness in RF is mostly his arm as it is not strong for a RF. He played CF at times with Chicago to show you that he is not a bad fielder, but he is not a great defender overall either. One of the extra OF’rs that play good defense could be used as a defensive replacement if needed. As an offensive player Swisher is part of our wearing down of pitchers philosophy and this is a good thing. We got about as much as one could expect form Swisher last year as he finished with an OPS that was barely his best at .869. His career OPS of .817 represents a fair number if you were going to make predictions. I would expect an OPS somewhere in the middle at about .840 or so, but just as important is that he will see a lot of pitches and does know how to sac if needed. Expect high K’s and low batting average to go along with 25+ homer power and 90 walks. He is a productive hitter and player overall.

Randy Winn – I was not a fan of this pickup as it just didn’t seem to be in line with our philosophy of getting younger. Winn may have upside compared to last year’s terrible performance, but after the Yanks traded away Bruney for Hoffman (since released) and Hoffman was supposed to be an excellent defender, the deal just didn’t make sense. The Yanks also have a guy like Golston in the minors who should be able to do what Winn does. Now, I could be wrong on Winn as I have not watched him play very much, but from a few pre season AB’s he has a little hitch in his swing and I don’t see a player that will be that helpful. He did have 2 years in a row with an OPS of .795, but then in 2009 at the age of 35 he had the worst OPS he has had in 10 years when he finished with a .671 OPS. That could be an aberration, but becoming a part time player it is hard to see Winn get much more than a .725 OPS. His defense is solid so that has value, but I just don’t the signing…hopefully he won’t be pushed into duty. I would not be surprised if he is released in the 2nd half of the year

Marcus Thames – Thames is in line with what the Yanks need and that is some OF’rs who can hit lefties. This is especially important when we have 2 potential guys who are in need pinch hitters against lefties late in the game. Thames can hit lefties and this is more in line with what I was looking for out instead of the Winn signing. Don’t expect Thames to do too much; he is 33 so the upside is limited and he will strike out a lot and he will not play well defensively. However, if you just let him play against lefties he will be a productive player in the mid .850’s in OPS. This would represent a huge upgrade over Granderson or Gardner against lefties. Thames also is not an auto out against righties, with an OPS of .742 over the last 3 years. Most of his OPS comes from very good power. Over the last 3 years in 843 AB’s he has hit 56 homers. This is roughly 40 homer power in a 600 AB season. This was a smart pickup as one could expect him to be enough of a threat against a lefty specialist or a platoon starter at DH or LF. He also was signed for less than a mil.

Francisco Cervelli – Cervelli played well in limited time last year and as I said before he is at least as good as Molina all around, with upside. Molina threw extremely well and framed pitches well, he also called a decent game, but he was slow with is footwork and lazy in blocking balls. Molina also could not hit at all as he had a putrid OPS of .560 last year. Cervelli did not show any walking ability and also did not show much power, but he did show the ability to make contact and actually hit a weak .298. With some improvement of more playing time I would expect him to increase his .681 OPS to the low .720 range and hopefully he can be better. His plate discipline will have to get better, but he could make a jump. His defense is pretty solid all around so this is an upgrade over Molina.

Ramiro Pena – I like Pena and I stated I liked him better than Hairston last year. Obviously, I am glad Hairston was not kept around. Pena is a very slick defender so he can play any infield position except first and play it well. His best position is at SS and he is a better defender than Jeter. Hard to say if he is better at 3rd or 2nd base than ARod or Cano, but I would guess no to Cano and maybe to ARod. Either way he is a good utility infielder who can give you good AB’s from the left side of the plate when you need a hit. He is not an OPS machine, but his .700 OPS last year was respectable. He also had an OPS of .818 against righties! That is very impressive but also shows you how weak he was against lefties (.274 OPS). Basically he should play against righties to give Jeter and ARod a day off and probably against righties to give Cano a day off as well. He is also 24 so maybe he develops a little more power, although his frame and swing does not lend itself to too much power. Either way, he is a very good utility guy and may be our future at SS?


CC Sabathia – I am a big fan of CC’s. He was the prize a year ago and he will anchor our staff. He is not as dominating as Halladay, but CC is an absolute ace. His ERA of 3.37 last year was in line with what you could expect from him. I would expect and ERA of just under 3.50 from him again and getting his 230 innings we should expect him to win in the same area of wins he had the last few year…about 18 give or take a few. His changeup allows him to get through games when everything else is out of kilter. He also is a good athlete (and hitter) for a huge man who is probably close to 300 pounds.

AJ Burnett – Burnett really has dynamite stuff. Sometimes throwing upper 90’s with sick movement. He also has a plus breaking ball. The issue is he falls apart many times and can’t control that great stuff and teams get big innings off of him. He is one of those guys that you hope one day he could put it all together, but surprisingly has only won more than 13 games once in his career. Last year his ERA was a respectable 4.04, but he was only able to win 13 games and I would like to see him get that ERA below 4. This may not be some crazy prediction, but I think Burnett will do what he has only done once in his career and he will break that 13 barrier again. I am hoping he will give us that around 4 ERA and win 16+ games. He may be maturing as a pitcher…I hope so.

Andy Pettitte – Talk about the guy who seems to be getting better with age. Andy was one of the more surprising stories for me last year. I never predicted him to be so solid and consistent because he seemed like he wanted to retire. He is not 40 years old, but at 37 one would expect to see some more issues with him. However, he has learned to be a lot more than just a cutter pitcher as he throws his breaking ball at 2 different speeds, turns over his fastball and now throws a change once in awhile. His velocity is still around 90 which is enough. He had an ERA of 4.16 last year and a 4.54 the year before. As long as Andy can keep his shoulder healthy, I think he can give us an ERA in that 4.25 range which would be very good with our offense.

Javier Vazquez – Let me first say that I was for this trade. Mostly because I think Gardner will be able to do what Austin Jackson may be able to do. Let me also say that anyone expecting an ERA below 3.00 from him is really wishing. Yes, he was great last year with a 2.87 ERA and yes he might have learned how to be an amazingly craft righty, but in the AL you can’t get away from mistakes as easy. His ERA in the AL has been about 4.50, but I am hopeful that he might have learned something last year and he can take that and better that 4.50 ERA and get it down to a 4.30 or so. He has always been a streaky pitcher so hopefully he will be going well for the postseason.

Phil Hughes – I have received more questions about the Hughes Joba situation than any other (Gardner was close). I was in favor of getting both players ready to be starters last year. However, in the postseason I felt better about Joba in the pen and felt that Hughes was better suited to start. Joba has the mentality of a short reliever and I think Hughes has the makeup and pitches as a starter. Hughes is still only 23 and I believe will pitch very well this year and will be backing CC before within the next year or 2. He will run into some speed bumps, but I am really looking forward to watching him this year.

Mariano Rivera (The Genius Maker) - What can you say about the greatest closer the game has ever seen? Every year you think this is the year you expect to see him be ineffective and over the last 2 regular seasons he has blown only 3 saves while saving 83 games! One chink in the armor was that last year he allowed 7 homers, outside of his rookie year when he started 10 games; he has not allowed more than 5 in any year. I expect, sadly, that this is the type of fall from grace we will see. I don’t think he will just lose it, but I expect more inconsistency as the age of 40 starts to wear him down some. I still think he will be good for us, but every year with him will be one where we hope he can hold on and give us just enough. His great motion and incredible cutter will still be effective, but his control and his arm need to hold up as well…I guess I am hoping for 2 more effective years; not as great as the last 2 but good years where we can count on him…The best of all time deserves a nice ride off into the sunset!

Joba Chamberlain – Perhaps he will be the heir to the job? His stuff is not what it used to be and that is alarming, but I am hopeful he can get to 95+ where his excellent breaking stuff will be more effective. I had goose bumps watching him throw 98+ before he hurt his arm; I can only hope his mental game, his work ethic and his arm can get back on track. There is still a lot unknown from him, but I do think being in the pen is the right thing.

Damarso Marte – I like Marte better than most people, in fact I was pimping him hard all year last year and was going crazy when there was a question whether he would make the post season roster. Well thank God he did as he was outstanding in the postseason. He can get righties out as well, but he has not been as consistent as I would like and has struggled with shoulder issues since we got him. When healthy he can be nasty with a low to mid 90’s fastball and a sharp slider. As our only real lefty he is very important to the bullpen.

Aceves – I am a big fan of his as well. I think he could step in and be a solid starter, but right now he is a guy who could work the 8th, or be middle relief. He is another crafty righty where the ball moves all the time and he can throw strikes with any pitch. I also think he has a good mental approach to the game…Very good guy to have on the team.

Robertson – Robertson showed some ability last year and if he can continue to work on his cutter and more importantly throw strikes, he can be a huge boost as well to the team. He has an excellent curve, but doesn’t have that 3rd pitch and this is why the cutter is so important for him.

Chan Ho Park – The Yankees were impressed with him last year, but I usually like guys who have some more success in the AL. CHP is pretty good against righties and mediocre against lefties, although as a reliever he did a good job. Hopefully he can take it over with us, but this talk about him being the setup guy scares me…I hope he surprises me because I expect a guy who can be helpful but is not a guy who you count on every game.

We will make the playoffs again unless we get barraged with injuries; we are deep and talented.