There are a few items I want to go over and I am glad we won so that some of it doesn’t seem like I am in a bad mood after a loss.
First to last night’s game. We were facing a pitcher who was not productive at AA and we were able to hit him. The two big blows in the game were a first inning 3 run, 2 out double by Swisher and an excellent AB by Martin, who saw a huge repertoire of pitches and on a 3-2 count with two outs lined a 3 run HR over the LF wall (on a breaking ball).
Toronto had two base running blunders that make you scratch your head. While Leiter had such an issue on the first one, normally when a guy is on 2nd base on the ball is hit to the ride side you get to 3rd, but the issue wasn’t that “he needs to make sure it goes through before he goes” as Leiter said, the issue was decisiveness. If he took off immediately, Swisher does not make a throw, but he hesitated then hesitated again. When the ball is hit on a line (even a line grounder), you are supposed to freeze or go back; he didn’t and got caught. The other was a guy on 3rd who Martin just caught taking too deep a run toward home on the pitch. It was a called play and the batter happened to swing at the 3rd strike for a DP. This helped a lot.
OK, on to my thinking…
I have been most disappointed in the Yanks not developing players this year. I recognize that when you must win (and should win) it is harder to work in rookies or younger players, but this is something an organization must do and also at the major league level not just the minors. Who have we developed this year? Maybe you could argue Phelps, but that happened more because of need and one could argue that he has been a yo yo instead of a plan in developing him. I didn’t go back and read my first few posts (pre season) about the Ibanez signing, but I was pretty clear that I didn’t think it was necessary because I felt we could have gotten at least as much from Dickerson (and he was an example) but also at the same time maybe finding something even better and with upside. Ibanez had no upside (dead end), in fact, I think we got more than any of us could have expected from Ibanez and overall he still was pretty mediocre with a .749 OPS and weak overall defense (and a very weak arm). Dickerson has an OPS in the majors of .761 and his defense is very solid. His OPS in only 14 plate appearances this year is 1.262. How is it possible that Girardi has not played him more than this? He seems like a guy who has developed a little late as he was hitting at a .932 OPS in the minors this year in a much more statistically valid 321 plate appearances. Why would we keep throwing out other guys when this guy may be what we need? Also, even if you want to work him in, when we are up by 5 runs why is he not in the game for defense? The logic is just not there with me as you should get at least the same offensive production and you clearly will get better defense/speed. The guy has produced so why not use him and see if you can ride a hot streak? Instead we have let him sit on the bench behind a much older guy with no upside? BTW, I do want to say that Ibanez has been a professional and I have no issues with him, I just think at the start of the year he would clog up a position that we could have used to try and develop someone and that is exactly what happened. The fact I feel this way and he played better than his .708 OPS last year shows this didn’t make sense. He could pop a few big hits for us and we will need him to, but you get the point.
On to the big picture of this year. I am usually pretty comfortable where we are at going into the playoffs and while they are usually a crap shoot, I am not nearly as confident this year as previous years. There are just too many issues on this team for them all not to haunt us…here are my concerns:
We are deep at pitching, but not great. Our ace, CC, just came off of a great start statistically, but he is still throwing 92 and his change is not as effective and also his slurve because there is not as much a difference. CC will give his all, but those 2-3 MPH matter and I am not as confident. He has been on the DL twice this year…We need him to be our horse again.
Kuroda, who has been excellent all year and has a really nice repertoire of pitches, has not been sharp lately. Last night, his pitches were extremely inconsistent. His slider was breaking right to left and didn’t have downward movement, but then all of a sudden it did for a few pitches and then didn’t. While one could say he makes his pitches do different things (which he does), the situations didn’t dictate them and the fact his command was so off, I think it was just that he couldn’t get comfortable in his release and release point all night. One game wouldn’t concern me, but he has struggled of late and Toronto without their best hitter is not a great lineup.
Pettitte – I have a comfort level with Pettitte, but counting on Pettitte is risky. He has not allowed a run since coming back (11 innings), but he faced two weaker lineups. We will need him, but it is a lot to ask.
Hughes – Overall, his year has been fairly successful with a 4.10 ERA, but his OPS against .759 and that is not good enough. The HR’s have been an issue and I just don’t have faith in him for a playoff game. The one good thing is he does not walk a lot of guys and this helps him.
Nova – Love his stuff, but he is not pitching well at all. The other night, his curve was outstanding and he still got hit. Something is wrong with his mechanics or he is tipping pitches because he allowed a HR on a pitch high and outside the strike zone and it had some movement and was 94 MPH…it doesn’t add up. Maybe they move him to the bullpen for the postseason because he is clearly not going to start. I could see him coming in and being good out of the pen. I would use him in that role over the last few days.
Phelps – His stuff is fairly common, but he does have good command. I would think he would be a safer choice than Hughes, but they will probably use him in long relief. He has a good future as a 3-4 type of guy.
So the starters are not peaking and have question marks…this is an issue
The bullpen is also not as lights out.
Soriano has given us an excellent outcome this year, but as I have said, he has been lucky and his stuff is not the type of dominant stuff one would expect. His OPS against is .619 and while not bad, last year for us (when he didn’t pitch that well supposedly) it was .645. The last year with Tampa it was .509! This is what I mean by his conversion rate (91%) was far higher than how he pitched and how I see his stuff. Off subject, it is important that he performs great, not just for us, but it would be the best thing for us for him to opt out of his 14 mil option to sign a 3 year deal for 30 mil or something with someone else.
That being said about Soriano, Robertson is the one piece that really makes me concerned. This guy was dominant last year and since his injury this year he has not been the same. First his fastball is down and seems to be closer to 91 than 92, let alone the 94 with explosive life he had before his oblique injury. I am not sure why all of the Yankee pitchers have their velocity down, but our pitching coach must share some of the blame here? Robertson has cut down his walks this year which has kept his OBP about equal to last year, but he is getting hit far more. His OPS against was a fantastic .506 last year and he was dominant with a strike out % of 37 compared to 32 this year. This year his OPS against is .655 and he has not been as sharp this year. We used to be able to make the game a 6 inning game, but now I have concerns late in the game and in the playoffs, that scares me.
Joba has been better of late and I have confidence in him and Logan has been reasonably reliable. This year we have a good 2nd lefty as Rapada is the guy I would want against a tough lefty over anyone on our staff. He consistently faces the “Josh Hamilton’s” of the world and does a good job against them. It is hard to keep things great against these big guns, but his OPS against lefties this year is an excellent .523 (.188 batting average). This is the only plus over previous years.
Our pitching is deeper than dominant in a few areas and that is better for the season than it is for a playoff series.
As for the batting…Granderson has been awful of late. His OPS has been about .700 for the last 2 months with a sub .200 batting average and a strike out rate of 35%. ARod has shown no power since his most recent comeback. Our bench is simply awful outside of Chavez. Nix has done everything we could have asked, but he is not a great hitter. .726 against lefties is at least passable, but I hope he doesn’t see a minute in the playoffs. We have absolutely no people who can hit lefties. Tex needs to come back and come back at a high level. Cano has only had an OPS of .829 since the All Star break and he is our best hitter (and player). He needs to give us his .900 OPS! Ichiro has been hot, but the rest of the team is struggling and this is concerning as well…we are not peaking regardless of our solid record of late
Coaching – Girardi is not the worst coach in the game, but I hate his condescending attitude when questioned…just as an example, was when he was asked why he didn’t pinch run for ARod as he was coming out of the game and his answer was that he wanted to leave him in just in case we hit around??? Seriously, he said that. He has been very inconsistent is his application of personnel and without a rhyme or reason. He has also failed to try and develop anyone and they totally screwed up the Tex situation by bringing back too early and it cost us a lot more games. He also failed to take guys out when he should have (Jeter comes to mind when he was hurt as well as Tex before he went down). His feel and decision making has been wrong and not just because of the outcomes. Clearly a bad move could work and vice versa, but when he has made questionable moves they have failed a lot more than succeeded. Also, his huge failure at leaving Robby Thompson at 3rd base has cost us at least one and probably two games and hurt us in others. In a pennant race where every game matters, our coaching staff has given away at least 5 games and that would be enormous right now.
Right now, we have the crap shoot chance of winning our first round (if we don’t play the WC), but I am not confident we will and would predict we won’t.