Monday, April 16, 2012

Stellar Revival

Totally non Yankee related, I know, but I did not post much at all yesterday because I went to a concert down in Atlanta, GA at The Masquerade. We went to mainly see Theory of a Deadman but there were two more bands, Pop Evil and Stellar Revival. I must say that I was skeptical of Stellar Revival because I could not find anything of theirs to listen to beforehand. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised with their live show.

I liked it so much, and I am not going to lie I usually NEVER actually purchase music, that I totally plan on buying this album when it comes out on June 19th. You guys should totally check these guys out, like their facebook page, follow them on twitter, whatever you gotta do. They were down to earth guys who put on a hell of a rock show. The guitarist, Steve, even hugged me lol. Sounds like the start of a bromance to me, no homo.

Anyways check these guys out I truly think they are the future of rock music. Buy the single, The Crazy Ones, off the album.

Stellar Revival Facebook Page
Stellar Revival Official Page

Twins @ Yankees 4/16/12

Tonight the Yankees will host the Twins for the first of a four game series. It is no secret that we have owned the Twins in the recent memory so the confidence is high in the Bronx. Tonight Freddy Garcia will try to throw the ball to Russell Martin this time and not the first row fans behind home plate. Here is the lineup for this 7:05 game

1. Derek Jeter SS
2. Curtis Granderson CF
3. Alex Rodriguez 3B
4. Robinson Cano 2B
5. Mark Teixeira 1B
6. Nick Swisher RF
7. Raul Ibanez DH
8. Russell Martin C
9. Brett Gardner LF

Is The Shift Just A Fad?

Is this going to be a regular site from here on out?

I was at the LoHud Yankees Blog reading the game notes from last night's victory over the Angels. I love anything that gives me a different perspective on things, which is why Pardon The Interruption is one of my favorite shows, and some times you can get that from those notes. This time, however, nothing really stood out. There were more notes on Jeter hitting well at the beginning of this season, which even he is getting tired of. There was some talk about Nova not geting rattled, and challenging hitters rather than trying to nibble at the plate (perhaps you heard the word "rock" used by some other guy, in reference to Super-Nova). But it was this note that caught my eye...
Girardi was asked about whether or not he’s had any discussions with Teixeira about adjusting to the shift. “You don’t,” he said. “You tell him to swing the bat, hit balls hard, and things will work out. It’s not like it’s something new to him this year.”

"...hit balls hard, and things will work out." I've thought the same thing, but hearing that made me think whether or not that's true. Seeing the shift against Teixeira when he bats from the left side made me wonder if that extra fielder made his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) go down. A quick trip to Baseball Reference answered that question.

I decided to look at 2011, as that was the year in which we saw the shift on Teixeira night in and night out. And it turns out that Mark's BABIP versus right-handed pitchers, while batting from the left-side, was only .222. Which is incredibly low when you figure that league average is usually around .300. Look at Tex's BABIP vs. LHPs, while batting from the right-side, which was .278. And this isn't a case of small sample size skewing the numbers, as Mark had 397 at bats from the left-side, and 189 at bats from the right-side, last season.

And the same thing is happening in 2012. Mind you, this time it could be small sample sizes playing tricks on us, but Teixeira's BABIP vs. RHP, as a left-handed batter, is a paltry .222. Batting from the right-side, and facing LHPs, that BABIP is .308. Even though Tex has only had 22 at bats vs. RHP, and only 14 at bats vs. LHP, I'm willing to bet that unless Mark stops being so pull-happy when batting from the left-side, that we're going to continue seeing him struggle when hitting from the left-side.

I was thinking about other pull hitters in Major League Baseball, and came across Ted Williams. Ted was a strong pull-hitter, who had a career BABIP of .328. Now, I'm not saying Williams wouldn't still be considered one of the better hitters in the history of the game, but what if teams employed the shift against Ted a lot more back then, like we see today? Keep in mind that Ted was not a switch-hitter like Teixeira is, as Williams was a left-handed hitter only. So it's not like Teddy Ballgame could just feast on left-handed pitching, sort of like how Teixeira still bats well against lefties from the right-side of the plate.

So this begs the question... "should Girardi start employing the shift more often too?"

I can hear shouts of "NO" coming from a number of Yankee fans. Now, certainly he shouldn't shift against every player, but if spread charts show that a batter is way more likely to hit the ball to one side, like Teixiera tends to pull the ball the vast majority of the time while batting left-handed, then it makes sense to do it. It would also help if the pitcher was able to hit his spots, unlike what we saw from Freddy Garcia in his first outing of 2012. If a pitcher is supposed to throw the ball inside to a left-hander, but the pitch goes to the outside of the plate, then it's going to be easier for the batter to go the other way and get a cheap base-hit (or, as I like saying, "bitch hits").

If Yankee pitchers can at least hit their spots, then don't be surprised if the team employs the shift more often this season.

Series Wrap - vs. Angels 4/13 - 4/15

Game One
The season officially began Friday afternoon, as the Yankees played their first game at Yankee Stadium in 2012. Erick Aybar led off the game with a single on Kuroda's 2nd pitch, and a loud moan could be heard eminating from the Bronx, as fans thought they could be in for another tough outing from one of the newest Yankees. Fortunately Bobby Abreu and Albert Pujols followed that up with a couple fly balls, and Kendry Morales strike out, to end the early threat. After that Hiro looked really good, as he only needed 109 pitches to get through 8+ innings, giving up 5 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 6. After a bitch hit by Abreu (a slow ground ball to Jeter), Robertson came into the game to get Pujols to ground sharply into a DP, followed by a strikeout to Kendry Morales, to look down the 4th win in a row.

As for the bats things also started shaky, but turned out okay soon afterwards. Back to back strikeouts from Jeter and Granderson had me thinking we could be in for a tough one, as Ervin Santana looked to be dealing. But a single by ARod, back to back walks to Cano and Teixeira, and a bases-clearing double by Swisher made that thought go away. The following inning looked to be another good one for Yankee fans, as Martin was at 3rd and Gardner at 1st with 0 outs. Unfortunately Brett was picked off of 1B, in what may have been the first time I've seen the "fake to 3rd and throw to 1st" move work for a pitcher. The Yanks ended up with nothing after that, when Jeter grounded out and Granderson kKd. ARod tagged one over the CF wall for his 1st homer of the year, and Granderson delivered a Yankee Stadium special with a ball over the short porch in RF. Not much happened offensively after that, but as you saw in the previous paragraph, it was more than enough for the Yankees to move to 4-3.

Game Two
Phil Hughes started Game 2, trying to bounce-back from a poor performance against the Rays last Sunday, when he put up a line of 4.2IP, 2R (both earned), 2BB, 5K, and 1HR. Not horrible, but the fact he needed 99 pitches to get there was the biggest issue. Could he be more effecient this this time around? Well, he started off the game getting Erick Aybar to fly out to Granderson in CF, but that was followed up by back-to-back singles by Howard Kendrick and Albert Pujols. Not a good start for Hughes and the Yankees, however fans felt better after Phil struck out Kendrys Morales and Torii Hunter to end the early threat. Unfortunately it was the 25 pitches thrown that worried me, as it looked like the bullpen was going to be treated line a greenhorn aboard one of the boats on the Deadliest Catch. It was 2-0 after Chris Iannetta hit a Yankee Stadium special about 315 feet, which was preceded by a single off the bat of Vernon Wells. The good news was that Hughes struck out two more batters this inning, but besides the 2 runs scored, the bad news was that Phil needed to throw another 21 pitches. The 3rd inning didn't go well either, as Kendrick singled, then scored on a Pujols double. Again, Hughes did strikeout another hitter, but needed 22 pitches to get through that inning. Phil threw 16 more pitches in the 4th, which sounds good, except for the fact he walked Iannetta, Bourjos singled, and Kendrick hit a 3 run bomb to put the Angels up 6-0. A strikeout was in there, but Girardi called up on David Phelps. David ended up pitching beautifully, allowing only 1 hit (a solo HR by Wells), 2 walks, and striking out 4 (the lone hit/run was a solo-HR by Wells in the 5th).

Not much to talk about when it came to the offense on Saturday, as the team could only put one run on the board, thanks to three singles by Nunez, Jeter, and Cano in the 5th. After that RBI by Cano the Yankees had ARod and Teixeira coming up with only 1 out, but another #RISPFAIL by both of them left the Yankee faithful wanting (imagine Count Adhemar smirking at the Yankee bats). The only good news came from an unsurprising name... Derek Jeter. On top of his single in the 5th, The Captain led off his 5th game with a base hit. At that point Jeter was hitting .361 in 2012, but 6 of his 11 hits this season have come off lefties (only 10 at bats), and unfortunately the Yankees will likely see many more RHPs than LHPs from here on out. So his .238 batting average so far this season vs. RHPs is sure to hurt him.

Game Three
Although this wasn't the most impressive start we've seen from Ivan "Super" Nova, this game was further proof of what I said last week regarding Ivan being the "rock" of the Yankees' starting rotation [link]. A triple by Howie Kendrick (who went 6/10 in the two games he played in the series) didn't rattle Nova at all, as Pujols lined out followed by Torii Hunter striking out. Even after getting into trouble in the 2nd inning, where he gave up a HR to Mark Trumbo, which was followed up with singles by Maicer Izturis and Chris Iannetta. Nova was able to get Erick Aybar to ground out to end the threat. And in the 3rd inning Ivan struck out the side. The Angels were able to score two more runs in the 5th, thanks to a two-run Yankee Stadium Special by Chris Iannetta (again), then one run in each of the 6th and 7th innings. But honestly, there wasn't a time where I felt uneasy with Nova out there. Of course, the 8 runs scored by the Yankee offense surely helped me feel that way, but it's rare that I'd feel good about a final line of 6 IP, 8 H, 4 R (all earned), 2 BB, 8 K, and 2 HR, from a Yankee starter.

I'll tell you what did bug me though... 2 hits, 1 earned run, and 2 walks given up by Rafael Soriano in only .2 innings (he can thank David Robertson for bailing him out). Thankfully D-Rob went 1.1 innings, giving up only 1 hit (but no strikeouts... wow), while Boone Logan came into the 9th and only allowed a walk, striking out 3. I have to take a minute to point out that the Yankee bullpen has started off this season in really impressive fashion. In 31 innings pitched, the 'pen has put up an ERA of only 2.03, along with a WHIP of 1.13, giving up an OPS of only .566, while striking out 41 batters. Although it's not like the bullpen was bad at all last season, when it finished with the best ERA in the American League (3.12), but fans should not look beyond the work our relievers are doing.

Seeing as how the team scored 11 runs in the game, it shouldn't surprise anybody that every hitter for the Bombers reached base. In fact, Russell Martin was the only Yankee not to get a hit, but he did walk twice in the game, raising his OBP so far this season to .455 (that's the only batting stat you want to see when it comes to Martin, though). Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, and Raul Ibanez each had two hits. Jeter and Ibanez homered for the good guys... Raul's being a rare upper deck shot to RF, which even made my roommate (who's not a baseball fan) say "wow". My favorite hitting stat from this game deals with hitting with runners in scoring position, where the team has struggled, in which they were 5-for-13. If only the team could bat .385 the whole season with RISP.

Series Awards

Jake Taylor Award*
Derek Jeter - 5/14, 2 R, 3 RBI, 2 2B, 1 HR

Gentry Award*
Russell Martin - 1/7, 1 R, 3 BB (has not had an extra base hit yet this season)

Rick Vaughn Award*
Hiroki Kuroda - Game 1: 8+ IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K

Kelner Award*
Phil Hughes - Game 2: 3.1 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 6 K, 2 HR

Next Series
vs. Twins 4/16 - 4/19
Click here to talk about the series at the Daily Sports Pages Yankees forum.


*The awards are named after one of the best baseball movies of all time... Major League.

Jake Taylor Award - Awarded to the most valuable position player. Named after the hard-nose veteran catcher that, despite making the league minimum, was the heart and soul of the 1989 American League East winning Cleveland Indians.

Gentry Award - Awarded to the least valuable position player. Named after the very first man cut from the 1989 Cleveland Indians, #47 Gentry. A man so insignificant he wasn't even given a first name.

Rick Vaughn - Awarded to the best pitcher in the series. This one is, of course, named after the "Wild Thing". The man that made Clu Haywood look silly in the division deciding game.

Kelner Award - Awarded to the worst pitcher in the series. Named after the Opening Day starter for the '89 Indians. Not a good game for Mr. Kelner, as Indians' announcer Harry Doyle famously quipped "thank God" after Kelner left the game. And yet another bad player without a first name.