The New York Yankees Report

Interesting notes and thoughts about the New York Yankees; plus additional musings on baseball.

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Saturday, May 17, 2003
 
THE ROCKET MISFIRES
The Texas Rangers just don’t have a sense of drama. Had they failed to beat the Rocket last night, it would have set up one of the most dramatic events in baseball history. With a win last night, Roger Clemens’ first attempt at 300 career victories would have been against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway.

But really, Roger had only himself to blame. Quick question: if I told you that Roger Clemens has 10 strikeouts in 5 innings, would you believe that the Yankees would be trailing 5-3? Probably not, but that’s what happened. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, baseball is a funny game.

But it’s very simple to understand why Clemens and the Yanks were trailing… base on balls. Clemens gave up 5 walks in 5 innings. Amazingly, coming into last night's game Clemens had walked only 14 hitters in 53 2/3 innings; and yet, he walked 3 of the first 10 hitters, all of whom scored. Clemens had good stuff, despite being wild, getting 10 of the 15 outs he recorded via the strikeout. (I also thought Mike Dimuro had a tough night behind the plate. The strike zone seemed inconsistent. Both sides, hitters and pitchers were questioning calls all night. But don't get me wrong, most of Clemens pitches weren't that close).

Clemens had a season high in strikeouts and walks in last night's performance. The Rocket’s next scheduled start is in Boston against the Red Sox. If he wins that game, he’ll go for 300 at the Stadium against his former club, the Sox.

INJURIES
YES Network and ESPN reported that Nick Johnson has a stress fracture in his right hand and will miss 4-6 weeks. As much as Yankee fans might be upset by the recent slide, they should recall that the Yanks have had pretty considerable injuries so far this season.

There are two ways injuries can hobble a team. The first is obviously missed playing time. But another way is by minimizing a player’s performance who’s playing through the injuries. Let’s look at the list for Yankees:

Missed Playing Time
Derek Jeter – missed 36 games with a separated shoulder
Steve Karsay – has missed the entire season; recent set back might send his to season ending surgery
Mariano Rivera – missed the first month with a pulled groin
Antonio Osuna – one stop on the 15-day disabled list
Nick Johnson – out 4-6 weeks with stress fracture in his right hand

Playing with Injuries
Jason Giambi – has played the last month with staph infections in both eyes, might explain his slow start
Bernie Williams – playing with a hurt left knee, might explain his recent cool down
Alfonso Soriano – Joe Morgan commented that Soriano hurt his right hand recently (this one I’m not so sure about)

This is a decent amount of injuries to key players. It demonstrates again just how deep this team is. Despite these injuries and semi-injuries, the Yanks are still one of the best teams in baseball.


Friday, May 16, 2003
 
ANGELS’ SERIES RECAP

The Yanks unloaded last night on starter Aaron Sele to prevent being swept for the first time this season. The season record is split at 3-3, with the Yanks winning the series in Anaheim and the Halos winning at the Stadium.

The Angels feasted on Yankee pitching:

AVG OBP SLG OPS
.315 .379 .468 .848

Scott Spiezio erupted out of a horrendous slump:

AVG OBP SLG OPS
.667 .769 1.556 2.325

Spiezio went 6-for-9, 6 RBI, 2 doubles, and 2 HR. The Yanks finally figured him out last night… they just walked him 3 times.

Garrett Anderson also powered the Angels attack:

AVG OBP SLG OPS
.500 .500 .750 1.250

Anderson went 6-for-12, including 2 RBI and a HR.

Derek Jeter didn’t miss a step in his return, leading the Yanks offense for the series:

AVG OBP SLG OPS
.462 .462 .615 1.077

Jeter went 6-for-13, scoring 3 runs and hitting 2 doubles.

Raul Mondesi continued his terrific season:

AVG OBP SLG OPS
.333 .455 .556 1.010

For the series the Yanks bats returned (although most of the production came in the last game blowout):

AVG OBP SLG OPS
.289 .340 .485 .824

As you might expect from all of the offense in the series, there weren’t too many bright spots for either team’s pitching. The Yankees’ staff ERA was 5.67, and the Angels weren’t much better at 5.19.

The Yankees and Angels meet up in Anaheim for one more series at the end of July.

SERIES PREVIEW: TEXAS

This weekend the Yanks meet up with the Texas Rangers for three games at the Stadium. The Pinstripers took the first series meeting against the Rangers, 2-1, outscoring them 17-15.

The scheduled Pitching matchups for the series are:

GAME 1
Roger Clemens – 5-2, 2.35 ERA
Colby Lewis – 3-3, 8.00 ERA

GAME 2
Andy Pettitte – 4-3, 4.75 ERA
Ismael Valdes – 2-2, 5.74 ERA

GAME 3
Mike Mussina – 7-1, 2.02 ERA
John Thomson – 2-4, 5.47 ERA

The Rangers are 4th in the AL in runs scored, but their pitching is a league worse giving up 264 runs and 6.08 ERA.

The Rangers come into the series 2-8 in their last 10 games, and were just swept by the Red Sox.

In the previous series, the Yanks hit:

AVG OBP SLG OPS
.260 .403 .452 .855

while the Rangers went

AVG OBP SLG OPS.
255 .282 .357 .639

Amazingly, while both teams’ batting averages were similar, the Yanks’ OBP was 121 points higher. The reason… walks. Rangers pitching handed out 23 walks during the series, while the Yanks permitted just 4.


Thursday, May 15, 2003
 
SHORT NOTES
On May 8th Soriano went 3-for-6 to lead the Yankees 16-5 over the Mariners. Since then he has been 1-for-19, with 1 walk and 5 Ks. Joe Morgan suggested that Soriano’s right hand might be injured.

With the loss last night, the Yankees have lost their 2nd series in a row and three of their last four. If the Yanks lose tonight it would be the first time they’ve been swept all season.

With the loss last night, the Yankees are now 10-10, .500 against the AL West.

Yankee starters began the season 16-0. Since then starters are 7-9.

The Yankees and Red Sox are now tied for most runs in the AL with 233. However, Yanks are second with fewer runs allowed with 158, while the Sox are 11th with 210.

The Yankees Beane Count is still a stunning 5. They are 2nd in HRs, 1st in fewest HRs allowed, 1st in BBs, 1st in BBs allowed. The next highest Beane count in all of baseball is 24, shared by the Royals, A’s, and Cubs.

Despite Mussina’s first bad outing last night, he still leads the AL in Game Score Average with 67.4. Clemens is 4th with 61.4.

Antonio Osuna was back in action last night after coming off of the DL. He looked sharp, pitching 1 1/3 scoreless innings without allowing a hit and striking out 1. He threw 15 pitches, 13 for strikes.

BEST HITTER/PITCHER MATCHUP OF ALL TIME
What if you could witness any moment in baseball history, which one would you choose? The Shot Heard Around the World? First World Series Game? Last time the Cubs won a World Series?

I would pick one at bat, Babe Ruth v. Walter Johnson. How great would that be? The greatest hitter of all time against the greatest pitcher of all time. And they must have faced each other a lot. Both were in the AL from 1914-1927.

I would love to see that breakdown. I suspect Johnson got the better of it in the end, but I’m sure Ruth probably hit a few big flys.

Does anyone know how I could check this? Would Retrosheet have this info?

Amazingly, they also must have faced off with the roles reversed. Ruth pitched full-time from 1914-1918 and part-time in 1919. Since this is before the DH, Johnson would have hit for himself. I’ll guess that Ruth won this match up, Johnson was a career .235 hitter (not bad for a pitcher, especially in that era).
But it’s safe to say that Ruth was a better pitcher than Johnson was a hitter.


Wednesday, May 14, 2003
 
THE JINX
Yesterday I wrote,

Now, because baseball is a funny game where anything can happen, I hate to make predictions. But Game 1 is an interesting matchup.
You can make a very good argument that John Lackey has been the worst starter in the AL, and Mike Mussina the best. So, that pretty
much means I just jinxed the Yanks on this one. If they lose, you can blame me.

My bad. I predict that I will never make another prediction again.

JETER’S BACK, BACK AGAIN
Derek Jeter returned to the Yankee’s lineup last night:

AB R H RBI BB SO
4 0 1 0 0 0

Now that Jeter has returned, let’s evaluate the fill-in performance of Erik Almonte and Enrique Wilson (or as I call them, Wilmonte).

Monday, March 31st, my wife ran into the living room after hearing a piercing scream. “What’s wrong?” she exclaimed breathlessly. “Jeter’s hurt,” I answered.
She turned and walked away, relieved there was no emergency, but more than a little annoyed that I had gotten so upset over a baseball player.

I definitely panicked that night. Watching the leader and heart and soul of the Yankees carted off, possibly out for the year, I could picture the unthinkable, Yankees losing the division and missing the playoffs. And it was only Opening Day. I quickly felt better the next morning. Jeter would likely miss only six weeks. Almonte would be called up from Columbus and get the majority of the playing time at short, while Enrique Wilson would back him up. At least there was a plan. Wilmonte would fill the breach at short until Jeter was healthy enough to return.

I believe it’s a pointless exercise to try to project what Jeter would have done had he not been injured and then compare it to what Wilmonte did. Because, frankly, we don’t know what Jeter would’ve done had he been healthy. Would Jeter have been hot like Bernie, who had his best April ever, or would he have started like Giambi, who’s struggling. Since we can’t know for a fact Jeter’s performance, I’d rather just evaluate Wilmonte’s performance (with more focus on Almonte).

On the morning of April 1st, I had pretty modest goals for Wilmonte. We didn’t need much offensive production, just a little, and then solid defense. Essentially, they didn’t have too involved in helping the Yanks win as much as don’t make the mistake that costs the game.
In Almonte’s case, he gave more in offense that I expected and less on defense than I hoped. But overall, it was a solid performance.

Offensively, Almonte went:

AVG OBP SLG OPS
.272 .337 .370 .706

These numbers compare very favorably to other AL shortstops, Almonte is 7th in batting average (only counting those players with enough AB to qualify for an award), 5th in OBP, 12th in SLG, and 8th in OPS. The number I really care about here is OBP, and he’s fifth, behind A-Rod, Carlos Guillen, Omar Vizquel, and David Eckstein. Honestly, that’s not that bad for a 25-year old who coming into this season had played in 8 major league games and had only 4 career ABs. Sure, he’s not hitting with power yet, but there are some encouraging signs here. The sample size is too small to make any real conclusions, but they’re encouraging.

Of course, he still has lots of room for improvement. Almonte’s secondary average was a poor .196 and his K/BB ratio was .036. He certainly needs to walk more and strikeout less. But there’s nothing here to suggest he’s incapable of improving on those numbers.

Let’s look at Almonte defensive performance. First, the bad is obvious, he made 9 errors and his fielding percentage was a league worst for SS at .922. Of Almonte’s 9 errors, they led to 4 unearned runs (his 9th error leading to 3 of the 4 runs). In addition, his range factor and zone rating were poor compared to other AL shortstops, although his range factor was higher so far this season than Jeter’s last two seasons. Despite Almonte’s defensive lapses, it does appear fixable (heck, does anyone remember Soriano’s first two seasons in the field). It appeared to me that many of the errors resulted from too much casualness on routine plays.

I’d say Almonte definitely increased his value. At 25, his performance suggests that with a little seasoning it’s likely that he’ll be a solid everyday player. He definitely has value for the Yanks. He could be traded to fix other needs or he could grow into being the Yanks everyday 3B, if the Drew Henson experiment fails.

Wilson played in 8 games, and hit only .189, worse was the OBP of .211 in 37 AB. He didn’t commit an error in 42 chances. I think Wilson is what he is. He’s a utility infielder who won’t win you many games but won’t cost you many either. I don’t think his performance changed to many minds about that fact. I’d say you got about what you’d expect from Enrique.

Bottom line, the Yanks went 26-11 without Jeter, and have a 3 game lead in AL East. Obviously, a lot of that success can be attributed to other players stepping up their performance, e.g. Nick Johnson and Raul Mondesi. But overall, Wilmonte came through with a solid effort. And it’s nice to know that we’ve learned from the Jeter injury that this Yankees team is so deep, that it can compensate for an injury to one of its major role players.

My wife will be happy to hear, that there won’t be anymore screaming this year… well at least until Jose Acevedo takes the mound.

YANKEES LINEUP
With Jeter’s back, here was the Yankees lineup last night:

Soriano 2B
Jeter SS
Giambi DH
Williams CF
Matsui LF
Posada C
Ventura 3B
Mondesi RF
Johnson 1B

I didn’t have time to look it up, but I’ve got to believe that never in baseball history has a player led the league in OBP and been slotted in at the 9 hole (or for that matter your number 8 hitter 7th in the league in OPS). Frankly, it demonstrates just how incredibly deep this Yankee’s lineup is. Although every AL manager would disagree with me, I don’t envy Torre filling out his lineup card. It’s got to kill him to pen in Johnson’s name last in the order.

But what can he do? Johnson is an ideal number 2 hitter, but so is Jeter. Here’s a crazy idea, how about Johnson as a leadoff hitter?

While it has made sense, I’ve not been a fan of Soriano leading off. He doesn’t draw enough walks and has just too much power. I detest the solo HR. Nothing to me seems so inefficient. I didn’t count it, but Soriano has to lead the league in solo HRs. Granted, Soriano has better speed than Johnson, but it’s hard to steal second when you’re rounding the bases. Soriano has only got 6 SB in 7 tries. The reality is this team doesn’t need to steal bases. I’d love to see Soriano slip down in the lineup, although I’m not sure where exactly, which probably is an indicator that I’m off base here. And I grant that with Johnson in the 9 hole, Soriano will hit fewer solo shots. But it’s a fact, the number 9 hitter comes to the plate fewer times during the course of a game, not ideal for the league-leading OBP hitter. Doesn’t that just sound grossly inefficient? I’d like to see the Ventura/Zeile platoon in the ninth hole.

But like I said before, it’s a nice problem to have.


Tuesday, May 13, 2003
 
SERIES PREVIEW
The Yankees get back into action Tuesday night against the Anaheim Angels, opening up a three-game series at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees are 2-1 so far this season against the Angels, outscoring them 19-11.

The scheduled pitching matchups for the series

Game 1 Record ERA WHIP Game Score Avg.
Mussina 7-0 1.70 .85 71.3
Lackey 1-3 7.38 1.90 37.1

Game 2 Record ERA WHIP Game Score Avg.
Wells 5-0 2.89 .94 60.6
Appier 2-2 6.17 1.71 43.4

Game 3 Record ERA WHIP Game Score Avg.
Weaver 2-2 5.09 1.50 45
Sele 1-0 1.59 1.06 61

Now, because baseball is a funny game where anything can happen, I hate to make predictions. But Game 1 is an interesting matchup. You can make a very good argument that John Lackey has been the worst starter in the AL, and Mike Mussina the best. So, that pretty much means I just jinxed the Yanks on this one. So if they lose, you can blame me.

The Yankee bats should awake in this series, the Angels starting pitching is third worse in the league, slightly better than Toronto and Texas. The Angels bullpen has been good enough to make the team’s ERA 7th best in the AL.

Mussina and Wells didn’t face the Angels first time around. Weaver went 6 innings, giving up 9 hits, 3 ER, not a great outing but good enough for a win. For the Angels, only Lackey pitched last time around getting touched up for 7 runs and 5 hits in only 3 innings worth of work, earning the loss.

The real story was the bullpens, Yankee relievers threw 6 2/3 innings, giving up 0 runs and only 3 hits. Meanwhile, the Angels bullpen went 14 innings, giving up 4 runs and 4 hits.

The Yanks feasted on Angels pitching last time out:

AVG OBP SLG OPS
.310 .398 .466 .864

The blue were led by a red-hot Bernie Williams. For the series, Bernie went

AVG OBP SLG OPS
.500 .600 .833 1.433

He was followed closely by Posada and Soriano:

AVG OBP SLG OPS
Posada .429 .467 .857 1.324
Soriana .467 .500 .667 1.167

Suprisingly, the best Angel during the series was Benji Molina:

AVG OBP SLG OPS
.400 .455 .700 1.155

and not suprisingly, by Brad Fullmer:

AVG OBP SLG OPS
.500 .571 .500 1.071

Garret Anderson and Troy Glaus were abysmal, going a combined 3-for-22:

AVG OBP SLG OPS
Anderson .167 .167 .250 .417
Glaus .100 .250 .200 .450

In the last three series, the Angels were swept by the Blue Jays, then swept the Indians, and then dropped 2-of-3 from the Blue Jays, a 4-5 record.

The Angels will still be without Darin Erstad for the series. Erstad is on the DL with tendinitis in his right hamstring. He’s showing progress but still no word on when he’ll return to the lineup.

The projected Angels lineup:

Eckstein, SS
Kennedy, 2B (might sit against Wells for Benji Gil)
Salmon, RF
Anderson, LF
Glaus, 3B
Fullmer, DH (likely to sit against Wells for Shawn Wooten)
Spiezio, 1B
B. Molina, C
DaVanon, CF (look for Eric Owens against Wells)


MICKEY MOUSE’S GARAGE SALE
Disney’s sale of the Anaheim Angels to Arturo Moreno for $185 million is almost final. Baseball owners are expected to approve the deal next week. A little over a year ago, the Boston Red Sox sold for slightly over $700 million. Let me get this straight, the defending World Series champions sell for $515 million dollars less than a team that last won a World Series in 1918? This is why I don’t understand business.

RETURN OF THE JETER
Yankee’s All-star shortstop, Derek Jeter, will return to the team on Tuesday for the start of the Angel’s series. It’s likely he’ll play, but a final decision has not been made.

The real question is will Ken Huckaby ever return?


JEREMY GIAMBI’S TRUE VALUE
Baseball stats are a funny thing. I mean how can you accurately measure a player’s offensive worth? Which stats are meaningful and which aren't?

Case in point, Jeremy Giambi of the Boston Red Sox. Giambi is last on the team in batting average, .209 (and it took a 4-for-4 Sunday night against the Twins to creep it above the Mendoza line). Traditional experts would consider Giambi the worse offensive player on the Sox.

Amazingly, however, despite Giambi's low batting average he's 7th on the team in OBP (.346), ahead of Jason Varitek, Johnny Damon, and Nomar Garciaparra (and only .003 points behind Shea Hillenbrand). As Michael Lewis’ discusses in his new book, Moneyball, many of today’s new breed believe that Giambi’s OBP makes him the 7th best offensive player on the team.

The average difference between a Red Sox player’s batting average and OBP (which I call separation) is 69 points. But Giambi’s is over twice that, 137 points. As you’d expect, Giambi is drawing walks like crazy:

Player BB/100 PA
Giambi 15.9 (7th best in the AL)
Ortiz 13.6
Mueller 12.8
Nixon 11.7
Damon 10.2
Ramirez 9.8
Jackson 9.7
Millar 9.6
Varitek 7.8
Walker 7.6 (Todd “is not a” Walker)
Nomar 4.1
Hillenbrand 4.1 (Any more questions why the Sox want to trade this guy?)
Mirabelli 2.1

Giambi has clearly struggled so far this year at the plate. But you could argue it’s because he’s not getting enough PAs to get a rhythm going. More at bats, his average will go up and his OBP will rise even more (it's already over league average, despite a poor batting average). The new thinking says to give Giambi more ABs (and perhaps Ortiz too). And yet, ask any Sox fan and they’ll ship Giambi out of town tomorrow. Yup, baseball stats are a funny thing.

More amazingly, Yankee’s Jason Giambi walk rate is 13.5 per 100 PA, 13th best in the AL. Have the Human Genome Project scientists discover the “Working Walks” gene yet?

Preview: Analysis of Almonte and Wilson’s performance while Jeter was injured.


Monday, May 12, 2003
 
The Yankees lost 2 of 3 from the A’s this weekend, dropping the Yanks season record against the A’s to 2-4. They play only one more series v. the A’s, August 1-3 at the Coliseum in Oakland.

For the second straight series, A’s pitching completely shut down the Yanks. Here’s the Yankees’ line for the series:

AVG OBP SLG OPS
.170 .250 .390 .559

Amazingly, the Yankees scored only 9 runs total, despite hitting 4 home runs during the series. More amazingly, excluding the 4 home runs, the Yankees managed only 1 other extra-base hit, a double by Jorge Posada.

Jorge Posada led what little offensive charge the Yanks had:

AVG OBP SLG OPS
.375 .375 .875 1.250

followed by a decent series for Bernie Williams:

AVG OBP SLG OPS
.333 .385 .583 .968

Nick Johnson continued his OBP assault with a .500 OBP for the series, including another 3 walks.

The A’s attack was led by… Eric Byrnes. Check out this line:

AVG OBP SLG OPS
.400 .500 1.000 1.500

including 3 runs, 3 RBI, 2 BB, and a series cycle – 1 single, 1 double, 1 triple, and 1 HR. Hey, who is this guy? A fourth outfielder knocking around the second best pitching in the AL. He’s going to make it awfully hard for Billy Beane to keep him out of the lineup once Jermaine Dye is healthy.

Also note, Miguel Tejada (defending AL MVP, according to some) showed signs of breaking out of his slump:

AVG OBP SLG OPS
.364 .417 .636 1.053

As you’d expect the A’s starters (Hudson/Zito/Mulder) beat the Yankee starters (Weaver/Clemens/Pettitte) in Game Score Average 64 v. 48.

A’s TAME THE FoNS
While watching a Yankee game a few weeks ago, the announcers were debating how to pitch to Alfonso Soriano. Their conclusion… you can’t. He sits right on top of the plate, allowing him to cover the outside corner; and yet his hands are lightening quick, allowing him to still hit the inside pitch. He even had Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax gushing, “He has the fastest hands I’ve ever seen.”

Even worse for AL pitchers, it looks like Soriano is showing better patience and not swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, something he’s was susceptible to in his first two seasons. So, how do you pitch to FoNs (Freak of Nature, dubbed by my favorite baseball blogger Aaron Gleeman)? Well, just ask the A’s. In the 6 games so far this season, Soriano is get this… 1-for-24.

AB R H BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS
24 1 1 2 7 .042 .148 .042 .190

Obviously, the A’s have figured out Soriano’s hole and fortunately, for them, they have the pitchers to execute the plan. No doubt, other teams will be watching tapes of these at bats to figure out how to pitch to Soriano. However, I’m not convinced that most teams have the pitchers to tame him.


ROCKET AND 300
Roger Clemens has always been known for his determination and motivation every time he takes the mound. But I’ve got to believe the Rocket will have a little extra motivation when he takes the mound in his next start against the Rangers. With Clemens’ win on Saturday, he sets up the possibility of winning his 300 game against… the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Roger’s next schedule start will be Friday, May 16th against the Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium. If he wins, his first attempt for 300 would be scheduled for Wednesday, May 21st against the Red Sox. How great would that be?

But don’t worry if Roger doesn’t get 299 against the Rangers. His next scheduled start after the 21st would also be against the Red Sox (but in NY, not Boston). I've got to believe the baseball gods were involved in creating the schedule for this year.

HATS OF TO RAFFY
Congrats to Rafael Palmeiro on his 500th big fly. Let the Hall debate begin.


PREVIEW: I just finished reading Moneyball, Michael Lewis’ new book about Billy Beane and the misfits that play for him and win. I plan on giving you a full review shortly. Stay tuned!



Sunday, May 11, 2003
 
Welcome to The New York Yankees Report!

This brand new blog will provide interesting notes, thoughts, and ideas about the most historic and successful baseball team of all time. However, this site is also a celebration of baseball. Therefore, it will also discuss all things baseball.

Hope you enjoy.