The short-handed Yankees relief corps has succeeded by limiting homers and outpitching its collective track record, but can its run of success be sustained?
As the season began, the AL East bullpens took center stage in this space. As I noted then, the team whose bullpen had the highest WXRL had won the division in each of the past five years, and with some AL East clubs saddled with starting staffs chock full o’ question marks, relief arms figured to play a key role this season.
Last week, the division’s bullpens again drew headlines. The Yankees, armed with the American League’s best bullpen, saw their last remaining depth crumble away as set-up man Joba Chamberlainlanded on the disabled list with a strained right elbow flexor. He has since undergone Tommy John surgery and will not return until early 2012. Although he says he felt no pain and couldn’t pinpoint when he was injured, it's clear that the Joba Rules failed to protect him, if indeed they didn't contribute to the damage.
In which lovers of individual pitcher wins insist that CC Sabathia do something violent to Joe Girardi in order to get that all-important W.
This morning finds me a bitter man, because I watched last night’s Yankees game. My sermon will be short and have the flavor of fresh almonds and peach pits. My anger comes in three varieties: I am vexed at Joe Girardi that Rafael Soriano, perhaps a grudging set-up man, was in a sleepy 4-0 game; I am vexed at Soriano himself for doing his Eddie Cicotte ’19 impression in the game; most of all, I am vexed by those reactionary boneheads who believe that pitcher wins can tell us a damnable thing about a pitcher’s quality.
For those who didn’t watch the action, a quick recap: CC Sabathia started for the Yankees, Brian Duensing for the Twins. The Yankees quickly got to the Minnesota lefty, scoring three in bottom of the first on Mark Teixeira’s fourth home run of the season and tacking on another in the next frame on an Andruw Jones solo shot. The Yankees stopped hitting after that and Duensing was able to get through seven innings, uncharacteristically striking out seven batters, but it seemed as if the four runs would stand up thanks to Sabathia’s dominance.
No matter how many innings you put on Sabathia’s bulky body, he never seems to falter. Granted, the 2011 Twins may present about as much of a challenge to a top pitcher as the 1911 Senators would, but he showed Gardenhire’s lads something extra on Tuesday. He allowed just two hits, both in the top of the second, and no runs, walking one and striking out six in seven innings. It was an ace-quality start from an ace pitcher.
The defending champion Yankees bumble and stumble their way to the brink of elimination.
Decades ago, while calling a University of Utah football game from a blizzard in Laramie, Wyoming, the great Utah sportscaster Bill Marcroft described the scene: "It's not the end of the world, but I can see it from here." That's exactly how I felt from my seat in Yankee Stadium's Section 431A, Row 12 on Tuesday night, perched high enough to see the top of the left field foul pole, far enough from home plate to test the limits of corrective lenses, yet all too close to the ugly late-inning implosion which pushed the 95-win defending world champions to the brink of elimination from the ALCS at the hands of the upstart Rangers.
The Yankees look to get back to yet another World Series while the Rangers are in uncharted territory.
From 1996 through 1999, the Joe Torre-led Yankees and the Johnny Oates-piloted Rangers faced off in three American League Division Series, the first three times the latter franchise had ever reached the postseason. The Yankees won nine of those 10 games, holding the Rangers to a lone run apiece in their 1998 and 1999 sweeps. Times have changed, however, and while the Yankee machine has simply kept rolling, racking up four pennants and two world championships while missing the playoffs just once since their last meeting, the Rangers endured a dark decade before reemerging as AL West champions thanks to the shrewd deal making of general manager Jon Daniels and the fruits of their well-stocked farm system.
Saluting the players whose accomplishments will go unrecognized during awards season.
While the postseason is in full bloom, the winners of the regular season awards will be revealed next month. At that juncture some fans will cheer, some will cry, and others will inevitably write articles about how the BBWAA messed up by not voting Justin Morneau as sixth in the AL MVP race, or why James Shields deserves Cy Young consideration because his predictive numbers were much better than his ERA would indicate; as the co-creator of SIERA, I think I can joke about its usage in award voting. I know from experience what it’s like to write such articles, as I once nastily opined that it was a sham how Roy Halladay finished out of the top three on the AL Cy Young Award ballots of some writers in 2008. Then again, even if Cliff Lee deserved the award, how in the world did Halladay fall out of the… never mind, this is no time to dwell.
The Twins and Yankees meet yet again in the first round of the postseason but Minnesota has home field advantage this time.
As they did last year as well as 2003 and 2004, the Twins run squarely into the Yankee juggernaut in the first round. Unlike those other three meetings, they have home field advantage this time around, as they won the AL Central going away thanks to a league-best 48-26 second-half record. The defending world champion Yankees, who held the majors' best record for most of the season, were forced to settle for the wild card due to a sluggish 13-17 showing against a very tough schedule in September and October. Despite the relative temperatures of the two clubs, it's important to remember that late-season records aren't predictive of October success—or failure.
The Yankees best the Rays in a pivotal American League East game on an emotional night in the Bronx.
Last week's three-game series between the Yankees and the Rays in Tampa Bay featured three rather thrilling one-run contests played in an electrifying, playoff-like atmosphere. Given the apparent tension of the seesaw battles, one could be forgiven for thinking that the games were do-or-die, with their outcomes having a strong bearing on which team would play into October and which would be consigned to an early start to hunting season.
Lima Time as a standard for evaluation, reinforcing the Red Sox, the Tigers slip by an Inge, and more.
Using a pitcher's rate of SNLVAR, Kazmir's season has been a disaster of massive proportions, one that rates about 4.8 on the Keough scale, something that for the moment suits my purposes for describing starting pitcher inadequacy, using Matt Keough's appalling 1982 season as a baseline for starting pitcher-related terrors visited upon a team's unhappy fans over a full season. This isn't really especially fair of me, in that Keough doesn't hold the single-season low for a starter with 30 starts in a campaign, but 1982 was a horrifying disappointment, and the man was beaten with a regularity that made me think that he was the drum, and the entire American League was Keith Moon.