Posted on: October 2, 2011 6:43 pm
NEW YORK -- Bet the Tigers don't mind having Justin Verlander in Game 3 now.
I'm also thinking that the Yankees now won't throw Miguel Cabrera another strike in this series. Of course, I'm still wondering why they threw him a strike Sunday.
A lot changed in this American League Division Series Sunday, when the Tigers rode Cabrera, Max Scherzer and a shaky Jose Valverde ninth inning to a 5-3 Game 2 win over the Yankees.
The series is tied, at one win apiece. But now if the Yankees don't beat Verlander on Monday night in Detroit, their season rests in A.J. Burnett's unreliable hands in Game 4 Tuesday.
Sunday morning, the Tigers were the team with their season on the brink. They had lost just one game, but they'd gone through both Verlander and Doug Fister, their two most reliable starters this year.
They had no idea what to expect from the talented but erratic Scherzer, the sometimes-forgotten pitcher the Tigers got as part of the three-team Curtis Granderson-Austin Jackson-Ian Kennedy trade after 2009.
What they got from Scherzer on Sunday was 5 1/3 no-hit innings. What they got was six-plus innings and no runs.
Meanwhile, Freddy Garcia made the one mistake you absolutely can't make against the Tigers. He let Cabrera beat him.
With a runner on and two out in the first, he got far too much of the plate and gave up a two-run home run. With runners at first and third and one out in the sixth, he put another pitch on the plate and Cabrera's single made it 3-0.
While Cabrera was huge, Yankee cleanup hitter Alex Rodriguez is 0-for-8 in the series and is once again hearing boos at Yankee Stadium.
More shades of 2006, memories the Tigers will try to fan by having Kenny Rogers throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Verlander takes the mound Monday night at Comerica Park.
The similarities are there now, with rain, a Yankee win in Game 1 and a Tiger win in Game 2.
In '06, Rogers carried a shutout two outs into the eighth inning of Game 3, and the next day Joe Torre batted A-Rod eighth the day the Yankees were eliminated.
It's too early to say this is a repeat.
But Verlander is pitching Game 3.
Posted on: June 8, 2011 11:43 pm
Edited on: June 9, 2011 11:37 am
NEW YORK -- The Yankee rotation looks fine against the A's, the Mariners and the Angels. The Yankee rotation looked fine against the Mets.
In eight games this year against the Red Sox, the Yankee rotation has an 8.20 ERA.
Is the Yankee rotation the problem so many warned it would be?
For weeks, it doesn't seem to be. For weeks, the Yankees pitch enough -- and hit enough -- to look like a legitimate challenger to Boston as the best team in the American League (and maybe the best team in baseball).
And then they face the Red Sox again.
In the three weeks between Boston series, Yankee starters had a 3.23 collective ERA. In the 10 days they spent on the weak-hitting West Coast, Yankee starters were even better, with a 2.72 ERA.
Then Freddy Garcia couldn't get out of the second inning Tuesday night. And A.J. Burnett, who the Yankees signed in large part because he was great against the Red Sox, was his now-usual awful self against them in Wednesday's 11-6 Red Sox win.
Burnett has an 8.71 ERA in eight winless starts against the Sox as a Yankee. Amazingly, he has allowed at least eight runs in four of those eight games.
But Burnett couldn't beat the Red Sox in 2009, either. And the Yankees couldn't beat the Red Sox in the first half of 2009.
They're 1-7 against Boston now. They were 0-8 against Boston then, and Johnny Damon said that night, "Our day is going to come. Our team's good enough."
Their day did come. Their team was good enough.
They won the World Series, and even though Burnett never did beat the Red Sox, he won some important October games on the way to that title.
That night, when the Yankees fell to 0-8 against the Sox in 2009, I wrote that they didn't look like Boston's equal. By the end of the year, that Yankee team proved me wrong.
This time, I'm only saying that right now, the Yankee rotation seems to get exposed when they face the one team in the league most capable of exposing it.
And I'm saying that if the Yankees' day is going to come, that rotation is still going to need to prove it is good enough.
Posted on: April 24, 2011 10:45 pm
In some ways, the Yankee rotation has been better than advertised.
Freddy Garcia has started twice and still hasn't allowed a run. Bartolo Colon made it to the seventh inning in winning his only start. The often shaky A.J. Burnett is 3-0 in four starts.
Put together, the Yankee starters have a 7-3 record and a not-terrible 4.62 ERA, and that's even though they've lost four other potential wins to blown saves.
Not bad, as long as you ignore that other very significant stat: innings pitched.
Put together, the Yankee starters have pitched fewer innings than any other rotation in baseball.
Normally, and not surprisingly, teams like that don't win. It's been 11 years since the team that finished 30th in starters innings had a winning record, and longer than that since a team like that made it to the playoffs.
So far, the Yankees have gotten by, in part because they're scoring so many runs (more than six a game) and in part because four scheduled off days and three rainouts have helped the Yankees rest their bullpen.
The rain may not be over, but there's not a scheduled day on the Yankees' schedule either of the next two weeks.
On the other hand, the Yankees may have something better than an off day. They've got four games the next four games against the struggling White Sox.
Only one Yankee starter this year has finished seven innings (and CC Sabathia has done it just twice in five starts). By contrast, eight of the last 10 pitchers who started a game against the White Sox have finished at least seven innings, combining for a 1.90 ERA.
So maybe this is the week things turn around for the Yankee starters.
Either that, or maybe this is the week that short outings by starters start affecting the Yankees' record.
On to 3 to watch:
1. One thing to remember about Burnett: While his 2010 season was one of the worst ever by a Yankee starter, he was 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA in his first six starts. So what should we make of Burnett's 3-0 record and 4.37 ERA in his first four starts this year? Maybe we'll know more after he makes his fifth start, in White Sox at Yankees, Monday night (7:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium. Why's that? Because in two years as a Yankee, Burnett has faced the White Sox twice. He lost both games, allowing 15 runs on 18 hits in just eight combined innings.
2. When Jered Weaver beat the Rangers last week, he became the first pitcher since Dave Stewart in 1990 to go 5-0 in his team's first 18 games. Stewart went on to make it 6-0 in the A's first 22 games that year. Weaver can't do that, but he'll go for 6-0 in 23 games when he starts in A's at Angels, Monday night (10:05 ET) at Angel Stadium. One note of caution: Weaver has just one win in his last 11 starts against the A's, dating back to September 2007. Weaver has a tough opponent in Gio Gonzalez, who has a 1.80 ERA through his first four starts.
3. As Scott Miller points out in Weekend Buzz, the Red Sox have recovered quite nicely from their 0-6, and then 2-10, start. In fact, if the Sox follow up their weekend sweep in Anaheim by winning their first two games in Baltimore, they could have a winning record by the time they finish Red Sox at Orioles, Tuesday night (7:05 ET) at Camden Yards. That's basically unheard of. While teams have recovered from 2-10 starts to finish over .500 (and even to win 100-plus games), it usually takes a month, or two months, or even three months. The Red Sox have a chance to do it in 11 days. It's a nice pitching matchup Tuesday, with Josh Beckett facing Jeremy Guthrie.
Posted on: March 26, 2011 9:46 am
Edited on: March 26, 2011 9:58 am
The Yankees said Saturday that they'll begin the season with Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia in the starting rotation.
Fine, but what will the rotation look like at the end of the year? Or in the middle of the year?
You can say that about any team, but it's more of a pressing issue with the Yankees, who scrambled to regroup after Cliff Lee turned them down in December. They're still scrambling, even though they can feel good about the way some of their starters pitched this spring.
The Yankees actually had three decent options for the final two spots in the rotation, because Nova, Garcia and Bartolo Colon all pitched well at times this spring. So they'll keep all three, moving Colon to the bullpen to start the season.
Manager Joe Girardi said Friday that the Yankees think Colon's rotation, which was in the mid 90s this spring, might actually improve in the shorter stints needed in relief. Once the Yankees decided to keep all three pitchers (and traded Sergio Mitre to the Brewers), Colon became a natural choice for the bullpen, because it was thought that Garcia wouldn't fit there at all, and because there's a question about how many innings Colon will be able to pitch.
On the same day they traded Mitre, the Yankees gave themselves one more option by signing Kevin Millwood to a minor-league contract. Millwood can become a free agent if the Yankees don't bring him to the major leagues by May 1, but that gives the team another month to evaluate Millwood (who will go to Triple-A Scranton), but also to see if what they saw from Garcia and Colon this spring was real.
Colon had a 2.40 ERA in four spring starts. Garcia's ERA was 5.93, but he pitched better than that. The 24-year-old Nova was very good this spring, with a 1.80 ERA in five appearances.
While the Yankees spent all spring working on the back end of the rotation, their success will likely depend more on how the pitchers at the top of the rotation perform. There are questions behind ace CC Sabathia, with A.J. Burnett coming off an awful 2010 season, and Phil Hughes' velocity down significantly this spring (from the low 90s last year, to 87-89 mph this spring).
The other huge question, of course, is whether the Yankees will find a big-time starter to trade for at midseason.
"They'll just go get Felix Hernandez," said one scout who followed the Yankees.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik maintains that he won't deal Hernandez, but other top starters will likely become available. In just the last couple of years, Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Dan Haren have all been traded.
Chances are, someone like that will be traded this year, too. And that's why it's easy to think the rotation that the Yankees set on Saturday won't be the one you see by the end of the season.
Posted on: February 4, 2011 1:51 pm
Edited on: February 4, 2011 1:57 pm
The Yankees aren't the only team that enters spring training with huge questions unanswered.
The Yankees are the only team with $200 million to spend -- and a $200 million question.
Money doesn't guarantee you success. But shouldn't this much money guarantee that you don't reach Feb. 4 -- 10 days before pitchers and catchers report -- with this shaky a starting rotation?
Cliff Lee says no, Andy Pettitte says no, and now the Yankees are left with this?
"Our starting rotation's not where it needs to be right now," general manager Brian Cashman admitted at Friday's Pettitte retirement press conference. "I'm up for the challenge."
Sorry, but the challenge began last October, when Pettitte said he left Rangers Ballpark after Game 6 feeling like "I was done." Or the challenge began before that, because it's been clear for a while that the Yankees' strong crop of pitching prospects might be arrive as quickly as the need for reinforcements would arise.
Maybe Cashman should have used the weight of his huge offer to Lee and pushed for a decision earlier. He admits now that by waiting so long for Lee, the Yankees found other options closed off.
Maybe Cashman should have been willing to rework the proposed trade for Lee last July, because maybe after half a year in New York Lee would have been open to staying.
Maybe if Lee had said yes, then Pettitte would have been more interested in returning to a team that would have been one of the favorites to go to (and win) the World Series.
Instead, the Yankees have this: a strong but heavily-worked top two of CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes, a completely unreliable No. 3 of A.J. Burnett (coming off an historically bad season), and then a mix of candidates for the fourth and fifth spots that would be more suited for a team with a $70 million budget: young Ivan Nova, middle-aged Sergio Mitre and old Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.
Could they trade for Felix Hernandez? Unlikely. A Yankee official said bluntly: "They're not trading him."
Could they get by for half a season and hope that some other top-level starter hits the market? Sure they could, but that's not a great option for a team that regards anything short of a World Series win as a lost season.
As for the free agents or trade targets they could get right now (Kevin Millwood, Joe Blanton, for example), would adding either of those really answer that $200 million question?
The obvious answer is no. Spring training is 10 days away, the Yankee rotation "is not where it needs to be," and there are no obvious answers.
And still no Plan B behind Cliff Lee.
Posted on: August 20, 2009 2:55 pm
Edited on: August 20, 2009 2:58 pm
It's not always significant when a player goes on trade waivers.
It means nothing, for example, that the Tigers put 20-year-old Rick Porcello through the waiver process this week, and it means nothing that the Mets did the same with Johan Santana. Neither pitcher is getting traded, and if either one is claimed, the team will simply pull him back and nothing will happen.
But with 11 days to go before the deadline for setting postseason rosters, a few of the names on the wire this week could be of interest.
-- Mets reliever Billy Wagner. It's highly unlikely that Wagner would get claimed, since he's coming off Tommy John surgery and has a contract that guarantees him almost $2 million for the rest of this year, plus another $1 million to buy out his 2010 option. But the Mets expect to activate Wagner from the disabled list Friday, and if he proves he's healthy, he could be a reasonable addition to a contender's bullpen. By the way, the Mets also put Luis Castillo, Elmer Dessens and Nelson Figueroa through the waiver process this week.
-- White Sox starter Freddy Garcia. Garcia gave up five runs in 4 1/3 innings Tuesday, in his first big-league start of the year. Not good. But could he be an option for a National League team?
-- Royals starter Gil Meche. He has a huge contract ($12 million each of the next two years), and the Royals haven't been anxious to deal him. But he's beaten the Twins and White Sox this month (both with five-inning starts).
In other waiver news, Reds starters Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo have both cleared waivers, as has Orioles pitcher Mark Hendrickson. But Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and closer Heath Bell were both blocked.
A waiver primer: When a player clears waivers (meaning no team puts in a claim), he can be traded to any team. When a player is claimed, the team that put the player on waivers has two days to either let the claim go through, pull the player back (in which case he can't be traded this season) or work out a trade with the claiming team. If there are multiple claims, the claim is awarded to the team that is lower in the standings.
Posted on: August 6, 2008 3:52 pm
Edited on: August 6, 2008 8:42 pm
Could Freddy Garcia be the pitching addition that puts one of the contending teams over the top?
Two scouts who watched Garcia's showcase workout on Tuesday in Florida said Wednesday they're not sure he can be.
"He controls the ball well," one of the scouts said. "He just needs to increase his arm strength."
"He wasn't bad for a guy who hasn't pitched in a year," said the other scout. "There's nothing wrong with his arm. He looks the same as he did (before shoulder surgery), with the same arm action. He just doesn't have the arm strength right now."
Garcia once threw in the mid-90s, but he was topping out at 84-85 mph before surgery. Tuesday, he was at 81-82 early in the session, later topping out at 86.
About 20 scouts, representing at least 15 teams, attended the workout. Both New York teams were represented, and some who know Garcia believe he would love to pitch for the Mets.
Garcia's agent, Peter Greenberg, said today that Garcia would ideally like to sign with a team soon. But Greenberg also said that if teams don't show enough interest, Garcia would be prepared to go to winter ball to prove himself, and then aim to sign a contract for 2009.
One of the scouts who watched Tuesday said that might be the best course.
"I'm not sure he'll be ready to help a team before next spring," the scout said. "From what I saw, he needs at least four to five starts (in the minor leagues). And the problem if you sign him is that he would still be a free agent at the end of the year."
Garcia last pitched in June 2007, for Philadelphia. He had surgery on his shoulder last August.