Posted on: April 4, 2011 12:09 pm
Edited on: April 4, 2011 12:46 pm
The biggest concern of the Yankees' opening weekend was Phil Hughes, whose startling spring training decline in velocity continued into an ugly first start of the regular season.
But what about Derek Jeter?
It's only three games, and it was cold, and everything could change a month from now, or even a week from now. But in the Yankees' first three games of the season -- and they won two of them, don't forget -- one of the most stunning sights was Jeter's lack of mobility at shortstop.
"I'm shocked," said one Northeast-based scout who has followed Jeter's career. "I know there's been a lot of talk about his range the last few years, and I didn't really buy it until last year. But [this weekend], it was really down. He didn't react to balls off the bat.
"He almost looks overmatched by the ball."
Again, it's possible this is just an early-season blip. A scout who watched the Yankees this spring in Tampa said that while Jeter's range was a little down, it wasn't shockingly bad.
Jeter didn't look good at the plate against the Tigers, either (2-for-10), but that's less of a concern now than his defense -- even if the defense is a long-term concern.
Hughes' lack of velocity is already significant.
Scouts noticed it all spring in Florida, when he was throwing his fastball 87-89 mph (as he did in Sunday's loss to the Tigers). The Yankees played it down publicly at that point, but as Joel Sherman revealed in Monday's New York Post , even during the spring Hughes and new pitching coach Larry Rothschild worked on his mechanics in an attempt to get the velocity back (Hughes regularly hit 94 mph last year).
As Hughes told reporters Sunday, "It is tough for me to pitch at this velocity."
A few other opening weekend thoughts:
-- The Giants' defense is a serious issue, enough so that it could end up being the reason they don't repeat. One scout who watched their opening weekend series in Los Angeles came away convinced that the Giants are below average defensively at almost every position in the field. "Barry Zito pitched a very good game [Sunday], and he should have won the game," the scout said. "[Zito] competes with the stuff he has. If the defense makes the plays behind him, he'll compete enough to be a fourth or fifth starter."
-- The Angels bullpen was bad against the scrappy Royals, but one scout who watched them came away talking more about how bad Scott Kazmir looked. "Terrible. No velocity. No command. No nothing," the scout said.
-- When I wrote last week about teams that benefit from fast starts, I really should have mentioned the Orioles as a team that would be interesting to watch this year. It's going to be hard to do in the AL East, but the O's have the good young pitching that can help carry the momentum when a team starts strong (e.g. Padres 2010). One thing to remember about the O's: If they somehow stay in the race through midseason, you can count on them to be aggressive in the July trade market. "We'll be all-in," one O's person said.
-- One more thing about the O's. Scouts who watched them this spring were not surprised to see Zach Britton pitch so well Sunday against the Rays. One scout said Britton was the Orioles' best pitcher this spring, and two more said that they liked Britton ahead of Yankees superprospect Manuel Banuelos, who got more attention. Britton only started Sunday because Brian Matusz was hurt, but there's already speculation that he'll stay in the rotation even when Matusz returns.
Posted on: July 18, 2010 8:28 pm
Edited on: July 18, 2010 8:45 pm
Yankee fans cared very much about George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard. Baseball fans everywhere have cared very much about Stephen Strasburg.
Now Alex Rodriguez is approaching 600 home runs.
Do you care?
There's been amazingly little A-Rod buzz, and from what I was told, there wasn't much reaction from the Yankee Stadium fans when Rodriguez hit his 598th home run Sunday against the Rays.
You'd think it would be a meaningful milestone. Only six players have hit 600 home runs, and A-Rod (who turns 35 on July 27) will be the youngest ever to get there -- unless it takes him more than a year to hit two more home runs.
So why is there no buzz?
Is it that Rodriguez admitted using steroids earlier in his career? Is it that the steroid era has made 600 home runs seem that much less significant? Are we waiting for him to approach Willie Mays (660 home runs), Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755) and Barry Bonds (762), the numbers that earn A-Rod $6 million bonuses in his most recent contract? Do we just not like A-Rod?
Or maybe the buzz is suddenly going to appear Tuesday night, when A-Rod gets his first legitimate chance at reaching 600. He needs two more home runs, and he has hit two or more in a game 55 times in his career.
Not only that, but he has hit 67 career home runs against the Angels, by far the most he has hit against any opponent.
For the record, none of the six guys with 600 home runs hit Nos. 599 and 600 in the same game. Ruth came closest, hitting them on back-to-back days in St. Louis, in 1931.
A-Rod took nearly two weeks between 498 and 500, and also between 398 and 400.
So this countdown could take a while. But unless the buzz builds, this may be the only time it appears in 3 to watch:
1. Two years ago, when Ken Griffey Jr. reached 600 before a sparse crowd in Miami -- maybe there wasn't that much buzz then, either -- Rodriguez told Tyler Kepner of the New York Times that it's always better to reach big milestones at home. Rodriguez has six chances to get to 600 on this homestand, starting with Angels at Yankees, Tuesday night (7:05 EDT) at Yankee Stadium . At least Rodriguez won't be facing Scott Kazmir, who has held him to four hits -- and no home runs -- in 29 career at-bats. Kazmir went on the disabled list Sunday, and the Angels told reporters that they plan to call up a starter from the minor leagues to pitch Tuesday. A-Rod is also homerless in 35 plate appearances against Wednesday starter Joel Pineiro. He has four homers in 19 at-bats against Jered Weaver, who won't pitch in this series.
2. The fans want to see Strasburg. The scouts, most likely, will instead head for Chicago, to watch potential trade targets Brett Myers and Ted Lilly face off, in Astros at Cubs, Wednesday afternoon (2:20 EDT) at Wrigley Field . In a pitching market that no longer includes Cliff Lee, Myers and Lilly could be two of the more attractive properties.
3. Nothing against Bronson Arroyo, who will be Strasburg's opponent in Nationals at Reds, Wednesday night (7:10 EDT) at Great American Ball Park , but wouldn't it have been more compelling if Strasburg was starting a day earlier, against fellow rookie Mike Leake, or a day later, against Edinson Volquez? Apparently ESPN didn't care, as yet another Strasburg start has been scheduled for national television. Can't say I blame them.
Posted on: October 28, 2008 1:02 am
Edited on: October 28, 2008 2:46 am
PHILADELPHIA -- The way the Rays see it, their whole season has been built around doing what's never been done before.
So a suspended World Series game has to work in their favor. That's how they see it, anyway.
"Anything that upsets the balance of nature seems to help us," principal owner Stuart Sternberg said, after Game 5 of the World Series was suspended in the sixth inning with the Rays and Phillies tied, 2-2. "When you're the perennial underdog, anything that upsets the applecart has to help."
The Rays had never had a winning season before this year. They lost Game 5 of the ALCS after leading by seven runs with seven outs to go, then lost Game 6, too, before beating the Red Sox in Game 7.
Now, down three games to one in the World Series, and 10 outs away from seeing their season end, they scored a tying run and now will wait out a day or more of rain.
"Nothing comes easy for this club," Rays president Matt Silverman said. "And nothing is predictable."
In other words, a suspended World Series game is very Rays-like. Besides, at the very least, their season isn't done.
"We'll roll with it," left fielder Carl Crawford said. "As long as we're alive."
One more positive sign for the Rays: Scott Kazmir, their starting pitcher Monday, walked six batters in five innings.
That's a positive?
Well, maybe it is. The last seven times that a pitcher has walked six or more in a World Series game, his team won the game.
It happened for Florida twice in the 1997 World Series against the Indians (with Al Leiter in Game 3 and Livan Hernandez in Game 5). It happened for the Mets in 1986 (with Ron Darling in Game 4). It happened for the Dodgers in 1981 (with Fernando Valenzuela in Game 3). It even happened for the Phillies in 1980 (with Steve Carlton in Game 2). It also happened for the Yankees in 1978 (Ron Guidry, Game 3), and also in 1977 (Don Gullett, Game 1).
The last time a pitcher walked six or more and his team lost? You have to go all the way back to Game 3 in 1971, when Mike Cuellar walked six in his 5-1 Game 3 loss to the Pirates.
If you want a positive sign for the Phillies, maybe it's that with the weather getting colder by the day, they have a Canadian on their team. And Matt Stairs has definitely played baseball games in worse conditions than this.
"I remember playing a game in Little League where guys had rubber boots on," said Stairs, who grew up in New Brunswick.
Not only that, but if it gets so cold that all this rain water freezes, Stairs says the Phillies are set.
"Pond hockey," he said. "And I'm the starting center."
Posted on: October 26, 2008 11:39 pm
Edited on: October 27, 2008 1:07 am
PHILADELPHIA -- When the postseason began, the Phillies had won just four postseason series in their 126-year history.
Now they're one win away from winning the World Series, after a 10-2 win over the Rays in Game 4 Sunday night. After beating the Brewers in four games and the Dodgers in five games, the Phillies could put away the Rays if their ace Cole Hamels can win Game 5 Monday at Citizens Bank Park.
Midseason acquisition Joe Blanton got the Game 4 win for the Phillies, and also became the first pitcher in 34 years to hit a World Series home run. Blanton's home run was the Phillies' second of the game, coming one inning after Ryan Howard's three-run shot had given the Phils a 5-1 lead. Howard homered again in the eighth, giving him five RBIs for the night. Jayson Werth also hit an eighth-inning home run for the Phillies.
Howard became the first player to homer twice in a World Series game since 2002, when three players did it. The only other Phillies with two-homer games in the postseason were Pat Burrell, who did it in the Division Series against the Brewers earlier this month, and Lenny Dykstra, who hit two in Game 4 of the 1993 World Series against the Blue Jays. Howard also became the second Phillie with a five-RBI game in the World Series, matching current Phils hitting coach Milt Thompson, who did it in that same Game 4 in 1993.
The Phillies are still just 6-for-47 (.128) for this series with runners in scoring position, but at least they finally got a couple of RISP hits that left the infield (including Howard's first and Werth's, which left the park). Meanwhile, the Rays are having trouble just getting runners into scoring position. In Game 4, they had solo home runs from Carl Crawford and Eric Hinske, but didn't advance another runner as far as third base for the first seven innings.
One more win, and the Phillies will celebrate just their second World Series title ever. The first came in 1980, when they beat the Royals in six games, with Steve Carlton winning the clinching game at old Veterans Stadium.
The Phillies are the 40th team to take a three games to one lead in a best-of-7 World Series. Of those, 35 have gone on to win the title, with 22 of them closing it out in the fifth game.
Scott Kazmir will start Game 5 for the Rays, trying to extend their season and take the World Series back to Tropicana Field, where Games 6 and 7 would be played. Hamels and Kazmir were the starters in Game 1, which the Phillies won, 3-2.
Posted on: October 15, 2008 11:49 am
Edited on: October 15, 2008 12:47 pm
BOSTON -- Joe Maddon and the Rays have been right so much in this postseason that they deserve the benefit of the doubt.
Maddon said he likes Kazmir in Game 5 because there's an off day after it (and not after Game 6), and Kazmir's high pitch counts often force the Rays to use their bullpen extensively in his starts. That was certainly true in Game 2, when Kazmir couldn't hold a 4-3 lead and couldn't make it out of the fifth inning.
Maddon also pointed out that Shields has been better at home (9-2, 2.59 in the regular season, vs. 5-6, 4.82 on the road). He didn't have to mention that Kazmir had a problem earlier this year with umpire Derryl Cousins, who will be behind the plate for Game 6 (although Maddon insisted that wasn't the reason for the switch).
All that makes sense, except for one thing: The Rays shouldn't be worrying so much about Game 6. If Shields really is "Big Game James," as the Rays call him, they should want him on the mound for Game 5, pitching the biggest game this franchise has ever played, and trying to end this series as soon as possible.
Maddon told the St. Petersburg Times this morning that if the series was tied 2-2, Shields would be pitching Game 5, because "you just feel at this particular juncture Shields has been more consistent."
In other words, he gives you the best chance to win Game 5.
One more stat to show how historic the Rays' ALCS offensive outburst has been.
According to research through baseball-reference.com's play index, the Rays are the first team EVER to hit three or more home runs in each of three consecutive postseason games. Before this week, no team had ever homered more than seven times in a three-game postseason span (several teams had done that, most recently the 2004 Astros).
Posted on: July 14, 2008 5:29 pm
Edited on: July 14, 2008 7:26 pm
The National League is always up against it in the All-Star Game, anyway. The simple problem, as became clear in the interleague matchups, is that the American League has better players.
The NL needs every edge it can get. Instead, NL manager Clint Hurdle heads into Tuesday night's game at Yankee Stadium with a staff full of tired pitchers.
Arizona's Brandon Webb, who leads the league with 13 wins, threw 108 pitches on Sunday. He said today that he has "a zero percent chance" of pitching in the All-Star game.
"I don't think I'm even available," Webb said.
Cincinnati's Edinson Volquez and San Francisco's Tim Lincecum are first and second in the NL in ERA. Volquez threw 112 pitches Saturday, and Lincecum threw 116 on Sunday. Both said they're available for an inning, but neither could have been considered to start the game.
"It's my regular bullpen day, and I pitched in similar situations in college," Lincecum said. "I always go after my bullpens with the same tenacity I do a game, so it shouldn't be a problem."
"We'll just get (Milwaukee's Ben) Sheets to throw seven innings," Dempster said.
One other NL pitching issue: When Kerry Wood had to pull out of the game with an injury, Hurdle picked Cubs teammate Carlos Marmol to replace him. But it turns out that the Cubs would rather that Marmol, who pitched in 49 games in the first half, doesn't pitch on Tuesday night.
A couple of other things to think about on All-Star Monday:
-- Twins catcher Joe Mauer was talking about Johan Santana today, and he reminded everyone how good Santana has usually been after the All-Star break. It wasn't true last year, when he was 5-7 with a 4.04 ERA, but from 2003-06, Santana went a combined 40-4 with a 2.07 ERA in the second half.
"He really gets going in the second half," Mauer said.
-- In talking about the weak trade market for starting pitchers, one scout pointed to the number of pitchers with great stuff who are being made into relievers. He mentioned All-Stars Jonathan Papelbon and Joakim Soria, both of whom could start and have started at some point in their careers.
Incidentally, Papelbon has no interest at all in becoming a starter.
"I think that was settled a long time ago," he said.
A long time ago? Only if spring training 2007 qualifies as long ago.