Monday, August 25, 2014

When can we take the New York Yankees seriously?

The New York Yankees are certainly an enigma. One good series, one really poor one follows and then another positive step. After a series sweep of the Chicago White Sox, the Yankees have won four in a row. Is now the time to take them seriously? Many think there is no sense in it. All is lost already. Some believe a good run can prove the team deserves a place in the discussion about the postseason. I had a brief chat about it yesterday on Twitter and now I’ll delve deeper into the subject.

The New York Yankees’ massive offseason expenditures have been discussed at length and it put them in the conversation as a team which could make some serious noise in the postseason. Injuries, poor performance and lack of consistency across the board have contributed to a lackluster season thus far. Here’s the thing; the Yankees (67-61) are still in the playoff hunt because the rest of the American League is, well, not very good.

The Yankees have gone 20-14 since the All-Star break and during this recent six-game homestand they finally climbed above the .500 mark at Yankee Stadium (33-31). The problem is they squandered two games against the lowly Houston Astros.

This is what the Yankees have done most of the season. They’ve suffered inexplicable losses to poor teams and followed them up by successful, albeit short runs of good play. It seems that for every good stretch of five, six or seven games, they slump for the same number right after it. Then they put together another respectable series and make me think they’re ready for a run. I thought it after they took three of four from the Detroit Tigers (part of a stretch of six wins in seven games), and then the Yanks proceeded to lose five straight.

When can we take the Yankees’ chances of reaching the postseason seriously?

Friday, August 22, 2014

New York Yankees: On team meetings, swagger and chemistry

After losing seven of their past nine games, the New York Yankees held a players (and coaches) meeting prior to Thursday’s series finale against the Houston Astros. They went out and won the game behind some dazzling pitching from Brandon McCarthy (complete game shutout allowing just four baserunners).

Can a single win be attributed to the team meeting? Hardly, especially considering it seems the position players were the ones gathering around and they still just mustered three runs.

This offense, one which was supposed to put up better than average run totals has thoroughly disappointed. The reasons are many and the likelihood that it changes quick enough to make a difference remains to be seen. Was a team meeting the spark this club needed?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Yankees’ David Robertson hears it from boo birds

The success rate of the best closers hovers around a 90 percent conversion mark. Fifty save opportunities would equate to 45 saves. I would imagine any number of teams would sign up for such a rate.

Do closers (or other high-leverage relievers for that matter) deserve to hear the wrath of the baseball public for those times where they are not successful? Does an abundance of positive results preclude them from harsh statements on social media and booing from the fans at the ballpark?

New York Yankees closer David Robertson came into Tuesday’s game in the top of the ninth inning with the game knotted at four against the Houston Astros. Robertson was faring well in non-save situations this season and had converted 33 of 35 save opportunities.

Robertson has a tendency to make things interesting and Tuesday was no different. While he might have been being pinched by home plate umpire Paul Emmel, he was also pretty far off the mark with some other offerings.

With one out and runners on first and second, both via walks, Chris Carter came to the plate having struck out in each of his four plate appearances on the night. Robertson fell behind 3-0 and then grooved a fastball which Carter launched into orbit having been given the green light by Astros manager Bo Porter.

Robertson could not get the next batter out and was subsequently removed by Yankees skipper Joe Girardi. As Robertson walked off the field he did so to a loud chorus of boos from the Yankee Stadium crowd. Deserved?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Yankees’ Girardi forced to pick bullpen over offense

I tend to side more with optimists when it comes to the New York Yankees despite much of the writing on the wall which suggests I should be viewing their fate with gloom and doom.

In similar fashion, I respect the job that Joe Girardi has done this season with little to work with, but it does not preclude him from some questioning.

I’m sure Girardi would have run away if he was told his rotation would have to be filled with the likes of Chase Whitley, Vidal Nuno, Shane Greene, Esmil Rogers and Chris Capuano who have combined to make 37 starts this season. That’s 31 percent of the total starts for the season.

The same can be said if he was told his offense would rank 20th in runs scored among all MLB teams.

So, an eight-game deficit in the American League East race behind the Baltimore Orioles makes sense. The fact that they have a puncher’s shot at the second wild card with a 61-58 record – they are currently 3.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers and the Seattle Mariners – is quite fortunate.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Game Review: iOOTP Baseball 2014 Edition is as addictive as ever

I watch a lot of baseball. If you are reading this, I assume you do too. How many times do you sit in front of the television, or read an article about your favorite team and think, “What in the world is my manager or general manager doing to this team?” I’m guessing it is often, even for those fans graced with quality professionals in both positions.

If you own an Apple iOS device (iPhone, iPod Touch or an iPad) which is constantly at your fingertips and love sports sims, there isn’t one better than iOOTP Baseball 2014 Edition by Out of the Park Developments. I’ve been playing this game for years now and the newest version is truly exceptional.

Below are some of the new items added to the latest version:
  • Real Opening Day 2014 rosters - Every player on every major league team is available, along with the top 20 minor league prospects for each team.
  • Major league player ratings are based on PECOTA by Baseball Prospectus, the best player projection system available today.
  • Player Editor - Players can edit everything from names and biographical information to hitting, fielding and pitching ratings.
  • Improved AI, including a direct port of the new player evaluation AI from OOTP 15
  • Retina display support
  • iOS 7 support (iOS 4.3 is the minimum required)
  • Various other improvements and fixes

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Huff, Hill could be replaced quickly in Yankees pen

In a somewhat surprising move, the Yankees allowed left-handed reliever Matt Thornton to be taken off revocable waivers Tuesday, and sent him and his $3.5 million due in 2015 to the Washington Nationals after the teams could not work out a deal.

I’ve been tough on Thornton all season. Some fell in love with his window-dressed 2.55 ERA in his time with the Yankees, but neglected to note he allowed 33 percent of his inherited runners to score. It was very apparent that he did not have manager Joe Girardi’s trust in recent weeks as he was seldom used in high-pressure situations.

The move left David Huff who has a 1.88 ERA (but be careful ERA lovers, he owns a 5.14 FIP) as the lone southpaw in the bullpen, but just for a short time as the Yankees bought the contract of journeyman Rich Hill from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to be the second lefty. It is Hill’s third team this season (which tells you the chances he sticks in the Bronx). Huff will be the first lefty used in left-on-left situations for the time being. He’s allowed just one inherited runner to score this season (eight inherited runners).

Hill made his first appearance in pinstripes during last night’s game and allowed a stolen base by Victor Martinez, whose knees could go up in smoke at any time, and then drilled left-handed hitting Ezequiel Carrera with a pitch. Hill was promptly removed by Girardi. Surely, not a great start.

When the Thornton move was announced, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the move was positive for the Yankees in clearing some more cash for this season as well as 2015. It is clear that they did not feel Thornton was going to be a part of the future.

So who is, and when?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Forget performance-enhancing drugs, let’s talk baseball

Listen, I understand how sports media works. Big names become big stories and then we read and hear about them all day. Then the next news cycle takes it away. That might not be the case with Major League Baseball and performance-enhancing drugs.

Anthony Bosch, the lead witness who helped MLB determine the severity of the punishment for Alex Rodriguez and others in the Biogenesis scandal, was arrested by the Drug Enforcement Administration this morning and it’s been the lead story throughout the day. I tweeted this earlier and unfortunately, I’m helping the story’s legs climb up the vine by using it as an intro.
Yes, of course it has to be covered, but why does it have to take precedence over the game itself? Haven’t we had enough and when it creeps back up why do we drop everything about what happens on the field? Why do we have to make such a big deal about it? There were (are) cheaters in Major League Baseball. They’ll hopefully be caught and MLB finally has a means to rid the sport of the abusers. That should be enough in my view.

I’d much rather be talking about on-the-field items.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Cashman improves Yankees at deadline

Give credit where credit is due; New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman made his team better without giving up highly touted prospects this July. The Yankees have a long hill to climb, as the rotation was not addressed, but they certainly look a bit more solid as the calendar turns to August.

As the clock began to wind down Thursday, it looked as though the Yankees might not be able to swing any deadline deals. The only word out of the Bronx was that the team claimed Esmil Rogers from the Toronto Blue Jays off waivers.

Then, word came that the Yankees found a seldom used trade partner in the Boston Red Sox as they sent utility infielder Kelly Johnson packing in exchange for Stephen Drew. Drew had been on the Yankees radar this past offseason but the club did not want to part with another draft pick and decided to go with Johnson.