Saturday, February 28, 2009

The K to Winning a Championship: Strikeouts

Much has been made of the Revamped Yankee rotation, which now features C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Chien-Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain, and Andy Pettitte. However, the Red Sox, who signed John Smoltz and Brad Penny, and Rays, who replaced departed Edwin Jackson with second-year phenom David Price, both upgraded their already stellar rotations as well. The AL East is going to be an absolute dog-fight this year, with the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays all expected to win 90+ games. But us Yankee fans know it's all about playoff success in New York and this year's rotation is fit for fall baseball.

In recent years, most world series contenders boasted pitching staffs that had high strikeout rates and a legitimate ace. Just look at the 2004 Red Sox (Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez), 2005 White Sox (Jose Contreras), 2006 Tigers (Justin Verlander), 2007 Red Sox (Jon Lester, Josh Beckett), and 2008 Phillies and Rays (Matt Garza, David Price, Cole Hamels).

The Yankees have an ace in C.C. Sabathia. Say what you want about his post-season struggles, but the guy is a warrior and a proven shut-down pitcher when he is on. His awful start against the Phillies last year in the playoffs was a fluke, largely due to the heavy lifting he did down the stretch for the Brewers. His total year strikeout numbers between the Indians and Brewers last year (almost 9 so/g) were extremely impressive and his ability to eat innings (an unheard of 253 IP) is something the Yankees have sorely needed the last couple years.

Behind Sabathia in the rotation is A.J. Burnett, who, when healthy, is a terror for opposing hitters. Last year A.J struck out 231 hitters in 221 1/3 innings and his electric stuff (top flight fastball and devastating curve) translates well to the post-season. Even Chien Ming Wang, typically criticized for his inability to finish hitters off, has improved his strikeout numbers in recent years because of the improvement of his slider, which has really become a weapon late in the count. (54 SO in an injury shortened 2008). These three, coupled with the always improving and already scintillating Joba Chamberlain (118 SO in 100 1/3 IP), make up the projected Yankee postseason rotation.

Picture this: in a 5 game division series, the Yankees could potentially run out C.C. twice. If they advance, with the new (and stupid) playoff format which features days off after virtually every game, they could start C.C. 3 times in a 7 game series. Sending out your best pitcher for as many games as possible is key to post-season success and Sabathia can really dominate teams.

All four Yankee starters miss bats and go deep into ballgames (with the exception of Joba). The rotation, coupled with a deep lineup and even deeper bullpen, should lead to a successful season and even more successful post-season, culminating with a dog-pile on top of Mariano Rivera in early November.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Yanks Start Spring Off On The Right Note

The last time a Yankee led off Spring Training with a home run was in 2007 when Johnny Damon crushed the first pitch over the fence. It was only two springs ago, but it was the beginning of a season that saw the Yankees struggle in the beginning but unite for a second half run that landed them in the playoffs.

Hopefully Brett Gardner's leadoff dinger is a sign that the Yankees are off to the proper start (we'll hope that they start the 2009 season hot instead of cold, which was how they started in 2007).

Gardner's blast was more than unexpected, considering that he only reached the warning track in 127 at-bats in 2008. While this came as a pleasant surprise, the rest of the Yankees were just as satisfying.

After being booed every time his name was announced, Alex Rodriguez sent a shot over the center field fence in his second at-bat of the game. It's great to see A-Rod able to focus on hitting while the fans heckle him. A-Rod jokingly said that he enjoyed the fans so much that he'd "invite them to Fenway."

Robinson Cano's offseason workouts seem to have gotten him back in shape. The fifth year (wow, already?) second baseman lived up to the hype and doubled in one of his two at-bats.

Eighteen Yankees went up to the plate today and ten recorded hits. Ex-Red Sox Kevin Cash was the only Yank with two hits (suck on that, Boston).

Good news, Yankee fans: Eighteen year old Jesus Montero, who is the Bombers' most prized prospect, went 1-for-2.

Another touted prospect, Austin Jackson, doubled in one of his two plate appearances.

Oh, and how about those big offseason signings? Neither CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, nor Mark Teixeira entered the game today.

Even without Sabathia and Burnett, the Yankees' pitching was stellar, allowing only one run on four hits and three walks. Veteran Brett Tomko got the start and went two innings. Jose Veras, who is trying to earn the setup role, surrendered the sole run of the game but got the win, nonetheless.

Dan Geise and Kei Igawa each tossed scoreless innings.

Sure, it's only the first game of Spring Training, but I'm liking what I'm seeing so far.

The Yanks host the defending American League champs tomorrow.

Get excited.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Hopes too High?

As the off-season draws to a close, the hype surrounding the 2009 New York Yankees grows larger with each passing day. Whether it is A-rod and his drug scandal, or Edwar Ramirez's possible tendinitis (hopefully he is okay), the Yankees are surrounded by negative PR; in fact the only positive news about the Yankees is their "amazing" off season signings. I have heard people all over New York City talk about the Yankees winning the world series. As a Yankee fan, there is nothing I would love more than to see the Bombers' drought end, but are CC and A.J. giving us too much hope?

Unfortunately the answer is yes.

Because Burnett has not had much practice pitching in big games during his career with the Blue Jays, how can we expect him to hold up under all of the pressure of wearing pinstripes? We all know that he has consistent numbers, but that means nothing in New York. A prime example of this is A-Rod. When he came over from the Texas Rangers in 2004, he was flying high. He had just come off of a record breaking year, and it looked as though nothing could stop him. Although in 2004 he had over 100 RBIs, he was hitting well under his career average (.286 vs. .304), and maybe even costing the Yankees in their ALCS nightmare. Will A.J. come in and pull an A-rod? How will he handle the media who will scrutinize his every move? Unfortunately, he might take it onto the mound, causing him to have a shaky start to the 2009 season.

Next we have the 161 million dollar man. After signing the biggest contract for a pitcher in MLB history, will CC prove that he is worth the $5,714.28 PER PITCH? How can a man live up to those standards especially in a big city like New York? It is my belief that CC will have a great year next year, maybe even a Cy Young year, but this year is a different story. I believe that CC will go 17-12 with a 4.00 ERA. Some of you are probably laughing at those numbers You might be thinking "no way will he have those numbers, look at what he did with the Brew Crew". I say moving from the NL to the AL is much harder than the other way around. This not only means does a pitcher actually have to face 9 hitters, but also the hitting is just all around better in the AL than it is in the NL. Sure CC had to face hitters like Albert Pujols and Ryan Howard, but now he has to face hitters like David Ortiz, Evan Longoria, Vlad Guerrero, Grady Sizemore, and many other great power hitters multiple times.

So what does all of this mean? It means that the Yankees have a spot in the playoffs for sure, but I do not believe that the Yankees will advance past the ALCS. Other AL teams are also very strong right now, and the Yankees cannot just rely on CC, A.J., and Teixeira to lead them to a World Series ring this year. They will need a full team effort, and they will need for A-rod not to be suspended.

Despite my depressing predictions, I really do hope for the best this year and will see you all from my seat in the bleachers.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Re-Vamped Rotation

During the Offseason, the New York Yankees made several front office moves to strengthen the their depleted rotation, which was a major factor in their unsuccessful 2008 season. They signed the most heralded free-agent pitcher, C.C. Sabathia, to the richest contract ever for a pitcher in baseball history. If Sabathia wasn't enough, they signed the second most wanted free-agent, A.J. Burnett, to a 5 year $80 million dollar contract. Many Yankee fans have loved this spending spree, while others think it was totally unnecessary and out of control.

In the beginning of last year, Sabathia struggled as the Cleavland Indian's ace. Before he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, Sabathia went 6-8, giving up 117 hits in 122 innings of work. These stats are not bad but they are not worthy of receiving the richest contract for a pitcher in history. As a Brewer in the N.L., Sabathia was untouchable going 11-2 with a 1.65 e.r.a. However, many attribute this to the N.L. being an easier league. Sabathia needs to perform like he did in Milwaukee in order to live up to expectations in New York.

A.J. Burnett has had a pretty consistent career but it has been filled with too many injuries and setbacks. If the Yankees want this new look rotation to perform well, they need to keep Burnett from getting injured.

To round out the rotation, Chien-Ming Wang, who is coming back from injury, has been the Yankees' ace for the past three years and Andy Pettite is back in pinstripes to become the fourth starter. However, it is questionable as to who will be the Yankee's fifth starter: Will it be Joba Chamberlain the young phenom or Phil Hughes who struggled for all of last season and got injured? Whoever it will be, the rotation will be carried by the two new free agents and Wang. Please feel free to comment on this post.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Alex Rodriguez Uses PEDs, Best Strategy For Baseball Is To Move On

Enough. I've had enough.

Steroids have usurped the offseason and I am sick of hearing about them.

Instead of having the excitement at Legends Field surround the likes of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira, it is hovering over alex Rodriguez like 200 bees swarming around a fearful two year old.

Literally... At least the first part. Two hundred reporters attended Rodriguez's press conference at Legends Field this afternoon and they all walked away satisfied. They continue to bite and sting the vulnerable Rodriguez, who has already admitted that he did something wrong. Note: he didn't just admit, but he also apologized. 

So, here's my problem: people keep crying about how the substance-abusers have ruined the game of baseball. how they have tainted the game of baseball and how their sin is irrevocable. These people cry about how baseball is forever ruined. 

Well, stop crying. You need to move on. If you don't move on, the game of baseball certainly won't.

I can't believe I'm putting these words down under my name, but David Ortiz is right. Yep, Big Papi would be a better commissioner than the incumbent Bud Selig because Selig, who has tried to ignore the Steroids Era, has been blind to the fact that he could actually crack down on abuse. 

It's as simple as Ortiz put it: Issue mandatory, not arbitrary, drug tests. Everyone gets tested multiple times in a season—I believe Ortiz said each team should be required to have about 30 drug tests per season. The punishment for abusing would be, well, a suspension of some sort. Threaten a player with a year-ban and he might consider putting down the syringe. It's really quite simple, Bud.

Now, what to do with the past, specifically A-Rod.

It's not fair. Rodriguez should not need to endure what has been thrown upon him over the last two weeks, at least not as long as the 103 other names on the list of abusers remain unscathed.
Everyone knew that players were using steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, and the drug test, in which Rodriguez tested positive for two steroids, was designed as a test to determine if random drug testing was necessary. 

Rodriguez broke the rules of baseball, but his name was supposed to remain anonymous and it is not fair for him to be punished while every other player on the list remains anonymous. 

Despite coming forth, admitting, and apologizing, Rodriguez is being treated the worst of all the known PED users (Miguel Tejada, who committed perjury, only saw 10 microphones in his face upon his arrival at Houston camp).

Lay off of A-Rod!

He knows what he did was wrong, but, look, the drugs didn't even bolster his performance to a great extent. His best seasons were not those three years in Texas. He may have hit 57 home runs in 2002, but his 2007 season was better in every offensive category except for hits (187 vs. 183) and home runs (57 vs. 54). His lack of improvement with the drugs doesn't take away from the fact that he broke the law, but it should be remembered at the end of his career. 

Look, there is nothing you can do to turn back the hands of time. Rodriguez used steroids and by doing so broke the law, but we have to move on. Whether you support him or not, you need to move on. Bud Selig should act now, according to Ortiz's plan, and baseball should try to forget what happened this offseason so that it can head in to Spring Training with a positive outlook on the upcoming season.

We learn history to prevent future mistakes. Hopefully Bud Selig will use this offseason and the entire Steroids Era to learn that he needs to clean up baseball.

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