Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Lack of Evolution from Phil Hughes

As I watch the Yankees and Phil Hughes take on the Mariners in Yankee Stadium I can't ignore the one thought that continually screams through my head with Hughes on the mound: THROW A DAMN CURVEBALL!!!

I have intently watched Hughes since his arrival in the big leagues and when he came up I often complained that the Yankees called far too many fastballs for him to be effective. Now I long for those days.

It seems that Hughes fell in love with his fastball last year when he came out of the bullpen firing darts past hitters and he began racking up Ks at an impressive rate. Now however, as a starter he seems to think that he only has two pitches in his repertoire. The first is his fastball, which has been a good pitch and the second has been his cutter, which has been great for him. The only problem is you can't go through an order three-plus times with only two pitches.

Hughes fails to use his curveball or his changeup. While I understand that Hughes would be wary of using his changeup in high leverage situations, I can only wonder why he refuses to throw the curveball.

Over the course of his first six starts Hughes overwhelmed the opposition, winning five games to the tune of a 1.38 ERA with 39 strike outs in 39 innings. Over his next eight, including tonight versus the Mariners, Hughes has a 5.33 ERA and has struck out 42 in 49 innings.

Now the problem with Hughes isn't stuff or location, it's that the opposition has now seen Hughes, and those that haven't have plenty of tape to work off of. Hitters have been fouling off Hughes' best pitches and hammering his cutter when they are looking for it. Take for instance this start against the Mariners, the second worst offensive team in baseball. Hughes threw 85 pitches during his start with 62 of those being cutters and fastballs for 73 percent of his pitches. That is simply too frequent to keep hitters from getting their timing and squaring him up.

Maybe now that Dave Eiland is back somebody can smack Hughes upside the head and tell him to throw a damn curveball or, God forbid, a changeup. But I wont be holding my breath. Maybe when he gets jacked up a few more times he will finally learn his lesson that the name of the game is locating you pitches and changing speeds (See Jamie Moyer).

Pedroia Out for Six Weeks

Just as the Sox start playing well and put themselves in a position to increase their lead on the Rays with the mini series that starts tonight, Dustin Pedroia breaks his foot. Make no mistake about it, this is not good. I can see the Sox rallying around this injury and doing well in the next couple of weeks, but six weeks without their catalyst is going to be tough to weather.

At least Clay Buchholz and Victor Martinez won't be out long. Martinez is on the 15-day DL, while Buchholz was scheduled to miss his next start anyway.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Lester Outlasts Lincecum

Much to the chagrin of our friend Dennis, Jon Lester pitched a gem yesterday and the normally nasty Tim Lincecum managed just three innings against the Red Sox. Still I was surprised the Giants yanked him when they did. Even though Lincecum needed 78 pitches to get through his three innings of work he only gave up four runs. That's not great, especially if you're a two time Cy Young winner, but the Giants weren't out of the game by any means.

Meanwhile, on the other side, Lester was dominant again. He pitched his second complete game of the season while striking out nine. He even helped his own cause giving a Lincecum fast ball a long ride to the 420 sign and driving in a run with a sac fly.

Lester is emerging as a legit Cy Young candidate. Since his first couple of starts when he was pretty poor he is 9-1. His ERA on the season is 2.86 and he has turned into an overpowering strikeout machine. It's enough to make you forget about the oft injured and lately ineffectual Josh Beckett.

This road trip hasn't been all sunshine and blueberry lollipops for the Sox, however. It has produced some key injuries that they must weather if they are going to keep pace in the division. Dustin Pedroia has a broken foot after fouling a ball off himself Friday. He is now on the 15 day DL. Most maddening of all is Clay Buchholz hyperextending his knee while running the bases on Saturday. Every year in stupid interleague play some AL pitcher sustains a significant injury while running the bases. A professional athlete should be able to run 90 feet without hurting himself, but there's always this thought, this never would have happened if... Now the big fat cherry on top of this this crap sundae happened yesterday when Victor Martinez broke his thumb. Fortunately the All-Star Break is around the corner.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Yankees Take 2 From D-Backs; Head to LA

So yea it has been quite some time since I have been able to post something about the Yankees. That tends to happen when you start a new job and the World Cup starts at the same time.

My attention has been drawn away from the Bombers a bit, but during my absence they have done me proud and taken a tenuous hold of first place. Well I shouldn't say they have done me proud. That entire series against the Diamondbacks was a joke, especially last night when the Yankees decided to hand three outs to Dontrelle Willis with boneheaded plays on the basepaths and a moronic bunt attempt from Fransisco Cervelli.

Sure Willis is slow to the plate, and perhaps Nick Swisher was antsy to get his first stolen base since 2008. Mark Teixeira however, has no business ever running unless it's a full-count with two outs.

Willis clearly was not going to throw strikes and they Yankees needed to exploit that by drawing ever walk they could and getting into the D-Back's bullpen as soon as possible, but by running and bunting, they essentially gave Willis one inning where he did not have to record an out.

Luckily enough the Yankee bats came alive enough to save Javier Vasquez who pitched fine, except when he faced Adam LaRoche, who went 2 for 4 while driving in all five of the Arizona runs.

Now the Yankees will travel to LA for a three game set that will be overblown because of the Joe Torre factor. Really though, New York should take this series too. Vincente Padilla and Hiroki Kuroda are very beatable pitchers for the Yankees, while Clayton Kershaw presents the biggest challenge for the Yankee bats.

The Yanks will be throwing two of their best as well, but they will also be throwing their worst when Burnett takes the ball for the second game of the series.

Really my biggest problem with this series is that afterwards the Yankees will fly home to face the Mariners and the Blue Jays, before the fly back across the country to play the Mariners again. Seriously who is making this schedule? It's just plan ridiculous.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

AL East Tightens Up

All of a sudden, with the All-Star Break on the horizon, the division is in a virtual tie. The Red Sox have used the inferior NL to gain ground and pile on the runs. They are 8-1 against the Phillies, Diamondbacks and Dodgers and averaged 6.9 runs per game while doing it. However, runs may be at a premium in the next couple of series. They have the Rockies and Giants up next. I wonder if they will manage to avoid Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Cain, and Tim Lincecum... not bloody likely. Hopefully they will take it to the Rays like last time in their last two contests before the All-Fart game. After the break, it will be back to bludgeoning the O's.

The Rays on the other hand are getting handled by the likes of the Marlins while going 3-7 in their last ten. The Yankees have pretty much held their own, but the Sox blistering pace has closed the gap; although, the Yanks will have a cushy schedule coming up once they finish their interleague play. They face the Mariners, Blue Jays, A's, and Mariners again before finally having to face the Rays at home.

With any luck we'll have an entertaining three team race in the division that goes down to the last week in the season. It's what was anticipated. Let's see if it delivers.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Why am I watching the Sox play the Diamondbacks right now? My lack of posts is related directly to my disinterest in interleague play. I am realizing this just now. There are just far more compelling sports events happening during this travesty.

The NBA Finals are one. I know I've expressed my disinterest in basketball before, but this is Celtics v. Lakers. It takes me back to my childhood when Larry Bird was the hero, Magic Johnson the villain. Perhaps the game is a little sloppier, but with so much at stake, I can't look away. (These behemoths playing on the confines of a basketball court is like if my brothers and me tried to play in my kitchen.) In about 10 minutes, I'm switching stations.

Hell, I'm even more interested in the World Cup. Now, I'm always interested in the World Cup, even if I don't follow Soccer any other time. But this time I can't even watch the games, and I care more. Favorite, Spain, goes down to Switzerland! Where's my vuvuzela?!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Yanks Play in the Shadow of Strasburg and Get the Win

It was the first time that both the Orioles and Nationals were at home at the same time and the Nationals, with the aid of the second most hyped prospect ever, most definitely stole the show from the hapless O's.

Stephen Strasburg some how surpassed the expectations for his first start in the big leagues, which is ridiculous in itself. 14Ks? Could you tell he was pitching against the Pirates?

Not to say that he wouldn't have shut down a better lineup with that stuff, but sending him up against the Pirates is like bumping him up to AAAA, not the big leagues. Pittsburgh has maybe two or three hitters who should be getting at bats at the major league level and the rest of them are filler.

Still I'm interested to watch Strasburg and I hope he does well. I only hope that Washington changes their team name like Tampa Bay did before they got better. The Nats. Its just so stupid.

Anyway back to the Yanks. Phil Hughes pitched well enough to get the win last night, but that's it. Hughes has never really pitched well in Baltimore. He had his worst start of his career there last year when he gave up eight runs in just 1.2 IP and overall for his career he has an ERA of 7.65.

Even this season when Hughes has posted a 1-0 record and a 3.09 ERA in the tiny confines of Camden Yards, his performances there have not been good. In his first start there he couldn't find the strike zone and while he only gave up one run, he walked four and only struck out two.

Last night Hughes didn't walk anyone for the first time this season, but he gave up a season high nine hits and if you saw his body language, you could tell he wasn't putting the ball anywhere he wanted to.

It doesn't matter until Hughes goes back to Baltimore, but it is nice to see Hughes battle through starts where he doesn't have his best stuff.

And while Baltimore might be Hughes' krptonite, it certainly rejuvanates any hitters who walk in and get to face Oriole pitching.

Nick Swisher loves Camden yards and blasted a first pitch fastball over 400ft to dead center field for a two-run jack. Curtis Granderson added a grand slam and Mark Teixeira went 3 for 4 with a home run and two walks.

Granderson has been great since coming off the DL and its good to see him keep going. Teixeira is the one who hopefully uses this game to go on a hot streak. He hasn't been horrible since April, but he can definitely improve on his .267 average since May 1.

Next up is game two in Baltimore with CC Sabathia taking on Chris Tillman it what, on paper, should be another Yankee blow out.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sox Bust It Open Late

After Jon Lester and Jeremy Guthrie locked horns in a pitchers' duel for the first seven innings, the Sox bats finally pounced. The six run ninth turned things from a tight 2-0 contest to a 8-0 rout. The Sox held on to win 8-2 after the scrubs gave up some garbage time runs. Guthrie must have been pissed. He pitched his ass off, and his teammates couldn't get him a single run. Then the bullpen gets bombed liked Guernica.

The O's (or should be zerO's) definitely had their chances, getting runners in scoring position several times. But they were turned away at each opportunity by a determined Jon Lester. Lester needed a bit of help from Daniel Bard when Lester left the game with one out in the eighth and the bases loaded. Lester had avoided walking anyone all game, but walked the bases loaded in the eighth. Bard was able to keep those runners right where they were by inducing two harmless pop-outs as to end the threat.

The Red Sox seemed to have found a rhythm the past few weeks. They're winning two out of three most series and have settled into the playoff hunt. (Facing the A's, Orioles, and Cleveland next sure helps.) I do have one criticism though. As good as David Ortiz has been playing, I can't see him staying in the three spot. That spot in the line up should be reserved for your best, most versatile hitter. For the Sox, that is Kevin Youkilis. He is batting .312 with a .400+ OBP. He is consistent and can hit to all fields. Ortiz has been reduced to a three result player (HR, BB, K). My ideal line up at this moment would be Scutaro, Pedroia, Youkilis, Martinez, then Ortiz.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Call

Everyone is putting in their two cents about Armando Galarraga so I suppose I will. Now there is no disagreement that the call was terrible and destroyed what would have been a historical moment for the Tigers and Galarraga.

But what I will say is that I am against overturning the call. Is overturning the call really going to accomplish anything. The record book will read differently but the story will always be the same: Jim Joyce blew the call on the 27 batter. What ever Selig tries to tell us and no matter how many times Joyce apologizes, the image of Galarraga stepping on first shortly followed by Jason Donald and Joyce's emphatic safe call will forever be in baseball lore.

The game wasn't perfect. There was on error and though it wasn't from a player the game is forever tainted whether Selig steps in or not.

All this incident might do is bring about instant replay more rapidly, but nothing that happens now will change anything for Galarraga or Joyce. Their places in history are firmly set.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Beckett's Balky Back

So, this is why Josh Beckett has been stanktastic all season.

Griffey Hangs 'Em Up

As I am watching the Yankees attempt to take a big lead over the Orioles, word has come down that Ken Griffey Jr. is retiring from baseball. Griffey has struggled at the plate the last three years and he has yet to hit a homer in 2010.

Griffey always had one of the sweetest swings I have ever seen in my day, which I will admit isn't very long. Still he is one of the few slugger never to garner PED suspicions and while that doesn't preclude the possibility of him using, it is nice to think that one player did it the right way during the Steroid Era.

Griffey is a no doubt Hall of Famer and its said to see him go. Although most of my Griffey memories involve him tormenting the Yankees both at the plate and in centerfield during the mid-1990s so if I conjure images of those days then it softens the play. And at least the Kid got to spend his final days as a king in the city where he saved baseball.