Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Morning: 5 Yankee Points

It's Wednesday and I'm feeling froggy, so let's launch a new feature called "5 Yankee Points." I think you'll catch on quick.

5 Yankee Points, 4/21

1. Javier Vazquez has lost his fastball.

Last night, for the third straight start, his fastball averaged under 90mph. The final tally was 88.9, and the fastest heater of the night was 91.4.

As I've mentioned before, this is strikingly uncommon. In three full seasons between 2007 and 2009, his average fastball was below the 90mph mark exactly three times. Never twice in a row, and certainly never three times in a row.

It's no surprise that his walks are also up, with his BB/9 ratio currently doubling any season total since 2000. Opposing batters are making contact on 81.6% of their swings, up from 73% last year. On pitches outside the strike zone, they're connecting 64% of the time, as opposed to 51.2% in 2009. These stats all reflect that lost velocity; he walks more people because he lacks confidence in the fastball and tries to stay outside the zone, and hitters are making more contact because the fastball is less formidable, and doesn't set them up to whiff at off-speed stuff.

He got his first win yesterday, but he needed 107 pitches to go 5 and a third, and he gave up two home runs. This happened against a below average offense in Oakland. In my book, this start isn't terribly different from the first two disasters.

2. Robbie Cano had 3 friggin' walks last night!

Wow. I will admit that the Sandman got me sometime in the second inning (10:05 starts don't jive with a 6:30am wakeup time), so when I saw this stat this morning, I thought it had to be some kind of record. You see, Robbie doesn't walk. He'd rather swing at a crappy pitch and ground out to second base, and he does so quite often. In favorable counts. His walk totals the past three years are: 39, 26, 30. That's about once every five games.

So I checked out his game logs, and sure enough, it's a record! Or at least a tie. He walked 3 times in a single game once in 2008, and twice in 2007. So this is the foruth time he's ever managed the feat. In the long run, this means exactly nothing. Or maybe it means he'll become a walking machine; he's on pace for about 60 now. Small sample size, anyone?

Sadly, Robbie's hot start is now a thing of the past. Walks aside, he's 0 for his last 8 at the plate, and the habits we know and love (flailing at bad pitches, mostly) seem to be re-emerging.

3. Joba hit 96 on the gun

And averaged 94.38 on the fastball. That's a marked jump up from his last 4 outings, and a nice sign that maybe, possibly, his arm is on its way to recovering the 07-08 speed. If nothing else, it's probably safe to close the book on his career as a starter. His average fastball last year in that role hovered around 92, and his junk isn't good enough to make that work. The only way he's feasible for the Yankees is as a pure fastball/slider relief pitcher.

Personally, I still think we'll see him used as trade bait before the year's up. This goes double if he has a strong early ERA out of the pen. Sell high.

4. It's almost unfair to have Nick Johnson in this lineup

Why? He's batting .176, which is pretty awful. But he's an absolute walk machine. He leads the league, in fact, with 16, and his on-base percentage is .407. The batting average will improve, and with it the OBP. I can't imagine a more perfect player to fill the #2 spot. He seems to be very adept at moving Jeter along, and those walks are just deadly in front of Teixeira and A-Rod. It wouldn't surprise me if Nick scores 100 runs this year. As an added bonus, he makes pitchers throw and throw and throw, just like Swisher. Only 2 opposing starters have made it into the seventh inning against the Yanks (Pineiro and Price), and Nick Johnson is a big reason why.

5. Granderson is batting .263 against lefties

Not amazing, but much better than his .183 number from last year. We'll have to keep an eye on this, but it's a strong start.

The Gist

I have to say, the Yankees look amazing right now. CC, AJ, and Andy have had about as good a start as anybody could hope for, the lineup is scoring runs despite another lame beginning by Teixeira and low batting averages from Johnson and Swisher, and all the new guys except Vazquez are working out great. A-Rod is back in business, and had a classic A-Rod game yesterday: 2-2, 1 home run, 3 walks.

Another big win last night against Oakland kicked off what looks like a difficult road swing on paper. If we can manage 4-2 against the As and Angels, we'll be sitting pretty going into Baltimore. And then it's home, where we can all just chill out and get weird with some Enya. Old school.

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