Results tagged ‘ CC Sabathia ’

How To Lose The American League Championship Series

When Terry Francona managed the Red Sox to the 2007 World Series, his greatest contribution came two years ago this Friday. Down two games to one to the Indians in the ALCS and facing a fifth game in Cleveland, Francona resisted the temptation to start Josh Beckett on three days’ rest and instead stuck to his plan, and Game Four starter Tim Wakefield. Wakefield got lit up like Christmas, and much of Boston was ready for a new manager for their Nine. And then the Sox, buoyed by Beckett’s five-hitter over eight (with eleven strikeouts), won Game Five, and ran the table right through the World Series sweep of Colorado.

And yet Joe Girardi is mulling starting CC Sabathia on short rest in Game Four in Anaheim, then coming back with him on full rest for Game Seven. It is mighty tempting with a horse like Sabathia – as it was tempting for Francona two years ago. And the record book warns Girardi to dismiss the idea despite its obvious siren-like call, and its additional charms (like being able to keep Joba Chamberlain in the bullpen, and Chad Gaudin off the line-up card).
Like all men, Bobby Cox, who by rights should be elected to the Hall of Fame next winter if he goes through with his plan to retire after next season, has had one Achilles Heel that he’s never overcome. Coxy has always been convinced that when all the chips were on the table his starters could do the job on three days’ rest, even as the statistics accumulated, proving they could not.
During Atlanta’s unprecedented, probably unmatchable playoff run of 1991 through 2005, Cox tried the short-rest thing nineteen times. The Braves lost thirteen of those games.
Every defeat has a thousand parents, but at minimum, starting a pitcher prematurely is a very heavy straw meeting a very weak camel. More over, all Cox’s successes came before 1995, when Steve Avery and Tom Glavine and John Smoltz were all young and elastic. Cox would go on to try it six more times between 1996 and 2005, and the Braves didn’t win even one of the games. Tim Hudson couldn’t do it, nor Kevin Millwood, nor Greg Maddux, nor Smoltz, nor Glavine – and Glavine tried, twice.
If those stats aren’t a bright enough white line, there’s one more. Cox did it nine times in the World Series, and the Braves won only three of those games. You might get away with it – Beckett did once – but eventually the odds start mounting, and sooner or later it will cost you the playoff series, or the whole ball of wax.
Girardi can point, seemingly with confidence, to Sabathia and say that his personal track record is far more relevant than what Steve Avery did or didn’t do a generation ago. CC’s last three regular season starts of 2008 were each on short rest and all he did was go 2-1 (and give up just one earned run in the loss) and pitch the Brewers into the playoffs. The snag, of course, was that they decided to go to the well again in Game Two of those playoffs against Phillies – Sabathia’s fourth consecutive start on three days’ rest. And by the time Dale Sveum had to come get him with two outs in the fourth, he was out of gas, and the Brewers were essentially out of the post-season. His line was as bad as imaginable:

Milwaukee Brewers IP H R ER BB SO HR BFP

Sabathia L(0-1) 3.2 6 5 5 4 5 1 21


Would he necessarily repeat that in Game Four against the Angels? Nope, not necessarily. But what might the impact be on his Game Seven start? And what if there was no need for one, and Girardi was then faced with the scenario of opening the World Series with him, again bringing him back in Game Four on short rest, with the dream of having him ready for Game Seven?
The more often you try it, the less likely it is to keep working. The last month of 2008 might as well have been the post-season for the Brewers and Sabathia. The first three times, he either won, or pitched well enough to win. Then the fourth time, everything ended. Game Four of the ALCS will effectively be attempt Number Five. There could be a sixth in the Series.
The Braves’ fifteen-year record was six wins and thirteen losses. At one point, it was six wins and seven losses. The time of Lew Burdette shutting out the Yankees twice in four days is more than half a century ago. It might as well have happened before the invention of electricity. CC Sabathia on three days’ rest – a dramatic, romantic concept. And a recipe for dramatic, decisive failure.

Pitching, Pitching, Pitching (Updated)

What would the Giants look like in the post-season without Tim Lincecum? What about the Yankees if the A.J. Burnett they get is last month’s, not Monday night’s?

There is something bizarre about the rapidity with which the Giants had prized prospect (and the singularly named) Madison Bumgarner ready to go as soon as the news came down that Tim Lincecum would not pitch against the Padres Tuesday night. As late as Tuesday morning, newspapers in Eastern League cities had Bumgarner pitching the opening game of that circuit’s playoffs, Wednesday night, for the Connecticut Defenders. I know we have jets nowadays, and you could actually get from the Nutmeg State to SFO Airport in less than six weeks of stagecoach relays, but doesn’t it strike you that the Giants had to have had more of a hint that the incumbent Cy Young Winner’s back was acting up, than they’re letting on?
In turn, does that suggest that Lincecum is more hurt than they’re letting on? Certainly the reach to Bumgarner – the minors’ best pitching prospect even though he is barely two years removed from high school – implies that. To be fair, there was nobody on the active Giants’ roster this morning who had started a game in the majors this year (concurrent with Bumgarner’s promotion, Joe Martinez was summoned from Fresno, but Martinez pitched four innings on Saturday). Still, Madison Bumgarner, 3,000 miles away, does not sound like the likeliest emergency starter, even if you’re two games out in the wild card.
This update: as Bumgarner made his debut against the Padres, on the San Diego telecast, Mark Grant (who himself debuted as a 20-year old Giants starter before Bumgarner was born), offers an intriguing theory that uses the same evidence to reach the exact opposite conclusion. It’s not that Lincecum’s hurt, it’s that he’s just a little tired, and the rest could do him good for his next two starts, both against the Dodgers. I have to say Big Grant’s theory holds at least as much water as my own.
Meantime the Yankees are breathing a little more deeply after A.J. Burnett’s solid work on Monday, though they are fully aware that their second most expensive free agent starter was on the ropes in the night game against the Rays until Andy Sonnanstine took him off it by giving up eight runs. Forget Jeter, Sabathia, Rivera, Teixeira and all the rest – Burnett might be the most pivotal figure in New York’s post-season hopes. If he is the lights-out pitcher of the spring and early summer the Yankees are the favorites in any post-season series. 
But if he’s not, the Yankee rotation is Sabathia and The Question Marks. Andy Pettitte has been successful but nearly as generous to the hitters as Burnett. The Yankees have meanwhile completely screwed up Joba Chamberlain. This leaves… Sergio Mitre? Somebody in the Bronx is likely regretting having not given Alfredo Aceves a more serious look as a starter.
The Yankees’ starting weakness and another flaw are the kind that might not show up over the course of a long season against a lot of those pitching-poor, fundamentally-unsound AL also-rans, but could be fatal in the playoffs. The second problem is outfield defense. Brett Gardner can run down anything, but could not stave off Melky Cabrera’s bat. Johnny Damon is still a strong outfielder, and still would be better off returning the ball to the infield by FedEx. Cabrera is a mixed bag in the field. Nick Swisher could have the team’s best outfield arm, and that should terrify any Yankee fan who contemplated a playoff series turning on a successful relay play to the plate, or even a great catch in rightfield.
One other pitching note: the mutterings are that the Rockies are not as confident as they appear, that Huston Street will be back closing by this weekend or even the first of next week. Nothing firm on this, but worth noting (and thanks to the lights-out brilliance of Franklin Morales, not necessarily a big thing one way or another – except if it lingers to the post-season and experience or its lack is magnified).

Here Come The Yankees?

New York (American) opens 0-2 against what it likes to think is its weakest divisional foe. Sabathia’s ERA is 12.46 and is, by nearly five runs, the best among the starters, and Wang got two-thirds of his outs on the ground and still got torched. Oh, and Teixeira’s 1-for-9.

Too early to panic? The Pirates already gave Andy LaRoche a day off “to breathe” (there’s your problem son, you’re not breathing) and they’re in Pittsburgh. This is New York, the capital of sports panic ever since Andrew Freedman used to change managers of the Giants every two months in the 1890′s. Let the panic party begin.
If A.J. Burnett follows the pattern (and I don’t think he will; he was lights out in the spring), there will be a full-fledged hair-on-fire week until the new Stadium opens. The Yankee mantra after Alex Rodriguez’s injury/operation/house arrest was “we have all the pitching; we don’t need to score runs.” This ignored just how little protection Teixeira would be afforded in a Rodriguez-free line-up, or the dubiousness of Gardner’s capacity to create (think Michael Bourn), or the uncertainty of how much of Posada would make it back.
If the Yanks go 0-3 the only question will be whodoes the panicking. Do not rule out The Boss. Although he was reported to be “in and out” in Tampa, the only time I saw George Steinbrenner his presence offered a complete contradiction. His wheelchair was being pushed towards the elevators near the Press Box of the stadium now named for him – always a shocking thing to see for the first time. On the other hand, he was bright-eyed and when my friend David Cone gingerly went over to say hello – fearing he’d have to reintroduce himself – Steinbrenner happily yelled “I can see it’s you David. I wish you were still pitching for me.”
Sabathia, of course, got lit (nine runs each, I believe) his first two starts last year, and should be fine when he finds his rhythm, presumably well in advance of any 21st Century reenactment of The Ed Whitson Saga. And in wagering sanguine on Teixeira, I’ll now repeat my warnings from last weekend, with the endorsement of no less a sage than Lou Piniella: in the new Yankee Stadium, a lefthanded hitter might just as well stand at the plate with one of those t-shirt-shooting bazookas and aim it at the porch. “Pitch to the center of the park,” Lou said last Saturday, “because if you pitch to right field we’re gonna run out of baseballs.”
The real fear is about Wang. He was not sharp in the spring, he was not sharp in the exhibition game in the Bronx, he was not sharp in Baltimore. There is nothing worse than reading about other people’s fantasy teams, but an AL-only auction with ESPN fantasy experts, I watched Wang get nominated 93th overall and draw a final bid of $4. There was still money on the table (Erik Bedard had just gone for $9; John Danks would go two names later for $9). There is no expectation that the 19-game winner will suddenly reappear – and for the Yankees this belief is dogma.
If these fantasy dollar figures tell you anything you will injure yourself trying to suss out this league. Short rosters (19 players) mean the $260 goes further (about 18% further). Nevertheless: I thought I was going crazy bidding Sabathia up to $49. Halladay promptly went for $58 and Liriano for $50. I put my money on my Teixeira-related mouth ($56) to the titters of the cognoscenti. Miguel Cabrera went for $75. And the boast: Nelson Cruz for $5, eleven nominees before Carlos Pena hammered at $38.
Enough. I just said there’s nothing worse than reading what I proceeded to write two paragraphs about.
Lastly, thanks to all who sent condolences about my mother. In an era of Mantle, Murcer, Munson, and later Reggie and Catfish, her favorite player was always Roy White, which should tell you all you need to know about her fandom.

The Palace, Or: The Grand Canyon of Stadiums

The phrase – well, the “palace” part – is Derek Jeter’s. It’s unoriginal, cornball, and entirely accurate. In managing to transplant the history of Yankee Stadium, and amplify the grandeur of the old place, andwrap the whole thing up in state-of-the-art hi-tech bells-and-whistles, the Yankees have created a landmark.

I’m a traditionalist, as pro-past as anybody watching the game. Since my first tour of the shell of the ballpark a year ago this month, I have been waiting to be disappointed. At every turn, I have instead been overwhelmed.
The ballpark is deliberately outsized, to recreate for an adult the awestruck feeling of walking into the old place, for the first time, as a kid, when you might’ve gotten the impression that the people who built Yankee Stadium were the same ones who had done The Grand Canyon.
A few quick snapshots to try to convey the dimensions, starting with the view from the press box (note the giant HD screen to the right of the picture):

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And from a totally different perspective, actually below the level of the field, in the runway between the bottom of the two-story restaurant, and the suite seating behind home plate:
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And now out to the bleachers, and the view from the bar. This isn’t an exclusive place – it’s literally dead center in the bleachers and accessible from them. The other side of the window you’re looking through is covered with the batter’s eye:
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This next one is from deep behind third base, illustrating perhaps the most welcome improvement from the old stadium to the new one. From almost everywhere “in the back” you can see the field – even from many of the turnstile locations. This one will also give you a sense of the height and width of the walkways, which in some spots are about ten times as wide as in the old one:
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The open-air quality of the rest of the Stadium is more than just an aesthetic consideration. If batting practice on one breezy April is any indicator, the sporadic openings from the seats to the street – and a full ring of them in the upper deck – are going to produce wind conditions entirely different from the old Stadium.
In fact, balls were rocketing over the right field fence, even from righty batters. There seemed to be a swirling effect, bringing wind in towards the plate from Left and then directing it out towards Right, aided by another breeze coming in from the gaps in the upper deck behind the plate. Xavier Nady mentioned it, Joe Girardi told me there might be less of a chance of judging the wind here than in the old one, and Nick Swisher (below) delighted in it:
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Attendance might have pushed 30,000 but the Yankees cleverly gave out about half of the tickets to local Bronx groups none too pleased by the slow move towards fulfilling the team’s promises of contributions to the community to replace Macomb’s Dam Park.
I take back one thing I wrote above. There is a slight flaw: I don’t think the auxiliary scoreboards on the fences in LCF and RF really “work” – possibly because they seem to shiver under the weight of advertising billboards sitting directly above them. And here is the early leader for Everybody’s Pet Peeve – there may be too many televisions in the place, several thousand, in fact.
And they are, indeed, everywhere:
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That is indeed, a pair of small flat-screens embedded in the mirror in one of the men’s room in the restaurant. There is a third one to the right.
And the big HD job may be a real issue, especially if you suddenly look up to find yourself on it:
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On the far right is my friend Richard Roth, who was at CNN when I broke in at 1981, and is still there. And the jacket is a facsimile 1942 New York Giants, which confused everybody.
One last image – the early favorite for weirdest sign in a ballpark:
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