Billy-Ball Daily: 2008-8-14

8/14/2008
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

Billy-Ball – From the diamond to your desktop…
By Baseball Newstalgist, Bill Chuck

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The only spin here is on my screwball

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Top of the 1st
THE STREAK IS OVER…THE YANKEES ARE DONE
Every year since 1995 when October came around you could ask the question, “When’s the Yankees’ first post-season game?” This year the Yanks and their fans will have to provide the answer of the old Brooklyn Dodgers, “Wait `til next year.” For those of you who revel in Yankee schadenfreude you can plan two parties this year, one when they are eliminated from the Divisional race and the second when they are eliminated from the Wild Card race.

The reality is this: Yanks are not going to the post-season this year and their fans and the folks at Fox better start planning and accepting for that right now. Start by doing the math. At 64-57 the Yankees are now 10 games behind the Rays in the loss column and they are 6 games behind the Red Sox in the loss column and they are 4 games behind the Twins in the loss column.

Don’t get it yet? Let’s for argument sake say it will take the Yankees record last year, the one in which they were a Wild Card team, to make it as the Wild Card team this season. Last season, they were 94-68. To reach this year they need to go 30-11 the remainder of the season. Does anybody see any indication that this team is capable of playing .731 ball from this point on?

Okay, for those of you who think its possible (hey, anything can happen, just ask the Rockies), let’s throw this into the mix: Of their remaining 41 games, the Yanks play only 19 at home, which leaves 22 games on the road where their record is 28-31.

Let’s peel another layer of the onion away. As they return now from a miserable 3-7 road trip (“It was a bad trip, you can’t sugarcoat it,” Derek Jeter said.), they head home and host a three game series with the Royals and then head back on the road for three in Toronto and another three in Baltimore. Neither team is a pushover.

The Jays are only 2 games behind New York in the loss column and they have won seven of their last ten and they would love to catch the Yankees. And, while the Orioles are 57-62 on the season (please note that makes them closer to the Yanks in the loss column than the Yanks are to the Red Sox), the O’s are tough in Baltimore playing 31-24 at home and still harbor hope of having their first winning season since 1997 (and the Yanks are only hitting .250 at Camden Yards this year).

Continuing the Yankee schedule they then come home to face the Red Sox for three games. (Hey, Boston! Don’t get lick your chops to fast, the Yanks may be dead, but the Minnesota Twins certainly aren’t, your Red Sox, now minus Mike Lowell are no sure thing.) Then the Yanks face the Jays again for another three game set before they head out on the road for an exhausting excursion that will take them to Detroit for a make-up game then on to Tampa Bay (they are only 45-17 at home, tied with the Cubs for the best record in baseball), then all the way back out to the West Coast for a three game set with the M’s (that’s “M” for “Miserables) and then three with the Angels, who eat the Yankees for lunch.

After a travel day they face the Rays for the final homestand in Yankee Stadium history (yes, that’s how close we are to the end of the season) and after Tampa, comes another team truly battling for the post-season, the Chicago White Sox, before they shut the great cathedral with a three games against the Orioles.

While the MLB schedulers should be embarrassed that they close Yankee Stadium on Sunday night, September 21, it only means more misery for the Yanks who will have to play out their season with three in Toronto and then may be forced to watch the Red Sox celebrate a playoff berth at Fenway, at the Yanks expense, for the final three games of the season.

I’m telling you, this could be a very ugly final six weeks for the New Yorkers.

Not that the season to this point has been pretty. With Runners In Scoring Position this season, as a team, they are only hitting .259; Alex Rodriguez is hitting all of .236 in those situations. Runners In Scoring Position and two outs, the team is hitting .266 with A-Rod and Jason Giambi each pounding out a .208 batting average when it counts. The team is hitting only .258 with bases loaded, and that’s a situation that requires the opposing pitcher to throw strikes. The Yankees went 17-for-80 with runners in scoring position on this most recent road trip.

The Captain, Derek Jeter is hitting .284, a great average for a good field/no hit shortstop, but Jeter is far from a good fielder and he’s on his way to the lowest batting average of his career. The Yanks have clearly missed the batting of the injured Jorge Posada. While Jorge Molina and Ivan Rodriguez are strong defensively, the Yanks have generated only 5 homers from the catching slot this season and a .242 batting average. The loss of Hideki Matsui has been felt and the injury and the decreased production of Alex Rodriguez means that A-Rod, with 75 RBI, may not accumulate 100 RBI for only the second time in his career. He had 156 last season.

Then there’s the pitching. It’s hard to believe but the only starter able to make it through the season injury free to this point is their oldest starter Mike Mussina (Moose, I hope I didn’t put the whammy on you). While Mussina is having a great season, 15-7 and a 3.30 ERA the rest of the pitching staff has been only mediocre.

The loss of Chien-Ming Wang to a fluke injury has been huge, but equally painful are the losses accrued by Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Darrell Rasner who are a combined 5-17 this season. Andy Pettitte in his nine losses this season has an ERA of 8.23 which indicates that, like so many Yankee starters, he simply doesn’t keep his team in a game and Joe Girardi has been forced to rely on an inconsistent bullpen, way too frequently. The loss of Joba Chamberlain in the bullpen hurt, the loss of Joba Chamberlain in the rotation has killed.

You certainly can’t fault Girardi for the injuries that he has has been forced to endure, although in this new age of baseballs sans “artificial sweeteners” when other teams are playing small ball and the Yanks have 80 stolen bases compared with the 123 they finished the season with last year. But, as my Dad used to say, “you can’t steal first base.” And when Melky Cabrera is hitting. 242 and Robinson Cano is hitting .262 you are not in a position as frequently as you would to run or play hit and run.

It’s apparent that the front office may have reached the same conclusion that I have. I was shocked to see the Yanks let Paul Byrd slip to the Red Sox on waivers; maybe they just want their younger pitchers to have a chance.

Then came these words from Hank Steinbrenner, “I’m not writing off this season. They’re trying hard to win. There’s only so much you can do. They’re not supermen. I think it’s very simple, we’ve been devastated by injuries. No team I’ve ever seen in baseball has been decimated like this. It would kill any team…. It’s not making excuses. It’s reality. That’s part of the game. That’s clearly our problem. We’re going to win it next year. If we need to add a top veteran pitcher, we’ll do that. We’ll do whatever we need to do. Next year we’ll be extremely dangerous.”

In other words, “Wait `til next year.”

Top of the 2nd
WALKOFF
Back in the lineup after a third stint on the disabled list, Nomar Garciaparra hits his sixth career walk-off home run, his first since 2006, to give the Dodgers a 7-6 comeback victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. Garciaparra, playing in just his 29th game of the season, Nomar hit a one-out, solo homer on a 2-1 pitch from Clay Condrey (3-3) for his sixth homer and first since July 26. It must of felt like old times at Fenway Park as Manny Ramirez hit his 515th career homer and Ramirez is now 21-for-45 with five homers and 16 RBIs in 12 games with the Dodgers. The Phils broke out to a 6-1 lead but Dodger relievers held the Phillies to one hit and no runs over the final six innings.

It was LA’s third straight win over Philadelphia and fifth in seven games overall and the Dodgers are now tied with Arizona in the NL West. The Phillies have lost five of seven overall and are now in a first-place tie with the New York Mets in the East.

Top of the 3rd
CHICAGO WINS THREE
The Cubs demolished the Atlanta Braves in a doubleheader yesterday, 10-2 and 8-0. It was the Cubs first sweep of a road doubleheader since 1992 and they the first NL road team to sweep a doubleheader, while winning both games by eight or more runs, since the Phillies beat up the Giants twice on June 18, 1968. It also was the first Cubs sweep of a doubleheader from the Braves since May 24, 1984. Chicago (73-47) improved to 26 games over .500 for the first time since ending the 1984 season 96-55, and the two wins pushed their road streak to seven straight, their longest since June 12-22, 2004.

Their citymates, the White Sox, only played one by were very successful by blanking the Royals, 4-0. Mark Buehrle won his 10th game of the season something he has done ever year since 2001. Buehrle pitched five-hit ball for seven innings while Ken Griffey Jr. hit an RBI single and Jermaine Dye added an RBI double. Carlos Quentin missed his second straight game since being hit by a Josh Beckett pitch. Quentin, who is tied for the major league lead with 32 home runs, has been hit by a pitch in five straight games and has been hit 19 times overall, the most in the majors.

The Chicago rivals kept winning as well as the Brewers won their eighth straight game, 7-1 over the horrible Padres. CC Sabathia improved to 7-0 with the Milwaukee Brewers by throwing seven solid innings. The reigning AL Cy Young winner won his 10th straight decision and their needs to be some talk about him being the NL Cy Young Award winner this season. Milwaukee’s starters are 9-2 with a 1.95 ERA in the last 12 games but NL MVP candidate Ryan Braun sat out his fourth consecutive game with tightness in his lower back.

Back in the AL Central, the Twins topped the Yankees, 4-2 as Delmon Young hit a three-run homer for the second straight day. The Twins are 25-8 at home since June 1.

Top of the 4th
AND THE REST…
The rest of the AL East won yesterday as the Rays defeated the A’s, 3-2. The Rays have won 13 of their last 18 games and are 22-13 in one-run games this season. Andy Sonnanstine is now 12-6.

The Red Sox topped the Rangers, 8-4. Jon Lester improved to 7-1 at home this season and 12-2 for his career at Fenway Park. Kevin Youkilis had three doubles and two RBI following a five RBI night before. Youk is the Sox MVP candidate as his 22 homers are six more than the career high he set last year, his 83 RBIs match his best total and he’s only two points behind AL batting leader Johnny Damon.

The Jays beat the Tigers, 4-3 and the O’s beat Cleveland, 6-1.

In the NL East, the Mets buried the Nationals, 12-0. Rookie sensation Daniel Murphy homered and drove home three runs. He went 3-for-6 and is batting .467 (14-for-30) since being called up from Triple-A New Orleans on Aug. 2. John Maine (10-7), making his first start since July 28, allowed one hit in five innings, struck out six and walked four.

The Marlins fell 6-4 to the Cardinals who are trying to hang on in the NL Central. Troy Glaus went 4-for-4 for the victors who pounded out 18 hits. Winning pitcher Braden Looper (11-9) gave up one earned run and five hits in seven innings. He walked one and struck out five. The Marlins playing tough in the East haven’t won consecutive games since July 30-31.

FINALLY…
In the NL West, the Rockies finally beat the Diamondbacks, 6-5. It was only the second win in 11 games against Arizona for the Rockies this season. Colorado snapped a three-game losing streak while Arizona has lost five of its last seven games. Brad Hawpe, Ian Stewart and Clint Barmes all homered for the Rockies, who had lost three straight and five of six. Stephen Drew (the good Drew) extended his hitting streak to 15 games.

Top of the 5th
BOBBLE-ELECTION
History was made as Barack Obama swept the Goldklang Group’s bobblection over John McCain taking all six races among teams who are part of the Goldklangers minor league operation. As fans passed through stadium turnstiles, they were directed to election booths where they had the option of casting their vote for either Obama or McCain. For participating in the voting, they received the bobblehead doll of their candidate. When one candidate ran out of dolls, they were declared the winner of that ballpark’s Bobblection.

In Hudson Valley, NY, the Renegades opted for Obama in a 750-713 victory. In Brockton, MA, Rox fans declared Barack a 500-456 winner. While in Charleston, SC, St. Paul, MN, Sioux Falls, SD and Fort Myer, FL, Obama received no fewer than 54.4% of the vote.

Top of the 6th
BILLY-BALL-SITE-OF-THE-DAY
TAKE THE POLL: Will the Yankees make the playoffs?
http://yankees.lhblogs.com/
You know my answer.

Top of the 7th
PROBABLE PITCHERS
AL
Toronto Blue Jays at Detroit Tigers, 1:05 pm
(R) Jesse Litsch (8-7) vs. (R) Armando Galarraga (10-4)
Kansas City Royals at Chicago White Sox, 2:05 pm
(R) Kyle Davies (5-3) vs. (R) Lance Broadway (0-0)
Tampa Bay Rays at Oakland Athletics, 3:35 pm
(R) James Shields (10-7) vs. (R) Sean Gallagher (1-1)
Baltimore Orioles at Cleveland Indians, 7:05 pm
(R) Daniel Cabrera (8-7) vs. (L) Zach Jackson (0-0)
Texas Rangers at Boston Red Sox, 7:05 pm
(R) Tommy Hunter (0-1) vs. (R) Daisuke Matsuzaka (13-2)

NL
San Francisco Giants at Houston Astros, 2:05 pm
(R) Kevin Correia (2-6) vs. (R) Brian Moehler (8-4)
Arizona Diamondbacks at Colorado Rockies, 3:05 pm
(R) Dan Haren (12-6) vs. (L) Glendon Rusch (5-3)
Milwaukee Brewers at San Diego Padres, 3:35 pm
(R) Ben Sheets (11-5) vs. (R) Jake Peavy (8-8)
Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates, 7:05 pm
(R) Johnny Cueto (7-11) vs. (R) Ian Snell (4-9)
Chicago Cubs at Atlanta Braves, 7:10 pm
(L) Ted Lilly (11-6) vs. (L) Tom Glavine (2-3)
New York Mets at Washington Nationals, 7:10 pm
(L) Oliver Perez (8-7) vs. (R) Collin Balester (2-4)
St. Louis Cardinals at Florida Marlins, 7:10 pm
(R) Todd Wellemeyer (9-4) vs. (L) Scott Olsen (6-7)
Philadelphia Phillies at Los Angeles Dodgers, 10:10 pm
(R) Brett Myers (5-9) vs. (R) Hiroki Kuroda (6-8)

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
Ryan Howard extended his major league leading consecutive games-played streak to 235. He has 74 homers and 215 RBIs during the streak.

Top of the 9th
NATHAN IS NO HOT DOG
Twins closer Joe Nathan made a gift of $500,000 to his alma mater, Stony Brook University in New York, to build a new baseball field that will be called Joe Nathan Field.

By the way, if you are ever looking for terrific sushi in the Boston/Brookline/Watertown area of Massachusetts, go to Super Fusion, home of the “Billy-Ball Maki.” I am not kidding.

Bottom of the 9th
BUY THE BOOK
Bill Chuck is the creator of Billy-Ball.com and, with Jim Kaplan, is the author of the book, “Walk-Offs, Last Licks, and Final Outs – Baseball’s Grand (and not so Grand) Finales,” with a Foreword by Jon Miller available now from ACTA Sports.

Autographed first editions are available by contacting, Bill@billy-ball.com or order directly from Acta Sports, http://www.actasports.com/detail.html?&id=3427 or from your favorite bookstore worldwide.

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Information provided in Billy-Ball has been gathered from A.P. reports, espn.com, sportsline.com, mlb.com and numerous other e-sources. Opinions expressed in Billy-Ball are obviously solely the opinions of the author of Billy-Ball and do not reflect those of source material no matter how off the wall they may be.