Wednesday, April 25, 2007

$190M failures?

The Yankees are dead last in the AL East after honking last night against the D'Rays.

Boston127.632-7-35-49570Lost 27-3
Baltimore119.5501.57-44-59486Lost 27-3
Toronto1010.5002.55-55-59988Won 24-6
Tampa Bay911.4503.55-64-5108126Won 25-5
NY Yankees811.42145-33-8120100Lost 54-6

Even worse: look at the runs scored/runs against columns (RS/RA) -- the Yanks have outscored their opponents by 20 runs in 19 games but still have a losing record. The Yanks' expected winning percentage based upon their for/against scoring is 11-8. In other words, the Yanks are three games worse than expected -- an indication of managerial problems or failure in the clutch.

Right now, the bullpen is a shambles. After essentially demoting Farnsworth after some early shakiness (and he's done much better recently), Torre has wiped out Proctor and Vizcaino. And ultimately, the Yanks' relief, even allowing for rampant overuse, is failing to perform. Look at the Yanks' losing streak: in the past 5 games the Yanks have had the lead going into the bottom of the 7th three times.

On Friday, Torre mismanaged the game to oblivion. On Sunday, he eschewed Farnsworth (who had pitched Saturday and whom the Yanks try not to use on consecutive days) and pitched Proctor for the fourth time in five days -- Proctor spit the bit, a foreseeable occurrence given the overuse of a player with a history of arm problems and an inability to shut down the Sawx (22 ER in 25.1 IP in his career). Yesterday, Torre did the right thing by trying to stretch Wang into the 7th, but used the lefty-lefty crutch Mike Myers, who has stunk worse than a French cheese distributor's warehouse. Considering that the Yanks targeted Vizcaino in the Johnson trade specifically because he can get lefties out, why not stick with him with two out in the bottom of the 6th?

Even when Torre has not erred, the bullpen has failed him. Brian Bruney coughed up 3 runs on Monday that turned a 7-6 deficit to 10-6 in a game the Yanks lost 10-8. Rivera honked on Jackie Robinson Day by turning two outs, none on and a 4-2 lead into a 5-4 loss at the hands of Oakland's David Eckstein clone, Marco Scutaro. And when asked to hold a THREE run lead against Bastin as Torre sought to correct his mistakes, Rivera threw Jamie Moyer speed fastballs over the plate to turn a win to a loss last Friday.

What to do? First, a serious get your s--t together session with the bullpen, use or no use. When we need you, you have to respond. Expect this heavy use in October, so be ready to perform. Next month, or June, or July, when the Yanks are rolling at some point and beating the snot out of opponents, you'll be rested because we won't need you so much, but we need you to always be ready and especially if you've had a day off, we expect you to perform well.

Second, Cashman should dump Myers. He's a soft-tossing lefty. If he makes a mistake, the ball flies far. Cutting him also deprives Torre of an easy crutch -- call on Myers to handle one tough lefty or two. That means Torre has to stick with other pitchers and will make fewer bullpen changes, thereby burning fewer pitchers per game (it's worse to pitch a reliever 2/3 innings on consecutive nights than 2 innings on one night with a day off the next day) and preserving the relievers.

Third, decide who is the 8th inning guy and stick with it. Choose Farnsworth or Proctor (or Farnsworth as first choice, Proctor if Farnsworth pitched the previous day), then mix-and-match from there. It's Ron Guidry's job to hammer home to Farnsworth the importance of spotting that 100 mph fastball and throwing it 70% of the time or more, stop farking around with the sliders.

That's a start. And a necessary one. For the Yanks to leave Texas next Thursday over .500, they need to win six of eight against Toronto (just won two in Beantown), Boston and at Arlington (road record for the Yanks: 3-8) while running Hughes and Karstens out on the mound at least three times combined before Moooooooooooooose returns on May 3. Somewhat tall task, but a lineup that rattles off 120 runs in 19 games can do it if the team gets some bullpen help and decent starting pitching . . .

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