Friday, October 30, 2009

That's why they get the big bucks

Kudos to AJ Burnett on his excellent performance last night -- 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 9 K. Burnett has had three very good or better starts in his four performances in the Yanks' postseason and last night's brilliance came in a crucial situation -- team down 1-0, Phillies striking first last night, first-ever WS start.

Some notes from the Yanks win:

(1) Kudos to Joey G. First, he went to Rivera for a six-out save. This should be a no-brainer, but Torre failed to do it five years ago when Francona was managing every game like it was game 7. Second, Girardi stuck with his Burnett-Molina battery even though the Yanks needed Posada's offense. Molina made the defensive play of the game picking off Jayson Werth at first after blocking a ball in the dirt. Thereafter, Burnett mowed down 11 of the final 12 hitters he faced, the crowd gained a little life and Tex banged the Yanks back into the game. Third, his intuition to play Jerry Hairston against Pedro (Hairston was 10-27 in his career against Pedro) paid off. Hairston went to the video tape in between at bats to figure out if the pitches he wasn't swinging at were actually strikes, determined they were, fought off a bunch of pitches in at bat #3 and plopped the single into right that started the Yanks' final scoring opportunity.

(2) Bad night for Charlie Manuel on a couple of questionable calls (retaining Pedro in the 7th, not sending the runners in the 8th). But Pedro's performance (6 IP, 8 H, 3 ER) was more than good enough to justify Manuel's decision to start him, especially considering that Matsui's homer in the 6th was a case of good hitting, not bad pitching.

(3) A-Rod sucks again. His swings are akin to the '05-'07 playoff A-Rod, not the '09 ALCS A-Rod. Verducci has more on this at The approach by the Yankees as a whole was wrong -- they know to look for the offspeed stuff and sit on the changeup up in the zone but largely hacked away at change-ups out of the strike zone. When they looked for the change, they did better -- like Tex's homer and Matsui's single (Matsui's homer was a good swing on a tough pitch).

(4) Welcome back Hideki Matsui. He was basically out to lunch from Game 2 of the ALDS through Wednesday, but came back last night to play a key role in the Yanks' win.

(5) Here's all you need to know about Phil Hughes right now. In the 7th, with a rested Rivera unquestionably set to pitch the 8th and 9th, Joey G. warmed up Joba in case he needed to pull Burnett.

(6) If I'm a pitcher, I don't throw Melky Cabrera anything above the knee. He's a dead high-ball hitter and quick enough to pull high outside heat. But he's clueless down in the zone.

(7) The umpires are just awful. Brian Gorman made two bad calls. One that very likely cost the Yankees, another that could have cost the Phillies. In the 7th, he ruled Damon lined out to Ryan Howard, even though Howard clearly short-hopped the ball. After Howard threw wide to second, the Yanks should have had bases loaded and one out for Tex. Instead, Damon was out and Posada was tagged out for leaving the base on a fly ball. Worse yet, the umps checked the replays after the game and still think they made the right call even though the Fox cameras show otherwise! Where was Gorman positioned? Behind Howard (who is quite large). How can Gorman make the out call like that when he can't even see the non-catch? Howard's first reaction upon getting the ball was to throw to second for a force out -- that's a dead giveaway that Howard himself didn't think he made the catch.

In the 8th, Gorman bonked the play at first on Utley's double play grounder. He was safe. This had a big impact for the Phils (it would have been first and third, two out, Howard up) but a less likely scoring chance considering that there would have been two out for Howard, as opposed to one out for Tex. Gorman later said the replays showed him a "little bit" of the ball was out of Tex's glove when Utley hit the bag. Yeah, that "little bit" would be basically the whole ball. Gorman is justifying his honks. According to this article, Gorman is "very good" on the bases, his ball/strike calls are a bit hinky and he gives make up calls. Guess who is behind the plate Saturday.

P.S. -- I like Buster Olney's insights and analysis a lot, but that Patience Index is pretty worthless. The mere fact that Brett Gardner saw six pitches in his only plate appearance is not a sign of effectiveness. The fact that he whiffed is what mattered. Ryan Howard saw 18 pitches in four at bats (4.5 per, a high total) and struck out four times. If the pitches faced can correlate to pitcher effectiveness, that's one thing (e.g., if Rivera had given up the lead in the 8th, Olney could point back to Rollins' 11-pitch walk), but just pointing out how many pitches someone faced is not particularly useful.

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