Once the skies came crashing open last night in the bottom of the third inning the Yankees’ fate was pretty much sealed. Down 1-0 to the Rays, barring an unexpected 15- to 20-minute rain delay A.J. Burnett‘s night was going to be over, and Joe Girardi was going to have to milk 5 2/3 innings out of a tired and thin bullpen.
I’ve been as vocal as anyone about Girardi’s seemingly endless stretch of bizarre moves this month; however in this case I’m not sure what other choices he had. I’d love to win the division as much as anyone else, but with the rain coming when it did he had to rely on the seedy underbelly of his bullpen to at least try to get the team to the 7th without digging the Yankees too deep a hole. Burning David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain or Kerry Wood in the 4th, 5th or 6th innings of a game you’d like to have but wasn’t critical would’ve been pretty wasteful, and considering the Yankees were ultimately only able to muster up two measly runs, proved to be the right call.
Royce Ring made his Yankee debut in the top of the 4th and surprisingly retired the first five men he faced before walking OBP machine John Jaso with two outs in the fifth. A Carl Crawford RBI single off Dustin Moseley extended the Rays’ lead to 2-0. The Rays would go on to score runs in every remaining inning of the game off a string of pitchers they will likely not even face in the postseason.
Speaking of which, if it’s any consolation, of the 29 runs the Rays have scored against the Yankees during the last six games the two teams have played, 16 have come against Ivan Nova, Sergio Mitre, Chad Gaudin, Dustin Moseley, Jonathan Albaladejo and Royce Ring, also known as a group of pitchers that won’t be making the postseason roster save probably Nova, and even if Nova does make it he likely won’t be starting any games barring an emergency.
Which means that the Yankees and Rays have played their last six games to a tie with the Rays scoring more than 50% of their runs during that span against the Yankees’ worst pitchers, while the Yankees have basically seen nothing but the Rays’ best pitchers, save perhaps Jake McGee. Ultimately this probably doesn’t mean much of anything, but I do think it’s an encouraging sign given that the Rays do not have a top-five offense and will be facing far superior pitching should these two teams meet up in the ALCS.
One slightly off-topic subject I’d like to quickly address is the scorekeeping of inherited runners. There needs to be a better way — and it’s quite possibly there already is — of charging inherited runs to relievers. I understand that a runner left on by the previous pitcher is his responsibility, but when that runner comes around to score the pitcher sitting on the bench obviously didn’t give up the hit or walk that scored him. I don’t know if it’s 0.75 runs to the pitcher who left the game and 0.25 runs to the reliever who let the inherited runner score, but it seems crazy that a reliever isn’t penalized for letting inherited runners score. For example, though he was only charged with one run, Dustin Moseley did let two score on his watch last night. Same thing with Albalaedejo — he was charged with one, but walked in a bases-loaded run that gave the Rays a four-run lead and basically put the game out of reach. Of course, since it was Gaudin’s batter, Gaudin was charged. If anyone knows of any pitching metrics that quantify this — and I bet Baseball Prospectus has one — please let me know.
While we’re on the topic of advanced metrics, as I was trying to fall asleep last night I was wondering whether there was a way to improve wOBA. Don’t get me wrong, I obviously think the world of it, but if we’re truly trying to encapsulate a player’s entire offensive contributions, shouldn’t wOBA take pitches-per-plate-appearance and baserunning into account? A hitter like Brett Gardner that takes lengthy at-bats is still providing a net positive for his team in wearing the opposing pitcher down even when he doesn’t get on base, while a baserunner who can get from first to third on a single with less than two outs is putting himself in a better position to score on a sac fly. I realize the differences in percentages and run values with regards to baserunner positioning are probably minimal, and perhaps we’re getting too granular here, but I do wonder whether including stats such as P/PA and perhaps TB or something along those lines would provide an even more comprehensive picture of a player’s overall offensive contributions? Again, if any stat-minded readers care to pipe in I’d love to expand the discussion.
Getting back to the game, the Bombers’ only offense in this one was a solo bomb by Lance Berkman, which not only broke up the Rays’ no-hitter in the fifth but was finally Puma’s first home run as a Yankee. Fat Elvis has been one of the Yankees’ most productive players in September (.370/.460/.481), and if he can maintain his hot hitting he’ll be a very valuable weapon in the postseason. During the game Mark Feinsand of the Daily News Tweeted “I’m telling you, I think Berkman is going to have some big hits in the postseason. He’s this year’s Aaron Boone,” to which I responded “I hope you’re right about Berkman getting big hits, but not about him being Boone, who hit .170/.196/.302 in ’03 postseason.”
It’s funny how peoples’ memories of certain events can get foggy — no one on earth would ever care about Aaron Boone had he not hit that walk-off in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, and yet all one has to do is hit one extraordinarily memorable home run and you’ll be the talk of Yankee fans for the rest of your life. I see where Feinsand was going with his comp, and I know it was on Twitter and all, but if you’re going to make comments like that and want people to respect your knowledge, you really should look the numbers up. Boone was clearly utterly wretched in the 2003 postseason outside of that solo bomb, and in actuality was pretty terrible as a Yankee even in the regular season (.254/.302/.418). The best thing I can say about Boone is that I’m glad he hit that home run and doubly glad he was foolish enough to break his ankle playing basketball.
In any event, the Yankees ultimately lost this game 7-2, enabling the Rays to crawl back to 1 1/2 games out. The Sawx finally beat Buck Showalter and so the Magic Number remains at 3. Tonight’s CC Sabathia-David Price rematch will presumably be epic, but once again try not to read too much into the result. If the Rays win they’ll be a 1/2 game out and everyone will assume they’ll run away with the division because they have like 8,000 games left against the Royals while the Yankees have to deal with the Sox for six more and the Toronto Extra Base Hits for three. I wouldn’t get overly concerned about the remaining schedule — if the Yankees do end up winning the division they’ll have earned it; likewise with the Rays.
The ALDS starts two weeks from yesterday; it’s time to focus on getting everyone healthy and 100% ready for the postseason.
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