Monthly Archives: July 2009 - Page 2

Yankees to Play Rays

After an impressive 9-1 run to start the second half of play the Yankees go back within the division to take on the surging Rays. This is not an extremely important series but with their play against the Red Sox being as dreadful as it is, they must take it to the rest of the division to keep it a two team race.

The Yankees have generally played well against the Rays including last season the first of the Rays big turnaround. Also going in their favor is the fact that Sergio Mitre their worst pitcher just pitched so he will not be going for them in this series.

While the Yankees have been playing well, so have the Rays. They have also made some pretty impressive come backs, the highlight of which was a come from behind victory against the Blue Jays where they won 10-9 after trailing 9-1 in the sixth. The Rays also have a good set of pitchers going this series in James Shields, Scott Kazmir, and Matt Garza.

If the Yankees are able to win this series and continue their fine play then they have a good chance of burying the Rays in the division boosting their shot of landing a playoff spot whether it be a return to AL East champion or a wild card birth. This of course is second fiddle to actually beating the Red Sox but if the Yankees can take these games it goes a long way to making up for their deficiencies against the Red Sox head to head, though that is something that should change if they plan on ending the season as world champs.

The Mets Have a Winning Streak

For the first time since, I believe, before the All-Star break the Mets have won two games in a row, giving them a winning streak. Now not only have they come out and won a series, winning the rubber game to do so (not something the Mets have done a lot of this season), but they did it by finally putting up some offense. Now I am not sure if they were just embarrassed by their performance in Washington, or if they happen to like hitting in the Astros’s park, but I’ll take an offensive outburst like that any day.

The Mets came into this series dropping the last two games against the Nationals where they got one run combined in those two games. They then proceeded to lose the first game of the series despite having their ace Johan Santana on the mound, though to be honest it was probably more Santana’s fault as he had an uncharacteristic start and gave up five runs as the Mets lost 5-4. Going into the second game they were putting their young pitcher out and the prospects of another series loss seemed inevitable especially against a hot Astros team that before the series had worked themselves within a game of first in their division. Behind a strong performance by their youngster Niese the Mets put up ten runs to win the game. Today they had an even more impressive performance as Livan started out the game giving up three runs making it seem like it would be a long day. This combined with the fact that the Mets have not done well after trailing and it seemed certain that it would be a loss despite only being in the first inning. However the Mets again put up some nice offensive numbers and without a homerun managed eight runs. Livan settled down and combined with effective pitching from the bullpen to shut the Astros out the rest of the way.

So what has led to this turnaround for the Mets? Well the amazing thing is it has not jut been offense but it has been effective pitching as well. With the way Livan was pitching earlier they could have easily lost despite putting up the eight runs. Sticking with the offense, the big thing is they are finally getting extra base hits. Yes there have been games this season where the Mets haven’t gotten hits period but the problem was when they were getting hits they were singles leading to tons of runners being left on base. Francoeur can be seen as a reason for the newly found ability to get extra base hits as with the way he swings the bat, every time he makes contact you know the ball will be hit hard. He leads the team in RBIs this month despite not joining the team until the eleventh. Now there is much more than this trade that is helping this team, as another big help has been the return of Angel Pagan. He was hitting well before he was put on the DL and he has picked it up since his return giving the Mets a much needed lead-off man. Castillo, slated right behind him, has been really hot with the bat giving the Mets a fantastic 1-2 punch on top of the line-up. All this hitting has taken the pressure off of Wright allowing him to relax and start hitting again which has given them enough hitters to put up some good numbers. For the series the team is hitting .342 with twelve extra base hits, scoring twenty-two runs on the weekend.

While this has been an exciting change for the Mets I understand it has just been two games and so it will be a little premature to say the Mets have completely turned things around. The coming up series is against the Rockies and it will be interesting to see if they continue this offensive outburst and possibly take the series, an important one as the Rockies lead the wild card. Also Reyes has started his rehab and could rejoin the team early August. If the Mets can get close to .500 with the addition of Reyes they can make a run to end the season, especially if they get Delgado back for any of that.

23 Scoreless Innings for Hughes

Phil Hughes the highly touted pitching prospect for the Yankees has just finished his twenty-third consecutive scoreless inning as the Yankees set-up man. This the same Hughes that most Yankees fans would have been glad to ship out to the Twins along with other prospects for Johan Santana a couple seasons ago. Now twenty-three seems like an arbitrary number to celebrate but the importance is it is the first time a Yankee reliever has done it since 2005 when Mariano Rivera managed the same feat. So now with this number would it be wise to consider Hughes to be a reliever for the rest of his career and an eventual replacement for Rivera?

On first glance it doesn’t seem like that bad of an idea. Rivera started his career as a set-up man and has turned into possibly the best closer in Major League history. If Hughes can come close to that production by the end of his career the move would definitely be worth it. The problem is the Yankees have the perfect player to replace Rivera in their starting rotation. Now I know this issue has been talked about a ton but that was more, should Joba be a starter or reliever. Well now the issue is slightly different, with the Yankees having two young players who found success in the bullpen despite originally intending the player to be a starter, which one should replace Rivera and which one should stay in the rotation? Well you could possibly have one the set-up man and one the closer and have arguably the best one-two punch in baseball for the next decade but I don’t see the Yankees taking two highly touted starting pitching prospects and putting them both in the bullpen.

Ultimately I believe Joba should be the closer because while I believe Hughes could do a good job in the role I believe Joba is a much more dominating reliever. As a reliever Joba can push the fastball back up to the 100 mph area he had hit consistently as a reliever. In addition I believe as a reliever you can get away with just two pitches and with his fastball and slider working Joba is flat out dominate and while he is a good starter he is an amazing reliever. Hughes on the other hand is a good reliever but I don’t believe he can be as dominate as Joba and I also believe Hughes’s top three pitches are better set up for a starter. If he developed his curveball something he could do as a starter, he could develop into a very good pitcher. The only way I see keeping Joba in the rotation and having Hughes close is if you believe Joba will eventually be an ace, or you do not believe Hughes will ever be that great of a starting pitcher.

Jon Niese Has Arrived

The last time we saw Jon Niese he was struggling to get to the fifth inning against the division rival Braves. This outing was a completely different experience for the young left hander as he managed to go seven innings of one run ball to get his first win of the season. To say he looked good in this start would be an understatement, as Niese had the command of a seasoned veteran and the stuff of a young star. The first inning was a little shaky for Niese but once he got command of his curveball the Astros had a tough time figuring him out. He finished the game with three strike outs and managed to get two Astros to ground out into double plays.

This start was very encouraging and impressive as Jon Niese really looked like a Major League pitcher, something that didn’t seem to be the case even in the start earlier this season against the Pirates where his numbers were good. He looked poised and had great command of all his pitches not making many mistakes and keeping his walks down. If Niese can continue this production for the remainder of the season, not necessarily pitching seven innings of one run ball but just continuing to show command and overall an ability to pitch at the Major League level, then the Mets will not have to so desperately look for pitchers for next season, something that will help greatly seeing as how many holes the Mets will have going into next year with Delgado, Livan and possibly even Maine not coming back to the Metropolitans. With a rotation sporting Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey and an effective Jon Niese the Mets could be one top of the rotation starter from having a top rotation. Something that will be important as the Mets do not have a clean up hitter in line for next year and might decide to stick with Murphy and his .245 average at first.

Overall I find this start very encouraging and for the first time in weeks made watching the Mets an exciting evening activity, and at the very least gave me a reason to watch the Mets every fifth day. Going off topic from this article it was also pretty nice to see the Mets put up the type of offensive production they had last season and if they can figure out how to consistently get those extra base hits like they did last night, they have a chance of getting back into this race, though a slim chance.

The 2009 Yankees

The Yankees have had a far different season than that of the Mets. Following an offseason spending spree that added both the best pitcher and hitter on the Market there were high expectations for a Yankee squad that had just missed the playoffs for the first time since 1995. As the season started the Yankees got off to a slow start as C.C. Sabathia, the big pitcher that was acquired was not pitching great, Mark Teixeira their big bat acquired couldn’t hit, and old greats Alex Rodriguez and Chien Ming-Wang were not on the team to help, the former because of an injury and the latter because of ineffective play.

These struggles wouldn’t last long as Texiera picked it up big time hitting twenty home runs before the all-star break and while Sabathia never lived up to expectations he still pitched well. In addition Rodriguez came back from injury and while his average was not up to par he still had similar power numbers to his career average. While these players might have been a large reason for the early season struggles, they were not solely responsible for the tear the team went on to end up where they are now leading their division with the best record in the American League. The contributing players start with the revival of Jorge Posada, a big question mark coming into the season after an injury plagued campaign last year, not an easy thing to come back from for an aging catcher. It continued on with Robinson Cano returning back to the form that made him one of the best young second basemen in baseball, the return of Hideki Matsui after missing most of last season with injuries. An all-star season from the captain Derek Jeter and some contributions from young players like Gardner and Cabrera. All of these have contributed to make the Yankees offense one of the best in the Majors and make them seemingly never out of a game.

It is interesting to note that not that much pitching was talked about in the previous paragraph and that is not because the Yankees have not gotten good contributions from their rotation or bullpen but that the contributions have just been enough to make the pitching good enough to not cost the Yankees many games and it is instead the hitting that is the big reason the Yankees are where they are today. They do have a good rotation with Sabathia performing well, AJ Burnett their other big pitching pick up playing as well as expected, Joba Chamberlain constantly improving and steady play by Andy Pettite. They also got a big boost by finding a set-up man in Phil Hughes something that has helped solidify a bullpen that was a problem earlier in the season.

Overall when looking at this Yankee season you see a team that has been playing well and should have World Series aspirations. Their big problem to this point is that they have yet to win a game against the Red Sox something that will be a problem if both teams make the playoffs especially with the Yankees inability to beat the Angels in the playoffs. A team that swept them earlier this season and currently leads its division making it possible the Yankees will have to get through them if they want any hopes of a championship. If the Yankees continue to play the way they have on this most recent eight game winning streak they have a good chance of finally beating those teams especially after an impressive sweep of the first place Tigers that started the second half of baseball.