Last December the New York Yankees made a trade to get a number four starter. Only using three pitchers in the postseason, and unsure of who was going to be the number five man, they got it done.
So long Melky Cabrera. Hello (again) Javier Vazquez.
Boasting a 15-10 record in 2009 with a minuscule 2.87 ERA and 238 strikeouts, some people were happy with the move. I, on the other hand, was not a proponent of this trade from the get go, remembering how poorly he had performed in his first stint in pinstripes.
Vazquez, a member of the Yankees in 2004, was the losing pitcher in Game 7 of the 2004 American League Championship Series, surrendering the infamous grand slam to Johnny Damon–a blast that basically put the Yankees away.
Back in pinstripes, Vazquez made his first start of 2010 on April 9. What happened? He picked up right where he left off in ’04 and got rocked. He tossed 5 2/3 innings, was charged with eight earned runs on eight hits, walked three, and struck out five.
Not the way he wanted to start the season, I’m sure.
His second start was a little better, but Vazquez still was not good enough to win. Against the Angels on April 14, he tossed 5 1/3 innings and gave up four earned runs on six hits. He walked two and struck out four. It certainly was not his best start, but it was a step up from his first.
Last Tuesday night in Oakland he got his first W of ’10 beating the Athletics in a 7-3 Yankee win. This time Vazquez made it through 5 1/3 innings, and gave up three runs on six hits. He walked three and fanned six.
Then we came to today…
Just when it seemed Vazquez was heading in an upward direction in terms of his pitching, he backpedaled and collapsed. He did not make it past the fourth frame, only giving the Yanks 3 2/3 innings of work. He served up five runs on five hits, walked three and struck out three. Not to mention he coughed up a three-run lead.
His pitching led to the Yankees’ first series loss of 2010, as they dropped two games out of three this weekend to the Halos. Yes–totally the opposite of cool.
Right now, Vazquez is the weakest link on the Yankee pitching staff. He has not pitched past the sixth inning this season and has given up 20 earned runs in all 20 innings he has thrown. He has failed to locate with his pitches and has been hanging too many breaking balls.
Bobby Abreu was a clear example of that today.
In the third inning, the former Yankee blasted a solo home run to right off Vazquez, a bomb hit off a terribly executed breaking ball. Vazquez threw 78 pitches, 47 of which were strikes.
If you ask me, of those 78 pitches, probably 38 or 39 of them were off-speed. Vazquez has shown no faith in his fastball. It seems he overthrows his fastball too much and subsequently misses the strike zone because of it. He has issued eight walks this season, indicating his location problem.
So far this trade has not paid off and it’s looking like a bad one. I’m not concerned with his numbers from last year, his numbers from 2004, or any other year for that matter. What does matter is 2010 and how unproductive Vazquez’s outings have been.
At this moment, we as Yankee fans have every reason to disapprove of the trade.
His next time out will come at home against one of his former teams, the Chicago White Sox, on Saturday May 1. I am going to give Vazquez a month. If he is still struggling as mightily as he is now by June 1, I am going to go on a search for a starting pitcher to replace him.
I will look far and wide; I will look at every stat from every Yankee minor league hurler, I will glance at every team in baseball who might need Vazquez–while at the same time finding a suitable replacement; a pitcher putting up numbers in accordance to a good number four starter.
Honestly, at this point in the season, the Yankees could probably throw their bat boy out there and he could do better than Vazquez. He is too inconsistent and does not seem to be moving in the same direction of the team. He is the only starter in the rotation with a losing record.
CC Sabathia (2-1), A.J. Burnett (2-0), Andy Pettitte (3-0), Phil Hughes (2-0)
Vazquez is now 1-3.
Before the season began, an analyst said Vazquez has the stuff to be a number two pitcher. While that may or may not be true, he is not showing that right now. He is only showing that he cannot do the job he was brought on board to do.
We’ll see what he is made of. He has until June 1. Then, if he has shown no improvement, I say the Yankees ought to dump him off. It’s not like he is under contract for 2011 as it is.
–Marcus Thames has got nothing on Brett Gardner in left field. He started this afternoon, only to misplay a ball out in left. There are some big guys who can move around pretty well in the outfield (like Nick Swisher)
Thames is a big guy who can’t move around well. If he had caught the fly ball, it would have been a whole different game today. Thames only started because he supposedly “wears down left-handed pitching,” a Scott Kazmir (a lefty) started for the Halos.
Thames did have a hit and a run scored, but that misplayed ball hurt big time.
–The Yankees only have to play the Angels twice more this season: July 20-21 at home in Yankee Stadium. Thank God for getting them out of the way in April! They are too tough to be playing down the stretch.
–As mentioned before, the Yankees are 5-1 in their first six series this season. This past series was their first losing effort. Still, it’s not bad to have won five straight to begin the year. Good start!
–Robinson Cano was hit by a pitch in the second inning. Jorge Posada came up to bat right after Cano and launched a two-run homer.
Message to the 29 other teams in the MLB: you hit the Yankees, they will hit back!
Cano also homered in this game, clubbing his fifth of the year, and he now leads the Yankee team in long balls.
–Mark Teixeira needs to get off the interstate and start getting some hits. He did draw two walks today, but he is supposed to be a big threat to the other team’s pitching. Currently batting .119, he poses no threat right now at all.
Wake up, Tex!
–Speaking of Teixeira , I really don’t know how I feel about him ramming the catcher Friday night. I’m not sure if Teixeira did it because he got hit with a pitch before it happened, but whatever the case, he mowed him down.
It is part of the game and many runners coming hard into home plate do it, but I felt sorry for Bobby Wilson. It’s happened to the Yankees before, in spring training prior to 2008. Elliot Johnson of the Rays broke Francisco Cervelli’s wrist that way.
It’s dangerous! The league should consider regulating collisions somehow, if it’s doable.
Teixeira really got him good (giving Wilson a concussion and an ankle injury) but at least he apologized and felt some remorse for the hit. That is the type of personality Teixeira has, but if I were him, I’d watch out in July. The Angels might want some retribution.
And Justin Tuck better watch out. If the New York Giants need a linebacker or a defensive end, Teixeira might be their man. That hit was football-esque!
–On their day off tomorrow, the Yankees will visit the White House in honor of their 2009 World Series Championship. Message to Joe Girardi: tell Obama to fix the economy, create jobs for hard-working Americans who need work, and that his health care bill is trash and should be thrown away.
I think it’s nice that the President recognizes the nation’s sports titles and invites the Champs to the White House. It’s been happening for years and years; I know Clinton and Bush both did the same thing.
–On Tuesday the Yankees go to Baltimore to play the Orioles for three games. Phil Hughes, CC Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett will start those three games, respectively.
–Right now the Yankees are 12-6, in second place in the AL East, a game behind the Rays who are 14-5.
With Game One of the American League Championship Series looming and the Yankees in a position they haven’t been in since 2004, the Bronx Bombers are set to square off with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Friday night.
And I have to admit, I am a little scared. But I suppose as a wise man (namely F.D.R.) once said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
The Yanks eliminated the Twins in the first round of the playoffs twice before in recent years (2003-04) and history repeated itself in 2009. The Yankees also had the Twins’ number during the regular season, beating them seven times without losing.
It’s safe to say the history vs. the Twins proved that the edge went to the Yankees in the ALDS. But the Yanks’ history vs. the Angels for the ALCS…not so much in their favor.
In 2002, the Halos took care of the Yankees in four games in the ALDS while in 2005 they took out the Yankees in five games. Not to mention the Yankees are 44-56 vs. the Angels since 2000 and have only won four season series against the Halos since 1987.
The Angels have not been very kind to the Yankees in the past, that’s for sure.
Consider this: in 2002, the Yankees took game one of the ALDS from the Angels, but after that totally disintegrated. Andy Pettitte had one of his worst postseason starts in game two, and in game three Mike Mussina was beat up and smacked around, blowing a 6-1 Yankee lead.
The Angels had all the momentum after game three, just lit up David Wells in the fifth inning of game four, and went on to knock the Yankees out of the playoffs in the first round. It was also the first time the Angels won a postseason series and they went on to win the World Series in ’02, beating the San Francisco Giants.
There’s no questioning the fact that the Angels just walked all over the Yankees in 2002.
In 2005, the Yankees relied heavily on old and injured players, along with a little bit of an inexperienced outfield. After trading victories in the first two games, Randy Johnson gave up five runs in the first three innings of game three.
The Yankees made their way back to a 6-5 lead, only to have it squirreled away by relievers Aaron Small and Tom Gordon. The Bombers obviously lost game three.
Game four was a thriller; the Yankees won by scoring two runs in the seventh inning with RBI singles from Derek Jeter and good, old Ruben Sierra. Then it was time for the decisive game five.
In the final game, Mussina followed the lead of the Big Unit in game three, allowing five runs in three innings. Plus, center fielder Bubba Crosby collided with right fielder Gary Sheffield, costing the Yankees big time. Bad defense hurt the Yankees in game five and they were never able to catch up.
I’ll never forget the words after that series ending, 2005 ALDS game five loss; one of the announcers said something like, “The Yankees’ $hundred million payroll comes up just a couple bucks short.”
I hated that quote. It infuriated me.
But in all honesty, the Angels outplayed the Yankees in the ’05 ALDS. They outscored them 25-20, out-hit them 46-42, and the Yankees made six defensive errors in that series. The Angels only committed one.
I hate to say it, but the Yankees had no business winning that series.
If you check your calendar though, it’s 2009, not 2005. And only 11 players from those 2005 rosters remain with the Yankees and Angels.
Along with the history, there are still numbers standing in front of the Yankees. Jeter has a measly batting average against two of the Angels’ four starters; against Scott Kazmir, Jeter owns a lifetime batting average of .111. Against Jered Weaver, the Yankee captain is .118.
That’s not very good, especially considering Jeter is the leadoff hitter, or “table-setter” for the Yankees.
And then there’s CC Sabathia, who will be making quite a few starts in this series since the Yankees have opted to go with a three-man rotation. If skipper Joe Girardi sticks with his idea of a three man rotation, Sabathia would pitch games one, four, and seven. (Game four he would be throwing on three days rest)
I think if the Yankees lose this series, everyone will jump on Girardi about the decision to go with a three-man rotation. It will be under heavy scrutiny, no matter what.
Sabathia is 0-2 with a 6.08 ERA vs. the Angels in 2009 and is 5-7 with a 4.42 ERA vs. LA lifetime. That’s not a promising sign, if you ask me.
But also think about some of Sabathia’s numbers against individual hitters. Gary Matthews, Jr. (one of the Angels’ key players) is 5-for-26 lifetime vs. the Yankee ace with 10 strikeouts. Vladimir Guerrero, another hitter who makes the Angels go, has not hit Sabathia well. Guerrero is just 3-for-15 lifetime against the big lefty.
Sabathia is also 7-2 with a 3.17 ERA at home this year, which is good because the Yankees have home field advantage in the ALCS. If the series reaches a game seven, he would make the start at Yankee Stadium.
Game two starter A.J. Burnett is 2-2 with a 4.43 ERA in six career starts against the Angels, and the last time he faced the Halos on Sept. 23, the tall, lanky right hander went 5 2/3 innings and allowed two runs while fanning 11 batters.
There’s a stat that works in the Yankees’ favor.
The Angels will most likely send Joe Saunders to the mound for game two. Although Saunders has not pitched since Oct. 4 (the last day of the regular season) he went 7-0 with a 2.55 ERA in eight starts after coming back in August from a shoulder injury.
Even though the Angels have dominated the Yankees in the past, the Yanks’ hitting has done some good work against the Angels in the past, too.
Although Jeter has not had much success against the Angels’ expected game three starter (Weaver) Alex Rodriguez has dominated him. In his career, A-Rod is 5-for-15 with four homers off Weaver. And Girardi should keep Eric Hinske in the back of his mind, as Hinske is 4-for-11 with a homer off Weaver.
Game three will take place at Angel Stadium of Anaheim with Pettitte starting against Weaver.
Pettitte struggled this year, going 0-2 with a 7.84 ERA at Angel Stadium. Not good, especially since game three is in Anaheim. The Yankees also need to watch out for Mike Napoli, Erick Aybar, Guerrero and Matthews, who all own averages well over .300 lifetime vs. Pettitte.
On the bright side, Pettitte is 12-10 with a 4.70 ERA against the Angels in his career, six of those wins coming in Anaheim. Oh, and by the way, he is 6-1 with a 3.92 ERA in the ALCS. Pettitte is what everyone says he is: a big game pitcher in the postseason.
Kazmir is expected to start game four and is 2-1 vs. New York this year, but the only loss came after he was traded from Tampa Bay to Los Angeles. He will obviously be facing Sabathia, in accordance to the Yankees’ three-man rotation.
So despite some negativity in history and numbers that work against the Yankees, there is some positive history and numbers that work for the Yankees.
This year the Angels and Yankees split the 10 games they played against each other; the Yankees won five against the Angels and vice-versa.
But I’m sure Girardi and his Yankees are not thinking about the past or the history between their team and the Angels. They are focusing on the task at hand, which is beating the Angels and then reaching (and hopefully winning) the World Series.
It’s going to be tough. The Angels and Yankees were the two best teams in the American League all year, so I think it’s only fitting that they meet in the ALCS. There’s more margin for error in this series, it being seven games and all. But still, I hope to see the Yankees come out on top when the smoke has cleared and the dust has settled.
After all, the Angels finally stopped their playoff losing streak vs. the Red Sox, beating them in the ALDS. Maybe now it’s the Yankees’ turn to stop their playoff losing streak vs. the Angels in the ALCS.
“To be honest, I think they look down on us. They have had their way with us for some time and now we have something to prove to them. It’s not the other way around.”–Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman
Looks like even the Yankee management knows what’s at stake here.
Well, see you Friday for ALCS Game One (Weather permitting; Friday’s forecast for the Bronx: a high of 45 degrees with an 80% chance of rain…I hope they can get this game in!)
Until then, Go Yankees!!!