Tuesday, June 3, 2008


* - That will be explained.
Sorry about the delay in posts.  Life got very busy for a while there. But I'm here to post some thoughts. Naturally, it's about the bullpen.
My last post was titled "Life after Joba: so far so good". Boy, can things change in a hurry. The two pitchers for whom I've repeatedly stumped, Kyle Farnsworth and LaTroy Hawkins, have been horribly inconsistent and have been directly responsible for at least 2 Yankees losses during a stretch where the team was actually winning more than losing.
Of course, I personally believe that people like Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano should be held more accountable for the team's under-performance recently, but because the media seems to have a penchant for over-scrutinizing a team's bullpen, that is what we're focusing on.
Edwar Ramirez needs to be given more chances in games that matter. He's done a great job so far, and honestly, why NOT try him in the 8th? He has improved his approach over the offseason by throwing more fastballs in his outings, and he is attacking the zone and trusting his stuff. I don't know if Edwar is the definitive solution for the 8th inning, but he should be given a chance.
However, given my recent track record for supporting various bullpen arms (only to watch them flame out in spectacular fashion), I'm going to try NOT to jinx it. So I say "Keep Edwar OUT of the 8th inning!"
Likewise, I'm going to say "JB Cox is NOT the answer" and "Keep Mark Melancon in Trenton!" and of course, let's not forget "Chris Britton is a jerk and belongs in the Minors!"
aaaaaaaanyway, our good friends at MLB Trade Rumors have a few interesting tidbits. Rockies are interested in LaTroy, Yanks are interested in Brian Fuentes, and the Yanks are interested in (surprise) Damaso Marte. I don't know much about the LaTroy and Fuentes rumors, but I know Wilson Betemit has been brought up on more than one occasion as a potential trade chip for Marte. He should get a chance to showcase his abilities, given Robinson Cano's inconsistency. I've always found it foolish to trade for relievers (especially when the farm is flush with them), but a left-hander with a good track record against lefties (and can get righties out) is tough to complain about. Besides, Betemit is little more than a spare part at this point, and Alberto Gonzalez is a better fielder anyway.
Next post coming.....whenever

Friday, May 23, 2008

Life after Joba: So far, so good

The bullpen fired 3 scoreless innings in a 1-1 game against Baltimore last night. By now, you know how it ended: the single, the strikeout, the "strikeout", the toss, the walk, the single, the game. The excitement of the bottom of the 9th overshadowed the performance by the bullpen...I would just like to say, that was a pretty gutsy move putting in Jose Veras in the 7th. Yankees brass have generally liked his arm, and the fact that he pitched in a tie game in such an important inning cemented that fact.

But more importantly, in an attempt to make all of the doubters in Yankees stadium eat crow, Kyle Farnsworth blazed through 3 batters, recording a strikeout and throwing only 7 pitches. The fans that normally roll their eyes when he enters a game, and subsequently boo his every pitch out of the zone, didn't even have a chance to buy a bag of peanuts before Kyle ended the inning. That's the Kyle Farnsworth we were expecting to get after 2005.

Kyle is our 8th inning man. Girardi has said that Farnsworth will get an "extended look", for sure. Obviously we knew that he was going to have the inside track. But there's no doubt that Girardi's mind was already set. Unless he pitches his way out of there, Farns isn't losing that spot simply because another reliever is doing well. Veras, Ohlendorf, Ramirez, Hawkins, Cox, and Melancon can battle all they want for the 7th inning, but the 8th inning is already set.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

GAMEDAY: Orioles (24-21) at Yankees (21-25)

Available: Mo, Farnsworth, Hawkins, Ramirez
Likely: Veras
Maybe: Ohlendorf
Unavailable: Joba

It has begun! Joba is on his way out, and 8th inning auditions will now be taking place (see previous post). For the record, Hawkins is available because he is appealing his suspension, and will likely serve it the day after his next appearance. I love how they time these things!

Blog construction update:

I edited the Comments so that anybody can comment, not just registered users. Considering this blog is brand-new, I'm better off NOT being picky about who comments or not. This is probably my first mistake of many, and I'm open to suggestions as to how I can make this blog better.

"The process has started [now shut the fuck up]"

...because we know that's what Girardi really wanted to say.

Joba threw 35 pitches last night, mixed in his changeup, and finished the game in an 8-0 victory over the O's. Of course, the initial question was "Why?" but Girardi enlightened us. Of course, the question now is "Who pitches the 8th inning?"

A quick look through my previous posts shows me stumping for LaTroy Hawkins to get more meaningful innings, because he's been great over the past month and a half. And Kyle Farnsworth, though homer-prone, is still having a good season and is most likely to step back into the role that we brought him in for in the first place.

But let's face it. Most fans don't want to see those guys pitch the 8th. They'd rather see somebody else come up and do a good imitation of Joba Chamberlain. Who is most likely to do it? Well, let's go through the candidates, in order of likeliness:

Edwar Ramirez - In the current bullpen, he has the most potential of anybody. Just in general. His changeup is the best in the Majors, and thanks to some advice from Pedro Martinez, he has resolved to throw more fastballs and even mix in a cutter once in a while. It must be tempting for a pitcher to keep going to his money pitch, and hopefully he heeds Pedro's advice and only uses it when the time is right. Of course, most of us already knew that he should do this, but the important thing is that Edwar knows it!
My only problem with him is his walks, but considering he has never walked too many in the Minors, I'll attribute this to a combination of jitters and trying to be too perfect. The more time he sees out of the bullpen, the more confidence he'll get. Although I must be nitpicking, because a line of 0.00 ERA, a 0.90 WHIP, and 11 strikeouts in 10 innings is hard to not be happy with.

Ross Ohlendorf - Great stuff, good presence on the mound. I wrote about him at length the other day in the "Fireman" post, so I don't need to repeat myself here. He has the stuff to be an elite setup man, probably a closer on some teams. But he's only been a reliever for less than a year, so we'll have to be patient as he figures himself out. That could be in a couple of weeks, or it could be in a couple of years. We'll just have to wait and see. If it's in a couple of weeks, then Yankees fans should feel very secure about the bullpen going forward.

JB Cox - With all the fanfare surrounding Mark Melancon being "the next Joba", people forgot about our 2nd rounder from the 2005 draft. He has experience in closing, has good mound presence, and features a low-90s fastball and sharp curve. He's in AAA right now and is pitching very well, so he's pretty much just waiting for the Yankees to designate Chris Stewart for assignment and call JB up.

David Robertson - Snuck up through the farm system ever since being drafted in the 17th round of that great 2006 draft. He also throws in the low 90s but uses primarily a 2-seamer with a lot of movement, as opposed to a straighter 4-seamer. He used to employ a slider, but the Yankees had him scrap it and taught him a curveball...the fact that he is now pitching very well in AAA should tell you that it's worked for him. The Yankees will probably let him pitch a while longer in Scranton, but if there's a need for a solid arm in the Majors, look no further than Mr. Robertson.

Of course, you could look further than Mr. Robertson and find the man himself:

Mark Melancon - That's right, the guy most people lauded as the "next Joba" is the last on this little list of 8th-inning replacements. Some of us already know the story: dropped massively in the draft due to injuries, Yankees picked him up in the 9th round of the 2006 draft and paid him supplemental pick dollars to sign. He had Tommy John surgery and is pitching in his first full professional season (after making a few cameos in 2006-2007). He pitched his way up to AA Trenton, and his fastball-curveball combination (noticing a pattern here?) has brought him success since his closing days in Arizona. If he continues to pitch well in Trenton, he could be pushed up to Scranton by June, and after that it's just a matter of time. Depending on how his "competition" is doing, he might see time in the Majors this season, but most likely it won't happen until next year. Still, he's a great pitcher and I look forward to seeing him pitch in New York as soon as possible.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

GAMEDAY: Orioles (24-20) at Yankees (20-25)

Garrett Olson (3-0) vs. Darrell Rasner (2-0)


Available: Mo, Joba, Farnsworth
Likely: Hawkins
Maybe: Ramirez, Veras
Unavailable: Ohlendorf

Damn, that got out of hand pretty quickly.

Still, if Rasner puts up 6 or even 5 innings, the bullpen shouldn't be overwhelmed. Innings 7-9 are in very capable hands, and the 5th and 6th can be pieced together from Hawkins (assuming his suspension doesn't begin immediately) and Ramirez. Though I have a feeling that even if he gets bombed, he's going to take one for the team and pitch until he hits the magic number 100.

Chris Britton, WE NEEDZ YOU BACK!!!!!1!!!1!!11

The long reliever question

Do we really need one?

A game like yesterday's would say so. 5 innings out of a long man would have gone a long way toward preserving our bullpen. Instead, 5 relievers were used and some of them are unavailable for today's game.

But realistically, how often does a game like that happen? Starters don't get bounced in the early innings on a regular basis. But a long-man can be used when there is a large lead or deficit, and preserve some of the more important relivers' stamina. He can always be used as a spot starter, if the projected starter is a late scratch or in the event of a double-header. I have always been a fan of the versatile long reliever, and I think the Yankees' current approach (throwing Ohlendorf and Hawkins out there for as many innings as possible) is flawed.

So, how do the Yankees go about getting a long reliever in their bullpen?

The most obvious candidates are Dan Giese, who has been a revelation in the AAA rotation filling in for the injured Alan Horne; Jeff Karstens, who pitched effectively in his first start off the DL; and Darrell Rasner, who is starting tonight and is an important member for the Yankees' rotation. Jason Jones, who has experience out of the bullpen, has an outside shot (but is doing too well in the AA rotation to be delegated to a bullpen role)

Pitchers like Steve White, Chase Wright, and Jeff Marquez are considered rotation candidates at this point, and a role in the bullpen is perceived as a waste of talent and potential (despite the fact that they lack the ceilings of pitchers like Alan Horne or Dan McCutchen).

In order of most likely to be called up:
1. Jeff Karstens (40-man)
2. Darrell Rasner* (MLB)
3. Dan Giese
4. Steve White (40-man)
5. Jeff Marquez (40-man)
6. Chase Wright (40-man)
7. Kei Igawa (40-man)
8. Dan McCutchen
9. Jason Jones
10. Alan Horne (coming off the DL soon)

This is assuming none of these pitchers are converted to a short relief role, a la Joba Chamberlain or Ross Ohlendorf. They would simply do what they do now, only out of the bullpen. Note that here is a dramatic dropoff in "call-up likelihood" after number 3, and only if those first 3 are injured would numbers 4 to 10 see time as the long man this season.

* - Rasner can be swapped with Joba Chamberlain when the time comes, but that assumes that Ian Kennedy can improve his game. Rasner is, in my opinion, an ideal long reliever and the best man for the job. But he wouldn't leave the rotation until sometime in July. So for now, I'm pulling for a Dan Giese callup. He deserves it for all the work he's done in Scranton. The Yankees can easily designate Chris Stewart for assignment to make room on the 40-man, then send down Jose Veras (who has by no means pitched his way out of the bullpen, but would be the victim of a numbers game). I wouldn't mind seeing Karstens again, but Dan Giese deserves it.