Friday, April 30, 2010

Two Stories from the Yankees - Orioles Game

After a bullpen meltdown the previous night that gave the Orioles their fourth win of the season, the Yankees came back tonight and put a near perfect game together resulting in a 4-0 win. Players having a positive impact were Jeter with two hits and a run scored, Marcus Thames who went three for three with a walk and a ribbie, Robinson Cano who had ten total bases and scored three runs and drove in three, and A. J. Burnett who pitched eight scoreless innings on three hits, and more importantly, with only one walk. The latter two are the two stories the Fan has in mind. Let's start with Cano.

Simply put, the man has had an incredible April. His current line with one day left in the month reads: .407/.444/.790. Woof. Plus, he's made only one error. He has eight homers, five doubles, has 17 RBIs and has scored 21 runs. Oh yeah, he has one triple too. That's a pretty good month. After last year's 205 hit season, it seems that Cano seems poised to shatter that this year and is headed for his best year yet.

There is only one small reservation in this story for this here Fan. You can't have a much better night than by going three for four with a double and two homers. Got it. Plus, the Fan also has the month of stats. But here is what concerns the Fan. Cano got all that done on seven pitches. In other words, he averaged 1.75 pitches per plate appearance. So far this year, he is averaging 3.39 pitches per plate appearance, which is 73rd in the league. The good news is that this is up from Cano's career average. But sooner or later, the pitchers are going to realize that their best bet is to pitch just off the strike zone and let Cano get himself out. This will bear watching. But in the mean time, Cano sure is having himself some fun, eh?

The second story of this game was A. J. Burnett. The Fan called this one right on the head on Thursday morning during the daily game picks post. The Fan was going to pick Matusz to win for the Orioles, and the kid pitched great (except for Cano) and gave up only three earned runs. But then the Fan remembered that Posada got hit in the knee on Wednesday and probably wouldn't play today and then announced that Burnett would have a great game. That's exactly what happened. And that's a problem.

Burnett bent over backwards all spring and said he had no problems throwing to Posada. The two were in tandem all during Spring Training. But facts are facts and Burnett just performs better when he's not throwing to Posada. And he's been good so far with a 3.20 ERA. His walks per nine up until tonight was 2.86 and his WHIP was 1.421. On Thursday night with Cervelli, he walked only one in eight innings and he had only four base runners in eight innings. But it's only one game right? And it could have happened with Posada. Well, maybe. But let's look at last year.

Last year, Burnett walked 4.22 batters per nine innings with Posada, 3.82 with Molina and 3.85 with Cervelli. His hits per nine innings with Posada were 9.45, 7.39 with Molina and 6.42 with Cervelli. His K/BB ratio with Posada was 1.72. With Molina it was 2.66 and with Cervelli, it was 2.50. The Fan doesn't think that's a coincidence.

So far this year, pitchers thowing to Cervelli have walked 3.00 per nine innings, while throwing to Posada, they've walked 3.62. The K/BB ratio with Cervelli is 2.31 and 2.00 with Posada. The hits per nine innings with Cervelli come to 6 per nine innings compared to 8.56 with Posada. The sample size is small and you have to factor in that the majority of Cervelli's starts have been with the big guy, Sabathia. Why is that by the way? And why hasn't that been a major news story? Posada caught Sabathia's first start and it's been Cervelli ever since. Hmm.

So okay, not much can be gained from this year's sample size. But let's look at last year. Walks per nine innings with Cervelli were 2.91. With Molina, it was 2.72. With Posada? 4.09. Cervelli's K/BB ratio was 2.58. Molina's was 3.35. Posada? 1.79. The most damning evidence? Pitchers throwing to Cervelli had a 3.43 ERA, 3.36 to Molina and a whopping 5.06 to Posada.

Facts are facts. Teams win with pitching. The Yankees pitch better with Cervelli than with Posada. The numbers are right in front of us. Burnett's night on Thursday night was not a fluke. It wouldn't have happened with Posada behind the plate. It just wouldn't. The problem for the Yankees is that Posada is one of the "Core Four." He's a fixture and a borderline Hall of Famer. He's got a great clutch bat from both sides of the plate. But the best answer for the Yankees, if they were to fully admit it, would be to put Cervelli behind the plate and use Posada as the DH. Nick Johnson isn't doing that well anyway. Plain and simple, the Yankees pitch better to Cervelli and there is no getting around it.

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