Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
June 27, 2008

Like him or not, it's pretty clear that the revival of the previously floundering Yankees coincided almost perfectly with the return of Alex Rodriguez; the Yanks dropped to 20-25 and 7.5 games back on May 20, A-Rod's first day back from injury, and have been rebounding ever since, going 22-11. A-Rod hasn't done it alone; while he's batted .352/.443/.672 since his return, Giambi has hit like the 2000-2001 Giambi (.346/.447/.663), Damon has hit .413/.464/.524, and Matsui and Posada have been tearing it up as well (the full lineup here). The pitching staff's been less spectacular (other than Joba and Mariano), but Pettitte has been pitching well the continuing revival of Mussina has been a big contributor as well; Mussina, Pettitte and Rivera have combined for an 88-17 K/BB ratio in that stretch.

By the way, this may not be that surprising a stat for a guy who has mainly worked as a late-inning setup man, but for his career, the Yankees are now 36-8 in games where Joba appears. For a contrast, the Red Sox record in 2007-08 when Okajima pitches is 69-29; the Mets' record in that period when Heilman pitches is 63-56.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:28 AM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)

After last year, I really don't think there's any argument that the Yankees depend on A-Rod to at least make it into the playoffs with their current lineup. Yet a lot of Yankees fans still believe that the Yankees won't win another World Series until A-Rod is gone. Despite his relatively lackluster performance in the Yankees' postseasons so far, I don't think he's doomed to fail in the playoffs.

The starting pitching is definitely the big problem right now, and no one's really jumping for joy over the Ponson acquisition.

Speaking of the Yankees, I noticed this article about Pat Venditte, an ambidextrous pitcher in the Yankee minors. The article discusses a hilarious sequence where one batter and Vendittee keep changing hands and sides of the plate until the ump finally forces the batter to stay on the right hand side of the plate. I would have loved to see that in person.

It's a long way from the minors, but it would nice to see this guy in the majors at some point. Is there any precedent for ambidextrous pitchers in the majors?

Posted by: MVH at June 27, 2008 11:06 AM

Al Nipper reportedly could pitch left-handed as well as his natural righty but obviously never did it in a live game situation.

Posted by: jim at June 27, 2008 1:48 PM

No, but Greg Harris did.

Posted by: The Crank at June 27, 2008 1:49 PM

MVH, the video is here.

Posted by: mikeski at June 27, 2008 3:05 PM

A lot of Yankees fans don't want to admit this due to their loyalty to Munson, Mattingly, Jeter and other homegrown players, but A-Rod is the best player in a Yankees uniform since Mickey Mantle. There should be no debate about this, really.

Posted by: steve at June 27, 2008 3:19 PM

However, every true Yankee fan expects this guy to hit into a double play when everything is on the line. He is a stat machine and a fantasy league dream but, to date, he has done, quite literally, nothing when it mattered most. I will no doubt rue the day when he decides to go Kevin Garnett and post a monster game in crunch time but for now A-Rod is a wannabe who once had to hit 8th in the playoffs because he sucked so badly.

Posted by: jim at June 27, 2008 4:55 PM

Batting ARod eighth in that playoff game against Detroit may well have been what cost Torre his job last October.
No doubt ARod was pissed off at his humiliation in Detroit, and his subsequent loyalty to Torre must have been close to zero.
After ARod's monster 2007 season, keeping ARod happy was more important to the Yankee brass than keeping Torre happy.
So....bye-bye Joe.

Posted by: hohoho at June 27, 2008 10:32 PM

mikeski - thanks for the video link - pretty funny stuff

steve - Yep, definitely the best player since Mantle. He probably won't ever be loved like Mattingly and the rest, but not because he's not homegrown. We love Paul O'Neill, for example.

jim - I don't expect him to hit in a double play anymore.

Posted by: MVH at June 28, 2008 8:31 AM

More info from this site on Greg Harris and other ambidextrous pitchers:

"But just before his retirement, while pitching for the Expos in 1995, the veteran hurler finally became the only twentieth-century pitcher to throw from both sides of the mound. After Harris (pitching righty) retired Reggie Sanders to start off the ninth inning of a game against the Cincinnati Reds on September 28, 1995, he turned around to face the left-handed Hal Morris.

Harris issued a free pass, thus becoming the first ambidextrous major-league pitcher since Elton "Ice Box" Chamberlain of the American Association in 1888. Nerve-wracked, he stayed a southpaw and induced a ground-out from Eddie Taubensee, closing out the inning by retiring Bret Boone as a righty. The last pitcher to use both hands in a pro game had been Bert Campaneris, who did so in 1962 while playing for Daytona Beach in the Florida State League. (JCA/JGR)"

Posted by: MVH at June 28, 2008 11:04 AM

I'd do a post on this if I had more time handy, but it's an interesting question. If you mean the best career in pinstripes since the Mick, it's gotta be Jeter. If you mean the best at any point in time, I'd put A-Rod ahead of Mattingly or Jeter, but it's an interesting question if he's really better than Rickey at his best.

Posted by: The Crank at June 28, 2008 11:32 AM

Looking at peak value while a Yankee, Rickey's best WARP3 was 13.2 in 1985, when he posted slash stats of .314/.419/.516 (and stole 80 bases with only 10 caught stealing).

A-Rod's best year as a Yank was last year, when he had a 13.4 WARP3 and slash stats of .314/.422/.645. That's in an environment favoring offense a little more than the mid-80s.

It's damn close, pretty much a toss-up.

Posted by: Robby at July 1, 2008 2:49 AM
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