Baseball Jeremiad


A Curiously Intelligent Baseball blog

Are You Worried Yet?

Yankee fans, are you worried yet?

Rob Neyer thinks you should be

No, not about a group of Orioles fans getting angry about the constant pounding their team has received at your hands. 

We’re talking about CC Sabathia here.  In his SweetSpot blog, Rob Neyer links Joel Sherman’s screed in the NY Post.

Sherman writes:

He [Sabathia] was particularly fortunate last night to have the dispassionate, skill-challenged Orioles as opponents. Sabathia’s final line of two runs in seven innings suggests excellence. But this reflected more the inability of the AL’s lowest-scoring team to do real damage.

With Sabathia unable to tame his fastball, Baltimore amassed nine baserunners in the first three innings, but just two runs. Sabathia pitched better thereafter, but still nothing approaching his peak of the past few seasons. He remains without his familiar precision, throwing ball one to half (16 of 32) of the batters he faced. His fastball was consistently in the 92-94 mph range, but he got just one swing and miss on a four-seamer. Sabathia allowed nine hits and walked three in seven innings.

And then Neyer opines:
My best guess is that some of this is your basic regression, and some is your basic fatigue that happens to lots of pitchers. How many hurlers burn brightly for a few seasons in their 20s, only to fade in their late 20s and early 30s? And how many times have teams been burned by six-, seven- and eight-year contracts in the last 35 years?

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A pitcher named CC, a pitcher in AA, and a near no-no

Phil Hughes has gone six innings and two thirds without giving up a hit.  If he goes all the way he’ll be the first Yankee pitcher to throw a no-hitter since David Cone’s perfect game in 1999.  Hughes has walked just one guy.

Naturally, Jersey Matt and I dropped Hughes from our fantasy team about a week ago.  And he just finished the seventh.

He’s at 87 pitches.  The guys on the MLB Network are talking about how important it is to watch Hughes’s pitch count because Joe Girardi (who caught that perfect game by David Cone, by the way) is notorious for strictly adhering to pitch count limits.  Girardi made some headlines when, after a game in which CC Sabathia lost a no-hitter in the 8th inning against the Rays, Girardi said he would have taken Sabathia out after the 8th inning regardless of whether he still hadn’t allowed a hit.

Now, yes, the pitch that yielded the line drive to Kelly Shoppach was CC’s 111th pitch. But it’s CC Sabathia! Last year he threw over 100 pitches in a game twenty-seven times.* Also, he’s a veteran.  He’s known to throw a lot of pitches.  In fact, in his career he has thrown over a hundred pitches (are you ready for this?) two hundred and ten times.  I have to believe that Girardi just said that to maybe make a point.  I have to believe that as a former catcher, especially one who caught a perfect game, he would let his guy stay in there.  Over and above everything else, you have to let a guy go for the no-hitter – not to mention the Yankees were leading 8-0 at the time.  Ridiculous.

*(Hughes just lost the no-hitter on the first batter of the 8th, on a comebacker that hit him and that he just lost track of as it rolled away.  I wonder how often a pitcher has lost a no-hitter thanks to his own defensive play?  Also, against Texas in 2007 he took a no-hit bid into the 7th but left the game with an injury.  Bad, weird ways to lose bids.)

Some quick fun facts that can only happen in baseball.  Shoppach, who broke up CC’s no hitter, was CC’s catcher when they both played in Cleveland.  When Cone pitched that perfect game in 1999 the opposing pitcher that day was a 23-year old right hander named Javier Vazquez.  Girardi of course also caught Doc Gooden’s no-hitter in 1996 against the Mariners, who were batting a young Alex Rodriguez second (Jeter was hitting 9th for the Yankees).  Gooden threw 134 pitches that day.  Good thing Girardi was catching and not managing.

On to another pitcher.  Stephen Strasburg made his third start for the Harrisburg Senators today (I guess technically yesterday, now) which I unfortunately couldn’t make it up to Harrisburg for.  In 5 innings he gave up one hit and one walk with 6 Ks.  He threw 68 pitches, 48 of them strikes.  His first pitch of the day was 98 mph.  He threw ten pitches total in the first inning, seven of them strikes, and zero of them – zero – were below 95 mph.  So far he’s pitched 12 and a third innings and given up 1 ER, 7 hits, 3 BBs, and 17 Ks.  The train is coming.

Jason Heyward’s first at-bat against Strasburg may be very, very exciting for me.

Nats won again tonight, against Colorado.  Are the Nats for real?*  At the beginning of the season I declared that if they got through April with 11 or 12 wins they’d be in great shape, not only as far as their record goes but they would have shown that they could hang with the big kids (their April schedule has 6 games against Philly, 3 against Milwaukee, 4 against Colorado, 3 against the Dodgers, 3 at the Cubs, 3 at the Mets, and 1 against Florida).

*(By “real”, I mean “Can they finish around .500?”)

Now, the Cubs and Mets look dreadful, Colorado does not look like the division champ many people predict them to be, Milwaukee doesn’t look great either, and they did go 2-4 against Philly.  So maybe this blazing 8-7 start says more about the competition than about the Nats themselves, but if that’s the case then they’re at least beating someone.  Last year after 15 games they were 3-12 (after starting 0-7).

So this is good.  Does that get them above the fold in the Sports section of their hometown paper, the Post? Of course not; they were pushed down by a story about some Redskin that didn’t come to off-season workouts.  Obsess over politics all you want, this to me is a clearer sign this town has its priorities upside down.

Tomorrow I will be in Nationals Park in the 8th row right on top of the Rockies’ dugout – $70 seats.  However, since it’s the Nationals (and they’re not very good and this isn’t a baseball town*) and the Rockies (who have no diaspora whatsoever), my buddy and I got the tickets for $26 each.  Our goal is to get the $300 President’s Club seats (right behind home plate, food and drink vouchers, etc.) for $50.

*(Tonight the Nationals set a franchise record for the second time in three days: record low attendance.  Tonight’s attendance was 11,191.  When Jersey Matt and I went to Citi Field last summer, that’s how many people were ahead of us in the taco line.)

Next post will have links.  Need to catch up on those.  Good stuff lately from Posnanski, Hardball Times, and of course the famous Forbes article.  Also, at a later time we’ll look at a fun, obscure metric called Offensive Winning Percentage.

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Baseball Musings

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