Monday, July 2, 2007

Anybody Hear from the Babe...

I did. About 25 minutes ago, when I heard Michael Kay say that A-Rod had just been examined by Dr. Stuart Hershon, and the diagnosis is a strained left hamstring. It immediately took me back to a post I wrote few months ago, after the Yankees had just gone through what seemed like an endless stretch of one hamstring injury after another. Most notably Phil Hughes who injured his hamstring in the midst of carrying a no-hitter for 6.1 innings. My basic belief was the Babe was pissed because they are tearing down Yankee Stadium, "The House that Ruth Built," and was taking it out on the pitching staff. Here's a taste.

"In an article by Maury Brown on 08/15/2006, one day before breaking ground on the new Yankee Stadium, he writes, "At the Babe's funeral on a hot and sticky August day 58 years ago, former teammate Joe Dugan said, "I'd give a hundred dollars for a cold beer right now." Waite Hoyt responded, "So would the Babe." Somehow, I think that tomorrow will be much the same. When Yankee Stadium comes down it will mark a closing chapter in New York's historic baseball past."-And the Babe will be homeless.

Babe Ruth left this world on August 16, 1948. The ceremonial ground breaking for the new stadium would take place 58 years to the date from when we lost the big guy. The Babe was never one to be shown up, and no doubt he was never less pleased by having the 58th anniversary of his passing overshadowed by a ceremony that would eventually lead to the demise of the beautiful house that he so graciously blessed us with.

Lack of adequate shelter and a distaste for being overshadowed. Enough of a reason to place a curse on the yanks? Did the Babe wake up from his nap he was taking in 2004 ALCS, hear the bad news surrounding the "House that Ruth Built", and reincarnate himself in the hamstrings of the Yankees rotation?"

Anyway, you get the point.

Tonight was a good night for the boys. Clemens certainly brought his A-game, and the Yanks looked like, well, the Yanks! I'll be falling asleep to the encore later, getting my second glimpse of Rockets greatness, and praying Joe Dugan can get the Babe on one of those famous binges, focusing his efforts away from the Yanks.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

the makings of... Ian Kennedy

Behind Phillp Hughes and Joba Chamberlin, the Yankees top pitching prospect might just be Ian Kennedy. The Yankees signed Kennedy after his junior year of college as the 21st overall pick in the 2006 draft. There was skepticism around baseball regarding Ian's upside. Baseball America reported "Kennedy wasn't a consensus first-round talent due to his smallish (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) frame, which offers little projection, and because his performance fell in his junior season." This apparently was not an issue for the Yanks though, who went above and beyond entertaining this Boras client by paying well over the MLB suggested signing bonus for that slot. The actual bonus wound up being about $2.25 million dollars whereas the suggested bonus for his slot (21) was estimated to be $1.45 million dollars. The signing bonuses of both the no 20 and no 22 picks were supplied by Baseball America, both are considerably lower than Kennedy's. "The Twins signed No. 20 pick Chris Parmelee, a high school outfielder, for $1.5 million, while No. 22 pick Colton Willems, a prep righthander drafted by the Nationals, signed for $1.425 million." This created controversy throughout baseball, especially in smaller markets. But I am happy to say that I think everybody is beyond that. Just one year later, Ian is making a new name for himself by tearing it up everywhere he goes, currently appearing at Double A Trenton.

Kennedy comes from Huntington Beach, California and attended high school at La Quinta. In his Junior year, he won 13 games and led his county with a 0.38 ERA. He allowed just five earned runs over 90 2/3 innings and recorded 168 strikeouts.

After high school, Ian moved on to the very well respected baseball program at USC, where he made an immediate impact. As a freshman he was the team's no 1 starter, and he certainly played the role. 92 2/3 IP, 7-2, 2.91ERA, 86H, 30ER, 31BB and 120K's. What appeals the most to me here is the 4/1 K/BB ratio and the 1.27WHIP. Not bad for a 19 year old kid who most likely hadn't had much experience facing lineups stacked with All-Americans, which is usually the case in the PAC 10. These accomplishments earned him All-Pac-10 and Baseball America Mid season Freshman All-American honors. His first ever collegiate start was February 23, 2004 against Long Beach State who had their ace pitcher on the mound, a 21 year old kid by the name of Jered Weaver. Weaver is currently a regular in the LA Angels starting rotation.

Ian's 2005 sophomore year proved to be another banner year. Again he would represent the pitching staff as their no 1 starter. By the time the season was over Ian would be named to the Baseball America All America first team, and earn PAC-10 Conference Pitcher of the Year honors. He went 12-2 with a 2.54 ERA. 117 IP, 85 H, 33 ER, 38 BB, 158 SO, equaling a very healthy 12.15 K/9 innings. On April 9th, in one of his best outings, Ian shutout UCLA, allowing just 3 hits, and striking out 15.

2006 turned out to be a lack-luster year for Kennedy. He would be named USC's no 1 starter for a third consecutive term, but struggled after starting the year 3-0. After all was said and done, his numbers looked like this: 5-7, 3.90 ERA, 101 2/3 IP, 100 H, 44 ER, 36 BB, 102 SO. His K/9 ratio would fall about 3 runs to a still respectable, not nearly as dominating 9.07 K/9. On Feb 17th, Ian would get his 300th strikeout, finishing the year, and his college career with 380 K's. Ian would leave school with the second highest K/9 ratio in USC history, second on to the once phenom, Mark Prior. Prior's 11.52 K/9 edging out Ian's 10.99 K/9.

Ian would also pitch for the Team USA Baseball National Team in 2004 and again in 2005 as well as the USA Junior National team in 2003. In 2005 Kennedy went 4-1 with a 2.89 ERA for Team USA, striking out 35 batters in 28 innings. In five starts, he allowed nine runs on just 11 hits and 10 walks, mesmerizing opponents to a .118 average. He tossed seven no-hit innings against Chinese Taipei on July 15 in Taiwan, striking out nine, walking two, and hitting a batter in a 1-0 victory.

Ian made his professional debut with the Class-A Staten Island Yankees of the New York-Penn League late in 2006. Represented by Scott Boras, negotiations took time and Ian wound up getting just 2.2 innings of work with the Yankee affiliate club in 2006. Prior to 2007, Baseball America ranked Kennedy as the no 5 prospect in the Yankees organization. I have to assume he's climbing that ladder as we speak.

High Class A Tampa would be Ian's first home in 2007. His first start would come on April 6th against Lakeland, the Tigers Class A affiliate. The first 3 Flying Tigers were William Rhymes, Justin Justice and Cameron Maybin. All 3 batters struck out swinging. Talk about announcing your presence with authority! He would continue to pitch well over 5 innings, striking out 8, and allowing just one run, a home run to Michael Hernandez to lead-off the 2nd inning. That home run was one of just two hits surrendered by Ian all night. Although he pitched very well, he would be relieved while the game was still tied 1-1, missing out on getting his 1st ever professional win.

His next start would come 5 days later in the second game of a double-header against the Clearwater Threshers, an affiliate club of the Phillies. Minor League double-headers consist of two seven inning games played back to back. This game looked like a lock for him to get his first win. He would face the minimum twelve batters through four innings. Clearwater managed a hit and a walk, but both base runners were eventually caught stealing. However, the Threshers' pitchers were having there way with Yankee hitters as well. Zac Stott traded zeros with Ian for 3 innings, and Derek Griffith would pitch a scoreless fourth for Clearwater. In the top of the 5th, Tampa would manage two, 2 out walks from Timothy O'Brien and Mario Holmann but were unable to score the games first run. Ian came out again to pitch the bottom of the 5th and immediately retired Jeremy Slayden on a fly ball to centerfielder Colin Curtis. The next batter, Clay Harris hit a solo home run, a run that unfortunately would eventually prove to be the deciding factor. Harris, an unlikely hero, is currently batting .213 and wouldn't hit another home-run till June 4th. After that 6 inning, 3 hit, 1 run, 4 strikeout performance and you'll still find Kennedy's name in the box score as the losing pitcher. His first ever professional loss, and his only loss in the 11 games he would pitch in at Class A Tampa. How sick is that!?

Well, we know that he pitched very well in his first 2 games, 11 IP, 2 ER, 12K. We know that he has an 0-1 record, and we know that he would appear 9 more times for Tampa and not lose a game. So when exactly did he get his all deserving first ever professional win? Actually it would come in his next appearance, but probably not how anybody would've expected. It didn't come on a complete game shutout. As a matter of fact, Ian didn't even start the game. He pitched 3 scoreless innings of relief and was credited with the victory in a win over the Clearwater Threshers. In total, over the 11 games he would pitch for Class A Tampa, Ian Kennedy compiled phenomenal numbers and was awarded a promotion to Double A Trenton in early June. As he said good-bye to Tampa, his totals were as follows: 6-1, 1.29 ERA, 11 G, 10 GS, 1 CG, 63.0 IP, 39 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 2 HR, 22 BB, 72 K, and a .183 Opponent Avg.

June 5th, against the Binghamton Mets, Ian made his debut the Trenton Thunder, and recorded his first Double A win. He's had 4 starts so far with Trenton, the first would be the toughest. Even though he won, Ian pitched 5 innings allowing 4 runs on 6 hits. However, Trenton put up a crooked number in the 5th scoring 9 runs and securing the victory, easing the kid's transition to his new environment.

His next outing came on June 10th against the AA Reading Phillies. What Ian gave his teammates in return for bailing him out his last outing was a stellar performance. 0 runs over 6 innings, striking out 8 and allowing a measly 3 scattered hits. Only once did he allow a runner to get past second base and he struck out the first batter of an inning 3 out of the 6 innings he pitched. Trenton managed a 3 run lead by the time Ian was relieved, and that would be more than needed as they went on to win 4-1 improving his record to 2-0 with the club.

He faced Reading for a second time 6 days later and again pitched very well earning the win. Over 5 innings he allowed just 4 hits and 2 earned runs while striking out a 9 Phillies, topping his total of 8 in 6 IP during there previous meeting.

Ian pitched again 2 day's ago against the Akron Aero's, AA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. Ian picked up his first Double A loss in a very disappointing performance. Disappointing not because he pitched poorly, but because Trenton's offense, who managed 10 hits and 5 walks, couldn't get a run across the plate in the 2-0 loss. In fact Ian had another excellent outing. His strikeouts were down, just 3, but the Aero's could only hit him for one run in 5 innings. Over 21 innings in Double A so far, he's currently 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA, 16 H, 7 ER, 6 BB, and 26 K's.

Quite a showing so far in his early career. His total numbers between Class A Tampa and AA Trenton are as follows: 9-2, 1.71 ERA, 15 G, 14 GS, 1 CG, 84.0 IP, 55 H, 16 R, 16 ER, 3 HR, 28 BB, 98 K, .190 Opponent Avg, 10.5 K/9 and 4.45 strikeout to walk ratio. Very healthy numbers for a kid who just a year ago was suspected of hiding an injury when he had that mediocre junior year at USC before he was drafted.

Now that we know what Ian has done, how about what he throws. According to writer EJ Fagan, "Kennedy throws his fastball between 88-92 mph, although he’s touched 94 on good days. He has recently learned a 2-seamer, which sits around 89 mph and has been effective when he uses it. His best secondary pitch is the changeup, a plus offering that he particularly outstanding command of. He has two breaking pitches: a curveball and a slider. The curve is the better pitch, but both are very good. He mostly uses the slider to give hitters another look at a different speed. Kennedy has excellent command of all his pitches, except for the 2-seamer, which he has been throwing for less than a year. He’s a very savvy pitcher, setting up hitters and playing to their weaknesses. Kennedy earned a lot of praise for his mechanics before the draft. He doesn’t throw with maximum effort, which is what enables his excellent command. Kennedy is capable of throwing at 94 mph, but he’s most effective at 90-92."

Ian has drawn comparison's mostly to Mike Mussina. It may not appear like he has as high an upside as the big, hard throwing Joba Chamberlin, but don't sleep on the kid. His very good showing in stats such as K/9, strikeout to walks, and HR allowed project very well to future performance.

I am very excited as a whole with the new resurgence of Yankee pitching prospects. In addition to Hughes, Chamberlin and Kennedy, there is a plethora of young talent hungry to get that forever changing 5th spot to prove what they can do. I believe we are starting to get our first glimpse at the squad that will eventually lead us in to new Yankee Stadium and what should amount to a new dynasty!

All stats from and

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Spending Gameday with Chien-Ming Wang...

I have to confess, I love the kid! I routinely call him ‘Cy’ Wang, I watch everyone of his starts, sometimes twice. Mixed in with a staff of stars, the quiet kid with the heavy ball has become my favorite pitcher!

The new MLB Enhanced Gameday (EG), and all its sick stats, has given me an opportunity to get further acquainted with that hard throwing, 6’3 man from Tainan, Taiwan. One of the first things I noticed with the new Gameday that intrigued me is that it displays both the speed of a pitch at the pitcher’s release point (55 feet from home plate), and the speed of the same pitch as it crosses home plate.

You know what I'm thinking, right? No more steroid injected local regional sport network radar guns. However, Wang seemed to stack up fine here. Maybe we are not being deceived, or maybe they just did that for Randy to keep him feeling good about himself and give a little spark to those old bones. Anyway, enough Randy bashing, back to my boy Wang, here’s a look at some of his averages. The average values are reprented as startSpeed and endSpeed, respectively. minSpeed and maxSpeed represent, out of all the pitches in my database, the slowest pitch to cross the plate and the fastest pitch to leaving his hands.

avg startSpeed-92.20537

avg endSpeed-82.38188



These numbers result in an average decline of 9.82mph from when the ball leaves Wang’s hands and when it crosses home plate. His fastest pitch caught with the new EG was 97.2 mph at 55 feet from home plate. That same pitch crossed home plate at 86.6mph, a differential of 10.6mph.

If you watch Baseball Tonight, no doubt you have seen them analyze a pitch in slow motion, follow the trajectory of the pitch by drawing a line making it clear for everybody to see how nasty that pitch exactly was, or in some cases how much it drifted back over the plate before it left town for good. MLB EG, uses similar technology and presents virtually every pitch in the same manner so you may get a clear picture of exactly how that ball travels. MLB EG also supplies a value, pfX, which shows, in inches, exactly how far a pitch moved versus a hypothetical pitch thrown to the same spot with no spin. These pfX values are what I will use to show both horizontal and vertical movement of Wang's stuff.

Below is a graph which shows the speed and horizontal movement of the 149 Cy Wang pitches I’ve been able to chart using the Enhanced Gameday (EG) technology. EG is currently only available in 8 ballparks. All the pitches I’ve charted for Wang have been against the White Sox at US Cellular Field.

First thing I noticed was three separate clusters, which in fact represent three different pitches. With horizontal movement, negative numbers indicate that a pitch moved toward a right hand hitter and positive numbers indicate movement in on a lefty. Wang has one type of pitch resulting in positive values, this is the cluster on the right. These pitches are all thrown around 85mph, and based on the fact that we know they must have moved away from a right handed hitter, it’s safe to say they represent his Slider. The large cluster in the top left represents his Sinker(likely including some four-seamers) and the small semi-scattered cluster in the bottom left is his change up.

Next, we'll take a look at a graph to show both vertical and horizontal movement for all 149 pitches I have data on. The horizontal break for Wang’s sinker shows great consistency. Working off a very small sample size, the vertical break on the change-up looks to be very consistent within itself, and also very similar to the vertical movement Cy Wang gets on the Sinker.

Note: Graph did not import well into the blog. The legend reads changeup_h, slider_h, sinker_h, changeup_v, slider_v, sinker_v. h and v represeting horizontal and vertical movement.

Negative vertical movement means the spin caused the ball to drop more versus the hypothetical pitch thrown to the same spot with no spin. Now we are talking more along the lines of a Barry Zito curveball.

There are a few inconsistencies here, I see some scattering within pitch type, but I am fairly certain that it is due to the small sample size from which I have had to work with. On the other hand I am excited to know that it is actually possible to decipher what exactly a pitcher is throwing with the information provided.

have really just touched on the information provided by EG. In addition to what I have mentioned, they provide data for release points, pitch location, and more.

My biggest hope is that Cy Wang will get a few more starts in Enhanced Gameday stadiums this year so I may continue looking at his data. Well now that I've got all that explaining done, phew, shit was tiring, my next installments can dive deeper into the actual numbers and what the heck it all means.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Vizcaino Troubles...

It started out looking good. Thought maybe this guy was for real. Between Opening Day and April 14th, Vizcaino appeared 8 times. During those 8 appearances, he allowed just 2 hits and 1 earned run, all coming on April 5th against the Devil Rays. April 2nd he shut down the Rays for an inning. Appeared in back to back games against the Orioles on April 7th and 8th and was able to shut them down both days. 2 days later he would start a string where he would appear in 4 games over a 5 day span. April 10th and 11th he pitched 2.1 innings against the Twins in which he did not surrender any runs or hits. April 13th and 14th, over 2.2 innings against Oakland, same results, no runs, no hits. However and ugly trend was beginning to brew.
On April 13th, Vizcaino walked Jason Kendall to lead off the 9th inning. (Note: He is credited with 2 walks for this game, but the second walk was and intentional walk to Nick Swisher with 2 outs.) The next game he gave up one walk, to Travis Buck, in one inning of work.
Vizcaino’s next outing would be 5 days later on April 19th against Cleveland. This would be one of those nights you just want to forget. The Yanks were up 2-1 in the top of the 7th. Torre, no doubt feeling confident in Luis after such a positive start to the year, called upon him to keep the game in check and lead the way to Mo. What actually took place was slightly different. Right off the bat, a walk was issued to Jason Michaels. Grady Sizemore took two called strikes and then laced a third pitch, in the exact same spot as the two pitchers before it, to right field for a double, advancing Michaels to 3rd. Next batter David Delucci grounds outs to first advancing both runners and tying the score at 2 a piece. With nobody on 1st Hafner is issued a free pass only to have Vizcaino fall behind 3-1 to Victor Martinez, and then watch him take the next pitch downtown scoring 3 and putting the Indians up 5-2. The Yanks would eventually come back and win 8-6 but what a rough night for Vizcaino, and for Yankee fans, a huge sign of things to come.
I mentioned earlier that the 2 walks surrendered in back to back games against the A’s was the start of an ugly trend. Since that series, Vizcaino has allowed 16 walks in 15.8 innings after allowing just one through his first 5.2 innings of the year. (He would give up walks in 8 consecutive appearances between April 13th,the start of the A's series, and April 27th, giving up a total of 10 during the stretch.)
After the Cleveland series, he pitched 1.1 innings at Fenway over 2 days and didn’t allow any earned runs. He would appear four more times in April, having a good day, and then a bad day then a good day and another bad day. When May came, well things got kind of ugly. Vizcaino would pitch just 12 innings during the month. Over those 12 innings his numbers look like this:

12IP, 14H, 12R, 12ER, 2HR, 9BB, and 7K, adding up to a grand total ERA of 9.00 for the month.


The worst showings of the month came on May 4th, SEA, 1.0IP, 4H, 2ER, May 10th, TEX, 1.0IP, 2H, 3ER, 2BB, and May 25th, LAA, 1.0IP, 3H, 4ER, 3BB! The Halo’s weren’t too kind when they administered that beating.
And as for June, well it’s early. Possibly I’ll provide an update later in the month to how he’s stacking up, but I doubt it. Possibly he’ll be pitching in Triple-A where he’ll be trying to rediscover the plate and I’ll get to see what Britton can do on a Major League mound. Well, at least I can hope for now.

Friday, June 1, 2007

2 out of 3... Just How it's Got to Be

It’s got to be 2 out of 3 the rest of the way. The Yankees are currently sitting at 22 wins with 111 games left to play. If they win 2 out of 3 the rest of the way, they’ll wind up with 96 wins, which should equal another straight October appearance.

Here’s the Math:




Obviously they gain more ground beating Boston than if they beat Kansas City, but either way, it’s got to be 2 out of 3 the rest of the way.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

What Is Old Is New...

Brooklyn Eagle; July 23, 1846

City Intelligence.
Brooklyn Young Men-Athletic exercises.-In our sun down perambulations, of late, through the outer parts of Brooklyn, we have observed several parties of youngsters playing "base," a certain game of ball. We wish such sights were more common among us. In the practice of athletic and manly sports, the young men of nearly all our American cities are very deficiant-perhaps more so than those of any other country that could be mentioned. Let us enjoy life a little.
We would that all the young fellows about Brooklyn were daily in the habit of spending and hour or two in some out-door game or recreation. The body and mind would both be benefitted by it. The game of ball is glorious.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mientkiewicz Update

If you haven't read yesterday's post "It Feels Good to be Home!" see below as it was the prequel to this post.

After the phenominal night Doug had last night, his 2007 stats at Yankee Stadium are now:

.333, .397, .608, 1.005.

He's currently putting up a higher OPS at home than Jeter (.962), A-Rod (.981) and Posada (.867), the 3 hottest hitters in the Yankee line-up.

Holy Cow!

Notes to Torre: Go with what works.