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Yanks Beat Angels; Speed Got Lucky

Featured — By Scott Ham on September 15, 2009 10:35 am

Extra!  Extra!  Read all about it!  Yankees beat the Angels!

My goodness.  Touring the beat writers and bloggers who recapped last night’s game, you would thing Davey had slain Goliath.

Typically, the Angels have had the Yankees number over the years.  This much is true.

This year, the Yankees are 3-4 against the Angels.  As a matter of fact, since 2001, the Yankees are 34-44 (.436 win %) against the Los Angeles California Angels of Anaheim, California.    Since 2005, when the Angels started lying about their location and renamed themselves the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim,* the Yankees are 17-29 against Scocia’s squad.  So obviously, perpetuating that lie has cost the Yankees.  Obviously.

*According to Google, Anaheim is 27.5 miles away from Los Angeles, a traveling distance of 30 minutes or 1 hour 40 minutes depending on traffic.  Technically, I don’t think that means that Anaheim and Los Angeles reside in the same place.

What’s really cracking me up today is everyone commenting how the Yankees beat the Angels at their own game because Brett Gardner scored on a throwing error to take the lead.  Never mind that Mark Teixeira hit a two run triple and doubled to setup the inning that allowed Gardner to score, etc etc.  No, it was speed.

Well, the attempt at speed almost blew the game.  Take a look at this shot:

gardner_caught The ball clearly had Gardner beat.  If Figgins had wrangled that ball, Gardner would have been out and guilty of one of the many cardinal sins of baseball: don’t get thrown out at third with one out.

In this situation, it worked because Mike Napoli threw wide of the bag. More baseball axioms were then bandied about, this time extolling the virtues of forcing the defense to make a play.

You see, by making the defense make a play, you increase your chances of them screwing up and therefore succeeding at that play, no matter how boneheaded the play itself might have been.  Of course, a routine ground ball to the infield forces the defense to make a play, but I don’t see anyone praising that as a smart attempt to get on base.  The defense only fails in error-like fashion about one in every forty attempts, but go ahead: risk a runner in scoring position on a long shot.

If Napoli hadn’t thrown wide, the second guessing would have been immense:

“How can you pinch run for Teixeira in a tie game?”
“How can you attempt a steal of third with Matsui up and Posada on deck?”

Nobody second guesses when things go right (except me, apparently).  Maybe my dislike of Joe Girardi taints my view of his moves, but if that throw were ten inches closer to the bag and the Yankees wound up losing the game, Girardi would have taken a lot of heat for over-managing the situation.

Maybe that approach is appropriate for Girardi at this stage.  With the playoffs all but locked up for the Yankees, maybe Joe has decided to push some of his players and see what tools he has at his disposal come October.  They’re taking that tactic with Freddy Guzman, who apparently has a shot at making the playoff roster as a pinch runner extraordinaire.

That’s all well and good, but there’s one flaw in that thinking: the Yankees lead the league in wins.  They lead the league in runs scored (by 46 over the Angels).  They lead the league in hits, home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS+, total bases, yada yada yada.

This is not just a good offensive team, this is a borderline great offensive team.  If this team runs into trouble in the postseason, it will likely be the pitching that has failed before it is the offense.

I have no issues with a team knowing how to manufacture runs when needed.  They can’t just rely on the home run, especially in October, where the Yankees probably won’t average 5.75 runs per game while facing the aces of the top teams in the league.

But they will also be facing some very good offenses themselves.  Playing for one run by sacrificing early in the game or risking the second out of the inning at third base are moves that not only handcuff the best offense in the league, but possibly sacrifice precious outs.

This is what has been driving me nuts with Derek Jeter bunting all the time lately. As Peter Abraham blogged recently, Jeter is the Yankees all-time hits leader, yet he is constantly trying to play small ball and move runners over.

It’s a waste of an out.  Sure, Derek could make an out while swinging away, but he’s batting .330 and has an almost .400 on-base percentage.  If you don’t want him hitting in that situation, then who?  ARod wouldn’t be bunting because he’s a power hitter.  That would be unheard of because he hits home runs.  But Jeter has a better batting average and is very close to ARod in on-base percentage.  Both men have an equal chance of getting on base and not making an out, yet no one would ever bunt with ARod.  There is no logic to the thinking.

Not wasting that out gives your lineup another hitter that inning, another opportunity to create more offense.  An offense is nothing without the opportunity to hit.  There’s no reason to take steps to prevent those opportunities from happening.

It is a very real possibility that the Yankees will face a moment or two in the postseason where having a guy like Freddy Guzman or Brett Gardner pinch run and reek havoc on the bases will make the difference in a ballgame.  We’ve seen it before.  It probably isn’t necessary for the Yankees to carry two such players in Gardner and Guzman.  I would think Brett Gardner would be enough.  Let’s just not forget what got the Yankees here in the first place.

Tags: Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner, Derek Jeter, Freddy Guzman, Hideki Matsui, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Mark Teixeira

5 Comments

  1. Zod says:

    You are so right and I am so guilty :(

  2. Scott Ham says:

    Don’t beat yourself up, Zod. I know your heart is pure.

    • Zod says:

      Thank you, I feel absolved ;)

      BTW, did you see what they did to SWB’s roster? They called up Freddy Guzman and Anthony Claggett just as the Governor’s Cup is about to begin. Big blow, especially Claggett.

  3. Scott Ham says:

    I don’t see the point in Claggett. He’s not making the postseason roster. You would think they’d like to get him some playoff time, but what do I know?

    I didn’t see the article you had posted. I didn’t realize Claggett was DFA’d. Well, the roster suffers for the big club, I guess. Demand your money back!

    • Zod says:

      Sorry, my fault, yes Claggett was DFA’d, which is worse in my view. It was to create the roster spot. So, no one gets to use him, which really sucks. Oh well, we will win without him.

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