Sunday, October 07, 2007

Lazy Sunday with Broom in Hand

After sequestering myself in Lake Chautauqua for a day in an attempt to remove the knot from my stomach and not allow the ridiculous notion that midges forced the Yankees to lose Game 2 of the ALDS (unless Carmona and Perez are suddenly in a band called “The Midges”), it’s game time once more, coinciding with a Lazy Sunday.

Leading off, an extremely quick Lazy Sunday as it becomes more and more apparent that most members of the print media are finding themselves in shock after the first two games of the ALDS, while anyone who analytically looked at the two teams is far from surprised at the result of the first 2 games.

Regardless, we start with Terry Pluto, who would like to close door on the Yankees tonight, though Terry (surprisingly) buys into the “shocking upset” and “payroll disparity” trap that has plagued most members of the media. Pluto correctly points out that the Yankees were impossibly hot in the 2nd half, but fails to mention that the team with the best talent (and specifically the best pitching) is always at an advantage in the playoffs, not simply the “best team that money can buy”.
Despite that unusual foray into believing the spoon-fed media hype, it’s a great and inspriational piece from Pluto, particularly regarding how the Indians need to get out quick on Clemens, and for recognizing that “the moment is now” for the Tribe.

In case you missed it, Ryan Garko’s very well-written playoff blog (who, after reading this thing, doesn’t want to sit and have a beer with Gark?) called out the Yankees with what everyone in Cleveland was thinking regarding the midges:
“The bugs caused a lot of drama tonight. But Fausto didn’t flinch. He didn’t blink. That says a lot about him. You’ve got to give him credit. There was some adversity thrown at him. That might have been my favorite part of the game. He didn’t step off the mound once, and the other guys on the Yankees were acting like there were bullets flying around their heads, not gnats. I mean… this is the big leagues.”

Awesome…just awesome.

Back on the Eastern Seaboard, Ron Vallo provides a tremendous recap of the reaction from New York regarding the series thus far on his Tribe Fan In Yankeeland blog.

Outside of that, not much that you don’t already know.
So, moving on to Game 3 – rather than rehashing what’s already been covered here in different words, here is the analysis of the Game 3 pitching match-up from the pitching portion of the series preview:
Game 3
2007 stats: 6-9, 4.32 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 152 IP, 93 K, 55 BB
2007 vs. Yankees: 0-2, 12.46 ERA, 2.42 WHIP, 8 2/3 IP, 3 K, 4 BB
2007 September: 1-2, 4.14 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, 37 IP, 31 K, 14 BB

2007 stats: 6-6, 4.18 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 99 IP, 68 K, 31 BB
2007 vs. Indians: N/A
2007 September: 0-1, 4.50 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 10 IP, 6 K, 4 BB

Westbrook has always found his greatest success when his sinker is inducing ground ball outs and when he’s getting the low strike called. But, tantamount to Jake’s success is when the opposition becomes aggressive, swinging early in the count, topping the ball and limiting his pitch count, extending the amount of innings that he throws. The Yankees, unfortunately for Jake, are not that type of team. They are a patient group of hitters, happy to wait for the mistake of the “sinker that doesn’t sink” or wait to see where the umpire’s strike zone settles (that is, if Jake’s getting the low strike). This is not a great equation for success for the Tribe, as witnessed by Westbrook’s two starts against the Yankees this season. In a best case scenario, Westbrook gets the low strike call, keeps the ball down and sinking, and keeps the Yankees at bay over 6 innings or so, when he can turn it over to the bullpen. However, if Jake starts walking people or that ball starts crossing the plate above the hitter’s waist, Laffey (yes, Laffey…I’ve turned the corner on him and think that his puppy dog eyes belie a toughness and an unflappability that could play well in the postseason), who also lives by the groundball out, though by different means, may see some action in the Bronx Zoo.

While the name certainly carries some weight to see “The Rocket” stride to the mound, the pitcher no longer does. Clemens is a 45-year-old pitcher who made two starts in the month of September to rest up for the playoffs. He went home to Texas to rest or “take his vitamins” or do whatever he does to stay sharp while remaining inexplicably above suspicion in the BALCO Era. Clemens may get the love from the New York fans because of his career numbers, but he has been a bust by most indicators for the Yankees this year (the Yanks season was affected just as much by the performances of Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy as the performance of Clemens) and is really no lock to pitch this game depending upon his health. Assuming he starts, he’ll still throw that menacing gaze and some purpose pitches that have long been his style, but his effectiveness and health are MAJOR questions going into the ALDS. That all now being said, it is important to consider that Clemens remains very aware of his legacy and would like to go out on top. A successful 2007 postseason could be the cherry on the top of his career that he is still in search of as he hits the other side of 45.

The obvious addendum to the preview would be the possible scenarios that could play out if Clemens struggles. Unless the results achieved by his Houston doctor (goes by the name of Ponce de Leon, immersing the Rocket in a Fountain of Youth with something he called “flaxseed oil”) turned the clock back more than a few years, it’s entirely possible that Clemens may not be able to contribute too many innings to the Yankee cause tonight.

With the struggles of the New York middle relievers well-documented, would Torre go to Mussina (the Game 4 probable starter) and risk throwing the 21-year-old Phenom Phil Hughes in Game 4 on 3 days rest (remember, he relieved in Game 1)? For a team that subscribed to the Joba Rules to protect their young arms, I find it doubtful.

Would Torre throw Hughes on (gasp) 2 days rest to keep the Yankees in the game? At this point, it seems that anything is possible, including Torre just rolling the dice with the bullpen that the Indians have so ravaged in the series.

Of course, Clemens could come out and grind his way through the game and get the game to Joba in the 8th, although that didn’t get them too far in Game 2. Whatever Clemens brings to the table, Westbrook’s ability to limit the rallies the Yankees (who may be pressing and swinging early at Jake’s offerings) are able to cobble together will play as much of a role as anything.

Smells like a shootout tonight, but I’ll have some thoughts after the game so be sure to check back to see if the magic word for the day is “Sweep”.


Vegas Watch said...

I don't like posting links to my site, because its obnoxious, but this is absurd:

G1, 6th inning, Raffy L avg FB: 91.8 MPH

G2, 10th inning, Raffy L avg FB: 87.4 MPH

Cy Slapnicka said...

i heard there was a 4th commentator for this game but Tony Gwynn ate him. Jeez, some of the shots of him make him look like the nutty professor.

3-0....great to see Rodger chased in the 3rd. I hope that is how his career ends.

Cy Slapnicka said...

i almost forgot, shelly duncan looks like chunk from goonies. the first thing i thought of when i saw his picture on the scoreboard was "when did jay gibbons get traded to the yankees?" thats not a good thing, shelly.

Chris said...

Shouldn't the first sentence read

"...not allow the ridiculous notion that midges forced the *Yankees* to lose Game 2 of the ALDS (unless Carmona and Perez are suddenly in a band called “The Midges")..."

Chris said...

Shouldn't the first sentence read

"...not allow the ridiculous notion that midges forced the *Yankees* to lose Game 2 of the ALDS (unless Carmona and Perez are suddenly in a band called “The Midges")..."

Pat Tabler said...

Good eyes.