Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Yankee Notes: August 2nd, 2006

Well, the game is over and the Yankees have won. In Bobby Abreu's Yankee debut, we saw a lot of nice things happen. He drew a 9 pitch walk to set up Bernie Williams base-clearing double that basically won the game for us. He made a nice catch at the wall. A-Rod had a couple of hits and a steal, although he was thrown out at the plate when he came in standing up. Jeter was very good, setting up a couple of runs with 2 stolen bases. He's now stolen 23 bases on the year with only 2 CS. That's a 92% success rate and it's also outstanding!

Jeter is an 80% career base stealer, but this year seems to be rounding out as his finest season altogether. By all accounts 1999 looks like the best of Derek Jeter for a single season, when he hit 24 home runs, OPSed at .989, posted 219 hits, drove in 102, and scored 134 runs. This season has Jeter at .916 OPS with 65 RBIs through 98 games. He has also scored 71 to date. At this rate, he's looking at around 225+ hits, 105 RBIs and 115 runs scored. He's also on pace for 35+ steals at a very high percentage. What a year for the Captain. Yeah, his defense is suspect, but he more than makes up for it with the bat as his VORP is tops among SSs. All that and a new scent.

Speaking of Jeter's new fragrance....can you please stop. Baseball players are supposed to smell like crap. The best a baseball player is supposed to smell is after they've been rubbed down with Tiger Balm, or maybe after they hit the shower with some Irish Spring. "Fragrances" are for sexually ambiguous rock stars, pretty boy actors, and the cast of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. I know I'm showing a conservative, old-timey, way of thinking when I say this, but I can't help it. Jeter is one of the greatest players in the history of our team, and legendary with his dating prowess for what that's worth, but could he get more effeminate with his new perfume. Ugh.

Anyway, his legs (pretty as they may be) helped us to take over 1st place by percentage points today, as CC Sabathia tossed a gem against the Red Sox. The Beantowners are now without Trot Nixon and Jason Varitek, thanks to injuries, and Mike Lowell fouled a ball off his foot and had to leave the game. The pitching rotation is without Tim Wakefield now, and has to rely on a lot of patchwork to field a starter these days. I like our chances and I feel real good after the close of business on Tuesday.

I want to touch on three Japanese baseball items today.

1. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants firstbaseman Seung Yeop Lee homered twice last night in a game against Hanshin ace and very good player, Igawa. The second home run was his 400th career between Korea and Japan and also gave him 33 on the season in 2006. That leads all hitters and keeps him on pace to break Oh's single season record of 55. (Lee had 56 in Korea, playing for Samsung, to break the single season "Asian" record.) I'll write another "Japanese Power" update soon to give you some perspective on his season so far.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports wrote a piece about next season's free agent class a few days back, ranking Daisuke Matsuzaka at #1, and included the Lion King at #9. The Yankees are rumored to be interested in Lee, entering the mix well behind the Mariners, Angels, and Dodgers who have had their looks at him and passed over the last couple of years. Something to keep an eye on.

2. Daisuke Matsuzaka gets the start tonight against Bobby Valentine's Chiba Lotte Marines. He's been the talk of the town in some parts recently as the MLB season enters the home stretch and teams start talking about what to do in 2007. A lot of teams are interested, and Matsuzaka Watch has become one stop for all-encompassing info on the ace of late. We've been linked to in articles from the Talented Mr. Roto (pay only) and on bulletin boards around the web, including most recently some Orioles fans with pipe dreams. Check back for info on his latest start, and take a look at the You Tube video clip I posted most recently from his WBC Championship Game performance.

3. Last, something interesting from Japanese Baseball Daily on the outrageous pitch counts that Japanese players are subjected to. The Koshien Summer Tournament is about to begin, and with it legends are made. It's a national spectacle for its enthusiasm, dedication, effort, and drama. It's also a place where young pitchers go to die. Check it out.

"Manager Sadaharu Oh was reportedly overjoyed Sunday, as his alma mater, Waseda Jitsugyo High School, grabbed a Koshien Tournament berth with a 5-4 victory over powerhouse Nichidaisan High School in an 11 inning thriller during a prefectural tournament final. However, Waseda starter Yuki Saito was left in to throw 221 pitches. When is the Japan High School Baseball Federation going to get a handle on this kind of pitcher abuse?

Now what Saito experienced isn't uncommon. Daisuke Matsuzaka threw even more pitches than that in a 17 inning affair while he was at Yokohama High.

But the all timer for me was back in 1935 during a Koshien qualifying tournament in Shimane Prefecture. Taisha Chugakkou (this was during the time when Japanese junior highg schools were six years; they split up the junior high and high schools just after WWII) Ota Chugakkou. The aces of both teams went all the way in a, get this, 23 inning tie game! So it was obviously ruled a standoff after it became too dark to play and it was replayed the following day. Ota's ace was held out of the replay, but Taisha's number one guy retook the hill and went the distance, wait for it...in a 12 inning sayonara LOSS. So this kid threw all 35 innings over the course of two days. It isn't known how many pitches the Taisha hurler dealt, but it had to be well over 400.

In modern times, in a northern Japan tournament final in 1951, the aces of both Morioka Number One High School and Aomori High tossed 24 inning complete games in a 1-0 result.

There is also an instance where another ace went the full monty in a 25 inning contest that produced a result in 1948.

Now remember, those are just regional tournament games.

In the Koshien Tournament itself, there was a doozy in the semifinals back in summer of 1933. Akashi Chugakkou and Chukyo Shogyo High School went 25 innings before it was won by Chukyo on a bases loaded dribbler in the 25th. Both pitchers went the distance, Chukyo's throwing 336 pitches and then, you aren't going to believe it, STARTED AGAIN THE NEXT DAY! Amazingly, he tossed a two hitter against powerful Heian Chugakkou in the tournament final to claim the Koshien crown."

See you tomorrow. Go Yanks!

8 comments:

rabid stan said...

Always nice to hear about the goings on across the other pond, Mike. That's always been a big reason why I drop by.

You've had me salivating over Matsuzaka for months, and Lee is starting to sound better too.

That link to the O's board brings up a question nobody's been asking, though; Whither Moose? He's had a great season and rediscovered his out pitches, but should the Yanks pick up that option?

He's indicated that he loves New York, so he may renegotiate, but we as fans can't bet on it. I'd love to see him finish as a Yankee, but I fear that acquiring Matsuzaka may not only be a matter of getting a true bad-ass for the rotation, but replacing Moose as well.

Still, potentially a dream at the top of the rotation next year if the Yanks can keep those wobbly plates from falling:

Moose
Wang
Matsuzaka

Sounds good. Maybe even Hughes can get into it.

Mike Plugh said...

Stan,

You are thinking right along with me. The Orioles board gets into the debate about whether the Yanks pick up Mussina for the final stretch of his career or not. I never even gave that a second thought until now.

Presuming the Yankees get Matsuzaka, we will have this rotation next year:

Randy Johnson
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Chien Ming Wang
Cory Lidle
............

The Yanks will presumably buy out Jaret Wright's contract at a discount thanks to his 75+ days on the DL last year. They can save $4 million by doing so. Lidle is also an interesting question mark. It will depend a lot on how he performs as to whether or not we decide to keep him beyond 2006. I don't know if he has a buyout clause, but the Yanks will find a way.

Matsuzaka will cost a pretty penny, so I can't see the Bombers getting him and Zito, although no one would ever beat us if we did. I'm guessing that the team will find a way to sign Moose, and bring up a kid from the minors in Spring Training to get a 5th starter on the cheap.

Hughes could find his way up from AAA late in the year, if he's needed, but I'm guessing that the team will bring up Darrel Rasner again before they mess with any of the young guys. He's 26 and needs a longer look.

Tyler Clippard and Hughes will likely pair at Columbus for a powerful one-two punch.

rabid stan said...

If I remember right, Lidle is in the last year of a two year deal.

As for Johnson pitching next year, all I can say about that is, "Too bad it's inevitable."

What's killed him this year, even after he was so weak much of last year, has been a falling K rate, a rising walk rate (he walked 47 in '05, already has walked 42 in '06), and he looks to be on pace to give up roughly the same number of homeruns as last year, while projecting to fewer innings.

Falling K/BB, rising HR/9, turns 43 on September 10; big trouble.

If he continues to fall apart, he could be below replacement level next year. A Darrel Rasner might be a lateral move or better.

That's why, personally, I think the Yanks should pick up Moose's option, though not without exploring renegotiation, of course. Mussina is a risk too, after all. I don't think he's a risk to disintegrate mechanically like Johnson almost certainly will, but there is that tender elbow.

He hasn't had any problems with it this year, but it could reappear next season, or even tomorrow. If it does, it's '04 and '05 all over again, though perhaps marginally better since he'll presumably not be tipping his change anymore to compound it.

If he's that guy, he won't be worth his full option, not by a longshot. The Yanks may not have a choice but to risk it, though.

Anonymous said...

I watched that game Daisuke pitched on TV. Can't remember but I think that was a semi-final game. Then the next day he pitched the last couple of innings in relief (got the win?).

The dude was bad as a high schooler, and he will be even badder as a Halo.

Congrats on the recognition in the press. You have some mighty fine blogs.

See you mext week.

Matchosan (can't seem to log in. damn blogger)

RollingWave said...

Pavano is still (unfortunately) under contract next year, Lidle is a FA after the end of the season and I highly doubt they will pick him up unless it's as long reliever.

We should keep Moose on, but not through picking up his option, which is a wooping 17M. I really hope to renegotiate to something like a 2 year 19-21 M deal (9M, 10M or 10M, 11M) with options.

I'm not sure how the Yankees plan to spend this winter (or how much to spend) but i have a feeling that we will need to grab Zito, if only because we'll be out of a lefty after RJ is done.

If someone would be willing to take Pavano's contract (yeah right) or if RJ would retire (maybe.. ) after this season , things would be easier.

Matsuzaka may or may not leave for the States this years, if he doesn't, grabbing Zito makes all the sense.

Next year's lineup.

Moose/ Zito / RJ / Wang / Pavano ... the year after that Hughes and Matsuzaka take over for RJ and Pavano?

Many watchers in Taiwan think Lee may be a bust if he goes to the States, at least overrated. he is a poor OF, and he doesn't hit well enough for 1B (people generally think he is a lesser Matsui)

Of course, only time will tell, and Ca$hmoney certainly gave us a lot of confidence so far.

Mike Plugh said...

RJ is almost a forgone conclusion as a back end of the rotation guy next year. He's not going to give up the money that's owed to him by retiring, and I think he's still useful on some nights. Diminished expectations will help.

I forgot about Pavano. Ugh. We can only hope he gives us 20 decent starts.

As for Matsuzaka, I'm virtually positive that he'll be a Major Leaguer next year. The Lions can't afford to lose him and get nothing. Their company is on the financial ropes and a quick 20 million dollars for a guy that's going to leave for nothing after 2007 is smart business. They hope to win it all this year so that parting with him is less painful. Currently, they're in 1st place.

As for Lee, he has never played the outfield in Japan and would never be expected to anywhere he goes. That's not even part of the conversation. He's a 1B/DH type with a real live bat. People keep calling him Matsui-lite and such, but this guy can really hit. Trust me. I wouldn't break the bank on him, because good hitting 1Bmen aren't too hard to conjure up, but a mid-level contract to start things off would be a good investment.

You'd get interest from Japan AND Korea on Lee. Plus the Flushing crowds would immediately shift from the Mets to the Yankees if that signing took place. You know Georgie couldn't resist that.

mars2001 said...

Boy I love Abreu's ability to grind out an AB... starters, relievers, doesn't matter... ANYONE who can consistently cause you to burn 10 pitches (unless he gets a fat one) is a big problem....

Couple that with the BP's analysis of relievers vs. starters... (and the potency of the 'new & improved' lineup) - you're into the juicy part of the night pretty quickly.

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