Bloggin' With The Enemy: Pinstripe Alley and 5 Questions About the Yankees

I did a Q & A with John Beck (jscape2000) from the SB Nation Yankee blog, Pinstripe Alley.  Below are his answers to 5 questions about the Yankees heading into the ALCS (my answers to his questions can be found HERE).  Also, John included his scouting report on the Yankee hitters, pitchers, and defense...

  1. Joe Girardi has mentioned the Yankees might use a 3-man rotation.  C.C. Sabathia has shown he can do it, but is anyone in New York worried about A.J. Burnett's performance on short rest?

    Surprise!  Because of the brilliance of Bud Selig AJ will pitch game 5 on regular rest.  In an effort to prevent there from being a day without a game, the ALCS has a random off day before game 5.
    You know, I hear people who are against instant reply say, "It disrupts the flow of the game."  Does it disrupt the game more than this screwy postseason schedule?  Thank God the Rockies have been eliminated- can you imagine baseball in Denver in November?
  2. Alex Rodriguez’s postseason struggles have been well-chronicled, but he did well against the Twins.  Which is the "real" A-Rod, and why?

    The "real" Arod has hit .300/.401/.567 over the last 6 seasons.  Everything else, from his .071/.133/.071 against Detroit in 2006 to his .455/.500/1.000 against the Twins last week, is the mirage of small sample size.
    That said, Arod looks locked in at the right time.

  3. The Yankees have a great team, but what's their greatest weakness the Angels can exploit, I mean worries Yankee fans?

    If you polled our readers, the inconsistency of the starting pitching would probably be the big concern.  If CC has a rough game, or Bad AJ shows up, we're in trouble. 
    It's all about pounding the strike zone.  The fewer free passes our starters issue, the better our chances look.

  4. Of the three big-dollar free agent signings this past off season (Sabathia, Burnett and Teixeira), who's had the biggest impact on the Yankees this season.  Who'll have the biggest impact in the playoffs?

    For the season, it's been Tex.  He catches everything, which makes Arod and Jeter look better.  He has incredible range in the field, allowing Cano to play farther up the middle.  He lengthens the lineup with power and patience.

    But lockdown starting pitching is what made the Yankees vulnerable every season since 2003.  And that's what Sabathia supplies: 1.15 WHIP, 2.6 BB/9, 7.7 K/9, 0.7 HR/9.

  5. Is there anything different the Yankees must do to beat the Angels that they haven't had to do against the rest of the league?  And are they capable of doing it?

    Shut down the running game.  Putting Sabathia and Pettitte on the mound for 5 of 7 (potential) games will mean a lot, and putting Jose Molina behind the plate when Burnett is on the mound should help even more.  It's one more reason not to let Joba start, frankly.
Bonus question:  Kate Hudson or Minka Kelly?

Minka Kelly, no doubt.
Here is John's scouting report on the Yankee hitters:
Derek Jeter- Put back in the leadoff spot at the start of season, Jeter has responded with his best offensive season since 2006.  The book is still to bust him inside, but he's showing more patience this season (72 BB, above his career average).  He'll be looking for a first pitch fastball.

Johnny Damon- Damon was hot most of the season, but he's in such an ugly slump since the start of September that some fans would like to see him benched in favor of Brett Gardner.  He's pulling the ball more (24 HR, career high).  He stole the fewest bases of his career, but that's more because of who hits behind him than a loss of speed.

Mark Teixeira
- You remember him, no?  He's a dead pull hitter, and it's funny the way his eyes get big when he sees a pitch to hit. 

- The best line drive hitter I've ever seen.  When he's hitting the ball well it flies out to right center (like his homers off Joe Nathan and Carl Pavano).  He will chase the high one, though, so a good pitcher can go up the ladder.

Hideki Matsui
- Another pull hitter, but this one has nothing else working.  He'll either homer to right or ground out to the second baseman.  You can get him if you pitch him away then come tight, but if you catch the corner of the plate it'll be gone.  Check out his splits, because he hits lefties as well as he hits righties.  Don't play matchup, just use the best pitcher.

Jorge Posada
- Some fans were pissed because Jorge moaned over not catching Burnett, but it worked, so he'll likely be pinch hitting for Burnett's game.  He, Arod and Jeter basically were the offense in the ALDS.  He's got pull power both ways and he doesn't chase bad pitches.

Nick Swisher
- The fun-loving right fielder has been the surprise of season.  He's got a great eye and will wear down the pitcher.  Good breaking stuff will get him, as will high fastballs.  He seems to have a good memory for how he was pitched, though, so don't try the same trick twice.

Robinson Cano
- Robbie has the highest contact percentage on the Yanks, and he's allergic to the walk.  If he gets one low he can golf it out, but he's also very good at stinging liners the other way.

Melky Cabrera
- The 4th switch hitter in the lineup, he's shown surprising pop this season (14 HR) but like his buddy Cano, he doesn't walk much.  Melky has a definitely flare for the dramatic, leading the team in walkoff hits.  He's not the automatic out he was last season, and hitting in front of Jeter and Damon he's scored the second most runs of his career.
CC Sabathia- Sabathia is fastball, changeup, slider pitcher.  The disappearing slider is the big pitch, but he's relied on his 94 mph fastball and his changeup more than years past.

AJ Burnett- Is AJ the most effective 2 pitch pitcher in the league?  He's got the kind of late breaking 95 mph fastball that scouts dream about, and he mixes in a nasty spike curve.  He has to locate to be effective, and his control can disappear without warning.  Don't get angry- he's not throwing at you, he just doesn't know where it's going sometimes.

Andy Pettitte- He's aged better than I thought he could.  He's learned to sink his fastball to go along with the sliderish cutter he's thrown for years.  He'll throw that sinker early to get quick groundouts, but he can use the curve to get back if he's behind in the count.  He pretty much only throws his changeup to righties.

Joba Chamberlain- The young fireballer has been missing some of the fire this season, sitting around 95 rather than 98.  I suspect his shoulder injury late last season has not fully healed (and maybe never will).  It looks like Joba will be in the pen this series, so he'll probably rely on fastball and slider, though he could flash the curve or the change too.  It seems like Joba can only locate 1 of offspeed pitches per outing.

David Robertson- The AL leader in K/9 (12.98) doesn't light up the radar gun (91 mph).  But he's sneaky fast with late break, and his hard 12-6 curve keeps hitters honest.  After a visit to Dr. Andrews and a script of rest and rehab, Robertson won a spot on the postseason roster.  He pitched out of a bases loaded none out jam against the Twins (though that has mostly been overshadowed by Mauer's foul double to lead off the inning).

Phil Coke- After the train wreck of Damaso Marte in the ALDS (see Robertson, bases loaded jam), Coke had better be the go-to lefty.  The good news is that Phil Coke has a nasty slider.  The bad news is that it's a breaking ball, and anyone who throws a breaking ball 25% of the time is bound to hang one eventually (1.5 HR/9).

Phil Hughes- The surprise of the season, and the next Yankee in line for the seemingly annual "starter or reliever" debate.  Four-seamer (95), two-seamer (90), cutter (90), 2 curves and a change.  He seems to rely on the 4 seam fastball and the harder, tighter curve out of the pen.  He had a rough ALDS, but he's been so money all season he'd have to really struggle before I begin to lose confidence in him.  While he didn't pitched multiple innings against the Twins, I have to believe he'll be available to do that if the situation arises.

Mariano Rivera-  He throws this really wicked cutter.  I think he's going to have a good career.

And the defense:

Two players transformed the Yankees' defense this season: Mark Teixeira and Brett Gardner.

Teixeira's glove, his arm, and most of all his range make him the star of the infield.  You could force someone to choose between Don Mattingly, Tino Martinez, and Tex, but I think the choice would be entirely academic.  Tex's range allows Cano to shade up the middle and make more plays over the bag.  Cano has the strongest arm of any second baseman I can think of, including Soriano.  Derek Jeter must have heard the rumors of his demise, because he's worked hard on improving his positioning in the field (his UZR/150 is 5.3, yeah you read that right positive 5.3.  Not only is that a career high, it's his first positive rating ever).  The only player who seems to have less range than last year is Arod, who has improved as he recovered from his spring hip surgery.

Melky Cabrera hasn't been too bad in center field (-2.5 UZR/150), but Brett Gardner has been so good (13.3) that even given his .724 OPS he ranks among the best two-way centerfielders in the league.  Unfortunately, Gardner will probably spend the entire series on the bench waiting for a chance to use his top flight speed as pinch runner.  Nick Swisher in right can be an adventure, but if he doesn't botch a routine play he's fine- a strong, fairly accurate arm with good range.  I can't wait for the Johnny Damon era to end because of his noodle arm and ever diminishing range.
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