The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Monday, April 23, 2007

 

I've Seen It Be-Four

You call that a four-consecutive-homer onslaught? Puh-lease. While a few of my Baseball Prospectus colleagues were frothing at the mouth that the Red Sox' back-to-back-to-back-to-back jacks last night was something they'd never seen, I could only remind them that one doesn't have to go back any further than last September 18 for a precedent.

That's when the Dodgers rolled up four straight homers at the Padres' expense, and while the drives themselves weren't as impressively telegenic -- the Monster and the boisterous Fenway crowd make for better theater than a half-empty Dodger Stadium -- the context was much more important. The Dodgers hit their homers in the ninth inning of a game that came in the heat of a pennant race. Two came off Jon Adkins, a garden-variety scrub reliever, while the other two came off Trevor Hoffman, the all-time saves leader and a likely Hall of Famer. And the call came from Vin Scully.

The Red Sox, by contrast, banged out their four homers in the third inning of an April game. The homers came in the veritable slaughterhouse of Fenway, a park that on a per at-bat basis produced 24 percent more homers than Dodger Stadium did last year. The blasts were hit off Chase Wright, a shellshocked 23-year-old who came into the night with a grand total of fewer than 20 innings of experience above A-ball. Wright is the Yankees' #8 starter only because the team didn't want to take the trouble of adding top prospect Philip Hughes to their 40-man roster. Throw in Tyler Clippard or the rapidly improving Sean Henn and Wright might charitably be called the Yanks' 10th best rotation option. Yes, four homers in a row is still remarkable, but the two occurrences scarcely deserve comparison.

A win is a win, and so props to the Red Sox for taking advantage of a decimated Yankee club. But if you're a Yankees fan, it's hard to get too worked up about the outcome of this past weekend. Yes, the Sox swept the Yanks in Fenway for the first time since August 31-September 2, 1990, but the three wins were by a combined total of four runs. Two of the three games were started by rookies who likely won't be in the rotation for much longer. Hideki Matsui, who returns this week, missed the entire series, and Jorge Posada was limited to three plate appearances due to a bruised thumb. Josh Phelps caught a couple innings of a major-league game for the first time since his cuppa coffee days in 2001. The Yanks showed an ability to reach Boston's new X-factor addition to the rivalry, Daisuke Matsuzaka, who surrendered six runs -- as many as he had in his first three starts combined -- in seven innings.

The most disconcerting aspect of the weekend was the way the Yanks' top three relievers, Luis Vizcaino, Scott Proctor and Mariano Rivera, were smacked around, charged with seven runs allowed in 3.2 innings. Even then there are mitigating circumstances; Vizcaino, Joe Torre's new favorite toy, had been torched for four runs against the Indians the day before his contribution to Friday's meltdown. Proctor had worked the previous two games before last night and had gone seven scoreless appearances between allowing runs. Rivera... well, he's been off to slow starts before, though blowing two high-profile saves within five days of each other still constitutes a kick in the groin, as it's taken the Yanks to 8-9 from a potential 10-7.

Still, the Yanks are grooming some additional bullpen options. It was nice to see Colter Bean get a shot last night, his fourth major-league appearance despite numerous appeals from the stathead crowd for him to get more work. He responded with two scoreless innings of long relief, though he did walk three. Henn had two scoreless appearances over the weekend, and has allowed just one earned run in 11.1 frames so far. Chris Britton made his Yankee debut with a pair of scoreless innings against Cleveland, but he was sent down so that Karstens could be activated just before the Boston series. Brian Bruney has allowed just one run in 10.1 innings after an ugly exhibition season. Torre doesn't need to run the same guys out there every night, but then that's a story that predates this year's model.

• • •

I'm pleased to announce that I've got a regularly occuring satellite radio slot as of today. From now on, I'll be appearing on XM 144's Baseball Beat with Chris Liss every Monday at 2 PM Eastern. If you're a subscriber, please tune in if you get the chance.

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