Sports Outside the Beltway

Yankees: Giambi wins it, Wang struggles and Mo is good

Thursday afternoon’s win was the best of the season (in terms of emotions). It looked totally lost at 7-2, only for the Yanks to crawl back to within one, then have Farnsworth re-blow the game, only to be followed by Arod, Matsui and Giambi coming up huge. In fact, Giambi increased the Yanks chances of winning 89.5% (almost unheard of).

And speaking of hitting, how about Wilson Betemit? His second HR in two days, this one coming from the right side. He gets killed a lot around the Yankee blogosphere, but it’s rather unfair to him. He’s a backup, and hence doesn’t get consistent playing time. If he did, I’m sure he would put about a .250/.350/.480 line. One of the positives about Giambi missing some time is that it might give Betemit more playing time, allowing him to get into a groove. Right now, you have to keep playing him – it comes down to four of Betemit, Giambi (if healthy), Damon, Matsui and Melky. Currently, Melky’s got to sit; the other hitters are just too hot to put on the bench. Damon is an inferior centerfielder, but the way he’s hitting he’ll easily make up for it.

- Now, on to Chien-Ming Wang: what’s wrong with him? Is there anything wrong with him? 82.2 innings is not even half a season so we shouldn’t jump to any definitive conclusions, but I’ll try to head in that direction. His ERA is the highest it’s ever been: 4.57. Through his first nine games, Wang was having a stellar year: 59 ip, 2.90 ERA, 38 K, 19 BB, 1 HR, .584 OPS against.

But he’s (frankly) sucked in his last four starts: 23.2 ip, 8.75 ERA, 11 K, 14 BB, 3 HR, .794 OPS against. The stat that most jumps out to me is the walk rate. It went from 2.89 BB/9 through his first nine starts to 5.3 BB/9. That’s almost double. It definitely jives with what my eyes tell me: Wang has been consistently missing his spots in his last several games.

To back me up, his BAA, BABIP and FIP are in line with his career averages. What I have to wonder is whether he’s trying strikeout more hitters – and if that’s causing him to avoid contact, hence throwing more pitches out of the zone. Along with a rising K/9 rate, his walk rate has also increased each of the last three years (along with his pitches/PA). And perhaps most disturbingly, his groundball rate has also decreased each of the last three years. My theory is thus: his critics who assailed him for not striking out enough hitters has caused him and his pitching coaches to try to improve his K rates, hence he’s throwing more pitches out of the zone (to induce swinging strikes) – this causes him to fall behind in counts more often which leads to more hits and walks. My hope is that it’s just a slump (it is just four games after all), but my fear is that the league has caught up to him or he’s hiding an injury.

- If you hadn’t noticed, Mariano Rivera is having a good year. How good is it?! It’s so good that among relievers with at least 25 ip (going all the way to 1901):
a. he has the best ERA+ (1185)
b. 4th best K/BB rate (13/1)
c. best WHIP (.500)
d. best OPS+ against (negative 24 = ludicrous!)
e. 2nd best hit rate (3.81/9 ip)

- The MLB amateur draft can be found here. The Yanks selected high-school pitcher Gerrit Cole with the 28th pick of the first round. I don’t know much about Cole, but here are several sources who do.
Baseball America
Perfect Game
River Ave. Blues
Keith Law (via Pinstripe Alley)

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