Concern Over Tanaka's Workload?

Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports Currently, Masahiro Tanaka is the only really exciting part about the New York Yankees. His starts are always must see events, and he is in definite contention to start the All-Star game.

However, at this point it does not seem like he will do that since he is currently scheduled to pitch July 13th at Baltimore, which is the final game before the All-Star break. The Yankees probably aren't very upset by this development since they have taken every precaution with Tanaka that they could so far.

The Yankees have had a few chances recently to skip over Vidal Nuno due to off days and keep Tanaka on his regular five days rest. This would seem like an easy call since Tanaka may be the best pitcher in the AL and Nuno may be the worst.

Nuno's 5.53 FIP is almost as bad as his 5.88 ERA. He doesn't strike out many batters with his pedestrian stuff, yet he walks 2.94 batters per nine innings. Control and location are supposed to be his strength. He absolutely cannot pitch at Yankee Stadium, as he has a 7.09 ERA and has given up 13 home runs in his home park.

Despite all of this, Joe Girardi has been defiant in keeping his rotation in order and not skipping Nuno. Every game is very important for the Yankees at this point with them being 3.5 games back in the AL East and 1.5 games back of a wild card spot. They do not have the luxury of being a good enough team that they can afford to throw away games with Nuno.

The only reason they are doing this is so they can keep Tanaka fresh. He is still adjusting from pitching once every six days in Japan to once every five days in MLB. The Yankees are looking at the big picture of protecting their seven-year, $155 million investment, which is the smart thing to do.

Perhaps the Yankees are concerned that Tanaka's fastball only averaged 90.88 MPH on Sunday after averaging 92.84 MPH over the whole season, according to Brooks Baseball. Tanaka always seems to conserve energy in the beginning of games before throwing harder as the game goes along, so this could mean nothing. Maybe it was just a mechanical issue, but it's something to watch at least.

The Yankees cannot afford for Tanaka to have any slippage. It seems unrealistic for him to keep pitching to 2.11 ERA, but that is pretty much what they need from him. The Yankees are 12-3 in his 15 starts this season, which is what is really keeping them in contention.

It stinks for MLB and Yankees fans that Tanaka is unlikely to pitch in the All-Star game. Without Tanaka the only thing Yankees fans have to look forward to is Derek Jeter making his last all-star game appearance, unless Dellin Betances makes the team and gets in the game. It's a reminder of what they have had to endure this season.

MLB needs Tanaka in the game even more than Yankee fans. The sport is devoid of huge stars on a national level and Tanaka is a global icon let alone an American one.

MLB can really use some buzz around it with the World Cup being a huge event right now and the NBA and NHL having good postseasons. A big part of the problem is Bud Selig creating league-wide mediocrity. It may help more teams stay in the race, but it does nothing for the game on a national level, which is where it needs to grow.

Tanaka missing the All-Star game is the best thing for the Yankees, but if there really is concern that he is going to tire out at the end of the season it could put a dent into any October plans for them.

 

Why players don't care about Michael Pineda's "dirt"

Bk6idBvIAAEsBRAMichael Pineda threw with the type of gusto through Thursday he had three years ago when the Yankees traded for him from Seattle. His slider made batters look foolish. His fastball set up off-speed pitches. And he mixed in a cutter and changeup to keep the Boston Red Sox off-balance.

However, on Friday morning, no one seemed to be talking about Pineda’s pitching performance. Instead, it was about the substance on Pineda’s pitching hand. Television stills showed a brown substance on the base of the palm of his hand.

Pineda called it dirt. Others called it pine tar.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he didn’t know anything about it.

The Red Sox players said it didn’t matter.

There are reasons that it doesn’t matter to Boston – or most players asked around the league.

1. No one wants to be the team to point it out. If a manager does, he will set up his own team for the same kind of scrutiny. A manager may know some of his own players do it. Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz was seen last year using sunscreen – under the dome in Toronto – to potentially doctor pitches. Boston manager John Farrell can’t exactly accuse another pitcher of doing something similar when Red Sox pitchers have been seen doing this more than once.

2. It’s happening in baseball whether fans like it or not.

Usually pitchers are a little more inconspicuous about it. The batters know about it, and publically haven’t come out against it.

David Ortiz told reporters on Thursday night: “Everybody uses pine tar in the league. It’s not a big deal. … I don’t pay any attention to it. Did he have a lot of pine tar? I didn’t get to see it. What can I tell you, I don’t know what pine tar does to the baseball – maybe better grip. Better be careful (laughs). But his velocity and his slider was good tonight. That’s all I can tell you. His pitching was good."

3. It protects the hitters. On cold, cool nights where the ball could feel slippery, a pitcher may lose control and hit players unintentionally.

I don’t know if this true, but this is the company line. Players and pitchers asked about it on Thursday night went with this line of reasoning.

Perhaps we need another Mythbusters dedicated to baseball to see if this is actually the case.

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These are reasons why players won’t say anything, or throw their colleagues under the bus when it comes to using a foreign substance when pitching – despite it clearly being against the rules. It seems to be one of those unwritten, unspoken rules.

Maybe next time, Pineda should be a little more subtle about it.

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Joe Brings The Old Sac Bunt Out Of His Bag Of Tricks

Ichiro Bunt vs BAL

There's perhaps no play in baseball that further divides old school fans and analysts from the more sabermetrically-inclined new school crew than the sacrifice bunt.  What one calls a gritty, smart "baseball play," the other calls pointless and a waste of a perfectly good out.  Personally, I've always been on the new school side.  I just don't like the idea of giving up outs and killing chances for a potentially bigger inning by sacrificing one.  I can, however, see the value in a sac bunt in certain situations or at certain times in certain games, and that's why I'm not sure how I feel about Joe bringing it back this weekend.  Joe has used the sac bunt a time or 2 in the past, usually in situations that left more people scratching their heads than clapping their hands.  Against the Orioles, he damn near featured it as the focal part of the Yankee offense.

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On Overbay's Role

Overbay Outfield vs CLE (Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

The Yankees managed to pull out another squeaker yesterday Sunday, scratching a run across in the top of the 9th to beat Seattle and keep their "close game" record going strong.  Those of you who watched the game, particularly the final 2 innings, were probably left wondering if the game would have been that close late were it not a few questionable non-pinch hit moves by Joe late.  With 2 outs and a runner on 2nd, Joe let Vernon Wells hit against a righty, which led to an inning-ending groundout, and in the 9th he let both Reid Brignac and Chris Stewart hit with a RISP.

In both of these instances, Joe had Lyle Overbay ready and waiting on the bench and chose not to use him.  Overbay spent the majority of this weekend series glued to the bench after moonlighting as a right fielder against Cleveland earlier in the week.  Removing him from the outfield was the right move, but if Joe isn't going to use him as a lefty pinch hitter in obvious situations like yesterday Sunday, then what the hell is Overbay on the roster for?

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Where Was Brett Gardner Last Night?

Matt Wieters, Brett Gardner

To not see Brett Gardner's name included in last night's lineup was more than a bit surprising.  There hadn't been any reports of him being sick or injured, the team was coming off a scheduled off-day for travel and had actually had 2 scheduled off-days in the last 5 calendar days, they were playing in the notoriously offense-friendly Coors Field, and Gardner has been the best defensive player and one of the best all-around players on the team so far this season.  Yet there he was, plopped on the bench while Joe elected to send arguably the weakest lineup of the season out there to play, not score, and lose.

Joe's explanation for this decision was, as you'd expect, matchups.  The Yankees were facing another left-handed starter last night in Jorge De La Rosa, and Joe wanted to put another righty bat in the lineup.  Unfortunately, the only available righty bat on the bench is Ben Francisco and that's where the decision making train starts to come off the tracks of logic.

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Lame Duck Joe

JoeGirardix-large

While Hal breaks traditional Yankee business rules to start contract negotiations with Robinson Cano, it bears reminding that there is another key piece of the puzzle entering this season in the final year of his current contract- manager Joe Girardi.  This season will be Joe's sixth at the helm of the Bronx Bombers and other than the one post I wrote on the subject a while back, there doesn't seem to be much discussion anywhere about his future with the organization and where the front office should put re-signing him on the priority list.

Joe's status in 2013 isn't a lame duck one in the truest sense of the phrase.  He's got a 479-331 record, won three division titles, an American League pennant, and a World Series championship in his five years as Yankee manager, so his body of work definitely doesn't merit a position on the hot seat.  If the Yankees don't make the postseason this year, it will have more to do with injuries and the step back the team took in overall talent this past offseason than Girardi's managing.  Things would have to get REEEEEEEEEEEEEEALLY bad for Joe's head to roll after this season, like last place in the AL East/losing the locker room a la Bobby V last year/actually punching Joel Sherman's lights out in the locker room kind of  bad.

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Extensions For Joe & Cano Should Be A Priority

(The following is being syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod) When he wasn't busy trying to pull non-existent wool over the eyes of us Yankee fans or slapping us in the face with his bulging money clip, Hal Steinbrenner did take some time the other day last week to comment on the upcoming contract situations for Joe Girardi and Robinson Cano.  Both of them enter 2013 in the final year of their current deals, and in typical Yankee fashion Hal played the "we don't do extensions" card.  That's not surprising knowing how the Yankees do business when it comes to new contracts, but considering they're already changing the way they do business by trying to scale back payroll, it would be wise to loosen up the standards on the extension front as well.

Girardi has done a very good job in his time as Yankee manager.  He's experienced the highs of winning a World Series title and the lows of not even making the playoffs.  He's won games and he's lost games, and he knows what it's like to manage in this town under the pressure of annual championship expectations.  According to Hal, those expectations still stand even with the Yankees limiting their ability to build the best team possible, so what sense does it make to let Joe go through 2013 as a lame duck when he's the best candidate to be at the helm of a team going through this transition?

As far as Cano is concerned, it's pretty simple.  The only chance the Yankees have of re-signing him for less than market value is to negotiate an extension now.  Once this season is over and Cano hits the open market, teams like the Dodgers are going to get involved and drive his price way up.  And with Scott Boras handling things, you know he's going  to make sure Cano gets every last cent available.  Anything the Yankees can do to keep that cost down helps them in their quest to get under $189 million in 2014, so it's to their benefit to be open to extension talks with Cano now.  To stick to their traditional way of doing things would be shortsighted and foolish.

"The Yankee way" is a tradition that's already in the process of being changed.  If Hal wants to be more strict about limiting the payroll budget, he needs to counter that by being more flexible in the things that allow him to maintain that budget, like in-season extensions.  That's not even a baseball decision, that's just smart business.