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Sunday, October 19, 2003

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY

Prospectus' Joe Sheehan has an amazing pitch-by-pitch breakdown of Martinez' collapse (and Little's Bakeresque indifference to it) in Game 7. I think he gives Little too much credit for his previous handling of Pedro (I mean, come on, if Grady just had a brain cramp, why did he let Pedro throw 130 pitches against Oakland?--most starters average around 100 pitches per start, so it's not proof of anything that Little usually pulls Pedro around that mark--it's more telling that he apparently keeps Pedro out longer for "important" games), but it's a great piece.

The popular consensus is that Grady will be, and deserves to be, fired because of his screw up. (How the hell does Dusty get away with his inanities?) I agree, but not because of one game. He consistently mismanaged that team throughout the postseason. Keeping Pedro out to give up one run in the seventh, and then three more in the eigth merely brought the obvious to everyone's attention.

READ THE BOTTOM LINE FOR ME

Another postseason game, another o-fer for Jason Giambi.

If I'm the Yankees, more so than losing a close game to an unimpressive Brad Penny (sample size, shmample size, he's pitched his way out of being a keeper in my fantasy pool this postseason), I'm really worried about Giambi. And not just for this series. But for the duration of his contract.

A healthy, focused Giambi is probably the best hitter in the AL. (You could make the case for Manny Ramirez, I guess. I'm not sure I'd hear arguments for anyone else.) He's worth every penny of that $120 M contract.

But since his horrible slump at the start of the season, apparently the result of an eye infection, he's been very streaky. He's had classic Giambi hot stretches (a .373/.554/.819 June), but this postseason Jason doesn't look like himself. He's missing pitches he usually crushes, he's not fouling off the strikes he can't drive, and he's chasing pitcher's pitches out of the zone.

What really concerns me, however, more so than Giambi's .250 batting average during the regular season (he still had a .939 OPS), is the increase in the number of strikeouts. Over his career, Jason's hovered around a 1.0 BB/K ratio. (At his best with Oakland in '00 and '01, it was about 1.5.) Since coming to New York, that ratio has dropped. First a little in '02 (.97 BB/K), and now a little more (.92). In fact, Jason's 140 strikeouts this year is the most of his career by a considerable margin. His previous high was 112 last year, and before that, 106 in '98.

It's tempting to blame the drop this year on the early season struggles, but the numbers don't bare it out. Jason posted a .96 K/BB before the break, and a .87 K/BB after it. In fact, despite his Christian Guzman-esque April, Jason's first half numbers are much better than his second half: .267/.419/.547 before the break, and .226/.401/.498 after it.

And while it's also tempting to call his current playoff performance a slump, the truth is that his current playoff stats are disturbingly similar with with those second half numbers: .54 K/BB and .222/.327/.467. (I'm tempted to interpret the further increase in strikeouts/decrease in walks as a sign that he's really been pushing, especially that 3 K Game 6 against Boston. Torre clearly saw something too, and promptly moved Jason down in the order to take pressure off him.)

Maybe Jason's just getting old (it happens to almost everyone). The mild dip in his performance that we saw last year should be expected.

But on a number of at bats this postseason I saw him strain to open his eyes wide at the plate in the same manner that you or I might do if we had just rolled out of bed. I'm not Will Carroll, but I was dismayed to later read that that is consistent with the symptoms of the kind of staph eye infection Giambi reportedly had earlier in the year. Simply put, that's not good news.

If Jason's eyes are really deteriorating faster than the rest of his 32 year old body, and there's nothing medical science can do about it (staph infections can cause scarring of the cornea), the Yankees are going to be left with an $81 M albatross (plus $5 M buyout) at DH for the next four years.

Given the $15 M he's paying for a league-average LF for the next two years, the $24 M over the next two years (plus $3.5 M buyout) for a rangeless CF, and the $135 M he's paying a 3B to play SS for the next 7 years, that's a sunken cost I'm not sure even Big Stein can afford to overcome.

GAME ONE THOUGHTS

Hey Grady did you see those pitching changes by Jack McKeon? Somehow I think he still doesn't get it.

Robin Williams isn't funny anymore.

David Dellucci caught on camera mining for nuggets. Steinbrenner's not going to be happy about that.

Jason Giambi has been demoted in the batting order why hasn't Alfonso Soriano? He shouldn't be hitting leadoff anyways.

How many games will it take for the Yankees to figure out Willis?

Bernie Williams is 34 but he looks like he's 40.

I miss Bret Boone.

That was a pretty boring game. Or maybe the other games were so exciting that this one seemed boring. I hope it picks up.

At least Rivera got some rest.

Pettitte will help neutralize the Marlins running game tommorow. Lowell and Pudge will need to step up if they are going to win.

See ya tommorow.


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