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April 30, 2004

by Larry Mahnken

Oh yeah--I forgot Bernie's homer last night. Hey, it's 3am, gimme a break.

Yeah, that elicited a big cheer from me.

One Year
by Larry Mahnken

A year ago today, I was just a guy posting on a message board. What a difference a year makes--now I'm a guy posting on a blog.

Okay, I won't make that big a deal about this, since I don't really place that much importance on the passing of years anyway. But what started as a place where I figured I'd post my rantings about my favorite team turned into one of the best things to ever happen to me. It's given me direction, it's given me a measure of renown, it's made me a couple hundred dollars, and for the most part, it's been fun.

I really didn't think very many people would visit this site, and I didn't think those that did would stick around very long. If you had told me that within the next year I would have been getting linked to in Clutch Hits, exchanged emails with Keith Law, been named the best baseball blog by Forbes, been mentioned several times in Art Martone's columns, participated in a roundtable discussion with several respected sportswriters, launched a highly successful website with other popular internet writers, or had an article published in a newspaper (let alone one it Red Sox territory), I would have called that crazy talk, you crazy, and told you to get out of the road.

I don't know if this is fame, though I guess having my name recognized by people who've never met me can be considered fame to a small degree. It is kind of weird to hear people talking about your opinions when you're not around, as though you're an authority. I'm not, I'm just a fan like the rest of you guys, I guess I've just got a way of expressing my thoughts in a way that people enjoy.

Really, I don't know why people like my stuff. That's been a problem for me, since being moderately successful gives me a responsibility to put out quality material, but I don't know what people are considering quality. I should probably just go with whatever I feel like saying, since that's what attracted people in the first place, but the pressure affects that, and sometimes I don't really know what to say. To some degree, it may have affected the quality of my writing, but it certainly has affected the quantity of it.

But anyway, I guess I just did make a big deal out of this, so I'm sorry for that. I'm pretty sure what you do like about this site is when I talk about, oh, I don't know, the Yankees, so let's go there.

The Yanks finished off a huge sweep of the A's last night. Since the Red Sox swept the Devil Rays, too, the Yanks didn't gain any ground on Boston, but it's really too early to be looking at the standings (he says as updating his magic number countdown...). What was important about this series was that the offense came to life, scoring 22 runs off of one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, and three of the best starters in the game.

Derek Jeter broke out of his 0-32 slide with a homer on Zito's first pitch last night, but while the slide's over, the slump isn't. He'll need to get a couple more hits to break out of that, but it'll come soon enough, probably this weekend. Miguel Cairo hit a tie-breaking home run that probably ensured he'll be the regular second baseman for the next few weeks. His numbers will inevitably decline, probably very quickly, and the Yankees will end up settling into something of a platoon between the two before going out and accquiring a legitimate second baseman (I'm thinking Junior Spivey, once the Brewers start fading).

Kevin Brown was very good again, although he wasn't dominant. Brown's intensity led to a very funny moment during the game, when Mel Stottlemyre came out to talk to him as a stall tactic while Paul Quantrill got warm. "You can talk to the other guys," Brown said, and left Mel on the mound with Posada and Giambi as he walked off by himself. I can see where Brown's gotten a reputation as being a prick, but on this team, where winning is more important than anything else, that's an attitude that might be appreciated, rather than being irritating.

Listening once again to Jim Kaat spout more half-assed comments about how the game is supposed to be played, I'm starting to come to that realization I suppose all people come to as they get older, that you can't change the minds of the previous generation, you have to win over the minds of the next one. I should let Kaat and Kay's foolishness roll off my back a little, and focus more on presenting information to the casual observer of sabermetrics in a way that might be more appealing. Let the media and fanboys fawn over Derek Jeter's defense; we can't change their minds, it's the unbiased who we have to educate.

April 29, 2004

by Larry Mahnken

Over the past couple of seasons, I've learned to tune out Michael Kay when watching the Yankees games, allowing me to enjoy the team without going totally insane. Unfortunately, it's getting to the point where Jim Kaat is becoming even more unbearable. It seems like every game he goes off on a Moneyball rant, each time demonstrating total ignorance of what sabermetrics is about, and how the A's, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Dodgers utilize statistical analysis.

Last night's lowlight was his claim that Juan Pierre might have been the MVP of last year's World Series. Not Josh Beckett or Brad Penny, and not because he got on base at a .481 clip, but because he did the little things. Apparently, it's the little things, and not home runs, that win postseason games. As I was just telling Alex Gonzalez.

But enough about Kitty, let's talk about the Bombers, who look to be out of their slide. 5 runs isn't an explosion, but with four of them off of Mark Mulder and the other off of Arthur Rhodes, it's pretty good. Jeter's still hitless, but here's an old story about Jeter that'll make you feel good about him, anyway.

Jose Contreras wasn't great, but was pretty good. He struggled with his control at times, but got the job done, and only gave up one run on Crosby's homer. He's still got some work to do before we can stop worrying about him, but last night was a positive first step.

This is why I love baseball--a couple of days ago, I could hardly contain my rage, and many of my fellow fans were entering panic mode. Now, I'm not ready to see the team take on the Red Sox just yet, but I'm feeling pretty damn good about things again.

April 28, 2004

Great Win
by Larry Mahnken

Okay, it's late, so I'm not going to write very much. The Yankees had a great, great win against the A's last night, coming back from a 4-run deficit in the eigth inning.

The positives of the win only go so far. Bernie Williams was absolutely horrible in center last night, though his problem was one of range, not looking bad. Kaat and Singleton noticed, but I think most fans think it's more a problem that's he's not what he once was, not that he's bad.

Mike Mussina was bad again, and it's time to worry. His velocity's down, his control is off, he's getting hit hard. He needs a great start ASAP.

The rally was great, but was a weak one, without many hard hits. In and of itself, it doesn't demonstrate that the Yankees are ready to break out--they scored 7 runs in the first against the White Sox a week ago and that didn't help at all--but the emotion of this win might take some of the pressure off of the slumping players, and maybe they'll hit better.

I wrote a really long article (almost 4000 words) for The Hardball Times yesterday about the Yankees' woes. It's the first thing I've written in several weeks that I'm really completely satisfied with, but don't be afraid to criticize it. Especially the puns. If you do like them, I'll point out that most of them came from Baseball Primer's sjohnny. If you don't like them, then I came up with all of them. But anyway, thanks to John for his help on those puns, and don't accuse him of plagiarism if he uses any of them in a Clutch Hit or something.

April 26, 2004

by Larry Mahnken

Okay, okay, the sun came up this morning, the sky is still up there, and food still tastes okay. A little more bitter than before, but still palatable.

Let's put this in perspective: It's just over 1/9 of the way through the season, the Yankees are 3 games under .500, 5 games out of first place, and 1-6 versus their archrivals. It looks really bad right now.

But we know the Yankees aren't this bad, not even close. We know they'll play better, and we know that they'll beat Boston later in the season. It wasn't just Boston that beat the Yankees the last two games, because everyone the Yankees have played have done the same thing to them that Boston did.

It hurts, but books aren't written about late-April sweeps, even when it's Boston-New York. They don't even talk about them at the end of the season, because it's not as big as it was made out to be.

The biggest complaint about this weekend was that not very much good came out of it. Kevin Brown pitched great on Saturday and Javier Vazquez pitched great on Sunday--but then, they were already pitching well. Gordon, Quantrill and Rivera were good, but we knew that already. But the lineup still isn't hitting, and Contreras sucked again. The closest to good news was A-Rod's home run on Saturday.

But then, now Jeter's the one who's sucking, and actually getting booed at Yankee Stadium (maybe it's time to pass the Jeter's defense sucks meme around with the mainstream Yankee fans). These are strange days indeed.

But let's NOT go overboard. Yeah, the Yankees have to win five more games than the Red Sox to catch them. Well, that'll never happen. Because Boston won't ever go into a slump, and the Yankees won't get red-hot, and overcoming a five-game deficit in April is such a rarity (Didn't Boston nearly make up a 10-game deficit in three weeks last season?)

This was a terribly frustrating weekend, but in two weeks we'll all be over it. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go buy new furniture.

April 25, 2004

by Larry Mahnken

How many times does Joe Torre have to lose a game for us before he realizes that he should STOP FUCKING PINCH-RUNNING FOR JASON GIAMBI?!?!?!

I'm so angry right now--and it's several hours after the game ended--I can't concentrate on anything.

Think of all the ways that Bubba Crosby could score from second base that Jason Giambi couldn't. Now think of the likelihood of those events happening. I bet it was less likely than the 4th spot in the batting order coming up again, wasn't it?

What do you mean you didn't do the math? Slacker.

Yesterday was the third game in a row in which Torre made a poor decision that made it more difficult for the Yankees to win. They might still have lost all three games, but I think they might have won one of them. Why does Joe Torre make these decisions? Because he can't look bad by doing them. How many newspapers are going to take him to task for pinch-running Crosby for Giambi? How many would have criticized him if he hadn't, and Giambi hadn't scored on a single?

I don't want to talk about this anymore. I'm too mad to be objective.

April 24, 2004

by Larry Mahnken

A lot of people don't like to account for luck when analyzing baseball, or any sport. Everything that happens must happen for a reason, and it's usually attributed to something intangible, like guts or clutchness (Bill James scoffed at this attitude in his New Historical Baseball Abstract: "We are supposed to believe that athletes are athletes not merely because they are fast, strong quick and well conditioned, but because there is something special inside them, this "character" that comes to the fore in the crucible of athletic competition. The are athletes, in other words, because they are better people than the rest of us.").

As it turns out, recent studies have shown that clutchness is real, and tangible, and significant. But that doesn't mean that all clutch plays come from clutch players, are happen because of the clutchness of the players involved. Sometimes things happen when they happen because that's when they happen.

The Yankees are hitting horribly. They're hitting like last year's Tigers when they were slumping (or last year's Dodgers when they were hot). They're not hitting horribly because of poor lineup construction (though they've had that), or because Enrique Wilson is playing every day, and Ruben Sierra is playing, period. They're not hitting poorly because Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield can't handle the pressure of New York, or because Jason Giambi slimmed down, or because Derek Jeter is trying to lower his regular season rate statistics to make his postseason stats look more clutch.

They're hitting poorly because almost everyone on the team is in a slump. Slumps happen. They almost always start because of random variation--a player doesn't get the right pitches to hit, he doesn't get balls to fall in, he misses his pitches by a fraction of a second--but they can be self-sustaining after a while. In trying to get out of the slump, a player could change his entire approach, and end up making things worse. Some of the Yankees are in the first stage of that, some of them (like A-Rod, though he might slowly be breaking out of it), are in the second stage. Eventually, they'll hit. Eventually, for a few games at least, they'll all hit at once, and ruin some pitcher's ERA. But for now, they're in a slump.

There's not much that can be done about it. It's frustrating. It's angrifying. It's chall-inducing. But you can't blame Joe Torre for it (though he's doing plenty lately to garner criticism), and you can't blame Don Mattingly for it, either. Though if it goes on long enough, and it's clear that Mattingly is the problem, then you can't be afraid to fire him--that 23 is on the wall because of what he did as a player, not a coach (I think Donnie's been okay so far, though he was my favorite ballplayer as a kid, so I'm biased).

But man, it's tough to wait through. And when they're not hitting, they need to pitch well. And last night... well, they didn't pitch well.

I have a criticism about what Torre did last night over this. Bill James wrote earlier in the NHBA about relief pitching, and recommended a different usage of ace relievers. What James discovered is that of all the ways to use your best reliever, saving him for a ninth-inning lead was the least valuable. The most valuable way to use a relief pitcher was to bring him in when the game was tied in the late innings, or really any situation where the game was likely to be decided. Lesser relievers are capable of getting 3 outs without giving up a run, let alone 3 runs.

When the Red Sox hired Bill James last year, and let Ugueth Urbina leave as a free agent, a lot of statheads (including myself) thought that the Red Sox were going to apply this theory. In fact, they couldn't apply this theory, since they didn't have a real "ace reliever", though they had some talent out there. What they were doing was declining to pay a good but not great reliever far more than he was worth because he had saved a lot of games. When they signed Keith Foulke this past offseason, it wasn't an admission that they needed a closer, but rather an acknowledgement that Keith Foulke was a great reliever. They're not using him optimally (though they're using him in just about every other way, he's already thrown 200 innings), but I've digressed.

The whole point is that you should use your best relievers at the most important points of the game, whenever that may be.

So, when the Yankees pulled Jose Contreras in the top of the 4th with two runners on and Boston leading 3-0, who did they bring in? Donovan Osborne--who if not for the presence of Alex Graman and Scott Proctor, would be the last man in the bullpen. Osborne promptly gave up a three-run home run to Bill Mueller, and while it wasn't exactly game over, it was pretty close.

I'm not advocating bring out Mo Rivera then. But in that situation, it might have been the smart move to bring in Tom Gordon or Paul Quantrill--or even Gabe White--and try to get out of the inning without giving up any more runs, and keep the Yankees in the game. Osborne didn't pitch that poorly, but in that situation, a base hit would be a heavy blow, and an extra base hit would be a knockdown. If the Yankees wanted to win, they had to stop the Red Sox right then, and when Osborne came out of the bullpen, I felt like Joe Torre had given up on the game. After the homer, so did I. They weren't scoring 6 runs off of Lowe this time.

I'm not advocating keeping Gordon or Quantrill out there in a losing effort for three innings, mind you. If Torre had brought Osborne in for the 5th, I would accept that, but with two on and one out in the fourth, the Yankees needed to get out of the inning without any more runs. Osborne was far from the best option to do that.

April 23, 2004

Bummer Of A Loss
by Larry Mahnken

It was a tough loss, but it wasn't a bitter one. Yeah, the Yankees came within a step of tying the game, but they lost because they didn't score off of Schoenweis earlier, and because Moose pitched pretty poorly in the first.

There was a questionable managerial decision in the ninth, when Joe Torre left Jason Giambi on the bench as Ruben Sierra popped out and Travis Lee grounded into a double play. Maybe he was saving him to pinch-hit for Cairo after Lee, but I think he should have brought him in for Sierra, who probably shouldn't have played anyway. It wouldn't have mattered if Lee could have hit a fly ball, but them's the breaks. I'm already over it, and I doubt the Yanks will dwell on it much.

What's more important about yesterday is that Mike Mussina, after starting out the game looking like he was washed up, looked pretty sharp the rest of the way. He's still missing a few MPH off of his fastball, his location is not as sharp as we're used to, but he can win some games pitching like this.

Until this past week, I wasn't getting excited by baseball the way I usually am. It's probably because the offseason seemed so much shorter to me this year than in seasons past, and because there weren't that many exciting games. That changed on Monday, when the Yanks lost to the Red Sox. Ever since about halfway through that game, I've been riding the emotional roller coaster again, though no chairs are getting thrown yet (though I did punch a wall on Monday, and slam my fist last night).

Boston comes into the Stadium tonight, and the Yanks are looking for revenge for last weekend's 3-1 series loss. Whether they win tonight is mostly up to Jose Contreras, I think, but then the Yankees are due to explode offensively any day now. But I've learned my lesson; I'm not making any predictions.

April 22, 2004

by Larry Mahnken

I think Joe Torre just tries too hard sometimes to not be a push-button manager. Man, if you've got Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada in your lineup, what on earth makes you decide that you want Bubba Crosby to lead off?

Fortunately, that didn't cost the Yankees the game, and I don't think it had anything to do with the Yankees' inability to hit Jon Garland for most of the game. But it was a pretty silly decision.

But anyway, they won, and it was a good win. No, they didn't hit, but Javier Vazquez was fantastic, A-Rod hit a big home run (though he didn't realize it at first), and Jorge Posada hit another one (though Gary Sheffield didn't realize it at first).

With Jorge DePaula out for the entire season (everyone who thought he'd be first, raise your hand), the Yankees are faced with unappealing choices for the first starter until Jon Lieber gets back. DIPS says that Alex Graman wasn't that bad Tuesday, but he was falling behind batters, and didn't do anything to keep the ball away from the defense--which is a must with the Yankees. There's a lot of reasons to think that he's capable of more, and he should probably get another shot at a fill-in start later in the season--but not against the Red Sox.

I think the Yankees should go with Vazquez on short rest--and I would have taken him out after seven innings last night to be safe. It's not just Sunday's game; with an off day on Monday, the rotation next week can shake out like this:

5th Starter vs. Boston
Vazquez vs. Oakland (5 days rest)
Mussina vs. Oakland (5 days rest)
Brown vs. Oakland (4 days rest)
Contreras vs. Kansas City (6 days rest)
5th Starter vs. Kansas City

or this:

Vazquez vs. Boston (3 days rest)
Mussina vs. Oakland (4 days rest)
Contreras vs. Oakland (4 days rest)
Brown vs. Oakland (4 days rest)
Vazquez vs. Kansas City (4 days rest)
5th Starter vs. Kansas City

With option two, you have to use Vazquez on short rest, and still have to use Graman or Osborne on Saturday, but it's better than option one, where you have to go with your 5th starter twice, and you have to use Mussina, Vazquez and Contreras on long rest (Mussina is traditionally poor after long rest, and Vazquez got smacked around by the Sox last week after 7 days' rest).

To me, it's another no-brainer.

April 21, 2004

Loss Day
by Larry Mahnken

What must it feel like to be Alex Graman today? You've spent most of your life preparing for yesterday, and before you ever throw a pitch, you've been staked to a 7-run lead. Your opponent's lineup is potent, but at least has been stripped of two of it's best hitters, making your task even easier: go five innings, give up six runs or fewer, and you've got your first major league win.

Instead, you leave the game in the third with most of the lead gone, denied your win, and faced with the very real possibility that you've just had your only chance at a major league career, and blown it. With the possibility that Jon Lieber could return on Sunday, and two other pitchers ahead of you on the depth chart, your one and only moment may have just passed.

But hey, the Yankees won, and they scored some runs, too. Everyone except Travis Lee got a hit, and A-Rod's bat woke up a little bit with three singles. And it kind of makes up a bit for losing on Monday, when I expected them to win, because they won a game I expected them to lose.

Hopefully, the offensive outburst will stick, and they'll smack the Red Sox around next weekend at The Stadium. I'd like to see Rodriguez and Sheffield start hitting some home runs before I believe they're out of their funk, but once they do, this lineup will be devastating.

* * *

God, Bernie Williams looks awful out in center. I think we might hear "Bernie plays it on a hop" more often this season than "Past a diving Jeter". How can Joe keep putting him out there when he looks this bad?

* * *

Kaat and Kay took another shot at sabermetrics yesterday, criticizing the Red Sox for directing Terry Francona on how to make his lineup and rotation. Yeah, how DARE they tell their employees what to do! Their job is to assemble the team, it's the manager's job to run it, and if the manager doesn't want to run the team optimally, well, then it's up to the front office to get players that suit the manager's style!

And will these guys stop talking about Hideki Matsui being just as good against lefties as he is against righties? Yes, his batting average was the same .287 vs. both lefties and righties last season, but his OPS was over 100 points higher vs. righties. If the stats aren't showing that he's as good or better against lefties than he is against righties, then how does this skill manifest itself? What's it's value?

* * *

The DIPS Report won't be updated tonight, I've spent the day improving my spreadsheet to track more stats, and I haven't gotten around to making the report page yet. It's April, I doubt anyone will be that upset by this.

April 20, 2004

Win Day
by Larry Mahnken

See, it figured that I would have to eat my words. Guess that'll show me not to be optimistic.

Yesterday's game was the first really exciting game of the series, even though the Yanks didn't win it. Brown didn't shut down the Sox, but the loss wasn't so much his fault as it was the result of unexceptional hitting by the Bombers and plain old bad luck. If the game had started at a normal time, maybe Matsui doesn't lose that ball in the sun, and maybe the Yankees win. So there you have it--Paul Revere cost the Yankees the win today. Bastard.

The loss stings on it's own, but especially so because it resulted in the Yankees losing the series 3-1, rather than splitting. They'll go right back at each other next weekend, so revenge won't have to wait too long.

If you want to see something positive about the 6-7 start, it's that almost everybody on the team has played poorly. How's that a positive, you ask? Well, these guys aren't unproven rookies, the Yankees are a veteran team, and while declines from past performances are likely for many of them and possible for others, a total collapse by most of the roster, as we've seen in the first few weeks, would probably be the most shocking event in the history of professional baseball. They've played like garbage, but they're still about breaking even. When everyone finally breaks out, the Yanks could go off on an incredibly hot streak. That's seeing a silver lining around the cloud, but the cloud's not really that big anyway. It's been 13 games.

I figure they'll probably lose their 8th before winning their 7th, with Alex Graman going against Chicago tonight. Graman's not bad, but he's highly unlikely to shut down the White Sox. Maybe the hitters will break out--that single by A-Rod in the ninth might relax him a bit--but I'm going into tonight without any positive expectations.

* * *

I should probably send Jim Kaat a letter and tell him to either learn something about sabermetrics or shut up about it, because he sounds like an idiot every time he talks about stats.

Yesterday, he criticized the front office for directing the manager on how to run the game, and said that maybe the front office guys should go into the dugout and run the team themselves "in their suits and ties". Because wearing a suit and tie is the sign of a lousy manager...

Kaat also showed his ignorance of the concept of sample size, quoting statistics from 6 or 7 plate appearances when talking about what matchups a "stat guy" would want to have, similar to what Jack McKeon did in his Sports Illustrated article. The truth is that a stathead would want to use the largest sample possible, and if there's only a few plate appearances--or even a few dozen appearances--against a pitcher, the stat guy is going to go with a player's overall stats and lefty/righty splits. What the batter did against the specific guy who happens to be on the mound will generally be ignorned.

This also addresses the concern Kaat stated about ignoring the fact that human beings don't react the same way every day. No, they don't, but even if they did, they wouldn't put up predictable numbers every day. You can't tell ahead of time how a player's going to react in a specific situation against a specific pitcher, so you need to go by how they've reacted in the past to every situation. When you go by gut instinct--something Kaat specifically endorsed--you're going to do a LOT of stupid things.

There is a war going on in baseball between statheads and traditionalists, but it's the traditionalists who are waging the war of annihilation, with the statheads fighting merely to establish a foothold. People like Jim Kaat, faced with something new, have reacted by sticking their fingers in their ears, closing their eyes, and yelling "La la la! I can't hear you!", instead of listening, and judging the new information rationally. To people like that, being right isn't the most important thing--everyone else thinking you're right is.

April 19, 2004

by Larry Mahnken

I gotta say, I didn't feel too optimistic about yesterday's game. With every hitter but Enrique Wilson mired in a horrid slump, and Derek Lowe going for the Red Sox, I figured that El Titan would have to be at his very best to pull out a win. To be fair, Lowe has a very poor track record against the Yankees, but my pessimistic nature took over, and I was prepared for an afternoon of slow grounders to Bellhorn.

When the Red Sox took the lead in the bottom of the first, I was thinking, "Here we go again," but the Yankees didn't fall apart. They got the run right back, and in the third inning, exploded for six runs. Well, perhaps exploded isn't the right word, but they hit the ball where they ain't. You don't have to hit everything--or anything, for that matter--out of the park to hit well, and the Yankees hit well without hitting hard. That's a good approach against a pitcher like Lowe, who wants you to try to put the ball in play. By playing by his terms, and doing what they could with his pitches, the Yankees were able to make him pay for that very anti-DIPS strategy.

Ultimately, this day was exactly what the Yankees needed. 10 hits, 4 doubles, 21 baserunners--a good offensive performance. Even if they hadn't won, they didn't go down meekly like they did the previous two games, and it makes you feel better about this morning's game, and the series next weekend.

Brownie's going today, and as I've said before, I already feel like it's "Win Day" with him on the mound. That he's facing Bronson Arroyo--a solid, unspectacular pitcher--makes me feel all the more confident.

Speaking of today's game, I've got to go to bed now so I can get up and watch it! See you in the Game Chatter.

April 17, 2004

by Larry Mahnken

Well, crap. The more I say that I'm not worried about the Yankees, the more it sounds like I'm covering for my worrying about the Yankees. Still, I wouldn't be worried, the biggest problem this team has faced--lack of hitting--is one that's not going to keep up for much longer. There's just too much talent in that lineup.

The problem is, the Yankees are playing like a team that doesn't have much to worry about. They know how much talent they have, so they don't feel any sense of urgency in trying to win. Yeah, there have been plenty of excuses for why they've played poorly--the trip to Japan, the four out of five days off this past week--but great teams don't lose when they have an excuse to lose, or at least not very often. That's what makes them great teams.

There wasn't really very much to like about last night's game, and it was exacerbated by the fat idiot with the ugly shirt behind home plate and his fat idiot friend (High Five!), not to mention "Scooter", which was apparently designed to scare children off of baseball until they're 15, at least.

I'd say more, but I don't really want to reflect on it anymore, and I've got to leave for work now, too. Moose vs. Gehrig38 this afternoon.

April 16, 2004

The Rivalry
by Larry Mahnken

Lately, it's become fashionable to say that the Yankees and Red Sox aren't really rivals, because of Boston's failure to win a title for 85 years, or really do much to prevent the Yankees from winning their 26 titles during that time. It's not so much a rivalry as a Greek Tragedy.

Well, bullshit. It's a rivalry. It's not a rivalry in the sense that Lakers/Celtics or 49ers/Cowboys were, where two great teams develop an animosity because they've met each other with titles on the line repeatedly. Those rivalries tend to fade away--at least for the more casual fans of their teams--as one or both teams decline. The animosity between the Yankees and Red Sox runs deeper than that, and is eternal. When the Red Sox eventually win a title, the rivalry may seem less compelling to outsiders, but the hatred between Yankees fans and Red Sox fans will be every bit as intense--perhaps even more so.

It's not one-sided, either. Sure, the Red Sox and their fans are more obsessed with the Yankees than the Yankees and their fans are with the Sox, but New Yorkers still delight in seeing the Red Sox come up short of a title each year, and take a certain amount of pride in their decades-long futility, knowing that their team is responsible for a large part of it. Last year's ALCS victory was so much sweeter for coming against the Red Sox, and the trade for Alex Rodriguez was that much bigger because Boston had pursued him so diligently. Losing the Red Sox isn't a disaster, but it hurts more than other losses. Don't ever think that Yankees fans don't care about these games.

This weekend's series sets up very nicely for the Yankees. Tonight's matchup between Vazquez and Wakefield is clearly advantageous for the Yankees, though Wakefield's recent track record against the Yankees, particularly in last year's ALCS (except for that one pitch), gives Boston a good chance to win. Tomorrow is a rematch of Game 1 of the 2001 World Series, with hopefully better results. I think Moose will come around tomorrow, and we'll see one of the great games of the season. Sunday definitely leans towards Boston, as Derek Lowe faces Jose Contreras. Then again, the Yankees have usually done well against Lowe, and Contreras looked dominating out of the bullpen until Game 6 of the ALCS. Monday is a huge advantage for the Yankees, as Kevin Brown matches up with Bronson Arroyo. It's Brown's first quality opponent, but it's not like he's an unknown rookie, he's Kevin Freaking Brown, and the question isn't whether he'll be great, but whether he'll be healthy. And Arroyo's not as bad as he seemed last night, but he's no Kevin Brown on his best days, either.

The injuries to Garciaparra and Nixon probably balance out the fact that the Yankees' lineup is slumping--except that we know that Boston's not getting those two players back in the series, and the Yankees may very well start hitting this weekend. These bats will wake up eventually, and it doesn't matter that they're facing the Red Sox pitching this weekend--when they start hitting, they'll start hitting everybody.

The Yankees also caught something of a break with the rainouts this week, allowing them to pitching their top three starters in the series, and missing out on Pedro, too. Sure, considering how he pitched last night, one could wonder how much of a break that is, but he's still Pedro. I do think that there has to be some cause for concern, and it can't just be dismissed. I'll go after Ben on that this weekend in RiE.

But even if Pedro's pitching in the mid 90's, if he still has the same movement and location as he did when he threw 95, then he's still one of the top 20 pitchers in the game.

But for this weekend, I expect at least a split for the Yankees, a solid shot at winning 3 of 4, and a longshot--but still a shot--at sweeping. Last season, Boston failed to capitalize on the breaks they got when the Yankees were hurting in mid-season, and it cost them the division. The Yankees need to capitalize on the breaks they're getting this weekend, and win at least two. A sweep by either team won't be much of a blow to the other's division title chances, but it would set a tone for the rest of the season: that the team that did the sweeping is the team to beat, and that the other is the one that has to do the chasing.

But a sweep is highly unlikely this weekend, and the most important product of this series will be four great baseball games between two of the best teams in baseball. And the fact that it's the Yankees and Red Sox makes it all the better.

* * *

Working on these DIPS Reports has made me a lot more adept at using Microsoft Excel, and what a few days ago took me several hours a night to produce now only takes about an hour of my time. All I have to do is enter the data from the Box Scores, and the rest is automatic. Vinay Kumar also has given me access to THT's stats feed (which we're using to set up our statistical database soon), so I might be able to make the process easier soon. Whereas before these reports were so time-consuming that I was considering only doing them once a week, I now don't see why I won't have them updated daily, unless I'm too busy to enter the data. Ultimately, these reports might move to THT, which would basically take them totally out of my hands.

Not that most of you would care, you don't come here for stats, you come here to read. But this is something that for now I'm very much enjoying. You also get to see all sorts of interesting things--take a look at Randy Choate's DIPS (first pitcher on the Diamondbacks' list) and then look at his ERA.

April 13, 2004

Daily DIPS Report (I hope)
by Larry Mahnken

Tranferring the DIPS numbers to HTML was actually easier than I thought it would be--far easier. Anyway, here's the report, hopefully to be updated daily. Ask any questions here.

It's my birthday, it's my birthday; I'm the birthday boy or girl!
by Larry Mahnken

A few years ago, I was about to turn 24, and was preparing for my party, when I came to a realization. In one year, I would be 25 years old--a quarter of a century. "Who needs that?" I thought. Before I knew it, I'd be 30, then 40, then 50. Every ten years would be a cause for celebration, then every year, then every month, day, hour...

Screw getting old. And so, on that day, I determined that I would never be 25. I suppose I could have taken a mathematical approach to the problem, and declared my age to be asymptotic, but I don't think many people would have gotten that. Instead, I declared my upcoming birthday to be my first annual 24th birthday, and would forever celebrate turning 24. Today, I celebrate my fourth annual 24th birthday. (And to answer the question that EVERYONE asks, no. You're forgetting that the first annual 24th birthday was actually my 24th birthday).

Really, what does age matter? Time isn't cyclical, it moves forward. A year is simply a measure of how many times the Earth has rotated around the Sun, and your birthday is when the Earth is in approxomately the same position, relative to the Sun, as it was when you were born. But it's not when you were born.

And even though it's a measurement of the passage of time, time isn't even a constant for everybody. Everything in the universe experiences the passage of time differently, and what feels like one second to one person could feel like a minute to another--and not just feel, but be. And age certainly doesn't give a reliable measure of a person's maturity, intelligence, health, attractiveness or really anything other than how old they are. A birthday is almost entirely arbitrary, and if I want to say I'm 24, then why not?

Yeah, you're probably pissed off that you hadn't thought of it first. Well, I'm pissed that I didn't think of it when I turned 21. Then I could get everyone to buy me drinks every year on my birthday.

Today is also my Mother's birthday, and since she checks the site out, I'd ask you to also wish her a happy birthday. Especially since she came first, so she has more of a claim on the day.

As for baseball, Barry Bonds hit his 660th HR yesterday, tying Willie Mays. Mays came out on the field and presented Barry with a torch, to represent the passing of the torch, though what figurative torch that was somewhat escapes me. When he passes Ruth, they should have one of his relatives come out and pass him a hooker.

I noticed the torch wasn't lit. Maybe that gives a clue as to the reasons for Bonds' late career Home Run surge--he died in his mid-30's, and was brought back to life by Dr. Frankenstein. Fire bad!

Thank you folks, I'll be here all week. I appreciate the fruit.

Peter Gammons made the idiotic statement on SportsCenter last night that Bonds is the only hitter ever that you're best off walking every time. But he's not. No hitter ever has been, and probably no hitter ever will be. If you pitch to Bonds, he'll hit a lot of HRs--a LOT of HRs--but he'll also make a lot of outs.

The thing is, people only remember the times he hits the HRs, they don't remember the outs. If your pitcher gives up a HR, they say you were stupid for pitching to him, but if he gets him out--as he will more often than not when you pitch to him--they say you dodged a bullet. A HR is the worst thing that can happen, but it's not the most likely thing.

When you walk him, he never makes an out. Ever. He won't hit a HR, but the lineup will keep moving, and there's another runner on base. Overall, it hurts you. But at least you don't look bad.

A lot of people in baseball don't like walks, they think they're failures by the hitter. There's a bias in about big slow guys who walk, some people say they "clog up the basepaths". Well, if they're on second with a fast runner on first, that's true I guess, but then the stolen base is one of the most overrated offensive plays in the game. It's not worth giving up the walks for the few stolen bases you might get. Especially when you consider how much that situation comes up.

I really think a lot of the people who talk about the bases being clogged really think that it hurts the tail runner when a ball's put in play, too. As if there were very many players who were so slow that they couldn't beat a fast runner home with a 90 foot head start.

But I digress. Outs are precious in baseball, and you should never give up the opportunity to get one from the other team, and never give them away, except in a few narrowly defined circumstances.

I like Barry Bonds. It's not because he's such a great hitter, but because he's a real person. You know when he's having a good time, when he likes somebody, and he always says just what he means. He won't tolerate stupidity, and he won't pretend he likes someone when he doesn't, or that he's happy when he isn't. Think about it--you know a lot more poeple like him than you do guys like Derek Jeter.

Jeter's the opposite, though I like him, too. He always says "the right thing", but he seems to say it in a way that makes you feel like he's saying it because he means it, not because that's what he's supposed to say. Like when he says he doesn't care who the Yankees play in the postseason, it's because he doesn't care who the Yankees play in the postseason. Or when he scoffs at discussions about having his number retired, it's because he doesn't think about it much. Maybe he's a phony, but he's really good at it.

And then you have A-Rod. Man, does he try too hard. He's always trying to say the right thing, and it's clear that he's trying to say the right thing. He doesn't want to offend anybody, and so he seems really fake. He's not a jerk, and I LOVE having him on the Yankees (I mean, HOW FUCKING SWEET IS THAT?!?!), but when you see him giving an interview, you kind of cringe. Not smooth.

Thanks again to Alex Belth for filling in for me in the Rivals in Exile column yesterday. I'll be back next week, before I get Pipped.

April 12, 2004

by Larry Mahnken

Well, I think it's quite obvious that the Yankees are a mediocre team.

I kid, maybe I'm just getting punished for not being worried--it's unnatural. The Yankees haven't been hitting, but they have been getting on base, which adds to the frustration of their lack of scoring, because they're stranding runners constantly.

Of course, these offensive problems aren't going to keep up all season, and they'll probably break out in a big way sometime this week, but that doesn't make the games any less frustrating. There is comfort in the sports pages though, since whenever you glance at the standings and see that the Detroit Tigers are in first place--or anywhere near first--you know it's really early. And it's REALLY early.

So, no worries. If the Yankees miss the playoffs by a couple of games, they'll have had bigger problems than having split the first two series. I don't think they have those problems yet.

I've been working on the DIPS numbers--it's a pain in the ass, it's time-consuming, and I really don't want to do it; but I want to see the numbers, so that's what I have to do. I'm trying to figure out how to easily transfer the data to a text file for distribution, and when I do that, I'll publish the numbers more or less daily for all of you to see. For now, here's the Yankees' numbers:

Name              dIP dER  dERA ERAR
Brown, Kevin     13.6   3  1.90  5.7
Contreras, Jose   5.4   4  7.32 -1.0
De Paula, Jorge   7.5   5  6.26  -.5
Gordon, Tom       3.8   1  3.13  1.1
Heredia, Felix    3.5   3  8.65 -1.2
Mussina, Mike    17.2  10  5.33   .6
Osborne, Donovan  1.2   0  2.53   .4
Quantrill, Paul   4.9   2  3.60  1.1
Rivera, Mariano   4.5   1  2.13  1.8
Vazquez, Javier   6.8   2  2.78  2.2
White, Gabe       2.9   1  2.02  1.2
Total            71.2  33  4.22 11.3

Nothing particularly enlightening here, the team's 4.22 dERA is right in the middle of the pack, but I think they'll likely finish the season under 4.00, and one of the top teams. Kevin Brown's 5.7 ERAR makes him the most valuable pitcher in baseball so far (He's tied with Beckett, and Schilling is third with 5.6), and having seen his first two starts, already makes me eager to see his next one.

As for the ex-Yankees, Rocket's first start gave him a 1.35 dERA, which is second only to teammate Wade Miller's 1.03. My friend Rob Moses commented that Andy Pettitte looked pretty good for most of his first start, and indeed, his dERA is 2.98. Of course, he's on the DL now, and the injury might have had something to do with the 6 ER he gave up.

Jeff Weaver was great in his first start, with a dERA of 2.19. But his BABIP against was .348...

Boomer didn't give up any earned runs in his first start for the Padres, but he didn't strike anyone out either, giving him a 4.50 dERA. Antonio Osuna's in San Diego, too, and his dERA is 8.37. Chris Hammond is doing better in Oakland--with a 6.59 dERA. Jeff Nelson has a 4.01 dERA in Texas. Yeah, the Yankees' did well upgrading their bullpen.

* * *

I like Bubba Crosby. I guess everyone does right now, but it's understandable. He's a former first round pick who didn't work out, barely made the team in the spring, and is doing very well with the chance he's getting. He's not going to do this all year, and while he's made some nice catches in the outfield, that's largely because he's taking poor routes to the ball. He's not the kind of guy who you look at and say "That's a good player!", but he's the kind that you like to root for. Go Bubba.

April 8, 2004

Yankees 3, Devil Rays 2
by Larry Mahnken

Nothing short of an injury yesterday would have given reason to worry, but the Yankees twice came close to making everyone panic. For five innings, their vaunted lineup was no hit by the great Paul Abbott, before they finally broke through for two runs in the sixth. And then they came within a single of losing the game with Mariano Rivera on the mound, before an excellent play by A-Rod saved the Yankees.

The Yanks come home with a 2-2 record, some small concerns about Mike Mussina, a few more about their long relief, but not much else to be down on. Kevin Brown has been nearly perfect in his first two starts, and has yet to show even the slightest symptoms of Jeteritis. Indeed, his BABIP is only .262 so far, good for anyone, impressive for a ground ball pitcher, and especially so for one pitching for the Yankees. That probably won't keep up, but his DIPS stats have been almost as good.

I spent most of the day yesterday adapting my DIPS worksheet to track DIPS over the course of the season (entering the names is the most time-consuming part, the rest of the data entry is fairly simple), and completed the stats for the AL through yesterdays' games. After his first two starts, Brown's DIPS is 1.90, and he's been 6 runs better than replacement. Again, he'll certainly regress, but he's been better than he was last year so far, which is far more than I think anyone hoped for.

(Yes, I will release the DIPS stats once I've gotten caught up, I still have to finish the NL).

Joe Torre batted Posada eighth again yesterday, putting both Hideki Matsui and Bernie Williams in front of him. I can see Williams being there if he's healthy, but he's not yet, and if he's batting seventh, it should be behind Posada and in front of Matsui. I was watching the game with a friend, and I asked why Joe batted Posada eighth again, and he asked why he's batting Wilson at all. We agreed that the Yankees would be best served over the course of the season to just leave the batting slot empty, taking the automatic out in exchange for eliminating the possibilities of double plays.

And Wilson was an undeserving hero of sorts yesterday. With Bernie Williams on third in the ninth, Wilson was kept in to hit, and flew out, bringing home what proved to be the winning run. After the game, the announcers were saying how it worked out for the Yankees, leaving Wilson in instead of pinch-hitting. Because, of course, only the mighty Enrique Wilson is capable of hitting a fly ball.

Suzyn Waldman said she was questioning the decision to leave Wilson in to hit, but after the fly ball, said, "That's why Joe's down there and I'm up here". No Suzyn, Joe's down there because he's a good leader. I have no idea why you're up there. Probably because there's no God.

Come on people, it was a questionable decision that worked out. Results don't justify decisions. If you pinch-hit Neifi Perez for Barry Bonds, and Perez hits a home run, was it a good idea to pinch-hit Perez for Bonds? Of course not.

I'm pretty satisfied with where they are going into the Home Opener, though the way they got here was a bit frustrating at times. They're 2-2, but we've already seen glimpses of the nightmare for everyone else that this team is going to be at times. And they're already ahead of the '98 Yankees' pace.

April 7, 2004

Devil Rays 9, Yankees 4
by Larry Mahnken

Am I pissed off? No. Am I worried? Hell no. Am I frustrated? A little.

The games at the beginning of the season count just as much as the games at the end of the season and in the middle of the season, so losing two of the first three games isn't a reason to worry, even if it is against the Devil Rays. Of course, I'm naturally inclined to get pissed off when the Yankees lose, but I think I'm going through a bit of a honeymoon period right now, just overjoyed about baseball being back.

Perhaps one could worry about Mike Mussina, who has looked poor in his first two starts, but then there's legitimate excuses for his poor performance. He didn't respond very well to the time shift during the Yankees' trip to Japan, and while jet lag probably had much less effect this time around, having six days off may have hurt him as well. I'll give Mussina another couple of starts before I start wondering if he's losing it.

Joe Torre's managerial decisions yesterday weren't my cup of tea, either. I'll leave the Kenny Lofton as leadoff hitter arguments to other people (it could be worse--Jimy Williams is batting Adam ".320 OBP" Everett second in Houston), but batting Jorge Posada 8th? Maybe Joe's worried he's trying to hit Home Runs...

The lineup game was fun to play last year, especially with Soriano batting leadoff, Matsui batting fifth, and Nick Johnson batting at the bottom, but it's a little easier this year. Still, Joe did manage to screw things up last night. Go figure. Here's my ideal lineup:

3B Jeter
DH Williams
SS Rodriguez
1B Giambi
RF Sheffield
C Posada
CF Lofton
LF Matsui
2B Andy Stankiewicz (Hey, better than Enrique Wilson)

I put Lofton in front of Matsui so he could steal and avoid some DPs. There is merit to batting Lofton ninth, though, in that it makes the lineup alternate between lefties and righties every at-bat, which makes LOOGYs strict OOGYs--a potentially crucial deterrent with Kenny Lofton at the plate.

On the other hand, I don't think anyone's going to be afraid of having a lefty pitch to Enrique Wilson, so they might just bring in the LOOGY for Matsui and keep him in for three batters. This year, the lineup game isn't that much fun, because there's no really obvious mistakes going into the everyday lineup (except for Posada last night, that is).

ESPN is putting the Yankees on trial, saying that they're destroying the game. I see that they put Dershowitz on the side that's preordained to win this time, as you know that the jury's going to find against the Yankees, and say that baseball needs a salary cap, because fans are usually pretty stupid about these things, and the defense lawyer probably is going to argue the wrong case. I bet if you stuck me up there in his stead, I'd win. Well, maybe we should just wait and see how badly he screws up...wait, I'm not watching that! Sorry, Erik. Not that you get a comission or anything...

So, I'm back. My Yankees preview went up on the Hardball Times yesterday, and it's something I'm very pleased with (which is unusual for me). Because of my internet troubles, I didn't get a chance to contribute to the staff's preseason predictions, so here's mine:

AL East    AL Central AL West
Red Sox    Twins      Athletics
Yankees    Royals     Angels
Blue Jays  White Sox  Mariners
Orioles    Indians    Rangers
Devil Rays Tigers

NL East    NL Central NL West
Phillies   Cubs       Giants
Marlins    Astros     Diamondbacks
Braves     Cardinals  Padres
Expos      Reds       Dodgers
Mets       Pirates    Rockies

AL Wild Card: New York
NL Wild Card: Astros

AL Divisional Playoffs: New York over Oakland in 5, Boston over Minnesota in 4
NL Divisional Playoffs: Chicago over San Francisco in 3, Houston over Philadelphia in 4

AL Pennant: New York over Boston in 7
NL Pennant: Chicago over Houston in 6

World Series: New York over Chicago in 6

AL Cy Young: Johan Santana, MIN
NL Cy Young: Mark Prior, CHC

AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez, NYY
NL MVP: Albert Pujols, STL

AL ROY: Joe Mauer, MIN
NL ROY: Kazou Matsui, NYM

AL MOY: Ken Macha, OAK
NL MOY: Bobby Cox, ATL

And remember, if the actual results are different, I'm not wrong--reality is.

Two final things: I've added the PayPal donation button to my sidebar, and this is the only time I'll EVER mention it in the blog. If you donate, I'll send you a thank you email, but I won't mention it on the blog (unless you give me a LOT of money, like a few hundred dollars), and I won't solicit donations. I've featured the link about as prominently as I can, and that's as much soliciting as I think is warranted in my case.

The other thing is the Magic Number counter. That's done by hand, so it might not get updated every day, but it will be accurate. And no, I won't take it down, even if they get eliminated from contention.

April 5, 2004

Baseball Prospectus - You Could Look It Up: Backlash
by Larry Mahnken

Here's a great article by Steven Goldman about the backlash against sabermetrics sparked by last year's publishing of Moneyball. There's some great lines here, including my favorite:
Statistics are a tool, not unlike a microscope. Statistics are a hammer, a speculum, a thermometer. A statistics-based approach to understanding of baseball is one of many paths to knowledge of the game. Calling those who take that path "freaks" or "Nazis" makes as much sense as calling a Ph.D. chemist a wimp because he tests the qualities of his cyanide compound by means of Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy rather than just drinking the thing.
Boggs, Henderson, and Raines all "manufactured" runs, to use a term favored by the conservatives, by finding ways to get to first base. Coleman couldn't get to first base at the Annual Cotillion for Semi-Inebriated Cheerleaders Who Are Really, Really Turned On By Ballplayers.
I was reading the Sports Illustrated Season Preview Issue, and the section about Sabermetrics. It's a decent primer for a fan who's never seen the "new" stats, or thought about the game in terms of OBP, but it is, of course, flawed, as most mainstream writeups of sabermetrics seem to be. I suppose the reason for that is that the writers of these articles don't have an understanding of the field in the first place, so they're more or less writing a report on what they've picked up, which will be necessarily flawed because they didn't have enough time to research it.

In other words, these articles give a lot of readers a misunderstanding of sabermetrics in the same way that Moneyball gave some people a misunderstanding of scouts.

Anyway, there's some decent stuff in there, but there's some laugh-out-loud stuff, too, as traditionalists show their ignorance. Jack McKeon--who I will point out is an excellent manager--wrote an article that in part says how smart he was for playing Pudge Rodriguez over Mike Redmond against Tom Glavine even though reporters told him that Redmond had a great Batting Average versus Glavine (currently .500/533/.690), while Rodriguez was only batting .250 against him. Rodriguez went on to hit the game-winning home run! Thus proving stats wrong!

Oh yeah, Rodriguez was 1 for 4 with 3 walks against Glavine going into that game. Mr. McKeon, meet Mr. Sample Size. You made the right decision, and Billy Beane, Bill James, Paul DePodesta, and any other number-cruncher would have told you to do what you did. The lesson you learned wasn't to ignore stats, but to ignore reporters who try to feed you those stats.

If you recall, Joe Torre was faced with a similar situation last year, pinch-hitting Ruben Sierra for Nick Johnson with the tying run on third, bases loaded and two outs, because Sierra had a great batting average against the pitcher, Buddy Groom, in a very small number of ABs, and the last hit being in 1996. Joe made the wrong decision, and Jack made the right one, and both of them probably think that statheads think exactly the opposite.

April 3, 2004

The 2004 Yankees: Yanks must win it all to have a good season
by Larry Mahnken

I would have told you yesterday if I had been online, but the Providence Journal gave me the opportunity to publish an article in their season preview yesterday. It's not the best I've done, but my computer problems this past week denied me the opportunity to improve it. Thanks to Art Martone for giving me this opportunity.

April 1, 2004

Fifteen minutes at the library's computer...
by Larry Mahnken

Thanks for all of the support guys. Alex Belth will be filling in for me in the next Rivals in Exile column, and probably do so much better that I'll get fired! ;-)

Reason 1,343,434,536 that I have the best Dad in the world, he loaned me $300 to pay my bills and get back online, which hopefully will be effected as early as next week. Sure, they'll say that's what parents are supposed to do, but I didn't ask and wasn't going to, and he did it anyway. Thanks, Dad.

On the downside, I got sick and had to miss work today, so that's another fifty bucks down the drain. Some luck I have, eh?

But on the subject of the Yankees (and getting up at 5am couldn't have helped me with the sick part). They looked really really good on Wednesday. I've really been holding back on this, but after a line drive hit, a home run and a deep fly to center, doesn't Hideki Matsui look good so far? He looks like he's uppercutting more on the ball, which had such spectacular results last June, and he had a very good spring. It's early, it could have just been the pitching, but I think Matsui might be in for a very very good season.

Kevin Brown looked incredible, especially with the efficiency of his pitching. He wasn't hurt by Jeter, though he did give up a couple of hits that might have been out pitching in front of the Dodgers' defense. But then, he wouldn't have gotten 12 runs out of the Dodgers' offense in three combined starts, so I'm sure he's more than happy with it.

I liked how Kay and Singleton kept pulling out the cliche that a win in the second game makes the flight home seem a whole lot shorter, and a loss makes it seem a lot longer. That might be true on a normal flight, but I'm guessing that a 19 hour flight feels pretty much the same whether you win or lose.

So the Yankees' magic number is 162 now. When I get back, I'll fix that Opening Day counter on the sidebar and add a magic number counter, because it's never too early to get arrogantly overconfident.