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Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

Pine Tar 1983
In my home office I have a picture of George Brett being restrained by teammates at home plate.  The incident occurred in a game between Kansas City and the Yankees played in 1983. There was a rule in baseball that if the pine tar on your bat was too high you would be called out automatically and ejected from the game. George Brett was ejected after hitting what he believed was a game-winning ninth inning home run because his bat was covered with too much pine tar. The Royals protested the game, and the home run was later upheld, giving Kansas City a 5-4 victory after play was resumed months later. This event was called the Pine Tar Incident and is pictured above.

This brings us to the new pine tar event. Here again the Yankees are involved. However, this time the incident involved the Yankee pitcher Michael Pineda. In game two of the series with the Red Sox at Fenway Park the starting pitcher for the Yankees was Pineda. It was a very cold and windy night in Boston and Pineda had just finished a shaky first inning giving up two runs. Coming out for the second inning it was clear that he now possessed a black streak on his neck. Boston manager John Farrell approached the home plate umpire and talked to him. The umpire then walked to the mound and rubbed his finger on Pineda’s neck. The umpire mouthed the words pine tar and ejected Pineda from the game. The baseball rule enforced by the home plate umpire says no foreign substance can be applied to the baseball. It was just two weeks ago in Yankee Stadium against the Red Sox that the cameras picked up a black streak on Pineda’s pitching hand. When asked after the game what the black streak was Pineda responded it was just dirt. It was conjectured that Farrell did nothing at that time since he knew many of his pitchers also used pine tar.

Here is my take on this. After listening to and reading the comments of many former pitchers and coaches, the use of pine tar by pitchers is very common. Since many pitchers, past and present, have admitted using pine tar this is one of those rules of baseball which will not be enforced unless the pitcher makes it so visible to everyone that the opposing manager is forced to address the issue. This is exactly what Pineda did. What was Pineda thinking? Using his neck as a billboard advertising his use of pine tar forced Farrell to take an action. If Farrell did not take an action, after doing nothing two weeks ago, he would have been vilified by talk radio, the Boston press, and the Boston fans. Yes, Pineda committed two wrongs. He lied two weeks ago about what was on his hand and then advertised to everyone at Fenway Park that he was repeating his use of pine tar.

Here are two questions I ask. Do I think Pineda was attempting to cheat by doctoring the baseball? My answer is no. The cold and windy weather combined with his inability to grip the baseball in the first inning led him to use the pine tar. To his credit when the game ended he did not attempt to hide from the press. He admitted he made a mistake using the pine tar. From everything said by knowledgeable baseball people his mistake was not being discreet with the pine tar. The other question is does the pine tar affect the movement of the baseball? With the great technology available today, I am sure scientists will be able to run tests that will statistically answer this question in the near future.

Here is my solution to the problem. Similar to when the umpire allows a pitcher to go to his mouth in cold temperatures; the home plate umpire should allow a pitcher the right to replace the rosin bag with a new bag composed of a combination of pine tar and other substances which pitchers can use to improve their grip of the baseball. Of course, after about 30 games there would be no need for this special bag.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

On Wednesday, April 16, in the day-night doubleheader against the Cubs the Yankees shut out the Cubs in both games. This was the first time since 1987 that the Yankees swept a doubleheader with two shutouts. Tanaka had his best game as a Yankee pitching eight shut-out innings allowing just two bunt singles in the first game and Pineda pitched six scoreless innings in the second game. What was historic about Tanaka’s performance was he was the second pitcher since 1900 to have 8+ strikeouts in the first three games of his rookie year; the other pitcher was Steven Strasburg of the Nationals.

In the first game of the 4-game series against Tampa Bay played on Thursday, April 17, CC Sabathia pitched a strong game giving up just two runs. In that game, the Yankees completed a triple-play started by third baseman Yangervis Solarte who threw to Brian Roberts at second. Roberts then threw a one-bouncer in which Scot Sizemore, playing his first game ever at first base (including 658 games in both the majors and minors), picked it out of the ground. A triple play is very uncommon but what made it even stranger was that it was the third time the Yankees completed a triple play was CC on the hill. Sean Rodriguez, the Rays player who hit into the triple play, also homered in the game. The last player to hit into a triple play and homer in the same game was Russell Martin, playing for the Yankees in 2011. Guess what! It was against Tampa Bay and Sean Rodriguez was playing first base for the Rays. Speaking about the first base position since Teixeira went on the DL the Yankees have used Cervelli, Johnson, Beltran, and Sizemore at first. What is strange is that except for Johnson the other three never played first base in the majors.

Speaking about Solarte what a find he has been. He was invited as a non-roster invitee by the Yankees. A career minor leaguer Solarte spent eight years in the Twins farm system. As a switch-hitter he is currently batting over .350 and has the versatility to play several positions. He hit well in spring training but if it wasn’t for a rash of injuries and his versatility he would probably be in the minors right now. I have watched him in several games and not only can he hit but he has made several sparkling plays at both second and third. It is hard for me to believe the Twins let him go and kudos to the Yankee scout who discovered him.  In the same game in which he started the triple-play, he also hit his first Major League home run becoming the first player since 1909 to accomplish the feat of starting a triple-play and hitting a home run in the same game.

In Friday night’s game against the Rays, the Yankees jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second inning. But the bullpen imploded and the Yankees wound up losing the game 11-5. With respect to strangeness why should this game be any different? It turns out that all 11 runs scored by the Rays came when two men were out. How about that?

It is now Saturday evening. After working hard doing my spring cleaning, it was time to watch game three against the Rays. Well, Nova pitched like it was the home run derby. In four innings he allowed four home runs. This was the first time Nova had issued four home runs in one game. After six innings, the Yankees trailed 14 to 1. I wish there was a 10-run mercy rule in the majors. Dean Anna, a shortstop, pitched the eighth inning for the Yankees. The final score was 16-1. For his sacrifice Anna received a game ball.

Now it’s Sunday. The Yankee received the bad news that Nova suffered a partial tear in his elbow and will probably need TJ surgery. The Yankees split the four game series with the Rays winning the final game of the series 5-1 in 12 innings.  Dean Anna’s bases loaded walk ignited the 4-run 12th. This earned Anna his second game ball in two days. 

Another week of strange happenings but the Yankees are still in first place!!!


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

What a strange beginning to the 2014 season for the NY Yankees. The opening day Yankee lineup had two career minor leaguers. Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte had the distinction of being the only two players in a major league starting lineup that played in 500 minor league games. After only three appearances Mariano’s designated successor David Robertson went on the DL. After 4 games Mark Teixeira went on the DL. Brendan Ryan, Jeter’s backup went on the DL before opening day. Jeter has missed the last two Red Sox games. It took 6 games before the unlikely Brett Gardiner hit the Yankees first home run in 2014. The heralded Masahiro Tanaka gave up a home run to the first batter he faced. In game 12 Brian McCann hit 2 home runs, Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano and Kelly Johnson also homered for the Yankees, who entered the game with only 7 home runs in their first 11 games. In game 13 on Sunday Francisco Cervelli pulled his hamstring running to first base forcing Carlos Beltran to play first base for the first time in his ML career. So the right fielder replaced the catcher who was playing first base. What is this Little League where every child gets to play every position? Replacing Beltran in right field was Ichiro Suzuki. The baseball Gods smiled on the Yankees because in the 8th inning with the Yankees winning 3-2 Suzuki made a game saving catch that Beltran would never have reached. After 13 games, the Yankees known as “The Bronx Bombers” have hit 13 home runs and have 11 stolen bases. If it wasn’t for the 5 home runs in game 12, they would have had more stolen bases than home runs. In 2013 the Yankees hit 144 home runs and stole 115 bases.

At the end of Sunday, the Yankees were tied for first place with the Blue Jays and the Rays all with 7-6 records. The Yankees just finished winning 3 out of 4 from the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. The good and bad of instant replay were exposed against the Red Sox on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, Dean Anna slid into second base and was ruled safe. Clearly, the replays showed he was tagged out with his foot off the base. After Red Sox manager Farrell called for instant replay, the safe call was upheld. Fast forward to Sunday, Cervelli was called out at first base. This time manager Girardi called for instant replay and the out call was overturned. Farrell went ballistic and was thrown out of the game.

So why are the Yankees tied for first place? One reason is their pitching. With Robertson on the DL, Shawn Kelley has 3 saves and Michael Phelps has one save. The Yankees’ closers are 6 for 6 in saves. Pineda has looked like the Pineda the Yankees thought they were getting when he arrived two years ago. Tanaka has been as good as advertised. CC is no longer the ace of the staff but will straighten himself out as the season progresses. Kuroda has pitched well with 2 wins. After a slow start Nova had a good game in Sunday’s win against the Red Sox yielding just 2 runs in 7 innings. I would say whichever one of these five starting pitchers you consider as the fifth starter, that pitcher would be the best fifth starter in the majors. Dellin Betances, whose fastball is clocked at 95 mph, has found his niche as a one-inning reliever. David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Matt Thornton, Cesar Cabral, and Adam Warren as 7th and 8th inning specialists have pitched a total of 16.2 innings without yielding a run. The bottom line is the pitching can only get better with the return of David Robertson. The hitting has also been good. After 13 games, the Yankees as a team compared to the other 29 teams rank 4th in AVG, 6th in OBP, 8th in SLG, 5th in OPS, and 2nd in SB.

Yankee fans don’t get too giddy. There are still major questions hanging over the Yankees. Can Jeter and Teixeira stay healthy and be effective players? With an average age over 33, can their core positional players stay healthy for the entire season?


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

In my blog called "Professional Baseball for a Bargain Price", I talk about my afternoon at the New Britain Rock Cats game on Sunday, April 6, 2014 against the Rickmond Flying Squirrels.  Below are a few photos to go along wiht that posting.

 

New Britain Rock Cats Stadium

The New Britain Rock Cats Staduim

 

 

Walking Around the Bases

I never realized how big the outfield is until I walked around 
the field before the game started.

 

Ken Joyce

Here I am talking to Ken Joyce,
 the hitting coach for the Richmond Flying Squirrels.

 

 

 New Britain Rock Cats Mascot Blooper

Here's Blooper, one of the Rock Cats' mascots.

 


Dr Stan the Stats Man watching the game

There is no better way to spend an afternoon.

 

New Britain Rock Cats Banners

It was one of our first nice spring days with the temperature ranging 
from 51 degrees to 59 degrees.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

On Sunday April 6, 2014 my wife Tara and I attended a game between the New Britain Rock Cats, a Double-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins and the Richmond Flying Squirrels, a Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, at the New Britain Stadium in Connecticut. According to the Fan Cost Index, the cost of a package including 4 adult average-price tickets, 2 small draft beers, 4 small soft drinks, 4 regular-size hot dogs, parking for 1 car, 2 game programs and 2 caps at Major League Parks range from $150 to $340. The highest cost teams are the Red Sox $340, the Yankees $325, and the Cubs $305. The lowest cost teams are the Padres $155 and the Diamondbacks $150. A similar package would cost approximately $100 at the New Britain Stadium. However, they also have special packages available such as 4 hot dogs, 4 waters, 4 pop corns, 4 tickets, and parking for $48.

Double-A players are considered two steps away from the Major Leagues. Above Double-A is Triple-A and then the big-time. I talked to the Richmond hitting coach, Ken Joyce, and got the following information about his players. The average age of a player is 23 and the average salary of a player is between $2800 and $3500 a month. He also commented that at least 10 of his players were real Major League prospects. Speaking about players who made it the majors from the Rock Cats we have a very impressive list including Torii Hunter, David Ortiz, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Francisco Liriano, and Michael Cuddyer. The new Yankee sensation Yangervis Solarte played for the Rock Cats in 2010 and 2011.

I had never been to New Britain Stadium so did not know what to expect. Parking the car was very easy. Upon entering the parking lot you were directed to your parking spot by several employees. The cost of parking was $5. As we walked through the stadium we passed what is called “The Fun Zone”. This is a playground with all the equipment geared to baseball. The cost for a child is $5 for the entire day. There is no bad seat in the stadium. The average attendance for a game is 3750. The stadium has over 6146 seats so we had a lot of choices for seats. The baseball field is symmetric with a distance of 330 feet to the foul poles and 400 feet to straight away centerfield. Between innings children are picked out from the stands to participate in such games as a scooter race and a bobble-head contest. Blooper the mascot is available for pictures. The scoreboard showed a picture of each player with his position when they came to bat. The velocity of each pitch was displayed. The food was inexpensive. For example, you could get a hot dog and fries for $4.75. There are two picnic areas and groups are encouraged to attend. In fact, next to the Fun Zone a birthday party was in progress. What better place for a birthday party than at a ballgame? The restrooms were very clean and well-maintained.

The quality of play was very professional. Granted there was no Jeter or Cabrera but it looked like a Major League game. One thing I noticed was the velocity of the pitches stayed below 90 mph. One difference between Double-A and the Major Leagues is there are only 3 umpires instead of 4. The 2 umpires in the field were constantly shifting their positions based on the location of the base-runners.

Granted, I cannot speak for every minor league stadium but I would give a very high rating for the New Britain Rock Cats. For a family with children (especially younger children) taking them to see the New Britain Rock Cats would be a very economical way to expose them to professional baseball. The true baseball fan will find it interesting to predict which of these minor league players actually make it to the majors. Who knows you might be watching the next Morneau or Mauer. In conclusion, the entire family will have a great time and see real professional baseball for an economic price.


 


 
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