Rough Beginnings

The Yanks went 4-2 in their first homestand at the new ballpark, but the headlines are almost all negative. CC Sabathia and Chien-Ming Wang are struggling, homers are flying at an alarming pace, and—most urgently—attendance has been pathetic, especially in the highly visible premium seats and the luxury suites that were the very reason for building the place. Our grade on the first week: D-.

47 replies on “Rough Beginnings”

I think it’s fair to look at the big picture here. How does the ballpark experience really compete with sitting at home in a comfortable chair, watching the game in brilliant HD, eating whatever you damn well please, and being twenty feet from the bathroom? Especially when the cost of a ticket is so high.
For a luxury, it sure doesn’t seem luxurious.

Ya, it’s hard to believe they went 4-2 with all the negatives all around. I guess getting blown out 22-4 combined with the crappy weather does that. On the flip side, the Sox are on a roll too, what is that, 7 straight now?

I don’t know that I would lump CC in with Wang. CC is far from a one pitch pitcher or a specialty pitch pitcher, Wang is. If Wang’s sinker isn’t sinking, he’s throwing a “get me by” slider and a flat fastball. CC is a more rounded pitcher who doesn’t rely on one pitch to succeed. Add to that CC is historically a slow starter. His innings load was a major concern over the winter, as it is now, but I don’t think any of this can be attributed to that in my opinion.
As for the attendance, it’s pathetic in the areas that you would expect it to be right now due to the economy. Like I said earlier I sat in both the one hundreds and then the two hundreds on back to back days and seats there were filled. Sure the luxury boxes are empty, the $700 seats and $2500 seats are baron, but that in no way concerns me. My seats cost me (at face) $90 and $100, that’s the max for me, so whether those more expensive seats are empty really means little to me. I spoke to my representative at the Yankees office (reason being in the back of my season ticket book there are vouchers for two seats for $5, she told me not to waste my time bringing them to the stadium to redeem) and she said all the seats $100 an under are gone. It’s really the upper echelon type seats that are empty. Does it look bad with that many empty seats, sure. But all in all, I really don’t care. As long as the Yankees continue to offer tickets at prices that I can afford, that’s all that matters to me. I have $12 seats, for 12 games and then 3 games at $90/$100. In RE: to those seats, I have a good friend that is a high up in a very large company, they brought him in, took him on a tour and tried pitching the $700 seats ($700 are the seats past the dugout, but lower level) he listened to them but in the end decided that he could in no way justify buying this package for clients, prospective clients, etc…when his company is laying people off left and right. Again it’s disappointing to see empty seats, but it’s understandable right now. The “every man” seats are sold and mostly filled, if they weren’t THAT would concern me.
Positives have to be the bullpen for the most part, most importantly Brian Bruney. The play of the offense without A-Rod. Posada’s ability to catch back to back games. I am a glass half full guy, I think so far they have been fine, but with definite room for improvement.

I actually feel pretty good about the team now, obviously aside from Wang (who I do think will get straightened out sooner or later). Sabathia always struggles in April. His career April ERA: 4.65. His current Era? 4.81. Right on track for him.
AP and Burnett are rolling, Nady now might be back in a month or two, the Cap’n looks great, A-Rod’s reportedly making very good progress (and the team is scoring runs without him, even with the worst starter in baseball filling his position). The ballpark played a lot more normal after those first 3 games (and it’s still way to early to say anything – the current westerly wind directions will change as we roll into summer, and there’s the whole juiced ball this year to consider).
I mean yeah, I guess the empty seats are embarassing, but I feel good about the team.

Great points Mark. I am curious though and you aren’t the first obviously, why are the empty seats embarrassing? The Yankees set the prices, they have to live with that. Sure it would be great to look around see the new place filled down below, but as long as the affordable (relative term, I know) seats are packed/sold, then to me that’s what matters.

I find it really hard to complain about a team that started the season at 9-6, especially when you consider that 3 of the losses were due to a completely ineffective starting pitcher in Wang. Even a replacement level pitcher will do a better job than he did for those 3 starts. Clearly its a small sample size but if the yankees kept up this pace of winning they would win 97 games.
I agree that lumping CC in with Wang is really unfair/wrong. He struggled a bit in a few of his starts but he still kept his team in a position to win. There are many more positives to take from the team’s start such as good bullpen pitching (for the most part) and an offense which will improve but is getting the job done.
There may be issues with the new ballpark but I think YF is letting his own opinions about the place effect his grade for the team. D-, really? They won the homestand. Ultimately thats the most important thing to me. The rest is just noise….

“Take out Wang completely if you want, the Yankees’ staff ERA drops to 4.72. The pitching needs to improve.”
Take out Clagget too and the ERA drops to 4.19 which is pretty damn good.

True, Sam, unfortunately you really can’t take either of them out at all!
I don’t get the D- grade either – where I teach a D- is basically failure with a slim ray of hope. I can’t be convinced this is how the Yankees have started this season, at least not on the field. I would say that based on how shitty Wang and Sabathia have been (not lumping them together, but come on, CC has been pretty f*cking bad), that the Yanks are 9-6 should merit a pretty damn high grade. As for the urbano-poltical-economic sideshow, that drags the grade down, but it’s a non-sequitir when measuring their performance. Any YF who isn’t thrilled to be 9-6 without A-Rod and with the pitching ills has got to be some kind of curmudgeon!

That lifetime ERA is a bit skewed, Mark.
In 2005, in April, he was 3-0, with a sub 2. ERA
In 2006, He was 5-1 with two complete games.
In 2007, He was 11-1 in April/May and onto a Cy.
Last year, his numbers were so terrible, they skew the fact that he’s not actually a slow starter as much as he’s started slow the past two years. It’s a nice little thing for Yankee fans to say, and accurate as long as your looking at the average, but when you look at it on a year to year basis, it’s not so accurate. CC has not been terrible in any way shape or form. In fact, he’s been just as good as most other aces in the game during those months.
What next? If CC has a bad July

“True, Sam, unfortunately you really can’t take either of them out at all!”
I think its fair to take them out when evaluating the team’s performance. Claggett isnt even on the team any more!
I think CC just hates pitching in the cold. Which bodes well for the majority of the season but not for October…sigh.

CC has been bad, but there’s light at the end of tunnel was my point. Wang on the other hand could be done and most definitely has a more difficult road back to what’s considered normal for both of them.
Also consider how bad Ransom has been both offensively and defensively and you have to look at that record and shake your head in a positive way.

“Take out Wang completely if you want, the Yankees’ staff ERA drops to 4.72”
But you’re overlooking that Wang’s bad starts do more to drive up the ERA than simply adding his bad innings to the the team average. It forced us to rely on the bottom of the depth chart for more innings, since he has yet to get past the third inning (and didn’t even get to the third in 2 of his 3 starts). Plus it drained the bullpen on subsequent days. Add that to CC’s history of bad Aprils, Joba’s learning curve, and whatever you want to make so far of the NYS ballpark effects, and the non-CMW pitching is fine so far.
Hey, we’re 9-6 (97 win pace!). We’re 9-3 in games not started by CMW (120 win pace!). We get our best player back in 3 weeks. I just don’t see the reason for anyone to be worried right now.

Yeah, you’re right Brad. The more likely answer is that he’s transformed into a mediocre pitcher since donning the pinstripes.

If he’s still pitching this way in July Brad, then we can blame the workload and start to worry. How many very good pitchers are still working the kinks out? Jon Lester’s ERA is 5.50 and I certainly wouldn’t worry about him quite yet. Jake Peavy, 5.13. Oswalt, 4.68 and so on. Call it a slow start, call it needing warmer weather, call it whatever you’d like if it’s this way in July then I will worry while you smile!

Who said that, Mark? I mean, there is a history of this happening to pitchers, but that’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m just stating that the “he always starts slow” excuse is inaccurate. He isn’t a traditional slow starter in any way. I don’t think he’s transformed into anything (except bigger), but I know that the NL isn’t here to bail him out in a couple months.

I agree, John, but I’m also not blaming the month for Lester’s troubles. He’s looked likt that because up to his last start, he’s looked horrible, and I do kind of worry about it. I’d be fooling myself (hmmm) to not worry about it just a little bit.
And smile is the understatement, and you know that!!

The Yankees are in 2nd place without ARod, and you’re giving it a D-? Looks like somebody is overly focusing on the negative.

My biggest (no pun intended) concern with CC has not changed since the Yankees started their pursuit of him back in the winter. His work load concerns me tremendously, but I don’t think the slow start is workload related. Your NL jabs, weight, etc…I still think it’s not time to worry yet. Time will tell.

That’s what I’m saying, Ath. They’ve done more than I thought they did thus far. They’ve gotten some really good performances from people they didn’t expect to in a short period (stepping up Brian Bruney and Melky). They’re going to be fine if Wang works it out (which I’m one thousand percent sure Wang will get back into form) and A-Rod gets back. But, on the same note, Swisher will return to earth at some point, and that outfield gets slower and worse every day.

John, you’re exactly correct. That CANNOT be swept under the rug in any way like people want to. He’s not the horse everyone thinks he is. Letting him stay in yesterday, and the 120pitch innning the other day are not good things. This guy is not a typical athlete, so I don’t mean to take jabs, but he’s fat. There is no other way around it. But, I agree, the workload isn’t the problem in April. Those issues catch up in July and August, sometimes earlier. As I’m sure Jon Lester will see at some stretch this year when they DL him for 15 days to rest up.

Well, I don’t think anyone expects to to post the sub-2 ERA he did in the NL last summer, but he didn’t need the NL to bail him out while posting a 1.89 and 2.44 ERA in May and June, respectively, last year. The year before that he also somehow scraped by in the AL on his way to the Cy Young award.

Agreed, Brad. I personally expected the Yankees to be fighting for .500, and instead they’re doing well. They ended their homestand on a winning streak too, not to mention a walk-off from Melky.
Jeter, Cano, Damon, Posada, Swisher, Teixeira, Matsui and Melky are all playing very well. Pettitte and Burnett are earning their paychecks. And again, they’re 9-6 without Alex Rodriguez. As a Sox fan, that worries me.
D-? That’s a bloody joke.

Trust us Sam, we’re not sweeping those under the rug. I don’t think there’s a SF here that’s not worried about those three.

Sam, I’ve said as much, buddy. I think it’s a real concern for all of them. And I’m sure some would like to think that it’s not, but I happen to believe it is.
Time will tell us what it does to a guy like CC. Lester is more the typical pitcher body (over 6’3″, and about 230), so the worry is less with him, but not much. And, I’m pretty sure DiceK’s inning have dropped significantly in the past four years. Ever see what he was doing in Japan? Penny is easily replaceable – is CC?

That’s what I’m saying, Mark. Slow start is an excuse, but if you really want to get nitpicky, he did actually start his NL run in June and was outstanding there. And yes, 2007, his CY year, was just another example of not starting slow or pitching bad early.

Right you are, but the interleage play started in June, where he went 3-0 versus the NL giving up 4 runs in about 25 innings.

Sure, every AL pitcher facxes NL teams in June, although surely that’s not the same as pitching in the NL, since the NL teams were using DHs in some of those games. During interleague play last June, Sabathia actually faced only one NL team in the NL ballpark.

I do lose sleep about who the Padres and Reds are going to use as the “DH” in interleague. hahaha.

Re: Penny, Lester, Dice-K.
I think Penny’s struggles can very much be “swept under the rug”. He’s a #5 starter. He’s made three starts, one of which was beyond atrocious and the other two in which he performed perfectly capably from the #5 slot. Add in the potential to fill the slot with Smoltz or Buchholz down the road and I think Penny is the definition of “sweepable”. The other two are not, though, that is correct, though Lester has a BABiP against this year of .388, which, though a small sample, might indicate that he hasn’t pitched quite as poorly as it seems: he’s only walked four guys this year. Dice-K is the biggest question mark, since he’s hurt.

Brad, you’re the one who posted the game logs, it only takes two clicks to see who they threw out there as the DHs! The Padres went with Tony Clark (114 OPS+ last year vs. LHP), and the Reds went with Adam Dunn (121 OPS+ vs. LHP last year). So, yeah…not exactly the same as facing the pitcher.

Let’s not argue about one batter or so, neverminding that the it’s not necessary that the extra player is going to play DH – Dunn for example would’ve played most days, just in the OF..

That said, 9-6 isn’t so much above .500.. if they lost the last game they would’ve been 8-7… (obvious, but you know what I mean..)

Yes, which is why I made my joke about 97 and 120 win paces. But there’s not much to discuss in April besides really small sample sizes…hence “NYS is Coors Field East!” “What’s wrong with CC/Lester/whoever?” “The Marlins are for realsies!” etc.
Except for a few cases where there is something clearly Wang with a player (CMW, Dice, maybe Papi) there’s nothing really to make of a slow (or fast, for that matter) first two plus weeks, which is kind of what I was getting at w/r/t CC. He’s guy’s 28 years old, healthy, and coming off 3 straight years of dominant pitching. There’s absolutely no cause for for worry about 4 mediocre starts.

Mark, I don’t know if that’s intentional, but that’s an awful pun… I hope it doesn’t catch on!

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