August 2013

August 26 – Happy Birthday Jayson Nix


nixMr. and Mrs. Nix must have wanted their boys to remember to always be curious. They added unnecessary “Y’s” to both their first names. The older of the two boys is named Laynce, who’s been a big league outfielder since 2003 and currently plays for the Phillies. His younger brother, Jayson was a 2001 first round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies, and has served as the Yankees’ jack-of-all-trades utility infielder for the past two seasons.

When the Yankees brought up the younger Nix in May of 2012 to take the place of Eduardo Nunez as the team’s primary utility infielder, I thought someone in the front office had made a big mistake. I agreed that Nunez’s defensive shortcomings warranted the demotion, but Nix had batted just .169 for the Blue Jays in 2011, making me think he’d be too big of an offensive liability to play very much. I underestimated him.

I’ve now nicknamed Nix “the Caulk Gun” because he’s done such a credible job filling in the huge cracks in both the Yankee’s offense and defense that have been caused by the un-Godly large number of injuries the team has suffered during the past two seasons. In 2012 he appeared in 74 games for New York, making 54 starts. He played all or parts of 29 games at third, 18 at short, 13 at second and 11 in left field, plus he DH’d in a couple more. Thus far in 2013, Nix had started 41 games at third base for New York and 33 more at short, while the Yankees waited for A-Rod and Derek Jeter to recover from offseason surgeries. Ironically, now that both of those superstars are finally ready to play in the same infield for the first time since those surgeries were performed, it is Nix who is on the DL with a broken hand. Since coming to the Bronx, he’s been more than adequate defensively in every position he’s played and he’s also hit right around .240 in pinstripes, which is 22 points above his career average. He’s also contributed some mighty timely hits along the way. About the only negative thing Nix has done since joining the team is hit the ball in batting practice last May that Mariano Rivera was attempting to catch when the fabled closer blew out his ACL.

The Caulk Gun was born on this date in Dallas in 1982. He made his big league debut with the Rockies in 2008 and in addition to the Blue Jays, he’s also played for the White Sox and Indians. Nix shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee third baseman.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2012 NYY 74 202 177 24 43 13 0 4 18 6 14 53 .243 .306 .384 .690
2013 NYY 87 303 267 32 63 9 1 3 24 13 24 80 .236 .308 .311 .619
6 Yrs 425 1374 1222 141 267 55 2 37 126 35 105 343 .218 .290 .358 .647
NYY (2 yrs) 161 505 444 56 106 22 1 7 42 19 38 133 .239 .307 .340 .647
CHW (2 yrs) 118 347 304 39 65 12 0 13 37 10 35 76 .214 .301 .382 .683
COL (1 yr) 22 65 56 2 7 2 0 0 2 1 7 17 .125 .234 .161 .395
CLE (1 yr) 78 306 282 29 66 14 0 13 29 1 13 75 .234 .283 .422 .705
TOR (1 yr) 46 151 136 15 23 5 1 4 16 4 12 42 .169 .245 .309 .554
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/26/2013.

August 25 – Happy Birthday Adam Warren

warrenEvery professional baseball player has the same exact basic goals. The first is to make it to the big leagues. Adam Warren checked that one off his bucket list in late June of the 2012 season, when the Yanks called him up from Scranton-Wilkes Barre to make an emergency start after both CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte went down with injuries.

The second goal is to make a great first impression in your Major League debut. Warren screwed that one up. He got shelled by the White Sox in his first appearance, giving up eight hits, including two bombs and surrendering six earned runs, lasting just two and a third innings in the 14-7 Yankee loss. That disastrous first effort put a real quick kabosh on the third goal every professional baseball player shares, which is once called up, to stay in the Majors. The Yankees sent Warren down the next day.

It took Warren right up to the last day of the Yankees 2013 spring training season to convince Joe Girardi and Larry Rothschild that he deserved a second chance. He’s been New York’s long relief guy out of the bullpen since. With a few exceptions, this right-handed native of Birmingham, Alabama has pitched well in that role and since Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes are in the last year of contracts, Warren’s next goal is to pitch well enough to earn a spot in next season’s version of the Yankee starting rotation.

Does he have a chance? Sure. He’s only 25-years-old, he’s now got some innings under his belt and he’s already on the team. A fourth round Yankee draft pick in 2009, Warren has a decent but not overpowering fastball so he must be able to hit his spots to win at the big league level. His control has been just so-so thus far during the 2013 season (22 unintentional walks in 62 innings.) From my perspective, Warren has to notch his game up to a higher gear before I think he’s ready to join a Yankee rotation.

He shares his birthday with this former Yankee shortstop, this former Yankee reliever and this other former Yankee reliever.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2012 NYY 0 0 23.14 1 1 0 0 0 0 2.1 8 6 6 2 2 1 4.286
2013 NYY 1 2 .333 3.69 25 1 14 0 0 1 61.0 65 25 25 10 24 50 1.459
2 Yrs 1 2 .333 4.41 26 2 14 0 0 1 63.1 73 31 31 12 26 51 1.563
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/25/2013.

August 24 – Happy Birthday Brett Gardner

brettgardnerI’m a fan of Brett Gardner. It took me a quite a while to figure that out and I’m still not one hundred percent convinced of it, but as of right now this instant, I’m a fan. He plays the game hard all the time and I absolutely love that. He’s an excellent outfielder who covers massive amounts of ground and that’s huge, especially during this up and down 2013 Yankee season when the Yankee starting rotation has been giving up one hard hit fly ball after another. I also love Gardner’s enthusiasm. He’s New York’s biggest cheerleader and his teammates’ biggest defender. You can tell he loves to play the game and cherishes the privilege.

Now permit me to explain why it has taken me so long to become a full fledged member of the Brett Gardner fan club. Sometimes, not as often as he used to but still sometimes, this guy drives me absolutely crazy. Like when he’s on first base with second base open and he doesn’t attempt to steal early in the count. For a while there, he was striking out way too much for a small-ball specialist. I’ve seen him swing at some horrible full count pitches and he doesn’t seem as willing to accept base-on-balls as he used to be. But he has proven to be a much better hitter than I thought he was and Gardner’s great speed can change the dynamic of a game at any point and forces Yankee opponents to throw lots of hit-able fast balls when he is on the base paths. He has also proven to be a good leadoff hitter though when he used to hit ninth, I thought he was one of the best bottom of the lineup guys in all of baseball.

Hard to believe he turns 30-years-old today and even harder to believe he’s playing in his sixth Yankee season already. He’s eligible for arbitration at the end of this year and free agency the next. There was a time when I thought the Yankees might trade Gardner and try to replace him with a power-hitting corner outfielder. I don’t think that any more. The current Yankee management team has a real tough time thinking big these days so I believe Gardner eventually signs at least a three-year deal to remain in pinstripes. And that’s not a bad thing, or is it?

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2008 NYY 42 141 127 18 29 5 2 0 16 13 1 8 30 .228 .283 .299 .582
2009 NYY 108 284 248 48 67 6 6 3 23 26 5 26 40 .270 .345 .379 .724
2010 NYY 150 569 477 97 132 20 7 5 47 47 9 79 101 .277 .383 .379 .762
2011 NYY 159 588 510 87 132 19 8 7 36 49 13 60 93 .259 .345 .369 .713
2012 NYY 16 37 31 7 10 2 0 0 3 2 2 5 7 .323 .417 .387 .804
2013 NYY 125 530 473 65 126 25 7 8 43 21 7 43 107 .266 .332 .400 .732
6 Yrs 600 2149 1866 322 496 77 30 23 168 158 37 221 378 .266 .349 .376 .725
162 Game Avg. 162 580 504 87 134 21 8 6 45 43 10 60 102 .266 .349 .376 .725
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/24/2013.

August 23 – Happy Birthday Cedric Durst

durstIt was the greatest trade in Yankee history. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant was a utility outfielder on the great Murderers Row Yankee teams that won the 1927 and ’28 World Series. With a starting outfield of Babe Ruth, Earle Combs and Bob Meusel, Cedric Durst usually only saw action when the Babe was tired, sick or hung over. He was one of Yankee skipper, Miller Huggins’ spare parts, who had broken into the big leagues with the St. Louis Browns in 1922 and been traded to New York for pitcher, Sad Sam Jones five seasons later.

As each Yankee season passed, Durst saw his playing time increase. Its only natural that other teams in need of outfielders would be interested in looking at the one who backed up the greatest all-around player in the game. Unlike previous Red Sox-Yankee trades, no other teams cried “foul” when New York sent Durst to Boston for a 25-year-old pitcher named Red Ruffing, early in the second month of the 1930 regular season. Heck, I bet hardly anybody even noticed the deal.

At the time, Ruffing was just beginning his sixth season as a member of the Red Sox starting rotation and his lifetime record was an abysmal 39-96. That converts to a woeful .289 winning percentage and when you throw in the right hander’s career 4.61 ERA at the time of the trade, you can understand why when the Durst/Ruffing deal went down it got just a two-paragraph mention on the sports pages of the New York Times.

So all Ruffing does after switching his red hosiery for a pinstriped jersey is go 15-5 during the rest of that 1930 season and put together a 231-124 Hall of Fame career for the Bronx Bombers. When he retired, he was the winningest pitcher in Yankee franchise history. How did Durst do in Boston? Well, he did become a starter for the first time in his career, getting into 102 games for the Red Sox during the rest of that 1930 season. But he averaged just .245 and his on base percentage was only .290. Heck, during Ruffing’s last season in Beantown, the great hitting pitcher had averaged .364 and driven in six more runs than Durst did for the Red Sox in half as many games. Boston would have actually been better off keeping Ruffing and switching him to the outfield full time. Instead, they found themselves again on the losing end of one of the most lop-sided trades in history.

That 1930 season would be Durst’s only one as a Red Sox and the final season of his big league career. He went back to the minors in 1931 and continued playing baseball until  1943, when he was 46-years-old. He shares his birthday with baseball’s first-ever DH and this former Yankee catching prospect who became a big league All Star.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1927 NYY 65 142 129 18 32 4 3 0 25 0 6 7 .248 .281 .326 .607
1928 NYY 74 146 135 18 34 2 1 2 10 1 7 9 .252 .289 .326 .615
1929 NYY 92 223 202 32 52 3 3 4 31 3 15 25 .257 .309 .361 .670
1930 NYY 8 19 19 0 3 1 0 0 5 0 0 1 .158 .158 .211 .368
7 Yrs 481 1220 1103 145 269 39 17 15 124 7 75 100 .244 .294 .351 .645
NYY (4 yrs) 239 530 485 68 121 10 7 6 71 4 28 42 .249 .290 .336 .627
SLB (3 yrs) 140 360 316 48 74 10 5 8 29 0 30 34 .234 .303 .373 .676
BOS (1 yr) 102 330 302 29 74 19 5 1 24 3 17 24 .245 .290 .351 .641
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/23/2013.

August 22 – Happy Birthday David Huff

huffWhat a birthday present today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant gave himself, his teammates and Yankee fans last evening at the Stadium. David Huff turns 29-years-old today and last night Joe Girardi called on him to relieve spot starter Adam Warren in the fourth inning of New York’s game against Toronto. All he did was huff and puff and close the Blue Jays offense down for five innings allowing the Yankee offense to rally and win the game. I got to admit, I wondered why New York put this left-handed reliever on their roster earlier this month and even wondered why Girardi went to him in that game last night, but I’m not wondering any more.

Originally a first round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians in 2006, Huff went 11-9 during his 2009 rookie season with the Tribe but his ERA that year was too high at 5.61. It got even higher in his sophomore year, climbing to 6.21 and this time he paid for it with an abysmal 2-11 record. Cleveland kept him around in their organization for three more years, before giving up on the native of San Diego and placing him on waivers earlier this season.

The Yankees grabbed him and sent him to their triple A team in Scranton/Wilkes Barre. He didn’t pitch very well there, going 1-6 with an ERA just under four so no one was probably more surprised than Huff himself when he was told he was headed to the Bronx.. In fact, that conversation never would have taken place if Dellin Betances, one of the original Killer B’s, who was called just before Huff had not been abused in his only appearance against the Angels. When the Yanks sent Betances back down they replaced him with Huff,

Truth is that its way too early to tell if Huff can stick in the Yankee bullpen for the rest of this season, but if he can put together a few more outings like the one he had last night against the Jays, he won’t be going anywhere for at least a while. Huff shares his birthday with this former Yankee catcher and this former starting pitcher.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2013 NYY 0 0 6.75 2 0 2 0 0 0 1.1 1 1 1 0 2 1 2.250
5 Yrs 18 26 .409 5.41 60 52 4 1 0 0 289.2 353 198 174 41 100 163 1.564
CLE (5 yrs) 18 26 .409 5.40 58 52 2 1 0 0 288.1 352 197 173 41 98 162 1.561
NYY (1 yr) 0 0 6.75 2 0 2 0 0 0 1.1 1 1 1 0 2 1 2.250
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/22/2013.