Tuesday, August 08, 2006

White Sox Face The Yankees In Chicago

The New York Yankees are in Chicago for three games against the White Sox. The Yankees sent up 26-year-old Taiwanese pitcher Chien-Ming Wang. He came up last year for half a season with the Yankees, and has started all of this year. He entered the game on a streak of 18 scoreless innings -- the last inning of a start against Toronto, plus a complete game shutout of Tampa Bay, followed 8 shutout innings against Toronto again. Meanwhile, Chicago sent up Freddy Garcia, who has won his last three games, including one in which he pitched 8 shutout innings of his own.

My prediction this afternoon was that Garcia would throw a great game, and Wang would get chased by the 3rd inning. My reasoning? Baseball trends peak, and baseball streaks crash spectacularly, especially when they involve young pitchers throwing more innings than they are used to for two games in a row. Garcia has been trending positively, so a very good game was about due. Wang's streak had to end, so I would have guessed tonight, against a team that scores a lot of runs.

Of course, there's a reason why gambling is stupid, because even good reasoning can't predict what actually happens on the field. It's fortunate I hate gambling, because I was pretty wrong about Wang and Garcia. Not completely wrong, but wrong enough to be glad I keep my wallet locked away when I'm making predictions.

Wang lasted 5 innings, giving up 4 runs. He started off by giving up a double to Podsednik that Pods tried to turn into a triple. Pods failed, and the Sox base running becomes a controversy again. The rest of the inning went easily. He started the 2nd more poorly, giving up two doubles and a walk, and eventually letting in 3 runs. But contrary to my prediction, he lasted until the fifth, though he had a few scrapes to get that far. He left the game having allowed 4 runs, all earned.

Garcia also gave up 4 runs, but only three were earned, and all three came on two homers. Garcia pitched about as well as he has his last few games, but the trend is still static and has not yet peaked the way Sox fans might hope. Frankly, if he can go 7 and only give up 4 runs, Sox fans should be happy. It's as good as the pitching has been most of the year.

I'm interested now in how Alex Rodriguez does. He had been a figure of derision a few weeks ago, but with the Yankees in first place all that has seemed to have calmed down. Looking at his numbers this year, he's more streaky than I would have thought. Coming into the game he had 1 hit in his last 4 games, but had excellent performances in his two games before that. His average is trending slightly downward over the course of the season, but he has hovered around .280 or .285 all year, and will probably finish at around that point. His slugging and on-base percentage are similarly stable. He's having a good night tonight also -- 2 for 2 with a walk and a 2-run homer

On defense, what caught my eye is that he hasn't had an error in a week or so, a significant improvement. What also caught my eye is that he has about 50 fewer assists than Sox third baseman Joe Crede. It's hard to say if that is more than chance, but I have to think about as many balls are hit in his direction as in Crede's, and that Rodriguez just doesn't get to as many of them or doesn't make the throws in time.

In any case, it looks as though ARod will get a reprieve for as long as the Yankees are in first place.

UPDATE: The game went to extra innings with the score tied at 5. With runners on first and second, Jermaine Dye hits a high pop fly in foul territory behind third base. Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Melky Cabrera all converge on the ball, but Rodriguez is closest. The ball drops in over his shoulder, so Dye's at bat stays alive. On the next pitch, he drives a ball into shallow center field, scoring Tadahito Iguchi from second. Sox win 6-5.

So maybe the reprieve for ARod will end, at least in the minds of Yankees fans. To be fair, it would have been a hard play, but it was still a makable play. He finished the game with 3 hits, 2 walks, a run, and 2 RBI.

UPDATE: Here's a lovely quote from Rodriguez on the pop foul he couldn't get to:

"I can't catch that ball, and Melky probably can't, either," Rodriguez said. "You can hit that ball 100 times and I can't catch it 100 times. I have a hard enough time with the ones hit right at me."

Is that how a third baseman is supposed to talk? Aren't they required to have better nerves, and to just react? Isn't that the kind of person you want for the 'hot corner'?

While the ball was quite difficult to catch, it was still catchable in my opinion. I think that if he had taken a different line on the ball, or had more experience at getting to balls from the angle he has at third, he could have caught it. If I were a Yankees fan, I'd rather have heard him talk about taking more infield practice, as opposed to just shrugging off the problem.

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