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 Post subject: JJ Putz
PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 4:20 pm 
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No, the subject line is not a comment on our esteemed moderator; it's the name of a Seattle relief pitcher who gave up the final run in the Yankees' ugly (for the twirlers) 13-9 win over the Mariners, a game in which Tino Martinez hit a home run for the fifth game in a row. Only three more to tie the ML record (not likely). The feat was last achieved by his batting coach, Don Mattingly.

I never heard of Putz, though I'm sure most of you have. Despite giving up an inconsequential homer in the bottom of the eighth, he has an impressive 1.59 ERA this season.


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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 7:52 pm 
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For the record, a friend who worships the Mariners assures me that Putz's name is pronounced "Pootz."

On a related note, ESPN's page on Albert Pujols serves as a warning to phonetic pronunciation guides: "Pronunciation: POO holes."

Accurate, but still. Surely they could have come up with "PU hoals" or something such as that.


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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 8:07 pm 
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I've interviewed Putz a few times. (It's pronounced "puts," as in "Putz puts away the Devil Rays in order in the top of the eighth.")

The skinny: His full name is Jason Jerome Putz, he's a University of Michigan grad, and he's a competent, slightly-above-league-average situational righthanded reliever with a low-90s fastball, sinker, slider and change. He's okay — did well as a fill-in closer for Eddie Guardado last season — but will get killed on occasion. Lefthanded hitters will rack him up pretty consistently, so he has to be carefully protected. There are a lot of guys like him trapped in Triple-A. Your team has a few Putzes either on staff or in the organization.

Nice guy. He's picking up clubhouse-prankster tips from reigning sillyman Guardado. When Dave Hansen rejoined the M's last week, Putz and Ron Villone hid Hansen's cherished guitar — he and Raul Ibanez do some great clubhouse duets — and replaced it with a clunker with broken strings in front of his locker stall.

Also, he likes doing interviews in a "Napoleon Dynamite" voice for fun on occasion.


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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2005 8:18 am 
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Wabberjocky wrote:
I've interviewed Putz a few times. (It's pronounced "puts," as in "Putz puts away the Devil Rays in order in the top of the eighth.")


I hope "Putz them away" constructions haven't made it into hedlines. How did you happen to interview him?


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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2005 1:55 pm 
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I do some freelance writing for a Mariner fan magazine called Grand Salami. A few weekends ago, I got press credentials and went to Kansas City for a weekend series — where I interviewed several players and banged out a number of features.

I'm pretty active in "sabermetric" circles — intensive performance analysis based on oft-complicated mathematical formulas. Anybody else into that?


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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2005 2:19 pm 
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Wabberjocky wrote:
I do some freelance writing for a Mariner fan magazine called Grand Salami. A few weekends ago, I got press credentials and went to Kansas City for a weekend series — where I interviewed several players and banged out a number of features.

I'm pretty active in "sabermetric" circles — intensive performance analysis based on oft-complicated mathematical formulas. Anybody else into that?


You interviewed Putz for the Grand Salami. Hmmm.

I've read Bill James & perused Total Baseball, but I'm no sabermetrician. Before the steroid scandal, how did you guys account for the home-run explosion in the '90s? I suggest that somebody devise a "steroid factor" to equalize the offensive output of users and non-users.


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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2005 2:50 pm 
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Wabberjocky wrote:
I'm pretty active in "sabermetric" circles — intensive performance analysis based on oft-complicated mathematical formulas. Anybody else into that?


I'm still an amateur, but I'm a big fan of James, Neyer and their brethren.


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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2005 9:03 pm 
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The home-run explosion was probably in small part steriod-based, but I believe it had more to do with the umpires tightening the strike zone and mostly with the cyclical balance that occurs between pitchers and hitters.

In the early- and mid-80s's for example, power stats were deflated across the board because of the development and refinement of new pitches and pitching theories — better controlled velocity between fastballs and changeups, the ascent of the screwball, the split-fingered fastball and the "cut" fastball, among others.

Also, the defined-role bullpen came into full vogue, with closers being set up by situational one-out lefthanders and one-inning righties. "Long men" were developed. Platoon-pitching strategies to combat the rise in platoon batting a decade before were devised and perfected.

In the '90s, hitters learned to adjust — pull hitters with quick wrists learnerd the virtues of going with the pitch instead of trying to kill it. As on-base percentage became important, hitters were taught at the lowest levels to lay off those breaking-off-the-plate offerings and work the pitchers for walks. That, in turn, forced pitchers to pitch to hitters. That led to more strikes down the heart of the plate, which were there more often mashed for doubles and home runs.

And now, pitchers are now adjusting back.

That's my theory, anyway. You can find more intricate ones as the best one-stop sabermetic stop I know, www.baseballprospectus.com.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2005 11:32 pm 
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Wabberjocky wrote:
The home-run explosion was probably in small part steriod-based, but I believe it had more to do with the umpires tightening the strike zone and mostly with the cyclical balance that occurs between pitchers and hitters.


I'm no expert, but I agree with all of Wabberjocky's thoughts on this. I'll add a few more:
1. The trend toward smaller stadiums.
2. Harder bats.
3. Use of thin-handled bats. This increases the speed of the swing (and increases the number of broken bats).
4. Increased weightlifting and other training techniques that can make a difference even without steroids.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2005 8:11 am 
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Wabberjocky wrote:
You can find more intricate ones as the best one-stop sabermetic stop I know, www.baseballprospectus.com.


Looks like an interesting site, but I'm not sure I'm ready to subscribe.

I am semi-serious about developing a statistical "sterioid factor."
Could someone develop a formula for estimating how many extra home runs a player hit because of steroids? It would be a fun article to read.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2005 9:12 am 
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Coincidentally, I came across one answer to my question a few minutes later in a story about Jason Giambi in the NYT:

When Giambi was more open about discussing steroids, he maintained that strength could not make a player hit well. Giambi might not be as strong as he once was, but if he is healthy, he should still have his batting skills.

"A guy doesn't forget how to hit the ball," the second scout said. "I think it's a mental thing now. Steroids only account for, say, 40 home runs going down to 30. It doesn't make you a better hitter; it just gives guys more strength. It certainly doesn't make you hit the ball."


*I believe Wayne has said in other posts that sterioids can improve other batting skills besides power.*


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2005 3:03 pm 
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Good hitting is a combination of hitting for average, hitting for power and hitting in the clutch.

Giambi is making the same argument about steroid use that others have made: Steroids don't improve your eyesight or your judgment--you still have to make contact.

Which is true.

However: With the increase in strength that Giambi concedes is possible through steroid use comes increased bat speed. Power (or force, in scientific terms) results from a combination of speed and mass. A player using the same weight of bat will hit the ball farther by swinging faster. Or, he could swing a heavier bat at the same speed as before. Ideally, he can swing a heavier, thicker bat faster than he could swing a lighter bat at a slower speed before bulking up.

A smart hitter with improved bat speed can sometimes adjust to an unexpected breaking ball, or a pitch in a difficult spot in the strike zone, or an overpowering fastball and make contact that normally wouldn't be possible.

Also: With increased strength, a batter will have more flyballs drift over the outfield fence; fewer will be caught for outs. Thus, not only will home run totals increase, but so will batting average.

Also: With increased strength, a popfly that an infielder might catch becomes a Texas Leaguer.

Also: A soft line drive becomes a harder line drive less likely to be caught.

Also: Steroids might give a player more confidence, which helps in the clutch. I'm thinking that Giambi needs increased confidence more than muscle right now.

However: Here's something many people don't understand about steroids:
Yes, they can cause acne and bloating and a shrinking of the testicles and aggressive behavior, among other unpleasant side effects, but they don't increase muscle bulk by themselves.
Steroids speed the healing that is a part of weightlifting, enabling players to push themselves harder during training. Steroids make resistance training more effective.

ADKbrown wrote:
Coincidentally, I came across one answer to my question a few minutes later in a story about Jason Giambi in the NYT:

When Giambi was more open about discussing steroids, he maintained that strength could not make a player hit well. Giambi might not be as strong as he once was, but if he is healthy, he should still have his batting skills.

"A guy doesn't forget how to hit the ball," the second scout said. "I think it's a mental thing now. Steroids only account for, say, 40 home runs going down to 30. It doesn't make you a better hitter; it just gives guys more strength. It certainly doesn't make you hit the ball."


*I believe Wayne has said in other posts that sterioids can improve other batting skills besides power.*


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2005 6:21 pm 
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One of the base tenets of sabermetrics is that "clutch hitting" is pure myth, utterly without empirical evidence.

There's no way, in my opinion, to measure the impact of steroids on home runs. It requires too many subjective factors. You still have to be sound hitter, technically and instinctively, to hit home runs ... and steroids has nothing to do with bat speed or the ability of the eye to track pitching velocity or the angle of a breaking ball.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2005 7:12 pm 
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Wabberjocky wrote:
One of the base tenets of sabermetrics is that "clutch hitting" is pure myth, utterly without empirical evidence.

There's no way, in my opinion, to measure the impact of steroids on home runs. It requires too many subjective factors. You still have to be sound hitter, technically and instinctively, to hit home runs ... and steroids has nothing to do with bat speed or the ability of the eye to track pitching velocity or the angle of a breaking ball.


If steroids have nothing to do with bat speed, then how do they affect power hitting? Better form? Or don't they?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2005 7:19 pm 
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Wabberjocky wrote:
One of the base tenets of sabermetrics is that "clutch hitting" is pure myth, utterly without empirical evidencel.


You shouldn't have to be a sabermetrician to accept this. Does anyone seriously believe there are players who are inherently better at hitting in desperate situations than they are normally?

Clutch fielding I believe in (Derek Jeter is not a Gold Glove shortstop, but I genuinely believe that he becomes more alert and turns it up a notch in the clutch, making plays few players would make under any circumstances). Maybe even clutch pitching (I can buy the idea that some pitchers are better at "bearing down" under pressure). But not clutch hitting.


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PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2005 7:35 pm 
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There is a mountain of empirical evidence that shows that Derek Jeter is far and away the worst defensive shortstop in baseball. He should have his name legally changed to "Past a Diving" Derek Jeter. More ground balls get past him than anyone else at his position. He costs his team 20 to 30 runs a seasons, which, according to Baseball Prospectus metrics, addus up to 3 to 4 losses a season. Yet he wins a Gold Glove.

This is the power of mythology, which is ingrained in baseball culture ... and which encourages us to believe that something powerful and poetic magically wells up inside of handsome and charismatic ballplayers that allows them to find a way to get a hit in late-inning, close-game situations.

It would be lovely if it were true. But it just isn't.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2005 7:45 pm 
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I'll concede that steroid use can enhance bat speed. But what it mostly does, I believe, is give hitters the strength to turn those warning-track flyouts into home runs.


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PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2005 7:45 pm 
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I conceded that Jeter doesn't deserve Gold Gloves. But he makes consistently remarkable plays under duress.

And as I stated, fielding is different from hitting. In a pressure situation, it's not hard for me to accept that a player is going to be more alert, perceptive and determined as a fielder. With hitting, on the other hand, there's not much a hitter can do in a pressure situation to increase his focus beyond what it has to be each time he goes to the plate.

I'm agreeing with you that there is no such thing as clutch hitting. But consider Jeter's famous play to throw out Jeremy Giambi at home plate. He got himself into a place that no shortstop is ever expected to be -- and I put it down to a fierce desire to win that few players can match.


Last edited by Matthew Grieco on Fri May 13, 2005 7:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2005 7:51 pm 
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In the larger picture, I believe Jeter's defense hurts the Yankees. It's partly because he plays alongside the best defensive shortstop in baseball ... who is playing third base. The Yankees would be best served, I think, by masking Jeter's poor footwork, lack of range and wet-noodle arm by playing him at second, putting A-Rod at short and finding a grab-bag third baseman. But for political reasons (I guess), this can't be allowed to happen.


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PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2005 6:29 am 
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Leave it to a copy editor to dis Derek Jeter.

There is such a thing as clutch fielding and clutch hitting. And he excels at both quite well. He's not Mr. November for nothing.


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PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2005 10:12 am 
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Sorry, you can't convince me there's no such thing as clutch hitting. I don't care if there are no statistics to quantify it. I know what I see.

JJMoney is correct: To watch Derek Jeter is to see clutch hitting personified. There's no one a Yankee fan wants at the plate in a tight situation more than Jeter, who is as likely to drop down a bunt (as he did to help win a game against the Mariners this week) as he is to hit the ball 420 feet. He rarely fails to execute because he is willing to take whatever the pitcher gives him and serve it where there are no fielders. He doesn't overswing, which is why I didn't include Gary Sheffield or Alex Rodriguez in this analysis.

Don Mattingly was the same way. I remember him saying in his prime that he never wanted to be the 27th out of a ballgame and bore down especially hard in those situations. He too was lethal in the clutch.

I'm sure similar cases could be made for many elite players over the years, including Kirby Puckett, Cal Ripken Jr., Wade Boggs, Dwight Evans, Eddie Murray.

Just because there's no stat that quantifies clutch hitting doesn't mean it doesn't exist.


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PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2005 10:58 am 
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Yet one of the reasons baseball is such a great game is its utter unpredictability. In April 2004, for example, as clutch a hitter as Jeter is, he was a lusty 15-for-87, which works out to .172, with 1 homer and 6 RBI. Within that horrid stretch he was 0-for-38, I believe, at one point. (It was at least 0-for-32, but I don't recall on which at-bat he finally got a hit. The streak didn't get to 40, though.)

This April, Jeter was 31-for-90, .344, with 2 homers and 11 RBI. You figure it out.


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PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2005 1:58 pm 
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wordygurdy wrote:
Sorry, you can't convince me there's no such thing as clutch hitting. I don't care if there are no statistics to quantify it. I know what I see.

JJMoney is correct: To watch Derek Jeter is to see clutch hitting personified. There's no one a Yankee fan wants at the plate in a tight situation more than Jeter, who is as likely to drop down a bunt (as he did to help win a game against the Mariners this week) as he is to hit the ball 420 feet. He rarely fails to execute because he is willing to take whatever the pitcher gives him and serve it where there are no fielders. He doesn't overswing, which is why I didn't include Gary Sheffield or Alex Rodriguez in this analysis.

Don Mattingly was the same way. I remember him saying in his prime that he never wanted to be the 27th out of a ballgame and bore down especially hard in those situations. He too was lethal in the clutch.

I'm sure similar cases could be made for many elite players over the years, including Kirby Puckett, Cal Ripken Jr., Wade Boggs, Dwight Evans, Eddie Murray.

Just because there's no stat that quantifies clutch hitting doesn't mean it doesn't exist.


Like all Yankees fans, I cherish every memory of the Jeter hits you consider clutch.

But who of the current Yankees do I want at the plate when the game is on the line? Alex Rodriguez, because he is the best hitter on the team. Unlike a lot of people, I think Rodriguez fits in perfectly as a Yankee and can, if he remains here, retire as one of Yankeedom's most-loved players.


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PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2005 6:13 pm 
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My overall impression of A-Rod as a Yankee is that he has been an outstanding third baseman (at least he was last year--his six errors so far this year have been costly and tie him for second in the league with Chavez) and an excellent offensive player, even if he hasn't posted his usual otherworldly numbers at the plate as a Yankee (I know, I know: he's tied for the league lead in homers, and he's fifth in runs scored and third in RBI).

But if you watched him last year, you saw a few too many 6-4-3s from A-Rod for a player of his caliber in clutch spots, especially in the last four games of the ALCS. (Granted, every hitter for the Yanks seemed to succumb to the Sox' bullpen.)

A peek at ESPN.com's batting splits provides some insight into Jeter's and A-Rod's abilities to hit in what could be considered clutch situations: runners in scoring position and runners in scoring position with two out.

Here are A-Rod's numbers:

Runners in scoring position, 2005: .300 (15-for-50)
Runners in scoring position, two out, 2005: .250 (6-for-24)

Runners in scoring position, 2004: .248 (39-for-157)
Runners in scoring position, two out, 2004: .206 (14-for-68)

Runners in scoring position, 2003-2005: .297 (135-for-455)
Runners in scoring position, two out, 2003-2005: .240 (42-for-175)

Here are Jeter's numbers:

Runners in scoring position, 2005: .233 (7-for-30)
Runners in scoring position, two out, 2005: .250 (3-for-12)

Runners in scoring position, 2004: .281 (41-for-146)
Runners in scoring position, two out, 2004: .293 (22-for-75)

Runners in scoring position, 2003-2005: .308 (124-for-402)
Runners in scoring position, two out, 2003-2005: .309 (55-for-178)

So Jeter has been the better player with runners in scoring position and runners in scoring position with two outs over the past three years.

That's not to say A-Rod's not a great offensive player. He is, and I don't disagree with the notion that he could become a beloved Yankee, a la Reggie. And everyone's entitled to an opinion.

But I'll take my chances with Jeter up there.


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PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2005 9:05 pm 
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Wabberjocky wrote:
One of the base tenets of sabermetrics is that "clutch hitting" is pure myth, utterly without empirical evidence.

There's no way, in my opinion, to measure the impact of steroids on home runs. It requires too many subjective factors. You still have to be sound hitter, technically and instinctively, to hit home runs ... and steroids has nothing to do with bat speed or the ability of the eye to track pitching velocity or the angle of a breaking ball.


Are you aware that Bill James recently modified his position on clutch hitting? He no longer argues that the data disprove the existence of clutch hitting; rather, he says they neither disprove nor prove.


I think if you had enough information about steroid use--which players used them and when--and analyzed the data, you could come up with something significant to say about the effect of steroids.


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PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2005 8:49 pm 
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I'm as big a fan of Bill James' writing and philosophies as can be, but sabermetrics has passed him by over the last decade ... his acolytes have taken up the craft while his energies and interests turned in other directions. While he's worth listening to, he no longer represents the best and latest research.


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PostPosted: Mon May 16, 2005 9:53 am 
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Wabberjocky wrote:
I'm as big a fan of Bill James' writing and philosophies as can be, but sabermetrics has passed him by over the last decade ... his acolytes have taken up the craft while his energies and interests turned in other directions. While he's worth listening to, he no longer represents the best and latest research.


I didn't realize that. What do sabermetricians say about James's shift in position on clutch hitting?


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PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2005 8:23 am 
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Yankees win 9th straight, thanks to Mr. Putz:

With New York trailing 2-1 in the seventh at Seattle, J.J. Putz relieved and Williams drove his first pitch just out of reach of center fielder Jeremy Reed, whose glove went over the wall as he crashed into it. On Saturday, Putz gave up a grand slam to Trot Nixon in Boston's 6-3 win. -- AP

His ERA is now 2.51. Still good, but a few more weeks like this and he'll cross the pitcher's equivalent of the Mendoza Line.


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PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2005 10:31 am 
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Of course, only one of the four runs on Bernie's grand slam was charged to Putz.


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PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2005 10:35 am 
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And hey, how 'bout those Yankees!


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PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2005 10:55 am 
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jjmoney62 wrote:
And hey, how 'bout those Yankees!


Nice run, indeed, but I'm holding off on the giddiness till they're 10 or 15 or so over .500 and beating the teams that will be playing in the postseason.

I will say this, though: Jaret Wright is done as a Yankee, given the way Wang has pitched. Methinks Brian Cashman will be doing his best to unload Mr. Wright if and when he comes back from his injury, which, if Cashman has any luck, will be before the trading deadline. And even if he is unable to divest himself of Wright, the woebegone righthander will probably be relegated to bullpen mopup work unless and until Wang proves himself unworthy of a starting role.


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