New York Yankees Burnett pitches to the Detroit Tigers during the first inning of Game 4 in their MLB  American League Division Series baseball playoffs in Detroit

A.J. Burnett steps up against Tigers as Yankees force fifth game

42 Comments

Craig did his best to talk everybody off the ledge this morning in regard to A.J. Burnett, but even the most optimistic among us had absolutely no idea what pitcher we were going to see tonight against the Tigers. Now that the dust has settled, it fair to say that the enigmatic right-hander exceeded all expectations.

Burnett allowed just one run over 5 2/3 innings while the offense provided plenty of support as the Yankees topped the Tigers 10-1 to force a deciding fifth game in the ALDS.

Burnett was good enough, throwing 49 out of 81 pitches for strikes while striking out three and walking four. He induced 10 ground ball outs. The first inning was almost a complete disaster, as he walked Victor Martinez to load the bases with two outs, but Curtis Granderson was able to make a leaping catch on a fly ball off the bat of Don Kelly to end the threat.

This was actually a 4-1 game before the Yankees exploded for six runs on seven hits off four relievers in the top of the eighth inning. Alex Rodriguez kicked off the rally with a single, snapping an 0-for-12 mini-slump in the series. The game took on a decidedly different tone from that point forward.

With the series now tied 2-2, the teams will play a deciding fifth game Thursday night at Yankee Stadium. Ivan Nova will be on the mound for the Yankees while Doug Fister pitches for the Tigers.

Notes

– The last time Burnett allowed one earned run or less in a start? June 13.

– Victor Martinez provided the only offense of the night for the Tigers, slugging a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning. It was the first hit allowed by Burnett.

– While Curtis Granderson made a nice recovery to catch a ball he misjudged in the first inning, his diving catch to end the bottom of the sixth inning was even better. He skidded for about five feet on the Comerica Park grass after making the sprawling grab. The AL MVP candidate also had an RBI double in the victory.

– Rick Porcello allowed four runs on five hits while walking one and striking out five. He was hurt by leaving pitches up in the strike zone, which explains why he induced seven ground balls compared to seven fly balls. The 22-year-old right-hander has a 51.9 percent career ground ball rate.

– Wilson Betemit went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in the loss. Including the postseason, he has struck out in 39.8 percent of his at-bats since joining the Tigers.

– Jesus Montero had an RBI single in the six-run eighth inning and added another single in the ninth. The only other Yankees to get a postseason hit at 21 years old or younger? Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. No pressure, kid.

– 11 of the Yankees’ 13 hits tonight were singles.

– And we’ll leave you with this from our friend Joe Sheehan of SI.com: The Yankees haven’t won a deciding game (G5/G7) since the Aaron Boone game in 2003.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
10 Comments

Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
24 Comments

ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: