Friday, July 4, 2008

Team Meetings Work Brilliantly...If The Next Day's Starter Is Any Good

Smart managers tend to try and coincide a team meeting/explosion with when their best
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pitcher is scheduled to start the next day to present the illusion that the meeting "sparked" something. The Yankees had their team meeting last night in which it was reported that not only manager Joe Girardi spoke, but the coaches and Johnny Damon and team captain Derek Jeter did as well. If the Yankees had won today, it would have been perceived that the meeting made a difference. That was undone because they had a journeyman pitcher starting the game and proving why he's a journeyman; why he's a pitcher who makes a living at Triple A and is a useful fill-in starter, but not someone a team with designs on a championship wants to count on to stop a losing streak.
This isn't to denigrate Rasner in any way because the man gives everything he has; it's just
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that what he has is so limited when facing a lineup like that of the Red Sox that it's unlikely he's going to be able to hold them down unless he's nearly perfect. The homer by Mike Lowell was a prime example of a good idea for a pitch, a decent location for that pitch, but an inability to execute that pitch. In the fifth inning with the score tied at three and two runners on base, Rasner threw an inside fastball to Lowell; Lowell, the experienced hitter that he is, knows that Rasner's fastball doesn't have enough velocity to blow the ball by him on the inside part of the plate, so he has full coverage of the outside corner and is able to adjust to that inside fastball
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by collapsing his forearms and still has enough power to get the ball out of the park. This is the problem a guy with limited ability like Rasner has; he must be perfect and when he's not, he gets pounded.
When he was recalled in early May, the Yankees pitching staff was in shambles; both Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes had fallen on their faces and they were desperate for someone, anyone who could give them some innings. Rasner was exactly what they needed in five of his first six starts; since then, the big league hitters have caught up to him and are raking him all over the place. He's one of those pitchers who will always have a job because he's a professional and knows how to pitch, but won't be an important member of a pitching staff or even a full-time big leaguer because he doesn't have the tools. The team meeting will be seen not to have worked, but that has nothing to do with anything; the Yankees lost because they didn't have a pitcher on the mound who was able to fulfill his end of the bargain and keep the team in the game. Team meeting or not, a lack of ability is not something a pep talk will be able to fix.

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