Following the Yankees game last night, I walked to my hotel, through downtown Baltimore. As fate had it, I passed the place where the Yankees were staying, just around the block from me, and there was John Sterling, catching some fresh air.
"You know," John said to me, in a voice no diferent than the one he uses on the air, "that's why winning teams win, and why losing teams lose."
The game did have that sort of feel. CC Sabathia really struggled early, falling behind the Orioles, 2-0, yet a Yankees comeback seemed inevitable. That comeback came in the sixth, when the Yankees capitalized on three Orioles misplays to score two runs and take a 3-2 lead they woudln't relinquish.
The Orioles are now a sorry 16-43, their interim manager Juan Samuel is 1-3 and their roster will get worse once they likely trade Kevin Millwood and Ty Wigginton. They're terrible, and they've certainly fallen short of their projections.
But I was curious: How much of that sixth inning could be attributed to "losingness," if you will - a lack of confidence or, even worse, an abundance of apathy - and how much to the fact that the Orioles just aren't very good, especially compared to the Yankees?
There is of course no way to assign percentages to that question, but I figured, let's break down that sixth inning and look at the three players whose poor defense led to the loss.
1) Mark Teixeira started the inning with what appeared to be an ordinary grounder to second. When it hit the lip of the infield, however, the ball skipped, hit the glove of Orioles second baseman Julio Lugo - who was playing back as part of Baltimore's shift against Teixeira - and headed into the outfield. The official scorer initially charged Lugo with an error, then changed it to a single after the game.
Lugo's UZR at second base is currently 11.1/150, meaning that, in 150 games, he'd make 11.1 more plays than the average second baseman. A nice quality of UZR, by the way, is that there's no hit/error disparity. You either make the play in your zone, or you don't. And FWIW, I thought the error should've stayed.
So the first inclination is that Lugo made an abnormally bad play for him, and a particularly ill-timed one. However, 40 percent of one season does not rank as a great sample size for UZR, and if you look at Lugo's career as a second baseman (he has spent far more time at shortstop), you see he has a UZR of -6.5/150 at second base since 2002, when the stat began to be used.
2) Alex Rodriguez pounded a single to leftfield, and Luke Scott misplayed it, allowing Teixeira to advance to third base.
Scott's 2010 UZR as a leftfielder is -6.0/150. For his career, however, he's at 6.8/150. Maybe he's in a defensive slump.
3) After Robinson Cano singled home Teixeira and sent A-Rod to third, Jorge Posada hit a grounder to first - a room-service, 3-6-3 or 3-6-1 double play, given that Posada is one of the game's slowest runners. But after Ty Wigginton threw to Cesar Izturis to force out Cano, Izturis airmailed the relay, sending it into the Orioles' dugout and allowing Posada to reach second base.
Izturis, known for his defense, has a -1.0/150 UZR this season, and 6.9/150 for his career. This error didn't hurt the O's as much; A-Rod was scoring from third even on a double play, and Posada didn't advance from second base. It did prolong the inning, however, and Orioles starter Chris Tillman left the game after that inning.
Conclusions? None, really. I don't have a mole inside the Orioles' clubhouse to let me know whether the Orioles were sincerely furious with themselves afterwards for giving the game away, or whether they shrugged and watched the end of the Stanley Cup, as the Yankees did in their clubhouse. And I'm not sure either reaction would absolutely confirm or refute the amount of effort and passion exerted during the game.
All we know for sure is that the Yankees field a clearly superior team to the Orioles, and that, had the Orioles executed more of their plays last night, they very well might have won one, for a change
--Off the game, I wrote about the prospect of dropping Teixeira down in the lineup. This is already becoming less of an issue, because Teixeira registered a second straight good day - ironically, he got credit for that hit when he didn't deserve one, yet Scott Moore made a very nice diving stop and throw on a hard Teixeira grounder in the ninth - but I thought Kevin Long's words, in particular, were interesting enough to keep the column.
--The Yankees drafted St. John's pitcher Daniel Burawa.
--As the Mets were rained out, Johan Santana said he wasn't upset by his lack of run support this season. The good news for Santana's legacy is that last year's Cy Young Awards displayed the shift away from an emphasis on pitcher wins. So as long as he continues to pitch as well as he has, then he should be on a Cooperstown track, regardless of his run support.
--Good column by Anthony Rieber, who pointed out that the National League East became a tougher neighborhood this week.
--The Mets drafted John Franco's son, who plans to play for Brown University instead.
--Thanks to Bob Tufts for alerting me to this interesting piece comparing Ken Griffey, Jr. to Barry Bonds.
--Live chat at 11:00 tomorrow morning. I'm not saying attendance is mandatory. What I am saying is that I'll be deeply hurt and never forgive you if you don't make it.
--Have a great day. I'll be at the Padres-Mets day-night doubleheader and will check in from there.