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Pinch hitting: Alex Khalifa

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on Feb 04, 2014 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Today’s Pinch Hitter is Alex Khalifa. He’s now a buyer for a tile company in Anaheim, California, but he was born in Connecticut and attended his first game at old Yankee Stadium in 1992. He’s lived on the West Coast since he was a teenager, he wrote that his one brush with a Yankee came when he was watching the All-Star parade through Disneyland in 2010. That’s when Alex shouted “Let’s Go Yankees” so loudly that Joe Girardi gave him a thumbs up. As a final note, Alex wrote that he’d like to thank his father Amin for texting him about the Tanaka signing while he was stuck at work.

For his post, Alex recalls a playoff game he attended in Oakland, when he saw CC Sabathia deliever a truly ace-like performance. The question is whether Sabathia’s capable of something similar at this point in his career. Alex says, yes.

CC SabathiaOn October 20, 2009, I walked into the train station in San Juan Capistrano, California, which is known mostly for the swallows that fly back every year to the old Spanish mission. I hopped an Amtrak Pacific Surfliner heading north and disembarked in Anaheim. When I bought my ticket to Game 4 of the ALCS a few days earlier, I knew two things: playoff parking at Angel Stadium is terrible, and I was going to witness CC Sabathia pitch in the postseason for the first time in person.

As you likely remember, his performance did not disappoint even on three days’ rest: 8 innings, 5 hits, and just 1 earned run in a 10-1 Yankee victory. In short, he was every bit the ace the Yankees had hoped for when they signed him.

Since my family moved from our home in Ridgefield, Connecticut many years ago, I’ve gotten used to rooting for the Yankees in enemy territory. However, one thing I never adjusted to was how Sabathia pitched down the stretch in 2013. An ERA approaching 5 is never something you’d expect from such a respected pitcher, so after the season ended I took a step back and tried to break down what fans should be able to expect from him next season. For the following reasons, I believe 2014 will be a bounce-back year for CC Sabathia.

Less pressure

As it happens, the Yankees have recently signed Masahiro Tanaka, whose $155-million deal and stellar Japanese numbers suggest he can be a top pitcher in the major leagues even if he doesn’t pitch for his new club on Opening Day. Sabathia will likely need to be a workhorse for the Yankees to succeed next season, but the spotlight may be off him a little. He’s a guy who generally thrives on the big stage, but less attention should help while he’s trying to put last year behind him. While Robinson Cano has departed, the signings of Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran should mean an offense that provides CC with good run support — especially if guys like Mark Teixeira can stay on the field.

Statistical variation

I use the phrase “pitcher luck” not to make excuses for Sabathia’s 2013, but rather to show how similar performance could yield better future results. In 2013, Sabathia had a higher-than-expected opponent’s batting average when putting the ball in play (BABIP), which at .308 was the third worst of his career. For example, a high BABIP often means that balls are finding holes and sneaking through the infield more than average. In addition, he experienced the lowest “left on base” (LOB) rate for opposing baserunners of his career at just 67.4%. A low LOB percentage often indicates that a pitcher is allowing more run-scoring hits with two outs than you’d expect if the same games were played again.

Another factor: a slightly lower-than-expected groundball rate (44.7% in 2013 compared to his 45.3% career average). This may not seem that drastic, but more fly balls contributed to a higher-than-expected home run frequency. In fact, his 1.19 home runs allowed per 9 innings was the highest rate of his career, as was the fact that a whopping 13% of his fly balls allowed left the yard. Looking at the whole picture, even if Sabathia is pitching with the same stuff and command as last season, you would expect his results to look better in 2014.

Rest

Sabathia’s fastball velocity was down last season, averaging 91.3 MPH after it was 92.4 MPH in 2012. This could be something he must adjust to in the future, but it’s also possible that fatigue or a nagging injury was responsible for the slower pitch speed. Sabathia did go on the disabled list in September due to a hamstring strain. In any case, CC did not have to pitch in the playoffs and should head into Spring Training well rested. He’s also discussed an offseason weight training program with the goal of a healthy 2014 campaign.

Track record

The career numbers are excellent, of course: a 3.60 ERA and over 200 wins for starters. In 2013, CC sounded even more frustrated than most pitchers would be following bad starts, and I wouldn’t bet against that pride and determination to be great. In addition, his slider never stopped being a successful pitch especially against lefties, who chased it out of the strike zone 40% of the time. A renewed focus on locating pitches slightly better could make a major difference in his effectiveness going forward, especially since he was able to post a walk rate of less than two batters per nine innings in 2012. For what it’s worth, the Oliver projection system created by The Hardball Times expects Sabathia to post a 3.74 ERA in 2014. That might not look like the output of an ace, but in the AL East it seems like a solid comeback season.

Associated Press photos

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95 Responses to “Pinch hitting: Alex Khalifa”

  1. tomingeorgia February 4th, 2014 at 9:18 am

    I think you’re pretty on-target, Alex, but I expect better than that. Thanks.

    Where is everybody?

  2. tomingeorgia February 4th, 2014 at 9:21 am

    better than that FROM CC, I meant.

  3. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 9:29 am

    Good Morning Mister Tom.

    :)

  4. Tackelberry February 4th, 2014 at 9:30 am

    The Stephen Drew watch continues

  5. tomingeorgia February 4th, 2014 at 9:31 am

    Hello, Mister MTU,
    Very quiet around here today.

  6. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 9:32 am

    Mister Tom-

    I think by now most are just counting the days.

  7. tomingeorgia February 4th, 2014 at 9:34 am

    Has “Truck Day” happened yet?

  8. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 9:37 am

    Tom-

    Nope. 2/8

  9. AAA February 4th, 2014 at 9:38 am

    The Stephen Drew watch continues

    ==========================

    Jim Bowden says Drew has a two year offer from Boston right now.

  10. Mottsx February 4th, 2014 at 9:47 am

    If you were one of the 5 remaining free agents still having the QO attached and it being February 4th, wouldn’t it be a good idea to fire their agents to make a statement.

    “Hey 5%, you’re not doing your job”. They advised their clients not to take $14.1M and now their not finding their clients a job.

  11. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 9:49 am

    I have only seen Boras misjudge the market 1 time.

    He has an amazing track record.

  12. Tackelberry February 4th, 2014 at 9:49 am

    I can see a big fight over the “Qualifying Offer” scenario between the union and owners in the next CBA negotiations.

  13. pat February 4th, 2014 at 9:56 am

    AnthonyMcCarron
    That’s your likely new Yankee closer over yonder, David Robertson, working in Tampa pic.twitter.com/xFkvyopcd6

  14. pat February 4th, 2014 at 9:57 am

    jonmorosi
    Scott Boras told me current free agent draft pick compensation “destroys the integrity of the game.” Full story: http://msn.foxsports.com/conte.....grity.html

  15. austinmac February 4th, 2014 at 10:01 am

    We should give up the Drew watch. They didn’t have money for Baker so they sure won’t for Drew.

  16. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 10:08 am

    Mac-

    Has Baker signed ?

  17. blake February 4th, 2014 at 10:09 am

    Steal drew

  18. blake February 4th, 2014 at 10:10 am

    Baker still out there

  19. mick February 4th, 2014 at 10:11 am

    cahwe ni sifb

  20. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 10:16 am

    Blake-

    If he already has a 2 yr. offer from the Sux then you won’t be stealing him.

    Probably would take 3 years.

  21. Locke February 4th, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Alex,

    Thanks for your article. I think you’re right and CC should have a good bounce back year.

  22. pat February 4th, 2014 at 10:19 am

    AnthonyMcCarron
    Scratch that Sizemore reference. It’s JR Murphy. Also, Dean Anna is here. They are hitting with Jeter

  23. blake February 4th, 2014 at 10:19 am

    MTU,

    3/30 would be a really good deal for Drew IMO….well below market value for a good SS. Peralta got 52 million

  24. Shame Spencer February 4th, 2014 at 10:20 am

    ?@eboland11

    YES announces it will broadcast a 2013 start of Masahiro Tanaka’s in the Nippon Professional League Feb. 10 at 7 pm

    ————-

    At this point I’m assuming we’ll get introduced to Tanaka when pitchers and catchers officially need to report?

  25. Shame Spencer February 4th, 2014 at 10:21 am

    I thought Baker was off the board.. but I’m starting to confuse myself at this point. I keep forgetting Cruz is still out there as well.

  26. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 10:21 am

    Perhaps Blake but I don’t think they are going there.

    I think they were looking for an even better deal.

    We’ll see.

    I hope you get your wish.

  27. pat February 4th, 2014 at 10:22 am

    jonmorosi
    Source: MLB, MLBPA going through annual review of Joint Drug Agreement. Possibility of increased penalties is among topics under discussion.

    Union has conceded too much to ownership lately in both CBA and JDA. They would be fools to concede anything more unless they get concessions in return.

  28. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 10:22 am

    Shame-

    Scott Baker is.

    But I don’t believe Jeff Baker has signed yet.

    Easy to confuse the 2.

  29. blake February 4th, 2014 at 10:23 am

    Mick posted a tweet yesterday that baker had signed with the cubs….problem was that it was like 4 years old

  30. Shame Spencer February 4th, 2014 at 10:24 am

    Throwback:

    @MLBcathedrals Rare 1950s color night shot of outside Yankee Stadium when the signage was red. #Yankees pic.twitter.com/buj1fLnqjP

  31. blake February 4th, 2014 at 10:24 am

    @AnthonyMcCarron: Scratch that JR Murphy reference! Now it is confirmed that it is Scott Sizemore. If I had a telescope with me, this mix up never happens

    What a job

  32. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 10:24 am

    Shame-

    The whole way the Tanaka thing was handled has been unusual.

    I think you are likely correct in that we get no formal intro until P and C’s.

  33. Shame Spencer February 4th, 2014 at 10:25 am

    blake February 4th, 2014 at 10:23 am

    Mick posted a tweet yesterday that baker had signed with the cubs….problem was that it was like 4 years old

    ————–

    Ha, gotcha!! For someone so anti-Twitter mick sure does like to poke around there pretty often.

  34. Shame Spencer February 4th, 2014 at 10:25 am

    MTU – I guess the Super Bowl just got in the way. I look forward to seeing that, though. I can’t believe we’re less than two weeks away.

  35. pat February 4th, 2014 at 10:26 am

    AnthonyMcCarron
    Scratch that JR Murphy reference! Now it is confirmed that it is Scott Sizemore. If I had a telescope with me, this mix up never happens

  36. Shame Spencer February 4th, 2014 at 10:27 am

    @Buster_ESPN Angels had 4-year offer to Matt Garza on the table early in winter, for about what he got from MILW,but pulled it after it wasn’t accepted.

    Is it just me or has this been one of the more bizarre off seasons?

  37. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Shame-

    I wish Erica were still here she could give us an official LoHud countdown.

    :)

  38. blake February 4th, 2014 at 10:28 am

    The Angels always do that…..they make offers and put time limits on it. Take it or leave it

  39. pkyankfan69 February 4th, 2014 at 10:29 am

    February should be spelled Febuary… I hate that extra unnecessary r.

  40. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 10:29 am

    Shame-

    Dumb move by Garza.

    Who would you rather play for.

  41. Shame Spencer February 4th, 2014 at 10:30 am

    blake February 4th, 2014 at 10:28 am

    The Angels always do that…..they make offers and put time limits on it. Take it or leave it

    ———–

    Did I miss the Angels improving their pitching staff, though? Seems like a weird approach in this case.

  42. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 10:31 am

    Blake-

    I like that.

    Sort of sh*t or get off the pot.

    These Primadonnas get way too much time.

  43. blake February 4th, 2014 at 10:31 am

    “Did I miss the Angels improving their pitching staff, though? Seems like a weird approach in this case”

    Nope they haven’t done anything ….it’s just not what Moreno does….he did it with Pujols too

  44. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 10:32 am

    Blake-

    Nobody dumber than Angelos.

  45. Shame Spencer February 4th, 2014 at 10:32 am

    So weird.. maybe they target Santana since his price dropped dramatically.

  46. blake February 4th, 2014 at 10:33 am

    The Angels needed a pitcher pretty bad….they didn’t get Tanaka or Garza and I doubt they would bring Santana back. They have the worst farm syst in baseball……I guess they did get Skaggs though which I liked by he’s unlikely to be a difference maker in 2014

  47. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 10:33 am

    Shame-

    Which one ?

    ;)

  48. blake February 4th, 2014 at 10:34 am

    MTU says:
    February 4, 2014 at 10:32 am
    Blake-

    Nobody dumber than Angelos.”

    It has to be so frustrating to be an orioles fan….they have a 2 year window here to win before Davis and Wieters are free agents and they have done nothing this winter

  49. Shame Spencer February 4th, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Ervin lol.. but I also forgot about Carlos being out there. Can’t believe there’s still so much to be settled with 11 days before P&C’s report.

  50. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Hard to believe that a Team like the Halos has a crap farm system.

  51. Shame Spencer February 4th, 2014 at 10:35 am

    The Angels should just trade Trout for a king’s ransom.. tell the Rays they’ll give them Trout for every player they have under 25 lol.

  52. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 10:36 am

    Blake-

    Angelos is dumb and cheap.

  53. Shame Spencer February 4th, 2014 at 10:36 am

    It has to be so frustrating to be an orioles fan….they have a 2 year window here to win before Davis and Wieters are free agents and they have done nothing this winter

    ——————–

    I agree.. that’s not a bad baseball team over there. I thought they’d be more dangerous last off season and they stayed pretty quiet.

  54. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 10:37 am

    shame-

    If Trout is available we’re getting him.

    Period. No if ands or buts.

    ;)

  55. blake February 4th, 2014 at 10:37 am

    Shame Spencer says:
    February 4, 2014 at 10:34 am
    Ervin lol.. but I also forgot about Carlos being out there. Can’t believe there’s still so much to be settled with 11 days before P&C’s report.

    Johan ;) lot of Santanas around

  56. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Until Taillion or Bundy come on line the O’s are held back by pitching.

    They may get the Korean though.

    Angelos is lucky to have Duquette and Buck.

    I wouldn’t work for that loser.

  57. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 10:40 am

    I wouldn’t mind the Yankees stealing Ervin.

    ;)

  58. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Or Johan for that matter.

  59. Shame Spencer February 4th, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Johan ;)

    ————

    Fack, that’s what I meant lol!!! Man, I really need coffee today.

  60. Shame Spencer February 4th, 2014 at 10:41 am

    I wouldn’t mind them stealing Carlos!! He could play all the walk up music live!

  61. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 10:42 am

    Or Ubaldo. Or Arroyo.

    A bargain is a bargain.

    And you can never have enough pitching.

    ;)

  62. blake February 4th, 2014 at 10:42 am

    Shame Spencer says:
    February 4, 2014 at 10:41 am
    I wouldn’t mind them stealing Carlos!! He could play all the walk up music live!

    Or play 1B when Tex gets hurt !

  63. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 10:44 am

    If budget weren’t an issue I’d love to have Kendrys to back up Tex.

    He’s a good 1b and he’d kill it at NYS.

  64. jmills February 4th, 2014 at 10:45 am

    Alex, pleasant post! I’m in the midst of doing the Lady Lazarus thing with, Dave Stieb. Why not? tomingeorgia, I tried to youtube Grady Tate, Lena Horne’s, ” Lady and her Music ” can’t seem to find it, much help would be appreciated up here!

  65. blake February 4th, 2014 at 10:49 am

    @mlbtraderumors: Mariners In Talks With Cruz, Willing To Offer Multiple Years http://t.co/XuUOwPRI7u #mlb

  66. jmills February 4th, 2014 at 10:49 am

    blake, u and Tar have an interesting bet going on, I felt like jumping in, but didn’t have anything to contribute :)

  67. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 10:52 am

    Would the Twins trade Plouffe now that Sano is likely to take his 3b job ?

  68. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 10:53 am

    And by the way, Sano is another guy we should have been all over.

    ;)

  69. blake February 4th, 2014 at 10:54 am

    MTU says:
    February 4, 2014 at 10:52 am
    Would the Twins trade Plouffe now that Sano is likely to take his 3b job ?

    I can’t listen to kay say Plouffe every game…..

  70. jmills February 4th, 2014 at 10:54 am

    MTU, half of these ” modern ” players mean nothing to me. Rob Wilfong, now there’s a name!

  71. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 10:54 am

    If the M’s get Cruz to help Cano out they might be much more competitive in the AL West.

    Their pitching is real good.

    They just needed to bump up the O.

  72. Hankflorida February 4th, 2014 at 10:56 am

    I do not think the Yankees have Drew on their radar with Ryan ready to come in if Jeter moves to another position like third. Does the name Lyn Lary ring a bell as he was a great fielding light hitting shortstop with a lifetime BA close to Ryan’s. The Yankees kept him around till Crosseti took the shortstop position, and The Crow did not hit much better and also had a great glove. The shortstop position and the pitchers in the Yankee championship years back then were always the weak links in their offense, but it was important that they had great fielding up the middle because their pitchers like Red Ruffing usually kept the batters hitting those worm burners.

  73. Doreen February 4th, 2014 at 10:56 am

    pat -

    Perhaps the article you linked regarding Boras’ assessment of the QO situation gives a clue as to what the PA might want concessions on in return for stronger PED punishments.

  74. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 10:56 am

    Blake-

    He’s 24. Has pop. #’s going in the right direction.

    Twins are always pitching starved.

    Send ‘em one of ours.

  75. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 10:57 am

    I’d like a platoon partner for KJ at 3rd.

    Baker is fine.

    or someone else ?

  76. jmills February 4th, 2014 at 10:58 am

    What happened to Jose Cruz Jr? I think I traded Mike Timlin for him,…its all a grey, English side wash.

  77. jmills February 4th, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Red Ruffing, he was in my Sports Illustrated Legends of the ( board ) Game, from about ’79.

  78. jmills February 4th, 2014 at 11:02 am

    We’ll see what continues to happen with ” suppliments ” and baseball. In hockey, you can cream a guy’s head, and the union will protect you all day long.

  79. blake February 4th, 2014 at 11:10 am

    @JonHeymanCBS: Jason Heyward gets $13.3M for 2 yrs #braves

    Good deal…..I still think Heyward hasn’t scratched the surface of what he can be

  80. jmills February 4th, 2014 at 11:15 am

    Todd Bertuzzi stalking down, Moore, was beyond atrocious. Gretzky, what were you thinking putting Bertuzzi on your Olympic team? Gary Suter’s concussive slam on Kariya after Paul’s goal, was another great bloody number. Don’t get me started on Hunter hunting Turgeon down.

  81. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 11:16 am

    Neither have you Blake.

    :)

  82. blake February 4th, 2014 at 11:17 am

    @DRUDGE_REPORT: Seahawks: We cracked Peyton Manning’s hand-signals… http://t.co/vhQsoLDp3a

    Somebody will get plunked for that next year

  83. Hankflorida February 4th, 2014 at 11:23 am

    jmills February 4th, 2014 at 11:00 am
    Red Ruffing, he was in my Sports Illustrated Legends of the ( board ) Game, from about ’79.

    Red Ruffing had a great slider and was traded to the Yankees because the Red Sox owner needed money. Ruth, Ruffing and Sparky Lyle are some of the reasons that the Bostonians got screwed all those years.

  84. jmills February 4th, 2014 at 11:25 am

    Sparkey Lyle, the closer prior to Gossage I think.

  85. jmills February 4th, 2014 at 11:26 am

    …Sorry, I think its ” Sparky “.

  86. jmills February 4th, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Gretzky got to play alongside, Semenko. Orr had to fend for himself, just the way it was…

  87. pat February 4th, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Doreen

    The union did this to themselves. Ownership has been nibbling and no one seemed to care. Now that all the nibbles have equaled a bite, they can see the damage done.
    They have weakened free agency with the draft picks being tied to players. They have allowed the owners to institute a salary ceiling with luxury tax without insisting on a salary floor. They have weakened JDA arbitration by allowing bigger suspensions for not testing positive than for testing positive.

  88. dan l February 4th, 2014 at 11:32 am

    Wondering when Boras will come out against the draft? With the slotting system and draft pool money it seems unnecessary to even have one going forward. Just give teams two different pools of money to spend those who don’t make the post season get more.

  89. jmills February 4th, 2014 at 11:44 am

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=q3AhKTaenqQ

    I can understand many of you might be bored with hockey, but you may find the above Bobby Orr link to be amusive ( look at the abuse he took ).

  90. MTU February 4th, 2014 at 11:51 am

    New one ——–>

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