Getting beat by Yoenis Cespedes

Yankees have some interest in Rick Ankiel
Saturday Night Open Thread
(REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)

If you didn’t stay up late enough to catch the end of the game last night, the Yankees suffered a walk-off loss to Athletics when Brandon Moss singled off Cody Eppley with runners on first and second in the bottom of the ninth. Yoenis Cespedes scored the winning run and started the rally with a solid line drive single to center, his fourth hit of the game. He also hit a two-run homer off Freddy Garcia in the series opener and so far has gone 6-for-8 during these two games.

Cespedes has been molten hot since coming out of the All-Star break, going 17-for-29 (.586) with two doubles and three homers in the seven games. He’s been terrorizing everyone lately, not just New York. I do want to make a point about how the Yankees have been pitching to him these last two days, however. With some help from Texas Leaguers, here’s a look at the location of the pitches he’s swung at during this series (all plots are from the catcher’s perspective)…

That’s an awful lot of pitches — I unofficially count eight — right out over the plate and down the middle. You don’t need to know much about baseball to understand why he’s mashed against the Yankees when you see where these pitches have been. Furthermore, here are the pitches he didn’t offer at and instead took for a called strike (or ball)…

More pitches in the happy zone, he just didn’t bother to swing at these. Cespedes has seen 31 pitches in his nine plate appearances against the Yankees and approximately a dozen of them have been over the heart of the plate, at the middle of the zone and below. If you’re unconvinced this is a problem, check out his run value heat map courtesy of Baseball Heat Maps

You can read the nuts and bolts of what this graphic means right here, but in English the heat map shows that compared to the league average batter, Cespedes does most of his damage on pitches … wait for it … over the heart of the plate and at the middle of the zone and below. The darker the green (or red), the more damage he does on pitches in that location. Up-and-away is another happy zone. Combine this hitter with the pitches he’s been getting and well, you get a guy who’s gone 6-for-8 in the first two games of a four-game set.

Now I don’t think the Yankees have been intentionally pitching Cespedes over the plate like this; both Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova were pretty shaky with their command these last two nights. Eppley lives down in the zone with his sidearm sinker and he just caught too much of the plate. These guys just have to do a better — much better, really — job of pitching the A’s slugger on the edges of the zone or even outside of it. Cespedes has swung at exactly one-third of the pitches he’s seen outside of the zone this year, the 43rd highest rate among the 203 hitters with 240 plate appearances. He’s a bit of a hacker and will expand the zone, but so far the Yankees haven’t given him anything to chase this series.

The problem now is just the team’s pitching staff and timing. Phil Hughes is pitching tonight and he’s a fastball-curveball guy, not someone who can run a slider away from a righty. Maybe that new 11-to-5 curveball can do the trick. CC Sabathia is starting tomorrow and he’ll have to rely on changeups away to Cespedes. Hiroki Kuroda is probably best equipped to deal with a guy like this, but he’s not scheduled to start this series. Garcia and Nova can bust out sliders to right-handers but they didn’t do a very good job of it in the first two games. Even if the Yankees can’t get Cespedes to chase those breaking balls off the plate, they have to get the ball out of the middle of the zone. They’ve given him entirely too many good pitches to hit.

Yankees have some interest in Rick Ankiel
Saturday Night Open Thread
  • Hal SmallStein

    I thought about signing this guy…..I bought a beach house instead.

  • JohnnyC

    Martin was calling for “elevated” fastballs all night long. Unfortunately the elevator only reached the second floor. Seriously, what’s with that obsession? Is Martin secretly a Varitek admirer?

    • CS Yankee

      Martin is a real good blocker and framer, his calls and bat are just awful though.

      The 3/25 extension that did not go down looks real good now. He might be able to resign for a 1/7 deal to improve his value (elsewhere in ’14 & beyond) and buy us time before Ro, Murph & Sanchez progress the position back into greatness for the Yankees.

  • CS Yankee

    He reminds me somwhat like Bo Jackson physically…plus they both played LF, except that his D is suspect & Bo knew D.

    • JohnnyC

      Jackson was 6’1″, 230 lbs. Cespedes is 5’10”, 210 lbs. Only 3 inches and 20 lbs. difference.

  • CS Yankee

    Point being that they are both chiseled and bat and run violently.

    • Kevin

      Which is why he’s ended up on the DL a couple of times already.

  • Hoss

    I agree with everything you said. Kevin Towers, in my opinion, would have been a major upgrade over Cashman, especially approaching this $189 million threshold. He is a good judge of talent, horse trader, and budget conscious. He is trading Upton for the same reason Colorado trade Jimenez… “look out below…”
    There are others out there, but Cashman does not impress me with either his results or his off-the-field stuff which probably would not be tolerated by The Boss in light of his record.

    • Hoss

      Sorry… this was a misdirected post from another thread…

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Didn’t work the second time around either.

    • Brian S.

      What does horse trading have to do with being a good baseball GM?

  • Robinson Tilapia

    The answer here is obvious: an invisible tripwire and high-voltage electric box. Both to the 7th!!!

  • Jose M. Vazquez

    Many batters get pitches down the middle and do nothing with them. I told you that this guy wwould hit without a visit to the minor leagues just as Jesus Montero will hit and catch, just give him a little time. I don’t understand the criticism because he hits balls in the middle of the plate. That is what he is supposed to do.

    • Jose M. Vazquez

      The A’s got him pretty cheaply. The Yankees could have done the same (Cespedes).

      • Mike Axisa

        He makes $9M a year and is the 20th highest paid outfielder in baseball. He’s not cheap, they paid him like a ten-year vet when he had no track record. No one goes to Oakland because they like the scenery.

        • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (former Manny’s BanWagon)

          He’s paid well and he was a gamble given his lack of tack record but sometimes it pays to roll the dice unlike Cashman who only bets on sure things like Igawa, Vasquez, Burnett,Pavano et al.

          • tony

            He is already playing like a 9 million dollar a year player this year. I think the A’s made a great move, and will have an all star type player being under paid for the next three years. If they are not in a position to sign an extension after the third year, they will trade him while he’s in his prime. Going to turn out great for Oakland. Have been following for fantasy reasons, still a diehard yanks fan, but just hit another homer and killing us this series.

  •,Ilovedyourhandlesomuch,Irippeditoffformyfantasyleague'stitle.Westillneedacoupleteamsforacompetitive,butjustforprideleaguewherewe'vetriedtomatchupth The Fuzz of Reggie’s Beard

    This guy will swing at balls at his eyes, but here goes another one in his wheelhouse…