Archive for 2013
The Yankees are off today, their first scheduled off-day since before the Rockies series 16 days and 16 games ago. Yeah, they were rained out on Sunday, but they still had to show up to the park and stuff. It’s not really a day off. So, as the team heads to Tampa in advance of their three-game weekend series against the Rays, here are some miscellaneous thoughts.
1. During the first 38 games of the season, the Yankees used six different outfield alignments. During the last eight games, since Curtis Granderson returned, they’ve used four. We all knew they would rotate their four outfielders — Brett Gardner in center has been the only real constant since Granderson returned — but I do think having a different alignment everyday can be problematic. Players are human, and no one likes showing up to work everyday not knowing their task for the day. Some continuity would be a good thing, but the Yankees aren’t prepared to flat-out bench Ichiro Suzuki and his Womackian 57 wRC+. For what it’s worth, Granderson told Dan Martin the constant bouncing between left and right fields was not a reason for his slow start with the bat, but I can’t imagine it helped.
2. As RLYW pointed out yesterday, the Yankees are at the bottom of the league when it comes to pitches seen per plate appearance this year. They’ve been at or near the top for the last 15 years or so. Not coincidentally, the team also has its worst walk rate (7.5%) since 1990 (7.0%). They haven’t been below a 9% walk rate since 2008, and only once in the last two decades did the team have a sub-8.5% walk rate. The league average walk rate this year is 8.4%, and sitting nearly a full percentage point below that is not Yankees baseball. With a few exceptions, they lack patience and the ability to grind out long at-bats. Replacing Nick Swisher, Mark Teixeira, Russell Martin, and Derek Jeter with Ichiro Suzuki, Lyle Overbay, Frankie Cervelli/Chris Stewart, and Replacement Level Shortstops ‘R Us is a big reason why. Two of the team’s middle of the order bats — Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells — aren’t exactly patient either. Travis Hafner leads the team with a .386 OBP at the moment. That would have ranked third on the 2009 Yankees. The Yankees have a 93 wRC+ as a team this year — again, worst since the last place 1990 team (85 wRC+) — and that inability to work deep counts and grind out at-bats is a big reason why. Obviously injuries are a major factor here.
3. Prior to last night’s beatdown, Brian Costa argued Hiroki Kuroda may be the greatest free agent signing in Yankees history. I don’t necessarily disagree, but I think it’s a question that will require an awful lot of research to answer. It certainly helps that Kuroda is signing one-year deals because one-year deals rarely go horribly wrong. If the player is bad, he’s gone the next year. If he’s good, he usually winds up a multi-year deal. Kuroda’s willingness to go year-to-year makes his signing look that much more amazing. Just consider that in his two years as a starter, he’s been worth 7.1 bWAR in 43 starts. Mike Mussina pulled down 7.1 bWAR in 34 starts during his first season in pinstripes alone. I love Kuroda — I was pining for the Yankees to acquire him as far back as the 2010 trade deadline — and think he could very well go down as one of the two or three best free agent pickups in team history, but that’s as much a function of his willingness to take one-year deal after one-year deal as it is his great performance. The Yankees won’t be saddled with any decline years at the end of the multi-year pact that drag down the overall value.
4. With Kevin Youkilis and Alex Rodriguez not particularly close to rejoining the team, David Adams‘ job as the everyday third baseman is pretty safe for the time being. He’s played well on both sides of the ball — his defense has been better than advertised even if his over-the-top throwing motion makes me think every ball is going to sail into the dugout — and in his week on the roster, he’s shored up a nice-sized roster hole. Adams could always hit, and if he continues to hit, I think he’ll stay on the roster even after Youkilis or A-Rod returns. He could take the place of Ben Francisco, the designated lefty-pitching masher who has done anything but. Francisco has played in 21 total games but has only started four in the outfield, instead spending most of his time at DH. Adams can fill that role. The Yankees would only be carrying four true outfielders in that scenario, but Jayson Nix has left field experience and could step in in a pinch. It’s only been a week, but Adams has played well enough to stick around and the team owes it to themselves to give him as much time as possible to see if he can help them both this year and into the future.
5. I’ve never really bought into the whole “you can’t lose your job due to injury” stuff you hear from time to time. If you get hurt and your replacement performs considerably better, he deserves the job. With that in mind, I think Ivan Nova has lost his rotation spot to David Phelps. Nova’s been dreadful since last year’s All-Star break — 6.93 ERA and ~4.50 FIP in 76.2 innings — and Phelps has been rock solid in his four-start cameo, pitching to a 2.84 ERA and ~3.42 FIP in 25.1 innings. Phelps doesn’t have much of a track record as a big league starter, but I’ve seen enough to know he should keep his spot over Nova. I think the Yankees should send Nova down to Triple-A once he come off the DL so he can work on things in an environment where results don’t matter. I wouldn’t give up on him as a starter yet, but he needs fixin’ and Phelps is a more than capable replacement.
This game was not nearly as close as the 6-3 final score indicates. The Yankees were down three runs after the first inning, a deficit that feels close to insurmountable these days.
This was an unfortunate time for Kuroda to have his first bad start of the year. The Orioles were all over him even before he took a line drive to the calf, as four of the first six batters they sent to the plate hit the ball to the warning track or beyond. Two of those four hit the ball over the fence for homers, resulting in a three-run first inning deficit. Kuroda allowed two more runs before being removed in the third. His night ended with eight hits allowed (four for extra-bases) and 14 batters faced.
The good news is that Kuroda is apparently fine after the line drive. We saw Andy Pettitte go down for three months with a leg fracture on a similar play last year, so it was definitely a fingers crossed moment. Thankfully, it’s just a bruise and he’s expected to make his next start. Kuroda has been awesome this year and I consider this start just a bump in the road, nothing to be concerned about. Everyone will throw a dud now and then. Shake it off and do better next time out.
Daily Dose Of Runs (Three)
For the ninth time in the last 16 games, the Yankees scored no more than three runs. It was exactly three runs on Wednesday night, two from solo homers (Curtis Granderson and David Adams) and one from an RBI single (Robinson Cano). Granderson was the man on offense, going 3-for-3 with the solo homer and a walk. He was a triple away from the cycle. You could see he was on the verge of breaking out on Tuesday, when he hit a few rockets right at people. The Yankees really need his bat.
Other than that, there’s not much to talk about offensively. Non-Granderson players went 4-for-30 with two walks, both drawn by (who else?) Travis Hafner. Only two of the final 17 players they sent to the plate reached base, so they went out without a whimper too. Did you know the Yankees have the lowest OPS (.675) and wRC+ (79) in the AL over the last 30 days? They also have have the lowest ERA (3.22) during that time, but it goes to show how dreadful the offense has been. When a starter has a bad start like Kuroda did on Wednesday, they have little chance of winning.
Preston Claiborne finally allowed his first run as a big leaguer — the first batter he faced (Matt Wieters) clubbed a three-run homer to break the game open. The first two runs were charged to Kuroda. Claiborne allowed just the one run in two innings, then Adam Warren followed with four scoreless to close the game out. He’s been outstanding as the long man.
That’s … probably it, right? Not exactly an eventful game. No news is good news, I guess.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the nerd score, and ESPN the updated standings. The Red Sox beat the White Sox, so they are just one game back in the loss column now. The Orioles climbed to within three back.
The Yankees are off on Thursday, then they’ll head to Tampa for a three-game weekend set with the Rays.
Fausto Carmona Roberto Hernandez and David Phelps will kick that series off on Friday night.
J.D. Sussman at FanGraphs posted a scouting report (with video!) of RHP Jose Ramirez today, so check that out. Nothing really surprising there, big-time velocity with a knockout changeup, third pitch and command issues.
Triple-A Scranton had a scheduled off-day.
Double-A Trenton (5-4 loss to Richmond)
- SS Walt Ibarra: 3-5, 1 R, 1 K
- RF Tyler Austin: 0-5, 2 K — two hits in his last 26 at-bats (.077)
- C J.R. Murphy: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K
- RHP Jose Ramirez: 1.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 1 K, 3 WP, 2/0 GB/FB — 31 of 58 pitches were strikes (53%) … yikes
Via Conor Glassey: MLB has announced details for the 2013 Draft broadcast. A total of 73 picks — First round, Supplemental First Round, Competitive Balance Lottery Round A, Second Round, and Competitive Balance Lottery Round B — will be broadcast by MLB Network at 7pm ET on Thursday, June 6th. The broadcast will be preceded by an hour-long preview show. Day two (rounds 3-10) and day three (rounds 11-40) will be broadcast online at MLB.com on June 7th and 8th.
Willie Randolph and area scout Andy Cannizaro will represent the Yankees at MLB Network during the day one broadcast. Tino Martinez, Lee Mazzilli, and CC Sabathia have represented the team in previous years. The Bombers have four picks that night — 26th, 32nd, 33rd, and 66th overall — so that will be a lot of fun. The Yankees will be in Seattle for the start of ten-game, 12-day road trip that night, which means we’ll get to focus on the draft for a few hours before first pitch. Not as nice as last year’s off-day, but better than having to juggle with Red Sox-Yankees like 2008.
10:37pm: After the game, Joe Girardi said he would be “shocked” if Kuroda was unable to make his next start. They still need to see how he feels these next few days before finalizing any rotation plans.
9:07pm: Kuroda left the game with a bruised right calf, the team announced. No word on whether he’ll go for tests or anything like that, but this sure sounds like good news.
7:26pm: Hiroki Kuroda left tonight’s start in the third inning after taking a line drive to the right shin/calf in the second inning. The trainer came out to talk to him after the liner, but he threw a few warm-up pitches and remained in the game. After giving up some rockets in the third, Joe Girardi and the trainer came back out to the mound and removed him from the game. The YES cameras showed Kuroda grimacing a bit and favoring the leg. After what happened with Andy Pettitte last year, this is a fingers crossed moment. Stayed tuned for updates.
The Yankees and Orioles have split the first two games of this three-game series, and both games were so close they needed a tenth inning. It’s been a continuation of last year, when these two clubs played tight game after tight game and fought for the division title right down the final week of the season.
With all due respect to CC Sabathia, the Yankees are sending their ace to the mound in the series finale today, hoping Hiroki Kuroda can send them into tomorrow’s off-day with a win and a five-game lead over Baltimore. Hopefully this one only takes nine innings. Here’s the lineup that will face righty Jason Hammel…
- CF Curtis Granderson
- 2B Robinson Cano
- LF Vernon Wells
- DH Travis Hafner
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- 3B David Adams
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- SS Reid Brignac
- C Austin Romine – first rookie to start four straight games behind the plate for the Yankees since Jorge Posada 1997
And on the bump is right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who will be making his first career start at Camden Yards. He somehow avoided the ballpark last year and never faced the Orioles during interleague play while with the Dodgers.
It’s warm, cloudy, and humid in Baltimore, and at some point later tonight it’ll rain. Hopefully long after the game is over. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy.
Injury Updates: Mark Teixeira (wrist) and Kevin Youkilis (back) both had six at-bats in a simulated game … Eduardo Nunez (ribcage) hit in the cage for the first time since being placed on the DL … Joba Chamberlain (oblique) threw an inning in Extended Spring Training game. A minor league rehab game with High-A Tampa is probably next.
The 2013 amateur draft will be held from June 6-8 this year, and between now and then I’m going to highlight some prospects individually rather than lump them together into larger posts.
Sean Manaea | LHP
Undrafted out of an Indiana high school in 2010, Manaea didn’t establish himself as a prospect until he dominated the Cape Cod League last summer. The Indiana State southpaw owns a 1.47 ERA with a 93/27 K/BB in 73.1 innings this year after posting a 3.78 ERA with a 197/85 K/BB in 188 innings during his first two years on campus. Manaea rolled his ankle earlier this spring and that led to hip problems, and he had to skip yesterday’s scheduled start due to shoulder stiffness and continued hip problems according to Jonathan Mayo. He’ll try to start Saturday instead.
A big and physical left-hander listed at 6-foot-5 and 235 lbs., Manaea overpowered hitters with a 94-96 mph fastball and a wipeout mid-80s slider on the Cape last summer. He hasn’t shown the same caliber of stuff this spring, instead throwing his fastball in the 88-91 mph range with a few 94s. His slider has sat in the low-80s. Manaea’s third pitch is a split-changeup hybrid in the upper-70s/low-80s that doesn’t do much of anything. No fade, no drop off the table, it just kinda goes. He employs a low Madison Bumgarner-esque arm slot and his command has been just okay this spring. A high leg kick and an especially long stride add deception. There are plenty of videos on YouTube.
Keith Law (subs. req’d) and Baseball America ranked Manaea as the eighth and tenth best prospect in the draft in their latest rankings, respectively, but that was before yesterday’s shoulder and hip problems. The Yankees have three first round picks (26th, 32nd, 33rd), and for what it’s worth, Law said he’s gotten “the sense that they’d love to get one good college arm out of their three first-round selections” in his latest mock draft. He’ll have to fall quite a bit due to the injury concerns to be available when New York picks. Regardless of who drafts Manaea, they’ll be banking on their development staff turning him back into the guy he was on the Cape last summer.
I’m not sure about you, but I’ve really enjoyed watching Travis Hafner in pinstripes this season. Quite frankly, he’s already surpassed my expectations in terms of production (and durability), and he has done a really good job of fitting in with the organization’s preferred style of play — that is to say, power and patience.
Over 128 plate appearances, the man they call Pronk has batted .275/.383/.550 (.397 wOBA, 149 wRC+) with the Yankees. As indicated by the spray chart below (provided by Texas Leaguers), he’s been willing to hit to all parts of the field, though most of his home runs have landed in right, as to be expected given his handedness. He’s done a great job of crushing right-handed pitching (though he really hasn’t been bad against lefties either).
What’s more, it appears as though his bat speed really hasn’t declined very much; he’s listed at 6.6 wFB (fastball runs generated above average). This is especially comforting given his age and the number of high velocity arms in the league. In terms of plate discipline, according to PitchF/X, Pronk’s swung at 64.9% of the pitches thrown in the strike zone, and only 22.9% outside of the strike zone — resulting in am excellent 13.3 BB%. Meanwhile his 22.7 K% is basically in line with his career norms.
And then there are the hits. Pronk’s .275 ISO is not an accident. Most of his home runs are not Yankee Stadium cheapies either. In other words, his power is most certainly as advertised. As of this point, he has the third most home runs on the team (8), despite having about 60 fewer at-bats than both Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells (who lead him with 13 and 10 HR respectively). Much to our delight, we’ve also seen that several of hits have been timely — he most recently victimized Orioles All-Star closer, Jim Johnson.
While I typically do not like to spend much time focusing on a player’s intangibles, in this instance, I think it worth a quick mention. We never hear anything negative about this guy in the club house. More importantly, Hafner has completely embraced his role with the team. There were no surprises when he was signed for a one-year, $2 million dollar pact. Both he and the organization were in agreement that his job was to be a designated hitter — and a platoon bat more often than not. Unlike many players who dread the DH part time role, Pronk welcomed it from moment one and has thrived because of it. Anecdotally, all to often it seems that a club’s expectations do not align with that of the player. Fortunately, that is not the case here.
Unlike players such as Jason Giambi who have vocalized their preference to remain on the field throughout the game (as it apparently helps them remain focused), Hafner seems to relish sticking by his rituals in-between at bats and disappears afterward (which incidentally, helps the team on the field defensively quite a bit too). While the rotating DH has proved itself a convenient method of resting veterans during the Joe Girardi era, it has simaltaneously resulted in some mediocre results occasionally from the designated hitter slot over the past few seasons. For the first time in a long time, the Yankees have a guy optimally suited for the role.
Will he wind up being the 5+ fWAR player that he was with the Indians back in the 2005-2006 circuits? Probably not; but as long as he stays healthy, he’ll absolutely remain an effective offensive threat for the Yankees. In other words, keep those cortisone shots coming because Pronk is just what the Yankees need at DH.
Via Nick Cafardo: The Yankees are one of several teams with interest in Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka. Danny Knobler recently reported the Rakuten Golden Eagles are expected to make their ace available via the posting system following this season.
Tanaka, 24, has pitched to a 2.08 ERA with a 45/9 K/BB in 52 innings across seven starts this year. Since the start of the 2010 season, he owns a 1.57 ERA with 9.1 K/9 (25.6 K%) and 2.0 BB/9 (3.1 BB%). One scout told Knobler that Tanaka has “a wipeout split-finger fastball” and “a good slider” to go with solid velocity, though it’s unclear if he can remain a starter long-term. He has missed time with shoulder issues (strains and inflammation, mostly) over the years.
The Yankees have shunned the Japanese pitching market since the Kei Igawa fiasco, and Brian Cashman explained why in a recent interview with Index Universe. They’re concerned about difference in pitching routines as well as the cultural adjustment. Tanaka is not Yu Darvish and frankly he’s not even Daisuke Matsuzaka, but he’s still someone worth keeping an eye on over the next several months. The Yankees can’t ignore Japanese pitchers forever.
I’m not sure when exactly it happened, but at some point recently the Baseball Hall of Fame partnered with the Scout of the Year Foundation to create a free and searchable online database of old scouting reports. The data is very incomplete — it doesn’t include every player and it only goes back so far — and the database itself can be slow and a bit of a pain, but those are minor nuisances compared to the wealth of information available.
Thanks to the database, we can look back at what professional talent evaluators — people who do this for a living — had to say about our favorite players once upon a time. For example, here are some bits and pieces of reports from various teams about a young high school senior from Michigan named Derek Jeter back in 1992:
You can click every image in those post for a larger view, and I highly recommend you do just that.
Within those report snippets, future first ballot Hall of Famer Derek Jeter is described as having:
- a good face
- a hi butt
- an impact both offensively and defensively
- makeup 2b a star
- some hot dog in him
Once upon a time, Jeter was a showoff. Wrap your head around that. All of the reports agreed he was a future star though, and in the end that is what was most important.
After the jump — lots of images and I don’t want to cripple anyone’s computer — are some opinions on Alex Rodriguez back from 1993, when he was a high school senior: