Survive and Advance
The Yankees slow dance with mediocrity continued on Friday as they moved back to .500 with a 8-6 win over the Tigers. Fourteen games into the season and they haven’t lost more than two games in a row or won more than two games in a row, and they’ve been within a game of .500 following 12 of their 14 games played.
In his second game since coming off the DL, Aaron Hicks stole the show with a historic performance at the plate. In the second inning he drilled a hanging changeup to deep right-center, and as the ball caromed off the wall at an odd angle, Hicks motored around the bases and slide safely (with a big smile on his face) into home for his first career inside-the-park homer.
It was the first inside-the-parker by a Yankee since Curtis Granderson on August 21, 2011 at Minnesota. The last Yankee to hit one against the Tigers was Bill Robinson on June 4, 1967 in the Bronx, and the last Yankee with an inside-the-park homer in Detroit was Roy White on May 18, 1966 at the old Tiger Stadium.
But Hicks wasn’t done yet! In the sixth inning he went deep in the more traditional way with a majestic 417-foot shot into the right field bleachers to give the Yankees a 6-1 lead.
He became the first Yankee with an inside-the-park homer and an outside-the-park homer in the same game since Hank Bauer on May 30, 1956 in the second game of a doubleheader against the Senators at Yankee Stadium. Bauer was a tough, hard-nosed player (before joining the Yankees, Bauer won two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts as a marine in World War II), and the most notable stat of his baseball career is that hit safely in an MLB-record 17 straight World Series games from 1956-58.
The last time a Yankee player had a multi-homer game that also included an inside-the-parker on the road was August 13, 1939 at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park, when Babe Dahlgren and Joe DiMaggio both pulled off the feat in a 21-0 (!) win over the A’s. That game, by the way, remains the largest shutout win in franchise history.
Hicks also was the fifth Yankee to hit two-or-more homers in a game this season — joining Gary Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton, Tyler Austin and Didi Gregorius — making the Yankees the first team in major-league history to have five different players with a multi-homer game this early into the season (14th game).
Miguel Andujar also powered the offense with a double and a triple, his first extra-base hits of the season. And even better, he earned our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series: The last Yankee, who had less than 15 big-league games on his resume, to hit a double and a triple in the same game was a 22-year-old rookie named Bernie Williams in 1991.
Not good, Dellin, not good
The Yankees nearly blew the game after another shaky outing by Dellin Betances, who gave up a solo homer and three runs in the eighth inning. It was the third home run he’s allowed this season, equaling the total he gave up all of last year. Important note: he’s faced 24 batters this season and faced 261 last year.
While the three home runs so far might be a fluke — he’s allowed three flyballs this season and all three have gone over the fence, which is an unsustainable 100 percent homer-to-flyball rate — there is little doubt in the numbers that he’s getting hit much harder this year compared to the past. The homer crushed by Jeimer Candelario on Friday had an exit velocity of 110.6 mph, the hardest-hit batted ball off Betances since Statcast began tracking that stuff in 2015. Overall, he’s allowed an average exit velocity of 91.3 mph, a huge jump from the 84.1 mph mark he allowed last year.
Digging deeper, the three dingers each came off his four-seam fastball, which has lost both velocity and spin this year, even when comparing to April last year.
|Velocity (mph)||Spin Rate (rpm)|
Keep in mind that the league average spin rate for four-seamers is 2,250, and high-spin fastballs result in more whiffs while low-spin correlates to more groundballs. Generally, the worst type of spin is average — which is exactly where Betances’ four-seamer is this year. The results have been ugly, too: Batters are 7-for-12 (.583) and slugging 1.333 (3 homers, 4 singles) when putting his fastball in play this season; last year opponents hit .200 and slugged .325 off Betances’ fastball.
One possible explanation for his diminished heater this season is that the vertical release point when throwing his fastball has dropped nearly five inches compared to last season, leading to a slower and flatter pitch. Betances, however claims that his pitches feel good coming out of his hand and his mechanics are sound. Speaking to reporters after Friday’s debacle:
This is the best I’ve felt in a while. Both (my fastball and curveball) I felt real good with and they just found holes with everything. The first guy got me good, but after that everything I threw was just hit. Even if I picked up the rosin (bag) and threw it, it was going to get hit. It was just one of those days. But I’ve got to continue to stay positive. Like I said, I haven’t felt like this good in a while. I like how I felt stuff wise, but they just had good hits.”