The Yankees have signed outfielder Chris Young to a minor league contract, reports Jon Heyman. I assume he’ll head to Triple-A Scranton for a few days and be called up when rosters expand on Monday. The Yankees will need to make room on the 40-man roster to accommodate him when the time comes, but that won’t be much of a problem.
Young, 30, hit .205/.283/.346 (80 wRC+) with eight homers and seven steals in 287 plate appearances for the Mets this year before being released earlier this month. That includes a weak .136/.277/.227 (50 wRC+) line in 83 plate appearances against lefties. Young hit .200/.280/.379 (82 wRC+) overall and .209/.320/.392 (99 wRC) against southpaws while with the Athletics last year. He has consistently graded out as a strong outfield defender in his career.
At his best, Young hit .243/.331/.436 (104 wRC+) overall and .272/.377/.482 (131 wRC+) against lefties while with the Diamondbacks from 2010-12. His best year came in 2010, when he put up a .257/.341/.452 (109 wRC+) line with 27 homers and 28 stolen bases. Obviously that was a long time ago and he’s not the same player now. Vernon Wells managed to be the best hitter in the AL for a few weeks last year, maybe Young can do the same. Baseball is weird sometimes.
The Yankees clearly need another right-handed bat — Zelous Wheeler has started four of the last six games — and Young might be able to fill that role for a few weeks. They only have to pay him the pro-rated portion of the league minimum — the Mets are on the hook for his $7.2M salary — and if he stinks, they can keep him glued to the bench. There’s no such thing as wasting a roster spot in September. Minor move. Maybe he’ll hit a random big homer or something.
Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello was pretty sharp Tuesday night, and as a result the Yankees failed to draw a walk for the tenth time this season. That is still well short of last year’s 17 walk-less games, but it matches 2012′s total and is way more than they had in any year from 2002-11 — they averaged 4.6 walk-less games per year during that stretch and never had more than seven. Last night was their fourth walk-less game in August alone.
Before the season, I expected the offense to improve on last season’s subpar walk rate because of their offseason additions. Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann in particular came into the season with strong career walk rates. Instead, the Yankees have essentially the same walk rate this year (7.6%) as last year (7.7%). Their unintentional walk rate (7.3%) is more or less the same as well (7.2%). The AL average this year is a 7.8% walk rate.
The Yankees as a team have their lowest walk rate since the dismal 1990 club that lost 95 games, averaged 3.72 runs per game, and walked in only 7.1% of their plate appearances. Offensive levels have changed over the years though, so a 7.6% walk rate in 2014 is not the same thing as a 7.6% walk rate in 2000 or 1990. Here’s how the Yankees’ walk rate has compared to the AL average since that 1990 season. This works the same way as ERA+ — a 100 BB+ is average and the bigger the number, the better.
The Yankees have essentially the same walk rate as last year but they’re slightly better relative to the league average. They’re still below average overall though. It’s hard not to notice the club missed the postseason the last two times they posted a below league average walk rate and are on pace to do the same this year, but this is one of those “correlation does not equal causation” situations. A below average walk rate doesn’t automatically equal no postseason for this or any team.
Fewer walks does mean fewer runs though. That is obvious and an indisputable fact. It is harder to get a base hit right now than at any point in the last 42 years — the AL is hitting .254 overall this year, the lowest league batting average since 1972 (.239!), the year before the DH was implemented — because of things like infield shifts, specialized relievers, more hard-throwers, in-depth scouting reports, and an acceptance of strikeouts as a trade off for power. All of that and more makes picking up a base hit difficult in this age.
Walks are another way to create offense — a walk is almost never as a good as a hit and no hitter goes to the plate looking for a walk, they just take them when they come — and the Yankees excelled at drawing them for the better part of the last two decades. These last two years have been much different, though at least last season we could fall back on the injury excuse. Missing Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson for a chunk of the 2013 season in particular took a big bite out of the team’s walk total. This year? No such excuse.
Both Beltran (7.7%) and McCann (6.3%) are walking at a rate far below their career averages (10.3% and 9.2%, respectively), so they’re part of the problem. Neither guy as done much damage when swinging the bat in general and they’ve compounded the problem by drawing fewer walks as well. In fact, let’s take a quick look at the career and 2014 walk rates of the lineup regulars (the trade deadline guys just got here):
|2014 BB%||Career BB%||Diff.|
Beltran, Jeter, and McCann have all seen their walk rates take a big tumble this year, compared to their career averages. Only Ellsbury has seen a substantial improvement. Gardner’s drop in walk rate is at least offset by his selectively aggressive approach and newfound power skills. The team is drawing fewer weeks this year and it’s easy see where the drop is coming from.
The Yankees are struggling to score runs for a lot of reasons this year, particularly because of the disappointing Beltran and McCann. Ellsbury’s been very good but he isn’t an impact hitter, last night’s two homers notwithstanding. His value comes from his all-around game, not offensive dominance. Teixeira’s doing exactly what he’s done the last few years, Jeter and Ichiro are on the wrong side of 40, and Gardner has been the lone offensive surprise. The Yankees have lost the two things that make them the Yankees, that trademark power and patience.
Via MLBTR: The Yankees were among the teams to scout Cuban left-hander Misael Siverio during a showcase event back in June. He is scheduled to throw for teams again on Friday, according to Jon Heyman. Siverio has already been declared a free agent by MLB and cleared by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, so he is free to sign at any time.
Siverio, 25, is a small guy listed at 5-foot-9. Heyman says he has a low-90s fastball with a “tight offspeed variation” that includes a curveball, a changeup, and a splitter. The recent history of Cuban defectors heavily favors position players, but both Orlando Hernandez and Jose Contreras (after he left the Yankees) had success in the big leagues not too long ago. The Yankees signed Cuban lefty Omar Luis to a $2.5M deal a few years ago and there’s no word on what kind of bonus Siverio is expected to command. · (141) ·
For the fourth time in the last nine games, Derek Jeter started at DH last night. That comes after he started only four of the team’s first 121 games at DH. Carlos Beltran‘s elbow injury relegated him to full-time DH duty for a few weeks, but even when Beltran was on the disabled list, Jeter was still playing shortstop every day while guys like Alfonso Soriano and Brian McCann got regular turns at DH. All these recent starts at DH are a change of pace for the Cap’n.
Joe Girardi, naturally, isn’t making too much of it. He simply chalked it up to giving a veteran player some extra rest late in the season when the opportunity presents itself. Here’s what he told Chad Jennings prior to last night’s game:
“I’m in the mode that I’m just taking it day by day,” Girardi said. “But with Carlos being able to go into the outfield once in a while, it gives me more flexibility to do this. … We’ve had some long stretches. We have a lot of lefties coming up the next five days after today where he’s going to play (probably at shortstop), so try to give him a little blow when I can. And I thought today was probably a good day. Two plane flights in two days, and as I said, we have day games after night games, so we’re going to need him in there a lot.”
“I don’t think I can play him much more than I’ve played him,” Girardi said. “He’s played in all but about 10 games maybe, maybe a few more than that, but there was a time when he missed three because his leg was bothering him. But when you get in these long stretches, these 13-game stretches, I’ve usually given him on day off. And that might be all he gets in this.”
Jeter is completely unfazed by the starts at DH — “I don’t know how many times I’ve done it … My job is to come here, and when I’m in the lineup, play,” he told Jennings — and that isn’t surprising at all. The Yankees have used that DH spot as something of a revolving door to rest their older players over the years, a practice that has caught on around the league. The full-time DH like David Ortiz is a dying breed. Jeter, McCann, Beltran, and Zelous Wheeler (!) have all started a game at DH at some point in the last week, so the revolving door is in full effect.
At this point though, the best Yankees team doesn’t have a revolving door at DH. The best Yankees team right now, in late-August and September of 2014, has Jeter at DH full-time. He hasn’t hit at all this month — .222/.237/.278 in August even after last night’s 2-for-4 — but you and I both know the Yankees aren’t going to drop him in the lineup, let alone take him out of the lineup entirely. Not with only a month of regular season baseball left in his career.
The best thing the Yankees can do at this point is take Jeter out of the field and play Stephen Drew, the far superior defender, at shortstop. The trade-off for the improved infield defense is Drew’s weak bat — he’s over 200 plate appearances now, so “he didn’t have a proper Spring Training” is no longer a valid excuse for his lack of production — as well as Beltran’s awful right field defense, though the latter is a small issue thanks to the ground ball heavy pitching staff. Well, everyone in the rotation except Michael Pineda is a ground baller. Prioritizing outfield defense makes sense when he’s on the mound.
We all know turning Jeter into a full-time DH just isn’t going to happen. He’ll still see his fair share of time in the field, but he started four of the last nine games at DH and that seems like a decent framework going forward, no? I mean, there are only 32 games left in the season. Four out of nine works out to 14 games at DH and 18 at short the rest of the way. The Yankees are still in the race for the second wildcard spot (despite their best efforts in the summer months) and improving the defense by giving Jeter more time at DH the last 32 games makes sense.
All of this is contingent on Beltran’s elbow, obviously. If he can’t play right field, he’ll play DH regularly and Jeter will play shortstop, end of story. If that is not the case though, if that third cortisone shot makes Beltran’s elbow a non-issue these next four and a half weeks, the Yankees could have him and Jeter essentially split their time between DH and the field. Work it around Pineda’s pitching schedule, off-days, the opposing starter (no Drew against lefties, etc.), whatever. The best Yankees team right now has less Jeter in the field and it seems like they’ve acknowledged that these last nine games. Now they just have to continue doing it.
I guess the Yankees just don’t like being eight games over .500, huh? The team’s latest attempt to reach that point fell short on Tuesday night. They lost 5-2 to the Tigers after a one hour and eight minute rain delay.
For the first time as a Yankee, Brandon McCarthy got hit pretty hard on Tuesday night. He was in trouble all night, allowing five runs and 13 base-runners in 6.1 innings. I’m not quite sure why he was sent back out to start the seventh — McCarthy surrendered the fifth run that inning — but it really didn’t matter in the end. It saved the bullpen an out, I guess. McCarthy threw 85 pitches and, by my unofficial count, 44 were from the stretch. So yeah, he was in trouble all night.
The Tigers scored their first run on a bases loaded walk of all things. McCarthy had walked two batters in only two of his first eight starts with New York, but he walked two and hit a batter in the second inning of this game. It was obvious he was off from the get-go. Just one of those nights, I guess. Detroit scored another run on a Miguel Cabrera double and a J.D. Martinez single in the third, then they did some real damage in the sixth with a single (Victor Martinez), a double (J.D. Martinez), a run-scoring single (Nick Castellanos), and a run-scoring double play (Alex Avila). A double (Rajai Davis) and a single (Torii Hunter) created the fifth run in the seventh. Ugly outing. What can you do.
Rick Porcello was really sharp just about all night. The Yankees scored their two runs on Jacoby Ellsbury solo homers, believe it or not. Otherwise the team only had one other base-runner make it as far as third base, and that was when they had runners on the corners with two outs in the fourth. Stephen Drew popped out to end the threat. Porcello faced 31 batters, threw 18 first pitch strikes, and allowed ten balls to be hit out of the infield.
Joe Nathan retired the side in order in the ninth, so 15 of the final 19 batters the Yankees sent to the plate made outs. The four exceptions were Ellsbury’s two homers, Derek Jeter‘s infield single, and Carlos Beltran‘s traditional single to center. The bottom four hitters in the order went 1-for-14 with an infield single (Ichiro Suzuki) and overall the Yankees went hitless in all of three at-bats with runners in scoring position. They saw nine total pitches in those at-bats. Just a blah night for the offense. Porcello was good and they couldn’t put anything together. Baseball.
Esmil Rogers retired five of six men he faced with three strikeouts and a hit batsman. He was the only reliever used. The Yankees have been able to get their key late-inning relievers some nice rest these last two or three days. Those guys have been worked really hard these last few weeks.
The Yankees actually had nine hits on the night, including three by Ellsbury and two each by Jeter and Beltran. They didn’t draw any walks because the Yankees don’t do that anymore. This was the offense’s tenth walk-less game of the year. They had 13 total from 2009-11. I miss offense.
Mark Teixeira saved Chase Headley two errors in the first two innings with scoops at first base. The second one saved some runs, which really wouldn’t have mattered in the end, but Tex flashed some leather in this game and that’s cool.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com is the place to go for the box score and video highlights. FanGraphs has some other stats and ESPN has to updated standings. The Orioles beat the Rays, so the Yankees are seven back in the AL East. Depending on the outcome of the late game, the Yankees will be either three (Mariners lose, Tigers take over second wildcard spot) or 3.5 (Mariners win) games back of the second wildcard spot. FanGraphs has their postseason odds at a robust 14.8%. I have absolutely no idea how they picked up 2.0% since last night despite losing. Weird.
Same two teams on Wednesday night, in the middle game of this three-game series. Shane Greene and David Price will be the pitching matchup. Pretty sick of seeing Price at this point. This will be their fifth meeting of the year even though the guy got traded out of the division at the deadline.
- In case you missed it, the Yankees are sending OF Tyler Austin, 1B Greg Bird, 3B Eric Jagielo, OF Aaron Judge, RHP Caleb Cotham, RHP Branden Pinder, RHP Alex Smith, and a catcher to be named later to the Arizona Fall League this year.
- 2B Jose Pirela and OF Jake Cave were named to the end-of-season Triple-A International League and High-A Florida State League All-Star Teams, respectively. These teams are a recognition of the best player at each position in the league.
Triple-A Scranton had a scheduled off-day.
Double-A Trenton (5-0 win over Akron)
- CF Jake Cave: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI — 9-for-18 in his last four games
- LF Ben Gamel: 0-4
- C Gary Sanchez: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K — picked a runner off second with a snap throw
- DH Dante Bichette Jr.: 0-4, 2 K — Double-A has not been too kind to him
- RF Mason Williams: 2-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 K
- RHP Jaron Long: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 9/0 GB/FB – 116/22 K/BB in 132 innings for the hitting coach’s kid
- LHP Jacob Lindgren: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1/0 GB/FB — up to 48 strikeouts (and ten walks) in 24.2 pro innings
- RHP Mark Montgomery: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K
The Yankees have won five straight games and are seven games over .500. Those both tie their high-water marks of the season. Tonight the Yankees will look to set new season highs by stretching their winning streak to six games and moving to eight games over .500. They’ve been stymied a few times before.
More importantly, the Yankees are chasing the Tigers in the second wildcard race. They’re two games back of Detroit and cutting that deficit in half this week is the bare minimum, in my opinion. There aren’t many games left, so these head-to-head meetings are incredibly important. The Yankees won’t get a chance to control what they and their second wildcard competitors do on a given night for the rest of the year after this series. Here is the Tigers lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- DH Derek Jeter
- C Brian McCann
- 3B Mark Teixeira
- RF Carlos Beltran — back in the field just a few days after receiving a third cortisone shot in his elbow
- 2B Martin Prado
- SS Stephen Drew
- 3B Chase Headley
- LF Ichiro Suzuki
RHP Brandon McCarthy
Bad news: there is rain in the forecast tonight. Not all night, but three or four hours worth, supposedly starting right around 7pm ET. Hopefully they rain isn’t as bad as it is supposed to be, otherwise they’ll be waiting all night to play this game. First pitch is scheduled for just after 7pm ET and you can watch on My9. Enjoy.
Injury Update: Brett Gardner (ankle) will try to run on the field before the game. If that goes well, he’ll be available off the bench.
Update (6:38pm): The game is already in the delay, it has been announced. No word on a start time just yet, but it might be a while given the forecast.
Update (7:30pm): The game is tentatively scheduled to begin at 8:15pm ET.
4:43pm: Norris says the Yankees are also sending a catcher to be named later to the AzFL. Maybe Kyle Higashioka after he missed the first half of the season following Tommy John surgery?
4:17pm: According to Josh Norris, the Yankees are sending OF Tyler Austin, 1B Greg Bird, 3B Eric Jagielo, OF Aaron Judge, RHP Caleb Cotham, RHP Branden Pinder, and RHP Alex Smith to play for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League after the season. I thought they might send LHP Manny Banuelos to continue pitching following Tommy John surgery, but it’s already been a long season for him. The AzFL season begins October 7th.
The Yankees are sending more top prospects to the desert this year than I can ever remember. Usually they only send one or two top prospects. Austin (wrist, groin), Bird (back), Jagielo (oblique), Pinder (groin), and Cotham (unknown) all missed several weeks due to injury this summer and will be making up for lost time. Pinder is Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter and the club probably wants some more time to evaluate him. Judge is the team’s best prospect and Smith has had a nice year out of the bullpen for High-A Tampa (2.40 ERA and 3.29 FIP). Great crop of players going to the AzFL this year. · (79) ·
Every series is an important one for the Yankees from here on out, but these three games against Tigers are crucial. The race for the second AL wildcard spot is essentially a battle between the Mariners and Tigers with the Yankees lurking behind. If the Bombers are going to climb back into the race — like, for real — winning this series in Detroit is a must. The Yankees took three of four from the Tigers in Yankee Stadium three weeks ago.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Tigers were off yesterday, and before that they split a four-game series with the Twins despite allowing 42 runs in the series. They are 70-59 with a +30 run differential overall, leaving them 1.5 games back of the Royals in the AL Central, a half-game back of the Mariners for the second AL wildcard spot, and two games up on the Yankees.
Manager Brad Ausmus’ club averages 4.65 runs per game with a team 108 wRC+, so they have been comfortably above-average overall at the plate this year. They did trade away OF Austin Jackson a few weeks ago though, plus 1B Miguel Cabrera (139 wRC+) is day-to-day with an ankle injury. Miggy has been very durable throughout his career and he’s played through a ton of injuries — he played through a torn groin in the postseason last year — so for him to miss a few days with an ankle injury, it must be pretty bad.
Even when healthy, Cabrera has only been the second most productive hitter in Detroit’s lineup behind DH Victor Martinez (156 wRC+), who has already hit a career-high 25 homers. OF J.D Martinez (149 wRC+) overhauled his swing after signing with the Tigers and has been very productive in about a half-season’s worth of plate appearances. 2B Ian Kinsler (108 wRC+) and OF Torii Hunter (111 wRC+) have been solid overall. OF Rajai Davis (102 wRC+) ranks sixth in baseball with 31 steals despite having roughly 100 fewer plate appearances than the five guys ahead of him.
The rest of the regular lineup includes 3B Nick Castellanos (98 wRC+), SS Eugenio Suarez (100 wRC+), and C Alex Avila (99 wRC+). C Bryan Holaday (57 wRC+) backs up Avila. The rest of the bench is filled out by IF Andrew Romine (50 wRC+), OF Ezequiel Carrera (64 wRC+), and UTIL Don Kelly (72 wRC+). Projected starters SS Jose Iglesias and OF Andy Dirks have not played at all this year due to leg and back/hamstring injuries.
Tuesday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. DET) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (vs. NYY)
Porcello, 25, is in the middle of his best big league season, pitching to a 3.10 ERA (3.58 FIP) in 25 starts (and one relief appearance) and 165.1 innings. He doesn’t miss many bats (5.44 K/9 and 15.2 K%) — never has and probably never will — but he does limit walks (1.74 BB/9 and 4.9 BB%), keep the ball in the park (0.71 HR/9 and 8.8 HR/FB%), and get grounders (49.4%). Lefties (.298 wOBA) have hit Porcello a bit harder than righties (.285 wOBA), and he’s been more effective on the road (.279 wOBA) than at home (.310 wOBA). Low-90s two and four-seam fastballs are Porcello’s main weapons, and he’ll also use mid-80s sliders, low-80s changeups, and upper-70s curveballs to keep hitters off balance. He’s scaled back on his slider usage and emphasized his curveball in recent years. The Yankees scored one run in seven innings against Porcello earlier this month.
Wednesday: RHP Shane Greene (vs. DET) vs. RHP David Price (vs. NYY)
Again. Again with Price. The Yankees just can’t escape this guy. The 29-year-old Price has a 3.00 ERA (2.93 FIP) in 27 starts and 201.1 innings split between the Rays and Tigers so far this year. He strikeout (9.88 K/9 and 28.5 K%) and walk (1.30 BB/9 and 3.6 BB%) numbers are elite while his homer (1.03 HR/9 and 11.1 HR/FB%) and grounder (41.1%) rates are closer to average. Price has actually be tougher on righties (.271 wOBA) than lefties (.292 wOBA), though neither has had much success. As always, Price is a fastball machine, throwing his low-to-mid-90s two and four-seamer and mid-80s cutter more than 70% of the time combined. Mid-80s changeups and upper-70s curveballs round out his repertoire. The Yankees have already seen Price four friggin’ times this year: six runs in five innings in April, two runs in seven innings in May, one unearned run in seven innings in July, and three runs in 8.2 innings earlier this month. Sick of this guy.
It’s worth noting the Tigers will be the first team to face Greene twice since he’s joined the rotation. (He was supposed to face the Orioles a second time a few weeks ago, but the rotation plans changed following a rainout.) Going through the league the second time is always a big test for a young pitcher.
Thursday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. DET) vs. TBA
The Tigers have not yet officially announced their starter for the series finale, but all signs point to it being Justin Verlander. Rookie lefty Robbie Ray, the other obvious starter candidate, was just sent to Triple-A and can not be called up until next week due to the ten-day rule, barring injury. The 31-year-old Verlander is having a really rough year, pitching to a 4.82 ERA (4.03 FIP) in 26 starts and 164.1 innings. His strikeout rate (6.79 K/9 and 17.2 K%) is way down, though his walk (3.18 BB/9 and 8.0 BB%), homer (0.88 HR/9 and 7.5 BB%), and ground ball (40.5%) numbers are all in line with his career norms. Righties (.384 wOBA) have hit a ton harder than lefties (.305 wOBA). Verlander’s fastball still sits in the low-to-mid-90s — he just missed a start with shoulder inflammation and was sitting 88-90 early in Saturday’s outing, for what it’s worth — though he doesn’t reach back for 100-101 anymore. The triple-digit heat is gone and probably for good. Mid-80s sliders and changeups as well as an upper-70s curve round out his repertoire. The Yankees scored two runs in seven innings off Verlander a few weeks ago.
The Tigers were off yesterday, so their bullpen is relatively fresh. Closer RHP Joe Nathan (4.14 FIP) has been a disaster (5.36 ERA), and backup plan RHP Joakim Soria (2.08 FIP) is currently on the disabled list with an oblique injury. That leaves ex-Yankee RHP Joba Chamberlain (3.04 FIP) in a setup role. RHP Al Alburquerque (4.08 FIP) is basically the seventh inning guy.
Ausmus’ makeshift bullpen also includes LHP Phil Coke (4.30 FIP), LHP Blaine Hardy (3.10 FIP), RHP Jim Johnson (5.30 FIP), LHP Kyle Lobstein (4.20 FIP in limited time), and LHP Pat McCoy (4.24 FIP in limited time). With Ray being sent down, Lobstein is the other candidate to start Thursday should the Tigers opt to give Verlander an extra day of rest. Check out the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen at our Bullpen Workload page, then check out Bless You Boys and Tiger Tales for everything you need to know about the Tigers.
Here’s a fun little story in the middle of the Yankees’ five-game winning streak. Jeff Passan wrote about the 2014 version of Jason Giambi’s gold thong: Shawn Kelley’s horse mask. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a giant latex horse mask. Here’s a photo. Apparently Kelley stumbled across it online one day, bought one, and started wearing it during pre-game warm-ups and in the clubhouse to keep the team loose.
“When I see those things, randomly in a crowd, it makes me laugh. So I figured I’ll do that, and it’ll make everyone laugh in the clubhouse,” said Kelley. “And then we went on a winning streak.” The Yankees are a perfect 5-0 since the horse mask they’ve dubbed Seabiscuit — they really dropped the ball by not called it Tex or Teixeira or something like that — so it stays. Baseball players are a superstitious lot. Say it with me, folks: the latex horse mask that turned the season around. · (23) ·