Apr
17

2014 Draft: Jordan Brink

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Jordan Brink | RHP

Background
Undrafted out of Central High School in Fresno three years ago, Brink spent his freshman year and most of his sophomore year as a position player at Fresno State. He didn’t hit (.224/.292/.299 in 389 plate appearances) and wound up on the mound. Brink had a 3.92 ERA and a 65/25 K/BB in 59.2 innings last year, and this spring he has a 2.28 ERA with a 40/31 K/BB in 55.1 innings while working exclusively as a pitcher.

Scouting Report
Despite a smallish frame — listed at 6-foot-1 and 200 lbs. — Brink offers big time power stuff, including a fastball that hit 96 mph during fall workouts and has sat 91-93 this spring. His best pitch is a hard and sharp curveball in the low-80s that sometimes looks like a slider. A good changeup rounds out his three-pitch mix. Brink is said to be a top notch competitor with off the charts makeup, and even though he hasn’t been pitching full-time very long, his delivery is compact and repeatable.

Miscellany
Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked Brink as the 48th best prospect in the draft class in his most recent rankings. Baseball America (no subs. req’d) did not include him in their top 50. This draft is loaded with college pitching, enough that someone like Brink could slide due to his height and unimpressive performance this spring (K/BB, specifically). The Yankees don’t pick until the second round (55th overall) because of their offseason shopping spree and I think landing Brink would be a real coup. He has a fresh arm, he already throws three pitches, and he’s the kind of competitor they love.

Categories : Draft
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Phelps is pumped about being a Super Two. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

Phelps is pumped about being a Super Two. (Getty)

This past offseason, the Yankees signed their five arbitration-eligible players to one-year contracts totaling $16.4875M. Next winter’s class figures to be pricey as well, mostly because Michael Pineda will qualify for arbitration for the first time and Ivan Nova will be eligible a second time. Shawn Kelley will also be due a nice raise in his final year of eligibility.

Kelley is a Super Two, meaning he will go through arbitration four times instead of the usual three. The full explanation is here, but the short version is that some players (the top 22% in service time, specifically) with more than two years but less than three years of service time qualify as Super Twos and get four years of arbitration. It puts some more money in their pocket in exchange for teams manipulating their service time, basically.

According to agent Ryan Galla at CAA Baseball (h/t MLBTR), the projected Super Two cutoff for this coming offseason is two years and 128 days of service time, which is typically written as 2.128. David Phelps came into the season with 1.156 years of service time, so unless he gets shipped to the minors for about four weeks, he will qualify as a Super Two and go through arbitration four times instead of three. He will still not be eligible for free agency until after the 2018 season.

Phelps will get a nice raise through arbitration but nothing crazy. He’d have to move into the rotation and pitch very well (and do it soon) for that. Phelps came into the season with ten wins and a 4.11 ERA in 186.1 career innings, and that’s the stuff that matters in arbitration. Not his FIP or his WAR. Old school stats reign supreme in arbitration. Tyson Ross went to arbitration with nine wins and a 4.34 ERA in 273.2 career innings last winter, which earned him $1.98M in his first year as a Super Two. That seems like a decent comparable for Phelps at this point.

The only other Yankee on the Super Two bubble is Austin Romine, who came into the year at 1.143 years of service time. He collected a bunch of service time while on the DL two years ago, in case you’re wondering why that number seems so high. Romine will reportedly not get the call to replace Frankie Cervelli today, which hurts his Super Two chances. He needs to get called up very soon and remain on the MLB roster (or the DL) for the rest of the season to have a shot at qualifying. That seems unlikely, but who knows. Even if does qualify, his 2015 salary should be a six-figure sum.

Nova and especially Pineda will be the Yankees’ big arbitration cases after this season. If Pineda keeps pitching like he has in his first two starts, he’ll be due a huge raise even after missing all that time to shoulder surgery. Kelley could get a nice salary bump depending on how many saves he picks up as well. Phelps will likely be a Super Two, and while he isn’t due a huge raise for next season, it does carry over and affect his future salaries.

Categories : Hot Stove League
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(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

After spending close to two months in Tampa for Spring Training, the Yankees return to the area for a four-game series against the Rays this weekend. Well, technically Tropicana Field is in St. Petersburg, so I guess they aren’t actually in Tampa again. Whatever. With any luck, this series will go as well as the four-gamer against the Red Sox last weekend.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Rays have lost three games in the last four days with a rainout mixed in. They’ve lost six of their last nine games overall. Tampa Bay is 7-8 with a -8 run differential on the season.

Offense
Manager Joe Maddon’s ball club comes into this series averaging only three runs per game with a team 94 wRC+, so they’re getting some guys on base but can’t bring them home. They have scored 14 runs total in their last nine games. Yikes. Tampa is perfectly healthy on the position player side with no one on the DL. The same can not be said of their pitching staff.

Myers. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

Myers. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

As usual, Maddon’s lineup is anchored by 3B Evan Longoria (118 wRC+), who remains annoyingly great. 2B Ben Zobrist (158 wRC+) has had a better year than Longoria to date, and OF Desmond Jennings (149 wRC+) is doing a fine job in a supporting roles. Reigning Rookie of the Year OF Wil Myers (47 wRC+) is off to a slow start and 1B James Loney (91 wRC+) has not yet carried over last summer’s surprising success.

OF Matt Joyce (198 wRC+) and OF David DeJesus (56 wRC+) split time in left field, though Joyce is seeing more at-bats lately due to his hot start. SS Yunel Escobar (54 wRC+) isn’t doing much of anything, ditto the catching platoon of C Ryan Hanigan (73 wRC+) and C Jose Molina (-48 wRC+). OF Brandon Guyer (11 wRC+), UTIL Sean Rodriguez (146 wRC+), and UTIL Logan Forsythe (46 wRC+) round out the bench. This year’s club features fewer platoons than what Tampa has employed in recent years.

Pitching Matchups
Injuries have hit the Rays’ rotation really hard this year, so their staff is not nearly as strong as we’re used to seeing. Matt Moore (Tommy John surgery), Jeremy Hellickson (elbow), and Alex Cobb (oblique) are all on the DL and not particularly close to returning. The pitching prospect pipeline has dried up too, so Tampa has had to scramble to cobble together a rotation over the last ten days or so.

Thursday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP David Price (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Had Tuesday night’s Rays-Orioles game not been rained out, the Yankees would have missed Price in this four-game series. Instead, it rained, and he was pushed back a day. It’s because I opened by big mouth earlier that afternoon. Anyway, the 28-year-old Price had a 3.33 ERA (3.03 FIP) in 186.2 innings last season, which almost constitutes a down year for him. His strikeout rate dropped (7.28 K/9 and 20.4 K%), but so did his walk rate (1.30 BB/9 and 3.7 BB%). Price’s ground ball rate (44.9%) was down from 2012 but in line with his career norms, and as usual he crushed left-handed batters (.220 wOBA). Righties had a little more success (.311 wOBA). Price is still a fastball-first pitcher, throwing his low-to-mid-90s four-seamer and mid-to-upper-80s cutter roughly 70% of the time combined. When right, he backdoors the cutter to righties and it is just unhittable. It looks like a ball right up until darts over the outside corner. A low-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball are his secondary offerings. Price is throwing the ball as well as he ever has right now, and last time out he struck out ten Reds in 8.1 innings of one-run ball.

Bedard. (Presswire)

Bedard. (Presswire)

Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Erik Bedard (Career vs. NYY) (No Pitcher GIFs)
Bedard, 35, opened the season in Triple-A before getting the call to help cover for injuries. This will be his first start for Tampa. Last season, the veteran southpaw had a 4.59 ERA (4.38 FIP) in 151 innings for the Astros, with a strong strikeout rate (8.23 K/9 and 20.8 K%) but poor walk (4.47 BB/9 and 11.3 BB%) and ground ball (36.4%) rates. He also had a reverse split, holding righties to a .333 wOBA while lefties tagged him for a .368 wOBA. Bedard’s fastball is mostly upper-80s these days, and he backs it up with his trademark big-breaking mid-70s curveball. He’ll also throw a low-70s changeup. Bedard allowed one run in four innings in his only Triple-A start, and one run in two relief innings for the Rays a few days ago.

Saturday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Chris Archer (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Archer finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting last season thanks in part to his success against the Yankees. He dominated them, allowing just three runs on 12 hits and three walks in 22 innings across three starts. The righty also threw a two-hit, 97-pitch shutout in Yankee Stadium. Archer, 25, had a 3.22 ERA (4.07 FIP) in 128.2 innings last season with good peripherals: 7.06 K/9 (19.2 K%), 2.66 BB/9 (7.2 BB%), and 46.8% grounders. He is mostly a two-pitch pitcher, living off his mid-90s fastball and mid-80s slider. He’ll mix in the occasional mid-80s changeup, but only a handful per start. Unsurprisingly, he has a huge platoon split with that pitch mix, dominating righties (.227 wOBA) but getting dominated by lefties (.343 wOBA) in his short big league career. Archer got knocked around pretty good last time out (seven runs in five innings against the Orioles) but had two very strong starts to open the year.

Sunday: TBA vs. LHP Cesar Ramos (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
After losing out on the fifth starter’s job in Spring Training, the 29-year-old Ramos moved into the rotation following Moore’s injury. He has been a reliever the past four years, throwing 67.1 innings of 4.14 ERA (3.70 FIP) ball for Tampa Bay last year. His strikeout (7.08 K/9 and 18.4 K%), walk (2.94 BB/9 and 7.6 BB%), and ground ball (40.9%) rates were solid but unspectacular. Ramos sits right around 90 mph with his fastball as a starter, and he has the usual complement of offspeed pitches: mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, low-70s curveball. He got demolished during his first start a few days ago, allowing four runs on three hits and three walks in only two innings against the Reds.

As for the Yankees, they need a spot starter for Sunday because of Tuesday’s rainout and Wednesday’s doubleheader. Since Shane Greene can not be called back up yet and there are no other realistic options on the 40-man roster, it seems like Vidal Nuno is the best candidate. Nothing has been officially announced, of course. The Yankees are off on Monday and can afford to go nuts with their bullpen on Sunday if need be.

Balfour and Molina. (Andy Lyons/Getty)

Balfour and Molina. (Andy Lyons/Getty)

Bullpen Status
Closer Fernando Rodney joined Robinson Cano in Seattle, so Maddon now hands the ball off the RHP Grant Balfour (4.85 FIP) in the ninth inning. He returned to the Rays this offseason after his deal with the Orioles fell through. RHP Joel Peralta (6.36 FIP) is his primary setup man, and with Ramos now in the rotation, LHP Jake McGee (1.75 FIP) is the only southpaw.

The middle relief crew is a parade of right-handers, including RHP Josh Lueke (6.00 FIP), RHP Brad Boxberger (1.13 FIP), RHP Brandon Gomes (4.90 FIP), and whatever’s left of RHP Heath Bell’s (4.48 FIP) career. Boxberger, Peralta, and Gomes all pitched yesterday afternoon, but none threw more than 17 pitches. As for the Yankees, check out our Bullpen Workload page to see who has thrown what and when. For the best Rays analysis, head to The Process Report and DRays Bay.

Categories : Series Preview
Comments (81)
Apr
17

The new, shifty Yankees

By in Defense. · Comments (89) ·
Even with a man on base, the Yankees still shifted David Ortiz on Sunday.

Even with one out and a man on base, the Yankees still shifted against David Ortiz on Sunday.

I’m not sure there has been a more discussed topic this year than infield shifts. The YES booth talks about them all the time, pointing out who is playing where and wondering why hitters don’t just bunt (so easy!). Same conversation, game after game, night after night. Shifts are the hot topic right now and they aren’t going away anytime soon.

The Yankees are no stranger to using infield shifts. We’ve seen them shift over the last two or three seasons from time to time, but this year they have cranked it up a notch and are among the leaders in shifts. During Sunday night’s game, the ESPN broadcast put up a graphic showing that the Yankees had used 79 shifts in their first dozen games, second only to the Astros (127). The Brewers were a distant third with 48 shifts. Brian Cashman, Joe Girardi, and others told Pete Caldera they were planning to use more shifts this season back in Spring Training and they weren’t joking.

Using the shift requires quite a bit of data. You need to know the hitter’s tendencies, the pitcher’s tendencies (and preferences), your infielders, all sorts of stuff. It’s not as simple as telling the third baseman to mosey on over into shallow right field. At least not if you want to do it correctly. Buster Olney explained all the work and preparation the Yankees put into their new shift-happy ways earlier this week:

In order for this to happen, there needs to be a complete buy-in, from the front office to the last relievers in the bullpen, and as Yankees manager Joe Girardi explained it, the numbers were presented to the field staff during the winter — and the field staff embraced the idea. Then, early in spring training, the Yankees talked about the changes to come in a team meeting, and some of the most important voices in that first conversation were players who had been on teams that had used defensive shifts — Kelly Johnson, who had played with Toronto and Tampa Bay, and Brian Roberts, who played with the Orioles.

The Yankees practiced the shifts they would use in their daily workouts during spring training, and in the second half of the exhibition season, they began employing them in games. Yangervis Solarte has been the moving part in a lot of cases, shifting from third base to the right side of the infield against a lot of left-handed hitters, and the Yankees have shifted a lot against right-handed hitters as well.

The moment that may have demonstrated the Yankees’ complete devotion to defensive shifts happened early in the series against Boston, when Mick Kelleher — who oversees the coordination of the Yankees’ infield defense — employed a redesigned alignment against the speedy [Jackie Bradley Jr.], who doesn’t have a lot of track record in the big leagues. [Red Sox manager John Farrell] said before Sunday’s game that it’s not often you check the spray charts of your own hitters, but the Yankees’ decision to shift against Bradley made him wonder what data they had seen, and he had gone back and checked the direction of where Bradley had hit the ball in the past.

The Yankees used the shift the eighth most times in baseball last season according to Jeff Zimmerman, or, rather, they had the eighth most balls put in play while the shift was in use, if that makes sense. When the infield was aligned normally, opponents had a .307 BABIP against New York. When the Yankees used a shift, opponents had a … .325 BABIP. More hits were falling in whenever the Yankees shifted, which is the exact opposite of what’s supposed to happen. That agreed with the anecdotal evidence, that’s for sure.

Shift data is not yet available for this season, so we don’t know how effective they have been early in 2014. It seems like they are working more often than not — as with every defensive alignment, shifts will simply not work sometimes, with Mike Carp’s two-run single on Saturday standing out (video) — but there is no real way to confirm that right now. For what it’s worth, opposing teams had a .255 BABIP on ground balls against the Yankees prior to yesterday’s games, which is way worse than the AL average (.236) and identical to last season (.255). The shift is about more than ground balls though; Dean Anna was perfectly positioned to field some line drives on Sunday night.

“You’re going to be burned on it. You just want to have more instances of run-saving circumstances than run-yielding circumstances,” said assistant GM Billy Eppler to Ken Davidoff. “If you had a crystal ball, if you could conceive of what happens before it happens — if you could jump in your DeLorean and go back in time — you could turn every ball in play into an out. A perfect opponents’ BABIP is .000. The average is between .302 and .305. You want to beat that. If you beat that, you’re going to be pleased.”

The Yankees have held opponents to a .296 BABIP on all balls in play prior to yesterday’s doubleheader, down from .302 last year and their lowest since 2010 (.281 BABIP). The AL average prior to yesterday’s doubleheader was actually a .294 BABIP, down a bit from the number Eppler mentioned. The Yankees are right there — the difference between a .294 and .296 BABIP is one extra hit every 20 games or so — at the league average. Average isn’t bad! Especially not with a range-challenged infield. For what it’s worth, Davidoff cites data showing the Yankees are tied for the MLB lead with two runs saved via shifts in 2014.

I was worried about the infield defense before the season, especially considering the team’s generally ground ball heavy pitching staff. The infield defense has been a problem at times, no doubt about it — Ivan Nova‘s start against the Orioles stands out in particular — but I expected it to be a lot worse, honestly. Shifts appear to have helped compensate for the lack of range, and, really, using them is more of a necessity than anything for this team. This isn’t a fad. Shifts are here to stay like specialized relievers and pitch counts. The Yankees have aggressively adjusted their defensive approach and are a better team for it.

Categories : Defense
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Every day should be like this. A few hours after shutting out the Cubs in the first game of the doubleheader, the Yankees did it again on Wednesday night, blanking Chicago by the score of 2-0 to sweep the quick two-game series.

(Elsa/Getty)

(Elsa/Getty)

Blanked By Big Mike
Even though he threw six shutout innings, I thought this was Michael Pineda‘s worst start of the season so far. He fastball velocity was down a tick or two and his stuff just wasn’t as crisp as it has been. There were a few cement-mixer sliders throughout the night. The career-low five swings and misses wasn’t much of an accident. Pineda was not as sharp as he was in his first two starts and Wednesday was more of a grind.

And yet, six shutout innings. Four hits, one walk, three strikeouts, and a bunch of weakly hit fly balls. That’s Pineda’s thing. He allows a lot of fly balls but they are usually popped up, not well-struck. With this outfield defense, those are close to automatic outs. Pineda’s biggest jam came in the fifth, when the Cubs put runners on second and third with one out. He stranded both with a strikeout and a weak fly ball. A runner was also stranded at third in the sixth.

Here is the PitchFX data from Brooks Baseball. I think it’s worth noting Pineda threw the same number of changeups as sliders (17 each) and also got the same number of swings and misses with each pitch (two). He’s really been using that changeup quite a bit so far, and some of them have been really good too. There are still a few hangers though. Pineda threw only 89 pitches in his six innings as the Yankees continue to take it easy on him following shoulder surgery. That this was his worst start of the season so far tells you how dominant he was the first two times out.

(Elsa/Getty)

(Elsa/Getty)

Two-Out Runs
The Yankees did not have a great offensive game — they left 12 runners on base, including five in the first three innings– but they did come through with two big two-out hits to score their only runs. Brett Gardner did the honors in the fourth inning, pulling a single through the right side to score Scott Sizemore from second base. Sizemore beat out an infield single earlier in the inning, then moved up on John Ryan Murphy‘s single to left. They were the first hits of the season for Sizemore and Murphy, both of whom were added to the roster just yesterday.

One inning later, Sizemore drove in the second run of the game with a soft little bloop single to left. I thought he broke his bat on the play. Alfonso Soriano scored from second after reaching on a single earlier in the inning. Yangervis Solarte also picked up a base hit in the inning to help things along. The Yankees really scattered their 12 hits — I was surprised to see it was that many after the game, to be honest — and they only struck out three times as a team. This could have been a real frustrating loss if the pitching hadn’t been so good.

Three Shutout Innings
Even with David Robertson on the DL, the bullpen has not allowed a run in the last six games now. The trio of David Phelps (1.1 innings), Matt Thornton (0.2 innings), and Adam Warren (one inning) chucked the final three frames on Wednesday, though they weren’t the easiest innings. Phelps put the first two men he faced on base before retiring the next three, then two of the first three batters in the ninth reached base. The tying run moved into scoring position on Warren’s wild pitch. Thankfully, the Cubs are just too futile and they were unable to capitalize.

(Elsa/Getty)

(Elsa/Getty)

Leftovers
This was the first time a team was shut out in both ends of the doubleheader since June 1988, when the Twins did it to the Athletics. The Yankees threw their first back-to-back shutouts since August 7th and 8th in 2009, against the Red Sox. I think that was the four-game series with the 15-inning game and the back-to-back homers off Daniel Bard. You remember that, right? Of course you do.

Carlos Beltran, Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki, and Sizemore all had two hits, though Beltran picked up the only extra-base hit of the night (a double). Gardner, Derek Jeter, and Solarte all had one hit apiece. Kelly Johnson went 0-for-4 and was the the only starter who failed to reach base. He’s still slugging .533, by the way.

The Yankees have won four straight games and five of their last six. Since dropping those first two games of the season to Astros, they’ve won eight of 12. Only the Athletics have a better record in the AL right now.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the video highlights and box score, go to MLB.com. FanGraphs has some other stats and the updated standings are at ESPN.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees are heading out on a seven-game, eight-day road trip, which will begin in Tampa on Thursday. Former Cy Young winning left-handers CC Sabathia and David Price will meet in the first of four games.

Categories : Game Stories
Comments (102)
  • Mark Teixeira to begin minor league rehab assignment tomorrow
    By

    Mark Teixeira will play three innings in Tampa tomorrow according to Bryan Hoch. He is on track to be activated off the DL on Sunday, the first day he is eligible. Tomorrow will be Teixeira’s first game action since he hurt his hamstring roughly two weeks ago, though I don’t know if he’ll play in Extended Spring Training or with High-A Tampa. I guess we’ll find out soon enough. · (14) ·

As expected, both RHP Chris Leroux and UTIL Ronnie Mustelier were activated and added to the Triple-A Scranton roster, according to Chad Jennings. Leroux was getting stretched out in Extended Spring Training and Mustelier was out with a hamstring injury. C Luis Torrens was transferred to the Short Season Staten Island roster according to Josh Norris. That’s a paper move. He’s reportedly under the weather and this allows them to replace him on the roster without putting him on the DL for a week. Torrens is not actually going to Staten Island or anything.

Triple-A Scranton (8-2 loss to Buffalo)

  • CF Ramon Flores: 1-4, 1 BB, 2 K
  • 2B Jose Pirela: 1-5, 1 K
  • RF Zoilo Almonte: 2-5, 1 E (fielding) — threw a runner out at second … 8-for-17 (.471) in his last four games
  • 1B Corban Joseph: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 K
  • LF Ronnie Mustelier: 0-4, 1 K
  • C Austin Romine: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 K, 2 PB
  • RHP Chris Leroux: 2.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HBP, 4/0 GB/FB — 34 of 61 pitches were strikes (56%)
  • LHP Fred Lewis: 1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 10 of 18 pitches were strikes (56%)
  • RHP Preston Claiborne: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 11 of 14 pitches were strikes (79%)

Read More→

Categories : Down on the Farm
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Apr
16

Game 15: Two of Two

By in Game Threads. · Comments (484) ·

BIG MIKE IS HERE

The Yankees shut out the Cubs in the first game of today’s doubleheader earlier this afternoon, and now they will try to finish off the quick two-game sweep before hitting the road for a seven-game, eight-day road trip through Tampa and Boston. The Yankees have played seven doubleheaders at the new Yankee Stadium and they’ve swept five, splitting the other two.

Derek Jeter and his sore quad return to the lineup tonight, and Michael Pineda returns to the mound for the first time since his whole pine tar incident. It’s a no-win situation. If he pitches well, it’s because he’s hiding the pine tar somewhere else. If he pitches poorly, it’s because he wasn’t able to use the pine tar. The columns and blog posts practically write themselves. Once again, here is the Cubs lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. SS Derek Jeter
  3. DH Carlos Beltran
  4. LF Alfonso Soriano
  5. 2B Yangervis Solarte
  6. RF Ichiro Suzuki
  7. 3B Scott Sizemore
  8. 1B Kelly Johnson
  9. C John Ryan Murphy
    RHP Michael Pineda

It was sunny but cold for this afternoon’s game and it’ll be even colder tonight. Clear skies, otherwise. Both the Yankees and Cubs will wear #42 jerseys in honor of Jackie Robinson tonight since yesterday’s game (when everyone else wore #42) was rained out. There will be a little pregame ceremony honoring Robinson and Nelson Mandela as well. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and you can watch on My9 locally and MLB Network nationally. First My9 game of 2014. It’s officially baseball season. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: The Yankees have recalled right-hander Shane Greene as the 26th man for today’s doubleheader, the team announced. I didn’t think they were allowed to call anyone up because the doubleheader was not scheduled 48 hours in advance. Whatever. By rule, Greene has to go back to Triple-A following the game.

Categories : Game Threads
Comments (484)

That was worth the wait. After Tuesday night’s game was rained out, the Yankees won the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Cubs by the score of 3-0 thanks to a dominant pitching performance and some timely hitting. Pretty much a textbook win.

Tanaka applauds in approval of his own outing. (Elsa/Getty)

Tanaka applauds in approval of his own outing. (Elsa/Getty)

He’s Ours And You Can’t Have Him
The Cubs reportedly pursued Masahiro Tanaka very aggressively this winter, and at times it appeared they were the front-runner to sign him. Instead, Tanaka wound up in New York with the Yankees, and on Wednesday afternoon he faced the team that tried so desperately to sign him.

In his third big league start, Tanaka held the admittedly unimpressive Chicago lineup to two bunt singles in eight scoreless innings. The first had to be reviewed because it was a bang-bang play, the second was a bunt to beat the shift by Anthony Rizzo. Tanaka struck out ten, walked one (his second walk of the season), and at one point he retired 14 batters in a row from the second through seventh innings. This was pretty clearly the best we’ve seen him in his three starts.

Of his 107 pitches, Tanaka threw 76 strikes (71%), including 16 swings and misses. Twenty of 27 batters saw a first pitch strike and only two saw a three-ball count. Just dominant. Here is his PitchFX breakdown from Brooks Baseball, though it appears to be missing eight pitches somewhere. I do want to point out that of the 29 splitters Tanaka threw, the Cubs swing at 17. They missed ten times. That is pretty nuts.

The Yankees limited Tanaka to 97 pitches and 101 pitches in his first two starts, though they sent him back out for the eighth inning with his pitch count at 97 on Wednesday. He only threw ten more pitches in that inning, but even if he had thrown 15-20 more, I don’t think it would have been a big deal at all. Tanaka was pitching on two extra days of rest — he was scheduled to start on one day of rest on Tuesday, but the rainout pushed him back another day — and his next start will be on an extra day as well. He was on cruise control all afternoon. Basically a no stress outing. What a stud.

(Elsa/Getty)

(Elsa/Getty)

A Swing And A Slide
Thanks to Monday’s off-day and the rainout, the hot-hitting Carlos Beltran had two straight days off. If there was any concern about him losing his swing during the longer than usual layoff, he put it to bed right in the very first inning, clubbing a hanging changeup from Jason Hammel out to right field for a solo homer. His swing is just so, so sweet. From both sides of the plate too. The quick strike gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead.

The team nursed that lead until the fourth inning, when they loaded the bases on a single (Brian McCann, over the shift), a walk (Yangervis Solarte), and another single (Kelly Johnson) with one out. The not-so-fearsome duo of Dean Anna and Scott Sizemore were due up, and Anna took care of business with a sacrifice fly to shallow right-center field. McCann chugged home and slide under the tag. I think he would have been awarded the plate anyway because catcher John Baker was pretty clearly blocking it, which is now against the rules. One homer, one extended rally. Something for everyone.

Wait, How Did That Run Score?
I’ve watched an embarrassing amount of baseball in my life, but I have never before seen what happened in the fifth inning of this game. With Brett Gardner on third and one out, Baker was called for catcher’s interference on Jacoby Ellsbury‘s swing. The ball bounced off the plate and into the infield, allowing Gardner to score while Ellsbury was tagged out. However, because of the catcher’s interference, Gardner had to stay at third and Ellsbury was awarded first base. Except that’s not what happened.

Apparently managers are allowed to decline a catcher’s interference call and accept the outcome of the play. Yeah, I didn’t know that either. Here is the applicable rule, Rule 6.08(c):

The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when — The catcher or any fielder interferes with him. If a play follows the interference, the manager of the offense may advise the plate umpire that he elects to decline the interference penalty and accept the play. Such election shall be made immediately at the end of the play. However, if the batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batsman, or otherwise, and all other runners advance at least one base, the play proceeds without reference to the interference.

Since Gardner scored on the play, Joe Girardi declined the catcher’s interference and took the run. Instead of having men on the corners with one out, the bases were empty with two outs and a run in. I’d make that trade too. Give me the sure run in a reasonably close game every time. That’s so weird though. Who knew you could decline penalties in baseball? Here’s the video.

(Elsa/Getty)

(Elsa/Getty)

Leftovers
Tanaka’s eight innings spared the bullpen for the second game of the doubleheader. Shawn Kelley was the only reliever used and he allowed a soft single to right in an otherwise uneventful ninth, throwing 22 pitches. No idea if he’ll be available for tonight’s game. Worry about that when the time comes, I guess. Kelley has somehow saved four games already.

The Yankees only had five hits themselves, one each by Gardner (double), Beltran (homer), Ellsbury (double), McCann (single), and Johnson (single). Beltran and Ellsbury drew walks — Ellsbury stole second after his walk in the eighth — while Solarte drew two. Alfonso Soriano and Sizemore were the only guys to not do anything productive at the plate. The bases loaded situation in the fourth inning was the only time they had multiple runners on base at the same time.

The ten strikeouts give Tanaka 28 strikeouts in his first three starts, breaking Al Leiter’s old franchise record of 25 strikeouts. Believe it or not, Tanaka is the only pitcher in history to throw at least seven innings and record at least eight strikeouts in each of his first three starts. Pretty cool.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. Those standings will change in a few hours.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Let’s play two! The Yankees will look to complete the doubleheader sweep in a few hours. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 7pm ET and will feature Michael Pineda against lefty Travis Wood. Derek Jeter and his sore quad will return to the lineup in that game.

Categories : Game Stories
Comments (97)
  • Hal Steinbrenner is “pretty content” with current roster
    By

    Via Christian Red: Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said he is “pretty content” with the team’s current roster situation, though that doesn’t mean he is unwilling to consider adding players. “You know me, I will consider anything … I will always analyze options,” he said. “Right now, I think I’m pretty content with where we’re sitting. So far so good.”

    The Yankees have received excellent production from their outfield (136 wRC+) so far, plus Kelly Johnson (161 wRC+) and Yangervis Solarte (162 wRC+) have been insanely productive. Derek Jeter’s been solid as well (110 wRC+). With Brian McCann starting to coming around and Mark Teixeira due back from the 15-day DL relatively soon, the only obvious area in need of an upgrade right now is second base. I wish they’d just sign Stephen Drew, but aside from second base and maybe another reliever, the Yankees don’t have many needs right now.
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