Saturday Open Thread

Here is an open thread for the rest of the day. The Mets are playing tonight and MLB Network will have a regional game later on. That’s pretty much it. There are no NBA or NHL playoff games today. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s win, or anything else here.

Game 46: My Kingdom For Some Runs

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Over the last five games, dating back to Masahiro Tanaka‘s blowup in Tampa, Yankees starters have allowed six runs (five earned) total in 33.1 innings. None of the five starters allowed more than two runs in their starts. And yet, the Yankees went only (“only”) 3-2 in those five games because the offense is slumping so hard. The Yankees scored only 13 runs in those five games, and they’ve scored only 23 runs in their last eight games. Geez.

Things could turn around in an instant, of course. Tanaka threw literally the two worst starts of his MLB career back-to-back, then bam, he dominated and struck out a career high 13 last night. The offense has scored 13 runs in their last five games and they’re perfectly capable of putting up 13 runs in five innings this afternoon. I hope it happens. Few things in baseball are less enjoyable than a lack of offense. Here is the A’s lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. CF Aaron Hicks
  8. 1B Chris Carter
  9. 3B Ronald Torreyes
    LHP CC Sabathia

Not a bad afternoon for baseball in the Bronx. It is cloudy out, but it’s a pleasant 72 degrees and there’s no rain in the forecast. Today’s game will begin a little after 1pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Try to enjoy.

Injury Updates: Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) played catch today for the first time since going on the disabled list. He reported no issues … Greg Bird (ankle) is still on track to head to Tampa tomorrow and begin playing in minor league rehab games. His rehab work has gone well the last few days … Jacoby Ellsbury (concussion) is following the concussion protocol and there’s not much he can do right now. He’s shut down until the doctors say he can resume baseball activities.

Offense wastes Tanaka’s gem, Yankees drop series opener 4-1 to Athletics


Source: FanGraphs

I miss offense. I miss the days when the Yankees were putting up like seven runs a night and smacking dingers like Gary Sanchez circa August 2016. Those were the days. It was called April. The bats were mostly silent Friday night in the series opener against the Athletics. The final score was 4-1 bad guys. It’s Friday night and I’m sick, so let’s recap this with bullet points:

  • Masahiro My Hero: So Sanchez is never gonna catch Masahiro Tanaka again, huh? Coming off back-to-back disaster starts, Tanaka dominated the A’s on Friday, striking out a career high 13 in 7.1 innings of work with Austin Romine behind the plate. He threw 111 pitches and generated a career high 26 swings and misses. Splitters, sliders, first pitch curveballs, it was all working. Welcome back, good #TANAKA. We’ve missed you.
  • Blown By The Bullpen: Apparently Romine’s magic only applies to the starters, not the relievers. Tyler Clippard inherited a runner on first with one out from Tanaka in the eighth inning, and he managed to allow two runs even though that inherited runner was thrown out at home on the contact play. It would be nice to see Dellin Betances on the mound in one of these eighth inning game on the line situations one of these days. Closers don’t always have to be for closin’. Jonathan Holder allowed a two-run homer to Stephen Vogt in the ninth to put things out of reach.
  • At Least They Weren’t Shut Out? The good news: the Yankees were not shut out! They’ve scored in every game so far this season. The bad news: the Yankees didn’t score their one and only run until there were two outs in the ninth. A Didi Gregorius sac fly did the trick. Jairo Garcia Santiago Castillo loaded the bases with one out that inning, so the Yankees got both Gregorius and Sanchez to the plate as the tying run. Alas, there was no miracle comeback this time.
  • Leftovers: Aaron Judge had two hits and a walk. Aaron Hicks had a hit and a walk. The non-Aarons had two hits and a walk … the Yankees had their best chance to score in the seventh, then Chase Headley banged into a 5-4-3 double play with runners on first and second and one out. The Yankees are going to have to do something about third base soon. Headley’s play is untenable … Matt Holliday went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and is now 5-for-21 with 12 strikeouts in his last six games. That works out to a 50.0% strikeout rate and a .556 BABIP.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Also make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload page. The Yankees and A’s will continue this three-game series with the middle game Saturday afternoon. That’s a regular old 1pm ET start. CC Sabathia and Jharel Cotton are the scheduled starters. Perhaps the offense will do something crazy and score multiple runs.

Minor League Update: Like I said, I’m not feeling well, so I’m going to take the easy way out with DotF tonight. Here are the box scores and here’s the short version: 3B Gleyber Torres had two singles, OF Clint Frazier had a double and a homer, RHP Chance Adams struck out four and allowed two runs in five innings, SS Thairo Estrada had three singles, 3B Miguel Andujar had two singles and a walk, DH Jorge Mateo went 0-for-5, OF Estevan Florial hit a solo homer, and OF Blake Rutherford had a single.

Game 45: Will the Real Tanaka Please Stand Up?

(Brian Blanco/Getty Images North America)
(Brian Blanco/Getty Images North America)

Masahiro Tanaka has been one of the worst starting pitchers in Major League Baseball this year. That isn’t hyperbole, either – Mike went into great detail about his struggles earlier this week. And he seems to be getting worse, with a 10.50 ERA/9.36 FIP since he shut out the Red Sox on April 27. Tanaka is ostensibly healthy, and he was one of the best pitchers in baseball these last three seasons, so it stands to reason that he will turn it around at some point. It would be nice if it happened sooner rather than later, though.

Tanaka will face a subpar A’s lineup tonight, one that is without its best hitter as Yonder Alonso will sit-out with a wrist contusion. The Yankees lineup this evening will be:

  1. Brett Gardner, LF
  2. Aaron Hicks, CF
  3. Matt Holliday, DH
  4. Starlin Castro, 2B
  5. Aaron Judge, RF
  6. Didi Gregorius, SS
  7. Chase Headley, 3B
  8. Chris Carter, 1B
  9. Austin Romine, C

The first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM EST, with WPIX handling the television broadcast.

2017 Draft: Jake Burger

Jake Burger | 3B

Background
The 21-year-old Burger is a St. Louis kid who went undrafted out of high school, but has since developed into one of the top power hitters in the country at Missouri State. He is currently hitting .346/.459/.693 with 20 home runs and more walks (38) than strikeouts (30) in 52 games this season, and he’s a career .346/.423/.632 with 45 homers in 165 college games.

Scouting Report
Burger is a right-handed hitter with big power potential that he generates with both bat speed and raw strength. He knows the strike zone well and is capable of making adjustments mid-at-bat because he understands how pitchers are trying to attack him. There are two knocks on Burger. One, his defense. He has good hands at the hot corner but limited range and an average best arm. To his credit, Burger works hard at his defense, but odds are he’ll wind up at first base long-term. And two, he has a bit of a hitch in his swing, which creates some concern about how he’ll handle advanced pro pitching.

Miscellany
In their latest rankings MLB.com ranked Burger as the 16th best prospect in the draft class, Baseball America ranked him 19th, and Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked him 24th. The Yankees hold the 16th overall pick. Under scouting director Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees have selected a few big bat/questionable glove college mashers high in the draft (Eric Jagielo, Peter O’Brien, etc.), though it is definitely not their go-to demographic. Burger could be someone they target if they decide to go heavy on offense and believe he can move quickly.

5/26 to 5/28 Series Preview: Oakland Athletics

(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America)
(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America)

Mother nature gave the Yankees a much-needed respite yesterday, splitting their twenty games in twenty days down the middle. Their series against the A’s now represents the first game in a ten-in-ten stretch, which is far less daunting.

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees visited Oakland for a four-game series this time last year (May 19 through May 22), and they walked (or flew) away with a sweep, outscoring the A’s 22 to 9 along the way. Some other points of interest:

  • The Yankees starters – Ivan Nova, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, and Michael Pineda – pitched to the following combined line: 25 IP, 18 H, 4 BB, 21 K, 2.16 ERA.
  • It was the Yankees first road series win of the season, as they climbed out of the AL East basement for the first time since late April.
  • Carlos Beltran went 9-for-18 with 3 R, 5 2B, 1 HR, and 8 RBI in the series.
  • The beta version of Yonder Alonso went 1-for-10 in the series, with 3 strikeouts and no walks.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more in-depth information.

Injury Report

The A’s are a bit banged-up right now. Yonder Alonso is listed as day-to-day with a wrist contusion, and it remains up in the air as to whether he’ll play on Friday (though he is expected back this weekend) – he has been one of the best hitters in baseball this year, showing signs of the promise he showed as a top-fifty prospect half a decade ago. Shortstop Marcus Semien was placed on the 60-day DL at the end of April, due to a broken wrist that required surgery, and there have been rumblings that he could be out longer than that entails. And relievers Sean Doolittle, Bobby Wahl, and Ryan Dull are on the DL, and none are expected back for this series.

Their Story So Far

Oakland is currently 21-25 with a -42 run differential, which puts them right around where they were in 2015 and 2016. They are 23rd in baseball in runs allowed, 27th in runs scored, and 30th in defensive runs saved; in short, they are a subpar team in all facets of the game, and that may be putting it lightly. This is a team in transition, and it shows.

Their two biggest stories this season are the aforementioned Alonso, and perpetual trade rumor magnet Sonny Gray. The 30-year-old Alonso is batting .275/.379/.642 (174 wRC+) with a career-high 13 home runs, and he’s actually playing better as the young season wears on. And there are reasons to believe that this is real, at least to some extent. Gray has been effective, as well, albeit on the heels of missing the first month, and he appears to be recapturing his pre-2016 form. The Yankees will not see Gray this weekend, which is something of a shame – but you can be sure that Brian Cashman is following his progress closely.

The Lineup We Might See

Manager Bob Melvin has used 43 lineups in 46 games, due to injuries and his utilization of platoon players. Khris Davis is the team’s regular clean-up hitter, but most every other spot seems to be shrouded in mystery until the lineup card is posted. As a result of this, I offer the equivalent of a shrug as to my guess at what Yankees pitchers will see over the next three days:

  1. Rajai Davis, CF
  2. Matt Joyce, RF
  3. Jed Lowrie, 2B
  4. Khris Davis, LF
  5. Yonder Alonso, 1B
  6. Ryon Healy, DH
  7. Stephen Vogt, C
  8. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
  9. Adam Rosales, SS

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Friday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. RHP Kendall Graveman

Graveman has proven himself to be a solid back of the rotation starter over the last two-plus seasons, pitching to a 98 ERA+ in just under 350 IP – and that makes him the prize of the Josh Donaldson deal to-date (that might be unfair to prospect Franklin Barreto, who is currently raking in Triple-A). He is held back by his well below-average strikeout rate (16.5% this year), but he keeps the ball on the ground (career 51.4% GB) and limits walks (6.6% BB). Pitching in Oakland helps, too, as his career ERA is over a run lower at home.

The 26-year-old is a true sinkerballer, as the pitch accounts for 76.1% of his offerings this year. He throws the sinker in the mid-90s, and it has a great deal of drop and spin. He mixes in the occasional four-seamer, change-up, and slider – but those are few and far between.

Last Outing (vs. BOS on 5/19) – 6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 5 K

Saturday (1:05 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Sean Manaea

The 25-year-old Manaea entered 2016 as a consensus top-fifty prospect, and he backed that up with a solid rookie season. The southpaw tossed 144.2 IP of 3.86 ERA (104 ERA+) ball, good for 2.7 bWAR – and this despite having an ERA north of 7.00 on June 1. He has struggled a bit so far, posting a 5.24 ERA (75 ERA+) and 11.5 BB%, and he missed a couple of starts with a left shoulder strain. All that being said, he might have the highest ceiling of any A’s pitcher this side of Sonny Gray.

Manaea is a three-pitch pitcher, utilizing a low-90s four-seamer, mid-80s sinking change-up, and a low-80s slider. That slider is his strikeout pitch, and it currently has a 25.4% swinging strike rate.

Last Outing (vs. BOS on 5/20) – 5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 3 K

Sunday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Michael Pineda vs. RHP Andrew Triggs

Triggs made his major league debut last year, as a 27-year-old pitching for his third organization in three years. He did reasonably well as an up-and-down long reliever and spot starter, posting a 4.31 ERA (93 ERA+) in twenty-four games (six starts). He earned a shot in the A’s rotation in spring training this year, and he has acquitted himself quite well thus far. To wit: 52.0 IP, 19.5 K%, 7.0 BB%, 51.0 GB%, 2.77 ERA (142 ERA+), 3.26 FIP. Much of his success is attributed to his borderline sidearm delivery, as Triggs hides the ball well and pounds the bottom of the strike zone.

There is a discrepancy in reports as to what Triggs actually throws. Scouts speak of his upper-80s sinker (or two-seamer), mid-80s cutter, and low-80s slider; PITCHf/x, on the other hand, appears to see that cutter as a slider, and that slider as a curveball. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, as Triggs throws several different pitches from the sort of arm angle that can screw with the eye test and PITCHf/x.

Last Outing (vs. BOS on 5/21) – 5.1 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 3 BB, 7 K

The Bullpen

The A’s bullpen is 26th in baseball in ERA+, with closer Santiago Casilla leading the way with a 4.67 ERA (86 ERA+). Set-up man Ryan Madson and lefty specialist Daniel Coulombe have been highly effective in their roles, but most everyone else is struggling or hurt (or both). They should be fairly well-rested, though, thanks to an off-day Thursday and a light workload on Wednesday.

Yankees Connection

Reliever John Axford pitched in the Yankees organization in 2007, tossing 63 IP with a 3.29 ERA over stops at Staten Island, Tampa, Charleston, and Scranton/Wilkes Barre. The Yankees released him after that season (his 6.4 BB/9 may’ve played a role in that), and he latched on with the Brewers. He’s carved out a decent career are a sometimes-closer, accumulating 144 saves over parts of nine seasons. Axford has also dabbled in some sweet facial hair.

Who (Or What) To Watch

Triggs’ delivery is unique among starting pitchers, coming as close to sidearm as one can get without being labeled as such, and that bears watching just so you can wonder how he can possibly succeed with such an awkward throwing motion. Alonso is worth checking out, too, so that you can decide for yourself how this guy had never reached double-digit home runs before.

Yankeemetrics: Pitching, Power and Wins (May 22-24)

(Newsday)
(Newsday)

Bronx Bombers Born Again
The Yankees returned to the Bronx on Monday and kicked off their seven-game homestand with a sweet comeback win over the Royals, 4-2.

Michael Pineda continued to shed the enigma label that had defined his time in pinstripes leading up to this season with his eighth straight start of at least five innings pitched and no more than three earned runs allowed, easily the longest streak of his career. He didn’t have his dominant stuff, but executed well in tough spots as the Royals went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position against him.

That’s been one of the biggest keys to his resurgent campaign this year – remaining focused and poised while getting big outs when he needs them. Pineda has held batters to a .143/.162/.229 line with RISP in 2017, and most impressive is that .162 opponent on-base percentage, the lowest in the majors (min. 35 batters faced) through Monday.

Down 2-0 early, Brett Gardner ignited the Yankees rally with a third-inning solo homer, his ninth dinger of the season. All nine of those homers came in a span of 80 at-bats from April 29 through Monday, an at-bat per homer rate of 8.9 that should be familiar to Yankee fans: during Babe Ruth’s 60-homer campaign in 1927, he homered once every 9.0 at bats.

Another key moment in the game was the Yankees’ successful replay challenge prevented tying run from scoring in the seventh inning. That was their 14th challenge in 2017, and the 12th time they’ve had the call overturned. Thanks to our unsung hero of the season – coaching assistant Brett Weber – that “replay win percentage” of 85.7 was the best in the majors through Monday.

(AP)
(AP)

Magnificent Monty
The Royals handed the Yankees a rare loss on Tuesday night in the Bronx, one where the home team saw its normally lock-down bullpen implode in the late innings after an unprecedented outing by one of its young pitchers.

The Yankees wasted a historic gem by Jordan Montgomery, who was nearly perfect as he took a one-hit shutout and a 2-0 advantage into the seventh frame before giving up a solo homer to Lorenzo Cain. The bullpen then coughed up the lead and more, allowing five runs on four hits, including three home runs.

Let’s put all that craziness into context:

  • Before Tuesday’s meltdown, the Yankees were 15-0 when taking a multi-run lead into the seventh inning.
  • The bullpen entered the game with the fewest homers allowed (5) and the lowest homer rate (0.32 per nine innings) in the majors.
  • The final longball was surrendered by Chasen Shreve, who had not given up a single run, let alone a homer, in 2017. His 44 batters faced prior to Tuesday were the most of any pitcher in MLB that had yet to be scored on this season.
  • At the age of 24 years, 147 days, Montgomery became the youngest Yankee in franchise history to produce this impressive pitching line: at least six strikeouts, zero walks, no more than two hits allowed and six-or-more innings pitched.
(Getty)
(Getty)

Ace Sevy
Luis Severino made sure there would be no chance for another bullpen disaster on Wednesday as he delivered a dazzling performance with a 114-pitch, three-hit, eight-inning, scoreless gem in the Yankees 3-0 win.

It’s crazy but true: this was the first time the Yankees shut out the Royals since September 15, 2004 in Kansas City. They were the only AL team the Yankees hadn’t blanked in that span of nearly 13 years. Also crazy but true: it had been more than 16 (!) years since the Yankees shut out the Royals in the Bronx – the last time it happened was April 5, 2001. They were the only AL team the Yankees hadn’t yet held scoreless at the new Yankee Stadium.

Back to the highlight of the night … Severino’s ace-like domination of the Royals lineup. The 114 pitches were a career-high, and most impressively, he averaged 98 mph on his four-seamer in the seventh and eighth innings (!). He faced just one batter with a runner in scoring position all game, and nobody even reached third base against him.

One of the key at-bats came in the fourth with a man on first and two outs and the Yankees clinging to a 1-0 lead, when Severino struck out Eric Hosmer looking on a 3-2 changeup to end the inning. It was a perfectly placed pitch in the zone that completely fooled the Royals lefty:

hosmerseverinok2gif

Severino’s changeup has been a surprising weapon for him this season, as he’s allowed just two hits in 19 at-bats (.105) with four strikeouts ending in the pitch this season. While the pitch doesn’t generate a ton of whiffs, it’s super-effective at keeping hitters off-balance thanks to a 46 percent foul rate that is the second-highest among all major-league starters (min. 50 pitches). This command and confidence in his changeup has helped him hold lefties to a .600 OPS this season, a nice improvement from the .727 OPS he allowed to opposite-handed batters in his first two seasons.

How impressive was Severino’s masterpiece? Consider this fun nugget: Severino became first Yankee age 23 or younger to pitch at least eight scoreless innings and strike out seven-or-more batters in a game since a 23-year-old Dave Righetti on May 22, 1982 vs. the Twins.