Game 81: Halfway Point

Today is the halfway point of the season. Game 81. What have we learned about the 2015 Yankees so far? We’ve learned they look damn near unbeatable at their best and a cellar-dweller at their worst. I suppose that’s true of every team, but these Yankees seem to take it to the extreme. If you’d have told me back in Spring Training they’d be in first place in the AL East heading into the 81st game, even by just one game, I’d have taken it. That’s where they are right now.

This afternoon the Yankees are looking to build on last night’s thrilling come from behind walk-off win. They’re 43-37 right now and will hopefully be 44-37 in a few hours. After 81 games last year they were 41-40. The year before that they were 42-39. Hooray for being better than the 2013-14 Yanks. Here is the Tampa Bay lineup and here is the New York Yankees of America lineup on this Independence Day:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. RF Garrett Jones
  6. LF Ramon Flores
  7. C John Ryan Murphy
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    RHP Michael Pineda

The weather isn’t great in New York. It’s cloudy and overcast, but there’s no rain in the forecast and the sun is supposed to make an appearance at some point. This afternoon’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and can be seen on FOX Sports 1 only. No YES, no WPIX, nothing. Just FS1. Enjoy the game everyone.

Injury Update: Andrew Miller (forearm) threw 30 pitches in the bullpen and everything went well. He wants to make a minor league rehab appearance before rejoining the team. “I don’t want to come into a game unprepared,” he said. “I can’t come into a game and not be sharp. Can’t afford that.”

Saturday Links: A-Rod, Sierra, High-Def, Benefits, Girardi

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees and Rays continue their three-game series with an Independence Day matinee at Yankee Stadium later today. Here are some links to help you pass the time until the game.

A-Rod wants to make the All-Star team

The All-Star Game rosters will be announced soon — the starters will be announced tomorrow night, the rest of the rosters Monday night — and Alex Rodriguez told Andrew Marchand he hopes to be selected for the Midsummer Classic. “From where I came from just a year ago — I mean it’s every player’s dream to make the All-Star Game, I’m not exception to that, especially with all that I’ve been through — to be able to be included in something like that, it would be incredibly special,” said Alex.

As productive as he’s been this season, I don’t think A-Rod will be selected for the All-Star Game. Kendrys Morales is running away with the fan voting for the DH slot and both Nelson Cruz and Prince Fielder have better All-Star cases than Alex. (Cruz has actually played more outfield than DH this year.) You can only carry so many DH types on the roster. Oh well. A-Rod will turn 40 later this month and he could probably use the four days off to recharge his batteries. He’s been to 14 All-Star Games anyway.

Cuban RHP Yasiel Sierra threw for scouts

Time to meet the latest Cuban player the Yankees won’t sign. According to Kiley McDaniel, 23-year-old Cuban right-hander Yasiel Sierra threw for scouts yesterday and is generating positive buzz. McDaniel likens Sierra to Reds righty Raisel Iglesias, who signed a seven-year contract worth $30M last June. Sierra worked mostly as a reliever in Cuba and had a 3.74 ERA with 166/135 K/BB in 238 career innings before defecting. He is not subject to the international spending restrictions due to his age, so the Yankees can offer him any amount despite the penalties stemming from last year’s spending spree. I know nothing about Sierra beyond what’s in this post, but I suspect we’ll read his name a few more times in the coming weeks.

Yankees to be first team shot in 8K ultra-high def technology

I’m not a big technology guy, so I don’t quite know what this means, but Maury Brown reports the Yankees-Mariners game at Yankee Stadium on July 17th will be the first game shot in 8K ultra-high definition. Apparently 4K high-def is just making its way to consumers now. The 8K broadcast of the Yanks-Ms game won’t be available for fans though — Japanese public broadcaster NHK will install the cameras and show the broadcast to the media in a suite at the game. They’re testing the technology for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. (Might be time to take to advantage of my BBWAA membership!) Either way, I’m sure 8K will be available for fans soon enough, and it’ll blow all our minds.

Dugas. (MLB.com)
Dugas. (MLB.com)

Benefits to being on the MLB roster

A few days ago the Yankees surprisingly called up outfielder Taylor Dugas just so he could sit on the bench while Carlos Beltran was dealing with a sore ribcage. Sitting on the bench knowing you’re going to sent back down in a few days stinks — Dugas was sent down yesterday, sure enough — but being added to the 40-man roster and spending even one day in MLB comes with major perks, as MLBPA director of communications Greg Borris explained to Brendan Kuty.

First and foremost, the player gets the pro-rated portion of the $507,500 minimum salary, which works out to $2,773.22 per day during the regular season. Dugas was making approximately that per month in the minors. Players are also entitled to a portion of the MLBPA’s licensing program revenue (baseball cards, video games, etc.) and they start accruing service time towards pension benefits. And finally, the big thing is health care for them and their families. They get access to the league’s high-quality yet affordable health care program for life after just one day in the show. Getting called up for a day might sound disappointing, but man, the benefits are as good as it gets.

Cashman on long-term deals, scout on Girardi

Going to wrap this up with a pair of quotes that caught my eye earlier this week. First, here is Brian Cashman talking to Marchand about long-term contracts:

“Money doesn’t always equate to performance,” Cashman acknowledged. “In fact, most of the time it will never equate. That’s the cost of doing business. Signing a player to a long-term contract is like buying a car. They don’t tend to get better with age, and the ones that do are probably cheating.”

Ain’t that the truth. The Yankees have several bad long-term contracts on the books right now but it’s clear they’re willing to live with the ugly back end for the production up front, or at least they were at one point. These days it seems like teams get fewer high-end years early in long-term contracts though. They’re the Yankees though, they’re never going to not be involved with big name players, and Cashman understands they tend to be really bad investments.

Now here is an anonymous scout speaking to Jerry Crasnick about Joe Girardi:

“I don’t care what anybody says: It’s hard to manage [in New York]. It’s a zoo. You couldn’t pay me enough to manage there. I don’t know if he’s a top-five manager. But Girardi doesn’t get enough credit for the job he does.”

I think Girardi is an average-ish in-game manager. He’s very good at keeping his relievers fresh and putting them in positions to succeed, but he does slave to platoon matchups and is a little too rigid with his pitcher-inning assignments. That makes him no different than any other manager though.

Girardi really seems to do well with limiting distractions and running a healthy clubhouse, which is something we as outsiders can’t possibly understand or appreciate. The A-Rod stuff could have been a total fiasco for example, yet it’s blown over and been a non-factor. You never hear about players being unhappy — example: Adam Warren going to the bullpen — and stuff like that. On-field decisions are just a small part of a manager’s job. Most of their responsibility is in the clubhouse managing personalities, and the fact that things are so quite around the Yankees (the Yankees!) suggests Girardi is a great manager of people.

Yanks come from behind twice, beat Rays 7-5 on McCann’s three-run walk-off homer

Love this team. Love. This. Team. Best game of the season? Yup. Not even close. The Yankees battled back not once, but twice to beat the Rays 7-5 in 12 innings on Friday night. Brian McCann‘s walk-off three-run homer sent everyone home happy. It’s Friday night and a holiday weekend, so let’s recap with bullet points:

  • Rally II: Let’s recap this one backwards. The Yankees were down 5-3 going into the bottom of the 12th, but they did have the top of the order coming up. Brett Gardner started the rally with a leadoff walk and Alex Rodriguez reached base as the tying run on a dinky little ground ball single through the right side. The Rays had the shift on, playing him to pull, and Alex slapped the ball the other way. Look at this hit. Mark Teixeira singled in Gardner to make it a one-run game, and, well, you know what McCann did next. The walk-off was the team’s first of the season.
  • Bullpen on Parade: Six relievers held the Rays to two runs in six innings, and the value of not a starter Adam Warren was on full display. He got the final out of the 10th, tossed a scoreless 11th, then started the 12th. Chasen Shreve had his first rough outing in a while, walking two and allowing two hits, both driving in runs for the Rays. That turned a 3-3 game into a 5-3 game and what looked like a sure loss. Can’t expect perfection every time. Shreve’s allowed to have an off-night once in a while. At least a pigeon attacked Kevin Kiermaier following his RBI single.
  • The Save: Underrated moment of the game: Nick Rumbelow stranding two runners in the eighth. Chris Capuano allowed back-to-back singles to start the inning, then Rumbelow got two pop-ups and a ground ball to end the threat and prevent the Rays from increasing their 3-0 lead. One extra run there would have been huge in hindsight. Nick job by the kid in his third career appearance. That was a save situation even though he won’t get credited with one.
  • Rally I: Chris Archer has been excellent this season, and while he kept the Yankees off the board for 6.2 innings, he wasn’t overwhelmingly dominant. The Yankees had men on base against him in every inning but the second, so they had chances, they could couldn’t capitalize. They did get to the bullpen though, specifically Kevin Jepsen in the eighth. Chase Headley and A-Rod hit one-out singles, and Teixeira unloaded on a hanging changeup for a game-tying three-run homer. Another sluggish night by the bats was forgiven with one swing.
  • TANAK: The first inning was more of the same for Masahiro Tanaka — he was leaving splitters up in the zone, and the result was two runs on a walk and two doubles. He settled down after that though, holding Tampa to one run on four hits in the next five innings with five strikeouts. Tanaka got 15 swings and misses out of 96 total pitches, so his three highest swing-and-miss totals have come in his last three games, which have hardly been his three best starts of the season. The first inning stunk, but Tanaka was really good after that. Hopefully something clicked.
  • Leftovers: Didi Gregorius went 2-for-3 with a walk and a hit-by-pitch, and, for the first time since the third game of the season, he has a .300 OBP. Progress! … Headley, A-Rod, and Teixeira each had two hits as well … Gardner went 0-for-4 but did draw two walks. Rodriguez drew three … Capuano, Warren, Dellin Betances, and Justin Wilson each struck out two in relief … McCann threw out two runners trying to steal and both Gardner and Chris Young had outfield assists.

Here are the box score, video highlights, updated standings, Bullpen Workload, and Announcer Standings pages. The win probability graph is below. The Yankees and Rays continue this series Saturday afternoon in an Fourth of July matinee. Michael Pineda and Nathan Karns will be the pitching matchup. Love this team, you guys.


Source: FanGraphs

DotF: Bird promoted to Triple-A after another big game

Some news and notes:

  • Both 1B Greg Bird (14th) and RHP Luis Severino (16th) made this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. One of these days the molten hot OF Dustin Fowler will get some love. Maybe. Possibly. Probably not.
  • The Yankees have acquired OF Jake Skole from the Rangers for cash, reports Gerry Fraley. This is another “all our outfielders are getting hurt and we need warm bodies” move. Skole, 23, was the 15th overall pick in the 2010 draft, but he’s hit .228/.330/.331 (89 wRC+) in over 2,000 plate appearances since, none above Double-A.
  • Check out this Sam Dykstra article on Triple-A park factors. PNC Field in Scranton has been one of the most pitcher friendly parks at the Triple-A level the last few years. In fact, just about all of the parks in Yankees’ farm system are pitcher friendly according to the park factors at StatCorner. Something to keep in mind.

Triple-A Scranton (4-0 win over Pawtucket)

  • LF Ben Gamel: 0-4
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-3, 1 BB, 1 K — seven strikeouts and nine walks in his last nine games
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K
  • DH Austin Romine: 1-2, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 K
  • RHP Kyle Davies: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 6/4 GB/FB — 56 of 74 pitches were strikes (76%)
  • RHP Chris Martin: 2 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 13 of 18 pitches were strikes (72%) … nice rebound from that disaster outing a few days ago
  • RHP Branden Pinder: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 16 of 25 pitches were strikes (64%)

[Read more…]

Game 80: Tanaka Time vs. Tampa

(Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)
(Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)

This weekend’s series with the Rays is pretty important. I mean, all games against AL East rivals will be important going forward because the division is so tight. Every single game matters. Each win in July is one less you need in September.

Masahiro Tanaka will be on the mound tonight following two really shaky starts that featured six total home runs allowed. Three in each start. The Yankees might be tied for first today, but it’s hard to see them staying atop the division if Tanaka doesn’t straight himself out. Here is Tampa Bay’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Garrett Jones
  7. LF Chris Young
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Absolutely flawless weather in New York today. Beautiful blue skies, just enough clouds, temperatures in the high-70s/low-80s, and a nice cool breeze. Just perfect. This is what I want the weather to be for the rest of my life. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB nationally. Enjoy the game, folks.

Rotation Update: Ivan Nova will start Sunday on normal rest, Joe Girardi told reporters. CC Sabathia is being pushed back to Wednesday to give him extra rest, and also extra time to work on things in the bullpen. Also, pushing him back means Sabathia will a) make just one start before the All-Star break instead of two, and b) not face the division rival Rays and Red Sox these next ten days.

Injury Update: Looking for a timetable for Jacoby Ellsbury‘s return? Well we’re not getting one. Girardi basically said he’ll be back when he’s back. Ellsbury (knee) has played two minor league rehab games this week but has had to sit out two others with fatigue. He is not playing for High-A Tampa tonight.

Roster Updates: In case you missed it earlier, Carlos Beltran was placed on the 15-day DL with an oblique strain. Taylor Dugas was sent down as well and both Ramon Flores and Gregorio Petit were called up.

Yankees to donate $150,000 to charity in exchange for A-Rod’s 3,000th hit ball

(Photo via @zack_hample)
(Photo via @zack_hample)

Earlier today, the Yankees announced they have reached an agreement with noted ballhawk Zack Hample for Alex Rodriguez‘s 3,000th hit ball. The team will donate $150,000 to Pitch In For Baseball, a charity Hample has been involved with for years. There will be a press conference to present A-Rod with the ball this afternoon.

Hample has caught thousands of balls over the years and literally wrote a book on the best ways to catch baseballs at games. He’s caught a lot of grief the last few weeks for saying he wouldn’t give the ball to A-Rod, but give him props, Hample used the ball to get a ton of money for a good cause, not for personal gain like I would have.

Pitch In For Baseball is a charity that provides baseball and softball equipment to kids around the country. Here’s the website. The charity gets a ton of money and A-Rod gets his milestone baseball. Win-win. Nice job, everyone.

Yankees, A-Rod agree to donate 660th homer milestone bonus to charity

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees have reached a settlement for the $6M milestone bonus stemming from his 660th career home run, MLB and MLBPA announced in a joint statement. The union was handling the matter on A-Rod‘s behalf, and a few weeks ago we heard they requested a “hold” so they could continue to negotiate without filing a grievance before the deadline.

As part of the settlement, the Yankees will donate a whole bunch of money to various charities. No money is going to A-Rod. Here are the details from the press release:

As part of this resolution, Mr. Rodriguez and the Yankees have agreed that a total of $3.5 million in charitable contributions will be made by the Club, with $1 million going to the following charities that have long enjoyed the support of one or both: the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, the Boys & Girls Club of Tampa, and Pitch In For Baseball; and $2.5 million going to the MLB Urban Youth Foundation, which will use the money to further programs and initiatives aimed at increasing youth participation in baseball, particularly in urban areas. Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. will determine the initiatives to be supported by the $2.5 million contribution after consulting with Mr. Rodriguez, and taking into consideration the focus of Mr. Rodriguez’s past charitable contributions. 

On one hand, MLBPA caved and was unable to get the player the bonus in his marketing agreement with the team. On the other hand, hooray for money going to charity, even if it’s not the full $6M. The Yankees also save on the luxury tax — A-Rod’s bonus would have counted against the tax and cost the team even more cash. I’m sure Hal Steinbrenner likes that.

There are still four more $6M milestone bonuses left in A-Rod’s marketing contract with the team. He’s due a bonus for his 714th (tying Babe Ruth), 755th (tying Hank Aaron), 762nd (tying Barry Bonds), and 763rd (passing Bonds) career homers. Alex comes into today with 15 dingers on the season and 669 in his career. He’s signed through 2017 and needs 45 homers to catch Ruth and trigger the next bonus. That might be a close one. Catching Ruth and Bonds seems unlikely.

The Yankees refused to pay Rodriguez the $6M bonus claiming his past performance-enhancing drug ties had rendered the milestone unmarketable.