Game 75: Win it for Starlin

(Matt Hazlett/Getty)
(Matt Hazlett/Getty)

The Yankees are down yet another player. Starlin Castro was indeed placed on the 10-day disabled list with a right hamstring strain today. He left last night’s game with the injury. Castro joins Aaron Hicks (oblique), CC Sabathia (hamstring), Adam Warren (shoulder), and Greg Bird (ankle) on the shelf. Also, Matt Holliday is still out with his mystery illness/allergic reaction.

The show must go on though. Every team deals with injuries and no one feels bad for the Yankees. The Yankees did get back in the win column last night, though not before the bullpen made things unnecessarily interesting. I could really go for a blowout win. When’s the last time the Yankees had one of those? The bloodbath series against the Orioles, I guess. Here is the White Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. C Gary Sanchez
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. DH Tyler Austin
  7. 2B Ronald Torreyes
  8. 1B Austin Romine
  9. LF Rob Refsnyder
    RHP Luis Severino

It’s a bit cloudy in Chicago and on the cool side. There’s no rain in the forecast though, and that’s the most important thing. This evening’s game will begin at 8:10pm ET and YES will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Castro has a Grade I strain. There’s no word on an exact timetable, but those usually take 2-3 weeks. Sometimes even less … Holliday went for tests but still doesn’t feel right. If it lingers another day or two, he could be placed on the disabled list … Austin’s hamstring is sore, which is why he’s the designated hitter tonight.

Roster Moves: In addition to placing Castro on the disabled list, the Yankees also sent down Jonathan Holder, and called up both Tyler Wade and Tyler Webb. The Yankees already had an open 40-man roster spot for Wade, so no other move was required. Technically Webb replaces Castro on the roster since the injury allows the Yankees to get around the ten-day rule. Wade is replacing Holder. The active roster is now 16% Tylers.

A check in on Masahiro Tanaka’s spin rates

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

Overall, this has been a trying season for Masahiro Tanaka. Given all the success he had in Japan and in his first three seasons with the Yankees, this has to be the most difficult season of his career. This is the first time he’s really struggled. I don’t mean for one or two starts. For an extended period or time. The All-Star break is only two weeks away, and he’s sitting on a 5.74 ERA (5.27 FIP) in 84.2 innings. Yuck.

Last time out Tanaka was excellent, striking out nine in eight shutout innings against the Rangers. He allowed three singles and two walks. That’s all. We’ve seen some flashes of brilliance from Tanaka this year, so we know it’s still in there. We just haven’t seen it consistently. Hopefully that start against Texas was a sign of things to come. Given how the season has played out, it’s way too early to say Tanaka has turned the corner.

Anecdotally, it seems Tanaka’s problems stem from his splitter and slider, his two go-to pitches. He’s not overpowering by any means. He succeeds by keeping hitters off balance with the splitter and slider. This year, for whatever reason, those two pitches haven’t behaved properly. Sometimes they do! And when they do, Tanaka has a start like he did against the Rangers. When they don’t, it’s a Home Run Derby.

For the most part, whenever Tanaka has allowed home runs this year, they’ve come on pitches that didn’t do what they were supposed to do. That usually how it works, right? Rather than dive out of the zone, those pitches stay up and get hammered. Here are the pitch locations of the 21 (!) home runs Tanaka has allowed in 2017, via Baseball Savant:

masahiro-tanaka-home-run-locations

Five of those 21 home runs have come on splitters and four have come on sliders, and, as you can see in the plot, those pitches were left up. There’s no bad luck here. We haven’t seen someone go down and golf a diving splitter into the short porch or something like that. No, when Tanaka has been taken deep, it’s been a bomb on a pitch sitting middle-middle.

Since Tanaka has had trouble getting his splitter and slider to do what they’re supposed to do for much of the season, I figured it would be a good idea to look at the spin rate of each pitch. Spin rate is similar to velocity in that it’s not everything there is to pitching. It’s one tool in the shed. Spin rate could, possibly, shed some light on why the slider and splitter aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do. So let’s get to it, shall we?

The Splitter

Let’s get a few things out of the way first. One, spin rate is expressed in revolutions per minute even though it takes less than half-a-second for a pitch to reach the plate. Two, spin rate data only goes back to 2015, so that’s as far back as I went. I’d like to compare Tanaka’s pre- and post-partially torn elbow ligament spin rates, but alas. Can’t be done. And three, I looked at the spin rates on a month-by-month basis. Start-by-start is extreme overkill. Here are Tanaka’s splitter spin rates:

masahiro-tanaka-splitter-spin-rate

The spin rate on Tanaka’s splitter is down noticeably from last season, when he was one of the top pitchers in the American League. Spin rate is complicated though. More spin (and less spin) means different things for different pitches. High spin on a fastball correlates well to swings and misses while a low spin rate correlates well to ground balls, for example.

For a splitter, a low spin rate is actually better. A lower spin rate equals more tumbling action, and that leads to both more grounders and swings and misses. The higher the spin on a splitter, the more it acts like a true fastball. In theory, spin rate says Tanaka’s splitter this year should be getting more grounders and whiffs than last year because it has less spin, and:

  • 2016: 33.2% whiffs per swing and 65.1% grounders per ball in play
  • 2017: 41.5% whiffs per swing and 63.8% grounders per ball in play

Well look at that. Tanaka’s swing and miss rate on his splitter is up 8.3 percentage points from last year. That’s pretty significant. Going from 33.2% whiffs to 41.5% whiffs is huge. (The MLB average on splitters is 34.4%.) The ground ball rate is down 1.3 percentage points, which is relatively tiny. For all intents and purposes, the grounder rate has held steady since last year while the swing and miss rate has gone up quite a bit.

Okay, so what the hell does that mean? I’m not sure, exactly. But! This is actually good news, right? Or maybe it would be better to say this is not bad news. I’d be worried if Tanaka’s splitter spin rate jumped a bunch this year. That would indicate far more “straight” splitters, or hangers. On a macro-level, the splitter is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do. On a micro-level, some individual splitters are not, and those are the ones getting hit a long way. Those are the mistake pitches.

The Slider

masahiro-tanaka-slider-spin-rate

Kinda interesting the league average slider spin rate keeps climbing, isn’t it? High slider spin rate correlates very well to swing and misses, though there’s basically no correlation with ground ball rate. A high spin slider gets as many grounders as a low spin slider. Weird.

Anyway, it sure looks like teams have really started emphasizing slider spin the last few seasons, and Tanaka’s slider spin rate has climbed along with the league average. It’s gotten better and better with each passing month so far this season. Not coincidentally:

  • April: 26.8% whiffs per swing
  • May: 44.9% whiffs per swing
  • June: 45.9% whiffs per swing

As Tanaka’s slider spin rate has gone up, hitters have come up empty with more of their swings against the pitch. The MLB average swing and miss rate on sliders is 34.9% this year, and Tanaka has been well above that in April and May. It’s probably not a coincidence then that Tanaka’s four highest strikeout totals this season have come within his last six starts.

Tanaka’s slider spin rate this season is good news. It’s getting better and the pitch is missing more bats. Similar to the splitter and a high spin rate, I’d be worried if Tanaka’s spin rate on his slider was way down. Overall, it’s been great. It’s those one or two (or three or four) mistake pitches per start that have cost him dearly. Limiting those is the key going forward, which is something we probably already knew, huh? Yeah.

* * *

All things considered, the spin rates on Tanaka’s splitter and slider are right where they should be so far this season. That’s good! That’s at least an indication he’s not broken for good. I never really through that was the case though. If it were, Tanaka wouldn’t throw these random great starts every once in a while. This leads me to believe his problems are mechanical, which is what he’s said since Spring Training. Funny how that works.

With Tanaka, he can never be a normal pitcher and just struggle. Every time he has a bad game or a bad stretch of games or hell, even throws a bad pitch, it’s because of the elbow. Always the elbow. That’s lazy though. We’re better than that. If Tanaka’s elbow were acting up, he wouldn’t be able to spin the baseball the way he normally does, and right now the overall spin rates on his slider and splitter show no red flags.

Scouting the Trade Market: Gerrit Cole

(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)
(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

One thing has become abundantly clear the last few weeks: the Yankees need pitching. All types. Starters, relievers, lefties, righties, the whole nine. Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery look like long-term keepers, though the remainder of the rotation is up in the air. CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda will be free agents after the season, and who knows what’ll happen with Masahiro Tanaka‘s opt-out.

The Yankees have the flexibility to fill out their rotation in multiple ways. Enough money is coming off the books after this season that they could sign a free agent or two. They also have the prospects to promote from within and/or make a trade. Brian Cashman and his staff will explore every avenue. That’s what they do. If a high-end starter with long-term control becomes available, they’ll get involved. I’m sure of it.

One such starter who may be made available at the deadline — but not definitely — is Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole, who the Yankees drafted in the first round in 2008. Cole didn’t sign, went to UCLA for three years, then came out as the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft. You know the story. That won’t stop the Yankees from pursuing Cole in a trade. There’s not enough quality pitching out there to hold grudges. Let’s break down Cole as a trade target.

The Performance

Somehow this is already Cole’s fifth season in the big leagues. He made his MLB debut in June 2013 and he has been in Pittsburgh’s rotation ever since. Here are his numbers over the years, real quick:

IP ERA FIP K% BB% GB% HR/9 RHB wOBA LHB wOBA
2013 117.1 3.22 2.91 21.3% 6.0% 49.1% 0.54 .294 .275
2014 138 3.65 3.23 24.2% 7.0% 49.2% 0.72 .294 .326
2015 208 2.60 2.66 24.3% 5.3% 48.0% 0.48 .283 .266
2016 116 3.88 3.33 19.4% 7.1% 45.6% 0.54 .285 .371
2017 96.1 4.11 4.57 19.7% 6.0% 46.7% 1.59 .285 .367

Two things immediately stand out. Well, three things, really. One, Cole is in the middle of his worst big league season, both in terms of ERA and FIP. Two, he’s been very home run prone this year. I mean, every pitcher has been home run prone, but Cole especially so. He’s allowed one additional homer per nine innings pitched compared to the last few seasons.

And three, left-handed batters have really hit Cole hard since the start of 2016. He’s still the same ol’ Gerrit Cole against righties, but after performing very well against lefties from 2013-15, Cole hasn’t been able to keep them in check since the start of last season. I’m sure the home runs have something to do with that — again, everyone is giving up more homers these days — but it’s still a red flag. Here’s the batted ball data against lefties, via FanGraphs:

gerrit-cole-vs-lhb

So yeah, home runs have definitely been a problem. Nearly one-quarter of all fly balls Cole has given up to lefties have left the yard this season. That’s insane. Lefties aren’t getting the ball in the air that much more often against Cole, but they are pulling the ball and make hard contact more often. That makes sense. Most hitters have their most power when they pull the ball.

Cole has already allowed 12 home runs — 12! — to left-handed batters this season. He allowed 16 total from 2013-16. Hit Tracker data says only five of those 12 home runs were “Just Enoughs,” meaning the ball cleared the fence by fewer than ten vertical feet. Those barely got over the fence. The other seven qualifies as “No Doubt” and “Plenty,” meaning they were bombs. Not cheap home runs. Hmmm.

If you’re reading this, you know a right-handed pitcher who has trouble keeping left-handed batters in the park is bad news in Yankee Stadium. The short right field porch is only going to exacerbate that home run problem. Is this fixable? Or is this who Cole is now? That’s something the Yankees will have to consider before pursuing a trade.

The Stuff

Cole has five distinct pitches, but he is more of a four-and-a-half pitch pitcher than a true five-pitch pitcher. His curveball is basically a get-me-over pitch he’ll use to steal a strike now and then. It’s not a put-away pitch like his slider and changeup. And his fastball, for that matter. Here are the average velocities, via Brooks Baseball:

gerrit-cole-velocity

Yep. Cole throws hard. We knew that already. His four-seamer and sinker are both consistently over 95 mph — he’s topped out at 100.2 mph with the four-seamer and 99.7 mph with the sinker this season — while the slider and changeup are both a touch shy of 90 mph. Cole is Severino, basically. Everything he throws is hard. A power pitcher all the way.

Reading about pitches and seeing them in action are two very different things, so here’s some video:

Because of the issues with left-handed hitters the last two years, it’s worth digging a little deeper here. PitchFX and Trackman data shows Cole is throwing fewer four-seam fastballs to lefties this year and more of everything else. Cole may have changed his pitch selection a bit after last season, or this could be sample size noise. If he did change his pitch selection against lefties intentionally, it’s not really working. They’re taking him deep on the regular this year.

Here are the swing-and-miss rates by lefties against Cole’s various pitches, via Brooks Baseball:

gerrit-cole-whiff-vs-lhb

Just about everything is down from where it was from 2013-15, the years Cole more than held his own against lefties. The curveball is way down, though he has only thrown 91 curveballs to lefties this season. That’s not much. Then again, he threw 91 curves to lefties all of last season. He is throwing that pitch more often to batters on the other side of the plate and they are not swinging and missing much at all.

The changeup and slider are the important pitches here. Especially the changeup, though Cole will also back foot his slider to lefties. The slider is still getting plenty of empty swings relative to previous years. The changeup? Not so much. Only two of those 12 home runs by lefties have come against the changeup, but if the pitch is not on par with previous years, hitters don’t have to worry about it as much. It has an effect on Cole’s entire arsenal.

Something has gone awry here. Cole’s stuff is relatively unchanged, yet he’s been unable to keep left-handed batters in check since the start of last season. Just about all 12 of the home runs he’s allowed to lefties this year have come on pitches right out over the plate (via Baseball Savant) …

gerrit-cole-home-run-locations

… so obviously location is an issue. Tanaka has given up a ton of dingers this season. Why? Because he’s left too many pitches out over the plate. That’s the easy part. Why has he left more pitches out over the plate? In Tanaka’s case, we can see his slider and splitter haven’t been breaking as much as usual. I haven’t watch Cole as closely as I’ve watched Tanaka the last few seasons. I don’t know if he’s simply missing his spots, or if his pitches are backing up.

I suppose the important thing here is that Cole is still throwing hard and he’s still using his his four-and-a-half pitches. When the velocity starts to slip or a guy starts to stay away from one pitch entirely, it’s a big red flag. That hasn’t happened with Cole. His issues with left-handed hitters are very real, especially his home run problems. As long as Cole’s stuff is still there, there’s reason to hope those issues can be fixed.

Injury History

Cole, who will turn 27 in September, has been on the disabled list twice in his career, and both stints came last season. He missed a month with a biceps strain, then his season ended in late-August with elbow inflammation. The Pirates were out of the race and they decided to play it safe, and shut their ace down completely. Cole healed up over the winter and had a normal Spring Training, and his elbow has been fine since.

The fact Cole had two arm injuries as recently as last season is sorta scary, and that could also explain the issues with lefties last season. If his arm was aching, he might not have had the same finish on his pitches. That, of course, wouldn’t explain his problems with lefties this season, assuming his arm is not hurt now. Point is, Cole had been perfectly healthy up until last season, when his biceps and later his elbow started barking.

Contract Situation

This is Cole’s first season of arbitration eligibility. He will earn $3.75M this year and remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2018 and 2019, so he’s a two-and-a-half year pickup. Trade for Cole at this year’s trade deadline and you get him for three postseason runs and two full seasons. That’s not super long-term control, but he’s not a rental either.

It is worth noting Cole is a devoted Scott Boras client and union guy, which means he is expected to chase down every last dollar when free agency comes during the 2019-20 offseason. That doesn’t necessarily mean he wouldn’t re-sign with the Yankees (or whoever trades for him) when the time comes. It just means they shouldn’t expect a discount. They’ll have to outbid everyone else.

(Also, Cole has all three minor league options remaining, though that means nothing. You’re not trading for this guy with the idea of sending him to the minors at some point. The options are close to meaningless.)

What Will It Take?

(Joe Sargent/Getty)
(Joe Sargent/Getty)

Plenty of high-end starting pitchers have been traded over the years, though not many have been traded at the deadline, and with two-and-a-half years of team control remaining. Most trades involving big time pitchers take place in the offseason. That leaves us very short on trade benchmarks. Here are some pitchers who were recently traded with two or three years of team control remaining:

  • Chris Sale (three years of control): Traded for a top five global prospect (Yoan Moncada), a top 25 global prospect (Michael Kopech), a top ten organizational prospect (Luis Alexander Basabe), and a top 30 organizational prospect (Victor Diaz).
  • Wade Miley (three years of control): Traded for a preseason top 50-100 global prospect (Allen Webster), a reclamation project former top 100 prospect (Rubby De La Rosa), and a organizational non-top 30 prospect (Raymel Flores).
  • Wade Miley (two years of control): Traded with an organizational top 30 prospect (Jonathan Aro) for a high-leverage MLB reliever with five years of control (Carson Smith) and a depth arm (Roenis Elias).
  • Nathan Eovaldi (two years of control): Traded with an organizational top ten prospect (Domingo German) and an MLB bench player (Garrett Jones) for an everyday MLB player (Martin Prado) and an MLB swingman (David Phelps).
  • Drew Smyly (two years of control): Traded for an organizational top ten prospect (Mallex Smith), an organizational top 30 prospect (Ryan Yarborough), and an organizational non-top 30 prospect (Carlos Vargas).

Yeah. I don’t think any of those trades help us figure out what it’ll cost to get Cole. The Pirates will push for a Sale package, no doubt, but that’s not happening. Sale is much better than Cole, has no injury history, and he came with three full seasons of control, not two-and-a-half.

Both Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi recently reported the Pirates have no plans to tear things down and start a rebuild, making it unlikely they will trade Cole. They will, however, listen to offers. It never hurts to listen. Cole’s value is down at the moment — like I said, this is his worst MLB season — and while the idea of buying low sounds wonderful, I doubt the Pirates move him for pennies on the dollar.

This is what I think will happen: the Pirates will market Cole as an ace because he performed like one in the not-too-distant past, and they’ll seek multiple top prospects. Their ideal package probably includes two top prospects plus two nice secondary pieces. Can they get that? Hey, who knows. It only takes one team to say yes. Last year’s injury issues and this year’s homeritis will give teams pause. No doubt.

I don’t think it would be unreasonable for the Pirates to ask for Gleyber Torres in a Cole trade, and of course the Yankees will say no, even after his Tommy John surgery. A case can be made the three best non-Torres prospects in the farm system are outfielders: Clint Frazier, Blake Rutherford, and Dustin Fowler. The Pirates don’t need outfielders. They have Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco signed long-term, and they’re trying to trade Andrew McCutchen to open a spot for their Austin Meadows, their own top outfield prospect.

That said, when you trade a guy like Cole, the focus should be on getting as much talent as possible, not filling specific needs. If an outfielder is the best prospect they’re offered, they should take him, and figure out the rest later. The Yankees might have to build a package around Frazier, a strong secondary piece like Fowler or Chance Adams, plus two other players. Maybe an organizational 10-20 prospect (Domingo German? Dillon Tate?) and a 20-30 prospect (Josh Rogers? Zack Littell?). I’m spitballin’ here.

Does He Make Sense?

It depends on two things. One, the cost. Of course. The Pirates may market Cole as an ace but he is not an ace right now. Not with the way he’s performing and not with the way he’s been unable to neutralize lefties and keep balls in the park. He can be ace. But he’s not right now. The supply and demand nature of the trade deadline — will another pitcher as talented as Cole be available? — could push the price up into ace territory.

And two, are the problems with home runs and lefties fixable? That’s a huge question. Sticking a pitcher who can’t limit home runs and can’t handle left-handed hitters in Yankee Stadium — not mention in the DH league and in a division with three other hitter’s parks — is asking for trouble. Acquire this version of Cole and there are valid reasons to believe he’ll perform worse, not better. You have to be very confident in your ability to fix him.

The Yankees need rotation help beyond this season and the more high-upside starters they acquire, the better. Cole absolutely has the ability to be a top ten-ish pitcher in the big leagues. Every team would love to get their hands on this guy. There are enough red flags (injuries, homers, lefties) to make me skeptical, however. The Yankees drafted Cole, so they like him, though I wonder if they still like him enough to part with some of their best prospects.

Thoughts following the Castro injury and Tyler Wade call-up

(Jon Durr/Getty)
(Jon Durr/Getty)

Another day, another injured Yankee. Last night Starlin Castro went down with a right hamstring strain and tests today will determine the severity. The Yankees are calling up Tyler Wade, arguably their best healthy infield prospect, to replace Castro, which seems to indicate he’s heading to the disabled list. Sigh. The Yankees are now without Castro, Aaron Hicks (oblique), CC Sabathia (hamstring), Greg Bird (ankle), Matt Holliday (illness), and Adam Warren (shoulder). I have thoughts, so let’s get to ’em.

1. I know we’re all excited to see Wade — well, I know I am, I don’t know about you — but losing Castro really bites. Even after cooling off these last few weeks like the rest of his non-Aaron Judge teammates, Starlin still owns a .315/.348/.486 (121 wRC+) batting line with 12 home runs. The Yankees will miss that. The offense seems to be snapping out of its recent funk — the Yankees have scored 12 runs the last two days, which is hopefully the start of something big — but it’s still not all the way back yet. Castro is an important complementary bat around Judge and Gary Sanchez. All these injuries mean the lineup simply is not as deep as it was a few weeks back. Stinks.

2. The Yankees aren’t calling Wade up to sit. I expect him to play second base pretty much every day while Castro is out — I wouldn’t be opposed to starting Ronald Torreyes against tough lefties, at least initially (the Yankees are going to see Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon the next two games, for what it’s worth) — which is probably the best thing for him. The Yankees are grooming Wade to be a super utility guy, someone who can play a different position every day, but that’s not easy! Veterans have a tough time doing that. Asking a kid to do it in his first taste of the show is less than ideal. Replacing Castro gives Wade a chance to play a familiar position day after day, and get his feet wet in the big leagues. Once he’s comfortable, the Yankees can start moving him around. The Starlin injury bites. There’s no doubt about that. The upside is Wade gets to step into the lineup and play one position, not be asked to move all around the field right away.

3. I think there’s a chance Wade is up for good. If he performs well as Castro’s replacement, the Yankees will keep him up as that super utility player. It’s not like the bench couldn’t use the upgrade. Heck, perhaps he’d get a second half audition at third base given the long-term need at the position. The Yankees have moved Wade all around the infield in his career and they introduced him to the outfield in the Arizona Fall League last year for this exact reason. To get him on the roster and into the lineup. They like him a lot. Point is, I don’t think this is necessarily an injury fill-in and nothing more. Wade will get a chance to earn a spot and stick with the team going forward. This is a great opportunity for him. It’s a chance to leave the minor leagues behind.

Wade and a friend. (Jon Durr/Getty)
Wade and a friend. (Jon Durr/Getty)

4. The roster move figures to be quite simple. Castro to the disabled list and Wade called up. There’s still an open 40-man roster spot with Chris Carter having been designated for assignment, so there’s no need to clear a spot. Castro to the DL, Wade up. Easy peasy. I do wonder, however, if the Yankees would use the Castro DL stint to get around the ten-day rule and bring Mason Williams back, then send Rob Refsnyder down for Wade. That would give the Yankees a true fourth outfielder — neither Williams nor Refsnyder figure to hit much, but at least Mason can go get it in the outfield — and they’re not going to need Refsnyder’s ability to play (“play”) second since Wade and Torreyes can cover every infield position. I suppose they could keep Refsnyder around as a right-handed platoon bat, especially with a bunch of lefty starters coming up, but meh. My guess is the straight Castro-Wade swap. Swapping out Refsnyder for Williams wouldn’t be a bad idea though.

5. I can’t help but wonder whether Gleyber Torres would be getting called up instead of Wade right now if he were healthy. Gleyber was playing second base in addition to third down in the minors, so the Yankees could have plugged him right into the lineup to replace Castro. Man, that would have been fun as hell, wouldn’t it? Alas. The Yankees always try to downplay expectations with their prospects — Brian Cashman said last week a Torres call-up hadn’t really crossed the team’s minds, but come on — but I absolutely believe they were prepping Gleyber for a second half call-up. Probably to play third base, though if an injury opened up second base or shortstop, he would have ended up there. Now there’s an injury at second base and Torres isn’t there to take over. /sobs

6. Don’t overlook the Jorge Mateo angle here. Abi Avelino is going from Double-A Trenton to Triple-A Scranton to replace Wade and Mateo is going from High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton to replace Avelino. Mateo is hitting .240/.288/.400 (97 wRC+) this season, and going back to last year, he has a .249/.299/.387 (98 wRC+) batting line in 804 plate appearances at High-A Tampa. Not good! That said, I think there’s a chance the promotion will energize him a bit. I hope it does, anyway. I think the Yankees would love to see Mateo mash with Trenton and rebuild some value so they could trade him at some point, either at the deadline or in the offseason. Among all their top 100 caliber prospects, I always thought the Yankees considered Mateo the most expendable. Don’t ask me why. Just a hunch. Hopefully Mateo gets his act together with the Thunder and can contribute to the Yankees in some way down the line, either on their roster or as a trade chip.

Montgomery dominates in a 6-5 Yankees win over the White Sox

After all the futility that we saw in that homestand (and the past few weeks), it’s refreshing to see a win tonight to start the road trip. Jordan Montgomery stepped up as the stopper and the Yankee bats did their thing – despite losing Starlin Castro – to win this one 6-5. The bullpen was a bit shaky in the end but it sure is nice to have a 5-run lead heading into the ninth inning. They remain in first place along with the Red Sox, who also won a game tonight.

(Jon Durr/Getty Images)
(Jon Durr/Getty Images)

Gumby Good

Ho-hum, another good start from Jordan Montgomery. He’s been the Yankees best starter for the past few weeks – marking a 2.52 ERA in his last 6 starts.

The Yankees rookie did a great job being a stopper: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 8 K. He’s done much more than the Yankees could have hoped for and has become a legitimate ML starter. The only blemish from Montgomery tonight came in the bottom of the second. Todd Frazier hit the second pitch he saw from Montgomery over the left center field seats for a 1-0 White Sox lead. That was the only run Monty allowed all night.

Let’s go to Brooks Baseball to look at his arsenal tonight, shan’t we? He got 17 whiffs alone from his offspeed pitches, including 8 from his curveball. That’s pretty good. Yankees looked at him as a guy who can get hitters out with savvy approach using different looks and that’s exactly what he’s been able to do. After tonight’s start, his ERA dropped to 3.53 and he’s up to 1.6 fWAR, which is the 25th best among all qualified SP’s in the MLB. Not a bad

(Jon Durr/Getty Images)
(Jon Durr/Getty Images)

Let’s go get some runs

Trailing 1-0, the Yankees scored three in the fourth to get it started. Aaron Judge led off the frame with a walk. Gary Sanchez grounded to third but Judge advanced to third on an error by 3B Todd Frazier, making both runners safe. Tyler Austin followed it up with a sac fly to score Judge to make it 1-1 game. The Yankees didn’t stop there. Jacoby Ellsbury singled to put runners on first and second and Chase Headley followed it up with an RBI single of his own to make it 2-1 Yankees. Austin Romine walked to load the bases and Ronald Torreyes hit a sac fly that ultimately became a double play when 1B Matt Davidson cut the throw off and got SS Tim Anderson to tag out Headley advancing to second. Meanwhile, Ellsbury scored to make it 3-1 Yankees. Not a bad inning!

Tyler Austin added another run for the Yankees in the sixth. He got the 88 mph up the zone and hit a bullet into the bullpen over the left field fence to make it 4-1 Yankees. Ellsbury followed it up by hitting a roller down the first base line that pitcher David Holmberg couldn’t handle for an E-1. Headley hit a double to deep right to put two runners in RISP and that was it for Holmberg. White Sox brought in Juan Minaya to try to finish the inning off. Romine hit a sac fly to add another run and during Torreyes’ AB, Headley advanced to third on a passed ball by C Kevin Smith. Torreyes reached on a missed catch error by 1B Matt Davidson and Yankees tacked on another, 6-1. The White Sox played some sloppy, sloppy baseball in this frame. A five-run lead was pretty comfortable but man, thank God that Yankees scored that much because they really needed it later on.

Bullpen show

After Montgomery finished his 7-inning gem, Jonathan Holder was summoned to pitch in the eighth inning. After getting Tim Anderson strike out swinging, Holder allowed a single and walk to Melky Cabrera and Jose Abreu respectively. After he got Avisail Garcia to ground into a fielder’s choice to third, Joe Girardi brought in Dellin Betances to nail down the final out of the inning. After walking Frazier to load the bases, Betances struck out Matt Davidson to finish the eighth unscathed. That was just a prelude to a big egg that the bullpen would lay in the next inning.

Boy, the ninth got edgy pretty quickly didn’t it? The Yankees had a 6-1 lead heading into the 6-1 and, because it was far from being a save situation, Girardi sent Chasen Shreve to the mound to close it out. However, after getting the first out, Shreve allowed back-to-back singles to Smith and Adam Engel, and allowed a three-run bomb to Tim Anderson (on a 0-2 count!) to make it 6-4 Yankees lead.

Aroldis Chapman came in to try to nail down the last two outs. Dude still hits 100, 102 on the radar guns but the White Sox hitters pestered him well tonight. He threw 20 pitches and did not get a single whiff. Melky Cabrera singled to center and Jose Abreu followed it up with an RBI double to make it 6-5. Dicey! Thankfully, Avisail Garcia grounded out to third and Frazier flew out to Brett Gardner to end the game. This was way more stressful than it should’ve been, but a win is a win.

Leftovers

Aaron Judge did not get a hit but man, he still continues to be a wiz at getting on base. He walked three times tonight, which brings his season totals to 50. It’s not even the middle of the season and he has that much! The last time a Yankee hitter had more than 100 walks in a season was 2006 Jason Giambi, who had 110.

Starlin Castro, who’s been having a nice season, hurt himself in the top of the third trying to beat out a grounder for a base hit. He had to limp off the field and the Yankees announced that he had a hamstring strain. Not good! As a response, they are calling up Tyler Wade, who’s been hitting .313 with .834 OPS in the Triple-A this season (.351 BA, .894 OPS this month). Wade coming up is exciting because he’s a young guy (22-years old) with legitimate talent but you don’t want to see your starting second baseman with a good bat go down.

Box score, standings and WPA graph

Here’s tonight’s box score, updated standings and WPA graph.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees are back again tomorrow at the Guaranteed Rate Field at 8:10 pm EST. Luis Severino is up against the former Yankees farmhand Jose Quintana. It’ll be a nice matchup to watch.

DotF: Acevedo dominates in Trenton’s loss

A couple quick notes to pass along:

  • IF Tyler Wade is coming up to the big leagues, reports Kyle Franko. He’s going to replace the injured Starlin Castro. Also, IF Abi Avelino is going up to Triple-A Scranton and SS Jorge Mateo is going to Double-A Trenton in corresponding moves.
  • RHP Zack Littell has been moved back up from High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton, the team announced. He made one start with the Thunder two weeks ago. The Yankees have to many starters at each level and keep having to shuffle guys around.
  • C Kyle Higashioka has inflammation in his back, according to Conor Foley. He went for tests that showed no structural damage. Higashioka is currently on the Triple-A disabled list.

Triple-A Scranton (5-2 loss to Syracuse)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 1-3 — he was lifted from the game following the Castro injury
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 1-5, 1 RBI
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 0-4, 1 BB, 4 K — went from having no Triple-A strikeouts in six games to having four in seven games
  • LF Clint Frazier: 0-4, 2 K, 1 E (throwing)
  • RF Jake Cave: 2-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB — nine homers in 41 games this year after hitting eight in 116 games last year
  • LHP Joe Mantiply: 3 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 3/2 GB/FB — 30 of 50 pitches were strikes … making the spot start in place of RHP Ronald Herrera, who was called up to the big leagues earlier today
  • LHP Nestor Cortes: 3.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 34 of 50 pitches were strikes (68%) … up here to help out the bullpen for a day
  • RHP Ben Heller: 1.2 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 14 of 23 pitches were strikes (61%) … 41/13 K/BB in 32 innings

[Read more…]

Update: Castro exits Monday’s game with hamstring injury

(Jon Durr/Getty)
(Jon Durr/Getty)

9:27pm ET: Castro left the game with a right hamstring strain, the Yankees announced. I imagine he’ll head for tests to determine the severity and all that. Sigh. Rains, pours, etc. etc. Here’s the video.

8:59pm ET: Starlin Castro left tonight’s game in the third inning with an apparent leg injury. He pulled up lame running out down to first base on a ground ball. Joe Girardi and trainer Steve Donohue went out to talk to him, and Castro came out of the game almost immediately. He walked off the field gingerly.

The Yankees welcomed Jacoby Ellsbury back from the disabled list tonight, though they lost Aaron Hicks to an oblique strain yesterday, and they’re still without Greg Bird (ankle), CC Sabathia (hamstring), and Adam Warren (shoulder). Matt Holliday is out with an ongoing allergic reaction issue too.

Castro went into Monday’s game hitting .315/.350/.490 (122 wRC+) with 12 home runs. Losing him for any length of time would be really tough, especially with top prospect Gleyber Torres not an option to replace him. Stay tuned for any updates on Starlin.