Silver Lining: CC Sabathia shows he still has something left in loss to Tigers

Changeup! (Presswire)
Changeup! (Presswire)

The Yankees dropped last night’s series opener to the Tigers in a pretty annoying way — they jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, didn’t build on it, then watched as Detroit used some less than well struck balls to rally for two runs in seventh. An annoying loss, no doubt, but it’s still just one loss. Before you know it that game will fade from memory and blend into the glob of baseball we forget each season.

The loss did come with a silver lining, however, and that of course was CC Sabathia‘s complete game performance. He allowed those two runs on seven singles and three walks, and it wasn’t until that seventh inning that the high-powered Tigers had a runner reach second base. Sabathia struck out five, threw 62 of 98 pitches for strikes (63%), got nine swings and misses, and 12 of the 21 balls put in play against the big lefty were on the ground. Solid performance all around.

Unlike his first two starts, when his velocity gradually faded as the game progressed (first start, second start), Sabathia held his velocity all night last night despite the cold, windy, rainy conditions. He hit 90.7 mph in the first at-bat of the game and 91.7 mph in the last. There was no drop-off. Here’s the velocity graph via Brooks Baseball:

CC Sabathia Tigers velocity

Most pitchers lose a little something in the later innings, it’s normal, but for a guy who’s lost noticeable fastball oomph with age, sustaining velocity all night was a very encouraging sign for Sabathia. His margin for error is relatively small as it is, and if he’s able to avoid having that margin for error get even smaller when his pitch count climbs north of, say, 70 pitches, the more effective he’ll be overall.

I thought Tigers manager Brad Ausmus did Sabathia a bit of a favor by loading his lineup with right-handed hitters — all nine players in his lineup were righties — because it allowed him to stick with the same approach all night: fastballs to both sides of the plate and changeups down and away. He threw only eleven sliders out of 98 pitches (11%) after throwing 28% sliders in his first two starts. The lack of a lefty hitter allowed Sabathia to get in a rhythm and stick with one approach all night.

That’s a luxury Sabathia won’t have every start but teams do still stack their lineups with righties again him — only six of the 53 batters he faced in his first two starts were lefties, and even last season only 31 of 209 batters faced were lefties (15%). Sabathia’s changeup is super important because he always faces a ton of right-handed batters and last night was an opportunity to really dig in and work on that pitch, which was an issue in his first two starts (opponents hit .308 against it).

Coming into the season, we really had no idea what to expect from Sabathia following knee surgery and 257 pretty ugly innings from 2012-13 (4.87 ERA and 4.22 FIP). His three starts have gotten progressively better — five runs in 5.2 innings, four runs in seven innings, two runs in eight innings — and there are other positive signs as well, including the way he held his velocity and used his changeup last night. The loss stunk, that’s baseball, but the Sabathia we saw last night can be an effective pitcher. CC is trending in the right direction earlier this season, for sure.

DotF: Wade, Snyder, and Davis lead Tampa to blowout win

Both RHP David Palladino and LHP Fred Lewis have been placed on the DL, according to Matt Eddy. Not sure what’s wrong with either.

Triple-A Scranton (4-3 win over Lehigh Valley in 15 innings, walk-off style) 15 innings!

  • CF Slade Heathcott: 0-6, 1 BB, 2 K
  • DH Ramon Flores: 2-6, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K — keeps mashing
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 3-7, 1 2B, 1 K — gets his average up to .262
  • 1B Kyle Roller: 1-1, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB
  • RF Tyler Austin: 1-7, 3 K — got picked off first
  • C Austin Romine: 0-6, 1 BB, 1 K
  • SS Nick Noonan: 1-5, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — walk-off single
  • RHP Jaron Long: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 5/5 GB/FB — 56 of 96 pitches were strikes (58%)
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 0/2 GB/FB — 14 of 20 pitches were strikes (70%)
  • RHP Jose Ramirez: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 0/2 GB/FB — 18 of 28 pitches were strikes (64%) … ten strikeouts and three walks in 8.1 innings and one of the walks was intentional
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 3/2 GB/FB – 25 of 31 pitches were strikes (81%) … efficient!
  • RHP Danny Burawa: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 2/0 GB/FB — nine pitches, five strikes

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Game 13: Streakin’

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees have two nice little streaks going right now. One, they’ve won three straight games for the first time this season. Two, they’ve scored at least five runs in four straight games. The first streak is cool but not exactly rare. Even last year’s team managed eleven winning streaks of at least three games. It’s a very long season. Three-game winning streaks happen.

The 5+ runs thing is bit more uncommon. In fact, the Yankees never once scored at least five runs in four straight games last season. Not once. They did it in three straight games on four different occasions, but never once in four consecutive games. You have to go back to September 2013 for the last time New York put up five or more runs in four straight games. The Yankees are in Detroit tonight looking to extended both streaks. Here is the Tigers’ lineup and the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. C Brian McCann
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    LHP CC Sabathia

It has been raining in Detroit pretty much all afternoon but it is supposed to clear out in time for tonight’s game. The game is scheduled to begin at 7:08p ET and you can watch live on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy.

2015 MLB Draft: Ian Happ

Ian Happ | OF

Background
Happ, 20, is a Pittsburgh kid who went undrafted out of high school in 2012. He stepped right into the starting lineup as a freshman for Cincinnati and hit .322/.446/.489 with 26 doubles, eleven homers, 79 walks, 67 strikeouts, and 44 steals in 54 attempts in 107 games his first two years on campus. Happ went into the weekend hitting .386/.509/.693 with nine doubles, ten homers, 34 walks, 34 strikeouts, and five steals in eleven attempts in 37 games this spring. (No relation to J.A. Happ as far as I can tell.)

Scouting Report
Listed at 6-foot-0 and 205 lbs., Happ is a switch-hitter who is more refined from the left side but has a quick bat and line drive stroke from the both sides of the plate. He has an advanced knowledge of the strike zone and good power potential that is starting to blossom this spring. Happ is just an okay runner despite his impressive stolen base totals as a freshman and sophomore, and he’s still learning the nuances of the outfield after playing second base earlier in his college career. It’ll be interesting to see if whichever team drafts him decides to give Happ another try on the infield in pro ball. He’s an aggressive, high energy player who will earn the “gritty” label in a hurry.

Miscellany
Keith Law (subs. req’d), MLB.com, and Baseball America ranked Happ as the sixth, 15th, and 17th best player in the draft class in their latest rankings, respectively. This draft is really light on bats though and, as a college hitter with big stats, I wouldn’t be surprised if Happ came off the board earlier than projected. (The Yankees pick 16th overall.) As a switch-hitter with plate discipline and promising power, Happ seems like the kind of player the Yankees always try to have in their lineup. That he excelled in the Cape Cod League — Happ hit .329/.433/.503 with 12 doubles and four homers in 43 games with the Harwich Mariners last summer and was ranked as the sixth best prospect in the circuit by Baseball America — only makes him more of a target for New York.

4/20 to 4/23 Series Preview: Detroit Tigers

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

The Yankees have won four of the first six games of this ten-game road trip, but the last four games figure to be the toughest. They’re in Detroit tonight to start a four-game series against a Tigers team that has been the best in baseball in the early going this year. And in case you’re wondering, no, the Yankees will not face Shane Greene this series. He started yesterday.

What Have The Tigers Done Lately?

Like I said, the Tigers have been the best team in baseball so far this year. They just took two of three from the White Sox — losing only to Chris Sale — and are 10-2 on the young season. Manager Brad Ausmus’ club has the best record and the best run differential (+33) in baseball right now. It’s super early of course, but no team in all of MLB has been better than the four-time defending AL Central champs.

Offense & Defense

Yesterday afternoon’s game was the sixth time in 12 games this year the Tigers scored at least seven runs. Six times in 12 games! They’re averaging 5.67 runs per game with a team 138 wRC+. That’s pretty damn good. It helps to be healthy on offense — Detroit doesn’t have a single position player on the DL or even listed as day-to-day.

Miggy. (Gregory Shamus/Getty)
Miggy. (Gregory Shamus/Getty)

As always, Ausmus’ lineup revolves around the incredible 1B Miguel Cabrera (220 wRC+), who is simply the best hitter of his generation. OF J.D. Martinez (129 wRC+) and OF Yoenis Cespedes (152 wRC+) provide some complementary right-handed pop and the switch-hitting DH Victor Martinez (108 wRC+) is off to a nice start as well. SS Jose Iglesias (188 wRC+) is living the good BABIP life right now (.459).

OF Rajai Davis (118 wRC+) and OF Anthony Gose (190 wRC+) platoon in center field and 3B Nick Castellanos (125 wRC+) is the former top prospect trying to build on an okay rookie year. C Alex Avila (119 wRC+) is still the starting catcher and 2B Ian Kinsler (112 wRC+) is seemingly the “weak spot” on offense right now. IF Andrew Romine, IF Hernan Perez, and C James McCann round out the rarely used bench.

Defensively, the Tigers are strongest up the middle thanks mostly to Gose, Kinsler, and Iglesias. Davis isn’t as rangy as you’d expect someone with his speed to be and Avila is just an okay pitch-framer. Castellanos and Cabrera are comfortably below-average on the infield corners and Martinez is in right field because of his bat, not his glove. Cespedes is an above-average defender thanks mostly to his arm, not his range. That said, the Tigers are much better defensively than they have been these last few years.

Pitching Matchups

The Yankees have been talking about possibly using a spot sixth starter this week (Chase Whitley? Kyle Davies?) to give everyone in the rotation an extra day of rest, but the forecast for Detroit the next few days isn’t pretty. The rotation might get that extra day of rest thanks to a rainout rather than a sixth starter. We’ll see.

Monday: LHP CC Sabathia (Career vs. DET) vs. RHP Alfredo Simon (Career vs. NYY)
The Simon trade was one of the weirder trades of the offseason because he seemed like such an obvious fluke last season — Simon had a 2.70 ERA (4.33 FIP) with a .232 BABIP in 116.2 innings in the first half last year, went to the All-Star Game, then had a 4.52 ERA (4.34 FIP) with a .309 BABIP in 79.2 innings in the second half. Still, the Tigers traded for him, and it’s worked out so far. The 33-year-old Simon has allowed three runs in 13.1 innings across two starts, though he’s only struck out three. His strikeout rate has fallen from 19.3% in 2012 to 17.6% in 2013 to 15.5% in 2014 to 10.2% in the super early going this year. (To be fair, he moved from the bullpen to the rotation in 2014.) Simon is basically a four-pitch pitcher but it’s not the usual fastball/slider/changeup/curveball mix. He throws a low-90s two-seamer, a mid-80s cutter, a low-80s splitter, and a mid-70s curve. Lefties have traditionally given him a much harder time than righties despite the splitter.

Lobstein. (Gregory Shamus/Getty)
Lobstein. (Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Tuesday: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (Career vs. DET) vs. LHP Kyle Lobstein (Career vs. NYY)
The 25-year-old Lobstein is in Detroit’s rotation thanks to the first DL trip of Justin Verlander’s career — he suffered a triceps injury late in Spring Training and is slowly working his way back. Verlander’s still several weeks away from returning. Lobstein, a former Rule 5 Draft pick, got a cup of coffee last season (4.35 ERA and 3.82 FIP in 39.1 innings) and has made one start this year, allowing three runs on eight hits and two walks in five innings against the Indians. Last season in Triple-A he had a 4.07 ERA (3.45 FIP) with 19.9 K% and 6.6 BB% in 146 innings. Lobstein is the quintessential finesse lefty — he sits 86-89 mph with his fastball and uses low-80s cutters and changeups to keep hitters off balance. Every once in a while he’ll flip a low-80s curveball just to keep everyone honest. Lobstein is the opposite of overpowering and the Yankees will have to make sure they lay off his soft stuff just off the plate.

Wednesday: RHP Adam Warren (Career vs. DET) vs. LHP David Price (Career vs. NYY)
The Yankees get stuck facing Price this series, but you know what? It’s better than facing him six times a year like they did when he was in Tampa. Price, 29, is off to an incredible start, allowing just one earned run in 22.1 innings across three starts. He’s struck out 20, walked five, and allowed only 13 hits. Last season was arguably the best of his career — which is really saying something considering he won the Cy Young Award a few years ago — thanks to a 3.26 ERA (2.78 FIP) in an MLB leading 248.1 innings. His strikeout (26.9 K%) and walk (3.8 BB%) rates were off the charts. Price is the ultimate combination of power and precision. He still sits mid-90s with both his two and four-seamers and can paint the corners of both sides of the plate with both pitches. His mid-80s slider gradually morphed into an upper-80s cutter these last few years and Price will also throw a handful of mid-80s changeups and upper-70s curveballs per start. He throws the two-seamer, four-seamer, and cutter a combined ~80% of the time. There’s no messing around here. Price dares hitters to hit his fastball and it no one has been able to do it consistently for years now.

Thursday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (Career vs. DET) vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez (Career vs. NYY)
Sanchez has been a personal favorite for a few years now but he’s off to a rough start this season, allowing 14 runs on 20 hits in 16.1 innings. Seventeen strikeouts and four walks are nice, five homers allowed is not. (He allowed four homers in 126 innings in 2014.) Sanchez, 31, had a 3.43 ERA (2.71 FIP) with 19.8 K% and 5.8 BB% last season and put up similar numbers for several years now. He’s a deep arsenal guy, using low-90s four-seamers, low-90s sinkers low-90s cutters, mid-80s splitters, mid-80s sliders, and upper-70s curveballs fairly regularly. He’ll throw just about anything in any count too. Sanchez is off to a slow start this year but he’s real tough most days.

Avila and Soria. (Justin K. Aller/Getty)
Avila and Soria. (Justin K. Aller/Getty)

Bullpen Status
The bullpen is always an issue for Detroit, isn’t it? This year their relief crew has a 3.00 ERA (2.33 FIP) overall, which actually has them among the best in MLB, but it’s still early. They are without closer RHP Joe Nathan, who is on the DL with an elbow issue. RHP Joakim Soria (1.58 FIP) has stepped in as closer and given Nathan’s big time struggles since the start of last season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Soria keep the job the rest of the season.

Among those setting up Soria are RHP Al Alburquerque (2.99 FIP), LHP Tom Gorzelanny (1.36 FIP), and RHP Joba Chamberlain (0.59 FIP). LHP Ian Krol (2.09 FIP) will see matchup duty against lefties and the last two bullpen spots belong to LHP Blaine Hardy (4.61 FIP) and RHP Angel Nesbitt (2.56 FIP). Despite their early season success, this non-Soria group of relievers isn’t the steadiest in the world. Get the starter out early enough and you can take advantage. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of New York’s bullpen and then check out Bless You Boys for everything you need to know about the Tigers heading into the series.

Fan Confidence Poll: April 20th, 2015

Record Last Week: 4-2 (33 RS, 23 RA)
Season Record: 6-6 (64 RS, 56 RA, 7-5 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: @ Tigers (four games, Mon. to Thurs.), vs. Mets (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

DotF: Mitchell and Lindgren lead RailRiders to a win

Bad news: LHP Ian Clarkin has elbow inflammation, assistant GM Billy Eppler told Josh Norris. Clarkin will be shut down for a few weeks. At least it’s not something more serious, I guess. This has already been a pretty tough year for injuries in the farm system.

Triple-A Scranton (4-1 win over Syracuse)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 2-5, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • LF Ramon Flores: 1-4 — he has eleven hits and only five are singles (two doubles, one triple, four homers)
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 1-3, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 E (fielding) — got picked off first … that’s five errors in nine games now … he had 12 errors in 122 games all of last season
  • RF Tyler Austin: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K
  • RHP Bryan Mitchell: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 11/3 GB/FB — 59 of 94 pitches were strikes (63%) … very nice outing on his 24th birthday
  • LHP Jacob Lindgren: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 4/0 GB/FB — 21 of 30 pitches were strikes (70%) … 27 of the 32 batters he’s faced this year have either struck out (nine) or hit a ground ball (18) … just wasting bullets down here

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