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RHP Bryan Mitchell was named the Double-A Eastern League Pitcher of the Week. Not a bad week for him. He struck out 12 in six innings on Monday, turned 23 on Saturday, got called up to the big leagues on Sunday, and was named Pitcher of the Week today. That one day in the show gave him a $41,000 raise for the year. Not bad. (h/t Andy in Sunny Daytona)

According to Josh Norris, VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman said OF Slade Heathcott (knee) and 1B Greg Bird (back) are about two weeks from returning while RHP Danny Burawa (unknown) and LHP Nik Turley (arm) are still a ways off. No word on RHP Ty Hensley (hernia), RHP Jose Campos (taking it easy), and RHP Jose Ramirez (oblique).

Triple-A Scranton (4-2 loss to Lehigh Valley)

  • DH Corban Joseph, 3B Russ Canzler & CF Adonis Garcia: all 1-4 — CoJo drove in a run and struck out … Canzler struck out and committed a fielding error … Garcia scored a run
  • RF Ramon Flores, LF Zoilo Almonte & C Austin Romine: all 0-3, 1 BB — Zoilo stole a base … Flores and Romine both struck out once
  • 2B Jose Pirela: 1-2, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 SB — first two walks of the season
  • RHP Chris Leroux: 4 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 6/1 GB/FB — 48 of 70 pitches were strikes (69%)
  • LHP Fred Lewis: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 2 HB, 3/1 GB/FB – 28 of 43 pitches were strikes (65%)
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 14 of 20 pitches were strikes

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Categories : Down on the Farm
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As expected, the New York City Football Club will play its home games in Yankee Stadium during the 2015 season, it was announced. The expansion Major League Soccer franchise was unable to build a stadium of their own, so they will play in the Bronx for the time being. The Yankees co-own the team along with Manchester City. Although only the 2015 season was announced, NYCFC is expected to spend three years total in Yankee Stadium while they secure a facility of their own.

Categories : Asides, Yankee Stadium
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Apr
21

Monday Night Open Thread

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Two years ago today, the Yankees made a monster comeback from a 9-0 deficit to beat the Red Sox 15-9 at Fenway Park. I’m sure you remember that game. The only reason I realized today was the anniversary because it happened on the same day as Phil Humber’s perfect game — I remember FOX cut away from Nick Swisher‘s grand slam to show Humber’s final out — and I’ve be seeing tweets and posts about that all day. That was a pretty fun afternoon. The game was basically a microcosm of the Bobby Valentine era in Boston.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Mets are playing and ESPN will show the Reds and Pirates tonight (Leake vs. Liriano), plus there’s NHL and NBA playoff action going on somewhere. The Yankees are off today, in case you’re looking for their game. Use this thread to talk about anything your heart desires.

Categories : Open Thread
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The Yankees sent RHP Bryan Mitchell back to Double-A Trenton this morning, and this afternoon they announced RHP Matt Daley has been optioned to Triple-A Scranton. He remains on the 40-man roster despite being designated for assignment yesterday because the service time rules are weird. The same thing happened with IF Ramiro Pena a few years ago, so read this for a full explanation of what’s going on. Daley is not only still with the team, but he is still on the 40-man roster and can be called up easily whenever a spare bullpen arm is needed.

Categories : Asides, Transactions
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Apr
21

The Reinvention of CC Sabathia

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(Scott Halleran/Getty)

(Scott Halleran/Getty)

As you know, last season was the worst of CC Sabathia‘s career. By a lot. He was legitimately one of the worst pitchers in the game after being no worse than comfortably above-average for the better part of a decade. Sabathia’s ability to bounce back — not necessarily to an ace, just to something better than terrible — is pretty important to the team’s chances to contend this summer, even with Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda throwing so well early on.

Sabathia’s first four starts this year have been a mixed bag but they have gotten progressively better: six runs in six innings, four runs in six innings, four runs in seven innings, and two runs in seven innings. He has pitched very well early in his last three starts before allowing some runs in the later innings. There have definitely been multi-inning stretches where he was in total control, but we’ve yet to see an entire start like that. Hopefully it’s coming soon.

Unsurprisingly, Sabathia’s oft-discussed velocity did not bounce back this year. It never does. Once velocity goes it tends to stay gone. His four-seam fastball has averaged only 89.6 mph in his first four starts, down from 91.3 mph last year. I suspect that will tick up a little bit in the summer months as it usually does. How has Sabathia attempted to compensate for his missing heater? By simply throwing it less. He has de-emphasized his four-seamer. Look at his pitch selection courtesy of Brooks Baseball:

Four-Seamer Sinker Slider Changeup Cutter
2009 44.5% 16.8% 19.9% 18.9% 0.0%
2010 45.1% 15.7% 22.2% 17.0% 0.0%
2011 45.3% 13.4% 27.2% 14.1% 0.0%
2012 39.4% 14.8% 32.1% 13.7% 0.0%
2013 42.3% 14.9% 27.5% 15.2% 0.0%
2014 30.1% 27.4% 24.0% 16.4% 2.2%

Sabathia has incorporated a cutter this season but he rarely uses it, only a handful of times per game. He is throwing slightly fewer sliders and slightly more changeups, but nothing crazy. That’s probably a function of the small sample size more than anything. The big difference comes with the fastballs. Sabathia is throwing way fewer four-seamers than at any other time with the Yankees and he’s throwing a ton more sinkers, basically twice as many as he threw from 2011-13. That’s a big difference.

Sabathia is not necessarily using fastballs less, but now he is cutting them and especially sinking them more often. That doesn’t make him unique either. Not even close. That is an adjustment most veteran pitchers will make later in their careers. From Chris Cwik:

The added movement is likely one of the reasons we’ve seen veteran pitchers start using the sinker more often, according to PITCHf/x guru Harry Pavlidis. “As you lose velocity you need to add something,” says Pavlidis. “Movement is a good choice. So you’ll have older pitchers who lose velocity and adjust, or guys who are fringy and realize they can get a new edge, even if their velocity is still intact.”

Former major-league pitcher Brian Bannister agrees. “As pitchers lose the capability to throw powerful four-seam fastballs they have to compensate somehow,” Bannister said. “If you look at most of the pitchers who are still around as they get older, they are throwing sinking fastballs and not power fastballs because it matches up with how their body feels.”

Sort through the list of pitchers who have used the sinker the most since 2011 and they are almost all veterans in the second half of their career. Jake Westbrook, Derek Lowe, Jason Marquis, Kyle Lohse, Hiroki Kuroda, Bronson Arroyo, guys like that. Sabathia isn’t throwing his sinker as much as those guys just yet, but don’t be surprised if he creeps closer and closer to the top of that list in the coming years. It only makes sense to shelve the straight four-seamer in favor of the sinking sinker as the radar gun readings become less impressive.

Emphasizing the sinker is not the only adjustment Sabathia has made early this year. He is also pitching inside more often. According to the truly amazing Baseball Savant, Sabathia has come inside to right-handed batters with 29.5% of his pitches this year. That is up from 25.8% last year and 24.2% from 2011-13. (He’s only faced 12 lefty batters this year so I won’t even bother with those numbers.) I remember Mike Mussina (or maybe it was David Cone) saying that you have to pitch inside more when you start to lose velocity, and Sabathia has done early in 2014.

Between the increased reliance on his sinker and busting righties inside more often, CC has changed his pitching style in a tangible way so far this year. He had to after last season. The velocity isn’t coming back and adjustments had to be made. I’m guessing this is just the start of those adjustments too. We might see more sinkers, more cutters, and more pitches inside as the season continues and he gets more comfortable. The progressively better starts might be an indication of that.

Because of who he is and his importance to the Yankees, everything Sabathia does this season will be watched closely. At least by me. I’m somewhat fascinated by the way pitchers age in general, going from hard-throwing youngsters with big stuff to savvy veterans who rely on their brains as much as their arms. Sabathia was not a “thrower” these last few years, the guy knows how to pitch, but that doesn’t mean adjusting to reduced velocity is easy. Throwing more sinkers (and cutters) and pitching inside appear to be tangible changes to his approach this year, changes he needs to make at this point of his career.

Categories : Analysis, Pitching
Comments (41)
Vidal, open your eyes! (Brian Blanco/Getty)

Vidal, open your eyes! (Getty)

The Yankees got some very bad pitching news over the weekend. Ivan Nova left Saturday’s start with a sore elbow, and a subsequent MRI revealed a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. He will be re-evaluated in New York today and, based on how these things have gone for other pitchers around the league, it’s very likely Nova will need Tommy John surgery in the near future. The procedure would end his season and delay the start of his 2015 campaign as well.

Nova was the team’s least effective pitcher so far this season — that could be the result of the injury, of course — so the Yankees will only have to replace their fifth starter. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a big loss or anything like that, but there’s a difference between losing Nova and losing one of the other starters. This blow is easier to absorb. What can the Yankees do to replace Nova? Several things, actually. Let’s look at this two different ways.

Immediate Replacements
The Yankees have already placed Nova on the 15-day DL, so even if today’s re-evaluation brings best case scenario news, he’s going to miss a minimum of two starts. (Off-days could help the team out a bit.) Vidal Nuno pitched well in yesterday’s spot start (five scoreless innings) and today’s off-day allows him to step right into Nova’s rotation spot, if the team decides to go that way. I have to think they will based on yesterday’s work.

The other options on the big league roster are Adam Warren and David Phelps, both of whom competed for the fifth starter’s job in camp. Warren has settled into a one-inning setup role and even though the season is barely three weeks old, I think he’s there to stay. Even with David Robertson due to come off the DL tomorrow. Phelps has become more of a multi-inning, multi-purpose reliever. He works the middle innings, the late innings, whatever is needed. Kinda like 2009 Al Aceves. Both Warren and Phelps would need to be stretched back out, unlike Nuno.

The Triple-A options aren’t very good. The RailRiders have a mostly veteran retread rotation, and the only guy on the staff with any kind of big league success is, well, Al Aceves. He was last effective in 2011. I can’t imagine others like Brian Gordon, Bruce Billings, and Chris Leroux will get serious rotation consideration. Same with Manny Banuelos. (Billings has been quite good actually, with a 2.74 ERA and 2.67 FIP in 23 innings.) I can’t see any of these guys getting the nod over Nuno or Phelps right now. If anything, Aceves could be called up to fill a bullpen job, but that’s probably it. Nuno seems like the guy right now.

(Brian Garfinkel/Getty)

(Brian Garfinkel/Getty)

Longer-Term Replacements
If Nova does indeed go down for the rest of the season — even avoiding surgery and successfully rehabbing the injury will sideline him for weeks if not months — I think the Yankees have to consider making a trade to bolster their rotation. Remember, Michael Pineda is going to have his workload monitored closely following shoulder surgery, plus we don’t really know what to expect out of Masahiro Tanaka late in the season now that he’s starting every fifth day for the first time in his life. Plus Hiroki Kuroda has shown a tendency to wear down late in the year. Adding some rotation help is never a bad idea.

When looking for trade candidates, the easiest thing to do is find impending free agents on non-contenders. There are fewer sellers at the deadline these days because of the second wildcard spot, so the pool of available players really shrinks. Teams like the Diamondbacks (Brandon McCarthy?), Astros (Jerome Williams?), and Cubs (Jason Hammel?) seem like safe bets to be terrible. The Marlins (Kevin Slowey?), Rockies (Jorge De La Rosa?), and Padres (Eric Stults?) are other potential sellers.

The big rotation trade candidate is the same guy it’s been for about three years now: Cliff Lee. We know the Yankees love him, he remains among the game’s truly elite pitchers, and at this point there is only ~$45M left on his contract through next year. It’s not a huge long-term commitment. (His deal does include a vesting option for 2016.) Lee is someone any team would love to add to their staff and he’d be ultra-overqualified to replace Nova. Even if the Phillies decide to sell, do the Yankees have the prospects to compete against offers from clubs like the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Rangers?

* * *

The upcoming rotation situation would have been much murkier had Nuno gotten bombed yesterday. But, because he pitched well, he’ll likely get another chance or three to fill-in for Nova. And who knows? Maybe Nuno is the long-term solution. If not, the Yankees can try Phelps. A trade is something I think they should consider no matter how well those two perform, but that can wait. It’s early in the season and the Yankees can afford to be patient with their internal options. Nova did not pitch well in his first four starts this year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he will be easy to replace.

Categories : Pitching
Comments (169)

As expected, the Yankees have sent right-hander Bryan Mitchell back to Double-A Trenton, the team announced. The move clears a roster spot for David Robertson, who will be activated off the 15-day DL prior to tomorrow night’s series opener against the Red Sox. Mitchell did not pitch during his one day in the show and was only up as an emergency long man.

Categories : Asides, Transactions
Comments (13)

Record Last Week: 4-2 (26 RS, 30 RA)
Season Record: 11-8 (75 RS, 84 RA, 8-11 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, @ Red Sox (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), vs. Angels (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 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?

Categories : Polls
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Source: FanGraphs

After the way things went down on Friday and Saturday, it feels like a minor miracle that the Yankees escaped this four-game series with a split. They needed 12 innings and five (really six counting Vidal Nuno) relievers to beat the Rays 5-1 on Sunday afternoon. The good news is that the Yankees do not return to Tropicana Field until the middle of August, so we don’t have to see this house of horrors for another few months.

I didn’t see any of the game because I was out visiting family for Easter, but I did watch the highlights and flip through the play-by-play. That Dean Anna walk in the 12th inning looked like one hell of an at-bat, so I pulled it up on MLB.tv and sure enough, it was one hell of an at-bat. Nine total pitches, including three foul balls after being down 1-2 in the count. Great job by Anna. I’m so happy intentionally walking the bases loaded blew up in Joe Maddon’s face. By WPA (+.325), the walk was the Yankees’ biggest offensive play of the season by frickin’ far.

Nuno gave the Yankees exactly what they needed in his spot start, twirling five shutout innings and holding Tampa to three hits and two walks. He struck out six. A parade of relievers blew the one-run lead but otherwise held the Rays to three hits and three walks in seven innings. Big ups to Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley, and Preston Claiborne for holding down the fort with multiple innings of work. After the last few days, this collective bullpen performance was very welcome.

From what I understand, there was some controversy on a would-be Brett Gardner triple that was ruled a ground-rule double. I guess Wil Myers trapped the ball against the wall, or something like that. I also understand the infield defense was a mess, and the three errors back that up. The Yankees fell victim to the new (and stupid) transfer rule for the first time in the seventh, when Brian Roberts bobbled the potential double play ball. The new rule says the fielder needs to catch the ball and make a clean transfer for an out. Supposedly that will soon change and go back to the way it was, as it should.

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. Apologies for the lack of an in-depth recap, but family and the holiday. You know how it is. The Yankees are off on Monday — Ivan Nova‘s partially torn UCL will be re-evaluated — and will then head to Boston for a three-game series against the Red Sox. Masahiro Tanaka and Jon Lester will start that series on Tuesday night. Fun!

Categories : Game Stories
Comments (77)
Apr
20

Sunday Night Open Thread

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Here is your open thread for this lovely Sunday evening. The Orioles and Red Sox are the ESPN Sunday Night Game (Ubaldo vs. Peavy), plus there’s playoff basketball and hockey on all night. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s game, Ivan Nova‘s bum elbow, or anything else right here.

Categories : Asides, Open Thread
Comments (119)