Yankeemetrics: Bronx (bullpen) is burning [June 20-22]

(Getty)
(Getty)

Please deactivate Clip-bot
The Yankees returned to the friendly confines on Tuesday night but the story was virtually the same as the previous six games: they got themselves into an early hole thanks to some shaky starting pitching, then rallied to tie the score with a couple Baby Bombs, but a bullpen meltdown ultimately sealed their fate, resulting in another loss.

Their losing streak reached seven games, just the third time in the last two decades the Yankees have suffered that many consecutive defeats within a season – the other seven-game losing streaks came in 2000 (ended nicely!) and 2007 (ended pretty good).

What made this loss even more disheartening is that the odds were in the Yankees favor entering Tuesday’s game:

  • They had won nine straight in the Bronx against the Angels, tied for the second-longest win streak vs. any opponent at the new Yankee Stadium, and the second-longest home win streak against the Angels in the history of the rivalry.
  • The Yankees were 24-8 vs. the Angels at the current Yankee Stadium, their best record against an American League team at the ballpark
  • They had the AL’s best home record (22-9), and led the league in runs per game, batting average, home runs per game and pretty much every offensive statistic at home.

But then Tyler Clippard torched whatever good vibes the Yankees had built up, and the Yankees were losers, again. He entered with the game tied in the seventh – faced four batters, allowed three extra-base hits and three runs, got one long flyout — and exited to a chorus of boos.

Clippard was tagged with his fourth loss of the season, and only Masahiro Tanaka had more among Yankee pitchers after Tuesday’s disaster. Even worse, he suffered his 10th meltdown of the season, the most among AL pitchers through Tuesday. And his slugging percentage allowed in high-leverage situations increased to .737, per baseball-reference.com. Yeah, and Aaron Judge is “only” slugging .702 this season.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Back to business
Our long Bronx nightmare finally came to an end on Wednesday night as the Yankees snapped their seven-game losing streak with a 8-4 win over the Angels.

They avoided what would have been their first eight-game slide since 1995. If you think that’s a long drought … you’d be correct! Every other major-league franchise has suffered at least three losing streaks of eight-or-more games since the start of the 1996 season. And the Yankees have zero.

Jordan Montgomery delivered yet another impressive and gutsy performance (two runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings), and it was his curveball that really stood out as a legit weapon for him against the Angels.

He threw 32 curves, per Brooksbaseball.net, and the Angels were 0-for-7 with four strikeouts in at-bats that ended with a curveball. Opponents are now hitting .155 against the pitch this season, the ninth-lowest average among starters (min. 200 curves). Montgomery also netted eight curveball whiffs on 14 swings (53.3%), increasing his swing-and-miss rate with the pitch to 42.7 percent, another top-10 mark for him among starters that have thrown at least 200 curves this season. Pretty good for a rookie, eh?

While Montgomery kept the Yankees in the game on the mound, the hero of the night at the plate was Matt Holliday, who broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth inning with a solo shot to right-center. It was a milestone hit for Holliday, too, his 1,200th career RBI.

This lets us reflect on his all-around greatness – his ability to hit for power, drive in runs, get on base – among left-fielders, the position he played for much of 14-year career. He is one of just four players in major-league history that played at least two-thirds of their games in left, and accumulated at least 1,200 RBI, 300 homers, 450 doubles and 700 walks.

The others: Ted Williams, Luis Gonzalez and Barry Bonds.

Holliday wasn’t the only Yankee that entered the record books on Wednesday night – though Tyler Clippard did so in the ugliest way possible. He was inserted in the ninth inning for mop-up duty, and then immediately gave up a booming double to the first batter he faced, and a two-run homer to the next guy, before Joe Girardi mercifully pulled him from the game without getting an out.

Combined with his dreadful outing less than 24 hours earlier (see above), Clippard became the first pitcher in Yankee history to allow at least two earned runs and two extra-base hits in back-to-back appearances of one-third of an inning or fewer.

(AP)
(AP)

No lead is safe
Deja vu was the theme of Thursday night’s brutal loss as the Yankees once again found themselves in an early hole, then quickly rallied to take the lead, only to have the bullpen (and some sloppy defense) set fire to that mid-game optimism, resulting in another disgusting defeat.

It was their sixth loss this season when entering the seventh inning with a lead, matching the same number of losses they had in that situation as all of last year. They also got charged with their 13th blown save of the season, one shy of the Tigers for the most in the majors. At this point last year (game number 70), the Yankees had just four blown saves. And it was the third time this year they lost a game after leading by four or more runs. Yup, you guessed it, that’s the same number of such losses they suffered the entire 2016 season.

The difference on Thursday was that Dellin Betances hopped on the Struggle Bus, coughing up two runs on two hits (single and double). In his first 24 appearances of the season combined, he had surrendered only two runs (one earned) and had yet to give up an extra-base hit.

The night actually started on a high note when Aaron Judge crushed his 25th homer of the season in the second inning to straightaway center and deep into Monument Park, giving the Yankees a 5-1 cushion. It was his MLB-leading 15th longball with an exit velocity of at least 110 mph; last year’s leaders in 110-plus mph home runs (Nelson Cruz, Giancarlo Stanton) had 14 … for the entire season.

Of course, he’s not just obliterating the Statcast leaderboards, he’s making a mockery of the Yankee and major-league record books too.

  • His 25 homers are just four shy of the Yankee rookie record set by Joe DiMaggio in 1936.
  • He’s just the fifth Yankee age 25 or younger to hit 25-or-more homers before the All-Star break (since the game was first played in 1933). The others you might have heard of: Mickey Mantle (1956) and Roger Maris (1960).
  • Judge is the second Yankee right-handed batter to reach 25 home runs before the All-Star break, joining a fella named Alex Rodriguez in 2007

And, finally, Judge is the only MLB rookie outfielder ever to hit at least 25 homers before the All-Star break. #AllRise

Let’s talk about Chris Carter and Tyler Austin

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

The Yankees lost their seventh straight game last night, and the biggest reason was the bullpen. Again. The offense didn’t light the world on fire, but Tyler Clippard and Jonathan Holder combined to allow five runs in three innings. That simply is not good enough. The bullpen has been a major sore spot for more than a week now.

Another reason the Yankees lost: Chris Carter. His second inning error on a routine ground ball contributed to two runs, and he also went 0-for-3 at the plate. Joe Girardi lifted him for pinch-hitter Austin Romine (!) in the ninth inning. When asked about Carter being his starting first baseman after the game, Girardi said, “That’s what we have.” Yikes. Not exactly a ringing endorsement!

Based on his tone over the last few days and weeks, it’s clear Girardi’s patience with Carter has run out. He doesn’t want to use him at first base but he has to because, well, there’s no one else. The Yankees could play Matt Holliday at first base more often, though I hate that idea given Holliday’s age, and the other option is Rob Refsnyder Eek. The first base depth chart looks like this while Greg Bird is out:

  1. Chris Carter
  2. Tyler Austin
  3. Rob Refsnyder
  4. Matt Holliday
  5. Ji-Man Choi

Austin is down in Triple-A, where he’s hitting .287/.357/.494 (132 wRC+) with two homers and a 28.6% strikeout rate in 24 games. The Yankees don’t think he’s ready to help at the MLB level, however. I know that because they haven’t called him up. Brian Cashman said yesterday Austin is striking out too much, which is true. Heck, Austin himself said the other day that his timing at the plate still isn’t right. From D.J. Eberle:

“I was trying to get a feel of staying inside the ball,” Austin tells the media that night. “It’s one of those things where I feel like my swing has been a little long for me the past few days and I feel like (Wednesday) was good for me to get some of that work done.”

“I feel good. I feel like I’m making strides every day at the plate and defensively,” he said. “I think its more of just getting reps, picking up spin of the ball and swinging at pitches in the zone. I feel like that’s the big thing for me right now and I’m trying to do every time I go up there.”

The Carter/Austin situation reminds me of the Stephen Drew/Refsnyder situation back in 2015. Drew was terrible that year — he hit .201/.271/.381 (76 wRC+) in 2015 — and we all wanted to see Refsnyder, the kid tearing the cover off the ball in the minors who happened to play the same position. I know I did. Why aren’t they calling him up? The Yankees obviously hate Refsnyder, right? Well, no. Refsnyder just wasn’t as good as we all thought.

I feel like the same thing is happening here, though Carter this year has been worse than Drew in 2015. (Drew at least played above-average defense at an up-the-middle position.) Austin isn’t being called up because the Yankees don’t think he’s an upgrade over Carter, the same way they didn’t think Refsnyder was an upgrade over the Drew, and the Yankees have more information than us. When it comes to minor league promotions and all that, the team knows better than we do. Always and forever. The Yankees are not stupid. They know what they’re doing.

A few things about the ongoing first base situation. One, Carter has been better of late. He’s hit .228/.290/.456 (95 wRC+) with four homers in 15 games in June. Still bad! But better than April and May. If Bird or Austin had done something like that after a terrible April and May, the internet would be abuzz with GIF-filled posts about adjustments and small sample size signs of life and blah blah blah. I know this because I’ve done it myself, and I hate myself for it. When it comes to a young guy, we microanalyze everything. When a veteran we don’t like does it, no one cares.

(Times Leader)
(Times Leader)

Two, the Yankees are not cutting Carter without feeling good about Bird’s health. And I don’t mean “okay he’s playing in rehab games again” feeling good. We’ve been there, done that. They don’t have the first base depth to cut a dude with legit 40-homer power. If they cut Carter and Bird needs more time to get ready, they’re looking at Austin and Refsnyder at first base. No. Just … no. And three, there’s no way to carry Austin and Carter on the roster. They’re basically the same player in that they’re right-handed hitters and provide no defensive flexibility. Can’t have two of those guys in the age of four-man (and often three-man) benches.

Like all of you, I’m at my wits’ end with Carter. I could live with all the empty at-bats if he were hitting more homers, but he’s not. He has eight homers in 181 plate appearances. Last season he had 13 homers in his first 181 plate appearances. A little bit behind that pace, he is. Add in some egregious errors and you’ve got a sub-replacement level player. Not the reason the Yankees have lost seven straight games. A reason though, undoubtedly.

As bad as Carter is though, I’m not convinced Austin is an upgrade. The guy himself said he still isn’t right at the plate. (If you’re into projections, ZiPS pegs Austin as a true talent .231/.291/.419 (98 OPS+) big league hitter.) I want to see the Yankees try Austin, though that has more to do with me not wanting to watch Carter than it does me believing Austin is an upgrade. Girardi seems to be in the same boat. He’s over Carter. You can see it every time he is asked about the guy.

The front office makes roster decisions, not Girardi (I’m certain Girardi has some input though), and they have to look at the big picture. And part of that big picture is the team’s thin first base depth chart, Austin admitting he still isn’t himself at the plate, and the potential reward each player offers. Carter is one of the most frustrating players I can remember wearing pinstripes. All things considered though, sticking with him is probably the best move right now, at least until Austin is where he needs to be and we know more about Bird’s injury.

Yankeemetrics: West Coast Nightmare Part II (June 15-18)

(AP)
(AP)

Well, that was awful … but Yankeemetrics still has Fighting Spirit and all the stats you need to know.

One Strike Away
The nightmare road trip, which started in Anaheim, continued as the Yankees headed north to Oakland and suffered a brutal 8-7 loss on Thursday night. It was a game of extreme highs and lows, a back-and-forth rollercoaster ride that ended in one of the most crushing defeats of the season so far.

The Yankees kept falling behind … but somehow staged four separate game-tying rallies and finally surged ahead in the top of the 10th … only to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. In the bottom of the 10th, Gio Gallegos surrendered a two-strike, two-out, bases-loaded RBI single that flipped the Yankees one-run advantage into another walk-off loss.

The details of this game were so chaotic and unprecedented, let’s run through it with bullet points:

  • It was the Yankees third walk-off loss to the A’s in the last six seasons (since 2012); no other non-AL East team has more than one walk-off win against the Yankees in that span.
  • It was their first walk-off loss to any team when they were one strike away from a win since April 15, 2007 against the A’s. Yikes, the Marco Scutaro game.
  • And finally … Before Thursday, the last (documented) time the Yankees had an extra-inning, walk-off loss, when leading with two outs and one strike away from a win, was June 4, 1988 against the Orioles. This game remains one of the most excruciating regular-season losses the Yankees have ever had, as they blew a two-run lead and lost on a rare three-base error in the 14th inning. Welp.

Back to Thursday night … Before the heart-breaking ending, the Yankees had taken the lead in the top of the 10th on a bases-loaded sac fly by Starlin Castro. Thankfully, Castro gives us our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Week:

This was the second time Castro had delivered a go-ahead sac fly in extras since joining the Yankees, also doing it against the Mets last August. Since sac flies were officially recorded in 1954, only three other players have hit multiple go-ahead, extra-inning sac flies in a Yankee uniform – Bernie Williams, Ruben Sierra and Horace Clarke.

(Getty)
(Getty)

No relief
It was deja vu all over again for the Yankees on Friday night as they lost another winnable game thanks to a late-inning meltdown by the depleted bullpen.

Four straight soul-crushing defeats, and in each of those four games a reliever has taken the loss. I scoured the Yankees’ boxscores and, in the last two decades, couldn’t find a four-game stretch where a relief pitcher took the loss in each contest. I was too depressed to research any further back.

Amidst the doom-and-gloom of this latest gut-punch loss was the shining star of Aaron Judge, who finished with two hits, two runs scored and three RBIs. He blasted his 23rd home run of the season, a three-RBI opposite field shot in the third inning.

The most amazing part of Judge’s power is that he is not just a pull-happy slugger. Check out this beautiful spray chart (LOL, the 495-foot home run that is literally off the chart):

aaron-judge-2

According to the hit location data at baseball-reference.com, after Friday night’s game, his homer distribution was nice and symmetrical: six to left, 11 to center and six to right. He was a ridiculous 17-for-27 (.630) and slugging 1.407 when putting the ball in play to right – both those marks were easily the best in baseball among players with at least 25 batted balls to the opposite field.

Judge also checked off another milestone on Friday, scoring his 60th run of the season. The list of other Yankees in the last eight decades to reach 60 runs in the team’s first 65 games is a short, but holy-cow good one: A-Rod (2007), Rickey Henderson (1986), Mickey Mantle (1956, ’57) and Joe DiMaggio (1941).

(AP)
(AP)

Terrible Tanaka, again
The road trip from hell continued on Saturday afternoon with the Yankees extending their season-high losing streak to five games after another disaster, dinger-filled performance by Masahiro Tanaka.

The home run derby started on Tanaka’s first pitch of the game, which Matt Joyce deposited into the right-centerfield seats. It was the third leadoff homer allowed by Tanaka this season, one shy of the Yankees single-season record set by Stan Bahnsen in 1970. The only other Yankees to give up three leadoff homers in a season are Hiroki Kuroda (2014) and Catfish Hunter (1976).

Unsurprisingly, this is the current batting line for hitters leading off a game against Tanaka: .571/.571/1.286 — eight hits in 14 at-bats, including three homers and a double. Oh, and this is what happens when opponents put the first pitch of a plate appearance in play against Tanaka: .478 batting average and 1.130 slugging percentage — 22 hits in 46 at-bats, including nine doubles and seven homers.

The A’s pummeled Tanaka for two more home runs, bringing his season total to 21, the most homers ever allowed by a Yankee pitcher at this point in the season (team’s 66th game).

The silver lining in Tanaka’s atrocious outing is that 10 of the 12 outs he got were via strikeouts, showing that he still has the nasty, elite stuff to dominate hitters at times. His 10 strikeouts were the most by any Yankee that pitched no more than four innings in a game.

But, of course, there were the dreaded mistake pitches that the A’s crushed for three homers. In the end, Tanaka produced one of the most bizarre pitching line in baseball history. Going back to 1913 (our limit for complete gamelogs), Tanaka is the only major-league pitcher to strike out 10 batters and surrender at least three homers in an outing of four innings or fewer. History!

(AP)
(AP)

Goodbye and good riddance to the west coast
The Yankees miserable seven-game road trip mercifully came to an end on Sunday, fittingly with another hideous loss. They finished up 1-6 in California, the first time they won one game or fewer on a road swing of at least seven games in more than two decades. They went 1-8 on a nine-game trip from May 23-31, 1995 through Anaheim, Oakland and Seattle.

That brutal stretch, however, was filled with a few highlights — notably the big-league debuts of a couple Yankee legends: Mariano Rivera on May 23, and Derek Jeter on May 29.

As poorly as the Yankees played in Oakland, it was certainly an unexpected sweep by the home team: Entering this weekend, the Yankees were the only AL team that had not been swept in a series, and the Athletics were the only AL team that had yet to sweep a series this season. ‘Ya know, Suzyn …’

The most excruciating part of this current free-fall is that the Yankees had a chance to win probably every game, and have only been outscored by a mere nine runs during their six-game losing streak. The last time they endured a six-game stretch of games with six losses and run differential of no worse than negative-9 was June 29-July 4, 1975.

Three of the four losses in this series, and four of the six on this trip, were by exactly one run, as the Yankees record in those games fell to 7-12. Those 12 losses match the same number the Yankees had last year, when they went 24-12 in one-run games. Hey, at least Aroldis Chapman threw a perfect eighth inning and averaged 101.3 mph on the seven four-seam fastballs he threw, according to brooksbaseball.net.

Bird’s setback means it’s time for the Yankees to start looking for first base help

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Yesterday afternoon, Brian Cashman announced the Yankees have “pulled the plug” on Greg Bird‘s rehab assignment because he still doesn’t feel right. The weird thing is that it’s unclear what exactly doesn’t feel right. Officially, the Yankees pulled him off rehab with a right knee contusion. So is this a new injury? Or is the ankle still a problem?

Either way, Bird’s rehab assignment has been put on hold. Hopefully this is a short-term thing and he can resume playing in a few days. That would be rad. At this point though, given all the injury issues, it might be time for the Yankees to stop counting on Bird for first base help this season, and begin looking outside the organization.

Now, let me be clear about this: I’m not saying the Yankees should give up on Bird. Hardly. He remains a big part of the future (I hope) and he should continue to get chances to be the first baseman of the future. What I am saying is Bird is dealing with so many problems right now …

  1. Continued recovery from shoulder surgery and the ongoing process of shaking off the rust.
  2. A bone bruise in his ankle from the foul ball in Spring Training.
  3. Now a knee contusion, apparently.

… that taking a step back and allowing him to focus on getting healthy rather than doing all he can to return to the Yankees as soon as possible might be the best thing. Does Bird want to do that? Of course not. He’s a competitor and he missed all of last season. He wants to get back into the lineup as soon as possible. It would be weird if he didn’t.

The Yankees have to take the big picture into consideration though. Bird already spent a month playing through an ankle injury — a bad decision that only looks worse as time goes on — and now apparently he has a knee problem. The absolute last thing anyone wants is Bird to re-injure his shoulder by changing his mechanics at the plate to compensate for a weakened lower half. That’s something that can happen subconsciously.

The best thing now might be treating this almost as a rehab season. Let Bird rest and get healthy. The knee, the ankle, everything. Give him as much time as he needs, then give him regular at bats in the minors to make sure his swing is all the way back. Remember how bad he was earlier this season? No one wants to see that again. When Bird comes back, the Yankees want him to be healthy and ready to do damage.

For that to happen, a “rehab” year for Bird, the Yankees will need to bring in first base help. Chris Carter had a nice game last night, though he’s been pretty terrible overall, and I’m not sure there’s enough upside here to remain patient. Yes, Carter has legit 40+ homer power and that’s cool. There are so many other holes in his game though. Last season was a career year for him, and those 41 homers came with a 112 wRC+ and +1 WAR. Meh.

Who the Yankees could target for first base help is another conversation for another time, and something we’ll no doubt talk about in the near future. The Eric Hosmer rumors are inevitable — did you realize the Royals are only two games back of a postseason spot? — though I’m partial to Yonder Alonso. There are first basemen out there to be had, better first baseman than Carter who would make it easier to be patient with Bird.

Even though they’re in first place, the Yankees are a rebuilding transitioning team at heart right now, and they’re focused on developing their young players to build a new core. Bird is part of that group. He’s not healthy right now though. He’s not healthy and it seems like his swing might not be all the way back either (3-for-21 in Triple-A on rehab). This is extending beyond the simple “he’s banged up” stuff players deal with all the time.

The Yankees should put Bird’s long-term future first, and in the wake of this latest setback, that means given him all the time he needs to get 100% healthy and to get his swing back. Going out and getting first base help, someone better than Carter, would make that easier. And whenever Bird is all the way back, be it August or September or next April, the Yankees will find a way to get him in the lineup.

Yankeemetrics: West Coast nightmare (June 12-14)

(Getty)
(Getty)

No pizza but still a win
The Yankees headed out west for the first time this season, but the story remained mostly the same on Monday night: another win and another legend-boosting performance by Mr. Judge.

This victory, however, was different from others in the past couple weeks because of the fact that John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman didn’t get to mention the beloved Papa John’s promotion. In case you’re not familiar with the popular deal: the day after the Yankees score six or more runs, customers get 50 percent off the regular menu price of all pizzas at Papa John’s online.

The Yankees scored ‘only’ five runs on Monday night, but that was still enough for the win because of another anomaly: Masahiro Tanaka did not get pummeled! Though he did cough up a solo homer to the second batter of the game, he settled down after that, retiring 13 straight at one point while pitching into the seventh inning.

One of the biggest keys for Tanaka was getting ahead in the count, throwing a first-pitch strike to a season-high 77.8 percent of the batters he faced. Because he was consistently in control of at-bats, he was then able to efficiently finish off batters when getting to two strikes, as the Angels went 0-for-11 in two-strike counts with eight strikeouts.

Okay, so back to the part of this game that was normal – Aaron Judge destroying baseballs. With the game tied in the eighth inning and a man on second, Judge drilled a 2-0 cutter from Bud Norris over the fences for a 5-3 lead. Sorry Buddy, this is not the best location for a pitch when facing a 6’7, 280-pound baseball cyborg:

aaron-judge

I wouldn’t be surprised if Judge was literally smiling as he extended his arms and pummeled this pitch into the right-centerfield seats. It was right in his power-happy zone, as he was slugging 1.182 in that part of the strikezone after Monday’s game.

judge

It was his first career go-ahead home run in the eighth inning or later … and hopefully the first of many more to come.

Judge wouldn’t have been the hero, though, without another standout performance from Didi Gregorius. He went 4-for-4 and kept the Yankees in the game with game-tying and go-ahead RBI singles in the third and fifth innings. Didi was the second Yankee shortstop ever with a four-hit, multi-RBI game against the Angels. The other guy to do it was … of course, Derek Jeter on Sept. 5, 1999 at Angel Stadium.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Clipp’d
The Yankees six-game win streak was snapped on Tuesday in one of the more frustrating losses of this season, as they lost in the 11th inning after failing to cash in on key scoring chances throughout the night. It was also a rare type of loss for a couple reasons:

  • Before Tuesday, the Yankees were one of just two teams that hadn’t yet suffered a walk-off loss – the Marlins are now on the clock as the only team left on that list.
  • The Yankees were 33-0 when leading at the start of the eighth inning, one of four major-league teams without a loss in that scenario entering Tuesday’s slate. The others: Rockies (33-0), Red Sox (26-0) and White Sox (23-0).

Tyler Clippard was the game’s biggest goat – according to Twitter, at least – as he surrendered that game-tying homer and was tagged for his fourth blown save of the season in his 29th appearance. Through Tuesday, the only pitchers in the majors with more blown saves were Tony Watson and Francisco Rodriguez (both with 5).

Fangraphs tracks a stat called Meltdowns, which answers the simple question of whether a reliever hurt his team’s chance of winning, based on changes in win probability during the pitcher’s outing. (To be more specific, he gets a Meltdown if the game’s win probability declines by at least six percent from when he enters and then exits the game.) Clippard has eight Meltdowns this season, tied for the most among American League pitchers and fourth-most in MLB.

Clippard has a shiny 2.00 ERA and .158 batting average allowed, but he’s been horrible in critical at-bats this season. He’s allowed a .304/.375/.682 line in high-leverage plate appearances – that equals a .436 wOBA, which ranked seventh-highest among pitchers that have faced at least 25 batters in those situations. For reference, Aaron Judge had a .476 wOBA through Tuesday.

As if the game wasn’t depressing enough from a standard win-loss perspective, there’s also the fact that CC Sabathia suffered a hamstring injury in the fourth inning. He had won his last five starts, with a 0.99 ERA dating back to May 16 at Kansas City. During that month-long span (May 16 to June 13), a total of 161 pitchers threw at least 15 innings; Robbie Ray (0.24) and Sabathia (0.99) were the only ones to post a sub-1.00 ERA.

(AP)
(AP)

Welcome back, Tiny Mike
This annual road trip to Southern California has been a devastating one for this franchise, even in the best of times. After dropping the rubber game on Wednesday, the Yankees continued their run of futility in Los Angeles (or Anaheim, whatever). The Yankees fell to 45-58 at Angel Stadium in the Wild Card Era, their worst record at any AL ballpark in that span.

It looked like they might reverse that trend after taking a 4-0 lead in the top of the first, capped by Gary Sanchez‘s booming 441-foot three-run homer. It was the Yankees 11th home run of at least 440 feet this season, the most in the majors.

And here’s a stat that pretty much sums up the 2017 Yankees: Sanchez’s longball was also the 35th hit by a Yankee in his age-25 season or younger; in the five-year period from 2010-2014, there were 21 homers hit by Yankees in their age-25 season or younger … COMBINED.

Unfortunately that early offensive explosion was quickly rendered meaningless as #BadMike returned with vengeance. He soon turned that 4-0 advantage into a 5-4 deficit by the end of the third inning. Pineda ended up pitching six innings and gave up five runs on 10 hits, further widening his Jeykyll-and-Hyde home/road splits this season:

He is now 1-5 with a 6.25 ERA in six road starts, compared to 6-1 with a 1.96 ERA in seven home starts. That difference of 4.3 runs is the ninth-largest among the 100-plus pitchers that have made at least five starts at home and five starts on the road.

Yankeemetrics: Dingers, runs, wins, oh my! (June 9-11)

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Well, that was a fun series, eh? As we like to say here at River Ave. Blues … Love. This. Team.

Just getting warmed up…
Friday’s game began as a pitchers duel but turned into an easy victory for the Yankees, who scored six runs in the final three innings after entering the sixth deadlocked at 2-2 with the Orioles.

Aaron Hicks provided the power boost, clobbering two home runs. Only three other Yankee centerfielders have ever had a multi-homer game against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium: Bernie Williams (1996), Mickey Mantle (1960) and Joe DiMaggio (four times, when they were known as the St. Louis Browns). #YankeeLegends

Starlin Castro also got a free trot around the bases with his 10th homer of the season in the second inning. Combined with Hicks reaching the double-digit mark, that made the Yankees the first major-league team to have five players with 10-plus homers in 2017. In case you were wondering, the Red Sox didn’t have a single player with 10 homers through Friday.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Holy Sweet Sixteen
Friday’s 8-2 win was a nail-biter compared to the 16-3 shellacking that the Yankees put on the Orioles Saturday night. The offensive numbers were mind-boggling – 18 hits, seven singles, six doubles, five homers – but perhaps the most impressive part was how productive the lineup was from top to bottom.

Five different players had at least two hits, including a homer, and drove in multiple runs. It was just the third time in franchise history they had five guys do that in the same game. The first time was a 23-2 win on June 28, 1939 against the Philadelphia A’s, and the other instance was July 22, 2007 in a 21-7 win over the Devil Rays.

In a yet another example of how different this team is compared to last year, the Yankees have become the Blowout Kings of baseball in 2017. Saturday’s win was their major-league-leading 18th victory by at least five runs; Last year they had 17 wins by five-plus runs the entire season.

Aaron Judge kicked off the offensive explosion with a laser shot in the first inning that left the bat at an otherwordly 121.1 mph, the fastest base hit ever record by Statcast (which began in 2015). He added a scorching 116-mph two-run double in the fifth inning, making him the only player in the Statcast Era with multiple hits of 116 mph or more in the same game.

Gary Sanchez capped off the Yankees unreal power-hitting performance with a bullet line-drive homer in the eighth inning that had an exit velocity of (a mere) 115 mph and a launch angle of 15 degrees. That was the hardest-hit homer in Sanchez’s career, and matched Justin Smoak (on May 14) for the lowest launch angle of any home run hit this season.

With Sanchez’s 115-mph longball and Judge’s 121-mph longball, they became the first set of teammates in the Statcast Era to hit homers of 115-mph or more in the same game. Yea, Baby Bombers.

Amidst all the fireworks, it was easy to forget Luis Severino delivering yet another ace-like performance. Let’s take a look at Severino’s last five starts: 33 1/3 innings, 1.35 ERA, 37 strikeouts, eight walks. That’ll do.

He has at least seven strikeouts and no more than two earned runs allowed in each game, becoming the third right-handed pitcher to put together a streak of five such starts in Yankees history. The others were pretty good: Roger Clemens in 2001 and Mike Mussina in 2003.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

#TooManyRuns
In Sunday’s 14-3 rout, the Yankees ‘statistically’ may not have topped their offensive numbers from Saturday, but that didn’t keep them from obliterating the record books.

We need bullet points, just the facts, because recapping these ridiculous feats don’t require fancy words. First, the team perspective. This is the …

  • First time ever the Yankees have scored at least eight runs and hit multiple homers in five straight games.
  • Second time in franchise history they hit at least three homers in four straight games. The 1956 team also did it July 27-30.
  • Second time ever the Yankees have won five straight games, each by six or more runs. The 1938 team holds the record with an 8-game streak.
  • Fifth time in franchise history they’ve outscored their opponents by at least 46 runs in a five-game stretch. The others were in 2007, 1939, 1938 and 1937.
  • Ninth time that a Yankees squad has a run differential of plus-115 or better at the 60-game mark. They won the World Series in each of the previous eight seasons this happened (1998, 1953, 1939, 1937, 1936, 1932, 1928, 1927). So you’re telling me there’s a chance?

Before we get to Mr. Judge, let’s heap some praise on El Gary Sanchez. He broke the game open with a three-run 450-foot bomb in the first inning to make it 5-0, the longest homer of his career. It was also his 30th home run in the big leagues, a milestone that only three other players in major-league history reached as quickly as Sanchez did (in his 90th game): Rudy York, Mark McGwire and Jose Abreu.

Judge takes center stage now, as we put into perspective his four-hit, four-run, two-homer performance, which included a ho-hum 495-foot blast that CLEARED THE BLEACHERS in left-center at Yankee Stadium.

  • He is the third Yankee age 25 or younger to have at least four hits, two homers and four runs scored in a game. You might have heard of the others: Mickey Mantle (1956), Joe DiMaggio (1937) and Lou Gehrig (1928, 1929).
  • The only other Yankees in their age-25 season or younger to hit 20-plus homers before the All-Star Break (since 1933) are Roger Maris (1960), Mantle (three times, lol), and DiMaggio (1937). Yup, we’re still more than a month away from the break.
  • He’s just the fifth Yankee – regardless of age – to hit 21 or more homers in the team’s first 60 games. This list is good: A-Rod (2007), Maris (1961*), Mantle (1956) and Babe Ruth (six times, LOL).
  • His 495-foot home is the longest in baseball this season and the longest by an American League player since Statcast began tracking distances in 2015. The only longer one in MLB was a 504-foot shot by Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton on August 6, 2016.

And, oh by the way, he’s currently leading the AL Triple Crown categories after Sunday’s slate. The only Yankees to win the Triple Crown are a couple fellas with the last name of Mantle (1956) and Gehrig (1934).

Yankeemetrics: Old Ace rising, Tanaka tanking (June 6-8)

(AP)
(AP)

Numbers Never Lie
A home run derby broke out at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night, but in a very depressing way for the hometown fans. Masahiro Tanaka‘s batting-practice fastballs and cement-mixer sliders were flying out of the park, while the Yankees’ repeated clutch-hitting woes sealed their fate – a disappointing 5-4 loss to their AL East rival.

The Red Sox entered the game with the fewest homers in the league, but that statistic mattered little on a chilly night in the Bronx as they went deep three times against Tanaka, who gave up five runs in five innings. Tanaka’s longball issues have reached crisis mode, with 14 surrendered in his last 32 innings pitched dating back to the fifth inning of his May 2 start vs Toronto.

That’s a remarkable number considering that:

  • It’s more home runs than any Yankee pitcher had given up the entire season through Tuesday
  • 77 of the 86 other qualified pitchers in MLB had allowed fewer than 14 home runs for the entire season through Tuesday

If those stats aren’t sobering enough, how about this: he gave up more homers to the Red Sox (3) than guys he struck out (2) … and it’s not even the first time he’s done that in a game this season! Unsurprisingly, he never did that in any game during his first three seasons in pinstripes.

The bottom line: Tanaka is the only pitcher in the majors this year who has multiple starts where he struck out at least two batters and still managed to allow more home runs than strikeouts in the game. Send help, please.

Not only did Tanaka serve up meatballs left and right against the Red Sox, his overall “stuff” was severely diminished and his pitches showed little deception. He got just three swings-and-misses (yup, the same number of homers he allowed), tied for the fewest in any of his 87 career starts.

(AP)
(AP)

CC’s lead the way
While the team’s improbable comeback wins have been getting a lot of buzz this season, an underrated theme for this Yankees squad has been their resiliency and avoiding long losing streaks. They haven’t lost more than three games in a row and haven’t been swept in any series so far. They assured both those milestones would remain intact on Wednesday, snapping their two-game slide and taking the second game of the series, 8-0.

This was a historic rout of their longtime division rival, marking their largest shutout win vs Red Sox since June 27, 1991 at Fenway. The last time they blanked the Red Sox by this large of a margin at Yankee Stadium was more than 50 years ago – on September 3, 1965!

The Yankees definitely had the right guy on the mound – Carsten Charles Sabathia – to stop their losing streak. After twirling eight scoreless innings, the 36-year-old lefty improved to 6-0 with a 1.25 ERA in seven starts following a Yankee loss. That’s the lowest ERA in games after a team loss for any pitcher in the majors this season (min. five starts).

This brilliant outing continued a string of ace-like performances by Sabathia, who is 5-0 with a 1.11 ERA in his last five starts. He’s just the third lefty in franchise history to win five starts in a row, allowing no more than two earned runs and six hits in each game: Ron Guidry had two such streaks (in 1978 and 1981) and Lefty Gomez also had a similar stretch in 1937.

On Wednesday, Sabathia’s slider was in peak form as the Red Sox went 0-for-8 in at-bats ending in the pitch – including four punchouts. Here’s a beautiful pitch chart of the 30 sliders he threw:

cc-sabathia-1

As you can see in the graphic above, he got only one whiff with his slider, but instead relied on its nasty movement to paint the edges of the zone and generate a whopping 13 called strikes. That matches the most he’s gotten with the pitch in any game since joining the Yankees.

His backdoor slider has been among the toughest in baseball for hitters to pick up this season. Sabathia’s 14 looking strikeouts with the slider are tied with Jhoulys Chacin for the most in MLB, and his slider called-strike rate is the second-highest among pitchers that have thrown at least 200 sliders this season.

While Sabathia was dealing on the mound, the other CC was a monster at the plate. Chris Carter went 3-for-4 with a towering home run and a season-high four RBIs, providing us with our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Week: he joins Scott Brosius (2000) as the only Yankee No. 9 hitters to drive in at least four runs and have at least three hits in a game against the Red Sox.

(Newsday)
(Newsday)

Who’s Your Daddy?
The Yankees finished off the series with another dominant win over their AL East rival, 9-1. This is just the third time in the last 30 years that they’ve notched back-to-back wins by at least eight runs against the Red Sox; the other two instances were Sept. 18-19, 2004 and May 23-24, 1998.

The Yankees pummeled David Price, scoring six runs in five innings against the former Cy Young winner. It was the sixth time over the last two seasons that Price has given up at least six earned runs in a game — and four (!) of those six disaster outings have come against the Yankees.

Gary Sanchez broke the game open with a towering three-run homer in the third inning to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead. But he was just getting warmed up… Sanchez took Price deep again two innings later, making him a ridiculous 4-for-7 with four homers in his career vs the Boston lefty.

He is one of six players with at least four homers vs Price — Manny Machado, Curtis Granderson, Edwin Encarnacion, Nelson Cruz, Jose Bautista are the others — and those five guys have faced him at least 40 times.

It was also Sanchez’s fifth multi-homer game in the big leagues, a staggering figure for someone playing in his 87th career game. He became the second-fastest player in major-league history to reach five multi-homer-games, behind only Mark McGwire (who did it in his 84th career game).

And, oh yeah, he also was the first Yankee catcher ever to have at least five RBIs and two homers in a game against the Red Sox. #FunFacts

While Sanchez was re-writing the Major-League record books, Aaron Judge continued his assault on the Statcast leaderboards. Judge’s sixth inning single left his bat at 119.8 mph, the third time this season he’s hit a ball 119 mph or faster. The rest of the players in major-league baseball have combined to do that zero times in 2017.