Yankeemetrics: Mediocrity at its finest [July 29-31]

(AP)
(AP)

Loss for #Yankees, Win for #TeamSell
With this weekend’s series against the Rays representing one final opportunity to convince the front office to keep the band together for a late-summer playoff push, the Yankees inched closer to declaring themselves sellers with another frustrating loss on Friday night.

All 10 of their hits were singles and they scored just one run in a 5-1 loss, going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The the only other major-league team this season (through Friday) that had a game with double-digit hits, none for extra bases, and scored one or fewer runs was the Brewers in a 8-1 loss to the Phillies on June 5.

Ivan Nova — who had posted a 2.66 ERA in his previous four turns during a stellar month of July — was predictably horrendous in Tampa against the last-place Rays lineup, allowing five runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings.

Tropicana Field has become a house of horrors for Nova. This was his first start at the dome since April 19, 2014, his final game before being diagnosed with a torn UCL that required Tommy John surgery. And he now owns a 7.03 ERA in seven appearances (six starts) at the ballpark, the highest among all active pitchers with at least two starts and 25 innings pitched there.

The Rays clobbered Nova, with five of the six hits he allowed going for extra bases. This continues a yearlong trend of tons of loud contact against Nova, who has given up an average exit velocity of 94.9 mph on line drives and fly balls, the second-highest mark in the majors (min. 100 batted balls).

Chad Green kept the Yankees within spitting distance as he relieved Nova in the fifth inning and went the distance, throwing 3 2/3 scoreless innings. It was his third straight relief appearance with more than two innings pitched and no runs allowed. Green is just the second Yankee pitcher in the last two decades to put together a streak like that; Ramiro Mendoza had a three-gamer in 2001 and a four-gamer 2002.

You can’t spell ‘Sell’ without a couple ‘L’s’
Saturday’s deflating 6-3 defeat gave the Yankees two losses in two games to the last-place Rays, providing another layer of evidence that this team is not fit for October and needs a re-boot.

arod
(Getty)

The Yankees got off to another rocky start as Nathan Eovaldi surrendered a first-inning home run to Brad Miller, the 20th homer allowed by Yankee pitchers in the opening frame this season; through Saturday’s games, the only MLB teams that had allowed more first-inning dingers were the Twins and Royals, both with 22.

Eovaldi gave up a second homer to the Rays No. 9 hitter, catcher Curt Casali, giving him 21 homers allowed in 116 2/3 innings this year. That rate of 1.62 homers per nine innings is on pace to be the third-highest single-season mark by any Yankee qualifying pitcher, behind Phil Hughes (1.65 in 2012) and Terry Mulholland (1.79 in 1994).

Starting for the first time in a week, A-Rod did little to show management that he deserved more at-bats, going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. It was the fourth game in his Yankee career that he came to the plate at least four times and struck out each time; only one other player in franchise history had four such games during their career: Mickey Mantle.

Drew Smyly, with a career strikeout rate of 24 percent (just a few ticks above the MLB average of 20 percent), is an unlikely candidate to be A-Rod’s personal kryptonite. But these are the facts: He has struck out in nine of 12 plate appearances (including playoffs) against Smyly, his highest whiff rate versus any of the 600-plus pitchers he’s faced more than five times in his 22-season career.

Just your average Yankees
On the same day the Yankees put the proverbial For Sale sign outside team headquarters in Tampa, they sunk deeper and deeper into the depths of mediocrity, losing to the Rays, 5-3.

They are now 52-52 this season, which includes a 44-44 record before the break, 8-8 after the break and a 13-13 mark in July. #TeamMediocre

It was their fifth time being swept this year, the same number they had in 2015 … with 58 games and two months remaining. And they’ve now scored no more than three runs in 55 of their 104 games, their highest total at this point in the season since 1972.

Michael Pineda once again delivered a maddeningly inconsistent performance, flashing dominance and looking strong at times (eight strikeouts), but ended up with disappointing results and a crooked final pitching line (five runs on six hits in six innings). It was his third game this season with at least eight punch outs and five earned runs allowed; no other American League pitcher has more than one such game.

Carlos Beltran put the Yankees on the board in the sixth inning with a two-run homer that sliced the Rays lead to 3-2. It was his his 22nd homer in 2016, matching Eddie Murray (1996) for the most by a switch-hitter in his age-39 season or older.

Yankeemetrics: Raise or lower the white flag? [July 25-27]

Be Like Mike. (Photo: Getty)
Be Like Mike. (Photo: Getty)

No Chapman, no problem
Despite making their first significant “sell” trade-deadline move in more than two and a half decades, the Yankees continued to remain on the fringes of the playoff race with a 2-1 win over the Astros on Monday.

With the win, the Yankees moved to three games above .500 for the first time this season. This is the deepest into the season they’ve gone without reaching that mark since 1991, when they never got more than a game above .500 the entire season. They finished that forgettable campaign with a 71-91 record, their fifth-worth winning percentage in franchise history.

A victory did not look promising less than a minute after Michael Pineda took the mound in the bottom of the first inning; George Springer deposited the first pitch into the right-field seats for a quick 1-0 Astros lead.

It was the first time a Yankee allowed a first-pitch homer to the first batter of the game since the Jose Reyes took Hiroki Kuroda deep in Toronto on June 25, 2014, and just the 11th occurrence since pitch data became available in 1988. Of the 10 other instances, the only other Yankee pitcher who allowed no other runs besides that leadoff homer — like Pineda — was Jack McDowell on July 13, 1995 versus the Twins.

Austin Romine played the unlikely role of hero with a tie-breaking RBI double in the eighth inning. That was the first career go-ahead hit in the eighth inning or later for the backup catcher, who is hitting a robust .375 (12-for-32) with runners in scoring position this season, the best mark on the team through Monday.

Milestone alerts! Carlos Beltran’s double leading off the seventh inning was the 524th of his career, passing one Hall-of-Famer (Willie Mays) and moving into a tie for 44th place with another Hall-of-Famer (Ken Griffey Jr.). Up next is Ted Williams with 525 doubles.

Chase Headley’s game-tying single in the fifth inning was his 1,147th career hit, breaking the major-league record for most hits by a Colorado-born player. He surpassed Roy Hartzell, a Golden, CO native who played 11 seasons with the St. Louis Browns (1906-10) and the Yankees (1911-16). According to a 1914 New York Times article, Hartzell was the “handiest utility man the Yankees ever had…he has played every position on the club except battery positions.”

That was easy. (Photo: AP)
That was easy. (Photo: AP)

All aboard the win train
The Yankees sure are making it tough for Prince Hal to push the SELL! button. For a team that’s defined inconsistency, they’ve somehow caught an incredible wave of positive momentum at the most critical juncture of the season, beating the Astros again on Tuesday night. It was another comeback win fueled by dominant starting pitching, some timely hitting and a shutdown back-of-the-bullpen performance.

CC Sabathia posted his best start in more than a month, giving up two runs on four hits while pitching into the seventh inning. He snapped a six-game winless streak during which he allowed at least four runs in each outing. That matched the longest such streak of his career, which he also did in 2002.

Although Sabathia had posted an ugly 7.46 ERA in his previous six turns, it wasn’t like he was getting crushed every night. He still entered Tuesday’s game with the lowest average exit velocity allowed (85.8 mph) among pitchers with at least 200 batted balls in play, and then nearly matched that number against the Astros (86.8).

Dellin Betances pulled off another crazy Houdini act, getting out of a two-out bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning to help seal the win. Hitters are just 2-for-27 (.074) with ducks on the pond against Betances in his career, the second-lowest batting average allowed in that situation among active pitchers (min. 25 at-bats), behind only Pirates lefty Tony Watson (.069).

Aces down
The Yankees desperate playoff push hit a speed bump on Wednesday night as the Yankees squandered a golden opportunity to move within three games of the second Wild Card spot after losing to the Astros, 4-1.

Still, even with the disappointing defeat, the Yankees are 11-5 (.688) all-time at Minute Maid Park, their third-highest winning percentage at any ballpark, behind only Atlanta’s Turner Field (.857, 12-2) and Minnesota’s Target Field (.760, 19-6).

Rotation ace Masahiro Tanaka — who entered the game with a league-leading 1.50 ERA in nine road starts — allowed four runs in five innings and lost for just the third time in 21 starts this season.

The loss also snapped a streak of seven straight Yankee wins in games started by Tanaka, the team’s longest such streak since winning 12 games in a row with Ivan Nova (!) on the mound in 2011. Tanaka has now been tagged for 10 runs and 14 hits in 10 career innings at Minute Maid Park.

Prior to Tanaka’s sub-par performance, Yankee pitchers had allowed just 17 runs in their previous 10 games, their best 10-game stretch of run prevention since July 1998.

Brian McCann drove in the lone Yankee run in the fourth inning with his 15th home run. This is the 11th time in his career he’s hit than many homers in a season, a feat matched by only seven other catchers in MLB history: Carlton Fisk, Johnny Bench, Mike Piazza, Lance Parrish, Yogi Berra, Jorge Posada and Gary Carter.

Yankeemetrics: The buy-or-sell rollercoaster [July 22-24]

(Getty)
(Getty)

Giant victory
Facing yet another first-place team on this make-or-break homestand, the Yankees pulled off a stunning victory over the Giants on Friday night. The Yankees entered this series with a 3-7 record in Interleague play this season, the worst in the American League and second-worst in the majors ahead of only the Reds (4-11).

Masahiro Tanaka outdueled Madison Bumgarner in a battle of aces, firing six shutout innings against the Giants. Tanaka has dominated NL competition during his major-league career, compiling a 1.88 ERA with 59 strikeouts and just six walks in nine Interleague starts. That’s the third-best Interleague ERA among active pitchers with at least seven starts, and the best for any Yankee pitcher that has ever made more than one start during Interleague play.

Tanaka has put together an ace-like resume this year, but one narrative clouding his season performance has been his sub-par numbers on normal rest.

He entered this game with a 5.33 ERA in eight starts on four days rest, a bloated figure compared to his 3.15 season ERA. The 2.18 difference in ERA between his 5.33 normal rest ERA and 3.15 overall ERA ranked fourth-highest among the 143 pitchers with at least five starts on four days rest this season.

Aroldis Chapman’s flame-throwing feats are becoming more and more ridiculous every day. On Friday night, 15 of his 17 pitches were fastballs, and each of the heaters was clocked at 100 mph or faster, with a whopping seven pitches topping out at 104 mph.

That’s now 11 pitches of at least 104 mph in his last two appearances combined (he had four on July 18), an unprecedented total considering that only three pitches of 104 or more mph had ever been recorded in the nine seasons of Statcast data (since 2008) before this week.

Chapman averaged a ridiculous 103.2 mph on his fastball against the Giants, the highest average fastball velocity in a game by any pitcher since 2008, per Statcast.

Bronx bummer
Less than 24 hours after celebrating one of their most uplifting wins of the season, the Yankees crashed back down to Earth with one of their most frustrating and crushing losses, falling 2-1 in 12 innings to the Giants on Saturday.

nova fist pump
(Getty)

Not only did they lose after playing a dozen innings in the brutal heat, but they also failed numerous times in the clutch (went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position) and wasted a gem from their fifth starter (seven innings and one run allowed by Ivan Nova).

And to pile on the depressing facts, they whiffed on a chance to reach three games over .500 for the first time this season, and — because the Blue Jays lost earlier in the day — could have pulled to within three games in the loss column of the second wild card spot if they had somehow won the game.

Instead, the Yankees’ momentum was halted and they suffered yet another disheartening defeat in a season filled with far too many of them already.

It was just the third time the Yankees have lost an Interleague game at home that lasted at least 12 innings. The others were a 6-2 loss on April 18, 2013 to the Diamondbacks and a 2-1 loss on June 12, 2001 against the Expos (both games went 12 innings, too).

This isn’t the first time Nova has been stellar against the Giants; he threw a six-hit shutout in San Francisco on Sept. 12, 2013 in his only other appearance against them. He now owns a shiny 0.56 career ERA against the Giants, the lowest mark among active pitchers that have made more than one start versus the franchise (LOL, small sample sizes).

(AP)
(AP)

Yankees Last (home)Stand
The Yankees seemingly staved off an imminent fire sale for yet another day by capping off this make-or-break homestand with a solid series win against the first-place Giants.

They climbed back up to two games above .500, tying their high-water mark of the season. It marked the 33rd time the Yankees finished a game with a record within two games of the magical .500 mark, the second-longest streak of that kind in franchise history, per the Elias Sports Bureau. The only longer one was a 42-game streak in 2008.

Carlos Beltran opened the scoring in the first inning with his 413th career home run, passing Alfonso Soriano for sole possession of 52nd place on the all-time list. Up next is Darrell Evans with 414.

Mark Teixeira added a solo shot of his own in the next frame, his 200th homer in pinstripes. He is just the fourth Yankee switch-hitter to reach that milestone, and also the fourth first baseman in franchise history with at least 200 homers. His fellow Yankee switch-hitters in the 200-homer club are Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams and Mickey Mantle; the other first baseman are Jason Giambi, Don Mattingly and Lou Gehrig.

Nathan Eovaldi‘s erratic season has mirrored the Yankees’ inconsistency, so it was little surprise that he delivered a standout performance (two runs allowed in 6 2/3 innings) on the same day the Yankees actually looked like a contender. What is surprising is that one of his best outings came against the Giants, a team that he’s historically struggled against.

Eovaldi entered the game with a 13.30 ERA in five starts versus San Francisco, the second-highest ERA by any active MLB pitcher against a single opponent (min. five starts). The highest mark is by Dana Eveland, who boasts a 16.11 ERA in 10 games (five starts) against the Red Sox.

Yankeemetrics: Many questions, no answers [July 18-21]

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

The winning formula
Inconsistency has been the theme of this year’s Yankees team, but they have been remarkably consistent in one thing: their winning formula. Combine solid starting pitching with justenough offense to get a slim lead thru six innings, and then unleash their high-powered, flame-throwing bullpen trio to seal the victory.

The plan worked to perfection on Monday night as the Yankees opened their series against the AL East-leading Orioles with a 2-1 win.

Alex Rodriguez sparked the lineup with a towering home run to left field in the second inning. It was just his second homer at Yankee Stadium this season. A-Rod entered the game with a .226 slugging percentage in home games, the second-worst in the majors among players with at least 100 plate appearances.

The blast was his 69th against the Orioles, breaking a tie with Harmon Killebrew for the fifth-most hit against the franchise. The four guys ahead of him are Babe Ruth (96), Lou Gehrig (92), Jimmie Foxx (87) and Ted Williams (80).

And one more milestone for A-Rod: that homer was also his 1,578th hit in a Yankee uniform, passing Wally Pipp for 17th place on the franchise all-time hits list.

Aroldis Chapman’s blazing fastball was in peak form as he closed out the game for his 19th save. Per Statcast, his 1-2 pitch to J.J. Hardy reached 105.1 mph, matching the fastest pitch ever recorded by Statcast dating back to 2008. Chapman also threw a pitch that went that fast on Sept. 24, 2010 to Tony Gwynn, Jr.

Chapman hit 104 mph on three other pitches in the inning, and Ryan Flaherty actually put one of those heaters in play … barely. Chapman’s 0-2 fastball to him was clocked at 104.9 mph and broke his bat, resulting in an easy grounder for the final out of the game. That was the fastest pitch put in play by a batter in the Statcast era (since 2008).

(Getty)
(Getty)

#TeamBuy
A funny thing happened on the way to the Trade Deadline … the Yankees decided to build some momentum and hold off the cries to SELL!!! for another day as they routed the Orioles, 7-1.

Starlin Castro has hardly been a consistent run producer during his debut campaign in pinstripes, but he’s definitely come up huge at times this season. His two-run blast in the second inning gave the Yankees an early 2-0 lead they wouldn’t relinquish in this must-win game.

It was his 11th homer of the season (matching his total from last year) and his sixth that gave the Yankees a lead. That’s the most go-ahead homers of any Yankee this season.

Jacoby Ellsbury made sure the fans in the Bronx would witness history on Tuesday night when he reached base via catcher’s interference for the ninth time this season, breaking the major-league record set by Roberto Kelly in 1992. The number becomes even more ridiculous when you consider that every other player in the American League has combined for six catcher’s interferences this season.

Huge Mike
The Yankees continued their desperate push toward contender status with another victory and another dominant performance from their pitching staff on Wednesday night. It was their fourth straight win overall and the fourth game in a row they allowed no more than one run and no more than five hits.

This is the first time since 1932 that the Yankees have put together a four-game win streak at home, giving up one run or fewer and five hits or fewer in each game.

pineda
(Getty)

The Yankees took an early 1-0 lead thanks a leadoff triple by Brett Gardner and a Carlos Beltran sac fly in the bottom of the first. That snapped a franchise-record 23-game scoreless streak in the first inning dating back nearly a month. Remember, this is a team that last year led the majors with 125 runs scored in the first frame.

Carlos Beltran capped off the scoring, too, with a solo homer in the eighth inning to give the Yankees a 5-0 lead. It was his 20th homer, making him just the second switch hitter to hit 20 home runs in his age-39 season or older. Eddie Murray reached that milestone in both 1995 and 1996, at age 39 and 40.

Michael Pineda spun a gem as he pitched six scoreless innings for his first win since June 7. He featured a nasty, sharp slider that baffled the Orioles lineup, netting him a whopping 18 whiffs and six of his eight punch outs. The 18 swings-and-misses are the most that any pitcher has gotten with a slider in any game this season, one more than Clayton Kershaw had against the Blue Jays on May 7.

Back to losing
The Yankees had their confidence-boosting four-game win streak snapped on Thursday afternoon, failing to complete the sweep thanks to a listless 4-1 loss. Their all-too-familiar anemic offense mustered just one run on five hits, the 20th time in 95 games that they’ve been held to no more than a single run. The only other AL team with 20 games of zero or one run scored this season is the last-place Tampa Bay Rays.

CC Sabathia had little to celebrate on his 36th birthday as his downward spiral deepened with another discouraging outing (four runs, seven hits, 6 2/3 innings). He’s now given up at least seven hits and four runs in each of his last six starts, the first time in his career he put together a six-game streak with that many hits and runs allowed in each game.

Coincidental or not, the large lefty has historically struggled on his birthday as a major-leaguer. He’s now 0-3 with a 6.99 ERA in five starts on July 21 and his team has lost all five games.

Yankeemetrics: The fork in the road [July 15-17]

(AP)
(AP)

Different half, same Yankees
Four days of rest did little to change the narrative of the Yankees’ 2016 season. The faint glimmer of hope that flickered after the Yankees notched a huge pre-break series victory over the AL Central-leading Indians was quickly extinguished as the Yankees suffered another depressing defeat, 5-3, to the Red Sox on Friday night.

The loss dropped the Yankees to 44-45, the first time they’ve had a sub-.500 record at any point after the All-Star break since 1995. That season, after losing to Mariners on September 5, the Yankees fell to 60-61 but then went 19-4 down the stretch to capture the AL Wild Card.

It was a familiar Jekyll-and-Hyde performance for Michael Pineda, who has been maddeningly inconsistent this entire season. He flashed some electric stuff in the first few innings as he retired the first eight batters, including four via strikeouts, but then fell apart.

He was undone by a few poorly located fastballs that the Red Sox crushed, resulting in three homers and five runs surrendered in five innings. Opponents have slugged .648 against his cut fastball, the highest slugging percentage allowed on a fastball (four-seam, two-seam, cut) by any pitcher in the majors (min. 150 batted balls).

Carlos Beltran’s two-run single in the sixth inning helped the Yankees avoid a shutout and marked a historic milestone for the 39-year-old as he became the fourth switch-hitter to with 1,500 career RBI (Eddie Murray, Chipper Jones, Mickey Mantle).

The hit also put Beltran in a select group of prolific run-producers who also possessed the key speed tool. He is just the fifth player in major-league history with at least 300 stolen bases and 1,500 RBI joining Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Willie Mays and Andre Dawson.

Sabathia sinking fast
Not even a matchup with the pitcher who owned the AL’s highest ERA (minimum five starts) could spark the Yankees anemic offense on Saturday afternoon.

Eduardo Rodriguez and his 8.59 ERA silenced the Yankee bats, who were held to two runs or fewer for the 35th time in 90 games this season in a 5-2 loss at the Stadium. That’s the Yankees’ most games of no more than two runs scored — at the 90-game mark — since the designated hitter rule was established in 1973.

sabathia long game 2
(Getty)

Despite his struggles this season, Rodriguez has a history of dominating the Yankees and now owns a 2.01 ERA in five career starts against them. He hasn’t given up more than two runs in each of those outings, the first Red Sox pitcher to post five straight starts with two runs or fewer against the Yankees in nearly five decades (Dave Morehead, 1965-68).

It was another ineffective outing by CC Sabathia, who continued his downward spiral with five runs allowed in five-plus innings. He’s now given up at least five runs in five straight starts, the first time he’s ever put together a streak like that in his career.

Opponents are crushing his sinker, slugging a ridiculous .633 off the pitch during this horrid five-game stretch, a 300-point increase from his first 11 starts of the season. The two-seamer has also lost its effectiveness as a weak-contact weapon for Sabathia: the pitch has a ground ball rate of just 28 percent in his last five outings compared to 49 percent in his first 11 games.

Feeling the heat in July
The Yankees avoided the sweep and kept the For Sale sign in the closet for at least another day as they beat the Red Sox, 3-1, on Sunday night. They overcame an early deficit to notch their 27th comeback win of the season — that’s a whopping 60 percent of their 45 total wins. Last year, only 46 percent (40 of 87) of their wins were of the come-from-behind variety.

Austin Romine plated the game-winning run with a two-out, tie-breaking RBI single in the fourth inning, but it was another masterful performance by Masahiro Tanaka that put the Yankees in position to end their post-break slump. Tanaka held the league’s most potent offense to just one run on three hits, striking out seven in six innings.

It’s hard to fathom where this team would be without Tanaka’s ace-like numbers this season:

  • He’s been consistently excellent at preventing runs: This was Tanaka’s 13th outing allowing two earned runs or fewer, tied with Chris Tillman and Aaron Sanchez for the most such starts among all AL pitchers this season.
  • He is at his best against the Yankees’ biggest rivals: Tanaka now has a 1.58 ERA in seven starts versus the AL East this season.
  • He is a streak-stopper: Tanaka improved to 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA in eight games following a Yankee loss this season.
  • He gives the team a chance to win every time: The Yankees are 14-5 in his starts and 31-41 when anyone else starts.

Tanaka’s been great.

2016 Midseason Review: The Role Players

Now that the All-Star break has arrived, it’s time to review the first half of the season. We’ve already looked at the catchers, infielders, outfielders, bench, rotation, and bullpen. Now let’s tackle the role players.

Green. (Presswire)
Green. (Presswire)

As always, the Yankees have had to dip into their farm system for help at times this season. That’s mostly the result of injuries. Sometimes they called up a legitimate prospect and gave him a chance, like Rob Refsnyder, and other times they brought in a journeyman veteran to plug a short-term hole. Either way, they were all Yankees. Let’s review the spare parts.

Chad Green: The Sudden Sixth Starter

Over the winter the Yankees looked at their rotation and bullpen depth, and decided to rob Peter to pay Paul. They traded reliable setup man Justin Wilson to the Tigers for two Triple-A starters because they figured they had enough bullpen arms, but not nearly enough starters. Starters under control beyond 2017, especially.

One of those two Triple-A starters is Green, who has spent the majority of the season with Triple-A Scranton, where he’s been dominant. Detroit’s 11th round pick in 2013 currently leads the International League in ERA (1.54 ERA) and FIP (2.18), and that performance has earned him three big league starts. One went well. Two didn’t.

May 15th @ D’Backs: 4 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 2 HR (MLB debut)
July 3rd @ Padres: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 1 HR
July 8th @ Indians: 4.1 IP, 5 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 4 HR

Seven homers in 14.1 innings is really bad! Left-handed hitters have hit five of the seven homers, which makes sense because Green hasn’t really shown a reliable changeup yet. He did add a cutter while in Triple-A between his first and second starts, which is promising, though clearly the Indians had no trouble with it last week.

Green did throw one perfect relief inning with the Yankees in mid-June, so right now he has a career 7.04 ERA (7.09 FIP) in 15.1 innings. Surely he’s looking to improve those numbers, and my guess is he’ll get multiple chances to do so in the second half. Green seems to have climbed to sixth in the rotation depth chart, ahead of Nathan Eovaldi and Luis Severino. How about that?

Second Half Outlook: If the Yankees do sell at the deadline, I could see them giving Green an extended look as a starter in the second half. There’s really no reason to keep running impending free agent Ivan Nova out there in the second half if they’re out of the race. More than likely Green will go up and down a few more times and be the team’s sixth starter, giving the regular rotation members extra rest.

Nick Goody: The Last Shuttle Reliever Standing

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The Yankees opened Spring Training with a small army of Triple-A relievers ready to go up and down as needed. We saw it last year. It seemed like one or two of them would be given an extended look at some point this season, but that hasn’t been able to happen. They’ve almost all gotten hurt. The list:

The hope was one or two of those guys would step up and become a permanent piece of the bullpen. Instead, they’ve combined for one big league inning (by Pinder) this season. Baseball, man.

Goody is the last young shuttle reliever standing. He started the season in Triple-A but has had a few stints with the big league team, throwing a total of 22 innings across 19 games. Goody has a 4.91 ERA (4.59 FIP) in those 22 innings, and he’s been alarmingly home run prone (2.05 HR/9). His strikeout (27.4%) and walk (5.3%) numbers are great! But there’s more to life than that. Not a good year to be a young reliever with the Yankees.

Second Half Outlook: Goody is actually on the big league roster right now. He was called up when Green was sent down following his start in Cleveland. Something tells me Goody is going to end up back in Scranton at some point. Then back in New York. Then Scranton. Then New York. You get the point. He’s the very definition of a spare up-and-down arm.

Plans E & F at First Base

At one point in the first half the Yankees had their Plan A (Mark Teixeira), Plan B (Greg Bird), and Plan C (Dustin Ackley) first basemen on the DL. Plan D turned out to be Refsnyder, who basically had an afternoon of prep work at the position before being thrown into game action. The Yankees didn’t want to overwhelm Refsnyder, so a few days after Teixeira’s injury, they called up Plan E: Chris Parmelee.

The Yankees signed Parmelee over the winter after Bird got hurt. He hit .252/.343/.444 (128 wRC+) with seven homers in 43 games with Triple-A Scranton — Parmelee thoroughly outhit Nick Swisher with the RailRiders — before being called up. In his first game in pinstripes, Parmelee went 3-for-4 with a double and two homers. For real! Check it out:

The very next night Parmelee singled in a run in the fifth inning to tie the game against the Angels. No one expected Parmelee to keep hitting like that, but hey, he gave the team a nice little shot in the arm. You need those out-of-nowhere contributions to contend.

The Yankees are not allowed to have nice things though. A few innings after that game-tying single, Parmelee popped his hamstring while stretching for a throw at first base. He suffered a Grade II strain and will be out two months or so. Just like that, Refsnyder was the first baseman again. Plans A, B, C, and E at first base were hurt.

To replace Parmelee, the Yankees signed Ike Davis (Plan F) after he opted out of his minor league deal with the Rangers, and he didn’t even go to Scranton. The Yankees added him to the MLB roster right away. Davis appeared in eight games with the Yankees, went 3-for-14 (.214), then was designated for assignment when Teixeira came off the DL. Davis is currently with Scranton waiting for Teixeira’s next injury.

Second Half Outlook: Parmelee was slated to begin baseball activities a week or two ago and is still a few weeks from returning. The Yankees don’t really have anywhere to play him right now, not unless they trade Teixeira or Carlos Beltran at the deadline. Neither Parmelee nor Davis have much of a role with the Yankees going forward. They’re just injury fill-ins. Parmelee had a memorable moment in pinstripes. Davis … not so much.

The Up & (Mostly) Downers

Johnny B. (Elsa/Getty)
Johnny B. (Presswire)

There are still nine players who played for the Yankees this season that we have not yet covered as part of this crash course midseason review. Let’s wrap up the big league portion of the midseason review with one sentence on each of those nine players. Sound good? Good.

  • RHP Johnny Barbato: For a while it looked like Barbato would stick as a middle reliever, but the bloom came off the rose and he’s now in Scranton.
  • LHP Richard Bleier: The 29-year-old rookie has not only appeared in ten games with the Yankees, he’s still on the roster!
  • LHP Phil Coke: Sure, why the hell not?
  • RHP Luis Cessa: Cessa made the Opening Day roster and keeps going back and forth between big league reliever and Triple-A starter.
  • OF Ben Gamel: His hair is pretty great and pushes the limits of team regulations.
  • RHP Conor Mullee: The three-time major elbow surgery guy got affordable health care for life this year, so that’s cool.
  • LHP Tyler Olson: Olson appeared in one game with the Yankees, then was lost on waivers.
  • C Gary Sanchez: “Hey, Gary, we’re going to call you up for a game and make you face Chris Sale, sound good?”
  • RHP Anthony Swarzak: It’s literally Anthony Swarzak.

Second Half Outlook: Sanchez definitely has a future with the Yankees. He’s the long-term plan behind the plate. Barbato, Cessa, Gamel, and Mullee might have roles with the team going forward too. We’ll see them again in September, if not earlier. Everyone else? They’ll be gone soon enough.

2016 Midseason Review: The Bullpen

Now that the All-Star break has arrived, it’s time to look back and review the first half of the season. We’ve already looked at the catchers, infielders, outfielders, bench, and rotation. Now it’s time to cover the bullpen.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The Yankees have two very different bullpens this season. There’s the good part of the bullpen, which is the three-headed monster at the end of the game. Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Dellin Betances have all been spectacular. They’ve combined for a 2.15 ERA (1.57 FIP) with 185 strikeouts in 108.2 innings. Yeah. Ridiculous.

Then there’s the other part of the bullpen. The bad part. That’s basically everyone else, including guys like Kirby Yates and Chasen Shreve. The non-big three relievers have a 4.91 ERA (5.27 FIP) in 155.2 innings. Yikes. That’s not so good. The bullpen overall has a 3.78 ERA (3.56 FIP) on the season. The Yankees definitely have a top heavy relief crew. Chapman, Miller, and Betances are incredible. None of their other relievers are reliable. Let’s review the primary bullpen arms.

Aroldis Chapman: The Temporary Yankee?

When the Yankees acquired Chapman, they were able to do so at a discount because of his pending suspension under the league’s domestic violence policy. No one knew what to expect. Chapman was the first player suspended under the new policy, and he was given a 30-game ban even though he was not charged with a crime. He served his suspension and joined the team in early-May, and immediately took over as closer.

Chapman has been as advertised in his limited time with the Yankees. Is he throwing hard? Yes. His fastball has averaged (averaged!) 100.5 mph and topped out at 104.5 mph. Is he striking out a ton of batters? Yep. Nearly four out of every ten (38.4%, to be exact). Is he wild? Well, not really. His 6.1% walk rate is (by far) a career low and his 58.5% zone rate is (by far) a career high. Chapman’s been dominant and resilient, pitching in 26 of 58 games since his suspension ended. That’s a 72-appearance pace over a full season. He got seven outs (!) in his final appearance of the first half:

Chapman has saved 17 games in 18 chances and pitched to a 2.49 ERA (1.91 FIP) in 25.1 innings since coming back from his suspension. He has been as good as ever, and that shouldn’t be much of a surprise. It’s not like he started the season late because he got hurt. Regardless of how you feel about Chapman as a person following his domestic violence incident, the man is a dominant force on the mound.

Second Half Outlook: The Yankees should trade Chapman at the deadline. There’s no reason to think they are capable of going on the type of run necessary to get into the postseason — they’re 5.5 games back of a wildcard spot with six teams ahead of them, so yeah — and Chapman could bring back a hefty return at the trade deadline. Definitely something worth more than the draft pick the Yankees would recoup if they lost him as a free agent after the season. Will the Yankees actually go through with it and trade Chapman? I think they will. We’ll find out soon enough.

Andrew Miller: The Best Reliever in Baseball

(Sean M. Haffey/Getty)
(Sean M. Haffey/Getty)

You could definitely make the case any of the Yankees’ big three relievers is the best reliever in baseball based on their performance the last few years. In the first half, Miller has risen to the top and been not only New York’s best reliever, but the best in all of baseball. A total of 124 relievers have thrown at least 30 innings this season. Among those 124, Miller ranks …

… eight in ERA (1.37)
… sixth in FIP (1.93)
… first in strikeout rate (46.6%)
… sixth in walk rate (4.1%)
… first in K/BB ratio (11.5)
… third in WHIP (0.71)

I know both fWAR (+1.5) and bWAR (+1.9) say he’s been the third best reliever in baseball, but for my money, he’s the top guy. No other reliever in the game ranks top eight in all of those categories above, and Miller does it while pitching high-leverage innings. And let’s not forget he pitched with a fractured right wrist for the first few weeks of the season.

On top of the performance, Miller is also pretty much the perfect teammate. He opened the season as the team’s closer, went 6-for-6 in save chances, then stepped into a setup role when Chapman returned with no questions asked. The guy is all about the team and it’s hard not to love that. At a position where big contracts often go so very wrong, Miller has somehow been underpaid. He’s worth every penny of his four-year, $36M contract.

Second Half Outlook: Unfortunately, Miller’s excellence and affordable contract make him one very attractive trade chip, the kind of trade chip a rebuilding team would be smart to cash in. The Yankees listened to offers for Miller over the winter and didn’t see anything they like. They’ll listen again at the deadline because they’d be stupid not to. Will they actually trade him? My guess is no, but I’m not very confident in that.

Dellin Betances: Still Excellent Despite A Few Hiccups

Stride length. (Harry How/Getty)
Stride length. (Harry How/Getty)

Betances has spoiled us the last few years. He’s been so good since 2014 that this season feels like a down year, and yet, when you look at his numbers, you see a 2.66 ERA (1.20 FIP) with 78 strikeouts (lol) in 44 innings. Dellin has only walked ten batters too, giving him a career high strikeout rate (45.1%) and a career low walk rate (5.8%) through the first 88 team games. This is absurd. He’s been outrageous.

Now, that said, Dellin has had some notable hiccups this season. He allowed a home run in three straight outings back in late-April — those are the only three homers he’s allowed all season — and has also run into some bad ball-in-play luck that led to runs. Betances has somehow managed a career high ground ball rate (53.6%), a career high soft contact rate (31.8%), and a career high BABIP (.378). I mean … what?

The term “bad luck” gets overused so much nowadays, but I truly think Betances is running into some back luck this season. He’s getting burned on a lot of soft grounders that either go for infield hits or sneak through to the outfield for singles. Those home runs back in April were hit mighty hard, no doubt about that. Otherwise Betances has been missing bats and getting weak contact. Some of that weak contact has come back to bite him, because that’s baseball sometimes.

Second Half Outlook: Even if the Yankees decide to sell at the trade deadline, it’s tough to think they’ll part with Betances. Someone would have to really knock their socks off with an offer. He’s not just unbelievably good, but he’s also under team control another three years, and he’ll make below-market salaries through arbitration. As long as Betances is healthy, it’s safe to assume he’ll be excellent.

Kirby Yates: The Obligatory Scrap Heap Arm

I’m mad at myself for not seeing it coming. Yates was the random scrap heap reliever the Yankees picked up over the winter who somehow managed to work his way onto the Opening Day roster. It happens every year. Last season it was Chris Martin. The Yankees have a knack for finding these guys, and hey, sometimes they’re useful.

Kirby’s usefulness lasted through May. He had a 2.25 ERA (3.13 FIP) in his first 20 appearances and 20 innings, and he really did a nice job stepping into the seventh inning role while Chapman was serving as suspension. As soon as the calendar flipped to June, Yates imploded. He allowed 13 runs and 21 baserunners in 8.1 innings in June, which was capped off by his brutal three hit batsmen meltdown against the Rangers following that long rain delay two weeks ago.

We haven’t seen Yates since that game. He was sent to Triple-A the next day and he’s been there since. Kirby has a 5.72 ERA (3.88 FIP) in 28.1 innings this season, which are the kind of numbers you expect to see from a scrap heap journeyman.

Second Half Outlook: Yates is not any kind of long-term piece for the Yankees. He’s a spare up-and-down arm who we might see again whenever the Yankees need a fresh reliever. Assuming he isn’t dropped from the 40-man roster at some point — he seems safe for a while, there are some others who figure to go first — Yates will be back once rosters expand in September at the latest.

Chasen Shreve: Still Broken

For much of last season, Shreve made an excellent fourth wheel to the Miller-Betances-Justin Wilson end-game trio. He struggled big time down the stretch and everyone — by everyone I mean Shreve and the coaching staff — chalked it up to fatigue, which was believable. He threw a ton of intense innings early in the season. This was a guy who was basically a mop-up man in the minors until 2014, when he decided to air it out rather hold back for the sake of location.

(Getty Images)
(Getty)

Shreve was excellent in Spring Training — he allowed one hit and one walk in ten innings — and it carried over into the regular season. His first six outings were scoreless. Shreve was back! Or so we thought. Many runs and dingers followed. Shreve allowed eleven runs on 14 hits and three walks in 13.2 innings from April 21st through May 25th. Seven of those 14 hits were homers. Seven! In 13.2 innings! Egads.

A relatively minor shoulder problem sent Shreve to the DL for a couple of weeks, and once he was healthy, the Yankees optioned him to Triple-A for about two weeks. He’s since returned to the big league team and retired all seven batters he’s faced across two outings. That’s encouraging, but it’s seven batters. Joe Girardi has been using him in low-leverage spots and understandably so. Shreve did allow eleven homers in a span of 24 innings from September 2015 through May 2016, after all.

Second Half Outlook: I really have no idea what to expect from Shreve in the second half. Runs and homers is the smart bet, but who knows? Shreve does have a nasty splitter, and if he gets it working again, he has the potential to dominate. Either way, Shreve is going to have to earn his way back into the Circle of Trust™. He’s pitched his way out of it.