Thoughts following Aroldis Chapman’s shoulder injury

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The (first place!) Yankees have suffered their third notable injury of the still relatively young 2017 season. After playing without Gary Sanchez (biceps) and Didi Gregorius (shoulder) in April, the Yankees placed closer Aroldis Chapman on the 10-day disabled list yesterday with left rotator cuff inflammation. He’ll be shut down at least two weeks, and Brian Cashman acknowledged Chapman could miss a month. That bites. Time for some thoughts.

1. Chapman admitted yesterday his shoulder has been barking for a few weeks now, including during that ugly outing in Boston, but he pitched through it and assumed it would get better with treatment. It sounds kinda dumb and risky — why pitch through discomfort in your throwing shoulder?!? — but my guess is this sort of thing happens all the time. Stick any pitcher in an MRI tube and you’ll find some inflammation or tendinitis. No one is ever truly 100% during the season. Chapman said it wasn’t until Friday that the discomfort became too much to bear, which is when he finally said something. It’s pretty amazing he was still getting his fastball up into triple digits even with a balky shoulder — since the Boston game, Chapman has thrown roughly one-quarter of his fastballs at 100+ mph, topping out at 101.6 mph — which is another reminder this guy is a physical freak. He’s so strong and athletic that even a bum shoulder couldn’t stop him from throwing harder than, like, 99% of all pitchers.

2. I absolutely believe Chapman’s current shoulder woes could be the product of his postseason workload last year. The World Series hangover phenomenon is very real. Chapman threw a lot of intense innings last season — he threw 73.1 total innings in 2016, one out short of his career high, and he did that despite being missing April with his suspension — and also had a much shorter offseason. More work, less time to recover. Chapman wouldn’t be the first pitcher to suffer through a World Series hangover and he won’t be the last. I’m not saying Cubs manager Joe Maddon was wrong to ride Chapman so hard during the postseason. I would want Joe Girardi to do the exact same thing in that situation. It’s just that the workload happened and Chapman may be dealing with the consequences now. The Yankees were well aware of the risks when they signed him. Hopefully spending a few weeks on the disabled list will knock this all out and Chapman will feel as good as new when he returns.

3. It goes without saying the Yankees should be ultra-cautious with Chapman and I’m sure they will be. He is six weeks into his massive five-year contract, and they don’t want to push him too hard and risk a potentially minor injury turning into something more severe. It’s better to lose Chapman for a few weeks now than many weeks later, you know? Chapman said yesterday what he feels now is similar to what he felt in 2011, when he missed roughly six weeks with shoulder inflammation. I guess that’s kinda reassuring? He’s been through this before and knows what to expect, plus, when he returned from the disabled list in 2011, he showed no ill-effects. He went back to being a flame-throwing monster on the mound. Still, aside from the Greg Bird situation, the Yankees are almost always conservative with injuries, especially with pitchers, and I’m sure that will be the case here. Chapman is too important and owed too much money to rush him back.

4. Girardi confirmed yesterday Dellin Betances will take over as the closer and that doesn’t surprise me at all. When faced with similar situations in the past, Girardi has typically bumped everyone in the bullpen up a notch on the depth chart, and that’s what’ll happen here. I know Betances struggled as the closer last September — weird how everyone seems to have forgotten he was nails as the closer in August, isn’t it? — but I believe that was more workload related than role related. Betances has been throwing high-leverage innings for the Yankees for more than three years now. No reason to think he’ll suddenly stop getting outs because he’s pitching an inning later than usual. Losing Chapman bites because he’s great and the Yankees will be without a top notch reliever. They won’t suffer in the ninth inning though. Betances will be fine. The difference will show up in the middle innings, when someone like Adam Warren won’t be available because he’s taken over as the seventh inning guy.

5. That all said, I wonder whether it would be smart to let Tyler Clippard close rather than Betances. Clippard could start the ninth inning fresh with no one on base, allowing Betances to remain a setup man and potentially put out fires in the seventh inning on occasion. Clippard could do that too — he’s gotten four outs twice in his last five appearances — but, frankly, Betances is the more dominant pitcher, and I’d rather see the Yankees avoid bringing Clippard into an inning with men on base given his extreme fly ball tendencies. That’s asking for a multi-run homer, especially at Yankee Stadium. Clippard as closer and Betances in the fireman setup role may be the most optimal bullpen deployment. Then again, Betances has hit a wall the last two Septembers, so maybe limiting him to one-inning closer outings now allows him to remain effective deeper into the season. Hopefully Clippard and Betances (and Warren) are lights out and who pitches when isn’t a big deal. I just worry we’re going to see seventh or eighth inning leads evaporate with Betances sitting in the bullpen, being held back for the save situation.

Yankeemetrics: Bronx Bummer (May 11-14)

(AP)
(AP)

Game of Inches
Entering Thursday the Astros and Yankees were baseball’s two best teams, separated by just .001 in the win percentage column, so it was fitting that the first game of the series was decided on the final play, by mere inches.

Down two runs in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and two men in scoring position, Gary Sanchez lined a single through the left side of the infield; Aaron Hicks scored easily from third base but Jacoby Ellsbury – racing home from second – was thrown out at the plate as the potential game-tying run.

Those types of rally-killing outs on the bases have been piling up for the Yankees this season. It was the sixth baserunning out at home plate by a Yankee this season, tying the Red Sox for the most in the AL through Thursday, and one shy of the major-league-leading Marlins.

Yet, the heart-wrenching nature of this play is actually quite rare: This was just the third time since 1930 that a game ended on a base hit with a Yankee being thrown out at home as the potential game-tying run.

The last time it happened was August 12, 1987 against the Royals when Wayne Tolleson was nailed at the plate trying to score from first on Roberto Kelly’s double to left field. Before that, you have to go back all the way to May 9, 1930 against the Tigers, when Tony Lazzeri was thrown out trying to score from second on Bill Dickey’s single.

Ellsbury was also involved in the Yankees only other run, when he got a catcher’s interference call with the bases loaded in the fifth inning. It was his 28th catcher’s interference, one shy of tying Pete Rose for the all-time MLB record. Of course, Rose is also the all-time record-holder in career plate appearances (15,890), while Ellsbury ranked 960th in that stat (5,084) through Thursday.

In yet another oddity, it was the first time in his career that Ellsbury got a catcher’s interference call with the bases loaded. And it had been more than two decades since any Yankee did that – the last one was by Pat Kelly in 1992 against the A’s.

(Newsday)
(Newsday)

Dead Bats Society
The Yankees offense went into a deep freeze on a chilly Friday night in the Bronx, barely avoiding a shutout in a listless 5-1 loss to the Astros. Didi Gregorius‘ RBI single with two outs in the ninth kept the Yankees as one of three teams (Twins, Nationals) that haven’t been blanked this season.

Brian McCann delivered the big blow for the Astros when he clubbed a three-run homer in the fourth inning to break a scoreless tie. It was his 47th homer at Yankee Stadium since 2014, the most home runs hit by any player at the Stadium in that span – and 12 more than the next guy on the list (Carlos Beltran, who also was sitting in the visiting dugout this weekend).

Lance McCullers dominated the Yankee lineup with a devastating mix of 95-mph fastballs and knee-buckling curves, holding them to zero runs on four hits over six innings while striking out seven and walking none. That seems good, eh? McCullers (23 years, 222 days) is the youngest pitcher ever to throw at least six scoreless, walk-free innings with seven-plus strikeouts in his first road appearance against the Yankees.

(AP)
(AP)

Comeback kings strike again
The Yankees kicked off Mother’s Day/Derek Jeter Night with a slump-busting, 11-6 come-from-behind win in the first game of Sunday’s double-header. It was their eighth victory when trailing by at least two runs, the second-most in baseball this season.

The first rally came in the fourth inning and was sparked by a couple longballs off the bats of Starlin Castro and Aaron Judge. Castro’s two-run homer knotted the score at 3-3, his fourth game-tying homer of the season, which matched Freddie Freeman for the most in the majors. Judge’s go-ahead, 441-foot solo blast to dead-center was his MLB-leading sixth home run of at least 430 feet in 2017, two more than any other player.

The second and decisive rally came in the seventh inning, when the Yankees erupted for six runs to erase a 6-4 deficit. The biggest blow was a tie-breaking, bases-loaded triple by Chase Headley. In the last 20 years, the only other Yankee with a go-ahead, bases-clearing triple in the seventh inning or later was Bernie Williams on June 21, 2005 against Tampa Bay.

(Getty)
(Getty)

#RE2PECT2JETER
The excited buzz and loud cheers lingering from the Stadium crowd following Derek Jeter’s number retirement ceremony were quickly silenced when George Springer stepped into the batter’s box and led off the game with a home run. That sparked a six-run first inning for Houston and paved the way for a deflating 10-7 loss by the Yankees.

Masahiro Tanaka was clobbered amid a chorus of boooooos, producing the worst start of his major-league career. He matched career-worsts in innings pitched (1 2/3) and homers allowed (4), while surrendering a career-high eight runs, and etching his name in the record books — for the wrong reason.

Tanaka became the first pitcher in Yankees history to give up at least eight earned runs and four home runs in a game while pitching fewer than two innings.

Three of those home runs came in the first inning, putting the Yankees in a huge early hole that even the Comeback Kings couldn’t dig out of. Going back to 1950 (as far back as Baseball-Reference.com has mostly complete play-by-play data), the Astros are the only visiting team to hit three-or-more home runs in the first inning of a game at Yankee Stadium.

As horrible as this game ended up, we can still end this Yankeemetrics on high note by honoring The Captain with the ultimate #JeterFunFact.

Here’s the list of players in major-league history to compile at least 3,000 hits, 250 homers, 350 stolen bases and 1,300 RBIs in a career: Derek Sanderson Jeter.

Fan Confidence Poll: May 15th, 2017

Record Last Week: 2-4 (34 RS, 33 RA)
Season Record: 22-13 (201 RS, 148 RA, 22-13 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, @ Royals (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), @ Rays (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in 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?
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Astros hammer Tanaka, Yankees drop series finale 10-7


Source: FanGraphs

The night started with a wonderful ceremony in which the Yankees honored Derek Jeter by retiring No. 2. The Cap’n has officially been immortalized in Monument Park. Up next: Cooperstown. Then, after the ceremony, the Yankees sent everyone home. Nothing else to see tonight. Yeah, I wish. The Yankees were pummeled by the Astros in Sunday night’s series finale. The final score was 10-7, and it felt way more lopsided than that. At least they won the first game of the doubleheader. Once again, let’s recap with bullet points:

  • Bad Tanaka: I think we’ve reached the point where we have to worry about Masahiro Tanaka. He’s been mostly mediocre all year outside the shutout in Boston, and this start was a complete disaster. George Springer and Josh Reddick opened the game with back-to-back home runs — going back to his last start, Tanaka allowed three homers to the last four batters he faced — and later in the first inning Alex Bregman hit a grand slam. Springer hit another homer in the second. Tanaka had to work very hard for every out too. The Astros put together long at-bats, longer than we’re used to seeing against Tanaka. The final line: 1.2 IP, 7 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 4 HR. It was, pretty easily, Tanaka’s worst start in MLB. The Yankees need to get him right and soon. (Three of the homers came on the first pitch. Is he tipping pitches? Being too predictable?) There’s almost no path to contention that involves Tanaka pitching like this (5.80 ERA and 5.33 FIP).
  • Too Little, Too Late: So apparently Charlie Morton throws 97 mph with sink now? I mean, he’s always had sink, but as recently as 2014 his heater averaged 91.9 mph. It averaged 96.3 mph in this game. Huh. Anyway, the Yankees did a whole bunch of nothing against Morton until well after the score was out of hand. Brett Gardner led the game off with a single, and it wasn’t until Gardner singled with two outs in the fifth that the Yankees picked up their second hit. That one drove in their first run of the game. Matt Holliday soon followed with a three-run homer, cutting the deficit to 9-4. Wooo, Fighting Spirit! They were able to scratch out three runs and get the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but alas, it was not meant to be. There was no miraculous comeback.
  • Leftovers: Shout out to OG Gio Gallegos. He threw 44 pitches and soaked up three innings after Tanaka’s stinker. In the past he’d be shuttled out tomorrow, no questions asked. The Yankees have resisted those moves so far this year, however … Chasen Shreve followed with 2.1 scoreless and hitless innings. He’s been really good since coming back up … Gardner went 3-for-4 … the rest of the Yankees went 7-for-32 (.219).

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. We also have a Bullpen Workload page, so check that out. The Yankees have yet another off-day Monday, then they’re off to Kansas City for the start of a six-game road trip. The Royals swept the Orioles this weekend, you know. That is much appreciated given the AL East race. CC Sabathia and Jason Hammel are the scheduled starters for Tuesday night’s series opener.

Game 35: Derek Jeter Day

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

I’m not going to lie, Derek Jeter was never my favorite member of the Core Four Five. I certainly appreciate his greatness and status as an all-time great player and Yankee, but I was always partial to Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera. That’s just me. Posada and Rivera (and Andy Pettitte) had their days the last few years. Today is Jeter’s day.

It was never a question of “if” the Yankees would retire Jeter’s number, of course. It was only a matter of “when.” Jeter is the greatest Yankee of my lifetime and he’s on the short list of the best shortstops in baseball history. He’s sixth all-time in hits. That blows my damn mind. Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Tris Speaker. The only players in the history of the universe with more MLB hits than Jeter. Amazing.

A who’s who of Yankees greats are expected to be in the ballpark for tonight’s Jeter ceremony. Here’s the full roster of attendees. The Yankees say the ceremony itself will begin at 6:40pm ET, and I do believe you’ll be able to watch it on both YES and ESPN. Definitely on YES. I know that much. I’m pretty sure I remember reading somewhere that ESPN will carry it too. Should be fun.

After the ceremony, the Yankees will wrap-up their four-game series with the Astros with the second game of today’s doubleheader. The Yankees won the first game this afternoon. I haven’t seen the Astros’ lineup anywhere, but here are the players the Yankees will run out there tonight:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. CF Aaron Hicks
  8. 1B Chris Carter
  9. 3B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

The Yankees and Astros played through some showers this afternoon and they might have to do the same again tonight. Looks like the rain is far enough away that it won’t interfere with the Jeter ceremony though. Also, it shouldn’t be enough to delay or postpone the game or anything. First pitch is scheduled for 7:38pm ET, though who knows. The ceremony may run long. Either way, enjoy the ceremony and the game.

Yankees 11, Astros 6: Big seventh inning snaps three-game losing streak


Source: FanGraphs

That was a good way to snap the little three-game losing streak, I’d say. The Yankees mounted yet another late-inning comeback in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader — but not before blowing their own late lead, I should note — to earn an 11-6 win over the Astros. Nice to see the offense snap out of its recent funk. There is no chance I’m writing two full recaps on a Sunday, so let’s bullet point this one:

  • Bad Sevy: It was clear early on Luis Severino had no idea where the ball was going. He walked three of the first six batters he faced, but was able to skate through the first two innings scoreless thanks to some timely strikeouts and a double play ball. The third inning was less forgiving. It went hit batsmen, single, fielder’s choice, single, single, single, single, showers. Severino allowed three runs in that third inning, and left with the bases loaded and one out. Zoinks. The return of 2016 Severino, for at least one day.
  • Two Leads: The Yankees took their first lead of the series three batters into the game on a double (Brett Gardner) and two ground outs. Nice and easy. They took their second lead of their series in the fourth inning. The Astros were up 3-1 at the time, then Starlin Castro lifted a two-run homer into the short porch, and Aaron Judge hammered a solo homer off the top of the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar. Just like that, it was 4-3 Yankees. Matt Holliday drew a walk to set up Castro’s two-run shot. It’s the second time this season Starlin and Judge have gone back-to-back.
  • Blown Lead: What a job by Chad Green. He escaped Severino’s third inning mess with a double play, then chucked three more scoreless innings on top of it. Great, great work by him. And I was totally cool with Joe Girardi pulling Green when he did. He was about to face the middle of the lineup a second time. Adam Warren has been great this year and he just didn’t get the job done in the seventh. Castro botching a double play — he flipped the ball into left field — didn’t help, but the lead was gone by then. An infield single, a walk, and a single did that. The botched double play and a sac fly gave the Astros two more runs. The 4-3 lead became a 6-4 deficit.
  • Fighting Spirit!: The Yankees answered Houston’s three-run top of the seventh with a six-run bottom of the seventh. A single (Gardner) and a double (Jacoby Ellsbury) with one out set it up. Holliday drove in the first run with an infield single. It was a great play by Carlos Correa. The ball was ticketed for center field, but Correa dove to stop the ball, preventing Ellsbury from scoring from second. Saved a run. Temporarily, anyway. Castro came through with a game-tying two-strike double to right, which also left the Yankees with men on second and third. An intentional walk to Judge set up Chase Headley (!) for the go-ahead triple (!!!). Shout out to Josh Reddick for making that possible with a weird route in right field. Chris Carter tacked on an insurance run with a double, giving the Yankees a 10-6 lead. All the fan favorites came through that inning.
  • Leftovers: Warren remained in to pitch the eighth inning and retired the side in order. Jonathan Holder did the same in the ninth … Gardner tacked on another insurance run with a solo homer in the eighth. His seven homers match last year’s total … every starter had a hit except No. 9 hitter Austin Romine … the Yankees had eleven hits total, but only two singles. Two! Five doubles, one triple, three homers. This is their second game with nine extra-base hits this season. They had two all of last year … the Yankees are a perfect 12-0 when Judge homers this season.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page either. The Yankees will retire No. 2 in honor of Derek Jeter later today, then play the second game of the doubleheader. Masahiro Tanaka and Charlie Morton are the scheduled starters for that one. Ready to do this all over again?

DotF: Torres and Rutherford both go deep in losses

Triple-A Scranton announced several roster moves today. 1B Ji-Man Choi and LHP Daniel Camarena have been placed on the disabled list — I have no idea what’s wrong with either (Camarena missed the entire 2015 season with an elbow injury, it’s worth noting) — and both 1B Mike Ford and RHP Colten Brewer have been bumped up from Double-A Trenton. The Camarena injury and RHP Chad Green call-up solved the whole “seven starters for five spots” problem real quick.

Triple-A Scranton (6-2 win over Syracuse)

  • 3B Tyler Wade: 1-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 1 CS — he’s been on base 41 times in his last 16 games (.420 OBP)
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 1-5, 2 K
  • RF Clint Frazier: 2-5, 2 R, 2 RBI — 13-for-43 (.302) in his last eleven games
  • 1B Mike Ford: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K — nice Triple-A debut
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 1-5, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • DH Mason Williams: 1-5, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • RHP Chance Adams: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 1 HB, 5/2 GB/FB — 57 of 97 pitches were strikes (59%) … strong Triple-A debut … 39/18 K/BB in 40 innings so far this year … I’d like to see him get the walks down, and I’m sure the Yankees would too
  • RHP Colten Brewer: 2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 20 of 28 pitches were strikes (71%) … makes his Triple-A debut exactly two weeks after making his Double-A debut

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