Thoughts heading into the series with the Astros

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees dropped two of three to the lowly Phillies earlier this week, though at least they were able to salvage the series with a win yesterday. Now they’re off to Houston for a four-game set with the Astros. The Astros are good now. That won’t be an easy series. Anyway, here are some thoughts.

1. This year’s Yankees seem to be the opposite of last year’s Yankees. Last year the Yankees couldn’t score but they always got competent pitching, even when starters were dropping like flies in the first half of the season. This year they always seem to be getting enough offense and the pitching is letting them down. It’s not just the run of poor starts earlier this week either. The middle of the bullpen has been shaky for much of the season and earlier this year Adam Warren was pitching like a reliever masquerading as a starter. I’d rather have an all-hit/no-pitching team than a no-hit/all-pitching team if I had to pick one — you can slug your way into the postseason, the mid-2000s Yankees did it every year, but pure pitching and defense clubs seem to have a harder time getting to October — but the Yankees were supposed to be a strong prevention team this year. That part of their game has been woefully inadequate of late. The offense has better way better than expected.

2. I think the only player on the roster who is falling short of expectations is Chase Headley. I guess Michael Pineda too, but I wouldn’t be completely shocked if he hovered around a 4.00 ERA going forward now that he’s venturing into uncharted workload territory following shoulder surgery. Headley has underperformed but everyone else on the roster is either meeting reasonable preseason expectations or approaching the best case scenario. So Headley is pretty much the only guy on the roster we can point to and say “the Yankees will be in better shape once he turns it around.” That’s actually a good thing. You don’t want to be waiting for multiple players to turn things around. That said, the Yankees have just one guy underperforming and they still aren’t good enough to pull away in the AL East. I think Headley will turn things around. Eventually. At some point. I think. Then what?

3. Speaking of Headley, errors are a poor way to evaluate defense, we know that, but geez man, 16 errors already? As best I can remember only one of those errors came on a non-routine play too — this one against the Blue Jays. The other 15 have come on routine or at least makeable plays. Headley is still making non-routine and occasionally spectacular plays at what I consider an above-average rate compared to other third basemen, but the sudden inability to make routine plays is getting frustrating. (We’re talking about 16 errors in roughly 200 total chances at third, so it’s basically one error every dozen chances or so.) It’s got to be a mental thing too, not a loss in skills, right? He’s still picking hot shot grounders with the best of ’em. The infield defense was supposed to be a strength, and now that Didi Gregorius has gotten more comfortable, Headley is the weak link in the field. Baseball is weird, man.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

4. I’m not a fan of the whole “when this guy comes back from his injury it’ll be like making a trade!” line of thinking. When guys come back from injury, you’re right back where you started, not better off. Jacoby Ellsbury won’t be like a trade deadline pickup, he’ll just be making the team whole again. That said, I think Ivan Nova is a little different, because you can never really count on pitchers coming off a major injury to contribute, no matter how high the success rate for the surgery. Coming into the season I had the “anything he gives them this year is a bonus” mindset with Nova, and, based on what we saw yesterday, it sure looks like Ivan will be able to help this season. Yeah, it was just one start and that doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, but he looks healthy and he was consistently pumping 93-95 mph. If he’d come out struggling to top 90 mph with no command, it would be a red flag. Nova looked like the pre-Tommy John surgery of himself and that’s a pitcher the Yankees didn’t have earlier this season. He is like a trade deadline pickup. Sorta.

5. Mark Teixeira‘s recent neck injury scares me, probably more than it should. He had three hits yesterday but it seems like the kind of injury we could wind up pointing back to in August and September saying “Teixeira was mashing until he hurt his neck.” Maybe the last few seasons have made me paranoid. That’s probably it. Teixeira’s been really good this year and the Yankees absolutely need him to continue being really good to contend. I’m not sure they’ll be able to hang in the race if his offense tanks like it did in the second half last year. Carlos Beltran has been much better of late and Alex Rodriguez has raked all year, but those guys are still injury risks. Adding a bat may not be a top priority at the trade deadline but I do consider it a need. Second base is the obvious spot to upgrade and Ben Zobrist is the top target for me. He fits the roster too well. (He fits every roster well.) Yeah, Stephen Drew mashes homers, but a .190 AVG and a .258 OBP is not acceptable for an everyday player. The Yankees should be actively seeking an upgrade.

6. Either it’s one hell of a coincidence or the Yankees have a pretty clear plan for Aaron Judge — he had 278 plate appearances with Low-A Charleston, 285 plate appearances with High-A Tampa, and 280 plate appearances with Double-A Trenton. Now he’s at Triple-A and will get about 280 plate appearances there the rest of the season. Give the brain trust a truth serum and I think they’d tell you they want Judge to be their everyday right fielder in 2016. How that happens … I don’t know. Beltran and A-Rod are still under contract next year. I guess the plan is wait until one gets hurt? A Brett Gardner trade is always possible but I find it very unlikely. He’s the best player on the team. (There, I said it.) Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself here. Judge has to master Triple-A first before becoming an MLB option, and who knows what the roster will look like heading into Spring Training next year. I do think the team’s perfect world plan has Judge in right on Opening Day 2016 though.

DotF: Refsnyder reaches base five times; Fowler has big day in Tampa’s doubleheader

Photo day for the RailRiders. Can you find Judge? (@swbrailriders)
Photo day for the RailRiders. Can you find Judge? (@swbrailriders)

Triple-A Scranton (8-1 win over Louisville)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 3-6, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 1-1, 1 R, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 2 SB — 10/14 K/BB in his last 26 games
  • DH Aaron Judge: 0-3, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K
  • LF Ramon Flores: 1-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB
  • RF Tyler Austin: 2-3, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 K
  • RHP Jordan Foley: 4 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 5/3 GB/FB — 47 of 78 pitches were strikes (60%) … pretty great spot start for the kid who’s been in Low-A all season
  • RHP Joel De La Cruz: 4 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 8/1 GB/FB — 30 of 44 pitches were strikes (68%) … can’t do a better job of long relief than that
  • LHP James Pazos: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — eleven pitches, six strikes

[Read more…]

Wednesday Night Open Thread

I kinda had a feeling the Yankees would score a ton of runs against Cole Hamels this afternoon. I mean, it’s not like the offense has been struggling, the pitching was clearly to blame during those last three losses, and it just seems like these Yankees have a knack for hitting great pitchers. Hamels, Jacob deGrom, Felix Hernandez, David Price … the Yankees roughed them all up this year. That’s always fun.

Here is tonight’s open thread as the Yankees head to Houston. The Mets are playing and ESPN2 is showing the Cubs and Dodgers later. Also, the decisive Game Three of the College World Series is on as well (8pm ET on ESPN). Vanderbilt is trying to repeat as nationals champs and Virginia is trying to get revenge for losing to Vandy in last year’s finals. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s win, or anything else here.

Yanks send Branden Pinder and Diego Moreno to Triple-A

Pinder. (Presswire)
Pinder. (Presswire)

Following this afternoon’s win over the Phillies, the Yankees sent right-handers Branden Pinder and Diego Moreno to Triple-A Scranton, the team announced. Stephen Drew will be activated off the paternity list to fill one spot. The other? That’s unclear at the moment.

Pinder, 26, has allowed three runs in 10.2 innings across multiple big league stints this year. Moreno, 27, allowed two runs in an inning today and threw a scoreless inning in his only other outing. Those two have been part of the bullpen revolving door the last few weeks.

The Yankees were carrying eight relievers and are now down to six with Chris Capuano and Bryan Mitchell capable of going multiple innings. (Mitchell gets to stay, interestingly.) Danny Burawa, Chris Martin, and Jose Ramirez are all on the 40-man roster but can’t be called back up yet because of the ten-day rule.

Joe Girardi has indicated the Yankees may carry a six-man bullpen while using a six-man rotation these next few days, so perhaps a position player is coming up. It can’t be Ramon Flores because of the ten-day rule. Maybe Gregorio Petit? I guess we’ll find out tomorrow. Intrigue!

Yankees pound Hamels in Nova’s return, take series finale 10-2 from Phillies

Just as we all expected, the Yankees lost games started by Kevin Correia and Sean O’Sullivan this series and won the game started by Cole Hamels. New York was able to avoid getting swept by the Phillies on Wednesday afternoon with a 10-2 blowout win. That’s more like it. The Yankees went 5-3 and averaged 7.5 runs per game during the eight-game homestand.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Return of SuperNova
After the first two games of this series, I would have been happy if Ivan Nova simply hadn’t gotten clobbered in his return from Tommy John surgery on Wednesday afternoon. A winnable start was the goal and he sure gave the team that. Nova held the Phillies to three hits and two walks in 6.2 scoreless innings in his first start back from elbow reconstruction. He struck out just one and got way more outs in the air (14) than on the ground (five), which is atypical for him. But, first start back, and there was definitely some rust.

Early on in the first inning Nova did get away with some mistakes — he left some fastballs middle-middle — but the Phillies couldn’t do anything with them. I guess that’s the difference between throwing 93-95 mph like Nova and 88-90 like CC Sabathia on Tuesday. Nova got much better as the game progressed and he leaned on his sinker/curveball combination (not so much his changeup) just like he did in his pre-Tommy John surgery days. He was on a 95-100 pitch limit and threw 92 pitches (51 strikes), and it did seem like he started to run out of gas near the end there.

After all that, the Yankees have to be thrilled with Nova’s return. Not just the results — they really needed a strong start after those last three games though — but how he looked. His sinker was moving and when he missed, he generally missed down below the zone after the first inning. He was able to throw his curveball for strikes and while his command was spotty — Nova didn’t hit catcher John Ryan’s Murphy glove a whole lot — his control was fine. He was around the zone. Really encouraging outing. Welcome back, Ivan.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Return of the Phillies
For the first time in the series, the Phillies actually played like the worst team in baseball. The Yankees scored their first two runs in the second inning and both scored when third baseman Andres Blanco threw the ball away trying to get the force at the plate. Chris Young singled, John Ryan Murphy walked, Didi Gregorius beat out a sac bunt attempt to load the bases with no outs, and Jose Pirela‘s grounder led to the error. Blanco’s throw scooted away from catcher Carlos Ruiz and two runners scored.

The next three runs came in the fourth inning, again because the Phillies played like the worst team in the game. Gregorius led the inning off with a sun-aided double — it was a routine infield pop-up infielders Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis failed to catch — and Cole Hamels walked Pirela on four pitches. Unexpected! Brett Gardner slapped a single to center to score Gregorius, then Chase Headley hit a soft chopper over second base that Blanco muffed, allowing Pirela to score. It looked like Blanco was expecting the ball to hit the base, but it never did and it went for a double. Mark Teixeira followed with a legit single to right to score Headley.

The Yankees did a really nice job against Hamels, forcing him to throw 102 pitches in five innings. He allowed those five runs on eight hits, three walks, and a hit batsman while striking out only three. The third inning was his only 1-2-3 inning. Hamels had to throw 69 of those 102 pitches from the stretch. These Yankees have a knack for hitting aces — Hamels joins David Price, Jacob deGrom, Gio Gonzalez, Felix Hernandez, Jered Weaver, and Garrett Richards as pitchers who allowed five or more runs in six or fewer innings against New York this season, among others.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
The Yankees kept piling on runs after Hamels was out of the game. One run in the sixth, another four in the seventh. Always appreciated. Bryan Mitchell retired all four men he faced and Diego Moreno allowed two runs in a messy ninth to blow the shutout. Nice of Nova and the offense to take the pressure off the bullpen.

Everyone in the starting lineup had a hit except Carlos Beltran, who went 0-for-5. Headley (single, double), Alex Rodriguez (two singles), Teixeira (three singles), Young (two singles), Gregorius (single, double), and Pirela (single, double) all had multiple hits. Murphy had a single and a walk. The Yankees had 14+ hits for the 12th time this year. They had 14+ hits nine times last year and eight times the year before.

The Yankees scored ten runs in this game despite not hitting a home run. They hadn’t scored more than five runs in game without a homer this season. They went 7-for-21 (.333) with runners in scoring position. When was the last time a team had 21 at-bats with runners in scoring position in a nine-inning game? I have no idea how to look that up.

Joe Girardi was ejected in the third inning for barking about a bad call on a check swing. He came out of the dugout and got his money’s worth after being tossed. Nova struck out Maikel Franco to end the inning on the next pitch. It was Girardi’s second ejection of the season.

And finally, Hamels plunked A-Rod in the thigh with two outs in the first inning and home plate ump Brian O’Nora warned both benches immediately. That seemed silly, but I guess it went back to Franco being hit by a pitch Tuesday night. Either that or umpires were told to be quick to act whenever A-Rod gets hit this year.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the links to the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. We also have Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Now here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The homestand is over and the Yankees are now heading to Houston for a four-game series with the first place Astros. Adam Warren and ‘Stros ace Dallas Keuchel will be the pitching matchup in Thursday night’s series opener.

2015 Draft Signings: Robertson, Marks, Zehner, Bisacca

Marks. (Tennessee)
Marks. (Tennessee Athletics)

The draft signing deadline is Friday, July 17th this summer, and as far as we know the Yankees are not close to a deal with UCLA RHP James Kaprielian (1st round). He’s a Scott Boras client though, and top Boras clients tend to not sign until right before the deadline. The Yankees did sign second rounder LHP Jeff Degano earlier this week. Here are some later round draft signings.

  • California HS OF Terrance Robertson (12th) has signed based on his Twitter feed. No word on his bonus. As a reminder, anything given to player drafted after the tenth round over $100,000 counts against the draft pool. No reason to think the raw and speedy Robertson got more though.
  • Tennessee RHP Bret Marks (15th), Cal Poly OF Zach Zehner (18th), and Oral Roberts C Austin Afenir (25th), also signed. I know that because all three have played for one of the Yankees’ minor league affiliates in recent days.
  • Sam Houston State RHP Alex Bisacca (35th) has also signed according to his Instagram feed. Like Robertson and everyone else in this post, there’s no word on the bonuses for Marks, Zehner, Afenir, or Bisacca.
  • According to Baseball America, the Yankees have signed Nebraska RHP Josh Roeder (21st), Cal State LA RHP Icezak Flemming (26th), George RHP David Sosebee (28th), Delaware RHP Chad Martin (30th), and Oklahoma City RHP Dustin Cook (36th).
  • The Yankees have signed Franklin Pierce C Matt Walsh as an undrafted free agent, the school announced. He hit .366/.438/.505 with 14 doubles and four homers as a senior this spring.
  • The Yankees have also signed Arizona RHP Cody Hamlin and Missouri RHP Andrew Schwaab as undrafted free agents, reports Matt Eddy. Hamlin had a 3.94 ERA with a 61/13 K/BB in 102.2 innings this spring while Schwaab had a 6.06 ERA with a 6/4 K/BB in 16.1 innings.

Make sure you check out our 2015 Draft Pool Tracker to keep taps on the team’s bonus pool situation. Unless one or some of those guys above signed an overslot deal — no reason to think that, but it’s always possible — the Yankees have $643,900 in draft pool savings to spend. My guess is some of that will go to Kaprielian. By my unofficial count, the Yankees have now signed 30 of their 41 draft picks.

Game 72: The Return of Ivan Nova

(Maddie Meyer/Getty)
(Maddie Meyer/Getty)

For the first time since April 19th of last season, Ivan Nova will be on the mound for the Yankees this afternoon. The real Yankees too. Not the Tampa Yankees or another minor league affiliate. His rehab from Tommy John surgery is complete and today he returns to the rotation. What to expect? Who knows. Nova was unpredictable even before having his elbow rebuilt.

The Yankees are getting Nova back today but, more importantly, they have to avoid being swept by the Phillies. The Phillies! The worst team in baseball. The worst offense in baseball has scored eleven runs in each of the first two games of the series — the Phillies went from averaging 3.10 runs per game to 3.32 runs per game thanks to the Yankees — and today they’re sending ace Cole Hamels to the mound. Good grief. Here is the Phils’ lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. LF Chris Young
  7. C John Ryan Murphy
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Jose Pirela
    RHP Ivan Nova

It’s a gorgeous day in New York. Nice and sunny with temperatures comfortably in the upper-70s/low-80s. Just a perfect afternoon for a ballgame. Today’s series finale will begin 1:05pm ET and you can watch live on YES locally and, depending on where you live, MLB Network nationally. Try to enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Teixeira (neck) took batting practice and felt good, so he’s back in the lineup … Andrew Miller (forearm) played catch today for the first time since being shut down. He made 25 throws and everything went well … Brendan Ryan was placed on the 15-day DL with an upper-back strain. One thing after another with that guy.

Roster Move: Jose DePaula was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot for Nova, the Yankees announced … Ryan to the DL cleared the 25-man roster spot.