Yankeemetrics: Light at the end of the tunnel? [May 13-15]

Chase "Mr. Clutch" Headley (AP Photo)
Chase “Mr. Clutch” Headley (AP Photo)

Raise the white flag
Friday’s pitching matchup between Chris Sale and Luis Severino looked like a complete mismatch on paper, and that’s how it played out in real time as the White Sox crushed the Yankees, 7-1, in the series opener.

Sale went the distance, dominated the Yankees lineup and moved to 8-0 with a 1.67 ERA this season. He also lowered his career ERA versus the Yankees to 1.17, the best mark against the Yankees by any pitcher in major-league history who has made at least five starts against the team.

Holding the Yankees to one run on six hits, Sale also became the first White Sox pitcher with a complete game win at Yankee Stadium since Jim Abbott on July 18, 1995. The last White Sox pitcher to allow one run or fewer in a nine-inning complete-game win at Yankee Stadium was Neil Allen in 1986.

Severino was removed in the third inning after surrendering seven runs, and fell to 0-6 with a 7.46 ERA in seven starts. The only other Yankees in the last 100 years to go winless in their first seven starts of the season, and lose at least six of those games, were Chien-Ming Wang (2009), Doyle Alexander (1982) and Stan Bahnsen (1969).

Two good to be true
The Yankees bounced back from Friday’s deflating loss with a 2-1 victory on Saturday afternoon, improving to 9-2 against the White Sox at Yankee Stadium since the start of 2013, their best record in the Bronx against any team over the past four years.

The win was also their first this season when scoring fewer than three runs; entering Saturday, the Yankees were 0-16 in those games, the worst record among all MLB teams.

Ivan Nova, making his second start of the season, was outstanding in giving the Yankees 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball. He’s now allowed one run or fewer in six of his seven starts against the White Sox, including all three at Yankee Stadium. His 2.42 career ERA versus Chicago is the best by a Yankee pitcher in the Wild Card era (min. 44 innings).

Dellin Betances relieved Nova in the sixth inning and struck out all four of the batters he faced. That’s the second time in his career he’s thrown more than an inning and punched out every guy.

He is the only Yankee pitcher in the last 100 years to have multiple outings like that. Two other active pitchers have two such games on their resume: Steve Geltz (Rays) and Kenley Jansen (Dodgers).

Milestone Man (mlb.com)
Milestone Man (mlb.com)

Don’t call it a comeback
Slowly, but surely, the Yankees are starting to dig themselves out of the massive hole they dug themselves into during the first month of the season. After taking the rubber game on Sunday afternoon against White Sox, the Yankees clinched their third series in a row and finished off a strong 10-game homestand at 7-3.

Carlos Beltran, hitless in his previous three games, broke out of that mini-slump in style with a towering home run in the sixth inning to give the Yankees a 5-4 lead. It was also the 400th of his career, putting Beltran in rare company with some of baseball’s greatest sluggers. He is the:

  • 54th player in MLB history with 400 career homers;
  • eighth player to reach the 400-homer milestone in a Yankee uniform (Babe Ruth, A-Rod, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Gary Sheffield, Alfonso Soriano);
  • fourth switch-hitter to reach the milestone (Chipper Jones, Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray);
  • third Puerto Rican in the exclusive club (Carlos Delgado and Juan Gonzalez).

Beltran’s legacy is more than just homers, though, he’s one of the best all-around, five-tool players. There are now three players in major-league history with at least 400 homers, 75 triples, 1,000 walks and 300 stolen bases in a career: Beltran, Willie Mays and Barry Bonds.

While Beltran provided the biggest milestone moment of the game, Chase Headley delivered the decisive blow with a two-out, pinch-hit RBI double in the bottom of the seventh that broke a 5-5 tie. It was his fifth go-ahead hit in the seventh inning or later since his debut in pinstripes on July 22, 2014. That’s tied with A-Rod for the most go-ahead hits in the seventh inning or later among Yankees during that span.

Fan Confidence Poll: May 16th, 2016

Record Last Week: 5-2 (36 RS, 33 RA)
Season Record: 16-20 (137 RS, 159 RA, 15-21 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: @ Diamondbacks (three games, Mon. to Weds.), @ Athletics (four games, Thurs. 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?

Beltran’s milestone homer helps Yankees to 7-5 win over White Sox

The Yankees dug themselves a bit of a hole early this season, and if they’re going to turn things around, they were going to have to have a great homestand. They did exactly that. The Yankees beat the White Sox by the score of 7-5 on Sunday afternoon. They took two of three from the Red Sox, three of four from the Royals, and now two of three from the White Sox. Couldn’t ask for a better homestand. The Yanks have won eight of their last 12 games overall.

<3 (Elsa/Getty)

Take The Lead, Then Re-Take The Lead
Boy did this game drag. Neither starting pitcher was particularly sharp, so there were a lot of long at-bats and long innings early on. The score was 4-3 White Sox going into the bottom of the sixth, which is when the Yankees first rallied to take the lead. It all started with an error too. Brett Lawrie pulled Jose Abreu off the bag with a throw, allowing Jacoby Ellsbury to reach with one out.

With two outs and two strikes, Carlos Beltran came through with a clutch two-run home run to give the Yankees a 5-4 lead. It just so happened to be his 400th career homer too. Beltran is the fourth switch-hitter in history to reach 400 dingers, joining Mickey Mantle, Eddie Murray, and Chipper Jones. He’s also only the fifth player with 400 homers and 300 steals. Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Willie Mays, and Andre Dawson are also members of that club. Good company, huh?

Beltran’s homer gave the Yankees a lead that proved to be short-lived. Dellin Betances allowed a stupid BABIP fueled run in the very next half inning. Abreu and Todd Frazier pulled soft ground balls through the left side to put runners on first and second with no outs, then Melky Cabrera slapped a double the other way that was fair by maybe a foot. Probably less:

Melky Cabrera Dellin Betances

Bah. Baseball can be so stupid sometimes. The double tied the game 5-5 and set the White Sox up for a potentially big inning. The Yankees were in trouble.

The “save” in this game came in that seventh inning, if you ask me. The ChiSox had runners on second and third with no outs following Melky’s double, yet Dellin rebounded to escape the jam with a ground ball — the infield was in, so Frazier had to hold at third — and two strikeouts. Chicago could have conceivably scored two runs with outs that inning if some grounders or fly balls were well-placed. Betances stranded ’em. Well done.

The Yankees took the lead again the next half-inning. It all happened with two outs too. Didi Gregorius worked a two-out walk against Matt Albers, then pinch-hitter Chase Headley (!) came off the bench to rip a first pitch fastball into the right-center field gap for a run-scoring double. How about that? Headley went from having zero extra-base hits to having three in the last four games. Good times.

Headley’s double gave New York a 6-5 lead and later Brian McCann made it 7-5 with a solo home run against Nate Jones in the eighth. Andrew Miller struck out two in a perfect eighth and Aroldis Chapman struck out zero (wtf!?) in a perfect ninth. The White Sox did not have a base-runner following Melky’s game-tying double in the seventh. Some timely hitting and clutch bullpen work led to this win.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Tanaka Labors
For the second straight start, Masahiro Tanaka struggled on Sunday, though these struggles were different than the last time out. In his last start he got beat with the long ball. On Sunday the the White Sox strung together a bunch of hits and capitalized on some walks. Adam Eaton did hit a solo home run. The other three runs scored on singles with a combined exit velocity of about 150 mph.

Tanaka walked back-to-back hitters with one out in the second, then Avisail Garcia singled a run in with a ground ball through the left side of the infield. Following a pair of bloop singles in the fourth, Eaton laid down a squeeze bunt to score a run — he was thrown out at first on the play — and Austin Jackson followed with a bloop single to center. That whole inning was annoying. Three bloops and a squeeze bunt. Blah.

(Also, shout out to Eaton for the squeeze bunt. He went deep in his previous at-bat and the White Sox had runners on the corners with one out and the top of the order up. And Tanaka was very hittable. Playing for the big inning is for suckers.)

Aside from Eaton’s homer, the hardest hit balls against Tanaka did not score a run. Melky and Garcia were stranded after ripping doubles, and Frazier was stranded after whacking a hard hit grounder back up the middle. Starlin Castro did get to the ball, but he rushed the throw and wound up bobbling the transfer. Tanaka finished with four runs allowed on a season high eight hits and three walks. He fanned seven.

More than anything Tanaka struggled to get his splitter in the right spot. It was generally down — the splitter Eaton hit for a homer was decidedly not down — but too far down and in the dirt. Tanaka made it easy for the ChiSox to take the pitch Sunday. He threw 25 splitters and got only nine swings (36%) and four swings and misses (16%). Tanaka came into the game averaging 55% swings against the splitter and 24% whiffs.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Early Runs
The pitching line on Miguel Gonzalez would lead you believe the Yankees scored way more than three runs against him. He allowed five hits and five walks in only 4.2 innings. Gonzalez fanned one batter. The Yankees let him off the hook a few times, most notably leaving the bases loaded in the third. At least Castro beat out an infield single and Dustin Ackley drew a bases loaded walk with two outs to score two runs earlier that inning.

The Yankees scored their first run in a matter of four pitches in the first inning. Ellsbury reached on an infield single, Brett Gardner singled to put runners on the corners, then Beltran plated Ellsbury with a sacrifice fly. Ellsbury saw two pitches and the other two hacked at the first pitch they saw from Gonzalez. Hey, it worked, right? The Castro infield hit and Ackley walk drove in the team’s second and third runs of the afternoon.

Leftovers
Gregorius made what was probably the team’s best defensive play of the season in the sixth inning. It was certainly the most heads up and most athletic defensive play we’ve seen by a Yankee in 2016. Didi came off second base and had to jump to catch McCann’s throw on a steal attempt, but he still managed to reach down and apply the tag on Tyler Saladino while in midair. Check it out:

For the fourth time this season, Ellsbury reached on a catcher’s interference. There are 126 games to go, so the single season record is well within reach. What is the record, you ask? That would be eight by Roberto Kelly, who did it with the 1992 Yankees. Maybe if Ellsbury breaks the record the Yankees can trade him for the next Paul O’Neill?

Gardner had three hits and a walk on the afternoon. In fact, the top five hitters in the lineup went a combined 8-for-19 (.421) with three walks, a hit-by-pitch, a double, two homers, two steals, six runs scored, four runs driven in, and one strikeout. That will work just fine, thank you very much.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and up to the minute standings, head over to ESPN. MLB.com is the place to go for the video highlights. Also don’t forget about our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees are heading to the lesser coast for a seven-game road trip through Arizona and Oakland. They’ll play the first of three against the Diamondbacks on Monday night. That’s a 9:40pm ET start. Chad Green will make his Major League debut and start that game, the Yankees announced this afternoon. They’re going to start him now rather than wait for Luis Severino‘s next turn to come up to use the spot starter. Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi get an extra day of rest this way. Lefty Robbie Ray will be on the bump for the D’Backs.

DotF: Refsnyder goes deep twice in Scranton’s win

A non-update on OF Mason Williams: he is progressing well following shoulder surgery, but there is still no timetable for hims return to the field, according to Shane Hennigan. He had surgery in early-August last year, so he’s nine months out now.

Triple-A Scranton (7-1 win over Indianapolis)

  • DH Ben Gamel: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 E (throwing)
  • C Gary Sanchez: 0-4 — Chris Sale broke him, bust!
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 2-4, 3 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI — first two homers of the season
  • CF Jake Cave: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI — two singles, two doubles, a triple, and a homer in five games since the promotion
  • LHP Dietrich Enns: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 HB, 2/1 GB/FB — 61 of 95 pitches were strikes (64%) … very nice Triple-A debut … if he keeps pitching like this, the Yankees are going to have no choice but to consider calling him up whenever they need an arm later this summer
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 2/1 GB/FB — 22 of 36 pitches were strikes (61%)

[Read more…]

Sunday Open Thread

Here is the open thread for the rest of the weekend. The Mets are playing right now and the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game is the Cardinals at the Dodgers (Leake vs. Wood). You’ve also got an NBA playoff game (right now) and an NHL playoff game (later tonight), so talk about those games, this afternoon’s win, or anything else right here.

Game 36: End of the Homestand

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

The long homestand comes to an end today, and so far things have gone very well. The Yankees have won six of nine and today they can make it seven of ten. That didn’t seem possible two weeks ago, huh? The Yankees have already banked series wins over the high scoring Red Sox and the defending champion Royals. Now they have to win a series against the first place White Sox. Here is the ChiSox’s lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Carlos Beltran
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. RF Dustin Ackley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 3B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It is cool, cloudy, and really windy in New York today. I don’t know if that means balls will be flying out of the park or dying in the air. I guess we’ll find out. Today’s game will begin a little after 1pm ET, and you can watch on WPIX locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: CC Sabathia (groin) threw 45 pitches in a simulated game and had no problem. Joe Girardi said Sabathia will start Friday, when he is eligible to come off the DL … Alex Rodriguez (hamstring) has been doing some light running and continues to hit off a tee and in the batting cage. The hope is he will be ready to be activated when eligible Thursday.

Cobbling together some random thoughts

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

State of the Union

It’s mid-May and I’m still not entirely sure what to make of this Yankees’ season. Logic tells me that I may have overrated this team in the offseason. Emotion tells me that it’s still early enough that they can make a run. But then I think, “What would that run be to?” I’ve harped on this point a lot recently, but I think the roster and the team are at the point where missing the playoffs and getting a higher-end draft pick might make more sense. If that happens, I hope there is a sell-off of assets. Neither one of these things is likely to happen as that’s just now how the Yankees operate. But with some solid core pieces in place for next year–Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro, Dellin Betances, Brian McCann, (a hopefully healthy) Greg Bird, Brett Gardner–a high draft pick and some prospect rewards for tradeable assets could go a long way in securing the team’s future just a little bit more.

The McCannibal

Speaking of Brian McCann, he represents a bit of a contradiction in my mind. I generally disliked the post-2013 spending spree that brought in McCann and his free agent classmates Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. But that dislike has a lot more to do with Taco and Carlos than it does with McCann. McCann has been quietly very good with the Yankees. Since joining the team, he leads all catchers in home runs with 53. He’s also fourth in fWAR (6.0), behind leader Buster Posey (12.2); Jonathan Lucroy (8.2); and Russell Martin (7.8). The team may have been disappointing in that stretch, but McCann is not among the reasons for disappointment.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The Gary Sanchez Thing

Obviously, Gary Sanchez was sent back down thanks to the roster crunch created by Luis Severino‘s sudden injury. It seemed he was only going to be up for two days to face Chris Sale and Jose Quintana anyway, but it still felt like a tease. And isn’t that so fitting for Gary Sanchez’s career? This has nothing to do with Sanchez’s personality or even his performance, which has always been good. I remember reading about him on this very site way back when; he’s 23, but it seems like he’s been around forever–because he has. When is his time finally going to come? Will it be next year? The year after? I still have faith that this guy can and will contribute to the Yankees, but I’m finding it so hard to see a spot for him unless the Yankees really commit to platooning him and McCann next year. That could actually be a good way to ease him in. Then, if/when Alex Rodriguez retires, Sanchez can take the lion’s share of the catching duties while McCann sees more time at DH, and maybe even first.

Sanchez. (Presswire)
Sanchez. (Presswire)

Speaking of prospects…

I’m a fan of Brian Cashman‘s. I think he’s done a really great job in running this team; it’s hard to argue with about 20 straight winning seasons and only two non-playoff seasons, three if you don’t like to count the play-in game. But where do we draw his line of responsibility, so to speak, for the Yankees’ general failure with regards to developing players? No, that’s not all in his hands, but he’s still in charge. This isn’t to say the Yankees have been a total bust with regards to prospects–just look at the Chicago White Sox’s roster for proof of that. But the lack of big-time contributions from homegrown players is shocking. Of course, a team shouldn’t have homegrown players simply for the sake of having them, but something more than Brett Gardner and Dellin Betances would be nice, no?