Five questions for you this week and they’re all good ones. Might be biased, but I this is a quality mailbag. Send us any questions or comments or whatever through the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

Many people asked: What about signing Brian McCann this offseason?

Not sure what sparked it, but we got a ton of McCann questions this week. I guess people are just sick of watching the team’s current catchers on a daily basis.

Anyway, the 29-year-old McCann is scheduled to become a free agent this winter for first time in his career. A right shoulder injury really hampered him last season (87 wRC+), but he’s rebounded very well from offseason surgery to produce a .258/.333/.472 (125 wRC+) line that is right in line with his career norms (117 wRC+). Surgery on the front shoulder is a scary thing for a hitter, but McCann has come back very well and hasn’t seen a slip in his performance. It’s encouraging if nothing else.

Elite catchers — if McCann isn’t considered elite, then he’s damn close — almost never hit the open market, so McCann will be one of the hottest commodities out there this winter. Yadier Molina signed a five-year, $75M extension last year and I think that’s the baseline for McCann. Yes, we’re comparing an extension to a free agent, but Molina is also the better player. I think 5/75 is in the ballpark at least. Seems reasonable enough to me.

Now, the problem with signing a soon-to-be 30-year-old catcher to a five-year contract is that you can’t expect him to catch full-time all five years. It could happen, but McCann would be the exception and not the rule. I think you have to go into the deal thinking he can catch full-time for the first two years, split the third year at catcher and first base, then split the fourth and fifth years at first base and DH. Maybe you get lucky and you get three years as a full-time catcher instead of two.

McCann makes a ton of sense for the Yankees for many reasons. First and foremost, he’s a massive upgrade over their current catchers. He’s better than all of them put together. Secondly, he’s a left-handed hitter who should see his production tick up with the move into Yankee Stadium. Third, he has plenty of experience with division and playoff races and all that stuff. And fourth, the timeframe works well. A young catcher like Austin Romine or J.R. Murphy could be broken in slowly these next few years a la late-1990s Jorge Posada, and if things break right down the line, Gary Sanchez will be able to step in right when McCann is turning into a pumpkin. He’s a great, great fit for New York.

Slade. (Presswire)

Slade. (Presswire)

Nick asks: Who is Rule 5 Draft eligible this offseason?

For all intents and purposes — there are some exceptions, players drafted particularly young or old — it’s high school players from the 2009 draft and college players from the 2010 draft this year. International players who signed at 18 or younger prior to 2008 or signed at 19 or older prior to 2009 are eligible as well. It’s always tough to pin down the international guys because we usually don’t know the exact date they signed.

The Yankees already took care of one piece of Rule 5 Draft business by adding Murphy to the 40-man roster this month. He would have been eligible this year and obviously would have been protected. As best I can tell, the following players are also Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter: CF Slade Heathcott, RHP Shane Greene, RHP Bryan Mitchell, RHP Tommy Kahnle, RHP Danny Burawa, RHP Chase Whitley, and RHP Zach Nuding. That appears to be it among the legitimate prospects. Sanchez has at least one and possibly two more years to go before becoming eligible..

Heathcott is obviously going to be protected since he is one of the team’s top prospects. Greene, Kahnle, Burawa, and Whitley are all damn near MLB ready and would be prime Rule 5 Draft bait. All four would get picked if left unprotected. The Yankees floated Kahnle’s name in trade talks before the deadline (for both Alfonso Soriano and Michael Young), which leads me to believe they are leaning against not protecting him. They were trying to get something before losing him for nothing. Greene had the best year of those four and is the only one with a realistic chance of starting.

Mitchell has a great arm but it’s hard to believe he could stick on a 25-man roster all of next season. He’s someone who would get a look in Spring Training and be offered back, more than likely. Nuding too. That said, Jose Ramirez was in the same boat last year and he wound up being protected. The Yankees have been rather aggressive when it comes to protecting Rule 5 Draft guys in recent years — I feel like almost losing Ivan Nova to the Padres in 2008 scared them into protecting everyone — so I wouldn’t be surprised if they added Heathcott, Greene, Burawa, Whitley, and Mitchell to the 40-man this winter. Greene, Burawa, and Whitley would be up-and-down bullpen options as soon as next summer, if nothing else.

Kevin asks: As bad as the farm system was this year, doesn’t it seem just as likely next year could be a bounceback season? Say two of Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, and Heathcott bounce back, Sanchez stays steady, and Greg Bird and Rafael DePaula continue to progress, can’t you see next year we’re talking about a Top 10 system? This stuff seems to considerably vary year-to-year.

Definitely. This was a bad year for the farm system but there is a lot of potential room for improvement. Literally every team has those “if this guy bounces back, if that guy stays healthy, etc.” prospects, but the Yankees have more than most. They’re adding what amounts to five first round talents into the system as well: 3B Eric Jagielo, OF Aaron Judge, LHP Ian Clarkin, RHP Ty Hensley, and LHP Manny Banuelos. The first three were this summer’s first rounders and will be playing in their first full pro season while Hensley (2012 first rounder) and Banuelos (2012 top prospect) will be returning from injury. Full years from SS Abi Avelino and RHP Luis Severino will help as well. A lot would have to break right — it all won’t, some of these guys will inevitably disappoint — but the farm system has a chance to take a major, major step forward in 2014.

Huff. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Huff. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Paul asks: When does Joe Girardi have to announce a starter for a game? Is he able to use his Phil Hughes/David Huff tandem to somehow get the opposing manager to start his lefty-heavy lineup while starting Huff instead of Hughes?

The rulebook says that the starting pitcher becomes official when the lineup cards are exchanged at home plate before the start of the game. At that point the listed starter must face at least one batter before he can be replaced like every other pitcher. So, if they wanted the other team to start their lefty-mashing lineup against Hughes and replace him with Huff, they would have to wait at least one batter.

That said, this isn’t all that practical because Huff will need some time to warm up and the other club would see him getting ready in the bullpen beforehand. There’s also a gamesmanship aspect to this. I don’t think something like this would go over well around the game. If Hughes were to get hurt? Sure. But otherwise … eh.

Justin asks: Two part Brendan Ryan question. Recently, the YES announcers have quoted Kevin Long saying he could “fix” Ryan’s swing. A) Do you think that he can bring him to respectability of maybe a .260 hitter? B) Is he a better 2014 option over Jhonny Peralta or Stephen Drew?

Long is just a hitting coach, not a miracle worker. Ryan has never been an adequate hitter — career .252/.303/.341 hitter … in Triple-A — and it’s hard to think Long could do anything that would suddenly transform him from a .238/.300/.321 career big league hitter into say, a .260/.320/.350 guy for even one year. It could happen, baseball is weird like that, but I don’t think there’s enough starting material here for that to happen.

As for 2014, I think Ryan would be my last resort at shortstop. Well, second to last ahead of Eduardo Nunez. (Sorry Eddie, I’m over you.) I prefer Drew — a slick defender and a Yankee Stadium-friendly lefty hitter — over Peralta by quite a bit among free agent options, but both guys would be real nice fits next year. Drew could play short while Peralta takes over at third for the presumably suspended Alex Rodriguez. I do think — and this is completely baseless, by the way, just a guess — the Yankees want to avoid Biogenesis/PED guys going forward though, so Peralta might be a non-option. Ryan’s been a nice little late-season pickup but I absolutely do not want that guy penciled in as the number one shortstop come Opening Day.

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So it turns out a miraculous four-run inning to squeeze out a one-run win against a last place team wasn’t a sign of good things to come. The Yankees followed up Wednesday’s dramatic come-from-behind win with a total dud on Thursday, a 6-2 loss that destroys the already small chance they had of making the postseason.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

The Binder Fails
I guess it’s pretty fitting the Yankees playoff hopes were effectively killed by their biggest recent player development failure. With a two-run deficit in the seventh inning of the most important game of the season, Joe Girardi inexplicably allowed Joba Chamberlain to pitch to the middle of the Blue Jays lineup. Three batters later, it was a five-run deficit thanks to a mammoth three-run homer by Adam Lind that landed somewhere in Beaverton. The pitch might as well have been on a tee. It was a cookie.

I don’t know if Girardi is naive or oblivious to Joba’s performance or what, but it’s inexplicable he was on the mound in that situation. Not only did he have him start the inning against the heart of the order, but Girardi didn’t even go to a left-hander to face Lind and Colby Rasmus once the first two batters of the inning reached base. Naturally, Cesar Cabral replaced Joba after the homer and struck out the only two lefties he faced. Cabral has now whiffed five of the seven lefty batters he’s faced as a big leaguer. Too bad he didn’t get a chance to fact Lind earlier in the inning. Managers catch a lot of unnecessary grief, but Girardi absolutely failed to put his team in the best position to win the game. No doubt about it.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

The Wall Is Unforgiving
All things considered, three runs in six innings is a pretty good outing for Hiroki Kuroda. If you watched the game though, you know he was damn lucky to finish the night with a pitching line that good. There were a ton of loud outs and lucky breaks — 1-2-5 double play in the first inning, anyone? — along the way that prevented things from getting out of hand, particularly early in the game. A better offensive team (or the Blue Jays with a healthy Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion) would have done much more damage than three runs in six innings on Thursday.

Kuroda allowed those three runs on eight hits and four walks, and nine of those 12 base-runners came in the first three innings. He’s been having serious trouble early in his starts before settling down in the middle innings lately, and that’s exactly what happened in this game. The wrap-around 9-1-2 portion of Toronto’s lineup did most of the damage against Kuroda, going a combined 6-for-8 with two doubles, one homer, and one walk. Hiroki has now allowed 33 runs (6.37 ERA) and 71 base-runners (1.68 WHIP) in his last seven starts.

Forty-Eight Innings
Remember when the Yankees hit ten homeruns in the four-game series against the Orioles last week? Things were going so well power-wise that Brendan Ryan even hit a homer in the series opener against the Red Sox. The power well dried up after that — the Yankees went 48 innings (!) between that Ryan homer and their next long ball, which Curtis Granderson hit in the sixth inning on Thursday’s game. The solo homer was their first run of the game and their eighth in the last five games. What can you do? Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to great pitchers like Todd Redmond.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

The Yankees did mount a spirited but ultimately futile rally in the ninth inning, loading the bases with one out before the dynamic duo of Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay ended things with a pair of weak ground outs. Wells did drive in a run with his grounder, but who really cares. At least they went down with a fight, I guess. If they’re not going to make the postseason, at least be watchable. That’s all I ask at this point.

Prior to that ninth inning mini-rally, the Yankees had just four hits and one walk in the first eight innings of the game. Robinson Cano and Chris Stewart both doubled, Granderson homered, Alfonso Soriano singled, and Wells walked. That was it for eight innings. Cano singled while A-Rod and Soriano drew walks in the ninth.

The non-Joba portion of the bullpen allowed just one of the seven batters they faced to reach base. Cabral, true to his lefty specialist form, walked the right-handed Moises Sierra. He struck out the two lefties, Matt Daley got a routine fly ball from the only man he faced, and David Phelps got two ground outs and one fly ball in a perfect eighth inning. Too bad Joba screwed it all up.

If you care about such silliness, the loss guarantees the Yankees will not win at least 90 games for only the second time since 2001. They won 89 games in 2008 and will certainly finish with less than that this year.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings is the place to go for the box score and video highlights. FanGraphs has some other stats while the updated standings are at ESPN. The Yankees will remain three games back of the second wildcard spot in the loss column, assuming the Rangers hold on to beat the Rays. Cool Standings gives New York a 3.1% chance to make the postseason, and remember, that’s the optimistic system.

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
After ten games and eleven days on the road, the Yankees are finally coming back to the Bronx. The final homestand of the regular season — and Mariano Rivera‘s career — starts with three games against the defending World Champion Giants this weekend. Former Cy Young Award winners/current back-end starters CC Sabathia and Tim Lincecum kick things off Friday night. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch any of the team’s final six home games live.

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(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

When this ten-game, eleven-day road trip started, the Yankees were three games back of the second wildcard in the loss column. At best, they can end the trip two games back in the loss column — despite going 4-5 in the first nine of those ten games — and at worst, they can close it right where they started: three games back.

The problem with that, of course, is that nearly two weeks have ticked off the calendar and the Bombers have not made up any ground in the playoff race. They need help from other clubs if they still want to try to sneak into the postseason, but at this point all they can do if win their games. Everything else is out of their hands. Here’s the lineup Joe Girardi is running out there against right-hander Todd Redmond:

  1. CF Curtis Granderson
  2. DH Alex Rodriguez
  3. 2B Robinson Cano
  4. LF Alfonso Soriano
  5. RF Vernon Wells
  6. 1B Lyle Overbay
  7. 3B Mark Reynolds
  8. SS Brendan Ryan
  9. C Chris Stewart

And on the mound is right-hander Hiroki Kuroda. He’s had some big first inning problems the last few times out, allowing nine of 18 total runs in the first inning across his last four starts (40.50 ERA). After the first inning, he’s had a 3.26 ERA in those four starts. Hopefully Kuroda avoids those early problems and can give the team some much needed length tonight.

It’s another beautiful day in Toronto, nice and cool without a cloud in the sky. I imagine the Rogers Centre roof will be open. First pitch is scheduled for 7:07pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Categories : Game Threads
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  • Girardi remains noncommittal about plans for 2014

    Via Andrew Marchand: Joe Girardi remained noncommittal when asked about his plans for next year. “Yeah, I mean, I don’t worry about those details until it is time to worry about it,” said Girardi. “To me, it doesn’t make sense to worry about it, but I love being here. To me, it is wasted energy to worry about it … I haven’t thought of myself [going back to broadcasting]. But, like any other person, when things arise, you sit down and you talk to your family, I talk to my wife, our kids are in school in New York.”

    Girardi, 48, will be a free agent when his contract expires after the season. Brian Cashman already confirmed the team hopes to re-sign their manager and last month we heard it was a “foregone conclusion” the two sides would work out a new contract. Just eyeballing it, high-profile teams like the Cubs, Nationals, Angels, and maybe even the Dodgers could have managerial openings this winter. Marchand speculates that FOX could approach Girardi about replacing the soon-to-be-retired Tim McCarver, but that seems unlikely. It would surprise me if Girardi did not return to the Yankees next season, but until he signs a new contract, there is always a chance he will take a different job elsewhere.
    · (29) ·

(Patrick Smith/Getty)

(Patrick Smith/Getty)

As far as the shortstop position goes, the theme of the Yankees’ season has been “waiting.” Waiting for Derek Jeter to get healthy and waiting for Eduardo Nunez to do something that validated the team’s faith in him. Neither of those things happened. Jeter played only 17 games around four leg injuries before being shut down for good last week. Nunez has put up a 75 wRC+ in nearly 300 plate appearances while remaining a huge defensive liability. Reid Brignac, Alberto Gonzalez, and Luis Cruz all came and went.

It wasn’t until Jeter got hurt for the fourth time that the Yankees found someone who actually provided some stability at the position. They acquired Brendan Ryan from the Mariners for a player to be named later — it’ll probably be someone you’ve never heard of before and won’t miss — and he’s taken over as the everyday guy at the position. Joe Girardi said he planned to have Nunez and Ryan split time at short but it hasn’t happened. Ryan has played every inning of every game at shortstop since being acquired.

“I don’t know if it’s the most enviable position to step in after a legend,” said Ryan to Andy McCullough soon after the trade, referring to replacing Jeter. “He’s not going away. I don’t want to make it sound like that. I don’t even know what his status is.”

The 31-year-old Ryan took an 0-for-4 in his first game in pinstripes but has since gone 6-for-21 (.286) at the plate. Two of those six hits have started game-winning rallies — leadoff single in the ninth last week in Baltimore, leadoff double in the eighth last night — and another was a solo homer over the Green Monster this past weekend. Considering his career 71 wRC+, Ryan has already contributed more offensively than we could have been reasonably been expected. Those six hits are gravy.

Defensively, there’s just no competition. Brignac and Cruz were solid — above-average, even — glovemen but not comparable to Ryan, who has already made a handful of stellar plays both ranging to the second base side of the bag to his left and deep into the 5.5 hole to his right. The Yankees were getting nothing from the shortstop position for most of the season, no offense and mostly poor defense, so Ryan has upgraded at least one part of the team even if he stops hitting (which is likely given his track record).

The fact that Ryan has been the team’s most productive shortstop of the year after a whopping seven games tells you all you need to know about what went wrong this season. The Yankees waited and waited for Jeter to return and their 39-year-old captain let them down repeatedly, coming down with a new injury in a matter of days each time. Nunez had his own injury problems and despite showing off improved throwing mechanics, his defense still makes him a liability. Ryan has been reliable and expected expectations so far, but his acquisition was too little, too late.

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  • Joba asked for Tommy John surgery after doc said it was unnecessary

    Via George King: Joba Chamberlain asked for Tommy John surgery two years ago even though Dr. James Andrews said the procedure was not necessary. “I could turn a doorknob and rub my head and people said I couldn’t do that [with a torn ligament]. [Andrews] said he didn’t operate on healthy arms … For me it was a matter of getting it done and knowing it was fixed,” he said.

    Chamberlain, 27, was originally diagnosed with a strained flexor tendon and then a torn medial ligament, which is different that the ulnar collateral ligament repaired by Tommy John surgery. He said he played long-toss and felt soreness after being told he didn’t need his elbow reconstructed, which is when he decided to go ahead with the procedure. Usually guys try to avoid surgery at all costs — most notably Matt Harvey right now — but I guess Joba felt it was inevitable and wanted to get it out of the way as soon as possible.

    In 62.1 innings since returning from surgery last August, Joba has a 4.33 ERA and 4.81 FIP. He had a 3.95 ERA and 3.14 FIP in 100.1 innings from 2010-2011 after moving back into the bullpen and before having his elbow rebuilt.
    · (47) ·

(Mike Stobe/Getty)

(Mike Stobe/Getty)

This has been a long and occasionally painful season, but it’s still hard to believe there are only ten games and eleven days left on the regular season schedule. The Yankees are three games back of the second wild-card spot in the loss column and their chances of making the playoffs are remote — 3.4% according to Baseball Prospectus — but they do still have a chance. A very small one, but a chance nonetheless.

Soon after the end of the regular season, the BBWAA crew will vote on the various major awards. The playoffs aren’t considered even though the official announcements aren’t made until sometime in November. The last Yankee to win a major award was Alex Rodriguez back in 2007, when he took no prisoners en route to his third MVP. It usually takes that kind of otherworldly season for a Yankee to win a major award because there is some voter bias. At least lately there has been thanks to the dynasty years and all those division titles.

This season doesn’t figure to be any different. The Yankees don’t have a 2007 A-Rod or a 2001 Roger Clemens on the roster, but they do have a handful of players who will garner at least some consideration for the major awards. At this point of the season, it’s hard to think anything that happens between now and Game 162 will change the voters’ minds. Let’s look at which Yankees have a shot at the various awards.

Most Valuable Player
The team’s only serious MVP candidate is (who else?) Robinson Cano. He’s hitting .311/.383/.514 (141 wRC+) and is top ten in the league in both versions of WAR. Obviously his chances would greatly increase if the Yankees sneak into the postseason, but even if they don’t, Cano should get a fair amount of love because he was New York’s only real offensive threat for most of the season. Fairly or unfairly, the voters do take that stuff into consideration. It’s the whole “he had no protection!” idea.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Alfonso Soriano could get some votes because of his huge production following the trade — Jack Curry wrote about this last week — but I have a really hard time seeing that unless he swats like, six more homers from here on out and the Yankees win a wildcard spot. I’m sure it’s happened plenty of times before, but the only time I can remember a midseason trade pickup getting serious MVP consideration was Shannon Stewart in 2003. He hit .322/.384/.470 (127 wRC+) in 65 games for the Twins following the deal while Minnesota went from 7.5 games back to winning the division by four games. The narrative was pretty strong.

I suppose Mariano Rivera could draw some honorary down-ballot votes in his final season, which would be kinda neat. He’s received MVP votes in nine different seasons and has finished as high as ninth in the voting (2004 and 2005). This hasn’t been Mo’s best year — he’s still been pretty great by normal closer standards — and he doesn’t really deserve MVP votes, but who knows what’ll happen. Could A-Rod get a tenth place troll vote or two if they made the playoffs? That would be a riot. Ain’t happenin’ though.

Cy Young
Unless Rivera gets some going away votes — unlikely since this ballot only goes five players deep — the Yankees’ only Cy Young candidate this year is Hiroki Kuroda. He led the league with a 2.33 ERA as recently as August 16th, but he crashed into the fatigue wall this week and is no longer in the mix. Kuroda, who now has a 3.13 ERA and 3.49 FIP in 189.2 innings, could steal a fourth or fifth place vote from a New York writer. It would surprise me though. There are a ton of worthy Cy Young candidates in the so-called Junior Circuit this year.

Rookie of the Year
Do you know who leads Yankees rookies in the FanGraphs version of WAR this season? Melky Mesa at 0.3. He came to the plate 14 times before being released. The Baseball-Reference version is a little kinder and has Adam Warren in the lead at 0.9. Either way, I think you get the point. They don’t have a horse in this race.

Comeback Player of the Year
Finally, an award a Yankee might actually win. Rivera is coming back from his knee injury and has the whole retirement thing going for him, which is probably enough to get him the popular vote regardless of his performance. Mariano is an icon and we’ve already seen how beloved he is around the game, by opposing players and writers alike. I hesitate to call him a shoo-in, but I think you have to consider Rivera the overwhelming favorite here.

There’s a chance Brett Gardner could get some Comeback Player of the Year love, but I would expect all the Yankees-related votes to go to Mo. Eric Hosmer, Scott Kazmir, John Lackey, and Ervin Santana figure to be Rivera’s primary competition. So yeah, his to lose I think.

Manager of the Year
I wrote about Joe Girardi‘s Manager of the Year chances way back in May, and obviously a lot has changed since then. The Yankees were exceeding every possible expectation at the time and we were still expecting guys like Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter to come back and be productive. That didn’t happen and the team faded in a big way during the summer months. They’ve been trying to climb out of the hole for a few weeks now.

Even if the Yankees don’t make the postseason, I think Girardi’s going to get a fair amount of Manager of the Year support because the roster has been decimated by injuries. This wasn’t one or two injuries, this was half the lineup. In some cases their replacements got hurt. It’s not an accident the Yankees have used a franchise-high 56 different players this year. That wasn’t out of the kindness of their heart, they needed all of the warm bodies. Girardi has managed to keep the team in the hunt right down to the final two weeks of the season and that’s pretty remarkable.

Furthermore, I think Girardi has done a masterful job of handling the A-Rod situation. That could have easily been a big distraction — and it was for a while as the two traded barbs through the media — but he’s kept it contained and a non-issue for a good month now. It would have been very, very easy for that whole situation to blow up and become a major daily issue, but Girardi made sure it didn’t. I don’t think he will win the award — John Farrell has the worst-to-first thing going for him — but he’ll definitely get votes and could finish as high as second on the ballot. There isn’t a ton of competition for the award this year.

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For the first seven innings on Wednesday, it looked like the Yankees were on their way to losing their fifth straight game without putting up much of a fight. A big eighth inning rally and some splendid escape work by Mariano Rivera resulted in a desperately needed 4-3 win over the Blue Jays.

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Mark Blinch)

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Mark Blinch)

Runs Are Like Air: You Don’t Appreciate ‘Em Until You Stop Getting ‘Em
Prior to this game, J.A. Happ had thrown a total of 24 pitches in the seventh inning in his 15 starts this season. He came into Wednesday averaging just 4.8 innings per start and only three times in those 15 starts did he complete six full innings of work. So, naturally, Happ threw a season-high seven innings (plus one batter) and only needed just 101 pitches to do it. It was the first time he threw a pitch in the eighth inning as a starter since April 10th, 2011. He allowed three singles, three walks, and one double.

Fortunately, that double came from Brendan Ryan to lead off the eighth inning. Manager John Gibbons lifted his starter — the “send the starter back out, then lift him after he allows the leadoff man to reach base” move, a personal fave — in favor of matchups galore. Lefty Aaron Loup allowed a single to Curtis Granderson in an 0-2 count, the only man he faced. Righty Steve Delabar struck out Alex Rodriguez on six pitches before Robinson Cano (one-run single), Alfonso Soriano (one-run double), and Vernon Wells (two-run double) followed with three straight hits. In the span of five pitches, the Yankees went from being down three with men on the corners and one out to being up one with a man on second and one out. Five pitches!

That four-run inning could have been a few more had the Bombers not shot themselves in the foot with a double steal — Mark Reynolds was thrown out at second easily — and by letting Lyle Overbay bat against a lefty. Joe Girardi had to know Gibbons would bring a lefty out of the ‘pen when he pinch-hit Overbay, right? I guess he preferred Overbay against the fresh lefty to Eduardo Nunez against a laboring righty. Weird. The four runs did the trick though.



Escape Job
Once the Yankees had the lead, Girardi went to his two most trusted relievers for the final six outs. David Robertson recorded two quick outs in the eighth before Rajai Davis singled, and as soon as he (predictably) stole second, Girardi went to Rivera. Lifted Robertson right in the middle of the at-bat. Mo got Brett Lawrie grounded out harmlessly to second to end the threat.

Rivera came back out for bottom of the ninth after the offense failed to plate an insurance run in the top half — shout out to Ichiro Suzuki for stayed glued to first base after his leadoff single — and the Blue Jays immediately put something together. Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus opened the frame with back-to-back singles, and pinch-bunter Munenori Kawasaki was sent up to, well, bunt. He did bunt, but it was right to the charging Overbay, who threw over to third for the force out. A routine ground out by Ryan Goins and a three-pitch strikeout of the dreadful J.P. Arencibia later, the Yankees were winners. Rivera had two one with no outs in a one-run game and didn’t allow a run. Pretty awesome. Vintage Mo, even.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

When Two Bad Pitchers Equals One Decent Pitcher
When Girardi first employed the tandem starter thing last week in Baltimore, Phil Hughes and David Huff combined to allow two runs in six innings. They were again effective on Wednesday night, putting together seven innings of three-run ball. That’s a quality start! It’s probably quite a bit better than what either guy could do on their own as a starter as well. They combined to strike out five (three by Huff) and zero walks.

I do think the whole tandem starter thing would work better if the pitching change was planned a bit better than what Girardi has shown in these first two games. It seems like he’s simply replacing Hughes at the first real sign of trouble. A super short leash, basically. Phil allowed a two-run homer to Rasmus in the fourth and was lifted immediately, with Huff coming in to face the right-handed Moises Sierra. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to bring in Huff earlier in the inning to face the lefty hitting Lind and Rasmus? I get that there’s some “feel” to this whole thing, but still. Not allowing Hughes to face the other team’s two best lefty threats a second time seems like the whole point of this tandem system.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

The 3-4-5 hitters did pretty much all the damage. Cano, Soriano, and Wells went a combined 5-for-11 with one walk while the other six hitters went 4-for-23 with three walks. Rookie backstop J.R. Murphy went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and was the only starter who failed to reach base. Only two hitters — Granderson and A-Rod — saw more than 15 pitches on the night. This lineup … they’re up there hacking. No doubt about it.

You can tell A-Rod’s hamstring/calf injury is bothering him because his swing is almost all arms, kinda like late last year but not as extreme. He hit three balls right on the screws on Wednesday but all three were moderately deep yet routine fly ball outs. His timing is fine, but he’s not getting anything from his legs to help drive the ball. That’s no way to hit.

Prior to that four-run eighth inning, the Yankees had scored a total of three runs in their previous 37 innings. That went back to Cano’s two-run game-tying double in the seventh inning of the series opener against the Red Sox.

Rivera has four appearances of four outs or more this month, one more than he had the last two years combined. Obviously he missed most of last summer with the knee injury. He’s leaving it all out on the field this month.

At 28-15, the Yankees have baseball’s very best record in one-run games this season. That means they have heart and know how to win, or something.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Yankees are three games back of the second wildcard spot in the loss column with ten games to play. Time’s a runnin’ out.

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
At long last, this ten-game road trip is coming to an end. The Yankees are sending Hiroki Kuroda to the mound against right-hander Todd Redmond in the rubber game on Thursday.

Categories : Game Stories
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Game 152: Last Legs

By in Game Threads. · Comments (202) ·
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

At some point in the next week or so, the Yankees are going to be officially eliminated from playoff contention. That is, unless, they go off on a ridiculous tear and win nine of their final eleven games or something like that. Even then they would need some serious help from the five (!) teams ahead or tied with them in the standings. The only thing the Yankees can do is win their games — that has been a big challenge of late — and hope for the best. Here’s the lineup that will face left-hander J.A. Happ:

  1. CF Curtis Granderson
  2. DH Alex Rodriguez
  3. 2B Robinson Cano
  4. LF Alfonso Soriano
  5. RF Vernon Wells
  6. 1B Mark Reynolds
  7. 3B Eduardo Nunez
  8. C J.R. Murphy
  9. SS Brendan Ryan

And on the mound is right-hander Phil Hughes … for the first few innings at least. Expect to see lefty David Huff at the first sign of trouble now that they’re working as a tandem.

It’s a lovely day in Toronto, nice and cool without a cloud in the sky. I imagine they’ll have the roof open at Rogers Centre. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES. Try to enjoy.

Injury Updates: Boone Logan (elbow) threw 30 pitches in the bullpen — fastballs and sliders — and said everything felt fine. If he wakes up tomorrow feeling good, he could be available as soon as Friday.

Categories : Game Threads
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1. As Mike noted in the recap, Andy Pettitte has been the most reliable starter for the Yankees for several weeks now, and it hasn’t even really been close.  On the off chance the Yankees somehow find their way into the play-in game, you’d have to give Andy the nod at this point.  Right?  It’s pretty nuts how the oldest pitcher in the game is basically the stalwart of the rotation once again, but baseball is weird like that.  Plus, as we all know, Andy is a True Yankee™ and knows how to get it done.  (Now if only the rest of the damn team were capable.)  Unfortunately, even if the Yankees manage to squeak into the playoffs, they aren’t exactly geared for a run.  Even in a crapshoot environment, having one capable starting pitcher and Robinson Cano is generally not enough to win a series.

2. I typically don’t put too much stock into a manager’s influence on a team other than the in-game decisions that he makes.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s great that some of the managers are able to deflect the media off the players or deploy a shift appropriately, but ultimately, I’ve always kind of put the burden on the players at the end of the day.  I have to give Joe Girardi some major credit this season though.  He’s had to cope with far more challenges than most of his peers I think.  The team had a disappointing offseason heading into the year, and has been saddled with injuries ever since.  Despite a (-17 run differential, 74-77 Pythag. record), the Yankees have miraculously managed to retain hope of playoff contention (though that’s rapidly fading) late into the season.  Many of us (including me) didn’t see that happening when they were having that awful stretch in August.  It’d be pretty cool if he won the Manager of the Year Award this go around.  Well done, Joe.

3. Last night on Twitter, I somewhat sarcastically stated that the team had more non-hitters in its lineup at this point then hitters.  The more I thought about it though, the more my sentiments kind of rang true.  Here was last night’s lineup along with their respective wRC+.

  1. CF Curtis Granderson (109 wRC+)
  2. DH Alex Rodriguez (131 wRC+)
  3. 2B Robinson Cano (140 wRC+)
  4. LF Alfonso Soriano (108 wRC+, 122 wRC+ since joining the Yankees)
  5. 1B Lyle Overbay (90 wRC+)
  6. 3B Mark Reynolds (98 wRC+, 121 wRC+ since joining the Yankees)
  7. RF Ichiro Suzuki (72 wRC+)
  8. SS Brendan Ryan (45 wRC+, 75 wRC+ since joining the Yankees)
  9. C Chris Stewart (56 wRC+)

Having Overbay batting fifth hurts a lot, though probably not as much as the offensive void that is Suzuki, Ryan, and Stewart.  It’s tough to score runs when five of your players are below-average hitters overall.  I suppose, if there is silver lining to be seen here, it’s that some of these castoffs have been offensively revived a bit since joining the Yankees.  So, kudos to you New York for maximizing talent from sub-par or aging players.  Also, please stop putting the team in the position of having to depend on so many sub-par or aging players at once.

4. This has definitely been the season of “what ifs,” at least for me anyway.  What if the Yankees had a capable catcher all year?  What if CC Sabathia didn’t fall off a cliff?  What if Derek Jeter or Mark Teixeira were around all season?  Could the Yankees have that elusive Wild Card spot locked up already if they caught a break, anywhere really?  Possibly.  Probably.  I don’t know.  Unfortunately “what ifs” are just that.  Useless hypotheticals.  That said, it’s incredibly frustrating that in spite of the circumstances, the Yankees have had more than a fair opportunity to make the playoffs.

The Rays and Rangers have gone out of their way to play miserable baseball for weeks now.  Meanwhile, the Orioles and Indians seem to be more than willing to concede their playoff berth as well as they’ve both had plenty of timely losses.  I don’t know where I’m going with this last point other than if the team winds up missing the playoffs – and they probably will – they have no one to blame but themselves.  Unfortunately, as Mike noted in his rant the other day, if they do make the playoffs, it’ll probably further mask some of the more serious underlying concerns surrounding the team heading forward.

Categories : Musings
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