The Yankees are off today but there is plenty of scoreboard watching to be done. The Rays and Rangers will be on MLB Network (Cobb vs. Garza) and that game is very important to New York’s playoff hopes. Tampa and Texas have the same record and they own the two wildcard spots, so Yankees fans should root for a split to keep both teams as close to the pack as possible. You don’t want one of them to pull away because suddenly it would be a race for one wildcard spot (against the Indians and their cupcake schedule, no less) instead of a race for two. So whoever wins tonight, the Rangers or Rays, you gotta root for the other team tomorrow.

Anyway, here is your open thread for the night. If you want to forget about baseball for a few hours, the Steelers and Bengals are your Monday Night Football game and there’s also preseason hockey on somewhere. That’s cool. Talk about whatever here. Go nuts.

Categories : Open Thread
Comments (19)
  • Rivera, Robertson nominated for sportsmanship and community service awards
    By

    Mariano Rivera has been named one of six finalists for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, the MLBPA announced. The award is given annually “for outstanding on-field performance and off-field contributions to the community.” Past winners include Chipper Jones, Curtis Granderson, and Jim Thome. The other five finalists are Chase Utley, Carlos Beltran, Adrian Gonzalez, and former Yankees Raul Ibanez and Nick Swisher.

    In other award nomination news, the Yankees announced that David Robertson has been named the team’s Roberto Clemente Award nominee. That award is given annually to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” Derek Jeter, Ron Guidry, and Ken Singleton are among the past winners. Each team’s nominee can be seen here, and the fan voting opens tomorrow. Congrats to both Rivera and Robertson. They do a ton of work for charity and in the community and they deserve to be recognized for it.
    · (2) ·

One way or another, the Mariano Rivera era will end in a few weeks. (Jared Wickerham/Getty)

One way or another, the Mariano Rivera era will end in a few weeks. (Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Despite getting manhandled by the Red Sox this weekend, the Yankees wake up this morning with a small chance — a 4.5% chance according to Baseball Prospectus — of qualifying for the postseason this year. Last night’s loss eliminated them from the AL East race, so it is officially wildcard or bust for this team. New York needs a ton of help these next two weeks but they do have a favorable schedule, including nine of their final dozen games against the lowly Blue Jays, Giants, and Astros.

Getting to the playoffs this season doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things for the Yankees. If anything, sneaking into the postseason would (further) mask some severe organizational flaws, whether they be outdated policies (no contract extensions? really?), an over-reliance on old players (two years for Ichiro Suzuki? really?!?), an unproductive farm system, or a medical staff that can’t seem to keep anyone on the field. The list of problems goes on and on and explains why no matter what the Yankees do these next two weeks, it’s impossible to look forward and feel good about where the club is heading.

The Yankees have spent the last few seasons doing what? Holding onto the last remnants of the dynasty years because they are either unwilling to move on or simply don’t know how to do it. Their plan doesn’t seem to be much of a plan at all. They aren’t trading veterans for prospects, they aren’t trading prospects for veterans, and they aren’t giving prospects opportunities. What they are doing is picking up discarded players to plug whatever hole arises. Seriously, look at the roster: Ichiro, Chris Stewart, Mark Reynolds, Lyle Overbay, Brendan Ryan, David Huff … these guys were all available because their former teams dumped them and now they’re playing significant roles for the Yankees. What kind of plan is that?

I get that injuries really decimated the team. Really, really decimated them. Some were unpredictable (Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira) while others were in no way surprising (Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Youkilis, Michael Pineda). Either way, there were a lot of injuries and the club was wholly unprepared for them because the farm system has produced so very little beyond a handful of relievers and emergency call-up types in recent years. The Yankees force Phil Hughes and Eduardo Nunez types down our throats because they so desperately want to prove they can draft and develop competent big leaguers, but they can’t. I feel we’ve beyond the point of saying “they haven’t” and should now say “they can’t.”

Between the unproductive minor league system and the slashing of payroll at the big league level — which ownership will happy remind you of every chance they get, by the way — there’s almost no way for the Yankees to turn around and build a team that can have sustained long-term success this winter. They aren’t a Shin-Soo Choo or a Brian McCann or a Matt Garza away from contention. They’re three starting pitchers, two outfielders, a left side of the infield, a catcher, half a bullpen, and a farm system away from having a club that can have sustained success over a number of years. Their best building blocks going forward are a 30-year-old second baseman and a 30-year-old center fielder. Think about that.

“We have the most money, no secret about that. If we combine that with the best decision-making process on a consistent basis, God help the rest of baseball,” said Brian Cashman to Bryan Hoch when he signed his new three-year contract following the 2005 season. Yes, the 2005 season. That’s almost seven years ago and what has happened since then? The Yankees won the World Series, which was pretty awesome, but have they combined their ability to spend with the “best decision-making process on a consistent basis?” I find that very hard to believe and not just because the ability to spend has been willfully marginalized.

Joe wrote about the team’s need to adapt and improve their minor league development last month, but the Yankees need more change than that. I think the easiest way to put it is that they’re behind the times. Teams have more money to spend that ever before, which means the best young players are not hitting free agency or becoming available in trades as their salaries grow. The talent pool available to New York has become diluted and they can’t wave their magic pinstriped wand bank account to make it all better. The rest of baseball has gotten progressive but the Yankees have remained the same.

Everything from the team’s policies to their decision making at the MLB level to their player development needs an overhaul and that starts right at the top. Does that mean replacing Cashman is step one? I don’t really know. I can’t say I have much confidence in ownership hiring the right replacement if they do fire him. The last thing I want to happen is Cashman being replaced by a figurehead GM while Randy Levine & Co. call all the shots. Ownership dips their toes into the baseball operations too much as it is. Change has to happen though. The Yankees run an outdated organization and the rest of baseball is leaving them behind. These last few months couldn’t have made it any more obvious.

Categories : Musings
Comments (224)
  • Sherman: Manny Banuelos is pitching in simulated games
    By

    Via Joel Sherman: Left-hander Manny Banuelos recently started pitching in simulated games as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery. Three weeks ago we heard he was facing hitters in live batting practice down at the team’s complex in Tampa. Simulated games are a bit more intense though because you’re actually trying to get outs and throw full 15-20 pitch “innings” with no break between batters.

    Banuelos, 22, had his surgery last October and the Yankees have been conservative with his rehab. Simulated games usually come 8-10 months after surgery according to Mike Dodd’s classic Tommy John rehab article, but Banuelos is already into his 11th month of rehab. No big deal really, he was expected to miss the entire season and the team has every reason to play it safe. Banuelos has missed close to two full years with elbow problems — he threw only 24 innings last year before getting hurt — and those are two pretty important development years at his age.

    Banuelos’ winter ball rights are still control by his former Mexican League team in Monterrey, so the Yankees would have to jump through some hoops if they want the southpaw to get some innings over the winter. They did work out an agreement with Monterrey allowing him to pitch in the Arizona Fall League a few seasons ago. Bench coach Tony Pena usually manages in the Dominican Republic over the winter, so maybe they can figure out a way to get Banuelos there so he’s under a watchful eye.
    · (9) ·

Record Last Week: 3-4 (27 RS, 40 RA)
Season Record: 79-71 (619 RS, 634 RA, 73-77 pythag. record), 12.5 GB ALE/3.0 GB WC
Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, @ Blue Jays (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), vs.Giants (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 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?

Categories : Polls
Comments (68)

This was a bloodbath. The Red Sox toyed with the Yankees this weekend before finally blowing them out of the water 9-2 on Sunday night. This looked like a big league team against a Triple-A team. Furthermore, the Yankees were officially eliminated from the AL East race with the loss. It’s wildcard or bust. That’s a nice little twist of the knife.

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Ivan The Mediocre
Remember when Ivan Nova was a bright spot, giving the Yankees high-quality innings every five days? That seems like a long time ago. Nova lasted just four innings against the Red Sox for the second time in a week, though this time he only needed 88 pitches and not 97. Boston punished him for five runs (four earned) on six hits, four walks, and one hit batter while striking out just two. His night would have been a lot, lot worse had the bullpen not worked some magic after inherited a bases loaded, no outs jam in the fifth.

Since dominating for close to two months, Nova has now allowed 18 runs in 36 innings (4.25 ERA) across his last two six starts. Perfectly serviceable but not what the Yankees need. They need him to be better but this really isn’t Nova’s fault; he didn’t build the pitching staff. Anyway, Ivan has reportedly been dealing with some triceps tightness in recent weeks and hopefully that is why his performance has slipped lately. He wasn’t going to sustain that pace all season, but it would be nice if he finished the year well so there’s at least something the Yankees could feel good about rotation-wise.

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

One Mistake
After going a month between games with one or fewer run scored, the Yankees came dangerously close to doing it in back-to-back games. They drew first blood in the very first inning and needed a big hand to get it done. Curtis Granderson worked a leadoff walk before moving all the way to third when Clay Buchholz threw away a pickoff throw. It was a throw a better defensive first baseman probably reels in, but whatever. Alex Rodriguez plated Granderson with a ground out and that was pretty much it for the night. At least until the game was out of reach.

The Yankees had has many double plays (three) as runners who reached second base over the final eight innings of the game. Buchholz was nice enough to walk four batters (plus one more by the bullpen) but New York only had five hits — singles by Alfonso Soriano, A-Rod, Ichiro Suzuki (two), and Brendan Ryan — and only one was actually well-struck (Soriano’s). The final seven and 14 of the final 18 players they sent to the plate made outs. Aside from the garbage time run in the ninth, they went down without much of a fight.

Two weeks left. Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Two weeks left. (Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Leftovers
Pretty much the only highlight of this game for the Yankees was Adam Warren‘s escape job in the fifth inning. Nova allowed the first four men of the inning to reach base and Warren inherited a bases loaded situation with no outs, but he got through it without allowing a run thanks to two strikeouts and a routine fly ball. Warren allowed two runs and got just one out in the sixth inning, but you know. Small victories. Oh, and Dellin Betances struck out two in a perfect garbage time inning. Hooray.

Remember when Vernon Wells stole home a few weeks ago because rookie catcher Josh Phegley threw to second when Eduardo Nunez broke towards towards second? The Red Sox pulled the same trick on Chris Stewart in this game. He threw to second and not only did the run score, but the throw was so bad the runner at second was safe. Stewart also committed his 11th passed ball, the second most in baseball behind J.P. Arencibia. Arencibia has to catch a knuckleballer, remember.

Mike Zagurski, who pretty much looks like a left-handed Joba Chamberlain, made his first appearances as a Yankee and extended the franchise record to 56 players used this season. Amazingly, of those 56, there are only about 10-12 guys you would legitimately want on the team going forward. I’m not joking. Look at this cast of characters.

The Red Sox won the season series 13-6 and are the first team since the 1976 Orioles to win 13 games against the Yankees in a single season. Boston outscored them 120-84 in the 19 games. Complete dominance.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and video highlights, check out MLB.com. FanGraphs has some other stats and the updated standings are at ESPN. Both the Rangers and Rays lost — they have the same record and sit in the two wildcard spots — so the Yankees remain four back in the loss column with only 12 games to play. They’re three games back of the Indians and have the same record as the Orioles. Cool Standings gives New York a 6.5% chance to make the postseason.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees get a much-needed off-day on Monday before heading to Toronto for a quick little three-game series against the Blue Jays. Andy Pettitte and R.A. Dickey will be the pitching matchup in Tuesday night’s series opener.

Categories : Game Stories
Comments (56)
  • Update: A-Rod leaves game with tight right calf
    By

    10:15pm: It’s a tight right calf for A-Rod, the Yankees announced. Not the hamstring. Phew, I was getting worried they would go more than two games without a new injury.

    9:46pm: Alex Rodriguez was pinch-hit for and left tonight’s game in the fifth inning for an unknown reason. He’s been battling a nagging hamstring injury that has limited him to DH duties only, so that seems like a pretty good reason. So it goes.
    · (12) ·

Sep
15

Game 150: Six Innings

By in Game Threads. · Comments (175) ·
No Ichiros, more Zoilos. (Jared Wickerham/Getty)

No Ichiros, more Zoilos. (Jared Wickerham/Getty)

The first two games of this three-game series in Boston have gone about as poorly as can possibly be expected. The worst case scenario has played out in the sense that the Yankees lost both games and also lost ground in the wildcard race. The only positive — and this is a really flimsy silver lining — is that David Robertson and Mariano Rivera have gotten two straight days off.

Considering how Joe Girardi has used his top two relievers this week, you have to think he’d be willing to get nine total outs from that duo tonight. Remember, there is an off-day tomorrow. All Ivan Nova and the offense need to do is get through six innings with a lead. After that, it’ll probably be up to Robertson and Rivera. Here’s the starting lineup:

  1. CF Curtis Granderson
  2. DH Alex Rodriguez
  3. 2B Robinson Cano
  4. LF Alfonso Sorianohis thumb is okay, apparently
  5. 1B Lyle Overbay
  6. 3B Mark Reynolds
  7. RF Ichiro Suzuki
  8. SS Brendan Ryan
  9. C Chris Stewart

And on the mound is Nova, who is coming off a start shortened by a triceps issue. He threw his usual between-starts bullpen session and is supposedly good to go, but you have to wonder if it will affect him on the mound. Hopefully not.

The sky is clear in Boston and there is no threat of rain. Definite playoff-type weather, with that October chill in the air. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 8pm ET and can be seen on ESPN. Enjoy.

Categories : Game Threads
Comments (175)
  • Logan to have elbow examined by Dr. Andrews
    By

    Boone Logan is flying to Florida to have his left elbow examined by Dr. James Andrews. That’s bad. The elbow has been barking for about a week now and he reportedly tried to play catch this weekend. The injury comes at a bad time for both the Yankees, who are without their top lefty reliever, and Logan himself — he’s due to become a free agent after the season. Cesar Cabral is getting a trial by fire as Joe Girardi’s top matchup lefty in the meantime. · (12) ·

(Elsa/Getty)

(Elsa/Getty)

It’s no secret that this has been pretty much a disaster season for CC Sabathia, who owns a 4.90 ERA (4.13 FIP) in 204 innings across 31 starts. He’s going to set career worsts in several categories unless he closes out the year with an insanely strong finish. Sabathia is a big reason why the Yankees are on the outside of the playoff picture looking in with 13 games to play.

There are no shortage of theories why CC has been so terrible this year. He lost too much weight, he had offseason elbow surgery, the workload is catching up to him … all of that and more could be a factor. Here’s what a scout told Baseball Prospectus (subs. req’d) recently:

“More than anything, he just looks dead tired to me and, when you consider his workload since he left Cleveland and how little recovery time he has, I think that makes sense. His arm slot is lower than it has been in the past and he doesn’t keep his delivery together as well when he gets deep into the game, which are indicators that he is wearing down. There’s no denying that his fastball has lost some juice, and I think that has actually hurt his changeup more than anything else, as hitters don’t have to be so concerned with gearing up for the plus fastball. When he had a bigger fastball, hitters had to honor it, but there is less fear there now. However, he still gives it everything he’s got in every start and goes deep into ball games, he’s just not the front-line ace.”

Sabathia’s fastball as actually ticked up as the season progressed and he’s now sitting regularly in the 92-94 mph range each time out. That’s still down just a bit from the last few years, but it’s plenty good enough to succeed. Learning how to succeed with it isn’t easy though, and I think the scout’s point about the changeup is a really good one. A changeup is not a mutually exclusive pitch, so to speak. It’s thrown with the same arm action as the fastball and the difference in velocity is what does the trick. A changeup without a setup fastball is just a batting practice fastball.

Last season, Sabathia averaged 92.4 mph with his fastball and 86.0 mph with his changeup, a 6.4 mph difference. This year he’s at 91.3 mph with the fastball and 84.8 mph with the changeup, a 6.5 mph difference. Basically the same separation between the two pitches. However, it’s easier to sit back on a 91.3 mph heater than it is a 92.4 mph fastball or a 93.9 mph fastball (2011 velocity). Being able to wait a little longer on the fastball also impacts the effectiveness of the changeup. Sabathia’s changeup saved 1.94 runs per 100 thrown last year according to PitchFX. This year? Negative-1.70 runs per 100 thrown. That’s a swing of 3.64 runs saved per 100 changeups thrown. That’s a huge difference.

Unless Sabathia and pitching coach Larry Rothschild make some kind of magic mechanical adjustment, the fastball isn’t coming back. That’s not how it works for 33-year-old hurlers with nearly 3,000 innings on their arm. The solution may be working on the changeup to get even more separation from the fastball. Choke it back further in the hand, alter the grip, whatever. Something to turn that 6.5 mph separation into something like an 8-10 mph separation, which is where Andy Pettitte is living these days. Changeup masters Cole Hamels and Jamie Shields are also in that 8-10 mph range. This is much easier said than done obviously, but it’s something Sabathia will have to do to improve his performance going forward, both this year and next.

Categories : Pitching
Comments (36)
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