Fan Confidence Poll: April 18th, 2016

Record Last Week: 2-4 (14 RS, 26 RA)
Season Record: 5-6 (49 RS, 53 RA, 5-6 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, vs. Athletics (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), vs. Rays (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

Bullpen slams the door; Yankees beat the Mariners 4-3 to snap four-game losing skid

Now that’s more like it. The Yankees snapped their four-game, RISPFAIL filled losing streak Sunday afternoon with a 4-3 win over the Mariners. It followed the blueprint perfectly: hit a dinger or two, scratch out some runs, then turn it over to the bullpen. Textbook.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

End The Streaks
Two notable hitless streaks ended Sunday. First and foremost, Alex Rodriguez snapped his 0-for-19 skid with a two-run home run in the second inning. Joe Girardi understandably dropped Alex to the sixth spot in the lineup, and in his first at-bat he yanked an 87 mph fastball from Hisashi Iwakuma into the left field seats. Pretty great way to respond to the lineup demotion.

Then, in the third inning, Brett Gardner put an end to the club’s hideous 0-for-30 streak with runners in scoring position. He did it with a long double to left-center field that I thought was a routine fly ball off the bat. It looked like Gardner popped the ball up, but it just kept carrying and carrying and carrying. I was pleasantly surprised to see that ball fall in for a base hit.

Like I said, that was their first hit with runners in scoring position in 30 at-bats. Furthermore, it was their first hit with runners in scoring position that actually scored a run in 41 at-bats. They had two hits that didn’t score runs because some of the Yankees are pretty slow, man. The last hit with runners in scoring position that scored a run prior to Gardner’s double was Jacoby Ellsbury‘s go-ahead bloop single in the seventh inning of the series opener in Toronto. Yeesh.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

When Three Runs Could Have Been One Or Two
Masahiro Tanaka‘s final pitching line is pretty strong (7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 12/3 GB/FB) and it could have been even better. The Mariners didn’t exactly score their ball by ripping the ball all over the park. They strung together four ground balls in the first inning to score their first run. The inning went:

  • Nori Aoki ground out to second.
  • Seth Smith ground ball single against the shift.
  • Robinson Cano infield single to third.
  • Nelson Cruz ground ball single through the right side of the infield to load the bases.
  • Kyle Seager fielder’s choice on a ground ball to second base to score a run.

Five ground balls, two outs, one run. Blah. Baseball can be so dumb sometimes. Tanaka got the desired results (grounders) and still allowed three hits and a run. So finally he took matters into his own hands and struck out Adam Lind to escape the inning with just the one run allowed.

Seattle’s second and third runs were partly the result of defensive miscues by the usually sure-handed Mark Teixeira and Ellsbury. Seager pulled a hard ground ball right through Teixeira’s legs for a two-base error in the fourth inning, then Steve Clevenger dunked a softly hit single into shallow left to score the run. Hate getting burned by the light-hitting backup catcher. That cut New York’s lead to 3-2.

The Mariners scored their third run when Ellsbury made an ill-advised attempt at a diving catch on Aoki’s line drive with one out in the fifth. He should have held up and played the hop, holding Aoki to a double or maybe even a single. Instead he missed the dive, the ball rolled to the wall, and Aoki landed on third. Smith drove him in with a ground ball single through the drawn in infield.

Tanaka retired seven straight batters to end his outing after the Smith single, making him the first Yankees starter to complete seven innings this season. He did it on 93 pitches and he probably could have gone back out for the eighth, but there was no need to push it with the guys Girardi had waiting in the bullpen. Here is Tanaka’s pitch selection, per Brooks Baseball:

Masahiro Tanaka pitch selection

We saw much more velocity out of Tanaka on Sunday than we did in his first two starts of the year, and that could be the product of getting closer to midseason form or getting further away from offseason elbow surgery. Or both. Also, I’m guessing some of those 89 mph splitters were actually sinkers PitchFX misclassified based on the movement.

All those ground balls — 16 total out of 21 balls in play — were the result of Tanaka’s new sinker heavy approach. I think this new approach is an adjustment made to combat last season’s home run issues. Tanaka allowed a lot of dingers, so, in an effort to keep the ball in the park, he’s now using a sinker as his primary fastball. The result is a 65.3% ground ball rate through three starts, which is excellent. Tanaka was pretty good Sunday. With some more help from his defense, it could have been one or two runs in seven innings instead of three.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

And The Yankees Take The Lead
The Yankees did manage to go 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position Sunday, so Gardner’s double was their only hit in those situations. To score that go-ahead fourth run in the fifth inning, the team needed a little help from Iwakuma and Clevenger.

Gardner and new No. 3 hitter Carlos Beltran strung together back-to-back singles with one out to put men on the corners. Iwakuma then spiked a splitter in front of the plate and Clevenger let it scoot through his legs, allowing Gardner to trot in from third base. Well, not trot, he had to hustle and slide in just ahead of the tag. Once again, the Yankees had the lead.

Tanaka cruised through the sixth and seventh innings with that 4-3 lead before turning the game over to the bullpen, and holy crap, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller were unreal. They each struck out the side on 13 pitches and there was no fight from the Mariners. It’s incredible to big league players be so overmatched like that. Betances and Miller mowed them right down, Dellin the 1-2-3 hitters in the eighth and Miller the 4-5-6 hitters in the ninth.

On the season, Betances has struck out 15 of 24 batters faced (62.5%) — he has 15 strikeouts in six innings! — and Miller has struck out 12 of 17 batters faced (70.6%), so that a combined 65.9% strikeout rate. The league average is 21.7%. Betances has fanned 14 of the last 17 batters he’s faced …

Ron Burgundy really

… and Miller has struck out the last seven men he’s faced. Those two have record 33 outs this season and 27 have been strikeouts. This is absurd. In three weeks Aroldis Chapman, who had the highest strikeout rate in baseball each of the last three seasons, will join the bullpen.

Leftovers
Gardner had three of the team’s eight hits to raise his season batting line to .314/.442/.429 (159 wRC+) with seven walks and five strikeouts. Remember when the Yankees tried to trade him over the winter? What was that about? Beltran went 1-for-4 and Teixeira went 1-for-2 with two walks. Teixeira is hitting .216/.383/.459 (146 wRC+) with ten walks and ten strikeouts so far.

On the other side of the coin, Ronald Torreyes went 0-for-3 and saw five pitches Sunday. His batting average dropped 167 points in an afternoon. Of course, he’s still hitting .500, so who are we to complain. Didi Gregorius went 0-for-4 and is in the middle of a 3-for-25 (.120) slump.

Gardner and Ellsbury each stole a base against the Iwakuma-Clevenger battery. The Yankees have stolen 13 bases and been caught only two times this year. They were 6-for-10 in steal attempts through the first eleven games of last season.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to ESPN for the box score and MLB.com for the video highlights. Here are the updated standings. We also have Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages that are worth checking out. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees have an off-day Monday, then they’ll welcome the Athletics to the Bronx for a three-game series. Michael Pineda and lefty Eric Surkamp, who I’m pretty sure is a made up MLB: The Show player, will be the pitching matchup Tuesday night. If you’re looking to go to that game or any of the other five games left on the homestand, RAB Tickets can get you in the door.

DotF: Acevedo dominates, leads Charleston to a win

Triple-A Scranton (2-1 win over Syracuse)

  • LF Ben Gamel, DH Slade Heathcott & C Gary Sanchez: all 0-3, 1 K — Gamel drew a walk
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-3, 1 R, 1 RBI — can you quietly hit .342/.366/.500? because he’s doing it
  • 3B Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 SB — Shane Hennigan says he made a highlight real play in the field, diving to make a backhand stop before throwing over to first
  • RHP Chad Green: 6 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 6/3 GB/FB — 61 of 93 pitches were strikes (66%)
  • RHP Luis Cessa: 1.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 24 of 41 pitches were strikes (59%) … second appearance of the season overall and his first in Triple-A
  • RHP Nick Goody: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 0/1 GB/FB — nine of 13 pitches were strikes (69%)

[Read more…]

Sunday Open Thread

This is the open thread for the rest of the weekend. MLB Network is showing a regional game right now, and the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game is the Giants at the Dodgers (Samardzija vs. Maeda). There’s also a bunch of NBA and NHL playoff action too. (The Islanders play at 8pm ET). Talk about those games, this afternoon’s win, or whatever else is on your mind right here.

Game 11: Iwakuma Tanaka, what a wonderful pitching matchup

(Nike Talk)
(Nike Talk)

This afternoon’s game is going to be a pretty big deal in Japan. Masahiro Tanaka and Hisashi Iwakuma, former teammates with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, will be facing each other in the first matchup between former NPB teammates in MLB history. (It’s the 12th matchup between two Japanese born pitchers overall.) The game starts at 2am local time in Japan, and I’m sure lots of folks are going to be staying up late to watch this one.

As for the Yankees, they’re struggling big time right now, mostly offensively. They’ve lost four straight and scored seven runs total in the four games. The Yankees are getting base-runners — 46 in their last 36 offensive innings — so it’s just a matter of cashing them in. It’ll happen soon enough, I’m sure. It would be cool if it happened today. Here is the Mariners’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

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

Another great day for baseball in the Bronx. It’s sunny with no clouds whatsoever. Couldn’t ask for better baseball weather. Today’s series finale will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Try not to pull your hair out.

Chapman Update: Aroldis Chapman made his second Extended Spring Training appearance yesterday, according to Erik Boland. He struck out two in a perfect inning, and hit 100 mph on the radar gun. Chapman is eligible to join the Yankees in three weeks from tomorrow.

YES Update: FOX regional sports affiliates, including YES, can now be streamed on Sling TV. It’s $20 a month — there’s a free seven-day trial — so it’s not free, but it’s not too pricey either. You will be able to stream Yankees games on YES, even if you’re in-market and a currently dealing with the Comcast nonsense. Here’s the Sling TV link.

The April Heat Afflicting Alex

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

While we were fortunate to get a mostly mild winter here in the northeast, spring–let alone summer–has been slow to fully reveal itself, with temperatures hovering in the 50’s, bringing plenty of those damned April showers. Despite that, things have been rather hot for Alex Rodriguez in the batter’s box. No, that doesn’t mean he’s been hitting well. Rather, he’s been getting blown away by the heat, as Mark Simon noted over at ESPN. Ironically enough, this comes on the heels of an article at FiveThirtyEight.com positing that older hitters aren’t adversely affected by rising velocity. For at least one hitter this year, that general trend doesn’t apply.

Generally, I agree with Mike that it’s (probably) too early too worry about Rodriguez and his struggles; still, it’s worth looking into his performance this year, especially considering Rodriguez fared well against fastballs in 2015. Last season, Rodriguez slugged .725 against fastballs, good for a .409 ISO per Brooks. In the early going this year, things are quite the opposite: low average, low slugging, .000 ISO. Arguably more important than those results, though, is the ‘process’ with which Rodriguez is going through with old number one.

In 2015, Rodriguez had a relatively low 23.55% whiff/swing rate against fastballs. 2016, however, has been a different story, with a 50% whiff/swing rate on heaters. That swinging-and-missing has led to a 31.4% strikeout rate for Rodriguez, which is not only ugly, but would be a career high. Luckily, he’s only had 35 plate appearances in eight games this season, and strikeout rates don’t quite stabilize until 60 PA, per FanGraphs. There’s time to turn things around–it’s only April 17–but there is still cause for concern.

(BrooksBaseball.net)
(BrooksBaseball.net)

The above image is A-Rod‘s whiff/swing chart against fastballs for this year so far. Take a look at that middle-middle box in the strike zone. Whether they were challenge pitches or mistakes, Rodriguez has seen three fastballs that have been, quite literally, right down the middle; he’s whiffed three times on three swings on those pitches. Last season, he only whiffed seven total times on pitches in that location.

Short story even shorter, Alex is struggling to catch up to fastballs right now. Maybe it’s just early. Maybe it’s just a slump. Maybe it isn’t. Given his age, it’s right to be a little fearful, especially since this comes after he struggled against breaking pitches last season. There is plenty of time to right the ship and when a player is as talented as Rodriguez is, it’s wise to bet on him. But the end of the line comes for everyone and Rodriguez’s is fast approaching. This fastball-based negative trend is one to keep an eye on going forward.

DotF: Tampa squanders Kaprielian’s dominant start

Some notes:

  • OF Cesar Puello was placed on the Triple-A Scranton DL with a concussion, so says Shane Hennigan. Apparently he was hit in the head with a bat in the dugout, presumably accidentally. Yikes. Puello has had concussion problems in the past. Hopefully this is nothing serious.
  • OF Lane Adams and LHP Daniel Camarena have been bumped up to Triple-A Scranton, reports Josh Norris. Adams is replacing Puello on the roster. Camarena is filling that 25th roster spot that has been sitting open all season for whatever reason.
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow told Hennigan his Tommy John surgery is scheduled for Tuesday. It was originally reported as Friday (yesterday), but either that was wrong or it was pushed back.

Triple-A Scranton (8-4 loss to Syracuse)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 1-5, 1 R, 3 K, 1 SB
  • 3B Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 2 RBI, 1 E (throwing) — second error in five games at the hot corner
  • LF Slade Heathcott: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 SB
  • 1B Nick Swisher: 1-3, 2 BB, 1 K — 4-for-11 (.364) with a double, two walks, and two strikeouts in three games so far … Swisher’s a pretty smart hitter, I expect him to put up some nice numbers here as long as he’s healthy … the question is can he still hit big league pitching? there’s really one way to find out
  • RF Lane Adams: 0-4, 1 BB, 3 K — threw a runner out at third … he is 0-for-13 with eleven strikeouts in his last three games
  • RHP Ronald Herrera: 5 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 8 K, 1 WP, 3/2 GB/FB — 61 of 102 pitches were strikes (60%) … Triple-A debut for the 20-year-old, though I suspect this was only a spot start and not a permanent promotion
  • LHP Daniel Camarena: 4 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 6/1 GB/FB — 44 of 63 pitches were strikes (70%) … this is his Triple-A debut after not pitching at all last season due to some kind of injury

[Read more…]