Yankeemetrics: May 15-17 (Royals)

The large lefty officially has a winning streak. (Charlie Riedel/AP)
The large lefty officially has a winning streak. (Charlie Riedel/AP)

Royal crush
The Yankees’ worst skid of the season continued with a 12-1 loss to the Royals on Friday night. Entering this series, they were the only AL team that hadn’t given up at least nine runs in a game this season. It was the first time the Yankees opened their season with a streak of at least 36 straight games allowing eight-or-fewer runs in each game since 1981 (38 games).

Michael Pineda‘s first start since his 16-strikeout game on Mothers Day couldn’t have been any more different than that historic one just a few days earlier.

He didn’t strike out his first batter until he got Lorenzo Cain swinging in the fifth inning, and that was the only guy that got rung up by Pineda in the game. Seems improbable, right? Almost. The last pitcher to get only one strikeout (or zero) in a game after whiffing at least 16 batters in his previous start was Mark Langston in 1988.

Although he struggled to put away batters, Pineda didn’t have any problems with his control, recording his fifth walk-free start of the season. Dating back to last September, Pineda hasn’t walked more than one guy in each of his last 10 games, pitching more than five innings in each of those starts. The only other Yankee in the last 100 years to fashion a streak like that was David Wells, who had also had a 10-game stretch in 1998 where he gave up one or fewer walks and pitched more than five innings in each outing.

Throwback Saturday
How do you snap your longest losing streak of the season? This formula usually works: a vintage performance from your former ace pitcher and a couple longballs from the middle of the order.

CC Sabathia scattered six hits and allowed one run over seven innings, earning his second straight win after going winless in his first six starts of the season. This was the fourth time Sabathia has started a game with the Yankees on a losing streak of at least four games – and he is now 4-0 in those four starts.

Chase Headley hit a tie-breaking three-run homer in the fifth inning and Alex Rodriguez added a solo shot in the ninth inning to provide the power in the Yankees’ 5-1 win. Three of Headley’s five homers this season have either tied the game or given the Yankees the lead, and each of those three has come with two outs in the inning.

For A-Rod, it was his 10th homer of the season, and he joins Mark Teixeira as Yankees with double-digit homers in 2015. The only other seasons in the last 40 years when the Yankees had two players with at least 10 homers within the team’s first 38 games were 2005 (A-Rod and Tino Martinez) and 2009 (Teixeira and Johnny Damon).

A first for everything
As bad as the Yankees offense has been recently, they still had not been shut out in 2015 until Sunday’s 6-0 loss in the series finale. They were one of two MLB teams that had scored at least one run in every game this season, along with the Tigers and Blue Jays. It was the first time they had been blanked since September 15, 2014, snapping a streak of 51 straight games with scoring a run, which was the longest active streak among all major-league teams.

The loss was also the Yankees’ first one on a Sunday this year. Entering the game they were the only team undefeated (5-0) on Sundays in the majors this season.

Chris Capuano‘s first start of the season was “not what you want,” as he gave up four runs before he was pulled in the fourth inning. He’s the first Yankee to allow at least four runs in three innings pitched or fewer in Kansas City since David Wells on August 11, 2003. Sunday (May 17) also happened to be the anniversary of Wells’ perfect game against the Twins in 1998. So there’s that, at least.

Fan Confidence Poll: May 18th, 2015

Record Last Week: 2-5 (22 RS, 37 RA)
Season Record: 22-17 (171 RS, 156 RA, 21-18 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, @ Nationals (two games, Tues. and Weds.), Thurs. OFF, vs. Rangers (three games, Fri. to Sat.)

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 menu 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?

Yankees shut out for first time in 2015, lose series finale 6-0 to Royals

Source: FanGraphs

Alright then. So much for stealing a series from the Royals. The Yankees lost the series finale 6-0 on Sunday afternoon and were shut out for the very first time this season. It was bound to happen at some point, right? It’s Sunday, so I’m going to recap with bullet points:

  • Capua-Nope: Chris Capuano‘s first start off the DL started fine. He allowed one run through three innings on a Salvador Perez solo homer, but the wheels came off in the fourth. Walk, walk, run-scoring single, run-scoring single, boom, out of the game with no outs recorded in the inning. I thought Joe Girardi‘s hook was a little quick — they weren’t hitting rockets off Capuano, after all — but I understand they he went to the bullpen early. Needless to say, the Yankees need Capuano to be be better going forward.
  • Tack-On Runs: Esmil Rogers replaced Capuano, allowed an inherited runner to score, then stranded runners at second and third with one out. A Chase Headley throwing error led to two unearned run in the fifth before Rogers, Justin Wilson, and Chasen Shreve combined to return to the final nine Royals to bat. Shreve struck out two in two perfect innings.
  • Scattered Offense: The box score says six hits and two walks for the Yankees but it felt like much less. Their first base-runner was Alex Rodriguez‘s double off the wall with two-outs in the fourth, and it wasn’t until the game was out of reach that they made any sort of serious threat — five of the last ten men they sent to the plate reached base. Headley had two singles and was the only Yankee to reach base twice.
  • Leftovers: Mark Teixeira fouled a ball off his toe and came out of the game in the late innings. X-rays came back negative and he is day-to-day … Headley’s error was his eighth of the year, which is as many as he had last year … the wrap-around 8-9-1 portion of the lineup went a combined 0-for-10 with two walks … the Yankees were shut out for the first time in 51 games dating back to last September, which was the longest streak in baseball.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Also check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Did you know there have already been nine (nine!) different YES Network announcer combinations this season? True story. Anyway, the Yankees have an off-day Monday and will open a quick two-game series with the Nationals in Washington on Tuesday. Nathan Eovaldi and Gio Gonzalez will be the pitching matchup in the opener.

Sunday Night Open Thread

So now the Yankees kinda stink now. I liked it better when they were good. They should go back to being good again. That was fun. Hopefully next week. The Yankees are now 0-4 in games immediately prior to an off-day this season. Bah.

Here is tonight’s open threat. The ESPN Sunday Night Game is the Tigers at the Cardinals (Alfredo Simon vs. Lance Lynn), and if you hurry you can probably catch the end of today’s NBA and NHL playoff games. Talk about whatever here.

DotF: Refsnyder goes deep twice in Scranton’s win

Triple-A Scranton (5-0 win over Durham)

  • DH Slade Heathcott: 0-5
  • LF-CF Ramon Flores: 2-5, 1 R, 1 K
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 3-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 1 E (throwing) — hot streak continues with his first two home runs of the year
  • 1B Kyle Roller: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI — six homers in his last 16 games
  • RF Tyler Austin: 1-4, 1 K
  • CF Ben Gamel: 0-1 — left the game for an unknown reason in the third
  • LHP Miguel Sulbaran: 5 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 8/2 GB/FB — 45 of 72 pitches were strikes (63%) … nice Triple-A debut
  • RHP Danny Burawa: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — seven of eleven pitches were strikes
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 2/1 GB/FB — eight of 15 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Game 39: Start A New Streak

(Ed Zurga/Getty)
(Ed Zurga/Getty)

The Yankees snapped their little four-game losing streak last night, so today they have a chance to both win this series against the Royals and start a brand new winning streak. Tomorrow’s an off-day and off-days always feel a little bit better following a win, don’t they?

Chris Capuano is making his season debut this afternoon after starting the year on the DL thanks to that quad injury he suffered covering first base in Spring Training. Capuano seems like the kind of pitcher who could have success against the contact-happy Royals because he’s a nibbler who’s accustomed to getting hitters to chase off the plate. Could be a good mix against Kansas City. I hope it is, anyway. Here is the Royals’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    LHP Chris Capuano

The weather is much nicer in KC than it has been the last two nights. It’s nice and sunny today with only a few clouds and a little bit of humidity. This afternoon’s series finale will begin a little after 2pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and, depending where you live, MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Roster Move: As expected, Bryan Mitchell was sent down to Triple-A Scranton to make room on the roster for Capuano, the Yankees announced.

Mark Teixeira: In the Zone

One of my favorite stat lines of the year is most definitely Mark Teixeira‘s. I love a good extra-base hit as much as you all do and those have defined Tex’s season to this point; to borrow a phrase from Mike, singles are for the weak and Tex has certainly bought into that philosophy. As I write this on Saturday morning, Tex’s line sits at .250/.359/.592, good for a .392 wOBA and a 150 wRC+. He has 30 total hits and all but 11 of them are for extra bases: 11 home runs and eight doubles. To one’s surprise, he has zero triples; Tex may look appear equine while running, but the speed doesn’t match the aesthetics. All that power has led to a .342 Iso which leads the Yankees and places him third in the majors behind Bryce Harper (.373!!) and Nelson Cruz (.372!!).

Speaking of leaderboards, all those extra-base hits combined with his 21 walks (14.5 BB%) and 20 strikeouts (13.8 K%) produce a super low BABIP of .207, good for the seventh lowest in all of baseball. The difference between Tex and the other BABIP-laggards, though, is production. All the rest of the top-10-lowest-BABIP hitters are below a 100 wRC+, though Luis Valbuena checks in at 99. The rest of the list consists of a bunch of high-50’s to mid-60’s wRC+ marks along with Chase Utley’s 7, which makes me very, very sad.

Regardless of what others are doing, Tex is off to a fairly hot start, which is the “what.” I’m more interested in the how. To find out how, I took a trip to Baseball Savant and looked up the differences in how pitchers have attacked Tex in 2014 and 2015. Like many things in baseball, Tex’s 2015 performance (again, through Friday’s games) depends on location.

In 2014, Tex saw a total of 2,082 pitches. 64% of those pitches were out of the zone, meaning 36% were inside the zone. Looking at some key results, we can see that Tex whiffed on 8.7% of his pitches last season, 67% in-zone whiffs, 33% out-of-zone whiffs. When I looked at 2015, I expected to find slightly different results in the whiff department, given that Tex’s overall strikeout percentage this year (13.8) is down from where it was last year (21.5). It turned out that in terms of in-zone and out-of-zone whiffs, Tex has performed exactly as he did last year. However, his overall whiffs are down by about two percentage points; he’s seen 536 total pitches as of Friday’s game, whiffing on 6.9% of the pitches he’s seen. Those changes aren’t too huge, but they do show improvement. Why’s that improvement coming? It has to do with the pitchers Tex is facing.

Of the 536 pitches Tex has seen this year, 61% have been outside the zone and the remaining 39% have been inside the zone, three points off from last year’s approach. For whatever reason, pitchers are challenging Tex inside the zone just a bit more in 2015. And aside from whiffing less overall, he’s doing more with pitches in the zone. Of his 30 hits, 67% have come inside the zone, compared to 64% last year. There’s been a similar uptick when it comes to home runs in the zone: 63% in 2015 compared to 60% last year.

All too often, we hear hitters say that they’re “not trying to do too much” at the plate; it’s a cliche that you can count on in post-game interviews (Stephen Drew said it last night on the radio, prompting my fiance to drop a cliche of her own: “If I had a dollar for every time a player said he wasn’t trying to do too much…”). But with Mark Teixeira this year, it seems to ring true. He’s seeing more pitches in the zone than last year and he’s being more productive with those in-zone pitches than he was last year. It’s not something that’s obviously noticeable like new swing mechanics or even a new approach; he’s simply taking what the pitchers are giving him and he’s raking. Let’s hope it keeps up.