Yankeemetrics: Old Ace rising, Tanaka tanking (June 6-8)

(AP)
(AP)

Numbers Never Lie
A home run derby broke out at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night, but in a very depressing way for the hometown fans. Masahiro Tanaka‘s batting-practice fastballs and cement-mixer sliders were flying out of the park, while the Yankees’ repeated clutch-hitting woes sealed their fate – a disappointing 5-4 loss to their AL East rival.

The Red Sox entered the game with the fewest homers in the league, but that statistic mattered little on a chilly night in the Bronx as they went deep three times against Tanaka, who gave up five runs in five innings. Tanaka’s longball issues have reached crisis mode, with 14 surrendered in his last 32 innings pitched dating back to the fifth inning of his May 2 start vs Toronto.

That’s a remarkable number considering that:

  • It’s more home runs than any Yankee pitcher had given up the entire season through Tuesday
  • 77 of the 86 other qualified pitchers in MLB had allowed fewer than 14 home runs for the entire season through Tuesday

If those stats aren’t sobering enough, how about this: he gave up more homers to the Red Sox (3) than guys he struck out (2) … and it’s not even the first time he’s done that in a game this season! Unsurprisingly, he never did that in any game during his first three seasons in pinstripes.

The bottom line: Tanaka is the only pitcher in the majors this year who has multiple starts where he struck out at least two batters and still managed to allow more home runs than strikeouts in the game. Send help, please.

Not only did Tanaka serve up meatballs left and right against the Red Sox, his overall “stuff” was severely diminished and his pitches showed little deception. He got just three swings-and-misses (yup, the same number of homers he allowed), tied for the fewest in any of his 87 career starts.

(AP)
(AP)

CC’s lead the way
While the team’s improbable comeback wins have been getting a lot of buzz this season, an underrated theme for this Yankees squad has been their resiliency and avoiding long losing streaks. They haven’t lost more than three games in a row and haven’t been swept in any series so far. They assured both those milestones would remain intact on Wednesday, snapping their two-game slide and taking the second game of the series, 8-0.

This was a historic rout of their longtime division rival, marking their largest shutout win vs Red Sox since June 27, 1991 at Fenway. The last time they blanked the Red Sox by this large of a margin at Yankee Stadium was more than 50 years ago – on September 3, 1965!

The Yankees definitely had the right guy on the mound – Carsten Charles Sabathia – to stop their losing streak. After twirling eight scoreless innings, the 36-year-old lefty improved to 6-0 with a 1.25 ERA in seven starts following a Yankee loss. That’s the lowest ERA in games after a team loss for any pitcher in the majors this season (min. five starts).

This brilliant outing continued a string of ace-like performances by Sabathia, who is 5-0 with a 1.11 ERA in his last five starts. He’s just the third lefty in franchise history to win five starts in a row, allowing no more than two earned runs and six hits in each game: Ron Guidry had two such streaks (in 1978 and 1981) and Lefty Gomez also had a similar stretch in 1937.

On Wednesday, Sabathia’s slider was in peak form as the Red Sox went 0-for-8 in at-bats ending in the pitch – including four punchouts. Here’s a beautiful pitch chart of the 30 sliders he threw:

cc-sabathia-1

As you can see in the graphic above, he got only one whiff with his slider, but instead relied on its nasty movement to paint the edges of the zone and generate a whopping 13 called strikes. That matches the most he’s gotten with the pitch in any game since joining the Yankees.

His backdoor slider has been among the toughest in baseball for hitters to pick up this season. Sabathia’s 14 looking strikeouts with the slider are tied with Jhoulys Chacin for the most in MLB, and his slider called-strike rate is the second-highest among pitchers that have thrown at least 200 sliders this season.

While Sabathia was dealing on the mound, the other CC was a monster at the plate. Chris Carter went 3-for-4 with a towering home run and a season-high four RBIs, providing us with our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Week: he joins Scott Brosius (2000) as the only Yankee No. 9 hitters to drive in at least four runs and have at least three hits in a game against the Red Sox.

(Newsday)
(Newsday)

Who’s Your Daddy?
The Yankees finished off the series with another dominant win over their AL East rival, 9-1. This is just the third time in the last 30 years that they’ve notched back-to-back wins by at least eight runs against the Red Sox; the other two instances were Sept. 18-19, 2004 and May 23-24, 1998.

The Yankees pummeled David Price, scoring six runs in five innings against the former Cy Young winner. It was the sixth time over the last two seasons that Price has given up at least six earned runs in a game — and four (!) of those six disaster outings have come against the Yankees.

Gary Sanchez broke the game open with a towering three-run homer in the third inning to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead. But he was just getting warmed up… Sanchez took Price deep again two innings later, making him a ridiculous 4-for-7 with four homers in his career vs the Boston lefty.

He is one of six players with at least four homers vs Price — Manny Machado, Curtis Granderson, Edwin Encarnacion, Nelson Cruz, Jose Bautista are the others — and those five guys have faced him at least 40 times.

It was also Sanchez’s fifth multi-homer game in the big leagues, a staggering figure for someone playing in his 87th career game. He became the second-fastest player in major-league history to reach five multi-homer-games, behind only Mark McGwire (who did it in his 84th career game).

And, oh yeah, he also was the first Yankee catcher ever to have at least five RBIs and two homers in a game against the Red Sox. #FunFacts

While Sanchez was re-writing the Major-League record books, Aaron Judge continued his assault on the Statcast leaderboards. Judge’s sixth inning single left his bat at 119.8 mph, the third time this season he’s hit a ball 119 mph or faster. The rest of the players in major-league baseball have combined to do that zero times in 2017.

Mailbag: Yelich, Wade, Cozart, Domingos, Schwarber, Hicks

Thirteen questions in this week’s mailbag. The email address for all mailbag related correspondence is RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com. We’re getting more questions this year than we did the last few seasons, probably because the Yankees are good now, so don’t feel discouraged if yours doesn’t get picked. Keep trying.

Yelich. (Stephen Brashear/Getty)
Yelich. (Stephen Brashear/Getty)

Alessandro asks: So if the Marlins do indeed make Christian Yelich available, that’s someone we should totally go after, right?

Yup. Ken Rosenthal (video link) recently reported the Marlins will be “wide open” at the trade deadline and will listen to offers for basically everyone, including Yelich. Yelich is off to a slow start this season — he’s hitting .268/.348/.406 (101 wRC+) so far — but it’s only a matter of time until that turns around. The facts:

  • He is still only 25 years old and he will spend the entire season at that age.
  • He had a 118 wRC+ every year from 2013-15 — literally 118 on the nose all three years — before breaking out and hitting .298/.376/.483 (130 wRC+) with a career high 21 home runs in 2016.
  • He is an excellent defensive outfielder who can remain in center field for the foreseeable future.
  • He is owed $43.25M from 2018-21 with a $15M club option for 2022, so he’s signed through his age 30 season.

Also, Yelich is basically a shift proof left-handed hitter. He goes the other way as well and as often as anyone. His power spike last year was the result of him finally figuring out how to pull the ball a little more often. Here is his 2016 spray chart, via Baseball Savant:

christian-yelich-2016-spray-chart

It’s beautiful. So, to recap, Yelich is a 25-year-old left-handed hitter who hits the ball to all fields while playing a mean center field and being signed affordably for another five seasons behind 2017. That is someone you pursue very aggressively if the Marlins do indeed make him available. Yelich would fit the Yankees’ youth movement perfectly.

What will it take to get him? A lot, obviously. The Nationals gave up two top 50 prospects (Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez) plus a third good prospect (Dane Dunning) for Adam Eaton, who like Yelich is signed affordably long-term, but is also three years older and has an uglier injury history. (Even before the recent knee injury.)

It would in no way be unreasonable for the Marlins to ask for Gleyber Torres in a Yelich trade. Fortunately the Yankees have the prospects to make it happen without including Gleyber. In that case we’re talking a package that includes Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield, a really good third piece like Dustin Fowler or Chance Adams, and probably a really good fourth piece too. I’d seriously consider it. Then again, I’ve been a Yelich guy since he was in the minors, so I’m biased.

Bill asks: I know the plan is to groom Gleyber to take over 3rd, but reality is he probably needs a few months in AAA. Why isn’t Wade being discussed more for 3rd? He has played multiple positions (including 3rd if I’m not mistaken) and he has had a great year at AAA. Seems like a logical move unless his defense at 3rd is that bad.

I’m sure the Yankees are considering Tyler Wade for third base too, but no one is really talking about him because he’s not the sexy top prospect like Torres. Keep in mind Wade has even less third base experience than Gleyber at the moment. Wade has started seven games at the position in his career, all this season. He also played one game there in the Arizona Fall League. Torres has 12 games at the hot corner this year (and for his career). They’re both new to third base. Like I said, I definitely think Wade is someone the Yankees are considering. He’s just not a sexy enough prospect to generate headlines.

Dan asks: With the surprising move of the Yankees reinstating Tyler Austin from the 60-Day DL and optioning him to AAA, I was wondering if there could be any service-time thresholds the Yankees might be trying to avoid? If yes, when would he be an option to come back up?

I seriously doubt it. The Yankees activated Austin because his 20-day minor league rehab stint was about to expire, and they optioned him because they believe Chris Carter is the better first baseman. It’s really that simple. It’s not worth worrying about Austin’s service time. A year and a half ago he was designated for assignment and unclaimed on waivers. He’s someone you call up whenever he’s ready, get whatever you can out of him, then move on when the time comes. There’s no reason to manipulate service time with non-elite prospects, especially if you’re the Yankees.

Michael asks: If Ellsbury is still out as the deadline approaches do we go out and get more of a true 4th outfielder?

I hadn’t thought about that. Seems possible, right? I suppose it depends what the Yankees want to do with Frazier and Fowler. Are they comfortable using either as a true fourth outfielder, meaning only occasional spot start duty? I don’t like that idea. I’d rather let them play everyday in Triple-A. In that case picking up a veteran fourth outfielder who passes the “better than Mason Williams” test at the deadline wouldn’t be a bad idea. I don’t know who that could be. Rajai Davis? Cameron Maybin? Gregor Blanco? Right now, Rob Refsnyder is the fourth outfielder, and that’s not good.

Cozart. (Andy Lyons/Getty)
Cozart. (Andy Lyons/Getty)

Steve asks: How about Cozart an outside the box trade for 3B? I know he has only ever played SS but with his defense I imagine he could be moved to 3B and handle it easily enough….FA at the end of the year, and wouldn’t cost a lot of prospects, just an idea. Thoughts?

Interesting idea. Zack Cozart has been unreal this season. He’s hitting .346/.430/.612 (170 wRC+) with nine homers — he passed Aaron Judge in fWAR the other day (+3.3 to +3.1) — plus he’s an outstanding defensive shortstop. Has been for years. Cozart has never played third base though, not even in the minors, so you’d be asking him to learn the position on the fly. That seems like a bad idea even for someone with his defensive skills.

I’m of the belief that you shouldn’t pay for outlier performance at the trade deadline, and even though Cozart has been a solid player throughout his career, he’s never done anything close to this with the bat before. Maybe it’s a legit breakout (at age 31)! Do you want to bet a boatload of prospects on it at the deadline? I’d rather not, though I like the outside the box thinking. Cozart is an impending free agent, so the Reds are going to trade him. My guess is he winds up with the Nationals. They’ll go with Cozart at short and put Trea Turner back in center field to cover for the Eaton injury.

Dan asks: The two Sundays, Acevedo and German, can you tell us if they either of them are rotation options this year?

Domingo German yes, Domingo Acevedo no. Acevedo is more of a 2018 guy. Also, I don’t think German is someone the Yankees could count on for more than a spot start right now either. He’s having a fine season and by all accounts his stuff has returned following Tommy John surgery, but he had never pitched above High-A prior to this season. I could see him getting called up to make a spot start because he is already on the 40-man roster — not to mention a token September call-up to sit in the bullpen all month — but probably nothing more this year. Acevedo just got to Double-A himself and there are too many MLB ready (or readier) arms ahead of him at the moment. I don’t see him debuting in 2017.

Dave asks (short version): With Chance Adams pitching so well, doesn’t a six-man rotation make sense for them right now? Most of the rotation could use the extra rest (Tanaka, CC) or the limited innings (Sevy, Jordan).

The Yankees have been playing with a three-man bench and an eight-man bullpen for a few weeks now, and of course that eight-reliever isn’t pitching a whole lot. Right now Gio Gallegos is the eighth reliever with Tommy Layne the “he doesn’t pitch much either” seventh reliever. Carrying a sixth starter instead of an eighth reliever seems like a better use of the roster spot. It’ll give the regular five starters extra rest — surely Luis Severino is on some sort of workload limit, right? — and also give Adams a chance to cut his teeth in the show. My official 25th roster spot power rankings:

  1. Fourth bench player, especially with first and third bases being so bad these last few weeks.
  2. Sixth starter to give everyone extra rest throughout the season.
  3. Eighth reliever who pitches maybe once a week. Maybe.

And there you have it.

Nate asks: Buster Olney hinted on the podcast that the Cubs may be souring on Schwarber. Would a package of Fowler + Sheffield + another arm make sense for both sides? Seems like Schwarber could do well in YS as a 1b/DH.

I wouldn’t trade Fowler for Kyle Schwarber straight up. I’ve never been a Schwarber guy. Said it all last year during the trade rumors. Let’s look at this objectively and strip away the Cubs hype. Schwarber is a career .212/.328/.435 (108 wRC+) big league hitter — he’s at .173/.298/.377 (81 wRC+) in 2017 — with a 29.0% strikeout rate, and against lefties, he’s hit .141/.262/.216 (47 wRC+) with a 39.3% strikeout rate. That’s not a new problem either. There were always concerns about Schwarber’s inability to hit lefties, and everyone just kinda ignored them for some reason.

Furthermore, Schwarber has no position. He’s a designated hitter all the way. And he’s a negative on the bases who recently had a major knee injury. Schwarber has left-handed power and patience against righties, and the Yankees do love that, but he offers literally nothing else. He’s a platoon designated hitter. I’m not saying I wouldn’t take him under the right circumstances, but Fowler and Sheffield and more? Not a chance. Schwarber’s upside is too limited given his skill set. His best years might be +3 WAR.

Schwarber. (Jon Durr/Getty)
Schwarber. (Jon Durr/Getty)

Gene asks: Putting contract and free agent issues aside, if you were the Yankees front office, if you could would you trade Aaron Judge straight up for Mookie Betts?

Yes. If we completely ignore contract status and service time and all that, and focus only on talent and expected production going forward, I would take Betts over Judge. He’s a few months younger, his combination of contact (career 11.7 K%) and power (career .196 ISO) is extremely rare, plus he adds a ton of value on the bases and in the field. I love Judge. He’s the man and I’m glad the Yankees have him. But Betts is the better player. I’d rather have him going forward. Now, that said, Betts will be a free agent following the 2020 season. Judge won’t be a free agent until after 2022. I’d take six years of Judge over four years of Betts.

Gai asks: Do you buy into Aaron Hicks‘ success this season? Where do you think he fits in long term? He’s a former top prospect and having an incredible eye is a very important trait to have as a hitter, so it makes me excited to think Hicks might actually be a long term solution.

Yes I buy into Hicks turning things around for real, no I don’t buy him as a true talent .315/.426/.550 (163 wRC+) hitter going forward. I would love to see Hicks keep that up, but I don’t expect it. That would be amazing. I think he could settle in long-term around, say, .280/.380/.450, which is obviously really good. Keep in mind though that Hicks will become a free agent after the 2019 season, so it’s not like he’s under control super long-term. Perhaps the Yankees should approach him about an extension? Eh. Might be a little too soon for that. I’m excited Hicks has turned it around and I’m excited he’s complicated the outfielder picture even further.

Quintin: Judge seems to always have long at bats. Does he rank 1st on the team in terms of pitches per plate appearance? Where does he rank in the MLB? Also, even though he’s having an amazing year, do you think it would benefit him to be a little more aggressive earlier in his at bats? Thanks!

Judge does always have long at-bats. He’s averaging 4.36 pitches per plate appearance, which leads the Yankees and is seventh high among all qualified hitters in baseball. The top seven:

  1. Anthony Rendon, Nationals: 4.49 pitches per plate appearance
  2. Curtis Granderson, Mets: 4.48
  3. Kyle Schwarber, Cubs: 4.46
  4. Todd Frazier, White Sox: 4.46
  5. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: 4.41
  6. Jayson Werth, Nationals: 4.39
  7. Aaron Judge, Yankees: 4.36

Brett Gardner (4.26), Matt Holliday (4.23), and Chase Headley (4.18) are all in the top 25 as well. Working the count is great and all, but at the end of the day, you’re trying to get a pitch to hit, and if that pitch comes early in the at-bat, so be it. I don’t think it would be a bad thing for Judge to be a little more aggressive early in the count, but what he’s doing right now is working so well that it’s not much of a concern at all.

Jeff asks: Inspired by Cone talking about Gardner’s base running prowess since he entered the league… is there any data that compares the value of stolen base % vs total bases stolen? As in, would you rather have someone go 15-for-15 in SBs or someone who goes 20-for-25? Thanks.

Sure. In the calculation for wOBA, the value of a stolen base is held constant at +0.2 runs year to year. The value of a caught stealing changes each year depending on the offensive environment. In a high scoring era with a lot of homers, a caught stealing is more damaging than it is in a low offensive era. Losing baserunners when the ball is flying is bad. When runs are at a premium, steals are worth the risk.

So anyway, stolen bases are held constant at +0.2 runs. This year a caught stealing is worth -0.416 runs. So going 15-for-15 in steal attempts is worth +3.0 runs (15 x 0.2). Going 20-for-25 equals +1.92 runs ([20 x 0.2] + [5 x -0.416]). In theory, going 15-for-15 is more valuable than going 20-for-25 because losing those five baserunners hurts more than the extra 90-feet five times helps. The stolen base is a weird thing though. In the eighth inning of a tie game, a stolen base could be huge. In a fifth inning of a blowout, it’s meaningless. I’ve always felt the blanket “steals are +0.2 runs” statement was overly simplistic.

Alex asks: Is it time to start thinking about Judge or Sanchez as the next captain of the Yankees? This year is obviously early, but in the next few seasons would that make sense for one of them?

Way too early. Way way way too early. Derek Jeter wasn’t named captain until 2003, in the eighth season of his career. He’d won four World Series and signed a massive ten-year contract by then. The Yankees knew he was sticking around. Don Mattingly wasn’t named captain until 1991. We’ve got a long way to go before the Yankees name another captain, I believe. I do think Judge is captain material because he’s an extreme team first guy with a great work ethic. People gravitate to him. Let’s just let Aaron Judge be Aaron Jdge for a while before we worry about naming captains. The same is true with Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Gleyber Torres, whoever.

Sanchez and Pineda power the Yankees to an 9-1 win over the Red Sox

It’s a good day when the Yankees get to extend their division lead. Even better when they do it after a win against the Red Sox. Great pitching by Michael Pineda and some power hitting go a long way. Yankees are now 34-23 and 3 games above the Red Sox and O’s for the first place in AL East.

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

Mike coming up big

This is the finest start that Pineda’s ever thrown against the Red Sox – 7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB and 8 K’s. It’s the first time ever that he’s gone 7 innings against Boston AND also the first that he allowed 0 ER in a start against them. How about that? Came at a good time too, when the Yankees are trying to extend the division lead against a rival. His offspeed pitches were working tonight, generating 12 whiffs overall between his changeup and slider (25.5% rate). 7 out of his 8 strikeouts were swinging as well. I like.

The only run that he allowed came via a runner reaching on an error and scoring on a passed ball. In the top of the fourth, with the Yankees leading 4-0, Xander Bogaerts reached when Chase Headley made a bad one-hop throw to Chris Carter that he couldn’t handle. Mitch Moreland followed it up with a sneaky bunt single against the shift, but Hanley Ramirez grounded into a double play to erase a chunk of the Sox threat. However, facing Jackie Bradley Jr., Pineda threw a fastball with a big cutting action that got past Gary Sanchez‘s mitt. The ball rolled into the backstop and Bogaerts was able to score easily. It was ruled a passed ball – Sanchez should’ve been able to catch that. Oh well. A minor blemish to a great start.

Anyways, after tonight’s dominant start, Pineda’s season stats improved to 7-3, 3.39 ERA in 71.2 IP with 17 walks and 75 K’s. Sure, there are worries about his long-ball tendencies but if he keeps those numbers up, Pineda will end up becoming a rich man in the free agency (assuming the Yankees don’t extend him by then). Before that, for now, let’s enjoy the improved Big Mike shoving it to the hitters more often this season.

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

Homers!

There’s no denying that David Price is a top-tier MLB starting pitcher. However, ever since joining the Red Sox, the lefty has turned into a pumpkin when facing the Yankees. Tonight, the Yankees got 6 runs off of him in 5 innings. Since last year, they’ve pounded Price to a tune of 8.31 ERA in 34.1 IP. As someone sided with the Yankees, let me say this: this is fun.

The big blows by the Yankee bats tonight are mostly comprised of the three home runs – two by Gary Sanchez and one from Brett Gardner. With the Yankees leading 1-0, the bats got it going in the bottom of the third. Aaron Judge and Matt Holliday got on base with a single and a walk, respectively. Two hitters later, Sanchez hit a 87 mph pitch right down the middle into the right field seats for a no-doubt, 415 feet 3-run homer. 4-0 Yankees.

After the Red Sox added a run, the Yankees headed into the bottom of the fifth with a 4-1 lead. Sanchez changed that once again. This time, he hit a 96 mph fastball from Price into over the opposite field fence for a 2-run HR, making it 6-1 Yankees. After tonight, Sanchez is 4-for-7 with 4 HR’s against David Price.

Gardner joined in the big flies fun leading off the bottom of the eighth. The Yankees had a 7-1 lead going in with Starlin Castro adding an RBI single back in the sixth. Brett the Jet hit a breaking ball from Brandon Workman that traveled into the right field seats to make it 8-1 Yankees. Gardner’s power surge in 2017 has been… something. He has 13 home runs this season already, which is only 4 away from his career-high set in 2014. It is even more impressive that he did it in the past 160 PAs. The Yankees loaded the bases up in the frame with two singles (Aaron Hicks and Judge) and a HBP (Holliday), scratching a run out of it with a Castro’s fielder’s choice groundout. 9-1 Yankees, it is.

Leftovers

After Pineda departed, Adam Warren came in the eighth inning and pitched a clean frame. In the ninth, Girardi had Giovanny Gallegos pitch through the first two outs and put in Dellin Betances to get the last out. That was an interesting decision in his part. Bring in the closer in the top of the 9th with a 9-1 lead? The only explanation that I can think of is that Betances has only pitched in two games in the past two weeks and needs to get some game action somehow. Some will argue that if Girardi really wanted to get some work in for Betances, he would’ve let him start the inning. I don’t disagree. Just an interesting decision all-around but, in the grand scheme of things, Betances ended the game. 9-1 Yankees win.

Aaron Judge hasn’t homered much lately but man, he can still hit. Today, he had a 3-for-4 day with one of the base hits registering at 119.8 mph (!!!) off the bat. Judge has hit 7 balls over 116.0 mph this season and the rest of the big league has 12.

Box score, standings and WPA graph

Here’s tonight’s box score, updated standings and WPA graph.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees will host a 3-game series vs. Orioles this weekend. Tomorrow, they’ll have Jordan Montgomery up on the hill against Dylan Bundy.

DotF: Andujar’s hitting streak reaches 16, Herrera dominates in Trenton’s win

In case you missed it earlier, I posted my pre-draft top 30 Yankees prospects list. Feel free to mock me.

Triple-A Scranton (3-2 loss to Lehigh Valley)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 1-5, 1 2B, 1 RBI
  • LF Dustin Fowler: 1-4, 1 BB
  • 1B Greg Bird: 1-3, 2 BB, 1 K — he told D.J. Eberle he feels close, which I take to mean he still needs more at-bats … he played nine innings tonight, will play nine innings at first base tomorrow, then DH on Saturday
  • DH Tyler Austin: 0-4, 1 BB — Bird and Austin hitting back-to-back in the minors like the old days
  • RF Clint Frazier: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 K, 1 SB — that’s three stolen bases in the last two games and six in seven attempts this season
  • 2B Gleyber Torres: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K
  • CF Mason Williams: 1-3, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SB
  • RHP Brady Lail: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 8/4 GB/FB, 1 E (missed catch) — 63 of 97 pitches were strikes (65%)
  • RHP Ben Heller: 0.2 IP, zeroes, 0/1 GB/FB — three pitches, one strike

[Read more…]

Game 57: Win the Series

The fan favorites. (Elsa/Getty)
The fan favorites. (Elsa/Getty)

The Yankees and Red Sox have split the first two games of this three-game series, which means tonight is the rubber game. Just win series is the goal, but man, against a division rival, the series win is always that much sweeter. And more meaningful too. Newsflash: the AL East isn’t getting any easier as the season progresses.

Last time out Michael Pineda, tonight’s starter, had a rough go of it against the Blue Jays. Every pitcher has a bad start now and then, but given Pineda’s history, you can’t help but wonder whether that start was just a blip, or the other shoe dropping. Pineda’s been pretty good so far this year. It would be cool to see him shake that rough outing off and pitch well tonight. Just win the series, baby. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. C Gary Sanchez
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Chris Carter
    RHP Michael Pineda

The weather is okay in New York. Not great, not awful. Just okay. Overcast and cool, though there’s no rain in the forecast. Tonight’s series finale will begin at 7:05pm ET and both YES (local) and ESPN (national) will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

2017 Draft: Seth Romero

Seth Romero | LHP

Background
Romero, 21, was not drafted out of a Texas high school a few years back and wound up at Houston. Working mostly as a starter with the Cougars, he had a 2.43 ERA with 290 strikeouts and 70 walks in 226 innings in college. Romero was kicked off Houston’s baseball team last month, reportedly because he got into a fight with a teammate and took a photo holding a bong in full uniform. He was suspended two other times during his college career for conduct detrimental to the team.

Scouting Report
At 6-foot-4 and 240 lbs., Romero has a thick frame and he generates easy mid-90s velocity with his fastball. He sits 93-95 mph and has run it up as high as 97 mph. Romero’s out pitch is a nasty mid-80s slider, and his changeup has improved to the point where it is now a reliable third pitch he can use to neutralize righties. There’s a little bit of effort in Romero’s delivery, though he’s a good athlete and he repeats it well, and he usually has no trouble throwing his fastball for strikes. The stuff is legit. The makeup is questionable.

Miscellany
Romero came into the spring as a likely top ten pick, though the ongoing off-the-field issues have pushed him down draft boards. In their latest rankings, both MLB.com (24th) and Baseball America (27th) ranked Romero as a back-half of the first round prospect, while Keith Law (subs. req’d) dinged him hard and ranked him 59th. The Yankees pick 16th. A college kid smoking pot is no big deal. Fighting with teammates though? That’s bad. The Yankees really value makeup and my guess is they would pass on Romero, even if his talent says he’d be a coup with that 16th overall pick.

The Blue Jays and Red Sox have found a way to attack Aaron Judge, and now it’s up to him to adjust

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Last night the Yankees put a hurting on reigning AL Cy Young award winner Rick Porcello (lol), and they did it without getting anything from Aaron Judge. He went 0-for-4 with a walk and two strikeouts, which dragged his season batting line down to a still incredible .321/.428/.668 (190 RC+). There ain’t much BABIP luck in there either. Judge tattoos the ball on the regular.

Over these last six games against the Blue Jays and Red Sox, Judge has gone 6-for-22 (.273) with eleven strikeouts, though he also has six walks and three extra-base hits (two doubles and a homer). He hasn’t been bad by any means. That is a lot of strikeouts though, and it seems the Blue Jays and Red Sox have found a way to attack Judge: with high fastballs.

Here, via Baseball Savant, are two strike zone heat maps. The heat map on the left shows the fastball location Judge saw in April and May. The heat map on the right is the fastball location he’s seen in June, which, conveniently, are these last six games against the Blue Jays and Red Sox (click to embiggen):

aaron-judge-fastballs

Not surprisingly, pitchers tried to attack Judge down and away earlier this season, even with heaters. He’s 6-foot-7 and they wanted him to reach as far as possible for the ball. Judge has shown he can handle that down-and-away pitch so far this season. How many times have we seen him flick that outside pitch to right field? More than a few.

These last two series though, against Toronto and Boston, two division rivals who figure to really dig in and study Judge, Judge has seem many more fastballs upstairs. That’s not easy to do! The guy is 6-foot-7. A high fastball to a normal hitter would be at the letters for Judge. You’ve got to go higher than high against him.

Judge has been getting hosed on low called strikes all season (the numbers confirm it) and now he has to worry about high pitches too. All those high fastballs from the Blue Jays and Red Sox have resulted in a lot of swings and misses from Judge lately. Here are the pitch locations of his swings and misses against fastballs these last six games:

aaron-judge-fastball-whiffs

Yep. They’re going upstairs against him and Judge has chased. Not to the point where he’s been completely neutralized — like I said, he is 6-for-22 with a homer these last six games — but enough to stop him from being the planet-eating monster he was in April and May. They’ve (mostly) kept him in the park and generated more empty swings. That’s a win for them. They’d love to stop Judge. They’ll settle for containing him.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. Maybe not the high fastballs specifically, but the fact opposing teams have found a way to keep Judge in check. The Blue Jays and Red Sox are going to see an awful lot of Judge going forward. They did their homework and hey, look at that, they both came up with the same plan. (Perhaps the Red Sox are copying the Blue Jays. Who knows.)

The league has started to adjust to Judge and now it’s up to Judge to adjust back. That’s baseball. And you know what? In his relatively brief big league career, Judge has already shown he can make adjustments. He looks like a completely different hitter now than he was last year. That’s not a fluke. That’s the result of hard work and baseball smarts. Now Judge will have to work to combat all these high fastballs.

Because he made the adjustment from last year to this year, and has a history of making adjustments in the minors, I am completely confident Judge will figure out how to handle this sudden barrage of high fastballs. Hopefully he can make that adjustment soon, but if it takes some time, then it takes time. Baseball is hard. The Blue Jays and Red Sox have come up with a bit of a blueprint though. Want to slow Judge down? Go upstairs. It’s only a matter of time until other teams start doing it too.