Fan Confidence Poll: September 21st, 2015

Record Last Week: 4-2 (27 RS, 15 RA)
Season Record: 82-66 (720 RS, 630 RA, 84-64 pythag. record) 2.5 GB in ALE, 4.0 games up on WC spot
Opponents This Week: @ Blue Jays (three games, Mon. to Weds.), vs. White Sox (four games, Thurs. 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?

Yankees take the Subway Series with a 11-2 win behind CC’s arm and big bats


This game didn’t start well – CC Sabathia labored through the entire first inning while Matt Harvey mowed down Yankee hitters. There’s a reason why you don’t stop watching after the first few innings though – the Yankee offense took advantage of non-Harvey Mets pitchers later in the game to make this win look very, very easy. The guys from Bronx took two out of three in the enemy territory to win the Subway Series before they head up north for a crucial series versus the Blue Jays.

It’s a Sunday night. I had a long day of watching sports (attending the Redskins game, watching more NFL and MLB games and this) so let’s do this 11-2 win bullet point style.

– CC is good again?: The Mets took a quick 1-0 lead in the first only after first two hitters – both Ruben Tejada and David Wright hit a double each (on 0-2 counts, go figure). By then all of us were wondering if we were in for a long night of CC struggling and bullpen laboring. Well, CC did have to work a lot to get out of the first inning without any more damage – he loaded the bases with two outs with a pair of walks but induced a Michael Cuddyer pop out to escape.

For the rest of the night, Sabathia was brilliant. He only allowed three more hits in five innings while striking out five more. Thanks to the offense imploding post-Harvey, CC earned his first win since July 8, which, in my opinion, is a long time ago (a lot of things happened to me in that time period). After being a thorn on the side for the Yankee rotation until early August, Sabathia is making a strong case to be a playoff starter now, who would’ve thought?

– The top of sixth: So you probably know about this Matt Harvey pitch count deal. Well, Harvey was just dealing tonight, allowing only one hit in five scoreless innings. Starting in the sixth, though, Terry Collins took Harvey out and put in Hansel Robles as the first reliever. Jacoby Ellsbury reached second to lead off on an infield single and Daniel Murphy’s throwing error. Brett Gardner followed it up with a fielder’s choice grounder that Wright botched. That was not a pretty sight for Mets fans and it got worse for them. Carlos Beltran, whom they booed mercilessly all this weekend, hit a go-ahead double to put the Yanks on top, 2-1. Three batters later, with two outs and two on, Dustin Ackley homered to right to make it 5-1. Dustin Ackley! The man has been on fire as a Yankee (1.057 OPS in 22 AB prior to tonight’s game). I doubt he keeps that up but it would be nice if a change of scenery/being coached by new people in new org somehow tapped that former second overall pick potential. Only time will tell but it’s awesome to see Brian Cashman‘s sole deadline acquisition pay off pretty neatly.

– More runs!: Yankees scored another in seventh thanks to a bases-loaded walk to Chase Headley by Eric O’Flaherty. In the top of eighth, facing Carlos Torres and Tim Stauffer, they tacked on five more. Ellsbury drove in Rico Noel (pinch-running for A-Rod) to make it 7-1. Torres struck Gardner out but walked Beltran before getting yanked for Stauffer. Brian McCann followed it up with an RBI single for a 8-1 lead and Greg Bird hit a dinger to left-center to make it 11-1. Holy cow, did anyone imagine this kind of outburst when the lineup was being shut down by Harvey? Chris Capuano would allow a run in the next frame to shorten the lead to 11-2 but that was pretty much it.

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

Source: FanGraphs

So that series win was a plus to any Yankee fan’s night, right? Well, they are about to face the Blue Jays for the next four days – we’ll see how we feel after that series.

Game 148: CC in the Subway Series


Barring a World Series matchup, the 2015 Subway Series ends tonight, and the Yankees have already clinched at least a tie of the season series. They won two of three in Yankee Stadium back in April and have split the first two games of this series in Citi Field. Of course, the focus is on getting to the postseason right now, not specifically beating the Mets. They just happen to be the Yankees’ opponent this weekend.

CC Sabathia will be on the mound tonight and his first two starts off the DL have been encouraging. He allowed one unearned run in 4.2 innings in his first start back and tossed 6.2 shutout innings last time out. Sabathia has stepped up these last two starts when the Yankees really needed him. With a win tonight, the Yankees will go to Toronto just two games back in the loss column. That’s a big pretty big deal. Just win, baby. Here is the Mets’ lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. 1B Greg Bird
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. 2B Dustin Ackley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. LHP CC Sabathia

Very nice night for a ballgame in New York. Clear skies and on the cool side. It definitely has a postseason feel to it. Tonight’s game will begin at 8pm ET and you can watch on ESPN. Enjoy.

Injury Update: In case you missed it earlier, Masahiro Tanaka will miss his next start with a Grade I right hamstring strain. The hope is he will miss only one start.

Rotation Update: Adam Warren, Luis Severino, and Ivan Nova will start the next three games up in Toronto in that order.

Masahiro Tanaka to miss Wednesday’s start with Grade I hamstring strain

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Well this is bad news. Masahiro Tanaka will miss Wednesday’s start against the Blue Jays with a Grade I right hamstring strain, the Yankees announced this afternoon. Tanaka hurt himself running the bases Friday. Stupid NL rules. Ivan Nova will start in Tanaka’s place Wednesday.

Joe Girardi said the hope is Tanaka will miss just one start due to the hamstring issue. Of course, that one start might be the most important game of the season. Tanaka is pretty much the only Yankees starter who has been able to hold down the Blue Jays offense, and depending on how the next few days play out, first base could be on the line Wednesday.

Apparently the injury happened when Tanaka ran down to first base in the second inning Friday. He laid down a sacrifice bunt and the force out was made at second. Tanaka had to run from first to second on Brett Gardner’s single later in the inning, then had to run to first on a ground out in his second at-bat. He threw five innings after the injury supposedly happened.

There was no indication Tanaka was hurt — he was lifted for a pinch-hitter despite throwing 82 pitches because the Yankees were down in the seventh and needed offense — so this injury really came out of nowhere. A Grade I strain is least severe by definition, which is the good news, I guess. Tanaka told reporters he wants to pitch Wednesday, but the Yankees are playing it safe.

Still, losing Tanaka is very bad news, even if it is only one start. Nova has not pitched well this season — the Blue Jays hammered him last time out, as I’m sure you remember — but the Yankees have no other alternatives. Nathan Eovaldi (elbow) is also hurt and Adam Warren’s back in the rotation. It’s either Nova or Chris Capuano at this point. Sigh.

Tanaka and the Dingers


Over the course of the 2015 season, it’s hard to argue that anyone other than Masahiro Tanaka has been the Yankee best and most consistent starter. Sure, we could argue that CC Sabathia‘s been more consistent, but I’m trying to keep things positive here. Should the Yankees be “forced” to play in the Wild Card play-in game for entry into the ALDS, we can only hope that Tanaka is lined up to start that game; why there’d be any question about this is definitely beyond me. But despite Tanaka’s general goodness at delivering pitches, there’s been a noticeable wrinkle in his game this year: the dinger.

On the year, Tanaka has given up 24 home runs, ninth most in the AL. Shockingly enough, Phil Hughes leads the AL with 29 homers surrendered (though he shares that “distinction” with Anibal Sanchez); Sabathia and his 27 homers are good for fifth. Giving up that many homers is a problem in and of itself, but it’s compounded by the fact that Tanaka’s 17.0 HR/FB% is the worst in the AL among qualified starters (Sabathia is second worst at 16.6). In 2014, homers were also Tanaka’s one-bad-thing; he gave up just 15, but that was in a relatively short amount of time. His HR/FB% last year was better than this year’s at 14.0%, but still high; in fact, it also ‘led’ the AL, clearing the second place finisher (Hisashi Iwakuma, 13.2%) by almost a full point. Given that Tanaka uses a splitter as his main out-pitch, this data makes a bit of sense. His ground ball rates of 46.6 and 47.3% are fairly high, so it’s rare when Tanaka does give up fly balls. The problem is that when he does, they seem to travel a long, long way. While 2014 and 2015 were relatively similar with regards to the long-ball and TANAK, there is one rather striking difference: the way lefties are ripping round-trippers off of the righty.

In 2014, Tanaka gave up a larger percentage of his HR/FB to right handed batters: 15.4% against them and “just” 12.7% against lefties. This year, that trend has reversed itself drastically: 13.6% against RHB (still not good!) and 22.6% (!!!) against lefties. For a microcosm of this issue, we need to look no further into the past than his last start against the Mets on Friday night.

That night, Tanaka threw just three bad pitches. One of them was a double down the right field line by Lucas Duda that eventually led to nothing for the Mets. The other two, however, represented the only runs Tanaka gave up (click to embiggen all images):

Tanaka vs. Duda (BrooksBaseball.Net)
Tanaka vs. Duda (BrooksBaseball.Net)
Tanaka vs. Murphy (BrooksBaseball.Net)
Tanaka vs. Murphy (BrooksBaseball.Net)

The first image is the home run Tanaka gave up to aforementioned Duda. The second is the one he gave up to Daniel Murphy, which put the Mets ahead for good. Both pitches are right in the middle of the plate and the lefties were able to hook them into (deep) right field both times. Both pitches, in fact, are almost in the exact same location, with Murphy’s just a touch closer to the plate. Generally, though, they’re in the same portion of the strikezone. If those pictures were broken down into a 3×3 strike zone grid, they’d be in the same box. So two different hitters, ones whose only real similarity is that they hit from the same side of the plate, hit basically the same-located pitch over the fence. This couldn’t be a coincidence, could it? Well, if it were, you’d be reading something else here. It turns out that this location has been a trouble spot for Tanaka. Take a look at the strike zone grids below that represent the left-handed batters’ collective ISO against Tanaka, broken down by strike zone location. 2014 is first, followed by 2015.

ISO v. Tanaka by location, 2014 (BrooksBaseball.Net)
LHB ISO v. Tanaka by location, 2014 (BrooksBaseball.Net)
ISO vs. Tanaka by location, 2015 (BrooksBaseball.Net)
LHB ISO vs. Tanaka by location, 2015 (BrooksBaseball.Net)

Take a look at the box where the two homers from Friday night would sit. In 2014, lefties tagged Tanaka to the tune of a .350 ISO in that spot. As if that wasn’t high enough, this year, batters are crushing pitches in that location: .682 (!!!). That’s the what, but what’s the why? Like the HR/FB% issue, we can likely point to Tanaka’s repertoire as the “culprit” for this.

Tanaka gets most of his swings and misses on his slider and his splitter; his Whiff/Swing percentages on those pitches are 33.33 and 33.89 respectively.  Against LHB, those numbers are even higher: 37.29% and 35.24%. So, why the big time homer numbers against lefties? And why the big time power in that outside location? Think of the action of each one of those pitches. It’s possible that some (attempted) backdoor sliders are getting just too much of that outside corner and lefties are mashing them. The same could be said for splitters looking to drop out of the zone that hang just a bit too much. Taking a look at the outcomes of each pitch against lefties, we can see that the slider and splitter have relatively low HR/(FB+LD) marks at 12.5 each and that the fastball has been the biggest victim (30.77). The curveball (20.00) has also been sent over the fence more than the slider and splitter. While those numbers aren’t broken down by location, they’re also pitches that a righty will try to place on the outside to a lefty. It seems, then, that when Tanaka is trying to locate those pitches in that middle/away box, he’s not getting the movement on his breaking pitches that he wants, nor is he getting the command on his fastball. That combination generally leads to bad things and that’s certainly been the case for Tanaka and his homers in 2015.

Saturday Night Open Thread

Here is your open thread for the evening. MLB Network is showing a bunch of regional games throughout the night, FOX Sports 1 will have the Tigers and Royals, and there’s a whole bunch of college football on as well. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s win, or anything else right here.

Yankees shut Mets out 5-0 thanks to Big Mike, big homers

How do you rebound from a tough loss? With a shutout win the next afternoon. The Yankees beat the Mets 5-0 in a not so quick yet well-played game Saturday afternoon. It was their fourth shutout and 81st win of the season. Hooray for clinching a .500 record.


More Early Runs
Once again, the Yankees scored in the first inning. They lead baseball with 117 first inning runs this season — the Rockies are next with 107 — and they scored three within the first three batters Saturday afternoon. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner led the inning off with back-to-back bloop singles — they were eerily similar; same arc, same spot, the whole nine — then Carlos Beltran followed with a no-doubt three-run homer into the second deck in right. Quick 3-0 lead.

Both Gardner and Beltran recorded their hits in 0-2 counts and I was hopeful that was an indication Noah Syndergaard was off his game a bit. Instead, he settled right down and retired the next 12 batters he faced. The Yankees didn’t have another base-runner until Dustin Ackley smacked a leadoff triple in the fifth. The run didn’t score though. Didi Gregorius and Michael Pineda struck out, and Ellsbury grounded out. The run felt doomed to be stranded as soon as Didi struck out. Can’t count on the pitcher and the current version of Ellsbury to get the run in there.


The Return of Big Mike
Pineda’s first four starts off the DL were pretty crummy. He allowed 14 runs in 21.2 innings in those starts, and the Mets have been tearing the cover off the ball of late, so Saturday afternoon was going to be a big test for Big Mike. The Yankees are going to need him to be better these last two weeks, and Pineda aced Saturday’s test, throwing 5.1 shutout innings. He struck out four, walked one, and allowed four singles. That’s all.

Joe Girardi went to his bullpen surprisingly early (more on that in a sec) even though Pineda appeared to have plenty left in the tank. Either way, this was Pineda’s best outing since his forearm injury by far. I remember two hard-hit balls: Chase Headley made a fabulous diving grab to his right on Wilmer Flores’ ground ball in the second, then Ellsbury ran down a line drive in the right-center field gap later in the game. I don’t remember who hit it, I just remember Ellsbury chasing it down. Pineda was pretty awesome. More of this Big Mike going forward, please.

Insurance Runs
Like I said, Syndergaard handled the Yankees very well after giving up Beltran’s home run, at least until the sixth inning rolled around. Beltran laced a one-out single to center and Brian McCann followed with a mammoth two-run home run in the bullpens. It was a very aesthetically pleasing home run. Syndergaard threw a fastball right into McCann’s bat path and the follow through left zero doubt the ball was gone. McCann put a great swing on that pitch. It looked good and it gave the Yankees a 5-0 lead in the sixth.


Panic Time
I think we reached peak Girardi panic mode in the bottom of the sixth. Pineda was cruising along, then he allowed two soft singles — Kelly Johnson hit a grounder to beat the shift and Curtis Granderson blooped a ball to left — leading off the inning, and Girardi had the bullpen working. Pineda rebounded to strike out Yoenis Cespedes on three pitches … and that was it. Afternoon over at 86 pitches.

Know what the weird thing was? I totally expected it. I did not, however, expect Stephen Drew to be double switched out of the game literally one out after replacing Ackley. Seriously, Drew came in for defense with a five-run lead after Ackley struck out to end the top of the sixth, which made total sense, then he was out of the game on the double switch. So weird. Anyway, Justin Wilson replaced Pineda, walked the lefty Daniel Murphy to load the bases after maybe getting squeezed, then struck out David Wright and Juan Uribe with his patented “fastball after fastball after fastball” approach.

All things considered, it worked. The Yankees need every win possible and Girardi opted for a fresh Wilson over a fatigued-ish Pineda with men on base, and Wilson escaped the jam. Was it was a curious move to pull Pineda with his pitch count so manageable and the bullpen struggling so much lately, possibly because they’re out of gas late in the season after getting 12 outs a game day after day earlier this season? Yes, of course. But clearly Girardi trusts like three guys in the bullpen and these games are too important. Whatever.

Anyway, Wilson went back out for the seventh and struck out the first two batters of the inning. He struck out four in a row — you could argue five in a row considering he was squeezed against Murphy — then gave way to Caleb Cotham, who struck out Kevin Plawecki. Dellin Betances struck out two in a perfect eighth — Yankees relievers struck out seven in a row at one point — and of course Andrew Miller had to come in for the ninth after Chris Martin made a minor mess. He allowed two infield singles, which was enough for Girardi to go to Miller. He got Travis d’Arnaud to ground out to end the game.


The first four spots in the lineup did all the damage. Ellsbury, Gardner, Beltran, and McCann went a combined 5-for-15 (.333) with two homers and both scored and drove in all five runs. The bottom five spots in the order went 2-for-19 (.105) with ten strikeouts. Ackley tripled and Greg Bird ground-rule doubled. Ackley, Drew, Brendan Ryan, and Rob Refsnyder all played second base in the last four innings.

Pineda and the various relievers combined to strike out 12 Mets on the afternoon. It was the team’s 54th game with double digit strikeouts this year. Only that sicko staff in Cleveland has more. They have 55. The Yankees lead the AL with 28 games with at least ten strikeouts and no more than two walks. They did that this game, because duh. Why else would I mention it?

And finally, for some reason the Citi Field crowd broke into a “Let’s Go Blue Jays!” chant after McCann’s homer. What the hell was that about? The Mets are in first place! Don’t worry about the Yankees, root for your own team. That’s way more fun.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score and video highlights, and here are the updated standings and postseason odds. The magic number to clinch a playoff spot is down to eleven. Here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages, and here’s the win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Mets wrap up the 2015 Subway Series with the ESPN Sunday Night Game. Blah. CC Sabathia and Matt Harvey will be the pitching matchup in the sixth game of the nine-game road trip.