Yankeemetrics: The Not-Farewell Tour [Aug. 9-11]

(AP)
(AP)

Severino stumbles again
The Yankees opened their series at Fenway Park in familiar fashion — with a loss that dropped them back to .500 (56-56). This was the 17th time they’ve been exactly even in the win-loss ledger, which easily tops all MLB teams this season.

Another thing that has become commonplace for this Yankee club is mediocre starting pitching. Luis Severino returned to the rotation hoping to build on the promising work he’d done out of the bullpen the past few weeks, but instead reverted back to the same struggling pitcher he was at the beginning of season.

He was roughed up for five runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings and fell to 0-7 with a 7.78 ERA as a starter this season. The last Yankee pitcher to lose his first seven decisions of the season as a starter was Doyle Alexander in 1982.

Even worse is the fact that the Yankees still haven’t won a game started by Severino in 2016. This is the first time in more 80 years that the Yankees have lost the first eight games started by any pitcher in a season. In 1934, they lost the first eight times that Russ Van Atta took the mound as a starting pitcher.

While the Yankees’ recent youth movement has been well-documented, the Red Sox also boast an enviable cavalry of young and exciting players. The latest call-up is 22-year-old Andrew Benintendi, who had a tremendous night at the plate, going 3-for-3 with an RBI double and two runs scored.

The former Arkansas Razorback star is the answer to our latest #FunFact, becoming the youngest Red Sox outfielder with at least three hits against Yankees at Fenway Park since Ted Williams in 1940.

(NY Daily News)
(NY Daily News)

A Yankee legend is born
The Yankees bounced back from Tuesday’s loss with an impressive and uplifting win on Wednesday night, as they stormed back from a 4-1 deficit with eight unanswered runs in the seventh and eighth innings en route a stunning 9-4 victory.

The outlook for a win was grim early on when starter Nathan Eovaldi was removed after pitching one inning due to elbow discomfort. Joe Girardi was then forced to churn through seven relievers to finish off the contest. The eight pitchers used was the most ever by a Yankee team in a nine-inning game before Sept. 1 (when rosters expand).

Starlin Castro capped off the Yankees’ furious seventh inning rally with a tie-breaking, bases-loaded, two-run double for a 6-4 lead. That hit upped Castro’s batting average with the bases full to .467 (7-for-15) this season, the highest mark among players with more than 10 at-bats in that situation through Wednesday’s games.

Castro wore the hero’s cape but it was Gary Sanchez who grabbed the headlines with his spectacular 4-for-5 performance at the plate.

The 23-year-old Sanchez is the youngest Yankee with a four-hit game against the Red Sox since Derek Jeter on July 2, 1996 (in the Bronx), and the youngest Yankee to have four hits in a game at Fenway Park since Don Mattingly on June 12, 1984.

But not only did Sanchez have four hits, he also crushed his first major-league home run, a mammoth shot to center field in the eighth inning. That made him the first Yankee age 23 or younger with at least four hits and a home run in a game against the Red Sox since Mickey Mantle on May 22, 1954.

A-Rod says goodbye to Fenway
For the second night in a row, the Yankees seemed doomed for another loss before staging an improbable late-inning rally, this time winning by the final score of 4-2.

Down 2-1 in the eighth inning with the bases loaded, Jacoby Ellsbury drilled a line drive double to left field, scoring two runs. It was the first time in pinstripes that he’s delivered a go-ahead hit with the team trailing in the eighth inning or later, and is the only Yankee to do that this season.

The good version of Michael Pineda showed up in Boston as he scattered eight hits across six innings, allowing just two runs against a potent Red Sox offense. This was his 10th start versus the Red Sox as a Yankee, and the eighth time he’s given up no more than two runs. Since his first season in pinstripes in 2014, that’s the most such starts among all major-league pitchers and twice as many as any other Yankee in that span.

(AP)
(AP)

A-Rod’s final cuts in Yankee road grays were hardly memorable (except for the loud booing) as he went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. If this is the end for A-Rod, he’ll finish his career with 59 career homers against the Red Sox, the sixth-most all-time and the most among players in the Divisional Era (since 1969). The only men ahead of him are Babe Ruth (90), Lou Gehrig (70), Mickey Mantle (69), Al Kaline (62) and Harmon Killebrew (61).

The other Rodriguez in this game, the Red Sox starter Eduardo, stifled the Yankee bats as he held them to a single run on three hits in seven innings pitched. He’s made a habit of dominating the Bronx Bombers: he hasn’t surrendered more than two runs in any of his six career starts against them.

Rodriguez is the first Red Sox pitcher in the last 100 years to have six straight starts versus the Yankees with two or fewer runs allowed in each game. The last pitcher on any team to begin his career with a streak like that against the Yankees was Dave Davenport for the St. Louis Browns in 1916.

Mailbag: Refsnyder, Minors, Teixeira, Robertson, Holder

I’ve got 14 questions for you in the mailbag this week. I also have a bunch of guest post submissions sitting in my inbox that I haven’t been able to get to yet, so if you’ve sent one in, I’m not ignoring you. I’ve just been busy this week. I hope to get to them soon. If you want to send us anything, RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the email address to use.

(Bob Levey/Getty)
(Bob Levey/Getty)

Justin asks: Will the Refsnyder third base experiment get revisited a little bit down the stretch?

Maybe if there’s an injury, otherwise I don’t think so. Rob Refsnyder has played one inning at third base in the big leagues, and that was during an interleague game in an NL park. He was double-switched out one inning later. Chase Headley has gotten three days off since the All-Star break and Ronald Torres was at third base all three times. If the Yankees didn’t use Refsnyder at third then, I’m not sure when they will. They don’t seem comfortable with him at the hot corner at all, and to be fair, he is still very new to the position. We might see him at third in September, but I would bet against it becoming a regular thing.

David asks: At what point does a player (who has been called up) lose prospect status? If Sanchez and Judge lose prospect status in 2016, how well does the Yankees’ system rank among MLB teams overall? Still Top 5? Top 15?

MLB’s rookie limits are 130 at-bats for position players and 50 innings for pitchers, and 45 days of service time outside September for all players. Once you reach one of those limits, you are no longer technically a rookie. When it comes to prospect status, most places just stick with 130 at-bats or 50 innings. Service time is too much of a hassle to track.

Based on how much he’s played the last week, Gary Sanchez should clear 130 at-bats this season. Whoever gets called up to replace Alex Rodriguez on Saturday, either Aaron Judge or Tyler Austin, figures to lose rookie eligibility as well if they do indeed play regularly. If, say, both Sanchez and Judge lose prospect status down the stretch, the Yankees would still have a top ten farm system in my opinion, if not top five. They’d still have four legit top 100 guys in the system in Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres, Jorge Mateo, and Justus Sheffield. Maybe James Kaprielian too.

As long as the Yankees are losing prospects for good reasons (graduated to MLB) and not bad reasons (injury, poor performance), then I couldn’t care less about the farm system dropping in the rankings. Give me the talent in the big leagues. That’s the whole point of acquiring prospects and building a strong system. To improve the MLB team.

Stephen asks: Now that Teixeira is retiring, I thought it would be a good time to compare Teixeira and Giambi’s Yankee careers. The easy answer would be to say that Tex had the better career because 1) they won a world series and 2) he could play defense…but looking at the numbers quickly, it is somewhat surprising to see Giambi seemed to have outshined Tex by more than a little bit offensively. Thoughts?

Jason Giambi has better offensive numbers for sure. I think Mark Teixeira has been the better all-around player. Here’s the side-by-side comparison of their careers in pinstripes:

Games PA AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+ HR RBI BB% K% bWAR fWAR
Teixeira 923 3,981 .249/.344/.480 120 201 606 11.6 18.1 20.8 18.3
Giambi 897 3,693 .260/.404/.521 145 209 604 16.8 19.1 22.0 21.8

Both versions of WAR say Giambi was the more valuable player (in fewer games), though WAR doesn’t handle first base defense well. I think it sells Teixeira well short in the field, and it probably overrates Giambi a bit too. Giambi was a way better hitter than Teixeira, but he gave a ton of value back in the field. Teixeira has been comfortably above-average on both sides of the ball. Bottom line: they were both very productive in pinstripes.

Noah asks: David Robertson has been gone for a couple of years now and the no runs DMC era is over. I think many people forget how dominant Robertson was for the Yankees (especially in 2011) because of how good Betances, Miller, and Chapman have been. Where do they stand when compared to each other? Is Robertson’s 2011 still better than Betances or Millers’ 2015?

That 2011 season was Robertson’s big breakout season and the best season of his career. He’s had plenty of excellent seasons since, but that was his absolute peak. Here’s how 2011 Robertson compares to last year’s version of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller:

IP ERA FIP WHIP K% BB% GB% HR/9 bWAR fWAR
2011 Robertson 66.2 1.08 1.84 1.13 36.8 12.9 46.3 0.14 4.0 2.6
2015 Betances 84 1.50 2.48 1.01 39.5 12.1 47.7 0.64 3.7 2.4
2015 Miller 61.2 2.04 2.16 0.86 40.7 8.1 48.3 0.73 2.2 2.0

I don’t think you can say one of those three is clearly better than the other two. I’m not a big believer in reliever WAR — I think it drastically understates their value, especially high-leverage relievers like these three — and if I had to pick one, I think I’d go with 2015 Betances because of the sheer number of innings. He threw roughly 20 (20!) more innings than the other two guys. Either way, all three were awesome. The Yankees have had some truly remarkable relief seasons in recent years. We’ve been spoiled as fans.

Bob asks: Please tell us more about Abiatel Avelino who, considering his age, has had a pretty good year in Tampa and has held his own in Trenton so far. Is he a good prospect?

Avelino, 21, was bumped up to Double-A Trenton a week or two ago, and he’s hitting .269/.336/.379 (110 wRC+) with 22 doubles, six homers, 21 steals in 35 attempts (60%), an 8.1% walk rate, and a 16.0% strikeout rate in 105 games between High-A and Double-A this season. I’ve had him on my top 30 list a few times (including this year) and he’s basically a slap hitter with speed and good defense at short. Avelino has always been billed as a guy with great baseball instincts whose whole is greater than the sum of the parts. He’s a decent prospect who probably fits best in a utility role.

Joseph asks: If the White Sox place Robertson on waivers, do you think the Yankees will claim him like they did last year? If so, Do they work out a trade, do the White Sox just assign him to the Yankees or neither?

Not including his partial rookie season in 2008, Robertson is currently having the worst year of his career, pitching to a 4.18 ERA (4.12 FIP) in 47.1 innings. He’s had some really high profile meltdowns too. For example:

Yeah, that’s bad. Robertson is owed the remainder of his $11M salary this season, plus $12M next season and another $13M the season after that. He’s not cheap by reliever standards. Robertson is worth a deeper look outside a mailbag setting because I’m not sure what exactly the problem is. Given the money owed and the fact there are some signs of decline, I’d steer clear. I don’t think the White Sox would just give Robertson away, but I wouldn’t risk a claim either.

Bryan asks: Will Gardner gain 10 and 5 rights at the end of this season? I’ve seen people say both yes and no. I’d think that if he doesn’t gain them, he would almost be a must-move for the offseason with the amount of talent we have coming up in the OF and the logjam created between him and Ellsbury. Then, if we were to trade him, what kind of package do you think he could bring back?

No on the 10-and-5 rights. It’s ten years of continuous service, and Brett Gardner wasn’t up for good until August 2008. He won’t get 10-and-5 rights until August 2018. There is no no-trade clause in Gardner’s contract, not even a partial one, but he gets a $1M bonus if traded. That’s better than nothing, I guess.

I think the Yankees are going to end up trading Gardner this offseason to help clear up their outfield logjam. I’m sure they’d prefer to trade Jacoby Ellsbury, but that’s not happening, so Gardner it is. Sucks. Gardner will be two years away from free agency after the season, and when Dexter Fowler was traded two years prior to free agency (Rockies to Astros), he fetched an MLB ready mid-range pitching prospect (Jordan Lyles) and an MLB ready platoon outfielder (Brandon Barnes). I guess that’s a good template for a Gardner trade?

Anonymous asks: RA Dickey has thrown 200+ innings in 5 straight seasons. HR rate isn’t ideal for the Bronx, but he’s a dependable innings eater. What about signing RA Dickey to a 1-2 year deal in the offseason as a back end option?

If the Yankees plan to try to contend next year, then I say no, aim higher. Dickey is 41 and he’s having his worst season since before he joined the Mets (4.61 ERA and 5.27 FIP), so I’m not sure what he offers a contending team at this point other than veteran presents. (I hear he gives good veteran presents.) If the Yankees are willing to focus on player development and aren’t so concerned with winning in 2017, Dickey could make sense as an innings guy. Someone has to pitch, right? He’s someone you can count on for 180+ innings and to start every fifth day, no questions asked.

Mark asks: Probably already asked a million times, but with ARod retiring how does his remaining contract count against next years luxury tax? Is he not essentially a $20M+ advisor? I’m sure I’m missing something obvious. Thanks for all the great work you guys do.

Nothing changes as far as the luxury tax is concerned. The Yankees will still be hit with a $27.5M luxury tax hit next season — luxury tax hits are based on the average annual value of the total contract (ten years, $275M), not actual salary ($20M in 2017) — even though A-Rod is being released after tonight’s game. When you release a player, it’s like he’s still on your roster for payroll purposes. It doesn’t matter that he’s staying on as an advisor. And if another team signs A-Rod, the Yankees can subtract the pro-rated portion of the league minimum from the $27.5M. That’s the only break they’ll get. The Yankees are fully aware of this and are willing to accept it, obviously.

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Jason asks: Not sure if you’ve mentioned this before, but if the Yankees do for whatever reason decide to sign Chapman in the offseason, would they surrender a draft pick because he was traded (from them, if that matters) during the season? Would this also apply to Melancon?

Players have to spent the entire season with the same team to be eligible for the qualifying offer, so since Aroldis Chapman and Mark Melancon were traded at the deadline, they will not be attached to draft pick compensation. Those two plus Kenley Jansen will be the three big free agent relievers after the season. I’d prefer Jansen myself, though he’s going to cost a first round pick, and that kinda sucks. As good as he’s been, Melancon’s velocity is down and he’s not getting nearly as many grounders as in the past, so he’s probably at the bottom of my target list. I’m already preparing myself for the Yankees to re-sign Chapman. It feels inevitable at this point.

Hunter asks: What happens to Alex’s number 13 after Friday? Held for retirement, immediately back in circulation, or given the Paul O’Neill treatment?

Good question! I have no idea whatsoever. I could totally see the Yankees putting it right back in circulation — they gave out No. 46 the Spring Training after Andy Pettitte lefty for the Astros as a free agent — and I could also see them retiring it at some point. Nothing would surprise me. The Yankees still have not retired No. 2, you know. That will happen soon. If they do retire No. 13, it’ll probably be in a few years. Now watch Ronald Torreyes show up to camp wearing No. 13 next spring.

R.J. asks: Hey Mike, can you explain what are the area code games and how the players are selected to play for the teams they play for? Thanks

The Area Code Games are one of the major high school showcase events each year. They’re actually going on right now. There are eight teams that draw players from different regions of the country, and the eight teams are named after MLB franchises.

  • Chicago White Sox: Midwest
  • Cincinnati Reds: Four Corners and Hawaii
  • Kansas City Royals: Pacific Northwest
  • Milwaukee Brewers: Southern California
  • New York Yankees: Northeast
  • Oakland Athletics: Northern California
  • Texas Rangers: Texas and Louisiana
  • Washington Nationals: Southeast

The Area Code Games teams are just named after MLB franchises. There’s no affiliation. The kids aren’t Yankees prospects. They’re not coached by Yankees coaches, nothing like that. It’s just the team name. The Area Codes Games are why there are photos of Mike Trout in a Yankees hat and Bryce Harper in a Reds hat floating around the internet:

(WhatProsWear.com)
(WhatProsWear.com)

As far as I know most players are invited to the Area Code Games, especially in the traditional baseball hotbeds, but there are open tryouts as well. The games are played at Long Beach State’s Blair Field in August each year, and it gives the kids a chance to strut their stuff against other elite high school players in front of hundreds of scouts. The Area Code Games are the first big scouting event of the draft season.

Craig asks: Jonathan Holder. I confess I never heard of him (notwithstanding some passing references in RAB) until I read the Fangraphs piece on Grant Dayton of the Dodgers today.  But Holder’s numbers this year in AA and AAA are pretty mind-boggling.  In the mix for 2017?

Mind-boggling is a good way to describe Holder’s numbers: 1.86 ERA (1.49 FIP) with a 39.4% strikeout rate and a 3.4% walk rate in 53.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. He was the team’s sixth round pick in 2014 — Holder was the closer at Mississippi State and Jacob Lindgren was the setup man/fireman — and the Yankees tried Holder as a starter last season. He performed well (2.52 ERA and 2.85 FIP in 118 innings), though I guess the team didn’t like what they saw, because they stuck him back in the bullpen this year.

Holder is a low-to-mid-90s fastball/curveball pitcher and I don’t think he’s a future closer or anything like that. I know the numbers are great, but trust me, there are hundreds of relievers putting up silly numbers in the minors. Holder is more of a middle reliever type, someone who rides the shuttle a la Nick Goody and Branden Pinder. One of those guys. Of course, I said the same thing about Robertson back in the day, then he jumped two grades of command overnight, so who knows.

Max asks: Given that Tex announced his retirement today; it makes me wonder. How much longer are you gonna keep this site going, Do you see it as a lifelong thing? Do you think baseball will even be here in 40 years?

I can promise you right now this won’t be a lifelong thing. RAB’s tenth anniversary is in February and I can’t see going another ten years. Ben, Joe, and I started the site when we were all in college because we wanted to write about baseball. Now we’re all in our 30s and, ugh, responsible adults. Priorities have changed. The best answer I can give is saying I’m taking it year-to-year at this point. It has nothing to do with the state of the Yankees. It’s all about me and whether I want to continue doing it.

Ellsbury’s double gives Yankees a 4-2 win over Red Sox

For the first time in more than two weeks — since the series in Houston — the Yankees have won back-to-back games. They rallied from behind to beat the Red Sox in the final road game of Alex Rodriguez‘s career Thursday night. The final score was 4-2. That was a good game. I enjoyed it.

(Adam Glanzman/Getty)
(Adam Glanzman/Getty)

Pineda’s Tight Rope
That was a good start from Michael Pineda even though it didn’t feel like a good start. He put eleven runners on base in six innings and really had to wiggle out of some jams, but the important thing is he did wiggle out of those jams en route to holding the Red Sox to two runs in six innings. A well-timed double play and a few clutch strikeouts helped Pineda along the way.

The BoSox scored their two runs with two outs, because of course. Two-out runs are Pineda’s thing. The first run came in the first inning. David Ortiz ground-rule doubled and Hanley Ramirez singled him in. Ortiz and the Red Sox had zero regard for Jacoby Ellsbury‘s arm. It was a hard hit single to center and they sent Ortiz home anyway — remember, he was hobbled after hitting that foul ball off his shin last night — and he beat it out easily. Blah.

The second run scored in the fifth inning. Xander Bogaerts blooped a one-out single and Hanley drove him in with a two-out double into the gap. That gave the Red Sox a 2-1 lead. Pineda struck out three and got nine of his other 15 outs on the infield. Was it the prettiest outing? No. Not at all. Pineda’s outings are rarely pretty. But, at the end of the day, two runs in six innings against the best offense in baseball is pretty good. Nice work, Big Mike.

Come From Behind, Again
The Yankees put a hurting on Boston’s bullpen Wednesday night, and they did it again in this game. They scored their first run of the night in the third inning on Austin Romine‘s long solo homer — did you realize he has four homers this year? where have I been — which I’m pretty sure cleared the Green Monster and left the ballpark entirely. If it didn’t, it came damn close. Romine really laid into that Eduardo Rodriguez fastball.

It wasn’t until the eighth inning, after Rodriguez was out of the game, that the Yankees scored again. The Red Sox were nursing their 2-1 lead, and Gary Sanchez started the rally by running over Hanley at first base. I’m not joking. He hit a grounder that Dustin Pedroia ranged far to his right to grab, but his throw short-hopped Ramirez and more or less pushed him backwards into Sanchez’s path.

Gary Sanchez Hanley Ramirez

Hanley was on the ground for a few minutes in obvious pain. He stayed in the game but only briefly; he was lifted for a pinch-hitter the next half-inning. Ramirez told reporters after the game he was a) kneed in the thigh, and b) felt something in his lower back on the fall. The back was the reason he was on writhing in pain.

Anyway, that play gave the Yankees a leadoff baserunner. Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner followed with singles to load the bases with one out. The Yankees were in business against funky submariner Brad Ziegler. A fly ball would have tied the game, and Ellsbury did indeed get that fly ball, but it did more than tie the game. Rookie outfielder Andrew Benintendi appeared to lose it in the lights and let a catchable ball sail over his head for a two-run double. The play was originally called a sac fly and an error, but nah. They changed it to a double later.

That double turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead, then, naturally, it came down to A-Rod. It always comes downs to A-Rod. The Red Sox intentionally walked Chase Headley to load the bases with one out for Alex because they didn’t think he could do damage. I don’t blame them. Rodriguez hasn’t done much of anything since last year. Sure enough, A-Rod managed to hit the ball this far …

Alex Rodriguez1

… which was just far enough to score Gardner from third. A younger A-Rod beats that little nubber out for an infield single. The current version of A-Rod had to settle for an RBI fielder’s choice. Hey, it got the run in! That gave the Yankees an always appreciated insurance run and a 4-2 lead. Sanchez running over Hanley and Benintendi doing whatever the hell he did were the keys to that inning.

Nine Outs From Glory
Welcome back to the big leagues, Luis Cessa. He picked up his first second career win with two innings of no effs given relief. Six up, six down against the 1-6 hitters with one ball out of the infield. Cessa struck out two and Joe Girardi let him stay in for the eighth inning with a two-run lead and the bullpen gassed. It was no problem. Heck of a job by Cessa. He really shoved for those two innings. I wonder if he starts Monday in place of Nathan Eovaldi?

Dellin Betances came in for the ninth and things got a little interesting, as they tend to do in Fenway Park. Sandy friggin’ Leon doubled with one out to bring the tying run to the plate. So annoying. A wild pitch moved Leon to third, and a walk to Benintendi put the tying run on base. Betances then rebounded to strike out Pedroia and Bogaerts to end the game. All three outs were strikeouts, and each one was more embarrassing than the last. Dellin made those guys look foolish.

(Adam Glanzman/Getty)
(Adam Glanzman/Getty)

Leftovers
The 3-4-5 hitters went a combined 0-for-11 with a walk and three strikeouts. The rest of the lineup went 7-for-22 (.318). The top and bottom of the order really picked up the guys in the middle. Romine (homer, walk) and Hicks (two singles) were the only Yankees to reach base twice. The eight and nine hitters. Go figure.

How about Sanchez’s arm? Good gravy does that kid have a rocket. He threw Jackie Bradley Jr. out trying to steal by a mile in the fourth inning. It wasn’t even close. Sanchez has thrown out three of five basestealers since coming up — the two successful steals came with Betances on the mound, and Dellin can’t control the running game at all — plus two others on wild pitches. He is: good.

Hicks ran into a brutal double play in the third. He was on first, Gardner hit a soft little humpback line drive to Pedroia at second, and Hicks wandered way too far off the base, so he couldn’t get back in time. The Yankees’ baserunning was really bad this entire series. Really, really bad.

And finally, the Yankees are now 58-56 on the season, and thanks to this win, they’re only 3.5 games back of a wildcard spot. They haven’t been this close to a postseason berth since July 28th. The last time they were this close before that was July 3rd. Nothing better to do the rest of the season than make a run for it, right? Right.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. The Yankees (58-56) have a better record than the Mets (57-57) and that pleases me. Feels right, you know? Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the very fun win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The final game of A-Rod’s career is next. That’s a bummer. The Yankees are going home to start a three-game series with the Rays. They’re going to hold a special ceremony for Alex prior to Friday’s series opener. That’ll be neat. CC Sabathia and Chris Archer are the scheduled starters for that one. RAB Tickets can still get you in the door if you want to see A-Rod play one last time.

DotF: Higashioka homers in Scranton’s loss

Triple-A Scranton (4-1 loss to Lehigh Valley in five innings) completed early due to rain

  • LF Clint Frazier: 0-3, 1 K, 1  E (throwing)
  • DH Aaron Judge & 1B Chris Parmelee: both 1-2
  • RF Tyler Austin: 0-2, 2 K
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 1-2, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI — here’s video of the dinger … his 18 homers are tied with Padres C Austin Hedges for the most among minor league catchers … Hedges is doing it in an extremely hitter friendly home ballpark too (hitters at El Paso are hitting .306/.361/.487 in 2016)
  • LHP Richard Bleier: 2.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 5/2 GB/FB — 32 of 45 pitches were strikes (71%) … makes the start in place of Luis Cessa, who was called up to the MLB team to give them a fresh arm
  • LHP Phil Coke: 2.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 3/0 GB/FB — 32 of 50 pitches were strikes (64%)

[Read more…]

Game 114: The Opposite of a Farewell Tour

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

What’s the opposite of a farewell tour? A good riddance tour? Whatever it is, Alex Rodriguez is going through it right now. He is playing the final road game of his career tonight — Alex played his first ever MLB game at Fenway Park, so everything is coming full circle — and he’s in the lineup in a move that seething with obligation. A-Rod is also batting cleanup because the Yankees are #TryingToWin. Whatever. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. 3B Chase Headley
  4. DH Alex Rodriguez
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. C Gary Sanchez
  8. 1B Austin Romine
  9. RF Aaron Hicks
    RHP Michael Pineda

Not a bad night for baseball in Boston. A little cloudy, but there’s no rain in the forecast. Nothing substantial, anyway. Tonight’s game is going to begin at 7:10pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy hearing A-Rod booed by a road crowd for the final time.

Roster Moves: In case you missed it earlier, Luis Cessa and Ben Heller were called up and Nick Goody and Rob Refsnyder were sent down. The Yankees needed fresh arms after blowing through their bullpen last night.

Heyman: Yanks wanted Foltynewicz, Inciarte for McCann?

(AP)
(AP)

4:28pm ET: Heyman’s post has been changed and now says the last known request was simply “two young players.” Foltynewicz and Inciarte are no longer mentioned by name. Developing!

3:30pm ET: According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees’ “last known request” during Brian McCann trade talks with the Braves was hard-throwing righty Mike Foltynewicz and outfielder Ender Inciarte. Atlanta was apparently willing to eat half of McCann’s $17M annual salary, but they also wanted to give up lesser prospects.

McCann has already cleared trade waivers, and while Heyman says no deal is close, the Yankees are expected to continue listening to offers for their starting catcher. The Braves make sense as a trade partner. McCann played all those years with the Braves, he’s from the Atlanta area, and he’d give them a veteran catcher to lead their young pitchers as they make the transition from rebuilder to contender.

Foltynewicz, 24, was drafted by the Astros and included in the Evan Gattis trade. He has a 4.37 ERA (4.67 FIP) in 78.1 innings this year, and a 5.10 ERA (4.87 FIP) in 183.2 career big league innings. Foltynewicz throws extremely hard — PitchFX says he’s topped out at 99.8 mph this season — and he fits into the Nathan Eovaldi/Michael Pineda class of “hard-throwing but hittable” pitchers. Here’s video:

The 25-year-old Inciarte was part of the Shelby Miller trade and is a WAR All-Star who posts insane defensive numbers. He’s a very good outfielder, don’t get me wrong, but the numbers are a bit skewed because he bounces between the three outfield spots. That messes with the positional adjustments. Inciarte hit .303/.338/.408 (100 wRC+) last year but has zero track record of being a threat at the plate. His numbers dropped back down to .267/.325/.340 (81 wRC+) this year.

I don’t know about you, but Foltynewicz and Inciarte seems light to me. Unless you’re expecting Foltynewicz to take a huge jump forward soon and/or believe 2015 Inciarte is the real Inciarte, you’re talking a project pitcher and a role player for an above-average everyday catcher. The Yankees shouldn’t dump McCann for the sake of dumping him. He’s not blocking Gary Sanchez. The two can co-exist. They are right now!

The Yankees love their big stuff project pitchers — they haven’t had much success turning them into productive big leaguers, but I digress — so it’s not really a surprise they wanted Foltynewicz. I have no idea what they’d do with Inciarte. Flip him elsewhere? How many low-power lefty hitting outfielders can one team carry? The Yankees have Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury in MLB, plus Mason Williams, Ben Gamel, and Jake Cave in Triple-A.

I don’t think Foltynewicz and Inciarte was an unreasonable request by the Yankees. If anything, it was probably a little light, especially if the Braves were only willing to pay half McCann’s salary. It sounds like the Yankees will continue to listen to offers for McCann and I’m sure they’ll circle back around with the Braves at some point. This won’t be the last time we hear about a potential McCann deal.

Severino has made some progress with his slider, and now he needs to do the same with his changeup

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Two nights ago Luis Severino returned to the rotation with a thud, not a bang. The Red Sox roughed him up for five runs on seven hits (five extra-base hits) in 4.1 innings. He struck out three and didn’t walk anyone, so … yay? The Yankees didn’t exactly set Severino up for success by starting him against MLB’s best offense in Fenway Park, but what’s done is done.

Severino earned Tuesday’s start with three strong relief outings, particularly his 4.1 inning masterpiece against the Mets last week. Overall, he allowed one run with ten strikeouts in 8.1 innings out of the bullpen. That’s after a successful ten-start stint with Triple-A Scranton. Chad Green getting smacked around by the Mets certainly played a role in the team’s decision to start Severino as well.

The Yankees sent Severino down weeks ago with a specific goal in mind: improve his secondary stuff. Both the quality of his pitches and his location. I think we’ve seen progress with his slider. First and foremost, he’s actually locating it down in the zone now. Here are his slider locations in 2016 (click for larger):

Luis Severino sliders

Severino has done a much better job burying the slider down and away to righties since being recalled, and a better job keeping it down in the zone in general. Earlier this season he was throwing cement mixers that just spun up in the zone and got hammered. At least now he’s burying them, and, as a result, the swing-and-miss rate on his slider jumped from 11.1% earlier this year to 13.9% since being recalled. (It was 8.9% last year.)

The progress Severino has made with his slider — both in terms of location and swing-and-miss rate — is promising, though it’s clear there’s still some work to be done here. The league average swing-and-miss rate on sliders is 15.2%, after all. That’s okay though! He’s a 22-year-old kid who is still developing. Severino apparently made some real progress with his slider while in Triple-A and that’s good to see.

Now, that all said, the slider is just one piece of the puzzle. The Yankees sent Severino down to work on his secondary pitches. Not secondary pitch. The changeup was supposed to be a point of emphasis too, and so far, we’ve rarely seen it since Severino was called back up. He threw 85 pitches the other night against the Red Sox, and two were changeups. Two! It’s not like he didn’t have an opportunity to throw it either; the BoSox had six lefty hitters in the lineup.

Severino has thrown six changeups out of 207 total pitches since being called back up, or 2.9%. It was 14.6% changeups last year and 14.6% changeups before being sent down earlier this year. I can understand not throwing changeups out of the bullpen, but what’s the reason for Tuesday night? Severino was throwing to Gary Sanchez, who caught him a ton in the minors, so I can’t imagine not trusting the catcher was a reason.

“I’m not throwing it a lot because I don’t have the same confidence I had two years ago,” said Severino to Chad Jennings yesterday. Tuesday night Severino was out there as a two-pitch pitcher. He threw 43 fastballs, 40 sliders, and two changeups. That’s better than being a one-pitch pitcher like he was earlier this season, but it’s still not good enough. It leads to things like this:

First time through the lineup: 2-for-9 (two singles)
Second and third time through: 5-for-11 (four doubles, one triple)

Once the lineup turned over and hitters got a second look at him, the Red Sox were over all Severino. Those doubles (and triple) were not softly hit. They were rockets off the wall and down the line. The swings were mighty comfortable, and part of that is the Red Sox just being really good at hitting, for sure. Part of it is also Severino having nothing else in his bag of tricks. Once they saw the fastball and slider, hitters had nothing else to worry about.

Throwing bad changeups is one thing. Not throwing the changeup is another. It suggests Severino is not comfortable using it at this point, which is weird, because all throughout his time in the minors we heard it was his top secondary pitch. From Baseball America in 2014 (subs. req’d):

While Severino’s mid-80s slider was his top secondary pitch before he signed, he has developed a solid changeup since signing, and it’s presently the better of the two. His slider still flashes plus but remains inconsistent.

And now from Baseball America in 2015 (subs. req’d):

He couples the fastball with a changeup that features plenty of late fade. He’s confident enough to double and triple up on the pitch at times and use it to get strikeouts against both lefthanders and righthanders.

Yeah, we didn’t see that the other night. To be fair, we’re talking about one start. A pitcher not using his changeup in relief is not uncommon at all. We need some more information before we can say anything definitive about Severino’s changeup usage, or lack thereof. It was just really discouraging to see him shy away from the pitch entirely the other night, especially since he actually got a whiff with one of the two changeups he did throw.

Luis Severino changeup

One thing has become increasingly clear this season: Severino is not the instant ace we all wanted to believe he was coming into the season. His secondary pitches need work, and to his credit, he went to the minors and improved his slider. Did he improve his changeup as well? We don’t know. Severino hasn’t thrown it since coming back, but he’ll need it to be successful. Almost every starter does.

The Yankees could have kept running Severino out there every fifth day — it’s not like they’re in the postseason race — but they opted to send him to Triple-A yesterday, which is for the best in my opinion. The team really rushed him up the minor league ladder and a lot of the things Severino is working on now are things he should have worked on in the minors, before his MLB debut. This year the Yankees have been forced to send him down to play catch up.

There’s a fine line between letting a guy go through developmental growing pains and letting him get blasted every fifth day, destroying his confidence. I think Severino is really at risk of the former. Hopefully things are different the rest of the year, and we see the same improvement with the changeup as we’ve seen with the slider whenever he comes back up. Severino’s a very important piece of the long-term picture and getting him right has to be Priority No. 1 the rest of 2016.