DotF: Wade and Amburgey stay hot in losses

IF Thairo Estrada earned a write-up in Baseball America’s daily prospect report today following last night’s two-homer game. It’s not behind the paywall, so check it out. Estrada now has six dingers in 146 career games.

Triple-A Scranton (8-1 loss to Buffalo)

  • LF-CF Ben Gamel & 2B Rob Refsnyder: both 0-4 — Gamel struck out once and threw a runner (Jesus Montero!) out at the plate
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-4, 2 K
  • CF Slade Heathcott: 0-1, 1 R, 1 HBP — left the game two innings after taking a pitch to the hand … manager Al Pedrique told Shane Hennigan that Heathcott’s hand stiffened up, and he will be re-evaluated tomorrow
  • 1B Nick Swisher: 2-3, 1 BB
  • RHP Anthony Swarzak: 5 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 4/3 GB/FB — 64 of 91 pitches were strikes (70%)
  • LHP Tyler Olson: 2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 HB, 2/2 GB/FB — 22 of 35 pitches were strikes (63%)
  • RHP Nick Goody: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — nine of 12 pitches were strikes … allowed another homer, so that’s eight in 16.1 innings between the regular season and Spring Training

[Read more…]

Game 13: Score Some Runs This Isn’t Funny Anymore

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees have lost five of their last six games and they’ve scored 13 runs total in those six games. They’ve scored two or fewer runs in the five losses. The Yankees have a .317 OBP as a team in their last four games — the MLB average is a .314 OBP in 2016 — so they’re getting guys on base, but man, they can’t drive them in to save their lives.

Eventually the Yankees are going to bust out of it and score like six runs a game for a week. Remember when they scored 100 runs in a 12-game span last summer? That was cool. Do that again. Winning with run prevention is for suckers. Give me dingers and runs. Lots and lots of runs. Here is the Athletics’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. 2B Starlin Castro
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. DH Alex Rodriguez
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. LF Aaron Hicks
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

Yet another great weather day in the New York. It’s supposed to rain maybe later in the week, but right now it’s gorgeous outside. Love it. Tonight’s game will begin just after 7pm ET. You can watch on YES, as always. Try to enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Brett Gardner was scratched from tonight’s starting lineup with a stiff neck, the Yankees announced. Apparently this may have been lingering since he fell backwards into the stands making that catch in Toronto.

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

2016 Draft: Kevin Gowdy

Kevin Gowdy | RHP

Background
Gowdy, 19 in November, is a Southern California kid from Santa Barbara, and this spring he has a 1.12 ERA with a 63/2 K/BB in 37.1 innings for Santa Barbara High School. He did not have a strong showing with the Team USA 18-and-under team last fall, and despite the impressive numbers, Gowdy has been a bit up and down this spring. He’s committed to UCLA.

Scouting Report
After sitting in the 91-93 mph range last year, Gowdy’s velocity has fluctuated anywhere between 87-93 mph this spring. He has the prototypical high school pitcher body (6-foot-4, 170 lbs.) and the belief is he will add velocity as he fills out, though that’s never a guarantee. Gowdy’s out pitch is a low-80s slider he can locate very well. He also throws a nascent changeup and is generally considered to have good command and a refined approach on the mound. Gowdy has an old school drop and drive delivery, but he sometimes flies open early, which hurts his location.

Miscellany
Baseball America, MLB.com, and Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked Gowdy as the 14th, 22nd, and 25th best prospect in the 2016 draft class in their most recent rankings, respectively. If he can gain some consistency with his velocity and delivery these next few weeks, he’ll land comfortably in the middle of the first round. The Yankees hold the 18th overall pick and not only does scouting director Damon Oppenheimer gravitate towards SoCal prospects, the team also likes pitchers with some smarts to go along with their raw stuff. Gowdy is not Drew Finley in that regard, but he’s among the more advanced prep arms in the 2016 draft.

Dustin Ackley is getting the Garrett Jones treatment, and there’s nothing the Yankees can do

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

As part of this ongoing on-the-fly rebuild process, the Yankees have been targeting talented young players who have worn out their welcome for whatever reason. That led them to Dustin Ackley last July. The Yankees picked up Ackley, the second overall pick in the 2009 draft, for two fringe 40-man roster players because he was an upgrade over Garrett Jones with the potential to be much more.

Ackley hit his way into regular at-bats late last season and gave the offense a nice little shot in the arm. So far this year he’s assumed the role Jones filled last summer, meaning the bench player who fits the roster well but rarely plays. Jones gave the Yankees lefty pop and depth at first base, right field, and DH, three positions where the team had injury concerns. Ackley does the same, and adds second base to the mix as well.

So far this season Ackley has started two of the team’s first dozen games: one at first base and one at DH. He also came off the bench to play three innings in the field at the end of a blowout. That’s it. Ackley is 0-for-7 with a walk at the plate in the regular season after putting together a strong Spring Training in which he hit .298/.313/.404 in 48 plate appearances, seventh most on the team.

The Yankees haven’t been able to get Ackley much playing time thus far and it does not appear he will get much in the immediately future either. Not with all those lefties coming up. And here’s the thing: this is the right move. Aaron Hicks has the outfield covered, Starlin Castro‘s production has kept him into the lineup, and it’s hard to sit Mark Teixeira given what he does on both sides of the ball. Where does that leave Ackley?

On the bench, for now. It won’t necessarily stay that way all season. One injury can change everything, and even if everyone stays healthy (fingers crossed), Joe Girardi and the Yankees insist they will rest their regulars more often this season. They had four off-days in the first two weeks of the season. They have two in the next five weeks. Ackley is going to come into more playing time as the regulars rest.

The Yankees have Nick Swisher sitting in Triple-A as a possible alternative should Ackley not get it together at some point — Swisher reportedly has an opt-out in his contract, though I don’t know when it is — and need to be replaced. I’m not sure anyone would be able to produce in the Jones role given the lack of playing time though. Ackley is only 28 and he has talent, and at some point I’d like to see him get a chance to play, but there’s no obvious spot to do it.

The offense has struggled these last six games, and while the natural reaction is to change the lineup, Ackley’s a band-aid more than a solution. Teixeira, Castro, Brett Gardner, and Carlos Beltran are the Yankees’ four best hitters right now, so Girardi can’t take one of them out of the lineup to play Ackley. I supposed he could sit Alex Rodriguez, but getting A-Rod going is more important than getting Ackley at-bats.

The Yankees could really use some kind of a spark at the plate right now. I just don’t think Ackley can provide it. He’s stuck in a very difficult position. The Yankees need him because he plays positions where they have some age and injury concerns, but they also don’t want to sit the guys they have at those positions if at all possible. Perhaps Ackley can figure out a way to thrive in this role. That will be a big challenge, however.

Changeup was a big help for Pineda against the Athletics

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

Tuesday night Michael Pineda turned in his best start of the young season, holding the admittedly offensively challenged Athletics to two runs in six innings. He had a long second inning thanks to some grounders that beat the shift, but otherwise the A’s didn’t put too much pressure on him. Big Mike had to grind through his previous starts against the Astros and Blue Jays.

“I thought he threw the ball pretty well tonight,” said Joe Girardi to Mark Feinsand after the game. “I thought he mixed his pitches. I thought his slider had good depth tonight. Sometimes too much, but that’s okay. I thought he threw the ball pretty well.”

As usual, Pineda attacked hitters with (cut) fastballs and sliders last night. That’s Pineda. He’s a fastball/slider guy. They’re his bread and butter. But, for the first time this season, Big Mike also leaned on his changeup Tuesday night, throwing eleven of them overall. He threw 12 changeups total in his first two starts.

“I’m feeling pretty good today on the mound,” said Pineda to Chad Jennings following his start. “I have better command today with my pitches. I’m doing good. The changeup is working good tonight and my slider too.”

Pineda threw ten of those eleven changeups to left-handed batters and he threw it to both start at-bats (two first pitch changeups) and finish hitters off (six when ahead in the count). The A’s put three of the eleven changeups in play (all outs) and only one went for a ball. That all sounds good, but look at the location (via Brooks Baseball):

Michael Pineda location

That’s a lot of blue dots out over the plate, and while it’s natural to think pitches in the zone are bad, that’s not necessarily the case. The entire point of the changeup is to disrupt timing. As long as the hitter is out in front and unable to square up the pitch, the changeup is effective. Sometimes they make contact and get a ball to dunk in for a hit. That’s just baseball being baseball.

Pineda threw those 12 total changeups in his first two starts and hitters took seven of them for balls. (Carlos Correa smashed another one off the damn restaurant in center field.) That’s not great. The changeup doesn’t help much if it doesn’t entice hitters to swing, not unless the plan is to sneak it by everyone for a called strike. I can’t imagine that would work long-term.

There is a balance to be struck here. Ideally Pineda would continue to use his changeup regularly and be able to get hitters to chase after it without throwing it over the heart of the plate. That’s hard! Command is not easy. If it was, everyone would have it. Pineda’s been working on his changeup since the Yankees acquired him — the shoulder injury threw a wrench into things — and he’s still working on it. It’s hardly a finished product.

After barely throwing his changeup in his first two starts, Pineda leaned on the pitch against the A’s last night, and it helped him have his best outing of the season. The change is never going to become his No. 1 weapon, his fastball and slider are too good, but using it often enough to keep hitters guessing could help Big Mike find some sustained success, something he continues to chase in pinstripes.

The Yankees are about to learn a lot about their ability to hit left-handed pitching

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

Late last season, when the Yankees were struggling to get much going offensively, they were shut down by left-handed starters seemingly every other night. As a team they hit .248/.320/.345 with only eight homers in 470 plate appearances against southpaws last September. They dropped nine of 13 games when the opposing starter was a lefty in that final month.

“I think we struggled against left-handers,” said Joe Girardi after the wildcard game loss to Dallas Keuchel and the Astros. “We lost a big bat (in Mark Teixeira), and he was one of the guys we counted on to do a lot of damage to left-handers. And Greg Bird had one of our hits tonight and had a tremendous season for us, but we struggled against left-handers.”

So far this season the Yankees are 0-3 when facing an left-handed starter. They replaced Chris Young with Aaron Hicks and the lefty hitting Stephen Drew with the righty hitting Starlin Castro (you could argue Castro replaced the righty hitting Rob Refsnyder), but so far the team owns a .226/.320/.321 (86 OPS+) batting line against southpaws. The struggles of late 2015 have carried over into early 2016.

Of course, we’re talking about a sample of three games here, so you can’t make too much of this. The Yankees are about to begin a stretch that will tell us much more about their ability to hit southpaws though. Based on the upcoming schedule and pitching probables, the club has just started a stretch in which they will face six left-handed opposing starters in nine games. Here’s the list:

Tuesday, April 19th: LHP Eric Surkamp (loss)
Wednesday, April 20th: RHP Kendall Graveman
Thursday, April 21st: LHP Rich Hill
Friday, April 22nd: RHP Erasmo Ramirez
Saturday, April 23rd: LHP Matt Moore
Sunday, April 24th: LHP Drew Smyly
Monday, April 25th: LHP Cole Hamels
Tuesday, April 26th: RHP A.J. Griffin
Wednesday, April 27th: LHP Martin Perez

Obvious caveat: the upcoming starters may change for a variety of reasons. The further out you go, the more likely it is the opposing starter changes. We’re looking at a nine-day span here — we’re on day two already — so we aren’t looking that far ahead, but yeah, things can change. As always, pitching probables are just that. Probables.

With five lefties coming in the next eight games, Hicks is going to see a lot of playing time and for good reason. He’s a career .258/.347/.425 (139 OPS+) hitter against lefties. Hitting lefties is why the Yankees went out and got him. Well, that’s not true. The Yankees hope he develops into an everyday player at some point. At a bare minimum, they want Hicks to mash southpaws. They’ll be able to get him in the lineup consistently this next week or so, something they’ve been unable to do yet this year.

“We’re going to see a lot of lefties in the next nine or ten days,” said Girardi to Chad Jennings prior to last night’s game. “So Hicksie’s probably going to get a lot of at-bats because he’s been so good against left-handers in his career. It’s a day to keep those guys fresh and to keep him involved. I think he’s important to this team, especially against the left-handers.”

Castro didn’t hit lefties much last year (80 OPS+) — he didn’t hit anyone last year — but he is 3-for-11 (.273) with three doubles against southpaws in the early going. Even if he was 0-for-11, he would still be in the starting lineup every time the Yankees face a lefty this season. He batting second last night, after all. I supposed we could see the right-handed hitting Ronald Torreyes at some point, maybe to give Didi Gregorius a breather, but that’s about as far as lineup changes go.

More than anything, the Yankees need the regulars to step up and produce if they want to right the ship against left-handers. Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez, Teixeira … those guys. They have to carry the offense regardless of whether there’s a righty or lefty on the mound. It hasn’t happened these last six games overall but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen going forward.

These next nine games will be a good litmus test for the offense’s ability to handle left-handed pitchers. They can’t be as vulnerable against southpaws as they were late last year. Not if they want to stay in the race and possibly return to the postseason. Castro and Hicks figure to help to some extent. Bottom line, it’s up to the regulars to lead the way.

Bats remain silent, Yankees drop series opener 3-2 to A’s in 11 innings

For the first time this season, the Yankees played extra innings Tuesday. And for the fifth time in the last six games, the Yankees lost Tuesday. The offense remained dormant in the series opening loss to the Athletics. The final score was 3-2 bad guys.

(Presswire)
Imagine how the guys who aren’t hitting must feel. (Presswire)

Two Token Runs
Yeesh, this offense stinks right now. The Yankees were held to two runs (or less) for the fifth time in the last six games, and they’ve lost all five of those games. Things look pretty good in the first inning! The Yankees plated a run and hit some rockets off generic lefty Eric Surkamp in that opening frame, though it could have been better. Brian McCann struck out swinging at ball four with two men on base to end the inning.

The Yankees scored their other run in the fifth inning on a walk (Brett Gardner), a double (Starlin Castro), and a sacrifice fly (Carlos Beltran). Didi Gregorius opened the inning with a single, but was picked off first. Blah. Castro was stranded at third that inning as well. Mark Teixeira, who drew a walk after the sac fly, was left at first base. They only got the one run that inning and two token “we tried” runs in the game.

Of course, the Yankees had several opportunities to score between the first and fifth innings. Gardner lead off the third with a double, then the next three batters went down on ten total pitches. Alex Rodriguez started the fourth with a leadoff single, and then the next three batters went down on 12 pitches. The Yankees have had 57 leadoff base-runners this season and zero have scored. I just made that up, but it sounds like it could be true.

Adequate Mike
It would seem the rotation is starting to turn the corner. After the first two turns through the rotation featured high pitch counts and long innings, Masahiro Tanaka turned in a strong outing Sunday and Michael Pineda followed with six good innings Tuesday. Big Mike held the Athletics to two runs on seven hits and a walk in six those innings. He struck out seven and got 19 swings and misses out of 97 pitches.

The second inning got a little messy, and it looked like it was about to snowball out of control on Pineda. Two singles against the shift gave the A’s runners at first and second with two outs, then Marcus Semien jumped on a get-me-over 3-0 fastball …

SemienPineda1

… for a run-scoring single to left field. I am a big fan of swinging 3-0. Not all the time, of course, but that was a good time for Semien to hunt a 3-0 fastball, and it paid off. Pineda was able to get Billy Burns to ground out to first to end the inning, limiting the damage for one run. For a while it seemed the A’s were about to bust things open.

Oakland scored their second run in the sixth inning — they scored in the next half-inning both times the Yankees scored — thanks to a Beltran aided Danny Valencia leadoff triple. The ball was scalded over Beltran’s head, but he didn’t retrieve it quickly, allowing Valencia to get to third. Jed Lowrie punched a single through the drawn in infield to knot the game up.

Last time out Pineda walked three batters for the first time as a Yankee, and in this start he issued his first four-pitch walk as a Yankee. Josh Reddick drew the four-pitch free pass in the first inning. Pineda went to three 3-0 counts on the night overall — Reddick’s walk, Semien’s single, then again to Reddick later in the game (he flew out) — and his location doesn’t seem as sharp as usual. It happens. This was his best start of the season to date and hopefully he builds off it going forward.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Battle of the Bullpens
Walk-off wins are cool, and it appeared the Yankees were set up to win the game after Chase Headley singled through the shift to start the ninth inning. Jacoby Ellsbury came off the bench to pinch-run — after the first pitch of the at-bat for some reason, not sure what the delay was about — but he didn’t run right away. I hate when Gardner does that. Wait, what?

Gregorius tried to bunt Ellsbury up to second but failed miserably. I know Didi pushed a nice bunt the other day, but man, he did not look comfortable bunting there at all. Why try to force it when the guy is so uncomfortable? Gregorius didn’t do the job, then Ellsbury was thrown out by a mile trying to steal second. It was not close. Ellsbury is doing nothing well right now. He’s not hitting, his defense has been rough, and that’s the second time he’s been thrown out trying to steal in a big spot.

The final eight — and 15 of the final 16! — Yankees to bat in the game made outs. The Oakland bullpen allowed just the one hit — Headley’s leadoff single in the ninth — in 5.1 total innings. Yuck. The Yankees are blowing way way waaay too many opportunities right now. Some of it is bad luck — Yonder Alonso robbed Gardner of a two-run line drive single in the sixth with a jumping catch — but that excuse doesn’t last forever. Six games of this now is pretty terrible.

Johnny Barbato took the loss in his second inning of work when Mark Canha yanked an 0-2 fastball by Gregorius at shortstop with two outs in the 11th. Barbato was one strike away from escaping the jam. Lowrie set the rally up with a leadoff double into the right field corner. The pitching staff did its job Tuesday. Three runs on eleven hits, a walk, and 12 strikeouts in eleven innings should be good enough to win. At some point the offense has to do something.

It's not your fault, Johnny. (Presswire)
It’s not your fault, Johnny. (Presswire)

Leftovers
Teixeira drew two walks for the fourth straight game. The last Yankee to do that? Nick Swisher back in 2012. Gardner (double, walk), A-Rod (two singles), and Headley (two singles) all reached multiple time as well. McCann and Aaron Hicks both went 0-for-5. Womp wimp.

Gregorius had a fantastic night at shortstop, making two highlight plays in the seventh and another very good play in the ninth. He went 1-for-4 in the game but couldn’t get that bunt down in the ninth. For this team, failing to get that bunt down shouldn’t be a back-breaker offensively.

Both Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller threw scoreless innings, and since they threw for the third time in four days, they might not be available Wednesday. Maybe Miller will be good to go because he only threw eight pitches. We’ll see. Joe Girardi usually doesn’t like to push his top relievers this early in the season.

Did I mention the offense sucks right now? Because the offense sucks right now. Geez. Snap out of it ya jerks.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score and video highlights for the game, and the updated standings for the season. When I glanced at the standings before the game, 18 of the 30 clubs had between five and seven losses, so yeah. Everyone is still bunched close together. Anyway, check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Now here is the sad win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Athletics continues this three-game series with the middle game Wednesday night. Nathan Eovaldi vs. Kendall Graveman is the pitching matchup. “Kendall Graveman” is such an A’s name, isn’t it? RAB Tickets can get you in the door for that game, or any of the other four remaining games on this homestand. You know, after this homestand the Yankees play only 13 of their next 35 games at home. Better see ’em while they’re in town.