The Yankees lost a disappointing game to the Red Sox last night, but the quick turn-around means they can turn the page right away and focus on today’s game. I suspect these guys don’t have any problems turning the page anyway. Veteran team, been there, done that, yadda yadda yadda. There’s no time to dwell on anything in this sport.
The one thing I enjoy about this current Yankees team is that just about every day, they’re sending a quality starting pitcher to the mound. That hasn’t always been the case the last few years and really the last ten or twelve years. Hiroki Kuroda gets the nod this afternoon and, despite being the team’s best pitcher the last two seasons, he might only be their third best starter right now. That’s kinda cool. Kuroda has been excellent at Yankee Stadium and I sure would like that to continue this afternoon. Here is the Red Sox lineup he’ll face and the Yankees lineup that will back him up:
- LF Brett Gardner
- 2B Brian Roberts
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- DH Carlos Beltran
- C Brian McCann
- RF Alfonso Soriano
- 1B Kelly Johnson
- 3B Yangervis Solarte
- SS Dean Anna
RHP Hiroki Kuroda
It rained a little bit this morning but not much, and the forecast for this afternoon is gorgeous. Sunny with blue skies and not a cloud in sight. Temperatures approaching 70 too. That’s awesome. This afternoon’s game will air on YES (not FOX) and begin shortly after 1pm ET. Enjoy.
Via Jerry Crasnick: The Yankees are one of several teams that are believed to have interest in Joel Hanrahan. They were monitoring him a few weeks ago. The right-hander is currently working his way back from Tommy John surgery and other elbow procedures (flexor tendon, bone chips). He will throw for teams during a showcase next week.
Hanrahan, 32, had a 2.24 ERA (3.24 FIP) in 128.1 innings for the Pirates from 2011-12, his last two healthy seasons. There is no such thing as too much pitching depth and the Yankees could always find a way to squeeze someone like Hanrahan into their bullpen and late-inning mix. They signed Andrew Bailey to a one-year deal with an option geared towards 2015 just before Spring Training, but Hanrahan is in a better position to contribute immediately. · (4) ·
That damn sixth inning. If they handed out wins and losses for individual innings, the Yankees would have went 8-1 on Friday night. They were the better team in every inning but the sixth. Sucks letting a game get away like that. Let’s recap the 4-2 loss to the Red Sox, bullet points style:
- One Bad Inning: For the second straight start, CC Sabathia cruised through five excellent innings before the wheels came off in the sixth. He was dominant innings one through five (one hit, two walks, six strikeouts) before two homers led to four runs in the sixth. Jonny Gomes hit a solo shot, then Grady Sizemore golfed a three-run shot on a slider that missed its spot by about two feet. Between the homers, David Ortiz had a check swing single and Mike Napoli slapped a single in a 3-0 count. Sabathia threw a perfect seventh inning after that. Nine strikeouts and 19 swings and misses in seven innings is awesome. Having things unravel in the sixth inning two starts in a row? Not awesome. Here’s the PitchFX breakdown from Brooks Baseball.
- Two Runs Ain’t Enough: You and I have seen enough Yankees-Red Sox games over the years to know two runs usually aren’t enough to win. Not even in these offense-starved days. Alfonso Soriano got the Yankees on the board with a solo homer in the second, then Kelly Johnson singled in a run in the seventh. He had a real good at-bat against a tough lefty in Jon Lester. Derek Jeter (fly out) and pinch-hitter Brian McCann (strikeout) wasted opportunities in the eighth and ninth, respectively. They ended innings with the tying run on base or at the plate, again respectively.
- Dealin’ Dellin: Dellin Betances struck out all three men he faced in the ninth inning and was just dominant. The good version showed up. Dr. Dellin, not Mr. Betances. Cesar Cabral walked the only man he faced on four pitches — it was Ortiz, but come on man — while Adam Warren allowed a hit in an otherwise uneventful and scoreless inning. Another good day for the David Robertson-less relief crew.
- Leftovers: Jacoby Ellsbury, Soriano, and Ichiro Suzuki were the only Yankees to reach base twice. Ellsbury went 1-for-3 with a walk while the other two went 2-for-4 … Jeter and Johnson singled while Brian Roberts walked … Carlos Beltran, Frankie Cervelli, and Yangervis Solarte were all hitless. Solarte is hitless in his last nine at-bats and 1-for-11 in his last three games. Is it a slump, or is the magic starting to fade? … Ellsbury stole his fifth base and is the first Yankee to steal five bases in April since Gardner in 2010.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs has some other stats, and ESPN has the updated standings. We’re only two weeks into the season, but all five AL East teams are separated by one game. I expect the race to be crazy tight all summer. The Yankees will send Hiroki Kuroda to the mound on Saturday afternoon in the third game of this four-game series. He’ll be opposed by John Lackey. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to catch the matinee.
In case you’re wondering, RHP Gabe Encinas is currently throwing bullpen sessions as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery, according to his Twitter feed. He was on his way to becoming one of the team’s top pitching prospects before blowing out his elbow last summer. Also, no Yankees farmhands made the first Prospect Hot Sheet of the season.
Triple-A Scranton was rained out. The season started last Thursday and this is already their fifth rain out. Stuff like this is why LHP Manny Banuelos is in Tampa right now. Anyway, they’ll play a doubleheader tomorrow.
Double-A Trenton (5-4 loss to Erie)
- CF Mason Williams: 0-5, 1 K
- DH Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
- 3B Tyler Austin: 2-5, 2 K, 1 E (throwing) — they said they wanted to try to maintain some of his versatility, so he’ll see time at third and first base in addition to his usual right field
- C Gary Sanchez: 2-5
- 2B Rob Refsnyder: 2-5, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 K — 13 strikeouts in 29 at-bats
- RHP Zach Nuding: 5 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 6/1 GB/FB — 58 of 88 pitches were strikes (66%)
- RHP Jairo Heredia: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 3/1 GB/FB — 12 of 21 pitches were strikes (57%)
The Yankees started this long, four-game weekend series against the Red Sox well with last night’s win, and tonight they have a chance to guarantee at least a split. Once you do that, you can start to get greedy. CC Sabathia is on the mound and the Red Sox have not been kind to him over the years, especially last season, when their MLB-best offense contributed to his career-worst season with 56 base-runners and 23 runs in 28.2 innings. Yikes.
The weather in New York has been pretty nice all day, but some clouds started to roll in this afternoon and the forecast calls for rain later this evening. It might be an issue in the later innings. This could be one of those “get the lead early and hope you have it when the rain shows up” games, because once it does show up, it isn’t supposed to stop until tomorrow morning. Here is the Red Sox lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- SS Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- RF Carlos Beltran
- DH Alfonso Soriano
- C Frankie Cervelli
- 3B Yangervis Solarte
- LF Ichiro Suzuki
- 2B Brian Roberts
- 1B Kelly Johnson
LHP CC Sabathia
Like I said, there is some rain in the forecast later tonight. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 7pm ET and you can watch the game live on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Depending on where you live, of course.
Baseball America published their updated list of the top 50 prospects for this year’s draft yesterday (no subs. req’d). NC State LHP Carlos Rodon came into the spring as the overwhelming favorite to go first overall, but his stuff has not been as electric this spring and he is no longer a lock to go even in the top three. California HS LHP Brady Aiken is the consensus top prospect for the draft right now.
The Yankees do not pick until the second round (55th overall) because of their offseason spending spree, but in all likelihood a few of the players in this edition of the top 50 will be available when that selection comes around. This draft is very deep in right-handed pitchers — 19 of the top 50 are righties — and really light on impact bats. The Yankees need some arms, and while drafting for need in the early rounds isn’t ideal, they could definitely add a quality pitching prospect to the organization with that 55th pick this year. · (6) ·
Via Joel Sherman: MLB executive Joe Torre said the league is not planning to suspend Michael Pineda for last night’s alleged pine tar incident. “The umpires did not observe an application of a foreign substance during the game and the issue was not raised by the Red Sox,” said Torre. “Given those circumstances, there are no plans to issue a suspension, but we intend to talk to the Yankees regarding what occurred.”
Pineda, 25, sure had what looked like a brown foreign substance on his right hand during innings one through four (photo). Replays showed nothing on his hand in the fifth inning or later. Neither the Red Sox nor the umpires raised an issue, and it’s a bit of an open secret that most pitchers use some kind of substance to improve their grip. Pineda was just way too obvious about it. · (98) ·
Got seven questions in this week’s mailbag. A few other really good ones came in too, but I’m holding those back because I need more time to think about them. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us questions, links, comments, whatever.
Paul asks: Am I reading this FanGraphs article correctly? Yankees have gotten +25 strikes (from pitch-framing), a strike is worth .14 runs, 10 runs = 1 win, so the Yankees have gotten about 1/3 WAR from pitch-framing in the first week of the season? Or are these wins different from wins above replacement?
According to the article, the Yankees have gotten 25 extra strikes than expected due to pitch-framing so far this year, the most in baseball. That’s seems … reasonable, I guess? I don’t really know. Brian McCann is an elite pitch-framer and Frankie Cervelli has graded out well in his sporadic playing time over the years, so it stands to reason they would be near the top. That +25 strikes number is just an estimate in that post, remember.
Here is an older list of the run value of events, like singles and homers and sacrifice flies and a bunch of other stuff. It does not include called strikes though, so I’m not sure where that 0.14 runs per called strike number came from. I know Jeff Sullivan though and I trust he got it from somewhere reliable. So anyway, 25 extra strikes at 0.14 runs per strike works out to +3.5 runs total. FanGraphs says 9.386 runs equals one win these days, so the Yankees have “earned” 0.37th of a win through framing alone in 2014. That’s the straight forward math. A win is a win regardless of whether your starting point is replacement level or league average. In this case, the 25 extra strikes was compared to the league average.
There are two issues here, in my opinion. One, pitch-framing analysis still has a long way to go. I think it needs to be adjusted for umpire and for the pitcher, for starters. Maybe even treat it like a pitching stat and consider leverage. Two, that 0.14 runs per called strike number is an average for all situations, but not all called strikes are created equally. Turning a borderline pitch into a strike in a 3-2 count is more valuable than doing the same in a 3-0 count, for example. These win values we’re seeing from pitch-framing seem way too high to me — it’s basically the single most valuable thing in baseball, if you believe the numbers — but for a quick and dirty analysis, the FanGraphs stuff is fine. It’s interesting but I don’t think we can take these at face value yet.
JK5 asks: Do defensive metrics take ‘shifts’ into consideration? There was a play Jonathan Schoop (officially playing 3rd) made on a ball hit by McCann into shallow RF. Just reading the box score play-by-play would make one thing this play was a normal 5-3 putout, which it absolutely wasn’t. So Schoop’s range factor at 3b is helped by a ball hit nowhere near his normal position. So going forward, with increased ‘shifts’, are we gonna see sort of a manufactured rating for 3b (who are most often used as the primary ‘shifted’ fielder)?
Yes and no. Some defensive stats do recognize shifts, others don’t. As far as I know, UZR basically has an on/off switch. If there is no shift, the play is recorded the same way it always is. If the shift is on, the play is not recorded and ignored. DRS does not consider shifts and assumes the defender starts every the play wherever the league usually sets up at that position. That’s why Brett Lawrie had a good +4.5 UZR but an elite +20 DRS in 2012. UZR ignored all the times he was standing in shallow right on the shift while DRS thought he started all those plays at third base. I don’t know how (or if) Total Zone and FRAA handle shifts.
The problems are obvious here. With shifts becoming more prevalent, UZR is reducing its own sample size by ignoring plays with the shift. DRS is assuming third basemen have superman range, which is worse. That only adds to the uncertainty of defensive stats. I think they are best used directionally with a multi-year sample. They can give us an idea of who is good, who is bad, and who is average. The exact values though? I don’t think we can take them seriously. There’s no way you can say Shortstop A is a better defender than Shortstop B because he had a +5.7 UZR/+9 DRS from 2010-13 while the other guy was at +5.3 UZR/+7 DRS. They’re both good. Leave it at that.
Dan asks: If the Yankees even had an average infield in terms of range, do you think Joe would be employing the shift as much? Now that they are flipping the third baseman and Derek Jeter during the shift, if Jeter makes a play when he’s the only one on the left side of the infield would he be the third baseman for purposes of scoring the game? He is the player furthest to the left side of the infield. Finally, how do the advanced stats take shifts into account? Thanks.
Just answered that last part, conveniently. As for the other questions, yes, I absolutely think the Yankees would still be shifting as much if they have rangier infielders. Heck, they might shift more if they had more mobile defenders. Like I said yesterday, the shift is here to stay. You’re playing Super Nintendo while everyone else is on Playstation 4 if you’re not shifting.
As for the position stuff, the defensive stats recognize everyone as whatever position they are playing. Jeter would still be a shortstop in the example Dan gave in his question. That’s why Lawrie’s DRS was so high a few years ago. He was still considered a third baseman while standing in shallow right, not a second baseman.
Ben asks: Seems like early scouting reports on Dante Bichette Jr. suggested he would need to move to the OF at some point in his MiLB career. Seeing as how he is DH’ing so much due to the presence of Eric Jagielo, don’t you think now would be a good time to make the move? They’re not doing him any favors DH’ing him this regularly.
I think the bat is the most important thing for Bichette. He always was and always will be a bat-first prospect, and they have to get him to start hitting more than anything. (He went into last night’s game hitting .235/.458/.353 in six games.) They can stick him in left field or at first base a little later down the line. Right now, the most important thing is for Bichette to get his swing, his timing, his balance, his whatever else on track so he can produce at the plate. He is a huge reclamation project and they need to focus all their time and energy on his bat. It’s the most important thing for him.
Nick asks: If Aaron Judge and Jagielo tear it up do you think the Yankees should keep moving them up or let them finish the year at the level they are at?
Definitely move them up. They are two college hitters who spent three years as starters at major college programs. Those aren’t the guys you hold back. I fully expect Jagielo to end the year with Double-A Trenton and Judge to earn a promotion to at least High-A Tampa at some point. I think it’s possible he’ll go from Low-A Charleston to Tampa to Trenton this summer. I think the Yankees generally move their prospects a little too fast — ever notice how their prospects come to the big leagues still in need of refinement while the Cardinals and Rays call up guys who are so polished? Compare how much time they’ve spent in the minors — but these are two guys who should move up the ladder quick. Especially Jagielo.
Jeff asks: Would the Yankees be better served to have a quicker hook with CC Sabathia on the mound? I understand a lot of the value he has is as an innings eater, but it comes down to which would be better: ~200 league average or slightly below league average innings, or ~170-180 slightly above league average innings.
You know, I’m not sure. Is Sabathia at 90-100 pitches worse than, say, a fresh Dellin Betances or Vidal Nuno? I guess that depends on the day and how Sabathia has fared during those first 90 pitches. There is an obvious benefit to limiting his workload at this point, saving bullets and all that stuff, but an individual game is a different animal than the big picture. Even during his awful 2013 season, Sabathia really wasn’t less effective from pitches 76+ than he was from pitches 1-75. I know he got knocked around in the final inning of his start last week, but that’s one game. If the Yankees had a deeper and higher quality bullpen, I think the answer would be closer to yes. Since they don’t, I’m not sure.
Bill asks: The Yanks had three different players steal a base on Sunday, none of whom was Jacoby Ellsbury. When was the last time the Yanks had steals from four different players in the same game?
It’s actually not that uncommon and I didn’t think it would be. We’ve seen quite a few games in recent years where the Yankees just had the opponent’s battery down pat. They knew the pitcher’s move, knew the catcher’s arm, and were running wild. We saw it last Friday, when they stole four bases off Dustin McGowan in his 2.2 innings of work (and didn’t attempt another steal after he left the game).
Anyway, the Yankees have had at least four different players steal a base in a game 15 times this century, including six times in the last three years. They had six (!) different players steal a base in one game against the Red Sox just last September. Here’s the box score. Pretty clear they knew they could run on Ryan Lavarnway. Here is the list of all 15 games with at least four players stealing a base since 2000 for you to dig through.
Could you have asked for a better start to this long four-game series against the Red Sox? The Yankees took the opener on Thursday night by the score of 4-1 thanks to a dominant starting pitching performance, a total team effort on offense, and stellar work by a bullpen missing some key pieces. This might have been the best game of the season so far.
Big Time Big Mike
Well how about that for Michael Pineda‘s Yankee Stadium debut? Dominating the Red Sox for 6+ innings sure makes for one hell of a first impression. Pineda struck out seven in those six innings, allowing just one run on a solo homer by Daniel Nava, the second to last batter he faced. He walked two and surrendered only three hits besides the homer. Of his 94 pitches, 63 went for strikes and 15 went for swings and misses. Fifteen of 24 batters saw a first pitch strike, including the first eight men he faced. Dominant.
Here is the PitchFX breakdown from Brooks Baseball, if you’re interested. The data says Pineda only threw six changeups (three whiffs), but it seemed like more than that. The pitch was very good for him in this game. (Just so you know, the pitch classifications at Brooks are updated overnight, so the data might change from what they have right now.) Here is Pineda’s velocity graph for the night:
Pretty noticeable decline in the later innings there. That’s not surprising for a pitcher making his second start of the season after missing two years following shoulder surgery. That’s why the Yankees have to be careful with Pineda these first few weeks. You don’t want to push him too hard when his pitch count is approaching 100 and he’s fatigued. That’s how pitchers get hurt, especially ones with a history of arm problems. The Yankees have done a good job of taking their foot off the gas so far.
Through the first two turns of the rotation, Pineda has been the Yankees best pitcher. He’s shown very good swing-and-miss stuff and he pitches with some serious swagger. His body language screams “I belong here and you can’t hit me.” I didn’t think there was any chance he would pitch this well after surgery, at least not so early in the season, but here we are. The old Michael Pineda is not back just yet, but this current version is pretty damn awesome as is. Hard to believe this guy was competing for a rotation spot a few weeks ago. Watching Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka pitch back-to-back days is just a joy.
One Run, Two Runs, Three Runs, Four
The first three innings of this game had the look of a classic pitcher’s duel, something we don’t see very much between these two teams. These games usually feature a ton of offense. The Yankees pushed two runs across in the fourth inning because their best players put together a rally for what felt like the first time all year. Jacoby Ellsbury started the inning by reaching on an error by the third baseman, then Carlos Beltran singled through the shift to right. Brian McCann broke an 0-for-way-too-long slump with a double down the right field, scoring Ellsbury and moving Beltran to third. Alfonso Soriano killed the rally but drove in a run with a ground ball double play.
The Yankees scored another two runs in the fifth inning, the first of which scored on a … Dean Anna homer? Yep. The team’s seldom-used backup middle infielder swatted a solo homer off Clay Buchholz, taking a Raul Ibanez-esque hack and sending the ball into the short porch in right. Can’t say I saw that coming. Derek Jeter (ground rule double) and Ellsbury (single) hooked up for a little two-out rally to score the club’s fourth and final run of the night. The top of the lineup contributed, the middle of the lineup contributed, and the bottom of the lineup contributed.
Today, We Spell Redemption P-H-E-L-P-S
Before the game, Joe Girardi said both Shawn Kelley and Adam Warren were not available due to their recent workloads. That is kind of a big deal. Girardi would have to rely on his “B” relievers to get the job done, and he indicated he would hold the veteran Matt Thornton back for a save situation. Naturally, the game was reasonably close (Yankees up 4-1) when Pineda was pulled with a man on first and no outs in the seventh. Never easy.
First guy out of the ‘pen was lefty Cesar Cabral, who did his job by striking out lefties Jackie Bradley Jr. and A.J. Pierzynski. He has struck out eight of twelve left-handed batters faced during his short big league career. Cabral gave way to David Phelps after the Red Sox lifted the lefty Jonathan Herrera for the righty pinch-hitter Ryan Roberts. Phelps retired him on a routine ground out to shortstop to end the seventh. Those were the first three of nine outs from the bullpen.
The next three outs actually came easier than the first three even though Boston sent the top of the lineup to the plate in the eighth. Phelps sat down Grady Sizemore (foul pop-up), Dustin Pedroia (grounder to short), and David Ortiz (strikeout) without much of an issue, though Ortiz did have a quality at-bat. Phelps really struggled in his first two appearances of the year, but he has rebounded well. That eighth inning was huge given who was at the plate. Great job.
The final three outs did not go to Thornton despite Girardi’s pre-game comments. The manager stuck with Phelps after his strong eighth inning and his faith was rewarded with another perfect frame. Phelps struck out Mike Napoli for the 25th out, struck out Daniel Nava for the 26th out, and got Xander Bogaerts to fly out for the 27th out. Nine up, nine down for the bullpen. Seven up, seven down for Phelps. It was his first career save. What a big time performance. Excellent job by him.
Big Mike Is Cheatin’ And Tryin’
It sure looks like Pineda had a big glop of pine tar on his hand during Thursday’s start, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s sweat and dirt from the mound, who knows. Sure looks like a foreign substance though. For what it’s worth, YES showed one image in which Pineda’s hand was clean in the fifth inning, and MLB Network showed what appeared to be a similar brown goo on Clay Buchholz’s forearm.
The Red Sox and manager John Farrell never bothered to call Pineda on the mystery substance, mostly because they would look like massive hypocrites after defending Buchholz (sunscreen) and Jon Lester (???) last year. One of baseball’s many unwritten rules says you don’t call out a pitcher for doctoring a ball because your pitchers are probably doing it too, and that is what seems to have happened in this game. Be a little less obvious next time, Mikey.
I think the Yankees need to start giving Brett Gardner the “steal” sign. Just call it from the dugout. I have no idea why he isn’t attempting steals, but it’s annoying. He singled with two outs in the third inning and didn’t even budge against the eminently run-on-able Buchholz and Pierzynski battery. That is the most obvious time to steal there will ever be. Just start calling the steal from the bench. Force him to go. This is getting ridiculous.
Soriano, Kelly Johnson, and Yangervis Solarte all went 0-for-3 with a strikeout, though at least Soriano drove in the run with the double play ball. Jeter was the only player with two hits and the Yankees didn’t draw a single walk either. Only struck out six times though, so the ball was in play all night. Also, Bradley and Nava made two excellent defensive plays after I trashed Boston’s outfield defense this afternoon. Of course.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs has some other stats, and ESPN has the updated standings. In case you’re wondering, that gray line “shadowing” the green line on the WPA graph is the projected game odds. Read this for the nuts and bolts.
One down, three to go. The Yankees and Red Sox continue this series on Friday night — assuming the weather holds up, last I checked there was some rain in the forecast — when left-handers CC Sabathia and Jon Lester square off. If you want to catch the game, RAB Tickets can get you there.
Here is a really excellent article from Ben Badler about teams scouting 14-year-old kids down in Latin America. Agents are scouting 12-year-olds. Thanks to MLB’s international spending restrictions, clubs are looking to find prospects and get them to agree to contracts as soon as possible to keep them away from the competition. You don’t need a subscription to read the article, so make sure you check it out.
Triple-A Scranton (7-2 win over Syracuse)
- 3B Scott Sizemore: 1-3, 1 BB, 1 K
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 0-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1CS
- RF Ramon Flores: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K
- C J.R. Murphy: 2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 K — four hits in his last nine at-bats after going 0-for-10 to start the year
- SS Zelous Wheeler: 0-0, 1 E (throwing) – left the game with some kind of back or side injury according to Donnie Collins
- RHP Graham Stoneburner: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 5/3 GB/FB — 48 of 76 pitches were strikes (63%)
- RHP Danny Burawa: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 1/1 GB/FB — 20 of 30 pitches were strikes … 8/1 K/BB in four innings
- RHP Mark Montgomery: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 23 of 38 pitches were strikes (61%)