Game 64: Win it for CC (and Bird)

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

If you missed it earlier, there was a bunch of roster news this afternoon. CC Sabathia was officially placed on the disabled list with a hamstring strain, and Greg Bird‘s rehab was put on hold. He’s still not feeling right. We’re not going to see either guy for quite some time. That really stinks. Win tonight’s game for them, how about that?

The Yankees are now in Oakland after that yucky series in Anaheim, a series in which the Yankees went 1-2 but could have easily gone 3-0. Losing a winnable game bites so much. Doing it twice in one series? Against that annoying team? Bah. The worst. Take care of business against the A’s this weekend, dudes. Here is the Athletics’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. DH Gary Sanchez
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. 1B Chris Carter
  9. C Austin Romine
    LHP Jordan Montgomery

The sky is nice and clear in Oakland tonight, and it’s windy as hell. Is the wind blowing in or out? I guess we’ll find out. Tonight’s series opener starts at 10:05pm ET and YES will have the broadcast. Enjoy.

Roster Moves: In addition to placing Sabathia on the disabled list and halting Bird’s rehab, the Yankees also sent down Ronald Herrera and called up Domingo German and Luis Cessa. Cessa is going to start in Sabathia’s place this weekend.

Yankees place CC Sabathia on DL, send down Herrera, call up German and Cessa

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

As expected, CC Sabathia is heading to the disabled list. Joe Girardi confirmed the move while speaking to reporters this afternoon. It’s a Grade II left hamstring strain. Yuck. Domingo German has been called back up to replace Sabathia on the roster. The ten-day rule doesn’t apply to him since he’s replaceing a player on the disabled list.

The Yankees did not provide a timetable for Sabathia’s return, but the Grade II strain ensures he will be out a while. We’re not going to see him until after the All-Star break. That really bites. Sabathia, who has a 3.46 ERA (4.11 FIP) this season, suffered the injury throwing a pitch earlier this week. The same injury, a Grade II left hamstring strain, ended his season early in September 2013.

German made his big league debut Sunday afternoon and tossed 2.2 scoreless innings to close out the blowout win. Trackman clocked his average sinker at 98.2 mph. Yowza. I’m sure there’s some “first MLB appearance” adrenaline in there, but 98 mph isn’t uncharted territory for German. He can really bring it. German came over in the Nathan EovaldiMartin Prado trade.

In addition to the Sabathia and German moves, the Yankees have also optioned Ronald Herrera and called up Luis Cessa. Girardi told Erik Boland that Cessa is going to replace Sabathia in the rotation, though they haven’t decided whether he’ll start Saturday or Sunday. Sunday is Sabathia’s turn, though starting him Saturday would give Masahiro Tanaka an extra day. I’m a Cessa fan. I’m happy.

In the short-term, man, the Yankees are really going to miss Sabathia. He had an ugly four-start stretch back in May, but otherwise he’s been rock solid all season, and especially of late. Four earned runs allowed in his last six starts and 36.1 innings! With Tanaka doing his best Javy Vazquez impression, Sabathia steadiness was much appreciated.

Thursday Night Open Thread

Good news: only two more 10pm ET starts left on the West Coast trip. Tonight and tomorrow. Thank goodness for that. I can’t handle these late night games/early mornings as well as I once did. Anyway, make sure you check out Joe Lemire’s post on scouting vocabulary. It’s pretty great. “Fall down range” has always been my favorite weird baseball term.

Here is an open thread until the regular game thread comes along. The Mets are playing tonight and MLB Network will have a regional game as well. Talk about those games or anything else here.

Greg Bird still doesn’t feel right, Yankees have “pulled the plug” on his rehab

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

7:33pm ET: The Yankees announced Bird has been pulled off his rehab assignment with a right knee contusion. He fouled a pitch off his shin the other day, but was fine and stayed in the game. I wonder if that’s just a mistake and they meant a right ankle contusion? Either way, it’s a setback.

6:27pm ET: Greg Bird‘s rehab has hit a snag. Brian Cashman told Erik Boland that Bird still doesn’t feel well, so they have “pulled the plug” on his rehab. The issue is still with his ankle, not his surgically repaired shoulder. Bird has been out since early May with a bone bruise in the ankle, an injury he originally suffered in the final week of Spring Training. He fouled a pitch off the ankle and tried to play through it in April.

Bird has been on a minor league rehab assignment the last two weeks, going 9-for-38 (.237) with 12 walks and four strikeouts in 12 games. The numbers don’t mean much though. How does he feel? How does his swing look? Does his have his lower half working right? Those are the important questions, and no, apparently he doesn’t feel good.

Joe Girardi said earlier today Bird will see a doctor, and hopefully that brings good news. Maybe it is nothing more than normal “hey you’re playing baseball everyday again” soreness. It’s not easy to be optimistic though. The Yankees have a pretty terrible history with bone bruises (see: Teixeira, Mark) and Bird himself has had plenty of injury issues in his career, even going back to his days in the minors.

Unless the doctor visit brings good news, the Yankees are going to have to start thinking about trading for a new first baseman. Chris Carter has worn out his welcome and Tyler Austin probably isn’t good enough to start at first base for a contender. Playing Matt Holliday there full-time doesn’t seem like a good idea at his age either.

I suppose the good news is the Yankees are in first place despite getting nothing from first base, a premium offensive position. They shouldn’t bank on that continuing though. If Bird is going to miss more time, they have to start thinking about an upgrade if they plan on giving themselves the best possible chance to contend. They can’t keep waiting for Bird. Not at this point.

2017 Draft: Beck, Mangum, Williams, Abbott, Burns, Brown

Burns. (@MLBDraft)
Burns. (@MLBDraft)

Now that the Yankees have made their selections and the 2017 draft is over, it’s time to see who they actually sign. The signing deadline is Friday, July 7th this year, so three weeks from tomorrow. That’s really close! Anyway, here are my Day One, Day Two, and Day Three recaps. Here are all of the Yankees’ picks, and here’s some draft news and links:

  • In his AL recap, Keith Law notes he doesn’t like the deliveries of South Carolina RHP Clarke Schmidt (1st round) and California HS RHP Matt Sauer (2nd), though he does say, “some teams were fine with the way (Sauer’s) arm works despite all of that and saw a mid-rotation starter.”
  • In their AL East draft recap, Baseball America wrote “college RHPs Trevor Stephan (3), Glenn Otto (5) and Dalton Higgins (7) and LHP Dalton Lehnen (6) all have at least one swing-and-miss offering.” The Yankees always use those middle rounds on Day Two to hoard power arms.
  • Catawba College RHP Bryan Blanton (21st) has a deal in place and is traveling to Tampa today, reports Mike London. Blanton, a reliever, had a 2.70 ERA with 50 strikeouts and 15 walks in 33.1 innings for the Indians.
  • Stanford RHP Tristan Beck (29th) is not going to sign, reports John Manuel. Bummer, but not surprising. Beck was a consensus first round talent before a back issue caused him to miss the season. He was reportedly seeking upwards of $4M to sign.
  • Missouri State OF Jake Mangum (30th), a draft-eligible sophomore, is going to return to school for his junior year, he announced on Twitter. Mangum was a top five rounds pick based on talent, though he slipped due to signability concerns.
  • If you’re into such things, Chris Mitchell’s KATOH system projects Duke OF Jimmy Herron (31st) as one of the best college picks on Day Three at +1.5 WAR. “A draft-eligible sophomore, Herron smacked 17 doubles, stole 17 bases, and struck out in just 12% of his plate appearances this year … Herron doesn’t turn 21 until late July, so he’s a few months younger than most of his draft-eligible college peers, making his performance all the more impressive,” said the write-up.
  • Georgia HS C Steven Williams (35th) will not sign and instead follow through on his commitment to Auburn, he wrote on Twitter. Williams was considered a possible top five rounds pick as an offense-first catcher, though his strong commitment to Auburn caused him to slide to Day Three.
  • Virginia HS LHP Andrew Abbott (36th) is not planning to sign, based on his Twitter feed. That’s not really a surprise. He was considered unsignable from the start. Abbott throws three pitches, including an excellent curveball, though he sits mostly in the upper-80s right now with his fastball.
  • Alabama HS RHP Tanner Burns (37th) will not sign, according to his Twitter feed. Jim Callis mentioned him as one of the most notable picks on Day Three. “Burns drew comparisons to recent first-rounders due to his big arm and advanced command, but his commitment to Auburn must have been too strong for teams to take a chance on him early,” wrote Callis.
  • The Yankees have signed Missouri State OF Cody Brown as an undrafted free agent, according to MSU. He’s heading to Tampa to sign tomorrow. Brown, a lefty swinger, hit .323/.433/.539 with nine homers and ten steals in 64 games this spring.

By the way, our annual Draft Pool Tracker page is now up and running. You can keep tabs on the Yankees’ bonus pool situation there between now and the signing deadline. It is available at all times under the Resources pull down menu in the nav bar at the top of the site.

6/15 to 6/18 Series Preview: Oakland Athletics

Sonny Gray. (Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Sonny Gray. (Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

On Monday afternoon, one of the prevailing concerns about the series with the Angels was that it was a ‘trap series.’ The Yankees were red hot, but they’ve also struggled in Angel Stadium over the last few years – and the Angels have been surprisingly good since Mike Trout went down. A few days later the Yankees had dropped two of three and lost CC Sabathia to an injury. It was a disappointing series, to say the least, as seems to be the norm on these West Coast trips. Next up: the Oakland Athletics.

The Last Time They Met

The A’s visited the Bronx just three weeks ago (May 26-28), and the Yankees took two of three. All three games were relatively close, as the Yankees outscored the A’s by just two runs in total. Other points of interest:

  • Masahiro Tanaka tantalized us once more in the first game, pitching to the following line – 7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 13 K. The key was his splitter, which was on-point for what may have been the only time this season. Thanks to some quirky rules, he took the loss despite not being responsible for the go-ahead run.
  • The Yankees won game two 3-2, in what was a frustrating game for the offense. They had just seven base-runners (only two of which reached base via hit), and had trouble squaring up the A’s pitchers all day. Luckily, one of those hits was a go-ahead two-run home run by Matt Holliday, and that was all they needed.
  • Game three was much more Yankees-like, as the bats came alive and they plated nine runs. Aaron Judge was 2-for-4 with the first grand slam of his career, Ronald Torreyes was 2-for-3 with a couple of runs scored, and Brett Gardner picked-up a couple of 2-our RBI in a 9-5 victory.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more detailed notes and statistics.

Injury Report

As was the case last time around, the A’s have some key players on the disabled list. RP Ryan Dull, SP Kendall Graveman, SS Marcus Semien, SP Andrew Triggs, and RP Ryan Dull are on the DL, and none will return in time for this series (Triggs started against the Yankees in the previous series). OF Matt Joyce had to leave yesterday’s game early following a collision, and he received three stitches to close a laceration on his chin. He’s listed as day-to-day.

Their Story So Far

The A’s have lost three in a row by a combined 13 runs, and are currently 27-38 with an AL-worst -77 run differential. They’re also 4-9 in June, having been outscored 92-64 since the calendar flipped. Their offense has gradually improved (and is about league-average once adjusted for the park), but their pitching has backslid tremendously.

Yonder Alonso is a big part of that offense, and he has yet to show signs of slowing down. He’s batting .303/.398/.635 with 16 home runs (174 wRC+) on the year, including a .370/.452/.630 slash line since these teams last met. Their offense as a whole has a 101 wRC+ this month, with 6 regulars sitting at 111 or better. Pitching was supposed to be their strength, but I’m sure that they’re more than happy with fielding a competitive lineup every night.

The Lineup We Might See

Bob Melvin has used more distinct batting orders than any other manager in the game this year, as he has a proclivity for platooning and riding the hot bat. The fact that the team has dealt with a slew of injuries doesn’t help, either. This is essentially the core lineup that he’s been building off of lately (keeping in mind that Jordan Montgomery is pitching tonight):

  1. Rajai Davis, CF
  2. Jed Lowrie, 2B
  3. Ryon Healy, DH
  4. Khris Davis, LF
  5. Yonder Alonso, 1B
  6. Chad Pinder, SS
  7. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
  8. Matt Joyce, RF
  9. Josh Phegley, C

With a RHP on the mound, Matt Joyce will bat higher in the lineup, and Stephen Vogt will start at catcher.

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Thursday (10:05 PM EST): LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. RHP Sonny Gray

Two years ago, Gray looked like a legitimate top of the rotation starter. He was coming off of back-to-back 200-plus IP seasons with a combined 131 ERA+ and 8.9 bWAR, and he was turning 26 just before the start of the 2016 season. And then 2016 came, and he was hurt (just 22 starts) or ineffective (70 ERA+, -0.1 bWAR) throughout the season, and those injuries carried over to 2017. Gray has shown signs of his old self, though, as his strong strikeout (23.7%), walk (7.1%), and groundball (56.7%) belie his 4.37 ERA (94 ERA+).

Gray has found some velocity this season, and he now works in the mid-90s with his fastballs (four- and two-seamers). He also throws a low-80s slider, a low-80s curveball, and a change-up in the upper-80s. He throws all five pitches regularly, as well.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 6/10) – 6.0 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 10 K

Friday (9:35 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. LHP Sean Manaea

Manaea shut-down the Yankees three weeks ago (7 IP, 4 H,  R, 1 BB, 8 K), and has been going strong ever since. He now has a 3.67 ERA (112 ERA+) on the season, and his stuff has been improving as the weather warms up.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 6/10) – 7.o IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K

Saturday (4:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. RHP Jesse Hahn

This is Hahn’s first healthy season in years, as the 27-year-old has dealt with a litany of arm-related injuries. He has been mostly effective throughout his major league career, with a 102 ERA+ and 3.0 bWAR in 277.0 IP, but that doesn’t look quite as good when it’s spread out over three-plus seasons. Interestingly enough, Hahn is the oldest member of the A’s rotation with Triggs on the DL.

Hahn is a three or four-pitch guy, depending upon the day. He throws a mid-90s two-seamer, a mid-70s curveball, and a mid-80s change-up regularly. He’ll also mix in a mid-80s slider, but that isn’t a given on most days.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 6/11) – 5.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 5 K

Sunday (4:05 PM EST): TBD (Chad Green?) vs. RHP Jharel Cotton

Cotton was viewed as a dark horse candidate for the AL Rookie of the Year heading into 2017, on the strength of a strong performance during a September call-up and a seemingly terrific fastball/change-up combination. He’ll need quite a bit of work to get to that level, though, as he has a 5.52 ERA (74 ERA+) through eleven starts, to go along with below-average peripherals. The 25-year-old has just three quality starts on the season, to boot.

Cotton’s bread and butter is ostensibly the coupling of his low-to-mid-90s fastball and mid-70s change-up. The discrepancy between those two offerings should keep hitters off-balance, but that simply hasn’t been the case so far. Cotton also throws a slider in the upper-80s and a curveball in the upper-70s.

Last Outing (vs. MIA on 6/13) – 5.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 5 K

The Bullpen

The A’s bullpen has the second-worst park-adjusted ERA in baseball, and it is only getting worse – the unit has a 7.16 ERA in 44.0 IP in June (which includes a 4.2 IP, 4 ER effort yesterday). Sean Doolittle just returned from an injury and Santiago Casilla seems to have righted the ship, but only four relievers have an ERA under 4.00 (and that includes Doolittle in just 8.2 IP). The rotation doesn’t help matters, either, as they routinely turn the ball over to the bullpen in the 6th inning or earlier.

It’s difficult to imagine the A’s bullpen as a whole being in good shape for this series, as it was needed for 7.2 IP between Tuesday and Wednesday. Fortunately for them, neither Doolittle nor Casilla has pitched since Saturday, so their best arms are ready to go.

Who (Or What) To Watch

Sonny Gray was the object of the Yankees desire at one point, and the A’s are almost always willing to shop their stars – so this could be an audition, of sorts, should Cashman and Co. seek to improve the team’s rotation sooner rather than later. With Jose Quintana struggling in Chicago, however, Gray may be both the best and the cheapest option on the market come the trade deadline.

Yankeemetrics: West Coast nightmare (June 12-14)

(Getty)
(Getty)

No pizza but still a win
The Yankees headed out west for the first time this season, but the story remained mostly the same on Monday night: another win and another legend-boosting performance by Mr. Judge.

This victory, however, was different from others in the past couple weeks because of the fact that John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman didn’t get to mention the beloved Papa John’s promotion. In case you’re not familiar with the popular deal: the day after the Yankees score six or more runs, customers get 50 percent off the regular menu price of all pizzas at Papa John’s online.

The Yankees scored ‘only’ five runs on Monday night, but that was still enough for the win because of another anomaly: Masahiro Tanaka did not get pummeled! Though he did cough up a solo homer to the second batter of the game, he settled down after that, retiring 13 straight at one point while pitching into the seventh inning.

One of the biggest keys for Tanaka was getting ahead in the count, throwing a first-pitch strike to a season-high 77.8 percent of the batters he faced. Because he was consistently in control of at-bats, he was then able to efficiently finish off batters when getting to two strikes, as the Angels went 0-for-11 in two-strike counts with eight strikeouts.

Okay, so back to the part of this game that was normal – Aaron Judge destroying baseballs. With the game tied in the eighth inning and a man on second, Judge drilled a 2-0 cutter from Bud Norris over the fences for a 5-3 lead. Sorry Buddy, this is not the best location for a pitch when facing a 6’7, 280-pound baseball cyborg:

aaron-judge

I wouldn’t be surprised if Judge was literally smiling as he extended his arms and pummeled this pitch into the right-centerfield seats. It was right in his power-happy zone, as he was slugging 1.182 in that part of the strikezone after Monday’s game.

judge

It was his first career go-ahead home run in the eighth inning or later … and hopefully the first of many more to come.

Judge wouldn’t have been the hero, though, without another standout performance from Didi Gregorius. He went 4-for-4 and kept the Yankees in the game with game-tying and go-ahead RBI singles in the third and fifth innings. Didi was the second Yankee shortstop ever with a four-hit, multi-RBI game against the Angels. The other guy to do it was … of course, Derek Jeter on Sept. 5, 1999 at Angel Stadium.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Clipp’d
The Yankees six-game win streak was snapped on Tuesday in one of the more frustrating losses of this season, as they lost in the 11th inning after failing to cash in on key scoring chances throughout the night. It was also a rare type of loss for a couple reasons:

  • Before Tuesday, the Yankees were one of just two teams that hadn’t yet suffered a walk-off loss – the Marlins are now on the clock as the only team left on that list.
  • The Yankees were 33-0 when leading at the start of the eighth inning, one of four major-league teams without a loss in that scenario entering Tuesday’s slate. The others: Rockies (33-0), Red Sox (26-0) and White Sox (23-0).

Tyler Clippard was the game’s biggest goat – according to Twitter, at least – as he surrendered that game-tying homer and was tagged for his fourth blown save of the season in his 29th appearance. Through Tuesday, the only pitchers in the majors with more blown saves were Tony Watson and Francisco Rodriguez (both with 5).

Fangraphs tracks a stat called Meltdowns, which answers the simple question of whether a reliever hurt his team’s chance of winning, based on changes in win probability during the pitcher’s outing. (To be more specific, he gets a Meltdown if the game’s win probability declines by at least six percent from when he enters and then exits the game.) Clippard has eight Meltdowns this season, tied for the most among American League pitchers and fourth-most in MLB.

Clippard has a shiny 2.00 ERA and .158 batting average allowed, but he’s been horrible in critical at-bats this season. He’s allowed a .304/.375/.682 line in high-leverage plate appearances – that equals a .436 wOBA, which ranked seventh-highest among pitchers that have faced at least 25 batters in those situations. For reference, Aaron Judge had a .476 wOBA through Tuesday.

As if the game wasn’t depressing enough from a standard win-loss perspective, there’s also the fact that CC Sabathia suffered a hamstring injury in the fourth inning. He had won his last five starts, with a 0.99 ERA dating back to May 16 at Kansas City. During that month-long span (May 16 to June 13), a total of 161 pitchers threw at least 15 innings; Robbie Ray (0.24) and Sabathia (0.99) were the only ones to post a sub-1.00 ERA.

(AP)
(AP)

Welcome back, Tiny Mike
This annual road trip to Southern California has been a devastating one for this franchise, even in the best of times. After dropping the rubber game on Wednesday, the Yankees continued their run of futility in Los Angeles (or Anaheim, whatever). The Yankees fell to 45-58 at Angel Stadium in the Wild Card Era, their worst record at any AL ballpark in that span.

It looked like they might reverse that trend after taking a 4-0 lead in the top of the first, capped by Gary Sanchez‘s booming 441-foot three-run homer. It was the Yankees 11th home run of at least 440 feet this season, the most in the majors.

And here’s a stat that pretty much sums up the 2017 Yankees: Sanchez’s longball was also the 35th hit by a Yankee in his age-25 season or younger; in the five-year period from 2010-2014, there were 21 homers hit by Yankees in their age-25 season or younger … COMBINED.

Unfortunately that early offensive explosion was quickly rendered meaningless as #BadMike returned with vengeance. He soon turned that 4-0 advantage into a 5-4 deficit by the end of the third inning. Pineda ended up pitching six innings and gave up five runs on 10 hits, further widening his Jeykyll-and-Hyde home/road splits this season:

He is now 1-5 with a 6.25 ERA in six road starts, compared to 6-1 with a 1.96 ERA in seven home starts. That difference of 4.3 runs is the ninth-largest among the 100-plus pitchers that have made at least five starts at home and five starts on the road.