Yankeemetrics: Finding new ways to lose [May 3-5]

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Leads are overrated
The Yankee bats went back into a deep freeze in the series opener, losing 4-1, as they dropped to 8-16 on the season with a whopping negative-34 run differential. That’s their third-worst run differential through 24 games in franchise history; the only worse marks came in 1984 (-40) and 1911 (-36).

The Yankees used to own Camden Yards, compiling the best win percentage (.646) among American League teams at the ballpark during its first 21 years of existence, from 1992-2012. Since then, the script was flipped and the Yankees had the worst record there among AL squads, falling to 8-21 (.276) following the series-opening loss.

The frustration level with this team grows even deeper when you consider that the Yankees – who took a 1-0 lead in the second inning – had actually scored first in more games (14) than their opponents (10). Once again on Tuesday they failed to pad that early lead and left little margin for error in the middle-to-late innings. After the game, the Yankees ranked a respectable fifth in the league in scoring in the first three innings, but were dead last – by a good margin – in runs scored from innings four through nine.

Another telling stat that pretty much sums up the team’s feeble offense in this first month? At the conclusion of Tuesday’s slate, the three players with the fewest runs scored among batting title qualifiers were all Yankees: Chase Headley (two), Didi Gregorius (four) and Starlin Castro (five). The trio had come to the plate a combined 251 times, and scored a mere 11 runs.

Luis Severino looked nothing like a future ace, giving up four runs in six innings as he fell to 0-4 with an unsightly 6.31 ERA. The only other Yankee pitcher in the last 35 years to be 0-4 or worse in their first five starts of the season and have an ERA above 6.00 was Chien-Ming Wang in 2009.

What is this thing you call home plate? (AP Photo)
What is this thing you call home plate? (AP Photo)

It was finally time to celebrate on Wednesday night after the Yankees put an end to a bevy of miserable streaks in beating the Orioles, 7-0. Entering the game, they had:

  • lost six straight and 14 of their last 18 games overall, their worst 18-game stretch since the end of the 2000 campaign
  • lost six straight road games, their longest road losing streak within a single season since 2007
  • lost six straight games against the Orioles, their longest losing streak versus the team since an eight-gamer spanning the 1996-97 seasons

CC Sabathia, who pitched his best game in more than three years, also joined the streak-busting party by throwing seven scoreless innings to get his first win in Baltimore since May 19, 2011. He was 0-5 with a 5.65 ERA in his past eight starts at Camden Yards before Wednesday’s gem. His streak of eight straight winless starts there was the second-longest by any visiting pitcher, and his five consecutive losses was the longest losing streak by a visiting pitcher in the history of the ballpark.

Sabathia delivered a vintage, turn-back-the-clock performance, reminding folks of the days when he was the team’s bona fide ace and the guy you wanted on the mound to stop a lengthy losing streak. This was the fourth time in his nine seasons in pinstripes that Sabathia had pitched in a game with the Yankees on a losing streak of four games or more; he’s snapped that streak in each of those four starts, going 4-0 with a 0.86 ERA – that’s three earned runs allowed in 31 1/3 innings.

His relied heavily on his changeup to combat the Orioles’ right-heavy lineup and it was a true difference-maker for him. He threw 21 changeups, nearly double the amount he’d thrown in any of his previous four starts this season. The Orioles were 0-for-8 in at-bats ending in a changeup, including four strikeouts, and whiffed on eight of their 13 swings.

Those numbers are even more staggering considering how ineffective his changeup was this season prior to Wednesday. In his first four starts, he had just five total whiffs on the 36 changeups he threw, and opposing batters hit a whopping .556 and slugged .667 against the pitch.

When you come to a fork in the road …
A win streak was too much to ask for from the baseball gods as the Yankees dropped the final game of their nine-game road trip in heart-breaking — and historic — fashion, losing 1-0 on a sac fly in the 10th inning. This was about as rare (and depressing) a loss you can find:

  • It was the first time in franchise history the Yankees lost a 1-0 walk-off game against the Orioles in Baltimore.
  • The Yankees hadn’t been shut out in an extra-inning loss to this franchise since July 21, 1943, when they were the St. Louis Browns.
  • With just four hits and a walk, it was the Yankees fewest baserunners in an extra-inning shutout loss since August 20, 1941 vs. the Tigers.
  • The last time the Yankees lost on a walk-off sac fly in extra innings versus any team was May 24, 2002 in Boston.

And before Thursday night, the Yankees had never lost 1-0 via a walk-off sac fly (since the stat became official in 1954).

On a more positive note … Masahiro Tanaka dominated the Orioles lineup, scattering five singles over eight scoreless innings while striking out seven. He now has at least four strikeouts and allowed no more than two earned runs in each of his six starts this season. That matches the longest such streak to start a season in Yankees history, a mark set by Whitey Ford in 1956.

Tanaka also reached a nice and round milestone in this game, making his 50th career start as a major-leaguer. Three other pitchers who made their debuts in the last 100 years compiled as many strikeouts (315) and wins (26) in their first 50 career games as Tanaka: Roger Clemens, Dwight Gooden and Yu Darvish.

Mailbag: Cashman, Mateo, Chapman, Pineda, Sanchez

We’ve got 14 questions in the mailbag this week. Remember to use the RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com email address to send us any questions or comments.


Mark asks (short version): Should the Yankees fire Brian Cashman?

I am on the fence about this and right now I lean towards no. Cashman has been the best big market GM in baseball over the last two decades — teams like the Phillies, Angels, and Red Sox have shown it takes a lot more than a big payroll to be successful — and he’s spent most of his time operating under the “World Series or bust” mandate. That’s tough.

Cashman has his flaws like everyone else. The Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley contracts are disasters, though every big market team has bad contracts on the books. You can’t run a payroll over $170M+ without spending big on free agents, and sometimes those deals go wrong. That’s baseball. The bigger issue is the team’s lack of success with their high draft picks, particularly the first rounders.

The Yankees have mitigated those problems by having success in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft, hitting on other free agent signings (Andrew Miller, Brian McCann, etc.), and almost never making a trade they regret. The last trade that is a clear loss for the Yankees is what, Tyler Clippard for Jonathan Albaladejo? I guess Mark Melancon (and Jimmy Paredes) for Lance Berkman is more recent. Cashman’s trade track record speaks for itself.

That said, the Yankees stink, and ultimately the blame falls on the shoulders of the GM. Cashman said so himself the other day. He’s been at this a long time and eventually you get to the point where a new set of eyes with a fresh set of ideas becomes necessary. I am a proponent of total overhauls. If you’re going to fire the GM, fire everyone and start over with a new regime. After all, the GM is only a manager. The people who work under him do the leg work.

Cashman has been a very success big market GM and the Yankees have a ton of money coming off the books in the near future, and you can see the next core beginning to take shape in Starlin Castro, Luis Severino, Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, and Gary Sanchez. There are a lot of questions there, sure. There are going to be questions with every rebuild though. Those guys are all either at Triple-A or in the show, so they’re close to having an impact and there’s less guesswork involved.

The 2003 Tigers were the worst team I’ve seen, and yet, three years later, the 2006 Tigers won the pennant. It’s possible to rebuild quickly and I do think Cashman can do that. I understand wanting a new GM, I totally get it. I guess I just have no idea who would be better. And I’m worried ownership will bring in a figurehead GM they can push around and effectively take over the baseball decisions.

David asks: Any chance Gene Michael can get involved to turn things around? Letting CANO go, instead signing Ellsbury, not trying for Scherzer or Zimmerman. Hard to believe Girardi’s really that optimistic-this is a bad team. Do the Steinbrenners want to win or just get under $200 million?

Gene Michael is involved. He’s one of Cashman’s special advisors. It was reportedly Michael who pushed to acquire Didi Gregorius, for example. I’m also pretty sure he was the main front office voice pushing to trade Phil Hughes for Johan Santana back in the day. Michael is 77 years old and it’s been more than 20 years since he’s been a GM. He’s not going to step in and fix everything just because he led the rebuild while George Steinbrenner was suspended in the early-1990s.

Arjun asks: Assuming the shift works as intended and BABIP has remained steady as you pointed out, are strikeouts the main reason that offense has declined? If the shift wasn’t around, do you think we would see mid-00 level offense today given the BABIP would probably increase?

I don’t think it’s one specific reason. Strikeouts are a part of it for sure. Ten years ago the league average strikeout rate was 17.1%. This year it’s 21.3% in the early going. There are roughly 76 plate appearances per game these days, so right now we’re seeing roughly 3.2 more strikeouts per game than we were ten years ago. That’s a lot, isn’t it? Fewer balls in play overall means less runs are scoring, absolutely.

There are other factors though. Shifts are one of them, as are improved scouting reports, more specialized relievers, and harder throwing pitchers. Throwing hard doesn’t automatically mean blowing it by someone. The extra velocity could mean weak contact instead of a pitch being squared up. The league average soft contact rate right now is 19.1%. Ten years ago it was 18.2%. I also think teams may be calling up position players before they’re fully ready too. That has always happened, but it may be happening more often nowadays. I have nothing to prove that. Just a guess.

I think it’s only a matter of time until MLB lowers the mound again. I have no idea how much they would lower it or how long they’ll wait to lower it, but it seems inevitable. Expansion does not seem imminent — historically there is an offensive spike in expansion years — so lowering the mound figures to happen before more teams are added to the league. Eliminating the shift would increase offense to some degree. That’s not the only reason scoring is down though.

Mateo. (Jerry Coli)
Mateo. (Jerry Coli)

Nicholas asks: Without checking the stats (which is easy enough to do, I know), it sure appears like Mateo is both running less and running with less success (more pickoffs and CSs) than last year. Any chance all the notoriety has led to opponents better understanding his tendencies, etc. and it’s unlikely we’ll see the overwhelming base stealing success we saw last year (perhaps itself an unfair expectation)?

He is running less. Mateo is 8-for-16 in stolen base attempts through 25 games this year after going 82-for-99 (83%) last year, including 21-for-26 (81%) in his first 25 games. I never really expected the 82 steals thing to happen again — that’s a huge number and no one does it annually anymore — but I didn’t expect Mateo to scale back this much. It could be the result of the other teams focusing on him more, though minor rosters and coaching staffs change so much year-to-year that I don’t think that’s what’s happening here.

It’s possible the Yankees told Mateo to relax a bit and not steal each time he reaches base as a way of keeping him healthy and fresh in the second half. Stealing bases can wear players down and it’s dangerous too. It’s real easy to jam fingers and wrists and get stepped on and all that. This is just a theory. I’m not sure if this is actually what happened. I’m not too worried about it though. As long as he still has the 80 raw speed and is now adding power to his game, I’m happy.

Matt asks: Let’s add another ugly contract to the list to swap Ellsbury for, how about Justin Verlander? He’s owed a ton of money, and Gose/Maybin isn’t exactly inspiring out there in Detroit. Gotta think Detroit wants out of that one, no?

I expected Verlander to have a big rebound season this year, and, well, he has a 6.49 ERA (4.92 FIP) in 34.2 innings. So much for that. The future Mr. Kate Upton is owed $112M through 2019, so he’s owed basically the same money as Ellsbury, only with one fewer year on the contract. The Tigers could use a center fielder and leadoff hitter, and the Yankees could use pitching in the way every team could use pitching.

The problem with an Ellsbury-for-Verlander trade is Verlander’s status as a legacy Detroit Tiger. They’re going to retire his number and stick his name up on a wall somewhere when it’s all said and done. That has value to the Tigers in terms of ticket sales and marketing and merchandise and all that. Ellsbury offers none of that. I do expect Ellsbury to perform better than Verlander going forward, but I can’t imagine the Tigers would trade away one of their biggest stars and most marketable players in a bad contract for bad contract deal.

Andrew asks: If Pineda continues to pitch this poorly is there any chance the Yankees do not offer him arbitration at the end of the year and let him walk as a free agent? I apologize for the wording I used. I’m not 100% on how this situation works out while a player is under team control.

Nah. I can’t imagine the Yankees would non-tender Michael Pineda after the season, not unless he suffers a major injury that would sideline him for all of 2017. There’s no sense keeping him in that case because he would qualify for free agency after 2017 anyway, so you’d be paying him a year to sit out, basically. Pineda is only making $4.3M this season, so his salary next year will be in the $7M range, and that’s nothing. That’s broken down Doug Fister money. If anything, the Yankees would offer Pineda arbitration and trade him rather than non-tender him and let him walk as a free agent.

Bruce asks: Do the Yankees have any recourse to keep Chapman inactive past the 30 day deadline, killing his free agency? Similar to what the Cubs did with Bryant to gain the extra year of control and with the Yankees playing so bad, I imagine his trade value would skyrocket even more if they had the power to hold him down just a little longer.

Nope. He has to be activated as soon as the suspension is over, and because Aroldis Chapman has more than five years of service time, he can refuse an assignment to the minors. There’s nothing the Yankees can do to delay his free agency. The only way Chapman’s free agency can be delayed now is with another suspension, and that’s another problem entirely. The extra year of team control would definitely increase his trade value. The Yankees knew coming in this was a one-year thing though.

Pounder asks: Is it time to take another peek at acquiring Mark Reynolds? What would the Rockies want in return, perhaps a change of scenery would be beneficial for Headley.

Reynolds is the very definition of a replacement level player these days. He hits the occasional home run and can stand at first base and maybe third base, and that’s about it. No way would I a) give up something of value to get him, or b) stick him at third base full-time even with Headley struggling so much. Reynolds strikes me as the type of player you pick up for cash or a player to be forgotten later in the season, once the Rockies decide to sell. Go with Rob Refsnyder at third before Reynolds.

Chris asks: Lets say the losing goes on for another month or so. Do you think the fans could handle a Fire sale? If so could we start a petition?

Casual fans still dominate the market, and most casual fans hate the idea of a fire sale and being bad on purpose even if it is in the team’s best interests. They usually complain about losing seasons and think the solution is signing the best free agents. It’s not just Yankees fans, it’s fans of every team in every sport. I think the RAB community would handle a fire sale just fine, but we’re in the minority among fans.

Chris asks: How likely is the complete black hole we call the Yankees offense attributable to the loss of Kevin Long? The Mets were 8th in HRs last year and are 4th this year.

I’m one of those folks who doesn’t think the hitting coach has nearly as much impact as many seem to think. Are they important? Sure. Is firing one and hiring another the cure for the offense? Nope. It never is. Long has a history of getting players to tap into their power potential — he did it with Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, most notably — and he’s done exactly that in Flushing with guys like Michael Conforto and Daniel Murphy. Murphy’s power was up big time late last year and it’s carried over to this year. Conforto’s hitting for more power than expected too.

I would be a lot more excited about the long-term offensive outlook of some of the Yankees’ young players (Castro, Judge, Sanchez, Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, etc.) if they had kept Long around, but I don’t think the offense stinks because he’s gone. I think it stinks because the veteran regulars are up there in age and are seeing their production slip. It happens. I didn’t think Long should have been fired two years ago, but the Yankees needed a scapegoat, and when the offense stalls out, the hitting coach usually gets the axe.

McCann. (Presswire)
McCann. (Presswire)

George asks: Is McCann’s contract tradeable? Do you think the Yankees would even look to trade him?

I think McCann as a player is very valuable, even with his flaws as a hitter. He still has power and will draw walks, and his defense behind the plate remains solid. He’d be an upgrade behind the plate for what, 25 teams in the league? How many teams can afford a $17M a year catcher though? That’s a sticking point. The Rangers seems like an obvious fit, and maybe the Tigers and Nationals too. I don’t think the Yankees would be opposed to trading McCann at all. I think they’d set the price fairly high though, perhaps too high given his salary. Quality catching is very hard to find these days.

Jordan asks: When is it time to call up Gary Sanchez? He’s been hitting at AAA and any sort of offensive boost would be welcome right about now. If Sanchez hits, it would allow McCann to take a day off (or, with A-Rod out, a half-day off) without the offense taking too much of a hit.

Assuming I counted right, Sanchez’s 35th day in the minors will be Sunday, meaning the Yankees could call him up Monday and have his free agency pushed back a year. He’s having a typical Gary Sanchez offensive year in Triple-A (.271/.326/.506, 144 wRC+) and I’m pretty sure he’d out-hit Austin Romine in the big leagues right now. The Alex Rodriguez injury also opens some DH at-bats too.

McCann slumped hard for a few weeks after taking that foul pitch to the toe, though he’s come on of late, and he’s going to get most of the playing time behind the plate. Is it better to let Sanchez play two or three times a week in the show or everyday in Triple-A? I think you can make an argument both ways. Now, if the Yankees do continue to fall out of the race, they should absolutely call Sanchez up and play him regularly in the second half. Let him split time with McCann behind the plate and grab a few DH starts too. They’re not at that point yet though.

Ruby asks: The rotation is exasperating, the bullpen doesn’t (really) need another stud reliever, Chapman has 3 plus plus pitches and has the physique of a workhorse starter. Why not put Chapman in the rotation? The Yankees are in last place and have nothing to lose. His fastball velocity would drop to what? 98? It could be electric and fill those empty seats at the Stadium.

Some Reds fans I know are still upset the Reds never gave Chapman a chance to start in the big leagues. He did start in the minors, though he came down with a shoulder issue and that more or less put an end to that. Chapman is never going to start a game but I do think he has the stuff to do it if given the chance. My only concern is the walks. The guy has a career 12.2% walk rate out of the bullpen. Between the strikeouts and walks, his pitch count will get up there in a hurry, so he might be a five and fly pitcher. I think Chapman could do it though. It’s just never going to happen. Not in New York and not anywhere else. The suspension would have been the perfect time to stretch him out, right?

Marc asks: You had mentioned Big Papi as a pick for the HOF, yet Sheffield is getting no love. Careers are remarkably similar. What is the deal?

Let’s start with a side-by-side comparison of their stats:

Ortiz 9,569 .285/.378/.548 139 509 1,663 47.2 51.6
Sheffield 10,947 .292/.393/.514 141 509 1,676 62.1 60.3

At his peak, Gary Sheffield was more a devastating hitter than David Ortiz. Sheffield’s seven-year peak was a 160 wRC+ from 1995-2001. Ortiz’s is a 144 wRC+ from 2005-11. Sheffield did give a lot of value back defensive, it should be noted. Ortiz doesn’t have that problem.

The difference between the two comes down to Ortiz’s clutch reputation and his persona. People love him. Also, he had a hand in breaking the Red Sox’s curse and won some other World Series titles too. Sheffield was a bit of a grump who was a jerk to many of the Hall of Fame voters, and that will work against him.

If you sat down with someone who knew nothing about baseball and told them the history of the game, you could skip right over Sheffield. You can’s skip over Ortiz. They might be statistically similar, but the reputation and general likeability of Ortiz is going to get him into the Hall of Fame.

Tanaka’s gem can’t save Yankees in 1-0 extra-innings loss to O’s

That horrible road trip is finally over and Yankees ended it in a fitting way: a frustrating walk-off loss to the division rival Orioles. Masahiro Tanaka pitched one of the best starts in his Yankee career but the bats came up empty against Kevin Gausman and the O’s bullpen. The Yankees made the very questionable decision of using a 5.00+ ERA rookie bullpen pitcher to pitch in bottom of tenth and, well, they lost. At least we have Aroldis Chapman‘s return to look forward to after this weekend, right?

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Ace Tanaka

So, most of the game was… pretty much uneventful. That doesn’t mean that it wasn’t fun to watch though. Tanaka had his A-game with his new sinker/splitter-heavy approach inducing, getting more grounders and going on to throw eight scoreless innings. This is the first time he threw 8.0 IP of no run ball since May 31, 2014 versus the Minnesota Twins. His game score of 78 is the highest since April 18, 2015 when he threw a seven scoreless against the Rays.

After CC Sabathia‘s scoreless start last night, this has to be the best two-game stretch for the Yankee starters in 2016, right? I don’t think you could have asked for any more from Tanaka. His line – 8.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K’s  is quite neat. His start brought his ERA down to 2.29 while his FIP is at a nice 2.56. What stands out to me from the new Tanaka is that he’s generating more weak contact and grounders. He had 46.6% and 47.0% GB% in his first two seasons; so far in 2016, he has a 59.6 GB%, which is the second best among qualified ML starters. How about that? I think I like this version of Tanaka.

He only let baserunners in scoring position twice – third and fourth innings – and they turned out to be very harmless. Also he only let five batted balls out of the infield. He pretty much did everything to warrant a W in his line but unfortunately, that did not happen.

Failed Chances

The Yankees had a good scoring chance in the fourth. Starlin Castro, who had been hitless in the series, led off with a double down the left field line. Brian McCann‘s big fly out advanced Starlin to third, setting up runner on third with one out. However, Mark Teixeira‘s ground out to first base couldn’t bring Castro in. Carlos Beltran followed it up by popping up to end the inning. Joe Girardi was also tossed by the third base umpire Chris Guccione, possibly for missing a balk on Gausman’s pre-delivery actions. The Yankee offense has been struggling for the most part (duh) and being able to squeeze a run even via balk would have been very nice for the team.

After being retired 10 in a row, Yankees got something going on with a 1 out Teixeira single in the top of seventh. Beltran, however, immediately grounded into double play to kill yet another Yankee scoring chance. What’s a good picture to summarize how offense fared tonight? Well…

The Yankees made some noise in the top of the ninth. Darren O’Day came in to relieve Gausman and got first two outs with relative ease. He allowed a single to Castro and on deck was left-handed McCann. Showalter decided to bring in Zach Britton to combat the Yankee catcher. During the at-bat, Britton threw a wild pitch that advanced Castro to second, leaving the Yankees a single shy of taking a 1-0 lead. However, Matt Wieters caught Castro napping way off the second base and threw him out to end the inning. I mean, boy, Yanks’ rotten luck with RISP has been a theme of this season and they just seem to find various of ways to keep it going.

Getty Images


The Yankees brought in Dellin Betances in the ninth to relieve Tanaka. After getting Chris Davis to strike out, Betances allowed a walk to Mark Trumbo. The O’s put in speedy Joey Rickard to pinch-run for Trumbo. Up next, Wieters hit a long and tall fly ball to right that seemed to hang in the air for forever… and then Dustin Ackley just barely, barely, made a jumping up against the wall and doubled off Rickard on the base paths for a double play. Rickard must have thought that the ball ricocheted off the wall into Ackley’s glove. Buck Showalter and the O’s challenged the call but Ackley clearly caught it (and the umps agreed, rightfully so).

Instead of Andrew Miller, who threw a whopping fifteen pitches in the previous nine days, the Yankees brought in Johnny Barbato to take care of the bottom of tenth. Hyun Soo Kim reached first with a Baltimore Chop infield single. Jonathan Schoop followed it up with a single to make it runners on first and third with no outs.  New York *then* got Miller to relieve but they were several batters too late. Pedro Alvarez hit a sac fly to center to win the game for Baltimore. It was a kind of a fitting game (and ending) for Yankees in this awful 2-7 road trip.

Box Score, WPA, Highlights and Updated Standings

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

Source: FanGraphs

The Yankees come back to Bronx tomorrow to face the Red Sox in this weekend’s three-game series. Can you hear the enthusiasm from my writing voice? Probably not.

DotF: Judge and Sanchez go deep again in Scranton’s win

LHP Dietrich Enns has been named the Double-A Eastern League Player of the Month for April. Congrats to him. I’m pretty sure these Player of the Months awards are new. Don’t ever remember seeing them before. Enns had a 0.00 ERA (2.63 FIP) in four starts and 23.2 innings for Double-A Trenton last month.

Triple-A Scranton (10-1 win over Lehigh Valley)

  • LF Aaron Judge: 1-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K — second straight game with a homer and it came against former first overall pick Mark Appel … it’s his third dinger in his last five games overall
  • C Gary Sanchez: 2-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — second homer in the last three games for him
  • CF Slade Heathcott: 1-5, 1 R, 1 K
  • DH Nick Swisher: 1-5, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 K — one scout told George King it is “hard to look at” Swisher when he runs these days because his knees are shot
  • RF Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 1 BB, 1 K
  • LHP Richard Bleier: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 Balk, 13/2 GB/FB — 63 of 93 pitches were strikes (68%)
  • RHP Matt Wotherspoon: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 19 of 29 pitches were strikes (66%)

[Read more…]

Game 26: Take the Series


The Yankees won last night! And they have a chance to win today! That is pretty cool, ain’t it? A win tonight will clinch a series victory over the Orioles too. The Yankees have played seven full series this season and they’ve won exactly two of them. They beat the Astros in the first series of the year and they beat the Rays a week and a half ago. That’s it.

Both Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez are currently sidelined with injuries, so the Yankees are short two of their better offensive players. It’s not what you want. The Yankees have been struggling to score runs as it is, even with last night’s seven-run outburst. Hopefully some of the others can pick up the slack. Here is the O’s lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. 2B Starlin Castro
  3. C Brian McCann
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. DH Carlos Beltran
  6. RF Dustin Ackley
  7. LF Aaron Hicks
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 3B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It is cloudy in Baltimore and there is rain in the forecast tonight, though not until later. It’s nothing that should interrupt the game. Tonight’s game will start a little after 7pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: In case you missed it earlier, outfielder Ben Gamel has been called up from Triple-A Scranton. The Yankees have since announced the move. Lefty James Pazos was sent down in a corresponding move. Brett Gardner (elbow) has not been placed on the DL and is day-to-day.

Heyman: Yankees not among teams with interest in Tim Lincecum

(Joe Robbins/Getty)
(Joe Robbins/Getty)

Tomorrow free agent right-hander Tim Lincecum will hold a workout for scouts at the Giants’ Spring Training complex in Arizona. Lincecum is looking to show teams he’s at full strength following September hip labrum surgery. Jon Heyman says ESPN may televise the workout, which is, uh, odd.

Almost every team in the league will attend Lincecum’s workout, though Heyman says the Yankees are one of the few clubs yet to reach out with legitimate interest. That could always change and it doesn’t mean they won’t attend the workout either. They could send a pair of eyes out of due diligence, like what they see, and then decide to get involved. (Lincecum has pushed his showcase back a few times, which seems like a bit of a red flag.)

Lincecum, who will turn 32 in June, has not been good since the 2011 season. CC Sabathia has been an above-average starter more recently. Lincecum was arguably the best pitcher in the world from 2008-11, then everything fell apart as his velocity and stuff started to fade.

2008-11 881.2 2.81 2.81 26.9% 8.7% 47.1% 0.55 +23.3 +23.1
2012-15 615.2 4.68 4.08 21.6% 10.0% 45.9% 1.02 -2.7 +3.1

If the Yankees really wanted to, they could offer Lincecum a full-time rotation spot. Sending Luis Severino to Triple-A would not be unjustified at this point. I have more interest in Lincecum as a reliever at this point — here’s our Scouting The Market post — because even when he’s been healthy the last few years, he’s been awful.

Lincecum would reportedly like to stay on the West Coast, and besides, pitchers looking to rebuild value usually don’t come to Yankee Stadium and the AL East unless it’s a last resort. Think Bartolo Colon or Freddy Garcia a few years back. Reclamation project pitchers usually seek out big ballparks, not bandboxes.

My guess right now is Lincecum ends up back with the Giants, especially with Jake Peavy (45 ERA+) and Matt Cain (58 ERA+) struggling to much. Those two are best off with each other. Lincecum is still a rock star in San Francisco and the Giants benefit from all the additional fan support. Plus they get a depth arm out of it as well. It’s a win-win.

There’s never anything wrong with adding pitching depth, and right now Lincecum might be the best scrap heap starter available. It’s either him or Kyle Lohse since both Chad Billingsley and Josh Johnson are rehabbing elbow injuries. John Danks, who was designated for assignment earlier this week, figures to hit the market soon as well. The Yankees have had interest in him in the past.

Yankees calling up outfielder Ben Gamel

(Justin K. Aller/Getty)
(Justin K. Aller/Getty)

The Yankees are calling up outfielder Ben Gamel from Triple-A Scranton, according to multiple reports. He is expected to join the Yankees for the series finale in Baltimore tonight. A friend of Gamel’s actually tipped us off about the call-up on Twitter, so that’s cool. We have #sources.

Over the last two days the Yankees lost both Alex Rodriguez (hamstring) and Brett Gardner (elbow) to injuries. A-Rod has already been placed on the DL, and while the x-rays on Gardner’s elbow came back negative, he may have to sit out a few days until the swelling and soreness subsides. Playing with a two-man bench while Gardner is sidelined is not ideal, obviously.

The Yankees have not officially announced the Gamel call-up but there’s no reason to think the reports are wrong. I’m more interested to see the corresponding move. Are they going to send down a pitcher (Nick Goody? James Pazos?) and get back to a normal seven-man bullpen, or does Gardner’s injury required a DL stint? I hope not. That would really suck.

Gamel, 23, is hitting .286/.346/.363 (109 wRC+) with one homer and seven steals in 23 Triple-A games so far this season. He broke out last year, when he put up a .300/.358/.472 (138 wRC+) batting line with 52 extra-base hits and 13 steals in 129 games with the RailRiders. Two years ago Gamel hit only .261/.308/.340 (80 wRC+) in Double-A, so he’s come on strong the last 18 months or so.

The Yankees selected Gamel in the tenth round of the 2010 draft and he is one of those guys without a standout tool who does a little of everything. He plays like a maniac too. All out all the time. Gamel is a left-handed hitting outfielder like Gardner, and he’s is capable of playing all three outfield spots. How much will he play? Hopefully a lot. The lineup can use a hungry young player with fresh legs.