Nova injures ankle in Triple-A

Via Donnie Collins, Ivan Nova left tonight’s start with Triple-A Scranton due to what appears to be a problem with his right leg. There was a comebacker to his left and he planted on it weird on the play. He limped off the field and slammed his glove in frustration. Nova had allowed three hits and throw 44 pitches in 1.1 IP up to that point. More to come as we get it.

Update (10:50 p.m.): During his postgame press conference, Yanks’ manager Joe Girardi said that Nova rolled his ankle on the play in the second. Right now, the Yanks do not know the severity of the injury or how much time Nova will miss. This injury leaves the Yanks with shorter depth in their rotation as Hector Noesi or Adam Warren would likely slot into the sixth starter spot while Nova recovers. It should have no impact on Nova’s status as a trade chip.

Game 94: Bartday

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Bartolo Colon‘s last two starts haven’t been all that good. Larry Rothschild claims Colon is apprehensive about his hamstring injury, which is fine, but he did pitch very well against the Mets in his first start back. Hopefully Bart’s not running out of gas, but that’s very possible considering he’s thrown more innings this year (90.2) than he did last year (0), the year before that (62.1), the year before that (39), and two years before that (59.1). Just pay attention to his fastball, if he’s pounding the zone with it, he’ll be fine. If he starts mixing in more sliders than usual, then something’s up. Here’s the starting nine…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Jorge Posada, DH
Russell Martin, C
Brett Gardner, LF
Eduardo Nunez, 3B

Bartolo Colon, SP

Tonight’s game starts a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on My9, not YES. Enjoy.

Rosterbation: In case you missed it, Sergio Mitre has been placed on the DL with a hat trick of ailments: shoulder tendinitis, rotator cuff inflammation, and a bacterial infection . Steve Garrison is up from Double-A Trenton. No word on Mr. Hat.

Mike Ashmore’s Q&A with Brian Cashman

Mike Ashmore ran into Brian Cashman at Waterfront Park in Trenton last night while he watched Dellin Betances‘ start, and the GM was kind enough to answer a few questions. They spoke mostly about the farm system, specifically the value in seeing what other teams are asking for in trades, surprise players (hint: it’s an Almonte), Jesus Montero‘s season, Manny Banuelos‘ season, and plenty more. When asked if any players were untouchable, Cash responded: “Realistically, there are guys that are untouchable for me. But I’ve got bosses, so.” That’s a little twist of the knife right there. Anyway, make sure you give it a read.

Yankees call up Steve Garrison; Mitre to the DL

Via Josh Norris and Mike Ashmore, the Yankees have called up left-hander Steve Garrison from Double-A Trenton. This is certainly unexpected. No word on the corresponding move as of yet, but someone has to be hurt (Boone Logan?), no? Garrison had a 4.90 FIP in 46 IP for Trenton this year, though he missed a bunch of time due to a groin injury. You can learn everything you need to know about him here.

Update: Via Ken Davidoff, Garrison is taking the place of Sergio Mitre, who has been placed on the disabled list with some kind of illness. Sounds like a case of good timing for Garrison, because Lance Pendleton, Kevin Whelan, J.C. Romero, and Randy Flores have all thrown quite a bit recently. They took the fresh arm.

Past Trade Review: Scott Brosius

(Jeff Zelevansky/Icon SMI)

Oh how I hated Kenny Rogers. I was still pretty young and didn’t really understand the ins and outs of baseball back then, so when the Yankees signed him after the 1995 season the extent of my thinking was “this is the guy that threw the perfect game last year, right? he’s awesome!” Rogers was most certainly not awesome, he was coming off his first All-Star Game berth in 1995 but had struggled to keep his K/BB ratio above 2.00 for most of his career. He was hittable, he walked a decent number of batters and he was a fly ball guy prone to the long ball, but hey, he was left-handed and threw a perfect game, which was good enough for 14-year-old Mike.

Rogers, then 31, was awful in his first year in New York. He walked 83 batters and struck out just 92 in 179 IP, posting a 4.68 ERA and an even uglier 4.83 FIP in 30 starts. Scheduled to start the fourth game in the playoffs, Rogers was instead called upon out of the bullpen in the 12th inning of Game Two to face the lefty Will Clark with runners on second and third with two outs. He promptly walked him on four pitches. Brian Boehringer came in and got out of the inning, then did the same three days later when Rogers couldn’t get out of the third inning in Game Four. Rogers gave up four runs in three innings in Game Four of the ALCS before he gave up five runs in two innings in his World Series Game Four starter. In four playoff appearances he’d allowed 21 baserunners and 11 runs in seven innings, and the Yankees won all four games. That still blows my mind. Boehringer, David Weathers, and Graeme Lloyd had picked up the slack.

The next year actually went worse for Rogers, who posted a 5.65 ERA with a 5.07 FIP in 22 starts and nine relief appearances, giving the Yankees 145 barely above replacement level innings. Joe Torre didn’t dare go near him in the ALDS against the Indians, in fact I can’t remember (and can’t find anything to confirm) if he was even on the playoff roster. I’m guessing it was a no. The Yankees had had enough, so they traded Rogers and some cash to the Athletics for a player to be named later on November 7th, 1997. Eleven days later, that player had a name, and it was Scott Brosius.

The Yankees were in need of a third baseman after letting 39-year-old Wade Boggs walk as a free agent, and Brosius seemed like nothing more than a stopgap. He had hit just .203/.259/.317 with 11 homers in 526 PA in 1997, though he did post a huge 1996 season: .304/.393/.516 with 22 jacks. Maybe the Yankees could catch lightning in a bottle with the 31-year-old. All it would cost them was a starter they didn’t want and $2.65M worth of salary.

Brosius came out of the gate hitless on Opening Day, but before you knew it he had six multi-hit games in the team’s first 18 contests, driving in a dozen runs from the eighth and ninth spots in the order. And he just kept hitting. A .396/.466/.593 effort in May pushed his season line to .333/.401/.462, and from June 1st on he produced a .284/.357/.476 batting line. Brosius was an RBI machine, hitting .373/.444/.588 with runners in scoring position and driving in 98 runs from the bottom third of the order. He was an All-Star and a force in the postseason, hitting .383/.400/.660 in 13 October games. He hit two homeruns in Game Three of the World Series, the second with one out in the eighth inning against Trevor Hoffman that turned a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 lead.

The Yankees rewarded Brosius with a three-year contract worth over $15M after the season. The problem is that he never performed up to his 1998 level again. Brosius hit .247/.307/.414 in 1999, losing more than 120 OPS points off his previous year. His trademark clutchiness evaporated (.282/.326/.462 with RISP), and although the Yankees again won the World Series, it was no thanks to Brosius. He hit .250/.267/.477 in a dozen postseason games. Things got even worse in 2000, when Brosius hit .230/.299/.374 in the regular season, .237/.315/.427 with RISP, and .229/.304/.313 in 16 playoff games.

(Photo Credit: NY Daily News)

The 2001 season was the last on Brosius’ contract and ultimately the final one of his career. He had a nice little dead cat bounce during the regular season, hitting .287/.343/.446 even though he was limited to just 120 games. His playoff performance was awful, hilariously awful when you look back at it (.140/.155/.263 in 17 games), but the moment that pretty much defines Scott Brosius’ Yankee career came in Game Five of the World Series. The series was tied at two but the Yankees were down 2-0 in the ninth inning after getting manhandled by Miguel Batista of all people. Jorge Posada led off the ninth with a double, but Shane Spencer grounded out and Chuck Knoblauch struck out to bring Brosius to the plate with two outs. Byung-Hyung Kim’s slider hung, Brosius’ left arm went up. His two-run homer tied the game, the second straight night the Yankees rallied from down two in the ninth against Kim.

I’m sure Brosius and many others will say they remember him for the homer off Hoffman since the Yankees actually won that World Series, but it’s 2001 for me. The city was still reeling from the September 11th attacks, emotions were high, it seemed like an impossible situation … I’m never ever ever going to forget that. All told, the Yankees won four pennants and three World Titles with Brosius as their starting third baseman, during which time he hit .267/.331/.428 with 76 homers, the two most memorable of which came on baseball’s biggest stage.

As for Rogers, the Athletics got a 3.17 ERA and 3.95 FIP out of him in 1998, then kept him around for half of 1999 before flipping him to the Mets for Terrence Long and a minor leaguer. In terms of bWAR, Oakland acquired 8.6 wins worth of Rogers from the Yankees for what turned out to be 5.7 bWAR worth of Brosius. Since the Yankees re-signed him as a free agent after 1998, we can’t really count that 1999-2001 production as part of the trade, but who cares? The Yankees won this trade in every way imaginable but bWAR, and they’d do it again a million times out of a million.

Defining Teixeira’s issues at the plate

(From Flickr user EDorf81 via Creative Commons)

Yesterday Mike examined a sad development for the Yankees. Mark Teixeira, whose offensive prowess led the Yankees to the AL East crown in 2009, has slipped considerably in the last two seasons. After a slow start, even for him, he picked up the pace, only to be slowed by injuries. Yet this year, when he’s been ostensibly healthy, he’s producing similar numbers. Of particular concern is his pitiful batting average, which affects his OBP, which in turn hurts his overall value. It’s not a stretch to say that the Yankees expected more when they signed him.

We all have our theories on why Teixeira is performing so poorly. In the comments of Mike’s post we saw a huge array of them, ranging from poor mechanics to his pull tendencies, and even to downright bad luck. It’s hard to say which of these has the most merit, since many of the theories are based on anecdotal evidence or sloppy statistical assumptions (i.e., low BABIPs will always due to bad luck and will always rise). But we can dig a bit deeper to see what has changed since Teixeira’s mammoth 2009 season.

A quick glance at Teixeira’s FanGraphs page can lead to some answers, but it’s important to put those numbers into context. What stood out to me, and what probably stands out to you, is that he’s swinging at way more balls out of the zone. In 2009 that was 21.8 percent, which is right around the level he had been at previously. In 2010 that jumped to 26.5 percent, and this year it’s 25.6 percent. OK, you might say, that explains a lot. Yet it doesn’t. If you click Show Averages, you’ll see that the average rate of swinging outside the zone jumped in 2010. Look to your right, and you’ll see that the league-wide percentage of pitches thrown in the zone has fallen, implying that the zone has become a bit smaller. In order to gauge how Teixeira has reacted we have to compare his rates to the league average.

In 2009 Tex’s rate of swinging at pitches outside the zone was 15 percent below the league average (21.8 percent to 25.1 percent). In 2010 his rate climbed, but so did the league average. He finished swinging at 26.5 percent of pitches, which was 11 percent below league average. This year he’s swinging at 25.6 percent of pitches, which is 17 percent below league average. So while he did swing at relatively more pitches out of the zone last year, he’s at a better pace this year when compared to the league. In fact, his 25.6 percent rate is 34th lowest in the majors, out of 152 qualified hitters. While it might be frustrating to watch him swing over changeups, it doesn’t seem to be an issue.

One thing that has changed is that he’s making contact with fewer of these out of zone pitches. Again, we need to adjust for league average when looking at his numbers — and I’ll spare you the specific calculations — but in 2009 he had a contact rate on pitches out of the zone that was well above league average. Last year he was closer to league average, and this year he’s almost right at it. In other words, he’s swinging and missing more, which is reflected in his 7.2 percent swinging strike rate. That’s about a half point worse than his rates from 2008 through 2010. Predictably, his contact rate, especially his contact rate on pitches inside the zone, has dropped considerably.

This has all added up to an all-or-nothing season for Tex. He’s still hitting for plenty of power, as 47 percent of his hits have gone for extra bases (7th highest rate in the AL). His ISO this year is actually better this year, compared to the league average, than it was in 2009, and it is fifth highest in the AL. It’s the singles, and to an extent the doubles, that haven’t come along at an adequate pace. His .221 BABIP ranks 77th out of 78 in the AL, besting only Alex Rios, who is just plain bad. If he had a league-average BABIP, which he had in 2009, he would be hitting far closer to .280, and his OBP would be up near .400. Yet the hits, for whatever reason, haven’t dunked in, and what’s left is a low-average, high power player.

The shift does have something to do with Teixeira’s woes. This year he has 108 at-bats in which he batted lefty and hit the ball to right. In such instances he has hit .324, which might at first seem to negate the idea of the switch causing a problem. Alas, his average does count his home runs, and he has hit 17 of his 25 home runs from the left side to right field. His BABIP as a lefty going to right is .198; in 2009 it was .311. He’s also seen his BABIP as a righty going to left drop from .343 in 2009 to .293 this year, and has seen an even bigger drop in his BABIP as a righty going up the middle, from .315 to .233. While there could be other explanations at play, defensive positioning could certainly play a large role in his overall BABIP drop.

What complicates this analysis is Teixeira’s current slump. After his two-homer game against Texas in mid-June he was hitting .257, which, while not great, is at least do-able. Since then he’s hit .198/.274/.349 in 117 PA, with just four homers and four doubles, and a walk rate that is below his season average. It’s a slump of the first order, and it’s wreaking havoc on his season numbers. It’s gotten even worse lately, as he is just 12 for 55 with two doubles and no homers in July, and 4 for 23 with one walk and no extra base hits since the break. He’s surely not this bad, but when the hits aren’t dropping in anyway, slumps like this hurt that much more.

While the slump does loom large, it does appear that opponents have figured out where to play Teixeira for maximum effectiveness. He’s become predictable, that is, and it shows in his batting average — and, therefore, his OBP. He’s still crushing baseballs as he has in the past, perhaps even hitting some homers where he previously hit doubles. But the singles are not dropping in, and they probably won’t start dropping in until he changes something at the plate. The question is of what he can do to solve the problem. For Teixeira, a nine-year veteran, there doesn’t appear to be an easy answer.

Ninety-three games in, a myth busted

(click for larger)

Early on in the season, the Yankees were hitting homeruns like they were going out of style. Mark Teixeira was putting his April slump to rest with homer after homer, Curtis Granderson was smacking everything out of the park, 2007 Alex Rodriguez made a one-month cameo, and even Russell Martin was getting in the fun. “The Yankees are too reliant on the homerun!” was the popular chorus at the time, and every game we’d hear about how X% of their runs came via the homer. It was an ungodly number at the time, something like 60%, which is a little nuts.

But the season continued and, as expected, the Yankees’ offense started to normalize a bit. They were still hitting more homers than everyone else (they lead MLB with 125 dingers) but they weren’t coming with the same frequency as they had early in the season. Amazingly enough, they were still scoring a plethora of runs. Weird, I know. At 5.15 runs per game, they’re second behind the Red Sox (5.46) in overall scoring. No other team is over 5.0 and no other team is within two-tenths of a run per game of New York.

The graph above shows us two things to help visualize the offense. The blue line is the team’s plate appearances per homerun throughout the season, the axis on the left. They were sitting right around 20 PA/HR through the first 20 games or so, but it’s gradually risen and right now they’re at 28.8 PA/HR. That’s the best in baseball, as you’d imagine. Texas is in second at 31.1 PA/HR. The pink line is the team’s runs per game, the axis on the right. That stabilized about a month into the season and has hovered at just over five runs per game since early-May. The homers aren’t coming as often, but the runs are still being scored at the same pace.

The Yankees haven’t hit a homerun in four games now, not since Andruw Jones whacked a pair in Toronto late last week. In fact, the only two players to hit a homerun since A-Rod hit the disabled list are Jones and Derek Jeter. Go figure. The Yankees are 3-1 in those homerless games and since the 42nd game of the season (the first time they jumped over 25.0 PA/HR), they’re 33-18. That’s a .647 winning percentage, a 105-win pace over a full season. The Yankees offense isn’t reliant on the homerun, they’ve been scoring plenty of runs without them for two and a half  months now because Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher and pretty much everyone else is getting on base at a better than league-average rate. The “too many homers” fad was just that, a fad.