Murphy helps Tampa walk-off with win

Triple-A Empire State (4-2 loss to Rochester)
LF Kevin Russo: 1-4, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 CS
SS-3B Ramiro Pena: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K
1B Steve Pearce & DH Jack Cust: both 1-5 — Pearce doubled and struck out … Cust struck out twice
C Frankie Cervelli: 3-5, 1 R, 1 K — musta felt the pressure after seeing what Chris Stewart did tonight
RF Colin Curtis: 0-4, 1 BB, 2 K
3B Brandon Laird: 0-2 — left the game after flying out in the fourth … Yadil Mujica replaced him and walked in two plate appearances
CF Ray Kruml: 1-4, 1 RBI, 1 SB
2B Doug Bernier: 1-2, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 BB
LHP Mike O’Connor: 3.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 1 Balk, 3/5 GB/FB, 1 E (fielding) — 28 of 51 pitches were strikes (54.9%) … got the spot start in place of Manny Banuelos, who’s on the DL with a sore back
RHP Chase Whitley: 2.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1/3 GB/FB — 36 of 51 pitches were strikes (70.6%)
LHP Juan Cedeno: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 17 of 29 pitches were strikes (58.6%)
RHP Jason Bulger: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 2/1 GB/FB — eight of 13 pitches were strikes (61.5%)

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Game 11: Restoring Order

(REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

The Twins beat the Yankees in the Bronx in a regular season game for just the sixth time since 2002 last night, doing so with Carl Pavano of all people on the mound. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but the best part of baseball is that they play everyday. Both teams are right back at Yankee Stadium tonight and the Yankees have a chance to restore order and beat the Twins like they’ve done so many times before. Here’s the starting nine…

DH Derek Jeter
1B Nick SwisherMark Teixeira is out with flu-like symptoms
2B Robinson Cano
3B Alex Rodriguez
RF Andruw Jones
CF Curtis Granderson
SS Eduardo Nunez
LF Brett Gardner
C  Chris Stewart

LHP CC Sabathia

Tonight’s game start a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Update: Yanks to make decision after Pineda’s next bullpen session

Tuesday, 5:30pm: Via Carig, the Yankees will decide whether or not Pineda is ready for a game after his next bullpen session in a few days. If all goes well, I suppose there’s a chance we could see him in a minor league game before the end of the weekend.

Monday, 10:32pm: Via Carig, Joe Girardi said after tonight’s game that Pineda will throw another bullpen session in two or three days. I wonder if they’ll let him get in a minor league game after that. I suppose it depends on how things go in a few days.

Monday, 8:30pm: Via Mark Carig, Brian Cashman confirmed that Michael Pineda threw a 26-pitch bullpen session earlier today and that everything was “all good.” I can only assume that means he didn’t have any sort of issue with the right shoulder tendinitis that currently has him on the DL. It was originally reported that Pineda would throw the bullpen session tomorrow, but I guess he felt good enough that they bumped him up a day. Either day or someone got their days confused. Either way … I’m rambling.

Derek Jeter Facts

Touch em all, Derek, it's your time to shine. (Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Father Time caught up with Derek Jeter years ago, but didn’t have the heart to tell him.

We could spend all day coming up with Derek Jeter facts, and I’m sure we’d have a ball doing so. You know what’s more fun, though? Ticking off actual Derek Jeter facts — things he’s done in the first 10 games of the season and how they stack up to his personal history and the league. For instance:

Derek Jeter hit his third home run of the season last night. It took him 29 games to hit his first home run last year (and his second), and he had played in 67 games before hitting his third.

Only 10 players this season have hit more home runs than Derek Jeter. Last year 235 players hit more home runs than Derek Jeter, including Brett Gardner.

Derek Jeter has more hits than any other player in the American League.

It took Derek Jeter 18 games to reach 17 hits last year. This year he’s done it in just 10.

Of the 42 balls Jeter has put in play this year, 17 have been in the air, or 41 percent. He hasn’t put more than 40 percent of his balls in play in the air since 2009.

Jeter’s 33.3% HR/FB ratio won’t regress.*

*Not an actual fact.

Derek Jeter has not popped up a pitch to an infielder this year.

A newfound spring in his step has enabled Jeter to beat out two infield singles so far.

Think this is wholly unsustainable? Derek Jeter’s current BABIP of .359 is just four points more than his career BABIP, and is nine points lower than his 2009 BABIP.

While he’s swinging at the same percentage of pitches as he did last year and in 2010, he’s missing far less often: just 5.3 percent, compared to 6.9 percent in 2011 and 6.7 percent in 2010.

Derek Jeter has already produced 5.2 runs above average at the plate. He produce d7.6 runs above average last year. After park adjustments, Jeter has produced 5.0 runs above average this year, after producing 5.5 last year.

In an up-and-down start to the season, Jeter has provided quite the bright spot for the Yankees. What makes his hot start even better is that it continues the surge that started when he returned from the DL last year. Since then he has 357 PA and has hit .337/.387/.477. While there’s a good chance he’ll slow down at some point this year — he will turn 38 in June, after all — his hot start has renewed faith in his continued ability to remain effective at a time when most shortstops have packed it up and called it a career. We might not see these Derek Jeter facts all season, so let’s enjoy them while they’re fresh.

Robinson Cano’s Slow Start

(Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Curtis Granderson had the better offensive season in 2011, but Robinson Cano has established himself as the Yankees’ best all-around player over the last two or three years. He’s hit for average, hit for power, played solid defense, and has remained on the field. Cano’s basically done everything a team could ask its best player to do. Ten games into this season, things has been a bit different however.

Cano, who turns 30 in October, is sitting on a .244/.340/.341 batting line (.313 wOBA) through 47 plate appearances at the moment. He has played every inning of every game so far, and seven of his ten hits have come in just three games. He had a three-hit game against the Orioles last week, and two-hit games against both the Rays and Angels. Cano’s four hitless games this April already exceeds his total from last April (three). He hasn’t hit a homer yet either, and when you look at his batted ball profile, it’s no wonder why…

For whatever reason, Robbie’s been beating the ball into the ground in the early going (57.9 GB%). All four of Cano’s doubles have been rockets down the line, not shots into the gap like we’re used to seeing. That line drive stroke* we’ve become so accustomed to just isn’t quite there yet.

* The batted ball date from Baseball Info Solutions isn’t perfect, especially when it comes to differentiating between line drives and fly balls.

One thing Cano has done very well in the early going is walk, which isn’t exactly his forte. Robinson has drawn six unintentional walks already this season, something that took him 174 plate appearances to accomplish last season. He also isn’t striking out, with just three whiffs in the ten games so far. Cano’s always been a low strikeout guy because he puts the ball in play so easily, but even his currently rate is amazingly low. He’s seen an average of 3.51 pitches per plate appearance this season, the most of his career but not exactly an astronomical number. Maybe pitchers are pitching around him a bit more, who knows. It’s too early to say.

A slow start ten games into the season is hardly anything to be concerned about. Cano hit .189/.250/.324 during a ten-game stretch last May and no one said a thing because we barely noticed. These things happen during the course of the summer, but because it’s happening at the start of the season, it stands out a little bit more. With Robbie, it stands out even more because he’s such a great hitter and also because he’s come out of the gate on fire in each of the last two seasons — .417 wOBA last April and .497 in April 2010. At some point, hopefully soon, Cano will get back to being the hitter he’s been over the last two years and we’ll hardly remember this little season-opening hiccup.

The Teixeira Analysis: Left-Handed Production

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

We started our little mini-series looking at Mark Teixeira‘s declining offense yesterday by first acknowledging that as a right-handed batter, the guy is still an elite hitter. He hasn’t shown any signs of decline from that side of the plate, and in fact he’s been able to increase his homer output with sacrificing his batting average, walk rate, or strikeout rate in recent years. The decline has been limited to his left-handed swing exclusively.

First things first, let’s take a look at Teixeira’s offensive performance as a left-handed batter over the last five seasons…

2007 0.284 0.284 0.397 12.8% 19.6% 9.3% 0.302
2008 0.311 0.277 0.417 12.9% 14.7% 8.2% 0.314
2009 0.282 0.296 0.402 11.2% 17.6% 8.6% 0.290
2010 0.244 0.213 0.350 11.3% 18.3% 6.9% 0.255
2011 0.224 0.229 0.339 11.6% 18.3% 7.6% 0.222

Just as a reminder, HR/CON is homers per plate appearances with contact. That’s the best way to measure over-the-fence power. Anyway, there’s quite a bit going on here, so let’s take it piece by piece…

Walk & Strikeout Rates

Let’s do the easiest stuff first. There’s no issue here; Teixeira’s walk and strikeout rates as a left-handed batter have barely changed over the years. His walk rate is much better than the league average while his strikeout rate is right there at the average. Given his power production, Teixeira really doesn’t get enough credit for striking out as infrequently as he does. Most 30+ homer guys whiff in 20+% of their plate appearances. So like I said, no problem here. Tex’s ability to control the strike zone has not changed over the last few years.

Power Production

This one’s kinda weird. The HR/CON rates indicates a very slight decline in over-the-fence power but nothing outrageous. A 6.9% HR/CON rate, which represents Teixeira’s worst year in our admittedly arbitrary five-year sample, was still well above the 3.4% league average that year. We’re talking about a guy that hits the ball out of the park at approximately double the league average rate when he makes contact. That’s impressive.

On the other hand, Teixeira’s year-by-year ISO indicates a significant decline in his over power numbers. That decline is relatively speaking of course, because a .213 ISO — his 2010 rate — is still really good. Tex has just gone from an elite power hitter (.270+ ISO) in 2007-2009 to just a really really good one (<.230 ISO) in 2010-2011. The HR/CON and ISO rates seem to be telling us two different things, that Teixeira is both hitting for less and the same amount of power simultaneously, but they’re not. It’s explained in the next section.

Batting Average & BABIP

As you probably knew coming into this post/series, this is where the problem lies. Teixeira has acknowledged that he’s altered his left-handed swing in an effort to take advantage of the short right field porch in Yankee Stadium, and that pull happy approach has led to a decline in his total number of base hits. That explains the contradicting HR/CON and ISO; Teixeira is still hitting homers at (approximately) the same rate as past years but he’s hitting fewer doubles as a result of his pull happiness, hence the declining ISO but relatively static HR/CON.

A lot of times a BABIP — and subsequently, batting average — drop is lazily written off as a fluke, but in Teixeira’s case we have tangible evidence supporting the decline. Being a pull-hitter is not automatically a bad thing, but in this case it has sapped his ability to get a simple base knock.

* * *

It’s easy to forget that Teixeira was still above-average as a left-handed batter last season, roughly 10% better than league average. That’s good but not great, and not what we’re used to seeing or expecting out of him. Given the lack of change in his walk, strikeout, and homerun power rates over the last few years, it’s safe the say the guy hasn’t just forgotten how to hit or hit the point where age is taking its toll. He’s gotten into some bad habits that are robbing him of base hits, dragging down his batting average and overall performance as a lefty. Tomorrow we’re going to look at Teixeira’s batted balls from the left side of the plate, so get ready to talk about the shift. That is not the only problem, however.

Resting Russell Martin

(Nick Laham/Getty Images)

The season is a mere ten games old, and aside from generally underwhelming starting pitching performances (sans Hiroki Kuroda, of course), all ten games have one thing in common: Russell Martin has been behind the plate. Well, that’s cheating a bit. He did not start the third game of the Rays series, but he did catch the final two innings after Chris Stewart was lifted for a pinch-hitter. Martin has started six straight games behind the plate, including four games in the last four days.

Coming into the season, it appeared as though one the team’s goals was to reduce the workload on their starting backstop. Martin started last season like a mad man, hitting .255/.356/.510 in the team’s first 36 games before slumping to .192/.298/.285 in the next 52 games. The All-Star break seemed to rejuvenate Russ — .288/.348/.517 in the next 40 games — before he had to drag himself across the finish line — .209/.284/.299 in the final 32 games, not counting playoffs. Yes, though endpoints are arbitrary, but anecdotally it did appeared that Martin’s best offensive performances came when he was rested.

Perhaps part of the reason why the Yankees haven’t given Martin much rest so far is because they lack a quality backup. That’s somewhat self-inflicted, since Frankie Cervelli is one of the better backup catchers in the game — at least offensively — and he’s toiling in Triple-A. Frankie was pushed out in a numbers game after Stewart was acquired in the wake of Austin Romine‘s latest back problem. He had minor league options, Stewart did not. It’s as simple as that. Stewart is a defense-first guy who absolutely can’t hit, and maybe Joe Girardi doesn’t want to stick a total zero into the lineup when the rest of the offense has been inconsistent so far. I dunno, just a cracked theory.

Martin’s batting line early on this year is quite hilarious: .160/.417/.160 though the ten games. His nine walks not only lead the Yankees, they lead the entire American League. Martin has also been beating the ball into the ground this month, going into yesterday’s game with a 75% ground ball rate and only adding to it with an 0-for-3, two strikeout, one ground ball performance. If Girardi doesn’t want to play Stewart because of his offense, then he shouldn’t be on the roster. Giving Martin some more time off this season — especially in the first half — should be a major item on the Yankees’ agenda.