Game Six: For The Sweep

Adam Jones sees you getting arrested. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The Yankees have already (and unfortunately) experienced getting swept this season, and now it’s time to turn the tables and do the sweeping. Last night’s extra-innings win was anything but routine, and it really took a toll on the bullpen. CC Sabathia is going to have to soak up some innings tonight, preferably nine or so. Here’s the lineup…

SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
2B Robinson Cano
3B Alex Rodriguez
1B Mark Teixeira
RF Nick Swisher
DH Raul Ibanez
Russell Martin
LF Brett Gardner

LHP CC Sabathia

Tonight’s game starts a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Update (7:05pm ET): The first rain delay of the year! It doesn’t appear that it will be a lengthy delay, so the tarp might not be on the field all that long.

Update (7:14pm): The tarp is already coming off the field, so we’ll have baseball soon.

Posada set to make ceremonial stadium visit

When the Yankees return home on Friday to open the Bronx-based part of the 2012 season, they’ll bring with them a familiar face. The newly-retired Jorge Posada will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the game. Posada, you may recall, was a part of five World Series teams, played in five All Star Games and has a strong case for a spot on a wall in Cooperstown. Depending upon how generous the Yanks are with uniform numbers, his could earn a spot in Monument Park as well.

The club also announced today that a star of the Broadway musical Newsies will sing the national anthem while a star of Jesus Christ Superstar will perform “God Bless America” in the seventh inning. I guess those Nederlander ties still run deep. The pre-game festivities will start at 12:40 so plan accordingly if you’re one of the lucky ones who gets to attend Opening Day in the House that George Built.

No speed in the early going

Nothing on bases, so far. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The Yankees have scored at least five runs in four of their five games, including six runs in two of their three losses. The one exception was a shutout. Despite the complete lack of hitting with runners in scoring position — .189/.333/.321 in 70 PA — the Yankees have still scored the seventh most runs in baseball. They’ve hit four homers and roughly a billion balls to the warning track, and more than a few of those will leave the yard once the weather starts to warm up.

The other element of the offense, the speed element, really hasn’t been on display just yet. The Yankees stole the fourth most bases in baseball last year but only have three in the early going. One of those three was Raul Ibanez after he took off in a full count last night, and that’s an anomaly. Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez have the other two steals. Baseball Reference says the Yankees have run in just four of their 89 stolen base chances this year (4.5%), roughly half of last year’s rate.

We’re only five games into the season, so it’s hard to get worked up over the lack of running. In fact, I’m willing to bet that a very big part of the lack of stolen base attempts has to do with the opposition. Jose Molina and Matt Wieters are two of the three best catchers in baseball when it comes to throwing out base runners, and the Yankees have yet to play anyone other than the Rays and Orioles. Another factor in the whole lack of speed thing has been Gardner’s playing time. He’s only started three of the five games because of the platoon situation, so more of him will result in more steals.

The Yankees aren’t a club that relies on the stolen base, so the lack of speed has hardly been noticed so far. The offense still isn’t clicking on all cylinders — either with the bat or the legs — and it’s tough to watch at times despite the consistent run scoring (minus the shutout). A little more Gardner and a little more Eduardo Nunez will get the running game in gear and open things up for the bats. This early in the season, the lack of speed is hardly a concern.

RISP woes be gone

In the first five games of the 2012 season we’ve seen two things in abundance. First, we’ve seen rough starting pitching performances. But that’s just one turn through the rotation, so it’s a non-issue at the moment. The other is failure with runners in scoring position. The Yankees have been in 70 such situations, and have scored just 20 runs. That’s not encouraging, even early in the season.

The Yankees have faced more situations with men in scoring position than any other team, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. In one way it certainly is; they’re giving themselves plenty of opportunities. But one of the reasons they have so many opportunities is exactly because they fail to cash in those opportunities. After all, if they single with a man on second, the following PA does not come with a man in scoring position. If the batter at the plate is retired and there are fewer than two outs, however, the next PA does come with a man in scoring position. That is to say that this is a two-way street.

What I find most odd about the Yankees’ RISP woes this season is that the process seems to be there. They’re getting on base plenty — their .357 team OBP ranks third in the AL — so they’re setting themselves up to score a ton of runs. Even further, they’re putting together good at-bats when they do have RISP situations. It might not seem like that, since they’re failing so often. But they’re seeing a lot of pitches and working deep counts. Here’s how many pitches per PA they’ve seen in RISP situations in each game.

Note: these are hand calculated.

4/6: 4.29
4/7: 4.22
4/8: 3.86
4/9: 3.86
4/10: 3.76

This is against their team average of 3.95 P/PA, so it’s pretty close overall. At the same time, they’ve seen some success when swinging early in the count. With runners in scoring position they’ve put the first pitch in play nine times. Five of those have resulted in RBI. It’s a bit frustrating, sure, when both Jeter and Swisher put the first pitch in play and kill a perfectly good rally. But overall they’ve had some success doing that. In the PA where they didn’t drive home runs, they’re seeing 4.29 pitches per PA, or a third of a pitch more per PA than their season average.

The process, then, seems to be there. It’s just a matter of time before they start to come through in these situations. It’s frustrating for sure. No one wants to sit through these opportunities and see them score no runs. Soon enough, though, we should see plenty of activity when there are ducks on the pond. Remember, even though they were somewhat frustrating last year their BA with RISP in 2011 ranked 5th in the AL, and their OPS ranked first. The hits will drop.

One turn through the rotation

(REUTERS/Patrick Smith)

Starting pitching was supposed to be a strength after this offseason’s moves, or at least starting pitching depth was supposed to be a strength. The season is just five games old — 3.1% of the 162-game schedule — but the first turn through the rotation hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. Ivan Nova was the only starter to turn in a respectable outing, holding the Orioles to two runs over seven innings despite allowing ten hits. Here’s what the rotation has done overall…

28 IP, 35 H, 19 R, 16 ER, 12 BB, 24 K, 6 HR, 37.5 GB%

That all adds up to a 5.14 ERA (and a 5.14 FIP!), and I suppose the good news is that the performance can only improve from here. The Yankees starters simply have to be better, and not just for the sake of the team. CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda are safe, but Michael Pineda and Andy Pettitte are on the way. Jobs are on the line and if the guys currently in the rotation don’t step up their game, they’re going to wind up in the bullpen or Triple-A. I guess that’s where all the pitching depth comes in handy.

The Yankees need Sabathia to pitch well tonight just to save the bullpen, but I’m sure they would also like their ace to turn in a gem and set an  example for the rest of the staff. Five games is in no way indicative of what’s to come in the next 157 games, but right now the only part of the roster that seems to be clicking is the bullpen. The offense will surely get going in due time, but the starting rotation needs to get its act together pretty soon.

The State of the Bullpen

Would be cool if he could get through an inning with fewer than 25 pitches once in a while. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Freddy Garcia did not make out it out of the fifth inning last night, so the bullpen carried a heavy load before the Yankees finally won the game in twelve innings. Both Mariano Rivera and David Robertson have appeared in each of the last two games, and you know Joe Girardi doesn’t want to push them early in the season. Rafael Soriano is also dealing with a torn fingernail, so his availability for tonight’s game is unknown. With the end-game trio potentially sidelined, the bullpen is in pretty rough shape at the moment.

To make matters worse, Cory Wade and David Phelps are probably unavailable after throwing 42 and 31 pitches last night, respectively. That leaves Boone Logan and Clay Rapada as the only guys that are definitely available tonight; they threw a combined 14 pitches in last night’s win. Thankfully the Yankees will have CC Sabathia on the mound and he’s always good for innings. Even a bad Sabathia start usually lasts six or seven innings, the guy is a horse. As great as he is, there’s a good chance the Yankees will call up an arm to shore things up this afternoon.

The good news is that Triple-A Empire State had their game suspended due to rain last night, so the entire bullpen got a day of rest. Adam Warren and D.J. Mitchell are both non-options after throwing 82 pitches on Monday and 61 pitches on Sunday, respectively. Maybe Mitchell is an option, but I would doubt it. That leaves Dellin Betances — 81 pitches last Friday — as the only real long relief candidate assuming they don’t want to add Manny Banuelos to the 40-man roster. Betances is scheduled to start for Triple-A tonight but could give the big league team 80+ pitches out of the bullpen if needed.

As for short relievers, the side-arming Cody Eppley is on the 40-man roster and last pitched on Monday (13 pitches). He should be good to go. Right-hander Manny Delcarmen (35 pitches on Sunday) should also be available, but he’s not on the 40-man. Lefties Mike O’Connor and/or Juan Cedeno don’t make sense with Logan and Rapada presumably available. The Yankees could easily clear a 40-man spot for Delcarmen by sliding Joba Chamberlain or Cesar Cabral on the 60-day DL if they wanted. I think Eppley is more likely, but that’s just me.

It’s not fair given how well he’s pitched, but Phelps is the obvious choice to go down should the Yankees decide to add an arm for tonight. They could send him down, call up Eppley for the night, then send down Eppley either Thursday (off-day) or Friday in favor of D.J. Mitchell. Mitchell takes over as long-man for the time being while Phelps steps into his Triple-A rotation spot. Remember, Phelps can’t come back up right away because of the ten-day rule. He’d be back eventually though, don’t worry.

The Yankees do have tomorrow off, so they could decide to roll the dice with the bullpen as is and hope for the best out of Sabathia. I wouldn’t recommend it, but the “do nothing” option always exists. George Kontos would have been the perfect guy to reinforce the bullpen today, but the Yankees will have to go with someone else instead. My money is on Eppley since this figures to be a short-term, one-game thing.

Side Note: Good chance to plug our new Bullpen Workload page if you missed the announcement over the weekend. It’s available via the Resources tab at all times.

Yanks come back for extra innings win over O’s

Was it a textbook win? Absolutely not. Does it still count as a win? Hell yes. Sometimes you have to win ugly games, and that’s exactly what the Yankees did Tuesday night against the Orioles.

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Welcome To The Bigs, Rook

Wei-Yin Chen is technically a rookie, but he spent seven years pitching in the Japanese league before coming stateside this past winter. His first three pitches in MLB were balls, and the fifth was hit out of the park by Derek Jeter for a leadoff homer. The Cap’n has led off four of his team’s five games this season with a hit, this being the first dinger. One batter later, Nick Swisher doubled off the wall. One batter after that, Robinson Cano flew out to deep center. Then he hit Alex Rodriguez with an 0-2 pitch. Chen would escape the inning without giving up any more runs, but it sure looked like the kid was going to have a long night. And then …

Sweaty Freddy

(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

I could have sworn the Yankees traded A.J. Burnett back in January, but it sure looked like that was him on the mound in a Freddy Garcia costume on Tuesday. You could tell right away that Sweaty Freddy was off because he was very wild, leaving stuff up in the zone or yanking his splitter out of the strike zone. He ran the count full on the first four hitters and five of the first six hitters he faced, and he allowed three (!) runs to score on wild pitches. Garcia threw five (!!!) wild pitches, one more than all of last season and the first five wild pitch game since Ken Howell of the Phillies on April 5th, 1989. That was Joe Girardi‘s second career game. Yeah, it’s been a while.

All told, Freddy threw just 52 strikes out of his 98 pitches, allowing three walks and hitting another guy with a pitch. The Orioles had men on base seemingly the entire time he was on the mound, and for whatever reason, Girardi decided to leave him in with a man on third and two outs in the fourth even though Nick Markakis was asking to be LOOGY’d. Garcia was left in to plunk Markakis and allow the runner to score on a wild pitch. It was quite dumbfounding. Baltimore jumped out to a 4-1 lead on the play, meanwhile…

Shut Down

A-Rod got hit by that pitch in the first and was the last Yankee to reach base until Russell Martin singled with one out in the fifth, ending a span of twelve straight retired by Chen. The southpaw pitched out of that jam, but he wasn’t so luck in the sixth. Three of the first four Yankees to bat in the inning reached base, and the first run came around to score on an Andruw Jones sacrifice fly. Buck Showalter left Chen in, and he should have escaped the inning had Mark Reynolds not butchered Martin’s ground ball. A run scored on the play, and then Brett Gardner singled in the tying tun one batter later.

Showalter left his young pitcher out to dry, costing him a shot at his first big league win in an effort to … what? Steal one more out? I don’t really get it, but who cares, it was to the Yankees benefit. Through six full innings, the Yankees and Orioles were all knotted up at four.

Blown Opportunity

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

With Chen out of the game, the Yankees had a chance to take the lead in the seventh. Matt Lindstrom plunked Swisher with a pitch to open the frame, but he was thrown out at the plate on Cano’s double. I actually didn’t have a problem with the send, the ball went into the left field corner and it took a perfect relay from J.J. Hardy to get the bang-bang play at the plate. I can understand holding the runner with no outs, but I am all for the aggressiveness since another runner was sitting in scoring position. It didn’t work out, that’s life.

The Bullpen Show

As I said the other day, I hope David Phelps goes into the Hall of Fame as a Yankee. Dude was throwing darts in his 2.1 IP of work, strikeout out four batters, all looking. He has yet to allow a baserunner this year — granted, it’s just three innings — and has been very impressive. I thought he was lifted too early — and in hindsight he obviously was — but hey, it was the eighth inning and gosh darn it, that’s David Robertson‘s inning.

D-Rob threw a scoreless eighth, and Boone Logan allowed a dinky little ground ball single to Nolan Reimold before Cory Wade bailed him out. He pitched out of a bases loaded situation in the ninth before striking out the side in the tenth. Clay Rapada chipped in to get them through the eleventh, even striking out a right-handed hitter. They can’t all be 1-2-3 innings, but these fellas did the job. Their combined line: 6.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 K.

RBI machine. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Raul Ibanez, True Yankee™

My favorite part of Spring Training is when we all look back at it and laugh. Ibanez was atrocious all throughout March, and yet there he was delivering the game-winning hit against the Orioles on Tuesday. Now don’t get me wrong, he could still be terrible this season, in fact the odds are in favor of it, but he got the job done tonight.

The rally all started with Cano, who doubled off the third baseman’s glove and moved over to third on A-Rod’s ground out. After Teixeira’s chopper to second made it two outs with the man still on third, the Orioles intentionally walked Granderson to get to Ibanez but did not intentionally walk Ibanez to get to the noodle bat of Chris Stewart. Pedro Strop was throwing serious cheddar, but he hung a slider in a two-strike count and Ibanez doubled over Markakis’ head in right to give the Yankees the lead in the 12th. If game-winning extra-inning hits against the Orioles in April don’t make you a True Yankee™, nothing does.


(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Mariano Rivera blew the save in a one-run game on Opening Day, but he slammed the door with no issues in this one. Endy Chavez and Markakis strikeouts book-ended a Hardy fly ball. Pretty routine, business as usual for the Sandman.

Prior to Ibanez’s double, the Yankees were 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position. The Orioles were 0-for-8, if that makes you feel any better. So far, this season, the Yankees are just 9-for-51 (.176) with men on second and/or third. That’s going to correct at some point, and it will be glorious.

It was one stupid start, but Garcia is going to have to pitch better going forward. The strike zone was quite large in this one and he still couldn’t take advantage. Michael Pineda and Andy Pettitte are coming back before long, and he’s the obvious candidate to get lifted from the rotation.

Jeter’s leadoff homer was the 24th of his career, moving him passed Rickey Henderson for the sole possession of the franchise record. Rickey spent five years in the Bronx. Rickey was good.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the other nerdy stuff, and ESPN the updated standings.

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

The Yankees will look to complete the sweep on Wednesday night, when CC Sabathia gives it a go against Jake Arrieta. They’re going to need some innings from the big man.