Monday Night Open Thread

(REUTERS/Adam Hunger)

Only two more West Coast night games left, so hooray for that. Here is your open thread for the night. The Mets are playing the Nationals (Young vs. Zimmermann) plus ESPN will show the Red Sox at the Rangers (Doubront vs. Feldman) as well. Feel free to talk about those games, the NY Rangers trading for Rick Nash, or anything else you want here until the regular game thread comes along. Have at it.

Yankees designate Dewayne Wise for assignment

The Yankees have designated Dewayne Wise for assignment to create room on the 25-man and 40-man rosters for the recently acquired Ichiro Suzuki. Wise had a solid run as the fifth outfielder — 123 wRC+ in 63 plate appearances — but will be forever remembered for turning the season around with his fifth inning bunt against the Royals on May 22nd. The Yankees were 21-21 at the time and have gone 36-17 since. So long, Dewayne. You done good.

Yankees acquire Ichiro Suzuki

(Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Outfield help was just one item on the trade deadline agenda this year, and oh boy did the Yankees address that need. Jack Curry reports that they have acquired Ichiro from the Mariners for right-handers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. Joel Sherman says New York will be on the hook for just $2.25M of the remainder of his $17M salary. He’ll be a free agent this winter. Ichiro had ten-and-five no trade protection and had to approve the trade. Both teams have announced the deal and in typical Brian Cashman fashion, it came out of nowhere.

The trade is obviously a reaction to Brett Gardner going down with season-ending elbow surgery. Ichiro provides similar speed and elite defense — plus that cannon arm — but not the same on-base ability. The Yankees are very clearly banking on a change of scenery here, because Suzuki is hitting just .261/.288/.353 this year and .268/.302/.342 over the last two seasons. With any luck, the move to New York and a contending team will rejuvenate him a bit and he hits .450 the rest of the season.

The Yankees value makeup and there is little doubt the 38-year-old Ichiro will fit well in New York. He’s arguably the most popular player in the history of Japan and has lived with the media circus since arriving in the States more than a decade ago. It’s unclear how exactly the Yankees will use him, but I’m guessing he and Derek Jeter will hit one-two in the lineup in some order. They would be wise to limit his exposure to left-handers as well. Shifting Nick Swisher to left to use Ichiro’s arm in right makes sense, but left field has more ground to cover. We’ll see.

New York didn’t give up much in return. Mitchell was an up-and-down arm likely to settle into a swingman role long-term, though he remains under team control for six more years. The presence of David Phelps, Adam Warren, and Brett Marshall made him expendable. Farquhar was claimed off waivers from the Athletics last month and has been designated for assignment twice this year. He’s an inconsequential throw-in. No word on the corresponding 40-man move yet, but I assume either Swisher (groin/hip) will be placed on the DL or Dewayne Wise will be designated for assignment. Ichiro will be in uniform tonight. Welcome to the Bronx.

Yankees activate Eduardo Nunez off DL, send him to High-A Tampa

Via Mike Vander Woude, the Yankees have activated Eduardo Nunez off the Triple-A disabled list and sent him down to High-A Tampa. It’s just a procedural move, he still needs to get back into a groove following the thumb injury and now he’ll get to stay close to the home base in Florida rather than rejoin the traveling Triple-A circus. I suppose the good news is that he’s off the DL a week before the trade deadline, eh?

Scouting The Trade Market: Shawn Camp

The Yankees have been rolling with four specialists in their seven-man bullpen for a few weeks now, but it wasn’t until this past weekend that we got a real good look at how problematic that can be. Cody Eppley twice allowed walk-off hits to left-handed batters — granted, one was a switch-hitter — when he should be limited to righties only. Once David Phelps was out of Sunday’s game, Joe Girardi was left with a bunch of short relief matchup guys and the Yankees paid the price.

Trading for bullpen help is always sketchy but at this point it seems unavoidable. Joba Chamberlain seems to be very close to return but it’s impossible to count on him until he’s actually back on the big league mound and pitching effectively given the severity of his injuries. Heck, even if Joba comes back and adds that necessary non-OOGY, there’s still room in the bullpen for improvement. Since the Cubs are poised to trade everything not nailed down before next Tuesday’s trade deadline, let’s look at veteran reliever Shawn Camp.

The Pros

  • The 36-year-old right-hander is in the middle of what is arguably the best season of his career, pitching to a 2.79 ERA and 3.33 FIP in 48.1 innings. Camp’s 6.70 K/9 (18.3 K%) is his best strikeout rate in four years, his 2.05 BB/9 (5.6 BB%) his best walk rate ever. He also gets a healthy amount of ground balls (48.0%).
  • A true three-pitch reliever, Camp sits in the upper-80s with his sinker and backs it up with a low-80s changeup (for lefties) and an upper-70s slider (for righties). He doesn’t have a platoon split, holding left-handed batters to a .278 wOBA and right-handers to a .266 wOBA this season.
  • Camp has never been on the DL and spent 2006-2011 with the then-Devil Rays and Blue Jays, so he’s familiar with the AL East. He’s on a one-year deal making just $550k (!) this season, so we’re talking pure rental here.

The Cons

  • From 2009-2011, left-handed batters posted a .353 wOBA against Camp while righties were limited to a .302 wOBA. That lack of a platoon split really only applies to this season.
  • Camp’s strikeout rate has been trending downward as the season has progressed. He struck out 23 of the first 107 batters he faced this season (21.5%) and just 13 of the last 90 (14.4%). Strikeouts aren’t really his thing anyway, but still.
  • The Cubs have not been easy on him. Camp is second in baseball with 47 relief appearances and ninth with 48.1 relief innings. Last season he only threw 67.1 innings across 67 appearances and he’s on pace to zoom right by that. Chicago knows what they have here, a veteran guy pitching well on a one-year deal, so they’re getting their money’s worth.

There’s definitely a “lightning in a bottle” element here, but Camp has been a pretty solid middle reliever — in the AL East! — over the last three or four years anyway. That’s all the Yankees need him to be, a solid non-matchup guy in the middle innings. His success against lefties this season could very well have something to do with his slider, which has consistently been his best pitch. Camp has gone to the slider against left-handers far more than ever before in 2012 — 37% this year vs. 19% since the start of the PitchFX era. That success against batters of the opposite hand may be a fluke, but at least there’s some tangible evidence suggesting it could be legitimate improvement.

Either way, the Yankees need a reliever and Cubs have one to offer, so there’s a fit. Chicago’s new Theo Epstein-led regime has been emphatic about getting young pitching back in any trade, something the Yankees have plenty to offer. They’re not getting a top prospect for a rental middle reliever and probably won’t get a Grade-B prospect either. Brett Myers was just dealt for two fringe prospects and a player to be named later while the Astros ate his salary. A one-for-one swap for Camp could involve a non-top 30 prospectCaleb Cotham? Zach Nuding? Shaeffer Hall? — and maybe nothing else. He’s worth a look and carries minimal risk.

The good and the bad of a weekend in Oakland

When I told people where my siblings and I were traveling to watch the Yankees this season, most people thought we were nuts. Every year my two bothers, who live in San Diego; my sister, who lives in Manhattan; and I meet up for a road series. Anaheim usually makes the most sense. They prefer we travel there since they travel home for holidays. But with no weekend series in Anaheim, the best we could do was Oakland.

And you know what? The stadium and overall experience weren’t nearly as poor as I’d been told. It wasn’t like going to a brand new ballpark, but it’s also not a place I’d intentionally avoid in the future.

The Stadium

Oakland as a city gets a bad rap, and the stadium that hosts its baseball team is no different. Most of the negative reviews I’ve heard center on the largeness of the park in general and Mount Davis specifically. Yet neither really bothered me or my siblings during the trip.

There are some annoying aspects to the park for sure. For instance, if you enter at the entrance directly over the bridge from the BART you have to cut through a section of seats to get down to the bleachers. That took a few minutes to figure out. The concourses are easy enough to navigate otherwise, though.

(Oh, and the bleachers aren’t actually bleachers. They’re just seats in the outfield where they allow general admission and where you can’t see the warning track.)

Concessions were a bit barren, with several stands closed up. Still, there was rarely a line for anything. No, the A’s don’t sell out or anything, but they had attendances of 25,000 to 30,000 all weekend. So it’s not like the place was emptied out. In fact, they sold out the bleacher seats on Friday and Saturday before we could get a chance to pick them up.

In terms of sight lines, it wasn’t all that bad. We sat on the right field line the first two games and then the left field line the last game. Maybe the experience is a bit more disappointing on the lower levels, but in my eyes that’s a positive. A decent view from cheap seats makes for a better ballpark experience.

The fans

I have to say, the fans in Oakland were some of the friendliest I’ve encountered at road parks. Few of them taunted us, despite us being decked out in Yankees gear. In fact, after Saturday’s loss a group of A’s fans invited us to their postgame tailgate. They fed us beer and brats and didn’t ask a damn thing from us. That’s some hospitality right there.

In some ways I expected the place to be packed with Yankees fans, as tends to happen at road parks with generally low attendances. I guess there aren’t many Yankees expats in the Bay Area. It was pretty solidly green and gold all around, with a smattering of navy and gray.

Transportation

The BART was pretty efficient in getting us to and from the game. It runs every 15 minutes or so, and it’s pretty well on schedule. Even after the games the cars don’t get that packed, but that appears that Oaklanders don’t take part in the New York tradition of shoving your way onto a subway car and packing it full.

What struck me as odd is the lack of postgame service. At Yankee Stadium they have multiple trains waiting on the 4 and D lines, since they know they’ll be serving thousands of game patrons. That was not at all the case in Oakland. They run on the same schedule, despite the predictable traffic following a baseball game.

As one Oaklander put it to me, “If they did that, wouldn’t there be a lot of congestion on the train tracks?” Apparently he’s never heard uttered the words, “We are delayed because of train traffic ahead of us.”

The games

No one wants to go on the road and see the Yankees lose. It hurts that much more when you travel across the country and see them lose three straight one-run games. The games moved at a quality pace, since they were low scoring. But give me a four-hour win over a 2.5-hour loss any day.

The final game was perhaps the most painful. On an airplane with Wi-Fi that resembled dial-up speeds, I had to watch on Gameday on my phone. That died about halfway through the flight, and I had to convince my sister to let me use her Galaxy S3 (which is really hot, in case you were wondering). Seeing “In play, run(s)” during Seth Smith’s at-bat might have been the low point of the weekend — and I was almost home by that point.

Overall I have to say that Oakland and the Coliseum get some unnecessarily negative publicity. Is it the best place I’ve ever seen a game? Absolutely not. But it’s definitely a place I’d go back to if I had the chance.

7/23-7/25 Series Preview: Seattle Mariners

Mariner Moose has the third highest wOBA on the team. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The Yankees just finished getting swept in Oakland and now move up the coast to Seattle. The Mariners are on their way back home from Tampa, which I assume is the longest flight in baseball. Well, Miami-to-Seattle is longer, but close enough. The Yankees took two of three from the Fightin’ Monteros at Yankee Stadium back in May.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Mariners took two of three from the Rays and have won six of ten overall since the All-Star break. At 42-55, Seattle is in last place in the AL West with the fourth worst record in the league. Their -13 run differential is fifth worst (by a large margin, actually) in the AL.

Offense

(Christian Petersen/Getty)

No surprise here, but it’s bad. Real bad. The Mariners average a touch under four runs per game overall (3.95 to be exact), but their home/road split is enormous. They’re hitting just .196/.275/.288 (!) as a team at Safeco Field this year (59 wRC+), which is unfathomably bad. That’s not quite as bad a nine Chris Stewarts (45 wRC+), but it’s damn close. The Mariners own a much more respectable team 98 wRC+ on the road this season.

Seattle’s best hitter this season has been Michael Saunders (110 wRC+), though John Jaso (140 wRC+) and Casper Wells (119 wRC+) have been productive in platoon roles. Kyle Seager (99 wRC+) has been league average and it drops off in a big way after the that. Ichiro (77 wRC+) and Dustin Ackley (77 wRC+) were supposed to be catalysts atop the lineup but have done very little on the year. Justin Smoak (60 wRC+) has over 1,250 career plate appearances telling us he’s a terrible hitter. Add in Brendan Ryan (59 wRC), Chone Figgins (48 wRC+), Miguel Olivo (40 wRC+), Munenori Kawasaki (34 wRC+), and the recently recalled Carlos Peguero (101 wRC+) and you get one serious LOLffense.

Then there’s Jesus Montero. The former Yankees farmhand owns a .261/.300/.401 (89 wRC+) batting line with nine homers this year, the vast of majority of which have come as a DH. He’s started just 35 of 97 games behind the plate this season. Montero has been hot since the All-Star break, reaching base in all eight games he’s played and hitting .394/.447/.606 overall. During the seven-game road trip through Kansas City and Tampa, he went 12-for-26 (.462) with four doubles, a homer, three walks, and three strikeouts. He’s probably their most dangerous hitter, at least right now, but he’s certainly shown the willingness to chase offspeed stuff off the plate this season.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Kevin Millwood
The 37-year-old Millwood frustratingly held the Yankees to one run across seven innings back in May, part of a nice little streak that included no more than one earned run in five of six starts. He owns a 4.15 ERA (3.57 FIP) overall, though his strikeout (6.62 K/9 and 17.1 K%) and walk (3.35 BB/9 and 8.7 BB%) walk rates aren’t anything special. Millwood gets ground balls (45.8%) and limits homers (0.53 HR/9) thanks in part to his home park. He’ll use two and four-seamers right around 90 to setup an array of offspeed stuff, including a low-80s slider, a low-80s changeup, and an upper-70s curveball. An upper-80s cutter will also make an appearance from time to time.

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Tuesday: RHP Freddy Garcia vs. RHP Felix Hernandez
After a slow-ish start to the season, Felix is back to being the guy he was for the last few seasons. He’s allowed one earned run or less in six of his last seven starts and has pitched to a 2.82 ERA (2.78 FIP) overall. His strikeout (9.15 K/9 and 25.0 K%) and walk (2.30 BB/9 and 6.3 BB%) rates are both career bests, and his 0.58 HR/9 may as well be — he’s off his career low (0.57 HR/9 in 2009) by one dinger for every 900 innings. His ground ball rate (46.0%) is a career worst, however. Hernandez’s fastball velocity has been trending in the wrong direction for a few years now but still sits comfortably in the low-90s. His collection of offspeed pitches —¬†upper-80s changeup, mid-80s slider, and low-80s curve — is probably the best in baseball. He’s really good. You know it, I know it, he knows it, and the Yankees know it.

Wednesday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma
After appearing in just five of the Mariners’ first 54 games, Iwakuma earned some trust in June and moved into the rotation full-time earlier this month because old pal Hector Noesi (5.77 ERA and 5.63 FIP) had to be sent to Triple-A. Iwakuma owns a 4.86 ERA (5.61 FIP) overall this season and has been a mixed bag in his three starts — one good (two runs in six innings), one not so good (four runs in five innings), and one in the middle (three runs in five innings). His strikeout (6.60 K/9 and 17.5 K%), walk (4.27 BB/9 and 11.3 BB%), and homerun (1.75 HR/9) numbers leave an awful lot to be desired, though at least he gets some ground balls (53.7%). Using the typical kitchen sink approach employed by so many Japanese pitchers, Iwakuma throws a low-90s four-seamer, a low-90s sinker, a mid-80s splitter, a low-80s slider, and a low-70s curveball. The Yankees didn’t see him at all back in May.

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Bullpen Status
The Rays did the Yankees a solid by running through Seattle’s bullpen quite a bit over the weekend, including a 14-inning game on Friday. Unfortunately Blake Beaven went a full eight innings yesterday, so everyone but closer Tom Wilhelmsen (2.54 FIP) had the night off. He’s appeared in three straight games — including multiple innings on Friday — and figures to get tonight off if not tomorrow as well. Fill-in closer duties should instead fall on the shoulders of Brandon League (3.47 FIP), the former closer turned setup man.

Manager Eric Wedge has a pair of lefties at his disposal, including Rule 5 guy Lucas Luetge (2.80 FIP) and former laughing stock Oliver Perez (1.90 FIP). Both are just specialists and Perez has a big reverse split (.234 wOBA vs. RHB and .415 vs. LHB) in a small sample, though his velocity seems to be back. Righties Shawn Kelley (3.53 FIP), Steve Delabar (4.85 FIP), and Josh Kinney (6.92 FIP in limited time) round out the rest of the bullpen. Overall, Seattle’s relief unit has been middle of the pack with a 3.72 FIP.

The Yankees’ bullpen was used quite heavily in yesterday’s extra innings loss, but no one out there has appeared in two straight games. Everyone except maybe David Phelps — who worked 1.2 innings but only threw 19 pitches — should be available tonight. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the exact details. For the latest and greatest on the Mariners, we recommend Lookout Landing and U.S.S. Mariner.