Sabathia stellar again in win over Rays

It’s kinda hard to believe, but the Yankees were one bad David Robertson inning away from sweeping the Rays in this three-game set. They’ll have to settle for taking two of three as CC Sabathia manhandled Tampa Bay for eight innings in the 5-3 win.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

X+1

Having to beat the other team is hard enough, but having to beat your own team as well is damn near impossible. We’ll talk about Eduardo Nunez‘s defensive adventures in just a second, but all you need to know right now is that they led to a pair of unearned runs in the first and second innings and cost Sabathia something like 10-20 extra pitches. That’s rough.

After the second inning though, CC was untouchable. He retired 18 of the next 22 batters he faced including eight via strikeout. Rays’ batters swung and missed 16 times at his 119 pitches, a season-high for both swings and misses and total pitches. Sabathia recorded 22 of his 24 outs on the infield, and this was his fourth consecutive start of exactly eight innings. The opponents during those four starts: the Rangers, Tigers, Royals, and Rays. Those clubs can hit a little.

There are a lot of reasons to love Sabathia, but I think my favorite is that whenever I think he has X innings left in the tank, he goes X+1. In the sixth inning I thought he had one inning left, but he had two. That’s what I’m talking about. The Yankees’ bullpen was a little short because of the recent workload, but as usual CC picked up the slack and gave his team a ton of high-quality outings. Considering how shaky the first two innings were, the big man deserves a ton of credit for going eight. He was awesome.

Eduardo Scissorhands

Wide left. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Nunez’s defense is a very real problem and it has been since last season, and we’re starting to reach the point where waiting around for him to straighten himself out is no longer an option. In the first inning it was a muffed routine grounder with two outs that extended the inning and in the second it was a routine throw to second that wound up in right field and again extended the inning. A big leaguer can’t be doing that stuff, not when they provide relatively little on offense. Tampa tried laying down some bunts towards Eduardo after the second error, but fortunately they couldn’t get any of them down.

Girardi said after the game that they’re going to re-evaluate the way they use Nunez at so many different positions in an effort to get his defense up to snuff, but that won’t be a quick process. Something’s gotta give though, they can’t keep running him out there like this. I mean, they lifted him for a defensive replacement in the sixth (!) inning. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player pulled for defense that early. Nunez should be legit embarrassed.

Answering Back

Eduardo’s errors put the Yankees in a two-run hole pretty early, but the mostly dormant offense started to wake up in the bottom of the second. Curtis Granderson got it all started with a leadoff homer to deep right, the third time he’s taken David Price deep in his career. No other left-handed batter has homered off Price more than once.

That was just the start of the game tying rally. Nunez began to redeem himself two batters later by working the count full and drawing a walk before stealing second. That’s when Chris Stewart single him in, his fourth run-scoring hit of the season. Chris Stewart people, this is really happening. The Yankees had a chance to add more runs after Derek Jeter drew a walk, but Nick Swisher hit a line drive right back to Price. He saved his face/caught the ball and flipped over to first for the double play. That’s just bad luck, but at least the Yankees were able to knot things up before long.

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Welcome Back, Robinson

It’s been a slow and frustrating start to the season for Robinson Cano, but he started to show some signs of life in Kansas City and seemed to announce his triumphant return to awesomeness against the Rays on Thursday. His first hit of the day was a hotshot ground ball single back up the middle, his second another hard hit ground ball back up the middle, and his third a mammoth two-run homer over the home bullpen and into the right field bleachers to break a 2-2 tie. All three hits came off a very tough left-hander in Price, which is exactly what we like to see. Robbie went 3-for-4 overall and extended his hitting streak to eight games. His season batting line now sits at .286/.331/.437. He’s getting there.

Leftovers

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

With Robertson unavailable due to his recent workload, ninth inning duties fell on the shoulders of Rafael Soriano. Pitching for the third straight day, Soriano allowed a cheap run — infield single, defensive indifference, ground ball, ground ball — in an otherwise uneventful inning, his first save of the season. He’s still searching for that elusive first 1-2-3 inning of the year, but honestly I don’t care right now. Props to Soriano for getting those last three outs despite his pitching for the third time in as many days.

Andruw Jones doubled in the team’s fifth and final run in the fifth, a laser into the left field corner with two outs off Price. It seemed like the Yankees were going to squander another rally before he picked up Granderson, who’d grounded into a double play one batter earlier. Jones also appeared to hurt his hamstring(s) running out a ground ball earlier on the night — he was shown grabbing at the back of his legs — but apparently he was just fixing his sliding pants. He remained in the game until Dewayne Wise replaced him for defense in the late innings.

You know who’s very quietly hitting the snot out of the ball? Alex Rodriguez. He went 2-for-4 with a double on Thursday night, raising his season batting line to .287/.388/.443. The power numbers aren’t what they used to be, but that’s a damn productive hitter. Alex is hitting .329/.427/.514 in his last 82 plate appearances, dating back to mid-April.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the nerd score, and ESPN the updated standings.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

The Yankees welcome Jesus Montero, Hector Noesi, and the rest of the Mariners to the Bronx for a three-game series starting Friday night. Hiroki Kuroda and Felix Hernandez square off in the opener. RAB Tickets can help get you in the building if you want to see the King.

Update: Gardner re-strains elbow muscle, shut down for ten days

10:10pm: According to Joe Girardi, Gardner basically re-injured himself. He strained the same muscle in his elbow that landed him on the DL in the first place but did not do any further damage. He’s going to be shut down for at least ten days and Girardi said it could be as long as a month. Coulda been worse, I suppose.

4:18pm: Via Marc Carig, outfielder Brett Gardner has suffered a setback in his rehab from a bone bruise and right elbow strain. He felt soreness and had swelling in his elbow following his latest minor league rehab game and is headed for an MRI now.

Gardner played seven innings with Triple-A Empire State each of the last two days as part of his rehab assignment, going 3-for-5 with a triple and two walks. He played left field in both games. Dewayne Wise’s spot on the roster is safe for now, but if the MRI reveals any kind of long-term injury, the Yankees will probably have to consider looking outside the organization for outfield help.

No Williams or Sanchez in Charleston win

Rob Lyerly’s season is likely over due to continued shoulder problems, which stinks. The Yankees’ sixth round pick in 2009 went 3-for-17 with two homers in five games for Double-A Trenton before hitting the DL last month.

Triple-A Scranton (5-2 win over Columbus in ten innings, walk-off style)
2B Kevin Russo & SS Yadil Mujica: both 0-3 — Russo walked twice and stole a base … Mujica walked and whiffed
CF Colin Curtis” 0-5, 1 K — stuck in a 5-for-36 rut (.139)
1B Steve Pearce: 4-5, 3 R, 3 2B, 1 E (pickoff) — up to .360/.442/.595 on the year
DH Jack Cust: 2-2, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 1 SB — game-tying two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth
3B Ronnie Mustelier: 1-4, 1 BB, 2 K
LF Brandon Laird & C Gus Molina: both 1-5 — Molina had the walk-off single and struck out
RF Cole Garner: 0-4, 2 K
RHP D.J. Mitchell: 6 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 7/3 GB/FB — 60 of 96 pitches were strikes (62.5%) … his first Triple-A outing since being sent down last weekend
RHP Manny Delcarmen: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — a dozen of his 20 pitches were strikes … just activated off the DL, apparently
RHP Jason Bulger: 1.1 IP, zeroes, 2 K1/0 GB/FB — nine of 14 pitches were strikes (64.3%)
RHP Chase Whitley: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0/1 GB/FB — ten of 16 pitches were strikes (62.5%)

[Read more…]

Game 31: Turn The Page

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Last night’s loss was tough to swallow, but the only thing you, me, David Robertson, and the Yankees can do is turn the page and focus on tonight’s rubber match against the Rays. CC Sabathia is on the mound against David Price, the sixth time the two ace left-handers have met. The Yankees are 0-5 in the previous five meetings, believe it or not. Here’s the lineup…

SS Derek Jeter
RF Nick Swisher
2B Robinson Cano
DH Alex Rodriguez
1B Mark Teixeira
CF Curtis Granderson
LF Andruw Jones
3B Eduardo Nunez
C  Chris Stewart

LHP CC Sabathia

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

Chavez awaits MLB evaluation before being activated

Via Marc Carig, infielder Eric Chavez took a concussion test today and is waiting for MLB clearance before he can be activated off the 7-day DL. He’s eligible to come off today but he’ll likely have to wait until tomorrow at the earliest.

Chavez suffered whiplash and a possible concussion last week diving for a ground ball at third base. He was hitting (.372 wOBA) during the little bit of playing time he received, but it’s tough to miss a bench player when he’s only been out a week. Brett Gardner‘s setback preserves Dewayne Wise’s roster spot for the foreseeable future, so the Jayson Nix era is likely to come to an end tomorrow.

Yanks about to shore up offense, defense with Gardner

(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Update: And, of course, something has gone awry. According to Marc Carig Gardner is headed for an MRI. He “felt soreness and had swelling in his elbow.” Sigh.

By no means is Brett Gardner a superstar. With his physical skills it’s nearly impossible for him to reach that status. Yet he has played an important role for the Yankees in the last two-plus seasons. By providing speed on the base paths and superb defense in a spacious Yankee Stadium left field, he has provided plenty of value. The Yankees stand to improve plenty when he returns to action, presumably tonight.

In the Yankees’ 30 games to date they’ve trotted out six different left fielders. None has been particularly close to Gardner in terms of defensive value, and Raul Ibanez, who has started eight game in left, is on the polar opposite end of the defensive spectrum. Adding Gardner back into that mix will help the Yankees pitchers greatly. There will be no more Ibanez dives, which occur in slow motion even though the ball is moving in real time. That substitution alone will save substantial runs. Even over the other, less terrible defenders, Gardner is worth a few runs every week.

On the offensive side of the ball the Yanks will also benefit with Gardner’s return. Yankee left fielders have hit .216/.304/.343; that .647 OPS ranks 21st in baseball. Gardner, for his career, has hit .265/.355/.368. That .723 OPS would rank 11th in the majors. It’s hard to believe that Gardner, an atypical left fielder in terms of offensive prowess, would provide the Yankees with an upgrade. Yet that is pretty clearly the case. That doesn’t even take into account Gardner’s value on the base paths. Last year Yankees’ left fielders stole 44 bases, six more than any other team. This year they have just two, which is tied for 14th place.

While Gardner’s skill set seems odd for his position, he’s not alone as a defensive-minded left fielder with on-base skills and speed. The Rays have a similar player in Desmond Jennings, who, like Gardner, figures to return from injury tonight. For his career, which is quite a bit shorter than Gardner’s, Jennings has hit .258/.346/.429. He has a bit more power, but he’s not going to win a Silver Slugger any time soon. At the same time, he has plenty of speed; his eight stolen bases to date lead the majors. Also like Gardner, Jennings has the ability to play center field, but is blocked by an incumbent.

Getting Gardner back in the Yankees’ lineup will provide many benefits, both the run-scoring and to the defense. It might be difficult to fathom Gardner being such an important piece of the high-powered Yankees’ offense. Yet his speed and on-base skills provide plenty of value. At the same time, his defense in left is perhaps best in the league. His ability to run down difficult fly balls saves outs, which saves pitchers some labor. Given his fill-ins, we should all be glad to see No. 11 once again penciled into the lineup.

Update by Mike: Just as a heads up, Gardner is not listed as an available player on tonight’s lineup card, indicating that he has not been activated off the DL just yet. He did not play for Triple-A Empire State this afternoon and the team could still make a move before first pitch.

Top 10 starting pitchers against the Yankees by ERA since 2009

(photo: Rick Yeatts/Getty)

In the aftermath of yet another strong Jeff Niemann performance against the Yankees — whose seven-inning, one-run outing last night improved his career ERA against New York to 2.75 over six starts — I couldn’t help but wonder what Niemann’s overall numbers against the Bombers looked like in relation to other starters that have consistently had success when facing the team.

Going back to the beginning of 2009, here are the top 10 starters against the Yankees by lowest ERA (minimum three starts), courtesy of David Pinto’s wonderful day-by-day database:

Most of the names on this list would probably align with Yankee fans’ perceptions of pitchers the team typically struggles against — and frankly I was shocked that King Felix’s name didn’t top the list. His aberrant start last September slightly skewed his numbers, but prior to that completely out-of-character dud, no pitcher in baseball had had more success against the Yankees. Felix had thrown 40 innings of six-run ball (1.35 ERA) against the Yankees, including 24 innings of one-run ball (0.38 ERA!) at Yankee Stadium dating back to the beginning of 2010, and not having been saddled with a loss against the Bombers since May 3, 2008.

However, there are a couple of eye-openers — I can’t say I expected Carl Pavano to make the top 10, although I suppose that makes some sense given his unique brand of right-handed slop. And the other is Niemann, who, believe it or not, has the third-lowest ERA among all starters against the Yankees since the beginning of 2009, his first full season in the bigs. Now, I don’t mean to knock on Niemann, who clearly has the Yankees’ number, but it does seem a bit odd that a hurler who’s been a decidedly average — if not below-average — right-hander during his career (102 ERA-; 105 FIP-) would be so successful against the best offensive team in baseball during that timeframe.

For the most part, aside from Niemann and Pavano, almost everyone else in that group makes sense — hard-throwing, high-strikeout right-handers, but I was also curious to see whether there were any other similarities among this group that might uncover why they’ve routinely stymied the Bombers’ bats. Courtesy of Brooks’ Pitcher Cards, here’s what each pitcher in the top 10 throws and how hard they throw it:

Here’s where things get interesting. Four of the top five pitchers in this study throw a sinker more than 30% of the time, and the fifth — Niemann — just misses that cutoff, at 29% of the time. Additionally, both Pavano and Jake Arrieta are also sinker-heavy, which means that seven of the top 10 throw a sinker more than 25% of the time.

Of course, it’d be easy to say, “well maybe the Yankees just stink against sinkers,” but that’s not even remotely true, as they have the second-best wSI/C in baseball since 2009. Still, there’s something about this variety of sinkerballer — several of whom also prominently feature a curve (Hernandez, Niemann, Haren and Arrieta each go to the hook more than 10% of the time) — that seem to have the Yankees’ goose cooked.