Yesterday we talked about Baseball America’s lists of the top tools in the big leagues, and today they released their lists for Triple-A, Double-A, and Single-A (subs. req’d). Not too many Yankees farmhand made the cut, only Brandon Laird (best defensive 3B), Ramon Flores (best plate discipline), and Slade Heathcott (best defensive outfielder) took home honors at their respective levels. Jesus Montero got beat out by Ryan Lavarnway (Red Sox) for top power prospect, Dellin Betances by Henderson Alvarez (Blue Jays) for best fastball, Manny Banuelos by Eric Surkamp (Giants) for best changeup, and Gary Sanchez by Bryce Harper for best power prospect. Seems like the Yanks have a lot of guys that would rank second, third, or fourth in the various categories rather than first.
Prior to this afternoon’s game, Joe Girardi indicated that the Yankees are likely to get back to a five-man rotation by the time they start their road trip against the Royals on Monday. “We’re going to try to make our decision before we go to Kansas City,” said Girardi. “We’ve been talking about it, that we need to get down to five men. I’ll let you know [who’s out] when I know.” Sounds to me like Phil Hughes is getting Saturday’s start to show he’s worth the rotation spot, otherwise it’s back to the bullpen for him. Sigh.
“The pitch didn’t get there enough,” said Mariano Rivera after giving up what proved to be the game-winning homerun to Bobby Abreu on Monday. “It was middle in, not in enough. He put good wood on the ball. You have to make sure you get it there. It didn’t get there.” Two poor outings in a row for the greatest closer of all-time always creates an uproar, so Bill Chuck broke out some heat maps.
They show that Rivera’s cutter has been slowly drifting more out over the plate against lefties, but I’m not sure I agree with Bill’s conclusion that it’s a result of the pitch not cutting as much as it once did. The PitchFX data shows that it’s still getting as much horizontal break as the last two years, if not more. Perhaps it’s just a location issue, maybe he’s having a harder time getting the pitch in on the hands of lefties? If so, is that something that could be fixed by moving a little closer to the first base side of the rubber? I have no idea, just kinda spit balling here. Either way, check out Bill’s post, very interesting stuff.
The last time Bartolo Colon had a season as good as this one, it was 2005 and he was wearing an Angels uniform. His career had been derailed by injury several times after that Cy Young caliber season, and yet here he is at age 38, giving the Yankees quality innings every five or six days. Kinda hard to believe. Here’s the lineup that will back Colon and face another rookie, the right-handed Tyler Chatwood…
Bartolo Colon, SP
It’s an afternoon game because apparently the Angels have somewhere to be tonight. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 1pm ET and can be seen on YES. If you’re stuck in the office, you can listen on WCBS 880. Enjoy.
Via Danny Knobler, there’s a “growing belief” that the Astros will place Wandy Rodriguez on trade waivers this week, and that a National League team is willing to roll the dice and risk claiming him. Because of the waiver priority rules, the Yankees would not have a chance to trade for Rodriguez this month if an NL team claims him, whether that team deals for him or not.
Wandy is owed more than $23M over the next two seasons, plus his $13M club option for 2013 turns into a player option if traded. That takes him through his age 35 season, so it’s not exactly a bargain price. Yankees’ ownership pushed for Rodriguez before the deadline, and were willing to pay $21M of the $38M or so left on his contract at the time (assuming the option is picked up). That implies that they value him as a $7M a year pitcher. If a team claims him, the Astros could simply foist the lefty and his entire contract onto that team, much like the Blue Jays did with Alex Rios and the White Sox.
Exactly one year ago today, Curtis Granderson was a platoon player. He was a centerfielder that couldn’t hit lefties on a team that played in a division with several high-end southpaws. His season batting line sat at .239/.306/.415 in 336 plate appearances on the morning of August 11th, 2010, broken down into .256/.336/.467 in 225 PA against righties and .206/.243/.275 in 111 PA against lefties. With Austin Jackson, Phil Coke, and Ian Kennedy excelling for the Tigers and Diamondbacks, respectively, the three-team trade that brought Granderson to New York was looking like a bust for the Yankees. Little did we know what was going on behind the scenes.
The Yankees had just finished up a four-game series at home against the Red Sox, and had moved on to Texas for the two-gamer against the Rangers. Granderson was not in the lineup on August 10th, the series opener, but it wasn’t all that unusual with lefty C.J. Wilson on the bump. Curtis pinch-ran for Austin Kearns in the eighth inning of the eventual loss, a forgettable moment in a forgettable game. The next day we heard that hitting coach Kevin Long was working on a “total reformation of the swing” with Granderson, a process that started when the student sought out the teacher. That was one year ago today.
Granderson did not start that night, but again nothing seemed out of the ordinary because Cliff Lee was on the mound for Texas. He pinch-ran for Lance Berkman in the ninth inning, but again, a forgettable moment in a forgettable game. Curtis returned to the starting lineup the next night, after the Yankees had split their two-game series with Texas and moved on the Kansas City. The Royals started lefty Bruce Chen that night, but Granderson singled off him in his first at-bat to drive in the game’s first run. Two innings later he doubled to right, and two innings after that he hit a fly ball to the warning track in right. The next day he singled and hit two more deep fly balls. The day after that he hit his first homerun in close to the three weeks, and in the series finale he hit one more deep fly ball.
The changes were subtle. Curtis had brought his hands down and eliminated some pre-swing bat movement, and also shifted from a one-handed follow through to a two-handed follow through. Granderson finished the season like a madman, hitting .261/.356/.561 with 14 homers in the team’s final 48 games, not to mention a .357/.514/.607 batting line in nine postseason games. Since that “total reformation of the swing” in Texas, exactly 365 days ago, Curtis has been one of the very best players in all of baseball.
In 161 games over the last calendar year, Granderson has hit .271/.362/.575 with 24 doubles, ten triples, and 45 homeruns in 693 plate appearances. He’s drawn 83 walks and scored 131 runs as well, though the 164 strikeouts are a bit of an eyesore. No one’s perfect though, a few strikeouts never killed anyone. In that time, only Jose Bautista (52) has hit more homers. Only six players have hit more triples. No one has scored more runs, and only Albert Pujols (116) is with 15 runs scored of the Grandyman. He leads all center fielders is basically every significant offensive category other than batting average over the last calender year, and is near the top in those same categories among all players, regardless of position.
Those struggles against left-handed pitchers? Forget about ’em. Grandy has hit .278/.357/.567 with 14 homers in 215 PA against southpaws since the fix, which is nearly identical to his batting line against righties: .268/.374/.578. Before the fix, he had just 17 career homeruns against lefties in 795 PA. He went from one homer every 46.8 PA against southpaws to one every 15.4. That’s a factor of three, he tripled his homerun rate against same-side pitchers with a few mechanical adjustments.
We can’t downplay the significance of what happened one year ago today, it completely changed Curtis’ career. If you ask either Long or Granderson about the changes they made, the hands and the follow through, they’ll downplay the significance of the adjustments and say they were just minor tweaks. That may very well be the case, but the results are anything but minor. Granderson transformed from a platoon outfielder into an MVP caliber player overnight (almost literally), and the Twitterwaves are abuzz with the #cured hashtag anytime Curtis does something amazing. These days, that’s basically every game.
You gotta love the everyday aspect of baseball. Twenty-four hours ago, we were pulling our hair out over a stupid loss to the Angels, but now everything in the baseball world is right again. The Yankees roughed up a rookie pitcher and took home a stress-free win on Wednesday. Perfect.
Oh Curtis, I Can’t Stay Mad At You
Curtis Granderson was one of the goats of Tuesday’s game, getting picked off first base with Mark Teixeira at the plate and the tying run on base. It took him all of two pitches to make up for that mistake on Wednesday night. We’ll talk more about Angels’ rookie Garrett Richards more in a bit, but all you need to know right now is that he walked the first two men he faced before catching too much of the plate with a 1-0 fastball to Curtis. It was literally off the top of the wall in right center, hopping into the home bullpen after ricocheting off the fence. Three batters in, the Yankees had a three run lead.
Oh but wait, Granderson wasn’t done yet. He tacked on a second homerun in the fifth inning, a solo shot on another Richards’ fastball. This one was a no doubter to left and Curtis’ 31st homerun of the season, a new career high. There’s 47 games left in the season, and right now he’s on pace to finish with 43 bombs, which would be the second most in the AL since 2008. Obviously, Jose Bautista tops that list with 54 last year. Even if he takes mercy on opposing pitchers the rest of the way and doesn’t hit 40, Granderson has been a marvel this season and the Yankees’ best player day-in, day-out, no questions asked.
Okay, let’s not get too carried away. Ivan Nova was very good yet again, serving up just a solo homer through the first six innings (more on that in a bit) before losing the zone in the seventh. He gave up two singles and two walks to the first four batters in that seventh inning, but before that he’s allowed just four hits and a walk in six frames. Fourteen of his 18 outs came on ground balls, but he didn’t strike out a single batter and only got two swings and misses (both on fastballs) out of 96 total pitches. That’s right out of Chien-Ming Wang‘s playbook.
Nova did get some help though, because he could have easily finished the game with a 6 IP, 6 R line rather than the 6 IP, 3 R he ended up with. Rafael Soriano stormed out of the bullpen with the bases loaded and nobody out in the seventh, then got a ground ball double play out of Peter Bourjos (run scored) and a harmless fly ball out of Jeff Mathis. He’s still perfect since coming off the disabled list, retiring all 14 men he faced plus a guy he didn’t even face on the double play. It might be overlooked given the score, but Soriano’s three outs in this game were huge.
You can see why Richards was the 42nd overall pick in the 2009 draft, the kid’s got a great arm. But he was in way over his head in this game, making his big league debut in Yankee Stadium without a single Triple-A inning to his credit. He walked the first two men he faced, gave up a homer to the third, didn’t throw a first pitch strike until the sixth batter, and didn’t strike anyone out until the fifth inning. The Yankees hung six runs on Richards thanks to six hits (including two doubles, a triple, and Granderson’s two homers) and the two walks, but you know what? He can say that his first career strikeout was Derek Jeter, and that he was the first starting pitcher to make his big league debut at New Yankee Stadium. That ain’t bad.
Granderson wasn’t the only offensive star of the night. Robinson Cano doubled in the first, tripled in the fourth, and homered in the seventh. The long ball was an opposite field shot, a non-cheapie that landed several rows up right next to the visitor’s bullpen. He didn’t get a chance to complete the cycle, unfortunately.
Aside from Grandy and Cano, you also had a pair of hits from Nick Swisher, singles from Eric Chavez and Russell Martin, and walks from Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter. Mark Teixeira and Eduardo Nunez were kept off the bases.
Nova has now given up eleven homeruns this season, but all eleven have been solo shots and ten of them have come in the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium. That’s what you call limiting the damage, folks.
Luis Ayala finished the game off with two scoreless innings, throwing 32 pitches. He’s pretty good for the last guy in the bullpen, a veteran dude that can soak up some garbage time innings and keep it from getting interesting. Anyway, the Yankees put their three game losing streak to an end and regained their seven-game lead over the Halos for the wildcard.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
The rubber game is a matinee, a 1pm ET start on Thursday. Bartolo Colon takes the ball against his former team and rookie right-hander Tyler Chatwood. If you’re making a last minute decision to head up the Stadium, RAB Tickets can help you get in for cheap.