Yankees had been talking to Braves about Ramiro Pena

Via Joel Sherman, the Yankees and Braves were talking about a trade involving Ramiro Pena before Atlanta acquired Paul Janish from the Reds yesterday. The Braves were looking for a stopgap shortstop after losing both Andrelton Simmons and Jack Wilson to finger injuries last week.

Pena, 27 next week, is hitting just .241/.294/.301 in 275 plate appearances for Triple-A Empire State this season. It’s his final option year, meaning he’ll have to clear waivers to go back to Triple-A next season. Ramiro has negligible trade value and the Yankees actually do need him at the moment since he’s their only non-Derek Jeter shortstop at the upper levels, at least until Eduardo Nunez comes off the DL. Unless they were getting an actual prospect in return — the Braves sent 27-year-old up-and-down arm Todd Redmond to Cincy for Janish — the Bombers are probably better off keeping Pena for depth.

Yanks back Garcia with homers in win over Halos


Source: FanGraphs

Two games and two wins in the second half so far. Both have been come from behind wins too, raising the the Yankees’ league-leading total to 29. Let’s recap Saturday afternoon’s game…

  • Oppo: When you’re hot, you’re hot, and Robinson Cano is hot right now. He extended his hitting streak to 17 games with an opposite field two-run homer in the very first inning, a ball that literally bounced off the top of the wall in front of the visitor’s bullpen. I’m kinda surprised Mike Trout didn’t put on his Superman cape and bring that one back, it was definitely playable had he gotten there in time.
  • Sweaty: It was an ugly outing for Freddy Garcia, but not as far as the results go. Three runs in five innings hardly qualifies as a disaster. It was ugly in the sense that the Angels had runners on-base all afternoon long and he was constantly pitching through danger. Garcia walked five and only struck out four while giving up five hits (one double and four singles) and three steals (two to Trout). I’ve stopped caring about Freddy’s process a long time ago, this was a veteran guy grinding away against a good hitting team. I’ll take that from my fifth starter any day of the week.
  • Grandyman: You gotta love the timing. The YES booth was ragging on Curtis Granderson‘s swing for being too loopy in the third, saying he was missing hittable pitches and striking out too much. Grandy responded by shutting them up with a two-run homer into the second deck in right, a blast that turned a 2-2 game into a 4-2 game. Believe it or not, that was Grandy’s first homer in July and just his third in the last 22 games. Get hot, Curtis.
  • Bullpen: Big ups to the relief corps. The trio of Cody Eppley, David Robertson, and Rafael Soriano took care of business after Freddy left the game. Eppley fired two key scoreless innings before Robertson and Rafi did their thing in the eighth and ninth. All told, they threw four scoreless frames with two baserunners — two singles — and four strikeouts. The bullpen wasn’t the story of the game, but it was an unsung hero.
  • Leftovers: The top four hitters in the lineup combined to go 6-for-16 (.375) with two homers and a double while the bottom five hitters went 2-for-14 (.143) … Alex Rodriguez had that double and came around to score a big insurance run in the sixth, plus he stole his team-leading tenth base (in eleven attempts) … the offense collectively went 3-for-5 with runners in scoring position less than 24 hours after putting on a RISPFAIL clinic.

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the advanced stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Orioles walked off against the Tigers, so New York’s lead in the division still sits at eight games. The Yankees will look to finish off the sweep against Jered Weaver on Sunday afternoon, sending Ivan Nova to the mound. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch that one.

Phelps strong again in Triple-A win

First rounder RHP Ty Hensley officially signed his contract today and posted a photo on Twitter to prove it. He agreed to a below-slot $1.2M the other day. Welcome aboard, Ty. Give ’em hell.

Triple-A Empire State (8-1 win over Syracuse)
LF Chris Dickerson: 0-2, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 HBP — 19 walks in 145 plate appearances (13.1%)
3B Kevin Russo: 3-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI — 12 hits in his last 21 at-bats (57.1%)
2B Corban Joseph: 1-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 BB — 41 walks and 42 strikeouts on the year
DH Ronnie Mustelier: 1-5, 1 RBI, 1 K
1B Brandon Laird: 2-4, 1 2B
C Gus Molina: 1-4
RF Cole Garner: 1-4, 3 R, 1 K, 1 SB, 1 E (fielding)
SS Ramiro Pena: 2-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — nine hits in his last 19 at-bats (.474)
CF Ray Kruml: 1-4, 1 R, 1 RBI
RHP David Phelps: 6.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 K, 4/8 GB/FB — 63 of 103 pitches were strikes (61.2%) … that’s 26 strikeouts in his last 17.2 innings … he must feel like he’s on top of the world right now, just loaded with confidence … also, it’s not a coincidence that he and Freddy Garcia pitched the same day
LHP Juan Cedeno: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2/1 GB/FB — eight of 15 pitches were strikes
RHP Ryota Igarashi: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 14 of 20 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Saturday Night Open Thread

Don’t be mad, Derek. (REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

So the second half is going pretty well, no? It’s only been two games but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it, especially since the two wins came against the Angels. They’re now 5-15 in the New Yankee Stadium, including the 2009 ALCS. I wonder if Halos fans hate when their team comes to the Bronx as much as Yankees fans hate seeing their team go out to Anaheim.

Anyway, here’s your open thread for the night. MLB Network is airing a game and most of the country will see the Red Sox at the Rays (Buchholz vs. Price). Those of you in those two markets will see the Pirates at the Brewers (Correa vs. Estrada) instead. You folks know how these things work by now, so have at it.

Second-half storylines

Mercifully, the All-Star break is over and Yankee baseball is back.  It has been a tumultuous season so far, featuring serious injuries to several important contributors and maddening underperformance with runners in scoring position, but also plenty of pleasant surprises.  Despite everything that has gone poorly for the Yankees this season, they are in great position to make a playoff run.  At 53-33, the Yankees own the best record in the majors, despite playing in a division where no team is below .500, and they are eight games up on their nearest competitor.  They lead the league in home runs and wRC+, though they are only 6th in runs scored.  Despite injuries to Michael Pineda, Andy Pettitte, and CC Sabathia, they are 2nd in the league with a 3.71 xFIP, largely driven by the pitching staff’s 8.45 strikeouts per 9 innings.  With this strong first half in the books, I figured I would take a look at some of the storylines to watch for the second half, which will play an important role in determining if the Yankees can hold on to their division lead.

MVP candidate Cano

Robinson Cano is having a monster season for the Yankees so far, and is well on pace to eclipse his career highs in a number of offensive categories.  He has slugged 20 home runs with a wRC+ of 150, and his fielding is significantly improved according to UZR (small sample size warnings apply).  All this combines to make Cano the 7th in the majors with 4.3 fWAR at the midway point.  If the season were to end today, Cano would be a strong candidate for AL MVP, along with usual suspects Josh Hamilton and David Ortiz, and rookie phenom Mike Trout.  Cano’s 2012 production has been very impressive, and it will be interesting to see if he can sustain this form going forward.  Recent history suggests that it is difficult for a Yankee player to win the award unless he is far superior statistically to his competition, and right now, Cano is not in that position.  Nonetheless, if Cano continues to mash and some of his competition begins to fall off (such as Trout) or get hurt (Hamilton), Robbie would be in good position to win his first MVP.

Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova: for real?

Coming into the season, significant questions abounded about Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova, and whether they would be able to stick in the rotation as consistent contributors.  Michael Pineda’s Spring Training shoulder injury weakened the Yankees’ rotation depth, and put increased pressure at least one of the Hughes-Nova duo to emerge as a solid mid-rotation starter.  Hughes got off to a poor start to the season, and both players have had serious problems surrendering the long ball, but of late, both have settled in.  They’ve shown the ability to strike batters out (8.31/9 for Hughes, 8.16 for Nova) and limit walks (2.08 for Hughes, 2.69 for Nova) a combination that limits the numbers of runners on base when the inevitable longball comes.  Both have been able to pitch deep into the game, which is important for keeping the Yankee bullpen well-rested and effective.  Hughes and Nova have shown that they can pitch in the low-4 ERA range, and with the Yankee offense, they will win a lot of games.  However, it remains to be seen if they can improve their statistics by cutting down on the home runs.  They were surrendering them at an unsustainable pace earlier in the year, but have improved in that area recently (particularly Hughes).  While both have looked very good of late, Hughes in particular has teased Yankee fans throughout his career with strong performances only to regress significantly, and hopefully he can avoid that outcome.

What will Joba bring to the table?

While most of us gave up on Joba Chamberlain being a 2012 contributor after his awful trampoline-related ankle injury, his impressively quick recovery has him in position to return to the Yankees sometime in August.  Chamberlain, looking noticeably svelte, was recently clocked as high as 97 in his first outing in the Gulf Coast League, a sign that his velocity has returned following Tommy John Surgery.  The velocity bodes well for his ability to be a successful bullpen contributor this year, but command could be a big question.  Joba never had pinpoint control to start with, and it is often said that command is the last thing that comes back to a pitcher who has had Tommy John.  Joba’s willingness and ability to use his devastating slider is another question that he will have to answer.  The pitch is his primary 2-strike weapon to earn strikeouts, but often pitchers who have Tommy John will cut down on their slider usage, to avoid putting additional strain on their elbow.  If Joba does have to throw fewer sliders, he may need to have another offering to flash so hitters can’t just sit on the fastball.    I don’t expect Joba to be back to his old self right away, but the good news is that in a bullpen with Rafael Soriano and David Robertson, he won’t be relied upon to pitch in high-leverage situations immediately.  If he earns those innings with his performance, great, but if he has some struggles as expected, they will hopefully be in fairly low-pressure situations.

Is Russell Martin this bad?

Russell Martin’s offensive production has fallen off across the board compared to 2011, and he is currently batting below the Mendoza line with an anemic .181 average.  After being exactly league average in 2011 (100 wRC+), Martin has fallen to being 20% worse than the average hitter (80 wRC+).  Outside of a strong couple of games against the Mets, Martin really hasn’t put together a strong stretch this season that might give hope that he is starting to come out of it.  The unfortunate sign is that Martin’s struggles have actually lasted longer than this season.  He started strong in 2011, but his numbers dipped dramatically after the first two months.  When we see a player struggle for this long, there is always concern about whether the player is in decline or injured.  While the 29 year-old Martin seems too young to be over the hill, the physical toll of catching every day could accelerate this decline.  I am hopeful that Martin can improve, but not optimistic that he will.  If there is any consolation here, it is that his contract is up at the end of the 2012 season, and the Yankees caught a break by having Martin turn down their 3-year extension offer in the offseason.  This also means that the Yankees will likely be in search of a new catcher for the 2013 season.

Game 87: No Sweat

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

The first game back from the All-Star break is out of the way, so now it’s time to get back in the regular ol’ day-to-day routine of baseball. Freddy Garcia gets the ball after throwing a gem in Fenway Park last weekend, a performance that all but locked up his spot in the rotation as Andy Pettitte‘s temporary replacement. Here’s the starting nine…

SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
DH Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
1B Mark Teixeira
RF Nick Swisher
LF Raul Ibanez
3B Eric Chavez
C  Chris Stewart

RHP Freddy Garcia

This afternoon’s game starts a little after 1pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Ty Hensley News: Hensley, the team’s first round pick who signed for $1.2M two days ago, is in New York to hang around the team and catch some games over the weekend. Pretty standard treatment. Hopefully YES will interview him or something.

Joba strikes out two in latest minor league rehab outing

In his second minor league rehab outing, right-hander Joba Chamberlain struck out a pair of hitters — one swinging, one looking — in two scoreless innings for the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League Yankees. He did not allow a hit or walk a batter, but one runner reached on an error by the third baseman. His four non-strikeout outs came on ground balls. No word on Joba’s velocity or pitch count, but I suspect we’ll get some numbers later this morning.

Chamberlain started his rehab stint this past Tuesday, so his 30-day clock ends on August 9th. At that point the Yankees must activate him off the DL, assuming nothing goes wrong (not a safe assumption). Joba will probably throw another two innings in his next outing, three or four days from now.

Update: Via Erik Boland, Joba was again sitting 95 and touching 97 this morning. Good to see the pre-surgery velocity back.


Update Part Two:
Via Boland, Joba threw 25 pitches this morning including 19 strikes. No official announcement on the next step yet.