Yanks will remain on rotation, Garcia starts Saturday

Following tonight’s game, Joe Girardi announced that the Yankees will remain on rotation and Freddy Garcia will start Saturday’s game against the Tigers. Ivan Nova will pitch Friday and CC Sabathia will pitch Sunday. The Yankees could have used Thursday’s off day to skip Garcia and delay his next start until next Monday against the Orioles. That’s what I would have done given how awful Freddy’s been, but whatever.


Sanchez leads the way in Charleston’s ninth straight win

Slade Heathcott‘s rehab is officially over after the latest round of tests, so he’ll probably spend some time in Extended Spring Training getting up to speed before joining High-A Tampa. In other news, Josh Romanski has been placed on the Double-A DL with a blister while Adam Miller was activated off the Triple-A DL.

Triple-A Empire State (4-3 loss to Pawtucket)
RF Colin Curtis: 1-5, 1 2B, 2 K
3B Jayson Nix, CF Dewayne Wise & C Frankie Cervelli: all 0-4 — Nix struck out thrice and got hit by a pitch … Wise and Cervelli struck out once each
LF Steve Pearce: 3-3, 1 R, 1 HBP — 15 for his last 30 with five doubles and a homer
DH Jack Cust: 0-3, 1 BB, 2 K — hasn’t done anything but DH so far this year
1B Brandon Laird: 2-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI — first homer of the year
2B Ramiro Pena: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 K
SS Doug Bernier: 0-2, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
RHP D.J. Mitchell: 6 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 HB, 6/3 GB/FB, 1 E (pickoff) — 54 of 94 pitches were strikes (57.4^%)
LHP Juan Cedeno: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1/1 GB/FB — just seven of 18 pitches were strikes (38.9%)
RHP Jason Bulger: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K — 16 of 26 pitches were strikes (61.5%)

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Game 17: Coming for Yu

(Leon Halip/Getty Images)

I was one of many fans that wanted the Yankees to sign Yu Darvish this past offseason. I liked that he was young (two months younger than Phil Hughes!) and had power stuff, plus the fact that a large chunk of the acquisition cost wouldn’t count towards the luxury tax. Then again, I also didn’t think the posting free to acquire his negotiating rights would come within $10M of Daisuke Matsuzaka’s, let alone exceed it. The Yankees didn’t bite and the Rangers did, though I have a hard time getting worked up over it after seeing the cost.

Like everyone else, I hope the Yankees pound Darvish into submission tonight. He’s never faced a lineup this good before, so if he continues to show the typical Japanese pitcher tendency of nibbling at the edges of strike zone instead of challenging hitters, it could get really ugly, really quick for him. Here’s the lineup…

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

RHP Hiroki Kuroda

This is only the seventh time in MLB history that two Japanese-born starting pitchers are facing each other. The game starts a little after 8pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Pineda headed for second opinion following MRI

Via Marc Carig, Chad Jennings & Bryan Hoch, right-hander Michael Pineda is going to see Dr. David Altchek for a second opinion on his right shoulder following today’s MRI. It’s very important to note that Pineda’s agent requested the second opinion before he even went for the initial test today. The Yankees won’t announce he results of today’s MRI until after the second opinion tomorrow.

Triple-A stadium situation pushed Bill Hall away from Yankees

Via Ken Rosenthal, utility man Bill Hall asked for his release after Spring Training because he did not want to spend the year on a season-long road trip with Triple-A Empire State. “My wife and I decided that I couldn’t live in a hotel all year,” he said. “My daughter just turned one and I couldn’t do that to her … I don’t have any problem playing in Triple A. I just want to play.”

This is the first time we’ve heard of a player leaving the organization because of the Triple-A stadium situation, but you can’t blame him. I can’t imagine anyone would want to play a season without a home base, nevermind a big league veteran who’s already banked millions in his career like Hall. I’m sure there are plenty of other players who had considered signing minor league pacts with the Yankees this winter only to decline after hearing about the stadium situation in Triple-A.

The quietly consistent Curtis Granderson

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Everyone knows the story by now. Curtis Granderson was struggling during his first season as a Yankee before a two-day, mid-August crash course with hitting coach Kevin Long transformed him into one of the most dangerous hitters in the game. Coincidentally enough, those mechanical changes came in Texas during a series against the Rangers, exactly where the Yankees are right now. Since Granderson made the adjustments, he’s hit .264/.364/.559 with more homers (61) than anyone not named Jose Bautista.

The Grandyman is off to a similar start in 2012, hitting .281/.387/.609 through his first 75 plate appearances of the season. Obviously his three-homer game against the Twins last week really put a charge into his numbers, but it’s not like he hasn’t contributed to the offense outside of that one game. In fact, Granderson has reached base in each of the last 15 games after taking an 0-for-5 on Opening Day. He’s reached base at least twice in 11 of those 15 games and has been on base 29 times in the team’s 16 games. Only 13 players have reached base more times this season.

I thought Granderson’s two-run single in the first inning last night (video) was a perfect example of something he wouldn’t have been able to do prior to his work with Long. A tough left-hander in Derek Holland had him in a 1-2 count and busted him inside with a 94 mph fastball, a pitch designed to do two things: chew up the lefty hitter on the inner half and set up the breaking ball away. Curtis would have had no chance at an offering like that two years ago, but now he’s quick enough to get around on that inside fastball to fight it off for a  single. The homers get all of the attention, but it’s at-bats like this that really show how much Granderson has changed as a hitter.

Derek Jeter‘s hot start has rightfully garnered just about all of the attention this month, though Alex Rodriguez‘s struggles against lefties, Mark Teixeira‘s attempt to assuage his pull-happy approach, and Robinson Cano‘s slow start have also been noticeable. Then there’s Granderson, who has quietly and productively plugged along regardless of where he’s placed in the order. I can’t bring myself to say that he flies under the radar in this lineup because he is such a huge part of the team, but I do think his steadiness has been taken for granted to a certain degree.

Pitching problem? Don’t let the fielders off that easily

While the Yankees’ offense has gotten off to a roaring start, the starting pitching has yet to catch up. They’re allowing far too many hits to drop in, and then they’re allowing home runs on top of those hits. The result is an ERA, 5.72, that ranks third-worst in the majors. Their peripherals look a bit better, thanks to the third highest strikeout rate and a bottom-third walk rate, but they’re still getting plenty of runs dropped on them. Yet it might not be all their fault.

One pitching aspect that stands out is the starters’ BABIP. At .355 its not only worst in the league, but worst by more than 20 points. As I noted in this morning’s post on Freddy Garcia, the BABIP issue is not simply a matter of pure luck. There are other factors that play into this. While poor command is the likely culprit in Garcia’s high BABIP, that’s not necessarily true for the staff as a whole. In fact, part of that huge BABIP number isn’t the pitchers at all.

A quick look at Baseball Prospectus’s team defensive efficiency bears this out in a different way. The Yankees’ fielders in general fare worst in the majors in converting balls in play into outs. When BP adjusts for park effects and converts defensive efficiency into runs, the Yankees have allowed a half run more on defense than the next worst team. They are nearly 14 runs behind league-leading Toronto.

As you might imagine by this point, the infield plays a large role in in this defensive inadequacy. To wit, on ground balls Yankees pitchers have allowed a .309 BABIP against an AL average of .225. That’s not to say they’re any great shakes against fly balls. Against those they have a .196 BABIP vs. the league average of .136. The defensive woes stretch across the entire field. And it’s killing the pitching staff.

No, poor fielding isn’t the only culprit in these inflated BABIP numbers. As with Freddy, command in general is an issue. We saw CC Sabathia with little command of his fastball in his first two outings. Phil Hughes has left many hittable pitches right over the plate. Hiroki Kuroda struggled with his command in his last start against Minnesota. And there’s Garcia himself, of course. So some of the high BABIP is due to the pitchers leaving hittable pitches over the plate. After all, the bullpen BABIP is much lower, at .307, but that’s still well above league average.

(Other evidence for poor defense killing the Yankees includes a league-worst UZR and a fourth-worst DRS.)

The pitching staff has been rightly criticized through the season’s first month. The starters simply haven’t put it together yet. Unfortunately, their fielders are doing them no favors. Both the infielders and the outfielders are not converting balls in play into outs at an acceptable rate. Getting Brett Gardner back will help the outfield, but in the infield it’s tough to fathom a huge improvement. That could be something to watch as the staff regains its form. Can they overcome these fielding inadequacies?

NOTE: Say what you will about Nunez; I expect plenty of “infield defense will improve if they don’t play Nunez” comments. But the Yankees’ problem isn’t necessarily errors. In fact, according to UZR they’re actually in the positive in terms of errors. It’s in the range department that they’re getting killed.