Donaldson’s long ball sinks the Yanks 4-2 in the series finale

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

In a matchup of young starters, Marcus Stroman and the Blue Jays came up victorious. Nathan Eovaldi showed flashes of brilliance early on, locating his fastball well and his secondary pitches fooled hitters, but a few mistakes to good hitters proved costly as he came away as the loser. With the exception of the fourth inning, the Yankee bats went mostly silent against Stroman, and New York dropped the series finale in the Rogers Centre.

Grounderfest in the Six

Marcus Stroman, only 24 years-old, is the Blue Jays ace and he will give Yankees fits for a long time. He can cut, sink, locate, etc., basically a lot of things you want from a pitcher. He also seems to be friendly with the 6 God so that’s pretty neat. Earlier today, the Phillies’ Vincent Velazquez struck out 16 in a C GSHO. Stroman mowed down the batters in a different way: weak contact.

The Yankees rallied to score a couple in the fourth. A-Rod got hit by the pitch and Mark Teixeira dunked a single to right. With one out, runners on first and second, Brian McCann hit a grounder to Ryan Goins, but the second baseman couldn’t handle it, loading the bases. With the count full, Carlos Beltran hit a grounder that he just beat out to avoid a double play. Also, the run scored and New York took a 1-0 lead.

They weren’t done scoring. Stroman walked Chase Headley to load the bases again, bringing up Starlin Castro. During the Castro at-bat, Stroman threw a sinker way low and Russell Martin – who was brilliant with blocking low pitches all series – let it pass towards the side for a wild pitch. 2-0 Yanks.

That was about the only blemish in Stroman’s outing. After walking Jacoby Ellsbury in the fifth, he did not allow a baserunner, retiring 11 straight batters until the end of his outing. Did I mention how efficient his pitching was? Stroman had a 17-2 GB/FB ratio, which is pretty darn neat. He pitched eight full innings and threw 98 pitches (66 for strikes). New York’s woes in RISP situations continued as well, as the lineup went 1-for-5 in scoring chances.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Temporarily Nasty Nate

Eovaldi had his splitter working tonight – at least early on. For the first four innings, he was the pitcher that many envisioned to be – a power guy with deadly secondary stuff.

For the first four innings, Eovaldi struck out five – all of them on breaking pitches (four splitters and a slider). His fastball worked pretty well to set the knockout secondary pitches up, which is pretty much a recipe for success for most ML pitchers. It was reminiscent of a lot of his outings during his hot second-half stretch in last season.

Boom (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

The bottom of fifth was a different story. With two outs and runner on, Kevin Pillar hit a double that put runners on second and third. Next up: Josh Donaldson. The reigning AL MVP tends to punish mistakes. Eovaldi hung a splitter up the zone and Donaldson did not miss any of it. He crushed it into the center field second deck for a 3-2 Jays lead – a sight that you’ll see in multiple end-of-the-year highlights for sure. 89 mph in, 111 mph out. Eovaldi hung another meatball up the zone the next inning. He threw a slider up the zone that Troy Tulowitzki didn’t miss for a solo homer. 4-2 Jays.

He entered the seventh inning, got two outs, but surrendered another XBH to Donaldson – a double. Joe Girardi pulled Eovaldi out of the game, ending an enigmatic start. Eovaldi’s line: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 8 K’s. The strikeout numbers are nice but the homework for Nasty Nate is to allow less mistake pitches.

Rest of the Game

Johnny Barbato relieved Eovaldi in the seventh and got out of it. He also pitched a scoreless bottom of the eighth. Overall, he picked up two strikeouts in 1.1 IP, bringing season totals to 4.2 IP with 7 K’s and 0.00 ERA. He may not be pitching in a glamorous role now (at least for this season, with Dellin BetancesAndrew MillerAroldis Chapman in back of the bullpen) but he’s slowly earning brownie points. As Mike pointed out earlier, he’s looking more like a keeper in the roster.

In the ninth, the Jays put in 21-year-old Roberto Osuna to close out the game and he was brilliant, retiring all three Yankee hitters for a save. 4-2 Toronto victory.

Leftovers

The four-five-six hitters of the Yankee lineup had a hit each. The rest? 0-for-18 with two walks and a HBP. It’s not what you want. A-Rod’s slow start worsened with his 0-for-3 performance, lowering his season avg. to .120 (.507 OPS).

Box Score, WPA, Highlights and Updated Standings

Here’s tonight’s box score, highlights, WPA and updated standings.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees come back home tomorrow and start a series versus the Mariners for this weekend. I’ll be at the Sunday game, excited to see Robbie Cano back in Bronx and hopefully much nicer weather than the opening series!

DotF: Sanchez’s walk-off homer gives Scranton a win in Swisher’s debut

Can't imagine many other big league veterans would be this happy to be in Triple-A. (Photo via @swbrailriders)
Can’t imagine many other big league veterans would be this happy to be in Triple-A. (Photo via @swbrailriders)

Triple-A Scranton (2-0 win over Syracuse in ten innings)

  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-4, 1 BB, 2 K
  • DH Rob Refsnyder: 1-5
  • CF Slade Heathcott: 0-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K — in a 2-for-21 (.095) slump with nine strikeouts
  • C Gary Sanchez: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K — two-run walk-off monster dong
  • 1B Nick Swisher: 1-4 — can’t say I ever expected to write his name in DotFDonnie Collins says the base hit was an infield single, and that one of the outs was a long fly ball to right field that might have been a home run at Yankee Stadium
  • RHP Tyler Cloyd: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 3/5 GB/FB — 48 of 79 pitches were strikes (61%)
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 3/3 GB/FB — 26 of 36 pitches were strikes (72%)
  • RHP Nick Goody: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 19 of 30 pitches were strikes (63%) … hey, no homers allowed!
  • RHP Vinnie Pestano: 1.1 IP, zeroes, 3 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 13 of 22 pitches were strikes (59%)

[Read more…]

Game Eight: Rubber Game

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The six-game turned five-game road trip ends tonight with the rubber game against the Blue Jays. A win to clinch the series victory would be awfully sweet. A 3-2 road trip is always better than a 2-3 road trip, especially when you get that last win over a division rival.

Nathan Eovaldi is on the mound and he did something in his last start he usually doesn’t do a whole lot: give up homers. He gave up two of them in five innings after allowing ten homers in 154.1 innings last year. Hopefully Eovaldi fares a little better tonight with the game inside and not in the freezing cold. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. 2B Starlin Castro
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

It’s another really cold day in Toronto, so the Rogers Centre roof will be closed. First pitch is scheduled for 7:07pm ET. You can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: McCann (toe) is back in the lineup, obviously. He is wearing some sort of extra padding to protect his toe after taking that foul tip the other night.

King: Yankees renewed Betances at league minimum after he rejected contract offer

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

According to George King, the Yankees renewed Dellin Betances‘ contract at the league minimum this offseason after he rejected their initial offer. The team was more or less free to pay Betances whatever they want because he has fewer than three years of service time. Here’s more from King:

According to Betances, the Yankees offered him a contract for $540,000 this year. Betances said he didn’t sign it, on the advice of his representative, Jim Murray. He knew if he didn’t ink the contract, the Yankees could renew him at any number. And that’s what the club did: Betances is making $507,500 this season, which is what he made a year ago.

Betances and his agent turned down the raise on principle. He’ll still be well-paid this season — by normal people standards, not baseball player standards — and they’ve now let the Yankees know they weren’t happy with their initial offer. Both Jacob deGrom and Brad Boxberger rejected raises this past offseason as well, and both had their contracts renewed. Gerrit Cole complained about his small raise before begrudgingly accepting the offer.

Players with fewer than three years of service time have basically no negotiating leverage. Teams are free to pay them whatever they want, though most clubs have some sort of sliding scale based on service time and other accomplishments (awards, All-Star Games, etc.) to keep things fair and simple. A few years back Mike Trout was the highest paid player with fewer than three years of service time in history. He made $1M.

While I understand there may be concern the contract renewal will create bad blood between Betances and the Yankees, I don’t think that’s the case. It’s a business. This is the system that was collectively bargained. The Yankees had every right to new renew his contract the same way Betances had the right to reject an offer. Dellin’s a pro. He’s still going to go out and do his job.

Next offseason Betances will be eligible for salary arbitration for the first time, so he’s got a substantial raise coming his way. Jonathan Papelbon holds the record for first time arbitration-eligible relievers at $6.25M, but he was a closer, and saves pay big in arbitration. I don’t know what the record is for first time non-closers, but I imagine Dellin is in position to break it, especially if he goes to his third All-Star Game this summer.

Betances will not qualify for free agency until after the 2019 season, when he’ll be nearing his 32nd birthday. The Yankees have him for the rest of this year plus three more seasons, so he’s not going anywhere anytime soon. In all likelihood the team will get the best years of Dellin’s career before he hits the open market. What happens then? That’s something to worry about in 2019.

Thursday Links: Severino, Wearable Technology, Payroll

Sevy. (Presswire)
Sevy. (Presswire)

The Yankees and Blue Jays wrap up their three-game series with the rubber game in Toronto tonight. After that, the Yankees return home for a nine-game homestand against the Mariners, Athletics, and Rays. They’re seeing the M’s and A’s early this year, huh? Well, anyway, here are some stray links and notes.

Severino changes agents

According to Jerry Crasnick, young right-hander Luis Severino recently switched agents. He left the Beverly Hills Sports Council and is now represented by Paul Kinzer of REP1 Baseball. Kinzer is no small time agent. He represents Starlin Castro, Edwin Encarnacion, Geovany Soto, and Jhoulys Chacin, among others. Aramis Ramirez and Rafael Furcal were Kinzer clients during their playing days as well.

For what it’s worth, Kinzer clients do have a history of signing long-term extensions before reaching free agency. Both Castro and Encarnacion jumped at the security of a long-term deal early in their careers, for example. Severino did not receive a big signing bonus as an amateur ($225,000), so he could be open to signing an extension and locking in that big payday. What kind of contract would it take? That’s a topic worth it’s own post.

MLB approves “wearable technology”

The rules committee has approved two forms of “wearable technology” for this season, reports Ronald Blum. Players are now allowed to wear the Motus Baseball Sleeve, which measures the stress on elbows, and the Zephyr Bioharness, which measures heart and breathing rates. Here’s more from Blum:

Data from the devices cannot be transmitted during games but must been downloaded afterward … Clubs may use the data only for internal purposes, and it will be shared with the player. It cannot be provided to broadcasters or used for commercial purposes. Players can decide whether or not to use the technology and determine who can receive the data.

MLB and the MLBPA still haven’t made an official announcement for whatever reason. The MLBPA has some concerns about privacy — “The next thing you know, the pitcher’s going to have a phone in his pocket taking selfies,” said Brett Gardner to Blum — and wearable technology will again be reviewed as part of the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement talks.

This all sounds pretty great to me, especially the sleeve that measures all the different stresses on a player’s elbow. Anything that can help detect and possibly prevent injuries is a-okay in my book. Then again, I’m not the one wearing this stuff, so what do I know. By the way, the rules committee also approved a pair of bat sensors that can be used during batting practice, but not games. They record bat speed, swing paths, all that good stuff.

Yankees have MLB’s top payroll*

The Yankees opened this season with baseball’s largest payroll at $223M, reports Bob Nightengale. The Dodgers are right behind them at $222M. There’s a catch though. This only covers the salaries of players on the active Opening Day roster. It doesn’t include money paid to players on other teams, of which the Yankees have very little. They’re paying $3M to Martin Prado. That’s it.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, are paying $18M to players not on their roster this season, including Matt Kemp, Mike Morse, and Hector Olivera. All things considered, Los Angeles still has baseball’s highest total payroll at roughly $254M. That’s down about $50M from last season. ($50M!) The Yankees are a distant second at $228M, and the Tigers an even distanter third at $200M. New York’s payroll is up $5M from last season and $10M from five years ago, give or take.

MLBTR’s Offseason in Review

I forgot to link to this earlier, but better late than never, I guess. MLBTR covered the Yankees as part of their annual Offseason In Review series two weeks ago. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a comprehensive review of the club’s offseason activity, as well as a look at the questions they still have a roster. Make sure you check it out. Tons of great information in there.

Barbato looks like a keeper, not a shuttle candidate, so far this season

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Coming into Spring Training, Johnny Barbato was an afterthought in the competition for an Opening Day bullpen spot. At least I thought so. The Yankees had a ton of bullpen candidates in camp, many of them with big league experience, and I figured they would get first dibs. Instead, Barbato out-pitched them all in camp, and won a spot on the roster.

Seven games into the season, Barbato already looks like a power reliever with some staying power, not someone who will spend his summer tracking mileage between Scranton and the Bronx. (Expense reports are such a pain.) His regular season numbers (3.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K) are great, but they’re also still meaningless because the sample is so small. Barbato’s stuff and ability to locate is what makes him look so promising.

“First pitch was 95-96 mph. Second pitch was a buckler and I usually don’t buckle on breaking balls. Next pitch ground ball to first. Three pitches. Not a fun at-bat,” said Chris Colabello to George King when asked about facing Barbato following Wednesday’s game. Barbato allowed a two-out walk in an otherwise clean inning that night, and because the Yankees scored in the next half-inning, he picked up his first career win. That’s always cool.

New York acquired Barbato from the Padres for Shawn Kelley last offseason. He was a pretty big deal as a prospect back in the day — San Diego gave Barbato a $1.4M bonus as a sixth rounder in 2010 — because of his live arm, but he never did pick up a changeup, so he had to move to relief. Here is Baseball America’s scouting report (no subs. req’d) following the trade:

He pitches with mid-90s velocity and verve, attacking hitters with a live fastball that sinks and runs as it nears the plate. He throws a true curveball in the high 70s that features extreme break through the zone, and he locates and mixes his two pitches well enough to boast a career strikeout rate of 9.2 per nine innings.

That matches up with what we’ve seen from Barbato early this season and in Spring Training, right? The fastball is lively and his curveball has some very nice bend to it. (Here’s the GIF.) And he has verve. Verve is always good. The scouting report refers to Barbato as a two-pitch pitcher, however. There is no mention of his slider, a slider we’ve seen this year. To the action footage:

Johnny Barbato SL

I do enjoy the little bunny hop following the release. Nice touch. I guess that’s the verve the scouting report was talking about.

Anyway, that’s a slider. Fight me if you think otherwise. I guess maybe it could be a cutter, but it’s no mid-90s four-seamer and it for sure is not a 70-something mile an hour curveball. That’s a pitch that is unaccounted for in the scouting reports. (There’s no mention of the slider in Baseball America’s write-ups over the years.)

That pitch also did not exist until this year according to PitchFX, albeit in limited looks. The Padres hold Spring Training in Arizona, and several Cactus League ballparks are outfitted with PitchFX. Barbato also pitched in the Arizona Fall League a few years back. Here is the very limited PitchFX data we have on Johnny Boombatz, via Brooks Baseball:

Johnny Barbato pitch selectionSee? The slider has come out of nowhere. It’s very possible Barbato was throwing it in the minors last year, but I can’t find any record of it. This appears to be a new pitch Barbato has added at some point since the trade, and that’s pretty cool. The Yankees are known to teach cutters — David Robertson is the best example, but others like Ian Clarkin and Manny Banuelos added the pitch as well — so it wouldn’t be unprecedented if Barbato added a similar pitch since the trade.

Right now Barbato is coming out of the bullpen with a mid-90s four-seamer, his trademark upper-70s curveball, and this new cutter/slider (slutter?) thing at 88-89 mph or so. He throws all three pitches regularly — he’s thrown 21.0% curves and 22.6% slutters so far — and his swing-and-miss rate is a healthy 15.7% in the super duper early going. Joe Girardi seems to trust Barbato too; he brought him into the sixth inning of a tie game against the Blue Jays on Wednesday. The first batter he faced was Troy Tulowitzki.

Last season the Yankees shuttled young relievers in and out of the bullpen every time a fresh arm was needed. And, for the most part, none of the shuttle relievers did anything to distinguish themselves. It’s a tough job, I get that, but no one came out throwing fire and left you wanting to see more. They came up, threw a few innings, then were sent back out and no one really cared. None of those guys did enough to impress the brain trust and stick around.

Barbato has already stood out in a way none of the shuttle relievers did last season. He took advantage of an opportunity in Spring Training and he’s carried that performance over into the regular season. He’s throwing strikes — it’s not uncommon for even the most polished minor leagues to lose the zone a bit early in their MLB careers — and missing bats. It’s early, but so far Barbato looks like someone who should stick around and not ride the shuttle.

Even at age 40, it’s too early to worry about A-Rod’s slow start

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Following last night’s 0-fer, Alex Rodriguez is now 3-for-22 (.136) on the young season. He did hit a home run against the Tigers over the weekend, though he’s also struck out eight times. A-Rod was pretty great last season. But when a 40-year-old with two surgically repaired hips starts slow, there’s going to be concern it’s more than a slump. That’s just the way it is.

The very first thing I look at when an older player slumps is the quality of his at-bats. A few years back, when Derek Jeter was nearing the finish line, he was clearly cheating fastball and jumping on anything near the hitting zone early in the count. Same with Ichiro Suzuki. The quality of their at-bats suffered because their reaction time wasn’t the same, so they had to speed up their bats and sit on the heater. They were at a disadvantage.

Anecdotally, A-Rod’s at-bats have seemed fine so far this season. It’s tough to explain what exactly constitutes a “quality at-bat,” but you know one when you see it. Hitters swing at strikes, spit on pitcher’s pitchers, that sort of thing. Here are some numbers to help put some of this into context:

2015 Walk Rate: 13.5%
2016 Walk Rate: 15.4% (11.1% career, 8.7% MLB average)

2015 Chase Rate: 25.1%
2016 Chase Rate: 27.7% (25.7% career, 29.9% MLB average)

I’ve felt Rodriguez has been doing a good job laying off pitches out of the zone this first week and a half of the season, and it’s good to see the numbers confirm what my eyes are telling me. His plate discipline numbers are right in line with last year and his career averages. He’s not jumping at the plate and chasing out of the zone.

Also, A-Rod is still hitting the ball hard. Wednesday night is a pretty good example of how the batting line can be deceiving right now. Rod went 0-for-4 but hit the ball hard three times: twice to the right fielder and once to the second baseman. Good contact but he hit it to the wrong spot. It happens. That’s baseball.

Baseball Info Solutions has A-Rod’s hard contact rate at 28.6% right now, which almost exactly matches the league average (28.7%). His soft contact rate is 0.0%. Literally zero. BIS says Alex has yet to make weak contact in 2016. Statcast has his average exit velocity at 95.9 mph. Last year it was 92.1 mph. His line drive and fly ball rates are 35.7% and 42.9%, so he’s getting the ball in the air too. I’m going to put this in the very simplest of terms: Alex hit ball good. That’s as basic as you’re going to get. His contact has been loud so far.

Of course it’s still early in the season and all of this can change in an instant. Right now we’re just looking for scary signs. Some sort of evidence Rodriguez’s game is slipping. And, really, you don’t have to look too hard to find it: his contact rate is 68.8% on pitches in the zone and 62.0% overall. Last year it was 77.7% and 70.2%, respectively. The league averages are 85.0% and 76.8%. That’s the red flag to watch.

Alex is a DH and a DH only at this point, so if he doesn’t hit, he’s pretty useless. Unlike last year, when he came out of the gate on fire, he’s started a bit slow this season. If Joe Girardi wants to drop A-Rod in the order — flipping him and Carlos Beltran seems like the obvious move — I say go for it. It’s an easy enough move to make and I can’t imagine anyone would have a problem with that. He dropped him in the order late last year, remember.

Otherwise I think it’s too early to worry about Alex. His contact rate is down, but he’s swinging at the pitches he’s supposed to swing at, and his contact has been solid. I’d be more concerned if A-Rod wasn’t driving the ball and wasn’t showing any kind of feel for the strike zone. Beltran was a disaster last April and the Yankees were rewarded for their patience with him. They’d be smart to remain patient with A-Rod now.