Ramiro Pena’s offensive season

Ramiro Pena’s triple on Wednesday night helped boost his OPS from .456 to .486.  On the list of worst Yankee offensive (in more ways than one) seasons since 1950 his game Wednesday night dropped him from 8th worst to 10th worst (min. 100 ab’s, see chart below).  I bring this up to not bash Ramiro Pena, but just to show how truly inept he is with the bat.  Now that Eduardo Nunez has been called up to the big leagues, there is no justification for having Pena start a game.

Pena will stick around because of his glove, but that doesn’t mean he should be getting any meaningful at-bat’s.  Sure Nunez isn’t a great fielder and is a very flawed hitter, but he’s Babe Ruth with the bat compared to Pena.  We know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Ramiro Pena simply will not be productive batting.  Nunez probably won’t be great, but there’s just about no way he can be worse than Pena.  So why, with Nunez eligible, did Pena get the start Thursday against the Tigers?  Maybe they didn’t want to throw Nunez right in, especially in a day game.  Maybe they wanted to bring him into a game as a reserve first to get his feet wet which they were able to do with a 9 run lead.  Whatever the reason, Pena, who remarkably already has 120 plate appearances (heading into Thursday) should end the season with no more than 150.  He’s been that bad.

His triple the other night was his 2nd extra base hit.  In 28 starts he has 3 two hit games.  Of the other 9 Yankee seasons since 1950 with an OPS less than .500, and SLG and OBP’s below .250, 4 of them happened before the DH existed (though non-pitchers).  Of the other 4, 3 were in the 70’s and 2 were in the 80’s.  Yes, it has been 23 years since a Yankee has been so poor offensively.  If it wasn’t for risk of injury, the Yankees might be better off having the DH hit for Pena and have the pitchers hit for themselves.  It’s coming down to that.  All of this is a simple plea to Joe Girardi, do not start Ramiro Pena.  Ever.

Felix king as Mariners blank Yanks 6-0

Three batters into the top of the first, the usually-punchless Mariners found themselves enjoying a 3-0 cushion. With King Felix on the mound, those runs would be more than enough, but Seattle battered A.J. Burnett for three as the game progressed. Hernandez, meanwhile, was untouchable. He allowed just four hits in eight innings and struck out 11 as the Mariners beat the Yanks 6-0.

Felix earns his nickname

Total domination. AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

Last weekend, we celebrated how the Yanks had managed to play two four-game sets against the Royals and miss Zack Greinke both times. This week, we curse the scheduling gods for their retribution. The Yanks and Mariners have faced off in three series, and each time, Felix Hernandez has taken the mound. Each time, the Mariners have won.

For all the aces the Yankees have faced this year — the Jon Lesters, the Roy Halladays, the Cliff Lees — none have dominated more than Felix Hernandez, and tonight was no exception. Using a fastball sitting above 94, a change-up in the upper 80s and a set of 85-mph breaking balls, Hernandez was nearly untouchable. At one point, he struck out five Yanks in a row and ended the game with 11 Ks. It was, as that Avis commercial says, total domination.

On the season, Hernandez is now 3-0 against the Yanks in three starts. He’s thrown 26 innings and has given up a solitary earned run on 15 hits and eight walks. He’s struck out 31 Yankees. I’m glad they won’t have to face him again.

A.J. struggles early

Oh, look a home run by Russell Branyan. AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

By now, the Bad A.J./Good A.J. meme has grown tired. A.J. Burnett is what he is: an overpaid, inconsistent pitcher who’s with the Yanks for the next three seasons. Tonight, we saw A.J. struggle early. He gave up a single to Ichiro, inexplicably walked Chone Figgins and then after a stolen base, gave up a booming home run to Russell Branyan. It was the fourth long ball Branyan had blasted in the Bronx in seven games this year, and he would return for an encore performance later in the game.

As the evening wore on, it was clear that A.J. had no command. In 7 innings, he gave up six runs on 12 hits while walking three. He struck out just four Mariners, and a weak-hitting team teed off on him as though it were batting practice. His 92-mph fastballs were all over the place, and he couldn’t throw the curve for strikes. For Burnett, now 9-11 with a 4.80 ERA on the season and 0-3 with a 6.08 ERA in August, it was business as usual.

After the game, Burnett spoke with reporters about his struggles, and his comments, on the surface, seem insensitive. He claimed that only the home runs were hard hit and that he was only concerned with the long balls. “If I don’t give up those home runs, it’s a 2-0 game. Those are the only pitches I’m worried about,” he said, adding later, “I’m not worried about all the other hits, but the two home runs bother me.”

For Burnett, those comments have to be a coping mechanism. No one knows better than A.J. that his results are not where they need to be and where the Yanks want them to be this year. He’s underperforming his ERA by nearly a full year, and his strike out totals as well as his fastball velocity are down a few ticks this year. The Yankees need to get A.J. back on track if they’re going to win in October, but right now, the dominant A.J. is nowhere to be seen.

A-Rod leaves early

The only other noteworthy part of this game was a fourth-inning substitution. As we reported earlier, the Yankees had to pull A-Rod after he felt his calf grab during his second-inning at bat. The Yankees now anticipate that he’ll miss more time, but a DL trip is unlikely. Ramiro Peña will get the bulk of the third base playing time.

I believe the Yanks made a mistake playing A-Rod tonight. Had they sat him out, they could have put him on the disabled list retroactive to Monday, and he would have been eligible to be activated near Sept. 1 when rosters expand. Now, they’ll sit him and hope he can heal without a trip to the disabled list. It was a costly move in a game against a dominant pitcher, and while the Yanks shouldn’t give up before a pitch is even thrown, using A-Rod tonight could come back to haunt them.

Funny baseball picture! Unfunny baseball game! AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

WPA Graph

Down, down, down.

Box Scores: FanGraphs, ESPN

Up Next

These two clubs go at it again at 1:05 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. Javier Vazquez (9-9, 4.89) will look to get back to his winning ways against Jason Vargas (9-5, 3.15).

Albaladejo becomes first IL’er to 40 saves in win

Adam Warren and Ivan Nova ranked one-two in this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet, which is pretty cool. Also, Frankie Piliere posted full scouting reports for both Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances, so make sure you check ‘em out.

And in case you missed it, Zach McAllister has been traded to the Indians to complete the Austin Kearns deal. His lack of an out pitch finally caught up to him in Triple-A, and he had been passed by too many pitching prospects to count this season. Frankly, he had no long-term role on the Yanks, so they moved him before his stock dropped even more.

  • Triple-A Scranton won. Jesus Montero singled and struck out twice, though Greg Golson, Colin Curtis, Brandon Laird, and Chad Huffman all one-upped him with multiple hits. Eric Bruntlett out did everyone with four hits, including a double. Lance Pendleton allowed four runs in 5.2 innings before Jon Albaladejo recorded his 40th save of the season, the first reliever ever to do that in the International League. Pretty amazing that he’s either gotten the save or win in 43 of the team’s 74 wins.
  • Double-A Trenton won. Justin Christian doubled twice, Dan Brewer once. Corban Joseph and Austin Romine also picked up a hit each. Nothing exciting on the pitching side, just a scoreless inning from George Kontos and four uneventful outs from Ryan Pope.
  • High-A Tampa got destroyed. Bradley Suttle doubled and walked twice, continuing his recent hot streak. Melky Mesa did the same thing, but his hit was a triple. Adam Olbrychowski allowed seven innings in just one inning after Shaeffer Hall allowed six in five. I’m not mad, I’m impressed.
  • Low-A Charleston won big. Slade Heathcott had three hits including a double and J.R Murphy made up for a hitless showing by walking three times. Kelvin Castro went deep, and DeAngelo Mack, Luke Murton, Kevin Mahoney, and Francisco Santana also had multiple hits. Brett Marshall struck out six and allowed just three hits in six innings as he continues his impressive return from Tommy John surgery.
  • Short Season Staten Island lost. Rob Segedin and Gary Sanchez both singled, but Cito Culver went hitless and instead drew a walk. Casey Stevenson had three knocks. Nothing special on the bump.
  • Rookie GCL Yanks lost. Mason Williams singled and struck out in three at-bats in his pro debut. Angelo Gumbs drew a walk, Ben Gamel singled, and Ramon Flores disappointingly failed to reach base in four attempts. The pitching was rather unspectacular.

A-Rod felt his calf ‘grab,’ will miss more time

Updated (10:50 p.m.): In the second inning of tonight’s 6-0 loss, Alex Rodriguez, making his return to the lineup from a calf injury, grounded out and could barely run down to first base. He was clearly limping when he headed back to the dugout, and when he spot came up again in the fourth, Austin Kearns pinch hit for him. After the game, Joe Girardi told reporters that he pulled A-Rod when the slugger said he felt his calf grab during his swing. “He’s probably going to miss a few more games,” the Yanks’ manager said. A-Rod doesn’t know if he’s going to hit the DL, but Joe Girardi said he “wouldn’t think so at this point.” I miss the healthy A-Rod.

Indians select McAllister to complete Kearns deal

The Yankees announced tonight that the Cleveland Indians have selected right-handed pitcher Zach McAllister to complete the Austin Kearns deal. After rocketing through the Yanks’ system, McAllister could not get outs efficiently at AAA this year. The 22 year old is just 8-10 on the year with a 5.09 ERA and a 4.59 FIP. He’s struck out just 88 in 132.2 innings while walking 38 and has given up 20 home runs.

Both Baseball America and our own Mike Axisa ranked McAllister as the organization’s fifth best prospect in the preseason lists, but as Baseball America said, his stuff just isn’t that overpowering. Calling him “trade bait,” the magazine said, “Only McAllister’s slider grades as a plus pitch, and his fastball sometimes sits in the upper 80s. He must be precise with his fringy curveball and changeup.” In his post-draft organizational rankings, Mike had McAllister ranked 18th. His star has fallen, and the Yanks will likely not miss him.

Game 122: A-Rod back at DH (and out again in the 4th)

The Yankees got lucky when playing Kansas City this season. Both times they missed facing Zack Greinke. But when they face the Mariners they have drawn Felix Hernandez every time. In both of his previous starts he’s pitched a complete game, striking out 20 total. The Yanks will go in having scored 26 runs in their past three games.

A-Rod returns to the game to DH. Gardner stays in the leadoff spot, because Cervelli’s catching. If Brett picks up a couple of hits tonight I wonder what Girardi will do tomorrow. Would he drop Jorge to 7th to keep Brett atop the lineup?

Lineup:

1. Brett Gardner, LF
2. Derek Jeter, SS
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez, DH
5. Robinson Cano, 2B
6. Nick Swisher, RF
7. Curtis Granderson, CF
8. Francisco Cervelli, C
9. Ramiro Pena, 3B

And on the mound, number thirty-four, A.J. Burnett.

Update (8:30 p.m.): In the 4th inning as the clean-up spot in the lineup came up for a second time, the Yankees opted to pinch hit Austin Kearns for Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod had missed three days with a sore calf and did not run hard down to first on a ground ball in the second inning. This is not a good development for the Yankees.

Secondary market again under average for weekend set

The Seattle Mariners, as Cliff Corcoran detailed in his extensively entertaining series preview at the new Pinstriped Bible, aren’t a very good team. The team is 48-73 and have somehow managed to average 3.28 runs scored per game. It is no surprise then that tickets for the weekend are selling at 20 percent below average.

Surprisingly, tonight’s game — the one top-notch pitching match-up that features Felix Hernandez and A.J. Burnett — is the one with the lowest prices. Tomorrow’s game, an afternoon affair on a nice day, is selling strong, but with bad weather moving in on Sunday, the prices dip a bit. With so many New Yorkers out on vacation this week and next and an uninspiring Mariners club in town for some mid-August games, it’s no wonder ticket prices are a bit depressed. As always, grab your seats from RAB Tickets.