Game 70: Early Zeroes

Oh Curtis. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The Yankees are stuck in a three-game losing streak and the last two losses have one thing in common: they were down multiple runs before the end of the first inning. Phil Hughes allowed a three-spot to the Braves in the first inning on Wednesday, and yesterday Andy Pettitte gave up five runs before recording his third out. Playing from behind early in the game is a great way to continue a losing streak, so hopefully Ivan Nova tosses up some early zeroes tonight and gives his team a chance to actually have a lead. Here’s the starting lineup…

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

Tonight’s game starts at 7:15pm ET and can be seen on FOX. Enjoy, or least try to.

Aardsma throws two scoreless innings in second rehab game

In his second minor league rehab outing, right-hander David Aardsma gave up two singles in two scoreless innings for the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League Yankees. He struck out three, walked none, and got two ground balls. No word on the pitch count, but something in the 30-40 range seems like a reasonable estimation. Aardsma will probably make his next appearance late next week and he could climb the ladder — High-A Tampa seems like a logical next step — soon thereafter.

Mailbag: Second tier prospects exceeding expectations

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Will asks: Isn’t it amazing how non-prospects like Robinson Cano and Ivan Nova have turned into an all-star and an above average starting pitcher? Does this happen often? Who in the Yankees farm do you think can perform better than their minor league stats if they reach the big leagues?

Well, calling Cano and Nova non-prospects is harsh. Baseball America ranked Cano as the team’s second best prospect prior to the 2005 season and I actually thought he was their top prospect at the time, but either way he was clearly one of the club’s best potential big leaguers. He never did crack one of BA’s top 100 lists though. Nova never ranked among New York’s top ten prospects according to Baseball America — he topped out at #13 prior to 2010 — but he was in their top 30 in the Prospect Handbook every year from 2007-2010.

Anyway, the larger point here is that non-top prospects often do turn into above average big leaguers and even stars on occasion. At the same time, if you look at the list of the best starting pitchers over the last three years, the only one of those guys who didn’t project to become an ace was Cliff Lee. Non-top prospects can develop into strong starting pitchers but you very rarely see one develop into a truly elite hurler. Nova’s no ace, but he’s a rock solid starting pitcher with a chance to improve further and become a bit more at age 25.

Dave Cameron wrote a post about hitting being more difficult to scout than pitching a few weeks ago and I recommend giving it a read. Looking at the list of the best hitters over the last three years, not many of those guys were projected to be stars. Joey Votto wasn’t supposed to be the best hitter in baseball, Jose Bautista certainly wasn’t expected to be the game’s premier power hitter, Albert Pujols wasn’t supposed to be one of the best right-handed hitters in baseball history, so on and so forth.

As a layman, pitching appears to be more straight forward. You can see the pitches and their movement as well as the guy’s command, it’s right in front of you. Hitting, on the other hand, has so many intricacies and moving parts that work together that it’s very difficult to predict. I also think that because pitching dictates the game — the hitter reacts to the pitcher, not vice verse — it makes it tougher to properly evaluate hitters. Sometimes it’s quite obvious that a guy will be an excellent hitter, think Alex Rodriguez or Miggy Cabrera, but many times it’s not.

As for the Yankees, I think that OF Ramon Flores could develop into a really strong hitter down the road because he controls the strike zone well and is at the platoon advantage most of the time as a left-hander. I had him just outside the top ten in my preseason top 30, so he’s not a total sleeper. IF Corban Joseph is another one because he makes lots of contact. LHP Nik Turley seems like the obvious “exceed expectations” guy on the mound as a three-pitch lefty without a huge fastball, and RHP Shane Greene probably fits here as well. His stuff is consistently better than the results.

Mike Newman on Angelo Gumbs

Second baseman and 2010 second rounder Angelo Gumbs often gets overlooked on a prospect-laden Low-A Charleston club, but he’s quietly produced a .355 wOBA with seven homers and 22 steals in 25 chances this year. Mike Newman of FanGraphs got a chance to see Gumbs live recently and came back with a mixed scouting report, one heavy on potential but low on polish.

“Having seen both Bryce Harper and Mike Stanton as minor leaguers, Gumbs holds his own with either of them in terms of his sheer ability to get his bat head through the strike zone,” said Newman while noting that Gumbs doesn’t square the ball up as much as he should because of excessive pre-swing movement. Because he’s a converted outfielder, his defense at second is still a work in progress. You can’t teach bat speed or athleticism though, and Newman notes that Gumbs has plenty to spare. Make sure you check out the full report, it’s an interesting read.

Yanks unable to climb out of early hole, fall to Mets


Source: FanGraphs

The ten-game winning streak has been followed by a three-game losing streak, both the longest such streaks of the season for the Yankees. Let’s recap…

  • Early Hole: Andy Pettitte has been pretty awesome since coming out of retirement, but the game was effectively over before he recorded his third out on Friday. He allowed five first inning runs — three on a homer by Ike Davis that Nick Swisher nearly brought back — with two outs, his first five-run first inning in eleven years. He did settle down and fire five scoreless after that, but sheesh, five runs in the first is as close to guaranteed loss as it gets.
  • Bombs Away: The Yankees have a way of making even the biggest ballparks look small, and they didn’t need any help from the new CitiField dimensions to get back into the game. Alex Rodriguez launched a homer into the apple in dead center, Andruw Jones parked one in the second deck in left field, and Robinson Cano cleared both bullpens with a two-run shot to right. Just like that, a 5-0 game became a 6-4 game.
  • Almost: Frank Francisco tried to give away that two-run lead in the ninth, but the Yankees were unable to make him pay for his poultry-based comments. Curtis Granderson took strike three on a fastball right down the middle with men on first and second and I have no friggin’ idea what he was thinking. Was he sitting splitter? I can’t imagine he was, that’s a pitch you adjust too. Anyway, Mark Teixeira followed that up with a fly ball and the game was over. If only Andres Torres didn’t make that diving catch on Russell Martin‘s rocket to open the inning. Alas.
  • Leftovers: I know he went on to throw two more scoreless innings, but I don’t like Pettitte being allowed to hit leading off the fifth. You’re down five and need to generate offense, so get a pinch-hitter in there … the My9 broadcast said Andruw has now homered in 42 different ballparks, the most of any active player … everyone in the starting lineup had a hit — including Pettitte — except for Martin, who had the one taken away in the ninth … Swisher had an interesting night defensively, though I’ll never get on a player for not robbing a homer. That’s on the pitcher.

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the advances stats, and ESPN the updated standings. Game two of the weekend set is a dreaded Saturday night game and will feature Ivan Nova against Chris Young. Check out RAB Tickets if you’re going to head out to Flushing.

Dugas keeps hitting in Staten Island loss

Notes? Notes…

  • The Yankees have signed RHP Jon Meloan out of an independent league and assigned him to Double-A Trenton. The 27-year-old was the other guy in the Carlos Santana-Casey Blake trade and he has 13 games of big league experience to his credit. I remember Baseball America describing him as a fitness nut whose body was wound too tight/lacked flexibility in their Prospect Handbook. [Mike Ashmore]
  • OF Cody Johnson has been placed on the DL with “left hamstring tightness.” He pulled up lame legging out an infield single the other night. C Jeff Farnham was activated off the phantom DL to take his roster spot. [Ashmore]
  • RHP Craig Heyer (arm) and LHP Josh Romanski (blister) each threw 25-pitch simulated games today. IF Walt Ibarra (finger) started throwing today after getting checked out by a doctor. [Ashmore]
  • C Gary Sanchez did not play tonight after leaving yesterday’s game following a collision at the plate, but he’s expected to return to the lineup sometime this weekend. Phew. [Josh Norris]

Triple-A Empire State (4-2 loss to Indianapolis)
RF Kevin Russo & CF Chris Dickerson: both 1-3, 1 R, 1 SB — Russo drove in a run, walked, and struck out … Dickerson committed a throwing error
2B Corban Joseph, 1B Russell Branyan, C Frankie Cervelli, 3B Brandon Laird & SS Ramiro Pena: all 0-3 — CoJo walked and whiffed … Branyan walked and struck out twice … Cervelli struck out once, Laird twice
LF Ronnie Mustelier: 1-4, 1 RBI, 1 K — broke up the no-hitter in the sixth
RHP Ramon Ortiz: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 7 K, 8/4 GB/FB — 73 of 107 pitches were strikes (68.2%)
LHP Justin Thomas: 0.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K — 16 of 30 pitches were strikes (53.3%)
RHP Ryota Igarashi: 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 WP — six of 11 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Game 69: Chickens

“[I] can’t wait to face those chickens.”

Apparently Frank Francisco thinks the Yankees complain a little too much. The Mets closer referred to the Bombers as a bunch of chickens in an exclusive interview with the NY Post yesterday, adding just a little ripple to the latest edition of the Subway Series. This is the same Frankie Frank who once broke a woman’s nose by throwing a chair, which apparently qualifies him to be the arbiter of all things chicken-related.

Anyway, the Yankees laughed off the remark prior to today’s game, just as you’d expect. They have more important things on their plate than the comments of a second-rate closer on a second-rate team. New York’s favorite ballclub has lost two straight after winning ten in a row, and tonight they would like to get back in the win column. Here’s the lineup…

SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
1B Mark Teixeira
3B Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
RF Nick Swisher
LF Andruw Jones
Russell Martin
LHP Andy Pettitte

Tonight’s game is scheduled to start a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on both My9 and WPIX locally as well as MLB Network nationally. The weather forecast isn’t great but it looks like most of the heavy stuff won’t arrive until later tonight, like 11pm or so. Enjoy the game.

Update: … and we’re in a rain delay. No official word on a start time yet, but apparently 7:45pm is the target.

Update Part Two: Now they’re saying first pitch is scheduled for 8pm. This one might not last a full nine innings.