Rays smack Colon around as Yanks lose again

You know things aren’t going well when Bartday sucks. The Yankees lost their series opener to the Rays because the couldn’t hit or pitch, and that pretty much tells you everything you need to know. Thursday’s game was about as uninteresting as losses get.

Death by Zobrist.

Bad Bartolo

For the first time all year, Bartolo Colon got absolutely rocked. Just about every ball in play was hard hit, so it’s not a surprise that he gave up ten hits in 5.2 IP. After walking just 18 men all year, Colon walked four in this game, including John Jaso and his sub-.300 OBP twice. His velocity was fine but his command wasn’t, and he wasn’t getting any help with pitches at the corner. It was the first time we’ve seen Bartolo be really helpless on the mound, when he had absolutely nothing working and the hitters were all over him. Considering it’s July, that’s not too bad. Shake it off and do better the next time, Bart.

LOLffense

We’ve seen this game before, right? Do I really have to recap it? The Yankees had men on the corners with one out in the first, but didn’t score. Then they had men at second and third with one out in the second, but didn’t score. Jeff Niemann then retired ten of the next eleven men he faced before Robinson Cano hit a solo homer with two outs in the sixth. The Yankees were down by five at that point, so it didn’t matter. Niemann escaped those first two innings unscathed, then completely shut the Yankees down through the next five-plus innings. Stop me if you’re heard that before.

Right in there for #2,998.

Two Away

Derek Jeter wasted no time continuing his pursuit of 3,000 career hits, doubling to center on Niemann’s first pitch of the game. It was his third straight game with a double, the first time he’s had an extra base hit in three consecutive games since late-May of last season. Jeter didn’t hit the ball out of the infield in any of his other four at-bats, but he is hardly the only one to blame for the lack of offense. The Cap’n is two hits away from the milestone, and he better do it tomorrow, when I’ll be at the game.

Leftovers

It’s good to know the Yankees have Hector Noesi around for important situations like this game. Those 3.1 scoreless innings were really, really important, and winning takes priority, right? Seriously, please just send the kind to the minors so he can start while some veteran schmuck sits in the bullpen for two weeks between low-leverage relief appearances. This is ridiculous.

Mark Teixeira drew two walks but he’s one hitless at-bat away from a sub-.240 batting average. Russell Martin, Brett Gardner, and Jorge Posada each had a hit, and Cano had two. That’s pretty much it, the trio of Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, and Nick Swisher went a combined 0-for-12 with five strikeouts.

The Yankees have now lost two in a row and four of their last five since that seven-game winning streak. They’ve scored three or fewer runs in each of those losses.

WPA Graph & Box Score

MLB.com has the box score and video, FanGraphs the nerd score.

Up Next

The second game of this four-game series will be played Friday night, when Freddy Garcia gives it a go against rookie Jeremy Hellickson.

Nova, Betances dominate for SWB and Trenton

Jorge Vazquez is going to take his hacks in the Triple-A Homerun Derby next week. He still leads the International League with 20 homers (next highest is 16) despite missing close to three weeks with a shoulder issue. Adam Warren replaced the injured Kevin Whelan on the All-Star Game roster, so congrats to him. Kei Igawa has been placed on the disabled list for an unknown reason and Naoya Okamoto has been released. Josh Norris spoke to a scout who recently watched Triple-A Scranton, so check out his comments.

Triple-A Scranton (6-2 win over Buffalo)
Chris Dickerson, LF & Greg Golson, CF: both 0 for 4, 2 K – Golson scored a run
Terry Tiffee, 1B & Jorge Vazquez, DH: both 2 for 4 – Tiffee drove in a run, scored a run, and struck out … JoVa doubled, homered, drove in two, and scored twice
Brandon Laird, 3B & P.J. Pilittere, C: both 1 for 4, 1 2B, 1 RBI – Laird scored and struck out … Pilittere whiffed twice
Jordan Parraz, RF: 3 for 4, 1 R, 1 SB – 14 for his last 31 (45.2%)
Luis Nunez, 2B: 0 for 2, 1 RBI
Doug Bernier, SS: 0 for 3
Ivan Nova, RHP: 7.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 10 K, 4 WP, 7-6 GB/FB – 72 of 98 pitches were strikes (73.5%) … left the game after getting hit in the foot with a batted ball, but he walked off under his own power, so hopefully he’s okay … otherwise, great start, he must be mad they sent him down, unless he pitched poorly, in which case he was disappointed … whatever narrative fits best
Randy Flores, LHP: 0 IP, zeroes, 1 HBP – brought in to face one lefty, and he hit him … he’ll fit right in with the big league team
Logan Kensing, RHP: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 0-1 GB/FB – 18 of 29 pitches were strikes (62.1%)

[Read more…]

A-Rod may skip All-Star Game

Via George King, there’s a chance Alex Rodriguez will skip the All-Star Game next week to give his ailing right knee some rest. It’s been bothering him for at least two weeks now, though Alex did tell King that it’s “getting better.” A-Rod was voted as the starting third baseman for the All-Star Game and deservedly so; he leads all big league third baseman with 4.1 fWAR and 3.3 bWAR. As great as it would be to see a bunch of Yankees in the All-Star Game, I’d rather them stay home and get healthy.

Game 86: Bartday!

(Photo Credit: Flickr user r0sss via Creative Commons license)

It’s my favorite day of the week, Bartday. Bartolo Colon will make his second start off the disabled list, and his first looked like vintage Bart. He was fastball heavy, throwing the two-seamer inside to lefties for called strike threes, getting batters to stare at the four-seamer on the outer half. It’s gorgeous. Here’s the lineup…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Jorge Posada, DH
Russell Martin, C
Brett Gardner, LF

Bartolo Colon, SP

First pitch is scheduled for a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES locally or MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Mariano Rivera Update: Mo threw today and felt fine, so he’s available to pitch tonight if needed. He will, however, skip out on the All-Star Game next week.

DJ3K Notes: RAB contest, Jordan Brand t-shirts

Jordan Brand has unveiled the designs for its DJ3K commemorative t-shirt.

As Derek Jeter returns home tonight sitting on 2997 hits, the Yankee captain appears destined to join the exclusive 3000-hit club this weekend before the All Star Break, and the marketing frenzy is hitting overdrive. Secondary ticket prices are through the roof (and you can find whatever deals remain on RAB Tickets) while Jeter’s promotional partners are building hype too.

This afternoon, Jordan Brand e-mailed us about a series of items designed as part of their DJ3K collection. On the field, Jeter will be sporting special spikes and batting gloves while Jordan Brand is also releasing a sneaker. For the fans who want merchandise, the t-shirt above will on sale at all major sporting goods stores for $25 once he reaches the milestone. A blue version will be on sale as well.

Furthermore, don’t forget to enter our own DJ3K contest. The details are available in this post, but the short of it is simple: Become a fan of RAB Tickets on Facebook and enter, before the first pitch tonight, with a prediction of the game, the inning and count of Jeter’s 3000th hit. The winner will get two tickets to a sporting event of their choice courtesy of TiqIQ.

Despite Jeter’s status as a lightning rod for controversy and criticism this year, the next few days should be a lot of fun in the Bronx. No one has ever reached 3000 hits as a Yankee, and we shouldn’t lose sight of that accomplishment. As ‘Duk wrote at the Big League Stew today, let’s enjoy it.

Baseball America’s Midseason Top 50 Prospects

Baseball America posted a midseason (half) update to their preseason top 100 prospects list, and you can see the list for free. You’ll need a subscription to see the analysis, however. Jesus Montero fell from number three overall to number eight, though they caution everyone to not “be swayed by [his] so-so first half, his hit/power tools are still the same.” Manny Banuelos jumps from number 41 to number 13 (“Was dominating in spring training, but stuff isn’t as firm now as it was”) and Dellin Betances from 43 to 26 (“Impressive stuff, but Betances rarely makes it look easy”). Gary Sanchez (preseason #30), Andrew Brackman (#73), and Austin Romine (#98) did not figure into the updated top 50.

BA also put together a stock up/down report (subs. req’d), with J.R. Murphy making the Stock Up section. “[Scouts] report he’s improved significantly on defense, as he threw out 27 percent of opposing baserunners and polished up his receiving. He’s still an offensive catcher, but he’s more of a catcher than ever before.” We’ve heard about the improved defense before. Brackman made the Stock Down section: “His fastball velocity remains inconsistent but has more consistently dipped into the average range … Brackman’s confidence has taken a hit, and scouts report he throws his curve when he most needs a strike.” One good, one not so good.

The bullpen is currently bare

Steak goes on the Meat Tray, and the Meat Tray should probably stay in the bullpen. (From Flickr user dulouz cats via Creative Commons license.)

The biggest complaint last night was not about Phil Hughes‘s shaky first. It wasn’t about his inability to put away batters, nor his lack of a clean inning. In fact, it had little to do with Hughes at all. Running through the comments on the game recap and on other social outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, the biggest complaint was the mere presence of Sergio Mitre. That has something to do with Hughes, since he only pitched five innings and forced the bullpen to enter the game early. But everyone seems willing to overlook that and heap the blame on Mitre, whose disastrous inning proved to be the difference* in last night’s game.

If you don’t believe in the fallacy of the predetermined outcome, that is.

Having Mitre in the game was surely a problem, but given the situation and roster composition it’s hard to argue with his presence. Take a gander at the 40-man roster and see if there are any better alternatives. The only pitchers who aren’t in the majors have something that makes them something of a worse choice than Mitre. They have:

Dellin Betances: It’s pretty clear why he’s not in the MLB bullpen.

Andrew Brackman: He hasn’t transitioned well to the AAA bullpen, so AA is a greater possibility than the majors.

Steve Garrison: He’s currently getting shellacked at AA. He throws with his left arm, so if the Yanks thought he could help in the pen he likely would have been up at some point during this big bullpen shuffle. An early season injury has cost him, and his last start skews his numbers a bit.

Brian Gordon: He certainly could be helping the Yanks out of the bullpen right now, but it’s understandable why they have him working as a starter in the minors. We’ve already seen this season how important pitching depth can be.

Ivan Nova: Same deal as Gordon. He’d probably work very well in the bullpen, when he could focus on his fastball and curveball. But his best starts this year have come when he mixes all four of his pitches, so it’s probably best at this point to have him continue doing that in the minors. They’ll need him for a start sooner or later, anyway.

Pants Lendleton: He’s only two years younger than Mitre, and I have a hard time making a case that he’s as good.

Ryan Pope: Dude just got demoted to AA from AAA, so he’s far removed from the issue at this point.

Kevin Whelan: He’s on the seven-day disabled list in AAA.

Perhaps at a point later in the season we’d see Nova or Gordon taking Mitre’s spot. But for now, with nearly three months of baseball left to play, preserving starting pitching depth takes a slight precedence over the bullpen. That’s probably the biggest reason why Mitre is on the roster right now.

Regarding the complaints that he should not have been the one to enter the game, I find it hard to disagree. The Yankees had other options at that point, and a 3-0 lead is far from insurmountable, especially with the A lineup. Girardi could have gone to Cory Wade, who didn’t pitch in Tuesday’s game, or Hector Noesi, who hasn’t pitched since Sunday (and threw just two pitches in that game). Maybe Girardi didn’t want to use Wade, since Cleveland hit him around on Monday. I don’t quite buy that, but it’s not enough to raise a stink. But when it’s combined with the non-use of Noesi — he’s pitched just 6.2 innings since mopping up for Freddy Garcia against Boston in early June — it becomes an issue. There is little reason to trust Mitre over Nova, especially in a game that the Yanks can still salvage.

The hand wringing is likely for naught, as the Indians did have a strong hold on the game. Even if Noesi or Wade had entered the game in the eighth and held the Indians scoreless, the Yanks would have faced Chris Perez to open the ninth. He’s been good this season, but has a propensity to walk guys and doesn’t strikeout many (at least this year). But he shut down the Yanks immediately upon entering the game, and I imagine, since he’s done it most of the season, that he would have held down the top of the order at the start. And so that three-run rally might not have even gotten off the ground if Mitre didn’t allow those two runs in the eighth.

For the time being Sergio Mitre is the unfortunate product of the Yankees bullpen situation. Three of the seven guys they’d counted on to start the season are on the 60-day DL, and two aren’t coming back this season. That means the Yanks have some mixing and matching to do, and Mitre gives them just one more option. He’ll be gone soon enough, as the Yankees shop at the deadline and perhaps get Rafael Soriano back. We can gripe in the interim, and rightfully so. But until the Yankees make an acquisition or get back a pitcher from the DL, he’s going to be sitting in the bullpen and sometimes agitating us with his presence.