The Low-A Charleston River Dogs roughed up a rehabbing Tim Hudson for the second time in a week last night, and Mike Newman of FanGraphs and Scouting the Sally was in attendance. He wrote about the club’s prospect-laden lineup, showering mostly praise on guys like Dante Bichette Jr., Mason Williams, and Angelo Gumbs. It’s a relatively short but informative read, so make sure you check it out.
We’re through a week of baseball, so we have plenty to talk about. And it was an especially eventful week for the Yankees. Seriously, there’s little need for bullet points on this one. If it happened this week, we talked a bunch about it. From the rotation shakiness to the RISP woes to the shutdown bullpen. It’s all here on The RAB Radio Show.
Podcast run time 43:28
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Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.
After six relatively forgettable games on the road, the Yankees are finally back home in the Bronx. The Yankees have the best record in home openers this century, winning 11 of 12 games. Here’s the rejiggered lineup…
RHP Hiroki Kuroda
The game starts a little after 1pm ET and can be seen on YES. We’re going to chat during the game, so join in the fun after the jump.
After playing .500 ball on the season-opening six-game road trip, the Yankees are finally coming home for the first time in 2012. Jorge Posada will help kick things off by throwing the ceremonial first pitch in this afternoon’s game. We’re going to get our first taste of FOX (Saturday afternoon) and ESPN (Sunday night) broadcasts this weekend as well, so hooray for that.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Halos are just 2-4 in the early going, losing two of three to the Royals and Twins. They won the first game of each series before dropping the final two. The Angels have scored the second most runs (30) and allowed the third most runs (also 30) in the league this year.
The addition of Albert Pujols turned an okay offense into a good one, but not the powerhouse that seems to be the popular opinion. Their 107 wRC+ is the ninth best in baseball in the early going, five spots behind the Astros for perspective on how little that means. Pujols (71 wRC+) is off to a slow start, as are Erick Aybar (61), Vernon Wells (72), Howie Kendrick (78), and the finally healthy Kendrys Morales (77). The only regulars who have hit so far are Mark Trumbo (276 wRC+), Chris Iannetta (182), Peter Bourjos (128), and Torii Hunter (118).
As a team, the Halos have only hit three homers, and one of those was an inside-the-park job by Bourjos. Wells and Trumbo hit the other two. The stolen base game has been a bit better, with Maicer Izturis and Kendrick each swiping two. Bourjos and Trumbo have one each. The Angels are very right-handed heavy aside from the switch-hitting Morales and the occasional Bobby Abreu sighting, so they aren’t a great fit for Yankee Stadium. Of course, Pujols and Trumbo can hit it out of any part of any park.
Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Ervin Santana
Santana has been billed a Yankee Killer ever since Game Five of the 2005 ALDS, but they’ve tagged him for a .290/.373/.523 batting line and a 5.55 ERA in 326 regular season plate appearances against him (71.1 IP across a dozen starts). Santana allowed six runs in 5.2 IP to Kansas City in his first start, struggling to throw quality strikes and get ahead in the count. He’s almost exclusively a two-pitch pitcher — 91-95 mph fastball and a low-80s slider — though his platoon split isn’t extreme as you might expect. If Santana’s getting ahead in the count, the best plan of attack might be to swing early to avoid seeing that slider.
Saturday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP C.J. Wilson
The $77.5M man, Wilson jumped ship and moved from the Rangers to their chief rival this offseason. You can’t blame him, he’s from Southern California and that’s a boatload of money. Plus that’s a good park to pitch in. Anyway, he held the Twins to one run on three hits across seven innings in his first start, though he walked four and struck out five. A true six-pitch guy, Wilson will use three low-90s fastballs — four-seamer, two-seamer, cutter — to set up his low-80s slider, low-80s changeup, and upper-70s curveball. Aside from the changeup, he’s used each pitch at least 10% of the time since becoming a starter. The Yankees have seen enough of Wilson over the last few years with Texas and have mixed results against him. Some good games, some bad.
Sunday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Jerome Williams (tentatively)
At the moment, the Angels’ starter for Sunday is officially listed as TBD. Williams is expected to make that start after getting through a rehab start on Tuesday with no issues. He’s been battling a hamstring problem and started the season on the DL. Once considered one of the five best right-handed pitching prospects in the game by Baseball America, the 30-year-old flamed out in 2007 before resurfacing with the Angels last year. He pitched to a 3.68 ERA with a 4.62 FIP in 44 IP last season. We don’t have much to go on because of the big gap in his big league history, but last summer Williams used low-90s four and two-seamers with an upper-80s slider and a low-80s changeup. The Yankees will be going into this one blind, so all intents and purposes.
Dan Haren and Jered Weaver managed just eleven combined innings against the lowly Twins the last two days, so the Angels have had to use their pen quite a bit lately. Left-hander Hisanori Takahashi has appeared in each of the last two games, throwing 27 combined pitches. Right-handers Kevin Jepsen (18 pitches) and Rich Thompson (39) pitched yesterday, as did lefty Scott Downs (five). Veteran righties LaTroy Hawkins (16) and Jason Isringhausen (ten) pitched on Wednesday. Closer Jordan Walden hasn’t pitched in four days simply because they haven’t had a save situation. The primary setup guys — Downs, Hawkins, Izzy — should be ready to go tonight and are hardly intimidating.
Despite being overworked on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Yankees had yesterday off and their bullpen should be fine for the series opener. Mariano Rivera pitched in three straight before the off day, so he might be somewhat limited in this series. If he pitches tonight, they might lay off him tomorrow. Everyone else should be good to go.
Five questions and four answers this week. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything, especially mailbag questions.
John asks: Hey guys, I wanted to ask if you are worried about CC Sabathia? I watched his start [on Wednesday] and am worried about his fastball (his change and slider looked fab), his velocity is down to 90 – 91. It seemed to me that he was throwing a cut fastball – is this something he is trying to do or a flaw?
I wouldn’t worry about the velocity, Sabathia always starts the year a little slow before cranking it up once it gets a little warmer out. Here are the PitchFX start-by-start plots. Plus, I suspect he was taking a little something off the other night in an attempt to improve his command, which has been awful. I didn’t see much of a cut fastball, though Sabathia has been saying he throws one for a few years now. The manually classified PitchFX data disagrees, but if the guy says he throws it, he probably throws it.
Like you said, the changeup and especially the slider have been sharp so far, CC just can’t seem to get his heat under control. I do wonder if it’s a weight thing, because he had the same issue early last season before everything clicked during that ridiculous mid-summer run. Perhaps losing 30-something points during the winter is the best thing for him physically but a bad thing for his command. Maybe it speeds up his delivery just enough to throw him off. Who knows, just a cracked theory. I wouldn’t worry about Sabathia until we get a few weeks into the season and we start seeing more upper-80s than low-90s.
Suchin asks: Could you add Brandon Phillips to the Kinsler:Cano graph? With both those deals manageable for Cano, would be instructive, so long as the Yankees don’t overpay.
Here you go…
You can also see the data plotted cumulatively and by season.
I don’t love WAR — FanGraphs or otherwise — because I don’t have enough faith in the defensive component, but it is useful for comparing players like this. Cano is the best of the three, both in terms of overall production and medical history. That last part is very important, because these guys won’t give you anything if they’re on the DL. Stuff like RBI totals and finishes in the MVP voting will factor into Cano’s next contract as well, and he blows Kinsler and Phillips away in both categories.
As I’ve said before, I fully expect the Yankees to re-sign Cano to something outrageous after next season. I just hope the Kinsler (five years, $75M) and Phillips (six years, $77.5M) extensions have established the market and help keep it in the six-year, $100M range.
Brian asks: Are there any prospective 2B that the Yankees could target if they decide to let Robinson Cano walk because of money, contract length, and doubts about decline years? Similar to how they gave up a young prospect (Jesus Montero) from a position with depth for a young prospect (Michael Pineda) from a position of need. Obviously, not necessarily of that magnitude.
Legit second base prospects are very rare only because most big league second basemen are failed shortstops. Off the top of my head, the only big leaguers that came up through the minors as second basemen are Dan Uggla, Orlando Hudson, and Howie Kendrick. That would be the place to start, looking at shortstops who could slide over.
There’s actually a shortage of quality middle infield prospects in baseball around the moment, especially beyond the big two of Manny Machado and Jurickson Profar. Someone like Nick Franklin of the Mariners could fit the bill with Dustin Ackley ahead of him, though his ability to remain at the middle of the diamond is in question. Jean Segura of the Angels is another possibility, but they might need him with Erick Aybar due to become a free agent soon.
Remember, the Montero-Pineda trade was a big time anomaly. You just don’t see trades like that — a true baseball trade filling needs involving young players going each way — made every day, so I wouldn’t expect anything like that again should the Yankees let Cano walk and need a replace second baseman. Even on a smaller scale, prospect for prospect trades are rare because everyone loves their kids more than everyone else.
Paul asks: What’s the deal with Robertson’s pitch selection? Is PitchFX classifying differently or is he making his best case for ‘heir to Mariano’ by throwing exclusively cutters?
Tucker asks: Here’s a question for all Yankee fans: would you be comfortable with David Robertson as the closer next year?
Might as well lump these two together. Yes, Robertson has been throwing a cutter since the start of last season. He threw it about a quarter of the time last year but nearly 80% of the time this year so far, though that’s probably just a sample size thing. We’ll see more curveballs in due time, remember he’s a little behind other pitchers because he missed three weeks in Spring Training with that foot injury. Robertson definitely throws a cutter though, and it’s a really good pitch for him.
As for being comfortable with him as the next closer … sure. Don’t get me wrong, he makes things very interesting, but he’s better than the vast majority of the relievers out there. Trust me, it’s going to be a total shock to the system when Mo is gone, we’ll all have a newfound appreciation for just how easy he makes it look. I do think you’d rather be the guy who replaces the guy who replaces Rivera though; whoever takes over as closer will be asked to live up to impossible standards. Let Rafael Soriano do that so Robertson could have the clean slate the next year. Anyway, this is begging for a poll…
Jose Campos headlined today’s Future Shock after last night’s dominant performance. “[If] he stays healthy, he’s likely an easy Top 101 prospect next year” wrote Kevin Goldstein. You need a subscription to read the entire piece.
Got some roster moves: RHP Chase Whitley, UTIL Kevin Mahoney, and LHP Francisco Rondon have all been promoted. C Gus Molina, 1B Rob Lyerly, and IF Jose Pirela have all been placed on the DL. C Jeff Farnham was activated off the phantom DL.
Triple-A Empire State (7-2 win over Buffalo)
2B Kevin Russo: 2-5
C Frankie Cervelli: 0-5, 1 R, 1 K — .087/.160/.087 so far
1B Steve Pearce: 1-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K — .333/.419/.481 so far
DH Jack Cust: 2-5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 K
RF Dewayne Wise: 1-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K — been rakin’ since the day he got here, Spring Training included
3B Brandon Laird: 1-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 1 E (throwing) — five for his last 17 (.294) with three doubles, two walks, and one strikeout
CF Colin Curtis: 0-1, 1 R, 5 BB — that’s a new franchise record for walks in a game
SS Ramiro Pena & LF Ray Kruml: both 1-4 — Pena drove in a run and struck out … Kruml doubled, drove in two, and whiffed twice
LHP Manny Banuelos: 2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 6 BB, 0 K, 3/2 GB/FB — just 36 of 74 pitches were strikes (48.6%) … total disaster, the worst start of his career … if you’re looking for a silver lining, Ben Badler says reports indicate that his stuff is still lively, it’s just location
SwP Pat Venditte: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — ten pitches, six strikes
RHP Manny Delcarmen: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1/4 GB/FB — 27 of 53 pitches were strikes (50.9%)
RHP Cody Eppley: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 3/0 GB/FB — 24 of 41 pitches were strikes (58.5%)
RHP Kevin Whelan: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — seven of eleven pitches were strikes … capped off a great day of bullpen work
Anyway, here is your open thread for the night. The Marlins and Phillies (Buehrle vs. Blanton) will be on MLB Network at 7pm ET, plus the Rangers start their first round playoff series against the Senators (7pm ET on NHL Network). Talk about whatever you like, have at it.