Update: Gardner re-strains elbow muscle, shut down for ten days

10:10pm: According to Joe Girardi, Gardner basically re-injured himself. He strained the same muscle in his elbow that landed him on the DL in the first place but did not do any further damage. He’s going to be shut down for at least ten days and Girardi said it could be as long as a month. Coulda been worse, I suppose.

4:18pm: Via Marc Carig, outfielder Brett Gardner has suffered a setback in his rehab from a bone bruise and right elbow strain. He felt soreness and had swelling in his elbow following his latest minor league rehab game and is headed for an MRI now.

Gardner played seven innings with Triple-A Empire State each of the last two days as part of his rehab assignment, going 3-for-5 with a triple and two walks. He played left field in both games. Dewayne Wise’s spot on the roster is safe for now, but if the MRI reveals any kind of long-term injury, the Yankees will probably have to consider looking outside the organization for outfield help.

No Williams or Sanchez in Charleston win

Rob Lyerly’s season is likely over due to continued shoulder problems, which stinks. The Yankees’ sixth round pick in 2009 went 3-for-17 with two homers in five games for Double-A Trenton before hitting the DL last month.

Triple-A Scranton (5-2 win over Columbus in ten innings, walk-off style)
2B Kevin Russo & SS Yadil Mujica: both 0-3 — Russo walked twice and stole a base … Mujica walked and whiffed
CF Colin Curtis” 0-5, 1 K — stuck in a 5-for-36 rut (.139)
1B Steve Pearce: 4-5, 3 R, 3 2B, 1 E (pickoff) — up to .360/.442/.595 on the year
DH Jack Cust: 2-2, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 1 SB — game-tying two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth
3B Ronnie Mustelier: 1-4, 1 BB, 2 K
LF Brandon Laird & C Gus Molina: both 1-5 — Molina had the walk-off single and struck out
RF Cole Garner: 0-4, 2 K
RHP D.J. Mitchell: 6 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 7/3 GB/FB — 60 of 96 pitches were strikes (62.5%) … his first Triple-A outing since being sent down last weekend
RHP Manny Delcarmen: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — a dozen of his 20 pitches were strikes … just activated off the DL, apparently
RHP Jason Bulger: 1.1 IP, zeroes, 2 K1/0 GB/FB — nine of 14 pitches were strikes (64.3%)
RHP Chase Whitley: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0/1 GB/FB — ten of 16 pitches were strikes (62.5%)

[Read more…]

Game 31: Turn The Page

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Last night’s loss was tough to swallow, but the only thing you, me, David Robertson, and the Yankees can do is turn the page and focus on tonight’s rubber match against the Rays. CC Sabathia is on the mound against David Price, the sixth time the two ace left-handers have met. The Yankees are 0-5 in the previous five meetings, believe it or not. Here’s the lineup…

SS Derek Jeter
RF Nick Swisher
2B Robinson Cano
DH Alex Rodriguez
1B Mark Teixeira
CF Curtis Granderson
LF Andruw Jones
3B Eduardo Nunez
C  Chris Stewart

LHP CC Sabathia

Tonight’s game is scheduled to start a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Chavez awaits MLB evaluation before being activated

Via Marc Carig, infielder Eric Chavez took a concussion test today and is waiting for MLB clearance before he can be activated off the 7-day DL. He’s eligible to come off today but he’ll likely have to wait until tomorrow at the earliest.

Chavez suffered whiplash and a possible concussion last week diving for a ground ball at third base. He was hitting (.372 wOBA) during the little bit of playing time he received, but it’s tough to miss a bench player when he’s only been out a week. Brett Gardner‘s setback preserves Dewayne Wise’s roster spot for the foreseeable future, so the Jayson Nix era is likely to come to an end tomorrow.

Yanks about to shore up offense, defense with Gardner

(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Update: And, of course, something has gone awry. According to Marc Carig Gardner is headed for an MRI. He “felt soreness and had swelling in his elbow.” Sigh.

By no means is Brett Gardner a superstar. With his physical skills it’s nearly impossible for him to reach that status. Yet he has played an important role for the Yankees in the last two-plus seasons. By providing speed on the base paths and superb defense in a spacious Yankee Stadium left field, he has provided plenty of value. The Yankees stand to improve plenty when he returns to action, presumably tonight.

In the Yankees’ 30 games to date they’ve trotted out six different left fielders. None has been particularly close to Gardner in terms of defensive value, and Raul Ibanez, who has started eight game in left, is on the polar opposite end of the defensive spectrum. Adding Gardner back into that mix will help the Yankees pitchers greatly. There will be no more Ibanez dives, which occur in slow motion even though the ball is moving in real time. That substitution alone will save substantial runs. Even over the other, less terrible defenders, Gardner is worth a few runs every week.

On the offensive side of the ball the Yanks will also benefit with Gardner’s return. Yankee left fielders have hit .216/.304/.343; that .647 OPS ranks 21st in baseball. Gardner, for his career, has hit .265/.355/.368. That .723 OPS would rank 11th in the majors. It’s hard to believe that Gardner, an atypical left fielder in terms of offensive prowess, would provide the Yankees with an upgrade. Yet that is pretty clearly the case. That doesn’t even take into account Gardner’s value on the base paths. Last year Yankees’ left fielders stole 44 bases, six more than any other team. This year they have just two, which is tied for 14th place.

While Gardner’s skill set seems odd for his position, he’s not alone as a defensive-minded left fielder with on-base skills and speed. The Rays have a similar player in Desmond Jennings, who, like Gardner, figures to return from injury tonight. For his career, which is quite a bit shorter than Gardner’s, Jennings has hit .258/.346/.429. He has a bit more power, but he’s not going to win a Silver Slugger any time soon. At the same time, he has plenty of speed; his eight stolen bases to date lead the majors. Also like Gardner, Jennings has the ability to play center field, but is blocked by an incumbent.

Getting Gardner back in the Yankees’ lineup will provide many benefits, both the run-scoring and to the defense. It might be difficult to fathom Gardner being such an important piece of the high-powered Yankees’ offense. Yet his speed and on-base skills provide plenty of value. At the same time, his defense in left is perhaps best in the league. His ability to run down difficult fly balls saves outs, which saves pitchers some labor. Given his fill-ins, we should all be glad to see No. 11 once again penciled into the lineup.

Update by Mike: Just as a heads up, Gardner is not listed as an available player on tonight’s lineup card, indicating that he has not been activated off the DL just yet. He did not play for Triple-A Empire State this afternoon and the team could still make a move before first pitch.

Top 10 starting pitchers against the Yankees by ERA since 2009

(photo: Rick Yeatts/Getty)

In the aftermath of yet another strong Jeff Niemann performance against the Yankees — whose seven-inning, one-run outing last night improved his career ERA against New York to 2.75 over six starts — I couldn’t help but wonder what Niemann’s overall numbers against the Bombers looked like in relation to other starters that have consistently had success when facing the team.

Going back to the beginning of 2009, here are the top 10 starters against the Yankees by lowest ERA (minimum three starts), courtesy of David Pinto’s wonderful day-by-day database:

Most of the names on this list would probably align with Yankee fans’ perceptions of pitchers the team typically struggles against — and frankly I was shocked that King Felix’s name didn’t top the list. His aberrant start last September slightly skewed his numbers, but prior to that completely out-of-character dud, no pitcher in baseball had had more success against the Yankees. Felix had thrown 40 innings of six-run ball (1.35 ERA) against the Yankees, including 24 innings of one-run ball (0.38 ERA!) at Yankee Stadium dating back to the beginning of 2010, and not having been saddled with a loss against the Bombers since May 3, 2008.

However, there are a couple of eye-openers — I can’t say I expected Carl Pavano to make the top 10, although I suppose that makes some sense given his unique brand of right-handed slop. And the other is Niemann, who, believe it or not, has the third-lowest ERA among all starters against the Yankees since the beginning of 2009, his first full season in the bigs. Now, I don’t mean to knock on Niemann, who clearly has the Yankees’ number, but it does seem a bit odd that a hurler who’s been a decidedly average — if not below-average — right-hander during his career (102 ERA-; 105 FIP-) would be so successful against the best offensive team in baseball during that timeframe.

For the most part, aside from Niemann and Pavano, almost everyone else in that group makes sense — hard-throwing, high-strikeout right-handers, but I was also curious to see whether there were any other similarities among this group that might uncover why they’ve routinely stymied the Bombers’ bats. Courtesy of Brooks’ Pitcher Cards, here’s what each pitcher in the top 10 throws and how hard they throw it:

Here’s where things get interesting. Four of the top five pitchers in this study throw a sinker more than 30% of the time, and the fifth — Niemann — just misses that cutoff, at 29% of the time. Additionally, both Pavano and Jake Arrieta are also sinker-heavy, which means that seven of the top 10 throw a sinker more than 25% of the time.

Of course, it’d be easy to say, “well maybe the Yankees just stink against sinkers,” but that’s not even remotely true, as they have the second-best wSI/C in baseball since 2009. Still, there’s something about this variety of sinkerballer — several of whom also prominently feature a curve (Hernandez, Niemann, Haren and Arrieta each go to the hook more than 10% of the time) — that seem to have the Yankees’ goose cooked.

Amateur Links: First Round Slot, Top 100, IFAs

(Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

We’re less than four weeks away from the amateur draft and less than eight weeks away from the start of the international free agent signing period, the two primary ways for teams to acquire young talent. The new Collective Bargaining agreement really hampers things with its new spending restrictions — designed to keep money away from the players and in the owner’s pockets — but there’s nothing that can be done about that. It’s just a new challenge for the 30 front offices, essentially.

We’re probably still a few weeks away from hearing about the Yankees having interest in specific players, but there’s still a ton of draft and international free agent news to recap. Let’s get to it…

First Round Slot Money: $1.6M

The Yankees will have just north of $4.19M to spend on the first ten rounds of the draft this year thanks to the new CBA, and $1.6M of that $4.19M is the slot value for their first round pick  (#30 overall) according to Jim Callis. That’s up about 46% from last year’s slot value and if the Yankees pay their first rounder straight slot money, it will be the sixth largest bonus they’ve ever given to a drafted player.

Teams can exceed slot for individual picks without penalty, but they can’t do the same for the draft pool overall. So the Yankees can pay their first rounder for than $1.6M but can’t pay their picks in the top ten rounds more than $4.19M collectively if they want to avoid surrendering future picks and paying the tax.

Law’s Top 100 Draft Prospects

Players have mostly sorted themselves out now that the college and high school seasons are nearly complete, and we have a clearer picture of who will be selected when. Injury is probably the biggest factor at the point, at least in terms of a player drastically changing their draft status. Keith Law posted his list of the top 100 draft prospects two days ago, though you do need a subscription to read the entire thing. Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton remains atop the rankings and is now followed by Puerto Rico high school shortstop Carlos Correa. The consensus seems to be that if you want impact talent this year, you’re going to have to go after prep players. The college crop is solid but not mind-blowing like last year.

Personal fave Carson Kelly, a high school third baseman/right-hander from Oregon, ranks 27th on KLaw’s list. That gives me some hope that he’ll be around when the Yankees pick, not that I expect them to draft him or anything. Here’s my write-up on Kelly.

Gaming The International Free Agent System

The new CBA has restricting spending on international free agents as well, an avenue the Yankees have used to acquire young talent quite prominently throughout the years. Each club will have $2.9M to spend on international players this year (starting July 2nd) before switching over to a sliding scale based on winning percentage in the future. The more you win, the less you get to spend.

Ben Badler wrote about how teams can essentially get around that $2.9M limit this year, including some shady under-the-table dealings. The article is free for everyone, so you don’t need a subscription. It’s worth noting that the article is speculative and not actual reporting of what teams have been/will be doing. I know this much though: if there’s a loophole in the system, someone will exploit it.