The division no one wants to win

The Yankees have underachieved so far this season. A number of players have underachieved on an individual level — has anyone other than Boone Logan and Cory Wade exceeded expectations? — and being three games over .500 with a dinky little +14 run differential through 49 games isn’t what we expected. Or at least what I expected. I should stop saying we.

The good news is that no one is running away with the AL East. The Orioles made a cute little run at it for a few weeks but they’ve lost seven of their last nine games and have predictably crashed back to Earth. All five teams are separated by no more than three games in the loss column, so literally any of those teams could be in first place by the end of the week. It’s completely wide open right now.

It’s trendy to say otherwise, but the AL East is the toughest division in baseball. Anyone that claims otherwise is kidding themselves. All five clubs are over .500, have at least a +10 run differential, and have scored more than 200 runs. None of the other five divisions can make even one of those claims*. The O’s and Rays have the best intra-division records, the Blue Jays and Red Sox the worst, and the Yankees are right in the middle at .500. That’s why the division standings are the way they are right now.

At some point the division is going to start to sort itself out. The Orioles and Jays will continue to slide to the back of the pack and that familiar three-team race will again develop at the top. The Yankees haven’t played anything close to their best baseball yet, but they’ve managed to stay right in the AL East hunt. Treading water isn’t going to work forever though, at some point soon they’re going to have to go on a run and create some separation between themselves and everyone else.

* Update: My bad, didn’t realize every NL East team is over .500 as well. Points stands, AL East is still the toughest division.

The Bases Loaded Epidemic

(REUTERS/Alex Gallardo)

It’s no secret that the Yankees have struggled with runners in scoring position this season and more specifically, this month. Blame bad luck, blame a bad approach, blame unclutch hitters, whatever. Assigning blame makes us feel better but doesn’t really accomplish anything. All I know is that it continues to happen game after game and sometimes it doesn’t even matter because they win anyway.

The struggles with men on second and/or third have become most evident with the bases loaded over the last two or three weeks. Last night the Yankees came up empty in two bases loaded situations, and I seem to remember a few bases loaded, zero out situations against the Reds and Royals a few weeks ago that resulted in a total of zero runs. As a team, the Yankees have no hits in their last 15 at-bats with the bases juiced and just one hit in their last 34 at-bats in those spots. The bases loaded futility has gotten so bad that all you can do is laugh at this point.

Now the Yankees were, by far, the best hitting team in the league with the bases loaded last season. They hit .337/.354/.604 with ten grand slams and a measly 15.8 K% in 178 plate appearances in those spots a year ago, but this season they’re down to .151/.222/.302 with a 20.6 K%. That’s not quite NL pitcher bad (.122/.155/.154 with a 36.4 K%), but it’s a lot closer than it should be. They do have two grand slams though, so that’s cool.

“We’re going to have plenty more chances, so let’s see if it irons itself out,” said Joe Girardi after last night’s game. “We haven’t done very well this year, and we’ve been very good in the past. It’s just kind of what we’ve went through this year, one of the struggles that we’ve had.”

The season isn’t that young anymore. I mean, it still is, the Yankees have 113 games left to play, but the sample sizes are not just little one or two week specks of information. We’ve got nearly two months of info and frankly if you date back to last year, the struggles with runners in scoring position is a continuing trend. Right now those struggles are showing up to the extreme with the bases loaded, and at some point someone will hit a bases-clearing double and it’ll be a huge relief. That doesn’t mean everything will be okay though. Hitting a ton of homers is the best thing an offense can do in baseball, but at some point the Yankees have to start cashing in these chance and score runs in other ways.

Yanks don’t hit, pitch, or field in loss to Halos

Source: FanGraphs

The bad news: the Yankees lost a second straight game to the Angels on Tuesday night. The good news: they only have to play one more game in this hellhole. Let’s recap…

  • Epidemic: The Yankees loaded the bases in both the third and ninth innings, and both times Robinson Cano struck out to end the threat. The club’s inability to hit with runners in scoring position has morphed into a complete inability to hit with the bases loaded, something they did so fabulously last season. As a team, the Yankees have zero hits in their last 15 at-bats and one hit in their last 34 at-bats with the bases juiced. That’s as pathetic as it gets.
  • Not Dandy: Andy Pettitte didn’t pitch as poorly as his line indicates — five runs in seven innings — with most of the damage coming on homers by Albert Pujols (two-run) and Mark Trumbo (solo). The umps didn’t give him any help in the three-run third, but at the end of the day Pettitte didn’t make the pitches he needed to make to get outs. Andy wasn’t great but he wasn’t bad, which is kinda typical for him.
  • Robbed: Poor Nick Swisher. The guy hit four rockets to the outfield and has one run-scoring single to show for it. Mike Trout robbed him of a maybe homer/maybe double at the left field wall in the second, then Peter Bourjos took away doubles to the right-center field gap in the seventh and eighth. The seventh inning catch was much better. That’s kinda how things go for the Yankees in Anaheim, anything that can break against them does.
  • Leftovers: Derek Jeter (two) and Alex Rodriguez (three) had multiple singles while Raul Ibanez‘s double was the only extra-base hit of the night … with the two strikeouts, Cano is now 6-for-44 (.136) with runners in scoring position this season … the bottom six hitters in the lineup went a combined 5-for-24 … Cody Eppley allowed two ground ball singles in the ninth (one an infield single) and was unable to strand the runner he inherited from Pettitte. has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the advanced stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Yankees will turn to Ivan Nova to avoid the sweep on Wednesday night. He gets the ball against Ervin Santana.

Cust homers twice in wild Triple-A win

Russell Branyan has been activated off the DL and sent to High-A Tampa. I suppose that if Brett Gardner‘s elbow injury continues to linger, the Yankees could use Raul Ibanez in left with Branyan at DH but … I don’t want to think about that. Not right now anyway. Get well soon, Brett.

In other old player news, Ramon Ortiz is your Triple-A International League Pitcher of the Week. I’m sure he’s thrilled.

Triple-A Empire State (8-7 win over Toledo, walk-off style)
CF Kevin Russo: 2-5, 1 R, 1 K, 1 SB
2B Matt Antonelli: 1-5, 1 R, 1 K
1B Steve Pearce: 2-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — second homer in his last three games
DH Jack Cust: 3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K — nine hits in his last 19 at-bats with five homers … he and Pearce went back-to-back in the first
RF Ronnie Mustelier: 1-4, 1 2B, 3 RBI — two-run double tied the game in the bottom of the ninth
3B Brandon Laird: 0-5, 1 K
C Frankie Cervelli: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 BB — 11 hits in his last 30 at-bats (.367)
LF Cole Garner: 2-4, 2 K — left the game in the middle of an at-bat with a hand injury, in a 1-1 count with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth
PH Colin Curtis: 0-0, 1 RBI, 1 BB — replaced Garner and ended up drawing the walk-off walk
SS Ramiro Pena: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 K, 1 E (fielding)
RHP Adam Warren: 6.1 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 4/4 GB/FB — 64 of 104 pitches were strikes (61.5%) … 72 hits allowed in 55.1 IP
LHP Justin Thomas: 0.1 IP, zeroes, 1 K — six pitches, four strikes
RHP Manny Delcarmen: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 1 HB, 2/1 GB/FB — 14 of 25 pitches were strikes (56.0%)
RHP Kevin Whelan: 1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 16 of 28 pitches were strikes (57.1%) … turned a two-run lead into a two-run deficit, and he ended up getting the win

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Game 49: Back on Track

"How about eight scoreless and a hit with the bases loaded tonight, Andy?" (REUTERS/Adam Hunger)

The Yankees lost a game last night in which they scored eight runs on the other team needed a full 27 outs from its bullpen. Phil Hughes simply didn’t do his job as the starting pitcher and now the Yankees are looking to Andy Pettitte to stop the losing skid at one. He’s exceeded all possible expectations so far, though he has yet to leave the confines of Yankee Stadium. This is Andy’s first road start of the season, and it comes against a team that’s won seven straight. Here’s the lineup…

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

LHP Andy Pettitte

Tonight’s game starts a little after 10pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: Brett Gardner took more dry swings in Tampa today and again reported no problems with his strained right elbow. He could hit off a tee as soon as tomorrow … David Robertson played catch again and made 50 throws from flat ground. He came through with flying colors, no problem with his strained left oblique.

2012 Draft: Ty Moore

The 2012 amateur draft is less than one week away, so between now and then I’m going to highlight some prospects individually rather than lump them together into larger posts.

(Luis Sinco/The LA Times)

Ty Moore | OF

A Southern California kid from Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Moore stole the show at the National High School Invitational in North Carolina this spring. He has a strong commitment to UCLA.

Scouting Report
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 190 lbs., Moore isn’t a bat-first prospect. He’s a bat-only prospect. Despite an unorthodox setup and swing — he waggles the bat and uses an extreme toe-tap — Moore consistently squares the ball up from the left side and his best tool is his above average power. He’s relegated to left field because he’s not fleet of foot and doesn’t control the arm strength that allows him to pitch in the low-80s. Moore draws rave reviews for his makeup and all-out style of play, and he’s developed a reputation for being a big game player thanks in part to his excellent showings against top competition in showcase events.

Up Next
Even though he can hit, Moore is expected to be drafted somewhere in the 6th-8th round because he doesn’t provide any defensive value. The unorthodox hitting mechanics are another negative, at least in the sense that “it looks different and therefore must be bad.” You want late round picks to be able to do at least one thing well and he does just take with the bat. With slot money after the fifth round in the sub-$200k range, there’s a strong likelihood that Moore will end up in school next spring. If the Yankees decide to save some draft pool money by taking a few college seniors in the 9th or 10th round, someone like Moore would be an excellent place to reallocate the funds.

Tuesday Night Open Thread

Quit complainin'. (REUTERS/Alex Gallardo)

Only two more late-night West Coast games before the Yankees get back to playing at normal times. There’s nothing worse than staying up late for a game only to watch them lose, especially in walk-off fashion like last night. Tonight’s game doesn’t start until 10pm ET, so hang out here until the regular game thread comes along in a few hours. The Mets are playing the Phillies (Blanton vs. Hefner) and ESPN is airing the Tigers at the Reds Sox (Verlander vs. Bard). There’s also some NBA playoff action going on a little later. Talk about whatever, go nuts.