Both Joe Girardi and David Robertson confirmed this afternoon that the setup man will head to Triple-A for a rehab assignment this weekend. He’ll make two or three appearances depending on how his strained left oblique feels, and he could be rejoin the team in time for next weekend’s series in Washington. With all due respect to Cody Eppley, hopefully everything goes well and Robertson is back in the bullpen soon.
Hi all … a blog post from me is a rarity, but a blog post about getting together for drinks should make total sense.
As mentioned prior to the season, we here at RAB HQ are heading to the lovely land of taxation without representation next weekend, Washington D.C. The Yankees will be in town to the play the Nationals, and the plan right now is to enjoy some baseball and hang out with some of you great people after the game. If you like beer, and I know I do, you’ll love The Big Hunt. It’s a great bar right in Dupont Circle, which is centrally located in the greater D.C. area and about 15 minutes from the ballpark.
Interested? Let us know. We’ll do it up real nice and try to meet up after the game on Saturday, June 16, 2012.
According to his Twitter feed, first rounder Ty Hensley is heading to Tampa for a few days to take his physical. That’s a pretty good indication that the two sides are very close to an agreement if one isn’t already in place. Slot money for the 30th overall pick is $1.6M and I’m guessing his bonus will come very close to that. Maybe a little over, maybe a little under.
Hensley told reporters shortly after the draft that he hopes to sign quickly and reach the big leagues by age 21. The signing deadline was moved up a full month to July 13th this year, so he should be able to throw some rookie ball innings once he officially joins the organization. Everything you need to know about the kid is right here.
The Yankees welcome the Mets to the Bronx this weekend for the first of two home-and-homes they’ve played against each other every season since 1999 — though there are rumblings that the annual six games against the Mets could be a thing of the past with Houston moving to the American League next year. The Yankees are 49-35 all time against the Mets during Interleague Play, though despite this relative dominance I certainly won’t miss playing the Metropolitans six times a year if changes do come to pass.
The Bombers went 4-2 last season against a bruised and battered Mets team, winning both series and marking only the 7th time in 15 seasons that the Yankees won the season series (the teams have split the season series six times). This year’s Mets team entered the season with almost no expectations — though I told anyone who would listen during the offseason that I thought their starting pitching would be very good, and while it hasn’t been lights-out it’s still been plenty effective (top seven NL in K/9, BB/9, ERA and FIP) — and to the surprise of everyone, have considerably outplayed expectations to the point of being 32-26 and only 1.5 games out of first place. I’d wager most Mets fans would’ve looked at you as if you were crazy if you told them they’d not only have a winning record on the morning of June 8 but also be within shouting distance of first place.
The staff has been led by a resurgent Johan Santana — still riding high after authoring one of the most important moments in franchise history last Friday after finally breaking the team’s 51-year no-hitter drought — who has come back from shoulder surgery looking every bit the pitcher the Mets gave one of the richest pitching contracts in history to, putting up a 2.38 ERA/2.72 FIP, striking out 9.0 per nine and as usual, limiting the walks, all contributing to him currently residing in the top 10 most valuable starters in the NL by fWAR.
Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey has continued what has to be one of the quietest runs of sustained success in the Majors — he actually has the 11th-lowest ERA of all qualified starters in MLB since joining the Mets in 2010. If that weren’t enough, Dickey also has — believe it or not — the lowest ERA against the Yankees, minimum two starts, of every starter the Bombers have faced since the beginning of 2010. Granted, it’s only across two starts, but the Yankees should be very happy they don’t have to see Dickey this weekend. Saturday’s starter Dillon Gee has also been effective if a bit unlucky on the season (4.48 ERA/3.59 FIP, 8.32 K/9), while Sunday’s starter Jonathon Niese has probably been the least-effective hurler in the Mets’ rotation thus far but that’s not saying much, as Niese boasts a 4.11 ERA/4.26 FIP and 8.95 K/9.
However, the pitching hasn’t been the entire story for the 2012 New York Mets. The offense currently ranks 5th in the NL with a .318 wOBA/99 wRC+, and much of that is due to David Wright, currently perhaps the hottest hitter in all of baseball, with a .438 wOBA and 182 wRC+ that both clock in at 2nd-best in the NL. That said, if you can navigate around Wright there isn’t a whole heck of a lot of firepower surrounding him. Lucas Duda (122 wRC+) is a threat at cleanup; recently called up journeyman shortstop Omar Quintanilla (141) has hit well above his head in limited duty which means he’ll almost certainly get a key hit or two this weekend; and rookie Kirk Nieuwenhuis (110) and even constantly injured Jason Bay (108) are also providing above-average production, so the Mets aren’t without their weapons, although none of these names instill the level of fear that Wright does.
Unfortunately it hasn’t been all champagne wishes and caviar dreams for the Mets, as their bullpen has been the team’s worst-performing unit, with a worst-in-the-NL 5.38 collective ERA. Righties Bobby Parnell and Jon Rauch set up closer Frank Francisco, while Tim Byrdak and Miguel Batista hold down the fort in the middle innings.
The Pitching Match-Ups
Friday, June 8, 2012 at 7:10 p.m. LHP Johan Santana vs. RHP Hiroki Kuroda
You already know about Santana’s season — who had his most recent start pushed back to this game in the aftermath of his career-high 134 pitches used to secure the no-no — and stuff-wise he’ll attack hitters with his 89mph four-seamer 46% of the time and knock them out with one of the best changeups (2.38 wCH/C) in the game. Santana also chucks an 81mph slider 18% of the time and a sinker 14% of the time. Despite a career 4.18 ERA vs. the Yanks, Johan has always been a tough assignment for the Bombers, who haven’t seen him since they beat him behind a Mark Teixeira grand slam on Father’s Day in 2010.
HIROK! has historically fared rather poorly against the Mets, pitching to a 5.75 ERA in 36 innings across seven career starts.
Saturday, June 9, 2012 at 7:15 p.m. RHP Dillon Gee vs. RHP Phil Hughes
The groundballing (54.6%) Gee throws a 90mph sinker 28% of the time, four-seamer 26%, 83mph changeup 23% and 74mph curve 10% of the time. Though he primarily relies on the sinker, his changeup is actually one of the better weapons on the team, as it currently ranks 11th-most effective by wCH/C in the National League. Gee has one career start against the Yankees which came last July 2, and he started out strong before they rallied for four runs in the 6th inning en route to a 5-2 victory.
Hughes missed the subway series last year, and has two career starts against the Mets, both coming in 2010. In the first, he got hit around at Citi Field for four runs in 5.2 innings, and was much better a month later, holding the Mets to three runs over seven at Yankee Stadium.
Sunday, June 10, 2012 at 1:05 p.m. LHP Jonathon Niese vs. LHP Andy Pettitte
Niese is a fastball-heavy lefty, with a 91mph four-seamer (42%), 87mph cutter (21%) and 90mph sinker (13%). He also has a 75mph curve that he’ll throw roughly one-fifth of the time to both righties and lefties. Like Gee, Niese has also only faced the Yankees once, and held them to three runs in 6 innings last July.
The Mets always seem to find ways to win games they shouldn’t when playing the Yankees, even during their bad seasons, and so with the Mets currently playing very good ball this is a fairly tough call.
It’ll be interesting to see if Johan shows any ill effects from the career-high pitch count from last Friday — if he’s anything close to the guy that threw the no-hitter, he’ll be a tough match-up. The Gee-Hughes game seems like a complete wild card, as who knows whether Hughes will come out roaring like he did against the Tigers or follow up a superb outing with a clunker for seemingly the 1,000th time in his career. I also don’t know how I feel about the Niese-Pettitte game, as the Mets’ starters of recent seasons seem to be very good at bending slightly against the Yankees but not breaking. Of course, Pettitte’s been mostly ageless thus far in his comeback, and it’s hard to pick against him right now.
I think the Yankees probably lose the Santana-Kuroda game (although in one of those random scheduling quirks, the Yankees are actually 8-1 on Friday this season, with their one loss coming back on Opening Day) and then bounce back to take the Saturday and Sunday games behind continued strong performances from Hughes and Pettitte.
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Mike’s off to an event at Yankee Stadium, so that means two things. First, it means I’ll be doing the chat today. It’ll start at — Update: Running behind, so we’ll start at 2:30 — instead of the normal 1:30. This also means, unfortunately, that we’ll have no podcast this week. Perhaps we’ll do one on Monday following the Subway Series.
I’ve got five questions for you this week and I was able to keep the answers to four of them reasonably short. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send up mailbag questions or anything else.
Daniel asks: Is Josh Willingham a possible trade target at the trade deadline? He’s having a good year, signed to a reasonable mid-term deal, and the Twins are awful. Any idea what sort of return he would command?
Willingham is having an insane year with the Twins — 173 wRC+ and eleven homers — after signing a three-year, $27M deal this offseason. Given Minnesota’s terribleness — 22-34 with a -70 run differential — and the fact that his value is at its apex at age 33, it would make sense for them to shop him around before he comes back to Earth. Kinda like what the Pirates did with Xavier Nady in 2008. Because he signed as a free agent this winter, the Twinkies can not trade him without his consent until one week from today. In other words, it’s no big deal.
Anyway, the Yankees don’t really have anywhere to play Willingham this season unless Brett Gardner’s elbow injury lingers. He’s supposed to play in his first minor league rehab game tonight, so we’ll find out how well he’s recovering soon enough. The Yankees will presumably need a corner outfielder to replace Nick Swisher after the season however, and Willingham is affordable enough. His defense is terrible though and his best position is DH. Still, right-handed power is in short supply.
I usually try to think of comparable players when thinking up trade scenarios, but I can’t come up with anyone like Willingham. Older guy who’s still productive with two full seasons left on his market rate free agent contract? Does Miguel Tejada to the Astros work? Scott Rolen to the Reds? Those two got traded for quantity over quality packages. I’m sure the Yankees could cull something together in that case, but this isn’t a vacuum. Willingham would help any team but he really doesn’t fit New York’s roster.
A different Daniel asks: If Rafael Soriano can put together an above average statistical season, what would you say the odds are that he hits the road after this season?
Zero percent. Soriano is owed $14M next season and there’s no chance he’ll match that on the open market. No one wanted to sign him two offseasons ago coming off the best season of his life and I doubt the sentiment has changed this time around. Heck, Ryan Madson is flat out better than Soriano and there was no market for him last winter. I’m sure every club will have Heath Bell in the back of their mind whenever they think about signing a free agent reliever going forward, and that won’t help his case. Considering that he’s a health risk and is very good but not dominant, I can’t imagine any number of saves will have Soriano thinking about opting out of his current deal.
Jacob asks: Do you think Dellin Betances needs a mechanical change to help with his walks? Maybe more of a sidearm or 3/4 delivery (Randy Johnson-esque) could possibly allow him to harness his abilities?
Dellin needs something to help with the walks and a mechanical change seems like an obvious solution. I’m not pitching coach or anything, so I have no idea if changing his arm slot or something like that will have a positive impact. I’ve always gotten the impression that it’s difficult to throw strikes with anything below a three-quarters slot, especially if there’s anything more an average velocity involved. Johnson was just a freak of nature and an extreme outlier, I wouldn’t use that guy as blueprint for anything.
At some point the Yankees need to do something about Betances, I can’t imagine an 8.1 BB/9 (19.0 BB%) is good for his confidence. I don’t know if it’s a move to the bullpen or a change in mechanics or a stern talking to, but this can’t go on forever.
Andrew asks: Why is nobody giving more attention to Corban Joseph? I know Single-A is the future, but he seems to have real pinstripes potential if he switches to the left side of the infield.
That’s the problem, he can’t switch to the left side of the infield. Joseph’s defense basically meets the minimum standards at second base and isn’t nearly good enough for short. He hasn’t even played one inning at shortstop in the minors and that’s not an accident. If he had a chance to play the position, they would have tried him there at some point. Joseph can handle third but not well, plus he’s unlikely to provide enough to play the position for a meaningful amount of time.
I don’t really know what Joseph is long-term. He makes good contact from the left side and draws some walks, so he has offensive value. Do they pigeon-hole him into a bench role and hope to hide his defense? Do they try him in an outfield corner and hope he can play second base as well as left and maybe right? I don’t really know. Joseph is on the 40-man though, so the Yankees see something they like in him.
J.R. asks: Mike, with all of the pre-draft deals that apparently took place this year, do you expect MLB to try and crack down on these next year?
They can try, but I’m not quite sure what they can do about it. I doubt the teams are getting these agreements in writing, so they’d basically have to look over the shoulder of every area scout to make sure he isn’t taking money with a player before the draft. I’m sure MLB would love to crack down on pre-draft arrangements, but it just might not be possible. Teams will always find a workaround.