We were running light on questions this week, so I opened the floor to the Twitter public yesterday afternoon and got a bunch of responses that way. Feel free to send us questions via Twitter in the future, but I can’t promise I’ll catch them all. You’re much better off using the Submit A Tip box for mailbag questions or anything else.
From @DanFoolery: What’s the Near/Not-so-Near yet still-pretty-near plan for a MLB catcher for the Yanks? Romine? Sanchez? (Gulp) Martin?
This is the million dollar question right here and there’s no obvious answer. Austin Romine effectively lost a season due to his back injury, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be a viable big league option next spring. It just means that he might not be ready for the job full-time. Gary Sanchez is still years away and is not a 2013 factor, and J.R. Murphy probably won’t enter his name into the race for another year as well. Frankie Cervelli is just a backup.
The free agent catching market boils down to Russell Martin, Mike Napoli (hasn’t started more than 70 games behind the plate since 2009), Kelly Shoppach (pretty good option on a one-year deal), and contract year A.J. Pierzynski (someone will overpay based on this season). Trade targets could include Nick Hundley (Yasmani Grandal took his job) and John Buck (no way). I want to think that Martin’s poor season has lowered his value to the point where the Yankees could bring him back on a one-year, $6-8M pact to serve as a stopgap, but I just don’t see it happening. Sanchez is the clear long-term solution here, but what happens between now and then is a total mystery to me. That’s not a good thing.
From @adakannayr: Small sample size, but could Dickerson be a suitable replacement assuming we aren’t bringing back Swisher?
I like Chris Dickerson probably more than anyone should, but I don’t see him as an everyday outfielder for a contending team. He’s always had a significant platoon split (this year in Triple-A notwithstanding) but the good news for him is that he’s the more often used left-handed half of the platoon. Dickerson can run well and play very good defense, so that’s not a problem. The Yankees would just need a platoon partner, and that means they’ll be using two roster spots to replace the production as one. If they don’t bring Nick Swisher back, I would hope they’d look for a legitimate everyday solution and use a Dickerson-based platoon as just a fall back. Not even Plan B, like Plan C or D.
From @TomHasOpinions: Wonder if Nunez could be a CF answer-Lower bar on offense, fast w/arm strength, bad accuracy could be masked in OF..thoughts?
Center field is interesting. I’ve always thought that if Eduardo Nunez was going to play one position on an everyday basis, the best bet is probably second thanks to the short throw, but center would make much better use of his speed. Now obviously the transition from the infield to center is not an easy one and something you want him to go through in Triple-A, but it’s definitely doable at his age. Nunez isn’t a great hitter but he makes a ton of contact, steals bases, and has just enough pop to be dangerous, so maybe there’s a chance he develops into a .280/.330/.390 guy who steals 25+ bases in center. That’s not a star but it is a pretty useful player if he can figure the defense thing out. Consider me intrigued.
From @rickhindle: If he continues to hit, will Tyler Austin be the Yankees everyday RF in 2014
I always tend to think conservatively when it comes to prospects having big league impact, but I do think that’s a very real possibility. Austin has done nothing but hit since the day he turned pro, and I mean hit for both average and power. His bat will have to carry him because he isn’t a great defender, but the kid can hit. Despite this late season call-up to Double-A Trenton, I think Austin will open next year back with High-A Tampa before earning a quick promotion back up to Trenton in May or June. If he continues to mash there and gets in a few Triple-A games late in the summer, he’d be right where he needs to be as far as being a big league option. Does that mean he’ll produce in the Bronx right away? No, he probably won’t, but I think there’s a good chance Austin will hit his way into consideration for a big league job by Spring Training 2014.
From @HyShai: Is there another pitcher (in history, other than Mo) that had success only throwing FBs and cutters, with no off speed?
I have no idea how to look this up for all of baseball history, but we can make this work for the PitchFX era (2008-present). Looking at the 111 starters who have thrown at least 500 IP since 2008, here are the ten most fastball-heavy pitchers…
- Kyle Kendrick — 77.8%
- Aaron Cook — 77.6%
- Justin Masterson — 76.6%
- Jon Niese — 76.4%
- Cliff Lee — 74.6%
- Jon Lester — 74.0%
- Matt Harrison — 73.3%
- David Price — 72.9%
- Mike Pelfrey — 72.5%
- Chad Billingsley — 72.0%
That includes four-seamers, two-seamers, cutters and sinkers, but not splitters, which are an offspeed pitch. Kendrick, Cook, Masterson, Harrison, and Pelfrey are all sinker-ballers while Niese, Lee, Lester, and Billingsley mix it up and throw four-seamers, two-seamers, and cutters regularly. Price is just a BAMF and pumps the heat all the time. Andy Pettitte is 12th on the list at 71.3% while CC Sabathia is way further down at 68th (59.9%). He’s actually right behind Hiroki Kuroda (60.1%).
Other than Tim Wakefield and R.A. Dickey, the least used fastball(s) belongs to Bronson Arroyo (27.9%). The most used individual pitch by a starter since 2008 is Clayton Kershaw’s four-seamer at 67.7%. Seems like two out of every three pitches being a fastball is the closest we’ll get to a one-pitch starter. The most used offspeed pitch is Armando Galarraga’s slider (36.0%), but among MLB-caliber pitchers it’s the sliders of Ervin Santana and Bud Norris (both 35.6%). Here are the fastball-heavy relievers (min. 100 IP for 244 qualifiers)…
- Mariano Rivera — 99.4%
- Jason Motte — 90.6%
- Kenley Jansen — 89.7%
- Ronald Belisario — 86.7%
- Andrew Bailey — 85.2%
- Matt Thornton — 85.0%
- Octavio Dotel — 83.6%
- Neftali Feliz — 81.8%
- Danys Baez — 81.8%
- David Aardsma — 80.9%
That missing 0.6% for Mo are just pitches the system was unable to classify for whatever reason. PitchFX ain’t perfect. Aroldis Chapman (80.1%) is right behind Aardsma while David Robertson (74.6%), Rafael Soriano (70.2%), Joba Chamberlain (63.0%), and Boone Logan (55.3%) rank 34th, 61st, 140th, and 192nd, respectively. The most used pitch by a reliever since 2008 is Thornton’s four-seamer (82.6%) while the most used offspeed pitch is Luke Gregerson’s slider (57.8%). This shouldn’t be a surprise, but relievers have far more success relying on what amounts to one type of pitch than starters. Mo just takes it to the extreme.
This isn’t the easiest of times to be a Yankees fan, as the club seems to find new and more humiliating ways to lose on a daily basis. They’ve lost six of their last eight games and 13 of their last 18. Since the start of the four-game series in Oakland, when all this losing really started, the Yankees are just 20-25 with a +1 run differential. During that same 45-game span, the Orioles are 29-16 with a +38 run differential. Last night’s loss was the latest worst loss of the season.
1. During these seven games against the Orioles and Rays, the Yankees have scored runs in eleven different innings. Five times have they allowed the other team to score in the next half-inning, so in other words they’ve followed up those eleven innings with just six “shutdown innings.” In the last three games, they’ve scored in six different innings and have had only two shutdown innings. The Yankees just keep letting the other team stay close, it’s an epidemic.
2. This David Robertson cutter stuff has to stop. We saw Phil Hughes fall in love with the pitch before getting burned on it in the past, and now it appears Robertson is going through the same thing. The Yankees weren’t planning to sign Robertson as their 17th round pick in 2006, but they changed their mind when he went to the Cape Cod League and learned the curveball from his summer pitching coach. That pitch is his moneymaker and he needs to use it. A lot, not once or twice an appearance. His control isn’t good enough to get by on the cutter alone, and a poorly located cutter is just a batting practice fastball. Robertson would be well-served to put the cut-fastball in his back pocket and go back to the four-seamer/curveball approach that made him so effective in the past.
3. The Yankees have to skip David Phelps’ next start. They’re in the middle of a playoff chase and can’t afford to send the kid out there again if there is a viable alternative, he just isn’t effective enough. These last two starts were classic examples of a rookie pitcher getting overwhelmed and trying to do too much in a big game, I thought. The club can use Monday’s off-day to push his next start back to September 15th, next Saturday’s game at home against the Rays. Hopefully by then Ivan Nova or even Andy Pettitte will be ready to take over that rotation spot. If they don’t skip him, Phelps would make his next start in Fenway Park in the middle of next week. Even with their trade and injury depleted lineup, the Red Sox could make that ugly in a hurry.
4. Considering that pretty much everyone in in the bullpen not named Rafael Soriano has struggled of late, I’m all for giving Cory Wade some high-leverage work. He’s appeared in just one game since being recalled from Triple-A over the weekend, retiring all five men he faced last Sunday. When the alternatives are Derek Lowe and Cody Eppley, there’s really no reason not to give Wade a shot going forward. We know he can be effective (very effective even) if his command is right, and it appears he’s moved beyond his batting practice pitcher phase given his work in Triple-A. I’m actually kinda surprised he hasn’t seen more action this week given the bullpen follies.
5. I’m going to finish up with a positive here. I’ve been encouraged by the three multi-run rallies the Yankees have put together in the last two games. They got the timely hits they needed but more importantly, they’ve had high-quality at-bats. They laid off pitcher’s pitches out of the zone and punished mistakes while also showing a willingness to take the walk if they didn’t get anything to hit. I think the return of Alex Rodriguez has helped in a big way, adding some length to the lineup and providing a sort of “here, these are the types of at-bats we need to take in these spots” example. The offensive struggles have been at the forefront of this recent downward spiral, but the Yankees have started to show some signs of life with the bats lately.
The Yankees have played the Orioles four times in the last week and all four times they were completely outclassed. It looks like the two teams have switched roles after the last 15 years; Baltimore is the team completely outplaying their division rival and deserves to be in first place.
I don’t think many people reasonably expected David Robertson to repeat his 2011 performance in 2012 just because it’s tough to be that good two years in a row, but I also don’t think many people expected him to morph into this pitch-to-contact cutter machine. Three pitches after his teammates rallied for five runs in the top of the eighth, Robertson surrendered a go-ahead solo homer to Adam Jones in the bottom half of the inning. Matt Wieters followed with a single to right and then Mark Reynolds unloaded on another cutter for a two-run homer. All three hits came with two strikes, exactly when Robertson should be putting guy away with the curve. No idea what happened but this is getting ridiculous.
To make matters worse, Boone Logan entered the game and surrendered a solo homer to the left-handed Chris Davis on his only pitch of the night. After working so hard to tie the game a half-inning earlier, two relievers gave 80% of the runs back in the span of 14 pitches. The bullpen has been a problem in the second half, but for the most part it was just the middle relief. Now Robertson is starting blow games in part because he forgot how to miss bats, and no team can survive with one effective reliever.
The Yankees looked lifeless (as usual) for the first seven innings, with a Curtis Granderson single to plate Robinson Cano in the fourth representing their only run. It appeared as though they would go quietly into the night as they have so many times in recent weeks, but the offense strung together a lengthy two-out rally to tie the game in the eighth.
It all started with a Nick Swisher walk sandwiched between a Derek Jeter ground ball and a Cano fly out. Alex Rodriguez doubled in Swisher — his second straight game with a double, perhaps a good sign coming off the DL — and then Eric Chavez drew an unexpected walk off veteran lefty Randy Wolf. In came Pedro Strop, who blew a game at Yankee Stadium last week because he couldn’t find the strike zone. He surrendered a run scoring single to Granderson before walking both Russell Martin (to load the bases) and Chris Dickerson (to force in a run). Ichiro Suzuki tied the game at six with a two-run single through the right side, the sixth consecutive Yankee to reach base with two outs. That was exactly the kind of extended rally the team has been unable to put together lately.
For the second time in as many starts, David Phelps looked like a nervous rookie in a big game. Last weekend he walked six Orioles in 4.2 innings before the Yankees rallied for the win, and on Thursday he allowed four runs to the first five hitters he faced. The last three came on a Matt Wieters opposite field homer. The only out he got in that span required a great diving stop by Cano. All told, the damage was five runs on six hits (two homers) and two walks in four innings. Phelps has surrendered a dozen runs in his last three starts (15 innings) while looking nothing like the guy he was earlier in the season.
It amazes me that a bullpen over-manager extraordinaire like Girardi is completely unwilling to pinch-hit for his left-handed platoon bats when there’s a lefty on the mound. He used Clay Rapada to retire Nate McLouth (!) in the fifth but didn’t bother to send one of the many right-handers on his bench to plate for Chavez or Ichiro against Wolf. The first three lefties Wolf faced combined to make five outs thanks to two double plays. I know this sounds stupid given the roles Chavez and Ichiro played in the eighth inning rally, but it’s been going on all season and they keep getting burned. This was the exception.
Robertson and Logan gave the game away late, but Rapada (struck out the only man he faced), Joba Chamberlain (allowed a homer to Reynolds but otherwise got five outs), Justin Thomas (retired all three men he faced), and Derek Lowe (cleaned up that eighth inning) were pretty effective out of the bullpen. Reynolds has three two-homer games against the Yankees in the last week, which tends to happen when you don’t throw a guy with his propensity to swing-and-miss any breaking balls. Seriously, what’s the conversation during the pre-game scouting meeting? “We’re going to get Reynolds out with fastballs.” “Okay, sounds good!” That can’t be it.
The Yankees had ten hits as a team, the first time they’ve reached double-digits since the final game of the Indians series in Cleveland. They also scored six runs for the second straight game after scoring no more than five in their previous seven games and in 12 of the previous 13. Granderson chipped in two solid singles back up the middle, which I seriously hope is an indication that his bat will come back to life down the stretch. Ichiro (three singles), Cano (two singles), A-Rod (double and walk), Martin (single and walk), and Swisher (two walks) all reached base multiple times.
The six homers hit by the Orioles represents only the ninth time in franchise history that the Yankees have surrendered that many dingers in a single game. The Rays last did it toNew York back in May of 2009, the game immediately before A-Rod came off the DL.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights while ESPN has the updated standings. The Rays were idle on Thursday but they still picked up a game in the loss column and now sit two back. The Orioles obviously pulled into a first place tie. Again.
Same two teams on Friday night in what will be the (next) biggest game of the season. Phil Hughes will be opposite the left-handed Wei-Yin Chen in that one. If there was ever a time for Phil to throw the game of his life, this would be it.
Triple-A Empire State (3-2 loss to Pawtucket) Pawtucket leads the best-of-five first round series 2-0, so tomorrow is do or die time for the Yanks
3B Kevin Russo, 2B Corban Joseph & C Austin Romine: all 0-4 — Russo struck out three times and committed a fielding error … CoJo whiffed once … Romine drove in a run and struck out
LF Ronnie Mustelier: 0-3, 1 BB
1B Luke Murton: 2-3, 1 R, 1 HBP
CF Melky Mesa: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K
RF Cole Garner & SS Ramiro Pena: both 2-4, 1 K — Garner plated a run and committed a throwing error
DH Darnell McDonald: 0-2, 1 BB
RHP Ramon Ortiz: 6.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 6/4 GB/FB — 63 of 93 pitches were strikes (68%)
LHP Juan Cedeno: 0.1 IP, zeroes, 1 K — five pitches, three strikes
RHP Preston Claiborne: 1.1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 0/1 GB/FB — eight of 11 pitches were strikes
In his latest minor league rehab outing, David Aardsma allowed a run on three hits and a walk for Double-A Trenton. He did not strike anyone out and recorded two outs on ground balls. Sixteen of his 28 pitches were strikes (57%), and Mike Ashmore says he topped out at 90 with the fastball. Here’s video.
Aardsma, 30, hasn’t pitched well at all in his three rehab appearances following his late-June setback, so any chance of him joining the bullpen later this month has dwindled to essentially nothing. That’s not a surprise though, the Yankees have maintained that they didn’t expect him back this season at all. Aardsma was considered more of a 2013 piece from the start.
I never thought September games at Camden Yards could be so important. The Yankees and Orioles are separated by just one game atop the AL East, so these four games could go a long way towards determining the eventual AL East champion. That said, Joe Girardi & Co. can’t worry about winning three of four or anything like that right now. The Yankees haven’t won consecutive games since winning three straight over the Rangers at home roughly three weeks ago, so just focus on tonight’s game. Here’s the lineup…
SS Derek Jeter
1B Nick Swisher
2B Robinson Cano
DH Alex Rodriguez
3B Eric Chavez
CF Curtis Granderson
C Russell Martin
LF Raul Ibanez
RF Ichiro Suzuki
RHP David Phelps
Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:05pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.