Aceves throws off half-mound

Sorely missed reliever Al Aceves threw off a half-mound today, the first time he’s thrown off something more than flat ground since suffering a back injury in early May. He threw for approximately six minutes and reported no pain, but chances are the team will opt to leave him behind in New York during their west coast trip next week. I can’t see why they’d subject a guy coming off a back injury to sitting on a pair of cross country flights within a week.

Aceves said he might begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton soon, though that was just him spit balling it. The team has announced no plans, and presumably wants to see him throw comfortably off a full mound before starting his rehab clock.

Game 68: Time for Brian Cashman to crack some skulls

Things could be a lot worse right now. The Yanks are still 41-26, still in first place, still have the best record in baseball. At this time last year they were slumping as well. They had just beaten the Marlins 5-1, but were 38-29, three games out of first place. It took two more losses to Florida and a shutout in Atlanta to inspire Brian Cashman to visit the team. And we all know what happened from there.

This team is certainly as talented as last year’s version. They shouldn’t be losing three straight to the pitchers they faced. They shouldn’t have scored only four runs in those three games. But that’s how it goes sometimes. The whole team is uncomfortable, perhaps no one more than the guy who leads it all off, Derek Jeter. He has often said that he doesn’t slump, but rather that he sometimes feels uncomfortable at the plate. You can tell that’s the case right now. He’s squirming as he waits for the pitcher to deliver. He’s 4 for 29 since the start of the Houston series.

The Yankees aren’t panicking, though. They’re sending out the regulars in an attempt to stanch the bleeding against Mike Pelfrey and the Mets. I’m sure Phil Hughes wants to make the most of his return match after failing to put away Mets’ hitters last time.

Derek Jeter is out with a sore heel suffered running down the last night, so here’s the new lineup:

1. Brett Gardner, LF
2. Nick Swisher, RF
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez, DH
5. Robinson Cano, 2B
6. Jorge Posada, C
7. Curtis Granderson, CF
8. Ramiro Pena, SS
9. Kevin Russo, 3B

And on the mound, number sixty-five, Phil Hughes.

The future of Mark Teixeira

While I remain unconcerned that Mark Teixeira is done as a top notch hitter, it’s tough to ignore the now 3 month slump he is in heading back to the 2009 postseason.  While we can write off April as he always struggles, he hasn’t yet turned it around the way we expected.  Since the Yankees have Teixeira signed thru 2016 (his age 36 season) I wanted to see how comparable hitters thru age 29 fared from their age 30-36 seasons to see what could be in store for Tex.  I’m simply using Tex’s 5 most similar hitters (per B-Ref), so there can certainly be extenuating circumstances that can explain either a surge in offense or a drop off.  Tex should profile pretty well, as he has been healthy, is a hard worker, and seems to take care of himself off the field.  These guys may be fatter, skinnier, have used steroids, partied harder, etc., so it’s not necessarily a prediction of what Tex will do over the next 7 years (2010 inclusive), but more how comparable bats have fared.

#1 Carlos Delgado

Delgado was a beast from age 30-36.  In his worst season, his last in Toronto, he still managed a .269/.372/.535 129 OPS+ line with 32 HR’s in just 128 games.  If Tex’s production is anywhere near Delgado’s, the contract will play out just fine.  As a hitter Delgado’s best seasons are better than Teixiera’s, but Tex so far has been a little more consistent year in and year out.

#2 Kent Hrbek

Hrbek is certainly the scary name on the list but better than I remember.  He was a beast on RBI Baseball, and while his numbers thru age 29 don’t include any 40 HR seasons, he was  regularly in the mid 20’s when that actually meant something.  He was a solid hitter, but not in the truly elite class of baseball.  He never even made it to 36, retiring after his age 34 season.  Here’s hoping Tex does a lot better than Hrbek after turning 30.

#3 Jeff Bagwell

Bagwell had already slowed by the time he was 30 but was still producing in a big way.  From 26-29 his OPS+ was an astounding 168.  After the age of 30 his high was 162, and never hit 140 once turning 33, dropping every year from the age of 31 until he retired at 37.  I’d love to see Bagwell-type production from Tex, though he certainly was past his prime by the time he hit 32.

#4 Fred McGriff

The Crime Dog was productive from 30-36, but only had 2 great seasons in 1994 and 1999.  Every other year his OPS+ was between 106 and 119.  Clearly not a hole in the lineup, but not the production Tex was brought in to provide.  Of note with McGriff is that while 1994 was a great year for him, it was a great (and interesting) year for offense in baseball altogether.  When the strike hit, McGriff had 34 HR’s in only 113 games, which was just two off his career high.  Tex producing like McGriff from 30-36 wouldn’t be a total disappointment, but also not what the Yankees are paying for.

#5 Jim Thome

Thome is clearly the class of this bunch after the age of 30.  He had the two best seasons of his career at ages 30 and 31 and was still producing up to age 36 (and beyond).  He did have an injury shortened year at 34 which led to him ending up back in the American League as a full time DH.  DH’ing likely helped Thome’s later years, but it’s doubtful that Tex will be spending much time at DH in the future.  I’ll say right now that Tex will not produce like Thome from age 30-36 as he simply isn’t as a good a hitter as Thome was, but hopefully he’ll be able to age like Thome and continue to produce at a very high level.

The good news as you can see as everyone but Hrbek was healthy and played quite a few games from ages 30-36.  Hrbek was done after the strike season in 1994, playing just 81 games with a 99 OPS+.  Everyone else averaged at least 134 games (and that was Thome who was held back as a DH) and produced.  The bad news is that they all had their best seasons at either 30 or 31 and it was downhill from there.  Still productive but downhill.  While that’s concerning enough, it’s even more concerning considering all of these guys played in the height of the steroids era, when the aging process seemed to stand still for many players.  Clearly Tex’ best post 30 season won’t be this year, but even if he’s great again next year, it might be the best we see out of Tex for the remainder of the contract.

For more of my work head over to Mystique and Aura.

Staten Island’s season opener takes a backseat to Kontos’ return

Dellin Betances got some love on this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet as the tenth hottest prospect in the minors. Rob Lyerly sheds a single tear.

Triple-A Scranton (4-1 win over Lehigh Valley)
Reid Gorecki, RF & Greg Golson, LF: both 1 for 4 – Gorecki walked, stole two bases, drove in a run & scored twice … Golson doubled & scored a run
Colin Curtis, CF: 2 for 5, 1 2B, 2 K
Eduardo Nunez, SS: 2 for 4, 1 2B, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K
Juan Miranda, 1B & Eric Bruntlett, 2B: both 0 for 3, 1 BB – Miranda K’ed once, Bruntlett twice … Bruntlett committed a throwing error
Jorge Vazquez, 3B & Rene Rivera, C: both 0 for 4 – Vazquez K’ed once, Rivera twice
Jesus Montero, C: 3 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 K – had a chance for the cycle in his fourth at-bat, but he struck out on a slider, changeup, changeup, changeup
Dustin Moseley: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 10 K, 7-3 GB/FB – 66 of his 99 pitches were strikes … that’s 20 K in his last two starts (14 IP)
Zack Segovia: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1-0 GB/FB – 11 of 14 pitches were strikes (78.6%)
Jon Albaladejo: 1 IP, zeroes, 3 K – 11 of 13 pitches were strikes (84.6%) … he has to be better than Chan Ho Park at this point, right?

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Game 67: Round 2. FIGHT!


Whether by Expo or by D-Back, Javy knows dominating the Mets. Photo credits: Ryan Remlorz/AP, Roy Dabner/AP

Tonight starts the pitching rematch of the May series between the Yanks and the Mets. We covered a lot of this in the series preview. The Mets are rolling after beating up on the Orioles and Indians. The Yanks are just a few games removed from such domination, but have since met the Phillies, who took two of three. The Yanks look to recover against their crosstown rivals. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m not sure if I can stomach losses to the Phillies and the Mets back to back.


Oh, and he can beat them by Brave or by Yank, too. Photo credits: John Bazemore/AP, Frank Franklin II/AP

The Yanks had trouble last time off Hansori Takahashi, but we know the anecdotal history of the Yanks facing lefties they’ve never before seen. They’ll look to reverse that (again, anecdotal) trend.

I looks like Girardi’s giving Granderson a day off against the lefty. That’s fine, but I just hope Granderson plays against Santana on Sunday. If the Yanks want him to ever hit lefties he’s going to actually have to stand in against them.

Lineup:

1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Nick Swisher, RF
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Robinson Cano, 2B
6. Jorge Posada, DH
7. Francisco Cervelli, C
8. Chad Huffman, LF
9. Brett Gardner, CF

And on the mound, number thirty-one, Javier Vazquez.

Series Preview: Mets (38-28) at Yankees (41-25)

It’s tough to run comparisons of AL and NL teams. Not only do the have a different number of teams in the league, but there’s also the DH to consider. For instance, should the Yanks have the advantage on defense because they’re not only in a higher league percentile, but because they have to face nine hitters rather than eight hitters and a pitcher? I’d say yes, but because the Mets’ raw number was lower I gave it to them. It might even be best to ignore the Edge category.

Last time the Yankees and Mets met, things didn’t go so well. The Yanks had trouble scoring runs all series — at least until the ninth inning. Even then their rallies came up well short and they ended up dropping two of three. They get a complete rematch this weekend, complete with pitching matchups.

Yanks on offense

The Yanks had no trouble scoring runs in the games leading up to the Mets series. They had, in fact, scored six or more in each of their previous four games. Against the Mets that magic kind of went away, though, and extended into the Minnesota series. From there the offense picked it back up.

It looked like they had really hit their stride on Tuesday when they rocked Roy Halladay. But they managed just four runs in the next two games, including just one last night. The Phillies pitchers did a good job of getting ahead in the count, and that apparently threw the Yanks off their game. That hasn’t dropped the Yanks from their percha top the AL in runs per game, but they have dropped behind the Red Sox in terms of wOBA.

Mets on offense

It took injuries and ineffectiveness to get the job done, but the Mets have a good lineup going right now. The injury to Luis Castillo has forced Jerry Manuel into sane decision making, as he’s moved Angel Pagan into the No. 2 spot. Jose Reyes remains at leadoff and has improved from his understandable early season slump. David Wright, Jason Bay, and Ike Davis form the middle of the order, and despite a general lack of power in that area they do form a formidable troika.

Castillo’s absence, however, has been a net negative. His replacement, 20-year-old Ruben Tejada, sits on an OBP below .300. I’m sure Alex Cora will get a start or two in his place this weekend against one of the righties. I also suspect Chris Carter will DH. He joins Rod Barajas in the bottom part of the order. They both join Marcus Thames in the We Don’t Hit The Ball Often But When We Do It Goes Really Far Club.

Pitching matchups

We’re looking at the exact same pitching matchups as last time. Hopefully the Yanks bats have better success the second time around, and that the Yanks pitchers make more adjustments facing the Mets for the second time. Unfortunately, the Mets have the reverse hopes.

Friday: Hisanori Takahashi (3.48 ERA, 3.27 FIP) vs. Javier Vazquez (5.43 ERA, 5.35 FIP)

Last time this battle was a pitchers’ duel for the ages. The Yanks managed just two runs, but thanks to some stellar pitching by Vazquez that was enough. Since then Takahashi has gone on to post excellent numbers. He’s striking out 8.61 per nine innings and walking 3.31. His biggest advantage comes from the home run, just four allowed in 54.1 innings. Considering his fly ball tendencies, this should correct itself at some point. There might be no better place than Yankee Stadium for that to happen.

Javier Vazquez took a huge step forward in his recovery last time against the Mets. He allowed just one hit through six innings and was going strong until he bunted one off his finger. We’ll just say that the injury affected his grip the next time out, when he got rocked by Minnesota. Since then he’s been nothing short of excellent, carving up lineup after lineup. With the offense struggling the Yanks could use another big night out of Javy. If he limits the homers to the solo variety he should be fine.

Saturday: Mike Pelfrey (2.39 ERA, 3.29 FIP) vs. Phil Hughes (3.11 ERA, 2.90 FIP)

With Johan Santana not exactly being his old dominant self, Mike Pelfrey has taken the reigns. He has been nothing short of excellent this season, improving his strikeout numbers while using his curve/sinker to keep the ball in the park. That, combined with a very high strand rate, has kept his ERA nice and low. He’s done an excellent job in high leverage situations, inducing plenty of ground balls. That’s how you strand runners. He has allowed just five hits in 42 high leverage situations.

The season started out well for Hughes, but he’s faced struggles of late. There’s nothing wrong with that, but his team won’t be able to score nine runs behind him every time like they did last Sunday against Houston. This actually represents a big test for Phil. Last time out he couldn’t finish off the Mets. They kept fouling off his cutter and pounding his other pitches. His ability to slip those pitches by the Mets will be the difference this time around.

Sunday: Johan Santana ( 3.13 ERA, 3.81 FIP) vs. CC Sabathia (4.00 ERA, 4.24 FIP)

Santana’s strikeouts are down, his walks are up slightly, yet he’s still posting good numbers. This is partly because of a very low home run rate. In the past Santana had a high-ish home run rate, but they were mostly of the solo variety. This year he’s allowing fewer despite a steady fly ball rate. It’s Santana, so I wouldn’t predict a correction necessarily. But it’s tough to keep up a 5.5 percent HR/FB ratio, especially when you’re allowing a lot of balls in play. That’s been Santana this year.

The Yanks’ own lefty ace has faced his own struggles. His strikeouts are still a little down, but it took him a while to get into a groove last year. He’s keeping the ball on the ground a bit more, though, which will be even nicer if he maintains it while raising his strikeout rate. Homers have been the culprit for Sabathia, as 12.8 percent of his fly balls have left the park. A correction there would go a long way towards his return to acedom. For what it’s worth, he hasn’t allowed a homer in either of his last two starts.