Josh Norris & Mike Ashmore interview Mark Newman

A few days after answering questions for NoMaas, Yankees VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman chatted with Double-A Trenton beat writing all-stars Josh Norris and Mike Ashmore. They talked about players coming back from injury (David Adams, Graham Stoneburner, Jeremy Bleich), Corban Joseph‘s bat, disciplining Slade Heathcott for the brawl (spoiler: they didn’t), Andrew Brackman, developing pitchers, and lots more. Make sure you heck it out, it’s a must read.

Scouting The Trade Market: Mike Adams

Another day, another post about a potential trade target. A few days ago we broke down Heath Bell of the Padres, and now it’s time to look at his bullpen mate, Mike Adams. San Diego is on a nice little roll (won four straight), but they’re still ten games back of both the NL West crown and the NL Wildcard in the loss column. Given the demand for high-end relievers, the Padres have let it be known they’re willing to discuss anyone in their bullpen as long as they get the right pieces in return. Let’s take a look at what Adams can and can not do…

The Pros

  • You might not have heard of him, but Adams has been one of the very best relievers in all of baseball over the last few seasons. Since the start of the 2009 season (min. 120 IP), he leads all big league relievers with a 2.03 FIP, a quarter of a run better than the runner up (Bell). His 1.87 FIP this season is better than last year’s 2.31 mark, but lags behind 2009’s FIP of 1.66.
  • Adams has struck out 10.16 batters per nine innings over the last two-plus seasons while walking just 2.31 per nine. If we remove intentional walks, it’s 2.06 per nine. His strikeout rate remains sky high this season (9.91 K/9), though his walk rate is his best ever (0.99 uIBB/9).
  • A simple man, Adams works with two knockout pitches and a deceptive delivery that is all arms and legs and baggy jersey. His slider has such short and hard break that it looks like a cutter, and he’ll throw it anywhere from 80-90 mph. A two-seamer in the low-90’s is his other pitch, though I’ve seen him reach back and throw a straight four-seamer at 96 in the past.
  • Unlike Bell, Adams is under team control next season as an arbitration-eligible player, which is a fantastic and valuable little piece of flexibility.

The Cons

  • Adams is not that young (33 at the end of July) and he has a lengthy injury history. He had surgery to repair a partially torn labrum after the 2008 season, and it kept him on the shelf until early-June 2009. Some soreness in the shoulder cost him basically all of September that year as well. Adams pitched through a minor but nagging oblique strain for four weeks last summer, and his minor league career is littered with injuries.
  • Although he’s not an extreme fly ball guy, he doesn’t do a great job of keeping the ball on the ground. Since the start of 2009, Adams’ ground ball rate is just 43.8%. Since the start of last season it’s 41.6%. Of the five homers he’s given up since the start of 2009, three have come on the road away from Petco Park, included the two he’s allowed this season.
  • A $2.535M salary is nothing to the Yankees but it is rather expensive for a middle reliever. He’ll earn about $422,500 a month from here on out, and that base salary could put him in line for a $4M payout next season.
  • Adams has never pitched in the postseason, the closest he’s come is pitching in five consecutive days down the stretch last year, when the Padres were tying to fend off the Giants. He pitched in seven of San Diego’s final nine games last season.

As I said when we looked at Bell, adding another dominant, late-game reliever is more of a luxury than a requirement for the Yankees at the time. Both Jon Heyman and Joel Sherman have reported in recent days that the Yankees prefer Adams to Bell, which is good to hear because he’s no worse than Bell’s equal on the mound and is more than just a second half rental. I suspect the prospect cost would be similar, and if you’re going to go take the plunge and trade that much for a reliever, I’d rather do it for the guy you can keep beyond this season rather than pay a premium for the Proven Closerâ„¢, everything else being equal.

Martin’s homer gives Yanks fourth win in a row

Interleague play always seems to be kind to the Yankees, and 2011 is no different. Wednesday’s win gave them their fifth interleague series win in five tries, and they did it by giving A.J. Burnett some rare run support.

And boom goes the dynamite.

The Big(-ish) Inning

The Brewers were nursing a one-zip lead into the fourth inning, milking Shaun Marcum’s changeup for all it’s worth. The righty pitched around trouble in the first (runner on second, two outs), second (man on first, one out), and third (first and second, one out), but his luck ran out in the fourth.

Robinson Cano started the inning with booming triple to dead center, but that was only the second hardest hit on the play. Nyjer Morgan ran full speed into the wall, falling to his knees while Ryan Braun came over to field the ball. It was a brutal but hilarious collision; it’s okay to laugh since he was fine. Nick Swisher tied things up with a solid single to right, then Jorge Posada moved him to third with a single off the right field wall. With men on first and second and none out, the Yankees were set up for a big inning, and Russell Martin cut right to the chase.

Marcum jumped out ahead on the Yankees catcher, starting him off with two quick strikes. The third pitch was that changeup, but it hung up just a bit and Martin golfed it out and into the left field seats, his tenth homer of the season and first extra-base hit in 68 at-bats. Russ has been struggling with the bat, no doubt about it, and he needed that hanging changeup more than anyone else in the lineup. An inning that started with a one-run deficit ended with a three-run lead.

Hey Hey, It’s Good A.J.

A.J. did need a little help from the defense.

It wasn’t a good start for Burnett, but it was the finish that matters. The Brewers manufactured a first inning run on a walk, stolen base, and single, but A.J. settled down and retired 12 of the next 15 men he faced. Burnett’s biggest test came in the sixth, when Jonathan Lucroy started the inning with a simple little single back up the middle. Rickie Weeks hit a rocket to short that the Yankees could only turn into one out (Lucroy out at second), then Morgan singled to center to bring the big bats to the plate as the tying run.

A.J. started Braun off with some curveballs, but he fell behind in the count and laid a fastball right in there. Braun hit a bullet to Alex Rodriguez at third, but he was off-balance and didn’t get the throw to first in time. Now the bases were loaded with one out, and Prince Fielder was at the plate. He did the Yankees a favor and hacked at the first pitch, a changeup, and grounded it to Mark Teixeira at first who got the force out at second (the runner at third scored). The two superstars were gone, but the tying run was still at the plate. Burnett gave Corey Hart two curveballs after a first pitch fastball, and a weak ground out to third ended the inning and the threat.

It’s cliche but it’s true, this was one of those innings that would have turning into a multi-run nightmare last year. Burnett made his pitches and navigated the 3-4-5 hitters with men on base without allowing them to hit the ball out of the infield. Those three batters were three of the nine biggest plays of the game according to WPA, and they all went the Yankees way. Burnett’s night ended with just two runs allowed on seven hits and two walks in seven innings, though he only struck out four. He did get eleven ground ball outs compared to five in the air, though.

Splat.

Leftovers

Burnett had a chance to finish to go even longer, but Eduardo Nunez started the eighth inning out with his ninth error as a shortstop, skipping a throw to Tex like a rock on a lake. David Robertson came in and cleaned up the mess, striking out Braun on three pitches in the process. He did the same to Joey Votto last week, so that’s two of the very best hitters in baseball that he absolutely depantsed over the last seven days. I don’t think Mariano Rivera even broke a sweat during his flawless ninth inning.

Posada’s such a bad baserunner that he got tagged out on a homerun. Seriously. Jorge yanked Tim Dillard’s pitch over the fence in right in the sixth, but it bounced back onto the field of play and the Brewers applied the tag between first and second. The play was eventually reviewed and deemed a homerun, a solo shot and Posada’s second in three games.

As for the rest of the offense, Tex and A-Rod managed to combine for a big fat 0-for-8 with five strikeouts. Alex’s eight game hitting streak came to end with three whiffs. Curtis Granderson drew two more walks, Brett Gardner slashed a double, and Swisher walked in addition to the single. The Grandyman also stole a base and made a gorgeous catch in center to start an inning ending double play in the first. He ran down the ball near the warning track, fired to Cano who executed a perfect relay throw to first to double off the runner. Curtis’ catch was fantastic, but Cano’s relay was awe worthy. He caught it and delivered a chest-high strike to Tex all in one motion. Just gorgeous.

After the final out, during the postgame interview on the field, this happened (paraphrasing)…

Martin: “I don’t know how many at-bats it’s been since my last extra-base hit.”
Kim Jones: “Do you want me to tell you?”
Martin: “No, don’t tell me. Don’t tell me.”
Kim Jones: “It was 68 at-bats.”

Way to rub it in, Kim. Anyway, the Yankees have now won four games in a row, tying a season high winning streak that they’ve done several times before. They’re also a season high 16 games over .500 and have won 26 of 38 games since that ugly six game losing stretch we all seem to have forgotten about. The lead in the division sits at three games in the loss column after the Red Sox were unable to beat one of the Phillies’ vaunted aces (Vance Worley).

WPA Graph & Box Score

That’s a nice one, love those big one inning spikes when they go the Yankees’ way. MLB.com has the box score and video, FanGraphs the other stuff.

Up Next

The Yankees will go for the sweep on Thursday afternoon, when lefties CC Sabathia and Randy Wolf give it a go at 1:05pm ET. RAB Tickets can get you to the game dirt cheap.

Heeeeeeeeeeee’s back! Mitre’s a Yankee

Via Tom Haudricourt, the Yankees have acquired Sergio Mitre from the Brewers for cash. He had been designated for assignment the other day. Buddy Carlyle has been DFA’ed to clear room on both the 25-man and 40-man rosters. It’s just a marginal upgrade (at best), and I think we can all agree that Mitre is better than Carlyle. This one’s for the lulz.

The Hughes Rehab Tour dazzles in Trenton

Update: The second Low-A Charleston game is over and has been added to the post.

Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Corban Joseph, and Austin Romine are heading to the Double-A Eastern League All-Star Game. Ben Gamel and Conor Mullee have been placed on the disabled list with Henry Pena and Ben Paullus taking their spots on Short Season Staten Island’s roster. Mark Montgomery has been promoted from Staten Island to Low-A Charleston. Melky Mesa‘s rehab with High-A Tampa is over, and he is back with Double-A Trenton. Addison Maruszak was bumped to Triple-A Scranton to fit him on the roster.

Double-A Trenton (3-2 win over New Hampshire) there was some serious heat in the house today: Brian Cashman, Gene Michael, Billy Eppler, and Mark Newman were all at the game to watch…
Phil Hughes, RHP: 6.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 1-6 GB/FB – he threw 61 of 88 pitches (scheduled for 85) for strikes (69.3%), and 48 of those pitchers were between 91-94 mph … he hit 93 a total of 18 times in the first six innings, which is 18 more times than he did in April … one scout said his command was “much better” than his last rehab start, when he didn’t make it out of the fourth … Mike Ashmore has video of the game and press conference … from watching the online feed, he got a ton of swings and misses on the fastball (wish I’d counted), which has as much to do with Double-A competition as it does the quality of his stuff … it also looked like he tired in that last inning, his command went a little south … I would be in favor of Hughes making at least one more rehab start, it would be good to have him empty the tank and see how he comes back in five days before activating him off the disabled list
Ray Kruml, RF: 3 for 4, 1 R, 1 3B – forget Phil, this is FOUR straight games with a triple! … he’s got 19 hits in his last 47 at-bats (.404)
Corban Joseph, 2B & DeAngelo Mack, LF: both 0 for 3 – CoJo walked, Mack whiffed
Austin Romine, C: 2 for 4 - also threw out a runner trying to steal second … 12 for his last 39 (.308)
Cody Johnson, DH: 1 for 4, 1 RBI
Bradley Suttle, 3B: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
Melky Mesa, CF: 0 for 4
Rob Lyerly, 1B: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI – was a legit bomb off the top of the signage in right-center
Jose Pirela, SS: 1 for 3
Cory Arbiso, RHP: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K – allowed Hughes’s inherited runner to score
Shaeffer Hall, LHP: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2-0 GB/FB

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