A second half series between these two clubs is supposed to be important, it’s supposed to have major ramification on both the AL East and wildcard races. Instead, this one is just another series because Tampa has fallen out of it. This will be the third time the Yankees and Rays will play each other in a little less than a month, and right now New York leads the season series 5-4.
What Have The Rays Done Lately?
Tampa just swept a four game series against the Royals at home, and they’re 7-2 in their last nine games. Despite that, they’re just 12-13 since the All-Star break, and have fallen 9.5 games back in the AL East and 8.5 back of the wildcard. The Yankees need to win games for the sake of winning games, but there’s not much significance in specifically beating the Rays right now.
Rays On Offense
With a .315 wOBA and a .153 ISO, the Rays have close to a perfectly average offense this season. The three centerpieces of their attack are Ben Zobrist (.279/.371/.498), Evan Longoria (.231/.329/.450), and (surprisingly enough) Casey Kotchman (.337/.398/.471), but they recently made a significant addition to the lineup: leadoff man Desmond Jennings. The hot shot prospect was called up about three weeks ago and has hit .333/.422/.597 with eight steals in 11 attempts in 19 games. He’s not really a .442 wOBA hitter, but he is quite good and a lot better than the dreck they were running out there in left field earlier this season.
As for the supporting cast, you have Johnny Damon (.262/.317/.387), B.J. Upton (.227/.309/.394), and Matt Joyce (.283/.345/.501, and he’s come back to life a bit of late). Robinson Chirinos (.250/.321/.354 in limited time) does the majority of the catching these days, though Kelly Shoppach will start against southpaws (.230/.337/.345 vs. LHP). Sean Rodriguez is a lefty masher (.274/.384/.505) and has been getting some regular playing time at shortstop (even against righties) because Reid Brignac (.193/.234/.219) and Elliot Johnson (.179/.242/.314) are terrible. Too bad Rodriguez isn’t much of a hitter against non-lefties (.175/.250/.263 vs. RHP). And then there’s Sam Fuld with his legendary .244/.309/.371 batting line, though I should note that he’s hitting .275/.362/.451 over the last month or so.
Rays On The Mound
Friday, LHP David Price (vs. CC Sabathia): The Yankees have seen Price three times this year, and he’s thrown one great game (7.1 IP, 2 R), one decent at best game (5 IP, 4 R), and one poor game (5 IP, 5 R). That’s actually in reverse chronological order, so he’s improved against New York each time out. Everyone knows Price’s shtick by now, he lives off his mid-90’s heat and will also throw a curveball, changeup, and occasional slider. His strikeout (8.68 K/9) and walk (2.14 BB/9) numbers are better than last season, but his homer rate (1.01 HR/9) is considerably worse. Price hasn’t been pitching all that well of late, with a 5.14 ERA in seven starts.
Saturday, RHP Jeremy Hellickson (vs. Phil Hughes): It took longer than expected, but the Yankees finally got their first crack at Hellickson the last time these clubs played, and he held them to two runs in seven innings. Remember he was supposed to start in the Bronx right before the All-Star break, but the game got rained out and Tampa skipped him. Hellickson is more of a command guy that a pure stuff guy, throwing his two and four-seamers right at 90 mph. His low-80’s changeup is his out pitch, and he’ll also mix in the occasional curveball. With strikeout (5.95 K/9) and ground ball (33.2%) rates that are less than stellar, Hellickson seems like a guy Yankee Stadium could eat alive. Tomorrow will be his first ever start there.
Sunday, RHP Jamie Shields (vs. Freddy Garcia): Another guy the Yankees have seen three times this year, Shields has shut New York down the last two times he faced them (8 IP, 1 R and 7.2 IP, 1 R), though his first start against them was merely pretty good (7 IP, 4 R). He’ll live off that world class changeup, setting it up with a low-90’s heater, a cutter, and a curveball that he continues to use more than ever. Shields has allowed no more than one run in four of his last six starts (two complete games), but in the other two he’s allowed six and ten runs. I’d count on the good version showing up this weekend.
Bullpen: Despite the continued success of Kyle freaking Farnsworth (2.56 FIP), Tampa actually has a bottom nine bullpen in MLB in terms of ERA (3.88), FIP (4.19), and xFIP (4.48). Joel Peralta (3.79 FIP) and Juan Cruz (3.57 FIP) have been fine in setup work, and Brandon Gomes (3.44 FIP) is starting to play a more prominent role. After those four you have three lefties are varying effectiveness. J.P. Howell has been terrible this season (5.60 FIP), which isn’t all that surprising since the guy missed a year and a half with major shoulder surgery. He does have value against same-side batters though (.217/.280/.283 vs. LHB). Cesar Ramos (4.98 FIP with no platoon split) has been sketchy, and hard-throwing Jake McGee’s dominant stretch after being recalled last month has came to an end about two weeks ago. He’s got a 6.01 FIP on the season.
Another Friday, another mailbag. This week our focus is on players currently with the team that may or may not be next season, plus some miscellaneous stuff about C.J. Wilson and prospects. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar if you want to send in some questions.
Ryan asks: Do you guys think that Posada makes it onto the playoff roster?
I do think he’ll make it, assuming the Yankees get to the postseason, of course. We don’t want to jinx anything. Jorge Posada still has some value as a veteran pinch-hitter against right-handed pitchers, plus it won’t be a real chore to carry him on the roster since they figure to drop down to an eleven man pitching staff. I try not too put too much stock into intangibles, but we know Posada won’t be overwhelmed in a big spot in October, which is comforting (if nothing else).
Chris asks: If Posada does not retire at the end of the season do you see him trying to get a catching job in the NL or as a DH in the AL? I think he has a chip on his shoulder and would be looking to prove the Yankees (and Girardi) wrong.
I think he’s going to retire, but if he doesn’t, I imagine he’ll go to an AL club to DH. Maybe he’s open to being a part-time first baseman and primary pinch-hitter for an NL club, but I think that’s a big if. I see two likely destinations if he sticks around after 2011: the Rays and Mets. Both are close to home for him and could use someone for those roles.
Tucker asks: What trade value does Eduardo Nunez hold? Ken Rosenthal recently wrote that he has a lot because he’s hitting well and can “play” premium positions. What’s your take?
You all know that I’m not Nunez’s biggest fan, but there’s no denying the dude has some serious trade value. He’s shown that he can hit in the limited at-bats he’s gotten this year, and his impressive contact rate is in line with his minor league track record and scouting report. His defense has improved as the season has gone on (likely because he’s getting more reps), and he’s a legitimate shortstop. That last part alone is hard to find.
Let’s be conservative and says he’s a .320 wOBA, 25+ stolen base, average defense guy going forward. That’s basically this year’s version of Erick Aybar, who’s already a two-win player with six weeks left in the season. Five years of that guy at a bargain price will have a ton of value on the trade market. I don’t think that it’s an accident the Mariners wanted him in a potential Cliff Lee trade last year, legit middle infielders that are more than zeroes with the bat are pretty rare these days.
Preston asks: What are the chances the Yankees would/could trade or cut Burnett at the end of the season?
Maybe they’ll try to trade him, but I’m positive the Yankees won’t just release A.J. Burnett this offseason. If they do that, they’re still on the hook for his entire contract, so why not just keep him to see if he can give you anything, even as a reliever? For better or for worse, the Yankees are stuck with A.J. for the next two seasons.
Jeff asks: What do the Yankees do with Russell Martin in the off season? He narrowly qualifies as a Type A player. Do the Yankees offer arbitration whether he is Type A or B? Are Montero or Romine ready to take the job as a catcher in the big leagues? Could the Yankees platoon those two guys with Montero getting some time at DH?
The Type-A stuff doesn’t matter because he doesn’t have six full years of service time yet. You can’t get compensation picks for players you non-tender, and Martin won’t get those six years of service time until after next season. He’d probably get something like $6-6.5M his final time through arbitration after the season, which is a steep price but not the end of the world. The Yankees could use him as a caddy with either Jesus Montero or Austin Romine, breaking those guys in gradually rather than just handing them the starting catcher’s job.
Mark asks: Do you see the Yankees and Rangers getting into another testy free agent battle for C.J. Wilson this offseason? If yes, do you think he’s worth the high cost and whose spot in the rotation he would take? Thanks!
I have a feeling that we’re going to spent a lot of time talking about Wilson in November and December, so I don’t want to get too deep into it now. He’s obviously worth inquiring about, but I can’t see how in the world he gets less than Burnett or John Lackey did. He’s straight up better than those guys were at the time of their free agency, he’s left-handed, and he doesn’t have the recent injury history either. I like Wilson but I don’t love him, especially at that price. But as the second best starter on the market, the Yankees are bound to show some interest.
As for the last part of your question, I’m guess that one of Freddy Garcia or Bartolo Colon will not be back next year. Even if they are, it won’t be too difficult to free up a rotation spot for a pitcher of Wilson’s caliber.
Chris asks: I read an article that said the Phillies haven’t depleted their farm system in spite of all the trades of the last few years. A) is this true and if so, B) how is it the Yankees are seemingly one deal away from depleting their own? Is the Phillies system that much better?
To answer (A) first, the Phillies have traded 13 prospects (not counting J.A. Happ, who technically wasn’t a prospect) for Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Hunter Pence over the last two years or so, and they’ve somehow managed to hold onto Domonic Brown. They started out with a very good farm system and have done a nice job of replenishing it by developing mid-round picks. That said, you can see the toll all those moves have taken on their farm system. They had to scrounge up a pair of Single-A kids to headline a package for Pence because they didn’t have the players in Triple or Double-A to get it done.
The Phillies are in the middle of the best stretch in franchise history and are rightfully in win now mode, because guys like Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and even Lee and Halladay are on the wrong side of 30 and will see their skills decline over the next few years. Their window isn’t infinite, and at some point the well will dry up. It’s kinda like what happened to the Yankees in 2005 or so, but they obviously had a much higher margin of error given their payroll.
As for (B), it’s just a matter of perception. The Yankees could deal two of Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos, and Dellin Betances and still boast a very strong farm system with two legitimate number one type prospects (whichever one of those three is left plus Gary Sanchez), one super-toolsy guy with some major helium (Mason Williams), and a cast of rock solid prospects close to big leagues (Austin Romine, Adam Warren, David Phelps, Corban Joseph, etc.). Yeah, the farm system would take a big hit dealing two of those three, but it would still be in much better shape than half the farm system’s out there.
This one looked like trouble, at several different points as well. The Yankees had some issues with a rookie pitcher they’d never seen before and things got hairy in the ninth, but ultimately it was another win for New York in what was probably their most important series of the season (to date).
Robbie Makes ‘Em Pay
The Angels have long been billed as a fundamentally sound club that plays good defense and runs the bases well and blah blah blah, but they sure didn’t do that in the seventh inning of this one. The Yankees had runners on first and second with two outs following some Fernando Rodney hilarity, but Mark Teixeira chopped the routinest of routine grounders to second. The inning should have been over, but Maicer Izturis got ahead of himself and took his eye off the ball, muffing the grounder and extending the inning. Extra outs are bad news, especially against good teams like the Yankees.
That brought Robinson Cano to the plate with the bases juiced and two outs, though he was just 5-for-25 with zero homers off Scott Downs in his career. The Halos southpaw started him out with a sinker down and in, which Cano ripped down the first base line but just foul. Downs came right back the same pitch, but Robinson made the adjustment and swatted it off the facing of the second deck in right for a tie-breaking grand slam. The inning was supposed to over, but Izturis gave the Yankees an extra out and boy did they pay for it. It’s the first homerun Downs has allowed to a lefty since June 2nd of last year, when Carl Crawford got him.
The funny thing is that Izturis’ error was almost like a thank you gift for Brett Gardner‘s bunt earlier in the inning. Rodney came into the game with a 5.40 BB/9 on the season and he immediately walked the leadoff guy, and that’s not exactly a situation that screams “give away an out!” The Yankees did anyway, but Izturis was nice enough to give them the out back a few batters later.
Cano’s grand slam gave the Yankees a comfy 6-2 lead, so Cory Wade came on for the final three outs in the ninth. He got a quick ground ball out, but then Izturis singled kinda sorta back up the middle and Peter Bourjos doubled into the left field corner. That put men at second and third with one out, meaning the tying run was on deck. Technically, that’s a save situation, so in came Mariano Rivera.
New Yankee Stadium aficionado Russell Branyan stepped to the plate in place of Bobby Wilson, and clobbered the first pitch he saw into the right field stands for a three-run shot. It was almost an identical pitch to the one Bobby Abreu hit out on Monday, a cutter on the inner half that didn’t cut. Mo got the next two outs without any stress, though he and Russell Martin changed up the game plan and pitched away from the two lefties to get the last two outs.
It’s the seventh time since becoming the closer that Rivera has allowed runs in three straight games, and it’s the third time since becoming a full-time reliever that he’s allowed homers in back-to-back games. Joe Girardi said after the game that he’ll be worried about Mo “if it happened for a month,” which is my line of thought. We’ve seen him come out of bad weeks before and we’ll see him come out of bad weeks again.
Third Time’s A Charm For Granderson
Curtis Granderson‘s new favorite number must be two. Tuesday he made a boneheaded baserunning play to end the game, a play so stupid you had to facepalm twice after it happened. Then on Wednesday he atoned for his sin by clubbing (wait for it) two homers in a win over the Halos. In this game, he hit into not one, but (yes!) two double plays in his first two at-bats before hitting a (here it comes!) TWO-run homer to tie things up in the sixth. Maybe that means he’ll finish in second place in the MVP voting after the season. Either way, Curtis now leads all of baseball with 93 RBI, jumping past Adrian Gonzalez with the homer. RBI’s aren’t the best stat in the world, but it sure it sure is cool seeing his name atop the leaderboard.
Bartolo Colon made just one mistake in this game, catching too much of the plate with a two-seamer to Alberto Callaspo that he hit out for a two-run homer in the fifth. Erick Aybar ended his 0-for-30 streak (yes, 0-for-30) with an infield single one batter prior. Bart struck out three and walked two, giving up five hits and just the two runs. I liked the decision to lift him after six even though he had only thrown 91 pitches, we’re at the point in the season where Joe Girardi has to consider saving bullets and stuff.
Rafael Soriano replaced Colon in the seventh and allowed his first baserunner since May 13th on a ground ball single through the right side. He’d retired 16 straight since coming off the disabled list. David Robertson fired a perfect eighth before the Wade/Mo fiasco in the ninth. Meanwhile, Hector Noesi has thrown 2.2 IP in the last 15 days. There’s just so much wrong with this Noesi situation. Sigh.
Leadoff man Brett Gardner had a double and a walk, though his streak of 22 consecutive steals came to an end when he was thrown out to end the eighth. For shame. Derek Jeter had three hits and a walk, raising his season line to .276/.340/.362. Since coming off the DL, he’s hitting .312/.371/.408 in the perpetually growing sample size of 140 plate appearances. Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher both singled, and Swisher, Eric Chavez, and Frankie Cervelli each drew walks. Martin pinch-ran for Cervelli in that seventh inning for some reason unbeknownst to me (is he really that much faster?), and apparently no one bothered to ask Girardi about it after the game. Just seemed weird, like something (injury? trade?) up.
The Yankees have won two in a row and ten of 13. After taking two of three from the team chasing them for the wildcard, the Yankees lead the Angels by eight full games. That’s a mighty comfortable lead in the middle of August.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
It’s a mid-August Yankees-Rays series that doesn’t mean a whole lot, kinda like the old Devil Rays days. CC Sabathia gets the start on Friday night against his ace lefty counterpart, David Price. Word on the street is RAB Tickets can get you into the stadium for cheap if you’re considering a game this weekend.
Dan Brewer is headed back to the DL, this time with a knee issue. He had an MRI this morning. Terry Tiffee (hamstring) was activated off the DL to take his place. Meanwhile, Wilkins Arias was promoted to Triple-A Scranton following tonight’s game.
Triple-A Scranton (1-0 loss to Gwinnett) faced on of the game’s better pitching prospects
Kevin Russo, 2B: 0 for 4, 2 K
Chris Dickerson, RF & Jesus Montero, C: both 1 for 4 – Montero struck out
Mike Lamb, 1B, Brandon Laird, 3B & Doug Bernier, SS: all 0 for 3 – Lamb walked … Bernier struck out once, Laird twice
Jorge Vazquez, DH & Greg Golson, CF: both 1 for 3 – JoVa doubled and whiffed
Jordan Parraz, LF: 0 for 2, 1 BB, 1 K
Pants Lendleton, RHP: 5 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 5-4 GB/FB – 50 of 73 pitches were strikes (68.5%)
Andrew Brackman, RHP: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 4-1 GB/FB – 21 of 28 pitches were strikes (75%) … was mostly 91-92 on the gun … who is this man and what as he done with Andrew Brackman?
Buddy Carlyle, RHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1-0 GB/FB – seven of his eight pitches were strikes
Update (Aug. 11th): Just as a quick update, the Yankees have confirmed that A-Rod will begin his rehab assignment with High-A Tampa on Friday. He’ll be the DH in that game before playing a few innings in the field over the weekend.
Original Post (Aug. 10th): Joe Girardi announced during his pregame press conference that Alex Rodriguez is very likely to begin a minor league rehab assignment on Friday. He’ll serve as the designated hitter, then play the field on Saturday, then who knows after that. A-Rod’s not leaving Florida until he’s ready to be activated, so that means he’ll rehab with High-A Tampa or the Rookie Level GCL Yankees. Eduardo Nunez has been pretty good as the fill-in third baseman, but holy cow will it be nice to have Alex back.
You know it’s getting late in the season when MLB announces its postseason schedule. They did just that yesterday, and the good news is that they’ve cut down on the number of off days. Now teams will only be off for travel, so that miscellaneous off day in the middle of seven-games series has been eliminated. Now there’s a maximum of two off days per series, which is perfect. The postseason starts on Friday, September 30th this year, and the World Series will begin on Wednesday, October 19th. A potential Game Seven would be played on Thursday, October 27th, so the season is going to end pretty early this year, at least compared to the last few.
Anyway, here is the night’s open thread. You can watch the replay of this afternoon’s game on YES, but there will also be a live game broadcast on MLB Network. at 8pm ET. The team’s depend on where you live. Oh, and apparently the NFL preseason starts tonight, but I have no idea if there’s a game actually on television. You all know what to do by now, so have at it. Anything goes.