Rays blow out Yanks in game no one cares about

The last time the Yankees were losing by ten or more runs after just four innings of play (like they were in this game) was October 2nd of 2009, a game they lost to the Rays after clinching the AL East. Ah history, love how it goes and repeats itself like that.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

BartoLOLo CoLOLon

Wow, what a terrible start by Bartolo Colon. Granted, a Derek Jeter throwing error in the second didn’t help matters, but wow. The big guy allowed seven runs (five earned) on seven hits and a walk in just three innings, and pretty much everything was hard hit. Bart’s now allowed 30 runs in 39.1 IP over his last seven starts, which isn’t exactly what you want to see so soon before the postseason. It is what it is though. Hopefully Freddy Garcia settles down with the homeritis and stabilizes the third spot in the rotation.

Brackman, Betances & Montero

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

You can see why the Yankees gave Andrew Brackman all that money, that’s definitely a first round arm. It’s not first round command of course, but Brackman was sitting 90-93 with the cutter and showed both a curve and a slider. I’ve never heard about the cutter before, did he pick that up sitting in the bullpen, or is it just a lack of information? Either way, he allowed a single and a walk in 1.1 IP of work.

Dellin Betances was an eighth round pick, but he showed off a first round arm by firing some mid-90’s fastballs with a sharp curve. His command needs work as well, but that’s no surprise. Betances walked four and hit a batter in just 0.2 IP, and everything was up. Classic symptom of overthrowing. Two-thirds of the Killer B’s debuted, making this one of the most exciting blowout losses I can remember.

While that was happening, Jesus Montero was busy going 3-for-3 with two walks. One of the hits was a double, and he laid off some tough offspeed pitches for balls as well. So a really good day for one prospect, an okay day for another prospect, and a really bad day for another prospect. Nice little  microcosm of the Prospect Rule of Three.

Definitely not looking forward to seeing this kid for the next six years. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Leftovers

The Triple-A Scranton Yankees managed to score eight runs … well, the Scranton Yanks and Andruw Jones manged to score eight runs. Jones clubbed a two-run homer and also singled in a run, and both Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena had multiple hits. Chris Dickerson, Austin Romine, Nick Swisher, Jorge Posada, and Brandon Laird had one hit each, and Montero obviously contributed to the offense.

Matt Moore was stellar, striking out 11 batters in just five innings in his first career start. It’ll be tough to separate what was really him and what was a side effect of the Yankees celebration on Wednesday night, but that’s a problem for the Rays bloggers. The kid’s not the best pitching prospect in the game by accident though, he sure was fun to watch. The pitching rich get richer.

Scott Proctor was worse than Colon, believe it or not. He allowed a pair of two-run homers and five runs total in just an inning of  work. Aaron Laffey allowed a run and recorded four outs before giving way to Brackman. George Kontos cleaned things up with 1.1 scoreless innings at the end of the night.

Both the Rangers and Tigers lost on Thursday, so the magic number to eliminate each from the homefield advantage race dropped to one and two, respectively. That should be taken care of by the end of the weekend, if not sooner.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings.

Up Next

It’s time to welcome the Red Sox to town … for a meaningless series. Meaningless for the Yankees, that is. Those guys have quite a bit on the line. Garcia gets the ball against Jon Lester on Friday night.

2012 Draft: Astros will select first overall

With some help from the Twins, the Astros have clinched the worst record in baseball this year. That means they’ll pick first overall in next June’s amateur draft, and unfortunately for the Houston faithful, there’s no clear cut top talent in this class. Stanford’s Mark Appel is the early favorite to go first overall, but he’s hardly Stephen Strasburg.

The Yankees, meanwhile, can still pick anywhere from 26th to 31st. In all likelihood, they’ll pick 30th overall for the second time in six years (there’s a compensation pick earlier in the round that pushes everything back one). They took Andrew Brackman with the 30th pick back in 2007. Of course that pick could be surrendered as compensation for signing a Type-A free agent, say C.J. Wilson. The Yankees are also guaranteed to have the 89th overall pick after failing to sign second rounder Sam Stafford this summer.

Game 156: Rest

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

It’s not quiet the full Triple-A lineup, but it’s pretty close. I have a feeling the few regulars in the starting nine will find themselves on the bench before the eighth and ninth inning rolls around. The division’s clinched, time for a breather.

Derek Jeter, SS
Eduardo Nunez, 2B
Mark Teixeira, DH
Nick Swisher, RF
Andruw Jones, LF
Jesus Montero, C
Jorge Posada, 1B
Brandon Laird, 3B
Greg Golson, CF

Bartolo Colon, SP

The game starts a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Sabathia will not start again during regular season

Via Jack Curry, CC Sabathia will not make another start during the regular season. The Yankees ace left-hander is likely to throw a simulated game on Sunday, which will line him up for Game One of the ALDS next Friday. I guess this means Hector Noesi will make another start, and I approve of that. Sabathia won’t get a second consecutive 20-win season, but so be it. The playoffs are far more important.

Finding a role for Burnett in October

(AP Photo)

We’re just about a week away from the start of the ALDS, and now that the Yankees have officially clinched the AL East crown, we can talk seriously about the playoff roster. For the most part, the four starting pitchers are set in stone. We have no idea what the order of the rotation will be behind CC Sabathia in Game One, but that’s not important right now. The question I’m curious to know the answer to is: what happens with A.J. Burnett?

Barring something completely unforeseen, the Yankees will carry eleven pitchers in the playoffs and use the extra spot on a position player, likely a pinch-runner/defensive specialist type. Of those eleven pitching spots, nine are accounted for…

  1. Sabathia
  2. Ivan Nova
  3. Bartolo Colon
  4. Freddy Garcia
  5. Mariano Rivera
  6. David Robertson
  7. Rafael Soriano
  8. Boone Logan
  9. Cory Wade

Those last two spots are up in the air. Luis Ayala and Hector Noesi have been solid in mostly low-leverage roles all season, so you have to figure they’re at the front of the line. Aaron Laffey and Raul Valdes could conceivably pitch their way onto the roster as a second lefty, but there’s not exactly much time left for them to do that. Phil Hughes is a total question mark at this point because of his back, and at this point I have a hard time considering a realistic option for the playoff roster. That leaves Burnett as the last candidate, unless Joe Girardi really likes what he’s seen out of Scott Proctor this month. (kidding)

Joe wrote about the merits of using Burnett in relief last month, and the point still stands. He’s been far more effective the first time through the order than any time after that, and his velocity does tend to tail off as his pitch count increases. It’s certainly swing-and-miss stuff (11th best strikeout rate in the AL), so perhaps Burnett could be effective just by shutting his brain off and letting if fly for an one inning at a time. He could, potentially, give Girardi another power arm in relief, which is always what you want.

The problem is that A.J. has never pitched in relief before, at least not for any significant length of time. I don’t think going from the rotation to the pen is a huge adjustment, but it’s certainly an adjustment. You don’t have the same amount of time to warm up and there’s not much of a day-to-day routine, so you’d like to give him some time to get used to that. With only seven games left, they’d basically have to put him in the bullpen right now to have enough time to evaluate him. They’d have to find a spot starter for Saturday (no big deal during September), but they could conceivable get three one-inning looks at him that way (Saturday, Monday, Wednesday).

Right now, unless Laffey or Valdes really impress the rest of the way, I think Ayala’s a lock for one of those last two spots. That means it’s down to Noesi and Burnett for the final spot. If Noesi makes the roster, he’d be the longman, almost assuredly. If Burnett makes the roster, there’s a non-zero chance that he dominates enough to become fourth in line behind Mo, Robertson, and Soriano. It’s the story of his career though, there’s a chance of greatness but not enough of it. If the Yankees are thinking about using  A.J. in relief in the postseason, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to move him to the pen immediately, just to give him as much time as possible to get used to it. Either way, it’s tough to see Burnett having much of an impact next month.

Catching up to the Red Sox

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Yankees officially beat out the Red Sox for the AL East title last night, but the two teams have been chasing each other for more than a decade now. It’s been a vicious cycle of free agent signings and trades and front office innovation, and Boston was winning the war in the mid-aughts. The Yankees have turned the table in recent years, and Brian Cashman spoke to Ken Rosenthal about how they’ve done it. He didn’t reveal too much, which shouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve listened to the GM talk to the media for the last 13 years or so.

“[The Red Sox] were having a great deal of success with players of lesser ability,” said Cashman. “I studied what they were doing to some degree, adjusted accordingly, brought the Yankees up to speed, brought us into the 21st century.”

The Yankees have done a better job in the so-called scrap heap department in recent years, namely with Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia this season. Does luck play a role? Absolutely. Luck is the residue of design though, and the Yankees definitely did their homework with these two beforehand, particularly Colon. Luis Ayala has been the best seventh man in the bullpen in baseball this season, and in recent years we’ve seen guys like Marcus Thames, Edwar Ramirez, and even Brian Bruney contribute positively to the Yankees cause. Not everyone on the roster needs to have a long-term role with the organization, filling the gaps with players capable of exceeding expectations has helped get the Yankees ahead of the Red Sox the last few years. Perhaps role players are the new market inefficiency.

“How they approached their pitching program was of interest to me,” added Cashman, explaining why the team hired Joe Kerrigan to be bullpen coach after the 2005 season. Kerrigan had been Boston’s pitching coach from 1997-2001. “I was throwing out much more [pitching] talent than the Red Sox had and they were having more success. It goes to execution, game plans, stuff like that.”

The Yankees still have not had a great deal of success turning their prospects into legitimate big league starting pitchers, though injuries have played a part in that to a certain degree. It’s also not an easy thing to do in the first place, and the win-now mentality isn’t exactly conducive to letting a young kid take his lumps either. If you don’t have instant success like Ivan Nova, it’s tough to keep a job in this town. They’re trying though, and I think they’ve been getting better at it in recent years, but they still have a way to go.

“Cash does it the right way,” said Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers, who spent last year as a special assistant with the Yankees. “The way he works the room in meetings, it works. If he wants the analytical view, he asks [the stat people] a question and they provide the information. They usually only speak when asked. With the Yankees, it’s not, ‘these guys and us.’ They’re all kind of one.”

That last line is pretty telling, because for the longest time, all we heard about was separation between the Tampa faction and the New York faction. Cashman basically dissolved the Tampa faction after (supposedly) getting autonomy before the 2006 season, merging everyone into one united front office. Of course he did some house cleaning as well, firing several of George Steinbrenner‘s long-time employees, including former scouting director Lin Garrett. Rosenthal explains that the Yankees are now “among the most aggressive teams on the statistical side, with more than 20 people working on analytics.”

Cashman’s contract is up after the season, and as I’ve said before, it wouldn’t surprise me if he left and it wouldn’t surprise me if he stayed. I’d like to see him back, but that’s another discussion for another time. Rosenthal’s article and Cash’s comments give us a little look at how the team has adapted in recent years, and how the Yankees are learning from their biggest rival. I’m sure this is a two-way street too, chances are the Sox have been doing the same as well.

Where do we go now?

It almost feels like there’s no game tonight. Sure, the broadcast will start at 7 p.m. and the Yanks and Rays will play an official game. But it just feels like an off-day. It feels like one of those days where you can take the night off, spending it with family or friends rather than in front of the TV. There might be some fun with all the kids in the lineup and perhaps on the mound. But really, if there was ever a night to take off, this is the one.

With the division well in hand, and with home field advantage throughout the playoffs on the horizon, there’s not much left to worry about until Friday the 30th, when CC Sabathia takes the hill for Game 1 of the ALDS. Even the final series of the year against the Red Sox, against whom the Yanks are just 4-11 this season, means nothing. So what in the world can we do for the next eight days?

Worry about home field

The Yankees currently hold the top spot for home field advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs, leading both Detroit and Texas by five games with just seven to play. That’s quite a deficit to cover in such a short span. Their magic number against Texas is just two, since they’re 7-2 against them this season. For Detroit the number is three, since the Yanks played like crap when they visited the Motor City earlier this year.

In any case, something tells me that we’ll see a combination of three Yanks wins and Tigers losses before year’s end. That’ll put the Yanks at home for the first two rounds, an advantage they’ll have had just twice in the last five years.

Watch the Sox

Sure, plenty of fans will still worry about the three upcoming games with the Red Sox. Some people just sweat them for no rational reason. But watching the Sox this year has little to do with the Yanks’ record against them in 2011. It’s largely irrelevant, since, you know, AL East Champs. But the Sox are currently ensconced in a Wild Card race, and it always brings a little pleasure to see Sox fans sweat.

Watch the Wild Card race

At 88-68 the Sox currently have a two-game advantage over both the Angels and the Rays in the Wild Card race (though they have three more wins than both teams). Ideally, all three teams end with 90 wins. That means the Sox would have to go 2-4 while the Rays and Angels go 5-2. It might be a stretch, but it sure would provide some additional entertainment.

If all three teams finish with the same record, they’d go to a three-way playoff. This would affect the playoff schedule as a whole, since there’s only one off-day between the regular season and Game 1 of the ALDS, and they’d need two days to play these games. Here’s how it would break down. On Thursday Boston would host Anaheim in a one-game playoff. The winner would then travel to Tampa to face the Rays to determine the AL Wild Card. That would have to happen on Friday the 30th, though, which is scheduled to be Game 1 of the ALDS.

Late Add: Commenter Tom O. asked why the three-way playoff would go like this, so I’ll answer up here. The inset part of this article lays out the rules. The schedule is based on head-to-head records. The Rays are the best here, having gone 16-10 against the Sox and Angels. The Sox have gone 12-14 against the other two, while the Angels are 6-10. Hence, Sox vs. Angels, winner vs. Rays.

Argue about awards

Talk about the Cy Young Award and MVP races started back in August, for some unknown reason. There was a point, back then, when Adrian Gonzalez got most of the AL MVP attention. Those days are long past us, though. The narrative has shifted, and it now appears that Justin Verlander has a stranglehold on the award.

Don’t let the narrative fool you, though. It’s constructed by certain media members, and they don’t necessarily have a vote in the matter. At the same time, plenty of writers who do have votes have remained quiet on the issue. There are a few deserving candidates in the AL. Here are the final four:

Jose Bautista
Justin Verlander
Jacoby Ellsbury
Curtis Granderson

Meanwhile, Verlander has a lock on the Cy Young Award, and rightfully so. There is a debate in the NL race, as Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Clayton Kershaw have all garnered consideration recently.

Watch the kids

Finally, we get back to the Yankees. Chances are you’ll see the A lineup going once the Yanks head down to Tampa next week, since they’ll need the tune-up heading into the playoffs. But you’ll certainly see some of them removed before playing the full nine. You’ll also see all of them get breather days between now and Wednesday. That means young kids, which is always fun to watch.

We’ve seen most of the kids on the position side, so now it’s time for the pitchers to shine. Last night both Andrew Brackman and Dellin Betances warmed in the bullpen, but did not get into the game. We could see them this weekend against the Sox. George Kontos has pitched already, but we could see a little more of him. We might even get to see Phil Hughes pitch a little in relief, which might prove a little refreshing.

Yes, the final eight days of the regular season will bring little excitement for the Yankees. They’ve clinched what needs clinching, and are nearing the final goal: homefield advantage. Along the way, though, there should be plenty of items to hold our interests. The Wild Card race in particular will be great fun. Go Angels. Go Rays.