Yankees break out the C lineup, whoopin’ sticks in win over Rangers

This Wednesday night’s lineup was announced before the game, most of us were left scratching our heads. Nick Swisher at leadoff? Ramiro Pena, Eduardo Nunez and Frankie Cervelli in the lineup? Yikes. It certainly qualified as the C lineup, but a few hours later it did not matter. The Yankees won big again, which is all they seem to do these days.

Two, two two-run homers. Ah ah ah.

Player of the Game: RoboTex

For all the (deserved) love we’ve given Curtis Granderson this year, Mark Teixeira has been right there with him all season, homer for homer. After falling behind two-zip in the top of the first, Tex knotted the game back up with a two-run shot to deep left field after the Grandyman took a breaking ball to the back. Derek Holland tried to get a fastball inside but it just wasn’t far enough inside, so it ended up right in Tex’s wheelhouse. That erased an early deficit and then five innings later Teixeira put it out of reach. New York was up 6-4 in the sixth and Nick Swisher was standing on first when Mark Lowe tried to squeeze a fastball inside. Tex pulled his hands in and hooked it to right field, this one much more of a no-doubter than the first.

Two homers and four runs driven in are a good week for most players, but that was the first six innings of Teixeira’s Wednesday night. He also singled in the eighth and made a beautiful unassisted double play on an Adrian Beltre line drive to end the seventh. All told, Tex went 3-for-5 with three runs scored and the two long balls, tying him with Jose Bautista and Granderson for the Major League lead with 21 homers. This was the 11th time Tex homered from both sides of the plate in the same game, tying him with Chili Davis and Eddie Murray for the most in baseball history. Isn’t that something? I’m surprised Mickey Mantle didn’t have like, 25 or 30 games like that in his career. Crazy. Also, his 296 homeruns are the most by a switch hitter in his first nine seasons in history. Again, crazy.

Rakin' Ramiro is back in the bigs. Hide your daughters.

Honorable Mention: Eduamiro Penunez

Day Two of the Derek Jeter Is On The Disabled List era went even better than Day One. Eduardo Nunez did make a boneheaded error on a not so routine but not so difficult ground ball to start the fifth, but he also hit his second homer of the year in the fourth inning, a solo shot off a hanging breaking ball to knot things up at four. He also had a single, a walk, and two stolen bases. Not a bad day for the birthday boy (he turned 24). Nunez is now 4-for-8 in two games as Jeter’s temporary replacement.

His partner on the left side of the infield for the night was Ramiro Pena, who was giving Alex Rodriguez a half day off as designated hitter. I noticed two things about Pena almost immediately when he came to the plate for the first: his batting stance is different (reminded me of Carlos Guillen’s) and he’s a little bulkier. Not fat, I mean like he filled out some. Whether the changes are real or I have a bad memory doesn’t matter, because Rakin’ Ramiro brought his hot streak from Triple-A Scranton to the Bronx with him. He went 2-for-4 on the night, clubbing his second career homerun in the sixth, an absolute no-doubter into the right field bleachers off a 97 mph fastball from Lowe. Insane, you knew it was gone right off the bat. I don’t know where this is coming from, but I like it.

Shaky Nova

Ivan Nova‘s relationship with his starting rotation spot is a love-hate one. He alternates brilliant outings with bad ones and merely acceptable ones, and this game probably falls into that third category. The Rangers hit several balls hard off him, Ian Kinsler (a leadoff single in the first and a leadoff homer in the third) in particular. Josh Hamilton also clobbered a ball to dead center for a double over Grandy’s head, and a few other guys made hard hit outs. All told, Nova walked three and allowed seven hits in his 5.2 IP of work, though he did get 13 of his 17 outs either on the ground or on strike three. I thought Joe Girardi pulled him at exactly the right time, right before he faced Kinsler (for what would have been the third time) with two men on in a two run game. Nova’s job is safe now that Bartolo Colon is hurt, but his inability to get the strikeout or consistently retire left-handed batters will be a season-long battle.

Frankie made a good.

Leftovers

Luis Ayala replaced Nova in that sixth inning, giving up a single back up the middle to Kinsler. Granderson made a gorgeous throw from center and Cervelli did a nice job of blocking the plate to simultaneously keep Yorvit Torrealba from scoring and end the inning. Bad job by Ayala, great job by Grandy and Cervelli in what was just a two run game at the time.

Speaking of Yorvit, did you catch him mouthing off to Andruw Jones because he thought he was stealing signs in the fifth? I’ve never considered stealing signs or location that heinous of a crime as long as it stays on the field. If you start getting into stuff where guys in the bullpen use binoculars and relay signs or something like that, well that’s not cool. But the runner on second? Fair game. Do a better job of hiding your signs.

Swisher went 1-for-3 with two walks from the leadoff spot, meaning that the leadoff hitters have gone 4-for-7 with three walks in Jeter’s absence. Not coincidentally, the Yankees have scored 24 runs total in those two games. A-Rod drew a pair of walks and both Jones and Cervelli picked up a single and walk. Sadly, that means Frankie will remain on the roster for the foreseeable future. Robinson Cano went 2-for-3 with a garbage time homer off Neftali Feliz, so all four members of the infield homered in this game. I can’t imagine that happens much, especially when the two future Hall of Famer aren’t playing the field for various reasons.

It doesn’t mean much now given the final score, but a big moment in the game (at the time) was Kinsler failing to tag A-Rod as he ran by in the fifth. Alex walked with one out in the fifth, then managed to scoot by the Rangers’ second baseman on a Cano ground ball. Jones singled him in one batter later to break a four-all tie and make it 5-4 Yankees. Again, not all that important given what happened later in the game, but it looked like a huge play at the time. Oh, and to just wrap up the offense, the Yankees also pulled off a double steal not once but twice. A-Rod and Cano did it in the first, Nunez and Cervelli in the seventh. Only one of those four runners came around the score though.

How about Cory Wade? Granted, it was a total garbage time appearance, but he went right through his three batters quickly and effectively in the eighth, showcasing his money making curveball to strike out Torrealba to end the inning. There’s a non-zero chance he works his way into some leveraged work, so it was nice to see his Yankees’ career get off to a good start.

And finally … Al Leiter’s real name is Alois? Huh, I always assumed it was just Albert. Well, you know what they say, when you assume you make an ass out of u and me.

WPA Graph & Box Score

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stuff.

Up Next

The Yankees will go a for the sweep Thursday afternoon, a getaway day before the NL leg of interleague play begins in Chicago. Brian Gordon will make his Yankees’ debut against C.J. Wilson at 1pm ET.

Zoilo homers again in Tampa’s walk-off win

Dante Bichette Jr. is very close to becoming a Yankee, or at least that’s what his Twitter feed says. Meanwhile, Baseball America’s Draft Database (subs. req’d) says that 8th rounder Phil Wetherell ($112,5000) and 9th rounder Zach Arneson ($20,000) have both signed. Both have big arms (up to 95, 96) but work-in-progress secondary pitches. Arneson didn’t have much leverage as a college senior. Robert Pimpsner says the Yankees also signed Wes Wilson, and he’s referring to this guy as an undrafted free agent.

Austin Romine, by the way, has not yet resumed baseball activities following his concussion, so it’s safe to say he won’t be back anytime soon. That’s fine, you don’t want to rush anything with head injuries.

Triple-A Scranton had a scheduled off  day.

Double-A Trenton (6-1 loss to Harrisburg)
Corban Joseph, 2B: 2 for 4, 1 2B, 1 3B – 12 for his last 38 (.316) with six doubles, a triple, and a homer
Jose Pirela, SS: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 E (fielding)
Everyone Else: combined 0 for 22, 2 BB, 7 K
Dellin Betances, RHP: 5 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 1 HB, 6-1 GB/FB – 58 of 95 pitches were strikes (61.1%) … he was sitting right around 93 on the gun … 55-27 K/BB in his last 51.2 IP
Brad Halsey, LHP: 1.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1-2 GB/FB
Fernando Hernandez, RHP: 1.1 IP, zeroes, 3 K, 0-1 GB/FB
Grant Duff, RHP: 1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 2-1 GB/FB

[Read more…]

Game 66: A different kind of lineup

(Photo Credit: Flickr user BrainNY08 via Creative Commons license)

Apparently unimpressed by Brett Gardner‘s a) 3-for-4 with a walk performance last night, b) his .364 OBP against left-handed pitchers this year, and c) his .361 OBP against left-handed pitchers in his career, Joe Girardi is sitting his regular left fielder tonight in favor of Andruw Jones against southpaw Derek Holland. With Derek Jeter on the disabled list and Gardner on bench, tonight’s leadoff hitter is … Nick Swisher. Swish is hitting .356/.438/.576 against lefties this year and did spend some time batting leadoff for the White Sox a few years ago, so it won’t be completely foreign. Plus it’s not like he has to change his game, he’s just got to keep doing what he’s been doing against lefties this year, that’s all. Don’t change a thing. Here’s the rest of the lineup…

Nick Swisher, RF
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, DH
Robinson Cano, 2B
Andruw Jones, LF
Eduardo Nunez, SS
Frankie Cervelli, C
Ramiro Pena, 3B

Ivan Nova, SP

The weather has been gorgeous all day and will remain that way this evening. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and it can be seen on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy.

Transaction Updates (6:40 p.m.) The Yankees made a flurry of pre-game transactions this evening. The club announced they have signed Cory Wade to a Major League deal and added him to the 25-man roster. Kevin Whelan has been sent down to AAA, and to make room for Wade on the 40-man, Rafael Soriano has been moved to the 60-day DL. He will not be eligible to come off until July 12.

Wade, who will wear number 53, has thrown well for AAA this year. In 38.1 innings with the Rays’ Durham franchise and Scranton, he has gone 3-1 with a 1.17 ERA. He has struck out 35 and walked just six. The 28-year-old last pitched in the Majors in 2009. In parts of two seasons with the Dodgers, he threw 99 innings with a 3.18 ERA and struck out 69 while walking 25. If anything, he’s likely to throw more strikes than Whelan and provides the bullpen with some much-needed depth.

Rafael Soriano ‘not quite there’ in his rehab

Via Brian Heyman, Rafael Soriano played catch on Tuesday but has not yet been cleared to continue a throwing program. “He’s close, but he’s not quite there,” said Joe Girardi in his pregame press conference, adding that the righty will continue to get treatment and try throwing again next week. Joba Chamberlain‘s injury has suddenly made Soriano very important, though it sounds like the chances of him returning before the All-Star break are dwindling.

This is not normal: the David Robertson edition

Relievers are tricky little buggers. Their appearances are by nature short and frequent, and they accrue statistics in drips and drabs. As a result, even the most overused relievers typically have statistically insignificant samples of data by this point in the season, and within those samples of data sometimes we see a little bit of crazy. That’s what’s going on with David Robertson so far in 2011. Four things in particular stand out:

6.2 BB/9 rate, 87% LOB rate, 0.0 HR/FB%, .368 BABIP

Regression is a word that gets tossed around quite a bit, but it’s reasonable to expect Robertson to experience some regression in each of these areas. Some of this will work in Robertson’s favor, and some will not. Let’s start with the good.

“Good” Regression

6.2 BB/9 rate. Robertson’s control hasn’t always been the best at the major league level, but in the minors he averaged 3.6 BB/9. This is a good mark, although he was an advanced college arm when he came into the system, so perhaps the most relevant marks are his 4.4 BB/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in his two final years at Scranton. David has struggled with his command in the big leagues, averaging about 5 batters walked per nine innings throughout his career. For most relievers this would be intolerable, but David frequently makes up for it by preventing subsequent batters from putting the ball in play by striking them out. Regardless, Robertson probably isn’t a 6.2 BB/9 guy going forward unless something’s wrong with him. We can probably expect him to cut down on the walks just a bit, which is always a plus.

.368 BABIP. Most people are familiar with BIP theory so we won’t go through the primer. A .368 BABIP is not normal, and there’s no good reason to expect Robertson to sustain a batting average on balls in play this high. The Yankees defense isn’t horrific – it’s rather good in the outfield – and Robertson is clearly a major league pitcher capable of getting guys out. Robertson can’t be a pitcher good enough to sustain a very high strikeout rate, which he clearly is, and simultaneously be so hittable so as to render his BABIP of .368 normal.

Batted ball profile aside (and it checks out just fine), I ran a Play Index query seeking single season totals for pitchers with over 100 IP, a K/9 of over 9 and a BABIP of over .350 from 1919 to 2011 and came up with two pitchers: Darryl Kile in 1996 and Randy Johnson in 2003. If you set the parameters for just relievers and a lower the minimum IP require to 50, you net 50 pitchers with a strikeout rate of over 9 and a BABIP higher than .350. In other words, it’s very rare, the stuff of flukes, and likely to sort itself out over time if given a long enough runway. Robertson has always been a high BABIP guy, but .368 is a touch too high, even for him. Figure that fewer balls in play will be converting to hits, and figure that Robertson will get better results in this regard. Count this one as a plus.

“Bad” Regression

Not enough home runs: 0% HR/FB, 0 HR/9, 0 HRs, however you’d like to put it. Robertson’s isn’t a particularly ground-ball heavy pitcher as it is, which means a fair amount of batted balls are going into the air when he’s pitching. Eventually, these fly balls are going to leave the park. From time to time pitchers have been known to go a long time without yielding home runs. In fact, since 1901 33 pitchers have thrown at least 50 innings in relief without yielding a single home run. This sounds like a decent number until you realize that in that time frame there have been 3,835 pitchers to throw at least 50 innings in relief. Those 33 pitchers are well into the 99th percentile of home run rates, and only 1 of those pitchers ever repeated his feat (Greg Minton, who didn’t allow a single home run between 1979-1981 pitching as multi-inning reliever for the San Francisco Giants).

Robertson has given up roughly 8 home runs for every 100 fly balls throughout his career, which means he should have given up at least one by now (1.44 to be exact). Spitballing it, he’s likely due for 3 or 4 HRs by the time the season concludes if his HR/FB ratio regresses to normal and he continues getting FBs at a 35% rate. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it likely will happen and it likely will happen with inherited runners on base, given that that’s usually when he’s brought in. Count this one as a minus.

Strand rate: 87.2%. In his career Robertson has been a 77% strand rate pitcher, meaning he’s stranding about 10% more this year than in the past. Relievers don’t normally maintain strand rates north of 85%. It’s very rare. Mariano Rivera comes in around 80%, as do Joe Nathan, Billy Wagner and Francisco Rodriguez. Plenty of pitchers sit lower.

Robertson is a very good pitcher with the ability to get loads of strikeouts, so his ability to maintain a high strand rate is in some sense believable. At the same time, he’s not likely to maintain this high of a rate for the remainder of the season or the entirety of his career. Could he? Sure. Anything could happen. Robertson could also throw another 25 innings with a BB/9 over 6, a K/9 over 14 with a BABIP of .350, even though only one other pitcher in baseball history has managed to pull that off before (Kenley Jensen, this year) and no pitcher in baseball history has ever done it over 50 innings. But in the absence of some intervening explanation as to why we should expect this to happen, I’m far more comfortable going forward with a reasonable expectation of regression based on probability.