Miranda recalled to add lefthanded thump

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

With Nick Johnson stuck on the disabled list for the foreseeable future, the Yankees’ lineup is lacking two things: a regular designated hitter, and a productive lefthanded bat. Curtis Granderson‘s absence makes the latter even more obvious. We can dream about Jorge Posada DH’ing most of the time with Frankie Cervelli assuming starting catcher responsibilities, but the team appears to have no interest in doing that. Adding a third catcher (likely Chad Moeller) to a team with a (usually) four man bench is less than ideal as well.

In an effort to correct that missing lefty bat, the Yankees summoned Juan Miranda from Triple-A Scranton today. There’s still no word on who’s going down to make room, but hopefully it’s one of the 13 pitchers. Preferably Boone Logan, but I digress.

Once upon a time Miranda was expected to be the Yanks’ first baseman of the future, but Mark Teixeira hitting the open market changed those plans. Instead, he’s been stuck in the minors for most of the last three years, save for September call-ups in each of the last two seasons. He’s actually hit pretty well in his limited big league at-bats, a .430 wOBA with one wallop of a homer and a walk-off single in 23 plate appearances. Overall, Miranda’s got a .371 wOBA in over 1,000 plate appearances at the Triple-A level, and has proven all he could at the level.

Miranda’s arrival does several things for the Yanks’ roster. For one, it helps settle the DH and leftfield situations, plus the overall lineup picture, all of which have kind of been in a bit of flux over the last week because of injuries both minor and major. Now, Joe Girardi can employ a straight platoon of Miranda and Marcus Thames at DH and in the 7th spot of the lineup. Randy Winn can’t hit, but he catches everything he should and then some, so now he’ll get regular playing time in the outfield. It’s not the prettiest picture, but at least now everyone has a defined role and we all have some peace of mind.

An added benefit is that the Yanks will now get an opportunity to evaluate Miranda for an extended amount of time at the big league level. It’s not just an audition for a possible DH job with the Yankees next season, it’s an audition for the other 29 clubs. If Miranda performs well and the Yanks deem him expendable – remember, he’ll be out of options next season, so he has to stick on the big league roster or go through waivers – they can use him in a trade to shore up another area of the team. A fringe benefit is that it also keeps Thames from being exposed against righthanders (dude’s got just four singles since Granderson got hurt).

I said during the offseason that I didn’t think Miranda could be a productive full-time designated hitter for the Yankees this year because of his troubles against lefthanders, but in a platoon situation he’s an acceptable option. CHONE projects a .341 wOBA with 17 jacks, and I’m willing to bet he could top that wOBA with limited exposure to southpaws. Even if not, it’s still more than we could ask for at this point. The Yankees just need Miranda to come in and help restore a semblance of normalcy to the lineup and roster. The constant juggling is no way to run a contender.

Derek Jeter hitting the same, but different, than 2009

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

The Yankees seemed poised for one of those late inning comebacks we grew so used to in 2009. Down 5-2 and facing the AL-best Detroit bullpen, the Yankees quickly loaded the bases with none out. Hope abounded when Marcus Thames grounded one just out of Adam Everett’s reach. Brett Gardner brought home a run on a chopper and reached safely himself (the Tigers took the out at second), leaving the Yanks with two opportunities to bring home the tying run. They did not capitalize.

While we can excuse Randy Winn‘s pop up — no one expects much from him anyway — Derek Jeter‘s at-bat was a bit of a disappointment. It wasn’t so much because he made an out. Most major leaguers make outs in more than 3 out of 5 plate appearances. It was the heartbreaking way he made the out. He worked an excellent at-bat against Ryan Perry, running the count full. He got a fast fastball and did what he does best with that pitch. He drove it to right with authority. There was no doubt that Gardner would score and give the Yanks their first lead of the game. The only problem was that Magglio Ordonez made a sliding catch, killing the opportunity and leaving Jeter 0 for 5 at the plate.

That dropped Jeter’s numbers to .286/.324/.436, a .336 wOBA, which is certainly disappointing for the Captain after his stellar 2009 season. His performance last night prompted many comments regarding his production and his age. Jeter has still produced above average numbers, but we’ve come to expect more from him. We might get more, too. Apparently, many forget that just last season Jeter got off to a slow start, only to pick up the pace once the weather got warmer.

That line-out was Jeter’s 142nd plate appearance of the season, or about 20 percent of his season if he stays healthy. At this point last year he actually produced similar numbers. Through 30 games in 2009 he had 142 PA, same as this year. In that span he hit .266/.338/.406, a wOBA of around .350. That’s a bit better than last year, mainly because of his higher OBP. This year he’s walked a bit less, but has also hit for more power, which somewhat offset each other.

From his Game 31 through his game 153, Jeter hit .352/.423/.480 in 574 PA. He walked in 10.5 percent of his plate appearance during that span, compared to 8.5 percent through Game 30. His power did drop a bit, but Jeter has never relied on power. He hits singles the opposite way, draws walks and takes pitches. He hasn’t done much of the latter two so far this year, but as we saw last year, he can turn it around pretty quickly.

The beginning of 2010 has not looked pretty for Jeter. But, before we declare that he looks his age and that he’s slowing down, let’s remember what we were saying at this time last year. Jeter proved the naysayers wrong then, and I’m confident he’ll do it again this year.

Yanks can’t complete comeback, fall 5-4 to Tigers

Coming off what was probably their biggest series of the young season, the Yankees rolled on in to Detroit to face a handful of former teammates and get back on the winning track. We saw some of that never-say-die attitude that was the trademark of last year’s World Championship club, but ultimately they were unable to complete the comeback, losing back-to-back games for just the third time this season.

Photo Credit: Duane Burleson, AP

Biggest Out: Winn pops it up

As completely and utterly frustrating as this game was, the Yankees had more than one opportunity to tie this up in the 8th inning. With men on second and third, one out, and two runs already in, Randy Winn stepped to the plate against one of those former Yankees, lefty Phil Coke. A simple fly ball to the outfield would have tied the game with the lineup about the turn over.

Coke’s first two pitches to Winn were down and well out of the zone, putting him a comfy 2-0 count. The Yanks’ leftfielder was sitting on a fastball, which is usually what you do in that count, but normally you’d also hold up if the pitch almost hits you in the hands. Instead, Winn swung at a 92 mph high and tight heater, and popped it straight up to third baseman Brandon Inge. The run was unable to score, and sadly it was the third time Winn stranded a runner in scoring position in his four at-bats. The Yanks chances of winning went from a decent 41.5 percent to a slim 25.8 percent on the play.

Derek Jeter tried his best to atone for Winn’s shortcoming, but Magglio Ordoñez’s sliding catch robbed of him of a chance to be the hero.

Biggest Blunder: Two outs in the 1st

Photo Credit: Paul Sancya, AP

Thrust into a starting assignment because of Andy Pettitte‘s cranky elbow, the Yankees were hoping that Sergio Mitre could get off to a quick start with a painless 1st inning. He punched out two more former Yankees – Austin Jackson and Johnny Damon – on a combined ten pitches, though Ordonez ruined the perfect frame by singling into right. Miguel Cabrera posted a formidable threat at the plate, but teams have scored a run with a man on first and two outs less than 25% of the time this season.

After fouling off Mitre’s first sinker, Cabrera hit on top of the second one, grounding to towards Alex Rodriguez at third. A-Rod ranged to his left to the knock the ball down after being unable to field it cleanly, but he quickly recovered to fire over to first. The throw short-hopped Mark Teixeira and ended up in the stands, sending Ordonez to third and Cabrera to second. It’s an uncomfortable spot, but there’s still two outs and a rookie hitter at the plate, so if Mitre bears down he should be fine.

He did manage to induce another ground ball, but Brennan Boesch pulled it just out of the reach of Teixeira at 1st, and in came two runs. In the span of seven pitches, the Yankees watched the game go from two outs and a potentially scoreless frame to down two with a man on first. Mitre escaped the inning and otherwise did a splendid job in his spot start, but the Yanks had to play catch-up right from the get-go.

Photo Credit: Paul Sancya, AP

The Experience

Because he had spent the first month of the season in the bullpen, Mitre was expected to throw somewhere around 65-75 pitches on the night. If he completed five, Joe Girardi said he was literally going to do a cartwheel. He didn’t quite get there, but Mitre was decent enough to keep the team in the ball game.

True to the scouting report, Mitre recorded seven of his 13 outs on the ground. Four others came on strikeouts, and just two were hit in the air. He fell victim to some bad luck in that first inning, with the error and seeing-eye grounder through the 3.5 hole, so it’s tough to hang  that on him. After giving up another run in the second on a walk, single, sac bunt, and ground out, Mitre retired the next eight men he faced, needing just 28 pitches to do it.

His night ended when the sinker stopped sinking, and Johnny Damon deposited a 90 mph offering into the rightfield stands for his second homer of the year. At this time last season, Damon had nine homers. I don’t know why I mentioned that. Anyway, Mitre’s night involved 4.1 innings thrown, five hits, four runs but just three earned, and a pair of walks in addition to those eight strikeouts. As far as spot starts from your long man go, you couldn’t ask for more.

Sad Moments

Photo Credit: Paul Sancya, AP

There’s really too many to count. A-Rod’s error in the 1st stands out the most to me. Then there was Teixeira’s check swing double play with two men on to end the 5th. Le sigh. Also, Randy Winn swinging at Zumaya’s first pitch immediately after he walked Gardner to load the bases. I hate to keep dumping on Winn, but damn dude, the pitcher’s the one in trouble there, don’t help him out.

Boone Logan. What purpose does the guy serve? He faced two lefties tonight and they both reached, and overall he’s allowed 11 of the 26 batters he’s faced to reach base. That’s a .423 on-base percentage. The only thing the guy has going for him is the arm he throws with, yet Girardi seems to love him.

Jose Valverde. Get a grip man, no need for a first pump after every strike.

Happy Moments

This might have been the most frustrating loss of the season because the Yankees squandered so many chances (they had men on the 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 6th innings, yet scored zero runs), but there were still some things that made me smile. Brett Gardner beating out the double play in the 2nd, for example. His grounder to Inge was tailor made, but as soon as the third baseman double clutched, you knew he had no chance at two. You gotta love that.

Joel Zumaya came into the game with 23 strikeouts and zero walks in 18.1 IP, but the Yanks coaxed a free pass out of the flamethrower. The culprit? Gardner, of course.

How about Joba Chamberlain? Guy was en fuego this game. He went 96-97-97-97 to leadoff man Scott Sizemore in the 8th, and struck him out on three swings and misses. His first pitch to the next batter, Adam Everett? Try an 86 mph curveball for a called strike on the outer half. All told, Joba threw 14 pitches, got five swings and misses on his fastball, and hit 98 three times in Everett’s at-bat. It’s the best he’s looked probably since 2007.

David Robertson looked better as well. He’s still off a bit, but it was good to see him limit the damage after allowing a two out single. It’s a start.

And finally, May Tex lives on. Another game, another jack.

WPA Graph & Box Score

Individual WPA breakdowns are available at FanGraphs, and here’s the MLB.com box score.

Up Next

Same two teams tomorrow night, as Javy Vazquez looks to get back on track against Rick Porcello and his 7.50 ERA (4.63 xFIP). The forecast isn’t great, so a rainout is very possible.

Montero returns in SWB loss

After more than two full years at Double-A, Josh Schmidt is on his way up to SWB to help out the thin pitching staff. Also, Top Prospect Alert interviewed Corban Joseph.

Triple-A Scranton (10-2 loss to Columbus) they got their first look at an old buddy
Greg Golson, CF, Eduardo Nunez, SS, Juan Miranda, 1B & Jon Weber, DH: all 1 for 4 – Golson drove in a run & K’ed twice … Miranda committed a fielding error … Weber scored a run & K’ed twice
Reegie Corona, 2B: 3 for 4, 1 2B, 1 RBI – five for his last nine
David Winfree, RF, Jesus Montero, C & Robby Hammock, 3B: all 0 for 4 - Winfree committed a fielding error … Hammock scored a run K’ed twice … in case you missed it, Montero was in fact benched because he didn’t run out a grounder
Chad Huffman, LF: 2 for 4, 1 K
Amaury Sanit: 3 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 3-3 GB/FB – 44 of his 65 pitches were strikes (67.7%) … not easy for a career reliever to spot start when the scheduled starter suddenly ends up in the big leagues
Kevin Whelan: 2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 0 K, 2-3 GB/FB – exactly half of his 52 pitches were strikes … 232-121 K/BB ratio in 196 IP since joining the organization in the Gary Sheffield trade
Josh Schmidt: 3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HB, 3-4 GB/FB – 35 of 52 pitches were strikes (67.3%) … welcome to AAA
Zack Segovia: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 2-1 GB/FB – 14 of 23 pitches were strikes (60.9%) … first run allowed since April 20th

[Read more…]

Game 31: Four more on the road

It seems like the Yanks have been constantly on the road so far. That wouldn’t be too inaccurate a feeling, as they’ve played 18 of 30 so far away from Yankee Stadium. That will be 22 out of 34 after this four-game set in Detroit. Thankfully, this means more home baseball during the summer.

The Tigers originally had Dontrelle Willis scheduled to start tonight’s game. He’s had a pretty rough time the past three years, but things started to look up in 2010. He impressed the Tigers brass in spring training and earned a spot in the starting rotation. Through five starts and 29.1 innings so far Willis have been fine for a back-end guy. He has a 4.18 FIP and 4.65 xFIP against a 3.99 ERA, so the Tigers have gotten even more out of him than they could have expected, given his recent troubles.

Aussie-born lefty Brad Thomas will take his place on the hill. Though his name might not sound familiar, he’s no youngster. The Dodgers signed him as an amateur free agent in 1995. Five years later he made his major league debut for the Twins. He then made appearances in 2003 and 2004 before heading to the Red Sox and Mariners as a minor league free agent. The Tigers signed him this past December and put him in the major league bullpen.

This will be Thomas’s second start of the season. The first came in Texas and it didn’t go so well. He allowed eight hits and walked two through three innings, striking out just one. Four Rangers scored in that time, though the Tigers bullpen kept them scoreless and held on to win 8-4. Thomas most recently pitched on May 3, when he held the Twins scoreless in 3.2 innings, walking none and allowing four hits. This is the first time in his career he will face the Yankees.

With Andy Pettitte missing a start, Sergio Mitre gets the call this evening. He’s pitched well so far in mop-up duty this year, though I’m not sure he’s ready to go more than four, five innings. To that end, the Yankees have rookie Ivan Nova on call. We’ll probably see him if the game gets out of hand for either team.

Tonight is the first home game since former Tigers’ broadcaster Ernie Harwell passed away. If you want to read more about Harwell and what he meant to the game, I’d recommend Joe Pos’s take. To honor their long-time broadcaster, the Tigers have invited Jose Feliciano to perform the national anthem. He performed it at Game 5 of the 1968 World Series, which the Tigers won. They eventually won the whole series two games later.

In good news, via Chad Jennings, Chan Ho Park threw a 45-pitch bullpen session and should be ready for an extended spring training assignment. The Yanks could sure use him back in the bullpen. Al Aceves is also feeling better and could caddy for Javier Vazquez tomorrow.

Lineup:

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

And on the mound, number forty-five, Sergio Mitre.

Yankees sign Rainiero Coa

Via MLBTR, the Yankees have signed 17-year-old Venezuelan catcher Rainiero Coa. A former shortstop/first baseman, he moved behind the plate and apparently his defense and arm are top notch, which is why the Yanks signed him. You can read more about him here. I’m assuming Coa will spend the summer in the Yanks’ Dominican complex, and if he’s actually a prospect, he’ll come to the States next season.

Montero benched for not running out a ground ball

Our long national nightmare is over. Chad Jennings has confirmed that uberprospect Jesus Montero was pulled from Friday’s game because he didn’t run out a grounder, and was also held out of this weekend’s games for the same reason. He will return to the lineup tonight. There was talk that Montero pulled up lame running to first (implying injury), but reports later indicated that he was seen warming up pitchers in the bullpen. If he was hurt, that never would have been allowed.

Good job by the organization to make sure that didn’t go unpunished. Montero has never experienced failure as a professional player, so it’s good to see them keep him in check. Hopefully this is the last we hear of this.