Chavez resumes baseball activities

Via Chad Jennings, Eric Chavez has resumed baseball activities after suffering some setbacks in his rehab from a foot injury. “He’s taking ground balls, and he’s taking BP, so he’s done okay,” said Joe Girardi prior to this afternoon’s game. “Hopefully we can get him in a game pretty soon too. I can’t tell you when, but it would be nice to get him in a game soon.” I’m not going to hold my breath, but it would be really, really awesome to have Chavez back while Alex Rodriguez on the shelf.

Update (2:39pm): Via Marc Carig, Chavez is slated to DH in a minor league game as soon as Tuesday. Wow, that’s unexpectedly awesome.

Game 91: Can we get a win?

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Jay?? via Creative Commons license)

Losing sucks, no one likes to do it. Thankfully we’re Yankees fans and our team loses a whole lot less than everyone else’s team, but dude … two straight losses after the All-Star break? Weak. The Yankees have the right guy on the mound to put an end to that nonsense this afternoon. Here’s the lineup…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, DH
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Andruw Jones, LF
Brett Gardner, CF
Eduardo Nunez, 3B
Frankie Cervelli, C

CC Sabathia, SP

YES will carry the game as (almost) usual, and first pitch is set for just after 1pm ET. Enjoy.

Frankie Cervelli and the backup catcher plight

Earlier this week, I posted a very unscientific/unofficial poll on Twitter. The question was simple. “If I say ‘Francisco Cervelli,’ the first thought that comes to your mind is….” RAB’s very own Ben Kabak responded with the only (sort of) positive response, “fist pumps” (hurray for enthusiasm!).  The rest of the answers were either equal to, or synonymous with, “awful” which is pretty much what one would expect.

All of the candid responses, of course, got me thinking. How does Cervelli actually compare to other backup catchers from around the American League.  And, is our collective angst really justified?  Note: the stats compiled below do not include the games played since the All-Star break.

Offense:

Click to enlarge!

In terms of offense, clearly Cervelli doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence. His walk rate is lower and his strikeout rate higher than the average backup catcher in the AL.  Just let that thought resonate on your tongue for a second.  He doesn’t particularly hit for power or for contact either. Most importantly, our eyes — which are never biased in the least — tell us he is a supremely gifted rally-killer, right?

Well to be fair, Cervelli’s only had 77 plate appearances which is a pretty nominal sample size.  Obviously, his limited exposure at the plate is also by design. Now, I don’t want to come across as an apologist for Franky’s offensive contributions; they are what they are. However, my point here, is that most backup catchers are very mediocre at best (at least offensively), and Cervelli is only marginally below that mark in terms of individual production.

Roughly speaking, all Cervelli would really need is about five more hits than he currently has (20 hits instead of 15, out 70 at bats) and he’d have a .285 batting average with a wOBA hovering around .320 which for all intents and purposes, is right in line with the other backups of the AL East.

In other words, given the typically high octane offensive production being generated by the rest of the team, I think there’s a bit of wiggle room to be found here.  No one should expect Cervelli to match Victor’s production, and no one should be surprised when the results are less than stellar given his role on the team.

Defense:

I think one can absolutely make the case though, that a backup catcher should be at the very least, proficient on defense.  After all, purely defense-oriented catchers are theoretically a dime a dozen.  Much to my chagrin, this aspect of the game is substantially harder to quantify though (especially when it comes to catchers).

If we utilize Fangraph’s FLD metric — which is UZR, or TZR prior to 2002 — Cervelli is definitely trailing his peers. Of course, the only catchers of the group to garner really solid ratings are Tampa Bay’s Kelly Shoppach and Cleveland’s Lou Marson. The rest of the group is average at best. Even former Yankee Jose Molina, who is often raved about defensively, comes across as very average according to the numbers.

The other stat being displayed in the chart above is Caught Stealing Percentage. Now Frankie is obviously doing himself a rather large disservice every time he elects to throw the ball to Curtis Granderson or Brett Gardner when the runners attempt to steal.  At this juncture, he’s only successfully stopped two runners out of the 21 attempts.  Opposing teams will continue to smell blood, and will continue to test him accordingly until he proves otherwise.

How much of that CS% is related to outside factors; I don’t really know. Some pitchers have naturally slower deliveries. Some pitchers offer less control (I’m looking at you AJ) which can distort the pickoff movement. Hell, some divisions could simply have more quality base runners than others.  On the flip side, if someone has a reputation for having an excellent pickoff move, runners will become deterred; if only the best base runners are attempting steals, the percentages can become skewed from that (i.e. – three successful steals out of eight total attempts).   Anecdotally speaking, I think Cervelli’s 10% CS rate is unacceptably low though.

Overall WAR:

For quick reference, let’s take a look at the old WAR rankings. It’s a pretty pathetic picture, which I think, is the point. The position is marred by mediocrity and Cervelli is on the lower end of that mediocre spectrum.  The larger point though is that the contributions gained or lost with Cervelli are not overly substantial.  In my eyes, his job first and foremost, is to simply be available to spell Russell Martin.  Secondly, he should provide some decent defense (whether or not he’s doing this is questionable), and any offense is merely gravy.  Are these needs being satisfied?  Perhaps.

The only guys really raising the averages in the list above are Kelly Shoppach, Victor Martinez, and Mike Napoli. Now, Shoppach and Napoli are not solely backup catchers; they also do some first base work and are occasionally slotted as designated hitters. Frankly, Victor is about as much of a backup catcher as I am; his value obviously stems from his bat which is why he’s given so much exposure at the plate.

Additionally, finding quality starting catchers is seemingly impossible as it is. Finding a second quality one is really just not overly realistic.  Perhaps the reason why our attitude about Cervelli is particularly soured is because we have one of the most hyped prospects of recent memory waiting in the pipeline, who supposedly could fill that need.  The only problem is, unless, the Yankees are willing to give Montero those additional at bats that would make him valuable, he wouldn’t be overly impacting on the team (I can’t account for the benefit of big league exposure at a developmental level).  Granted, it’s absolutely debatable whether or not the Yankees would be able to get Montero sufficient exposure for the remainder of the year, but as of now, it seems they are not intent on doing so.

No Bautista, no problem; Jays rout Yanks again

Really Edwin Encarnacion?

Looks like the Yankees are still recovering from the All-Star break. Bad pitching, bat hitting, bad defense, this one had it all…

  • Despite getting 19 (!!!) swings and misses out of 95 pitches, Freddy Garcia was fooling nobody. Five of the seven hits he allowed went for extra bases, and when you add in four walks, it works out to six runs in five innings. One of those runs was unearned though, because Russell Martin threw the ball into left field when Aaron Hill tried to steal third. Hopefully Bartolo Colon and Garcia getting rocked on back-to-back nights will be a nice little pre-trade deadline reminder to the front office that the starting rotation kinda sucks.
  • Nick Swisher and Eduardo Nunez were the offensive stars with two hits apiece, though Martin reached base twice as well (single and a walk). The top four hitters in the lineup combined to go 0-for-15 with a walk and six strikeouts. Curtis Granderson drew the walk. Mark Teixeira whiffed twice and popped up twice, and his season line is down to .240/.347/.508.  That’s Yuniesky Betancourt’s batting average plus Daniel Murphy’s OBP. Think about that.
  • For what it’s worth, Brandon Morrow was looking pretty filthy, especially after the second inning. A high-90’s fastball with a high-80’s slider and split isn’t fair. That said, the Yankees had two on and none out in the first and didn’t score. That’s happened far too often this year.
  • Cory Wade allowed the first two runners he faced to reach base but then struck out the next three and chipped in a second scoreless inning as well. As for Sergio Mitre … well every day he’s on the active roster from here on out, I’ll consider it a personal insult to my fandom. That is all.
  • The Yankees are now 15-15 in the AL East and 9-15 against non-Orioles AL East teams. That is awful. They’ve lost six of nine since the seven game winning streak.
  • Here’s the box score, here’s the WPA Graph.

Don’t worry, CC Sabathia is pitching on Saturday, and that alone is enough to make me feel good about the game. Ricky Romero gets the ball in the matinee.

Montero returns in SWB win

Good news: Slade Heathcott does not need another shoulder surgery, though I suspect he’ll still miss the rest of the season. Either way, not being cut open is always a good thing. Meanwhile, a high-ranking Royals official was in Trenton tonight, and he’s headed up to Scranton next. Something is afoot … or it could be routine coverage.

Triple-A Scranton (7-3 win over Toledo)
Kevin Russo, 3B: 2 for 4, 2 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 BB – 12 for his last 29 (.414)
Chris Dickerson, CF: 1 for 4, 2 R, 3 K, 1 SB, 1 HBP
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 5, 1 RBI, 3 K – first game back from that stiff back
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 2 for 4, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K
Terry Tiffee, DH: 0 for 5, 2 K
Brandon Laird, LF: 0 for 2, 1 K – ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the third
Austin Krum, LF: 1 for 1, 1 R, 1 BB – got picked off first
Jordan Parraz, RF: 1 for 2, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 HBP – threw a runner out at the plate
Luis Nunez, 2B: 2 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
Doug Bernier, SS: 0 for 3, 1 BB, 1 K
D.J. Mitchell, RHP: 4.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 1 HB, 3-4 GB/FB – just 42 of 86 pitches were strikes (48.8%) … ugly
Buddy Carlyle, RHP: 0.2 IP, zeroes, 0-1 GB/FB – four pitches, just one strike
Kevin Whelan, RHP: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1-2 GB/FB – 15 of 24 pitches were strikes (62.5%)
Randy Flores, LHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 0-2 GB/FB – a dozen of his 16 pitches were strikes (75%)
Eric Wordekemper, RHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 2-0 GB/FB – 11 of 18 pitches were strikes (61.1%)
Logan Kensing, RHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1-1 GB/FB – six of 11 pitches were strikes (54.5%)

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Game 90: Gotta get down with Freddy

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

I hate myself for that title. Here’s the lineup…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Jorge Posada, DH
Russell Martin, C
Brett Gardner, LF
Eduardo Nunez, 3B

Freddy Garcia, SP

The game starts a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on My9 locally or MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Joey Bats Update: Blue Jays manager John Farrell told reporters before today’s game that Jose Bautista is likely to miss the rest of the series after twisting his ankle last night. “Optimistically Sunday, realistically Tuesday,” he said. That’s unfortunate, you know. It really is. Such a shame. Like is so unfair.

Rothschild: Colon not hurt, just apprehensive

Via Andrew Marchand, pitching coach Larry Rothschild said that Bartolo Colon‘s hamstring is healthy, but the right-hander is still apprehensive about re-aggravating the injury. It was pretty obvious that Colon wasn’t 100% last night, he wasn’t moving well and it didn’t look like he was pushing off with his usual effort. This is something that he really should have gotten over with a rehab start, and unfortunately bringing players back from injury too soon has become something of a pattern for the Yankees. Remember Chien-Ming Wang in 2009 (hurried back after Joba Chamberlain took a line drive off his leg), Colon, possibly Phil Hughes