Yanks pound Tribe again, win third straight

This past week has been a story of two extremes. The Yankees were completely and utterly dismantled by the Red Sox during that three game series, but they’ve turned around and completely shellacked the Indians this weekend. Aside from the win, the best news of Sunday was that no one got hurt. Phew.

Off to the races.

Too Many Not Enough Homers

The Yankees pounded out a season high 18 hits on Sunday afternoon (previous high was 16 in Derek Jeter‘s two-homer game against Texas), but not a single one of them left the yard. Go figure. Most of the damage came in the five-run fifth inning, when the Yankees turned a one-run game into a six-zip laugher. Six of the first seven men in the inning picked up hits, starting with Brett Gardner‘s hustle double to put the wheels in motion and ending with Nick Swisher‘s seeing-eye ground ball through the right side. Josh Tomlin doesn’t have spectacular stuff and he simply didn’t get ahead of anyone that inning, a recipe for disaster.

You can take your pick of either Gardner or Curtis Granderson for the offensive star of the game. Gardner went 3-for-4 with two doubles, a triple, and three runs scored while Grandy went 4-for-4 (all three singles and a double) with a sac fly, two runs scored, and two driven in. The 9-1-2-3-4 hitters combined for a dozen hits (four doubles and a triple), a walk, and eight runs scored in 24 plate appearances. Mark Teixiera was the only one not to get in on the hit parade, instead going 0-for-4 with the walk.

For all the talk about the Yankees’ relying so much on the homerun, they’ve gone from averaging 1.6 homers per game in their first 44 games to 1.3 homers per game in their last 19 contests (the AL average is 0.93 HR/G). As for their runs scored per game, it’s gone from 5.14 to 5.47 during those same time periods. They’ve been scoring more runs while hitting few homers per game for more than three weeks now, and remember they faced some pretty good pitching as well.

That's right, you just struck out looking at an 84 mph pitch.

Freddy Dances Out Of Danger

Last time out was not pretty for Freddy Garcia, who didn’t make it out of the second inning against the Red Sox because his slop was high in the zone and out over the plate too often. He was better today, but it also helped that he was facing a slumping lineup that had exactly zero hits off him in their dozen chances with men on base. Garcia did not have a single 1-2-3 inning, and the Indians even took advantage of his slow delivery by stealing five bases. Russell Martin didn’t even bother to make a throw on several of them, their jumps were that good.

Sweaty Freddy stranded a man on first in the first, a man on second in the second, men on the corners in the third, a man on third in the fourth, a man on second in the fifth, a man on second in the sixth, and handed a runner on first over to Boone Logan with two outs in the seventh. His six strikeouts were very well timed, three ended an inning and two others recorded the second out, meaning it would have taken a hit for the Tribe to score a run. Games like this are Garcia’s calling card, keeping a struggling offense in check while dodging bullets for six-plus innings.

Minka approves.


Jeter had two singles and two well hit balls to the warning track, but the latter doesn’t count for anything. The Cap’n is seven hits away from 3,000 with four games left in the homestand. He’ll get them, don’t worry. Alex Rodriguez had three hits, while Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher,  and Jorge Posada each had two. Jorge’s got 13 hits in his last 22 at-bats, raising his average 57 points in the last week. Russell Martin looked pretty awful (0-for-4 with a strikeout and two GIDP’s), but he just missed a bunch of time with the back issue. I’ll cut the dude some slack this game.

Frickin’ Boone Logan man. Grady Sizemore came into the game hitting .121/.194/.303 against lefties this year, so what happens when Logan comes into face him with two outs in the seventh? He walks him on five pitches. Seventeen of the 45 lefties Boone has faced this year have reached base, a .378 OBP that is just straight up not acceptable for a guy who’s only the roster to get lefties out. Randy Flores is pitching well against lefties in Triple-A, you have to wonder if he’ll be brought up sometime soon. I’m not saying they’ll cut Logan completely, but getting a new primary lefty seems inevitable right now.

It was good to see Joe Girardi go right back to Kevin Whelan two days after his ugly big league debut. He looked much better this time out even though he walked a batter, doing a better job of spotting his fastball down in the zone (even getting a called strike three on one). Hopefully the first time jitters are out of the way and this is what we’ll be seeing more of in the future. While on the subject of relievers, I sure hope Frank Herrmann’s nickname in the Indians’ clubhouse is Pee Wee. I would be greatly disappointed if it isn’t.

Remember when the Indians were 30-15? They’ve won just four of 18 games since then. They’re 1-9 in their last ten games, and the one was a 1-0 win over punchless Twins. Cleveland’s run in the seventh inning snapped a 15.1 scoreless innings streak for the Yankees’ pitching staff, but the Tribe have still scored just 15 runs in their last eight games (1.88 per game). Seven of those runs came Friday night. Oh well, I’m sure it was fun for Clevelanders while it lasted.

WPA Graph & Box Score

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the nerd score and no highlights.

Up Next

The Yankees moved back to nine games over .500 with the win, tying their season high. They’ll look to move to ten games over on Monday night, when A.J. Burnett and Carlos Carrasco wrap up this four games series.

Yankees close to agreement with Dante Bichette Jr.

Via K. Levine-Flandrup, the Yankees are close to reaching an agreement with 51st overall pick Dante Bichette Jr. He’ll be in Tampa to take a physical on Tuesday. No word on the money, but I can’t imagine it’s far above slot (which is approximately $695,000), if it is at all. Bichette didn’t figure to be a tough sign or anything, but it’s always good to get the deals done as soon as possible so the kid can get some playing under his belt. Assume the physical goes well, I imagine he’ll report to the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League Yankees in time for their season opener next Monday.

Igawa sets SWB franchise records in win

Gene Michael was in Trenton to watch Manny Banuelos last night. He told Ken Rosenthal that Banuelos was 93-95 with his fastball but struggled with command, also showing a “plus” curveball and changeup. A Yankees’ executive with a good report on a Yankees’ prospect? Stunned.

Triple-A Scranton (5-4 win over Syracuse)
Austin Krum, CF: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 2B
Ramiro Pena, SS: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB – six for his last 16 (.375) with three doubles
Jordan Parraz, DH: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB – four of his last six hits are doubles
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 K
Brandon Laird, 3B: 0 for 5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 K
Kevin Russo, 2B-LF: 0 for 3
Greg Golson, LF-RF: 2 for 4, 2 RBI, 1 K, 1 SB – 11 for 33 (.333) since coming off the disabled list
Dan Brewer, RF: 0 for 1, 1 K – left the game after robbing a homer in the fourth inning … hopefully he didn’t tear his labrum like Justin Maxwell
Luis Nunez, 2B: 1 or 3, 1 K
P.J. Pilittere, C: 1 for 3, 1 BB
The Ghost of Kei Igawa, LHP: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 7-5 GB/FB – 56 of 93 pitches were strikes (60.2%) … record setting day for Igawa, he broke the SWB franchise career records for innings pitched and homers allowed
Josh Schmidt, RHP: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K2-0 GB/FB, 1 E (throwing) – 15 of 25 pitches were strikes
Ryan Pope, RHP: 0.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1-0 GB/FB – 14 of 22 pitches were strikes (63.6%) … not today
Randy Flores, LHP: 0.2 IP, zeroes, 1-1 GB/FB – five of eight pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Open Thread: Realignment

I for one welcome the Astros' between innings entertainment to the AL. (Photo Credit: Flickr user AmandaD_TX via Creative Commons license)

Rumors of realignment have popped up over the weekend, focusing on the creation of two 15-team leagues. Let’s get the nuts and bolts of it from Buster Olney (Insider req’d)…

Sources familiar with the discussions to date say the talks are serious, and while one executive believes the odds of change are less than 50-50, another says this is the type of discussion that can gather momentum and become a reality. “It’s really important that the players are behind this,” he said.

There are details to work out, of course. Some on the ownership side would favor a division-less structure — that is to say, 15 teams in each league looking to survive to get to the postseason, in a structure similar to what was in place before 1969 — but some players indicated on Saturday night that the only internal discussions they’ve had center around three divisions of five teams in each league.

The Astros seem to be the obvious candidate to move from the NL over to the AL, taking one team away from the six-team NL Central while adding one to the four-team AL West. Plus it would create a geographic rivalry with the Texas. The problem is that two 15-team leagues would mean that interleague play will take place all year, otherwise one team in each league will be off each night. Apparently the top five teams in each league would make the playoffs, which is great in theory but still isn’t perfect because the schedule will presumably remain imbalanced. I’m not sure I love the idea, but I’m curious to know what everyone thinks.

Anyways, here’s the open thread for the night. The ESPN Sunday Night Game has the Reds at the Giants (Volquez vs. Sanchez), plus you’ve also got Game Six of the NBA Finals (8pm ET, ABC). You can also watch Yankees’ second round pick Sam Stafford pitch for Texas against 21st round pick Zach Wilson (he’s a first baseman) and Arizona State (7pm ET, ESPN2 and ESPN360.com). Winner advances to the College World Series. Talk about whatever, go nuts.

Montero not in Triple-A lineup (again)

Update (6:27pm): Via Erik Boland, Montero is out of the lineup because of the eye infection according to Brian Cashman. I can buy that, I had an eye infection about a year ago and that thing lingered like crazy. Still seems weird that they wouldn’t just come out and say that in the first place.

Original Post (4:22pm): Jesus Montero was again not in the lineup for Triple-A Scranton today, apparently because of a “manager’s decision.” He sat yesterday and it was described as a routine day off. I’m not quite sure a Triple-A manager has the authority to sit an organization’s top prospect for two straight days after he just missed four with an eye infection (he did start on Friday), so I think something’s up. Maybe it’s a discipline thing (he did pinch-hit yesterday), maybe he’s being traded, maybe he was still being considered for a call-up in case Russell Martin suffered a setback during this afternoon’s game. I really don’t know, but this is … weird.

Game 63: Roster Moves

Do better than last time, Freddy. (Photo Credit: Flickr user maxxum via Creative Commons license)

As expected, it was a busy morning in Yankeeland thanks to all the recent injuries. Bartolo Colon was predictably placed on the disabled list following the hamstring strain he suffered yesterday, though Joe Girardi said the MRI came back “pretty good.” I have no idea what that means, but Colon told reporters that he expects to be back after his 15 days are up. Holy cow, that would be awesome. Just please don’t rush it, the last thing the Yankees need is for him to have a setback and miss three months instead of three weeks. “I feel bad because the team needs help and I got hurt,” said Bartolo. Given all he’s done for this team already, he’s shouldn’t feel bad. Amaury Sanit was also placed on the disabled list with an elbow injury, the nature and extent of which is unknown.

Replacing those guys on the roster are Hector Noesi and Chris Dickerson. Since you can’t call a player back up for ten days after a demotion, they had to use the injuries to get these two back so quickly. There’s still no word on Thursday’s starter though. As I sit here on my perch of infinite wisdom, I think the best course of action would have been to start Noesi today. It’s his scheduled day to start for Triple-A Scranton, and it would give Freddy Garcia, A.J. Burnett, and CC Sabathia and extra day of rest while allowing Colon’s replacement to miss the Rangers next week. They’re killing the ball right now, so keeping a rookie away from them seems like a good idea. Maybe Noesi will throw multiple innings in relief today as a tuneup, then start Thursday. That’s pretty much the best case right now.

Anyway, both Russell Martin and Alex Rodriguez are in today’s lineup. Martin’s back is finally okay following his little weightlifting injury, and A-Rod‘s hip is fine after it stiffened up following that hit-by-pitch yesterday. So that’s pretty much it, hopefully they can get through today’s game healthy. Here’s the lineup…

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

Freddy Garcia, SP

Today’s game can be seen on YES locally and on TBS nationally once it starts at 1pm ET. Enjoy.

The poor man’s Beltran

Yesterday I examined Nick Swisher‘s unfortunate results from the left side of the plate and argued that he’s a likely candidate to do better in the coming year. I also mentioned that Carlos Beltran was a fan favorite as a trade target. You don’t need me to explain why he’s a favorite as a trade target, but I’ll do it anyway. Beltran has always played excellent defense, he’s a switch-hitter, and he hits for power. He’s the lifetime owner of a .371 wOBA, a .282/.359/.495 batting line, and 289 home runs. This year he’s doing a touch better with a .284/.371/.512 line, a .382 wOBA. He’s showing a bit more power despite coming off a serious knee injury and hitting half his games at Citi Field. As trade targets go, you really can’t do too much better than Carlos Beltran. He’s a free agent after this season and he’s doing his best to set himself up for another nice payday. It’s not like he exactly needs another payday, having pulled in $119M from the Mets over the past seven years, but hey, I’ve lived in New York. Life ain’t cheap.

Plenty of teams will be in on Beltran this summer. Plenty of teams could use a half-season rental of a switch-hitting, power-hitting good defender. The primary deterrent to acquiring Beltran is likely his steep salary, but the Mets have indicated that they’re willing to absorb some of that salary in exchange for better prospects. Now, this could simply be posturing to get more teams involved and extract more from interested parties, but it’s hard to know for sure. The Mets may have more financial flexibility now that they partnered with David Einhorn. They may not be an East Coast version of the Los Angeles Dodgers anymore – they may be able to eat some of his contract.

This is a long way of saying that this confluence of factors – Beltran’s skillset and the Mets’ flexibility of demands – may mean that another team snatches Beltran from Queens before the Yankees can get their sticky little fingers all over him. But the Yankees could find a decent replacement in Twins outfielder Jason Kubel.

All the stars are lining up for Kubel to get traded this summer: he’s on a losing team, he has a decent in-demand skillset, and he has an expiring contract after this year. Twins’ blog The Bat Shatters makes the case for keeping Kubel, and summarizes the arc of his career nicely:

Kubel destroyed Minor League pitching for 4 years before getting a shot at the bigs in 2004. He didn’t disappoint, hitting .300/.358/.433 as a 22-year-old in 23 games with the Twins. That fall, he endured a serious knee injury which kept him out of baseball for the entire 2005 season, and while he re-emerged with the Twins in 2006, the results were nothing like before. Kubel struggled for a couple of seasons in 2006 and 2007 before putting it all together in 2008. In ’08, he hit .272/.335/.471 with 20HRs and 78RBIs while seeing part-time action in the outfield. In 2009, he had his ‘breakout’ hitting .300/.369/.539 with 28HRs and 103 RBIs. In a contract-year last season, he only managed a .249 batting-average, but did surpass the 20 homerun plateau for the 3rd straight season while driving in 92 runs…

Over the last three years, Kubel has the 11th highest OPS (.883), the 11th highest batting average and the 8th most HRs against right-handers…among all of the outfielders in baseball. You won’t find his name on the WAR leaderboards, but that’s because his defense is so atrocious. If he was strictly in a DH role, his value would increase. Without Thome next year, the Twins will likely have an opening at DH, a role Kubel is familiar with and could probably excel in.

I’m not trying to make it sound like Kubel is a superstar player. He’s not. What I am trying to say is that Kubel, as a left-handed hitter with power, possesses an offensive skill-set that is not all that common in MLB, and is not easily replaceable if they trade him or let him go.

As Krueger notes, Kubel hits right-handed pitchers well, the type against whom Nick Swisher has struggled lately. Kubel is the owner of a career .286/.345/.499 line against right-handed pitchers. By way of comparison, Beltran is a career .293/.364/.529 hitter against right-handed pitchers. Kubel is playing for a paltry $5.25M this year, a far cry from Beltran’s hefty salary, and he’ll be a free agent when the season is done. He isn’t as good against left-handed pitchers (.664 OPS against), but if he’s deployed properly he could do some damage in the Yankee lineup and bop a few fly balls over that short porch in right.

Kubel may cost less than Beltran for an acquiring team (depending on how much money the Mets eat), and this is for good reason. He’s not as good in the field as Beltran, and he’s not capable of hitting left-handed pitchers nearly as well as Beltran can. But he’s not a scrub: he has a solid bat, he’s cheap, and he’s a free agent at the end of the year. He currently profiles as a Type B free agent, so the Yankees could offer him arbitration and pocket the picks if he declines. If he accepts it’s not the end of the world – he only makes $5.25M in 2011, and the Yankees could always trade him elsewhere.

As it stands right now the Yankees have the corner outfield and DH spots manned by capable hitters, and I’m not sold that the team needs to do anything in the trade market to bolster the offense. I’d far rather see them call up that kid in Scranton that everyone won’t shut up about. But if something changes – if Posada, Gardner or Swisher get injured, or if Montero is traded – then Kubel might be a good fit. If the Yankees are looking for another outfielder-DH-bench bat type with thump and don’t want to pay the high price likely commanded by the Mets for Beltran, they could do worse than Kubel.