Two losses on a slow night

Penn League Report is rolling out a list of the top 30 prospects in the Short Season NY-Penn League, ranking Evan DeLuca 28th. Check out the write-up, it includes a note about a recent velocity dip. Prospects 1-25 are forthcoming.

Low-A Charleston (4-1 loss to Hickory)
Jose Toussen, SS: 2 for 4, 1 K, 1 SB, 1 E (throwing)
Ramon Flores, LF, Kevin Mahoney, 1B, Kelvin DeLeon, RF & Kyle Higashioka, C: all 1 for 4 – Flores and DeLeon each doubled and struck out … Mahoney scored a run, struck out three times, and committed a fielding error … Higashioka drove a run in
Eduardo Sosa, CF: 0 for 4, 1 K, 1 SB
Anderson Feliz, 2B & Mike Ferraro, DH: both 0 for 3, 2 K – Feliz scored a run … Ferraro got caught stealing
Garrison Lassiter, 3B: 1 for 3, 1 K
Shane Greene, RHP: 5 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 6-1 GB/FB – picked a runner off second … 54 BB in 115.1 IP (4.21 BB/9), which is way too many for a college guy at this level
Tommy Kahnle, RHP: 2 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 1-1 GB/FB – struck out all three guys he faced in the first inning, then everything else happened in the second
Kelvin Perez, RHP: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K

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Game 119: More Rain

The Yankees just can’t catch a break with the weather. They got rained out yesterday, will have three games to make up in a four day span late next month, and there’s a pretty good chance that it’s going to rain in Kansas City tonight. Not just tonight, tomorrow and Wednesday as well. At least that’s what tells me, and they’re never wrong. It’s been raining all day in western Missouri (not Kansas!), and apparently it’s going to rain straight through Wednesday, with the occasional break that is poorly timed for baseball. We’ll see how this series goes. Here’s tonight’s lineup…

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

A.J. Burnett, SP

The game is supposed to start at 8pm ET, but no promises there. YES will have the broadcast. Enjoy.

Cashman: It’s unlikely we’ll see Banuelos next month

Via George King, Brian Cashman said it’s unlikely that Manny Banuelos will be up in the big leagues next month when rosters expand. “You may or may not see him. It’s more likely you won’t see him,” said Cash in his typical GM speak. “There are no plans for him to join us. He is 20 years old. He is at Triple-A right now and there are no plans to push him. That could change, but …”

Banuelos was bumped up to Triple-A Scranton on trade deadline day in what seemed like precursor to a September call-up. There’s been speculation about using the lefty out of the bullpen down the stretch, which makes sense in the context of him being at 112 IP and unlikely to go over 130-140 on the season. The Yankees don’t have to add Banuelos to the 40-man roster until after next season at least, so there’s no crunch. We’ll see, Cashman left a lot of room for interpretation.

Ravel Santana’s injury: broken ankle and torn ligaments

Saturday afternoon we heard that Rookie Level GCL Yankees outfielder Ravel Santana suffered a “brutal” ankle injury, and Dante Bichette Jr. tweeted the diagnosis: it’s broken in two places with a bunch of torn ligaments. The play-by-play indicates that it happened on a stolen base attempt, so it sounds like one of those hideous Stephen Drew/Jason Kendall/spike gets caught and foot gets twisted around type of injuries. Just awful.

Santana, 19, had a .426 wOBA with a ton of power (nine homers, .273 ISO) and speed (10-for-13 in stolen base attempts) in 40 GCL games. The Yankees landed him for just $145k back in 2009, and the scouting report is exciting. Based on what happened with Kendall and Drew, there’s a chance Ravel will be back in time for Spring Training, but there’s no way to know for sure.

The brutal September schedule that might not be a problem

At the moment, the Yankees have a 99.2% or a 98.9% chance to make the playoffs, depending on who you ask. They’ve gone 8-4 this month to stretch their lead in the wildcard race to nine games in the loss column, and their next 15 games will be played against four sub-.500 teams a combined 38 games below the break-even point. It’s not a stretch to think that they could roll into Fenway Park two weeks from tomorrow a dozen games up on a playoff spot. That cushion is good news, because the schedule at the end of the season is straight up brutal.

The Yankees were originally supposed to play two games from September 19th to 22nd, a two-game set against the Rays both preceded and followed by an off day. Now they’re going to play five games in that four day stretch. The first off day will instead be used to make up an April 6th rain out against the Twins, and the second off day will be used to make up a July 8th rain out against the Rays (because Tampa didn’t want to play a doubleheader the next day). At some point during that series they’ll also play a doubleheader to make up yesterday’s rain out. I guess the good news is that all of those games will be in the Bronx, so it’s the other teams that have to deal with the travel. The Yankees will be coming back from Toronto on the 18th, so not a long flight.

The last ten games of the season will be played against the Rays (seven games) and Red Sox, which are never easy. The Yankees also have to make one more west coast trip in the middle of September, visiting Anaheim and Seattle for three games apiece. With any luck, that road trip and those last ten games will be little more than tune-ups for the postseason, with September call-ups seeing the majority of the action in the doubleheader, day games after night games, stuff like that. Plus their already sizable lead on a playoff berth could increase before the rough stretch of the schedule arrives, making things that less dire. It could also decrease, but that’s another post for another time.

The Yankees are technically half-a-game back of the Red Sox in the AL East, but they’re tied in the loss column. All they need to do is win one more lose one fewer game than Boston the rest of the way to take the division. They could make a big move over the next week, since the Yankees have that light schedule and the Sox will play seven of their next eleven games against the Rays and Rangers (with a four-gamer against the Royals mixed in). Getting into the playoffs is always the top priority, but winning the AL East would likely mean an ALDS matchup against the Tigers or Indians, not the Rangers. We’re getting way ahead of ourselves though.

With about six weeks left in the season, the Yankees lead baseball in run differential (+175) by a significant margin (32 runs), and are on pace for 99 wins (98.82, to be exact). They took care of business earlier in the season and are in the middle of the soft part of their schedule, which hopefully makes the last two or three weeks of the season relatively meaningless. The division will probably still be on the line then, but as long as a postseason berth is in the bag, we’ll have little reason to sweat what will probably be the toughest stretch of the season.

When a tie in the loss column isn’t a tie

Yankees fans toiled away a rainy Sunday without the hometown team taking the field. Rainouts always bring disappointment, but it’s always worse on the weekends. The one bit of good news we got involved the Red Sox, as they dropped their second game in three chances against the Mariners. That gave them their 46th loss of the season, tying them with the Yankees. The loss column, we’re told from a young age, means everything. You can’t make up a loss. That axiom puts the Yankees in a virtual tie with the Red Sox, though it doesn’t feel that way.

One statistic captures nearly 100 percent of everyone’s disappointment with the 2011 Yankees: 10 losses. In a dozen games against the Red Sox the Yankees have dropped 10, leaving them with a pathetic .167 win percentage. They’re only under .500 against two other teams, the Tigers and the Royals, and in both cases they’re just one win away from .500. There’s just something about the Red Sox this year that completely stymies the Yankees. Could it be their undoing in 2011?

In one way, it would seem that is the case. While the Yankees must fare well against other teams in order to make the playoffs, they will have to tumble the Red Sox if they’re to take the AL East, and, perhaps, the AL pennant. They’re the one team that truly stands in the way. Their offense tops the Yankees, and their pitching staff, while not quite as strong, does have a quality top end that has proven it can handle the Yankees’ lineup. But that’s not the only way to think about this issue. There are plenty of aspects that make this seem like an anomaly rather than some ingrained malfunction.

No prior imbalance

If you look at the Yankees vs. the Red Sox in every year since the rivalry re-intensified in 2002, you’ll see that the results are pretty even throughout.

2002 10 9 .526
2003 10 9 .526
2004 8 11 .421
2005 10 9 .526
2006 11 8 .579
2007 10 8 .526
2008 9 9 .500
2009 9 9 .500
2010 9 9 .500
Total 86 81 .515

With such evenly played ball for the past nine years, it seems quite out of line that one team would rise to dominance in the 10th. Of course, the 2011 versions of the teams are nothing like the 2002 versions, so there might be something else at play. But as we’ll soon see, the overall landscape doesn’t appear all that different.

Performance vs. the league

If the Yankees are 2-10 against the Sox yet have the same number of losses, it means that they’re playing better against the rest of the league. To wit, the Yankees are 70-36 (.660) vs. all other teams, while the Red Sox are 63-44 (.589), giving the Yankees a 7.5 game advantage. Even if you take interleague record out of the equation, the Yankees are 57-31 (.648) against AL opponents, while the Sox are 53-36 (.596), giving the Yankees a 4.5 game lead. Essentially, the Yankees are better against everyone else, except the Red Sox themselves.

Tougher schedule

Measuring toughness of schedule is always difficult, but there are a few stats that give us an idea of toughness at a glance. One place I like to look is Baseball Prospectus’s quality of batters faced. It measures the triple slash of opponents facing each pitcher in the league. In that way, it appears that the Yankees’ pitchers have faced tougher opponents than the Red Sox. Freddy Garcia (6th), CC Sabathia (27th), and Bartolo Colon (30th) all rank in the top 30 for highest OPS by opponents, while none of the Red Sox rank in the top 30. Ivan Nova ranks No. 31 as well.

(To be clear, this measures how well opponents have hit overall, not how they hit against the specific pitcher. In other words, it makes Freddy’s season look even better, since he has an ERA in the low 3s despite facing hitters with an average .757 OPS.)

That Boston has the league’s best offense does play into this, since their pitchers don’t face their own hitters. But in the same way, it somewhat dampens their top two starters, Jon Lester and Josh Beckett, since they haven’t faced opponents as tough as the Yanks’ top four. Josh Beckett ranks No. 38, Lester ranks No. 42, and Tim Wakefield ranks No. 93. They are the only Sox starters on the list.

Another way to view this is Baseball Reference’s Simple Rating System. If you pull up the main page you’ll see the current standings, with SRS as the final item. This is a formula that determines how much better a team is than the average team, based on run differential and strength of schedule. Here the Yankees have led the Sox all year, and currently lead the league. Again, this is because Boston is tough and does not play itself. But the same can be said about the Yankees. Yet they still top Boston.

Adding it up

We can look at the Yankees performance relative to the Sox from any angle we want, but it will not erase the poor head-to-head showing. This isn’t to excuse any of that; if the Yankees want to win this year, they’ll almost certainly have to topple the Sox at some point. But given the available evidence, it appears that they’re able to do just that.

There has never been a year in recent memory that has been this unbalanced. Even in 2009, with the infamous 0-8 start, the Yanks came back to tie the season series. In no year did either team have more than a three-game advantage over the other. Things tended to balance out when it came to the top teams in the East. Things should balance out again this year, at least to some degree. After all, we’ve seen from multiple angles that the Sox aren’t actually better than the Yankees outside of the head-to-head matchups.

Does this mean that the Yankees will sweep the remaining games to finish the season 8-10 against the Sox? Hardly. They’ll be lucky to split the remaining six games and finish 5-13. But even that will provide the Yankees with a boost. They’ve played better against every other team in the league, and so could still win the East even with that dismal record against the Sox. It’s not the ideal way to go about it, but the Yankees cannot undo games. All they have is what’s left. And what’s left favors them pretty heavily when you add up the available evidence.

2011 Draft: Yankees sign 20th rounder Dan Camarena

Update (Aug. 15th): Via Jim Callis and Kendall Rogers, the Yankees have signed Camarena for $335k. Very nice deal, reasonable price. As I say below, I’m a fan.

Original Post (Aug. 4th): Via K. Levine-Flandrup, 20th round pick Dan Camarena threw for the Yankees’ head honchos today, presumably in Tampa. I’m only posting this because I’m a big Camarena fan and apparently I’m not the only one; Baseball America ranked him as the 138th best prospect in the country before the draft. In their subscriber only report, they note that 6-foot-1, 205 lb. high school left-hander from San Diego throws 87-91 with “excellent feel for his changeup, which some scouts rate as an average pitch.” They also say he “already flashes a big league breaking ball” in his curveball.

Workouts for the bigwigs is always a good sign because if nothing else, it shows that both sides are at least considering pursuing a contract. The Yankees inked third rounder Jordan Cote recently, and I think Camarena is the second best pitching prospect they selected this year. I’d like to see a deal get done because this is the kind of kid you could see coming out of college as a first or second rounder in three years.