Noesi’s long-term value

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Hector Noesi is not long for the Yankees roster. As we discussed yesterday, the Yankees will have to demote a pitcher when Alex Rodriguez returns this weekend, and considering Joe Girardi‘s bullpen usage and the available options, Noesi is a near lock to ride the shuttle to Scranton. It won’t be a long stay; if he’s demoted on Friday he’ll be eligible to return when rosters expand on September 1. Even if he stays through the end of Scranton’s season, it won’t keep him down for much longer than that. He figures to play a role in the bullpen for the stretch run, but more importantly, he could be setting himself up for a long run with the Yankees.

Noesi came up this season in something of an emergency situation. The Yankees needed another pitcher when Luis Ayala went on the DL, and Noesi was the easiest to recall, since he was already on the 40-man roster. That happened on April 13th, but Noesi didn’t make his major league debut until May 18th (he was demoted before making an appearance). When he finally got his shot he shined, allowing just three runs in his first 18 innings, including six innings of two-run ball against the Red Sox. Outside of his drubbing against the Reds he’s been excellent this season, and has certainly opened some eyes.

One of the biggest remaining questions with Noesi is whether he’ll land in the rotation or the bullpen. It’s a familiar question, since we hear it asked of almost every Yankees back-end starting prospect. They have a handful of pitchers comparable to Noesi, including the major-league-ready Adam Warren and the already-doing-it Ivan Nova. Since they don’t have room for multiple No. 4 starters, they have to pare down the list and either ship the surplus elsewhere or else move them to the bullpen. Where does Noesi stand in that process?

In his limited time this year he’s certainly proven a lot to the Yankees. He’s made some longer appearances, seven times going at least three innings in an appearance. He’s also come in for a number of shorter appearances, and has excelled in those, too. Really, the only blemishes on his record are the 1.2-inning, six-run performance against the Reds and a one-inning, three-run affair against the Sox on a day that they rocked CC Sabathia for seven runs. In other words, he could probably hack it in either the rotation or the bullpen. That leaves the Yankees in a favorable position, whatever way they decide to play this.

His presence should leave the Yankees in a flexible position this winter. They’ll return three starters and five relievers (with Joba’s return looming), so they could have an opening in either place for Noesi. In fact, with these openings, combined with the weak market, it appears fairly certain that Noesi will start the season on the major league roster. Given his performance this year, the Yankees should feel comfortable putting him in whatever role remains free.

The only thing that could prevent Noesi from playing a prominent role on the 2012 team is a trade. But, because he has experienced success in multiple roles already this year, chances are the Yankees would hold off on trading him, just as they’ve held off on trading Nova. It’s doubtful that Noesi would get in the way of a significant trade, but they’re not going to flip him for a bench player or a back-end starter. They likely already have a back-end starter in him, as well as a decent reliever who could move into a more prominent bullpen role next year. I imagine the Yankees would much refer to trade a guy like Warren, who might be as good but hasn’t yet pitched in the majors.

He might have appeared sporadically, and he might not have filled a designated role during his time with the club, but Hector Noesi has certainly opened eyes this year. It’s tough to prove anything substantial in 40 innings, but Noesi has at least shown that he can handle major league hitters. His versatility will make the Yanks’ winter a bit easier, since they can slot him into one of many roles for 2012, when he should remain with the big league club full-time. He might never be an ace or a dominant reliever, but the Yankees have certainly found a useful pitcher in Noesi. May his stay in Scranton be short and his time in New York last for years.

Series Preview: Minnesota Twins

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

As a Yankees fan, is there anything you’d rather see more than a four-game series against the Twins? I suppose it would be better if they were in the Bronx, but that’s just nitpicking at this point. The Yankees have won two of the three games they played against the Twinkies this season, and the one loss was that Rafael Soriano, four-run eighth inning gem way back in April. You remember, this game. Anyway, the Yankees are 59-19 against the Twins in the Ron Gardenhire era (including playoffs), and they’re 7-1 in new Target Field.

What Have The Twins Done Lately?

Minnesota just took two of three from the Tigers, but before that they had lost eight of nine and 11 of 13. Their 54-68 record is the third worst in the AL, besting only the Orioles (47-74) and Royals (51-73), but their -113 run differential is second worst to the O’s (-138). It’s been a pretty rough year for the Twins, who usually do a fine job of fielding competitive teams.

Twins On Offense

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

The Yankees are likely to welcome Alex Rodriguez back to the lineup at some point in this series, and the Twins have been getting some important pieces back as well. Justin Morneau returned from his latest round of concussion problems five games ago, and is hitting just .226/.281/.338 in 253 sporadic plate appearances this year. Jason Kubel (.294/.344/.460) missed nearly two months with a foot sprain before returning earlier this month. Rhett Bollinger reports that Kubel will be out for at least tonight’s game due to family reasons, however.

Bollinger also reports that either Michael Cuddyer (.295/.360/.485) or Denard Span (.263/.331/.342) will be placed on the DL before tonight’s game. The former has a neck strain that has kept him on the shelf for the past six games, the latter concussion-like symptoms. Losing Cuddyer would be a huge blow since he’s been their best hitter all season long; he leads the team in AVG, OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, ISO, wOBA, wRC+, HR, RBI, R … basically every significant offensive category whether you’re a stathead or a traditionalist (min. 250 PA).

Despite all those injury problems, the Twins still have Joe Mauer, who has hit .325/.395/.390 over his last 36 games to bring his season line to .281/.346/.340. It has not been a banner year for Mr. Mauer, who missed time with injury as well. Jim Thome is still mashing taters, with a .259/.365/.513 batting line in limited playing time. With Kubel and possibly Cuddyer out tonight, there’s a chance he’ll play even against the lefty CC Sabathia. Danny Valencia (.244/.288/.381) crashed back to Earth after last year’s stellar rookie campaign, and the rest of the lineup is filled out by guys like Ben Revere (.253/.301/.298), Trevor Plouffe (.206/.289/.373), Rene Tosoni (.215/.279/.342), and Tsuyoshi Nishioka (.214/.256/.240). Luke Hughes (.233/.296/.317) will be called up to take Cuddyer’s/Span’s spot, and the backup catcher is Drew Butera (.167/.208/.256. Yeah, they’re offensively challenged up in Minnesota.

Twins On The Mound

Thursday, LHP Brian Duensing (vs. CC Sabathia): A rematch of Game One of the 2009 ALDS, the Yankees typically hit Duensing very hard whether it’s the playoffs or regular season. His FIP (4.00) looks a lot better than his ERA (4.53), and his strikeout rate (6.54 K/9) is surprisingly good this year. Duensing will give up some homeruns though (1.04 HR/9), in part because he’s just not much of a ground baller (42.8%). The 28-year-old southpaw lives off his low-90’s two-seamer, throwing it just about half the time. He’ll also mix in a straight, low-90’s four-seamer, a low-80’s changeup, a low-80’s slider, and a low-70’s curveball. Duensing has a huge platoon split both this year and for his career, so it’s a good night to stack the lineup with righties.

Friday, RHP Kevin Slowey (vs. Phil Hughes): Slowey will be making his first start of the season after being banished to the minors in part because the team doesn’t seem like him all that much. He made six relief appearances earlier this year, got hurt, came back and was immediately sent to Triple-A where he’s started for the last two months or so. Slowey’s calling card has always been his control. His career unintentional walk rate is just 1.44 uIBB/9, and he misses enough bats to post respectable strikeout numbers (career 6.79 K/9). He’s a huge fly ball guy though (just 32% grounders for his career), so he’s definitely prone to the homerun (career 1.41 HR/9). Slowey will throw a low-90’s two-seamer, a high-80’s slider, a mid-70’s curveball, and the occasional low-80’s changeup.

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Saturday, LHP Francisco Liriano (vs. A.J. Burnett/Freddy Garcia): Liriano could have won the Cy Young Award last year, but his numbers are down across the board this season, whether you want to look at ERA (5.12), FIP (4.63), xFIP (4.45), tERA (4.47), SIERA (4.39), K/9 (7.39), BB/9 (4.90), HR/9 (1.02), ground ball rate (47.9%), whatever your heart desires. He’s throwing more low-90’s four-seamers (33.2%) than last year (just 6.6%), and has scaled back the usage on his low-90’s two-seamer (18.1% after 42.7%). Liriano still has that big wipeout slider, and he’ll also throw a power changeup. It’s a roll of the dice every time out these days, he could be dominant or a disaster.

Sunday, RHP Nick Blackburn (vs. Burnett/Garcia/Ivan Nova): Blackburn is the quintessential Twins pitcher. He doesn’t strike anyone out (4.65 K/9), keeps the walks in check (2.76 uIBB/9), and gets a ton of ground balls (53.2%). They like him so much, they threw $14M at him last year by way of a four-year contract. Crazy. Blackburn doesn’t miss bats with his high-80’s sinker or his high-80’s cutter or his low-80’s curveball or his mid-80’s changeup. Pitching to contact works great in theory, but not so much when you’re facing a powerhouse offense like the Yankees (especially with men on base).

The Yankees’ rotation is a little up in the air for Saturday and Sunday. It all depends on Garcia’s finger, if it’s healed and allows him to throw his splitter, then he’s likely to start Sunday with Burnett going the day before. If not, then Freddy might hit the DL with Nova filling in. No one will be on short rest regardless of what happens, so don’t worry about that.

Bullpen: It took more than half-a-season, but Matt Capps (4.78 FIP) finally lost the closer’s job. Joe Nathan (4.70 FIP but much better of late) gets his old gig back, and his primary setup man is left-hander Glen Perkins, who’s been one of the very best relievers in baseball this year (9.92 K/9, 2.94 BB/9, 0.18 HR/9, 50.9% GB, 2.39 ERA, 2.11 FIP, 2.81 xFIP). The only other non-Perkins reliever in Minnesota’s bullpen that has been above replacement level this year is Anthony Swarzak, who’s pitching to a 4.00 FIP in 29.1 IP. The rest of the crew is filled with guys like Jose Mijares (4.80 FIP), Alex Burnett (4.52), and Phil Dumatrait (5.80). Yeah.

Recommended Twins Reading: Twinkie Town, Aaron Gleeman, and Nick’s Twins Blog

Talkin’ about Aaron Laffey

(Photo Credit: Flickr user BGSU86 via Creative Commons license)

Stop me if you’re heard this before, but the Yankees are looking for a veteran lefty reliever. I know, shocking, but that’s what Jayson Stark reported yesterday. The Yankees dumped J.C. Romero from their Triple-A squad last week (he’s since hooked on with the Rockies) and claimed Raul Valdes off waivers earlier in the week, but he’s a veteran in terms of age (33) only (just 64 IP in the bigs). Another veteran(-ish) southpaw hit the market yesterday when the Mariners cut ties with Aaron Laffey (a former Indian, hence the picture), so let’s see if he’s a guy that makes sense for the Bombers.

The Pros

  • Well, he’s left-handed, and that’s always a plus. Laffey’s got a classic LOOGY repertoire, which means a fastball in the high-80’s and a sweepy slider in the low-80’s that helps generate a ground ball 51.5% of the time. He’ll also mix in the occasional low-80’s changeup and high-70’s curveball, but very rarely.
  • Laffey came into the season with one minor league option remaining, and although he was sent to the minors on July 30th, he was recalled two days later due to an injury. Because it’s already August 18th, any team that acquires him could stick him in Triple-A until September 1st and not burn that option because he will not have spent the required 20 days in the minors. Long story short, he has an option for next year.
  • He’s under team control for three more years after this one, and won’t make much money in his first trip through the arbitration process this winter. Something in the high six-figures is the most likely salary for next year.

The Cons

  • He may be left-handed, but Laffey has never been all that good against same side batters in his big league career. Lefties have tagged him for a .250/.321/.431 batting line (10 K, 7 BB) in 81 PA this year and .271/.339/.388 (77 K, 37 BB) in 488 PA for his career.
  • Laffey’s peripheral stats are terrible. His career overall numbers are an eyesore (4.44 K/9 and 3.42 uIBB/9), and against lefties they’re merely mediocre: 6.15 K/9 and 2.88 BB/9 with a 47% ground ball rate. That hardly screams “valuable reliever in the AL East.”
  • Uh … well he’s not really that much of a veteran, which is what the Yankees are reportedly looking for.

By no means is Laffey great, but we have to remember what we’re talking about here: a potential second lefty reliever. Not the number one guy that will get the big outs in the seventh and eighth innings, just a spare arm for some miscellaneous matchup work. I do like Laffey for that role, or perhaps I should say I like him more than the current in-house options (Valdes and … Steve Garrison?). That’s a better way to put it. That fact the team will be able to send him the minors next year without a problem is great, just because it’s an added level of flexibility and bullpens thrive on that. I wouldn’t give up anything of value to acquire Laffey, I don’t like him that much, but there’s nothing wrong with making a waiver claim and rolling the dice on a young (26), cost-controlled, and optionable southpaw for the rest of the season and next.

Yanks can’t finish sweep as late rally falls short

I bitch and moan about umpires all season long, pretty much every damn game, but I don’t ever blame a loss on them. I don’t blame this loss on the umps, but holy crap how much did they screw things up? I hate seeing umpires impact a game that much. Human element? The players are the human element. This kind of stuff is a joke.

Strike three. Sure, why not.

Almost

The Yankees went into the ninth inning down 5-3 with All-World closer Joakim Soria about to take the mound. John Flaherty was blabbing incessantly about how he’s having a poor year, completely ignoring that over the last two and a half months, Soria has a 2.22 ERA with a 27-4 K/BB in 28.1 IP. Brett Gardner set the stage by making an out oddly enough, but he did see nine total pitches in his leadoff at-bat. Derek Jeter followed up with a seven-pitch single into and out of Melky Cabrera‘s glove, then Curtis Granderson singled to right (five pitches) and Mark Teixeira walked (four pitches) to load the bases. So it’s a two-run game, the bases are loaded, and Robinson Cano is at the dish. I’m feeling pretty good right about now.

Cano battled for seven pitches, eventually flying out deep enough to left to score Jeter from third. The tying run was in scoring position, but now they were down to their final out. Soria’s second pitch to Nick Swisher way high and to the backstop for a wild pitch, moving the runners to second and third. It was a huge, huge play at the time. Swisher ended up drawing the four-pitch walk to re-load the bases, which brought Jorge Posada to the plate. Here’s the strike zone that ensued…

There’s several things going on here, so let’s do this in an organized fashion…

  1. Soria had just thrown his last five pitches out of the zone, as well as eight of his last 12 and 12 of his last 16. How in the world does he get a called strike on pitch number two?
  2. Twice? The same pitch?? And to end the game???
  3. Not for nothing, but Posada can’t take that pitch with two strikes and two outs when it’s already been called a strike once in the at-bat. Protect the plate and protect yourself from the umpire’s stupidity, yo.

I just don’t understand what happened there. The strike zone completely changed in that final at-bat from the rest of the inning. Then again, that’s nothing new in the game today, the strike zones are slightly amorphous, to paraphrase Joe Maddon. Jorge struck out, and both the rally and game were over.

The Homerun That Wasn’t

The amazing thing is that the strike zone in Posada’s ninth inning at-bat was only the second worse umpiring mistake in the game. Billy Butler whacked an 0-1 Bartolo Colon fastball to deep left-center field in the fourth, and it hit off the top of the wall and came back into the field of play. The umps ruled it homer, but Joe Girardi came out to have a word, and they went inside to review. Great, that’s what it’s there for, technology at work.

While the umps were doing their thing in the instant replay booth or whatever the hell it is, YES showed numerous replays that quite obviously showed the ball hitting the top of the padding of the wall and coming back. It was not off the recessed, higher wall, it was off the top of the shorter wall in front. It was clearly a double since it never actually left the field of play, and yet the umpires determined it was a homer after seeing the replay. Crew chief Dana DeMuth told Girardi that the ball didn’t have to clear both walls, which is 100% wrong according to Kim Jones, who said during the broadcast that she confirmed with two Royals’ sources that the ball has to in fact clear both walls. The umpire(s) straight up did not know the ground rules of the park. It wasn’t an inconclusive replay, the umps just did not know something they’re being paid to know.

Girardi admitted after the game (see the video above) that it was mistake not to play under protest, but I doubt anything would have come from it anyway (the last time MLB upheld a protest was 1986, and if anything they would have forced the Royals paint a yellow line or something). The real problem is that DeMuth refused to comment after the game, again showing that there’s zero accountability in his profession. How can you not know the ground rules? This isn’t some kind of weird play, like a ball off the catwalk in the Trop or something, it’s a simple homerun. They didn’t know the rules and don’t have to explain why. We should all be so lucky at our jobs.

Oh Look, Another Poor Start

I think the Yankees’ starters are trying to pick who loses a spot when they go back to a five-man rotation by having a “who can suck the most” contest. CC Sabathia gave up five homers to Rays, Phil Hughes pitched very well against Tampa (so he’s losing the contest), A.J. Burnett got roughed up on Tuesday, Ivan Nova got roughed up even worse on Wednesday, then Bartolo Colon have up five runs in five innings in this game. Of course one of those runs was Butler’s non-homer, but still. Colon gave up seven hits and walked two, the big blow being Alex Gordon’s three-run bomb two batters before Butler’s homer.

It hasn’t been a banner week for the rotation, but other than Burnett, we don’t have much of a reason to think it was anything more than a blip on the radar for these guys. This was the first time Bart allowed more than two runs in a start since that two-out, eight-run disaster against the Blue Jays in his first outing after the All-Star break. We’ll see what happens in five (or six) days and hope for the best.

(Photo via Ben Kabak)

Leftovers

Although the ump basically took the bat right out of Posada’s hands in the ninth, the Yankees had plenty of chances of score early on. Five of the seven men Bruce Chen faced in the first inning reached base, and the Yankees only scored one run (on a Granderson solo homer). They left men on first and second in the third inning, a man on second in the fourth, and then men on first and second in the seventh. That last one was particularly ugly. Jeter (single) and Grandy (walk) reached base to open the frame, then the sidearming Louis Coleman struck out the 3-4-5 hitters to escape the jam. Not one of them could put the ball in play. That’s how you end up leaving eleven men on base and going 1-for-10 with RISP.

Hector Noesi came out of hiding for three innings, allowing just one hit and one walk after Colon departed. All eight of his non-strikeout outs came on ground balls. Noesi threw fewer pitches in his three innings (38) than Soria did in the ninth (40), but this might be the last time we see him until September. Hector’s the obvious candidate to go down once Alex Rodriguez comes back and they get back to a 12-man pitching staff.

Jeter and Granderson combined to go 7-for-9 (with a walk), the rest of the lineup 3-for-25 (one of the three was a Russell Martin solo homer). Granderson had the homer and a booming double off the base of the wall, a ball that looked to be going out off the bat. Jeter did get picked off immediately prior to Curtis’ homer, but fallacy of the predetermined outcome and all that jazz. The Cap’n now has 15 hits in his last 27 at-bats, raising his season line to .290/.349/.380. How about that?

Was I the only one that raised an eyebrow when Bob Lorenz attributed the foul pop-up non-catch on youth and inexperience in the top of the first? Chen’s been playing professional baseball since 1994, he should know by now that the pitcher shouldn’t run into foul territory to catch a pop-up when there’s a position player able to make the play.

The Red Sox lost to the Rays, so the Yankees remained half-a-game up in the AL East. Their lead on the wildcard did shrink from 9.5 games to 8.5 games though, so … PANIC! Oh well, already over it. Go get ’em tomorrow.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

MLB.com has the box score and video, FanGraphs the “other” stats, and ESPN the updated the standings.

Up Next

It’s off to Minnesota for a four-game series with the Twins, which is music to my ears. The Yankees are 59-19 against the Twinkies in the Ron Gardenhire era (including playoffs), and frankly I’m surprised the Twins were able to win that many games. Sabathia kicks things off against fellow left Brian Duensing on Thursday evening.

A-Rod’s rehabs comes to an end in SWB loss

Apparently the Yankees signed 30th rounder John Brebbia before Monday’s midnight deadline, and have assigned him to Short Season Staten Island. There’s always one or two signings that trickle out a few days later. Josh Schmidt is headed back to Double-A Trenton, I assume to make room on the roster for the recently claimed Raul Valdes.

Triple-A Scranton (3-2 loss to Durham) they faced Matt Moore of the Rays, the best pitching prospect in baseball
Alex Rodriguez, 3B: 1 for 2, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 E (fielding) – walked the first two times, struck out looking the third time, then singled to right the fourth time (Chris Dickerson pinch-ran for him and stole a base) … defensively, he allowed a grounder to get through his legs then misplayed a backhand stop, but he did catch a pop-up … and yes, there were several other plays in the game that he did actually make … he’ll said he’ll be in Minnesota tomorrow, but he’s definitely not playing
Greg Golson, CF: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K – homered off Moore
Jordan Parraz, RF, Jorge Vazquez, 1B, Brandon Laird, LF-3B: all 0 for 4 – Laird struck out once, the other two guys twice each
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 3, 1 BB – also made a nice block on a ball in the dirt
Luis Nunez, 2B: 2 for 4, 1 K
Doug Bernier, SS: 0 for 2, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K – Lamb pinch-hit late in the game, but didn’t do anything though
Manny Banuelos, LHP: 4 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 5-1 GB/FB – 56 of 91 pitches were strikes (61.5%) … picked a runner off first … A-Rod‘s error didn’t help the pitch count (should have ended the inning, Manny ended up throwing 21 more pitches), but he did retire the last seven men he faced to finish strong
Pants Lendleton, RHP: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1-2 GB/FB – 33 of 49 pitches were strikes (67.3%)
Scott Proctor, RHP: 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2-0 GB/FB – 13 of 20 pitches were strikes (65%)
Logan Kensing, RHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 0-1 GB/FB – ten of 17 pitches were strikes (58.8%)

[Read more…]

Game 121: Bartday!

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Here’s an interesting little factoid: the Yankees haven’t swept a three-game series since sweeping the Brewers at home at the end of June. Yes,  they did sweep the White Sox in Chicago a few weeks ago, but that was a four-game set. It’s been a while since they took all three games of a regular old three-gamer. They’ve got a chance to do that tonight against Bruce Chen and the Royals, and here’s the lineup they’re sending out there…

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

Bartolo Colon, SP

The Red Sox already lost to the Rays this afternoon, so the Yankees are guaranteed to end the day in first place. It’s getting late though, time to start padding that lead and pull away from the pack. It’s another 8pm ET start, and this one can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

The Evil Empire™®©

Here’s an interesting little story from Deadspin, which tells the tale of the term “Evil Empire.” The Yankees are trying to prevent the use of the phrase to parody the franchise, especially when people are “trying to illegally cash in on and otherwise trade off the goodwill of an MLB team’s identity for his or her own commercial gain without the Club’s consent.” The phrase isn’t exactly intellectual property though, and in fact it was first used close to 30 years ago. I can understand the Yankees (and MLB) wanting to protect their properties, but the term “Evil Empire” isn’t theirs. Anyway, I thought this was an interesting one for you legal buffs out there, so check it out.