Yankeemetrics: Disaster averted in Baltimore [Sept. 2-4]

(UPI)
(UPI)

Nightmare on Eutaw Street
It’s hard to think of a worse start to September baseball for the Yankees than the shellacking they endured on Friday night in Baltimore.

All the momentum they had piled up after an inspiring series win in Kansas City was suddenly gone after their deflating 8-0 loss to the Orioles. This was the worst shutout loss the Yankees have ever suffered at Camden Yards, which opened in 1992. The last time they had a shutout loss that bad in Baltimore was Sept. 9, 1991 at Memorial Stadium.

The Yankees fell behind quickly as the O’s hammered them early and often with all eight runs and four homers in the first four innings. This was the eighth game this year that the Yankees surrendered at least four longballs, the most such games in a season in franchise history.

Their punchless offense did little to counter the awful performance by the pitching staff, hitting just two singles in the third inning. Welp. It had been more than a decade since they played a game in Baltimore and had two hits or fewer: on August 5, 2006 Adam Loewen, Todd Williams and LaTroy Hawkins combined for a one-hitter in the Orioles 5-0 win. (Yes, that game really happened.)

Deja booooo
The Yankees’ September swoon continued on Saturday night as they were shut out for the second game in a row, 2-0, extending their recent stretch of miserable baseball in Baltimore. Following Saturday’s loss, they fell to 10-26 at Camden Yards since the start of 2013, their worst record at any American League ballpark in that span, and the worst mark by any AL team at Camden Yards over the past four seasons.

girardi sad
(Getty)

It was just a week ago that the Yankees scored an unthinkable 27 (!) runs in the first two games of their series against this same team (Orioles), and then they scored exactly zero runs in the first two games of this series. That’s baseball, folks.

The end result was their ninth game being shut out this season — four of which have come against the Orioles, who rank 12th in the AL in team ERA — and the eighth time they’ve been shut out in a game away from Yankee Stadium. Those eight road shutouts are the most they’ve suffered in a single season since 1973 when they somehow had 12 (!) of them.

For the second night in a row the Yankees’ bats were silenced as they finished with just four hits, all of them singles again. In the last 100 seasons, only once before had the Yankees been held scoreless with four hits or fewer — and no extra-base hits — in back-to-back road games versus the same opponent: the Kansas City A’s did it to them on Aug. 27-28, 1965.

Even worse is the fact that Saturday’s game marked the third straight time the Orioles had blanked the Yankees, dating back to a 5-0 loss in the final game of their matchup last week.

The 2016 Orioles are the eighth team in baseball history to post three straight shutouts against the Yankees, but just the second one to do it in the last 75 years. The rest of this group includes the 1973 White Sox, 1934 Tigers, 1929 Browns, 1913 Senators, 1909 Browns, 1908 Senators and 1906 White Sox.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Stayin’ alive
The Yankees kept their scant playoff dreams alive with a season-saving win on Sunday afternoon, avoiding the series sweep in what Joe Girardi deemed “the most important game of the year”.

After getting blanked in the first two games, the Yankees wasted little time in making sure it wouldn’t be a hat trick. They plated three runs in the first inning thanks to a couple RBI hits by Chase Headley and Austin Romine. And, mercifully, disaster was averted in Yankeeland.

We also get to trumpet our “If That Had Happened Yankeemetric of the Week” (cap-tip to Mark Simon for that name … he is also more famous for authoring an excellent Yankees book, which I guarantee you will enjoy if you are reading this post):

As noted above, the Orioles were the eighth team to post three straight shutouts against the Yankees. No team had ever allowed zero runs in four consecutive games versus the Yankees, and that statistical fact will remain intact in the record books … for now.

While the Bronx Bombers did manage to finally put runs on the scoreboard, their six hits were all singles for the third straight game. This is just the second time in the last three decades the Yankees went three games in a row without an extra-base hit; the other streak was May 13-16, 2000 against the Tigers and White Sox.

You have to go back even further to find the last time an opponent held the Yankees without an extra-base hit in three consecutive games within a series: the Orioles did it in September 1976.

The biggest outs of the game were recorded by Luis Severino, who took over for Pineda in the fifth inning with the Yankees clinging to a two-run lead, a runner on second base and no one out. He got himself into a bases-loaded jam but escaped without allowing a run, and then threw a perfect sixth inning to earn the win.

Here’s some fun with small sample sizes: In 11 1/3 innings as a bullpen arm, Severino has faced 40 batters. Just one of those guys has a hit (an infield single by Neil Walker on August 3), and nearly one-third (13) of them have struck out. He is the only pitcher in baseball this season that has faced at least 30 batters as a reliever, allowed zero earned runs and no more than one hit.

Fan Confidence Poll: September 5th, 2016

Record Last Week: 3-3 (20 RS, 28 RA)
Season Record: 70-65 (572 RS, 589 RA, 66-69 pythag. record), 3.5 GB of postseason spot
Opponents This Week: @ Royals (three games, Mon. to Thurs.), Thurs. OFF, @ Orioles (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

DotF: Tampa splits swept in a doubleheader on the final day of the regular season

Good news: OF Clint Frazier (hamstring) is “ready to go,” Triple-A Scranton manager Al Pedrique told Shane Hennigan. Frazier could play in the regular season finale tomorrow as a tune-up for the playoffs.

Triple-A Scranton (5-4 win over Syracuse, walk-off style) their regular season ends tomorrow … their first round postseason series with Lehigh Valley (Phillies) starts Wednesday (best-of-five)

  • LF Mark Payton: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB
  • DH-C Kyle Higashioka: 0-5, 1 RBI, 2 K — had the walk-off fielder’s choice … the third baseman threw to second for the inning-ending force out, but he double-clutched and Payton was safe, allowing the run to score from third
  • RF Cesar Puello: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI
  • 3B Jose Rosario: 3-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 SB, 1 E (throwing) — singled in the game-tying run in the eighth … this team keeps losing their best players to call-ups (and a trade), yet they keep winning
  • CF Jake Cave: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K — first dinger since July 8th … he’s not really a power hitter, but still, that’s a long time
  • RHP Matt Wotherspoon: 2.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 33 of 50 pitches were strikes … the Scranton native made the spot start because they’re lining up their rotation for the postseason … looks like LHP Jordan Montgomery will get the ball in Game One on Wednesday
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 27 of 45 pitches were strikes (60%)
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 2.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2/3 GB/FB — 34 of 49 pitches were strikes (69%) … finishes the season with a 3.59 ERA and an 82/23 K/BB in 72.2 innings this season … is that good enough to get a 40-man roster spot or picked in the Rule 5 Draft this winter?
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 3/0 GB/FB — 12 of 20 pitches were strikes (60%) … finishes with a 2.61 ERA and a 49/23 K/BB in 48.1 Triple-A innings

[Read more…]

Yankees avoid the sweep, salvage series with a 5-2 win over the Orioles

In what Joe Girardi called “probably the most important game of the season,” the Yankees came out and took control of Sunday’s series finale early against the Orioles. They won 5-2 to salvage the series. The Yankees went 7-5 during this 12-game stretch against the Mariners, Royals, and Orioles, three teams they’re competing against for the second wildcard spot.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Three Early Runs
The Yankees were not only shut out Friday and Saturday, they were also shut out by the Orioles last Sunday at Yankee Stadium as well. They hadn’t scored a run against the O’s in 27 innings. Twenty-seven innings! Yikes. And they very nearly blew a run-scoring opportunity in the first inning too. Brett Gardner and Rob Refsnyder started the game with walks, but Gary Sanchez and Starlin Castro followed with strikeouts against Wade Miley. Sigh.

After the last two games it was easy to assume the worst as soon as Sanchez and Castro struck out. They’ve been the team’s two hottest hitters the last four weeks or so. Miley is pretty terrible though, so not all hope was lost. Chase Headley was able to get a run home with a little jam shot bloop to shallow left, then a wild Austin Romine appeared with a well-placed ground ball through the left side of the infield …

Austin Romine

… to score two more runs. Phew. The Yankees went from being on the verge of wasting a rally to scoring their first three runs of the weekend in the span of six pitches. Headley’s two-out infield single — Chris Davis failed to make the scoop on Manny Machado’s spinning throw — in the third inning gave the Yankees a 4-0 lead. Refsnyder singled to start the frame, moved to second on Sanchez’s walk, then moved to third on Castro’s double play.

A Grind For Pineda
You could tell right away this game was going to be a tough one for Michael Pineda. The first three batters of the game made solid contact — Adam Jones and Machado sandwiched singles around Pedro Alvarez’s line out — and Pineda had to work hard to strike out Mark Trumbo and Davis to strand the runners. He then started the second inning by walking Steve Pearce after jumping ahead in the count 0-2. Blargh.

Pineda’s only 1-2-3 inning was the third. He put the leadoff man on base in every other inning. By my unofficial count, he threw 54 of his 87 pitches from the stretch, or 62%. I have no idea what the league average is, but 62% seems bad. Pineda finally allowed a run in the third after Trumbo walked and Davis singled with no outs. Pearce hit a grounder to Headley at third, and while it looked like he could have gone home, he opted for the 5-4-3 double play. Unfortunately the ball was hit a little too weakly and Pearce beat it out at first.

With a four-run lead and the Orioles very capable of hitting the ball out of the park, I’m totally cool with going for the double play there. The Yankees did everything perfectly — Headley fired the ball to second and Castro’s turn was quick — yet Pearce beat it by about half-a-step. It happens. Even if Headley cuts the runner down at the plate, Pineda’s looking at two on with one out, and that’s scary. Try to avoid the big inning. A Jones single and an Alvarez run-scoring double ended Pineda’s afternoon in the fifth inning.

The total damage: two runs on five hits (four singles, one double) and two walks in four innings plus two batters. Pineda did strike out four, including three with runners in scoring position. It was not a great start, but you know what? We’ve seen several Pineda starts like this one blow up and get out of hand. This one didn’t. He got some key strikeouts and Joe Girardi’s appropriately short leash limited the damage.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Five Innings From The Bullpen
As soon at it became clear the Yankees would use Severino in relief in September, I think we all kind of assumed he would step in as the guy who bridged the gap between the starter and the usual late-inning relievers. If that means throwing two or three innings, fine. Severino was starting in Triple-A and is stretched out, so he’s good for multiple innings. A multi-inning fireman is a really nice weapon.

Severino was brought in to put out the fire in the fifth inning, after the double by Alvarez scored a run. Girardi summoned the young right-hander to face the middle of the O’s lineup with a runner at second and the tying run at the plate. The save stat is kinda stupid. Severino was asked to get the three biggest outs of the afternoon in that fifth inning. That was a save situation. He had to protect the lead against the middle of the lineup.

It was not the prettiest inning — Severino went to a 3-2 count on Machado, Trumbo, and Davis — but the end result was minimal contact and no runs allowed. Severino struck out Machado, walked Trumbo, walked Davis to load the bases, then struck out Pearce for the second out of the inning. Yeesh. Thankfully Matt Wieters rolled over on a ground ball the end the threat. Severino’s 24th pitch was the first one the Orioles put in play.

The Yankees were nursing a 4-2 lead and they still had 12 outs to go. Severino went back out for the sixth, retired the side in order, then gave way to Tommy Layne for the left-on-left matchup against Alvarez leading off the seventh. Layne got Alvarez and Adam Warren got Machado and Trumbo. Davis led off the eighth with a single literally off Tyler Clippard; it looked like it hit him in the back or triceps. I’m not sure. Either way, he stayed in the game.

Clippard was able to fan both Pearce and Wieters before Dellin Betances came in for the stress-free four-out save. Two strikeouts, a soft grounder, and a hard-hit fly ball Jacoby Ellsbury ran down. All told, five relievers combined to hold the O’s to one hit and two walks in five innings, and the one hit was the infield single that hit Clippard. Severino, Clippard, and Betances each fanned a pair. The bullpen came up huge a few times on the this road trip and they did it again Sunday afternoon.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
The Yankees scored an insurance run in the top of the ninth thanks largely to Mark Trumbo, who is not a right fielder but plays one on TV. He misplayed a Tyler Austin fly ball into a two-base error — I think Trumbo might have lost it in the sun, though he did get some leather on it — and Austin came around to score after a bunt (Ronald Torreyes) and a sac fly (Gardner). That gave the Yankees a 5-2 lead.

Headley was the only player on the roster with multiple hits. Refsnyder, Romine, Austin, and Aaron Judge had one each. The Yankees drew a whopping seven walks as a team, though only two came around to score. Gardner and Sanchez had two each. Seven walks is not a season-high but the Yankees have only had one game with more; they drew eight against the Indians last month.

Obscure stat alert: the Yankees now have three players with eight saves for the first time in franchise history. Betances, who is 8-for-9 in save chances since taking over as closer, joins Andrew Miller (nine) and Aroldis Chapman (20) in the team’s 8+ saves club. Those three have 38 of the team’s 40 saves in 2016. Chasen Shreve and Chad Green have the other two. You knew that, I’m sure.

And finally, Severino’s two innings and 38 pitches of relief almost certainly take him out of the running for Wednesday’s start in place of the injured Green. Bryan Mitchell lines up to start that day, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees went with an old school bullpen game now that rosters have expanded. We’ll see.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to ESPN for the box score and updated standings, and MLB.com for the video highlights. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages either. The Yankees are now 3.5 games back of the second wildcard spot with 27 games to play. Here’s the win probably graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The road trip is over and the Yankees are heading home for a ten-game homestand. It’s the second-to-last homestand of the year, you know. Ten games at home, eleven on the road, six at home. That’s it. That’s all that’s left. Masahiro Tanaka and R.A. Dickey will be on the mound in Monday’s series opener against the Blue Jays. That’s a 1pm ET start. Labor Day matinee. RAB Tickets can get you in the door for that game or any of the other 15 home games left on the schedule.

Sunday Open Thread

Here’s an open thread for the rest of the day. The Mets and Nationals are the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game (Seth Lugo vs. Reynaldo Lopez), and other than that, you’re on your own for entertainment. Have at it.

Game 135: The Most Important Game of the Season

(Greg Fiume/Getty)
(Greg Fiume/Getty)

This afternoon’s series finale is the most important game of the season. Those are Joe Girardi‘s words, not mine. He called it that following last night’s loss. The Yankees have been shut out the last two days, and if you go back to last weekend’s series, they’ve been shut out three straight times by the Orioles. Yikes.

The back-to-back shutout losses dropped the Yankees to 4.5 games back of the second wildcard spot. They haven’t been that far back in almost two weeks, believe it or not. Today’s game is the difference between 6-6 and 7-5 during this 12-game stretch against wildcard competitors. Either way, it’s not good enough. Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. LF Rob Refsnyder
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. DH Austin Romine
  7. RF Aaron Judge
  8. 1B Tyler Austin
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Michael Pineda

It’s again cool and cloudy in Baltimore, though the sun is supposed to be make an appearance later on. This afternoon’s game is scheduled to begin at 1:35pm ET and you can watch on YES. Try to enjoy.

Injury Updates: Didi Gregorius (arm) is still sore after being hit by a pitch yesterday. He was originally scheduled to be in today’s lineup … Mark Teixeira (neck) is out with some soreness. His neck has been giving him problems on and off all season.

Didi’s Power Surge

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

With Carlos Beltran gone and Gary Sanchez not quite a qualifier yet, the Yankees are left with just one regular player with an wRC+ over 100. Chase Headley, though good since May, hasn’t quite recovered from his awful April. Brian McCann is just short, as are Starlin Castro and Brett Gardner. The lone above-league-average player for the “Bombers” this year has been shortstop Didi Gregorius.

Though he’s been allergic to taking walks this year–3.0 BB%; more home runs than walks–Didi has managed to be a productive player thanks to a low-strikeout total (13.7%, continuing a downward trend from his last year with the Diamondbacks) and a big time power surge. Last year, Didi hit only nine homers and knocked 24 doubles–as well as two triples–leading to an ISO of .105. This year, Didi’s socked 17 dingers and 29 doubles, both career highs, leading to an ISO of .175, a–you guessed it–career high. Let’s take a looks–results wise–at how he’s doing it. I’m not skilled enough to spot an mechanical changes, so I’ll leave that to others. Perhaps there is something there, but I’m not confident enough in my amateur scouting ability to see it.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Here is Did’s zone profile from 2015, broken down into HR/BIP (balls in play). There’s a whole lotta blue, no? Even the middle-middle location, where you’d assume any Major Leaguer would do big damage, Didi’s zone is more purple than red. Fast forward to 2016 and there’s a slightly different picture of Didi’s home run power. Unlike in 2015, he’s been able to do more damage on pitches down the middle and even take more advantage of the ones on the inside part of the strike zone. Additionally, he’s made use of the bottom of the zone as well, knocking seven out of the park on pitches at or around his knees. This doesn’t just apply to home runs.

If we take a look at his overall power from 2015 and 2016, we notice a similar pattern. Didi has exploited pitches over the middle, in, and at the bottom of the zone. Both years–in terms of homers and overall power–show that Didi isn’t going to hit for much power up in the zone or away, but it seems he’s got the rest of it covered.

2015 showed that Didi–between decent contact skills and a solid glove–could be a productive shortstop without power. This year’s power gives him an added dimension to his game that makes him even more valuable to the Yankees. Even if this level of his power is his absolute ceiling, combining it with his relatively low strikeout rates and skilled defense gives him star potential.