Miller blows first save, Yankees drop fourth straight in 5-4 extra innings loss to Indians

So that was the worst loss of the season. The Yankees got the big hit, handed a lead to their bullpen … and still lost. The Indians walked off with a 5-4 win in 16 stupid innings Tuesday night. The Yanks have lost four straight and eight of their last 12 games. Hard to think they’ll be in first place much longer.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Six Strong
The first two innings of this game were pretty scary. Luis Severino looked very much like a 21-year-old rookie in over his head, and by that I mean missing his spots (by a lot) and falling behind in the count. Six of the first ten batters he faced reached base — Didi Gregorius helped him out by starting a spectacular 6-4-3 double play in the second — and at one point Severino threw first pitch balls to six straight batters. It wasn’t pretty. He needed 45 pitches to get his first six outs.

Then, in the fourth inning, Severino seemed to settle down and get on a nice little roll. He retired ten of the final eleven batters he faced and looked better all around. Severino did a better job locating and keeping hitters off balance — it seemed like he used his changeup much more often the second and third time through the lineup — and generated a lot of weak contact. The beginning of the game was not good at all. Severino was all over the place, but he recovered nicely, and that’s good to see from a kid making his second start.

31 Innings
The Yankees went 31 innings without scoring a run before Stephen Drew swatted one of his trademark “keep me on the roster another few weeks” solo home runs leading off the sixth inning. 31 innings! The last run the Yankees scored prior to Drew’s homer was Mark Teixeira‘s solo homer in the second inning of Friday’s game. Remember that? When they had to review it to make sure it actually went over the wall? Yeah, it had been a while. That one run felt like a minor miracle. It cut the deficit in half and brought the Yankees to within 2-1.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Tied … Then Tied
The score remained 2-1 into the eighth inning, when Carlos Beltran knotted things up with a line drive solo home run to right field. It hit the top of the wall and just scooted over, though who the hell cares at this point. The Yankees are desperate for runs and that was a run. A big one that tied the game. Beltran had the best at-bats of the night against Carlos Carrasco by a mile. No one else was close. He really battled.

To extra innings they went. (Brett Gardner walked with one out in the ninth and was thrown out stealing in his first stolen base attempt in two months. Good idea to run! Didn’t work out though.) Indians righty Bryan Shaw came out of the bullpen in the tenth and was quite wild. He walked Brian McCann with one out, fell behind Beltran 3-0 before giving up a single, then fell behind Drew 2-0 with the bases loaded. Gregorius had served a single to load things up between Beltran and Drew.

Drew, surprisingly, did not pop-up. He instead hit a ground ball to first base and the force out was made at the plate. Now the bases were loaded with two outs. Brendan Ryan was lifted for pinch-hitter Chase Headley, who promptly worked a 3-0 count. At that point Shaw had thrown only ten of his 22 pitches for strikes. Headley took the 3-0 pitch for a strike, swung through the 3-1 pitch to run the count full, then ripped a two-run single to right. It was glorious. He’s hitting .317 with runners in scoring position, you know.

Two-run lead in the bottom of the tenth means a win, right? Wrong. Andrew Miller picked a bad time for his first blown save of the season. The Indians didn’t exactly smack him around — the two-run rally started with a leadoff infield single — but two runs is two runs. Michael Brantley doubled to left to put runners at second and third with no outs, Carlos Santana plated a run with a sac fly, then Yan Gomes singled to center to knot things up. Miller has now allowed seven runs in 12.2 innings since coming back from the DL. Yuck.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Let’s Burn Out The Bullpen
You could kinda see it coming. As soon as the Indians tied things up in the tenth, it was only a matter of time until they walked off with the win, but the Yankees delayed things long enough to burn out their bullpen. Bryan Mitchell was a damn hero, striking out five in three scoreless innings while pitching out of some big jams. His reward? Likely a trip to Triple-A Scranton for a fresh arm tomorrow. Baseball can be so dumb sometimes.

The offense, of course, couldn’t be bothered to do anything in extra innings. Not even work the count. The last 14 batters they sent to the plate made outs and those 14 guys saw 34 total pitches. That’s 2.43 pitches per plate appearance. Those 14 batters hit four balls out of the infield. Embarrassing. Total breakdown in their approach. There were an awful lot of defeated swings those innings. Lots of “let’s get this over with” at-bats. Gross. What a mess.

The Indians finally won in the 16th inning on Brantley’s oh so predictable walk-off single. The Yankees haven’t been able to get him out since about 2012. Branden Pinder took the loss in his second inning of work, but, aside from Miller, no pitcher on the staff deserves blame in this one. What more do you want from them? The Yankees have allowed 15 runs in their last 43 defensive innings (3.14 runs per nine innings) and are 0-4 in those games.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
The top of the order is killing the Yankees right now. It’s brutal. Jacoby Ellsbury went 0-for-7, Gardner went 0-for-6, A-Rod went 1-for-6, and Teixeira went 0-6. That’s 1-for-25 combined with two walks and nine strikeouts for the one through four hitters. Awful. Just awful. Ellsbury hasn’t hit a ball out of the infield in his last 17 plate appearances. Just slap a No. 14 jersey on him at this point.

Gregorius, meanwhile, went 3-for-6 and is the club’s best player on the both sides of the ball right now. How crazy is that? Beltran went 2-for-4, Drew had his homer, and Headley his two-run single. Chris Young and John Ryan Murphy came off the bench — Young pinch-ran for McCann in the tenth and Murphy took over behind the plate — and went 0-for-4 combined.

The bullpen aside from Miller was splendid. Chasen Shreve, Dellin Betances, Justin Wilson, and Adam Warren all threw scoreless innings. I’m not sure why Warren only threw one inning, but then again I haven’t understood anything about his usage this year, so lol whatevs. Mitchell threw his three scoreless and Pinder threw a scoreless 15th before losing in the 16th.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score and video highlights for the game and here are the updated standings and postseason odds for the season. Also please check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. They’re cool. Here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Same two teams Tuesday night, in the middle game of this three game series. CC Sabathia will start against his former team for the eight time in his career. Hard-throwing Danny Salazar will be on the bump for the Indians.

DotF: Judge homers, Refsnyder triples in Scranton’s win

Triple-A Scranton (5-2 win over Pawtucket)

  • LF Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 1 3B, 1 K — four of his last six hits have gone for extra bases (two doubles, a triple, and a homer)
  • DH Greg Bird & C Gary Sanchez: both 1-4, 1 R — Sanchez struck out twice and picked a runner off first with a snap throw
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K — 17 homers in 99 games this year after 17 homers in 131 games last year
  • CF Slade Heathcott: 1-4, 1 K
  • 3B Jose Pirela: 0-2, 2 R, 2 BB — five walks and one strikeout in his last six games
  • 1B Austin Romine: 0-2, 1 BB — first base!
  • RHP Kyle Haynes: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 8/2 GB/FB — 57 of 97 pitches were strikes (59%)
  • LHP James Pazos: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1/2 GB/FB — eleven of 19 pitches were strikes (58%)
  • RHP Nick Goody: 0.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 0 K — only six of 16 pitches were strikes (38%) … bad night, it happens
  • RHP Andrew Bailey: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 19 of 28 pitches were strikes (68%) … gotta think we’ll see him in September once rosters expand

[Read more…]

Game 111: Score Runs This Isn’t Funny Anymore

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Okay, that series over the weekend was a nightmare. No positives to be taken from it. The offense was miserable, they had the off-day yesterday to clear their heads, and now it’s time to get back to scoring a boatload of runs. I mean, I’ll be happy with like four tonight, that could be enough to win, but I really want to see a crooked number. Big inning, everyone involved, the works. No runs is no fun.

Oh, and tonight is Luis Severino‘s second career start. Stupid offense kinda stole the spotlight away. Severino was good in his first start — he looked ridiculous at times and also looked like a 21-year-old rookie at times, that’s usually how it goes — but hopefully the first start jitters are out of the way so he can go out and shove against a depleted Indians lineup. They’ve traded some veteran bats in the last two weeks or so. Here is Cleveland’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. 3B Brendan Ryan
    RHP Luis Severino

It has been raining in New York most of the day but not in Cleveland. It’s just cloudy and humid there. No wet stuff in the forecast. Tonight’s game will begin at 7pm ET — the Yankees have no more games outside the Eastern Time Zone, you know — and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: Michael Pineda (forearm) threw 25 pitches off a mound yesterday and had no problems. He’ll throw a full bullpen session Thursday … Chase Headley acknowledged his legs are a little banged up from foul balls and stuff. He is available tonight but they want to give him two days off.

Reports: Yankees scouted Chase Utley on Monday

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

According to Jim Salisbury, the Yankees had a scout on hand to watch Chase Utley last night. He went 1-for-3 with a single, a strikeout, and a sac fly against the Diamondbacks. Jon Morosi reports the Phillies placed Utley on revocable trade waivers Sunday, which means his waiver period expires today. Once he clears, he can be traded to any team … kinda.

Utley, 36, is hitting a weak .190/.262/.294 (49 wRC+) with four homers, a 12.9% strikeout rate, and an 8.0% walk rate in 69 games this year. Stephen Drew, for comparison, is hitting .192/.261/.378 (74 wRC+) with 13 home runs, a 16.3% strikeout rate, and an 8.3% walk rate. Utley missed six weeks with an ankle injury and has gone 5-for-13 (.385) in four games since coming off the DL.

At this point, Utley is only appealing because he is not Drew, and that’s not really a good reason to go out and get him. I haven’t seen much of Utley this season but I’m guessing Drew is the better defender at second base. Utley had that ankle problem this year and he’s had a ton of knee injuries in recent years. Between that and his age, his mobility can’t be what it once was, right?

The Giants (Joe Panik is injured) and Cubs (Starlin Castro has been benched and Addison Russell is now playing short) also scouted Utley on Monday, says Salisbury. The Dodgers also figure to have some interest now that both Howie Kendrick and Justin Turner are on the DL. Utley has five-and-ten rights, so he can pick his destination, which includes possibly staying with the Phillies. That’s the kinda part I mentioned earlier.

Utley will be a free agent after the season and he’s incredibly popular in Philadelphia, so the Phillies would probably have to get something decent in return to move him. It’s not worth dumping him just to shed salary. Think back to the Ichiro Suzuki trade — he was clearly in decline, but he had marquee value, so the Mariners were able to get two pieces for him. Not great pieces, mind you, but more than what the Angels got for Vernon Wells, for example.

I’m not sure there’s much of a reason to pursue Utley assuming he clears waivers, which might not happen. I could see the Giants putting in a claim to keep him from going home to the rival Dodgers, if nothing else. (And if the Phillies dump Utley on the Giants, so be it. They need a second baseman and have had success with guys like him.) Drew’s very bad and I’m in full blown “anybody but Drew” mode at this point, but, looking at this rationally, it’s hard to see Utley as an upgrade.

Update: Ken Rosenthal says Utley did indeed clear waivers. So he can be traded to any team now, pending his approval.

End of offensive slump has to start at the top of the lineup

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

By know you know the numbers. The Yankees were held to one run during their three-game series against the Blue Jays — that run was scored on a cheap Yankee Stadium homer too — leading to back-to-back shutouts on Saturday and Sunday. They were held to three singles in each of those two games. It was ugly. The offense scored 90 runs in ten games and then four runs in their next five games. Baseball, man.

The slump won’t last forever, we all know that, but the Yankees need it to end sooner rather than later to hold off the Blue Jays. The entire team stunk at the plate over the weekend, you can’t really point your finger at one or two culprits, but it’s clear who the Yankees need to get going the most: Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner. We saw it earlier this year. Those two are game-changers atop the lineup.

The numbers are not pretty. Ellsbury went 0-for-12 with a walk in the series against the Blue Jays while Gardner went 2-for-8 (.250) with a walk. (Gardner sat in favor of Chris Young against David Price.) You’re usually not going to score many runs when the top two hitters in your lineup combine to reach base four times in a three-game series. The numbers since the All-Star break aren’t much better.

Ellsbury: .170/.216/.330 (43 wRC+) with 22.2 K% and 5.1 BB% in 99 plate appearances
Gardner: .206/.329/.265 (74 wRC+) with 20.2 K% and 13.1 BB% in 84 plate appearances

That’s a combined 183 plate appearances of gross from the two table-setters in the second half. Ellsbury and Gardner haven’t even attempted a stolen base since the break — that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is notable — and even with Gardner’s nice walk rate, No. 3 hitter Alex Rodriguez has batted with a runner on base in just 34 of his 92 plate appearances in the second half, or 37%. It was 167 of 348 in the first half (48%). The AL average this year is 42%.

Gardner has a history of performing better in the first half — he’s a career .283/.360/.421 (116 wRC+) hitter before the All-Star break and .242/.332/.359 (91 wRC+) after — though his second half performance this year is more of slump than a “this guy really sucks in the second half” thing. The chances of him hitting .206 with a .265 SLG the rest of the way are pretty damn small. Yes, he is a better hitter in the first half, and no, his performance these last few weeks is not his true talent level.

Ellsbury’s second half performance is a little more concerning just because he’s hasn’t really hit since coming back from his knee injury. It’s more of a “he hasn’t hit since coming off the DL” thing as opposed to a “he hasn’t hit in the second half” thing. The All-Star break is a convenient reference point but it is pretty arbitrary. Coming back from an injury isn’t really arbitrary. We’re talk about a player being physically compromised. Gardner’s been bad since the All-Star break. Ellsbury’s been bad since coming off the DL. There’s a difference.

It’s impossible to know whether the knee injury is having an impact on Ellsbury right now. It could just be a slump! Who knows? Ellsbury is not necessarily injury prone, but he does have a history of getting hurt and staying hurt longer than expected. Perhaps the knee injury is lingering and hurting him at the plate. It might even be a mental thing. The knee is healthy but he’s changed his hitting mechanics to protect it. Something like that. It happens all the time, often subconsciously.

If the knee is behind Ellsbury’s slump, well that could be either good or bad depending on how you want to look at it. It would be good in the sense that he has not lost any skills and will eventually get over the injury. We know what to point to. It would be bad in the sense that, uh, when will get over it? Injuries have a way of explaining things and making them more scary at the same time, especially a leg injury for a speed guy.

Regardless of whether Ellsbury’s knee is causing his current slump, he and Gardner have not produced in the second half, and that’s something that needs to change for the offense to get back on track. The Yankees dominated offensively for a few weeks earlier this season because those two guys were on base every other inning, it seemed. The sooner they get back on track — even just one of them getting on track would help — the sooner the offense gets back to normal.

8/11 to 8/13 Series Preview: Cleveland Indians

Official photo of Yankees-Indians series previews. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Official photo of Yankees-Indians series previews. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

The Indians are the only AL team the Yankees have yet to play this season, and that’ll change today, with the first of three games in Cleveland. This is the start of a six-game road trip for the Yankees and the first of 16 games in 16 days.

What Have The Indians Done Lately?

The Tribe took two of three from the fading Twins at home over the weekend and they’ve won three of their last five games overall. I picked the Indians to go to the World Series! So, naturally, they are in the AL Central cellar and way out of the wildcard race at 51-59 with a -21 run differential. Not this year, Cleveland.

Offense & Defense

The Indians have failed to meet expectations in many ways this season, including offensively. They’re a slightly below-average club that is scoring 4.02 runs per game with a team 99 wRC+. Cleveland is missing 2B Jason Kipnis (146 wRC+), who is having an incredible season, but had to be placed on the DL last week with a shoulder issue. He’s out this series. The Yankees catch a bit of a break there.

Brantley. (Jason Miller/Getty)
Brantley. (Jason Miller/Getty)

Manager Terry Francona’s lineup is led by OF Michael Brantley (137 wRC+), who was a legitimate MVP candidate last year and has been merely excellent this season. 1B Carlos Santana (109 wRC+) is the team’s only other reliably above-average everyday hitter. UTIL Ryan Raburn (137 wRC+) has performed well in a platoon role and C Roberto Perez (111 wRC+) is a productive backup catcher, but that’s really it. No one else still on the team has been above-average at the plate in 2015.

Top prospect SS Francisco Lindor (88 wRC+ in limited time) and 3B Giovanny Urshela (79 wRC+) were called up a few weeks ago and form the new-look left side of the infield. IF Jose Ramirez (61 wRC+) is filling for Kipnis at second and Brantley is currently joined by former Yankees farmhand OF Abe Almonte (106 wRC+ in very limited time) and UTIL Jerry Sands (102 wRC+) in the outfield. They traded Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, and Brandon Moss within the last two weeks or so. C Yan Gomes (72 wRC+), 3B Lonnie Chisenhall (70 wRC+) and IF Chris Johnson (75 wRC+) are also on the roster.

Aside from Lindor and Urshela, who are top notch glove men, the Indians have a brutal team defense. Well, it has gotten better with Almonte playing center and Ramirez filling in at second, but otherwise this one of the worst defensive clubs in baseball. Santana, Sands, Brantley … all below-average in the field. Hit it anywhere but the left side of the infield.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday (7pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (No vs. CLE) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (vs. NYY)
The 28-year-old Carrasco was reportedly on the market before the trade deadline and there was a ton of interest, but the Tribe decided to keep him. Carrasco has a 3.76 ERA (2.82 FIP) in 22 starts and 136.1 innings this season with excellent strikeout (27.1%), walk (5.2%), grounder (51.7%), and homer (0.79 HR/9) rates. He’s also owed just $19M from 2016-18 with affordable club options for 2019 and 2020. So yeah, easy to see why teams wanted him and why the Indians kept him. Carrasco has a weird reverse split (.302 vs. .271 wOBA in favor righties) and did last year as well. He’s a five-pitch pitcher though it’s really more like a four and a half pitch pitcher. He sits in the mid-90s with both his two and four-seam fastball and in the upper-80s with both his changeup and slider. Carrasco also throws a low-80s curveball on occasion, which is his fifth pitch. If it wasn’t clear, this dude is a power pitcher. Don’t be fooled by the ERA. Blame the defense for that. Carrasco is very good.

Wednesday (7pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Danny Salazar (vs. NYY)
The Indians have nothing but power pitchers in their rotation and Salazar might throw the hardest out of all of ’em. The 25-year-old has a 3.38 ERA (3.46 FIP) in 20 starts and 125.1 innings this season, and both his strikeout (28.1%) and walk (6.9%) rates are dynamite. His grounder (45.0%) and homer (1.15 HR/9) numbers aren’t too eye-popping though. Salazar has a tiny platoon split (.286 vs. 281 wOBA in favor of lefties) which isn’t too surprising because he’s a fastball/changeup pitcher. His four-seamer sits mid-90s and will touch 98-99, and his changeup is a mid-80s offering. Huge difference in velocity. Salazar also throws a mid-80s slider but not often, less than 10% of the time this season.

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Thursday (7pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (vs. NYY)
Bauer, 24, is a classic enigma pitcher with tremendous stuff but infuriating inconsistency. He has a 4.06 ERA (4.38 FIP) in 22 starts and 137.1 innings on the year, but aside from his strikeout rate, his peripherals aren’t all that good: 23.8 K%, 9.6 BB%, 39.0 GB%, and 1.38 HR/9. Righties (.308 wOBA) have been insignificantly more successful against him than lefties (.306 wOBA). Bauer is a power kitchen sink guy, if that makes sense. He throws hard and will throw just about anything. Low-to-mid-90s two and four-seamers, upper-80s cutters, mid-80s changeups, low-80s sliders, and upper-70s curveballs. He favors the four-seamer over the two-seamer but has thrown all six pitches at least 9% of the time in 2015.

Bullpen Status
Like the Yankees, the Indians had an off-day yesterday, so their bullpen is as fresh as it’s going to get. Closer RHP Cody Allen (4.06 ERA/2.04 FIP) recovered from a brutal start to the season, and these days his primary setup man is former Yankees farmhand RHP Zach McAllister (2.89/2.50), who has found a home in the bullpen. I thought that might happen.

LHP Kyle Crockett (2.57/4.53) is Francona’s lone lefty reliever. RHP Bryan Shaw (1.99/3.91), RHP Austin Adams (3.22/3.50), RHP Shawn Armstrong (one inning this year), RHP Jeff Manship (1.56/3.16), and RHP Ryan Webb (2.70/4.03) are the other righty relievers. They’re carrying eight relievers right now because they only have a four-man rotation — Cody Anderson landed on the DL not too long ago and they’ve been able to skip that rotation spot thanks to off-days. Our Bullpen Workload page can keep you updated on the Yanks’ bullpen. Check out Let’s Go Tribe and The DiaTribe for the latest on the Indians.

Thoughts following Monday’s off-day

"Remember to download Portalball, everyone!" That's P-O-R..." (Presswire)
“Remember to download Portalball, everyone!” That’s P-O-R…” (Presswire)

The Yankees spent yesterday’s off-day in Cleveland, which seems like an appropriate punishment after getting swept at home by the Blue Jays. The AL East lead has been trimmed from six games to 1.5 games in 12 days, though the Yankees are still three games up on Toronto in the loss column. That sounds a little better. Anyway, I have some thoughts.

1. As ugly as that series was against the Blue Jays, it is worth remembering the pitching staff held Toronto’s high-powered offense to ten runs in three games. I would have signed up for that in a heartbeat heading into the series. One game was decided by one run, another by two runs. That’s nothing. The offense just went into a miserable slump at a bad time and the pitching staff received no support. The offensive slump won’t last forever, in fact I bet it’ll end very soon, and when it does we’ll all feel better about things. The Blue Jays deserve all the credit in the world for the sweep. But let’s not act like the three games were an accurate representation of the 2015 Yankees either. The pitching staff did a fine job against that offense and when the Yankees start hitting again, things won’t look so lopsided.

2. The lack of trade deadline activity is already starting to come back to bite the Yankees. They were looking to add a right-handed reliever, didn’t, and there was Branden Pinder in the tenth inning Friday night. They kept an eye out for a second baseman, didn’t get one, and Stephen Drew has predictably been invisible since the deadline. Starting pitcher? They wanted one of those too but didn’t land one. Now they’re breaking in Luis Severino in the middle of a postseason race, which might turn out fine, except calling up Severino was something they could have done anyway, even if they had made a trade. (Unless they traded him for David Price, of course.) The Dustin Ackley trade is insignificant, it’s unlikely he would have had any impact had he not gotten hurt, so the roster right now is basically the same roster that got them through the first half of the season.

3. The current second base situation — again, literally Drew and Brendan Ryan — says a lot about what the Yankees think of Rob Refsnyder, doesn’t it? They can say whatever they want about liking him long-term, but actions speak louder than words. The second base situation has become so untenable that if they believed Refsnyder could help, he’d be up here. (Longer than four games, I mean.) They’ve been very aggressive with their prospects this year, whether it was the outfielders or the relievers or Severino, yet there is Refsnyder stuck in Triple-A. They must really not believe his defense is ready or simply do not expect him to hit much. The Yankees are pretty good at evaluating their own prospects — yes, they do miss on some, that’s inevitable, but when’s the last time they traded away a young player they truly regret? — so calling them stupid would be sorta silly. Refsnyder’s prospect stock was always more stats than scouting report, and the stats this year haven’t been knocked your socks off (131 wRC+). That’s not enough for a bat first guy in Triple-A. I wish they’d call Refsnyder up just because I’m sick of watching Drew pop up three times a game, but I’m guessing there’s also a pretty good reason Refsnyder has not gotten an extended trial.

4. Based on this weekend, Pinder seems to be getting an opportunity to work his way into the Circle of Trustâ„¢. He’s been up and down a whole bunch of times this year — I count five different call-ups — and Joe Girardi used him against the top of that Blue Jays lineup not once, but twice. Either the scouting reports have been wrong (possible!) or Pinder has been throwing harder than ever before, averaging 97.2 mph and topping out at 98.4 mph with his fastball in his last three outings. That’s some serious gas. His slider is pretty sharp too:

Branden Pinder slider4

That’s a nice looking slidepiece, though of course they don’t all look like that, just some. Adam Warren is stuck in low-leverage mop-up man purgatory, partly because he can throw three innings at time, and it seems like Pinder is at the front of the line among the relievers going up and down all season. Giving a young reliever high-leverage work for the first time can be a little scary — it did come back to bite the Yankees on Friday, after all — but everyone has to start somewhere, and I get the sense Pinder is being given an chance to show he deserves to stick and not ride the Triple-A shuttle.

5. All things considered, this has been a pretty great development year for the Yankees, don’t you think? Nathan Eovaldi and Didi Gregorius in particular have made tremendous strides since the start of the season, especially Eovaldi with his sporkball. I mentioned last week that pitching coach Larry Rothschild had Eovaldi start with a forkball grip to get used to it before shortening up to a splitter grip, and I was able to dig up some better photos of the grips. The photo on the left is from April and the photo on the right is from Eovaldi’s start Friday against the Blue Jays:

Nathan Eovaldi grips

Eovaldi’s fingers were split far apart with his fingertips on the white of the baseball back in April. Now his fingers are on the seams. Also note the location of the “horseshoe” of the seams. In April it was between his fingers, right at the knuckles. Now it’s outside his fingers and closer to his thumb. Maybe I’m the only one who finds this interesting. As for Gregorius, his defense is much improved — does he not play a beautiful shortstop when he’s not making boneheaded decisions? his defensive tools are ridiculous — and so is his offense because he stopping pulling almost everything in mid-May (via Texas Leaguers):

Didi Gregorius spray chart

Eovaldi and Gregorius are the most notable examples of development at the MLB level this year, but in the minors we’ve also seen Ben Gamel turn into a legitimate prospect, and Gary Sanchez take his game to the next level offensively, and Jorge Mateo handle an aggressive promotion to Low-A Charleston, so on and so forth. It’s not all good — Tyler Austin went backwards, for example — but most of it has been positive. I’ve always felt the Yankees were really good at identifying and acquiring talent. Their knack for finding useful pitchers in the double digit rounds of the draft year after year is not dumb luck at this point, for example. The problem has been developing that talent, and so far this year a lot of development has been positive, including Eovaldi and Didi at the big league level.