Betances throws scoreless inning, AL wins 2015 All-Star Game 6-3

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The American League continues to dominate the All-Star Game. The AL beat the NL 6-3 on Tuesday night at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park for their third straight All-Star Game win and 15th in the last 19 years (!). Mike Trout was named MVP after going 1-for-3 with a leadoff homer and a walk. He’s the first player to be named All-Star Game MVP in back-to-back years. Here are the box score, video highlights, and WPA graph.

All three Yankees elected to the Midsummer Classic did play in the game. Brett Gardner pinch-hit for Adam Jones in the fifth inning and struck out looking against Clayton Kershaw. He struck out looking against former teammate Mark Melancon later in the game. Gardner played two innings in left field before sliding over to center, and I don’t even remember him having to make a catch. It was his first trip to the All-Star Game.

Mark Teixeira replaced Albert Pujols at first base in the sixth inning, grounding out (against Francisco Rodriguez) and striking out (swinging against Aroldis Chapman) in his two at-bats. Teixeira also made several nice plays in the field — he stretched and kept his foot on the bag to catch an errant throw from Manny Machado, then came off the bag to catch a throw from Zach Britton that was heading for right field. Teixeira was playing in his third All-Star Game.

And finally, Dellin Betances came out of the bullpen and threw a scoreless seventh inning with the AL leading 5-2. Dellin got Brandon Crawford to ground out to second, walked Kris Bryant, struck out Joe Panik, then got A.J. Pollock to ground out to third. He threw eleven of his 20 pitches for strikes and was effectively wild in his first All-Star Game appearance (second selection).

The AL will now have home field advantage in the World Series, which is not insignificant for the Yankees. They currently have the best World Series odds in the AL and third best World Series odds overall according to FanGraphs, and they’re a substantially better team at home this season: 25-16 with a +38 run differential at Yankee Stadium compared 23-24 and -12 run differential on the road. So hooray home field advantage.

Minor League Update: There won’t be a minor league update tonight because there were no games. Every affiliate either had an off-day, was rained out, or had their game suspended due to rain. Here are the box scores. Third rounder Jeff Degano allowed a run in one inning of work in his pro debut with the Rookie GCL Yanks before the game was suspended.

2015 All-Star Game Open Thread

We need to talk more about Dellin's hair. (@Yankees)
We need to talk more about Dellin’s hair. (@Yankees)

Hard to believe we’re at the All-Star Game already, isn’t it? Home field advantage in the World Series is on the line tonight, and you know what? That is actually relevant to the Yankees this year. The Yankees have the highest World Series odds in the AL and the third highest World Series odds in baseball according to FanGraphs. Considering how much better the Yankees are at home, yeah, I want Games One and Two of the Fall Classic in the Bronx.

Anyway, the Yankees have three All-Stars this year, the three handsome guys in the photo above. Neither Mark Teixeira nor Brett Gardner is in the starting lineup, though Gardner told Bryan Hoch he was told to be ready for the fifth inning. Dellin Betances said AL manager Ned Yost told him to be ready to pitch “somewhere in the middle” of the game according to Erik Boland, so after not pitching in the All-Star Game last year, it sounds like Dellin and his Kid ‘n Play haircut will get in the game tonight. Here are the starting lineups:

American League

  1. CF Mike Trout, Angels
  2. 3B Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
  3. 1B Albert Pujols, Angels
  4. DH Nelson Cruz, Mariners
  5. RF Lorenzo Cain, Royals
  6. LF Adam Jones, Orioles
  7. C Salvador Perez, Royals
  8. 2B Jose Altuve, Astros
  9. SS Alcides Escobar, Royals
    LHP Dallas Keuchel, Astros

National League

  1. CF Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
  2. 3B Todd Frazier, Reds
  3. RF Bryce Harper, Nationals
  4. 1B Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
  5. C Buster Posey, Giants
  6. DH Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
  7. SS Jhonny Peralta, Cardinals
  8. LF Joc Pederson, Dodgers
  9. 2B D.J. LeMahieu, Rockies (lolwut)
    RHP Zack Greinke, Dodgers

Felix Hernandez told Ryan Divish he is scheduled to pitch after Keuchel and Yost said Chris Sale will also pitch at some point, and that’s pretty much all we know about the pitching plans beyond Betances being prepared for the middle innings. The full All-Star rosters are right here.

Now, the bad news: it’s raining in Cincinnati. Or at least it was earlier this afternoon. The sky has cleared for the time being and it looks like they’ll be able to start the game on time. There is more rain in the forecast later tonight, however. The broadcast starts at 7pm ET but first pitch isn’t scheduled until 8:15pm ET — there are the baseline introductions and all that beforehand — and you can watch on FOX. Enjoy the game.

Update: Yankees sign 11th rounder LHP Josh Rogers to above slot bonus

(Louisville)
(Louisville)

Tuesday: Rogers received a $485,000 bonus, according to Callis. Our 2015 Draft Pool Tracker shows the Yankees have $2,738,565 left over to give to Kaprielian while Callis says it’s $2,676,450. Someone’s math is screwed up somewhere. Either way, Kaprielian is slotted for $2,546,300 and Jon Heyman says the two sides are expected to have a deal done by Friday’s deadline.

Sunday: According to Jim Callis, the Yankees have signed 11th round pick Louisville LHP Josh Rogers to an overslot bonus worth early fourth round money. That puts his bonus in the $500,000 range. Any money over $100,000 given to a player taken after the tenth round counts against the draft pool.

Rogers, a draft-eligible sophomore with more leverage than the average 11th round pick, had Tommy John surgery as a high school senior and returned to the mound just eleven months later. He had a 3.36 ERA with an 82/25 K/BB in 93.2 innings for Louisville this spring and a 3.09 ERA with a 16/7 K/BB in 20.1 innings for the Bourne Braves in the Cape Cod League this summer.

The Yankees likely selected Rogers as a “summer follow,” meaning they took him with the intention of getting a longer look on the Cape before deciding whether to make an offer. That’s how they landed David Robertson back in the day. Here’s a snippet of Baseball America’s scouting report (subs. req’d):

At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Rogers has a near ideal pitcher’s build. He locates his 87-91 mph fastball, mixes in a slider that flashes average at his best and below-average at other times and a usable changeup. Rogers’ mix of three pitches and an ability to locate them makes him a potential back-end starter.

As our 2015 Draft Pool Tracker shows, a bonus in the $500,000 range leaves the team about $2.6M to sign first round pick UCLA RHP James Kaprielian. Slot money for the 16th overall pick is $2.54M or so, and in recent weeks we heard Kaprielian is expected to receive a bonus in the $3M range. Guess that’s not happening. I highly doubt the Yankees would exceed their pool and forfeit a future first rounder to sign him. The signing deadline is this Friday and I have no reason to believe Kaprielian won’t sign.

2015 Midseason Review: Bad Knees and Platoon Splits in the Outfield

The Yankees had to rebuild their infield this past offseason, but the outfield remained the same. They had three outfielders under contract — and will again this winter, the same three starters will be back in 2016! — so all they needed was a fourth outfielder for the bench. Given the sketchiness of the new-look infield, the outfield had to be the strength of the club. Brett Gardner has held up his end of the bargain. Everyone else? Let’s review.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Great … When Healthy

Gardner as been the Yankees’ best all-around player so far this season, though Ellsbury is right there with him on a rate basis in the non-power departments. He’s been better, in fact. Gardner is hitting .302 with a .377 OBP while Ellsbury has hit .318 with a .399 OBP. Brett has more power, but that’s fine, they’re both pretty awesome and they’ve done a dynamite job of setting the table in 2015. The Yankees have scored the second most runs in baseball this year thanks in large part to these two guys batting one-two in the lineup.

As good as Ellsbury has been this year — he’s hitting .318/.399/.376 (122 wRC+) with two homers, 14 steals, and by far the highest walk rate of his career (10.4%) — he has played in only 42 of the team’s 88 games due to a knee injury that sidelined him for approximately seven weeks. (His rehab was a little slower than expected too. He missed some rehab games with “general fatigue,” which unfortunately is nothing new for Ellsbury.) He just returned last week in fact, in the fifth to last game of the first half.

When he has been on the field, Ellsbury’s been great. He’s been a dynamic leadoff hitter who is getting on base and letting the other guys drive him in. That’s exactly when he’s supposed to do. Ellsbury’s been one of the very best leadoff hitters in baseball in 2015, and he’s done it while playing his typically excellent center field. No problems with his production whatsoever. The knee injury just put a big damper on his first half. It happens.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Veteran Downside

Gosh, how bad did Carlos Beltran look back in April? Really, really bad. He wasn’t hitting at all, pitchers were beating him with both hard stuff and soft stuff, and it looked like the 38-year-old with bad knees coming off offseason elbow surgery was nearing the end of the line. Beltran was a truly great player who deserves Hall of Fame consideration. That doesn’t make him invincible to aging, however.

Then something weird happened. Beltran started hitting. And he kept hitting too. He followed up his miserable .162/.216/.265 (23 wRC+) showing in April with a .298/.316/.500 (123 wRC+) performance in May and a .300/.378/.488 (142 wRC+) performance in June. It all adds up to a .260/.309/.430 (102 wRC+) batting line with seven home runs overall. This graph looks good to me:

Carlos Beltran wOBABeltran’s return to usefulness hit a bump in the road late last month, when he landed on the DL with an oblique strain. He’s expected to play in minor league rehab games this week and rejoin the Yankees either immediately after the All-Star break or soon thereafter. Seems like a minor injury, thankfully.

As the offense has ticked upward, Beltran’s right field defense has remained a huge liability. He has no range — how many catchable pop-ups have we seen drop in foul terrible already this year? argh — and let’s be honest here, Beltran doesn’t always bust it to retrieve whatever balls do fall in. The guy does have bad knees and he is 38, no one is expecting him to move around like Ellsbury or Gardner, but good gravy, the lack of mobility is alarming.

The Yankees are stuck with Beltran in right field because Alex Rodriguez is their full-time DH. A-Rod at DH has worked way too well to mess with it. So it’s not Beltran’s fault he has to play the field every day. Even with his bat coming around, Carlos is a replacement level player with far more downside than upside. His first half as a whole was not good — the offensive rebound saved it from being a total disaster — and the Yankees are just going to have to live with whatever Beltran gives them. Hope he mashes and doesn’t hurt the team in the field before the defensive replacement comes in.

The Fourth Outfielder

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees struck fourth outfielder gold this offseason. They brought in Chris Young as a low cost flier last September — the Mets released him and were on the hook for his salary, so the Yankees only had to pay Young the pro-rated portion of the league minimum — and he produced (146 wRC+), so they brought him back on a one-year deal worth $2.5M to complement their lefty heavy outfield this offseason.

The results have been stellar. Young is hitting .248/.301/.452 (106 wRC+) with 10 (!) home runs overall, and he’s done his best work against lefties, hitting .354/.411/.646 (192 wRC+) against southpaws. That is exactly what Young was brought to do. Mash lefties and play strong defense, which he has done in all three outfield spots — yeah he misplayed that ball into a triple this past weekend, but everyone screws up now and then — and often in place of Beltran late inning games.

Young is not hitting right-handed pitchers — .180/.228/.328 (50 wRC+) — and yet Joe Girardi keeps playing him against righties, especially while Beltran has been on the DL. That’s a Girardi problem, not a Young problem. I guess we could blame Young for hitting a little against righties in April and giving Girardi confidence he can hold his own against northpaws. Either way, as a defensive replacement/lefty masher, Young has been phenomenal. Legitimate A+ work. The Yankees won the bench player lottery.

* * *

Aside from Beltran, who is an older player nearing the end of his career, the Yankees have gotten excellent work out of their outfielders this season. Gardner has been incredible, Ellsbury has been very good when healthy, and Young has been as good as any fourth outfielder in the league. Gardner and Ellsbury are critical to the team’s success and Young’s role against lefties shouldn’t be overlooked — he adds much needed balance to the roster. The outfield overall as been very good, even with Beltran dragging things down a bit.

2015 Midseason Review: The Best of Brett

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Two years ago Brett Gardner was the Yankees’ second best player almost by default. They still had in-his-prime superstar Robinson Cano, but for the most part the rest of the roster was filled out by retreads and guys on their very last legs — Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner, and Vernon Wells all had regular lineup spots on Opening Day and not one of them played another MLB game after leaving the 2013 Yankees.

Last year Gardner was arguably the best player on the team, inarguably one of the two best. He and Jacoby Ellsbury had very similar stastistical seasons, with Gardner showing more power while Ellsbury hit for a higher average and stole more bases. This season, Gardner’s progression has continued, and he has been the team’s best player through the first half of the season.

Oh sure, Alex Rodriguez has better offensive numbers overall, mostly thanks to his power, but A-Rod is a DH and he’s supposed to outhit everyone else because he doesn’t play the field. Mark Teixeira is having a fine season as well, though his only advantage over Gardner is power. Gardner has a 140 wRC+ and Teixeira has a 137 wRC+ — the difference lies in Gardner far superior batting average, on-base percentage, and base-running.

But we’re not here to argue who has better numbers. They’re all on the same team, after all. Gardner has been, indisputably, one of the best outfielders in all of baseball this season. That he had to wait to be named to the All-Star Game as an injury replacement is a knock against the system, not Gardner. He should have been on the original roster, though quiet and unassuming players like Brett are rarely rewarded with All-Star Game nods. It’s a popularly contest.

Anyway, Gardner came into the All-Star break hitting .302/.377/.484 (140 wRC+) with ten homers and 15 steals on the year. Here is the full list of AL players with ten homers and 15 steals at the break: Brett Gardner. That’s it. It’s just him. Gardner is also one of only ten AL players with a .370+ OBP and a .470+ SLG. He’s shown his over-the-fence power spike last season was no fluke, but the difference between this year and last year are the non-homer hits.

As good as he was in 2014, Gardner had only 25 doubles last season. He added eight triples for good measure because, you know, he’s fast. This season Gardner has already swatted 22 doubles and three triples. He’s on pace for 41 doubles, six triples, and 18 homers after going 25/8/17 last year. He’s on pace for 15 more extra-base hits! I’m sure Gardner will slow down a bit in a second half, players do get fatigued, but last year at the break he was on pace for only 49 extra-base hits. His spray charts are pretty revealing:

Brett Gardner 2013-14 Spray Charts

Gardner is using the opposite field more often than he did a year ago. You can see it in the spray chart, last year he had more batted balls to the pull side — if you need hard numbers: 42.0% of his balls in play were pulled last year, this year it’s 35.8% — and the result was a career year in the power department. This season he’s been able to both spray balls the other way for base hits while still yanking pitches to right field when the opportunity presents itself.

Remember, when Gardner first came up, he was a pure slash-and-dash speed guy. He focused on hitting the ball to the left side of the field and running like hell. Over the past few seasons Gardner started pulling the ball with more authority and why not? Yankee Stadium rewards pulling the ball if you’re a left-handed hitter. This year he’s doing both. Pulling the ball for power and serving it the other way for base hits when the pitchers give him nothing to drive. That’s the evolution of a great hitter, and yes, Gardner is absolutely a great hitter.

In addition to his strong performance at the plate, Gardner remains a high-end defender, at least based on the eye test. The various defensive stats have been hating on him for a while now. UZR wants you to believe Brett has cost the Yankees 4.8 runs in the field this year. 4.8! lol UZR, lol. DRS is slightly better — it says Gardner has saved the team one singular run with his glove. I don’t get it. The defensive numbers for Yankees outfielders have been screwy for years. I’m not saying Gardner is the best defensive outfielder in the game, but damn yo, he’s clearly above-average. I’m not being a homer here. I’m very willing to admit when dudes play bad defense. Gardner’s isn’t.

Anyway, at the end of last season I said Gardner just had what was likely his career year. I don’t think it was that unreasonable to say. This year Gardner has been ever better though, especially at the plate because he’s gotten back to slashing the ball to the opposite while still maintaining his newfound ability to unload on a pitch that is begging to be pulled towards the short porch. That’s not an easy thing to do, and for at least the first half of 2015, Gardner has been able to do it. He has been New York’s best all-around player this year.

Thoughts following the first half of 2015

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees came into the All-Star break with a 48-40 record and a +26 run differential. They have a 3.5-game lead in the AL East and have held sole possession of first place during 43 of 88 games this season. The Yankees were in sole possession of first during 32 games combined from 2013-14. Jeepers. This season has been much more enjoyable than the last two, yes. Here are some thoughts.

1. This is what I’ve learned about the Yankees in the first half: they are flawed — second base is a black hole and the rotation is inconsistent, putting it gently — and they are also the most well-rounded team in the division. The Red Sox, Orioles, and Blue Jays all live and die by their offense while the Rays have good pitching but no offense. The Yankees have a very good offense and the best pitching among the AL East’s non-Rays teams. This division is right there for the taking and the Yankees have to be considered the favorites. Not only because they lead the division right now, but because they boast the deepest roster in the division even with those second base and rotation concerns. This is the first time since 2012 that I’ve felt the Yankees are legitimately the team to beat in the AL East.

2. I expect the Yankees to be active at the trade deadline. Know why? Because they are in first place and they haven’t been to the postseason in two years. Hal Steinbrenner & Co. are surely very motivated to get the team to October this year because they don’t want to miss out on all that postseason revenue again, among other reasons. That could mean they will be more willing to take on salary at the trade deadline or surrender top prospects to get a deal done. Like I said, the AL East is there for the taking, and the Yankees want to take it. I would be surprised if they pulled the trigger on a blockbuster like Johnny Cueto, but I definitely think we’ll see some pitching depth brought in and possibly even a second baseman, regardless of how well Rob Refsnyder plays the next few weeks.

3. Speaking of Refsnyder, John Harper says he will remain with the team after the All-Star break, which makes sense. There’s no reason to send him down now. Hell, he should have been up weeks ago. The Yankees didn’t leave themselves a whole lot of time to evaluate Refsnyder before the trade deadline. He could be the answer at second base! Or he might not be. No one really knows. The second half begins Friday and the trade deadline will be exactly two weeks away. Two weeks to determine if Refsnyder is the answer at second base in the second half or if they need to make a trade. That’s not much time! They really did stick with Stephen Drew way too long. Hopefully they run Refsnyder out there everyday out of the break. No reason not to at this point.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

4. Both Brendan Ryan and Carlos Beltran are expected back from the DL either immediately after the All-Star break or soon thereafter. With Refsnyder back, it’ll be interesting to see how they squeeze those guys on the roster. Gregorio Petit is an obvious send down candidate, though that’s just one roster spot. Garrett Jones is useful as a backup first baseman/fifth outfielder who can come off the bench and yank something into the short porch, which means either Drew or Ryan gets the axe. It has to be Ryan, right? He can’t stay healthy and he even though he’s a solid defender, he contributes nothing on offense. Drew is a fine defender himself — he can play both middle infield spots plus some third base — and at least he’ll run into a mistake pitch and hit the ball out of the park on occasion. Keeping both Ryan and Drew and cutting Jones loose doesn’t make sense. They’re redundant. One of Ryan or Drew has to go, and Ryan’s the obvious choice. Maybe this would be a tougher decision if Ryan hadn’t spent so much time on the DL the last two years.

5. Let’s close with a fun little exercise. It’s the bottom of the ninth in Game Seven of the World Series. The Yankees have a one-run lead with two outs, but the tying run is at third base. Who do you want the ball hit to? Using the regular everyday lineup, but excluding the pitcher and catcher because they’re not usually the guys who field a ball in play, I’d say:

  1. Mark Teixeira
  2. Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. Brett Gardner
  4. Chase Headley
  5. Didi Gregorius
  6. Drew (or Refsnyder)
  7. Beltran

Nos. 1, 2, and 3 are basically 1A, 1B, and 1C. I’d be comfortable with the ball being hit towards any of those three guys. After that it gets interesting. Headley has been a great defender his entire career except the first half of this season. Gregorius has been excellent in the field of late but had a knack for knuckleheaded plays earlier this season. Drew is as sure-handed as they come but his inexperience at second is evident at times. You could argue Drew should be fourth. Being a good defender and having the trust of fans are not the same thing!

DotF: Park’s hitting streak snapped in Pulaski’s loss

Triple-A Scranton is off until Thursday for the All-Star break. The International League vs. Pacific Coast League All-Star Game will be played Wednesday night. C Austin Romine and 1B Kyle Roller are the club’s All-Stars.

Double-A Trenton (7-1 win over Richmond)

  • DH Brendan Ryan: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K — still rehabbing
  • LF Jake Cave: 2-5, 1 R, 1 K, 1 SB — had been in a 1-for-14 (.071) slump
  • 2B Tony Renda: 1-4, 1 R — 8-for-15 (.533) in his last four games
  • RF Mark Payton: 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
  • LHP Caleb Smith: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 3/8 GB/FB — 49 of 75 pitches were strikes (65%)
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 27 of 39 pitches were strikes (69%) … 41/14 K/BB in 41 innings for the guy the Yankees got in the Shawn Kelley trade

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