No roster move, Yankees sticking with 13 pitchers

Joe Girardi hinted after last night’s game that the Yankees might make a roster move today to add a position player, but that will not happen and they will stick with a 13-man pitching staff through the weekend. Furthermore, Phil Hughes will be available out of the bullpen on Sunday (his throw day), but only in an emergency. Right now he is still scheduled to start Tuesday, and A.J. Burnett on Wednesday. That would change if Phil came on in relief this weekend. Ivan Nova will also remain on schedule, so it sounds like they’re going to do the six-man rotation thing for at least one more turn through the rotation, or at least are leaning that way right now.

A-Rod takes step forward in rehab

Via the AP, Alex Rodriguez increased the intensity of his workout in Tampa today as he comes back from right knee surgery. He took a total of 60 ground balls (40 ground balls from his knees, ten from the edge of the infield, ten from normal third base depth) and then 118 swings (55 off a tee, 63 off soft-toss). Afterward, he hung around to talk to some Braves’ minor leaguers who were in town to play the Rookie Level GCL Yankees. What a jerk.

The report says the Yankees expect him back in mid-August, which is the first time we’ve seen anything resembling a date for his return. Yay.

Rolling the dice with Alex Hinshaw

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Tom Clifton via Creative Commons license)

I’m a sucker for projects, and I think most people are as well. It’s a lot of fun to buy low on a talented player and dream about him figuring things out and reaching his ceiling in your favorite team’s uniform. Every so often one of these projects will work out (Phil Humber), but most of the time they don’t (Andrew Miller). I bring this up because the Giants designated Alex Hinshaw for assignment yesterday, sacrificing him to the roster spot gods so they could activate Mark DeRosa off the disabled list.

Hinshaw, a 28-year-old lefty reliever, is a classic project pitcher. His fastball sits 91-93 from the left side and his money-maker is a nasty low-70’s curveball, a pitch that has helped him miss bats everywhere he’s been. He’s struck out 49 in 45.2 big league innings, plus another 169 in 134 Triple-A innings. The problem is the walks, Hinshaw’s always been prone to ball four. His big league walk-rate is 7.1 BB/9, but it is a small sample and there are some intentional walks to right-handed batters inflating that number (6.3 uIBB/9). A 5.6 uIBB/9 in Triple-A is a little less unsightly.

Before being cut yesterday, Hinshaw was pulling the same act for San Francisco’s Double and Triple-A affiliates. He’s thrown 37.2 IP this year, striking out 45 but walking 24 unintentionally. He had a huge reverse split (lefties hitting .310, righties just .116), but that’s a function of sample size and is not consistent with the other five years of his career. Big league lefties hit .239/.343/.330 off him, righties .253/.427/.513. It’s worth noting that he hasn’t been in the show since 2009, and 2008 was the only year he spent considerable time in the bigs.

There was talk once upon a time about Hinshaw developing into the Giants’ closer of the future, but that obviously never happened. They used his final minor league option this season (by my unofficial count), so any team that grabs him would only have another month to evaluate him in the minors plus a possible September call-up. Hinshaw’s salary is in the mid-six figures, so a straight waiver claim would be perfectly fine. Not like you’d have to wait for him to clear waivers and elect free agency to avoid some kinda huge salary obligation.

The Yankees have some dead weight on their 40-man roster, and it’s likely that none of their six 60-day DL guys will be back this year. Hinshaw’s hard-throwing left-handedness is probably worth an eight week audition (four in the minors, four with the big league team in Sept.) and a roster spot over Jeff Marquez, for example. Chances are it won’t click and it’ll be a failed experiment, but there’s some talent there and the Yankees could luck into 15 great innings next month. Every little bit helps, and the move would be of no long-terms consequence to the organization.

The RAB Radio Show: August 5, 2011

It’s been an eventful week since we last broadcast.

  • The trade deadline: not much happened, so not much is discussed.
  • The six-man rotation: they pretty much have to keep it that way for now, don’t they?
  • Ivan Nova: Working all four pitches and succeeding.
  • The Yankees offense: getting production from top to bottom, and even from the bench. They’ve beat up three of the five best pitching staffs in the AL in the past 10 days (and one of those five is their own).
  • The Red Sox: better than the Yanks by some measures, not by others.

Podcast run time 49:37

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:

  • Download the RAB Radio Show by right clicking on that link and choosing Save As.
  • Listen in your browser by left clicking the above link or using the embedded player below.
  • Subscribe in iTunes. If you want to rate us that would be great. If you leave a nice review I’ll buy you a beer at a meet-up.

Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.

RAB Live Chat

Looking Back. Looking Forward.

Every other week, Jamie O’Grady channels the 2005-version of Michael Kay by “Looking Back. Looking get you caught up on what just was, and what soon will be with the New York Yankees.

The Yankees are now virtually two-thirds of the way through the 2011 regular-season, and not surprisingly, they find themselves right in the thick of yet another pennant race. It’s really quite something when you consider all that’s transpired to date. Despite suffering only slightly fewer casualties than did the 54th Regiment under Matthew Broderick, and relying on a pitching staff mostly held together by duct tape, the Bronx Bombers still enter play Friday tied with the Red Sox at 68-42.

Looking Back: So what did you miss?

Back in March, I seem to recall reading somewhere – oh, right, it was everywhere – that the only things more certain than Boston winning the World Series in 2011 were death and taxes. Well, guess what – Kirk Douglas is still alive and the Tea Party says it’s okay to ignore those IRS notices I keep getting.

Need more proof that you just can’t predict baseball? Since Alex Rodriguez hit the DL on July 8th, New York has responded by winning 17-of-24 games, which roughly translates to a 70.833333333 winning %. With 165 runs scored over that same span, the Yankee offense has been clicking more often than that guy from The Gods Must Be Crazy. Still, it can’t be overstated how fortunate it was that everyone’s favorite centaur suffered only a minor meniscus tear; ARod’s already resumed baseball activities in St. Jetersburg.

Of course, leave it to Rodriguez to make headlines while rehabbing incognito. He’s reportedly now being investigated – at this point MLB has an entire compliance division dedicated to ARod – for taking part in some cocaine-laced, celebrity-stacked poker games. I doubt anything – suspension or otherwise – will come of this; Bud Selig is reportedly so fanatical about his strip-poker game that he’s doing P90X for a third time to tighten up those saggy glutes.

MLB’s non-waiver trade deadline came and went, and the Yankees made their traditional big splash by picking up… absolutely no one. It’s hard to blame Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman for standing pat – when the most appetizing available player is a guy named Wandy, it’s probably best to holster your sidearm. That said, it would have been nice to see the Yankees address their wholly unreliable DH slot. If only Jorge Posada hadn’t up and retired in a huff back in May. Surely if he were still on the roster, he’d be making an impact.

At this point in his career, I think it’s fair to compare Phil Hughes to a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. And that’s the problem with boxed chocolates, isn’t it? It’s either a wondrous cocoa-gasm or a lethal bout with anaphylactic shock on account of the peanuts. Maybe the problem isn’t with Hughes, per se, but rather it’s the darn antiquity of the game’s rules. If only hitters were afforded just two strikes per at-bat, is there any doubt that Hughes would win at least six Cy Young Awards?

What we learned:

7/25 – 7/27 v. SEA – The Mariners are bad. Like, really bad. And don’t take my word for it, either. 17-game losing streaks tend to speak for themselves. You know a team is broken when its odds of making the playoffs are now less than one percent. It’s a good thing the Yankees have CC Sabathia on their side. Opt-out, schmopt-out. Striking out 14 batters in one baseball game entitles him to get paid. A lot. Again. Speaking of number-one starters who will eventually don the pinstripes, paging King Felix. Hernandez, coincidentally, has now won his last five decisions against New York, sporting a microscopic 1.29 over that span. You know what they say, “if you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em.” (NYY win 2-of-3)

7/28 – 7/31 v. BAL – Buck Showalter really likes wearing windbreakers, which is rather serendipitous given the endless squalls generated by the strikeouts of Mark Reynolds and Chris Davis. AJ Burnett apparently has an allergy to July, as he managed to go winless in his five starts during the month. Orioles’ starter Zach Britton once had a bad dream that he gave up nine runs over 1/3IP. Baltimore really needs someone to replace owner Peter Angelos. Someone with vision and a will to get things done. Is anyone better qualified than Marlo Stanfield? (NYY win 3-of-4)

8/1 – 8/4 @ CHW – The artist formerly known as Adam Dunn is having an historic season. Historically bad, which is precisely why I endorse his acquisition by the Yankees this off-season. Guys like Dunn don’t just forget how to hit altogether, and I suspect that a change of scenery might do the 31-year-old wonders. Assuming Kevin Long can work his magic to restore even 75% of Dunn’s typical yearly production, New York could do worse a lot worse at DH. Please ignore the fact that Derek Jeter has had just one fewer five-hit games (2) this season than Dunn has had “golden sombreros” (3). AJ Burnett is apparently also allergic to the month of August. In fact, he’s an unthinkable 0-for-pinstripes in three Augusts in New York. Oh, Brian Bruney still needs anger management therapy. (NYY sweep 4-game series)

Looking Forward: What can’t you miss?

If the Yankees are to have any hope of winning the AL East – and securing home-field advantage in the ALDS – they’ve got to figure out a way to solve the the Red Sox. Coming into tonight’s game, New York is a mind-boggling 1-8 against Boston, which has pretty much never happened before, unless you go all the wayyyyy back to 2009, when they started out 0-8 versus their Beantown rivals.

Don’t look now, but the rumors of Derek Jeter’s demise may have been slightly exaggerated. Since coming off the disabled list on July 4th, all the Captain has done is hit .333 with an OPS well north of .800. Sure, he doesn’t field ground balls that aren’t hit within two feet of him, but he’s a steady and serviceable defender who has proven an innate ability to rise to the occasion. Plus, he gets to roleplay “Bring It On” on a nightly basis.

The Jesus Montero watch has officially commenced. The highly-touted catcher (who supposedly can’t catch) is now hitting .288/.345/.441 over 340 at-bats with AAA-Scranton/Wilkes Barre, while Posada hasn’t exactly been lighting it up over the last 30 days with zero homers and a .532 OPS. Frankly, I can’t be the only one psyched for Jesus-wordplay on the tabloid backpages once the can’t-miss phenomhe arrives.

Everybody knows that the Yankee rotation beyond Sabathia (1.15 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 10.72 K/9 over the last 30 days) is a crap-shoot, so the performance of Rafael Soriano has taken on even greater importance for the club. Soriano (he of the widely-panned, three-year, auto-renew, huge-money, Randy Levine-approved contract) will be invaluable if he can return to career-form after two months on the disabled list. To ensure Soriano’s comfort level, Joe Girardi would be well-advised to anoint the former set-up man as his “none-th inning guy.”

What we expect to learn:

8/5 – 8/7 @ BOS Look, these guys are good. In fact, they’re a lot like the Yankees from a structural perspective. Great lineup, suspect rotation, and a solid, if not particularly deep bullpen. New York will miss the newly acquired Erik Bedard, but it will remain interesting to see if he’s more stud or dud for the Red Sox. Keep an eye on Russell Martin tonight; he’s  batting .500 against Jon Lester (albeit over just two at-bats). The pitching matchups aren’t really favorable to either club, so I’m betting that the Yankees begin to turn things around. (Prediction: NYY win 2-of-3)

8/9 – 8/11 v. LAA – Does anyone even know who’s on the Angel roster anymore? Ok, that’s not entirely fair, they do have two of the best ten starters in the game in Weaver and Haren. Seriously, this team relies on the corpses of Bobby Abreu and Vernon Wells for run production, so if the Yankees don’t essentially end their season by next Wednesday, I’ll be very surprised. By the way, I’m pretty sure that Abreu and Andruw Jones shop for their smiles at the same plastic surgeon. It’s claymation, personified. (Prediction: NYY win 2-of-3)

8/12 – 8/14 v. TAM – This will be a series of “ifs.” The Yankees can sweep the series and bury Tampa’s wild-card aspirations if: 1) they keep Carl Crawford off the basepaths, 2) they can figure out how to hit Matt Garza; and 3) they have an answer for lights-out closer Rafael Soriano. Wait, forget all that, I think I read somewhere that the Rays traded all those guys for Kyle Farnsworth (2.16 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 20 saves). Speaking of Farnsy, I would have bet money that he was the guy with centaurian artwork at home. (Prediction: NYY sweep series)

8/15 – 8/17 @ KC – The Royals may be sitting at 16 games below .500, but it isn’t because of their offense. They’re actually 5th in team-BA (.267), 8th in team-OBP (.328), and 12th in both runs scored and team-OPS. Sadly, their abysmal staff, anchored by “staff-ace” Bruce Chen (yes, that Bruce Chen), ranks near the bottom of every Major League team-pitching category. Heck, even the aforementioned Adam Dunn has hit a home run against KC, which should serve the Yankees well in 2012. (Prediction: NYY sweep series)

And that’s all she wrote. I’ll see you back here in a fortnight, unless you follow me on Twitter, in which case I’ll see you every five seconds or so.

Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

(From Flickr user charliekwalker via Creative Commons.)

For the second time in three years, the Red Sox have dominated the Yankees in the first half. In 2009 it was 8-0, but this year the Yankees managed to squeak out a win in the first half, going 1-8 against their closest rivals. Last time around the Yankees closed the gap and finished 9-9 against the Sox. They have nine second half games to turn it around again, and it starts with three at Fenway Park this weekend.

What Have the Red Sox Done Lately?

The Red Sox, as anyone who pays attention to Bob Lorenz’s in-game updates knows, just split a four-game series with Cleveland. Before that they took two of three from the White Sox and Royals, leaving them 6-4 in their last ten. It’s hardly a poor mark; only nine teams are at that or better in their last 10. But the Yankees are 8-2 in that span, and have caught the Red Sox in the AL East race. That’s always interesting, because it means one team will leave the series on top. There will be no ties.

Red Sox on Offense

(From Flickr user firebrandal via Creative Commons.)

As a team the Red Sox lead the AL in basically every offensive category: BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, wOBA, etc. The Yankees are close behind, but Boston has held the edge since mid- to late-May, and has run with it. Only lately have the Yankees started to make up ground, as their recent play against the White Sox leaves them just eight runs behind the Sox for most in the majors.

There are 19 major leaguers with a wRC+ of 145 or better, and four of them are Red Sox: Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and David Ortiz. Ellsbury is the big surprise there, returning from an injury riddled 2009 to produce numbers the likes of which no one thought him capable. His 18 home runs is just two shy of his entire career combined, his OBP is at its highest level by about 20 points, and he’s still stealing bases along the way. A lot of this is BABIP fueled: his .344 mark is about 20 points higher than his career average. But if you watch him play, it makes sense. The dude is hitting everything on a line.

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The media has recently brought up the notion of Adrian Gonzalez for MVP. That works, if your definition of MVP is, best player on a contending team. That’s not to take away from the season Gonzalez has produced. He’s created more runs than any player in the league — except Jose Bautista, of course, and he’s far enough ahead that it’s tough to not consider him the MVP. In any case, Gonzalez has been a dominant force in the middle of the Sox order, dismantling pitchers and spurring scoring frenzies. No doubt you’ll hear that one of the “keys” for the Yankees is to neutralize Gonzalez. Yep. Key to the game: don’t let the other team hit. Got it.

After a somewhat slow start, Pedroia has vaulted himself to the top of almost every offensive number among second basemen. The conversion really happened after April, and in 384 PA since then he’s hit .331/.418/.526. He’s also currently on not only a five-game hit streak, but a five-game multi-hit streak. It’s been that kinda season for Pedroia, who, after fading a bit in the second baseman conversation after an injury plagued 2010, has regained his throne in his return.

The problem with the Sox offense for the Yankees, as it has been for so many years, is that it shows few weaknesses. The above guys are just a small listing of the guys who can do some damage. There’s obviously Ortiz, who has put together a monster contract year. But there’s also Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who is hitting .300/.366/.558 since June 1, Carl Crawford, who can still be a pest, Josh Reddick, a rookie on a hot streak, and of course Kevin Youkilis. As with the Yankees lineup, there is no break for the pitcher.

Red Sox on the Mound

Photo credit: Charles Riedel/AP

Friday: LHP Jon Lester. After years of failing against him, the Yankees have finally broken through against Lester this season — relatively, at least. They’ve faced him twice, scoring seven times in 12 innings while picking up 13 hits. Before that he pretty well dominated them, especially in 2010, when he held them to six runs in 25.1 innings. After a quick trip to the disabled list he’s been back to his old self, allowing just three runs in 13.1 innings. Last time out was particularly good, as he struck out eight while allowing two runs in eight innings. Then again, that was against the White Sox, and we all saw this week how they hit. But don’t let that undersell you on Lester. He’s still one of the best in the game, and he always seems to bring his best when facing the Yankees.

Saturday: RHP John Lackey. Last year began poorly for Lackey, but it got somewhat better as the year progressed. After the All-Star break he had a 3.97 ERA (3.17 FIP) in 15 starts, after having a 4.78 ERA in 18 first-half starts. This year he started off poorly, allowing 15 runs in his first two starts. Things got something better, but they’ve gone up and down since then. He’s even spent some time on the DL with elbow issues. In his last two starts, against Kansas City and Cleveland, he’s allowed nine runs in 12.1 innings, raising his season ERA to 6.23. His peripherals look pretty bad, too, as he has a 4.72 FIP, 4.21 SIERA, and 4.51 xFIP to go along with the inflated ERA.

Photo credit: Charles Krupa/AP

Sunday: RHP Josh Beckett. There was a time, as recently as last year, when the Yankees simply killed Beckett. Sure, he’d have a dominant start against them here and there, but for the most part the Yanks had as much success against him as they have any other ace-type pitcher. This year, however, he has been nothing but dominant against the Yankees, facing them three times and allowing just two runs in 21 innings, including two starts where he allowed no runs. He’s kept up that dominance, too, allowing zero or one run in a start 11 times out of 21 starts. His 2.20 ERA is behind only Jered Weaver in the AL, though his 3.23 FIP and 3.57 xFIP place him a degree lower.

Bullpen: The Red Sox bullpen ranks fifth in the AL with a 3.53 ERA, though they’re second with a 3.39 FIP. (The Yankees lead in both categories.) Jonathan Papelbon has had a quality bounce-back year, and his peripherals are much stronger than his results. Daniel Bard enjoys another dominant year in set-up, while the Sox have also gotten quality performances out of Matt Albers. The rest have stumbled, to some degree or another, but still represent one of the stronger bullpens in the league.

Recommended Red Sox Reading: Over The Monster.