Game 44: But can they hit?

So last night didn’t go according to plan, but at least the Yankees (Freddy Garcia, specifically) pitched well. In fact, New York pitchers have held the opponents to two runs or less over the last four games, and over the last eight games they’ve keep the other team to an average of 3.5 runs per game. That’s plenty good enough to win, the offense just has to do their part. Let’s hope a right-heavy lineup against the southpaw Chris Capuano does the trick…

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

A.J. Burnett, SP

Hate these Saturday night games, especially since this one is on FOX. Sigh. Try to enjoy.

Roster Move: Lance Pendleton has been recalled from Triple-A Scranton and Amaury Sanit was sent back down. Is carrying two long relievers really necessary? Another one inning, strikeout guy for the sixth and seventh innings would be cool.

Reminder: Ben’s going to be at the Delta Dugout tomorrow, click the link for all the details.

Should of kept

The most important part of being a fan is to constantly second-guess the decisions your team makes. If you don’t belittle your team’s management for every mistake they make, they’re going to think you didn’t notice. And if they think you didn’t notice, then they’re going to pull a Robbie Cano (get lazy) and just assume that you have their back in good times and bad. But that’s not what being a fan’s all about, and that’s why it is so important to let your team know that you’re willing to switch allegiance to another team at the drop of the hat. The Phillies didn’t cheap out on Cliff Lee, maybe I should root for them. The Royals have a lot of prospects, maybe it’s time to get on that bandwagon! And so on. Phillies fan FanSince09’s guide to being a Real Fan at Citizen’s Bank Park has all you need to know on this. The lessons are timeless and teamless, you guys.

In order to assist us all in our quest to become better fans, I’ve assembled a list of all the players the Yankees should of kept over the past decade, and a few they shouldn’t of kept! The links in the player names aren’t just Baseball Reference player pages, they’ll take you to box scores that document how foolhardy the Yankees have been, like evidence on CSI. Be sure to print this list out and take it with you to Yankee Stadium so you can remember all the reasons why you’re booing the team as they squander another game and slide towards last place. In fact, go ahead and make copies to hand out to your fellow box or luxury suite-mates, for a conversation starter over wine coolers and ceviche (5th inning snack). We’ll kick this party off right after the jump. Hope you have some Pepto handy…

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(Temporarily) Replacing Eric Chavez

Prior to last night’s loss to the Mets we heard that Eric Chavez is slowly but surely making his way back from a deep bone bruise in his foot and has not walked with a limp in days. He’s still a few weeks away from returning though, and the Yankees have been short a viable pinch-hitting option and true backup first/third baseman since he hurt himself legging out a triple in Detroit. Two players were dropped by their teams within the last 24 hours, so let’s see if either is capable of filling that bench role for the Yankees while Chavez is on the mend…

That poor baseball.

Russell Branyan (released by Arizona)

We’ve watched Branyan hit some absolute moonshots at Yankee Stadium over the last few seasons, like this one off Javy Vazquez or this one off A.J. Burnett or this one off Chad Gaudin or this one off Al Aceves. He’s managed to hit seven homeruns in just 12 games (11 starts) at the newest version of Yankee Stadium, including six (!!!) last year alone. The D’Backs cut him because he had a .285 wOBA as the third wheel in a first base platoon that included former Yankees Juan Miranda and Xavier Nady.

Cartilage damage and miscellaneous stiffness in his back has limited Branyan to just 256 games (out of 368) since 2009, but more importantly they’ve relegated him to first base and DH. He hasn’t played third base since 2008 (276 defensive innings) or a corner outfield spot with any regularity since 2007 (79.1 innings), so his value is limited. Despite the poor showing in the desert, Branyan’s underlying skills are still the same. He’s never had a sub-.220 ISO or walked in fewer than 10% of his plate appearances in any season in which he came to plate 100 times or more. It’s the standard three-true outcomes package, 50.6% of his career plate appearances have ended with a homer, a strikeout, or a walk.

At least that one was against the Red Sox. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

Dan Johnson (designated for assignment by Tampa Bay)

Johnson is another guy that has killed the Yankees over the last year or so, memorably hitting these two go-ahead homers homers (in the same game) last September. He started the year as Carlos Pena’s primary replacement at first but was so bad (.165 wOBA) that he eventually lost the job to Casey Kotchman (!!!) and did little more than pinch-hit or spot start before getting the axe yesterday.

There’s no way to spin that horrible performance into something positive, yeah his BABIP was low (.133) but that doesn’t explain why he all of a sudden decided to start swinging at 26.4% of the pitches he saw out of the zone (16.3% career). Johnson’s track record consists of patience (12.9% walk rate) and power (.169 ISO in the bigs but .253 in nearly 2,000 Triple-A plate appearances), and unlike Branyan he can actually play third. He’s played 45 games at the position since the start of 2010 (majors and minors) and although he’s not a great defender there, he can at least stand there and fake it every once in a while.

* * *

Neither Branyan or Johnson is a perfect fill-in for Chavez, but then again Chavez isn’t exactly perfect either given his propensity to get hurt. Too bad we can’t combine Branyan’s offense with Johnson’s health and versatility, that would be the best solution. Branyan would only cost the league minimum, though Johnson said he’d like to stay with the Rays’ organization if he clears waivers, so he’s unlikely to elect free agency. The Yankees would have to claim him off waivers, which would mean assuming his $1M salary for the rest of the season. That money is no big deal, but it’s worth keeping in mind.

Ultimately, either guy would just be stepping in until Chavez returns, but we have to remember who we’re dealing with. It sounds like Chavez will be back sometime next month, but he could easily be out longer than that given his injury history. Having a semi-capable replacement like Branyan or Johnson could end up being more important than we realize.

What would you do with the last bench spot until Eric Chavez comes back?
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Does David Robertson Create His Own Leverage?

“I like to walk a couple guys, make it interesting.” - Robertson

For those of you who know me (or at least follow me on Twitter), you may know that I am extremely, extremely fond of David Robertson. Is it the socks? Yes. Is it that 14.26 k/9? Yes. Is it the curveball? Yes. Is that way he likes to get slotted into jams and work himself out of them? Yes. But really, it’s all of that and more combined. What’s even better is how good he’s been for the Yankees. It’s really, really easy to like a guy when he comes out into a second-and-third-no-outs jam in the seventh and leaves without giving up a single run.

Here at River Ave Blues, that last reason is why we like him as a blog. Robertson’s proven to be an extremely effective fireman for the team, reaching out to pull any other pitcher’s ass out of the fire on any given day. He’s especially excelled in that role this year, so far posting career highs in every category: GB%, K/9, LOB% are the nicest ones to look at, all with a BABIP even a bit higher than his usual. This all means one thing: either Robertson is going to have a career year, or there’s a really dark cloud waiting to envelope him somewhere later on in the season. I’m going with the former and there’s nothing anyone can say or do to convince me otherwise.

Robertson’s one failing is his abysmally high walk rate, which currently stands at 7.64, sky-high over his career notch of 5.06 and last year’s total of 4.84. That walk rate is what’s keeping him from turning that stellar K/9 into an equally impressive K/BB ratio. Robertson’s holding onto an impressive 2.87 FIP even with all those walks, and if he could just knock some of them off….

Anyway, the point is that what do you get when you are put into that second-and-third-no-outs jam and then you walk a guy? Additional leverage. And what does Robertson have a lot of this year? High-leverage situations. I wonder how much he makes his own fireman situations just as much as he covers up for everyone else’s. Now, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t do this intentionally (though it would be funny, awesome and terrible if it was on purpose), but does David Robertson inflate his average leverage index (aLI)? If he does, it’s his own walks that are causing him to be such a capable fireman, and if so, it’s not really something we should be loving him for.

Robertson’s aLI for this year is 1.55, which means he’s coming in more and more in those high leverage situations (1.5 is defined as “high”), second only to Mo (and Noesi, but I’m excluding him based on small sample size). The leverage of at-bats when he comes in is about 0.97 when he comes and 1.46 when he comes out, which is more of a result of him coming out in late innings than anything else. What we’re looking at is what happens in between.

At this point in the season, the fireman’s had five appearances with aLI of 2.5 or higher, which is pretty freakin’ high. His highest aLI this year so far was the bases-juiced jam he got AJ Burnett out of on April 19th in Toronto, with an aLI of 4.60. No walks there; that’s pure David Robertson magic. His next-highest aLI was 3.69 against the Royals on the 10th of May. Robertson relieved Freddy Garcia in the seventh with no outs and men on first and second. He got Aviles to fly out before letting Frenchy steal third. Current LI: 2.9. However, he loaded up the bases by walking Matt Treanor, bumping the leverage up to 4.4, code-red high-lev. He struck out the next two batters, making himself look awfully good and using the walk to inflate his own aLI. Another prime example would happen in the very next game, where he started the eighth inning with the Yankees up 2-1 over the Royals. The LI of a clean 8th up by one is 2.2, pretty absurdly high to begin with, and Robertson walked a guy, struck a guy out, walked another guy and struck another guy out, pushing the LI of the situation up to an abysmal 4.0. Rather than follow the pattern, Robertson gave up the game-tying hit before getting out of the inning. Wouldn’t it have been nicer if Robertson could have secured the win, kept the strikeouts, and gotten out clean? Keeping the walks off the bases would have kept the leverage of the situation to a relatively tiny 2.1 and would have stranded the tying run at first. Fallacy of the predetermined outcome, I know, but still.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Robertson should cut down on the walks, but the fact that he’s continued to be so successful regardless of all the free passes he gives out (nearly a walk per inning) really speaks to how good his stuff is. Obviously, the most important part of Robertson’s job is to go in there, make outs quickly, keep runs from scoring, and throw as few pitches as possible. That being said, the fewer free passes the man gives out, the smaller his aLI is. I’d rather be complimenting him on clean innings and his high leverage ability, after all, and it’s not like an 8 BB/9 only comes around and hurts you when there’s a base open. No matter what his aLI is, a high BB/9 will continue to get him in trouble regardless of how houdini-esque he can be.

Feliciano using PRP treatment on injured shoulder

Via Marc Carig, lefty reliever Pedro Feliciano has been undergoing platelet-rich plasma therapy for the torn capsule in his throwing shoulder. Feliciano has already undergone three treatments since being advised to rehab the injury rather than have surgery. “Everything’s good,” said the lefty. “It’s just getting strong again.”

Unlike Bartolo Colon, PRP was not used in conjunction with stem cell treatment for Feliciano’s injury. He’s been doing strengthening exercises with weights and plans to begin throwing early next month.

Yanks leave bats in Baltimore, fall to Mets

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

It’s late and we’re all getting raptured on Saturday anyway, so let’s recap this quickly…

  • The Yankees had runners on base in each of the first six innings but scored their lone run on a Mark Teixeira solo homer. They were 1-for-10 with men in scoring position as a team, and the one hit was (yet another) Derek Jeter infield single that didn’t even move Brett Gardner from second to third. The lineup went to sleep late in the game again, as just one of the final 16 Yankees reached base and the Mets bullpen went nine up, nine down. That’s the exact opposite of what’s supposed to happen.
  • Freddy Garcia was pretty good, and I didn’t even think the pitch that Daniel Murphy hit out for the go-ahead run was all that bad. Splitter down in the zone, he just golfed it out. Otherwise he put seven men on base and allowed two runs in seven innings, a perfectly fine job and the kind of outing we’d take from Sweaty Freddy all season long. Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson did their job in the eight and ninth innings, respectively. The pitching was most definitely not the problem.
  • Typical Yankees’ loss, pretty good pitching and lousy offense. All these early season games in the Bronx have resulted in a 13-12 record at some, so way to take care of business boys. Here’s the WPA graph and here’s the box score.

Another lame Saturday night FOX broadcast for Game Two of the Subway Series, when A.J. Burnett gets the ball against Chris Capuano.

Montero’s big double goes for naught as Whelan blows save

The Yankees are very well-represented in this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. Gary Sanchez and Manny Banuelos were ranked as the 12th and 13th hottest prospects in the minors, Jorge Vazquez got some love as the older guy pounding younger competition, and Ramon Flores is gaining some helium. Good times.

Steve Garrison (groin) has started throwing in Tampa and is close to returning, but Graham Stoneburner (neck) has yet to get back on the mound. The Reds released Chase Weems recently, who is the kid the Yankees sent to the Reds for Jerry Hairston Jr. in 2009. That one worked out well.

Triple-A Scranton (6-5 loss to Lehigh Valley)
Kevin Russo, LF & Justin Maxwell, CF: both 1 for 5, 2 K – Russo doubled, scored a run, and drove one in
Dan Brewer, RF: 0 for 3, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 K –
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 4, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 PB – six for his last 22 (.273) with three doubles … big three-run double in the seventh capped a five-run comeback
Jorge Vazquez, 1B & Brandon Laird, 3B: both 1 for 4 – JoVa got hit by a pitch, Laird scored a run
Luis Nunez, 2B: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 HBP
Ramiro Pena, SS: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 K, 1 2B
P.J. Pilittere, DH: 0 for 4, 1 K, 1 SB – that’s his first stolen base in five years
Carlos Silva, RHP: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 9-3 GB/FB – 55 of 85 pitches ere strikes (64.7%) … sat 86-88 early on, and he was really working on the offspeed stuff as well
George Kontos, RHP: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1-2 GB/FB – 16 of 27 pitches were strikes (59.3%)
Randy Flores, LHP: 1.1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1-2 GB/FB – 11 of 18 pitches were strikes (61.1%)
Kevin Whelan, RHP: 1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K – 11 of his 18 pitches were strikes (61.1%) … the comeback wasn’t meant to be

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