King of the Fist Pumps returns from the DL

Fist pumps are returning to the Bronx. The Yankees have announced that backup catcher Francisco Cervelli has been activated from the disabled list, and Gustavo Molina, who won’t enter the history books as a hitless Yankee, has been optioned down to AAA. Cervelli, who hit .271/.359/.335 last year, broke his foot in the middle of Spring Training. He’ll serve as Russell Martin‘s backup and hopefully will not take too many at-bats away from the Yanks’ starting catcher. Gustavo, we hardly knew ye.

Looking at the Three True Outcomes: Offense

I obsess probably a little too much over the three true outcomes, meaning walks (preferably unintentional), strikeouts, and homers. All three events take the defense right out of the equation, and every so often I check out how the Yankees are doing in each department compared to league average. That’s what you see in the graph above, and I recommend clicking it for a larger and easier to read view.

Strikeout rate typical stabilizes around 150 plate appearances while it takes walk rate about 200 or so. Homerun rate needs a bit more time, right around 300 plate appearances. For a player, that’s anywhere from a quarter to half a season, so we shouldn’t get too worked up about Robinson Cano‘s 1.1% (!!!) walk rate for another 100-110 plate appearances or so. When you look at the entire team though, we get to these stability points much more quickly. In fact, we’re already north of 800 plate appearances for the Yankees as a whole, which is the second fewest in the American League. That has more to do with all those rain outs and off days than anything else.

The graph shows the team’s cumulative strikeout, unintentional walk, and homerun rates in terms of plate appearances per event. So ten plate appearances per strikeout, something like that. You want the uIBB and HR rates to be low but the K rate to be high (that means more PA per strikeout, so they’re happening with less frequency). As you can see in the graph, they’ve hovered right around the league average in strikeout rate all month, whiffing once every 5.75 trips to the plate, give or take a tenth of a plate appearance. That’s reasonably in line with last year’s 5.62 PA/K, which again was almost exactly league average.

As for the unintentional walks, New York batters are comfortably better than league average. They’ve worked an unintentional walk once every 10.27 plate appearances in 2011, more than full PA better than average. That’s the second best rate in the league, bested only by the Red Sox at 9.68 PA/uIBB. Forget about the homerun rate, the Yankees are off the charts good there. At 20.29 PA/HR, they’re more than double to league average of 44.37 PA/HR. That’s crazy. Add in the fact that they’re not striking out at an ungodly pace (more power, more strikeouts, that’s just the way it goes), and it’s a pretty impressive offense when you remove things the defense impacts. Of course it hasn’t looked that way over the last week or so, at least not up until last night.

Note: Just to be clear, I removed the Yankees from the league average calculation. So we’re effectively comparing the Yankees to the other 13 AL teams.

NoMaas interviews Slade Heathcott

NoMaas’ Gary Wallace sat down for a chat with 2009 first rounder Slade Heathcott, and the two discussed a sorts of aspects about his game. I found it pretty interesting that Slade has already abandoned the changes the Yankees made to his swing last year, going back to the way he hit in high school. It’s working obviously (.442 wOBA in 18 games), but he mentioned several times that’s he’s still searching for his swing and getting comfortable with it. Consistency is another big thing for him, trying avoid so many peaks and valleys throughout the season. Make sure you head over and check it out, that’s some great stuff right there.

Planned RAB Outage: 1 a.m. Eastern Time

After months of spotty service and less-than-satisfactory support from our current web hosting company, we’re finally making the move to our new host. This move will require some downtime this evening, and from 1 a.m. Eastern Time onward, River Ave. Blues will likely be inaccessible. We hope to have the site back up and running by 2 a.m. We schedule the move for Saturday morning/Friday night to minimize disruptions, and we’ll be back up as soon as possible. Thanks for reading, and thanks for your patience.

Please note that we’ll be leaving this post on top of the site until the server switch is complete. Make sure to scroll down for new content.

Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

We’re starting to get into repeat mode here in the end of April, as the Yankees are starting to play some clubs for the second time in 2011. They played the Orioles for the second time last weekend, and this weekend it’s the Toronto Blue Jays. The two teams split a two-game set in Toronto about a week-and-a-half ago, and surely you remember that Mariano Rivera blown save in the first game.

What Have The Blue Jays Done Lately?

Unlike the last few teams the Yankees have played, the Blue Jays are coming in hot. They just took three of four from the Rangers in Arlington, outscoring the defending AL Champs 27-16. Although they’re just 8-12 since a 4-1 start, Toronto is coming to the Bronx with some momentum and feeling pretty good about themselves.

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Blue Jays on Offense

Jose Bautista! Seriously, he’s the only everyday player on the team with a wOBA better than a .334. Of course he leads all of baseball at .542, and right now he’s getting on base more than 52% of the time. His eight homers and .360 batting average are the best in the AL. However, it’s worth noting that in the seventh inning of yesterday’s game, Bautista took a 93 mph Pedro Strop fastball to his left wrist, sending him to the ground in obvious pain. He remained in the game and drew five pitch walk in the ninth, and as far as I know he’ll be in the lineup this weekend. Fastballs to the wrist are never good though.

Aside from Bautista, both Juan Rivera (ten for his last 26 with two homers, six walks, and three strikeouts) and Adam Lind (12 for his last 38 with two doubles and three homers) are coming into the series hot. Nobody else is though. That’s generally what happens the rest of the lineup is filled by guys like John McDonald (.303 wOBA), Mike McCoy (.281 wOBA), Corey Patterson (.318 wOBA), Edwin Encarnacion (.293 wOBA), Jayson Nix (two for his last 16), and Yunel Escobar (.192/.192/.269 since April 16th). Travis Snider was just sent to the minors in favor of former first rounder David Cooper, who had a .459 wOBA in Triple-A. Toronto’s 21st best prospect (according to Baseball America) will probably make his big league debut at some point this weekend.

Blue Jays on the Mound

(AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

Friday: Ricky Romero, LHP: It’s a tough assignment right off the bat, as Toronto is running their ace out there later tonight. Romero has pitched as well as pretty much anyone in the AL so far, striking out more than a batter per inning while walking fewer than three men per nine and generating a ground ball on more than half of his balls in play. He gives the Jays length, pitching into the seventh inning in four of his five starts and completing seven innings three times. Ricky does it with four pitches, but one out of every three is a low-90’s two-seamer to get those grounders. A low-90’s four-seamer and a mid-80’s changeup are his two other primary weapons, and every once in a while he’ll break out a loopy, 70-something mile-an-hour curve. Romero is quietly ascending into the category of the game’s elite starters, so this will be a tough game.

Saturday: Kyle Drabek, RHP: The Yankees faced Drabek during their series in Toronto last week, roughing him up for six hits, four walks, and four runs in 5.1 IP. He held the Rangers to three runs over six innings last time out, though the scouting report hasn’t changed since last week. The kid will work himself into trouble with walks, but he has swing-and-miss stuff with his high-octane fastball and curve. Patience.

Sunday: Jesse Litsch, RHP: This is Brett Cecil’s spot, but the certified Yankees Killerâ„¢ was demoted to Triple-A after his start against New York last week because he’s dealing with the same problems as Phil Hughes: loss of velocity, loss of control, unexplained dead arm, yadda yadda yadda. About the only interesting thing about Litsch is that he’s a ginger, but aside from that he’s a generic right-hander with 88-90 mph fastballs (two and four-seamers, cutter), a mid-80’s slider, a low-80’s changeup, and the occasional low-80’s curveball. He doesn’t miss many bats, doesn’t walk too many or too few, gets an okay amount of grounders, stuff like that. Litsch has made six career starts against the Yankees, so the They Haven’t Seen Himâ„¢ rule doesn’t apply. No offense to the guy, but Jesse Litsch is pretty boring.

Bullpen: Same story as the last time these two clubs played, so there’s not much to add. Jon Rauch is still closing, Frank Francisco is setting up, and Marc Rzepczynski is still handling the lefties.

Recommended Blue Jays Reading: Drunk Jays Fans, Ghostrunner on First, and Tao of Stieb.

Mailbag: Sizemore, Posada, Maxwell, K-Rod

Extra long edition of the RAB Mailbag this week, so I tried to keep the answers as short as possible. I figure short answers and more questions if better than long answers and fewer questions. Anyway, if you want to send in a question, just use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.

(AP Photo/Paul Battaglia)

Mike asks: I know that starting pitching will be a priority but if Cleveland makes Grady Sizemore available this year should we go after him? What would he cost in terms of prospects?

Sizemore has been ridiculously good since coming off the disabled list (.390/.432/.878), but there are a few problems: 1) it’s a small sample, will it last?, b) Cleveland is actually good right now, I doubt they’re looking to sell right now, and c) you have to assume you’re only getting him for the rest of the year since his club option for 2012 becomes a player option if traded. He’s great and would be an upgrade over Brett Gardner in left, but the cost is likely to be greater than the return. Believe it or not, I’d rather rent Carlos Beltran than Sizemore, since the cost figures to be much lower.

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