The Yankees’ offense by inning

Maybe you haven’t noticed, but the Yankees have done a lot of scoring early in games this season, but not so much later in the game. They’ve put 65 runs on the board in innings 1-3 through the first 26 games of the year, but just 79 runs in innings 4+ (including extra innings). Given the team’s modus operandi of “work the starter then go to town on the bullpen,” you’d expect that to be a little more balanced out.

The graph above (which you can click for a larger view) shows two things in relation to each other. The first vertical axis (the blue line with dashed trendline) is the team’s wOBA while the second (the red line with dashed trendline) is the team’s left-on-base percentage, both by inning. I left extra innings out of it because the Yankees just haven’t played many of those, thankfully. The peaks and valleys in the wOBA line have to do with the batting order; the peaks are when Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Robinson Cano are typically at the plate, the valleys are basically everyone else. I’m not sure why it drops off so much in the 8th and 9th innings, but a .350-ish wOBA is still well-above average. The Yankees are still producing with the bats in the late innings, there’s no doubt about that.

It makes sense that the LOB% line would be the opposite of the wOBA line, the more offense the team is producing, the fewer runners they’ll strand. So that should be down when the wOBA is up, and vice versa. But at the end of the game, from the sixth inning on, the strand rate has plateaued at more than 80% for some mysterious reason. The league average strand rate is 72.1% and has been right around that number for the last few years, so the Yankees are running into some bad luck here. Stranding runners is not a repeatable skill (unless you have a pitcher with a 1.0 batters faced-to-strikeout ratio), so this is something that should even out as the season progresses. More late inning rallies are the way … at some point.

Miguel Cabrera, Yankee Killer

Bet you'll never guess where that ball landed. (Kathy Willens/AP)

When Miguel Cabrera stepped to the plate with a runner on second and two outs in the third inning last night, we all knew he was going to get a hit and drive in the run. Maybe some were in denial, rationalizing that Colon had been money and would retire him. But deep down in our bones we all knew it. That’s just what Miguel does. Since he arrived in the AL for the 2008 season he has the second highest wOBA in the league, .405, just five points behind Kevin Youkilis. It seems like he’s that much better against the Yankees.

Even when Cabrera wasn’t killing the Yankees, he was still killing the Yankees. While he was just 5 for 24 in the 2003 World Series, his one extra base hit put the Yanks in a hole. They had everything set up. Up two games to one, they had Roger Clemens on the mound to set up the Marlins for defeat. But Cabrera hit a two-out, two-run homer that sent the Marlins to an early lead. While the Yanks did come back, they lost in extra innings, and didn’t win a game the rest of the series. While we all remember that game for Alex Gonzalez’s 11th inning homer, it might have been Cabrera’s that turned the series.

Because he played in the NL, Cabrera didn’t get many chances to wreak havoc on the Yankees from 2004 through 2007. The Yanks and Marlins did do battle in 2006, though, and in that series Cabrera went 5 for 10 with a double, a homer, and two walks. No one was sad to see he and the Marlins leave Yankee Stadium that June, but the possibility still hung out there. The Marlins, renown for their cheapness, would find Cabrera’s salary unpalatable at some point. There was a decent chance he would be AL bound.

In fact, there was something of a chance that he would be headed to the Yankees. After the 2007 season it became clear that the Marlins would deal Cabrera during the off-season. For the previous two seasons he had been the Marlins third baseman, and the Yankees suddenly had an opening at the position. Alex Rodriguez had opted out of his contract, and Brian Cashman had been on record saying that the Yankees would not re-sign their superstar. With Wilson Betemit as the only in-house option, the connection to Cabrera was immediate. But the Yankees had bigger problems — pitching problems — and probably weren’t going to meet the Marlins asking price. It’s doubtful that they could have matched Detroit’s package of Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin, two of the top prospects in the game.

In the first two years of his Detroit tenure Cabrera caused the Yankees headaches. He went 15 for 46 with a triple, two homers, and three walks, good for a .326/.380/.500 line. Of course, Cabrera hit .308/.373/.542 during that span, so while he nicked a few more singles he didn’t unleash his full fury. That didn’t start until last year, when he went 10 for 27 with three doubles and five homers. That has continued into this year, when he’s gone 8 for 15 with a double and two homers. In his 49 PA against the Yankees during the last two seasons, his total line is .429/.490/1.024. A Yankee killer he has been.

Thankfully, the rest of the Detroit team has taken mercy on the Yankees in the past two years. Without Cabrera they’ve hit .233/.279/.369 in 391 PA against the Yankees. But every time Miguel steps to the plate, it induces fear in my heart. I know that even if he’s not going to get a hit, he’s going to hit it hard somewhere. That fits the bill for a Yankee killer. Welcome to the club, Miguel.

The RAB Radio Show: May 3, 2011

Everyone seems to be piling on Derek Jeter today — with reason, of course, but things have started to get out of hand. Mike and I talk the Captain and his struggles. But we brighten the mood with some guys who started slow and have turned it around. I want to say that Jeter isn’t far behind, but it’s tough to see a difference in his at-bats between Opening Day and now.

Plus, Phil Hughes, and what his clean bill of health means for him and the team.

Podcast run time 28:02

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

He’s back! Yankees sign Brad Halsey

Via the AP, the Yankees have signed left-hander Brad Halsey to a minor league contract. He’s in Extended Spring Training working out for the time being. You probably remember Brad Halsey for starting this game (he dives into the stands!), but believe it or not he only appeared in eight games (seven starts) for the Yankees. I thought it was more than that.

Anyway, Halsey went to the Diamondbacks in the Randy Johnson trade and he eventually wound up in Oakland. He had a bit of a falling out with the A’s, blasting the organization for calling up Dallas Braden over him when Rich Harden got hurt in 2007. He then suffered a torn labrum later that year, and won a grievance against the team after claiming they misdiagnosed the injury. Halsey has spent the last two years in independent leagues, but obviously this is more minor league filler than anything. But hey, he’s left-handed, who knows.

Is Bartolo Colon throwing too many fastballs?

One thing has been clear since Spring Training: Bartolo Colon is going to live and die with his fastball. Luckily for him it’s come back to life at age-38 and after some major shoulder troubles, sitting comfortably in the low-90’s and topping out as high as 96 against the Blue Jays a week ago. It’s actually two fastballs, the straight four-seamer that’s more pure velocity and the darting two-seamer that’s all about movement. To say Colon uses those two pitches heavily would be an understatement. He’s thrown the four-seamer more than 45% of the time and the two-seamer more than 41% of the time in his 33 innings of work. That means he’s throwing one or two non-fastballs per inning, give or take.

The table above, courtesy of Texas Leaguers, shows the full breakdown of his pitches, including strike rates and swing-and-miss rates, the whole nine. I guess what really caught my attention are the whiff rates of his change and slider. He’s thrown 24 changeups (all but five to lefties, so almost four out of every five) and batters have swung and missed at six of them. When you’re that fastball heavy, taking a little something off will definitely result in some funny hacks. The slider, meanwhile, has been thrown primarily to righties (25 of 38, almost exactly two-thirds), and they’ve come up empty on one out of every ten swings. Those are some gaudy percentages.

Unlike Ivan Nova, who’s still young and developing, the Yankees shouldn’t screw around with Colon. He is what he is and it’s working, so don’t change it unnecessarily. Could he stand to mix in a few more changeups against lefties and sliders against righties? Sure, but it’s not broke right now, so don’t fix it. He is leading the American League in strikeout-to-walk ratio after all. Perhaps that’s stage two of the Bartolo revival. Once the league adjusts to the heat, he’ll break out the offspeed stuff in earnest. That would be sweet.

Yankees drops Tigers for third straight win

Ace versus ace, or at least that’s what it felt like coming into the game. Bartolo Colon had pitched that well in his first two starts of the season, and he was strong again in the series opener against the Tigers on Monday, but it took a late rally to secure the win.

Ninth Inning Heroics

Valverde doesn't like being on the other end of the fist pumps, eh? (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Let’s start at the end and work our way forward. The ninth inning started with a beast of an at-bat by Curtis Granderson, who fouled off seven Jose Valverde pitches before drawing a leadoff walks. The only problem was that he was erased a few pitches later when he over-slid second on a steal attempt. At -.141 WPA, it was the most damaging play of the game for New York. Sure enough, Mark Teixeira drew a four pitch walk (one of the balls went to the backstop) as the next batter, then moved to second on an Alex Rodriguez single that was more of a botched defensive play than a hit. Valverde was clearly wild, and he fed Nick Swisher three consecutive 94 mph fastballs. The first was up out the zone, the second was a little further down and Swish swung through, the third was in his happy zone and the Yankees’ right fielder sent it back up the middle to drive in the go-ahead run. It was the biggest play of the game for the good guys at +.306 WPA. An insurance came around to score on a wild pitch one batter later.

This inning, along with the first, was really the only time the Yankees’ offense looked like itself. They wore Valverde down and let him work himself into trouble, capitalizing on a mistake pitch to regain the lead. Jim Leyland left his closer in to throw 35 pitches but just 19 strikes (about 54%) in the inning, and the middle of the order made him pay. I can’t imagine Valverde will be available tomorrow, but it’s pretty clear that Leyland has no trouble running his pitchers into the ground.

"Which NL strategy should I employ today, Robbie?" (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

The Airing of Grievances (Part One)

The Yankees had a chance to retake the lead in the eighth inning, when Secret Weapon Al Alburquerque™ walked leadoff man Russell Martin. Since the team is oh so desperate for runs these days, Brett Gardner bunted him over to second on the very first pitch. Nevermind that Gardner a) had reached base in each of his five previous plate appearances and in eight of his last nine, or b) that SWAA™ had walked the first batter and just may have been wild, or c) that the two worst hitters in the lineup (Eduardo Nunez and Derek Jeter) were due up, gosh darn it, the book says you should bunt and bunt they did. Nunez grounded out on the drawn in infield and Jeter struck out, stranding the runner in scoring position. The bunt was completely and utterly asinine (-.025 WPA). I’m sorry. there’s no other way to describe it. When small ball attacks, part too many to count.

"Are you deaf? Yes, I said two meat lover's." (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Big Bad Bartolo

Someone’s going to have to make a compilation video of all these called strike threes on the two-seam fastball inside to lefties and away from righties at some point. That thing is gorgeous. Colon made basically two mistakes all night, leaving a pair of pitches out over the plate that Alex Avila drove over the fence to the opposite field. They were impressive shots, that’s no gimme in Comerica Park. Bartolo struck out seven and walked none in seven innings, getting ten ground balls against just two air outs. He was efficient (97 pitches) and held his 92-94+ mph heat into the late innings. The Yankees hit the scrap heap mega-millions jackpot with Bart, regardless of what happens from here on out.

The Airing of Grievances (Part Two)

The Tigers did score one other run off Colon aside from the two homers, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why things went down the way they did. It was the third inning, so early in the game, and the uber-annoying Ramon Santiago was standing on second base after a one out double. Miguel Cabrera, the one guy you look at in Detroit’s lineup and say “we can’t let him beat us,” came to the plate with Santiago still on second with two outs, and for whatever reason Colon pitched to him. I mean, that’s an obvious don’t pitch to him spot, if not an outright intentional walk. But nope, Bartolo threw Miggy two fastballs, and sure enough the second wound up in right field for an RBI single. I don’t get it, pitch around the guy and take your chances with Brennan Boesch (who went 0-for-4  on the night). There’s still three more games left to be played in the series, so hopefully they learned from this (painfully obvious) mistake.

Jorge Catches Up To The Heat

Let’s face it, there have been times this year when Jorge Posada has looked completely done. I mean done done, and as recently as last week. But Posada has showed some signs of life lately, doubling on Sunday and having another hit taken away by a diving second baseman in the same game. It’s not much, but it’s something. Jorge came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in the first inning, and frankly I don’t think many of us expected him to do anything productive against the flamethrowing Justin Verlander. The first pitch of the encounter was a changeup out of the zone for ball one, but Posada got no respect after that. He saw nothing but fastballs the rest of the at-bat, and here’s the velocities according to Gameday: 98 (called strike), 99 (ball), 99 (swing and miss), 99 (foul), 99 (foul), 99 (ball). The eighth pitch was a heater clocked at 100, but Posada caught up to it and drove it over Austin Jackson’s head for a ground-rule double. Two runs scored but it should have been three if not for the unfortunate hop, but damn, looks like Jorge might have something left to offer after all. He went 2-for-5 in the game and has three hits in his last seven at-bats, not counting the hit he should have had if not for that great defensive play on Sunday.

This dude can't be human. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)


Verlander … man that guy is a freak. Look at his velocity graph, his hardest fastballs came after he’d already thrown 110 pitches, including his hardest at 100.3 mph. He’s simply a physical marvel, a pitcher just isn’t supposed to do that, not with his workloads in recent years.

Everyone in the lineup had at least one hit except for Granderson, who drew a pair of walks. A-Rod and Nunez were the only guys to reach base just once, though the latter hit a ball off the left field wall for a double (he got thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple). Gardner went 1-for-1 with two walks and has managed to get his season OBP up to .325 thanks to his hot week. Overall, the Yankees drew eight walks as a team, but they went just 2-for-14 with men scoring position. The two hits were Swisher’s single in the ninth and Posada’s double in the first.

Joba Chamberlain did some fine work in the eighth with the score tied, allowing just a single to Cabrera (forgivable) and retiring the other three men he faced. We even got our first fist pump of 2011. Mariano Rivera was flawless in the ninth for his 11th save. That was his third appearance in as many days, so you have to figure Rafael Soriano (who pitched on Saturday and Sunday) will get the call in the ninth inning on Tuesday. Joba and David Robertson will be the setup men with a little Boone Logan mixed in. Of course, CC Sabathia‘s a fine candidate to handle all nine innings himself.

The Yankees now have 13 steals in 22 attempts this year after getting caught two more times in this game. There was the Granderson over-slide in the ninth, and Jeter got thrown out trying to take second base in the first inning. In fairness, I’m about 90% sure that was a hit-and-run gone wrong. Grandy swung at a pitch well out of the strike zone and Jeter kept looking in to see if/where the ball was hit. But still, a 59.1% success rate on stolen base attempts is completely unacceptable; that has to be better, otherwise don’t bother running.

WPA Graph & Box Score

It got a little dicey, but that happens sometimes. has your box score and video highlights, FanGraphs everything else.

Up Next

Same two teams tomorrow night, when Sabathia gets the ball against Brad Penny.