Sunday Open Thread

This is the open thread for the rest of the weekend. MLB Network is showing a regional game right now, and the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game is the Giants at the Dodgers (Samardzija vs. Maeda). There’s also a bunch of NBA and NHL playoff action too. (The Islanders play at 8pm ET). Talk about those games, this afternoon’s win, or whatever else is on your mind right here.

Game 11: Iwakuma Tanaka, what a wonderful pitching matchup

(Nike Talk)
(Nike Talk)

This afternoon’s game is going to be a pretty big deal in Japan. Masahiro Tanaka and Hisashi Iwakuma, former teammates with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, will be facing each other in the first matchup between former NPB teammates in MLB history. (It’s the 12th matchup between two Japanese born pitchers overall.) The game starts at 2am local time in Japan, and I’m sure lots of folks are going to be staying up late to watch this one.

As for the Yankees, they’re struggling big time right now, mostly offensively. They’ve lost four straight and scored seven runs total in the four games. The Yankees are getting base-runners — 46 in their last 36 offensive innings — so it’s just a matter of cashing them in. It’ll happen soon enough, I’m sure. It would be cool if it happened today. Here is the Mariners’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. DH Alex Rodriguez
  7. 2B Starlin Castro
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 3B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Another great day for baseball in the Bronx. It’s sunny with no clouds whatsoever. Couldn’t ask for better baseball weather. Today’s series finale will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Try not to pull your hair out.

Chapman Update: Aroldis Chapman made his second Extended Spring Training appearance yesterday, according to Erik Boland. He struck out two in a perfect inning, and hit 100 mph on the radar gun. Chapman is eligible to join the Yankees in three weeks from tomorrow.

YES Update: FOX regional sports affiliates, including YES, can now be streamed on Sling TV. It’s $20 a month — there’s a free seven-day trial — so it’s not free, but it’s not too pricey either. You will be able to stream Yankees games on YES, even if you’re in-market and a currently dealing with the Comcast nonsense. Here’s the Sling TV link.

The April Heat Afflicting Alex

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

While we were fortunate to get a mostly mild winter here in the northeast, spring–let alone summer–has been slow to fully reveal itself, with temperatures hovering in the 50’s, bringing plenty of those damned April showers. Despite that, things have been rather hot for Alex Rodriguez in the batter’s box. No, that doesn’t mean he’s been hitting well. Rather, he’s been getting blown away by the heat, as Mark Simon noted over at ESPN. Ironically enough, this comes on the heels of an article at FiveThirtyEight.com positing that older hitters aren’t adversely affected by rising velocity. For at least one hitter this year, that general trend doesn’t apply.

Generally, I agree with Mike that it’s (probably) too early too worry about Rodriguez and his struggles; still, it’s worth looking into his performance this year, especially considering Rodriguez fared well against fastballs in 2015. Last season, Rodriguez slugged .725 against fastballs, good for a .409 ISO per Brooks. In the early going this year, things are quite the opposite: low average, low slugging, .000 ISO. Arguably more important than those results, though, is the ‘process’ with which Rodriguez is going through with old number one.

In 2015, Rodriguez had a relatively low 23.55% whiff/swing rate against fastballs. 2016, however, has been a different story, with a 50% whiff/swing rate on heaters. That swinging-and-missing has led to a 31.4% strikeout rate for Rodriguez, which is not only ugly, but would be a career high. Luckily, he’s only had 35 plate appearances in eight games this season, and strikeout rates don’t quite stabilize until 60 PA, per FanGraphs. There’s time to turn things around–it’s only April 17–but there is still cause for concern.

(BrooksBaseball.net)
(BrooksBaseball.net)

The above image is A-Rod‘s whiff/swing chart against fastballs for this year so far. Take a look at that middle-middle box in the strike zone. Whether they were challenge pitches or mistakes, Rodriguez has seen three fastballs that have been, quite literally, right down the middle; he’s whiffed three times on three swings on those pitches. Last season, he only whiffed seven total times on pitches in that location.

Short story even shorter, Alex is struggling to catch up to fastballs right now. Maybe it’s just early. Maybe it’s just a slump. Maybe it isn’t. Given his age, it’s right to be a little fearful, especially since this comes after he struggled against breaking pitches last season. There is plenty of time to right the ship and when a player is as talented as Rodriguez is, it’s wise to bet on him. But the end of the line comes for everyone and Rodriguez’s is fast approaching. This fastball-based negative trend is one to keep an eye on going forward.

DotF: Tampa squanders Kaprielian’s dominant start

Some notes:

  • OF Cesar Puello was placed on the Triple-A Scranton DL with a concussion, so says Shane Hennigan. Apparently he was hit in the head with a bat in the dugout, presumably accidentally. Yikes. Puello has had concussion problems in the past. Hopefully this is nothing serious.
  • OF Lane Adams and LHP Daniel Camarena have been bumped up to Triple-A Scranton, reports Josh Norris. Adams is replacing Puello on the roster. Camarena is filling that 25th roster spot that has been sitting open all season for whatever reason.
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow told Hennigan his Tommy John surgery is scheduled for Tuesday. It was originally reported as Friday (yesterday), but either that was wrong or it was pushed back.

Triple-A Scranton (8-4 loss to Syracuse)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 1-5, 1 R, 3 K, 1 SB
  • 3B Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 2 RBI, 1 E (throwing) — second error in five games at the hot corner
  • LF Slade Heathcott: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 SB
  • 1B Nick Swisher: 1-3, 2 BB, 1 K — 4-for-11 (.364) with a double, two walks, and two strikeouts in three games so far … Swisher’s a pretty smart hitter, I expect him to put up some nice numbers here as long as he’s healthy … the question is can he still hit big league pitching? there’s really one way to find out
  • RF Lane Adams: 0-4, 1 BB, 3 K — threw a runner out at third … he is 0-for-13 with eleven strikeouts in his last three games
  • RHP Ronald Herrera: 5 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 8 K, 1 WP, 3/2 GB/FB — 61 of 102 pitches were strikes (60%) … Triple-A debut for the 20-year-old, though I suspect this was only a spot start and not a permanent promotion
  • LHP Daniel Camarena: 4 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 6/1 GB/FB — 44 of 63 pitches were strikes (70%) … this is his Triple-A debut after not pitching at all last season due to some kind of injury

[Read more…]

Mariners 3, Yankees 2: RISPFAIL continues as Yanks drop fourth straight

Baseball is stupid and I hate it. The Yankees once again put a small army of runners on base Saturday afternoon — 16 in nine innings, to be exact — but were unable to cash in. The Mariners did all they could to give the Yankees the game the last two days. Instead, New York has now dropped four straight. Saturday’s final score was 3-2 in favor of the Fightin’ Canos.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Oh This Again
The only thing more excruciating than leaving runners on base is not having runners on base in the first place. The Yankees had a ton of guys on base Saturday, just like they had a ton of guys on base Friday. Felix Hernandez, arguably the greatest pitcher of his generation, walked a career-high six in five innings. The Yankees put at least two runners on base in all five of his innings.

The result? One run. That came in the third inning, when Carlos Beltran drove in Mark Teixeira from first base (!) with a booming double to right-center field. That’s what it takes to score a run right now. Teixeira chugging around from first on a double. Think about that. If not for that, Hernandez might have been able to navigate five scoreless innings even though he was far from his best. Far, far from his best.

In fact, like Nate Karns on Friday night, Felix leaned heavily on his offspeed stuff to pitch his way out of jams Saturday. PitchFX says he threw 20 fastballs out of 106 total pitches. Twenty! And that came after Mariners pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. told Shannon Drayer he wanted Felix to throw more fastballs going forward. Here is Hernandez’s pitch selection Saturday, via Brooks Baseball:

Felix Hernandez pitches

Karns threw 43% fastballs Friday and Felix threw 19% fastballs Saturday. I’d say Seattle’s game plan is bury the Yankees with offspeed stuff, but Karns threw 51% fastballs in his only other start of the season, and Felix threw 44% fastballs in his first two starts. This is kinda who they are now, offspeed heavy pitchers. What they did against the Yankees isn’t totally out of the ordinary.

Either way, the Yankees could not take advantage of all those base-runners. They even put men on base against the bullpen — Beltran took Nick Vincent deep in the seventh inning for the team’s only other run — and the go-ahead run was on base in the ninth inning. M’s closer Steve Cishek allowed singles to Beltran and Starlin Castro to put runners on the corners, but Chase Headley grounded out to end the game. So it goes.

Perhaps the biggest at-bat of the game aside from Headley’s in the ninth was Austin Romine‘s in the second inning. The Yankees had runners on the corners with one out, and Romine popped up Felix’s first pitch changeup to the shortstop. Felix was battling his control and I get wanting Romine to take a pitch or two, but the pitch was super hittable …

Felix Hernandez Austin Romine

… and he just didn’t hit it. I don’t care who is on the mound and who is at the plate. You can’t not swing at a pitch like that simply because you want to drive up a guy’s pitch count. The Yankees aren’t going to walk themselves out of this offensive slump. Romine got a good pitch to hit and just didn’t hit it. That’s baseball. It’s a game of failure. Romine didn’t get the run in, which he could have done with an out, and didn’t get it done.

The total damage: two runs on ten hits and six walks in nine innings. The Yankees went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position and eight of the nine players in the starting lineup batted at least once in those situations. Teixeira was the only starter who didn’t see an at-bat with a runner(s) at second and/or third. The Yankees have put 29 men on base in their last 18 offensive innings. If they continue doing that, they’re going to score runs. A lot of them. It’s just not happening right now.

The One Bad Inning
For the second straight start, CC Sabathia looked like a competent big league pitcher Saturday. He did put a runner on base in each of his first four innings, but it was only one runner per inning, and Sabathia stranded them all. CC fanned four of the first eleven men he faced too. He was doing exactly what the Yankees want him to do at this point of his career: keep them in ballgames.

Things unraveled in the fifth inning and it would have been worse if not for some heads up defense by Didi Gregorius. Leonys Martin had already homered leading off the inning to tie the game, then Luis Sardinas made it to second base with one out on a single and a ground out. With Sardinas on second, Ketel Marte slapped a soft grounder to Gregorius, who threw to third to get Sardinas when he made too wide a turn at the bag. Marte is crazy fast and was going to beat out the infield single. Smart play by Didi to get the lead runner instead.

Immediately following that, Robinson Cano knocked a single back up the middle that, incredibly, allowed Marte to score all the way from first. Jacoby Ellsbury can take the blame for that one. Marte’s aggressiveness caught him completely off guard in center field. Look at how he approached the ball, then hesitated before throwing home:

Jacoby Ellsbury Ketel Marte

That is a man who expected the runner to stop at third. Ellsbury told Bryan Hoch he thinks he would have been able to throw Marte out at the plate had he not double clutched the throw, and maybe he’s right, but Jacoby has not thrown a runner out at the plate since 2011, so you’ll have to forgive me for being skeptical. Either way, Marte scored and the Mariners took a 2-1 lead.

Nelson Cruz, the next batter, drove in Cano with a double inside the third base bag and down the line into the left field corner. That gave Seattle a 3-1 lead and ended Sabathia’s afternoon. I’m not sure why Sabathia was left in to face Cruz if his leash was that one batter. Righties hammered CC last season and Cruz hit 84 homers from 2014-15. Sabathia can face Cruz with the Yankees down one but not Franklin Gutierrez down two? I thought Cano should have been his last batter.

Sabathia’s final pitching line looks worse than he pitched, I feel: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. His first four innings were solid and I think we’d all take that version of Sabathia all season long. Things fell apart in the fifth — thanks in part to Ellsbury — so the one bad inning bug bit CC again. Every starter has seemed prone to that the first two times through the rotation.

Leftovers
The bullpen was spectacular. Johnny Barbato got four outs while Chasen Shreve, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Miller tossed a scoreless inning each. Those four combined to allow three hits and strike out eight. Betances and Miller each struck out the side. Miller did so on ten pitches. He looked razor sharp. As dominant as he’s looked at any point as a Yankee. It was silly.

Brett Gardner had two hits, Castro had three hits, and Beltran had four hits. Carlos homered and doubled twice. He’s been the team’s most consistent hitter in the super early going. Alex Rodriguez went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and is down to .103/.235/.207 (32 wRC+) on the season. He’s in the middle of an 0-for-19 slump. I will be pretty surprised if Beltran and A-Rod do not flip lineup spots Sunday.

The Yankees stole three bases overall. Two by Castro and one by Headley. Headley has three steals he already. He stole zero bags last season. Headley also committed his first throwing error, airmailing first base on a routine grounder. It was bound to happen at some point. His throwing has looked way better this season overall.

And finally, for some reason Ellsbury stayed glued to first base after reaching on an error with two outs in the eighth. The Yankees were down one and Gardner saw five pitches, yet Ellsbury never tried to steal. I do not understand.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score and video highlights for the game. Now here are the updated standings, if scoreboard watching in April is your thing. Also make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here is the ol’ WPA graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees will try to salvage this mess of a three-game series Sunday afternoon. Masahiro Tanaka and Hisashi Iwakuma will be on the mound. Those two were teammates with the Rakuten Golden Eagles from 2007-11, you know. Pretty cool. RAB Tickets can get you into the ballpark for that game or any of the other six games remaining on the homestand.

Saturday Open Thread

Here is your open thread for the afternoon and evening. The Mets are playing right now and MLB Network will air a regional game later tonight. You’ve also got the NBA and NHL playoffs throughout the day. (The hockey Rangers are playing right now.) Talk about those games, this afternoon’s loss, or anything else right here.

Game Ten: The Quest For The Big Hit Continues

:\ (Elsa/Getty)
:-/ (Elsa/Getty)

The Yankees did a lot of good offensively last night, namely putting 13 men on base, but the big hit never came and they were held to one stupid little run. After scoring 27 runs in the first three games of 2016, the Bombers have scored only 16 runs in the six games since. Eight of those 16 came in one game.

Felix Hernandez will be on the mound for the Mariners this afternoon, and while he represents a daunting task, the Yankees were in a very similar situation last May. They had been held to 20 runs in a six-game span, then they faced Felix and managed to tag him for seven runs in 4.2 innings. Baseball, man. You can’t predict it. Here is today’s Mariners’ lineup and today’s Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. C Austin Romine
    LHP CC Sabathia

The weather in New York today is pretty fantastic. It’s maybe a little on the cool side, but it’s sunny as hell and there are no clouds in the sky. Picture perfect. Today’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network if you’re out of market. Enjoy.

Shuttle Update: As expected, Tyler Olson was sent back down to Triple-A Scranton following last night’s 47-pitch effort. Branden Pinder has been called up for the first of what figures to be many times this season. Pinder last pitched Wednesday, when he threw 48 pitches across three innings.

YES Update: FOX regional sports affiliates, including YES, can now be streamed on Sling TV. It’s $20 a month — there’s a free seven-day trial — so it’s not free, but it’s not too pricey either. You will be able to stream Yankees games on YES, even if you’re in-market and a currently dealing with the Comcast nonsense. Here’s the Sling TV link.