I will never forget the night the Yankees traded for Michael Pineda. It was January 2012 and my wife (then-very-recent-girlfriend) was due to meet my parents and sister for the first time. As luck would have it, while she was driving, the wheels were in motion on the Yankees making a big trade. Well, the wheels had already moved and everything was set; we were just hearing about it for the first time. In the end, the trade was announced just as she was pulling into the driveway and she had to deal with meeting my family and balancing our shock and initial disappointment that Jesus Montero–whom we’d all just watched crush it in September–would no longer be in the team’s future plans.
Yankeedom for Michael Pineda has seen its ups and downs, peaks and valleys, highs and lows, and whatever other height cliches you wanna throw in there. Perhaps, given the times, its Aaron Judge moments and its Ronald Torreyes moments. Despite that, the Yankees (everyone all together now) won the trade, given that Pineda is pitching well–and pitching at all–while Jesus Montero is…somewhere in baseball. This year so far, Pineda has struck out over 31% of the batters he’s faced, while walking only 3.6%. His ERA is at a solid 3.12, good for a 77 ERA-. The only weird thing is he’s surrendered seven home runs, tied (with a bunch of other pitchers) for second most in the American League.
This isn’t exactly shocking overall, given that Pineda has been slightly homer prone in the past. With everything else going so well, it seems homers are the only blemishes against him this year. When looking at his batted ball rates, everything seems to be in order. Low line drives. High ground balls. Decreased fly balls. However, the HR/FB% is sky high at 25.0%. For his career, it’s never been over 17%, last season’s mark. All three of his pitches this year have a higher HR(FB+LD) than any one pitch from last year. A quick note on the Brooks stuff: given the change over in systems, it looks like some stuff is missing, including the homer Pineda gave up to Kris Bryant in the first inning back on Friday. Adjusting for that would make one of those numbers look even worse. So, what gives?
I’m going to take the cop out answer and say that it’s still early, even if Pineda has already made six starts and has given up a fair amount of homers in the past. The rate he’s going at now is way more than what he did last year, his most homer-prone season. His HR/9 then was 1.38 (not good!) and currently sits at 1.82, almost a half a homer more per nine. Combine this with the spike in his overall HR/FB% and you can see the randomness pretty easily. As support, xRA from StatCorner suggests that Pineda’s ERA ought to be even better at 2.38, given his batted ball profile.
It’s unlikely that Pineda ever becomes stingy with the long ball. He’s around the zone too much and when that happens, it’s more likely something’s going to get left in the wrong place and get sent on a long ride. Still, the homers should drop just slightly. In a perfect world–at least for Big Mike and not the batters–his walks would stay this far down and his strikeouts would stay this far up. The world is far from perfect, though, so I’ll settle for a drop in dingers.
I’ll take many more games like this. The Yankees tacked on a bunch of runs early and added more late once the Cubs started to score. Aaron Hicks had four hits, which is neat and adds to his fascinating breakout season. Jordan Montgomery had an acceptable start, but the bullpen made it bit uncomfortable in the eighth. Anyways, the Yankees held on to win it 11-6, taking the series at the Wrigley Field against the defending World Champs. It’s the weekend so let’s do it bullet point style.
- Five-run first: The Yankee bats got off to a really quick start, scoring the two runs within the first seven Brett Anderson pitches. Brett Gardner led the game off with a double, and Hicks got on base with a bunt single. Anderson’s throwing error scored Gardner and that pretty much set the tone for his night. On the very next pitch, Starlin Castro, as he often does, swung at the first pitch for an RBI double to score Hicks. After Aaron Judge struck out, Gary Sanchez singled to shallow left to score Castro. Didi Gregorius hit a shallow single off the end of the bat to add another baserunner and Chase Headley brought both of them in with a double. That’s a quick 5-0 lead for the Yanks. Anderson then left the game for back tightness but I didn’t think that he was going to last on the mount for long anyways. After being shut out for the first 8.2 innings of yesterday’s game, this early outburst is refreshing.
- Not done scoring: In the third, against Felix Pena, the Yankees put two runners on with singles from Sanchez and Gregorius. Two batters later, Chris Carter hit a hard grounder that Kris Bryant failed to snag and trickled into the left field. They gave Bryant an E5, which I find it harsh, but understandable. Anyways, Sanchez scored on that error and Yankees built a 6-0 lead. On the fourth inning, with Pena still pitching, Hicks got things started with a deep double to right and Castro followed it up with a home run to the left field seats. Hello again, Cubs fans! 8-0 Yankees.
- Montgomery good: If you look at Montgomery’s line, it’s not the sexiest start (6.2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 3 K) but it’s respectable considering he’s a rookie starter facing the World Champion Cubs. Gumby looked great for the first four innings, allowing only two baserunners and mowing down the Chicago lineup. In the fifth inning, he walked Albert Almora and allowed a double to Javier Baez to get into a jam. Jon Jay’s ground out scored Almora and Didi’s throwing error got Baez home to make it 8-2 Yankees. My thought is that Montgomery could’ve gone deeper into his start if not for that E6, seeing that it took him extra 9 pitches to get out of the inning.
- Don’t do this, bullpen: After Montgomery came out in the seventh, Tyler Clippard got the last out to advance the game. In the eighth, Joe Girardi put in Tommy Layne with a 11-3 lead and the lefty got only two outs while allowing three runs. Layne is not really having a good season, as that poor showing up’d his ERA to 9.45. Not going to say his time is running out with the big league club, but I’d guess the team wants to seek out another lefty arm out of the bullpen. Adam Warren relieved Layne and got out of the eighth. The Cubs are not off to a great start to 2017 but you know what their offense can do, especially when they have bigger bats like Miguel Montero pinch-hitting late in the game. Anyways, Warren pitched a clean ninth against his former team to close the game out at 11-6.
- Leftovers: On a night the Yanks scored 11 runs (and had the Cubs pitch Miguel Montero in the ninth), the only hitter that didn’t reach the base was Judge (0-for-5 with a strikeout). That hole, however, got covered more than enough with guys like Hicks (4-for-5 with a HR and double), Castro (3-for-4 with a HR and double), Gregorius (2-for-4), Gardner (2-for-5) and Sanchez (2-for-4) having good nights. We can agree that it’s a fun team to watch when they are all clicking. Also, Montgomery reached on a walk, raising his OBP to .400.
Here’s tonight’s box score, updated standings and WPA graph. The Yankees have a Sunday night match tomorrow at Wrigley. Luis Severino will be on the mound versus Jon Lester. That will be a fun matchup to watch if both starters deliver to their hype. Have a good Saturday night, folks.
Two quick injury notes:
- Tyler Austin update! Brian Cashman told Brendan Kuty that Austin has started taking batting practice as he works his way back from a broken ankle. Austin got hurt in February, so he essentially has to go through Spring Training before returning. Progress, at least.
- LHP Ian Clarkin was placed on the High-A Tampa disabled list, the team announced. No idea what’s wrong with him. He missed all of 2015 with an elbow injury and the second half of last season with a knee injury.
Triple-A Scranton (9-3 win over Syracuse) they’ve scored 42 runs in their last five games
- 3B Tyler Wade: 1-4, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI — over the last week he’s played three games at short, one at second, one at third, and one in left field
- DH Dustin Fowler: 2-5, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 1 SB — that’s his fifth triple of the season and fourth in his last eight games
- LF Clint Frazier: 2-3, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB — 10-for-24 (.417) with three doubles, two homers, eight walks, and six strikeouts during his little seven-game hitting streak
- 1B Ji-Man Choi: 2-4, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB — now hitting .369/.457/.523 on the season
- SS Ruben Tejada: 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 1 BB — now hitting .319/.410/.580 with 12 walks and eight strikeouts … Pete Kozma being lost on waivers sure helps Tejada’s chances of a call-up should the Yankees need an infielder at some point
- CF Mason Williams: 0-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K
- 2B Abi Avelino: 0-3, 1 BB, 2 K — Triple-A debut … he’s here filling in for Rob Refsnyder, who is with the big league team
- RHP Bryan Mitchell: 3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 1/2 GB/FB — 30 of 43 pitches were strikes (70%) … they’re going to stretch him out as a starter this season because why not?
- RHP Luis Cessa: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 7/3 GB/FB — 55 of 99 pitches were strikes (56%) … they have six starters for five spots at the moment … he can piggyback with Mitchell while Mitchell gets stretched out, but that won’t work forever
I can’t imagine many pitchers have made starts at Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field within the first five games of their MLB career, yet Jordan Montgomery will join the club tonight. This will be Montgomery’s biggest challenge as a big leaguer. He’ll face the defending World Series champion Cubs and their great lineup on the road in an intimidating classic ballpark. Can’t simulate outings like this in the minors.
Anyway, the Yankees stunned the Cubs yesterday afternoon with their latest come-from-behind win. It would be cool to get a lead and not play from behind tonight, you know? Comeback wins are fun! But I could use an easy win one of these days. Jump out to an early lead and protect it the rest of the way. That sort of thing. Just win the series though. That’s the most important thing. Do that and everything will take care of itself. Here is the Cubs’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- CF Aaron Hicks
- 2B Starlin Castro
- RF Aaron Judge
- C Gary Sanchez
- SS Didi Gregorius
- 3B Chase Headley
- 1B Chris Carter
- LHP Jordan Montgomery
It has been sunny in Chicago all day and it’ll be clear tonight. Very cold though. Temperatures in the 40s, but at least there isn’t as much wind as yesterday. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:15pm ET and you can watch on regular old FOX. Not FOX Sports 1. There is no YES broadcast. Enjoy the game.
Injury Update: Jacoby Ellsbury (elbow) is still receiving treatment and hopes to play tomorrow. Right now throwing is the problem more than anything. I assume he’s available to pinch-hit and run today.
According to the press release the 21-year-old Marquina had Tommy John surgery on May 1st, so we won’t see him on a mound until next season. He had a 3.16 ERA (2.90 FIP) with 32.3% strikeouts and 10.5% walks in 31.1 relief innings in the Low-A Midwest League last year. He’s a career reliever. Not a single start among his 69 career pitching appearances in pro ball.
MLB.com did not rank Marquina among Cleveland’s top 30 prospects prior to the trade, nor does he rank among the Yankees’ top 30 prospects right now. Eric Longenhagen did list Marquina among the notable prospects in the Indians system a few weeks ago. Here’s his scouting report:
A converted catcher, Marquina mixes a mid-90s fastball with a feel for creating movement on a breaking ball and changeup, but they often play down due to arm deceleration. His secondaries obviously remain projectable because of the recent conversion. Marquina missed time this year with a shoulder ailment.
Up-and-down players who have been designated for assignment like Goody don’t have much trade value. They’re usually traded for an amount of cash equal to the waiver claim fee, which I believe is $50,000 these days. Rather than take the cash, the Yankees are rolling the dice on a relief prospect, and hoping he’ll reward them once his elbow heals. If he does, great! If not, well no big deal.