Yanks looking to improve bench

Via Marc Carig, the Yankees primary goal at the moment is to improve their pathetically weak bench, which explains the Ty Wigginton rumors. “The bench is the area of priority as of right now,” said GM Brian Cashman. “That doesn’t mean we’re not open to anything else. But if you ask me what’s the priority? What’s the area of weakness? It’s the bench.” Colin Curtis and Chad Huffman were great in that comeback win against the Dodgers, but are otherwise unspectacular. Ramiro Pena is an automatic out, and Kevin Russo seems to have dropped off the face of the Earth. So yeah, having some decent reserves would be nice.

Hopefully the bullpen will be fixed shortly thereafter.

Yanks’ offense MIA yet again, fall to Jays in 11

There are few things in baseball more frustrating than stranded baserunners, blown leads, and losing in extra innings, and yet Friday’s game against the Blue Jays managed to hit the trifecta. Sadly, it was more just of the same from a team that suddenly features only two sure things (CC Sabathia, Mariano Rivera). The Yankees are 7-8 in their last 15 games, a 76 win pace over a full season, and they look every bit the part. Boston took down the Orioles, trimming the Yanks lead in the AL East down to a half-game.

I guess we should be happy he only allowed one run on Friday. (Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP)

I Was So Sure That First Inning Run Would Hold Up

As has been the theme for the last week or so, the Yanks were all about squandering opportunities in this game. The 1st inning started with walks to Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher, who then moved over the second and third on a Mark Teixeira ground out. Alex Rodriguez got a run with a sacrifice fly, but Swisher was stranded at third. Yay.

The 3rd inning started in much of the same way: single by Jeter, walk to Swisher, and then a walk to Teixeira to load them up with nobody out. Teams are expected to score more than 2.4 runs in that situation, and you figured the Yanks could best that with the 4-5-6 hitters coming up. Instead they got a big fat goose egg. A-Rod struck out after being up 2-0 in the count, swinging through an 82 mph changeup and a 91 mph fastball for strikes two and three. Robbie Cano followed that up by swinging through three straight fastballs up and in and out of the zone for just his seventh three pitch strikeout of the season. Jorge Posada spared everyone the embarrassment of three straight strikeouts, grounding out to second to let the obviously off-his-game Brett Cecil off the hook.

But wait folks, there’s more. With the score still standing at one-love, Posada singled and Curtis Granderson walked to lead off the 6th inning. With two hits already to his name, Frankie Cervelli stepped the plate in what appeared to be a bunting situation. “You have a slow runner at second,” said Joe Girardi after the game. “You have a lefty on the mound that’s falling off toward third base. It’s got to be a perfect bunt. Cervi’s got two hits off this guy. Lefties are hitting .180 (against him) and there’s a left-hander (Brett Gardner) on deck. The wind’s blowing in. A sac fly is going to be difficult.” Sounds like fine reasoning, and you all know I despise the bunt, but sure enough Cervelli clanked a 1-1 fastball into the ground for a 5-4-3 double play. Posada would be stranded at third.

The Yankees really didn’t put up much of a fight after that. Just one of the final 16 batters the Yankees sent to the plate after Cervelli’s GIDP reached base, and Posada was the only Yankee to make it to second base (and beyond) after the 4th inning. Blue Jays pitchers threw five pitches in the 7th, nine in the 8th, 11 in the 9th, 14 in the 10th, and 13 in the 11th. That’s a total of 52 pitches to record the final 15 outs. They went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, and haven’t picked up a single hit in their last 19 at-bats with RISP dating back to who knows when.

Over their last 38 offensive innings, the Yankees have pushed nine runs across. Nine. That’s a 2.13 ERA if you were a pitcher. Granted, there’s no shame in losing to Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez, but the constant non-capitalization of opportunities is something that dates back to the series in Arizona. They let Dontrelle Willis off the hook then, and let Brett Cecil and his six walks off the hook here. I know teams go through slumps, but we’re talking about complete offensive ineptitude here. Guys are obviously pressing, others are giving at-bats away, and of course there’s basically four automatic outs in the lineup every night because of the lack of a real designated hitter.

The Yankees are hitting .245/.332/.405 a a team since June 1st, a forgettable .323 wOBA. That’s like having nine Cliff Pennington’s in the lineup for over a month. Yeah, exactly. No more excuses, no more tipping your cap to the other pitcher, man the frig up and get the job done.

A.J. Escapes From Eiland Of Doom

You did good, A.J. (Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP)

How’s that for a pun? Or is that even a pun? I dunno, whatever. Either way, there was some silver lining in this game, and that was Burnett’s return to being an effective starter. We all know his June was ugly and we all looked every which way for an excuse, and blaming the absence of pitching coach Dave Eiland fit. Sure enough, A.J.’s first start with Eiland back in the fold went rather swimmingly. Maybe there was something to the narrative after all.

With a fastball that topped out at 95 on the nose and a curveball that actually dropped off the table instead of hanging out to dry for the first time in the month, Burnett escaped a two on, two out jam in the 2nd with a strikeout and a two on, no out jam in the 3rd with a pair of harmless fly outs and a ground out. He cruised from that point on. The Jays went down 1-2-3 in the 4th, and just as easily in the 5th when a Fred Lewis baserunning mistake resulted in a 6-1 double play following a hit by pitch. Burnett retired 13 of the final 16 batters he faced, striking out six total.

We’re not completely out of the woods yet, because A.J. did walk three, hit another batter, and recorded just three outs on the ground against nine in the air. Whatever Eiland did with him over the last few days, well bravo. The Yanks are going to need Burnett to not just take the ball every five days, but to take the ball pretty deep into games to avoid the tragedy known as the middle relief corps.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP


I don’t even know where to start. I guess with the bullpen.

Yeah, I know Joba Chamberlain‘s peripherals are pretty damn good, but this was the sixth time he’s allowed the opponents to score in his last 18 appearances. Keeping the opposition in check just two out of every three appearances simply isn’t good enough for a late inning reliever. I don’t know what the Yankees do with him from here on out, but there’s only so much longer they can can tolerate this.

I know it’s only been three months, it’s time for the Chan Ho Park era to come to an end. This friggin’ guy has allowed runs in four of his last five outings, and in 11 of his 19 outings overall. Wanted it to work, was a big fan of the signing, but sorry, it’s just not happening.

Is there any better example of Nichols Law than Cervelli? He can’t hit (.208/.283/.245 since May 20th even with Friday’s 2-for-4 effort), can’t block pitches in the dirt (three got by him on Friday), can’t throw runners out (28 steals in 35 attempts, 80%), what exactly does he contribute? His .375 BABIP fueled April was fun while it lasted, but now he does nothing. If he’s going to play once or twice a week as the backup catcher, fine. But having him in the lineup every day so Posada can DH is ri-damn-diculous.

Big ups to Granderson for his catch in the 4th and to Gardner for his catch leading off the 8th. Easily the highlights of the day.

WPA Graph & Box Score

The lolpen strikes again. Here’s the box score, here’s all that other stuff you probably don’t look at anyway.

Up Next

Third day game in a row tomorrow, featuring a matchup of lefthanders: Andy Pettitte vs. Ricky Romero. Over/under on runs scored by the Yanks is set at 3.5.

Tampa, Staten Island walk-off with wins

Brad Rulon has been released, and three draft picks have signed: OF Jake Anderson (7th round), C Tyler Austin (13th), and RHP Dustin Hobbs (21st). Austin’s the best of the bunch, a recent catching convert with significant catch-and-throw and offensive skills, but he’s hella raw.

D.J. Mitchell took David Phelps‘ place on the Double-A Eastern League All Star team. Talk about undeserving (4.70 ERA, 4.52 FIP, 6.5 K/9, 4.7 BB/9). Meanwhile, Brandon Laird was one of the final cuts for Baseball America’s midseason prospect All Star team.

Triple-A Scranton (5-1 loss to Pawtucket)
Justin Christian, LF & Jesus Montero, C: both 0 for 4
Marcus Thames, RF: 0 for 3 – played eight innings in the field by design
Reid Gorecki, RF: 0 for 1
Eduardo Nunez, 3B: 1 for 4, 1 E (throwing) – definitely not a coincidence that he’s played two games in a row at the hot corner … they want to see how he can handle it before swapping him with Ramiro Pena
Juan Miranda, DH: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K – first game off the DL … as soon as he & Thames shake the rust off, they need to be in the Bronx serving as a DH platoon, as soon as friggin’ possible
Jorge Vazquez, 1B, Reegie Corona, 2B & Greg Golson, CF: all 0 for 3 – JoVa K’ed once, Golson twice … Vazquez also committed a fielding error
Eric Bruntlett, SS: 1 for 3
David Phelps: 5.2 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 12-1 GB/FB – 63 of 99 pitches were strikes … he gets a pass because this is his first AAA start, but damn, love the ground balls
Eric Wordekemper: 1.1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1 WP, 0-1 GB/FB – 12 of his 19 pitches were strikes (63.2%) … still has a shiny 0.00 ERA with SWB this year
Mark Melancon: 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1-2 GB/FB – just 13 of his 22 pitches were strikes (59.1%) … that’s 14 H, 10 BB, 14 K in his last 15.1 IP … that’s not him, something’s up

[Read more…]

Yankees interested in Ty Wigginton

Via MLBTR, the Yankees have expressed interest in trading for Ty Wigginton to serve as a reserve. I wrote all about the possibility of acquiring Wigginton a little over a week ago, so I suggest going there for a comprehensive breakdown. What’s worth repeating is that the Orioles are looking for a young shortstop in return for the free-agent-to-be, and the Yanks have a trio in Ramiro Pena, Eduardo Nunez, and Reegie Corona. They clearly need to upgrade the bench, and if nothing else, Wigginton is an (expensive) upgrade over Pena.

Open Thread: Be grateful that you have a brain for thinking and legs to take you places

What the hell are you clapping about? (Photo Credit: Seth Wenig, AP)

I don’t even want to talk about the suckfest from this afternoon. I’ll vent in the recap later. You know what to do with the open thread, so have at it. I recommend going out though. It’s Friday and the weather’s gorgeous, no need to stay indoors.

(Bonus: Anyone get the reference from the title?)

Link Dump: July 2nd International Signing Period Edition

Even though the draft gets all of the attention, the July 2nd international signing period is where the Yankees really do some major damage and acquire top shelf amateur talent. They’ve operated this way for decades, because money (and the Yankee brand) talks on the open market while the draft restricts them to a specific position (usually late for the Yanks). In recent years they’ve signed top prospects like Jesus Montero, Arodys Vizcaino, Jose Tabata, and shiny new toy Gary Sanchez off the international market, and they’re sure to be in the top talents this year.

The team has yet to announce any signings, but that’s not a surprise. They’ll trickle out over time. Here are some links from around the netweb to get you up to speed…

  • Baseball America’s Ben Badler says that the Yankees and other big money teams are going to wait this thing out a bit this summer because right now, the prices are not lining up with the talent. He adds that the top Dominican prospects won’t be signing today, and that PED testing has really wreaked some havoc on the market.
  • The Yanks have been connected to a few players this year (sub. req’d), though they don’t have an obvious number one target (like they did last year with Sanchez). They have interest in Venezuelan SS (and badass name) Rougned Odor (video), Venezuelan LHP Angel Mejias, Dominican OF Wilmer Romero (video), and Dominican SS Javier Pimentel.
  • Keith Law (Insider only) adds that the Yanks are the assumed destination of Dominican RHP Felix Jorge, who “was 89-91 earlier this year with some feel for a curve and change, but his velocity has dropped of late, though he has a projectable body that promises more.”
  • Remember, they’ve also been connected to Mexican RHP Luis Heredia and Dominican RHP Rafael DePaula earlier this year, though the latter is in some age and identity trouble. If you’re a BA subscriber, here’s scouting reports on this year’s top 33 prospects.

We’ll be sure to keep you updated on any significant signings if and when word gets out.

Game 79: Watch the changeup

Please make it so we can clap for you today, A.J. (Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP)

The last time the Yankees faced Brett Cecil, he killed them with the changeup. Just buried them. Eight innings of one run ball, with 28 of his 105 pitches being that damn changeup. The Yanks swung and missed at nearly 22% of them. It’s easier said than done, but they seriously got to just lay off that pitch and go after everything else. It won’t be easy if he mixes his pitches like he did last time (no fewer than 18 four-seamers, sinkers, changeups, and curveballs), but something has to give. Maybe don’t worry about working the count and just attack the first fastball in the zone.

As for the real sideshow in this one, we get our first look at A.J. Burnett since the return of Dave Eiland. Based on what I’ve read in the MSM, all of Burnett’s ills should be cured. All I know is that he better not throw Jose Bautista a fastball. Break out the eephus pitch if you have to, the guy can’t hit anything that moves.

Heeeeeeeeeere’s the lineup…

Jeter, SS
Swisher, RF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Posada, DH
Granderson, CF
Cervelli, C
Gardner, LF

And on the bump, A.J. Burnett.

Another beautiful day in New York, with blue skies and not a smidgen of humidity. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05pm ET, and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.