Trenton one hits Binghamton for eighth win in a row

The Yankees released outfielder Joe Talerico, their 21st round pick in 2009, before he ever played a game in the minors. That happens more often than you might think.

And speaking of releases, in case you missed it earlier, Chris Garcia was granted his. Donnie Collins spoke to GM Brian Cashman about the move, and he said it wasn’t really a difficult decision. Cash also said the team is grooming Kevin Russo into a Jerry Hairston Jr. kind of player.

Triple-A Scranton (6-1 win over Charlotte)
Kevin Russo, 3B: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 HBP, 1 E (fielding)
Reegie Corona, 2B: 0 for 5
Eduardo Nunez, SS: 3 for 5, 1 R – nice little five game hitting streak
David Winfree, 1B: 2 for 4, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 K – 11 for his last 28 (.393)
Jon Weber, RF: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 3B, 2 RBI, 1 K – picked a runner off second with a snap throw … yeah, the outfielder misplayed the triple, but it’s a line drive in the box score
Chad Huffman, LF: 0 for 4, 1 K
Reid Gorecki, CF: 2 for 4, 1 2B, 1 RBI
Robby Hammock. DH: 0 for 2, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 CS
Chan Ho Park: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 0-1 GB/FB – 10 of his 12 pitches were strikes … apparently the wild pitch went to the backstop … he went down to the bullpen to throw some more pitches afterward
Romulo Sanchez: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 8-3 GB/FB – 66 of 109 pitches were strikes (60.6%) … first outing since he pitched in relief of A.J. Burnett in Boston … that’s as good as it gets right there
Jon Albaladejo: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1-0 Gb/FB – 11 of his 19 pitches were strikes

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Game 35: Coming home to beat the Twins

The only thing Robbie Cano runs for is the flight out of Detroit. (Paul Sancya, AP)

That title doesn’t come off too good, does it? Eh, oh well.

The Yankees went a cool 10-0 against the Twins last season (playoffs included), outscoring them 56-31. That’s pretty ridiculous. If you go back three years, the Yankees are 21-6 against Minnesota, so they certainly have their number. Considering how lethargic the team has looked over the last five days, it’ll be good to see the Yanks at home and taking on a familiar whipping boy.

On the mound will be A.J. Burnett, who’s coming off his worst start of the season in (where else?) Boston. The Twins are essentially a league average team against fastballs and slightly below against curveballs, so the matchup favors the Yanks’ starter. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are no joke in the middle of the lineup though, and those two can win a game all by themselves if Burnett’s not careful.

Here’s the lineup that’ll take on Scott Baker, who’s a lot better than he gets credit for…

Jeter, SS
Gardner, CF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Swisher, RF
Thames, LF – noooooo!!!
Miranda, DH
Cervelli, C

And on the mound, Allen James Burnett.

First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET, and can be seen on YES. There’s a chance of some rain tonight, but it looks like they’ll have no trouble getting this one in.

Photo Credit: Paul Sancya, AP

Draft Links: BA Mock Draft, Klaw’s Top 100

A collection of draft related links…

Baseball America’s Mock Draft v1.0

Jim Callis posted the first version of his mock draft today, and right now he has the Yankees taking Clemson outfielder Kyle Parker, who also doubles as the Tigers’ quarterback. Even though he’s an elite athlete, Parker’s only standout tool is his raw power. Everything else is questionable, including his ability to hit for average. Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer has targeted players with super-high ceilings with four of his five first round picks, and Parker doesn’t really fit that mold. Here’s his scouting report, complete with video.

Meanwhile, make sure you also check out BA’s draft podcast (download). Makes for great subway listening on the way home from work or for the ride to the Stadium.

KLaw’s Top 100 Draft Prospects

Keith Law posted an updated list of his top 100 prospects, and the big story is that LSU righthander Anthony Ranaudo is dropping like crazy because of injury concerns and unimpressive recent performances. He came into the year as a potential candidate to go number two overall behind Harper, but KLaw has him ranked 20th overall now. The Scott Boras client could continue to fall, and he looks like a prime candidate to not sign (because he won’t get the money Boras is looking for) and head to indy ball before next year’s draft. If he doesn’t show that he’s healthy and effective between now and the draft, yes, I would be against the Yankees taking him with their first round pick.

Also, check out KLaw’s individual scouting reports. They’re Insider only, but they have breakdowns, 20-80 scouting scale grades, some have video, stuff like that. Make sure you check ’em out.

Draft Mechanics

Allan Simpson at Perfect Game wrote a great breakdown of basically everything you need to know about the draft. The who, what, when, and where, plus stuff like eligibility rules, compensation draft pick rules, etc.It’s about time someone put all that info together in one place, in a nice and easy to read format.

I have no idea why, but the original article has disappeared from PG’s site, so the link goes to the Google Cache version. Apologies in advance for the ugliness.

Yankees release Chris Garcia, claim Shane Lindsay

Via LoHud, the Yankees have released Chris Garcia, who had his second Tommy John surgery last month. They could still re-sign him to a minor league contract, similar to what they did with Humberto Sanchez last year. That would remove Garcia from the 40-man roster and keep him in the organization without allowing him accrue service time, which a 60-day DL assignment would.

The move frees up a roster spot for righty Shane Lindsay, who the Yanks claimed off waivers from the Rockies. Baseball America ranked Lindsay as Colorado’s 23rd best prospect coming into the season, noting his “mid-90’s fastball that can touch 98, as well as a knuckle-curve that he can throw for quality strikes.” He’s strictly a reliever, but his numbers this year are ugly: 13.2 IP, 15 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 17 BB, 19 K, 4 WP.

RAB Live Chat

RAB elsewhere on the internets

As we gear up for the chat at 1:30, here are a few RABbi links to tide you over until then.

Ben on the Bloomberg Sports podcast.

Listen to Ben as he talks Yanks baseball with Rob Shaw and Wayne Parillo. I really enjoyed this one. Makes me want to start up the RAB Radio Show again.

Joe answers questions for Twins fans.

Alex Halsted of FoxSports North asked me a few Yankees-related questions. You probably already know the answers, but yeah, check it out anyway.

Catch Mike at RotoGraphs.

Did you guys know that Mike is writing at RotoGraphs, the fantasy arm of FanGraphs? He’s got something today on not falling for Corey Patterson steals trap.

We’ve seen this before from Andruw Jones.

I mentioned in the chat reminder that I’d give you guys some time to read my latest on FanGraphs. Andruw Jones is off to a hot start, but he got off to a nearly identical start last year. Check it out.

A-Rod swinging less, making contact more

Photo credit: Duane Burleson/AP

It appears that a number of Yankees hitters have changed their approaches this season. A week ago I looked at the changes with Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner. They seem to be on opposite tracks. Gardner has become even more selective, while Swisher has shown a bit more aggression. Both have seen early returns. Alex Rodriguez has also changed his approach a bit, though the results haven’t quite been there for him yet. If he keeps this up, though, they very well might.

A quick look at A-Rod’s stats makes a few things clear. First, he’s striking out less — a lot less. From his cup of coffee in 1994 through 2009 his low water mark for strikeout percentage was 16.9 percent, achieved in 1997. That also happens to be the worst year of his career, 1995 notwithstanding. This year he has struck out in 14.9 percent of his at-bats, so something has changed, at least in the first 33 games.

A look at his discipline statistics makes the difference clear. His swing rate sits at an all-time low of 40.9 percent, while his contact rate is at an all-time high, by far, of 86.4 percent. His swinging strike rate is also way down, 5.7 percent. His previous low came last season, 9.1 percent. A couple of other all-time lows, though not by as drastic a percentage: pitches seen in the zone, 43.9 percent, and first-pitch strikes. 52.5 percent.

The decrease in swing percentage comes mostly on balls inside the strike zone. A-Rod has swung at just 63.7 percent of those pitches, whereas his previous career low came in 2007, 66.3 percent. On the flip side, he’s making plenty of contact with the pitches he does swing at inside the zone, 96.7 percent, more than 10 percentage points higher than any year of his career. He’s also making more contact with pitches outside the zone, an increase even over last year, which was the highest mark of his career.

Intuitively, I would think that these numbers forecast a high-power year for A-Rod. He’s being selective with pitches inside the zone, so presumably he’s only swinging at the ones he likes. On those pitches he’s making plenty of contact, too, so I’d guess that he’s hitting more line drives. Yet none of that is true. His line drive rate is nearly identical to last year. He’s hitting more ground balls, and hitting fewer balls in the air. Worst of all, he’s not hitting those balls in the air particularly well, as only three have left the park, or 8.1 percent of his fly balls. He hasn’t been below the 20 percent mark in HR/FB since 2004. His power is way down, too. A .174 ISO represents by far the lowest mark of his career.

This issue can go two ways. First, it could signal that this approach simply doesn’t work for A-Rod. He has been a certain type of hitter his entire career, and changing now doesn’t make much sense. If he’s going to have success, he’ll have to get back to that longer swing that leads to more strikeouts, but also leads to harder hit baseballs. Second, it could mean that he’s in an adjustment period. He’s in his mid-30s now, a time when many ballplayers start to decline. A change in approach might help stave off the normal effects of aging, allowing him to continue playing until a much later age. Both of these cases have merit, and I’m not at all sure which case this is. It could be something completely different, too, I suppose.

Encouragingly, A-Rod’s defense has improved according to both major defensive metrics. John Dewan’s +/- system has A-Rod at 4 defensive runs saved, third among his peers, while UZR has him at 1.6, fourth among AL third basemen. He’s still hitting well compared to other AL third basemen, ranking third in wOBA. Nos. 2 and 4, Alberto Callaspo and Jose Bautista, don’t figure to be around for long, either. Also, while he’s not hitting home runs at nearly the pace he has in years past, he is actually slapping his share of doubles. He has eight already, after hitting just 17 all of last year. Even if he doesn’t get to the 30 homer mark this season, a 35-40 doubles season will certainly add to his value.

The most important thing about all this data is that it’s tough to make much of it. We’re dealing with 121 PA here, so it’s not a huge sample. Yet these are the results. This is what he has done so far. It might be coincidental, but with numbers this far off from his career marks make me wonder whether the change is deliberate. He raves about his work with Kevin Long, so I can definitely understand if they changed his approach this year. If they have made some adjustments, it’s too early to write them off. If they haven’t made adjustments, I really wonder why his plate discipline numbers have changed so drastically.

It’s been a tough year so far without A-Rod producing his normal power numbers out of the No. 4 spot. Remember, though, that at this point last year, heading into Game 34, that A-Rod had played in just five contests and was hitting .188. Once he heats up — and I have nothing but confidence that he will — we could be in for an experience similar to last year. I’d take his 2009 numbers any time.