CC Sabathia: Packing on the pounds (again)

A whole lot was made of CC Sabathia‘s weight loss earlier this year, as the big left-hander shed 30 lbs. during the offseason and reported to camp at 290 lbs. for the first time in what I imagine is years. He’s gained some of weight back during the season though, something CC readily admitted to George King. “I gained ten back but I feel good, feel strong,” said Sabathia. “This [winter] I will get under 290. It’s easier to work out in the offseason than it is during the season. During the season I have to make sure I stay strong and feel good.” Given how well he’s pitching, I couldn’t care less how much the guy weighs. Whatever he’s doing, it’s working.

Heyman: MLB unlikely to suspend A-Rod

Via Jon Heyman, MLB is unlikely to suspend Alex Rodriguez for all this gambling nonsense, which should surprise no one. Keith Law did a good job of tearing this whole thing to shreds in his chat today, so allow me to copy and paste: “Absolute waste of everyone’s time. Shame on MLB for pandering to the lowest common denominator in both the media (a large segment of which has long had it in for A-Rod) and the fans. They have NO cause to suspend him, and if they try, they will lose the subsequent grievance in embarrassing fashion. And as you pointed out, the inherent message that MLB cares more about whether and with whom you play ‘illegal’ poker than it does about whether you drive drunk and endanger your life and the lives of others is even MORE embarrassing.”

Aside: I present to you this article. Feel free to ridicule, point and laugh, etc.

Granderson getting it done without the homer, too

Can Curtis Granderson hit 40 homers in a season? It was a question that many asked when the Yankees acquired him in the winter of 2009, and rightfully so. He had mashed 30 in 2009, and that came while playing half his games at Comerica Park in Detroit, hardly a lefty’s paradise. Most of his home run production came on the road, which led Yankees fans to wonder if the short porch could increase his home production and perhaps turn him into a true power threat. We didn’t get many good answers in 2010, but in 2011 he has surged, knocking 28 homers through his first 107 games. Getting to 40 is certainly within the realm of possibility.

Lately, though, Granderson has slipped a bit with the power. His two homers against Cleveland on July 5th gave him 25 on the year, or one every 14.68 PA. If he kept up that pace while getting roughly 675 PA on the season, he’d be on pace for about 46 homers. Lately, though, he’s slowed down a bit, hitting just three homers in his last 107 PA. But that hasn’t stopped him from being productive, as he’s hit .278/.358/.500 in that span. That includes seven doubles and two triples, to go along with 10 walks.

Doubles and triples, in fact, have played a big role in Granderson’s 2011 season. He’s not going to reach the 23 triples he hit in the 2007 season, but he could conceivably reach the 13 he hit in 2008. Even if he doesn’t, he’s already hit more than in 2009 and 2010. He’s also going to top both of those years’ doubles totals. In 54 fewer PA he has already topped last year’s doubles total, and is just five away from his 2009 total. At the same time, he’s already topped 2010’s walk total, and if he keeps up this pace he’ll set his single-season record before he gets to 700 PA.

At the start of the season, Granderson provided a welcome surprise with a power outburst. It has mostly held up, but as with most power hitters he goes through plenty of stretches where he’s not hitting the ball over the fence. But for Granderson that hasn’t meant prolonged slumps. When he’s not socking homers he’s still producing by hitting doubles and triples, and taking walks. The combination has vaulted him ahead of all other AL center fielders’ offensive production — his 32.9 runs above average leads No. 2 Jacoby Ellsbury by almost three runs. It’s hard to find a major flaw in Granderson’s game these days. He’s a big part of the reason why the Yankees find themselves in such a comfortable position currently.

A-Rod resumes baseball activities in Tampa

Three weeks after having surgery to repair a slightly torn meniscus in his right knee, Alex Rodriguez resumed baseball activities in Tampa today. Sean Kernan reports that A-Rod did some running, made 25 throws from 125 feet, took some ground balls (27 from his knees, 14 regular), then took 66 swings (32 one-handed off a tee, 34 off soft-toss). There is still no set date for him to begin a minor league rehab assignment, but I figure that’s at least a week away, maybe more.

2011 Draft: Yankees sign third rounder Jordan Cote

The Yankees announced that they have signed third round pick Jordan Cote, though terms of the deal were undisclosed. I’m sure we’ll find out the size of his signing bonus soon enough, but there’s a pretty good chance it’ll be seven figures.

Cote, a 6-foot-5, 205 lb. high school right-hander from New Hampshire, was the highest ceilinged prospect the Yankees selected this year. Baseball America (subs. req’d) says his “fastball sits at 88-90 mph and touches 92, [but] adding strength and pitching in warmer weather should help bump his velocity, especially because he has great hand speed.” He also throws a curveball, slider, and changeup, but each needs work. “Cote has drawn comparisons to Chris Carpenter,” added BA, and “one scout said Cote has the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the Northeast.”

Update: Cote signed for $725k according to Keith Law, a very fair price. Honestly thought it might be double that.

The Adam Warren Option


It seems silly to talk about another starting pitcher when the Yankees already have six starters for five spots, but it’s pretty clear right now that Triple-A Scranton right-hander Adam Warren is next in line should they need someone from the minors. Brian Cashman called Warren “a legitimate starting choice for us right now” minutes after Sunday’s trade deadline, and he was on call last weekend in case Ivan Nova‘s ankle wasn’t healthy enough to start one game in Saturday’s doubleheader. Given his proximity to the big leagues, let’s look to see what he can offer to Yankees.

Warren turns 24 later this month, and everything you need to know about his background and decorated college career can be found in his prospect profile. He signed as a college senior out of a major program in UNC, so the Yankees had no problem sending him to High-A Tampa in his first full professional season in 2010. Warren made 15 strong starts with Tampa (2.72 FIP) before finishing the season with ten starts for Double-A Trenton (2.56 FIP). Between the regular season and playoffs, he threw 146.1 IP in 2010, which was actually down from 154.2 IP in 2009.

The Yankees bumped Warren up to Triple-A Scranton this season after just 54.1 IP with Trenton, a move I thought was a little aggressive. His early-season performance wasn’t all that great. Warren allowed three or more runs in seven of his first eight starts, or three fewer times that he did in 25 starts last year. His strikeout rate has fallen from 22.3% of batters faced in 2010 to just 15.5% this year while his walk rate climbed from 5.8% to 8.6%. According to StatCorner, his swinging strike rate this year 8.2%, which is just a touch above-average for a starting pitcher. Warren’s ground ball rate has gone from 55.1% with Tampa to 48.1% with Trenton to 38.8% with Scranton. All together, it adds up to a 3.95 FIP in 119.1 IP this season.

Baseball America ranked Warren as the team’s 12th best prospect before the season (I had him tenth), saying his fastball sits “90-94 mph with a high of 96” and “late life.” They note that it’s a swing-and-miss pitch because of his command. A curveball, cutter/slider, and “fringe-average at best” changeup round out his repertoire. That last bit is important. Since Warren’s changeup isn’t a true weapon, he’s struggled against lefties. They’ve hit .280 off him with a 33-25 K/BB in 55 IP this year (righties are hitting .226/ with a 46-19 K/BB in 64.1 IP), a similar split to last season. That’s not to say he can’t improve the pitch, but it’s not there at the moment.

Right now, it’s the kind of arsenal that can work at the back of a big league rotation. Warren could be a serviceable option for the Yankees if needed, though he profiles better out of the bullpen, where he could focus on his two best offerings and scrap the miscellany. Perhaps that 90-94 touching 96 turns into 93-95 touching 97 in relief, who knows. Although Cashman referred to the Warren as a rotation candidate “right now” and the Yankees lined him up to start last Saturday if needed, it’s worth noting that David Phelps was ahead of him on the depth chart. Phelps was going to come up and start earlier in the season, but the Yankees (wisely) went with Brian Gordon for the two spot starts instead. Not long after that, Phelps went down with shoulder tendinitis and hasn’t been back since. Warren was next in line. He doesn’t have to be added to the 40-man roster until after next season, so there’s no urgency to get him on the 40-man roster. For now, he’s the seventh starter, but a good one compares to the other seventh starters around the league.

The Dog Days

About two weeks ago I wrote a post about the upcoming schedule and how the Yankees needed to take advantage of some weak competition and pad their lead on the playoff spot. Fourteen straight games against sub-.500 teams – including ten at home – was a recipe for success, and the Yankees have answered the call. They’ve won ten games in that stretch so far, with a chance to make it 11 tonight. Even if they lose tonight, I consider a 10-4 stretch to be a big-time success.

That 14-game stretch, which began at the outset of the ten-game homestand, has increased the Yankees chances of making the playoffs from 89.3% to 98.6% according to Cool Standings, and their lead on a playoff spot has grown from 5.5 games to 8.0 games. The Angels have won seven of their last 13 but have lost 2.5 games in the standings. That must be comforting for them. The Yankees have won with pitching and offense during these 14 games, posting a 3.63 ERA while hitting .329/.395/.521 as a team. They’ve outscored their opponents 101-50. They’ve also gotten healthy during that stretch, with both Eric Chavez and Rafael Soriano returning from long-term-ish injuries. Alex Rodriguez will begin baseball activities in Tampa today, so he’s inching closer to a return as well.

Following tonight’s series finale against the White Sox, the Yankees will play six games against the two teams they have to be most concerned about right now: the Red Sox and Angels. Making the playoffs is always priority number one, but winning the division is always a goal and beating Boston is pretty much a necessity to achieve that goal. Plus they really need to beat the Red Sox just for the sake of beating the Red Sox. That 1-8 record against them this year is a big eyesore. Next week’s series against the Halos is much more important in the grand scheme of things, a sweep either way will drastically impact the wildcard race, anything else will just maintain the status quo.

Once those six games are over with, it’s another prolonged stretch against mediocre to bad clubs. The Rays are fading fast (they’re only 1.5 games up on the Blue Jays these days), then it’s 15 straight against the Royals, Twins, Athletics, and Orioles. For all the talk about how many road games the Yankees have left (31 vs. 22 at home), a whole lot of those games away from the Bronx are against those bad teams. Plus the Yanks have one of the best road winning percentages in baseball, so it’s not like games away from Yankee Stadium are a chore. The Yankees have beefed up their win total over the last two weeks, and they’ll have a great chance to do it again later this month.

Yesterday, Joe wrote about using the big wildcard lead to play around with the roster somewhat. They can find some extra rest for CC Sabathia and Bartolo Colon, perhaps see what J.C. Romero has to offer, maybe even give Jesus Montero and Manny Banuelos a chance to strut their stuff. These are the dog days of summer, when all the games kinda blend in with each other and it feels like we’re just going through the motions, but for the Yankees it’s a chance to improve on what they already have.