Rapid fire mailbag this week, so ten questions and ten answers. Please use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send up anything throughout the week, mailbag questions or otherwise.
Max asks: At what point should we worry about Robinson Cano‘s bad lefty splits going forward? He’s hitting .254/.299/.476 against lefties this year and had a .239/.309/.337 line last year. Sure, he still mashes righties but I’m really not comfortable with the idea of giving a potential platoon player a megadeal. Thanks.
Oh it’s definitely a red flag right. Cano hit lefties nearly as well as he hit righties until last season, when his performance fell off a cliff. I looked at the data as part of our season review and didn’t find any significant red flags. This year though, both his ground ball (56.3%) and strikeout (22.4%) rates are way up against southpaws. That could change in a hurry since it’s so early in the season. If that continues into the summer, I’d be very worried. Giving a super-long contract to a middle infielder is risky enough, and it would be even worse if he’s morphed into a platoon bat. Not worried yet, but I will be watching this.
Steve asks: Single-season saves record is Francisco Rodriguez at 62. Mariano Rivera is on pace for 66. What are the odds he does it?
This isn’t really a Mo thing, right? The other 24 players on the team have to create those save opportunities for him. They’d have to give him like, 67 save chances over the full season to get to 62 saves, which means another 51 save chances in the final 121 games of the year. It’s doable, the Yankees play a ton of close games because their pitching is good and their offense mostly stinks (94 wRC+!), but only twice has someone saved more than 55 games in one year. I think the odds are very small, maybe 5% on the high-end.
Vinny asks: Assuming Travis Hafner gets and stays healthy (big assumption), what will the Yankees do with Lyle Overbay whenever Mark Teixeira comes back? His performance against righties has been excellent.
His performance against righties has been excellent (160 wRC+), but so has Hafner’s (151 wRC+). Pronk also does a much better job of holding his own against southpaws (98 wRC+, where Overbay has been basically useless (-21 wRC+). Their overall hitting numbers aren’t particularly close either (106 vs. 139 wRC+). The Yankees will have to decide if Overbay’s advantages on defense and durability make up the difference in offensive production. Considering he’s a first baseman and first baseman only, I think the answer is clearly no.
I definitely think they will see what they have internally first. That means Vidal Nuno and maybe even Josh Spence in addition to Rapada and Cabral. If those guys all manage to flop — or if Boone Logan gets hurt — in the coming weeks, yeah I could see them looking for lefty relief help at the deadline. It definitely isn’t a pressing need right now.
KG asks: Would the Yankees have the interest/package to trade for Nick Franklin? He may not end up a bonafide major league shortstop, but the Mariners have Dustin Ackley at second and Brad Miller just behind Franklin. Pipe dream?
I’m sure there would be some interest on New York’s part, but I don’t see why the Mariners would move him right now. He’s tearing up the Triple-A level (159 wRC+) and even though he’s unlikely to be a shortstop long-term, he’s much better than their big league shortstops. Ackley is awful but they won’t give up on him yet, but Miller is far from a sure thing. I think the Mariners will call Franklin up in the coming weeks and give him a chance. The only thing the Yankees have to offer are a bunch High-A and Double-A outfielders, none of whom is performing particularly well this year. I don’t really see a trade fit.
Anonymous asks: With Seattle having uber-catching prospect Mike Zunino just about ready for the show — any chance Seattle will take offers for Jesus Montero? What would the Yankees have to give to reacquire Jesus?
Teams usually aren’t quick to admit failure after a trade of that magnitude, so I don’t think Seattle would be open to moving Montero so soon without getting a big piece in return. They’re not going to sell-low and take two Grade-C prospects despite his dismal big league performance. The Yankees could stick him at DH, teach him first base, catch him on rare occasions … basically everything they could have done when he was with the organization. I don’t see this happening at all.
Anonymous asks: Do you believe the Yankees are planning to trade Joba Chamberlain for pieces around the deadline, considering the Yankees’ surplus of middle relief options? Joba could bring back a cost-controlled piece.
He’s an injury-prone middle reliever who will be a free agent after the season. You don’t get “pieces” in return for that, and the only cost-controlled piece he’ll bring back in a mid-level prospect. Joba’s value to the Yankees as a seventh inning reliever is much greater than anything they’ll realistically get in return. Teams aren’t giving up anything worthwhile for him, I know I wouldn’t.
Mike asks: Sort of a two-part David Aardsma question now that the Marlins released him. Firstly, why are teams not giving him a shot in the Majors, and secondly, would it make sense for the Yanks to go pick him up again?
I don’t know why he hasn’t been given a big league shot yet, but I don’t believe it’s because he’s been overlooked. Teams know Aardsma, and anytime a former standout closer becomes a free agent, he gets looked into. They must not like what they’ve seen, either in his stuff or command — he did walk eight in 14 innings before the release, which he requested — or whatever. If Aardsma wants to come back to the organization and pitch in Triple-A for a few weeks, great. I wouldn’t give him a big league job over Shawn Kelley or Preston Claiborne (or Joba) right now though.
Tuckers asks: I know it’s too soon to predict, but what do you think about the Yankees signing Tim Lincecum after the season? I think there’s a good argument to be made either way.
My answer at this exact moment is no. That is subject to change between now and the offseason, but his velocity continues to hover around 90 mph and his offspeed stuff isn’t as devastating as it was when he was 93-95. His walk (4.25 BB/9 and 11.0 BB%) and homer (0.92 HR/FB and 15.6% HR/FB) rates are career-worsts, and that’s in a big park in the NL. The Yankees do a wonderful job of squeezing production from seemingly cooked veterans, but I don’t think Lincecum is coming on a cheap one-year deal. So yeah, right now my answer is no. If he adds some velocity this summer, my opinion will change.
Brad asks: So the Yankees seem to have a glut of serviceable, young starting pitchers. Is there a deal out there for them to turn some quantity of these into an impact bat?
I don’t think so. I don’t see any team giving up an impact back for guys like Ivan Nova and David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno. Two or three projected fifth starters doesn’t get you one really good bat. Maybe they could get a David Adams type, but that wouldn’t qualify as an impact bat in my opinion.
The injuries are really starting to the catch up to the Yankees offense, as the club failed to score more than three runs for the seventh time in the last eleven games. You can’t win like that, not playing in a small ballpark in the AL East. The Mariners won Thursday’s rubber game by the score of 3-2.
Pettitte’s Back Hurting, Again
Andy Pettitte leaving the game with a tight left trap is the major story of the game obviously, and we have no idea how long it’s been bothering him. He wasn’t particularly sharp before leaving the game, throwing 48 of 79 pitches were strikes (61%) and falling behind in the count quite a bit. That could easily be the result of the trap tightness, but Andy hasn’t really been on top of his game for a few starts now. He hasn’t been bad, just a little off.
Pettitte held the Mariners to two runs on four hits and three walks in 4.2 innings, and both runs scored with two outs. Not just with two outs, with two outs and two strikes. Not just with two outs and two strikes, with two outs and two strikes and the hits came from Dustin Ackley (66 wRC+) and Brendan Ryan (6 wRC+). I don’t think it’s asking too much of a pitcher to finish those guys off in two-strike counts with men on-base. It took a great catch from Ichiro Suzuki to save some runs in the first inning as well.
The Batting Order Strikes, Twice
In 22 of the team’s first 40 games, Robinson Cano batted second. It was glorious, he batted with a ton of men on-base and squeezed in an few extra two-out at-bats during a rally at the end of an inning. On Thursday, Jayson Nix batted second against a right-handed pitcher for whatever reason. The batting order doesn’t mean a ton over the 162-game season, but in this individual game, it cost the Yankees on two occasions.
First, with the Mariners up by one, Nix batted with two outs and runners at the corners in the fifth inning. He popped out in a 1-2 count to end the inning. Second, with the Mariners still up by one, Nix batted with the tying run at third and one out in the ninth inning. He struck out, swinging and missing at three Tom Wilhelmsen fastballs. Instead of having Cano bat in those situations, the Yankees had their … eighth? best hitter at the plate. There’s no guarantee Robbie would have come through, especially given his recent slump, but I think we all would have preferred to see him up in those spots. Nix finished the night with a -.403 WPA, the worst by a Yankees position player and the seventh worst by any position player in MLB this year.
Curtis Granderson, who was batting way down in the sixth spot for some reason, had three of the team’s eight hits. The top five hitters in the lineup went a combined 2-for-21 with two walks and eight strikeouts. That ain’t good. Brett Gardner singled and stole two bases in the ninth, but he also struck out looking with men on first and second with no outs in the seventh. He’s in a real bad funk. Ichiro, by the way, snapped out of an 0-for-22 slump with a single to center. He’s dangerously close to Tony Womackian levels of offensive production.
The bullpen did a pretty solid job in relief of Pettitte, allowing just one run 4.1 innings. That one run was the game-loser though, a solo homer by Mike Morse off Shawn Kelley. Kelley struck out five of the eight men he faced, giving him 30 strikeouts (and four walks) in 17.1 innings. Silly. Boone Logan retired all four men he faced and Adam Warren chipped in a scoreless ninth. At some point the Yankees have to start scoring more runs, the pitching staff is doing it’s job.
Remember yesterday when I said I wish I could look up the last time the Yankees had five players make their big league debut within the first 40 games of the season? Chad Jennings dug up the answer. It was 1995, when Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Brian Boehringer, and Jeff Patterson did it. Impressive group.
The Blue Jays are coming to town for a three-game weekend series, and they’re playing a whole lot better right now than they were the last time they were in the Bronx. Hiroki Kuroda and Mark Buehrle is your series opening pitching matchup on Friday night. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch the game in person.
10:53pm: After the game, Joe Girardi said the Yankees aren’t too concerned about the injury. They just took Pettitte out as a precaution. It’s unclear if he’ll make his next start, however.
9:51pm: Pettitte left the game with a tight left trap, the team announced. That’s the muscle in the upper back, kinda between the neck and shoulder blade. No word on a timetable or tests or anything.
8:32pm: Andy Pettitte left tonight’s game with an apparent injury with two outs in the fifth. He threw 79 pitches and struck out the two batters he faced in the inning. Replays didn’t show anything obvious, yet Joe Girardi and trainer Steve Donohue came out to chat. Pettitte left the game without throwing any test pitches. He missed a start last month with a stiff back. Stay tuned for updates. · (24) ·
10:46pm: It’s his left groin and he’s off for an MRI. Stewart said he didn’t feel anything pop, so I guess that’s good.
9:47pm: Chris Stewart left tonight’s game after the seventh inning with an apparent groin injury. He pulled up lame running the bases and was in obvious discomfort. Stewart did remain in the game to run the bases, but he was taken out between innings. As always, stay tuned for updates. · (14) ·
Triple-A Scranton (4-1 loss to Toledo)
- 2B Corban Joseph: 1-4, 1 HBP
- RF Brennan Boesch: 0-5, 1 K
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 0-4, 1 BB, 1 K — tough to win when the 1-2-3 hitters go a combined 1-for-13
- 3B Ronnie Mustelier: 2-5
- CF Melky Mesa: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K
- RHP Chien-Ming Wang: 6.2 IP, 12 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 1 Balk, 8/6 GB/FB — 66 of 100 pitches were strikes … the lack of grounds and all the hits are a pretty good indication the sinker wasn’t working
- RHP Mark Montgomery: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 14 of 24 pitches were strikes (58%)
The Yankees and Mariners have split the first two games of this three-game series in very different ways. New York mounted a late-inning comeback in the opener before getting completely blown out yesterday. Did you know the Yankees have trailed after the first inning 14 times this year? They’ve had the lead after the first just five times, and they’ve been outscored 63-54 in the first three innings this year. Early runs and a fast start, please. Here’s the lineup that will face former Yankee Hector Noesi…
- CF Brett Gardner
- SS Jayson Nix
- 2B Robinson Cano
- LF Vernon Wells
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- DH Curtis Granderson
- 3B David Adams
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- C Chris Stewart
And on the mound is 1996 Al Cy Young Award runner-up, left-hander Andy Pettitte.
The weather is damn near flawless in New York right now, so it’s a perfect night for baseball. The game is scheduled to start at 7:05pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.
Got a trio of injury updates to pass along…
- Michael Pineda (shoulder) will throw 50 pitches in an Extended Spring Training game tomorrow. Brian Cashman has said they want to stretch him out to 65 pitches before sending him out on an official rehab assignment. Seems like the earliest possible return is late-June. [Jack Curry]
- Travis Hafner (shoulder) will take batting practice before tonight’s game. If that goes well, he will be available off the bench as a pinch-hitter. The Yankees will face left-hander Mark Buehrle on Friday, so I guess the earliest Pronk will return to the lineup is Saturday. [Meredith Marakovits]
- Joba Chamberlain (oblique) is not yet ready to come off the DL. He’ll make at least one more minor league rehab appearance with Triple-A Scranton. The Yankees swapped Brett Marshall for Dellin Betances today, just to add a fresh arm to the bullpen. [Bryan Hoch]
Update: Chad Jennings has lots more injury news, so let’s recap…
- Derek Jeter (ankle) was checked out recently and although he’s healing well, he’s still not ready to do any sort of baseball activities. He could shed his walking boot soon, however.
- Ivan Nova (triceps) will pitch in a minor league game on Monday. He felt some discomfort in his back last week, near his left shoulder, so he’s been setback a bit.
- Alex Rodriguez (hip) hit off a tee and soft toss the other day. It’s slow and stud with him, a minor league rehab assignment is still a long ways off.
- Kevin Youkilis (back) has also been hitting off a tee and soft toss, and he’s expected to take batting practice soon. Seems like David Adams‘ audition at third base will last for at least a few weeks.
The Yankees have recalled right-hander Dellin Betances from Triple-A Scranton, the team announced. Brett Marshall was sent down in a corresponding roster move. Joba Chamberlain and his strained oblique must not be ready to come off the DL just yet.
Betances, 25, has pitched to a 5.40 ERA (3.62 FIP) in 28.1 innings this year. He recently moved to the bullpen and has allowed one run in 4.1 innings spread across two appearances since. This will be his first big league stint since September 2011, when he made two appearances. Marshall took one on the chin last night, throwing 108 pitches across 5.2 innings of bullpen-sparing relief in his big league debut. · (49) ·
Keith Law posted his first mock draft today (subs. req’d), and he has the Astros taking Oklahoma RHP Jonathan Gray with the first overall pick. He says they figure to try to work out a pre-draft deal with the former Yankees draft pick for less than what it would take to sign Stanford RHP Mark Appel, then spread the savings around on later picks. Law expects the Cubs to take Appel second overall. I doubt he gets beyond that pick.
The Yankees have three first round picks, and Law has them selecting Stanford OF Austin Wilson (26th overall), Oklahoma HS C Jon Denney (32nd), and Arizona HS SS Dustin Peterson (33rd). Wilson was a big name a few years ago, but he wound up on campus and was expected to be a top ten pick before suffering a stress reaction in his elbow. He’s a tool shed who needs some work. Denney, who has been connected to New York before, is an offense-first catcher while Peterson a solid athlete who is likely to remain on the middle infield.
Law says the Yankees have been heavily connected to high school players with these top three picks, and that’s not surprising. Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer loves toolsy prep players. He does mention the team would love to see a top college arm fall into their laps with one of these picks, however. · (16) ·
Via Shannon Drayer: The Mariners have scratched Aaron Harang from tonight’s start with a stiff lower back. The Yankees will instead face their former teammate, right-hander Hector Noesi. The 25-year-old was awful last season (5.82 ERA and 5.53 FIP in 106.2 IP), but he’s been better out of the bullpen so far this year (3.86 ERA and 2.70 FIP in 9.1 IP). · (3) ·