Yankeemetrics: April 17-19 (Rays)

Welcome back, Alex. (Photo credit: Chris O'Meara/Associated Press)
Welcome back, Alex. (Photo credit: Chris O’Meara/Associated Press)

Back to the future, Part I
Alex Rodriguez delivered a vintage performance in the series opener against the Rays, leading the Yankees to a 5-4 win at Tropicana Field. A-Rod was almost literally the entire Yankees offense on Friday night. Seriously.

Rodriguez went 3-for-4 with four RBI and scored two runs; the rest of the lineup produced one run and went 2-for-26 in the game. Each of his three hits either gave the Yankees the lead or tied the game: his second-inning solo homer put the Yankees up 1-0, his sixth inning two-run blast tied the game at 4-4, and his eighth inning single drove in the game-winning run.

Let’s give A-Rod’s performance the proper Yankeemetric treatment, in bullet-point form:

• His first homer traveled 477 feet, according to hittrackeronline.com, the longest home run in the majors this season and the second-longest by any Yankee over the last 10 seasons. The only longer one was a 488-foot shot by Rodriguez on June 15, 2006 off Cliff Lee at the old Yankee Stadium.

• He is the second-oldest Yankee ever to have multi-homer game with four-or-more RBI, behind only a 43-year-old Enos Slaughter July 19, 1959 vs. the White Sox.

• He ended the night with four homers and 11 RBI after the first 10 games of the season. A-Rod is the first Yankee in franchise history to hit that many homers and have that many RBI in the team’s first 10 games at the age of 39 or older. The last 39-year-old (or older) on any team to reach those totals this early into the season was Eddie Murray for the Indians in 1995.

A-Rod’s eighth-inning heroics were set up by a lead-off single from Carlos Beltran. It was his 1,000th hit in the American League, making him the eighth player in major-league history with at least 1,000 hits in both leagues. The others are Frank Robinson, Dave Winfield, Vladimir Guerrero, Fred McGriff, Orlando Cabrera, Carlos Lee and Alfonso Soriano.

Back to the future, Part II
Masahiro Tanaka tossed his first (and hopefully not last) gem of the season on Saturday night as the Yankees clinched their first series win of the season with a 9-0 victory. It was the second-biggest shutout win for the Yankees at Tropicana Field, behind only a 10-0 blowout on April 10, 2010.

Tanaka dominated the Rays lineup, throwing seven scoreless innings with eight strikeouts, no walks and two hits allowed. The last Yankee right-hander with a performance like that – at least eight strikeouts, zero walks and no more than two hits given up – was Mike Mussina in his near-perfect game against the Red Sox on Sept. 2, 2001.

The game was a pitchers duel until the sixth inning when Brian McCann ripped a two-run triple to break a scoreless tie. It had been more than 15 years since a Yankee catcher hit a go-ahead triple that late in a game. Jorge Posada‘s sixth-inning bases-loaded triple on April 13, 2000 was the game-winning hit against the Rangers.

Chris Young turned the game into a rout with a grand slam in the seventh inning. He is the first Yankee right-fielder with a grand slam against the Rays since Paul O’Neil on August 16, 2001. Before Young, no Yankee right-fielder had ever hit a grand slam at Tropicana Field.

How sweep it is
The Yankees finished off their first sweep of the season with a 5-3 win on Sunday. Last year the team didn’t record its first series sweep of three games or more until June 10-12 at Seattle.

Yes, the Yankees have certainly lived up to their Bronx Bombers nickname this season (17 homers in 12 games) but don’t underestimate their ability to play smallball, too. They scored two of their five runs via sacrifice flies on Sunday, bring their total to an MLB-best 10 sac flies on the season. It is just the second time since they became an official stat in 1954 that the Yankees have hit double-digits sac flies in the team’s first 12 games (had 12 in 1997).

Andrew Miller struck out three batters after giving up a leadoff double for his fourth save of the season. It was his third consecutive outing with a save and at least three strikeouts, the first Yankee reliever ever to have a streak of games like that (Mariano Rivera never did it more than two appearances in a row, believe it or not).

Fan Confidence Poll: April 20th, 2015

Record Last Week: 4-2 (33 RS, 23 RA)
Season Record: 6-6 (64 RS, 56 RA, 7-5 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: @ Tigers (four games, Mon. to Thurs.), vs. Mets (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

DotF: Mitchell and Lindgren lead RailRiders to a win

Bad news: LHP Ian Clarkin has elbow inflammation, assistant GM Billy Eppler told Josh Norris. Clarkin will be shut down for a few weeks. At least it’s not something more serious, I guess. This has already been a pretty tough year for injuries in the farm system.

Triple-A Scranton (4-1 win over Syracuse)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 2-5, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • LF Ramon Flores: 1-4 — he has eleven hits and only five are singles (two doubles, one triple, four homers)
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 1-3, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 E (fielding) — got picked off first … that’s five errors in nine games now … he had 12 errors in 122 games all of last season
  • RF Tyler Austin: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K
  • RHP Bryan Mitchell: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 11/3 GB/FB — 59 of 94 pitches were strikes (63%) … very nice outing on his 24th birthday
  • LHP Jacob Lindgren: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 4/0 GB/FB — 21 of 30 pitches were strikes (70%) … 27 of the 32 batters he’s faced this year have either struck out (nine) or hit a ground ball (18) … just wasting bullets down here

[Read more…]

Sunday Night Open Thread

Here is your open thread for the last few hours of the weekend. The Cardinals and Reds are the ESPN Sunday Night Game (Wainwright vs. Leake) plus there’s a whole bunch of playoff hockey and basketball on as well. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s win, or anything else right here.

Sweep! Yankees take third straight from Rays with 5-3 win

So, who would have guessed the Yankees would sweep a team before they got swept this season? Not many after those first three series, I’m guessing. New York finished off their first three-game sweep of the Rays at Tropicana Field since September 2005 on Sunday afternoon with a 5-3 win.


Early Attack
The Yankees were all over Rays starter Matt Andriese. All over him. Seven of the first 12 batters he faced reached base and ten of the 18 batters he faced overall reached base. Runs scored on three of his outs (two sac flies and a ground out), another out was a sac bunt, and two other outs were line drives right at defenders. The Yankees swung and missed at one of his final 32 pitches once the lineup turned over for the third time.

The Yankees built their four runs off Andriese without the benefit of any home runs. The first was a good old manufacturin’ — Jacoby Ellsbury singled, moved to second on a balk, was bunted to third, then scored on Mark Teixeira‘s sac fly in the first inning. The second and third runs scored on a single (Brett Gardner), a double (A-Rod!), a ground ball (Teixeira), and an infield single (Chase Headley) in the third inning. It maybe could have been a bigger inning had Ellsbury not been thrown out throwing to steal second following a leadoff single.

The fourth run of the afternoon scored on John Ryan Murphy‘s sac fly following a Garrett Jones triple in the fourth inning — Desmond Jennings gets an assist for a poor attempt at a sliding catch. Brian McCann and Jones hit the Yankees’ first two triples of the season, just as we all expected. All of that adds up to four runs on eight hits and two walks with just one strikeout in 3.1 innings against Andriese. Like I said, they were all over him.


Please Return If Found: Pineda’s Slider
Although the results weren’t great (5.11 ERA), I thought Michael Pineda‘s stuff looked pretty good in his first two starts. Fifteen strikeouts and one walk in 12.1 innings kinda support that. Sunday’s game was the opposite — his stuff wasn’t as crisp, particularly his slider, but the results were good enough. He battled through 5.2 innings of three-run ball, allowing seven hits and one walk. He struck out five and threw 58 of 92 pitches for strikes (63%).

Pineda’s slider in particular didn’t seem to be cooperating against the Rays and that was evident on his 11th pitch of the game, which was a hanging slider Steven Souza Jr. skied to left for a two-run homer. Pineda missed his spot by the full width of the plate and the pitch just spun but didn’t do anything. Classic cement mixer. Tampa scored their third run on two ground balls — a single through the left side by David DeJesus and a double down the left field line by Souza. Pineda didn’t have a single 1-2-3 inning but was able to limit the damage. Sometimes you don’t have your best stuff and need to battle, which is what Big Mike did Sunday. Consider this a learning experience.


Hang On!
The Yankees scored their fifth run when Headley doubled into the right field corner. Alex Rodriguez singled to start the inning and moved to second on Teixeira’s fielder’s choice. I’m guessing Alex wouldn’t have scored from first on the double, so hooray for moving the runner over. After Headley’s double, just five of the final 19 batters they sent to the plate reached base. Didi Gregorius struck out with the bases loaded to end the seventh, which was their best chance to score some more insurance runs.

The bullpen was tasked with protecting an annoyingly close two-run lead for the final ten outs and it took four relievers to do it. Chris Martin faced three batters and retired one, which ended the sixth inning. Justin Wilson retired pinch-hitter Logan Forsythe for the first out of the seventh inning before Dellin Betances got the next five outs. He walked Jennings in the eighth inning but got out of it. Andrew Miller, who at this point is clearly the closer even though Joe Girardi won’t call him that, struck out three straight batters after allowing a leadoff double in the ninth. The non-closer is 4-for-4 in save chances.

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Betances stranded one of Martin’s runners in the seventh and got five outs total. Only six of his 23 pitches were fastballs, and over his last three appearances, only 18 of his last 61 pitches have been fastballs. I’ve heard pitchers who are struggling with their mechanics will throw a lot of breaking balls because it forces them to slow their deliveries down a bit, so maybe that’s what Dellin is doing. At some point he’s going to have to throw more fastballs though.

The Yankees had the leadoff man reach base in each of the first seven innings. Through a dozen games this year, the Yankees have a .362 OBP when leading off an inning. Last year they had a .299 OBP leading off innings. Ellsbury (two), Headley (two), Jones (three), and Gregorius (two) all had multiple hits. Jones had the triple and two singles to the left side to beat the shift. A-Rod went 1-for-3 with two walks. He’s hitting .316/.447/.711. Yup.

And finally, the Rays challenged a nice play by Stephen Drew and Teixeira in the sixth inning — Drew was in the shift, ranged to his left, threw from his knees in shallow right field, and Teixeira kept his toe on the bag while stretching to catch the throw — and lost. They’re 0-for-7 on challenges this year. How does that happen? You get to watch the video before challenging!

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Also make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. For science, or something. Here’s the win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees are off to Detroit for a four-game series with the Tigers, who have been the best team in baseball in the early going. Former All-Stars CC Sabathia and Alfredo Simon will be on the mound Monday night. Yep, Simon was once an All-Star. Just last year too.

Game 12: Big Mike for the series sweep


Thanks to yesterday’s blowout win, the Yankees have a positive run differential (+6) for the first time since April 24th of last season (+2). Almost exactly one year to the day. They have a chance to build on that run differential today and earn a sweep of the Rays, which would be their first three-game series sweep in Tropicana Field since 2005. I can’t believe it’s been that long. They were still the Devil Rays from 2005-07, remember. Here is the starting lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. 2B Stephen Drew
  7. RF Garrett Jones
  8. C John Ryan Murphy
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    RHP Michael Pineda

Tampa Bay will look to salvage the series behind rookie righty Matt Andriese. He’s making his second career start after allowing two runs in 3.2 innings against the Blue Jays last week. Here is their lineup.

This afternoon’s game will begin a bit after 1pm ET and you can watch on WPIX. Weekend day game on WPIX really brings me back. Enjoy the game.

Nathan Eovaldi and the Non-Fastball

Process and results. In the past few years, those have become (sometimes annoying) buzzwords in baseball. All of us, at some point, have used the term, whether earnestly as I have when describing the second Javier Vasquez trade, or ironically in poking a bit of fun at the Astros. That doesn’t mean that we can’t find meaning in the phrase, though, like in CC Sabathia‘s two not-as-bad-as-the-box score-would-suggest starts and Nathan Eovaldi‘s start on Thursday night in Baltimore.

In terms of the process, how Eovaldi went about things against the Orioles’ lineup, things weren’t all that different from his first start of the season against the Red Sox. On that night, Eovaldi threw 44 fastballs and 50 non-fastballs, broken up between what Brooks identified as one changeup, 26 sliders, 11 curveballs, and 12 splitters. During his second start , Eovaldi threw 45 fastballs and 56 non-fastballs (37 sliders, 17 curveballs, and two splitters). But the feeling was completely different.

While watching the game on Thursday, I couldn’t help but feel that Eovaldi was much more confident in his breaking stuff, more willing to use it in big spots or just to use it overall. In that first start, the breaking stuff seemed rudimentary at best with iffy location and not the sharpest of movement. However, Thursday, it seemed much crisper to my amateur eye. This was especially evident in the bottom of the third inning when his first five pitches of the inning, to Everth Cabrera and Adam Jones, were all breaking balls. Cabrera saw only breaking pitches in his at bat and struck out swinging; Jones saw a mix, but his at bat ended on a breaking ball he grounded fairly weakly to Didi Gregorius, who booted the ball at short. I mention this inning because it specifically lent to the good feeling I got from Eovaldi’s non-fastballs. The results lived up to that promise; let’s take a look at the pitch results section for Eovaldi’s two starts to examine my claim a little bit more closely.

When we look at these sections, I want to pay attention to two columns: whiffs and balls in play (no outs). Against Boston, Eovaldi ended 13 at bats with fastballs. 12 of those were swung on, with each one being put into play, resulting in four non-outs. The other 12 at bat-ending pitches were seven sliders, two curveballs, and three splitters. They all had something in common with the fastball: no whiffs, meaning he didn’t end a single at bat with a swing-and-a-miss against the Boston batters. This is a complete contrast with Thursday’s start. In Camden, the O’s put just 14 balls into play compared to the 22 against the Red Sox. More encouraging, though, were the seven whiffs he generated, five on his slider alone to go along with one each on a fastball and a curveball. As opposed to start number one in which his lone strikeout was a backwards K in the scorebook, seven of his nine strikeouts in start number two were swinging, mostly on breaking stuff.

The Eovaldi-centered narrative coming into this season focused on his secondary pitches; the improvements he makes (or doesn’t make) on the non-fastballs will determine whether or not he takes the next step as a big time pitcher. Thursday night gave us a glimpse at what’s possible when Eovaldi has his non-fastball pitches working. Keeping this up–confidence in the breaking ball and generating whiffs–means good process. And, generally, good process leads to good results.