Yankeemetrics: Roughed up in Tampa (May 19-21)

(AP)
(AP)

No relief
In a season defined by so many improbable wins and stunning comebacks, the Yankees fell just short of adding another one on Friday night, falling 5-4 to the Rays. It was just the Yankees’ fifth loss this season when holding a lead at any point in the game, the fewest in the AL and second-fewest in the majors behind the Rockies (3) after Friday’s slate.

Luis Severino struggled early but gave the Yankees five solid innings and a chance to win the game, exiting with a 2-1 lead. He threw 30 pitches in the first inning and 59 in the next four frames, allowing just one run on five hits while striking out seven.

Severino’s slider was in peak form, generating a career-high 11 whiffs on 24 swings (45.8%) among the 42 sliders he threw. The pitch netted him four of his seven strikeouts and four of his five groundball outs, as he mostly buried it at the knees while also mixing in a few swing-and-miss sliders up in the zone:

luis-severino

His slider has emerged as one of the nastiest in baseball this season. The pitch has been responsible for a total of 36 strikeouts and 25 groundball outs in 2017; both of those numbers were the second-most among all pitchers through Friday, trailing only Chris Archer (48 strikeouts, 36 groundball outs).

Severino’s gutsy performance was wasted, though, as the bullpen imploded and blew the lead late. The Rays’ rally was capped by a tie-breaking RBI single in the eighth inning off the bat of notable Yankee killer, Evan Longoria. Friend of Yankeemetrics, Mark Simon, tells us that it was Longoria’s 13th career game-winning RBI against the Yankees, which is the most among active players.

Before Longoria’s hit, it looked like Matt Holliday might wear the hero’s cape. His two-run homer in the top of the eighth knotted the game at 4-4, and was his first game-tying homer in the eighth inning or later in more than seven years (April 11, 2010 vs. Brewers).

Even more impressive is that the pitch he crushed was a 100-mph fastball from Ryan Stanek, the fastest pitch hit out of the ballpark by any player this season. Prior to the at-bat, Holliday was just 2-for-10 (.200) with three strikeouts in at-bats ending in a 100-plus-mph pitch dating back to 2008.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Tanaka The Terrible
There is no sugarcoating the fact that Saturday’s loss might have been the ugliest of the season. The numerous ejections, the beanball war that erupted in the late innings and the glacial pace of the game were mere footnotes in what has easily become the Yankees biggest worry of the season:

Tanaka was clobbered yet again, giving up three homers and six runs before getting pulled with no outs in the fourth inning. This disaster performance somehow was an improvement statistically on his last start a week ago against the Astros, when he gave up even more runs (8) and homers (4) and pitched fewer innings (1 2/3).

That string of back-to-back train wreck outings put him in ignominious company: he is the only pitcher in Yankee history to allow at least six earned runs and three homers in consecutive games while getting fewer than 10 outs in each game. In fact the only other player in major-league history to do that was Mike Lincoln for the Twins in 2000.

Any way you slice it, his recent numbers are awful:

  • Dating back to the fifth inning of his May 2 start vs the Blue Jays, Tanaka has coughed up 10 homers and 22 runs in his last 14 innings pitched.
  • Dating back to the seventh inning of his May 8 start at Cincinnati, he’s surrendered 16 (!) runs and eight (!) homers in his last 5 2/3 innings pitched.

One of the few highlights was yet another dinger by Aaron Judge, his league-leading 15th of the season. He is one of five Yankees to hit at least 15 homers in the team’s first 40 games, joining this exclusive group of sluggers: A-Rod (2007), Tino Martinez (1997), Mickey Mantle (1956) and Babe Ruth (four times).

Super-Judge (AP)
Super-Judge (AP)

Strikeouts are overrated
The Yankees avoided the sweep and snapped their three-game losing streak with a 3-2 win on Sunday. Despite the Yankee victory, the Rays remain the only AL team with a winning record against the Yankees since 2010 (71-68).

Brett Gardner delivered the game-clinching blast with his tie-breaking two-run homer in the second inning. It was his eighth longball of the season, surpassing the number he put over the fence all of last year (in 148 games and 634 plate appearances). All eight of his homers have come since April 29; the only player with homers in that span is Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger (9).

They overcame a whopping 17 strikeouts, tying the franchise record for a nine-inning game, done three times previously, including once already this season (3-2 win over St. Louis on April 15). They are the only team in major-league history to win two nine-inning games when striking out at least 17 times in a single season.

The heart of the order — 3-4-5 batters — were the biggest culprits, fanning 11 times in 12 at-bats. Matt Holliday and Aaron Judge were both 0-for-4 with four Ks, becoming the first set of Yankee teammates to whiff four-plus times in a non-extra-inning game. This was also the first time in any game (regardless of innings) that the Yankees had two players go hitless and strike out at least four times.

Judge redeemed himself in the field, with a spectacular game-saving catch and double play, robbing Evan Longoria of extra bases with a man on in the sixth inning.

Entering the day, Judge ranked second in the majors in Defensive Runs Saved (6) among rightfielders behind the Cubs’ Jason Heyward (7).

Fan Confidence Poll: May 22nd, 2017

Record Last Week: 3-3 (32 RS, 29 RA)
Season Record: 25-16 (232 RS, 177 RA, 25-16 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: vs. Royals (four games, Mon. to Thurs.), vs. Athletics (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

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DotF: Fowler homers, Austin continues rehab in the minors

As you may have heard, SS Gleyber Torres was promoted to Triple-A Scranton following today’s Double-A Trenton game, reports Antonio Mendes. Gleyber hit .273/.367/.496 with five homers and nearly as many walks (17) as strikeouts (21) in 32 Double-A games. I had a feeling the Yankees would promote him quickly, though I didn’t think it would be this quickly. Pretty fun. For what it’s worth, Keith Law says Torres is ready for Triple-A on both sides of the ball. Here are some other notes:

  • RHP Dillon Tate update! Farm system head Gary Denbo told Josh Norris that Tate has been pitching in Extended Spring Training games and is “close.” I assume that means close to joining one of the affiliates. Tate has been out all season with a shoulder issue.
  • LHP Josh Rogers have been promoted to Double-A Trenton, according to Matt Kardos. I’m surprised it took this long. Rogers had a 2.52 ERA (2.97 FIP) in 27 starts and 160.2 innings with High-A Tampa over the last two years prior to Sunday’s start. Not much left to prove there.
  • Check out 20-80 Baseball’s write up on RHP Domingo Acevedo’s Double-A debut the other day. “He looked every bit the part a future Role 60, number three starter, and he was quickly comparable, to my eye, to the huge frame, soft build, sloped shoulders, and gait of Michael Pineda (RHP,Yankees), just with more juice in the overall stuff,” said the report.

Triple-A Scranton (5-4 win over Rochester in eleven innings, walk-off style) they faced old pal LHP Nik Turley, who is still bouncing around the minors

  • 3B Tyler Wade: 1-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 K, 1 E (fielding)
  • LF Dustin Fowler: 1-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 3 K — second straight game with a dinger, and his third homer in his last eight games
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 0-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
  • 1B Mike Ford: 1-3, 1 2B, 2 BB, 1 K — 10-for-33 (.303) with three doubles and four home runs in eight games since the promotion
  • RF Clint Frazier: 0-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
  • CF Mason Williams: 1-5
  • SS Cito Culver: 0-4, 1 RBI, 3 K — walk-off squeeze bunt!
  • DH Mark Payton: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K — someone’s future fourth outfielder is hitting .333/.387/.471 so far this year
  • RHP Eric Ruth: 3 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 3/3 GB/FB, 1 E (throwing) — 31 of 50 pitches were strikes … he’s here just to make the spot start after RHP Bryan Mitchell was called up to the big leagues
  • RHP Colten Brewer: 2.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 3/1 GB/FB — 22 of 41 pitches were strikes (54%) … 28/3 K/BB in 21 innings this year … will he be the second player in as many years to go from minor league Rule 5 Draft pick to Yankees’ 40-man roster? RHP Yefrey Ramirez did it last year
  • RHP Ernesto Frieri: 2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2/3 GB/FB — 21 of 33 pitches were strikes (64%)

[Read more…]

Sabathia, Gardner, Gregorius help the Yankees avoid sweep with 3-2 win over Rays

Good win. Not an easy win, but a good win nonetheless. The Yankees avoided the sweep Sunday afternoon against the Rays to clinch a 3-3 road trip. Could have been better. Could have been a lot worse. Sunday’s final score was 3-2.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Righties Are Not Right
Fortunately, the first inning did not set the tone for the rest of the game. The Yankees were gifted a rally in the top of the first and failed to capitalize. Brett Gardner started the game with a single, then shortstop Tim Beckham threw away Gary Sanchez‘s tailor made 6-4-3 double play ball. He flipped it into right field. The Yankees had runners on second and third with no outs, then:

Those three batters swung at eleven of the 15 pitches they saw and missed seven times. Joe Girardi goes to such great lengths to split up the lefties in the lineup, yet he’ll bat four righties in a row against Chris Archer, who has a disgusting slider and has held right-handed batters to a .229/.296/.362 (.290 wOBA) batting line with a 27.5% strikeout rate since the start of 2015. Shrugs.

Naturally, the left-handed hitting Jacoby Ellsbury, who went into the game a career .514/.561/.703 hitter against Archer, doubled on the first pitch to leadoff the second. Shrugs again. Two batters later Didi Gregorius got Ellsbury home with a one-out single, and two batters after that Gardner got Gregorius and himself home with a two-out, two-run home run. Eighth dinger of the year for Gardner. He’s hit one more home run than last season in 468 fewer plate appearances. Is that good? That seems good.

The Yankees did not score again against Archer, who exited after throwing 108 pitches in 6.1 innings. Left-handed batters went 6-for-11 (.545) with a double and a home run against him. Righties went 0-for-15 with ten strikeouts. Free advice for future managers: stacking righties in the lineup against Archer isn’t a good idea, especially when several of them are strikeout prone like Holliday, Judge, and Chris Carter. Fortunately the left-handed bats picked up the righties.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

A Strong Start For Sabathia
Good to see CC Sabathia have another solid outing after that string of clunkers a few weeks ago. Throwing six scoreless innings against the awful Royals last time out is one thing. The Royals are real bad. The Rays can hit though, and they were going to present some trouble for whoever the Yankees threw out there. Sabathia allowed two runs (one earned) in five innings plus one batter Sunday, and looked about as good as you could have hoped.

The first run was sorta stupid, as it was built on an infield single, a walk, and a Sanchez error. He tried to pick Evan Longoria off first base with a snap throw, and the off-line throw sailed into right field. Carter actually got there and got his glove on the ball, but it went through his legs. Bad throw by Sanchez — and an unnecessary throw, I’d say, since Longoria wasn’t that far off first base — and a bad play by Carter. He’s got to knock that down. Corey Dickerson scored from second on the play.

Tampa scored their other run on a Derek Norris solo home run in the fifth, and I can’t remember Sabathia giving up any other hard hit balls. I’m sure he did at some point, but they were infrequent. Sabathia retired 12 straight before the Norris home run. His afternoon ended after Dickerson slapped an opposite field single leading off the sixth. Sabathia was definitely at the end of the line there — he had to work hard to get Beckham to ground out to end the fifth — but Girardi sent him back out to get the left-on-left matchup. Didn’t work, but a good start overall for Sabathia. The Yankees needed it.

The Final 12 Outs
This game had a very 2013-16 vibe to it, by which I mean the Yankees built a small lead, then turned things over to their bullpen and held on for dear life. First out of the bullpen was Chad Green, who inherited the runner on first from Sabathia. He got a clutch double play from … Aaron Judge? Aaron Judge. Longoria smoked a line drive into the right-center field gap, then this happened:

Judge went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, but good players help you win games even when they do nothing at the plate. The funny thing is replays showed Dickerson, the runner at first, did slow down to read the play before taking off for third base. He didn’t think Judge would get there. Whoops. Judge laid out for the tremendous diving catch — if you’re into Statcast, that ball had a catch probability of 26% — and threw to first for the easy double play. Love it.

Green started the seventh inning with a four-pitch walk, because of course. Two ground balls and a stolen base later, Kevin Kiermaier was at third base with two outs, representing the tying run. Girardi went to Tyler Clippard against pinch-hitter Logan Morrison, who worked an eleven-pitch at-bat. Eventually he popped up a full count fastball to end the inning, preserving the 3-2 lead.

Clippard went back out for the eighth and struck out pinch-hitter Colby Rasmus and Beckham, then Girardi went to Dellin Betances for the four-out save. Betances struck out Dickerson hilariously to end the eighth — it was one of the silliest swings you’ll ever see — then cruised through the ninth. Longoria popped up, Michael Martinez struck out, and Steven Souza struck out. Dellin was throwing fire. That was as good as he’s looked at any point since 2014.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
Strikeouts are becoming a real problem. The Yankees struck out 17 times Sunday, their second nine-inning game with 17 strikeouts this season. They did it only twice in their history prior to this season. The Yankees have struck out 10+ times in 18 of their 41 games this season. The single-season franchise record is 37 10+ strikeout games set back in 2013. The 2017 Yankees project to get there by the All-Star break. Everyone is striking out more these days, but geez guys.

Four-hit game for Sir Didi! Two-hit game for Gardner! One-hit game for Ellsbury! No-hit game for literally everyone else. Both Judge and Holliday went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. Castro went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. So the 3-4-5 hitters went 0-for-12 with eleven strikeouts. They’ve had better days. The Yankees went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Both hits came in that three-run second inning innings. Didi’s single and Gardner’s dinger.

Sanchez is probably glad this road trip is over. He took a beating behind the plate. Sanchez took a foul tip to the right forearm in this one, after taking a foul tip to the jaw Saturday. He also got his bell rung by a few foul tips in Kansas City. I have no idea why anyone catches. It looks like no fun at all.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to ESPN for both the box score and updated standings. MLB.com has the video highlights. RAB has a Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the ol’ win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
HOPE Week! One of the best weeks of the season. The Yankees are heading home for a seven-game homestand. The week home begins with a four-game set against the Royals, who the Yankees just saw last week. The A’s come to town after that. Jason Hammel and Michael Pineda are the scheduled starting pitchers for Monday night’s series opener. RAB Tickets can get you in the door for any of the seven games on the homestand.

Sunday Open Thread

Here’s an open thread for the remainder of the weekend. MLB Network is showing a regional game right now, and the ESPN Sunday Night Game is the Rangers and Tigers. There are also NBA and NHL playoff games on. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s win, or anything else here. Just not religion or politics, por favor.

Game 41: Sabathia Sunday

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

So the last three games haven’t gone well. Sucks. The good news is there’s another game today, so there’s a chance to get back into the win column. A win today avoids the sweep and sends the Yankees home with a 3-3 road trip. Not great, not awful. Could be worse.

CC Sabathia is on the mound this afternoon and he was very good last time out, though that was against the free-swinging Royals, the worst hitting team in baseball this year. The Rays have some thump, annoyingly. This will be a tough one for Sabathia. I believe in the big man though. Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 1B Chris Carter
    LHP CC Sabathia

It’s nice and sunny in St. Petersburg today, and dark and gloomy inside Tropicana Field. First time this series the teams probably wish they could play outside. Alas. This afternoon’s game will begin a little after 1pm ET. YES has the broadcast. Try to enjoy.

Injury Updates: Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) will see a doctor tomorrow for a check up. He went on the disabled list last weekend, and the Yankees said he will be shut down at least two weeks, so a throwing program isn’t imminent … Greg Bird (ankle) continues to increase his running. He could beginning hitting this week.

Roster Update: The Yankees have called up Bryan Mitchell and sent down Gio Gallegos, the team announced. I had a feeling that was coming. They need a fresh long man. Mitchell was scheduled to start for Triple-A Scranton today, though he’s only gotten stretched out to 60 pitches or so since being sent down, so he won’t be able to go super long.

Tanaka and the Dingers 2017 Edition

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

Before stepping to the mound yesterday afternoon in Tampa, Masahiro Tanaka had already surrendered ten home runs to opposing hitters. Then he gave up three more. His HR/9 currently sits at an unconscionable 2.44 and his HR/FB% is absurdly high at 24.5%. Tanaka’s always been prone to giving up home runs, but they’re flying out at a ridiculously rapid rate in 2017. How?

The first culprit that jumps out is the fastball. Per Brooks, that pitch had a 50% HR/(FB + LD) rate going into yesterday’s game. That pitch accounts for the lowest percentage of Tanaka’s pitches this season, and he’s famously avoided throwing it recently, sticking more to a sinker, splitter, slider mix. But two of the homers he gave up yesterday–the ones to Corey Dickerson–were both on the four seam fastball. The other homer, from Longoria, came against a sinker.

Then, there’s the splitter. As always, this has been a generally effective pitch for Tanaka. Its whiff/swing% is over 30 and its grounder rate is pushing 70%. But on the flip side, its led to three homers against Tanaka and batters are hitting it to a .229 ISO, not counting yesterday’s start. Its HR/(FB+LD)% is up at 27.27. For his career, it’s predictably low at 7.3%.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The slider, conversely, has been right along with his career rates in its success this year. Basically, all the hard stuff Tanaka throws is being hit equally hard, leading to lots of homers, lots of runs, and lots of frustration. Taking a look at the ISO marks against the hard stuff, it’s clear that Tanaka’s command of those pitches is off.

A solution to this problem isn’t necessarily easy to find. It’d be wrong to suggest a pitcher with elbow issues in the past begin throwing more sliders, but we can’t just click our heels or cross our fingers and expect Tanaka’s command to be back to form.

It's not what you want (Source: Getty)
It’s not what you want (Source: Getty)

Time is likely the best answer since this is such an extreme exaggeration of one of the few issues Tanaka has had on the mound since joining the Yankees. Were this a year like 2016, this might be less worrisome. But given that the Yankees seem to be, well, actually pretty good this season, Tanaka performing like his normal self is imperative. 2017 was lined up to be a ‘house money’ type of year for the Yankees. If they did well, great! If not, hey, at least there’s a bunch of young, exciting guys. Luckily for us, the two things seem to be converging. Regardless of that, one thing was true heading into this year–as it has been the last few years–if anything good was going to happen to this team, it needed Tanaka to be its strongest pitcher. That hasn’t happened so far in 2017. And given the rest of the Yankee rotation, if Tanaka doesn’t get back to his regular levels, the charm of an unexpected playoff season may not last too long.