Tanaka’s gem can’t save Yankees in 1-0 extra-innings loss to O’s

That horrible road trip is finally over and Yankees ended it in a fitting way: a frustrating walk-off loss to the division rival Orioles. Masahiro Tanaka pitched one of the best starts in his Yankee career but the bats came up empty against Kevin Gausman and the O’s bullpen. The Yankees made the very questionable decision of using a 5.00+ ERA rookie bullpen pitcher to pitch in bottom of tenth and, well, they lost. At least we have Aroldis Chapman‘s return to look forward to after this weekend, right?

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Ace Tanaka

So, most of the game was… pretty much uneventful. That doesn’t mean that it wasn’t fun to watch though. Tanaka had his A-game with his new sinker/splitter-heavy approach inducing, getting more grounders and going on to throw eight scoreless innings. This is the first time he threw 8.0 IP of no run ball since May 31, 2014 versus the Minnesota Twins. His game score of 78 is the highest since April 18, 2015 when he threw a seven scoreless against the Rays.

After CC Sabathia‘s scoreless start last night, this has to be the best two-game stretch for the Yankee starters in 2016, right? I don’t think you could have asked for any more from Tanaka. His line – 8.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K’s  is quite neat. His start brought his ERA down to 2.29 while his FIP is at a nice 2.56. What stands out to me from the new Tanaka is that he’s generating more weak contact and grounders. He had 46.6% and 47.0% GB% in his first two seasons; so far in 2016, he has a 59.6 GB%, which is the second best among qualified ML starters. How about that? I think I like this version of Tanaka.

He only let baserunners in scoring position twice – third and fourth innings – and they turned out to be very harmless. Also he only let five batted balls out of the infield. He pretty much did everything to warrant a W in his line but unfortunately, that did not happen.

Failed Chances

The Yankees had a good scoring chance in the fourth. Starlin Castro, who had been hitless in the series, led off with a double down the left field line. Brian McCann‘s big fly out advanced Starlin to third, setting up runner on third with one out. However, Mark Teixeira‘s ground out to first base couldn’t bring Castro in. Carlos Beltran followed it up by popping up to end the inning. Joe Girardi was also tossed by the third base umpire Chris Guccione, possibly for missing a balk on Gausman’s pre-delivery actions. The Yankee offense has been struggling for the most part (duh) and being able to squeeze a run even via balk would have been very nice for the team.

After being retired 10 in a row, Yankees got something going on with a 1 out Teixeira single in the top of seventh. Beltran, however, immediately grounded into double play to kill yet another Yankee scoring chance. What’s a good picture to summarize how offense fared tonight? Well…

The Yankees made some noise in the top of the ninth. Darren O’Day came in to relieve Gausman and got first two outs with relative ease. He allowed a single to Castro and on deck was left-handed McCann. Showalter decided to bring in Zach Britton to combat the Yankee catcher. During the at-bat, Britton threw a wild pitch that advanced Castro to second, leaving the Yankees a single shy of taking a 1-0 lead. However, Matt Wieters caught Castro napping way off the second base and threw him out to end the inning. I mean, boy, Yanks’ rotten luck with RISP has been a theme of this season and they just seem to find various of ways to keep it going.

Getty Images

Post-Tanaka

The Yankees brought in Dellin Betances in the ninth to relieve Tanaka. After getting Chris Davis to strike out, Betances allowed a walk to Mark Trumbo. The O’s put in speedy Joey Rickard to pinch-run for Trumbo. Up next, Wieters hit a long and tall fly ball to right that seemed to hang in the air for forever… and then Dustin Ackley just barely, barely, made a jumping up against the wall and doubled off Rickard on the base paths for a double play. Rickard must have thought that the ball ricocheted off the wall into Ackley’s glove. Buck Showalter and the O’s challenged the call but Ackley clearly caught it (and the umps agreed, rightfully so).

Instead of Andrew Miller, who threw a whopping fifteen pitches in the previous nine days, the Yankees brought in Johnny Barbato to take care of the bottom of tenth. Hyun Soo Kim reached first with a Baltimore Chop infield single. Jonathan Schoop followed it up with a single to make it runners on first and third with no outs.  New York *then* got Miller to relieve but they were several batters too late. Pedro Alvarez hit a sac fly to center to win the game for Baltimore. It was a kind of a fitting game (and ending) for Yankees in this awful 2-7 road trip.

Box Score, WPA, Highlights and Updated Standings

Here’s tonight’s box score, video highlights, updated standings and WPA.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees come back to Bronx tomorrow to face the Red Sox in this weekend’s three-game series. Can you hear the enthusiasm from my writing voice? Probably not.

DotF: Judge and Sanchez go deep again in Scranton’s win

LHP Dietrich Enns has been named the Double-A Eastern League Player of the Month for April. Congrats to him. I’m pretty sure these Player of the Months awards are new. Don’t ever remember seeing them before. Enns had a 0.00 ERA (2.63 FIP) in four starts and 23.2 innings for Double-A Trenton last month.

Triple-A Scranton (10-1 win over Lehigh Valley)

  • LF Aaron Judge: 1-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K — second straight game with a homer and it came against former first overall pick Mark Appel … it’s his third dinger in his last five games overall
  • C Gary Sanchez: 2-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — second homer in the last three games for him
  • CF Slade Heathcott: 1-5, 1 R, 1 K
  • DH Nick Swisher: 1-5, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 K — one scout told George King it is “hard to look at” Swisher when he runs these days because his knees are shot
  • RF Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 1 BB, 1 K
  • LHP Richard Bleier: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 Balk, 13/2 GB/FB — 63 of 93 pitches were strikes (68%)
  • RHP Matt Wotherspoon: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 19 of 29 pitches were strikes (66%)

[Read more…]

Game 26: Take the Series

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees won last night! And they have a chance to win today! That is pretty cool, ain’t it? A win tonight will clinch a series victory over the Orioles too. The Yankees have played seven full series this season and they’ve won exactly two of them. They beat the Astros in the first series of the year and they beat the Rays a week and a half ago. That’s it.

Both Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez are currently sidelined with injuries, so the Yankees are short two of their better offensive players. It’s not what you want. The Yankees have been struggling to score runs as it is, even with last night’s seven-run outburst. Hopefully some of the others can pick up the slack. Here is the O’s lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. 2B Starlin Castro
  3. C Brian McCann
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. DH Carlos Beltran
  6. RF Dustin Ackley
  7. LF Aaron Hicks
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 3B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It is cloudy in Baltimore and there is rain in the forecast tonight, though not until later. It’s nothing that should interrupt the game. Tonight’s game will start a little after 7pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: In case you missed it earlier, outfielder Ben Gamel has been called up from Triple-A Scranton. The Yankees have since announced the move. Lefty James Pazos was sent down in a corresponding move. Brett Gardner (elbow) has not been placed on the DL and is day-to-day.

Heyman: Yankees not among teams with interest in Tim Lincecum

(Joe Robbins/Getty)
(Joe Robbins/Getty)

Tomorrow free agent right-hander Tim Lincecum will hold a workout for scouts at the Giants’ Spring Training complex in Arizona. Lincecum is looking to show teams he’s at full strength following September hip labrum surgery. Jon Heyman says ESPN may televise the workout, which is, uh, odd.

Almost every team in the league will attend Lincecum’s workout, though Heyman says the Yankees are one of the few clubs yet to reach out with legitimate interest. That could always change and it doesn’t mean they won’t attend the workout either. They could send a pair of eyes out of due diligence, like what they see, and then decide to get involved. (Lincecum has pushed his showcase back a few times, which seems like a bit of a red flag.)

Lincecum, who will turn 32 in June, has not been good since the 2011 season. CC Sabathia has been an above-average starter more recently. Lincecum was arguably the best pitcher in the world from 2008-11, then everything fell apart as his velocity and stuff started to fade.

IP ERA FIP K% BB% GB% HR/9 bWAR fWAR
2008-11 881.2 2.81 2.81 26.9% 8.7% 47.1% 0.55 +23.3 +23.1
2012-15 615.2 4.68 4.08 21.6% 10.0% 45.9% 1.02 -2.7 +3.1

If the Yankees really wanted to, they could offer Lincecum a full-time rotation spot. Sending Luis Severino to Triple-A would not be unjustified at this point. I have more interest in Lincecum as a reliever at this point — here’s our Scouting The Market post — because even when he’s been healthy the last few years, he’s been awful.

Lincecum would reportedly like to stay on the West Coast, and besides, pitchers looking to rebuild value usually don’t come to Yankee Stadium and the AL East unless it’s a last resort. Think Bartolo Colon or Freddy Garcia a few years back. Reclamation project pitchers usually seek out big ballparks, not bandboxes.

My guess right now is Lincecum ends up back with the Giants, especially with Jake Peavy (45 ERA+) and Matt Cain (58 ERA+) struggling to much. Those two are best off with each other. Lincecum is still a rock star in San Francisco and the Giants benefit from all the additional fan support. Plus they get a depth arm out of it as well. It’s a win-win.

There’s never anything wrong with adding pitching depth, and right now Lincecum might be the best scrap heap starter available. It’s either him or Kyle Lohse since both Chad Billingsley and Josh Johnson are rehabbing elbow injuries. John Danks, who was designated for assignment earlier this week, figures to hit the market soon as well. The Yankees have had interest in him in the past.

Yankees calling up outfielder Ben Gamel

(Justin K. Aller/Getty)
(Justin K. Aller/Getty)

The Yankees are calling up outfielder Ben Gamel from Triple-A Scranton, according to multiple reports. He is expected to join the Yankees for the series finale in Baltimore tonight. A friend of Gamel’s actually tipped us off about the call-up on Twitter, so that’s cool. We have #sources.

Over the last two days the Yankees lost both Alex Rodriguez (hamstring) and Brett Gardner (elbow) to injuries. A-Rod has already been placed on the DL, and while the x-rays on Gardner’s elbow came back negative, he may have to sit out a few days until the swelling and soreness subsides. Playing with a two-man bench while Gardner is sidelined is not ideal, obviously.

The Yankees have not officially announced the Gamel call-up but there’s no reason to think the reports are wrong. I’m more interested to see the corresponding move. Are they going to send down a pitcher (Nick Goody? James Pazos?) and get back to a normal seven-man bullpen, or does Gardner’s injury required a DL stint? I hope not. That would really suck.

Gamel, 23, is hitting .286/.346/.363 (109 wRC+) with one homer and seven steals in 23 Triple-A games so far this season. He broke out last year, when he put up a .300/.358/.472 (138 wRC+) batting line with 52 extra-base hits and 13 steals in 129 games with the RailRiders. Two years ago Gamel hit only .261/.308/.340 (80 wRC+) in Double-A, so he’s come on strong the last 18 months or so.

The Yankees selected Gamel in the tenth round of the 2010 draft and he is one of those guys without a standout tool who does a little of everything. He plays like a maniac too. All out all the time. Gamel is a left-handed hitting outfielder like Gardner, and he’s is capable of playing all three outfield spots. How much will he play? Hopefully a lot. The lineup can use a hungry young player with fresh legs.

More cutters and fewer four-seam fastballs have helped Sabathia regain some effectiveness in 2016

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Seven months ago CC Sabathia left Camden Yards and entered an alcohol treatment center. Last night Sabathia pitched in Camden Yards for the first time since rehab and he had his best start of the season, holding the Orioles scoreless over seven innings. Sabathia has been through it all as a baseball player. I’m sure last night’s game was as special as any win in his career.

“It’s a big contrast from me standing in this locker room last time. To be able to go out and get us a win felt great,” said Sabathia to Chad Jennings after the game. Joe Girardi added, “I’m sure it meant a lot. I kind of thought about it as we came into the ballpark and it was his day to pitch. The circumstances were a little bit different (last time). I’m sure it meant a lot. It meant a lot to this club.”

Through five full rotation turns Sabathia has been New York’s second best starting pitcher behind Masahiro Tanaka. Only Tanaka has a better ERA (2.87 to 3.81) and a better FIP (2.78 to 3.53) among the team’s five starters. That’s pretty surprising considering the Yankees made Sabathia compete for a rotation spot in Spring Training, or at least they said Sabathia had to compete for a rotation spot.

The changeup was Sabathia’s best pitch last night — the O’s missed eight times on 13 swings against the change — but it’s another pitch that has allowed him to have this success early on: the cutter. Sabathia has been toying with a cutter on and off for years now, and for most part it was just talk. He would say he was working on it and then throw maybe one or two per start. Now he’s committed to it. From Brooks Baseball:

CC Sabathia pitch selection

Notice the cutter has more or less replaced the four-seam fastball in Sabathia’s arsenal. In fact, PitchFX says he’s thrown 13 four-seam fastballs all season. He threw 27 cutters just last night. It’s for the best too. Last season opponents hit .300 with a .167 ISO against Sabathia’s four-seamer. The league averages were .269 and .175 last year, respectively. “Stop throwing an ineffective pitch” is a good strategy as long as you have a way to compensate.

The cutter has given Sabathia a way to compensate. He doesn’t throw hard anymore — Sabathia hasn’t thrown a pitch over 92.4 mph all season — so the extra movement is crucial. So is the location. More than ever before, Sabathia has to disrupt the hitter’s timing and keep them guessing. “That’s exactly what happened,” said Girardi after last night’s game. “Just kind of keep guys off balance. Try to out-think them and make some good pitches.”

Once again per Brooks Baseball, here is the strike zone heat map of Sabathia’s cutter location this season. This is from the catcher’s point of view and, in a nutshell, the brighter the red, the more cutters in that location. The brighter the blue, the fewer cutters in that spot.

CC Sabathia cutter locations

Sabathia is getting the cutter right in on the hands of right-handed batters to jam them and even back them off the plate. He did that last night and it set up all those swings and misses on changeups away. The O’s had seven right-handed hitters in their starting lineup and it played right into Sabathia’s cutter/changeup plan. It’s might not be a coincidence that in the other two starts in which he completed six innings, the Tigers and Rangers had eight and seven righties in the lineup, respectively.

Last year right-handed hitters meant bad news for Sabathia. They hit .304/.363/.502 (.370 wOBA) against him in 2015, so Sabathia essentially turned every righty hitter he faced into Manny Machado (.286/.359/.502/.370). That’s bad. So far this season CC has not been great against righties, but he has been a bit better.

AVG/OBP/SLG wOBA K% BB% GB% Hard% Soft%
2015 vs. RHB .304/.363/.502 .370 16.2% 7.5% 47.0% 30.9% 15.3%
2016 vs. RHB .290/.350/.391 .328 16.8% 6.9% 47.3% 26.3% 26.3%

A .290 average and a .350 OBP still isn’t good, obviously, but righties haven’t hit for the same extra base power. The big increase in soft contact rate is most encouraging. Righties haven’t been squaring up as many pitches against Sabathia so far this season and that’s because he is now pounding them inside with cutters. He’s jamming them and missing the sweet spot. That wasn’t happening with the four-seamer.

Coming into this season Sabathia was viewed as the fifth starter and for good reason. He simply hasn’t been all that good in recent years. Tanaka has been the unquestioned staff ace, but Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi continue to be consistently inconsistent, and Luis Severino has been shockingly bad early on. Through five starts Sabathia has stepped up and been rock solid for the Yankees, thanks partly to his new knee brace and also to a new cutter, one he actually throws.

Thoughts following Alex Rodriguez’s injury

(Patrick McDermott/Getty)
(Patrick McDermott/Getty)

A few hours prior to last night’s win the Yankees placed Alex Rodriguez on the 15-day DL with a right hamstring strain. He hurt himself running out a ground ball Tuesday night. Here’s the video. The injury comes at a bad time — don’t they all? — because A-Rod was just starting to heat up and the Yankees need all the offense can get. Here are some thoughts on the injury and the roster fallout.

1. The Yankees declined to announce the severity of the injury yesterday and that was weird if not worrisome. The team usually isn’t shy about setting timetables. As it turns out, they won’t know the full extent of the injury until A-Rod visits team doctor Dr. Ahmed when they return to New York tomorrow. That’s per Bryan Hoch and Mark Feinsand. I guess the MRI only showed the injury was serious enough to require a DL stint. I dunno, I’m not a doctor. Stop looking at me for answers. Point is, we still don’t know how long Alex will be sidelined. Two weeks? Two months? Something else entirely? Even at 40, Rodriguez still has a big presence in the lineup, and the Yankees will miss him. The longer he’s out the harder it will be to climb out of this early hole in the standings.

2. Looking back, it’s pretty incredible A-Rod made it through last season completely healthy at his age and with all his relatively recent lower body surgeries. He missed the entire 2014 season due to his suspension and was healthy enough to appear in 151 games last year. That’s pretty crazy. Now a month into 2016 he’s already missed a few days with an oblique injury and now he’ll miss an undetermined length of time with a hamstring problem. That’s what you expect from a player pushing 41. Not perfect health like last year. A-Rod joins Greg Bird and Bryan Mitchell as important Yankees on the shelf right now, not to mention various shuttle relievers.

3. Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi all but confirmed the plan is to give Aaron Hicks and Dustin Ackley more playing time in A-Rod’s absence, not call someone up and insert them into the starting lineup. In fact, Cashman told Billy Witz they won’t call up Nick Swisher because “where would we play him?” They’d rather go with Hicks and Ackley and rotate others in and out of the DH spot while Rodriguez is out. I think that’s the best way to go … for now. The Yankees should be prepared to change it up if A-Rod will be out a while and Hicks/Ackley (Hickley? Ackicks?) don’t start contributing at the plate. As I’ve been saying for a while now, I’m curious to see what Hicks can do with regular playing time, and now it looks like he’ll get it.

4. I really hope the eight-man bullpen thing is temporary. It’s overkill — Nick Goody has barely pitched as it is, and now there’s another guy in the bullpen — and they’ll end up with pitchers sitting around for a week between appearances. The Yankees are just starting this 20 games in 20 days stretch, and both the Orioles and Red Sox (their next opponent) have a lot of left-handed hitters, so keeping James Pazos through Sunday makes sense. After that though, they’d really be pushing it with a three-man bench. Eight relievers is one too many. (You can argue seven relievers is one too many.) With so many veteran position players, I’d rather have the extra bench player than the extra reliever. No doubt about it.

5. As for call-up candidates, I think Rob Refsnyder is the best fit because he can play second, third, and right. It was cool to hear he asked to play right field in Triple-A. He wants to improve his versatility because he knows it’s his best chance to get back to show. I’ve said before I think the best way for him to help the Yankees long-term is as a utility man. Refsnyder would add a righty bat to replace A-Rod, be around as a Chase Headley alternative, and provide depth at multiple spots. Ben Gamel or Slade Heathcott would be yet another lefty hitting outfielder. I’m not sure what they offer the Yankees that they don’t already have on the roster. Aaron Judge for a few weeks would be fun as hell, but he’d have to actually play. There’s no sense in calling him up one to play once or twice a week. Refsnyder’s the guy because the Yankees could play him at different positions and keep him on the bench for a few days a week with no real worry about his development.