Game 100: Tanaka time in Texas

(Tom Pennington/Getty)
(Tom Pennington/Getty)

Today is the 100th game of the season. The Yankees will have at least 57 wins at the century mark this year, hopefully 58, after having 52 wins after 100 games last year and 53 wins the year before. In 2012, the last time the Yankees went to the postseason, they were 60-40 after 100 games. Of course, the AL East is weaker now than it was back in 2012.

Anyway, Masahiro Tanaka is on the mound tonight with yet another extra day of rest. He hasn’t started on normal rest since April. April! That was his last start before landing on the DL. Tanaka’s had at least one extra day of rest for 12 of his 13 starts this year. I didn’t realize that. The Yankees are going to great lengths to keep him healthy. Hopefully it pays off with a win tonight. Here is the Rangers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. 1B Garrett Jones
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Another scorcher in Arlington today. It was over 100 degrees most of the day and it’ll still be over 90 when the sun goes down tonight. Yuck. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 8:05pm ET and you can watch on good ol’ YES. Enjoy the game.

Roster Updates: Mark Teixeira is fine, just a routine day off … in case you missed it earlier, Chris Capuano has been designated for assignment and Caleb Cotham has been called up to give the bullpen a fresh arm.

2015 Trade Deadline Open Thread: Wednesday

Samardzija. (Jim Rogash/Getty)
Samardzija. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Just three days left now. The 2015 non-waiver trade deadline is this Friday at 4pm ET, and while the Yankees have not yet made any moves, I’m sure they will at some point in the next few days. Pitching is a bit of an issue — I’d rather not see Chris Capuano make another spot start — and second base could use an upgrade as well. Maybe another righty bat too.

On Monday and Tuesday we learned the Yankees are engaged in the pitching market, both starters and relievers. They had conversations with the Reds about Johnny Cueto before he was traded to the Royals, and they were also in the hunt for Ben Zobrist before he joined Cueto in Kansas City. Final offers for Cole Hamels are reportedly due today as well. We’ll keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here.

  • 7:04pm ET: The Mat Latos trade from earlier is currently on hold because of someone’s medicals. Not necessarily Latos’. So he could, in fact, still be an option for the Yankees. [Wittenmyer]
  • 4:33pm ET: The Yankees will indeed talk to the Tigers about David Price. They remain unwilling to part with top prospects — the Phillies against asked about Aaron Judge and Luis Severino — but I’m sure at least part of that is just posturing. [Heyman]
  • 4:31pm ET: The Phillies had a scout watching Ivan Nova on Monday. The Yankees did discuss Cueto with the Reds during Johnny Cueto talks, so it stands to reason he would be available for Cole Hamels as well. [Mark Feinsand]
  • 3:32pm ET: The Tigers called teams today to tell them they are “rebooting” and willing to listen on David Price, Yoenis Cespedes, and others. I certainly expect the Yankees to make a run at Price. [Stark]
  • 2:56pm ET: If the Phillies do indeed trade Cole Hamels, it is unlikely to happen today. Any trade would have to wait until Thursday or even Friday as the Phillies mull over offers. [Jayson Stark]
  • 2:23pm ET: The Padres requested shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo in trade talks about Craig Kimbrel, but the Yankees said no. New York is willing to eat the entire $28M left on Kimbrel’s contract, but they won’t surrender top prospects. [Jon Heyman]
  • 11:24pm ET: Mat Latos is apparently off the board. The Marlins are reportedly trading the right-hander (and others) to the Dodgers for prospects. Earlier this week we heard the Yankees had some interest in Latos. [Gordon Wittenmyer]
  • 9:30am ET: The White Sox still have not given any indication they will trade Jeff Samardzija. They Yankees have had their eye on him for a few weeks now. The ChiSox are now only 3.5 games back of a wildcard spot, so they might hold on to Samardzija and go for it, knowing they’ll get at least a draft pick for him after the season. [Jerry Crasnick]
  • The Reds are fielding offers for Aroldis Chapman but are not devoted to trading him because he’s under team control next season. They moved Cueto because they were going to lose him to free agency. The Yankees are said to be open to adding another high-end reliever. [Buster Olney]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

Does Tanaka have a home run problem?

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Masahiro Tanaka’s numbers from his last start against the Orioles on July 23 looked solid enough to declare the outing a success — he pitched into the eighth inning, got seven strikeouts, didn’t walk a batter and allowed just three runs on five hits. Yet that sentence leaves out one important number: Tanaka also gave up three home runs.

If this was a mere blip in his season gamelogs, there might not be much to discuss here, and we could dismiss the trio of homers as a random event that happens to even the best pitchers in the sport. But those home runs were the 13th, 14th and 15th that Tanaka has allowed this season, matching his total from all of 2014 in 55 fewer innings pitched.

Not only is Tanaka more homer-prone this season compared to last year, but he’s also giving up longballs at one of the worst rates in the league. His 1.65 homers allowed per nine innings is the fifth-highest mark among pitchers with at least 80 innings pitched. Tanaka is one of 29 pitchers that have allowed at least 15 homers this season; his 325 batters faced are the fewest among that group.

Tanaka was frustrated after giving up those three homers against Baltimore, especially the two in the eighth inning that sent him to the showers.

“I felt pretty good all the way through the day, and you want to kind of go out of the game strong, but I gave up those two home runs,” he told reporters after the game through a translator. “So, not particularly happy about that, but we’ll adjust and go about it next time out.”

Joe Girardi acknowledged the issue, but wasn’t too worried because Tanaka was able to limit the damage.

“It’s not what you want to see,” Girardi said in his postgame press conference. “But you can survive giving up solo home runs. You can survive and be very successful.”

So do we make of the situation, do we need to press the panic button and start worrying about Tanaka’s sky-high home run rate? On to the analysis!

****************************

The big number on Tanaka’s FanGraphs.com page that sticks out like a sore thumb is his 2015 home run to fly ball rate of 17.9 percent. That’s the third-highest rate in the majors (min. 80 IP) and well above the league average rate of roughly 10 percent.

Typically, pitchers with inflated homer-to-fly ball rates should see some regression to the mean over the course of the season, and so we’d expect fewer of his fly balls to go over the fence in August and September. Of course, that’s not always true — if you’re continually throwing meatballs and giving up lots of long hits and hard contact, you’re still probably going to allow a lot of homers, regardless of what the statheads say. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with Tanaka, who legitimately might be suffering from some bad luck so far this year.

The right-hander has one of the highest soft-contact rates in the league (21 percent), and his hard-contact rate (29 percent) is right around the league average and even lower than last year (35 percent). Tanaka’s average fly ball distance is up a few feet from last year (287 vs. 284), but it still doesn’t crack the top-50 among pitchers this season. And Tanaka is not throwing more pitches right down the middle of the plate, either. His percentage of pitches located in the “heart” of the strike zone is the virtually the same this year (20.6%) as last year (20.0%). Comparing his heat maps from last year and this year, he still seems to pounding the bottom of the zone and keeping his pitches out of the hitters’ sweetspot.

tanaka 2014

Another factor to consider is that he’s had to deal with one of the toughest schedules in the majors this season — the combined slugging percentage of the batters he’s faced (.412) ranks seventh-highest among pitchers (min. 80 IP). Looking at the list of the 13 players that have taken Tanaka deep, you can see he’s been victimized by some pretty good power hitters. Eight of them have hit at least 15 home runs this season and two rank in the top-6 in the majors (Bryce Harper, J.D. Martinez). The only lightweights on the list are probably Jose Altuve and Derek Dietrich.

Another encouraging number is that he’s not giving up a ton of homers when ahead in the count and in those situations when he should be putting away batters. Just four of his 15 home runs allowed have come in pitcher-friendly counts, and he’s given up just one two-strike homer all season.

However, he is finding trouble when he falls behind early and into too many fastball counts. He’s allowed eight homers after throwing a first-pitch ball, but just five after getting to 0-1 in the count. Nine of his 15 homers have come off either his sinker or four-seamer, a pitch that has been a hot topic this season and one that he continues to struggle with even after making some adjustments recently.

****************************

The bad news is that the box score stats say that Tanaka has been homer-prone this season, and you can’t erase the 15 longballs he’s already allowed.

The good news is that a deeper analysis into his core numbers shows that there probably isn’t much to worry about right now, and there’s every indication that his luck should even out during the final two months. So what do you think, is the glass half-empty or half-full?

Yankees designate Chris Capuano for assignment, call up Caleb Cotham

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

This isn’t unexpected following last night’s debacle. The Yankees have designated left-hander Chris Capuano for assignment, the team announced. Right-hander Caleb Cotham has been called up from Triple-A Scranton to take his spot on the roster and give the club a fresh arm in the bullpen tonight.

Capuano, 36, allowed five runs on three hits and five walks in two-thirds of an inning in last night’s spot start. When asked if he felt his roster spot was in jeopardy after the game, Capuano told reporters it is “not my area. They’re going to try to do what they can to make the team better.”

The Yankees re-signed Capuano to a one-year deal worth $5M this offseason. He was slated to be the fifth starter before suffering a quad injury covering first base in Spring Training. Adam Warren took the job and Capuano settled into a long relief role. Capuano had a 6.97 ERA (4.98 FIP) in 31 innings this year.

The move means righty Diego Moreno will hang around a little longer as the team’s long reliever. He replaced Capuano last night and chucked 5.1 no-hit innings. The score was lopsided, yeah, but Moreno had an opportunity to show the team what he can do, and he took advantage. He’ll be unavailable for a few days, however.

Cotham, 27, will be the 12th player to make his MLB debut with the Yankees this season whenever he gets into a game, and that doesn’t include Taylor Dugas, Joel De La Cruz, and Nick Goody, who were called up but didn’t play in a game. Cotham has a 2.17 ERA (2.02 FIP) with 29.1 K% and 5.5 BB% in 45.2 relief innings split between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton this year.

Cotham (fifth round) is the sixth member of the team’s 2009 draft class to reach the big leagues, joining Slade Heathcott (supplemental first), John Ryan Murphy (supplemental second), Warren (fourth), Shane Greene (15th), and Bryan Mitchell (16th). Tyler Lyons (10th) and Jake Petricka (34th) did not sign and have since reached MLB with the Cardinals and White Sox, respectively.

Poll: The Second Base Situation

Drew. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
Drew. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Yesterday afternoon, the best available second baseman came off the board when the Athletics shipped Ben Zobrist to the Royals for two pitching prospects. The Yankees reportedly had interest in Zobrist, it just didn’t come together. For shame. Zobrist was a perfect fit for the Yankees and I was really hoping they’d land him before Friday’s trade deadline.

So now the Yankees will move forward and either stick with their current second base situation or acquire … someone. The second base market is really thin now. Martin Prado is the best available option and it’s not clear whether he is even available. The Marlins could simply hold onto him for next year. Brandon Phillips is the other big name out there. Let’s run down the club’s second base options with Zobrist now off the board.

Option No. 1: Stick with Drew

The Yankees have given Stephen Drew plenty of leash so far this season — he picked up plate appearances 300 and 301 last night — and he’s rewarded them with a .187/.261/.377 (73 wRC+) batting line. The 13 homers and 9.0% walk rate are nice, but there is basically no level of defense or power that makes making an out more than 73% of the time is acceptable. A total of 160 hitters are qualified for the batting title right now. Drew’s on-base percentage would be the 92nd best batting average. Yeah, it’s bad.

Now, to be fair, Drew has been better of late. He’s hitting .226/.308/.478 (115 wRC+) in 131 plate appearances since the calendar flipped to June, with a lot of that built on his three two-homer games in June. They count! Drew just hasn’t done a whole lot aside from those games. The bat hasn’t really come around to the point where you’d safely expect him to put up league average numbers going forward, but Drew has never not been reliable in the field, even while making the transition over to second. He’s as sure-handed as they come, and with no second base options likely to put up big offensive numbers, going with the best defender is a viable strategy.

Option No. 2: Go with Refnsyder

For a total of four games, the Yankees gave top second base prospect Rob Refsnyder a shot at the job. He was called up earlier this month, played the last two games before the All-Star break and the first two games after the break, and went 2-for-12 (.167) with a homer. His defense at second was … passable. Rough around the edges is a good way to describe it. Refsnyder didn’t look too natural there. The routine seemed difficult.

Of course, Refsnyder’s calling card is not his defense, it’s his bat. He’s hitting .285/.378/.404 (131 wRC+) in 393 plate appearances at Triple-A this year and .292/.383/.428 (133 wRC+) in 726 plate appearances at the level dating back to last year, so Refsnyder’s put up good numbers at the highest level of the minors. There are reasons to believe he’d be an upgrade over Drew at the plate. As an added bonus, Refsnyder is right-handed and would balance out the lefty heavy bottom of the lineup. The Yankees seem hesitant to give Refsnyder an extended opportunity — that’s not too surprising, they prioritize defense and he doesn’t offer it — but could do so after the trade deadline.

Prado. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)
Prado. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

Option No. 3: Trade for Prado

Like I said, the Marlins aren’t even committed to shopping Prado yet. Joel Sherman heard Miami will now “at least contemplate” trading Prado, which I guess is better than saying he’s off limits. He’s hitting .280/.321/.375 (92 wRC+) with 14 doubles and four homers this season, continuing a gradual decline that has seen him go from a 117 wRC+ in 2012 to 104 in 2013 to 103 in 2014 to 92 in 2015. Prado is versatile, which is nice even though we’re talking about him slotting in as the regular second baseman. Also, it’s worth noting Prado has not played second base regularly since 2010. He’s just filled in a handful of times each year. Check out our Scouting The Market post for more info on the ex-Yankee, who is also under contract next year.

Option No. 4: Trade for Phillips

At this point the rebuilding Reds would probably give Phillips away to rid themselves of the $32M they owe him through 2017. He’s hitting .273/.310/.355 (83 wRC+) so far this year, and, at age 34, his power is all but gone. His ISO has slid from .157 in 2011 to .148 in 2012 to .135 in 2013 to .103 in 2014 to .081 in 2015. That is both not a good trend and perfectly normal for a guy this age. Phillips is on the downside of his career. It’s clear as day. Peak dollars for non-peak production. But, Phillips is very available, and at this point he might be an upgrade over what the Yankees have in-house. Here’s our Scouting The Market post.

* * *

Unless a trade candidate comes out of nowhere — Dee Gordon? he just returned from his dislocated thumb — these are the four main options the Yankees have at second best now that Zobrist is off the board. I’m not sure there’s a right answer. I’m not even sure there’s much of a difference between the three when you considered expected production and acquisition costs, stuff like that. Time for a poll.

What should the Yankees do at second base?

Yankees, offense absolutely annihilate Rangers for a 21-5 victory

There are games where the offense does a pretty good job and there are ones where it absolutely explodes, and then some. Tonight falls into the latter category. After Chris Capuano gave up five runs in the first inning, the Yanks scored eleven in the second and, well, scored ten more later. The Yankees scored 21 runs in total and two relievers – Diego Moreno and Adam Warren – allowed zero hits after Capuano got knocked out.

That changeup probably didn’t get a batter out (Source: Getty)

Capuanope

Not all of us were optimistic when Joe Girardi announced Capuano would start tonight’s game. The result? Pretty, pretty bad. Capuano did not complete the first inning, walked five, allowed five earned runs, and got knocked out of the game with two outs and bases loaded after walking in a run. Yeesh. You would think that, because he had a decent 2014 showing, Capuano still has something left as a spot starter but … definitely not tonight.

After tonight’s start, the lefty has an ugly 6.97 ERA in 31.0 IP. That’s like, not ML roster-worthy at all. Not sure how long he’ll stick after tonight’s start, but fortunately for the Yanks, the offense dominated in Arlington.

Got the runs going up … on a Tuesday

It’d be excruciatingly long to summarize everything that happened in the top of the second so I’ll just leave this right here:

Martin Perez pitching for Texas NYY TEX
Young doubled to left. 0 5
Headley singled to center, Young scored. 1 5
Murphy singled to left, Headley to second. 1 5
Gregorius hit by pitch, Headley to third, Murphy to second. 1 5
Ryan doubled to right center, Headley and Murphy scored, Gregorius to third. 3 5
Ellsbury singled to center, Gregorius scored, Ryan to third. 4 5
Gardner singled to center, Ryan scored, Ellsbury to second. 5 5
Rodriguez doubled to deep left, Ellsbury scored, Gardner to third. 6 5
Rodríguez relieved Pérez. 6 5
Teixeira struck out swinging. 6 5
Young walked. 6 5
Headley singled to left, Gardner scored, Rodriguez to third, Young to second. 7 5
Murphy struck out swinging. 7 5
Gregorius tripled to deep left center, Rodriguez, Young and Headley scored. 10 5
Ryan doubled to deep left, Gregorius scored. 11 5
Ellsbury struck out swinging. 11 5
11 Runs, 10 Hits, 0 Error

Several things to note here. First, the Yankees started with eight consecutive baserunners. Eight! Second, all the outs were via swinging strikeouts, which is kind of odd considering how well the bats were squaring thing up, but baseball is weird. Third, who else would it be besides Brendan Ryan to have two extra-base hits in the same inning? Oh man, this was pretty fun to watch. The inning started with hopes to chip away piece by piece to eventually tie it up, but the Yankees totally destroyed Martin Perez and took a huge lead.

Also, geez, Perez looked decent in the first inning but had basically nothing working on in second. You thought Capuano’s game score of 21 is bad? (Well, it is actually pretty horrid) Perez has 8. So that’s that.

(Source: Getty)

At 11-5, the Yankees offense was far from done. In the top of third, New York quickly loaded the bases without an out against Wandy Rodriguez on two singles and a walk. Chris Young, who has killed lefties all season, hit one on the screws for a grand slam. 15-5 Yankees with no out in the third. Wowza.

(Source: Getty)

5.1 no-hit innings

How about Diego Moreno? The guy had toiled in minors since 2009, came over to New York as a part of the A.J. Burnett deal, and made his ML debut in June as a 27-year old. Now, as a 28-year old rookie (his birthday was a week ago), he fired 5.1 no-hit innings and saved a lot of bullpen arms from being used tonight.

Moreno is known for his big arm but he had a lot more than velocity going tonight. He went after hitters, generated swings-and-misses with his heat and secondary pitches, and, of course, located very well. The only baserunner he allowed was Shin-Soo Choo, who walked in the third. When it was all said and done, Moreno exited the game with a line of 5.1 IP, 0 H, 1 BB and 5 K’s. Pretty nice. Tonight’s performance should earn him at least few more looks up in the majors.

More runs!

In the top fourth, with runners on corners and two outs, Phil Klein induced a grounder from Chris Young and it seemed like the Rangers were actually getting out of the inning without any runs allowed … then Elvis Andrus couldn’t come up with the play. The ball hit the heel of his glove and everybody was safe. Oh, and Brett Gardner scored. 16-5 Yankees.

Top sixth, Spencer Patton replaced Klein on the mound. Gardner walked to lead off. Klein struck out A-Rod but hit Mark Teixeira on the right foot. With one out and runners on first and second, Chris Young drilled a mammoth double to left to score Gardner. 17-5 Yanks. At this point (or way before), it was pretty silly. But John Ryan Murphy joined the fun in the inning by driving in both runners with an RBI single. 19-5!

Well, you know what tends to happen when a team happens colossal amount of runs – the other team lets a position player pitch! The Rangers brought in the infielder Adam Rosales for their mound in the ninth. For a guy who just seemed to be lobbing the ball to plate, he had a decent velocity – reaching 91 mph in the FS1 gun. But that didn’t stop Gardner from hitting a big two-run homer to extend the lead 21-5.

Leftovers

Didi Gregorius had a pretty big game. He went 4-for-5, setting a career high in hits in a game. His batting average is now up to .257, which is pretty nice considering 1) he’s a shortstop 2) he was in the early-.200’s for a good chunk of the first months of the season. Great to see Didi showing some good bat as the season goes on.

Buried under Moreno’s brilliance tonight was Adam Warren’s performance. In fact, Warren threw three perfect innings. His line is as clean as it can get: 3.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K. He came into the game in the seventh inning and closed it out as well. Also, he got a save! The first of the season for him!

Box score, standings, highlights, WPA

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


Source: FanGraphs


You could hypothetically expect less runs tomorrow based on the starters –  Masahiro Tanaka and Colby Lewis – but you never know, baseball is weird. Yankees play again at 8:05 PM EST tomorrow. We’ll see how fun this one gets.

DotF: Judge’s big day at the plate and in the field helps Scranton to a win

Quick note: Yankees prospects will play for the Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League this year, the league announced. They suited up for the Scottsdale Scorpions the last few years. They’ll share the team with Royals, Brewers, Cardinals, and Rangers prospects. Double-A Trenton pitching coach Jose Rosado will be Surprise’s pitching coach.

Triple-A Scranton (5-3 win over Lehigh Valley)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 1-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 E (fielding) — threw a runner out at second
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder & 1B Greg Bird: both 0-4 — Refsnyder got hit by a pitch, drove in a run, and struck out … Bird walks
  • RF Aaron Judge: 2-4, 1 R, 2 2B, 1 K — also threw two runners out at second … after the game, Dave Rosengrant asked about the outfield assists, and Judge said “defense is probably one of my favorite things, except for hitting home runs, I guess”
  • C Gary Sanchez: 0-2, 1 R, 2 BB
  • LF Ramon Flores: 1-3, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K
  • 3B Jose Pirela: 1-3, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
  • DH Austin Romine: 1-4, 1 RBI, 2 K — he’s having a very good year, but with Sanchez here, Romine will get the short end of the playing time stick
  • RHP Joel De La Cruz: 5 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 6/1 GB/FB — 49 of 80 pitches were strikes (61%) … gets the spot start with RHP Diego Moreno in the big leagues
  • RHP Wilking Rodriguez: 2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 31 of 44 pitches were strikes (70%) … 13/3 K/BB in 10.2 innings since coming back from his 80-game banned substance suspension
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 11 of 19 pitches were strikes (58%)

[Read more…]