DotF: Park’s hot streak continues in Charleston’s loss

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

  • SS Tyler Wade: 1-2, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K — drew only three walks total in his first 16 games of the season, which is a little unusual for him … he had an 11.3% walk rate last year (career 10.2%)
  • RF Clint Frazier: 1-4
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 1-4, 1 2B
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 1-2, 1 R, 1 K
  • LF Mason Williams: 1-3, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 SB — been on base five times the last two games … he reached base nine times in his first 14 games
  • RHP Luis Cessa: 6.2 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 6/7 GB/FB — 60 of 88 pitches were strikes (68%) … 12/9 K/BB in 23.1 innings is a problem
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 12 pitches, ten strikes
  • RHP Ernesto Frieri: 1 IP, zeroes, 2/1 GB/FB — ten of 16 pitches were strikes

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Game 19: Measuring Stick?

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

The Yankees are off to a nice little 11-7 start to the season — their +30 run differential is still the best in baseball — and they’ve done it while getting basically nothing from Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, and Didi Gregorius. I’m excited to see this team at full strength. I don’t know if they’re good enough to make the postseason, but at least they’re far more interesting to watch nowadays.

Anyway, rain turned this three-game series at Fenway Park into a two-game series, and because this is Yankees-Red Sox, everything is overblown. I’ve seen this series called a measuring stick for the Yankees. These two games against the AL East favorite will tell us whether they’re for real or not! I mean, no? One series doesn’t mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, but still, it sure would be nice to pick up a pair of wins in Boston. One game at a time though. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. RF Aaron Judgehow about a couple homers to celebrate his 25th birthday?
  7. 1B Greg Bird
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Luis Severino

The weather still isn’t great in Beantown. It was raining on and off all day, though it looks as though there will be a big enough window to get the game in. It’ll be cold and cloudy in the meantime. This evening’s game will begin a little after 7pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: Didi Gregorius (shoulder) is on track to return this coming weekend, Joe Girardi said. He could be back in the lineup as soon as Friday. I’m guessing the Yankees want to see how he makes it through his rehab games tonight and tomorrow before making any decisions … Gary Sanchez (biceps) is throwing from a distance of 120 feet and has started hitting in the batting cage, so his rehab is coming along well.

4/25 to 4/27 Preview: Boston Red Sox

(Jim Rogash/Getty Images North America)
(Jim Rogash/Getty Images North America)

The Yankees are heading up to Boston for their first meeting with the Red Sox in 2017. It only seems as though the Red Sox are always either the last team they played, or the next team they will play – but it just so happens to be true this time around. This will be the only time the teams meet in the first two months of the season, as they won’t square-off again until June 6 in Yankee Stadium.

The Last Time They Met

In the penultimate series of the 2016 season, the Yankees hosted the Red Sox for a three-game set beginning September 27, and the good guys walked away with the sweep. That sweep had precious little impact on the Yankees season; however, it did help to bump the Red Sox down to third in the American League, costing them homefield advantage in the ALDS, where they were swept by the Indians.  We can call that a tiny victory. Some other notes:

  • Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius both reached the 20 home run mark in the first game of the series.
  • Mark Teixeira hit the final home run of his career in the second game of the series – a walk-off grand slam to right-center. It may well be the most memorable home run of his stint with the Yankees, and it was a hell of a way to put a stamp on his career as a whole.
  • That second game was incredible in general, as the Yankees went into the bottom of the 9th trailing 3-0, with only four men reaching base (a single and three walks) in the first eight innings. Craig Kimbrel’s ERA jumped from 2.65 to 3.35 thanks to Teixeira and Co.
  • CC Sabathia had one of his best starts of the season in the last game of the series, posting the following line – 7.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 8 K. He struck out the first four batters he faced, as well, in Aaron Hill, Andrew Benintendi, Xander Bogaerts, and David Ortiz.
  • Speaking of which – Ortiz went 0-for-10 with 2 BB in his last visit to the Bronx.

Injury Report

David Price (forearm/elbow soreness), Tyler Thornburg (shoulder soreness), Carson Smith (recovering from Tommy John Surgery), Brock Holt (vertigo), Pablo Sandoval (knee), and Roenis Elias (oblique strain) are all on the disabled list, and none are slated to be ready for this series. The timetables for Price, Thornburg, Smith, and Elias are somewhat unclear, though Price did throw a 30-pitch bullpen session on April 21.

There is also a chance that Dustin Pedroia could miss some time, due to swelling in his knee and ankle resulting from a hard slide by Manny Machado on Friday night. He had to be helped off the field following the collision, and sat on both Saturday and Sunday, and is currently considered day-to-day.

Their Story So Far

Injuries have plagued the Red Sox in 2017, as one might guess from their current disabled list. That doesn’t tell the whole story, though, as Jackie Bradley Jr. just returned from the DL, and Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez are dealing with nagging injuries that have held them out of the lineup. Their depth has been tested quite a bit already, but they’ve managed to keep their collective head above water (they’re currently 11-8 with a +3 run differential).

The Lineup We Might See

The Red Sox lineup has seen a great deal of mixing and matching, and that stems from the injuries. Manager John Farrell isn’t known for platooning or riding the hot hand, so it’s fairly safe to say that the lineup will look like this if Pedroia can suit up:

  1. Pedroia, 2B
  2. Benintendi, LF
  3. Mookie Betts, RF
  4. Ramirez, DH
  5. Mitch Moreland, 1B
  6. Bogaerts, SS
  7. Bradley, CF
  8. Marco Hernandez, 3B
  9. Sandy Leon/Christian Vazquez, C

If Pedroia sits, the Yankee pitching staff will probably see something along these lines:

  1. Bogaerts, SS
  2. Benintendi, LF
  3. Betts, RF
  4. Ramirez, DH
  5. Moreland, 1B
  6. Bradley, CF
  7. Hernandez, 2B
  8. Leon/Vazquez, C
  9. Josh Rutledge, 2B

The Pitchers We Will See

Wednesday (7:10 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. RHP Rick Porcello

It has been a less than ideal start to Porcello’s defense of his Cy Young award, as the 28-year-old has allowed at least three runs in each of his four starts. (As an aside, am I the only one who continuously forgets that Porcello is so young? This is his ninth season in the majors, and he’s thrown just shy of 1500 IP.) His peripherals remain strong – particularly his 21.1 K% and 4.6 BB% – but he’s been hit hard (only seven pitchers have surrendered a higher hard-hit percentage), and it shows in his 5.32 ERA and 1.90 HR/9.

Porcello is a true five offering pitcher, with a couple of low-90s fastballs, a slider, a curveball, and a change-up. He usually racks up grounders with the fastball, and picks up whiffs on the slider and change piece.

Last Outing (vs. TOR on 4/19) – 7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 5 K

Thursday (7:10 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. LHP Chris Sale

The Red Sox paid a king’s ransom for Sale this off-season, and he has been well worth the price thus far. His line to date: 29.2 IP, 15 H, 6 BB, 42 K, 0.91 ERA, 1.10 FIP, 1.5 fWAR. Sale’s obscene 38.9% strikeout rate leads the majors, as does his 33.3 K-BB%. There was some concern about his dip in velocity and strikeouts last season, but pitching to contact and saving some stress was the game plan in 2016 – this year’s strategy seems to be making opposing hitters look foolish.

Sale throws two low-to-mid 90s fastballs (a four-seamer and a two-seamer), a mid-80s change-up, and a high-70s slider that may well be illegal in some jurisdictions. He generates whiffs on all four pitches, to boot.

Last Outing (vs. TOR on 4/20) – 8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 13 K

The Bullpen

The Red Sox acquired Carson Smith to be the set-up man last year, and he pitched three games before going under the knife. They picked-up Tyler Thornburg to fill that role in 2017, and he has yet to pitch due to a shoulder issue. Their bullpen nevertheless remains fairly stout, with Craig Kimbrel closing, and Heath Hembree and Joe Kelly doing a fine job in the middle innings. The group as a whole sports a 2.21 ERA, and most everyone should be available for the upcoming series due to Monday’s off-day.

Yankees Connection

These two teams rarely come together as trade partners, and understandably so. As a result of this, OF Chris Young is the only former Yankee on the Red Sox roster. He’s currently batting .225/.344/.283 (82 wRC+) in part-time duty, after putting up a solid 125 wRC+ in a similar role in 2016. Also, hitting coach Chili Davis played for the Yankees in 1998 and 1999, and third base coach Brian Butterfield spent many years with the Yankees in many different capacities.

The Yankees have two former Red Sox on the roster in Jacoby Ellsbury and Tommy Layne.

Who (Or What) To Watch

If the season ended today, Andrew Benintendi might just be Aaron Judge‘s chief competition for Rookie of the Year. The 22-year-old is currently batting .347/.415/.444 (146 wRC+) with a 8.5 BB% and 12.2 K%. He’s also reached base safely in 16 of 18 games thus far. As much as I would like to mock his lack of power, he has some of the best pure bat-to-ball skills around right now. Between Benintendi, Bradley, and Betts, the Red Sox have three young and very good outfielders that are sure to frustrate the lot of us for the next several years.

Poll: Finding a role for Chad Green

(Times Leader)
(Times Leader)

Eighteen games into the 2017 season, the surprise story for the Yankees has been their rotation. The five starters have a combined for a 4.05 ERA (4.00 FIP) in 104.1 innings, and they’ve been especially good over the last two weeks or so. Luis Severino looks like the 2015 version of himself, not the 2016 version, and rookie Jordan Montgomery has acquitted himself well. Masahiro Tanaka has been New York’s worst starter thus far, weirdly. That won’t last all season.

Beyond the current top five, the Yankees also have some pitching depth stashed away for emergencies. Adam Warren and Bryan Mitchell are in the bullpen and could be candidates to start at some point, if necessary. In Triple-A the Yankees have Chad Green and Luis Cessa, both of whom had stints in the rotation last season and handled themselves relatively well. Others like Daniel Camarena and Chance Adams could be options at some point too.

Early on the Yankees lined both Montgomery and Green up for the fifth starter’s spot simply to make sure they had two pitchers ready to go. They planned to wait until April 16th to use the fifth starter, but that didn’t happen. The Yankees decided to use their fifth starter, Montgomery, earlier to make sure everyone else in the rotation got an extra day of rest. I see no reason to regret that decision. The rotation has been pretty good lately.

While Montgomery has held down the fifth spot, Green has been sitting in the minors as a depth arm, taking the ball every fifth day. He has a 2.05 ERA (1.90 FIP) with 31.8% strikeouts and 4.6% walks in 22 innings spread across four outings. This is nothing new for him, of course. Last season Green threw 94.2 Triple-A innings with a 1.52 ERA (2.17 FIP) and great strikeout (27.4%) and walk (5.8%) rates. He dominates at that level.

What we don’t know is whether Green can dominate — or even pitch at the league average rate — at the MLB level. Green will turn 26 next month, so he’s not a young kid, and when you’ve got a pitcher that age throwing that well in Triple-A, you’d hate to waste those bullets, so to speak. Why let him manhandle the minors when he could help you win at the big league level, you know? The Yankees have three options with Green.

Keep him in Triple-A

There’s nothing wrong with stashing Green in Triple-A for the time being. It stinks for him because he wants to be in the big leagues, but it makes sense for the Yankees, who will inevitably need a sixth starter at some point. They’d surely like to have Green (and Cessa) all ready to go when time comes.

Also, keep in mind the single biggest reason Green is in Triple-A is his changeup, or lack thereof. He’s worked to add a changeup (or a splitter) throughout his pro career and hasn’t had much luck. Last season big league lefties hit .287/.351/.663 (.421 wOBA) against him because he had nothing to disrupt their timing. His Triple-A numbers are great, but until the Yankees see progress with his changeup, they might not want to call Green up. Keep him in Scranton and tell him to throw 30 changeups a start until he’s needed in the Bronx.

Put him in the MLB rotation

The Yankees did this for a while last season because they had no other choice, basically. They lost Nathan Eovaldi to injury and Ivan Nova was traded away, and they needed starters. Green had a 5.94 ERA (6.09 FIP) in eight starts and 36.1 innings. That’s terrible, but last year is last year and this year is this year. Green has some MLB experience now and could use that experience to have more success his second try at the show. Happens all the time.

The question with this option is who does Green replace? No one in the current big league rotation deserves to be demoted. I suppose you could argue Green should replace CC Sabathia. Sabathia will be 37 in July and he’s an impending free agent with no real long-term future in pinstripes. The Yankees might bring him back on perpetual one-year contracts Andy Pettitte style, but that’s far from a guarantee. Green, on the other hand, is 25 and could have a long-term role here. The Yankees are in the middle movement, right? Go with the kid!

That’s not going to happen, of course. Sabathia pitched well enough last year and has pitched well so far this year, and let’s not kid ourselves, his $25M salary buys him some rope. If Green were to join the rotation for any reason other than trade or injury, it would almost certainly come at the expense of Montgomery, the low man on the rotation totem pole.

Put him in the MLB bullpen

Tyler Clippard and all his fly balls still make me nervous, but how good has the bullpen been so far? They collectively have a 1.39 ERA (2.10 FIP) in 51.2 innings. Very nice. There’s always room for improvement though, and Green has a big fastball — he averaged 94.4 mph with his heater as a starter in 2016 — and a promising slider. Let him air it out in short relief and very good things may happen. (I predicted they will!)

Making room in the bullpen would be pretty easy. Jonathan Holder, who is very clearly a favorite of the Yankees, has managed to put ten men on base in 5.1 innings despite not walking anyone. Impressive. Sending him down to Triple-A to clear room for Green is an easy move. The Yankees could also send Mitchell to Triple-A to stretch him back out to start as well. That’s an option too.

Point is, Green chances of success as a starter aren’t great right now because he doesn’t have a changeup. He does have a great fastball though — hitters swung and missed at his fastball 16.2% of the time last year, which is nuts (that’s basically triple the MLB average) — not to mention a useful slider. Green truly has the potential to overpower hitters as a reliever, and there’s no such thing as having too many of those guys in your bullpen.

* * *

My guess is the Yankees will keep Green in Triple-A for the time being. Things with the pitching staff are going well right now and hey, why fix what isn’t broken? Eventually the Yankees will need another arm, and when they do, Green will be among the first considered. I want to know what you would do with Green, however. What’s the best course of action with this soon-to-be 26-year-old right-hander?

What should the Yankees do with Chad Green?
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Aaron Judge hasn’t just improved his plate discipline this year, he’s improved his plate coverage too


What’s your favorite Aaron Judge home run so far this year? I’m partial to the ball he hit nearly to the flag poles against the White Sox (video) because I saw that one in person. His blast against the Pirates this weekend (video) is another good one. Can’t forget about the Spring Training home run off the scoreboard (video), right? It happened this year. It counts.

We’ve seen Judge hit some massive home runs already this season and I’m sure there are many more to come this year and in the future. I’m excited. The home runs are great and I have a hard time picking my favorite. Picking my favorite Judge base hit is a different story. That one is an easy call. It was his opposite field two-strike single with one out in the ninth inning Sunday. Here’s the contact point:


That pitch isn’t a strike. That pitch isn’t close to being a strike. Judge was in protect mode with two strikes though, and Tony Watson did show him a fastball away earlier in the at-bat, so it was in the back of his mind. The Yankees were down one run at the time and we were all thinking about Judge putting a ball into orbit to tie the game. Instead, he got a generally unhittable pitch and took it the other way for a hit. (Here’s a GIF of the hit.)

As broadcasters will tell you over and over again, hits to the opposite field are a “nice piece of hitting,” and that two-strike single to right field Sunday certainly qualifies. It helps that Judge is 6-foot-7 with long arms and was able to reach that pitch, but the point is he recognized the pitch and reacted appropriately. He wasn’t sitting on an inside heater he could yank to left field or anything like that. Judge took what Watson gave him and did all he could do with it.

Hits like that one are the difference between 2016 Aaron Judge and 2017 Aaron Judge. As Matt detailed over the weekend, Judge has shown improved plate discipline in the early going and he’s cut down his strikeouts, which was a necessity after last season. Another thing Judge has improved is his plate coverage, which we saw in action on that opposite field single Sunday night. Here is his 2016 contact heat map, via FanGraphs:

aarn-judge-2016-heat-mapLast season Judge was completely hopeless against pitches away. His contact rates on pitches on the outer third of the plate were typically right around 50% or well below, which is terrible. I mean terrible. We’re talking about simple bat-to-ball here, not exit velocity or hard hit rate or anything like that. Just getting the bat on the ball. When the pitch was on the outer third of the plate (and beyond), Judge failed to make contact with more than half his swings. Woof.

(To be fair, I should point out Judge’s contact rate on pitches on the inner half last season was quite encouraging. Big guys like him are usually easily jammed because bringing those long arms in to handle pitches inside is not easy. Judge has always had a surprisingly compact swing — relatively speaking, of course — for a guy his size.)

Now here is Judge’s contact heat map for the 2017 season, again via FanGraphs:

aaron-judge-2017-heat-mapAh, much better. Judge is covering the outer half of the plate this year — this is a heat map, so the brighter the blue, the worse the contact rate, and there isn’t nearly as much bright blue on the outside part of the plate this year as last year — which addresses arguably his biggest weakness from a season ago. Last year pitchers buried him breaking balls or fastballs near the left-handed hitter’s batter box, like the fastball Watson tried to sneak by him Sunday.

Doing a better job covering the outer half is obviously a positive sign, as is the improved plate discipline. This, to me, is most important: Judge has been able to cover the outer half this year without sacrificing the inner half. He’s not focused so much on the outer half that he’s letting pitchers beat him inside. Judge is covering both sides of the plate now. That’s good! Plate coverage is a wonderful thing.

The season is still quite young and we’ll see whether this continues. Baseball is a game of adjustments and it’s only a matter of time until opposing teams come up with another way to attack Judge. They pitched him away, it worked, and now he’s made the adjustment. Judge doesn’t get enough credit for being as good a pure hitter as he is — it’s so easy to stereotype guys like him as meathead sluggers who swing out of their shoes — and we’re seeing it now with the way he’s covering the outer half.

DotF: Abreu dominates; Gregorius homers during rehab stint

Two quick notes to pass along:

  • The Yankees have released RHP Paddy O’Brien, according to Matt Eddy. The system just took a big hit in the prospect name rankings. O’Brien, 24, was New York’s 24th round pick in the 2015 draft. He was a catcher at UC Santana Barbara and the Yankees put him on the mound. O’Brien struck out 27 batters in 21 pro innings, all in rookie ball, but he also walked 13 and allowed 18 runs.
  • LHP Justus Sheffield was included in today’s Notes from the Field feature at Baseball Prospectus. Best of all, his write-up is above the paywall, so you can read the entire thing for free. “Sheffield showed the potential for a future plus fastball with two average grade secondaries,” said the write-up, which was based on Sunday’s start.

Triple-A Scranton (6-2 loss to Louisville)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 1-5, 1 CS, 1 E (fielding) — still hasn’t played a game in the outfield, though I imagine that’ll happen soon … I’m guessing the Yankees wanted to make sure he was ready to go at shortstop in case Ronald Torreyes didn’t cut it
  • LF Clint Frazier: 2-5, 1 2B — five of his last eight hits have gone for extra bases (three doubles, two homers)
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 0-4, 1 BB, 1 K
  • 1B Ji-Man Choi: 1-3, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SB, 1 E (fielding) — still crushing the ball
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 1 K
  • RF Mason Williams: 2-3, 1 2B, 1 BB — now 9-for-50 (.180) on the season
  • LHP Caleb Smith: 5.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 4/9 GB/FB — 50 of 78 pitches were strikes (64%) … he’s done a very nice job filling in since the LHP Dietrich Enns injury
  • RHP Ben Heller: 1 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 3 WP, 1/0 GB/FB — 21 of 32 pitches were strikes (66%), though one of the walks was intentional … I suppose that doesn’t count against the pitch count anymore since intentional walks are automatic, right?

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Tuesday Night Open Thread

Sigh. Another day without Yankees baseball. Getting real sick of this, you guys. Since the Yankees have been rained out, I suggest listening to this podcast I recorded with Zone Coverage earlier today. We talked about the Twins briefly before diving into a good half-hour of Yankees talk. If you can’t watch the Yankees play tonight, might as well listen to me bumble on about them instead, right? Right.

Here is an open thread for the evening. The Mets were rained out as well, but MLB Network is showing a regional game, plus there are a few NBA playoff games on as well. Talk about those games, Derek Jeter buying the Marlins, or anything else here as long as it’s not religion or politics.