Yankeemetrics: Two out of three ain’t bad [May 6-8]

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

”Hicks hit one to the sticks! Aaron hammers one!”
In a season where we’ve come to expect the unexpected, the Yankees got a much-needed victory — and jolt of optimism — after toppling the Red Sox, 3-2, on Friday night. The win might have been one of the most unlikely in this long and storied rivalry, for a few reasons.

It was the first time ever that the Yankees allowed at least 13 hits and held the Red Sox to no more than two runs in a game at Yankee Stadium (old or new). The last time it happened in a game in New York between these rivals was Sept. 24, 1919 at the Polo Grounds.

Yet, even before the first pitch was thrown, this game already carried the “rare and unusual” label. The last time theses teams entered a series matchup where the Yankees were in sole possession of last place in the AL East while the Red Sox were in sole possession of first place (at least one month into the season) was Aug. 31, 1990.

The improbable theme continued when Aaron Hicks — who had three singles in his first 34 at-bats this season — delivered the game-winning shot when he led off the seventh inning with a solo homer to break a 2-2 tie. Two other Yankee center fielders in the last 30 years have hit a go-ahead homer in the seventh inning or later against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium: Jacoby Ellsbury (2015) and Bernie Williams (2003).

That might not have even been the game’s most dramatic moment, though. Fast-forward to the ninth inning when Andrew Miller found himself protecting a one-run lead with the bases loaded and one out and Big Papi at the plate. Miller prevailed in that epic showdown with Ortiz, striking him out looking, and then sealed the win after getting Hanley Ramirez to whiff for the final out.

The only other Yankee pitcher in the last 75 years to strike out the final two batters of any game with the bases loaded and while protecting a one-run lead was David Robertson on Aug. 12, 2013 against the Angels. That day, D-Rob whiffed Mark Trumbo and Chris Nelson to earn the save and clinch a 2-1 win for the Bombers.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Back-to-back (and belly-to-belly)
Breaking news: The Yankees have a win streak.

Less than 24 hours after perhaps their most emotional win of the season, the Yankees notched one of their most emphatic wins of the season on Saturday afternoon.

Nathan Eovaldi wrote another chapter in his Hekyl-and-Jyde season as he went eight innings and allowed two runs on six hits against the nearly the same Red Sox lineup that had torched him for six runs and 10 hits less than a week ago.

Eovaldi dialed up the heat, averaging 97.8 mph on his four-seam fastball — matching his season-high — while hitting triple digits five times. The only other pitcher to throw more than three 100-plus mph pitches in a single game this season was Noah Syndergaard on April 18 against the Phillies. Eovaldi also got an impressive 10 swings-and-misses with his four-seamer, his most in any start as a Yankee.

Austin Romine had a career day with three hits, including two run-scoring doubles. The list of Yankee catchers to produce at least three hits, two doubles and two RBIs in a game against the Red Sox is a pretty good one: Romine, Jorge Posada (1999), Yogi Berra (1962), Bill Dickey (1936, 1943), Steve O’Neill (1925).

No sweep for you
Sunday night’s finale might not have been sweet, but at least it was short. The Yankees lost 5-1 and the game lasted 2 hours and 27 minutes, the shortest nine-inning game in this rivalry since May 19, 1999 (a 6-0 loss in 2:27 at Fenway) and the shortest at Yankee Stadium since May 2, 1995 (a 8-0 loss in 2:25).

The Yankees avoided the shutout thanks to Brett Gardner‘s ninth-inning home run, but it was just one of three hits against Red Sox starter Steven Wright, who baffled the Yankee lineup all night with his knuckleball. He became the first Boston pitcher to allow three hits or fewer in a complete-game win against the Yankees since Pedro Martinez’s epic 17-strikeout, one-hitter in the Bronx on Sept. 10, 1999.

How do you evaluate Luis Severino‘s outing, during which he tied a career-high with nine strikeouts (great!) but also allowed a career-high three homers (not-great!)? The good news is that he is the youngest Yankee (at the age of 22 years and 78 days) with that many strikeouts against the Red Sox in the last 100 seasons. The bad news is that he also became the first pitcher to give up three or more homers and have nine or more strikeouts in a Yankee-Red Sox game at Yankee Stadium.

David Ortiz continued to torment the Yankees, crushing two more homers — his 51st and 52nd career home runs versus the Yankees — and tying Carl Yastrzemski for the fifth-most all-time against the franchise. It was also his 30th and 31st hit in the Bronx, matching Mickey Vernon for the second-most by any visiting player at Yankee Stadium; Hall of Famer Goose Goslin (32) holds the record.

Fan Confidence Poll: May 9th, 2016

Record Last Week: 3-3 (20 RS, 14 RA)
Season Record: 11-18 (101 RS, 126 RA, 11-18 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: vs. Royals (four games, Mon. to Thurs.), vs. White Sox (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

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

Yankees have no answer for Wright, drop series finale 5-1 to Red Sox

Well, winning two out of three ain’t bad. The Yankees didn’t put up much of a fight against Steven Wright and the Red Sox on Sunday night, dropping the series finale 5-1. The game was not as competitive as the score may indicate.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Strugglin’ Sevy
For the first time this season, Luis Severino showed flashes of dominance Sunday night. Yeah, he did give up four runs in 6.2 innings, including two on a cheap Yankee Stadium homer (Dustin Pedroia) and two on moonshot homers (David Ortiz), but he also overwhelmed hitters from the first through sixth inning. We caught a glimpse of 2015 Severino again, finally. (It was only a glimpse though.)

After giving up the homer to Pedroia in the first, Severino retired 17 of the next 19 batters he faced — the two exceptions where Ortiz’s first homer and a soft single pretty much every non-Carlos Beltran right fielder catches — including eight on strikeouts. His previous season high was five strikeouts and he matched that eight batters into the game. Severino’s nine strikeouts overall tied a career high.

All told, Severino generated 13 swings and misses out of 113 total pitches, a new season high. He averaged 6.8 swings and misses per start the first five times out. There were still enough mistakes to remind you Severino is not all the way back — he missed his spot by the entire width of the plate on the second Ortiz homer — but at least we saw an effective pitcher for a few innings. We’ve been waiting for that.

Sending Severino back out for the seventh was unnecessary in my opinion, but out he went to serve up another bomb to Ortiz and a single to Brock Holt, ending his night. The kid has been getting knocked around all season and that was a chance to get him out — his pitch count was at 96 at the time — feeling good about things. I dunno, seemed like there was no need to try to squeeze a few more outs from him. /shrugs

I don’t think it’s a coincidence the Yankees shuffled the Triple-A Scranton rotation to line Luis Cessa up with Severino. It was time for Severino to make some progress. The season is a month old now and the Yankees can’t just send the kid out there to take a pounding every five days. Severino needed to show some improvement to keep his rotation spot, and we saw it Sunday, albeit for only a few innings. Now he needs to show more in five days.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

I Used To Have An Open Mind, But My Brains Kept Falling Out
I’m not a big exit velocity guy, but this sums up the offense: the Yankees put 21 balls in play against Steven Wright on Sunday, and exactly six were above the MLB average exit velocity (89.2 mph). Mark Teixeira hit a 90 mph grounder, Beltran hit a 100 mph fly ball, Starlin Castro hit a 93 mph double, Dustin Ackley hit a 92 mph fly ball, Didi Gregorius hit a 93 mph fly ball, and Brett Gardner hit a 106 mph solo homer. That’s it. It was weak contact all night.

Wright pitched like a knuckleballing version of vintage Roy Halladay. He totally dominated the Yankees and they never once had anything close to a rally. Even after Castro’s leadoff double in the seventh, Starlin managed to get picked off third later in the inning like a nincompoop. He’s been doing stuff like that his entire career, unfortunately. It’s part of the Castro experience. Anyway, Wright was generally throwing his knuckler up in the zone …

Steven Wright pitch location

… though I’m not sure that was by design. The knuckleball by definition is unpredictable. They aren’t exactly conducive to command. Either way, the old “if it’s high let if fly, if it’s low let it go” mantra did nothing to help the Yankees. It was high, they let it fly, and they didn’t square it up. Wright had his way with the Yankees all night, like far too many other pitchers this season.

Leftovers
Gardner gets Player of the Game for the Yankees by default. In addition to the homer, Brett also threw Hanley Ramirez out at home in the top of the ninth. Very quick release and an accurate throw from Gardner. It was the second runner thrown out at home by a Yankee this season. Aaron Hicks threw someone out a few weeks ago. That was the 105 mph throw.

Chasen Shreve and Johnny Barbato, who were so excellent for a few weeks to start the season, combined to put three men on base in 2.1 innings. Shreve gave up a solo homer to Xander Bogaerts and has now has allowed four homers in his last 5.2 innings. Yeah, it literally hit the top of the wall and hopped over, but still. The middle innings are a bit of a mess right now.

The Yankees had three hits on the night: Gardner’s homer, Castro’s double, and Brian McCann‘s soft single in the first inning. McCann’s single should have been caught. I’m not sure why Holt pulled up and played the hop, but he did, and McCann’s batting average benefits.

And finally, Castro felt something in his rib cage diving back into third base when he was picked off in the seventh inning. Girardi seemed to indicate it is no big deal and thinks Starlin will play Monday. I bet he sits a day.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN is the place to go for the box score and updated standings. MLB.com has the video highlights. Also make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Now here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The homestand continues Monday night with the first of four against the defending World Series champion Royals. Ivan Nova will make his first start of the season in the opener. He’s replacing the injured CC Sabathia in the rotation. Big Chris Young will be on the bump for Kansas City. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to go to that game or any of the other six remaining games on the homestand.

Game 29: Win it for Mom

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there. You’re all pretty cool and I hope you had a wonderful day.

As for the Yankees, they’re on the verge of sweeping the Red Sox, and that’s pretty awesome. If you told me two days ago the Yankees would win two of three this weekend, I would have taken it in a heartbeat. Now? Now I’m greedy. I want the sweep. Go make mom proud. Here is the BoSox’s lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 2B Starlin Castro
  3. C Brian McCann
  4. DH Mark Teixeira
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. 1B Dustin Ackley
  7. CF Aaron Hicks
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 3B Chase Headley
    RHP Luis Severino

It was just a gorgeous afternoon for baseball in New York today. Too bad this game has to be played at night. It’s still nice and pleasant out, but, you know, the sun has gone down. Lame. Tonight’s series finale will begin a bit after 8pm ET and you can watch on ESPN. Enjoy.

Injury Update: Jacoby Ellsbury (hip) remains day-to-day. If he is not ready in five or six days, the Yankees will consider putting him on the DL.

DotF: Judge homers for fourth time in last eight games in Scranton’s loss

Triple-A Scranton (5-4 loss to Lehigh Valley)

  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB — threw a runner out at second for his fifth outfield assists in 23 games in the outfield … fourth homer in his last eight games
  • C Gary Sanchez: 1-5, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • CF Slade Heathcott: 0-4, 1 BB, 2 K — 8-for-38 (.211) since missing a few days after taking a pitch to the hand
  • DH Nick Swisher: 0-5, 2 K — in an 0-for-13 skid
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 1-4 — the hitting streak is up to a dozen games
  • RHP Luis Cessa: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 6/5 GB/FB — 58 of 97 pitches were strikes (60%) … had allowed six earned runs total in his first four outings at this level
  • RHP Matt Wotherspoon: 2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 20 of 32 pitches were strikes (63%) … home debut with the RailRiders for the Scranton area native
  • LHP James Pazos: 0.2 IP, zeroes, 2 K — ten pitches, seven strikes

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Nate and the Round Trippers

(Getty)
(Getty)

Far be it from me to criticize Nathan Eovaldi after the start he turned in yesterday. He twirled eight great innings, giving up just two runs on only six hits while striking out six and walking no one. One of those runs, however, came via a Jackie Bradley homer, which caused our very own Sunny to make an observation:

Eovaldi seems to be giving up dingers in a very alarming rate compared to how well he kept the balls in the park last year

A quick glance at the numbers shows us that Sunny’s hunch is, indeed, correct. In terms of raw dingers, Eovaldi’s already given up six this year; he surrendered just ten all of last season. His career high is an acceptable 14, set the year before last with the Marlins. In terms of HR/FB%, Nate’s clocking in at a whopping 19.4%, well above his previous career high of 8.1 (2012) and career norm of 7.7. His mark so far is good for fifth worse in the AL. The season’s still fairly young, so he has plenty of time to bring this number back down. That doesn’t mean, though, that it’s not a problem worth examining.

Let’s start on a positive note: Eovaldi’s blistering fastball has not left the yard much during his Yankee tenure. In 2015, it turned into a homer on only 0.48% of the time it was thrown; so far this year, it’s even better at a whopping 0.00%. We can attribute this trend to the fact that he’s allowing fewer fly balls per ball in play this year at 13.46 percent, compared to 21.33% last year. Fewer fly balls, fewer home runs. Pretty simple. His other pitches, though have seen spikes in fly ball rates, and in turn, spikes in home run rates.

The fly ball rates on his slider, curve, and splitter have risen by 21.3%, 7.74%, and 1.73% respectively. Not surprisingly, his homer rates–measured by HR/(FB+LD)–have risen big time as well, including a humongous number with his curveball: 50%. 50% of the fly balls and line drives Eovaldi’s given up via the curveball have gone for home runs. Yikes! But, his curveball is the pitch he utilizes the least. The narrative around Eovaldi–aside from his high-octane fastball–has focused on his ability to develop his splitter. Though improved, it’s still a work in progress. This year, it has an 18.18% HR/(FB+LD) mark, which is more damaging than the gaudy mark on the curve, since he throws the splitter so much more often. Take a look below at batters’ (both LHB and RHB) ISO against the split:

(BrooksBaseball.Net)
(BrooksBaseball.Net)

Those red spots are telling. Regardless of who’s batting, a splitter in those locations is going to get hammered. For a right-handed batter, that’s a tumbling pitch at a better hitting speed than a straight fastball. For a lefty, those are meatballs that didn’t break right, begging to be hammered. This all reminds me of a similar issue that Masahiro Tanaka had late last year. Pitchers who rely on splitters are going to get hurt when those pitches don’t, well, split. That seems to be happening a bit with Eovaldi this year. Luckily, his whiff/swing% on the split is nearing 30% and he’s getting grounders on it exactly two-thirds of the time (66.67%) it’s being put into play. The pitch is an overall positive that needs some polishing. Hopefully as the season goes along, he gets it to drop out of the zone more and the grounders and whiffs stay, while the homers recede.

DotF: Sanchez and Mateo homer again in wins

Some quick roster notes:

  • RHP Brady Lail has been promoted to Triple-A Scranton, so says Josh Norris. Lail has a 4.23 ERA (4.24 FIP) in 27.2 innings for Double-A Trenton this year. He started today in place of RHP Luis Cessa, and I’m guessing the Yankees held Cessa back in case they needed to call him up to help the bullpen.
  • Both OF Michael O’Neill and OF Zack Zehner were placed on the High-A Tampa DL, according to Nick Flammia. OF Carlos Vidal and UTIL Devyn Bolasky will take their place on the roster. Vidal was just bumped up from Extended Spring Training to Low-A Charleston last week. They like him enough to send him to High-A already, even temporarily.

Triple-A Scranton (8-7 win over Lehigh Valley in ten innings, walk-off style)

  • RF Aaron Judge & DH Nick Swisher: both 0-5, 3 K — womp womp … Judge did throw a runner out at the plate though
  • C Gary Sanchez: 3-5, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI — third homer in his last four games … he’s 10-for-19 (.526) with three doubles and three homers in his last four games
  • CF Slade Heathcott: 0-1, 1 K — he was lifted in the third inning because he was having problems with his new contacts, according to Shane Hennigan
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 2-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 K — 17-for-44 (.386) during his eleven-game hitting streak
  • 1B Chris Parmelee: 3-5, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI — walk-off dinger
  • RHP Brady Lail: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 5/2 GB/FB — 42 of 67 pitches were strikes (63%) … 14/20 K/BB in 40.2 career Triple-A innings
  • LHP Tyler Olson: 3.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 3/5 GB/FB — 24 of 45 pitches were strikes (53%)
  • RHP Conor Mullee: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 24 of 44 pitches were strikes (55%)

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