Time For A Shake-Up

More high fives, pls. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

Six losses in a row and ten in the last 13 games is cause for panic around these parts, but I thought Joe Girardi put it perfectly last night when he compared the team’s situation to a trip to the tooth man: “It’s like when I have to go to the dentist,” said the skipper. “I know I’m going to get through it, but I still dread it every time I go.” They will get through it, but that doesn’t mean the Yankees should just sit back and wait for things to happen. I think they need to be a little more proactive right now.

Don’t get me wrong, when I said shake-up in the headline by no means did a major one. You start releasing players or firing coaches or whatever and all you’d be doing is adding to chaos. Minor tweaks are the best place to start, especially with a roster like this one. Dip your toe in the pool before diving in, know what I mean? So here’s what I have in mind…

Alex Rodriguez

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

To say A-Rod is slumping would be kind. The Yankees clean-up man is hitting just .180/.253/.281 following last night’s 0-for-4 with three strikeouts¬† in 23 games since that stiff back/oblique issue in mid-April. He’s either popping up or fouling off pitches he should at least hit hard, even if it’s into a defender’s glove, and that’s when he’s not swinging through low-90’s fastballs or over top of anything with some break to it. There’s no other way to say it, Alex has been horrible lately.

This isn’t the first time he’s slumped though, you don’t play in the big leagues as long as he has without going through some rough patches. After coming back off the disabled list in 2009, A-Rod went through a 21-game stretch in which he hit .176/.337/.297 from late-May into June. Joe Girardi took advantage of an off day to give Alex two consecutive days off in mid-June, sitting him in a series opening contest against the Marlins. The third baseman came back seemingly rejuvenated, hitting .324/.490/.730 over his next 11 games and .317/.415/.561 over the remainder of the season. Maybe a few days off would do Alex good right now. It certainly wouldn’t hurt.

The Lineup

Something has to happen here. You can only run the same lineup out there so many days in a row and watch it not play to its potential before changing something. Doesn’t have to be drastic, but sometimes moving pieces around just works. Brett Gardner is hitting well (.373/.484/.490 over his last 18 games), maybe it’s time to give him another shot at hitting leadoff. Russell Martin is hitting just .196 over his last 14 games but you know what? He’s also getting on base 35.1% of the time during that stretch. Maybe he gets move up ahead of the (supposed) big bats. After A-Rod’s hiatus you could flip-flop him and Mark Teixeira in the three-four spots. I’m just spit-balling here, there are a lot of different things they can try. They just actually have to do it instead of running the same order out there day after day and expecting things to magically fix themselves.

A Sensible Bullpen

Major League salary and I don't even have to pitch! What a country! (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

A seven-man bullpen is probably overkill, but I can live with it. An eight-man bullpen is just nutso. Hector Noesi has been on the big league roster for a total of 14 days this year and has yet to face a batter. Give me a break, get the kid back to Triple-A so he can pitch and develop while that roster spot isn’t being wasted. If Rafael Soriano‘s elbow is bad enough that he has to do back to New York to see the doctor, then just retroactively DL him and stop wasting a roster spot.

With Noesi down and Soriano on the shelf, that frees up one bullpen spot since the Yankees should get back to a normal 12-man pitching staff. Amaury Sanit if the de facto long man, Luis Ayala that only-when-losing short relief guy. Fine. Give the other spot to one of the short relief kids that can miss bats in Triple-A and see if they can help take some of the load off Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson. Kevin Whelan is a fine candidate, but there’s also Ryan Pope (8.59 K/9, 0.00 BB/9 in limited time back from injury) and George Kontos (23 K in 23 IP this year, 61 K in 68 IP since coming back from Tommy John surgery last year). Remember, Robertson got his first real chance this same way in 2009. The Yankees have options, they just have to try them out. You’d be amazed at what could turn up.

Another Offensive Weapon

If they cut the bullpen down from eight men to seven, Girardi’s going to have another bench guy to play with. Eric Chavez is still a few weeks away, and I’ve already suggesting waiting just a little more before turning Jesus Montero lose on unsuspecting AL pitchers, but he’s not the only option. Justin Maxwell (.401 wOBA, RHB) and Chris Dickerson (.340 wOBA, .366 OBP, LHB) are both on the 40-man roster and could be more useful than a pitcher that never pitches anyway. I’m not bullish on Jorge Vazquez (.403 wOBA, RHB), but sheesh, it’s worth a try. Given all the slumping bats, a few more days off for the regulars and pinch-hitting appearances wouldn’t be the end of the world.

* * *

Again, these aren’t major changes, but they’re changes nonetheless. Give A-Rod some time off to forget about baseball and heal up any nagging injuries, rearrange the lineup some, optimize the bullpen, add a usable bench player and go from there. I’m all for patience, and I still recommend it, but a little tweak here won’t kill anyone.

Burnett melts down as Yanks lose sixth straight

Score some runs early, cough them up when the starting pitcher melts down in the middle innings. We might as well have watched a replay of Sunday night’s game. The Rays scored more than five runs at home for the first time all season en route to handing the Yankees their sixth consecutive loss on Monday, the longest losing streak of the Joe Girardi era.

(AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

Burnett Coughs It Up

Good A.J. was around early on. Burnett stormed through the first five innings of the game on just 59 pitches, the only real blemish a solo homer by Johnny Damon. Meh, fourth inning solo shots happen, nothing to get to worked up over. Given his success at Tropicana Field (11 starts, 2.09 ERA, 3.24 FIP) and Tampa’s early season struggles at home (.223/.287/.391 in 22 games), I started to feel a little good about this one. Oh how wrong I was.

(AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

John Jaso (.290 wOBA) doubled into the right field corner to lead off the sixth. Sam Fuld (.291 wOBA) followed that up by looping his third career homer over the fence in right to cut the lead to 5-3. Alright fine, that sucks but the game is still very winnable. Ben Zobrist and Johnny Damon followed with a pair of outs, so the Yankees were still in fine shape. Then Evan Longoria reaches on an infield single. Then he moves to second on a wild pitch. Then Matt Joyce singles him in. Then Joyce goes to second on another wild pitch. Then B.J. Upton yanks one into the left field seats for a go-ahead two run homer. All with two outs. Bye lead, nice knowing you.

Part of me understands leaving Burnett in because hey, his pitch count was still low (just 88 even after Upton’s homer) and the bullpen was short because of Rafael Soriano‘s barking elbow and David Robertson having thrown 30-something pitches the night before, but the other part of me says you have to cut A.J.’s meltdowns off before they have a chance to blossom. My perfect 20-20 hindsight says he should have been lifted after Longoria reached base, once the tying run was at the plate. As it usually is with Burnett, the early innings were too good to be true.

For my next trick... (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

The Best Player In The American League*

We’re running out of things to say about Curtis Granderson. His three-run homer off David Price in the the fifth inning was his 14th of the season, two more than any MLBer not named Jose Bautista, and already his seventh off a left-hander. Keep in mind that he’d never hit more than five homers off lefties in any season of his career until this one, and it’s only May 17th. Grandy leads the team in almost every significant category, and it’s not hyperbole to call him the best all-around player in the AL* right now.

Five & Fly

The Yankees pushed five runs across in the first five innings of this game, getting to Price for all of them. What happens next? Just one Yankee reached base the rest of the game, a span of 15 batters. Eduardo Nunez had the best at-bat of that stretch, a ten-pitch battle with Joel Peralta to lead off the seventh. He didn’t reach base, but getting ten pitches out of Peralta when Joe Maddon was obviously ready to use him for two innings was pretty big. But, of course, the next two batters were retired on three total pitches and Peralta cruised through the heart of the order in the eighth on ten pitches.

For years, decades even, the Yankees’ mantra has been wear down the opposing starter and go to town on the weak middle relief. For whatever reason, that just isn’t happening this season. Coming into this game, the Bombers had a 135 OPS+ in the first three innings, a 114 OPS+ in the middle three, and just a 106 OPS+ in the final three. Yes, 106 is still better than average, but that’s not what the Yankees do. They’re supposed to come to life against the relievers, not tail off. Tonight was just a microcosm of the season; out came the starter and away went the bats.

We all need a hug, Frankie. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)


Shall we recap the non-Granderson offense? We shall. Derek Jeter went 0-for-3 with a walk and now has five singles, two walks, and a hit-by-pitch since his two homer game over a week ago. Mark Teixeira went hitless in four at-bats and has six singles in 32 plate appearances over the last week or so. Alex Rodriguez went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and has seven hits in his last ten games. Robinson Cano singled twice, but saw a total of nine pitches in four at-bats. His 3.16 pitches seen per plate appearance ranks 188th out of 191 qualified batters. Nick Swisher singled and has actually hit in eight of his last nine games, but none of those games feature multiple hits. Russell Martin‘s two hits mean he’s reached base eight times in the last five games, so that’s cool. Eduardo Nunez’s single drove in the first two runs of the games, so that was pretty cool too. He later committed a throwing error, which is to be expected.

I saw some questioning the decision to pinch-hit Brett Gardner for Andruw Jones in the ninth, citing Andruw’s career numbers against Farnsworth (5-for-17 with two homers), but those numbers almost all come from their Braves-Cubs days. They’ve squared off a total of three times since 2004, and Jones hasn’t reached base against him since 2003. Gardner’s been the second best hitter on the team lately, so I say go with the hot hand.

I have this new throwing program. You probably haven't heard of it. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

Boy, it sure was fun watching Tampa’s $4.15M setup man/closer combo retire all nine men they faced in a one run game while the Yankees’ $10M setup guy sat on the sidelines with a sore elbow, having not had a clean inning since Opening Day, wasn’t it? The next multi-year deal given to a non-Mariano Rivera reliever that works out will be the first.

The six game losing streak is, like I said, the longest of the Girardi era, and the Yankees’ longest streak since dropping seven in a row in April 2007. They’ve also lost ten of their last 13 games, and if you want to go back to last year, the Yanks are just 51-49 in their last hundred games (56-53 if you count the postseason). It’s not all Cliff Lee’s fault, folks.

As for the happy news, it was great to see Ken Singleton back in the booth, though of course we all pass along our condolences to his family again. Missed ya, Kenny.

WPA Graph & Box Score

Can you fall up a cliff? MLB.com has your box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the other stuff.

Up Next

It’s just a two game series, so these two teams will wrap things upon Tuesday when Ivan Nova takes on Jamie Shields. If you decide to take a mental health day away from baseball, I wouldn’t blame you.

* Non-Bautista Division. That guy is on another planet.

Soriano’s elbow still barking, going to see doctor tomorrow

Via Marc Carig, Rafael Soriano had his bullpen session cut short this afternoon and will go see the team doctor tomorrow after continuing to experience pain/soreness/stiffness/inflammation/whatever in his twice-surgically repaired elbow. Meanwhile, he also threw the offense under the bus after the game and said he may take a week or two off at the behest of senior vice president Felix Lopez.

A disabled list stint seems inevitable, but be honest, how many of you will miss him?

Flores, Sanchez go deep again in Charleston loss

Jess Todd’s tenure in the Yankees’ organization is over, he was claimed off waivers by St. Louis today. He was designated for assignment last week to make room on the roster for Amaury Sanit. Thanks for the 1.2 innings and 21 pitches, Jess.

Meanwhile, Kevin Goldstein wrote about Jesus Montero today (no BP subs. req’d), and basically said that calling him now would be the wrong move because there would be too much pressure on him to immediately produce. I agree to a certain extent, but the kid could come up in the middle of September with the Yankees twenty games up in the division and the pressure will still be there. At some point you just have to close your eyes and jump in, otherwise they’ll be waiting forever to call him up.

Triple-A Scranton was rained out. I’m not sure when they’re going to make this game up, but they don’t go back to Pawtucket until the second-to-last series of the year in September.

Double-A Trenton had a scheduled off day.

High-A Tampa (8-4 win over Palm Beach)
Abe Almonte, CF: 3 for 5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 K – seven for his last 12 (.583) with two doubles
Walt Ibarra, SS: 2 for 5, 1 2B, 1 K
Rob Lyerly, 3B: 2 for 4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 E (fielding) – 12 for his last 21 (.571)
Luke Murton, DH & Neil Medchill, LF: both 1 for 4 – Murton drove in two … Medchill doubled, walked, and struck out
Kyle Higashioka, C: 0 for 4, 1 BB, 1 PB, 1 E (throwing)
Taylor Grote, RF: 0 for 5, 4 K – oof … at least he threw a runner out at the plate
Kelvin Castro, 2B: 4 for 4, 3 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SB – got picked off first … great day, he’s quietly having
Kevin Mahoney, 1B: 4 for 5, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI
Josh Romanski, LHP: 7 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 8-7 GB/FB – hooray for pitching deep into the game
Chase Whitley, RHP: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 1-3 GB/FB

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Posada told Yankees he wanted out

Via Bill Madden, Jorge Posada told Brian Cashman that he not only wanted out of Saturday night’s lineup after being demoted to ninth in the lineup, he also wanted out of the Yankees as well. “It was just something said in the heat of anger and frustration,” said one of Madden’s sources. “He didn’t want out, and doesn’t want out. He was just frustrated and said a lot of things.” Posada apologized and this is all in the past now, but sheesh, Jorge was pissed, eh?

Game 39: Home Away From Home

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Maybe changing cities will change the Yankees’ fortunes. Tampa is pretty much the team’s second home anyway, so there will certainly be plenty of people in the stands at The Trop cheering on the road team this evening. Of course, they’ll also be booing if the Yankees don’t get their act together. Here’s the lineup…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, DH
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Andruw Jones, LF
Russell Martin, C
Eduardo Nunez, 3B – maybe they can use the pitcher as a relay man, otherwise who knows where the throws will end up

A.J. Burnett, SP

Kind of a weird start time tonight, this one is scheduled to begin at 6:40pm ET. Eh, whatever. YES has the call, enjoy.

This week’s annotated box score

Another ESPN Sunday Night broadcast means another Yankees’ related annotated box score from the great Sam Miller. This week’s edition includes 20-80 scale fighting grades for the those involved in the Slade Heathcott brawl, as well as a look at the greatest hitters ever to bat ninth. Hint: The Yankees put someone in the top eight of that list this weekend, and it wasn’t Jorge Posada. As always, it’s well worth the click and read.