Yankeemetrics: Welcome back, baseball (April 5-7)

(AP Photo)
Just call me Starsky. (AP Photo)

Deja Boooooo
After nearly five months of waiting for meaningful baseball games, the Yankees’ 2016 season started in familiar fashion with a loss to the Astros and Dallas Keuchel at Yankee Stadium, the same way the 2015 campaign ended.

The good news is that they managed to score against Keuchel, who entered the game with a 1.12 regular-season career ERA against the Yankees — the third-lowest by any pitcher in the last 100 seasons (min. three starts) — and riding a 28-inning scoreless streak versus the team. The bad news is that the end result was the same: another frustrating loss to open the season.

For the fifth year in a row and the seventh time in eight tries, the Yankees dropped game No. 1 on the schedule, matching the franchise record for most consecutive losses in season openers. The mark was set nearly eight decades ago, when they lost five straight Opening Day games from 1934-38.

Still, there were some notable highlights midst the carnage. Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius made history when they took the field as the first Yankee middle infield duo to start on Opening Day at age 26 or younger since Willie Randolph and Bucky Dent in 1978.

Castro then doubled in the first two Yankee runs of the season, becoming the first Yankee second baseman with a multi-RBI game on Opening Day since Alfonso Soriano in 2003 (Robinson who?). Gregorius completed the scoring with an eighth-inning homer. The only other shortstops in franchise history to homer on Opening Day were Derek Jeter (three times) and Bucky Dent (1981).

This is the first time in the last 100 seasons of Yankee baseball that both of the team’s middle infielders each had an extra base hit and an RBI in a season opener.

Sweet Sixteen
The temps were still chilly on Wednesday night but the Yankee bats heated up as they crushed the Astros, 16-6, in the middle game of this series.

Castro stole the show for the second straight day, delivering four hits while driving in five runs. The only other Yankees with at least four hits and five RBI in a game this early into the season were Bill Dickey (1934), Yogi Berra (1956) and Tino Martinez (1997).

His seven RBI in the first two games are the most by any Yankee in his first two contests with the team, and matched the franchise record for most RBI in the team’s first two games of the season. The three other guys to do that each have a plaque in Monument Park: Babe Ruth (1932), Berra and Martinez.

Mark Teixeira chipped in another two hits and four RBI, giving the team a rare offensive explosion from the right side of the infield. The last time the Yankees had their first baseman and second baseman each record at least two hits and drive in four or more runs in the same game was July 7, 1935. A couple Hall of Famers, Lou Gehrig and Tony Lazzeri, combined for six hits and 11 RBI against the Senators.

The other dugout featured a young slugging phenom, too, as 21-year-old Astros shortstop Carlos Correa went 4-for-5 with two homers in the losing effort. Correa became the youngest player with four-plus hits, including at least two homers, in a game against the Yankees over the last 100 years.

Eight is enough
The Yankees took the opening series of the season after beating Houston, 8-5, in the rubber game on Thursday.

The offense has stolen the headlines in the first week of the season. This is now the seventh time the Yankees have scored at least 27 runs in the first three games combined. They won the AL pennant in five of the six previous seasons it happened, and the World Series three times.

The team’s seven homers are tied for the fourth-most through three games in franchise history, while their .962 OPS is the second-best by a Yankee team in the Wild Card Era this early into the season.

The pitching, on the other hand, has been less than good (mild understatement, yes!). They’ve allowed at least five runs in each of the first three games, making their 2-1 start even more impressive. The last time the Yankees gave up five-plus runs in three straight games to begin the season — yet still emerged with a winning record — was 1962.

Teixeira had the biggest hit of the game, a tie-breaking three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning that gave the Yankees a 8-5 lead. It was his 396th career home run, tying Joe Carter for 57th place on the all-time MLB list, and it was his 193rd with the Yankees, passing Tino Martinez for 17th on the Yankees leaderboard.

Castro, too, continued his scorching-hot start with another multi-hit game and a homer. His 1.250 slugging percentage and 1.833 OPS are both the best marks by any Yankee middle infielder with at least 10 plate appearances in the team’s first three games.

DotF: Mateo, Andujar lead Tampa to a win on Opening Day

I hate to start the first DotF of the season with bad news, but … bad news: Jim Callis says C Luis Torrens has been shut down after experiencing discomfort in his surgically repaired shoulder during Spring Training. Bummer. He missed all of last season following labrum surgery, but was healthy enough to do some baseball work in Instructional League last fall. Hopefully this is just a minor blip and he’s back soon.

If you missed it yesterday, we posted a ton of minor league notes, so check that out if you haven’t already. And if you didn’t miss it, check it out again anyway. In honor of DotF tradition, here are the full lineups on Opening Day.

Triple-A Scranton‘s game was suspended due to rain after four innings. They’ll finish it tomorrow. CF Slade Heathcott had two hits and C Gary Sanchez threw a runner out from his knees, so says Donnie Collins. Here’s the box score.

[Read more…]

Teixeira’s go-ahead home run propels Yankees to 8-5 win over Astros

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

Hey look, first win streak of the season! After several innings of chasing the lead (and tying the game), Yankees won Thursday’s game on a decisive Mark Teixeira three-run homer in the bottom of seventh. After dropping the season opener, New York won the next two to also the series as well.

Selectively Nasty Nate

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

Nathan Eovaldi flashed some nasty stuff: fastball hitting 100, slider and splitter at around low-90’s. Even when the weather wasn’t optimal for pitchers today, he flashed that mid-season heat that would make some forget about the frigid weather in Bronx for the last few days.

But all that didn’t stop from Astros’ bats fro scoring runs off him. In the top of the second, 1B Tyler White hit his first career home run. He had allowed a double to Luis Valbuena on a 89 mph slider and White hit a 87 mph splitter out of the park. With the next batter, against Preston Tucker, Eovaldi gave up another dinger and Houston led 3-0. If you are a Yankee fan, it’s not what you want, especially considering that Eovaldi isn’t exactly known for gopher balls (0.58 HR/9 last year).

That was not all for Eovaldi either. The fourth inning sort of summarized his outing: hard stuff, hard hits. He allowed three hits – one of them a deep double by Carlos Gomez – but also struck out two. Nate showed flashes of being an overpowering pitcher while allowing hard-hit balls without completely breaking down overall. Eovaldi’s final line – 5 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 7 K’s and 2 HR’s allowed – should reflect that. It’s not the prettiest start from Nasty Nate but there are positives.

Fighting for the lead, one at a time

The Yankees had a chance to score in bottom of second with one out and runners on corners. Chase Headley hit a sac fly to drive Teixeira in from third to make it 3-1. It didn’t seem like Headley drove the ball that well but the wind pushed the ball back further. Next up was Starlin Castro, who has been hitting cover off the ball this series. He got another hit but got thrown out on the second trying to stretch the double to end the inning. Off the bat, the ball was hit hard enough to be a home run but it just wasn’t high enough to clear the fence. Castro didn’t really bust out of the batter’s box either.

New York tacked on another run in the third when Jacoby Ellsbury doubled to deep right to score Didi Gregorius for a 3-2 score. They had even bigger hits in the fourth to continue the chase. Brian McCann took the first pitch from Mike Fiers in his second at-bat deep to cut the deficit to 5-3, and Castro followed it up with a solo homer of his own to make it 5-4.

Speaking of whom, how about Starlin Castro? We’ve gushed over his hot start here in RAB and today added more for us to admire. Sure, it’s too early to call it a success after three ML games but he *has* hit for a 1.833 OPS and played vital roles in offense for all of them. he’s a young player who’s clearly talented – he just has to maintain that success consistently.

It wasn’t just Castro who was hot today – the top five of the lineup (Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, A-Rod, Teixeira and McCann) combined for 9-for-21 today, which is always what you want.

Tex message to the other way

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

New York tied the game up 5-5 in the bottom of fifth with A-Rod’s first base hit of the year driving in Ellsbury. Two innings later, they took a lead against two impressive Astros relievers – Will Harris and Ken Giles. Harris had a great 2015 campaign with a 1.90 ERA in 71.0 IP while Giles was one of the most dominating relievers in ML, striking out 11.19 batters in 9 IP with a 1.80 ERA.

Harris got Ellsbury to ground out to start the frame. Gardner followed it up with a single, which prompted A.J. Hinch to bring in Ken Giles to minimize the damage. Giles, facing A-Rod, challenged him with two very hard fastballs – Rodriguez swung and missed on both, looking a little bit late. However, on the next pitch – another heater – A-Rod caught up to it and singled to center to put two runners with one out.

Teixeira was the next hitter. On a 1-0 count, Tex hit an outside 98 mph fastball that cleared the left field fence (just barely) for a three-run homer, giving Yankees their first lead of the day. I do not know if that would have been a home run in many ballparks but I will say this: it was hit hard and would have brought in at least a run or two in neutral parks. Giles, by the way, only allowed two home runs in all of 2015. In this series, he allowed two in two appearances. Baseball can be weird like that.

The scripted finish

Today, Dellin Betances looked like the Dellin Betances we’ve all come to know. At his best, he can make hitters look silly by making them chase at a curve down the dirt, and that’s exactly what he did to both Carlos Correa and Colby Rasmus.

Following Betances was, as always, Andrew Miller. Miller didn’t exactly have a squeaky clean outing, allowing two hits in the ninth inning. He did, however, strike out the side to wrap the game up and earn his first save of the year. His stuff looked pretty good, not showing any ill effects from chipped right wrist.

Leftover

Speaking of relievers – Kirby Yates made his Yankee debut today in the sixth and I’d say he did well – in a scoreless frame he allowed a hit but struck out two. I don’t know how he will perform moving forward but if he can register and outing like that frequently, he can be a nice piece throughout the season.

Here are the box score, highlights, and WPA graph:


Source: FanGraphs


Yankees go onto their first road trip of the year tomorrow, playing the Detroit Tigers for a three-game weekend series in Comerica Park.

Thursday Night Open Thread

Here is the open thread for the evening. The MLB Extra Innings package is still in a free preview, so find the channels and you can watch any game you want tonight. The three local hockey teams are in action as well. Talk about those games or anything else right here.

Game Three: Rain, Rain, Go Away

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The good news: the Yankees have a baseball game today! The bad news: it’s raining in New York. The other good news: it’s supposed to stop raining at some point! There are going to be on and off showers the rest of the afternoon and into the evening, but the forecast does make it seem there will be a large enough window for today’s game to be played. The field may be sloppy, but so it goes.

The Astros are not scheduled to return to Yankee Stadium this year, so expect the two teams to wait this one out as long as necessary. If the game does indeed have to be postponed, the good news is the Astros have to come to New York. The travel wouldn’t be tough for the Yankees. The two clubs have eight mutual off-days this summer. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. Here is the ‘Stros lineup — as expected, Michael Feliz was send down for a fresh arm following last night’s 107-pitch relief outing (!) — and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. 2B Starlin Castro
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

Like I said, the weather is pretty yucky in the Boogie Down. It’s been raining most of the afternoon and there will be occasional showers throughout the rest of the day. Hopefully they can squeeze in nine innings, or at least four and a half if the Yankees have the lead. Today’s game is scheduled to begin a little after 4pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Update: The Yankees say they intend to begin today’s game at 4:15pm ET. Hopefully that’s the only delay.

Encina: Yanks pursued Miguel Gonzalez before he signed with White Sox

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)
(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

According to Eduardo Encina, the Yankees pursued right-hander Miguel Gonzalez before he signed a minor league deal with the White Sox last week. The Orioles released Gonzalez at the end of Spring Training and saved about $4M of his $5.1M salary for the season. They tried to bring him back on a minor league deal, but no luck.

The Yankees, like every other team in baseball, are in perpetual pursuit of rotation depth. Ivan Nova is currently the sixth starter and I guess Luis Cessa is the seventh starter in the wake of Bryan Mitchell‘s toe injury. The Triple-A Scranton rotation is Chad Green, Kyle Haynes, Anthony Swarzak, Tyler Olson, and a Nick Rumbelow/Tyler Webb piggyback, so says Shane Hennigan. Uh, yikes.

Gonzalez, 31, has a reputation for being a Yankees killer, but that was based on 2012 and nothing else. He has a career 3.79 ERA in 80.2 innings against the Yankees, postseason included, but it was a 2.18 ERA in 20.2 innings in 2012 and a 4.35 ERA in 60 innings thereafter. Besides, signing a guy so you don’t have to face him anymore never made much sense to me.

Jeff Sullivan wrote a really great post looking at why the Orioles may have released Gonzalez despite their rotation issues, and from the looks of things, his stuff hasn’t come back following last year’s elbow and shoulder issues. He was never a huge stuff guy anyway, so his margin of error was small to start with. Gonzalez probably isn’t a big league caliber pitcher if his stuff doesn’t bounce back following the injuries.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a bad minor league deal, and bringing Gonzalez aboard as Triple-A fodder would have been perfectly reasonable. The White Sox probably offer a great path to big league playing time at this point though — or at least Gonzalez thinks they do — so to the ChiSox he went. Chicago is pretty good with reclamation project arms.

If the Yankees do continue to look for rotation depth, free agent options include Tim Lincecum, Kyle Lohse, Roberto Hernandez, and Chad Billingsley. Not much to see there. Generally speaking, when guys still don’t have a job even after the season starts, there’s usually a pretty good reason. The Yankees figure to stick with what they have in-house.

Hot start by Starlin Castro exactly what the Yankees need to open 2016

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Two games into the 2016 season, we’ve seen the very best of what Starlin Castro has to offer. We know all about his credentials by now, the three All-Star Game selections and the 991 hits before his 26th birthday, but Castro still had to come in and produce. What he did with the Cubs the last six years doesn’t have any value to the Yankees.

So far this year Starlin has gone 5-for-8 (.625) with three doubles and a home run, driving in seven of the team’s 19 runs. Castro drove in two runs with a double against the excellent Dallas Keuchel on Opening Day, and last night he punished all the mediocre pitching the Astros ran out there. In the seventh inning, after being buzzed up high by Josh Fields, he responded by stroking an RBI single to right. It was perfect.

“Starlin Castro is playing tee ball right now. He’s just seeing the ball good and hitting the ball where it’s pitched,” said Carlos Beltran after last night’s game. Starlin joins Babe Ruth, Tino Martinez, and Yogi Berra as the only Yankees to drive in seven runs in the first two games of the season. “It means a lot, especially because those guys have been unbelievable in baseball,” said Castro. “I feel really good about that.”

In addition to his production at the plate, Castro has played a fine second base, most notably ranging to his left to make some stops before turning and firing to second to get the lead runner. Those are tough plays, especially for a guy whose experience at second base is limited. The season is very young, we all know that, but the early returns have been very positive.

The Yankees need a hot start from Castro, maybe more than they’re willing to admit. First and foremost, they want him to come out of the gate strong just so he feels good about himself. Players are human and they want to impress their new employers and their new fans. Confidence can be a very powerful thing for a baseball player, and I can’t imagine Castro is short on it right now.

Furthermore, a lot of nonsense happens when a big new addition comes to New York and struggles right away. Remember Didi Gregorius last year? There was talk of sending him to Triple-A and playing Stephen Drew at short. That was a real thing that happened. No. Just … no. The Yankees have shown they will be patient. They were last year with Gregorius, but fans? Not so much. The sooner Castro got on their good side, the better.

Starlin has batted eighth these first two games, and the Yankees are counting on him to lengthen the lineup and provide offense behind the veterans. The Yankees talked all offseason about resting their regular players. Castro, however, won’t get as much rest as the veterans because he’s so young. (Ditto Didi, the other member of the Prestige Worldwide™ middle infield.) Girardi said so in Spring Training. Starlin’s going to be a consistent presence in the lineup.

And let’s face it, the Yankees don’t really know what to expect from some of their veterans. Alex Rodriguez is 40 and Carlos Beltran is 38. Mark Teixeira hasn’t played more than 123 games since 2011. Brian McCann is mighty old in catcher years, and who knows what Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner will do following their finishes to last season. There’s a lot of unknowns there. Starlin has to be a known, both right now and going forward.

Even with the Opening Day loss, Castro’s first two games in pinstripes couldn’t have gone any better. He had a fantastic spring and it has carried over into the regular season. He’s been the Yankees’ best player these first two games by no small margin. An adjustment period would have been understandable, but give the Yankees a truth serum and I’m sure they’d tell you they wanted Castro to come out of gate hot by having an impact on both sides of the ball. He’s done exactly that.

“We thought that he would be big in our lineup,” said Girardi. “He gave us a lot better balance than we’ve had the last couple of years, and that he would do a really good job at second base. All that is so far, so good.”