Seeing and Believing

Note: This was written Thursday and Friday afternoons before anything in the Subway Series went down. Past me is sure that everyone is reacting calmly and rationally to Friday’s and Saturday’s games.

As you read this, there’s a decent chance I’m staring at a computer screen, specifically, reviewing and marking up the papers my students wrote about A Streetcar Named Desire and submitted on Friday. They were asked, as they usually are, to take in some information, digest it, and spit it back as an analytical (or creative) product. While my role as a baseball writer has diminished over the years, and I haven’t written an essay since 2011, it’s easy for me to relate to my students’ task.

Generally, I observe something during a game or a set of games, then look up the corresponding information — the numbers, the facts, the figures — and produce something for consumption. As much as possible and as frequently as possible, I attempt to ground this product in something empirical; and if you’re reading this here at RAB, it’s likely that you, too, have an appreciation for that same hard data. This does not mean, of course, that I eschew the visuals of the game, or just the experience of the game, when making observations and evaluations, and that brings me to the 2015 Yankees.

Though the tone of this piece is going to be generally positive, generally optimistic, I did find myself being a touch realistic earlier in the week when one of my students in study hall proclaimed that the Yankees would “suck” in 2015. Calmly, teacherly, I explained that the Yankees will likely not “suck” but will probably be mediocre. Objectively, this makes sense; their rotation has upside, but also questions marks. Similarly, their lineup has potential, but it has the same question marks. He quickly got back to his math or science or whatever I couldn’t actually help him with, and that’s when I thought of this piece.

2013 and 2014 were frustrating seasons and the hangover from both of them has no doubt tempered my expectations for 2015. By the end of each of those seasons, there were few reasons to watch, mainly Mariano Rivera’s, Andy Pettitte’s, and Derek Jeter’s farewell tours and the emergence of Dellin Betances. But let’s be honest: those seasons didn’t feel all that great for most of them, Vernon Wells’ April explosion notwithstanding. It’s early, sure, but this year feels different.

Masahiro Tanaka is beginning to Masahiro Tanaka. Michael Pineda is Big Mike-ing all over the place. Dellin Betances may be rounding back into form. CC Sabathia is striking lots of people out. Mark Teixeira is hitting nothing but extra base hits. And then there’s Alex Rodriguez. While I was already inclined to root for the guy, I feel that his at-bats are, once again, appointment viewing; I get slightly peeved when I miss his trips to the plate for whatever reason.

Even the down things give me a sense of excitement and enjoyment that just weren’t always there in 2013 and 2014 — don’t get me wrong, I love watching the Yankees and hung on to the bitter end in each of those years, but those years weren’t exactly fun…but I digress. Something as uncomfortable as watching Didi Gregorius go through a fielding slump has been at least slightly pleasurable to watch. His range is something we’ve not seen at short in a long time (how many times have we said: ‘That’s an RBI single last year…) and arm has not failed to impress me on throw after throw.

This is all a long way to say something similar to what I said in my first piece here about Sabathia and Nathan Eovaldi: I’m choosing to be optimistic about the 2015 Yankees. Seeing is believing and from what I’ve seen this year, I believe, even a little. And it feels good.

Mets rock Sabathia, Yankees fall 8-2 in second game of Subway Series

Source: FanGraphs

Well that was a bummer. The Yankees followed up their convincing win in the Subway Series opener with a clunker on Saturday afternoon, losing 8-2 to the Mets. The four-game winning streak has been snapped, but the Yankees have still won seven of their last nine games. It’s Saturday night, so let’s recap with bullet points:

  • Sad-bathia: Unlike CC Sabathia‘s first two starts, which had quite a bit of good sprinkled around the One Bad Inning™, Saturday’s start was a disaster. Sabathia gave up three homers and nine total hits in five innings, surrendering seven runs. It would have been a lot more without some stellar defense. The four-run fourth inning rally all happened with two outs and against the bottom of the order. Sabathia had nothing to stop the bleeding. He fooled no one.
  • Swing Early: Matt Harvey threw one stressful pitch on Saturday. That was Jacoby Ellsbury‘s double play in the third inning, which simultaneously drove in the Yankees’ first run and killed their best chance for a big inning. The lineup had a clear plan to swing early in the count — Harvey faced 32 batters and 18 of ’em swing at the first and/or second pitch — and the result was this pitch count by inning for Harvey: 11, 12, 12, 10, 11, 11, 14, 10, 16. The Yankees were overmatched.
  • Leftovers: The bottom three hitters in the Mets’ lineup went 8-for-12 (.667). The top six hitters went 4-for-28 (.142). That is capital-A annoying … Mark Teixeira hit a garbage time solo homer in the seventh. He now has eight homers, four doubles, and three singles in 2015 … Teixeira went 3-for-4 and the rest of the lineup went 2-for-27 (.074) … Esmil Rogers allowed a run in three innings of mop-up work … Jacoby Ellsbury left the game with a hip issue and is day-to-day.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Also, here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. The Yankees and Mets wrap up the Yankee Stadium portion of the 2015 Subway Series on Sunday night, in the ESPN game. They have another one of those next week too. Nathan Eovaldi and Jon Niese will be on the mound.

DotF: Avelino stays hot in Charleston’s win

Triple-A Scranton (4-1 loss to Pawtucket)

  • CF Slade Heathcott: 0-3, 1 E (fielding)
  • DH Ramon Flores: 1-3, 1 K
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 0-3, 1 K, 2 E (fielding, throwing) — that’s seven errors in 14 games after 12 errors in 122 games last year
  • LF Tyler Austin: 0-2, 1 K
  • RHP Bryan Mitchell: 7 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 11/6 GB/FB — 62 of 99 pitches were strikes … great start, too bad his defense didn’t cooperate

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Saturday Night Open Thread

Here is your open thread for the evening. MLB Network is showing a regional game tonight plus there’s a bunch of NBA and NHL postseason games going on as well. Talk about any of those games or anything else right here.

Game 18: Make It Five

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

Last night’s series opening win over the Mets was easily the most satisfying win of the young season. Right? I can’t be the only one who feels that way. Know what would make it even better? Winning this afternoon’s game too. The Yankees have won four straight and seven of their last eight games. OMG they are soooo hot right now.

Like Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda the last two days, CC Sabathia is making his first start of the year on regular season. All of his Spring Training and regular season starts to date have come with an extra day of rest, which was totally by design as the team looks to take it easy on the veteran southpaw and his surgically repaired knee. Here is the Mets’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Chris Young
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    LHP CC Sabathia

It’s a lovely afternoon for baseball in New York. A little on the cool side but the sky is clear and blue. This afternoon’s game is scheduled to begin at 4:05pm ET and you can watch live on WPIX and SNY locally as well as FOX Sports 1 nationally. Enjoy the game.

Saturday Links: A-Rod, YES, NYCFC, Nicaragua, Mustaches

Bern baby Bern. (Presswire)
Bern baby Bern. (Presswire)

The Yankees and Mets resume the Subway Series later this afternoon at Yankee Stadium. It’s a 4pm ET start. Blah. Until then, here are some stray links I had lying around to hold you over.

How the Yankees will fight A-Rod‘s home run bonuses

Back in Spring Training we heard the Yankees were “confident” they could get out of paying Alex Rodriguez his home run milestone bonuses. Now that the season is underway and A-Rod is mashing taters, the breaking point is rapidly approaching. He is two shy of tying Willie Mays on the all-time home run list with 660 dingers, so it could happen any game now and trigger the first $6M bonus.

Ken Davidoff and Joel Sherman have the breakdown of exactly how the Yankees plan to get out of the bonuses, which are part of a separate marketing contract, not Rodriguez’s player contract. Here’s the nuts and bolts of their report:

According to two sources familiar with the situation, when Rodriguez goes deep with number 660, the Yankees will have a precise period of time — two weeks, as per one of the sources — to declare this as a marketable milestone. If they were to do this, then Rodriguez would sign over the rights to his image and associated branding for the price of $6 million.

Once the Yankees formalize this decision, then A-Rod has a set period of time — 30 days, according to one source — to file a grievance. Though Rodriguez has shied away from publicly discussing this, every indication is that he will challenge the Yankees’ interpretation of the side deal.

The Yankees will have to prove they utilized good faith in declining to declare A-Rod’s 660th homer a milestone. They’ve gone so far as to not include A-Rod in the “Upcoming Milestones” section of their daily press notes.

I dunno, seems like a lot of work to save $6M. They really can’t slap together some generic AROD660 shirts, call them official, and at least break even? Besides, you know they were hoping he didn’t hit the two homers in Detroit just so they could get the attendance boost on the homestand.

YES Network ratings down 21% so far in 2015

According to Richard Sandomir, YES Network ratings have dropped a staggering 21% so far this season, down to 267,000 viewers per game. Woof. The report is from Thursday, so it doesn’t include the last few games of this little hit streak. YES averaged over 400,000 viewers per game when it first launched and 355,000 as recently as 2012. Viewership fell to 244,000 per game in 2013 and rebounded to 288,000 per game last year thanks to Derek Jeter‘s retirement. There are still 145 games left to play, so there’s plenty of time for ratings to increase, but still. That’s a big drop. I imagine it would have been even worse if a whole bunch of people weren’t tuning in to hate-watch A-Rod.

No stadium deal for NYCFC on the horizon

New York City Football Club, the expansion MLS franchise that is doing the pro sports team version of crashing on the couch at Yankee Stadium this year, is not any closer to securing their own stadium. “We’re recognizing it’s probably going to take longer than we thought,” said MLS commissioner Don Garber to the Associated Press yesterday.

”There hasn’t been too much buzz about playing in Yankee Stadium or a baseball stadium yet,” said Garber, referring to problems with the field. ”That will happen soon, after somebody trips on a divot perhaps and perhaps misses a ground ball, but we hope that doesn’t happen.” Uh, yeah. Me too.

When we first learned NYCFC would call Yankee Stadium home, it was reported they would play their home games in the Bronx for three years (!). They still need to find a stadium location, build the place, and move in. So yeah, NYCFC isn’t going anywhere for a while. They’re 1-4-3 on the season and 1-2-1 at Yankee Stadium, in case you’re wondering. They’re playing like an expansion team.

MLB announces new amateur prospect league in Nicaragua

Earlier this month MLB announced a new amateur prospect league will be launched in Nicaragua this summer to provide scouts with “neutral in-game scouting opportunities of unsigned prospects.” This is baseball’s second amateur prospect league — they launched one in the Dominican Republic back in 2012. The league will run until July 4th, and there will be another “season” starting in September.

The press release says 46 players from Nicaragua have signed with MLB teams since 2010 and right now there are 31 Nicaraguan players under contract in MLB or the minors. Everth Cabrera and Erasmo Ramirez are the only players from Nicaragua in the big leagues at the moment. By far the best player to ever come out of the country is Dennis Martinez. (Vicente Padilla and Marvin Bernard are distant runners-up.) I’m glad MLB is branching out and giving young kids a chance to show their stuff. Hopefully they open more prospect leagues in other Latin American countries soon.

The Yankees are growing mustaches, for some reason

And finally, you may have noticed during last night’s game that several Yankees are growing — or attempting to grow, anyway — mustaches. Apparently it is part of some kind of team unity thing. Marly Rivera says Mark Teixeira, Chase Headley, Esmil Rogers, Dellin Betances, Garrett Jones, and Stephen Drew are among those growing mustaches, and during the game last night it looked like Jacoby Ellsbury is trying to get in on the act as well. This is either going to be very good or very bad. Maybe a little of both.

DotF: Slade Heathcott has another big game, Jorge Mateo steals another base

According to Matt Eddy, RHP Domingo Acevedo was both placed on the 7-day DL and activated off the DL this past week. Hopefully it happened in that order! Also, Donnie Collins says LHP Matt Tracy will jump into the Triple-A Scranton rotation on Sunday. He was re-claimed off waivers from the Marlins the other day.

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

  • CF Slade Heathcott: 2-3, 1 3B, 2 RBI, 1 BB — 8-for-11 (73%) in his last three games
  • LF Ramon Flores: 2-3, 1 BB — missed just one game after being hit by a pitch
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 0-4, 1 K — stuck in an 0-for-12 (.000) slump
  • RF Tyler Austin: 0-4, 1 K
  • C Austin Romine: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
  • RHP Kyle Davies: 3 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 3/3 GB/FB — 48 of 79 pitches were strikes (61%) … that’s not going to help his case if he wants to get a call-up for sixth starter duty
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 3 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 3/1 GB/FB — 28 of 45 pitches were strikes (62%)
  • RHP Branden Pinder: 3 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 4/2 GB/FB — 26 of 42 pitches were strikes (62%)

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