I have not gotten a chance to watch it yet, but Jack Curry recently taped an interview with Joe Girardi and his family, during which they discussed … well, a whole bunch of stuff. His decision to re-sign with the Yankees, his family, Robinson Cano, and more. Check it out.
Once you’ve done that, use this as your open thread for the evening. The Red Sox and Tigers are playing Game 3 of the ALCS right now on FOX (Justin Verlander vs. John Lackey), and at 8pm ET the Cardinals and Dodgers will play Game 4 of the NLCS (Lance Lynn vs. Ricky Nolasco). The Islanders are playing a regular season game and the Nets are playing a regular season game. Talk about any and all games and whatever else right here. Go nuts.
The 2013 season is over and now it’s time to review all aspects of the year that was, continuing today with a young right-hander who didn’t make much (if any) progress in 2013.
It seems silly after seeing how everything went this season, but the Yankees actually started the year with a nice amount of pitching depth. They had three veteran starters at the front of the rotation (CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte) plus two younger, kinda sorta established types in the fourth and fifth spots (Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes). There was also some optimism Michael Pineda would be able to rejoin the team in the second half.
David Phelps, meanwhile, opened the season in the bullpen as the long man/sixth starter in a round about way after impressing in a swingman role last summer. He was expected to start the season in that same swingman role before being moving into the rotation when Hughes suffered a back injury in Spring Training and had to open the year on the DL. Phelps never did make that first start because the Yankees, in need of a fresh arm, activated Hughes earlier than expected.
In six April relief appearances, Phelps allowed 11 runs (5.29 ERA) and 27 base-runners (1.47 WHIP) in 17 total innings (3.75 FIP). He moved into the rotation in early-May after a triceps problem sent Nova to the DL, and in the rotation is where Phelps stayed for the next two months. Nova’s generally rough first half and Pettitte’s strained trap deserve an assist for that. It was as much a necessity as it was an earned job.
Phelps pitched very well in his first five starts, posting a 3.27 ERA and 3.11 FIP in 33 innings in May. The Mets clobbered him for five runs in just one-third of an inning in his final start of the month, but Phelps rebounded to allow just one total run in his next two starts. Phelps got roughed up in his next four outings, allowing 19 runs (8.41 ERA) and 40 base-runners (1.97 WHIP) in 20.1 innings across his next four starts. Those would be his final four starts of 2013.
On July 6th, the Yankees placed Phelps on the 15-day DL with a forearm strain. An MRI showed no structural damage and he was shut down for ten days, but ten days became ten weeks when Phelps suffered the #obligatorysetback in early-August. The setback was technically a new injury — a second forearm strain in a different spot. There was still no structural damage, thankfully.
The injury was originally expected to end Phelps’ season, but the Yankees were in full-on panic mode late in the year as a postseason berth faded away. He was activated with two weeks to go in the season and made four relief appearances — three good, one not so good — to close out the schedule. Phelps’ overall season performance was right in line with last year in some respects but wildly different in others. To the chart:
The strikeout, walk, and ground ball rates are very similar between the two years, but Phelps allowed fewer homers while surrendering more base hits overall. With no significant change in his batted ball profile, the 63-point jump in BABIP can likely be attributed to poor overall team defense (especially on the infield) and a simple return to normalcy after last season. A sub-.260 BABIP in nearly 100 innings for a pitcher like Phelps — good stuff and command but not great stuff and command — doesn’t strike me as sustainable (I could be wrong, obviously), so it’s no surprise it jumped in 2013.
The near-5.00 ERA is one reason Phelps was part of the problem this season (hence the “what went wrong” tag), but the bigger concern for me is the injury. In addition to the general scariness of an arm injury (two, really), he missed a ton of time and the Yankees didn’t get much of an opportunity to evaluate him and his place on the team going forward. Did he stink in late-June and early-July because he was hurt? Or did league catch up to him? The answer remains unclear. With no statistical steps forward aside from homer rate and the still unknown lingering effects of the two forearm injuries, this was not a good or encouraging year for Phelps.
Via Mark Feinsand: There is expected to be mutual interest between the Yankees and free agent-to-be Carlos Beltran this offseason. The team figures to be in the market for an outfielder and offensive thump in general, while Feinsand hears Beltran would “strongly consider” coming to the Bronx. He’s shown plenty of interest in wearing pinstripes in the past, on multiple occasions too. The Cardinals will surely make Beltran a qualifying offer after the season, so he’ll cost a first round draft pick (#18 overall) to sign.
Beltran, 36, hit .296/.339/.491 (132 wRC+) with 24 homers and a career-low 6.3% walk rate in 600 plate appearances this year. The walk rate is a red flag because older players tend to stop drawing walks when they have to cheat by starting their swing earlier to compensate for lost bat speed. Beltran has now played in 140+ games in each of the last three years, effectively putting any lingering concern about the health of his knees to rest. His defense isn’t all that good anymore, but he could spend time at DH and there isn’t much ground to cover in right field at Yankee Stadium anyway.
There is an obvious spot for a guy just like Beltran — legitimate switch-hitter with power, patience and the ability to hit for average from both sides — in the Yankees lineup. I didn’t think that was the case two years ago mostly because his knees were huge question marks, but things have changed since then. As an added bonus, Beltran dominates in the postseason (career 204 wRC+ in the playoffs), which would be helpful if the Yankees manage to put together a team capable of actually getting to the postseason in the next year or two. · (102) ·
Baseball America wrapped up the Yankees-relevant portion of their league top 20 prospects series yesterday, posting the Double-A Eastern League (no subs. req’d). SS Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox), 3B Miguel Sano (Twins), and RHP Noah Syndergaard (Mets) make up the top three of a generally star-studded list.
C J.R. Murphy was the only Yankees farmhand to make the cut, and he ranked 18th. The 22-year-old hit .268/.352/.451 (116 wRC+) with six homers in 211 plate appearances for Double-A Trenton this summer before being bumped up to Triple-A Scranton (117 wRC+ in 257 plate appearances) and eventually finishing the season in the big leagues.
“Scouts now seen him as a potential regular catcher as his defensive chops have improved,” said the subscriber-only write-up. “He has a line-drive stroke that he uses to spray balls to all fields …. Managers around the league noted how well Murphy handled Trenton’s pitching staff and consistently ranked him as one of the better catch-and-throw guys in the circuit … His solid-average arm is accurate and aided by a quick transfer.”
Neither OF Slade Heathcott and OF Tyler Austin did not make the list, obviously. In the subscriber-only chat, Josh Norris said “there were significant questions about [Heathcott's] plate discipline, makeup and being injury-prone,” while “most evaluators I surveyed only thought of [Austin] as a fourth-outfielder type.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement. OF Ramon Flores simply doesn’t have enough power to be considered a top prospect, Norris added.
All of the Yankees-relevant lists have now been posted: Rookie Gulf Coast League (six players ranked), Short Season NY-Penn League (one), Low-A South Atlantic League (one), High-A Florida State League (two), and Triple-A Intentional League (zero). The rankings actually do a pretty good job of summarizing the state of the team’s farm system. Lots of interesting talent at the lower levels but nothing at the upper levels to help the team in the immediate future, either as trade bait or by stepping into the roster. System in a nutshell.
This Sunday, FOX will broadcast a 90-minute feature called “Being Mariano Rivera,” which will look at a side of Mo none of us ever get to see. That’s pretty much everything away from the baseball field. Chad Jennings has all the details, and the video above is a deleted scene from this year’s All-Star Game. There will be an encore presentation next Tuesday, just in case you forget to set your DVR.
Here is your open thread for the night. The Dodgers and Cardinals are playing Game Three of their NLCS at 8pm ET on TBS (Hyun-Jin Ryu vs. Adam Wainwright), and the Monday Night Football Game is the Colts and Chargers. Talk about either of those games or anything else here. Go nuts.
The 2013 season is over and now it’s time to review all aspects of the year that was, continuing today with an injury replacement who missed more days than the guy he replaced.
Even though it happened five months before Opening Day, Alex Rodriguez‘s left hip injury and eventual surgery left the Yankees scrambling. They had just lost their starting third baseman and a middle of the order bat, two things that are tough to replace even in the dead of winter through free agency. With no obvious internal replacement, the team was left … well, scrambling.
The best available option was a familiar face and former bitter enemy. The Yankees wound up signing former Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis to a one-year contract worth $12M, and in the process he reportedly declined a two-year, $18M offer from the Indians to reunite with manager Terry Francona. It was a risky move given Youkilis’ history of back problems and declining production (103 wRC+ in 2012).
A monster Spring Training (.280/.339/.800 in 56 plate appearances) and stories of a revamped swing courtesy of hitting coach Kevin Long had pretty much everyone thinking Youkilis was primed to be a big contributor for New York. He was further away from his injuries and the Yankees had success with reclamation project hitters like Eric Chavez in recent years, so it wasn’t all blind faith. Just mostly blind faith.
When the season started, it looked very much like Youkilis had found the fountain of youth. Or at least a way to stave off age-related decline for the time being. He doubled on Opening day, had two hits the next game, doubled again in the third game, then homered in the fourth game. In his first nine games with New York, Youkilis went 14-for-33 (.424) with four doubles, two homers, (.727 SLG), three walks, and two hit-by-pitches (.500 OBP).
Obviously that’s not something you’d expect any player to sustain over a full season, but any fear Youkilis was just a washed up ex-Red Sox crony brought in for name value had started to be assuaged. Then, just a week later, Youkilis was sidelined with back stiffness. He missed a week before returning to the lineup at first base, and in his first game back, he slide into the bag on a defensive play and re-injured himself. The official diagnosis was a lumbar strain and it was much more severe this time around.
Youkilis needed an epidural even though his MRI came back clean. He spent a month on the DL before returning in late-May, the same time as Mark Teixeira. Youkilis went a weak 6-for-41 (.146) with 13 strikeouts (28.3%) in eleven games after coming back before, yet again, his back started barking. Another lumbar strain landed him on the DL on June 14th, but just four days later the Yankees announced he needed season-ending surgery to correct whatever needed to be corrected. There was always a small chance Youkilis would get healthy in time to rejoin the team in late September and the postseason, but that never happened. Both the getting healthy part and the postseason part.
All told, Youkilis played in only 28 games and received 118 plate appearances this past season. A-Rod, the man he replaced, batted 181 times in 44 games after returning from hip surgery in August. David Adams even managed more games (43) and plate appearances (153) thank Youkilis after coming up from the minors in mid-May to serve as what amounted to the replacement for the replacement. For their $12 investment, the Yankees got a .219/.305/.343 (78 wRC+) batting line and an awful lot of medical bills out of Youkilis.
As I wrote in What Went Wrong: Injuries, it would have been surprising if Youkilis didn’t land on the DL at some point this season. Backs very rarely get better — ask David Wells or Randy Johnson, for example — at best they get more manageable. Youkilis had two back-related DL stints as well as several day-to-day type problems from 2010-2013, so the surgery was a long time coming. It seemed inevitable and the Yankees were left holding the cards when the time came. The team was in desperation mode after A-Rod’s injury and they wound up wasting a huge chunk of change for very, very little return.
During a recent radio interview, Brian Cashman acknowledged the obvious, that it’s really hard to replace Alex Rodriguez. “If it comes down to, would we want the player we signed to be playing that position without any problems? Absolutely, no question about that,” said the GM. “It’s not like, all right, well, Alex is gone. It’s not like, all right, we’ll take that money and go in this direction. It was not easy to plug holes [in 2013] because the talent just doesn’t exist.”
At age 38 and with two surgically repaired hips, A-Rod hit .244/.348/.423 (113 wRC+) in 181 plate appearances this year, right in line with last year’s production (also 113 wRC+). Only nine third baseman topped that output in at least 400 plate appearances this past season, so there aren’t many players out there who can contribute as much as old and crippled Alex. At least the guy he was the last two years, anyway. As we saw this year, finding good players is hard.
Meanwhile, Bill Madden says the Yankees are preparing for the offseason under the assumption that Rodriguez’s salary ($25M) will not be wiped off the books by suspension next season. That’s the right thing to do, obviously. The money isn’t off the books until MLB says it is off the books, and right now it doesn’t seem like official word is coming anytime soon. It stinks, their hands are going to be tied for a little while until they get some resolution, but that’s life. · (41) ·
2013 Season: 85-77 (637 RS, 671 RA, 77-85 pythag. record), didn’t qualify for playoffs
Top stories from last week:
- The Yankees took care of a major piece of offseason business this week by re-signing manager Joe Girardi to a new four-year contract worth $16M with another $4M in bonuses that will keep him in pinstripes through 2017. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild is close to an extension.
- Injury News: Last year’s first rounder Ty Hensley (hips) threw off a mound for the first time since having surgery in March.
- The Yankees “are going to be serious players” for Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka this winter. Qualifying offers for free agents will be worth $14.1M this offseason.
- Gary Sanchez is indeed eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter. It’s “doubtful” Dellin Betances will be allowed to pitch in winter ball. Sanchez and Mason Williams were among Baseball America’s top 20 High-A Florida State League prospects while the Yankees were shutout of the Triple-A International League list.
- Legal proceedings for Alex Rodriguez‘s lawsuit against MLB will begin on October 24th.
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 nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.
Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
Saturday: Happy Saturday, folks. The Dodgers and Cardinals are playing Game Two of their NLCS right now on TBS (Clayton Kershaw vs. Michael Wacha) while the Red Sox and Tigers open their ALCS a little after 8pm ET on FOX (Jon Lester vs. Anibal Sanchez). The Rangers and Islanders are both playing regular season games while the Knicks have a preseason game. I’m sure there’s college football on somewhere as well. Talk about any of that stuff and more right here. Have at it.
Sunday: I’m going to be rather busy today and all week really, so barring any breaking news, content might be a little light for the next few days. Feel free to continue used this thread all day Sunday to talk about whatever’s going on. The Red Sox and Tigers play Game 2 of ALCS tonight at 8pm ET on FOX (Clay Buchholz vs. Max Scherzer), plus you have all the day’s NFL action and Devils game tonight. I’m pretty sure the season premier of the Walking Dead will be on later as well. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.
- VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman confirmed C Gary Sanchez is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter. I thought he had at least one more year to go, but it’s always tough to pin down the international guys. Obviously Sanchez will be added to the 40-man roster and protected from the draft.
- RHP Chase Whitley may remain a starter in the future. The career reliever has made a handful of spot starts the last two years, and he’s the rare reliever who used three pitches fairly regularly. “He’s got a great changeup, so it was, let’s see if he can do this,” said Newman. “His velocity picked up over the last two years, he’s always had a very good changeup, we’re working on his breaking ball. We had some innings in the rotation, and he’s got starter stuff, so he may get a look in that way in the future.”
- Newman confirmed RHP Jose Campos will again have his workload controlled next season. He was limited to three or four inning outings all summer. He’ll throw more innings overall, but they’re not yet ready to turn him loose just yet. Campos missed pretty much all of last season with an elbow injury.
- Apparently OF Ravel Santana broke his arm at some point. That’s on top of the brutal ankle injury that completely derailed his career two years ago. “He’s had two really tough injuries,” said Newman. “He’s had a tough go.”
- The Yankees re-signed UTIL Jose Pirela to a minor league contract. He became a six-year minor league free agent after the season. The 23-year-old has spent the last few years with Double-A Trenton, putting up a ~120 wRC+ in 888 plate appearances the last two seasons. Pirela’s not much of a prospect, but he can play all over the field. He’s the kind of guy who could sneak a call-up at some point.