A few weeks ago, this series looked it would be a battle for postseason position. Instead it’s a trade deadline seller against an almost non-contender. The AL East isn’t what it once was, folks. The Yankees have lost seven of ten games to the Rays this season. They split four games at Tropicana Field back in April.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Rays just took three of four from the awful Texas Rangers and went 6-4 on their ten-game road trip overall. At 60-61 with a +21 run differential, Tampa is in fourth place in the AL East, two games behind the Yankees. The Bombers have to win at least one game this weekend to avoid falling into fourth place.
With an average of 3.99 runs per game and a team 104 wRC+, the Rays are both below-average and above-average offensively at the same time. They’re getting hits, just not bunched together. Tampa is currently without OF Wil Myers (94 wRC+) and OF David DeJesus (134 wRC+), who are on the disabled list with wrist and shoulder injuries, respectively. Myers is on a rehab assignment but is not expected to rejoin the team this weekend. C Ryan Hanigan (88 wRC+) is also on the disabled list with an oblique problem and IF Desmond Jennings (106 wRC+) is day-to-day with a shoulder issue.
As usual, manager Joe Maddon’s lineup is built around 3B Evan Longoria (103 wRC+), though he is having a very down year by his standards. His six-year, $100M extension doesn’t kick in until 2017. They better hope this year is just a blip. OF Matt Joyce (130 wRC+) is having a strong year, ditto 2B/OF Ben Zobrist (128 wRC+). OF Kevin Kiermaier (130 wRC+) has been a pleasant surprise since coming up to replace Myers. 1B James Loney (105 wRC+) is having a typical James Loney year, which means not 2013.
C Jose Molina (31 wRC+) splits catching duty with C Curt Casali (41 wRC+ in limited time) now that Hanigan is on the disabled list. OF Brandon Guyer (111 wRC+) backs up in the outfield while UTIL Sean Rodriguez (111 wRC+) and UTIL Logan Forsythe (94 wRC+) play just about everywhere. Rodriguez destroys the Yankees, as I’m sure you know. SS Yunel Escobar (91 wRC+) is the everyday shortstop. Tampa Bay is carrying only three bench players at the moment.
Friday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. TB) vs. RHP Alex Cobb (vs. NYY)
With David Price traded away and Matt Moore out following Tommy John surgery, the 26-year-old Cobb is the team’s de facto ace. He has a 3.41 ERA (3.43 FIP) in 18 starts and 108.1 innings this year while missing a few weeks with an oblique strain. His strikeout (8.47 K/9 and 22.5 K%), walk (2.66 BB/9 and 7.1 BB%), homer (0.75 HR/9 and 10.6 HR/FB%), and ground ball (57.5%) rates all range from very good to excellent. Thanks to his knockout mid-80s changeup, lefties (.266 wOBA) have actually had less success against Cobb (.315 wOBA) than righties. His two and four-seamers sit in the low-90s and he’ll also throw a bunch of low-80s curveballs. The Yankees have not faced Cobb this year.
Saturday: RHP Shane Greene (No vs. TB) vs. LHP Drew Smyly (vs. NYY)
Smyly, 25, was part of the Price trade, arguably the centerpiece. He has a 3.73 ERA (3.84 FIP) in 118.1 innings across 20 starts and three relief appearances in 2014, though only his walk rate (2.74 BB/9 and 7.2 BB%) stands out. His strikeout (7.91 K/9 and 20.9 K%), homerun (1.06 HR/9 and 9.6 HR/FB%), and ground ball (37.0%) numbers are nothing to write home about. Righties (.376 wOBA) have hit him a ton harder than lefties (.208 wOBA). Smyly has one of the biggest platoon splits in the game. He operates with a mid-80s slider and three fastballs: low-90s four-seamers, upper-80s two-seamers, and mid-80s cutters. He’ll also throw a handful of low-80s changeups per start. Smyly has not faced the Yankees this year and he went three runs in 5.1 innings and 7.2 shutout innings in his first two starts with the Rays.
Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. TB) vs. RHP Jeremy Hellickson (vs. NYY)
Elbow surgery kept the 27-year-old Hellickson on the shelf until early last month, so he’s only made five starts and thrown 26.2 innings this year. His walk rate (2.03 BB/9 and 5.5 BB%) is low, as are his strikeout (6.75 K/9 and 18.4 K%) and ground ball (30.5%) rates. Aside from 2013, Hellickson has consistently outperformed his peripherals because he’s adept at getting infield pop-ups and other weak contact. His homer rate (1.01 HR/9 and 7.3 HR/FB%) is about average and lefties (.274 wOBA) have had a tougher time against him than righties (.330 wOBA). Hellickson works with both a four-seam and two-seam fastball at right around 90 mph, and his go-to secondary pitch is an upper-70s changeup. He’ll also throw some mid-70s curves per start. Hellickson has failed to complete five full innings of work in three of his five starts off elbow surgery.
RHP Grant Balfour (4.16 FIP) has struggled this year, so Maddon has been using a closer by committee for several weeks now. LHP Jake McGee (1.22 FIP) has been outstanding and gets the ball in the most important spots regardless of inning. Sometimes the seventh, sometimes the eighth, sometimes the ninth. RHP Joel Peralta (3.73 FIP) and RHP Brad Boxberger (2.66 FIP) also work the late innings.
The rest of the bullpen includes LHP Jeff Beliveau (3.92 FIP in limited time), RHP Brandon Gomes (5.34 FIP), RHP Kirby Yates (3.00 FIP), and LHP Cesar Ramos (4.25 FIP). McGee, Boxberger, and Beliveau all pitched yesterday. The Yankees had two of the last three days off, so their bullpen is generally well-rested. Dellin Betances might not be available tonight after his extended outing on Wednesday, but that’s it. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage, then check out The Process Report for everything you need to know about the Rays.
Got seven questions for you this week. The best way to send us anything throughout the week is via the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.
Joe asks: Should the Yankees target Arismendy Alcantara from the Cubs in the offseason? With all of Chicago’s infield prospects it seems like he will be the one left out, and may not have too high of a cost.
Yes, though there is no indication the Cubs are willing to move him. I love Alcantara. He hit .271/.352/.451 (132 wRC+) with 15 homers and 31 steals in Double-A last year, then hit .307/.353/.537 (127 wRC+) with ten homers and 21 games in Triple-A this year before being called up a few weeks ago (80 wRC+ in 32 MLB games). Alcantara is a 22-year-old switch-hitter with some power and a lot of speed, and although he can play shortstop, his best position is either second base or center field (he’s played both for Chicago).
Baseball America ranked Alcantara as the 33rd best prospect in baseball in their midseason update, one spot ahead of Luis Severino. Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked him as the 71st best prospect in the game before the season, saying he has “upside as a potential All-Star at second base” and “might be a candidate for a Tony Phillips-type super-utility role.” Like I said, I love Alcantara since he’s a power-speed switch-hitter who can do no worse than hold his own at three up-the-middle positions. Plus he has a cool name.
He doesn’t get the same attention as some of Chicago’s other top prospects, but Alcantara is very good. The Cubbies are definitely looking for high-end pitching at this point, and unless the Yankees are willing to talk Masahiro Tanaka (lol nope) or Michael Pineda (maybe), it’s hard to see them swinging a deal for Alcantara. David Phelps or fresh off elbow reconstruction Ivan Nova ain’t getting it done. I’d love to see him in pinstripes though.
Mickey asks: Chances Brendan Ryan is the starting shortstop for the Yankees next year? Also, fill in the blank: if Brendan Ryan is the starting shortstop next year, the Yankees are _______?
I would say very small, less than 5%. I think the only way Ryan is the starting shortstop next year is if ownership completely clamps down on spending and prevents the front office from going out and signing one of the many free agent shortstops who will be available this winter (Hanley Ramirez, J.J. Hardy, Jed Lowrie, Stephen Drew, etc.). Even then, I still think they’d try to make a trade. I see Ryan as Plan E or F at shortstop. The last resort. As for filling in that blank, I would say both “very bad” and “still looking for an upgrade.”
Stettinius asks: Y or N: Give David Robertson a qualifying offer, but not a contract offer. If he takes it, great, we’ve got an elite closer. If not, we’ve got two top 40 draft picks, Dellin Betances as closer, and Jacob Lindgren and his 10 K/BB knocking on the door.
Definite N for me. Make the qualifying offer and a contract offer. Offense has fallen around the league and every game is close these days, meaning a strong and deep bullpen is more important than ever before. Robertson isn’t irreplaceable but he’s not far off. Elite relievers who have shown they can close in New York and have no history of arm problems are rare and the Yankees should make every effort to keep him. I wouldn’t say they should keep him at any price, there’s always a point where you walk away, but there is plenty of room out in that bullpen for Robertson, Betances, Lindgren, and whoever else they dig up. Robertson’s a long-term keeper in my book.
Stimson asks: With Pineda pitching 171 innings in 2011 and only 20+ so far this year (including Wednesday’s game), assuming he stays healthy, does he have any innings limit for the rest of this season? 2015? If not, should he?
The Yankees claimed Pineda did not have an innings limit this year, but I didn’t fully buy that. You have to watch a guy’s workload after he misses two years with major shoulder surgery. The same will apply next year. If he stays healthy the rest of the year, Pineda will get up to about 50 innings this year, so we’re talking 50 big league innings in the span of three years. I don’t know if they’ll set a hard number on it — he won’t throw more than 170 innings, for example — but they will have to be careful with him (like they were in April) and pay extra attention for any signs for fatigue. I know Pineda will be turn 26 over the winter and will be out of the so-called “injury nexus,” but that doesn’t mean they should turn him loose. He physically might not be up for it. I expect it them to
monitor his workload watch him like a hawk all season.
JonS asks: What is the actual reasoning behind expanding rosters in September?
No one actually knows. Ted Berg spoke to MLB historian John Thorn (a must follow on Twitter) about this a few years ago, but not even Thorn knew how September call-ups originated. Here’s what he said:
I can only speculate that as minor-league seasons tended to close earlier than major-league ones, September seemed to be a good time to reward high-performing aspirants perhaps less expensively than inviting them to spring camp. The extra-manpower feature surely was not as important in the early days, when staring pitchers tended to complete a high percentage of their games.
Every year there is a big debate about expanded rosters and whether they’re fair and all that, but I am all for them. As long as every team is allowed to call up the same number of players, it’s fair to me. It’s not, for example, the Yankees problem if they call up eleven extra players while the Orioles only call up seven. Reward the teams that have better depth later in the season.
Phil asks: For the next mailbag, can you take a look at opposite-field power? I’m talking about HR’s specifically. I feel like I’ve watched every game this season, and I’m having a hard time remembering one opposite field HR. I remember when our RH bats could use the short porch, and when our LH bats were so awesome, they could put a pitch on the outside corner out of anywhere but YS.
The Yankees have hit 108 total homers this year, and of those 108, only three (!) were hit to the opposite field. Three! Mark Teixeira hit one (video), Frankie Cervelli hit one (video), and Alfonso Soriano hit one (video). That’s it. Both Teixeira’s and Cervelli’s literally hit the top of the wall and hopped over while Soriano’s made the seats. That’s nuts. Giancarlo Stanton (who else?) leads MLB with eight opposite field taters this year. Here are some more numbers on New York’s opposite field power production:
|NYY Total HR||NYY Oppo. HR||NYY Oppo. HR%||NYY Oppo. ISO||AL Oppo. ISO|
Even last season the Yankees were more or less an average team when it came to hitting the other way for power. This year they aren’t particularly close. That stems from their lack of power hitters in general, but especially righties who are able to take advantage of the short porch in right field. I mean, their best right-handed power hitter right now is Francisco Cervelli. That is something they have to address this offseason. The ability to hit the ball with authority the other way is nonexistent this year.
Shaya asks: Has Gardner hit enough this year to win a Gold Glove? I know he isn’t flashy out there, but he gets to just about everything so he doesn’t really need to exert himself like other flashier fielders. Who would be his main competition?
It’s possible, sure. Offense shouldn’t be part of the Gold Glove process but it’s no secret the managers and coaches who vote each year factor it in. A sabermetric component was added a few years ago, but that only counts for 25% of the vote. Gardner is hitting well (125 wRC+) and the various defensive stats say he’s been good but not great in left (+2 DRS, +3.6 UZR, +3 Total Zone, -1.2 FRAA). Remember, they now give Gold Gloves to the specific outfield spots, so Gardner will be up against other left fielders. That includes Alex Gordon (120 wRC+ and +20 DRS) and Michael Brantley (155 wRC+ and -1 DRS). Gardner is awesome, but Gordon deserves to win. He’s outstanding in left.
Terrible news: OF Frank Frias suffered a dislocated ankle and broken fibula on a freak play at second base today, according to hitting coach Drew Henson. He’s having surgery tomorrow to put plates in his leg. Sounds like another Ravel Santana/David Adams incident. Yuck.
Triple-A Scranton (8-5 loss to Louisville)
- 2B Jose Pirela: 1-3, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K
- CF Zoilo Almonte: 1-5, 1 RBI, 1 K — threw a runner out at second
- DH Kyle Roller: 1-3, 1 BB
- RF Zelous Wheeler: 1-4, 1 K
- RHP Zach Nuding: 5 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 4/6 GB/FB — 64 of 94 pitches were strikes (68%)
- RHP Branden Pinder: 1.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0/3 GB/FB — 21 of 37 pitches were strikes (57%)
- LHP Tyler Webb: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 14 of 22 pitches were strikes (64%)
- RHP Jose Gil: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1/1 GB/FB — seven of 15 pitches were strikes (47%) … second straight night they had to put a position player on the mound
The Yankees are off tonight, meaning they won’t blow another lead to the Orioles. Small victories, I guess. Use this thread to talk about whatever you like. The Mets are playing, MLB Network is airing a regional game, the Little League World Series is on, and there’s a preseason NFL game on as well. Lots to watch while the Yankees are off. Talk about anything and everything right here.
6:08pm: Manfred has been elected the 10th commissioner in baseball history, according to multiple reports. Bill Shaikin says the final vote was 30-0. Apparently the other eight teams didn’t flip, they just realized they wouldn’t win. Randy Levine told reporters the Yankees were strong Manfred supporters from the start.
5:00pm: Via Jon Heyman: MLB COO Rob Manfred fell one vote short of being elected MLB’s next commissioner at the quarterly owners’ meetings today. He received 22 of 30 votes with the other eight going to Red Sox chairman Tom Werner. MLB executive Tim Brosnan voluntarily dropped out of the running earlier today. Bud Selig is retiring in January.
The owners are currently working to resolve the situation, according to Heyman. The Yankees were said to be supporting Manfred due to his relationship with the players’ union. Werner is considered an old school type who is likely to attempt to strong-arm the union into getting a favorable deal for the owners when the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires following the 2016 season. That would greatly increase the chances of a work stoppage. Selig has made it clear he wants Manfred to replace him, but it appears there is still some politicking to be done. · (57) ·
Our friends with the Staten Island Yankees are giving away an All-Time Greats Card Set to the first 2,500 fans who attend tomorrow night’s game (7pm ET) against the Tri-City ValleyCats (Astros). The set includes Tyler Austin, Robinson Cano, Elvis Corporan, and Eduardo Nunez. There will also be post-game fireworks, which are always fun. Other upcoming events include:
- Saturday, Aug. 16th: Everyday Heroes Jersey Series- Breast Health Awareness Night (free pink jerseys to the first 2,500 fans)
- Sunday, Aug. 17th: Everyday Heroes Jersey Series- Military Appreciation Night (free camo jerseys to the first 2,500 fans)
- Wednesday, Aug. 20th: Jewish Heritage Night
- Monday, Aug. 25th: Game Show/Cash Giveaway Night
- Tuesday, Aug. 26th: Italian Heritage Night
- Monday, Sept. 1st: Pregnant Ladies Night (Yankees ice cream bowls for the first 2,500 fans plus free ice cream for pregnant women)
You can purchase tickets right here if you want to attend Friday’s game. I’ve never been to Richmond County Ballpark in Staten Island but I’ve heard it’s gorgeous. Plus the weather is supposed to be great, so head out to the park tomorrow and support the Baby Bombers.
The silver lining to last night’s loss to the Orioles was the return of Michael Pineda, who looked like the April version of himself in his first start off the disabled list. At least until he ran out of gas in the fifth inning, though that had more to do with making only two rehab starts and not getting full stretched out than anything. Pineda was nails in the first four innings, locating his fastball to both sides of his plate and throwing his slider for both called strikes and off the plate for swings and misses.
The Yankees are still kinda sorta in the race for the postseason spot — a wildcard spot, to be specific — and the Pineda we saw last night will be a huge help the rest of the way, assuming he gets fully stretched out in time. The patchwork rotation really has done an admirable job of keeping the team alive, but the Yankees have not had a starter who can go out and shut another team down every fifth day since Masahiro Tanaka got hurt. Pineda is that type of pitcher.
Getting Pineda back will help improve their slim postseason chances (7.6% according to Baseball Prospectus), but, more importantly, it gives the Yankees a chance to evaluate the right-hander heading into next season. The 2015 rotation is completely up in the air at this point thanks to the Tanaka and CC Sabathia injuries. Even if those two get healthy in time for Spring Training, there really is no way of knowing what they can provide next year. Ivan Nova will also be out until at least late-April/early-May following Tommy John surgery, if not longer.
That all makes Pineda ian integral part of the Yankees going forward despite his lack of health these last few years. In a perfect world someone like Pineda, a super talented reclamation project/lottery ticket pitcher with injury problems, would be a guy you want to fill out the back of the rotation. Not someone you have to count on. But, unless the Yankees are planning to spend huge in free agency (Jon Lester and/or Max Scherzer?) or making some big trades (Cole Hamels and/or Ian Kennedy?), that’s exactly what Pineda will be.
These next six weeks or so will finally give the Yankees a chance to see what Pineda can do as a member of their rotation making a regular start. At least hopefully. We have no real reason to expect him to stay healthy other than blind faith at this point. Hopefully he stays healthy, takes the ball every fifth day, impresses, and leaves everyone feeling good going into 2015. If Pineda can help the Yankees get into the postseason along the way, even better. Falling short of Octboer would not be unexpected though.
On a personal level, I feel Pineda Fatigue™ starting to set in. I’m getting tired of waiting for this guy to get healthy and contribute. This is his third year in pinstripes already, and he’s made five starts. I understand that pitchers get hurt and he had major shoulder surgery, but at some point you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution, and we still don’t know where Pineda falls. He’s looked great when he’s actually on the mound, no doubt about it. But he’s no good to the team if he continues to get hurt constantly. Seeing him stay on the field the rest of the season would be a refreshing change.
Outside of getting Tanaka back in September, the best thing for the future of the Yankees would be Pineda staying healthy and showing he can be an effective starter these next few weeks. He’s a potential impact player, something the team lacks at the upper levels of the minors. They just don’t know if he can stay healthy over the course of a full season yet. Well, no, they know he can’t. Nevermind. These next few weeks will show if Pineda can stay healthy for even six weeks at a time, and whether there is any reason to be optimistic about him being a member of the 2015 rotation.
This isn’t just a regular ol’ chat. We’re giving away a pair of Staten Island Yankees tickets to a random chatter. Just submit a question with the hashtag #SIYanks and I’ll pick a winner at random at the end of the chat. You’re question doesn’t need to be answered to enter the giveaway, and you can submit multiple questions with #SIYanks, but don’t abuse the privilege. I will disqualify anyone who spams. The game is on Friday, August 15th, so please only enter if you can attend the game. Thanks in advance.
Via Ken Davidoff: Hal Steinbrenner was non-committal yesterday when asked about retaining Brian Cashman after the season. “We’re so busy right now, trying to figure out who’s going to be playing in any given game, much less that,” said Hal. “We’ll be talking about that soon enough. But you know me. We’ve got enough things to worry about during the season. That’s where our focus needs to be. Let me get to October — hopefully the end of October, beginning of November — and we’ll go from there.”
Cashman’s contract expires after the season and historically the Yankees have let his deals play all the way out before re-signing him. I agree with Davidoff that Hal’s comments were more about the owner having a lot on his plate at the moment — including picking a new commissioner — than a non-endorsement of Cashman. I do think the Yankees need to get serious about changing their team-building strategies because paying premium dollars for (the decline years of) free agents and having a top-heavy roster flat out doesn’t work anymore. They need more from the farm system and have to do a better job of avoiding bad players. No more Brian Robertses or Zelous Wheelers, guys like that. That has to start this offseason or else the franchise will make no progress towards returning to contention. · (115) ·
I know it doesn’t come across on RAB and especially on my Twitter feed, but I try to be optimistic when it comes to the Yankees’ postseason chances each year. Go ahead and laugh, but as long as they’re still mathematically in it, then they have something to play for and I have a reason to remain invested in the season. We’ve been very lucky as a fanbase because we haven’t seen a whole lot of truly meaningless baseball over the years.
The Yankees lost a heartbreaker to the Orioles last night, again failing to protect a small lead and losing ground in both the AL East and wildcard races. They are essentially out of the division race now — eight games back with 43 to play isn’t insurmountable but it might as well be, and last night several Yankees even conceded it was time to focus on the wildcard — and will instead have to hope they can sneak into the second wildcard spot for the right to play a winner-take-all game with a trip to the ALDS on the line. That’s better than not making the postseason in my book.
These Yankees though … man. They have given me very little reason to believe they are capable of making the type of run they need to make to get into that second wildcard spot. If the Tigers and Mariners go only 22-22 the rest of the way, the Yankees need to go 25-18 just to tie. That isn’t taking the Royals and Blue Jays (and Indians) into consideration either. Their best 43-game stretch this year was 24-19 done twice, from Games 3-45 and then again from Games 60-102. That’s when they had Masahiro Tanaka taking the ball every fifth day and an effective Adam Warren alongside Dellin Betances and David Robertson in the bullpen.
Now though, the Yankees don’t have Tanaka and don’t have an effective Warren. The offense’s performance has also been flat out unacceptable — “We put a lot of money into the offense, and they have been, as a whole, inconsistent. It’s been a problem. And it needs to change,” said Hal Steinbrenner to Dan Barbarisi yesterday — but outside of Brian McCann, I’m not sure you can say anyone in the lineup is having a shockingly bad season. Carlos Beltran putting up a 99 wRC+ a year after having a 131 wRC+ may be unexpected, but it’s not totally surprising at age 37. Jacoby Ellsbury has a 108 wRC+ in 2014 and a 109 wRC+ for his career. Mark Teixeira? Derek Jeter? Disappointing but not outside of what we could have guessed before the season.
Warren looks like he’s out of gas, Shawn Kelley looked good for a few weeks but has been roughed up big time in two of his last three outings, and others like Chase Whitley and David Huff are not guys anyone wants to see in a big spot. The bullpen ran into a similar wall at the same time last year and it’s probably because the Yankees played so many close games earlier in the season and forced these guys to throw a lot of intense innings. Betances seems to have avoided burn out (last night’s solo homer notwithstanding) but others aren’t so lucky. Playing catch-up in a postseason race with only two reliable relievers and a patchwork rotation is a bad, bad combination.
The Yankees aren’t hitting and they aren’t pitching well either right now, plus they don’t even control their own destiny anymore. They’ll need help from some other teams these next few weeks to sneak into that second wildcard spot. To quote Joe Girardi, it’s not what you want. They dug this hole for themselves by letting too many winnable games slip away, mostly because of the offense and the utter lack of an impact hitter, and with each game that passes, they look less and less like a contender.
I really want the Yankees to get to postseason in Derek Jeter’s final season, especially since they didn’t get there in Mariano Rivera‘s final season dammit, but this team doesn’t look like they have what it takes to make that run at all. They’re technically still in it, yeah, but they’ve given me little reason to believe. It really, really sucks.