Checking on Aroldis Chapman’s fastball spin rate

(Rich Gagnon/Getty)
(Rich Gagnon/Getty)

Friday night the Yankees had a win ripped away when Aroldis Chapman failed to retire even one of the five batters he faced, and blew his third save in 12 opportunities. A few of the nine saves he did nail down were a bit dicey as well. Chapman rebounded with scoreless innings Saturday and Sunday, though so far this season, he has not been the overwhelming force the Yankees thought they signed.

The single biggest difference between Chapman this year and the Chapman of the past has been a decline in swings and misses. Chapman threw 56 total pitches in his three appearances in Boston and generated one (1) swing and miss. He’s gotten eleven swings and misses in his last eight appearances and 148 pitches, or 7.4%. His career swing and miss rate is 17.3%. This year it’s 12.5%. The MLB average is 10.4%. Something has gone awry here.

The first thing we all thing about with Chapman is fastball velocity, and so far this year his velocity has been fine. His fastball is averaging 100.0 mph on the nose and he’s topped out at 103.3 mph. Last year he averaged 101.1 mph and the year before it was 100.4 mph. And yet, look at the rate of misses he’s generating per swing with his fastball. This is whiffs-per-swing, not whiffs-per-total pitches:

  • 2015: 41.0% (18.5% league average)
  • 2016: 32.8% (18.8% league average)
  • 2017: 25.1% (19.7% league average)

That’s not great. The league average keeps creeping up each year while Chapman’s whiffs-per-swing rate with his fastball is dropping noticeably. He’s down nearly 40% from 2015. Chapman isn’t missing bats like he once did and he knows it. He doesn’t know why though. “Actually, that’s a good question. I’m going to go back and try to see footage and why because I honestly don’t know why,” he said to Brendan Kuty over the weekend when asked about the lack of whiffs.

Since Chapman’s swing and misses are down significantly, I figured it would be worthwhile to check out his fastball spin rate. For fastballs, a high spin rate correlates well to swing and misses and a low spin rate correlates well to ground balls. You don’t really want to be average. You want to be high or low. Here, with an assist from Baseball Savant, is Chapman’s fastball spin rate by month since Statcast became a thing back in 2015:

aroldis-chapman-fastball-spin-rate-2015-17

Let’s start with the obvious: Chapman’s spin far has been well-above-average since Opening Day 2015. His worst spin rate month, June 2015, was still nearly 10% better than the league average. Chapman has a very high fastball spin rate and he usually generates a ton of swings and misses. That’s not a coincidence.

Now, compared to last year, Chapman’s fastball spin rate is definitely down. It declined every month from September 2016 through June 2017 before ticking back up this month. A spin rate decline is bad! At the same time, his fastball spin rate has declined back to where it was for much of 2015, when hitters missed with more than 40% of the swings they took against Chapman’s fastball. Hmmm.

Even with the gradual decline this year, I don’t see a big red flag with Chapman’s fastball spin rate. I’d be really worried if it dropped lower than it had been at any point the last two seasons and change. His fastball spin rate is down from last year and right in line with 2015, and Chapman was great in 2015. He’s within range here. That’s a good thing. You want Chapman to be Chapman, right? Right.

So, with his spin rate looking okay, we’re still left wondering why Chapman’s swing and misses are down this year. Joe Girardi chalked it up to everyone throwing hard now and hitters being more comfortable against big velocity, which I suppose could be true, but Luis Severino hasn’t had any trouble getting hitters to swing through his upper-90s heat. Dellin Betances is still getting a ton of whiffs with his fastball. That doesn’t really pass the sniff test.

The way I see it, there are four possible explanations for Chapman’s relative lack of swings and misses this year. One, he’s in permanent decline. That’s always possible. Humans aren’t meant to throw this hard for this long. Two, it’s just a slump. Sometimes ground ball pitchers can’t get ground balls and sometimes strikeout pitchers can’t get strikeouts. It happens. Three, Chapman is still not all the way back from his shoulder injury. It took Andrew Miller about a month to get back to normal following his forearm issue in 2015, remember.

And four, Chapman is dealing with a World Series hangover. He threw a lot of intense innings last postseason — 15.2 innings across 13 appearances, to be exact — and because the Cubs went to Game Seven of the World Series, Chapman had a shorter offseason recover. Game Seven was November 2nd and pitchers and catchers reported on February 14th. That’s not much of a break at all.

I think (hope) Chapman is going through a World Series hangover this year. He’s wouldn’t be the only one. Basically the entire Cubs rotation is dealing with it. If it is a World Series hangover, hopefully Chapman gets a second wind soon, or is 100% good to go next year at the latest. This is year one of a five-year contract, after all. Getting this version of Chapman in year one is kinda scary.

Chapman’s swings and misses are undeniably down this year, though his fastball spin rate is within its usual range, so that’s not a huge issue. Something is off though. I don’t know what. Maybe it’s a slump, maybe it’s a World Series hangover, or maybe he really is in permanent decline. Considering Chapman is only 29 and is super athletic and well built, as long as he’s healthy, I think he’ll be fine. Eventually. I don’t know when, exactly.

Scouting the Trade Market: Jaime Garcia

(Denis Poroy/Getty)
(Denis Poroy/Getty)

The trade deadline is roughly a week and a half away now, and already the big pitching trade candidate has been moved. Jose Quintana is a Chicago Cub and the focus has now turned to Sonny Gray. There are plenty of other pitchers on the market too. None have the track record of Quintana or the upside of Gray, but there are pitchers out there ready to be dealt.

Among them is Braves southpaw Jaime Garcia, an impending free agent having an okay season (4.33 ERA and 4.25 FIP in 106 innings). The Braves are not absolutely miserable this season — they came into today 45-46 with a -35 run differential — though they are still rebuilding, and a free agent-to-be like Garcia is a prime piece of trade bait. Does he make any sense for the Yankees? Let’s break it down.

Current Stuff

The just turned 31-year-old Garcia is pitching like his usual self this season in that he’s getting a ton of ground balls (54.7%) and an average-ish number of strikeouts (18.2%). His walk rate (9.0%) is a tad high, though remove the intentional walks and it’s a more manageable 8.1%. That’s right in line with last season (7.7%). Garcia wasn’t very good last year (4.67 ERA and 4.49 FIP) but he was great the year before (2.43 ERA and 3.00 FIP).

Generally speaking, Garcia is a true five-pitch pitcher with two low-90s fastballs (four-seamer and sinker). His go-to secondary pitch is a fading low-to-mid-80s changeup. He also throws a low-80s slider and a loopy mid-70s curveball. The curveball is his least used pitch at 6.4% this year. Garcia throws everything else at least 11% of the time. Here’s some video:

There really has been very little change in Garcia’s stuff since Opening Day 2015. He’s averaging 91.5 mph and topping out at 94.3 mph with his fastballs, he’s throwing the same number of breaking balls and changeups, and his grounder and swing and miss rates are all holding steady. That’s good. Garcia has been same guy for three years now. His performance has fluctuated wildly, though that’s more location relation than stuff related.

Injury History

Garcia’s injury history is very ugly. He’s had Tommy John surgery (September 2008), rotator cuff surgery (May 2013), and surgery to treat Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (July 2014) among all sorts of other nagging issues. Garcia threw only 220.2 innings total from 2012-14 while with the Cardinals. (Weirdly, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak ripped Garcia in 2014 for having his Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery.)

The injury history is very scary but, to Garcia’s credit, he has been completely healthy since returning from the Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery in May 2015. He hasn’t missed a start since. That said, the best predictor of future injury is past injury, and Garcia has had several major arm problems and major arm surgeries in his career. Every pitcher is an injury risk. Garcia is much riskier than most given his injury history.

What Would It Take?

Garcia is a rental and I suppose the Braves could argue he’s a qualifying offer candidate likely to sign a free agent contract in excess of $50M, meaning they want something back equal or greater to the supplemental first round pick they would receive in the offseason. That seems like a real stretch though given his performance and injury history.

Mark Feinsand says a dozen teams have expressed interest in Garcia and that doesn’t surprise me. Pitching is always in demand and Garcia is solid enough despite the injury risk. Ground ball lefties are always a hot commodity. Here are some rental veteran starters who have been traded in recent years:

  • Ivan Nova: Traded for two top 20-30 organizational prospects (Tito Polo and Stephen Tarpley).
  • J.A. Happ: Traded for a top 15 organizational prospect (Adrian Sampson).
  • Dan Haren: Traded for two non-top 30 organizational prospects (Elliot Soto and Ivan Pineyro).
  • Mike Leake: Traded for an organizational top ten prospect (Keury Mella) and a young big leaguer (Adam Duvall).
  • Scott Kazmir: Traded for an organizational top ten prospect (Jacob Nottingham) and an organizational top 20-30 prospect (Daniel Mengden).

The Braves will presumably push for a Leake/Kazmir package while interested teams counter with a Haren package. Leake had a much longer track record of being a league average innings eater. Kazmir had an ugly injury history like Garcia, but also a much better recent performance. Nova and Happ were having terrible seasons at the time of their trades, and Haren was a veteran guy at the end of the line.

The Kazmir trade feels like the best benchmark to me even though he was lights out with the Athletics (2.38 ERA and 3.16 FIP in 109.2 innings) before being traded to the Astros. Kazmir was an injury risk then like Garcia is now, and both offered the potential for above-average performance. And maybe the Kazmir trade is a reason to stay away from Garcia. Kazmir had a 2.38 ERA (3.16 FIP) before the trade and a 4.17 ERA (5.19 FIP) after the trade.

Anyway, using the Kazmir trade as a benchmark, we’re talking about a top 10 and a top 30 prospect for Garcia. Not all farm systems are created equal, however. A top ten prospect in the Yankees system is at worst a borderline top 100 guy. The Astros had a very strong farm system at the time of the Kazmir trade, though it wasn’t as good as New York’s is now. A Yankees equivalent to Nottingham and Mengden is something like Billy McKinney and Ian Clarkin.

As unexciting as Garcia may be, I think there will be enough competition for him that the price gets driven up and the Braves wind up acquiring two pretty nice prospects for him. The Yankees have a lot of nice prospects. So many that they’re probably going to end up losing some for nothing in the Rule 5 Draft and on waivers through various other 40-man roster moves in the offseason. Turning some of those guys into a rental starter like Garcia seems worthwhile.

Does He Make Sense For The Yankees?

(Daniel Shirey/Getty)
(Daniel Shirey/Getty)

The Yankees have needed another starter pretty much all season even though there was really no way to squeeze another starter into the rotation. Michael Pineda‘s injury takes care of that. There’s an opening in the rotation and Garcia would a fine — albeit unexciting — stopgap. Ground ball heavy lefties will always have a place on the Yankees pitching staff thanks to the Yankee Stadium short porch.

The question is are the Yankees open to trading prospects for a rental when they’re slipping out of the race, or would they rather stick in-house with the kids? Bryan Mitchell started last night and Luis Cessa starts tonight. Brian Cashman said Chance Adams could get a shot at some point too. The thing is, those kids have workload limits, and pitching is one of those things you’d rather have too much of than not enough.

There’s also this: Garcia would be auditioning for a rotation spot next year. Aside from Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery, the Yankees have no idea what next season’s starting rotation will look like, and Garcia is one of those lower cost free agents they could target to fill out the rotation and stay under the luxury tax threshold. The trade would give the Yankees and their staff a chance to evaluate him up close. That’s not nothing.

For me, Garcia makes perfect sense for the Yankees. He shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to acquire, he wouldn’t tie up long-term roster or payroll space, and there’s at least a chance at excellence. You probably won’t get it, but Garcia has had some very good seasons in his career. In a 12-start sample, who knows what’ll happen? If the Yankees are going to go after a rental starter rather than a long-term piece like Sonny Gray, Garcia may be the best option.

The Yankees didn’t want to call Clint Frazier up, but now they have no choice but to keep him around

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Three weeks ago the Yankees were hit with a rash of injuries that saw Aaron Hicks (oblique), Starlin Castro (hamstring), Matt Holliday (illness), and Tyler Austin (hamstring) all placed on the 10-day DL within a four-day span. Four days! As a result, the Yankees had to dip deep into their farm system for help, and at one point they had three position player prospects make their MLB debuts on three consecutive days.

First up with Miguel Andujar, who went 3-for-4 with a double in his debut and was sent down the next day to continue working on his defense. Then came Tyler Wade, who drew a walk in his first plate appearance to spark a go-ahead rally (before a bullpen meltdown). Up next was Dustin Fowler, who blew out his knee in the first inning of his first game crashing into a wall in foul territory. It was awful. I feel terrible for the kid.

It wasn’t until a few days later that the Yankees called up Clint Frazier, their top outfield prospect, and they did that only because they were essentially out of options. They’d already called up everyone who could have been called up. So it was Frazier’s turn, and in his first game he had a double and a home run. He’s since added two more home runs, including a walk-off blast against All-Star closer Corey Knebel the weekend before last.

When the Yankees first acquired Frazier last year Brian Cashman said he has “legendary” bat speed and holy smokes have we seen it these last few weeks. Watch the video above. Look at that swing. Sunday night he turned around a 98.5 mph fastball from Craig Kimbrel and ripped it 380 feet like it was nothing. It was a fly out because he hit it to the wrong part of the ballpark, but still. We’ve yet to see Frazier be overmatched by velocity. He’s been on everything.

So far the 22-year-old Frazier is hitting .308/.317/.718 (162 wRC+) in 41 plate appearances with the Yankees, and while he’s not getting on base a ton, his track record suggests the walks will come. Frazier has shown a lightening quick bat, fine range in the outfield, and sneaky good speed. Last night he turned two hard-hit singles into hustle doubles. It was awesome. The kid’s done a little of everything.

Before his call-up we heard a lot about Fowler being more big league ready than Frazier, and that very well may have been true. Frazier clearly was not the team’s first call-up choice following all those injuries. He wasn’t their first, second, or third choice. They went with Andujar, Wade, and Fowler before turning to Frazier, and even then it was only because there was no one else to call up. It sure seems like the Yankees would have preferred to keep him down a little longer.

Since coming up Frazier has made some slight adjustments at the plate and calmed down his lower half. He has funky hitting mechanics in which he thrusts forward and lifts his back leg off the ground. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Frank Thomas hit like that and he was a deserving first ballot Hall of Famer. Frazier was getting a little out of control though, and already he’s made an adjustment to tighten things up early in his MLB career.

“I wasn’t gathering my weight on my backside well,” said Frazier to Brendan Kuty recently. “I was coming off of it really quick and kind of lunging at the pitcher rather than sitting on the backside and swinging from my backside. A great guy to watch is Judge. He does a really good job of keeping his weight on his backside. That’s why he hits the ball the way he does. So I’ll take a note out of his book and apply it to mine.”

So far Frazier has given the Yankees a nice lift with timely home runs and extra-base hits — he has four singles and eight extra-base hits so far (three doubles, two triples, three homers) — plus he definitely brings a fun youthful energy to the team. The Yankees have struggled overall the last month or so, but they’re still fun. Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez at-bats are must-see television, as are Luis Severino starts and Didi Gregorius defensive plays.

Frazier adds to that. He’s fun, he’s showing a ton of promise at the plate, and he’s helping in the field too. He’s also already made a key adjustment with his lower half. Frazier’s not a nobody. This isn’t some random minor leaguer coming up and having two good weeks. He’s a former fifth overall pick and highly ranked prospect. Over the last few weeks we’ve seen the tools that give him a chance to be an impact player down the line. Heck, he’s playing like one right now.

The Yankees didn’t want to call Frazier up when they did. I know this because they called up three other prospects before him. The opportunity came though and Frazier has impressed. The Yankees have a clogged up outfield as it is and I have no idea how they’ll squeeze Frazier in with Judge, Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and a healthy Hicks when the time comes. All I know is Frazier is a big part of the future, and when a player with his talent has some success at the MLB level, the Yankees owe it to themselves to give him a longer look.

Yankees rally from behind against Twins, lose 4-2 anyway

What a garbage game. Many losses are just losses. They happen. That one felt like a game the Yankees gave away. Gave away with mistakes and gave away with poor decisions. The final score was 4-2 Twins. The Yankees are 9-21 in their last 30 games and their lead for the second wildcard spot is a half-game.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Mitchell Gets Through Five
All things considered, not a bad spot start for Bryan Mitchell. He got through five innings and allowed only two runs (one earned) on six hits and two walks. The first run gave the Twins a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Mitchell walked Kennys Vargas and Eddie Rosario split the gap with a double. It’s a big outfield at Target Field and everyone can run on Jacoby Ellsbury‘s arm, so Vargas was able to chug all the way around to score from first.

The second run scored on Mitchell’s own error in the third inning. The Twins loaded the bases with no outs on two singles (Brian Dozier and Zack Granite) and a walk (Joe Mauer), which brought Miguel Sano to the plate. Not ideal. Sano hit a line drive at Aaron Judge, the guy who beat him in the Home Run Derby, and Judge threw Dozier out at the plate for the double play. Here’s the video:

Statcast measured that throw at 97.7 mph and there’s no way Judge put all he had into it. That throw was at what, maybe 60% effort? It almost looked like Judge was surprised Dozier decided to go home, so he reacted and flipped it in. Flipped it in at 97.7 mph. Judge is in his first extended slump of the season but he’s still doing some mighty fine things in the field. The big man is still doing what he can to help win games.

Anyway, the double play gave Mitchell a chance to escape that bases loaded, no outs jam unscathed, and he got the ground ball from Max Kepler. First baseman Garrett Cooper flipped it to Mitchell at first base with plenty of time to spare and … Mitchell dropped it. He just dropped it. Clanked right off his glove. That would have been the final out. Instead, a run scored. Sigh. The Yankees have been making too many careless mistakes like that lately. Mitchell was fine otherwise.

Coop There It Is
So Cooper seems to be finding his way at the big league level. The new first baseman went 3-for-4 with two doubles Monday night. The first double came with two outs in the fifth inning and Austin Romine followed it up with a double of his own, getting the Yankees on the board and cutting the deficit to 2-1. The second double came in the seventh inning. Chase Headley doubled as the previous batter, so he crossed the plate to tie the game 2-2.

Nice game by Cooper. Not by the rest of the offense. The game was lost when the Yankees wasted leadoff hustle doubles from Clint Frazier in the sixth and eighth innings. Those were two prime run scoring opportunities and the Yankees could not capitalize. Frazier doubled to start the sixth, got to third with one out on Judge’s long fly ball, then was stranded there when Matt Holliday hit a grounder at shortstop Ehire Adrianza and Starlin Castro struck out. Adrianza made a great play on Holliday’s hard-hit grounder.

The eighth inning was as annoying as it gets. Frazier really hustled that single into a double — that kid plays the game with the dial turned to eleven at all times, how can you not love it? — and the Twins intentionally walked Judge to set up the double play, which Holliday provided. In a 3-1 count no less. He got the 3-1 fastball from lefty Taylor Rogers and hit it right to the shortstop. An intentional walk to Castro followed, then Didi Gregorius ended the inning by bunting the ball here …

didi-gregorius-bunt

… and getting thrown out at first. I don’t know what to say. Gregorius said he tried to bunt for a hit because he noticed Sano was back at third. Good idea if it works. It didn’t come close to working. Can the Yankees just swing the bat please? Whenever a team struggles they start trying weird crap like bunts and squeeze plays and all that, and it only exacerbates the problem. They’re not bunting their way out of this month-long slump. Swing the bat. That was New York’s last chance to get on the board.

Hunt Out To Dry
Welcome to the big leagues Caleb Smith. He retired the first six batters he faced, three with strikeouts and three with ground balls. His fastball averaged 93.7 mph and topped out at 97.1 mph. Pretty nice velocity from the left side, though I’m sure there was some adrenaline behind those heaters. Smith has been mostly 92-95 mph down in Triple-A this year, not touching 97 mph.

Anyway, with the score tied 2-2, Joe Girardi sent Smith back out for the eighth inning, and he just left him out there. Mauer and Sano singled to start the frame, and after Smith fanned Kepler, pinch-hitter Eduardo Escobar came through with a go-ahead single to right. I can kinda sorta understand leaving the left-handed Smith in to face the left-handed Kepler, but after that? Eh.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Smith remained in the game and allowed a double Rosario to plate an insurance run, giving the Twins a 4-2. And Smith continued to stay in the game. Girardi left him in to finish the inning. No one warmed at all. Girardi said afterward he was planning to bring in Adam Warren had the Yankees taken the lead following Frazier’s leadoff double in the eighth, so it’s not like no one else was available.

I’m not the only who realizes that, in the late innings, a tie game is more a dire situation than having the lead, right? Please tell me I’m not alone. You have a cushion with a lead. There’s no such cushion in a tie game. You’d think you’d want to use your best relievers with the score tied, but no, they were being saved for a lead. I can’t. I can’t anymore. This very much felt like a “lose the battle, win the war” game, which would be fine if the Yankees weren’t losing the war too. All those lost battles add up.

Leftovers
Two doubles for Frazier, two doubles and a single for Cooper, and three hits total for the rest of the Yankees. Holliday had a single and Headley and Romine had doubles. Six doubles and two runs is hard to do. In fact, I looked it up. First time all season a team had at least six doubles and scored no more than two runs in a nine-inning game. The last team to do it was the Royals in September 2014. True story. The Royals went to the World Series that year. Good sign?

And finally … I guess that’s it? Not much to add here. Clean it up, guys. Too many sloppy mistakes lately.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has both the box score and updated standings, and MLB.com has the video highlights. We have a Bullpen Workload page. Here is the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
This three-game series continues Tuesday night with the middle game. Luis Cessa and Bartolo Colon will be starting that one. Colon is making his first start with the Twins after being released by the Braves a few weeks back.

DotF: Rutherford’s hit streak ends as Charleston gets no-hit

A few links and notes to get us started:

  • C Kyle Higashioka (back) is not close to returning, Triple-A Scranton manager Al Pedrique told Conor Foley. That’s not great. Higashioka is the No. 3 catcher. I guess that means veteran C Eddy Rodriguez is the third option for the time being.
  • UTIL Billy Fleming and 1B Brandon Wagner were named the Offensive Players of the Week in the Double-A Eastern League and Low-A South Atlantic League. Fleming has four homers in his last five games and five homers in his last eight games. Who knew?
  • C Saul Torres made today’s Monday Morning Ten Pack at Baseball Prospectus. His blurb is above the paywall, so check that out. “He has an athletic comfort behind home plate, demonstrating soft hands and the ability to block breakers in the dirt, moving easily … He puts on a good BP with plus raw power … there is a lot to work with here,” said the write-up.

Triple-A Scranton was rained out. They’re going to play a doubleheader tomorrow.

Double-A Trenton (4-3 win over Portland)

  • SS Jorge Mateo: 1-5, 1 2B, 1 E (throwing)
  • CF Tito Polo: 0-4, 2 K
  • 2B Thairo Estrada: 2-5, 1 R, 1 K — this dude just doesn’t stop hitting
  • RF Rashad Crawford: 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
  • RHP Yefry Ramirez: 4.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 HB, 5/1 GB/FB — 62 of 97 pitches were strikes (64%) … been struggling the last few times out … he’s on the 40-man roster bubble and I wonder if he’ll make it through the season if the Yankees need more space
  • RHP Branden Pinder: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 0 K, 1/0 GB/FB — only 16 of 35 pitches were strikes (46%) … hopefully this is just a blip, but whenever a dude comes back from Tommy John surgery and struggles to throw strikes, you always worry a bit

[Read more…]

Game 91: Spot Starter

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Tonight is day four of an eleven games in ten days road trip through three different time zones. Not the most fun way to begin the second half, huh? The Yankees managed to split four games with the Red Sox over the weekend, which is fine but also kinda disappointing because they blew a ninth inning lead in the first game. Tonight they open a three-game set with the Twins, one of the teams chasing them for a wildcard spot.

Thanks to Saturday’s marathon game and Sunday’s doubleheader (and Michael Pineda‘s injury), the Yankees have to turn to spot starter Bryan Mitchell tonight. He was excellent in his last Triple-A start (7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 3 K) plus he picked up a three-inning save in his last big league appearance, so maybe he’s figuring some things out. If not, well, the offense is going to have to pick him up. This is a pretty important series. It would be nice to start with a win. Here is the Twins’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Clint Frazier
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. 1B Garrett Cooper
  9. C Austin Romine
    RHP Bryan Mitchell

It is a lovely night for baseball in the Twin Cities. Clear skies with temperatures in the mid-80s. Tonight’s series opener will begin at 8:10pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: In case you missed it earlier, both Pineda and Greg Bird will have surgery tomorrow. Pineda is having Tommy Pineda surgery after getting a second opinion today, and Bird will have ankle surgery after seeing yet another specialist. Sucks. Bird could return in September.

Roster Move: The Yankees returned Domingo German to Triple-A Scranton following yesterday’s doubleheader, the team announced. Mitchell was technically the 26th man for the doubleheader, but he remains on the roster and German goes back down. Caleb Smith is still around as a long man.

Protest Update: Remember that weird play Saturday when Holliday slid back into first base on a potential 3-6-3 double play? Here’s the play if you don’t. The Red Sox protested the game over that play, and earlier today MLB announced the protest has been denied. No surprise there. The play had no impact on the final outcome of the game and the interference rule is too (intentionally) vague to say Holliday clearly broke the rule. Red Sox skipper John Farrell said he went forward with the protest because he doesn’t want the Yankees to try that again. Hah.

Update: Michael Pineda will have Tommy John surgery

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Monday: Pineda will indeed have Tommy John surgery, the Yankees announced. He was examined today by Reds team doctor Dr. Timothy Kremchek, who agreed with the initial diagnosis and recommended surgery. Pineda will go under the knife tomorrow. Kremchek will perform the procedure in Cincinnati.

Friday: The rotation situation just got a little more dire. Brian Cashman announced this morning that Michael Pineda has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow and Tommy John surgery has been recommended. He is going for a second opinion, which every pitcher does in this situation. Either way, Pineda’s season figures to be over.

This is the second straight year the Yankees have lost a starting pitcher to a blown out elbow in the second half. Last year Nathan Eovaldi shredded his elbow in August and needed his second career Tommy John surgery. I suppose the silver lining here is the timing. The Yankees still have time to act before the trade deadline. They didn’t with Eovaldi.

Pineda, 28, started his Yankees career with a major injury (shoulder surgery) and seems likely to end it with another major injury (Tommy John surgery). He is due to become a free agent after the season and the timing of this injury is just terrible for him. It’s going to cost him millions. He’s looking at a short-term “rehab and prove yourself” deal now.

Since coming over from the Mariners, Pineda has thrown 509 innings with a 4.16 ERA (3.65 FIP) for the Yankees. That includes a 4.39 ERA (4.65 FIP) in 96.1 innings this season. The Yankees came out ahead in the trade because Jesus Montero was so awful for Seattle, though Pineda never did become the top of the rotation force they envisioned.

As for the rotation going forward, Cashman said Luis Cessa will make a start next week and Chance Adams is an option as well. I imagine pitching well in Sunday’s doubleheader would buy Bryan Mitchell another shot too. Pineda hasn’t been great, but losing pitching is never good. I feel terrible for the guy considering the timing too. We’ll always have those strike ’em outs, Big Mike.