Guest Post: Adam Warren: The Once and Future Yankee

The following is a guest post from longtime reader Tarik Shah, who wrote about new old Yankee Adam Warren. Tarik previously wrote a guest post about the Yankee fandom in his family.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Ever since the departure of Robinson Cano to the Pacific Northwest, the Yankees have gotten cute trying to fill the gaping hole in their middle infield. First, in 2014, the ghost of Brian Roberts was given a shot, which predictably required the Yankees to acquire Martin Prado midseason. Prado performed admirably (147 wRC+ in 37 games), but it was not to be, as he was included in the trade that brought Nathan Eovaldi to the Bronx.

The 2015 season brought the great Stephen Drew experiment. The experiment, I believe, wasn’t to discover whether Stephen Drew could be a capable second baseman, but whether he could consistently hit a home run at the exact moment when the front office, coaches, and fans had exhausted their patience with his subpar play, thereby securing more playing time. By that metric at least, the experiment was a success.

Ultimately, this past offseason Brian Cashman made a risky move in acquiring the talented but enigmatic Starlin Castro from the Cubs. The new Yankee second baseman’s play thus far has been uninspiring. Castro accumulated 0.2 fWAR through his first 96 games. For reference, the much pilloried Stephen Drew accumulated 0.2 fWAR in 132 games. Of course, the cost to acquire this thus far unimpressive infielder is the subject of today’s article, Adam Warren. As has been widely reported, Mr. Warren is set to return to the Bronx as part of the trade that will send Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs.

When Warren was traded away, many fans were concerned as Warren had pitched well as a Yankee (2015: 3.29 ERA/3.59 FIP/3.89 xFIP in 131.1 IP). In particular, he occupied the often referenced, but rarely filled, Ramiro Mendoza slot. Such a player would be valuable to a team that had trouble in the back-end of its bullpen and rotation, so when the back-end of the Yankees bullpen and rotation stumbled, Warren’s loss was acutely felt.

However, casual fans, or those who only follow the Bombers, might be surprised to find out that Adam Warren has not performed well this year. In fact, his performance had been so poor, the Cubs recently demoted him to AAA (2016: 5.91 ERA/5.83 FIP/5.23 xFIP in 35 IP).

K% BB% HR/9
2015 19.5 7.3 0.69
2016 17.8 12.5 1.80

Giving up more walks, hits, home runs, and striking out fewer batters is no recipe for success. So what has changed for Warren, and what might he be able to tweak upon return to Yankee Stadium? The first thing that jumps out at you when looking at his batted ball profile is that he’s giving up more fly balls, and of those, more are going for home runs. The league average HR/FB is around 10%, so hopefully Warren can benefit from some regression to the mean. Even so, Warren’s xFIP sits at 5.23, which is not that far off from his 5.83 FIP. So, regression there will only help so much.

LD% GB% FB% HR/FB%
2015 22.8 45.2 32.0 8.3
2016 16.3 43.3 40.4 16.7

Warren has also not been as proficient at stranding runners this year, as he has throughout his career. His LOB% this year sits at 64.7% whereas it’s 75.8% for his career. Perhaps this too is an area where Warren can benefit from some regression.

As far as his pitch selection is concerned, so far in 2016 it seems that the only thing that Warren has changed is that he’s scaled back on sliders and curveballs, while going to his changeup more often. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help us explain why Warren has been struggling, as his change up has actually been worth 2.47 runs per 100 pitches.

FB% SL% CB% CH%
2015 44.8 29.0 11.1 15.1
2016 44.9 25.5 7.5 22.1
Career 45.5 27.3 10.3 16.9

Has the velocity of his pitches decreased or changed significantly? It seems not. In fact, if you were to look at any number of Warren’s metrics you’d find that there has not been much of difference between what he did last year, and what he’s done this year, save for the results.

FB (MPH) SL CB CH
2015 92.5 87.2 79.4 84.3
2016 92.8 87.4 79.9 84.5

Unfortunately, this comes to an incredibly foreseeable and unsatisfying ending. Adam Warren has thrown 35 poor innings this year, not a very significant sample size. Reliever performance is volatile and subject to the effects of small sample sizes.

As far as can be told from the information available, Adam Warren the Cub is not much different from Adam Warren the Yankee, and yet, Adam Warren the Cub has not performed well. Brian Cashman knows this, and is hoping that with a little help from the cruel goddess of reliever volatility, Adam Warren can once again pitch like the Yankees version of Adam Warren.

Thoughts following the Aroldis Chapman trade

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Yesterday was a pretty big day in Yankeeland. The Yankees swung a significant trade with the Cubs, one that sends a proven big leaguer (Aroldis Chapman) to Chicago for a lesser big leaguer (Adam Warren) and three prospects (Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney, Rashad Crawford). It’s not often you see the Yankees on the “seller” side of a major trade like that. Anyway, I have some thoughts about this blockbuster.

1. This trade had to happen. Had to. Chapman was far too valuable to not cash in as a trade chip, not with the Yankees only hanging on the fringes of a postseason race and him scheduled to become a free agent after the season. The Yankees held on to Robinson Cano and David Robertson in similar situations a few years back and I have no doubt they regret those decisions. The could have traded those two for quite a bit back then. Yes, the Yankees could have gotten a draft pick for Chapman after the season, but, as the trade shows, he was worth much more than that. Keeping Aroldis would have been a pretty major mistake. I’m glad the Yankees came to their senses and traded him.

2. I feel it’s impossible to evaluate this trade without looking at the big picture, meaning the trade that initially brought Chapman to the Yankees. This was a fantasy baseball move. The Yankees bought super low on Chapman over the winter and they sold high on him at the trade deadline. What more could you want? It was a perfect baseball move. Of course, the circumstances behind Chapman being so cheap in the offseason are scummy as hell, and I still think it’s pretty gross the Yankees used something as serious as domestic violence as a way to get ahead on the field. From a pure baseball only perspective, this deal is as good as it gets. The Yankees played this perfectly.

3. I was sorta disheartened when I read Hal Steinbrenner only gave the green light to trade Chapman after Aroldis declined to discuss a contract extension a few weeks ago. (Many reporters confirmed that yesterday.) Plan A was give this guy gobs of money and hope to win with him. The Yankees had to fall back on Plan B, which was trade him for a big package of prospects and improve the outlook for the future. Eh. I feel like Plan B should have been Plan A and Plan A should have been Plan B. Oh well. At least Chapman is apparently dead set on testing free agency — can you blame him? I sure can’t — and thus pushed the Yankees to trade him for young talent. They need that.

4. Given the haul Chapman brought, I can’t imagine what two and a half years of Andrew Miller or three and a half years of Dellin Betances would bring back in a trade. All the prospects. They’d fetch all the prospects. The Yankees have to listen to offers for those two between now and the deadline, and I’m confident they will. They’d be stupid not to listen in this insane market, with relievers like Chapman and Craig Kimbrel and Ken Giles getting traded for multiple top prospects. Trading these guys is a bit of a double-edged sword though, because yeah, trading them would net a lot of good young players, but it would always cost a ton to replace them. Chapman’s status as an impending free agent made him much easier to trade. Miller and Betances are still locked in for a few more years, so someone is going to have to blow the Yankees away with an offer to pry them lose. And considering the reliever trades we’ve seen recently, someone just might do that.

5. The Yankees pretty clearly went after the best possible package of talent and didn’t look to satisfy specific needs. Once Kyle Schwarber was off the table, they were reportedly left to pick between Torres and outfield prospect Eloy Jimenez, and they took Torres even though they already have a ton of shortstops in the system, including a pretty good one at the same level as Gleyber (Jorge Mateo). Torres was the best available player, so they took him. McKinney was likely the best secondary prospect available despite his down year, so they took him. This is what I was hoping the Yankees would do. Just get the best talent and sort it out later. Chapman was too valuable to try to get cute and fill specific needs, say a controllable starting pitcher or third baseman.

Gleyber. (Larry Kave/Myrtle Beach Pelicans)
Gleyber. (Larry Kave/Myrtle Beach Pelicans)

6. Speaking of all those shortstops, the Yankees are smart to stockpile them. Shortstops are generally the most athletic players and therefore most capable of changing positions. We’ve seen shortstops like Manny Machado, Javier Baez, and Jurickson Profar move to different positions almost seamlessly in recent years. Heck, Starlin Castro did it last year. We watched shortstop prospect Alex Bregman play a mean third base for the Astros last night. High-upside shortstops are most easily moved around and they’re always in demand. Always. The Yankees have a glut of them now with Torres, Mateo, Tyler Wade, Wilkerman Garcia, Abi Avelino, Thairo Estrada, Kyle Holder, Hoy Jun Park, Diego Castillo, and more. Oh, and that Didi Gregorius guy is pretty cool too. That’s some serious depth at a crucial position.

7. Right now I’m thinking Torres is the third best prospect in the system behind Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, though I will admit I don’t know a ton of the guy. (Here’s my most recent top 30 list.) I actually know more about McKinney because I’ve been following him since his draft year. Anyway, it boils down to this: all indications are Torres has a significant ceiling, but so do Judge and Sanchez, and they’re doing it in Triple-A. Those two could play in MLB tomorrow if the Yankees needed the help. (Well, Judge could after he gets healthy, but you know what I mean.) As talented as Torres is, he’s still a 19-year-old kid in High-A ball. You have to be pretty convinced that he’ll be an impact player to rank him ahead of Judge and Sanchez in my opinion.

8. The two biggest trades so far this year are the Chapman and Drew Pomeranz deals, and both times the headliner going the other way was a teenager in Single-A. The Yankees got Torres for Chapman, and Pomeranz fetched 18-year-old pitching prospect Anderson Espinosa. That’s pretty interesting. Fans look at the top prospect lists and scream “overpay!” when prospect No. X is traded, but teams very obviously do not see it that way. An awful lot can go wrong with teenagers in Single-A, and I suspect that’s why the Yankees wanted more than just Torres in return for Chapman. I thought Torres for Chapman straight up would have been a pretty great deal based on the Andrew Miller trade two years ago, but Miller was traded for a 21-year-old in Double-A. Both Torres and Eduardo Rodriguez were highly touted prospects, but Torres carries more risk as a teenager, hence the additional pieces. Long story short, not all top prospects are created equal. Teams appear to be more willing to trade the riskier guys in the low minors nowadays.

9. Chapman the pitcher was pretty amazing to watch. He was as advertised, meaning a dominant end-game force who had you checking the radar gun after each pitch. (His fastest pitch as a Yankee: 105.85 mph.) Was Chapman the most efficient pitcher? Nah. He had a tendency to run deep counts (4.40 pitches per plate appearance!) and go to three-ball counts even though his walk rate was fine (6.7%). Whatever. He was dominant. I think I was most impressed by Chapman’s resiliency. The guy never seemed to be fatigued. We saw him pitch multiple innings and back-to-back-to-back days, things like that, and he was still out there chucking 100+ mph with each and every pitch. It was impressive. Miller and Betances are awesome. No doubt about it. Chapman’s something else though. He’s a spectacle and one of the most entertaining players I’ve ever seen. That was a fun 30-something innings.

10. I am irrationally excited about Warren coming back. I’ve made it no secret that he’s a personal favorite, and yes I know he stunk this year with the Cubs (5.91 ERA and 5.83 FIP). I choose to blame that on inconsistent usage and Joe Maddon’s zaniness until further notice. Hopefully coming back to the Yankees and getting with pitching coach Larry Rothschild gets Warren back on track soon. He’s a pretty darn good pitcher when right, and I assume he’ll be comfortable in pinstripes. It’s home. I didn’t love the decision to trade Warren for Castro but I understood it. I’m glad the Yankees got a mulligan on that trade and Warren is back.

McKinney. (Chicago Cubs Online)
McKinney. (Chicago Cubs Online)

11. Getting McKinney as the second prospect was a nice little move. He has not had a good year at all (.252/.355/.322 in Double-A) and he is coming back from a hairline fracture in his knee, so his stock is down. That’s why the Yankees were able to get him as the second piece. Healthy and productive McKinney is a top 100 prospect. Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked him as the 69th best prospect in baseball coming into this season. Not last season. This season. Clearly the Yankees are hoping to get McKinney healthy and back to where he was a year ago, when he hit .300/.371/.454 (135 wRC+) between High-A and Double-A. Torres is definitely the headliner and the Yankees did well to get him. McKinney’s not an insignificant second piece despite his poor numbers this season.

12. As for the Cubs, this move is all about the postseason. They’ve got the best record in baseball and a comfortable seven-game lead in the NL Central. The Cubbies didn’t make this move with the next two months in mind. This trade is about the third month. They want to shorten the game in the postseason, when built-in off-days will allow them to use Chapman and erstwhile closer Hector Rondon pretty much every single game. I’ll be the dummy who says Chicago’s World Series window won’t be open as long as most seem to believe — Jake Arrieta is a free agent next year, John Lackey is closing in on 40, and Jon Lester will enter his CC Sabathia phase soon — so going all-in now makes sense. Realistically, when will the Cubs have a better chance to win a title than this year? Good for them for not resting on their laurels, and going out and getting a difference maker.

13. All that said, I saw more than a few Cubs fans yesterday say they are upset about the team adding Chapman after his domestic violence incident. I know a lot of people don’t care about that, but many do, and it takes away from their enjoyment of the game. As much fun as he was to watch, I didn’t particularly enjoy rooting for Chapman or having him on the Yankees. That’s just how a I felt. You’re welcome to disagree. The Cubs have a super fun and super likeable team, and they have a chance to do something special this year. The addition of Chapman is going to take away some of that fun and likeability for more than a few fans though, and that’s a shame.

Yankees finally beat Keuchel in 2-1 series-opening win over Astros

For the first time in 2016, the Yankees are three games over .500. Monday night’s 2-1 win over the Astros improved the Yankees to 51-48 on the season. They’ve won ten of their last 14 games, all against the Indians, Red Sox, Orioles, Giants, and Astros. Those are pretty good teams!

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Seven Strong For Pineda
Michael Pineda put the Yankees in a 1-0 hole one pitch into his start. The Yankees went down quickly 1-2-3 in the top of the first, then George Springer smacked Pineda’s very first pitch of the bottom half over the right field wall for a solo homer. That was … stinky. Not the best start to the inning or the game. It immediately felt like it was going to be one of those Pineda starts, you know?

To Big Mike’s credit, he calmed right down and gave the Yankees seven strong innings. His biggest jam, by far, came in the sixth inning, when Jose Altuve beat out an infield single and both Carlos Correa and Luis Valbuena drew walks, all with two outs. Pineda retired 17 of 19 batters between the Springer homer and Altuve infield single, including seven on strikeouts. His slider was really, really sharp in the middle innings.

Pineda managed to escape that bases loaded jam in the sixth when rookie Alex Bergman hit a baseball here:

Aaron Hicks

Aaron Hicks went all Ichiro on everyone and played that fly ball like it was a grand slam ten rows up before settling under the ball and making the routine catch on the warning track. That didn’t look good off the bat and Hicks didn’t make it any better with the little fake out. I’m guessing Astros fans are more annoyed about that than Yankees fans.

Pineda finished the night having allowed just that one run on five hits and two walks in seven innings. He struck out eight and got a ridiculous 19 swings and misses out of 103 total pitches. That includes 14 swings and misses on his slider alone. Last time out Pineda generated 18 whiffs with his slider, the most in MLB this season by any pitcher. Not too shabby. Pineda’s got a 3.30 ERA in his last ten starts, you know.

The Bottom of the Order Comes Through
You’ll be surprised to learn Dallas Keuchel dominated the Yankees pretty much all night. Up until the top of the eighth, basically. He retired 13 of the first 14 batters he faced before Didi Gregorius knocked a two-out double into the right-center field gap with two outs in the fourth. Chase Headley made it count with a two-out bloop single to score Gregorius and knot the game up at 1-1.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Three innings after that, the Yankees finally got to Keuchel again, when he was clearly running out of gas and starting to leave some pitches up. Headley poked a single through the right side to open that eighth inning, then Austin Romine came through with a booming double over Carlos Gomez’s head in center field. The ball just kept carrying and carrying and carrying. I thought Gomez was going to catch it with ease off the bat, but nope.

That was pretty much all the Yankees could muster against Keuchel. A run in the fifth, a run in the eighth, and two other baserunners. That’s it. They wasted Carlos Beltran‘s leadoff double in the fourth and a Beltran single/Ronald Torreyes stolen base combo leading off the ninth. The Yankees have won seven of their last nine games and they’ve scored three or fewer runs in four of those seven wins. Hooray pitching! Boo offense!

Save: Miller
With Aroldis Chapman now a Cub, the Yankees are back to using Dellin Betances in the eighth and Andrew Miller in the ninth. It feels right, you know? Betances struck out the side in the eighth, but Miller had an interesting ninth, and it wasn’t necessarily his fault. He did allow a leadoff bloop single to Valbuena, but a quick strikeout of Bregman followed, then Evan Gattis banged into what looked like a game-ending double play. The Yankees instead got no outs.

Starlin Castro, who had brutal game on both sides of the ball, stepped off second a moment too soon when turning the double play. Gattis beat out the return throw, so instead of the game being over, the Astros had runners at first and second with one out. Not good! Thankfully Gomez banged into an inning-ending double play as the next batter. This time Starlin stayed on the base to complete the play. That is Miller’s eighth save of the season and his seventh as the designated closer.

Andy was at the park Monday. (Bob Levey/Getty)
Andy was at the park Monday. (Bob Levey/Getty)

Leftovers
Like I said, Castro had a brutal game. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts at the plate, and the one time he did put the ball in play, he failed to advance the runner from second to third with one out in the ninth. Starlin also botched Gattis’ potential double play. The other day Castro had maybe his best game of the season on both sides of the ball. This was one of his worst.

The Yankees had seven hits: two each by Beltran, Headley, and Romine, and one by Gregorius. They drew zero walks for the ninth time this season after doing it eight times all of last year. Part of that is Keuchel pounding the strike zone all night, but yeah, the lack of discipline has been noticeable this season.

And finally, Pineda took a line drive to what looked like his chest in the third inning. He make the play and stayed in the game with no problems. Pineda’s a big strong guy. One little line drive ain’t nothing.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for the box score and up to the minute standings. MLB.com has the video highlights. We have Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages available as well. Here’s the ol’ graph of win probability:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Astros will play the middle game of this three-game series Tuesday night. Veterans CC Sabathia and Doug Fister will be on the mound for that one.

DotF: A loss at every level on a rainy night in the minors

Here are the day’s notes:

  • Baseball America provided free scouting reports for all players involved in today’s Aroldis Chapman trade, so don’t miss that. It’s not behind the paywall.
  • RHP Vicente Campos has been promoted to Triple-A Scranton, reports Shane Hennigan. He’s replacing RHP Luis Severino, who was called up to take Chapman’s spot on the roster.
  • Also, RHP Conor Mullee was in the Scranton clubhouse today, according to Hennigan. Mullee is on the MLB DL with a hand injury and this might indicate he’s close to starting a rehab assignment.
  • RHP Will Carter has been bumped up to Double-A Trenton, according to Nick Flammia. Carter’s promotion is part of the Chapman-Severino-Campos chain reaction.
  • LHP James Reeves and RHP Chad Martin were named the Pitchers of the Week in the High-A Florida State League and Rookie Appalachian League, so congrats to them.

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

Double-A Trenton (5-2 loss to Portland in seven innings) completed early due to rain

  • SS Tyler Wade & 3B Miguel Andujar: both 0-2 — Wade drew a walk and committed a fielding error
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 0-3, 1 RBI
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 0-3, 2 K — in an 8-for-40 (.200) rut
  • RHP Will Carter: 5 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HB, 8/3 GB/FB — 55 of 85 pitches were strikes (65%) … Double-A debut for last year’s 14th rounder … he is the team’s second 2015 draftee to reach Double-A behind RHP Chance Adams

[Read more…]

Game 99: After Aroldis

(Elsa/Getty)
It was a good run, Aroldis. (Elsa/Getty)

This afternoon the Yankees made their biggest and most important trade in quite a while. Since … the Curtis Granderson deal? That might be it. The Yankees shipped Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for Adam Warren and three prospects, and the trade indicates the team has finally stopped obsessing over the present and is beginning to prioritize the future. That’s pretty big.

Tonight’s game is the first without Chapman — Warren is not in town yet either — and you can be sure the Yankees want to keep this recent hot streak going. They’ve won nine of their last 14 games and are kinda sorta maybe possibly inching their way up the wildcard standings. The Chapman trade that turned the season around? That would be pretty cool. Here is the Astros’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Rob Refsnyder
  3. DH Carlos Beltran
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. 1B Mark Teixeira
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. RF Aaron Hicks
    RHP Michael Pineda

It seems the Yankees went to Houston to escape the heat and humidity in New York. It’s actually been raining in Houston much of the day, but it’s supposed to be clear tonight. Minute Maid Park has a retractable roof anyway, so the rain doesn’t matter. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 8:10pm ET and you can watch on WPIX. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: Luis Severino‘s back. He was called up today to take Chapman’s place on the roster, the Yankees announced. I’m guessing Severino is going right back to Triple-A whenever Adam Warren arrives, which could be as soon as tomorrow. (He has three days to report.)

2016 Trade Deadline Rumors Open Thread: Monday

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The 2016 non-waiver trade deadline is exactly one week away, and for the first time since they traded away Rickey Henderson and Mike Pagliarulo in 1989, the Yankees have to seriously consider selling this year. They’re 4.5 games out of a wildcard spot with three teams ahead of them, and, more importantly, at no point this season have the Yankees looked capable of making the kind of extended run it’ll take to get back into the race.

Over the weekend learned the Yankees are inching closer to trading Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for top prospect Gleyber Torres and a second piece. That could happen as soon as today. Our Scouting the Market: Cubs post will tell you everything you need to know about Torres and various other Cubs prospects. Several other teams were in the mix for Chapman as well, and I suppose someone could sneak in at the last minute and make a big offer. We’ll see. We’re going to keep track of the day’s trade rumors right here, so make sure you check back often. All time stamps are ET.

  • 10:15am: The Yankees are expected to receive Torres, ex-Yankee Adam Warren, and likely two others (!) for Chapman if the trade is completed. Jorge Soler and Jeimer Candelario are not in the deal. It’s still a 4-for-1 trade and, uh, wow. [Joel Sherman, Ken Rosenthal]
  • 10:15am: The Yankees “internally debated” Torres or Eloy Jimenez as the center piece of the trade. They’re opting for the potential up-the-middle impact player over the corner outfield bat. For what it’s worth, Torres is the higher-ranked prospect too. [Sherman]
  • 10:15am: The Yankees have discussed shortstop prospect Yu-Cheng Chang in trade talks with the Indians. Chang is Cleveland’s No. 12, per MLB.com. The 20-year-old is hitting .275/.345/.494 (128 wRC+) with eleven homers and nine steals in 87 High-A games this year. [Buster Olney]
  • 10:15am: Once the Yankees wrap up the Chapman trade, they’re expected to continue sifting through trade offers for Andrew Miller. It’s not a guarantee they’ll move him. They’re going to do their due diligence and see what teams put on the table. [Olney]
  • 10:15am: The Giants are getting “radio silence” from the Yankees with regards to their relievers. We heard a few days ago that the Yankees don’t consider San Francisco a good trade match because they’re short on high-end prospects. [Hank Schulman]
  • 11:05am: One of the other two pieces in the Chapman trade is outfield prospect Billy McKinney. He was a first rounder in 2013 and I remember the Yankees being connected to him prior to the draft. McKinney went to the Cubs in the Jeff Samardzija/Addison Russell trade. [Sahadev Sharma]
  • 11:29am: The Yankees have been pushing Ivan Nova in trade talks. That’s not a surprise. They shopped him over the winter, and Nova will be a free agent after the season, so it’s better to get something for him now than nothing after the season. [Olney]
  • 4:10pm: The Chapman trade is official. It’s Chapman for Torres, Warren, Billy McKinney, and Rashad Crawford. That’s a hell of a deal.

Reminder before you comment: Your trade proposal sucks.

7/25 to 7/27 Series Preview: Houston Astros

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are out on the road for the first time in the second half. They’re opening an eight-game road trip in Houston tonight, with the first of three against the red hot Astros. These two teams met in the very first series of the season back in April. The Yankees took two of three at Yankee Stadium.

What Have They Done Lately?

Goodness are the Astros hot. They started the season poorly, going 17-28 in their first 45 games, but they’ve gone 37-16 in 53 games since. The ‘Stros were ten games back in the AL West as recently as June 28th. Now they’re only 2.5 games back. Houston just swept the lowly Angels and they’ve won four straight overall. They’re 54-44 and only a half-game back of the second wildcard spot. If the Yankees are going to make a miraculous run at a postseason spot, beating the Astros this series is essential.

Offense & Defense

Reigning AL Manager of the Year runner-up A.J. Hinch has a comfortably above-average offense (in terms of runs scored) at this disposal. The Astros are averaging 4.61 runs per game with a team 100 wRC+, and their 126 homers are sixth most in the league. Houston has two players out with day-to-day injuries: C Jason Castro (99 wRC+) and UTIL Marwin Gonzalez (86 wRC+). Castro has a hand contusion and Gonzalez has an ankle sprain.

Altuve. (Stephen Brashear/Getty)
Altuve. (Stephen Brashear/Getty)

Hinch has a fairly set lineup. RF George Springer (126 wRC+) leads off, Gonzalez typically hits second, 2B Jose Altuve (166 wRC+) hits third, SS Carlos Correa (127 wRC+) cleans up, and 3B Luis Valbuena (116 wRC+) bats fifth. Altuve is very much in the early AL MVP mix right now. He’s hitting .360/.428/.575 with 26 doubles, 17 homers, 25 steals, 44 walks, and 40 strikeouts. Goodness. C/DH Evan Gattis (92 wRC+) and LF Colby Rasmus (82 wRC+) are regulars as well. (Yes, Gattis has been catching lately.)

C Carlos Gomez (59 wRC+) has been pretty terrible both this year and since coming over at least year’s trade deadline. Not the best year for the impending free agent. OF Jake Marisnick (49 wRC+) and OF Preston Tucker (74 wRC+) are on the bench. And finally, the Astros announced they are calling up top prospect IF Alex Bregman (174 wRC+ between Double-A and Triple-A) today. Bregman, the No. 2 pick in last year’s draft, is arguably the best prospect in the minors. He’s expected to play short, third, and even some left field.

In the field, the Astros are excellent in the outfield and on the middle infield. They have good to great defenders at all five of those positions. Gonzalez has been playing first base of late and is okay there. So is Valbuena at third. Gattis is a disaster behind the plate; he’s 8-for-18 (44%) throwing out runners this year, which is out of line with his career average (23%). Bregman’s a good defender at short, though he’s going to end up playing out of position somewhere.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (8:10pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. HOU) vs. LHP Dallas Keuchel (vs. NYY)
Keuchel is the AL West version of David Price. Whenever the Yankees play a series against his team, he’s going to pitch. They can’t escape him. Keuchel, 28, is not having a very good follow-up to his Cy Young winning season a year ago. He owns a 4.70 ERA (3.94 FIP) in 20 starts and 126.1 innings, and his strikeout (20.5%), walk (7.5%), grounder (56.8%), and homer (1.07 HR/9) rates are all quite a bit worse than they were in 2015. He’s also getting hammered by righties. Keuchel has never been a hard thrower and he typically sit 88-90 mph with his trademark sinker. A mid-80s cutter and an upper-70s slider are his go-to secondary pitches. He’ll also throw a low-80s changeup, though for some reason he’s not throwing it as much this year. Weird. The Yankees saw Keuchel on Opening Day and scored two runs in seven innings.

Tuesday (8:10pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. HOU) vs. RHP Doug Fister (vs. NYY)
The Astros signed Fister to a one-year “prove yourself” deal over the winter, and for the first few starts, it looked like a disaster. He allowed 14 runs in his first four outings and 22.1 innings before settling down and getting into a groove. The 32-year-old has a 3.42 ERA (4.63 FIP) in 19 starts and 118.1 innings, and while his underlying numbers stink (15.2 K%, 8.2 BB%, 47.3 GB%, 1.14 HR/9), Fister is quite good at getting soft contact when things are going right. Lefties have hit him a ton harder than righties. A ton. Load up that lineup with lefties tomorrow night. These days Fister sits 85-88 with his sinker and 69-72 mph with his curveball. Those are his two main pitches. He’ll also mix in some mid-80 cutters, low-80s sliders, and upper-70s splitters per start, but not many. The Yankees did not see Fister in the first series with the Astros this season.

McCullers. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)
McCullers. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)

Wednesday (8:10pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. HOU) vs. RHP Lance McCullers Jr. (vs. NYY)
Over the winter, when the Yankees were fielding offers for Andrew Miller, they reportedly wanted McCullers from the Astros. Houston wouldn’t give him up, and now the 22-year-old has a 3.33 ERA (2.74 FIP) in 12 starts and 70.1 innings after starting the season on the DL with a minor shoulder issue. He’s got fantastic strikeout (29.3%), grounder (57.2%), and homer (0.26 HR/9) numbers, but he walks way too many (13.7%) and lefties can give him a hard time. McCullers sits in the mid-90s with his four-seam fastball and in the mid-80s with his power curveball. A mid-80s curveball! Not only does it sit in the mid-80s, but McCullers throws it a ton too. A whopping 48% of the time, in fact. He’s thrown more curveballs than fastballs in ten of his 12 starts, including each of his last four. That’s insane. In. Sane. McCullers also throws a low-90s cutter and upper-80s changeup, but very rarely. Less than 10% of the time combined this season, on average. Lance Sr. played for the Yankees from 1989-90, by the way.

Bullpen Status

At +6.1 fWAR, the Astros have the most productive bullpen in baseball this season. (The Yankees are second at +5.6 fWAR.) Houston’s relief crew ranks third in bullpen ERA (3.06) and first in bullpen FIP (3.00), so yeah, they’re good. Here is Hinch’s eight-man bullpen:

Closer: RHP Will Harris (1.76 ERA/1.85 FIP)
Setup: RHP Luke Gregerson (3.27/2.44), RHP Ken Giles (4.08/3.07)
Middle: RHP Chris Devenski (2.27/2.75), LHP Tony Sipp (4.91/5.48), RHP Pat Neshek (2.64/3.86), RHP Michael Feliz (4.04/3.10)
Long: RHP Scott Feldman (2.40/3.79)

Giles was expected to be the closer, Gregerson started the year as the closer, and Harris went to the All-Star Game as the closer. Bullpens, man. Nothing ever goes according to plan. Giles has already allowed more homers (five) and nearly as many earned runs (18) in 39.2 innings with the Astros than he did the last two seasons with the Phillies (three and 20, respectively). He had a disaster start to the season but has been much better of late.

Houston’s bullpen has a ton of different looks. Harris is a cutter pitcher, Giles and Feliz are the hard-throwers, Gregerson is the slider specialist, Neshek is the funky delivery guy, and Feldman is the finesse veteran. Hinch has all sorts of options in his bag of tricks. Feldman threw 30 pitches in yesterday’s blowout win over the Halos. No other relievers had to pitch, so the ‘pen is fresh. Our Bullpen Workload page can keep you updated on the status of Joe Girardi‘s relief crew.