Bullpen roles becoming clear just three weeks into 2015

Unofficially officially the closer. (Presswire)
Unofficially officially the closer. (Presswire)

It’s really fun when something goes exactly according to plan in baseball. Almost nothing goes as planned in this game, so on those rare occasions when things work out as intended, it’s cause for celebration. And so far this year, the Yankees’ bullpen is worth celebrating. The relief crew has been every bit as good as advertised coming into the new season.

With David Robertson leaving as a free agent and the Yankees not having a Proven Closer™ on the roster heading into Spring Training, we really had no idea how the bullpen would shake out. We had a pretty good idea who the team’s seven relievers would be — well, we had a good idea who four would be (five before Adam Warren was needed in the rotation) and who was in the running for the other three — we just didn’t know who would slot into what role. Three weeks into 2015, those roles are becoming clear.

Closer: Andrew Miller

For a number of reasons, the co-closers experiment never did get off the ground. It sounded great in theory, but Dellin Betances‘ sudden (and thankfully temporary) reversion to pre-2014 Dellin in Spring Training threw a wrench into things. For the first week, week and a half of the regular season, Betances had no idea where the ball was going and wasn’t exactly trustworthy in big spots.

That opened the door to the full-time ninth inning work for Miller. He got his first save in the second game of the season thanks to what appeared to be a matchup situation — Joe Girardi went to Betances to face the right-handed meat of the Blue Jays lineup (Russell Martin, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Josh Donaldson) in the eighth inning and Miller got the final three outs against lesser hitters in the ninth. That’s all it took. His foot was in the door.

Closer is maybe the most unique job in baseball. Once a player has some success closing out games in the ninth inning, managers tend to stick with that guy going forward. Miller nailed down that first save, did it again five days later, and again four days after that, and boom. He is now very clearly the closer, recording eight of New York’s nine saves on the young season. Miller is the closer even if Girardi won’t admit it just yet.

“I still believe they both can do the job,” said the manager to Chad Jennings following Monday’s game. “It gives me a lot of options. It’s working the way we’re doing it. … (The plan is) just to stick with what we’re doing. I’m sure at some point one of them may be down and the other guy may have to do something else. Maybe they pitch a couple days in a row and I want to give one of them a day off. I still believe they’re really interchangeable.”

1996 Mariano/2014 Dellin: Dellin Betances

Boy this guy is some kind of luxury, isn’t he? Things got a little dicey for Betances at the end of Spring Training and the start of the regular season, but he’s turned it around and is back to being a multi-inning force at the end of games. It’s one thing to have a really great setup man like, say, Wade Davis or what the Yankees had with Robertson all those years. It’s another to have a guy who can do it for four or five outs fairly regularly.

Now, I don’t think we’ll Betances throw 90 innings again this season, that’s just not something a reliever can do year after year after year these days, but I definitely think we’ll see him get four or five outs on occasion. Heck, we’ve seen it already. Girardi used Betances to get five outs against the Rays eleven days ago then again to get four outs against the Tigers last week. It’s not necessarily something he should do every single time out, but Dellin gives Girardi the flexibility to pitch multiple innings if necessary.

With Miller locked into the closer’s job for the time being, Betances will remain in basically the same role he had last year, as Girardi’s go-to setup weapon. He’s settled into that role the last two weeks or so. The co-closers idea was fun. This works too. Dellin’s role is high-leverage outs-getter. That’s the most important thing.

Stop with the Coldplay jokes. (Presswire)
Stop with the Coldplay jokes. (Presswire)

Reliever Girardi Likes More Than We Realized: Chris Martin

So, Chris Martin. He had just an okay Spring Training, but Girardi and Brian Cashman and everyone else kept talking about how much they liked him, and now here he is at the end of April leading the Yankees with 12 relief appearances. I guess they weren’t joking around.

Martin started the year as the designated “only when losing” reliever — his first six appearances came with the Yankees trailing — but he’s gradually worked his way up the pecking order. Girardi used him for five outs in a two-run game Sunday night and then in a save situation when Miller was unavailable Tuesday. Considering the results (11 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 13 K), it’s hard to blame Girardi for giving Martin some more responsibility.

Previous members of the “Reliever Girardi Likes More Than We Realized” club include David Huff, Cody Eppley, Cory Wade, Luis Ayala, Sergio Mitre, and Brian Bruney. Martin was a scrap heap pickup — the Yankees got him in a cash trade with the Rockies after he’d been designated for assignment — who has already justified the minimal investment. He’s already worked his way into some important innings.

Reliever Girardi Doesn’t Seem To Trust: David Carpenter

Doesn’t it seem like Girardi still doesn’t fully trust Carpenter? He went to Martin for the save on Tuesday night instead of the more experienced Carpenter, then gave a weird answer when asked why he went Martin over Carpenter after the game. He basically said he was saving Carpenter for extra innings. Trust him in extra innings but not a save situation? Okay then.

Anyway, Girardi used Carpenter to get the final out of the seventh inning with a two-run lead Sunday night, then for a full inning in a tie game yesterday, but three of his four appearances prior to that came with the Yankees up by at least six runs. Two of them were with the Yankees up by nine runs. (Aside: Hooray for talking about the Yankees being up nine runs on occasion!)

Of those four appearances, the one Carpenter made with the score closer than six runs was the meltdown in Baltimore. Girardi brought him into the the sixth inning of a game the Yankees were leading by one, then Carpenter allowed three runs on two hits and a walk in one-third of an inning. Perhaps that blowup knocked the righty out of the Circle of Trust™ for the time being. That sure appears to be the case.

Lefty Specialist: Justin Wilson

One of the reasons Wilson was so interesting when he came over from the Pirates was his lack of a platoon split — from 2013-14 he held right-handed and left-handed batters to identical .268 wOBAs. And yet, Girardi has used Wilson as a left-on-left matchup reliever exclusively for nearly two weeks now. Here’s a real quick rundown of his recent appearances:

  • April 17th: Faced one batter, the lefty hitting Kevin Kiermaier. (strikeout looking)
  • April 19th: Brought in to face one batter, the lefty hitting David DeJesus, who was replaced by pinch-hitter Logan Forsythe. (fly out)
  • April 22nd: Faced five batters (two lefties, three righties) with the Yankees up six runs and then nine runs. Girardi was just counting down outs.
  • April 23rd: Brought in to face one batter, the lefty hitting Alex Avila, who was replaced by pinch-hitter James McCann. (ground out)
  • April 26th: Faced one batter, the lefty hitting Curtis Granderson. (pop-up)
  • April 27th: Faced three batters, two lefties (James Loney and Kiermaier) sandwiched around one righty (Brandon Guyer).
  • April 29th: Faced one batter, the lefty hitting Kiermaier. (line out)

So Girardi hasn’t been completely opposed to using Wilson against right-handers lately, but more often than not he’s been brought in for pure matchup work and not to throw a full inning. It could be that he has fallen out of the Circle of Trust™ — Wilson was charged with two runs in that Baltimore meltdown — and is now working his way back into favor.

Of course, Wilson’s strike-throwing issues are likely playing a role here as well. He’s always had a below-average walk rate — Wilson walked three of the first five and four of the first 13 batters he faced this year, and he’s walked five of 18 righties faced with only two strikeouts — and his early-season control issues may have scared Girardi off a bit. I can’t blame him. For now, Wilson is the middle innings lefty specialist and not someone we figure to see in real high-leverage spots anytime soon.

Long Man: Esmil Rogers

Coming into the regular season, this was the only bullpen role we could easily predict. We all knew Rogers was going to be the long man — he got stretched out as a starter in camp but Warren beat him out for the fifth starter’s job convincingly — and by and large he’s done a nice job. He’s got a 2.35 ERA (3.53 FIP) with 16 strikeouts and three walks in 15.1 innings. What more do you want from a long man? Rogers is a necessary evil — everyone seems to hate him but a veteran long man Girardi can run into the ground to spare the more important arms is a nice thing to have. Not all innings are pretty. Esmil’s hear to pick up the ugly ones.

The Last Spot: Chasen Shreve & Co.

As always, the last spot in the bullpen has been a revolving door early on in 2015. Shreve has held it down for the most part but he’s already been optioned once in favor of a fresh arm(s). Kyle Davies, Matt Tracy, Joel De La Cruz, and Branden Pinder have all seen big league time this year. Trust me, it won’t be the last time Shreve is sent down for a fresh arm this year.

Bullpens have to be flexible — what’s the point of having all those guys sitting and waiting in Triple-A if there’s no way to get them on the roster when they’re needed? — and this last spot gives the Yankees that flexibility. Shreve is good! But sometimes the furniture needs to be rearranged, and as the low man on the bullpen totem pole, he goes down to Triple-A when needed. If Shreve pitches well and Martin hits the skids at some point, it could be Martin who winds up in the minors whenever a fresh body is needed next. That’s just the way it goes.

* * *

For all the talk about the co-closers system coming into the season, Girardi has made it pretty clear over the years that he likes having relievers in set roles. He doesn’t need to say it, it shows in the way he uses his bullpen. Girardi has always had a set closer and preferred to have a set eighth inning guy as well. He’s even had a set seventh inning guy at times. The various relievers have settled into those various roles these last few weeks, and I’m sure that makes Girardi happy. It’s easier to manage when you already know who is going to pitch in what situation. At the beginning of the season, that wasn’t always clear. Now it is.

Yankeemetrics: April 27-29 (Rays)

Two out of three ain't bad. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Two out of three ain’t bad. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Miller time
After beating the Rays in their series opener, the Yankees claimed sole possession of first place in the AL East for the first time in nearly a year. Good job, guys!

Brian McCann notched the game-winning hit with a tie-breaking solo homer in the sixth inning. It was his 25th homer as a Yankee, with 21 of those coming at Yankee Stadium. He is the first player in franchise history to hit more than 20 of his first 25 homers as a Yankee at home, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The bullpen continued to do awesome things, holding the Rays without a run after Adam Warren left in the sixth inning. Dellin Betances pitched a perfect eighth inning, extending his streak of games with no hits allowed and at least two strikeouts to five. That’s something no Yankee pitcher has ever done in the last 100 years.

Andrew Miller — the non-closer — notched his eighth save in eight chances, becoming the first Yankee with at least eight saves in the team’s first 20 games. The last left-handed reliever on any team to get at least eight saves this early into the season was Eddie Guardado for the Twins in 2002.

Hi Jake, I’m Brian
The Yankees notched their fourth series win a row with a 4-2 victory over the Rays on Tuesday night. It also gave them a 10-2 record in their last 12 games, something they didn’t even come close to doing last season. Their best 12-game stretch in 2014 included a mere eight wins.

It was not surprising that McCann again delivered the big hits for the Yankees in this game, with two run-scoring doubles that drove in three of the team’s four runs. He continued his absolute ownership of Jake Odorizzi, going 2-for-3 against the Rays starter. That made him 10-for-16 with three doubles, a triple and two homers in his career against Odorizzi, by far his best batting average (.625) and slugging percentage (1.960) against any pitcher he’s faced at least 10 times.

Chris Martin subbed in for the non-closer Andrew Miller and closed out the win with a scoreless ninth inning for his first career save. Martin is the 15th player in major-league history at 6-foot-8 or taller to record a save. The Yankees have seemingly cornered the market on these tall relievers — five of those 15 have at least one career save with the franchise. The others are Dellin Betances, Jeff Nelson, Graeme Lloyd and Lee Guetterman.

On Wednesday afternoon the Rays managed to do something they hadn’t done all season – beat the Yankees. All good things have to come to an end, right?

Ultimately, the difference in this game was that the Rays had a couple more timely hits than the Yankees, as James Loney singled in the winning run with two men on base in the top of the 13th inning. Prior to that hit, the Rays were 3-for-42 (.071!) with runners in scoring position against the Yankees this season.

Alex Rodriguez might have had his worst day at the plate in his entire career. Not only did he ground into a game-ending double play, but he also struck out four times and was hitless in six at-bats. It was the first time he’s ever gone 0-for-6 or worse in a game in his 21 major-league seasons. It also marked the only time he’s grounded into a double play and had four strikeouts in the same game.

Michael Pineda wasn’t as dominant as he was in his last outing against the Mets, but still ended up with a respectable pitching line (5 2/3 IP, 2 R, 5 K, 0 BB) and kept the Yankees in the game. While his season ERA isn’t spectacular (3.73), his peripherals (32 strikeouts, two walks) are simply ridiculous.

He is just the third major-league pitcher in the last 100 years with that many strikeouts (32) and two or fewer walks in the month of April, joining Juan Marichal (1968) and Cliff Lee (2008). The only other Yankee to post those numbers in any calendar month was Hiroki Kuroda in September of last season.

Thoughts following the series with the Rays


The Yankees dropped the series finale to the Rays yesterday afternoon but what can you do. They still won the series and have won ten of their last 13 games overall. Can’t complain about that. I’ve already said what I had to say about Masahiro Tanaka’s injury, so let’s move on to some other stuff.

1. A few days ago we learned ex-Yankee Brandon McCarthy needs Tommy John surgery after tearing his UCL in his last start over the weekend, and the first thought that crossed my mind was “phew, the Yankees dodged a bullet.” I sort of hate myself for thinking that way. I was hoping the Yankees would re-sign McCarthy this offseason — I mean, did anyone not want the Yankees to re-sign McCarthy after the way he pitched in pinstripes last year? — but three years was my absolute limit, and even that made me uncomfortable given his injury history. The four-year deal the Dodgers gave him was totally bonkers in my opinion. That was asking for trouble. Maybe not Tommy John surgery in year one trouble, but trouble. McCarthy reportedly wanted to re-sign with the Yankees, so much so that he was willing to talk during the exclusive negotiating period, but the Yankees never seriously engaged him in contract talks. Given their decision to steer clear of McCarthy despite their obvious need for pitching, I can’t help but wonder if the team knew of some red flags with his elbow and stayed away for that reason. McCarthy did tell reporters he dealt with on-and-off elbow tightness last year, after all.

2. Given the way things played out this year, maybe the Yankees need to give Dellin Betances some more innings in Spring Training next year. Betances threw 12.1 Grapefruit League innings last spring and only 8.1 innings this spring, and it took him about four regular season innings to get back to being 2014 Dellin. Maybe 12 innings is that major number for him, maybe it’s just a coincidence. Obviously the circumstances these last two years were very different — Betances was trying to impress and make the team last spring, this spring he was just going through the motions because he had a roster spot locked up — and who knows what sort of impact that had. For whatever reason it took Betances a little longer to get to locked in for the season this year, and since he threw fewer innings in Spring Training, it’s a logical connection to make. Maybe the answer isn’t more Grapefruit League innings, but more throwing in general. More bullpen sessions, stuff like that. Betances has said several times he feels the regular work he gets as a reliever helps him keep his mechanics in check. More innings could be a good thing for him, at least when preparing in Spring Training.

3. Speaking of Betances, it’s clear at this point he is the setup man and Andrew Miller is the closer. I don’t think the Yankees would suffer any if the roles were reversed — my only question: can Miller get four or five outs as often as Dellin? — but this arrangement could save them a lot of money when Betances becomes arbitration-eligible after next season. Saves pay and they pay big in arbitration. My go-to comparison is David Robertson vs. Addison Reed. Robertson got $1.6M his first trip through arbitration as an elite setup man (145 ERA+) while Reed got $4.875M as a mediocre closer (98 ERA+). Miller’s salaries are set thanks to his contract, so picking up saves won’t change anything there. Betances will go through the arbitration process and his earning potential as a setup man won’t be as great as it would be as a closer. That’s just the system. It sucks for Dellin — to be fair, he’s still going to get paid very well — but with Hal Steinbrenner continuing to talk about getting under the luxury tax threshold, the savings could be significant. Once a player takes over as closer, he tends to stay the closer until he completely falls apart, and there’s no reason to think Miller is at risk of losing it anytime soon. The job is his for the foreseeable future.

(Mike McGinnis/Getty)
(Mike McGinnis/Getty)

4. Adam Wainwright’s injury has sparked a new round of discussion about implementing the DH in the NL — Max Scherzer likes the idea, Madison Bumgarner hates it, so on and so on — and I’m all for it. I get zero enjoyment from watching pitchers hit and the argument that it adds more strategy is pretty hollow. More moves do not equal more strategy. In every single AL game the manager has to decide when to remove his starter. Every single game. In the NL, lots of times the decision is made for the manager because the game says he has to pinch-hit. The game situation calls for it. I don’t think the NL should specifically add the DH because of Wainwright’s injury — it was a total fluke and he didn’t even hurt himself in the act of hitting, he just took a step out of the box — but hopefully it sparks some serious talks about changing the rules the same way Buster Posey’s injury a few years ago helped spur along the new blocking the plate rules. (The union should be in favor of adding the DH in the NL since it’ll create a bunch of higher paying DH jobs.) Pitchers are hitting worse than ever and it’s time to bring the NL up to speed. It’s hard enough to do one thing well at the MLB level, whether it be pitching or hitting. Asking pitchers to do both is not feasible in the 21st century.

5. Didi Gregorius has quietly gone 8-for-30 (.267) in his last nine games — it’s an empty .267, but it’s better than what we saw earlier this year — and seems to be getting more comfortable with each passing game. The defensive brain farts are no longer an everyday thing and he hasn’t made a bad base-running play since the first homestand. Some progress is being made, a little at a time. No one promised it would come quick. Now, imagine if the Yankees had traded for Elvis Andrus instead. They reportedly had interest in him this offseason, remember. Andrus is hitting .230/.253/.299 (43 wRC+) this season after hitting .267/.321/.332 (79 wRC+) in nearly 1,400 plate appearances from 2013-14. His defense has slipped in recent years and his eight-year, $120M contract just started this season. It’s one thing for Gregorius to not hit or field as expected. The Yankees would be in much worse shape had they traded for Andrus because he’s not hitting, not fielding, and is owed nine-figures through 2023. Didi might not work out, but at least the Yankees can walk away if necessary. He’s the lesser of two evils, I guess.

DotF: Flores and Refsnyder both double in Scranton’s win

Triple-A Scranton (8-5 win over Gwinnett)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 2-5, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI — hitting .386 as a part-timer this year
  • LF Ramon Flores: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K
  • RF Tyler Austin: 1-5, 2 K
  • C Austin Romine: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B
  • RHP Kyle Davies: 5.1 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 10/3 GB/FB — 62 of 91 pitches were strikes (68%) … not a good time to have a bad outing with a rotation spot now up for grabs at the MLB level
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow: 1 IP, zeroes, 2/1 GB/FB — eight pitches, six strikes
  • RHP Jose Ramirez: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 0/2 GB/FB — 15 of 20 pitches were strikes … first time in his career he’s pitched back-to-back days

[Read more…]

Wednesday Night Open Thread

Earlier today MLB released the 2015 All-Star Game ballot. Here’s the ballot. It’s all online this year. No more paper ballots at the ballpark. The Yankees are represented at every position by exactly who you’d expect. MLB just picks each team’s starter at each position and puts them on the ballot. This is where I remind you it is your duty as an RAB reader … nay, your duty as an American to vote Alex Rodriguez into the All-Star Game this year. The voting is open until July 3rd.

Here is your open thread for the evening. This afternoon’s loss to the Rays will be replayed on YES at 7pm ET, if you’re interested. The Mets are playing, ESPN is showing Phillies-Cardinals, and there’s both NBA and NHL playoff action as well. Talk about those games or anything else right here.

Contest!: Our friends at TiqIQ are giving away a part of tickets to one of the upcoming bobblehead games. Enter the contest using the widget below.

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Rays outlast Yankees in 13 innings, take series finale 3-2

Extra innings have not been kind to the 2015 Yankees so far. The bullpen held on as long as possible Wednesday afternoon, but ultimately the offense never did come through, leading to 3-2 loss to the Rays in 13 innings. The Yankees won the series but couldn’t finish off the sweep. Whaddayagonnado.

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Worn Down
It wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon that Michael Pineda knew he was going to pitch this game. He was originally scheduled to start Friday, but the Yankees had to change plans and start him Wednesday (on regular rest) because of Masahiro Tanaka‘s wrist/forearm injury. In fact, Joe Girardi had to find Pineda on Tuesday to make sure he didn’t throw his between starts bullpen so he could be ready for this game.

Big Mike started in typical Big Mike fashion, retiring the first six batters of the game before running into a little trouble in the third inning. A leadoff single, a bunt, and a strikeout/wild pitch combo gave Tampa Bay runners on the corners with one out, but Pineda responded by striking out David DeJesus and getting a ground out from Steven Souza to escape the jam.

Things unraveled a bit in the fourth and it happened after the first two batters made outs on four total pitches. James Loney grounded a single through the shift and Logan Forsythe grounded a single the other way to beat the shift — oh look, the Yankees were burned by the shift again! — to put two on for Kevin Kiermaier. Kiermaier worked Pineda real hard. It was a nine-pitch at-bat and he fouled off a pair of well-placed full count fastballs to stay alive.

The third full count fastball was a meatball. Center cut, middle of the plate, and Kiermaier banged it off the very top of the wall in right-center field for a two-run triple. I thought it was gone off the bat. Pineda hit the next batter with a pitch before stranding Kiermaier at third. The damage had been done though. The Rays were up 2-0 after having two outs and the bases empty in the inning. Those rallies are always annoying. Kiermaier just wore Pineda down with his at-bat.

Pineda’s afternoon came to end after Forsythe doubled with two outs in the sixth inning. It was another one high off the wall — this one in left field — that I thought was gone off the bat. Big Mike allowed those two runs on six hits and no walks in 5.2 innings. He fanned five and also got nine ground ball outs compared to ten in the air. Pineda now has a 32/2 K/BB in 31.1 innings this year with a 54.9% grounder rate, which is really awesome.

Strikeouts & Dingers
Rays lefty Drew Smyly was making his second start of the year after missing time with a shoulder problem, yet he showed no rust Wednesday afternoon. He gave up two Jacoby Ellsbury singles and a Chris Young walk through the first four innings — Ellsbury made it to third on a steal and a bunt in the first inning but was stranded — while striking out six. Smyly was looking pretty sharp.

The first of his two mistakes came in the fifth inning, when he hung a 1-1 changeup to Chase Headley, who smacked a no-doubt solo homer to left field. All three of Headley’s dingers this year have been bombs. No doubters off the bat. Smyly settled down and retired the next four batters (three on strikeouts) before making his second mistake: a hanging breaking ball to Young. It wasn’t an awful pitch, it was down around the knees, but it was over the plate and Young golfed it out for a game-tying solo homer in the sixth.

In his second start off the DL, Smyly held New York to four hits and one walk in six innings, striking out ten. It was only the third double-digit strikeout game of his career. He did a really nice job keeping the Yankees off balance with his breaking ball I thought, especially back-footing it to righties. The Yankees’ right-handed hitters went 2-for-16 (.125) with nine (!) strikeouts against Smyly. Unfortunately for him, the two hits left the park.

Bullpen Battle
It’s hard not to feel confident whenever this Yankees team gets locked in a battle of the bullpens. After Pineda exited with two outs in the sixth, five relievers combined to retire the next 14 batters before Chris Martin walked Asdrubal Cabrera with one out in the top of the 11th. Justin Wilson (one out), David Carpenter (three outs), Dellin Betances (three outs), Andrew Miller (six outs), and Martin (one out) got those 14 straight outs.

Unfortunately, Tampa Bay’s bullpen was excellent as well. Three Rays’ relievers retired eleven in a row at one point from the seventh through the tenth, and they pitched around leadoff singles in both the 11th and 12th innings as well. Ellsbury singled to leadoff the 11th yet never attempted to steal. Carlos Beltran singled to leadoff the 12th and pinch-runner Brett Gardner also never attempted to steal. I don’t understand. I don’t understand at all!

Chasen Shreve, in his second inning of work, opened the door for the Rays in the 13th with a one-out walk to Souza. Souza moved to second on a ground out and Evan Longoria was intentionally walked to set up the left-on-left matchup with Loney. The six-pitch battle ended with a weak ground ball through the right side that Stephen Drew snared in shallow right field but was unable to turn into an out. He had no play on Loney at first or Souza at home. The play developed too slowly.

The Rays scored all three of their runs thanks to perpetually awful Yankees’ shifts. They get burned by them game after game after game it seems. I’m not making this up either — the MLB average on ground balls is a .242 BABIP. The Yankees came into Wednesday with a .286 BABIP on ground balls. That shouldn’t happen with this infield defense. The bullpen held on as long as possible. One hit in 7.1 innings for the relievers!

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

The Yankees struck out 16 times on Wednesday, a new season high. (They struck out only 13 times in the 19-inning game.) It was their highest strikeout total since the final game of the 2013 season, when they struck out 16 times in 14 innings. The franchise record is 17 strikeouts, which has been done a few times. The 7-8-9 hitters went combined 0-for-12 with eight strikeouts and at one point nine of 12 Yankees’ batters struck out from the fifth through eighth innings. Not good!

Alex Rodriguez had his worst offensive day of the season so far, going 0-for-6 with four strikeouts and the game-ending double play. It was his first four-strikeout game since April 2008 and only the fifth of his career. Those other four four-strikeout games were nine-inning games though. Ellsbury had three hits, Young had two hits, and the rest of the team had two hits.

Loney banged into a 6-4-3 double play in the sixth inning. It was the first ground ball double play Pineda has induced in 26 starts, dating back back to July 2011, when he was with the Mariners. Also, Miller faced Loney to start the ninth inning. It was the first lefty batter Miller faced in 2015. The first 37 batters he faced were all righties.

And finally, Betances limped off the field in the eighth inning, but Girardi told reporters after the game he just has a blister on his big toe. It’s a non-issue. A band-aid will take care of that.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Also make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Lots going on there. Here is the win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees have an off-day Thursday and will open a three-game series with the Red Sox on Friday night. CC Sabathia and Justin Masterson are the probable starters for the opener at Fenway Park.

Yankees turn to A-Rod for help with Didi’s defense


Things have gone a little more smoothly lately, but the start of the Didi Gregorius era has been quite the roller coaster these first few weeks. He had some adventures on the basepaths, isn’t doing much at the plate, and his defense has been shockingly erratic. Simply put, he looks like a young player trying to do too much to impress his new team.

I’m not sure anyone realistically expected Didi to be a force at the plate this year, and the base-running mistakes are kinda whatever. He hasn’t had any problems on the bases since that first homestand. The name of his game was defense. Gregorius was brought in to solidify the infield defense and while he has made a few highlight reel plays early on, he has made several physical and mental mistakes in the field. It’s been painful to watch at times.

The Yankees have and will continue to be patient with Gregorius, which is absolutely the right move in my opinion. He has a chance to be the long-term solution at shortstop and the club simply doesn’t have another player like that in the organization. At least not anywhere close to the big league level. The success or failure of Didi’s time in pinstripes shouldn’t be determined by the first month of his first year with the team.

That said, the Yankees want to see some improvement from Gregorius. So, in an effort to get him right into the field, the team brought in a former two-time Gold Glove winning shortstop for help: Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees — specifically third base/infield coach Joe Espada — asked A-Rod to give Didi some pointers at short before last night’s game. “Just the basics,” said Alex to Brendan Kuty.

“It was more just game situations,” added Espada. “I think just kind of working on his game clock. Knowing runners, outs, when to charge a ball, when to stay back on a ball. Situations that we have been working on throughout spring training and throughout the season. But I wanted Alex to be out there to give him that kind of insight that I probably, as a coach, can’t give him.”

Despite all his off-field issues, A-Rod has always been considered a really good teammate who is willing to help others, especially young players. He’s a baseball machine, hands down the smartest and most instinctual player I’ve ever seen, so asking him to help Gregorius makes total sense. A-Rod knows the shortstop position and he also has experience having all eyes on him as a newcomer to New York. He’s a resource the Yankees are tapping into.

But, at the end of the day, this will come down to Gregorius’s ability to make or not make the necessary adjustments. No one can take ground balls or play the field for him. The Yankees are smart to remain patient and I’m sure Didi knows what a tremendous opportunity he has in front of him. He’s the starting shortstop for the New York frickin’ Yankees, after all. Getting comfortable here takes time. Hopefully Alex’s help can speed up the process for Gregorius.

“It takes time to come here and play in this arena,” said Espada. “I coached third in Miami for four years but it’s not the same as coaching third in New York. I don’t call it stage fright. I think it just takes time.”