Don’t look now, but the Yankees bullpen has been really good of late. Before Brett Marshall bit the bullet last night, they amassed the fifth highest cumulative WAR (1.8) in Major League Baseball — trailing only the Rockies, Tigers, White Sox, and Twins. Over 133.2 innings, the Yankees relief core has produced a 9.42 K/9 rate, surrendered only 2.53 BB/9 and 0.95 HR/9, complimented by a 3.33 ERA (3.24 FIP / 3.18 xFIP). Let’s take a look at some of the big contributors.
It all begins and ends with Mo
After missing most of the 2012 campaign, Mariano has returned with a vengeance. He’s already accumulated 16 saves (with no blown opportunities). His velocity has primarily sat in the 88-92 mph range, while his patented cutter continues dominate. To say right handed batters have had slightly more success against The Sandman would be true (.307 wOBA). However, to say that any batter has been generally successful overall against Mo this season would be false (.205 wOBA overall). When the ninth arrives, so does Mo, without compromise and in vintage form.
Girardi’s (setup) crew
The road to Mo is also pretty well paved. David Robertson has embraced his duties as the official set up man while Joba Chamberlain has handled the seventh fairly effectively (prior to injury). I really can’t get enough of Robertson either. Even though he occasionally puts me on edge with his Houdini act, his strikeout rate is certainly prolific (11.02/9). What’s more, 55.6% of his first pitches are thrown for strikes, and interesting enough, batters have swung at more pitches outside of the strike zone (33.3%) then they have in the past against him (career 25.2 O-Swing%) so far. As for Joba, his 6.75 K/9 and 5.79 BB/9 peripherals aren’t quite where you’d like them to be overall. However, prior to straining his right oblique, Joba had been looking increasingly comfortable on the mound. More importantly, his velocity seems to be right where it should be considering he isn’t all that far removed from Tommy John surgery.
Behold! The obligatory LOOGY
After pitching in 80 (!) games last season, I was pretty confident Boone Logan was going to be toast this season. I was thinking back to the days of Joe Torre when guys like Paul Quantrill, Tanyon Sturtze, Tom Gordon and Scott Proctor had their arms basically turned into mush. Early on this season, it sure appeared to be heading in that direction too. Give old Boone credit though. He has pitched in 10.1 innings, and managed a 2.61 ERA (3.79 FIP, 2.39 xFIP) with a 10.45 K/9 rate. That’ll do. Curiously, for a guy who’s primary function is to get left handers out, he’s actually shown more of a reverse split (.352 vs. 349 wOBA). I suspect this more of a byproduct though of a small sample size, and will probably normalize over the course of the season.
The other guys
The Yankees have also found productivity from some of the less recognizable names. Mike gave Adam Warren his due yesterday. Preston Claiborne has also done a great job on the mound in limited opportunity. Anecdotally, the kid looks composed out there, and because of it I tend to have an irrational calm every time he’s pitches. He hasn’t shown very much in the strike out department (5.14 K/9), but he’s done a good job of not giving up free bases (no walks). Claiborne has also demonstrated a willingness to use a slider and a changeup in addition to his fastball, which I personally appreciate.
Overall, Cashman has done a pretty good job of piecing together quality bullpens over the past several seasons, which is important as it seems to be an increasingly specialized (and valued) part of the game. I think it’s worth acknowledging that a fair portion of the team’s success this season can also be attributed to the bullpen given the current roster construction.
That was ugly. Every team goes has a few of this disaster starts each year, but that doesn’t make them any easier to swallow. The Mariners mopped the floor with the Yankees on Wednesday night, beating them 12-2.
This was definitely not one for the Phil Hughes career highlight reel. He became the sixth Yankees starter to allow at least seven runs in one inning or less this century, joining Bartolo Colon, Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina, Jaret Wright, and Orlando Hernandez. I guess he’s in good company at least, outside of Wright. Tiny consolation price.
Anyway, Hughes was ridiculously awful. Rockets all over the field, including a grand slam into the bullpen by former Yankee Raul Ibanez. He faced ten hitters and eight reached base — six hits and two walks. Twenty-three of 36 pitches were strikes, but who really cares. Phil had nothing. Less than nothing, actually. You don’t give up seven runs and record two outs with good stuff.
David Adams and Brett Marshall became the fourth and fifth players to make their big league debut with the Yankees this season, joining Preston Claiborne, Vidal Nuno, and Corban Joseph. That seems like an awful lot of big league debuts for one season, especially for a veteran-loving club like the Yankees, doesn’t it? This was only the 40th game of the year as well. I wish I knew a way to look that up.
Adams went 1-for-4 with a solid two-strike single to center for his first big league hit, plus he played a pretty good third base. Made a few tough plays and all the routine ones. Marshall, meanwhile, really took one on the chin, surrendering five runs on nine hits in 5.2 innings. He walked five and struck out one, throwing only 56 strikes out of 108 total pitches (52%). Everyone gets a mulligan in their big league debut in my book, but I can’t imagine this is what he had in mind. With Joba Chamberlain ready to be activated off the DL, I have to think Marshall will be sent back to Triple-A Scranton on Thursday.
The Yankees scored their two runs on solo homers, one by Vernon Wells and one by Chris Stewart. Lyle Overbay was the only player with multiple hits, and he spent the last three innings resting on the bench. Robinson Cano did the same, but he went hitless and is mired in a little 9-for-41 (.220) slump. That dates back to the Athletics series. The only other player in the lineup who failed to get a was … wait for it … Ichiro Suzuki. He’s in an 0-for-20 slump and hitting .238/.281/.331 (57 wRC+) on the year.
Preston Claiborne chipped in 2.1 scoreless innings between Hughes and Marshall, allowing just a ground ball single while striking out two. He’s been very impressive so far. Infielder Alberto Gonzalez was on the mound for the final defensive out, but I’m not going to lie, I wanted to see Ichiro pitch. That would have been fun. Wells played second base for that one-third of an inning and didn’t have to make a play.
Marshall allowed a two-run homer to Ibanez in the fifth, ending a 28.1-inning scoreless streak by the bullpen. That’s pretty damn impressive. Ibanez has three homers in the two games; you think he misses Yankee Stadium at all?
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Sad graph is sad. MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some more stats, and ESPN the updated standings. Embedded Yankee Freddy Garcia helped the Orioles lose to the Padres, so the Yankees remain atop the AL East by two full games. It’s May 15th though, little too early to worry about that stuff.
Same two teams will wrap up this three-game series on Thursday night. Andy Pettitte vs. Aaron Harang is your pitching matchup for the rubber game. RAB Tickets is the place to go for any last minute deals.
Triple-A Scranton (12-11 loss to Toledo)
- 2B Corban Joseph: 1-3, 2 R, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 1 K
- RF Thomas Neal: 3-4, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K — quietly hitting .329/.385/.402
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 2-5, 2 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI — six hits in his last 13 at-bats (.462)
- 3B Ronnie Mustelier: 2-6, 1 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 1 E (fielding)
- CF Melky Mesa: 1-5, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 4 K, 1 E (throwing)
- RHP Chris Bootcheck: 3 IP, 8 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 3/1 GB/FB — 44 of 76 pitches were strikes (58%) … the Chris Bootcheck Regression Tour is very much underway
- RHP Cody Eppley: 1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 18 of 23 pitches were strikes (78%)
The Yankees had a new (new-ish, anyway) left fielder last night, now they have a new third baseman. The team has called up David Adams, as expected, and he is in the starting lineup at third base. Rumor has it he will get an opportunity to play the hot corner on an everyday basis — everyday for the injury-prone Adams is four or five times a week — while Kevin Youkilis is out, which means another two or three weeks. Maybe longer. Youkilis hasn’t done much rehab work in Tampa yet. Here’s the lineup the Yankees are throwing at right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma…
- CF Brett Gardner
- 2B Robinson Cano
- DH Vernon Wells
- LF Curtis Granderson
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- 3B David Adams
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- C Chris Stewart
- SS Alberto Gonzalez
And on the mound is the 2010 All-Star Game loser, right-hander Phil Hughes.
Tonight’s game will begin a little after 7pm ET, and it can be seen on YES. Enjoy.
May 15th: Done deal, both the NHL and the Yankees have officially announced it. The first game (Rangers-Devils) is scheduled for 12:30pm ET on Jan. 26th (Sunday), the second (Rangers-Islanders) for 7:30pm ET on Jan. 29th (Wednesday).
April 16th: Katie Strang has confirmed the NHL is planning on two outdoor games at Yankee Stadium next season, with the three locals participating: Rangers-Devils (Jan. 26th) then Rangers-Islanders (Jan. 29th). The deal is expected to be finalized soon.
April 10th: Via Helen Elliot: Yankee Stadium is the “preferred venue” for an outdoor NHL game on January 26th of next year. The NHL is hoping to play three outdoor games next winter — the scheduled Winter Classic in Michigan plus two others. Dodger Stadium is the favorite to land the third game.
The Yankees have been trying to lure the Winter Classic — the NHL’s annual marquee/cash cow event — to the Bronx since the new Yankee Stadium opened in 2009, but scheduling conflicts with the Pinstripe Bowl have prevented it from happening. The Pinstripe Bowl contract doesn’t expire until 2015, but the Winter Classic is usually played right around New Year’s. The tentative late-January schedule of this game could make it possible. Either way, I’m totally there if it happens. (h/t Ryan Dadoun) · (17) ·
3:59pm: Yep, Nelson has been designated for assignment. He had a nice little two weeks in pinstripes, specifically going 8-for-26 (.308) at the plate in the last seven games. Nelson was always just a stopgap until Adams could be called up.
3:45pm: The Yankees have officially called up infielder David Adams, the team announced. No word on the corresponding roster move just yet — they need to make both a 25-man and 40-man move — but I’m guessing it’ll involve Chris Nelson. They’re completely redundant.
Adams, who turns 26 today, hit .316/.407/.490 (155 wRC+) with three homers in 26 games for Triple-A Scranton this year. They Yankees couldn’t call him up any sooner because of some silly roster rules, but he is expected to get a chance to play everyday with Kevin Youkilis on the DL. Adams started his career as a second baseman but shifted over to third in the second half last year, exactly when Alex Rodriguez had his hand broken by a pitch. · (47) ·
The Yankees have spent the better part of the last three months placing player after player on the DL, but they’ve managed to survive all those personnel losses this season. Hell, they haven’t just survived, they’ve thrived. They currently sit atop the division by two full games and have both the most wins (25) in baseball and best overall record (25-14) in the AL. Their ragtag lineup has scored just enough runs to support a pretty excellent pitching staff, which is the formula they need to follow given the current roster.
Not everyone in that ragtag lineup is pulling their weight though. Ichiro Suzuki, the projected everyday (or thereabouts) right fielder coming into the season, has hit a punchless .246/.289/.341 (63 wRC+) in 137 plate appearances this year. That is pretty atrocious. Remember how awful Randy Winn was in 2010? How we couldn’t wait until the team designated him for assignment? He had a 63 wRC+ with the Yankees that year. Chris Stewart had a 65 wRC+ last year. Ichiro, a corner outfielder, is hitting like a backup catcher.
Usually when a player performs this poorly, the team just releases them and walks away. The Yankees showed little patience with Winn, releasing him before the end of May. Ichiro isn’t most players though — he’s Ichiro!, a future first ballot Hall of Famer and iconic player in two hemispheres. Furthermore, the “top of the Yankees hierarchy” gave him a two-year contract that runs through 2014. Suzuki’s three-week hot streak last September — which the Yankees probably don’t make the postseason without — is still fresh in everyone’s mind as well. It’s complicated.
Curtis Granderson came off the DL yesterday, but the Yankees also lost Travis Hafner for at least a few days with shoulder tendinitis. It’s one step forward, one step back with the injuries this year. Hafner’s absence saves Ichiro’s everyday job for the time being, only because they need a warm body to plug into the lineup. The alternatives are Ben Francisco and Alberto Gonzalez, so yeah. Ichiro continues to play.
That can’t continue much longer though, not unless Suzuki gets hot and starts performing better. He did go on a nice tear for about two weeks late last month, so it’s not impossible, but he has reached base just four times — all base hits, no walks or hit-by-pitches — in his last 30 plate appearances. Ichiro, the historically great hit machine, is currently riding an 0-for-16 slump, an 0-for-16 slump with a lot of ugly swings and at-bats in general. There are times he is completely non-competitive at the plate.
The poor performance this year really shouldn’t be a surprise given how the last two years have played out. Ichiro hit .277/.308/.361 (84 wRC+) in nearly 1,400 plate appearances from 2011-2012, so a further decline in performance at age 39 should have been expected. He’s always been a no walks, no power offensive player, and as soon as those types of hitters lose bat and foot speed, it tends to go south in a hurry. It’s not often a gradual decline, it’s a tumble over the cliff. Ichiro is aging like a player with his skill set should age, though his greatness allowed him to avoid that fate until well into his late-30s.
Winn hooked on with the Cardinals and was a little more productive (87 wRC+) down the stretch in 2010, and Ichiro is certainly capable of turning it around in a hurry. His iconic status and contract mean his roster spot is very safe for the time being, and indeed he does have some value defensively and on the bases. He’s best suited for pinch-running and defensive replacement duties though, classic fourth outfielder stuff, which is the role he should fill with Granderson back once Hafner is healthy. The Yankees have written the book on finding productive veterans in recent years, but Ichiro looks more and more like a miss with each passing day. Unfortunately, he isn’t as easily disposable as most of the other scrap heap pickups.
By all accounts, Joe Girardi is having an excellent year leading the Yanks’ rag-tag band of misfits to an AL-best 25-14 record, and to note the team’s and skipper’s progress so far, our partners at TiqIQ are giving away $100 in credit and the chance to purchase tickets for one game at 50 percent off to one lucky winner. Click through for the entry form and contest page, but here’s the fine print: Submit your name and email to TiqIQ and leave a comment on the company’s Facebook page responding to the following question: “Is Joe Girardi The Manager Of The Year (so far) And Why?” For my money, no other manager can come close over the first quarter of the season, but I’ll leave the why up to you. The contest ends tonight at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time, and don’t forget to check out RAB Tickets for your Yankee Stadium needs. [TiqIQ] · (9) ·
Coming into this season, Adam Warren was at a weird place in his career. He repeated the Triple-A level in 2012 and pitched marginally better than he had in 2011, but not well enough to really force his way into the team’s plans. His disastrous one-start big league stint last summer didn’t help matters either. Warren was stuck in spare arm purgatory, a nice pitcher to have in the organization but hardly a cornerstone.
Instead of going back to Scranton for a third stint at Triple-A, the 25-year-old Warren made the team out of Spring Training with an assist from Phil Hughes‘ balky back. It was basically a repeat of last year, when David Phelps unexpectedly made the club out of camp thanks to Michael Pineda‘s shoulder. An injury to a projected starter forced the projected long man into the rotation, creating an opening in the bullpen. Phelps took advantage last year and Warren is looking to do the same now.
“I think Dave kind of started something last year when he came up and did well,” said Warren to Mark Feinsand on Monday. “For us guys down in the minor leagues, we’re kind of like, ‘Well, we might have a chance to help this team.’ So you kind of get that little bit of glimmer of hope. Now, this year, guys are getting some opportunities and we’re trying to take advantage of them. We have that confidence coming up that we know we can get outs, so I think that really helped us.”
In seven relief appearances this year, Warren has posted a 1.45 ERA and 3.07 FIP in 18.2 innings. Four of those seven outings lasted at least two innings, including his first (one run in 5.1 innings) and most recent (four scoreless innings) appearances. His strikeout rate isn’t anything special (7.23 K/9 and 20.3%) despite an above-average 10.4% overall whiff rate, but he has limited walks (2.89 BB/9 and 8.1 BB%) and gotten a ton of ground balls (52.8%). They aren’t the kind of peripherals that make you think he’s worthy of higher leverage work, but they’re plenty good enough to succeed in this role.
Warren hasn’t changed his approach much in relief, mostly because he’s turned lineups over a few times and needed to use all his pitches. His fastball has averaged 92.3 mph and topped out at 94.1 mph — a tick or two better than what he usually does as a starter — and he’s thrown his mid-80s slider and low-80s changeup nearly 20% of the time each. He’s thrown his upper-70s curveball once out of every ten pitches as well. Most guys scrap their third or fourth best pitch when they move into the bullpen, even long relief, but Warren has stuck with the kitchen sink approach.
“You just have to stay mentally focused,” said Warren to Chad Jennings earlier this month when asked about his role. “Things can change so quick. For me personally, I try to have a good attitude about whatever role I’m in. Opportunities arise. You do have to stay kind of mentally focused even though you may not be pitching in games that are close to start out with, just try to stay sharp for when you do get that opportunity.”
I wasn’t quite sure where Warren fit with the Yankees after last season, at least beyond being an extra arm in Triple-A for emergencies. It seemed like he was, at best, the team’s seventh starter and tradeable prospect. Kinda sorta useful. To his credit, Warren has taken advantage of his opportunity and become a valuable multi-inning reliever, someone capable of soaking up some bulk innings in blowouts without sending Joe Girardi to the bullpen phone every time a runner reaches base. He might only be the 22nd or 23rd man on the roster, but he’s pitched himself up the depth chart after being the 38th or 39th man on the 40-man roster just a few weeks ago.
A few years ago, the Yankees were pretty much the only team that figured out how to beat Pedro Martinez: you couldn’t. You just had to wait him out and take care of business against the bullpen. That’s exactly how the Yankees beat Felix Hernandez and the Mariners on Tuesday, keeping the game close and going to work late for a 4-3 win.
Shut Down By Felix
It wasn’t a question of whether Felix Hernandez would shut the Yankees down, just how embarrassing it would be. The right-hander came into this start with a 3.08 ERA (~3.92 FIP) in 14 career starts against the Bombers, including a 1.13 ERA (~2.46 FIP) in five starts at the new Yankee Stadium. He stayed true to that form and limited New York to just one run in six innings, striking out eight. Felix left the game due to some kind of injury — the trainer came out to visit him during his final inning and he was shown flexing his left leg. He threw 97 pitches and surely had enough left in the tank for another frame.
The Yankees did have some opportunities against Hernandez, however. They had runners at first and second with one out in the first, a runner at third with one out in the third, and runners at first and second in the fourth. Those opportunities resulted in zero runs. It wasn’t until Lyle Overbay doubled into the right field corner with two outs in the sixth that they scored their first run, and they got lucky the ball didn’t hop over the fence for a ground rule double. It hit off the very top of the wall and stayed in the field of play, allowing the runner to score from first. Felix wasn’t super duper sharp, but the Yankees really couldn’t touch him.
Three-Reliever, Two-Strike Rally
As soon as Hernandez was out of the game, the Bombers went to work. Chris Nelson opened the seventh inning with a solo single to center, then advanced to second on Yoervis Medina’s wild pitch. Brett Gardner put runners on first and second with a walk, then Robinson Cano knotted the game at three with a two-run double off the right-center field wall. I thought it was gone off the bat. Following a pair of walks to load the bases, Overbay gave the Yankees the lead with a sacrifice fly to center.
The go-ahead rally stood out for two reasons … well, really one big combined reason: the quality of the at-bats. Nelson, Gardner, and Cano all reached base in two-strike counts, and seven of the eight hitters saw at least four pitches in their at-bats. Five saw at least five pitches. The Yankees really worked the three relievers Seattle manager Eric Wedge used in an attempt to stifle the rally, those classic grind it out at-bats that have defined the team’s offense for the last 18 years or so. It’s not the first time they’ve put together a come from behind rally like this this year.
CC Sabathia wasn’t particularly sharp but he wasn’t bad. Just okay. The ten strikeouts were matched by the ten hits allowed, including a run-scoring double by Michael Saunders and a two-run homer by former Yankee Raul Ibanez. Those hits accounted for the three Mariners runs and were also the first two extra-base hits Sabathia allowed to left-handed hitters this year. Three runs (two earned) in 6.1 innings is fine for most pitchers, but CC ain’t most pitchers.
David Robertson and Austin Romine combined to create a mess in the eighth, as the former walked the leadoff man on four pitchers before the latter got cute and tried to cut down the lead runner on a sacrifice bunt. Everyone was safe. Robertson pulled off a Houdini act and escaped the jam with a strikeout and a line drive double play, which really should be created to the coaching staff and Jayson Nix for his perfect positioning. Mariano Rivera tossed a flawless ninth for his 16th save in 16 chances. He got a gift strike three call to end the game.
Curtis Granderson‘s first game of the season was mostly uneventful. He grounded into a double play, grounded back to the pitcher, struck out, and walked to load the bases in the seventh. He looked fine in left field as well, though he didn’t have any real tough plays. Ibanez hit a solid line drive out his way, but nothing that required a dazzling play. First day back went well enough.
Weird game for Overbay, who made two defensive miscues and ran into a defensive obstruction. The first bad defensive play was a simple ground ball to first that he flipped to Sabathia instead of taking himself, allowing Ibanez to beat out the infield single. The second was another simple ground ball that he just muffed, leading to the unearned run. Overbay was then ruled safe at first in the fourth inning when Hernandez stood in the baseline on a play at first. He was originally called out before the umpires conferenced and (correctly) awarded him first base. Standing in the baseline is a no-no. Weird day for Lyle.
The Yankees have not hit a homer in three games now, their first three-game homerless streak since July 2011. They already have four homerless wins in 2013 after having only seven last year.
I don’t remember what inning it was, but that scripted Zoo York/Chad Ortiz (?) bit by the YES booth was just brutal. Where’s the remote, I’m going to put on the Mets for the next few minutes bad. Let us never speak of that again.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the up to the minute standings. Both the Red Sox and Orioles blew leads and lost on Tuesday, so the Yankees now lead the division by a full two games. They also have the most wins (25) in baseball.
Same two teams on Wednesday night, when Phil Hughes squares off against Hisashi Iwakuma. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch the game live. Oh, and apparently the Arrested Development Banana Stand will be at the Stadium from 3:30-8pm ET on Wednesday, so there’s another reason to buy a ticket and go.