Yankeemetrics: The terrible Twinkies [June 16-19]


Sabathia heating up
There haven’t been many enjoyable things to watch with this year’s Yankees team, but one of them undoubtedly is the masterful, turn-back-the-clock season of CC Sabathia.

He continued his brilliance on Thursday, working out of several jams to pitch six innings of one-run ball in the Yankees’ 4-1 win over the Twins. He put 10 guys on base but stranded nine of them, consistently generating weak ground ball outs to end rallies and finish off innings. His ground ball rate of 70.6 percent was his highest in a start this season.

Sabathia also dialed up the heat on his pitches and seemed to get stronger as the game wore on. His cutter (91.5 mph), sinker (93.3 mph) and slider (82.4 mph) each had their highest average velocities in a game this season, and he maintained that velocity as he approached 100-plus pitches late into his outing.

The large lefty now has a 0.82 ERA in his last seven starts, the lowest among all pitchers with at least 30 innings since the start of May through Thursday. Sure, that’s an arbitrary endpoint, but consider this: Clayton Kershaw’s best ERA over a seven-start span this year is 0.81 and his best seven-game mark last year was 0.82.

Didi Gregorius provided the margin of victory with a tie-breaking three-run homer in the seventh inning off lefty specialist Fernando Abad. The Twins reliever entered the game having allowed only three hits in 30 at-bats against lefty hitters this season, and had yet to surrender a longball to anyone. Didi, of course, entered the game with the best batting average among left-handed batters against left-handed pitchers in MLB this season — and won the strength-versus-strength battle.

The blast was also his second three-run homer in three games, which gives us this #funfact: Didi is the first Yankee shortstop to hit multiple three-run home runs in a three-game span since Roy Smalley, who hit two of them in a game against the Royals on Sept. 5, 1982.

Tanaka time
There’s nothing like a trip to the Twin Cities to cure those losing-streak blues. The Yankees continued to pound a bad Twins team on Friday night, winning 8-2 thanks a balanced offense that scored early and often to support a stellar performance by Masahiro Tanaka.

Tanaka bounced back from a rough start last week against the Tigers, throwing eight innings of one-run ball with five strikeouts and no walks. It was his 11th game allowing two earned runs or fewer, the most such starts among all American League pitchers through Friday’s slate.

The outing also marked his fifth straight start on the road with at least six innings pitched and no more than one earned run allowed. Only one other pitcher in franchise history has fashioned a streak like that in a single season: Whitey Ford, who did it in 1950, 1963 and 1964.


Comeback kids
Down 4-0 heading into the eighth inning, Saturday’s game seemed destined to end in another frustrating loss. But then the Twins remembered who they were (a very bad baseball team), the Yankees remembered where they were playing (Target Field; aka Yankee Stadium Midwest), and their bats came alive to spark another late-inning rally. In the end, the Bronx Bombers had their first win this season when trailing after seven innings.

Alex Rodriguez — who was riding a season-high 11-game homerless streak entering this game — cut the deficit in half with a two-run blast in the seventh inning. That hit gave him 5,795 career total bases, passing Babe Ruth (5,793) for sixth place on the all-time MLB list.

Carlos Beltran then tied the game with an opposite-field homer in the eighth inning off Kevin Jepsen. His 18 homers are the most by any Yankee age 38 or older this early into the season, one more than Babe Ruth had through 68 team games in 1933.

Jacoby Ellsbury capped the comeback win with a bases-loaded RBI single in the next frame. It was the first time since joining the Yankees three seasons ago that he delivered a go-ahead hit in the ninth inning.

Aroldis Chapman made things interesting in the ninth inning as he tried to close out the game. He surrendered back-to-back two-out homers to Eduardo Escobar and Kurt Suzuki, which sliced the lead to 7-6, before he eventually got the save. Suzuki’s shot came off a 102 mph fastball, the fastest pitch ever hit for a home run by any player in the Pitch F/X era (since 2008).


Sweep-less in Minneapolis
As much as the Yankees have dominated the Twins in Minneapolis recently, they couldn’t complete the four-game sweep this weekend, blowing an early lead and losing 7-4 on Sunday afternoon.

The Yankees entered the final game of this series with a 19-5 record in the regular season at Target Field (and 2-0 in the postseason), a mark that was notable in several ways. It was the:

  • highest win percentage at Target Field by any AL team
  • highest win percentage at any stadium by any team since 2010 (when Target Field opened)
  • highest win percentage for the Yankees at any park over the last 100 seasons (min. 20 games)

The loss was even more improbable given the opposing starter, Ervin Santana, who had a 7.71 ERA in his previous five outings this season and who hadn’t beaten the Yankees since August 1, 2008. His streak of 11 straight starts without a win against New York was the longest active winless streak versus the team by any starting pitcher.

Brian McCann broke out of his hitting slump in style, crushing two homers deep into the right-field seats and beyond; according to Statcast, they traveled 421 and 450 feet. Since 2008 (as far back as Statcast has batted ball distance), the only other Yankee with two homers of at least 420 feet in the same game was A-Rod on July 25 last season, also at Target Field against the Twins.

Fan Confidence Poll: June 20th, 2016

Record Last Week: 3-3 (36 RS, 35 RA)
Season Record: 34-35 (283 RS, 302 RA, 32-37 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, vs. Rockies (two games, Tues. and Weds.), Thurs. OFF, vs. Twins (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Yankees can’t finish sweep, drop finale 7-4 to Twins

It’s tough to sweep any team in a four-game series, even a bad team like the Twins, but the Yankees had a chance to do so Sunday afternoon. Instead, they blew an early lead and lost 7-4 in the series finale, which once again dropped them a game below .500. The 2016 Yankees: mediocre as hell.

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)
(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Build A Lead
Brian McCann has been so bad these last few weeks — he went into Sunday’s game in a 5-for-55 (.091) slump over his last 20 games — that I wondered if he was hurt. He had the toe injury a few weeks back and more recently dealt with a hyper-extended elbow. Catchers get hurt. It’s a brutal position. McCann was slumping so hard that you couldn’t help but wonder if he was playing through something painful.

In the second inning Sunday, McCann snapped an 0-for-15 skid with a long solo home run off Ervin Santana to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead. It was a quality at-bat — he fouled off three tough pitches and worked the count full — before unloading on Santana’s center cut 3-2 fastball. Look at the location:

Brian McCann Ervin Santana

When you’re struggling like McCann, you can get pitches like that and still miss them. They get popped up or rolled over for a ground ball, something like that. It was good to see McCann really lay into that pitch and drive it a long way. The ball hit off the facing of the upper deck in right-center. Statcast measured it at 421 feet, his longest dinger of the season to date.

The Yankees scored their second run thanks to some bad Twins defense and good Brett Gardner baserunning. Gardner hit a high fly ball to center that went over Danny Santana’s head for a double — it really should have been caught, it appeared Santana misread the distance due to the wind — then scored on Alex Rodriguez‘s bloop single. Gardner read the ball off the bat perfectly and took off for home. He didn’t need to wait to make sure it would fall in. That gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead.

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)
(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Give It Back (And Then Some)
Nathan Eovaldi pitched pretty well for the first five innings of Sunday’s game. He did wiggle out of trouble in the first inning after walking two, but after that, he retired 14 of the next 17 batters he faced. Once of the three baserunners was a Max Kepler solo homer into the right field flowerbed. It was a line drive that just barely made it into the overhang. The ball actually hit the first row of flowers and fell back onto the field, so yeah, it barely made it over.

Things fell apart in the sixth inning, and really, a bunch of weakly hit base hits got the wheels in motion. Brian Dozier blooped a one-out single in front of Jacoby Ellsbury, then Trevor Plouffe followed with a little ground ball poked the other way against the shift. That put runners on the corners. Eduardo Escobar ended Eovaldi’s afternoon with a broken bat dinker over Ike Davis‘ head at first base. Dozier scored and Plouffe came all the way around the score too. He was originally called out on the play at the plate before it was overturned on replay.

Dellin Betances was warming in the bullpen during Escobar’s at-bat, with the Yankees still leading 2-1. It seemed as though Joe Girardi only wanted to use Betances for four outs, not five, which is why Eovaldi remained in the game to face Escobar even though his location seemed to be waning.

Ultimately, it didn’t really matter. Escobar’s triple — he raced all the way around the bases as the throw went to home plate — gave the Twins a 3-2 lead. Betances entered and allowed a bloop single to Kepler to make it 4-2 Twins — Statcast measured Escobar’s triple and Kepler’s single at 62 mph and 61 mph off the bat, respectively, which is nothing — then Kurt Suzuki followed with a hard-hit double to left to make it 5-2 Twins. Suzuki’s double was, by far, the most well-struck ball of the inning.

Eovaldi was charged with four runs on six hits and two walks in 5.1 innings, giving him a 5.02 ERA (4.31 FIP) on the season. He struck out only two. Eovaldi has now allowed at least four runs in each of his last four starts, something he’s never done before. A month ago he looked like he was on track and riding the splitter to consistent success. Now the splitter seems to have deserted Eovaldi, making him much less effective. For shame.

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)
(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

The Yankees scored a run in the eighth inning thanks to back-to-back errors by Taylor Rogers and Plouffe. Rogers pulled Plouffe off the first base bag with a throw on Ellsbury’s infield grounder, then Plouffe let a routine grounder go right through his legs. Of course, Kirby Yates gave up a bomb to Dozier in the previous half-inning, so that eighth inning run only cut the deficit to 6-3. Yates has allowed eleven runs in his last ten innings.

Nick Goody put the game further out of reach by allowing a run in the ninth inning. He’s now allowed eight runs in his last 9.2 innings. For all the preseason talk about the Yankees possibly having the best bullpen ever, the team’s relievers now have a combined 3.96 ERA in 202 innings. The non-big three relievers have a 4.94 ERA in 122 innings. Imagine how much worse the bullpen will be once the Yankees trade Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman.

McCann added a single and another solo homer later in the game. The second homer measured at 450 feet, per Statcast, so that’s a new season high. McCann went 3-for-4 on the afternoon. Hopefully that gets him going. Gardner had two hits as well while A-Rod and Davis had one each. The Yankees did not draw a walk for sixth time in 69 games this season. They did it eight times all of last year, and from 2002-11, they averaged 4.6 walk-less games per season. Not making outs is overrated anyway.

Fun fact: in his first inning at-bat, Ellsbury swung and missed at a pitch for the first time in 19 plate appearances, according to Inside Edge. He went 84 total pitches and 41 swings between swings and misses by my unofficial count. Ellsbury went into Sunday’s game with a 6.1% swinging strike rate, 22nd best out of the 171 players qualified for the batting title. (Gardner is fourth at 4.4%.)

And finally, the Yankees went 3-3 on their trip through Colorado and Minnesota. They lost a game in both the AL East and wildcard races, and are now four games back of a playoff spot with four teams ahead of them. Their postseason odds sit at 14.5%, per FanGraphs. Trade ’em. Trade ’em all.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head over to ESPN for the box score and updated standings. MLB.com has the video highlights. Check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages too. Here’s the win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees are heading home for a nine-game homestand, but first, they have an off-day Monday. It’s their second off-day in a week after having one off-day in the previous seven weeks. The Rockies are coming to town for a two-game series after that. Ivan Nova and Chad Bettis is the scheduled pitching matchup for Tuesday night’s series opener. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to catch that game or any of the other eight games on the homestand at Yankee Stadium.

DotF: Gittens homers again in Charleston’s win

Thanks to his contributions to Short Season Staten Island’s ten-inning no-hitter last night, RHP Drew Finley landed in today’s Prospect Report. It’s not behind the Baseball America paywall, so check it out.

Triple-A Scranton (1-0 win over Gwinnett) faced RHP Joel De La Cruz, who actually spent a day or two on the Yankees’ roster last season, but did not appear in a game

  • CF Ben Gamel: 1-4 — hitting .370/.452/.520 with 13 walks and 14 strikeouts in his last 24 games
  • RF Aaron Judge: 0-1, 1 BB
  • C Gary Sanchez: 0-2, 1 K
  • LF Jake Cave & 1B Nick Swisher: both 1-3
  • DH Cesar Puello: 0-3
  • LHP Phil Coke: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 5/4 GB/FB — 38 of 57 pitches were strikes (67%)
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 3 IP, zeroes, 3 K, 3/3 GB/FB — 28 of 42 pitches were strikes (67%) … 53/8 K/BB in 35.2 innings
  • RHP Matt Wotherspoon: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 12 of 18 pitches were strikes (67%)

[Read more…]

Father’s Day Open Thread

Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there, especially you baseball loving dads. I know I wouldn’t be obsessed with the game without my father and grandfather. Make sure you tell your old man you love him today, because there’s a lot of us out there who can’t and wish we could.

Here is tonight’s open thread. The Pirates and Cubs are the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game (Taillon vs. Hendricks), and Game Seven of the NBA Finals is on as well (8pm ET on ABC). If the Cavaliers win, it’s because the Warriors choked and aren’t as good as the 1995-96 Bulls. If the Warriors win, it’s because LeBron choked again. There, I saved you a bunch of clicks tomorrow morning. Anyway, talk about whatever here.

Game 69: Trying for a Father’s Day sweep


The Yankees have played four four-game series this season and they’ve won all four. They’ve swept two of them (Athletics, Angels) and have a chance to sweep a third this afternoon against the Twins. Not coincidentally, the A’s, Angels, and Twins have the three worst records in the AL. The Yankees sure do know how to beat up on bad teams.

On the mound this afternoon is Nathan Eovaldi, who is currently in a Mr. Hyde phase of his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde act. He’s allowed at least five runs in each of this last three starts after allowing seven runs total in his previous five starts. It sure would be nice if the Twins propelled Eovaldi into another stretch of dominance. Here is the Twins’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. DH Alex Rodriguez
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7.  SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Ike Davis
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

The internet tells me the weather is very nice in Minneapolis today. Sunny with temperatures in the low-90s. This afternoon’s series finale will begin a little after 2pm ET. You can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Mark Teixeira (knee) continues to run and take batting practice. The plan is to have him play three rehab games with Triple-A Scranton from Tuesday through Thursday this week, then rejoin the Yankees next Saturday.

Roster Move: Chase Shreve (shoulder) has been activated off the 15-day DL and optioned to Triple-A Scranton, the Yankees announced. I thought Shreve would rejoin the bullpen as soon as he was ready. He needs to go to Triple-A though. He’s been wretched the last few weeks.

The Journey to and from .500

(Stephen Lam/Getty)
(Stephen Lam/Getty)

Following yesterday’s “grab victory from the jaws of defeat, then almost throw the damn thing right back” win against the Twins, the Yankees are back at .500, their record sitting at 34-34. In their last ten games, they are 6-4; currently ,they’re in fourth place in the American League East, 5.5 back of the division leading Orioles. In Wild Card terms, they’re 3.5 back of the second spot, presently occupied by the Blue Jays. Circling things back to a more “Yankee-centric” level, yesterday marked the fifth time the team had won a game to get to .500 this year.  Let’s take a look back and see how the team’s done following reaching .500 with a win.

Date Record Win Streak
4/6 1-1 1
4/8 2-2 2
4/24 22-22 0
6/9 30-30 1
6/18 34-34 ?

That is the story of the 2016 Yankees in table form: Just good enough to be respectable, but not nearly good enough to sustain anything. In between April 8th and April 24th–on April 12th to be exact–the Yankees were two games over .500, their highest mark above .500 all season. Should they win today–which is likely given that it’s a game against the Twins–they’lll be halfway to that mark going into a nine game homestand against the Rockies (2), Twins (3), and Rangers (4). Should they lose, well, would it really be all that surprising? This is a team that has been unable to gain any real traction beyond one six game win streak from 5/18-5/24. That and a recent five gamer against the Angels and Tigers have been the Yankees’ only streaks of more than two games all season.


While they embarrassed themselves in Colorado, the Yankees do have a chance to trot out an actual lineup against the Rockies this week and the Twins always seem to cure their ills. That could make things look good heading into the series against the Rangers…who have the second best record in all of baseball; their 44 wins fall short only of the Cubs’ 46. July tells a similar story.

The Yankees start July on the road in San Diego before crossing back to the south side of Chicago to take on the White Sox. Both of those are teams they can beat. After that, however, they hit another rough patch: series against first place Cleveland, then home games against the Red Sox, Orioles, and Giants, before ending the month on the road in Houston and Tampa.


The end of June and the beginning of July offer the Yankees a chance to win a bunch of series, even if they may struggle against the Rangers coming up. The Rockies, Twins, Padres, and White Sox are teams they can succeed against, and they just might. But if the relatively short history of this season repeats itself, the Yankees won’t get too far out ahead of .500 or gain much traction. On the little picture side of the coin, this will be frustrating. Watching a team win, lose, win, lose is not exciting; it’s downright maddening. But on the big picture side of the coin, struggling to gain ground will be a good thing; this team doesn’t need any delusions of grandeur heading into trade deadline season.