Game 76: Pineda, Yankees going for series win over Astros


I have made the executive decision to downgrade Michael Pineda from Big Mike to Midsize Mike, at least temporarily. Pineda didn’t just get hammered last time out (eight runs in 3.1 innings), he has a 6.10 ERA in his last seven starts and 38.1 innings overall. That dates back to the 16-strikeout game. Pineda has a shiny 2.89 FIP this year. That’s awesome! He also has a 4.25 ERA (93 ERA+). That’s not awesome.

The Yankees need to get Pineda back on track and soon — preferably starting today against the Astros — because I don’t think they can get to the postseason if they’re stuck with Midsize Mike the rest of the season. One thing at a time though. Get the win today, take the four-game series from the Astros, and hope Pineda starts earning back the Big Mike moniker. Here is Houston’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. LF Garrett Jones
  7. RF Chris Young
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    RHP Michael Pineda

There are thunderstorms in Houston today, so the Minute Maid Park roof will be closed once again. This afternoon’s series finale will begin just after 2pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and, depending where you live, MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Roster Move: Guess what? Esmil Rogers is back! He has been called up from Triple-A Scranton and Gregorio Petit was sent down, so the Yankees have a seven-man bullpen and a three-man bench right now. Today was Esmil’s day to start for the RailRiders, so he’s good for a lot of innings if necessary. Slade Heathcott was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot for Rogers.

Injury Update: Jacoby Ellsbury (knee) hit and ran the bases again today. He’ll head to Tampa tomorrow and will begin playing in minor league rehab games this week, the Yankees say.

CC Sabathia and One Bad Inning

To paraphrase The Wonder Years, growing up means watching your heroes turn human in front of you. This process is never easy in sports. Professional athletes have this marvelous–and marvelously frustrating–habit of making what they do look incredibly easy, like they could do it forever and ever, as naturally as anything you and I do. Then, the cliff shows up. Sometimes the decline is slow and gradual. Other times, the player pulls a Wile E. Coyote and looks down, plummeting dramatically. For CC Sabathia, and we Yankee fans who’ve had to “grow up” this season, it’s been a combination of those things. Sabathia’s performance has dropped off considerably, but it’s been going on for two and a half years now. Watching Sabathia, someone we’ve loved and revered for so long, go through this has been painful (granted, I’m sure it’s 100 times more painful for him).

2015 for CC has been a bit of a microcosm of his long decline: things go bad in a hurry, but those bad things tend to be drawn out in one excruciating inning. In five of his 15 starts this year, we’ve seen CC be anywhere from “great” to “alright, okay, fine” in parts or majorities of games, only to have One Bad Inning rear its disastrous head and ruin the start for everyone (appropriately enough, this happened to my softball team and me on Friday night).

In start number one against the Blue Jays, Sabathia surrendered five runs total; four of them came in the top of the second inning. During his matchup with the Mets, the fourth inning was his downfall. After recording outs on two of the first three batters, Sabathia then surrendered a run-scoring triple, a run-scoring single, and a two-run homer, leading to four of the seven runs he gave up. It’s worth noting that after the run scoring, he gave up another hit–a single to former teammate Curtis Granderson–before recording the third out on a lineout by John Mayberry, Jr.

Things were more or less normal for the next few starts until number seven on the year against the Rays. CC didn’t give up a lot of runs that game–four–and the Yankees won, but of the runs he gave up, three of them came in one inning, the seventh. Back-to-back homers by Logan Forstyhe and Joey Butler started the inning before CC got an out, gave up a double + error, followed by a sac fly to plate the third run of the inning. The Yankees were ahead 9-1 going into the inning, so this didn’t matter a ton, but was still indicative of Sabathia’s one-inning-struggles this year.

Sabathia looked great in his next start after the Rays game, but then came the dumpster fire that was the game against the Rangers: 2.1 innings, 6 runs–all in one terrible, horrible, no good, very bad third inning. CC was charged with those runs thanks to five hits, a walk, and a wild pitch. Let’s not relive that inning any further.

Last but not least, let’s look at his most recent start–one in which I was in attendance for–against the Phillies. He gave up six runs in this game, five of them coming in the fourth inning thanks to two homers, one each by Cameron Rupp and Miakel Franco. I want to focus specifically on the homer to Rupp because, continuing this theme, it encapsulates Sabathia’s struggles in one three pitch at bat. Here is the location chart, thanks as always to Brooks Baseball. Brooks labeled all three of those pitches as changeups. The one Rupp hit into the Phillies’ bullpen is in a location that a Major League hitter can’t help but drive out of the park, and it speaks to everything that’s happened to Sabathia since 2013: he’s lost location and he’s lost the effectiveness on pitches that once helped him get a ton of outs.

I won’t pretend to know what the answer is for Sabathia because I’m not sure there really is one. He’s not the same type of pitcher that Andy Pettitte was, so an Andy-Style reinvention probably isn’t going to happen. This One Bad Inning Syndrome doesn’t scream “Make me a reliever!” either. But running him out there every fifth day has already been bad and probably won’t get better. Since 2013, we’ve had to watch CC turn from hero to human; I’m not sure if we’ll ever see him as a hero again. Growing up sucks.

DotF: Campos dominates in rehab start during a rainy day in the minors

Triple-A Scranton was rained out. The game will be made up as part of a doubleheader on July 5th.

Double-A Trenton was also rained out. The makeup date is TBD. Just one game tomorrow.

High-A Tampa (3-1 loss to St. Lucie)

  • SS Abi Avelino & 2B Tyler Wade: both 0-4, 1 E — Avelino struck out once and committed a throwing error … Wade struck out twice and committed a fielding error
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K — threw a runner out at third
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 1-3, 1 RBI, 1 SB
  • LHP Chaz Hebert: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 2 WP, 5/8 GB/FB — 54 of 91 pitches were strikes (59%)

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Yankees blow six-run lead, rally to beat Astros 9-6 anyway

Source: FanGraphs

That was almost the worst lost of the season. Almost. Instead, it turned into a pretty satisfying 9-6 win over the first place Astros. The Yankees have won three of their last four games. It’s Saturday, so I’m going with bullet points:

  • Homer-oltzer: First inning grand slams are just the best. Brian McCann smashed one of those into the second deck to give the Yankees a quick 4-0 lead, long after it was apparent Astros lefty Brett Oberholtzer had nothing. Chris Young followed with a two-run shot in the second to make it 6-0. Then Oberholtzer got frustrated, threw at Alex Rodriguez, and was ejected from the game. He just walked off the field after the ejection. No argument. Small time.
  • Blown Lead: The 6-0 lead disappeared rather quickly. The Astros scored two runs in the second — whatever, they can hit, two runs are gonna happen — and then they scored the other four runs in the span of five batters. Chris Carter launched a solo homer in the fourth, Carlos Correa hit a two-run homer in the fifth, and Jose Altuve followed that with a solo homer to tie things up. Deflating! Masahiro Tanaka allowed six runs in five innings for his second straight bad outing. He insists he’s healthy. Either way, his location is garbage. Too many pitches up in the zone.
  • Oppo Pop: The Yankees blew prime scoring opportunities in the sixth and seventh innings, because of course, but they capitalized in the eighth. The rally started with a Brett Gardner leadoff walk, continued with Young’s fielder’s choice — Altuve didn’t touch second base when attempting the double play pivot, so no out was recorded on the play — and was capped off by Mark Teixeira‘s mammoth opposite field double off the wall. He’s so strong. Teixeira flicked his wrists and hammered Pat Neshek’s outside heater off the wall. Crazy. Two runs scored. Chase Headley hit a monster solo homer for an insurance run in the ninth.
  • Saved By The Bullpen: Seven strikeouts in four scoreless innings for the bullpen. Bryan Mitchell tossed a scoreless sixth, was bailed out by Chasen Shreve in the seventh, then Justin Wilson and Dellin Betances nailed things down in the eighth and ninth. Both allowed a base-runner, but no big deal. Shreve struck out Jon Singleton with the bases loaded to end the seventh. He’s been so, so good. Shreve’s excellent.
  • Leftovers: Gardner went 3-for-5 with two doubles and a walk. He’s hitting .300/.371/.494 (140 wRC+) on the season. Only Mike Trout, Nelson Cruz, and Jose Bautista have a higher wRC+ among AL outfielders … McCann and Didi Gregorius each had two hits. A-Rod and Carlos Beltran each drew two walks … the Yankees had seven walks and four strikeouts as a team. It’s their eighth game with more walks than strikeouts. Only the Blue Jays, Dodgers, and Red Sox have more … the Yankees scored 9+ runs for the tenth time this season. They did it nine times all of last year.

Here’s the box score, video highlights, updated standings, Bullpen Workload, and Announcer Standings pages. The Yankees and Astros will wrap up their four-game series on Sunday afternoon. Michael Pineda and Collin McHugh will be the pitching matchup.

Saturday Night Open Thread

Happy Saturday, everyone. It’s raining here in New York but hopefully the weather is nice wherever you are. Here’s the nightly open thread. FOX is showing a bunch of regional games and MLB Network is airing a game later tonight. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s win, or anything else right here. Have at it.

Game 75: Tanaka in Texas


By Game Score, Masahiro Tanaka‘s last start was the second worst of his relatively brief MLB career. He allowed five runs (including three homers) in five innings against the Tigers and wasn’t sharp at all. Tanaka left a lot of pitches up in the zone and Detroit made him pay. Naturally, everyone worried about his elbow, but Tanaka said his problems were all mechanical.

So, in an effort to get things back on track, Tanaka threw two bullpen sessions between starts instead of his usual one. He told reporters he identified a mechanical issue while watching video and wanted two throwing sessions to make sure he ironed it out. Tanaka was pretty excellent prior to his last start (1.31 ERA and a 35/2 K/BB in his previous five starts), so hopefully that one was just a blip on the radar. Here is Houston’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. LF Chris Young
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Jose Pirela
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It’s hot and humid in Houston, and it’s supposed to start raining pretty soon, so the Minute Maid Park roof will be closed. Apparently it’s going to start raining today and not stop until next Saturday. Texas is weird. This afternoon’s game will begin a bit after 4pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and, depending where you live, MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Jacoby Ellsbury (knee) will run today and tomorrow. The Yankees will then decide whether he’s ready to begin a minor league rehab assignment … Andrew Miller (forearm) made 45 throws from 100 feet today and I assume everything went fine. We probably would have heard by now if it didn’t.

Saturday Links: Six-Man Rotations, A-Rod, Franco

(Scott Halleran/Getty)
(Scott Halleran/Getty)

I’m not sure if Andy Pettitte was hanging around the team last night or if he’ll be back this weekend, but he was in the clubhouse in full uniform on Thursday, and he tossed batting practice before the game. Pretty cool. Anyway, the Yankees and Astros continue their series later his afternoon. Here are some links to hold you over until game time.

Do six-man rotations work?

The Yankees are currently employing a six-man rotation but only temporarily — Joe Girardi said they are likely to go back to a normal five-man rotation once the road trip ends next week. The team has been talking about using a six-man rotation since before Spring Training and baseball as a whole seems to be heading in that direction. I don’t think it’ll be long before six-man rotations are the standard around MLB. Maybe ten years or so.

Russell Carleton did some research on six-man rotations to see if they are actually worth the trouble. Does it improve performance? Does it reduce injury? What happens if you have an ace like Clayton Kershaw and don’t want him to make five fewer starts in a season? After some gory math, Carleton found that most pitchers don’t see an uptick in performance with an extra day of rest and their injury risk isn’t reduced substantially. Unexpected!

That doesn’t mean a six-man rotation isn’t worth trying though. It just means historical data indicates the benefits may not be as great as they seem. Every pitcher is different though. Perhaps a six-man rotation greatly benefits Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda. Or maybe it helps Tanaka and does nothing for Pineda. Who knows? Carleton’s research just shows that a six-man rotation may not be as great everyone seems to think.

Yankees still negotiating for A-Rod‘s 3,000th hit ball

It has now been one week and one day since Alex Rodriguez took Justin Verlander deep for his 3,000th career hit, and, according to Dan Martin and Brendan Kuty, the Yankees are still trying to get the ball from ballhawk Zack Hample. The two sides have made “significant progress” after the team initially offered a package of tickets and memorabilia.

Hample says he wants the Yankees to “perhaps make a large donation” to Pitch In For Baseball, a charity that provides baseball equipment to kids around the county. “I could sell the ball at an auction for a lot of money and then turn over the money to the charity. I’ve certainly been hearing from a lot of auction houses,” he said. “This is a big chance to do something extraordinary for (the charity).”

Using the milestone baseball to help charity rather than for personal gain is an honorable thing. Of course, Hample has spent the last few days trolling A-Rod on Twitter and going on a media tour, so he’s milking his 15 minutes for all they’re worth. Hopefully A-Rod gets the ball, a charity gets a lot of money, and Hample stops pushing kids out of the way for baseballs. That way everyone wins.

Maikel Franco: Almost a Yankee

Earlier this week Phillies infielder Maikel Franco made a bit of a name for himself by wrecking the Yankees, going 6-for-12 with three home runs in the three-game series at Yankee Stadium. I won’t dub him a Yankees Killer based on one series, but yeah, he crushed them. Impressive showing by the kid. The Phillies are really bad but Franco is a definite bright spot and a reason for fans to tune in every day.

As Dan Barbarisi writes, the Yankees tried to sign Franco as a 17-year-old out of the Dominican Republic back in 2010, but fell $5,000 short of Philadelphia’s offer. The Phillies offered $100,000 and the Yankees offered $95,000. “I was very close to signing with the team—my agent told me which teams wanted to sign me, and the Yankees were up in that group,” he said. Only if Hal Steinbrenner wasn’t so stupid and cheap Franco would have been a Yankee argh!!!

Except that’s not really how this works. For starters, no one cares about this if Franco does 2-for-12 in the series. Second, we can’t assume he would have signed with the Yankees had they simply matched the offer. Franco might not have liked the idea of joining a team with a first baseman and third baseman signed until the end of time. Third, every team falls a few grand short of signing players every year. And sometimes those players get good. That’s baseball.