The Yankees have taken care of business so far in the second half. They swept the Reds over the weekend and now welcome the last place Rangers to the Bronx for a four-game series. It is their first meeting of the season. These two teams will play seven games in the next ten days, so the scheduling gods have been kind to the Bronx Bombers.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Rangers dropped two of three to the Blue Jays in Toronto over the weekend, and, immediately before the All-Star break, they lost eight straight and 22 of 25 (!). These aren’t the same Rangers that won back-to-back AL pennants a few years ago, that’s for sure. Texas is 39-59 overall with a -110 run differential, both of which are the worst marks in baseball.
With a team 89 wRC+ and an average of 4.14 runs per game, the Rangers have had a below-average offense overall this season. Their lineup has been decimated by injuries though, so this isn’t the same lineup manager Ron Washington was trotting out there earlier in the year. Texas has 14 players (!) on the disabled list right now, including six position players. Among the notables are 1B Prince Fielder (neck), 2B Jurickson Profar (shoulder), 1B Mitch Moreland (ankle), and 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff (back). All four are done for the year. Here is the full list of injuries, if you’re interested.
Among those still left standing, Washington does have one top notch hitter in 3B Adrian Beltre (145 wRC+). His defense isn’t as good as it once was — that means it is merely very good instead of elite — but he can still rake. OF Alex Rios (103 wRC+) is day-to-day with an ankle issue but is expected to avoid the disabled list and return to the lineup sometime this week. OF Shin-Soo Choo (100 wRC+) has been very disappointing in his first year with Texas. OF Leonys Martin (92 wRC+) has been okay and OF Jake Smolinksi (142 wRC+) is their only other above-average hitter, and he has all of 36 plate appearances.
SS Elvis Andrus (77 wRC+) has regressed at the plate these last two seasons and his eight-year, $120M extension doesn’t even kick in until next year. Sure, he’s great defensively, but yikes. 2B Rougned Odor (90 wRC+) has shown flashes of why he was considered a top prospect coming into the season. Journeymen IF Adam Rosales (71 wRC+ in limited time) and OF Daniel Robertson (65 wRC+ in limited time) are helping cover for the injuries. Texas is carrying four (!) catchers at the moment: C J.P. Arencibia (23 wRC+), C Chris Gimenez (90 wRC+), C Robinson Chirinos (84 wRC+), and C Geovany Soto (just off the DL). Arencibia has been playing first base and Soto’s been spending time at DH after knee surgery. Can’t say this is the scariest lineup the Yankees will see this year.
Monday: RHP Shane Greene (No vs. TEX) vs. RHP Miles Mikolas (vs. NYY)
Injuries have hit the Rangers’ rotation hard as well, which is why Mikolas, a career reliever, is now in the rotation. The 25-year-old will be making his fourth start with Texas tonight — it is his tenth start of the season and 21st of his six-year career overall, so he is their Chase Whitley — and he’s pitched to a 10.05 ERA (4.11 FIP) in the first three. Mikolas has a dozen strikeouts and three walks in 14.1 innings so far, also allowing two homers. His numbers in six Triple-A starts before being called up were alright: 3.58 ERA (3.36 FIP) with a 7.99 K/9 (20.4 K%), 0.83 BB/9 (2.1 BB%), and 0.83 HR/9. Mikolas heavily uses his low-90s two and four-seamers, throwing them roughly 85% of the time combined, while mixing in a handful of low-80s changeups and mid-70s curveballs.
Tuesday: RHP Chase Whitley (No vs. TEX) vs. RHP Nick Martinez (No vs. NYY)
Martinez, 23, jumped straight from Double-A to the Opening Day roster thanks to the various injuries on the staff. He has a 5.10 ERA (5.99 FIP) in 67 innings across eleven starts and five relief appearances while issuing more walks (4.16 BB/9 and 10.2 BB%) than strikeouts (3.90 K/9 and 9.5 K%) and not getting any ground balls (31.5%). Martinez is also pretty homer prone (1.61 HR/9 and 10.3 HR/FB%) and lefties (.415 wOBA) hit him hard, though righties (.350 wOBA) don’t have much trouble either. A low-90s four-seamer is his primary fastball, though he will also throw a few low-90s two-seamers and upper-80s cutters per start. Martinez’s two secondary pitches are a slider and a changeup, both in the mid-80s.
Wednesday: RHP David Phelps (vs. TEX) vs. RHP Yu Darvish (vs. NYY)
It’s a four-game series, so the odds were against the Yankees missing Darvish. The 27-year-old is in the middle of his best MLB season with a 2.88 ERA (2.75 FIP) in 18 starts and 122 innings, and of course he has piled up a ton of strikeouts (11.36 K/9 and 30.5 K%). His walk rate (3.10 BB/9 and 8.3 BB%) is his lowest in three years with Texas and so is his ground ball rate (33.9%). Darvish’s homerun rate (0.74 HR/9 and 7.8 HR/FB%) is probably lower than it should be given his grounder rate and home ballpark. Lefties (.323 wOBA) have been much more successful against him than righties (.239 wOBA). Darvish throws six different pitches and uses his mid-80s splitter and slow upper-60s curveball the least, just a little more than 9% of the time combined. He throws his low-90s four-seamer, low-90s two-seamer, upper-80s cutter, and upper-70s slider regularly. The slider is devastating. That’s his moneymaker. Darvish will be a handful on Wednesday.
Thursday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. TEX) vs. RHP Colby Lewis (vs. NYY)
Lewis, 34, is having an awful season (6.37 ERA and 4.10 FIP in 17 starts and 89 innings) for an awful team and the frustration is starting to boil over — he ripped Colby Rasmus for bunting to beat the shift in the fifth inning of a two-run game following his last start. That’s as silly as it gets. Lewis’ strikeout (7.89 K/9 and 18.5 K%) and walk (2.93 BB/9 and 6.9 BB%) rates are fine, his homer (1.11 HR/9 and 8.5 HR/FB%) and ground ball (33.1%) rates aren’t. Same goes for his platoon splits: lefties have tagged him for a .443 wOBA while righties have a comparatively better .352 wOBA. At this point of his career, Lewis works with an upper-80s four-seamer and a low-80s slider as his two main pitches. He’ll also throw a few low-to-mid-80s changeups and mid-70s curveballs per start.
Like I said, the Yankees and Rangers will play seven times in the next ten days, and there’s a decent chance Texas will trade closer RHP Joakim Soria (0.84 FIP) and LHP Neal Cotts (2.63 FIP) at some point during that stretch. They already traded away RHP Jason Frasor (to the Royals) and those two are said to be on the block. RHP Neftali Feliz (6.48 FIP in limited time) was recalled from Triple-A not too long again and figures to retake the closer’s job once Soria is traded.
The rest of Washington’s bullpen includes RHP Scott Baker (4.69 FIP), LHP Ryan Feierabend (2.80 FIP in very limited time), RHP Roman Mendez (2.99 FIP in limited time), RHP Shawn Tolleson (4.94 FIP), and RHP Matt West (2.39 FIP in limited time). Baker is the swingman and has four relief appearances of at least five innings this year. He’s the first pitcher to do that since Tom Bolton had five such relief appearances for the 1993 Tigers. Tolleson, Feliz, and West all pitched yesterday. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees’ relievers, then check out Lone Star Ball for everything you need to know about the Rangers.
When the Yankees swung what was essentially a minor trade to add Brandon McCarthy two weeks ago, it was easy to scoff at the deal. The big right-hander had a 5.01 ERA and a 1.23 HR/9 at the time of the trade, numbers that weren’t any better than the 4.89 ERA and 1.59 HR/9 Nuno put up in his 14 starts, especially considering the difference in leagues. The Yankees desperately needed pitching and it appeared they acquired a band-aid, not a difference maker.
The 31-year-old McCarthy came with a track record though, something Nuno lacked. He pitched to a 3.29 ERA (3.22 FIP) with the Athletics from 2011-12, and while some of that is certainly related to pitching in the spacious O.co Coliseum, McCarthy also famously reinvented himself as a sinker-cutter pitcher after delving into sabermetrics. “I didn’t want to suck anymore,” he told Eddie Matz last April, so his focus shifted to limiting walks and keeping the ball on the ground. The cutter and sinker better allowed him to do that.
McCarthy signed a two-year contract worth $18M with the Diamondbacks during the 2012-13 offseason and, for whatever reason, Arizona asked him to shelve the cutter. This isn’t completely unheard of, there are a few cutter averse teams out there (the Orioles took it away from top prospect Dylan Bundy even though it is his best pitch), but it is weird. “It wasn’t something I totally agreed with,” McCarthy told Josh Thomson over the weekend, but I guess if the employer tells the employee to do something, he does it. Here is his pitch selection over the last few years:
|Cutter||Sinker||Curve||Four-Seam + Changeup|
|2011-12 with Athletics||41.3%||36.1%||18.9%||3.7%|
|2013-14 with D’Backs||23.6%||49.2%||20.1%||7.1%|
|2014 with Yankees||18.5%||52.5%||15.0%||14.0%|
There was a definite change in pitch selection when McCarthy joined the Diamondbacks. He had almost a 50/50 split between the cutter and sinker while in Oakland but was throwing roughly twice as many sinkers as cutters in Arizona. Obviously his sample size with the Yankees is two starts and that’s nothing, but it’s worth noting he threw more cutters in those two starts (37 total) than he did in his final eight starts with the D’Backs combined (36). The pitch was nonexistent during the end of his tenure with Arizona.
“I feel like myself again. [The D'Backs] didn’t want me throwing it any more. They wanted more sinkers away, but I feel like I need that pitch to be successful,” said McCarthy to John Harper over the weekend. “The Yankees came to me right away and said, ‘We need to bring the cutter back into play.’ They obviously looked back and saw, ‘when he’s good he was throwing cutters. When he’s not, he wasn’t.’ I was glad to hear it because I was going to tell them that anyway. It’s been frustrating because I felt like I’ve been throwing better this season than any other year.”
The Yankees had some insight into McCarthy before the trade even though he’s never played with anyone on the current roster or under someone on the coaching staff. Minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson held the same role with the Athletics while McCarthy was there, and in fact he once told Susan Slusser that McCarthy’s cutter grip was unlike anything he’d seen before. Patterson works with the team’s pitching prospects but I’m sure he was consulted before the trade given their existing relationship. It’d be foolish not to ask his opinion.
McCarthy does not need the cutter to be a put-away pitch or any kind of dominant offering, it just has to be another option. Something to bust lefties inside and something to keep hitters off the sinker. A different look, basically. McCarthy does need the pitch to be more than an average at best pitcher though. He clearly believes that, if nothing else. The cutter gives him another weapon and it’s hard to believe the D’Backs took it away from him in the first place. The Yankees are very smart to let McCarthy use his cut fastball and reintroducing that pitch might have landed them an above-average pitcher at a journeyman price.
Record Last Week: 3-0 (14 RS, 6 RA)
Season Record: 50-47 (389 RS, 418 RA, 45-52 pythag. record) 3.0 GB in ALE, 1.5 GB of WC
Opponents This Week: vs. Rangers (four games, Mon. to Thurs.), vs. Blue Jays (three games, Fri. to Sun.)
Top stories from last week:
- The Yankees and every other team were off until Friday for the All-Star break. Derek Jeter had two hits and helped the AL to a win in the Midsummer Classic, so the AL will have homefield advantage in the World Series this fall.
- After the break, the Reds came to the Bronx for a three-game weekend series. Jacoby Ellsbury‘s homer gave the Bombers a win in the series opener before the Yankees blew Cincinnati out in the second game. They finished off the sweep with a walk-off win yesterday.
- Injury Updates: CC Sabathia (knee) will have season-ending “clean up” surgery. Masahiro Tanaka (elbow) received his platelet-rich plasma injection and is currently resting. Carlos Beltran (concussion) was activated off the 7-day disabled list.
- Impending free agent David Robertson confirmed there have been no extension talks with the Yankees. Alfonso Soriano was officially released.
- Brian Cashman confirmed the Yankees do not have interest in the recently released Dan Uggla. The Yankees have not discussed Ian Kennedy with the Padres and they don’t have interest in either Edwin Jackson or Bartolo Colon.
- Forbes ranked the Yankees as the fourth most valuable sports franchise in the world at $2.5 billion.
- Aaron Judge ranked 45th on Keith Law’s midseason top 50 prospects list.
- Assistant GM Billy Eppler is one of four finalists for the Padres’ vacant GM job.
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 nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.
Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
Triple-A Scranton (16-5 win over Charlotte)
- 2B Jose Pirela: 2-6, 1 R, 1 3B, 3 RBI
- RF Rob Refsnyder: 1-6, 1 R, 1 K — in a little 10-for-41 (.242) rut
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 3-6, 2 R, 2 2B, 2 K – if the Yankees are not willing to give him a chance to play right field everyday right now given the state of the MLB roster, I’m not sure they ever will
- 3B Adonis Garcia: 3-6, 3 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K
- DH Kyle Roller: 2-5, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
- 1B Austin Romine: 1-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 BB — 13-for-34 (.382) in his last ten games
- C John Ryan Murphy: 2-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
- LHP Matt Tracy: 5.1 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HB, 7/3 GB/FB — 53 of 89 pitches were strikes (60%)
- RHP Danny Burawa: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 1/1 GB/FB — ten of 18 pitches were strikes (56%)
Here’s your open thread for the last few hours of the weekend. The ESPN Sunday Night Game is a good one, the Dodgers at the Cardinals (Kershaw vs. Martinez), so talk about that game, this afternoon’s walk-off win, or anything else right here (no religion or politics please). Have at it.
What a great way to start the second half. The Yankees turned what was poised to be a frustrating, RISPFAIL filled loss into a walk-off win and a series sweep on Sunday afternoon, beating the Reds 3-2. That sure was fun. Let’s recap the win:
- Answer Back: The Reds scored their first run in the top of the fifth and the Yankees answered right back with two runs in the bottom half. The rally was set up by back-to-back one-out walks by Kelly Johnson and Brett Gardner and capped off by run-scoring singles to right by Derek Jeter and Jacoby Ellsbury. The Yankees forced Johnny Cueto, who came into this game averaging 7.1 innings per start, to throw 112 pitches in only five innings. Old school Yankees effort from the offense. They worked Cueto hard.
- My Hiro: For the third straight game, the Yankees got a strong outing from their patchwork rotation. De facto ace Hiroki Kuroda allowed just one unearned run — a Brian Roberts error is to thank for that — in 6.2 innings on Sunday afternoon, holding the Reds to three hits (all doubles) and two walks. He struck out six and recorded nine of his other 14 outs on the infield. I thought his splitter was really sharp — PitchFX says he threw 30 splitters, including 19 for strikes and ten for swings and misses. Pretty much a vintage Kuroda start. More of this in the second half, please.
- Blown: It was bound to happen at some point, and that point came Sunday afternoon. Dellin Betances blew the 2-1 run in the eighth inning, serving up a solo homer to Todd Frazier. Can’t even be mad about it. It was a 98 mph fastball up and in that Frazier somehow yanked down the right field line and kept fair. Impressive piece of hitting. Suddenly the offense’s string of blown opportunities — 3-for-15 (.200) with runners in scoring position overall, including runners stranded at third in the third, fifth, sixth, and seventh innings — looked like it would cost them the game. They had a lot of chances to blow this game open but were unable to do it.
- Shades of Castillo: Reds manager Bryan Price made a very smart move by going to all-world closer Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning of a tied game on the road because the middle of New York’s lineup was due up. It just didn’t work out. Ellsbury led the inning off with a marvelous at-bat, fouling off several triple-digit heaters before singling through the left side in a full count. He stole second uncontested and moved to third with no outs thanks to a wild pitch. Mark Teixeira struck out but Brian McCann picked him up … by blooping a single between three Reds defenders. Either they all lost it in the sun or there was a lot of “I’ve got it you’ve got it he’s got it” going on. Probably both. It didn’t hit off anyone’s glove like the Luis Castillo play, but it was the same idea. Not the way you’d expect to win but who cares. A win is a win is a win.
- Leftovers: Ellsbury went 4-for-4 with a walk and the stolen base, plus he made a great sliding catch to save a run in the second. Dominant two-way game by him … Teixeira had an awful afternoon, going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts, all with men on base … everyone in the starting line reached base except Teixeira, with Ellsbury, McCann (two hits), Roberts (two singles), and Johnson (two walks) each reaching multiple times … David Robertson retired the side in the order in the ninth to set up the walk-off.
For the box score and video highlights, head over to MLB.com. You can find some more stats at FanGraphs and the updated standings at ESPN. Depending on the outcome of the late afternoon games, the Yankees will be either three games (Orioles lose) or four games (Orioles win) back of the top spot in the AL East and either 1.5 games (Mariners lose) or 2.5 games (Mariners win) back of the second wildcard spot. The last place Rangers — as in the worst record in all of baseball — come to the Bronx for four games next. Shane Greene and Miles Mikolas will be Monday night’s pitching matchup.
Via Scott Miller: Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler is among four finalists for the Padres’ GM job. Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen, Rangers assistant GM A.J. Preller, and MLB executive Kim Ng are the other finalists. The Padres passed on more experienced candidates and prefer to hire a young up and comer. A second round of interviews will be conducted in the coming week.
Eppler, a San Diego native, was the runner-up to Jerry Dipoto for the Angels’ GM job a few years ago, so this isn’t the first time he’s been among a round of finalists and called back for a second interview. He joined the Yankees in 2004 and was the director of pro scouting from 2005-11 before being promoted to assistant GM. It’s clear that Eppler will be a GM at some point in relatively soon, either as Brian Cashman’s eventual successor or with another team. · (14) ·
The Yankees won the first two games of this three-game series with the Reds, so the series win is already in the bag. That’s an accomplishment for this group. They’ve won only three of their last eleven series in the Bronx, including this one. The Yankees needed to start playing better at home if they wanted to make a serious run and they’ve done that in the first two games of the second half. Let’s finish off this sweep and welcome the last place Rangers to town next. Here is the Reds lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- C Brian McCann
- DH Carlos Beltran
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- 2B Brian Roberts
- 3B Kelly Johnson
RHP Hiroki Kuroda
Perfect baseball weather in New York this afternoon. Cool, blue sky, no clouds, no threat of rain. It’s wonderful. This afternoon’s game is scheduled to begin a little after 1pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.
Via Andy Martino: The Yankees have not discussed Ian Kennedy with the Padres and they do not have interest in either Bartolo Colon or Edwin Jackson. That last part makes a lot of sense. San Diego has indicated they are willing to keep Kennedy for next year, but that seems like a negotiating ploy. “Oh, [Brian Cashman's] out there. He’s really trying to make something happen,” said a rival GM. “I personally don’t think he has the pieces to get a big trade done, but he’s working at it.”
The Yankees have not yet officially announced their starters for Monday and Tuesday, but there is no reason to think it will be anyone other than Shane Greene and Chase Whitley in some order. CC Sabathia is done for the season and who knows if or when Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda will return, so there is no more internal pitching coming. They absolutely need another starter (and another bat or two as well), even if it’s only a minor pickup like Brandon McCarthy. Buy or sell, they need someone to soak up some innings. I fully expect Cashman to swing a deal or two before the trade deadline in eleven days. · (56) ·
Triple-A Scranton (7-0 loss to Charlotte)
- 2B Jose Pirela: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K
- RF Rob Refsnyder: 0-4, 1 K — back in right field
- DH Zoilo Almonte: 0-4, 2 K
- 1B Kyle Roller: 0-3, 2 K
- C Austin Romine: 0-3, 1 K
- LHP Nik Turley: 5 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 2 HB, 4/2 GB/FB — 54 of 79 pitches were strikes (68%)
- LHP Rich Hill: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — nine of 12 pitches were strikes … first appearance since signing a minor league deal the other day
- RHP Joel De La Cruz: 2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 HB, 1/3 GB/FB – 27 of 46 pitches were strikes (59%)