Guest Post: The Curious Case of Pineda’s Increasing Strikeout Totals and Declining Results

The following is a guest post from a longtime reader who goes by A Rare Ellsbury Fan in the comments. He’s a high school freshman and wishes to stay anonymous. AREF wrote about the perpetually enigmatic Michael Pineda.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

For the first three (somewhat) healthy seasons of Michael Pineda’s Yankee career, the Yankees and fans have been left wanting more. Before the 2014 season, the only expectation on the shoulders of Michael Pineda was for him to finally put on the pinstripes and take the mound. After a dazzling 2011 rookie campaign in which he earned an All-Star selection with the Seattle Mariners, Pineda missed the entire 2012 and 2013 seasons with various arm and shoulder injuries. Since he finally got back on the mound in 2014, we have witnessed some very different shades of the man we affectionately (sometimes) refer to as “Big Mike.”

Unusual Dominance

The 2014 season was by far Pineda’s best in pinstripes and also statistically the best of his career, in an injury and suspension riddled sample size, admittedly. The big right-hander pitched to a 1.89 ERA (2.71 FIP) and allowed only 56 hits in 76.1 third innings. He kept balls in the park at an astounding rate (0.59 HR/9) while peculiarly inducing the most fly balls of his Yankees career (42.3%) and the lowest strikeout rate of his career (20.3%).

The first thing that jumps into my mind when I see these numbers is the luck factor. While there are many pitchers who make a living on weak fly balls, that has never really been Pineda’s MO besides that season. Also, in a homer prone ballpark in Yankee Stadium, the increase in fly balls should mean an increase in home runs, a far cry from the minuscule homer rate that he actually gave up in 2014.

Is it possible that Pineda was just generating weaker contact in 2014? Sure, and that likely contributed to some to it. Is it also possible that Pineda was a little fortunate that more fly balls weren’t leaving the park? That’s a likely possibility too. One thing that we do know, however, is that something doesn’t quite add up here.

First Signs of Trouble

After a strangely successful first half of the 2015 season, in which Pineda allowed 115 hits in 106.1 innings pitched to go along with a solid 3.64 ERA, the first real signs of trouble for Big Mike came in the second half of 2015. In that half, it seems as if Pineda’s string of good luck finally came to a screeching halt. Pineda maintained a similar hit to IP ratio (61 in 54.1 IP), but his ERA ballooned to a dreadful 5.80.

Overall, Pineda finished with a 4.37 ERA (3.34 FIP) with 156 strikeouts and 176 hits allowed across 160.2 IP, the most since his aforementioned 2011 All-Star season. You may have noticed the increased strikeout rate (8.74 K/9) which jumped nearly 2 more batters a game from his highly successful 2014 season. He also was elite at limiting walks (1.18 BB/9).

The obvious conclusion here in the much discussed issue of Pineda not throwing enough “quality” strikes, meaning hitting the corners, bottom, and top of the zone, while not leaving pitches over the middle of the plate. This most likely played a part in the amount of hits given up, as well as the fact that he pitched nearly 100 more innings in 2015 than he did in 2014. Assuredly, with all that behind him, Pineda was primed for a bounce back 2016 season.

An Unexpected Step Back

The 2016 season to date has been a very, very bad one for Big Mike. Again, his strikeout rate is higher than It was last season (24.4% vs. 23.4%), but with it has come another inflated pitching line. So far, Pineda has a 5.88 ERA (4.04 FIP) with 90 hits against him in only 72 innings, all while opponents have hit .299 against him.

It’s not just the stats either. Pineda has looked lost on the bump, with body language indicating frustration.Any consistency that he once had with his slider, which is a devastating wipeout pitch at its best, is gone. Every time he throws one, you cringe and hope that it isn’t hit 450 feet for another homer. This is the worst we’ve seen from Pineda during his tenure with the Yankees, and it has not been pretty.

Overall, Michael Pineda is the biggest wild card on the Yankees staff. On some days he looks like a true front of the rotation pitcher, and on other days he looks like he belongs in AAA. With his free agency fast approaching, and his rotation mate Nathan Eovaldi having shown major strides the second half of last season and into this year, this is a critical time for Michael Pineda to get his act together.

There could be a time where the Yankees will need to choose between one of the two to extend long term, and at this point, it certainly seems to be leaning in Eovaldi’s direction. If Pineda can find his put-away slider again, it will not only pay major dividends for him, but it will make an already solid Yankees rotation even better. With this offense, we all know they need it.

Mailbag: Beltran, Damon, Rutherford, Sabathia, Meadows

We’ve got a dozen questions in the mailbag this week. Remember to use the RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com email address to send us anything at anytime.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Marc asks: Assuming Beltran stays healthy, is willing to waive his NTC, and stays at a comparable pace, do you think the Cespedes trade is a good comparable? Or should the Yankees expect more or less?

Nah, that’s too optimistic, I think. At the time of the trade Yoenis Cespedes had similar offensive numbers to Carlos Beltran (123 wRC+ vs. 128 wRC+) and was younger, healthier, and better defensively. I know age doesn’t seem to matter much when talking about rentals, but it does mean Cespedes was less likely to wear down late in the season. Beltran brings a clutch reputation with him and I do think that matters some, just not enough to overcome the difference in age, health, and defense.

Beltran is a unique player because he’s still quite productive at an age when most players are trying to hang on. Teams usually stay away from players his age. At the same time, Beltran has some flaws that limit his value. My trade proposal sucks, but I think the Yankees could ask for two prospects for Carlos. Maybe not top 100 caliber guys, but two players from the top ten of a team’s system. Using the Yankees’ system of reference, would something on par with Tyler Wade and Dustin Fowler for Beltran be enough? That’s a notch below what Cespedes fetched (Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa). Keep in mind his market will be limited to contenders only, and NL teams may decide to avoid him all together.

Rob asks: I know this isn’t really a current question, but with so many similarities between them, what are the differences between Jacoby Ellsbury and Johnny Damon? They’re both speedy outfielders with weak arms and some pop that the Yanks got from the Red Sox. Would you rather have Ellsbury or Damon at their prime?

There are three big differences between the two: power, stolen bases, and durability. Damon averaged 16 homers per season from 1998-2009. Ellsbury has hit double-digit homers just twice in his eight full seasons. On the other side of the coin, Ellsbury has averaged 49 steals per 162 games. Damon averaged 27 per year during his peak from 1998-2009. His career high was 46 steals in 2000. Ellsbury has three seasons with more, including one 70 steal season.

The biggest difference is durability. Damon was a workhorse. He became a full-time player in 1996 and was last a full-time player in 2011. Damon managed to play in 2,379 of 2,592 possible games from 1996-2011, or 91.8%. That’s an average of 148.7 games per year. Since becoming a full-timer in 2008, Ellsbury has played in 1,000 of 1,361 games, or 73.4%. Huge, huge difference in their ability to stay on the field. Ellsbury’s 2011 season was better than any one of Damon’s seasons, but if I had my pick, give me prime Damon over prime Ellsbury. He does more things and was a far better bet to stay healthy. Damon’s going to get Hall of Fame votes for a reason.

Michael asks: Do you think there’s a chance they keep Chapman past the deadline? I’m afraid that if they make a run before then that they will end up keeping him, which would be a big mistake in my opinion, even if they find a way to contend this year.

A small chance, yes. And yes, it would be a big mistake. I think the Yankees could easily get something for Aroldis Chapman in a trade that is worth more than the draft pick they’d get after the season. Worth more and closer to MLB ready too. The only possible way the Yankees could justify keeping Chapman is by going on an absurd run and getting back into the postseason race. Like really back into it. Not three games back with five teams ahead of them back in it. And even if they do get back into it, they should trade Chapman anyway. This is too valuable a trade chip to not cash in.

Mike asks: Can you explain what this means please?

Blake Rutherford question

Longenhagen is the prospect guy for FanGraphs — he also did a ton of draft work with ESPN this spring — and that question comes from his chat earlier this week.

Teams with extra picks have enormous bonus pools and they tend to spread the wealth around by cutting a below-slot deal with their top pick, then gobbling up some hard to sign players with their later picks. The Braves did it this year. They cut a deal with New York HS RHP Ian Anderson for the third pick, then used their next picks on Kansas HS LHP Joey Wentz and Texas HS LHP Kyle Muller. Atlanta manipulated their bonus pool in such a way that it landed them three of the 15 best pitching prospects in the draft.

Blake Rutherford was one of the prospects teams like the Braves were hoping would still be around with one of their extra picks. (The Padres and Cardinals had extra picks too.) If he was still on the board, they’d take him and pay him top ten money. The Yankees stepped in and took Rutherford before he could slip any further. Based on their bonus pool situation, it seems they’re preparing to give him a $3.5M+ bonus, maybe even $4M, which is top ten money. The Braves and Padres and whoever else didn’t get a chance to use their extra pool money on Rutherford.

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

Dan asks: Ok, with Sabathia pitching so well, does he actually have trade value now?

Eh, maybe. If he does, it’s not much. At the end of the day, teams are still going to be worried about the condition of CC Sabathia‘s knee. Also, these eleven generally awesome starts don’t wipe away three years of awfulness even though there are tangible reasons for the improvement (cutter, knee brace, sobriety, etc.). Would the Yankees be able to get more than the Padres got for James Shields? Two okay-ish young players and some salary relief? I feel like that’s the absolute best case scenario. Sabathia seems more valuable to the Yankees in their rotation than as a trade chip, especially if he’s going to continue pitching like he has.

Bob asks: Does Aaron Hicks still have options remaining? He offensive production has been substandard almost all year and he might benefit from playing every day at Scranton. Your thoughts?

Nope, Hicks is out of options. Sending him down to Triple-A for regular at-bats would have happened already if it were possible, I think. I wrote yesterday the Yankees need to figure out what they have in Rob Refsnyder this year, and they need to do the same with Hicks. No one with half a brain would write him off after 150 plate appearances in pinstripes. Trading Beltran (possible) or releasing Alex Rodriguez (unlikely) would clear playing time for Hicks. Otherwise he has to wait for another injury.

Greg asks: Does Severino starts another game in 2016?

Oh sure. At worst, Luis Severino will come up in September and make some spot starts to give the other starters extra rest here and there. I wouldn’t bet against him coming up before then. All it takes is one injury, after all. Severino has things to work on in Triple-A, specifically the command of his secondary pitches, and getting those things straightened out should be the priority. They can’t bring him back to MLB just because. Severino is too important to the team long-term. We’ll see him again this season though, for sure.

Frank asks: Is it somewhat surprising that the Yanks have been aggressive with Ronald Herrera, now in AA, and not so much with Nestor Cortes who is literally dominating low A? Both pitchers are approximately the same age, with similar frames but one is a righty and the other a southpaw.

I don’t think so. Herrera’s a better prospect with better stuff and more command. Cortes has had a ton of success in the low minors and puts up great numbers, but he’s working with an 88 mph heater and decent secondary stuff. He’s a classic “stats before scouting report” prospect. Herrera has more velocity and more reliable offspeed pitches. I don’t think handedness has anything to do with the way the Yankees have handled these two. Herrera has better stuff and is more advanced, which is why he’s further up the ladder than Cortes at a similar age.

Bill asks: Nobody wants to see a top prospect slump (especially as bad as Judge just did) but do you think in a way a top prospect struggling and learning how to adjust while in the minors is better for their development than say a guy like Severino who only first struggled at the majors and never had to make these kind of adjustments before?

I would prefer to see a prospect struggle in the minors at some point so they can learn how to make the adjustment there before reaching the show, but sometimes it’s just not possible. Severino dominated the minors. It wasn’t until he reached the big leagues that really experienced failure. The same was true of Phil Hughes back in the day. Failure can be a pretty good learning tool. It’s inevitable in baseball, and many times the difference between prospects and productive big leaguers is the ability to handle that failure and learn from it. No one wants to see their favorite prospect struggle, but if they can learn something from it, then it is absolutely a positive.

Meadows. (Presswire)
Meadows. (Presswire)

Andrew asks: With the Pirates OF pretty set for awhile, why not go after Austin Meadows? Good target to trade Chapman or Miller for?

Interesting. I hadn’t considered that. The Pirates have an unbelievable outfield — Andrew McCutchen is a star, yet both Starlin Marte and Gregory Polanco have outperformed him this year — and they’ve signed all these guys long-term. McCutchen will hit free agency first among those three, and the Pirates control him through 2018.

Meadows, who came up in my little Rutherford study the other day, is an elite outfield prospect currently tearing up Double-A. He’s about a year away from MLB. Given their big league outfield, it would be silly for the Pirates to not consider trading Meadows for help elsewhere on the roster. Would they trade him for a reliever? Eh, I don’t see it. They need rotation help more than anything and Meadows could fetch them a very nice young arm. It’s a good idea though. I hadn’t considered the possibility of a Meadows trade given their big league outfield situation.

Dan asks: It still maybe too early but can’t we say that the trade for Didi has been a success? Being that the position he plays is such a premium, he’s an above average defender with a sneaky bat. Even if his batting average slips a bit can’t we still say that it was a success? With a possible TBA because of Greene outcome?

Anyone who thinks the Didi Gregorius trade hasn’t been a success is trying too hard to find ways to criticize the Yankees. Shane Greene has allowed 78 runs in 104.1 innings since the trade and has battled injuries. The Yankees netted at worse a league average shortstop. The league average shortstop is hitting .258/.314/.397 (90 wRC+) so far this season. Didi went into last night’s game with a .275/.309/.393 (89 wRC+) batting line, and then there’s his glove, which is quite stellar.

I was genuinely surprised the Yankees traded Greene. He had a nice cameo in 2014 and the Yankees love their power arms. He seemed like a cheap and effective rotation option, which was something the team really lacked at the time. They also had a gaping hole at shortstop, and Gregorius was only 24 at the time with five years of team control and some pretty obvious tools. That’s a trade you make over and over again. It’s worked out pretty well for the Yankees, even if Greene did throw two scoreless innings against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium last week.

Bill asks: Will CC be on the All Star team this year? I can’t decide if he’s really been this good or if it’s because everyone else has been meh, or if it’s because my expectations of him this year were about knee high on an ant … Thanks!

If Sabathia carries a sub-2.50 ERA into early July, how could they keep him off the All-Star team? The Yankees have four serious All-Star Game candidates in my opinion: Sabathia, Beltran, Andrew Miller, and Masahiro Tanaka. Dellin Betances has had a few too many hiccups and Chapman missed a month, so they’re not in. Would the Yankees, who are near the bottom of the standings, get four All-Stars? It seems unlikely. I’d say Miller is the safest bet to make it. Sabathia going to the All-Star Game sure would be fun as hell though.

Didi’s blast helps Yankees snap four-game losing streak, beat Twins 4-1 in series opener

You can always count on the Twins to give the Yankees a lift. The Yankees improved their all-time record at Target Field to 19-5 with a nice come-from-behind 4-1 win Thursday night. Good pitching, timely hitting, lockdown bullpen work. That’s the way these Yankees are designed to win games.

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

Shut Down Early
The box score says Kyle Gibson allowed three runs in 6.1 innings, but that doesn’t really tell the whole story. He faced the minimum 15 batters through five innings — Alex Rodriguez was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double and Chase Headley was erased on a double play after a single — and only five of those 15 batters hit the ball out of the infield. Yuck.

The Yankees were finally able to get to Gibson in the sixth inning, when they loaded the bases with no outs. A single (Didi Gregorius), a double (Headley), and a walk (Ike Davis) did the trick. Jacoby Ellsbury was able to get a run in with a single, but only one run. Third base coach Joe Espada held Headley up that third even though Byron Buxton’s throw was to third base, not home plate. Naturally, Carlos Beltran followed with an inning-ending double play. Sigh.

Prior to the seventh inning, which we’ll get to in a bit, Gibson was on pace to be the third starter with a 5.00+ ERA to shut the Yankees down in the span of three days. Jorge De La Rosa (8.81 ERA) threw five scoreless innings Tuesday and Chad Bettis (5.85 ERA) allowed two earned runs in six innings Wednesday. Then Gibson (6.49 ERA) cruised through five innings in this game. The Yankees sure have been helping a lot of ERAs this year, huh?

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

Si! Si! Sabathia
For the third straight start, CC Sabathia came out of the gate with shaky location and ran up a high pitch count early. It looked like it would be a short night, and yet, there he was at the end of the sixth inning, having allowed just one run. Sabathia was able to strand five runners in the first two innings before settling in. Six innings of one-run ball give the big man a 2.20 ERA on the season. 2.20!

Minnesota scored their run in the fourth inning, when ex-Yankee Eduardo Nunez slapped a two-out single through the right side. Max Kepler doubled earlier in the inning and Kurt Suzuki moved him to third with an infield single that literally hit Sabathia. The Twins had their best chance to do damage in the second, when they loaded the bases on a hit-by-pitch (Kepler), a double (Suzuki), and a walk (Buxton). Luckily Robbie Grossman hit a line drive right at Ike Davis at first base.

Sabathia retired seven of the final nine batters he faced following Nunez’s run-scoring single. You can tell Joe Girardi trusts him again because he’s letting him run his pitch well over 100. Sabathia threw 116 pitches in this game — he started the sixth inning with 103 pitches — after throwing 108 pitches in his last start and 111 pitches in the start before that. He averaged only 89 pitches in his first eight starts. Sabathia kicking butt is so fun. So, so fun.

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

Didi Comes Through
The three-run seventh inning rally started with an A-Rod infield single of all things. He really busted it down the line too. It might have been the hardest he’s run out a ball since coming back last year. Brian McCann followed with a five-pitch walk, then Starlin Castro bunted the runners over. I think he did that on his own. Bunting with two anti-speed demons like A-Rod and McCann on base doesn’t seem like the wisest idea.

Either way, it worked. The bunt ended Gibson’s night as Twins skipper Paul Molitor went to lefty Fernando Abad against Gregorius. Abad has been death on lefties this year. He came into this game holding them to a .097/.125/.133 batting line with a 21.9% strikeout rate. Didi has been really good against lefties this year (.357/.400/.411!), but it still looked like a bad matchup for him. Then Abad threw a first pitch fastball here …

Didi Gregorius

… and Gregorius clobbered it out to right field for a go-ahead three-run home run. It was gone off the bat. Didi doesn’t hit many no-doubters but this one qualified. It looked good off the bat and it had the good sound too. That blast gave the Yankees a 4-1 lead with nine defensive outs to go. Just how they drew it up.

Three-run lead with three innings to go means Girardi could go to his top relievers. Dellin Betances struck out one and allowed a two-out single in the seventh inning. Andrew Miller struck out two in a perfect eighth inning. Aroldis Chapman then closed out the win with a perfect ninth. It’s been a while since Girardi could go to those guys to protect a lead.

Why? (Presswire)
Why? (Presswire)

Leftovers
The Yankees only had seven hits total. Ellsbury had the single to drive in the team’s first run, plus A-Rod, Gregorius, and Headley had two hits each. That’s it. McCann and Davis drew the only walks. So that’s nine baserunners total. Four came in the sixth inning, when the Yankees scored their first run. Three more came in the seventh inning, when they scored their other three runs. That leaves two baserunners for the other seven innings. Ewww.

Brett Gardner seemed to forget how many strikes there were during his first inning at-bat. The count was full and he tried to bunt for a hit, but it rolled foul. It nearly stayed fair! But still, why bunt there? He had to forget the count. Then, an inning later, A-Rod was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double even though the play was right in front of him and he could see Kepler getting to the ball quickly. Silly mistakes. Been too many of them this year.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
You can find both the box score and updated standings at ESPN. MLB.com is the place to go for the video highlights. Here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages, and here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
This four-game series is just getting started. The Yankees and Twins will play the second game Friday night. That’s another 8pm ET start. Masahiro Tanaka and rookie lefty Pat Dean will be on the mound.

DotF: Gittens goes deep three times in Charleston’s win

The video above is OF Jake Cave’s home run from last night’s game. The camera loses track of the ball in flight, but the announcer says it landed on the roof of the building beyond the right field. That’s quite a shot. Cave has six homers in 58 games this season. He had nine homers total in 264 games from 2014-15.

Triple-A Scranton (3-2 loss to Toledo)

  • DH Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K
  • 1B Nick Swisher: 1-4, 1 BB, 2 K — his opt-out date has to be coming up soon, but I think he’s going to end up sticking around … what other team will add him to their roster? and what other team is on their fifth string first baseman?
  • RF Aaron Judge & C Gary Sanchez: both 0-3, 1 BB — Sanchez struck out and committed a passed ball
  • LF Tyler Austin: 1-4, 1 R
  • CF Cesar Puello: 1-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB — got picked off third … ouch
  • RHP Chad Green: 7 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 11 K, 4/1 GB/FB — 68 of 103 pitches were strikes (66%) … 51/7 K/BB in his last 50.1 innings at this level
  • RHP Matt Wotherspoon: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — nine of 12 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Game 66: Oh gosh there are still 96 games left?

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Hi folks. The Yankees are playing again tonight, and these days that isn’t all that exciting. They’re not playing well right now and they haven’t played well pretty much all season. Every once in a while they’ll win a few games in a row and make everyone believers again, but it’s always followed by a string of losses. It sucks.

It’s getting a little old watching the Yankees spin their wheels. Either go on a long hot streak and climb back into the postseason race, or start making moves that indicate next season is going to better. Know what I mean? Anything else is a waste of time. 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
    LHP CC Sabathia

The internet tells me the weather in Minneapolis is just lovely. It’s sunny and temperatures have been in the 70s all day. Sounds nice. Tonight’s game is going to begin a bit after 8pm ET. You’ll be able to watch on YES. Try to enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Chasen Shreve (shoulder) is going to make another minor league rehab appearance with Triple-A Scranton tomorrow. The fact he’s going four days between rehab outings suggests his return to the bullpen is not imminent. They’re easing him back.

6/16 to 6/19 Series Preview: Minnesota Twins

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The eleven-game stretch against the Rockies and Twins has not gone well so far. Not at all. The Yankees were just swept in two games in Colorado, and now they’re in Minnesota for four against the Twinkies. The good news? The Yankees are 18-5 all-time at Target Field. The Twins always seem to cure whatever ails the Yankees.

What Have They Done Lately?

Believe it or not, the Twins played a night game on the West Coast last night. They were in Anaheim to play the Angels. The Yankees were probably already checked into their hotel in Minneapolis before that game even started. Minnesota lost last night’s game and they’ve lost eight of their last 12 games overall. They come into this series with the AL’s worst record (20-45) and run differential (-109). Only the Braves have a worse record in all of baseball, and they’re only one game worse than the Twins.

Offense & Defense

Manager Paul Molitor’s team doesn’t have the worst record in the league by accident. They don’t do anything well. They’re averaging only 3.88 runs per game with a team 88 wRC+, so offense is hard to come by. It doesn’t help that RF Miguel Sano (115 wRC+), who is definitely their best power hitter and arguably their best hitter overall, is out with a hamstring injury. We won’t see him this week. OF Darin Mastroianni and UTIL Danny Santana are also on the DL.

Buxton. (Getty)
Buxton. (Getty)

Minnesota’s token All-Star this season is probably going to be ex-Yankee SS Eduardo Nunez (126 wRC+), who is having himself one heck of a season. Good for Nunie. He leads off for the Twins with LF Robbie Grossman (185 wRC+), 1B Joe Mauer (116 wRC+), 3B Trevor Plouffe (65 wRC+), and 2B Brian Dozier (93 wRC+) falling in line behind him. DH Byung-Ho Park (94 wRC+) hasn’t worked out quite as well as Jung-Ho Kang did for the Pirates last year, at least so far. He’s typically the No. 6 hitter behind Dozier.

Top prospects CF Byron Buxton (61 wRC+) and RF Max Kepler (63 wRC+) roam the outfield with Grossman. Buxton got off to a terrible start (29 wRC+), went to Triple-A for a few weeks, mashed (188 wRC+), then returned. He’s done better since coming back (88 wRC+). C Kurt Suzuki (65 wRC+) is the regular catcher — ex-Yankee C John Ryan Murphy is currently in Triple-A — and ex-Yankees farmhand C Juan Centeno (60 wRC+) is backing up. IF Eduardo Escobar (59 wRC+) and OF Oswaldo Arcia (78 wRC+) are the other bench players.

In the field, the Twins have above-average defenders in all three outfield spots as well as second base. Plouffe is okay-ish at third and Mauer is fine at first. Nunez? He still has his Eduardo Scissorhands moments at short for sure. Suzuki has long had a reputation for being a good defender even though he’s never been particularly adept at throwing out runners or framing pitchers.

Pitching Matchups

Thursday (8:10pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Kyle Gibson (vs. NYY)
Boy oh boy did I think Gibson was going to be a star back in the day, when he was drafted out of Missouri in 2009. It hasn’t happened, partly due to injuries. The 28-year-old has a 6.49 ERA (5.33 FIP) in five starts and 26.1 innings around arm problems this year, and he’s walked exactly as many batters as he’s struck out (10.5%). That is never good. Gibson is getting grounders (54.2%) and doing an okay job keeping the ball in the park (1.03 HR/9), and lefties are just destroying him. He works in the low-90s with his sinker and four-seamer, and his go-to pitch is a mid-80s slider. Gibson also throws some low-80s changeups and a few low-80s curveballs per start as well.

Friday (8:10pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. MIN) vs. LHP Pat Dean (No vs. NYY)
Dean, 27, finally made his big league debut this season after spending parts of seven seasons in the minors. He has a 4.17 ERA (4.36 FIP) in 36.2 innings spread across five starts and two relief outings. Dean has decent enough peripherals across the board: 18.1% strikeouts, 7.7% walks, 40.9% grounders, and 1.23 HR/9. Righties have had more success against him than lefties. Dean is a finesse guy with a fastball in the 88-91 mph range, and when he cuts it, it comes in around 86 mph. A mid-80s changeup is his main offspeed pitch, and he also throws a mid-70 curve. Dean fits the “general lefty” mold to a T.

Dean. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)
Dean. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Saturday (2:10pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Ricky Nolasco (vs. NYY)
A few years back the Twins decided to spend some money on pitching, and that led to them spending $49M across four years on Nolasco. Not the wisest decision. The 33-year-old has a 5.12 ERA (3.46 FIP) in 13 starts and 77.1 innings, so he’s still doing that FIP underperforming thing he’s done his entire career. People kept waiting and waiting and waiting for a breakout because his FIP was considerably lower than his ERA each season. The breakout never came. That’s just who he is. Nolasco has impressive strikeout (20.7%) and walk (4.3%) numbers, though he’s nothing special in the grounder (42.6%) and homer (1.05 HR/9) departments. His platoon split is small, mostly because he’s a kitchen sink guy with something for everyone. He sits in the low-90s with his four-seamer and sinker, in the low-80s with his splitter and slider, and the mid-70s with his curveball. Nolasco throws all five pitches regularly too.

Sunday (2:10pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Ervin Santana (vs. NYY)
That decision to spend money on pitching? It also led the Twins to Santana. They gave him four years and $54M. Forfeited a draft pick too. And then Santana failed a performance-enhancing drug test during his first Spring Training with the team. So yeah, this signing hasn’t gone according to plan either. Santana, 33, has a 5.10 ERA (4.58 FIP) in 12 starts and 65.1 innings this season. His peripheral stats look like they always have: 17.3% strikeouts, 7.4% walks, 43.3% grounders, and 1.38 HR/9. The homer rate is higher than usual, I guess. Righties have hit him harder than lefties, but that is exact opposite of the rest of his career. Santana still sits in the mid-90s with his fastball and he still throws a ton of mid-80s sliders. He’ll chuck a few mid-80s changeups per start. Santana’s the same guy he’s always been.

Bullpen Status

Remember how I said the Twins struggle to score runs and they don’t really do anything well? Well, thanks in part to their bullpen, Minnesota is on pace to allow 900 runs this season. That would be the most allowed by any team since the 2008 Rangers allowed 967 runs. Egads. Like most teams these days they’re carrying eight relievers. Here is Molitor’s bullpen crew:

Closer: RHP Kevin Jepsen (5.40/5.31)
Setup: LHP Fernando Abad (0.79/1.99), RHP Brandon Kintzler (2.65/4.67)
Middle: RHP Buddy Boshers (0.00/1.37 in 5.2 IP), RHP Ryan Pressly (4.17/4.31), RHP Neil Ramirez (5.11/6.95), LHP Taylor Rogers (5.28/5.55), RHP Michael Tonkin (3.27/3.50)

Regular closer LHP Glen Perkins has thrown only two innings this season because of an ongoing shoulder issue. Turns out he had a tear in his labrum and needs season-ending surgery. That’s a shame. Ramirez (39 pitches) and Rogers (30 pitchers) both threw a lot yesterday. Everyone else should be good to go tonight.

I strongly recommend taking those roles with a grain of salt. Outside of Jepsen, who has been a constant in the ninth inning, and Abad, the high-leverage lefty, no one seems to have a set role. Molitor mixes and matches and sort of brings guys in whenever. It was tough to find a pattern when looking over his bullpen usage.

As for the Yankees, you can head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s top relievers. Right now they’re in “use the big relievers in games the Yankees are losing because they need work” mode. Sucks.

Yankeemetrics: Rocky Mountain Low [June 14-15]

(Getty )
(Getty )

Mile High Mess
For much of Tuesday night, not even the thin Colorado air or a mediocre Rockies pitching staff was enough to cure the Yankees’ most recent offensive malaise. They didn’t score a run until the sixth inning, and trailing 12-3 after seven innings, the Yankees seemed destined to be blown out in the first of two games at Coors Field.

Then the floodgates opened in the eighth, as the Yankees sent 12 men to the plate and scored seven runs on eight singles. Alas, the late rally ultimately fell short, resulting in an ugly 13-10 loss.

Instead, the Yankees suffered their first loss when scoring at least 10 runs since May 29, 2010 against the Indians. (Should we mention here that the 2010 Indians finished 69-93?) That snapped a streak of 72 straight wins in games with 10-or-more runs, which was the longest active streak among AL teams.

This was also the Yankees second loss in Interleague play when scoring in double digits. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the only other time that happened was in this same ballpark – a 14-11 loss to the Rockies on June 20, 2002. The 13 runs they allowed on Tuesday was also their second-most in a road Interleague game, behind only the aforementioned 2002 slugfest against the Rockies in Denver.

Jorge De La Rosa’s performance was mostly overshadowed by the offensive fireworks, but he actually shut down the Yankees lineup, holding them to three hits and no runs in five innings. The lefty has a career 4.64 ERA, but has somehow managed to dominate the Yankees in his 13 big league seasons. He’s now 4-0 with a 0.00 ERA in his four starts against them dating back to 2006.

De La Rosa is the only pitcher in major-league history to win four straight starts against the Yankees without giving up an earned run. Four guys have put together three-start streaks like that: Schoolboy Rowe (1934-35), Doc Ayers (1917), Babe Ruth (1916) and Walter Johnson (1913).

(AP)
(AP)

Nova Rocked
Coors Field continued to be a house of horrors for the Yankees, who fell to 4-7 all-time at the ballpark after Wednesday’s loss. That’s their worst record in the last 100 seasons at any stadium where they’ve played at least 10 games.

Ivan Nova, despite impressive career numbers against National League teams and in National League ballparks, was no match for the Coors Field curse.

He entered this game with a 2.13 ERA in 13 Interleague games (12 starts), sixth-best all-time among pitchers with at least 10 Interleague starts. Nova was even better on the road, going 5-0 with a 1.12 ERA in six starts at NL stadiums before this series.

And then on Wednesday he gave up five runs in five innings against the Rockies — the same number of earned runs he’d allowed in 40 1/3 innings over his first six career Interleague outings on the road.

When Nova is at his best, his bowling-ball sinker and biting curveball generate a ton of grounders and weak contact. Against the Rockies, his ground ball rate was just 38.9 percent and he gave up a season-high 10 hits. He’s now had four starts with a ground ball rate below 50 percent, and his ERA in those games is 6.85 (with at least four runs allowed in each game); in his other four starts he has an ERA of 2.38 (with three or fewer runs allowed in each start).

Let’s end with a positive note. One night after delivering a pinch-hit RBI single in his first appearance as a Yankee, Ike Davis started his first game in pinstripes (well, actually road greys) on Wednesday afternoon. Davis, of course, is the son of former Yankee pitcher Ron Davis, making them just the second father-son combo to each play in an MLB game for the Yankees. You might have heard of the other duo: Yogi and Dale Berra.

The elder Davis spent only four seasons in the Bronx but still carved out a niche in the franchise record books. He went 14-2 in 1979 working exclusively out of the bullpen, a mark that is notable for a couple reasons: His 14 wins as a reliever are tied for the second-most by a Yankee in a single season (Luis Arroyo had 15 in 1961); his .875 win percentage is the second-highest by any Yankee pitcher with at least 15 decisions in a season, behind only Ron Guidry’s 25-3 (.893) Cy Young-winning campaign in 1978.