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.

The Yankees aren’t very good, but that doesn’t mean 2016 has to be a lost season

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Folks, the Yankees aren’t very good. They’re bad and they’re boring, and they’ve given us basically no reason to think they’re capable of going on the kind of run it’ll take to qualify for the postseason. The Yankees need to go 56-41 the rest of the way to match last season’s 87 wins. That’s a 94-win pace. I know the Yankees are bad because it is June 16th, and when I pull up the standings, I see this:

AL East standings

Last place. A deserved last place. The Yankees can’t beat teams in their own division (10-17), they can’t win on the road (13-20), and they’ve had only two winning streaks of at least three games all season. They can’t kept their head above .500 at all. The last two times they’ve reached .500, they immediately went on a losing streak and fell several games back under. It’s awful.

The Yankees are bad and chances are they’re not going to the postseason. FanGraphs puts their playoff odds at a mere 10.9% right now. Being bad and missing the postseason does not mean the season has to be lost though. The Yankees can still accomplish a lot this season, stuff that will put them in better position to contend as soon as next year. It sounds crazy, I know, but it’s doable. Here are a few ways to make the most of this yucky season.

Sell Sell Sell

This goes without saying. The Yankees have some valuable assets who clearly are not enough to get this team to October, and some of them figure to be gone after the season. Aroldis Chapman and Carlos Beltran are at the front of the line here. Andrew Miller and Brett Gardner have two years of control beyond this season and would help contenders. There are others to market as well.

At an absolute minimum, Chapman and Beltran have to be moved for younger players because of their impending free agency. The sooner the better too. Beltran’s knee is barking and you don’t want to be left holding the bag if it gives out in a few weeks. Chapman and Beltran have to go, but the Yankees should be open to moving everyone. Miller, Gardner, Dellin Betances, Starlin Castro, Brian McCann, you name it.

Make A Decision About Eovaldi (And I Guess Pineda Too)

Depending on the day, you either want to give Nathan Eovaldi a six-year contract or trade him as soon as possible. He’s pitched extremely well at times this season, and yet here he is on June 16th with a very Eovaldi-ian 4.90 ERA (4.19 FIP). Eovaldi is the perfect microcosm of the Yankees. The talent is obvious and there are flashes that make you want to believe. The record and the stats are what they are though, and that’s underwhelming.

The Yankees do not have Eovaldi much longer. This isn’t Luis Severino with six years of team control remaining. Eovaldi will be a free agent after next season, and at this point the Yankees should at least have an idea of what they want to do with him long-term. Do they keep him or trade him? The sooner they make a decision, the better, because then they can begin to act on that decision.

The same applies to Michael Pineda as well, though it seems the chances of an extension with Pineda are much smaller. He was pretty damn terrible earlier this season, and the shoulder surgery is still in the back of everyone’s mind. Either way, the Yankees should take the time this season to figure out what they want to do with Eovaldi and Pineda. The longer the wait, the more it’ll cost them.

Refsnyder. (Presswire)
Refsnyder. (Presswire)

Figure Out What You Have In Refsnyder

In hindsight, this should have happened last year. It didn’t though and it’s not really happening right now either. Guys like Ike Davis and Chris Parmelee are stealing at-bats away from Rob Refsnyder, and you know what? I get it. He’s inexperienced at first base — we’ve seen it at times for sure — and there’s always going to be the temptation to go with the proven vet not playing out of the position.

The Yankees are at a crossroads with Refsnyder now. He’s going to be 26 next season and he’s logged over 1,000 plate appearances at Triple-A. It’s time to find out where he fits going forward, and the only way to do that is by playing him. With the postseason looking like a long shot, all the at-bats going to the Davis and Parmelee types are a waste of time. They have no value to the Yankees. Is Refsnyder part of the solution or not? It’s time to let him answer that question one way or the other.

Consider Eating Dead Money

It’s tough not to notice what’s going on around the league. Last week the Dodgers cut ties with Carl Crawford even though there was $35M left on his contract. Just yesterday the Rockies and Royals cut ties with Jose Reyes ($40M) and Omar Infante ($15M), respectively. The Dodgers and Royals are trying to win and the Rockies are rebuilding. They made similar moves despite being in different situations.

Why did those clubs eat all that money? Because it was best for the team, plain and simple. They had better players that deserved the playing time. The Yankees have a bunch of bad contracts that are doing various degrees of harm to the team. That doesn’t mean they should release them all. Doing something like, say, releasing McCann so Gary Sanchez can play is silly. Silly and totally unrealistic.

In fact, I’d say the only player the Yankees should seriously consider releasing for the good of the roster is Alex Rodriguez. He’s owed another $34M or so, but his bat has clearly slowed, he can’t play the field, and he can’t run. I love A-Rod, he’s the man, but gosh does he limit flexibility. It’s getting to the point where he does more harm than good on the field. There are better uses of that roster spot. We saw it earlier this year when he was on the DL.

(This is never going to happen, by the way. Not with Alex only seven homers from 700. The Yankees need to attendance boost.)

* * *

I don’t want the Yankees to be bad. I’d love nothing more than to watch them go on a three-month tear and play meaningful baseball in September. If you don’t want to see that, then what’s the point? It doesn’t appear the Yankees are going to give us that chance though. So, instead, the focus should be on the ways the team can put itself in the best possible position to contend going forward. The sooner they shift focus, the better off they’ll be.

Three runs aren’t enough either; Yankees lose 6-3 to the Rockies

(AP)
(AP)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the New York Yankees just lost another game. They dropped their fourth in a row thanks to this simple formula: the Yankee lineup made Chad Bettis look like a decent ML starter (to be honest, they had a ST-caliber lineup out there) while Ivan Nova fell apart in the fifth to give the Rockies a lead for good. I don’t know how to characterize this game other than to say the Yankees played bad and the results showed as much.

All Bettis Off

Chad Bettis has been a mediocre pitcher at best this season. In 13 starts prior to tonight, he’s had a 5.85 ERA while allowing homers at a, well, not a good rate (1.49 HR/9). So naturally, the Yankees failed to hit an extra base hit all day. To be fair, today’s Yankee lineup wasn’t really the most formidable one. All you need to know is that Chase Headley hit cleanup and Didi Gregorius followed him. Yikes.

The Yankees did manage to scratch two earned runs off Bettis though. In the fourth, Didi drove in a run with two on and two out with a single to left. Aaron Hicks followed with a tapper that looked like an easy ground out, but Rockies catcher Tony Wolters threw it way above the first baseman’s head for an error. Another run scored as a result. That made it 2-1 Yankees. That was probably the pinnacle of the game for New York. They scored one more run in the sixth with a Hicks RBI single that drove in Headley, but they were trailing 5-3 at the time.

He definitely didn’t give up an XBH on this pitch (Getty)

No No Nova 

Good news: Ivan Nova struck out five hitters in five innings, which is 9.0 K/9! Bad news: pretty much everything else. He allowed 10 hits for 5 earned runs to take a loss.

Four of the runs came in the fifth. Charlie Blackmon singled and stole a base to begin the inning. Nova allowed an RBI single to D.J. LeMahieu to tie the game at two apiece. The next hitter, Nolan Arenado, saw a first-pitch fastball and didn’t miss any of it. He drove it over the left field fence for a two-run homer. Nova makes a bad pitch. A good hitter destroyed it. Rinse, repeat. The Rockies added another run with a Trevor Story double and an RBI single by Mark Reynolds to make it 5-2.

The middle innings have given Nova a lot of trouble this year. He came into the game with a 1.71 ERA in innings 1-3, and a 6.03 ERA in the fourth inning and beyond. Those numbers are getting worse after this game.

Leftovers

In the bottom sixth, Anthony Swarzak came in to relieve for Nova. With one out and runner on first, Swarzak hit LeMahieu in the head, which was scary. Fortunately, LeMahieu seemed okay enough to stay in the game. It did not seem Swarzak had any intent to hit him either.

In the next frame, the Rockies reliever Miguel Castro threw two pitches close to Austin Romine‘s head, which prompted the HP umpire Gabe Morales to issue warnings to both benches. Well look at that, a possible Yankees-Rockies beef brewing. Fortunately, that was just about all the damage done.

Aroldis Chapman came in to pitch in bottom eighth with team down 5-3. After getting the first two outs, he allowed a single to Blackmon, and LeMahieu followed it up with an RBI triple to make it 6-3 Rockies. Carlos “Not Charlie Sheen” Estevez came in the ninth for the Rockies to close it down.

Box Score, Highlights, WPA and Standings

Here’s today’s box score, video highlights, WPA and updated standings.

Source: FanGraphs


Maybe the Yankees can start padding their record elsewhere! They are off to Minnesota to face the lowly Twins for a four-game series. Did I imply that the Twins are bad? They are 20-44 this season, which is pretty awful.

DotF: Gamel and Judge stay hot in Scranton’s win

RHP Brady Lail has been placed on the Triple-A Scranton DL, reports Shane Hennigan. I’m not sure what’s wrong with him. It might just be a paper move to temporarily clear a roster spot. LHP Phil Coke was activated off the DL to replace Lail on the roster.

Triple-A Scranton (7-3 win over Toledo)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 3-6, 1 R, 2 K — threw a runner out at third … 25-for-55 (.455) in his last 13 games
  • RF Aaron Judge: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 K — 18-for-44 (.409) with only eight strikeouts since the 0-for-24 slump
  • DH Gary Sanchez: 1-5, 1 R, 1 2B
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 1-2, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 SB — hasn’t slowed down since being promoted
  • LF Jake Cave: 1-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 K — six homers in 58 games this year … he hit two homers in 132 games last year
  • RHP Luis Cessa: 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 7/1 GB/FB — 41 of 63 pitches were strikes (65%) … that’s much more like it, Luis
  • LHP Phil Coke: 1.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 4/0 GB/FB — 20 of 31 pitches were strikes (65%) … they have six starters for five spots at the moment, so the fact he went back to the bullpen tells me Lail will back soon
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HBP, 2/1 GB/FB — 25 of 41 pitches were strikes (61%)

[Read more…]

Wednesday Night Open Thread

I’m starting to think this might not be the Yankees’ season, folks. They’re not just bad, they’re boring, and that’s the worst kind of bad. At least the 2013 Yankees were ironically entertaining, you know? Yuck. There are 97 games to go and gosh, that doesn’t sound appealing at all.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Mets are playing tonight and ESPN2 will show the Red Sox and Orioles, and that’s pretty much it. Talk about those games or anything else right here.

Mark Teixeira resumes hitting and running, could return next week

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Sounds as though Mark Teixeira may be closer to a return than initially expected. Teixeira, who is currently out with cartilage damage in his right knee, has already resumed hitting and running. “I feel so much better,” he said to reporters this afternoon.

Teixeira hopes to take batting practice later this week when the Yankees are in Minnesota. If that goes well, he could play in his first minor league rehab game as soon as next Tuesday, then rejoin the big league lineup as soon as late next week. Optimistic? Sure, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

The 36-year-old Teixeira has received a lubrication injection to deal with the pain and he’ll have to continue receiving them throughout the season. The hope is he can return next week and finish the season before having surgery over the winter. The surgery would be season-ending if he had it now.

Teixeira was hitting .180/.271/.263 (48 wRC+) with three homers at the time of his injury, so he wasn’t exactly tearing the cover off the ball. Still, when the Yankees run out a lineup with Chase Headley batting lineup and Didi Gregorius batting fifth like they did today, I’ll happily welcome Teixeira back with open arms.