Sabathia Sinking to Success

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

On Friday night, near his hometown, CC Sabathia had his second straight best start of the year, even there was a a 16 day gap between them thanks to a DL stint. Returning from injury, Sabathia was looking to build off of a seven inning, six hit, zero runs, six strikeouts performance against the Orioles. CC responded by striking out eight A’s batters over six innings, allowing just three hits plus a walk, and only one run in the Yankees’ 8-3 victory. The win–the Yankees’ second straight–helped to rinse out the bad taste left in everyone’s mouths after the Arizona series, and put the team in position to win the series, which they did with yesterday’s victory; they go for the sweep today.

This has all been part of what’s been, so far, a renaissance season for Sabathia. Yes, it’s only six starts old and he did miss time on the DL already, but things have been about as good as they could be for the Bombers’ former ace. He’s thrown to a 3.41 ERA and a 3.14 FIP in 34.1 innings so far, which each one of us to a person would’ve taken before the season started. Though he’s twice failed to complete five innings, he’s not allowed more than three runs in any start this year and he’s done what a fifth starter is supposed to do: keep the team in the game and don’t embarrass yourself too much out there. After the last three seasons of ERAs in or around the five’s, this year’s performance is a more than welcome sight. It would seem that early in 2016, CC is starting to get used to pitching with a diminished fastball. That adjustment is where we can find a possible reason for his 2016 success.

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

In terms of pitch selection, the biggest difference between 2016 and 2015 is the sinker. That’s not necessarily in terms of usage, as it was his most frequently thrown pitch in 2015 as well. In terms of pitch selection, 2016’s highlight is more so the apparent elimination of his four seam fastball. The sinker, though, has turned into CC’s number one and it has been more effective this year. Though 2015 saw CC getting more whiffs per swing and a higher percentage of grounders on his sinker, batters seem to be having a tough time squaring the pitch up. His foul/swing% on the pitch is up slightly from 38.96 to 40.23%. Additionally, the line drive rate on the pitch has dipped from 27.27% to just 17.50% and the pop-up/balls in play rate has gone from just 1.21% in 2015 to 10.00% this year. He’s also yet to give up a homer on the pitch, whereas last year’s HR/(FB+LD)% was at 14.47. In general, then, Sabathia’s keeping his sinker in a position where it’s not getting hit too hard. His cutter–another pitch he’s relying more heavily on in 2016–has also seen a big jump in grounder percentage, hopping up to 41.18% from 25.00% in 2015.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

It is still early and these things could be blips that get violently corrected going forward. I’ve been optimistic about Sabathia in the past and been wrong about it, but I just can’t let go of feeling good about him. Call it a hangover from 2009-2012, but I just can’t help but believe in this guy. It may not have been a short process and it may not have been anything close to painless, but, dammit, I’m hoping against hope that CC settles into this sort of routine. Long gone are his days of big strikeouts and big innings totals, but as long as he keeps rolling out six or seven innings with three runs allowed, he’s doing his job.

Four-run fourth lifts the Yankees past the A’s 5-1


Source: FanGraphs
The Yankees have now won four in a row. Masahiro Tanaka threw seven brilliant innings and the offense scored enough runs to let the three elite bullpen arms rest. They are now only two games under .500, and they escaped the cellar of the AL East (the Blue Jays are now in the fifth place). It’s the weekend so let’s recap the 5-1 win bullet point style.

  • The top of fourth: The Yankee lineup went mostly quiet against rookie LHP Sean Manaea the first time around, but they were less merciful the second. The Yankees not only scored four but also worked the opposing starter hard in the top of the fourth. Manaea had thrown 33 pitches in the first three innings. He then threw 32 in the fourth. Carlos Beltran got it going with an RBI single with bases loaded, then Aaron Hicks hit a sac fly to bring another one in, and then Rob Refsnyder hit a 2 RBI double after a 10-pitch battle for the decisive blow.
  • Tanaka Time: Tanaka got into two bases loaded jams but only allowed one run when it was all said and done. In seven innings he allowed one run while walking two and striking out four. Just by the eye test, his stuff didn’t seem especially nasty nor his command that sharp. The overall line would have looked worse had he faced a better lineup. However, Tanaka did go out and got the job done, which is pretty much the priority. His recorded improved to 2-0 after the win today. Yes, 2-0 after 9 starts. I don’t think you see that often. His seven no-decisions lead the majors among all starters.
  • One more in the seventh: The Yankees had a 4-1 lead heading into the top of the seventh, which would set up for a Dellin BetancesAndrew MillerAroldis Chapman sequence had Joe Girardi decided not to use Tanaka for the bottom of the frame. Starlin Castro had a different idea. With Ronald Torreyes on first with two outs, Castro drilled a first pitch changeup down the line to bring home a run, giving the Yankees a 5-1 lead. Castro had been relatively quiet for the most of this road trip but he had a nice three-hit day today.
  • Nick B. Goode: No one’s gonna confuse Nick Goody for one of the elite three arms of the Yankee bullpen, but he’s handled himself pretty well in 7 appearances with the team this season. After tossing two scoreless innings to close out the game, Goody now has a 1.64 ERA in 11.0 IP. He’s also striking guys out (9.82 K/9) while limiting walks and homers (0.82 per 9 IP on both) so that’s cool too. Hopefully he keeps it up and becomes another useful bullpen asset for the team.

Here’s today’s box score, video highlights, and updated standings. The Yankees will look for a series sweep tomorrow with Michael Pineda on the mound against Jesse Hahn for the A’s.

DotF: Sanchez, Cave, and Green lead Scranton to a win

LHP Dietrich Enns was sent down to Double-A Trenton, per Shane Hennigan. The move clears a rotation spot for RHP Chad Green and a roster spot for the recently signed LHP Neal Cotts.

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

  • CF Ben Gamel: 1-5, 1 R, 1 K
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K — he’s played 40 games this year: 29.2 K% and 5.6 BB% in the first 20, then 19.1 K% and 9.0 BB% in the next 20
  • C Gary Sanchez: 1-5, 1 2B, 3 RBI — picked a runner off second with a snap throw
  • 1B Nick Swisher: 1-5, 1 R
  • LF Jake Cave: 2-5, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI — five homers in 37 games this year after hitting two homers in 132 games last year
  • RHP Chad Green: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 6/3 GB/FB — 69 of 101 pitches were strikes (68%) … first start since his MLB debut in Arizona earlier this week
  • RHP Anthony Swarzak: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 34 of 46 pitches were strikes (74%)

[Read more…]

Saturday Night Open Thread

Here is your open thread for this fine evening. Things are always a little better when the Yankees are winning, aren’t they? FOX and MLB Network are showing a bunch of regional games tonight, plus there’s both NHL and NBA playoff games on. Have at it.

Game 42: Four in a row?

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are in the middle of their first three-game win streak of the season. This afternoon is a chance to make it four straight and clinch a winning West Coast road trip, which would be pretty cool. These trips are always tough. The Yankees have the right guy on the mound this afternoon too. Here is the Athletics’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. 2B Starlin Castro
  3. 1B Mark Teixeira
  4. DH Carlos Beltran
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. LF Aaron Hicks
  7. RF Rob Refsnyder
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Another cool, cloudy, and windy day in the Bay Area. There’s also a tiny little bit of rain in the forecast too, though nothing that should really affect the game. Today’s game will begin at 4:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Alex Rodriguez (hamstring) will not be activated until Tuesday, Joe Girardi announced. The Yankees have an off-day Monday, so since Alex was not ready today, it only makes sense to give him the extra day tomorrow as well as Monday … Didi Gregorius is available to play but is a little banged up. He’s fouled a couple pitches off his foot these last few days and was hit by Headley’s ground ball in Arizona.

Saturday Links: Comcast, Strike Zone, Intentional Walks

Intentional walks as we know them may soon be a thing of the past. (Getty)
Intentional walks as we know them may soon be a thing of the past. (Getty)

The Yankees and Athletics resume their series with a 4pm ET game later today. Until then, here are some miscellaneous links to help you pass the time.

Comcast-YES dispute not near resolution

A non-update on the Comcast-YES dispute: Comcast CEO Brian Roberts told John Ourand the two sides are not close to working out an agreement. “We’re learning from the experience that we’re having (with YES) and we hope to get it resolved at some point. But maybe not,” said Roberts. Comcast does not want to pay the rights fees to carry YES, so right now Comcast customers can’t watch the Yankees. Sling TV and Playstation Vue are alternatives for the time being. Eventually the two sides will come to their senses, right?

Changes to strike zone, intentional walks approved

At the quarterly owners’ meetings this week the competition committee approved changes to the strike zone and intentional walks, according to Jayson Stark. In a nutshell, they’ll raise the bottom of the strike zone from the “hollow beneath the kneecap” to the top of the knee, and allow teams to signal for an intentional walk without actually making the pitcher throw four balls. The changes could take effect as soon as next season.

It’s important to note the rule changes are not final. The competition committee has given them the thumbs up, and now the rules committee has to do the same. They’ll also run them by the MLBPA and umpires’ union even though they technically do not need their approval to implement the rule changes. I don’t love the intentional walk rule change — make the pitcher execute the pitch, what if he airmails one? — but it’s another attempt to improve the pace of play.

The strike zone, on the other hand, has slowly been dropping for years. Raising the bottom of the zone figures to lead to fewer strikeouts and more balls in play — specifically more balls in the air — and thus more excitement. The league average strikeout rate is a record 21.1% this year. That’s bad. Strikeouts are boring. More balls in play means more base-runners and more runs scored.

MLB, MLBPA have met 12 times for CBA talks

The MLB and the MLBPA have already had 12 negotiating sessions for the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement, commissioner Rob Manfred confirmed to Ken Davidoff. “Twelve meetings at this point in the calendar is a really, really good schedule,” said the commissioner, who also said he’s optimistic the two sides will work out a deal before the current CBA expires on December 1st.

Although it’s not a hard deadline, it would behoove MLB and MLBPA to get a deal hammered out by the end of the World Series. That way any changes to the qualifying offer and draft pick compensation system can be implemented right away this offseason rather than be pushed back to next year. The current CBA was agreed to in the middle of the offseason, which created some headaches. The most important thing is getting it done, but the sooner the better.

Sabathia returns, Yanks beat A’s 8-3 for third straight win


Source: FanGraphs

For the first time this season, the Yankees have won three consecutive games. I’m not joking. First time all year. Crazy, huh? The Yankees beat the Athletics 8-3 on Friday night and they have now won ten of their last 15 games. I wouldn’t say things are going great just yet, but they’re definitely heading in the right direction. West Coast night games get bullet point recaps, so let’s dive in:

  • CC Returns: After 15 days on the DL with a hamstring injury, CC Sabathia returned Friday night and was pretty damn awesome. He allowed a run in the second inning on a walk, a hit batsman, and a single, then settled down to retire 13 of the final 16 batters he faced. Sabathia struck out a season high eight in six innings, allowing just the one run on three singles and a walk. He didn’t show any rust, didn’t run out of gas in the middle innings, nothing. It was like he never left. Sabathia now has a 3.41 ERA (3.19 FIP) on the season. Welcome back, big man.
  • Five in the Fourth: It was obvious early on Sonny Gray did not have it. He hasn’t had it all season, really. Gray was behind in the count all night and he struggled to put guys away with two strikes. In the fourth inning, the Yankees finally made him pay. Following an Aaron Hicks walk and Didi Gregorius single, Ronald Torreyes ripped a legit triple over Coco Crisp’s head in center to plate two runs. A wild pitch brought Torreyes home, then Carlos Beltran doubled in two more later in the inning for the 5-1 lead. Been a while since the Yankees had a big inning like that.
  • The Non-Big Three: The Yankees had a short bullpen Friday night after the big three relievers each pitched Wednesday and Thursday. The big lead allowed Joe Girardi to go to Kirby Yates and Chasen Shreve to close things out and they made it stress free. Yates did allow a run on a single and a double in the seventh, and Shreve allowed a run on a triple and a ground out in the ninth, but that’s no big deal. Yates threw two innings, Shreve threw one.
  • Leftovers: Beltran paced the offense by going 3-for-5 with three doubles. Jacoby Ellsbury (single, two-run triple, walk, catcher’s interference) and Brett Gardner (single, walk) reached base six times in front of him … the 7-8-9 hitters (Hicks, Gregorius, Torreyes) went a combined 6-for-12 with three walks … Mark Teixeira went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts and continues to look completely lost from the left side of the plate … Ellsbury’s catcher’s interference was his fifth of the season already. The single-season record is eight by Roberto Kelly with the 1992 Yankees … and finally, this was Sabathia’s 100th win as a Yankee. Pretty cool.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings, and here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. This four-game series continues with the third game Saturday. That’s a 4:05pm ET start. Masahiro Tanaka and rookie lefty Sean Manaea will be the pitching matchup.