Game 15: Adam’s Turn

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)
(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

The last turn through the rotation has gone really well for the Yankees. Michael Pineda labored a bit on Sunday, sure, but otherwise Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and Nathan Eovaldi all chucked at least seven innings with no more than two runs allowed. Sabathia and Eovaldi did it against a tough Tigers lineup too.

Tonight will be Adam Warren‘s turn to have a strong start against that same Detroit lineup. Warren’s first start was pretty good (two runs in 5.1 innings) but his second start was a mess (four runs in four innings), which I guess isn’t surprising for a guy who is a full-time MLB starter for the first time. A win tonight would clinch at least a series tie against arguably the best team in baseball and push the Yankees over .500 for the first time in 2015. Here is the Tigers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Chris Young
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. 2B Gregorio Petit
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    RHP Adam Warren

Once again, it’ll be a cold and rainy night at Comerica Park. There are some light showers and flurries (!) in the forecast later tonight but it shouldn’t be anything that will cause a delay or a postponement. They played through some heavy rain for an inning or two last night, remember. First pitch is scheduled for 7:08pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: Welcome back, Matt Tracy. The Yankees claimed Tracy off waivers from the Marlins and optioned him to Triple-A Scranton, the team announced. Miami designated Tracy for assignment yesterday to clear a 40-man roster spot for another call-up after claiming him off waivers from New York over the weekend. The 40-man roster is now full.

2015 Draft: Mariano Rivera III

(Iona)
(Iona)

Mariano Rivera III | RHP

Background
The Yankees selected Mo III a draft-eligible sophomore out of Iona College in the 29th round (872nd overall) of last summer’s draft, though he declined to sign and instead returned to school. “I think Mariano and the family feel like some more seasoning in the college ranks will benefit him more,” said Brian Cashman to Anthony Rieber following the signing deadline last July. Rivera has a 3.24 ERA with 76 strikeouts and 16 walks in ten starts and 58.1 innings this spring after pitching to a 6.02 ERA with 64/40 K/BB in 106 innings his first two years of college.

Scouting Report
Rivera is short and rail thin at 5-foot-11 and 155 lbs., and last year he sat mostly 89-92 mph with his fastball. He’s made significant strides this year and now sits 93-95 mph while throwing both a power low-80s curveball and a promising split-finger fastball he uses as a changeup. No, he doesn’t throw a cutter. Rivera is an excellent athlete with a loose arm like his father, though he’s quite raw and has to work to firm up his command and delivery. He made the jump from kinda sorta interesting last year to actual prospect this year.

Miscellany
Mariano III is not expected to be a high draft pick this year — neither Keith Law (subs. req’d), MLB.com, nor Baseball America ranked Rivera as one of the top 50 prospects in the draft this year. He’s more of an 11th to 15th round talent. Rivera has expressed a strong interest in finishing his education, however, so he may not be signable even though he took a big step forward developmentally this spring. Mo III isn’t his father and it’s incredibly unfair to put any sort of expectations on him because of his bloodlines. He has some ability though, and I think it’s safe to assume the Yankees know him better than any other team, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they popped Rivera again this year in case he does decide to turn pro.

Injury Updates: Nova, Pirela, Capuano, Ryan

Pirela. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Pirela. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

The Yankees and Tigers will play the third game of their four-game series a little later tonight. Until then, here are some injury updates via Marly Rivera, George King, Chad Jennings, and the Associated Press.

  • Ivan Nova (elbow) threw two innings of live batting practice yesterday. He threw 20 pitches, sat down for a few minutes, then threw 15 more pitches. Nova is scheduled to pitch in a simulated game on Friday, which will be his first game action of any sort since having Tommy John surgery last April. He’s on track to return in June.
  • Jose Pirela (concussion) went 1-for-3 with a hit-by-pitch in an Extended Spring Training game on Monday, which was his first game action since getting hurt. He played third base and stayed in the game after getting plunked. Pirela is scheduled to play seven innings at second base today.
  • Chris Capuano (quad) is scheduled to throw two innings in an Extended Spring Training game today. It’ll be his first game action since getting hurt in Spring Training. Capuano is looking at a mid-May return at the moment.
  • Brendan Ryan (calf) was able to field ground balls and take batting practice yesterday. I believe that is the first time he’s done any sort of baseball activity since getting hurt in Spring Training.

Bernie Williams to finally sign retirement papers at Yankee Stadium this Friday

(AP Photo/Doug Mills)
(AP Photo/Doug Mills)

More than eight years after playing in his final MLB game, Bernie Williams is finally ready to call it a career. Bernie will officially sign his retirement papers at a press conference at Yankee Stadium this Friday, the Yankees announced. It would be cool if he signs a one-day contract to retire as a member of the team, but I’m not sure if that will happen. He will throw out the ceremonial first pitch though.

The Yankees are set to retire No. 51 in Bernie’s honor later this season, on May 24th. The team will unveil a logo related to the number retirement at Friday’s press conference. There will also be an on-field ceremony to debut a souvenir pin honoring Williams this Friday, which will be sold by Hard Rock Cafe and benefit Hillside Food Outreach.

Williams, now 46, never did officially retire after last playing in 2006. He’s been back at Yankee Stadium a whole bunch of times over the years, for Old Timers’ Day, Mariano Rivera‘s and Derek Jeter‘s retirement ceremonies, all sorts of stuff. Signing the retirement papers is really just a formality at this point.

Bernie hit .297/.381/.477 (125 OPS+) with 449 doubles, 287 home runs, and 147 stolen bases in his 16-year career, all with the Yankees, and he helped them to four World Series titles. He was the fifth member of the Core Four and the first of the bunch to make his MLB debut. Williams was on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2012 and 2013 but didn’t receive enough votes to stay on the ballot.

Searching for signs of life from Carlos Beltran’s bat using MLBAM’s new exit velocity data

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

After sitting in favor of Chris Young last night, Carlos Beltran is hitting .171/.222/.268 (33 wRC+) in 45 plate appearances so far this season. He’s yet to hit a home run and in general his bat seems lifeless. Beltran turns 39 on Friday and he looks every bit the part of a washed up ex-slugger. We saw this firsthand with Alfonso Soriano last season — when it goes, it can go in a hurry. Soriano hit 34 homers in 2013 and was completely cooked in 2014.

Beltran started last season very well before the bone spur in his elbow became an issue, which ostensibly hurt his performance the last three or four months of the season. He had the elbow cleaned out in the offseason, rehabbed all winter and early in Spring Training, then got into Grapefruit League games in early March. Counting the spring, Carlos has now had 90 plate appearances since having his elbow fixed, and he’s looked good for basically none of them.

Joe Girardi finally bumped Beltran down in the lineup earlier this week — I’m pretty sure that had more to do with Alex Rodriguez‘s hot start than Beltran’s poor performance though — but that only helps so much. The Yankees need Beltran to hit. If he doesn’t hit, he’s completely useless, because he doesn’t play defense or run the bases like he once did. Because of his track record and the $30M or so the team owes him though the end of next season, expect Beltran to get a nice long leash to show he isn’t washed up.

“There’s nothing that I see that’s necessarily (wrong). Does his bat speed look different to me? No. Just he’s gotten off to a slow start and hopefully the consistent at-bats will get him going,” said Joe Girardi to Brendan Kuty last week when asked about Beltran’s early season slump. Hitting coach Jeff Pentland told George King that Beltran “is a little frustrated right now because I don’t think he is used to struggling,” and cautioned he doesn’t “want to overload him with mechanical things because sometimes you fool with the mind and it turns into something more serious.”

Last year, MLB Advanced Media tested a new tracked system in three ballparks (Citi Field, Miller Park, Target Field) that records every movement on the field. The ball, the defenders, you name it. It’s the backbone of StatCast. The system was installed in all 30 parks this season, and, for the very first time, we now have precise batted ball velocity and distance data at our fingertips. MLBAM makes the data available via Gameday and it can be parsed just like PitchFX. It’s a gold mine.

So, now that this data is available, let’s use it to see if Beltran is showing any signs of life with his bat in the very early going this season. It stands to reason that if Carlos is getting closer to snapping out of his early season slump — regardless of whether it is due to his age, his elbow, sample size, whatever — he would be hitting the ball harder in recent days. Right? You always hear announcers say a player is getting close to breaking out of a slump when he starts making loud outs.

It seems like we haven’t seen many loud outs from Beltran this year, but we don’t have to rely on anecdotal evidence anymore. We have MLBAM’s batted ball data now. Here is Beltran’s exit velocity through the first two and a half weeks of the new season (via Baseball Savant):

Carlos Beltran batted ball velocity

There is no upward trend (the trendline shows a very slight downward trend, in fact), so no, Beltran isn’t hitting the ball any harder now than he was the first few days of the season. His hardest hit ball this season left the bat at 103 mph, which he’s done twice. A-Rod has hit a ball 103+ mph six times, for comparison. Beltran’s average batted ball velocity of 87.9 mph ranks 91st out of the 159 batters with at least 20 at-bats this season.

That might not necessarily be bad! Guys like Kyle Seager (88.1 mph), Matt Kemp (87.8 mph), Pablo Sandoval (87.5 mph), and Jacoby Ellsbury (87.4 mph) are near Beltran on the batted ball velocity leaderboard and no one is calling them cooked. (At least not yet!) The league average exit velocity is approximately 88.2 mph, so these guys are right in that neighborhood. A couple of well-struck line drives tonight and tomorrow and they’ll be over the league average.

It’s important to remember this information is all new and we don’t know a whole lot about it yet. How long does it take to stabilize? Ten batted balls? Fifty? A thousand? What happens when the weather warms up? How volatile is it year to year? How well does it actually correlate to performance? These are all questions we can’t answer yet, so for now we can’t use this data to say anything definitive other than “Player X is hitting the ball this hard.”

Right now we’re all working on assumptions. Hitting the ball hard is better than not hitting the ball hard, that much is obvious, but do hitters actually hit the ball harder as they get closer to snapping out of a slump? It’s way too early to say with this data. It would have been encouraging to see Beltran is hitting the ball harder recently but I’m not sure it would have meant anything anyway. Beltran being below the league average — even slightly — is not surprising though. It confirms what our eyes have been telling us the first 14 games of 2015.

Chris Young, Garrett Jones give the Yankees the power off the bench they’ve lacked since 2012

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

From 2013-14, the Yankees hardly qualified as the Bronx Bombers. The Yankees had their worst set of back-to-back offensive seasons since the early-1990s and a shortage of power was a main culprit. The team hit 200+ homers 12 times in 13 years from 2000-12 — including a franchise record 245 homers in 2012 — before falling to 144 homers in 2013 and 147 homers in 2014. The 101-homer drop from 2012-13 is the largest from one year to the next in baseball history.

The lack of power stemmed from a little of everything — injuries, roster construction, age, you name it. Mark Teixeira missed just about the entire 2013 season and Curtis Granderson was limited to only 61 games in 2013, for example. Ichiro Suzuki became a regular, Chris Stewart spent a year as the starting catcher, Robinson Cano left as a free agent, Alfonso Soriano went from great to done in an offseason, Alex Rodriguez was suspended … the decline in a power was the result of many things.

As much as the starting lineup was hurting for power the last two years, the bench provided no help whatsoever. The projected bench heading into last season was Frankie Cervelli, Ichiro, Brendan Ryan, and Eduardo Nunez, who lost the job to Yangervis Solarte in Spring Training. Those four combined to hit nine homers — six by Solarte — in 960 plate appearances in 2014. The 2012 projected bench (Stewart, Jayson Nix, Ben Francisco, Brennan Boesch) hit only eleven homers in 746 plate appearances.

Power off the bench just wasn’t a thing the Yankees had on the roster the last two seasons after carrying players like Andruw Jones (27 HR in 491 PA from 2011-12), Eric Chavez (18 HR in 488 PA from 2011-12), Marcus Thames (12 HR in 237 PA in 2010), and Eric Hinske (7 HR in 98 PA in 2009) as reserve players in recent years. Go back to the late-1990s and the Yankees always had guys like Darryl Strawberry, Shane Spencer, Jim Leyritz, and Ruben Sierra on the roster. Someone who could come off the bench and be a threat to hit the ball out of the park.

After those two powerless years from 2013-14, the Yankees brought in some bench pop this offseason in Chris Young and Garrett Jones, who have already contributed four homers (all by Young) and ten extra-base hits off the bench through 14 games. Jones has yet to go deep but it’s only a matter of time until that happens as a lefty pull hitter playing his home games in Yankee Stadium. He’s shown throughout his career that he can hit the ball out of park. Young has been excellent since arriving in New York last September and has filled in more than capably when Brett Gardner (wrist) and Carlos Beltran (illness) missed time last week.

Young and Jones have both contributed off the bench in the early going but I don’t think that means they should get more playing time. Both are the type of player who would get exposed with more at-bats at this point of their careers. They have holes in their swings, can swing-and-miss with the best of ‘em, and they do their very best work against fastballs. Give them more playing time and we’ll go from liking their contributions off the bench to wanting them out of the lineup in a hurry. They’re not regulars at this point of their careers.

So far in the early going, Young in particular has served the Yankees very well in his role as fourth outfielder. He’s hit and hit for power, something the team hasn’t gotten off the bench in recent years. Jones hasn’t had much of a chance to play yet, though he already has a three-hit game to his credit and has played first base as well as right field. After two years of getting little offense from their reserve players, Young and Jones have given the Yankees some nice early returns and have added an element of power off the bench the team sorely lacked from 2013-14.

DotF: Jagielo goes deep as Trenton hangs on for a win

Triple-A Scranton (6-1 loss to Lehigh Valley)

  • LF-RF Slade Heathcott: 2-4
  • RF Ramon Flores: 0-0, 1 HBP — left the game after being hit by the pitch in the first inning … hopefully it’s nothing serious
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 0-4, 1 RBI
  • DH Tyler Austin: 0-4, 1 K
  • LHP Eric Wooten: 5 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 6/2 GB/FB — 48 of 75 pitches were strikes (64%)
  • RHP Branden Pinder: 1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K — 20 of 25 pitches were strikes (80%) … tough day, first he gets send out and then he gets hit around

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