2017 International Signings: Periera, Rojas, Chirinos, Garcia

The Yankees' academy in the Dominican Republic. (Groundskeeper.MLBlogs.com)
The Yankees’ academy in the Dominican Republic. (Groundskeeper.MLBlogs.com)

The 2017-18 international signing period opened this past Sunday, on July 2nd as always, and for the first time in three years, the Yankees are not hamstrung by the penalties associated with their 2014-15 signing period spending spree. They were limited to a $300,000 bonus maximum the last two signing periods, which took them out of play for the top international prospects.

Although they are no longer held back by individual bonus limits, the Yankees are now dealing with the international free agency hard cap. Every team is. MLB and the MLBPA agreed to a hard spending cap as part of the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Yankees have $4.75M to spend during the 2017-18 signing period. Some teams have $5.25M and others have $5.75M. It depends on market size and things like that.

The Yankees did, however, acquire more international spending money over the weekend. They shipped minor league righty Matt Wotherspoon to the Orioles for an undisclosed amount of bonus money. Teams can only acquire 50% of their original cap, so all we know is the Yankees did not receive more than $2.375M from the O’s. Chances are they acquired a smaller sum.

Now that they can once again be major players internationally — at least as much as their bonus pool allows — the Yankees dove in and signed several prospects since the open the signing period Sunday. More signings will trickle in over the next few weeks and months, though just about all of the top prospects sign on July 2nd. Here’s a recap of the Yankees’ latest international haul.

The Top Prospect: OF Everson Pereira

If Pereira’s name sounds familiar, it’s because the Yankees have been linked to him for some time now. We first heard about him back in February. Most of these international prospects agree to terms months in advance — sometimes even years in advance — even though those agreements are technically against the rules. MLB doesn’t enforce them though.

Pereira, a 16-year-old outfielder from Venezuela, received a $1.5M bonus according to Jesse Sanchez. Both Baseball America and MLB.com ranked him as the fourth best prospect in the international class while FanGraphs ranked him tenth. Here is a piece of MLB.com’s scouting report:

Scouts love this teenager from Venezuela. Pereira is a true center fielder, and if all goes according to plan, that’s the position he will play in the big leagues one day. He’s considered a plus defender and a plus runner … He has also shown good instincts and a good feel for the game on both sides of the ball. On offense, Pereira has displayed a good line-drive swing and has a chance to hit for average with some power in the future.

The Baseball America (subs. req’d) scouting report says Pereira has “one of the most balanced, well-rounded skill sets in the 2017 class, with a promising combination of tools and game awareness.” Once upon a time the Yankees were all about loud tools, and they still are, for sure. But it seems lately they’ve been emphasizing baseball instincts and things like that.

The Expected Signing: SS Ronny Rojas

Rojas is a shortstop from the Dominican Republic, and while he has not signed with the Yankees, Ben Badler says he expects it to happen. Why hasn’t Rojas signed yet? Because he’s still only 15. He has to wait until his 16th birthday on August 23rd to sign his first pro contract. The Yankees have been connected to Rojas for a while and it’s believed the two sides already have an agreement in place. They’re just waiting for his 16th birthday.

Baseball America, MLB.com, and FanGraphs all ranked Rojas as the 11th best prospect in this international class. Kinda weird they all agree like that. That rarely happens. Anyway, here’s a snippet of MLB.com’s scouting report:

Rojas succeeds in large part because of his quick hands and a good hitting approach from both sides of the plate. Scouts think he has a chance to hit for average and they love that he makes hard contact from both sides. In games, Rojas has displayed gap-to-gap power and there’s a chance he could hit home runs in the future … He makes all of the routine plays and has enough arm strength to keep him at the position now and in the future.

Both the MLB.com and Baseball America scouting reports tout Rojas as one of the best bats available this signing period. A switch-hitter with good offensive potential from both sides of the plate and a chance to stay on the middle infield? Sign me up.

The Second Best Prospect (For Now): SS Roberto Chirinos

Until Rojas signs, the second best prospect the Yankees landed this signing period is 16-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Roberto Chirinos. Sanchez says Chirinos received a $900,000 bonus. MLB.com ranks Chirinos has the 16th best prospect in the signing class while Baseball America ranks him 20th and FanGraphs ranks him 25th. Here is a piece of MLB.com’s scouting report:

A converted outfielder, Chirinos has all of the tools to stay at shortstop, specifically, a plus arm and good actions on defense. He makes all of the routine plays and has a feel for playing in the middle of the infield despite less than two years at the position. He has also impressed scouts with his quick hands and makeup … At the plate, Chirinos makes hard contact to all fields and has shown good bat speed.

Interestingly enough, both the MLB.com and Baseball America scouting reports identify Chirinos as a candidate to convert to catcher given his tools and baseball aptitude. He’s also a very high-end energy guy. The Yankees have had a lot of success converting infielders into catchers — Jorge Posada, Francisco Cervelli, and John Ryan Murphy are all converted infielders, and Donny Sands is attempting to make the transition now — and I bet they try it again with Chirinos.

Miscellaneous Signings

Garcia. (@BaseballAmerica)
Garcia. (@BaseballAmerica)

Not every international signing is a top prospect, of course. The Yankees inked Venezuelan outfielder Anthony Garcia to a $450,000 bonus, according to Sanchez, though he does not rank among MLB.com’s top 30 international prospects. Baseball America ranks him 28th, however, and says he “could be a power-speed threat, though at (6-foot-5 and 205 lbs.) it’s more likely he slows down as he continues to add weight.”

Here are the last few signings, via Sanchez and Baseball America:

  • Dominican Republic OF Stanley Rosario ($300,000)
  • Dominican Republic SS Miguel Marte ($200,000)
  • Dominican Republic RHP Albert Vega ($100,000)
  • Venezuelan C Engelbert Ascanio (bonus unknown)
  • Dominican Republic SS Ezequiel Duran (bonus unknown)
  • Dominican Republic OF Nelson Medina (bonus known)
  • Dominican Republic 3B Jose Martinez (bonus unknown)

None of those seven players ranked among the top international free agents by MLB.com, Baseball America, or FanGraphs. The fact Rosario, Marte, and Vega received six-figure bonuses tells us the Yankees like them though. They don’t give nobodies six figures.

The Wild Cards

In his AL East signing forecast, Badler (subs. req’d) linked the Yankees to several players who have not yet signed. Here’s where those players are ranked by MLB.com and Baseball America:

  • Venezuelan OF Raimfer Salinas (6th by MLB.com, 10th by BA): “(There’s) a belief the young outfielder has the potential to be a legitimate five-tool player and an impact player in the near future,” says the MLB.com scouting report.
  • Venezuelan C Antonio Cabello (8th by MLB.com, 15th by BA): “(He) hits in games and his makeup is considered off of the charts. He has built a reputation as a tough and hard-nosed competitor who hates to lose,” says the MLB.com write-up.
  • Venezuelan SS Osleivis Basabe (NR by MLB.com, 46th by BA): “On pure athleticism, Basabe is one of the best in the class … Basabe is a great athlete with good bat speed but his hitting remains a project,” says the Baseball America scouting report.

Between Pereira, Chirinos, Garcia, Rosario, Marte, and Vega the Yankees have already spent $3.45M of their $4.75M hard cap space. There are surely other signings we haven’t heard about yet, so they may have less than $1M of their original hard cap space remaining. That doesn’t even include the presumed Rojas deal, which will likely be worth close to $1M if not more.

That said, the Yankees did make the trade with the Orioles, and they did that for a reason. They need the bonus space to sign players. They made that trade because they have deals lined up, not because they merely hope to work something out. Maybe they’re going to sign Salinas, or Cabello, or Basabe, or all three, or different players entirely. That money is going to somewhere though. We’ll find out soon.

So what’s the deal with Otani?

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Given everything that happened on July 2nd around the league, I can’t imagine Nippon Ham Fighters ace/slugger Shohei Otani is coming over to MLB this offseason. Every team used up their hard cap space, including potential Otani suitors like the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Mariners, Rangers, Phillies, and Angels. Other clubs like the Dodgers, Cubs, Nationals, Astros, Cardinals, Braves, Padres, and Giants are limited to $300,000 bonuses this signing period due to past international spending.

No team has significant bonus pool space remaining. They spent it all on international amateurs once the signing period opened Sunday. Either Otani is going to take a low six-figure bonus (nope) or he’s not coming over this winter (yup). He could wait two years until his 25th birthday, at which point he could sign a contract of any size. MLB and the MLBPA really screwed this up. They should be trying to attract players like Otani, not push them away.

Yankeemetrics: Epic freefall reaches new low (July 3-5)

(Getty)
(Getty)

Return of The Ace
Is he back? That was the burning question in the Bronx after the Yankees returned home and notched a 6-3 win over the Blue Jays in the series opener, a game featured a third straight strong outing by Masahiro Tanaka.

Tanaka was brilliant, going seven innings while allowing one run with eight strikeouts – and no home runs. He has a 1.29 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 21 innings and a .495 OPS allowed over his last three starts; a massive improvement from his first 14 starts (6.34 ERA and .910 OPS allowed).

One of the biggest keys for Tanaka during this excellent stretch of back-to-back-to-back outings has been his ability to keep the ball on the ground and limit hard-hit balls. His groundball rate has jumped from 47 percent in the first two and a half months to 61 percent in his last three games, while his rate of hard contact has been cut from 35 percent to 19.6 percent.

When he was at his worst – during those first 14 starts – he allowed an average airball exit velocity of 93.8 mph, the worst mark through June 22 in the majors (min. 100 batted balls). He’s lowered that number by nearly 10 mph since June 23, to a stellar 84.2 mph that ranks fifth-best in MLB over the last two weeks (min. 15 batted balls).

Digging deeper, we can see that Tanaka has been much more precise with his off-speed stuff, locating his slider and splitter consistently at the knees and below the zone:

tanaka-first-14

The depth on those pitches is also significantly better, with his slider showing nearly an inch more downward movement and his splitter dropping a half-inch more over his last three starts. All of that has resulted in opponents slugging .146 in 40 at-bats ending in his splitter or slider over his last three starts, compared to .469 in his first 14 starts.

While Tanaka’s gem and return to ace form were the biggest stories of the game, let’s put the spotlight on another player that’s quietly produced one of the best all-around first-halves by any Yankee.

Brett Gardner hit his 15th double of the season, giving him these numbers as we near the mid-summer classic: 15 doubles, 15 homers, 10 steals, 56 runs and 35 walks – power, pop, speed, patience and scoring. The only other Yankee to reach each of those totals before the All-Star break (since 1933) is Rickey Henderson in 1986.

(AP)
(AP)

Yankee Doodle Dud
July 4th is a storied day in Yankees history – Lou Gehrig’s ‘Luckiest Man’ speech, George Steinbrenner‘s birthday, Dave Righetti’s no-hitter, John Sterling’s birthday – but this year there would be no indelible moments, no joyous celebration, no fireworks at Yankee Stadium. Instead, they followed up Monday’s encouraging win with another dull loss, 4-1, on Tuesday afternoon.

The last time the Yankees won back-to-back games was June 11-12, a string of 21 games during which they’ve gone 5-16. This is just the third time in the last two decades the Yankees have gone 20-or-more games without a win streak; the other droughts came in July/August 2013 (24 games) and August/September 2012 (25 games).

CC Sabathia, making his first start since a three-week stint on the disabled list, retired the first eight batters he faced but then didn’t get another out, getting pulled after giving up four runs in the inning. Those four earned runs allowed in the third frame matched the same number he had surrendered over a combined 36 1/3 innings in his previous six starts.

Aaron Judge saved the day from being a disaster when he homered in the fourth inning. Judge’s 28th longball of the season was a sizzling shot that went 456 feet and left his bat with an exit velocity of 118.4 mph. It was the fourth time he’s hit a homer that hard … and in related news, the rest of MLB has combined for ZERO home runs with an exit velocity of 118-plus mph this season.

Following the game, Chris Carter was designated for assignment for the second time in two weeks. If this is finally the end of the Chris Carter Experiment, he’ll have earned himself an inglorious place in the franchise record books: Carter would be the first Yankee ever to get at least 200 plate appearances in a season and finish with twice as many strikeouts (76) as hits (37).

(AP)
(AP)

Another collapse, send help
And the mind-numbing tailspin continues in the Bronx. The Yankees dropped the rubber game of the series, 7-6, suffering another crushing defeat in which they battled back from five runs down to take the lead only to have the bullpen self-destruct yet again.

Let’s update those ugly bullpen-implosion numbers from the last Yankeemetrics:

Stat Notes
16 Blown Saves – Through 83 games last year, they had only six (in three fewer save opportunities);
– The same total they had the entire 2016 season
17 One-Run Losses – Five more than all of last year;
– 11 of them since June 1, the most of any team in that span
11 losses when scoring at least five runs – The same number they had all of last year;
– Through 83 games in 2016, they had six such losses;
– 8 of them have come since June 1, the most in MLB

Chad Green ignited the meltdown when he coughed up the game-tying homer in the seventh, and then Dellin Betances put grease on the fire when he walked in the go-ahead run in the eighth.

Betances simply can’t find the strike zone now. His total lack of command has been really acute in his last four games, during which he has walked 10 of the 20 batters he’s faced and thrown only 41 of his 97 pitches for strikes.

Wednesday marked just the second time he’s ever walked four guys in an outing – the other instance was his first career big-league appearance on Sept. 22, 2011. Betances also joined Edwar Ramirez (July 20, 2007) as the only Yankees in the last quarter-century to give out at least four free passes and get one or fewer outs in a game.

For the season, he’s now at 8.56 walks per nine innings and a 21.1 percent walk rate, both of which would be the worst marks by any Yankee with at least 25 innings pitched since Ryne Duren in 1960 (9.0, 21.4%).

The beginning of the game was just as horrible to watch as the ending, with Michael Pineda getting shelled by the Toronto lineup. They crushed three homers off him, the second time in his last two home games he’s given up at least three dingers. The only other Yankee pitchers to allow at least three longballs in back-to-back games at Yankee Stadium were Kei Igawa (2007) and Red Ruffing (1941) – but neither of those two guys only pitched four innings or fewer in both games, like Pineda did.

The bullpen blowtorch erased what had been a rousing comeback, one that was sparked by Aaron Judge. The pinstriped cyborg drove in the first two runs of the game with his 29th home run of the season, matching Joe DiMaggio for the Yankee rookie record … with 79 games remaining on the schedule.

Perhaps more incredible is this stat, which illustrates his rare and legendary combination of power and patience: Three Yankees have compiled at least 200 total bases and 50-plus walks before the All-Star break – Judge, Mickey Mantle (1956) and Lou Gehrig (1936).

Thoughts on the final off-day before the All-Star break

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Good gravy do the Yankees stink right now. They’ve lost 16 of their last 22 games and have gone from four games up in the AL East to barely hanging on to a wild card spot. This is their first 6-16 stretch since May 2003. I guess the good news is that 2003 team won 101 games and went to the World Series? Anyway, I have some thoughts on things, so let’s get to ’em.

1. Forgive me for being positive for a moment. As bad as the Yankees have looked the last few weeks, I feel like their biggest problems are almost all fixable. Unlike, say, 2013 and 2014, when they needed basically an entirely new lineup and three or four new starters, this team seems to have most of the necessary pieces in house. They absolutely need Aroldis Chapman and especially Dellin Betances to right the ship, but I feel like that’s doable. Betances was awesome up until about two weeks ago. As recently as June 26th — last Monday! — he had a 1.09 ERA (1.41 FIP) and opponents were hitting .140/.282/.151 against him. It’s not like he’s been bad all year. I’m not ready to declare Betances permanently broken yet. Not close. Same with Chapman. I think he’s dealing with a World Series hangover more than anything. Get Betances and Chapman back on track, get Starlin Castro and Matt Holliday (and Aaron Hicks) back from the disabled list, and the Yankees will be in much better shape. This 6-16 stretch is no joke. The Yankees have seen their postseason odds drop from 88.1% to 61.1% during his 22-game stretch, per FanGraphs, so it has been very damaging. But I feel the chances of things improving going forward are much better than the last few years.

2. Speaking of Betances, wow do the Yankees have to get him figured out. That has to be priority No. 1. This isn’t a command problem. This is a basic strike-throwing problem. It’s not like he’s missing just off the plate. He’s not getting the ball over the plate all. Betances has a long history of strike-throwing problems, mostly in the minors, though I don’t think he’s ever gone through a stretch this bad. He’s walked eleven of the last 22 batters he’s faced, plus he hit another with a pitch. Geez, dude. I’m not a pitching coach but Betances seems to be a mechanical mess — David Cone pointed out yesterday that Dellin is pulling everything to his gloveside, which usually indicates a pitcher’s upper and lower halves are out of sync — and at this point I’m sure his confidence has taken a hit. Joe Girardi has to take Betances out of a high-leverage role for the time being and let him work things out in mop-up duty. And who knows, he might figure it out in one or two appearances. Dellin seems to go from falling apart to locked in seemingly overnight (and, sadly, vice versa). The Yankees need Betances to be Betances to win. They can’t afford to keep frittering away winnable games.

3. Remember all that stuff earlier in the season about Austin Romine working better with the pitching staff than Gary Sanchez? This season Yankees pitchers have a 3.65 ERA with Sanchez and a 4.41 ERA with Romine. Funny how that worked out, huh? I’m one of those people who thinks catcher’s ERA is stupid as hell and that the catcher’s impact on the pitching staff is often overrated, but I still found that amusing. I don’t doubt that Romine is a better receiver and overall defender than Sanchez. It’s not showing up in the runs prevented numbers though. And still, even if the pitching staff works so much better Romine, the solution is not playing him behind the plate more often. The solution is working with Sanchez and teaching him how to do a better job with the pitchers, because that dude is the future of the franchise and he needs to be behind the plate. At the end of the day, it’s up to the pitcher to execute. The catcher can call the greatest game in the world and frame every borderline pitch, but if the pitcher doesn’t execute, there’s nothing the catcher can do. Romine sure as heck didn’t call those hanging home run pitches from Michael Pineda yesterday, but Pineda threw them anyway.

Frazier. (Bob Levey/Getty)
Frazier. (Bob Levey/Getty)

4. First impression of Clint Frazier: Brian Cashman was not kidding around when he said that kid has “legendary” bat speed. I mean, I saw it in Spring Training, but that’s not really the same. Just about everything Frazier has put in play since being called up has been a rope. Also, he’s putting together quality at-bats. He’s seen 69 pitches in 14 plate appearances (4.93 per) and his swing rate on pitches out of the zone is 28.6%, better than the 30.7% league average, and his contact rate on pitches in the zone is 95.7%. The league average is 85.8%. Super duper small sample size and all that, but Frazier so far reminds me of Aaron Judge in the first week or so of the season. Remember that? Judge didn’t hit much that first week — he went 2-for-15 (.133) in his first five games this year — but he was on everything and having quality at-bats. Frazier has been the same way. The Yankees are probably going to send him down when Holliday returns and that’s fine. Frazier should be getting regular at-bats somewhere, and once Holliday returns, that somewhere figures to be Triple-A. I like what I’ve seen so far. That kid seems to have a plan and he can get the bat to the ball real quick.

5. The silly narratives are already starting with Judge. The other day, I believe it was the FOX game against the Astros, one of the announcers said he needs to be more aggressive in RBI spots and expand the zone to get the run in, if necessary. (It had to be the FOX game. I don’t think anyone on YES would say that.) That’s the Joey Votto narrative. He’s too happy to take his walks and pass the baton when he should be trying to drive the run in! I had a feeling we would hear something like that at some point given Judge’s sky high walk rate (16.8%). The announcers can say whatever they want and us idiot writers can write whatever we want. As long as Judge doesn’t actually do that, it’s fine. I want him sticking with the same approach, and if that leads to a walk, fine. Take the baserunner. Especially with Sanchez and a healthy Holliday and whoever else hitting behind him. Whatever Judge is doing, it’s working. Keep doing it. The guy has been nearly flawless at the plate.

6. For the first time in a long time, I am really excited for the Home Run Derby. Even when Robinson Cano was in it, I wasn’t this excited. I’ve seen both Judge and Sanchez take plenty of batting practice this year and, honestly, I think Sanchez might be the better bet in the Home Run Derby. Judge certainly has more impressive distance and exit velocity on his home runs, but in a batting practice setting, Sanchez hits the ball over the fence (to all fields) more often. And it’s not like he’s hitting cheapies either. Either way, it’s pretty cool two young Yankees stars are in the Home Run Derby. The Yankees have three homegrown All-Stars no older than 25 — and they’re all deserving All-Stars too — and that is pretty damn awesome. The recent losing really stinks. It really does. The foundation is in place though. The core of the next great Yankees team has arrived.

DotF: Mateo stays hot, Sheffield hurt in Trenton’s win

Some notes to get us started:

  • So long, Tommy Layne. He has been released, the Yankees announced. Layne was pitching well with Triple-A Scranton, but the Yankees need roster space as players get healthy and get promoted, so the 32-year-old journeyman gets the axe.
  • The Yankees have acquired IF Jonathan Diaz from the Blue Jays, the team announced. Diaz spent all of last season with the RailRiders. Scranton is short on position players due to injuries and all the recent call-ups. Diaz is just a warm body to fill out the roster.
  • 1B Mike Ford was bumped up from Double-A Trenton to Triple-A Scranton, it was announced. IF Billy Fleming and LHP Daniel Camarena were sent the other way. Also, RHP Gio Gallegos has been activated off the disabled list. Whatever was bothering him couldn’t have been that bad.
  • Great stuff from Michael Peng on RHP Jorge Guzman, one of the players who came over in the Brian McCann trade. “We are teaching him not to throw but how to actually pitch, how to read hitters and how to throw different pitch sequences. And to me, seeing him learn these different things has been the biggest adjustment he has made. He seems seems to pick on the things we’re trying to teach him,” said Staten Island Yankees pitching coach Travis Phelps.

Triple-A Scranton (3-1 win over Buffalo)

  • LF Jake Cave & 2B Donovan Solano: both 1-4, 2 K
  • 1B Mike Ford: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
  • DH Miguel Andujar: 0-3, 1 BB
  • RF Billy McKinney: 1-3, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K, 1 HBP — 8-for-22 (.364) with one double, two triples, and three homers in six games at Triple-A … he’s hit seven homers in his last 21 games after hitting four homers in 123 games last year and seven homers in 106 games the year before
  • SS Cito Culver: 1-3, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 E (fielding) — he’s hitting .262/.332/.492 this year, you know
  • 3B Abi Avelino: 0-3, 1 CS
  • RHP Bryan Mitchell: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 12/1 GB/FB — 60 of 85 pitches were strikes (71%) … Good Bryan showed up tonight

[Read more…]

Wednesday Night Open Thread

I suppose the good news is the Yankees have suffered so many of these soul-crushing losses lately that I’m getting to be immune to them. I’ve gotten pretty good at #ZenBaseball over the last years, but geez, these last few weeks have been brutal. I plan on staying far away from baseball and the Yankees in general tomorrow. I need a break from these guys.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Mets are playing tonight and MLB Network will have a regional West Coast game later on. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s loss, or anything else here that isn’t religion or politics.

Blue Jays 7, Yankees 6: Bullpen spoils a great comeback

The slump is getting dangerously close to a full-fledged collapse. The Yankees dropped Wednesday’s series finale 7-6 to the Blue Jays and are now 6-16 in their last 22 games. At one point they were 15 games over .500. Now they’re five. At one point they were four games up in the AL East. Now they could be a half-game back of the second wildcard spot before their next game depending what the Rays, Twins, and Royals do between now and then. Just fast forward to the All-Star break already.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Small Mike
Impressively terrible outing for Michael Pineda, who retired only eight of 18 batters faced, and allowed five runs in three innings plus two batters. He allowed homers to three of the final seven batters he faced, including back-to-back shots by Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales, and the first opposite field home run of Kevin Pillar’s career. Pineda gave up one homer on a fastball (Pillar), one on a slider (Morales), and one on a changeup (Morales). Amazing. His final line: 3 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 1 K and 65 pitches.

At this point, it’s crystal clear the Pineda we saw at the start of the season was not in fact a new Pineda. He’s still the same old Michael Pineda. Unpredictable, occasionally great, mostly mediocre. He just happened to have one of his “oh man is he turning it around?” streaks at the start of the season, so everyone kinda got their hopes up. April baseball is full of lies, man. In his last seven starts Pineda has allowed 29 runs (25 earned) on 53 hits (nine homers) and nine walks in 36.2 innings. Thanks for coming.

The Comeback
It all started with an Aaron Judge home run. Of course it did. But this home run tied a record. Judge’s fourth inning two-run shot was his 29th* homer of the season, tying the franchise’s single-season home run record among rookies. Joe DiMaggio hit 29 in 1936. It’s July 5th. The Yankees still have 79 games to play, and already Judge has hit as many home runs as any rookie in franchise history. Wild.

(* I still haven’t forgotten about that stupid triple. Wednesday’s home run should have been Judge’s 30th of the season.)

The home run brought the Yankees to within 5-2 and and it gave them some life. That was actually their first hit of the afternoon. The fifth inning is when the offense finally broke out and took the lead. A lot happened that inning, so let’s annotate the play-by-play.

yankees-vs-blue-jays-play-by-play

(1) Welcome to the Yankees, Ji-Man Choi. Tough to make a better first impression than clobbering a 457-foot dinger in your second at-bat. That was the third longest home run by a Yankee this season and the longest by a Yankees left-handed batter since Statcast became a thing in 2015. No joke. Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran … none of those dudes hit a longer homer from the left side of the plate. Ji-Man is a He-Man, as John Sterling said. That got the Yankees to within one.

(2) To me, the Brett Gardner walk was the “okay, time to take out Marco Estrada” moment. He wasn’t locating, his pitch count was sitting at 96, and Judge was about to see him for the third time. With two men on base and after hitting a long home runs his last time up, no less. There should have been warning bells going off, no? That seems like a “time for a new pitcher” moment. But no, John Gibbons stuck with Estrada. And kept sticking with him.

(3) The most amazing part of Judge’s season is his batting average. Hitting 29 homers before the All-Star break is remarkable, it really is, but I would have guessed he’d hit 29 homers before the break rather than hit .330-something before the break eight days a week and twice on Sundays. And yet, it’s not luck. I mean, sure, there’s probably some good luck in that .423 BABIP, but it’s not all luck. Judge hits rockets all over the fields. He hit a rocket to right field to load the bases in that fifth inning.

(4) Gary Sanchez against Estrada coming into the game: 4-for-8 with four home runs. And Gibbons still stuck with him. Amazing. He got away with it too, because Sanchez got under a 2-2 changeup and popped up in foul territory behind the third base. Yuck. Sanchez with the bases loaded against a struggling pitcher? Sign me up. Estrada (and Gibbons) got away with it though. Gary did hit a foul ball about 400 feet earlier in the bat. Too bad he couldn’t straighten it out.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

(5) As good as he’s been this season, Didi Gregorius has hit a bit of a rough patch lately, coming into the game in a 4-for-21 (.190 skid). Fortunately Gibbons stuck with the struggling Estrada — he was trying to get Estrada through the inning to get him a win, right? had to be — and Estrada’s 108th and final pitch was a fastball up in the zone, which Gregorius tomahawked into right field for a two-run go-ahead single. The Yankees put five runs on the board in one full turn through the lineup spanning the fourth and fifth innings.

Also, on that Gregorius single, third base coach Joe Espada was waving Judge home, but Judge recognized the Blue Jays executed a pretty good set of relay throws, so he held up. He would have been toast at the plate. Chase Headley didn’t come through with another two-out hit there, but still. At least he had a chance to hit. Judge would have been thrown out by a mile had he not stopped at third.

Death By Bullpen
Asking the bullpen to hold a one-run lead for four innings was a tall order. That one-run lead vanished in the seventh, when Chad Green served up a leadoff home run to Russell Martin. Sigh. Green’s been pretty awesome this year so it’s tough to complain about him. Given how things have been going though, that home run felt pretty crushing.

The Yankees did get their leadoff man on base in the bottom of the seventh — Tyler Wade drew a walk against Aaron Loup, a funky lefty — then they went into small ball mode for some reason. Gardner bunted Wade to second, the Blue Jays intentionally walked Judge, then Sanchez struck out and Gregorius flew out to end the inning. Two things about that inning:

  1. Why not have Wade steal? He was 24-for-28 in steal attempts in Triple-A. The catcher, Miguel Montero, is 1-for-31 throwing out basestealers this year. 1-for-31! He was literally designated for assignment by the Cubs last week because he is so bad at throwing that he blamed the pitcher.
  2. Why is Gardner bunting anyway? He squared around four times and finally got the bunt down with two strikes. After the game Girardi said he was bunting for a hit, which is so silly I refuse to believe it’s true. The element of surprise was long gone. Either Girardi is covering for himself or Gardner. At some point someone in the dugout has to tell Gardner to stop trying to bunt, right? You know they’re going to walk Judge if you get the bunt down. Swing away. Geez.

The Yankees played for one run that inning and got none, which is what they deserved. Playing for one run in Yankee Stadium with the middle of the order coming up is pretty ridiculous. Besides, the bullpen has been so bad lately. Did they really think one run would be enough to win? What a terrible, awful, no good inning. Just swing the stupid bat.

Anyway, with the score tied 6-6, Girardi went to Dellin Betances in the eight inning. His inning: walk, walk, walk, strikeout, walk to force in the winning run. At one point Betances threw ten straight balls. It was pretty clear he didn’t have it when he fell behind 2-0 to the third batter, and he probably should have been out of the game there. A little proactivity would be cool. Adam Warren came in and escaped the jam to hold the Blue Jays to just the one run, not that it really mattered.

More like BB-etances amirite? (Presswire)
More like BB-etances amirite? (Presswire)

For Dellin, he now has an 8.6 BB/9 and a 21.1% walk rate on the season. He’s walked eleven of the last 22 batters he faced and hit another with a pitch. That walk rate is completely and totally unacceptable for a late-inning reliever. The Yankees have to get Betances out of the eighth inning until he’s right. Girardi can be loyal to a fault. He sticks with his guys longer than he probably should. That must change. They can’t use Dellin in close games when he’s pitching like this.

Leftovers
The Yankees only had six hits on the day. Two by Judge and one each by Gardner, Gregorius, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Choi. They did draw six walks though. Two by Gardner, two Austin Romine, and one each by Judge and Wade. Six runs is usually enough. Not when your starter goes three innings and your bullpen is an untrustworthy as it gets.

Not sure what else to add here, so I’ll close with this: the Yankees are the first team in MLB history to use two South Korean born position players in a season. Choi joins Rob Refsnyder. (Refsnyder was born in South Korea and adopted by an American family as an infant.)

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for the box score, MLB.com for the video highlights, then back to ESPN for the updated standings. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
An off-day, finally. The Yankees have off Thursday — I think we can all use a little break from this team — and will be back at Friday night, with the first of three against the Brewers. Jordan Montgomery and splitter specialist Junior Guerra will be on the mound for that interleague matchup. There are only three games remaining before the All-Star break. RAB Tickets can get you in the door to any of ’em.

Game 83: The 16th Day

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

Today marks the end of a 16 games in 16 days stretch for the Yankees, their longest stretch without an off-day this season. (They had their 20 games in 20 days stretch interrupted by a rainout halfway through.) And boy, the first 15 games of this stretch did not go well. The Yankees are 6-9 in those games even though they’ve only been outscored 80-76. A few bullpen meltdowns have changed everything.

Anyway, this afternoon is yet another chance for the Yankees to win a series for the first time in three weeks. They haven’t won a series since decimating the Orioles at Yankee Stadium last month. The Yankees have gone from having a four-game division lead to facing a four-game deficit in 22 days. Pretty terrible. Win a stupid series for once and go into the off-day feeling kinda sorta good. Can we do that? Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. DH Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  7. 1B Ji-Man Choi
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. 2B Tyler Wade
    RHP Michael Pineda

It’s a lovely day for baseball in the Bronx. A little cloudy, but there’s no rain in the forecast and it’s not oppressively hot either. Not a bad afternoon to sit in the ballpark. Anyway, this afternoon’s series finale will begin at 1:05pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Matt Holliday (illness) is feeling better and he hopes to return to the lineup Friday. He ran and took some batting practice today. Holliday said tests found a virus, and I guess they knocked it out with some medication.