Mailbag: Tex, Gee, Closer, Warren, Home Field Advantage

Got a dozen questions in this week’s mailbag. If you want to send us a mailbag question(s), use the “For The Mailbag” form in the sidebar. If you want to send us links or tips or anything like that, email us directly at riveraveblues (at) gmail (dot) com, especially if you want a reply. We can’t reply through the mailbag form. Thanks.

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Dan asks: With Mark Teixeira’s resurgence this season, any chance the Yankees are able to trade him in the offseason with a year left on his contract, maybe even getting a decent prospect in return? With his defense, plenty of teams would be willing to take a one year flier on him.

I’m guessing a few teams would be willing to take on one year of Teixeira (Mariners? Padres? Tigers with Miguel Cabrera back at third? Athletics? Angels? etc.) but there are two problems with this. One, Teixeira has full no-trade protection thanks to his 10-and-5 rights, so that’s an obstacle. Two, does trading Teixeira benefit the Yankees? Maybe they get a decent prospect in return but probably not given his contract. They’d be out their first baseman and best power hitter to save $22.5M, which is not an amount that will hamstring this team. Teixeira has shown he’s still a pretty good hitter with a healthy wrist. I’m not sure the trade return would be enough to make it worthwhile. Teixeira seems more valuable to the Yankees in the lineup than as part of a trade, which is not something I thought I would be saying before the season.

Kip asks: Would you actually want all your team playing in the All-Star Game like how the Royals are currently set up or would you want most of your players getting a chance to relax at home and get ready for the second half of the season?

When I was younger I wanted to see every Yankee in the All-Star Game. Even the bench players. Now I want them all home and resting. I mean, yeah, I would have loved to have seen Dellin Betances pitch in the All-Star Game last year, but, in the grand scheme of things, the rest was better for Dellin and the Yankees. I still consider the All-Star Game a fun novelty and yes, I do watch every year, but I’m the point where I don’t mind if a Yankee doesn’t play. I guess it’s a win-win. It’s cool if a Yankee gets into the game and cool if they don’t.

George asks: Since the AL starting team for the ASG has so many Royals, do they still have to have one player from each team? Maybe we should have a maximum number any one team can send if everyone has to send one? Any minor league player from the Royals going?

Oh yeah, of course they still need at least one player from each team. Each roster is 34 players deep, so even if those eight Royals win the voting and start at their positions, that leaves 26 other roster spots for the remaining 14 AL teams. Close to two per team. And that doesn’t even count the guys who are named to the team but replaced on the roster later — pitchers who start the prior Sunday, guys who have to bow out to the injury, etc. Joe Torre used to always take a ton of Yankees to the All-Star Game each year simply because he could. I don’t like the idea of putting a limit on the number of players from one team but I could see the argument. Royals fans are voting like crazy. Let ’em have their fun.

Gannon asks: I’m sure they don’t keep stats for this, but can you remember an instance when a left handed batter hit a home run off the left field foul pole?

There are no stats for this as far as I know but I do remember this happening once. Well, sorta. Carlos Delgado hit a home run off the very bottom of the left field foul pole at Yankee Stadium back in 2008, but that was before the days of instant replay, and it was incorrectly ruled a foul ball. Here’s the video:

After the game home plate umpire Bob Davidson told Christian Red: “I —-ed it up. I’m the one who thought it was a —- foul ball. I saw it on the replay. I’m the one who —-ed it up so you can put that in your paper … No one feels worse about it than I do.” The Mets went on to win 11-2 (box score), so the non-homer call didn’t matter. I’m sure there have been other left-handed batters who have homered off the left field foul pole, but I can’t remember any.

Tom asks: If Betances does well closing while Andrew Miller is hurt (no reason to think he won’t obviously), will Joe Girardi revisit the co-closer idea when Miller comes back? Should he?

I hadn’t thought of that and I hope Girardi would revisit the idea. I like the co-closers plan. It seems like a good way to create some bullpen flexibility and get more platoon advantages. At the same time, both Betances and Miller are so insanely good that I’m not sure it would matter much. They both dominate righties and lefties. There is a financial incentive to letting Miller close — more saves for Dellin means larger salaries in his arbitration years, that’s just how the system works — and those savings might actually be more valuable than any platoon advantage gained with these two. They’re just so good.

Ethan asks: In your opinion, which Yankee starter (including Ivan Nova) has the most trade value?

I’d say Michael Pineda over Masahiro Tanaka for two reasons. One, fair or not, Tanaka’s elbow is viewed as a ticking time bomb. Two, Tanaka’s got a huge contract that hurts his value even if it is more than fair for a 26-year-old ace. Not many teams can afford him and that would limit his trade market. Pineda is not as good as healthy Tanaka but he is pretty great himself, and he’s both substantially cheaper and somewhat less of an injury concern. (I think?) I’d rank the trade value of the starters this way: Pineda, Tanaka, Nathan Eovaldi, Adam Warren, Nova, CC Sabathia. Warren’s only been a full-time starter for less than three months and Nova will be a free agent after next season.

Kevin asks: Now, the last time the Yankees drafted a defense-first shortstop in the first round it did not turn out very well. What makes Kyle Holder different than Cito Culver?

Holder is both a way better hitter and defender than Culver. Outside of the position and the reputation for being glove-first players, there’s not much of a comparison here. Holder did hit .348/.418/.482 at San Diego this spring and I’m not sure Culver could even do that. He hit .269/.320/.363 in rookie ball, remember. Cito is a really good defensive shortstop but Holder is on another level entirely. He’s just several grades better than Culver both at the plate and in the field. I understand why the comparison is being made and I get the skepticism surrounding Holder, but he and Cito aren’t all that similar.

Gee. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty)
Gee. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

Scott asks: Any reason for the Yanks to take a flier on Dillon Gee?

Other than stashing him in Triple-A for depth — Gee does have at least one minor league option remaining, Mets GM Sandy Alderson said their plan was to send Gee to Triple-A if he clears waivers and they can’t work out a trade — not really. Gee has a little more than $3M left on his contract this year but that’s not a backbreaking amount to the Yankees. Gee is not very good (5.90 ERA and 4.39 FIP) but on a straight waiver claim, sure, stash him in Triple-A. That said, teams usually don’t spend $3M or so for seventh or eighth starters in Triple-A. It’s just not realistic.

Dustin asks: How about piggy-backing Warren after Nova for Nova’s first few starts back, as he ramps up his innings? That would keep Warren pitching while he’s hot and then ease him back into a late-inning pen role, while helping limit the pen usage for Nova’s first few starts and not putting too much pressure on stretching him out too soon.

I like the idea. It would keep Warren stretched out so he could easily slot back into the rotation if necessary, and it would effectively be a scheduled off-day for the rest of the bullpen. That said, Girardi would be working with a six-man bullpen the other four days, and you know he’d be itching to bring in Betances and Miller (once healthy) if he as a late lead in a Nova/Warren start. Who could blame him? I’d want to use Betances and Miller whenever possible too. I like the idea of piggybacking Nova and Warren, I just don’t think it’ll actually happen.

Jim asks: In last week’s mailbag you were asked how James Kaprielian compared with Mike Mussina; my question is what is your opinion on how Kaprielian compares with Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain, who were both 1st round college pitching selections by the Y’s?

Joba and Kaprielian aren’t really comparable. Joba had injury issues in college and his stock was down at the time of the draft — had he been fully healthy at Nebraska he probably would have been a top ten pick. He had nasty stuff, a mid-to-high-90s fastball and that wicked slider to go along with a curveball and a changeup. Joba’s stuff was better than Kaprielian’s but his command and health lagged. He developed into a top prospect, but, on draft day, Kaprielian was better than Joba.

The Kennedy comparison is much more appropriate but still not perfect. I mean, no comp is going to be perfect, but you catch my drift. Kennedy was a candidate to go first overall heading into the spring of 2006 before he had a subpar junior year. I think their secondary pitches are comparable but Kaprielian had more fastball — he was sitting 93-95 come April this year — while Kennedy had more command. Kennedy had (and still has, really) tremendous command and that’s why he was a considered a first overall pick candidate for a while. He’s the most appropriate comp for Kaprielian almost by default. I’d take 2006 Kennedy over 2015 Kaprielian. That’s just me.

Home field advantage. (Jamie Squire/Getty)
Home field advantage. (Jamie Squire/Getty)

Tamir asks: How can baseball decide which team in the World Series gets home field advantage in a better way? Clearly the current way is not ideal.

I agree. I don’t like the All-Star Game determining home field advantage in the World Series at all. The league can either have fans voting for the All-Star Game starters or having the All-Star Game decide home field advantage. Having both doesn’t really work. Years ago the AL and NL used to alternate home field advantage in the World Series which was equally dumb, if not worse.

I don’t understand why the team with the better regular season record doesn’t get home field advantage. Doesn’t that make the most sense? If they had the same record, the tiebreaker is head-to-head record during interleague play. If they didn’t play during the regular season, the next tiebreaker is run differential. Is that so hard? The team that had the better record in the regular season should get home field advantage in the World Series. That’s my take. Problem solved.

Joe asks: What pitcher had the highest game score for the Yankees in 2014? So far this year?

Game Score is a really simple stat created by Bill James that attempts to quantify the quality of a start in a single number. I’m not going to explain the entire calculation — here’s the Wikipedia page — but, in a nutshell, it’s a points system. Start with 50, add X points for good events (strikeouts, etc.) and subtract Y points for bad events (walks, runs, etc.). The average Game Score is around 50.

Three starts tied for the highest Game Score by a Yankee last season. Here’s the full list and here’s the top four, via Baseball Reference:

Player Date Tm Opp Rslt IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit Str GSc
Brandon McCarthy 2014-08-21 NYY HOU W 3-0 9.0 4 0 0 0 8 0 107 79 87
Masahiro Tanaka 2014-05-14 NYY NYM W 4-0 9.0 4 0 0 0 8 0 114 76 87
Masahiro Tanaka 2014-04-16 (1) NYY CHC W 3-0 8.0 2 0 0 1 10 0 107 76 87
Michael Pineda 2014-09-22 NYY BAL W 5-0 7.1 1 0 0 1 8 0 106 73 83

Those were the team’s only 80+ Game Scores last year. Only the Nationals (five), Indians (five), Dodgers (four), and Red Sox (four) had more starts with an 87+ Game Score last season. The single best Game Score in 2014 was Clayton Kershaw’s 15-strikeout no-hitter at 102. Here’s the full list. That would have been a perfect game if not for a Hanley Ramirez error. Womp womp.

As for this season, the Yankees’ best start by Game Score is not Pineda’s 16-strikeout masterpiece because he did allow a run, and runs are bad. Here’s the full list and here are the top five:

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit Str GSc
1 Masahiro Tanaka 2015-04-18 NYY TBR W 9-0 7.0 2 0 0 0 8 0 85 58 81
2 Michael Pineda 2015-05-10 NYY BAL W 6-2 7.0 6 1 1 0 16 1 111 81 77
3 Michael Pineda 2015-05-05 NYY TOR W 6-3 8.0 5 0 0 1 6 0 101 70 77
4 Masahiro Tanaka 2015-06-03 NYY SEA W 3-1 7.0 3 1 1 0 9 0 78 58 76
5 Michael Pineda 2015-06-17 NYY MIA W 2-1 6.2 1 1 1 2 9 1 100 63 75

The best start by someone other than Tanaka and Pineda this year was Chase Whitley‘s gem against the Blue Jays — that registered a 72 Game Score. The best start in baseball this season was Max Scherzer’s recent 16-strikeout one-hitter, which came in at an even 100 Game Score. Chris Heston’s no-hitter and Corey Kluber’s 18-strikeout game both check in at a 98 Game Score. I don’t think Game Score has a ton of analytical value, but I do think it’s useful for something like this, trying to decipher which start was better than another. It’s a “for fun” stat.

Offense breaks out, A-Rod inches closer to 3,000th hit in 9-4 win over Marlins

That was a tale of two games. The first five and a half innings were kinda crummy, then the last three and a half innings were fantastic. A-Rod is now just one away from his 3,000th hit, but, more importantly, the Yankees beat the Marlins 9-4 on Thursday night. They’ve won two straight.

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

Score Early, Score Often … No Wait, Nevermind
Three batters and nine pitches into the game, the Yankees had three hits and a 1-0 lead. That’s always fun. Brett Gardner slapped a single to left, Chase Headley squibbed a single through something resembling the shift, and American Hero Alex Rodriguez drove in the run with a single back up to the middle. Bang bang bang, Yankees lead. They’ve now scored 62 first inning runs this year, 15 more than any other team.

The Yankees didn’t add any more runs in the first inning, however. Mark Teixeira followed A-Rod’s single with a deep fly ball, then Brian McCann drew a walk to load the bases (that’s good!) for Carlos Beltran (that’s bad!). Beltran swung at four identical pitches in the dirt — he fouled one off — and struck out for the second out. Didi Gregorius then popped up on the first pitch to end the inning. Golden opportunity wasted. They also stranded one runner in the second, two in the third, and two in the fifth for good measure.

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

Mistake Pitches
CC Sabathia opened the game with three perfect innings but you could see it was only a matter of time until he got into trouble. He was missing the glove consistently and got away with many mistake pitches. The Marlins really bailed him out with some terrible swings, both on pitches and in and out of the zone. Nine up, nine down was wonderful. But yeah, Sabathia’s location was ominous.

The fourth inning started with Dee Gordon’s Beltran-aided triple — how in the world do you let someone hit a triple on a soft line drive to right field in this ballpark? — and, two batters later, Christian Yelich tied the game with a run-scoring ground out. A single, a hit-by-pitch, and two fly balls created Miami’s second run in the fifth inning. Mason Williams was able to show off his arm on the two fly balls, but he was unable to cut Jeff Baker down at third or at home. Alas.

Following those three perfect innings to start the game, six of 14 Marlins reached base against Sabathia (.429 OBP). One of those six was a Giancarlo Stanton solo homer that wasn’t even a bad pitch — it was at Stanton’s shins and he golfed it out. Doesn’t hurt any less, but Sabathia didn’t leave him a meatball down the middle. Stanton’s just that good. The final line was three runs on five hits and no walks in six innings. He struck out seven. At this point of his career the Yankees will take that from Sabathia.

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

Tie The Game, Take The Lead
The comeback from the 3-1 deficit started with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. Williams ripped a double into the right-center field gap with two outs to extend the inning, then Gardner unloaded on a center cut Mat Latos fastball for a game-tying two-run home run into the bullpen. It was a line drive that just barely cleared the wall. Latos was one out away from completing six innings of one-run ball, but he didn’t finish the sixth.

In the seventh, Teixeira sliced a one-out single to left, setting up the rally. Well, it wasn’t so much a rally as it was two swings. Ex-Yankee Mike Dunn left a pitch up to Beltran, who hammered a no-doubt two-run go-ahead homer to left field. Beltran has not been good this year and especially of late, and I’ve been hard on him, but he came through big time right there. The Yankees were #RISPFAILing all over the place earlier in the game and he finally provided the big hit. Good work.

Rather than sit on the two-run lead, the offense broke out in the eighth and hung a four-spot on reliever Sam Dyson. Leadoff walks to Headley and A-Rod put the wheels in motion. McCann singled in one run, A-Rod scored on a wild pitch, Chris Young doubled in another run — he took over as a defensive replacement for Beltran — and Stephen Drew got the fourth run in with a sac fly. That was a fun inning. The 5-3 lead became a 9-3 lead pretty quick.

All A-Rod, All The Time
Boy, did Dyson hear some boos after walking A-Rod in the eighth. Alex singled in the first inning and again in the fifth to get to within one hit of 3,000. He flew out on the first pitch in the sixth, his first shot at the milestone, then walked on four pitches in the eighth. None of Dyson’s pitches were close and the Yankee Stadium crowd gave him an earful. Ton of boos. A ton. The kind A-Rod used to hear. Rodriguez will look to pick up his 3,000th hit on Friday night.

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

Leftovers
Chasen Shreve and Justin Wilson each allowed one hit in a scoreless seventh and eighth inning, respectively. Chris Martin allowed a run and almost made a real mess of things in the ninth — Gregorius saved his bacon with a great diving stop to get the force out at second — before nailing down the win. The middle relief is not very reliable right now. Shreve, Wilson, and hold on to your butts.

Gardner (single, homer), Headley (two singles), A-Rod (two singles), McCann (three singles), and Williams (two doubles) all had multiple hits. Headley, A-Rod, McCann, Beltran, Drew, and Williams drew walks. The Yankees pounded out season-high 15 hits. They had 17 hits total in the first three games of the series.

And finally, Sabathia did not get the win, but if he had, he would have become the 14th pitcher in history to record a win over all 30 teams. I heard that on the YES broadcast and thought it was neat. Pretty good chance Sabathia never pitches against the Marlins again, so this was probably his last chance to join the club.

Box Score, WPA Graph &  Standings
Here are the box score and video highlights as well as the updated standings. Also make sure you check out out Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here is the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
This four-game home-and-home series with the Marlins is finally over. The Tigers are coming to the Bronx next for a three-game weekend series. Adam Warren and Justin Verlander will be the pitching matchup in Friday night’s opener. Head over to RAB Tickets if you want to catch that game or one of the many other upcoming home games live.

DotF: Judge goes deep again in Trenton’s shutout win

3B Eric Jagielo‘s knee injury is not serious and he will only miss a few days, reports Nick Peruffo. 1B Matt Snyder isn’t so lucky — his ankle injury is serious and may require surgery. Snyder got hurt last night, Jagielo a day or two ago.

Also, as a reminder, the Short Season Staten Island season begins tomorrow night with their annual home-and-home series with Brooklyn. Rookie Pulaski and the two Rookie GCL Yanks affiliates start their seasons next week.

Triple-A Scranton (10-7 win over Rochester)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 2-6, 1 R, 2 K
  • LF Jose Pirela: 1-5
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 1-3, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 HBP
  • RF Ramon Flores: 1-5, 2 R
  • 3B Gregorio Petit: 3-4, 3 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB — 10-for-18 (.556) in five games at this level
  • C Austin Romine: 2-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 1 K — first game back from the pitch to the head and he hits a grand slam against the team that plunked him
  • RHP Esmil Rogers: 2.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 3/2 GB/FB — 37 of 56 pitches were strikes (66%)
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 31 of 52 pitches were strikes (60%)

[Read more…]

Game 66: 3,000?

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

We are now firmly in “it could happen any day now” territory as Alex Rodriguez pursues his 3,000th career hit. A-Rod is only three hits away and he’s had two three-hit games already this season. Both came immediately following off-days too, which might not be a coincidence. “I felt like my body was charged up and got some good energy,” he said to Chad Jennings last night, his first start after two days out of the lineup in the NL park.

A-Rod did play yesterday, so he’s not coming off an off-day, and believe it or not he’s never faced tonight’s Marlins starter Mat Latos before, so who knows what will happen. Most importantly, the Yankees need to build off last night’s win, regardless of whether Alex makes history. The top four teams in the AL East came into the day separated by two games in the standings. Here is the Marlins’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. CF Mason Williams
    LHP CC Sabathia

Another cloudy and cool day in the New York, but this time there is rain in the forecast. It’s not supposed to start until much later tonight though, so it shouldn’t interrupt the game unless they go to extra innings or something. Tonight’s series finale will begin just after 7pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Rotation Update: Nathan Eovaldi will start Saturday and Masahiro Tanaka will start Sunday. The Yankees want to give Tanaka extra rest and Eovaldi is able to start on three days’ rest because he only threw 36 pitches in Tuesday’s disaster.

Injury Update: Teixeira has been nursing a stiff neck since the Orioles series, which is why he was unavailable last night. Apparently he’s well enough to start tonight … Jacoby Ellsbury (knee) continues to run the bases as part of his rehab.

TiqIQ: Old-Timers’ Day Tickets Averaging Close To $75, With $15 Get-In Price

This upcoming weekend features a circle-the-calendar event as the 69th annual Old-Timers’ Day will be held at Yankee Stadium. Ceremonies will be held prior to the Yankees-Detroit Tigers game at approximately 4:00 p.m., including Willie Randolph being honored with a Monument Park plaque.

For fans looking to attend the ceremony and celebration of Yankees history, there are multiple avenues to explore in trying to find the best deal for tickets.

Yankees Old-Timers’ Day tickets on the secondary market have an average price of $73.64 with a get-in price of $15, according to TiqIQ.com. It is the second-most expensive game of the series against the Detroit Tigers, as Sunday’s average ticket price is slightly higher at $74.38 with the same get-in price of $15.

But the best route might be using Yankees.com. From our price comparisons, the prices for tickets on Yankees.com are at times better than buying on the secondary market. For instance, a 100-level seat (Sec. 123, Row 21) on Yankees.com costs $300, while a seat in the same section and row on the secondary market comes out to $337. Additionally, a 300-level seat costing $100 on Yankees.com for Sec. 323, Row 3, costs $147 on the secondary market.

Another option is the Yankees ticket exchange, which is offering 10% off all tickets to college graduates and dads for Father’s Day weekend with promo code YankeesEmail10.

And it’s shaping up to be another great Yankees event. Yankee greats and Baseball Hall of Fame inductees Yogi Berra, Wade Boggs, Whitey Ford, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Rickey Henderson, Reggie Jackson and Joe Torre are scheduled to attend. David Cone, John Flaherty, Paul O’Neill, Bucky Dent, Cecil Fielder, Ron Guidry, Charlie Hayes, Don Larsen and many more will also be there to celebrate the new member of Monument Park.

Randolph was with the Yankees for 13 seasons and was a five-time American League All-Star. Randolph won back-to-back World Series with the Yankees in 1977 and 1978 and earned four more rings with the Yankees during his 11 seasons coaching.

Pitching plans show the Yankees wisely have their eyes on the big picture

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Last night, Michael Pineda turned in arguably his best start of the season, which is pretty impressive when you consider he struck out 16 batters in a game last month. Big Mike carved through the Marlins with his mid-90s electricutter and the best slider command he’s had since the 16-strikeout game. It was Pineda at his best. Overwhelming dominance.

Five days ago Pineda suffered through arguably his worst start of the season by allowing six runs on nine hits in only 4.1 innings against the Orioles, the same Orioles he struck out 16 times a few weeks ago. His slider wasn’t behaving and his location was terrible, hence all the damage. Perhaps not coincidentally, last night’s start came on normal rest while the start in Baltimore came on eleven days rest.

“There’s days he hasn’t had his slider and he’s been on regular rest. So there is no answer to this, as much as you guys want one. There is no exact science,” said Joe Girardi to Ryan Hatch last night when asked about Pineda dominating on normal rest and struggling with extra rest.”These guys are creatures of habit, but sometimes you have to make adjustments. You have off days that you have to adjust to.”

The Yankees didn’t skip Pineda’s start two weeks ago for the heck of it. They did it because they’re trying to keep him healthy, and because he threw 124.2 total innings from 2012-14 following major shoulder surgery. Pineda has already thrown more big league innings this season (81.1) than he did last season (76.1) and we’re only halfway through June. Again: major shoulder surgery in the not too distant past!

Pineda is not the only pitcher who is having his workload monitored. Masahiro Tanaka‘s next start has been pushed back to give him an extra day of rest, something the team is trying to do as much as possible this year. They aren’t so concerned about his exact innings total, they’re just playing it safe with the partial ligament tear in his elbow. Adam Warren, a reliever turned starter who is two starts away from exceeding last year’s innings total, has also had some starts pushed back in recent weeks.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are clearly looking at the big picture here and are willing to lose the battle (Pineda vs. the Orioles) to win the war (Pineda the rest of the season) with their rotation. Having Pineda, Tanaka, Warren, and whoever else around and not just healthy, but productive as well in the second half is far more important than one or two starts right now, before the halfway point of the season. Skipping that start seems to have resulted in a poor outing for Pineda against the O’s. The hope is it will lead to an effective Pineda in September and October.

The workload manipulation is only going to continue these next few weeks, so it would be nice if Pineda figured out how to remain effective in starts with extra rest. That’s an adjustment he has to make. The Yankees may use a six-man rotation when Ivan Nova returns and they figure to insert a spot sixth starter several times down the stretch — they were prepared to start Bryan Mitchell this Saturday until Nathan Eovaldi‘s short start on Tuesday, allowing him to come back on short rest. My guess is Mitchell will still end up taking a few rotation turns later this year.

There is definitely a time and a place for focusing on the here and now, especially with the AL East so tight. The Yankees aren’t at that place right now. There is still 60% of the season to be played and they have to be cognizant of their starters’ physical limitations and do their best to keep everyone healthy and sharp all season. If that means sacrificing some starts now a la Pineda against the Orioles, then so be it. The big picture is far too important right now.

Yankees starting to feel the loss of Ellsbury offensively

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

Saturday marks the one-month anniversary of Jacoby Ellsbury being placed on the 15-day DL with a knee injury we still don’t know much about. We don’t know what he hurt (which ligament, etc.), we just know he didn’t need surgery and is slowly working his way back. Emphasis on slow. Earlier this week Joe Girardi told reporters Ellsbury’s rehab isn’t as far along as hoped.

“He is not where we want him to be physically, so we are not going to risk it. He is not running 100 percent, and obviously that is important,” said Girardi to George King. “It’s going slower than we thought it might. I said earlier in this trip that our hope was — you always get a little excited that things would move faster, but it just didn’t.”

Unfortunately slow rehabs are nothing new for Ellsbury, who had all sorts of injuries with the Red Sox and always seemed to take a little longer to return than initially expected. He’s a slow healer. That’s just his body. The Yankees have said they hope to get Ellsbury back later this month but I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t return until the All-Star break, which is only four weeks away now.

Either way, slow rehab or not, the Yankees are really starting to feel the loss of Ellsbury offensively. Defense hasn’t been a problem, guys like Chris Young and Slade Heathcott and Ramon Flores and Mason Williams have filled in admirably in the field, but Ellsbury is a game-changing leadoff man and the Yankees haven’t been able to replace his bat in the lineup. Well, they were never going to be able to do that, but they did weather the storm for a while.

Ellsbury got hurt in the middle of an at-bat against the Nationals on May 19th, in the team’s 40th game of the season. In their first 39 games, the Yankees averaged a healthy 4.38 runs per game, better than the 4.13 MLB average. In the 25 games since Ellsbury’s injury, the Yankees are averaging … 4.60 runs per game. But — there’s a but! — the offense has lagged big time of late.

Last night’s win over the Marlins was New York’s third straight game scoring two or fewer runs. They’ve scored just 21 runs in their last seven games. That’s after averaging 5.22 runs per game in the first 18 games without Ellsbury. The Yankees lost their high-end leadoff hitter, somehow increased their average offensive output by nearly a run a game for three weeks, then crashed back to early the last week or so.

For a while the Yankees were able to keep their heads above water offensively without Ellsbury, but his absence is turning into an extended one, and it was only a matter of time until it caught up to the team. Brett Gardner has cooled off, Chase Headley and Stephen Drew still haven’t gotten going, Carlos Beltran isn’t doing much … the Yankees were only going to be able to thrive without Ellsbury for so long.

There’s nothing the Yankees can do now other than wait. Wait and hope guys like Headley and Beltran start chipping in more than they have. Ellsbury is still a few weeks from returning and while these recent offensive struggles are on the extreme side — they’re not going to average three runs per game like they have the last seven games forever, not even the 2013-14 offenses were that bad — the Yankees are without a key piece of the lineup and it’s starting to show.