Yankeemetrics: It’s getting late early (Sept. 21-23)

(USA Today Sports Photo)
(USA Today Sports Photo)

Out of our Price range
The biggest takeaway from Monday’s crushing loss to the Blue Jays in the Most Important Series of the Year, is that there’s little doubt about the impact that David Price has made on this AL East race.

Since joining Toronto, Price is now 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in four starts against the Yankees — and the only game he didn’t win (Aug. 14), he left with a 3-1 lead. A quick glance at the division standings shows that the Yankees are three games back of the Blue Jays in the loss column. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do that math.

Price was brilliant again in this game, holding the Yankees to just two hits in seven scoreless innings. It was the second time this season he’s allowed no runs and no more than three hits against the Yankees (also on Aug. 8). The last left-handed pitcher with two starts like that against the Yankees in a single season was the Orioles Dave McNally in 1974.

The loss dropped to the Yankees to 5-12 against the Blue Jays this season. That’s their most single-season losses versus Toronto in franchise history.

Killing two Birds with one stone
A player that was in Double-A just a few months ago, in rookie ball the last time the Yankees made the playoffs, and in high school the last time they won the World Series — kept their hopes for a division title alive with one swing of the bat on Tuesday night.

Greg Bird’s dramatic tie-breaking, three-run homer in the 10th inning was the decisive blow in a game the Yankees simply couldn’t lose. Bird has had his share of True Yankee Moments, and this one etched his name in the record books. Here we go …

• he is the third Yankee age 22 or younger to hit an extra-inning home run. The others were a 21-year-old Melky Cabrera in 2006 against the Mariners and a 22-year-old Derek Jeter in 1996 versus the Royals;

• he joins Tino Martinez in 1997 as the only first baseman in franchise history with an extra-inning homer against the Blue Jays;

• and, now our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Week: he is the first Yankee infielder in the last 75 seasons with a multi-RBI, extra-inning homer in a September game.

Bird’s blast was also the third extra-inning three-run home run the Yankees have hit this season. If that sounds like a lot, well … In the past 75 years, this is the only time they’ve squeezed three three-run, extra-inning homers into a single season.

Bird wasn’t the only superstar in this game. Luis Severino tossed another gem with six innings of two-run, three-hit ball — the third time in nine starts he’s allowed no more than three hits. The only other Yankees in the Live Ball Era (since 1920) with at least three starts of three hits or fewer in a season as a 21-year-old or younger are Whitey Ford (1950), Tom Morgan (1951) and Bill Burbach (1969).

It’s not what you want
While Wednesday’s loss doesn’t officially eliminate the Yankees from the AL East race — we all know that it ain’t over til it’s over — but it does put a huge dent in their division title hopes. It’s awfully hard to make up three games in the loss column with 11 to play and no more head-to-head matchups against the team you’re chasing. Sigh.

In what has been a recurring theme against this Blue Jays team, the Yankees offense went into hibernation in the 4-0 loss. This was the third time they’ve been shut out by Toronto this season; the rest of baseball has pitched just three shutouts combined against the Yankees.

With the loss, the Yankees finished 4-5 at the Rogers Centre, their sixth straight sub-.500 record at the stadium. That’s their longest active streak of losing seasons at any American League ballpark.

Our old friend Russell Martin was responsible for all four of the Blue Jays runs, scoring the first one on Kevin Pillar’s RBI single in the sixth inning, and then driving in three more with a homer in the seventh inning. That gave him 17 RBIs as a catcher (and one as a pinch hitter) against the Yankees this season, the most by any backstop in the Divisional Era (since 1969).

Ending on a positive note, we’ve got one milestone alert for this game: A-Rod’s ninth-inning double was the 540th two-bagger of his career, matching Hall of Famers Joe Medwick and Dave Winfield for 35th place on the all-time list.

Yankees now have the flexibility to line Masahiro Tanaka up for wildcard game


Last night Ivan Nova, not Masahiro Tanaka, started the Yankees’ series finale against the Blue Jays. Tanaka suffered a Grade I right hamstring strain running the bases last Friday, and although he said he could have started last night, the Yankees played it safe. “I can’t say 100 percent, but I believe he will (make his next start),” said Brian Cashman to George King earlier this week. “He felt he could have pitched Wednesday.”

The Yankees are 3.5 games back of the Blue Jays in the AL East following last night’s loss (three in the loss column), and there are only eleven games remaining in the regular season. Catching (and passing) Toronto is not impossible, just very unlikely. FanGraphs puts New York’s odds of winning the division at a mere 6.2%, and those odds have taken an embarrassing tumble over the last few weeks:

ALE odds 092315

Sheesh. This just completed series in Toronto was the Yankees’ big chance to climb back into the AL East race and they didn’t take advantage. So it goes. The Blue Jays are the better team and they deserve the division title. That’s been made abundantly clear over the last few weeks.

The Yankees remain a postseason caliber team, however. They’re four games up on the Astros for the top wildcard spot (five in the loss column) and five games up on the Twins for a wildcard spot in general (also five in the loss column). The magic number to clinch a playoff spot is a mere seven. Even if the Yankees go 5-6 in their last eleven games, the Twins need to go 11-1 just to tie and force a Game 163 tiebreaker. Again, it’s not impossible, just really unlikely.

With the division title looking out of reach, the Yankees now have to focus on lining Tanaka up to start the wildcard game, assuming the hamstring is healthy, of course. The injury doesn’t seem like it will be a lingering issue — Tanaka will have a check-up today, then the Yankees will reportedly decide when to re-insert him into the rotation — but who knows with hamstrings. Hopefully Tanaka is back out there soon. It would be very bad if he wasn’t. He’s their most reliable starter by a mile.

Tanaka’s temporary hiatus does give the Yankees the freedom to re-insert him into the rotation whenever it is most convenient with regards to the wildcard game. The AL wildcard game is scheduled for Tuesday, October 6th, and given the way they’ve operated all season, I’m guessing the Yankees will want Tanaka to make that start with an extra day of rest. The numbers say he’s better on regular rest, but finding the extra day has been the priority all year.

Working backwards from the wildcard game, here’s what Tanaka’s schedule would look like with one extra day of rest for each start:

Thursday, September 24th vs. White Sox
Wednesday, September 30th vs. Red Sox
Tuesday, October 6th in wildcard game

So Tanaka would have to start tonight if the Yankees want to line him up for the wildcard game with an extra day of rest before each start. Obviously that won’t happen. He’s not pitching tonight. The Yankees could always “skip” tonight’s start against the White Sox and instead give Tanaka some extra time to let the hamstring heal, roll him out there against the Red Sox next Wednesday as a tune-up, then head into the wildcard game. That’s an option too.

Starting Tanaka on regular rest is another option and the Yankees have been more willing to do that down the stretch — he’s made his last two and three of his last four starts on normal rest after doing it just twice in his first 19 starts. Besides, Tanaka’s getting extra rest right now, right? The hamstring injury is giving him a little bit of a breather. An unintended breather, but a breather nonetheless. He might not need extra rest after this.

So again, working backwards from the wildcard game, here’s how Tanaka’s end-of-season schedule would shake out with each start coming on normal rest:

Saturday, September 26th vs. White Sox
Thursday, October 1st vs. Red Sox
Tuesday, October 6th in wildcard game

Of course, the Yankees could also let Tanaka make one start on extra rest and the other on normal rest. They’ve have to start Tanaka against the White Sox tomorrow to make that happen, then either start him next Wednesday (normal rest) or Thursday (extra rest) to line him up for the wildcard game.

The hamstring might dictate the team’s course of action down the stretch. My guess is the Yankees will want Tanaka to have extra rest at some point, either before his final regular season start or the wildcard game. He’d have to start tomorrow to make that possible. (Either that or Tanaka only makes one more regular season start, not two.) Will the hamstring allow that? The injury sounds minor but who knows. The last thing the Yankees need is Tanaka re-aggravating the injury and being unable to start the wildcard game.

Realistically, the Yankees have to focus on the wildcard game now. No, they’re not mathematically eliminated from the AL East yet, but a 3.5-game deficit with eleven to play is damn near impossible to make up. This series in Toronto was their best chance to get back into the race and it didn’t happen. So be it. Lining Tanaka up for the wildcard game is a priority now, and as long as the hamstring issue isn’t serious, the Yankees will be able to give him as much or as little rest as they want leading into the play-in game.

Yankee bats snapped like straws by Stroman in a 4-0 loss in Toronto

On a bright side, the Yankees won’t face the Blue Jays for rest of the regular season and, well, that’s pretty much it. Ivan Nova pitched 5.2 solid innings but the offense came up empty handed against Marcus Stroman and Jays bullpen to drop the series finale 4-0. Joe Girardi‘s gamble on inexperienced relievers didn’t work to New York’s favor either.

(Source: Getty)

Nova, not terrible this time

Nova didn’t look awful. In fact, this was his best outing since August 2 when he held the White Sox to two runs in six innings. His line tonight: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB and 6 strikeouts. That’s good – especially against the lineup the Jays have.

His stuff looked good. At least to my naked eye, it seemed like his fastball and curve had more North-South depth to them, leading to a lot of chopped fouls, grounders and overall more weak contact. I don’t think he’ll be in line for the postseason rotation (if they were to go as far as ALDS and more) but tonight’s start, at least, gave some hope.

Bullpen management? 

The Yankee bullpen gave first. After Nova departed in the sixth following Russell Martin‘s walk, Girardi brought in lefty James Pazos to face lefty-hitting Ryan Goins. After getting ahead 0-2, Pazos allowed a single to center to make it two outs and runners on first and third. You might think, with division race at stake, Girardi would bring in someone like Justin Wilson to shut the inning down. Instead, he brought in Caleb Cotham – who, in my opinion, has fine stuff to be a future ML reliever but would I trust him wholeheartedly to hold the 0-0 tie? I’m not sure.

On Cotham’s first pitch, Kevin Pillar lined a single up the middle to give Jays a 1-0 lead. Pillar tormented the Yanks all series and this was just a slice from the highlight reel. Cotham issued a walk to PH Ezequiel Carrera to load the bases but induced a long fly out to Ben Revere to barely limit the damage to a run. Damage done, nonetheless.

So these bullpen guys are talented but not a lot of them have been ML-tested – especially in a high-stress situation against the best lineup in the league. Girardi put on a heck of a gamble by putting the names James Pazos, Caleb Cotham and Andrew Bailey to protect the pitching side of things of the game and it clearly didn’t work out that way.

To be fair, a lot of the main guys – Wilson, Betances, Miller, etc. – have been worked a lot and it’s important to keep them fresh for longer run for late in the season and, possibly, postseason. This could have been a different outcome had Masahiro Tanaka not tweaked his hamstring and be able to go deeper into the game. All I can say at this point is – it is what it is.

The new 6 god? (Source: Getty)

Wasted chances

Stroman was no straw man. He was quite nasty and did a lot to miss the Yankee bats – throwing different kinds of fastballs (cutting, sinking, straight, etc.), locating them very well, changing speeds, uncorking that nasty hard slider down and in against lefties, etc. – he had a lot going on. With his return, the Jays postseason rotation is suddenly looking formidable.

New York definitely had few shares of scoring chances. Greg Bird led off with a single in the fifth. Two pitches later, Chase Headley, in a bit of a cold streak, grounded into a double play to immediately kill the rally. Considering that Dustin Ackley followed that up with a deep double to right-center, that GIDP represented some big missed opportunity to get edge or New York.

The Yankees had another chance to rally in the top of seventh. Carlos Beltran walked with one out against Stroman but Bird flew out. Headley, who killed a potential rally earlier, singled to center to make it two outs and runners on first and second. Up came one of the hottest hitters in the lineup: Dustin Ackley.

Ackley had already doubled in the game and it wasn’t out of question he would do more damage against a tiring Stroman. He hit an offspeed offering from Stroman quite hard – maybe too hard as it went right into CF Kevin Pillar’s glove in no time. It was that kind of night for Yankee offense.

Bigger deficit

Andrew Bailey relieved Cotham to start the bottom seventh. He promptly allowed a leadoff double to Josh Donaldson on a hanging curve. Jose Bautista grounded out to advance Donaldson to third. The Yankees followed it up by intentionally walking Edwin Encarnacion. With one out, runners on corners, Bailey struck out Justin Smoak with a nasty curveball – a display reminiscent of his All-Star days.

Bailey almost got out of the inning scoreless – with two outs, on a 1-2 count against Martin, the righty threw a 95 mph fastball just off the corner, maybe an inch away from a called strike. However, the ump called it a ball and Martin drilled the next pitch – a 93-mph fastball right down the middle – for a three-run homer. 4-0 Jays.

The Yankees had another shot at rallying in top ninth against the Jays closer Roberto Osuna. A-Rod led off with a laser double. Brian McCann hit a grounder up the middle that almost nicked the base but that didn’t happen – Goins threw him out for the first out while A-Rod advanced to third. Osuna overpowered Slade Heathcott for a strikeout and Bird flew out to finish the shutout. The AL East deficit grew to 3.5 games again.

Box score, standings, highlights and WPA

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

Source: FanGraphs

The Yankees return home to the Bronx to face the White Sox for a four-game series (it’s really four games this time, I checked). Chicago’s South Siders have not been a good team this season and the Yanks need to capitalize on this opportunity – they’ll need to tackle the White Sox staff ace Chris Sale tomorrow as Yankees turn to Michael Pineda.

Game 151: It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over


Today is a very sad day in Yankeeland. Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, everyone’s baseball grandpa, passed away late last night. He was 90. The Yankees will wear No. 8 patches on their sleeves in his memory tonight and will surely play with heavy hearts, especially those who have been with the team a while and were fortunate enough to spend time with Yogi over the years. It’s a sad day, though Yogi lived a tremendous life and we’re all better for it.

On the field, tonight’s season series finale between the Blue Jays and Yankees is an incredibly important game. The Yankees almost have to win this game if they want to have a chance at winning the AL East. No, they wouldn’t be mathematically eliminated with a loss, but a loss would leave them three games back in the loss column with only eleven to play. A win brings them to within one in the loss column. Those are still long odds, sure, but as a wise man once said, it ain’t over ’til it’s over. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. 1B Greg Bird
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. 2B Dustin Ackley
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    RHP Ivan Nova

Another nice and sunny yet cool day in Toronto. Tonight’s series finale will begin a little after 7pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy.

Injury Update: Masahiro Tanaka (hamstring) will be checked out tomorrow before being slotted back into the rotation. He’s expected to make his next start. I’m sure the Yankees will line him up for a potential wildcard game whenever Tanaka does return to the rotation.

TiqIQ: Yankees Offering Playoff Ticket Pre-Sale As Best Option Opposed To Secondary Market

After a thrilling win last night against the Toronto Blue Jays in extra innings thanks to a Greg Bird three-run home run, the New York Yankees appear to be in complete control of their destiny as they gear up for the postseason. The position has not exactly been clinched yet, but the Yankees hold a six-game lead over the Minnesota Twins, who are the first team outside the American League Wild Card cut line.

The AL East division is still up for grabs, too, as last night’s win over Toronto pulled the Yankees to within 2.5 games of the Blue Jays with about a dozen games remaining for both sides. New York faces the Blue Jays in their series finale tonight to potentially cut into the deficit even more, before beginning an eight-game homestand on Thursday that will be comprised of a four-game set against the Chicago White Sox and a four-game series against the division rival Boston Red Sox. After the Red Sox series, the Yankees’ final series of the regular season is on the road against the Baltimore Orioles.

Fans can take their chances on the secondary market to purchase Yankees playoff tickets, but the purchasing customers don’t control those prices. According to TiqIQ.com, Yankees tickets on the secondary market for the postseason are very much on the pricier side (all prices listed below are ‘If Necessary’ since the Yankees have not officially clinched a playoff spot just yet).

The Wild Card home game at Yankee Stadium has an average price of $192.69 with a get-in price of $65, should the Bronx Bombers not catch the Blue Jays in the AL East. If the Yankees were to survive in the one-game playoff, the prices for the ALDS and ALCS rise significantly. The average price of the three potential home games at Yankee Stadium for the ALDS is $327.03, the most expensive of which coming on October 9 (second home game), having an average price of $359.75 and a get-in price of $56.

As expected, it gets even more expensive for the ALCS. The four-game average for Yankees home games is $768.81, with the potential Game 7 being the most expensive on October 24. That game carries a whopping average ticket price of $956.84, although the get-in price is much more reasonable, being $107.

Yankees playoff tickets on Ticketmaster through the Yankees website would give customers total control of how much is being spent towards purchasing for playoff baseball seats. Securing postseason tickets without having the market dictate the prices on a per game basis is a suggested practice, especially considering the fact that Yankees.com has featured more affordable pricing on countless regular season games over the course of the year.

In any case, barring any sort of monumental collapse, Yankees playoff baseball looks like it will be back for the first time since 2012, and Yankee Stadium will be rocking each and every night they host a game, as always.

Hoy Jun Park among top 20 Appalachian League prospects

(Sports Q)
(Sports Q)

The minor league season is complete, which means we’re now entering prospect ranking season. The crew at Baseball America started releasing their annual top 20 prospects list for each individual minor league this week, including the rookie Appalachian League today (no subs. req’d). That is home to the Pulaski Yankees, who just completed their first season in the Yankees organization.

Astros OF Kyle Tucker, the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft, claimed the top spot in the Appy League top 20. Not much of a surprise there. Braves 3B Austin Riley and Twins SS Jermaine Palacios round out the top three. The Yankees had one farmhand make the list: SS Hoy Jun Park at No. 12.

“Park is a rangy shortstop with quick feet, slick actions and smooth glove work … he could develop into an outstanding defender,” said the subscriber-only scouting report. “His swing has some length to it, but he creates intriguing torque with long levers and quick hands … He showed the ability to punch the ball to the opposite field or pull the ball over the fence.”

Park, 19, was part of last summer’s massive international spending spree, getting a $1.16M bonus. He hit .239/.351/.383 (109 wRC+) with five homers, 12 stolen bases, a 13.0% walk rate and a 19.1% strikeout rate in 56 games during his pro debut with Pulaski this summer. My guess is Park will get bumped up to Low-A Charleston to begin next season.

In the subscriber-only chat, Hudson Belinsky noted RHP Drew Finley was “tough to leave off the list.” Finley was New York’s third round pick this year after going into the draft as a potential late first/early second round talent. Belinsky says Finley made strides with his changeup and is a prospect who “gets it,” for what it’s worth. RHP Brody Koerner, this year’s 17th rounder, also received some praise after the Yankees tweaked his delivery. 2B Gosuke Katoh? He’s more suspect than prospect at this point.

The next list of interest to Yankees fans is the rookie Gulf Coast League, which will be released later this week. 3B Dermis Garcia, SS Wilkerman Garcia, OF Trey Amburgey, OF Leonardo Molina, and SS Yancarlos Baez are all candidates for the top 20, though I wouldn’t expect them all to make it. RHP James Kaprielian, this year’s first round pick, wasn’t in the GCL long enough to qualify for the list.

Beltran, Bird, and Severino have gone from non-factors in April to indispensable in September


Last night the Yankees beat the Blue Jays thanks in large part to Carlos Beltran, Greg Bird, and Luis Severino. Others certainly helped, but Beltran and Bird stood out for their clutch late-inning home runs, and Severino chucked six innings of two-run ball against a great offense. They were the heavy-lifters in the team’s most important win of the season (to date!).

Back in April, last night’s win would have felt impossible. Beltran had a miserable opening month and looked very much like an older player on his last legs. Bird and Severino? They were in Double-A. Not Triple-A, Double-A. Calling up Severino in the second half seemed possible, sure, but Bird? I don’t think anyone thought he would come up in the second half and play everyday.

Beltran, Bird, and Severino were total non-factors for the Yankees back in April. Beltran was a negative both at the plate and in the field, and the other two guys were two minor league levels away from the Bronx. The season is very long though, things change constantly over the course of 162 games, and now those three guys are all indispensable pieces as the Yankees look to clinch a postseason spot.

Let’s be clear here: these are three players the Yankees can not live without right now. That’s not hyperbole. Beltran and Bird have been the club’s two best hitters this month and Severino has been no worse than their third best starting pitcher since he was called up. You could easily argue he’s been their second best starts since being summoned. The Yankees are not hanging on to the top wildcard spot without these guys doing what they’ve done.

Beltran’s first month was awful. You don’t need me to remind you. He hit .162/.216/.265 (21 wRC+) with no homers in April. It was ugly. We all wanted him out of the lineup. Since then though, Beltran has hit .300/.361/.514 (136 wRC+) with 17 home runs in just over 400 plate appearances since May 1st (406 to be exact), including the go-ahead solo homer in the eighth inning last night. The crazy thing? It wasn’t even Beltran’s biggest homer against the Blue Jays this year:

Beltran’s home run last night didn’t stand up — Andrew Miller blew the save in the ninth, only his second blown save of the year — but the Yankees again rallied to take the lead, this time on Bird’s three-run homer in the tenth. Chris Young (walk) and Slade Heathcott (catcher’s interference) deserve credit for reaching base to start the rally, but it was Bird who not only hit the homer, but battled back from an 0-2 count to work it to 2-2.

In his short time as Mark Teixeira‘s injury replacement, Bird has hit .256/.336/.562 (142 wRC+) with ten homers in 34 games. Ten homers! He hit a dozen homers in 83 minor league games this year. Furthermore, six of Bird’s ten homers have either tied the game or given the Yankees the lead. He’s had some huge ones. The two-homer game against the Twins, the go-ahead blast against the Orioles, last night … Bird’s been huge. Huge. Just don’t ask him to talk about it.

“I’m just comfortable playing baseball. I don’t really know how else to put it. But I enjoy it. I enjoy it here,” he said to reporters following last night’s win. That’s the boring answer we’re used to hearing from seasoned veterans, not a 22-year-old with barely more than month in the show. Bird is the big new thing but let’s not forget how great Teixeira was before getting hurt. He was a monster and the Yankees aren’t where they are without him. It could have been very bad when he went down. It hasn’t been thanks to Bird.


Then there’s Severino, who zoomed through the system and has become a big time contributor who is only 24 months removed from rookie ball. He came up after the trade deadline — after the Yankees declined to trade for rotation help at the deadline, more precisely — and has given the team as huge boost, pitching to a 3.10 ERA (4.38 FIP) in nine starts and 49.1 innings. That’s as good as it gets for a 21-year-old kid thrust into a postseason race. The Yankees have needed him too. The rotation is stretched thin due to injury.

Last night’s start was Severino’s third against the Blue Jays this year and easily his best. They hit him around a bit in their first meeting (three runs in six innings) then really did a number on him in their second meeting (six runs in 2.1 innings), but Severino rebounded, made the necessarily adjustments, and held them to two runs in six innings on the road last night. It would have been easy to understand if a rookie pitcher had been overwhelmed by that environment last night. Severino wasn’t.

Back in April, I’m not sure anyone figured Beltran and Bird and Severino would be playing major roles down the stretch and into September. Beltran looked washed up and both Bird and Severino were sitting in Double-A, far away from the Bronx. (Well, not literally. They were only in Trenton.) The Yankees stuck with Beltran and have been rewarded in a huge way. They didn’t trade for any significant help at the deadline and instead placed their trust in Bird and Severino. Again, they’ve been rewarded in a huge way.

Chances are the Yankees won’t win the division. There’s not much time left in the season and the Blue Jays are really good. They are in great position to claim a wildcard spot and return to the postseason, however. They wouldn’t be where they are without Beltran, Bird, and Severino. They’ve all been major contributors down the stretch after it appeared none would have any impact earlier this season.