It’s been a while — too long, really — since we last saw a dominant CC Sabathia, so I figured that video would serve as a good reminder of what the big man looked like at his best. I don’t think he’ll ever get back to being that guy but I do hope he can rebound to be better than he has been this year. It’s been ugly.
Anyway, here is your open thread for the night. MLB Network will air a game tonight and who you see depends on where you live. Chances are it’ll be a game that has some meaning to the Yankees and their playoff chase. There’s also college football on somewhere. Talk about whatever you like here. Have at it.
I can’t be the only one who goes into these games against the Red Sox thinking the Yankees have very little chance of winning, right? The Yankees just aren’t in the same class. Not offensively, not on the mound, not in the field, and certainly not when it comes to developing homegrown players. Saturday’s loss was not really a bloodbath but it was just another example of Boston’s obvious superiority. Let’s recap the 5-1 loss:
- Sad-bathia: Things were looking up for CC Sabathia after he threw a perfect first inning on seven pitches. Then 13 of the next 27 batters he faced reached base. Six singles, three doubles, four walks, two sac bunts, and one sac fly led to five total runs in the second through fifth innings to put this game out of reach. Sabathia has now allowed 59 runs in 71 innings across his last 12 starts, and opponents are hitting .307/.369/.486 against him during that time. Brutal.
- The Grandy Can … : … but no one else can. Curtis Granderson was the only player who did anything noteworthy at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a double and a triple. Robinson Cano drove him in with a ground ball after the three-bagger. Offensive Catalyst Brendan Ryan slapped a single through the right side and both Alex Rodriguez and J.R. Murphy drew walks — Murphy was the only one of the final 13 batters to reach base. That’s it. That was the day for the offense. Non-Granderson hitters went a combined 1-for-26 with the two walks and five strikeouts. Three of those five whiffs were Lyle Overbay vs. Jon Lester. No Brett Gardner, no Alfonso Soriano, so chance.
- Leftovers: This game lasted only two hours and 42 minutes, so at least it was quick … Joba Chamberlain walked two and got a lucky line drive double play in his inning of work before Matt Daley struck out two in a perfect ninth … the Yankees were held to just one run (or less) for the first time in 27 games … they allowed at least five runs for the eighth time in their last eleven games … the bullpen was not charged with a run for the first time in five games. The last time that happened was the series opener against the Orioles, when Sabathia went 7.1 innings and Adam Warren recorded two outs in the road loss … the Yankees have lost 70 games for the first time since 2008 and second time since 2000.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some nerd stats, and ESPN the updated standings. Depending on the outcome of the late game, the Yankees will be either three games (Rays lose) or four games (Rays win) back of a wildcard spot. If the Athletics hold on to win, the Rangers will be tied with the Joe Maddon’s club in the standings. The Yankees could be chasing Texas and not the Tampa soon. Ivan Nova, who is coming off his triceps problem, will start Sunday’s series finale against Clay Buchholz.
Sorry for the tardiness. Here’s the lineup:
- CF Curtis Granderson
- 3B Mark Reynolds
- 2B Robinson Cano
- DH Alex Rodriguez
- LF Vernon Wells
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- SS Brendan Ryan
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- C J.R. Murphy
And on the mound is left-hander CC Sabathia. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 1pm ET and can be seen in FOX. Enjoy.
Injury Update: Alfonso Soriano was a late scratch with a sprained right thumb. He hurt himself diving for a ball in Baltimore and is day-to-day.
Sunday: Phelps has indeed been activated. He threw a two-inning simulated game on Thursday, so at least he had some kind of tune-up appearance under his belt. Derek Jeter was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot.
Saturday: Via Dan Barbarisi: The Yankees will activate David Phelps off the 60-day DL prior to Saturday’s game to help their, uh, disheveled bullpen. Last week we heard Phelps had just started playing catch and was still a few days away from throwing in the bullpen. He’s been out with two forearm strains since early-July. There is pretty much zero chance Phelps is big league ready. Desperation is a stinky cologne. · (9) ·
The only way the Yankees were going to win Friday night’s series opener against the Red Sox was if Hiroki Kuroda threw a masterpiece and/or the offense scored like, 12 runs. The bullpen is a total disaster right now, so much so that even the good relievers are worn down and less effective than usual. With Mariano Rivera and David Robertson unavailable, the Bombers had little chance to win a close game. Boston took the opener 8-4. Let’s recap:
- Bad, Then Good: The chances of a Kuroda masterpiece went right out the window in the first inning, when the Red Sox scored four runs thanks to four hits (three in two-strike counts) and a walk. It looked like this one would be over early, but to Kuroda’s credit, he rebounded and did not allow another run while pitching into the seventh. He threw 101 pitches overall and only generated four swings and misses. Kuroda has struggled big time these last few weeks, particularly early in starts. This was just another example. The Yankees were playing catch-up right from the get-go.
- All For Naught: New York has shown a knack for digging out of multi-run holes of late, and they managed to erase that four-run deficit thanks mostly to Robinson Cano, who had four hits including the game-tying two-run double. It would have been a three-run go-ahead double if Alex Rodriguez had more than one good hamstring. Brendan Ryan (!) hit a solo homer in the third and Lyle Overbay had a sacrifice fly in the sixth that would have been a two-run double had Shane Victorino not been so damn good defensively. The Yankees did squander some opportunities in the middle innings though, mostly because the bottom half of the lineup was a joke.
- Blownpen: Like I said, the bullpen is a Three Mile Island-level disaster right now. Joe Girardi had to send Kuroda back out to start the seventh because a) he was cruising, and b) there was no reliever he could trust. Victorino’s leadoff single promptly ended Kuroda’s night. Cesar Cabral plunked David Ortiz before Preston Claiborne walked Jonny Gomes to load the bases with no one out. Claiborne managed to strike out Daniel Nava by doubling up on his changeup, which was a rather gutsy move. Unfortunately he left a fastball up to Jarrod Saltalamacchia that turned into the game-losing grand slam. Predictable.
- Leftovers: The Yankees had eight hits total, including four by Cano and two by Ryan. Not sure relying on Brendan Ryan to provide offense is a sustainable strategy … the 5-6-7 hitters (Overbay, Eduardo Nunez, Ichiro Suzuki) needed 34 pitches to go 0-for-11 with a sac fly … Matt Daley chucked a scoreless eighth, but not without allowing an extra-base hit … and finally, it has to be pointed out that Boston’s four-run rally in the eighth was started by Nunez muffing a ground ball at third base. It was hard hit, no doubt about it, but it was hit right at him and a play a big league third baseman should make. This guy just can not play anymore. These games are too important and he doesn’t do enough (anything?) to help. Start Mark Reynolds at third and Ryan at short. End of story.
MLB.com has the score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Rays, Indians, and Orioles all won, so the Yankees are now three back of the second wildcard spot in the loss column and one back of Cleveland. They’re tied with Baltimore and one up on the Royals. Cool Standings gives them a 14.7% chance to make the postseason. CC Sabathia and Jon Lester will be the pitching matchup on Saturday afternoon.
A few weeks ago, losing Brett Gardner to a Grade I oblique injury would have been devastating. He was the team’s second best hitter until the cavalry arrived in late-July, and he’s been a steady, count-working presence atop the lineup. By no means is Gardner a star, but he’s a very big part of the team and the Yankees can’t really replace what he brings to the table. It’s a big loss and they’ll have to get over it. Here’s the lineup that will face right-hander John Lackey:
- CF Curtis Granderson
- DH Alex Rodriguez
- 2B Robinson Cano
- LF Alfonso Soriano
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- 3B Eduardo Nunez
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- SS Brendan Ryan
- C Chris Stewart
And on the mound is right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who held these same Red Sox to two runs in six laborious innings last week. He threw 117 pitches in those six innings, an average of 4.68 pitches per batter faced. Mike Napoli leads all qualified hitters with an average of 4.57 pitches per plate appearance, for reference. Given the state of the bullpen, Kuroda needs to put together a fewer quick innings.
It’s been raining in Boston for a good part of the day, but things are supposed to be clear for the game tonight. Clouds and humidity, lots and lots of humidity, but no rain. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10pm ET and can be seen on My9 locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.
Injury Updates: Austin Romine (concussion) passed an imPACT test. He rode a bike and hit in the batting cage today, and he’ll take light batting practice on the field. They’ll see how he feels and go from there … Boone Logan (elbow) has “turned a corner a little bit” and could be available when the Yankees play the Blue Jays next week … A-Rod (hamstring) is scheduled to play third base tomorrow.
Today’s MRI revealed a Grade I strain of Brett Gardner’s left oblique, Joe Girardi announced. That is the least severe strain but “he’s going to be out a while” and it’s possible his season is over. Girardi did say the Yankees may be able to bring Gardner back as a pinch-runner sooner rather than later.
Gardner, 30, has hit .273/.344/.416 (107 wRC+) with eight homers and 24 steals (in 32 attempts) in 609 plate appearances this season. He and Robinson Cano pretty much carried the offense for the first four months of the season before reinforcements arrived after the All-Star break. Add in his stellar outfield defense and the fact that the Yankees don’t really have another suitable leadoff man, and yeah, this is a big blow. · (11) ·
The Red Sox demolished the Yankees in Yankee Stadium last weekend, or at least they demolished their pitching staff. The Bombers had no answer for Boston’s lineup in the first three games. The rivalry moves to Fenway Park this weekend for three huge games. Huge for New York, that is.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Red Sox lost to the Rays yesterday but otherwise took two of three in Tampa. They’ve won eleven of their last 14 games and own the league’s best record and run differential at 89-59 and +167, respectively. Boston leads the AL East by seven games in the loss column and has the division all but wrapped up with a little more than two weeks to play.
At 5.2 runs per game with a team 113 wRC+, Boston is one of the very best hitting teams in all the land. They have a 136 wRC+ as a team over the last two weeks. That’s an entire lineup hitting almost like Robinson Cano (140 wRC+) for a two week period. Insane. The Red Sox are without their catalyst CF Jacoby Ellsbury (111 wRC+), who has a broken bone in his foot and hopes to return in time for the postseason. Here’s their only injured position player.
It seems like manager John Farrell has nothing but good hitters in his lineup, and that’s because he usually does. 2B Dustin Pedroia (112 wRC+), OF Shane Victorino (118 wRC+), DH David Ortiz (149 wRC+), 1B Mike Napoli (124 wRC+), OF Daniel Nava (128 wRC+), and SS Stephen Drew (103 wRC+) play pretty much everyday. C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (106 wRC+) catches regularly while OF Jonny Gomes (101 wRC+) subs in against left-handers. 3B Will Middlebrooks (91 wRC+) has been excellent for a few weeks now. That’s pretty much the regular lineup right there.
1B Mike Carp (152 wRC+ in limited time) has been a force off the bench and headlines the group of reserves. Backup C David Ross (82 wRC+ in limited time) usually plays against lefties and OF Jackie Bradley Jr. (58 wRC+) has seen more playing time with Ellsbury hurt. Top prospect IF Xander Bogaerts (106 wRC+ in very limited time) hasn’t played all that much since coming up last month. September call-ups C Ryan Lavarnway, IF John McDonald, UTIL Brandon Snyder, and pinch-runner OF Quintin Berry fill out the rest of the position player crop.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP John Lackey
Lackey, 34, is having his best season as a Red Sox (Sock?) thanks to his new elbow. He has a 3.48 ERA (3.72 FIP) in 26 starts with very good walk (1.98 BB/9 and 5.3 BB%) and ground ball (47.4%) rates. His strikeout (7.70 K/9 and 20.9 K%) and homer (1.13 HR/9 and 12.5% HR/FB) totals are just okay though. Lackey has thrown six different pitches this year but he leans heavily on three: his low-90s four-seamer, mid-80s cutter, and upper-70s curve. He’s thrown those pitches roughly 90% of the time combined. A low-90s two-seamer, mid-80s changeup, and mid-80s slider are rarely used fourth, fifth, and sixth offerings. Lackey has a big reverse split this year — lefties have a .290 wOBA against him while righties are at .341 — for whatever reason. That’s an outlier compared to the rest of his career. The Yankees scored seven runs against Lackey in 5.2 innings last weekend and still managed to lose.
Saturday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Jon Lester
The 29-year-old Lester has had a very up and down (and up again) season. He’s sitting on a 3.86 ERA (3.66 FIP) with strikeout (7.45 K/9 and 19.5 K%) and walk (2.84 BB/9 and 7.4 BB%) rates that are damn near identical his disaster season a year ago. His ground ball rate (43.9%) has dropped and yet he’s giving up significantly fewer homers (0.84 HR/9 and 8.4% HR/FB), which doesn’t really make sense considering his home ballpark. Lester’s four-seam fastball recently jumped back into the mid-90s and he’s shelved his upper-80s cutter. That was the pitch he fell in love with and got him into trouble. A low-90s sinker, mid-80s changeup, and mid-70s curveball round out his repertoire. Lester held New York to three runs in eight innings — the rare complete-game loss — last weekend. These two have seen each other plenty of times over the years. No surprises.
Sunday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Clay Buchholz
Buchholz, 28, just came off the DL after missing more than three months with a neck problem. He held the Rays scoreless for five innings in his first start back and has a stellar 1.61 ERA (2.40 FIP) in 13 games this season. His strikeout (8.76 K/9 and 25.4 K%) and ground ball (48.4%) rates are very good, his walk rate (3.02 BB/9 and 8.8 BB%) is pretty good, and his homer rate (0.20 HR/9 and 3.0% HR/FB) is off the charts. Unsustainably off the charts. Buchholz will rarely throw his low-90s two-seamer, instead preferring his low-to-mid-90s four-seamer and upper-80s cutter when setting up his knockout low-80s changeup. He’ll also throw upper-70s curveballs. The Yankees have seen Buchholz a bunch of times over the years including twice this year: one run in seven innings in April and five scoreless innings in June.
Farrell’s bullpen is in decent shape, though both closer RHP Koji Uehara (1.68 FIP) and RHP Junichi Tazawa (3.13 FIP) have pitched twice in the last three days. That could impact their availability at some point this weekend. Uehara has retired 34 straight batters and it would be neat if that streak ended this weekend. Actually, I’d rather not see him at all. RHP Brandon Workman (3.48 FIP) has become a trusted late-inning reliever but threw two innings on Wednesday. LHP Craig Breslow (3.74 FIP) is Farrell’s top southpaw. LHP Drake Britton (3.15 FIP in limited time), LHP Franklin Morales (4.93 FIP in limited time) and LHP Matt Thornton (4.07 FIP) make up the rest of the bullpen alongside September call-ups RHP Rubby De La Rosa and RHP Allen Webster.
Joe Girardi, on the other hand, has a tired and worn out bullpen. Mariano Rivera has pitched each of the last three days and four of the last five, throwing 84 total pitches since Sunday. Hard to believe he’ll be available tonight, but I said the same thing yesterday. David Robertson has appeared in back-to-back games after missing about a week with shoulder fatigue. Boone Logan is still unavailable because his elbow is barking. Shawn Kelley might be the closer and a bunch of call-ups might be the setup men tonight. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for a breakdown of the carnage, then check out Over The Monster for the latest and greatest on the Red Sox.
1. I know I mentioned this on Twitter the other day, but can you imagine being a fan of the Orioles or Rays right now? As infuriating as the Yankees have been at times, I’m guessing fans of those two teams have had their fair share of angst as well. The Rays were tied for first as recently as a couple weeks ago. Instead of running away with the division, or at least securing the wild card spot, they’ve been pretty lousy. Now, they have the Yanks, Orioles, Indians, and even the Royals all breathing down their neck. As a fan, I suppose it’s still better to be rooting for the team being chased than the team doing the chasing, but yeesh, the Rays’ world must be pretty stressful at the moment. Ditto for the Orioles. Like the Yankees they are trying to make a final desperate run for that final playoff spot. The Yankees almost got swept by the Sox and yet the other wildcard contenders have nothing to show for it. That’s how it goes though sometimes. Baseball is odd.
2. Mike has talked about the bullpen workload of late, specifically how often Mariano Rivera has been called into duty. I get it. He’s retiring after the season. The team is at a critical point. They need Mo to be Mo whenever the occasion arises. But the man looks gassed out there, at least he did two nights ago. I was surprised, and thankful, last night that he pitched as efficiently as he did honestly. That’s what happens when you have a closer coming in basically every night of the week though, and sometimes for more than one inning of work – never mind the fact that the guy is in his forties. It’ll be cruel if the Yankees make the postseason and Mo is burnt out by the time they get there. Hopefully, the Yanks can string together some big wins (preferably against the Sox) and give the man a break. Frankly, the whole bullpen needs it. The team needs every player contributing at his peak, and a day or two off each week, might be the difference between blown saves and big wins over this final stretch. Unfortunately, that’s not something that Joe Girardi can control — particularly with the rotation being a mess. From a purely selfish standpoint, I also enjoy seeing Mo out there everyday. If this is the last we get to see of him, then let us enjoy it as often as possible.
3. Is anyone else frustrated with the team’s inability to grab a win without seemingly losing someone to injury? This year has been incredible in that regard. The other day it was Austin Romine, Ivan Nova, and Derek Jeter. Last night it was Brett Gardner. Things like this happen, but gosh, the Yanks have got to be setting some kind of dubious record for it this year. Of course, it goes without saying that losing Gardner hurts the lineup especially. Aside from being a fantastic outfielder and solid base runner, he’s been an important offensive force all year long. The team won’t be able to duplicate his contributions with any of the replacements. If a guy like Ichiro Suzuki takes over his lead-off spot, it’ll definitely represent a downgrade.
4. You know what’s funny? Alex Rodriguez is still a really important player. We saw this season how miserable the alternatives are. A-Rod, on the other hand, has had some big hits since returning, and has looked really sharp at the plate in general. Love him or hate him, he is a necessary part of the lineup. He’ll have to continue hitting well for the Yankees to make any kind of run into the playoffs. Also, I really enjoyed seeing him in the two spot these last few days. I think he’s done a good job there and I wouldn’t mind seeing that continue for the rest of the season.
5. Want some Friday humor? Well this is the best I got. My dream is that the Yankees make the World Series and A-Rod wins game seven on a walk off home run, and as he rounds the bases he mimes the act of injecting steroids into himself and then flips the world off at home plate. Then in a beautifully terrible and ironic nightmare, Bud Selig is forced to award him the World Series MVP award. Alright, that’s all I got. Happy Friday.
I’ve only got four questions for you this week. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything at any time.
Anthony asks: If the Yankees sign Brendan Ryan in the offseason as insurance for Derek Jeter, do you think his defensive contributions would be more valuable than the light-hitting, terrible defense of Eduardo Nunez?
Oh yeah, I have very little doubt about that. We don’t even need to get into WAR to make the point. Nunez is a below-average hitter and a horrible defender. Ryan is a horrible hitter and an above-average (bordering on elite) defender. Let’s have some fun and use the 20-80 scouting scale, where 50 is average. Nunez is what, a 40 hitter and a 30 defender while Ryan is a 20 hitter and a 70 defender? I suppose Nunez could turn into a 50 hitter with some speed and contact-related BABIP luck, but that’s being a little too nice.
If I had to pick between these two, Ryan would be my everyday shortstop. The Yankees would need to boost their offense in other spots (right field, catcher, DH) to compensate for the noodle bat though. In a perfect world, neither guy starts next year. The team should look for a better, legitimate everyday option this winter. A more long-term solution. That won’t be easy to find and definitely won’t come cheap, but that’s the corner the Yankees have painted themselves into thanks to an unproductive farm system.
Vicki asks: What’s with park effects? How can we call it a stat when it changes significantly season to season, yet the park dimensions stay the same?
Park factors can be calculated in different ways and they’re all complicated. Long story short: they show how many runs are scored at one park compared to all other parks. For the long and painful to read answer, here’s how Baseball-Reference calculates their park factors. Like I said, they’re complicated. All sorts of adjustments are made.
Park factors are like just about every other stat in that they fluctuate from year to year. Robinson Cano is a lifetime .308 hitter, but he had one year where he hit .342 and another where he hit .271. Did his talent level change those two years? No, other stuff (injuries, mechanical funk, etc.) played a role. Park factors are the same way. They don’t change because of the dimensions, those are fixed and don’t change year to year (unless the team changes them), they change because of everything else. Something like the weather — a particularly hot summer in New York would boost the offense at Yankee Stadium even more, for example — or even the way a team stores their baseballs can change the way a park plays. There’s a million variables that come into play.
I treat park factors the same way I treat defensive stats. I use them directionally rather than for a hard, exact number. If a player has a +10.5 UZR and +8 DRS, I don’t take those exact numbers to heart, but I do consider the player to be an above-average defender. The system isn’t accurate enough yet to take those run totals at face value. Park factors can be used directionally as well. We know Yankee Stadium is a very hitter friendly park overall, it’s can just be slightly more or less hitter friendly in a given year. Same thing with Dodgers Stadium being a pitcher’s park or Progressive Field being neutral. Remember, single season park factors are based on an 81-game sample. That’s not much. You have to look at the overall picture, like Cano being a true talent .308 hitter and not a .342 hitter because that’s what he hit one random year.
Adam asks: Does Corban Joseph getting “called up” and put on the 60-day DL mean that he gets paid the MLB minimum for the last few weeks of the season? Does he get per diem too?
Yes, Joseph definitely gets paid a Major League salary and per diem (for road games) while on the 60-day DL these last few weeks of the season. He also collects service time. Being on the DL is exactly like being on the active 25-man roster with regards to salary and contract status and all that. Joseph was called up on September 6th, so by my unofficial calculation he’ll receive $72,592.59 in salary, $1,274 in per diem (13 road games at $98 per game), and 24 days of service time this month. Pretty sweet gig if you can get it.
Galla’s projection had the Super Two cutoff at 2.119 in April, but it has since moved two days based on the timing of call-ups this season. The Super Two cutoff is set at the top 22% of players with fewer than three full years of service time. Pineda is still working his way back from shoulder tightness won’t be joining the team this month, so he’s done accruing service time this year. I estimated his service time at 2.099 last month, but that is just an estimation. He’s still well short of the Super Two cutoff though, even if my number is off by 10-15 days. Pineda will be a regular pre-arbitration player in 2014. His free agency has been pushed back from after 2016 to after 2017 though, and that’s most important.
There are two other Yankees on the Super Two bubble: Nunez and David Huff. Nunez came into the year at 1.117, and since he hasn’t gone to the minors at all this season, he’ll finish at 2.117 of service time. Five days short of the projected cutoff. Huff came into the year at 1.166, and based on my estimation, he’ll spend 63 days in the big leagues this season between the Indians and Yankees. That puts him at 2.229. I could be off by a few days, obviously. This stuff is tough to figure out. Neither guy is anything special and they wouldn’t get a huge arbitration raise anyway, but those handful of days are worth several hundred thousand dollars in terms of salary next year.