The Yankees were unable to land pitching help before last Thursday’s trade deadline but that doesn’t mean they are out of the market for arms. David Phelps just landed on the disabled list and the team is somehow more desperate for pitching now than at any other point in the season, and that’s with Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka seemingly on the mend. At best, Pineda is about ten days away while Tanaka could return next month.
The August trade season has been surprisingly active the last few years. Just last year guys like Justin Morneau, Alex Rios, Marlon Byrd, and David DeJesus were dealt in August. The Dodgers-Red Sox blockbuster went down in August two years ago. The Yankees themselves haven’t been all that active on the August trade front the last few years — they acquired Chad Gaudin in August 2009, but their only August trade since was the Steve Pearce pickup a few years ago — but that hardly means they’re against August moves. That’s just the way things shook out.
The Phillies got the August trade market going yesterday by putting just about everyone on waivers — Ken Rosenthal says Byrd, Jonathan Papelbon, Cole Hamels, A.J. Burnett, Roberto Hernandez, Kyle Kendrick, Antonio Bastardo, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, and Ryan Howard were placed on trade waivers. The Yankees don’t have interest in a reunion with Burnett, Hernandez and Kendrick are blah, and Hamels seems unattainable at this point. Cliff Lee’s injury completely killed his trade value as well.
Players have already started to hit waivers though, and that’s the most important thing. The August trade engine is revved up. Here are some potential pitching trade targets for the Yankees, with an emphasis on guys who might be available for little more than salary relief.
RHP Bartolo Colon, Mets
The Mets tried hard to unload the 41-year-old Colon at the deadline, but found no takers because he is owed another $3M or so this year plus $11M next year. He’s pitched well enough in 2014, with a 4.12 ERA (3.51 FIP) while averaging 6.2 innings per start, but something about a pitcher that old and with that arm injury/PED history scares teams away. Can’t say I blame them. The Mets will reportedly try to move Colon again in the offseason, when one year of him at $11M might be an appealing alternative to the free agent market.
The Yankees obviously know Colon after helping him bring his career back from the dead in 2011, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be eager to trade for him. It could mean the exact opposite, in fact. It could scare them away. I don’t think the Mets would let Colon go on waivers for nothing just to dump salary — he does still has some trade value as an innings-eater — but I am certain he’s available.
LHP John Danks, White Sox
We heard an awful lot about the Yankees and Danks these last few weeks, especially in the days leading up to the trade deadline. The two teams were unable to work out a deal in part due to a disagreement over how much of the ~$33M left on his contract the ChiSox would eat. Danks is signed through 2016 at $14.25M per year, and he’s been nothing more than serviceable since coming back from a torn shoulder capsule last year (4.63 ERA and 4.96 FIP). That includes a 4.50 ERA (4.85 FIP) in 136 innings this year.
Given all the money left on his contract and the fact that he’s coming off a recent major injury, an injury that usually ends most pitchers’ careers, I do think the White Sox would let Danks go on waivers for nothing but the salary relief. They could try to work out a trade to get a prospect in return first, but, if push came to shove, I don’t think they would pull him back. Either way, no team will take the risk and claim him. He’ll clear waivers, allowing him to be traded anywhere. If Danks was a pure rental, it would be a much different story. But since he’s signed for another two years at significant dollars, I don’t think the Yankees should go after him without Chicago paying down a decent chunk of the salary.
RHP Jason Hammel, Athletics
Since being acquired from the Cubs early last month, Hammel has a 9.53 ERA (7.31 FIP) in four starts and 17 innings for Oakland. (Five homers with a 12/10 K/BB.) He’s been terrible since the trade — two of his starts have been disasters, the other two okay at best — so much so that I have to think it’s more than a simple statistical correction after he pitched over his head for the Cubbies for three months. Maybe he’s hiding an injury or a mechanical mess, a la Jim Johnson. Hammel was pretty awesome for Chicago, remember (2.98 ERA and 3.19 FIP). I doubt he forgot to pitch on the flight to join his new team.
Anyway, Rosenthal says the A’s placed Hammel on trade waivers yesterday and, right before the trade deadline, Jon Morosi reported GM Billy Beane was “getting flooded” with calls about the righty in the wake of the Jon Lester deal. That doesn’t mean they will trade him, he is still penciled in as their fifth starter following the Lester pickup, but maybe they’re open to moving Hammel after adding another ace to the rotation and pushing him down the depth chart. He’s owed another $2M this season before becoming a free agent. Beane could look to save some cash and recoup a prospect rather than carry a potentially terrible starter these last few weeks. I know he’s stunk lately, but when you have Matt Daley on the roster and are considering starting Esmil Rogers, claiming Hammel and his $2M salary off trade waivers seems like a no-brainer to me. I suspect some team will beat the Yankees to it.
RHP Colby Lewis, Rangers
Lewis beat the Yankees twice in the last two weeks, though he still has a 5.98 ERA (4.29 FIP) in 19 starts and 102.1 innings overall this year. He’s coming back from elbow and hip problems that cost him the second half of 2012 and all of 2013. Lewis has been much better over the last few weeks (thanks in part to the Yankees!), allowing no more than two earned runs in four of his last six starts and no more than three earned runs in five of his last six starts. The one exception was a total disaster (13 runs in 2.1 innings!). Look at his gamelog and you’ll see he’s been good more often than not over the last month or so.
There have been no trade rumors involving Lewis this year mostly because he hasn’t pitched well, but also because the Rangers are desperate for pitching themselves. They have six pitchers on the 60-day disabled list, including starters Derek Holland, Martin Perez, and Matt Harrison. Rotation options Alexi Ogando and Tanner Scheppers are also hurt. Lewis is only owed another $700k this season, give or take, so his salary isn’t an issue either. Holland is due to back relatively soon and maybe Texas would be open to dealing Lewis to a contender for a prospect or salary relief or whatever, but that seems unlikely. He’s an August trade candidate only in the sense that every player on a bad team is an August trade candidate.
* * *
Lee would have been the ultimate August salary dump trade candidate, but his latest injury put an end to that. He’s going to miss the rest of the season with a recurring structural problem in his elbow, so his trade value is shot both for this month and the offseason. Ian Kennedy, whose named popped up in plenty of rumors before the deadline, may still be available, but he’ll require giving up something of actual value. Brian Cashman has done nothing but add players on the cheap this summer.
Aside from getting Hammel for nothing on waivers — I really doubt that will happen, Beane’s no idiot and he won’t let pitching depth walk away for nothing but salary relief — the best case August trade scenario is getting James Shields from the Royals. He’s a pure rental and he’s a very good AL East proven workhorse, which is pretty much exactly what the Yankees need. Kansas City would both have to fall out of race — they’re 4.5 back in the AL Central and 1.5 back of the second wildcard spot — and acknowledge they can’t afford to re-sign him after the season. Plus the Yankees would have to give up something more valuable than the supplemental first round pick the Royals would receive when he signs elsewhere. Shields (and Hammel) seems very unlikely, so the Yankees will have to pick through scraps to boost their starting staff down the stretch.
Via Jon Heyman: The Padres now appear to be focusing on Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler for their vacant GM position. Eppler is considered the front-runner with Rangers assistant GM A.J. Preller, MLB executive Kim Ng, and Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen further back in the race. Heyman says the Padres could announce their new hire as soon as tomorrow.
Eppler, a San Diego native, was the runner-up to Jerry Dipoto for the Angels’ GM job a few years ago, so this isn’t the first time he’s been close to a GM job. He joined the Yankees in 2004 and was the director of pro scouting from 2005-11 before being promoted to assistant GM. It’s clear Eppler will be a GM at some point in relatively soon, either as Brian Cashman‘s eventual successor or with another team. If he gets the job in San Diego, I think it would all but guarantee Cashman will remain GM and get a new contract once his expires after the season. · (57) ·
With David Phelps hitting the disabled list yesterday, you can make a pretty strong argument the five best starting pitchers in the Yankees organization are out with injuries. Phelps (elbow) joins Masahiro Tanaka (elbow), CC Sabathia (knee), Ivan Nova (elbow), and Michael Pineda (shoulder) on the shelf, which is a nice little staff. It’s remarkable the Yankees are still even remotely in the hunt for a postseason spot with all those guys out.
As of right now, the current rotation is Hiroki Kuroda, Brandon McCarthy, Chris Capuano, Shane Greene, and TBA. Esmil Rogers seems likely to replace Phelps in the rotation, at least until Pineda returns. Pineda made his first rehab start over the weekend, and, from the sound of it, he’ll make two more before rejoining the team. His return is far from a sure thing, of course. He’s already suffered one setback this summer and his rehab from surgery took much longer than expected. Still, Pineda is by far the team’s best hope for pitching help from within in the near future.
The Yankees know for certain Sabathia and Nova are not coming back this year following surgery. Pineda might be ten days away and, if everything goes right, Tanaka will be back in September. He played catch yesterday for the first time since getting hurt — the clip they aired during last night’s game showed he was basically lobbing the ball, a nice reminder of how far away he really is — and still has a long way to go before returning to the rotation. Bryan Mitchell, Chris Leroux, and Bruce Billings are stashed in Triple-A, but none sound particularly appealing.
The trade deadline brought the Yankees upgrades at second base and in right field even though just about every rumor connected them to some kind of pitching. Starters and relievers. They added McCarthy a few weeks ago and continue to pick through the scrap heap with guys like Capuano and Rogers, but that’s it. July 31st is not a hard trade deadline, however, so the Yankees still have an opportunity to add an arm or three through a waiver deal this month as teams fall out of the race. Some teams will inevitably look to shed some salary in the coming weeks. Happens every year.
Before Phelps got hurt, Capuano was the obvious one to go whenever the team acquired another starter. He’s done an admirable job in his two starts but he always seems to be walking a tightrope, and at some point he’ll slip up. The Yankees want to be find an alternative before that happens. But, now that Phelps is hurt though, Capuano is only second in line to be replaced behind the TBA pitcher, Rogers or whoever. They can barely keep their head above water with all these pitching injuries. Just when you think they’re ready to upgrade one spot, someone else goes down.
The rotation is averaging only 5.2 innings per start since the All-Star break and only once have the Yankees gotten seven full innings from a starter in the second half — Kuroda’s outing in Texas last week. Heck, on only three other occasions did they have a starter record even one out in the seventh since the Midsummer Classic I’m usually anti-eight-man bullpen, but the Yankees absolutely need one right now. It’s a necessity, not overkill. The starters aren’t giving the team length and someone has to get those outs. It can’t be the same guys every night.
Of course the Yankees have remained on the lookout for pitching this month and will continue to do so. The injury to Phelps increases the urgency for another arm — hard to believe that’s really possible at this point, they’ve been desperate for an arm for weeks now — and could force the team to be a little more aggressive in trade talks. Maybe that means being more willing to take on salary or give up a better quality prospect. Brian Cashman has shown he can find useful pieces at more than reasonable prices this summer and he has to do it again (and again?) to help the rotation.
That was a great win. The Yankees’ third in a row and fourth in the last six games, coincidentally. They beat the Tigers by the score of 2-1 in the opener of their four-game series Monday night. The Bombers have now played 15 straight games decided by no more than two runs, extending the franchise record.
The Four (Or Five) Run Inning That Wasn’t
The Yankees had one of their best offensive innings in a long time — best against a decent or better pitcher, anyway — in the top of the fourth, and all they got out of it was two runs because apparently the Tigers play defense now. That wasn’t always the case these last few years. It took the Yankees all of nine pitches to load the bases with no outs against Max Scherzer, as Ichiro Suzuki, Brett Gardner, and Derek Jeter all singled. Jeter failed to get a bunt down twice before slapping a bloop to right. I prefer the bloop to the bunt.
So that set the Yankees up with the 3-4-5 hitters due to bat with the bases loaded. Can’t ask for a better situation than that, right? Jacoby Ellsbury jumped all over a 1-0 pitch and hit a rocket to center field, one of the hardest balls he’ll hit all season, and his reward was … a sac fly. Ezequiel Carrera made a marvelous diving catch going back on the ball, reeling it in at the warning track. It was unbelievable. So unbelievable that I’m going to embed the video instead of trying to describe it:
Your browser does not support iframes.
Can’t even be mad about that. Just a great, great catch. Catch of the year type stuff. If Carrera doesn’t make the catch, that’s at least two and probably three runs right there. Maybe an inside-the-park grand slam. Instead, the Yankees got one run. Ellsbury’s been slumping hard of late but he’s also run into some really bad luck too. Remember that Mookie Betts catch the other night? Dude’s been robbed of two potential inside-the-park homers in the last four days.
Anyway, the Yankees still had runners on the corners with one out after that, but it quickly became runners at the corners with two outs after Carlos Beltran‘s soft line drive to second. Ian Kinsler caught it maybe six inches off the ground and I was worried he was going to intentionally let it fall in so he could turn the double play. Thankfully that didn’t happen. Brian McCann provided the big hit of the inning with a single to right, over the shift, scoring the team’s second run and again putting men at the corners.
Chase Headley grounded out to end the inning, at least that’s what the box score will say, but in reality it was a very nice sliding grab by Kinsler going to his left. He fired to first and the throw beat Headley by about a half-step. That close to another run. The Yankees had a really great inning against Scherzer. Four hits, a rocket to the warning track, and another ball that almost snuck through for a run-scoring single. They could have easily scored four or five runs that inning. Instead, they got two. Stupid defense.
Brandon The Bulldog
This definitely qualifies as a gritty and gutty effort from Brandon McCarthy. Left it all out on the field. Gave the team everything he had. All of those cliches. McCarthy threw 116 pitches in 5.2 innings and they were tough, stressful pitches. He faced 25 batters and the Tigers had a man on base for 12 of those at-bats, including seven with a runner in scoring position. This was a major grind against one of the better offensive clubs in the game.
And yet, the only run McCarthy allowed came after an error (Martin Prado threw a ball high and pulled Headley off the bag), a stolen base, and a soft line drive to left in the fifth inning. The run was unearned. McCarthy’s best escape job came in the second inning, after the Tigers loaded the bases with one out. A double (Victor Martinez), a single (J.D. Martinez), and a walk (Don Kelly) set the threat up. McCarthy stranded all three runners with a pair of strikeouts — Alex Avila swung through a fastball over the plate and Eugenio Suarez got caught looking at a curveball. That was some serious battling by McCarthy.
The Tigers threatened again in the sixth inning thanks to a Martinez leadoff single and a Kelly two-out single. McCarthy sandwiched two strikeouts between the singles, and Joe Girardi came out to talk to him after the second. It looked like he was going to call for Matt Thornton to get the left-and-left matchup against Kelly — the Tigers would have presumably pinch-hit the righty Nick Castellanos — but he left McCarthy in and Kelly singled on a ground ball through the right side. Thornton came in and got Avila to hit a weak grounder to first to end the inning.
All told, McCarthy held the Tigers to that one unearned run in those 5.2 innings. He allowed five hits and walked two while recording all 17 of his outs on the infield. That’s broken down into eight strikeouts, eight ground outs, and one line drive at Prado at third base. The outfielders didn’t record a single out while the tall right-hander was on the mound (they recorded three outs total all game). McCarthy now has a 2.08 ERA in five starts with New York. He’s been an absolute godsend. I know his shoulder injury history is scary, but don’t they have to try to re-sign him after the season?
The Yankees did leave their fair of runners on base, though at least they did it against Scherzer this time. It’s annoying when they do it against a crummy pitcher. Runners on first and second with two outs in the first turned into nothing because McCann flew out to end the inning. The Yankees have not scored a first inning run on something other than a Gardner leadoff homer in 13 games now, since the first game of the four-game series against the Rangers. Remember, Gardner reached base leading off the first inning all three games up in Boston.
The fourth inning rally died a more unconventional death. Prado singled to left with one out, stole second on what looked like a botched hit-and-run (Ichiro swung and missed), then got stranded at third on Gardner’s single to right because Gardner got caught in a rundown between first and second. Third base coach Robbie Thomson held up Prado — it was going to be a very close play at the plate but I think you have send him there under the assumption that a) it’ll take a perfect throw to get him at the plate, and b) runs will be at a premium against Scherzer — but Gardner made the turn around first and continued to run to second because he thought the throw was going home. Blah.
One inning later, the Yankees had runners at corners with one out, but Scherzer escaped the jam when McCann banged into a 4-6-3 double play. Kinsler made another really good play going to his left, scooping the ball up before turning and firing to second for the first out. Like I said, I really miss the days when the Tigers didn’t care about defense. The Yankees had Scherzer on the ropes all night, but Detroit’s defense robbed them of the knockout blow on multiple occasions.
This Is How You Bullpen
Because of their recent workload, it appeared neither Dellin Betances nor David Robertson would be available for this game. That left just about everyone wondering who would close even though the seventh and eighth innings still needed to get got. Thornton retired his lefty to end the sixth, then Adam Warren come on to face the 9-1-2 hitters in the seventh. Andrew Romine struck out and Kinsler flew out, but Carrera whacked a double to right to bring Miguel Cabrera to the plate with the tying run at second. The two-time reigning AL MVP … grounded out weakly back to Warren on the first pitch. That was not at all expected. Ain’t complainin’.
Warren threw only 12 pitches and I thought he would go back out for the eighth, but no, Shawn Kelley came on. Martinez helped him out big time by swinging at a 3-0 pitch leading off the inning, a swing that resulted in a weak tapper to first for an easy out. Kelley finished the frame on nine pitches after a fly ball and a strikeout. That meant he was coming out for the ninth, right? Nope. Turned out Robertson was available the whole time. He struck out two in a flawless ninth — after being wild and looking like a mess on Sunday, naturally — for his 30th save in 32 chances. Four relievers combined to retire ten of the eleven batters faced to preserve that one-run lead. Just how they draw it up every morning.
Mark Teixeira was a late scratch due to lightheadedness, which meant Headley played first and Prado played third. Might be best to reverse that in the future. Headley had two whole innings of experience at first prior to this game — his unfamiliarity with the position showed when he ranged far to his right and cut Stephen Drew off at second to field the inning-ending grounder in the sixth — while Prado has over 350. Prado at third and Headley at first is a defensive downgrade at two positions. Prado at first and Headley at third is a downgrade at only one position.
Gardner and Ellsbury both had two hits, plus Ellsbury had that no-doubt extra-base hit taken away by Carrera. It seems like he’s starting to climb out of his little slump, thankfully. Beltran’s ten-game hitting streak came to an end but he did draw two walks. Headley had a hit and a walk and, after tearing the cover off the ball the last two days, Drew failed to reach base. The Yankees did go 3-for-8 with runners in scoring position despite blowing a few prime scoring chances.
Last, but certainly not least, the win was the 700th of Girardi’s managerial career. Six-hundred-and-twenty-two of those wins have come with the Yankees. Congrats, Joe.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and video highlights, head over to MLB.com. FanGraphs has some other game stats and the updated standings are at ESPN. The Orioles won while the Blue Jays, Mariners, and Royals all had off-days, so the Yankees are five games back in the AL East and only one game back of Toronto for the second wildcard spot. FanGraphs has their postseason odds at 18.1%.
Same two teams on Tuesday night, when David Price makes his first start with the Tigers. Just in case you were wondering, yes, the Yankees will in fact be the first team in history to face three former Cy Young winners in three straight games. (They get Justin Verlander on Wednesday.) Anyway, Hiroki Kuroda will be on the mound against Price. Head over to RAB Tickets if you want to catch that game or any of the other five games left on the homestand.
Got some stuff to pass along, starting with a few notable promotions:
- LHP Jacob Lindgren has been promoted from High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton, according to his father’s Twitter feed. Not surprising at all. Might not be his last promotion of the year either. Also, LHP Ian Clarkin was promoted from Low-A Charleston to Tampa, says Nicholas Flammia. Aggressive move for a 19-year-old but the Yankees aren’t shy about rushing guys up the ladder. And finally, RHP Nick Rumbelow has been bumped up from Trenton to Triple-A Scranton, according to Mike Ashmore.
- According to Ben Badler (no subs. req’d), the Yankees backed out of a $2.1M verbal agreement with 16-year-old Dominican shortstop Christopher Torres. VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman denied the two sides had agreement in place and he also declined to say if the Yankees were disciplined by MLB. Read the article. There’s a lot going on there.
Triple-A Scranton (7-6 loss to Syracuse)
- 2B Jose Pirela: 2-5, 3 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K — 17-for-44 (.386) with three doubles and two triples in his last ten games
- DH Rob Refsnyder: 1-5, 1 2B, 1 RBI
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 2-4, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB – seems like he does nothing but mash at this level, at least against righties
- SS Zelous Wheeler: 1-5, 1 K
- C John Ryan Murphy: 0-4, 1 BB, 1 K
- LHP Nik Turley: 3.2 IP, 2 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 1 HB, 3/3 GB/FB — 33 of 69 pitches were strikes (48%) … 32/27 K/BB in 39.2 total innings this year
- SwP Pat Venditte: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1/2 GB/FB — 16 of 22 pitches were strikes (73%)
The Yankees received some good news and some bad news today. First, Masahiro Tanaka played catch for the first time since landing on the disabled list, and, by all accounts, everything went well. Well enough that he’ll do it again tomorrow. Then, unfortunately, David Phelps was placed on the 15-day disabled list with elbow tendinitis. He won’t even pick up a ball for two weeks, so his stay on the shelf will be longer than the minimum 15 days. That bites.
What can you do? The Yankees have been dealing with pitching injuries all year so what’s another starter on the shelf? Oh, and the first place Tigers are in town to start a four-game series tonight. I guess that’s another piece of bad news. Detroit is starting the reigning Cy Young winner tonight. The Cy Young winner from two years ago goes tomorrow. The Cy Young winner from the year before that goes on Wednesday. No one ever said getting back to the postseason would be easy. Here’s the Tigers lineup and here’s the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- DH Carlos Beltran
- C Brian McCann
- 3B Chase Headley
- 2B Stephen Drew
- RF Martin Prado
RHP Brandon McCarthy
It’s hot, humid, and cloudy in New York with no threat of rain. Not the most comfortable night in the world but good enough for baseball. Tonight’s game will start a bit after 7pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy.
Injury Updates: In addition to the news on Tanaka and Phelps, Michael Pineda (shoulder) said he feels fine following yesterday’s rehab outing. He is scheduled to throw 75-80 pitches in his next rehab outing on Friday. Pineda’s spot conveniently lines up with Phelps’ spot.
Late Update: Mark Teixeira has been scratched due to light-headness. Headley is playing first, Prado is playing third, and Ichiro Suzuki is in right field. Same lineup, but with everyone moving up a spot and Ichiro batting ninth.
As expected, the Yankees have placed David Phelps on the 15-day disabled list with elbow tendinitis, Joe Girardi told reporters. He had another MRI on Monday that confirmed the original diagnosis — tendinitis only, no ligament or other structural damage. Phelps won’t pick up a baseball for at least two weeks, so he’ll be out longer than the minimum 15 days.
Right-hander Matt Daley has been recalled from Triple-A Scranton to replace Phelps on the roster on the interim. Girardi did not announce who will replace Phelps in the rotation, though he did say Michael Pineda was not stretched out enough to be a serious candidate. He didn’t rule him out completely, but it seems unlikely. Esmil Rogers, who was working as a starter in Triple-A before the Yankees claimed him off waivers last week, seems like the favorite to move into the rotation at the moment. · (125) ·
3:43pm: Turns out it was only a 25-pitch throwing session, but that’s fine. Jack Curry says Tanaka threw from 60 feet off flat ground. “I think I got to the next step, so I’m very relieved about that,” said the righty to Dan Barbarisi. Tanaka will increase both the number of throws and distance in his next throwing session tomorrow.
2:11pm: As expected, Masahiro Tanaka played catch today for the first time since suffering a partially torn elbow ligament and receiving a platelet-rich plasma injection three weeks ago. Sweeny Murti says he made 50 throws and “felt good” with “no pain.”
Needless to say, that’s great news, though we still have to see how Tanaka feels in the coming days. Joe Girardi will surely talk more about the throwing session and the next step in Tanaka’s rehab when he speaks to the media at 4pm ET or so, so make sure you check back for an update. · (86) ·
The soft part of the schedule is over. The Yankees played six games against the last place Rangers and Red Sox last week, went 3-3, and today they start a four-game set against the first place Tigers. This is their first meeting of the season — Detroit is the only AL team the Yankees had yet to play this season.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Tigers just swept three games from the awful Rockies, but before that they lost five of six games. They sit atop the AL Central with a 51-47 record and a +50 run differential, the third and sixth best marks in baseball, respectively.
At 4.72 runs per games with a team 111 wRC+, the Tigers have one of the best offensive attacks in baseball. They did just trade OF Austin Jackson (101 wRC+) though, so the lineup took a bit of a hit. Rookie manager Brad Ausmus is also without OF Andy Dirks (back) and SS Jose Iglesias (shins), both of whom have been out all season with injuries.
As always, Detroit’s lineup revolves around reigning two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera (146 wRC+), who is having a down year by his insane standards. DH Victor Martinez (154 wRC+) has been outstanding and both 2B Ian Kinsler (110 wRC+) and OF Torii Hunter (113 wRC+) have been strong supporting players. OF J.D. Martinez (163 wRC+) made some mechanical changes after being picked up off the scrap heap and has been a monster for the Tigers in 70 games worth of playing time. Those five are the core of their lineup.
With Jackson traded, OF Rajai Davis (115 wRC+) has taken over as the everyday center fielder even though his defense leaves a lot to be desired. 3B Nick Castellanos (94 wRC+) is having a good but not great rookie year and SS Eugenio Suarez (99 wRC+ in limited time) is the shortstop du jour. C Alex Avila (94 wRC+) and C Bryan Holaday (68 wRC+) form the catching tandem and the bench is filled out by OF Ezequiel Carrera (two plate appearances), IF Andrew Romine (44 wRC+), and UTIL Don Kelly (75 wRC+). Yes, Andrew is Austin’s brother.
Monday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. DET) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (vs. NYY)
Scherzer, 30, has a 3.27 ERA (3.00 FIP) in 22 starts and 146 innings this year after posting a 2.90 ERA (2.74 FIP) while winning the AL Cy Young last year. His peripherals — 10.29 K/9 (28.0 K%), 2.53 BB/9 (6.9 BB%), 0.86 HR/9 (8.7 HR/FB%), and 37.4% grounders — are ever so slightly worse than last season’s across the board but are obviously still excellent. Lefties (.312 wOBA) have given him a harder time than righties (.279 wOBA). Scherzer’s fastball is more low-to-mid-90s than mid-to-high-90s these days, though he will still run it up to 97 on occasion. Both his mid-80s slider and mid-80s changeup are out pitches — you don’t win a Cy Young without multiple dominant offerings — while his upper-70s curveball is a quality fourth offering. In a rotation full of aces, Scherzer has the best pure stuff at the moment.
Tuesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. DET) vs. LHP David Price (vs. NYY)
The 28-year-old Price will make his first start for the Tigers against a familiar opponent. Just the Yankees’ luck, eh? He has a 3.11 ERA (2.94 FIP) in 23 starts and 170.2 innings and has been especially tough since the end of May, with a 2.03 ERA (2.58 FIP) in his final 12 outings with Tampa while averaging 7.2 innings per start. His strikeout (9.97 K/9 and 27.4 K%) and walk (1.21 BB/9 and 3.3 BB%) rates are elite, his homer (1.05 HR/9 and 11.2 HR/FB%) and ground ball (40.5%) rates less so. Lefties (.302 wOBA) have had a bit more success than righties (.279 wOBA) against the southpaw, surprisingly. As always, Price is a fastball machine, throwing his low-to-mid-90s two and four-seamer and mid-80s cutter more than 70% of the time combined. His ability to backdoor the cutter to righties is why he’s so effective against them. It’s an unhittable pitch. Mid-80s changeups and upper-70s curveballs round out his repertoire. The Yankees have already seen Price three times this year and he’s gotten progressively better each time: six runs in five innings in April, two runs in seven innings in May, and one unearned run in seven innings in July.
Wednesday: LHP Chris Capuano (vs. DET) vs. RHP Justin Verlander (vs. NYY)
Between Scherzer (2013), Price (2012), and Verlander (2011), the Tigers have the last three AL Cy Young Award winners on their roster. (They also have the last three AL MVPs in Cabrera and Verlander as well.) The 31-year-old Verlander has fallen victim to Ace Sucking Syndrome (ASS) this year, with a 4.66 ERA (4.00 FIP) in 23 starts and 150.2 innings this year, including a 5.77 ERA (4.59 FIP) in his last 15 starts. His strikeout rate (6.57 K/9 and 16.7%) is way down while his walk rate (3.11 BB/9 and 7.9 BB%) is way up compared to his peak years. He is also allowing more homers (0.84 HR/9 and 7.3 HR/FB%) than ever before despite a ground ball rate (42.3%) in line with his career average. Verlander was always a weak contact guy who consistently posted lower than average BABIPs thanks to soft liners and pop-ups, but hitters are making harder contact this year. Righties (.376 wOBA) have hit him way harder than lefties (.302 wOBA) this season. Verlander’s fastball still sits in the low-to-mid-90s, though he doesn’t reach back for 100-101 anymore, topping out at “only” 98 this year. Mid-80s sliders and changeups as well as an upper-70s curve round out his repertoire. Verlander can still dominate on occasion, but he is no longer the pitching titan he was just a few years ago.
Thursday: RHP Shane Greene (No vs. DET) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (vs. NYY)
Porcello, a New Jersey native, continues to get better and better and he gains experience — turns out jumping from High-A to the big leagues at age 20 isn’t always as easy as Jose Fernandez made it look last season — posting a 3.18 ERA (3.66 FIP) in 21 starts and 141.1 innings this year. His strikeout rate (5.60 K/9 and 15.8 K%) stinks, but Porcello has always been more of a low walk (1.91 BB/9 and 5.4 BB%), high ground ball (49.7%) guy. He doesn’t give up many homers (0.76 HR/9 and 9.8 HR/FB%) and his platoon split is kinda small — lefties has a .289 wOBA against him this year while righties are at .300. Low-90s two and four-seam fastballs are Porcello’s main weapons, and he’ll also use mid-80s sliders, low-80s changeups, and upper-70s curveballs to keep hitters off balance. He’s scaled back on his slider and emphasized his curveball in recent years.
The bullpen has been the Tigers’ Achilles heel all season. Closer RHP Joe Nathan (3.87 FIP) has been a disaster (5.45 ERA), and he’s remained in that role even after they traded for RHP Joakim Soria (2.03 FIP). Soria’s the setup man. Former Yankee RHP Joba Chamberlain (2.90 FIP) also sees plenty of important late-inning situations. Ex-Yankee LHP Phil Coke (4.13) is the primary matchup southpaw.
The rest of Ausmus’ bullpen includes RHP Al Alburquerque (4.33 FIP), LHP Blaine Hardy (3.19 FIP in limited time), and LHP Pat McCoy (4.34 FIP in limited time). Ausmus’ bullpen is very fresh — his relievers have thrown a total of four innings in the last three days. Check out the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen at our Bullpen Workload page, then check out Bless You Boys and Tiger Tales for everything you need to know about the Tigers.
Via Tim Britton: Jacoby Ellsbury joked about recruiting free agent-to-be Jon Lester after the season. “I’m sure I’ll talk to him at some point in the offseason, but I would have anyways,” he said. “When you’re with a teammate that long, you build strong relationships, not only as teammates but off the field as well — your wives, your kids and everything.”
Thanks to last week’s trade, the Athletics can not make Lester a qualifying offer, so he will not be attached to draft pick compensation. That’s a minor detail for a pitcher of this caliber, but it is a nice little bonus. Lester makes perfect sense for the Yankees as an AL East and postseason proven lefty workhorse ace, but are they open to the idea of a third $20M+ a year pitching contract? That seems like the biggest issue, not whether Ellsbury can sell Lester on New York. · (110) ·