Ten-game West Coast trips are hard enough, but as an added bonus, the Yankees will wrap this trip up with three games in the house of horrors known as Angel Stadium. They actually won a three-game series in Anaheim back in 2011, but they’ve still only won two of 12 series at the ballpark since the Angels traded in Anaheim for Los Angeles in their name in 2005. That includes three sweeps. Thankfully, this is the only time the Bombers will play the Halos in Southern California this year.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Halos put together a come from behind win against the Orioles on Wednesday, but otherwise they’ve lost four of their last five and nine of their last 12 games. Yeah, they’re bad. The Angels are comfortably in fourth place in the AL West at 28-38 with a -20 run differential. They’ve been one of the five or six worst teams in baseball pretty much all year.
At 3.76 runs per game with a team 105 wRC+, Mike Scioscia’s team somehow manages to score runs at a rate below the league average despite doing an above-average amount of damage at the plate. They’re essentially league average with runners in scoring position too (98 wRC+), so it’s not like they’ve stranded a ton of runners either. Very weird. Kinda glad I don’t have to watch everyday. They’re perfectly healthy on offense, no position players on the DL at all.
In an effort to get RF Josh Hamilton (81 wRC+) going, Scioscia recently started batting him second behind OF Mike Trout (152 wRC+) and 1B/DH Albert Pujols (103 wRC+). Pujols is a physical wreck due to offseason knee surgery and lingering plantar fasciitis, so much so that he’s started more games at DH (35) than at first base (29). He’s in year two of a ten-year contract. Yikes. 1B/RF Mark Trumbo (132 wRC+) cleans up and 2B Howie Kendrick typically bats fifth (132 wRC+). He’s having an awesome year and he tends to crush the Yankees (all AL East teams, really), as you surely remember.
C Chris Iannetta (109 wRC+) has been his typically solid self and both CF Peter Bourjos (124 wRC+) and SS Erick Aybar (77 wRC+) recently returned from lengthy DL stints. 3B Alberto Callaspo (84 wRC+) has been disappointing. The Angels have a pretty weak bench headlined by backup C Hank Conger (119 wRC+). IF Brendan Harris (75 wRC+) and OF J.B. Shuck (89 wRC+) have been tolerable at best, and OF Brad Hawpe (20 wRC+ in very, very limited time) recently resurfaced after spending last season in Double-A (!). The Angels can hit, but they haven’t gotten nearly enough from Hamilton and Pujols.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Tommy Hanson
It wasn’t too long ago that Hanson was one of the very best young pitchers in baseball, but injuries have made him a shell of his former self. The 26-year-old owns a 4.12 ERA (5.68 FIP) in seven starts this year — he missed more than a month following the death of his stepbrother — which include some very ugly peripherals: 5.26 K/9 (13.1 K%), 3.20 BB/9 (8.0 BB%), 1.83 HR/9 (12.7% HR/FB) and 34.8% grounders. Ugly. Hanson now sits in the upper-80s with his fastball and has been trending in the wrong direction velocity-wise for several years now. He throws his upper-70s slider almost 40% of the time, and still throws his low-80s changeup and low-70s curveball about a quarter of the time. The fastball is almost a show-me pitch at this point. The Yankees have faced Hanson twice before, once when he was good (2009) and once when he was very bad (2012).
Saturday: RHP David Phelps vs. LHP C.J. Wilson
Wilson, 32, is in the middle of his worst year since becoming a full-time starter, pitching to a 4.02 ERA (3.83 FIP) with very good strikeout (8.70 K/9 and 21.7 K%) and ground ball (45.6%) rates. He does walk a few too many (3.90 BB/9 and 9.8 BB%) and will give up some homers (0.89 HR/9 and 10.4% HR/FB). Wilson uses three 88-92 mph fastballs (two-seamer, four-seamer, cutter) regularly to setup his mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, and upper-70s curveball. He’s a true six-pitch pitcher and that’s why he has no platoon split. The Yankees have seen Wilson as a starter plenty of times over the years with the Rangers, both the good and bad versions.
Sunday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Jered Weaver
This was supposed to be Joe Blanton’s spot, but the Angels are wisely taking advantage of yesterday’s off-day to skip the portly right-hander and his 5.87 ERA (4.42 FIP). The 30-year-old Weaver missed six weeks with a fractured non-pitching elbow earlier this year and is currently sitting on a 3.77 ERA (4.00 FIP) in just five starts. His peripheral stats — 6.59 K/9 (17.4 K%), 2.51 BB/9 (6.6 BB%), 0.94 HR/9 (7.3% HR/FB), and 34.1% grounders — are right in line with where they’ve been for the last several years. Weaver’s established himself as a guy who outpitches who peripherals and gets by with a ton of weakly hit fly balls and pop-ups, the kind that easily turn into outs — his .264 BABIP is his highest in three years. Like Hanson, Weaver’s fastball velocity is trending the wrong way and has him in the mid-to-upper-80s most nights. He uses two-seamers, four-seamers, and cutters to setup low-80s sliders, upper-70s changeups, and low-70s curveballs. So the kitchen sink, basically. The Bombers have seen Weaver plenty of the years and generally hit him pretty hard (4.97 ERA in 63.1 innings). Harder than most, anyway.
Like I said, the Halos were off yesterday, so Scioscia’s bullpen is nice and fresh. RHP Ernesto Frieri (4.84 FIP) is closing since RHP Ryan Madson continues to have setbacks following Tommy John surgery. LHP Scott Downs (2.78 FIP) does most of the setup work along with former Yankees farmhand RHP Dane De La Rosa (2.99 FIP). RHP Garrett Richards (3.64 FIP) and RHP Kevin Jepsen (3.50 FIP) get the bulk of the middle innings work along with RHP Michael Kohn (3.40 FIP). Blanton might be available in long relief this weekend as well.
The Yankees, on the other hand, have a tired and worn out bullpen following yesterday’s 18-inning marathon loss. Joe Girardi indicated they will call up a fresh arm(s) today, meaning Preston Claiborne and Adam Warren are likely to get the shaft after pitching so well this year. They’ve been worked hard of late and have options though, and that’s the life of a rookie. Both Ivan Nova and Brett Marshall pitched recently, so they’re not going to be options. Dellin Betances could be though, maybe even Cesar Cabral. We’ll see. Here’s our Bullpen Workload page and here is True Grich, the best Angels blog on the web.
Via Mark Feinsand: The Yankees are expected to call up outfielder Thomas Neal prior to tonight’s game against the Angels. Infielder David Adams will be optioned to Triple-A to clear room on the 25-man roster. The team has an open 40-man spot, so no further move is required.
Neal, 25, is expected to DH against left-handed pitchers according to Feinsand. The right-handed hitter has a .339/.426/.446 (144 wRC+) line with two homers in 195 Triple-A plate appearances this year, including a .333/.435/.436 mark against southpaws. He signed with the Yankees as a minor league free agent over the winter and made his big league debut with the Indians last September. Considering how terrible Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki have been, it won’t take much for Neal to hit his way into a regular lineup spot. · (74) ·
Yesterday sucked SUCKED! An 18 inning loss is grueling enough in its own right, never mind the not-so-insignificant matter of the offense seemingly going on long term hiatus. I think Mike’s rant yesterday was a very candid reflection of how a lot of us (including myself) feel after watching some of these excruciating losses too – and frankly, there was a lot of truth in what he wrote. With that being said, and maybe this is just me optimistically rationalizing, I think a few points have to considered in addition to what was said. So…here goes.
The offseason was awful. I didn’t feel particularly confident with any of the moves that they made other than the re-signing of Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda. Downgrading Nick Swisher for Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki (each for two years no less) also hurt quite a bit. However, I think it’s important to remember that while those two have been big contributors to the outfield’s woes, they are not the complete cause for this situation. While Mike interpreted the offseason as NY hubris, I see it as more of the culmination of frugality and unfortunate circumstance.
Curtis Granderson’s injuries were both fluky and that put the team in a difficult spot. It’s tough to stomach both OF corner spots being offensive voids; realistically, it probably should have only been one spot that made us cringe. The offense would be more tolerable as a whole, if some of these guys were used as they were intended to be – in other words, as situational hitters coming off the bench…not starters. Eventually, Grandy will return and his presence in the lineup can’t be overstated. He hits for power and offers a middle of the lineup bat that the team sorely needs. We’re seeing some of these guys become exposed. I give Brian Cashman the benefit of the doubt when I say they were never intended to be used as they are now.
The same argument can be made for Kevin Youkilis and Lyle Overbay. Youkilis was a super expensive health liability from day one designed to replace another super expensive health liability – he was also a sheer desperation move. And while Overbay has been performing admirably, he’s not Mark Teixeira nor will he ever be. Teixeira’s injury was unexpected, as was the timing of Alex Rodriguez’s second hip surgery. Even if the team had wanted to find an adequate replacement for both, it would have been difficult due to the timing of the injuries themselves. The point here is that while the offseason was awful in hindsight, that outcome was partially unavoidable I think. Frankly, a team cannot survive long-term when so many starters are on the DL. High impact players are just not in great supply on the free agent market, and trading for them is a bear. Fortunately, reinforcements are on the way as these guys recover and one can only hope they’ll be effective upon return.
I don’t really want to spend too much time discussing the farm system because I think that’s a pretty complicated topic – one that most certainly deserves its own post. I will say this though. The team hasn’t had an opportunity to acquire a ton of super high-end talent in the draft because they win a ton and those picks really don’t fall that far down the food chain. One can make the argument that the team hasn’t maximized the draft picks it has had, or that it hasn’t developed those players as well as they could. I won’t argue either of those points. What I can say though, is that prospects fail way more often than they succeed, and on some level, it makes sense to me that team hasn’t reaped the benefits of internal replacements as much as one would hope. Having a “Core Four” come up through the system is insanely difficult and insanely rare. I’d assume fans of most other teams are probably saying the same thing about their organization’s prospect failure rate too.
While the Yankees haven’t had too many game-changing prospects (we’re talking first round top ten talent, they have found a lot of guys who have tangibly helped the team. You’re seeing it right now on the pitching side of things. Warren was magnificent last night. Phelps has been great. I think Claiborne has been really fun to watch. And guys like Ian Kennedy, Austin Jackson, Jesus Montero (who was a headliner in the Minors mind you) have helped the team in a big way via the trade (I’m assuming Michael Pineda eventually contributes – go ahead, and call me an optimist). Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain are topics of perpetual disagreement, but it’s inarguable that they are big league talent. Hughes can probably slot into the rotation right now for A LOT of teams and Chamberlain is a very good reliever. Not every pitcher can or will be Felix Hernandez or Mariano Rivera. That doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable in their own right though.
Do we have the best farm system? Absolutely not. Do we have one that is able to help the Big League squad overall? I contend that we do. It just may not be as much as we would like. But who knows, maybe some of these young players coming up through the system will become the next great name to wear pinstripes. I for one am really excited about Rafael DePaula and Gary Sanchez. Despite some drab numbers, I am also a huge fan of Mason Williams. These guys have the potential to be really helpful.
I do believe Mike’s post was spot on when he said the team lacks direction. It is hazy, at least to us. We don’t know the Steinbrenner’s agenda with certainty, nor do we know Cashman’s master plan to keep the team in contention assuming he has one. And this team may not be a championship caliber team. Frankly, I’m not sure any of that matters though, at least for the time being.
The idea shouldn’t necessarily be to win the championship every year because that’s an absolutely unattainable objective and a ludicrous measuring stick. The goal should be for the team to put its self in the position to win a championship every year. And the first step of giving the team a chance to win it all is to contend in their division and ultimately reach the playoffs. They are currently in contention — and I don’t expect that to change — and they can reach the playoffs (especially now with two wild card spots). It sucks watching the team lose, but perspective helps mitigate the nausea.
Are the Yankees the best team in the American League East? Right now, no. Are they the second? Quite possibly. Look around at their competition. They’re all flawed too; Ken Singleton did a nice job summarizing those weaknesses the other day. Are they better than the Tigers or the A’s? Probably not at this point. Are they better than the teams vying for a Wild Card spot in those divisions. I think so. We’ve seen what happens in the playoffs. Games are not played out as planned on paper and the damn San Francisco Giants end up winning it all. Get to the playoffs, and worry about the rest when the time comes. For what it’s worth, at least the Yankees have the pitching to give them a chance when it counts.
I was in the camp that was hoping the team could simply stay afloat while it weathered the injury-bug storm. They have done this, mostly admirably. They aren’t bludgeoning teams and they aren’t the dominant force that they have been in years past. But they are still around and better then much of their competition in the league. Ultimately, the team will need to decide how it’s planning on handling the austerity budget topic. It will have to carefully trapeze through the challenge of staying competitive perennially while simultaneously retooling. Given some of the terrible contracts already in the books, maybe they ultimately turn into the Phillies or the Angels as Mike cautions. Right now, though, I think this team still has plenty of opportunity to have a successful season and we shouldn’t write the future off quite yet either.
Got four questions for you this week. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything — questions, comments, links, complaints, etc. — throughout the week.
Paul asks: I know Brett Gardner was never really a highly talked about prospect, but I don’t remember anything about him before making it to the show. Can you give a brief history of how the Yankees got and developed him?
You’re right, Gardner was never touted as a top prospect. He was more of a second tier guy, someone I ranked 13th (2007), 19th (2008), and 11th (2009) in my annual preseason top 30 prospects lists. In retrospect, I under-rated his elite defense and should have had him higher. Not many prospects have an elite carrying tool, but Gardner did.
The Yankees drafted him in the third round of the 2005 draft out of the College of Charleston, signing him for a modest $210k. Gardner went to Short Season Staten Island that summer and put up a .752 OPS with 19 steals in 73 games. The Yankees sent him to High-A Tampa to start 2006 season, then bumped him up to Double-A Trenton at midseason after he hit to a 150 wRC+ with 30 steals in 63 games. He posted a 95 wRC+ with 28 steals in 55 games with the Thunder to close out the season.
Sent back to Double-A Trenton to start 2007, Gardner missed almost the entire month of May when an errant pitch broke his right hand. He hit to a 120 wRC+ with 17 steals in 52 total games for the Thunder before being bumped up to Triple-A Scranton and managing a 91 wRC+ and 21 steals in 45 second half games. The Yankees sent Gardner back to Triple-A to open 2008, where he put up a 134 wRC+ with 37 steals in 94 games while getting a few cups of coffee. He was in the big leagues for good in 2009, meaning he went from third rounder to big leaguer in the span of three and a half years. Not bad.
Brian asks: Suppose either Hiroki Kuroda or Andy Pettitte returns next season. Beyond CC Sabathia you have three rotation spots open. Let’s say you can keep three of the following while the other two are, say, traded before the deadline for a corner outfielder with at least 1.5 years of team control left: Phil Hughes, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, David Phelps, Vidal Nuno. Who do you keep?
So I assume this means Hughes would be re-signed to a whatever contract? Of those five, I’d keep Hughes, Pineda, and Phelps without much of a second thought. Nova has been dreadful for a full year now and I have little faith in Nuno as a soft-tossing lefty who can’t miss bats, especially in a small ballpark in the AL East. If Pineda comes back from the DL and pitches terribly or looks like a right-handed Nuno, then I’d probably take Nova over him.
Ultimately, I say keep all of these guys unless there happens to be a trade they just can’t refuse. Most of them have minor league options, and that flexibility and depth is always great to have. Sabathia and Pettitte/Kuroda aren’t getting any younger, plus young pitchers tend to go through ups and downs (in case you haven’t noticed). Having a whole bunch of pitchers is a good thing! As badly as they need a bat, I’d much rather hold onto these guys and deal prospects.
Paul asks: Trades are frequently done for a Player To Be Named Later (PTBNL). Does that PTBNL ever end up being useful? Have the Yankees ever gotten a useful one? Or lost a useful one?
Every so often a PTBNL will turn into a useful player, but it’s not common. Marco Scutaro might be the most famous PTBNL in recent history after going from the Indians to the Brewers in the Richie Sexson trade back in 2000.
I went all the way back to 1990 and dug up every PTBNL either traded by or acquired by the Yankees. Only five are noteworthy:
- OF Lyle Mouton: PTBNL to White Sox for Jack McDowell in 1995. Mouton produced a 98 wRC+ from 1995-2001 as a part-time player for various teams.
- RHP Jim Mecir: PTBNL to Red Sox for Mike Stanley in 1997. The Devil Rays plucked Mecir from Boston in the expansion draft a few weeks later, and he pitched to a 3.53 ERA (3.63 FIP) in 448.1 innings from 1998-2005.
- 3B Scott Brosius: PTBNL from Athletics for Kenny Rogers in 1998. I think we all know what happened here.
- IF Joaquin Arias: PTBNL to Rangers for Alex Rodriguez in 2004. Arias was one of the Yankees top prospects at the time and he’s bounced around as a utility infielder over the years. Won a ring with the Giants last year. Pushing the limits of “useful” here.
- RHP Zach McAllister: PTBNL to Indians for Austin Kearns in 2010: McAllister has a 4.14 ERA (4.16 FIP) in 208.2 career innings for the Tribe, including a 3.43 ERA (4.22 FIP) in 65.2 innings this year.
It’s worth noting the Yankees acquired IF Charlie Hayes as a PTBNL from the Phillies for Darrin Chapin in 1992. That was Charlie’s first stint in pinstripes. He stayed with them in 1992 before being selected by the Rockies in the expansion draft after the season. New York eventually re-acquired him from the Pirates for the stretch drive in 1996. Otherwise, that’s it. Five, maybe six noteworthy PTBNL’s in the last 23 years.
Jaremy asks: Mariano Rivera struck out the side to beat the Mariners on Saturday. How many times has he struck out the side to register a save? How does that compare to his fellow closers?
You can thank the magic of the Baseball-Reference Play Index for this answer in advance. I’m going to limit this to one-inning saves since 1997, when Rivera officially got the closer’s job. Here’s the list (doesn’t include yesterday’s games, but I don’t think that changes anything anyway):
I don’t think it’s terribly surprising Wagner tops the list with 35 instances of striking out the side for a save; he has highest K/9 in baseball history among pitchers who have thrown at least 500 innings at 11.92. He’s actually tied with Lidge, who ranks third in the list above.
Rivera has only done it 14 times in the regular season believe it or not, but he’s never really been a super-high strikeout guy either. He’s been over a strikeout per inning just five times in his 17 years as a closer. Mo’s thing is broken bats and weak contact, not racking up strikeouts and overpowering hitters.
Some roster moves:
- C Jeff Farnham was sent down to Double-A Trenton according to John Sadak. The move clears room on the roster for C J.R. Murphy, who was promoted yesterday.
- LHP Cesar Cabral was removed from the Double-A Trenton roster and was assigned to … somewhere. Not sure. Mike Ashmore has the news. Cabral’s 30-day rehab window expires tomorrow, and I’m guessing they’ll try to slide him through waivers.
- RHP Corey Black was promoted to Double-A Trenton, according to Ashmore. It might only be a temporary thing, however.
- 1B Bubba Jones will be with Short Season State Island when the season starts on Monday, according to his Twitter feed.
Triple-A Scranton (4-2 loss to Lehigh Valley) they actually faced Carlos Zambrano, in case you’re wondering where he’s been
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 0-5
- RF Ronnie Mustelier: 1-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K – nine hits in his last 36 at-bats (.250)
- C J.R. Murphy: 0-2, 2 BB, 1 K, 2 PB — solid Triple-A debut despite the lack of hits
- RHP Brett Marshall: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 6 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 1 HB, 9/1 GB/FB — only 39 of 77 pitches were strikes (51%) … 46/39 K/BB in 54.2 innings
This is the boiling point.
The Yankees didn’t just lose Thursday afternoon/night’s 18-inning marathon with the Athletics because they couldn’t buy a hit after the first inning. They also lost because they half-assed their way through an offseason in which they deemed it acceptable to downgrade all over the field despite a) winning the division by the skin of their teeth last year, and b) knowing it was very likely going to be Mariano Rivera‘s final season. Real nice going away present. That surfboard the A’s gave him today was more respectful.
New York has done a real good job of finding veteran complementary pieces on low-risk, short-term deals in recent years, but this winter it became their primary team-building strategy. It’s all they did. Best of all, they started giving some of those retreads multi-year contracts and assuming a whole bunch of risk. Vernon Wells has
sucked SUCKED for the last two years and five of the last seven, but apparently the magic of the pinstripes was supposed to bring his bat back from the dead. He and Ichiro were expected to form some kind of Frankenstein corner outfield monster that defied age and hit like it was 2005. That was their strategy. A real Major League team did this.
Best of all, they’re paying those two wastes of a roster spot — not to mention Kevin Youkilis, what a gem of a signing that has been — a combined $26M through next year, when they’re trying to cut payroll below the luxury tax threshold for no other reason than to save the Steinbrenners some money. Want to slash payroll and line your pockets? Fine. But don’t talk to me like I’m idiot and say you’re committed to building a “championship-caliber” team and you signed “three of the best free agents” over the winter. Get bent. At least speak the truth, then maybe your five-year old Stadium won’t be half-empty and the YES Network’s ratings won’t be in the toilet.
Of course, the team’s reliance on over-the-hill has-beens could have been mitigated if the farm system Brian Cashman has been talking about since getting his “autonomy” in 2005 actually produced a competent everyday player once in a while. Eduardo Nunez? Frankie Cervelli? lol. I’m sure Zoilo Almonte will come ride in on a white horse to save the day. The Yankees have done a fine job talking the talk when it comes to building from within and developing their own players, but they’ve fallen flat on their face when it comes to walking the walk. Outside of the Mariners, I’m not sure any team has gotten less from more out of their farm system than New York in recent years.
The Yankees lost on Thursday because they’re desperate. Desperate to hold onto the last glimmer of success from the dynasty years and afraid (unable?) to adapt and move forward with a new chapter in franchise history. Now they’re left with this laughable relic of a roster that is caught between being not truly good enough to contend and not bad enough to completely tear down and rebuild. It’s a very dangerous place to be, just ask the Phillies.
The Athletics swept the Yankees this series because they are the much better team, from top to bottom. Now the Bombers will go to Anaheim to face an Angels team that should serve as a scary warning should they not wise up and improve the way they go about building the club. The decision to willfully downgrade the roster this winter was a disgusting display of arrogance and cockiness from a team that claims it wants to give its fans a contender every year. Actions speak louder than words, and the actions say the club lacks direction.
Derek Jeter was cleared to resume baseball activities — including running — by Dr. Anderson in Charlotte this afternoon, the Yankees announced. Good news obviously, but the Cap’n still has a long way to go in his rehab. This was the first step. · (12) ·
The latest on the draft pick front (draft round in parenthesis):
- California HS LHP Ian Clarkin (1s) will take his physical on Monday and is expected to sign next week, reports George King. Getting him locked up so soon would be very nice. Clarkin, the 33rd overall pick, is slotted for a touch more than $1.65M.
- Georgia Tech OF Brandon Thomas (8) took his physical yesterday, according to King. He’s slotted for a bit more than $150k and should sign for much less as a college senior. Much, much less.
- Sacred Heart SS John Murphy (6) signed for $20,000 according to Baseball America. The college senior was slotted for over $208k, so the Yankees saved themselves nearly $190k towards the draft pool. I’m guessing that money winds up in Clarkin’s pocket.
Via Jim Callis: The Yankees have signed third round pick Michael O’Neill to a $500,900 signing bonus. That is exactly slot money for the 103rd overall pick. The outfielder from Michigan is Paul’s nephew.
O’Neill, who turned 21 yesterday, hit .329/.384/.525 with six homers and 19 stolen bases in 40 games for the Wolverines this year. The big knock on him is his plate discipline, which resulted in a 106/33 K/BB during three years with Michigan. That’s terrible for a college hitter who was drafted relatively high. Read more about O’Neill right here. He’s likely to start with Short Season Staten Island.
Keep tabs on the team’s draft pool with our 2013 Draft Pool page. · (11) ·