Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller are not only dominant, they’re efficient too

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

As Yankees fans, we’ve been privileged to watch some stellar bullpen work in our lifetimes. Older fans (no offense!) can go back to Sparky Lyle, Goose Gossage, and Dave Righetti. More recently you have Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, and, of course, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller. In less than two weeks Aroldis Chapman will join that group.

Even with all those great bullpeners, I don’t think we’ve ever seen two relievers — either at the same time or in different years — as overwhelmingly dominant as Betances and Miller are right now. Their numbers are truly video game-like: one earned run on nine hits and two walks in 19 innings. They’ve struck out 38. Thirty-eight! That’s out of 67 base-runners, so 56.7% have stuck out. El oh el.

Betances and Miller have been unreal this season, and what has really impressed me is how efficient they’ve been while being so dominant. Miller has made nine appearances and only once has he thrown more than 13 pitches. Once! Betances, who is no stranger to long innings, has reached the 20-pitch mark just three times in ten outings. His last three appearances have checked in at 13 pitches or less.

Keep in mind these two are keeping their pitch counts low despite all those strikeouts. Last year Miller averaged 15.7 pitches per inning and he threw a strike 67% of the time. This year he’s at 11.4 pitches per inning (!) and 79% strikes. That’s bonkers. Betances has upped his strike rate slightly from 62% last year to 63% this year, though it’s 66% since his two-walk appearance on Opening Day.

The quick outings are especially helpful right now because Joe Girardi has had to lean on Betances and Miller an awful lot so far this season. The Yankees have struggled to score consistently, so when they have had a lead, it’s typically been one or two (maybe three) runs. In fact, Betances and Miller have each appeared in seven of the team’s eight wins. The only one they avoided was the 16-6 blowout over the Astros.

Overall the Yankees have played 18 games; Betances has pitched in ten and Miller has pitched in nine. That’s a lot but it sounds worse than it is. The Yankees had all those off-days early on, remember. Those 18 games have been played 21 calendar days. They’ve had two scheduled off-days plus a rainout. Don’t get me wrong, Betances and Miller have pitched a lot, but not quite every other day.

Chapman will be back in two weeks and will inevitably help lighten the load on the back-end of the bullpen. Girardi has talked about using only two of his three big relievers per game in order to make sure one is always fresh and available the next day, which sounds great, though we’ll see how it works in practice. This strikes me as one of those ideas that is much easier said than done.

For now, Betances and Miller have endured heavy workloads through the first 18 games, but they’ve been able to mitigate that workload with quick innings. They’ve been able to cut down on their pitches per inning while maintaining an absurdly high strikeout rate because they’re simply throwing so many strikes. It’s good to have stuff so crisp that hitters still can’t touch it when you throw it over the plate.

Eovaldi pitches seven dazzling innings in a 3-1 Yankees victory in Texas

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

That’s more like it. The Yankee bats weren’t overly imposing tonight but Nathan Eovaldi showed what kind of pitcher he can be when things click. He had a no-hitter going for the first six innings and pitched probably the best game by a Yankee starter this season. Good starting pitching, the lineup scoring more than the opponent, and the bullpen closing it out – certainly a way to win a ballgame.

The Big Non-RISP Hits

The Yankees caught a break in the pitching matchup. Their ace Cole Hamels was scratched due to a groin issue so the Rangers trotted out LHP Cesar Ramos as their starter. Ramos, a former Tampa Bay Ray, isn’t a stranger to facing the Yanks. Prior to tonight, he faced New York 19 times (21.0 IP) and had a 5.57 ERA against, which ain’t great.

In the second, Mark Teixeira led off with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Chase Headley hit a single to right to make it runners on first and third with one out. Dustin Ackley followed it up with a full-count walk to load the bases. Didi Gregorius hit the first pitch right at 1B Prince Fielder and he nabbed Teixeira at the plate for a fielder’s choice. With the bases still loaded. Austin Romine hit a weak grounder right back to Ramos to end the inning. Not gonna lie, I was afraid that would set up the tone for another RISP fail-filled night for the Yanks. Well, I was right, but the Yanks still turned out fine.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Yankees had more luck the next inning. Jacoby Ellsbury hit a homer into the right field seats to lead off the inning, 1-0 New York. A batter later, Carlos Beltran worked a walk to reach the first and Teixeira drove a deep double to right-center to drive him in. 2-0. New York posted another run on the board in the sixth. Starlin Castro hit a high 86 mph fastball from Ramos over the left field wall for a solo homer. Notice the theme of all three runs they scored? Those RBI’s came in non-RISP situations. Overall, they hit only 1-for-9 with RISP and left eight runners on base. Had Eovaldi struggled tonight, that could have bode Yankees terribly but luckily,

Nasty Nate!

Seven innings, two hits allowed, six strikeouts, no runs allowed and a big fat W. Eovaldi’s outing was very pleasing to watch. He seemed to be very comfortable with all four of his pitches. He was also inducing weak contact and grounders, generating a nice 62.5 ground ball percentage tonight.

As you may know, Eovaldi had a no-hitter bid going on until the seventh inning. Nomar Mazara, the Rangers’ young hot hitter, squeaked a single between Headley and Didi to get the first hit of the night for Texas. Adrian Beltre followed it up immediately with a GIDP so the situation didn’t become too dire for New York. Fielder hit a double to right to start something but Eovaldi retired Ian Desmond with a ground out. No real harm done.

After seven scoreless innings, Eovaldi faced only one hitter in the eighth (walked Mitch Moreland) and departed from the game after 98 pitches. There’s so much good about his start tonight and one of them is the fact that he’s the first Yankee starter to throw a pitch in the eighth inning this season (h/t Katie Sharp). For the season, he has a 28-5 K-BB ratio in 24.2 IP, which is quite nice. His season ERA sank from 6.11 to 4.38, which is getting close to his nice 3.54 FIP/2.98 xFIP. More starts like this, please.

Leftovers

Dellin Betances came in the eighth to relieve Eovaldi and… allowed a home run to C Brett Nicholas. It was a curve that wasn’t quite sharp and it ran right into Nicholas’ zone. That was his first career homer and, of course, he hit it off of Betances. Dellin finally got himself an ERA for the 2016 season (0.90 after tonight).

You know who has yet to have an ERA though? Andrew Miller. He earned the fifth save of the season after a clean ninth inning. He did not strike out anyone though. Bum!

I knew Headley wasn’t hitting well this season but it just occurred to me how bad he’s been. After tonight, the third baseman has a .157 avg with a .447 OPS. There are several adjectives to describe those two numbers and one of them is “putrid.” I do however, think he’s seeing the ball well, given on his 16.0% BB rate, which is several points higher than usual (10.1 %). Hitting a baseball well consistently is not easy – it’s so easy to fall into funk for an extended amount of time. The good news is that, players do generally find a way to normalize their performance to close to their talent level (see: 2015 Carlos Beltran) so I think I’ll just wait and see on Headley.

Box Score, Highlights, WPA and Standings

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


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees are back at it again in Arlington tomorrow evening. Luis Severino will be on the mound versus A.J. Griffin. Big fastball versus high-80’s heat, hard slider versus Uncle Charlie – I’ll be waiting for it.

DotF: Swisher plays right field, goes deep in Scranton’s win

Some notes:

  • In case you missed it earlier, RHP James Kaprielian is going on the High-A Tampa DL with elbow inflammation. He will be “treated conservatively” and there’s no timetable for his return. Bummer.
  • In other in case you missed it earlier news, the Yankees have acquired LHP Phil Coke from the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League. He’s heading to Triple-A Scranton.
  • The Yankees have signed RHP Luis Rodriguez, reports Matt Eddy. There are like a dozen Luis Rodriguezes playing baseball, so I have no idea which one they signed. The teenager from Mexico? The 33-year-old minor league journeyman? We’ll find out soon enough. Suspense!

Triple-A Scranton (5-2 win over Lehigh Valley)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 2-4, 1 R, 1 K — 11-for-26 (.423) in his last seven games
  • C Gary Sanchez: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K — 9-for-24 (.375) with four doubles, a triple, and a homer in his last six games
  • RF Nick Swisher: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 K — the homer was his third homer in ten games with the RailRiders, and Shane Hennigan says it was an opposite field job … this was his first game in right field, and Dave Rosengrant says Swisher made a leaping catch at the wall to end the game … it’s not a coincidence he is playing right field with Aaron Hicks and Alex Rodriguez banged up
  • LF Jose Rosario: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • RHP Anthony Swarzak: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 5/6 GB/FB — 63 of 90 pitches were strikes (70%) … best start of the season for the RailRiders
  • RHP Vinnie Pestano: 1 IP, zeroes, 3 K — eleven of 18 pitches were strikes
  • LHP James Pazos: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — seven of eleven pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Game 18: Maybe They’ll Score Some Runs In Texas

How are they supposed to hit if they don't open their eyes? (Presswire)
How are they supposed to hit if they don’t open their eyes? (Presswire)

That nightmare of a nine-game homestand is finally over. Hard to believe I’m actually happy the Yankees are somewhere besides Yankee Stadium. That’s how bad the homestand was. The team is in Texas tonight for the first of three games against the Rangers, the defending AL West champs.

Needless to say, the offense needs to get its act together and soon. It looked like were on the right track Friday night, then they scored four runs total Saturday and Sunday. Not scoring runs stinks. There’s nothing less enjoyable than a struggling offense. It would be nice if they put up a ten-spot one of these days. Here is the Rangers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Carlos Beltran
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. RF Dustin Ackleyfirst career start in right field
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. C Austin Romine
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

It is sunny and warm in the Dallas area this evening. Temperatures are in the low-80s, so it’s not Texas hot just yet. Tonight’s series opener is going to begin at 8:05pm ET, and you can watch on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy the game, folks.

Injury Update: Alex Rodriguez (oblique) took batting practice prior to today’s game. The Yankees did not make a roster move, so they have a two-man bench tonight (Brian McCann and Ronald Torreyes). This is fineAaron Hicks (shoulder) played catch and is feeling better, but there is no firm timetable for his return … Branden Pinder (elbow) will indeed have Tommy John surgery. The procedure is scheduled for tomorrow.

Yankees bring back Phil Coke, send him to Triple-A

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees have acquired Phil Coke from the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League, the team announced. He’s headed to Triple-A Scranton and will help replace some of the bullpen depth the Yankees lost when Nick Rumbelow, Branden Pinder, and Jacob Lindgren got hurt.

Coke, 33, was originally drafted and developed by the Yankees, and he was part of the 2009 World Series team before being included in the Curtis Granderson trade. Between Coke and Nick Swisher, the Yankees have a little 2009 reunion thing going on in Scranton. Neat.

In 12.2 innings last season Coke had a 5.68 ERA (4.48 FIP) with the Cubs and Blue Jays. Back in 2014, his last full season as a big leaguer, he had a 3.88 ERA (3.98 FIP) in 58 innings. He held lefties to a .255/.310/.381 (.308 wOBA) with a 22.8% strikeout rate and a 7.0 BB% that year. Coke allowed three runs in four innings with Lancaster.

As with Swisher, I don’t expect much out Coke this year — if a lefty had to resort to going to an independent league, scouts couldn’t have been too excited by what they saw — but there’s no harm in bringing him in as depth.

James Kaprielian heading to DL with elbow inflammation

(MLB.com)
(MLB.com)

Bad news: right-hander and top pitching prospect James Kaprielian is heading to the High-A Tampa DL, the Yankees announced. The team says he will be “treated conservatively” with rest and a throwing program, and there is no timetable for his return. The MRI showed no structural damage in his elbow, so that’s good.

Kaprielian, 22, has a 1.50 ERA (1.97 FIP) with 22 strike outs and three walks in 18 total innings this season. He’s been marvelous. Reports have indicated his fastball has jumped into the 94-96 mph range and even as high as 99 at times. It’s not uncommon for big velocity spikes to be followed by elbow problems, unfortunately.

The elbow injury and conservative rehab approach could very well erase any chance Kaprielian had at pitching in the big leagues this year. He was going to have to fly though the minors, and even then he would have been on some sort of innings limitation. Bah.

4/25 to 4/27 Series Preview: Texas Rangers

(Mike Stone/Getty)
(Mike Stone/Getty)

The Yankees really need to get out of the Bronx for a little while. They just went 3-6 (3-6!) on a nine-game homestand and looked pretty bad doing it. I don’t know if the change of scenery will help anything, but I can’t imagine it’ll hurt. The Yankees start a nine-game road trip with the first of three in Texas tonight.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Rangers, who snuck in and won the AL West in the final series of the season last year, are currently 10-9 with a +1 run differential in the early going. They were just swept by the White Sox in Chicago, so Rangers fans must be talking about the Rangers the same way Yankees fans are talking about the Yankees right now. They suck, they won’t contend, etc.

Offense & Defense

It always seems like the Rangers have a good offense, doesn’t it? They’re currently tenth in baseball in runs per game (4.44) despite being 17th in wRC+ (91). Texas is pretty banged up at the moment. They’re without their starting corner outfielders (Shin-Soo Choo, Josh Hamilton) and top two catchers (Robinson Chirinos, Chris Gimenez) due to injuries. None are expected back this weekend.

Nomar. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
Nomar. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Manager Jeff Banister, who was named Manager of the Year as a rookie skipper last year, has a pretty set lineup. This isn’t a team that uses many platoons or mixes up the batting order on a daily basis. The team’s lineup generally looks like this:

  1. CF Delino DeShields Jr. (98 wRC+)
  2. RF Nomar Mazara (160 wRC+)
  3. 3B Adrian Beltre (143 wRC+)
  4. DH Prince Fielder (37 wRC+)
  5. LF Ian Desmond (73 wRC+)
  6. 1B Mitch Moreland (96 wRC+)
  7. SS Elvis Andrus (123 wRC+)
  8. 2B Rougned Odor (81 wRC+)
  9. C Bryan Holaday (40 wRC+)

Any changes day-to-day are usually subtle. Beltre and Fielder will be flip-flopped, or Desmond and Moreland will be flip-flopped, that sort of thing. UTIL Ryan Rua (43 wRC+) will see at-bats against lefties, usually in place of Moreland. IF Hanser Alberto (-35 wRC+) and C Brett Nicholas (75 wRC+) are the other bench players. The Rangers are currently carrying eight relievers and three bench players.

Defensively, the Rangers are a very interesting team. They have a 73.2 Defensive Efficiency Rating — that means they turn 73.2% of balls in play into outs — which is seventh best in baseball. Yet when you look at their runs saved visualization, it doesn’t look like they should be that good. From Sean Dolinar:

Rangers defense There’s a disconnect here. First of all, Choo is hurt and Mazara is playing right field, and that’s a big upgrade defensively. Secondly, the Rangers are quite good at shifting, which helps them on the infield. I also think Odor is a bit better than the numbers based on the eye test. There’s a lot of red on that infographic, but Texas seems to be better defensively than expected.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (8pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. TEX) vs. LHP Cesar Ramos (vs. NYY)
The Yankees are catching a break tonight. Cole Hamels, who is perpetually overlooked as one of the game’s great pitchers, was scheduled to start tonight’s series opener, but he has been scratched with a minor groin injury. He won’t start in the series at all. Ramos, the former Rays lefty, is coming up from Triple-A to make the spot start. The 31-year-old had a 3.18 ERA (3.55 FIP) in three Triple-A starts this year, though it’s worth noting he did not throw more than 4.1 innings or 79 pitches in any of his three games. That means he’ll throw six scoreless tonight, I’m sure. Out of the bullpen Ramos posted average strikeout, walk, and ground ball numbers all throughout his career, and he’s historically fared a bit better against lefties than righties. Ramos sits in the low-90s with his four-seamer and sinker — he didn’t throw any sinkers with the Angels last season for whatever reason — and backs them up with a mid-80s slider, mid-80s changeup, and low-70s curve. He’s always had the stuff to start, but never really did get an extended opportunity in a big league rotation.

Tuesday (8pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (No vs. TEX) vs. RHP A.J. Griffin (vs. NYY)
Griffin, 28, is back in the big leagues after missing the entire 2014 and 2015 seasons due to Tommy John surgery and subsequent complications. He has a 3.18 ERA (4.60 FIP) in 17 innings across three starts this year, though his strikeout (16.7%), walk (11.1%), grounder (34.6%), and homer (1.06 HR/9) rates are all below-average. Lefties have hammered him early on too. Back in the day Griffin had an average strikeout rate with very low walk and grounder rates. After missing two years with arm problems, I’m not surprised his strikeout and walk numbers are out of whack early on. Through three starts this season Griffin is averaging 89 mph with his four-seamer and 85 mph with his cutter. His changeup is in the low-80s and his hilarious slow curveball still sits in the mid-to-high-60s. Look:

A.J. Griffin curve

Griffin throws the slow curve regularly too, roughly 16% of the time both this year and historically. It’s a different look, that’s for sure.

Wednesday (8pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. TEX) vs. LHP Martin Perez (vs. NYY)
Like Ivan Nova and Matt Moore, the 25-year-old Perez returned from Tommy John surgery in the middle of last season. He pitched better than those two (4.46 ERA and 3.40 FIP) following the surgery, though this year has not gone well (4.50 ERA and 5.11 FIP). Perez has more walks (13.1%) than strikeouts (11.1%) through four starts and 24 innings, and that’s always bad. His grounder (54.3%) and homer (0.75 HR/9) numbers are right in line with his career norms. Righties have hit him pretty well this year and throughout his career. Perez sits in the low-to-mid-90s range with his sinker, which he throws about twice as often as his straight four-seamer. A mid-80s slider and low-80s changeup are his go-to offspeed pitches. His overall numbers are not good this year, but Perez can be very tough to handle when his sinker is working.

Bullpen Status

The Rangers are currently without two of their better relievers right now. RHP Keone Kela just had surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow, and RHP Tanner Scheppers is out long-term following knee surgery. Well, Kela is one of their better relievers. Scheppers is more big name than big production. Here is Banister’s relief corps:

RHP Tony Barnette: 8.2 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 1 HR
LHP Alex Claudio: 2.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 0 HR
LHP Jake Diekman: 5.1 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR
RHP Sam Dyson: 9 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 1 HR
RHP Phil Klein: 5.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 0 HR
RHP Nick Martinez: 0.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 0 HR
RHP Shawn Tolleson: 7 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 HR
RHP Tom Wilhelmsen: 6 IP, 13 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 5 BB, 1 K, 4 HR

One of those guys is going to be sent down for Ramos today. Claudio is the obvious choice because he threw 31 pitches yesterday — he was the only reliever used Sunday — but the Yankees are so susceptible to left-handed pitching that I wonder if the Rangers will keep him around for the second and third game of the series and send down Martinez instead. We’ll see. (UPDATE: Martinez was send down for Ramos.)

Tolleson is the closer and don’t be fooled by the numbers. He had one horrible meltdown (five runs, no outs on April 6th) but has been very good otherwise. Wilhelmsen has had two huge meltdowns and has been fine the rest of the time. Dyson and Diekman are Banister’s go-to setup crew. Dyson has a crazy sinker (68.2% grounders) and Diekman is one of the hardest throwing lefties in baseball. He runs it up to 98-99 mph regularly.

Joe Girardi‘s bullpen is in good shape heading into the series, though neither Kirby Yates nor Nick Goody figure to be available tonight following their multi-inning outings yesterday. Our Bullpen Workload page has all you need to know about the Yankees’ recent reliever usage.