Thursday Night Open Thread

On this date 18 years ago Armando Benitez gave up a go-ahead three-run home run to Bernie Williams, and responded by drilling Tino Martinez in the back with a fastball. Then all hell broke loose. Both benches cleared and punches were thrown — and landed — during the mayhem. Most benches clearing brawls involve a lot of standing around. Not this one. There was a lot of hatred between those two teams back in the day.

Anyway, we’ve got yet another West Coast night game tonight, so here’s the open thread until the game thread comes along. The Mets are playing, MLB Network is showing a regional game, and there are NBA and NHL playoff games as well. You folks know how these things work by now, so have at it.

2016 Draft: Eric Lauer

Eric Lauer | LHP

Background
Lauer, 20, was raised in Elyria, Ohio, which is part of the Cleveland metro area. He declined to sign with the Blue Jays as a 17th round pick in 2013 and instead followed through on his commitment to Kent State. Lauer has been a starter for the Golden Flashes since the day he walked on campus, and this year he has a 0.81 ERA with 109 strikeouts and 25 walks in 89.1 innings. Just this past weekend he struck out 13 in a no-hitter against Bowling Green State. The only base-runner came on an error.

Scouting Report
Lauer is the quintessential polished college lefty. He’s a pretty big guy at 6-foot-3 and 205 lbs., and he typically operates in the 91-93 mph range with a few 94s. He can cut and sink his fastball too. Lauer’s best secondary pitch is a mid-80s slider, and he also throws a low-80s changeup and an upper-70s curveball. The curve is the worst of his four pitches and it’s not much more than a show-me pitch to disrupt timing. Lauer has a long arm action that can hinder his command, otherwise his delivery is picture perfect. Smooth and repeatable. Whichever team drafts Lauer will work to improve either his changeup or curveball to give him a third above-average offering.

Miscellany
In their latest rankings Baseball America, MLB.com, and Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked Lauer as the 22nd, 36th, and 51st best prospect in the draft class, respectively. The Yankees pick 18th. Lauer seems like the type of prospect who could go a little earlier than projected because he’s quite polished and has insane stats. It only takes one team to love the changeup and/or curve more than the consensus for him to go in the middle of the first round. It’s worth noting Lauer carved up the Cape Cod League last season (2.04 ERA and 50/18 K/BB in 40 innings) and the Yankees value success on the Cape. It’s a wood bat league that features the best college players in the country.

5/19 to 5/22 Series Preview: Oakland Athletics

See? The Coliseum wasn't so bad before Mount Davis. (Baseball Feelings)
The Coliseum was pretty nice before Mount Davis. (Baseball Feelings)

The road trip continues with four games in Oakland. These days the ballpark is called the Oakland Coliseum. Overstock.com opted out of their naming rights deal in April. Regardless of what they’re calling the stadium, playing in Oakland has been a nightmare for the Yankees in recent years. They’re 2-8 at the Coliseum since 2013. Woof. The A’s swept three games at Yankee Stadium last month.

What Have They Done Lately?

Oakland just swept three games from the Rangers at home, and they’ve won their last four games overall. Prior to that they lost ten of 13. The A’s are 19-22 with -39 run differential overall. Only the Twins (-67!) have a worst run differential in the AL. Somehow they’re in third place in the AL West.

Offense & Defense

Thanks in part to their spacious ballpark, the A’s are averaging only 4.00 runs per game with a team 92 wRC+ this season. Pop-ups that land in the seats in other parks are outs in the Coliseum because of all that foul territory. There’s a reason the A’s have never had a batting champ since they moved to Oakland. Anyway, the Athletics have a ton of position players on the DL: 1B/OF Mark Canha (hip), IF Jed Lowrie (shin), OF Sam Fuld (shoulder), C Josh Phegley (knee), and IF Eric Sogard (knee). None are coming back this series.

Jump shot to celebrate a walk-off? A+ (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
Jump shot to celebrate a walk-off? A+ (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Manager Bob Melvin builds his lineup around three players: RF Josh Reddick (129 wRC+), 3B Danny Valencia (180 wRC+), and LF Khris Davis (115 wRC+). Davis, who looked lost at the plate when these two clubs last met, has 12 homers in his last 25 games. Valencia has hit six homers in his last six games. Those three guys typically hit 3-4-5 with OF/DH Coco Crisp (91 wRC+) and CF Billy Burns (73 wRC+) batting first and second. That middle of the lineup is a dangerous group, no doubt about it.

1B Yonder Alonso (72 wRC+) and DH Billy Butler (48 wRC+) have been platooning at first base since Canha’s injury — yes, they’ve actually been playing Butler in the field — while IF Chris Coghlan (57 wRC+) and UTIL Tyler Ladendorf (-84 wRC+) are handling second base duties. The Yankees once drafted Ladendorf, you know. Thirty-fourth round back in 2006. Anyway, SS Marcus Semien (118 wRC+) and C Stephen Vogt (75 wRC+) are the regular shortstop and catcher, respectively. C Matt McBride and IF Max Muncy are the other bench players. Those two were just called up this week.

Overall, the A’s have a really weak team defense. In fact, they rank last in UZR (-18.2) and next to last in DRS (-22) so far this season. Take that for what it’s worth because it’s only May 19th. Reddick is an outstanding defender in right with a great arm, so don’t hit it his way. Burns can also go get it in center. The A’s are below average pretty much everywhere else on the field though, especially now that Crisp’s range has been sapped with age and Butler is playing the field.

Pitching Matchups

Thursday (10:05pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. OAK) vs. RHP Kendall Graveman (vs. NYY)
Graveman, 24, came over from the Blue Jays in the Josh Donaldson trade and he has been as close to replacement level as it gets with the A’s. So far this season he has a 5.84 ERA (6.33 FIP) in seven starts and 37 innings. Both his strikeout (17.0%) and walk (8.5%) numbers are decent at best, and Graveman has managed to be extremely home run prone (2.43 HR/9) despite an above-average ground ball rate (51.2%). Righties have actually hit him harder than lefties. Graveman is essentially a low-90s sinker/upper-80s cutter/upper-70s curveball pitcher, plus he will throw a few mid-80s changeups per start. Unusual pitch mix. He held the Yankees to one run in 6.1 innings in the Bronx last month, back when the Yankees couldn’t score more than two runs in a game to save their lives.

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Friday (9:35pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. OAK) vs. RHP Sonny Gray (vs. NYY)
Last season Sonny Gray was a deserving All-Star who finished third in the AL Cy Young voting. This year he has 5.84 ERA (5.15 FIP) in eight starts and 44.2 innings. Egads. Jeff Sullivan noted Gray’s breaking ball has not been good this year, and, for what it’s worth, Gray told Jane Lee he thinks he picked up a mechanical flaw and made an adjustment in his previous start. We’ll see. So far this year he’s getting an average-ish number of strikeouts (18.9%) and a ton of ground balls (54.3%), but he’s walking too many (10.0%) and allowing a ton of dingers (1.61 HR/9). Gray has been a FIP beater in his relatively young career — 3.13 ERA and 3.51 FIP in 535.2 innings — because he gets a ton of infield pop-ups and weak ground balls. He’s historically had no platoon split at all. Gray uses low-to-mid-90s four-seamers and sinkers to set up his bread-and-butter low-80s curve. He’ll also throw some upper-80s changeups and mid-80s sliders. The Yankees did not see the 26-year-old Gray during the series in New York last month.

Saturday (4:05pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. OAK) vs. LHP Sean Manaea (No vs. NYY)
Manaea, 24, came over from the Royals in the Ben Zobrist trade last year. Baseball America ranked him as the 48th best prospect in baseball coming into the season, and once his service time was sufficiently manipulated, the A’s called him up. Manaea has a 7.91 ERA (5.54 FIP) through four starts and 19.1 innings. Few walks (6.9%) and an average number of grounders (45.5%) are positives, but few strikeouts (14.9%) and a ton of dingers (1.86 HR/9) are negatives. In a super small sample righties have hammered Manaea while he’s dominated lefties. Manaea has three pitches: mid-90s four-seamer, upper-70s slider, and mid-80s changeup. He’s got a funky delivery and that slider is his go-to pitch:

Sean Manaea slider

Manaea’s chopped off all his hair since that game in the GIF by the way. Like so many young pitchers still finding their way in the big leagues, Manaea has good stuff but is also prone to losing the plate and working himself into trouble. He was just called up three weeks ago, so the Yankees didn’t see him when these two teams met in Yankee Stadium earlier this season.

Sunday (4:05pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. OAK) vs. RHP Jesse Hahn (vs. NYY)
This game was supposed to be the A’s debut of right-hander Henderson Alvarez, who the team signed as a free agent over the winter while he rehabbed from shoulder surgery. Those plans have been scrapped because Alvarez came down with shoulder soreness following his last rehab start. Apparently the soreness is severe enough that he’s going to see Dr. Andrews. Yikes. That sucks. Big Hendo is one of the most entertaining pitchers in baseball.

So, with Alvarez down, Hahn jumps into the rotation. The 26-year-old has thrown 18.2 innings in three spot starts this season, allowing eight runs (seven earned) on 21 hits and seven walks. He’s struck out only six with a 57.6% grounder rate. Last season he had a 3.35 ERA (3.51 FIP) in 96.2 innings before coming down with a forearm problem. Hahn has very sharp stuff, with a mid-90s heater setting up his upper-80s changeup and trademark upper-70s curveball. The question is health. Hahn has a long and scary injury history. The Yankees didn’t see him last month when the A’s were in New York.

Bullpen Status

Last season the A’s went 19-35 (!) in one-run games in part due to a leaky bullpen. They overhauled the relief crew over the winter with some trades and free agent signings, which has given Melvin way more options in the late innings. He no longer has to hold his breath once the starter comes out of the game. Here’s his bullpen:

Closer: RHP Ryan Madson (1.93 ERA/3.59 FIP)
Setup: LHP Sean Doolittle (3.31/3.97) and RHP John Axford (3.18/3.87)
LOOGY: LHP Marc Rzepczynski (4.05/4.01)
Middle: RHP Ryan Dull (3.48/4.03) and RHP Andrew Triggs (3.38/2.48)
Long: RHP Fernandez Rodriguez (1.54/2.64)

Oakland’s bullpen is pretty well rested. Rodriguez threw 19 pitches and Triggs threw eight pitches yesterday. Madson and Doolittle threw 17 and 16 pitches on Wednesday, respectively. That’s all. For the status of the Joe Girardi‘s bullpen, head on over to our Bullpen Workload page.

Yankeemetrics: Near-disaster in the desert [May 16-18]

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

Not in Scranton anymore
Heading out on their first West Coast trip of the season, the timing was ripe for an extended hot streak: Not only were the Yankees coming off a solid homestand where they won seven of 10 games, but they were set to play the Diamondbacks, a team that they had an 11-4 record against in the regular season, their second-best win percentage versus any franchise.

All that momentum and optimism came to a screeching halt on Monday night as they were creamed by the D-backs, 12-2. The Yankees basically sent out their junior varsity pitching squad – none of the four arms that got into the game were on the 25-man roster at the beginning of the season – and paid the price.

Arizona put a small army on the basepaths – 24 guys, to be exact – and pounded the Yankee pitchers to the tune of six singles, six doubles, one triple and two homers. That’s the second-most baserunners the Yankees have ever surrendered in an Interleague game, and the nine extra-base hits allowed tied the team record for an Interleague game.

Chad Green had a forgettable “Welcome to the Show” moment, allowing six runs on eight hits in four-plus innings. He’s just the second Yankee in the last 50 seasons to lose his major-league debut while giving up at least six runs and eight hits. The other was Christian Parker on April 6, 2001; that was the only major-league appearance of Parker’s career.

Green wasn’t the only Yankee to get his first taste of big-league hitters on Monday night. Conor Mullee also pitched in his first MLB game and looked very much like a rookie. He walked three guys and hit another, allowing one run in an innings’ work without giving up a hit.

There is a silver lining to his wildness, though: the last Yankee pitcher with at least three walks and a hit by pitch in his major-league debut was Dellin Betances on September 20, 2011 against the Rays.

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

Tiny Mike
In what has become a recurring nightmare for the Yankees, Michael Pineda delivered yet another maddening – and wholly disappointing – performance on Tuesday. Sure, the 27-year-old flashed some great stuff (nine strikeouts in five innings), but he was also awful at times (nine hits and five runs allowed) and threw far too many hittable pitches in the strike zone.

This is the third time in the last two seasons that Pineda has put up such a confusing line of at least nine strikeouts, nine hits and five runs allowed. Since 2015, no other major-league pitcher has done it more than once.

And looking at the sample of all Yankee pitchers in the last 100 seasons, only two others had three such games in their entire careers (Ron Guidry, Lefty Gomez). Somehow Pineda has done this in a span of roughly one calendar year.

Pineda’s ERA rose to an unsightly 6.60 after this latest dud, and coupled with Severino’s 7.46 mark, the Yankees are now the only team in MLB this season with two pitchers that have thrown at least 30 innings and own an ERA over 6.50.

Finally, with two losses in the first two games of this three-game set in Arizona, the Yankees fell to 0-5-1 in series away from the Bronx. The last time they went winless in their first six road series of the season was 1991.

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

Nasty, Nasty, Nasty Nate
Deep breath in, exhale out. Repeat.

The Yankees avoided the dreaded sweep in Arizona with a bounceback 4-2 win on Wednesday night. They still haven’t been swept in a road Interleague series of three or more games since June 2007 at Colorado.

Nathan Eovaldi pitched an absolute gem, giving up a lead-off double to Jean Segura and then retiring the next 18 batters before being removed after six fantastic innings of work. It was statistically reminiscent of some of the best games ever pitched in franchise history.

The last Yankee to throw at least six innings and allow no more than one baserunner was Mike Mussina against the Red Sox on Sept. 2, 2001. Yes, that was Moose’s epic 13-strikeout, no-walk one-hitter, a.k.a The Carl Bleeping Everett Game.

And the only other Yankee to allow one or fewer baserunners in six innings pitched in Interleague play was David Cone against the Expos on July 18, 1999. Yup, his perfect game.

Brett Gardner gave the Yankees an early 2-0 lead with a first-inning homer to right field, his 20th go-ahead home run since the start of the 2014 season. That’s the second-most go-ahead homers by any Yankee in that span, behind only Brian McCann (22).

Hal on the possibility of selling at the deadline: “I’m not even thinking about that right now”

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Following last night’s win, the Yankees are 17-22 on the season and 7.5 games back of the AL East lead. Those 17 wins are their fewest through the first 39 games since the 1995 Yankees started the season 15-24. The Yankees are four games back of the second wildcard spot and their postseason odds sit at 12.4% according to FanGraphs. Not ideal!

There is still a lot of season left — 123 games to be exact — and that’s good, because it’s going to take some time to climb out of his early-season hole. And if they don’t start to climb out of it reasonably soon, the Yankees will have to seriously consider selling at the deadline. How far out would they have to be to sell? That depends. It’s not just the number of games back in the standings, it’s the number of teams ahead of you as well.

At the quarterly owners’ meetings in New York yesterday, Hal Steinbrenner was asked about the possibility of the Yankees selling at the trade deadline if they don’t get things turned around soon. He was non-committal (duh) but didn’t completely dismiss the idea either. Here’s what Hal said about selling, via Jason Schott:

“Every trade deadline, you know me, I do the same thing I do in the offseason. Any possibility that comes along we’re look at, but I’m not even thinking about that right now. But that’s what I do every trade deadline. We looked at a lot of possibilities last year, we just ended up not doing anything. It’s mid-May, I’m going to see you guys, you’re around, I’ll be around the Stadium, we’ll talk again in July.

This is very easy for me to say since my neck isn’t on the line, but, if the Yankees do decide to sell, they have to fully commit and make everyone available. That includes Masahiro Tanaka, Dellin Betances, Starlin Castro, Luis Severino … everyone. It doesn’t hurt to listen, and if the opportunity comes to deal one of those guys for a package of young talent, they have to pull the trigger.

Hal and Brian Cashman are very practical, so I’m certain they’ll be open to listening to offers for anyone and everyone on the roster should push come to shove and the team decides to sell. Whether they get offers to their liking is another matter. They put a high price on Brett Gardner and especially Andrew Miller this past offseason and understandably so. “Selling” doesn’t mean “giving players away.”

The Yankees have a great piece of trade bait in Aroldis Chapman, who I think they should trade even if they get back into the race. That’s just my opinion. Chapman has a lot of value even as a rental and he could net them a piece(s) that helps the 2016 Yankees as well as the 2017 and beyond Yankees. Getting a draft pick for Chapman after the season would be settling for a fraction of what he’s worth in a trade.

There will also be a market for rental players like Ivan Nova, Carlos Beltran, and Mark Teixeira. Maybe not a robust market, but a market nonetheless. I could see the upstart White Sox having interest in Beltran or Teixeira for their DH slot, for example. Nova has pitched well in his two starts, and if he remains reasonably effective, someone will want him for the second half. Cheap rental starters are always in demand.

For now the Yankees will keep their players and try to get back into the race, and that’s the right move. There is still a lot of time left this season. If they can’t get back in the race though, then they have to sell off some parts come the deadline. At least the rentals. They have to do it. Keeping guys like Chapman and Beltran just so they finish with, say, 83 wins instead of 78 would be a total mistake. Status quo is not an option if the Yankees continue to flounder.

Eovaldi dominates D’Backs, Yankees take series finale 4-2


Source: FanGraphs

I had an uncomfortable feeling the Yankees would regret not scoring more runs against the shaky Shelby Miller for most of Wednesday’s game, but thankfully that was not the case. The Yankees avoided the sweep with a 4-2 win in the series finale. Here’s the bullet point recap for the late West Coast game:

  • Nasty Nate: Jean Segura, the first batter Nathan Eovaldi faced Wednesday night, hit a little ground ball back up the middle that literally hit second base and went for a double. Eovaldi did not allow another base-runner the rest of the night. He retired the next 18 men he faced, striking out five and getting eleven outs on the ground. The D’Backs hit two balls out of the infield in six innings against Eovaldi. Two. He was awesome. Fastball on both sides of the plate, splitter in the dirt, slider sliding … it was all working. Total domination. Bravo, Nate.
  • Top of the Lineup: The Yankees struck first for two quick runs. Jacoby Ellsbury drew a walk and Brett Gardner smacked a two-run homer in the first inning. Boom. Two-zip lead before an out was made. The Yankees managed to strand a small army of runners against Miller before tacking on an insurance run in the sixth, an insurance run that was ultimately needed. Chase Headley singled, Eovaldi bunted him over, and Ellsbury singled him in. NL ball at its finest. A bases loaded wild pitch created the team’s fourth run in the eighth inning.
  • Early Exit: Think Joe Girardi wanted this one? He went to Dellin Betances in the seventh inning even though Eovaldi had retired the last 18 (!) batters he faced and had thrown only 85 pitches. It was a questionable decision at best. It worked — Betances walked two and escaped without allowing a run, but he threw 31 pitches and that will affect his availability the next few days — but geez. The Yankees have been begging for a start like that all season. If Girardi’s not going to let Eovaldi pitch the seventh there, when will he?
  • Bad Fundies: Another banner night for ol’ team baseball IQ. In the first Headley declined to throw home for whatever reason even though Segura literally stopped between third and home. Headley fielded the grounder, looked at Segura, then threw to first for the out while the run scored. I do not understand. In the second inning Didi Gregorius managed to run into Headley’s ground ball for an out on the bases. Sloppy. Sloppy sloppy sloppy.
  • Leftovers: Andrew Miller allowed a solo homer and struck out the side in the eighth. Aroldis Chapman fanned one in the ninth … Mark Teixeira went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts, though he did rip a deep line drive to right field in the first inning. Brandon Drury made a great jumping catch at the wall. It would have been a homer in the Bronx … Ellsbury had one of those “oh hey he can be really great” reminder games by going 3-for-3 with two walks … Headley and Gardner had two hits. In fact, every starter had at least one hit except Teixeira (and Eovaldi).

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. We also have Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. The Yankees are done in the desert and now go to Oakland for a four-game series. Ivan Nova and Kendall Graveman will be Thursday’s pitching matchup. That’s a 10:05pm ET start. No more of this 9:40pm ET stuff.

DotF: Mateo goes deep in Tampa’s nearly perfect win

RHP James Kaprielian (elbow inflammation) is expected to return to the mound in 4-6 weeks, Hal Steinbrenner told Brendan Kuty. The Yankees said they will be conservative with their top pitching prospect, so I’m guessing it’ll be closer to six weeks than four. That puts Kaprielian on target for a late-June return.

Triple-A Scranton Game One (4-2 in over Louisville in seven innings) makeup of yesterday’s rainout

  • CF Ben Gamel: 2-4, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 E (fielding) — threw a runner out at second … 5-for-19 (.263) with three doubles in five games since being sent back down
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-3, 1 RBI
  • C Gary Sanchez: 1-3, 1 HBP — 1-for-11 (.091) since his brief MLB cameo
  • DH Nick Swisher: 0-4, 1 K
  • LF Jake Cave: 2-3, 1 R, 1 2B
  • RHP Brady Lail: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 7/4 GB/FB — 52 of 87 pitches were strikes (60%) … 6/7 K/BB in 15.2 innings here
  • RHP Anthony Swarzak: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 0/2 GB/FB — 15 pitches, ten strikes

[Read more…]