What a wonderful afternoon. The weather in New York is gorgeous and the Yankees hit five homeruns en route to beating the Red Sox. Lazy Saturdays don’t get much better in my book. The Yankees wrap-up this four-game series against Boston tomorrow night, then they’ll enjoy their first scheduled off-day of the 2014 season on Monday. Off-days are always more enjoyable following a win, that’s for sure.
Here is your open thread for the night. This afternoon’s game will be replayed on YES at 7pm ET, though if you want to watch some live baseball, the Mets are playing later tonight (they’re on the West Coast) and MLB Network will air a game. Who you see depends on where you live. The (hockey) Rangers are playing their final game of the regular season tonight as well. It’s meaningless; they’re already locked into their postseason spot. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s win, or anything else right here.
For at least one afternoon, the Bronx Bombers returned. The Yankees hit five homeruns on Saturday afternoon, two fewer than they’d hit in the first eleven games of the season. The dingers helped them to a 7-4 win over the Red Sox. Let’s recap with bullet points:
- Officer McCann At Your Service: The first dozen games of the year were a little rough on Brian McCann, who came into the game with a -10 wRC+ after beating the ball into the shift for two weeks. He broke out on Saturday afternoon, hitting a solo homer in the fourth and two-run homer in the sixth, both off John Lackey. Yankee Stadium sure can be kind to lefties, though these two homers were bombs, not cheapies.
- More From The Middle: McCann wasn’t the only Yankee to have a big day at the plate. Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, and Alfonso Soriano all had two hits, including homers from Beltran and Soriano. Those three plus McCann (the 3-4-5-6 hitters) went a combined 8-for-15 (.533) with one double, four homers, one stolen base, one walk, and six runs driven in. That’ll do just fine, thank you very much.
- Better Than It Looks: Mike Carp’s shift-beating ground ball single in the seventh uglified Hiroki Kuroda‘s line, driving in two runs and turning two innings in 6.1 innings into four runs in 6.1 innings. Inherited runners, man. Kuroda held the Red Sox to only A.J. Pierzynski’s two-run homer for the first six frames, striking out five and walking three. It wasn’t the best outing but it wasn’t a disaster either. Would look much better had the bullpen taken care of business in the seventh. Here is Kuroda’s pitch breakdown from Brooks Baseball.
- Shaky Seventh: Adam Warren and Shawn Kelley retired all six men they faced in the eighth and ninth innings, but the seventh was a bit of a mess. Matt Thornton struck out David Ortiz with two on and one out (good!) but was also left in to face Mike Napoli (bad!). Thornton plunked Napoli to load the bases before Carp’s ground ball single. Dellin Betances took over with runners on the corners before the inning ended when Carp was thrown out trying to steal second. He had to have missed a sign. Makes no sense to run otherwise. Things got a little tense in that seventh inning.
- Leftovers: Somehow the umpires ruled that Dean Anna was safe at second on his eighth inning double even though replays clearly showed him being tagged with his foot off the bag after the slide. The Sawx challenged it and they still ruled him safe. Weird … Kelly Johnson tacked on an insurance run with a solo shot in the eighth, so all seven of the team’s runs came on dingers … Yangervis Solarte went 2-for-4 to snap out of his mini-slump, so don’t send him back to Triple-A just yet … Brett Gardner singled and the only Yankee who failed to reach base was (surprise surprise) Brian Roberts.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Yankees and Red Sox will wrap up this series on Sunday night (not afternoon) when Ivan Nova gets the ball against the lefty Felix Doubront. If you want to catch the series finale live at the Stadium, check out RAB Tickets.
The Yankees lost a disappointing game to the Red Sox last night, but the quick turn-around means they can turn the page right away and focus on today’s game. I suspect these guys don’t have any problems turning the page anyway. Veteran team, been there, done that, yadda yadda yadda. There’s no time to dwell on anything in this sport.
The one thing I enjoy about this current Yankees team is that just about every day, they’re sending a quality starting pitcher to the mound. That hasn’t always been the case the last few years and really the last ten or twelve years. Hiroki Kuroda gets the nod this afternoon and, despite being the team’s best pitcher the last two seasons, he might only be their third best starter right now. That’s kinda cool. Kuroda has been excellent at Yankee Stadium and I sure would like that to continue this afternoon. Here is the Red Sox lineup he’ll face and the Yankees lineup that will back him up:
- LF Brett Gardner
- 2B Brian Roberts
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- DH Carlos Beltran
- C Brian McCann
- RF Alfonso Soriano
- 1B Kelly Johnson
- 3B Yangervis Solarte
- SS Dean Anna
RHP Hiroki Kuroda
It rained a little bit this morning but not much, and the forecast for this afternoon is gorgeous. Sunny with blue skies and not a cloud in sight. Temperatures approaching 70 too. That’s awesome. This afternoon’s game will air on YES (not FOX) and begin shortly after 1pm ET. Enjoy.
Via Jerry Crasnick: The Yankees are one of several teams that are believed to have interest in Joel Hanrahan. They were monitoring him a few weeks ago. The right-hander is currently working his way back from Tommy John surgery and other elbow procedures (flexor tendon, bone chips). He will throw for teams during a showcase next week.
Hanrahan, 32, had a 2.24 ERA (3.24 FIP) in 128.1 innings for the Pirates from 2011-12, his last two healthy seasons. There is no such thing as too much pitching depth and the Yankees could always find a way to squeeze someone like Hanrahan into their bullpen and late-inning mix. They signed Andrew Bailey to a one-year deal with an option geared towards 2015 just before Spring Training, but Hanrahan is in a better position to contribute immediately. · (4) ·
That damn sixth inning. If they handed out wins and losses for individual innings, the Yankees would have went 8-1 on Friday night. They were the better team in every inning but the sixth. Sucks letting a game get away like that. Let’s recap the 4-2 loss to the Red Sox, bullet points style:
- One Bad Inning: For the second straight start, CC Sabathia cruised through five excellent innings before the wheels came off in the sixth. He was dominant innings one through five (one hit, two walks, six strikeouts) before two homers led to four runs in the sixth. Jonny Gomes hit a solo shot, then Grady Sizemore golfed a three-run shot on a slider that missed its spot by about two feet. Between the homers, David Ortiz had a check swing single and Mike Napoli slapped a single in a 3-0 count. Sabathia threw a perfect seventh inning after that. Nine strikeouts and 19 swings and misses in seven innings is awesome. Having things unravel in the sixth inning two starts in a row? Not awesome. Here’s the PitchFX breakdown from Brooks Baseball.
- Two Runs Ain’t Enough: You and I have seen enough Yankees-Red Sox games over the years to know two runs usually aren’t enough to win. Not even in these offense-starved days. Alfonso Soriano got the Yankees on the board with a solo homer in the second, then Kelly Johnson singled in a run in the seventh. He had a real good at-bat against a tough lefty in Jon Lester. Derek Jeter (fly out) and pinch-hitter Brian McCann (strikeout) wasted opportunities in the eighth and ninth, respectively. They ended innings with the tying run on base or at the plate, again respectively.
- Dealin’ Dellin: Dellin Betances struck out all three men he faced in the ninth inning and was just dominant. The good version showed up. Dr. Dellin, not Mr. Betances. Cesar Cabral walked the only man he faced on four pitches — it was Ortiz, but come on man — while Adam Warren allowed a hit in an otherwise uneventful and scoreless inning. Another good day for the David Robertson-less relief crew.
- Leftovers: Jacoby Ellsbury, Soriano, and Ichiro Suzuki were the only Yankees to reach base twice. Ellsbury went 1-for-3 with a walk while the other two went 2-for-4 … Jeter and Johnson singled while Brian Roberts walked … Carlos Beltran, Frankie Cervelli, and Yangervis Solarte were all hitless. Solarte is hitless in his last nine at-bats and 1-for-11 in his last three games. Is it a slump, or is the magic starting to fade? … Ellsbury stole his fifth base and is the first Yankee to steal five bases in April since Gardner in 2010.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs has some other stats, and ESPN has the updated standings. We’re only two weeks into the season, but all five AL East teams are separated by one game. I expect the race to be crazy tight all summer. The Yankees will send Hiroki Kuroda to the mound on Saturday afternoon in the third game of this four-game series. He’ll be opposed by John Lackey. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to catch the matinee.
In case you’re wondering, RHP Gabe Encinas is currently throwing bullpen sessions as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery, according to his Twitter feed. He was on his way to becoming one of the team’s top pitching prospects before blowing out his elbow last summer. Also, no Yankees farmhands made the first Prospect Hot Sheet of the season.
Triple-A Scranton was rained out. The season started last Thursday and this is already their fifth rain out. Stuff like this is why LHP Manny Banuelos is in Tampa right now. Anyway, they’ll play a doubleheader tomorrow.
Double-A Trenton (5-4 loss to Erie)
- CF Mason Williams: 0-5, 1 K
- DH Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
- 3B Tyler Austin: 2-5, 2 K, 1 E (throwing) — they said they wanted to try to maintain some of his versatility, so he’ll see time at third and first base in addition to his usual right field
- C Gary Sanchez: 2-5
- 2B Rob Refsnyder: 2-5, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 K — 13 strikeouts in 29 at-bats
- RHP Zach Nuding: 5 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 6/1 GB/FB — 58 of 88 pitches were strikes (66%)
- RHP Jairo Heredia: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 3/1 GB/FB — 12 of 21 pitches were strikes (57%)
The Yankees started this long, four-game weekend series against the Red Sox well with last night’s win, and tonight they have a chance to guarantee at least a split. Once you do that, you can start to get greedy. CC Sabathia is on the mound and the Red Sox have not been kind to him over the years, especially last season, when their MLB-best offense contributed to his career-worst season with 56 base-runners and 23 runs in 28.2 innings. Yikes.
The weather in New York has been pretty nice all day, but some clouds started to roll in this afternoon and the forecast calls for rain later this evening. It might be an issue in the later innings. This could be one of those “get the lead early and hope you have it when the rain shows up” games, because once it does show up, it isn’t supposed to stop until tomorrow morning. Here is the Red Sox lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- SS Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- RF Carlos Beltran
- DH Alfonso Soriano
- C Frankie Cervelli
- 3B Yangervis Solarte
- LF Ichiro Suzuki
- 2B Brian Roberts
- 1B Kelly Johnson
LHP CC Sabathia
Like I said, there is some rain in the forecast later tonight. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 7pm ET and you can watch the game live on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Depending on where you live, of course.
Baseball America published their updated list of the top 50 prospects for this year’s draft yesterday (no subs. req’d). NC State LHP Carlos Rodon came into the spring as the overwhelming favorite to go first overall, but his stuff has not been as electric this spring and he is no longer a lock to go even in the top three. California HS LHP Brady Aiken is the consensus top prospect for the draft right now.
The Yankees do not pick until the second round (55th overall) because of their offseason spending spree, but in all likelihood a few of the players in this edition of the top 50 will be available when that selection comes around. This draft is very deep in right-handed pitchers — 19 of the top 50 are righties — and really light on impact bats. The Yankees need some arms, and while drafting for need in the early rounds isn’t ideal, they could definitely add a quality pitching prospect to the organization with that 55th pick this year. · (6) ·
Via Joel Sherman: MLB executive Joe Torre said the league is not planning to suspend Michael Pineda for last night’s alleged pine tar incident. “The umpires did not observe an application of a foreign substance during the game and the issue was not raised by the Red Sox,” said Torre. “Given those circumstances, there are no plans to issue a suspension, but we intend to talk to the Yankees regarding what occurred.”
Pineda, 25, sure had what looked like a brown foreign substance on his right hand during innings one through four (photo). Replays showed nothing on his hand in the fifth inning or later. Neither the Red Sox nor the umpires raised an issue, and it’s a bit of an open secret that most pitchers use some kind of substance to improve their grip. Pineda was just way too obvious about it. · (98) ·
Got seven questions in this week’s mailbag. A few other really good ones came in too, but I’m holding those back because I need more time to think about them. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us questions, links, comments, whatever.
Paul asks: Am I reading this FanGraphs article correctly? Yankees have gotten +25 strikes (from pitch-framing), a strike is worth .14 runs, 10 runs = 1 win, so the Yankees have gotten about 1/3 WAR from pitch-framing in the first week of the season? Or are these wins different from wins above replacement?
According to the article, the Yankees have gotten 25 extra strikes than expected due to pitch-framing so far this year, the most in baseball. That’s seems … reasonable, I guess? I don’t really know. Brian McCann is an elite pitch-framer and Frankie Cervelli has graded out well in his sporadic playing time over the years, so it stands to reason they would be near the top. That +25 strikes number is just an estimate in that post, remember.
Here is an older list of the run value of events, like singles and homers and sacrifice flies and a bunch of other stuff. It does not include called strikes though, so I’m not sure where that 0.14 runs per called strike number came from. I know Jeff Sullivan though and I trust he got it from somewhere reliable. So anyway, 25 extra strikes at 0.14 runs per strike works out to +3.5 runs total. FanGraphs says 9.386 runs equals one win these days, so the Yankees have “earned” 0.37th of a win through framing alone in 2014. That’s the straight forward math. A win is a win regardless of whether your starting point is replacement level or league average. In this case, the 25 extra strikes was compared to the league average.
There are two issues here, in my opinion. One, pitch-framing analysis still has a long way to go. I think it needs to be adjusted for umpire and for the pitcher, for starters. Maybe even treat it like a pitching stat and consider leverage. Two, that 0.14 runs per called strike number is an average for all situations, but not all called strikes are created equally. Turning a borderline pitch into a strike in a 3-2 count is more valuable than doing the same in a 3-0 count, for example. These win values we’re seeing from pitch-framing seem way too high to me — it’s basically the single most valuable thing in baseball, if you believe the numbers — but for a quick and dirty analysis, the FanGraphs stuff is fine. It’s interesting but I don’t think we can take these at face value yet.
JK5 asks: Do defensive metrics take ‘shifts’ into consideration? There was a play Jonathan Schoop (officially playing 3rd) made on a ball hit by McCann into shallow RF. Just reading the box score play-by-play would make one thing this play was a normal 5-3 putout, which it absolutely wasn’t. So Schoop’s range factor at 3b is helped by a ball hit nowhere near his normal position. So going forward, with increased ‘shifts’, are we gonna see sort of a manufactured rating for 3b (who are most often used as the primary ‘shifted’ fielder)?
Yes and no. Some defensive stats do recognize shifts, others don’t. As far as I know, UZR basically has an on/off switch. If there is no shift, the play is recorded the same way it always is. If the shift is on, the play is not recorded and ignored. DRS does not consider shifts and assumes the defender starts every the play wherever the league usually sets up at that position. That’s why Brett Lawrie had a good +4.5 UZR but an elite +20 DRS in 2012. UZR ignored all the times he was standing in shallow right on the shift while DRS thought he started all those plays at third base. I don’t know how (or if) Total Zone and FRAA handle shifts.
The problems are obvious here. With shifts becoming more prevalent, UZR is reducing its own sample size by ignoring plays with the shift. DRS is assuming third basemen have superman range, which is worse. That only adds to the uncertainty of defensive stats. I think they are best used directionally with a multi-year sample. They can give us an idea of who is good, who is bad, and who is average. The exact values though? I don’t think we can take them seriously. There’s no way you can say Shortstop A is a better defender than Shortstop B because he had a +5.7 UZR/+9 DRS from 2010-13 while the other guy was at +5.3 UZR/+7 DRS. They’re both good. Leave it at that.
Dan asks: If the Yankees even had an average infield in terms of range, do you think Joe would be employing the shift as much? Now that they are flipping the third baseman and Derek Jeter during the shift, if Jeter makes a play when he’s the only one on the left side of the infield would he be the third baseman for purposes of scoring the game? He is the player furthest to the left side of the infield. Finally, how do the advanced stats take shifts into account? Thanks.
Just answered that last part, conveniently. As for the other questions, yes, I absolutely think the Yankees would still be shifting as much if they have rangier infielders. Heck, they might shift more if they had more mobile defenders. Like I said yesterday, the shift is here to stay. You’re playing Super Nintendo while everyone else is on Playstation 4 if you’re not shifting.
As for the position stuff, the defensive stats recognize everyone as whatever position they are playing. Jeter would still be a shortstop in the example Dan gave in his question. That’s why Lawrie’s DRS was so high a few years ago. He was still considered a third baseman while standing in shallow right, not a second baseman.
Ben asks: Seems like early scouting reports on Dante Bichette Jr. suggested he would need to move to the OF at some point in his MiLB career. Seeing as how he is DH’ing so much due to the presence of Eric Jagielo, don’t you think now would be a good time to make the move? They’re not doing him any favors DH’ing him this regularly.
I think the bat is the most important thing for Bichette. He always was and always will be a bat-first prospect, and they have to get him to start hitting more than anything. (He went into last night’s game hitting .235/.458/.353 in six games.) They can stick him in left field or at first base a little later down the line. Right now, the most important thing is for Bichette to get his swing, his timing, his balance, his whatever else on track so he can produce at the plate. He is a huge reclamation project and they need to focus all their time and energy on his bat. It’s the most important thing for him.
Nick asks: If Aaron Judge and Jagielo tear it up do you think the Yankees should keep moving them up or let them finish the year at the level they are at?
Definitely move them up. They are two college hitters who spent three years as starters at major college programs. Those aren’t the guys you hold back. I fully expect Jagielo to end the year with Double-A Trenton and Judge to earn a promotion to at least High-A Tampa at some point. I think it’s possible he’ll go from Low-A Charleston to Tampa to Trenton this summer. I think the Yankees generally move their prospects a little too fast — ever notice how their prospects come to the big leagues still in need of refinement while the Cardinals and Rays call up guys who are so polished? Compare how much time they’ve spent in the minors — but these are two guys who should move up the ladder quick. Especially Jagielo.
Jeff asks: Would the Yankees be better served to have a quicker hook with CC Sabathia on the mound? I understand a lot of the value he has is as an innings eater, but it comes down to which would be better: ~200 league average or slightly below league average innings, or ~170-180 slightly above league average innings.
You know, I’m not sure. Is Sabathia at 90-100 pitches worse than, say, a fresh Dellin Betances or Vidal Nuno? I guess that depends on the day and how Sabathia has fared during those first 90 pitches. There is an obvious benefit to limiting his workload at this point, saving bullets and all that stuff, but an individual game is a different animal than the big picture. Even during his awful 2013 season, Sabathia really wasn’t less effective from pitches 76+ than he was from pitches 1-75. I know he got knocked around in the final inning of his start last week, but that’s one game. If the Yankees had a deeper and higher quality bullpen, I think the answer would be closer to yes. Since they don’t, I’m not sure.
Bill asks: The Yanks had three different players steal a base on Sunday, none of whom was Jacoby Ellsbury. When was the last time the Yanks had steals from four different players in the same game?
It’s actually not that uncommon and I didn’t think it would be. We’ve seen quite a few games in recent years where the Yankees just had the opponent’s battery down pat. They knew the pitcher’s move, knew the catcher’s arm, and were running wild. We saw it last Friday, when they stole four bases off Dustin McGowan in his 2.2 innings of work (and didn’t attempt another steal after he left the game).
Anyway, the Yankees have had at least four different players steal a base in a game 15 times this century, including six times in the last three years. They had six (!) different players steal a base in one game against the Red Sox just last September. Here’s the box score. Pretty clear they knew they could run on Ryan Lavarnway. Here is the list of all 15 games with at least four players stealing a base since 2000 for you to dig through.