Sunday Open Thread

Here is the open thread for the rest of the weekend. The ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game is the Dodgers at the Pirates. Some poor kid named Chad Kuhl is going to be making his MLB debut on national television opposing Clayton Kershaw. Now watch Kuhl go out and chuck eight scoreless innings. That’d be cool. Talk about anything except religion and politics here.

Game 74: Do the Twins really have to leave?

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

The Yankees are looking to finish a three-game sweep of the Twins this afternoon, and, unfortunately, they won’t play Minnesota again this season. That’s a damn shame. As we’ve seen the last two days, even with the Twinkies have a lead and the Yankees seem unable to do anything, the Twins will find a way to lose. Gonna miss that. Here is the Twins’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Carlos Beltran
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. 1B Mark Teixeira
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. RF Aaron Hicks
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

It’s a wee bit cloudy in New York, otherwise it’s a very nice day for baseball. A little warm but not really hot unless you’re stuck sitting in the sun. Anyway, this afternoon’s series finale will begin at 1:05pm ET. You can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: Nick Goody was sent down and Luis Cessa was called up, the Yankees announced. Cessa was scheduled to start for Triple-A Scranton today, so he’s available to go long if necessary. Hopefully it’s not. Joe Girardi indicated he wants to limit Richard Bleier to left-on-left matchup work going forward, so Cessa’s the new long man.

Injury Update: Bryan Mitchell (toe) has started playing catch and could begin throwing off a mound reasonably soon. Girardi said they’re not going to push him though, so there’s a chance Mitchell won’t return to the big leagues this season. He needs innings and he can get them in Triple-A, not sitting in the big league bullpen for a week at a time.

A Wrinkled Reversal

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Though both just ended, the NBA and NHL playoffs can seem interminable. Despite the general excitement of playoff hockey–how do people watch that with a rooting interest and not die of a heart attack? My god–and playoff basketball, the postseaon s for both sports drag from April to June. But then we look at baseball and realize that barely half the season gets played in that same amount of time. And while it’s relatively short in baseball terms, a lot can change both on the team and individual level.

Back in April, Alex Rodriguez was struggling to catch up to fastballs, a trend that was contrary to what he’d done in 2015. The first three months of the season have given history a chance to repeat itself, as A-Rod is back to his 2015 form in terms of his results against certain pitch types.

Any pitches this year with even a modicum of movement have absolutely abused Alex and his bat, on the occasions he’s managed to make contact with. So far this season he has whiff/swing rate of 42.11% on sliders and 38.46% on curveballs. The struggle to make contact isn’t apparent on just moving slow pitches, as against cutters, Rodriguez is whiffing on 47.83% of his swings. The only pitch he makes less contact per swing against is the changeup–48.48% whiff/swing.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Against harder stuff like fastballs and sinkers, Alex’s made more contact, keeping his whiff/swing rates at 29.03% and 18.75% respectively. Additionally, he’s done his damage against those pitches, smacking them for line drives 33.33% and 24.32% of the time he puts either in play. Against fastballs, he’s hitting .290 with a .174 ISO; against sinkers, the marks are .250 and .325. Seven of his eight home runs (three against fastballs, four against sinkers) have come against those two pitch types; the other came against a changeup. That home run against the change up is one of just two extra-base hits Alex has against offspeed pitches the entire year. The other, a double, also came against a changeup. He has just four hits against either curveballs or sliders, with all of them coming against sliders. None have gone for extra bases.

So after prodding this dark spot on the X-Ray, what can Rodriguez do to improve? We could easily say he should be more aggressive and try to attack fastballs early in the count. But, there’s evidence he’s already done this. His walk rate is a career low 5.9% and he’s seeing just 3.7 pitches per plate appearance, a change from last year when he was seeing 4.04 P/PA. Any other advice I could offer as an outside observer–shorten your swing! Just take more breaking balls!–is much easier said than done. However, in baseball as in life, the simplest answer is often the right one and it just might be that Alex is too old now and he can’t recognize the spin of a non-fastball anymore. If that’s the case, there’s no much to do but hope he keeps running into the occasional fastball.

DotF: Judge homers in third straight game in AAA loss

Triple-A Scranton (7-3 loss to Pawtucket)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 1-4, 2 K
  • 1B Nick Swisher: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K
  • RF Aaron Judge: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K, 1 E (throwing) — video of tonight’s homer is above … it’s his third straight game with a dinger … it’s also his sixth homer in his last seven games and eighth homer in his last 12 games … he’s raised his season batting line from .241/.315/.386 to .263/.347/.478 in those 12 games
  • DH Tyler Austin & LF Jake Cave: both 0-4, 1 K — Cave threw a runner out at second
  • LHP Phil Coke: 4 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 5/3 GB/FB — 47 of 70 pitches were strikes (67%) … he’s back in the rotation because RHP Brady Lail is on the DL
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 3/0 GB/FB — 24 of 37 pitches were strikes (65%)
  • LHP Chasen Shreve: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K — 14 of 26 pitches were strikes (54%) … not going to earn your way back to the Bronx like that, Chasen
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 14 of 22 pitches were strikes (64%)

[Read more…]

Pineda’s strong start, Minnesota’s mistakes allow Yanks to rally for a 2-1 win over Twins

The wins don’t come as easily as they once did, but the Yankees again beat the Twins on Saturday afternoon, this time by the score of 2-1. They’ve won five of six games against Minnesota this season and are back over .500 at 37-36. The Yankees have spent a grand total of six days over .500 in 2016.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Big Mike‘s Big Game
By any measure, this was Michael Pineda‘s best start of the season. He held the Twins to one run on two hits and a walk in six innings while striking out eight. Pineda threw 94 total pitches and got 14 swings and misses, including eight whiffs on 16 swings against his slider. That is: good. The one run came on a Brian Dozier solo homer, which was nothing more than a poorly located 3-1 fastball in the second inning. Eh, it happens. Dozier has some pop.

Pineda has now allowed ten earned runs in his last five starts and 30 innings. He had a 6.92 ERA (4.67 FIP) through his first ten starts of the season, and he’s since been able to lower that to a 5.51 ERA (3.88 FIP) through 15 starts. Progress! Last month there was talk about sending Pineda to the bullpen or the minors and it wasn’t undeserved. He was awful. Pineda’s reportedly corrected some things mechanically with the help of pitching coach Larry Rothschild, and now he’s pitching much more like the Michael Pineda the Yankees hoped to see in 2016.

Two-Out Rally To Tie
The game started so well for the Yankees. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner opened the first inning with a single and a walk, respectively, but the middle of the order couldn’t drive them in. They couldn’t even advance them another base. Ervin Santana settled down and retired nine straight after that, and it wasn’t until the fifth inning that the Yankees were finally able to break through and tie the game 1-1.

That fifth inning rally took place with two outs, when Ellsbury, Gardner, and Carlos Beltran strung together three straight hits to score the run. Ellsbury singled in a hitter friendly 2-0, Gardner singled in a pitcher friendly 1-2 count, and Beltran singled in a hitter friendly 3-1 count. Santana made some location mistakes that inning and paid. He was still able to hold the Yankees to one run on six hits and two walks in six innings. Annoying!

Battle of the Bullpens
For a while no one wanted to win this game. After Brian McCann‘s leadoff single in the sixth, Mark Teixeira hit what should have been a tailor made 6-4-3 double play ball. Instead Eduardo Escobar bobbled it and everyone was safe. Big break! Starlin Castro then banged into a 5-4 double play that wasn’t too far away from being a 5-4-3 triple play. It looked like it had a chance off the bat. The Yankees didn’t score after Escobar’s misplay anyway.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Then, in the bottom of the eighth, Alex Rodriguez led off with an infield single (!) of all things. Pinch-runner Aaron Hicks was held up by third base coach Joe Espada on McCann’s single into the right field corner, though he would have scored because the throw went into second base. I understand the hold — runner at third with no out in the eighth inning of a tie game? no reason to push it — but it looked like a missed opportunity.

Teixeira followed with a strikeout and we were all waiting for the inning-ending double play to kill the rally. Castro kinda sorta obliged, hitting a chopper to Escobar for what should have been a 6-4-3 twin killing. Except Escobar misplayed the short hop and got zero outs on the play. Hicks scored to give the Yankees the 2-1 lead. The Yankees tried to blow that rally there — McCann was thrown out at the plate trying to score an insurance run on Chase Headley‘s sac fly later in the inning — but the Twins wouldn’t let them. Minnesota Twins baseball, folks.

Leftovers
With the score tied in the late innings, Joe Girardi went to his big three relievers again, and they combined to allow one baserunner in three innings. That was Joe Mauer’s two-out single against Aroldis Chapman in the ninth. Dellin Betances struck out one, Andrew Miller struck out two, and Chapman struck out one. Those guys didn’t throw many pitches the last two days (Miller leads with 26 pitches), but Girardi doesn’t like to use his relievers three days in a row, so it’s possible none of the three will be available in the series finale Sunday. We’ll see.

Teixeira went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout in his first game back from the knee injury. He wasn’t tested with any tough plays in the field. Gardner had three hits while Beltran and McCann had two each. Ellsbury, A-Rod, and Didi Gregorius had base hits as well. The Yankees had ten hits and all ten were singles. This was the team’s first win without an extra-base hit all season. They were 0-6 in such games prior to this one.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for the box score, MLB.com for the video highlights, and ESPN again for the updated standings. Also make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees will try to wrap up this three-game sweep Sunday afternoon. Nathan Eovaldi and Tyler Duffey are the scheduled starters. There are five games left on this homestand, the final homestand before the All-Star break, so head over to RAB Tickets if you want to catch any of those five games live.

Saturday Open Thread

Here is your open thread for the rest of the day. FOX and MLB Network are showing regional games throughout the night, but it’s a very nice day here in New York, so go out if you can. Talk about whatever here in the meantime.

Game 73: Teixeira Returns

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Exactly three weeks ago, Mark Teixeira was placed on the 15-day DL with torn cartilage in his right knee. There was talk he would need season-ending surgery. Instead, Teixeira returns to the lineup today after “rehabbing” the knee. I say “rehabbing” because torn cartilage won’t repair itself. (I’m no doctor. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.) He’s going to need surgery at some point. Teixeira is receiving treatment and lubrication injections to make the injury manageable for the time being.

If nothing else, Teixeira’s return will instantly improve the team defense. He’s still an all-world defender at first base. Will he help the offense? That’s another matter. Teixeira was hitting only .180/.271/.263 (47 wRC+) at the time of the injury, and he hadn’t homered in nearly two full months. He had a fantastic season a year ago, so it’s not like you have to look back real far to see the last time he was a productive player. Hopefully the little break gets his bat on track. Here is the Twins’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. DH Alex Rodriguez
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. 1B Mark Teixeira
  7. 2B Starlin Castro
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 3B Chase Headley
    RHP Michael Pineda

It’s a lovely day in New York. Sunny, not many clouds, and temperatures in the low-80s. Good afternoon to spend at the ol’ ballyard. Today’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on WPIX locally and MLB Network if you’re out of market. Enjoy the game.

Roster Update: Ike Davis was designated for assignment to clear a roster spot for Teixeira, the Yankees announced. He can elected free agency if he clears waivers because he has more than five years of service time. Do any other teams offer a greater opportunity though? Teixeira is playing with torn cartilage, so it wouldn’t take much for Davis to return to the big leagues. He might stick around.