Pushing CC Sabathia’s start back was an easy call, but it’s still only a temporary solution

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)
(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

Late last week the Yankees announced CC Sabathia would not start as scheduled this past Sunday, and would instead get the ball today. Ivan Nova started Sunday on normal rest thanks to last Thursday’s off-day. Sabathia will start on eight days’ rest tonight, and, of course, he wasn’t thrilled with the decision. He’s a competitor, he wants to pitch.

“Don’t ask me what I’m working on,” said Sabathia to Zach Braziller last week. “It is up to them. Whatever they think is best is the schedule (is the one) that I’m following. It’s a break that I probably need, I guess. Take a step back, look at some things, try to be ready on Wednesday … It’s a good to get a break for my body, for sure.”

The team framed the decision as a chance to give Sabathia extra rest and extra time to work on things in the bullpen. “It gives him a few extra days. He’s been a guy that’s thrown every fifth day or sixth day,” said Joe Girardi to Andrew Marchand when the announcement was made. That was as predictable a response as it gets from Girardi, who protects his players as much as any manager in the game.

Sabathia may be getting some extra rest and time to work on things, but it’s clear what’s really happening here. The Yankees used their recent off-days to make sure Sabathia not only makes just one start before the All-Star break rather than two, but also to ensure he makes that start against the Athletics rather than the division rival Rays and Red Sox. It’s a no-brainer move. They had to do it.

The Yankees are sheltering Sabathia like a fifth starter because that’s what he is, their fifth best starter. (Really their sixth best starter, but let’s not get started with that again.) They’re putting him in position to hurt the team less. Like it or not, the Yankees are unwilling to pull Sabathia out of the rotation right now, so this it the next best thing. Keeping him away from division rivals and spacing out his starts as much as possible. It would have been foolish not to do it.

This is only a temporary measure, of course. The Yankees can use off-days and the All-Star break to limit Sabathia to one start in a 27-day span (!) if they really want — he started on July 29th, will start tonight, and they won’t need a fifth starter after the break until July 26th — but then what? They will have successfully avoided using their worst start for close to a month — I have a hard time thinking they’ll actually limit Sabathia’s starts that much — though that’s not a solution. It’s a band-aid.

Perhaps this is step one in the process of removing Sabathia from the rotation. Something like that won’t happen in an instant. That would be humiliating and there’s a gentler way to do it. It could be a gradual process and pushing this start back is the start of that process. Maybe next they’ll outright skip one of Sabathia’s starts using an off-day. I’m not saying that’s the right way to go about removing him from the rotation — ripping the band-aid off is almost always preferable to slowly peeling it away — but that could be the thought process.

For now, the team’s plan for Sabathia seems to be nothing more than hope. Hope something clicked in the bullpen during this recent break, hope he finds a way to be a competent starter going forward, hope he doesn’t hurt them as much as he has already this season. I love Sabathia, he’s been a great Yankee, but man, he has a 5.06 ERA (79 ERA+) in his last 352 innings now. That’s brutal. Pushing his start back was an easy decision and maybe that’s a stepping stone to a more drastic move in the future.

Yankees fall 4-3 to A’s on a Brett Lawrie homer in extras

The Yankees offense actually managed to score three run off of Sonny Gray tonight and Nathan Eovaldi pitched a solid game as well. However, in the end, the result did not favor New York — a pair of solo homers allowed by Yankee relievers doomed the team into an annoying 4-3 loss in ten innings. Less of these in the future, please.

Look at them veins on elbow (Source: Getty)

The Splitters

In the first inning, the A’s drew first blood when Josh Reddick drove in Stephen Vogt from second base on a 2-out RBI single. Eovaldi allowed another run in the third after giving up three straight singles to start the inning. He did, however, manage to get out of that inning without further damage by inducing a strikeout from Ben Zobrist and a double play from Reddick, which was neat.

I thought Eovaldi was not great but he showed some promise with his work-in-progress pitch: the splitter. He continued to utilize his new weapon tonight, which ranged from 88-90 mph and got some swings-and-misses. Also importantly, Eovaldi generated 62.5% ground ball rate, much higher than a 45.3% career rate.

After that disastrous 0.2 IP, 8 ER performance in Miami, Eovaldi has gone 3-0, 2.38 ERA in 22.2 IP with 17 strikeouts. The righty is far from the finished product we’d like to see, but using more splitters and getting better outcomes than the first few months of the season is welcome progress.

(Source: Getty)

The All-Star

In the bottom of the first, Brett Gardner singled and Chase Headley worked a walk against the All-Star RHP Sonny Gray. A-Rod flied out (and looked quite displeased doing so because it looked like a meatball) and Mark Teixeira followed it with a strikeout.

Brian McCann, however, fisted an inside fastball towards left field for a bloop single, driving in Gardner. Garrett Jones also joined in on the fun with an RBI single to right. 2-1 Yankees.

This was Gray’s first game back after missing a start due to salmonella. His velocity was fine but his command was missing just slightly. He showed a little rust but not too much, going 7.0 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 3 ER and striking out 5. Yes, that would be a more than acceptable outcome for most pitchers but this is Sonny Gray we’re talking about – a top 5 starter in the AL. It’s still a fine, serviceable line but not his best effort.

The Hanging Breaking Ball

The All-Star Dellin Betances came into the game in the ninth inning with the game tied at three. In his first inning of work, Dellin was dominant – three up, three down with two K’s. In the tenth inning, he entered the game again for possibly another inning of work. During the Brett Lawrie at-bat, the YES broadcast showed Chris Capuano warming in the bullpen and I thought “the offense better score a run in the bottom tenth before he comes into the game.”

Just a moment later, however, Betances threw an absolute hanger to Brett Lawrie. The A’s infielder didn’t miss a beat – Lawrie drove it over the left field fence for a tie-breaking homer. 4-3 A’s lead. I mean, boy, that was as hanging as Dellin’s breaking ball could be. After not allowing a homer in 54 straight appearances, Betances allows one each in back-to-back games. Go figure.

The Changeup

With one out in bottom tenth, Gardner worked a walk to get the tying run on base. Headley followed it up with a pop out and A-Rod walked after not biting on Tyler Clippard’s series of changeups.

With runners on first and second and two outs, Mark Teixeira came up to bat. He managed to lay off the first three pitches (all changeups) to make it a 3-0 count. Clippard then threw a fastball right down the middle for a strike, 3-1. Next pitch, the righty threw another fastball one down the middle and Teixeira was clearly timing his swing as if Clippard was throwing a changeup. The ball hit the bat as Teixeira’s hands were going through the zone and it fouled off. 3-2.

On the next pitch, it seemed like Teixeira was fully anticipating a fastball – he swung and only thing his bat hit was thin air. Clippard struck Teixeira out on a 80 mph changeup to end the game. 4-3 Athletics. Womp.


Yeah, so Chasen Shreve has been absolutely lights out for the Yankee bullpen this season but he can’t be great all the time. It was unfortunate that he put a 90 mph fastball right down the middle for Billy Butler to drive it over the left field fence – it was one of those pitches that big league hitters just should not miss. It was also unfortunate that it only took that one moment to tie the game for the A’s and erased Eovaldi’s win. Oh well.

Two of the biggest hitters of the team – A-Rod and Teixeira – went for a combined 0-for-9 with 5 strikeouts. Ouch. Imagine the game outcome if the cleanup guys actually cleaned it up.

The Box Score, the Standings, the Highlights, the WPA

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

Source: FanGraphs

The Yankees will send C.C. Sabathia against Scott Kazmir tomorrow. If you somehow don’t know, Kazmir has been one of the better lefties in the Major League while Sabathia, well, has not been good this season at all. This definitely does not inspire much confidence but… excuse me while I try to stay optimistic here but… strange things have happened in baseball before numerous times.

DotF: Severino labors in Triple-A, Sanchez homers again in Double-A

RHP Brady Lail was added to the Double-A Eastern League All-Star Roster, replacing RHP Nick Goody, who has indeed been promoted to Triple-A Scranton. Congrats to both. RHP Joel De La Cruz was sent down to Double-A Trenton to make room for Goody.

Also, RHP Wilking Rodriguez was activated off the suspended list and added to the Triple-A Scranton roster, according to Donnie Collins. Rodriguez was suspended 80 games in Spring Training after failing a drug test.

Triple-A Scranton (5-1 win over Syracuse)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 2-4, 1 2B, 2 RBI
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 2-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB — second straight game with a homer
  • RF Aaron Judge: 0-4, 1 K
  • 1B Greg Bird: 1-4, 1 2B
  • RHP Luis Severino: 4 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 5/3 GB/FB — 52 of 82 pitches were strikes (63%) … good results but a bit of a grind, lots of pitches
  • RHP Wilking Rodriguez: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 0/2 GB/FB — 10 of 13 pitches were strikes (77%) in his season debut
  • RHP Branden Pinder: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 2/3 GB/FB — 27 of 36 pitches were strikes (75%)

[Read more…]

Game 83: No Easy A’s

A-Rod liked by headline pun. (Presswire)
A-Rod liked my headline pun. (Presswire)

The Yankees open a three-game series tonight with the Athletics, the deceptively good Athletics. Their record is ugly (38-47), yet they’ve outscored their opponents by 49 runs this year. Only four teams in the big leagues have a better run differential. Blame a shaky early-season bullpen and a hideous 6-21 record in one-run games. They don’t have TWTW, I guess.

Point is, the A’s are better than their record indicates. They’re 18-14 since June 1st and their rotation has the second best ERA (3.00) and fifth best FIP (3.37) in baseball. The Yankees dropped three of four in Oakland a few weeks ago, so we saw how good this team is firsthand. Last place? Yeah, that’s where they are in the standings. But the A’s don’t have last place talent. Here is Bob Melvin’s lineup and here is Joe Girardi‘s lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Garrett Jones
  7. LF Chris Young
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

It has been pretty gross in New York today. Hot as hell and really humid too. Sticky. There is some rain in the forecast for the late-afternoon/early-evening, but it doesn’t look like it’ll be enough to cause a postponement. Maybe a slight delay. We’ll see. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: In case you missed it, both Jacoby Ellsbury (knee) and Andrew Miller (forearm) will be activated off the 15-day DL tomorrow … Mason Williams (shoulder) has resumed baseball activities. Throwing, hitting, that sorta stuff.

Judge, Severino both make top 20 of Baseball America’s midseason top prospects update


One day after Baseball Prospectus published their midseason top 50 prospects list, Baseball America did the same today. Unlike BP, the BA list is free to read. You don’t need a subscription. Dodgers SS Corey Seager is ranked as the best prospect in the minors by Baseball America and is followed in order by Nationals RHP Lucas Giolito and Rangers 3B Joey Gallo.

The Yankees have two players on Baseball America’s midseason update and they both rank pretty high: OF Aaron Judge is 13th and RHP Luis Severino is 17th. Baseball Prospectus also had Judge ranked 13th, though they were a little lower on Severino. He ranked 28th. Severino and Judge ranked 35th and 53rd on Baseball America’s preseason top 100 prospects list, respectively, so both made big jumps.

In a separate piece (subs. req’d), SS Jorge Mateo was listed as one of “five risers who likely will make the next edition of the Top 100 Prospects list” even though they didn’t make today’s updated midseason top 50. Here’s a piece of the blurb on Mateo:

Mateo has the ingredients to be special. He’s got bat-to-ball skills, power enough to project double-digit home runs and blazing speed on the basepaths. He’s refining his technique in the field at low Class A Charleston, particularly as it pertains to ranging to his right for balls in the hole.

According to the top 50, Judge is currently the best outfield prospect in baseball, unless you count Gallo, a third baseman the Rangers have played in the outfield on occasion because of Adrian Beltre. Severino is the fifth best right-handed pitching prospect and sixth best pitching prospect overall. Neat.

The farm system has been hit hard by injuries this year — RHP Domingo German, RHP Austin DeCarr, RHP Ty Hensley, and C Luis Torrens are all out for the season; both LHP Jacob Lindgren and 3B Eric Jagielo got hurt in June; LHP Ian Clarkin is still MIA — but Judge and Severino have excelled, and 1B Greg Bird was just bumped up to Triple-A as well. It’s nice not having to say “they have talent, but it’s all in Single-A” for once.

Andrew Miller to be activated off DL on Wednesday


Left-hander Andrew Miller will be activated off the 15-day DL on Wednesday, Joe Girardi told reporters this afternoon. He’s expected to step right back into the closer’s role as well. “That’s probably what I would do,” said Girardi. Jacoby Ellsbury is due to be activated tomorrow as well.

Miller, 30, has missed just about four weeks with flexor muscle strain in his forearm. Tests confirmed the injury was limited to his forearm muscle, and there was no damage to his ulnar collateral ligament. Miller threw a scoreless inning for Triple-A Scranton on Monday and told reporters today that he felt great.

I assume either Nick Rumbelow or Bryan Mitchell will go to Triple-A to clear a roster spot for Miller. I’d rather see Mitchell stick around but it’s not a huge deal either way. Justin Wilson and Chasen Shreve really stepped up while Miller was out, plus Adam Warren returned to the bullpen, so the late-inning relief crew suddenly looks real deep.

7/7 to 7/9 Series Preview: Oakland Athletics


It’s the last series at Yankee Stadium before the All-Star break. The Athletics are on the East Coast and will be in the Bronx for three games starting tonight. The Yankees dropped three of four against the A’s out in Oakland back in May. That was not a fun series.

What Have The A’s Done Lately?

The A’s had an off-day yesterday and split a four-game set with the Mariners over the weekend. They went 4-6 on their just completed ten-game homestand. Oakland has one of the worst records in the league at 38-47, but they’ve been much better since June 1st (18-14) and do have a stellar +49 run differential. That 38-47 record is deceiving.

Offense & Defense

At 4.38 runs per game with a team 103 wRC+, the A’s are a tick better than the average MLB offense. They’re relatively healthy too. OF Coco Crisp is out with a career-threatening neck injury and UTIL Tyler Ladendorf is out following ankle surgery, but that’s it. The rest of the roster is healthy. Crisp’s injury sucks though. Hate to see a guy’s career end due to an injury.

Future Yankee Ben Zobrist. (Presswire)
Future Yankee Ben Zobrist. (Presswire)

Manager Bob Melvin has three excellent everyday players in C Stephen Vogt (145 wRC+), OF Josh Reddick (130 wRC+), and 2B Ben Zobrist (127 wRC+). Reddick has made some major approach adjustments and now his strikeout (10.6%) and walk (8.3%) rates are nearly identical. Also, if the A’s just want to leave Zobrist behind in New York when the series is over, that would be great.

OF Billy Burns (122 wRC+) is appropriately named because he’s super fast, and 3B Brett Lawrie (113 wRC+) is finally starting to live up to the hype. Maybe. Possibly. Probably not. SS Marcus Semien (99 wRC+) and DH Billy Butler (92 wRC+) are the other every players. C Josh Phegley (155 wRC+ vs. LHP) and 1B Ike Davis (120 wRC+ vs. RHP) are Melvin’s two top platoon weapons. 1B/OF Mark Canha (102 wRC+), OF Sam Fuld (75 wRC+), and IF Eric Sogard (69 wRC+) are also on the bench.

Depending on your choice of defensive metric, the A’s are either great defensively (+8 DRS) or terrible defensively (-23.9 UZR). Reddick, Fuld, Burns, Zobrist, and Lawrie are very good in the field while Semien is error prone. Canha and Davis are fine. Vogt and Phegley have combined to throw out more than one-third of attempted base-stealers and StatCorner says they’re average and above-average pitch-framers, respectively.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday (7pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. OAK) vs. RHP Sonny Gray (vs. NYY)
Gray, 25, recently dealt with a bout of salmonella, which caused him to miss one start and have another pushed back. He’s good to go tonight though. Womp womp. Gray has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this year, posting a 2.09 ERA (2.67 FIP) in 16 starts and 107.2 innings. Good strikeout rate (22.9%), great walk rate (6.1%), great ground ball rate (54.2%), great home run rate (0.42 HR/9), great success against righties (.228 wOBA), great success against lefties (.251 wOBA). Just all around great. Gray throws both two and four-seamers in the mid-90s and he uses them both equally. A hammer low-80s curveball is his out pitch, but he also throws mid-80s sliders and a handful of mid-80s changeups per start. The Yankees scored two runs in eight innings against Gray back in May. Hopefully the recent illness and long layoff means he’s off his game tonight.

Wednesday (7pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. OAK) vs. LHP Scott Kazmir (vs. NYY)
Audition? Kazmir is an impending free agent and figures to be traded before the deadline, and the Yankees have been connected to other rental arms like Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and Jeff Samardzija, so I assume they’re in on Kazmir as well. The 31-year-old southpaw has a 2.56 ERA (3.24 FIP) in 16 starts and 98.1 innings with good to great peripherals across the board: 23.0 K%, 8.3 BB%, 46.0 GB%, and 0.64 HR/9. Righties (.279 wOBA) have had more relative success against him than lefties (.252 wOBA). Kazmir has reinvented himself since his arm injuries and is no longer the mid-90s fastball/wipeout slider guy was with the (Devil) Rays. He still throws the four-seamer and slider, but now operates mostly with a low-90s two-seamer and mid-80s changeup. It’s cliche as hell, but Kazmir is a pitcher now after being a thrower earlier in his career. The Yankees didn’t face him during the four-game series in Oakland earlier this year.

Chavez. (Presswire)
Chavez. (Presswire)

Thursday (1pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. OAK) vs. RHP Jesse Chavez (vs. NYY)
Chavez, 31, moved into the rotation a few weeks ago and has been excellent, pitching to a 3.20 ERA (3.09 FIP) in 95.2 innings spread across 14 starts and four relief appearances. His strikeout rate is just average (20.7%) while his walk (5.9%), ground ball (41.8%), and home run (0.66 HR/9) numbers are lower than the MLB average. Lefties (.317 wOBA) have a lot more success against Chavez than righties (.251 wOBA). Chavez is a bit of a kitchen sink guy, throwing five different pitches including four at least 16% of the time. He’s got low-90s two and four-seamers, an upper-80s cutter, a mid-80s changeup, and an upper-70s curveball. The curve is the fifth pitch he uses fewer than 5% of the time. Chavez struck out six in eight scoreless innings against the Yankees in May.

Bullpen Status
Like the Yankees, the A’s were off yesterday, so their bullpen is as fresh as it’s going to get in early-July. Ex-Yankees farmhand RHP Tyler Clippard (3.78 FIP) is closing with LHP Drew Pomeranz (3.98 FIP) and RHP Edward Mujica (4.94 FIP) serving as the setup men du jour. LHP Eric O’Flaherty (4.52 FIP) recently came off the DL and will face tough lefties.

LHP Fernando Abad (5.62 FIP), RHP Evan Scribner (4.06 FIP), and RHP Fernandez Rodriguez (1.75 FIP) are the rest of the regular relievers. RHP Chris Bassitt (4.35 FIP) is the 13th arm and he started in place of Gray the last two times out. He started Sunday and will either be sent down for a fresh arm today or out of action the next two games. Head over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen and Athletics Nations and BeaneBall for the latest on the A’s.